Department Of One Size Does Not Fit All
When it comes to giving grieving advice, the best (as in, most helpful) might be:
Speak for yourself.
Hardly profound…but…really. Share your experiences and perspectives if asked to do so, but remember, they are just that. *Your* experiences and perspectives are not necessarily prescriptive for others. Preface your remarks with something along the lines of, “I can’t speak to everyone’s situation; this is what happened to me/my family, and this is what was helpful to me/us, and this is what was not….”
I have been reading up on grief experienced by families who have lost an adult child to addiction – a subject with which my extended family has had the misfortune to become acquainted with. In several online articles and forums, I came across three similar stories of parents telling how
* news of their child’s death was greeted by silence from both friends and family;
* such silence was painful to these parents as they grieved their loss;
* people later justified their silence with, “I honestly didn’t know what to say; I was afraid I’d say the wrong thing, and hurt your feelings….”
The similarity in these three stories was in the response of the parents to those people who explained or justified their silences. I am summarizing and paraphrasing their responses here, by quoting one particular parent:
” ‘Hurting our feelings?’ That’s impossible!”
“It is *impossible* to hurt *anyone* who has lost a child – we have already suffered the worst hurt imaginable.
Say something, anything, to acknowledge our loss.”
Her adamancy on this matter practically screamed from the text. And I thought, “Well…certainly, she’s an expert on her own feelings, but why is she speaking in such absolutes – why is she presuming to speak for “anyone” (read: everyone) who has lost a child?”
Also, in several of the stories I read which both preceded and followed the It-is-impossible-to-hurt-us parent’s story, other parents – those whom she had labeled as-impossible-to-hurt – spoke of how they *had* been further hurt, by unintentionally but nevertheless painful and/or thoughtless comments from friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, doctors and law enforcement officers. Some people’s attempts at comfort came off as giving unsolicited advice to the grieving parents – often in the form of tacit or even overt religious proselytizing – or as passing judgement regarding the deceased, whose death was spoken of as inevitable (“his own fault;” “a foreseeable consequence of her poor choices”) and therefore less shocking than losing a child in other ways, such as via auto accidents, illness, even homicide or suicide.
Moiself doesn’t want to add to humanity’s burden of of consistently and compassionately understanding when and how to comfort loved ones who’ve suffered these kinds of devastating, personal losses. It’s complicated, to say the least, for both sides – the giving and receiving of condolences. As one poet friend so precisely and evocatively wondered,
“Many have traveled here, so why are there no better maps?” 
Better maps, indeed. Someday, we may have them. Until then, speak to and about someone’s loss with love and kindness. When it comes to giving advice, speak for yourself. And only yourself. And *listen* to the bereaved, as if your life depended on it.
* * *
Department Of Is That An Infectious Parasite In Your Brain
Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?
“Toxoplasma gondii exerts a strange sort of mind control on rodents: Once infected with the brain parasite, they seem to lose their fear of cats and become more likely to get eaten. When they are, the microbe can make its way into the feline intestine to reproduce. But a new study argues that T. gondii’s effects on rodents aren’t cat specific; instead, the parasite simply makes mice more eager to explore and less fearful of any species that might gobble them up.”
(Science, “Brain parasite may strip away rodents’ fear of predators—not just of cats.”
Given my previous advice, I shouldn’t speak for my entire species, so I’ll just say that moiself has no desire to gobble up a mouse or any rodent. However, I recently saw a mouse infected with (I’m guessing) toxoplasmosis.
I can’t think of what else might explain its unusual, survival-fail behavior. Oh, and if you’ve never heard about the life cycle of the toxoplasma gondii, treat yourself to a brief overview of arguably one of Mother Nature’s strangest, most face-palming, biological phenomena.
Dateline: Tuesday, 7 am-ish, leaving my house via the garage, to go for a walk. The sun is not quite up; as I walk down the driveway toward the sidewalk I notice something scurrying in the front yard, to the right, about five feet from me, in the dirt underneath our redbud tree. I approach the Scurrying Something, and see a mouse.
The mouse also sees me. Instead of freezing in place or fleeing, it raises up on its hind feet and looks up, its beady little eyes staring right at me. It begins to run in circles, first towards then away from me, and makes little leaps into the air and prances about, as if it is trying to attract my attention. Is this a batshit crazy mouse, I’m thinking, or is this behavior trying to distract me away from, say, its nest that is nearby?  Or…is this a horny mouse who’s lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, and it thinks I smell like cat pee? I’ll admit that my regular shower schedule has lapsed during the COVID quarantine months, but hey – it’s not THAT bad.
“Toxoplasma gondii …can only reproduce within the bodies of cats, and in mice, the mind-controlling parasite has evidently evolved to make mice unafraid of felines and even…sexually attracted to the odor of cat urine….”
( “Mind-Control Parasite Kills Mice’s Fear of Cats Permanently,”
Moving right along….
I’m bundled up against the 30˚ temp and fumble through my layers of clothing, trying to get my cellphone out of my pants pocket. I want to videotape this mouse’s interpretive dance or whatever it is, and show it to my offspring, both of whom were biology majors and worked with mice in undergraduate research projects. Just as I get my phone and find the video mode, the mouse scampers toward me, which gives me pause (uh, what if it’s rabid…and is that even a mouse-thing?  ). Manic Mouse gets to within less than a foot of my foot, does a little pirouette, then makes a beeline for our pear tree, which is about four feet away, by the sidewalk. I follow the mouse; it resumes its acrobatic antics around the pear tree’s trunk and underneath the surrounding azalea bushes. The combination of the darkness, the rapidity of the mouse’s movements, and my less-than-stellar cinematography skills makes for a poor video. I bid the mouse adieu and go for my walk, pondering, among other metaphysical wonders:
Why isn’t it pronounced, tox-o-plas- MOUSE -is?
* * *
Department Of Just Wondering
#589 In A Never-Ending Series
Why do our big toes *not* have their own separate, special name? We have a unique moniker for the pollex, the short, thick first digit of the human hand: we call it the thumb, thus distinguishing it from the other fingers. But we have ten toes, and they’re all just…toes. Okay, the first ones are the big toes, but, c’mon, what kind of pansy-ass distinction is that?
Is it because, unlike many other primates, humans’ big toes are not opposable, and so the big toes get no respectable label?
I’m open to suggestions.
* * *
Department Of What Happens To Your Brain When You When You Read Celebrity News
Before You Go To Bed
The news in question was someone’s Facebook posting of a Twitter announcement, from an actor, of said actor’s newly-claimed  trans status. The announcement included, of course, the customary pronouns preference:
“… I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they…”
I read this before dozing off ~ 10 pm. Later, in the literal wee hours of the morning, I was awakened by the not-unfamiliar sounds of MH, getting out of bed to go to the bathroom but being not-quite-awake and forgetting where he was (read: he’d walked into a wall and was feeling around for the bathroom door).
Moiself, sitting upright:
You’re in Hillsboro. And…
I stopped at “and.” But, honest-to-the-gods-whose-existences-I-refute, I almost added, 
“…and your pronouns are he/his/him.”
* * *
Department Of Speaking Of Gender 
A Firefighter Is Killed In California Wildfire Sparked By Gender Reveal Party
“… The problem with gender reveals has grown so out of control, the woman who popularized them begged parents to “stop having these stupid parties” on social media. The most recent fire in California was started when clouds of blue smoke for a boy preceded the flames, which the expectant parents tried to put out with bottled water. In 2017, an Arizona gender-reveal party explosion started a wildfire that burned about 47,000 acres.”
( “After Gender Reveal Celebration Sparks Fire, Some Say The Parties Have Gotten Out Of Hand,” Here and Now, 9-9-20 )
On one end of the scale of Humans Who Are Concerned About Such Things®, there’s a small but vocal crowd which insists, “Gender is just a construct.” At the other end are those for whom gender is such defining human characteristic that they cause wildfires by trying to announce to an ask-us-if-we-care world the sex of their not-even-born precious snowflake baby.
Maybe y’all are ahead of me on this, but moiself was gob-smacked to discover, which I did only recently, that more than one gender reveal party has started a wildfire.
To all future, even halfway serious considerers of holding a “gender reveal” gathering of any kind, please consider this: the only thing you will be revealing is probably no secret to those who know you:
“Congratulate us, we’re having a _____
(humanoid offspring of narcissistic morons) ! “
Gender is not “just” a construct, if only “just” by the fact that for some folks, determining if a developing fetus is male or female gets their (non-gender-fluid) panties in a knot.
“Just-a-construct;” “the end all and be all of life.” Perhaps these gender perspectives are the opposite side of the same coin… or, the adjacent sides of the same tetrahedron, considering the complexity of the issue? 
When I was pregnant with son K and then daughter Belle, our neighbors gave a baby shower/party for moiself and MH. Me being, well, me, my dear, tolerant friends knew better than to host a women/moms only event, and the guys/dads truly seemed to enjoy being included in the festivities. MH and I dared to wade through the murky waters of Being A Gracious Guest Etiquette ® by letting the party hosts know in advance that we did not want anything “gendered” – please, none of that pink or blue crap swag.  MH made it known that, in particular, any of those dreadful baby bows, which were popular at the time (mid-1990s) would be, how you say, not appreciated by the mother-to be. 
From what I’ve seen lately, those ridiculous bows are making a comeback. People: why are y’all doing this to your girl-childs?
The first time I saw a girl-baby with one of those forehead bands, I felt so…dispirited. Yet another reminder of how early it starts, for females: a few days out of the V-shute and the world wants to start decorating her already?
I queried the first sets of parental units I saw whom had accessorized their child thusly; I asked in (what I thought was) an open-minded, even-toned manner, about what the forehead bow-thingy was for? Each parental unit answered in the same way:
Gender-Crazed Parental Units:
“Oh, isn’t it cute?! That’s so people know our baby is a girl!”
“Oh…okay…well…your family and friends already know – I assume you’ve told them – your baby’s name, and that she’s a girl, right?”
“Yes, but other people don’t. And with most little babies, you can’t tell by looking at their faces whether it’s a boy or a girl. “
“And it is important for ‘other people,’ including strangers, to know your child’s sex, because…?”
Because it’s never too early to slap on those expectations and assumptions, and treat baby boys and baby girls differently from the get-go, before they can even sit up.
* * *
Department Of Partridge Of The Week
This week’s Partridge in our pear tree: Yeah, it’s a repeat of last week. Because he didn’t get his full shift in.
* * *
Pun For The Day
Yesterday, a clown held the door open for me – it was such a nice jester!
* * *
May evil clown laughter never haunt your dreams;
May you nonetheless find a way to “encourage her;”
May you come up with a really clever name for your big toe; [10
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Leslea Smith, from her poem “Terra Incognita,” ( Cirque literary journal v. 3 #2 ).
 And if the mouse is nesting outdoors at this time of the year then it is a crazy mouse, as its offspring will not survive the cold.
 Nope. Small rodents “almost never” get rabies and are not a transmission source to humans, according to the CDC.
 I’m guessing; thus, the need for an announcement.
 I should have, but didn’t want to wake him, or moiself , up any more.
 Which I sorta kinda was here (enough to pass it off for a segue), and definitely was back here
 Or, perhaps I need a different metaphor.
 I had amniocentesis with both of pregnancies; MH and I knew, well in advance of any baby showers, K’s and Belle’s respective sex…but I can’t remember whom we told. I know we kept the names private until birth – which we’d been advised to do by a wise friend: “If someone doesn’t like the name you’ve chosen and they think there’s a gnat’s ass of a chance that they can change your mind – and they always think there is a chance that they can change your mind – they will try, so don’t tell anyone the name until it’s on the birth certificate.”
 Can you say, sling-shotted into orbit around Mars?
 And, it should go without saying, share it with moiself .