Hello humanity, this is Earth. The planet Earth. You’ve called me by different names like Gaia, Mother Earth, Terra, etc.

It really doesn’t matter what you call me as long as you don’t call me late for dinner. To be honest, I never got that joke. I’m not sure exactly what “dinner” is., but I’ve noticed it’s a popular joke with you folks.

Anyway, I’m writing this open letter because I’ve noticed a lot of you have been concerned with what you call “climate change.”  You seem to be concerned about “saving the planet.”

I’m flattered that so many of you are concerned about me. I mean, the dinosaurs were living on me for almost a billion years and never once did one of them even notice I existed. Now that I think about it, the fact they had brains the size of a walnut might have had something to do with that.

“How do you expect me to remember birthdays? You know my brain is the size of a walnut!”

But I digress. Sorry. I do that a lot. I’ve been around for over four and a half billion years. Cut me some slack.

Be that as it may, the reason I’m writing this letter to you is though I appreciate your concern about my welfare, you need to know you don’t need to save me.  I’m doing just fine.

I’ll continue to do just fine. Like I said, I’ve been around for over four and a half billion years and my surface is constantly changing.  When I started out, I was basically a really hot rock. The only thing I had to do was make volcanoes.

Granted, at first, it was interesting, but I got to tell you, after the first billion years or so, it got a little old.

Then it started raining. It rained for a long time, even by my standards.  All of a sudden almost three-quarters of my surface was covered in water.

That was cool.  I had clouds and snow and much better sunrises and sunsets.

Then the oddest thing happened. I’m not really sure how, but life formed. At first, it was pretty boring. Single-celled organisms that pretty much ate stuff and reproduced.

But then they got bigger and more complex. First small fish, then bigger fish. That was neat. Then a few of them left the water and started walking around on land.  That was weird.

Hey Phil! You got to come up here and see this!

The next time I took a look (you have to realize that your perception of time is different when you’ve been around for billions of years) I was covered in plants and trees and there were insects and dinosaurs everywhere. They were interesting but all they really did was wander around and eat each other.

Get in my belly!

Again, cool at first, but trust me, anything gets boring after the first hundred million years or so. Things were going fine until this big asteroid crashed into me. I gotta tell you, that one hurt. I remember thinking “Oww! That’s going to leave a mark!”

And it did. After that, the climate on my surface changed and all the dinosaurs disappeared.

Then you guys came along. Now realize, that by my standards you’ve only been around for about a year or so. Even so, I’ve been fascinated by watching you.

You guys actually figured out how to use fire.

You invented the wheel. You created civilization. You created beer! Not one dinosaur in over 500 million years ever came close to doing anything like that. You guys did it after being around for only a few hundred thousand years.

I was impressed. Lately, and by lately I mean for maybe the last 40-thousand years or so, you’ve been inventing all sorts of really interesting things. I have to confess, I’ve really gotten into Netflix.

But I have noticed that you’ve been changing my surface environment lately.

Yes, it’s definitely you folks doing it. It took me hundreds of millions of years to turn hundreds of millions of years of dead dinosaurs and plant life into coal and oil and you’ve managed to burn most of it and dump trillions of tons of CO2 into my atmosphere in a few minutes by my time frame.


You might want to stop doing that. After the asteroid hit, my surface changed so much that the dinosaurs died out. All of them.

It happens. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to have a harder and harder time living on me. Trust me, you’re not the first living things that have come and gone, and you won’t be the last.

I have to admit, I’ll miss you guys. Like I said, I’m really into Netflix and again, you invented beer!

So basically, what I’m trying to tell you is even if you keep doing what you’re doing, I’m going to be just fine. You don’t need to worry about me.

You need to worry about you.

Sincerely yours,

According to Terry Pratchett



A lot of people figure that everyone “retires” on their own terms in their proper time. That hasn’t been true in our world. Certainly not in Garry and my world. Garry lost his job because the company he worked for decided to move on without “the old guy.” I lost my job because my bosses son needed one.

Many of the people I know were “laid off” which feels exactly the same as getting fired, except there’s no legal reason for it. They just feel like doing it. In Garry’s case, it was clearly age-related. In mine, it was just smarmy.

I’ve known at least half a dozen people who got forced out of jobs they’d held for as long as 40 years. They had no preparations for retirement, no significant saving, and no plans. They all figured they’d work until they hit the official “date” … but it didn’t turn out like that. Not even close.

All the awards you want … but no pension you can live on.

Garry, after 31 years at channel 7, was shown the door in literally five minutes. When he came home, he looked like he’d been bludgeoned. I should mention that Owen lost his job during the same week. It was a hell of a week.

I hadn’t been at that job for very long, but the boss had me “showing the kid” how to do the job. Sneaky. I was in my 60s. There wasn’t another job waiting for me and I was ill.

For two years, we lived on what Garry got as his union payout. No medical insurance — and I kept getting sicker. He was miserable too. He was terribly depressed and demoralized — while I was wondering if I was going to die.

He went to rehab. I found a doctor who would treat me for free and actually invented a surgery to “fix” me because I was very broken. We had no money. To keep afloat for those two years before Garry got his pension and I got disability, we refinanced the house multiple times which bloated the mortgage payment to an impressive amount we couldn’t pay. There was the HARP Program — which Obama started. The problem? The bank didn’t have to let you into the program. Great program, but all you could do was beg. Weird, right?

I had been negotiating with them for months. When finally I got cancer in both breasts, I called and said, “Well, now I have cancer. Can we please get into the program?” I think I actually shamed a banker because a couple of months later, our mortgage payment dropped by $1000 a month. That was the beginning of survival.

I found a doctor who treated me for free. A hospital that never asked for payment. A bank program that cut our mortgage in half. Finally, Garry started getting Social Security and his (very small) pensions … and I finally got Social Security Disability. We went from having no money (blessings on food banks everywhere) to almost being able to make it through a month.

I remember the day when we no longer needed the food bank. It was a small, but meaningful triumph.

Garry stopped drinking. I didn’t die.

These days, when I hear how people are melting down over getting laid off from their jobs and basically losing everything. I’m sympathetic … but mostly, I figure they’ll get over it. Not immediately. Eventually.

You have to get over it. It’s a terrible time. We went for two years without any income. None. Zero. Nothing. Whatever little we had put away disappeared. Somehow, we survived and damned if I know how. I got any help I could from anyone who gave help. I don’t even know how I did it.  We are both alive — and we still have the house. At some point, Mass Health (our version of Medicaid) kicked in. It was the idea on which Obama built his medical plan.

It was designed by our Republican governor. That’s one of many reasons it baffles me that the GOP has been so against it. It was their program.

When this was taken, I weighed 93 pounds. An XXS was too big for me. I wore a size zero and it was loose. It was not an attractive look.

Most people don’t get to retire like in the movies, with or without the gold watch. We get ditched, usually around age 59, typically 6 months before pensions fully vest.

For all of you who got dumped because you got “too old,” yes it was illegal to let you go. It’s call ageism, but it’s done all the time. You can sue, but unless you’ve got money to live on while you sue, by the time you get paid off — and you will get paid off — you’ll be up to your lip in debt.

Did we have mental meltdowns? Sure we did. That’s why Garry needed rehab. I would have been more melted down, but I was trying to save my life and it was sheer luck I bumped into a doctor who introduced me to another doctor who took me in. I was days from my demise by then.

I developed a sort of yellow-green complexion. Which was also not very attractive

If you have had a life calamity and everything gets taken away, it will take a couple of years before you pull yourself together. It’s not just your finances that take a hit. Your soul gets maimed. Your self-esteem goes down the tubes.

When anti-medical care legislators say “no one dies from lack of medical care,” that’s bullshit. Lots of people die without care. They don’t get written up because they aren’t in the hospital or seeing a doctor. They just die. Kids, old people, and all the others in the middle.

Why am I talking about this?

Because those of us who had this terrible disaster overwhelm us need to know we aren’t alone. It wasn’t just us. It’s lots and lots of people many of whom used to be solidly middle class before their world collapsed.

So try to remember one thing:

It gets better. Somehow, some way, it gets better.


FOWC with Fandango — Revenge

Revenge is giving you cousin’s kids an ant farm for Christmas. Or maybe one of those big drums that will beat automatically when you turn a handle. Or, for any teenager, a small chainsaw and when someone objects, point out that we all need to learn to handle tools. Just a little chainsaw.

Or, as the old lady said to the congregation, there’s always outliving the bitches.

I don’t think about revenge. That would make me insane. I work on survival. That only make me a little less insane.



People are always saying I’m courageous because I’ve survived a lot of illness. I tell them surviving is not courage. It’s instinct. That is the kind of “courage” you can find in any living thing — including an earthworm or a slug.

Flames from the Valley Fire cover a hillside along Highway 29 in Lower Lake, California September 13, 2015. The swiftly spreading wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of residents to flee as it roared unchecked through the northern California village of Middletown and nearby communities, REUTERS/Noah Berger

Every living thing does its best to stay alive. To survive and continue to exist. Sometimes that’s hard, but it isn’t courageous. It may show tenacity, grit, intelligence, and luck, but courage is something else.

Courage is when — at your own personal peril — you run into the fire from which everyone else is fleeing to try to save those who are trapped.

Courage is going back to the fight because your patrol is trapped and they need your help.

Courage is going against your natural instinct to flee the danger and get to safety to save the lives of others — human or animal.

Courage is counter-instinctive. It isn’t “natural” and I am pretty sure you will never find an earthworm with genuine valor.

I’m not brave. I’m gritty, determined, persistent, and sometimes, clever. I also have been lucky. Luck is the single thing common for survivors and the truly courageous. You wish for it, but you can’t count on it.

The lucky get to hear their praises sung — hopefully. The unlucky may get a really nice funeral and a posthumous medal.


I gave up worry sometime between getting cancer in both breasts and needing two new heart valves. Worry never did me any good and it probably did me considerable harm. Somehow, I always felt that worrying was like prayer for the non-religious.

In fact, the things I worried didn’t happen. The things I never saw coming all happened. That’s what’s wrong with worry. We worry about what we think we should worry about, but when trouble comes, it is always from a direction we never expected.

I was a moderately healthy young person. I had problems with my spine and had surgery to fix it. It didn’t quite do the job, I just assumed it was fine and went about life like there was no problem. Until that auto accident. The one where the kid with no insurance tee-boned me at an intersection because she just didn’t feel like waiting that extra minute for the light to change. When they dragged me to the hospital and ran x-rays, the guy came out of the lab holding the films. He was ghostly white.

“These are really … well … I’ve never seen anything this bad. It’s just a bunch of tiny, broken shards. You need to see someone. Like … well … can you walk?”

The more than half full cup

I figured he was simply viewing the rubble from the spinal fusion I’d had in 1967. Time had not dealt gently with it and the bone glue — which is actually made up of bone they took from my hip, pounded into paste, drilled out my spine and glued it together using my own bone glue — had broken into a million tiny pieces. Or, as the lab guy said, shards. Me? I wasn’t worried. My back was pretty sore and I hadn’t had an exam on my back since … 1967. It was 1998, so I figured no harm in getting a check-up, right?

I had to find a doctor and after three attempts and finding doctors who didn’t even bother to look at my x-rays before having me in as a patient, I found one. I knew I was probably in a bit of trouble when the lab lady came out with tears in her eyes, looked at me, and said “Oh, I’m SO sorry.”

“So sorry?” That didn’t sound good.

I discovered I was giving up horseback riding. I was also giving up lifting, would be very careful about bending. I didn’t care about the lifting and bending, but the horses? That was hard.

“What if I’m extremely careful?” I asked.

“And what if the horse spooks? One fall and you won’t be getting up again. That’s it. One fall. You’re done.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. So, I sulked. Brooded. Worried. Obsessed. Eventually, I gave up riding, but I cried every time I saw a horse. I got over it, more or less. I worried about my back and about being poor — because we were and are.

I had surgery to get my weight down, to lighten the load on my spine. Except the surgery went horribly wrong and I wound up much sicker. Nearly dead, actually. Just as I was recovering from that (I had no insurance or it wouldn’t haven’t gotten that bad) and after multiple surgeries and hospitalizations, I was beginning to feel pretty good.  That was when I discovered I had cancer in both breasts. Oops.

My mother died of metastasized breast cancer, but she was a lot younger than me, so I figured I’d dodged that bullet. But at least my heart was good, right?

Less than three years later, I was in the hospital needing two new heart valves plus a lot more heart surgery.

I never saw it coming. So all that worry about things that never happened.  The obsessive fretting, anger, inner rage? Pointless and stupid.

While I was trying to recover from the heart surgery, I realized I had nothing left to worry about. Whatever was going to happen, would happen. My worrying about it wasn’t going to change anything, not for good or ill. It would make my family and friends crazy having to listen to me, especially since as we’ve all gotten older, there’s a lot of stuff on our plates. Much of which is pretty bad.

I don’t worry. No matter how awful the news is, I frown, absorb it, forget it. If there was more I could do to fix it, I’d be doing it. Meanwhile, I write. I encourage others to write because that is what I know how to do. I’m not going to be hoisting a placard or marching with protesters.

We are surprisingly poor. I worry about it when I must and don’t think about it the rest of the time. Bad things happen? I get scammed? I get mad … and then I let it go. I do not spend the following months seeking revenge or court judgments. Revenge is worry with murderous intent. I’m not a killer.

Things work out.

Worry made me fat. Worry made my hair fall out. Worry made me a permanent insomniac. It caused me to lose sleep more nights than not. Worry caused me to make some truly stupid choices. Worry quite probably helped my heart self-destruct.

These days, I don’t worry. Not for more than a few minutes at a time.

That I can’t remember anything for more than five minutes probably helps.


My first pregnancy went smoothly. No morning sickness, no back problems except for some sciatica, and low weight gain.

And then I gave birth too soon. Way too soon. Eight and a half weeks too soon. My water broke at the end of my seventh month. I thought that the doctors would refill my uterus and send me home. I was naïve and uninformed.

Two weeks before David was born

Once the amniotic fluid is gone, the baby is susceptible to infection. Plus, the doctors tested my fluid and the baby had Hyaline Membrane Disease. His lungs were not developed so he could not breathe on his own yet. Because of this, they had to get the baby out quickly. So they gave me a drug called Pitocin to speed up the labor.

I was totally unprepared. I hadn’t even brought a toothbrush to the hospital. And my Lamaze class was scheduled to start THE NEXT DAY. I knew nothing about the birth process, breathing, labor, nothing.

To top things off, I barely made it into the delivery room . And my husband, Larry, had just gone out for coffee when the baby’s head started crowning. I kept yelling for someone to go find my husband ASAP! Larry made it into the delivery room just as David came flying out into the world.

Within a few minutes the baby was in respiratory distress and had to be rushed to the Premie Unit to be put on oxygen. Larry went with the baby and I was left in the recovery room alone to try to wrap my head around what was happening. We had not definitively picked a name for our son yet. But I wanted him to be named David, so that’s what I wrote on the birth certificate. I later realized that the name resonated with me because my Mom had had a stillborn son at the age of nineteen and had named him David. I grew up being told that I would have had a brother named David.

David was 4 lbs. 2 oz. at birth so he wasn’t tiny as far as premies go. But he was on oxygen, which is always dangerous. Both too much OR too little oxygen can cause brain damage. At 36 hours old, Larry and I went to visit our son and all the alarms in the premie unit started to go off. Doctors started rushing to OUR BABY.

David at five weeks old in the Premie Unit

David’s lung had collapsed. We were taken out of the room as they did emergency surgery to inflate David’s little lung. David still has that scar, at age 37.

We watched our son’s eyelashes and eyebrows grow in. We went through many scares – he might be blind in one eye or he might have an intestinal disease or malfunction. He stayed in an incubator for five weeks and spent his sixth week in the hospital in a bassinet. He came home at 4 lbs.15 oz. I had expressed my milk for him for six weeks so when he got home, we started breast-feeding. We were very lucky that that went normally, despite his use of bottles in the hospital.

At the time, there were no clothes or diapers especially made for premies. So we had to put clothes repeatedly through a hot dryer and hope they would shrink enough. But fortunately that was the extent of our problems once we got him home.

We knew we wanted another child, but first I had to find out why David had been so premature. It was a scary experience that could have gone south in so many ways. It took a few years to finally discover that I had a Bi-Corniate Uterus, a uterus that is divided into two sections. I could have another child but the pregnancy would have to be monitored closely to avoid another premature birth.

I got pregnant again when David was four years old. At the end of my seventh month, I started to efface and dilate. So I was put on total bed rest for the next six weeks. I could get out of bed to go to the bathroom and to shower three times a week. That was it! The problem was that I had a four and a half-year old to take care of.

Eight months pregnant with Sarah and still on bed rest, with David

I had to figure out how to do everything by phone or by surrogate. My bed became command central. I had a housekeeper who was helping me during the day. She picked David up at school, watched him, did the shopping and made dinner. One day, she got sick and left me in the middle of the day. She insisted that she had to go to her own home to be sick. I was frantic! I got a friend to pick David up at school. Next I called an au pair agency to try to find someone to live-in, immediately. Did I mention that it was the week before Christmas?

I got lucky. A 19-year-old German girl named Daniella walked in for an interview. I hired her on the spot and she moved in that night. She got me through to the beginning of my ninth month, when it was safe to get out of bed because the baby was close enough to full term. My daughter, Sarah, wasn’t born for two more weeks. During that time, I could barely walk. I was carrying so low, it felt like I had a football between my legs.

Daniella with David and Sarah the day Sarah came home from the hospital

When my water finally broke, we checked into a birthing room in the hospital. That was a regular hospital room, complete with a TV and a phone. The OB-GYN would deliver the baby in theses relatively comfortable surroundings because it was expected to be a complications free birth and because I had agreed to forgo all anesthesia. I expected a quick delivery and I was right. I remember that we had the Today Show on the TV, to distract me. Teddy Kennedy was a guest, but I can’t recall the topic of conversation.

The only irregularity occurred after the birth, in the naming process. I wanted to name a girl after my grandmother, Sarah, and after Larry’s Aunt, Blanche. We were going to name her Sarah Beth. But there was a local bakery/restaurant down the street called Sarabeth’s Kitchen. So we decided not to name a daughter after a local business.

But holding our new daughter in the delivery room, we realized that it was important to name our child what we both really wanted to name her. It was silly to worry about who else out there might share her name. So we went with our original choice, Sarah Beth.

Sarah and David, the day she came home from the hospital

Unfortunately, we had already told our son that his sister would be named Rachel. So he went to school talking about his new sister, Rachel. When he told his class the next day that his sister was named Sarah, the kids teased him and said that he didn’t really have a sister at all. Apparently that traumatized our son because we still get grief about that Snafu to this day!

So I had issues with both my pregnancies, one on the back-end and the other in the middle. But I was very lucky in that I ended up with beautiful and healthy babies. I may have gotten a few grey hairs along the way, but all’s well that ends well. As someone once said.


lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

The poem I’ve written below is based on the “Five Principles for Getting through the Trump Years,” given by Alice Walker in her speech at a reading in La Manzanilla, Mexico two nights ago on February 20, 2017. I was fortunate enough to be at that reading where she and four other excellent writers also talked about subjugation, prejudice, inequality, poverty and the importance of kindness, open-mindedness, acceptance and education in bringing our country to a better level of fairness to all.

I’ll talk about some of the other poets and storytellers who told their tales in a later post; but for today, and since it fit in with today’s prompt, here is my take on Ms. Walker’s wonderful talk.


Rhythm Method

You’ve got to listen to the beat.
Shake your booty, pound your feet.
If you want to survive the day,
the rhythm method is the way.
It’s been said by smarter folks than I
that it’s the way that we’ll get by
in times we think we won’t survive—
the way we stay fully alive
in spite of voters who were hazy
and voted in a man who’s crazy.

Instead of listening to his bleat,
until the time of his defeat,
first and foremost, kindness will
help us to swallow this bitter pill.
A close connection with nature might
help us stay strong in the fight.
Respect for all those elders who
just might be another hue:

native tribes or Africans
brought unwillingly as hands
to shore up our economy
and build a country for you and me
while they paid the awful fee
in poverty and slavery.
It’s time to set our people free!

Gratitude for human life,
both theirs and ours, will allay strife.
In times like these, less than enhancing,
“Hard times demand furious dancing!”
One wiser and more in the groove
than I am, says that we must “Move!”
James Cleveland sang “This too shall pass,”
Turn on his music and move your ass.

Thousands of people dance along
this wonderful old gospel song
in her mind’s eye and I agree.
While we are waiting, you and me,
for enough others to see the light
and step in line to wage the fight,
we have to keep the joy in us
in spite of this unholy fuss
that seeks to keep us frightened and
prisoners in our native land.

Instead of knives and swords and guns,
defeat the tyrant with jokes and puns.
Comedians will save the day
and keep us laughing on the way.
But in the mean time, move your feet.
Feel the rhythm. Feel the beat.
If this nation has a chance,
perhaps we’ll find it in the dance.

The quotations above are all from Alice Walker’s talk. In prose form, here again are her five principles for getting through the Trump years (or hopefully, months.)

1. Kindness, which can keep us going through these unkind times.

2. A close connection with nature.

3. Respect for our oldest biological ancestors including native Americans (specifically those at Standing Rock), Africans  (who survived the fierce physical brutality of slavery) and Europeans such as John Brown and Susan B. Anthony.

4.  ‘Move!  Hard times demand furious dancing.’ Reverend James Cleveland sang, “This too shall pass.”  Get a recording of it and dance to it! She has an image of thousands of people dancing to this wonderful gospel song.

5. Maintain gratitude for human life.

She ended by relating the importance of meditation, which she described as a means “to rediscover the blue sky that is our mind,” and by stating that one way we can overcome the constant bad news with which our oppressors drug us is to learn the bad news first from comedians. This, perhaps, is one way for us to get through this dark period in our history.

The prompt today was rhythmic.

Please read the original post on Judy Dykstra’s brilliant site: Rhythm Method