Major League Baseball makes the NFL look pathetic

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Major League Baseball took a meaningful stand against cheating.

I could not have been more surprised when the news broke. Major League Baseball took a stand, resulting in the firing of Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and skipper A.J. Hinch.

They’re crime? Cheating.

I know. I almost fell on the floor. Imagine a professional sports organization that actually cares about dishonesty. On top of losing their two top guys – MLB suspended the men for a year, after which the Astros fired them both – the team was fined $5 million dollars and forced to forfeit their first-and second-round draft picks the next two years. The Red Sox then canned skipper Alexa Cora and the Mets parted ways with new manager Carlos Beltran, both of whom were involved in the Astros scandal.

Their crime revolved around the stealing of signs. Baseball purists have long ignored players decoding opponents signals to get an edge, but Houston’s use of electronic gear to systematically capture signs was way over the top.

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The NFL allows coach Bill Belichick to do whatever he wants.

Sadly, for too long, rabid sports fans have accepted cheating, as long as their teams keep winning. The most notorious cheaters, of course, are the New England Patriots. The NFL’s response to the repeated scandals involving head coach Bill Belichick and golden-boy quarterback Tom Brady are pathetic by any standards. Spygate, Deflategate, the supposed bugging of opponent’s locker rooms and scrambling of headset signals, and the filming of the field area to steal signs during the recent contest with the Cincinnati Bengals show a level of cheating that is equally disturbing and unprecedented.

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One wonders how Pats quarterback Tom Brady can look in the mirror.

And all completely unnecessary. Did the Patriots really need subterfuge to beat the 1-12 Bengals? Did they really need to soften up footballs in the 2014 AFC Championship game, a contest they won easily 45-7? It seems as if the Pats cheat simply because they can. The NFL has fined the team piddly amounts of cash. What’s one million to a team valued at a little over four billion dollars? Brady served a four-game suspension, but still wears those Super Bowl rings with pride.

One wonders how they look in the mirror.

As a former amateur sports official, the adage “It’s only cheating if you get caught,” always left me disheartened, especially when uttered by young athletes. Sports are supposed to teach us positive qualities that can help us in life: teamwork, leadership skills, punctuality, and the ability to win and lose gracefully. Cheating was never supposed to be part of the package.

Baseball’s smack down of the Astros makes the National Football League’s response to cheating pitiful. The NFL clearly doesn’t care how teams win, as long as the money keeps pouring in.

I wish the league would consider the message that sends to young athletes who idolize those who play in the pros. Kids who watch closely and do all they can to emulate their heroes.

No wonder they think cheating is just fine as long as you don’t get caught.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

One-thousand pounds of cat

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Cat people understand the weighty power of their feline friends.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not own a cat that tips the scales at one-thousand pounds. But, every now and again, that’s how it feels.

There’s an expression we use in our household when one is providing seating for a cat or two. Under those circumstances – when our fury friends have plopped into our laps – it is extremely difficult to get up.

But not because the feline beasts weigh a lot. It’s more complicated than that. These lovely creatures, warm and silky soft, curled in a ball or draped across the nearest shoulder, exude something that makes the thought of disturbing them hard to consider.

According to John Amodeo, Ph.D. in his Psychology Today article “If You Love Cats, This May Be Why,” “These beautiful creatures have a rare quality that humans would do well to cultivate: a large capacity to receive affection.”

Cat lovers know this to be true.

“Delighting in our physical presence, they may begin to purr and perhaps roll on their backs, exposing their vulnerability. As if to say, ‘I trust you. Give me some love and make me feel good,’” Amodeo said. “Their gift to us is that they receive us deeply, without any troubling cognitions or disturbing memories of less savory moments, such as when we forgot to feed them or clean their litter box. They let all of that go. They’re just here with us right now.”

Now imagine if we humans could do the same. If we could forget why we are annoyed with someone. No grudges. No animosity. No bitterness. If we could, we’d be more like cats.

The good news is that all this kitty contentment is a beneficial thing.

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Turns out, cats can keep us healthy.

“Research has shown that cats can be very healing for us,” Amodeo said. “A 10-year research study suggests that cat owners were less likely to die of heart attacks than people who have never owned one … Other studies confirm that cats can lower our blood pressure and release dopamine and serotonin, which reduce stress and improve immune functioning.”

Amodeo also explained that cats help us release a substance called oxytocin, which is a substance that helps us care about others. “(O)oxytocin … is associated with the feeling of being in love. As we know, love heals, and perhaps an important aspect of this healing is the bonding created by their ability to receive us deeply.”

I know there are those who dislike cats. But I’m hoping they might reconsider. Perhaps all they need is the delicious weight of a feline in their lap. In our house, that is all the excuse one needs to avoid moving.

“Sorry, I can’t get up. I’m being held down by one-thousand pounds of cat.” And while you might think it strange, everyone here immediately understands. That’s when they get up to clean the kitchen.

Yet another reason to love my cats.

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A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boyfriend: an inexact term

 

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How do older dating folks refer to one another? The answer is far from simple

Some words just don’t work. Take boyfriend, for example. I’ve been dating the same man for a quarter of a century. He is far from being a boy and I am approaching my mid- sixties. Yet, this is the term society gives us. So, introductions can be a bit awkward. In fact, just mentioning that I have a boyfriend often has my high school students rolling with laughter. (I think kids believe teachers sleep under their desks and we have no lives outside of the classroom. Sigh…)

By definition, a boyfriend is “a male friend or acquaintance, often specifying a regular male companion with whom one is platonic, romantically or sexually involved. This is normally a short-term committed relationship, where other titles (e.g., husband, partner) are more commonly used for long-term committed relationships.”

Now let’s talk about those other titles. There is a plethora of possibilities and I have tried most of them. While my sweetie pie Ryan is my “friend” that description doesn’t say enough. Lover is a bit too continental: “Here is my love-ah,” I hear myself saying like an aging movie siren. Mi amour, as well, sounds pretentious.

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The term partner sounds too much like a business arrangement.

Then there’s significant other. Hate it. The term lacks warmth and has way too many syllables.

Partner is OK. Still the word rings of a professional relationship, as in my “business” partner.

“What should I call you?” I asked Ryan one day when he was reading.

He pursed his lips and stared at me. “What do I prefer? Call me Poopie Head.”

“Really?” I rolled my eyes. “I’m asking how to introduce you to other people.”

“How about love muffin?”

“Main squeez?” I countered.

He shook his head. “I don’t like main squeeze.”

“OK, so what should I call you?

download-1“How about love of my life?” He grinned.

“And that’s how you want me to introduce you?

“Yes! I am the love of your life, I hope. If not, we have a problem.”

“This is the love of my life,” I practice saying. “Just doesn’t roll off the tongue.”

Ryan shrugged. “Does it really matter?”

“Perhaps not. I guess I could call you . . . Ryan.”

“I still like love of my life.”

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a nap and learn to play the piano


Kitty in a hammock

A nap? Not me. I’ve never been that kind of girl. Until now.

Not too long ago, I found myself with some actual free time. (Yes, it was kind of like locating a unicorn.) In any case, while I could have headed over to the pool to get in some laps, I wandered into my room instead. Before I knew what was happening, I had peeled back the covers on my bed and slipped inside.

It felt so delicously naughty.

A week or so later, I did it again. I took a nap in the middle of the day. At first, I was shocked at my complete disregard for what should be the productive hours of the day. I was raised to believe that one should use one’s available time to move onward and upward. My 94-year-old mother would no doubt chime in here, lecturing me about the need to prepare for my retirement. “Old age is expensive!” she would certainly point out. “Use your time wisely.”

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Clearly, kids could teach us something about napping.

I do not have much of a history in regard to napping, though I’m pretty sure I was one of the wiggle worms my kindergarten teacher had to constantly admonish when we whipped out those wee blankies from our cubbyholes back when I was five.

And yet a pattern has emerged recently. I started napping on a regular basis.  Because I was feeling a tad guilty about nestling my head into that pillow at mid-afternoon, I felt compelled to see if what I was doing was good for me. Turns out, it is. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Napping offers various benefits for healthy adults, including relaxation, reduced fatigue, increased alertness, improved mood and improved perfomance, including quicker reaction time and better memory.” So, that’s good.

However, it is suggested that we keep naps short – between 10 and 20 minutes – because more sleepy time might make us groggy. This is true, and yet I can’t ever manage to wake from my afternoon delight until 40 minutes have passed. It is also recommended that one not nap after 3:00 PM, of which I am also guilty. Finally, nappers need to create a restful environment free of distractions. While I do try, my blue-eyed cattle dog does feel the need to spoon with me during naps and one of my feline friends can only find kitty comfort if he’s plopped down next to my face.

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It’s important to pick a good location for a power nap.

Then there’s something they call a powernap. Rather misnomer-ish, I think. Power and nap just don’t mesh, in my worldview. Still, “The 20-minute power nap — sometimes called the stage 2 nap — is good for alertness and motor learning skills like typing and playing the piano.”

I’d like to play the piano. In fact, the one thing I regret in my life is that I never took those piano lessons more seriously. So, perhaps I will consider power naps, as well as piano lessons.

In the meantime, I will continue to experiment with napping, on the chance that practice will improve my snoozing skills. Now, if only the dog would move over and give me some room.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching: The toughest job I’ve ever had

As we head into the holiday break, I am reminded that I now face just one semester as a teacher. I will then retire following 20 years in the classroom. With that in mind, I have been thinking about what is easily the toughest job I’ve ever had.

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I’ve had a lot of different jobs over the years. I was a maid for a while, so I cleaned other people’s toilets. I’ve been a server in a restaurant, as well as a bartender. I’ve worked in retail selling clothes. I stood for hours on an assembly line as a cutter in a press clipping bureau. I’ve officiated amateur sports, where on a regular basis spectators and coaches had no qualms about calling me names and questioning my parentage. I was a TV sports reporter where viewers took pot shots at my clothes and hair styles and print reporters gleefully published every error I made.

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I’ve a many difficult jobs. Teaching is, by far, the hardest.

But none of these rank with the toughest job I’ve ever had: Teaching.

I did  not become a teacher until I was 45, a mid-life career change that was not what I expected. I’d grown up with the adage “Those who can’t do, teach.” I thought working in the classroom would be easy, especially considering the jobs I’d had previously.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Here’s the thing. Most forms of employment require workers to complete tasks to receive a paycheck. Do your job. Get Paid. Simple. Teachers, however, have to make other people complete tasks. Of course, managers deal with this in the professional world, but teachers generally must make children complete tasks, and convincing kids of the importance of producing completed assignments on deadline is daunting.

I tried to be a hard-ass early on, which resulted in a mini revolution.

“We don’t need you!” A pretty student yelled from her desk. Then she stood and summoned the others, every one of whom followed her out the door. I stood in front of that empty classroom and cried.

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A good teacher doesn’t just pass information along. They must understand what a child is going through outside of the school day.

What I failed to realize was that children are individuals with individual needs. I teach in a Title I school where the vast majority of students live in poverty, their lives affected by abuse, neglect, addiction, hunger, homelessness, and abandonment. When I first became a teacher it never occurred to me that these predicaments made school secondary. It seems silly now that I never considered a hungry child might be unable to think about homework.

Slowly, I came to understand that teaching was not just about passing information along in an orderly progression. I also had to grasp what a child might be going through outside of school, before I could figure out how to help them grow.

I am now in the middle of my 20th year as a teacher. At the end of the school year, I will leave my classroom for the last time. Like any teacher, I wonder if I’ve done any good. I hope so, but rarely do teachers hear from students after they graduate, so we never really know if our classroom methods worked or not.

All we can do is hope.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

Fear: We need it

We are all afraid sometimes, though we don’t like to admit it. Humans tend to see fear as a weakness, as opposed to our body’s survival mode.

My sweetie pie, Ryan, by all indications is a tough guy. He worked security for two decades, protecting rock-and-roll bands, NFL players, and various other folks, which sometimes had him returning home with assorted injuries.

“I’m too old to hit people,” he declared one evening when he came through the door cradling a broken hand.

I mention this because, in his world, one never admitted to fear. Ryan told me that even on the day a man pointed a gun at his chest, he wasn’t afraid. So imagine my surprise when I discovered him so gripped with terror that he was barely able to function.

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A beautiful dive on a colorful reef ended in panic and confusion.

We were scuba diving on a shallow reef, not much more than 20 feet deep. In retrospect, the dive was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been on. Colorful coral heads jutted up from the sea floor, each sporting its own small world with jewel-like fishes darting about. Pre-historic-looking rays flew by. Sunlight sparkled, diamonds in the water.

There is a rule in diving that one never, under any circumstances, leaves their partner.  Diving alone is always dangerous. But on this day, I was so enthralled with the colonies of dazzling creatures – dark blue damsel fish with their improbable turquoise spots, industrious coral shrimp, shy, orange clown fish – that I lost track of Ryan.

I spotted several rays that lazily glided my way and took off to meet them. Something made me turn around. That’s when Ryan emerged from behind a rocky outcrop. Our eyes met. Then, he removed his mouthpiece and yelled, a silent, shocking scream. I watched, unsure of what had happened.

Once we returned to the boat, Ryan was unusually quiet. Something was seriously wrong, but he wouldn’t explain. It wasn’t until we returned to our hotel room, that his problem became clear.

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When a fish went into a small opening, Ryan followed it inside, and then was unable to get out.

“I followed a fish into a small opening.” Ryan sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the floor. “Then, I couldn’t get out.”

I understood immediately. The terror he must have felt at being stuck in a watery hole gave me chills.

“I was afraid.” The pain in his eyes froze me in place.

“You had every right to be afraid.”

He shook his head. “No! I’m never afraid.”

No matter what I said, Ryan’s gloom remained. Finally, I suggested he speak with the two other men we were diving with. Both were master divers with many years of diving experience.

Later that evening, I watched Ry laugh with the rest of our friends, finally at ease. “What did they say?” I asked.

“They told me there isn’t a diver on the planet who hasn’t panicked at some point. And that if I ever dive with someone who says they’ve never been afraid they’re lying, and I shouldn’t ever dive with them again.”

The truth of the matter is we need fear. The ability to fear is the reason humans have survived. Fear makes us aware of danger and forces us to focus and take action. Ultimately, fear keeps us safe. In Ryan’s case, he managed to calm himself enough in that small cave to drop down, dislodging his snagged tank from the top of the crevice. Then he slowly backed out.

“So, you feel better?”

He nodded. “But I’m never doing that again.”

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

A Different Point in Time

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What if we could travel through time?

I love history. In fact, I’m a certified history teacher, though I only taught history one year. That said, I sometimes find myself pondering what my life might have been like had a been born at another time.

I consider, for example, the 17th century, especially when I’m feeding my three black cats. Originally, cats were considered sacred, especially in ancient Egypt where they were symbols of grace and where harming a feline could result in one’s execution. Several thousand years later, however, those same creatures became feared. Especially, if they were black.

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Just one black cat in the 17th century would have branded me a witch.

As they weave around my legs, mewing for their dinner, I sometimes remind my feline friends that their ancestors did not have it so well.

“You know, four-hundred-years ago, you guys would have been toast,” I say, staring into a trio of golden eyes.

Of course, I too would have been burnt bread. As a red-headed, freckled woman who is not accustomed to always doing what she’s told, I would have quickly been branded a witch. Back then all a woman had to do was refuse a guy’s hand in marriage or speak up against some injustice and wham! the locals would pull out the witch card.

And it did no good to object. “No, really, folks. No spells being cast around here. And those black cats? Not mine. Never saw them before.”

But since they had a really good test to determine one’s witch status, there was no need to worry. My neighbors would have simply bound me in ropes and tossed me into the nearest river. The theory went that, if I drowned, I was innocent. But if I managed to break free of my bonds and surface alive, well then, I was indeed a witch. So they’d just dry me off and burn me at the stake.

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When watching the Vikings series, I sometimes consider what my life might have been like back then.

I also consider my ancient Irish ancestors, especially when watching the History Channel’s Vikings series. I like to think of my red-headed forbearers swathed in blue paint, staring down those big, muscle-bound, blond invaders, though there is no unequivocal proof that the battle gear of the day included said azure paint. I’m thinking life would have been rather messy back then, with all the mud and gore left over from those marauding Northmen. And cold. As a girl who’s lived in the desert for three decades, just thinking about those icy winds blowing through the cracks in my wee wooden hovel makes me snuggle down into my blankie. Now, if some strapping Viking warrior decided to stick around for a while, I might reconsider.

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Would I have been a heroic type, à la the Viktor, Ilsa, and Rick in Casablanca? Or would I have been a coward? I can never know.

I also opine about what my life might have been like had I lived during World War II. In my mind, I would have done all the right things: save the innocent, fight with the resistance, be a hero. But let’s be honest. We have no idea how we might behave under such dire circumstances. I might just as easily have been a coward, worried about my own survival, running around like a five-year-old with my hair on fire.

Every once in a while, I wonder what my life might be like had I been born a bit later. Perhaps my quest to be both a sportscaster and a sports official might not have been so rocky.  A time when teachers, family members, and prospective employers might have encouraged me instead of shaking their collective heads at the absurdity of my desires.

The bottom line, however, is we can never know what we’d be like in another time, because we would be different, inexorably altered by our experiences and the circumstances of the period in which we lived.

So, while I enjoy my musings, even given the opportunity to time travel, I think I’d stay right where I am and not change a thing.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

Elderly: What’s that mean?

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What’s that mean?

I was listening to the news the other day when the reporter commented that a woman in the story she was covering was “elderly”. I wondered what she meant by the adjective. What I found is that the definition is rather hard to pin down.

According to Merriam-Webster, elderly means “rather old, especially past middle age.”

So, then, what is middle age? The definition today is “between 45 and 65 years of age,” but that has not always been the case. Prior to the 20th century, human life expectancy in the US was 49, so middle age would have been about 25. (I wonder what today’s youngest millennials would think about that.)

When I asked my high school students what age they think is elderly, someone blurted out 24.

And then there’s this. My mom resides in an independent living facility. She mentioned  that she had recently met a woman. “She’s not elderly,” my 94-year-old mom commented. “She’s 82.”

So, clearly, the term elderly is confusing. And to some it’s downright derogatory. A story posted by NPR was titled “An age-old problem: Who is elderly?”  In it, Michael Vuolo, the co-host of Slate’s Lexicon Valley podcast, was quoted as saying,  “Nobody likes to think of themselves as old, let alone very old. ‘Elderly’ often carries the connotation of feeble and dependent. Which is offensive if you’re not and condescendingly euphemistic if you are.”

Admittedly, I’m a bit wobbly at times, due to bad knees and a crumbling spine, but, geez, I can take care of myself. While I do ask my 22-year-old son to bend down and get things out of the lower cupboards, I would never categorize myself as dependent. Feeble? Call me that at your peril.

In Asian countries, older people have historically been valued and respected. Likewise, in the Mediterranean and Latin cultures. Sadly, here in the US, we live in a culture that worships youth, a predilection supposedly based on our Puritan forefathers who prized independence and a strong work ethic, qualities that apparently expire as we age. (One wonders how they measure such things.)

And here is where I confess that, on my next birthday, I will be 65. Six-and-a-half decades seems to be the “elderly” threshold, one where there is no longer any wiggle room for argument. So, I am soon to officially wear the “elderly” mantel.

I could, perhaps, smile and go with that overused adage, “You’re only as old as you feel,” but, truth be told, sometimes I feel like I’m pushing 100. Yet, at other times I find it hard to believe my wild 30s happened more than a few weeks ago. Sigh…

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Our lives may not get easier as we age, but apparently we do get happier.

A recent poll asked 2,000 Americans between the ages of 16 and 34 their thoughts on older people. The results concluded that, among other things, these kids believe we will  become an economic burden, that we are out of touch with technology, and that we are the worse drivers on the roads.

Balderdash!

Imagine how surprised those young whippersnappers – yes, I said whippersnappers –  would be to learn that the happiest decade of life is said to be the 70s. The second happiest is the 80s. While that certainly doesn’t mean getting older is easy, the idea of getting happier as we age is uplifting.

Now … if only I could get out of my chair.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

White Chocolate: a sweet faux pas

Collection of different chocolate sweets

Yum! Nothing is as tasty as chocolate.

I love chocolate, which does not make me special. Americans consume roughly 18% of the world’s chocolate stash, spending over $18 billion annually on the rich, creamy confection.

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I was a big girl in grade school, which led to my mother hiding sweets from me.

As a child, my mother fretted constantly about my waistline and hid sweets from me. In retaliation, I’d scour my dad’s Brooks Brothers suit-coat pockets for change and trundle through the woods to Ben’s Diner, which had a long, glorious rack of candy. Ben, a big man with a giant stomach encased in a white apron, never questioned my daily haul of candy bars – which were big suckers back then.

I’d sit by the brook with my collie Betsy and eat that candy – Snickers, Milky Way, Baby Ruth, Chunky, 100 Grand Bar, M&Ms, Heath Bar – every day.

My mom, exasperated by my girth, would defend herself to strangers. “It’s not my fault,” she’d tell people when she thought they were staring at me. “I feed her baked fish and salad with no dressing.”

I always wanted to say, “I’m fat, Mom, not deaf. I can hear what you’re saying.” But I never did.

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Chocolate? I think not!

The point is, I love chocolate, which brings me to the abomination: white chocolate.

I realize that some people like that creepy colorless confection. I also know that, lately, fancy chocolatiers have been experimenting with it in an effort to make it more hip. Still, the fact that white chocolate includes cocoa butter, which is derived from cocoa beans, does not make the substance chocolate. One needs cocoa solids to make actual chocolate. (Yes, I know the FDA claims white chocolate made to their standards is considered chocolate, but I’m not having it.)

White chocolate was first unveiled in the 1930s, a product of the Nestlé company in Switzerland. The theory goes that the substance was invented to utilize excess cocoa butter, but no one is really sure.

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White chocolate with broccoli? The whole idea would make even Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka queasy.

The Maya, who were the first people to cultivate cacao trees, probably would be stupefied to learn that their prized chocolate – the beans of which they used as a form of currency – is now offered in this pale, unrecognizable form.

And, even worse,  those trendy chocolatiers are doing unspeakable things to this white sweet. You can now purchase organic kale with mustard mixed into your white chocolate. And salted almonds with broccoli. Clearly, there are maniacal minds at work here. Confectioners who make Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka appear quite sane.

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I’ll concede that a little bit of white chocolate is pretty.

So, what are we to do with this sweet faux pas? Despite my misgivings, I don’t mind a bit of white as a decoration. After all, it’s pretty. But as a real chocolate substitute? Never!

So give me a dab of white chocolate, if you must, but please … hold the broccoli.

 

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compression socks: If those guys can wear them so can I

“Compression socks?” I squinted at the doctor. A picture burst into my brain. A little old lady, hair in a black-mesh net, heavy flat shoes, thick stockings rolled just below the knee: Ruth Buzzi’s Gladys on Laugh-in.

“You should wear them whenever you spend time on your feet.”

“But it only happens when I referee football games.” I gulped. “And I wear shorts. A lot.”

“I understand, but you should wear these socks all the time. I do.” The doctor lifted her pant leg and displayed her compressioned calf. Then she smiled. “Let’s see if that helps.”

Leg rash

Pretty icky, I know. But this is how my legs looked after officiating high school football games.

Compression socks. Yet another assault on my age. As if cataract surgery and high blood pressure meds and the never-ending visits to the physical therapist weren’t enough to remind me that I’m…um…getting older.

The red rashes that appeared on my legs after football games were certainly unsightly. In fact, I looked like I had some rare tropical disease. The blotches would fade after a few days, but as the season wore on the affliction got worse.

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Brett Farve spent 20 years in the NFL shredding defenses and was the first to throw 500 touchdown passes.

And so I was feeling rather glum. “I have to wear compression socks,” I said to my sweetie pie.

“Brett Farve swears by them.”

I sat up in my chair. “He does?”

“Jerry Rice wears them too.”

McDonald's Limited Edition 1993 NFL Gameday Collector Cards Sheet C 3 of 3

Jerry Rice is the best NFL receiver of all time.

My brain whirled. Jerry Rice: the best receiver in NFL history. Brett Farve, who led his teams to eight division championships, five NFC Championship games, and two Super Bowl appearances.

I was skeptical. “Why?”

“I don’t know.” Ryan shrugged.

So I dashed to my computer to see why two fabulous athletes would wear compression socks. I found what I was looking for on WebMD. “Some athletes … wear compression socks and sleeves on their legs and arms. The theory is that, during activity, better blood flow will help get oxygen to their muscles, and the support will help prevent tissue damage. And afterward, the beefed-up blood and lymph circulation will help their muscles recover quickly. They won’t be as sore, and they won’t cramp as much.”

“Ha!” I said to myself. “Compression socks will make me a better athlete.” But then I saw this disclaimer. “Studies show the gear has little to no effect on athletic performance, but some people swear by it. Maybe thinking they have an edge gives them one.”

I didn’t let that last part faze me, after all, if compression socks were good enough for Jerry Rice and Brett Farve, well, they were certainly good enough for me. I smiled, rose from my computer, and took two steps. Then, I stopped. I could have just left it alone, but I felt compelled, so a sat back down.

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NFL Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice is 57.

It didn’t take me long. There they were. Two of the greatest athletes in the history of pro sports, both of whom had passed the half-century mark. Which meant … they were old. Like me. (OK, I’m a little older, but you get the picture.)

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Quarterback Brett Farve, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2016, is 50.

I pondered for a moment and again considered compression socks. I wondered if Farve and Rice meant they liked their compression socks now that they were approaching senior-citizen hood or when they were strapping young athletes.

Eventually, I decided the timing wasn’t important. If those guys could wear compression socks so could I.

And so, I do. And, magically, they work.

My legs are much prettier now.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.