Friday, May 29, 2020

More Than a Number

Thought for the day:  Time is but a stream I go a-fishin' in.  I drink at it, but while I drink, I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.  Its thin current slips away, but eternity remains. [Henry David Thoreau]

I didn't just want to go fishing in it; I wanted to stand in it. I wanted to feel the waters of time swirl around my feet, to be made poignantly aware once again of its dual nature of fleeting and eternal. I wanted to hear the haunting call of the seagulls, and breathe in the distinctive briny scent of the ocean. And five years ago...when Smarticus took this picture of me at Myrtle Beach... he and and our friends Kati and Cliff allowed me to do just that. Even though none of them share my passion for the ocean, they indulged me by granting me some time to stand in the surf and replenish my soul. I appreciated it more than I could say. Having them do that for me was humbling and made me feel cared for.

Recently, while struggling to keep my footing in a surf of swirling emotions, I momentarily felt as alone as I look in that photo. As a number of you already know, Smarticus... AKA Mike... my Number One and only... went into the hospital last week. Watching that ambulance take him away and knowing that because of coronavirus safety precautions, we can't see each other while he's there, was as painful as a kick in  in the solar plexus. With a steel-toed pointy boot. But thankfully, that devastating feeling of being totally alone has passed.

Our kids and friends circled the wagons, reminding me that I'm not alone at all... and that circle includes you guys. I'm humbled by your expressions of concern, and I appreciate your outreach more than I can say. Thank you.

We can... and do... talk on the phone multiple times a day.  He's been getting treatments to ease his pain and make him more comfortable, and he'll be transferred to an acute physical therapy place today, where the hope is to get him back on his feet again so he can come home. Believe me, if anybody can accomplish that, he can. Then we'll be ready to tackle whatever comes next. For more than 51 years, I've leaned on him, and now it's his turn. He can relax and lean on me now, and much to my surprise, I've discovered that I'm more than strong enough to hold us both up. We've got this, and we're still laughing together... even if it's only over the phone for now.

I'd planned to post the following video last Friday for Memorial Day, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans. But ya know what? It isn't too late to post it. I'm one of those strange folks who still thinks of Memorial Day as falling on May 30, as opposed to the last Monday of the month, so as far as I'm concerned, this post is right on time.

Yesterday's newspaper said we've now surpassed 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus here in the U.S. It's hard to wrap our minds around such a big number, isn't it? Hard to imagine such a profound loss. It's as difficult to assimilate the number of global deaths from this virus as it is to grasp the huge numbers representing the men and women who've died during wartime. Stark heartless numbers tend to dehumanize the reality of each of those individual deaths. In 2013, British artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss organized an amazing artistic endeavor called The Fallen that poignantly depicts the reality of the 9000 who lost their lives on the beaches of Normandy:

To those who died, honor and eternal rest; to those still in bondage, remembrance and hope; to those who returned, gratitude and peace. [engraved on the Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial]

[Yes, that's my hubby in the header pic... taken when he was a grunt in Vietnam. He's writing me a letter...]

       Again, thank you all. Your caring truly lifted me up. And psssst... keep smiling. I am.

                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Vive Les Differences!

Thought for the day: Do you think God gets stoned? I think so... look at the platypus. [Robin Williams]

[image: wikipedia]
You ever feel like you're moving in slow motion? Unmotivated and more than a little lazy?

(ahem) Yeah, me neither.

Who am I kidding? Lately, I feel like my inner self is turning into a sloth.

Not that I don't appreciate the sloth, mind you... I do. With that Chewbacca-like long hair and those diva-like long nails, it's a veritable glamour queen of the animal world, and it undeniably marches to the beat of its own drummer. A verrrry slow beat. But as much as I appreciate the sloth, one of the animals I appreciate even more is the wonderful, amazing, totally unique duck-billed platypus. Talk about individuality! I dunno if Robin Williams was right to say God was stoned when he created the platypus, though. I prefer to think of the platypus as being the manifestation of a great sense of humor.

[image: wikipedia]
I mean, really. Think about it. The platypus has clawed feet in the rear, webbed feet in front, a beaver-like tail, otter-like fur, and a soft pliable duck-like bill. Believe it or not, this unusual-looking guy shares DNA with mammals, birds, AND reptiles. It's as though he were made from a bunch of spare parts, all thrown together willy-nilly. (The original case of cosmic recycling?)

I like the duck-billed platypus
Because it is anomalous.
I like the way it raises its family,
Partly birdly, partly mammaly.
I like its independent attitude
Let no one call it a duck-billed platitude. [Ogden Nash]

Um, then again, maybe the platypus wasn't one of the original animals from the get-go. Maybe there was a little bit of (ahem) hanky panky taking place on that ark...

Alas, most of us will never have the pleasure of seeing a duck-billed platypus in person, although it's one of those bucket list kinda things for me. You folks in Australia might not even ever see one in the wild, because they're pretty introverted and vant to be alone most of the time. But at least you guys have the option of seeing them in your zoos and conservation facilities. (Lucky you!)

Some interesting fun facts about the platypus:
  • They don't have stomachs! (So that's how they stay so slim...) Instead, like fish, they have a gullet that connects directly to their intestines.
  • Their bills are covered with thousands of super-sensitive cells that detect the electric fields of other critters... kinda like a sixth sense. When a platypus goes underwater, a protective flap of skin covers his eyes and ears, making him both blind and deaf, but his bill more than makes up for it. That handy dandy electrolocation ability in his bill takes over and allows him to zero right in on his prey.  
  • They're one of only two egg-laying mammals in the world. (The other is the echidna, also native to Australia.) And although they lactate, they have no nipples! What they do have are mammary glands, and their babies simply suck the milk from their mother's abdominal skin or fur.
  • The males have a venomous spur on each hind leg, which is only activated during mating season, presumably to prevent other amorous males from getting too chummy with their ladies. 
[image of spur: wikipedia]
  • The webbing on their front feet is retractable. It helps them swim in the water... using their front legs, like a doggy paddle... and then retracts on land to reveal sharp claws.
  • They have no teeth. The adults don't, anyway. (Babies have tiny teeth, but they don't last long, and once they fall out, they don't grow new ones.) They scoop up gravel from the river bottom to use as makeshift teeth to grind their food. Pretty cool, huh?
  • Their tails may look like beaver tails, but they serve a different purpose. Platypuses don't use them to slap the water as a warning, like beavers do. Nearly half of their body's fat is stored in the tail... kinda like a back-up pantry... and it serves as a food source during times of scarcity. Moms also shelter their incubating eggs against their warm bodies with those tails. 
  • Know what platypus babies are called? Puggles! Isn't that adorable? Wouldn't you love to snuggle with a puggle...? (They're such spiffy dressers!)

                                    Is it any wonder I'm so enamored of these creatures?

In December of 2019, there were so many duck-billed platypuses in Australia, they were deemed common. (As if!) Sadly, as of January of this year, they've joined the ranks of endangered species, due largely to drought and wildfires. Thankfully, there are many people dedicated to saving them... like these folks with the Taronga Zoo in Sydney:

If you're like me, that isn't NEARLY enough footage of these critters. So how about  a little bit more?

There are sooooo many incredible, awe-inspiring creatures in this world of ours, but to me, the duck-billed platypus is in a class by itself. Truly unique, in every sense of the word... kinda like... us! So I say embrace your differences, people! Celebrate the unique! You may not have the privilege of being a platypus, but, by golly, YOU are the only YOU in the entire world. Like the platypus, you are truly one of a kind.

Oh, yeah! I almost forgot. Did you ever wonder what a platypus sounded like? Well... wonder no more:
                                                                (You're welcome!)

                                  Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

In the Zone

Thought for the day:  Hopeful thinking can get you our of your fear zone and into your appreciation zone.  [Martha Beck]

Yes, indeedy. It's that time again, people.  Yet another month has slipped through our fingers, and it is once again time for our IWSG monthly posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. I'm telling ya, this group offers better support and lift than the world's most expensive bra. (No pesky underwires, either!) To join this super duper supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

Well, yes sirree, I took most of the month of April off from blogging, ostensibly to get back to my poor neglected manuscript, which has been gathering dust for the past year. I knew it would be difficult to get back into the groove after so long, but um, I failed to even find the darned groove. To tell the truth, I didn't spend much time looking for it, either. I still believe in the value of the story I want to tell, but the truth is, I don't know if I can regain the enthusiasm it requires to get 'er done or not. At least, not right now, because I'm having a hard time believing writing even... matters. (Yeah, I know. Blasphemy, eh?) But I'm not quite ready to give up yet.

Because of my current situation, this month's question is particularly pertinent:

Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

[image: unsplash]
Well, that's a real challenge, isn't it? Or as someone much smarter than I said, "Therein lies the rub..."

OY! I'd LOVE to get back into the normal zone again. I really would. I'd love to fire that ol' football into the end zone in a perfect spiral, right into the hands of a deft receiver. Woo HOO! Touchdown!

Or, um... I'd settle for a few successfully written pages.

Unfortunately, I seem to have... dropped the ball. And rather than trying to recover it, I've retreated to the bench. I don't feel like playing.

The zone is a state of mind which is marked by a sense of calmness. In addition, there is a heightened sense of awareness and focus. Actions seem effortless and there is an increased belief that your dreams or goals can become achievable and real. In addition, there is also a sense of deep enjoyment when the person is in this unique, special, and magical state of being. [Dr. Jay Granat, sports psychologist]

[image: unsplash]
You ever been in that kind of zone? The closest I've ever been was at the bowling alley some years ago. At the time, I bowled on multiple leagues, and I was pretty good... but certainly not great. But that one night... it was as though I could do no wrong. STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE! Some of my balls curved into the pocket like magic, but even the ones that weren't exactly on target resulted in yet another strike. It was incredible! A crowd gathered behind our lanes, watching and cheering me on, but  I could barely hear them for the pounding of my heart. I could barely breathe.

And I blew it. Got a split in the tenth frame and ended up with a 261. But man oh man, it sure felt good while it lasted. It felt good when I was writing regularly every day, too, but if I were to compare what's happening now to what happened in that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to roll a perfect game, I haven't just rolled a split in the tenth frame. I didn't roll a ball at all. I simply shoved it back into my bag and retreated to the lounge to sing some karaoke.

[image: unsplash]

Alas, my bowling days are over, but it's probably just as well. Judging by how lost I feel these days, I'd probably roll the ball in the wrong direction.

It's the same with writing. I've been in the zone there before, too, but I'm having a hard time finding my way back. Then again, I'm not looking very hard, either.

[image: unsplash]

Sure, I used to have some writing rituals. I learned to write first thing in the morning... before I even allowed myself to read the newspaper. And I'd stop writing for the day right in the middle of a scene, which made it easier to get back to it the next day.

Now, it's like my inner self is rebelling. Reading the newspaper comes first. Writing generally loses out, because there's always something else that requires my attention.

Clearly, I need some new rituals if I ever want to finish my book(s). (Or maybe I just need to get back to the old rituals.)

                                                    But rituals don't always work.

[image: wikimedia]
Not that I'm not in the zone... of course I am! For better or worse, we're all in some kinda zone. The problem is, it feels like I've ventured into the twilight zone.

Life has been rather surreal for the past year. Between my husband's whack-a-mole battles with cancer and now, this pandemic, somehow, whether or not I write doesn't seem to matter very much in the scheme of things, ya know?

What matters most is spending time with  my husband. What matters is laughing and making the most of each day. In due time, perhaps writing will regain its level of importance in my life that it once enjoyed. But ya know what? If it doesn't, I'm okay with that. Life is good. And besides, writing isn't the only game in town. (Think I'm too old for football...?)

How about you? How do you get... and keep... yourself in the zone? Go on... I'm all ears...

                                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, May 1, 2020

May Day Mayday

Thought for the day: The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also. [Harriet Ann Jacobs]

Aaaaaah... (CHOO!)... spring! Is there anything more beautiful and uplifting than seeing and smelling the earth burst forth in brilliant colors and heady aromas every year?

The earth laughs in flowers. [Ralph Waldo Emerson]

Today is May Day, the day that's been set aside for centuries to celebrate the glories of springtime. It's also International Workers' Day, set aside to honor the working class, but seeing's as how so many workers in the world aren't actually working right now, we're gonna ignore that in favor of singing the praises of springtime, okay?

[image: wikipedia, source: Geoff Charles]
Did you ever dance around a maypole as a child? I did. Once, when I was in fifth or sixth grade.  Not to step on anyone's toes... although it's entirely possible... nay, probable... that I did back then...  but I thought it was kinda dumb.

                          But I'm definitely in favor of celebrating the wonders of springtime.

[image: morguefile]

[image courtesy of unsplash]

Only THIS year is... different.

THIS year we have  an ominous  not-so-lovely flower to contend with. COVID-19.

And to many people worldwide, the havoc caused by the pandemic makes today feel more like MAYDAY! than May Day... like our lives are out of control and that devious brat COVID has taken the helm.

[image courtesy of unsplash]
                                                   It's surreal. And just a tad scary.

[image courtesy of unsplash]

Since the entire world is being affected by this pandemic, perhaps a universal distress call like MAYDAY! is appropriate... but I think not.

[image courtesy of seniorark]

I believe hope springs eternal, and as terrible as things may seem today, this, too, shall pass, and we'll return to some semblance to  normalcy.

We will get past it.

The world will survive.

And the world will rebuild, God willing, more caring, more appreciative, and much wiser than before.

Every sunset gives us one less day to live, but every sunrise gives us one day more to hope. [unknown]

So, let's hope for the best, shall we? And let's celebrate spring... or whatever season it may be in your corner of the world. Let's celebrate life.

                                    Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.