Polarization.

We have never experienced more visual, more guttural, or more powerful statements of polarization as we did during our life in Ohio.   Everything since has paled in comparison.

We could always see it building.  Friends and neighbors taking sides.  Hard lines being drawn and compromise a mere word in the dictionary.   

Signs were everywhere.  Banners flew from car antennas.  Flags filled every front yard. Nearly everyone sported buttons and caps, tee shirts and hats, blatantly flaunting their allegiances.

Happily, and as was always the case, once the referee confirmed the final score, foes became friends again. No one questioned the outcome. Congratulations and condolences were offered and accepted. Losers and winners shook hands and got back to the business of life. 

And it was over!  At least for a year.

This, of course, has nothing to do with “political polarization.”   This is all about the annual Ohio State/ University of Michigan football game.  Take another look at the images above.  Red and grey for OSU; blue and gold for U. of M.  (And by the way, red and blue mixed together equal purple!)  No politics there but plenty of passionate polarization!

As to “political” polarization, wouldn’t it be grand if, even in some small measure, it could be as congenial, civil and honorable as the polarization of our favorite sports rivalries?   

Nothing Ventured…..

Nothing Gained.

Such was the case with our great Ketamine experiment/experience of last week. 

Ketamine is known to occasionally cause a high blood pressure spike after the injection and during the “experience.”  Apparently, I was vulnerable to that.  It was a no-brainer to quickly grasp that dystonia is one thing; a stroke would be quite another.

We, the Mister and I, as well as the doctors at the Ketamine clinic have decided to halt all further appointments.  There were to be six of them.  But the possible benefits in no way outweigh the potential harm.  Thank goodness this is/was an optional treatment; not a necessary one.

No one has told me this is “age” related.  They’ve simply said that it’s most likely just “me.”    We’ve heard many positive things about the drug and still believe they’re valid.  I’m not a good candidate to be a “ketamine kid” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a viable treatment option for many others. We’ve done too much research to discount the benefits simply from my outcome.

We were enthusiastic and hopeful about the process. A good friend who was wishing the best for the us and the foot said simply: “Bummer.”  We agree.

There’s an answer somewhere.   There has to be. This just wasn’t it.

Ketamine.

Ketamine is a drug that produces hallucinogenic responses.  It can distort reality and perception.  Frequently, the user is not in control and feels disconnected to his/her environment.

Under normal circumstances, I couldn’t run fast enough to get away from such a thing.

Why then, am I choosing to have a Ketamine injection on Monday?  With more to come, perhaps? And with the full understanding of what my response will most likely be.

The answer:  ketamine, used properly and in a clinical environment, can, and hopefully will, assist in the recovery of my long-standing and seriously unwanted relationship with focal dystonia of the foot.

The Mister and I don’t know for sure about this, of course. Right now, one of us is scared. The other is confident that all will go well. Together, we’re hopeful.  And we’re optimistic. 

Dystonia is not, in and of itself, simply a physical condition.  The mind is powerfully involved in dystonia.  It may or not be the genesis of the disease.  No one knows for sure.  But once it’s part of you, it’s a tough nut to crack.

Hence, the mind/body approach that ketamine professes.

I’ve not used this little blog very often to direct you, my dear readers, to my situation.  But doing so this time around, may be helpful to me.  And it may be eye opening for all of us. As always, I thank you in advance for being with me on Sundays.

Observational Journalism.

A recent article in the New York Times Magazine caught my eye.  Written by a journalist, he encourages each of us to look around ourselves, recording everything we notice, including the people, sounds, smells, noises and screens.   In other words: wake up, smell the roses, and write it down.

On a recent trip to the eye doctor, I decided to forgo my usual crossword puzzle and focus on my surroundings.  I became aware that the television in the waiting room was and always has been, according to my recollection, tuned to a home improvement show.  Nothing new or noteworthy there.  But, by avoiding the news channels, I think I can safely note that the office chooses to be apolitical. That’s all good.

The second thing I observed was that all those in the waiting room had their faces buried deep in their phones.  Nothing new or notable there, either.  It’s just who we are and what we do these days.  No rose-smelling there.  Sadly.

Eventually, we were each called back for our examinations. 

After my exam but prior to my meeting with the doctor, I was taken to another room.  I determined that the people in this room were the same people who’d been in the waiting room with me earlier.  But this time not a single person had his or her face in their phones. 

Of course, they didn’t.  They couldn’t see.   Dilation does that to a person.

Alas, my observational adventure also ended abruptly because, of course, I couldn’t see either.

What A Lovely Week It’s Been!

Early last week, my old friend, Agatha, grabbed me by the hand said: “Let’s go.  Let’s hop on The Blue Train out of Paris and we’ll be at the Riviera in no time at all.”

“Pack your bags,” she said.  “There’s no time to waste. I’ve reserved compartments for each of us.  We’ll sup in style in the dining car, we’ll sleep to the lull of the wheels on the rails and, best of all, there will be a murder.”

There’s no need to worry, of course, she added.  Monsieur Hercule Poirot will be there, as promised, and as he is quick to remind us, he’s always the first to solve the mystery and apprehend the perp.

How could I say no to such a proposition?

And so, just like that, I was curled up with a reprint of one of my favorite mystery books of all time.  And there I stayed until the satisfying end.

And, oh, the lovely language.  The lack of profanity.  The attention to detail.  The subtle character development.  And, yes, the murder.

Agatha Christie was my mainstay way back when.  I relied on her to introduce me to new worlds and new friends.  They never disappointed.  Re-reading Agatha this week reminded me of her consistent and delightful ability to tell a good tale. 

Opposing Viewpoints.

No, not opposing political viewpoints.   

The views I’m talking about come from three inanimate objects in our house.  They might not have voices but their messages are loud and clear.  How can that be?  

The three objects are, respectively, an Apple Watch and two hearing aids. 

Here’s the problem:  The Apple Watch suggests that I’m hip.  That I’m with it.   That I’m up to date, on the move, ready to text, talk, and google, all while taking my 10,000 daily steps. 

The other two, the hearing aids, beg to differ:  “Whoa,”  they say. “Not so fast.  See, we know you’re deaf.  Which means that you’re a tad bit up in years.  Maybe not so hip after all, are you?”

At present, these inanimate objects spend all their days and nights securely attached to the little chargers they came with. They may be plugged in and ready to go, but ultimately, I’m in charge and they’re not allowed to come out and play if they’re going to be that oppositional.  That opinionated.  That didactic.

But hold on a sec!  If one is telling me I’m cool and the others say I’m old, maybe if I put the watch on my wrist and the aids in my ears, I could be a cool little old lady. I can live with that. Maybe I’ll let them out of their cages after all.

They’re Back.

Of course they are. They’re as reliable as the tide.  They always return right before Thanksgiving.  And they always set up camp in the same small spot.  Just a bit down the sound from us.  Year after year.

They’re the mergansers, of course.  Those sweet-faced little ducklings. 

As part of their daily lives, they go “shopping” every morning at 7:30 am.  Always in pairs, as is their habit.  I worry when when I see an odd number.  Did one become ill over night?  Or just opt for a wee sleep-in? 

I observe them daily from our own little perch on the second floor.  Our bedroom windows give us an unobstructed view of their morning habits.  I like to imagine their “conversations” but will spare you that. 

But, just this morning, as the four pairs swam together, I saw one dart away.  He/she swam, quickly to a bush near the shore.  The other ducks and I watched in surprise.

I could imagine their concern. I shared it.  An obvious break in a pattern is never a good thing.  He/she swam out from under the bush several minutes later.  We, the ducks and I, watched with concern as he/she didn’t return to the flock but rather swam off in the direction of the nest.

The flock returned to their important tasks.  Gathering, hunting, fishing.  Life needs to go on.

But now I’m worried.  I’ll assume my post tomorrow at 7:30 and I’ll be counting.  I desperately need all of eight of them to be there. 

The Foot restricts my actions.  As a result, the ducks may assume more importance than they should.  There’s an upside to that, of course.  Little things become just that much more compelling, meaningful. and valuable.  Just like those sweet little mergansers and their fascinating behaviors.

Where, Oh Where, Did Soft Go?

Not to make “weather” of it but did soft melt into a puddle on a hot summer’s day?  Or turn to ice on a freezing winter’s eve?

Either way, from my perspective, soft got up and went away.

Everything feels transactional these days.  So very “quid pro quo.”  If I do for you,  then you must do for me.  Otherwise, I’ll just be on my way.

Soft implies a safe place.  A welcoming place.  A place to share, discover, screw up, change, develop.  A place to cry, laugh, fuss, and celebrate.  A judge-free place. 

I’m lucky.  Soft exists right here at home.  But it gets scary out there. So many sharp edges.  So many agendas.   

Covid and the pandemic went a long way to put us here.  We couldn’t shake hands, cheek/air kiss or even fist bump.  Elbow-bumping was the only contact sport left to us and we all know how painful a sharp elbow can be.  Soft, comforting, caring touches were simply not allowed.   

Will we ever get all the way back to soft?   i hope so. Maybe it’s out there. On its way.  Blowin’ in a soft breeze. We’ll know it when we feel it.  It can’t get here fast enough for me.

Trust.

Trust is big issue. And not always an easy one to manage.

In whom do we put our trust?  The media?  Our family?  Our friends?  Our country?

And do we trust any of those entities unconditionally and with our whole hearts?

Or is it a matter of trust but verify?  The phrase not originated but often quoted by Ronald Reagan.

In any case, trust may well be a rarity these days which is why this little story is such a good one.

Jump’s Almonized Peanuts, as you might rightly infer, makes “Almonized Peanuts.”  They’re delicious, fresh, crunchy, healthy and not necessarily available in many parts of the country. 

Our favorite grocery store, Dorothy Lane Market in Dayton, Ohio, always had shelves and shelves of them.  They’re produced just down the road from the market and were a staple in most Dayton homes.

Our son in who lives in South Carolina recently had a hankering for a jar of Jumps. He called them to place an order. Once they calculated the cost of packaging and shipping, they sent him the following message:

Seriously?  Who does that?????  Well, apparently Jumps does.   

They trust that the check will be in the mail when the invoice, and, of course, the product, is received.   They can’t be bothered with PayPal, Venmo, Mastercard and all that other red tape. They’re too busy making the world’s best almonized peanuts. 

Do they occasionally get stiffed?  Maybe. But they‘re willing to take the chance. They prefer to spend their time lovingly and carefully tending their product.  So, give ‘em a call and order some peanuts.  You’ll be glad you did.  Trust me on this one.

The Christmas Spirit.

(This is either a same/old same/old or a tradition, depending on your point of view. Either way, our family wishes the best for you and yours this Christmas and in the New Year.)

The year was 1961.  I was working in Boston at the New England Conservatory of Music as a receptionist. It was, in all respects, a wonderful year.  I was in love (still am) and was surrounded by talented, generous and joyful people.

But Christmas was always hard for me.  What to give to my parents?  My father never wore anything but a suit, had enough ties to last several life times, bought his own socks and had no hobbies.  My mother was choosy about the things she wore and the things she had in the house.  I always had great angst about what to give them. That year I found a little Japanese porcelain dish which I hoped they would like, but it cost more than my small salary could comfortably bear. Still, I bought it.  There wasn’t any joy in the purchase, however.  I was worried and poorer…not a good combination.

The Conservatory was, back then, in a less than desirable part of town.  It was surrounded by poverty level housing and people.  There was a drug store right across the street that I visited on my lunch hour to pick up necessary items.

One day, near Christmas, I was at the drug store, mindlessly purchasing some stuff, not giving it any thought as I stood in line to pay for my items. An older woman was in front of me.  She wasn’t dressed warmly enough for the cold Boston December day.  It did strike me that she most likely didn’t have a warmer coat, but the thought was fleeting.

And then something happened that I will never forget.  As my arms were carelessly full of stuff, I realized she was buying a single box of tissues.  And I heard her say to the clerk:  “This is for my friend for Christmas. She’ll really like it.”

I find myself as speechless now as I did then. And still a little close to tears.  It was a hard reality.  She was delighted with her choice of a gift for her friend, confident that it would be given, received and used with love and affection.

And I was worried about an expensive porcelain dish for my parents who needed nothing and would most likely put the dish in a drawer anyway?  Not a Christmas goes by that I don’t think about that moment. 

Sometimes, I wish our family could just exchange boxes of tissues, carefully choosing one that might appeal…they come in such jazzy colors and designs these days. Wouldn’t that be fun?  We could wrap them up fancifully with pretty paper and ribbons, confident they would be used and appreciated. 

Now, I know we can’t….and would never want to…deny our families the joy of Christmas morning and presents under the tree.  Santa Claus does exist.

But, for me, perhaps, a box of tissues has become a symbol of friendship and love, of a longed-for simple Christmas season, of joy, of an opportunity to share with others less fortunate, and, of course, in its own way, the true meaning of Christmas.

What To Do?

That’s the question and I know the answer.  But I can’t just toss it out.  He’d notice.  Just like he noticed the disappearance of the double boiler many, many years ago.  I don’t want to revisit that.  No one does.  The mere thought brings shivers.  

Here’s the problem:  A thoughtful person recently gave The Mister a lovely leather-bound notebook.  For making notes.  Obviously.  They didn’t know that he’s quite phone and computer literate and takes notes on those devices, not in a notebook.  But he greatly values the gift.  It sits at his spot at the breakfast table.  Every day, he touches it, leafs through it, admires and considers it until he returns it, sans notes, to its spot.  From my perspective, its time has come and it needs to go bye-bye.  Difficult as that may be.  The question at hand is “how?”

Hold on!  I think have a solution!  I remembered the torn and tattered bankies of the children’s youth.  You couldn’t just toss those things out.  No matter how badly you wanted to.

But we, as mothers, eventually learned that we could quietly snip off tiny bits of those bankies, every day, day after day, until there was nothing left.  Then, poof!  All gone.  No tears.  No tantrums.  No bankies.

If I apply the bankie lesson to the notebook, it means I’ll be carefully and quietly removing a page every day, each day, until there is nothing left.  It ‘ll be slow going.  I’ll have to cut pages alternately from the front, the middle, the back.  There can be nothing drastic.  Nothing noticeable.  Slow and easy wins the game. 

So, now the questions of “how” and “what” are answered.  The new question is “Why?”  And I have no good answer for that one.  If he wants to keep his little notebook, well then, he should certainly keep his little notebook.  Surely, I have better things to do than rattle that cage.   Don’t I?

The Tale of the Lost and Found Tissue.

That would be the tissue that was lost because it got tucked in a pocket or stuck in a  sleeve.

That would also be the tissue that was found. 

In the washing machine. 

In a billion little white bits. 

Yep.  We’ve all been there and done that.

Most say: “Oh no, not again!”

I say : “Oh, goody.”

See, I know that all those little bits and pieces will become one again as the dryer gently blows and gathers them onto the lint catcher.  And what the dryer misses will be swept up by the dust-buster.

This matters because our lint catcher lies fallow since our old clothes don’t shed much anymore.  And the dust-buster’s life is largely one of sucking up kitty litter.  So, when a tissue comes their way, they both get to kick up their heels a bit.  Show their stuff, if you will.

I’ll not go so far as to overtly put a tissue or two in the wash.  Even for the great fun of it all. But I will always appreciate the happy emergence of the lost and found one.

IT’S BACK!

And not a moment too soon.   At least in my humble opinion.

Cursive writing, by law, is set to return to many states’ schools.

The reasons for re-introducing cursive are various.  Whatever they are, I am delighted that cursive writing will, once again, be taught to our children. 

Cursive allows each of us to develop our own style, distinct from others.  I especially look forward to the holidays when Christmas cards, bearing the unique handwriting of our friends, arrive at the door.  Each one bringing its own memories.

For example, Susan has a gracefully right-sloping style and Mary Earl writes in a hurry….you can always tell.  I look forward to Julie’s clear penmanship from Maine and I will sorely miss Adele’s strong, artistic hand.   My old school roommate writes in calligraphy!  The Mister’s handwriting…well, some things defy description.

So, get out the pens, the ink, the stamps, the pretty note cards.   Texting is soon to be a thing of the past.  Thank-you notes and graciously written letters will soon be coming your way.   Well, maybe not tomorrow but we’ll take it when we get it and hope for the best. 

In the meantime, carry on, all you good and caring teachers.  Those whorls and loops will take root.  On paper and in the brain.  Cursive writing benefits everyone.  Science has proven it. 

True Confessions.

I must confess that I read Dear Abby every day.  My “excuse” is that her column is right beneath the bridge column and right next to the New York Times crossword puzzle.  Consequently, I really have no choice in the matter.

This past Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, was no different from every other day with regard to my newspaper habits.   The puzzle was a bit tough and the bridge column was above my pay grade.  But, happily,  Abby was there to save the day.

Apparently, her late mother wrote a common prayer for Thanksgiving many years ago.  Somehow, through all these years, I’ve either missed it or forgotten it.  It seemed too appropriate this year to not share it with others who may never have seen it or, like me, may have forgotten it.  Here it is (slightly altered):

We give thanks for food
And remember the hungry.

We give thanks for health
And remember the sick.

We give thanks for friends
And remember the friendless

We give thanks for freedom
And remember those in captivity

May these remembrances
Stir us to service.
To share our gifts with others.

Soap Operas.

They’ve been around a long time.  And I’ve been right there with them.   I fondly remember watching The Edge of Night with my mother.  It was early days of television.  Very early.  The television set wasn’t deemed pretty enough to be in the living-room so it lived in a corner of the dining room.  We’d pull up two straight chairs from the table and watch the 15-minute segment of The Edge of Night.  Every single day.

These days, instead of soaps, we, the Mister and I, watch British mysteries which proudly present themselves as exactly that….mysteries.  But they’re really soap operas in disguise.  Sure, there’s always a murder or two but the deceit, the lies, the affairs, the duplicitous behavior?  That’s soap opera redux. 

Of course, The Mister never watched soap operas.  Consequently, he didn’t receive soap-opera training.  He has a hard time remembering what happened from week to week in our mystery shows.  Who did what to whom and why.  He lways has questions when we (attempt to) pick up the story where we left off.  Many questions.  And he wants clarity right that very second.  Tell me again who that person is, he’ll say.  What does he/she do?  Is he/she married? Are there children?  Is he/she the murderer?  Should I be worried?  And, on and on.

By the time I’ve explained the family tree (again), I’ve lost track of the story line. But I don’t care anymore.  What will be will be.  Ms. Christie and her beloved Hercule Poirot will solve the mystery and the British will carry on carrying-on as they’ve always done.   Just like all my old soap opera friends.