Category Archives: News

Thoughts from the end of the world

These are bonafide whacky times. This free fall of the once great America is beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I hear comparisons to the AIDS epidemic and the immediate post-9/11 days and understand and appreciate the obvious similarities. This, though? This is different.

There’s a children’s book that I despise, The Giving Tree. I’ve been thinking about it in recent weeks because I feel a common thread between Donald Trump’s followers and the tree which couldn’t say no. Trump’s believers have willingly placed themselves in the very same position as that tree, cutting off a limb with each previously unacceptable comment ignored (mocking a differently abled journalist, pussygrabber, Pocahontas, nasty) and every act of utter incompetence perpetrated (refusing WHO mask donation, keeping people on boats to continue to skew numbers, eliminating an entire federal medical department trained to anticipate and deal with pandemics.) by this president. I seriously don’t know how a single person would allow themselves to cut down to a stump by this fool, this jester,  dressed like a king.

So, on a lighter note – What’s on your pandemic playlist?

R.E.M.’s It the End of the World as We Know It is the obvious song for me, but I’ve got some others in mind which also strike me as appropriate such as this…

Roadhouse Blues – The Doors

Woke up this morning and I got myself a beer

The future’s uncertain and the end is always near

I welcome your contributions for the ultimate zombie apocalypse playlist. Leave yours in a comment, please!

On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your own compliance with recommendations for changing behaviors in light of the current Coronavirus outbreak? 1 being completely blasé and 10 abiding to suggestions like you’re a kid and Santa’s watching because it’s the week before Christmas.

I’m feeling proud and impressed by the real leaders who make decisions based upon what they believe is the best thing for the public at large, and not necessarily for themselves. Governor Cuomo and the superintendent of my district have both, with calm gravity, conveyed the important and necessary messages and are working hard to get the job done, whatever it may be. Bravo.

Shoutout to store clerks and customer service reps. All working their asses off.

Some questions to ponder:

  • What do you want to be doing when the world ends?
  • Are you really going to hate on yourself for gaining 10 lbs and not have that ice cream? With sprinkles?
  • What matters most?
  • Can you help someone else during this tumultuous and anxiety inducing time?
  • What will we learn about each other during, and after, this crisis?

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Filed under aging, Albany, Events, medical, musings, News, Observations, politics, sick, stress, travel

Can’t touch this

Over the weekend I stopped at the Apple Store to buy a new phone charger for my car. Whenever I go there, I’m always amazed at the number of people shopping for computers and phones. It’s like Black Friday every single day! After a few minutes of looking around the perimeter of the store, I finally located what I needed. Since there apparently isn’t an actual kiosk or checkout area, I asked for help and was directed to a staff member who would help me with my transaction.

I handed the employee my item and the card I wished to use for payment. He swiped and then reached towards me to allow me to complete the sale. I extended my hand to accept the portable terminal, but suddenly changed my mind. I didn’t want to touch that thing.

The decision to withdraw my hand was completely unpremeditated, almost an instinct. I smiled at the man and apologized, saying that I didn’t mean to offend him and it wasn’t anything personal, but I just didn’t want to touch that piece of hardware that countless other people had touched before me. He seemed to understand my hesitation refusal and entered the necessary information himself as I provided it to him eliminating my need to handle the terminal.

As he completed the sale, we talked about the Corona Virus and the general state of germy-ness in a business which provides potential customers the opportunity to get “hands-on” with technology. I had noticed a maintenance employee scrupulously wiping down tables and display models when I entered the store, something I had never seen before. To me, that suggests an awareness of the virus and a reasonable response to the situation at this time.

It’s impossible to predict how widespread this virus is going to spread. I don’t go to the mall very frequently, but I have been washing my hands like a lunatic recently. Working in a school with hundreds of kids who probably directly contradict my own habits as stated in the previous sentence makes me a little uncomfortable. I find myself very conscious each time I assist a student on their chromebook and am trying to refrain from touching my face.

How are you dealing with this potential health crisis? Have you made any changes to your routines to avoid contact with crowds? Are you considering altering travel plans? Has the Corona Virus impacted you and your family?

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The cost of Free Lunch

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Monday, YALSA, the young adult librarian services arm of the American Library Association, awarded the 2020 nonfiction award to Rex Ogle’s Free Lunch a small book that left a huge impact on this reader. The memoir tells the story of Rex’s first semester of sixth grade in Texas. He’s just entered middle school, a milestone for which he was very excited. He’s a hardworking and bright student who loves to read and values the routine of school. In addition to his schoolwork, Rex shoulders a tremendous amount of responsibility at home caring for his 2 1/2 year old brother and preparing meals since his mother “doesn’t cook.”

 

And, he’s poor. Really, really poor.

 

Rex lives with his mother, her boyfriend, and their child, in a two bedroom apartment in which all of the furniture items can be counted on one hand. Rex sleeps on the floor in a sleeping bag, storing his meager wardrobe of ill fitting, but clean, clothing in cardboard boxes left over from the family’s most recent move. They move a lot.

 

There is never enough food in their home, but the threat of physical, emotional and verbal abuse fills the otherwise empty rooms. Grocery and school supply shopping expeditions are balancing acts between getting what is needed and not angering a mother who rages against every perceived societal injustice with a loud and confrontational voice.

 

Reading Rex’s words on the page prompted memories and strong feelings for me. We were poor, too. While my mother never was abusive, she also was not particularly interested in the emotional needs of her own children or sensitive to the pressures of fitting in socially. I just don’t think she had the resources to explore either of those avenues.

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I shared Free Lunch, along with Hey, Kiddo, Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s National Book Award Finalist graphic novel memoir, last week with my 7th grade students. The theme of the presentation, and the books I pulled, was families. I talked a little about the infinite number of household compositions that can be encompassed by the word Family. I told the kids about the embarrassment Ogle felt about his home situation and poverty and explained that I knew what he was talking about because of my own experiences growing up in a single parent household, being dependent upon welfare, and receiving free lunch.

 

When I was a kid, there were times when we had to devise ways to heat up food (pre-microwaves) when there was no gas for the stove. Hot water wasn’t always available and sometimes in the winter there was no water whatsoever because we had neglected to leave the water dripping on cold nights and the pipes had frozen. Most of the time, in home laundry was a luxury we didn’t have and I have memories of clothing drying near the wood burning stove upon which we were dependent for heat. 


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Hours of my childhood were spent in the overheated offices of the county social services building waiting as my mother reapplied for assistance. I learned at an early age that toilet paper, soap and aspirin were all considered nonessential and thus not able to be purchased with food stamps. And the embarrassment of free lunch? I’m very familiar with the shame of having to publicly admit that my family did not have the means to provide me with a midday meal.

 

My lesson finished with a “blind” book selection activity in which I asked students to close their eyes, reach into a bin filled with assorted books and withdraw one. As they lined up to perform the task, I explained that none of us get to pick the family that we’re born into and I requested that they sit down for 5-7 minutes with their randomly selected book and just read. Following their quiet reading, they had the option to borrow the book or opt for an alternative title. The choice, just like what might come next in their own lives, was theirs to make.

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Filed under aging, Books, Education, girlhood, News, Observations, Recommendations

Thoughts I’ve been thinking

  • It sucks that my knee is injured and I can’t fully do the active things I enjoy doing. I see a surgeon in early February and my only question will be: In your experience, what is the most successful plan of treatment for women in my age and activity range who are most interested in being able to resume normal activities (even at a modestly modified level) in the speediest fashion?  That’s my bottom line. I want to run.
  • There were two articles which really spoke to, and for, me recently.  There are things in life which will forever cause me to shake my head, sometimes in a nod and other times in “no.” Both of these NYT pieces made me forget to breathe. I can only link to one because they other one, “I Quit a Seven-Year Affair,” has been removed from the Times’ site.* I’m not sure how I feel about that move, but the piece did remind me of Mrs. Maisel’s choice to share as much about Shy Baldwin as she did in her performance at the Apollo. I knew there would be repercussions.
  • For god’s sake can we leave Megan and Harry alone? They’re entitled to their one precious life, too and Harry’s already seen how an uncivilized society can kill a woman he loves. Who cares how they choose to live?

  • Speaking of caring, there’s so little of that in the world right now. This recent picture of an absolutely beaming Megan Markle walking with her baby and dogs, collected some heated comments about Megan’s son not being safely fastened in his front carrier. Everyone had something critical or nasty or judgmental to say and no one simply offered to help her accomplish the task. We’re moms. We need to be nicer to each other.
  • At a just-turned-green light, I hesitated prior to shifting into first gear and the man in the big truck behind honked his horn and then pulled into the left lane to pass me, giving me the finger as he jerked his vehicle in front of me. I shrugged. Whatever. As we approached Fuller Road, I moved into the right hand turn lane and, again, he aggressively yanked his truck partially in my path. I’d be afraid to witness his response to something beyond a too slow start at a green light.
  • This morning, J, shared a story about some kids pulling a Ding-Dong Ditch which resulted in the deaths of three teenagers. The home owner whose bell was rung, felt the need to pursue these kids at high rates of speed prior to ramming his vehicle into theirs and forcing them off the road and causing them to crash. What is the matter with people? Why are folks overly reactive to minor transgressions, yet numb to the way our government is broken? Is it an assertion of control in a world which feels increasingly unspun. Or maybe it’s actually overspun. 
  • In the last week I was recognized by a reader I had never met (Hi P!) in a really complimentary way and told at an event a few nights later that I looked like Emma Stone.  That’s a good week right there.
  • I read a book this week and can’t stop thinking about, Free Lunch by Rex Ogle. I’m working on a full post.
  • I can’t imagine a better Friday night than a winter one spent at Cafe Capriccio eating eggplant, drinking red wine and hearing a set of quality live jazz.
  • Happy Chinese New Year.  It’s the Year of the Rat, but, honestly, isn’t that what we’ve been living with for the last three years?
Let’s all make the best of it, shall we?
*maybe you can find it in print somewhere?

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Next week, when I’m in California.

(I just like saying that. Wink.)

Christmas, the year and the decade will all end.

I’ll be traveling with a companion for the first time in a long time.

My Jewish mom will meet my Jewish boyfriend, to put it in its most simple terms.

We’ll spend two hours soaking in springs heated by the San Andreas fault, which just goes to show that sometimes even the least stable situation can bring maximum relaxation.

I’ll get to see and walk and hike and maybe run in some of my favorite mountains.

There will be a respite from the barrage of politics and news.

We will go to the nice Aldi’s and get avocados for guacamole.

There’s the the possibility of rain. And dancing. And maybe dancing in the rain.

Next week when I’m in California is going to be fun.

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Fast and Furious – 5 things pissing me off right now

I’m generally pretty easy going. I try to accept that not everyone thinks or behaves the same way I do and feel fairly happy most of the time. Heartbreaks aside, of course. There are a few things, though, that have recently got my blood boiling and I’m hoping that if I obey the full moon and practice letting go, maybe I can move past these injustices and minor outrages.

First – if I read one more time about how a 6-week infant was “allowed” to ingest methamphetamines by the man responsible for caring for him, I just might lose my shit. This baby, with 8 broken ribs and a head injury declared “not grave enough” to warrant legal charges, was killed by both the individual who administered the drugs and injuries to him and the system which absolutely and completely failed him. 

Next – The hypocrisy of the president and his wife when it comes to respecting young people. I really don’t understand the outrage about a remark made by a legal scholar during the recent hearings relating to Donald Trump’s actions in relation to Ukraine. This apparently deeply offended the occupants of the White House, yet did not prevent the Idiot-in-Chief from making direct and disparaging remarks about Time magazine’s Person of the Year, Greta Thunberg. There is no bottom when it comes to Trump and his lack of sensitivity and basic social mores. He is absolutely repulsive and an embarrassment to the United States.

Speaking of the United States, I am appalled to live in a country in which a ball player receives a contract compensating them to the tune of $324 million over nine years. There is nothing anyone could ever say to me that would justify that kind of ludicrous salary. Nothing. Don’t even try.

My last two issues are much more trivial, yet still infuriating. One is a driving etiquette thing with which upstate people are apparently unfamiliar. I’m pretty certain I’ve railed about this before, but it seems folks weren’t listening so I’ll say it again – if I have the green light, but am not proceeding through an intersection because I can not clear the “box,” you should not interpret my holding back to be an invitation for you to make a right on red. If you’re someone who has mistakenly done this in the past, you’re welcome for the driving lesson because if you try that move in NYC, you won’t be educated quite so politely.

And, lastly, to the person who allows their dog to crap in my front garden (2x) and on the sidewalk (3x), when I find out who you are, we’re going to have words – and I’ll probably notify the city, too. The DelSo is a nice neighborhood filled with people who take care of their properties and are responsible pet owners. Pick up your dog’s sh*t like a respectable person.

I feel a little better now but if my rage persists, maybe Greta and I can get a group discount on those Anger Management classes.

 

 

 

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Filed under Albany, Delaware Avenue, Local, News, Observations, politics, Rant, stress, upstate New York

Not maintaining the standard of conduct

PHOTO BY JIM LO SCALZO-POOL/GETTY

Go read that title again. One more time. Do you get it? This is where we are as a country. We are “not maintaining the standard of conduct,” as I heard a decorated military man so eloquently say on the radio today. He was referencing the Eddie Gallagher situation and other recent high profile pardons courtesy of Donald Trump.

The enlisted personnel who had in cases been convicted and serving prison sentences, had been granted clemency and had their previous ranks returned to them. They had committed heinous atrocities. They were “not maintaining the standard of conduct.”

I listened to a lot of the hearings today and it looks more likely than ever, to me, that Donald Trump just might get himself impeached.

The hostility present in our country, the home grown, domestic, “native” type, is horrendous. I’ve never known America to be so in disagreement about priorities. The divide between the haves and the have-nots is as gaping as  the Grand Canyon. A general lack of connection is evident.

South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona (Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)

Watching, and listening, to today’s hearings has been depressing. It’s difficult to believe anything being said. The hyperbole is epic.

I decided to vacuum because I needed to quiet the voices in my head. It’s hard not to think that far too many of our representatives are “not maintaining the standard of conduct.” Their motivations, bilaterally, are suspect. Who are they serving?

The government we currently have is what you get when citizens don’t become involved or pay attention. When qualified people don’t vote, it seems that unqualified people get elected. See: Donald Trump

To those of you with the stamina to watch tonight’s debates – bravo! That’s wildly impressive. As for me, I am burnt out on politics and need a walk, a shower and bed.

We have got to do better than this. It’s time to relearn how to maintain the standard of conduct.

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