Chain link life

What all forms of cancer are caused by something as simple as a virus? Scientists have already found that some forms of cancer are. What if that is the answer to all of it? What if, years from now, you can get a shot to prevent cancer the same way you can get a shot to prevent chickenpox? What if it really is that simple and we’ve been making it too hard?

But until scientists figure that out, we have to take care of ourselves.

I think there is nothing inevitable about family history. Sure, my Mom died of lung cancer and her Mom died of a heart attack. But both of them smoked cigarettes and neither of them exercised.

Illness is just looking for an opportunity to get in. Whatever your genetic history, it is like a chain link fence. Some of the links are weak. Wherever they are weak results in whatever disease your family tends to develop.

Cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure – all of these are robbers trying to break into your defenses. All of them are looking for a way to sneak in and steal your most valuable possession – your health, or even your life. It is literally a life and death struggle, and if they win, you lose.

So you have to strengthen the gates. You have to do what is in your power to not let them in. You won’t live forever. That is impossible. But you can do quite a bit to make the life that you have pleasant. You might even be able to lengthen your life.

Now I have no desire to live to be a hundred years old if it means I have to eat all my food pureed and I’m in a wheelchair. But I will do whatever I can to live well. Length of life isn’t as important to me as quality.

I knew a guy who weighed over five hundred pounds. He said that being overweight was common in his family. Of course, he said “heavy” and not “morbidly obese” which he was. Of course, being obese runs in his family the same way that inactivity and eating high fat, high salt food runs in his family. Being massively unfit isn’t something that had to happen. He thought that because everyone in his family was immense, that was his destiny. If they all exercised and ate well and were still obese, then yes, there’s a problem there. But that wasn’t the case.

The thing that really drove me up the wall is that he had a free YMCA membership because of his insurance plan – which was paid for by the state – translation, my tax dollars. He didn’t use it to exercise. He didn’t use it to get healthy. He drank the free coffee, hung out and used the free wireless, and then floated in the pool. He didn’t swim in the pool. He didn’t take the exercise classes in the pool – or anywhere else. He used the pool the same way that Baron Harkonnen in “Dune” used his suspensor belt. He floated in it to get relief from the crushing weight of his body. While he was floating in the deep end his joints didn’t hurt and he could breathe better.

Being in the pool is the best place if you are obese. But then it is up to you as to what you do with your time there.

I tried to show him exercises I’d learned in water aerobics classes. He could have moved while in the pool and gotten stronger and healthier. He ignored me and told me his tale of woe, that he was essentially doomed to be huge.

What if I used the fact that heart problems and lung cancer run in my family as an excuse to not exercise and eat poorly, and to continue smoking? It is going to happen anyway – why fight it?

This is so backwards. Yet, this is so common. I feel that blaming others for our own self-imposed problems has become the new “American way”.

We all have to start thinking differently, and we all have to wake up. The level of obesity in America is off the charts. Children are developing “adult” diseases are shockingly young ages. The fact that there are a number of diabetes magazines now is disturbing. It isn’t a lifestyle. It is a disease.

We don’t have to worry about another country invading us. We are doing it to ourselves. We have met the enemy – and he is us.

This isn’t about crash diets and fitting into skinny jeans. This is about being healthy and strong. This is about being able to walk around the block without getting out of breath (for starters). This is about having enough energy to really enjoy life, rather than just endure it.

It isn’t to be found in “five hour energy” drinks and a super grande mocha latte. In fact, if you live healthy, you don’t need caffeine and sugar at all. Really. If you get enough sleep and you eat well and get moderate exercise, you don’t need the boost of caffeine and sugar to keep you going.

It isn’t natural to have to put stimulants in your body just to live a normal life. If you have to have caffeine and sugar just to get through your day you are doing something wrong. It is a sign that you are shortchanging yourself somewhere.

Get moving. Get enough sleep. Drop the fried food. Eat more vegetables. Quit smoking. Drink water. Stop drinking sodas.

And every time you whine about having to take on or give up something for your health, get over it. You are acting like a child. Every time you think you’ll “cheat” and not do something that you know is good for you, the only person you are screwing over is yourself.

How dumb is that?

The bad part is that when we get older, we don’t have parents to tell us how to live in a good way and to make us fly right. The really bad part is that many of us didn’t have good parents to start off with, and we have to parent ourselves.

Your life is your choice. Choose wisely.

Library rules are for everybody.

Yes, that sign applies to you. Yes, that rule is for you. You aren’t above it.

Don’t park in a no parking zone, even if it is for “just a minute.”

Don’t use your cell phone in the library. In fact, don’t use it in
any business. They don’t want to hear what you are going to do this weekend or what you did last night, and with who.

The overdue fees apply to you, the same as everybody else. Really. I know it is hard to believe. You aren’t special. Well, you are special, just like everybody else.

Asking for special favors or an exemption is really rude. It draws negative attention.

You may think it can’t hurt to ask, but it can. It can make people resent you.

It says that you think you are special, that you are above the rules.

Recently there was a patron who bought some earrings from me, so she had my card. My card has my email address and my personal phone number on it. She turned some books in late and wanted me to “take care of it” She said I should do it “because we are friends.”

Now, I don’t know what her definition of “friend” means, but if all the interaction we have had is over some jewelry, we aren’t friends. If we’ve never hung out or been over to each other’s house, we aren’t friends. We don’t even exchange Christmas cards.

If she had a legitimate reason for wanting the fines waived I would have done it, and not because we are “friends”. You know, something big that would have prevented her from returning or renewing her books on time – like she was in the hospital. Or a car crash. Something unavoidable. But just couldn’t be bothered to bring them back on time, no. That isn’t a valid reason for waiving fines.

Not only did she call me, she emailed me about this. I said I couldn’t do it and gave her the customer service number for the main library. If they want to do it, fine. As for me, I think it sets a bad precedent. Do whatever you want and have no repercussions. Get someone else to clean up your mess. Don’t be accountable for your actions.

That isn’t the mark of an adult.

Now, while the library doesn’t actually keep any of the money it makes
from fines, that isn’t the point. If we are going to waive fines for everybody who asks us to, then what is the point of having fines? What is the point of having due dates then? People can keep a book out for as long as they want and anybody else who wants it can just wait until they bother to bring it back.

Rules are good, and rules are for a reason.

People don’t like rules when they stop them from doing whatever they want.

Yes, you have to have your library card or your ID to check out. It doesn’t matter that you have been in every week since the library opened. It ensures that we are in the correct account. Rules keep us safe. The same person who gripes that he can’t just tell you his name instead of showing his card will raise holy hell if something, or worse, a hundred somethings, are checked out on his account that he didn’t check out.

That is why we have rules, and why we apply them equally to everybody. Otherwise, we are being discriminating, and that is illegal.

Losing my job is not worth coddling people.

Weather Bell

People talk about the weather all the time. I’ve decided to see it as alarm bell signaling me to wake up.

It is mindless talk, really. “Boy, is it cold out there!” or “That wind is fierce!”

I used to say something like “Yeah, you’d think it was February or something!” Because it is February. Cold and windy weather are what define February in America. It isn’t a surprise. Freaking out over it makes no sense. It is normal.

If it going to be especially cold or windy, like more than normal for winter, then it is forecasted. Every day before I leave the house I know what the weather is expected to be like. I know whether to wear a thick coat or a thin one. I know to bring my umbrella or not. I know if I can wear my regular hat or I have to wear the one with a lanyard so it won’t blow away in a gust.

All these people who are surprised by the weather seem to be the same people who are surprised by life in general. They wonder how they got old and infirm. They wonder why they have no money saved up for retirement. They wonder where their health went.

If they can’t be awake enough to pay attention to something as simple and everyday as the weather, then how can they be expected to plan any further ahead? Just that day is enough of a challenge.

Sometimes the weather is a surprise. My grandfather said that a weatherman was the only person who could be wrong fifty percent of the time and still keep his job. But in general, what people are talking and/or complaining about with surprise and consternation isn’t a fluke weather pattern. It is something that is expected and was predicted, sometimes as much as a week earlier.

So I’m seeing it as a bell. I’m seeing any statement about not-out-of-the-ordinary weather as the same kind of bell in a church that calls people to services. It is the call of the muezzin. It is the tornado siren.

It is a bell that says – Wake up. Notice what is happening. Time is slipping by. Notice it.

Day One Day

I just saw a music video that involved looping. Now, while the music wasn’t my thing, one of the loops was. While setting it up, the lady sang into the mike the words “Day one” over and over, very close together. After a while, it sounded like she was saying “One day” and not “Day one” anymore. Something was fascinating to me about that.

Is she talking about the beginning of something, or she waiting for something to begin? Is it the present or the future she is talking about? And in a way, are they are the same?

It reminds me of the book “Be Here Now.” It is written in such a way that it also says “Be Nowhere.”

I often hear and see things like this. I often get an “echo” and receive multiple meanings of things. It is just how my brain is wired. Perhaps it is why I’m an artist. Perhaps I had to become an artist to process this phenomenon.

While it is unusual and I like it, it is also a bit of a juggle. I have to determine which experience that the world receives so I know what to share, and then study the experience that I got on my own and ponder it.

Sometimes looking at multiple sides of things is helpful. Sometimes it is confusing. Sometimes it is an amazing gift that opens doors in my head.

I think that this gift is part of why I can tutor people with learning disabilities. Not only can I “hear” what they are trying to say but can’t get out, I understand the multiple signals they are receiving.

We are just radio receivers after all, you know. Our senses are just receivers of information from the world, and from our Creator. Sight, sound, smell, touch, taste – all of these senses tell us information about the world around us. All of our sense organs are mechanical, physical things, though. And they are different for each one of us. No person sees the color we collectively refer to as “pink” the same way as another person. It is a construct we agree upon. This shade is “pink” but this one is “red” and this one is “mauve” and that is just the way it is.

But it isn’t.

We are faulty radio receivers. A tube is broken. The dial sticks in one area. The wiring touches in places.

What one person experiences through her senses isn’t the same as what another person experiences. We sometimes don’t realize that. And that is where the confusion starts. What I see and what you see isn’t the same thing. What we both talk about is something in the middle, something that we have agreed upon.

It is, in fact, something that doesn’t even really exist.

Sometimes we don’t even realize this. Sometimes we do, but we don’t realize that the “ideal” thing that we are talking about isn’t there, and we’d really be better off talking about what each one of us sees, really, right there in front of us.

If we can’t even honestly talk about what we see right in front of us, how can we even begin to honestly talk about ideas and concepts as vague as “equality” and “peace” and “compassion”?

But perhaps this is all the heart of compassion. Perhaps if we can just begin to understand that each one of us experiences the world in a different way, and that if we tap into that and share our collective and divergent perceptions we can create a unified whole in our heads. Perhaps if we work together instead of against each other – perhaps if we are patient with ourselves and with each other – we can actually start to understand each other and the world we live in.

One day.
Or day one.

Perhaps the future is right now.

Ask and maybe you’ll receive.

There are some strange things people ask for at my library. Sometimes they want to know if we sell these items. (We don’t sell anything.) Sometimes they want to know if we have these items and will give them away for free. Sometimes they just want to borrow them.

Here’s a current list –

A comb.
A scale (a man wanted to weigh himself).
A flash drive.
Notebook paper.
Post-it notes.
Sodas and snacks.
A file folder.
A fax machine.

The best ever – a bow and arrow. (Wanted for purchase) Since we said no, then the patron asked if we had a crossbow for sale. He was serious.

Plenty of people ask if they can borrow a pen or a pencil. We usually let them, but after a while if it becomes routine the librarian may suggest that the person (usually a child) bring his own pen or pencil to do his homework. Sometimes this isn’t received well. While it may seem like good customer service to have many of these things available, the more items that the library provides that aren’t actual library materials takes away money from buying said library materials, you know, like books.

The library is not an office supply store.

Personally, I think it would be a good idea for the library to stock and sell many of these items. It would certainly help out in lean budget years. Perhaps not crossbows, though.

Writing and beading – on reusing ideas

Every now and then I think that I shouldn’t start a post because I think I’ve written about it before. Sometimes I have, and I’ve forgotten. Sometimes I have, but I don’t feel like I’ve fully explained my point. I very well might have already written on this exact topic of writing about the same thing multiple times. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

And then I realized it is OK.

I do the same thing when I make jewelry. I don’t use all of a strand of beads up when I make a necklace. I have some left over. I use them again with other beads and I get a different effect. Or I’ll not quite get across the look I was going for and I’ll try again with another creation.

Rarely am I able to get across in reality what I envision in my head. If I can’t do this with beads, than how can I possibly do this with words? If I can’t properly envision how the beads I have right in front of me are going to look together, how can I envision how ideas, which are amorphous at best, are going to look together?

While I don’t want to waste my time writing the same topic over and over, I’m learning that part of the process of being a writer is to just write. Even if I intentionally write about the same topic, I’m going to write about it differently every time, because I’m different every time.

Figuring out the answer to a question is like trying to open a closed door. You’ll try different ways to get in.

Sometimes you can just knock and someone will let you in.
Sometimes you try the doorknob and it opens.
Sometimes you have to pick the lock.
Sometimes you can’t pick the lock so you have to look under the door.
Sometimes you go to see if there is an unlocked window on the side of the building.
Sometimes you have to bring a sledgehammer and just get in by brute force.

And sometimes it is about understanding that the “answer” is just the answer you got right then, and it isn’t THE answer, and it is OK to work on that door again, another day.


Imagine a mama duck and all her baby ducks. They follow behind her, trusting that she is leading them the right way. But she is just leading them the same way that she was lead, and so on.

And what if they are all going the wrong way?

So many people are like those ducks. Just following, blindly trusting. Because the people before them, whether parents or teachers or ministers or elders, walked in this path, it must be right.

Not necessarily.

Who walked that first path? How did she or he discover it? What made her or him go that way? What made others follow in that path?

Whether it is a clothing habit or a diet trend or a way of thinking makes no difference. A path is a path is a path.

Where are you going? Who are you following? Do they know the answers to those questions?

On manna and writing

I have more “seeds” for posts than I have time to write. I carry a notebook with me all the time. I have a list of ideas in my phone as well. Any time I get an idea that I think is worthy of expanding on later I’ll put in one of those places.

Sometimes I get to write from these idea-seeds.

It seems that I never run out of things to write about. While I have those storehouses, I don’t often need them because when I find time to write I always have another topic to write on. Sometimes two or three.

It is like I am storing them up in case I hit a dry spell.

And then I’m reminded of the story of manna in the desert. God provided food for the Israelites in the form of manna. Yet he provided only enough for one day, except right before the Sabbath, where he would provide enough for two days. Every day they were to gather up just enough for that day. Every day after the gathering time the rest would disappear. They had to trust that God would provide for them the next day, and the next day, and the next day.

If they gathered up more than they could use for the day, they got sick.

So by saving up all these ideas, am I hoarding? Am I not trusting in God’s providence? Or am I being a good steward of what I am given, by keeping it for later?

Anne Lamott says to keep a notebook at all times, and write down any and all ideas. She jokes that if you don’t, she will, and she’ll get the idea and make money off of it. She also says that by keeping a notebook you are letting the Universe know that you are open to ideas and are a good place to send them too. I certainly can attest to the truth of that. The more I keep a notebook, the more writing ideas come to me.

I don’t always use them, but when I do, I’m grateful. Sometimes, just keeping a notebook helps me stay focused. Sometimes an idea will just not stay quiet until I write it down. I tell it that “I’ll get to you later” by writing it down. Sometimes I’ll use the idea in a post with a few other ideas and not even know I’ve already jotted it down in my notebook earlier. That is OK too. Better to have it in two places than none.

A pain in the gut.

A regular patron came in recently. Well, by regular I don’t mean he is normal. I mean he has been in often for the past several years. His paranoia has gone to new heights. He makes my former boss’ end of the world preparations look like child’s play.

He has a thirty year supply of seeds. He is raising his own food, and not just vegetables. He is raising sheep and goats and chickens. He even has a beehive.

Or at least I think he has all this. He might just be preparing to be prepared. It is in the works, at least.

He believes that you can’t trust anyone or anything. He believes that the government is out to get us all. He might be right. Who knows?

I’ve noticed that all these preppers don’t seem like happy people. Somehow all of this stocking and storing, this training and testing, doesn’t seem to be making them content. Somehow, instead of getting a sense of calm that they have everything under control and their lives are free from worry about other people and their perceived lack, they seem even more wound up.

I understand some of their desire to fend for themselves and not trust other people. When I was in college, we had to do group assignments. The group had to do the research and work on a project. Rarely did I get to pick the group I was in. I usually ended up doing all the work because I didn’t trust the competency of my fellow students. I didn’t want my grade to be adversely affected by their slack.

So the preppers are doing the same thing, but instead of their grades being affected, it is their lives. They think everything is going to hit the fan and it will be every man for himself.

I can handle only so much of this kind of talk. He has shared some of his theories with me in the past about how things are going to go south and I always feel physically bad afterwards.

I want to be present for people. I also want to be open. I want to study them as well. Sometimes I have to allow myself into situations that are uncomfortable for me in order to personally grow and learn.

But this time was different. Perhaps it was a cumulative effect. Last night’s rambles weren’t especially paranoid, but somehow I was affected adversely.

I started to feel a pain in my stomach shortly after our conversation ended. Now, it might help to know that I have a hernia. I thought it was acting up. I got it when my Mom was dying and I had to lift her from her bed to get her to the bathroom. I remember the feeling of my muscles in my abdomen snapping from the strain. She wasn’t especially heavy her whole life, and she was even less so then because of the chemotherapy, but I wasn’t trained for that kind of lifting.

I’ve strengthened my abdomen quite a bit in the past few years with water aerobics and yoga, but that kind of injury never fully heals. I’ve learned that if I do a forward fold it usually helps.

Not so in this case. I waited a bit, and then went to the bathroom. While sitting there, I thought about this pain. It kind of reminded me of the pain I had when I was in my first year of college. That wasn’t a pain from any physical illness, but it manifested in a physical way. It was a pain from stress, from anxiety, from fear. It was the pain of being too far away from everything I knew and facing a whole lot more of the unknown.

Then, I went to the student health services and they, in their ignorance, gave me an anti nausea pill that knocked me out for half a day.

I didn’t want to be unconscious, but I also didn’t want to be in pain.

So I prayed. What do I do, Lord?

The answer? A hard exhale. Just like in yoga class, the ocean sounding breath. Just like one teacher says “Fog up that invisible mirror in front of your beautiful face.” So I did it. Huhhhh.

And I felt instantly better. I did it a few more times and the pain was all gone.

And now I think I’ll have to tell that patron that I can’t listen to his prepper paranoia any more.

Just like finding out that I am allergic to a certain food and I no longer eat it because it makes me sick, I have to do the same with people and ideas. If they make me sick, don’t let them in my head.

But it is also good to know that the answer to every question is just a question away.

Half prayer

I was sitting at the end of my neighborhood, waiting for the light to change. It is a long light, and that intersection marks a change in the traffic from light to heavy.

I have started to use that time to pray.

This time I was filling up the space with my words, and this suddenly came to me. Be still. Let God fill you with God’s words instead.

Prayer isn’t just about talking to God. It is about letting God talk to you.

In my desire to pray, I was doing it all wrong. Or rather, I was doing it only half right.