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June 18, 2015

Scrambling Humpty Dumpty

I wrote this several years ago when I lived in the River City by the Sea, but didn't post it. Because I am moving, again, I am cleaning out files and oh so many things. I ran onto this post and think it deserves a reading. I've been thinking about current events and about Seniors, in particular, and our place in the world.  

June 5, 2015

"Traveling in Steerage"

Okay, so it's come to this. To this place where I never longed to be again -- downsizing and moving, yet again. This one will make twenty-four moves for me as an adult. "And, the plane will still leave at 10 o'clock," a colleague used to say when things didn't go well and we complained. So, I will move to the other side of the mountain but not close enough to smell the loam under the trees or to watch the dappled sunlight on the ancient trees. When I was a child, I stared at the tall foothills of the Allegheny Mountains and longed to know what was on the other side. Well, Babies, the irony isn't wasted on me now. 

This move is necessary because of health issues. So once again, I am downsizing; this makes number five. No matter what I want or think or protest, the plane and all the trains will stay on time. I visited the new retirement community and picked out my apartment before they were all gone for the foreseeable future. Last week five apartments were available and now, one remains. 

Today, I began the arduous process of clearing out -- again. Some things that I held dear for so long simply can't make the trip. No room. If I want to be dramatic, I think of the emigrants to America who left Cuba in a boat or Europe in the steerage section of a freighter. Talk about downsizing and no storage. They were lucky to get out alive and to get out, period. I think of my books and photo albums and whine to myself. 

Bookcases, cabinets, several pieces of furniture that I bought before I was married in 1963 survive but can't go. Books will be donated to the library. I've spent the day sorting, judging my possessions like an emigrant preparing for departure. Philosophy, psychology and poetry books must go with me, somehow. What is the value in these old books that I re-read? The poetry that's images from someone else's life? I've come to understand that they remind me how far I've come on this journey like little mile markers along my highway. What I understood of Eliot and Frost at 15 wasn't much then, but now? Hmm.  

The value in "things" that I've kept is the memories of other times and places with family and friends. I've kept only the most treasured memories. Do I keep the ceramic ladybug a friend made for me while she fought her losing battle with cancer? What about the Willow Ladies friends and students gave me? Or the tiny porcelain Schnauzers that represent my lost dogs? Some items that seem pedestrian are really intimate memories that I can't share here or leave behind.  

It's late and my office is in shambles. The conflicting choices will have to wait another day. 

June 2, 2015

Night Intruders

It's late -- almost midnight as I sit here at my desk. The night train went through and I hear one after another plane take off the FedEx terminal. Louder jets from the air force base join them in the busy night. June's humidity brings all the sounds closer and they echo. Now, the Canada geese are sounding their alarm. I've never heard them at night and it's unsettling. What intruder from the darkness interrupts their sleep? As we get older, the sounds of life echo in our heads and our thoughts do too. Big changes ahead for me, Babies.

The intruder that lurks in my night is pain. Lots of pain. I have recently been reminded by someone that I have a pseudo independence. Well, don't we all? We can only do what our life and our bodies permit -- to say nothing of space and time. Golden Times remains a connection to strangers like the sounds of the night anonymously connect with me. You've been with me through my various medical adventures and there are more ahead. I like it better when I have fun things to share but, hey, a girl does what she can. I'll see what I might find that we will all like. 

You see, I have this leg that just can't find any peace. It demands my attention and also that of my sacroiliac nerve. Oh, sure, you've heard all about it. Me too. Over the past few months, my blog has been noticeably quiet. Me too. I've been busy with four spinal epidurals but no positive outcome. Next on the list is a consult with a neurosurgeon -- just a consult. 

And, I'm moving away from my glorious mountain. Stay tuned. 

May 25, 2015

Looking Back

It's been a bit since I posted and yet, you still visit the blog. Thank you. 

In the United States today was Memorial Day and in spite of retailers pushing sales and beginning of summer fun, most Americans take a bit of time to remember members of our armed forces who gave their lives in service to their country and to each of us. Giving one's life for a country is a heavy thought, substantive and even profound.  

Since I was a young girl, I understood this commemoration and the sacredness of it. In the late nineteen-forties, kids spoke in hushed tones of someone's father who was lost in France or Germany or the Pacific and later, in Korea. We accepted that many kids had only one parent because the other was lost in war. Having one parent seemed normal to me as one of mine was lost, but not in war. In the mid-nineteen-sixties, we spoke of friends and classmates who went to Vietnam and didn't return. That distinction marked a loss of innocence for my generation. Soldiers were lost in World War II and Korea but our generation didn't come home and that was a lot closer to the bone. 

"Rosa Multiflora" is an old poem I wrote about that time that I would like to place here on the blog. 


        Rosa Multiflora

They grew thorny and wild;
The thicket covered our hilltop.
Big bulldozers cut through
To clean brick-red clay.
“You have to dig up their roots,”
The landscaper said, “So
“They never come back.”
 In another life, these weeds
Were coveted Rambling Roses
I snipped and carried in newspaper
To a distant, shaded hilltop,
In that other life.
Through black cool earth,
I stood them like sentries
On lumpy graves of people
Gone before my life.
I placed big empty jars
Like single greenhouses over them
So they could grow roots
But they never came back.

January 30, 2015

Two Alarm Fire in the Night!

It's one-thirty a.m. and I hope to find sleep after a strange and unsettling day. (Don't miss my next blog post). You've been there, haven't you? Distant thunder to the northwest announces the arrival of heavy rain pelting the hillside and my windows. Perhaps turning the pillow over one more time will be the trick and sleep will come. But, through the beating rain, I hear a police car siren, then a fire engine, and of course, a Rescue Squad siren's shriek. Here at FoM, a major state highway runs past the mountain but traffic sounds are beyond the forest and the lake and out of my hearing range. Hmm. 

I think: "Already, an accident south of here from the rain." and stay still. 

Then more sirens sound from a different direction and louder. I think: "Really bad accident and the rain's amplifying their sirens." 

But, I'm more awake than before. I hear more sirens and different tones -- one of them sounds like a ladder truck and more and more police sirens. Home invasion? Plane crash? Train derailment? My imagination begins to wake up and fill in all the empty spaces. Can SWAT be far behind? All these possibilities are within two miles of me in different directions.

Suddenly in this ever louder chorus of sirens, I realize that the sirens aren't moving out of range but coming closer. They're stopping. Near me. Yikes. I look at the clock -- two a.m. 

I tell myself: "They're still far away and that closeness is just in your imagination," and finally fall asleep for a few hours.  

This a.m., I checked the local news web sites to see what had happened. 

At 1:30 a.m., a major apartment fire broke out in a twenty-unit building around the next curve on my street. Residents, families and their pets were displaced and no one was hurt. One unit was empty. Wow. Heavy winds fed the fire but firefighters kept the fire from spreading and remained to monitor for hot spots that might be smoldering under the rubble. This complex of apartments has condos, tennis courts, a pool and many buildings. I pass by it all the time on my way to Costco. Due to to copyright protection software in local media's sites, I'm unable to paste a photo here. 

Sometimes things that go bump in the night are real. And, in the afternoon on this sunny, cold Friday, I just heard an explosion that rattled my windows, my kitchen cabinets and my front door. The local news helicopter zoomed south to get complete aerial coverage and has flown north again. 

Seems that neither Dorothy nor I are in Kansas anymore. 




January 17, 2015

FoM North and South

Whenever I go north or south from my new home, my approach is at the base of the ridge line of The Mountain. I have begun to think of it as my own mountain. The ridges on each side suddenly jut upward from the west and the east and gradually slope up to the height of the mountain. The topography here is much different from the River City by the Sea. Most things are different here. But there is a kinship that I feel with this mountain. When I was a young child and surrounded by mountains,  I always wanted to go to the other side. Now I have just this one that marks the location of my home. Oh, sure there are many hills and valleys and curving roads. But, the mountain stands alone in the center of this area. My mountain. 

Recommendations:

Netflix series, "Marco Polo." Incredible cinematography, excellent plotline and characters. Well done if not exactly historical but the 1200s in the Far East was not well documented in the West. For those of us who cannot turn ourselves to any other activity, Netflix offers another must-see season of "Doc Martin."

"Downton Abbey." Still the classiest and class conscious soap opera on PBS. 

Regular TV: "State of Affairs "and "Madame Secretary." Both worth your time with production values miles above the usual suspects on network television. 

To all my loyal blog-followers: Thank you for checking back as you do frequently. Another project has captured all my time and attention for a bit. I'm not exactly sure where this new road will take me but when I get a plan, I will take you along as always. Be kind to yourselves, Babies.

December 27, 2014

Dumpster Diving into Social Media

With no pre-set ideas of what people's conversations might involve, I ventured into discussion sites and stayed open to what the experience offered. I did much reading and participated little. Myriad topics were listed and I added info for reference, ah, that's research. On one excursion, a young man from an unknown country wrote to me with an idea about how to make the world more connected. He wanted to know if we divided our online contacts by country, ethnicity, and cultural belief, would/could that make a difference in the harmony of the world? He wanted to codify the connections of humanity through math. Two from column A, etc. Keep his inquiry in mind. 

Enter one Senior and right away, controversy surrounded me.

Aging: Across most cultures, many young people think that persons over fifty are old, useless and not worth anyone's time or resources. Think about that. Carefully. One person wanted to know what older people could do to be 'cool' enough for young people to talk to? What could older people possibly do after retirement? Can old people think? Do they deserve to get old? Scary, isn't it? 

Religion: The most interesting aspect of these exchanges was the listed heading: philosophy. Constant challenges flew about -- What do atheists actively believe? How can they not believe ____? Do they have an atheist handbook? Comments included wanting to know if all atheists are evil, have no morals and what do they think happens to their souls when they die? How can they sleep at night and don't they care what others think of their immorality? Weren't they afraid of God? Many comments from religious folks accused atheists (not doubters, un- or dis-believers but always atheists) of denigrating The Bible as myths and fairy tales. Atheists retorted that nothing can be proven and referred to God with a lower case letter. These exchanges were always vehement and intolerant all around. Many people listed their atheistic or theistic position after their name like a profession and/or sexual orientation. In normal polite society, these topics have generally been off limits and the aggression was startling. 

Although this was "philosophy," only theists (Christian) vs. atheists had exchanges. They referred to each other with designations like they were tribes -- lots of "people like you" from both camps. Other religious designations either were unmentioned or ancient Eastern religious quotes appeared. Some people confined their comments within specific topic streams on one religion. One person wanted to know if more neuroscientists could pinpoint the exact location of God in a brain? The discussions between or among these people were never objective or calm. If they had been in the same location, pushing and shoving were a word away. Exchanges were heated, personal and downright nasty. And philosophy as an exploration of life's meaning, ethical living and other genuinely thoughtful questions? Hard to find. 

The majority of young people were highly educated about technology and pop culture but mostly ignorant about how to live a meaningful life. Futuristic notions about how important Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be in their future popped up frequently. Material success and competition on the job, in school or inside the family were their hallmarks of success. 

Relationships: Twenty- and thirty-something adults who are clueless about fidelity, marriage, unrequited love and family life were prevalent. The most common laments were of losing a boy or girl friend, being bullied or being betrayed when a friend leveraged the girl for himself. These young people trusted "friends" to the point of naiveté. When friends didn't behave as expected, the other was blind sided, devastated. Even after years of Western feminism, old customs still rule in many cultures and even young, educated males still regard young women as inferior possessions. 

Some of the saddest comments came from young women in abusive relationships. They couldn't understand why this person close to them would be cruel, violent or controlling? What could this mean? As a worldwide culture of humans be-ing we have done a poor job of educating ourselves and our children about the nature of being human, what real caring means and how to love each other. 

Many, many comments and discussions about sexual mores, relationships and dating. One that really sticks with me involves a young man with HIV who wanted to know if he had to tell his girl friend? A man wanted to know if he should divorce his wife because, after a year, he no longer thought she was pretty enough. Lies, cheating, deceptions and manipulations in large numbers astonished me. Many people had no notions of privacy and freely shared their past indiscretions.

Past, present and future Chemistry, Biology, Physics: Quantum physics' new popularity included discussion of time travel!, what life on Mars used to be, bionics, and how to live on the moon were among the topics fished for in the homework ocean. Many college and high school students actively searched for homework answers. 

Manners: Why bother with manners? How do I keep someone from sitting on my stuff on an adjacent seat?

Poetry: People wanted to know how to earn a living writing poetry like Robert Frost does? You can figure out the issue here. 

Children: Why would a divorced person want to keep the children? 
Is something wrong with people who don't want children? Is something wrong with people who want children?

Celebrities: The worldwide fascination with celebrities continues. Frequently, someone commented on TV or movie characters and their actions -- Why did they do ? How was it possible that ? was able to do ? this week when they couldn't before? The fusion of reality television and fictional television seems widespread. Do we have a world wide generation who can invent imaginative technology but can't distinguish reality from fantasy?

Health and major illnesses: A young woman wanted to know how to help her mother deal with terminal lung cancer. How long before adhesions appear after surgery? Amazing. Another person was angry because a parent hadn't announced illness?

Literature and books of all types: Some wanted to write a short story or novel one sentence at a time and have each one critiqued and improved by readers. 

Motivation: Most participants here looked for short cuts. How to stay home and work? How to sleep longer and not lose income? 

Brain function: Why don't people in a coma rot like those who are dead? This is one of my favorites. 

Family dynamics: One parent whose adult child had recently announced a transgender surgery wanted to know what did she do now that her son was dead? Another wanted to know why didn't her daughter marry a doctor as she was instructed? 

Grammar: Even though and because the sites are in English, ESL students, and those who are not students, constantly try to pick apart grammar rules. Any ideas of idioms or nuances are frequent sources of misunderstandings. 

Psychology: The fascination with this topic often included how to make someone do something, how to diagnose a friend, relative or acquaintance's mental disorder, specifically. Suicide possibilities, Anxiety and/or Depression and how to get away from people with these or how to help them were frequent topics. 

Generally, I found that people want to be seen and heard but are not big on listening. The young man who wanted to create harmony by the numbers will be disappointed because most people are only slightly curious about other other viewpoints and cultures. 

And, scattered among sincere people of all ages are others who want to spread misery and drama. The sites aptly refer to them as "trolls." When I was in high school, I used that term to refer to churlish and stupid boys. You remember the Billy-Goats Gruff and trolls under the bridge? The trolls now live happily online. Their rudeness, hate, aggression, insolence, narrow-mindedness, deliberate dissemination of fake information and untruthful experience take a real toll on sincere discussion. They slide through cyberdom with a metaphorical chip on their unseen shoulders spreading and causing disruption where ever they can. So, Babies, do we let them win or stay and fight? 

Combine one part troll, one part immaturity with one part interesting people and the outcome is a mixed grill of unsettling cuisine. For my part? I have a clearer view of who the inhabitants of this big blue ball are now, what they think about, what they will share, and what matters to them. No, I didn't find 'truth' but instead, I found the loneliness, frustration, and insecurity under-girding people's experience across the globe. 

My take away? Have we as a species become so focused on progress that we have lost our way? The millennial generation knows how to make the world move quicker but not where to go. We now have instant communication via Smart devices that point the way to ever-growing AI. The pity here is that while everyone can talk, text, Skype and Twitter, they usually have nothing of value to say to each other or to the world in general. How much data time do Selfies and "Wht'ups? consume in a world where things that need to go in the trash become a quasi-treasure? 

On the surface, our developed world seems to have abundance while the undeveloped world struggles for sustenance and survival. Abundance is not the issue though. We have too much without value. We Seniors have lived life with changes, struggles and strife. Some think we have seen it all and now is our time to relax and let the next generation work things out. So, here in our older years, Babies, are we going to abdicate to the trolls of the world who dumpster dive in our culture and keep recycling the same old trash?  


December 22, 2014

Off the Chain in Social Media

Do you ever wonder if mainstream media reports have any basis in reality? Do their reports represent the average person's true interests and concerns, up close and personal? I had no idea what I would find and no agenda when I went deeper into social media sites. Like it. Hate it. This was my experience. 

My little basket of curiosity and truths accompanied me into discussion sites with broad, open topics. Two separate explorations, months apart, lasted several months each with duplicate experience. There are at least fifty discussion open sites but I only visited a few English-speaking ones. Because I did come to know some of these people to some degree, I won't disclose the site names. 

So, how do these sites work? Who posts there? 
  • Members supposedly use real names or declare selective anonymity depending on the topic. Some post photos or avatars. 
  • Over one to three million people access on a given day. 
  • The youngest who communicated with me is fourteen and many retirees were on board. 
  • Liberals, Socialists, Conservatives, Capitalists of all degrees and nationalities. No one declared other economic systems.
  • Christian but not by denomination, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Buddhist, and other unspecified beliefs. 
  • Med students, doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, attorneys, entrepreneurs, financial consultants, astronauts, writers, actors, musicians, artists, professors, engineers, teachers, unemployed every things, technology-related every things, celebrities, high school/college students. I encountered no declared professional clergy. Tradesman, public service, political and government workers are either undeclared or scant. 
  • Discussing past or current mental health or addiction issues is common. 
  •  I chose settings that allowed "no explicit-adult" feed on my pages. 
  • Ethnicities and geographical locations all over the world. 
  • Scant representation: Middle East, Central America, Far East.
  • Politics: Little interest in local, national, or international relations, countries or politics. 
  • A person's IQ and/or educational level were promoted more than age, culture or country. 
What's the point here? These holy days/new year celebrations touch everyone and messages of fellowship, giving, brotherhood, and tolerance blare across our culture and indeed around the world. But, in reality does good will, peace and hope spin around the globe person to person? Check back tomorrow to see what I found...