A day in Chimney Rock, NC

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Today was my birthday!

For the past two years, I’ve been going to Chimney Rock on my birthday. It’s a perfect way to spend that day.

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Chimney Rock is a little village right next to Lake Lure. It’s full of cute shops, restaurants, and all kinds of natural wonders: Chimney Rock itself, which I passed on because it involves taking an elevator through a mountain, a wonderful rocky creek that has places where you can wade and even swim, and the whimsical Bridge of Flowers, which has been there since 2013.

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My daughter (who is clean 49 days now!), her hubby, and I walked through the town, stopped for ice cream, and spent about an hour by the creek, sitting on the rocks and wading in the water. Most of these pictures (except the one of DD playing in the creek) are of the Bridge of Flowers, which has every type of plant, aromatic herb, succulent, and flower you can imagine, and tons of artistic and whimsical touches, such as “secret gardens” with brightly painted benches, handmade birdhouses, “doors to nowhere” and old windows repainted in creative ways, colorful gates, paving stones, and lots of other creative touches. It’s maintained by the community, all volunteers.

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Taking the plunge.

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Lake Jocassee, SC

To truly know the world, look deeply within your own being; to truly know yourself, take real interest in the world.  — Rudolf Steiner

I’ve been fascinated by diving for about a year now, but never thought I’d actually want to do it myself.    That’s changed now.   I really want to try it.   I feel like it would be great for my confidence and open doors to new adventures, making life more interesting.

Today I visited a SCUBA diving shop that I’ve always passed on my way to work and never really paid attention to before.  The store was filled with customers, but the man inside, David K, who happened to be the owner, greeted me as if he’d been waiting for me.    We talked for about 20 minutes or longer.  The store doesn’t just sell diving gear, they also offer PADI (the worldwide SCUBA diving organization)training classes, which are held on the weekends.   They’re not cheap, but not as expensive as I had feared either.   I may be able to afford them next year, after tax time.  I have some money stashed away, but I really don’t want to touch that, in case of an emergency.

David seemed eager to have me in one of his classes.  I was afraid my age might be a factor, but it isn’t.   He says he’s had students up to their 70s and even 80s.  He offers group or individual classes, but I’d probably opt for the cheaper group classes, which are small (about 8 people).  The course is in three phases: classroom learning and quizzes (you get a book, like in school); practical training in the deep end of a swimming pool at David’s home; and finally, open water experience at Lake Jocassee in northwestern South Carolina (at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains) which has exceptionally clear waters (visibility is high; it’s not dark and murky like most lakes).   It’s also exceptionally deep in the middle, at over 300 feet at its deepest, but of course we wouldn’t be diving that deep, since this is a beginning class.   We’d only go to about 25 feet for PADI certification (after passing this part of the training, you get your PADI certificate, which qualifies you to dive up to 130 feet at any diving site, not that I’d EVER go that deep!).

I’m really pumped.  I’ve decided I’m definitely doing this.  I NEED to do this. I feel like I was called to this because it’s something God wants me to do.  I have many fears.  I always have.  Because of my PTSD and general temperament, I spend a lot of time being fearful or apprehensive of things, and although I’m crazily attracted and curious about deep water and its mysteries, it also scares me (thalassophobia — fear of deep water — is probably a healthy fear).  I feel like overcoming my apprehension will change my life and make me less fearful in general.  I actually told David this, and he didn’t laugh at me or look at me like I was crazy.  Instead, he told me the story of one of his students, a veteran who was suffering from PTSD.  Taking the class helped him overcome his fears to the point that when he passed the open water test, he burst into tears of gratitude and joy, and is now working on getting advanced certification for divers who want to go deeper than 130 feet.

Jocassee Valley in the early 1970s

I’ve never been in water deeper than 12 feet,and that was in a swimming pool.   I’ve never wanted to touch the bottom of the deep end of a swimming pool, because being down that deep just seems spooky to me, but I have no fear of being in deep water and I can tread water for hours.  I even taught my children to tread water when they were very young, just three and five.  They used water wings at first.  Within a month, both could play in the deep part of a swimming pool without any kiddie contrivances (with supervision of course).  As for the ocean, as much as I love it, I have never waded out where my head was not above water.

I can’t end this article without including the story of Lake Jocassee.   I’d never heard of it until David told me about it yesterday, and its history is fascinating.  Jocassee is a large manmade lake nestled in a mountain valley, and it didn’t exist until 1973.  It was formed by merging four rivers that used to converge in the Jocassee valley, for the purpose of providing a reservoir for Duke Energy.  The town that was in that valley was evacuated before it was flooded, and all its buildings — including a graveyard! — are still there at the deepest part of the lake (almost 350 feet of water covers the town).  Oh, and it turns out parts of the movie Deliverance was filmed in the old town before it was flooded!

Advanced divers regularly explore the submerged buildings and the graveyard.  Every Halloween, there is even a special graveyard dive (you’ll never get me to go on that!).   I read a story about a woman whose childhood home was discovered by divers and was astonished to find out her house was still mostly intact, although now lying on its side.  She has become close friends with the divers who found her home. She says they have been the kindest and most compassionate people she ever met.  She can barely talk about their respect for her childhood home without choking up.

Here is a video showing divers exploring some of the town’s artifacts.

Mr. President, I Want Out of This Abusive Relationship

This article by David M. Reiss, MD and Seth Davin Norrholm is a must read!

Mr. President, I Want Out of This Abusive Relationship!

Happy Fathers Day

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Rest in peace, Dad.

4/6/26-6/6/16

 

I hate living in a country where so many people think my son is abomination who deserves to die.

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Pride Parade, New York City, 2019

Just this past week, I read this and this (a video of Fritts’ disgusting sermon calling for the execution of LGBTQ people is linked in the article, if you can stand to watch it).   I felt literally sick to my stomach after reading these articles (and watching that awful video) and almost had to vomit.

Fritts, the homophobic police officer, has since been relieved of his duties, but it’s the first article that’s really disturbing.   A group of “Christian” preachers are having a “Make America Straight Again” event in Orlando, Florida, in response to “Pride Week.”    Last I heard, free speech was still legal in America, so of course people have the right to express homophobic opinions.  But what’s really chilling is that one of the preachers leading the event is praying for violence against the LGBTQ community during their Pride events being held in the same city!   Not only that, but several of the scheduled speakers will be speaking about their belief in the mass extermination of LGBTQ people.   That sounds like something the Nazis or some of the Middle Eastern countries under Sharia Law would do.  It chills me to the bone that this sort of thing is becoming increasingly acceptable and normalized here in America.

What kind of person prays for violence or even death against a group that isn’t violent themselves, but who merely have a lifestyle some believe is sinful?   A person full of hate and violence, that’s who.  Certainly not a follower of Christ.

These are far from the only incidents of blatant homophobia infiltrating the law and politics in this country.  Like everything else that’s bad and rotten, it’s gotten worse under Trump.   He emboldens homophobia, misogyny, and racism, partly because of his hatred for these groups of people, but it’s also a big part of his efforts to appease the religious right, who apparently believe Trump is their magic genie.  They feed his massive ego by diefying him and telling him he’s anointed by God and above the law,  and he gives them what they want.   Easy peasy.   It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why Trump gives the religious right what they want, and it has nothing to do with him being somehow “God’s chosen” or caring about “morality.”   Trump’s lifestyle has been and continues to be one of the most immoral (or is it amoral?) I’ve ever seen, and he’s never shown an ounce of repentance.  He’s a hypocrite who does whatever gives him power and wealth.  The only fruit he bears is rotten.

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True morality isn’t about what women do with their bodies or what gender you’re allowed to love anyway.  It’s about the way you treat others.  I’m sure Jesus would agree.  Every day he showed the most vulnerable people and the marginalized nothing but kindness and acceptance, including the sinners.   It was the dominionists of his time — the wealthy and powerful Pharisees who demanded strict obedience in the name of God — that he condemned.

My son is gay.  He is also one of the kindest, sweetest, funniest people I have ever known.  He has brought so much joy to my life, and the lives of his friends.    He is a wonderful, talented, and intelligent human being who is empathetic,  has never hurt anyone else intentionally, and who also, like many gay people, struggled emotionally with his sexual identity before he was able to “come out.”

I don’t believe being gay is a choice.  No one just wakes up one morning and says, “Gee, I think I want to be gay” (or bi, or transgender, or what have you).  I don’t think a gay person can be “cured” any more than a tiger can change its stripes.   To think there are so many hateful people in this country — including people with enough political power to change laws — who want him dead or think he’s an abomination because of his sexual preference fills me with existential dread.   Now that these homophobic nutjobs have been emboldened by Trump’s “war on political correctness” and open hatred, and his shameless pandering to the religious right in exchange for their financial support and deification of him,  I’m actually becoming terrified for my son’s safety.

There are dominionist politicians high in government right now who are packing the courts with far right judges willy nilly, and I’m afraid they may well succeed in their efforts to turn America into a theocracy ruled by biblical (Old Testament) law (the “Christian” version of Sharia law).  I hope that if the United States continues in the dark direction it seems to be headed, my son can find a way to leave the country.  In the meantime, I pray for his safety.  America no longer feels safe.

Spooky trees.

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This was taken looking up at a wooded area that had been partially clearcut to make room for an apartment complex (I took the picture from the parking lot, looking up a steep hill toward the forest).   New plants and shrubs hadn’t had a chance to take root in front of the trees, so you found yourself looking deep into the forest.  Behind the pale trunks the dark green depths appeared almost black.  Adding to the creepiness was the fact a thunderstorm was about to start.

ETA:  I iked this enough I decided to make it the new blog cover photo.   It was time for a change.

Two kinds of stealth trolls

I think it’s relevant to post this again, since we spend so much time online these days. These are trolls that hide in the shadows. Be on guard against them.

Lucky Otters Haven

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In two earlier posts I wrote about online bullies and trolls (not exactly the same thing, but close enough). I won’t explain here how they differ and are the same (you can read the articles which I’ve posted links at the end of this article), but I neglected to mention stealth trolls. Stealth trolls seem benign, but can wreak havoc on web forums and social media. I will describe two types of stealth trolls. There are probably others.

The Concern Troll

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The Urban Dictionary defines a concern troll as:

A person who posts on a blog thread, in the guise of “concern,” to disrupt dialogue or undermine morale by pointing out that posters and/or the site may be getting themselves in trouble, usually with an authority or power. They point out problems that don’t really exist. The intent is to derail, stifle, control, the dialogue. It is viewed as insincere…

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I can’t tell the difference.

 

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Above is a photo from AP News showing Central American migrant families rounded up and contained by US armed guards.   According to the accompanying news story, the federal government is making plans to separate children from their parents (yes, they plan to continue and even increase this horrendous and cruel practice) and house the children in former army barracks.   They are also planning to cut off or reduce all supportive services to these children, including English language lessons, recreational programs, legal services (young children as young as two have already been forced to represent themselves in court), and other services such as mental health counseling — at a time when the children are traumatized by family separation and need it most.

Not cruel enough for you?  Oh, it gets even worse:  border patrol agents are being instructed to confiscate migrant childrens’ medicine.

The cruelty, as it’s been said, is the point.   This is what happens when a narcissistic sociopath and his same spectrum sycophants and henchmen consolidate power and inevitably, as they always do, choose scapegoats (always vulnerable or marginalized populations) on which to unleash their hatred.

The photograph shocked me.   All the photographs from our southern border are  shocking, but this one stood out to me because I was immediately reminded of the old black and white photos from Nazi Germany of SS guards rounding up Jewish families like cattle (and of course separating parents from children, a common practice by the Nazis, which was harrowingly depicted in the movie Sophie’s Choice when the title character played by Meryl Streep was forced to choose between her young daughter being taken away or losing both of her children). 

This is fascism, in case there’s any doubt.  We are living in a fascist state with a fascist leader, and just as in Nazi Germany,  most people are either too afraid or too apathetic to mobilize against it.   Or they’re in denial and don’t think it’s that big a threat.  Or…they approve of it (usually justifying it with callous comments such as “they shouldn’t have come here” or “it’s a deterrent.”)

Okay, fine.  Let’s say you don’t care about the fact these are mostly poor families who walked thousands of miles to escape certain death in their home countries (not the “rapists, drug dealers, and gangs” who find other ways to get in).   Even if the parents are culpable (which they aren’t),  what about the children?  Did they have any choice in the matter?

The Germans were exactly like us.   As with Trump, only about a third of the German people actually supported Hitler, while the other two thirds either didn’t believe there was a real threat or saw the threat but didn’t think there was anything they could do.   Only a few people, such as Sophie Scholl and her resistance group The White Rose Society, dared to speak truth to power.   Hitler and the Nazis would never have been able to rise to power or killed six million Jews (and other marginalized groups such as Gypsies, homosexuals, and the mentally deficient) had the German people believed the threat was real and mobilized to fight back against it.  They learned the hard way, and now it looks as if we may have to learn the hard way too, unless we mobilize and fight this evil right now.   We are running out of time.

I’m astonished and dismayed by how little mobilization against encroaching fascism there has been in this country.  How few protests and marches.  People just shrug their shoulders, turn off the news, and go on with their lives as if nothing has changed in the past two and a half years.   Even the British turned out by the millions to protest Trump last week during his visit to the UK, and he’s not even their president!   We should be ashamed of ourselves.  Why are we letting another country do our work for us?    Are we really just a bunch of sheep?  Are we really going to idly stand by and look the other way while children and their families are being tortured and allowed to languish and die in the American version of Nazi concentration camps?

Below are two groups of photographs, each group containing the above photograph rendered in black and white and placed next to similar photographs from Nazi Germany to emphasize the fact there is literally no difference in the plight of the captives.   I can honestly say I had trouble telling which photograph was the recent one.

If these photographs bother you, good. They should.

Can you tell the difference?

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Montage credit: Jackie Starke

Credit: Jackie Starke

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Montage credit: Jackie Starke

I’m glad my dad was spared this.

Today is the 3rd anniversary of my dad’s passing.  He died of complications due to advanced Parkinson’s.  He was 90.

Although I’m missing him today, a big part of me is glad he’s not here.   Although a lifelong Republican, he would have hated Trump.  I know it would break his heart to watch the country he saw rise out of the depression and WWII to become a prosperous world power and a nation the world admired collapse into rubble in the hands of the overgrown tangerine hued toddler in the White House.

 

If you’re suffering in these dark times.

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“Ever since he was elected, I can’t sleep, I can’t function, I cry all the time.  I can barely work. I want to ignore the news, but it’s always there, HE’s always there, always sucking me in like a black hole, and it’s destroying me.”

“Trump is destroying and dismantling everything near and dear to me.  I don’t know how much longer I can go on.  I’m back to smoking and drinking heavily because I don’t know what else I can do.  It just seems hopeless.  He has destroyed the future.” 

“Whenever I hear the stories and see the pictures of those poor migrant kids and their heartbroken families, I just want to scream.  What kind of society separates families?  What kind of society imprisons children who have done nothing wrong?   What kind of society makes it a FELONY to leave food and water for hungry, exhausted, and thirsty women and children who have walked thousands of miles to escape from certain death in their home countries?  A cruel, heartless, psychopathic society, that’s what.  I wish I could leave.” 

“I feel like I’m living in a nightmare that I can’t wake up from.”

“This isn’t my country anymore.  Women are being treated as second class citizens, or chattel.  I feel like my daughters have no future here.  We are seriously considering leaving for a country that respects women and girls instead of treating them like the Taliban treats their women.”

“I’m scared every day.  The anxiety and grief is relentless.” 

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m ashamed to be an American. 

*****

These are actual quotes from people reacting to what’s happening in America under Dictator Trump.   What struck me about these comments is how eerily reminiscent they are of the sort of comments people who grew up with narcissistic parents or are in abusive relationships make.  The dynamics are identical;  what America is experiencing is simply narcissistic abuse on a very large scale.  The main difference is, it’s a lot easier to go “No Contact” with an abusive family.  Unless we are pretty well off financially or have family or close friends in other countries to help us get resettled, most of us can’t just up and leave.

In normal, civilized, democratic societies, politics doesn’t dominate people’s everyday lives.  Before Trump, I could ignore the news.  It usually bored me.  I had other, happier, interests.  People in functioning democracies have that luxury, and can focus on their families, friends, jobs, hobbies, educations, and other interests.

In failing states, and in dictatorships, politics dominates peoples’ lives because their very survival hangs on the day to day whims of their often cruel rulers, rulers who rarely make policies that benefit them and are very likely to make policies that outright hurt them.

There are four main ways people normally react to a formerly benign government being taken over by cruel dictatorship or other malevolent regime.  I have taken the liberty of borrowing Pete Walker’s “Four F’s” of C-PTSD, because what is happening to Americans is very much akin to C-PTSD and PTSD.   Even people who support Trump and his inhumane policies are analogous to the flying monkeys in a narcissistic family.  They cope by identifying with the abuser.  Some may be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.  Trump’s confidantes and high level enablers, of course, are also flying monkeys (and Trump’s “golden children”) and are probably on the narcissistic or psychopathic spectrum themselves.   The rest of us are the scapegoats or “forgotten children.”

So, without further ado, here are the four primary ways people in failing states and impending dictatorships (and abusive families) react to the trauma (and make no mistake, it is trauma):

1.  Sell out to the political system (abusive family) and meekly succumb to whatever new laws and restrictions, no matter how draconian and cruel, are forced on them (the Fawn or Fear reaction);  

2.  Flee to another country (No Contact) if they are able (the Flight reaction);

3.  Numb the soul and mind through alcohol or drugs (there’s a reason, besides their highly addictive properties, why the opiates are a huge crisis right now: people are trying to numb their psychic pain).  It’s also why alcoholism is so high in certain failed states and dictatorships, such as Russia, Belarus, and Hungary.   Some people don’t turn to drugs or alcohol to cope, but are able to just turn off their emotions and feel nothing anymore (Freeze/dissociative reaction)

4.  Refuse to normalize what is happening, even though not doing so makes one extremely vulnerable to great suffering, and an overwhelming sense of sadness, existential grief, stark terror, and other unpleasant emotions that are part and parcel of a serious existential threat.  However, this painful awareness also leaves one open to righteous anger, a galvanizing force which can be the catalyst to changing a dangerous and toxic political system.  (the Fight reaction).

This last group are the survivors.   They are the ones who, by facing the reality of the trauma inflicted on them by their government, are most likely to create positive change starting in their communities, and finally in their state, and even on the national or world scale.   They tend to be the young, the people whose future matters the most, and whose leaders have so callously failed them in favor of their own self interest.

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Emma Rodriguez, a victim of the Parkland school shooting, stands in silence for six and a half minutes, with tears rolling down her face, to protest gun violence at last year’s March for Our Lives event.  It was an extremely powerful few moments for everyone who watched.

One only need to look at the Parkland school shooting survivors (especially Emma Rodriguez) to see how great suffering can lead to great courage and eventually to change.   The same can be said about 16 year old Swedish climate change activist, Greta Thunberg  (please watch this video), who has parlayed her terror about her own and her peers’ future into worldwide activism that has galvanized young people all over Europe to demand an end to the use of fossil fuels.  Not only that, the adult lawmakers are actually listening.

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So, if you are feeling a lot of emotional or mental pain right now, if you are grieving the America you knew when you were young, if you find yourself feeling terrified or close to tears, or angry much of the time, please know that these reactions don’t mean there’s something wrong with you.  On the contrary, they mean something’s very right with you, and you actually have an intact soul that is uncompromised by evil.    Once you begin to normalize the “new normal,” and accept it, that’s when your soul has begun to die.

Use mindfulness techniques, visualization, prayer, or seek counseling to deal with the unpleasant and painful emotions.  Mental health professionals say their caseload is WAY up since Trump became president.  Many of them, who tend to be politically liberal, are as upset and alarmed by this regime as their clients are, so they will be able to empathize and assure you that you are not the one with the problem, but reacting in a normal way to something that is abnormal.

Every time you feel the depression, fear, or rage crop up, remind yourself this isn’t bad: it just means you have an intact soul.  You just need to know what to do with those feelings.

Write about your feelings, like I do.  Write a protest song.  Sing!  Scream!  If you’re good at organizing and are fairly social, use your rage to plan a demonstration or a march in your community.   Write letters to your representatives.  Register people to vote, or volunteer to work on the campaign of a political candidate you admire.

Don’t forget you will need to replenish every so often and do unrelated things to take your mind off the political situation.  Balance is important.   If you need a day to rest, or go to a movie, or the beach, or just sleep in, don’t feel guilty.  Your body and mind needs these breaks to replenish so you can be more effective as someone who helps bring about change.

I also recommend reading Pete Walker’s helpful and easy to read book about C-PTSD, Complex C-PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.   Because that’s what we’re dealing with under Trump and the sycophantic GOP.

*****

Further reading:

The Four F’s of C-PTSD

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving (book review)

12 Ways to Resist Without Losing Your Mind