Four Years Gone

Today is the anniversary of the death of my husband, Shinko Mondori. If you’ve read some of my earlier writings, you know he died from pancreatic cancer, which is one of those cancers that is a death sentence. He surprised his oncologist by surviving two-and-a-half years after his diagnosis. He was a fighter.

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I was torn about writing about this, today. After four years, it’s hard to consciously dive into the place of grief. Well, I did. What I found was, it’s not quite so unbearable as it was, but it still fills me to overflowing with tears.

On March 4, 2014, I published my first blog post about Shinko, “‘Bones’, Cancer and Real Life,” where I paralleled Shinko’s illness  with a character on the TV show, “Bones.” The young intern, Wendell Bray, learns he had Ewings sarcoma, another seriously nasty bit of cancer. I was still very much in grief when I saw this episode, and it really struck home for me. Appropriately, this post hit it’s 15,000th view just now.

A few days later, I published “Remembering,” which was from a letter I wrote to my friends and family about Shinko, and read at his life celebration seven weeks after he died. This one is more raw. It was from that grey time after a loved one dies. Emotions shut down. You just move, like an automaton, from one task to another, from one day to the next.

I had forgotten that post was from a letter until just now, when I read it again. Letter writing is powerful. Unlike conversations, you have time to think carefully about each word. They allow you to express emotions and thoughts that you would never do in a conversation.

On my book blog, I recently wrote about letter writing, “Lessons from the Fledgling Author: Sharing a Character’s Feelings,” after a class lesson had us students write one from the perspective of one of our characters. In it, I describe how surprised I was by the result. I was able to have my character speak from his heart. He’s a vampire, so is pretty stoic, in general. It turns out, I’m a lot like him in that way.

This morning, I wrote a letter to Shinko, to tell him I miss him, what my life is like without him, and to tell him I’m OK. I’ll share it with you.

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Dear Shinko,

Well, it’s been four years since you’ve been gone. It’s a cliché, but not a day has passed when I haven’t thought of you. It’s hard not to—I still live in the same house, our home.

I miss you. Your gentle touch. The way you could make me smile.

There are a lot of things I don’t do anymore. They were things we did together.

I almost never cook—really cook. The pleasure in creating and eating a fine meal was in sharing it with you. I remember eating such good food. Sunday morning French toast or pancakes with fresh blueberries, maple syrup and lots of butter. Dinner. Dinners were amazing. Never just a steak. No. The barbecue always had mesquite to give the meat that wonderful, smoky flavor. The vegetables were chosen with care, both for quality and color. Presentation was a big part of preparing the plate. Fresh green beans, steamed to perfection, next to bright orange mashed sweet potatoes. And always, a sprig of parsley from the garden outside our front door.

The garden is another place where I don’t spend much time. A lot of that has to do with how extremely busy I am, but there’s another part that’s really just avoidance of something I took pleasure in sharing with you. I finally hired someone to clean up the two years of neglect. It’s looking pretty good again, and I’m finding enjoyment in spending time there, pruning and pulling weeds.

I still play the piano—and I can tell you, I’m getting better. Sometimes, when I finish a piece (ta-da!), I look across the room for you, where you used to sit in that overstuffed chair by the front window and watch me play. You’re not there to clap for me.

One thing I very rarely do anymore is sing. Or play the guitar. That was something that became very tied to you. I sang simply to make you happy. I remember the emotional release it gave me. There’s something about filling your lungs and making noise that is very restorative. I miss that. I might get out that old guitar.

The other major thing missing from my life is travel. I’ve done very little, aside from family things—going to Japan to inter some of your remains with your parents, and going to Hawaii for Alissa and Corey’s wedding. I’m glad your family still includes me. I love them.

I might go on more trips if I my business actually made some money. Big sigh. I’m looking for gainful employment now. I’m tired of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and baked potatoes so often. I’ve become very frugal. Hopefully, I’ll find something soon. I worry that my age will be a factor against me, although, being a woman might be an asset.

Overall, I’m pretty happy. Aside from a few aches and pains, I’m healthy. I’d like to lose some more weight, but I’ve plateaued—this year has been frustrating.

And, I discovered a passion. Or an addiction. I started writing. It began with blogs to support my business, but that led me to write about a variety of topics. Once I got started, it took over all my free time.

About two-and-a-half years ago, maybe getting closer to three, I tried to write down that story that I carried with me all those years in my head—you know the one, about wizards and magic—just to get it on “paper” so I wouldn’t lose it again. As soon as I did that, the story grew. And grew. I now have major parts of several books written. I have one almost ready to publish. I’m hoping by the end of the year. After getting feedback from my editor on my first draft, I’m deep into the first major revision.

Writing the stories, especially about my main protagonist, Coltan, allows me to express my grief. His story is tragic. I grieve with him. He grieves when I grieve. And we get through it together. He’s strong. And so am I.

The dedication for Tishta the Crystal Orb, my first novel, is:
“For my husband, Shinko Mondori, who always encouraged me to try new things and to never be afraid.”

I love you, with all my heart.
Ramona

Sharing can therapeutic. It can also help others through similar situations. That’s why I’m sharing now. I feel better all ready.

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Posted in #cancer, #heroes, family, Pancreatic Cancer | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dakota Access Pipeline Protest Turns Violent

Over the last several weeks, I have been watching the Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline story unfolding. I will wager not too many of you are aware of the situation—the major new media are not covering it (except, surprising to me, Fox—at least, yesterday. You can find the other side of this story on their website, and, as of an hour ago, on NBC. These are verbatim from Associated Press).

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Lastrealindians has been my main source of information. Yesterday, things became violent between unarmed protesters and pipeline security. Here’s their account.

“We ask that supporters keep the attention on the fact that Energy Transfer Partners feels justified in using this level of force against unarmed and nonviolent water protectors AND the state officers that are sworn to protect the people allowed it.” -Red Warrior Camp

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The confrontation was covered by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! on film, which you can view at this link.

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The Native Americans and other protesters want to prevent the pipeline from crossing the Missouri River and its estuaries, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. They are trying to protect the water as well as sacred sites being bulldozed by pipeline workers.

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I wasn’t there, so all I know is what the video shows, and I’m sure it’s biased. The protesters definitely crossed a fence onto the private land where the bulldozing was happening. They have filed paperwork to stop construction after finding burial and sacred sites on the unsurveyed land. The court system has promised to review it by September 9. By then (and even by yesterday), the damage will already be done.

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From what I could see, the protesters did nothing more violent than yell before being thrown to the ground by security personnel. After that, many people were sprayed with mace/pepper spray, and several were bitten by vicious security dogs. Throughout the video, I didn’t see any protester do more than yell, even after this brutal treatment. They are true warriors.

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It presents a powerful “David and Goliath” image reminiscent of civil rights marches in the 1960s. It is important for all of us to pay attention to things like this. Powerful American corporations can do just about anything they desire to increase their profits—and our laws support them, since our lawmakers are supported by the same corporations.

Photo credits:
Democracy Now!

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Posted in Dakota Access Pipeline, Environment, Native Americans, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Music Program at First Place School

Do you remember your first musical instrument? It was likely a recorder, which is what I learned on when I was in fourth grade.

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There is a new music program, Music Matters, starting this year at First Place School, led by their new principal, Chris de Leon. They need recorders and music to help make the program a success.

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My little business, Who’s Giving, is featuring this program for September. We would like to put a recorder in the hands of each of the sixty children in the program. A ten dollar contribution is all it takes.

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Yes. That is Russell Wilson. He attended Breakfast on the Beach, the annual fundraiser for First Place, that took place July 18th this year. He’s with some of the kids that will learn to play recorders this year.

Find out more about Music Matters, First Place, how to donate and other ways to help on the Who’s Giving website.

Photo credits:
Flanders Recorder Quartet
Russell Wilson via First Place School
Ramona Ridgewell

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Posted in Childhood, Music, Non-profits | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time Lapse of DSCOVR’s First Year

Too cool for words. Here is National Geographic‘s article about the time-lapse video of Earth taken over NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory‘s (DSCOVR) first year in space. (SKIP THE SHORT VID at the top and go to the middle of the page.) The images were recorded from Lagrange point 1, a gravitational balance point (a Lissajous orbit) 1.5 million kilometers away. Jay Herman, EPIC Lead Scientist (what a cool title!), does a good job narrating.

There was an epic battle to get DSCOVR launched, and scientists waited seventeen years, from 1998, when then Vice President Al Gore proposed it, until early last year, to finally see the satellite’s launch. On July 6, 2015, they released their first image. It is the first image in the time-lapse that ended last month, at the end of the first year.

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First image of Earth from DSCOVR on July 6, 2015

DSCOVR’s intent is to report on variable solar wind condition, warn us of coronal mass ejections, and monitor the things we and our planet do to impact the climate (hence, the link to Gore).

Photo credits: NOAA’s DSCOVR

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

 

Posted in Al Gore, Astronomy, DSCOVR, NOAA, Science, Space | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Last Days of Summer” Premieres at Rhode Island International Film Festival

You may know Michael Rosenbaum from his Lex Luthor portrayal in the TV series, “Smallville.” Dark and sinister.

Rosenbaum has done a lot of comedy, as well, including his current TVLand show, “Impastor,” where he plays a conman who has taken on the identity of a gay Lutheran pastor in the fictitious small town of Ladner, Oregon. He plays opposite some well-known comedic talent—Sara Rue, Mircea Monroe and Mike Kosinski. Rosenbaum also produces this show.

What you may not know is Rosenbaum has acted in—and also directed, produced and/or written—a number of indie films, both shorts and feature length. These include his own films, “Back in the Day” (2014), “Ghild” (2011, Outstanding Achievement in Short Filmmaking at Newport Beach Film Festival) and “Fade into You” (2012) as well as “The Visitant” (2014), “Two-legged Rat Bastards” (2011), “Urban Legend” (1998) and “Sorority Boys” (2002).

His most recent indie film is “Last Days of Summer“—an Oliver Ridge/Blood Moon Creative  film directed by Aaron Harvey—where he plays against William Fichtner, Jessica McNamee, Jean Louisa Kelly and Colin Woodell. Its world premiere is August 13, 2016, at the Rhode Island International Film Festival (August 9 – 14, 2016) in Providence.

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It is a story about Mike (Fichtner), who feels life is passing him by, and Jenna (McNamee), the young woman next door, who is trapped in a tumultuous marriage to Scott (Rosenbaum). Relationships start to ravel when Mike becomes attracted to Jenna. It looks to be an intense view into obsession and dissatisfaction with life.

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Here’s the trailer and ticket info. Hoping to catch this one.

Photo credits: Blood Moon Creative, Inc.

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Posted in Independent films, Indie Film | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Culture of Violence

We Americans have embraced a culture of violence. We have allowed it to permeate our lives, like cancer growing and spreading through every pore in our body. The rest of the world must think all of us are insane to live this way. We are collectively insane to allow it to continue. Every day, each of us makes the choice to ignore it, to say nothing about it, to do nothing about it.

Two separate killings of unarmed black men in two days earlier this week, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Missouri, Wednesday, spurred the attack last night on Dallas police officers. Four Dallas Police Department officers and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer were killed, and many others wounded, as officers worked to protect the crowd. It was a well-planned attack, using snipers to shoot at officers patrolling a large gathering of people protesting the earlier killings. The names of the DPD and DART officers have not yet been released.

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Anton Sterling being attacked by police officers

The events of the last few days resulted from the systematic persecution of Black American men by law enforcement officers. It’s not a new thing—our news reporters quickly included statistics to compare them against previous, equally horrific events. This is only one symptom of the cancer, but one that can be rectified.

The Los Angeles Police Department, once thought of as the most brutal in the nation, has spent the last twenty-four years reforming itself, after the now infamous beating of Rodney King in 1992, which was one of the first captured on video by a bystander. It hasn’t been easy and the change has been very slow, but it is changing. The Atlantic’s CityLab wrote about it after the beating and death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, just over a year ago.

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Freddie Gray

Police officers need to not only be held accountable for their actions, but also carefully selected and trained to be community activists. The whole police culture in our country needs to change. They are meant to protect us, not kill us—regardless of the color of our skin or our socio-economic status.

I’ve been reading Tweets and Facebook posts about these events, and a predominant theme is the feeling of helplessness. People ask, “what can I do?” Changing the local police department is something we all have some control over. It would be a start. Trying to change local gun laws is another thing anyone, or everyone, can take a part in.

Another frequently seen topic on both Twitter and Facebook is prayer. “Pray for peace.” “Pray for the officers.” Prayer might make you feel better, and that’s fine, but it does nothing to change the situation. Prayer is passive acceptance. I’m going to guess most of the folks making these comments are members of some religious congregation. You have collective power. Influence your place of worship to get involved in the local community to make a difference, and be part of that difference.

We, collectively, are responsible for the community we live in, and by community, I mean our cities, our states and our country. This includes not only how we treat each other, but how we treat foreign nations. Our violence oozes into the rest of the world. We are war mongers. But, we have control over who we elect. Elect the officials, at all levels, who are the most likely to change our violent society into a kinder, gentler nation.

In the mean time, remember the power of video and the internet. With the plethora of smart phones in most people’s pockets, we can be proponents in changing our police forces by creating the evidence to hold officers accountable. Use the power in your hand whenever you see an encounter between police officers and the individuals they interact with.

Another use of video to promote accountability is to have all officers wearing cameras. Some police departments are already doing this. See if you can get your local department to embrace this idea. It provides an unbiased account of events.

Get involved. Be the change.

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Posted in Gun Violence, Murder, Police Accountability | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Remember Them

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old

These are the names of the forty-nine people who were killed Sunday morning, June 12, 2016. They were killed because they happened to be at a gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando, Florida. They were killed because someone thought they were gay, and that gays should die.

I won’t name gunman. He was an American. He followed Islam. He listened to ISIL extremists and carried out what he perceived they were instructing him to do. Even though recently questioned by the FBI—he was on their watchlist—he was able to go into a gun shop and purchase the weapons and ammunition that enabled him to carry out his plan.

One of the weapons was an assault rifle—these arms are designed, specifically, to kill people, their sole purpose. Our gun laws need to change, but that’s not what I’m writing about today.

I’m writing about the victims.

The oldest was fifty. The youngest, only eighteen. They were mostly young gay men out enjoying themselves on a Saturday night. There were forty-two men and seven women. They were mostly Hispanic. They were travel agents, pharmacy technicians, dancers, students, UPS workers, filmmakers—people of all walks of life. It was the kind of crowd Pulse was known for. To read some of their stories, here’s an article from Florida Today.

It’s Tuesday, two days since I heard the news. I’m still out of sorts, distracted, teary. I remember these feelings from when my husband died of cancer three years ago. I am grieving.

I know a lot of others are, as well. But I also know, many of us have already pushed this aside and gone on with life. Politicians have eagerly used it in attacks on the opposing party—and their constituents lap it up. It makes me a little sad and more than a little angry. Maybe it will spur some of us to action.

But right now, read these names out loud—each and every one of them. Remember them.

Photo credit: Lis Mitchell Flickr.com/pixelfish

Copyright ©2014-16 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

Posted in Gun Violence, LGBT, LGBTQ, Life, Murder, Pulse, Pulse Murders | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment