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The Happiness I’m Not Seeking

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Department Of First Things First

Beware the…you know what.

 

 

 

Happiness is not the station we arrive at but the manner by which we arrive.
(Oliver G. Wilson)

Mary Pipher: …one of the interesting facts about women my age is we’re the happiest demographic in America. In general, people tend to get happier as they age and stay happier right up until the very end. But women tend to be happier than men as they age…

Terry Gross: Why do you think older women are happier when they’re older than they were when they were younger? Is that what you’re saying?

PIPHER: Absolutely. (It’s) statistical fact – I’m not…just hypothesizing.

GROSS: But what accounts for that – ’cause, you know, it seems counterintuitive.

PIPHER: …It really starts with, what do you think the nature of happiness is? And I think happiness is a choice and a set of skills…. After all these years of being a therapist and watching my friends grow and develop and seeing the directions they take and then doing this book where I interviewed so many older women I have a pretty strong sense for what makes people happy. The first part of it is making a choice to be happy – just deciding that that’s a life goal, that I’m going to be happy. I’m going to do everything I can to make my life as good as I can.

And then it’s a set of skills. And one set of skills, for example, is humor and just figuring out how to laugh about things. Another skill is figuring out ways to have meaning and purpose in one’s life. Another skill is the ability to have friends…I call close women friends my mental health insurance policy because they’re so important. Another very important happiness skill is simply having reasonable expectations. My aunt Grace said, I get what I want, but I know what to want.

(excerpts from Fresh Air 2-27-19)

A recent Fresh Air episode, Women and Aging, had host Terry Gross interview clinical psychologist/ author Mary Pipher about Pipher’s new book, Women Rowing NorthWRN expounds on the pluses of changing from middle age to old age. As per the book’s web page, WRN offers “a timely examination of cultural and developmental issues women face as they transition from middle age to old age. In life stage, women contend with ageism, misogyny, and many kinds of loss. Yet, contrary to stereotypes, most older women are deeply happy and filled with gratitude for the gifts of life.”

Moiself is not quite ready to read that book yet, but I enjoyed the podcast. Something said during the interview reminded me of one of the few advantages (other than, not dying) of aging which I have fully embraced:

“At this life stage, women start granting themselves the power of no.”

I see this  – the power to say no –  as related to the fact that I don’t have the proverbial bucket list.  Many a person has regretted asking me what items are on my bucket list because I have (usually) replied honestly:

I don’t have a bucket list; I have a fuck-it list.

My Fuck-it list translates thusly:   I don’t keep any kind of inventory of things I feel I must see and/or accomplish before I die, but as time marches on…

 

Ideally, for me, “time marching on” will include a marching band, with dinosaurs

 

…I find moiself more willing and able to recognize those things/activities which may have been valid, obligatory or called for at one time but which I never want to do again,  and/or those things which, regardless of whether I have done them previously or not, are simply not worthy of wasting the precious resource of dwindling time – time I will never get back – by engaging in them. As Pipher put it, there is the sense that the runway is short, and with what time we have left, we want to deeply savor every experience we have. And I give myself permission to say a graciously but firm No to any invitations to partake in experiences I know I will not savor (committee meetings, anyone?).

The power of no concept was almost a throwaway line, but what Pipher what said about “happiness being a choice” made me almost fall of my Bowflex Max Elliptical trainer.   [1]   I agree with her observations about happiness being more of a choice and a set of skills than an emotional state.  And I have not come by this opinion lightly.

Although I love the REM song I am not a Shiny Happy People person, nor, despite what many people apparently think about moiself, I am not someone who is happy (or even content) all of the time.

 

 

Like Pipher, my extended family tree includes happiness impediments, including mental health/brain disorders, suicide, addiction, chronic disease, tragic deaths and abuse.    [2]  And in thinking about happiness being a life choice and/or skill, I neither ignore nor dismiss nor intend to insult those who might find even the idea of happiness unattainable as they face acute tragedies, or live with chronic contentment-dampening conditions, from clinical depression to progressive illness.  Rather, I was intrigued by Pipher’s interviews and research with older people showing that there is overall tendency over a lifespan to, while facing whatever you have to face, arc toward happiness.

However. I have an issue with her stating happiness as a goal in and of itself.

My view is a little more nuanced in the sense that I think happiness should be a by-product rather than an end-product of life.  I shall try to explain.

 

I’m sure this will be fascinating.

 

When my K and Belle were younger I often heard other parents talking about their hopes and dreams for their own children, which were stated in list format, ending with something along the lines of, “Whatever they do, I just want them to be happy.” I remember thinking to myself – and sometimes vehemently stating out loud – that, au contraire, I don’t just want my kids to be happy.  Because  whenever I pay the slightest attention to Whats Going On Around Me ®  I see a lot of just happy idiots/incompetents/bullies/downright evil people.   [3]

My wish, for both my children and moiself for that matter, is not for us to seek constant and perhaps idealized (and even unreachable) states of happiness. At what I hoped were age-appropriate points in their lives, I engaged K and Belle in conversations about how happiness should be a by-product, not the end-goal, of admirable life choices. I wanted them to lead good lives, question authority,  [4]   use reason and skepticism to evaluate claims, speak truthfully and kindly, and to Do The Right Thing ®.

Lest you think moiself is all serious, do-gooder inclined, I also, of course, want them to have fun. Which involves telling – or at least appreciating – fart jokes whenever possible.

 

 

 

 

Once again, I digress.

As per happiness, living a principled life will, eventually, provide its own gratification, for people with self-knowledge (and an IQ bigger than their belt size).  But when you choose to do the right thing, when you strive to walk lightly and justly in this world, happiness is not always an immediate (nor in some cases, even eventual) byproduct of your actions. And that sucks.

When you stick up for the kid who is  bullied at school you may then yourself become the bullies’ target. When you challenge workplace malfeasance and corruption there will be people, from your bosses to your supposed allies, who will make it their life’s work to make your life miserable –  there’s a reason we have the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Department Of Important Definitions

Pipher does not define happiness as some  state of perpetual joy – more along the lines of contentment, and capacity for appreciation. And she is fully aware of the fact that if you live long enough at some point you will have lost everyone who is important to you.

You know, what frightens me by far the most about aging is losing people I love….(my) brother-in-law of mine died – he was 28 and a soccer player. And he died of brain cancer. And that knocked me out for about a year. And last year, my daughter moved with her family, my two young grandchildren, up to Canada. And it was tremendously difficult for me.

So that is really very difficult for me to think, how will I cope with this continuing string of losses? And the implications of that for me are I need to have my life, which will include a great deal of loss – I mean, at this point in my life, one way or another, I’m going to say goodbye to everybody I know. So the antidote for that, the balancer for that is to have a life as filled with gratitude, fun, appreciation, joy, meaningful work as I can possibly have.

 

 

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*   *   *

Department Of Kids Get The Darndest Jobs  [5]

This week was daughter Belle’s first at a new job. After graduating college last May and having a six month internship in the south, she realized the Pacific Northwest is where she wanted to be. She tot he West Coast, rented an apartment in Tacoma, and took the first job she found, at a place I’d heard about for years, from both her and her brother K,  [6] .  It is a classic hangout: a 1940s-50s inspired diner named, “Shake Shake Shake.”  [7]

I offered to bribe pay Belle if she would put a sign reading “your booty” under the name of the diner, but she didn’t seem to think her bosses would appreciate it. Also, moiself  had to explain the KC & the Sunshine Band song reference to her.

Speaking of which, I think we’re all deserving of a Seventies song break:

 

 

You’re welcome.

*   *   *

Department Of “Classic” Books I’m Having A Hard Time Reading

Currently, that would be Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin’s series of novels involving a plethora of characters living in late 70’s – mid 80’s San Francisco. The books’ many protagonists are friends and lovers and husbands and wives and landlords and tenants and coworkers and bosses (and thinly veiled references to real life public figures) of all sexual orientations, whose lives intersect and overlap.

The novels, whose chapters first appeared as regular installments in the San Francisco Chronicle, were beloved by many San Franciscans, and convey the zeitgeist of that time period.  Moiself, I’m finding it hard to follow. There are too many characters competing for chapter space – and the chapters are long on dialogue and short on descriptive prose.  Although the dialogue is witty, I’m having a difficult time keeping track of which character is which: it’s like they all speak in the same voice, with even the straight characters spouting variations of the archetypal, Sassy Gay Best Friend ® sitcom repartee.    [8]

 

 

Ain’t every bitch a critic?

*   *   *

May you need no excuse to blast Shiny Happy People on a regular basis;
May you remember to cultivate your mental health insurance policy – your friends;
May you strive to do the right thing, and also to just have some fun;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] In that it really caught my attention…I was exercising on said machine while listening to the podcast…in case you were wondering if I just tripped over it.

[2] Including sexual abuse/incest.

[3] I didn’t get invited to a lot of Mommy/Baby play groups…which was just fine by moiself.

[4] Except your mother.

[5] Another Old Person Reference ® I will have to explain to Belle and K, who likely aren’t familiar with Art Linkletter’s Kids Say the Darndest Things.

[6] Who graduated from the same college as his sister, only three years earlier.

[7] It has an extensive milkshake menu.

[8] No footnote here.  You checked for nothing – don’t you feel stupid right now?

The List I’m Not Making

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First things First:

Happy 26th bday to son K!

 “K” and his cat, “Tootsie,” a few years back  [1]

You both look a lot younger, eh?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Well Which Is It?

Dateline: Monday 6:45 am. My personal, non-cellular, weather forecast app – opening the front door and sticking my nose outside – is not encouraging.  Seeking confirmation, I check my phone’s weather apps before going for a morning walk. Willy Weather says the temp is 27˚ F but “feels like 17˚ F;AccuWeather says 22˚F but RealFeel ® is 29˚ F.

 

 

How’s about an app that says, Yep, it’s like, Brrrrrrrrr….

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Suppose I Could Have Just Said Thank You

This summer it will have been twenty two years ago that our friend GJ died in a motorcycle accident. GJ left behind a brokenhearted husband and their five bereft children, and numerous grieving friends, family, neighbors, students,  [2]  and colleagues.

The day we learned of her death I did not want to leave the house and certainly had no desire to speak with strangers, but I had two pressing/related tasks to accomplish that evening. After errand #1 my car “blew up” (translation: the battery had a mini explosion when I turned the key in the ignition).

Not a good night, to say the least.

MH came to rescue me; we traded cars and he called AAA for an emergency battery replacement while I attended to task #2, which involved purchasing…something related to the fulfillment of task #1 at a Target-like store.  [3]  After I made my purchase the store’s clerk, a somnolent young woman seemingly operating on autopilot, handed me my item and receipt. In a voice that indicated she was giving an instruction rather than a wish or a suggestion, she told me to Have a nice day.

I took two steps toward the exit door, turned around and said,
“You know, that’s just not gonna happen.

I’ve often thought back on that incident; specifically, wondering what the clerk must have thought about my reply.  [4]  She, of course, had no way of knowing what was going on in my head – no way of understanding that I would take her robotic, store-policy mandated departure phrase as a slap in the face of my sorrow.

 

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Department Of This Is Related To That

Many is the time I’ve seen the various “list“ headlines on Facebook postings, and several times I’ve perused a few of the lists. You might be familiar with them: They take a usually well-meaning – if sometimes vaguely grouchy, know-it-all and/or punitive – tone on advising on how not to be insensitive to people dealing with certain conditions or afflictions:

*What Not To Say To A Pregnant Woman

*What Not To Say To A Person Living With Clinical Depression

*What Not To Say To Parents Of A Stillborn Infant

*What Not To Say To…

– Someone Living With Parkinson’s Disease…A Rape Victim…A Recovering Addict…A Cancer Survivor…Trump Supporters And Others with Cognitive Deficits…

 

 

 

These lists are often compiled by people who’ve had the jaw-clenching experience of being on the wrong end of “well-meaning but clueless”comments and questions about their circumstances, from total strangers to their should-know-better family members.

Regular readers of this blog may recall that several times during the past five weeks I have written in this space about the recent murder of the adult child of my beloved friends. Acquaintances and friends whom I haven’t seen since I received that devastating news have extended the customary inquiry/greeting when they encounter me: Hey, how are you doing – what’s been going on in your life? In some cases I have resisted telling the truth, resorting to the standard American  [5]  brush-off (Fine, thanks, how about you?). Other times I have felt like an open wound and blurt it out – to both friends and strangers (like the clerk at the Subaru Service center – so sorry, dude)…usually prefacing it with a joking, Am I ever gonna make you feel bad for asking!

Early last week I had two days in a row where, at the end of the day, I realized, Hey my first thought upon waking up this morning was not about ______’s death.  [6]  Then came a setback, also two days in a row.  First on Tuesday and then Wednesday, in separate incidents involving people with whom I have longstanding warm and friendly if professional relationships, I was asked about what was going on in my life.  In each case, the askers also remarked that I seemed somewhat…”subdued?  Down?  Sad?”

I responded with a Reader’s Digest condensed version of what had been occupying my thoughts since the end of January. The askers’ heartfelt expressions of shock and dismay and extensions of condolences on behalf of myself and my friends were comforting to me. They also each proceeded to share horrific stories of the deaths of someone they knew: in one case the suicide of the child of a friend, and in the other, a grandfather and an aunt slain by a mutual acquaintance.

 

 

 

 

My thoughts, not at the time but soon afterward:  Uh…thanks for adding those dreadful images to the ones already in my brain!

Department Of The List I Am Making:

What Not To Say To People After Someone They Loved Has Been Murdered

Here’s the thing: I am not making that list. Because I understand what they tried to do.

I surprised moiself by my reaction, when I realized that although I really could have done without hearing those stories I was not holding ill-will toward the people who told them. They are both kind and compassionate people; I truly felt their concern on my behalf. They were not engaging in Catastrophe One-Upmanship ® (as in, “my tragedy is bigger than yours”).  [7]  Rather, IMHO both of those incidents sprang from all-too-human, sincere attempts at showing me that they understood what it’s like to deal with such heartbreak.

I have been trying to read everything I can stand to read on the subject of bereavement and grief experienced by families of murder victims (one of the better sources, if you’re interested, is A Grief Like No Other).    A common experience reported by the families is that people start avoiding them, or talk obliquely around them and never refer to the situation or their lost loved one, and this hurts the family.  These avoiders don’t mean to compound the families’ grief – they  are so very afraid of “saying the wrong thing“and thereby adding to it that they can’t think of anything to say at all, and don’t take (what they see as) the risk of expressing themselves.

This experience – responding to and caring for friends and family who’ve lost loved ones via murder – is…beyond awkward, to drastically understate it. Most of us never got the memo, so to speak, of how to respond in such circumstances.

What can I speak about, when it involves the unspeakable? Anything I can say might just add to the families’ burden… so I will just not say anything.

And what happens to your relationships with those to whom you fear saying anything substantive? What happens with people when you feel you are unable to talk about the most important issues in their lives? You may start avoiding them, due in large part to your own discomfort.

So, while I was not pleased to have more disturbing stories and images added to my mental file cabinet, I understand the intentions.  And the sharing of both stories served as a powerful illustration of what I’ve been reading: of how homicidal violence has lingering (and in most cases, lifelong) repercussions, affecting people outside the immediate families of the victims. It was obvious that, years after the they incidents recalled to moiself, those two people’s lives were forever altered. And, in both cases, they went on to discuss with moiself the sad fact that there are a growing number of people in this country, across all walks of life, whose strongest (or perhaps only) thing in common is that their lives have been fractured by homicidal violence. Each in their own way, those two people were trying to reassure me that my friend’s family is – and that I am – not alone in this.

 

 

 

 

In the case of the person whose aunt and grandfather were killed, I found myself thinking, It’s like an IED of homicide detonated near her family. Those who survived the explosion are “whole” now, their external injuries long healed, but they carry reminders that most outsiders will never see – pieces of mental and emotional shrapnel remain embedded in their minds and hearts.

So, what’s on the list I’m not making? Nothing…except for the suggestion to keep in mind that you never know.  This is neither new nor profound, but it stands the test of time: try to give people the benefit of doubt. Any person you encounter, from your BFF   [8]  to the stranger on the street – you never fully know what that person is dealing with. The guy who snapped at you seemingly out of nowhere?  He may have just found out that his best friend/twin brother was killed by a stray bullet fired during a convenience story robbery.  Snapper Guy may be having one of The Worst Days Of His Life ®….[9] and you just happened to be in the vicinity.

*   *   *

May you never be so consumed with fear about saying the wrong thing
that you neglect to say anything;
May you stop saying Have a nice day unless you really mean it;
May you not need to consult a list to remember that you should never
ask a “pregnant-looking” woman if she is pregnant;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] So named because she is a polydactyl…and she, like K, is still with us (she’s almost 16 years old).

[2] GJ was an elementary school teacher.

[3] Something about a committee I was serving on. To this day, although the specific moiself-clerk is burned in my brain, I cannot remember what those pressing tasks were, nor what store I went to.

[4] Other than, “Cranky bitch!”

[5] Several times when traveling in Europe and enjoying a discussion with the locals re cultural differences, I’ve had the natives ask me about one of their pet peeves: why it is that Americans use the phrase “How are you?” as a greeting, and not as an evident (to the European mind) inquiry as to their welfare?  When they (the Europeans) take it as a sincere question and actually begin to say how they are doing, the asker seems annoyed. “If they are not really interested in how I am, why did they ask? Can’t they just say, “Hello?”

[6] Ah, but then of course it obviously was one of my last thoughts of the day.

[7] which is a real and really disturbing phenomenon, common to the narcissistic personality.

[8] I really, really hate that acronym. Pretend I didn’t use it.

[9] I can of course only speak for myself regarding the death of ___, and I realize that the sense of loss I am experiencing is peanuts compared to her family’s devastation. And I’m sorry if you who are reading this have a peanut allergy, but I’m sticking with this metaphor.

The Reality I’m Not Denying

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Grief is one of the hardest and most profound emotions humans ever experience. At times, it feels like you are losing your mind and that you will never experience normalcy again….
Humanism provides an excellent framework for coping with grief. It is rational, compassionate and responsible. We accept our grief in the present with the goal of finding a way to live our lives fully despite our loss.
(Intro to “The Humanist Approach to Grief and Grieving – a Rational and Compassionate Approach to Bereavement,” by Jennifer Hancock)

*   *   *

When someone we love dies, it can intensely undermine our sense of stability and safety. Our lives have been changed forever, generally by forces we had no control over and it can feel as if nothing’s in our control. It can feel like the ground under our feet, which we once thought was stable, has suddenly gone soft…

This feeling can be especially strong if the person who died was someone we were exceptionally close with and who had a large presence in our everyday lives, like a spouse or a partner or a child….And it can be especially strong if the death was unexpected, like an accident, a sudden illness, or death by violence.

Typically, religion teaches us to cope with these feelings by denying them. It tells us that, no matter how insecure we may feel, in reality we’re completely safe. The people who have died aren’t really dead we’ll see them again. Their death hasn’t actually changed our lives permanently. In fact, the next time we see them it’ll be in a blissful place of perfect safety.  [1]

The opposite is true for nonreligious and non-spiritual views of death. Nonbelievers don’t deny this experience of instability. So instead we can try to accept it, and find ways to live with it.

The reality is that safety isn’t an either/or thing. We’re never either entirely safe or entirely unsafe. The ground under our feet is never either totally solid or totally soft. Stability and safety are relative: they’re on a spectrum. We’re more safe, or less safe.

Coping with grief and moving on with it doesn’t mean that the ground feels entirely solid again. It means that the ground feels more solid…. We still understand that things can come out of left field –  terrible things, and wonderful ones.

( “Secular Grief, and the Loss of Stability and Safety,” The Humanist)

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Department Of Time And Tea

Question: (posed to a British atheist) How do you offer condolences to grieving friends and family?

Answer: By listening. Taking time to talk rather than giving a simple pat phrase.
I offer time and tea.

(Atheists and Grieving, The Guardian, 9-26-13)

 

As previewed in last week’s blog and in light of the recent tragedy of the death of a dear friends’ daughter, moiself is sharing a few quotes and insights about how we who are religion-free   [2] – whether we identify as Atheists, Freethinkers, Brights, Humanists, Skeptics, etc. – view death and grieving.

First off, I should disavow usage of the royal “we,” as there is no dogma/scriptures to which those who hold a naturalistic world view must subscribe. That said, we have much in common with religious believers in that all human beings grieve their losses, with pain proportional to the magnitude of those losses.    [3] 

No one is immune from grief and suffering. The comfort we who are religion-free take in our natural (as opposed to supernatural) worldview is compelling because it requires neither denial of reality nor self-delusion. The comforts of a Humanistic approach to life are grounded in gratitude and wonder at life itself, and of the awareness that life’s cherished moments are made all the more valuable by their impermanence.

 

 

 

(Religious) believers and non-believers have many things in common, and much of what we find comforting during grief is the same – but much of is it seriously different, and even contradictory.

Religious beliefs about death are only comforting if you don’t think about them very carefully — which ultimately makes it not very comforting…. A philosophy that accepts reality is inherently more comforting than a philosophy based on wishful thinking – since it doesn’t involve cognitive dissonance and the unease of self-deception.

I think there are ways to look at death, ways to experience the death of other people and to contemplate our own, that allow us to feel the value of life without denying the finality of death. I can’t make myself believe in things I don’t actually believe — Heaven, or reincarnation, or a greater divine plan for our lives — simply because (we have been told that) believing those things would make death easier to accept. And I don’t think I have to, or that anyone has to. I think there are ways to think about death that are comforting, that give peace and solace, that allow our lives to have meaning and even give us more of that meaning — and that have nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of god, or any kind of afterlife.

( “Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing To Do With God,” Greta Christina)

*   *   *

 

At this point I   [4]  am firmly convinced that a Humanist approach is the best way to deal with grief. Here is why.

1) It is natural. We don’t deny death…. Why is this beneficial? Because when you don’t deny death…you have to deal with it. Grief is so painful that most people will do just about anything to avoid it. But avoiding grief isn’t the same as dealing with grief. A Humanist chooses to deal with grief directly.

2) We have no one to get mad at…. When you have a naturalist approach, you don’t have someone, like a god, who you can blame for causing it. Why is not having someone to get mad at beneficial? Because, displaced anger is very common with grief and it is again a way to avoid grief. It doesn’t help us come to terms with it. It just funnels our grief into an irrational anger.

3) Grief is a natural human response to overwhelming loss or sadness…. We don’t have to be afraid of it, we just have to allow ourselves to experience it.  Why is this better? Because again, people spend so much time trying to avoid grief that they never just allow themselves to experience it and deal with it and move on. Instead, they stay in a sort of grief limbo – too afraid to just experience the emotions so that they can get on with life.

4) Our focus in on the here and now…. There is a tendency among people who believe in an afterlife to put their hopes and dreams into thinking about that after life. After all, when living gets tough, it just seems easier to give up and hope for a better life. The natural approach is better because focusing on and hoping for an afterlife means you are giving up on this one. You aren’t going to try to heal, you are just going to suffer and wait until you die so you can be happy then.

5) We are focused on living. Yeah, we are sad. Possibly overwhelmingly sad…. But again, (we take) a long view of what was happening….  Accepting grief is a necessary first step, but it is only the first step. Then you have to deal with it and learn how to cope with it. Belief in an afterlife hinders that process.

(Natural Grief, a Humanist Perspective)

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

I don’t believe in life after death; I believe in life before death. I believe that the way we live in the here and now has immense and ultimate value, and that the one provable, demonstrable “afterlife” all of us (no matter our religious or world views) will have is in the way our lives have touched others.  We will live on in the legacies we leave to this world – the after-effects of our actions and relationships is what causes our friends and family to remember and honor us long after we are gone.

Three years ago, when MH’s father died from complications of Parkinson’s disease, a friend wondered aloud about how MH’s and my children, Belle and K, were handling this loss. It must be tough for them, she mused, seeing as how this was their first grandparent to die.

“Ah, well, actually…” My stammering reply was interrupted by my friend, who, wide-eyed with shock and embarrassment, sputtered what was to be the first in a series of apologies for her inexcusable (in her view) faux pas, of somehow temporarily forgetting that my beloved father had died seven years earlier:

“It’s just that, the way you always talk about him, it’s as if he’s still here.”

I never held her lapse of memory against her, because it was the impetus for one of the most kind, and ultimately profound, things anyone has ever said to me.

 

 

(Chester Bryan Parnell [8-8-1924 – 2-11-2009] proving art age 51 he could still hoist his “Robbie Doll”)

*   *   *

 

 

May we always remember to love ’em while we’ve got ’em;
May the way we talk about our loved ones keep them “still here;”
May we all offer one another time and tea;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] There are exceptions—e.g., many Buddhist teachings focus on the inherent impermanence of existence.

[2] As is my friend’s family, as well as MH and I and our (young adult) children.

[3] And despite the claims of religious folk who say they find comfort in the thought of an afterlife, I’ve never met a religious believer who was eager to get there, no matter how much they say they believe in/hope for, say, “the better life with Jesus” which supposedly awaits them. They comfort friends and family with platitudes (“god took your mother home; she’s in a better place…”) even as they fight tooth and nail to keep themselves from that “better” place. From what I have seen and read and heard, when it comes down to it, the “faithful” have little faith in their death/after life beliefs, because if they did, they’d gladly die rather than rushing to medical science to keep them from their alleged god/afterlife.  If you really believe that you and your loved ones will have everlasting bliss in heaven together, what are you doing so desperately hanging around on this life on earth? Why are you relying on science to keep you alive (and to prolong the deaths of people you don’t even know and who don’t hold your views, as when religious believers try to stop families who want to remove brain dead relatives from life support) when you get sick?

[4]  The author of the article experienced the death of her child.

The Speculation I’m Not Endorsing

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Department Of The Difference One Word Can Make

Last week I wrote about the death of Dr. SEH, dearly loved daughter of our friends LPH and DH.  Dr. SEH was doing her first year of medical residency in Salt Lake City where, on Sunday evening, January 27, she was murdered by her boyfriend, who then killed himself.

Friends and family and colleagues, we who knew and loved SEH (and if you knew her, you loved her) have been __________ . Get out your thesaurus and fill in the blanks with every emotion involving horror, grief, overwhelming shock, and gob-smacked confusion.

Speaking of filling in the blanks, I understand the temptation to do so with regards to this dreadful tragedy, because our shock/confusion stems from the fact that this came “out of nowhere,” as they say.

We all want to look for reasons to explain the unreasonable…we are all looking for clues, and so far, as of this writing, there are none.  Thus, my irritation at a Well-Meaning Person, ®  one whose well-meaning quote (my emphasis) made me want to swing a sack of Well-Meaning Potatoes at her head.

‘It’s just crushing … to know that she must have been struggling.’
(“Vigil Planned In California For Doctor Killed In Sugar House Domestic Violence Slaying,” Salt Lake Tribune story 1-28-19)

 

And your evidence for this would be…?

Here is what frosts my butt: as of the time that quote was given – a mere one day after SEH’s death – [1] no one knew that SEH “must have been struggling.”  No one knew anything; thus, our previously mentioned overwhelming shock and confusion.  Well-Meaning Person presumed SEH had been struggling, as in, with a “domestic violence” situation.  And still, as of this writing, no one knows that for certain.

Yes, many times when women are killed by their partners there has been an ongoing/ escalating pattern of abuse and violence. And other times, it comes out of the proverbial blue. Either way, from what we knew then – at the time that person made that statement – and from what we know now…what we know is that we just don’t know.

We lack that pesky little thing called evidence. The killer left no note; neither the victim nor the killer had communicated to anyone – family, friends, colleagues – that there was trouble in the relationship. Family, friends, colleagues, neighbors – all thought and experienced them as a happy couple. There had been no calls to police or domestic violence counseling centers or hotlines or campus police or SEH’s residency supervisors, either from the couple or about them (i.e. neighbors reporting arguments) until moments before the actual murder/suicide.   [2]  There were no witnesses; no hidden cameras or recordings; the killer had no history of mental illness….

From all appearances, SEH’s first hint that her boyfriend was capable of such a thing was when he killed her.

What we don’t know at this point would fill the Grand Canyon   [3] of speculation.  Autopsies and toxicology tests will be performed, and can take anywhere from four to six weeks to get results. But the results can only provide possible whats, and not whys.

So. To repeat moiself: We all seek reasons to explain the unreasonable.  We are all capable of doing that privately. But to see such speculation in print is…not helpful, to put it mildly.

*   *   *

“So senseless and sad, two completely devastated and bewildered families.”

This was my younger sister’s reaction, after reading an article which contained an interview with the killer’s father and also a statement from SEH’s family.  My response to her, in part:

“… (the emotion of) bewilderment is, in some ways, almost up there with the sadness and devastation, and the “why”s will likely never be answered. I thought the father in the article did well, and I do try to remember that there are two grieving families involved (even though I no longer speak his- the killer’s – name). In some ways their burden may be ultimately harder than (SEH’s parents), as in, being the parents of a murderer, they will not have the same emotional support.  As far as I know, there is no POPWMOPC – Parents of People Who Murder Other People’s Children – support group.”

And yet, from that same article (link provided below), a Utah domestic violence worker disputes the “out of nowhere” and “he must have just snapped” characterization of the murder-suicide:

But Jenn Oxborrow, director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, said research shows random outbursts of domestic violence almost never happen. “People do not just snap,” she said.
Oxborrow said that even in relationships where there aren’t glaring red flags, some kind of abuse — such as power or control issues — typically becomes evident after a tragedy.

Sometimes the warning signs can be a partner having sole control of finances, or an otherwise loving relationship where there isn’t trust — where one partner is always looking through the other’s phone, for example, or where a partner isolates the other.
Studies have also shown that when a gun is present in a home and there is any sort of history of domestic violence, a woman is about five times more likely to die by that firearm, Oxborrow said.
(excerpt from “How can it end like this?’ After a man shot and killed his girlfriend and himself in their Sugar House home, two families grapple with how they died,”
The Salt Lake Tribune, 2-2-19)

*   *   *

I don’t know.

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.
I don’t know.

For now, I will hold on to what we do know:

The family’s statement said a friend of SEH had described her best, quoting the friend as saying, “SEH was unfailingly kind, fun, hilarious, brilliant, and one of the most supportive friends anyone could ever have. She had the strongest work ethic of anyone I’ve seen and she was so driven to help people. She never met a challenge she couldn’t overcome, and she made all the people around her feel unstoppable and bold.”
… a family friend…named as a spokesman, said in his own comments, “SEH was one of those unique people that had all the smarts, perseverance and drive to succeed at whatever she set her mind to, but also the gifts of compassion and empathy to help other people in need.” She was close with her family, he added. “All of which makes the loss of her precious life the more difficult to bear for those who knew and loved her.”

MH and I were concerned about DH, SEH’s father, who had gone to Salt Lake City to meet with police, gather his daughter’s effects, and take care of the other unthinkable “tasks” which accompany such a tragedy.  When MH  [4] asked DH how he was doing.  DH responded:

Thank you. It seems SEH created groups of amazing supportive friends everywhere she went so I’ve been taken care of here.

Indeed. I know she did, and I know where SEH got that ability: from her mind-boggling marvelous mother, LPH.

During that devastating phone call in which LPH told me about her daughter’s death, LPH and I reminisced about how I was one of the first people, other than immediate family, to hear SEH”s voice: the doctor and nurse practitioner who lovingly cared for LPH during her pregnancy and then delivered the baby were my former employers and cherished friends, DWB and PHB, and they telephoned me from the delivery room just as SEH made her way into this world.

We who knew SEH were awed by what she experienced in her life, and especially, by what she made with those experiences.  Intelligent and determined, despite the many grueling surgeries she underwent due to her Stickler syndrome and the loss of sight in one eye, SEH remained a top student in her classes, skied and river rafted, and persisted in pursuing her goals, becoming the medical doctor that some people told her was out of her reach.

She was also beautiful, charming, witty, caring, and adored her family – she and her brother were literally best friends…and I can’t imagine a person who didn’t love and admire her after knowing her.

“Sarah Elizabeth” English tea rose

 

*   *   *

Department Of Preview Of Coming Attractions:
How the Religion-Free Think About Death & Grief

Here is (an excerpt of) what a religion-free [5]  journalist wrote to a (religious) friend who had recently suffered the loss of her father. This friend asked him to tell her what he thought was the “next step,” and to “please lie to make it more interesting” if his answer might not suit her.

You asked me what I think is the next step.
Well, no one has reported back from the other side, none of us who are alive have been to the other side, and we don’t have any factual evidence supporting a life (as we know it) after we die.
To me, believing what I want to be true can be very comforting (like my unshakable belief that Jessica Alba wants all my babies), but that doesn’t make it true.
I find more comfort in what I know to be true. For the things I don’t know, I prefer saying just that — I don’t know — instead of entertaining supernatural guesses or made-up answers from a time when humans didn’t know about the carbon cycle or the structure of the DNA that your father passed on to you, his living, breathing daughter.
You said that if I didn’t have the answers, I should “lie to make it more interesting.” But I have always found things most interesting when I didn’t have to lie. That is why I am an atheist.
Admitting ignorance is humbling. It reminds us that as fleeting inhabitants of this vast universe, we are part of something much bigger. It forms a foundation  for the curiosity that defines us as human beings, that drives us to contemplate our existence, educate ourselves, and to grow and evolve as individuals and as a species.
To lose that is a much worse death than physical death.
I wish you the strength and resolve to cope with your loss. Mourn his death, but also celebrate the life that he helped give you. That’s what he would have wanted.
(“Grief Without Belief – How Do Atheists Deal With Death,”
Huffington Post, 10-22-13,
By Ali A. Rizvi, Pakistani-Canadian author of The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason)

*   *   *

May we all be taken care of, wherever our “here” is;
May we readily admit what we do not know;
May we find comfort in what we know to be true;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *


[1] Given by the dean of the medical school where SEH got her M.D.

[2] When the person who lived in the basement below the couple heard what she thought was a home invasion going on upstairs, and fled through a basement window and ran a block to safety before calling the police.

[3] Where MH and our son K did a river rafting trip with SHE and her family, last spring. The last time we saw her.

[4] Regular readers know that I use the blogonym “MH” to refer to My Husband.

[5]  A freethinker is a person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition, especially a person whose religious opinions differ from established belief.

The Life I’m Not Mourning

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I hate it, beginning a blog post – or any kind of statement – with a lie. It’s a lie because I am mourning, even as I find the term inadequate to describe the feelings experienced by those of us who loved a remarkable young woman whose life was recently and unexpectedly cut short.

Wednesday (1/30) morning, just before 7 am. The bright, sliver-moon’s optimism, portending the sunny/crisp winter day to come, taunted me with its optimism. A mere two days earlier I would have celebrated such a sight; instead, I felt resentful, then foolish, to recognize my emotions (It’s just a moon; it doesn’t know, or care about, your pain).  As all emotions have done in the past week, everything quickly faded to numb. It was 26˚ outside, but that’s not what chilled me.

 

 

 

When you answer the phone call and hear the voice of your dearly loved friend – her tone at once agitated and lifeless – you realized that the nightmare into which you are about to descend is no dream.

In the days and weeks right after a murder the victim’s family is often in a state of shock, feeling numb, sometimes unable to cry. The murder of a loved one seems almost impossible to comprehend. Life feels unreal, like a dream. Survivors may need to go over the details of the crime again and again, discussing them endlessly, as though trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle, struggling to make sense of it all. They tell themselves, “This can’t be true.”
(“A Grief Like No Other,” The Atlantic, September 1997

Dateline: Monday, 1/28/19, 10:05 am. As I was reaching to turn off my cellphone for yoga class, I received a call, which I answered. It was my friend, LPH. She and her husband DH had been visited that morning by local  [1]  police, and a police chaplain. Those public servants were carrying a devastating message from police in Salt Lake City, where LPH’s and DH’s 27 year old daughter, SEH, was in her first year of medical residency:

At approximately 8:30 the previous evening SEH had been shot and killed by her boyfriend,  [2]  who then took his own life.

*   *   *

 

domestic
adjective

Definition of domestic

1a : living near or about human habitations (“domestic vermin”)

b : tame, domesticated (“the domestic cat”)

2 : of, relating to, or originating within a country and especially one’s own country (“domestic politics, “domestic wines,” “domestic manufacturing,” “all debts foreign and domestic”)

3 : of or relating to the household or the family (“domestic chores,” “domestic happiness”)

4 : devoted to home duties and pleasures (“leading a quietly domestic life”)

5 : indigenous (“a domestic species”)

 

In the news reports  [3] I read the familiar phrases, such as “domestic violence” and “domestic-related” homicide.   I understand the etiology of those terms, as per domestic’s definitions and usages.  Still, I fucking hate them.

 

*   *   *

SEH will be remembered as an extraordinarily engaged and competent and empathetic person at UC-SF.
She really stood out for her commitment to taking care of patients from the time they were born until the time they died. And she was so excited about going to (the University of) Utah. She thought the program there was exactly the type of family medicine program that was going to launch her career to help her be the type of doctor she really wanted to be.
SEH had an easygoing way about her and instantly connected with everyone regardless of where they came from or who they know or what they were there for. And that was true not only for her patients but for her friends.
(The vice dean of education at the UC-San Francisco’s School of Medicine, where SEH received her M.D.., as quoted in an article in the Salt Lake Tribune)

 

Today, University of Utah mourns the tragic loss of one of our bright young family medicine residents, SEH, MD.
Dr. SEH was a first-year resident who was focusing on continuing her studies in Family & Preventive Medicine.
Dr. SEH came to University of Utah Health from UC San Francisco to continue her passion of providing care to women and children in underserved communities. …Her adventurous spirit and love of learning will be missed by all those who knew her….. Dr. SEH always did a great job of connecting with her patients and understanding where they were coming from. She treated the whole person, and patients were always appreciative of her approach….
 SEH made it a priority to stay in touch with her family, constantly talking about them and always mentioning her love of family. At the same time, she was excited about the opportunities Utah offered to her, particularly the ability to spend time doing all the outdoor activities she loved so much. SEH was friendly, fantastic, and hardworking. She always gave everything her all.”
(statement from the University of Utah, as per a  KUTVchannel 2 report)

 

As a mutual friend said, ” It’s devastating that someone…could extinguish a light as bright as hers.”

 

*   *   *

During the past twenty-five years hundreds of articles in psychiatric journals have examined the homicidal mind. Fewer than a dozen have explored how a homicide affects the victim’s family.

The survivors of murder victims…even the counselors who work with survivors…what they have learned contradicts the way the rest of us would like to view the world. We want to maintain an illusion of safety…we want to believe that the children of good parents will never be harmed.

The grief caused by murder does not follow a predictable course. It does not neatly unfold in stages. When a person dies after a long illness, the family has time to prepare emotionally for the death, to feel an anticipatory grief. When someone is murdered, the death usually comes without warning…. 

In the days and weeks right after a murder the victim’s family is often in a state of shock, feeling numb, sometimes unable to cry. The murder of a loved one seems almost impossible to comprehend. Life feels unreal, like a dream. Survivors may need to go over the details of the crime…discussing them endlessly, as though trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle, struggling to make sense of it all. They tell themselves, “This can’t be true.”

(excerpts from “A Grief Like No Other,” Eric Schlosser, The Atlantic) 

“A Grief Like No Other” is a long article, weaving several strands into the larger garment covering the topic of the emotional journeys of families of murder victims. These strands include a “history of murder” (a relatively brief – considering the subject – tour of the history of adjudicating murder, and how societies’ treatments of such went from clan/tribal retribution to modern criminal justice systems) and the exploitation of murder by the entertainment industry, interspersed with sketches of the families who attend the support group POMC (Parents of Murdered Children), and a detailed recount of the aftermath experienced by one murder victim’s family.

These strands are interesting on their own, but that’s not why I am recommending that you read this article,  [4]  which was recommended to me via a network of friends…which provides a convenient segue as to my recommendation.  As the article states, A murder is an unnatural death; no ordinary rules apply. Thus, we who love our friends who have lost their loved one via murder need to be reminded, now and in the times to come, of the differences inherent in loss for those who have experienced the unspeakable.

Skim/skip the afore-mentioned “strand” parts of the article if you like, but please, read carefully – and, I would recommend,  [5]  often (to the point of setting whatever calendar reminders you use to do so in a regular basis) – the parts of the article which deal with the unique trauma and adjustments experienced by parents of murdered children.  It will not be the feel-good read of your week; still, nothing in your discomfort will compare to that experienced by the family, and the article may come close in helping you to understand what your friends are and will be going through.

 

*   *   *

 

Instructions

When I have moved beyond you in the adventure of life,
Gather in some pleasant place and there remember me
With spoken words, old and new.
Let a tear if you will, but let a smile come quickly
For I have loved the laughter of life.
Do not linger too long with your solemnities.
Go eat and talk, and when you can;
Follow a woodland trail, climb a high mountain,
Walk along the wild seashore,
Chew the thoughts of some book
Which challenges your soul.
Use your hands some bright day
To make a thing of beauty
Or to lift someone’s heavy load.
Though you mention not my name,
Though no thought of me crosses your mind,
I shall be with you,
For these have been the realities of my life for me.
And when you face some crisis with anguish.
When you walk alone with courage,
When you choose your path of right,
I shall be very close to you.
I have followed the valleys,
I have climbed the heights of life.

(poem by Arnold Crompton, Humanist educator)

*   *   *

 

 

May you love ’em while you got ’em;
May we all be each other’s “keepers;”
May you be awed and humbled by the wonder and ultimate transience of our lives;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] They live in the Bay Area.

[2] Whose name shall never, ever, be mentioned in this space.

[3] Which I searched for online. The story was picked up nationwide as a blurb, from the local (Utah) newspapers and TV news to The Washington Times and, holy crap, even People magazine online.

[4] Which was recommended to me, via friends MM and SM, who are also members of that (now) sad company of those who know and love SEH’s family.

[5] Because, as the article states, in such “unnatural” deaths, the ordinary rules do not apply. Even if we are not conscious of it, we all have some idea of how to do “ordinary” grieving. This is not to diminish our “ordinary” losses which can seem extraordinarily difficult at the time – e.g., the deaths of my elderly parents. Rather, the loss of a child by homicidal violence is (psychologically and physically proven to be) a very, very, different ordeal for the family, and most of us have no experience with that reality.

The Crackers I’m Not Passing

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Earlier this week I watched Bad Reputation, the documentary about the career of rocker Joan Jett. ‘Twas entertaining, if somewhat of a puff piece, mostly glossing over the Serious Issues ®  that could have been brought up or just taking a closer look at her life and times.

Speaking of taking a closer look, I love that JJ’s still wearing her trademark Chuck Taylor high tops at “her age”  (just on the other side of sixty, as am I, on both counts   [1] ).

 

 

I’m also disappointed in another aspect of what she’s “wearing.”  With all of her proto-punk, I-love-rock-n’-roll, take no prisoners/kick-ass attitude, why, since the mid 2010’s, has her face morphed into that which resembles someone’s maiden auntie doing a Cher/Joan Rivers impersonation?

In verse three of Jett’s hit song, Bad Reputation, she snarls,

I don’t give a damn ’bout my reputation
I’ve never been afraid of any deviation…

Apparently, the one deviation Jett fears is that of saying fuck you to the seeming mandate that females in the public eye are not allowed to age naturally.  I wanted someone – a “rock journalist” or the documentary’s narrator…someone…to ask her about that.  I wanted a more careful, nuanced Q & A session, which would include getting her to address this conundrum:  one of rock n’ roll music’s most defining elements has been its take your status quo/expectations and shove it attitude, so why has Jett, a quintessential rock n’ roller, felt the need to have all the cosmetic “work” done on her face, including the obvious injections of a paralytic neurotoxin to mask evidence that she’s ever reacted to a “Three priests and two rabbis walk into a bar….” joke?   [2]

Isn’t that silly – that moiself could, maybe, even for a moment, imagine that happening? 

Probably also silly is me thinking a rock musician, particularly an LGBTQ one, as Jett is, should be more immune to societal expectations re women and aging.

The pressures on women re appearance have always been more intense, but there are male rockers who’ve also succumbed to the lure of the Frozen Face Fairy. Thus, in fairness, my Fantasy Inquisitive Rock Journalist ® must pose similar questions to Steven Tyler; Paul Stanley; Vince Neil, Rick Springfield, Ozzie Osbourne, Gene Simmons….  [3]

 

Botox, schmotox, mate! It’s me special bat-head collagen diet!

 

*   *   *

Department Of While I’m On That Subject….Something To Look Forward To

“In interviews, the first question I get in America is always: ‘What do you do to stay young?’ I do nothing. I don’t think aging is a problem….  Yes, my face has wrinkles. But I don’t find it monstrous. I’m so surprised that the emphasis on aging here is on physical decay, when aging brings such incredible freedom.
(Isabella Rossellini)

 

 

Moiself is usually suspicious of articles with titles like this one:  The Joy of Being a Woman in Her 70s (NY Times 1-12-19) by clinical psychologist Mary Pipher. Nonetheless, when I saw the headline in my Tuesday morning newsfeed, its opening paragraphs caught my attention. Truer words have rarely been published (my emphases):

When I told my friends I was writing a book on older women like us, they immediately protested, “I am not old.” What they meant was that they didn’t act or feel like the cultural stereotypes of women their age. Old meant bossy, useless, unhappy and in the way. Our country’s ideas about old women are so toxic that almost no one, no matter her age, will admit she is old.
In America, ageism is a bigger problem for women than aging.

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Random Thoughts
While Hiking On The Cape Falcon Trail Last Saturday

When I am on a trail and hikers coming toward me (going uptrail as I am going downtrail, or vice-versa) pass by, certain hikers seem to be encased in an invisible “aroma bubble.” That is, there will be a faint but discernible and (almost always) pleasant fragrance which wafts across the trail in their wake.

Most fellow hikers just pass by (sometimes exchanging greetings) – other than hearing and/or feeling the vibration of their footsteps, if I were blind I would not be able to detect them. And yes, If I were blind I would still be hiking, with the support and guidance of my Guide Hamster.

 

 

 

 

Yet again, I digress.

Back to those fragrant females – did I mention that those tangy trekkers, whether solo or in a group, are always female and usually younger (as in, younger than moiself)?

It is not the smell of sunscreen which they emit; the scent is lightly floral or sometimes citrus-y, and causes me to wonder what kind of lotion/cream/deodorant/perfume they are wearing…or perhaps is it the residue of their shampoo and/or conditioner?  Then, just for a moment, I wonder what if any “fragrance” they detect from moiself as they pass by.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Picking Your Battles

I have previously mentioned in this space my friend, political/activist blogger who writes under the pseudonym, Spocko.  If you are interested in what I call Cognitive Behavior Therapy In The Form Of Rational Activism ® –  i.e., not just identifying and ranting about what’s wrong, but researching how things work and applying effective solutions – then Spocko’s Brain is the blog for you.

In his January 4 post,  “How to stop friends fighting over the 2020 President picks,” Spocko focuses on the importance of keeping one’s eyes on the prize, as the Democratic candidates start declaring for the 2020 race:

Watching the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination race start on MSNBC makes me weary. Friends tell me they dread it.
 One said, “Spocko, my brain will explode if we go through another campaign season like 2016!”
As someone who has had his brain removed I am strongly against brains exploding, especially ones on our side. So, how can you stop friends fighting and brains exploding?
Here is what I’m going to do:  Every time I see an online debate about Warren, Beto, Biden, Harris, Sanders or any possible Democratic presidential nominee I will stop and ask myself:
“What can I do stop the criminality of Republicans? What can I do to expose the anti-democratic institutions and organization they run? How can I de-fund and defeat the people and groups that made Trump, McConnell and Ryan possible?”

Check out Spocko’s Brain, sez moiself, for sound and sanity-preserving strategies.

 

 

 

Also, follow MH’s example and work for changes in our electoral system so that we never have another tragedy like that with which we are currently afflicted (the loser of the popular vote is “chosen” as President, due to our antediluvian Electoral College mess).  How can you work to see that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election? You do know about the National Popular Vote bill (already enacted by 12 states and jurisdictions), don’t you?  If not, educate yourself (it won’t take long, as it is a simple concept) on what will insure that the person who actually wins the presidential election gets to be president, and lobby your state representatives to enact it.   [4]

*   *   *

Department Of Time Out For A Personal Message

A Close Personal Friend ® of mine says Happy 26th birthday to my nephew, KMV!

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Some Speculations Are Deeper Than Others

While hiking with MH on Oregon Coast’s Cape Falcon Trail and apropos of nothing, I began to wonder   [5]   about etiquette involving a (improbable, but not absolutely out of the question) dinner party scenario.

Setting: MH and I are hosting several new acquaintances for appetizers and drinks. These guests are known to us as being in “open” relationships (read: they each have multiple romantic partners). As I pass the basket of wheat thins around the table, would it be un-PC of me to ask,

Poly want a cracker?

 

*   *   *

 

May you practice sound and sanity-preserving strategies
in the face of the political seasons to come;
May you remember to fight ageism and not aging;
May you continue to find unique ways to pass the crackers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] That is, I’m on the other side of sixty and still wearing Converse.

[2] Aka the Botox treatments…but y’all probably figured that out, right?

[3] Just Google their before and after pictures. Yikes.

[4] While it may seem piece meal, to have to do this state by state, it is actually more feasible than the cumbersome process of amending the Constitution of the USA.

[5] Time for another footnote?  Maybe not.

The New Year I’m Not (Yet) Reflecting Upon

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Department Of New Year, Same Old Mouth

Dateline: January 1: MH and I did a First Day Hike. Never heard of the FDH program?  Put it on your calendar for 2020. A lovely way to start the New Year:

On New Year’s Day, America’s State Parks have all 50 states offering free, guided First Day Hike Programs. These hikes provide a means for individuals and families to welcome the coming year in the outdoors….
(from the “First Day Hikes” website)

We signed up for the Elk Flats Trail hike, in Oswald West State Park.  We hiked on a frozen mud trail down down to the Devil’s Cauldron overlook where, on behalf of himself and his fellow rangers, our guide, Ranger “Jeff,” respectfully requested that we stay on the designated trails and not fall into the Devil’s Cauldron – which has happened before, most recently last year (and body retrieval is not one of Ranger Jeff’s favorite duties.). We then backtracked to the main Elk Flats trail which eventually led down to Short Sands Beach, where we got to see many more surfers than I’d anticipated, given the weather (sunny, but brrrrrrrrr).    The surfers were doing their own First Day Surf event, or so I liked to presume.

Ranger Jeff met MH, moiself, and ten other First Day hikers at the trailhead just before 8 am. It was very brisk, and as we waited for the departure time I was teasing Ranger Jeff about his (seeming) lack of preparation: The temp is just above freezing; where was his hat?!  Where were his gloves?! Ranger Jeff showed me his gloves and then his hat, which he had with him but had not yet donned. When he’d decided to wait no longer for stragglers (33 people had signed up for the hike; 12 of us showed up), he began fiddling with the Oregon State Park badge which was pinned to the front of his hat, just above the brim. He told the hikers gathered around him that a fellow ranger had told him to “Move the badge higher on the hat, because it makes you look dorky.”

The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them:  [1]

“Do you think just moving the badge is enough?”

 

 

 

I wonder, did the surfers get a pin?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It Seems To Be A Thing

People announcing (on Facebook of course) that they are quitting Facebook, that is.

Perhaps it is a New Year’s Resolution of sorts, for some folks. Reasons given include personal schedule management issues (aka, “the time suck”) but mostly seem to involve the Cambridge Analytical scandal and concerns about the way FB handles one’s (supposedly) private data, and also/primarily FB’s complicity in fake ads and other political manipulations by Trump supporters.

All of which I most certainly understand.  Moiself has also been… disturbed, to put it mildly, by the privacy breaches, political scandals, ad nauseum.  So far, the people (I know of) who have either announced their intention to quit FB (and/or other forms of social media) or who have already done so are all intelligent, empathetic, socially aware and generally Working-To-Make-The-World-A-Better-Place ® kind of folks. Which gets me to wondering….

 

 

Nyet, is never good thing, when dis comrade wonders.

 

 

Fucking Russian blog hackers.

Um…yeah. As I was wondering: what will that mean, for Facebook and its ilk, if those kind of people all (or mostly…eventually) leave? What will be left – the voices of Orwellian nightmares (War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength”) exchanging such “dialogue” with one another?

Will Facebook become another Fox “News”, where the fact that people who have intelligence/rational thinking/social awareness/compassion quotients larger than their shoe sizes generally boycott Fox News doesn’t matter to those who listen to Fox News, and thus Fox News listeners receive little input outside of that venue, and the Voices of Sanity have little influence re Fox News content and procedures?

I don’t have an answer here. Just another thing to wonder about in the new year.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another New Year’s Day Thing

As I have noted several times before in this blog, moiself always serves some version of black-eyed peas (aka Hoppin’ John ) and greens for New Year’s Day dinner. These culinary creations are prepared in homage to my father’s family’s logic-defying adherence  [2] to the tradition which told them that, by eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, you assure good luck in the year to come.

 

 

 

This year I made a kinda-curried Hoppin’ John variation. I found moiself wishing I could invite The Ramones over to sample my version, which I was certain they would enjoy,  [3]  because as any Ramones fan knows,

There’s no stoppin’ the cretins from hoppin’

Make that, there’s no stoppin’ the cretins from eatin’ their hoppin’ (John).

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Cranial Effluence  [4]   Which Should’ve Stayed In 2018

Fee-fi-fo-fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread[5]

Hold on to that bone-grinder, kiddies: dead is a perfect rhyme for bread, but “fum” does not rhyme with “man.”  Why isn’t it, Englishbum, or mum or rum or…a word appropriate for a mere mortal who is stupid enough to mess with a giant:

Fee-fi-fo-fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishdum-dum….

I know; none of this matters. But why, when a noise awakens me at 3 am,  [6]  is this question regarding a fairy tale rhyme fail on my mind?  ‘Tis hardly a matter of international, national, local, or even personal security, although it seemed compelling at the time.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Partridge  [7]  Of The Week

As per an earlier warning post, we will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in our front yard’s festively lit pear tree. Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

 

Yes, this is a trick question.  Alert readers may note that this is the same Partridge as last week.  In respect to the one Partridge player who has passed from this mortal realm,   [8]   I thought he deserved a repeat week of hanging on our pear tree until we take down the rest of the Yule decorations.

*   *   *

May you never lose sleep over a fairy tale rhyme fail;
May you appreciate our dedicated and cute (and never dorky) state and federal rangers;
May you rest assured that in the coming year, as luck may come and go, there’s no stoppin’ the cretins from hoppin’…
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] To my chagrin, but to the obvious delight of my fellow hikers and, fortunately (for moiself), Ranger Jeff.

[2] They were dirt poor sharecroppers tenant farmers. That good luck meal thing failed, year after year.

[3] Three of the original four Ramones are dead, but for the purposes of this fantasy…just bear with me.

[4] That’s brain farts, for you delicate flowers.

[5] From the English fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk.

[6] A noise which might be the loud muffler of the paper delivery car, or a snoring spouse (just a random snoring spouse in the neighborhood – not necessarily mine), or ….

[7] In our pear tree.

[8] David Cassidy, who played Keith Partridge, died a couple of years ago.

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