Marilyn's Musings

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Category Archives: Brain Siftings

Thoughts about today: 12-14-12…

Thoughts about today: 12-14-12…

The tragedy that occurred today in Sandy Hook Elementary School has resonated throughout the country and beyond. Innocent children and the adults who were entrusted with their care and safety were maimed and killed. So much carnage, so much senseless violence.

The killer had to have an agenda.  I don’t believe he did this on the spur, went unhinged and let it fly. I think this was well-planned, a type of suicide but with a willful purpose to take as many people out as he could in the process.

I say this because this happened at a school where the killer’s mother, who was also a victim, taught. I imagine that even with locked doors and access by approval, he was probably familiar to staff because his mother worked there.

I also say this because he maximized the pain and grief that the victims’ families would experience by executing mass murder less than two weeks before the Christmas holidays. And Christmas is really about children for most people–whether one is a person of Faith or not, the focus on the holidays is generally around families and children in particular as we celebrate Christ’s birth or the season or both. While it really wouldn’t have mattered what time of the year he chose to go on this killing spree, it has the heightened effect of forever ensuring for the loved ones left behind that not another Christmas or holiday season will go by that isn’t in some way darkened even more by the the timing of this tragedy–just before the holidays.

I am at a loss for words to adequately describe how I feel. I have no relatives or connection with the victims or their families. Yet, I know that, as is the case for many of us right now, I feel great pain and sorrow that these innocents lost their lives in this manner. My heart aches for the loved ones left behind with the task of burying their children, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters at a time when we should be celebrating the fellowship of mankind, Peace on Earth, and Goodwill.

With all the hatred, wars, and senseless violence going on, it is easy to believe that evil is taking over the world and that what goodness that does exist is being snuffed out. It is easy to believe that ultimately, there is no hope for the world. It’s a little harder to believe in the notion of good always triumphs over evil at a time like this.

But, I refuse to accept this or go down that road. To do so is to allow evil to triumph in the end.

A soul in search of

For many years, I was a practicing Catholic. Didn’t think about it much. My parents were Catholic, I went to Catholic grade school, so hey, I’m Catholic. From the cradle to the grave, forever and ever amen.

Then, I found myself going through a very long period of spiritual struggle.

I  thought my childhood faith might be the culprit–that it was lacking, so I explored other religions from Hindu, Zen, Deism, to other Christian faiths to Jews for Jesus.

Feeling no satisfaction, somehow incomplete, the questioning began.

Is there a God? Is this all hype so we can face our deaths without fear of total oblivion? Yes, Jesus was a historical figure–there is proof enough of that, but was he divine?

For a long time, I considered myself to be a spiritual agnostic. Part of me believing in the Whole Plan while another part of me struggled with the lack of logic to it all.

Now, it’s not like all of a sudden, a light came shooting out of the sky on my own personal road to Damascus with The Voice booming out at me, telling me what I need to know and believe, but lately, I’ve been pondering this more deeply.

Bear with me next as I am really not marching off on a tangent.

As far as I know, we are the only creatures that have any hint of their own mortality. About the only creature other than humans that I can think of that honor their dead are elephants. They will mill around one of their own who has died, protect it. If they come across the bones of another elephant, even if not one of their own herd, they seem to respect the remains by how they react.  Still, that isn’t the same as realizing that one day, we are all going to die.

Why is that? What sets humans apart from every other animal, even the highly intelligent dolphins? I can’t believe it’s some kind of evolutionary accident.

For myself, it’s been a struggle. I sometimes wish I had a blind and comfortable, unquestioning Faith. But no. These past ten years or more in particular have been full of questions and wavering back and forth. Looking, searching, not feeling comfortable in other Churches, not drawing the same peace I once felt in the Church of my childhood. Feeling at times that all organized religion is hype. Other times, that Jesus wouldn’t want it this way. And other times still, that perhaps it is a flaw in my own soul or character.

This is what they call a Spiritual Desert.  St. John of the Cross wrote a poem and treatise about it called The Dark Night of the Soul. Mother Teresa is said to have undergone this through a great part of her life, nearly to her death–the questioning, the wondering, despite remaining faithful to her prayer life and her Faith.

Lately, though, I think I’m entering another phase. It’s called the Crossroads–at least, that is what it is to me.

I am reconsidering my options. I have a strong sense of God and instinctively feel that the Master Plan is to have an eternity of happiness and that there is an afterlife. Do I necessarily believe in an eternal Hell? I’m not so sure about that. I tend to believe we experience Hell in the here and now through our choices while here on Earth. Do I ascribe to an organized religion? Not quite yet. I think the simplicity and directness of the original Message of Jesus has become so distorted and altered down through the years that it has become barely recognizable, so I tend to shy away from becoming the part of a congregation.  My gut feeling is the  message has changed so much that Jesus himself would hardly recognize it. But who knows? Maybe I will someday as I continue on my quest.

Those of you who have great faith who read this may feel horrified to know how I feel and what I am struggling with. Those of you who firmly believe there is no God, no hereafter, may feel disappointment or disdain regarding my re-evaluating and re-questioning in favor of God.

So, my summertime  reading includes some of the great pieces of literature associated with various faiths, including the aforementioned St. John of the Cross’ The Dark Night of the Soul and The Confessions of St. Augustine.

Simply put, I am a soul in search of.

Reflecting on the day after my birthday

Pocket watch, savonette-type.

Time marches on

Many years ago, I thought anything over the age of twenty was ancient. Funny how that works. When I hit twenty, the definition of ancient kept going up. When I was twenty, thirty five or forty looked old. Now here I am, on the last year of my 5th decade and on the cusp of my 6th, and I’m finally at a place in my life where I’m not so sure what old is anymore.

Now, some of this might be lost on much younger people, but I’m sure most people at some point in middle age start “getting” what I and many others have said before me. I say “start getting” because I was at a spot somewhere around forty when what I’ve heard before started to make sense.  But, it wasn’t until I approached fifty that I truly bought into it and understood it.

We’ve heard the saying, “You are only as old as you feel.” Well, you are as old as you are, chronologically speaking, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I am always puzzled by people who are afraid of revealing their age. To me, most people can tell within five or so years what a person’s age is.  So, it’s all relative. When a person is forty, maybe someone will think they are thirty five.  When someone is fifty, the guess is usually around forty five on the “looking younger” side of the scale. It’s ironic, though, that some people, who would have been very distressed at the age of thirty if someone thought they looked thirty five, are quite pleased when someone says they look thirty five when they are forty. I’m no exception if someone says I look younger than my chronological age, whether it’s true or they are just being nice.  I think that’s true for everyone. But, I don’t hide my age. It’s rather pointless.

So, here I am at 59. By today’s standards, I’m not really old but “upper middle age” whatever that means. We keep upping the limit on middle age and the government wants to as well with keeping us in the workforce as long as possible before drawing social security.

But, that’s another commentary so I will get back on track.

I think that this is an age where I finally realize that there truly is no magic moment when a person is absolutely mature, absolutely holds all the wisdom  they are ever going to have, are at the absolute peak of their mental and emotional development, despite what Erikson and his stages of psychological development has to say about it.

Erikson has it right and has it wrong.

His theory is a good blueprint, but that’s all that it is. Erikson didn’t take into consideration that people are not traveling a linear line as they age. Some people don’t get started having their families until they are much older. Some people don’t retire. Some people retire at relatively much younger ages than their sixties. I think the changes in society and how we are and what we do tend to blur and it isn’t as linear or as rigid as it once was.

Now, getting back to that saying:  “You are only as old as you feel”  does have some truth to it. It’s not just something we say to someone who is having the blues over their birthday. You can’t deny your chronological age, but  if you feel young in how you approach life, in your zest for life, no matter how a body “tells” its age, you are young.

So, here I am at 59. I don’t know it all, I don’t pretend to have all the wisdom of the world or all the answers. But, I still can pull a few pranks, I still enjoy music that spans not only my age group but across the board up and down. I’m still learning and always will be discovering things about people, this world, and life in general. I will  still have desires and goals and I’ve come to realize that will never change.

Heart Disease in Women: A Different Beast

Within the past month, two co-workers have been hospitalized with myocardial infarction–heart attack. Both of them were women, both of them young. One in her late 40’s, one in her early 30’s.

Neither of them showed any outward sign of heart disease. Both were relatively fit. Both had some risk factors, but nothing that others have also had without incident.

The thing is, neither one of them realized at the time they were having a heart attack. You see, in women in particular, the classic “elephant on the chest” crushing pain, shortness of breath, or pain that refers to the jaw just doesn’t always happen. Which makes this event, this disease, particularly deadly for women.

One of them just felt crappy all over. She was sweating–we thought perhaps she had low blood sugar since she was a diabetic. If anything, the blood sugar level was moderately high. She was also having back pain between her shoulder blades. She couldn’t quite describe it–except to say it didn’t feel like a pulled muscle. If anything, it was a hard pain, like giving birth through her back. That was our first clue that this wasn’t anything to fool around with and we called the EMS to come and take her to the hospital. Shortly after the call, her heart rate went up to nearly 200. Thankfully, the EMS arrived before the heart attack progressed further into a possible cardiac arrest. Since her hospitalization, she’s had a stent placed. She doesn’t anticipate coming back to work at all.

The other for the past few weeks had been having nausea and indigestion. She started to take an over the counter acid blocker, which really didn’t help that much.

Last weekend, she called in to say she finally couldn’t take it any more and it was worse than it had ever been. Her stomach pain was unbearable. She was heading into the ER.

A few hours later, she called to say she wouldn’t be coming in to work. She’d had a heart attack and was being admitted.

The main thing here is, women don’t always know when they are experiencing angina or having a heart attack. Unlike most men, the classic symptoms simply don’t apply in many cases.

In addition to the classic signs and symptoms that we are all familiar with in a heart attack: Crushing chest pain, shortness of breath, a pain that may refer down the left shoulder or to the jaw, women in particular need to be aware of the following symptoms that may be indicative of angina or a heart attack:

  • Nausea, vomiting, indigestion, abdominal pain
  • Sudden extreme fatigue or weakness
  • Back pain, pain between the shoulders
  • Any sudden, unexplained pain above the waist
  • Feelings of foreboding or anxiety–in women who have not experienced panic attacks, this is a particularly significant symptom.
  • Lightheadedness, sometimes accompanied by dizziness or fainting
  • Sweating
  • Sudden sleep disturbances

In women who have gone on to experience an actual heart attack, many report having experienced one or more symptom for a month or longer. In many women, previous heart attacks go undiagnosed until they are examined for other conditions or have an in-depth physical. For women, heart disease and heart attack is considered a silent killer.

As women, we need to be aware of our bodies. Don’t be afraid to take ourselves in to a doctor or emergency room when things are not right and if the symptoms persist. So often, there is a tendency to blow off our symptoms, or even for physicians to do the same. If symptoms continue, be persistent.

Heart disease in women is a different beast, indeed. The good thing is, physicians are starting to stand up and take notice. The bad thing is, not enough women or physicians do. It’s well past time to raise awareness of this deadly disease and  to determine why it differs in so many women.

He just might save one more life…

Sometimes we are faced with situations in life that are sad beyond belief. I faced one such situation this weekend.

My best friend lost her grandson. The details weren’t very specific in the obituary.  His name, age, the family members were all listed. Preferred memorials were to the family, so that did not give any indication of the cause of death.

His memorial reception and service was on Sunday. My husband and I went to the reception before I went into work.

My best friend could not attend the memorial because of her own health issues.  I did get a chance to speak with my friend’s daughter, the grieving mother.  It was then that I learned of why this healthy and vibrant young man died.

He was  18 years old, a beautiful young man inside and out.  Like most of us at that age, he probably felt he was invincible and nothing would happen to him. Most of us have been there. We have done stupid, illegal, or dangerous things when younger that we now look back on and think, “I can’t believe I took that kind of a risk.” Maybe it was drinking at a party and then driving home. Maybe it was engaging in some reckless activity that could have caused great bodily harm. This young man, who wasn’t really into drugs, decided for whatever reason to try to get high on a Fentanyl patch.  It only took that one time of risk-taking behavior and experimentation to be fatal. Due to his inexperience, he ingested the whole patch at once, overdosed, and slipped into a coma. Two days later, he was declared brain dead and a day later the family had to face the nightmare and heartbreak of giving permission to turn off life support, a decision no parent should ever have to face.

There was so much potential and promise of a life that will never be.  He was working at enlisting in the military.  Ironically, on the day after he slipped into a coma, a letter came from the US Air Force informing him that he was eligible for enlistment.

His mother told me that his life wasn’t in vain. He died, but lives on through the organ donations that his family authorized.

One thing she said that stuck with me since yesterday’s memorial was that through his death, her son has saved other lives. It came to me that perhaps by writing this, he will continue to save lives in another way. Perhaps there is a young man or woman who is curious and wants to experience and experiment with drugs or engage in some other risk-taking activity. Perhaps there is a parent who is concerned about their son or daughter. Perhaps they will stumble across this commentary and if so, perhaps this young man’s death will help others to make a life-saving decision. Even if  just one person  reads and takes this to heart,  through his death, he just might save one more life.

The latest chapter in the Ted Williams story: Vicki Lawrence’s video

A few weeks ago, we saw the incredible tale of a homeless man, Ted Williams, unfold.

For those out of the loop, Williams had a successful career in radio, most notably in doing voice overs. His career was derailed due to a troubled life which included drugs, alcohol, and several convictions. He was alienated from his family as a result. He was rediscovered on the streets of Columbus, Ohio, by a member of the local press who took interest in the Man With The Golden Voice.

His story was picked up nationally and snowballed from there. Jettisoned from the streets to the studios of NBC and others, he began a trek back to reuniting with family and restoring his career.

No one can dispute that much of what happened in his life was a result of his own poor choices and actions.  No one can say for sure at this point if his story will have a positive, happy ending or if he will fail because of his addictions and his past pattern of mistakes.

But one thing, he does deserve the chance to redeem himself, same as every single person alive on this planet. We all make poor choices. Maybe not to the extent as Mr. Williams, but we all have made mistakes or choices that have formed us and shaped the paths we are walking.

But that really isn’t the issue here. The issue is that after the initial good-feeling, warm fuzzies characteristics of this story had passed, various members of the press and of the entertainment industry have taken to criticizing and judging this man.

As far as the pundits go, I take what they say with a grain of salt. It’s their bread-and-butter to create controversy with their analysis of issues. If they weren’t provocative, they wouldn’t stay in business for very long and might also find themselves out on the street some day as well. Along with that, I am betting some hope Williams will fail since he checked into rehab. It will give them more fodder to chew on.

What really bothered me, though, was when Vicki Lawrence came out with her parody and video of Williams and the homeless in general. Her video, done behind the guise of her character, Mama Harper, rips into him and the homeless in general. It can be said it is a satire/commentary. But it can also be said that it was done without much forethought and was insensitive and in extremely poor taste. I also would like to see what Ms. Lawrence feels without standing behind the shield of her character. That is the crux of the issue here. We just don’t know how she herself feels. View it here and decide for  yourself:

Personally, I thought it was in poor taste. If it was done as a social commentary, I think it failed. Why?  Vicki Lawrence has never been one to speak out on what her position is on many issues. If we knew beforehand that she was a supporter of helping the homeless and downtrodden or her views about the press and commentators, I think most of us would be able to accept and understand that this was her commentary on how so many in the media and general public feel about this man, that he doesn’t deserve a second chance and he brought the whole Karma of his life down on his own head.

As I previously mentioned, I feel that there are many who are circling overhead, waiting for him to fail,  so they will have even more to swoop in and feast on. Without further explanation, this video seems to reflect that cynicism and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe they are right and it will, but let’s give this man this chance to redeem himself.

Most of all,  I don’t wish to sound cynical myself. But I find it rather ironic that Lawrence herself rose from the ranks of the everyday people to celebrity status and a successful career when she wrote to Carol Burnett that she could pass for her little sister. Intrigued by the letter and the enclosed photo, Burnett contacted Vicki and gave her a start in a successful career in TV comedy.  Although she wasn’t an addict who undermined a successful career, Lawrence also had her own fairy tale start as well. I can’t help thinking that she has forgotten her own lucky breaks.

In her defense, I hope she does come out and offers some explanation of her motives behind making this video. It would greatly clear the air for many, myself included.

When computers go haywire

I type this on another computer while mine is getting exorcised.

Thursday, my computer went haywire.

I was just doing business online, and suddenly, my antivirus started going ballistic. Every half minute or so, it would pop up a message that so many malware or viruses were cropping up. I was quarantining left and right when my computer froze.

I hit the control-alt-delete to smack down the antivirus, log off, and reboot, and THAT froze.

My desktop icons and my bottom bar disappeared completely. The computer, which is normally very quiet, was whirring up a storm. I did what I hated to do and what I had no choice to do: turned it off by pushing in the button.

On reboot, I got the usual windows splash screen, then when the desktop should have appeared, this ugly blue error screen with “Fatal Error” and not allowed to log on.

I tried every way possible to log in to no avail. I do know that in safe mode with commands, windows is still present. I just cannot completely boot. I finally gave up and contacted my son-in-law who is going to have a go with it, and hopefully, I’ll have my computer back.

Later on Thursday evening, I was speaking with my best friend, Marty. Now, we usually spend hours (literally) talking or visiting. This was no different.

In the course of our conversation, several times one of us would mention something and it would involve,  “I wonder how much this costs?”,  “Have you seen?”,  “Marilyn, type in…” types of comments. Of course, it stopped dead in the water when I’d remember and say I can’t.

Now, years ago we had no Internet. Then we had Internet and it was more of an enhancement than a necessity.  Now I’d think it is safe to say that we are so bound to the Internet and electronic technology that if we don’t have our smart phones, IPads, or other computer devices or access to the Internet, our lives are severely hamstringed.

Some of my 2011 goals

Note: I did not say resolutions! To me, resolutions are meant to be broken. They aren’t so much goals as massive self-improvement projects that are insurmountable or almost impossible to achieve for many people. They almost universally fall by the wayside within a month to six weeks. Goals, on the other hand, are small steps in the process of self-improvement or working on a project and can be tackled one by one or several at a time in order to achieve success. Goals are easier to succeed with–like climbing a ladder step-by-step–than a resolution which requires one big leap.

Anyhoo, here are my biggest goals for 2011.

1.  Spend a little time each day with one of my family or friends. Be it online, on the phone, or with a visit, I want to keep in touch with the people who are most important to me.

2.  One goal I have is to make special time for hubby and myself. It seems we never do much together because we have this mistaken notion that we have to do something expensive to make it memorable, like trips or expensive dinners. My take is there is no reason why we can’t have a little together time–even if it is to pack a picnic lunch and sit out at the county park a few miles away or even on the gazebo before he heads into work. We don’t have to spend oodles of money to build memories and to have quality time together.

3.  Enjoy every day in some small way. Even a bad day has some good in there, even if it is only to pause to enjoy a beautiful sunset.

4. Read a little something and learn something new every day.

5. Tackle big projects in little phases  rather than fretting about the whole. I need to do some serious beating back of the forest in my garden. It’s an ongoing process. Even with Winter well under way, I can still do some pruning and clearing chores on nicer days. Some of the beds adjoining the house never freeze. I can work on them throughout the winter a little at a time, whether it’s cutting stuff back or tidying the beds up themselves. I don’t need to take hours to do it, either; fifteen or twenty minutes a day, unless the weather prohibits it, should be enough. As long as there is progress, be happy with it.

I think what all this is are little things I can do that aren’t overwhelming but that will bring great satisfaction to life in general. Beats a resolution any old day!!

May as well join in the laughter!

Today, I was walking out of the building at work, getting ready to head home. Minding my own business. At first, I didn’t know if the bird was snowblind or distracted, whatever, but it came in towards me like a Kamikaze pilot and I had to duck or we would have collided, no joke!! It wasn’t divebombing me, it was clearly intent on its purpose to get to the old and shaggy Norway Spruce that is next to the exit that I had just left.

I imagine the expression on my face and my body language were quite interesting and comical at the same time. One of the residents who happened to be walking outdoors broke up in a gale of laughter.  It took me a couple of seconds, but I proceeded to join in on the laughter as well. All I could muster up was to call it the “killer kamikaze bird”, and fell out in even more laughter.

What made it more special was this person is usually very withdrawn and rarely reacts or talks to anybody. I clearly made his day a little more joyful.

About the situation itself.

I  know that some people would have found it either annoying or awkward to be the subject of hilarity and laughter.

The thing is, as we grow older, I find myself not taking myself as seriously as I did when I was younger.

Stuff happens. Some very funny stuff at that. It’s good to lighten up.

Being the the cause of someone else to break out in laughter over an absurd or funny situation involving oneself isn’t a bad thing. It’s not like I was being mocked. And if it brought someone to find humor in a strange little situation, to come out of his shell however briefly, so much the better.

Another case in point.

Now, this could have really been a humiliating situation, but what the heck! Stuff happens.

I don’t use dryer sheets. They make me itch. Ditto for fabric softener in the rinse cycle. A few years ago, I went to work and was ambling down the unit at the hospital where I worked and one of the employees broke out in peels of laughter. She pulled a sock off the bottom of the back of my lab jacket. I had just fetched it from a warm dryer that morning and didn’t realize that a black sock was stuck to it. Yup, drove into work, walked in from the parking lot, took off my coat and it was still clinging to me like a little black tail! I took the sock, thanked her, and deadpanned that I sure could use the other one about now–my feet were wet from walking through the puddles. And then I proceeded to laugh as well.

Life is too short . There is enough seriousness and heartache we see or face every day that we may as well enjoy the humor involving the absurd little things that happen to us. Rather than feel indignant or embarrassed, enjoy the moment and may as well join in the laughter!