Category Archives: Good Works

Blue Eyes Crying

We all have them.  All five of us were born with Mom and Dad’s Irish blue eyes. They light up with laughter and mischief.  Especially when we were all together.  The last time all seven of us were together, the jokes ricocheted around the room as if shot from an AK-47.

Eva Cassidy.  Bob gave her to me.

It’s one of my first memories.

We headed up Wells Street.  Bob, my eldest brother who is seven years older than me, was riding me on the bar of his bike.  I was about 3, and I sat happily on the bike, watching the baseball cards that were clothes-pinned to the spokes of the front wheel click.

“Lease,” Bob said, “Make sure to keep your feet out of the spokes!”  He didn’t tell me why.  Maybe he should have.

We turned onto Charles Street, next to St. Pat’s School.  Our brother Fred was standing there on the corner.

“It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen,” Fred has said 3,428 times in the intervening years.

It had never occurred to me before Bob mentioned it, but I was suddenly curious as to what would happen if I DID put one of my feet into the spokes. So I just put one little piece of my sneaker in.

“You guys came around the corner, and all of a sudden, the bike just STOPPED! In slow motion, Bob flew over you and the handlebars, and then you, Lease, flew over too, and landed on top of Bob.  The bike followed, and there was a big pile on the corner,” Fred has said, often.  “I laughed and laughed.”

The lesson I took from that experience was that if somebody tells you not to do something, think about why they are saying that.  They might just be right.  It’s possibly one of the more important life lessons I’ve ever learned.

Of course, he taught me many other things.  Big brothers do that.

Another lesson is that slapstick is hilarious.  Unless you’re the one slapped.

As I write this, my big brother Bob lies in hospice in Florida, dying.  His illness and deterioration happened incredibly quickly, and I can’t get there for a few more days for medical reasons.  Fred is trying to get there to be with him.  Bob is unresponsive, incoherent.  Mentally gone.

As Bob is unmarried and has no kids, the decisions for his care have fallen to me, as I was named his medical proxy, and I’ve shared that responsibility with Fred, just as the three of us shared the burden (along with Beth’s sons) when our sister Beth was in Charon’s boat.

Writing comforts me, and you are all my friends, who have read the stories of my childhood, my family. Bob hasn’t appeared in many of my stories, as he was much older.  He doesn’t fit into the narrative too often.  Moreover, as an adult he has been a difficult guy.  Reculsive, introverted, angry. His has been a difficult life.

But he was also a sensitive man, with a big heart that he kept well hidden.  A writer’s eye for detail, and a love of eclectic movies.  Like the brilliant comedy, What We Did On Our Vacation

Appreciate the folks you have who love you, and whom you love, no matter the differences.  No matter how big a pain in the butt they are.  Because you just never know.

 

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Save the Children

You’ve probably read that the U.S. government has, ummm, lost, nearly 1500 children. Oops. Out of 7,635 children taken from their families, they’ve lost a whole bunch.  Nearly 19 percent.

So what does the Trump Administration do?  It decides to brutally separate more children from their families.

A fellow blogger, Tokyosand, has helpfully beat me to the punch in giving information about this horrible situation, and how each of us can help.

#WhereAreTheChildren: How to Help

How You Can Help

  1. Contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives. Their job is to conduct oversight of DHS–they must hold DHS accountable. Simply say, “I am outraged by how our government is treating children at the border. What is my Senator/Rep doing about this?” Find your Senators here. Find your Representative here. If you use 5 Calls to contact your reps, they have a script on their system for this issue already.
  2. The ACLU is gathering signatures to petition Kevin K. McAleenan, Commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection to stop the government from abusing immigrant children. You can find the petition here.
  3. You can contact ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) directly. Write to them here or call them at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.
  4. NEW: The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has recommended guidelines for human rights at international borders which you can read here. The reported actions our DHS is taking do not comply with these guidelines. You can contact the UN Office for Human Rights here.
  5. NEW: Amnesty International has been calling for an end to the U.S. policy of separating children at the border. Their call to action can be found at the end of this post here.
  6. NEW: Americans of Conscience has a list of 7 other U.S. officials who need to hear from us, plus a script to use. That list is here.
  7. DEVELOPING: There is a nascent effort to organize #WhereAreTheChildren marches for June 14. Check here for more information.

I’d like to add another one.  VOTE. Vote in primaries. Vote in every special election. Vote in November. Elections matter. And the 2018 election is a must win for returning accountability to the evil people currently ruling our country.

Please help. Separating children from their parents is not what America is about. Not my America, anyway, and I’m pretty sure not your America either.

 

References:

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/hhs-official-says-agency-lost-track-of-nearly-1500-unaccompanied-minors/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/aclu-report-records-claim-border-agents-neglected-abused-migrant-kids/

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/5/8/17327512/sessions-illegal-immigration-border-asylum-families

 

 

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World Toilet Day

Every day of my life, I thank my lucky stars when I get up, go into my clean bathroom, and take care of business.

Some days of my life, I’m less thankful when I am somewhere where the only “facilities” have no running water.  No handle to push.  No way to wash my hands.

Of course, with my potty problems, I guess I’m more in tune to toilet issues than most people.

Why am I telling you this?  You see, Sunday, November 19, is World Toilet Day. And of course, I’m (1) telling you about it; and (2) celebrating it.

The Wider Image: Around the world in 45 toilets

A toilet stands outside the Llamocca family home at Villa Lourdes in Villa Maria del Triunfo on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

The point of World Toilet Day is actually pretty important.  People without access to hygienic facilities risk illness, many women are preyed upon and attacked as they seek out a place to go.  Diseases are transmitted, including infections, cholera, well, here’s a picture.

The "F-diagram" (feces, fingers, flies, fields, fluids, food), showing pathways of fecal-oral disease transmission. The vertical blue lines show barriers: toilets, safe water, hygiene and handwashing. Source Wikipedia

The “F-diagram” (feces, fingers, flies, fields, fluids, food), showing pathways of fecal-oral disease transmission. The vertical blue lines show barriers: toilets, safe water, hygiene and handwashing.
Source Wikipedia

Hope you’re not eating.

World Toilet Day is to help the fortunate ones of us around the world realize that:

2.4 billion people around the world don’t have access to decent sanitation and more than a billion are forced to defecate in the open, risking disease and other dangers, according to the United Nations

We in the West are rather spoiled.  And the reality of what some folks, many folks must deal with can be eye-opening.

About 25 years ago, my brother Fred got a grant and went to Africa to study something or other.  It was his first experience visiting the Third World.  When he came back, he talked only about poop.

It seemed that the city he had visited ran with raw sewage.  Poop was in the gutters. Children played in those gutters. The sewage ran into the river that was used to irrigate crops.

Piles of poop were everywhere.  In the street.  Under trees.  In the corners of buildings; everywhere, he said.  Even inside.  Fred described a memorable elevator in the middle of a hotel lobby, that he had seen. The decorative ironwork around the elevator shaft was delicate and beautiful. But the elevator didn’t run — in fact, the elevator itself had been removed.  But people would stand with their backs to the elevator shaft, pull down their pants/up their skirts, hang their butts over the open elevator shaft.  And they’d poop.

“I realized something incredibly important, “ said my horrified brother:

“Civilization all comes down to what you do with your poo.”

So when you’re thinking about the craziness in today’s world, maybe we all need to realize that part of our problem is that so very many people just don’t have a pot to piss in.

***

Yup, it’s a rerun.  But you didn’t really think I’d miss World Toilet Day, did you?

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Earth Day / Science / Judy

Earth Day.  The Science March (which I sadly can’t attend until Science gets around to curing my damn Crohn’s Disease).  My late sister Judy’s birthday.  So I’m reposting this.  Hey – Jude believed firmly in recycling!

***

She’s been gone now for 17 years, Jude.  Not a day has gone by since that I haven’t wanted to talk with her, laugh with her, or, alternatively because she was my sister, smack her.  There really isn’t a relationship like you have with a sister.  Even long after they are gone.

*****

Today, April 22, is Earth Day!  It’s the Anniversary of the very first Earth Day.  Here  is Walter Cronkite’s report on the first Earth Day, 1970:

It would also be my late sister Judy’s 65th birthday.

Whoever made the decision to turn Judy’s birthday into Earth Day chose wisely.  Judy was a born environmentalist and recycler.

On the first Earth Day, Judy was a new, very young mother who believed in saving the planet.  She was the first “environmentalist” I ever knew personally, and well, I thought she was nuts.  There was a recycling bin in her kitchen for as long as I can remember.  And this was back when recycling took effort.  She believed in gardens, not garbage, and she made life bloom wherever she was.

I’ve got kids,” she’d say.  “It’s their planet too!”  

But years later, Judy took recycling to a whole different level when she helped people recycle themselves.  In the 1990s, Jude, who was then living in Florida, began working with the Homeless, assisting at shelters.   Then she actively began trying to help homeless vets food, shelter and work — to enable them to jump-start their lives.

When she died in early 2000, the American Legion awarded her honorary membership for her services to homeless vets.  A homeless shelter was named in her  honor.  So she’s still doing good works, my sister is.  That would make her wildly happy.

Jude also gave me the Beatles.  So it is very appropriate that they wrote a song for her.

You see, the night the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, it was MY turn to choose what we were going to watch.  And we were going to watch the second part of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh starring Patrick McGoohan on the Wonderful Wide World of Disney.  My four (all older and MUCH cooler) siblings were furious with me.  But I was quite insistent.  You might even say that I threw a Class I temper tantrum over it, but I wouldn’t admit to that.  Hey, I was seven.  And it was my turn to choose.  Fair is fair, especially in a big family with only one TV.

Somehow, Judy talked me out of my turn.  She was always very persuasive.  Thanks Jude.

Hey Jude, Happy Earth Day-Birthday.

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Let’s Go To Town!.

Tired of calling your senators and congressman/woman?  Maybe what you need to do instead is go to town.  Town Halls, that is.

Yup.  Here’s another way to raise some hell.

The Town Hall Project 2018 is a website that posts public forums for senators and members of congress.  Meetings where you can go and listen to and talk with the people who claim to represent you.

If you have questions, problems concerns with what is happening in our government, in our world, go to town.

If you think that keeping Obamacare is important to you, go to town.

If you think that maintaining Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as you’ve expected them to be when it was time for you to collect on what you’ve paid out for decades, go to town.

If you think that protecting the environment is important to you, go to town.

If you think that Trump’s Executive Order banning Muslims should be revoked, go to town.

If you have other opinions that I haven’t listed and that you feel your representatives in Congress need to hear about, go to town.  And bring friends.  Bring lots and lots of friends.

The Town Hall Project 2018 has promised to update its website regularly.  So bookmark it, and show up.

American Democracy is no longer a spectator sport.  Get it in gear.

 

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Don’s Johns

Sometimes a metaphor actually plops into your lap.  Or your hands.  Or into someplace you hope you don’t drop your cell phone.

That happened to me today, when I read an article in the Huffington Post about one of the, ahem, priorities, of the folks setting up Friday’s Inauguration of Donald J. Trump.  And really, it is a metaphor for what is to come.

You see, whenever there is a big event here in the DC area, there’s a lot of shit going on.  Literally.  Lots of people = lots of pee and poop!  So port-a-potties line the Mall, surround the Monuments; and ring the Capitol itself.  And in the DC area, one company has the scoop on poop.

dons-johns

Photo Caption  Don’s John’s.com

But, according to the Huffington Post,

Someone’s Covering The ‘Don’s Johns’ Logo On Port-a-Potties For Trump’s Inauguration

When I saw that headline, my first thought was, “Of course they are.  They’re covering up all kinds of shit.”  But this time they’re not covering up the shit, but the name.

dons-johns-2

Photo Credit:  Michael Showalter for the NY Post

Of course folks are covering up Don’s shit.  But it’s up to us to pull off the tape and show the world Don’s Johns.  That will be our job for the duration of Trump’s presidency — whether that is for 2 weeks or 4 years.  To pull off the tape on Don’s Johns.  To expose every breach of law, each unethical behavior, all threats to the rule of law.

THAT is how we will survive Trump.  Because you can’t paper over the truth for long.

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Keeping Our Heads for Four Years

If you were a news junkie during the George W. Bush era, you’re already experiencing deja vu.  That sinking feeling already makes your eyes roll automatically when Putin’s President appears.  It settled into the back of your neck from the whiplash as you shake your head and shout “no, no, no, no, no, no, no!” over the latest outrage or tweet.  And it’s there in the pit of your stomach, when you try not to vomit whenever you see the color orange.

Yup, it’s started.  The Deluge.  The Flood.  The Trump shit storm.

trump-and-putin

During the Bush years, I would just be ready to pounce on one issue, when another hit the fan and took the wind out of my sails. Resistance is hard if there is just so much to resist.

How, I worried in the days since November 8, will I survive Trump.  I feared a heart attack.  A stroke.  Getting so scared I’d shit in my pants.   Of course I worry about the last one sometimes during a scary movie.

Anyway, I’ve come up with a strategy for a hybrid Resister/Surviving Human.  I’m going to become a political centaur!

centaur-female

Google Image.  No shit will be given by this filly.

 

I’m going to take my mother’s marital and parental advice and apply it to my activism.  She said:

Choose Your Battles!

Me, I’m going to try to focus on issues I know about and/or that are closest to my heart.  The ones I write about here on FiftyFourAndAHalf.

But that won’t be all I do.  I will look for and follow the lead of others who are knowledgeable about other issues, and I will try to help to the extent I can.  It’s not hard, really, to make calls to Congress and the White House.  Really, it just takes a minute.  You or I can even just cut and paste and hit “send.”

But I will try my very best to keep my blood pressure — and my outrage to livable levels.

George W. Bush kept us all off balance because there were so many things to be outraged about, that we couldn’t keep it up.  Different bad presidents need different tactics.

And Trump will make the Dubya years look like a walk in the park.  And that park is in Baghdad.

 

 

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