I Have Roots…and…I Have Wings

I Have Roots…..and…..I Have Wings

 A bit of process, and history:

This is my 100th Blog posting. Amazing to me. As such, I wanted it to be more than the traditional rambling screed that I occasionally dive into. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, waiting for some lava-like emission to catch my mental eye. I heard this phrase in a song on the radio as I was driving the other day and it struck me…..”that is me, to the core”. I went home and, as I do with many of the pieces I write, jotted down what usually turns out to be the title of the piece after I’ve edited the rest of the ruminations that rumble forth from my churning brain.

I was sitting at the eye doctor’s later that week having forgotten both my phone and my iPad book at home. Screen-less! Left to my own mental devices for maybe 10 minutes, I let go of the control switches in my cortex and allowed my brain to free-fall. It landed right back to the phrase on the computer that awaited my further ministrations.

With nothing to jot notes into, the ideas, of course, began to bubble and breach the banks of my stream of thought like snow-melt driven creeks in our early Oregon Spring. I asked to borrow something to write on (the lesson for writers that I know and sometimes forget: always carry a notebook) and this is the result.


IMG_1823So you begin to glimpse my “process”; a tangle of thoughts and notes and jottings and a blinking cursor awaiting its instruction; a mix of hi and lo tech, new and old school, add an Olivetti and I’m a Charles Kuralt wannabe.

A week or so later we went to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It was only second best when compared to original but it, too,  has its moments. I am convinced Maggie Smith has her own personal “One Liner” writer that she employs for every venture she undertakes; uproarious.

But near the end, amidst the toe-tapping Bollywood Big Band Finale, there was a moment in a speech by Bill Nighy to the newlyweds. My volcano moment. He actually said; “They have roots….and….they have wings”

I’m a big believer in “signs”. I try and pay attention as I stumble through the world and let the world show me the way. Like comedian Bill Engvall says; “Here’s Your Sign”. Here, indeed, was my sign and I had the written proof to bear witness to my Aerie-Fairy-doubting husband that they do, indeed, exist. As we walked in the door from the movie I pulled up my screen and showed him the title of the piece I had started a week ago. Bingo. Proof.

Here’s My Sign. And so I begin.

 “Where are you from?”

I am definitely not a deipnophobiac (this is what Google is for) but that cocktail conversation starter that sends shivers through me as I try and figure out the extent to which I want to really answer that query. Will I ever see this person again? How much do they want to really know? How deeply should I delve into this messy tale? Will they run, furtively glancing over their shoulder and whispering to strangers as they flee, if I tell them more than their rhetorical question really deserves?

Where am I really from?

I was born in Washington, D.C. in 1952, the very midpoint of the last century, horrifying in its reality and fascinating in the positioning of my life into the historic times I have tumbled upon. This city, among all the others in my travels, is my Tap Root; a unique calling card that I proudly carry as few others on the planet can; a nexus of power, politics, and pointlessness that informs my deepest parts.

I was raised up 25 miles north of D.C. in Maryland horse country, a curious hodge-podge of Gentleman Farmers, mid-century elitist wannabes, old-school landed gentry, freed slave descendants, and the moving masses of the newly burgeoning middle class. We had horses more than bikes, trucks and tractors more than sporty cars; we baled hay on weekends, mucked stalls on weeknights and went to any and all assortment of Country Day and Prissy Prep schools that would have us at any given moment in our rebelliously speckled academic careers. It was the 60’s, we were not scholastically centered; to be proudly precise about it we were more on the delinquent side of the spectrum.

These two distinct but linked places then are my roots. They comprise my core. They are the base to which all other wing-driven wanderings relate, my anchor to the universe. There will be other “bases” I will encounter and encourage, many just as important and long lasting as these two foundational sites, but I land on them with feet that are informed from the clay of the Potomac and the history of the Hunt Country.

My Wings came early. Again, it was the 60’s; turbulent times in the world, in Washington, and more personally at home.

As fledglings flopping out of the nest, we all begin to spread our wings and learn to fly off into what we will become. There are as many reasons for us to begin our flights of fancy as there are humans to imagine them. Mine, more complicated than some but less fraught then others, propelled me outward early on. My wings, as those of all my other fellow travellers in that age, represented freedom. They stood for choices; some ill advised, most largely thoughtless, many illegal and/or immoral, and all completely necessary for my own personal Darwinian evolution.

All things were possible. Then.

And so I quite quickly flew off; a bit hesitant, a few false starts, but ultimately taking my roots with me in search of new soil in which to grow them.

One of my mothers used to quote a Robert Browning poem that she thought summed me up quite tidily:

“She like what’er she looked upon and her looks went everywhere”.

Sixty years on it still has the ring of ultimate truth to it. My wings have allowed me to “look upon” lands that a generation before me could only dream about. And my roots have required me to plant myself in an ever-expanding litany of real estate that amazes even me….and I have lived it.

“How many pages in my address book do you intend to occupy?”

This has been a doggedly recurrent question from far too many of my friends and family. Thank god for the digital, editable, contact list and the portable phone number! I am leaving this query behind me at long last. In the not-to-distant past people would hold up their dog-eared diaries and count off the addresses and phone numbers they had for me. I wish now that I had thought to ask for one of those books, I would love to chart my journey through their scratches and jottings; an outline of a life, lived through a listing of numerics and neighborhoods.

And so, I began my life-quest to plant my feet, and my roots, in an ever-expanding litany of places, near and far. I leapt, feet first to the West Coast, putting as much distance as possible between my geographic roots and my corporeal self given my age and economics. Growth. Freedom. Adventure.

I have always seen movement and travel as education. While I (miss)used my formal educational opportunities to a large extent (an expansion of those lost opportunities, the subject of future examination), looking back, I see the view from where my wings lofted me as an education of another sort, a more hand’s on approach if you will, one in which life’s wonders were opened to me in a very visceral and perhaps more pragmatic manner. I learned about history as nothing but travel and exposure to the variety of human endeavor can instruct. In traveling the globe, I saw the world as a smaller, more inter-connected place. I saw my personal history in connection to my world as a right and responsibility that I most likely would not have seen otherwise. I saw my small, local, personal history as a cog in a greater machine that had taken thousands of years to craft. My wings gave me my roots in a new and vivid way.

A Timeline, in brief:

1964-70         Maryland, San Francisco, Europe (from Norway-Italy, twice)

1970               Maryland, Wisconsin, Maryland

1971-75         Maryland, Colorado, Maryland

1975-85         Maryland, San Francisco, Palm Springs, Mexico

1985-90         Palm Springs, San Diego, Atlanta

1990-93         The Caribbean, the US, the UK, South Carolina

1993-99         Salt Lake City, Honk Kong, Japan, the UK (a half dozen times) Europe, often, and at least 30 US states

1999-07         Santa Cruz, the US (again and again), the UK, Europe, Mexico

2007-15         Portland, the UK, Italy, the Northwest, British Columbia

All these years dipping back into my Maryland/D.C. roots on a very regular and symmetrical basis.

This very abbreviated flight schedule represents 30 plus years of aging, maturing,and learning how to view the world and its myriad peoples and places through the prism of a maturing mind and a searching soul.

All this roaming about begs the question; does our chronologic age limit or expand our ability to see and accomplish personal growth? How important is the pause button in allowing us to ruminate and incorporate all that we see and absorb as we frenetically wander the back roads and super highways of our modern word?

In short, is sightseeing an educationally assimilatable exercise?

To add some context to this question I will refer back, once again, to one of my mothers and her early lesson to me on how to “sightsee” a new city. As we took our first trip to Europe back in the luxury age of flying, 1965, we embarked on a summer abroad.  I was told to take to the Encyclopedia Britannica and the library and get to work on researching the countries and major cities we were slated to visit. I made lists of the things I knew I wanted to see to which she added her own, more adult-fully thought through items as well.

Upon arriving in a city, say Paris, we would book a half-day bus tour of the city. Maps and guide books in hand and pre-marked, we would dog-ear the pages and highlight the maps as we checked off our “todo” list.  Once off the bus, it was up to us to learn the public transportation systems and “With my maps and my faith in the distance moving farther on”, to let Jackson Browne step in for a moment’s guidance.

Still today, when Dave and I embark on an adventure, we follow her instructions and, after ample research and planning, let serendipity do the rest.

Yet as I wing my way throughout my life, I continually wrestle with the question of how important are my roots?

Are family place and original roots the penultimate form of the planetary pull that locks us to our history? I know that I have what I call a “Sense Memory” embedded in my DNA that forever causes me to pause as I pass through certain locales; places that resonate within a deep inner core as familiar, known, throbbing with the substance from which I sprung. I liken it to why certain cultures of settlers landed in certain states and places; they just “knew” them when they got there.

And just as certainly, there are places I have landed in my flights, whether by chance or choice, that have almost as strong a vibration of roots; places that I have planted myself in for periods of growth, experience, and time, that forever changed who I am, for better and sometimes for worse. These roots, too, feel as important and paramount to whom I am as a being as those from which I originally sprang. These roots are self sown and hard cultivated and the fruit from them is mine alone, nothing of inherited largesse or entitlement other than that which I bestow upon them.

My roots, more than mere psychic anchors to the planet, inform that part of my soul upon which the rest of my persona is constructed. Mine are ore-filled reservoirs; seams of un-ending splendor that I am proud to mine whenever I need fuel to propel myself into my future and the older I become, the more fuel my flights require. I believe it is why old folks reminisce so much about the past, they are simply drawing on their reserves in order to keep moving forward.

My wings, though more battered than Icarus’, are still light and somewhat nimble, if only in my imagination. Maybe that’s why I write now, it’s easier to fly into my mind’s eye than on the overcrowded, under-whelming, wings of a jet age now forever stamped with the TSA inspected footprints of the throngs. But wings of any kind are better than none and are what is required of us, if we listen to our better angels. My better angel is always, Jackson Browne:

 “But the angels are older
They can see that the sun’s setting fast
They look over my shoulder
At the vision of paradise contained in the light of the past
And they lay down behind me
To sleep beside the road till the morning has come
Where they know they will find me
With my maps and my faith in the distance
Moving farther on”


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Driving Down The Days

Driving Down the Days

I suppose sixty-one is considered old by many, particularly those who are much younger but to me, to us, Kim’s compatriots, friends, and colleagues sixty-one was just hitting stride in our brave new frontier where sixty is the new forty and aging has become an exercise in delay, divert, and dodge the bullets.

I set out on a road trip that would culminate in the gathering of the clan that was to be Kim’s San Francisco sendoff.  Melancholy mixed with Mortality was my sonorous sound track interspersed with moments of madness and delight; the full gamut of human emotion playing out to the wheeling rhythm of the road.

 One day we’ll be free, we won’t care, just you wait and see
‘Til that day can be, don’t let it get you down.
When I feel that the world is too much for me
I think of the Big Sky, and nothing matters much to me. The Kinks

As if on cue, crossing the California border in the early dawn, The Kinks and I, as one, turned to the Big Sky for release and renewal.

There is a particular light that emerges as you enter California. An oddity of nature or a trick of the soul, who cares, it is. Amidst the clinging morning mists there is the immediate presence of a largeness, an infinite opening, that seeps into your soul like the dew into the redwood’s needles. The very density of the ground-trolling fog portends the brightness of the day to come. It slaps me back in time, back to my very core, my own youth, my own follies, my own path that I am forever due to retrace and review. This preternatural light always takes me back……

Back when we were beautiful
Before the world got small, before we knew it all
Back when we were innocent
I wonder where it went, let’s go back and find it

The world is cracked, the sky is torn
So much less meant so much more. Bon Jovi

The songs pile up, an apparent jumble of lyrical nuance and nonsense but yet, the gems of wisdom contained in the lines of the past, gleam in the shards of sunlight that begin to break through, sparkling the path to yet another day bright with promise and allure.

Every day in California is like this, at least to me and in my memory; the light infused with an energy that illuminates each moment with possibility and promise. The portent of what can be tingles here like no other acre of land that I have yet inhabited, the energy swollen and about to burst forth like spring-budded trees, simmering and shimmering and infusing all it touches with a fire-gold sheen. And never missing a cue, Jackson Browne steps out of the dew:


Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must have thought you’d always be around

Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found

I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing, I can’t help listening
And I can’t help feeling stupid standing ’round
Crying as they ease you down
‘Cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing

Dancing our sorrow away
(Right on dancing)
No matter what fate chooses to play
(There’s nothing you can do about it anyway)

Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone

Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found

Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound

Into a dancer you have grown from a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive but you’ll never know

Kim was a life-long Californian. I was a long-lifed Californian. There is an unspokenness about those of us who have inhabited this left coast lair; a surety of our nature, some would say a smugness but I would make it out to be a perverse pride in the joy of survival and the relevance of a reverie that we honor in this place and that we take with us as we pass on through our lives.

The miles tick on, the songs layered softly upon one another like pages of a well worn and much loved book that we gentled with us always, it’s words and it’s feel giving us a familiar comfort and sparkles of insightful; transcendent joy.

And then there were none.

No more miles, no more words, no more tears.

Nothing left but the sad-eyed shock from those who had known Kim only a short while and were staggered by the swiftness of his leaving.

Nothing but the tear-slicked smiles of those of us who have known him well….and long. As the photos on the screen flickered past we saw ourselves in them, in every silly setting and bad hair hurrah. We saw the length and breadth of the life Kim had traversed. We felt, too keenly, the utter absence of his perfectly pithy wit, injecting itself into each lull with  sniper-like precision and evoking gales of laughter and lifetimes of quotes to come.

I feel my own life more vibrantly as I watch Kim’s leave. I hope that Kim could truly say, as does The Band Perry:

The sharp knife of a short life, oh well
I’ve had just enough time


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Ya Gotta Have Heart

Ya Gotta Have a Heart

With a nod to Damn Yankees

And other musical interludes


You’ve gotta have heart
All you really need is heart
When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win
That’s when the grin should start
You’ve gotta have hope
Mustn’t sit around and mope
Nothin’s half as bad as it may appear
Wait’ll next year and hope
When your luck is battin’ zero
Get your chin up off the floor
Mister you can be a hero
You can open any door, there’s nothin’ to it but to do it
You’ve gotta have heart
Miles ‘n miles n’ miles of heart
Oh, it’s fine to be a genius of course
But keep that old horse
Before the cart
First you’ve gotta have heart

The conversations have been migrating to the morbid of late, too many ill and fading friends and relatives, too much medical melodrama in our own home. It is the path and pattern of the suddenly seniors. It has sprung, seemingly fully formed, out of a never-ending youthful exuberance we considered our life’s-right.

My particular heart, while large enough to encompass all my loves and lives, started sputtering a few years ago. While certainly not the flutter of youthful first romance, it was Flutter none-the-less. Disconcerting, chest pounding, clamminess-inducing…….Flutter, or aFlutter, short for Atrial Flutter. The ventricles, lower chambers of the heart misfire, short circuit as it were, and set up a cyclical, really, really, fast rhythm that the atrial (upper) chambers cannot accommodate. My particular rhythm at the moment is 300 beat per minute. The atrial node, a sort of thermostat in the middle of the heart, works overtime to try and tamp down the beats to a more manageable rate, which for me is normally about 55 bpm. I’m running about twice that so I feel weird, faint, odd.

Now, suddenly, the danger of stroke and heart attack looms large and you automatically start thinking about every heart beat you’ve ever had and realize, somewhat morosely, that the number you have left is temporal, fleeting, maybe even pre-determined? I fixed mine last week. A rewiring, in effect, that gave yet another extension to my life’s contract.

My husband’s sudden heart attack in March of this year threw another iron in the fire that none of us saw coming. This apparent poster child for boundless energy and limitless youth was quite unexpectedly laid low, if only for a moment, by a gut wrenching failure of his arteries to fulfill their intended job description. I was across the country when this drama unfolded. Like the self-reliant person he has always been, he recognized what was occurring, finished walking Bella the dog, sat with his symptoms for a few minutes trying, in vain, to will them away. Eventually, conceding defeat in that regard, he drove himself the 5 minutes down the hill to our local and, upon announcing his raison d’etre, was promptly given 3 arterial stents and pronounced “cured”. After some cardiac rehab which he dutifully performed for weeks, he is back to his normal routine….with a caveat.

He is a tad slower to rise to the task of new projects. Where once he would plot, plan, and engineer each new remodel we had envisioned and then dive, full of intent and energy, into its completion and revel in the satisfaction that he had brought forth into the world the various visions that I, all too frequently, had inspired, I now hear comments like,

“I think I’m done with projects”

This is a sea change. Between us, we have always been the marvel of our friends and neighbors at the sheer amount of “stuff” we get done. We don’t hire contractors. We have no gardener, no housekeeper, no “help”.

Throughout the last decades I have had my share of physical challenges while Dave has remained unscathed. Four hip replacements, multiple foot surgeries as well as other medical interventions and a 30 plus year ongoing war with HIV but throughout it all, with Dave’s calm and steady presence around, I have somehow managed to maintain an equilibrium about movement, aging with grace, and mortality, all the while steadily looking forward to the next set of challenges, albeit many of them have come in medical form. I attribute our collective upbeatness to a mutual understanding and acceptance of “what is…..is”. Get on with it.

But now, looking forward is taking on new dimensions, not all of them exciting or even comfortable. There is less forward than there is back. The rearview mirror is such an alluring temptress. Facebook’s Throw Back Thursdays fling our former selves into crystal clear focus. Our body’s sense memories of how we have lived our daily lives continue to compel movement and action while the facts that they present us with implore us to slow the fuck down. Now.

But how hard is that??? For perpetual motion machines like us, it is a tacit admission of defeat. Every small infraction that our rapidly aging carcasses impose upon us is not just seen as a minor impediment any longer, it is viewed from our perpetually youthful minds as pure betrayal. Some ethereal contract somewhere has been breached.

According to Garth Brooks, “I’m much too young to feel this damned old”

But age we do. Things fall apart, we repair them. Bodies break, we upgrade their software.

And so, I am left with the words of another crooner of another era way long gone. Peggy Lee has always had the right take;

“Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is”

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I Talk Purty One Day

I Talk Purty One Day

With apologies and a nod to David Sedaris

It’s been a while since I got up on my soapbox but I had a recent heart tune-up and the resultant increase in cerebral blood flow has once again enlivened me.

As a writer, I take a certain amount of liberty with language and syntax and how words look on a page, feel in the mouth, and sound through the ear. That being said, I have a major quibble……no gripe…..no ISSUE with the way public speakers, most vividly newsreaders (and I use that term loosely), and I suppose the writers who dictate the copy for those on air personalities, butcher simple, declarative, English, sentences.

Would it not make sense for the Human Resource departments at CNN, NBC, ABC, and the like to vet, even slightly, their employees ability to construct a sentence without violating the simplest of syntactic rules? Do they even ask them for writing samples? Did they ever have to answer essay questions in school? And who graded these? Teachers? Professors? Where does the freight train of syntax destruction stop?

Brooke Baldwin, CNN, I’m talking to you. If I hear you say “exact same” one more time I just might smash my TV.

I went on a quest to find some back up for my position, ie: the correct phraseology should be exact; same; or exactly THE same but not “exact same”. One of the first sites on “English Language & Usage”, the header being scripted in a vague replica of Olde English fontique, stated:

“Exact same” represents a grammatical practice that is particularly prevalent in American English; the use of an adjective for an adverb. In this phrase “exact” modifies “same” and is functioning as and adverb.”

Anyone want to take a crack at the obvious? A purported “language and usage” site using the phrase “functioning as AND adverb” immediately negates their ability to reinforce any point I may have. They go on to justify the use of “exact same” with a detailed description of two Hugo Boss shirts with differing collar sizes. Really?

There is one word that puts the lie to the use of the sociologically prevalent phrase; redundant. “Exact Same” is redundant hence unnecessary and truly ugly to the ear.

Exactly like “end result”, “basic fundamentals”, and “unexpected surprise” are redundant, so is “exact same”. These Siamese-twinned phrases, and other two word hookups, are saying and meaning exactly the same thing (see how easy that was?).

I realize that, as Americans, we tend to short-cut a lot of things, the great traditions of the English language among the first to feel the pinch of our rush to get through everything we do with the greatest of haste and economy. But if we examine the “exact same” phenomenon closely, we are really missing a perfectly simple and expeditious shortcut. Drop the double-meaning words. Case closed. Mission accomplished. Boring, wordy, language-bloated sentences averted. How very American.

Not to mention that we would all sound a little more civilized and a lot less ignorant in the process. Garner’s Modern American Usage, for example, says “exact same” is merely “a lazy truncation of exactly the same. Although the exact same is acceptable in informal speech, it’s not an expression for polished prose.”

I couldn’t disagree more. (this sentence, readers, is the subject of another column)

Shouldn’t our hired professionals, both the ones who actually ask the questions of world leaders and communicate the import of world issues to us, as well as those who write their copy for them, be held to a greater standard? We would all be elevated by adhering to a slightly better than average format than that which is “good enough for informal speech”. Shouldn’t polished prose be the norm for what we expect of our worldwide news coverage. I would hope that by setting a better example, the rest of the writer’s rooms, and copy editors, and home bloggers around the globe would begin to see, and hear, the difference. Or is all hope gone for the Americanized version of our shared language? Do we, as my mother is fond of saying, come from “the college of that’s good enough”?

No less an authority than Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition) agrees with me. It doesn’t list “exact” as an adverb. It can only be an adjective (or a verb, with a different meaning). The adverb form is “exactly”. So if you take Webster as an authority, you should say, “She was wearing exactly the same outfit” instead of “the exact same outfit”.

Most accountings today reference the “idiomatic” usage of this phrase as justification for its continued prevalence (and their continued lazy use of it) in every day speech. I would say another “idio-“ phrase is more succinct and to the point.


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Life, Re-Imagined

Life, Re-Imagined


To Be or Not To Be

 That, indeed, really IS the question. Do we continue to cling to life despite the overwhelming evidence that our bodies, creaking and groaning, continually nudge to our attention the fact that we are inexorably crumbling earthward?

When we were young, if we grew tired of our rented flat we would go in search of another………we moved…….…we upgraded………we expanded.

As we grew older and owned our first homes, when we outgrew them, either physically or emotionally, we again looked around, saw what struck our next fancy, and moved forward…..….once more into the future.

Now we are settled, adult, kids gone, big houses in the past, our needs are simpler, our space is less demanding. We have right-sized ourselves as social construct and common sense dictates we should.

And then here comes AARP telling us to re-invent ourselves; Life Reimagined, that’s their new jaunty push for the over 50? set that we now fall into.

But here’s the catch.

Our bodies now betray our mind’s ability to do that reinvention that we are desperately seeking to attain. We have worked all our lives to get to a point where we can take a deep breath, look around the wide world and see what percolates up for a new adventure, a next career, a mindful entertainment. We have the time, the resources, the aching will…………but we also have our aching bodies that protest and reject us at every turn as we fitfully start out on each of the new paths that appear before us, looking entirely enticing and alluring, yet requiring a greater degree of energy than we had previously remembered. Our alterations of course are currently demanding more than we have to give.

I cry False Advertising.

What people really need is to absorb the lessons AARP so fervently wants us to learn in our dotage when they are still young and able-bodied enough to put them to good use.

How many of us are having exactly the same conversations at every dinner party and with every friend of a certain age………that would be our age?

My hip is bad

My foot is killing me

My back is shot

My………….fill in the failing body part………..is a mess

It is the ultimate irony that now that we have the time and the interest, we don’t have the physical stamina to tackle all these fascinating and fun things that have waited out there tantalizingly tempting us for decades. If our kids used this type of an excuse in grade school we would never, ever, have believed them. Shirkers. Lay-abouts. Lazy. We’d have decried them.

And yet we gird our loins, hitch up our braces and elastic bands and buckles, and stumble forward keeping care to not really stumble or there’s a hip replacement in our near future. In reality, those hips have probably already been replaced, more than once, and because they’re “like new” our other parts, whether through jealousy or simple re-alignment, groan and protest and flare and inflame for their fair share of the Medicare dollars that they feel they deserve and we, their unwilling foils, spend our days making appointments; for doctors, physicians assistants (doctors-light), MRIs,

“Do you have any metal objects implanted in your body?”

“Have you looked at my medical file? The one that fills a full gig of memory on your computer? Just key in ‘XRay’ and see what pops up. Don’t ask me that again, Tammy, I talk to you every other week.”

physical therapists. And that’s just the traditional medical milieu.

Let us not give short shrift to the massage therapists, yoga instructors, Reike practitioners, psychic alignment shamans, crystal healers, and copper band Internet sellers. They, too, take up a significant amount of our time, money, and quite frankly, the verve that I was planning on devoting to hiking the Appalachian Trail, skydiving the wine country, and swimming with sharks…….oh wait……I may have that last one covered…….insurance companies may be equatable here. But I digress.

AARP             Active Adults, Real Possibilities

It’s a great idea in theory. The reality is we should be teaching our young to fully engage themselves throughout their lives, starting now, today. And a word about this concept of engagement.

This does NOT mean that every child must join every team, every club, every sport, take every lesson, attend each practice, you name the activity. Parents should not be the slaves of their child’s schedules nor should their children, for fear of not having a properly fleshed out resume with which to enroll themselves throughout their schooling, lose their humanity for the sake of their future.

I understand that childhood today is radically different than when I was there. My siblings and friends tend to idealize our time as feral youth but in reality, they were the best of times. We had the great good fortune to live in the country, un-phased by mass murders, school shootings, gang violence, aggressively angry bullying, truly partisan, rancorous politics; any of the myriad, hideous realities that kids and parents today must actually confront. We were shoved out the kitchen door every summer morning, told to pack a lunch and be home by dark. Period. End of parental oversight until baths, BBQ, and bed.

But those days, for most, are really and truly history. And we have replaced them with a frantic push to over achievement and programmed activity that creates a generation of hyperactive, overly medicated, PTSD prone children. With both parents working, free time oversight has been shifted to schools, programs, educators, day care, and scheduled social interactions.

Short of creating Biodome utopian country settings where we plop our kids through a portal into the safety of a “controlled county atmosphere” where we let them play out their version of our historic childhoods I don’t know what the answer is.

But I know what it’s not. It is not what we are currently doing.

If we want our kids to be contented, happy, engaging adults then we must model for them what that looks like, warts, casts, imperfections, etal. We must help them into their future by showing them our pasts. Stop filling up their lives with stuff and start filling up their minds with memories. My best recollections are not of bikes or brand names but of feelings and friendships.

More talk, less activity.

AARP starts when you are young

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THE Plague vs a plague

THE Plague vs a plague

AIDS vs Ebola

I am not prepared to debate or even discuss on equal terms, the comparison between these two horrific scourges. I am simply struck by the frenetic, hyperbolic, media-saturated, coverage of the “Ebola Crisis” versus 30 years of AIDS weariness when, for the first 10 years of it at least, our government and ALL their officials would not even mention the word while it spontaneously erupted like California wildfires and consumed hundreds of thousands of lives in America before jumping back across the oceans to its origins and engulfing other continents as well.

Seemingly suddenly, with the help of a few brave Hollywood hearts, AIDS became a cause celebre and started garnering some of the much needed attention and money it would require to even start to combat the ravaging it was effecting.


By The Numbers

8,400 cases of Ebola, so far. 4,300 deaths

At the end of 2009, an estimated 1,148,200 persons aged 13 and older were living with HIV infection in the United States, including 207,600 (18.1%) persons whose infections had not been diagnosed

In 2013, there were 35 million [33.2 million–37.2 million] people living with HIV.

Since the start of the epidemic around 78 million [71 million–87 million] have become infected with HIV and 39 million [35 million–43 million] people have died of AIDS-related illnesses.

Analogous demographics in terms of fatality rates albeit proportionality is not considered.


The Swedish furniture giant IKEA has pledged £4.1million to combat the deadly disease Ebola, far more than several wealthy European nations.

Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder, has increased his commitment in the fight against Ebola to $100 million on Thursday.

Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation has given over $14 million in grants to more than 40 states and 31 countries…..in 25 years.

The Elton John AIDS Foundation has raised 200million dollars………in 25 years


Am I the only one who is noticing the blatant, dichotomous, knee-jerk, discrepancy in these two epidemics?

Did the AIDS crisis of the last century prime us to respond better to global health threats in general? Or did the fact that AIDS was viewed, initially, and to some extent still is, as a “gay” disease and, as such, not quite as threatening to the white, hetero-normative, culture that still prevails amongst us?

But, if that is the case, then why Ebola Hysteria? After all, it’s primarily an African phenomenon and, as such, those same pesky, white, hetero-deniers that tamped down AIDS funding for generations should not be quite this hysterical over Ebola.


Or should they?

Is this just another form of the chest-thumping, black-baiting, racism that has pervaded our country and our culture since its inception? It could be argued that for exactly this reason alone, corporations, individuals, and countries, are ponying up funding to fight Ebola in unprecedented numbers. Racism or Anti-racism. Call it what you may. Every wants/needs to beon the “right” side of this one.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that Bill Gates, Paul Allen, IKEA, or any of the powerful and potent contributors are racist in any manner, just as I would not call them homophobic on a personal or professional level either. I don’t know any of them that well.

I will only say that race and gender identity aside; it makes better economic sense today for them to jump on the Ebola parade float than it did 30 years ago to wave a rainbow flag and rush to help the millions that were suffering and dying on the same streets that they walked every day…….in their own countries.

I suppose it’s a muted testament to the power of the 24hour news cycle and the pervasiveness of the Internet and its subsequent dissemination of information that we do have more knowledge with which to form opinions today, albeit skewed (FOX, MSNBC) and skewered. Axioms rule:

The More You Know

When You Know Better, You Do Better

But just how much more do we need to “know”?

We know the facts. We know the science. We know the social geography that paralyzes justice and forward movement.

When will we move beyond the newsreaders, the politicians, and the social constructionists, and embrace the facts?

We can stop these diseases now. Today. We have the ability. If we can put a man on the moon with less technology than is currently being held in our hands on a daily basis, we have the brainpower and the science.

We need to unleash the world and ALL its resources, friend and foe alike, in a global initiative to end AIDS, Ebola, and any other scourge that will present itself in the future….and they will come……more and more of them.

Instead of a US Emergency Task Force to be dispatched to the next Ebola sufferer, we need summits, confabs, and direct action monies and manpower and brilliance, all working together, across imaginary political lines, for the betterment of the world. Every country professes a desire to enhance and protect “our” planet. It’s time for the rubber to meet the road.

Instead of posturing for political advantage; for the next border skirmish, the next weapons contract, the next election cycle, if we actually did what we said should do; gather together with a sense of morally guided purpose to rid humans of horrendous suffering, then religious groups, atheistic moralists, economic pragmatists, everyone, would have to agree that the end justifies any means taken to reach it.

Whether global warming (call it what you will, believe in it or not, again, that’s a political ploy), toxic chemicals, nuclear waste, plagues or pestilence, we could solve them all and in the process, a lot of what separates us would wash out in the rinse cycle.

The real question is do we have the will? The will to raise ourselves above the noise. The will do the correct thing and not the expediently right thing.

The will to be…….better.



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How’s Your Life’s Lens?

How's Your Life's Lens?

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