Identify what is most important )0( Eliminate everything else
The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world. Dr. Paul Farmer
The suffering of others is not alleviated when no one knows about it.
There is no one right way to live. Daniel Quinn Ishmael
The only thing that you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right sort of people.
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

to have the capacity of apprehending sound

The definition of the word hear.  By and large, most people hear only what they want to hear, you know, really hear what someone else is sharing, and not just being the receptacle that apprehends sound.  Or, more properly, only what they need and long and desire to hear.  Heck, I do it myself.  I cannot even begin to estimate how often I am listening to someone (an entirely different process) and am barely paying attention to what they are saying. 

Oh, sure, I can keep up with the conversation and all that jazz, but being attentive and fully involved in the conversation really does not happen all that often.  What the person is sharing is their view or opinion or experience, but not mine.  Sometimes I am thinking more about what I am going to say, and that means that what I am hearing is muted by my own thoughts.  What the other person is saying is more like background noise.  That does not mean that I care little for the person or what she/he is talking about, because I would most likely not be there in the first place, but sometimes I do not care sufficiently to be properly immersed in the dialogue.

We all do it.  We all have it done to us.  Life goes on and we get over it, or at least accustomed to never expecting to be fully heard.  Well, that is probably not true.  In that other life I would have given just about anything to be heard.  I still feel the loss of that.  It is echoingly empty and frighteningly scary to try to communicate and never, or rarely, be heard or understood or to know that the other person simply does not care to hear you, and that that person would be much happier if you just shut the fuck up for a change.  Another story.

But, my point is that it is a common, universal experience.  We all have our own needs and I guess it is impossible for any of us to find the kindness, support and selflessness to be a good listener all the time.  Another point is that it does not often make any difference, mostly because the other person is probably thinking of the next things he/she wants to say while they are still talking to you and before you have a turn at speaking.

What brought all this on is that I was sharing some of my experiences at finding health insurance for other people, those who did not have access to computers or other resources, or the personal experience of trying to maneuver the insane mess that finding decent insurance or other stuff.  It is what it is, and too many people are stuck with what they know and who they have in their lives to help with this kind of thing.  Factor in limited financial resources and some people simply give up.

Even those with decent finances can be overwhelmed by the process.  And, last week one of my coffee friends asked if I would help her find insurance that she could afford, based on the group's conversation of the previous week.  I agreed and knew, with complete certainty that I would be able to find insurance coverage that met her health and medication needs that would be friendly to her budget.  In fact, I was pretty sure that I could wow the BGP off of her.

So, I got basic information from her so that I could begin the search.  I found a few plans that would give good, basic coverage at fees that began at zero, deductibles that also began at zero and all her medication and have her preferred doctor included in the plan.

I called and gave her the information and she told me that she forgot to mention her pension, which more than tripled her yearly income.  Yikes.  I said I would work the new numbers and get back to her.  I was able to do so when I returned from my tests appointment at the lab, sharing that I found plans that began with less than $150.00/US in premiums per month and with very low deductibles, and did include her meds and doctor.

Alrighty then.  Turns out that part of our group conversation, two of the other babes and I were talking about our supplemental/advantage insurance to supplement our Medicare (old people insurance) and that all of us had found ways to decrease our monthly premiums by at least twenty dollars.  Score!!!  Those sup/adv plans, for us, are costing us from $30.00/ $205.00/US...friend #3 per month.  Mine covers only the basics because Medicare covers all of my diabetes needs and the extra premium covers prescription medications, basic dental preventative care and a vision exam, whilst the plan friend #1's premium covers every single one of her very specific and expensive health issues.  Friend #2 falls in between us, and her insurance needs include a husband with some health concerns, too. 

Plus, Medicare insurance costs $106.00/US per month right off the bat, and our sup/adv plans are added to that.  So, my monthly cost is $136.00 per month and so on...

However, what my friend though she heard was that I found complete coverage insurance plans for monthly premiums between $30 and $50 per month.  Period.  No extra costs for meds, doctor visits, hospital visits, preventative care or co-pays of any kind.

Man, I wish that were even close to possible.  It is not, though, and my friend was mightily distressed that I "misinformed her."  So, she is really upset because even though her income makes it possible for her to afford just about any premium plan that exists, she also shared that she has a lot of debt and really does not want to spend that much/>$150.00 on insurance. 

Truth is that she is quite angry with me.  I am hoping that she will find a way beyond her feelings about this, but you just never know.  I am hoping that once she has some time to think about it she might take my offer to help her again at any time.  Although, first she has to think that I have already helped her.

You know, I talk a lot.  It is difficult to make me be quiet.  Even a village could not handle it.  So, I am used to any listener not paying all that much attention to what I am saying.  I am background noise, and I am fine with that.  But, I think that I will pay attention to conversations for a while, not only my own, but what I hear around me.  That should be pretty interesting.

Friday, January 8, 2016


Since that smarter than me phone came into my life I have eschewed paper calendars.  In the old days I used to keep a big wall calendar at home, one of those desk blotter kinds, with the huge squares and plenty of room to write down everything about which everyone needed reminding.  I also kept a small monthly calendar booklet in my bag for jotting down stuff as it came up.  It took a decent amount of responsibility to keep them both up to date.

When I worked in a book store we had two extra stores during the winter holidays, both of them selling mostly calendars, but also toys and games and who knew what the hell was going to show up in those weekly deliveries. 

One store was in-line.  That means that it was a regular store setup, with a door, a back room for overstock and a rest room. 

The other store was a kiosk.  Those are the island shops in the middle of the mall corridors, that space between long banks of in-line store spaces.  The kiosk had scant storage space, long two-sided racks on which to display the calendars and other crap, a small mobile counter and sales space with a cash register. I guess they were called terminals because of the computer components, but they really were just machines that added up the purchases and processed the payments.

The kiosk did not, naturally, have a stock room or rest room.  We were dependent on the good heart of the base store/bookstore manager for rest room and lunch breaks.  It was a mess that was too distressing and unfriendly to all of humanity to describe now.  It still makes me shudder.

So, anyway, I was putting some information into my phone's calendar...oh, my god, I just love that thing sooooo much.  That, the built in flashlight and texting are what fuels my day, most days.

And, anyway, some of the old calendar store stuff popped out of my memories.  Despite the obvious drawbacks of place and time, as well as crappy managers, I have lots of fun and weird memories of those months each year.

Especially the people hired for those part-time jobs.  Most of them were fine, but as the years rolled on we had many amusing anecdotes about the folk hired for those jobs.

There were the people who just stopped showing up.  There was the guy who stole the safe from one of the stores we managed at another mall, on his way out the day after Thanksgiving, which is the busiest day of shopping for us.  There were the people who found out that we could not keep them after the holidays and just never came back from lunch.  There were the other people who just never came back from lunch, for whom we have no idea what happened. 

There was the college student who left the kiosk unattended to walk down a few storefronts to watch movies at the video store.  When we told him that he could not do that, he started bringing in his laptop so that he could do some of his classwork during slow times at the kiosk.  That did happen, both in the early weeks and after the first of the year when we heavily discounted merchandise and sold down as much as possible before closing for the season.  He did not do schoolwork, but watched movies at, clearly, a more convenient location, one with a stool.  So much better than the video store.

We were just happy if employees showed up on time, stayed their entire shift and did not steal too much from us.  Even with such low expectations we often found ourselves disappointed.  But, as retail folk all around the world know, you do the best with what you have.

One year we had to make a new rule.  You still had to show up on time.  You still had to stay for your entire shift.  You still had to be subtle about your stealing.

But, now, you had to wear pants.

This was a man who we hired to work shifts at both in-line and kiosk locations.  Unfortunately, there was a problem with his wardrobe.  Previously, the only clothing rules were that jeans could not be work and that clothing should be modest in appearance.  No jeans is pretty clear, but the whole modestly thing was open to personal interpretation and the occasional tussle with someone who did not have a regular standard or practice where modest garments were concerned.

For this particular man, well, he did not wear jeans and his body was appropriately covered, but we were never sure what he wore from the waist down.  Maybe it was pants, maybe it was not.  But, he came to work on time.  He stayed his entire shift and I do not think he took even a paperclip home with him.  The whole situation was weird and I often thought about buying a gift card for him to go to one of the department stores in the mall to buy pants, but I could never figure out a way to do so that was not creepier than whatever the heck he was wearing to work.

Other than that, we hired lots of people who followed all of the rules, did not steal and managed to do a damn fine job during a seriously stressful time of the year to be in retail.  All of those folk were kept on; part time in the beginning (because we never had enough hours in the first place), and moving up in hours and responsibility as time went on.  Some of those fine employees needed only holiday work and we brought them back into the schedule every year.

It and they were a lot of fun and real friendships were formed.  Two of them were a young man who came back for at least four seasons, and his girlfriend who joined him after his first year with us.  They were fun and cool and hard workers.  Informed about books, learned more about books and were good with customers. 

The young man was one of my all-time favorite people and we gave him hours that worked well with his studies.  One year he was working at the kiosk when something funny happened.

Well, not funny in the beginning.  Malls attract all kinds of truly weird, seriously rude and ruthlessly bored visitors.  You can do pretty much anything you want in a mall, especially in the public (not store) areas, as long as you buy stuff, even if it is endless big pretzels and soft drinks.  But, this is not about that, this is about the young man.  I guess he should have a name.  We will call him Michael.

So, anyway, Michael was out doing his time in the kiosk during the waning months of sales, after the new year and we were all hanging on, waiting for our turn to be closed.  There were few shoppers in the mall those weeks, but plenty of young people who had nothing better to do than find a way to the mall and hang out and avoid the kind of disturbance or annoyance that would get them sent out to play in the traffic until one of their parents came to pick them up.

A group of these youngsters, all boys, were making mischief and decided to hang out around the calendar racks.  They were messing up merchandise and being generally stupid.  Michael kid his job, straightening up after the fools and asking them to stop making the messes.  They would laugh, walk off and eventually return after they were sent away from some other store.  After the third time they swaggered back, Michael got more stern with them and told them if they could not behave decently that they would have to stay away.

One of them said to the other fools, "Oh, look, now you made the lady mad."

When Michael came back to the bookstore for his lunch break he shared the whole story with me and I could not stop laughing.  Like straight from the belly laughing, on and on.  Michael was not upset because he found it funny as well and could not wait to tell me about it.

Thinking about it still makes me laugh, although not much triggers that memory.  A few years ago there was a television commercial from one of the cable companies.  There was an older man, a dad, who was explaining to a bedraggled man (who was sitting on his living room floor) that he was sorry, but, whilst he enjoyed the cable program on which the oldbedraggly character performed, it was too violent for his children to watch.  The vaguebedraggly character looked up at the man, said he understood and then said, "You're a nice lady."

In the scheme of things human, we are all the nice lady.  Just going along, doing our best, trying to not metaphorically scold other people in our heads, and avoid allowing other people, unsatisfying circumstances and, oh, just the world in general  chip away at our inherent niceness.

All of us just want to be nice and to have other people, with their weird and often selfish agendas, allow us to be nice ladies.  Some of us have cat calendars hanging in our kitchens.  Others have war planes, sport team, inspirational, humorous or Norman Rockwell calendars.  Some of us are doing all of that electronically.

Whatever method we use to keep our lives organized, surely there is room to remind ourselves to be nice ladies even when it seems that everyone and everything is working to wipe those lovely smiles off of our faces and make us want to punch them in the nose.

I have all kinds of alcohol here, most of it gifts, and I never remember to have a bit of any of it.  Tonight, with my apple and buttered panettone dinner I am going to have a wee cup of bourbon.  Or, maybe, my daughter's homemade limoncello, and make a toast to nice ladies everywhere.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


I always think, and say, that I have all the time in the world.  I kind of live by that notion, accepting that if something is important enough, that I really do have all the time I need.  You know, for what is important to me.  That is the litmus test for the things or projects or processes that I believe I need to have.  Sometimes, or once in a while or frequently, it does not matter how often I tell myself this story.

I guess that it is true, for the most part, because I will always find the time to do the stuff I love, be with the people I love and work at the stuff I love.  I feel that way about volunteering.  Oh, sure, I like to help and all that jazz, but volunteering, any kind of doing things for others or for campaigns or whatever it might be is pretty satisfying.  Were it not, no one would do any of it.  Sure, there will always be truly altruistic and self-sacrificing folk who have the kind of purity of spirit who will always rise to whatever need presents itself.  Big-hearted people who genuinely care about other people.  That sub-species of human who are genuinely human and humane and truly give a rat's fanny about more than just their own needs.

I am not sure where this is going, but suffice it to say that I am not one of those good people.  I do what I do because I love doing it.  That does not make me better than anyone, and it does make me more selfish than most because I am really invested in how it makes me feel to reach out and do stuff that is beyond my own needs.  Or, is it that?  What if my need is the thing that drives me?  I guess it does not make any difference.  As long as I am not hurting anyone or any whatever, then the reasons are irrelevant.

Time is increasingly on my mind.  The snow removal problem here reminds me that my physical resources are limited.  Whilst I feel well, healthy and all that, I am woefully out of good physical condition.  I am still fat.  I still do not engage in any regular exercise.  All that.  I am more bodily fit than I was before I moved here, to this flat with fourteen steps up to my door.  Yes, I count them.  It is a habit that developed when I began needing to climb that steep and narrow staircase.  Counting helped me to actually make it up, breathless and tired, but I did not have any real choice. 

Climb up and down the stairs or live in my car.  I have already done that in the past several years, so, no thank you, I do not wish to repeat that experience.  It did not kill me to live with those circumstances, but it is much less pleasant than you would think, especially in colder weather.  Not so great for my cat, either, but we did not have any choice for that, thankfully, brief period.

I think that most people who make it through challenging times are pleased...albeit often a little surprised...that they were able to do so.  There may even be a certain amount of smugness connected with surviving tough times, although I am thinking that most survivors would think of their survival as a point of pride and accomplishment, but the whole smug thing is in there as well.  I do not think it can be avoided.  You know, being human and all.

Unfortunately, time, actual time, is something over which I have no control.  I can decide how I will spend it, or as in my case, waste it, and that is not a gratuitous or sympathy inducing statement.  I do waste a significant amount of time.  Part of it is that I can do whatever I like, not do anything I do not want to do.  Some of it is due to inertia and depression, but those cannot be excuses because I do have a limited ability to affect those qualities.

Anyway, I have been thinking about how to inspire myself to get my saggy and aged ass out an doing more stuff.

Something I read on a blog that I follow made a quote by Albert Camus tickle my memory.  I had to Google for it, as it no longer lies complete in my memory.  Truth is that book/reading memory eludes me lately.  I just library borrowed and nearly completely read a book that I borrowed and read just a few months ago.  It was only vaguely familiar until the final few chapters.  That is how old I am sometimes.

And, that is the skimpy part of time, having all that I need.  The manifestation of the weak link in using what I have in the best way possible.  I am not doing that.  My sleeping is messed up and I am resisting medications that would force me into a regular schedule.  For good reasons, as those meds  certainly can work, but can mess you up in other ways.

But, back to Camus.  This is the quote that I had to find:
We have not overcome our condition, and yet we know it better. We know that we live in contradiction, but we also know that we must refuse this contradiction and do what is needed to reduce it. Our task as [humans] is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls. We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more to peoples poisoned by the misery of the century. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks [we] take a long time to accomplish, that’s all.
Let us know our aims then, holding fast to the mind, even if force puts on a thoughtful or a comfortable face in order to seduce us. The first thing is not to despair. Let us not listen too much to those who proclaim that the world is at an end. Civilizations do not die so easily, and even if our world were to collapse, it would not have been the first. It is indeed true that we live in tragic times. But too many people confuse tragedy with despair. “Tragedy,” [D.H.] Lawrence said, “ought to be a great kick at misery.” This is a healthy and immediately applicable thought. There are many things today deserving such a kick.
 This is exactly, or nearly, as I am feeling and thinking right now.  I remembered, sketchily, only the first part, but discovered the second when I found the quote.

He was only twenty-seven years of age when he wrote that.  Crazy.  Groovy.  I am two and a half times that age and I cannot think of such things on my own.

I am not so concerned about the centuries or civilization as a whole, but hold this more personally.  It is about a life where, and at times, it is difficult to parse meaning from the jumble of just plain living.  All life is challenge.  Even the most calm and serene life is full of decisions one has to make.  How I am going to do this, in my life, can determine what my future, both near and long-term is going to be about.  Surviving is simply not enough.  It should be, but it is not.

I am not introspective enough to pull this together.  I become too caught in the thrall of the day, or the problem, or the time and space I am filling with nothing productive.  Except, for reading.  I am at a pivotal moment.  I could take classes, which very much appeals to me, and I am going to attend a few art things.  I even want to learn new ways to paint.  Maybe slump glass or work with mosaics.  And, I am struck by my need to read as much as I can. 

A while back, as I was getting my grandsons off to school, I made sure that we cleaned up after the bacchanal that those mornings often are, explaining that mom is a busy person and we need to clean up after ourselves because she is so busy.  My oldest grandson shared with me that he understood that I was not a busy as his mom was, and that she had told him that "grandma reads a lot and does not do much else."  At that time, many months ago, that was not true.  I was settling in here and trying to find things to do, people to meet, stuff like that.  It is true now.  Mostly.  Especially the reading part.  There is not enough time to read everything I need and want to know.  Well, that is primarily things I want to learn about, mostly science stuff.  So, I borrow a half-dozen books each week from the library and read what makes the most sense to me and return the rest with only a cursory flip through.

And, because I care about the person who writes the blog I follow, I am now adding Camus to that list of must-reads.  I no longer have the handful of his books that I have read; all my books were left behind in that other life.  But, I do have a great library that will find and deliver pretty much anything that I want, so Albert is on the near lineup.  Surely time enough in my all the time in the world for that.