I fell down.
I didn’t break.
I got lost and ran wild.
I found my way.
I often bled.
I always healed.
I always had a home.
I never missed a meal.
I never had to run.
I never had to hide.
I had my country on my side.
I had family.
I had friends.
I had love again and again.
I never wanted.
I never starved.
I never knew famine.
I never knew war.
I never huddled in the cold and dark.
I never prayed out loud for the bombs to stop.
I never smelled my village burn.
I never listened to my baby’s stomach churn.
I never watched my young son’s eyes go cold.
I never saw my husband’s back bowed low.
I never mourned the loss of my children’s smiles.
I never had to walk a thousand miles.
I never feared the violent seas.
I never felt the world abandon me.
I was never a refugee.
I was never abandoned.
I was never unwanted.
I was never feared
I was never hated…
I never suffered.
©2017 by Ilona Elliott
Sometimes I suspect I have been cultivating degrees of separation all my life. Usually I blame it on my natural inclinations, being something of a loner who can mimic an extrovert fairly convincingly when the occasion dictates. I’m either an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert. It’s too complex to figure out and it’s really just a question of semantics, isn’t it?
At twenty one, after I left my large loud family behind, I had to learn to live a more isolated life. I made friends at work or school or church. I developed some very close ties to numerous people over the years. But the nature of things being as they are in our mobile world, people would come and go in and out of my life. It was so easy to lose touch with them once they had gone. Attempts to maintain contact would fade into the background and I would realize they had new lives and new interests and little time for long distance communications.
Sometimes I was left feeling like I had the summer I was ten and my two best friends, then thirteen, ghosted me and made it clear, by ignoring my existence, that I wasn’t old enough to hang out with them anymore. It took a few days, but I got the message. It was a painful experience for a ten year old. Thirteen year old girls can be pretty brutal. I went through a similar mean girl stage myself a few years later, so I get it, now. Damn hormones. They were older, more mature girls and didn’t want a kid hanging around while they discussed adolescent topics like periods and boys. But they were still just kids too, really, lacking the social skills to let me down easy. So at the time I felt lost, not fitting in with the boys in the neighborhood anymore, who were my age, but not quite grown up enough to fit in with the older girls either. An outsider and a misfit. I lost my equilibrium. I had been playing with the same neighbor girls since I was a small child. Now they didn’t want me around. I didn’t know how to make new friends since they had always been there, available for me. And then they weren’t.
Then when summer was over I also ended up in the hospital, early in the school year, with appendicitis. I missed several weeks of school. I actually milked as much time away from school as I could out of my concerned Mother. I was perfectly happy staying home alone with her all day until my siblings got home from school and she went to her night job. It was a treat to have my mother to myself for a change. We watched her shows and ate lunch together everyday. I took long naps in a quiet, empty house. The sound of a small plane flying low overhead still instantly transports me back to that bedroom and those peaceful naps. But of course I eventually had to go back to school. After my parents explained the concept of truancy to me, I grudgingly returned to the fifth grade. I felt disconnected from everyone and everything there. I was behind in the lessons, my teacher was something of a bitch, and the kids had formed alliances without me while I was gone. UGH!
I eventually made some friends that year. Friendships that I still cherish and love and make a point to maintain over the many miles that exist now between us. They were the friends I shared my adolescent and teenage years with. We stuck to each other like glue to keep from falling apart as we learned to negotiate life out of the nest we were all so anxious to fly away from. They know me and know secrets about me that I share with no one else. And they love me. I love them. What a blessing.
I have to confess that as an adult woman, making friends hasn’t been my forte′. I have woman friends from my years of volunteer involvement in the arts when I lived in the West Puget Sound, and then some from my years of living in a remote and rural town in Eastern Oregon, where women gravitate to each other for comfort and entertainment in a world seemingly made for manly men, but I’m separated from all of them by miles of freeway, or miles and miles of lonely winding roads. It’s not very practical to visit with them face to face. I communicate with some of them on Facebook, but it’s a fairly superficial connection at best.
Now that my old man is retired, he is here, all the time. I’m glad we get along so well and that we know how to make each other laugh. We enjoy our walks with the dog everyday and have our pet places we frequent together. But while he is fine with our extremely low key social life, sometimes I need a little more than him and the dog 24/7. I plan on making a trip up north soon to visit with a friend who recently lost her mother. I’m looking forward to some quality girlfriend time and I hope I can be a comfort to her if she needs a supportive friend. There is just something about girlfriends that can’t be duplicated with your old man. When it comes to friendship, women are the omnivores and men are the vegans. Women chew the fat and gnaw on the bones of things when we really get together. We feast on the savory and the sweet. Men are more like a tossed salad when it comes to friendship…and a brew if they’re best mates. So while I am very comfortable around men and really like them, probably because my first friends were my brothers, I need that women to women contact from time to time to ground me. The way a man needs a good steak once in a while or a dog needs a ham-bone.
A couple months ago, around the holidays, I was pretty miserably lonely. I have gotten used to not fussing over Christmas and spending a solitary day cooking and eating with the old man and giving the dog an extra milk bone or two. But after growing up in a big family with sociable parents and extended family and neighbors as friends, sometimes, even after almost forty years, it feels more like an extended sick day than the holidays around here. So I had a small melt down and confessed to my loving husband that I needed more. It was hard. I didn’t want to make him feel inadequate. I don’t think he did, and I’m not sure he understood. But he did agree that I could travel more often to visit my sister and my east coast peeps if I thought that would help. I do. And I will. Life is too short to worry about the cost of an airline ticket when you need to be with your loved ones. To chew the fat and gnaw on the bones. I’ll be doing that with my sister again this summer. And my friend Diane. And hopefully Donna. Two of those fifth grade friends. And yes, there will be plenty of wine to wash it all down with. And chocolate. And a cannoli or two. Omnivorous friendship. The best there is.
My sister and I getting silly last June!
©2016 by Ilona Elliott
My mother’s father was an immigrant from Sicily, as were her maternal grandparents. I never met them. They existed for me in imagination only, stimulated by the sepia photographs, postcards and letters, some written in a language I could not decipher, that my mother kept in a big cardboard box in her closet. They lived in the stories Mom told about growing up in Bridgeport, Connecticut with her two sisters, her parents and her large extended Italian American family. I loved those stories. They brought the dead to life for me. I suspect they did the same for her. Sometimes I flip through the postcards still, dozens of them, dating back to 1904, and realize that people living in the same city often posted cards to one another to communicate. I guess a lot of people didn’t have phones back then. So many worlds away from how we live today.
Mom’s stories painted a picture of another life for me–a life that was a true American story. A story that included the struggles of big-hearted people trying to survive in a world where the language and culture were foreign, but the ideals were inspiring. Mom was born in 1921, the same year Mussolini became prime minister of Italy. Her father hated Mussolini and what he represented. He loved his new country, and believed in it’s democracy, even though living here was a struggle for him. It was a struggle to learn the language and to become a US citizen. He worked at menial jobs for years, but eventually saved enough money to open a small neighborhood store, which he lost during the depression. According to Mom, he couldn’t bring himself to deny people credit to feed their families, even when he knew they could not ever pay him. He struggled with physical disability, when as a passenger in a car driven by his brother Louie, he was hit by a train in a railroad crossing. He suffered with the pain of his shattered bones for years before losing his arm to amputation. Then he lost his wife to an aneurysm when she was just forty years old. Grandpa died five years later, Mom said of a broken heart.
My grandpa’s life in America was short and sad in so many ways. It was an immigrants life, a hard life, not very different from an immigrants life today. The struggles of immigrants are still formidable–barriers of language, of culture, and of alienation of newcomers by the entrenched populations. During World War II un-naturalized Italian immigrants were treated as enemy aliens, subjected to curfews and searches of their homes, confiscation of properties, and even interments¹, something we are leaning towards again in our country with certain populations of people, people who came here with the same hopes and dreams my grandfather had, and perhaps yours also.
My mother’s stories of family and community remained with me on an October Sunday afternoon I spent in the small Umbrian hill town of Orvieto, watching the people come out–well dressed elderly women and pretty mothers pushing children in strollers, old men in wool suits and fedoras, young men in leather coats walking dogs–everyone out, strolling, shopping, chatting on narrow street corners and lunching in outdoor cafes. The sense of community felt familiar and safe. Walking by the tiny butcher shops and patisseries I caught snippets of friendly banter between customers and shop keepers that, despite the unfamiliar language, spoke of the relationships that still thrive here. I was reminded of my mother’s family and the strong ties she had to it throughout her life. I thought about the numerous photos she left us of her family life growing up just an hour’s drive from NYC, and Ellis Island, and the port that received my grandfather’s ship full of Sicilian immigrants in 1904. These are the photos of people who lived for family–photos of relatives picnicking together at Beardsley Park and posing on the steps of the First Baptist Church on Easter, celebrating birthdays, weddings and graduations, and cooking Thanksgiving dinner together in Aunt Libby’s kitchen.
I once had an Argentinian friend, an organizational psychologist, who told me she didn’t relate to the large Italian population in her home country because the women were only interested in family. They lived for their families, and weren’t prone to pursue careers outside of the home. I knew exactly what she was saying. My Mom was that way. And in my own way, so am I.
What held immigrant families together were the traditions of their home country that they carried across the oceans with them in their hearts. The traditions of family and community, nurtured by their close relationships with each other and with fellow immigrants–their neighbors and friends. These were the ties that kept the country together through the difficult years of the depression and the second world war. These were immigrant ties, woven together to create the multi-dimensional fabric that is America. A strong and enduring fabric. But not indestructible. It is fraying beneath the weight of our collective fear and I worry that in time it might fail. But I’m only one American, so this is what I will do in the face of fear: Resist.
In honor of my immigrant family ties, today I will choose not to fear the immigrant or the refugee. I will choose not to be the citizen who rejects the unknown face, the cultural or religious difference, the unfamiliar tradition. I will choose instead to be the friend and neighbor of those who come to my country seeking refuge from destructive forces and unfortunate circumstances beyond their control.
I do it for my grandfather. I do it for my conscience. And I do it for my country. America. My country of immigrants.
THIS is a REBLOG of a wonderful post about the state of our united states from the wordpress blog An American Song. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!
In his inauguration speech, the new president insisted that America is becoming a wasteland. “American carnage,” he termed it. A place where gangs run amuck and crime is rampant. Where poverty is endemic. Where children are denied a basic education. Where economic blight is displayed in abandoned factories, and hopelessness and fear rule the day in an unsafe landscape.
Well, I’ve traveled across wide swaths of America, and met a wide range of people. And what I saw does not correspond to this bleak vision.
To be certain, we have problems. Our school system needs to be fortified and its teachers need better pay, and the erosion of university standards needs to be reversed. Too many people live in a cyclical poverty that economic and social policies perpetuate. Though statistically Americans are safer now than they ever have been in our nation’s history, still crime is an issue. The economy…
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Have you noticed all the specialized dating web sites available now? There are sites for single parents, single Jews, single Blacks, single Christians, single Seniors, single professionals, just about every kind of single. And of course, there are even “dating sites” for non-singles. The latter have naughty sounding names like Hush Affairs, Discreet Encounters and my favorite–Find New Passions, which kind of makes committing adultery sound like nothing more than finding a new hobby. Sorry honey, but I was kinda bored and it’s winter and all so gardening was out of the question…
I find it all rather interesting, in a disturbing kind of way. I mean do folks really want to date only people who fit nicely into a narrow profile, one very similar to their own? Yeah, they probably do. But where’s the sense of adventure? Who is gonna date the Ted Bundy’s of the world now? What will ladies talk about with their girlfriends over wine?
With so many online sites, you can choose a date based on age, interests, occupations, religious affiliation, race, gender and a host of other criteria. Here are some of the sites I found online just waiting to hook people up with their “perfect” match:
There’s the Our Time site for folks over fifty. I think they should call it “Our Limited Time” don’t you? And for the AARP connected singles, they have partnered with a site called How About We. AARP members get a free seven day trial, so if you’ve got your mojo on, you might find a mate for free–but probably not, if your old enough to be a card carrying member of the AARP. We all start getting those annoying AARP offers in the mail a couple of years before we turn 50, as if we need weekly reminders of our impending mortality, but nobody really joins until they’re 65 and need a Medicare supplement plan to carry them through the golden years, which are actually more like the trudging through the dismal swamp to Mordor years, but we won’t talk about that. Much too morbid.
Farmers Only is a dating website for lonely farmers, probably seeking women with low functioning olfactory organs who somehow manage to look like rodeo queens twenty four hours a day, even while scraping shit off cleated boots with an old butter knife, (if you believe their TV ads.) Their logo states that “CITY FOLKS JUST DON’T GET IT.” I’m not sure what IT refers to, but it’s possible we do smell IT, which is a problem for some ladies, so maybe they really do need their own special site.
There is also a site for ranchers called Date A Cowboy. It’s for women who like men that don’t talk much but grunt a lot. I assume that ladies who search this site are screened to insure that they can handle a full day in the saddle, ahem, riding bare back, side saddle, or Western, but definitely not English. According to the site, cowboys are “a little ruff but have a lot of love to give.” Since the the definition of ruff is “a projecting or conspicuous ring of feathers or hair around the neck of a bird or mammal” they better have a lot of love to give to make up for that rather unpleasant feature. That does explain the whole kerchief around the neck thing though.
Then there’s Elite Singles, for people who fancy themselves as elite singles. The site claims to help members find matches that “live up to their standards” and “love that won’t compromise their ambitions”. Obviously these are people who don’t get the whole George Bailey–It’s a Wonderful Life thing. You know, the ones that root for Potter. I’ll bet the site has a great resource for Pre-Nup agreements though. It all sounds positively Pride and Prejudice-like to me, but hey, I wouldn’t want a screw-off like myself sneeking a date with me if I were an actual professional with a promising career and prospects for the future. I mean, I have even been known to shoot wine out of my nostrils in fancy restaurants and stuff. So unprofessional.
Another site for professional singles is Professional Match, which offers “curated matches for singles.” So busy professionals, the kind who depend on designers to “curate” their paintings and throw pillows, can now access a similar service for curating date mates: I’d really prefer something from the blue eyed/ash brown collection, modern lines but not too sparse, and definitely no chunky legs.
Artist Friends Date is a free service for singles who love art! I’m not sure if they categorize applicants by style, but I could see a problem if you consider Thomas Kincaid a master artist and your date is more of a Munch fan. And everybody knows the majority of artists are poor, so this site is free! Gotta love those artsy liberals.
Writers Passions is a site for writers. After all, we writers are an often silent, moody, kind of creepy lot, at least when we are trying to create, so who would understand that better than a fellow writer? Personally, being married to a guy who can stare at a muted TV screen for seven or eight hours at a stretch without requiring my company has worked really well for me. As a matter of fact he’s doing that right now as I write! I don’t think I could stand living with a writer anyways.
If you are a pet lover like me, there are numerous sites for you. Pet People Meet, Date my Pet, Love me Love my Pet–those are all pretty straight forward sounding–if you don’t love pets, don’t waste my time. This one actually makes sense to me. I am an art lover, a writer, a music lover, and a nature lover, but the one love I have that would be most crucial to me to share in a potential mate, is dog love. After all, you are asking someone to love your room mate, the one that doesn’t work, sheds, poops in the yard, has bad breath, and refuses to share the couch with them, or the one that poops in a box, coughs up hairballs, urinates in the kitchen sink and shreds the furniture, so it’s probably a teensy bit optimistic to think “Why wouldn’t he love this fur ball as much as I do?” Best to get that out of the way right off the bat. And then there are people who have exotic pets like rats, pythons, iguanas and the like, so yeah, better to know before you go.
And that’s just a drop in the bucket when it comes to dating sites. I don’t know, call me old fashioned, but there is something about the idea of looking for love online that doesn’t appeal to me. I would rather meet someone at the library or walking on the beach. Not that I don’t know some folks who have hooked up online with great results. I do. Lucky for me I don’t have to think about it. I’ve got my mate. But I’m glad that there are sites for everyone else out there–farmers, cowboys, pet lovers, seniors, who ever you are or who ever you want. Oh and sea captains. Yup, shiver me timbers, there’s a site for sea captains too! Just in case you’re in the market.
Some thoughts on the ACA debate from an always thoughtful blogger, Catherine at Healing Through Connection.
Hello again friends, and Happy New Year! It feels good to be back. Diving right in with long form again…
This recent article from Wired got me thinking (again), there are so many layers and moving parts to healthcare reform, that no one player stands to lose all or benefit all from any changes. And yet so much of what we read and hear has an, ‘it’s so simple, they just don’t care about you, but I do’ tone. The piece describes why insurance companies, who may have advocated most fervently against implementing ACA regulations, actually have a stake in maintaining its current status. Nothing in our healthcare system is black or white, all good or all bad.
So when I see politicians (and friends) speaking and writing in oversimplified sound bites, and vilifying a whole group (all liberals, all Republicans) over one aspect of their point of view, it…
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When a cat stares at me I imagine it saying “I’ll bet you taste like tuna.”
And yes, I know how elitist I am, supporting hippies…living on farms they tend with their own hands…
America lost it’s first man in space–a statesman and an astronaut. It also lost a formidable first lady, a supreme court justice, and it’s first female US attorney general.
Hollywood lost a sassy space age princess with a snarkey sense of humor. A famous mother lost her beloved daughter. A brother and son lost them both.
Mr. Ed lost his best friend. The Brady Bunch lost their Mom. Gentle Ben lost his human counterpart. Super Man lost Lois Lane. Bugs and Daffy lost their voice. Raymond lost his meddling Mom. Tootsie lost a suitor and Cool Hand Luke lost a cell mate.
Sherrif Bart lost the Waco kid. The Chocolate Factory lost Willy Wonka and Translyvania lost it’s mad scientist.
Boxing lost a floating, stinging heavyweight with a propensity for colorful prose. Golf lost it’s pioneering King of the Greens. Baseball lost a promising rookie and Tennessee basketball a tough coach.
The music world lost a country legend, a poet, a pop culture prophet, a prince, and an orchestra’s worth of band mates and players in every genre.
Israel and Egypt lost peace makers and Iran lost a dissenting director. Cuba lost a revolutionary leader and America it’s most defiant adversary. The Human Race lost an humanitarian activist and survivor of the holocaust.
Journalism lost a droopy eyed veteran reporter. Public Broadcasting lost a spiritual journalistic mentor with a radiant smile.
Literature lost the creators of Atticus Finch and Watership Down, and the Guyanese educator immortalized in “To Sir With Love.”
In Politics, Britain lost it’s union, South Korea lost it’s honor, and the Syrian People lost everything. The American GOP lost control of it’s party, and the US Democratic party lost it’s mind. The general American public lost their desire for civil discourse and their ability to discern truth.
America lost eighteen active duty military service members in 2016, and one hundred and forty peace officers, including three 9/11 first-responders. May they rest in peace.
And may we never see another year the likes of this one. Welcome 2017.
My husband does believe in some things that I KNOW don’t exist. Like dishwashers that actually scrub a cheese omelet encrusted pan clean …