It’s generally not good to act on impulse, but in this case, I think it was a good choice I made, impulsive or not.

Having spent way too much time this past week bot-hunting and/or getting into useless ‘dialogue’ with people posting incredibly hateful things on Twitter, I have deactivated my account.

Already I feel lighter. And the time I was losing? Well, no, I am NOT going to spend it on Facebook! But I’m not going to leave Facebook, either, as it offers a good, quick way to keep in touch with friends and family. It’s more ‘insular’ than Twitter, for sure — but honestly, at this point, I really don’t want or need to see how Obama is to blame for everything.

Phew, I do feel freer!

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Wake Up and Smell the Coffee or Stop and Smell the Roses — Just Smell SOMETHING, Okay?

Whatever your routine is these days, you may want to check to make sure you are still smelling things.

That’s what I’m taking from an interesting article by Roni Caryn Rabin in the NY Times that I read today. Published yesterday, it’s titled Lost Sense of Smell May Be Peculiar Clue to Coronavirus Infection. Hopefully, you’ll be able to read it at the link, since the NY Times is now making its Coronavirus information available for free to everyone. In her article, Ms. Rabin writes:

The American Academy of Otolaryngology on Sunday posted information on its website saying that mounting anecdotal evidence indicates that lost or reduced sense of smell and loss of taste are significant symptoms associated with Covid-19, and that they have been seen in patients who ultimately tested positive with no other symptoms.

NY Times 3/22/20

The evidence is still anecdotal, but, as Henry David Thoreau said, “”Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”

The article goes on to say:

In the areas of Italy most heavily affected by the virus, doctors say they have concluded that loss of taste and smell is an indication that a person who otherwise seems healthy is in fact carrying the virus and may be spreading it to others.

“Almost everybody who is hospitalized has this same story,” said Dr. Marco Metra, chief of the cardiology department at the main hospital in Brescia, where 700 of 1,200 inpatients have the coronavirus. “You ask about the patient’s wife or husband. And the patient says, ‘My wife has just lost her smell and taste but otherwise she is well.’ So she is likely infected, and she is spreading it with a very mild form.”

A study from South Korea, where widespread testing has been done, found that 30 percent of some 2,000 patients who tested positive for the coronavirus reported experiencing anosmia.

NY Times 3/22/20

So far taste and smell have not abandoned me. But you can rest assured now that each morning when I smell the coffee, I’ll come down the stairs with a little extra spring in my step!

And if you should find yourself worried about your sense of smell (or taste), we have an expert standing by…

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A Timely Question From Aretha Today

That’s it, just this…listen up!

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You'll Poke an Eye Out!

COVID-19 is reminding us all, if we are paying attention, of our vulnerability. If you’re like me and wake up, get coffee, turn on the computer, and immediately check the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Map/Tracker, you’re well aware of how at-risk we are, at least on a rudimentary level.

But our experiences and perceptions of our vulnerability aren’t static. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed how much this has changed for me as I’ve aged. Thus the title of this post — a warning we probably all heard from a grandparent at one time or another. And now, ironically, it’s a phrase I find myself tempted to utter often. (Some version of it, anyway.)

It’s about consequences, really.

With age, I’ve become more aware of the possible outcomes of actions. And thus, I’ve gotten more cautious about some things. Driving in snowstorms, for example…

It used to be a point of pride for me to get to work no matter what. And I would. Now, I think about the challenge of getting home at the end of the day, or the hassle of having to deal with a fender-bender or, the even more likely, pain-in-the-butt of sliding off the driveway and having to get pulled out by some kind person.

If there’s any possibility of one of those things happening, I’m likely to choose work from home. (And yes, I am SO lucky/grateful to be able to make that choice!)

Looking back with horror…

We all joke, sometimes, about riding bikes without helmets and being unbelted while careening down highways in the 1950’s and ’60’s and ’70’s. AND when I look back at things I’ve done, I can feel quite lucky to be here with mostly all my faculties and with all my limbs intact. I’m thinking of things like:

  • Riding my bike, fast and unhelmeted, in and out of Philly from Havertown many mornings and evenings in the mid-1970’s. Had one person ever opened the door of a parked car while I raced by…well…it’s hard to think about.
  • The way we used to drive around at night, listening to the radio and seeing how fast we could go on the back roads. (Not to mention driving home from parties when we shouldn’t have been…)
  • Or sledding down hills and sliding out onto suburban streets, mostly oblivious to the dire possibilities.
  • Or, yes indeed, running with sticks, and maybe even scissors sometimes!

We just didn’t think about what could happen.

Well, folks, now I do — and the world sure looks different. Holly Cornblog and I are both scared. We pray a lot.

And now we wear helmets pretty much everywhere we go!

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Social Distancing

It’s a very strange place, this world, right now. So much has changed, and so rapidly. Tournaments have been canceled and schools closed. I feel as though something is looming, but what? So much is unknown.

And it’s challenging to know what information is reliable. On Twitter this morning someone quoted the announcement that Trump’s test results showed that he did not have the coronavirus. The tweet went on to say, “That means either he wasn’t tested or he does have the virus.” That’s America today.

And yet, when I look out the window, it’s a clear, sunny day, like any other nice day in March, albeit unseasonably warm. The daffodil bulbs are pushing up through the soil and you can see the buds fattening in the treetops. Vernal pools are melting from their edges in, and posts on Facebook tell me that the bears are waking up.

On the somewhat positive side, for me, I find that the times are normalizing social distancing. It’s been a lifelong practice of mine. And it has always made me feel a little bit odd. Now I find it’s a valued behavior.

Anyone looking for lessons, give me a call.

Or, better yet, send an e-mail. Calling is a little too, you know, close.


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Ruby’s Big Adventure

It started innocently enough. Ruby had finished her dinner on Friday and was pacing around as she often does when she needs to go out.

Ruby, for those who don’t know, is our 15+-year-old Westie. A sweet girl who has lost a good bit of her hearing and eyesight. And we think maybe also a bit of her incisive, Westie clarity.

Some might say, in only the most loving way, that she’s gotten a little ditzy.

So, Ruby was pacing around in her Ruby way and it seemed a no-brainer to let her out. It was getting on toward dusk and probably time for the evening poop, or at least a quick after-dinner pee. But then, what happened was that Ruby stayed out for a long, long time. That’s because the humans in the house forgot that she was out there. And when they remembered and went to let her in, she was nowhere to be found.

Here’s Ruby’s version of what was happening at this point…

I was just sniffin’ and walking around…

For Ruby, it was one of those nights when sniffin’ and walking around was actually fun again. The snow was gone and so was the ice. Ruby was having a time of it.

But apparently, that wasn’t how the humans saw it. They were getting panicky. Caleb was out there, too, and he shares his observations below:

I was out there, too, and things got pretty weird.

So three humans were outside wandering around in the dark with headlamps and flashlights, looking for Ruby. There was no point in calling because they knew Ruby wouldn’t be able to hear. They were getting more and more worried. And meanwhile, Ruby was just sniffin’ and walking around, minding her own business and having a good time.

What happened next was very emotional for the humans. Ruby was discovered over in the field, pretty far from the house, past the grape arbors and heading toward the woods. She wasn’t at the edge of the deep, dark woods yet, but that’s where her paws appeared to be taking her. The humans were SO relieved and happy.

And for Ruby, well, here’s the rest of the story, from Ruby’s perspective…

That was the end of Ruby’s big adventure. The humans agree that it was SO lucky that Ruby was found before she wandered into the woods. And meanwhile, the dogs agree that human behavior is sometimes just weird.

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My Father’s Voice

Early this morning, while it was still dark outside, I was awakened by my father’s voice calling my name. Coming suddenly full awake I was disoriented. What had just happened? What had I just heard?

It was definitely his voice and definitely my name — just the single word — nothing more.

Some history.

Dad got us up in the morning. Mom kept us awake at night. That was just the way it was. The older I got, the more resistant I was to the whole morning process. I’d answer and go back to sleep.

So the process evolved. By high school days, when Dad called my name, it wasn’t enough to just acknowledge that I’d heard. No, he insisted that I get out of bed and look down our stairwell. He, on the first floor, needed to see me on the third floor, peering sleepily down on him. That reassured him that I was actually up and awake. I hated it.

Then he’d leave for work.

And as I thought about this just now, I wondered what it felt like for him to complete this daily ritual. What worries prompted his calling out. Clearly, he saw it as his responsibility to make sure that we were starting our day before he left.

And he cared.

Oh, and just as clearly, he knew that Mom wasn’t up to that task. Anyway, his voice, back in the day, became like the buzz of an alarm clock. It was irritating as hell.

And now I see that the sound offered some normalcy as the new day started. No matter what had happened the night before, you could count on it.


Last night before going to bed, I watched a bit of MSNBC. There was Amy Klobuchar endorsing Joe Biden. Then came Beto O’Rourke. Joe spoke and then I went to bed.

Next thing I remember is Dad’s voice waking me in the dark.

These last three years have been a stressful and chaotic hell. And I don’t use that word lightly. I long ago made the connection between the crazed Trump presidency and the dysfunction that I grew up with. There’s a straight line from the orange miasma to sleep disturbance and elevated blood pressure. And I’m sure that’s true for lots and lots of folks in this country and around the world.

The personal is political, yes, AND the political is personal.

And then there was my father’s voice this morning. Another straight line, I’m thinking. This one runs directly from Joe Biden to the small spark of steadiness and normalcy that kept us all afloat through the 1950’s and ’60’s.

I’m not talking about promises or policies or values or electability. And I’m definitely not talking about nostalgia for ‘simpler times.’ Nothing MAGA here. No, it’s something more elemental and personal than that.

My father’s voice offered a toehold in a new day. That’s really all. And on an emotional level, that’s where Joe comes in for me.

Nothing big and nothing magical.

Back on Park Road in the 1960’s I climbed out of whatever craziness the night had held and did what I needed to do. It was often grudging and seldom very pretty. And no matter what happened during the day, there was still and always a lot of chaos to contend with back at home.

But there was also Dad’s voice, calling me. An annoying-and-ultimately-appreciated constant in my life, insisting that I get up and peer over the banister so he’d know I was awake.

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One More Time, With Feeling

I just published a draft post that had been sitting untended on my dashboard since November, and am now gearing up to get back into this game, encouraged by my kind blogger friend over at The Cozy Burrow. (Alice, I think you’d enjoy this blog.)

I seem to have lost some confidence, either in my writing skills or my ability to have original thoughts, somewhere along the line. The onslaught of terrible news, coupled with the degradation of our common language (and mine right along with it), has contributed to my discouraged silence.

To regain my footing, I’ve been doing more pen and paper writing over this recent period of time, and it has helped. There’s no doubt that writing takes practice, as does thinking. And I had been digging myself some pretty deep ruts, especially on the thinking front over these recent months.

My thinking, over time, had pretty much devolved to “Fuck you!” There was some satisfaction in tweeting that to Trump back in 2017. But more recently I find that I need to step away from that rut and find a different path and a different frame for hopefulness.

So now, as the days lengthen and there’s room to stretch and expand a bit, I want to give this another try. I’ll aim to start small and proceed from there.

And I know I’ve lied to you before. Not sure what I can say about that, except sorry!

Oh, and by the way I did finish Blowout and Jayber Crow — both excellent books that I recommend highly.

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I’ve been listening, off and on, since driving to NY in early October, to Rachel Maddow’s book Blowout. The full and much more informative title is Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth.

It’s a disturbing and highly engaging experience. Maddow weaves together seemingly disparate threads in a narrative that you just know is going to get tied together at the end. Like her opening monologues, the elements can be a bit confounding at first. There’s Rex Tillerson, Vladimir Putin, the Sochi Olympics, fracking, oligarchs in Ukraine, and yes, even the pudgy orange miasma.

And it’s remarkable to me how theories about the hidden hand of corporate control — theories that seemed slightly paranoid and fantastical in college — actually were pretty realistic. I always suspected as much.

In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia – including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove – was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events, and Rachel Maddow follows it to its crooked source: the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry.

From a review of the book…

Don’t those gilded toilets sound familiar?

They might not be the Illuminati, but there certainly seems to be a web of hungry corporations and crime-boss oligarchs vying with governments for power. And, it appears they’re quite good at exploiting fears of the ‘other’ to enlist the loyalty of folks whose necks are actually under these dudes’ tassel-loafered feet.

As an antidote to the all-too-true horrors of Blowout, I have also been reading Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow and am excited that there are so many books to explore that are centered in Port William. In this world of angst and acrimony, there’s something so grounding and calming about the simple ways of everyday life. This isn’t to deny the realities of the world, but we each have to find sustenance somewhere.

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Transparency, Thy Name is Trump

It seems an odd way to describe the swamp creature who inhabits the White House. But he actually is very transparent. Not in the sense of being authentic or honest, but rather transparent because he is so primitive and he blurts out his projections like prophecies.

And they are. Prophetic projections.

Indeed, anyone who debates Trump (if he is around to run in the next election and has the wherewithal to actually debate) should just say, over and over:

“I’m rubber you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you!”

Childhood taunt appropriate for usage with Drumpf at all times.

You can thank me, whenever — no rush.

His comments on the recent death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are a case in point:

“He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.”

Sounds like how Donnie might be feeling about the impeachment inquiry…

“The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.”

Adam and Nancy are coming and you’re in a dead-end tunnel, Donnie.

“The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel, and he had dragged three of his young children with him. They were led to certain death.”

Eric, Ivanka and Junior, you might want to take some precautions.

I could go on and on. The fakery of Trump is also so incredibly apparent. His photo in the Situation Room looks absolutely staged. Here he is, essentially a little boy bully trying to look all adult and thoughtful and serious, surrounded by others who often seem to be trying to do the same. (I imagine his jaw must hurt from all the clenching. Meanwhile, look how Pence is straining to stay focused and repress his attraction to national security adviser Robert O’Brien, in the reddish tie.)

Very serious grown-ups.

Contrast this with a photo of Obama in the Situation Room that’s been making the rounds since the Trump play-acting. It shows human beings who are actually concerned — not about how they look but about what is happening on the other side of the globe to other human beings. Pretty stark.

Actual grown-ups.

So after his big announcement (and I don’t mean to make light of what happened, only of the clownish and transparent egocentricity of the messenger), Trump had to go to Game 5 of the World Series.

There, where unlike at his rallies, he had absolutely no control over the ‘audience’ he was loudly and decisively booed. You can hear the fans first applauding some veterans who were being honored. Then the camera shifts to Trump. It was a decisive change in tone that went a long way toward restoring my faith in us!

There were also chants of “Lock him up” — echoing another prescient prognostication or portentous prophecy made by this pusillanimous @POTUS.

Here endeth the lesson…

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