Category Archives: Personal Journeys

I know you now…

I knew you at 14
When I seemed so much older,
Distanced from those around me.

I knew you at 19
When I fled in a blizzard
Scared, hurt, aching for answers.

I knew you at 21
When I walked out
No longer fearing a letter of red.

I knew you at 28
When you threatened
My life if I left.

Oh, yes, I knew you
Whatever face you wore.
And I learned that face, that voice.

Now it matters not
Whose face you use,
Or how that voice can make me shutter.

I know you now
And you’ve lost the key
To cause me fear or pain.

Now you must know this:
My fury lives, deep within the weariness.
And silence is not an option.

Victoria Adams, © 2020

The person(s) described here have certain common traits.

  1. They are never, ever wrong.
  2. It is never ever their fault.
  3. Whatever it is, theirs is bigger, better, worse, more amazing than yours.
  4. They are vampires of the soul and suck every bit of admiration and affirmation they can find.
  5. If you challenge them, you will be cut off – sometimes violently – usually without a great deal of thought or concern.
  6. They live in their own world and there is not a force on the face of the earth that will deter them from their perceptions of that world. If you do succeed in providing alternatives; you will only do so by making it their idea.
  7. There is no one in the known universe more important than them and that means they can do what they wish to whom they wish and sincerely believe there should be no consequences. In fact, consequences for what, exactly?

I have stories to tell, hard earned wisdom to share. I choose to share these stories, make these judgments, with the full knowledge that there will be those who will not see or understand; but there are others. Others who need to know when to push back, and when to move on. In a world gone mad with so many willing to listen to things that tickle their ears, I choose to speak.

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Where we are now.

Could not find a direct source – this is the 24 mile bridge crossing Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana We have a long way to go..

Late last year, a nasty bundle of RNA began to invade the people of Hubei province. It was a swift and deadly invasion and the authorities responded with a resolute desire to contain the outbreak as quickly as possible. This is the lesson of history as each time we are faced with a virulent host we find time and control is of the essence; regardless of where or why the invasion began. The 1918 influenza, Ebola, Swine flu, SARS, MERS, all had different places of origin on our globe, different paths to becoming transmittable between humans. Yet the answer was the same–buy time until researchers can get solid science to deal with the invader. Or, you could just let a lot of people die.

If we are to beat this newest tiny monster, there are some actions we need to take. Actions that are working elsewhere and which we, in all our individualistic, me-me society, need to get a grasp on. First, a few facts. No, the media is not inflating the numbers, if anything the numbers are under reported. We do not have the materials, lab capacity, and healthcare professionals to do the testing required to truly know the scope of the pandemic in the United States. And that was our first mistake. As of now we are aware of seven strains of COVID-19. Four are relatively mild, three are deadly. Effective testing means we must be able to differentiate between the strains, especially when there is reinfection, or reemergence.

Yes, isolation has “flattened the curve” and although there are places in the country (such as New York) where the cases are still rising and health care workers and first responders are at their limits, there is also evidence that we are beginning to bring the infection rate down. That does not mean we can all rush out and do a group hug. If, however, we are to be successful in an attempt to restart life with some amount of success (news flash, things will not be “normal” for a very long time), then we need to find effective ways to accomplish three things: test (as noted above), track, and treat.

Some of the states are already forming coalitions and coops to accomplish goal number one: getting enough supplies, materials, and equipped labs to test every single person and to do so more than once using reliable protocols. Say, on a periodic basis, or after or before a possible vector encounter. Testing is how other countries were able to hop onto outbreaks quickly and effectively. Our country never really bothered to get started, and as of this date the United States is reporting 29% of confirmed cases worldwide, and 22% of the fatalities. COVID-19 hides. Even if you don’t have so much as a sniffle or a slightly elevated fever, you could be carrying the virus and be fully contagious. This is one of the reasons this beast is so difficult to control. You don’t know you are risking others (hoping, here, that you care).

Tracking means that when we know someone is infected, we find out where they’ve been and who may have been exposed. This is a critical step for the same reasons given for testing. You don’t always KNOW you have this virus. Depending on which strain you have and the health profile of the persons you interact with, any number of levels of severity can result from your casual need to, say, visit the beach.

Treatment is an issue that labs around the world are working on. Even if we can’t kill this thing (yet) we may be able to find palliative ways to reduce the impacts of the virus. The earlier such treatments can be started, the better the chance of survival. Such treatments could also reduce residual complications. Survivors are showing evidence of damage to the lungs, heart, kidneys, and liver. These problems can mean a lifetime of health care which may or may not be covered by insurance. Another financial bomb on families already stressed from loss of income and a possible drain on any economic recovery.

These three things can buy us time to develop a safe and effective vaccine. Something that will protect us from this family of viruses. I won’t go into any arguments about vaccines on this blog. I can tell you I grew up in a time when measles could be deadly, when polio could kill on infection or years later, when scarlet fever could damage a heart for life. If we do the right things to give the researchers the time they need, any vaccine developed will be tested for safety, side effects, effectiveness, and dosage. The published target is 18 months. The fastest we have ever developed a vaccine was for the mumps and it took four years. The good thing is that the best labs in the world are collaborating on this effort. Such an effort is historical in scope. No, we can’t all stay on lock down for four years, people would starve, and things would get really ugly. That is why the three points mentioned above are so crucial: test, track, treat.

This means that you should support your local governments in the formation of plans that make sense and protect lives. Some industries (such as folks that work outside and have little contact with others) could restart, offices could further develop remote work models, healthcare can rely more on telehealth and telemedicine. Rather than trying to cram as many bodies in one space as possible, we can learn to spread out, wear masks, wash hands, be aware of fevers and coughs. We need to look seriously at payrates, sick leave, and employee protections. People need the option to go home when they are ill. Things will not “return to normal” in a month. We must find a new way to grow and sustain our economy. For that we need leadership.

This is part one of my COVID-19 outreach. Both are long winded but weeks of watching this catastrophe build has driven me to state, and stand by, a position. Maybe this virus started in a lab, maybe not. The only thing origin gives us now is more knowledge which may speed up a response. Beating up on a Chinese neighbor is not going to stop the pandemic. Wishing the disease on the people you feel responsible (or irresponsible) will not stop the pandemic. What will conquer this tiny foe is cooperation, compassion, mutual support. We can build a new society, one that is healthy and economically sound. But it will take us all. Every one of us.

 

 

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Lock-down.

Here in Washington State I woke up this morning to lock-down. All nonessential businesses are ordered to close. If necessary, they have 48-hours to get things in order. That means I have a non-producing client for the duration. Doesn’t mean I won’t get the work done, but, well, we all have some sacrifices to make.

Photo by Luke Insoll on Unsplash

Update on worldwide numbers this morning is showing the US in a solid third place just now with 46,158 confirmed cases and 583 fatalities. At this point only 35 are confirmed recovered. I know China said they were good, but the reports are showing an increase of 1.78 percent in the last 24 hours. We are far from done with this — and yet we still don’t get it.

I am one of the lucky ones. My day job is connected to an essential service and I can work from home. We have spent the last two weeks planning so that everyone that can be remote is and those who have contact with our clients can do so through phone connections. I am proud to be part of such a team. And I am greatly blessed.

I hear, though, that there are those who think that our economy is more important than our lives. That, perhaps, we can sacrifice those in our population who are old, have underlying conditions, or too poor to keep the engines of industry running without risking their health. That the 40% of Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck just don’t count enough to protect or support. After all, there’s always more where they came from, right? A fresh supply sits crammed in camps and detention centers on either side of our southern border.

There are several problems with that plan. You can’t control a virus by age group, socio-economic status, color of skin, or (obviously) nationality. The numbers coming out of California show a bubble in the 18-65 age group. No matter how good our models are, we can’t always predict the direction of a disease; especially one that can mutate in order to do what it does best – infect. Even those who flit about in the stratosphere of our society are testing positive.

Also, the United States, against any internal delusions to the contrary, is not an island. A search for photos for this blog ended in a barrage of photos of major cities around the world that were filled with deserted streets. There is no “business as usual” just now, so wake up from that dream and deal with reality as we find it.

I have grown weary of the mantra that flu kills tens of thousands of people a year, why are we so upset over this? First, those tens of thousands are people, not statistics. People who mean something to someone. In 2015 one of those statistics was my husband, those numbers represent real losses. Nor does anyone understand the full extent of the economic impact of flu season as workers show up to work because they have no choice if they want to pay their bills, eat, and have shelter. When they show up at work, several other folks get sick, and the cost in productivity, health, and financial stress on the economy continues. The fatality rate of the common flu is .01%. So far COVID-19 is scoring higher than 4%. You don’t have to know math to figure out that is a big difference.

Let’s take an example. During the 2018-2019 season the CDC classified the impact as high severity. From the CDC:

CDC estimates that the burden of illness during the 2018–2019 season included an estimated 35.5 million people getting sick with influenza, 16.5 million people going to a health care provider for their illness, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths from influenza [Table 1]. The number of influenza-associated illnesses that occurred last season was similar to the estimated number of influenza-associated illnesses during the 2012–2013 influenza season when an estimated 34 million people had symptomatic influenza illness.

So, high severity season and there was a fatality rate of .0963% (34,200/34,500,000). These numbers are for the US only. Let’s convert that to COVID-19 math. 34,500,000 people infected X 4% fatality rate is 1, 380, 000 people. That is a lot of living, breathing souls, most of whom will never see a medical professional or receive care of any kind either because there is none available to them or because our health care system is in triage mode; Italy has been there for days. An article published by the AMA on March 19th makes it clear that protocols are already being developed in expectation of limited resources. Protocols that might mean someone you care about does not get a ventilator or even a hospital bed.

Granted, these are broad, back of the envelope, numbers which are impacted by a myriad of influences depending on local or regional health care systems, access to basic needs, underlying health conditions, and duration. Even yet-to-be-quantified elements such as how fast this particular brand of bug can mutate to protect its survival and continue to infect. They are, however, an illustration of how incomprehensibly naive our society is about containing this under “business as usual” scenarios.

Have we become so brazen, so uncaring that we really don’t care about the repercussions of our actions? What changes in your life style are you willing to make once the people who serve you at the drive through, pick up your garbage, help you at the store, the bank, the wherever there are folks stumbling along on a minimum wage with no benefits, are no longer there? Was your trip to the beach worth infecting the next person you met at the grocery store who may be taking care of an elderly relative at home? Really? By the way, have you thanked the people who are still out there delivering, cashiering, making life tolerable for you at the risk of their own health?

I have written a book about my hero, Job. It is currently in the process of being published, although I’m not sure how the current situation will impact the release date. I’m not sure even my publisher can know. Then, of course, having a book out is nice only if folks can get one. As of now even Amazon is focused on essential supplies and book delivery dates can be as much as two months out. I’m now looking for other ways to get those ideas out into the world. My firm conviction is that we are called, whatever our faith or ethics, to help each other. To become informed and to act in responsible, compassionate ways.

You do not need an advanced degree in biochemistry to understand pandemics. You do need to kick conspiracy theories and “hunches” out the door. You do not need an advanced degree in economics to understand there are people hurting and you – yes you – may be one of those that can help. You may feel protected in your faith. You may feel like the end is near and you have a front row seat. You may be one of those who think a lock-down is a great excuse to do the spring break gig you never had in college (or had too much of). I am here to tell you that whatever your vision of yourself, you are not being brave. You are not being smart. I suppose if the only people affected would be those who chose hubris, willful ignorance, or selfishness I might be willing to shrug and walk away. Might. But, I can’t. I still must try to get people to think through their actions and how those actions impact themselves and others.

Please, find the sources that know what they are doing. If you have a medical question, seek out the medical profession. There are any number of places that have solid, actionable information regarding this current crisis. Check out the CDC, NIH, and WHO. Your state or local health organizations have information on what to do and where to go (or not) if you think you have a problem. Many states are already gearing up to support small businesses and hourly employees. Be informed and act accordingly.

And above all, see what you can do to help. If you are one of the privileged that still has cash flow and a reasonable assurance it will continue, then find ways to help your community. Pay your barber, hairdresser, or any personal service provider what you normally budget for that service. Support local restaurants that are providing take out or delivery. Add a bit to your utility bill or donate to the charity pool so that others can keep the lights on. Keep after your representatives to make sure they make the right decisions to protect us as a people and a nation. If they lose a sense of priorities (as so many have) – then they need to move on.

Most of all, keep your heart safe. Do not allow the urgency of the situation drive you to distraction and cause you to hoard or jump on every rumor. Be safe.

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Filed under Giving Back, Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Journey with Job, Personal Journeys

Coddiwomple – the choice to move toward the unknown.

So, here we are on the first day of the year 2020. An arbitrary point in time defined in a thousand ways since recorded history began and measured with a metric we know to be flexible. Yet, we are drawn to a place we can say, “going forward I shall.” Last year about this time I published a blog about ditching the concept of New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I took my inspiration from Melinda Gates and chose a word to carry me through the coming months. That word was Season. It served me well.

I believe I found that when I wanted things to move faster, I remembered to slow down. As hard as it was there were times when frustration would set in, then the peace of timing would settle in. I sincerely believe that attitude of waiting “to the fullness of time” is what supported me to the moment I received an offer to publish my work. The timing was exquisite. That sense of waiting-with-hurried-anticipation has prepared me for the work required to execute a substantial change coming in my day job.

I think I also worked harder to be the seasoning, the influence that took away a bitter sting, or made the ordinary more interesting. Although not always successful, I worked at remembering the things I learned while working on the reservation about waiting until others were finished before I hopped in. Still working on that. I get very passionate about things at times.

With all the lessons I learned, and hope to continue learning, this year needs a different focus. Life is not all about waiting, about being the seasoned influence. At some point we need to find the way to move forward, even if we are uncertain of where the journey will take us. For this year I have chosen a wonderful old English slang word: coddiwomple. It is defined as travel in a purposeful manner toward a vague destination. What a wonderful word; a call into the unknown with confident strides and willing wonder.

Shi Shi Beach – 2019 Personal Collection

I see this word as a natural match to the process of becoming seasoned. A way to take the lessons learned from all the bits and pieces of what it means to flavor, to wait, to grow mature, to feel the perfect moment—and move forward.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that our goals, our hopes, our dreams, are shapes of the things we wish to accomplish. Sometimes how we get there may surprise us. Sometimes the best laid plans are changed, for better or worse, and we plot a new course. I firmly believe that if we invest ourselves in one and only one outcome, we destroy our ability to deal with life’s unexpected events. If we become seasoned as the old pine with no flexibility left in its limbs winter storms can have a devastating effect while the sapling survives.

I like this concept of moving forward with confidence in a direction that could change, to a destination that might not exist. We cannot be open to opportunities if we are not attentive, flexible, ready to see something that can be rewarding if we take a slightly different path. In some cases, we may need to change everything about the journey, with purpose.

There’s a song that always touches me when I think about life’s choices. It’s about keeping your mind open, keeping your spirit free, taking chances, and in the end—choosing to dance. May 2020 bring you blessings with the challenges and a sense of purpose. Hold tight to your most treasured thoughts and hopes and venture with purpose into the unknown. Last but not least, I Hope you Dance.

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When did the Giver of Life become an Object to Own?

Another Facebook post that started to grow beyond reasonable means – now becomes a blog.

Sunday morning: Instead of reading through FB posts and tripping over things that make me sad or disappointed, I am choosing more frequently to spend time with those “other bookmarks” that I save for “when I have time.” Many of these articles are saved from Facebook posts of friends across the globe that share my interests, some are the product of searches to verify, or run from, a post that peaks my interest. A writer’s Google search may be revealing – but what is saved is a whole new ballgame.

One of this morning’s reads was about the history of women in religion and faith. Some of the most revered minds of our ancient past were female. [Hypatia, Aspasia, Diotima…there are dozens more modern and ancient on my Facebook page] The question is, why do we, as a gender, pay such a high price for what we have given to our species – including life itself both in the birthing of a child and in the commitment to nurture that child. This article is an excellent short history of the rise and fall of women in faith and religion.

Of course, as short as it is, there is much worthy of discussion that is missing. For instance, Hebrew tradition symbolizes wisdom with a female – Sophia. And yet rabbinic literature going back centuries warns of the dangers of a woman’s manipulative abilities. There are traditions that record Lilith as Adam’s first wife. Since she was unwilling to submit to Adam as her superior, she left the garden and was demonized for the rest of history. Poor Eve doesn’t fare much better. Deborah, a judge of Israel, appoints Barak to lead the army against Jabin and Sisera. He will not engage without her in the lead. And it is a woman (Jael) that takes down the commander Sisera.

For New Testament figures we have Mary, mother of Jesus who is raised to near-divine nature, while Mary Magdalene finds her contributions buried by the early church. The Magdalene is a mystery within a mystery due in part to the struggle for authority within the early church. Labeled as a repentant prostitute, she was kicked to the curb of history until quite recently.

This editing of history goes on even in the face of New Testament records (however bent a translation may be) that indicate women held leadership roles within the early church. This was not an exception to the rule, but a organic part of the church’s early need for solid leaders in the faith. An interesting bit of history is provided in this article.

My maternal great-grandparents came to the US from what was then Yugoslavia. Their home town sounded something like Poland to the folk at Ellis Island and for a good portion of my life I thought I was one quarter Polish. A cousin deep into genealogy research (not so easy in Eastern Europe) discovered the error and determined that the family originated in Croatia, and was, most likely Roma. The Roma are a people persecuted around the world for centuries. Although nomadic by nature, they were rarely permitted to own land or conduct a business. They were a target of Nazis during the rape of Europe. Forced to find alternative means of survival, they were often accused of theft (sometimes accurately). However, in contradiction to the contempt of “polite” society, deep were the paths worn in the dead of night to the doors of the old wise women who could offer cures, or hope, or spells for success. (Along with the more carnal needs of humanity).

I am truly not sure why the strengths of women are so disparaged in our current society. Why is it we feel that women should not be independent in thought and choice? Why shouldn’t they be leaders when our early history indicates they can do as well and sometimes better than their male counterparts (meaning that sometimes the fellows do better)? Why do we condemn the Muslims when so many of the practices we disparage are mirrored in our own society? Toss the Burka, but make sure that the little lady does nothing without her man’s approval. Why do we have such a propensity to ignore what we detest in others rooted deep within our own souls?

Our current culture (at least here in the US) blatantly supports the pervasive attitude that women are somehow less. Boys will be boys, but girls make choices for eternity – given the assumption they have a choice in a threatening situation other than to survive. Men can impregnate whomever they wish whenever they wish; but the mother must face the roadblocks of an uncaring system to care for that offspring even to the point (in some states) of providing a rapist with access to her child. A man can get a prescription for an “enhancement” drug that is covered, without hesitation, by any insurance company. A woman, however, must fight for coverage of any reproductive related medical prescription or treatment. Sometimes she must also fight for access. Does this make sense in a modern society with access to well-developed medical and scientific practices? Why is it even a question in this century?

woman-1749355_1920

Woman of Tibet, photo by Smokefish, Pixabay.com

Of one thing I am certain, wise women are women of patience. I knew my maternal grandmother well and we were very close. So much of who she was is very much a part of me. It is from that well-spring of strength that I know that one day our species will understand that the whole cannot function well without all of the parts functioning at the highest level of performance. We are a global family with limited resources and great responsibilities. We are way past the time when we should stop fearing each other, whether by perception or deed, and find a way forward to a more stable future.

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My Achilles’ Heel

I think I have found that spot in my professional life that I can’t do well or have yet to develop the skills to manage well. Maybe because it is less professional and more personal. Consequently, it is a good thing I have run out of near relatives so I can avoid this particular pitfall in the future. My sore spot is tax issues relevant to an estate and noncollectable debt.

1099.jpg

Now, I must tell you that I have handled the accounting side of several estates, and I did just fine, in some cases exceeding expectations. Way back in the away-time when I was first starting out as a bookkeeper/accountant, I was called on to handle two very sensitive estates. In one case my employer’s son died from a brain tumor. He asked me one afternoon if I would meet him at his son’s office the following weekend and help him with a few things. The day went by in companionable silence and we worked through the files sorting out what had to be paid and arranged information for attorneys and accountants who would close out the estate. I was very close to the family and I genuinely felt the loss. At the end of the day he thanked me. He told me that he knew I had probably figured out that it was not my help he needed so much as he needed the company. He let me know how much he appreciated the professionalism, the help, and the quiet support.

Not too long afterword (memory fails on these dates), my employer was diagnosed with Lew Gehrig’s Disease. His prognosis was not optimistic. I was one of three people that knew that his focus had changed from building and maintaining, to preserving and estate planning. For six months he, his son-in-law, and myself, worked diligently with legal and accounting professionals to work out the best way to preserve his estate for the future. I remember vividly when I took his last tax return to his house to gather his and his wife’s signatures that he looked me directly in the eye and asked me if that was all. I replied that to the best of my knowledge, yes. Within 24 hours he was in the hospital in a coma and we lost him soon after. Again, I spent a quiet afternoon going through a desk and personal files to help the family organize and respond.

I have been involved in other estates. Remainders of pieces of family that were close to people I cared about. Always, I felt the greatest gift I could give was my background and the willingness to find things out, to help make decisions, to make sure nothing fell through the cracks.

Then, I became a primary. Dealing with my husband’s, and now my mother’s estate I have discovered I have zero tolerance when it comes to incompetence. Actually, regardless of the situation I am not overly patient with sloppy work when it comes to other people’s money. I’m lucky, truly. With my husband I did hire an estate attorney to give me the lay of the land so that I knew what was needed and expected. I could then figure out how to handle any outstanding issues knowing I had backup if needed. And still, I found myself wanting to climb through the phone and strangle many of the people I had to deal with. Now, my mum. This time I had a professional I could speak with that is working on a file for a friend/client of mine. I offered to pay, but no, this was one commiserating accountant to another. I shall treasure that conversation for a very long time.

So, what is the issue that so bothers me? When a person dies and there is nothing in their estate to cover debt (such as credit cards when they are the primary debtor) the debt is usually written off. Now, companies to which such money is owed can take their sweet time making sure that there were not large sums of money hidden under grandma’s mattress, or that there isn’t some other asset tucked away to which the estate has a financial claim. But, in the end, the debt is declared noncollectable.

At some point, whenever “they” get around to it, the company might then issue something called a 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt. These things are evil incarnate. First of all, conservative estimates indicate that nearly 70% of them have some type of error. These errors can include such things as using the wrong taxpayer ID (or none), not reporting the interest portion of the debt, using the wrong date for the “identifiable event,” and several other bits of information. Now, cancellation of debt is a taxable event. There are limitations, such as interest that would have been deductible on a business return but was not taken.

The point is, there is a form out there in the IRS databanks assigning some value as income to a taxpayer. If you have access to accounting help (not a drive by shop), you will get assistance on how to address the reported income from your side, or to follow up on a corrected form. If, for instance, you went bankrupt, that date of event can be critical in answering the question of whether taxes are due or not. Let’s say you have recovered financially, and the date is set after the date of bankruptcy. That balance is now taxable unless you can get the financial institution to change the date to the date of insolvency. Anybody have a headache yet?

As mentioned above, I have zero tolerance for incompetency in some areas. I have to think about the number of people out there who do not have access to the things I do, who get these documents and have no clue of what to do with them and end up paying someone something when they don’t owe it. Sometimes at great personal sacrifice. And I really don’t like having to work double time to fix someone else’s lack of focus (lack of knowledge is okay, uncaring incompetence not so much).  I get that we do not want people of means to declare financial ruin and skip fancy free from using other people’s money to support a life style. The problem is that the “fix” does far more damage to those who can least afford a viable and legal defense.

I just have to say that I am blessed with people who bring me back from melt down and offer solid advice. If you know someone who is dealing with an estate that is insolvent with not enough assets to cover the debt, it will help if you find an accountant to walk you through. Some senior centers have access to professionals willing to donate time or provide advice at lower rates. Remember always that you have the right to use reasonable resources to care for last expenses such as burial and legal and accounting services (unless of course it is the final Social Security check). Just don’t panic, find someone who has been there to help you walk through it. I shall go try to take my own advice and be thankful that all the folks left in my life are people that can depend on me to be more level headed.

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Reflections ~ On the Changing of the Year

I recently read an article by Melinda Gates that talked about goals and New Year resolutions. She wrote something that resonated with me. She does not make resolutions or goals for the new year, she has been trying something different. She chooses a word. Last year she chose the word grace. She reminds herself of her chosen word throughout the year in situations great and small, triumphant and trying. It is a touch stone that guides, rather than defines, her goals for the coming year. I love that idea, so I thought I would give it a try.

There are oh so many marvelous words in the world, choosing one can be rather daunting, but it is worth the effort. My word for 2019 is “seasoned.” Season is both a noun, and a verb. As such, it can describe an accomplished goal, or the process. Common synonyms include, experienced, accustomed, toughened, inured, and habituated. Or, it can mean the fullness of time for the seasonal cycles of the earth, or the perfect moment to consume a fruit or vegetable. Season gives balance, flavor, a richness to things when properly applied. Season, and its related forms, can bring to mind a hint of a flavor, a powerful storm, the aging of fine wood, the smiling face of a wise old mentor, or the face of a storied warrior. Seasoning is how we become.

This word will serve me well, I believe. There are some areas of my life and my developed personal philosophy that have come to fullness. There will always be more to learn, but I feel settled in the direction that learning should take me. Let’s say I have found a distant star and know that it exists. Now I wish to know all about that star, what it is made of, when it was born, when it will die, and what depends on its existence. There are always amazing things to learn even if you feel settled in the path from which you explore them.

I’m not sure I can claim maturity in the full sense of the word. Yes, I am more mellow and more understanding than when I was younger. I am better at leaving well enough alone and at walking away when I believe my presence will cause more harm than good. However, I’m also rather uncompromising when it comes to core values. There are actions my heart has no room for and if people try to convince me there is no solution, then I believe we are looking at the problem incorrectly. There is a solution, but to find it we must first be willing to understand all aspects, all points of view. We need to look deeper to better understand while acknowledging that we are not the metric by which the whole world must be measured.

Consequently, in this coming year, I want to remind myself of the investment in time and knowledge required to mature to fullness; and that it can be a rocky road. I want to find the knee-jerk in my mind and mellow it a bit more so that I am able to frame alternatives in the manner needed for the audience. I want to work on the rough edges of my personality and learn to be a bit more tolerant of the perceived foibles of others. I want to season my presence in the world.

There is one other aspect of “seasoned” that resonates with me. Not only does season refer to experience or flavor, it also refers to cycles and timeliness. This, too, is a critical piece of any decision or goal. Is it time? Is it time for here, but not there? Sometimes we are in such a hurry to make sure our thoughts, our goals, our beliefs are known, that we miss the perfect moment for reception. Communication does not occur unless there is a confirmed receipt of the message. I want to be more mindful of the time and place for sharing. I want to hone my skills like those of a surfer that knows the moment to accept the wave. I want to be more aware of when the piece I have to share will do the most good. My door is always open, I want to get better at knowing when to start the tea.

There are many songs that speak to my heart when it comes to finding the better way, or to reminding me that even the smallest of contributions can make a difference. Recently, I have been reminded of this one. Somewhere in the vast ocean there are many small boats sending big waves, and with one match…

boat-clouds-cloudy-611328

Photo by Matheus Guimarães from Pexels

Fight Song – Dave Bassett / Rachel Platten
Fight Song lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep
Everybody’s worried about me
In too deep
Say I’m in too deep (in too deep)
And it’s been two years I miss my home
But there’s a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

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A Letter to Mumsy

Hi, Mum. We haven’t talked in a while and there is so much to catch up on. It has been such a crazy year filled with really great things, and things that worry and terrify me. I miss our chats. We didn’t always agree, but we could always talk. Well, at least once we had sorted our roles out and found a space we could share.

You didn’t know, last year, but I had lost my job. I didn’t want you to know because, well, you didn’t need the worry. Things worked out, I was able to cobble things together, keep the bills paid, and find my way to you. I think you knew something was stressing me because, even though I asked repeatedly if you wanted me there, you wouldn’t say yes. I am told that you made sure our customary teddy bear was with you constantly in those last days. So many people had so many wonderful things to say about you. I treasure those thoughts even now.

I’ve missed our talks. So, this Christmas Day, well, I’ll write you a letter.

Last fall, I had patched together an arrangement of contract work, tax returns, and part time work to get me through to another permanent position. As sometimes happens, the timing was impeccable, and I found a new job that I love dearly. It is challenging, but not stressful. Although I’m still the number cruncher, my work contributes to an organization that helps a lot of folks manage and recover from mental health issues and substance abuse. The team I work with is amazing and, although the salary started lower than where I had been, the benefits are quite juicy. I’m doing some of that doctor stuff I was always hounding you about. Oh, and I have a raise coming in a month, and a retirement account starts growing in two. Sigh, such a journey I’ve been on to reach this point. I’ve even started the renovations on the house

I do so miss our talks about what is happening in the world. Again, we didn’t always agree, and you were often more forgiving than me. Well, sometimes not so much. As we often discussed, the things happening in my country are crushing my heart. It’s not that I don’t understand that we need to protect ourselves and that we need to make sure that agreements are advantageous. I just don’t get the venom. It hurts. So very much.

Even you would be angered by the constant re-writing of history, of the seeming unwillingness to check on the most basic of facts. We allow ourselves to be influenced by the waves of social angst and rarely stop to question, to research, to make a choice anchored somewhere in reality. So, we accuse people fleeing a disaster we helped create of being terrorists. We talk about mowing down populations simply because they represent something we were taught to hate. Although for months I have been talking about the instability of the markets – I was told the economy was the best it had been in years. Farmers are going bankrupt, there’s barely a place in the country where minimum wage can provide decent shelter, food, and clothing. The money so graciously given to our largest companies was spent reacquiring stock, rather than investing in people and material growth. Our infrastructure is collapsing, and we want to build a wall – a wall where one already exists where it is feasible. Border patrol wants technology, yet there are those that are pushing to give them a monument.

Health care is going through the roof and people are dying because they cannot access drugs that have been around for decades. You were diabetic. I have no idea what your drug costs would have been had you survived. Even if your cancer treatments were still working, could we have afforded them? That is a heartbreak I’m not sure I could have handled. You, in your stoic way, would have trudged on through. We seem to have no will in this country to care for people in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The whole system is a mess. Thank God I have a job that provides the coverage I need. I am one of the lucky ones.

The international scene is a mad man’s ball. We have no idea from day to day who our allies will be, or who is now our enemy or competitor. Yes, I know we were in a place where we needed to push back and rearrange some of our agreements – but kicking the whole world in the balls was probably not the best idea. And the people we have always known were not our friends – well, evidently now they are. They can do no wrong. No friend is a true friend if there is no room for accountability. I hope our boat can float long enough to survive this storm. I honestly do not believe we are in a position to respond to another Pearl Harbor or 9-11. Many of the folks that could have guided us have left or been excused. I know from experience that no matter what your intentions and other skills may be, learning the job in the middle of a critical event is not the best idea.

I do have hope. I really do. Each day I meet people who, like me, continue to work toward the best moment for now. I find people who are kind, who believe in the underlying ethics of seeing the best in folks whatever their gender, sexual intent, faith, race, or personal quirks. I see people who genuinely care without being naive. I have no notion of what the next 20 years will bring. Thanks to you and my maternal genes I have a pretty good chance of finding out. I do know that when things appear to be heading into a catastrophic train wreck, I hear the voices of two people I know and care for the most. Two people who managed through depression and war. Two people I love. You, and my beloved husband.

Merry Christmas and sleep well, Mum. You’ve earned the rest.

Mumsy Memorial

Memorial for Delores Troxell, December 2017.

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Reflections ~ Banned Books and Social Stigmas

While in a cold-haze today, I ran across an article written by a pastor. He was describing one of those moments in life when you dearly want to be happy about something, but the cost is too great. In his district a mother had approached the school board with a impassioned plea to ban Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The book used the word bastard and she didn’t want her 13-year-old exposed to such language.  The pastor’s conflicting emotion arose because she wanted to replace the book with his, When the English Fall (by David Williams). This was an honor he wanted no part of, Bradbury is one of his favorite authors.

I was taken back to my own junior high, high school reading experiences. First, there is the year we were to study Catcher in the Rye. I believe this was during the no man’s land period of junior high when a course of study is but a vision on the horizon. I did, however, love to read. Due to the “adult subject matter” of the book, we were required to take a note home and get parental consent for participation. Now, one must understand that my mother had a Bachelor’s in Literature and my father left school in 8th grade. I am assuming he at least asked her opinion and my guess is that somewhere in that house there was a copy of the book.

My father gathered his religion around him and said no. One should know I had been living “adult subject matter” for the greater part of my life. I might have found something useful in the tale had I been given the opportunity. Perhaps that was the point. I was the only one in the class who was unable to gain permission to read what was already a classic. I do not recall what the response of my classmates was. I wasn’t that connected to what they may feel at that point in my education. What did happen is that instead of reading a 200-page book with the benefit of class discussion, I was assigned another book to read, Where the Redfern Grows. The book is around 300 pages long and, although sweet here and there, was far removed from my experiences at the time. Still, I was expected to keep up a reading schedule and make all the assignments within the same allotted time. I still don’t know if the teacher was attempting to make a point for me, my parents, or just wasn’t that engaged in the farce of “teaching” me anything of value. What I did garner from the class was of little use in helping me meet the requirements related to my assigned book. Isolation was a well-known companion, if not a comfortable one.

Fast forward a few years to a high school class when the book being read is Bradbury’s 451. I don’t recall if permission was required and, quite frankly, I wouldn’t have bothered. However, this too was an interesting experiment in education. The books provided to the students were purchased by the school. Our teacher purchased hers at a local bookstore. Then the games began. As we started to read various passages out loud in class, it became quite evident that we were reading somewhat different books. I remember one passage being “sanitized” by scrubbing even the word navel. All four-letter words were banished, and some passages had been re-written changing the intent and the impact. All in a book about censorship.

Young minds are not to be daunted and so, under the guidance of our teacher, we composed a letter to Mr. Bradbury explaining our shock and dismay that someone would tamper with his work in order to “clean it up” for our young impressionable minds. Bless his heart. He responded with a lovely letter and sheets of stickers for each of us, so we could spice up our editions as soldiers in the fight against those who would burn pieces of our books without our knowledge. I read a forward to a later reprint and saw hints of this experience in his commentary. (see also:  this blog for the quote from Bradbury’s CODA).

I believe what I fear is that in a world that constantly screeches “fake news” at us, we will dim our drive to discover, to check, to be aware of all the information available to us, even if it is unpleasant. Even if it exposes something in ourselves that we are not prepared to acknowledge. Not so long ago I saw that an award named after Laura Ingalls Wilder was dropping her name because of some of the attitudes in her books. These are phrases she herself called out in later years surprised at how insensitive they sounded now even though the language was commonplace when she was a child. I have heard the uproar over Huckleberry Finn and the language and attitudes shown in that story. I am here to tell you that if we bury this past, we will never be forced to acknowledge it. Apparently, it is far more appropriate to shoot a black person today than to acknowledge the attitudes of a society that enslaved him; and in some ways still does.

photo credit plymouthherald.co.uk

The current mood in our country is a symptom of the live burial of the past. We choose to ignore the symbols of hatred and division from the past because it is inconvenient, and we may have to face the same thoughts and actions in today’s world. Consequently, some will up the cry and shock us with their naked anger and hatred to preserve a past that never was. I must ask you, though if this is not the path you would choose; what are you doing to turn down the temperature, to educate, to seek the wiser course? It is crucial to protect the joint heritage of humanity with all of its glory and destitution, with all of its great loves and deepest darkest hatreds – and from that muddled soup of human emotions and aspiration – perhaps we can build a future worthy of living. Don’t hide the past but do your best to seek out the truth and defend it from those who would re-write it into a story that never was.

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Reading the fine print

Gotta love political ads. My brain hurts. However, I am voting today and there are a few things I’ve noted.

Ivoted4

Regarding Initiative 1631 (the carbon fee measure)

Ads will tell you that it excludes big carbon producers from the fee. One being coal-burning power plants. Well, a caveat. It only excludes such pants IF they are scheduled to close by 2025 or otherwise legally bound to comply with emissions standards by 2025.

Ads will tell you that the fund advisory board has no accountability. Not true. There is a tight loop between the state agencies, Washington State tribes, and the board created by the measure. The measure also dictates what percentages of funds must go to what type of investments. This isn’t a free for all. There is also a clause that if it can be shown that the tribes were not consulted and the project adversely impacts their lands (or fishing), there is an immediate halt until things can be sorted out.

The measure also clearly states that the funds are to be used for reduced pollution or to assist affected workers or people with lower incomes. So, if your job is in danger due to this measure, someone is supposed to be supporting the transition to something else.

Twenty-five percent of the fund is to be used to clean up state waters, reduce ocean acidification, address wildfires, and reduce flood risks.

Five percent of the fund is directed to programs that will help relate communities that are facing rising sea levels, provide education to communities and schools regarding climate change, and provide sustainable responses to communities under threat of wildfires or floods.

I’m with Bill Gates on this one – I vote yes.

 

Regarding Initiative 1639 (firearms)

I was given a heads up on this one by a friend. I agree – this one is a no. There are two reasons I do not like this measure.

The definition of what constitutes a “semiautomatic assault rifle” is sloppy and misleading. Do I think we should control firearms and accessories that permit multiple firings with one trigger pull? Yes. Do I think we should write laws that allow the interpretation to change with the circumstances and that unfairly and incorrectly identify a firearm? Most definitely not.

The second issue I have is the carte blanc handed to state agencies and law enforcement to request information on health and mental health records in the process of determining eligibility. No. Absolutely No. Period. There has been a process in place for decades that permits professionals to report abuse or mental issues to state officials and law enforcement. There is no reason this would not be a sufficient practice to ensure that mentally unstable persons are barred from purchasing firearms. As it stands, certain positions (including a few I have held) are mandatory reporters for child abuse or domestic violence. By law, when you hold such a position, you can be held responsible for consequences. Sex offenders (some who should have never gained that title) are also required to let the world know when they are in the neighborhood. These practices should work just fine for keeping weapons out of the hands of folks who should not have them. If a person wishes to challenge their inclusion in such a list, they can contact the appropriate professional for a re-evaluation. But under no circumstances am I willing to provide access to medical records to random checks by state agencies or law enforcement.

Go back and do a better job, people. For this one, I vote no.

Regarding initiative 940 (law enforcement)

I found this one rather interesting. The standard for “use of deadly force” is modified to include a “good faith test.” The good faith test can only be determined by an independent investigation. That means that if someone is killed or seriously injured, someone outside of the department has to investigate the circumstances and determine if any reasonable officer in the same situation would have acted in the same manner. The initiative also mandates violence de-escalation and mental health training  – no matter how long the officer has been on the force, and such training must occur annually.

On this one? I think it is a good start and I vote yes.

Wow, just noticed something else about this state – Washington has an address confidentiality program for crime survivors. You have to meet certain requirements, but you can keep your address off one of the most public databases in the country—and still vote. That would have helped me out for a few decades.

Something else I like. Checking out one of the incumbents and learned that state websites are supposed to be frozen during the election season (May to November). If you want to know campaign stuff you have to go elsewhere.

That’s my short take. The “who” I voted for is only provided through private discussions. You know where to find me.

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