Tuesday, September 1, 2015

About Me (Not)

If Mountains Could Move

Note to Everyone: Who gives a shit about you? I mean really, how many times a day do I see those two words, "About Me," online, on a website, on a blog, and think, oh shut up and tell me something we can all use. Why do I have to hear all about you? Why do I need to know where you went to college or if you went to college or what you had for dinner last night, complete with photos? And speaking of, enough with the selfies and the pictures of your weekend camping trip and your kid's hockey award and your grandchild's birthday party and you, you, you. Enough!

Just sayin'.

How I Spent My Vacation

Official 9/11 hoodie.
Tourists are complaining that at the Auschwitz Museum in Poland, water misters have been set up to help cool the visitors waiting in long lines, sometimes for hours, because it's been so hot there. The whiners say the misters are reminiscent of the gas showers that the Jews (and others) were forced to take. They say it is insensitive. Seems to me that if you are visiting a former death camp but don't want to be reminded of how people there died, you might want to reconsider how you spend your afternoon.

Crazy as it sounds, memorials to horror are quite popular; people "on vacation" have been flocking to them for years. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum gift shop, where you can buy a key ring to remind you of the 2,753 people who went to work one day and then had airplanes crash into them, causing many to jump to their deaths rather than be burned alive, is always overflowing with tourists.

Here's a thought: Some savvy developer could make a mint on some other places that might be fun to visit, like the Clutter home in Holcomb, Kansas, site of the massacre of a family of four that inspired Truman Capote's masterpiece, "In Cold Blood," Jeffrey Dahmer's Milwaukee apartment where he murdered and dismembered a host of victims between 1978 and 1991, and Jonestown in Guyana, South America, where 909 people committed mass suicide by drinking a poisoned brew made of grape Kool-Aid. (It might have been even more but grape is the worst flavor. )

Monday, August 31, 2015

Free Mindfulness Lesson

All we have is now. Recognizing this age-old truth is very "in" these days, and means you are being mindful. Paying attention to the moment you are currently inhabiting is the only decent way to live, lest your life is squandered in a trance. You must wake up from the trance! There are courses on how to achieve this most desired state of being, but I am happy to teach you how right here, and at no charge. It's easy.

For example, right now I am writing this blog post. As my fingers move nimbly over the keys, I am happy not only to have fingers but also keys on a computer for them to move over. I am also happy for the nimbleness of the fingers.  My nose just itched and I used one of those same fingers to scratch it.  I think it was the index finger on my right hand, I should know but for a minute my thoughts strayed ahead to my next sentence. That is bad. That will not happen again. I must be mindful.

I could mention the lunch I just finished eating but that's all in the past. All we have is now, and now I am writing. It is warm in the room where I'm sitting, almost too warm. I could either change my shirt or perhaps turn on a fan, but those activities are in the future so I won't digress. There is only now and I am being mindful and I am typing. I feel good, except for the being too warm. But wait -- I just felt a slight breeze wafting into the window next to me. It was delicious. If my husband were here he would sigh and say, dejectedly, "See, winter is setting in." But he isn't here. He was here earlier but he left for Chicago this morning, and that's in the past. All we have is now.

I'm almost done here and don't know what's next, but that's in the future. Now is all we have. You're in it too if you've read this far. Soon you will move on and do something else, but don't think of that yet. Just be here now.

And there you have it!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

What If?

What if Donald Trump wins the presidency?
What if everyone starts having transgender surgery?
What if Oreos were a health food?
What if a plague breaks out in America?
What if you actually quit smoking, started exercising and lost 30 pounds?
What if Coca-Cola decided they were poisoning people and went out of business?
What if people stopped tracking their ages? 
What if houses were built with Legos and you could move walls anytime?
What if tattoos fall out of favor and are seen as gross liabilities? 
What if the dead start coming back in perfect health as they once were? 
What if smoking marijuana was required of all government workers?
What if being really fat was in?
What if doctors in the bottom half of their graduating class were denied licenses?
What if dogs could talk?
What if electricity simply didn't work anymore? 
What if there were no coffee?
What if you were a monk living on a mountain top in Tibet?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

1 in 5 Americans Are Mentally Ill

Of all the technological advances we enjoy, the ability to watch a movie in the privacy of your own home, away from the spilled popcorn and sticky yuck underfoot and endless parade of too-loud previews beforehand is surely among the Top 10. (I love you, Netflix.) Last night my husband and I did so, and got a real kick out of "Welcome to Me," a nutty homage to mental illness starring former SNL comic Kristen Wiig. It got me thinking, that's for sure, mostly about who's crazy and who isn't, and made me realize that the former list is much longer than the latter.

Actress Kristen Wiig in "Welcome to Me," putting the "craze" in crazy.
For starters, we all will die and we know it, just not when, where or how. That indisputable fact alone does not make for stability; in fact, it's hard to even function without burying it at the bottom of the cedar chest in that locked room of your brain. Next, our culture has run amok, valuing fanatic behavior far above normalcy and affording insane amounts of fame and fortune to those who stray furthest outside the lines. How else to explain the runaway success of Donald Trump, the overwhelming fascination with Bruce "Caitlyn" Jenner, and the downright obsession with the pathological Kardashians and those Honey Boo-Boo people?

Lesser crazies make it big too: This group includes loud-mouthed journalist Ann Coulter, politician and notorious bad boy Bill Clinton, robotic and mysterious Barack Obama, mondo bizzarro actor Johnny Depp, paranoid crank Al Sharpton and leftist lesbian lunatic Rachel Maddow.

On a personal level, I am certainly well out of my mind most of the time, and I come from a long line of crazies, many certifiable. My husband has his quirks, as does our son, and that's putting it so mildly as to be a clear example of just how crazy I am. In fact, I can't think of more than a handful of people I know who aren't a pinky's-length  away from flipping completely out, making it easy to believe the government statistic that finds one in five Americans are mentally ill.

So if you eat your green peas one at a time, or check all the closets every night before going to bed, or wash your hands too much or worry you left a candle burning every time you leave the house -- even and especially if you don't have any candles at home -- take heart: you are not alone. But if you want to see someone who is a real nutcase and thus feel better about your comparatively mild neurosis, check out "Welcome to Me," now playing somewhere on the Internet.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Good Intentions Gone Awry

When I volunteered at our local food bank for 18 months, I was appalled at the treatment given our so-called "clients." Most of the donations received from private citizens were expired canned goods that were headed for the trash bin but they brought them to us instead. I was told by the agency's Director that those foods should be put on the back of the shelf and given out only as a last resort, meaning that when they finally were distributed they were even older.

A mainstay of the foods I helped unpack were spoiled produce, expired frozen meats and stale baked goods brought on trucks from the supermarkets nearby. We also received bags of packaged, processed foods headed for extinction that instead ended up as food drive donations "to feed the needy."

Nobody where I worked ever dispensed nutritional counseling to the people we served, despite the fact that most of them were in bad physical shape. Besides being  morbidly obese, several were on oxygen despite the fact that they still smoked cigarettes. Yet not one word of advice was ever handed out with the stale chocolate eclairs and giant boxes of pasta, rice, instant potatoes, sugary cereals, salt-laden soups and canned fruit in heavy syrup.

Sadly, this is considered "charity" in small-town America.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Let 'Em Eat Cake

Apparently drug addicts and the indigent do not merit nutrition counseling. At least that is what I must conclude after a recent experience. I had answered an ad seeking volunteers at the food bank/soup kitchen in a nearby town. A woman called me immediately and admitted during my interview the next day that only one other person had responded.

The job description included cooking a hot lunch daily, serving that meal to about 120 people, delivering bagged foods to homebound individuals and staffing the food bank. I could choose to do any or all of those tasks on as many or as few days as I wished. I said I would fulfill whatever job was needed most.

During the course of being interviewed by a 24-year-old Vista volunteer, I explained that I had worked at another local food bank for almost two years and was dismayed at the amount of unhealthy foods foisted upon people who were already in obviously poor health. She asked for an example and I cited the dozens of unsold and stale sheet cakes, donuts, cookies, muffins, and eclairs dropped off each evening from the local supermarkets. I recounted several times when I had talked a client of the food bank out of those choices and convinced them to opt for something more nutritious. That seemed like a victory to me.

Today I received an email from the Volunteer Coordinator stating that, "While we here at MCHPP focus on distributing nutritious food, we also honor clients' decisions and allow them to take not-so-healthy food if it's available. Treating people we serve in a manner that recognizes their dignity includes withholding judgment of what a client should or should not have to eat, and allowing them to make decisions on their own."  Thus, I was deemed "not a good fit" to serve food to their clientele of homeless drug addicts for no pay.