COUNTRY VERSUS CITY LIFE – ELLIN CURLEY

I lived in an apartment in Manhattan for over 40 years. I’ve lived in the woods in Connecticut now for over 25 years. I think I’m something of an expert on both life styles. It’s a common misconception that getting around is easier in a city than in the country or suburbs. I disagree. Having lived with both transportation options, I’ll take my car and the country any time.

In the city there are often many things that are within walking distance. A small supermarket, a pharmacy, a dry cleaners, some restaurants and stores, etc. For those destinations, it couldn’t be more convenient (unless you count having to be outside in inclement weather as more than mildly inconvenient). But you can’t live your entire life within a ten block radius of your apartment or house. You always need to go downtown or outside your residential area. That’s where you get into trouble.

You have to walk to bus stops or subway stops, in all kinds of weather. Then wait for the next bus or train, when it decides to come for you. Delays are inevitable. After you get off the bus or train, you’ll have to walk some more to get to your final destination. Add kids, strollers — and the logistics become mind-boggling. Remember, you have to do it again going back.

You could grab a taxi. On television, snap your fingers and there’s a cab. In real life, you have to find one. And then sit in traffic. There’s always traffic in New York. The taxi may be easier but it can actually be slower. It’s also less predictable and definitely more expensive.

You can never be sure, in a city like New York, how long it will take you to get somewhere. You’re constantly at the mercy of traffic, trains, buses, — all factors outside your control. My ex and I would have endless discussions about the best way to get to the theater or to a downtown restaurant on time. Going anywhere in the city was stressful. I dreaded having to take my kids anywhere. I dreaded going out when it was very hot, very cold, or very wet. Weather is a big thing for me. I was ALWAYS rushing and always worried I’d be late.

In the country or suburbs, you get in your car and go! Mine is in my garage so I don’t even have to go outside. You always know how long it will take to get where you’re going. If you don’t, you can always look it up on Map Quest. There’s rarely traffic and normally plenty of parking everywhere. You don’t have to battle the elements for more than a few yards. You may technically be farther away from the necessities of life, but from where I live — in the middle of nowhere — I can get to anything I might need or want. Movies, dinner, theater, 15-20 minutes door-to-door. You can’t go anywhere on public transportation in a city in less time than that!

When I drive, I’m in control of my schedule. I’m traveling in style and comfort. I’m in my car, listening to my Broadway Channel on Sirius Radio and singing along at the top of my lungs. I’m looking out the window at trees and grass and maybe a reservoir. The view makes me happy no matter the season. Snow is beautiful if you don’t have to shovel it. There’s nothing like watching the leaves come out on the trees in spring, or seeing them turn red, orange and yellow in the fall. Or watching my dogs running around and playing at any time of year.

For me it’s a no-brainer. Me in my car, singing and watching the beautiful scenery? That’s the winner. No stress, no worries, no environmental issues. I’ll take that scenario over a crowded subway any day. Even if it means I can’t walk to the local market, restaurant, or store. I can walk down my tree-lined road to commune with nature or get some exercise.

I always thought I was a city girl at heart. I grew up as an ethnocentric, arrogant New Yorker. Now, I’ve seen the light – and the trees. Especially the trees!

ACCEPTING WHATEVER IT MAY BE

ACCEPTING, ACCEPTANCE, AND MOVING ON

It’s one of the things you learn getting older. You really can’t fight all the battles because there are too many battles and too few of you. So you accept that the plow driver knocked down half a wall and dug up a big chunk of garden … which someone is going to have to fix because it’s like hideous mud and rock central on the driveway.

You look at the door, realize it’s begun to rot a bit under the sill. You shrug. It’ll get dealt with, eventually. Not by me, of course. I don’t do sills.

The garden is a mess. The trees are breeding caterpillars. The dogs need a haircut and, for that matter, so do I. It’ll get sorted out. Or not. The places I plan to go, but the drive is too long — or the directions too complicated. The places I  ought to go, but don’t want to, at least not enough to make such an effort.

When I was 30, I went. Regardless. For the adventure, if nothing else. At 70? Adventure is great if I don’t have to walk over rough ground to experience it. So I know in advance of plans that I might go, but maybe I really won’t. Even if not doing so involves guilt and regret.

There’s a lot of acceptance going around. It’s not all that bad. After all those years of doing everything I was supposed to do and 50% more because I believed I should go that extra “mile,” I would have expected the changeover from “must” to “I’ll get to it” to be … more intense maybe?

Turns out, many of the things I did were not half as important as they seemed at the time. Can’t even remember most of them. But my brain screamed: “YOU MUST DO THAT NOW!” Phumf.

Now, I don’t even think about the why of it all. If it’s a doctor, I will deal with it, though I may defer the visit a couple of times until I get to it. Taxes? Well, you have to do them, at least if you want your money back. Visiting friends or having them visit? No question, I want to do it … if it will just please stop snowing. Vacations if reservations are involved and dates for dogs to be attended get worked out. We go.

On the “it’s almost work” front, writing a piece that’s bouncing around in my head. Checking in on friends, internet and otherwise.

Wondering why Gibbs was staring at the wall in the kitchen and growling ferociously. What did he see that I probably should know about?

Thinking I’d like to buy a video game, but wondering if I’d have the time to play it because my hobby (Serendipity) has become increasingly intense as the years have marched on. Or, as I said to Garry just last night: “Yes, it is a bit like work, but it’s writing. If I weren’t writing for Serendipity, I’d be writing for no one. I am going to write. Might as well write so other people can read it.”

Everything else can wait. Possibly until the next life rolls around.

A BOUNTIFUL LIFE

A short story of gratefulness from Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Max had to get an early start on Monday.  Three times a month it was the most important day of the week and he did not want to be late.  It was quite the walk to the Methodist church but he felt he was up to it.  Anyway, he did not want to ride part of the way on the bus as that seemed a waste of money.  If he had a good haul, however, he would definitely consider public transportation on the way back.  Even though Max was not a Methodist, he was headed to the Methodist church.

Next door to the church stood a small wooden building.  It was painted grey, like the church building, and it seemed too small for most uses.  No one recalls why the building was there originally, but now it served as the neighborhood food pantry.  Three churches participated in the collection of goods.  Each took 1 Sunday a month to collect canned goods and non-perishable items at their services and then bring them to the pantry.  The Methodist church got the honor of running the pantry, because it had the extra space and the Reverend Lawrence J. Shepherd had the time three mornings a week to hand out goods to those in need.  The fourth and sometimes fifth Sunday of the month found no collections and the food pantry was likely to run out of food.  In the final weeks of the month the Reverend Shepherd asked his own congregation to consider bringing in items again.  If there was a fifth Sunday in the month, the good reverend was practically begging.  He would call local stores asking for assistance.  It was the small shops that would donate, never the big super markets.

UU doorIt was a good plan to be at the food pantry at 9 am when the Reverend came to unlock the door.  It was also a good idea to bring a sturdy bag with you, one that was good for carrying goods a long distance.  If you had no bag, the reverend always had some used plastic bags from the markets and the donated supplies.  People seemed more willing to recycle their old plastic bags then to actually give food or money, but the reverend was thankful for anything that would help him out.

“Good morning, reverend,” Max said in a cheerful voice.  Max always had a smile on his face and seemed to absolutely light up when he ran into anyone he knew.  People were as glad to see this happy person as he was to see them.

“Hello Max,” the reverend said.  “I think we have some good items this week.”  That pleased Max very much.  He felt quite fortunate to be getting good food.  It was not something that Max could afford on his own.

When Max was pushed out of his job at retirement age, he had little savings.  Almost half of his fixed income went to pay his rent.  The utilities and regular monthly expenses took about a third.  He only filled prescriptions that were of low-cost and skipped the others in order to stretch his funds.  The little that was left did not exactly cover the food costs.  That is why he saw the food pantry as a blessing that was bestowed upon the neighborhood in general and himself in particular.  He just could not imagine why he was so lucky to have the pantry.  He knew other neighborhoods did not have one.

After the reverend had gathered up a nice selection for Max, he handed him back his bag filled with goods.  Max was not one of those people who asked for specific things from the shelves behind the counter.  He was pleased with whatever he was handed.  “I guess we will see you next week, Max,” Shepherd said.  “Bless you.”

“Bless you too, reverend,” Max replied happily as he reached out and shook the reverend’s hand, just as if he was shaking God’s own hand right there in that little building next to God’s house.  Of course, it was not the house of Max’s God, but he figured they all pretty much belonged to the same supreme being.

Despite a brisk north wind blowing right at Max, he bravely made his return trip on foot.  He did not feel that being handed some excellent cans and boxes was any reason to turn around and throw away good money.  His fingers and toes were rather numb when Max got in the small apartment and finally sat down.  He would make the trip again the following week and the week after.  The reverend only allowed you to come once a week.  Few showed up on the weeks when there had been no collection of goods that Sunday.

Each Sunday Max made his way to his own church.  They participated in the food collection once a month and did their best to minister to the needs of the parish poor.  After such a fine selection of goods that Monday, Max felt it was very important to show up at church on time the following Sunday.  He greeted everyone with a smile as he walked in.  He paused at the back of the church where there was a small safe.  In the top was a slot to receive donations for the St. Vincent DePaul Society for the poor.  Max reached into his pocket and found a quarter, dime, 2 nickels and a penny.  He dropped them into the old safe.  Even though his coat and gloves were given to him by the Society, Max did not consider himself one of the poor.  Instead, he felt obligated to help out if he could.  He helped on the coat drive, the Christmas tree sale, the donut sale and other activities to benefit the poor.  Why should he not help, when he had so much?

As he moved up the center aisle, Max spotted an empty pew.  This meant he could get a nice seat on the aisle where he could look right down the middle and see the service.  He stepped in, knelt down and gave thanks for the bounty in his life.

ONCOLOGY AND AN INTERESTING BOOK

REPLACEMENT BREASTS – NOT QUITE ORIGINAL ISSUE


Anyone who has had cancer, no matter how many years have passed, knows you are never “cured.” The best anyone can say is “so far, so good.” Cancer isn’t a single disease. There is no test to tell you your body is free of cancer cells.

This is, of course, true of everyone from birth till death, but when you have had a run in with cancer, it stops being theoretical and morphs into something more sinister and personal. In 2010, I had a double mastectomy, losing both breasts to cancer. It wasn’t a prophylactic double mastectomy. I actually had cancer in both breasts. Two unrelated tumors at the same time. The odds against getting breast cancer in both breasts simultaneously are incredibly small. I seem to be one of the those people who manages to beat normal odds — not in a good way.

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After the mastectomies, I got instant reconstruction. Two silicon implants replaced my breasts. They do not, as people imagine, look like real breasts. When you are in the tunnel through breast cancer to (hopefully) recovery, you find yourself answering weird questions. Like “how large do you want them to be?” Do you want nipples? Saline or silicon?

I went with smallish and no nipples (they require two extra surgeries and they are entirely for appearance), and silicon, which feels more real. I suppose it’s all for appearance, really — the appearance of womanhood matters when the parts have been replaced with something that isn’t real flesh.

Everything went well — or as well as these things ever go. I hoped I was done with cancer. Imagine my surprise when I realized there was something hard underneath the scar across my right implant. Flat, hard. My first reaction was “What the hell?” Can I get breast cancer without breasts?

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I hit the Internet to discover it is probably scar tissue. Or (unlikely but not impossible) a very rare form of skin cancer that grows directly under the mastectomy scar. Rare isn’t impossible. Not in my world, so reluctantly, I made an appointment at the Dana-Farber. It is the only dedicated cancer facility in Worcester County and has been where I’ve done all my follow-up since the surgery.

I had my surgery and reconstruction at the Faulkner Hospital in Boston. My surgeon and plastic reconstruction surgeon are the best. Anywhere. Literally described by my local oncologist calls “the dream team,” If you have breast cancer, this is as good as it gets and if life throws this at you, I strongly advise you to find the best surgeons, even if they aren’t convenient. You want to get this right the first time.

My oncologist thinks, as I do, that it’s nothing to get excited about, but we’ll watch it. If it seems to be growing, or starts hurting, we’ll move on to testing. In the meantime, I take a deep breath and can return to worrying about the lunatic pretending to be President who seems intent on making my personal angst irrelevant by blowing up the world.


As this was going on, I have been reading. A lot. Most of the books have been lackluster, to put it kindly. Life and Other Near-Death Experiences: A Novel by Camille Pagan grabbed me from the first page and kept me engaged to the end, wishing that it wouldn’t end. Which is a pretty unusual thing to say considering the book is about a young woman who discovers she has a very rare, aggressive form of cancer and her marriage comes unglued — at the same time. Literally, both things hitting her on the same day.

life-and-other-near-death-experiences-coverWhat takes the book out of the ordinary from other books that deal with life and death, is it never takes the easy way out. No cheap or easy solutions. It confronts real-life decisions that people in major life crises are forced to make. It does so with humor, wit, and realism.

The main character of the story freaks out when her life falls apart and needs time plus substantial support from family and friends to face her new reality. It’s the most realistic story about dealing with cancer I’ve read and it wasn’t depressing. Not a guffaw filled romp or a vale of tears. It reminded me that how we react to appalling news varies, but we all react. You cannot fail to be changed by facing death while realizing there’s no guarantee you’ll beat it, no matter what you do.

Once you’ve had any medical crisis that will kill you left untreated and might kill you anyway, even with treatment, you never look at life the same way. You don’t take life as a given. None of us should ever take life for granted, but most of us do. Until we come face to face with the dark angel and he’s holding our number.

This is a good book. A surprisingly good book. I hope it will get some attention. It is lumped into the category of “humor” where it doesn’t exactly fit … but I’m not sure where it would fit. Maybe humor is as good as any other placement.

Regardless, any book that can make you laugh in the face of death is worth a read.

WHY THIS WORLD SHOULD END

The Path to a New Beginning, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


Ask anyone what is wrong with the world, and you will certainly get an opinion, or many of them.  We can all point to things that are wrong with politics, education, religion or whatever it is that crosses our minds, but we don’t all agree on what those things are.  We are severely polarized, and we can not reach a consensus.  Worse yet, there are influential people who will try to make sure the majority do not rule, as our recent national election shows.

With an eye toward the concept this divisive world should end, the one that is full of prejudices and deceit, is a video that presents our problems in detail.  That YouTube presentation has gone viral.  A rap artist and rights activist who calls himself Prince EA has put out a video that now has over seven million views and has been reposted and shared everywhere.  It needs reposting again.

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Richard Williams, a 26-year-old advocate for change, has taken a stage name, Prince EA.  It is not unusual for a rap artist to take a stage name, but this one has significant meaning.  For Williams it means Prince of the Earth, for it is with the earth that he is most concerned.  The world, and all of its problems, needs a mighty voice and that is what Williams aims to provide in a well produced video.  He wastes no time in coming to the point.  The video opens strongly:

The world is coming to an end
The air is polluted, the oceans contaminated
The animals are going extinct, the economy’s collapsed
Education is shot, police are corrupt
Intelligence is shunned and ignorance rewarded

The people are depressed and angry
We can’t live with each other and…

He will tell you we can’t live with ourselves. We can’t really communicate with others.  Do we not live in a world of “robotic communication?”  I see it all the time.  There are people too busy with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat or whatever to have real communication.  So perhaps it is somewhat ironic that Williams’ message has gone viral on YouTube.

Presidents lie, politicians trick us
Race is still an issue and so is religion
Your God doesn’t exist, my God does and he is All-Loving
If you disagree with me, I’ll kill you
Or even worse argue, you to death

When we argue people to death, how often do we do it anonymously via Facebook or Twitter.  How willing are we to really face these problems and seek solutions?  The world we see is one Williams thinks should end.  Do you agree?

Our role models today
60 years ago would have been examples of what not to be
There are states where people can legally be discriminated against
Because they were born a certain way

There are indeed role models today who in past generations would not have been allowed to be seen by youth as a standard to achieve, if they were allowed to be seen at all.  And while we permit this type of role model, we see certain parts of society who some would like to suppress, because of skin color, sexual orientation or religion.  How can we popularize sex and violence while discriminating against love and religion?

So what can we do in the face of all of this madness and chaos?
What is the solution?

Prince EA asks the question and he is not afraid to follow with the answer.  It is a simple answer, of course.  It is the answer we have known all throughout time, but rarely seem to apply.

“We can love
Not the love you hear in your favorite song on the radio
I mean real love, true love, boundless love
You can love, love each other”

This is why the world should end.  It needs a fresh start with love.  It is the love we must all provide.  Where do we start to write a new history? Where is that new beginning?  Where is that message that we need to go viral?

“Why I think the World Should End,” by Prince EA, Cinematography and Editing by Brandon Sloan

PRINCESS LEIA AND THE WOMEN’S MARCH: A FITTING TRIBUTE TO CARRIE FISHER

A fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher.

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A little less than a month ago, on December 27, 2016, actress Carrie Fisher died after suffering a heart attack on a plane. Her death was followed the next day by that of her mother, Debbie Reynolds. The world, especially that part of it which (like me) was brought up on Star Wars as a staple of our pop culture, deeply mourned the loss of the classy lady who not only played Princess Leia in the movies but epitomized her. This article is not an obituary for Carrie Fisher. If you want one of those, I highly recommend the touching piece by the Burning Blogger of Bedlam giving tribute to “the people’s princess.” I loved Princess Leia. You loved Princess Leia. We all admired her courage, determination and grit. Carrie Fisher, who went through a lot of hard knocks in her life, will be greatly missed.

Yesterday (January 21, 2017), the day after the inauguration as President of the United States of a fascistic know-nothing who detests women and just about everybody else, millions of people in the United States and around the world–including even Antarctica!–took to the streets to support women’s rights, feminism, empowerment, diversity and to express in no uncertain terms their opposition to the viewpoints of President Trump. I took part in one of these marches, in Eugene, Oregon. Like everywhere else, the crowds that turned out vastly exceeded what authorities expected. There were (reportedly) 750,000 in Los Angeles and over 1 million in Washington, D.C., dwarfing the tepid and pathetic “crowd” that turned out for Trump’s lackluster inauguration. In Eugene I’m told police expected 1,000 marchers. The number who showed up? Over 10,000.

I was struck, during yesterday’s march, by one recurrent image: the face of Princess Leia as an icon of resistance.

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Carrie Fisher, as she appeared in 2015. Her outspoken views are part of the reason why Princess Leia resonates as a symbol.

I saw Carrie Fisher’s face in a lot of places. Many people, men as well as women, were carrying signs with her picture (one of them is shown at the top of this article). I saw a woman with the symbol of the Rebellion from Star Wars tattooed on her arm, and I saw a man with a patch of the same symbol on the back of his denim jacket. In one of the most touching tweets I saw about the march, Fisher’s Star Wars co-star and friend Mark Hamill referenced Leia as a symbol of women’s empowerment, linking it to Fisher’s own strongly-professed beliefs during her lifetime. His tweet included an image of a woman, evidently from the Los Angeles march, dressed as Princess Leia.

When women’s rights are under attack in real-life America, can a science fiction princess help us defend them?


Complete original post at: Princess Leia and the Women’s March: a fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher.

THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS FRIGHTFUL

Be Delightful, by Rich Paschall


If you live anywhere in the United States, except the extreme southern portions, you will eventually get your share of winter weather.  The further north you live, the worse it is likely to be.  Here in the upper Midwest, we are likely to get a lot of snow and much sub freezing weather.  Some years we get a lot of subzero weather when I can look forward to the possibility of the pipes to the kitchen sink freezing.  It is somewhat less than joyful to discover the water does not run in the kitchen.

During my many years in Chicago land,  we have enjoyed some of the biggest snowfalls ever.  By enjoyed, I mean we were all stranded somewhere.  Hopefully, you made it home before the snow got too deep.  In 1967 as a youngster, I thought it was fun to have over two feet of snow.  School was cancelled and we got dig out cars and play in the street.  We could walk right down the center of usually busy Irving Park Road (Illinois 19) and not worry about traffic.  Buses were stranded everywhere as they were connected to overhead electric wires and could not get around stalled cars and snow drifts.

January 1967 Pulaski and Irving

January 1967 – Pulaski and Irving Park Road

By the Blizzard of 1979 we were not as amused with the snow as we were at a younger age.  In fact, it was the storm that pushed Mayor Bilandic out of office.  We can forgive almost any sin in this town except not moving the snow.  If he had not insisted the city was on top of the situation as the blizzard was raging on, he might have survived the poor effort. Like the snow in a soft storm, Bilandic was pushed to the curb in the following election.

We did not have another great blizzard until 2011, but we have had plenty of large snowfalls before and since.  I have done enough snow shoveling for a lifetime.  If you are lucky enough to have a snow blower, you learn they are not much good when you start measuring the snow in feet instead of inches.

February 1, 2015

February 1, 2015

Recently at work we heard that there was a state of emergency in the Atlanta area as they expected 1 to 4 inches of snow.  One to Four!  Of course we were all amused that they had to shut everything down over an amount of snow we would consider practically nothing.  On the other hand, they do not have mountains of road salt, a fleet of snow plows and an army of city workers prepared for even the smallest of snowfalls.  If the Department of Streets and Sanitation does not move our snow in a timely manner, the mayor will be the ex-mayor after the next election.

One year we decided to escape the winter with a week in Florida.  That was also the year that Florida did not escape the winter.  Everywhere we went from Orlando to the southernmost reaches of the state, we heard the locals swear to us that they NEVER have an entire week of weather like that.  Even Mickey Mouse must have gotten giant ear muffs for his mouse ears.

At least we had the beaches to ourselves.  From Clearwater to Sarasota and Miami to Key West, we did not have to fight crowds of locals and tourists for a spot in the sand.  Only the seagulls were walking around.  Perhaps it was too cold for flight.

Florida in January?

Florida in January?

Perhaps there just is no escaping Mother Nature.  If she so desires, she can stalk you around the continental USA like the merchant of evil she can sometime be.  Winter vacation in Florida is no guarantee of warmth.  When it is barely warmer than 1300 miles to the north, you are being advised that you should have stayed home.

So if the cold and the snow has overtaken your area, what should you do besides fret about the accumulations outside?  Aside from clearing a path in the snow, it may be time for a snowman, snow fort and snow ball fight.  It could be the time to get out the sled or toboggan.  You may wish to lace up the ice skates if you can actually get to the ice rink.

At this point in life, I can recall all those things fondly, but would rather delight in the inside of the house.  After all, there are so many things I consistently delay, a snow day or two would seem like a great time to start.  I have accumulated many books over the years that I have intended to read.  It would seem that not being able to go to the Wild West Sports Bar and Grill should not be so troubling.  I can always start one of the mysteries on hand or dive into the John Adams biography.

This January, I have continued my quest to watch all of the James Bond movies in order. I am now on the Daniel Craig films and have just one more to go. There are other DVDs I have had for a long while that I would like to watch, or watch again.  When the thermometer shows Zero degrees or the snow is piling up, the fire can be so delightful.  If you have a fireplace, that is.  Otherwise, just get a warm blanket.