ON THIS DAY . . .
THEY'RE GNAWING AT ME . . .
. . . some of this year's Oscar Award nominations. I've looked over the 2016 Oscar ballot (click on the previous hyperlink to access the ballot and forgive me if you already knew that), and invite you all to chew on these observations:
So that's what's been gnawing at me about the Oscars. Thanks for reading and be sure to tune in on Monday for a post about what Matissta and I overheard on the red carpet and at the Academy Awards ceremony.
TODAY'S TRUTH . . .
ON THIS DAY . . .
WHAT REMAINS UNSOLVED . . .
From The Art of Uncertainty by Dennis Merritt Jones:
"Between a shaky world economy, increasing unemployment, and related issues, many today are being forced to come to the edge of uncertainty. Just like the baby sparrows, they find themselves leaning into the mystery that change brings because they have no choice: It's fly or die."
Having no choice sucks. Having to wait bites. "What are the results of my medical tests?" "When will my mother have the stroke that kills her?" " When will I find out for sure whether or not I'm going to be laid off?" "Will I ever again have steady income as a writer and creative director?"
For persons struggling with depression and anxiety, uncertainty is especially difficult. Forget about learning how to fly. The uncertainty itself feels like death and can cripple efforts to do ANYthing during a time of transition, or as I like to call it, the SHITSTORM.
(Why am I not being paid for all the work I do to get out of bed and dressed in the morning?)
Here are some perspectives on uncertainty from folks much wiser and kinder than me:
“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day." -- Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet
“As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don't deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.” -- Pema Chodron from When Things Fall Apart
“I took a test in Existentialism. I left all the answers blank and got 100.” -- Woody Allen
"The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next." -- Ursula K. Le Guin
"We sail within a vast sphere, ever drift in uncertainty, driven from end to end." -- Blaise Pascal
Then, of course, there's this perspective on uncertainty:
"The actions we take and the decisions we make in this decade will have consequences far into this century. If America shows weakness and uncertainty, the world will drift toward tragedy. That will not happen on my watch." -- George W. Bush
TODAY'S TACtic . . .
Said to me by the TAC VPM during a call on where to ship a box of materials I would need for my first consulting meeting in April of 1987:
"You live in a basement apartment? Hmmmm. Most of us here are new home people, but I don't think that will matter."
TODAY'S TRUTH . . .
ON THIS DAY . . .
GENUINE HEROISM . . .
From Seeking Peace, this perspective from Inge Scholl, the elder sister of Sophie Scholl who, along with their brother, Hans, were founding members of the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany:
"It is more difficult to stand up for a worthy cause when there is no general enthusiasm and thus no obligation; when, in short, one risks one's life on one's own. Perhaps genuine heroism lies in deciding to stubbornly defend the everyday and the immediate, after having been bombarded with so much oratory about great deeds."
HERE'S TO BEAUTY AND CREATIVITY . . .
Last Friday morning, my oldest sister's husband stopped by my home to drop off two boxes (see photo above). Inside were gifts I had given my parents over the last 10-15 years. My mother's failing health coupled with the challenging prospect that she would require visits from a home nurse, spurred my parents to once again downsize in order to move out of the area quickly, if necessary. My sister's husband, who was also delivering a box to another sister, said, "The contents of your boxes say a lot about you girls."
I plan to share the contents of my boxes over several posts beginning today. Below is a photo of three of the books in one of the boxes:
While looking through the book to the left, The Chester Dale Collection, I discovered a note I had written to my mother on June 21, 2010. It was bookmarking a reproduction of a painting by Henri Matisse called, "Pot of Geraniums" (see photo below). This was significant because the very first oil painting I had ever attempted was copying this Matisse painting. I gave it to my mother who subsequently framed it.
Here's what my note said:
Last Thursday, Beth and I spent the day at the Smithsonian, specifically the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Art Gallery. You would really like the American Indian Museum. I have enclosed the brochure.
Beth and I especially liked two art exhibits: In the Tower: Mark Rothko and The Chester Dale Collection. The Rothko is probably too "dark" for you, but I included the brochure anyway. I really loved, loved, loved the Chester Dale exhibit. I could not believe all the paintings he and his wife acquired over their lifetime . . . very famous paintings by very famous painters. I wanted you to see the exhibit, too, so bought you this book. Like Chester Dale, I have acquired hundreds of artworks . . . about 200 for me. Unlike Chester Dale, mine are not worth millions of dollars, but they have much value to me.
I hope you enjoy looking at all of this.
Also enclosed is Beth's subway ticket. She knows you like pandas and would want to see it.
Here's to beauty and creativity.
The TAC CEO is reviewing the finished printing of the annual report for one of TAC's companies:
CEO (looking at back page): I don't like how I look in this board photo.
VPM (Vice President of Marketing): This is the photo you approved before we went to press.
CEO: I don't like it. We need to reshoot it.
VPM: But we've already printed and bound 5,000 full-color copies.
CEO: I want a new photo. I look too fat.
VPM: That's going to cost about $50,000.
CEO: I want a new photo. This can't go out.
VPM: What's your schedule for another shoot?
CEO: Ask [executive assistant]. Get it done.
SHARON (whispering to VPM): Is the $50,000 investor money?
VPM (whispering back): Please . . . not now.
ON THIS DAY . . .
TACticALLY SPEAKING . . .
Twenty months ago, I began to mine 40+ years of personal journals and diaries begun respectively in 1973 and 1979. I am up to the year 2005, the year I met Matissta. So far, the mining of my personal life totals more than 1,100 single-spaced typed pages. While inputting what I had recorded over the decades, I flagged stories, actual quotes, etc. related to my professional experience in corporate America. These separate pages number more than 150 (without the benefit of literary enhancement and embellishment). Combined with my separate corporate work files and notes, details of my professional life also total more than 1,100 pages.
Most of these stories, etc. are related to one company with whom I had consulted for nearly three decades. On this blog (its older iteration), I have referred to this company as TAC -- The Acronym Company -- thus, the inspiration for a new regular segment on Sassistas: TACtics: Stories and Lessons Learned Behind the Scenes in Corporate America. Less than 20 percent of these stories and lessons are related to other corporations and, very early in my career, a federal agency. Interestingly, if not alarmingly, TAC was founded and is led by white evangelical Christians.
Over the weekend, I shared with a former newspaper editor all the corporate information I had gleaned and/or uncovered over the decades and, learning that I had a blog, he suggested that I publish a daily TACtic (a name I created) to see if by the end of the year, "You have enough for the beginnings of a book or a page-a-day calendar."
Hmmmmmm . . . maybe he was on to something.
Ever since I could hold a pen and write, I've taken notes. On long vacation road trips when I was a kid, I methodically copied down in a small notebook the license plates of cars that passed my car window. In high school and college, I was the go-to student for class notes before exams. I have never traveled without my journal and diary and often include a small notebook for observations or "I-can't-make-up-this-stuff" conversations.
As an independent creative director and writer, note-taking proved to be a valuable tool in corporate America because many of the most salient sales points or authentically original ideas were too often lost in the schmoozing and fawning that characterize many corporate executive meetings. So I dutifully took and dated notes and later, tape-recorded conversations, meetings and interviews, painstakingly transcribing them word-for-word and organizing them in chronological order.
In looking over these pages of my career, I realized that I had hit corporate pay dirt, or more to the point, corporate bullsh!t. It was unsettling to see how my notes and transcriptions were disturbingly tinged by ubiquitous corporate-speak, convenient half-truths, outright fabrications and rampant hypocrisy, not to mention, racism, sexism and homophobia. Much has changed and too little has changed over three decades.
So why publish TACtics? Because I paid a very high price for them. I willingly sat there, decade after decade and not only recorded the words I heard, but worse, tampered with them; made them glow with the patina of truth . . . just enough truth to burnish the bull and prop up the powers-that-be. The following story/dialogue* -- my first TACtic -- illustrates my point . . .
TODAY'S TACtic . . .
I am in a meeting with the Senior V.P. of Communications and one of her colleagues. We are reviewing the stage notes for the annual meeting. Once again, no women will be behind the podium.
SHARON: TAC is comprised of nearly 70 percent women.
SVP: This is what [CEO] and [COO] have approved.
SHARON: It's not too late to change it so [the one female executive at the time] can be seen behind the podium. Women in the audience need to see women on the stage.
SVP: It's too late to change it.
SHARON: But the meeting isn't for another week. This is a load of b.s. Why do you put up with this?
SVP: Because we are paid to eat the bullsh!t [she did not say, "b.s."]. This is corporate America and this is how we get things done. You want to survive here? Eat the bullsh!t.
TODAY'S TRUTH . . .
*To protect privacy, I am withholding the date of this conversation.
ON THIS DAY . . .
FAREWELL TO . . .
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE THE BIG SCREEN . . .
This past Saturday, for the very first time in my life, I saw my beloved movie, The Wizard of Oz on a huge curved screen, digitally remastered . . . and the big screen was only a three-minute walk from my home to the Old Greenbelt Theater.
What can I say? I felt like a kid again . . . except when I saw the movie as a kid, it was always on a small black-and-white television. Like me, my mother loved the movie and always held its once-a-year-CBS-viewing as a reward to her five daughters for good behavior. I remember wanting to be somewhere over the rainbow or to be able to find my heart's desire in my own backyard.
The big-screen, digitally-remastered soundtrack notwithstanding, what also made this viewing special was the audience that was full of folks my age who, like me, were seeing the film for the first time on the big screen. I talked with one four-member family: the parents had never seen the movie on the big screen; one of their daughters had seen it via DVD on a TV and the other daughter had never seen it. Sitting behind them was a married couple who also had never seen the movie on a big screen. They identified the movie as the source of many lessons they had learned as kids. "It's really important that you know that all along you have the power," said the wife.
Matissta and I laughed, teared up and were amazed at how many folks in the audience knew the words to EVERY song: The rabbit would show respect to me. The chipmunks genuflect to me. Though my tail would lash, I would show compass, to every underling . . . sang the adult female sitting behind us, not missing a syllable.
I've seen "The Wizard of Oz" dozens of times, but Saturday I felt like I was seeing it for the first time. What is it about this movie? What is its lasting charm?
TODAY'S TRUTHS . . .
GWENDOLYN MARIE TEEKELL*
September 20, 1956 - June 23, 2011
THE GWENDOLYN WE DIDN'T KNOW . . .
Two days ago, the following comment appeared in our MEET THE SASS! post:
Dear Sharon, I am a childhood friend of Gwen Teekell. My name is Paula Parsons. Gwen and I were great friends from 7th grade through high school and though we went to different colleges, we kepted in touch until life got in the way. Gwen was our fearless leader! We played on the same softball team every summer. She and I would ride our bikes from our homes to LSU to play tennis until we could not stand the blisters anymore. We took tennis lessons together and played on our high school team. She was the leader of our gang of girls: Cheryl, Nancy, me and sometimes Kay if she could sneak out of the house. We did the typical teenage stuff like wrapped houses, went out drinking and smoking. She always got us into a lot of trouble at Girl Scout camp! She most definitely was the smartest girl in our class but did not want the lime light and would get a B grade every now and then as not to become validictorian. She journaled a lot and made sure we could never get our hands on her notebook!
We are having our 40th high school reunion in a couple of weeks and I am in charge of the tribute to our classmates that have passed on. I did a special tribute to Gwen [see photo below]. I wish I could have known her as an adult as you wish to have known her in her youth. She was a great friend and person and I was saddened and shocked to learn of her death. I hope to get to see her on the other side of life. God bless.
I sent an email to Paula thanking her for sharing details about the Gwendolyn we didn't know. I was curious about how she connected me with Gwendolyn and she sent a response that touched me very much, mostly because of the impact Gwendolyn made in our lives when she was alive . . . and after she left this sweet world. Paula gave me permission to share her response:
Sharon, Yes I found you through your post on the Sassistas blog [its former iteration]. I am on our 40th high school reunion committee in charge of finding deceased classmates. A couple of years ago I googled Gwen. This is how I found out about her death. I had not communicated with Gwen since the early 2000's and then for no reason we had stopped communicating. I read as much as I could about Gwen, her friends and her writing so I could pass it on to our gang of old friends. I used her poem about "Love is all that matters" on a tribute frame I made for all the classmates that passed because I thought it described how we all felt about each other during our high school years.
Here is a something you may not have known about Gwen. She did not have any interest horses in her youth but did love driving her very old Fiat convertible . . . stuffing it with 3 girls, usually me behind the seats stuffed like a sausage and leaving school during lunch, which we were never allowed to do. So we would get caught sometimes by our dumb principal, and Gwen always talked us out of getting suspended. She was a very gifted and talented clarinetist and one of the best in the state. She always made a chair in the state concert band. Of all the girls in our click, we knew Gwen was going to be the one to get out of this town and not look back. After college, she came back for a couple of reunions and that was the last time we all saw her. I am sure it was because she was in med school and got way to busy to come to the other reunions we have had.
I never knew she was gay but had suspected it when she had a major crush on one of our student teachers in band class. We all could tell she was smitten with the girl. It did not matter to any of us as she was not the only one in our gang that turned out to be gay. She was our friend, and as she said "Love is all that matters".
I think of her often when I pass our old high school, which was torn down due to asbestos. It may be the reason so many of us girls have had some form of cancer. We all had classes in the building where the asbestos was discovered. A new school is being built on the same grounds. Finding out about Gwen's cancer was the reason I went to the doc for my lower abdominal pain. Through tests and biopsies I learned that I had stage 1 cervical cancer. I had a total hysterectomy with over 100 tissue sample biopsied to make sure it had not spread. No chemo or radiation for me. So I thanked Gwen in heaven because if I had not found out about the cause of her death, I would be knocking on death's door.
So much was written to honor her on your Sassistas posts, I guess I just needed to share with someone who knew her as an adult that I knew her in her youth.
Thank you, Paula for your thoughtfulness in sharing how you remember Gwendolyn. Thanks, too, for reminding us of this:
We must never underestimate the impact we will have on people's lives -- now and forever.
*Photos of Gwendolyn taken two months before she died.
WELCOME BACK MEET THE SASS!
Sassistas could not be more proud to welcome back the sass of our resident political expert Neola Mace,
formerly known as "Westsista." Here is how she describes herself:
Neola Mace has been writing daily commentary since she was eight years old. She didn't get interested in politics until she was 12 and questioned why her best friend was wearing a P.O.W. bracelet. She currently makes a living writing boring technical books but dreams of being a guest on Hardball some day.
Here is Neola's perspective on the political phenomenon known as Donald Trump.
There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who enthusiastically support Donald Trump for president, and those of us who wonder why in the hell they would do that.
Is this some kind of punishment from God, using our own guilty pleasure for Reality TV against us?
Along with many others, for a long time I believed it was a joke that would eventually play itself out, like pet rocks, shoulder pads and loveable bigots with a heart of gold. Wait! Maybe that’s not completely over . . .
But here we are, at the beginning of actual voting, and the Trumpet phenomenon is not only still alive, but shows no sign that it is mortal at all. It is no longer an anomaly I can blame on the uneducated, the star struck, or the misinformed. I personally know many people that I love and respect who ARE blowing the Trumpet, so I have been forced to give this a great deal of thought.
When Being Rude Looks Like Strength. Trumpet seems to not even be slightly constrained by what most of us would consider good manners. He scoffs at political correctness and maybe we even secretly cheer when he goes after a target we believe is deserving, like Ted Cruz. Birther on birther action does offer a certain fascination.
One of the biggest criticisms of President Obama is that he is weak, spending too much time “thinking” about what to say or do. Definitely not something we’d need to worry about with President Trumpet.
Simple Answers. It’s very appealing to believe that if our leaders just used plain, old-fashioned common sense we all would be much better off. Be Tough On Terrorists. Negotiate Good Deals. Stop Spending.
Unfortunately the U.S. economy, world politics and racial divisions do not lend themselves to simple solutions. Take one example – Kicking Isis’ Ass. We’ve been bombing the crap out of ISIS targets with over 6,000 airstrikes. What else should we do? Ground troops? For how long? Which Muslim countries are supporting the fight against ISIS? Raise your hand if you know whether ISIS Muslims are Shiite or Sunni without googling it. I rest my case.
Yes, the Trumpet has made millions. It helps to be born into an extremely wealthy family and to get a small start-up loan from dad for a million dollars. I hear people say that, though. He is really rich, as if that makes him superior in some way from the rest of us or better qualified to be president. To be clear, microeconomics is the study of economics at an individual, group or company level, which is what Trumpet may know about. Macroeconomics is the study of a national economy as a whole, with many interrelated and complicated concepts. He has zero experience with macroeconomics.
What Do All Trump Supporters I Know Have In Common? None of them are non-white. Not a single one. Please note that I am not accusing his supporters of all being racist. But if you are a racist, he’s your guy. While he does not belong to or endorse any racist organizations, Stormfront, KKK and other white supremacist groups have all seen new interest in their groups and activities. Most are explicitly supporting Trumpet.
Master of horror Stephen King summed up the Trumpet campaign unofficial slogan like this:
If You’re White, You’re All Right
Any Other Hue, I Don’t Trust You
Make America Great Again. When exactly was America great? When we were handing out smallpox blankets? Killing each other over slavery? Using soldiers as lab rats? During Jim Crow laws? When natural born citizens had their assets confiscated and were forced into camps?
Whites and non-whites differ in an important way. Non-whites are generally not nearly as nostalgic for how things used to be.
The Bottom Line. Issues are complicated. Talking about them seriously is boring. The class clown is much more fun than the dull math teacher. Reality TV is more entertaining than the History Channel. People are busy. Simple sells.
Humility. Subtlety. Nuance. Team. They don’t play in the Trumpet band.
QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS FOR OUR POLITICAL EXPERT?
PLEASE POST THEM!
NEOLA PLANS TO CHECK THE SASS THROUGHOUT THE DAY
DURING BREAKS FROM HER JOB.
NEOLA FOR SASSIDENT!
ON THIS DAY . . .
GONE WITH THE CHICKEN . . .
Yesterday morning, I woke up with a knot in my stomach about my chicken (see photo above). At least once every two weeks, I purchase a roast chicken from the grocery store, cut it up -- separating the white meat (my preference) from the dark meat (Matissta's preference) -- and safely store it in the refrigerator. When I got home from the grocery store on Sunday morning, I noticed that my bird feeders were empty. A snowstorm was coming and the birds would need food. I quickly stored the chicken I had purchased in the microwave to keep it from the Catties and went to my backyard shed and filled the feeders.
Eight hours later, Matissta discovered the chicken in the microwave. I had forgotten all about it. "Can we still eat it?" I asked. We googled, "unrefrigerated cooked chicken" and learned that, at tops, cooked chicken can last four hours unrefrigerated without risking bacterial contamination. "When in doubt, throw it out," said many of the websites.
An entire $6.99 roasted chicken. Throw. It. Out.
Two or three years ago, I would have shrugged off this oversight. Heck, there are more chickens at the store. Maybe animals in the woods would eat this one so it's not entirely wasted. It's not the end of the world. But Sunday evening, I couldn't shrug it off. Going into a third year of limited income, $6.99 now seemed like a lot of money. Down. The. Drain. Worse, I had completely forgotten about it. Was I losing my memory? Circling. The. Drain?
I woke up determined to save the chicken. I could hear the chicken screaming. I could hear Hannibal Lector prodding Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs to reveal the meaning behind a profoundly disturbing childhood memory about the night her aunt and uncle slaughtered lambs.
You still wake up sometimes, don't you? You wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs, asks Hannibal. Clarice responds that she desperately wanted to save one lamb. Hannibal then says, And you think if you save poor Catherine [a kidnap victim], you could make them stop, don't you? You think if Catherine lives, you won't wake up in the dark ever again to that awful screaming the lambs.
My chicken was no longer a chicken. It was a symbol of all that was wrong in my life and how I could make it right. If I could stop the screaming, if I could save it, I could save myself. Once again, I googled the hell out of "unrefrigerated cooked chicken." My heart was pounding, the background music was reaching a crescendo, the morning sun was beginning to pierce the eastern sky . . . yes, I would be able to save the chicken! I would be able to find ONE website that would declare the chicken was still safe to eat. Yes! Yes! Yes!
Well, no. Of course, not. Not one website. The chicken was doomed. I was doomed. I walked away from my computer, went downstairs, and opened the refrigerator door. There was the chicken. Silent and contaminated.
Okay, chicken, I vowed. As God is my witness, as God is my witness, you're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again. After all, tomorrow is another day. And I'll have my chicken. Some fava beans. And a nice chianti.
TODAY'S TRUTH . . .