The Cedar Rapids Flood and Winston the Pooh-Chon

Having recently noticed that someone else has named their blog Walking Winston for their pug, I decided to change the name of my blog to glorify my own Winston’s mixed breed.  He is half poodle, half bichon and known to my grandchildren as Winnie the Pooh-Chon. He weighs nineteen pounds, which is seven pounds more than the breeder said he was supposed to grow to but I love every ounce of him.

When I ask for a kiss he gives me a quick smack as though to appease me but also letting me know he’s not easy. He’s a little Scorpio, born on the same day as one of my granddaughters and both are strong, independent and brave, except Winston is afraid of the vacumn sweeper, from which he runs and hides under the bed.

He will walk on his hind legs for a treat but will only come when he’s called after slow deliberation.  If he’s in his hidey hole under the bed a treat is not enough to bring him out. Say the word “walk” a few times and he runs out with a big grin, tail wagging, looking for his leash. 

When we arrived at my daughter Teresa’s house on June 11th ahead of the flood that later entered my house Winston was ecstatic, but as time moved on he began giving me that questioning look, like “I like to visit but this is ridiculous, when do we go home?”  How do I tell him that his favorite resting place on the back of the sofa by the window, from which he viewed the old neighborhood, now rests at the city dump?

Since the flood Winston and I have been welcomed into my daughter’s guest room, where I have my own microwave, a small coffee pot and my computer.  When Robert’s parents came for an overnight his dad also brought his power washer and a generator so he and Robert could go to Cedar Rapids to clean mud out of my house. While they thus labored, Robert’s mother and I caught up on woman talk.

It’s great to have caring, sympathetic in-laws along with family. They didn’t even mind that my Squatter’s Rights meant they had to sleep on the sofa-bed.

Winston and I are both blessed.

 

After the Flood: Grateful in Cedar Rapids

I recently experienced the one thing that would make me forget–and care even less about–the latest political claptrap. In fact, I haven’t watched Fox News or CNN for at least ten days. My focus has been captured by our local news in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

My new focus began the morning of June 11th when my sister-in-law called from Detroit to see if I was okay. “I’m fine,” I said, surprised. I had awakened that morning without the enticing smell of coffee wafting through the house since I was fasting until after the routine drawing of blood for “my numbers.” So my doctor could tell me if, in fact, I’d been behaving as I ought to — starving to death and walking Winston every day for the past three months (for my own exercise, of course).

Pauline had seen on the national news that downtown Cedar Rapids was flooded. Oh no, I said, they must’ve been talking about Cedar Falls, which was recently flooded. Of course sandbagging had been going on locally but that happens when it rains a lot, just as a precaution. I had listened to the news with only one ear — it’s like that siren that goes off periodically where they say don’t be alarmed, it is only a test.

I blame my inattention that morning on the lack of coffee as it takes at least two cups to get my brain working, but within a few hours after Pauline’s call I was headed for Teresa’s home in Coralville. It was my day to spend time with my darling grandchildren. I also took along a couple of changes of clothes, just in case the flooding river reached a street I had to cross on the way home and I had to stay a couple of days.

But I forgot to wear my hearing aids.

I still didn’t think the water would reach my house because I live in the 500 year flood zone. Doesn’t that mean a flood only happens in that area once every 500 years? My insurance agent told me they don’t even suggest flood insurance for people there. Why should I worry?

Within a couple of days my street, near Czech Village, came under mandatory evacuation.  My wonderful, amazing granddaughter Jessie, and a friend, broke into my house (her Mom couldn’t find her key) to retrieve my hearing aids. And that thoughtful young woman also retrieved my computer for me! My computer would’ve been a terrrible loss; it holds so many family pictures I scanned in, along with other irreplaceable records.

The only furniture saved on the first floor was, miraculously, my glass curio cabinet (six feet tall) containing treasures my children have given me over the years.  On the other side of the same wall my fridge had fallen against the kitchen stove. Yet,  when my daughter Cathy took the mud-encased cabinet home and washed it and the contents up, not one of the glass shelves or other treasured items were broken.  They were also able to save the framed family portraits and other sentimental treasures on my walls, including a mother’s day card they had made for me when they were small. The water (which reached a level about two inches above my kitchen countertops) had stopped before it reached them. I am eternally grateful.

Many people had it worse than I did, losing everything, whereas my second floor was spared any damage, so I still have my bedroom furniture and most of my clothes and linens. Although many things were lost that I valued and I will have to replace the furnace, stove, refrigerator, washer, dryer, television set, living room and dining room furniture, my desk and bookcases (although I now have only a few books to fill them) these are only utilitarian things.

My children and their mates and even my grown grandchildren pitched in to clean up as soon as they could get into the house, hopefully before the mold could set in.  They tore out the wet stuff: walls, sodden carpeting, ruined furniture, as well as the furnace, water heater and appliances–the rudiments of living. A huge heap of trash waits in front of the house for the truck to take it to the dump.

Teresa has been keeping a running reportage on their progress on her blog Flesh and Spirit if you want to see pictures of a flooded house and its aftermath. It’s not pretty and I cannot even imagine the shape I’d be in right now without their long hard labors  So my heart goes out to those who have suffered through this disaster, and especially if they don’t have family members with the dedication and energy, and time from their own needs, to help.

As you know I study Astrology and I also believe that everything happens for a reason. Not that I know what the reason is but perhaps more understanding still waits in my future. Was there a sign in my natal and progressed charts and the transits? Yes, but who would’ve known that it would manifest in this way? All I could tell was that a major change was coming involving my home. I thought of all kinds of possibilities, some of them much scarier than what manifested. So, I have to be honest and admit that I feel a sense of relief that it was only material things. My children and their families are all safe and have proven, once again, that they are, as they’ve always been, my Blessings from the Universe.

Midlife Crisis: Retrieving Your Soul

The midlife crisis is no joke, although it may look that way, to people my age who find it endearing that young people over forty are horrified when they find a gray hair. I try to remember the time when I thought forty was old, but I must’ve changed as I now consider myself to be young at sixty-nine.  And the loveliest thing about my gray hair is the ability of my beautician to make it any color I like.

I don’t mean to belittle the point here. The midlife crisis really is a once-in-a-lifetime deal and it really is serious. When I say you are on a journey to retrieve your soul, even though you didn’t know until now it had been misplaced, I’m not just speaking metaphorically. This is a crucial time in your life.

Have you been jogging along the right path lately? That’s the question that comes up when you reach your late thirties to early forties, a period of about four to six years. It’s been ten to fourteen years since you experienced your first Saturn Return and faced the first big milestone on your soul’s journey. But maturity is not an overnight process. Along with the new insights you gained back then you most likely had a job to maintain, a family to provide for, and all that goes along with being a responsible member of society.

Now transiting Saturn will enter the picture again when you’re about 42, but this time only as part of a complex series of transits that have already begun, to bring the new results to light.  By opposing its position in your chart, it’s asking “How are you doing so far on the halfway mark to your second Saturn Return?” And your cranky reply may well be “Would you quit being so serious for awhile? I’ve got all these other issues to deal with so you can just wait your turn!”

The other three transits just passing are Uranus opposing Uranus, called your “Uranus Opposition”, Neptune square Neptune, and Pluto square Pluto. All of these transits represent a complex of self-evaluations and choices you are making about your life. It is a process. Although I experienced my Uranus opposition first, many of you are experiencing your Pluto square first, as Pluto has been traveling faster recently.

Pluto is associated with psychology and some believe he even represents the soul. Since this is a one-time transit, it represents a life-changing crisis in action on a deep emotional and psychological level. It often begins with a growing awareness of our mortality. We become obsessed with the loss of youth and other signs of aging, and feel a deep sense of loss along with other intense feelings: of grief, depression, rage, jealousy, betrayal, isolation and disempowerment.

What’s really triggering these feelings is an internal process in which the unconscious is awakening, and something within us is crying out for greater depth of meaning in our lives. In Jungian terms, this phase represents the confrontation with our “shadow” and we are faced with the “demons” of the past. Through internal and external experiences we become more aware of those parts of ourselves we have repressed, buried, rejected, denied, projected and ignored.

It’s time to begin recognizing, owning and integrating these unlived parts of ourselves. In order to heal our wounded child it is also time for us to endure the pain and face the past, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. This phase is not just about death, it is about birth and renewal.

For most people, the Uranus opposition follows and occurs between the age of 40 and 42 (others nearer to 38 or 39) which is at the midpoint of its 84 year cycle, the amount of time it takes to travel around the zodiac. Since an opposition is much like a full moon this transit of Uranus reveals what we have become in the first half of our lives. As we begin to see ourselves more clearly we also begin to feel an urge to free ourselves of attachments to the past in order to build a new identity. We want to explore new possibilities, do things we’ve never done before.

We want to reconnect with the parts of ourselves we’ve repressed. According to Jung, if we successfully navigate this midlife transition “Above all we will have achieved a real independence and with it, to be sure, a certain isolation. In a sense we are alone, for our “inner freedom” means that a love relation can no longer fetter us, the other sex has lost its magic power over us, for we have come to know its essential traits in our own psyche.”

The time of the Uranus opposition is exciting because we now have the impetus to make changes necessary for our growth, and can find ourselves inspired to follow our dream. However, our dream is undergoing a revamping by our Neptune square during this midlife experience.

We are faced with a crisis of ideals. During the Neptune square we may feel terribly disillusioned and depressed as we begin to see a gulf between what we once idealized and the reality in our lives, also reflected through our interaction with society. Now is the time we  face whether what we have become matches our ideal self. And, even if it does, we need a new dream to guide us in the second half of our life. What shall it be? This is a time many of us begin to question our religion as well as our spiritual and philosophical beliefs and whether they are still valid. We may feel an absence of meaning, the lack of a sense of purpose, or find ourselves in a state of mourning for the lost dreams of youth. By studying Astrology during this time in my life I experienced an entirely new awareness of the Divine Order of the Universe, God’s creation.

The importance of this journey through uncertainty is that it gives us the ability to connect with a larger spiritual purpose. Formal religion has its place but how many of us drop our spirituality in the collection plate every Sunday and forget about it the rest of the week? Religion is no substitute for spirituality. That sounds suspiciously like something my eldest daughter says, that “school is no place for children”, which is why she home schools. But that’s a decision she made after she had two more children near the time of her midlife crisis.

At this time of our life we have the opportunity to connect with the core of our being more than ever before, to help us make decisions about what we really want to do with the rest of our lives. All these values are activated following closure of the transits, not during the transits themselves. At last we feel free to express our gifts, unhampered by the restrictions of the past. At last we can retrieve our souls from obscurity.

Saturn Returns: Milestones In Your Soul’s Journey

Complaint Department: Line up here! What’s your beef? Oh, you’re having a Saturn transit? You hate Saturn? Many years ago, as a new student of Astrology and the mother of a teenage son I blithely told him one day when he was complaining that he was just having a Saturn transit, which would soon be over. “I hate Saturn!” he said, stomping out of the house.  I know, I know — I’ve mentioned my son before and bragged about him and now I’m saying he wasn’t a perfect teenager. Is there such a thing as a perfect teenager, who doesn’t yell at his mother when she insults him by making light of his suffering? But I was still in my amateur stage of being the mother of a teenager as well as being an amateur in Astrology. I had a lot to learn.

But learning about a thing is, by itself, rather meaningless unless we also understand it in the context of relationships, and I’m speaking also of the acausal relationship we have with the planets which help us to understand ourselves. For instance, in Astrology the planet Saturn represents the principles of limitation but it gets more complicated than that. As we limit ourselves, or else feel we are limited by circumstances, we must refocus our energy on what we wish to give form to. Hence, the finished products or structures in our lives, whether created from material or spiritual sources, have been given form by our own efforts, through hard work, which also focalizes the Saturn principle. In making our choices, we cut out the dead wood to make room for, and give form to, our intentions, and both processes are representative of Saturn.

Our first Saturn Return between the ages of 28 and 30 is one of the most important times in our lives, when transiting Saturn returns to the degree it held in our natal chart when we were born. It’s crucial because we often have a residue of unfinished business and will need to wrap up endings in order to prepare for new beginnings. Especially if we feel we are headed in the wrong direction. If we’ve been trying to reflect someone else’s idea of who we are, it’s time for introspection in order to discover our own needs and become our most authentic selves. But, while we take responsibility for our own lives we also recognize our responsibility to others, both individually and in the larger social order.

My son made friends with Saturn or at least reached a truce, learning and accepting responsibilities early. Quite a few years would go by during which he worked hard to get his education and forge a career as an officer in the Air Force. When he had his first Saturn Return during the years betwee 28 and 30, he married and started a family. Although these are positive, joyful transitions, I have no doubt that at some time he also dealt with the return of wounds from childhood and adolescence that most of us experience at this time, when past circumstances we faced are reawakened. It is as though we’re cleaning out the closet of old disappointments and anxieties in order to make way for a new life. We are on our search for the Holy Grail and are metaphorically reborn.

When we have successfully handled the frustration and pain of growth and change that comes during our first Saturn Return the rest of our lives will be better, and our second Saturn Return at age 58-60 easier. However, if we did not achieve the growth we needed at that time, if we have allowed ourselves to become further entrenched in an inauthentic life, the changes will be harder the second time around.

But it can be done. My first Saturn Return, which thankfully I had not thought about in a long time until now, was very painful, yet at the same time I did not understand what was going on or why I was so depressed. Had I known Astrology at the time, it would’ve helped me to deal with those feelings. However, by the time of my second Saturn Return, I had enough understanding about myself to realize I had to make drastic changes in my life. Although it was still hard, I can assure you the struggle was worthwhile. If you find you are living an inauthentic life even at age sixty, it’s still not too late to change.

Liz Greene, an internationally known Astrologer, says in Saturn: A New Look at the Old Devil that Saturn “is never easy to deal with because his function is that of promoting growth, and it is only frustration and pain which at present are sufficient goads to get a human being moving.”

Saturn has gotten a bad rep as you can see by the title of Liz Greene’s book, but it’s said half in jest because people dread their Saturn times. But Saturn is really a friend, not a foe. He represents our ability not only to deal with reality, but also to take personal responsibility for the structures we build in our lives during this sojourn on planet Earth. Of course, eventually some of those structures become rigid and outlive their usefulness. At which time the transits of other outer planets will reflect a different kind of change, which will also aid us in our continuous struggle to try to achieve the best that is in us.  But that is a different story, for another time.

A Message From RFK: Fear Not the Path of Truth

There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of the comfortable past which, in fact, never existed. — Robert F. Kennedy, June 8, 1964

A thought keeps running through my mind like a moving line across the bottom of a television screen: we are all doing the best we can. I recognize enough truth in it not to yell delete! as I’m told my eldest brother always did when he had a thought he didn’t like, or to say erase! which I tend to do. It must be a family trait–I wonder what word my mother used? Probably balderdash! as she loved drama.

Yes, you did, Mom, I say over my right shoulder, and your wife told me so I say over the left. I know this is bizarre but every time I attribute something to one of them I feel they are complaining behind my back. Just one more proof that I’m crazy. However, I think I always suspect that people on the other side are listening when I talk about them because Mom always told me never to speak ill of the dead. If they couldn’t hear me, why would she think I should worry about it? Or was it just one of those what if things, like what if her deceased sister-in-law could hear her say what a bitch she was? Would she have enough pull in Heaven to get Mom thrown out? I’m sorry. I know that’s ridiculous. I really do have some wierd thoughts, but consider the source. Balderdash! That was mom.

Anyway, I really have tried to refrain from speaking ill of the dead, as I don’t want to offend them, but it’s getting to where too many people I know have passed on, which means I’m running out of ones I can speak ill of and muteness does not come natural to me. As for my mom and brother, I wasn’t actually saying anything bad about them, I was just commenting. You mean I can’t even comment? Jeez!

Well, back to the subject. The first reponse I had to the thought we are all doing the best we can is well, yeah, that’s true if you take into consideration their blah, blah, blahs–listing the perceived faults or handicaps of people I know who are still living. But at this I did yell erase!, knowing that is not what was meant at all.

Because that’s when it finally came to me that I’ve received another love message from the Universe; this one is meant for all the people out there who keep worrying about what’s going to happen to our country, and why things are in such an awful mess. The message is that we’ve just got to play out the hand we were dealt, and quit blaming ourselves for every rotten card that came out of the deck with the devil’s pawprint on it. Maybe someone stacked the deck, and heck, John Wayne could’ve found a way out of it. But since he’s not here we are all doing the best that we can, on Super Tuesday and every other day of the week.

Another message, this one from Bobby, runs across the bottom of my screen. It’s from his last speech on the night he was assassinated. Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it.

I’m trying, Bobby, but we sure do miss you.

 

 

 

The Human Condition: Poop Has Always Been With Us

Woe am I, the haunted, beset by fates unkind; blessed with a royal demeanor and cursed with a common behind – the human complaint

Not long after my first husband and I were married we found we both liked to read in bed. One night he was reading a history about ancient Rome and I was reading the latest Perry Mason mystery, which he had ridiculed as low-brow. Upon discovering a new word, something he enjoyed immensely, he stopped to tell it to me; tepidarium, he said, was a Roman word for bathhouse. 

Immediately, I picked up a notebook and pen from the nightstand, suddenly inspired to write a poem. Although at that time attempts at poetry was not my normal thing, the verses came flying out of the stratosphere (or scatological sphere?) so fast I had to hurry to get them down before they left again:

“If all men joined together on this earth in dreams of royal origin in their births, then each must blush for shame at his delirium when nature prompts him to the tepidarium.

“I wonder too, if kings join in the mirth when they bare their royal backsides to the earth, or do they dignify and grace their lonely station as they join the common herd in defecation.”

Now I don’t know where the words came from but there they were, and as far as I can tell, were original. However, later when I looked up tepidarium in the dictionary to see the definition for myself, I realized the poem had a fatal flaw. According to Websters Unabridged a tepidarium was described thus: “in the ancient Roman baths, the warm room, situated between the steam room and the cooling room.”

I had equated a Roman bathhouse with a modern day bathroom, which has both a bathtub and a toilet. But in Rome, bathhouses and latrines, where the defecating was done, were separate. And latrine does not rhyme with delirium. If you can think of an appropriate word that does, please let me know as it will make the poem salvageable. Although I doubt that anyone will ever want to publish it.

Actually, Rome was more like my early Appalachian home, the bathhouse being situated in a washtub that hung behind the kitchen stove and the latrine at the end of a path leading away from the house. An interesting difference though, was that the Romans, instead of using pages from a Sears catalogue as we did, since they didn’t have them, used a communal sponge on a stick–rinsing it out after each use.  Duh!

But it surprises me still that my intellectual husband, upon hearing the recitation of my poem, just stared at me without a comment, his mouth gaping open. Were he behaving normally, I would’ve expected him to show off his superior knowledge about bathhouses and latrines. I think my poem flushed the word tepidarium right out of his mind though. Or else he quickly decided, to paraphrase Aeschylus, that even if one is wise, he may sometimes deem it profitable to appear to be foolish.

Politics: Throwing the Bleeps to the Lions

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”  Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

After reading several editorials online this morning I came across the one by Garry Wills in the New York Times: Two Presidents are Worse than One.  Of course Wills is referring to Bill Clinton when he states “He is not the kind to be a potted plant in the White House,” immediately I had a mental image of Bill peeking out from behind a potted plant, his eyes gleaming. The image even brought up another one from a story I read about a woman being arrested for peeing in someones’s potted plant. I hope she doesn’t visit the White House when she gets out of jail, at least not if Bill is there. Yuk! I wish that image had passed me by.

Wills also states that “at a time when we should be trying to return to the single-executive system the Constitution prescribes, it does not seem to be a good idea to put another co-president in the White House.” He’s referring, of course, to the mostly-acknowledged-by-many co-presidency of Dick Cheney.

To add to the fray, in another editorial in the Times, Questions for the Clintons, Bob Herbert asks “whether the Clintons are capable of being anything but divisive,” and “What kind of people are the Clintons? What role will Bill Clinton play in a new Clinton White House? Can they look beyond winning to a wounded nation’s need for healing and unifying?”

And, as Cathy Young states in her editorial Gender and the Politics of Hate in the Boston Globe, “Hillary Clinton has always been a polarizing figure, “Saint Hillary” to some, the Wicked Witch of the West Wing to others; an altruistic crusader for social justice or a power-hungry Mussolini in skirts. There is no question that gender was a large factor in both Hillary-hatred and in Hillary-worship.”

Young also adds: “But Clinton is hardly the only polarizing figure in contemporary American politics, or the only target of visceral, irrational hate out of all proportion to the politician’s actual faults. Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Al Gore and George W. Bush have all been in that boat.”

Aha! So it’s American politics as usual. Every four years we get into name-calling, reputation-bashing public brawls and throw the bleeps to the lions. What fun! The thing is, it tests the mettle of the contenders and the patience of the voters, both of which must be engaged in the toughest feats in the arena if we are to end up with the best possible choice. But–since married couples always fight, and if they don’t someone is giving in too much–why not have a duo in the White House, openly for a change.

Do the pundits actually believe our presidents never looked to their mates for help in running the country? A good wife always helps her husband by sharing his burdens, unless they’re fighting and then, by damn, she will become a potted plant – I’m sure many husbands recognize this allusion.  Let a man have a chance to be a helpmate, or a potted plant if he wishes. The time has come to recognize, acknowledge and promote the truth behind the presidency.  If we don’t, we will miss a sacred moment of opportunity that may never come again.