Category Archives: Observe & Ponder

Beware of Tick-Infested Acorns

Who knew Oak trees ladened with acorns could result in Lyme disease?

In 1969, the first case of Lyme disease in the U.S. was discovered in a grouse hunter from Wisconsin.

But the disease didn’t get its name until 1975, when there was an outbreak in children from Lyme, Connecticut.  And then in 1982, the bacteria responsible for causing the disease was finally identified.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website states that in 2009 95% of reported cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. occurred in the following 12 states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, and Virginia.

According to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, a bumper crop of acorns could be putting the U.S. on the brink of an unprecedented outbreak of Lyme disease. Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute, estimates that 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, but that the illness is now on track to being the worst in 2017.

Because acorns are a critical food for white-footed mice, as acorn production surges, mouse population climbs, giving rise to more disease-carrying ticks. White-tailed deer also feed on acorns.

The mice and deer both carry ticks that drop off in the winter. The following year the female ticks lay their eggs and hatch larval ticks. Those larval ticks become infected when they feed on the mice and deer, so the whole process takes about two years.

Additionally, the Lyme bacteria has also been found in Eastern chipmunks, short-tailed shrews, coyotes, raccoons, rabbits, and feral cats. Domestic animals including cats, dogs, cattle, and horses can also become infected.  The bacteria have also been found in many bird species including but not limited to the ring-necked pheasant, mallard, wild turkey, house wren, song thrush, American robin, gray catbird, song sparrow, and house sparrow.

With no Lyme disease vaccine available for humans there is not much that can be done to prevent the illness except for the standard anti-tick measures like head to toe clothing when in the woods and diligent tick-checks. There are Lyme disease vaccines available for pets.

Ticks can be as tiny as a pin prick, and easy to miss. Not everyone gets a rash, and flu-like symptoms are easily overlooked and/or misdiagnosed.

Bottom line? Stay far away from acorns.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Hamlet, in the Shakespearean play of the same name, was despondent and feigning when he declared: “To sleep, perchance to dream–ay, there’s the rub…”

The prince contemplated suicide, although in the end he was poisoned by Laertes, and not by his own hand.

I have always preferred my own interpretation of Hamlet’s words though: That a sleep full of dreams might help to offset troubles and sufferings in life.

A pair of papers was recently published in the journal Science, offering evidence that we sleep to forget some of the things that happen to us each day.

Sleep to forget. Maybe that’s all that the heartbroken Hamlet wanted to do, and then, perchance, to dream.

I am not a good sleeper. I lay awake each and every night with a million thoughts running in and out of my brain.

And when I am lucky enough to catch a break, and fall into a deep sleep, I have some sicko, frightful, extremely detailed dream that never seems to end.

Most times I forget them by morning, although when the dreams wake me up in the middle of the night, with my body drenched in sweat, and my heart pounding out of my chest, I recall them all too vividly. And as I lay there shaking in my bed, I analyze what in my life is causing such terrifying phantasms.

People have been pondering the meaning of dreams for centuries. Sigmund Freud’s theory centered around the idea that dreaming allows for the sorting through of unresolved events, and/or repressed issues.

Sleep to forget. Dream to sort through issues.

I recently purchased a book about interpreting dreams. My interest was less about the interpretation and more about Freud’s take on things: Produce a dream based upon a particular issue or event.

There was a section in the book that provided instruction on how to provoke a dreaming state of mind.

Remarkably, I was successfully able to sleep, and then elicit, not one but five dreams using the techniques from the book.

Here’s how I did it.

The book first emphasized that unemotional focus was key, and that it may take several nights in a row to produce the dreaming state, although it took me only one.

It was also recommended to view any problems or events from a distance.

Additionally, the book suggested that if you didn’t have a specific problem or dilemma, but just wanted to look farther into the future, the same process would apply.

The most important part of the exercise was not to think too hard or worse, overly obsess about the issue at hand, because that would only thwart sleep, and result in wakefulness.

The advice was to analyze the event or problem from an objective point of view and purposefully remove yourself from the issue altogether.

The goal was not to try to solve anything, but instead to focus on the issue itself, in the hopes of working through it in your dream state.

The bottom line was to specifically focus on what it was you wanted to zero in on before you fell asleep.

And most importantly, make sure to keep a pen and paper next to your bed so you can write down all of the elements and particulars about your dream as soon as you awake.

Since dreams are mostly fleeting, they need to be written down in as much detail as possible.

So that first night, prior to falling asleep, I placed a pen and some paper on my nightstand. Then I tried to remove all thoughts from my mind and as the book instructed, forced myself to totally relax.

Next I thought about something that had been bothering me terribly, but I did it without emotion, and didn’t try to solve anything.

And I didn’t place any blame or ask myself why it was happening.

I merely pinpointed the issue, and then began to analyze some of the aspects of the situation.

I first asked myself what the dilemma was about. Then I asked myself how it made me feel, and who was involved.

As I organized my thoughts and feelings, I kept pushing and pressing my psyche to gain clarity through slumber.

And then I must have fallen asleep.

Because I need to protect my situations and events, as well as the people involved, I am going to be somewhat vague about the dreams I had.

But I will tell you that there was nothing remotely vague about my dreams that night. And my five dreams were broken up. I had one, and then wrote that one down. I was awake enough to write, and excited at the eliciting of the dream itself.

And then I had the second and third together. And once I wrote those down, I fell into a deep sleep, and then came the fourth and then the fifth dreams, which I wrote down, quickly falling asleep in between them.

When I awoke the next morning, I was well rested but at first extremely disoriented and groggy.

I had all but forgotten the dreams until I read what I had written down, and was stunned that the entire night of dreams shockingly tied in with many of the situations I so desperately needed to sort through.

Here they are:

Dream One: There were two calendar dates, one was in March, the other in July. In my dream I was very afraid I would forget them both. One seemed more important than the other, and in the dream I actually analyzed whether there was really only one date that I needed to focus on, but just in case, and to cover any possibility, I needed to remember both. I was obsessed with the dates.

[I can only tell you here that I woke up at about 2 a.m. and wrote both dates down. The date in March turned out to be freakily significant. Since the other date doesn’t happen until July, I won’t know if it is significant or not.]

Dream Two: It was a bad storm, and the rain was whipping like this: ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Blinding, crazy rain. I needed to get to the beach, to be with a girl. I didn’t know who the girl was, but she was important to me. I knew I shouldn’t drive in such bad weather, but it was imperative that I be with this girl.  I kept asking myself that once I got to the girl, how would we be able to sit outside in this violent tempest? I kept asking myself that question over and over again. The wind and rain would make it extremely dangerous to travel, but I felt I had to go, that I needed to go, no matter what.

Dream Three: I was standing on a balcony, high up in a building, staring at the churning ocean. There was a path in between the water and the building. A path of sand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

water

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

l                         l

l                         l

l                         l

l mom/child l

l                         l

l                         l

l                         l

_____________________________________________________________                                                                                                                       me
______________________________________________________________

A mother and her child were walking toward the building. I didn’t know them but I was nervous that they should get away from the water, get closer to the building. The water was rough, and I was afraid for them.

Dream four: I told a loved one (I will call the loved one “X”) that I was going on vacation. X called me on the phone to say that while I was away X was going to have a few friends over. I told X that I didn’t care about the friends coming over but that I needed to trust X and that X needed to be responsible. I told X that X never calls and the last time I saw X was over a year ago. I started to cry and told X I needed to get off the phone.

Dream five: A woman got a disease on a ship and a man was sitting next to her and consoling her. He put a blanket on her and set it up like a tent to keep her warm and then sat under it with her. He kept talking to her and reassuring her. Then some boat staff came by and said they had to remove all of the dead bodies. The woman thought she was alive, but they thought she was dead. They poured gasoline everywhere, on suitcases that were strewn all around, and on the deck, as well, and were getting ready to light everything up. As the woman watched, they pulled the man away.

[Even though my dreams were frightening, I woke up calm, and at peace and I am looking forward to trying it again tonight.]

$95 a Month for Health Insurance and You Voted for Trump?

I promised myself and my readers that I would not talk about anything political again.

Sorry, I can’t help myself. I tried, and well, it didn’t work.

So here goes:

There was an article today in the New York Times about what people in Utah pay to be part of the Affordable Care Act (A.C.A.).

First things first. And I repeat: The AFFORDABLE CARE ACT.

Please call it what it is, and stop calling it Obamacare. He’s history. And if the Republicans have anything to do with it, so is the A.C.A.

But I divert.

According to the New York Times article, one woman in Utah receives an A.C.A. subsidy, and then pays $95 per month (a whopping 51% increase from $47 in 2016), with a $2,500 deductible. This woman pays under $4,000 a year for insurance. And that’s horrible because?

Just to be clear, I never had a real issue with the A.C.A. People need insurance. I get that. And I’m not putting this woman down for being on it at all.

And this 30-year-old woman, who doesn’t make a lot of money, voted for Clinton. And the poor thing has breast cancer. So I feel for her. I really do.

But Trump won the state of Utah with 45% of the vote compared to 27% for Clinton. (21% went to an Independent.)

Here’s a second statistical doozy from the same article:

Another mother in Utah pays $75 per month for a plan that covers her family of three. That’s after her subsidy of $558. She didn’t mention what her deductible is. She is 39-years-old and also has breast cancer. She voted for Trump. She was quoted as saying that her voting for Trump was “one of the biggest regrets of my life.” She now feels like plenty of other Americans who are part of the A.C.A. and who voted for Trump.

Too little too late.

And according to the Times article, plenty of the people who voted for Trump in Utah participate in the A.C.A. health plan. And now they are concerned and afraid. Big league.

This is not fake news. This is the “sad” truth. And easy to understand. Buyer’s remorse. We’ve all experienced it.

But what I don’t understand is  why people whose lives and families depended upon getting critical health care via the A.C.A. voted for Trump, knowing full well he was going to “repeal and replace.”

They trusted Trump? The liar he already showed himself to be time and time again?

So when Trump gets out there and tells the American people that the increases in the A.C.A. are HUUUGE, take a gander at the statistic above. In the first example I mentioned, the 30-year-old woman, who has cancer, is paying 51% more for insurance than last year.  From $47 to $95.

And then there is the regular Joe Schmo, like me, who has too high an income to qualify for the A.C.A.  He too is from Utah and has a wife and three children. He pays a premium of $1,200 per month. That’s over $14,000 per year. The Times didn’t say what his deductible is. I’m sure it’s very high.

He was quoted in the New York Times as saying “Doesn’t feel like insurance. Feels like punishment.”

Amen.

So, here’s my question. IF YOU PARTICIPATE IN THE A.C.A. PROGRAM, WHY DID YOU VOTE FOR TRUMP?

Whatever the reason, Trump supporters clearly didn’t do their health care homework.

Lesson to be learned right?

Except for this: An A.C.A. repeal will likely affect access to badly needed programs for Americans with mental illness and drug addiction. And even though many of the states with the largest population of opioid drug abusers overwhelmingly voted for Trump, that would be devastating.

Many Trump voters are now making it clear that they will not support any plan that deprives them of the health care they desperately need, and now have.

And how about those people who might never have, like the catastrophic effect a repeal will have on Americans 50-64 who have not yet become eligible for Medicare.

What will happen to those folks?

Democrat Senator of West Virginia, Joe Manchin recently said it best: “Voters may not know how they got their health care, but they sure will know who took it away.”

Oh, and a shout-out to the Republicans in office: GOOD LUCK WITH THAT REPEALING AND REPLACING TASK.

 

Happy 90th Birthday Sidney Poitier


On February 20, 1927, Sidney Poitier was born in Miami, Florida. His parents were poor immigrant farmers from the Bahamas, where he and his family eventually returned.

When he was 15, he moved back to Florida, eventually making his way to New York’s Harlem where he became a dishwasher.

He served in the army, and then joined the American Negro Theater working there as a janitor in exchange for drama training.

In 1961, while the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was organizing the “Freedom Ride” Poitier appeared in his first major movie appearance when he played Walter Lee Younger in A Raisin in the Sun. While Poitier’s fictional character was mired in neighborhood tensions over interracial population in Chicago, the original Freedom Riders were being beaten by mobs in several places, including Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama.

The movie was terrific, but Poitier and the film didn’t get much attention. If you haven’t seen the movie, I strongly urge you to do so.

Two years later, a quarter of a million people participated in the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, and heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech.

That same year, Poitier starred as Homer Smith in the 1963 movie Lilies of the Field, and he was finally recognized as the star he was. The story of an African American itinerant worker who encounters a group of East German nuns in Arizona, who believe Smith has been sent to them by God to build them a new chapel, hit moviegoers hard.

I will never forget the last scene of the film, with Smith slipping quietly away into the night.

I recall my mom weeping next to me in the theater, and my grandmother later telling me “things were changing.”

Changing, indeed. The movie debuted just one month before Kennedy’s assassination.

Poitier’s role as Smith earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor, making him the first African-American man to win the honor.

I saw both movies as a child, but to be honest, I was too young to fully understand the importance of the films, or how talented Poitier was.

It wasn’t until 1967 when I was fourteen that I fell in love with Poitier in his role as a high school teacher in To Sir With Love, a British drama film that dealt with social and racial issues in an inner city school.

It was also in 1967 that the changing times had divided most Americans into “them” and “us.”  Following a police raid on a black power hangout, Detroit erupted into the worst race riots our country had ever experienced, with 43 people dead—33 African Americans and 10 whites. Hundreds of racial disturbances were reported across the country that year, including major riots in Tampa, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Newark, Plainfield and Brunswick, New Jersey, which killed at least 83 people. It was also the year that Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title for resisting military draft as a Muslim minister in the Nation of Islam.

I am embarrassed to say that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend any of it.

But To Sir With Love left an indelible mark on me and forever changed my view of black vs. white.

Poitier played teacher Mark Thackeray, and it was the first crush I ever had on an actor.

I can still vividly recall when at their end of the school year class dance there was a “ladies choice,” and tough girl Pamela chose Thackeray as her dance partner. That scene hands down just blew me away.

The film’s title song “To Sir With Love,” sung by Lulu (who played the unforgettable Barbara Pegg in the movie), reached number one on the U.S. pop charts.  I can’t tell you how many thousands of times I played that 45 record. (See the YouTube video of it below.)

In the same year, Poitier followed up with In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, where he starred opposite Katharine Hepburn, as a black man in love with a white woman.

Art indeed imitated life—the film debuted the same year that the Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage in the landmark case Loving v. Virginia.

The lyrics of To Sir With Love ended with “A friend who taught me right from wrong
and weak from strong, that’s a lot to learn.”

But if I’ve learned anything, it’s something my French-American grandmother used to tell me over and over again: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.   The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Happy 90th Birthday Sidney.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8-M_wg8AI4

Not a Creature Was Stirring, Not Even a Mouse

What’s your very first memory?

I often ask this question to family, friends, and colleagues.

The answer to my question never fails to enlighten me and speaks volumes about the person remembering.

Here’s mine:

My First Memory—December 25, 1957

It was late Christmas night and Mammy, (pronounced May-me), and I were sitting on the couch admiring what I thought was a truly magnificent Christmas tree.

Mammy was my grandmother—my surrogate mother. My mom was divorced, and very young when she had me, so Mammy was raising us both. I never knew my father.

Mammy used to explain to me that when I was a baby I was confused and couldn’t figure out who was the Mom.  Mammy used to call herself Grammy around me, but when I was old enough to speak, I bestowed upon her the weird name of Mammy.

According to Mammy, at ten or so months old I had brilliantly managed to come up with a name that was a cross between Grammy and Mommy.

Mammy was also divorced, so I never knew my grandfather. And Grammy Nadeau, my great grandmother, was a widow and lived with us too.  And like my father and grandfather, I never knew my great grandfather either. Grammy Nadeau was sleeping that Christmas night and my mom was on a date.

Mammy was busily crocheting an afghan. Almost sixty years later I still have that afghan. I curl up with it nearly every night and wrap myself in Mammy’s memory.

Back to my first memory: Christmas night 1957.

I was four years old, and my head rested on Mammy’s shoulder. I was trying to be especially quiet because Mammy was preoccupied with her crocheting, and I was hoping that if she forgot that I was there, I could stay up a little later. I closed my eyes and was drifting off until Mammy began to softly poke my arm.

When I looked up at Mammy, she had a mischievous look on her face, as she put her finger up to her mouth to shush me. She then took her finger off her lips and pointed toward the tree.

So I took Mammy’s cue and gazed at our sparsely decorated tree, adorned with a single strand of blinking lights, a teensy bit of tinsel and a few ornaments, most of them home-made.

Underneath the tree sat my treasured present from Santa Claus.  She was the most beautiful doll I had ever seen. I named her China because she had the silkiest long, shiny black hair, and a flawless porcelain face.  It must have been an expensive doll—much more than Mammy or Mommy could afford.

Anyway, China was sitting under the tree, wearing a red organza pinafore that Mammy sewed for her which to my delight perfectly matched the red Christmas dress she had designed for me.

As I sat looking curiously at the doll under the tree, wondering why Mammy was pointing and shushing, I noticed a tiny mouse sniffing around China. I looked up at Mammy terrified, but she was smiling ever so softly, still shushing me with her pursed lips.

So I looked back at the mouse with a different eye—from Mammy’s tender perspective.

As a child, I was entirely molded by those three women in my life. What they saw I saw. What they felt, I felt.

Mammy had no problem with the little mouse—it was just a baby after all, and so I was all right with it too.

The mouse sniffed around my doll and then snuggled in its lap.

I looked at Mammy’s bright and smiling face, as she lightly kissed her index finger and then playfully touched the tip of my nose with it.

Taking my cue from Mammy, I lay my head back on her shoulder, watched the baby mouse sleeping and then closed my eyes, and drifted into my own peaceful sleep.

 

Drinking Alcohol. How Much Is Too Much?

I recently went to my allergist to be retested for certain fruits that have lately been causing me extreme stomach pain, lip throbbing, nausea, and internal palpitations.

As I breezed through filling out the medical forms, one question, in particular, gave me pause. How many alcoholic beverages do you have a week on average? I lied. Bigly.

After my tests, my doctor wrote down the following fruits to avoid: Cherries, blackberries, peaches, plums, and grapes.

She further explained that as part of getting older, my body chemistry is going through a change, thus all of the new allergies I have developed. The cursed female change wasn’t enough? And hello. DID MY ALLERGIST JUST SAY TO AVOID GRAPES?????

“What about wine?” I asked her hesitantly.

“Yeah, I’d definitely stay away from wine for a while,” she said like it was no biggie.

Whoa. Stay away from the vino?

Before I could fully process her suggestion, my allergist followed it up with: “As a matter of fact, I would like you to stay away from all alcoholic beverages for at least a month.”

I was speechless, so I just gave her a super ugly grimace.

Yikes! Her dictate swirled around in my head. This is what she’s asking me to do a week before Christmas???????

Could I actually go cold turkey for a whopping four weeks?

Okay, maybe I could, but definitely not until after the New Year.

After the New Year, I reiterated to myself. But not a day before.

Okay, so I’m at the allergist because my stomach pain is so bad I can’t sleep, I’m throwing up in the middle of the night, my lips are regularly throbbing and swelling, and I have an incessant metal taste in my mouth.

And I’m resisting my doctor’s recommendation, because?

My brain was turning and churning. As I mentally processed if, how and when to stop drinking, I asked myself: Why do I drink?

Easy enough to answer.

I drink to relax, I drink to celebrate. I drink to calm down. I drink when I’m lonely. I drink because it’s hump day, Friday and Saturday. I drink because it’s Monday. I drink because it’s snowing, storming, sunny, cloudy. I drink because it’s my birthday. I drink because it’s someone else’s birthday. I drink because it’s Mother’s Day. I drink because it’s Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve… Dang, I drink for any old reason.  Plain and simple: I like to drink…in a boat, with a goat, in the rain, on a train, in a house, with a mouse. Here there and anywhere.

My allergist interrupted my rambling thoughts: “It seems to me that you’re unnecessarily obsessing over my suggestion. If having a drink is that big of a deal, and you can’t let it go, then have one drink, and don’t beat yourself up over it.”

Gee, thanks, Doc. One measly cocktail.

I responded to my doctor with: “One drink a day? One drink a month? Define one drink.”

“Remember that this is your decision and your decision alone,” she replied. “You’re in control.”

“I’m not sure I am in control,” I weakly blurted out, shocking myself at my honest candor.

And therein was the elephant-in-the-room question: Was I in control of my drinking or was my drinking in control of me?

“Go home, think about it, and do some research,” my allergist suggested as she led me out of her office.

And as most of you know, I am the fact-finding Queen. So I dug right in…

Below is everything I wanted or needed to know about alcohol abuse but was afraid (or just didn’t give a hoot) to ask:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate drinking is defined as up to 7 drinks a week for women and 14 drinks per week for men. [There goes that gender gap again.]

Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks per week for women, and 15 or more drinks per week for men. [Eight lousy drinks per week? Uh-oh.]

Binge drinking, the most common form of excessive drinking, is defined as consuming 4 or more drinks during a single occasion for women, and 5 or more drinks during a single occasion for men. [Do the number of hours per a single occasion change this statistic up at all?]

In the United States, a standard drink contains 1.2 tablespoons of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in:

  • 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content). [Don’t drink it. Don’t care.]
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content). [What’s a malt?]
  • 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content). [Aren’t there 8 fluid ounces to a cup?]
  • 5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey). [Yikes, no wonder those martinis always do me in.]

Most people who drink excessively are not alcoholics or alcohol dependent.  [Whew. Good to know.]

The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2010 were estimated at $249 billion, or $2.05 a drink. [what’s a couple of bucks here and there?]

Okay, I was on a research roll. So I kept on trolling:

    • Do you really want a drink or are you drinking out of habit? [To be clear, I really want a drink.]
    • We live in a very boozy world. [You got that right Jack!]
    • Being sober does not mean you have to spend the rest of your days living like a nun. [Then why am I feeling one with Mother Theresa?]
    • If you look carefully, you’ll see there are loads of people out there leading full and happy lives without alcohol. [Carefully is the operative word.]
    • A glass of wine has similar calories to a slice of cake. [I’d rather drink my calories. Just sayin.]
    • The body can’t store alcohol, so it metabolizes it right away and gives it priority slowing down your metabolism. [As Bob Dylan would say: The slowest now will later be fast.]
    • The Arthritis Foundation has linked alcohol to inflammation of the joints resulting in arthritis. [So what if I can’t open a jar? That’s what husbands are for.]

All kidding aside, after my extensive research, I decided to dip my probably arthritic toe into the no alcohol water. No plunging head first for me, though. Not yet anyway.

Starting today, until January 2nd, I have imposed a new alcohol rule on myself: No more than one glass of wine a day, any three days per week. And never two days in a row. So the end result is that I am going to consume no more than three glasses of wine per week through January 1st. Yes, I can, yes I can.

Okay, I hope I can, I hope I can.

And on January 2nd? I’ll keep you posted on that.

Donald Trump and Sexual Healing

sexual-abuse
Michelle Obama’s epic and deeply emotional speech denouncing Trump’s predatory language about how powerful men can do anything they want to women was the impetus for writing this blog post.

To be honest, this post has been in the making for what seems like forever.

The untold thousands of accumulated words painfully written here there and everywhere.

Some boldly stated in a diary, a folder, a Word document. Some more subtly hidden in a poem, a painting, a short story.

But ironically, Trump’s own words bragging about sexually assaulting women both infuriated and invigorated me to come out and finally say what I’ve wanted to shout from the rooftops for decades.

Okay, maybe shouting it out would still be too painful and way too shocking to those who know me, but don’t really know me.

Baby steps, I reminded myself as I tossed and turned in the middle of the night for the past week or so.

The question of “Why wait for decades before coming forward?” has dominated the recent airwaves.

Why would any woman wait for years to speak out against a man who has helped himself to her body parts against her will?

It’s a valid question, although I’m certain that if a woman is asking it, she has never been a victim of sexual assault or molestation.

Because if she had been one of the “unfortunates,” she would know the answer.

Like maybe they’re heartbreakingly too young to understand, or too frightened to speak up.

How about the fear of retribution or victim shaming? Or the accusations of scheming, man-baiting, lying, exaggerating?

Perhaps they don’t want to be shunned or rejected by their community, friends, family, or permanently branded as “used goods.”

Or maybe they’re not tough enough to fight the battle, the war of words, the degradation, the self-loathing, the guilt, the never-ending nightmare.

Michelle Obama’s quavering words salved my scorching soul and pretty much said it all: “I can’t stop thinking about this… It has shaken me to the core…no woman deserves to be treated this way…The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman… It’s that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them or forced himself on them, and they’ve said no but he didn’t listen …This is not normal…it is cruel. It’s frightening…It hurts.”

And then Trump’s response which sent chills through my body: “I’ll take all of these slings and arrows, gladly for you,” he bellowed as the audience roared with cheers.

Sure Donald, play the victim. Call it a conspiracy. Label your accusers as liars, unattractive, desperate for attention. That’s what accused men do.

Baby steps. One foot in front of the other.

I didn’t think Trump could ever say anything that would resonate with me, but I couldn’t have said it better myself when he uttered these words: “They will seek to destroy everything about you…they will lie, lie, lie, and then again, they will do worse than that.”

Yes, I agree with you, Donald. But not in the way you would want me to.

Because your “they” and my “they” are what sets us apart.

And to the Trump supporters, I say: Yes, indeed. Your man Trump speaks the truth for once.

After “they” seek to destroy, “they” will lie, and then “they” will do worse.

Baby steps…

The Midtown Tunnel and Second Avenue Gridlock Fiasco

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Photo: View of Second Avenue traffic leading into Queens Midtown Tunnel

Yesterday my husband and I drove into Manhattan from our house on the Queens border. We left at 4:15 pm, in plenty of time to make a 6:45 pm wedding at the Pierre Hotel on 61st and Fifth Avenue. The distance from our home to 61st Street is 20.3 miles and should take approximately fifty minutes with traffic, but one never knows what to expect, so we tuned into WCBS 880 radio as we always do.

The traffic report said one lane was closed in both directions at the Midtown Tunnel but did not report any significant traffic congestion so we assumed mild delays, and decided to take that route into the city. As we approached the Midtown Tunnel, approximately 1/4 of a mile away from the toll booths, the traffic was appallingly at a complete standstill.

We inched along for close to two hours before we finally got to the toll booths. As we waited to go through, I asked a traffic officer, who was busy eating a bag of potato chips, what the problem was. She curtly answered, “One lane going into Manhattan.” I replied to her that the situation was disgraceful.

Since we had nothing better to do under the East River, we tuned in again and again to WCBS 880 for their traffic report, shocked that this melee wasn’t major traffic news.

Despite tens of thousands of cars literally at a standstill in and around the tunnel, the traffic report said absolutely nothing about the situation except that there were delays due to lane closures.

Delays? This was a complete traffic meltdown.

I was astounded that no traffic officers were assisting in the chaos of the five lanes of crawling snarling traffic in front of us. Cabs were blocking two lanes, drivers were angrily sideswiping each other, and everyone was aggressively maneuvering to be the next vehicle to gain access to the one lane going to Manhattan. It was the worst traffic congestion I have ever witnessed, and it was not only alarming but potentially dangerous.

Now I don’t know the pecking order of what the bridge and tunnel officers can and can’t do. But it seems to me that thousands upon thousands of motionless vehicles for miles, a snarl-up of drivers fighting to get into the tunnel, and the tunnel jam packed and unmoving, should evoke action on someone’s part, don’t you think?

And I would hope that one of the many officers I saw standing around near the toll booths, including the woman who was eating a bag of chips, was in charge. One of those officers working at the tunnel had to know what was happening at the entrance and the exit of the tunnel, right?

Since the traffic in, out and around the tunnel was at a dead stop, it would seem to me that anyone with a brain would know that something was amiss, no?

As my husband wound his way in and out of traffic, almost getting sideswiped numerous times, intently and courageously attempting to get into the one lousy tunnel lane, I kept asking myself why there wasn’t anyone directing traffic.

Put your bag of potato chips down, and do something.

Once we got into the tunnel, we crawled through it for almost an hour. It was evident as we sat in an automotive deadlock in the dark, dank, claustrophobic tunnel for four to five minutes at a shot, then inch forward for a few feet, then back to a dead stop, that there must be something very wrong happening at the exit.

As the fumes from the other cars began to seep into our vehicle, I was fuming with anger and frustration.

This is what’s wrong with our country, I kept saying to myself. No infrastructure, total mismanagement, and a complete lack of respect for others.

Was it possible that no one in charge was aware that the Midtown Tunnel was at a complete standstill?

When we finally got out of the tunnel, there were two officers mostly ineffectively directing traffic in two directions:  Left, or right to 39th Street. One traffic officer would have been sufficient. Send the other one somewhere else. We regrettably turned right.

It was no surprise to us that there were no traffic officers at 39th Street and 2nd Avenue, where hundreds of cars were trying to exit the tunnel and cross over. And from the gridlock on 2nd Avenue, it was disappointingly obvious there were no traffic officers anywhere in the vicinity.

The cars on 2nd Avenue were completely lawless, with no regard for their fellow drivers, and blatantly ignored the yellow and red lights. The gridlock on 2nd Avenue was bumper to bumper, which did not allow for one car to get across it—thus the real problem at the Midtown Tunnel.

This massive traffic jam was not caused by lane closures. The real traffic culprit was that there was absolutely no way to exit the Midtown Tunnel because of the clogging of 2nd Avenue.  A handful of traffic officers could have solved most of the problem.

Now I am usually a very calm person, but I was beyond incensed at the massive traffic jam, the disgraceful mismanagement and complete lack of consideration and planning for the Midtown Tunnel lane closures, as well as not one officer on duty to direct 2nd Avenue traffic.

We finally arrived at the Pierre Hotel around 8 pm, an almost four-hour odyssey to travel less than 21 miles. Needless to say, we missed the wedding ceremony and the cocktail reception. I was so carbon monoxided out, I could barely enjoy the rest of the evening.

Am I the only one who is furious and exasperated by the complete lack of management, bad judgment, utter disrespect and ambivalence for drivers, and the enabling of vehicle lawlessness?

I don’t know who’s to blame: Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, the New York state legislature, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, the MTA?

What I do know is that the lack of proper management and policies will continue to condemn New York City to years of epic traffic dysfunction.

Shame on all of them.

What to Do About Writer’s Block

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As a writer, I should be writing and as a blogger, I should be blogging, right?

Not.

These past few weeks, I have been making myself crazy trying to pull together a compelling blog post for The Teri Tome or a thought provoking article for my website worldpress.org.

It seems that I have everything yet nothing to share with my readers.

Because unfortunately the topics I want to blog about, or the situations around the world I want to highlight, don’t seem to be anything anyone cares about.

And all those familial memories I thought I could courageously share with my followers have become harder and harder to write. My “situations” that I have in the past been able to  articulate quite well, have been of late hurtfully gnawing at me and starting to feel too painful and too personal.

Have I lost my creative passion? Where’s the joy, the humor, the gut-wrenching irony?

I need to get my writing mojo back!  And fast!

So this morning, I figured I would jot down on a sheet of paper a few topics that have been floating around in my head. Lay out my ideas by hand, and you know, see if any of them have legs.

Here is what I came up with.

Trump’s love of Putin
At first, it sounded like the subject could work, but the truth is, Trump’s love of Putin can be covered in two quicky sentences. If Trump were a Russian citizen, he would be either dirt poor, dead or in prison. It doesn’t take a genius, or even Trump to know that if you live in Russia and don’t share your money with Putin, you’re probably going to be arrested, or poisoned.

Trying to lose those last five pounds
Everybody loves a diet story. But try as I might, I can’t lose the last five no matter what I do, so what’s there to write about? And okay it’s actually eight pounds, but who’s counting?

My obsession with germs
If you’ve read my blog entry about my sun phobia or my post about my biggest fears, I think you’ve heard more than enough about crazy Teri.

The next president of the United States is…
All I can say about this stomach churning topic is, “I have never…,” which doesn’t make for a titillating blog post. My anti-acids are at the ready.

Will I ever be able to retire?
More anti-acids. Plus this topic can be answered in one perfunctory word.  No.

Hillary’s basket of deplorables
I was only able to come up with three measly sentences for this topic, which a riveting blog does not make. (1) Let’s be honest, there are more than a basketful of racists, bigots, homophobes, and misogynists out there. (2) Tell me with a straight face that you haven’t met one, or six, or hundreds who fall into the basket. (3) Come on Mike Pence, man up and admit that David Duke is deplorable!

I need a new kitchen and a new car
I could only come up with five words for this blog post.  Not a chance in hell.

Syria
I can write for days on this subject. But the sad truth is, nobody really gives a damn. As an example, August 20 was the third anniversary of President Assad’s chemical attacks on his own people, killing over 1,000 Syrian citizens in 2013. Too bad nobody cares.

Milwaukee, etc.
As someone who lived in poverty as a child, I know first-hand that there are a thousand Milwaukee’s out there. But writing a blog post about Milwaukee or any other poverty stricken place in America would get me nothing but hate mail. Even though four out of five children, who live in Milwaukee, live in poverty. And even though that in 2013-2014, 84.3% of Milwaukee Public School students failed in reading proficiency and 79.7% failed in math. And by the way: Since Wisconsin was admitted to the Union on May 29, 1848, it has had 45 governors: 31 Republicans, 12 Democrats, 1 Whig, and 2 Wisconsin Progressives, so don’t blame the Democrats for this shitstorm.  The lives of people who live in poverty apparently don’t matter. Nobody wants to hear any of this.

Zika Virus
I tried to compile a travel blog and began to round up a list of places that were Zika-free, but I was afraid of getting sued or worse, be responsible for someone going someplace I recommended and then getting Zika’d. So the only thing I could safely say was this: Before you travel, be sure to visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. So much for my Zika-free travel blog.

American voter suppression
Now this is a topic I could sink my teeth into. Because, as I write this, Republican-controlled state House and lawmakers across the United States are actively and openly trying to prevent people from voting. The 2016 election will be the first presidential contest in decades without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. This should be a national scandal, except nobody gives a hoot. And let’s be honest, even with this small tidbit of information, my email will undoubtedly be flooded with hateful messages and accusations that I am a God-forbid, liberal. (Even though I’m not.)

Look at that! I managed to create something out of nothing and everything.

Yep. I made it to my 45th Staples High School Reunion!

Reunion 45th

To go or not to go? That was my Staples High School Reunion question.

But after all the handwringing, I came, I saw, I conquered.

After I had written my blog post about whether to go or not to go, I received tons of e-mails and postings from hundreds of people—many of them were former classmates but many were not. There was an incredible outpouring of support, but more importantly, so many of those who wrote to me opened up about their own heartbreaking high school experiences.

So I want to thank all of you for your honesty and compassion. Because in the end, you were the reason I decided to suck it up and go.

And sure, it was the same old reunion-type dialogue. We talked ad nauseam about the good and bad old days. We reminisced about this store and that restaurant. We told horror stories about our drunken forays from Portchester to Westport. Sit-ins, Cardinal Puff, detention, lots of pink and green, Devil’s Den, Steak and Brew, the girl from uncurl, blah blah blah.

But here’s the thing.

We also asked each other the deeper more meaningful questions. We talked about our parents, our siblings, our children, our grandchildren and our feelings. Nobody really cared about how we made our livings. It was more about how we made our lives.

And it was cathartic. Because for a brief few hours, I was able to go back to that time and place and rediscover that naïve teenager, with unlimited promise, within myself. I would like to think we all went back to that young girl or boy who possessed enormous opportunities; full of hopefulness, and youthful ambition and dreams that were actually possible.

It was restorative to hear stories about that young Teri I once was, and I was grateful to meet her again—this time through the eyes of others.

As Paul Simon so eloquently put it: “What a time it was, it was a time of innocence, a time of confidences.” But my time of innocence has long past, so it felt good to celebrate who I was back then, and now as I enter my twilight years, to give me pause to reflect on who I am now, and how my life has impacted the lives of others.

I drove by what was once Mario’s, Oscar’s, the Red Barn, and Sally’s Place. I made my way to the spots where the Big Top, the Ice Cream Parlor, and the Remarkable Book Store once stood. And despite the sweltering heat, I walked the length of the Staples football field and then took a peaceful stroll through the Nature Center. I drove by my old house—three times. And then I pulled my car over and wept. A mixture of tears of joy for all that I have and tears of sorrow for all that I have lost.

As I shared stories with my fellow Stapleites, I realized that we walk a similar walk. And talk the same talk. And in our conversations, we all agreed on this: that our lives were rich, precious, painful, complicated, beautiful, miraculous, cruel, messy and loving.

Life caught up with the most talented, the most beautiful, the best dressed, the most popular, and the most famous. And finally, after 45 years no one gave a damn who was the loser, how many times someone was married, who was the sports star, who was the captain, who was the smartest, or who was the reject.

Because at our age, we finally understand that no one has escaped the pain and disillusionment of loss, outer beauty, disappointment, illness, drama, death, poor decisions, bad relationships—you name it, we’ve been through it.

We spoke of our children, and grandchildren, of siblings, wives, and husbands who were taken away from us way too soon, parents who committed suicide, and a son in desperate search of his birth mother. Doctors, lawyers and Indian Chiefs. A pastiche of 1971 spirits cloaked in 2016 bodies.

Yes, I made it to my reunion—the one and only Staples class of 1971. I was surrounded by compassion, confidence, vulnerability, and genuine interest in what I have been doing with myself for the past 45 years. With no awkwardness and no judging.

Okay, there was one moment of awkwardness when a former classmate excitedly pointed to me and exclaimed “OH MY GOD! YOU’RE ALIVE!!!”

“Uh, yeah, last I checked,” I responded warily. She proceeded to explain (as best she could) that she had been telling people I was dead because my photo was on the deceased table.

The deceased table?????? I sprinted over to the table and to my relief there was no Teri photo. Whew.

But on the serious side, we lost so many classmates. A heartbreaking reminder that life is short, and that if you believe in God, He most certainly works in mysterious ways.

And how about that Reunion Band? Wow. A bunch of 60 somethings dancing and grooving to outstanding music thanks to the talented Charlie Karp, Brian Keane, Mike Mugrage, Bill Sims, Bubba Barton, Bonnie Housner Erickson, Rob McClenathan, Julie Aldworth McClenathan, and Jeffrey Dowd. And a shout out to the incredible singers Kim Sullivan and Linda Satin Pancoast. And of course, let’s not forget David Jones on the spoons.

And who knew that Charlie had recorded with Buddy Miles, opened for Jimi Hendrix, and toured with Aerosmith? Or that Brian was the winner of four Emmy Awards?

And I don’t know about anyone else, but they really got me with their last song of the evening: Forever Young. Oh, if it were only possible.

The photo booth, the hand painted rocks from Compo Beach, the old time candy, new friends, and old friends. All in all, it was an incredible couple of days thanks to the tireless and I’m sure often thankless effort by Joanne Romano-Csonka and Bonnie Housner Erickson. Without the two of them, I don’t know if we would even have a reunion. Time and time again, every five years, they put their all into making a beautiful event for the rest of us.

At the end of an incredible Saturday evening, we all said our reluctant goodbyes, full of bear hugs, kisses, and good wishes, promising to keep in touch. We probably won’t.

And the woman who thought I was deceased? Well, she wished me well and reiterated that she was thrilled that I was still alive. Me too, girlfriend!

So for anyone stressing out over an upcoming reunion—and who, like me, keep going back and forth anxiously asking themselves the “to go or not to go” question. I say go. Take a chance. Reach back in time. Feel like a kid again.

And God willing, I’ll see my 1971 buds in 2021!

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you
~ Paul Simon

Reunion 45th Deceased Table