Washing Out My Mouth

There are events in our lives that are so embedded in the folds of our brain that we remember them with all five senses and even that metaphysical clarity that comes occasionally. One of those events is the washing out of my mouth with soap by my mother.

Yes, I had a “smart” mouth. The best punishment might have been tape. For several decades my sarcasm was lethal and could be really mean. While there was often humor, the skill came too easily for me. So, after we had a season of vicious politics, looking at our personal culpability is paramount if we want to live in a world where people don’t use their first base instincts. Maybe to remember or learn how to speak truth without quick judgement of other’s belief systems? Too many times if you get the first jab in, you don’t actually have to listen–and listening with curiosity is a talent to embrace in any season.

Humans are meant to have conversation. We solve problems that way. When we first huddled in groups in a cave around the fire, we talked in some fashion about the hunt, the weather, the food and the people over the hill with the new furs. Moving fireplaces into bedrooms in castles and not just having one fire in the great hall for everyone, set up part of the social system for feudal Europe. Television and its voracious appetite for our time killed more than one relationship due to conversation stagnation or the clicking of the remote control .

For me, having a lively, intellectually based conversation, with people listening and talking and taking turns and there being a bit of chaos is a rare treat when it happens. It is why the two new groups that I joined in 2016 have excited me so much–conversation is expected. If you hear the same old same old around the fire, you are SO Boring.

But, and there is always a but, the talking that many people have been doing is full of angst or hate or fear or anger or righteous indignation. (one of my specialities).

Let’s figure out how to mitigate that national tendency and move on a friend by friend, neighbor by neighbor path to regain our conversations.  If you have time send me your suggestions for a small action we can all take to err on the side of humanity and not hate.

My class at Colorado Free University has one session left in January and after that I will be ready to tackle teaching people how to use their words.

Joanna, trying to practice what I preach






Reasons to Read

One of my neighbors has rapidly diminishing eye sight. One of the women in the library book club has difficulty hearing and it is getting more pronounced. But. because these women qualify for extraordinary elders, they still read and discuss and are curious about the world, even the universe.

So, the hearing woman listens to books on CD and the seeing woman reads like an assembly line. They both agree with me as life long readers that they waited a long time to have extra time to read. Adjustments are made to our latest impediment, but reading is at the top  of leisure time activities, if not mandatory daily activities.

At one point in the blog I mentioned that going to groups of people who are new to you is a great way to expand outside your comfort zone. As you become an elder, staying social and involved is  critical to you enjoying and cherishing your life no matter what the physical body is treating you to.

On Saturday, two friends and I attended such a group. Two Raging Grannies about two elderly (90 years old) women who become curious about the words, Growing the Economy, during out latest recession. There was a panel discussion afterwords about how an activist might be birthed. The grannies became radicalized by the questions they asked and to whom they asked them. They read and read and called and talked to people and came to conclusions and read again. It was a marvelous examination of friendship and wisdom and ageism and the social structure of a nation.

The program was offered by the Denver Public Library at the Park Hill branch. They have a program, North of 50, and bring information to elders in the form of current topics of interest.

Having had a difficult week in the development of tolerance and acceptance , this respite and encouraging film hit the spot that was sore.   It started with a question and that helped us remember that you can still find answers in reading.

May kindness and compassion find you,





Strange and Spooky

The yearly tsunami of candy is over for the year. Candy and princess costumes and a holiday without much meaning is how it seems now to me. But, as a child and older, the masks and dark and unknown scared the breath out of me. So, imagine the children new to this country and the overwhelming visuals and sounds of their first Halloween.

Watching the refugee families that my friend group helps was like watching a National Geographic Special. Our primary family has been in the country for six months, the 7-year-old goes to school, they have shopped and had doctor appointments and gone to Mosque and been to see the mountains. But this strange holiday was scary and too full of “new” to process easily.

Put this on top of the layer of fear from being Muslim in a country that welcomed them a few months ago because they had been a help to the American troops in Afghanistan, but suddenly they hear that they could be deported.  Friends who watch television and follow the politics of  the season had enlightened them. We had asked the family numerous times to join us at one of our houses for a light supper and conversation. After the rounds of “hate speak” they had heard, the women wanted to make sure the husbands were with the family when they visited us. That means we needed to do a Saturday or an evening. Then we begged them to come for Halloween and the two oldest girls could learn to go door-to – door with us in a safe neighborhood where parents walked with children.

The father, Abdul, kept calling Halloween evening to try to make excuses, but our leader was tenacious and just as it was getting dark, they pulled up in his new (old) van and they entered the land of what must look to them as science fiction. We were set up on the front porch with candy out in big bowls for the trick or treaters and the four women mentors, one husband and a small dog. Two of our group took the girls up the street with bags to learn how to trick or treat.Sugar and chocolate is a great incentive. Donna, who was an elementary teach, told the girls how to scream and be scared when they were and they all screamed their way to a new experience.

While they were gathering chocolate, we tried to explain to Abdul about All Souls Day and All Saints Day and bribing the ghosts to stay away. He then translated to his wife–I wish I knew what he really said. When the girls came back they handed out candy and with English skills being important, they repeated the names of the costumes or colors as we told them. They could see that the kids were just like they were, except dressed up. Lots of the younger kids who came up to the porch could not keep a mask on and that helped too to see the little faces. Our girls eyes were wide and shiny and they kept coming to us and hugging us with excitement. With our cultures appearing to be so different, the culture of being human was not.

Good parents worry about their children. In this case, the layers of fear and the unknown had to be peeled away one layer at a time. But, that one evening peeled several layers away at once. The adults trust us a bit more, the children think we hung the moon and the elders were thrilled to have such a special experience.

Be Kind.