"If it's not fun, why do it?"

Happy Blah

I know I am passionate about certain things…things like politics, religion and human interactions. I can become a raging lunatic too.

I used to enjoy discussing opposite points of view with people whose ideas or beliefs were diametrically opposed to my own. I could do so without being emotional…and I miss that.

—Suze, author of the suziland too or obsolete childhood blog

People don’t understand how I can be “blah” about politics or even neutral to our President. That’s just not where my passions lie. The polity is too large for me. My little voice indeed has the power of one. I comprehend that one plus one plus one will change the world. I get that.

Dialogue Not Diatribe by Monique Wingard via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

Dialogue Not Diatribe by Monique Wingard via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

However, I only have so much energy and attention span. With small crisis #1, medium attention grabber #2, lack of #3, and the #4 thing immediately calling for my local, personal attention, I don’t have too much energy or impetus at the end of the day to yell, write, fight, advocate, or pound the pavements. Some days it’s just enough to get out of bed and put on clothing. Other days I can take on the traffic and lines, the idiotic bureaucrats and on-hold phone muzak, and still have energy to make dinner. (I usually can’t get past the aches and creaks the next day, though.)

When I was younger did I fight the good fight? I suppose so. Being a female in a male-dominated profession, clamoring for potty parity, volunteering for women’s health agencies, and counseling victims of domestic violence: I did all that, And when the kids were young, as a single mom, I juggled raising them to be respectable, respectful citizens with keeping the bills paid, mental health issues, family matters, and caring about the environment (professionally and personally). I recycled. I helped friends. I was a nice person.

I can’t fight what the news media choose to focus on today, the next big titillating thing. The distortions about my people are endless. A reality exists that Jews are imperiled even today; Pittsburgh, my hometown, still reels from the murders last fall. The news lies about “Palestinians,” focusing on what the Israelis are supposedly doing to them instead of calling their leaders to the carpet for misappropriating funds, keeping their own citizens in distress, shooting rockets into Israeli cities while crying about Israeli aggression. The emperor has no clothes. The news paints Israelis, “Zionists”, and Jews with a black brush, and distort the truth that Jews have an historical claim to have a homeland in Israel.

The President is an ardent supporter of Israel. That where my buck stops. That’s way bigger than whatever else the White House inhabitant is doing. I don’t have a TV, I don’t watch the news. I listen to a little NPR and mostly get my news from online sources. That’s too much already. Largely I rely upon my friends who live in Israel to give a less distorted view of the reality there. They, as well as HonestReportingCommittee For Accuracy In Middle East Reporting In America, and scads of other agencies on FaceBook like

Meanwhile, only a few blocks away from my Baltimore home, a 5-year old girl was shot accidentally in her own home, four people were shot near the zoo, three others were killed, and another few checked in to local hospitals with gunshot wounds in the past week. There is a drug epidemic here, with 303 overdose deaths in Baltimore City last year, with heroin the leading factor. Many neighborhoods of iconic row houses lay wasted while the downtown gleams. We are a city of abundant brilliance and depraved poverty. Washington DC is only a 50 minute drive away, but it’s so far off my map.

Today I will probably have another cup of coffee, apply for a few more jobs, and massage the pain in my shoulder. I will pray for the recovery of a friend who was just diagnosed, and operated on, for throat cancer, and another’s recovery from defibrillator implantation surgery. I will watch a funny video on YouTube. Tomorrow I will celebrate the “redemption” of a first-born child on his 30th day of life at a “pidyon haben” ceremony, then go to an eye doctor appointment. I will try to plant some seeds in my little garden now that night temperatures aren’t dipping below 40F. I will plod by and by through my bills and obligations, hoping for that magic job interview that will put me back in the land of the employed, tax-paying, and useful. And I will remember to file my taxes before April 15th.

This screed really just started out as a note to a friend. Now I will eat a toasted bagel, then send prayers and good wishes into the Universe.

Advertisements

New Zealand

New Zealand Flag

New Zealand Flag, by Yortw via Flickr CC-BY 2.0

Evil took the spotlight again last week.

A gunman violated the distant, small, quiet country of New Zealand and murdered 49 people engaged in worship. Another soul has died since then, raising the death toll to 50. Many others were hospitalized. The gunman “live-streamed,” i.e. filmed and broadcast, his activities online via Facebook. He prepared for death, wearing a helmet outfitted with a camera and a bulletproof vest.  That miscreant went into mosques with the intent to kill. Tragically he succeeded.

I cannot find words to write. I sit stilled.

I deplore this act of heinous evil, perpetrated by one actor, leaving desolate so many families, a country, and a faith community. Massacred. My heart reaches out to the families, the ones left behind. My sympathy goes to New Zealand which I thought of more so as a tranquil backwater. They have sadly joined the front-page suffering of the world elsewhere.

Only a short while ago my hometown community, Pittsburgh, suffered such a blow. Prayers were offered around the world. We feel with you, our human brothers and sisters. Today we are not Muslim, or Christian, or Jew but people, all formed in the image of G-d. When I learned the news, I cried. It resonated too closely.

What is it about the lone actor that tugs at me and pulls me down into the darkness? So I ask: am I hypocritical? Or numb? Sometimes I wonder if I am allowed to feel this level of grief because I hear today’s news of ongoing violence and tragedies elsewhere… and react very little, feel much less sorrow.

  • 59 homicides in the City of Baltimore have been reported to date in 2019.(1)
  • “Syria’s war entered its ninth year on Friday,” killing a half million people, displacing more than 6 million, and causing more than 5 million to flee the country. (2)
  • Today, “[d]ozens of Uighur and Han Chinese civilians were killed or hurt” by a knife-wielding gang who attacked a police station in China’s Xinjiang region.(3)
  • “At least 39 people had died” in attacks during elections in Nigeria in February 2019. (4)
  • “20 dead, 111 hurt in January bombing at Catholic cathedral in Philippines”(5)

The Charlie Hebdo slaughter evoked my tears. The uncertainty of whereabouts and the unravelling of the murders of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, the three boys who were kidnapped and slain by Hamas terrorists in 2014 gripped at my heart.(6) The rape and murder of Israeli teen, Ori Ansbacher, by a Palestinian seated me, stunned.(7) I’m aware that I’m listing tragedies perpetrated on Jews here. They are my family. It’s personal.

Evil

Evil (Tong Churchyard), by Tim Allen via Flickr CC-BY 2.0

That doesn’t make me immune to the suffering of others, however. No matter how I relate that I am numb, unfeeling, my soul diminishes daily with each attack.

Maybe the 3,212 of Baltimore’s murders recorded to date since 2007, mass slaughter, and war casualties don’t affect me because they are BIG and DISTANT. Growing up in the Vietnam War era, we watched nightly newscasts at the dinner table, the daily body count tallied on the small black and white television screen parked at the end of the table. I didn’t know where Hue was, but the Tet Offensive was not just history; it was background reality.

I pray that evil does not become the background reality that today’s children grow up with. I pray that New Zealand pulls through. Most of all, I pray that evil will be vanquished from this earth.


1. Baltimore HomicidesThe Baltimore Sun, retrieved 18 March 2019.
2. FACTBOX-Nine facts about Syria as fresh violence marks ninth year of war, 15 March 2019.
3. China Xinjiang: Violence ‘kills or injures dozens’, 30 July 2014.
4. Nigeria Votes for Second Day in Election Marred by Deadly Violence, 25 February 2019.
5. 20 dead, 111 hurt in January bombing at Catholic cathedral in Philippines, updated 17 March 2019.
6. Mastermind of Teens’ Murders Given 3 Life Sentences, 1 June 2015.
7. Palestinian charged with rape and murder of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher, 7 March 2019.

Bicycles & Bread

Waiting

Waiting, by Mikael Colville-Andersen via Flickr, CC

The last time I rode a bicycle must have been around 2001. Maybe I rode one other time since then. Even so, I am confident I can climb on a bike today and travel happily (at least if the road is relatively flat), dodging cars and gravel like I ride a bike all the time. Balance? No problem. I can do it in my sleep.

Kneading bread dough

Kneading bread dough, by Michael Richardson via Flickr, CC-BY 2.0

I can’t remember when I last baked a loaf of bread, though I used to do it frequently. My arms, hands, and shoulders remember the rhythm of kneading. My body remembers the rocking and leaning in, stretching the dough, to maximize the gluten and incorporate all the flour. Indisputably, my fingers remember the feel of the surface of a finished dough ball ready for rising, perfectly smooth, and silken to the touch. When I touch it and press gently, a proper dough has some elasticity, a give, and the dimple disappears as the dough recovers. My fingertips remember that sensation still, though lacking dough beneath them. I’m certain I could make a flawless loaf by feel today despite the years gone by.

Ruler Macro

Ruler Macro, ©Todd Eddy via Flickr, CC-NC-BY 2.0

What is one millimeter? I can sense that without a pause too, though I grew up with inches. It’s the small white crescent of a fingernail growing in after being clipped. I can see that clearly in my mind’s eye.

Few women can tie a men’s necktie with a four-in-hand knot. I can. I learned that as a Brownie Scout in order to tie our little orange ties properly.

What about colors? Do they befuddle you? Say, what’s the difference between turquoise, aqua, and teal? Discerning colors. That’s one of my superpowers. Comes in handy when painting watercolors, selecting bridesmaid dresses, quilting, or ordering from a catalogue.

Many of our skills don’t come into use often. Some we forget from disuse. I once knew and understood the relationships between cosine, sine, and tangent; the Latin names of many bacteria; how to gap spark plugs; and making a sheepshank knot. The important and the trite. Phone numbers, once religiously remembered, are now available at the click of a contact button on the phone—though I don’t think it is so great that I cannot memorize my children’s numbers. (I remember my best friend from 3rd grade’s number, however.)

Use it or lose it? Not always. It’s amazing what the body knows and retains. More amazing is the variety of things available to remember. It’s what we choose to focus on. I choose to focus on the pleasant, the feel of the wind across my body as I ride downhill, and the scent of fresh, yeasty dough that is pliable under my fingertips.

Yarn Follies

Cats and knitters* share a mystical superpower: they can suss out yarn anywhere, whether hidden behind walls of lead or at the bottom of a bargain basement sales bin. This attraction to long fibrous materials harks back to sunnier days when hanks of yarn grew on trees and children fell asleep when put to bed. Or maybe it’s a throwback to the days when we needed to hunt wool in the wild, tracking the crafty little fibers, and capturing them before they could get away and warn the others.

Caught in the act. © JustHavingFun

Caught in the act. © JustHavingFun

Cats think everything is a toy … or the enemy. They approach a ball of yarn with stealth worthy of a World War I infantry patrol. Their whiskers twitch and hindquarters shiver before pouncing on the unwary acrylic. Their victories depend upon how much yarn there is to unravel or chase around the room. Cats know when the babysitter’s bag contains mixed skeins or all the same yarn. Then they go for whatever is most convenient, closest to the mouth of the bag, not digging for the most rare or costliest fibers. The cat wages war on string from racial memory, an animalistic urge without sense or reason.

Vanquishing the enemy. © JustHavingFun

Vanquishing the enemy. © JustHavingFun

Exploiting her superpower to the max, the knitter, however honed her yarn sense, will seek out the hand-dyed, single lot, rarest fibers. Her war is personal: acquire the most you can and die happy. Today, yak, alpaca, angora, merino, silk, and bamboo replace yesterday’s limited choices of Wintuk and Sayelle. The size of her stash trumpets victory. Prizes won at the Battle of Rhinebeck and war trophies from the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival campaign embolden the warrior’s stashing efforts. She with the most yarn WINS!

With different types of approaches, cats and knitters acquire their desires by stealth, persistence, and sheer dumb desire.

Yarn. Ya gotta have it.

* “Knitters” includes crocheters, too.

On Hold

Who said that waiting for customer service is wasted time? I love crystals and sparkly things, and I have a collection of beads and tools. I played with and adjusted this mixed crystal bracelet while on the phone. The beauty of having the medical ID tag attached by lobster clasps is that I can change out the bracelet(s) to match my outfit or when I tire of them!

That sneaky little orange bead is just for my amusement. Did you even notice it?

Beads, pliers, and a cup of coffee are all I need while in the neverland that they call “on hold.”

medic-alert-bracelet-e1548179193278.jpg

Medical ID bracelet with crystals. © JustHavingFun

 

Seat 2D

Baby.
Sick baby.
Sick baby on a plane.
Sick baby on a plane on my flight.
Oh no! 

We’ve all been there, trapped on a flight with a screaming child, shrinking into our headphones, preparing to suffer for the next few hours however long the flight takes. Or if he’s not screaming, we mumble the mantra “I hope the kid doesn’t cry.” Because nothing, except maybe a toothache, seems more painful than. Being trapped. With a baby. With a baby on my flight.

This baby on a plane tale has a different story arc, however. Facebook exploded with shares about an anonymous gentleman on an American Airlines flight.

The flight attendant came over and told me you were waiting to switch seats. You were giving up your comfortable, first class seat to us.

Kelsey Zwick (on Facebook)

Kelsey Zwick & Lucy (via Facebook)

One thoughtful, generous first class passenger switched seats, giving his to a woman encumbered with a baby wearing oxygen tubing on a flight from Orlando, Florida to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Kelsey Zwick was transporting her 11-month old daughter, Lucy, to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to be treated for chronic lung disease. Narrow, crowded coach seats hardly seat an adult comfortably let alone one with a baby on her lap. A stranger saw this and thought the mother and child would be more comfortable in first class. Now that’s class!

Having never flown first class, my thoughts wandered to the price of a first class seat. They aren’t discounted. Rarely can one be obtained for a mileage award. Even if someone had gifted him the seat, giving it up would have been somewhat painful. My point is, this likely cost the donor some bucks or caused discomfort! Other thoughts swarmed around “Wow.” Would I have been so prescient, so generous of spirit, to give up my comfort — the amount I paid! — for someone I didn’t know? someone I hadn’t met?

I like to think of myself as kind, maybe a bit noble (cough cough). But when faced with the question I just asked, I admit I would not have given my seat. I’ve given up my seat on the subway, ceded my place in line in a store, yielded to other traffic, and the like. Those actions have no monetary value; at worst they cost me some discomfort or time. When it comes to parting with substance or chattel I’m more chary. I think it comes from feeling like I will miss out on something. Mr. 2D saw a situation and did not compute a balance sheet. For whatever reason, he saw a situation and acted. He rose to the occasion.

Things to think about:
Can I be more charitable? More thoughtful? More giving? How can I rise to occasions — no, not just rise, but clearly see occasions — where I can be a giver, beyond my comfort? How can I be a more sensitive citizen of this world where superficial looks glance off people and on to the next interesting thing? How can I feel more deeply? Will there be a time when I will not calculate my potential “loss” into my equation of giving?

 

Job Hunting

On a sunny autumn afternoon men worked on a roof beside a bright orange crane. Shingles filled the skip dangling from its line. Orange safety cones tied together with flagged caution tape delimited the edge of the work area. Each man wore a fluorescent safety vest.  Faint calls sounding like “ho” and “wait” reached my ears when the crane moved. The hanging weight could knock any one of the men off the roof to his death, I mused, reducing a frail, hard hat-encased skull to shards. A man could lose his footing, fall and roll down the bumpy shingles, accumulating scrapes and abrasions along the way. Or, under the hot sun, with heat radiating from below, dehydration and heat stress could strike a man, rendering him helpless. In another reality, a man rolled helplessly bleeding down the slope toward the edge, toward certain agony, and maybe death.

Crane on a roof. © JustHavingFun
Crane on a roof. © JustHavingFun

I’m sitting at my desk watching, waiting. I click on the “Submit” button to whisk my credentials into the big, black, maw that is the Application Machine. Another notation on my job application log, another application sent to the electronic cloud. If I am lucky, I will see an email pop up in my inbox stating the company received my application and it will be reviewed. Out of the 175 or so applications I’ve sent off, 87 replies were received, a quarter of those from the job agent I sent the application through. Only 28 companies sent a “thank you but no thank you” note indicating no further action was necessary, the job was given to someone else, I was no longer a contender. I’ve had 3 phone interviews, one leading to an in-person, on-site interview. One out of 175 is 0.57%. Quiet rejection.

I am a heavy load, dangling from a crane high, on a roof. Will I make contact with anyone? Or will I settle to the roof and have the contents removed, to be used for something constructive. Some Automated Tracking System bot parses my résumé; an “r” could invalidate me if I wrote “data manager” but the company wants someone with “data management” skills. It’s a knife-edge determination, and I don’t know the rules which change from company to company, application to application. 

Potter and vase. © JustHavingFun

Potter and vase. © JustHavingFun

I am the potter’s clay. Amorphous, my shape to be determined at her will, I’m a blob on the wheel, circling, spinning, whirling under her fingers. Whom shall I serve? What shape will I be? Where will I end up? What colors will I wear? She pinches and prods, draws me upward, but I don’t know my final configuration, destination, function, reception, toleration, utilization.

Well, it’s time to refill my coffee and get back to the search. As much as it has been fun conjuring images and playing with words this past hour, it is time to point my arrows at some targets. Again. At least I don’t have to beat on doors and get rejected to my face. 

Submit has multiple meanings. I submit my résumé, and I wait in submission. I have every confidence that my qualifications will spark interest somewhere and the job hunt will terminate, happily. But until then, some days I feel like I’m at the edge of the roof, avoiding the crane’s load; other days I feel shapeless and unformed. 

Today? I have hope.

 

Sock Earrings

Love socks? Love knitting socks? Love comfy, cozy toes? Here’s a small tribute to warm tootsies! These little earrings boast a heavenly blue dangle. Maybe I need to knit blue socks….

Sock earrings. © JustHavingFun

Happiness is My Choice, 16

I make my own frame of mind, and therefore, I choose to be contented. I want to be a force for Good. If I am dependent on others to determine my level of contentment, I will lose my serenity when (not if) they change their moods. I will cede my desires and my capability of being a source of Good, and follow the whims of others. That is not how I wish to live, nor how I see my role on the earth.

Driving, with happy thoughts. © JustHavingFun

Driving, with happy thoughts. © JustHavingFun

Yesterday I tried an experiment. I drove toward home after an appointment. The sky glowered, low and gray, and the wind whipped up a chill. From inside my cozy car, I decided to bless all I saw. I thought about each person I saw and stated something positive aloud:

  • A man sitting on the bench at a bus stop, huddled over: “Stay warm.”
  • The UPS delivery van driver coming toward me: “You help so many people.”
  • A group of teens standing at the corner after school: “Have fun with your friends.”
  • Someone getting into a car: “Drive safely.”

At each utterance, I felt a frisson of joy. I was sending good wishes, blessings, into the universe! I changed the world.

HaSameach b'Chelko: One who is happy with what he has. © JustHavingFun

HaSameach b’Chelko: One who is happy with what he has. © JustHavingFun

Focusing on the pleasant readjusts my attitude, too. I could have been vexed by the pokey driver who was somewhat erratic, seeming to pull over then come back to the center of the road. Instead, I said kindly, “I can understand your confusion, but next time, please use a signal.” I do it other times, too:

  • Hearing sirens in the distance: “I pray nobody is ill or in need. Please help them and may the responders be protected.”
  • Seeing a flock of birds whirl above: “How beautiful your flight is.”
  • Commenting on a person’s appearance: “Your hair looks so nice.”
  • A helicopter circles above: “Let the police be assisted in their duties.”
  • At an intersection: “I am glad all cars stopped and drivers are patiently waiting.”

Our words have power. When I choose to focus on the pleasant, or on the condition of others, not only do I change myself, but I also let loose power in the world. We understand that the Creator used words to create everything. Modern science shows that our thoughts change our brain biochemistry. Nothing is random, it is all connected.

So for today, I choose to manifest Goodness and Pleasantness. May my comments inspire others to be positive, embrace serenity, and be happy.

Lame lament

Broken nail, shattered dreams.

Broken nail, shattered dreams. © JustHavingFun

Woe the loss, sad is the day. My thumbnail broke.

Brittle nails that break scourge my female sensibility. Despite being an inconvenience when playing guitar, long—or in my case, even fingertip length—fingernails seemed to be a hallmark of femininity. Filing, shaping, polishing, and having colored nails announced some mastery of the feminine identity, as much as high-heeled shoes or pouffy hairstyles when I was young. Somehow this connection followed me to this stage of adulthood. Thus, the lament.

How could this be? And here, I have invested time and money into preserving its length and shape, giving it hue and shine, an armored coat of lacquer to protect it. Yet it broke, in the same place as usual, saying “nyah nyah” to the care afforded it and the color applied.

Maybe I should have chosen a stronger color than number 80, a bubblegum pink. Eighty seems not to be my lucky number. Perhaps a springy green (74), metallic studded gray (88), or armor blue-black (87) could have averted this tragedy, mishap, failure. Gold (72) for richness couldn’t have prevented a break, nor could the delicacy and fair dusting of pink sparkles in a clear background (82). But setting aside fickle numerology or the vagaries of color protection in nail polish, the fact remains that my DNA codes for brittle nails and any color would have failed me.

OPI gel color samples.

OPI gel color samples. © JustHavingFun

What genetic advantage could weak nails have afforded my great-great-great-etc.-grandmothers all the way back to Sinai? Lacking steel tweezers, tough nails could have removed splinters; minus bamboo backscratchers, they would have pleased many generations of itchy backs…. Useful for picking up nickels off counters, scraping excess paint from a canvas, making that tap tap tapping sound when drumming fingers on a tabletop….

What an impractical question, and a more impracticable answer. Weak nails just are. There’s no explanation, no justification. Having snagged on my blouse and pulled off, the nail tip fragment is now lying on my desk. I hadn’t the heart to toss it in the trash as I am writing. I’m staring at it, it is staring at me, and we are staring at each other together. It’s a stalemate.

Broken nail tip. © JustHavingFun

Broken nail tip. © JustHavingFun

It hurts, but it doesn’t hurt hurt. May this be my biggest tragedy in life. A broken nail. May we all not suffer more than a broken nail. Two broken nails even. That should be the worst thing to happen. Ever.

 

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: