The Elders and the Youngsters

I just saw an animation that brought tears to my eyes. It was the song Father and Son by Yusuf/Cat Stevens. Yusuf sings the father’s part and the younger version of himself, Cat Stevens, sings the son version, taken from a recording of himself from decades ago, obviously.

In the song, the father is trying to urge the son not to go off and do something impulsive that will potentially alter his entire life. (At the time he wrote it, he was imagining a boy who wanted to run off and join the Russian Revolution, but really any scenario will do.) The father says, basically, stop and think. Take it slow. You still have a lot to learn. Be calm. Think of the consequences. “For you will still be here tomorrow but your dreams may not.”

The son, on the other hand, says that he’s been ordered to listen his whole life, but he doesn’t feel like he’s been listened to. He says he knows himself, and that it’s time to make a change. His part is all about the frustration of not being heard and not being taken seriously, and the desire to make his own way.

The reason this animation struck me to the core is that I think, for the first time, it really hit me that I’m not young anymore. That’s a really hard pill to swallow. It took me long enough. I’m 55. (And I know the older readers will say that 55 isn’t that old. I get that. Everything is relative.)

I think everything is getting more poignant with me over time, because we are all on the cusp of radical, terrifying changes, and no one can predict what’s going to happen next. It feels as if the sand is shifting beneath our collective feet, and that’s unsettling at the best of times. It feels like things that used to be just slightly risky are now becoming a matter of life and death. I’m profoundly scared.

It’s really stressful, in particular, to watch the younger people in my life right now. (And by younger, in this case, I mean 40 and below.) So many of them are making crazy, impulsive decisions and not thinking about the long term impact. They are speculating based on a world that no longer exists. They’re risking their lives. They’re settling for relationships that aren’t the best for them. They’re tying themselves down to parts of the country that aren’t politically and/or economically and/or environmentally and/or socially feasible for the people that they are or will become.

I’m frustrated because I see so much potential in these people, and I know they are capable of so much more. I have to resign myself to the fact that their choices aren’t my business, really. I just see them making many mistakes that I have made, and I want to save them the agony that I know they’ll be going through. But in life, there are no shortcuts.

Add another layer onto the anxiety cake by realizing that I’ve had someone die quite expectedly on me in recent years. Poof! Gone. Just like that.

That changes you. It forever colors the way you look at the world. And it makes you realize that no one can fully understand your point of view until they’ve had that sort of experience themselves. People think they can imagine what it’s like. They haven’t a clue.

Life is so precious. It’s so fragile. It’s like a soap bubble. It can all be gone in a pop. Everyone knows this, but those of us who’ve seen that moment of pop are not allowed the luxury of forgetting it. And it truly is a luxury.

Yes, everyone has to make their own mistakes, and also have their own triumphs. But there are so many people that I’d like to shake (and hug) right now. And I can’t.

At the same time, to add complexity to the situation, I am really proud of some of the things the younger people are doing, attempting to make lemonade out of the lemons they’ve been handed. I’m impressed with their innovation and their ability to think outside the box and come up with something different. Even though they’re making a lot of mistakes, they’re also making progress. I just have to remember that the world will keep revolving and evolving, with or without me.

But I can’t say this enough: Life is a gift. It should never be squandered. It shouldn’t be risked. It shouldn’t be taken for granted. Especially now, in the midst of a pandemic with a heaping helping of political unrest.

Good God, am I becoming conservative? Please, no. Anything but that.

I think I’m just valuing things much more than I once did. It’s all so fleeting and final. It’s all so slippery and hard to grasp. Odds are extremely good that I won’t live until I’m 110, and I really don’t want to, if I’m honest. But that means I’m on the downhill slope. And as hard as I’d like to fight it, the slide is inevitable.

But, having climbed up the other side, I would very much like to show those who come behind me that there are easier trails. I want that with my whole heart. At the same time, I understand that blazing your own trail is the whole point. But until you get to the other side, you don’t quite realize that the hill is made up entirely of the consequences that are occurring because of your own actions and choices.

I carry with me a wealth of life experience, as does everyone on my side of the hill. And that experience includes both success and failure. But when you’re young you don’t see that as valuable. You’re too busy making the climb for yourself. It’s a waste and a shame to not learn from others, but everyone has their own hill to climb, and it’s time for me to accept that it’s high time to let go and focus on my next phase in life.

“Hey! You there! Watch out! That’s the exact spot where I tripped and broke my leg! Can’t you see that if you fall, it hurts me, too?”

Oh, never mind. You’ll figure it out.

It’s just all so damned bittersweet…

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It’s Your Body

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post called Tickling, about how tickling can be a form of aggression, and how it can often be very unwelcome and inappropriate. That blog post resonated with a lot of people. It’s short and to the point, so I hope you’ll read it.

I thought of that post recently. I was really impressed to discover that one of my nieces is teaching her two-year-old daughter that no one should get to touch her in any way, shape, form, or fashion, without her permission. Forget about good touch, bad touch. It’s her body. She gets to say who touches it, good or otherwise. We all have that right, but we often forget that.

Just because Uncle Fred is a touchy-feely guy does not mean that he gets a free pass just so you can avoid ruffling family feathers. If he’s making you uncomfortable, that’s never okay. Not ever. Even if you love Uncle Fred to pieces. And that applies to recipients of those touches of any age, not just children.

Also, just because someone is in a position of authority, such as a doctor or a dentist or a teacher or a boss or a politician, or even an older relative or a spouse, that does not mean they get to decide how you are touched. Absolutely not.

I’m not saying that every person who is touching you inappropriately is automatically a sex offender who is grooming you. Some people are just clueless. But it doesn’t really matter. If you aren’t comfortable in a tactile situation, regardless of your age, orientation, or relationship, it’s your body, not theirs, and you get to dictate what happens to it.

Your body is truly the only thing in life that you will always have all to yourself. That’s why it’s such an extreme violation when someone abuses it. I love knowing that there are children out there who are being taught their own agency practically from birth. That’s how it should be. I wish it had been taught to me.

Always establish your own boundaries and make them crystal clear. That’s not being rude. It’s appropriate. And I think that you’ll find that most people are a lot more comfortable, knowing the rules in any given scenario.

Never forget that your body belongs to you and you alone. Always.

Inappropriate Touch

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In Honor of the 200,000

By the time you read this, we’ll have blasted past 200,000 COVID-19 deaths in America, with no end in sight. That’s an inconceivable figure. Its so large that most of us can’t accept it.

That’s 200,000 grandparents, parents, siblings, children, friends, loved ones. Every single one lived and laughed and worked and loved and mattered. If each of those people only had 5 people on earth who loved them (a very conservative figure, in my estimation), then there are 1 million grieving people out there, right now, and it has only been 6 months.

We were all devastated by the victims of 9/11. Now imagine that 9/11 happened more than 67 times over, or basically every other day since this pandemic started. That’s what would have to happen to get to 200,000 deaths in that tragedy.

This is a grizzly thought, but given the average height in America is 5’6”, if you lined up the 200,000 dead head to toe along some rural highway, they would stretch for 208.33 miles. Driving at 52 mph, it would take you more than 4 hours to pass all those bodies. Seriously, that’s a lot of soul-crushing loss.

And lest we forget, dying of COVID-19 is a horrible way to go. Each one of those people suffered. Each one struggled to breathe. Each one felt as if he or she were drowning in their own bodies. And they weren’t even able to have a loved one there for comfort. They died all alone.

And the vast majority of these people died needlessly. Other countries have demonstrated that the death toll doesn’t need to be this high. Our COVID-19 death toll is 597 deaths per million Americans. That may not seem like much until you compare it to other countries. New Zealand has had 5 COVID-19 deaths per million. Japan has had less than 12 deaths per million. Venezuela has had 17 deaths per million. Greece has had 29 deaths per million. Australia, 32 deaths per million. Egypt, 57 deaths per million. What’s it going to take before we realize that something is seriously wrong with the way we’re handling this virus?

We need a leader who leads by example. One who doesn’t disparage those who wear a mask. One who does not encourage his base to congregate, maskless and shoulder to shoulder, to worship him. We need adequate testing. We need accurate reporting. We need financial support. We need supplies for frontline workers as well as the general population. We need a president who actually listens to his own staff, multiple members of whom have come forward to say that they’ve begged him to wear a mask, to set an example, to only share accurate information rather than insane speculation, and not politicize this virus.

In honor of the 200,000 people who can no longer do so, please be sure to vote in the upcoming election. Their silence was forced upon them. We have to speak for them. Please vote.

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On Being an Adult

When I was little, I longed to be an adult, because I figured that would mean I could do whatever I want. Boy oh boy, but I had no idea what I was talking about. Not a clue.

It’s true that grownups can do whatever they want. They can commit crimes. They can be selfish. They can be greedy and thoughtless and cruel. They can abuse the planet. They don’t have to pay taxes even though they take advantage of the infrastructure that’s provided by taxes. They can make idiotic decisions. They can disrespect their elders. They don’t have to think ahead or consider consequences or feelings or take any responsibility whatsoever.

Grownups can get away with that stuff. And since 2016 I’ve been seeing more and more grownups doing just that. It really makes me weep for the future of this planet.

But what I’m beginning to realize is that even though all adults are grownups, not all grownups are adults. It takes integrity and conviction to be an adult. It takes maturity. It requires that you realize that the world does not revolve around you. It is all about understanding that your actions effect other people.

One simple, straightforward example is the wearing of masks during a pandemic. Doing so may not be fun, but it says that you care about the people around you, whether you know them or not. And yet I’ve heard so many “grownup” excuses.

For some reason people think getting tested is some get out of jail free card. Testing negative only means you haven’t been positive for COVID-19 up to that moment in time. You can test negative and contract the virus 5 seconds later. You still need to wear a mask unless you’re selfish. And unless 100% of the people you are spending time with are getting tested every 5 seconds, the risk remains. “Some of us get tested” is just not good enough.

Another convenient excuse is, “Well, I tested negative after my risky behavior, so what’s the big deal?” To that I say congratulations and thank God. But do you want a cookie for that? Because you gambled with your life, and the lives of everyone you come in contact with. This time you won. But that doesn’t mean you always will.

People also think that if their job puts them in a high risk situation, then there’s no reason not to engage in high risk experiences while off the clock as well. That’s like saying, “I’m exposed to radiation all day at work, so I may as well get irradiated when I’m home, too.” In contrast, an adult is even more cautious at home, to reduce their odds of shortening their lifespan as much as humanly possible.

We are all under an enormous amount of stress right now, so some people believe that a little self-care by socializing with friends every once in a while is worth the risk, because it improves their mental health. Poppycock. One person dies of suicide every 12 minutes in America. That’s horrific. But one person dies of COVID-19 in America every eighty seconds. So you’re 9 times as likely to die of COVID than you are of suicide. I’d rather be alive and mentally disturbed than sane and run the risk of killing off another human being.

And what’s wrong with socializing with a mask on and 6 feet apart? Why do people have to be all up in each other’s faces, taking selfies cheek to cheek? I know it feels like you’ll live forever, but no. Death comes for us all. No need to flirt with it.

Yes, self-care is vital. But your right to self-care stops right at the line where your actions can potentially harm others, especially the more vulnerable amongst us. Adults know that. They understand that the golden rule isn’t a suggestion. They have a moral compass.

Adults also realize that other people love them and worry about them and they make decisions accordingly. Adults realize they have responsibilities and obligations. And adults know that they have to set an example for others who look up to them.

I don’t know how so many of us were never taught the importance of being an adult, and the importance of taking care of others. It’s a serious failure of society at large. I think, perhaps, that was why societies were invented, though. Societies are meant to protect us from the grownups who refuse to be adults.

We all live within a societal contract. There are rules we are meant to follow in order to experience society’s perks. It’s not supposed to be a tug of war. The contract isn’t supposed to be null and void every time you get a wild hair to cut loose. It’s supposed to be common sense.

In my county, we’re not supposed to gather in groups of more than 5. We’re supposed to wear our masks. We’re supposed to remain 6 feet apart. It’s not fun and it’s not fair and some people view this as judgmental or political or controlling rather than a matter of life and death. Those people are not adults.

Humanity is becoming more of a disappointment with each passing day. And we’re all going to pay the price. It’s all so senseless. I’m becoming so scared that I’m practically blind.

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Mid-Month Marvels: Face Masks That Give Back

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’ll be calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

This month I’m not going to focus on a specific organization. Rather, I’ll focus on an idea whose time has come. There’s a way to give a silver lining to these pesky face masks we all have to wear.

When this pandemic first hit and everyone was in a pure panic, I bought my first two facemasks for $75. They came from China. They took 4 weeks to arrive. They were so small they would barely fit on a child, and they broke upon first use. Live and learn.

Now you can get masks all over the place, and they come in all shapes and sizes and colors and designs. Masks can make fashion statements or political statements or just be simple, safe, and effective with no fanfare. The choices are endless.

Even those of us who realize how important masks are, who care about others enough to wear them, and have the sense of civic duty to take the issue seriously and not turn it into a silly political statement are (news flash!) not thrilled to have to wear a mask. But we wear them because it’s the right and decent and intelligent thing to do.

Having said that, I still wish the experience were more fun. So I started casting about to see what I could do to make that happen. I came across this article entitled, “18 face masks that support a good cause”.

Oh, yeah. Count me in! It would be nice to not only have the satisfaction of doing the right thing, but also feel as if I’m giving back to non-profits at the same time. And after reading the article, I also discovered that a lot of these masks look great, too. So win/win.

You can order masks in a pretty floral design, or masks designed by independent artists, or masks with a sports logo, kitten or dog images, or rainbows. There are more than 1000 designs to choose from in this article alone. And the organizations they support range from places that provide PPE to frontline workers, to food organizations, to homeless shelters, to boys and girls clubs, to the ACLU and Black Lives Matter.

So now while you wear your face mask to protect the lives of everyone around you, you can make an impact in other ways as well. I love this concept!

200722091200-maskspuravida-super-169

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What to Cook When You Hate to Cook. Recipe 10: Rice Bowls

I know. Hate is a strong word. But it’s true: I HATE to cook. But sometimes you just have to. When that happens, I do my best to lessen the agony by using the least amount of ingredients to get flavor, or using the simplest techniques to reduce effort. This is the tenth recipe I’ve shared on this blog. Check them out in my recipe section.

This time around, I’ll tell you about something I’ve been doing for lunch of late. This requires more prep time than most of my recipes do, but the beauty of it is, you can get 6 lunches out of it, so in the end, it’s worth the effort.

Rice Bowls

  • 6 cups of rice, cooked.

  • Protein (Cooked leftovers or from a can.) (I recommend chicken or steak or salmon or tofu or cheese or tuna.)

  • Anything that floats your boat! (I recommend some combination of at least 4 of the following: onion, garlic, mushrooms, spinach, green onions, squash, squash blossoms, green beans, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots, but really this is limited only by your imagination or by what you find in your fridge.

  • Oil for the spinach, and butter or lard for the rest of the veggies.

  • Soy sauce or salt to be added just before eating.

To start, I throw 3 cups of uncooked rice (I like basmati, but any type is fine) into my rice cooker with the prescribed amount of water. Rice cookers are one of life’s greatest inventions, if you ask me. Miraculously, 6 cups of perfectly cooked rice will emerge.

While the rice cooker is doing its thing, I prepare the veggies and such.

First of all, if you’re using spinach, I hope it’s organic, because spinach is one of the most chemically tainted things in the grocery store. Anyway, you’ll want to wilt your spinach in a pot. Just throw a little oil over medium heat, and stir the spinach so the leaves on top get as wilty as the ones on the bottom. Divide it up into 3 microwavable bowls when it’s done.

Next, chop up all your other items that you plan to saute. Put the hard stuff (Any combination of onions, garlic, squash, carrots, green beans, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, whatever.) on to saute first. I use butter or lard.

While that stuff is being sautéed, chop up whatever ingredients you are using that take less time to saute (like mushrooms, green onions, squash blossoms and any precooked veggie leftovers.) When the hard group is looking almost done, add the soft group in and stir everything together until it looks edible to you.

Divide these sauteed ingredients into the three microwavable bowls that are already holding the spinach.

Hopefully by now, your rice is done. Now listen carefully. Put half that rice (3 cooked cups) into its own, empty bowl and refrigerate it. Then next week, when you want to do 3 more lunches, you will already have the rice to use, so every other week of doing this will be less complicated. Yay!

Now you’re left with 3 cups of cooked rice. Put one cup each into your three microwavable bowls that already have the veggies. Then toss your protein into each.

There you have it! 3 lunches. Bring ‘em to work, toss ’em into the microwave, and when it’s done, add some soy sauce or some salt, and you’ve got yourself a healthy, filling meal.

You could, of course, make 5 days worth, but I’d get bored eating the same thing every single day, so I stagger a few TV dinners in there for variety.

Share any variations on this theme that you’ve tried, and/or suggest other simple recipes below. But the main thing to do is this: Enjoy!

rice bowl cooked cu 2

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“You Balance Me.”

I said that to my husband the other day as he was helping me down the stairs, and it’s true. We hold hands when we walk together, not only for affection, but also to keep each other from falling flat on our faces. I willingly admit that that is more likely to happen to me than to him. I get distracted and forget to look where I’m going. I trip on curbs more often than I’d care to admit. I miscalculate stairways. My depth perception is tenuous at best.

So we walk along, acting like a third dimension that gives structure and shape to what would otherwise be a flat, ineffectual plane. We lean on each other when necessary. We prop each other up.

And this extends to the emotional realm as well. It’s great when someone is willing to validate your thought processes. It’s nice to have a sounding board. It’s comforting to be able to give and receive advice. We each have different structural and emotional strengths and weaknesses. We allow each other those. We don’t cling or overwhelm. We supplement each other.

When seeking out a partner, it is important to have a lot in common. But don’t overlook the opposite qualities, either. If your ship lists to port and his or hers lists to starboard, you can meet in the middle and keep each other from sinking. It’s quite nice.

Lean

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Man Plans and God Laughs

Are any of us doing what we thought we’d be doing this year? I’m thinking probably not. It’s like a nuclear bomb was dropped on 2020 and we’re dealing with the fallout.

I thought about that as I took this picture. My husband and I have accumulated a variety of mask designs, from the pretty to the comfortable to the fun to the professional. Before this year I never owned a reusable mask in my life, and I would have never guessed that these would become essentials that I’d need to function in society. The first mask I got in March (Or February? Time seems to have blended together this year.) was hard to come by, a horrible price gouge, and broke upon first use.

Now you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a mask manufacturer. But be careful: some masks are more effective than others. A good way to test your mask’s effectiveness is the candle test. If you can blow out a candle while wearing your mask, it’s not effective. Learn more about that here.

Washing my mask has become a daily ritual. There’s always at least one mask hanging on my back porch. It has become the image that sums up this entire year for me. If you had asked me what I expected to be the iconic 2020 picture for me back in January, I would have probably said a selfie from our much anticipated (and ultimately cancelled) trip to Italy in May.

Man plans and God laughs.

00100lrPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200901181339625_COVER

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Are We A Cancer?

Driving home from work at 11 pm the other night, I was listening to Alternative Radio during my lonely 45 minute commute, and I heard a speaker whose theory is now stuck in my head. The only remedy for that is to stick it in yours. Sorry.

The episode was entitled The Human Cancer in the Covid-19 Era. It’s been several nights since I heard it, and since I was driving, I couldn’t take notes, so my apologies to Dr. Stephen Bezruchka if I get anything wrong. Having said that, the gist of the talk was that cancer, in essence, is unrestrained growth that damages the tissue it comes into contact with. And that pretty much sums up humanity.

Think about it. Our cities and villages used to be perfectly encapsulated inside walls, but now we’ve burst forth and taken over the countryside. We build right over the top of fertile land. We pollute our waterways and the very air we breathe. We send out tendrils in the form of highways so that we can continue to survive. We are responsible for the total annihilation of other species. We’re destroying our host, the planet.

We are also responsible for this pandemic, and the pandemics that will surely follow this one. By destroying animal habitat, we are forcing animals to live closer to us. We live cheek by jowl with the bats and the birds and the swine. And the closer we get to them, the more we will pass diseases back and forth. We’re doing this to ourselves.

Now, everywhere I look, I’m seeing cancer. It’s really depressing. It’s such a helpless feeling.

There is some good news, though. As sentient beings, we can cure ourselves if we want to. We can find gentler ways to live upon this earth. We can choose not to reproduce at this horrifying rate. We can protect undeveloped land. We can eat less meat. We can focus on green energy. There are so many things we can do.

I genuinely believe that change is coming. We really don’t have a choice if we want to survive. The scary part is that I have no idea what the world is going to look like after this pandemic. I only know that we are long past the point where we can take anything for granted.

LungCancerCellCrop

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Humanity’s Impact

There are places on this planet that are so remote that they are uninhabitable by human beings. The Mariana Trench, for example, constitutes the deepest part of the ocean. It’s 7 miles beneath the surface and the pressures down there are unimaginable. Likewise, none of us are setting up housekeeping on the world’s highest glaciers. Not only are they too ever-changing to provide us with a firm foundation, but also they’re cold beyond all imagining. And let’s face it: You can’t get pizza delivery in either locale, and the wifi is nonexistent. So no.

Even so, humans have still managed to negatively impact these places. According to this article, the nuclear bombs that were detonated from 1945 through the 1960’s have doubled the carbon-14 levels in our atmosphere. That carbon-14 was taken into plants, which were in turn eaten by animals (including us). Those animals then pooped, and that poop entered the ocean, even as deep as the Mariana Trench, and the animals down there snacked on said poop, and now have high levels of carbon-14 in their guts. This toxic residue has also been found in mountain glaciers around the world, and those glaciers are melting, also thanks to us. So yay! We’ve conquered the world!

Sigh.

The article also talks about micro-plastics that have been produced by us, and are also found in every crustacean that has been tested from the Mariana Trench, and yes, indeed, they have been detected in glaciers as well. So we have managed to fundamentally alter the entire planet, even in places where we have never stepped foot. What a horrifying realization.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan to put this accomplishment on my resume, even though I’m every bit as complicit as you are. What a legacy. Our mothers would be so proud.

Marianatrenchmap

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