• 29Jun
    Written by: Categories: Uncategorized Comments: 1

    I had the thought last night that nothing in my life changes from season to season, except my clothes. No regular summer beach trip. I don’t ski in winter. No pumpkin patch or hayride. The most I do is plant in spring, but even those are in pots. No Christmas tree because I go away for the holiday. I’ve never really been a New Year’s Eve partier. I don’t watch or play sports, and I can never get anyone to go to a haunted house with me.

    In past lives, my year was dictated by a school schedule. Once upon a time, our family changed out the screens for storm windows. We pulled the fan out of the attic to cool the bedrooms in summer. Shoveled the driveway after a snow. Of course, as a kid we went trick-or-treating. Family vacations at the beach.

    And before my time, people ate seasonal food that was grown.

    Although seasonal events would happen more naturally if I had a family, or was even part of a couple. But being alone is not an excuse. I need to make things the way I want them to be. If seasonal changes are important to me, I need to celebrate them. Create my own school year. Schedule seasonal or annual trips. It’s nice to have a flexible schedule and do what I want when I want. But it turns out to be entirely too open. Everything requires a decision.

    So what do I want? To set up regular activities so I don’t have to constantly make decisions. Create things that become ‘what I do’. A trip in Summer, when work slows down. If I end up going back to school, I will have a school year schedule. Enjoy the Fall weather by going pumpkin shopping. Maybe a hike. Or a trip to New England to see the Fall colors. Make pumpkin pie, bread, and apple treats! When it snows in Winter, I could build a snowman. Poinsettas in the house. Make soup. And, of course, I travel to spend the holiday with my sisters. In Spring I can stroll the flea markets and yard sales. Even if I don’t buy. Spring cleaning, of course. Air things out, do a big clean. And in the early summer, I can go blueberry and strawberry picking. Make blueberry buckle and strawberry shortcake. Get fresh food from the farmer’s market.

    Yep, need to make my own seasonal fun.

  • 27Jun
    Written by: Categories: News/opinion Comments: 1

    There’s been a lot of controversy this week over the amount of talk about Michael Jackson’s death, never mind the controversy that already surrounded him. And poor Farrah, who has also been made fun of at times, was barely mentioned. For me, it’s been a very sad few days. And frankly, it hasn’t been easy to find someone to commiserate with. The people I know either don’t care, or are irritated by the subject.

    As a young girl when Charlie’s Angels was on tv, Farrah Fawcett of course didn’t do as much for me as she did for boys. It was sort of a silly show, but it was a popular one that we watched because it was a hit. It was cute. And entertaining. All the girls wanted Farrah hair. And all the boys had the famous bathing suit poster on their wall. She was a celebrity who was known my her first name. Eventually she married Lee Majors, The Six-Million Dollar Man, and became Farrah Fawcett-Majors. Two major 70s icons became a couple. I lost track of her as her career waned, until she starred in the movie The Burning Bed, for which she received an Emmy nomination. An emotional drama, Farrah played a woman who was abused by her husband. And she was wonderful.

    After her split with Majors, Farrah became involved with Ryan O’Neil, which became a romance that would last the rest of her life. It was a tumultuous relationship, but when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, she made one call to O’Neil and he was by her side through her illness. They loved each other very much, which the audience could see clearly in Chasing Farrah, the reality show they did together in 2005. Less than a week before her death, they decided to finally marry after all of those years. After she died, O’Neil replied to a few questions as he drove away from the hospital with “She’s gone” and “I’m not ok”.

    I don’t think Farrah was ever taken very seriously, because she began her career as just a beauty. And it seemed to be the one thing that she really wanted. Just to be taken seriously and appreciated. Perhaps this finally happened with Farrah’s Story, a documentary about her battle with cancer. Shot with her own video camera, it showed what Farrah went through in her struggles with cancer, and showed the love between her and O’Neil ever stronger.

    She was a beauty. Even at 62. Even with cancer. But mostly on the inside.

    The world was shocked when it heard that not only had Farrah passed, but Michael Jackson had been rushed to the hospital after cardiac arrest. Twitter choked as people desperately tried to find out what really happened, what was true, was he dead, and then waded through rumors about Jeff Goldblum and Harrison Ford. Eventually, it was confirmed that MJ had died at a hospital in Los Angeles. By then, there were mixed feelings all over the internet. Shock, sadness, disgust, apathy, and many people were already tired of hearing about it. Some felt a piece of their childhood had just been stolen. Some were glad that he wouldn’t be able to hurt any more children. And some just plain didn’t care about the death of a celebrity when so many other important things are happening in the world. My sister was just glad attention was taken away from the story about Mark Sanford’s affair. By the time Dateline aired a special 2-hour program about Michael Jackson that evening, many just didn’t want to hear one more thing.

    But there were millions who were deeply saddened by the death of this troubled and talented soul. The top 9 downloaded albums on itunes were by Michael Jackson. Youtube videos were viewed. Blogs were being written. Pictures were being posted. Stories were told of how he was important in lives. And people all over the world were mourning his death.

    Michael’s fame began as an incredibly talented boy who headed the Jackson 5 with his 4 brothers. His voice and dancing were like nothing people had seen before. The Jackson 5 battled with The Osmond Brothers for #1, but their styles were so different it wasn’t really a contest. It wasn’t until many years later that we learned about the pressure put on the boys by their father, Joe Jackson. They rehearsed non-stop and Michael was punished if he didn’t perform perfectly.

    The band kept playing and recording into the 80s. They were not as popular as in the 70s, but had a hit with Shake Your Body Down to the Ground. It was in 1979 that Michael made a huge comeback with his album, Off the Wall. It was the beginning of his modern career. He was rediscovered by those who ‘knew him when’, and discovered anew by younger fans. And, of course, there was Thriller, the best selling album of all time, which will never be topped now that the record industry has changed so much. The title song was not only a hit for the music, but for the fantastic video, which was actually more of a short horror film. With incredible choreography, everyone began to dance the Thriller dance.

    No one disputed the fact that Michael Jackson was a hugely talented performer. But his personal life became extremely controversial and strange with every year that went past. Jackson was injured by fireworks during a half time performance at Super Bowl XXVII. Some speculate that this sparked a long-time addiction to prescription drugs. Many people believed that Jackson’s 2-year marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis Presley’s daughter, was a publicity stunt to assist his image after allegations of molesting a 13-year-old boy. He was then married to Debbie Rowe for three years, during which time they had two children, Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr. and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. But apparently never shared a home. Did he marry her just for the children? A third child was born to a surrogate mother, Prince Michael Jackson II aka Blanket.

    He had an amusement park estate called Neverland Ranch, where he invited many children, he purchased the elephant man’s skeleton, he had a monkey named Bubbles, and dangled Prince Michael II from a balcony in front of a crowd of people, just a few examples of his bizarre behavior. He was arrested, tried, and acquitted of child molestation and related charges. Jackson first had plastic surgery on his nose in 1979. Over the years, his looks changed little by little including at least two more surgeries on his nose, plus his eyebrows, cheekbones, chin, and eventually his skin color. His face became more and more angular, strange, and almost ghoulish. Michael clearly had problems. He often wore a cloth over his nose and mouth, and sometimes put one on his children, as well. His weight fluctuated and he wore makeup.

    Jackson alienated a lot of people with his odd, some say criminal, behavior. But he also had a huge following of devoted fans. I can’t comment on charges against him. I don’t know enough about it. But I do believe Michael had some serious difficulties, whether they were emotional, mental, or caused by drug use, that greatly affected his actions. He had a troubled soul, whatever the reason. Because of that, I never had strong feelings about his personal life either way. It was clear that he was happiest and most at home while performing. And he certainly was good at that.

    Farrah and Michael, may you find peace.

  • Dad


    lauraswimmingLOAnother Father’s Day down. It’s been a year and a half since Dad died. You have no way of knowing what it will really be like when he’s gone. We never really made a huge deal about Father’s Day. It wasn’t a day we spent grilling with the family. We’d do a card, maybe a little gift, say Happy Father’s Day, and that would be it. And when I lived far away, it was just a phone call. But it seems those little things were big enough to say “I love you, Dad. And today I thought of you, individually, apart from Mom or anyone else.”

    It was a Saturday trip to Herb’s Hobby Shop with Dad when I discovered the Jaguar XKE. It was one of those days that he was going on errands and asked me if I wanted to go. We ended up at the hobby shop looking at model cars. It’s been my top car ever since.

    Dad taught me which way to turn a screwdriver to tighten and loosen a screw. He was fixing the doorknob on the linen closet door. I don’t remember if it was one of the times he asked for an extra pair of hands, or if I was just watching. But I always remembered which way to turn.

    I was blessed to have the last years with Dad. It was like we had our own Father’s Day, just the two of us, every day. I miss you, Dad. TTFN

  • 10Jun

    conversationPresident Obama recently quoted the Koran and mentioned Allah in reaching out to the Muslim community. One person in the audience commented that when he hears the word “Allah,” his heart opens.

    Lera Boroditsky and colleagues at Stanford University studied grammatical gender systems by asking German-English and Spanish-English bilinguals to describe “bridge,” which is feminine in German and masculine in Spanish. The German-English bilinguals used words such as “elegant,” “slender,” “pretty,” all feminine-leaning adjectives. The Spanish-English bilinguals used words like “strong,” “towering,” “heavy,” “dangerous,” considered masculine in the English language. The gender of “bridge” in the native language seemed to have an impact on each bilingual’s view of the object.

    In a recent Brain Science podcast episode, Alice Gaby said, “…when we write, the word that’s written to the left corresponds to what would have been spoken earlier than the word that’s written to its right. Now this is the way we do it in English but of course Hebrew or Arabic go from right to left, [in] Chinese, the writing system goes from top to bottom. Lera Boroditsky’s work actually looked at people’s non-linguistic cognition about time and particularly their gestures – how people move their hands when thinking and talking about time– and found a strong correlation between temporal sequence moving left to right for English speakers and right to left for, say, Hebrew speakers and top to bottom for Chinese Mandarin speakers.”

    Each of these examples show the importance of communicating with people in their own language, if you wish to reach them. Many people repeatedly bang their heads against the wall trying to get a message across to people who are not like them. If some of that time was used to learn about and try to understand the people you are trying to reach, not only would your head feel better, but you might actually open a line of communication.

    I have seen ‘professionals’ talk to seniors like they are children. Making assumptions that they don’t understand normal language. It’s belittling. And I know for a fact a senior will walk away rolling their eyes and give up trying to communicate. In senior facilities, this makes for a miserable life. Not all seniors are alike. Yes, some may have comprehension difficulties. Some may clearly understand what’s being said to them, but have trouble responding. It’s so important to get to know the senior you are speaking to and reach them at their own level, instead of expecting them to respond at the level you’re assuming. I guarantee, anyone who is continually talked down to will slowly regress.

    Some parents yell at or order their children. Sometimes out of frustration, or lack of time. Maybe they’re just plain irritated. A child will only learn to ‘obey’ or act out even more. Scientists believe that language is acquired most easily during the first ten years of life. And how do they really learn their language? By how they are spoken to and the language they hear around them. Children want to learn. We can even think back and remember what it’s like to be a child who is confused because something was just stated without any explanation. Once a situation is explained to them, they are much less likely to rail against it. And hey…they’ll even learn! I know there are things I never truly learned in school because they were presented to me in the form of information to memorize. I was not given a context in which to place it, which would have worked it into my life and understanding.

    There are as many ways of communicating as there are types of people. Open your mind and listen to whom you’re speaking. They don’t think like you do. Because everyone has a slightly different mind. It’s what makes the world so interesting.

  • 06Jun
    Written by: Categories: Thought Comments: 0

    I’m currently reading Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher. In pondering her descriptions of mood swings during bipolar illness, I recognize the characteristics of mania and depression. The racing mind…so many thoughts rushing that you just can’t grab on to one long enough to do something with it. The depression that hits almost as a result of not being able to grab onto one thought and move forward.

    It makes me wonder if some mental illness is made up of what we all go through, but taken to an extreme, interfering with your daily functioning. The brain not being able to manage normal processes until your capacity to control it has been completely usurped.

    I recently described my mind as a ping-pong match between the right and left sides of my brain. But neither scores, and neither wins. I suppose a ping-pong game seems balanced. And my game probably is, in the sense that my left and right are both active and vibrant. But they battle…back. And forth. And back. And forth.

    A Stroke of Insight

    Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor literally experienced this battle during a stroke. She described her experience vividly during a TED talk. A hemorrhage in the left side of her brain caused her consciousness to exist almost fully in her right brain, completely changing her perception of her body, the world around her, and of reality. Alternating between left brain perception, and what she calls “la la land”, she eventually worked out a way to plan for the shifts between hemispheres and got herself some help.

    “Imagine what it would be like to be totally disconnected from your brain chatter”

    Ms. Taylor experienced this through her stroke. Artists experience this during their work, becoming engrossed in the creativity involved while they create. I once had a drawing teacher who said that when she was going to work on a drawing, she told her family she was “going under.” She was about to become part of her right brain…the creative, sensual, emotional part of herself that she accessed to create artwork that flowed from her. It’s difficult to communicate with someone in this state. It takes time for them to transition back into allowing the left brain to function and access the language portion of the brain. And often when this occurs, the creative spell is broken.

    Alternatively, accessing this creative state can be extremely difficult. Last fall I took a weekend drawing and painting workshop with Tim Hawkesworth. Tim is a fabulous artist and teacher who encourages artists to reach within and express who they are. Even with his guidance and inspiring morning talks, I struggled the entire first day of the workshop. I was approaching art with my left brain. With the help of his associate who gave me a massage and talked me through my struggle, I was able to relax. I finally made the conscious decision to stop fighting myself and was able to produce work that surprised me.


    I had never done work like this before. I didn’t know it was in me. It was exciting, fulfilling, invigorating. And yet, I haven’t produced anything since. Although it’s always hovering in the “back” of my mind. The necessity of left brain activity in my regular work day keeps me from delving into the intangeable right. I battle every day. That practical chatter cannot justify my taking the time necessary to transition to the “la la land” where my art emerges.

    And yet, I love my left brain. Not only am I able to think things through to conclusion, understand words and numbers, and troubleshoot problems, I need my left brain to contain the energy that comes from the beauty of my right. The next step is to learn how to manage the back…and forth. Jill Bolte Taylor was able to determine a plan while in the midst of stroke.

    I need my right to allow the left to do its work: creating structure that allows me to function properly, accomplishing what I have to as well as what I want to; managing my time so I can create the space I need for my right brain to flow; planning my finances and the steps I need to take to acquire income that will allow me to explore my right brain, as well as develop my left; and allowing my right brain the freedom to roam.