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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mental Meanderings

Don't you just love it when you do something that ends up spreading more happiness than you imagined it possibly could? Last night I saw an adorable meme on one social media site that I knew would appeal to a dear friend who is on a different social media site. If you're curious, it was a picture of a sleeping beagle, focusing on the face, and said that a beagle was a nose on four legs. I know that Ali has shared her heart and home with beagles, and she was the first person I thought of when I saw the meme. Within a minute, I had downloaded it to my phone and posted it on the other network.

To my great delight, Ali loved the picture, and it made her think of one of her beagles' antics. She told me that one morning she had put her son's cereal bowl on a table, as was her usual habit, and gone to wake him up. When she came back to put some cartoons on the tv for him, Sparky the beagle was happily enjoying a bowl of oatmeal and milk. Apparently Sparky was usually asleep when the cereal was set out, but this time, he saw the bowl go on the table. And when he saw it, he just assumed that she had put it there for him. She also observed that the comment about the nose was right - Sparky would have walked across her state and mine following his nose, and never lifted his head until supper time.

When I read this, I could hear Snoopy singing his "Suppertime" song from the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I quoted a bit of the chorus, which she used to sing to her dog (adorable!) and then went to YouTube looking for a video. Ali beat me to it, but I was so happy to have had a part in helping her recall some warm memories of her dear Sparky. I spent a good part of the evening with a big smile on my face because I love it when something like that happens. Being the kind and considerate person that I have always known her to be, Ali was worried that she had hijacked the post with her comments. To the contrary, her comments made my day. Anyone who has had the sort of relationship with a pet that leaves behind all sorts of delightful memories just waiting to be stumbled upon knows how delightful these unexpected moments can be.  

After reading about Sparky and his cereal, I remembered a young Paris helping herself as well. When she was just a few months old, I was drinking some orange juice out of a margarita-style glass. I set it on the flat wooden arm of my chair and went into the kitchen to get something. As I looked up from the kitchen counter, I saw that Paris had jumped up on the chair to see what it was that her mommy had left behind. Here was my little girl, drinking orange juice out of my glass and not spilling a drop. It was so cute that I couldn't be mad at her, although I did make her stop drinking. This was the beginning of a lifelong love of oranges and their juice on her part. In fact, there were a couple of instances when she stole plastic cups of juice that Trent left next to the bed while he was dealing with a cold. We caught her once, red-handed (or red-pawed), with the glass in her mouth, trying to see around it to jump down off the bed. When she got there, what juice hadn't spilled would be lapped out of the glass which she placed very carefully on the floor.

She was also notorious for occasionally helping herself to things in shopping bags that she was certain were hers. Paris was very bright and therefore very curious. Every time we went shopping, she did her best to check out the contents of any and all shopping bags. Since she weighed all of eight and a half pounds, she occasionally climbed in the bags to make sure she was getting a good look. The first time she helped herself was when we got her a specially prepared bone at the grocery store. We were upset when we got home and it wasn't in any of our grocery bags because we were looking forward to seeing our poodle revel in her wolf ancestry when she got her treat. Just when we decided that the bone was gone forever, she came trotting proudly down the hall with her shrink-wrapped bone. "Look what I have!" her posture seemed to say.

When we left today to go to the grocery store, our neighbor was coming back from walking her West Highland Terrier. When Trent went to pat his head, the dog decided that Trent's mittens were a toy to be grabbed and played with. It made us chuckle because it reminded us of Paris and her shopping bag selections. When Trent bought a warm winter cap with ear flaps, he had a hard time convincing Paris that it was not a toy that we had picked up for her. She was upset and almost indignant when he took it back from her and put it on his head. I'm pretty sure that we made up for it a few days later by buying her a small toy and letting her take it out of the shopping bag herself. I understood exactly how Trent felt, though, having had to follow her around the house and explain that the small box of tampons that she was carrying around were indeed for females, just not for canine females.

I am hoping that my meanderings down Memory Lane have given you something to chuckle about. What I really hope, though, is that my memory meanderings have awakened some of your own. Some things are just too precious to be kept sitting on the shelf. Enjoy them. Let them warm your heart when the world feels like a cold, dark night. And when your oatmeal or orange juice goes missing, you may want to check on the dog...



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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Mass Confusion

I'm fascinated with the way our experiences can shape not only our behaviors but our tastes. That's probably also why I love the moments when a light bulb goes on in my head and I realize why I feel the way I do about something, or why I think the way I do about something. I had two flashing light bulbs within two days this week, both related to the Christmas holiday.

A couple of days ago, someone ended a post on social media by observing that a certain song was not a Christmas carol. Being familiar with the song in question, I totally agreed. I wanted to comment about a song I have heard on the Christmas playlist of one of our Denver radio stations. Neither Trent nor I consider this a Christmas song, and are always a bit stymied when we hear it on the radio amidst the holiday music marathon. The song I am referring to is Julie Andrews singing "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. Although the song is about things that make the person feel better, I don't think of it as a Christmas tune.

The person to whom I had replied responded that it didn't bother her to hear it played as a Christmastime song. Huh, I thought. I've always thought of that as a summertime song. Flash! The light bulb came on in my head. When I was a new teen (or an almost-teen), one of the local movie theaters was playing The Sound of Music for several weeks during the summer. I don't know if it was an official re-release or a shrewd deal on the part of the theater, but I didn't care. My friends and I must have seen the movie at least five times. Well, at least four, but I know we went to see it at every opportunity. Suddenly everything made sense. Since I saw it in the theater so much during that magical summer, it became a summertime movie in my mind. I imagine it may always be that way in my thoughts, but I am okay with that.

The other thing had to do with my brain's confusion regarding Christmas Day. While we were on our travels yesterday in rapidly-falling snow, I made the remark to Trent that the timing of the storm was inconvenient because we had to go to a doctor's appointment the next day. Trent gently reminded me that it was Friday and the doctor's appointment was on Monday. Why do I always seem to think that Christmas is a Sunday?

Again with the light bulb. I don't remember what it was like with my parents in Chicago, but Alice and Bill always went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. In some dim area of my mind, Christmas=church=Sunday. Hey, it's not genius quality, but it's my brain and I intend to keep it. Incidentally, I was never a big fan of Midnight Mass, and was quite relieved when I found that Gram didn't care for it very much either, relieving me of the dreaded occasion. It wasn't the Mass that bothered me. I appreciated all of the ceremony and joyous reverence. The priest walked down the aisle with incense, filling the air with a scent that told our brains that it was, indeed, Christmas.

What I hated was the bigger picture. It was the middle of the night and even though you were excited for Christmas, you were also very tired. You were roused up and got dressed in your best and warmest dress. Boots were pulled on, along with hats, gloves, and scarves. The church, which was very well heated, was full almost beyond capacity. So there you were, in a very hot church full of all of the people that only went once or twice a year. The pews were packed and people were standing in the back. Although I was allowed to remove my gloves and unbutton my coat, I had to keep everything on in that horribly hot church. As the Mass progressed, the church and I both got hotter and hotter. I felt sicker and sicker. Heaven forbid that I get sick, though! It would end up with punishment from Alice, perhaps even a beating accompanied by her litany of me doing stupid things like this because I just wanted to get attention. Whatever kind of attention she was giving, I didn't want it. I tried very hard to keep it together so that I'd still be able to get some gifts from Santa.

So I learned the reasons behind a couple of my mental quirks this week. Like I said, I will probably still feel summery when I hear Julie Andrews singing, but maybe I will also have memories of a delightful summer watching a wonderful movie. As far as Christmas, maybe I can reverse the Mass confusion some day. It could be worse, though. I could have a mental mixup that turned Christmas into a Monday... 





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Monday, December 21, 2015

Not A Dummy

I think we all have things, whether large or small, that can push our buttons and really irritate the living tar out of us. I could name various things that irritate me, and I'm sure that you could name a few things that irritate you as well. Please say that you can - if not, I'll feel like the title of The Meanest Woman in the World really does belong to me!

I've had several reminders lately of something that irritaties me to the point of great anger. I hate to be treated like I'm a dummy. No, not the kind that a ventriloquist uses, but the kind that must have a brain like Swiss cheese, with all kinds of voids where knowlege and information should be. And no, I don't have any misconceptions about my level of intelligence. I am of at least average intelligence, and have quite varied interests. In fact, when I was young and Gram would brag about my report card or me being in the State spelling bee or being an honor graduate, it made me terribly uncomfortable. I felt embarrassed to be praised, perhaps because of the many times that Alice, my legal guardian's wife, told me what an idiot I was. She also often told me, after being sick or skinning a knee, or who knows what, that I just wanted attention. With those things in mind, I suppose it makes sense that the praise and attention made me feel uncomfortable.

The other side of that coin for me, apparently, seems to be a deep seated resentment for anyone who tries to treat me as if I am an idiot, or far less intelligent than they are. Personally, I find educated people who act as though everyone else is stupid to be completely vile and revolting. Heck, that's one of the reasons that I like Doctor Mike and all of Trent's doctors so much. They have many years of in-depth education but they never talk to us as if our little brains are too weak to understand. And if you think about it, if they can't make their patients understand what they're talking about, maybe they aren't the smartest people on the planet after all. You simply speak clearly in terms your audience can understand. If the audience is a national physicians' convention, your vocabulary will undoubtedly contain more scientifice jargon than an office visit with the average patient.

Years ago, when I was working in telephone customer service for a large banking corporation, a job which I really loved, I knew how important it was to explain things in a way that was simple for the caller to understand. Sometimes the caller was a customer who had very little experience as a banking customer, and other times the caller was a bank employee from another department. Because of their varied experiece levels, the exact same information might be relayed to two different people in entirely different ways. Making sure that the caller understood the situation was what it was all about.

I'll never forget the call I got from an attorney who assumed that since she had earned her Doctorate of Jurisprudence, she was far superior intellectually to some drone who worked in a banking call center. Having two attorneys in my family, I knew that they're just people like everyone else. Her voice was filled with disdain as she asked a question, assuming that I was just too dumb to waste time and breath on because, well, just because. Having been repeatedly called an idiot and a fool by the wife of a brilliant attorney during my childhood, this really got my dander up. So I released my inner smartaleck and let her run free. "Well, ma'am, in a matter such as this, X Bank will assume no culpability whatsoever." Silence. Then her reply of, "You're not stupid, are you?" I answered calmly that no, I wasn't, and in fact, many of us in the call center were college students or graduates. The rest of the call was a delight, and I felt that maybe I had opened someone's eyes as well as striking a blow in the war against making assumptions.

What made me write this tonight? Trent received a telephone message requesting he call our online pharmacy about a prescription that we had requested to be refilled. Heck, I'm going to refill everything I can before January rolls around and we're once again subject to the dreaded deductible. Now, I am the one who gets online or on the phone and orders all of our medications. Trent had no idea what I had even ordered. Okay, he had an idea, but you get the picture. Well, the young man I spoke with felt compelled to test my knowledge of the medications that had been ordered, even though my name is on the same plan. I felt my temper simmer as he asked if my husband knew I was calling (yes, he was sitting less than three feet away from me). Trent was about to blow up when he heard the sly superiority when I was told that I had neglected to name one of the refills that had been requested. Yes, I forgot the one that has the name that's easiest to pronounce. From there it went downhill, including him tossing out a snide, "I didn't say B, I said D." Ugh. 

I am now over the anger I freely admit experiencing from the phone call this morning. I'm not a great intellect and I won't go down in history as an incredible philosopher, but I do know a few things. We are all worthy of courtesy. Everyone is different, and we don't know what amazing surprises may be hidden in the treasure room that is their mind. I believe that life is much more pleasant if you don't assume stupidity, among other things. Most everyone I know is not a dummy. And I certainly don't think that I am!




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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sloshed! The Sequel

I was going to write last evening, but the internet connection here was very odd last night. From one moment to the next, there was no telling whether the internet would be connected or not. It got to the point of having ten minutes on, ten minutes off, then four and a half minutes on and ten minutes off - it was enough to drive me crazy. As those of you who have been with me a while know, at least it's a very short drive. Since all of you were so kind as to listen to my tale of bad test results and having to drink so much fluid that my eyeballs were floating, I thought it would be polite to follow up with some results.

I mentioned that there were some results that made it seem as though my kidneys were declining in function. As I mentioned in the previous post, I don't want to travel that road again. On November 30, my blood pressure was 130/86, which was a bit too high. When I came back for my blood draw on December 9, it was 118/66 which is wonderful. Wow, I thought, these results are going to be good!

Yesterday the last few results finally came in. My blood sugar was nice and low for a diabetic, coming in at 89. I won't bore you with more numbers than are necessary, but one of the results Doctor Mike had his eye on was my uric acid levels. I had told him I'd had two attacks of gout within one week, and if uric acid builds up, attacks of gout happen. It's quite painful because the crystals of uric acid collect in the joints, so it's like having stuff grinding inside your joints. It hurts as bad as it sounds. If it happens too frequently, it can cause joint damage, so we need to keep on top of it. (An interesting side note: According to Dr. Mike, colchicine, a drug that was generic and used to treat gout, had come to a point of needing more testing to be re-patented or some such thing that makes no sense to me. The company didn't want to spend for testing and now another company has done so. The drug is now called Colcrys and costs tons of money. Sound familiar? Drug companies, ugh!) Anyway, my uric acid level decreased from 11.4 to 7.5. It's still a tad high, but a huge step in the right direction, yay!

The test that was really a cause for concern was my serum creatinine level. Creatinine is a byproduct of muscle metabolism that is excreted by the kidneys. If the creatinine level is too high, it is an indication that kidney function is impaired. With me also being diabetic, there is additional stress on the kidneys, well, on all of the body parts, really. If there was a decrease in kidney function, we'd have to re-evaluate my whole diabetic treatment program as most of the pills are metabolized in the kidneys. I was not looking forward to going through another period of trial and error to find an effective diabetic medication, especially since my sugar levels have been doing so well.

Normal creatinine levels for females, depending on your source material, run from about 0.6 to 1.3. 1.0 or lower is the magic number Trent and I have aimed for ever since we heard of creatinine. Back when I was diagnosed with lupus, the readings were done as 1.1, 1.2, etc. Now they go two numbers past the decimal point. I've been told that a good way to think of it is that when the number increases from 1.2 to 1.3, for example, that actually means the function has gotten ten times worse. So when I went from 0.92 to 1.22, I was every bit as concerned as Doctor Mike was. The good news is that it went back down to 1.02, which is a very respectable number that would make most nephrologists happy as far as Trent's case and mine are concerned.

I'm sharing these possibly boring results with you for a number of reasons. I certainly have nothing to brag about, but everything to celebrate. Numbers can change. When they do so quickly and in the undesired direction, they are a sobering reminder that we need to remember to take care of ourselves, especially when we feel great. The human body is an amazing and resilient thing, but it is also a delicate one. When one thing goes out of balance, it can have an impact on the entire body. And I can attest to the effect it can have on the mind with stress and worry as well. 

Guard your health, whether it is robust or suffering some challenges, like a precious gift. It can change quickly when we're busy paying attention to other things. As I have said before, one of the best wishes I can give to you or anyone is very simple. Be well! And as always, I hope that you will be happy. 

p.s. As Doctor Mike said in his notes on my test results, keep hydrated!



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The Tip Jar:

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sloshed!

First and foremost, I would like to state emphatically that I am not intoxicated. In fact, I am not even on the road to being intoxicated. I am, however, drinking pretty heavily tonight, and have been all day as well. Are you intrigued by this set of possibly conflicting statements? Well, then, sit down for a few minutes and I'll explain everything to you.

Many years ago, when I was diagnosed with lupus, my kidneys were failing. If you aren't sure about what lupus is, it's an autoimmune disease. There are times when the body's immune system starts up and doesn't know when to stop. For someone with lupus, the immune system can and will attack any or all systems of the body. This includes the skin, muscles, and organs, including the brain and nervous system. Lupus is often considered The Great Imitator because the symptoms can be like those associated with many other diseases. 

In my case, I went to the hospital on a Sunday afternoon because my chest hurt so much the night before that I couldn't sleep. When I called Doctor Mike he told me that I needed to get in right away. Well, it turns out that I was retaining so much water that my weight was up 25 pounds and my lungs were filling with fluid. A biopsy a few days later showed that my immune cells were trying to kill my kidneys. It took a good long while and steroids and chemotherapy, but my kidneys were spared with only slight damage.

Now I am a diabetic, and that can cause problems for lots of body parts too, including the kidneys. When I had blood tests in July, my kidney function was phenomenal. I mean better than it has been in all of the years since I learned about the names and numbers and what they meant. In October, however, there was a bit of a jump in the wrong direction as far as my kidney function numbers were concerned. Doctor Mike said that it might be because of dehydration, but that we needed to check it again and protect my kidneys.

I had a visit with Doctor Mike last week and he said he wanted to do a blood draw to check on my kidney functions. His question was whether or not I was sufficiently hydrated for a proper reading. I knew I wasn't, so I scheduled to come back for a date with the needle. "I want you sloshing," Doctor Mike said. "You need to be drinking three liters of fluid a day."

Yikes. I am a chronic under-hydrator. I'm sure that it has a lot to do with spending years working in customer service and retail positions. Employers tend to not like it when you have to vacate the area or phone line frequently to have a tinkle. I trained myself to not let it interfere with my job, and now not drinking enough has become an unhealthy habit.

Tomorrow is my blood draw. I am trying really, really hard to drink a lot of fluid today. I'm at about 2 1/2 liters, and I have to say it's a real pain. I have been trying to drink several swallows every 10 to 15 minutes. When it started to get late in the afternoon, Trent asked what I felt like having for dinner. Honestly, my stomach is so full of drink that I can hardly think of eating any food. It's the drinking equivalent of eating too much Thanksgiving dinner. My stomach is so full of liquid, if anyone bumps into me, I will make a sloshing sound. It's so full of liquid, it's a wonder I can even breathe.

That's not even the best part. I can't get more than ten feet away from the bathroom because I have to pee every twenty minutes! Hang on a second, it's time for me to take six more swallows. And yes, I went before I started writing, and have already had to take a potty break. And I may need to go again before I finish writing this post. It may be a very unrestful night.

My complaints are partly in jest. My kidneys are very important to me. Also, we already have one kidney transplant patient in the house, and we don't need another. I am taking this more seriously than this post might make it seem. I've been down the impaired function road before, and that's a trip I don't want to take again. Please send me some positive thoughts for this blood draw tomorrow. I'd love to get a call from Mike in a couple of days saying that it was a false alarm and that my kidneys are doing their job and doing it well. We shall see what happens. In the meantime, I'm going to take a few more swallows. And then I have to go. No, really, I mean it, I have to GO!

Yours truly,
The (Sloshed and) Raving Lunatic


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Thank you for reading! 

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Opposite Effect

I've noticed recently that I seem to be living with the vagaries of The Opposite Effect. Actually, we all live under that effect from time to time, and I've had little bouts of it all through my life. Lately, though, I seem to be on a roll. I recently wrote a post in which I expressed my desire to enter the golden and glorious portion of womanhood known as menopause. Well, wouldn't you know it, that ship has since sailed full steam out of the port without me either on board or even on the passenger manifest. Heck, I wasn't even on the pier waving and calling bon voyage. Oh, well.

I've also written recently that one of the ailments that I hate above most others is vomiting. If given the choice I think I'd just rather not. Well, here's how that one played out. When I wrote my last post (6 days ago! you'll understand why it's been so long in just a moment) I did a few things on the computer and decided to make some popcorn. I walked into the kitchen and popped the corn, melted and drizzled the butter, salted, grabbed some napkins, and headed back to share some with Trent. When I sat down, I realized that I was suddenly feeling strangely tired. The kind of tired that means you need to get to bed really soon unless you really enjoy ferocious headaches.

I told Trent that I thought I needed to get to bed early (it was about 8:30 in the evening at this point) because I was feeling pretty worn out. He was surprised but didn't object to the early bedtime. As I munched on the popcorn, I began to realize that my tummy wasn't very happy. What an understatement! By 8:45 I was yakking, barfing, hurling, whatever you want to call it. It was the violent kind of sicking up that makes every muscle hurt, even down to your wrists. It was so bad that my diaphragm hurt three days later. My head was splitting. I may not eat popcorn, one of my favorite foods, for another year or more. But I retained my sense of humor!

I called to Trent from the bathroom, "Okay, here's the thing, honey. I write about menopause and the opposite happens. I write about hating to barf and the opposite happens. I think maybe it's time for me to write about how much I would hate to win loads of money in a sweepstakes or lottery or whatever!" Trent laughed and said that maybe that was what I needed to do. Therefore, with tongue firmly planted in cheek at the beginning, at least, I am about to write about some things that I would "hate" to have to endure. Opposite Effect, are you listening?

I really think it would be awful to win some money. I can't imagine anything so boring as having no debt unless it's going to the supermarket and just grabbing things off of shelves and tossing them into the shopping cart without any concern for the cost. I'd far rather have to make the decision on whether to buy item A or item B and put off buying item C until next pay period. And being able to give to others...well, you get the picture, I think. 

Being healthy is probably highly overrated as well. If Trent and I, and others that we know or don't know, were free of pain and illness, just imagine what would happen! There would be doctors without people to cure. Pharmaceutical companies would lose billions of dollars, and insurance companies would have fewer claims to review and refuse fulfill. It might result in utter chaos.

And then there's the whole world peace thing. Imagine what would happen if people just decided to live and let live. If people decided that their faith, or non-faith, was not the only path that was reasonable or possible in this life. If they came to embrace the things that we all have in common and realized that most of us want the same things in life. If they realized that all humans have basic needs for food, shelter, security, and things to believe in, whether they be gods or science or art or literature or even nothing at all. What on earth would happen? Feelings of fear and hate would be replaced with feelings of love and acceptance. Instead of pushing one another away or killing others for not being exactly as we are, we would try to learn from each others' lives and experiences and cultures. Are you listening, Opposite Effect? Please listen. Maybe we need you more than we think.




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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Turning On A Dime

I think all of us have moments from time to time that have us shaking our heads or making little silly comments. For me, this often inspires the writing of a blog post. Depending on my readers' opinions of said posts, this could either be good or bad. I will, of course, leave that up to you.

Is it just me (actually us, as Trent is in the same mindset), or do you have moments during driving/riding in automobiles that just make you shake your head in dismay and wonder? We had a moment recently that had that effect on both of us. We had just pulled out of our parking spot at a local shopping center and were attempting to turn onto one of the driving lanes to exit. That's when we almost got smooshed by a big, shiny Lexus. It was in the middle of the two-lane thoroughfare before turning into the lane we were occupying. The driver had swung wide to make a left turn into the parking lane. After we recovered from the fear of nearly being smashed by a larger car, we observed that the driver apparently thought that their car was so huge that they had to swing wide to make the left turn into the driving lane. Or maybe they were afraid of an invisible curb causing a curb check? I had the problem figured out in a flash. "Trent, it's simple," I said. "It's a fancy, expensive car. Older, less expensive cars like ours can turn on a dime, but this one is more expensive, so it can only turn on a dollar." Problem solved.

A few weeks ago, the powers that be decided that the main thoroughfares of the shopping center that houses our supermarket, and several restaurants that serve wonderful deliciousness, needed to be resurfaced. When we saw that the project was starting, we were thrilled. I can say without reservation that there were holes in there that could have swallowed a human adult on a bicycle. Or at least big enough to let an entire automobile tire sink in six or twenty inches. I've been on smoother rollercoasters that were shut down for being dangerous.

As I said, we were thrilled. Until the slalom event began at the shopping center. In skiing and snowboarding, slalom refers to a course that zigs and zags as the skiers/boarders go through gates on their fast journey downhill. We made the bad decision to get some food from one of the restaurants in the center on a lovely Saturday afternoon. We saw that it was quite a challenge to get from one side of the center to the other, but Trent was undeterred. We set off down a sideways route to our destination. As we turned the first corner, we both gasped as we saw a huge pickup headed straight at us. This was one of those gigantic pickups that, if you were standing next to it you wouldn't be able to see over the hood. The driver remembered that this is the USA, not the UK and that we drive on the right, not the left, and we were unscathed.  But here's the thing. Every single person that we saw, and we saw several going the opposite direction, was driving in the middle or the wrong side of the road. I don't know what it is about road contruction that makes so many drivers lose their stinking minds. Although I am not a drinker, I had my UK moment when I got home. I was wishing I had the British cure-all, a glass of brandy, to calm my nerves. I made do with food, and we avoided the shopping center for a week or two.

We found ourselves back at that same shopping center today. We like the effect the holiday season has on people during their comings and goings. You see people taking turns, allowing others to turn in front of them, or having someone follow them to a soon-to-be-vacated parking spot. It's inspiring. It's also missing right now. We were lucky to simply observe this time around, but we decided that we hadn't received the news of the new holiday philosophy this week. Peace on Earth, and get the heck outta my way! I jest, of course. I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in our chores and lives that we forget to be aware and considerate of those around us. We lose track of a very simple thing, that being kind to others makes them feel good, but it makes us feel even better. We have a great power at our disposal, the power of goodwill and kindness. I think it's high time that we started a kindness revolution. The snowball effect would be tremendous. What do you say, are you in? I am!




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Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday

Yes, today is Black Friday. This is the day which many people here in the USA (and some other countries now, I hear) celebrate the official begining of the biggest shopping season of the year. There are many ways that people celebrate this day after the Thanksgiving holiday. Lots of them will camp out in front of stores in below-freezing weather in an attempt to be the first person to get in when the doors are opened. When admitted to the store, the swarm runs at full speed to various areas in an attempt to purchase one of the three 50 dollar televisions or reduced-price phones or tablets that are allotted to each location of whichever chain it represents. As the herd thunders toward the display of three low-cost items, fistfights break out, bodies are trampled, and people sometimes die or end up hospitalized. This is how many people demonstrate their holiday spirit and peace on earth and goodwill towards others. According to the website blackfridaydeathcount.com, since 2006 there have been 7 deaths and 98 injuries attributed to Black Friday. I believe that there is no bargain worth sacrificing a human life.

It isn't always this awful, and it hasn't been this way forever. Since about the 1930's the day after Thanksgiving has been considered the day that the major holiday shopping season begins. Merchants count on the income from this season to help keep their ledgers afloat for the year. When I worked in retail it was always incredibly busy, but I never recall seeing or hearing of any violence surrounding the purchasing of holiday gifts. 

Several years ago, I decided to go Black Friday shopping with my sister. We didn't find any of the fabulous deals we had seen advertised; they were gone long before sunrise. What we did find were throngs of people driving madly through the parking lots, nearly mowing people down in their desire to find a parking spot. We found many unhappy people treating everyone else poorly. We also found that there were plenty of people, including ourselves, who were behaving in a kind and civilized manner and not causing others any distress. I for one was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of shoppers and their hostility. I kept wanting to go home, crawl under the covers, and not come back out for a week or ten days. I exaggerate, of course, but I was miserable. A few years later, having forgotten the trauma, I went back for a second helping. I must say that I have definitely had my fill of that dish.

I have decided that I am going to celebrate the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, Black Friday, in a more positive way. Maybe we can start a movement to change what Black Friday means. Here are a few suggested alternatives.

Black and White Movie Friday: There are so many wonderful old movies out there just waiting for you to watch them. There are holiday and non-holiday movies galore. I could name dozens, but I will try to practice some self-restraint. There's the original Miracle on 34th Street with Edmund Gwenn and Maureen O'Hara, or Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, A Christmas Carol with Reginald Owen, or It's a Wonderful Life with James Stewart and Donna Reed. Want something more dramatic? Try The Day the Earth Stood Still, Citizen Kane, Stage Door, or Penny Serenade. Musicals? There are dozens, with stars like Jeannette McDonald and Nelson Eddy, Fred and Ginger, Bing, Eleanor Powell...I think you get the idea.

Black Dress/Black Tie Friday: Dress up as though you're going somewhere special, because you are. You're going to your own table, maybe for leftovers, or takeout, or sandwiches. If you and those you love aren't worth dressing up for, who is? Enjoy the delight of getting dressed up just for fun. Wear slippers with your lovely dress or your French cuffs and special cufflinks. You're worth it, and it just might become a favorite tradition.

Black Ink Friday: Lounge around in your most comfortable clothes, whether that means pajamas or jeans or sweats or yoga pants. Make some hot cocoa or coffee/tea or a cold drink and enjoy a book. Your local library may have numerous e-books that you can check out at any time of day or night, even when you're wearing those jammies. Mine also has a massive collection of classics that are in the public domain which you can add to your personal library both free and permanently. There are also websites that offer free or low-cost books. They won't be best-sellers, of course, but you can find books from all areas of interest. I get daily emails from BookBub, BookLemur, and Robin Reads. All you need is a free Kindle or Nook application. There's also free books available through Google, Kindle, Nook, and others.

If you like the thrill of bargain-hunting, enjoy your Black Friday adventures. I hope that all of your fellow shoppers are as wonderful as I am sure that you are. But if it's just too much for you, like it is for me, consider extending your Thanksgiving holiday in a relaxed and enjoyable way. Happy Black Friday, everyone!




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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Nothing New Under The Sun?

As many of us do from time to time, I spent a little while today traveling down the famous mythical street known as Memory Lane. I guess what started me on this little journey was having the thought that when it comes to kids and their parents/caregivers, I sometimes think there's nothing new under the sun.

Yes, childhood has most definitely changed through the ages. Children were part of the labor force in many countries, and more recently than you might think. And of course, there are many places where children must work in order to survive to this very day. My grandmother or Gram, as most of us called her, told me stories of how her own father and his siblings worked in mills when they were children. He told her of how all of his sister's hair was ripped from her head when it got caught in a machine in the place where she was working. She was no more than ten years old when this happened, and wore a scarf on her head the rest of her life, I was told. Gram's father had a permanent eye injury that impacted his ability to read anything other than fairly large print, and this also happened long before he was ten years of age. His mother insisted that his sister should be allowed to stop working, but the boys all had to remain employed.

So yes, childhood has changed immensely. When I think of how simple things were when I was a kid, it sort of makes me sad for kids nowadays. I remember all of the summer days when we played all day with other kids near our age on the block. We'd wolf down our breakfast, run out the door, and keep running all day. We came home for lunch and dinner, but not much else. We had the best and coldest drinking water available at everyone's house - from the garden hose. It also doubled as an outdoor cooling device. After we drank from the icy coldness, we often doused our arms, feet and legs, and sometimes even our heads. We made forts or free-form tents by hanging blankets from backyard clotheslines and stretched out on the cool green grass talking about anything and everything. 

And we all had chores or responsibilities. My most despised was the picking up of dog poop. One of my favorites was drying the dishes after dinner every night. It wasn't so much that I got a kick out of drying dishes, because that isn't the most exciting thing to do, after all. What made it so enjoyable was that Gram was doing the washing while I did the drying. As we stood in front of the double sink, she would talk about all sorts of things with me. I remember telling her about school and my friends and things I had done. She was even kind enough to act like she loved it when I would sing her the newest song we had learned in Music class.

I am not trying to say that childhood was perfect then, or that is perfect or a paradise now. Every generation has grown up with its own set of happiness and worries. All kids can think of things that they'd like to have, and things that fill them with fear. Childhood can be scary that way. One generation's bomb shelter or polio scare yields to another's fear of losing a family member or friend to a disease or war or violent act. The circle keeps turning.

This is why I say that in many ways there is nothing new under the sun. Kids still have varying degrees of innocence and savvy. They still want things and fear things and find increasingly interesting ways to get into trouble. They develop crushes and friendships and romances as they grow. And oftentimes think that their parents have no idea what goes on in a young person's mind or heart. Little do they realize that their parents and grandparents and other generations before them had similar thoughts and feelings and behaviors. Heck, one of the reasons that kids get caught misbehaving is that their parents remember all of the trouble they created when they were young!

Young people who are in the throes of young love are certain that mom and dad don't understand what it's like. They don't realize that unrequited love is as old as humanity. Star-crossed lovers were an old story when the movie West Side Story was adapted from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, as they were old when he adapted it from the ancient story of Pyramus and Thisbe. And our parents and grandparents found ways to get in trouble, too. When my Gram was a very little girl, she made her father so angry that he didn't talk to her for over a week. She had asked him several times for permission to have her hair cut short, and he told her that girls did not have short hair. Keep in mind that this was probably around 1911 or thereabouts. One day she decided that since she had some money, she was getting her hair cut. When her father came home from work that day, she had gone to the barber and gotten her hair bobbed. He was furious, but he still loved her, and he knew that there were many times that he did things that made his parents mad too.

I remember eating dinner one night at the linoleum-topped kitchen table. Gram was to my left, across the table from Liz, who was on my right. As was normal for a growing girl who burned through tons of calories (I wish I could have that back!) I was enjoying eating my Gram's delicious dinner. At some point, she asked Liz what her day at school was like. I remember noticing that Liz's response seemed, well...not normal. In a studiedly casual tone, she told Gram about what went on in her classes that day. Gram's tone grew very casual and a bit cool. "Really? How did you like spending the day at the park today?" Liz sputtered in surprise. Gram somehow knew, probably from the tone of Liz's voice (or maybe from driving around the area, who knows?) that Liz had skipped her classes on Senior Ditch Day. She thought she was going to get away with it, but Gram was far too wily for that.

I don't remember what, if any, punishment Liz got. If nothing else, the trust Gram had in her may have been tarnished a bit after that. I learned by observing, as I was prone to do. I was one of those kids who figured it was easier to ask for permission than forgiveness. On occasion, I would ask if Gram would call in to excuse me from school. She always asked if there was anything important I might miss that day. I was always honest with my answer because she had an uncanny knack for finding things out, and she had a temper that produced some world-class yelling. When my Senior Ditch Day came around, Gram called the school's attendance office and reported that I was home due to illness. She could be pretty cool that way.

So what do you think? Is there much new under the sun? Or do we just experience many of the same things on the way to adulthood as many of those who came before us? I know how I feel right now, but I may change my opinion tomorrow. You never know. But I know that Gram sometimes did that too, so... 




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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ejected

Since I brought up the subject of our vacation in my last post, I decided to share another story from the trip with you. We've shared this with a couple of friends and they were entertained - perhaps you will be, too.

As you may know from my previous posts, I have humorously suggested that Hell may be located in Orlando, Florida. My reason for saying this is simple - a combination of high temperatures with high humidity is very punishing to the body. For most of us common folks, a weather pattern like this results in hot, sticky, sweaty days. Of course, when this whole sticky-sweaty business is going on, your body runs the risk of suffering from dehydration. You need to be very aware of drinking plenty of fluids so as not to get sick. Let's face it - being sick anywhere stinks, but being sick while you're on vacation would really stink.

Hydration is key to the tale I am about to relate. We were spending the day in EPCOT World Showcase. If you're not familiar with Disney World, EPCOT is essentially two connected parks. On one side is Future World, which contains all sorts of fun rides like the famous Soarin', Test Track, and Spaceship Earth. The other part of EPCOT is the World Showcase. There are pavilions from numerous countries that feature various representations of those countries' cultures. All of the countries represented have at least one restaurant and have one or more shops with merchandise from those countries, and the buildings reflect their heritage as well. When you visit a restaurant or shop in the Italian Pavilion, all of the servers and shop staff are natives of Italy. Some other countries represented, in addition to the USA, are France, Morocco, Japan, Canada, Norway, China, and Mexico.

On this particular hot, steamy day, Trent and I had just finished our delicious lunch in a restaurant in the American Pavilion and decided to go next door to enjoy The American Experience. I'd never been to it before, and as a student of history, I was excited to see the show. We walked over to the entrance, diet drinks in hand, sipping on the way to another air-conditioned building. We saw several small groups of people enter the building on our walk over, almost all of them with bottles of water or soft drinks in their hands. When we approached the entrance, we were told that we needed to dispose of our drinks before entering.

Now, the drinks we had were almost completely full, and we really needed to hydrate, so Trent reacted by saying that other people had entered with their beverages right before us. No, we couldn't enter, we were told again, unless we tossed out our non-bottled drinks. Did I mention that most beverages are around three dollars? Anyway, I sort of shook on Trent's hand and we stepped aside to toss out our nearly-full drinks. While we waited in the lobby to enter the theater area, it seemed as if everyone around us was enjoying sips of their cool, delicious beverages. We shook our heads and shook it off, and headed in the queue to the seating area. 

When we were getting ready to choose our row and our seats, the older gentleman who was at the podium to introduce the show looked at Trent and said, "Sir, in the pink (actually salmon) shirt - I need to see you and your wife up front, please." We looked at each other, astonished, and realized that he was indeed talking to us. I was freaking out inside, thinking that the young ladies at the entrance had complained about Trent and that we were going to be ejected from the show. I've never been ejected from anything, I thought. We walked over to the gentleman, Lonnie, and he told us that someone from Disney needed to speak with us. Oh, no, I thought, we are getting thrown out of the park! I am going to miss out on dinner tonight at the French restaurant because Trent said someone else was going in with a drink!

Lonnie dialed some numbers on a phone, handed it to us, and walked away. As we both nervously put our ears to the phone, we heard a message from Mickey and Minnie Mouse, wishing us a happy anniversary. They then sang us a little song, wished us a happy anniversary again, and disconnected. When we handed Lonnie the phone, he asked us to wait a moment. He stepped behind a curtain and got a certificate which he filled out in beautiful calligraphy printing with our names and the number of years we have been married. He had seen the "celebrating our anniversary" buttons we were wearing and decided to make a lovely memory for both of us. 

We found our seats, absolutely stunned and very pleased to have been given such a charming anniversary wish. Before Lonnie started the show, he had every person in the audience who was celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or some other special occasion, stand up and be recognized with a round of applause by the audience. When the show was over, we went and shook hands with Lonnie again, telling him that we weren't sure if we had thanked him properly. He was gracious and kind and really made our day special. I will always treasure my memories of Lonnie and how wonderful he made us feel - and how glad I was not to be ejected from the park!





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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Absentee

Around the end of last year, a few things fell into place that gave us the opportunity to take a vacation this year. For us, this was a Really Big Deal. In our entire marriage, we have never had the means or opportunity to take a trip by ourselves. The last time that we traveled as just us was when we went to Las Vegas to get married. We were filled with a combination of excitement and disbelief that we would have a chance to take a trip. We also knew that this would most likely be a one-and-done situation; the first time that we had an opportunity to take a trip together would most likely be our last.

We would have loved to do something wonderful like travel to Europe to visit family, but that was definitely way beyond our means. We decided to go to one of Trent's favorite places and made plans to go to Orlando, Florida and have some fun at Walt Disney World. We had an incredible opportunity to use our friends' timeshare for a week along with spending a few days at a Disney property that came with a free meal plan. We were excited to go.

Before we had even picked our travel time, it looked like our trip was doomed. We were told that the cost for the January refill of Trent's anti-rejection medication, a necessity for anyone who has had a transplant, would be close to $3000 with the new pharmacy coverage this year. After that, it would be "no higher than $175 per month," we were told. Of course if the first month cost that much, all future prescriptions would have to be sent to someone else's address, because we'd be unable to afford rent for a few months to pay for that first fill. Luckily, that mess was straightened out, but it seemed that fate was conspiring against us.

All of our plans for setting aside money for vacation were thwarted at every conceivable opportunity. A plan to save x dollars per month dissolved as we found ourselves paying x or more each month for pharmacy expenses that we hadn't had in previous years. There would be one challenge after another trying to cancel our plans, including the fact that the park tickets we had purchased when we booked and paid for our room would not be active until after we checked into the Disney property, which was at the end of our trip. Luckily, the wonderful folks at Disney helped us out with that one, and we were able to use the tickets from the day we got to Florida, thank goodness.

We weathered the storms that kept blowing into our lives and scrimped wherever we could so that we could follow through with our plans for the trip. We had everything planned, I had meticulously budgeted for all parts of the trip, and we were all packed to go the night before departure. Our friend was picking us up at 7:30 a.m. to take us to the airport, so we went to bed as early as we were able and tried to sleep despite our excitement. And that's when something wonderful happened. My smartphone quit functioning properly. Yes, you read that correctly. At the time, I saw it as a very bad thing, just like you probably are right now. But sometimes our opinions change.

I am one of those people who have a hard time shutting down their brains at night and getting to sleep. Any and every possible thing that can be worried about will occur to me after I lay my head down to sleep at night. I'll lay in the dark and worry about things that I may or may not have done. Did I pack everything I needed? Are Trent's and my medications safely in our carry-on bags rather than our checked bags? Do we have enough cash? Did I remember to pay all of our bills before shutting off the computer? And this happens 365 days a year with me. My life has turned me into a worrier. I deal with this by listening to books every night. Most nights they will help divert my mind from its worries, enabling me to get some needed sleep. The night before vacation was no exception.

Now, using my phone's application to listen to a book for an hour uses very little of my phone's battery. That's why I was really surprised when I woke up at about 3:30 in the morning to tinkle and saw that my phone had gone from a full charge to about 40% power. I tried to look at the phone in the dark and figure out what was amiss to fix it, with no luck. When Trent woke up a bit later, I decided to get on the computer and try to figure things out. No luck whatsoever. And the carrier's help lines weren't available until 7:00, so there was no time to call for a fix on the problem. I plugged it in to charge and got ready to go.

So there I was on vacation with a phone that wouldn't hold a charge. It wasn't sending or receiving texts, and I wouldn't be able to use it to take photos, either. And it has a better camera than my actual camera, which I hadn't packed because my phone was supposed to do the job for me. I was able to use it at our lodging while it was plugged in, but other than that, I was going to have to do without. I was frustrated, but I certainly wasn't going to spend precious vacation time sitting on the phone trying to fix the problem. We decided to make do with Trent's phone and began to have fun.

Then I started to see that maybe being without my phone was a good thing. I didn't have a phone with me, and it wasn't working anyway, so I wasn't stuck dealing with unwanted calls or text messages. Social media could go on without me. I had written a couple of blog posts and was able to use my tablet-without-a-data-plan to post them. After a few days, I began to ask Trent to let me use his phone occasionally to take a picture or two, but mostly I spent my vacation being totally present.

What a gift the cell Gods had given me! I was able to focus my attention on being there, on enjoying myself, on living in the moment. Gone was the worry about what I might be missing out on in my non-vacation life. If there was anything I needed to take care of, like making sure my bills were all paid and my accounts were in order, it could be taken care of when the day's play was done and we were "home" for the night. I began to see things differently, and some of what I saw made me sad.

Taking a family vacation to Disney can be done with a budget, but park tickets are not cheap. Everywhere I looked, I saw people squandering their time, and their investment in park tickets, on their phones. I saw children as young as seven or eight walking around with iPhones in front of their faces. They didn't see the Fairy Godmother or other characters walking by them because they were playing on their phones. Parents were missing the amazement on children's faces because they were busy with emails and texts and calls. Their bodies were there, but their selves were absentees. Trent and I would look at each other and shake our heads sadly. Why were they even there?

This was something we saw every single day of our trip and every time of the day or night. We saw families sitting down for meals in restaurants both casual and fancy, never speaking to one another during the meal. On more than one occasion, I saw people who were on rides and totally ignoring what was in front of their faces - they were using their phones during the rides! The moment that stunned us the most? A young newlywed couple got on the shuttle bus we were riding home late one night. Instead of holding hands and giggling and cuddling in the dark, they sat side by side, oblivious of each other's presence. They were updating Facebook and playing games. I have to wonder what all of these people will be like twenty years from now. Will they even know one another? What will they have to talk about? Will that family or their children have any memories of their big vacation? Will mom and dad wonder why they are unable to communicate with their kids?

I am a huge fan of technology. Now that my phone is working, I use it to keep on top of things. I'm in the process of getting the pictures I took transferred from Trent's phone to mine. But I also don't have the same connection to being online that I did before. I was home about three days before I even turned on my computer, which really surprised me. Of course, I was tired from vacationing in the hot-as-the-ninth-circle-of-Hell land of Orlando. Maybe when I'm back in the swing of things my views will change. But I'm still grateful that a simple malfunction enabled me not to be an absentee on my own vacation.




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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Good Intentions

"The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."
- Elizabeth E. Curtis, AKA Gram or My Grammy


I recently took a brief hiatus from my blog. It wasn't really evident to most people, though, because I took some time before the break to write a couple of extra blog posts, which I saved for publication during the time that I would be away from writing. I returned to the keyboard several days ago, excited to be back to writing, and eager to get back to work. I sat down and wrote, filled with eagerness to get back to regularly blogging after taking a couple of weeks off. I had really good intentions.

As I quoted at the beginning of this piece, my little Gram, who had a saying for just about everything, often said that the road to Hell was paved with good intentions. We often think that we have everything positive motivating us, but things end up just the opposite. 

I wrote my first post this month on a Saturday, five days ago. I felt good about the act of writing and good about life. I was positive about what I thought would be my writing output for the month of November. I envisioned writing a new post about every three days or so. On Monday evening, I began to think about what I would create for my readers the following day. I also knew that I would have to do some work that day for insurance enrollment this week. My work was cut out for me, and all scheduled. I was ready for it.

And then I got thrown for a loop. Monday night, as Trent and I were watching a classic movie on the television, I suddenly realized that I had to go to bed NOW. I had been fighting a headache all day, only to have it bloom into a bouquet accented with sprigs of exhaustion and feeling sick. It's something that I have dealt with from time to time ever since I was hospitalized with a terrible attack of vertigo. I can be tired for days on end with no adverse reactions, then suddenly will have a night when it catches me unprepared. I have a moment in which I realize that if I don't lay my body down in bed right away, it will happen involuntarily. AKA go to bed now, or simply pass out/collapse. Since I have had this happen before, I heeded the signals of my brain without any worries. I just needed the rest that I was getting ready for. 

When I woke up on Tuesday, I really felt awful. I decided that it would pass, and had my typical morning toast and started to watch an excellent old movie with Trent. I tried to ignore the feeling that my head, more specifically my left eyeball, was going to explode. I wasn't going to listen to the feelings of nausea that my stomach was shouting about. I had lots to do, and I was going to be fine. Mm-hmm. Good intentions.

During the time that we were watching our movie, I noticed that I was slumping more and more toward a laying flat position. My headache was growing stronger and my stomach was churning. Let me state right here and now that nothing turns me into a gooey mess like a sick stomach. I remember during the years living with Gram, how she would always take care of me when I was pukey. If I woke up sick in the middle of the night, she was always there, gently rubbing my back and speaking soothing words. Somehow the horrible act of sicking up was lessened under her loving care. 

Gram would smooth back my hair and press a cool cloth to my face and forehead, and help me back to bed. She was ready to do whatever I needed to lessen the impact of my bout with stomach problems. I remember the first time that I got sick in the night and Gram didn't wake up. I was simply all alone in my bathroom, but I felt like I was all alone in the world. Here I was, a college student, crying over being sick. The fact that it seemed so babyish made me cry even more. And when Gram found out the next morning that I had been sick with nobody to emotionally support me, she felt awful. But that's just life happening, and it goes on. 

As I said before, though, feeling pukey is the one thing that will lay me low. I can handle pain and keep going, but if I am on the verge of throwing up, I have to slow down. So on Tuesday morning I had to put myself back to bed. And I kept trying to get up, but just going to the bathroom was enough to have my stomach on the verge of heaving. I was miserable. I tried to get sleep during the day, and did so in brief patches, flying awake with worry about things left undone. Trent knew that I was in bad shape because I am not one of those people who tends to just say she's sick and then put herself to bed. When I told him that he had to go fetch the mail because I just couldn't do it, he knew it was bad.

So I spent Tuesday in bed. And most of Wednesday. I tried to get some insurance work done in the very late afternoon and having something to distract my attention made me think that I was starting to feel a bit more more normal and healthy. Riding on the crest of this wave of diversion, I watched a tv program late in the evening after resting some more and started to feel skunky about halfway through. But I was getting better, darn it, and decided to finish it and then watch a favorite program with Trent. Suddenly I felt awful again and had to get right to bed. I woke up this morning feeling dreadful again and remembered Gram talking about good intentions. Yes, she was right. I went back to bed for a while to recover from my recovery. I hope I'm back on track now. At least I'm eating, and writing. And not puking. Yippee!





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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Where Is Hell, Exactly?

I can imagine having this discussion with a young person. She comes to me one day and asks where Hell is. We sit down with some cookies and milk or a big bowl of buttery popcorn to discuss this deep subject.

Part A, the more philosophical part:

There are many differing views or opinions about the existence or location of this place known as Hell. Is there such a place? If so, where would it be?

For people of faith, those who believe in a Supreme Being or a God or a Higher Power, or whatever the name is in their language or belief system, there is typically an opposite to this being of goodness. For whatever positive force exists, there is an equally negative force as a counterbalance. There is no sweetness without the possibility of bitterness, no good without the possibility of bad. This is something that is actually seen in nature and humanity on a scale both grand and small. For all of the fuzzy little critters out there, there are hunters who are eager to catch them. And humans are certainly well represented in both positive and negative behaviors.

For people who believe in the concept of a Heaven, there is the chance of a reward after life ends, a possibility to be in the presence of their Supreme Being. Following the theory of opposites, people often believe in the concept of a Hell, a place out of the presence of this Supreme Being. Now, this is where things can get really interesting. Many people believe that since we are living in this imperfect world, apparently removed from the presence of a Benevolent Creator, that we are already in Hell. Watching the news on any given day will certainly reinforce this opinion. 

Then, of course, there are the people who believe that both good and bad exist everywhere, regardless of one's location. That would mean that Heaven and Hell exist side by side throughout the world and throughout our lives. This is something many people might find easy to believe because of the nature of this crazy planet on which we live, and the wonders and horrors it can present to us every day.

I guess it all comes down to this: nobody can tell for certain, can they? Every person's concepts of Heaven and Hell, if they have them, are very personal. What is Heaven for one person might be Hell for another. And as the night follows the day, the opposite is also true. What is Hell for you may be Heaven for a person from another part of the world where the things we take for granted, like clean water, for example, are often unattainable. If you look at things that way, it sure changes things, doesn't it?


Part B, the not-philosophical part:

Having had some experience with such things, I'd have to say that Hell is probably located somewhere near Orlando, Florida, USA. This is a place where you step out the door to the feeling that you have been wrapped in a very large, steaming-hot wet blanket. You spend any and all time outdoors bathed in a combination of sweat and damp air. Any place that regularly has temperatures around ninety degrees along with humidity that runs around seventy percent was certainly designed as a punishment for humans. So, Hell is either in a place we never can locate or define, or most definitely in Orlando. Just lately, I'm leaning toward it being in Orlando.



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