Category Archives: Uncategorized

When you’re the hunted, words matter.

Once my brother,  obviously critical of my reluctance to watch swearing, fucking, killing television or listen to hate radio levied the ultimate criticism, “You’re delicate!”  In other words,  I was too fragile to handle the gross assaults on my everyday happiness. But how could I embrace the portrayals of  women being hunted, strangled, raped and tortured?  I refused to witness these sufferings.  I knew assaults happened but it didn’t have to happen in my living room every single day.  And I refused to hear Rush Limbaugh’s swirling tongue, sliding out from his mouth, calling a woman a bitch or a slut and suggesting that women want to be sexually assaulted.  Rush Limbaugh rants

Am I delicate?  Soft?  Fragile?  My children will give a resounding,  YES! When it comes to movies, hate radio and television, they believe I am a wuss.  I think most of my friends and former colleagues would find this assignment laughable.  “Her, delicate?” Ba, ha, ha, ha.  I am the strong-willed, aggressively passionate, feminist, mama bear, who grew up a tom boy.  But I have to admit that the language of Trumpian Surrogates sends waves of prickling goose bumps across my skin. I have been assaulted more than once and I am  a  domestic violence survivor.  It is easy for me to imagine this continual current of careless hateful words taking up residence in an unbalanced, vulgar young man.  “Bitches” deserve  to be beaten back, beaten down, beaten into manageable submission. It’s not a “stretch” when you are the hunted.

I learned a long time ago that sexual assault has nothing to do with how pretty you are or how you dress.  It’s about power, it’s not about sex.  Women in their 60’s have been stalked and assaulted and sadly, so have little children.  It’s not a sexual act of intimate intercourse, it’s a forced brutal attack of dominance, often culminating in a kill.

So when Roger Stone, a man who funds the Trump Campaign, organizes a group using the acronym CUNT, (Citizens United Not Timid) my anger and fear can not and will not be dismissed.  Nor, can the well-documented legacy of Donald Trump’s actions, words, and behaviors be wished away for the “greater good”. Calling Clinton a Bitch  He’s a dangerous man who incites violence and pits us one against another. His life-long behaviors describe a man who is misogynistic. (Brit Brogaard, Ph.D. describes misogyny as,  “not a man who simply hates women,…but (who) hates women who are not subordinate, women with power and status, women who can stand up for themselves and make their own decisions.”What is Misogyny Anyway  )

When you see images of Mr. Trump surrounded by women, enjoying their company, publicly displaying his affection for them,  take note that this behavior is dependent on their subjugation to him.  Independence is exercised when an individual woman chooses the trade-off of servility for prestige, power, or money.  A leader modeling subjugation by demeaning women and disrespecting women could become the existing condition.  And if our President can treat women and girls this way, wouldn’t our boys and young men assume that yes, that is the way to treat women.  If you doubt this could happen, look up supportive articles of Hillary Clinton  on line and read some of the comments.  Or check out Twitter and see for yourself how women who disagree with Trump’s supporters are treated. (See for example #GeoGee, who calls Hillary Clinton a cunt.)  Will Mr. Trump and his cronies lead us down the slippery slope of American systemic female subjugation?  Could we end up wearing a Hijab?  Only if we allow it.

 

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The Stuff in This House Where I Live

I walk through this assemblage of family faces staring back at me, these black & white photos, resembling me, resembling my Italian husband and lining the walls of a long hallway carpeted in grey.  It is a carpet that I now appreciate for its ability to hide the light and dark daily soil of our lives.  These faces staring back at me, pulling at the threads of my memory remind me of the echoes of a mass, long ago attended, when monsignor smudging my forehead with a black thumbprint said, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.

My pulling away from this house recalls for me the pulling away of a bandage covering a serious wound;  the fine, thready fibers sticking to a wispy veil of translucent skin.  It is a tedious painful process,  but necessary.  My children and grandchildren like the singular, woven filaments of gauze  have already lifted from this house into a horizon that awaits their brilliant participation. The road before them is an unwinding spool of predictable and exciting adventures.  Their chests are puffed with courage as they face and direct the un-spooling of their stories.

But my pulling away demands the willingness to leave behind the mementos of the stories made in this house.  These stories that twist and turn upon themselves with equal parts of happiness and regret.  To trust that all the things contained within these bricks and boards are not required to remember a love served freely.  A happiness shared willingly.

My insecurity about this leaving is at times washed with sadness and anxiety.  And I understand my friends who cling to foundations and stuff to avoid the prickly pain of letting go.  The “stuff” relinquished to the universe: couches and chairs, figures and paintings, sculptures and photos are the selections in our galleries that establish the dialog of lives lived here in this place and time.  They are a vivid and distinct momentary pattern of  lives lived glowingly. They announce, this is who WE are.

In our home hangs a painting purchased at a tag sale.  It’s a beautiful work in blues;  a framed Dutch Watercolor keeping company with a long wooden dinner table.  In the foreground is a demure young couple in traditional dress who appear to be courting.  But the flaw (not easily identified), is that the couple only have 3 legs. No matter what angle or view you apply you just cannot find that fourth leg.  Hilarious and lively dinner debates have been summoned attempting to locate that lost limb.  And grandchildren to grandparents express passionate opinions regarding their theories about where it might be hiding.

A large serving of trepidation is now being served at our table and it prevents me from casting our home and our things out into the abyss. The potential loss of this painting is not what troubles me.  It’s the possibility that this painting is a reminder of stories that characterize a family that lived, loved and laughed around a meal.  And a fear that our family’s memories might be drowned by the depths of our inadequate memories.

 

*Your thoughts, comments and observations are encouraged.  Follow me @patricialeapens.com

 

 

 

 

A Letter to my Grandchildren: The responsibility of democracy

October 5, 2016

Dear Grandsons and Granddaughter,

By the time you read this, history will have been made and my part in it will be just a tiny pebble in a huge river of politics.  One of the greatest things about our democracy is that it allows each of us to believe we make a difference.  I love that about our country.

But like so many memorable times in our history, it seems this time our presidential election has the power to shift the direction of our country, and the weight of it feels more like a burden than a gift.

I could itemize all the costs and benefits of each candidate.  I’ve certainly considered it.  But a politician’s character, experiences, and policy platforms often fade when compared to a system that: rewards the attainment of wealth at the expense of another person’s well-being, dismisses serial marriages and infidelity by saying “everyone” does it, and uses their religious beliefs to judge, punish and minimize the freedoms of others.

I will be voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton because I believe that she represents the safest course for our family.  I will trust her to negotiate our foreign policy based on her sound judgments and comportment as Secretary of State.  I will trust her to advocate for an affordable option for attending college.  I will trust her to negotiate and amend a health care policy that still leaves people financially ruined or without coverage.  I will trust her with leveraging her power to mediate Wall Street and Main Street.  I will trust her to protect the rights of women, Latinos, Black Americans and the LGBTQ community. I will trust her to help us with mental health parity and reasonable gun legislation that is reflective of our constitutional right to bare arms. I believe she is our best shot at an America we can be proud of.

I did not come to this decision easily.  The decision was not informed by television, political pundits, memes or well-meaning family and friends.  I studied Mrs. Clinton’s life and career through written works for and against her.  This is the responsibility of democracy.  This is my responsibility to you, my grandchildren.

With all my love & hope for a bright future,

Grandma

157-hrc-books

An Partial Reading List:

Hard Choices, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2014

The Case Against Hillary Clinton, Peggy Noonan, 2000

Americans’ Views of women as political leaders differ by gender, Pew Research Center, May, 2016

Ways of Looking at Hillary, Reflections by Women Writers, edited by Susan Morrison, 2008

It Takes a Village, Hillary Rodham Clinton, 1996

Any aggregated article containing the name Hillary or Hillary Clinton, The Drudge Report, September 2016

10 Most Powerful Women in the World, Tech Story, Jan. 4, 2015

Hillary Clinton’s Worst Week in Washington, the Washington Post, by Chris Cillizza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sexism: Face, A Body, B

Stepping into his office, I placed the requested file on his desk.  He and his assistant had left for the day and I was asked to keep the office open and schedule appointments for later in the week.

This job was a dream come true for me.  I had managed to finish high school and take classes at the junior college with two kids in tow.  Now I had my first real job that was “professional”.  My grandmother had encouraged me to become a secretary – in her cohort this was making it.  “You’ll have your own money”, she’d beam.  At the time it seemed an insurmountable goal but with long hours and many sacrifices, I had achieved the hardly possible odds of getting off of welfare and earning a paycheck.  Success never seemed so sweet as the day I got the call back that I was hired to be the secretary/receptionist at the two person Orthotics Office.  I knew my grandma would be proud.

That day, being a somewhat curious…okay, nosy person I looked around his desk.  It was very neatly arranged except for the file I had just brought in.  I’ll never know why, but I opened the small drawer on the right hand side where I assumed pencils and other tools would be kept.  In it was a folded half-sheet of binder paper.  I lifted the paper and unfolded it.

There were two columns with a line drawn down the middle.  The top of one column was headed with clearly printed black letters:  “Face” and the other column, “Body”.  Women’s names including mine ran down the left hand side of the paper, each clearly printed in black pen.  When I found my name I read across the columns: Face, A and Body, B.  Each and every candidate was “graded” according to her physical attributes and obviously I had been valued highest.  A flush of elation swept over me.  I had never thought of myself as stunningly pretty, so this pronouncement was new to me.  I thought, “wow! I won.”

But in the long aftermath of that euphoria, as I matured, I realized that day I had recognized on some level that all of my accomplishments and the position had been devalued.  My success was nothing more than, tits, ass, and face to him.  My knowledge mattered little.  His probable fantasies had trumped every bit of scratching and clawing I had endured to achieve a better life for myself and my children.  His sexism had defeated my accomplishment.

His end at the office was not a good one.  The drama of it all never reached me except that I was there when he had to clean out his desk.  And I got to meet his ex-wife, a very beautiful and kind woman.

 

 

 

 

Grandma in My Head

via Daily Prompt: Unfinished

My inner critic has always been relayed to me in my Grandma’s voice.  “If you’re going to do something, do it right,” she’d say with a straight long line for a mouth.  It was never a suggestion with her, always a command.

She was like a razorback boar some of the time, snorting and grizzling round our house – cleaning and grumbling and dishing out orders to all of us, her servants.  It wasn’t too bad for me, cause I was little.  And I definitely was treated like a little princess since I was the first granddaughter and adored by everyone except maybe my uncle who was only 8 years older than me.

By the time I had escaped the “Golden Child”- failed expectations of my family and moved far, far away from them all,  I began to struggle with the most frustrating problem.  I could not begin a new book until I had finished the book I was reading.  I’m serious I could not make myself check-out another book until I finished the current one.  This bled into other activities too.  I couldn’t start a new sewing project until I had finished the present one.  I couldn’t buy a new skirt or pair of pants until I had hemmed the last one.  I had to finish whatever I started before I could move on, even if I hated the book, the pattern or the garment.  But why?  I was an adult now, I could do what I want.

In my late 20’s and newly married, my husband remarked that sometimes he was reading 3 books at a time.  “What?” I asked.  “How can you?  You have to finish the one you’re reading before you begin a new one.”   “Or what?” he asked.  “I don’t know”, I stammered as my mind raced in circles to find the answer. I started thinking, why couldn’t he read more than one title at a time?  There was no reason.  “Won’t you get confused?  And what if its’ left unfinished ?”  I questioned, struggling to figure out my thinking.  “So.  he replied, “sometimes I don’t like the book I’m reading or half of it is good enough.”  I scratched my head considering the opportunity of actually having two or three books to enjoy at one setting.

And then I heard my Grandma’s voice say, “Young lady, finish what you start. You don’t want to be that person that starts a million things and never finishes one.”

 

“As American as Apple Pie” unless You’re a woman

Thousands and thousands of letters scribbled across college-lined paper in an attempt to find out the truth about Hillary.  For and against, hate-filled and complimentary, everyone seems to be scared shit-less about a woman who will or will not become President.  Me? I’m just drowning in information: books, on-line articles, insights, comments, television talking heads.  Before you call me a “fucking liberal”, (I’m actually becoming more & more desensitized to it), you should know that I haven’t decided to vote for her yet.  The white-collar Republican thug presented this election won’t be getting my vote.  He’s a creep.  Wouldn’t want to explain that one to my children & grandchildren.

But let’s talk about Hillary Rodham Clinton.  God, even I’m sick of her.  But is it “her” or is it the social media’s relentless degradation of the only woman to ever ascend the last hold-out of the male bastion of dominance.  (44-0 male presidential terms of office.)

I am not here to give her a “Pass” on anything (all the accusations included: lying, cheating, pay for play, murder) or to encourage you to vote for her. If the GOP hadn’t been held hostage,  if they had given me ANY alternative, I would have seriously considered their candidate.  But they didn’t so I am taking a closer look at HRC and the accusations being leveled at her.

 1.  LYING 

Donald Trump is denying his “Birther” history.  Hello!  We’ve heard this accusation for 5 years, at least.  There are videos, interviews, etc. of him that substantiate his conspiracy theory.  So he’s a liar.  No surprise there.

Chris Christie denied he knew anything about the bridge closures.  (And today there is an article in the NY Times stating that he did in fact know.  So he’s a liar.  No surprise there.Feds Say Christie Knew    

President John F. Kennedy lied about the invasion of the Bay of Pigs.  He lived a lying life with his many extra-marital affairs.  So he was a liar too.Lying Presidents

Lying is a political currency.  Should we give any politicians a PASS?  NO! but if we are going to castigate a woman, this time Hillary Clinton, then we better damn well hold powerful men accountable too.  Donald Trump supports Christie’s denial of knowledge about Bridgegate.

2.  QUID PRO QUO (Pay for Play)

From what I can learn, the underlying problem in politics, not just the Clinton Candidacy, but ALL active and aspiring politicians,  is that it is a campaign financing issue.   All political aspirations require big amounts of money.  So for example, the Koch Brothers;  are two billionaire brothers who want to use their money to propel and accelerate their ideals and belief systems.  This is as American as apple pie  and they have the money, so what’s the problem?  Simply put, unequal access to policy making and “makers” because of their monetary support.  It’s a simple equation:

politicians need $$ + billionaires have $$ to give = campaign financing  $$

  When you receive all this cash though do you listen differently?  act differently?  add meetings to your calendar?  The Koch Brothers  are very secretive by all accounts and disperse their actions from the Americans for Prosperity network.  So it’s not easy to track down.  This election cycle they have offered $900 million for endorsement of GOP Candidates.  That must be pretty tempting.  But do they get  “enhanced” access?  That’s as difficult to discern as say, did people who asked for meetings with Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, get penciled in?  But these were foreigners she was dealing with, heads of state, you say.  Do you think for one minute that billionaires aren’t dealing with and advocating for foreign heads of state?  Trump’s Foreign Business Ties a Threat to US Security       The Koch Brothers, Israel and Foreign Affairs

3.  TRUST

We’ve all lost trust in our candidates haven’t we?  I think Bernie was so appealing because he was a plan talker and had so little history in the public eye.  But even he was a “player” on some level.  I was very surprised to find out he was Jewish.  Not that I minded, but why didn’t he ever talk about it?

Everywhere I look there is an issue of “trust”.  For me, my political mistrust started when I found out John F. Kennedy, my families hero,  was a philanderer.  Certainly not unusual (especially for that time period)  but we expect something different from our president.  And remember the conspiracy theory that he had something to do with Marilyn Monroe’s “suicide”?  And then there was the Vietnam War.  And then Nixon, and Regan, Clinton & George W.  All of them liars, some of them employing a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” quid pro quo.   And all of them in the end disappointing most of us and weakening the fabric of the idea of a democratic government and our fantasy of politicians who would be perfect.

It takes every bit of self discipline I have not to be disrespectful to anyone whose lack of good judgement contributes to the instability in our country, Hillary Clinton included.

Each and every one of us has baggage.  Accusations  about lying, cheating, and even murdering have been documented and investigated with special committees, inquiries and juries paid for by the American People to find Hillary guilty.   Absolutely little to no judicial consequences or outcomes have been delivered.

I am NOT endorsing an acceptance of her behavior or a withdrawal from critical evaluation. However, at some point each of us must ask ourselves, how much the targeted attacks on Hillary are warranted and how much of her behavior and actions are criticized because  1.) we have no clear idea of how we think an ambitious, determined, powerful woman should behave and  2.)  our political system clearly favors men.

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Finding Hillary

The quest to find the woman who would be President of the United States.

I decided last week to find Hillary.  Prompted by a couple of my friend’s entreaties to vote for someone to keep someone else out of the Oval Office, I have decided to challenge myself.  Because frankly I just could not come up with a concrete reason that wasn’t informed by the media.  I have never read any of her books.  And I haven’t read any books written about her.  I have seen her on the news but I know very little about her life and career.  I never listen to radio talk jocks and I rarely watch television shows with hosts who interview “celebrities”.  It’s all too boring.

But there are two things I can confidently say that I think about Hillary Clinton.

  1. I admired the way she handled her husband’s public philandering.
  2. Her voice annoys me.

So, for me this is a quest.  I am going in search of a leader.  I believe a person’s truths are echoed in their writings, so my goal is to read at least two of her books, probably  Hard Choices  and “It Takes a Village”.  Because enemies help define all of us, I will read two books from among those who find fault with her, “The Case Against Hillary Clinton”, by Peggy Noonan “The Final Days” by Barbara Olson.  (All of these books have been chosen because they are available at local libraries)  I’ll interview a couple of my friends and family who will not vote for her and I’ll also continue to listen to two of my friends who are ardent supporters.  I’ve read some articles in the N.Y. Times but I usually prefer the Washington Post, so those will contribute in my search to find the reality behind this iconic woman.   And maybe I can catch a video or two, including  Clinton Cash.

During this journey I would like to find the answers to the following questions? 

Do I agree with her ideologically?

How was her job performance as  the Secretary of State?

What part does corruption play in her leadership?

What role does misogyny play in my perceptions of her?

I am prepared to accept that I might not find the leader that I would like to find.  But I am also prepared to find a leader that I have neglected to give a chance.  My journey begins…join me.
Expect a new post every week, probably Tuesday or Wednesday.  And I invite appropriate and respectful referrals and comments.

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A Teen Sleeps In

I’ve been spending  time with a boy in my family.  Like many of us in our teens, he has his struggles, particularly with social skills.  And now he’s in a school where many of the kids have problems: neglect, drugs, alcohol, abuse, mental health.  It must be a lot to handle because when I go to pick him up, he’s closed down; his arms stuck close to his body, his eyes darting place to place on the school grounds, or looking straight ahead.  It’s almost as though he is hunted.  I wonder what it’s like to be in a setting where you feel uncomfortable for 6 hours straight.  It takes him about an hour before he loosens up and starts talking.  I don’t push it and I do let long minutes of quiet lay between us.

Yesterday, he said, “you live a pretty peaceful life, don’t you? You get to do whatever you want, whenever you want.  You don’t have to get up, or go anywhere or anything.”

“That’s true but there are other things that keep me from doing everything  I want to do” I said.

It’s a simple conversation that reiterates a common teen theme,  “I want to do what I want to do.  This is my life.  I want to own it.”  He’s individuating and starting to recognize that he wants to be in control of his minutes, hours, and days.  And he doesn’t want to do anything he doesn’t want to do.  It’s like the 2 year old toddler who says, “no” to everything because he’s practicing making his own choices.

I want to talk on and on about every choice you make being a choice that eliminates other choices, or how we need people because we’re social beings and every time you include someone in your life, you enjoy the benefits of love and companionship but limit some of your freedom.

But I decide to keep it simple and keep the conversation on a literal theme; sleeping in.  He can sleep in on weekends and I can’t even though I wish I could.  He doesn’t understand how it feels to ache from being old, and how it compels you to stager into the dark mornings.  But he recognizes that part of his “freedom” is sleeping in on Saturday mornings.  Hopefully that is the beginning of an  appreciation for his personal freedoms and an opportunity for us to talk more about “freedom” in the future.

 

 

Safari Hunts for Memories

This morning with coffee, my husband read from a book he kept when our two younger kids were toddlers. It’s his book of occasional writings, funny little things the kids would say before they were grown up. He read a dinner prayer where our youngest daughter thanked God for “trees, family and forks”.  And then a question from our youngest son, “… why don’t Cousin Larry and Balki have kids?” We both chuckled and shared our dismay. How in the world could we forget such precious moments? It’s bewildering.
This morning’s reading of his little book of remembrances sits in contrast with my pride for getting rid of stuff. Last year I attempted to delete 50% of all my stuff. Yup! clothes, books, buttons, dishes, fabric, mementos, out the door. “How did I do it?” you ask. I decided that organizing and taking care of stuff was taking up too much of my time. I wanted freedom! I was sick and tired of hunting for anything and everything. No more household Safari Hunts for me. I was done!
But I have to admit after this morning’s reading, that I’m a little concerned. It’s possible that with some of this “stuff” I tossed, I also tossed some of my grey matter. Because maybe it’s not just that we are driven by a capitalistic, consumer culture to buy, buy, buy. But that these “things” cause in us a reflection; a moment of feeling. And when many things cannot be remembered at the age of 62, seeing something that has been cherished or thrown on the heap is just enough to cause us to remember.