Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Importance of Being Bradley

I’m feeling almost sick waiting on the verdict of the hearing. I don’t write about politics or the news

very often on here. There’s plenty of that to go around and more than enough opportunity to voice my opinions on such matters. For here, I tend to focus on the personal and that which is personal, yet shared, among my peers. But in my heart this case feels personal and it has since the story first broke, when I first saw that very young man being led in handcuffs to what would become a seemingly endless confinement to a tiny cell. I’ve spent time in a holding cell, about 48 hours, and it damn near drove me mad. I can’t even fathom what two years in such a place would do to a person.

I know there are a lot of people who care and who do take it personally as well. This case and it’s outcome will be a turning point in our country, just as the release of the Collateral Murder video was also a turning point. Those of us who know veterans and have heard their stories weren’t terribly surprised by what we saw. Most vets will tell you these things, and worse, much worse, happen all the time. There was something that was disturbingly ‘safe’ about having that knowledge restricted to a select bit of the population. Like incest, you want to keep it hidden away and that first confession, no matter how healing it is, feels like having a layer of skin ripped off.

 I had a friend who was in Vietnam who told me about taking trophies, human ears, and wearing them strung around their necks like jewelry. War does that to people, it makes them do things you would never imagine them doing. This man was one of the kindest most caring people I knew and yet he had at one time sliced ears right off peoples heads. He told me that if someone was in the road when a truck of troops came along that person would be run over and left to die. It didn’t matter if that person was a child or an elderly person, which they usually were. There were other things too that he wouldn’t talk about but I can imagine.

Most people don’t want to know these things. I don’t want to know these things and yet I feel it’s my duty to know them because I live in a country that perpetrates more war than any other. I want to know these things so that I never forget why I oppose war in any way possible, even if most of them don’t feel very effective.

There’s another layer to this story and it’s even more personal. I have children about Bradley’s age. I have always taught them principles of honesty and integrity. You know, do the right thing and you will be rewarded, at least if only with the knowledge and satisfaction that you took the high road. How can I tell them that now? How can I tell them to intervene if they see injustice if they see an innocent young man go to prison for life for doing just that? It’s one thing to teach your kids that life isn’t always fair but this goes far beyond unfair.

Obviously Bradley’s parents taught him the same kinds of values, and now they have lost their son because no matter how this all turns out he will never be the same guy.But in the midst of all the grief and anguish I hope they will always be proud that their son changed this country forever in a way that needed to be changed. The scab has been ripped off, the flesh is still raw and now its up to us as a nation to decide how to heal the wounds of war and injustice.

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

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Life’s Work

What is the first question people typically ask when you first meet?

“What do you do for a living?”

For those of us who are not formally employed, running a business or in school that question can evoke some less than comfortable emotions. In our culture we are defined by our occupations almost more than by anything else we do. Even parenting, that vital consuming and essential role is not ‘enough’ in today’s world. I have my own feelings about that but that’s another topic for another day, and besides my children are grown so I can no longer claim Motherhood as my profession anyway.

It has been over two years since I have had a full time job and I’ve begun to adapt to this status. I have also learned some clever ways to respond to the big question, some of them are reasonably graceful. But before I was able to do this I needed to be okay with my status in my own heart and mind. Even now the level of being ok with it can fluctuate depending on other things that are effecting my mood and sense of self.

You would think that with unemployment rates holding steady over the past several years there would be less stigma surrounding unemployment and to a certain extent there is. What clearly is not acceptable to most people is the condition of being at peace with unemployment. The prevailing assumption is that if one is unemployed you must be desperately searching for work and quite possibly willing to accept any opportunity that is presented. The old “McDonalds is always hiring” mentality. As a matter of fact they are not always hiring, and even if I were willing to subject myself to the humiliation of working there they certainly aren’t hiring grown women with Masters Degrees. McDonalds aside, I am frequently given well intentioned suggestions as to where a person with my employment history and qualifications can apply for work. Sometimes, if I feel up to it, I will let the person know that I have applied at each of the places they suggest…and I have. Sometimes these jobs require a State licence, most require a car and insurance (I have neither) and many of them have interviewed me but ultimately chose another candidate. I honestly did put in a good year of applying and interviewing after my last job ended. I even applied for hourly wage service sector jobs, finally omitting my hard earned education from my resume so I wouldn’t be considered overqualified. Still no luck. While age discrimination is illegal, it’s nearly impossible to prove. I read somewhere the other day that Social Security claims have risen by 20% among people between the ages of 50 and 60 since the economy crashed or fell or whatever it did. There are plenty of other statistics that point to the fact that people my age are not getting hired to fill the scarce jobs that are available.

When I finally had applied for every Social Work/Advocacy/Case Management position in town  and had nothing but a folder of rejection letters to show for it I decided I might as well take on the grueling yearlong medical treatment for a disease I’ve been carrying around for many years. During that process I was able to qualify for Social Security Disability and Medicare, just in the nick of time as my Unemployment was about to run out. So that kept me pretty busy for a year and since I looked and felt like death not quite warmed over no one bothered to ask if I was looking for work.

 Now after all this time I really am not all that fired up to go back to work 40 hours a week. I am, in fact, downright happy to be not working.

So what do I tell people when they ask me what I do? Admittedly I often do recount the years I spent as a Youth Advocate then later as a Domestic Violence Counselor. It was hard work and I deserve the credit. But what do I do now? I’ll tell you.

I still help out people in crisis and frankly it’s much more effective and rewarding without having to document and maintain statistics for every single step of the process.

I read and watch documentaries and I learn something new every day.

I care for my animal companions.

I spend time with my family.

I stop and smell the roses, literally, and the trees and the grass and the earth.

I meditate and dream.

I have gotten to know myself and I realize I actually rather like who I am.

I write stories and draw and practice arts and crafts if I feel like it.

I grow things and make things.

I am learning my family history.

I volunteer in the community and put energy and effort into social causes that I hope will help make the world a better place for future generations.

I thoroughly experience life in all it’s beauty, dullness, excitement and unpredictability.

I appreciate every day I have been given even the crappy ones.

It’s a pretty good job if you ask me and I even like my boss.

 

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard


The Question of Commitment

In some not so recent years the pop culture discussion on the battle of the sexes and relationships was obsessed with the general unwillingness of the average male to commit.  Phrases like “the peter pan syndrome” were all part of this Urban Legend that in the world of dating and romance women were far more interested in finding a mate for life whereas men, it seemed, were primarily concerned with the excitement of the chase and proving their sexual prowess by bedding as many women as possible.

As old fashioned as these notions sound, it would seem they have persisted into the 21st century. Or at least it would seem so to anyone who relies on popular magazines, romantic comedies and pop psychology as a source of reliable information.

I’m not one of those people and frankly I don’t even know many of those people well enough to discern whether or not they believe this rubbish. I am a bit curious though. Having grown up in the 60’s I watched my Mother and her peers challenge the notion that a Woman attending college was not simply trying to gain the fabled “Mrs. degree”, but was instead actually endeavoring to cultivate a career.

As a side note for those of you not familiar with the term “Mrs Degree”, it implied that a woman could better herself by attending college, generally gaining a degree in Liberal Arts, with the end result of becoming cultured and well read enough to be considered proper marrying material for a man of intelligence and power. Being armed with a fair amount of interesting but generally useless knowledge would enable a woman to maintain reasonably intelligent conversation the the cocktail parties she would throw for her husband and his colleagues. She and other housewives of similar class and background could commiserate about 18th century literature as they prepared hors d’ourves and desserts and dutifully attended to their spouses whims and desires. Hell, maybe they could even form a book club and talk about their vaginas if they were really liberated. Ultimately however, the supreme goal was to land a husband who was able to provide a steady income, healthy children and a few nice material goods to enhance the suburban ranch house.

But anyway, back to the future or the present. I recently had one of those moments of self realization in which I discovered that I, myself, am commitment phobic. As this thunderbolt of insight struck I was prompted to mentally review my past relationships (the fact that there have been many should indicate that this so called epiphany was nothing more than neglected territory) This was not so much an”ah-ha” moment, as it was a “well duh” moment. I realized that with a few exceptions (mostly in my younger more idealistic years) I generally tended to go with the flow in my relationships as opposed to actually planning some sort of future. I did actually get married, once, and that was because I was pregnant and despite my initial instinct to hop a Greyhound and raise my child alone I felt the father had a right to know that his supposedly non-fertile sperm had indeed swum it’s way home and into the heart of one of my more willing ova. I told him because I felt it was the Right Thing to Do. I also figured he’d be the one to bail on the situation and therefore save me the bus fare and trouble of relocating. My ability to predict my mates reaction, as usual, proved ineffective. He asked me to marry him and against my better judgement and after considerable internal debate and rationalization I agreed. The idea actually kind of grew on me and I sincerely did want a nice stable normal life for my child. Problem was daddy seed belonged to one of the most unstable and less than normal people I’ve ever met (which was, of course what attracted him to me in the first place)

My second most valiant attempt at a relationship with the possibility of some sort of future, possibly an entire lifetime together, was with the father of my younger two children. We actually planned our pregnancy and he had picked up the role of father to my first born where biological dad had pretty seriously fumbled the ball. In fact he fouled out of the entire game.

My relationship with Dad number two was for the most part the closest I ever came to a sustainable, healthy and long term relationship. We discussed the idea of marriage, again he was more into the idea than I was, and quickly dismissed it as unnecessary, too costly and too complicated as it would involve awkward meetings of blended alcoholic families on both sides.

It lasted about 7 years until I admittedly, sabotaged the whole thing.

To this day I can’t explain, even to myself, why I was hell bent on destructing the life we had. Most of the time I was pretty happy. To this day I often recount those years as the best years of my life. The Earth Mother Years.

I don’t know why I walked away. There are some things about my choice that I do regret in a way. My children certainly would have suffered less. I would most likely be far more economically stable. A lot of things would have turned out differently. But they didn’t.

So here I am now, 53 years old, single and pretty happy with that status for the most part. I can’t help but wonder if I will be this way forever. Is this it? If I do find that ‘right person’ will I finally decide to make a commitment, to stay?

I’m more mature, a little more wise and much less restless. Would that make a difference?

I’m not actively looking to have these questions answered. I don’t believe that people find their perfect partner by actively looking for them. It happens or it doesn’t.

Either way I think I’ll be okay, and I do have that MS degree to fall back on.

 

Image courtesy of the fabulous Graphics Fairy http://graphicsfairy.blogspot.com/

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard


The Eternal Teenager

When I first started blogging a friend advised me to have plenty of “back up blogs” for the times I was too busy, or unmotivated to blog. Like most intelligent and sensible advice, I made a mental note, filed under “good ideas” and then forgot about it. And like many of the files in that category I look back and wonder why I didn’t take the advice.

I’m not angry with myself over the reams of unfollowed tips for better living, but I am a bit mystified by my absolute refusal to learn from my own mistakes. My therapist has dubbed me the Eternal Teenager in reference to my unyeilding position of Individuation and Hard Headed Self Determination. While I naturally wear this title as a Badge of Honor there is another part of me, more Parental in nature, that sometimes shakes her head in wonder.

How can you be so f@#king stubborn…use your goddamn head

This is how my Dad and his family would talk to each other, but don’t be alarmed it was all in good Humor and Love. And it was also with the full understanding that we all operate under the same adolescent modality of Doing it my Way.

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time has seen me experiment with different strategies. Dedicating myself to specific post days, trying for quantity rather than quality by posting brief daily musings, trying to follow themes or regular pre-planned topics, stuff like that. If I were doing this professionally I’d be out of a job, or maybe I’d be more motivated to pick a format and stick with it, who knows.

What I do know is this-I started this blog because there are a lot of Women out there who, like me, are Eternal Teenagers who, in spite of our lack of commitment or ability to follow life’s rules have a lot of Wisdom, Humor and some pretty good stories. Being a little off one’s rocker creates great opportunities for picking up a little wit and wisdom along the way, we all know that. Most of us are comfortable with that. But every once in a while we wonder,

why can’t I do things in a nice orderly fashion like everyone else which may lead us to wonder if we are alone on this crazy patchwork trail of adventure we call life.

Sometimes my best and brightest purpose can be to remind my Sisters who won’t or can’t follow the rules that we are not alone, we are not “bad” we are just Unique, Independent and Creative. In a world of sheep, it just might be the Black Sheep that stands out and dares to evade the Wolf.

You can’t cage a Free Spirit.

Peace and Love,

Jenny Nanakoosa

 

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard


Mending My mindfulness

 I clearly remember times when as a child, my thoughts uncluttered, I could sit for hours marveling at the

intricate workings of nature. I would watch a caterpillar nibbling away at a leaf bite by tiny bite. I could stare at moss so closely I could imagine that it was a miniature forest within a forest, perhaps home to it’s own tiny world invisible to the human eye. Especially in nature I would immerse my senses with every element of my surroundings and I experienced complete peace and harmony in those moments. I didn’t know it as such at the time, but I was practicing mindfulness.

I feel as though I frequently talk about living mindfully or practicing mindfulness, but in my own adult reality it is something that I struggled with for years. I learned about the concept of mindfulness, in stages throughout my life as a recurring theme that has evolved throughout the years. I was initially introduced to the concept  from my mother who is a practicing Buddhist. In later years it cropped up in books and articles I was reading about spirituality or self help. In therapy I was taught mindfulness practice as a method to quiet the racing thoughts and cravings that hijacked my mind and even my body driving me to moments of panic and fear. In my weekly yoga class, I learned from my wonderful instructor that mindfulness is key to getting the most out of one’s practice. Finally in my training as a counselor I was mentored and trained to assist my clients to use mindfulness in their healing process.

Yet even with all this wonderful advice and information,  I often felt I had to really push myself, to remind myself to be mindful. It wasn’t something that came naturally to me as it had when I was very young.

Now after years of “practice”, a funny thing has happened. Suddenly, it’s coming back to me. In fact in the past week or so I have spent little time writing and very much time listening, observing and sensing the world around me. I’ve also been mindful enough of my own state being to know that for whatever reason, this is what my whole Self needs at this time. It’s like craving a certain food, if you suddenly have an unquenchable taste for greens your body probably needs calcium.

Thinking back over the past couple of months I realize I have had a sort of spiritual craving, a sensory craving to take in all that is in my environment, to observe, to listen, to feel. There is something I need, there is an unnamed desire.

 

I have come to a point in life where I am now living alone, my youngest child now almost 19 is on his own. I am unemployed along with all of the paradoxical freedom and restriction that accompanies that status. I am not involved in a relationship of the romantic sort. The Occupy movement which I had devoted a considerable amount of time and energy to is undergoing a quiet transformation. I have recently hit the point that I can safely say I am fully recovered from my Interferon/Ribavirin treatment and physically and mentally as good as I’m gonna get. I have had the feeling of being at a crossroads wondering where I go from here. I feel like I’m on the threshold of…something. I’m just not sure what. Yet.

I think this ‘craving’ the need to listen, to observe, to absorb the world around me is a message from my higher self. It’s telling me that if I am to make choices about what comes next, starting a project, connecting with people in my community or maybe even something I haven’t imagined yet that I need to pay attention to what life has to offer. I also know from past experience that a door that is open to opportunity needs some monitoring. In case you haven’t guessed by now I have been known to be somewhat impulsive in my decision making at certain times in  my life; sometimes with disastrous results. And even when not walking blindly into disaster I have sometimes missed out on the beauty and joy of the simple things life has to offer, all because I was so busy chasing that crazy train that ran in circles around my mind.

To follow up on my last post, one of the joys of getting older is being able to slow down, to get off that train and suddenly mindfulness climbs into your lap like a well loved feline.

 I also recently talked about procrastination, but I don’t think that’s the case, yet. I will trust my heart and mind to work together and to let me know when to take the next step…and then I will most likely procrastinate just a little bit. If I’m lucky now that I’ve put that out there in the Universe, someone will let me know. You will, won’t you?

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard


Vote 18

In the 1960’s and before, a kid could be drafted into war and all its horrendous possibilities without even having a voice in the electoral process. I’ll just put aside, for the purposes of my story, the issue of whether or not any of us who are not billionaires have a voice anyway. 

 It was in 1970, when the “vote 18” campaign was in full swing that I found my political voice. I had been peripherally involved in anti-war and civil rights actions in tow along with my parents for as long as I could remember. I saw Martin Luther King, Jr. sitting on my Fathers shoulders peering over a sea of heads in Chicago. My Mom and I went to Quaker meetings and sat in silence with Conscientious Objectors. But the issue of 18 year old’s right to vote was a fire that was kindled in my own soul by a 5th grade teacher, Ms Solberg, whose words of encouragement and empowerment still live on to inspire me over 40 years later.

 “Vote 18” was my first cause. It was the first action that was fueled by a passion I had seen in my parents and others but never quite grasped in my own heart. It was my activist coming of age. The spark that was ignited by Ms Solberg, caught flame and burned brightly when a schoolmates older brother, who was only 18, was killed in Vietnam. I had met this kid. He had hung out with my babysitter in my living room, laughing, joking being just an average teenager. I remember sitting with them feeling pretty cool to be hanging with the big kids, pretending to know what they were talking about when half the time I didn’t. There were hippie kids, they listened to Zepplin and Hendrix and were exotic colorful clothing. They were what I wanted to be. And then his number came up he was ripped away from his carefree life of flowers and rock and roll and dropped into a strange country thousands of miles away and killed. 

I was already anti-war but the additional insult that this young man could be used as fodder for this senseless war without even having an opportunity to vote was unconscionable.

I wore “Vote 18” buttons and responded with sassy defiance to adults who patronizingly asked me if I even “knew what that meant” (the story of my friends brother generally changed their tone) I wrote letters to politicians, I graffiti’d “vote 18” in parks and in public restrooms with all the flourish of Zorro embellishing his notorious mark. I attended rallies at the University of Illinois campus where my Mom was taking graduate classes and experienced the exhilaration of being part of the unified energy. I did everything an 11 year old could do.

The following year in 6th grade a male teacher scoffed at a bunch of us ” once you kids turn 18 you probably won’t even vote”. As I recall I held my tongue on that one (not always the case when I was a kid) but I carried those words with me every time I went to the polls as an adult, an 18 year old ‘adult’.

Every election I feel a commitment to my 11 year old self who, with trembling hands and a pounding heart stubbornly faced the derision of certain adults. I also take with me the memories of the women and minorities who fought for the right to vote, not only for themselves but for future generations, for us.

Corporate America, ALEC and greasy palmed politicians may have made a mockery of our electoral system and there are many people who feel that it is beyond repair. I have to believe that it is not. I have to fight for an 11 year old Flower Child.



The 26th amendment lowered the voting age for elections in the US. It was passed on March 23, 1971 and officially ratified on July 1, 1971. 

 

Text of the Amendment

Section 1. Lowering the voting age 

The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the united States or by any state on account of age. 

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

http://wiki.answers.com/

 

 

The Nineteenth Amendment (Amendment XIX) to the United States Constitution prohibits any United States citizen to be denied the right to vote based on sex. It was ratified on August 18, 1920.

http://en.wikipedia.org/

 

copyright Jennifer Hazard 2012Image


Leap Day

  Greetings everyone on this Leap year day. Funny thing, leap year an extra day a day where in some cultures convention may be allowed  to slip as if being granted an extra day one is given a free pass, a get out of jail free card or permission to upset the order of things a bit because after all its an extra day. Somehow being  extra it doesn’t have to answer to the rest of the year, sort of the Vegas vacation of days. For example in my youth it was the one day that it was ok for a girl to ask a boy out, on a date or to go steady or whatever it was called at the time. Even then in the early 1970’s the tradition was probably a carry over from years past because it was after all the era of sexual liberation when most conventions were being challenged. Not so much in a small town junior high school in western Massachusettes where the Womens movement hadn’t quite taken hold. You would be surprised at how well insulated some of those small towns had kept themselves from the surrounding influences and perceived decadence  of the all womens Liberal arts colleges like Smith or Mount Holyoke. Anyway I was far too awkward and shy to consider asking any boy out even if it were to be announced that the last day of life as we know it was upon us. I would have spent the end of times alone in my room with my cat listening to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or maybe some Led Zepplin if I was feeling particularly sassy.  Now decades later I still feel there should be a magical quality of some sort attached to an extra day. Even if the day is merely a silly attempt to reconcile a calendar that stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the phases of the moon as a logical guide for measuring time. And maybe therin lies the origin of the suspension of societal gender norms that dictated the absurd rule that the initiation of a  relationship should be an exclusively male priveledge.  Seems a petty consolation, one day every four years, for the loss of a female centered measurement of the cycles amd passages of time.    2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard