My Blog Motto

"Good judgement comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgement"

~Rita Mae Brown

Friday, December 23, 2011

This is not a Political Blog

I can almost hear the sighs of relief, ha ha.
But wait, there's more. I know if you're like me the word "Occupy" is starting to wear thin. It has been brutally overused lately and I am guilty as many others of being somewhat Occu-focused. I have spent the past couple of months working in this movement in a few different capacities and at times I feel like I never want to hear the word again. I will never again be able to approach an airline bathroom door without envisioning several young people with guitars sitting inside huddled next to a tiny ramshackle tent singing songs of revolution. Still I will most likely smile fondly at the memory of the phenomenon that dominated this fall.  Who knows how long this particular manifestation of social dissent will last. Probably until it becomes political.
See this movement, like me, is devoted to social change at a level that equalizes opportunity for all people, values each contribution as essential to the functioning of a healthy society  and insists on equal accountability for all.   For the most part we also share values such as  respect for the planet and her resources and desire a more sustainable economic system of  production and distribution of goods and services.  Historically, one party has tended to vote in favor of policies that would further the cause of those of those concepts, but they aren't doing  a very good job of it lately.
At our very first GA meeting we discussed potential future endorsement or affiliation with any political party as a potential for the 2012 election. The response was majority in favor of not becoming politically involved. Now that time has passed and we'e all found our niche, there are some who are making their political feelings more public, but the movement here has remained fairly neutral, much to my relief.
I don't see the solution to our problems as political. yes political systems may well be used to implement some of the changes we hope for; but it is us, the citizens who will bring about true reform and a higher state of being. We will not accomplish this by "asking" politicians to change things for us. We cannot demand that big businesses suddenly start treating others as equals, worthy of respect and a decent living wage. We create these changes by living the life we envision. We refuse to participate in systems that are broken. Realizing that complete dissociation with certain systems is not practical or even possible, we seek to reduce the level of dependence we have for those entities.
There exists a common theme in my writing, interactions with others and my efforts at creating community that those of us who have struggled in life posses knowledge and experience that can be of great value in the transformation of our culture to a more humane and loving way of life. And there is nothing political about that.

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, December 12, 2011

Maintaining Safety During Occupation

I'm posting a link to this article because it so well describes the circumstances we have been faced with at our Milwaukee Occupation. From what I hear, we are not alone in these challenges but, according to many accounts, are actually faring pretty well. The hardest part for us here in Milwaukee is our "devoted activist to asshole ratio". We have a small group of actual occupiers and many of us are only part time, therefore a large portion of people power and energy is expended while trying to maintain some sense  of order. I hope you enjoy the wit and honesty of this article as much as I did. I also hope that if any Occupiers are reading this they may take the encouragement and information that is offered here as a road map to success in maintaining a peaceful, focused presence in which to continue your work.

Occupy’s Asshole Problem: Flashbacks from An Old Hippie

By Sara Robinson

November 4, 2011

I wish I could say that the problems that the Occupy movement is having with infiltrators and agitators are new. But they’re not. In fact, they’re problems that the Old Hippies who survived the 60s and 70s remember acutely, and with considerable pain.

As a veteran of those days — with the scars to prove it — watching the OWS organizers struggle with drummers, druggies, sexual harassers, racists, and anarchists brings me back to a few lessons we had to learn the hard way back in the day, always after putting up with way too much over-the-top behavior from people we didn’t think we were allowed to say “no” to.  It’s heartening to watch the Occupiers begin to work out solutions to what I can only indelicately call “the asshole problem.” In the hope of speeding that learning process along, here are a few glimmers from my own personal flashbacks — things that it’s high time somebody said right out loud.

1. Let’s be clear: It is absolutely OK to insist on behavior norms. #Occupy may be a DIY movement — but it also stands for very specific ideas and principles. Central among these is: We are here to reassert the common good. And we have a LOT of work to do. Being open and accepting does not mean that we’re obligated to accept behavior that damages our ability to achieve our goals. It also means that we have a perfect right to insist that people sharing our spaces either act in ways that further those goals, or go somewhere else until they’re able to meet that standard.

2. It is OK to draw boundaries between those who are clearly working toward our goals, and those who are clearly not. Or, as an earlier generation of change agents put it: “You’re either on the bus, or off the bus.” Are you here to change the way this country operates, and willing to sacrifice some of your almighty personal freedom to do that? Great. You’re with us, and you’re welcome here. Are you here on your own trip and expecting the rest of us to put up with you? In that case, you are emphatically NOT on our side, and you are not welcome in our space.

Anybody who feels the need to put their own personal crap ahead of the health and future of the movement is (at least for that moment) an asshole, and does not belong in Occupied space. Period. This can be a very hard idea for people in an inclusive movement to accept — we really want to have all voices heard. But the principles #Occupy stands for must always take precedence over any individual’s divine right to be an asshole, or the assholes will take over. Which brings me to….

3. The consensus model has a fatal flaw, which is this: It’s very easy for power to devolve to the people who are willing to throw the biggest tantrums. When some a drama king or queen starts holding the process hostage for their own reasons, congratulations! You’ve got a new asshole! (See #2.) You must guard against this constantly, or consensus government becomes completely impossible.

4. Once you’ve accepted the right of the group to set boundaries around people’s behavior, and exclude those who put their personal “rights” ahead of the group’s mission and goals, the next question becomes:  How do we deal with chronic assholes?

This is the problem Occupy’s leaders are very visibly struggling with now. I’ve been a part of asshole-infested groups in the long-ago past that had very good luck with a whole-group restorative justice process. In this process, the full group (or some very large subset of it that’s been empowered to speak for the whole) confronts the troublemaker directly. The object is not to shame or blame. Instead, it’s like an intervention. You simply point out what you have seen and how it affects you. The person is given a clear choice: make some very specific changes in their behavior, or else leave.

This requires some pre-organization. You need three to five spokespeople to moderate the session (usually as a tag team) and do most of the talking. Everybody else simply stands in a circle around the offender, watching silently, looking strong and determined. The spokespeople make factual “we” statements that reflect the observations of the group. “We have seen you using drugs inside Occupied space. We are concerned that this hurts our movement. We are asking you to either stop, or leave.”

When the person tries to make excuses (and one of the most annoying attributes of chronic assholes is they’re usually skilled excuse-makers as well), then other members of the group can speak up — always with “I” messages. “I saw you smoking a joint with X and Y under tree Z this morning. We’re all worried about the cops here, and we think you’re putting our movement in danger. We are asking you to leave.” Every statement needs to end with that demand — “We are asking you to either stop, or else leave and not come back.” No matter what the troublemaker says, the response must always be brought back to this bottom line.

These interventions can go on for a LONG time. You have to be committed to stay in the process, possibly for a few hours until the offender needs a pee break or gets hungry. But eventually, if everybody stays put, the person will have no option but to accept that a very large group of people do not want him or her there. Even truly committed assholes will get the message that they’ve crossed the line into unacceptable behavior when they’re faced with several dozen determined people confronting them all at once.

Given the time this takes, it’s tempting to cut corners by confronting several people all at once. Don’t do it. Confronting more than two people at a time creates a diffusion-of-responsibility effect: the troublemakers tell themselves that they just got caught up in a dragnet; the problem is those other people, not me. The one who talks the most will get most of the heat; the others will tend to slip by (though the experience may cause them to reconsider their behavior or leave as well).

This process also leaves open the hope that the person will really, truly get that their behavior is Not OK, and agree to change it. When this happens, be sure to negotiate specific changes, boundaries, rules, and consequences (“if we see you using drugs here again, we will call the police. There will be no second warning”), and then reach a consensus agreement that allows them to stay. On the other hand: if the person turns violent and gets out of control, then the question is settled, and their choice is made. You now have a legitimate reason to call the cops to haul them away. And the cops will likely respect you more for maintaining law and order.

Clearing out a huge number of these folks can be a massive time suck, at least for the few days it will take to weed out the worst ones and get good at it. It might make sense to create a large committee whose job it is to gather information, build cases against offenders, and conduct these meetings.

And finally:

5. It is not wrong for you to set boundaries this way. You will get shit for this. “But…but…it looks a whole lot like a Maoist purge unit!”  No. There is nothing totalitarian about asking people who join your revolution to act in ways that support the goals of that revolution. And the Constitution guarantees your right of free association — which includes the right to exclude people who aren’t on the bus, and who are wasting the group’s limited time and energy rather than maximizing it. After all: you’re not sending these people to re-education camps, or doing anything else that damages them. You’re just getting them out of the park, and out of your hair. You’re eliminating distractions, which in turn effectively amplifies the voices and efforts of everyone else around you. And, in the process, you’re also modeling a new kind of justice that sanctions people’s behavior without sanctioning their being — while also carving out safe space in which the true potential of Occupy can flourish.

Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Our Tent City

Tents up during the day, cozy, huh?

At night tents must be collapsed,
no shelter at night.
Sleeping outside in winter, no matter how good the camping equipment we may have, is not safe. We (Occupiers) have a choice, a choice to go somewhere and sleep in a warm , dry bed in a heated house where we wake to the gentle gurgling of Mr. Coffee as it brews our morning cup. It is a luxury I have grown to appreciate, a basic human need like shelter that so many of us take for granted. The longer I Occupy the more determined I become that we must also fight for the portion of the 99% that no longer has access to this basic human need. They are families and individuals who  have been made homeless by the cruelty of our political and economic system as homes are foreclosed and the costs of rental properties continues to consume a larger portion of one's income. They are also the Mentally Ill, the victims, the "not quite right" whose support systems no longer exist due to the massive cuts in social service programs.
 During the Great Depression of the 1930s there were tent cities all over the country. Today our homeless are less visible and our society wants to keep it that way. As in many other parts of the world, our Occupation sites are the scene of nightly police raids demanding that we dismantle our tents, leaving us out in the cold with only sleeping bags and tarps as shelter from the elements.
 Our tent city occupations can serve as a visual reminder that we are in the same dire situation we were in the 30s, we just have more sophisticated tools of distraction and a society that lives in greater denial and disregard.
 Peace. Jenny.
 © 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rasing Occupy

Don't toss the baby
 with the bathwater!
Just as new life begins in childbirth every day, the occupy wall street movement and  affinity groups are being born and nurtured the U.S. and the rest of the world.  The Occupy movement itself is the new kid in town. The baby of the family who initially restores hope and inspiration. The baby coos and she cries and she is awfully cute...the family mascot.
  But then something else begins to happen. We are exhausted. This new baby won't sleep through the night and we must wake with her. Her crying grows louder and more demanding as our baby begins to figure out what she wants from us. Some people begin to offer unsolicited advice, "Maybe you should let that baby cry so she learns to sleep through the night" or "Just give her a bottle, she's too dependent on the breast".  Everyone's got an answer, but few lend a hand.  These experts are the strangers on the bus or the distant relative who is never around when help is needed.
   Meanwhile the older kids aren't  getting enough attention, so they dutifully fall into their well rehearsed family roles in an attempt to restore some sense of harmony, or least an illusion of control. The oldest might coddle the baby, take over some of Moms chores, reassure everyone that it's ok, I got this. A middle child might become sulky, acting out, being "naughty" all the while muttering that things were going just fine until baby came along. And their will be other family members who will attempt to function the way they always have, incorporating the new baby into their family slowly and invisibly, hoping to forge ahead on the path they have already cleared  for themselves.
So now that OWS has been moved out of the parents bedroom (Zuccotti park) and is beginning to settle into a more concrete sense of self (individuation) it seems only natural the the standard human patterns of behavior will follow. And a society that coined the term "terrible twos" will find that they are not quite sure how to handle this entire out of control toddler situation.
It is in these early years of identity formation that we have the best opportunity as parents and siblings to either nurture our child's strengths or, pardon my frankness, really fuck them up.  I see those of us who have been around a while, who have seen social activism cycle through several incarnations with different focus, as the big sisters, aunties and mothers. I think it's fair to ask ourselves how we feel about this charming but disruptive new addition to the family? How has she changed our perception of where we fit in the birth order? And finally, what can we do as elders and mentors to nurture and guide this child through a healthy development process while finding her place in the family.

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Urban Camping, it ain't pretty

I have mentioned recently that my intention for my next few blogs is to report my experience with my local Occupy group it is important that clarify that my posts reflect my personal experiences| thoughts and feelings and that am in no way attempting to represent or speak on behalf of the group as an entity this is in fact an issue that has arisen in many of the occupy groups around the world. In our efforts to be non hierarchical and consensus based in our decision making processes we must also be conscious of how we represent ourselves to the public when sharing our stories. Now having provided that tiresome disclaimer I feel free to tell my story.
 I have not been posting my experiences here for a few reasons, most significant perhaps is that I have been quite busy living my experiences. Surviving in an urban campsite, or tent city requires that a large amount of time and effort be spent on merely finding, creating and problem solving as a group ways to maintain a reasonable standard of living. When I say "reasonable" I mean finding a place to use the bathroom, having food that is actually warm and maintaining some level of personal time and space. None of these things are always easy, most of them require a fair amount of personal assertiveness, willingness to compromise and yes, a lack of shame.
In two + weeks of Occupying a small plot of vacant land I have gained a tiny insight into the daily lives of the homeless. The major difference being that I have the option to go somewhere to take a warm bath, eat a balanced meal and enjoy the creature comforts we take so easily for granted. You know stuff like sleeping in a bed, or changing clothes on a daily basis. It was only a matter of about a week before I began to regard these simple pleasures as luxuries.
It was only two days into my Occupation that my laptop froze. I don't mean it was overloaded with information and needed to be restarted, it literally froze. It remains to be seen whether the geniuses at HP repair can thaw her tired circuits and bring her back to life.
It took about another two weeks or so for me to "freeze" as it were and to realize that if I were to continue living this way my own warranty might become defunct.
This lifestyle has been for me, a form of protest, a social experiment of sorts and a challenge to my subconscious white middle class concept of self in relation to the world.
Time to relinquish the borrowed computer, but more to follow soon.
Peace and Love,

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupying Milwaukee, Occupying Everywhere

Hello Readers,
It seems we are in the midst of a time of great Change and Promise. Each day brings more news of  communities organizing, reaching out and demanding Justice.
I intend to devote some attention to the voices of the 99% and the recent "Occupy" movements that have been emerging into the public field of vision over the past month. All over the U.S and abroad local chapters and occupations have been born in Solidarity with the incredible tenacity and commitment of the original "Occupy Wall Street" action. I might add that although the OWS is the most recent highly visible manifestation of Community Action, there have always been and continue to be organizations, affinity groups and individuals who have been committed to the cause of Social Justice. When I use the term Social Justice I refer to any cause or group whose purpose is to improve the quality of life for all living things including our Mother Planet. It happened that OWS made their appearance at a time when many of us have reached a point of critical mass. The people have been communicating, educating ourselves and one another and watching the incredible Social Revolutions that have taken place in Egypt, Greece, Spain and many other countries throughout the world. It seems that the Collective Consciousness has been germinating the seeds for change, nurturing the soil with love and care and our efforts are now coming into full bloom.

It is crucial to acknowledge that historically great change takes place in steps, and movements for progress have their own ebb and flow. If we track history as far back as we are able we are likely to discover periods of "Social Unrest" and Revolution often followed by seasons of what may appear to be complacency. We must not allow ourselves to be discouraged by these times of apparent stagnation, they are necessary for regeneration and stabilization; and even in such times there are those who persist in our roles as educators, rabble rousers, rebels and rogues. That's you, my readers, all of us who never quite fit in, who have struggled with rules, questioned the "norm" and dared to imagine a different reality.
I believe our time has come. We, as individuals who have no fear of challenging the status quo, who have  applicable street smarts tempered with the wisdom of experience are well suited to the changes and challenges of a mass shift in consciousness.
You may say you are not a "political" person, or you may not identify with one particular movement or cause. You may feel you want to help but don't know how. Or you may feel the world can clean up it's own crap just fine without you, which is equally valid and certainly understandable. I am not calling anyone to action specifically; I am a Messenger, not a Recruiter. However, as a Messenger, I must say that we are in the midst of some pretty exciting times and it's worth tapping into that energy even if only to charge up your own juice.
This post is just the beginning. The planting of a seed, the nudging of a thought, the "bug in the ear".  Look around you. Read or watch non-commercial media. Talk to your friends and neighbors. If you are already active in a cause (even if it's your own) give yourself a hug. Evaluate your experiences. Do they feel authentic? If not, what's missing? What would feel right for you? If you have found yourself in a good place, a group or action where you feel energized, productive and passionate by all means take a moment to appreciate how that feels, to be empowered, to be part of a community and say I am the 99% and I am joined by Brothers and Sisters everywhere. Reach out and love your family, all 99%!
As always I'd love to hear stories, feedback, thoughts etc. My next post will include a mix of some of my personal experience with the movement along with some practical information for those who are interested.  I will also be adding some mini-posts of stories I have heard, actions I have witnessed and pictures, words and events that have struck a chord resonating the sound of change.

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dorothy's Quest-Part 2

Following the Yellow Brick road is a an adventure that demands clever use of all our resources, both internal and external. We undergo a quest with our lunch basket well stocked with the skills. talents, values, wisdom and curiosity we have accumulated over the years. In previous travels we have collected these qualities like souvenirs, brought them home where we pick over them and rearrange, keep some discard others until we have refined our explorers kit.
Those of us who have chosen the path less traveled have a different set of souvenirs than most folks; and it has always been my mission to help us realize that our basket of goodies is no less valuable than anyone elses. Now as I see the state of the world, the economic woes, high unemployment, government that is barely functioning and millions taking to the streets in protest I can't help but feel that perhaps our time has come. Obviously the "normal" way of doing things isn't working out. Those who have been complacent, who have always done the "right" thing aren't faring so well. This is not their fault, by any means. It is the fault of the greedy and self absorbed who take advantage of money and power and feed  on the backs of those who work hard, do the right thing and follow orders. Now people are beginning to question the status quo but many don't know where to turn. Maybe now is the time for those of us who think outside the box to offer our perspective. If you're wondering how, well that depends on you! I think the most meaningful opportunity lies in our personal relationships. We all know someone whether a family member, friend, associate, who is being disenfranchised in some way. Maybe they're losing benefits at work, or maybe they're about to lose their home. Maybe they can't find a job and are suddenly living hand to mouth. In times of crisis those of us who have survived instability and uncertainty know how to manage. We have earned our sea legs as the tides of life shifted and raged beneath us. Louisa May Alcott said "I am not afraid of storms for I am learning to to sail my ship". We have learned to sail our ship in spite of storms, we have survived Dorothy's twister and we did it without getting in to the cellar because we were busy attending to other matters. (What would have become of Toto if Dorothy had followed orders?) Maybe our tendency to non-conformity and rebellion is the power within us that we needed all along to solve our problems, find our way home and rescue a friend along the way. Think of someone you know who might be struggling. I bet there's something you have to offer, even if only the gift of how to maintain one's balance in shifting tides, to hang on to the house as it is wrenched free by the twister. Maybe the two of you can look out the window as the cows and grandmas and fishermen float by and hold each other close.
Please, though, watch out for that loose window frame!

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Quest for Dororthy

We all know the queasy feeling when our mind is at odds with our heart, it’s unsettling to have our ‘parts’ not agree. Sometimes we just can’t all get on the same track. The constant chatter and disagreement between the two can be like living with angry parents on the verge of divorce and we just can’t tune out the noise.
It happens in any area of our lives, work, family, love, friendship. Our minds and our hearts aren’t the only players in this drama. There is also Ego, an unruly and sometimes destructive collaborator, and yet also a function of self preservation. Ego is a gatekeeper of sorts in it’s best manifestation, at it’s worst it is an unforgiving and suspicious master.
In the film The Wizard of Oz the elements of character are personified by the Tin man (the heart), the Scarecrow (the mind), and the Lion (the ego). Dorothy is the individual self struggling to discover her identity, her place in the world. The journey down the Yellow Brick Road is the hero's quest, the Existential Crisis we all face at times in our life when our world has been shaken underneath us (the twister).
There are external influences on our quest as well. Professor Marvel, the wizard who tries to help but being unsure of his own identity, is incapable of offering real solutions. Miss Gulch/the Wicked Witch is the critic,the gossip, those who are jealous of our spiritual and intellectual pursuit and therefore attempt to thwart our development. Glinda the Good Witch is the Wise Woman, the guide who knows we need to find our own way, but is there to support us while we fumble along our quest. And Toto, goofy little Toto, is the dear friend who stands by no matter what choices we make sticking with us to the bitter end.
None of this is new thought. The Wizard of Oz as modern mythology has been analyzed from every angle and theoretical perspective. For me it remains a personal mythology which serendipitously calls to me in times of need.
Now as I embark on another journey from student, career woman, mother followed by a year of illness I am on another quest for The Emerald City. Having either completed or cast aside my former roles I am off to see the wizard to find my hearts desire. I am set to carve out my niche as a middle aged woman with no attachments. No job, grown kids, my illness behind me. My strongest attachment at this point is, ironically, my dog who bears remarkable resemblance to Dorothy’s Toto.
So off we are to follow the Yellow Brick Road....and I will be sure to gaze into the crystal ball and send postcards of sorts.

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Heartbreak Hotel

It's happened to all of us at one time or another.
Some of us more than others. For some of us it becomes a regular way of life.

The world of art and music would be significantly less prolific if not for heartbreak...or maybe the gap would be replaced with more productive, innovate and inspiring works. Maybe the world would be a kinder, happier place. Maybe the advertising agencies would lose 90% of their business, you know the kind that encourages people to be beautiful, buy sexy cars and take pills to be happy.
Maybe if we'd never had our hearts broken, we'd know how to love and we'd never have to break anyone else's heart.

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Perfect Body

What image comes to mind upon hearing that phrase..."the perfect body"? Remember in the 70's Bo Derek was a "10", in the 80's, well I'm not sure what the heck was going on there but a lot of people were into aerobics, jazzercise and fitness gurus. In the last couple of decades things have improved...slightly, slowly. Among my daughters' generation it is desirable to have “booty", a nice big juicy butt. This is good because many women carry their weight in their hips, thighs and butt unlike the androgynous teenage boy look that was sold to us in the 60's and 70's. But to have a look or body type become "vogue" is precisely the problem. It's hard enough keeping up with wardrobe style changes (I don't even bother) but body type changes? Hah. If thin is in, thick is out, if thick is slick thin is out; meanwhile as the trends change we all living in the body genetics gave us.
There has been much to say, written, discussed and filmed to address the impact of the media (especially advertising) on women’s self image. It's not breaking news that many of us, especially younger women compare ourselves to unrealistic ideal that we see in the media. When I was a teenager and into my early 20's it didn't even occur to me that the bouncy curls and wild waves that adorned women’s' crowns were actually permed, styled, sprayed, teased and otherwise cajoled into looking that way. I honestly thought that was how they looked naturally. My own hair was fine, straight and would not hold a curl no matter how hard I tried. I actually cried one night because my boyfriend was flirting with a "Big Hair" girl. And the worst part was it never occurred to me at the moment that any man shallow enough to choose one woman over another based hair volume was probably not someone I'd want to be with anyway.
Now getting "older" and having sustained a certain amount of wear and tear, I am extremely grateful that I have eradicated the deadly sin of envy from my frame of reference. We are pressured to look a certain way when we are young, and as we age we are pressured to maintain that ideal which isn't even realistic for a young woman much less a 50 year old who has had babies, fallen off motorcycles, washed hundreds of thousands of dishes and all the other experiences that can affect how we age.
Plastic surgery which began as a quirky trend utilized by celebrities has now become disturbingly commonplace. It’s not only the extremes of actual surgical alteration that is becoming normalized, If a woman resists dying her hair as it grays she is either "so brave" (a phrase often delivered condescendingly) or is simply seen as eccentric. Once again the "old hippie" stereotype is invoked to dismissively invalidate a woman’s conscious, self affirming choice.
On the flip side I would be a hypocrite if I condemned women who do choose to dye their hair, go to the gym to maintain that perfect tone, or even get some "work done". After all we’re talking about our bodies, our choice; Choice being the key issue. If a woman chooses this route because she can afford it and she does it for herself with self awareness and confidence, I say go to it. After all I have altered my body with tattoos, piercings and the occasional purple or blue hair coloring; but I have also come to appreciate and love the scars, the stretch marks and all the imperfections that each tells a chapter in my story. Does this mean I'm always happy when I look in the mirror? Hell no, I haven't transcended vanity, I'm only human. But I no longer allow those disappointments (I'm talking to you cellulite) to drive me to making obsessively poor choices including berating myself for not living up to some unrealistic Ideal.
This is a topic I'd like to follow up on, there's so much more to be said. In the meantime I'd love to hear my readers’ thoughts and experiences with body image: either in comments here or on my Facebook group (see link in sidebar) I'm also including a link to The Now Foundation’s "Love Your Body" campaign. They have some wonderful projects, especially those designed for college age women. I strongly encourage you to check out the link!

Peace...and Love your Body, it is your temple.
© 2011 Nanakoosas Place, by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

More on Employment Deficit for Rebels and Rogues

I find myself again compelled to revisit last months topic dated August 17, "Attention/Employment Deficit". It is a much larger issue for many of us, on both personal and societal levels.  It involves an emerging cultural trend, one that is dictated by the economic political partnership as are most cultural trends are these days. The present movement unabashedly favors conformity. Like the cycles of the stars and the seasons,  humankind weaves it's way into, through and out of various seasons and stages. The conformity cycles are always uncomfortable for me; this one feels absolutely frightening.
I suppose my age may intensify my sensitivity. I know more, I analyze with greater discernment and skepticism. More significantly, I am less adaptable. My strategical options for coping with the popular trend, whether they be to cooperate or to rebel, seem be diminishing at a rate equal to the rise of restriction and control. There are within society itself, fewer options available. There was a time when it was much easier to make a living by "doing your own thing". And if you did work for someone else there was more job security, generally better benefits and in many industries, room for creative development. Ideas from staff were  welcomed and sometimes actually taken into consideration. This was especially true in the non-profit sector where many agencies were still operating by the grassroots community organizing principles upon which they were originally founded. Now, due to stricter regulations and expectations demanded by funding sources most of these agencies management style and atmosphere have become more corporate, less personal. 
As the workplace has changed there are also increasing internal limitations. If you are over 50 and you tell someone you're looking for work 8 out of 10 people will shake their heads in some sort of ironic sympathy. If you are lucky enough to get hired you'd better keep your mouth shut, follow the rules to the 't' and for heaven's sake do not by any means get sick.
 The problem is the older you get the less likely you are to hold your tongue and take someone's nonsense (especially if they are younger than you) and if you do hold your opinions inside you are more likely to experience stress related illness. That's 2 out of 3 "do not do in the workplace if you are over 50"
Frankly, I am too tired and achy to work a 40 hour week, I could do it but I'd do little else. That's how life is for most of my middle aged working friends. I'm pretty certain I don't want to live that way.
I have lots of Utopian ideas about opportunities for people my age. Industries could hire us as Mentors for example. Using our experience to break in the next generation. Unfortunately it seems, based on anecdotal evidence, that many industries do not want fresh young minds corrupted by the crazy anarcho-syndicalist tree hugging whimseys of a generation out of time.
 "So there we were all in one place, a generation lost in space" to quote Don McLean, and although the next line states that "there's no time left to start again", I have to believe that there is. We have to carve out our niche in society, because no one else is going to do it for us. We either adapt to the changes and conform, or we adapt around the changes and clear our own path.
Guess which road I'm taking?

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard
"American Pie" Lyrics by Don McLean © Universal Music Publishing Group

Things To Remember When You’re In A Relationship « Thought Catalog

While I'm slooowly developing my next blog post, I wanted to share this. I found it very simply stated yet wise and relevant, enjoy!

*disclaimer, I've looked at some of this dudes other posts and found many of them to be shallow and somewhat sexist, we'll take this as a welcome anomaly! 
Things To Remember When You’re In A Relationship « Thought Catalog © 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Check the Road Map

Overcoming a slump. Maybe it's the summer heat, maybe it's the recent life changes I've experienced (yes, one of them is "the change" menopause) maybe it's the let down after the excitement of discovering I've successfully conquered liver disease after a year of grueling treatment. Whatever it is I'm stuck.
Like a lady wearing lead shoes, every step feel laborious. My brain seems to be on vacation somewhere. As Aerosmith once said "my get up and go musta got up and went"
But I think I know what the "problem" is: freedom. Yes, that's right, freedom. I've written before about the methods some of us can use to employ our anchors, our responsibilities as excuses for not pursuing our dreams. A job, a family, health problems or a lease- whatever it is that we believe binds us does indeed bind us. Those beliefs become safe and cozy. We are not asked to challenge ourselves because we have other things to do. It's a pretty rare phenomenon to be freed of the majority of one's responsibilities within a very short time. As so often happens in my eccentric life, I find myself knee deep in anomaly.
You would think (or I would've thought) I would be eager to fill the blank page before me with words, colors, opinions and adventures, but instead I am truly at a loss for what to do next.
At present I am in another city helping my partner relocate for an employment opportunity. Things being what they are with our economy that seems to be happening more often these days. I suppose I'm lucky, the new job is only 500 miles away from home and reasonably manageable by bus. I can't help but feel that it only adds more confusion and uncertainty to my already obfuscated view of the near future.
I was reminded along the 6 hour drive here, that every journey requires and occasional rest stop. Eat, pee, stretch your limbs and take another look at the map. The rest stops have always been a integral part of a road trip, ever since I was a small child travelling across country with my parents in our over packed pale blue VW Beetle.
Now is the time to revisit the road map, check out the routes and their alternates, be advised of detours and prepare well before taking to the highway into life's next chapter.

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Attention/Employment Deficit

Bizzy Brain

Mental Health?
I am the kind of person who is capable of being labeled by several mental health diagnoses. In fact, I have been.  You could determine that I have a mood disorder such as cyclothymia or mild bi-polar disorder, or perhaps something a bit more organic like attention deficit disorder; or you could focus on environmental influences and say I have PTSD.  Any way you slice it you’d probably be correct according to diagnostic criteria.
I have difficulty focusing, I have  even more difficulty following through on projects. My memory tends to be rather selective. I over-think situations by considering any and every possible outcome so I can draft  a plan for each contingency. I dislike rules and have problems with authority. I am a bit of a thrill seeker and despite my penchant for over analyzing potential situation, I tend to act impulsively.
There are times that my house looks like it home to a lonely beer swilling  bachelor, littered with piles of laundry, books, dishes and enough dust to write a short story on any flat surface.  At other times I  become agitated if a throw rug is slightly askew or the canned goods aren't arranged by food group.
Of course the critical factor in pathologizing these quirks is the degree to which they affect ones life, that is, do they “interfere with normal daily functioning”. But what, I ask you, is ‘normal daily functioning’?  For me a normal day usually includes at least several minutes looking for essential items like keys, glasses or the bill I was supposed to mail 3 days ago....a normal day for me may begin at 7 am or at 2 pm depending on the weather and my mood.  In a normal day I start several projects and end up working on or possibly finishing entirely different projects I began earlier in the week, month or year. I have craft projects, short stories, artwork and blog posts all in various stages of process. Oh, books too.  Ones that I am attempting to read, not write. I have several boxes of pictures and 4 empty photo albums. The pictures have been organized and re organized several times. About 3 or 4 have made it into the album.
I’m not employed at the moment, but when I was I was frequently 10 or 15 minutes late (looking for car keys), I would forget to sign in or out and my desk was a landscape of coffee cups, food wrappers, notes, an occasional toy and clusters of files in a particular order than only I could process. Despite these quirks I was a good employee. Well, I was a good service provider. Remember that dislike of rules, and that problem with authority thing. Sometimes that became a issue. I never lost my temper or became aggressive with a supervisor, but I did commit the workplace venial sin of speaking my mind. You’re not supposed to do that I guess, especially if you don’t have a union to cover your ass when you do.
As I consider returning to the workplace in a world that is increasingly becoming more controlled, more corporate, and is increasing workloads on employees to avoid having to pay additional staff I can’t help but feel a certain amount of fear. Toss in the fact that being over the age of 50 considerably reduces one’s employ-ability and fear turns to terror which quickly retires to resignation. Frankly I’m not certain where this path will lead me but fortunately I’m always up for an adventure as long as it doesn’t mean selling out...and that may mean I have to become an even more clever Survivor. At least I’ll have time to finish that photo album.

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Friday, August 5, 2011

That Ol' Poverty Mind

In my recent post as I pondered the predicament of poverty, I mentioned some of the tips we use to survive when in tight times, the way we manage with very little and often do so with a wry sense of resiliency and acceptance. The post was meant to provide some insight into the daily life of people living on a meager fixed income, and to serve as a reminder that entitlements are NOT sucking the lifeblood out of the economy while providing Cadillacs and cable tv for lazy n'er-do-wells who have "no work ethic".
Today I want to look a bit deeper at that apparent lack of motivation that we do see in some people who are living on welfare or other programs. It is a firmly entrenched Poverty Mentality that keeps people stuck in a state of mind and a lifestyle that, to the outsider, looks lazy and unmotivated.
Unmotivated, yes. Lazy, no absolutely not. It takes a lot of energy to budget every penny on a daily basis, to always be on the lookout for any resource to help ensure daily survival, one day at a time.
But "why do people appear so unmotivated?" some might ask. The answer is pretty simple: an absence of Hope. Some people have never known Hope. Some have had it snatched away, broken, or unfulfilled. To break a person's hope is to break their heart and their spirit. One can only endure so much heartbreak before the scars grow thick, constricting and impenetrable.
I have been fortunate to come from a background that allowed hope to survive, maybe a bit battered and bruised, but strong enough to survive and remain resilient. My family was the kind of family that could live the American Dream. Not the delusional one where you build a megacorporation from scratch and live on a Yacht, but the real Dream where you work hard, still have time for family and community and make enough money to live a reasonably comfortable lifestyle.
My own battle with the poverty profile stems from a more personal foundation, a damaged sense of self worth and fear of success. I think the same is true for many of us who, somewhere along the line have fallen off the track and stumbled into territory that we were not well equipped to navigate. Who is prepared for an abusive partner, a drug problem, a immobilizing episode of depression or a sudden loss of career? The injuries we sustain while lost in the wilderness do not heal overnight. As we regain our self worth and our perspective on life and our relation to it (which of course is the first and most vital step) we are still operating in a kind of survival mode, hanging on to what we have with gratitude and relief. At some point, however, we are "fixed" well enough that we begin to look beyond ourselves and into the possibilities to make our place in the world. For most of us it soon becomes evident that in order to do so were going to need some financial stability.
This is where it gets tricky. First of all we're still most likely in need of constant self affirmation that it is indeed okay to be happy and to want more than to just survive. Next there's the actual issue of money. They say it takes money to make money, even if that means having the ability to buy clothes for a job interview or to pay for a class to update some skills. Even in the best of economic times that can be a significant challenge. Nowadays, well I'm sure I don't have to outline the obstacles that seem to be increasing on a daily basis.
It would be easy to use the present flailing economy to fall back into that entrenched hopelessness that is the Poverty Mind, the daughter of the Victim. I believe it vital at this point in time that we all remind ourselves that we don't have to live our lives entrenched in poverty. We deserve better, as individuals and as a society. Maybe this is where the personal gets political and vice verse. I don't claim to have all the answers, or even half the answers, but I do know that on a personal level I'm going to commit myself to throwing off that security blanket of inertia and at least preparing myself for something better. I owe it to myself.
Peace and well being,
© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Deeper Look at anger

I'm going to grace you all with a special treat. I'm going to therapize myself! Aren't you excited?
Ok fine, bear with me anyway okay?
Writing the last post on anger, along with my recent binge of crabbiness which prompted the post, has prodded me to reflect on the roots of this binge. If I listen to my own words I hear anger can be a catalyst for change, or a sign that we need to address some aspect of our lives. Right now my life is in a pretty good place so I had to dig a little deeper to weed out the roots of this agitation.

The quick check questions to ask are:

  • what do you feel in your body (get out of your head)
  • have there been another times when you felt a similar feeling
  • what event or stimulus triggered your feelings? what was happening in your life at the time?

I'm not going to go into great detail about my personal life, but after thinking about these statements three issues became clear - uncertainty,  potential change/possibly relocating and feeling pulled in different directions/ having to make decisions.
Uncertainty is unnerving to me. Change, I can manage but best with a decent amount of certainty attached. Decisions, well let's just say it's a work in progress and one that requires at least some guidelines and factual information that I can refer to during the internal dialog that takes place between the different dimensions of Me.
Right now, today anyway, I am in limbo. There are some questions that will be answered in the next week or so that will allow me to move on and leave the majority of the uncertainty factor behind. In the meantime I will shift the blame to the 90+ temperatures and the swampy like humidity that permeates all potentially climate controlled areas, knowing with some assurance that my own "climate control" is being carefully monitored.
Stay Cool,

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hello Darkness my Old Friend

Anyone who follows me on Facebook or has regular daily interaction with me probably knows I have been one cranky bitch for a few days (to those of you who see me everyday, I know, it feels like longer). Anger in and of itself is not a problem, in fact it can be an extremely helpful friend who prompts us to examine areas of our life that may need tweaking. This includes our internal life, our attitudes and beliefs that may have become a little too unbalanced in one way or another.
Anger can also be really empowering, especially for women who grew up in an era where despite the emergence of second wave feminism, little girls were generally not supposed to be angry or aggressive. But again it's how one chooses to empower themselves is what determines the kind of harvest our assertiveness will yield. You want sour grapes or happy apples?
During the difficult years while I was over drinking, over drugging and lugging around a chip on my shoulder the size of a Volkswagen I really "got in touch with my anger" Or so I thought. Actually, rather than getting in touch with it I gave it an all out invitation to break out from the cage it had been hiding in for decades and to run amok in an unfocused mad frenzy. It was like some sort of bizarre John Waters character ready to hurl a plate of spaghetti or a stiletto at anyone who crossed it's path. But it least it got out. Until it landed us in jail, treatment and years of therapy.
Hmmmm, so then what becomes of the crazed Madwoman? See, despite the problems my angry persona had introduced into my life, I kinda liked her. She was tough and tacky and really didn't give a shit what anyone thought of her. So how do we teach this chick some manners, clean her up a little and make her socially acceptable.
The same way you do it with a real person; you make them feel good about themselves, good enough to really care how they conduct themselves. You help them find the confidence to know they are safe and capable and intelligent enough to handle any conflict that may come their way. You befriend them.You find their strong points and emphasize them. You provide positive feedback and suggestions to help them apply their strengths in such a way that can address their "areas for improvement".
Now of course we will all have our moment when we relapse into our old patterns of behavior - just yesterday I got a parking ticket and a snotty, acerbic lecture from a city parking checker for being parked in a loading zone while helping my daughter move. My response was to tear the parking ticket in half and instruct the parking checker the parking checker to "shove it". Yes, I was specific as to where he should shove it. But later a cooler head prevailed and I decided his condescending attitude was better addressed by making a date to fight the ticket in court. I also made a complaint with his supervisor. I'm pretty certain based on my experience with city politics, the ticket will be dropped. As far as Mr Parking Checker, who knows? all I know is I'm a hell of a lot happier than he is.
 Living well is indeed the best revenge as long as you keep your shadow close at hand and on a leash.

Image courtesy of Photobucket
© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Entitlement Zombies

Entitlement Zombies
Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, "entitlements". Every day  I read the morning news anxiously scanning to see if the Social Security checks will be sent this week. We are told that they will, but they may be a little delayed. Hmm, what happens when our tax payments are a little delayed? Penalties, interest, nasty letters and phone calls.We face consequences when our payment to the government are not submitted in a timely manner, regardless of the fact that our piddly little tax bill is but a drop in the vast ocean of that mythical, enigmatic and bottomless sea known as The Economy.
The rest of us live in definable, fixed economic reality. Any delay in income is stressful and inconvenient, but for individuals and families living on Social Security or W-2 (welfare) the impact is devastating. First of all most of us have very little, if any, money left over after we pay rent and bills. What little we do have is cleverly budgeted to the penny buying household items. Most of us have acquired inventive economic survival skills. For example, body wash can be used as shampoo, dish soap, laundry detergent and floor wash. Free newspapers can soak up spills, line pet cages and wash windows. If we pop into a coffee shop we grab handfuls of napkins to use as paper towels, coffee filters, kleenex and, yes, toilet paper.We know that at the end of the University semester it's time to go curbside shopping and pick up some new furniture. We wait for our neighbors kid to have a growth spurt so our younger child can have a new wardrobe. You get the point, we go with the flow and we "make do" as my grandmothers generation used to say.
 Most of us don't complain much, it's just a way of life when you are poor. In fact most of us have a pretty well developed sense of humor about our adaptive lifestyles. Some of you may chuckle in recognition at some of my "money saving tips" and you probably have several of your own to add to the list. If these tips evoke humor and/or nostalgia chances are you haven't learned abut poverty from the media but instead you have lived in it or know someone who has. The media is not going to go out of it's way to humanize the lives of those of us who will be affected by our government playing  chicken with our money.
Our money. That's right. Not China's money. Not the "taxpayers' (we are all taxpayers by the way) but our money. We have all contributed to Social Security. Even individuals who have never worked had a relative who has paid into Social security in good faith that if a family member became disabled, widowed or needed to retire that money will be there to help out. And guess what? It is. Social Security is not broke. In fact it is doing quite well thank you, except for the fact that it is being held ransom by politicians who will use any scheme at their disposal to further their own agenda. Social programs have become the scapegoat of these weak minded unimaginative fools who have no qualms about throwing the poor under the bus in order to distract from the real causes of  the economic problems our country is facing. I'm not going to go on about those problems, we all know the wealthy receive enormous tax breaks and are provided enough loopholes to avoid paying taxes all together. We all know about the bailouts and hopefully we all have some awareness of the cost of waging war all over the globe.
What strikes me is that the biggest scapegoat in this entire fiasco is virtually invisible. We may be presented with a human interest story here and there illuminating the struggles of working class America; stories that feature people who have lost jobs, had their homes foreclosed, had to have a rummage sale to make rent. The news anchors shake their heads sadly and and with waxy insincerity mourn that we are all facing hard times; which only serves to assure the rest of us that 'we're all in this together and as the great nation we are we will survive and come out shining and prosperous and perhaps a little stronger for our endurance' after we have pulled ourselves up by our good old American bootstraps (boots that were most likely made in China).
What the media doesn't want to show you is the human experience behind all these evil "entitlements", those of us who live by the 'making do' philosophy. We are people who have been poor before this whole mess started and who will most likely continue to be poor when this "economic crisis" is over. And yet we are the ones who are expected to make tough sacrifices and tighten our belts. Pretty easy to say when you don't ever see the reality of every day life in poverty. Murderers are able to kill their victims because they de-humanize them. In the movie Silence of the Lambs, Buffalo Bill referred to his victim as "it". I don't think the poor even get that much respect, in fact we are often left out of the picture almost entirely.The rhetoric drones on about "entitlement spending" and "social programs", which are in fact income. Income for real people, people who are struggling to get by already. People who have children and grandchildren and husbands and wives. People who have interests and hobbies and histories and stories to tell. People who are loved and who give love. We are not a bunch of faceless nameless zombies shuffling along demanding free money. Whatever our history, we are real people with real bills to pay, families to support and lives to get on with and we need and deserve recognition.

Image courtesy of sillypandabears
© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Friday, July 15, 2011

Responsibility, The Drama

I have been accused at times for not taking responsibility. At other times I have taken on responsibility that was not mine to tend. In truth, both statements are one in the same. I adopted responsibilities of others as validation; “I am doing something, see” or as an alibi “I can’t do so and so because I’m doing this and that for such and such” and therefore completely avoided the frightening developmental task of “self-accountability”

I misplaced my sense of duty and commitment usually to people and projects that were lost causes, perhaps because I believed I was doomed to fail anyway. Yet this way if I failed, it wan’t really me failing, but the person/thing I’d poured my heart and soul into salvation, leaving none behind of course, for me to risk screwing up on my own efforts. I couldn't be blamed for trying to help, in fact it made me a “good person” didn't it? “What a good person that Jenny is, always there to help others”... “always there for the Underdog”
Never mind the reality that the Underdog was not there for him/herself any more than I was there for myself. We were both conspirators in this charade and we understood and performed our unspoken roles quite well, an innate improvisational theater of the absurd. A painfully overacted satire of human relationships, dreams and aspirations. To the observer with ample wit, a comedy of errors; to others it must have appeared as a tragedy, awkward and painfully maudlin.

When I was in aoda treatment I had one of those old school tough love therapists, the ones who use confrontation as a tool to breakthrough well versed denial that we addicts cling to like a security blanket. One day in a group session many of us were discussing our tendency toward co-dependence. I couldn’t help but notice that the conversation was veering dangerously down the road to competition, as stories so often do among women.  We were actually taking a fair amount of pride in our co-dependence; and “that no matter how much we drank or used we still took care of others”. The therapist, in her characteristic no nonsense “I’ll straighten you out” manner had been quietly observing this dialog with the eye of a hawk regarding a burrow of rabbits. Finally she struck, “Co-dependents are the most selfish people I know”
 “Whaaat? Moi? How can that be?” After all we were clearly so giving. so willing to self sacrifice.
We were, after all, nice people underneath our exterior substance abuse and resulting bad behavior.
It soon became clear that the level of our indignation was indicative of the truth in her statement. Our defenses had clicked into place and we demanded an explanation for this bizarre theory. After about an hour of good old fashioned group therapy and open ended questioning, most of us came to realize that our cruel and heartless therapist actually believed that the sacrifices we made had always had a not-so-altruistic purpose. In fact they had offered justification for our problems, validation for our existence, excuses for our lack of action and they allowed us to manipulate others around us.
Of course, she was right.
What took much longer than an hour of group therapy was the realization that we all have personality traits that are less than perfect, often dishonest (even to ourselves) and sometimes downright nasty. It takes years, sometimes, to accept that the darker parts of us are valid bits of the whole person. If we look at our life history we discover the origin of these patterns and beliefs. Most alcoholics did not come from ideal families or circumstances. The manipulation and self destructive patters we carry deep inside where no one can see (or so we think) are really nothing more than acts of survival. You don’t get by in an unstable, unpredictable land of ever shifting boundaries with out learning some tricks of the game. You have to play by the same non-rules as everyone else of you will be consumed by powerlessness and defeat.
There comes a time, however, when we choose to live our lives differently and after some trial and error we realize that if we are to survive in this new life we must be honest with ourselves. If we are going to stop playing games, replaying “old tapes” as my Mom would say, we have to be authentic. In order to be authentic we have to admit our errors, find their roots and forgive ourselves for ways we have behaved that were not in line with our Ideal Selves.
It is so much easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves. We tend to hold ourselves to a higher standard, to which my therapist would have said “what makes you so much better than anyone else?”
There were times I hated that woman, and I myself wouldn’t use quite such a harsh presentation of the facts, but in retrospect she was right. We are who we are, no better, no worse than any other human being (at least in potential) and as we stumble along this journey that is life a little humility and self-acceptance can go a long way. Once we have reached this point we are free and secure enough to offer genuine help and support to others with out losing ourselves in the process.

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The World is Going Nuts! (and it's about time)

People are going nuts!
I mean this in the most complimentary and respectful terms.

After weeks, months and years of writing letters to government officials, dutifully voting in every election, holding peaceful protests and signing petitions people have realized that the only good to come out of all their action was to gain the attention and combined efforts of like minded peers. The politicians continue to follow the directives of those who hold far more power than they do, the Big Money; and the Big Money or The Man, shall we say (sorry men) continues to feast like a glutton on the obscene wealth that is supplied to them by the politicians as they take it from the hands of people like you and me. This is trickle UP economics, folks. The few politicians who do seem to have a shred of decency rarely make it past the state or local level because, face it, you don't trickle up to Washington by flying on the colorful balloon of humanitarian ideals...and if you do your balloon is filled with hot air and false promises. Or it will be shot and deflated by the b.b. gun that belongs to the gang of bullies that smashed your pumpkin at Halloween and stole your candy. That gang of bullies known as "The Man" or the "Corporate Machine" or the IMF or World Bank or Bilderbergs or whoever it is you believe pulls the strings around here. We are so out of touch with who really controls things that we are reduced to inventing this sort of mythology to explain the incomprehensible. Like our ancient ancestors we deify or demonize the sources of the perplexing events that kill our crops, flood our towns and steal our babies in the night.
The development of and obsession with our collective mythology has kept us all well entertained for quite some time now. Conspiracy theories, hours spent reviewing the Zapruder film, tracing the genealogies of wealthiest families back as far as written history would take us and even involving extra terrestrials have all become some sort of religion with which we soothe ourselves as we search for answers. I think we have all became bored with our stories and tired of arguing over whose pantheon is calling the shots. I think we have finally decided that it really doesn't matter who the boogyman is, only that we are sick and tired of having our money, our rights, our homes and our basic safety stolen away by that thief in the night, that baby snatching goblin, that thirsty Vampire that keeps draining us and draining us until we feel like a bunch of empty shells. We've tried filling ourselves with entertainment, food, drugs, fashion and all the other crap they leave behind to distract us. We have discovered that lifestyle has left us empty, it never satisfies only pacifies. We have changed our diet and turned of American Idol and walked outside...and in that stark unfamiliar light as our eyes began to adjust we saw what was going on. We saw our streets are empty because, depending on where we live the kids aren't safe to play outside or they're off in daycare so both parents (if they're lucky enough to have two) are off working 60 hours a week just to keep the boogeyman at bay. We saw that there seem to be more and more people pushing shopping carts down our alleys collecting the leftover aluminum that contained last nights pacifier so they can walk to the recycling center and get a few bucks. And we probably noticed our car had been towed because we couldn't afford the gas to move it to the other side of the street or to pay the tickets that piled up on the windshield night after night as we were inside slamming down the beer creating income for the guy with the shopping cart. Well at least we made some contribution to society there, right?
Truth is we have made contributions to society our entire lives and society has basically taken the money and run without even an "I'll call you sometime".
We've known for some time that we can't believe in our government, now we realize we can't even believe in the "bad guys" anymore and we have come to realize that neither exists in the way we once dreamed they did. I have come to realize that it really doesn't matter weather the wealth is controlled by aliens or the Illuminati or some ancient family of inbred assholes, what matters is we have to stop wondering and whining and take the bull by the horns. Maybe it's time to take the advice of the unsympathetic, entitlement hating Republicans and "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps", only not quite in the way we've been doing for the past  50 years or so. Those boots were cheap junk, the kind you buy at Walmart and have to replace every 6 months because the straps break off leaving us to fall on our faces. We kept on getting up, wiping our tears and going out for more cheap-ass boots, but if you look around people are choosing different footwear these days. They're choosing something with a bit more substance and durability and they are taking them to the street in great numbers.
I'm encouraging anyone who is reading this to please find a news source that is not controlled by the mythical "Man" and watch what's going on in the UK, Greece, Orlando Florida  U.S. and in all the other places that people are finally putting down the petitions, refusing to go to work and standing up for their rights. And when you do I hope you will consider creating some new boots for yourself.
Here are a few links to get you started (if you haven't already) RT has lots of coverage of the Protests in Greece on Youtube
© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Don't Have to Have a Topic

I haven't posted a blog in well over a week. I have several first paragraphs sitting in my word documents, but I can't quite seem to get beyond that point on any topic. I don't now how many  of you are familiar with the book "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart enough and Doggone it People Like Me" or subsequent movie "Stuart Saves his Family". Both are written by the now Senator Al Franken as his alter ego Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley. You may remember his daily affirmations sketch, if not you can follow the link below and see it for yourself. Stuart is described as a "caring nurturer and a member of several 12 step groups but not a professional therapist". The book is essentially Stuart's attempt to write a self-help book of daily affirmations (pre-blogging days) and follows his battle with perfectionism, among other character traits, as he struggles to maintain his commitment to his job, friends, 12 step groups, family and his book.  Because Stuart is a "caring nurturer" and a perfectionist the reader experiences a tour of the rapidly cycling highs and lows of someone who is just a little bit neurotic and co-dependent. And although it is essentially comedic, it has a bittersweet tenderness that reflects the personalities of anyone whose childhood been affected by alcoholism, neglect, abuse etc.
This is why Stuart is one of my favorite characters to have arisen out of pop culture in America. I believe we all have a little Stuart in us, some of us more than others.  Today as I sat down with my laptop, determined to get out of this writer's block I've been up against, I suddenly remembered Stuarts commitment to write every day...the next entry was dated a month later.
The truth is, I find great comfort in Stuart's struggles with his self worth and I can laugh at them because they are my struggles as well. You can call it what you want, ADD (attention deficit disorder) post trauma, depression/anxiety or the result of a chaotic childhood but it is the stuff of daily life for many of us. And although we may have trouble with follow through and commitment and frequently lose focus jumping from one task or idea to the next, we are also some of the most interesting, caring and creative people I know. We don't fit the profile of what an adult is supposed to do or be but instead we explore our options internally and with the help of other like minded individuals as we create for ourselves the roles we want to embrace, the path we choose to walk on life's journey. We may struggle along the way, we get lost, we find an alternate path, we  fall down, we get back up but we do it on our terms, outside the box of externally imposed expectation...and we are good enough, smart enough and doggone it people like us.

"I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough and Doggone It People Like Me"
copyright 1992 by Al Franken.
Video retrieved from You Tube

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Friday, June 17, 2011

We are the Messengers

By now most of us have become aware that conditions in our world are rapidly changing. Not only in politics and economics but in the Earth herself. We have seen an increase in severe weather patterns, earthquakes, and other phenomenon. The events are most likely due to our ongoing abuse and manipulation of the planet and her resources. Politically  there are uprisings around the globe, in response to the abuse and manipulation of human beings as resources. Here in the US there have been rallies, demonstrations, recall efforts and occupations of  government buildings by citizens who demand fair and proper representation.The nation is now more than ever at the mercy of the abusers and manipulators, many who appear to be blind to the needs of the rest of us. Even in the face of public outcry, many of those who wield the power and control appear unfazed by objections to their myopic policies.
Sometimes it feels like it’s all too much to take in. While I follow events closely on a daily basis mostly via non commercial sources like blogs, twitter, independent news sources and the WisEye* legislative coverage I find myself needing, and deserving, an information holiday from time to time. As much as I advocate for an informed community I also realize that keeping track of events is hard work and I encourage others to take occasional breaks as well. As with any other job our productivity is increased when we are given the opportunity to rest, play and manage self care. And like any vacation, sometimes it can be difficult to return to the real world of work. But we do because we know our work is essential, meaningful and necessary.
We do not check in. punch a time clock or report to a supervisor. We do not accrue benefits or bring home a paycheck or gain promotions; we work for a greater goal than money or security we work for the survival of humanity, for Justice and for Freedom. There are two kinds  of freedom, freedom to and freedom from, this is an important distinction. Many are content to say that we here in America are granted certain freedoms based on our constitution and cultural precedent. We must remain aware of the freedom from. Freedom from censorship, freedom from an oppressive government, freedom from invasions of our privacy and civil rights. The Patriot act, heralded by its creators as policy that would provide freedom from the evil forces of other nations is in reality an open door allowing our own government to restrict our own freedoms, both to and from. Now as the hearings addressing whistle blowing, namely Bradley Manning, are beginning we are at a dangerous juncture where all our freedoms of expression are at risk. If it is decided that speaking the truth about wrongdoings and immoral behavior is a form of treason, what is the next step? I know there is a difference between military information and other forms of public information, but I also know that we are headed down a slippery slope on the path to censorship.
If you need more relevant here and now examples I can tell you that two reporters were arrested at the capitol in Madison during the budget hearings this week (see link for story). This is only one of hundreds of similar cases where attempts to document the reality of the injustices that are taking place have been repressed. These people, the documenters, the messengers, are essential to public awareness of the wrongs that are being committed by our government. As writers and bloggers we also take on the role of messengers, keepers of the history, educators and mobilizers. We have an unprecedented access to collect, document and disseminate information and we need to ensure that we maintain the right to do so.
I don’t care what it is that people chose to blog about, any real life story is an important strand in the fabric of humanity; and it is by maintaining a shared consciousness of humanity that we will remain strong, educated and compassionate as we stand together against oppression and tyranny.

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Resurrection and Equilibrium

I don’t know where you live but here in Milwaukee it's HOT! I’m already struggling with a writer’s block, as you may have noticed, and the atmospheric conditions aren't helping much.  In truth the weather is not to blame at all, if anything it’s keeping me inside and sitting still long enough to type out some thoughts. The “problem” quite frankly, is that life is really good right now. My strength and health are returning, my year long treatment related depression is lifting, which is allowing my prior year long unemployment depression to dissipate as well. Summer is here, my youngest child just turned 18 and I’m in a new relationship. Things are really quite fabulous in fact. This led me to question for a moment whether I need to be miserable in order to create. Part of me wanted so desperately to crawl into that old costume of the “tormented artist”, the Gothic Gloom in which we tear out our hearts and slap them bloody and beating on to the paper (or keyboard).But now I’m giving myself way too many melodrama points. My writing isn't typically all that theatrical and neither am I (although sometimes I like to pretend to be).
I've thought on this for a few days since first starting this post and have come to the realization that I have been feeling a bit guilty about not writing as often as I may have/could have. There are other things I have been paying less attention to as well, but as I have been backed into the wall and forced to defend myself to one of my children I have concluded that reclaiming my life after a couple of really crappy years is clearly going to shake things up in all areas of my life.
For nearly two years writing was basically my only outlet for expression and although I have no intention of abandoning my writing, my world has expanded. I’m sampling all the delicious treats of life that I had been denied for so long. Soon I will regain equilibrium and return to a more consistent pattern of writing and other creative pursuits, but for now I am basking in the sunshine and fresh air with the wonder and delight of someone who has spent the last 2 years in solitary confinement. I’m certain that my resurrection will stimulate new dimensions to my Creative Self, and I look forward to sharing them with you…in the meantime, off to the park!