Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Mother Is Not a Person to Lean On - by Patty Mooney

Mother Feeding Infant, San Diego Children's MuseumImage by cleopatra69 via Flickr

"A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary." ~ Dorothy Fisher

This is what my mother did for me, and she did it early in my life. I was never destined to camp out in my parents' home throughout my twenties and thirties, as many young people seem to blissfully do today. Some of these "kids" don't even bother helping out monetarily with rent or groceries or helping out around the house. They communicate with their parents only when they need something - an iPod, a computer, a car. Most of my friends who find themselves catering to children who are dug in like ticks, live their lives for tomorrow.... "I'll be happy when "Jake" can go out and find a job and afford his own place." Until then (whenever that will be, since it's up for Jake to decide) no cruise to Alaska, no holiday in Tuscany, no candy apple Porsche for Daddy.

These folks have put many dreams and desires on hold in order to raise children. It was my mom who showed me the truth of motherhood, after she had six of us and realized that she hadn't wanted children in the first place. There was a point when she just stepped back and stopped doing everything for us. She allowed us to figure out how to do it for ourselves.

I appear in this month's Psychology Today (January 2010). Mine is the first story in a photographic essay entitled "Mommy Damnedest." After coming across the piece, a woman from Minnesota wrote me an email asking for a few more details about my mom and my upbringing. When I told her I had not yet seen the article, she was kind enough to scan it and send it to me. It was a little unsettling to see how everything I had talked to the reporter about in an interview of at least an hour had been whittled down to the most "sensational" of quotes. My mom came off a bit uncaring and callous.

The kind woman from Minnesota shared her thoughts: I guess I was drawn to your story and that article for a few reasons: one, as a school psychologist, I thought: Oh, if only those people would have received the mental health services they so desperately needed," plus obvious warning signs of depression and/or other mental illness that were missed, etc. etc. Another reason I was drawn to it was as a daughter, I feel like my own relationship with my mother was complicated, but seriously ~ kid stuff in comparison. And finally, as a mother, frankly it's comforting to know that even though I am not perfect and my little ones try my patience, at least I'm not THAT bad.

What had my mother done that was so bad, you may wonder?

She called up a reporter with the Detroit Free Press and explained to him that she was tired of doing everything for eight people. She was retiring from motherhood. Her story hit the front page of the Women's Section on Mother's Day of 1974.

I wasn't surprised to see the article, really. There'd been a run-up to that moment of many years as my mom had banged her head against the glass ceiling before people even acknowledged that one existed. She wanted to return to work and had been a nurse prior to marrying my dad and having six children. When she jotted down "mother" on the job application forms, she was dismissed by every Human Resources person in the city. This really pissed her off. Her point was that all the work she had performed as a mother was perceived as worthless by social standards.

My dad sometimes used to joke that "You couldn't get out fast enough" when I left home at 18 to pursue college. And then a couple of years later I hitchhiked to California with about a hundred dollars in my pocket, intent on forging a future as a writer. There were a few scary moments. I was homeless for a brief period of time in San Francisco until I could find work and earn enough money for rent. I became "street-wise," learning how to read people and avoid dangerous situations. If it were not for my amazing typing skills (120 words a minute) and the ensuing secretarial jobs I found, who knows what I might have done? (Thanks Mom, for encouraging me to take a typing class at high school over the summer, and for buying me a typewriter - a Smith Corona, if I remember correctly).

Some will cast my mother in a dark light for not being a stellar example of motherhood. That she was not cast in the mold of a perfect mother does not bother me. Neither was I, except I thankfully did not have to take a path I did not want to tread, just because society dictated that I must. My mother was not so fortunate. At least she did not react to it the way poets Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton did; both asphyxiated to death by their own hand. No, my mom stood and fought social mores, and she stood alone in her fight. Even now, 35 years later, she may catch a little flak about this Psychology Today article but if I know her, she will revel in it, as she still thrives on controversy and proudly stands up for her beliefs.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Avatar - A Film Reflection by Patty Mooney

As James Cameron's "Avatar" rolls out to 3D and IMAX screens across the nation, it becomes very clear that we're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy!

As a kid I grew up watching "The Wizard of Oz," the most spectacular movie of its time, every year from the 1960's through the 1980's. I remember the year my parents purchased a color TV in 1966 and having all my friends in the neighborhood come over to watch it. The leap from black and white to color was a major cultural event.

The release of "Avatar" breaks new ground in ways that "Wizard of Oz" did in its time. "Avatar" truly ushers in the 21st Century - something that Y2K pretended but was unequipped to do. Thanks to cutting-edge effects software and the melding of many brilliant minds, "Avatar" transports the viewer to another planet called Pandora, where all things Earth are left far behind. The story revolves around Jake Sully (played by Australian actor, Sam Worthington), a wheelchair-bound veteran Marine who has lost both his twin brother and the use of his legs. He has nothing else to live for so he accepts the military's offer to compensate him royally to "stand in" for his brother in the Avatar program on Planet Pandora.

The indefatigable Sigourney Weaver plays Dr. Grace Augustine who leads the science team that is running the Avatar program. Their mission is to learn more about The People - the Na'vi - of Pandora and the composition of their planet. Dr. Augustine is less than enthralled when the military, and the corporate shill played by Giovanni Ribisi, deliver Sully into her lab to take over the Avatar that his brother had once inhabited.

Jake's initial experiences as the Avatar are comedic as he realizes he has a working set of legs and can use them to full advantage. He is like a child, rambunctiously testing his new body and limitations. He feels invincible. And then one day, during a science sortie, he becomes separated from his group when he is chased off a cliff by a raging rhino-like creature, and must spend the night defenseless against all the flesh-eating animals that roam about in the dark. It is then that he meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a beautiful Na’vi woman. When she first lays eyes on him she is ready to kill him but a sign appears, to dissuade her. She takes him to the encampment of her people who are also ready to rip him to shreds but the sign is vehement and undeniable, not to mention a wonderful show of special effects. It is decided that Neytiri will teach Jake everything about the Na'vi.

Stylish in our 3D glasses, We the Audience begin to see the conflict between science and its respect for Nature, and the corporate military complex which seeks to destroy and overpower what it cannot understand nor respect. Jake Sully is quickly positioned in this crossfire. Colonel Miles Quaritch is the commanding officer, a prick of the first order played by Stephen Lang. Quaritch thinks of the science team as a bunch of naive tree huggers and diplomacy is not a word in his vocabulary.

He "requests" that Jake report to him without informing Dr. Augustine, and at first Jake is fine with it.

After a science team member sees Jake delivering a report to Colonel Quaritch in his war room, Dr. Augustine transports the team to a location on the planet where they can conduct the Avatar experiments without the Colonel horning in. This essentially buys time for Jake Sully to learn more about the Na'vi people, the planet, the woman, himself, and that the planet is a living organism (much like Earth, right people?)

There are a few political statements in the film. The devastation of Amazon forests is reflected by the concerted raping and pillaging of the land by Earth's military. Ribisi as Parker Selfridge ("selfish?"), decides that genocide is the best way to go so that he can freely mine a precious metal, "unobtainium," and this hearkens back to Bush II who took us all into Iraq over oil. It takes us even further back, to the decimation of the indigenous people of the United States after Christopher Columbus arrived, claiming to have "discovered" a continent that was already populated. An indigenous people with arrows against intruders with machine guns, tanks and bombs... Hmmmm, it sounds a bit like Afghanistan today, doesn't it?

Good versus evil is a classic plotline and in Avatar it is played out to its fullest glory, along with all the other classics: man against Nature, man against woman, man against himself, mind against body, thought against action. I found it riveting, and I plan to see it again, just to pick up all the nuances I could not possibly have noticed the first time around. Maybe I'll make a tradition of it and see it annually. You know, like the good old days.

Avatar Panel

The Avatar Panel at San Diego Comic Con 2009; Photo by Patty Mooney

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jingle Bells - A Video

My cousin sent me this and it's perfect to share with you for Christmas. He is in a men's chorus and in this clip, they sing "Jingle Bells" at a local mall. They do a nice job..... Check it out!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Black Cat Under the Tree, Ben Lomond, California

Panther relaxes under the Christmas tree.

Snowman and Santa on Ladder, Ben Lomond, California

We have spent several years enjoying Christmas festivities in Northern California. This is a photo from a few years ago, a very feisty Snowman hails a miniature Santa.

Mine, All Mine

Mine, All Mine, originally uploaded by cleopatra69.

Christmas is a time of intense stretching and posing

Making Christmas Cookies With Evonne

More chocolatey goodness!

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Look What's For Christmas Dessert

This is one of the chocolatiest chocolate cakes I ever had.....

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Downtown Santa, circa '70's

Downtown Santa, circa '70's, originally uploaded by cleopatra69.

Reflection of a rather seedy Santa in the window of the downtown San Diego library

Christmas in Balboa Park

Christmas in Balboa Park, originally uploaded by cleopatra69.

Santa and his reindeer are about to take flight from a mossy green stretch of lawn in Balboa Park, San Diego, California.

Poinsettia Reflection

Poinsettia Reflection, originally uploaded by cleopatra69.

The reflection of Spanish Village in a window at Balboa Park, San Diego, during the Christmas season

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Hike Up Cowles Mountain - by Patty Mooney

Last Friday I gave myself the opportunity to climb all the way to the top of Cowles Mountain, the most-climbed mountain (at 1,592 feet high) in the city of San Diego. It had been more than a couple of years since I made that trek; a Total Knee Replacement last September, and the lead-up of agony for months prior to that, while simply attempting a walk around the block, were obstacles thrown into my path.

We live near Cowles, pronounced "Coals" and named after a rancher named George Cowles who settled in San Diego in 1877. We can see the mountain from our backyard. On the weekends, hundreds of people climb, as though on a mission to Mecca.

I set out at around noon and encountered maybe 50 people going up and coming down. Some had their dogs with them, some were shirtless, running up, some were with friends, and I noticed that many of them were plugged in to their iPods. I tried to make it a point to say "Hello" and smile to everyone, but the "Pod People" were definitely in a world all their own; they were absent from "Here and Now." While their bodies were present on Cowles Mountain, their minds were connected elsewhere.

I wondered about it. We have a couple of mountain-bike buddies with whom we don't ride anymore because they insisted on wearing their iPods on every ride and it was simply anti-social behavior. You would try to say something to them and they couldn't hear (or respond) because they were listening to their tunes. Also, what if there were hikers or equestrians around the bend? The inability to hear pertinent sounds on a trail frequented by others seems like a recipe for disaster.

Coming across so many hikers with pods in their ears was disconcerting. The Pod People were coming off as rather snooty and oblivious. Just as I was starting to think I might not ever want to come back to Cowles again I met two twenty-something girls (not together). One took my picture and the other posed for a photograph. I had very nice conversations with them both. Two clear-headed, awake and beautiful young women who had not succumbed to the lure of iPods." There was still some hope for the world!

I can understand that people like working out with motivational music. I LOVE music, too. But what about the natural music of nature? If you're out there on a mountain trail, to me it seems disrespectful to nature and to the others that you encounter along the trail, to close yourself off (literally, with a couple of ear buds) from the Here and Now. Maybe it's time for a new Book of Etiquette for the 21st Century, to address issues like this one. For instance, it's wrong to eat with your elbows on the table; but what about eating in a restaurant with a cell phone to your ear? Or texting in a car while driving? That's seriously dangerous - to yourself and all the other drivers around you.

Just after 9/11 occurred here in the USA, do you remember how attuned everyone was to each other? We had ALL suffered a tragedy together, and it brought us all together. Little by little, we all went back to what we were doing before the Trade Center buildings went down, and now many Americans are so isolated from their community, they can't even enjoy a moment outside in the sunshine, on a dusty little trail, awake and aware of the scents of sage and lavender, the scurrying blue-belly lizards, the cool feel of the big rock boulders. I believe that if you're fortunate enough to find yourself in Nature, then you should BE in Nature. When you're wired for sound, well, then you're somewhere else and you have just squandered a golden opportunity. And if you are one of the millions of people who want to meet the love of your life, you may have just blown right past them without even knowing it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Birthday to "A Diary Left Open!"

Well dear readers,
My blog, "A Diary Left Open" turned a year old very quietly (while I was not looking) on November 25, the day before Thanksgiving. At the time, Mark and I were feverishly preparing to head to Long Beach for a three-day video production gig. "You worked on Thanksgiving?!" you may be thinking..... YES. And we give thanks for the work. Entrepeneurs never know where their next check or gig is coming from, and in this economic climate, we are very happy we had a chance to squirrel some nuts away in our tree trunk.

Thanks for being here to read and/or follow my blog - it means a lot to me. When I first started it, I decided to just write as though to myself, to record my life and times. I hope you have enjoyed reading and following as much as I have enjoyed sharing my cherished moments, thoughts, dreams, experiences, poems, and the various "flotsam" I come across, ranging from the sublime to the absurd. (It's my job to make you laugh!)

As Sherrill the Egg Man (who is no longer with us) used to say, "The only thing separating us is our skin." Ain't it the truth!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Diving La Jolla Cove - A Poem by Patty Mooney

Sunshine and visibility.
The word is go.
We cram
into wet
suit, hood, gloves,
strap on weights,
vest and tank,
crank air
open. Constricted
by the mass
of these necessities
trudge forward
on sand
with snorkel, fins
and flash-
light in hand, a
prayer to Jacques
we approach the lip
of the sea.

Feel like fall-
ing in, stay
to shifting sand.
Don fins as a bully
surge pulls,
pushes. Deep
sigh, the sea
takes the weight.
Relaxed, we go
bright orange
dash by, their wide
eyes oblivious
to our size, bass
less ostentatious
blend with kelp

Oh, the species
of sea spinach:
sprawling grass-green
grasses, never
mowed, boas of
fox-tail brown,
columns of pea
green kelp ascending
thick to surface, their
tendrils curling around
my fins, inspire
panic until I
unfurl myself.

You see a seal,
white with brown
spots watching me
untangle. By
the time I'm free
he's invisible
to me. I make
do with teeming
visions of sheeps-
head, bonita, opal-
eye, and bass
punctuated by
silly garabaldis.
And lobsters,
dozens of them,
hidden in the rock
castles they
call home.