A Whole Lot of Ain’t It Awful

I had a phone conversation with a friend. We hadn’t talked for a while. A lot had happened in our lives since then – not all of it particularly good. We ended up talking about the bad things that were happening in the world – things we had no control over and often things that did not immediately affect our lives.

Such conversations are, I suppose, necessary. Everyone needs to vent at least once in a while; but, under certain circumstances, talking about the “baddies” can give them more life and energy than they deserve. Those conversations I refer to as “A Whole Lot of Ain’t it Awful.”.

The next morning, I set out on one of those errands you wish you didn’t have to do, but know you have to. I turned on the car radio to a classic Rock and Roll station. It was their request hour. I hoped it would improve my sour mood.

The first song the D.J. played was ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by Electric Light Orchestra, (1977). He proclaimed It was the happiest song ever written. He might be right. The next song was ‘The Power of Love’ by Huey Lewis and the News (1985).

I reached my destination with a smile on my face. I had changed the playlist in my mind. I started thinking of other songs that lifted my mood. Here’s my playlist.

Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon (2007) – This features a honky-tonk style piano with quirky lyrics.

Somebody to Love – Queen (1976) – Great voices and music- Freddy Mercury’s voice is wonderful. They sound like they had fun making the recording and that over-rides any sense of saddness

I Can See Clearly Now – Jimmy Cliff (1993)- a great song that reassures us that there is a bright future

What a Wonderful World – Louie Armstrong (1967) – Enough said!

The key, in such messy times, is to find the beauty, goodness and hope that still exists in the world. Sometimes we have to dig to find it, but it is always there.

Peace

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

As we move through the nightmare of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might think things are getting better. The light at the end of the tunnel is shining more brightly. It’s only a matter of time before we are through this. After all, we now have three vaccines. Some states have a lower rate of infection, hospitalizations and death rates.

The vaccines are great, even remarkable, but this morning one of them is on hold because some very limited, but life-threatening side effects have emerged. Doctors are not yet sure who should avoid this particular vaccine. It will take more time to sort it out. The other factor is that we do not yet have a sufficient supply of vaccine for all those who need it. In addition, more states have an increasing infection rate, hospitalization rate and death rate. It is clearly a case of good news/bad news. This grim picture does not even consider that the world-wide pandemic rages on outside our borders.

When you are almost at the end of a traumatic event, you don’t know it. All of the signposts are new, never experienced before. So, we either become numb to what is going on, or focus on what is immediately in front of us and what we are feeling at the moment.

A common analogy employed at such times is that of running a race. You might hear, ‘If you just hang on, you’re almost to the end,’ or, ‘Don’t give up, you’re almost at the finish line.’

The analogy does not hold. When you run a race or a marathon, you know where the endpoint is. It’s a lot easier to stay motivated when you know the distance to the endpoint.

With the pandemic, we really cannot see the endpoint. All we can do is deal with newly emerging problems as they arise, trust that there is an endpoint and make every effort to keep a positive outlook.

There are two people I know who have successfully maintained a positive outlook throughout this terrible time. They are both very creative, although in different ways. They haven’t fallen into the trap of spending most of their time reflecting on their own troubles, but rather have been able to focus outward.

One is local musician, composer and performer Danny Schneider. In 2019, Danny wrote and recorded nine new songs. They were songs inspired by what Danny saw on the streets of Sacramento. Like many urban areas, Sacramento has a growing and tragic problem with homelessness. As you can imagine, the problem has become even more pronounced during the pandemic. While working on the album, Danny discovered Joshua House Hospice, an organization raising funds to establish a hospice for the homeless in Sacramento. He decided to produce the LP as a fund raiser for Joshua House. He has a goal of selling 100 LPs at $100.00 each. All of the $10,000 generated by the sale goes directly to Joshua House. The pandemic interfered with Danny’s plans for an in person concert as a thank you for those who donated. In spite of the interference, to date 78 of the albums have sold.

You can purchase one of the remaining LPs as well as find out more about Joshua House Hospice and Danny Schneider at http://dannyschneider.com

The second amazingly positive person I know is Yeonhee Choi. Yeonhee has had an amazing life. Born in Seoul, South Korea, she attended graduate school in the United States and has lived in the U.S. for many years. She has worked for several major corporations in international marketing and planning.

Recently, she launched her own business as a Life Coach doing what she loves, inspiring others to fulfill their life goals. She is fearless and her enthusiasm is contagious. To find out more about Yeonhee, go to her website at Dream4ward.com

Peace

PLAYING WHACK-A-MOLE WITH COVID-19 VACCINATIONS

I still go to grocery stores. I wear my mask and maintain social distance. Usually I go early in the morning when the stores are less crowded and store shelves are being re-stocked. Recently, although I was more than six feet away, I heard two employees talking as they worked. One had received his first Covid-19 shot a week earlier and he was describing the process and the side effects he felt. He said he felt great within twenty-four hours. I couldn’t help congratulating him on getting the vaccine. He looked a little surprised, then pleased when he realized I was sincere.

Hopefully, you are one of those who have at least the first shot. For the rest of us, getting a vaccine appointment has been a lot like playing Whack-A-Mole.

In self-defense, I have decided not to play. I have registered with at least four places, including my health care provider. All have promised to alert me when and where I can get a vaccination. The problem for all of the vaccination clinics is the shortage of the doses and the lack of information on how many doses they will receive until the very last minute. There is nothing I can do to change these facts, but I can avoid getting caught up in any perceived unfairness in the process.

This is certainly not the first pandemic we have faced. Many of us know a little about the 1918 flu pandemic, but even earlier than that, from 1775-1782, we faced a smallpox pandemic in the Western hemisphere. Smallpox infected Europe early on. Columbus carried the disease to the new world and the disease decimated native populations.

According to an article on George Washington and smallpox in Wikipedia, the very first smallpox vaccinations took place in Europe when Lady Mary Wortley Montagu had her children vaccinated against smallpox in 1670.

When it struck the Western hemisphere in 1775 there were two ways to deal with the disease – quarantine or inoculation. The inoculations were not as refined as our versions today and many were justifiably fearful of the inoculations. (Sound familiar?)

For history nerds, Phyllis Levin, in her biography of Abigail Adams, relates the story of how Abigail and John inoculated their family against the disease. It was not for the faint of heart!

Recently, NPR interviewed Ken Burns. When asked about four challenges the U.S. has faced over the years, he mentioned Covid-19. Commenting of the possibility of successfully vaccinating a sufficient number of people in the U.S. to establish “herd immunity”, he pointed out that in 1947, New York vaccinating six million people against smallpox in one month. His point – it can be done.

If you are unsure about getting the Covid-19 vaccination, I hope you will carefully consider what the alternative could be. Covid -19 is a deadly disease that has killed thousands of people.

Peace

Disappointment

It has been said, wisely, that if you sell your house, you should not return to see what the new owners have done to your house. There are several good reasons for this:

  1. The house (your former home!) will look very different to you. The happy fog of memory makes you think the house was larger and more elegant that it really was – your return visit will confirm it isn’t
  2. The new owners may have changed the house by painting or construction. Undoubtedly, their choice of day-glow orange instead of the sedate cream you prefer will cause shock and dismay.
  3. You will either gloat over the great deal you made when you sold the house, or you will regret what you see because you mistakenly believe your fond memories of life in the house have vanished with the sale. Both are uncomfortable positions.

I’m beginning to think that revisiting favorite fictional characters can have much the same effect. We all have television shows featuring characters so intriguing that we are somewhat saddened when their long-running shows go off the air – for example, The Big Bang Theory. From this, sequels are born.

Jane Austin’s novels and characters are often subjects of sequels. Recently I re-read Sense and Sensibility. I followed that by re-reading Eliza’s Daughter by Joan Aiken, a sequel to Sense and Sensibility. It is well-researched by the author who passed away some time ago. My disappointment comes when Ms. Aiken tells us what happens to several of the main characters of Sense and Sensibility; the three sisters Elinor, Marianne, Margaret and Edward and Colonel Brandon.

It turns out, according to the sequel, that Elinor, who has married Edward, lives in abject poverty with her skin-flint husband. They have a very spoiled daughter. They lost a son when he was only five years old. I had high-hopes for Elinor. She was the sensible sister, She turned into a spineless, quietly bitter woman, very submissive to her husband.

Her sister, Marianne, married Colonel Brandon. They are alluded to in the sequel. They are reputedly very well off. Marianne is quite selfish. She lives in relative comfort while her sister and family live on the estate in poverty.

Margaret, the youngest of the sisters, became a teacher at a school for young ladies. This is not considered a very high-status profession. She, too, seems to be afraid of crossing her penny-pinching brother-in-law Edward.

Such a disappointment! You always hope the characters that had potential develop into strong, confident characters in their sequels. But that is often not the case. It probably makes for a better story when they don’t.

I have high-hopes for another, real-life sequel- the U.S. after the Trump presidency. As long as the major character leaves the scene and is not featured in the sequel, we should be fine.

Peace

The Covid 19 Diaries

Fear is a powerful emotion. According to folk lore, fear can change your hair from black to pure white in a flash and it can freeze you, as in ‘frozen with fear’. Here’s the thing; Fear is a very useful emotion. It keeps us on the lookout for danger in our environment and it (sometimes) stops us from making rash choices that could harm us. But, unchecked, Fear can do severe damage to us, both psychologically and physically.

The world has had more than its share of Fear. Every news broadcast features up to the minute “breaking news” about Covid 19, political difficulties and natural disasters. Fear has a megaphone. The more we listen to it, potentially the more fearful we become.

When that happens, we really can become ‘frozen with fear.” It becomes more difficult to sort out real, immediate events requiring immediate action from those events that might or might not occur in the future. It keeps us from taking actions that could alleviate fear.

Constant fear takes a toll on empathy. We become so overwhelmed that we lose sight of the humanity of those around us. In a real sense, we become less human.

Dispensing with all fear would be a mistake. It is a powerful motivator. General Omar Bradley, U.S. Army WW II wrote, “Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.”

We don’t need complete absence of fear, we just need to recognize and direct it.

My favorite quote about bravery and fear comes from Vishnu Verm, a writer, in a September 30, 2014 post, “The Best 26 Quotes About Being Brave.”

“Be Brave. Even if you’re not. Pretend to be. No one can tell the difference.

Peace

Thanksgiving

The typical way of celebrating Thanksgiving is not in the cards for this year due to the Covid 19 virus, but we can all do our own version, celebrate in a new way. Maybe in spite of, or maybe because of the virus and all the other troubles we have seen in 2020, counting our blessings and giving thanks seems more urgent. A neighbor of mine celebrated Halloween by decorating the front yard with ghosts, jack-0-lanters and a gravestone inscribed “RIP 2020.”

So, here it goes, my list of things and people I am thankful for:

My family – small in number and widely scattered, we still stay in touch

My Guy- I’m so glad we found each other!

My critique group – writing is a solitary activity and being able to share that process is necessary in order to keep going

Every grocery clerk, shelf-stocker, farm worker, truck driver and restaurant worker. They are all truly amazing.

Gardeners, plumbers, carpenters, retail workers

Every public health worker, doctors, nurses, janitors, nurse’s aids, office receptionists

Teachers, school office workers, custodians, bus drivers

Small business owners and clerks of all types.

People who voted and helped us realize that we still live in a democracy.

Let’s hope that 2021 will see us move forward. We have a tremendous amount of re-building to do, but we will succeed.

Peace

Fields of Fear

This nation has been through a lot of traumatic events in its relatively short history. To name a few: colonialism, slavery, The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, WW I, WW II, Vietnam, The Gulph War, 911, Afghanistan and numerous financial ups and downs.

There are those who take advantage of the truly reasonable fear that accompanies traumatic events. In an effort to increase and sustain their power and popularity, they often resort to exaggeration and outright lies. Their actions threaten the very foundation of our country.

Here are some examples of those who qualify as members of the American Rogues’ Gallery –

  1. Fritz Julius Kuhn (1986-1951) – A naturalized U. S. Citizen in 1934, he previously served in the German Army in WW I. His organization, Friends of the New Germany, attracted thousands of German Americans in the time leading up to WW II. He mirrored Nazi party propaganda (antisemitic and pro-German) and he styled his “meetings” along the lines of the large gatherings in Nazi Germany. Sent to prison in 1939 for embezzlement, he was later charged with more serious crimes. In 1943, his U.S. citizenship was revoked and he was deported from Sing-Sing Prison to Germany in 1945.
  2. Walter Winchell (1897-1972) – A New York Gossip columnist who evolved into a political power-house. He eventually became a firm supporter and friend of the notorious Senator Joe McCarthy. He used his very popular radio show, newspaper column and television show to support McCarthy’s witch-hunt, in the process destroying the reputations and livelihoods of many innocent Americans.
  3. Senator Joe McCarthy (1908-1957) – In the middle of the cold war, Senator McCarthy rose to prominence after a speech in 1950 when he declared two-hundred-five communists had infiltrated the State Department. This was a time of great and understandable fear in the U.S. of the rise of communism and in particular of the Soviet Union, in the aftermath of WW II. Senator McCarthy, unable to prove his assertions, resorted to increasingly outrageous accusations. In 1954, he was condemned by his fellow senators and his reign of terror ended. He died in 1957.

In some cases, but not all, these individuals began with good intentions. Senator McCarthy was seen by some as a patriot. But as time went by, it became apparent that their main concern was securing their own positions of power, both political and financial. Motivations of patriotism and public service fell by the wayside and personal gain took over.

We survived these challenges, but if we respond to today’s challenges by allowing our fears to stampede us into making rash, ill-informed decisions, there will be a rough road ahead.

Peace

Just Because You Can, It Doesn’t Mean You Should

DEFENSIVE PARKING – A RANT (NO APOLOGIES)

I drive a mid-sized sedan, not too big, not so small. It looks good, drives well, gets great mileage and has all the bells and whistles I like. In the past few yeas the percentage of sedans produced has diminished; far more trucks and SUVs are sold.

If you look at any parking lot, you will see the results of that trend. Look closely and you will notice that there are sedans and small cars interspersed. These sedans and small cars are often completely surrounded by SUVs in spaces known as SUV Canyons.

If you observe for a few more minutes, you will notice SUVs and trucks barreling down the aisles of those parking lots. Until recently, barreling SUVS were seen primarily in the parking lots of home improvement stores. But now the phenomenon has spread and can be found everywhere, including grocery store parking lots.

Earlier this week, I went to my local grocery store. In order to avoid parking in an SUV Canyon, I have developed two parking strategies for what I call Defensive Parking. If the parking lot is not particularly crowded, I park next to the grocery cart return area, or next to a tree at the end of one of the aisles. This insures my car will not be blocked on three sides by large vehicles, increasing the probability I will be able to back out without being creamed by an on-coming SUV. If the parking lot is crowded, I search for a place where I can park facing out. Even if you find yourself embedded in an SUV Canyon, when you face out, you can usually maneuver out of the space and avoid being creamed if you move slowly.

On this particular visit, the parking lot was not very crowded, so I adopted the first strategy and parked next to a tree. There were two vacant spaces to my left. When I came back, the two spaces were still vacant. I got in, started the car, put it in reverse and looked back. A large, gray SUV pulled in behind me. I waited for the vehicle to pass, but the driver began a Y turn. i was blocked in. The driver then backed into the space next to me on the left.

The driver gave me a big smile, then opened the driver’s side door and squeezed out of the SUV. I rolled my window down and said “Your car is blocking my view.”

She replied, “Of course it is. My car is bigger than yours. This is a public parking lot and I can park wherever I want.” She turned and flounced off.

Rather than pointing out that it was not a public lot, but a lot owned by the store, I called out in my best “school-marm” voice, “You are a very impolite person!”

Silly though this exchange was, for some reason, I could not let it go. She was thoughtless. She could have waited the additional ten seconds it would have taken me to back out of the parking space before she jammed her over-sized vehicle into the too-small space. But she didn’t. She did it Because She Could.

This driver is certainly not the only one who embraces the maxim, “Do It Because You Can.” Maybe a good part of our current public discontent is the prevalence of the belief that you should be able to do whatever you wish, because you can. Maybe it would be a better place to live if we remember that “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

Zoom, Zoom!

Peace

And Let It Begin With Me*

Those of us who have lost a loved one due to a terminal illness may have witnessed the amazing support hospice workers provide to patients and their care-givers. It is hard to imagine how it would feel to face death without this support, particularly if you are alone and living on the street. But this is the fate of many of the homeless. Due to our government’s chaotic and illogical response to COVID 19, homelessness is likely to become a reality for many more.

My friend, singer/songwriter/musician Danny Schneider, has taken this situation to heart. To support the efforts of Joshua House Hospice for the homeless in Sacramento, California, he has written and recorded an album entitled The Other Side Of The Window. A signed, limited, edition of one hundred is now available on line. The cost – a one-hundred-dollar donation to Joshua House. Danny’s goal is to raise ten-thousand-dollars to go toward construction and operational expenses. All proceeds from the album go directly to Joshua House.

This will be the first hospice for the homeless on the west coast. Granted, one hospice facility for the homeless is not enough, but it is a critical beginning.

You can find more information about Danny and Joshua House and donate, at http://www.dannyschneider.com or at Danny Schneider – Rockin Original Music. Please visit.

*From Let There Be Peace On Earth by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller

Peace

I’m Becoming That Lady in the Grocery Store!

You know, you’ve seen her; the one running her cart down the aisle ignoring the one-way only stickers on the floor, muttering something under her breath and grousing at the store clerks.

This morning, while shopping, I had to repress the impulse to tap my foot while waiting for a woman to move away from the lettuce. I thought she had been there long enough (at least 20 minutes!), and I needed lettuce! But rather than moving on, I waited, my irritation growing.

When you are wearing a mask, the only clue to your mood is body language, such as foot tapping or eye rolling. Fortunately, I was wearing my shades, so no one noticed my almost constant eye-rolling when I encountered someone I felt was thwarting me! (and there were so many!)

I blame all of this on the COVID19 Isolation and mask wearing. It is part of human nature to resent loss of convenience. We hate to have our routines disturbed. After all, routines help us feel we’ve accomplished something, that we haven’t wasted our precious time. It indicates we are productive, smart and wise. None of this is necessarily true, of course, but it is a comforting thought.

When I returned from my shopping trip, I found myself a little resentful that I would have to make three trips to the car to get all of the groceries into the kitchen. That’s when it finally hit me – I was fully That Lady – irritable, grouchy and completely out of line. I didn’t like it.

We are the fortunate ones. Those working on the COVID 19 front lines, health care workers, police and fire, grocery store clerks, delivery people, farm workers, truck drivers, or at numerous other jobs that keep things moving, are suffering far more than we are.

My advice to myself, suck it up and increase contributions to local food banks, so someone else can have the pleasure of having to make three trips to the car to unload the groceries.