Wednesday, April 14, 2021

I Need a Sign

I was able to feel comfortable for about a month and a half. That's how long it took the media to gear back up and decide to begin anew its rounds of horrific news.

Or maybe that's how long it took the news to become horrific again. Because we sent the children back to school, and the shootings started.

We've opened up the restaurants, and the Covid numbers rise.

The prejudice, bigotry, and hatred received a shot in the arm when the media reported on the former guy's vitriol at some Republican conference over the weekend. White supremacy still exists. Videos of Karens and Kooky Kens still pop up in my social media feeds. Don't these people ever tire of being mad, angry, and hateful?

I like nice. I like calm. I like quiet. A little peace goes a long way.

As a former news reporter, I find it difficult to ignore the news, to be uninformed, to not know what is going on around me.

Some days, though, I think being an ostrich would be a good thing. I know people who don't read the newspaper, who don't watch the TV news, who have no clue what is going on (although many of these people do seem to watch mostly FAUX news, so there's that. They're generally the angry ones.). 

I try to check out all sides of issues. I watch snippets of Tucker Carlson on FAUX, even. He's just a mouth with an opinion, but many people seem to take his opinion as fact, so I listen to see what his problem is. He's like a thorn on a dying rose. He's pretty to look at, but nothing but prickles underneath.

I don't watch the news channels, except for the local news and occasionally CBS evening news. I read the local papers, the New York Times, the Guardian, The Atlantic, and other sources for news and opinions. I'd rather read than listen to the irritating grunts of talking heads.

Racism is a big question for me. Am I racist? I'm sure I am. I suspect everyone is to some degree. But to what degree? I'm not sure. I don't go around making a big deal out of different races, or call people names. Frequently I don't notice color. In my video games, nobody knows who is what race, sometimes not even what gender, because we all go by made-up names. We also don't talk politics at all, and so that's a good getaway for me. Do I imagine that I'm playing with people of all races? I hope so. But I don't know. We talk about the game and sometimes the weather.

The Blacks are again marching in Minnesota because once again a police officer shot a Black man. In Virginia, my lovely state, two police officers pulled over a military lieutenant who was black, handcuffed him and pepper sprayed him, and one of the officers has lost his job over this man's treatment. I don't know why this keeps happening.

Many people believe, myself among them, that if the rioters on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol had been mostly Black instead of white, they'd have been mowed down with guns the moment they stepped over some unspecified line.

This world has always been full of turmoil and hatred. Humanity is full of strife. It does not stop from generation to generation. It may change form, but it doesn't go away. 

I'd like to think we're evolving into a better form of human, but the evidence indicates we're walking backwards, not forward.

De-evolving, as it were.

I'd like a sign that shows me I'm wrong in feeling so despairing about the state of this country and the world.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Friends

Ever since I learned that an old high school friend passed away, I've been thinking about friendship.

I do not think I am a good friend. I try hard to be a good friend, but I've had so many people pass through my life, I think it is safe to say that unless I am supposed to be learning an awful lot from a vast amount of people, many of whom I can barely remember, then I likely am not a good friend.

Many articles claim to know what makes a good friend. It depends on the person, the times, the types of people involved, though. I don't think one can make blanket claims as to whether this person is a good friend or a bad friend, although I just made such a claim about myself, I suppose. Everyone is different and so each relationship is different, and must be counted on its own merits. It does no good to try to compare people, one to another.

However, I have friends. Close friends. Acquaintances. Dear friends. Long-distance friends. Long-term friends. Friends with whom I once was quite close but now they're in another category. People come and go, sometimes quickly, sometimes not.

My friend from high school was not a long-term friendship in that we remained friends as adults. Friendly toward one another, yes, the few times we happened to meet, but not friends. She did not call me and I didn't call her. Many people I know from both high school and college fall into this category. We were friends, we would speak and be friendly if we saw one another in the supermarket, but we don't call, text, or much else. Maybe we make an occasional comment on a Facebook post, if that.

However, some of those relationships can turn. I was quite friendly with one of my high school teachers, and we have stayed in touch all of these years. For a long time we exchanged Christmas cards and that was the extent of it, but after she retired, we began to eat lunch together occasionally. We email and text. Sometimes we talk on the phone. It's a nice, easy relationship with no expectations, but I am always glad to hear from this person. She's also someone I turn to occasionally for advice.

I have over 500 Facebook friends. These people are not all my "friends." They are people I know. Some are people I barely know. Maybe I met them in passing, or I wrote an article on their great-aunt. Sometimes I'm not sure how I know someone, I simply recognize a name or face.

My husband and I are friends as well as spouses. I think friendship in a marriage is essential if the relationship is going to survive the inevitable up and downs of life. If you're not friends with the person you are in love with, what exactly do you have?

One of my longest friendship dates back to 1983. Leslie and I worked together, and co-workers in general are a class of friends in and of themselves. Generally, once you leave a workplace, those friendships end. Oh, there may be a phone call or two after you've left the building, but those relationships dissolve quickly. Fortunately, Leslie and I had a lot in common outside of work, and we've remained friends all of these years. There were times when we were not close, particularly when I was working in downtown Roanoke and attending college in the early 1990s, but we have always had a good friendship.

Other friendships continue but have changed. Walls went up, maybe on both of our parts, and there you go. Those walls are hard to bring down once they are in place.

I have another friend who is like a sister. We have known each other for about 10 years. I knew the moment we met that we would be friends. She's a helper friend, in that she likes to help out and is good in emergencies.

My brother is also my friend. It is a complicated relationship because we are siblings, but I consider him a friend as well as my brother. I can't say that about many other family members, that they are also my friends. Some are just the roles they have been assigned - aunt, cousin - whatever.

I have friends online, too. I have people I am in touch with that I met online back in the 1990s and still have some connection to, mostly through Facebook. These people are not "real life" friends, I suppose, but they are in my life. Peripheral friends, for the most part. I did have a daily communication with a person that I cared about deeply, but it seems to have ended. I guess in the end it was only a lot of words, and "I'm sorry" is not in her vocabulary. 

Many people are incapable of apologizing, I've learned. This is generally true of men, but some women refuse to acknowledge any fault or otherwise confirm that they have contributed to an issue in a relationship. I assume always that I have a 50% share in whatever happens, but I don't take 100% credit for it anymore. At one time, I think I did that, I took on all the blame if a relationship failed, but it takes two to make or break a friendship. Response to incidents is everything.

My old friend from high school, the one who passed away, left me a note in my senior annual that said our relationship was "on thin ice" at the time she wrote. I do not remember issues between us. I only recall good times and adventures we shared, some of which were probably not the best idea at the time, but we were young and it was part of growing up in the 1970s. She also signed the entry in my annual as "Toots" and I never knew why, because not once did I call her that. Then I graduated high school and she was a year younger than I, and so we naturally grew apart.

I prefer it when relationships end on a good note. A general growing apart is acceptable because people change; the things we need from one another may change. No one person can be everything to someone, and people needs friends of all kinds in order to live a nice rounded life.

Part of what we've all been missing during this pandemic is the nice rounded life we had before, where we said "Hi" to the checkout clerk who wasn't a friend but who was friendly, or to the ladies in the book club that you haven't seen in over a year, with whom you are friendly but not exactly close friends, or anyone else for that matter because I've been stuck in my house basically since November 22, 2019, when my husband had his ankle surgery and then we went straight from that to a pandemic.

These are melancholy thoughts, I think. The pandemic has made me a little crazy, along with everyone else. 


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Sunday Stealing



1. You have just been hired to clean your own home, what is your first complaint?

A. I'm not getting paid enough! I don't do windows! I don't clean books, either. Nobody reads that much; these should all be tossed out.

2. Are you able to ignore a ringing telephone?

A. Yes. I do it all the time.

3. How often do you allow a ringing phone to go to voice mail?

A. Frequently. If I know the number, I pick up. Otherwise, it often goes to voicemail.

4. Do you answer your cell phone, out in public, every time it rings? Or do you silence it and get back to it when you’re in a more private area?

A. I generally do not answer it in public, unless I am alone and expecting a call from my husband. I seldom answer my phone if I am out with a friend. My friend deserves my attention. My cellphone does not.

5. How often would you say you’re on your home phone? Your cell phone?

A. I average about 31 minutes a week on my cellphone, according to the thing the iPhone offers on Sundays. I probably spend an hour a day on average on the house phone.

6. Do you like talking on the phone or do you view it as a necessary communication tool?

A. I don't mind it. I'd rather talk than text or video chat.

7. When did you last go for a bike ride?

A. A very long time ago.

8. Do you own a bike?

A. Not any more.

9. Given the most popular New Year’s resolution of losing weight, would you consider putting bicycle riding as one of your exercise options? Why or why not?

A. Stationary bikes are difficult. They make your butt hurt, which is why I think they do not get used much. Regular bike riding on these rural roads requires courage I lack.

10. If you had to name a smell that always makes you nostalgic, what would it be? What sorts of memories does the smell evoke?

A. The smell of someone getting a permanent in their hair always makes me think of my grandmother, who would haul us kids once a week up to her sister's house, where she'd give her a homemade perm.

11. What did you do over the weekend? No detail is too small. This is your journal, so tell us about the mundane tasks in your life.

A. I changed the bed linens. I watched one of my favorite poets read poetry in a Zoom meeting. I played video games. I fixed a salad for lunch for my husband and me. I wrote in my blog. I read blogs. I showered. I did laundry. I listened to disco music and classical music. I read the newspaper. This is just on Saturday, mind you.

12. If it weren’t for my blog, I’d _________.

A. Probably not write as much.

13. When was the last time you replied “because I said so”? Do you find yourself saying that a lot? Or do you prefer to tell people WHY you want them to do something for you.

A. I don't know that I have ever replied with "because I said so" to anybody. Maybe my husband but no specific incident comes to mind.

14. What is the worst gift you’ve ever received?

A. I've never received an awful gift. My husband gave me a vacuum for Christmas one year and that didn't go over well.

15. Tell us the worst gift you’ve ever given. What was the reaction of the recipient?

A. I don't know what that might have been. I'm sure over the years I gave older people useless things that to me did not seem so useless but to them surely was. I imagine it went into a drawer. Now that I am one of the older folks, I can see how  useless the things we give to other people may be sometimes. The best presents are food, clothing (if you know the sizes), books or music, and stamps. You can rarely go wrong with any of those.

_______________

I encourage you to visit other participants in Sunday Stealing posts and leave a comment. Cheers to all us thieves who love memes, however we come by them.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Saturday 9: The Bones


Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) The lyrics compare a relationship to a house, saying that despite superficial problems like peeling paint or broken glass, the foundation can still be solid and strong. What home improvement project is next on your list?

A. We are in a mild decluttering phase, but it is moving slowly. Nothing big on the horizon.

2) Maren Morris sings that she knows she and her lover can face any storm. Are you afraid of thunder and lightening?

A. I love storms. I have yet to capture lightning on my camera. It's a goal.

3) The video for this song shows Maren and her husband, singer/songwriter Ryan Hurd, on the beach in Maui. Would you rather go for a long walk along a beach or a hike in the woods?

A. The beach is easier walking for an old fart like me now. I used to love to hike in the the woods, though.
 
4) "The Bones" won Morris and her collaborators (Jimmy Robbins and Laura Veltz) the 2020 CMA "Song of the Year" Award. Here's your chance to pat yourself on the back. What's something you have done well lately? (Go ahead. We want to hear about it!)

A. My accomplishments during the pandemic year include: I no longer bite my nails (but I keep them cut very short). I lost 20 pounds (because I was sick). I have read 22 books so far in 2021. I have a poem coming out in Artemis. I've written articles for the local online paper.

5) The song was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Song. For the awards show last month, Maren put a lot of work into her look, including lightening her hair and lipstick and reshaping her brows. She was surprised when saw on social media that people confused her with reality star Khloe Kardashian. How long does it take you to prepare to face the world (on an average day, not for an internationally telecast awards show)?

A. Since the pandemic, I have stopped wearing makeup (no point in it because of masks), so it takes me about a half-hour to shower and dress. It used to be 45 minutes. Also, this song does not sound like a country song to me. It sounds like a pop song, so I was surprised to see it received a country nomination.
 
6) Experimenting with hair and makeup comes naturally to Maren. Her parents have owned the same hair salon for decades. She and her sister played there as children and took turns working the reception desk when they were in high school. Do you have a hair appointment scheduled?

A. I do not. I lost my hair dresser two years ago and bounced around from place to place, seeking someone. I found someone in September (yes, in the pandemic), and she cut my hair three times. I asked her in late November to cut it very short so I could stay away from places during the holidays, because I knew the coronavirus would be bad. Then when it was time to call to make an appointment, in early March, I found my hairdresser had just adopted a newborn baby! So I went back to a Supercuts and it looked like a dog chewed my hair off when the guy was done. After it grows out I will call my chosen hairdresser and see if she's back to work. If she's not, I'll keep bouncing around looking for someone else. But I don't think I'll go back to that particular Supercuts.
 
7) Mom and Dad do not go out of their way to play Maren's songs in their salon. They don't want to "bombard" clients with her music, just because she's their daughter. But, if one of Maren's songs happens to come on, they are naturally very proud. Where were you the last time you had to listen to someone else's choice of music? (Bank, doctor's office, friend's car, etc.) Did you enjoy it, or did you wish you could change the station?

A. I haven't been anywhere to notice music. When I used to actually go into stores to shop, I never minded what they were playing.
 
8) Maren says her favorite foods are tacos and tortillas. When did you most recently eat Mexican food?

A. I don't eat Mexican food. Too spicy.

9) Random question: What do you call that thing in your living room? Is it a sofa, couch, or a davenport?

A. We call it a couch or a sofa. I have never called it a davenport. Davenports are fancy pieces that no one ever sits on in our neck of the woods.

______________

I encourage you to visit other participants in Saturday 9 posts and leave a comment. Because there are no rules, it is your choice. Saturday 9 players hate rules. We love memes, however. 

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Thursday Thirteen

I am out of ideas today, so I'm going to grab the paper and discuss headlines.

1. Biden to unveil actions on guns. Well, that one will make the strange people rush to the gun store for more ammo and rifles, I suspect. If one reads the story, this has to do with "ghost" guns, or homemade weaponry. It requires buyers of homemade guns to undergo a background check. Apparently there's a black market for homemade weapons. I don't see this as effective legislation, to be honest.

2. Pot laws to change. Virginia is going to legalize simple possession of marijuana on July 1. No retail sales, though, until 2024. Households can grow four plants. I don't even know where one purchases the seeds for that. People cannot sell an ounce of MJ, but they can make a gift of it. Seems like a weird law. I have no opinion on whether or not pot should be legal.

3. Va. reports 1,550 new cases. We're talking coronavirus here, of course. The paper's been running little updates everyday on new cases. My county has had 2,438 cases out of about 32,000. That's 7.619% of the county's population that has had the virus. I think we've had about 60 deaths (not noted in today's story). The virus is real and scary, and I'm not sure why people believe we are incapable of having a pandemic without it being some kind of government plot or cover-up. Nature is going to do what nature wants.

4. Game of Thrones celebrates Iron Anniversary. The show launched 10 years ago on HBO. I watched it and enjoyed it, although I thought the last season drifted a bit from the original premise. Of course it would, as George R.R. Martin has not yet written his ending to the series and HBO had to wrap it up. Every episode is currently available on HBO Max and there are going to be GOT marathons on Saturdays.

5. Fed signals no soon moves. This means the Federal Reserve is not going to raise interest rates or make any changes. Personally, I think the lower interest rates are detrimental. When I first had a mortgage, the interest rate was 13% and everyone swore they would never be lower. Let that be a lesson to everyone to show that economists and forecasters have no clue what they are talking about, really. I remember when saving accounts paid 5% interest to people with the foresight to chuck something away, and Christmas Clubs were a thing, and they paid interest, too. The Fed is also purchasing Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities. They shouldn't be doing this, either.

6. Prisoners fall behind in race for vaccinations. This story cites Florida (imagine that) as not vaccinating its prison population. Nationwide, fewer than 20% of state and federal prisoners have been vaccinated. They're a trapped population, and once someone brings the virus in there, it will spread just as it does in nursing homes. This needs to be fixed so that this population receives the vaccine.

7. Over 500,000 gain coverage under Biden. A special sign-up window for health insurance has helped more than 1/2 million people get coverage. Millions of people became eligible on April 1 due to pumped-up subsidies toward their premiums under the coronavirus relief legislation. The sign-up period closes August 15.

8. Natural Bridge park gains designation. The Natural Bridge, which is a large rock formation that is actually used as part of a highway in a neighboring county, has been designated a Dark Sky Park. That means this is a good place to go see the stars and the Milky Way.

9. Botetourt County hire assistant administrator. This is my county. I have no idea why we are hiring yet another assistant administrator. Apparently he is needed to help run the government during the pandemic, although we did just fine without him last year. I think it is to help use up the coronavirus funding.

10. Job search rules to be reinstated. Drawing unemployment once again will mean one must be actively searching for work. That rule was suspended during the pandemic, but now folks must show that they are applying for jobs each week. This rule has been around a long time - back in the 1980s I drew unemployment for a short time and I had to show that I had visited two potential employers every week. Finding a job today is not an easy task. In the old days (yes, I am ancient), I opened the newspaper, circled a bunch of help wanted ads, sent in resumes to blind boxes or made calls to the companies wanting people, went on interviews, found a job. Now there are no ads for jobs in the newspaper. Everything is online but unless it's a company with a physical presence in my area, I have no idea how a person determines if a job offering is legitimate or a scam. I like the old way better. Put that stuff back in the newspaper.

11.  Land added to Jefferson National Forest. I live near the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Nearly half of my county is forest land. Most of nearby Craig County is forest land. This adds 237 acres near McAfee Knob, which is a popular location on the Appalachian Trail, and will help preserve scenic beauty. The property was private, but a conservation group purchased it and gave it to the government. Since under the former guy (and G.W. Bush, too) there was a push to sell government lands, I'm not sure that was the best move, but time will tell.

12. Old-fashioned sitcom still going strong. Apparently we still like to laugh. This is a story about new sitcoms that start soon.

13. And I'm out of headlines in the local paper. It's a much trimmer paper than it used to be and costs a lot more, too. I think they are trying to put themselves out of business with their high prices. The news media is not evil nor is it the enemy of the people, but I think it needs to take a long hard look at itself and go back to the division between news and entertainment. People used to know the difference; now opinion is tossed out as fact, especially on TV. Even in the print media, opinions are not fact checked. Long ago I remember editor's notes at the bottom of ridiculous accusations in letters. That doesn't happen anymore. Perhaps it should.


Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here if you want to read other Thursday Thirteens and/or play along. I've been playing for a while and this is my 702nd time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday. Or so sayth the Blogger counter, anyway.