SHARING MY WORLD – EMILIO’S SPECIAL!

EMILIO’S SHARE MY WORLD – AUGUST 21, 2017


Cee in on vacation, so today, we reveal our private selves to Emilio, who has decided to be this weeks question asker.

Have you ever been pulled over by a cop?  

For years, I got away with being a nonstop speeder. I wasn’t a dangerous driver, but I was a fast one. Then, one day, my past caught up with me and so did the state troopers. Two speeding tickets later, I slowed down. It took Garry four tickets, then HE slowed down, too.

There are some places that just beg to have you put pedal to the metal and go for it. I still don’t know why we aren’t allowed to drive faster when the road is built for fast driving and the traffic is light … but I think it’s a money thing.

What have you always wanted? Did you get it? 

I wanted to write a book. But to be fair, I wanted to write a best-selling book and make a lot of money as a writer. I didn’t want to work really hard to write a book, but never be able to properly market it.

For all that, I got a huge amount of satisfaction from writing and having people enjoy it. Even though I didn’t make oodles of money, I got oodles of happiness. So yes, I got it.

What is your perfect pizza?

Almost any pizza not made in Uxbridge. Sorry, little town. This is not one of the great pizza-making villages.

What inspired you this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

I have been sick for a week. Inspiration? When I think the meds are working. Failed inspiration? Realizing no, they didn’t work and I am still sick. I don’t understand why I’m still sick. I should be much better by now. It is making me grouchy.

SCHOOL. WAS. DULL.

I always find myself defending school to kids. They complain it’s dull. That there’s nothing in it that “grabs” or fascinates them. I find myself trying to explain that school … well … wasn’t fascinating. That wasn’t the point.

School was dull. I remember being the one who had a book in my lap so when no one was looking, I would read. I love science today, but in school? In elementary school, junior high school, and high school? It was boring. I remember in high school I had a double period of botany beginning at eight in the morning. When I was, in any case, half asleep. The class went on for two endless hours. We had a teacher who knew her stuff, but could not speak in anything but the most droning voice. She’d start to talk and I’d black out. Completely. Gone.

I did not do well in the class. A pity. I was actually interested, but she was better than a sleeping pill. Twice as good, really. Nothing I ever took knocked me out as well as she did.

Social studies which would today be what? Social science? History? Some weird version of both? It consisted of everything that wasn’t English, math, or science. What we called “the rest of the stuff.” I was a passionate, ardent, enthusiastic reader.  I loved history and the world. But social studies? With those stupid work books where you would answer a question and then you had to color the pictures. Seriously? Color the pictures? I flunked coloring.

English was dull, too. We had to read books that were of no interest to anyone. I suspected the teachers found them duller than dirt too, but it was in the curriculum and that’s what they were supposed to teach. They did. We yawned. I drew pictures of horses in my notebooks. Sometimes, when I got tired of horses — I never got the feet right — I moved into castles. I was better at castles.

If they let us write something, I was definitely good at that. But being good at it didn’t make it interesting. My previous summer vacation wasn’t the stuff to brighten my week.

The teachers droned on and on. Those of us who intended to go to college hung in there. It never — not once, not for a split second — crossed my mind that I should drop out and work at entry-level jobs for the rest of my life merely because I was bored at school.

For me, going to college was exactly the same as going to heaven. I would go to college because as a child, there wasn’t another choice. I knew I could learn. I never doubted my ability to think. I was sure once I made it to the top — to college — the rest would follow.

I did learn a lot of things in college, but really, I learned most of the stuff which eluded me in school — math, science, statistics — while working.

When you are working, you learn things that make sense. You discover science has a reason. Numbers in context are not random forms on a piece of paper which you jiggle around until you either get the answer or sit there with empty eyes wondering what this is supposed to mean. I did stuff at work I had found impossible in a classroom. It wasn’t my fault. It was their fault. They taught the material so poorly no one who didn’t have a special thing for it ever figured it out. What a pity for everyone. Worst of all, they meant well. They did the best they knew how.

College had its share of drones and bores … but there were enough insanely wonderful teachers who opened whole new worlds for me. Out of all the courses I took, there were maybe a dozen teachers who were inspirational. It was enough.  For each year, there were at least one or two each semester. Plus, I was in an environment where learning was a thing everyone did. We wanted to learn. We needed to learn. We chose it.

We had managed to stay awake long enough in lower levels to get to this higher one and we weren’t going to toss it away. I know many people dropped out into the world of free love and acid and all that, but most of us stayed. If we were going to mess around, we were going to do it outside of class. We hadn’t gotten this far to ditch it for weekends of fun.

We never properly explained the whole school thing the way it should be explained to our kids or grandkids. We’ve told them “Oh, it’s not that bad.”

Except, it really is that bad. Sometimes, it’s even worse than that bad. School comes with incredibly boring teachers, but also with brutal, cruel classmates. That is very bad. Whether they are teasing you because of your color or because you are smart and they aren’t … cruelty is cruelty and kids are cruel. You don’t stay in school because it’s fun or because the quality of education is uplifting. You are there because you know in your brain and your guts that this is what you have to do if you want to have a real life.

If you also get wonderful, inspiring, enlightening teachers, that’s much better. But even if they are duller than you, duller than your dullard friends, you need to be there.

School is the work of childhood. It’s the “why of the how” of growing up.

ARE YOU SURE? REALLY? 100,000 HITS? ME? WOW … THANKS GUYS!

100,000 HITS

A few hours ago while we were stuck in traffic on Route 95, I hit two major milestones: 600 followers and 100,000 hits. On the same day — entirely coincidentally. I wrote this post a couple of days ago . I knew the 100,000 would happen this week. (The 600 followers was a total surprise.)

When I started blogging, I wasn’t sure why. A year and a half later, I still couldn’t tell you why. I still don’t know. The simplest explanation is the truest: I enjoy it. I love writing and having people read it. Having an audience is a huge gift. Writers really need readers. Anyone who says they write for themselves is lying … to themselves, if not everyone else. Fortunately, readers need writers. Together we have a wonderful synergy.

I mustn’t forget photography. I’ve been taking pictures almost as long as I’ve been writing. Posting my favorites — not to mention Garry’s photos and other members of the family — really beats out slide shows after dinner or emailing them to people who may or may not even open the attachment. Finally, I get feedback. Somebody out there likes me!

I’m not as good a photographer as many of you. Some of you who follow me — I can’t figure out why. I’m flattered, of course, but you are so much better than me. Despite all the years this has been my hobby, I’m still a babe in the woods with Photoshop. I never seem to get the beautiful “finish” the rest of you get. Part of it is equipment. Lenses to be more exact. I don’t have the great glass I would like. I wish I could throw money at it, but not now. I live in hope of miracles.

Where does hope live? Where is the place we live when life’s not treating us well? When things are going wrong and if you stop and think about it, your brain turns to jelly and you can’t form a coherent thought? When the magnitude of the problems in your life exceed your capacity to process?

Me? I read, write and make pictures. I read your posts, look at your pictures. Sometimes I comment, often I read, look, smile and leave a “like” behind, kind of a calling card to say “Hey, I was here!” I wish I could spend more time on your sites but I run out of time. This blogging thing … it really chews up the hours and days.

I started small. I posted something once in a while and then didn’t post anything for a while, then started putting a few things up now and then. Then … oh, I don’t know. I just got into it. There was no epiphany, no revelation. One day, I just felt I should write, post a picture. The next day, I felt that way again, so I did and then more than once a day.

It was the presidential election that sucked me into the maelström with a vengeance. Talk about lively. The Internet wasn’t merely buzzing. It was screaming. People who normally wouldn’t get involved were out there, giving their opinions on every public forum. The cyber world was wild and I got a share of the action. I doubt I’ll ever post numbers as high as I did in October and November 2012. Crazy numbers, crazy time.

It’s easy to blog when there’s huge controversy everywhere, gigantic hurricanes washing away the right coast of the U.S. It’s harder now. There is always a horrible political thing going on but I find myself writing about my smaller world. Sometimes, it’s about how my little world intersects with the great big world. That’s when politics become deeply personal.

The road, as J.R.R. Tolkien says, goes on and on … back to the point where it began.

And so it does. There’s no starting point, no inherent end. I write, I take pictures and will do that as long as I can. Eventually, after the New Year, I’ll have to stop. For a while. Hopefully not too long a while, but I know it will happen. I hope you folks will remember me and come back to visit now and then.

Meanwhile, it’s been a Hell of a ride. I remember when I got my first 5,000 hits and thought “Wow! 5,000! Never thought this would happen!” and the numbers kept marching upward. A couple of months ago, it became obvious I would cross over the 100,000 mark — a biggie. So … what next?

I never had a plan for my site. 100,000 hits was never a goal. I never told myself if I get “this many followers” or “that many hits,” I will know I’m successful. I consider myself successful because running this site gives me so much pleasure and I don’t want to stop. There are popular blogs that baffle me (why?) and wonderful blogs that fall by the wayside. You can take you best guess at figuring out (1) what constitutes success and (2) why it comes to some, but not others equally or more deserving. Some of is luck, stumbling onto a topic that catches peoples’ attention. And getting noticed by people who help promote you. And I suspect much of it is persistence — posting interesting material often so everyone knows they can always find new stuff on your site.

I never had a goal. I still don’t. I love writing and photography. I enjoy meeting people from all over the world. Learning how their lives are the same and different from mine. Chatting through comments. Getting new ideas. It is the stuff you guys say, in comments and on your own sites, that triggers what I write. You feed my imagination, inspire my muse. And challenge me to be better.

Thanks. Everyone. Really thank you. Truly you are the wind beneath my wings.

Rereading Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart

Cover of "Earth Abides"

When I first read Earth Abides by George R. Stewart more than 40 years ago, it wasn’t newly published, but it was new to me.

Unlike many other books I have read and forgotten, Earth Abides has stayed with me. I’ve returned to it many times in recent years, but there was a period of almost 30 years when I couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere. Nonetheless, I could recall it with remarkable clarity. It was especially remarkable considering the thousands of books I read every year. That I could remember this one book — not to be too punny — spoke volumes. It turns out that I was not alone. Many people found the book unforgettable, including many writers. George Stewart’s masterpiece became the jumping off point for an entire genre.

Earth Abides is a “foundation book,” one of a handful of books that you must read if you are a science fiction fan. It is frequently cited as “the original disaster” story. A foundation book it most definitely is, but classing it as the “original disaster story” rather misses the point.

Earth Abides isn’t merely a disaster story or post apocalyptic science fiction. Above all it is a book of rebuilding, renewal and hope. The event that initiates the story is a disaster, a plague resulting from either a natural mutation or something escaped from a lab that runs amok. Whatever its origins, it kills off most of Earth’s human population. As has been true of plagues throughout history, a small percentage of the population is naturally immune. Additionally, anyone who survived a rattlesnake bite is immune.

The plague is the back story. The front story of Earth Abides is how humankind copes with the tragedy as scattered remnants of people slowly find one another, form groups and gradually create a new civilization. Through marriage and the pressures of survival, groups become tribes. Simultaneously, the earth itself revives and finds a new balance.

Most diseases of old earth are eliminated by depopulation. New generations are wonderfully healthy. Along with physical disease, mental illness, archaic religious and outdated social structures are shed. New human generations have no memory of institutionalized bias and prejudice and the color line becomes non-existent. There is much that needs doing in this new world, but there’s an infinite amount of time in which to do it.

Ultimately, earth will be repopulated. But gently … and hopefully, in peace. The reborn world will contain bits and pieces of what went before, but without its demons.

The book was re-released as a 60th anniversary edition in 2009, including an audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis.

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover editi...

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover edition of Earth Abides. Cover illustration by H. Lawrence Hoffman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last time I read it was immediately after it was re-released. Four years has given me time to be surprised by the book all over again. Be surprised by how much Ish — the main character — changes over the years, how much he grows and matures. How his belief structure adapts to new realities, how much more open his mind becomes. It’s a rare transformation from a literary point of view. Few characters I’ve read have transformed as much as Ish does in Earth Abides.

Earth Abides was published in 1949. In some parts of the U.S. and other countries, the issues with which the book’s characters grapple are still very much alive. They shouldn’t be. We have moved on but only to a point.

The technology stands up surprisingly well because it’s essentially irrelevant. All technology disappears, so it doesn’t matter how advanced it used to be. When the power goes off, it’s over. The world goes back to pre-technological. It has wind, water and sun. Books remain, so knowledge exists, but in stasis, waiting to be rediscovered and deployed. Meanwhile, earth abides.

The world ends, the world begins. Ish and Emma are the “mother” and “father” of the new tribe. Ish, in Hebrew, means “man” and “Eema” means “mother” which I am sure is not coincidental. It’s a wonderful story that suggests the human race has the capacity to not only survive, but reinvent civilization and make a better world.

Earth Abides is timeless. As is the Earth. There’s an entire site dedicated to George R. Stewart — The EARTH ABIDES Project. Definitely check it out!

It’s available in every configuration including Kindle, Audible download, audiobook (CD and MP3), hardcover and paperback. There was time when it was difficult to find, but it seems to have found its way back. I have owned at least a dozen copies of Earth Abides and keep an extra copy tucked away to give to friends who haven’t read it yet. I’m glad.

It remains among my top five all time favorite science fiction novels and if you haven’t read it, there’s no time like the present. I have a spare copy, just in case.

Prompts for the Promptless – Ep. 9 – Gallows Humor: Dying Is Easy (Comedy Is Hard)

After I was told I had cancer in not one, but both breasts — they were having a two-for-one special at the Dana-Farber — I had them removed and replaced by silicon Hollywood quality implants. I stopped short of adding the fake nipples. Previous surgeries had left me with no naval, so now lacking both naval and nipples, I think maybe I’m an alien walking the earth.

I have a tee-shirt that says “Yes, they are FAKE. My real ones tried to kill me.” It makes people laugh. It’s the high point of my cancer experience.

Unfortunately, cancer tends to enter your life and like a guest that long over-stays his or her welcome, you just can’t get rid of it. After I gave up my Medigap policy and signed on with Fallon Senior Medicare Advantage plan, it took me five months to get an appointment with an oncologist. It began last November and isn’t over yet.

Dying is easy 1

To get started on the wrong foot, the customer service person who signed me up in the beginning gave me incorrect information, having assured me Dana-Farber in Milford was covered by Fallon. This turned out to be untrue and left me without an oncologist. I was annoyed, but they said I could see my Dana-Farber oncologist once more and I figured I’d get a referral from him.

My oncologist didn’t know anyone at UMass in Worcester which is Fallon’s only cancer care facility in Worcester County. I remained calm. I’m past surgery and chemo, in the maintenance phase of care, the part where they do their best to ignore you. Failing that, they do the least they can. Unless you obviously grow a new cancer in a location they can see and feel, they tell you you’re fine. Not to worry. Smile. It’s just cancer.

At Dana-Farber, I had been going for quarterly check-ups, feeling for lumps, taking blood, checking for weird symptoms that could indicate something growing somewhere it shouldn’t. Annually they run a scan to take a look around the property, aka my body. I’d had to go to war for the scan. Their plan was to do nothing at all unless I had symptoms. Does death count? I felt their plan was insufficient while they felt running a scan was a frivolous waste of taxpayer’s money. My life didn’t come into the equation.

My former oncologist couldn’t help me find a new doctor. He suggested I call the HMO and ask them to refer me to a medical oncologist with a speciality in breast cancer. I knew my PCP wouldn’t be able to refer me because she had already said so. She had suggested I get the referral from my oncologist. Full circle.

I called Fallon Senior Heath Plan.

CustomerSvcFallonQuote

The customer service rep sounded about 12-years-old, but knew even less than her years suggested. She didn’t understand the concept of different kinds of oncologists. After explaining for perhaps the dozenth time, I began to sink into the slough of despond. It was like talking to a smiling plastic doll who will recite one of 3 pre-recorded phrases. Pull the string, get an answer.

I got transferred to a supervisor and retold the story. She said she would “research the problem” and get back to me. Research the problem? Sounded like a kiss-off to me.

I called my doctor’s office, explained I hadn’t been able to get a referral from my oncologist or from Fallon where they kept saying my family doctor should send me to the right doctor even though I told them Dr. S. didn’t know the doctors in oncology at UMass, Worcester.

HELP, I said. Please!

I did my little song and dance, explaining I needed a Medical Oncologist with a specialty in Breast Cancer. Since breast cancer is frightfully common, it shouldn’t be that hard to find someone.

A few hours later, my doctor’s office called back, gave me a name, an appointment, a phone number. The appointment was for a few days hence, also my birthday. I didn’t want an oncology appointment on my birthday. Nor did I need an appointment immediately. I had just had my annual scan. So I called the doctor’s number to change the appointment to something more sensible.

I got transferred, transferred, and wound up talking to Lisa, the administrator for the Breast Care department. The doctor with whom I’d was booked is a surgeon and they need my medical records before they can continue. The records are all over the Commonwealth, scattered between 4 hospitals.

Lisa said not to worry, she would take care of it. She did. She changed the appointment, booked me with an appropriate doctor, called the various offices and ordered my records. Said if I had any kind of problem, give her a call and she’d fix it because women with cancer shouldn’t have additional problems because they already had quite enough. My feeling precisely!

Shortly thereafter, my doctor’s assistant called asking why I’d cancelled the appointment she had made for me. She was furious. After all the effort she’d made making that phone call on my behalf, I’d had the gall to CANCEL the appointment. I explained she’d booked me with a surgeon — pointless since I’ve already been thoroughly surged. I needed a different doctor.

She was pissed because it hadn’t been easy to get that wrong appointment and seemed unable to grasp the difference between a medical oncologist and a surgeon. I explained — again — that a surgeon would not be able to help me because I don’t need breast surgery. I have no breasts. But I do need my medical records sent to UMass. She said Lisa from UMass had called about it but she wasn’t sure where to send them.

“Did Lisa tell you where to send them?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Then … why don’t you send them there?” Duh.

“But you cancelled the appointment I made!” she whined, still pissed off.

“I changed the appointment. To be accurate, Lisa changed it because the doctor to which you were sending me was the wrong doctor. NOW I have an appointment with the right doctor.” We went back and forth for a while until she grudgingly accepted my apology for not needing a breast surgeon. I assured her that I truly appreciated her futile efforts.

“I’m so sorry to upset you,” I repeated.

Yesterday I got a note in the mail (not email, the regular mail) from UMass cancelling my appointment with the oncologist and suggesting I call to make a new one.

Maybe I don’t really need an oncologist. Dying is easy; comedy is hard.

Dying is easy

Daily Prompt: Prized Possession — Annabelle

Annabelle was a doll made by Madame Alexander. She was in production for one year only — 1952 — the year I turned five.

My mother loved dolls, but she had grown up poor. She had only had one doll in her entire life, a china-headed doll she got from her mother. That was a big deal in a large, poor family. There were 6 other brothers and sisters to keep fed, clothed and who also had birthdays. Mom loved her doll and when one day, the doll fell off her bed and broke her china head, my mother was inconsolable. She said she had cried for weeks and everyone was sympathetic, but she never got another doll.

Then there was me, her first daughter and the one who loved dolls as much as she had. My sister, who came afterwards, never cared for them as I did.

Annabelle - by Madame Alexander - 1952

Annabelle – by Madame Alexander – 1952

Annabelle was the first of a line of expensive dolls with which I was gifted through my girlhood. Annabelle was followed by Toni,the big 24″ Toni with platinum hair and the whole set of curlers and “permanent wave” solution. After that, there was Betsy Wetsy, though my mother, in the midst of potty training my younger sister couldn’t imagine wanting a doll that wet herself. Many other dolls would follow. But Annabelle always had a special place in my heart. I talked to her, slept with her, dragged her around. I loved her through restringing, rewigging, repainting and redressing.

After all my other dolls had passed along into dolly heaven, I still had Annabelle. Right before I left for Israel, I gave her to my friend’s daughter … and Loren still has her to this day.

Annabelle Too

Annabelle Too

Some years back, I went hunting for Annabelle. I knew I couldn’t get my original girl back. She was Loren’s now. Even though Loren was grown with a son of her own, she was not parting with Annabelle. Most of Madame Alexander’s dolls had long production runs, but Annabelle was a one year only limited edition. But I found her, and she has rejoined my life. I even have her original box, traveling beauty supply kit and tag. She’s perfect and obviously had never been loved quite as voraciously as I love her predecessor.

I still do give her a furtive hug now and again. Sometimes, the best person in the world to talk to is a doll that will always smile and understand. That’s my Annabelle.

Portrait of Annabelle

Portrait of Annabelle

Daily Prompt: Five a Day — 5 Foods for Island Life

You’ve being exiled to a private island, and your captors will only supply you with five foods. What do you pick?

On my little island there’s a cottage.

I have a tiny kitchen, but well-organized for its size. I have some good black iron pots and pans, sturdy bright dishes in the cupboard. A small ice box keeps a few things cool if the weather is sultry and I get at least some electricity, perhaps from a small generator. I can only bring five foods. Well, I’m going to hope that the drinks are separately counted so I can can put the coffee and tea on different list, along with the sports drinks I need to keep from dying of a serious electrolyte imbalance. Hard to do the island thing when you have very specific, rigid dietary requirements. Diabetes is not island friendly. So I’m just counting on drug deliveries along with food stuffs! I wouldn’t last long otherwise, though if I had enough books to read, I’d go out smiling.

Since this is not a desert island, if the soil is at all fertile, there may be many ways to supplement a limited diet and the sea contains much that is good to eat, including kelp and other seaweed. Maybe there will be some coconuts or mangos to be found. A little fruit would be awfully welcome! I’d better also have a goodly stock of vitamins and minerals too! Wouldn’t want to get scurvy or something.

VeganWitches

  1. First, protein. I love seafood, so if I have to pick just one, salmon it is, but if I can get seafood as a category … I’ll be happily stranded.  Seafood has the highest amounts of all the good stuff to keep ones body and soul together.
  2. Next, a calcium source. Cheese it will be! Pass the Jarlsberg please! If I can get cheese as a category, just bring them on, love them all, but if it has to be just one, I’ll go with a full flavor Jarlsberg.
  3. Need veggies!! Okay, perhaps I’m cheating a wee bit. All veggies are a single food for my purposes: tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, collards … the things that turn just food into meals.
  4. For the high carbohydrate choice: Potatoes. You can bake them, boil them, mash them. Serve them fried, grated and made into a loaf. Serve them with fried onions and make them into pancakes. My ancestors more or less lived on potatoes, so I gotta have item.
  5. Bread. There’s a reason “breaking bread” is synonymous with eating a meal with others. Bread goes with everything — cheese,  gravy, tomatoes and lettuce. Bread is there with all the meals. Dry it out for crumbs and if I have some spare, maybe I can lure some egg-laying birds to my little camp.

No sweets, no junk food. But I can live on these foods and remain healthy.

I’m assuming that condiments and spices come “free.” Sugar, salt (especially salt!), garlic, basil, cumin, ginger, peppermint.  I shall have an herb garden. No one said I can’t grow a few things, right?

I wonder what I’ll do for cooking oil? Any coconuts on the island?

Every bit of space not otherwise occupied with a bed, a few comfy chairs, a table and a fireplace will have to be filled with books … although if I have access to the internet and can bring a Kindle, I will be in Heaven.  I do hope the water is warm enough for swimming and the soil rich enough for growing. I might really like that island. Guest room anyone?