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How to Maintain Sanity During Insane Times

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.

Old schoolers and Generation Xers will remember that opening monologue from The Twilight Zone, a TV series in the sci-fi horror genre that ran for five seasons between 1959 and 1965. It seems today that unlike The Twilight Zone, where we entered into a “wondrous land of imagination,” the world is caught up in a real-life nightmare.

The fatalities resulting from COVID-19 are tragic. No one wants to become a victim of a potentially fatal ailment, but the hope and reality are that people are recovering. And while we each have our way of handling challenges, my survival approach is prayer, faith, and a sense of humor.

Before my cynical readers start with their “there’s nothing funny about it” diatribe, let me assure you that I know that COVID is no laughing matter. The ugly virus has devastated families and forced those of us who are compliant to adopt drastic lifestyle changes. But I’ve found that – instead of freaking out – it is easier to cope with dire circumstances when I put a humorous spin on a serious matter.

Homebodies might be handling things with indifference, but we free-spirited people who enjoy going where we want, when we want, are pissed because the restrictions imposed as a result of COVID are a tremendous inconvenience. Aspirin and Tylenol cannot remedy cabin fever.

Fussing, cussing, and throwing a tantrum won’t change anything either. But if we don’t vent, then what? We are used to our independence. A fragile mind could go insane.

My city, like several states, is under a stay-at-home order. It is human nature that when we are told not to do something, we feel compelled to disobey. Even a kid would agree. Say sit down. We stand. Say shut up. We speak. Say stay in, and you know where the hell we want to go – out.

But where to go? Most retail stores, restaurants, gyms, and other recreational facilities are closed. (The closure of the gym where I have worked out consistently for seven years has me feeling like someone dropped a 26-pound kettlebell on my foot.) Schools, public offices, and private businesses are also closed. Numerous people have been furloughed and some have permanently lost their jobs. Parents who are trying to work remotely with young children underfoot are losing their minds. And their children who don’t understand why school is closed, but they can’t go outside to play with their pals, are pushing them closer to the edge.

I pray that things will soon get back on track. I won’t say back to normal, because I don’t think things will ever return to the way they used to be. COVID has caused a paradigm shift everywhere.

If you are not afflicted with the life-threatening ailment, be thankful, and pray that none of us or our loved ones get it and those who do recover. In the meantime, here are some do and don’t tips for coping and maintaining your sanity during the days, weeks, or months of potential confinement. Yes, for all intent and purposes, we should consider ourselves under house arrest, only without the ankle bracelet.

  1. Don’t fret about what to wear. You can stay in your PJ’s all day without putting on makeup, combing your hair, or untangling your weave. On the other hand, if you are a camera-ham, you can spend days taking selfies. Produce your own photoshoot by changing outfits and hairstyles several times a day, and posturing in provocative poses. Then, upload your photos to social media.
  2. Do challenge yourself. Exercise your mind. Take classes or play games online. I’ve done both. Being competitive by nature, I enjoy playing word games like Bookworm, Puzzly Word, and Words with Friends.
  3. Do resist the urge to eat constantly. Even if you feel compelled to have food or snacks in your mouth all the time, don’t. Avoid going into the kitchen except for breakfast, lunch, or dinner unless it is to get water or coffee (tea for you tea lovers). Do not try to eat and snack your way through the Pandemic. If you must nibble all day, then stick with fruits and raw veggies (like carrots, celery, cauliflower, or broccoli. I like pickles.). Don’t let sugary sweets become your best friend.
  4. Don’t watch television 24/7, especially if the current situation has you feeling depressed, because you will be bombarded with briefings and news breaks about COVID. Trust me, your favorite programs (like The View) will be interrupted continuously with the count of latest casualties and personal narratives from survivors.
  5. Do something crafty to occupy your mind. Paint, draw, or make a quilt. Read a book. Better yet, write your memoirs. Listen to music or get on WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Skype, or some other video chat program and sing karaoke with friends. If you are by nature a couch potato and start jonesing for the idiot box, then watch documentaries or binge-watch a series on Netflix.
  6. Don’t trip over the cat, step on the dog, or fall down the stairs. Most accidents happen in the home, so whatever you do, try not to injure yourself so severely that you will have to go to the hospital. Unless you think that you might have COVID, the hospital is the last place you want to go right now, because if you don’t have the virus when you arrive at the hospital, with all of the microorganisms in the air you will likely have contracted it before you leave.
  7. Do establish an exercise routine and workout daily in your home. If you want to workout twice a day do it. Once in the morning and once in the evening. Exercise too can get boring, so vary your workout. Aerobics in the morning. Yoga in the evening or vice versa. There are numerous workout videos on YouTube. And don’t forget to stretch after working out. If the weather is nice, go outside and walk for a few miles. Just remember – social distancing.
  8. Do spring cleaning. Rearrange your living space or just clean out the closets or dresser drawers. Have a shred-in. Shred your sensitive documents (personal emails, travel documents, tax files, health records, and other private papers.) A few days ago, I went through my file cabinet, pulled out, and shredded numerous documents that I’ve been hoarding because I did not want to clean out and organize the filing cabinet. Among other things, I shredded all of the copies of old tax returns from 1972 to 2000. IRS recommends that you keep records for three years with certain exceptions. You can find those stipulations on the IRS.gov site.

And finally…

  1. Do ignore people who tell you how foolish it is to stock up on essentials like toilet paper. They are the same people who will be begging to “borrow” some of yours when they run out.

One can quickly become depressed when life is suddenly topsy-turvy, and we are forced to live under what some call the new norm. As difficult as it may be, fight the unhappy feeling with humor. It is easier to sink into a hole of deep depression than to climb out of it. Maintain a positive attitude. Do things that you’ve been putting off because you always thought you didn’t have time to get around to doing them. And if all else fails, phone a friend. Hopefully, it will be someone who will uplift your spirit and not invite you to join his or her pity party.

Life is short. Make the best of it.

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The Sheep Are Drinking the Kool-Aid with Cult 45

The following post was written by Guest Author, David White. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher of this blog.

 

If they don’t get it now, they’ll never get it. Forty-five has essentially told you that your attempts to preserve and protect your life and health are an inconvenience to his grift and graft. What are a few thousand deaths in areas where I don’t live when my ratings might suffer, and I might lose money and my presidency?

This weekend Joy Reid was asking her guests why don’t the Trumpists see that they are being manipulated and lied to. David Corn put it as succinctly as anyone I’ve heard recently. He said, in essence, you have to let them go – they’re not seeking the truth they have drunk the Kool-Aid.

Look at the Jonestown massacre. Those people had their leader. He was infallible in their minds. He sold them utopia, and they convinced themselves, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he was “The Man” to deliver them everything they wanted.

Now we have Cult 45. Their leader has sold his people on his evil, racist, selfish, egotistical reign by giving them the hope that he can show those others – the Latinos, Blacks, Jews, Asians, liberals, and anyone who doesn’t toe his line that his kind will rule. What they don’t fully appreciate is that the only kind he wants to rule are those like himself and his progeny. Everyone else is a tool.

But they buy his absurdity because he feeds them what they want – bigotry, wrapped in fake everything. Fake Christianity. Fake patriotism. Fake morality. Fake empathy. Fake compassion. And fake victimhood. He uses their resentments and frustrations to his own ends, and they let him because they identify with his racism and unconstrained id. They aren’t turned off by his ugliness – they want what he has – and, reluctantly concluding that they might not get to where he is, they gladly settle for the schadenfreude they feel for the pain and suffering he inflicts on others.

Some historical records of the Civil War reveal that the poor whites who fought for the Confederacy did so, not because they were due to gain financially, but because of the psychic pleasure derived from subjugating and lording over those whom they could consider less than themselves (the black slaves, of course). The same reason why they concocted Jim Crow laws and the KKK.

The last and perhaps most challenging obstacle for Americans, black and white, and “other” is to remove the false social construction of race. Science tells us there is no biological divergence in the human species to justify any labels. We do it for sociological convenience. We walk past people every day who we would label white on sight who, by ancestry, would be considered black – and vice versa. But it is convenient to put individuals in racial compartments and then, based on compartmentation, determine how we then deal with them.

I know this is complicated and controversial, but the science is there. We are all on a human continuum of skin color and hair texture based on genetic mutations. We look like our progenitors – Asian, European, or African. Still, those aren’t races. Those are mutations from generations and generations of the original race of all humans who came from Africa.

In another iteration, if Hutus had decided (and were able) to overrun the whole continent of Africa and subjugate the Tutsis and other tribes to slavery for generations, they would have justified it by claiming the Tutsis and others were different races and therefore not worthy of being treated the same as a Hutu.

I was outraged when I heard the latest spin by 45 and Fox that “We need to get the economy going and old folks and sick folks need to go on and die.” Anything to restore the economy and prevent the so-called upper class from losing money.

As a precaution, eighty-nine-year-old media mogul Rupert Murdoch had his network cancel his birthday party while continuing to downplay the threat of the coronavirus to their sheep. They don’t care about the elderly. They refuse to see through the charade because they have pledged full loyalty to the cult of 45.

Cult leader Jim Jones didn’t have to force or coerce the hundreds of people who died with him in Jonestown, Guyana. They willingly and dutifully drank the Kool-Aid and 45’s pigeons will too. We shall see how many are willing to drink to their end.

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Being Still

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

The other day I took time to relax. What’s unusual about that, some will ask. It’s unusual for me because it’s something I rarely do. Perhaps it was mental fatigue that led me to stop scurrying around and be still for a moment.

Being still is difficult for me. I’m a little bit hyper. I feel compelled to always be doing something because doing nothing seems like a waste of precious time.

When I am at home and not out and about, typically I am undertaking several tasks simultaneously. Doing laundry and house cleaning. Cooking and reading. Taking online classes, researching something on the web, or composing essays while listening to the TV – generally a political talk program – always on in the background. I know that so much busyness isn’t conducive to flawless productivity. So, I decided to take a break. Give it all a rest. Do nothing, but be still, sit back in my recliner and relax for a while. Some would equate that to meditating.

But it wasn’t working.

Feeling determined, yet antsy, I decided to add some music. I closed the blinds and turned on an all-music station. Appropriate for the season, they were playing Christmas songs.

Most of the tunes were popular during my childhood and early adult years. Christmas oldies, I call them, though those songs never get old. Music stations play them annually. Sometimes they combine the old school Yuletide hits with contemporary Christmas music by Fantasia, Taylor Swift, John Legend, Mariah Carey, and others of a younger, hipper generation. In my opinion, there is no comparison. Ask any boomer, and they will tell you that our generation had the best music.

I remember as a child hearing Eartha Kitt seductively purring Santa Baby, and Bing Crosby croon about dreaming of a White Christmas (Do the PC police now consider that phrase politically incorrect?) Kitt and Crosby were great artists in their time. However, their songs don’t compare to Darlene Love belting out Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). I love having Luther entertain me with At Christmas Time, but nothing beats a melody of hits from The Temptations’ Give Love at Christmas album. And how can I not tap my foot and sing along to Donnie Hathaway’s version of This Christmas? When Gladys Knight and the Pips sing, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” I whisper, “Oh yeah. I  hear it.” My blissful mood continues as Carla Thomas exclaims Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas. There is no better way to relax than to be serenaded by old school R&B Christmas hits and slow jams.

My self-imposed, quiet times don’t last long. I suppose it’s nervous energy that compels me to constantly move around, do something, keep busy. I think (too much) about the chaotic state of the world and I need a distraction to help take my mind off of it.

I was a child of the sixties. I am a boomer. And as bad as some of my fellow boomers may think that our formative years were, given a choice, I prefer the sixties decade over the current era.

Back then, time seemed to move at a pace slower than an impeachment hearing. Sure, there was social unrest. People were protesting and fighting for civil rights, women’s rights, and anti-war, while politicians were posturing just like they do today. Wars abroad, crime and discrimination in the states, and the assassination of prominent leaders; for the generation of my youth, that was our normal. Mass shootings in schools and a cocktail of other “new norms” were not.

When Charles Dickens wrote his book, A Tale of Two Cities in the Nineteenth Century, he was recounting the period leading to the French Revolution. I don’t know how many times I find myself thinking that he could well have been describing the present. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness . . . it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.”

These days it looks like we are cursed to live under a spell of Darkness ruled by the Dark One. The tranquility that many of us relish is quelled by irreligion and ungodliness. If we are wise, we will bring God back into our society instead of trying to erase Him. Perhaps then, we will survive our “winter of despair” to see the “spring of hope.”

My readers, I thank you for continuing to read me and support this blog.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noël, whatever your preferred greeting. May your holidays sparkle with peace, love, laughter, goodwill, and light, and may the year ahead be full of happiness.

Now turn up the volume on your speakers and enjoy this, my Christmas gift to you.

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Reminiscing Thanksgiving Holidays Past

Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday. Not everybody celebrates it, and if you are one of those bodies who don’t, that’s okay. It’s your prerogative.

But tradition is ingrained in my soul, and every year around this time, nostalgia embraces me like a Snuggie blanket. As I write this, Thanksgiving Day is slightly more than 72 hours away. And I remember.

I remember when I was a very young child, Thanksgiving was the time when our family would often kiss the city goodbye and head south to visit our relatives in the Tar Heel State. Usually, we stayed with our maternal grandmother at her farmhouse. Some of grandma’s other grown children would arrive with their families, and we would reunite with our numerous cousins and other relatives, those who arrived for the holiday weekend, and those who lived in the small town near grandma’s farm.

During the years when my family did not go to grandma’s house for the holiday, Mother would sometimes prepare the Thanksgiving meal and we would pitch in to help. As her children grew older and we had families of our own, we’d sometimes bring a dish that we prepared at home; creating sort of a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner.

I remember one year when I volunteered to bring the collard greens. What I did not realize after cooking what I thought would be a chef-d’oeuvre, not only were the greens undercooked, they were poorly seasoned. I had failed to add any of the staples for making a delicious pot of southern-style greens. No ham hocks or fatback or smoked neckbones. Minus those cholesterol clogging meats I should have seasoned the greens with table salt, but I didn’t think to do that. Can you say bland?

I don’t remember anyone complaining about the greens during the meal, although some of the suddenly wide-eyed expressions by folks when they began eating them should have been a giveaway. One forkful and everyone around the table knew that those were not my mother’s collard greens. Mother was born and raised in North Carolina, and back in those days, if southern women learned nothing else, they surely learned how to cook. And when it came to cooking collard greens, my mother could burn. She put her foot in it. If you are not familiar with the vernacular, those latter expressions are compliments, meaning mother’s greens were supreme.

After dinner, mother pulled me aside and trying to spare me from hurt feelings; she gently told me, “The greens were okay, but you should have cooked them a little bit longer and added some seasoning.”

That was my first attempt at cooking fresh collards. (Canned and frozen greens were the norm for this busy working mom.) Lesson learned. Do not volunteer to prepare a dish that you’ve never cooked for a family holiday dinner. Since then, thank God, I’ve learned to properly cook and season greens.

Sometimes, after our holiday dinner, we would clear the table, cleaned-up, and enjoy playing Bid Whist. (A note for the uninitiated — Bid Whist, is a card game where bidding partners strive to earn high points to win).

My younger brother was often my partner. Sometimes mom and dad played against us or my sister would be mother’s partner. If other whist-playing relatives, like my Aunt Sarah and Uncle James, were visiting, they would be partners. When there were enough people playing we would play rise and fly. That’s when you lose, and if there are other folks waiting to play, the losing partners get up, and another couple sits down to play.

I cherish those good times.

Unfortunately, as unavoidable as it is, things change, and so do people. Our family Thanksgiving holiday gatherings at my parents’ home ended way too soon. I’ve tried to maintain the tradition with my immediate family including grandchildren with the hope that after I’m dead they will have as many treasurable memories of family holiday gatherings as I have, and the tradition will become part of the family legacy for them as it did for me.

Due in part to PC and sometimes to religious beliefs, Thanksgiving Day, like Christmas and so many other festive occasions, has become a cause célèbre. I see the day as a time for gathering, to be with friends and family. If the history and origins of celebrating Thanksgiving Day bother you, then don’t think of the day as celebrating Thanksgiving. Think of it merely as an opportunity to get together with family and friends, some of whom you may not have seen for years (except at a funeral) and enjoy a good meal. It certainly is a convenient time to have the family gathering on a day when a lot of working people have the time off.

Life is short. IMHO sometimes, we need to temporarily set aside our convictions and seize the opportunity to enjoy spending time with those we love because opportunities don’t last. We never know if a loved one that we spend time with today may be gone tomorrow. A missed opportunity can sometimes be a huge regret.

I don’t wait for a particular day to acknowledge things for which I am thankful. I am thankful every minute of every day. I am thankful for my family and friends, including my blog and Facebook friends. Some of my online friends are people who I’ve known for much of my life. Perhaps we met in grade school or grew up together in the old neighborhood. We were friends long before there was social media. And some of the friends who I’ve met online, I’ve known them long enough now to consider them to be genuine friends. They are friends with whom I occasionally talk on the phone, and sometimes exchange birthday cards, email messages, or notes. I am thankful for real friends and also for good neighbors.

I am thankful for good health. I am thankful every day of my life.

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Pushing Up Daisies

I’m sitting here thinking about putting a light spin on what is a dark part of every one of our lives. It’s something that no one wants to discuss. That unwelcome visitor that everyone knows is coming who makes us want to snatch the welcome mat from in front of our door. That one-way trip that we will all take eventually whether we want to go or not. That journey to the valley of death.

Since I’ve got more years behind me than before me, I’ve been giving the subject a lot of thought. Certainly, after I fall into the big sleep, I won’t have a say over anything concerning my former self, so I am herein expressing my last wishes for funeral and burial.

Before I continue with details, let me reiterate what I have often said – that I hate attending funerals and avoid them when I can. But as we all know there is one funeral that we won’t miss. Our own.

About funeral-goers. I put them into three categories. First, there are the truly bereaved mourners who have lost a loved one, relative, or friend. Second are the curious, casual acquaintances of the deceased whose ulterior motive for attending the funeral is to get a copy of the program, with the hope of learning things that they didn’t already know about the deceased. The third group attends funerals because it is a social gathering. During the hour or two, while they are attending the service and the repast, it breaks-up the monotony of their otherwise mundane life. I’m not judging. I’m just calling it as I see it.

Skepticism aside, we all have limited time on earth. Before my time comes to be the grim reaper’s reluctant guest of honor, I want to make my last wishes known to my family. And family, don’t feel guilty if you do not comply with these requests because as I’ve learned over the years not everyone’s last wish is granted. It is the living, not the dead who have the final say over the dead body. I’ll give you an example.

After mother died, a few days before her funeral service, my sister and I carried the outfit for her to be buried in to the funeral home. On the day of the funeral, I arrived shortly before the wake was scheduled to start. When I looked in the casket, I was beyond upset. Mother’s chemo-thinned, silvery hair had been nicely pressed, curled, and styled, BUT that was not the issue. She had worn a wig for years before she died, and while on her deathbed, when she was suggesting to my sister and me which outfits we could bury her in, she said, “And don’t forget my wig.”

We had placed the wig neatly on top of the clothing in the bag before carrying it to the funeral home. The undertaker’s grave mistake was that he or she inadvertently forgot to put mother’s wig on her head. That’s what I mean when I say that the dead don’t always get their last wish fulfilled, but there was a twist to this.

Mother’s wig was ultimately retrieved by the undertaker after the first service and was placed on her head before her body was transported over 200 miles away for a graveside ceremony and burial in her hometown. My cousin, who had attended the first service and then followed the hearse to the burial site, later told me that when the casket was opened for the graveside service, she was surprised to see mother was wearing her wig.

I repeat. I do not want an open casket funeral. I don’t want people walking up to my casket gawking over me and then later telling others how I looked. I know that people mean well, but during my lifetime, I have heard (and overheard) too many obtuse comments made about dead people.

“Ms. Estelle sure looked nice. She had on a hat and gloves, dressed like she was going to church. They even had her usher pin on her lapel.”

Or here’s another one, “LaQuita looked good in that white casket. Her weave was tight, and that purple eye shadow matching her lavender shirt was nice. Her boyfriend should not have did that to her.”

It is the female corpses that get scrutinized most, but occasionally comments are made about the males. “Why did they bury Mr. Johnson in his glasses? It’s not like he’ll be able to see where he’s going.”

Undertakers deserve credit for doing their best to make corpses presentable. Still, the thoughtless remarks that some people make after the services bothers me. The sad fact is that no matter how well they are laid out, the bodies of dead people look just like what they are – lifeless and dead. Nothing more. Nothing less. And I say that with much respect.

Like every other corpse, I will have no control over what I am wearing, how my hair is combed or whether my lips have been fixed to look like I am smiling on the way to eternity or pissed off because I am in the land of the dead. Therefore, I repeat, I do not want an open casket funeral. Sadly, I make that request knowing full well that I won’t have the last word about that. You, my family, will.

I tell you what, let’s not have a funeral for me. Services and headstones are expensive. Use that life insurance money for something else. Cremate me. I don’t care. Cremation is cheaper, and think, in the future, you’ll be able to truthfully tell your friends that I had a smoking hot body.

And another thing. I’ve seen insensitive people take pictures of the deceased when they go to view the body. Not only do I think that is inappropriate, but it is downright disrespectful to the family and the deceased. The deceased deserve the dignity of going to their final resting place without a photo op.

If you have a service for me, please call it a funeral. Do not call it a homegoing. I know that term is popular and frequently used. But I never liked it. I understand the concept of homegoing to a heavenly home. But when I think of home going I envision myself taking out my key, unlocking the door, and walking into the place where I live, not transported in a hearse to a cemetery.

In the great scheme of things, we are all insignificant. When and how we are born into this world is the luck of the draw. We have no say in the matter. Who will be our birth parents? Was our birth planned and eagerly anticipated or a fluke? Will we be born a rich child, into a wealthy family, or a poor child in poverty? How we fare in life is a game of chance, and it is pretty much the same when we depart. We don’t know when or how we will leave here. Natural causes. Murder. Accident. Suicide. It’s paramount to live our best life and celebrate it now. When we come here, how long we stay, and when we leave is not a choice.

The Bible prophesizes, and people can speculate all they want, but who on earth can say for sure what happens to us after we die? Christians believe that depending on how we live; we will ultimately ascend to a heavenly home or spiral down into a hellish abyss. Who knows? The hereafter is as perplexing as the present day and time. The goal, oh yeah, and a song you can play at my service if you wish is Stayin’ Alive.

This composition began as a personal letter to my family, but while writing it, I decided to post an alternate version with the hope that it might make someone smile about a subject that is often taken deathly seriously.

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