Oh What A Year

Well okay, we’ve just lived a year that most of us never saw coming. it feels auspicious therefore I am dusting off my blog to mark the occasion.

Here lies the year 2020

As Charles Dickens once wrote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” I think this might perfectly sum up the year 2020. For me and my family 2020 started off with the best of times, a trip of a lifetime. We flew to the Land Down Under to visit my son and his girlfriend. Even though Australia had been experiencing a brutal wildfire season we decided not to cancel our trip as it had been planned months in advance, which turned out to be a good decision. We spent 2 weeks traveling in a caravan (camper van in America speak) along the coast of Australia, then explored New Zealand for another two weeks. Somewhere during our travels, we began hearing about a new virus breaking out in a place called Wuhan, China.

The story grew as we travelled, a cruise ship was infected and quarantined. People were concerned but we weren’t too worried. It was time to end our trip and the headlines were all about the hard rain which had flooded and washed out roads (ruining some of our travel plans) but the good news was the fires were extinguished. The virus had a new name Covid-19 and more people were getting it.

It was towards the end of February that we flew back to the states. Many people of Asian ethnicity were wearing masks at the airport. I wondered about this virus; were those folks being paranoid, or just cautious and culturally more accustomed to mask-wearing? I would soon find out.

After returning to the States, and my job, I was soon laid off when everything closed down on March 19. The enormity of what this meant hadn’t sunk in at that point. I thought we might be closed a few months, then we’d be back to normal, but it turned into something much more serious.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The events of this year have been eye-opening in many ways; the weakness and failure in leadership of our president was punctuated as he used the virus to try and lay blame on China, then called it a hoax and even a Democratic hoax. He let the country down in a multitude of ways pitting states against each other for PPE (an acronym I had never heard of before this year) and testing. He even politicized the wearing of masks and held super spreader events, fired experts, and belittled scientists. Trump’s supporters followed his lead, and soon the US had the highest death rates of any other country (as of this moment, more than 330,000 people have died in our country from Covid, and that number is rising daily) while many still believe the required protocols put in place to slow the spread, are an attempt to take away people’s freedoms. Our economy is in dire straits; many folks are out of work, businesses are closing right and left. People are dying alone in the ICU. Hospital and health workers are overwhelmed.

However, some folks rose to the occasion; they helped each other when they could, however they could. The artists kept creating, playing music, singing, writing, dancing, even if only in their own apartments and shared through social media to lighten our spirits. This pandemic comes down to caring about others. Wearing a mask is protecting others. Most of the folks I know are complying with the social distancing/mask-wearing protocols; we truly are in this together.

Enter social media. It was used to spread information, optimism, hope, and pure entertainment, but at the same time, this venue created opportunity and fertile ground for hate groups and conspiracy theories to flourish; and flourish they did. Hatred and racism are part of America’s dark underbelly. Social media has allowed it to see the light. Donald Trump, an expert in getting media attention, has used this as a venue to create more division in our country and to hold on to power. It is a force that needs to be reckoned with because of its use to spread falsehoods, and create fake realities., It is proven to be vulnerable to hacking by unfriendly countries, and hate groups love it.

Let’s not forget the protests. The Black Lives Matter movement became a global phenomenon, set off by a horrible video posted on social media that has become infamous, showing the murder of George Floyd from asphyxiation at the hands of a white police officer with his knee on George Floyd’s neck, his hands casually placed in his pockets, while Floyd pleads for his life. The protests were a primal scream in reaction to years of inequality and violence perpetrated against people of color; hopefully, the beginning of much needed change.

A few other things happened: California wildfires, National Security hacked by Russia, Impeachment trial moved to Senate, hurricanes, severe storms due to climate change. Trump tantrums, national depression, domestic terrorism, Joe Exotic, Baby Yoda, and more.

As we come to the end of this watershed year, we have a much needed new president. Even though Trump and his supporters have tried and continue to try to delegitimize the election in which Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won by 7 million votes, Trump is running out of options. His presidency has left our Democracy in shambles, but it looks like it is still standing. Hope is the word of the day; hope that new leadership can get a handle on Covid, expeditiously disperse the vaccines, get our country up and running again, rejoin the Paris Accord and start addressing climate change for real.

Hope

On a personal note, I have been creating more, writing more, and hoping to self publish in the field of Children’s Books (so much learned and so much still to learn) in the coming year. My heart is full of hope; hope that we can fix some of the hate flowing through our beautiful country, hope that vaccines finally stop the virus from killing thousands every day, hope that we can soon visit each other and travel again, hope for better days for everyone. Happy 2021!

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Life and Death and the Whole Damn Thing.

A year ago today, I was watching my mother die. The contrast of spring bringing forth new life everywhere outside of our little room of death (I am eternally grateful for hospice) was almost cruel, but at the same time strangely soothing.

My mother had suffered the previous three years from a blood disorder, breast cancer, and the final frosting on the cake of decline,  Alzheimer’s Disease.

I can’t tell you how difficult this ending of my mother’s life was for her, myself and my family (she did not “go gently into that good night”) it is almost too painful to recall, yet my mind keeps recalling it, sometimes blind siding me out of nowhere, like when I’m standing in the check out line at the grocery store.

My mom was a strongly opinionated, stubborn, feisty, funny, loving woman and I miss her terribly. When my sis-in-law said goodbye to her for the last time (my mom was barely lucid towards the last) it was with a “See ya later alligator” not expecting a reply, my sis-in-law was a few steps down the hallway when she heard my mom respond with “After awhile crocodile.”

At my mom’s funeral, a fierce, swirling gust of wind arose out of nowhere (it had been a warm day without a breeze just moments before, and returned to such after) it blew the flowers over and surprised us all standing around her grave site. A message from Mom? I don’t know, but It would have been so like her to let us know that she wasn’t too happy about having to go before she was ready.

My mom loved roses and she was always growing and tending to them. She was in a constant battle with the deer in her neighborhood and her rose bushes had wire fencing wrapped around them to keep the critters out , they looked like little rose bush prisoners. When I returned for a visit a few months after mom’s funeral, the cold weather had arrived. The roses were all gone, except one brilliant beautiful flower that had escaped its confines and grown unusually tall. It is tempting to want to see this as a sign from my mom that all was well, a beautiful reminder of a life well lived, free now from the bondage of life’s wire cage….so that is how I choose to see it. So Mom, I love you and I miss you, and I’ll see you….
after awhile crocodile.2014-11-16 10.19.06

If you would like to donate to a worthy cause to help find solutions to Alzheimers: http://www.alz.org/join_the_cause_donate.asp

A Pretty Good Day So Far

Here we are, October already. In Northern California on the edge of the world, (or at least it would seem that way if you didn’t know the world was round) its a beautiful sunny, blue sky day. In other parts of the globe there are problems galore, we are all aware of what they are, but here in this moment, on this day, in this place things are pretty good. Thanks Universe.

end of the worldapplessunflowers close roof ravenphantom of the opera feed the ducks here fence heart art rail road cross spiral seaweed virg woolf quote

Digital Pulp

I have a certain fondness for old trashy paper back book covers in the category known as “Pulp Fiction“. That is why when I discovered a website that allows a person to create their own pulp fiction art (can go on coffee mugs and other stuff) I was in nerd heaven. 

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At Pulp-O-Mizer you can make your self into a space pirate princess swinging through the Cosmos…what’s not to love! While you are there don’t forget to read some of the “Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual” and check out Cornelius Zappencrackler’s Derange-O-Lab.

Here are a few of the glorious pulp fiction covers hot off my own bookshelf.

ERBthebodyDevil to payscorpioyoungphilStreetcar

Aren’t these great? I just love the titillating sensationalism inviting you to dive in and have a voyeuristic adventure via some pretty heavy hitting authors to boot…all for around 40 cents!  

Until next time…enjoy the adventure we call Life!

What, Me Worry?

alfred_e_neuman

When I was a kid I was a big MAD Magazine fan. It was my gateway vehicle to parody, it tackled some of my embedded middle class beliefs and made relentless fun of them.  Everything was fair game. Sometimes, I felt like I was going against the rules by even looking at it. The only reason my parents allowed this subversive publication in our house was probably because they thought it was just a silly comic book. Well, it was sort of, and therein lied its brilliance!  It’s goofy glossy covers looked harmless enough, but MAD’s highly visual content opened my eyes to  life’s absurdities, allowing me to laugh at, well….. anything (even my beloved Disney movies). MAD’s iconic mascot,  Afred E. Neuman  with his slogan “What, Me Worry” has stayed with me my entire life. Sort of a way to say “In yo face life! I’ve got this.”

Recent events have shaken my belief in my “I’ve got this!” ability.  The worst of which was my mother’s death due to  a horrible disease called Alzheimers. Her decline and suffering shook my family to its core. It  swept me up into a tornado of emotions that I am still trying to sort out. In addition, my adult sons are having their own life issues that I can’t solve for them, though I desperately want to. The simple act of scrolling my Facebook page confronts me with a world reeling from violence, chaos and stupidity, OK there’s plenty of dog videos and Weird Al,  which of course makes the scrolling worthwhile ;).

The point is, what I’m finding more and more of  in my life is something that could be slowly killing us all, and that is STRESS. Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America? There is a medical term for it, GAD it stands for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Wikipedia defines it as: “a mood disorder that is characterized by multiple and or non specific worries that interfere with a person’s life in some way.” When we can’t control things the way we want to, we worry about it. I think that is why I love story books so much, fictional characters go through their own conflicts, stumbling and bumbling along, they learn as they go. Some end happily ever after, and I have to admit, I like those endings the best. Fictional characters can be controlled, I like that too. At the end of a scary thriller we can always close the book and tell ourselves it was just a story.

What can we tell ourselves to help us through our own story, when the tornado  comes from out of nowhere,  rips us off our feet, carries us away and sets us down who knows where? What do we tell ourselves to help keep us sane in what seems many times to be an insane world, a world we can’t control? I don’t have any answers, except maybe to keep reading the stories,  keep creating, love each other, laugh at ourselves, and remember what Alfred E. Neuman would say…”What, Me Worry?”

The Benefits of Shrugging

02/24/2013change

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    Recently, I watched one of those television nature shows about lions. One scene showed a mid-sized elephant being taken down by 5 or 6 full sized lions. The elephant was clearly overwhelmed, she was wobbling and showing signs of fatigue. “You can see it in her eyes, She has given up” said the announcer as she dropped to her knees. There were slashes all over her back. It’s Sad she won’t make it I thought– the cruelty of nature– the lions must eat I suppose, but still…then out of nowhere the elephant started to rise, she sort of shrugged and 3 lions fell off, she kept on shrugging, and voila she was free, the lions gave up and she escaped. 

    What?!   She escaped by shrugging off her attackers! OK they were elephant sized shrugs but still. There was a point when that elephant must have thought she just wanted those lions off her back once and for all. She could have given up as the announcer said, just laid down and let those lions take her out but no, she gave a mighty shrug and she saved herself.


    We all have  lions on our backs sometimes don’t we?… be it money woes, family issues,  self doubt, depression, anxiety,  they can be hazardous to our health.  Let’s all take a lesson from that elephant and shrug those suckers off.  Keep shrugging and carry on. Life will be lighter without carrying all that stuff on our backs. It might give us the ability to heal what needs healing. And if they try to get back on, don’t let them!


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Aliens On My Mind

  

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    I’ve been feeling a little like a stranger in a strange land lately. It might be because school has started and I’m back to work at the XYZ Charter High School (name has been changed to protect the innocent.) We are in a new location this year, I’m working with a new teacher, and some new kids too.They are all such interesting, intelligent, creative beings trying to discover  how they fit into this world. Some are sure that they know where they will be 5 years from now, others don’t have a clue (I can relate more to this group.) I’m STILL searching all these many years myself;  The thing that I have come to realize is that I so enjoy the search that I am a little afraid the destination might be a let down!


    Anyway, with the feeling of being a little on the “outs” with the rest of my peers, and maybe because the Mars Rover is in the news, my cranium seems to be filled with thoughts of aliens. Sketches, stories,and images of an alien nature, keep hovering around the edges of my subconscious.


     What does this mean? I’m not sure, but maybe it’s worth exploring!


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    “How would it be if we discovered
    that aliens only stopped by earth
    to let thier kids take a leak?”—-Jay Leno

Scary

Life can be scary sometimes, this summer has brought us fires, an earthquake, and a horrible mass shooting during a midnight movie. How do we trust that our loved ones will be safe in such a world? How do we sleep when we know that our kids might be in a midnight horror show of their own somewhere? How do we cope when someone we care about has wrapped their lovely tentacles around our hearts, only to be brutally yanked away?

I wish I knew. What I do know is that we must have faith that our loved ones will be safe and return to us each time they venture out into the unknown. Because they have to venture. We all have to, or we will curl up into a never ending fetal position and maybe we are safer that way, but that is not what life is about.

Life wants us to go out there and experience. Have adventures, meet people, converse, connect, enjoy, make mistakes, dream, love, cry, try. We need to celebrate everyday the joy that life brings us, because someday life will bring us down for the count. We all know that, and while that is scary, it makes us realize how very precious every second of every minute of every day is. We, who are still living on this planet, need to celebrate for those who no longer can.

Yoshi the Wonder Dog gives Lost In the River of Grass two paws up!

Speaking of adventure, I just finished reading a young adult novel  by  local author, Ginny Rorby. “Lost in the River of Grass” is a thrilling tale set in the Florida Everglades. Two teenagers get lost during a school field trip and have to make their way through miles of gator, snake, rat, and insect infested country. The dialogue is realistic, (having worked with teenagers for the past twelve years, my ears are acutely tuned to inauthentic teenage conversation.) The experience changes these two young people and you can sense  a new maturity as the characters evolve. This book has it all, thrills, chills, teenage rebellion, and  romance. It subtly tackles the tricky issues of class and racial prejudices that are deeply instilled in our culture. Spoiler alert: This book has no vampires or zombies, but still manages to deliver a seat of your pants experience!

I leave you with five words of advice for a happy, fulfilled life…

Learn, Love, Explore, Create, Read!