Archive | February 2021

I Like Life, Life Likes Me

Amazon.com: Pokemon Card - Electric Shock Showdown EP14 - Topps: Toys &  Games
Oh yeah, it’s on, Life.

This week Life liked me. Gran’s neighbor went to take a shower and got shocked by the shower head. Not a little static shock. Not an electrocution. But more of “This is bad. I’m not adding water.” They called me to ask if we’d had problems. I said no. But, I told them it sounded like a loose ground wire and to get an electrician out right away. They did. It was. The cause was wind, and they thought Gran’s tree rubbing on the wire to their house. Thus opportunity arose. I agreed and told them of course we’d pay the trimmer.

Because a near death could have happened if our neighbors had just turned on the water and stepped in the shower, Gran was onboard with a trimmer. But ONLY for their side of the tree. I got a trimmer in right away. He did the tree, just on the neighbor’s side. But, while he was there, and Gran was napping, I had him pull down the widowmakers and the dead crow. Win, win. Gran never noticed they were gone. But I was glad. The winds keep blowing through a gale and knowing the tree won’t cut off anyone’s power (electrocute anyone) or set anything on fire, is a good feeling.

This week also, I got Gran’s and my taxes done. Win-win. I love forms. It’s one of my quirks. Anyone in the family needs a form filed out? I’m your gal. I’ve been doing forms for my parents since about age 10. I think I thought of it as coloring, in a specific way. It involved pens and paper. I was happy. Business permits, medical billing, building applications, if it was a form, I was on it. But I’ll admit, tax prep can be tough. Thank God for Turbo Tax. I love those people.

How to declutter your hoarded story ideas - The Writer
You may need some help digging out.

I always do family taxes early because who needs that hanging over their heads for months on end. Give my ability to procrastinate is a high art, you’d think I’d wait. But no. I want the government to have what I owe to fund all those things that make life good for people, or to get back what I overpaid (so I sort of loaned the govt money to do good things).The way 2020 went, I imagine a lot of people are going to be due a refund this year, thus getting taxes in early means beating the rush. Not that I think the IRS won’t pay up, but…doing it early is recommended and prevents possible tax return theft (so I’m told).

This week I’ve been looking at my planner, trying to decide what to do there. I think in January it did help. It seems to have made me a little more productive, but more important, less stressed about things I need to do. People don’t mention that when the talk about planners, but having and seeing a to-do list, a plan (even if it doesn’t work out exactly to spec), gives a sense of peace. It’s there, there’s a designated time to deal with it. You don’t feel hassled or harried about it. I like that. But planners don’t have to be for just that sort of thing.

To be frank, by February my planner, while having standard to-do stuff in it, morphed into a less plan-y planner. By that I mean, I started putting in things that were helpful and meaningful to me. Most people have habit trackers, to keep on track with exercise or diet. And those are great. But I veered off into keeping track of things I read, or wanted to read. And what I thought about those things, marginalia. Music I heard that moved me, that I might purchase. Quotes I liked. Creative ideas I had, that I wanted to pursue. People (or places) I wanted to reach out to and thank for making my life better in some way. Gratitude. Even if it’s just a tweet to some actor, musician, author whose work moved me or some aquarium or zoo post that made me laugh.

Far from Marginal: Images in the Margins of the Abbey Bible | Getty Iris
A somewhat higher form of marginalia.

Personally I think this was the SO’s subtle scheme all along. I’m notorious for leaving my thoughts on scraps of paper everywhere. I mean every-where. The SO is forever gathering them up (because he knows they are important to me) and placing them in my overflowing In Basket on my desk in my tiny library office. Now these things end up in my planner. Or, the mostly do. And I find that really helpful. And I know the SO finds it really helpful not to find a haiku riffed on a newspaper margin, torn away and left in a random mug (for safe keeping, I knew it was there) when he sleepily pulls down a mug and splashes his morning coffee into it. (I used waterproof ink. And if he’d dried the dishes and put them away . . . .)

As we headed toward Lent, a friend told my about the Monk’s Manual. I was already planning to use the online daily prayer site Sacred Space (which has a Lent 2021 retreat section). But I checked out the MM. I’ll be honest, conceptually it’s a good idea. In its current format, it comes off as overpriced tat for navel-gazing rich white Christians. It’s really not. It’s more a Benedictine reflective, Ora et Labora. My friend was right to recommend it. I think it’s a really good springboard. But $38? For a leather bound quarterly? ($38 x 4 = $152!) If it’s really a good idea, for everyone, there should be a cheap $10 paperback version you can put (or not) in the sleeve of your choice. But I digress, conceptually, a planner can be a way of discovering yourself, and encountering God (of your choice or not), through your daily life.

I’m thinking about doing something like that with March, because it’s Lent all next month. I like Lent. I know that’s weird, but I think of it as Spring Cleaning for the soul. It’s a chance to get in all those dark corners and clear out stuff that’s holding us down or back. But it’s not only that. It’s a chance to adventure, to discover what’s really there. Sometimes, yes, it could be bad, and we must deal with that but often it’s good. There are forgotten wonders in the soul, waiting to be found and treasured again. People have a lot of fear of the unknown, within, but the soul is like the globe. You shouldn’t be afraid to sail out for fear of falling off the edge. Great continents of joy await. And you will eventually circle back.

Flat Earthers' Attempt To Sail To The Edge Of The World Ends In Massive  Disappointment | IFLScience
The earth only appears flat. Just keep sailing.

A lot of people are locked in fear now. The pandemic has done a number on folks. But again it’s understandable, the uncertainty, the unknown, all that can create fear in people. And this is made worse when others, deeply damaged people with power, make it their mission to megaphone fear, instead of reality, simply to cling to power or financial benefit. Believers in such puffery can get stuck in a deeply fearful, childlike mindset. Religion, true religion, is often a way of liberation, a way out of that created dependence. Think how many times Jesus enjoined us to “fear not.”

Sometimes however, religion itself becomes means of staying stuck in a familiar fear rather than face truth. They call that spiritual bypass. It’s burying the truth under supposed religious devotion. A man goes to war, he returns to find his fiancée has married the local butcher. In response, he becomes a priest, moves to a very poor So American country, and sets up an orphan boys’ school. Spiritual bypass. On the outside, erudite compassionate priest. On the inside, unresolved emotional pain. That’s not helpful either.

Anyone wanting to read a great article on getting free of fear, might want to check out Dr Aura Glaser‘s Into the Demon’s Mouth. Yes, it’s in Tricycle, a Buddhist magazine. Yes, Dr Glaser is a TB. Yes, it’s a TB story. Just read it. But I digress. For March, I’m thinking of using Jim Manney‘s, 2011, A Simple, Life-changing Prayer. It’s in the Ignatian Jesuit vein. I ordered a copy of the slender 96-pg book to review. We’ll see if it makes it into the planner. It’s arriving today. This was my last order from Amazon.com. In future, I’ll be ordering from Barnes and Noble or other resellers directly.

Antonia is the best! Watch to the end for the outtakes. Hilarious.

I’m appalled by all the anti-union activity Amazon has got going on in Alabama. Paying bonuses to people to quit, so they lose their union voting rights. Putting up fake boxes to trick workers into losing their ballot. Harassing emails and texts. Even in the bathrooms. It’s just too disgusting. It’s frankly massive voter suppression and intimidation — of the GOP kind. So, no thanks. Can’t support your company until your workers are able to FREELY exercise their right to form (or not) a union. I don’t care what the people in Alabama choose, but the choice must be freely, fairly, totally theirs.

I’ve never been a union member. My grandfathers were both in unions. I never thought much about them, unions, till last week, when I was talking to a friend in the OC. She was telling me people at her company were thinking of starting union. I was surprised. It’s a big company, pretty good reputation, and a non-profit. I didn’t know a non-profit could unionize. When I asked what had led to this thinking, I was deeply shocked, because I have a long-standing membership with this company. She said at first things were fine. When the pandemic hit, they were all deemed essential workers, so they kept working, mostly from home. And the company kept everyone on.

The company always ran a very tight, hired only when absolutely necessary, and stopped hiring and didn’t replace anyone who left or retired or … died of covid. So, all good, for awhile. Then things opened up and case loads began to go up, way up, to normal levels. But they didn’t have normal levels of staff. So cases backed up. Customers complained. Managers said, “let them.” The company wasn’t hiring till it knew the pandemic wasn’t going to cause another shut down. So case workers worked as hard as they could. Doing up to 3x their normal, expected, required load. And then came the employee reviews.

Employees were told they would not get their expected annual increases, despite doing way more work, because of poor customer service, ie , “customer complaints.” Yeah. The company caused the complaints, then used the complaints to deny workers annual pay raises. That was bad. A lot employees were very upset and began calling in sick. I could understand that. I think it was made worse by the fact this nonprofit company has like $20 billion in assets, and made $2 billion in profit in the past pandemic year. So union talk began. And then things got worse.

The terrible winter storm hit Texas. Since the company works with Texas as well as California and other states, the company went into catastrophe mode. She told me the company offered overtime to everyone, last weekend, to help Texans out. But, after the company offered the OT, the managers turned around and told employees that they should use that approved OT to clear up their California, backlogged cases. Say what now? People asked. They’d bill OT, used for California cases, under the Texas catastrophe.

People didn’t want to do overtime, clearing California cases but charging it off to the Texas catastrophe. A) It was wrong. B) It wouldn’t help Texans. C) This would make it appear that California managers had gotten more work out of their California employees to close California cases without it costing California’s budget any extra money. So, the only end result for the already maxed out employees would be getting told the company didn’t need to hire more people because clearly the current staff could handle things, without OT. That staff were lazy and not doing enough. While at the same time, managers would get their annual increase for “motivating their lazy teams.”

15 Incredible Texas Wildflowers You Should Know
A lot of Hill Country snow in Feb will lead to this eventually. Hang in there. I love Texas!

This brings me to Texas. However despicable you think the Amazon in Alabama, or the company in California, remember ERCOT in Texas. They failed to do basic things to prepare for a terrible storm, in the face of knowledge the storm was coming, and then when grids failed, they charged the remaining connected people exorbitant amounts for power, even though it was ERCOT’s poor planning and decisions alone which created the conditions that caused the grids to fail and that triggered the price spike! They literally killed their own customers. Then turned around and charged them thousands of dollars. Level of disgust, 10 out of 10.

So why am I bothering to tell you these tales? I guess because I want people to know that the United States are all interconnected. We Americans are all interconnected. Bad laws in one state, impacts the lives of people other states. Bad treatment of employees in one state, impacts the lives of people in other states. Poverty in one state, hurts all states. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (Martin Luther King, Jr). The $15 minimum wage, the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the ERA, Climate Change bills, universal healthcare, these are good for all Americans. Government regulation, unions, they’re public goods.

Those that squawk and cluck, are just not able to grasp reality. Remember when Papa John’s founder John Schnatter said he’d close all his pizza stores if Obamacare passed? That he’d have to do it because he couldn’t afford to do right by his employees and give them health benefits? That was just a load of bull pucky. PJ’s has 300 more US stores now than it did before Obamacare. And Schnatter’s worth $1 billon today. Obamacare didn’t hurt him at all. But it did help millions of Americans.

Are we ready? We must be. | Reading & Berks County, United Labor Council
Sorry, where is this Joe Biden?

Joe Biden ran as a pro-union candidate. His response to Amazon’s union-busting tactics? Crickets. It’s very disappointing. But, I will do what I can to remain supportive of those democratic efforts of others and positive about the outcomes for all Americans. It’s the best thing anyone can do right now. I get pizza from anywhere but a Papa John’s. I get books from B&N or other retailers. I send my friend in the OC links to how to start a union (but she said they’re afraid of company reprisals, for now.) Most of all, I live in hope.

I get up everyday. I make my bed. And I sing a riff of Scrooge, “I love life, life loves me. I want to live to a hundred and three.” Life is a gift, but you can only benefit from it if your present. This Lent, makes some time to be present in your own life. Once you do that, you just might be surprised how much Life likes you.

This entry was posted on February 26, 2021.

Over the River and through the Wood

Image result for flowering treesn river
Someday, when the snow has passed.

Yes, I’ve return to Gran’s house, for this 3rd – but not final – tour of duty. My parents tuned up Gran’s ’97 Chevy and brought it up to Nor Cal for me. Excellent for me. That cuts down on present and future ride sharing / begging. Although Hugh tells me if I ever want to sail up to Vancouver from California, on a rich person’s 40′ superyacht, as crew, he knows someone that moves such boats around for fun and profit.

Mutti got Gran her first shot of the Moderna vaccine Feb 2. The pharmacy pre-scheduled her 2nd dose that day. So, really blessed. I know so many people who have had so much trouble trying to get a vaccine. In Gran’s county, Latinos are 66% of cases, and 42% of deaths. Whites are 24% of cases and 44% of deaths. Asians make up 3% of cases, but 8% of deaths. So here, being really old and White or Asian, means you really need a vaccine so as not to die. I know that probably upends some expectations. But that’s how it is here.

Anyway, reactions to the vaccine? Yes. Day 2, a pale pink band about 3″ wide around injection site, kind of hurt. Day 4, bright red, hot to the touch, puffed up about 1/4 inch. By Day 6 is started to go away. By day 8 it was back to pale pink band. Day 9 almost gone. But Day 10? Holy moly. It grew to about 4″ around the site and turned bright red again. By day 13 it was fading again. Currently it looks sort of tan, and still 4″ around the site involved. Mutti called her doctor. Apparently this kind of reaction is a common thing.

v-safe after vaccination health checker graphic
Do it for your community.

Gran said it didn’t matter. It’s worth it. She signed up for V-Safe as well, to make sure the CDC gets the data it needs. Doing her part for research on the over 90 group. She gets her next shot March 2. I’m thinking we’ll ask for it in the other arm. Her neighbor got the same shot, and ended up laid out with 105 degree fever, hand tremors, headache, extreme tiredness…not great. Gran’s doctor says that’s the sort of reaction you might get with the 2nd dose. I haven’t heard anything like that about 1st does of vaccine shots from the CDC so … I dunno.

I probably won’t be able to get a vaccine till May, but more likely Sept. I’m not sure if they’ll booster people in Sept that got the vaccine in Feb, like my Gran. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. I’m hopeful mass vaccines will have the US in a better place by Sept. But I’m not lying to myself. Containment is hard when people are actively pro-death by covid in many states. There’s a whole world out that will likely be contending with covid still. There will be a 4th and final tour for me here. And that’s okay.

The Significant Other is still whittering away up north. His folks are still in residence. The Netherlands extended their lockdown to March 2. Then a giant snow storm hit Amsterdam and shut down the airport. His mother said she’d had it. La Mere says they are staying till their permission to remain runs out in April. And what La Mere decides, Le Pape agrees to. So, my cats are still being held hostage, er, cared for at their luxury condo. How long that arrangement will last now that I’m not their to provide additional litter box cleaning and kitty entertainment? I’m not sure.

Image result for spoiled cat
What do you mean I have to go “home”?

As I promised not to continue on with my TB (Tibetan Buddhism, not tuberculosis) as a topic, I will not. I will say that the covid project continues. And, as part of my honoring my commitment to doing good, I feel obligated to inform those of you that care and feel you need this, the Paramita Centre is doing at Medicine Buddha empowerment online on March 6. This is in English via the Toronto center. They are hosting it in French the following day, on March 7, through the Montreal branch. Ok, done.

Mutti didn’t look so frazzled when she left, but she did leave the house, the laundry, and Gran’s taxes in a bit of a state. More fun for me! Minka and the squirrels were glad to see the back of her. A bit sad for me though. I’m really proud of my mother. Because she was finally proud of herself, for getting through, and being resilient. She doesn’t like So Cal. She doesn’t like the heat, the earthquakes, the droughts, the monsoonal rains, the high winds, the constant fire danger. She calls is living in a siege mentality. I understand. It’s not the place for everyone.

My mother’s a strong person, but strong and pandemic strong are horses of a different color to be sure. She was sorely tested at the end of January. After just one rain storm early in the season, she’d been living week after week through the drought/fire danger. Then suddenly it was over 90 for a week. High fire danger. Then there followed 3 days of winds 60+ mph with gusts of 90. Extreme fire danger. Then she saw the wind had torn 50 shingles off the roof. And this is where she dug deep and got pandemic strong.

Image result for female roofers
Real women aren’t afraid to roof.

In the 2 nice days that followed, Mutti took off work and spent 8 hrs a day, on the roof, getting covered in Henry’s black rubberized mastic and re-setting new shingles. She only had those 2 days because on the evening of day 3 it was going to rain, monsoonally. So, after 2 days of maddness on the roof, she pulled on the gum boots and spent day 3 soaking and placing the heavy, wet, dirty, Quick Dams and putting out rainsheets and buckets. Then 2″ of rain fell in 24hr period, meaning lots of going out and emptying buckets in the cold rain. Then, the skies cleared and she spent a day cleaning everything up and putting everything away again.

At which point, she collapsed in a heap. Nevertheless, she had bested So Cal at its worst. She felt proud of herself for that. She always had this idea of having “runaway” from So Cal, to a better life. But after this she realised, she hadn’t run. She was tough enough. She could have stayed and bested it. She just didn’t want to. She chose to leave and make a better life elsewhere. It’s funny the images we have of ourselves (and others). How we carry around old ideas about ourselves that were either never true or we’ve long outgrown.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. This, and idea of an authentic self vs an adaptive self. If you don’t quite follow, I’ll try to nutshell it. You are you, the nice guy. Till you are sent to war. Then you kill a lot of people. You adapt to survive. But when the war ends, do you fully return to your authentic “nice guy” self? Is it possible? Or do you struggle with your identity? Can you accept what happened and try to integrate it into a now larger picture of yourself? Doesn’t have to be war, could be cancer, job loss, a million things.

Normally, you don’t remain in the adaptive, survivor, self mode. The crisis that created the adaptive self ends eventually. You go back to “normal.” That’s the idea anyway. That’s what people think. But it’s not always 100% true. You might get stuck in adaptive mode. Life goes back to normal, you don’t and can’t figure out how to. For most people, it’s a process. What happened, and why, what you did as a response…. It gets processed. It all becomes integrated into one’s authentic self. If that doesn’t happen, it’s almost impossible to get out of adaptive mode and move back toward an authentic self.

Even when we aren’t forced into change, temporary adaptive change, like having to use crutches because you broke your leg skiing, your authentic self changes — if you want it to. You learn (stay on the lower slopes), you grow (I don’t need to panic in an avalanche), you authentically change (maybe ski joring next year). We humans love to adapt ourselves for no reason at all other than its novelty. But usually those changes are still in keeping with our authentic self. Adrenaline junkies don’t stop skiing to take up golf. They take up base jumping. It’s a very curious thing, trying to sort out what’s authentic about ourselves.

I think about this a lot more since I started watching Resident Alien with the wonderful Alan Tudyk (the entire cast is wonderful). The show is a study in authentic vs adaptive selves, and how they meld, or don’t. Almost every character in the show is hiding all or part of their authentic self. The boy, Max, who struggles to get people to believe he authentically sees an alien. The alien, Harry, who struggles to remain authentically alien, in the face of having to adapt to becoming a version of the authentic Harry human in order to survive. I haven’t read the Dark Horse comic this tv series is based on, I don’t know where it’s all going, but I’m along for the ride.

Image result for spoiler alert

I’m going to throw out some thoughts about Resident Alien plotlines now. Feel free to skip down to the next section if you don’t want to hear them. The boy who sees the alien (though no one believes him), and the alien who knows the boy sees him have the only “real” (based on reality) relationship here. They can only be authentically themselves when they are with each other. I’m guessing they become friends — of a sort. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. At some point the boy and the alien will probably have to save each other from the government’s agents.

I’m also guessing, since the RA mentioned the existence of other aliens, there are other aliens. Those aliens might not want humans destroyed. Maybe because of research they do here, or maybe they retire here, or may it’s just a good place for hiding out? At any rate, this could create drama. The RA never says why his species thinks humanity has to die. And with humanity gone, are other aliens moving in? We don’t know. Destruction typically has purpose. You don’t plow up a field for the heck of it.

Then of course, there is the original sin. The murder of the town doctor, Sam. The episodes so far keep glossing over this, but the only person who could have committed Sam’s murder, because of the technical nature of it (poison gas, closed lab), is Dr Van der speigle, the very person whose identity the RA has assumed. As to the real motive for the murder by the real Dr V? I couldn’t say. BTW, Van Der Spiegle, roughly means from in the mirror, in Dutch.

Image result for in the mirror
Which self do you see?

Anyway, back to authentic vs adaptive. During my last tour I told you about the SO painting my white car a charcoal color, instead of white (as it was), or green (his preferred color), or black (the EU popular color), or grey (the Canadian popular color). I speculated that he was threading the needle to please his parents and the Canadians. I speculated he was not being authentic, but adaptive. So I asked him about it. And he said….

He painted it that color because that way I would never be lost in a snow bank and die. Um…what? He reminded me of the “vivid horror tales” I’d told him. Um… what? About all the people who vanish every year in So Cal by going off the road at night and into a dense brush-covered canyon and are never found for years. Uh, okay. I don’t remember them as vivid horror tales, more like cautionary tales of why you drive safely in canyons, but …. I could see his point.

“But, why that color?” I asked. “Why not any other color, bright orange, sunny yellow?” He said, “What color do you think it is?” I really couldn’t say. Sexy charcoal with mica flecks is what I think he wanted to hear. I shrugged and shook my head. He looked a little perturbed. “I had it painted your favorite thing color.” My favorite thing color? I admit to being obviously perplexed at that point. “The night sky.” he said in exasperation. “Because you love the dark night.”

Image result for night sky
Hmm, I see it now.

Oh My God. Until he said it, I hadn’t seen it. After he said it? It was so glaringly obvious. Crap. He didn’t choose that color out of his adaptive self. He chose it out of his authentic self. The kind, loving, generous self I’ve always known him to be didn’t want me dying a horrible death. His authentic self wanted to give me the gift of something rare and beautiful that my authentic self would cherish.

The problem wasn’t with him at all. It was with me. Although, it wasn’t with me either. My authentic self always asks questions. And my authentic self loves him, and therefore always wants him to be his true self. Not held back by me, his family, my family, the community we live in, nothing. In my authentic love for him, I completely missed his authentic love for me. It was kind of like a bad O’Henry story. Which I mentioned, and then we both laughed. Authentically.

All’s well that ends well. And the Friday love song confirms it.

This entry was posted on February 19, 2021.