Make New friends but keep the old

October 13, 2020

“Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold. Make new friends, but keep the old; Those are silver, these are gold.” The song came from a poem written by Joseph Parry who was born in 1841 and died in 1903. Many years ago while I was a Brownie and then a Girl Scout, I learned valuable lessons (along with having fun) that I really did not fully appreciate at the time. Age and lived experience have shone (shined?) a different light on some of those things. I wanted to do links for many of the sites connected to the ideas/people in this blog, but I don’t know how to do it, and can’t remember how.

If you were in scouting, the first few lines of one song likely quickly come to mind.
Until recently, I had forgotten the others.

I have something called “vascular dementia.” What is this? In healthy brains, we produce blood vessels that feed our brain. My brain doesn’t do this. My blood vessels are dying off and causing me to forget a ton of stuff. Like tonight, I couldn’t find my cane in my less-than-1,000-square-foot- apartment. I searched and searched everywhere. No, I don’t have Alzheimer’s Disease, but I do have this form of dementia. Dementia doesn’t mean I’m crazy; it means I can’t remember shit. I’m hanging on during this pandemic because of my beloved friends. Leigh Combs, dear friend, who is driving me around (because I’m fearful that I could hurt myself or someone else if I drive). She is also helping me give away many books to places like the East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul, and the GLBT Library at the U of MN. She does a great interview too—she interviewed me for her podcast…it’s somewhere here on my website; she interviewed me for her podcasts (pre-pandemic) There’s Sara Kettering, who just finished her Master’s Degree in Public Health, and was a brilliant undergrad in the Social Justice Minor that I co-created. And Katie Nordhagen, another former Social Justice Minor who has shlepped me to various doctors for my ulcer in my esophogus (another fun fact that comes from covid stress. She works for Cargill and is continuously on Zoom doing amazing work. There’s also Robbin Frazier. She worked for the Alzheimer’s Association and now administers an amazing program at the U. of MN where she educates and organizes primarily communities of color about Alzheimer’s. Then there’s Dr. Eddie (Eddie Moore Jr, founder of the White Privilege Conference who calls me to give me love, and I’ve joked with him when I said that I do know more than a few African American men around the country. There’s Tori Hong, another former social justice minor student whom I love who creates beautiful art and pays herself for her work, something she first explored in the social justice minor. There’s also Hayden Bui, the trans man of color who created my amazing website and has made it full of so much of what matters in my life.

There’s more people who care about me… I just can’t remember who they are right now. Hugs virtually to all, lisa

 
 
Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.
New-made friendships, like new wine,
Age will mellow and refine.
 
Friendships that have stood the test-
Time and change-are surely best;
Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray;
Friendship never knows decay.
 
For ‘mid old friends, tried and true,
Once more we our youth renew.
But old friends, alas! may die;

New friends must their place supply.
 
Cherish friendship in your breast-
New is good, but old is best;
Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.
 
The song came from a poem written by Joseph Parry who was born in
1841 and died in 1903. I am not aware of when the Girl Scouts began to
use the words in the song I came to know or how often they altered all but
the first stanza.

Practicing Praxis, an occasional blog by Lisa Albrecht, 25 August 2020

My eye surgery was on august 11, 2020. In the midst of this never-ending pandemic, I had a hole in my left retina. I could not see well at all. Now, I’m working on patience, which is not easy for me.

I’m sitting up in my bed, with the Republican Party Convention on MSNBC. I do love Rachel Maddow. If only this is/was fiction… but it isn’t. Orange Man (as I call him) is the great savior! He’s saved our country with his timely response to the virus! (really?).

He’s the great patriot! And it’s those Democrats who are ruining our country. Taking away our freedom of speech! (really?) I did, indeed, watch the Democratic Party Convention last week, and even felt slightly optimistic about Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Hard to believe that an elder middle of the road white man could make me feel positive. That’s a pretty sad statement.

Last night, members of the Orange Man’s family spoke. What a wonderful dude!
Defending many U.S. cities from “defunding” police departments! (Oh no…that includes Minneapolis!) A white woman who is head of the Republican Party proudly saying she’s a housewife… a regular gal! A married hetero white couple who defended their home (with guns) from rioters…many of whom were people of color! An African American Republican Senator (the only one) raving about how great Orange Man is. And former NFL African American football player, Hershel Walker, saying there’s no way that Orange Man is racist. He knows for sure, since he’s such a good buddy. And an African American cop… saying how wonderful Orange Man is for all cops. Christ was also prominent too as Savior of the Republican Party. It makes me so sad that there are so many wonderful and radical Christians who have to hear this.

Tonight, Secretary of State Pompeo will be speaking from the King David Hotel in Israel. That’s “illegal.” Government officials are not supposed to do that…Pompeo SAID THAT. MSNBC just announced that the Republican Party just cancelled another speaker, a woman who spewed anti-Jewish rhetoric, citing the Protocols of Zion, among the most anti-Jewish pieces of hate ever written.

The Republican Party is great at finding MANY people of color who support Orange Man. Another sad statement. He’s now pardoning an African American man on camera, smiling and signing a document I just heard Senator Rand Paul endorsing Orange Man. Surprising. And best lie that Rachel Maddow just reminded us about… Troops reduced all over the world, thanks to Orange Man. I remain stunned that there are so many people in this country who believe that Orange Man is making America great again. Enough for tonight.

Practicing Praxis: Friday, Aug. 7, 2020

It’s one of those nights where I can’t sleep. The melatonin doesn’t help and my doc doesn’t want me to take sleeping pills. I don’t know if this is a blog or the preface to “my” memoir or another chapter in the memoir.

I have such a hard time with technology these days. I can’t keep up and I don’t remember things like websites, passwords, etc.

I hear the clock ticking every day now. It’s the clock of my life and I’m alone and often scared. I will have retina surgery in several days – Aug 11 th , 2020. We’re in the midst of the pandemic that has exploded around the world because the corona virus is so contagious. Here in the U.S., we have a federal government that is a mess, “led” by Orange Man Frump. I cannot say his name. More and more people are dying, especially from communities that have been historically marginalized. People of color, poor people, old people, disabled people. As an old and disabled person, I’m in one of those “historically marginalized communities,” though I still have enormous white privilege and class privilege. I’m a lesbian in a big city in the Midwest where people don’t kill lesbians openly, which makes me relatively safe. I’m not “fragile” nor do I support the concept of “white fragility.” I have a roof over my head, food in the fridge and I get my social security check and I have retirement money. I don’t ever want to be silent, especially in the face of racism right now in the U.S.

After the murder of Mr. Floyd by local police here in Minneapolis (May 25, 2020) there was incredible violence here, and all over the world. Much of Lake Street in Minneapolis, and parts of University Avenue in St Paul burned. There are still boards over storefronts that have not re- opened as well as empty spaces on city streets where buildings burned to the ground. Many of the plywood boards say, “BLM” or “This is a POC-owned business.” These words have been sprayed painted on the boards; there’s also incredible artwork, done, I assume, by local street artists. There’s beautiful paintings of Mr. Floyd, and there are indelible markers everywhere naming all the people (mostly African American men—but let’s not forget women of all colors and trans people of color) who have been killed by police around the U.S. When I went to the memorial site on Chicago Ave. and 38th St, I went to say a prayer, not to go to a demo. But I saw more white people who look like me taking pictures on that corner. Fuck, a black man was murdered by police there! And many of us white people want to post pictures telling friends on Facebook that “we were there.” That is not about social justice. I think of the concept that Jesse Villalobos and I have spoken and written about: white followership. Us white people need to learn how to follow and not be at the front of the line. It’s not a bad thing because not everyone is a leader. It’s time now for people of color in the U.S. to move us forward since we white folks are still embracing white supremacy (even though we deny this).

(I just stopped writing to try to shrink the size of my text here. And I fucking don’t know how to do that so I don’t see the ends of my lines of type. I hate fucking technology sometimes. I refuse during this pandemic to be on 10 zoom call meetings every day. But I wish I was better with this shit.)

I’m several days away from retina eye surgery and I’m scared. I’m alone, in the Becketwood Senior Cooperative and I don’t know many people here, since I moved in May during the pandemic. Everyone wears a mask so I can’t see people’s faces. Even before masks, I wasn’t very good remembering names and faces. Now it’s worse. I am going to get tested for alzheimer’s. I’m not going to obsess on it, but I do worry. I’ve watched Pat go downhill for over a decade. She is in what is called end-stage alzheimer’s. She is safe and well cared for in Cecilia’s Place and Grace Hospice manages coordinating her care. I wonder often if she’s going to outlive many of us since she doesn’t have pandemic stress. When I see her, she smiles, says random words and when I visit at meal time, I feed her as she sits up in her hospital bed in her diapers. Life is prolonged in this country by doctors who just want to keep us alive. ( Read Atul Gawande’s book – Being Mortal). Pat is 81 and she can’t feed herself, bathe herself or offer a full sentence that makes sense. But she is still smiling. I’m glad she didn’t turn into the alzheimer’s person who was my mother, always whining, crying, being nasty and miserable.
But it’s still so fucking hard. I don’t really have a partner anymore, and her adult children are not my children. We have relationships, but not ones that are deep and meaningful.

I am alone, no partner. I can wish all I want but I don’t see finding an old lesbian on my horizon as possible. I’ve had several crushes recently, but I haven’t acted on them. It’s not the right time for me now.

I’ve gotten to this surgery because a number of my former students (or people connected to them) have been taking care of me. I haven’t been driving and my apartment at Becketwood is less than 1,000 square feet and I have so much shit. Books from my professor days, tons of papers…endless. I’m paying for a storage locker close by, but I long for a simpler life. I just haven’t figured out how to make that happen. Am I a pack rat? The Becketwood social worker asked me that. Yes, a single woman retired professor, alone, except for her two cats, not in great health, dragging around too much crap. Since I don’t have children that I gave birth to, in many ways my former social justice students are the people I’ve nurtured over many different years in various settings. They bring tears to my eyes because so many of them are doing incredible things in the world, and they are willing to come and help me. That blows me away.

They are my heroes.

I’m no longer part of the Warriors for the Human Spirit community; I was dismissed by Meg Wheatley because I talked aloud about white supremacy, especially so white people who are Warriors could figure out how to listen to people of color and deal with white supremacy. I’m no longer on the Board of Project South. Thank you sister Rose Brewer who opened the door to the incredible education I got working with Project South. But they moved to working exclusively in the South with Southern people in leadership. I’m no longer work with SURJ: Showing up for Racial Justice, either nationally or locally. I left on my own terms but there were folks there who didn’t like my “style.” What does that mean? Being a NYC Jew in your face dyke? That’s some of it for sure. I learned so much about Buddhism when I was involved with Warriors for the Human Spirit. I believe I’ve become a much better listener and learner and teacher, and I’m enormously grateful.

I think I’m not quite so “in your face” as I used to be, though I still stand by the words – “Never be silent in the face of injustice.” Am I gentler? Maybe a little, but I still won’t let people or institutions off the hook. Again, isn’t it about time that more of us white folks learn to speak out for genuine racial equity, not simply including people of color, but really changing who runs institutions and who makes decisions.

I’m fearful about the upcoming election. I fear that Orange Man Fromp will manufacture a way to bypass elections or create new chaos here. And all we have is Biden. An older white man liberal who isn’t very radical. He’s yet to pick his vice president. Many hope he will pick a Black woman. We shall see. Again, the “system” is rigged. Just like there’s little hope for “police reform;” I’m now calling it police deform.

I was going to do a racial justice workshop through the St Paul community acupuncture network, organized by Trish Kanous, who is white and Muslim. I wrote up a description, Trish was getting a church to host us, it wasn’t going to be on zoom and it was going to be a small group. Guess what? We advertised it for over-55 white people who were struggling with how to build community with people of color, especially Black people. And no one signed up. No
one. What does this say? Are we white people not wanting to really deal with white supremacy? But we ARE willing to show up and take pictures of the memorial site where Mr.Floyd was murdered by cops.

It’s late now for me. Closing in on 2 am, and I need to continue to work on cleaning up and cleaning out my apartment before the surgery. This felt good to write. I don’t write much at all anymore. My eye has not hampered my ability to see this screen on my laptop. My phone is too small to do anything like this. That’s one reason why I hate text messages. People don’t
want to talk on the phone. They just want to punch out a few sentences. I’m not looking for a two hour conversation but I appreciate hearing someone’s voice. And thinking aloud spontaneously.

Enough for now. Virtually yours, Lisa

An occasional blog, Practicing Praxis by Lisa Albrecht (formerly a Warrior of the Human Spirit)

June 6th, 2020

Rage and Grief in Minneapolis: Another Black Man killed by a white Cop

it is a time of intense rage in Minneapolis. Four white police officers (two of whom had had a documented history of inappropriate use of force) killed Mr. George Floyd, an African American man who was shopping at a local corner grocery store. A cashier thought he was using counterfeit bills to buy something, and store policy dictated calling police. There is no video footage of anything that happened prior to police showing up. That’s when a bystander started filming as Mr. Floyd was pinned down by a police officer’s knee pressing his face into the concrete street outside the store.

When i moved to Minneapolis over 35 years ago, i rented an apartment with my former partner, Bev. (An aside…Thanks for coining the phrase, “happy hermit birthday.” I use it to wish happy b-day to my facebook friends). The apartment where we lived is just 3 blocks from where all this violence happened in South Minneapolis. I don’t live in that neighborhood anymore, but I know it well. Friendly folks from many places around the globe and the U.S. I liked living there. Young, old, in-between people. Many languages, many varied backgrounds. I felt safe most all the time. There were occasions where as a white woman alone at night, I became hyper-aware of my surroundings. I never feared for my life.

Now, these streets have been packed with demonstrators. This is all about collapse yet again. See below when I talk about my past involvement with Warriors for the Human Spirit. People on the streets are full of rage…for nearly 2 months, we’ve all been living in a world of masks and social distancing staying at home…you know the drill. Many of us have lost our jobs, and miss life before the virus. My direct perceptions (obviously I have plenty of bias) tell me that there’s been lots of rain and the green of this land is lush and overwhelmingly present. I miss gardening and getting my hands in the soil, but next year, i’ll garden again. Counter-pose green land next to grey tight urban space next to rageful people…THIS IS VERY HARD.

There are street scenes where there have been tear gas, flash bottles thrown, buildings on fire, people screaming, and media manipulation of what has occurred. The news junkies are coming out of their corona stupor. It’s like when Jamar Clark was killed by a cop here. (Look it up if you want to hear that story but know that it was a time of rebellion…four years ago. The emergence of the National Black Lives Matter movement, leadership locally from African American lesbians, tents pitched outside the police precinct near where Jamar died, food donated, blankets donated, white folks not front and center for once. Us white folks started to really understand what happens when predominantly white organizations start like SURJ: Showing Up for Racial Justice (see www.surj.org nationally to learn how to support communities of color and how to work effectively as white people challenging white supremacy…and also see www/SURJMN.org, our local chapter.)

I can’t breathe” is a familiar refrain from NYC that is similar to what is happening here.

The stories are way too similar…white police officers with knee jerk responses to men of color. Women of color of various backgrounds caught in the loop as well. With “lockdown,’ add in the possibility of domestic violence to the mix. And of course, we live in segregated neighborhoods.

So where does this leave us? For three years, I have been a Warrior for the Human Spirit, Our vow:

“I cannot change the way the world is

but by opening to the world as it is

I may discover that

Gentleness, Decency, and Bravery are available

Not only to myself but to all human beings.”

I no longer am involved with Warriors, but its influence has been profound on me. You can read Meg Wheatley’s Who Do You Choose to Be?: Facing Reality/Claiming Leadership/Restoring Sanity. By the way, Meg is a Buddhist. That doesn’t mean you have to become a Buddhist to understand Warriors for the Human Spirit. My story is rooted in Judaism, but I’m not becoming a “Jew-Bu;” The identities I’ve created and my stories…bring together many of my identities.

Since the start of this pandemic, I’ve made many changes. Moved, downsized, practiced serving people in my life as they have needed. I was on a waitlist for almost a year for Becketwood Senior Cooperative living community. On short notice, I got offered a one bedroom/one bathroom under 1,000 square feet and had to go into overdrive to pull off the move. It’s been a challenging — downsizing, getting a storage locker, donating books, selling lots of stuff. Practicing “Gentleness, Decency, Bravery.” Watched a beloved live with end-stage Alzheimer’s in hospice. For the three years of my involvement,Warriors for the Human Spirit and its community have helped me survive. I also Hang out with my kitties and adore their presence and love. No non-stop zoom meetings. No filling up days with people. Lots of reading and watching old movies (especially oldies in black and white). Little TV news coverage. Too many lies.

Before collapse (aka “BC” on my calendar), life felt normal, whatever that is. Now I parse my days by remembering that restaurant, or this street, or such and such a neighborhood—all BC.

I thought…use this pandemic and write, write, write! I have this lovely website created by Hayden Bui…https://lisaalbrechtsocialjustice.com, but I have not written my ass off. This blog is the first I’ve written in over two months. Shut down! I’ve been tested for the virus because I was hospitalized briefly, diagnosed with an ulcer in my esophagus and also sick with a UTI (urinary Tract infection). My health has been up and down. Not enough exercise, no swimming (my drug of choice), continued weight loss after having bariatric surgery almost two years ago, plus struggles to find food that my ulcer can handle.

Somehow, I managed some travel BC (before covid): a retreat with Warriors in Zion National Park; a drive to say goodbye to a beloved friend, Diane Finnerty, dying from cancer in Iowa; a cross-country Amtrak sleeper car train ride to Portland, Oregon to a conference (and seeing a dear friend); a drive to Iowa to do Tai Chi with Dr. Paul Lam, who teaches Tai Chi for people who cannot stand and balance due to various disabilities (I have this struggle); plus a planned trip where I put away funds for a year for an Olivia Travel trip to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico with 800+ fabulous lesbians (pre-virus).

Swam in the ocean in Mexico, did water aerobics in Mexico poolside, and ate great food; In learning about Buddhism, I’ve studied some amazing books… not sure how to create links on this blog, so I’ve written all the titles below…

Shambhala: The Sacred Path, by Chogyam Trungpa, and reading lots of Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on cultivating fearlessness and compassion, and Welcoming the Uncertain: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World, and Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. Also studying Kabbalah, (Jewish mysticism). Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Preparing to Practice, and my favorite – Kabbalah for Dummies by Arthur Kurzweil. To help me understand Buddhism as a Jew, I loved Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul by Rabbi Naomi Levy. Toss in She Who Dwells Within: A Feminist Vision of a Renewed Judaism, by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, plus Meg Wheatley’s Perseverance.

And I decided to take up the Ukele! My friend of 40 years, BG Goldberg who was on the Olivia Mexico trip turned me on to her Ukele musicianship. She plays with an all women’s group in Portland, Oregon. I’m beginning some on-line lessons in Minneapolis. Why not? Playing music keeps your brain moving in ways that are not about reading books. I did percussion in a women’s Klezmer band, and as a kid briefly played accordian and guitar.

As part of the Warriors program, I’ve practiced QiGong and T’ai Chi, doing some (but not enough) body movement work.

This blog started as a short entry about Warriors for the Human Spirit to describe the rage in Minneapolis. But now what was initially going to be a short description of what’s going on here has become a blog for Practicing Praxis. Long time coming. Stay safe, my beloveds!

Birthday Blog – april 3, 2020 – april 4, 2020

Birthday blog, apr 3, 2020…I’m 69 today and am having a “hermit birthday” (thanks Bev for naming it.)

I haven’t written in forevea!  It’s how many days of “stay at home” orders from the Governor?  Sorry, not a fact I actually feel like I HAVE to know.  Pardon my humor. Gottta still be able to laugh. Right?

———————–

Update…written on April 4, 2020 after an important call with Meg Wheatley and small group facilitators in Warriors for the Human Spirit….

Being a Warrior means to work on ego-less-ness. That’s not what I did yesterday on my birthday.  This crisis is not about ME. It’s about how to best serve those in need.  I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and I’ll get my social security checks….and down the road…whatever the federal government decides to send to me. I am not “unemployed.”  I haven’t done my taxes yet, but I will be able to handle whatever comes my way.  I will be moving on may 1 to Becketwood Cooperative in south mpls.  I need to be PRESENT for it and do it.  I need to be PRESENT for Pat, my partner, even though I can’t be with her. She too is blessed, and she is doing ok.  She a lucky one – roof over her head, food on the table, great staff at Cecilia’s Place and wonderful Grace Hospice caring for her.

Yesterday I ran errands, drove around outdoors and got shit done. I smiled a lot.  Today, I’m going to shower (since I can’t swim in a pool) and then go OUTSIDE to be with nature, though I live in Mpls, I can still walk around a bit.

I’m going to stop now and post this and write again in a bit.  It’s time to be of service.  I’m particularly willing to serve elders here locally.  What do some of us need to survive?  Please let me know.  I don’t want to do another zoom call to add to the “busy” list.  What will best serve us?  Hugs virtually to all…..lisa

More on Death and Dying – Diane Finnerty: Rest in Power

Lisa Albrecht’s occasional blog – “Practicing Praxis”, December 30, 2019

My dear friend, Diane Finnerty, died yesterday after her very long battle with cancer. She had been in hospice in Iowa City since November 21 which is when I saw her to say “goodbye.” That’s really not so long, but it felt like an eternity. Her body would not quit, though she was ready to begin her next journey. I miss her, though I believe her spirit lives on within all of us who were part of her “beloved community.” And there are so many.

Death. The D word. Last night was the last night of Chanukah. When I said the blessing, I whispered to Diane that the eight lights would burn brightly to help show her the way.

What is the way of death? How do we do grief? And how many ways do we experience death?

Over twenty years ago, a life partner of mine left me because I was selfish. I did not understand that back then. That felt like a death. I felt like I had a phantom limb for a long time. I still miss her, though we are friends now. I’ve even hoped we’d get back together again, but that will not happen as she has told me. Her friendship means a great deal to me.

I also live with “ambiguous loss” with Pat Rouse (my life partner). She has alzheimer’s disease. She’s here, but not here. She has no memory and she lives in a residence for people with memory loss. The place is wonderful, but she’s not really present. This is another kind of death. I don’t let myself feel my grief from Pat very often. It’s too hard. I enjoy the time I spend with her though she speaks using only random words. She smiles and she hugs you when you smile and hug her. I believe that she knows on some level that she is safe and loved. I don’t know if she knows we were lovers for over twenty years. That’s less important to me in many ways, though I miss having a sexual relationship with her, and the closeness of having a life partner.

There’s also close friends with whom I am no longer close. Another kind of death. If i’m honest, I believe some of them did not want to be close to me any more for various reasons. (Sorry, I don’t feel ready to say more right now.) Some have been honest, but many have just “gone away.” It’s a Minnesota way to disappear by not being truthful. For me, this is a very painful kind of death. I miss a friend who lives up north; we used to bond doing racial justice work. I miss a Jewish friend who is on the periphery of my life now; she helped anchor a Jewish circle I was in.

In this political moment on the planet, there are deaths everyday. Many of us have become numb to these losses.

–More Jews have been murdered in Jewish spaces. There seems to be more and more expressions of anti-Jewish hate.

–Immigrants in the U.S. are being violently separated from their families. Many die trying to find a place to live. U.S. policy has been the cause of their immigration: trade policies have made them poor, or climate change has caused oceans to swallow their land because the U.S. refuses to take responsibility for environmental injustices.

–Transgender people, especially trans women of color, are killed more than we want to admit. Some of us LGBTQ know this, but many of white queer people don’t acknowledge these truths.

–People who are poor and feel like they have no way out have been addicted to opioid drugs in huge numbers since access is so easy. Some poor people commit suicide. Some starve to death. Elected officials fight over who “deserves” food stamps or any kind of support if you are a single mom. Why is this even a question?

–Mental illness is around us everywhere. People who cannot get decent healthcare hurt themselves and their loved ones, while elected officials fight over who gets any healthcare in this country.

–I am an elder now, and I watch all around me as we “old people” get more and more invisible. In the U.S., so many cultures around us are youth-focused. I ride in the elevator in my nice mostly white middle class apartment building as my young neighbors are too busy attached to their cell phones to say hello or ask me how I am. As we age, we get more isolated. Many of us, especially women and people of color have little or no safety net. In Minneapolis, there were just two horrendous fires. One in public housing where people died, and one in a converted old hotel where homeless people were living.

–And of course, we have a gun lobby in this country that supports easy access to guns for most anyone.

I could go on and on. But I’ll stop for now.

Thanksgiving Memories

Practicing Praxis, 28 November 2019 – Thanksgiving Memories

Lisa’s occasional blog

It’s Thanksgiving Day morning and I’m thinking about specific memories I have about Turkey Day.  For me, this day is not about huge family gatherings, or food, nor is it about preparing for the gift-giving consumerism of x-mas (or Chanukah).  It’s also cannot forget the myth of Native people and the pilgrims sitting down together to happily eat, given the history of Native genocide perpetuated by us white settlers.

I’m a New Yorker, so this morning, as I watch the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV (in cold and snowy Minneapolis), I’m remembering the day when I was a little girl, and my dad took me to the Macy’s parade. I don’t think I was older than about five.  We took the subway from Queens into Manhattan. My mom stayed home, I think, preparing our meal. She was not much of a cook, which is why I probably don’t have great family food memories.

 It was FREEZING outside.  We parked ourselves right near the Macy’s marquee on 34th Street where the parade traditionally ends.   I remember the police barricades – back then, they were called wooden sawhorses. Stamped on them were the words: “Police Line – Do Not Cross.” I could stand up straight and still fit underneath them (As a white Jewish kid, I had no fear of police nor did I know anything about police violence directed at people of color.) We waited and waited for the parade to start, and I grew colder and colder. My dad saw how cold I was getting, so he grabbed my hand and we started to walk a couple of blocks to a Nedick’s ( for you non-New Yorkers…pronounced NEE-dix).  I’m not sure if it exists anymore, but in NYC, you could always find a Nedick’s on a street corner.  When we walked in, my dad bought me a HUGE cup of hot coffee!  I was a big girl, right? And he had already taught me to love coffee.   My little hands gripped the cup tightly, willing it to warm up my insides. Damn, it tasted so good—especially with the milk and sugar!  After I sucked down the whole thing, we smiled at each other, and slowly walked back to the parade.  I felt great. It was much more crowded when we got back to the parade.  I pushed my way back under one of the wooden sawhorses so I could get a good view.

Note:  As I’m writing this, I’ve looked up periodically at the current parade on TV.  Just saw the Rockefeller Center Rockettes – all white? (What century is this?)  I also glimpsed a bunch of lip-syncing performers, a mix of country and pop singers, several K-Pop groups and a couple of hip hop artists. I don’t know most of these people. I guess I’m too old. I cannot keep up with pop culture these days. At this moment, Jimmy Fallon and the Roots are gyrating non-stop on a float, looking pretty silly.  There’s been a few numbers from current shows on Broadway, all abbreviated so that there can be lots of time for toy commercials interspersed on TV throughout the parade. I’ve seen a bunch of marching bands from around the U.S.  They have all been high-stepping in unison in the front of Macy’s playing x-mas music, in uniforms that include huge hats, lots of tassels, some swords, and lots of thin girls in bathing suit attire. They all look enormously proud with their heads held high (as they shlep tubas and drum sets), though those girls are probably freezing their asses off.  It’s a big deal to get accepted into the Macys parade.  I can visibly see a few people of color sprinkled in the bands, even though I know there are many youth of color bands around the country.  In the Twin Cities at local parades, these bands bring out huge crowds of community supporters.  I guess they didn’t get accepted into these national parades? Usually, each school has had to raise enormous amounts of money to rent buses to get to NYC. It’s a highlight for all these kids to go to NYC, and if you don’t come from a family with money or a well-to-do community or school, it’s a stretch for a family to get their kids there.

Today, it’s very windy in NYC so all the huge balloons that this parade is famous for are being held by Macys workers very low to the ground, rather than soaring high between skyscrapers. When I was college student, I came home for Thanksgiving one year and went into Manhattan on the night before Turkey Day. I got really stoned with a friend and walked along the Upper West Side on the side streets to watch the balloons getting blown up.  It’s a NYC ritual to see all this happen before the actual parade.

Well, the parade is about over, and I’m home alone. I’ve got to get ready to go over to Pat’s house, where I’ll have a turkey meal with her and the other women who live there. Susan who owns Cecilia’s Place (where Pat lives) cooks a great meal.  I’m bringing an apple pie from a local bakery.

Yes, I do feel lonely. But I’m grateful to reminisce about NYC and the parade, and to remember my dad. It’s something that Pat can’t do anymore, robbed of her memories.

death is always at our doorstep

Practicing Praxis – Lisa Albrecht’s once-in-a-while blog

Death is always at our doorstep, Nov. 22, 2019, Iowa City, Iowa

When we say that “death is at our doorstep,” we often mean that death is soon.  But death is part of the journey we are all on…every day.  I am learning that today.  I’m in Iowa City with Diane (in hospice), Jill (her partner/wife of over 30 plus years), Jorgito (their nine year old grandson whom they are raising [that’s another story]), and any guests –like me this weekend—who are coming to say “goodbye.”  I am part of all the wonderful people in their lives. Diane only “eats” fluids now, and so many friends come by with food – liquids, solids, everything to feed any one here.

Before arriving yesterday, my stomach hurt every day as I anticipated this trip.  I felt scared of visiting, of being close to death. I don’t feel that now. I feel close to love and deep care. Hospice is an amazing service.  Instead of Diane needing to call and visit all the different doctors who have cared for her during her long cancer journey of over 5 years, she just calls hospice.  Someone comes and coordinates whatever she needs in terms of care, pain and medicine.

If only healthcare in the U.S. provided this to all of us on our life journey.  But we know, health care doesn’t do this, unless we are lucky enough to have this kind of “coverage.” Coverage is an interesting word, isn’t it?

 My friend, Cindy, in the Twin Cities is on this same long journey with cancer. When I go home (tomorrow), I want to talk with Cindy about hospice.  She has been on a similarly long journey and she is also nearing death.

I’m 68 years old now and one year beyond my weight loss surgery.  I’ve lost an enormous amount of weight to help me live with osteoarthritis pain, and I don’t eat much and don’t enjoy food much anymore – kind of like Diane – I’m “dying” too, like all of us on life’s journey. Though I’m not at death’s doorstep–the conventional way of viewing death. I could live another 20 years, or two years, or fall and hit my head and die tomorrow.  We don’t know, do we?  On the plane ride, I brought a magazine I subscribe to here.  It’s Yes! – Journalism for People Building a Better World (Fall, 2019) – The Death Issue – How to have a Good Death.  Am I obsessing about death?  One of the articles in this issue, “7 Things People Forget to Do Before They Die,” has taught me the following:  1) Use the D-words; 2) Ask your health care providers questions about death; 3) Research your death; 4) Take advantage of the little things; 5) Let your loved ones know you’re going to lean on them for support when the time comes; 6) Think about what kind of legacy you want to leave; and 7) Consider a different bucket list.”

Diane’s hospice nurse was talking with Jill earlier today, and I learned that there are different levels of hospice care, and they are deciding on possible next phases, especially around levels of pain that Diane has. Death is getting closer.  Diane said to me yesterday that she wasn’t sure if she’d make it to x-mas.

Last night, Diane, Jill, Horgio and I  went to hear wonderful music and dance by Los Compasinos! –an amazing group of Los Angeles latinx musicians at the arts center at the University of Iowa. Diane used to work at the university.  Many of Diane and Jill’s friends came up to them and hugged them. They are blessed because they are connected to such a rich community. And all their friends make it clear that they are devoted to Diane’s family because of all the love she and Jill have always given to them. I was exhausted from all the love by the time the night ended! 

Today, at their home, I’ve spent time with Veronica and her partner, Bonnie.  Veronica, a white woman born in Austria, is a recently retired gynecologist. Bonnie, her African American partner of 25 plus years, used to work for the post office.  Veronica cleaned Diane & Jill’s kitchen, while Bonnie and I shared stories.  Bonnie grew up in Queens, not far from where I grew up but she was raised in the Black part of Queens and I grew up in a white Jewish enclave. Bonnie’s mother lives in Iowa City now and has alzheimer’s, living in a local nursing home.  Yet her mom totally remembered how to make sweet potato pie!  There are many people with Alzheimer’s who still carry long-term memories that are fabulous. Veronica, directed by Bonnie’s mom, made a wonderful pie. I just had a piece and it is delicious!

First Interruption:  I just got a call from Pat’s healthcare provider where she lives.  It looks like she has another UTI (urinary tract infection – common for older women who don’t move around much- like women with Alzheimer’s.) I still juggle Pat’s caregiving with the rest of my life.  We have to now make sure Pat gets her UTI meds and then we have to schedule a flu shot for her. 

Second Interruption:  Two really kind hospice doctors just arrived to care for Diane.  She’s now on a higher dose of oxycontin for pain, and they are deciding how best to relieve Diane of pain near the site in her stomach where she is connected to a tube that removes nasty stuff (that’s the best I can do to explain it). The tube gets clogged and the pain more intense.  They’ve decided to take Diane to the hospital tonight.  They will x-ray her stomach and find out what’s next.  She’ll stay there at least overnight. Jill is driving her soon.  Jorgito will do an overnight with a friend, and I’ll stay here with Baraka – sorry I haven’t introduced you to their wonderful mutt; they have a friend who picks her up every day and takes her to the country where she runs around for the day, and then she returns her home. Baraka just arrived; she’s my date for tonight.

Postscript

Text from Diane Finnerty…24 Nov 2019…sent from her hospice hospital room, “be well, my dear friend, and I will be ready to greet you on the other side…Big love!”

Gay Marriage? Not for this lesbian.

March 26, 2013

I started this blog years ago, but never really got rolling.  This gay marriage debate has gotten my blood pressure up for various reasons. There’s lots of things I have been wanting to write about.  So here goes…

Gay marriage seems to be catching on more and more among mainstream folks. Several Republicans,
Obama, Biden and even Hillary and Bill have signed DOMA on (after years of no support), and after Bill having signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Now that both the Minnesota State House (HF 1054) and Senate (SF 925) are getting ready to vote on legalizing gay marriage, it’s important to know that not every queer person wants to get married, including me. It’s more than “I don’t believe in marriage;” it’s about racism, movement building and white queer organizing strategies, both locally and nationally.I voted against Minnesota’s anti-gay constitutional amendment  to narrow the definition of marriage last November; however I did not actively support it. It’s incredible that over $18 million dollars was spent between Minnesotans United for All Families ($12 million) and Minnesota for Marriage ($5 million). It’s hard for me to wrap my head around $18 million dollars being spent fighting for and against gay marriage when homeless shelters are overflowing, kids go to sleep hungry, people have had their homes foreclosed, and the racial disparities across multiple fronts are enormous here in Minnesota.  Recent polls suggest over 50% of Minnesotans do not want to legalize marriage. In these times of incredible economic disparity, how much more money will be spent by Minnesotans who support gay marriage so more queers can assimilate?Let me be clear – I am not discriminating against my own people. I don’t need the state to legalize my relationship of over 20 years.   Don’t 50% of hetero marriages fail? A lesbian friend of mine from the Bay area married her girlfriend when that small window was open in Cali.  They did the whole nine yards: invitations, ceremony, big party, gifts. When they divorced a year later, they were ostracized within their own community.  How dare you divorce, after everything we’ve done to get marriage? I’ve gone to at least a dozen “commitment ceremonies” over the last decade locally, and less than 50% of these couples are still together.  Not a great track record.The problem is that queer marriage activists have insisted on framing marriage through the lens of single issue identity politics. This is the 21st century and the most successful organizing campaigns for justice have been built around multi-issue organizing, cross-racial alliances, and doing huge and diverse base-building. The only way that progressives will win any form of liberation is if we work together (across race and class lines) and across multiple issues.  Minnesota United has framed the gay marriage campaign as a single issue. If I am wrong, where are the hundreds of thousands of people of color, poor and working class people, and new immigrants that support the marriage campaign? Minnesota United no longer has its sponsor page on-line from the constitutional amendment battle, but I can tell you that there were few organizations of color, immigrant rights organizations or anti-poverty groups listed. If I recall correctly, there were queer groups of color as sponsors, but not organizations like the NAACP, which has endorsed gay marriage at the national level.If these coalitions had been built, then Minnesota United would have chosen to stand with key organizations locally that work for immigrant rights, anti-poverty legislation, and all legislative efforts to end racial disparities.  Organizations that work in coalition watch each other’s backs, and stand in solidarity with each other.  Why else would queer organizations do this? Because queer people ARE immigrants, poor people and people of color, not just middle class white professionals.White queer marriage advocates insist that if we get married, we’ll have access to healthcare, right? Correct. But don’t ALL people deserve healthcare? Why should the privilege of marriage grant you healthcare in this country?  Not every queer person wants to be just like all those happy heterosexual married white middle class couples, in nice houses with picket fences and 2.5 kids. Queer/GLBT peoples are sexual outlaws – that’s what has defined us historically. We cherish many kinds of relationships beyond monogamy. The state has historically defined us as sick, broken, perverted and people who destroy “real” family. The institution of marriage is also about preserving inheritance rights for people who have accumulated stuff.If you’re a white middle class professional with property to pass on, this is perfect. But I wonder where poor and working class GLBT folks fit in this equation.  If we really care about having stuff to pass on, why aren’t we standing with the Welfare Rights Committee, and its 34+ organizational sponsors and over 1,000+ individuals) to raise welfare grants in Minnesota?  It’s been 27 years since any increase for families living in poverty. Families (mostly women and children of color) on MFIP live at 70% below the federal poverty line. These families would like to have some middle class privilege, too. And yes, some of them are queer.Gay marriage advocates think about kids too, because many are parents. If you’ve got kids, you want them to be safe and have the institution of marriage to back them up, right? Queer-friendly organizations like Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) are working to do this. Queer parents, just like straight parents, want their kids to do well academically in school. Will gay marriage help? I’m not sure, but if GLBT parents care about their kids’ education, why aren’t they standing up to end racial disparities in public education? Locally, why aren’t GLBT marriage advocates standing with Minnesota Minority Education Partnership (MMEP)?  Check out their 2012 State of Students of Color and American Indian Students Report  to see what the racial disparities look like at every level of public education in Minnesota. Within the next two years, 20% of Minnesota high school grads will be students of color.  And yes, some will be children of queer parents and/or queer themselves.What if your queer partner is an undocumented immigrant?  Marriage will help him/her get that green card, right? Perhaps, but I wonder if white GLBT people imagining “saving” brown colonized peoples by marrying them? Why aren’t queer marriage advocates challenging ICE (U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement), the federal agency that has detained more than 400,000 people under the Obama administration  In thinking locally about immigrant rights, we had another right-wing constitutional amendment on the ballot last year. Thankfully, the voter I.D. amendment was defeated.Where were gay marriage advocates and Minnesota United? No where to be found.Let me go back one more time to why I’m not interested in Minnesota’s gay marriage legislation. As I said earlier, I’m not a fan of marriage. Period. But what’s more important to me is liberation for all of us. Dr. King said it best, “None of us is free until all of us are free.”  The political strategy of Minnesota white queer marriage advocates is not about freedom for all of us.  How else could queer marriage been framed? We all agree that queer families have been pathologized by the state.  Why aren’t we thinking about what other families have been pathologized by the state?  Single parent households (especially women of color-led) have been defined by the state as broken since the social welfare system originated.  Same for poor families that have been told that it’s their fault for being poor. If gay marriage advocates had chosen this strategy, we might have been able to form a transformational coalition that might have been able to work for more dramatic social justice initiatives.There’s also one last thing.  As long as DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act – exists federally, all these questions about queer marriage are moot. GLBT Minnesotans will not get any of the 1,000+ federally legislated perks until DOMA is repealed, even if queers get the right to marry here.  Once we cross state borders, we are not protected. DOMA defines marriage as the legal union between a man and woman. The Supreme Court is taking up the legality of DOMA right now. It certainly would be interesting if DOMA were overturned…though I’m still not interested in getting married. Nor do I think that throwing out DOMA will help all of us be free.

Welcome

August 20, 2010

Lake Superior, crashing waves, grey fog. This is one of my favorites places on the earth. I’d love to live on the shores of a powerful body of water. This is my first post, and my first attempt to blog.

Praxis is reflection and action in some kind of balance. Paulo Freire articulated this notion in Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  I try to live my life practicing praxis. I teach social justice to undergrads at the U. of Minnesota. Balancing theory and practice is difficult. Students think theory is inaccessible and not connected to their lives. And for good reason.  Most academics teach the most inaccessible theories – the more esoteric, the better. It often makes students feel stupid.  It often makes me feel stupid too. bell hooks, in Teaching to Transgress, taught me that theory has to be about our lives because good theory shapes all the choices we make. Many social justice organizers think theory isn’t important. However, without theory to guide our lives, we’d make thoughtless decisions, and take actions randomly. The most successful organizers use theory wisely.  What’s worked in the past? For whom? Can we apply it to today’s struggles for social justice?  Do we have to be more visionary to create the changes we need to make this world more just?

I think this blog will address many of these questions.  We shall see.