THE YEAR THE DOOR OPENED – Marilyn Armstrong

I have often written that 1969 was my favorite year … and explained why.

As a start, it was epic from a news viewpoint.

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July 1969. I watched it. I had a baby that year and it might not have made the networks, but it was big news at my house.

English: Neil Armstrong descending the ladder ...

So, as a new mother, I got to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. A real live guy walking — leaping — on the moon! We viewed it on CBS. It was obvious Walter Cronkite wanted to be up there with Neil and the rest of Apollo 11. He could barely control his excitement. He was nearly in tears. Me too.

The great Arthur C. Clarke was his guest for that historic news event. Neil Armstrong died a couple of years ago, an honorable man and a true American hero.

How I envied him his trip to the moon. I always tell Garry that if the Mother Ship comes and offers me a trip to the stars, I’m outta here. Maybe there would be room for him, too and we could travel together to the stars. Our final vacation. I hope the seats have better leg room than what we usually get.

Woodstock was a 1969 event too. Rumors were flying about this rock concert which would totally blow up the music world. I had friends who had tickets and were up, up and away. I was busy with a baby and wished them well.

There were hippies giving out flowers in Haight-Ashbury, but I was happier that year than I’d ever been before. I didn’t need to be in San Francisco. I was entirely okay with being right where I was.

I was young, healthy. I was sure we would change the world. End wars. Make the world better — for everyone. I was young enough to believe that our beliefs were enough make the changes and those changes would last forever. All the changes would be permanent.

It never crossed my mind that 50 years later, we’d be fighting the same battles again. I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as happy had a realized that nothing is permanent. No legislation is forever.

I figured we just needed to love each and it would fix everything. I still think if we had all learned to love each other, it would have fixed everything. For some strange reason, I thought the people I knew and cared for were all the people.

I never realized there were so many other people who hated everyone. People who loved no one, not even themselves. They would never be happy. Or allow anyone else to be happy either. 

I had a baby boy and I sang “Everything’s Fine Right Now.” The song made a great wonderful lullaby and also, it made my baby boy laugh. 

It was the year of the Miracle Mets. I watched as they took New York all the way to the top. New York went crazy for the Mets. A World Series win. 1969. What a year!

I wore patchwork bell-bottom jeans and rose-tinted spectacles. I had long fringes on my sleeves and a baby on my hip.

Music was wonderful. How young we were! We could do anything. The world belonged to us. I just knew it.

Decades passed; youth was a long time ago. The drugs we take control our blood pressure, not our state of consciousness. Today’s drugs aren’t much fun, but along with replacement heart valves and implanted breasts to replace the pair that tried to kill me, they keep me alive.

1969 was my year. But in its own weird way, all the years have come around again and today’s young people are fighting the same old battles — again. Fighting to get the assault weapons out of the hands of people who kill kids in schools and trying to make the world right. I want them to do a better job than we did.

Often, these days, I wonder what we accomplished. I’m sure we accomplished something. We probably brought the close of the Vietnam war, but so late and so many were dead by them. Maybe this group of kids who seem so determined and seem to get that voting is going to be how they will make the system work — maybe THEY will  make things change and somehow keep the change alive.


Nothing lasts forever. Freedom is not free.

Regardless of how hard we work and how much we change the world, like a rubber band,  “the world” will go back to where it was. The generation that follows change will forget how they got their freedom, so the next one will have to fight again. Freedom is the thing we fight for. Not once, but over and over and over again.

Freedom doesn’t come for free.

FACELESS AND DIRECTIONLESS

The Faceless World

I don’t recognize faces. I recognize people I know very well – as often as not because they appear in a context that makes them recognizable. I know this lady because she is the checkout person at Hannaford, but if I see her somewhere else, I probably won’t recognize her. It is embarrassing.

I can pretty much always recognize Garry and my son — and other family members — but we’ve been recognizing each other for somewhere between 45 and 60 years, so at least I’ve got those people nailed in place.

Thing is, I don’t “see” faces. I am okay dealing with people with whom I have spent significant time and with whom I’ve had  meaningful conversation. If you are close to me, I will know who you are. But my first husband always wore a beard and one day, he decided to see what his face looked like — and I had no idea who he was. He too was faceless. Without the beard, I’d lost him.

I thought this was just me, but I have since learned this is a syndrome and goes handily with my inability to know where I am — even when I’m close to home.


It was a comment from Judy Dystra-Brown – lifelessons. She said:

Locational dyslexia and facial blindness go together. I have them both as well. Took me years to figure out the facial blindness. I thought I just didn’t pay attention. I have terrible problems with films and tv shows where all the women look alike.


I had no idea it was a “thing.” Like her, I thought I just wasn’t paying enough attention. But this inability to recognize faces (or remember names, a whole other issue) has dogged me my whole life. That’s a lot of dogging.


She went on to say:

I discovered the location dyslexia when I was taking an in-service class on learning disabilities when I taught H.S. I found out about the facial blindness from Duckie. He has it, too. Then I found out the two are often associated from a woman who presented at a writer’s conference here who I was giving rides into town to. Always learning.


It was a revelation for me. I have had this problem my whole life. I know we develop memory issues as we age, but this was a problem when I was still a teenager. Some guy would ask me out, but when he showed up, I wasn’t sure I knew him. I would have recognized him in class — where I met him — but out of class and wearing a suit? Was it the same guy? I had to assume it was because here he was, at my door. No one else was supposed to show up.

And then, there’s the “Where am I?” problem. Some places, I can find in the summer, but if it snows, I can’t find them. I don’t recognize the driveway. I may not even recognize the road.

I am totally hooked on signs. Big signs. The bigger, the better. I think everyone at every party should wear a name tag because otherwise, I don’t know who they are.

Worse? Garry doesn’t recognize people or places either, so together, we are perpetually lost and often arguing about it. It’s the lame and the halt fighting about who should lead the party.

I get to be the navigator and have printed instructions to go with the GPS, (which I don’t trust because it often sends us places by very strange roads that aren’t really roads). Garry feels he needs to argue with me, which simply takes my base confusion and ramps it up into high “I’m completely lost” levels.

Faceless?

We are currently making a deal that if I’m navigating, he should shut up and drive. If HE wants to navigate, that’s fine with me.

On some level, in my world, everyone is faceless. If you put a paper bag over my head and spin me twice, I won’t know where I am, even if it’s my own living room.

Faceless and directionless. All the way.

CONSPIRACIES ON STEROIDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve been watching the Republicans trying to convince themselves and the world, yet again, that 2 + 2 = 5. An overtly political Republican Congressional memo was released recently that clearly states “A”. However, it is being touted as proof that “A” is false. Most of the country has not been taken in, but a majority of Republicans have been.

Republican Congressional Memo released to the public

This is just the most recent example of a Republican misinformation campaign. This one is designed to prove that the entire intelligence community, all 17 agencies in the government, are all biased, corrupt and working together to overthrow the Trump government. This is a ludicrous, far-fetched and dangerous idea.

But so was the popular right-wing conspiracy theory about the Newtown School massacre. The conpiracists claimed that the massacre never really happened. Actors were hired to make it look real. It was faked to make Second Amendment gun advocates look bad. Hard to believe that people actually bought into this craziness. But many Republicans did.

Whatever happened to the rubric, ‘When you hear hooves, assume horses, not zebras’? What kind of person is willing, if not eager, to believe the convoluted conspiracy theory rather than the simple reality? Do you have to be somewhat paranoid yourself to believe this shit? Can you just be a low information person who never goes anywhere near critical thought?

I think you have to believe that people are horribly nefarious and at least a little bit out to get you. But you also have to so desperately want to cling to your beliefs that you will buy into anything that allows you to keep them, untarnished.

I strongly believe what I believe. But I critically evaluate the information I’m given both for and against my positions. I would get no comfort from a flimsy, outlandish theory that could not be verified, just because it bolstered my world view. I would analyze it and reject it as false or unsubstantiated. And move on.

So we’re back to what makes me reject the ridiculous theory and others embrace it. Maybe it’s that my most fervent belief is in the existence of absolute facts. I believe that there is a way to determine, definitively, what is real and what isn’t. Maybe others have a looser definition of ‘truth’ than I do. Maybe others don’t care if something is true once they choose to believe it.

Have you ever watched “America’s Got Talent”, or any other talent show? There are people out there who genuinely think they are great singers or dancers, or whatever. And they are, in fact, horrible. So horrible that they get booed by a huge audience and eviscerated by a panel of judges. Yet most of these performers leave the stage believing that everyone is wrong about them. That nobody sees or ‘gets’ their true talent.

That may be the answer to my question. People have a great capacity for self-deception. Particularly when there is a deep seeded need to perpetuate that deception.

People don’t want to be bothered informing themselves and finding actual facts to back up their beliefs. They just want to ‘feel’ that they know what they’re talking about, that they understand the world around them. Most important, people want to ‘believe’ that they are 100% right about their beliefs.

Everyone wants to think they are smart and have a good sense of humor. So they just ‘believe’ it. And they live happily ever after.

THE ACCUMULATION OF STUFF – RICH PASCHALL

Reducing Clutter, by Rich Paschall


When my grandfather retired and my grandparents moved back to Tennessee from Chicago where they had lived for close to twenty years, they gave away many items they felt they no longer needed.  Chief among them was a snow blower.  “What if it snows, grandpa?” I asked.  He explained that in the unlikely event of snow, it would melt off in a day or two.  There was no need for something they may never use again.

When he asked if I would like anything, I said I would take his nightstand if the plan was to leave it behind.  It was an inexpensive little piece with a small door on the front to hold just a few items inside.  It had a homemade quality and symbolized my grandfather to me.  I was probably in early teens.  I still have it today.  The item could be 100 years old by now.

Their home in small town Tennessee was remarkably uncluttered.  They had just what they needed for the next twenty years of their lives.  The house was always, neat, clean and orderly and I truly believe that it added to the relaxed and comfortable existence they enjoyed for many years.  They never seemed to lack for anything when I would visit.  I envy that simple existence now.

When my father retired and moved to Florida with his second wife (not my mom), he too left behind things he could not imagine using again.  He had decided to give away his winter outerwear and offered me a nice coat and other items.  “What if it gets cold, or you come back to visit in winter, dad?” He pointed out that it never gets that cold in Florida and while he may be back to visit, it would never be in winter.

Aside from taking this winter offering, I desired nothing else.  I had his World War II medals and discharge paper.  There was nothing else I wanted.  I have since passed the World War II memorabilia to my older brother.  He has children and may be able to pass them on.  By the way, I kept a Good Conduct medal for my “good conduct.”  Dad had more than one and I decided not to award my brother with several of these.

Mom was a collector of stuff.  I sometimes wondered if this was the result of growing up poor in the Depression.  Was the accumulation of items, no matter how little the value, important to someone who had nothing growing up?  Were many of us from the Baby Boomer generation collectors because we saw that our parents were?

Mom collected everything from coffee cups to shot glasses, refrigerator magnets to picture frames, swizzle sticks from hotels and restaurants, to match books from the same.  There were figurines and candle holders, tea services not to be used, special occasion kitchen ware that may never have seen the special occasion.  There were “knickknacks” of all sorts, or what her mother would have simply called “dust catchers.”  To me, most of these items did not have enough value to have to dust them every weekend.

After mom had reached her 80’s and could not care for all the stuff, or even recall all the stuff she had, I moved her to an apartment in the same building so we could watch over her a little more closely.  That lasted less than a year and she was in a hospital, then a nursing home.  I moved to the larger apartment to hold on to the “stuff” in case she recovered well enough to come home.  She lived almost 6 years at the home and I not only had a lifetime of my own stuff, I then inherited a mountain of stuff I would never have considered owning.  Worse yet, many of the dust collectors I owned were some of the same items I grew up looking at.  I can not explain how I did not want these things.  For whatever reason, I could not get rid of much of it in the years that followed.

In the past year, however, I decided it was time to start to eliminate many of these things.  I had shelves and cabinets overflowing with items that I would never use and in some cases never wanted.  What if I have to move?  I do not want to have to take a lot of these things.  What if I die?  Someone will just toss out most of it anyway.  Is this “stuff” adding anything to my life?  This really is the key question.  If I was not going to use it and it did not hold some great personal value, it was time to go.

It is hard to do an assessment of items that have been in your house for decades.  You may falsely conclude that they have a sentimental value when all they really enjoy is longevity.  Consider cleaning up and not leaving it to others.  I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your kids, or grandkids, do not want your stuff.  Yes, they may desire an item or two, but for the most part your stuff will end up being donated or tossed out, so you might as well do it yourself.  Consider how much of your parents or grandparents stuff you wanted?  I am not talking about family photos, I am talking about “stuff.”

Last year I tossed out a lot of stuff.  I did not want them and could not imagine anyone paying 25 cents for them, so they finally hit the trash. I gave a lot of stuff away to various charities, depending on the type of item.  I also listed things on eBay if I thought they had a value.  I sell about a half-dozen items a month.  At this pace I could sell stuff for the next 25 years and still have a lot of things.  When I retire, I will likely increase my eBay offerings or my donations to resale shops, probably both. If anyone wants stuff, I will be happy to oblige.

SUDDENLY, THE YEAR TURNS

Suddenly …


Age is a very strange thing. You are a child, then you are young and these days, you are young for a very long time. Young really up through your fifties and for many people, pretty youthful into their sixties. Then, it changes. Maybe a little. Sometimes a lot and quite suddenly.

Macro birthday bouquet

The face that has been almost the same since your twenties is different. Older. Not just wrinkles, but there’s a “look” of maturity that tells the world — and you — that’s you’ve been around. You’ve seen a lot. You know things. Older eyes are different and it’s impossible to explain what that means. It doesn’t mean they do not sparkle with joy, but there is a knowingness that is missing in young eyes.

More birthday bouquet

This year has vanished even faster than usual. In fact, this entire last decade has been a wink and a shrug. I do not feel older this year than last. Actually, I feel better this year than last, but I’ve been gradually recovering from earlier surgeries and it’s nice that there’s a semblance of progress. Still, I sometimes don’t understand how I got here. I remember the years. I mostly remember what I was doing for most of them … but how do they add up to such a big number?

Yet here I am.

Macro bouquet

This twirling, whirling, busy world is a bauble in the great universe and we are just little crawly dots on its surface. In the even greater scheme of things, we are barely here at all. I’m not sure whether or not that perspective is comforting or chilling. Maybe both?

THE SIMPLICITY OF SLEEP AND WAKEFULNESS

COME SLEEP, O SLEEP …

Come, Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man’s wealth, the prisoner’s release,
Th’ indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the press
Of those fierce darts Despair at me doth throw!
O make in me those civil wars to cease!—
I will good tribute pay if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf of noise and blind of light,
A rosy garland, and a weary head;
And if these things, as being thine in right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella’s image see.

Sir Philip Sidney


I remember when going to sleep was simple. I changed into a nightgown or pajamas. I took off my jewelry. Brushed my hair. Brushed my teeth. Washed face and hands.  Plumped up the pillow, pulled up the covers — and went to sleep. Sometimes, I read for a while … and then fell asleep.

Last night, I went to bed. I did the whole nightgown, hair, wash, brush thing. Of course. Then I adjusted our electric bed trying to find the angle which would give me the least amount of pain in my back while keeping me sufficiently upright to continue to breathe.

I then took the various medications I take before bed — some for blood pressure, others for pain, and one for actual sleep. That was when I realized my rash was acting up. Damn. I put some cortisone cream on it, but that didn’t do it. So I went into the bathroom and used the other, stronger gunk. I stood there for a few minutes waiting for the gunk to dry, then went back to bed.

I realized I couldn’t breathe. I used the daily inhaler. Still couldn’t breath. Used the emergency inhaler — twice. Breathing restored, I realized my eyes were dry enough to feel like I had gravel in them. I found the eye-drops.

“Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch,” I said as the liquid hit the gravel. Garry couldn’t hear me. He had the headphones on and was deep in a western.

I tried another round of eye-drops. “OW!” I yelped. Two rounds of eye-drops later, the gravel had diminished. I realized I needed to do something about my incredibly dry lips. One round of chap-stick. Another round of chap-stick. One more round of chap-stick and by now, I’m wide awake. And my back was killing me.

I found the lidocaine cream. Applied it to my right hip. My left hip. Up and down the spine. Then — again — I waited for the most recent gunk to dry.

By now, a full hour had passed since I put on my nightgown and brushed my teeth. I had been sleepy, but by now, I wasn’t sleepy. Not a bit. I thought wistfully of those long ago days when going to bed was just … going to bed.

Worse, I still had to look forward to the thrill of getting out of bed. Convincing my legs and arms to wake up. Making sure my spine was going to let me stand  up and hopefully, walk.

Eyes – very dry!

The getting up ritual is a whole other thing, starting with around four in the morning when I start readjusting the bed. Because during the night, my spine will congeal into a solid lump of misery. I have to decide what — if any — medication will help. I have to be careful because I can only take a specified amount. If I take meds at four in the morning, I can’t take them later.

You get the idea.

Sometimes, the complexity of going to bed then getting up — first for medication and going back to bed. Next, rearranging the electric bed, trying to go back to sleep, hearing The Duke hit the door, knowing if I don’t get up and give everyone a biscuit he’s going to keep hitting the door until the door breaks or I get up and do the “Good Morning, beloved Dogs” thing.

Nothing is simple. Especially not simplest things.

IT’S EXPONENTIAL, DR. WATSON – BY TOM CURLEY

I’m not the first person to see this, but have any of you noticed that 2018 seems like 2017 on steroids? January is barely half over, and it seems like over a half-year has gone by. In 2017, we experienced “Trump Time.”

A crazy story that would have normally lasted a week or two, or maybe even a month, lasted for two days, tops. We were reeling from the insane shit the Shithead-in-Chief did on a Monday, only to completely forget about it because he did something even crazier on Tuesday. And that’s how it went all year.

But something happened, or seemed to happen on January 1, 2018. The crazy went into overdrive. I say ‘seemed’ to happen because his turning the crazy up to eleven was inevitable.

Why? Well, it’s because of the word exponential. Most of us know what it means, but I think most of us don’t really understand it.


ex·po·nen·tialˌekspəˈnen(t)SH(ə)l/

adjective

1. (Of an increase) becoming more and more rapid. “The social security budget was rising at an exponential rate.”

2. MATHEMATICS – Of, or expressed by, a mathematical exponent, for example, “an exponential curve.”


More specifically, we need to understand exponential growth, something that gets bigger and bigger, or grows faster and faster over time.

It’s hard for humans to think like that because we are hard-wired to think linearly. It’s easy for us to understand it takes a guy two hours to paint a room, so he can paint two rooms in four hours. Commonsense, right? That kind of commonsense  is part of our DNA. It helped us survive in the old caveman days. Back then, we had to be able to figure out in a hurry how fast we had to run to get to that tree before the really large saber tooth tiger caught up to us and ate us for lunch.

The best example of exponential growth today is in technology. Like, say, computers. There’s a thing called “Moore’s Law.” It says the processing power of computers doubles and the cost is cut in half every 12 to 18 months.

That was true, but, it is a perfect example of linear thinking.  In reality, the time that computers double in power and drop in cost is taking less and less time. Science and all knowledge, is growing at an accelerated rate.

It has always been that way. The increase in human knowledge has always been on an exponential curve, but the way the curve works didn’t make it seem that way until recently. On an exponential curve, things grow at a steady rate for a long time. Then suddenly, it hits a tipping point and everything begins to race along much faster.

Think about it. Humans have been on this planet as Homo sapiens for a few million years. Most of that time, we spent surviving. And throwing rocks at each other. Then, about 12,000 years ago, we stopped roaming and settled down. Although we still threw rocks at each other.

We created agriculture and civilization. Why did we do that? Because we discovered beer. I know this sounds like a joke, but it’s true. There’s a great documentary called “How Beer Saved The World.’  It’s fascinating, but that’s another blog for another day.

Basically, we had a choice. We could continue to wander around and throw rocks at each other. Or,  we could stay home and make more beer. And throw rocks at each other. It wasn’t a hard decision.Think of all the science — all the knowledge — mankind figured out starting 12,000 years ago up until 1900. By the 1900’s the industrial revolution was well underway. Cities were lit by gas and some places, by electricity. People and industry moved on steam-powered trains. The internal combustion engine was in production.

All this knowledge doubled between 1900 and the 1960’s. From  horse-drawn carriages to putting a man on the moon.

Well, that was fast.

The knowledge of mankind doubled again between 1960 and 1980, then doubled again by 1990.

Can we remember when smartphones didn’t exist? When iPads didn’t exist? They’ve been around for a while, right? Actually, the iPhone came out June 29, 2007. That was just ten years ago. The iPad was released on April 3, 2010. Just seven and a half years ago!

When my step son was diagnosed with kidney disease, he was told he would need a transplant. I asked his doctor if an artificial kidney would soon be available. He said, yes, but not for at least 50 years.

A few years later, he received the transplant and Ellin was the donor. After the surgery was over I asked the same doctor the same question. His answer? “Oh yeah, they will probably make a kidney from his own stem cells. Maybe five, ten years from now. ”

That was five years ago. Today, they’re talking about making kidneys with a 3D printer.

What happened?

Mankind reached the tipping point of that exponential curve. We’re at the point where the curve ends and the line goes straight up. This is when our knowledge quite literally explodes.

We’re way over to the right.

This is not something I thought of myself. There is a fascinating book by futurist Robert Kurzweil, called “The Singularity Is Near.” I highly recommend it.


What does any of this have to do with our Toddler-In-Chief? A lot. In particular, with his mental illness. Literally hundreds of psychiatrists and psychologists are screaming at the top of their lungs that this nut job is, well, nuts. and getting worse.

They have collectively pointed out that the stress of the job is accelerating his illness. He’s not merely getting crazier at warp speed. He has gone all the way to plaid!

You can see it yourself and you don’t need a Ph.D either.

Every interview he gives is a trip further down the rabbit hole. His last few interviews have gone from, “Bizarre” to “Unhinged” to “Insane” to “Insanely insane.” Read the transcript of his last interview with The Wall Street Journal. It was a literal word salad. Not a single sentence was complete or made any sense.

I just watched a news conference where the doctor that supposedly just examined Trump said he passed a cognitive mental test and he got all 30 questions right!

Really? The questions were things like “name four animals” and “point out what 3:15 looks like on a clock.” Wow, so the President is sane because he recognizes a cow, a pig, a dog,a rhinoceros and a pussy. He also knows when it’s quarter after three.

Short red hand was. at 3 and is now. moving toward 4. Long blue hand. has moved. to 15.

Do the same test next month.

I think Grandpa is not just losing it. He’s losing it faster and faster each day. It’s time to take away the keys to his car. Remove the big nuclear button from his desk. Get him into the memory care unit at a good nursing home. Hell, you can designate Mar-A-Lago as his official nursing home and lock him in his room. It’s only the middle of January as I write this and I’m hoping we make it to February. Last year, at this time we were hoping to make it to 2020. The month isn’t even over yet and he’s managed to shut down the government. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

I apologize for not finding more humor in all of this. I try, but sometimes it just ain’t there. So, to make up for it. Here are two dogs playing “I Got Your Nose!”.