Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Life's Ups and Downs

I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around the current level of hysteria regarding the Corona virus outbreak, in light of the fact that people every year (every day!) die from complications from influenza¹. And not just that, even more people die every day from malaria, but no one is running around like a chicken with their head cut off buying toilet paper and hand sanitizer (as if those things could stem the tide of anything.)

I don't mean to sound callous or hard-hearted about those unfortunate people who find themselves in quarantine on ships or air force bases, or worse, in ICU in critical condition because they have contracted this virus. I am not insensitive and know enough people personally who are going through that right now, as a matter of fact.

It just seems that people have blown things totally out of perspective when it comes to a virus outbreak. Seriously? We have to wait until the media whips everyone into a frenzy before we get religious about washing our hands, for heaven's sake?

So, in the interest of gaining some of that aforementioned perspective, let's just spell out the facts:
As of today in just the U.S.:
That's right, 29 deaths in the US, a little over 4,000 worldwide.

Now let's look at what is really killing people:
New York, 25 April 2018 – Every two minutes, a child dies of malaria. Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease that remains, in many regions of the world, a major public health problem. Ninety-one countries currently experience ongoing malaria transmission. Almost half the world’s population – about 3.2 billion people – are at risk of malaria. In 2016 alone, 216 million new cases of malaria were reported, and approximately 445,000 people died of the disease – most of them children.²

Elsewhere in the U.S. (10 leading causes of death in 2017-2018, from CDC website - bear in mind, these numbers are multiplied by 100,000):
(Don't even get me started that the number of babies killed in the name of "choice" top, yet don't make, the list.)

Do I think people need to be proactive and wash their hands? Yes.
Am I going to be booking a cruise ship to Wuhan anytime soon? No.
If you are or have someone who has special needs or a compromised immune system, you are hopefully already being circumspect about exposing yourself to environments or situations without some kind of precaution. That is just common sense.

I do not normally subscribe to conspiracy theories, and it's certainly not for want of hearing about them at every turn, but one does have to wonder why such a big-fat-hairy deal is being made of this in an election year? Oh wait... didn't the same thing happen in 2016 with the Zika virus?

I'll just close with this thought: WASH YOUR HANDS and STOP LIVING IN FEAR!

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. - Psalm 91:1-6

¹ CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Ironic, Isn't It?

As we settle in to life at the river, reining in our personal space a bit, as it were, it occurs to me that there is an irony to life. (More than just one, I'm sure!)

As I reflect back over the past 48 years I've spent adulting, I am struck by the fact that I have spent most of those years on a quest to accumulate things. Granted, most of I what I have been chasing after have been useful things, but things nonetheless.

In my quest for efficiency in the kitchen, there have been a multitude of gadgets: food processor, VitaMix blender, KitchenAid mixer, grain grinder, centrifugal juicer, citrus juicer, coffee grinder, food dehydrator, crockpots and pressure cookers, turkey roaster, pressure canner, not to mention the accompanying canning jars and assorted paraphernalia.

In my defense, I actually did use all of these things. And, if I had room to do so, I would probably continue on that path. But the reality is, I do not.

And, it seems somewhat counter productive to be spending money to rent not just one, but two storage units (filled to capacity) to save all of these things on the off-chance I may be Miss Suzy Pioneer Homemaker again some day. Let's face it, I am closer to 70 than I was 5 minutes ago, and the two of us can't possibly eat that amount of food I could possibly can.

So, the next year or two is going to be spent on a quest to get rid of much of what I just spent years and many thousands of dollars accumulating. (Yes, I have heard of Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace... )

Could there have been a better answer?

Thursday, January 30, 2020

White is not a race: Or Why I Write “Human” on my Census Questionnaire

I have long been troubled with the question we find everywhere on various forms such as medical, DMV, census, asking us to label ourselves as White, Black, Hispanic, Asian… etc. Finally, about 30 years ago, I decided that I was tired of being forced into an artificial identity box and made the (to me) bold and audacious choice to self-identity as HUMAN from that point on.

I was sure the census police were going to come looking for me and throw me into some kind of cultural orientation re-training camp, but shockingly, nothing happened. No one batted an eye.

In retrospect, had the question asked me to identify my heritage or ethnicity, I probably would not have cared one whit. But the question: What is your RACE, followed by the listing of colors Black or White is really what set me off.

White is not a race. Black is not a race. Neither are Asian or Hispanic races. We’ve all seen the PassItOn billboard quoting Garth Brooks. We are all one race: humankind.

The original basis for my decision was purely Biblical: Genesis 3:20 states that Eve “was the mother of all living.” Revelation 7:9 describes the people of the earth as “nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” ... no mention anywhere as to the color of a person’s skin. The closest they even get to the concept of ethnicity would be “tribes.”

And will someone please show me how I am supposed to fit into the 16 allotted spaces the fact that I am Norwegian, Swedish, German, French, Finnish, Irish, Scottish and English? And those are just the tribes with which I can identify. Throw the monkey wrench of untraceable adoptions a few generations back, and who knows the tribes from which I hail.

Frankly, if you live in the United States, or the Western hemisphere for that matter, unless you just stepped off the boat within the last generation, what tribe does anyone fall under? A simple DNA spit test is going to reveal that even if you think you are 100% Italian (or Greek or Egyptian, etc.) chances are you are going to be a mixture of cultures. Let’s face it, invasions have been taking place all over the globe for millennia.

And lest you are tempted to disagree with me and call me racist, let’s hear what people who happen to be of color have to say on the topic:

Thoughts by Morgan Freeman on racism in a 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace:
FREEMAN: …I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.
WALLACE: How are we going to get rid of racism until …?
FREEMAN: Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You’re not going to say, “I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.” Hear what I’m saying?

Martin Luther King in his famous “I have a dream” speech:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

The idea that race is nothing more than an artificial social construct is not a new idea. More than 100 years ago, American sociologist W.E.B. DuBois (himself a person of color) was concerned that race was being used as a biological explanation for what he understood to be social and cultural differences between different populations of people. He spoke out against the idea of "white" and "black" as discrete groups, claiming that these distinctions ignored the scope of human diversity.

In an article published February 4, 2016 in the journal Science, four scholars say racial categories are weak proxies for genetic diversity and need to be phased out… "It's a concept we think is too crude to provide useful information, it's a concept that has social meaning that interferes in the scientific understanding of human genetic diversity and it's a concept that we are not the first to call upon moving away from," said Michael Yudell, a professor of public health at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

I can testify from personal experience that it doesn't matter what color your skin is: if you are raised in a different culture you are going to have a different outlook on just about everything when you compare yourself to someone else with the same skin tones who was raised elsewhere. Period. It's not about your skin, folks.
Apparently, I was not anywhere near as bold and audacious as I originally believed, which is completely fine with me. I’d never want to be stuck in a box anyway.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

I've Got Rhythm... Or Not

Back in the day, when I religiously practiced "flying" with The F.L.Y. Lady, I believed it was literally true that I could train myself to learn a new habit in 21 days... as a plus, her 28 days gave me a week's worth of grace. It would seem that 21 days is purely anecdotal, but not scientifically verifiable.

According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to get used to a new routine, form a new habit, build a new behavior. All this new information does is to give me pause as I am learning my new rhythm for living in a 300 square foot travel trailer. Pause to not beat myself up and have unrealistic expectations about the adjustment period.

Sunday I made biscuits for breakfast. It was an exercise in patience, to be sure. Let's just say, Julia Childs would probably not be comfortable in my kitchen. (Never mind that I could not even find my rolling pin - just finding a place to knead the dough took several minutes of rearranging just about everything.) But I was not frustrated; if nothing else, it was re-affirming that I could overcome the (admittedly minuscule) challenge.

I am also realizing just how little I can get by with. I don't want to say I am a kitchen gadget junkie...  I don't want to say it, but reality would say otherwise. And guess what, I don't need about half of the cooking tools that I have accumulated over the years.

The same is true just a few steps outside of the kitchen. My project for this weekend is to clear off and designate spaces for all the boxes and files piled up on my desk. No small task, but again, I am not going to beat myself up. And sticky notes have proven to be my new best friend for being able to find where I have stashed things.

It's a process. And there is grace in the process.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

What You Don't See

As I am going through the last moving bit, mainly cleaning and tossing, I marvel at the level of dirt that lies underneath and behind almost everything in the apartment. I hardly consider myself Martha Stewart by any stretch of the imagination - neither do I consider myself a slovenly wretch who wouldn't know a broom handle from a scrub brush. Yet, under ever piece of furniture, behind every picture frame, I continue to battle layers of dust and grime that I was previously (and happily) oblivious to.

And, isn't that always how it is? Unless you're up for moving all the furniture to the center of the room in order to bust those dust bunnies quarterly, this is what you wind up with when moving day arrives. Ironically, I had previously been patting myself on the back for "cleaning as I go along" - wiping down baseboards, window sills, door jambs, etc. Well, I'm here to testify, that is not where the real dirt lurks. No, it's under the couch, at the back of the pantry cupboard shelf, under the dryer.

The contemplative part of my brain wants to draw a spiritual parallel to this.
Psalm 66:18-20 New King James Version
 If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.
 But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer.
 Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, Nor His mercy from me!
Thankfully, we don't have to wait each year for the Day of Atonement to be forgiven of our sins, but daily as we become aware of our shortcomings, we confess and He forgives.

1 John 1:9 New King James Version
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If only house cleaning was as easy.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Are We There Yet?

The perennial question asked for decades (if not longer!) "Are we there yet?" That is what everyone has been asking us lately.

Yes, we are "there." And we are here, as well. (Cue the Beatles: Here, There, and Everywhere.)

It feels like Finals Week, although I haven't been to school in many, MANY years. Working two (part-time) jobs, moving, cleaning, trying to figure out where to fit everything that seems like a "need" into the trailer... It's exhausting, and I have been complaining, probably more than necessary.

The tough questions now begin: How many sets of sheets and towels, how many forks, knives and spoons, how many (fill in the blank) do two people really need? Because, there is room only for so much - even in 300 square feet. I decidedly am not Imelda Marcos (infamous for her 3,000+ pairs of shoes, for those too young to recognize the reference to Philippines' First Lady, whose husband's regime was overthrown in 1986 due to corruption and dishonesty), but it is still somewhat of a challenge to corral even my measly collection.

As tired and sore as I am from climbing up and down a stepladder to scrub cabinets and cupboards, I think the real work begins now, as we begin to make hard decisions about what to toss and what to keep - and where to put what we keep. Another go 'round is decidedly in store for us after this first one, and that's where the emotional choices will begin as we sort through hand knit sweaters that no longer fit, hand made doll furniture, hand crocheted doilies made by great-grandmothers and aunts long passed, fishing lures that are no longer legal, skis that are out of style. (You get the picture.)

I don't want to say I come from a family of hoarders - because I have seen a true hoarder's home - but it would not be a stretch to say I come from a family of collectors, and savers. (Yes, there is a difference!) After all, my grandparents came though the Great Depression, so saving things because you might need them one day is kind of ingrained into my DNA. But I am learning, slowly but surely: If I don't need it now, I don't need to save it for later. And if mysteriously a need does arise, then I will figure it out at that time. Bottom line: it makes zero sense to pay to store something that costs less than $20 and can easily be replaced or "made do" without, "just in case."

I'm getting there.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Why Behind the What

This view greeted us when we stepped outside this morning:
Look to your left

Look to your right
I think that explains the why behind everything we have been working toward these past several months. Will it be like this every day? Oh golly, no. Come salmon season, there will be boats revving up the river to find the sweet hole, there will be fishermen hollering at each other; come summer, boaters and even tubers will be calling to each other up and down the river. And that's really OK.

The rest of the year, the most noise we hear is wild geese calling out, otters splashing off the banks, wild turkeys looking for their brood... you get the picture.

Worth the drive? Worth the hassle of downsizing and packing? It is to us.