Holding Space

Several days ago I was at a Tallahassee Walmart in search of a replacement charging cord for my iPhone. It seems my youngest cat had decided the existing cord was her personal chew toy and had rendered it a danger to both of us.

The young man who assisted me in the electronics department was the kind of guy one just instantly liked. He wore a genuine smile and seemed knowledgeable. Within a very few minutes he’d made a couple of suggestions and I was ready to check out.

As we finished my transaction an older man in a wheelchair rolled up behind me. My young salesman addressed the man saying, “Hey Super Dave! Where have you been? I’ve been worried about you!”

Super Dave grinned from ear to ear, “I was having some problems with my breathing, but I think we got it fixed up for now.”

I noted his oxygen tank and the hose clamped to his nose. He had the look of a grizzled veteran who’d perhaps fallen on hard times. The salesman came around the counter and shook Dave’s hand.

“Glad to hear that man. You’ve got to take care of yourself.”

Then he turned to me and said, “Super Dave is my man, don’t you know.”

Super Dave beamed. This young man had held space for him in his heart when maybe no one else did. I’ll be honest, I walked away with a tear in my eye.

Peace, people.

Still Thinking About the College Cheating Scandal

I grew up in the farming community of Floydada, Texas. My family was working class, and my scope of the world was severely narrow. Neither of my parents attended college; although, my mom was a voracious reader and instilled a great and enduring love of reading in me.

As a kid, my grades were always solid. I learned easily and had a real talent for test taking. But, if it hadn’t been for my relationships with friends whose parents were college educated and who had been groomed to aspire to higher education from birth, I’d probably never have given it much thought.

As it was, my first semester at college was a lesson in cluelessness. I didn’t know how to negotiate the system. I had no idea how to secure funding, and my parents hadn’t saved money for my education. Naively I felt the whole college experience seemed like more bother than it was worth.

Long story short, after that first semester I dropped out and married Studly. While most of my high school friends earned degrees and entered the work force as professionals, I was raising babies and trying to help Studly Doright make ends meet by working in clerical positions. Not until we hit a huge bump in our marital and financial road did we consider sending me back to college as a way to create a better life for our family.

Studly negotiated all the ins and outs of college financing, and my grades qualified me for scholarships and grants, but we still owed a considerable amount in student loans after I’d earned my degree. Sometimes the weight of the debt felt impossible to bear, and that was before we started funding our children’s college educations. Bottom line–it costs a bundle to send kids to college.

Now, I’m no Alberta Einstein, but I performed admirably as a college student. Early in my second year as a returning student in my 30’s, a classmate glanced at my grades and gasped, “You have a 4.0?!”

Apparently his sister had graduated summa cum laude with a 3.99 grade point average, and that was a big deal. I’d never even heard of such a thing, but all of a sudden I had a goal beyond earning a degree. A single “B” in my college algebra class kept me from a perfect 4.0, but I still had the summa cum laude etched onto my diploma.

Often I wonder at how many others are out there who, through accidents of birth, never understood what their options were or didn’t have the means or knowledge to fulfill their destinies. How many super bright young people will be stuck in low end, low paying jobs because they aren’t exposed to the possibilities of a better life? Or if they’re aware of them, the opportunities seem out of reach due to a lack of financial resources and/or a certain savvy that children of college-educated parents have simply through environmental influences.

And then there are the kids with every advantage whose parents still feel the need to bribe and cheat in order to move their progeny even higher on the food chain. How utterly crass and elitist is this practice? Is it a status thing? Like having a trophy kid?

As conservative politicians push for public funding of private schools, we are going to witness an even greater divide emerge between the educational haves and have nots. I predict that the elites will become more so as those who were raised as I was become even less likely to have the means to access higher education.

And yes, I know that life isn’t fair, but don’t we owe it to our society, hell, to our world to make higher education a right instead of a privilege? It seems some in higher office prefer to have an uneducated populace. I can only imagine why.

Peace, people.

Accidents of Birth, and Other Thoughts

This whole college cheating scandal has me pondering a great many things, some closely related to the sordid story, and others only tangentially connected. My thoughts are jumbled, so I thought I’d try to organize them.

  1. What the hell!? Who does this kind of crap?
  2. Should a child born in, say Bumblebutt, Alabama, to poor parents be penalized for his/her lack of exposure to a wide variety of opportunities while kids born to wealthy parents are given access to the world? How do we equalize opportunities? How many intelligent, capable kids are shuttled through a flawed system that could instead be benefiting from their talents?
  3. Should the children of the parents who paid bribes to get them into elite colleges be punished for their parents’ wrongdoing?
  4. Is there a way for these parents to make amends in the form of paying for underprivileged students to attend college?
  5. Do we want to see these parents do jail time?
  6. If you had the money, and a lack of ethics, and wanted your kid to have a spot at an Ivy League school would you be more likely to offer a bribe or to pay for someone to boost your child’s SAT and/or ACT scores?
  7. I’m a great test taker. If there was money to be made in the test taking by proxy business would I be tempted?
  8. Who am I kidding? I can’t even cheat at board games.
  9. Is bribing a college admissions officer to admit one’s child any different from donating land or a building to a university in order to achieve the same results?
  10. Is anyone else really pissed off about the arrogance and sense of entitlement this scandal has exposed?

I’m not sure jotting all this down has helped organize my thoughts. What have I missed? What would you suggest? I’ve got more to say, but I’m saving it for later. Did I hear a groan out there?

For those who aren’t familiar with the above referenced scandal, here’s a link to a concise report from the New York Times:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/14/us/college-admissions-scandal-questions.html

Excitement and Anxiety All Wrapped Up in One Package

Have you ever been so excited for something to happen while simultaneously hand-wringingly worried about the same event? I’ve been so in need of a spirits booster. My digestive system isn’t being all that cooperative these days, and I’ve felt like a useless, grumpy old biddy.

Part of my grumpiness stemmed from thinking I wouldn’t get to make my annual drive to Illinois to stay with the grandkids while their parents took a much needed vacation to a sunny beach. I really look forward to the one week a year when I get to hang out with the three Illinois grandkids, and when that was threatened I figured my days of being useful were probably over. (Okay, I get dramatic sometimes, so sue me.)

Then yesterday evening my daughter and I were brainstorming back and forth and we wondered if the kids could fly to Florida and hang out with us during their spring break week while their parents flew to Mexico. The more we talked the more our plan came together, and this morning we booked flights for the three who are ages 16, 14, and 6.

I jumped up and down and whooped a couple of times (take that, grumpy old useless biddy) and then realized I’d now be a nervous wreck until the kids were safely in Florida. See, I do have a purpose! Worrier-in-Chief. Fortunately, I have only a week to wait on their arrival, and I have plenty to do between now and then.

(The photo below was taken at Christmas. Cannot wait to hug these three!)

Peace, people!

A Harrowing Stay

A blogging friend recently commented about staying in a Bates-type motel on a recent vacation to Alaska. If you’ve never seen the movie “Psycho,” the reference might be lost on you, but trust me, one does NOT want to spend any time, let alone an entire night, in such a place.

Studly Doright and I, along with our infant daughter, once had no choice other than to overnight in just such an unsavory hotel. We’d flown from Amarillo, Texas, to Houston when our baby girl was due for her heart checkup at Texas Children’s Hospital. We spent one night in a moderately priced hotel before her appointment and then afterwards drove directly to Houston Hobby Airport for the trip home.

Unfortunately a storm system moved in and our return flight was canceled until the next day. Studly and I had stretched our resources just to pay for the trip. An unexpected night in Houston was not in our budget. Had we not had an infant with us we might’ve just stayed at the airport, but our baby needed a place to sleep.

We searched the hotel directory at Hobby for a motel we could afford. There were several we could swing, but with the added cab fare they were financially out of reach. Finally I found a hotel that had cab fare included. It seemed perfect and we made a reservation.

Upon our arrival we noted the hotel appeared a bit rundown. The neon sign had missing letters, and the stucco was peeling off the facade in places. The lobby smelled strongly of roach spray, and a sign behind the desk had room prices listed by the day, the week, and the hour. Let that last one sink in. I had a bad feeling about the place.

A woman in a skin tight, cleavage baring, leopard print jumpsuit took our information and most of our money before handing us a green key for a room on the first floor. Walking down the musty hallway to the we heard the sounds of despair: babies screaming, elderly people moaning, people doing what people do in seedy motel rooms. I had the strong urge to run back to the lobby and hail a cab.

Our room door looked as if someone had taken an axe to it. There were deep gouges next to the frame, yet the lock looked solid. Inside the room we were confronted by what appeared to be a large bloody handprint on the wall above the bed, the smell of roach spray wafted on the air, stronger even than in the lobby. Oh, and the sliding door onto the tiny patio wouldn’t close all the way, so we couldn’t lock it. That might explain the presence of the handprint.

Our sweet baby was asleep in my arms, so we made her a nest out of our previously worn clothes, laying them on the sheets so her little body didn’t have to make contact with whatever might’ve been infesting the mattress. Thank goodness I was still breastfeeding her, since money for food had been all but depleted.

Studly ran next door to an all night diner to find a snack for the two of us while I watched over the baby and jumped at every sound. When he made it back we nibbled on our makeshift dinner and then tried to rest in a way that wouldn’t require us to make full contact with the bedding. We didn’t dare turn out the lights, but Studly actually snored while our daughter slept in innocent bliss. I, on the other hand, don’t remember closing my eyes for even a minute. Someone had to keep the bogey man at bay!

The sounds coming through the partially opened balcony door indicated violent activity in the vicinity. Sirens blared all night, and I swear I heard gunshots at least twice between midnight and two a.m. It was no place for sissies, and brother, let me tell you I’m a big ol’ sissy. Morning couldn’t come soon enough.

I didn’t rest until we were safely on the plane headed back to Amarillo the next day, certain that we’d barely escaped with our lives. And those Southwest peanuts and the free soft drinks were akin to manna from the gods.

Nowadays we can afford to stay in nicer places, but I never enter a hotel room without remembering that scary night in our own Bates Motel. Bloody handprints are a deal breaker.

Peace, people.

Makin’ Bacon

Our daughter despises bacon. Merely the smell of it sizzling in the pan causes her to wretch, so when I saw this cartoon on Facebook this morning, I immediately thought of her.

Of course I then pondered the existence of other bacon related humor. Daughter, these are for you. You’re welcome.

Peace, People.

From a Beatles’ Song

Is today misspent

If tomorrow never knows

And yesterday’s gone?

Often I wonder

What reward is forthcoming

For surviving now

While demagogues rant

And keep children in cages

While walls divide us

I was listening to the radio yesterday afternoon and heard a reference to the Beatles’ song “Tomorrow Never Knows.” I had to pull over to listen and to jot down the first part of this poem that came to me in an instant.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=RDpHNbHn3i9S4

Sweet Sleep in an App

Sleep is often my fickle friend. She’ll visit three nights in a row and then not again for a week. It doesn’t matter how I’ve spent my evening or what I’ve eaten for dinner or watched on the evening news. Sometimes, though, there is a correlation between my late evening internet usage and my ability to fall asleep, so I do try to put my phone away an hour or two before bedtime. Even then sleep isn’t guaranteed.

Staying in strange hotel rooms adds to the likelihood that I won’t sleep, and last week when I traveled to Austin from Doright Manor I spent a sleepless night in a Drury Inn in Lafayette, Louisiana. Now, that’s when my gastric pain started, but even once it tapered off I could not fall asleep, instead tossing and turning until the sun rose.

I wearily went about the business of getting ready to travel on to Austin, showered, and turned on the morning news to keep me company as I packed. Lo and behold the panelists on one of the morning news shows were discussing sleep apps. I listened and jotted down some notes before leaving the room.

When I got to my Austin hotel I read over my notes and picked one of the apps to try. It’s called “Calm” and I’m here to tell you it’s working wonders in my life. I slept beautifully both nights in Austin, and only struggled with sleep one night afterwards–and that was most likely because I took a nap that same afternoon.

I chose the “Calm” app for a couple of reasons. First, because it’s also a meditation app, and I seem to respond well to meditative exercises. But the main reason was that in addition to offering calming music and white noise, the app has different narrators read excerpts of books as bedtime stories for grown ups.

Studly Doright laughed at me when I told him about the app, but now he’s noticed a change in my sleeping habits that’s resulted in me being a happier spouse. Even dealing with whatever is going on in my digestive tract, I’m able to fall asleep listening to these stories.

I was afraid the narration would bother Studly, but he claims he can’t hear anything other than my breathing. That’s an unexpected perk of growing old, I suppose. I tuck my iPhone under my pillow and most nights I fall asleep within just a few minutes of the story’s beginning.

So far I have some favorite stories: Matthew McConaughey reads a piece called “Wonder” that I still haven’t heard the end of. Astronaut Terry Verts tells of seeing earth from space, and his words are beautiful and peaceful.

There are many stories I haven’t gotten to listen to yet, but right now I’m sticking to a few tried and true tales.

I tend to find the deeper male voices more calming, or maybe the women’s voices just make me want to listen longer. Regardless, this app has made a huge difference. (Hoping I’m not jinxing my progress by typing this).

The initial week of “Calm” is free, but it costs right at $60 for a year’s subscription. That almost turned me off, but after the week was over I was convinced the app was worth it. If you’re struggling with sleeplessness, you might want to give it a try. Let me know if you do. I’d like to compare notes.

Peace and good sleep, people!

A Little Light Reading

Digestive problems are sapping my energy and creativity, not that I had immense reserves of either prior to becoming ill. And, yes, I’m a bit of a wimp with tendencies towards hypochondria and hyperbole, but I’m also a curious wimp, so I ordered a book from Amazon to help me address the issues plaguing me.

Until I am able to go through diagnostic testing I’m supposed to follow a Low-FODMAP diet. When I looked that term up on the internet I just got lists of foods that were either low or high FODMAP. The acronym stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di, Mono-saccharides And Polyols. Simply put, FODMAPs are a type of carbohydrates not easily processed by some people.

The book suggests eating only low-FODMAP foods for a full seven days before slowly introducing foods on the high-FODMAP list back into one’s diet. Fortunately I’ve never been a picky eater, so I should be able to follow the prescribed diet fairly easily. The biggest bummer is that I can’t have yogurt for 7 days.

I felt really good today (Saturday). I even ventured out to some garage sales in Tallahassee while Studly Doright played golf. I bought a book on writing to replace the copy I lost several moves ago and a pretty glass dish because I liked the way the sun shone through it.

It’s been a good day at Doright Manor.

Peace, people.

Like a Kid in Detention

It’s not often that I find myself on the receiving end of a scolding finger, but that’s exactly where I was today. When I told my doctor of my gastric distress and the accompanying symptoms, she gave me “the look” and began gently scolding.

“You really should’ve gone to an emergency room,” she said, in her no nonsense tone. After giving me more details of what my symptoms indicated she ended with, “you’re lucky it wasn’t much worse.”

Jokingly I said, “You mean I might’ve died alone in room 230 of the Drury Inn in Lafayette, Louisiana?”

She didn’t crack a smile, only shook her finger at me and began ordering tests. Thoroughly chastened, I listened to every word she said. For now I’m on a restricted diet, and an acid blocker. It could be awhile before I can get in to have the procedures, but believe me, I won’t hesitate to go to the ER if need be. I hated having a finger shaken at me!

Peace, people!