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Archive for the ‘Observed’ Category

New Beginning

Last month I started a new career. Finally after a long time searching, I became another full-time busy bee in our economy. I am so very grateful. G-d is putting me in a place where I can help others and strengthen our community. I will have a chance to make a difference in peoples’ lives. And I work with some swell people.

Monarch Butterfly on Zinnia.

Monarch Butterfly on Zinnia. © JustHavingFun

I’m feeling rather enlightened. The non-profit agency I work for does way more than I’d imagined. So many dedicated people pour their hearts and souls into the various programs. Their creativity sparkles. Caring blankets their work. People from various backgrounds pull together for one cause: betterment of peoples’ lives. As I pore through the agency’s historical documents and learn about the ongoing and future programs, I’m proud by association. Look what a small group has been able to accomplish and view the future through expansive eyes as more can be helped.

This boon fell upon me as millions of people suffer: Houston’s victims of Hurricane Harvey; Florida, Cuba, and Caribbean islands from Hurricanes Irma & José; wildfires in the western states; an 8.2 magnitude earthquake in Mexico; and daily murders here in our charming Charm City. It would be easy for anyone to sit back and refrain from doing anything in this troubled time. We feel there is little we can do—even sending dollars to help the needy doesn’t feel like enough. Helpless, overwhelmed, and confused, we watch the news as it informs of another catastrophe.

I have an answer to that feeling: Do Something. Not everyone has the good fortune of working in an agency like mine, but that should not be a deterrent. Maybe she can’t help Puerto Rico, but she can volunteer in her community: driving seniors, reading to the blind, stuffing envelopes, knitting for charity. Perhaps he has skills sufficient to tutor children, repair bicycles, or make phone calls.

If everyone took on one “charitable” project, what a world of difference it would make! Just like the butterfly effect, where the proverbial butterfly flaps its wings in one hemisphere and affects weather in the opposite one, our positive acts can effect worldwide changes.

A single positive action from each one of us can change the world. I’m so fortunate that I get to see positive actions accumulating favorable results every day. Talk about new beginnings!

 

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Possibilities

Today I’m focusing on what is possible. We control an amazing force—the potential to do something! In physics, an object’s potential energy relates to its proximity to other objects. How will it act? What will it be capable of doing? What factors act upon it?

Possible Sunflower

Possible Sunflower. © JustHavingFun

As we age, we find ourselves conveyed into increasingly narrow channels. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. We become specialized. Certain decisions will collapse other options. If you turn right, you obviate the choice of turning left. If you choose fish for dinner, you will not have eaten beef. And so on.

Here’s a career choice example. You start school as a blank sheet of paper. Then you take a full slate of classes—biology, art, sociology, and computers—and one will pique your interest more than the others. In college a course in developmental biology seems fascinating. You end up working for a professor who studies chick embryo neural tube development mutations, which leads to your Ph.D. research in genetic defects that cause spina bifida. You didn’t start out to become a research scientist. You simply liked biology class and decided to pursue that area of study. At some point, access to time and resources for delving deeper into art history, organizational hierarchies, or computer natural language development, say, becomes less available. Few people have the wherewithal to pursue a second field with the same verve as their first. Or, they wait until later in life and take it on as a second career—or not at all.

But the potential still exists. Possibilities don’t vanish completely as long as intellectual curiosity propels us forward.

Every choice we make hones us and refines us in ways we can’t imagine. That doesn’t have to make us narrow people. The rhythm by which we live is not a steady, monotonous drumbeat. The rhymes we repeat to ourselves don’t all end with the same syllable. The songs we sing have more than one stanza.

Possibility opens us to different ways of looking at things: a ball of yarn becomes a sweater, a calendar photo becomes a vacation, an appeal for charity becomes a passion. Our personal potential becomes expressed because of the choices we’ve made, the roads we travel down. But the other roads still exist.

Stem cells are plenipotent; they have the capability of becoming any type of cell in the body when they mature. So, too, are humans. We are born plenipotent, able to become any type of person and fit any career, following manifold interests. The beauty of humankind though, is that once we do fit ourselves to some mold, we can branch out. We can explore our possibilities. We can expand our world to include aspects outside of our immediate circle of knowledge. We can let other aspects into our consciousness, work on them, enjoy their possibilities.

The sunflower has no choice but being a sunflower. Its fate is predetermined and set. We, however, can enjoy the variety of knowledge, reflect upon the various possibilities that the world presents us. Just because we research spina bifida doesn’t mean we’re excluded from writing songs. Our rhymes are not squelched; rather, they are enhanced by the bits and pieces that total the world of possibilities.

For today, it is possible for me to break out of my mold, to incorporate various possibilities into my life song.

 

 

Hospital Wait

I wish I had my knitting with me.

I’m at a local hospital Emergency Department. My blood sugar has been wonky and I’m out of medication. [While this could become a screed about the state of medical insurance in the United States, I will refrain from explaining how it happens that I cannot get my meds.] I need to see a doc.

Emergency Department

Emergency Department. © JustHavingFun

There are many service units here: Registration, Triage, Laboratory, Urgent care, Intermediate Care, Rapid Evaluation, etc. Monitors on the wall let you know what place you’re in. After my blood was drawn they estimated it would be 3 hours to see a doc. Well, they do need to analyze the samples….

I’m OK waiting. There’s wi-fi, and I have a phone charger so my weak battery problems won’t frustrate me in the absence of my knitting. I’m hungry, though, but they don’t want me to eat or drink. Writing is fine. So is listening to podcasts.

Waiting List

Waiting List. © JustHavingFun

Dang it! Why don’t l take my knitting with me everywhere, every time?

Fortunately I borrowed a phone charger so I don’t have to sit like a lump or watch a half-heard television show I have no interest in watching. Some people are doing nothing at all. How can people do that?

There’s an odd cross-section of humanity here. I am hot, but many patients sit wrapped in blankets. A two-year-old child runs into the Triage area and her father corrals her. She’s laughing now, but was shrieking a little while ago. Someone who looks like an older sister is braiding an African-American girl’s hair. The couple seated next to me pass a phone between them, playing a video game together.

Did I mention I potentially have a 3-hour wait?

I wish I had my knitting with me.

Postscript – Indeed it was a 3-hour wait, but there was also a 3-hour treatment & observation phase! Wouldn’t have been able to knit because an O2 sensor was attached to my index finger. Glad I found the Game Show Network and spent some time with Cash Cab, and Family Feud (oooh, love that Steve Harvey). “Survey says” … I’m tired and need to go to the pharmacy to get my prescription filled.

Can’t Go Back Home

This odd sculpture on the side of an otherwise nondescript apartment building.

“Bacchus/Dionysus” Apartments, Regent Square. © Just Having Fun

Back home. All memories seem bright until you get there:

Pittsburgh, my home, isn’t home anymore. Buildings are shabbier, streets more narrow, stores smaller, pavements more broken up, lawns weedier, properties needier. Store facades lack pizzazz, fashions seem grayer, people walk bent over, and hairstyles belong to the 1980s. Indeed, mullets haven’t died out there, and jagoffs still crowd the Parkway.

I don’t live there anymore. Home livens my dreams, though. I spent so much of my life there; it formed subterranean parts of me. But now I live in another place, sipping another culture, another state of mind.

“Home” speaks my vernacular. Home wears the gown of happy memory. Home sidewalks remember my skinned knees. Home parks have water fountains where I slurped away my thirst. Home benches remember nights I sat there looking across the river at the shining city. Home playgrounds hold my childhood.

Duquesne Incline from Carson Street

Duquesne Incline from Carson Street. Image: Dan Buczynski, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Away: We’re away from the inevitable aging, concrete crumbling, roadways growing potholes. We forget the annoyances of overflowing sewers, flooding, and road closures. Traffic cones move from site to site, an ever present landscape feature, but we lose our way among the newly created maze—new to our minds at least. “Remember where that big pothole was that they didn’t fix for a couple’a years?” We dodged it every time, and now just ride over the smooth street, the pothole a trouble only in the past.

Local politics, local concerns, don’t interest me because I’m not a part of it anymore. The hallmarks of the community, saying “yinz” and wearing shirts emblazoned with Steelers or Pirates logos, color the culture. Familiar local landmarks take on an importance they never shone with when I lived there. Pointing to repurposed buildings we remember aloud, “That’s where Isaly’s used to be;” or looking toward South Side, “J&L used to cover that entire shore of the river, before the Cheesecake Factory.”

Taylor Allderdice High School, Aerial View, circa 1930-1945 approx.

Taylor Allderdice High School, Aerial View, circa 1930-1945 approx. Image: Boston Public Library collection, CC BY-NC/2.0

I can’t go back home. The people aren’t there anymore. The “kids” I hung out with are spread across the map. They’re getting ready for retirement and buying condos in Florida. My high school’s awe-inspiring facade hides behind a blocky addition; my university has new buildings across campus. Downtown features newer, brighter buildings. Even the subway stretches to new distances, under the Allegheny River to the North Side and the stadium.

This is not MY Home anymore, but it is an extension of it—another dimension, say. If I lived there still, I would not notice the changes in the ways I do now. I would be a part of the rerouted traffic, commuting to my job without comment, or grumbing about PennDOT like everyone else. Local problems would not seem so exotic or notable the hundredth time we encountered them.

I can’t go back home, but I can look at it again like a many-faceted jewel—preserved in a museum showcase, or worn proudly on my finger—and see the lights glinting from within.

 

Impressions

A potential employer has called me in for an interview. I really want this job. What will I wear? I have a business suit for this purpose, and worn with an understated top, modest jewelry and matching accessories, it is the appropriate uniform for the occasion. I will appear to be a responsible, sober, capable person who takes this job seriously. This is not the time to express my preference for a roomy sleep shirt and bare feet. I know how to make a good impression.

Tattooed guy on the A-train.

Tattooed guy on the A-train. © JustHavingFun

How we are exposed to things creates impressions. The frequency, the popularity, the acceptability seem to grow proportionately. I remember a time when a boy with an earring was a rarity, a rebellious type to be avoided. Now? I’ve seen guys with dangly earrings as well as holes as big as quarters in their lobes. And tattoos? I’d heard stories growing up about crusty, tattooed sailors. It wasn’t considered to be suitable for nice folks. Now they’re all the rage.

First impressions count—it’s not just a worn adage. The subtlety of impressions cannot be emphasized enough. They get worn into our brains, drip by drip, until an impression is formed. Like water on a rock, with time enough, a path can be carved. The Grand Canyon proves this theory.

Impressions are also formed by the media. What we consume as humor and entertainment become realities. Like mouthy, bratty, know-it-all kids. Remember the fantasy of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show? I can’t imagine Opie being mouthy without consequences. Or Richie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Nowadays children on sitcoms mouth off and are bratty, and that is considered normal. Not in my house, honey. If my kids had been as fresh as those on TV, they’d have had what to be upset about.

SNL Screenshot

Screenshot. © NBC

What happens when the media steps past a societal boundary, more than just a breach of good taste? Saturday Night Live last week ran a skit that I thought pushed the boundary too hard. Here’s what I sent to NBC as a comment on the show:

DESPICABLE. That’s the “World’s Most Evil Invention” skit from 5/20/17. Child molestation must NEVER be exploited for humor, never mind ironic use. Yes, the behavior is really, really evil, but it’s no laughing matter. When SNL uses child abuse for humorous purposes, it diminishes the horror of the act, the level of sickness it embodies. Child sexual abuse should be verboten, like rape, making fun of handicapped people, or even saying the “N-word.” Push the envelope, but use restraint.

There are certain things we should not joke about or hint at in humorous settings. I draw the line at child sexual abuse. I shudder to think that this evil act can be made as acceptable as tattoos. I don’t think I’m over-reacting. The more people are exposed to things, the more “normal” they seem and the less sensitive they become to those topics. I like to think that we are a society that wants to be good and do right. In order to do that, we need to make the right impression on ourselves. Think about that. How do we do that?

The media have a lot of power. As I’ve said before, whether you love him or revile him, Donald Trump is the President of the United States. Most of the photos I’ve seen of the President show a snarling, warped visage. The camera seems always trained on him mid-grimace. Perhaps if the media were to show him smiling, some of the rancor would diminish.

Likewise, if the media were to treat actions like rape, sexual abuse, sexual trafficking, child molestation, death by gunshot, and other acts of horror seriously and not gloss over them, perhaps there would be more attention paid to the plight of the victims.

Just saying. I’m really worked up about this topic and there is no room for humor about it. There are some things that cannot become commonplace or humorous.

Rack Attack

Sometimes I get an urge to buy clothing. Not often, because it’s hard to recover from sticker shock. I keep thinking that I should just buy the fabric and make the little schmatte for a quarter of the cost–not that I do so. It goes against my grain to consider paying $80 for a simple skirt. Ah, but doers do and critics squawk. I dislike the experience of buying clothes so much so I prefer to kvetch instead.

I was at Target and passed the Women’s clothing section. Normally I wouldn’t even stop, my eyes squinting in the distance for Housewares or Pharmacy, but I was in no rush. Every once in a while I open my wallet under that happy fluorescent retail lighting for items other than toilet paper or cough medicine.

Ironic Rack-Mates

Ironic Rack-Mates, © JustHavingFun

[As an aside: For those of you not familiar with female clothes shopping, “Women’s” sizes are also called plus size. This department is usually smallish and tucked behind the more prominent “Misses” (i.e., so-called normal-sized departments). We’re bigger but our retail footprint is smaller. There are more of us than ever before, too. But it doesn’t make clothes shopping a way happier experience for me. More on size acceptance, body-shaming, and “fatshion” at another time.]

Clearance Sign

Clearance” by Damian Gadal, used under CC BY 2.0

I wound my way toward the back: I saw the clearance racks. No new styles for me, no sir. If it’s not on sale, I don’t even look. Thirty percent off! Seventy percent off! Would I strike gold? Is there a bargain waiting for me? I doubted it but expertly strode to my goal.

What I saw struck me in the oddest way.

The white plastic clothing hangers have beautiful, brightly colored tabs on their tops showing the sizes. (Thank you, Target!) That’s an improvement over other stores and a balm for the shopping experience. I know I can ignore all of the green and fuchsia hangers and zero in on the blue or orange ones, say. At this particular Target store the staff is diligent about hanging the correctly sized clothing on their corresponding hangers. Pleasantly tidy racks greeted me instead of them looking like a typhoon raced through the department. (You’ve been there after women shop hard. Things can go flying!) But that was not the case here. No, something more insidious was happening on the racks.

Somebody didn’t think through how the plus-size shopper would be affected seeing size 00 jeggings and skinny pants adjacent to 4XL blouses! Red alert! Ironic rack attack!

Is it just me? Is it that nobody else notices things like this? When did size double zero become a thing? And finally, what the heck are jeggings?

CBS News Feedback

Sick of Israel-bashing. We must speak up when we see wrong being perpetrated. Language cements ideas in peoples’ minds.

If you repeat a lie enough times, it becomes the truth.
The Big Lie

I sent the following note to CBS News after seeing the referenced article. Borrowing language from D. Lubinsky’s letter and CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America)  analyst Gilead Ini, I was emboldened to add my voice in protest.

I urge all of you to speak up when you see Israel being maligned in the media. Drop by drop water can wear a hole even in impervious stone. It goes both ways.


To CBS News,
RE: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/israel-jewish-settlement-homes-palestinian-west-bank-trump/

The title of the above-referenced article, “Israel okay’s 2,500 new Jewish homes in Palestinian territory,” unfairly labels land in Israel as belonging to Palestinians. This is biased and inflammatory language. The photo illustration shows the city of Maaleh Adumim, and in the caption identifies it as “the West bank Jewish settlement.”

Why do you refer to “Palestinian territory” rather than “disputed land” or even “occupied West Bank”? Why does the CBS News use such distorted terms against Israel and no other country?

There never was a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Jordan controlled that land until 1967 and did not refer to it as “Palestinian territory.”

Biased language that accepts Palestinian territorial claims as fact while ignoring reasonable arguments to the contrary should be avoided by impartial news sources. Journalists are not judges sitting in international courts. It is not for them to unilaterally solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I am ashamed at the lack of objectivity shown by the once august CBS News organization. I hope the article’s title will be edited online to contain less nuanced language.

This type of “reporting” only fans the flames of hate. Be a part of the solution CBS, not the problem.

A copy of this has been sent to CAMERA.


Words can build; words can also create devastation. Let’s be builders rather than destroyers.

Open Letter to NPR

I listen to NPR programming throughout the day and am struck how there has been little mention, if any, of the fires consuming Israel for the past week. Certainly this maelstrom has not been mentioned at the top of the hour news briefs. News about Syria, however, has been reported in that brief time. On the Middle East section of your website, as of this writing on 29 November, the latest story is dated 24 November: “Tens Of Thousands Evacuate As Wildfires Rage In Haifa, Israel” presented on All Things Considered, elapsed time 2 minutes 59 seconds.

The “Fire Intifada” wrecked thousands of lives. A warped, desperate culture of violence spawned this destructive and terrifying activity. NPR apparently chooses to report on Israel only when it can point a critical finger at Israelis. NPR serves as the battlefield for this image war, but NPR chooses the rules.

beit-meir-fires-credit-jerusalem-post-courtesy-israel-police

Beit Meir fires. Photo credit: Jerusalem Post, courtesy of Israel Police.

There have been many more fires since that time. Residents from the small town of Beit Meir, 9 miles from Jerusalem off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, were evacuated in the middle of the night. To be fair, apparently a flare fired by Israeli border guard troops set off the fire during while they chased suspicious individuals. But what were those people doing there? Fire engorged the sole entrance of the town.  Over 100 families, and dozens of boys residing at the yeshiva, fled in the pre-dawn hours.

Footage of arson, West Bank. Credit- Israel Nature and Parks Authority.jpg

(Video) Footage of arson, West Bank. Photo credit: Jerusalem Post, Courtesy of Israel Nature and Parks Authority

Indeed, arson is the cause of some of Israel’s fires, the so-called “Arson Intifada.” At least 35 suspects have been arrested on suspicion of arson this past week, and there is video evidence of an arsonist setting fire in the northwestern Etzion region. To date, over 100,000 people have been displaced—innocent civilians—and thousands of homes damaged or destroyed.

Certainly this maelstrom was not mentioned in the top of the hour news briefs. News about Syria was reported in that short time, so it can’t be an issue of NPR not reporting international news. Furthermore, on 27 November, 4 minutes 40 seconds were dedicated to “Abused Animals Find Refuge In A New Sanctuary In Jordan” on All Things Considered. Sheesh!

Indeed today, Israeli troops at a West Bank checkpoint stopped 3 Palestinians who were trying to start a blaze near Ariel in Central Israel. I consider that to be relevant news.

NPR reported on 3 deaths caused by wildfires near Gatlinburg today. I do not mean to diminish the devastation experienced by those people in the least, nor minimize the suffering and loss of the residents, but that tragedy pales in scope compared to what is happening in Israel—except it is US news.

NPR’s Middle East reporting is so unbalanced. NPR seems to only publish news about alleged Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. With this recent rash of fires, NPR had the opportunity to congratulate the many countries that assisted Israel in fighting the fires—including Russia, Turkey, Greece, France, Spain, and the US. That was a true gap in coverage.

NPR get your act together. Report news about Israel fairly, because in the end, you shape public opinion.

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No Second Thoughts

As happy as a cat being toweled dry after a bath.

This is how I feel. “Towel Dry” by Christina Welsh, used under CC BY-ND 2.0

How would I describe this presidential election season?

I choose from a whole slew of adjectives at hand to choose from—endless, tiring, shameful, contentious, disgusting, embarrassing, slimy, frightful, and jading to name a few—but irritating fits the bill as well as any. It’s bland enough to go about with your daily business but strong enough to worry at like a hangnail. For in the end, I am convinced that there is not much I can do to avoid the choice between awful and terrible.

I feel twitchy, restless, and apprehensive. Really irritated. So much so that this morning, Election Day, I dare not turn on the radio. I don’t want to hear the pundits. This has been going on too long. The process is broken. The trial balloons started rising in 2014, fer gosh sakes. That’s two years ago! I wish they had popped and never left the ground. I cast them in lead and drown their first-born. I salt their earth and inveigh the wrath of the Heaven against the universe that spawned them.

Figuratively, that is.

Meditation may help soothe me. I will gaze outside my windows, admire the gaily colored leaves adorning the trees, and breathe in (noting the position of my shoulders and rib cage), then breathe out (modulating the velocity of my breath). I will remember my Lamaze training—which I usually conjure during dental work—and go somewhere far away, a pleasant place, where calm and tranquility reign, and the only thing to mar the surface of the lake is the occasional ripple from a gentle breeze. I will cast my mind to far above the clouds, to the Moon perhaps, where eons make a difference, and a footstep on its surface will be evident for centuries to come. Breathe in, blow out, huff puff blow—this baby better be worth it!

I will vote today. My vote won’t count as I’m not in a “swing state” but indeed, I will vote; we’re choosing a mayor here, did you hear? No? Me neither. I listen to public radio and talk shows but there’s not much political news about anyone except the top guy and gal. How do I make an informed decision then?

I hope I won’t have second thoughts about my choices in the election booth years down the road. I hope my country will survive this battle, growing closer together rather than stockpiling worse epithets and stronger artillery for the next bout in 2020 [for which the blasted trial balloons will start to rise even earlier, I suspect].

The future as I see it, stormy weather ahead. © Batya7, Just Having Fun

The future as I see it, stormy weather ahead. © Batya7, Just Having Fun

I’m planning to avoid the news until tomorrow morning. I will wake up like any other day, switch on  my computer and walk away to prepare a cup of coffee. After taking my vitamins, I will return to my desk with a cup of hot solace and breathe in the aroma. Breathe in, hold it, then gently let it out.

Pain free

Time Heals Most

I don’t think more reps can help this one.

I want a pain free day. No itches, no strains, no numbness, no aches, no headaches, no bumps, no tingles nor twinges. What an original thought!

I slept funny a few weeks ago and got a “crink” in my neck. It really put a crink in my life; it hurt to move, sit, stand, lie, and worse-type! I felt like such a whiner, but I couldn’t help it.The pain distracted me from my normal enjoyment of simple things like the breezes coming through the open windows and seeing the leaves change color. Pain tossed a thick veil over my sunny disposition and left a miserable, soggy grouch.

Other people get banged up and carry on normally it seems. Me, I get a paper cut and I’m in agony. For days. My boo boos grow boo boos and I’m the only one who can kiss them better. Poor me-bring out the sappy violin music.

I’m sure it’s a test from Above. I grew the discipline to say “rats” instead of something stronger. That alone is a gift.

Thankfully miracles do happen and angels in the form of physical therapists guide me to relief. Only compassionate people can be PTs. Yeah it hurts, they affirm, but we’re going to get you moving. Time – and doing plenty of reps – heals all… or most.

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