Is this really any surprise?

Seeing the title of this article, I had to wonder – why would this idea be so surprising to people?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/07/09/scientists-have-discovered-that-living-near-trees-is-good-for-your-health/

Trees = good; living surrounded by concrete and steel = not so good.  It makes for a good song, but not so much for a quality living experience. Even in the biggest of cities there are trees in residential streets, in public squares and urban parks.

And then I came across this article this morning, after watching a bit of James Hansen’s interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/07/20/the-worlds-most-famous-climate-scientist-just-outlined-an-alarming-scenario-for-our-planets-future/

Sometimes I find myself wondering how long I want to keep my family living in the part of the country where we are now. Water security is becoming “a thing”, something worth considering, and drought is virtually guaranteed to be something that needs to be considered across the American southwest. Temperatures have risen over the last few years, water availability varies, and agriculture has been affected by various things over the recent past.

Diseases: of people, animals, and plants, have affected our food supply. Oil and gas prices have also had an effect on food, driving food prices up as the costs for transporting food products increase.

This is just a quick touch on some of the big topics affecting individuals in our society. While people are struggling to make enough money to support themselves and their families, all of these other things are going on outside of the scale of an individual’s control and life.

How can one person or family even take into consideration all the things that could or do affect them? How can we even know where to start? How can we better make plans that take into consideration a long-term future?  Instead of thinking about what to do in the next six months, or year, or two years, how can we make plans that have a chance of standing up in ten years, or thirty years? How can we take into consideration elements that our families, our descendants, might be dealing with in a hundred years?

It might seem foolish to some of you that I even think about this distant future – something that I may or may not be around to see, myself – but I do consider it, almost as seriously as I think about situations facing me in the next six months or year.

I have always, at least for the last 25+ years, wanted to do something in my lifetime that would leave the world better, in any way, than it was when I began my adult life. I have often been distracted by different individual aspects of what that change might be, and I have not come up with any cohesive plan that addresses multiples of those aspects. I don’t even know if a “cohesive plan” is possible. Maybe I just have to keep working on making my individual family life as good as I can, one day at a time.

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Selfies in serious places

Just read this post, and it reminded me of a moment on my trip last month.

In my case, my family and I had stopped at a massive Cabela’s store in Texas, where the walls were lined with hunting trophies, and a huge display in the form of a mountainside with different environments represented on each side dominated the rear of the store. The mountainside had animals of all shapes and sizes, in representations of their native environments.

Cabelas-display-4 Cabelas-display-3   Cabelas-display-2 Cabelas-display-1

In one corner of the building I saw a doorway flanked by a pair of tall ivory tusks.

I am a daughter of a veterinarian, but have also worked at a business that was partially dependent on hunters. I understand some aspects of hunting, and am supportive of people who hunt for food.  Not so much of those who hunt for trophies only.

I had my son stand next to one of the tusks, for the size perspective, and he gave me a big smile – as he often does when I photograph him. I took several photos like that, but then I stopped and essentially told him that I wanted to get a photo of him looking sad, next to that ivory tusk. He asked why and I explained to him that someone had killed an elephant for that tusk. He was sad then – and wanted to know why someone would kill an animal just for their tusks.

I wanted the photo. I understood my son’s innocence of the subtext behind the trophy, and then I intruded with my own ‘political’ viewpoint. And in the aftermath, I regretted my action for a time. And ultimately I decided to use the first picture I took.

Alex-tusk-first

It is important to talk about all sorts of topics with my kids, to help them navigate the world. But sometimes it might be better to let him enjoy the moment, to explore and experience the positive side of what we were exposed to, and then have further discussion later.  It doesn’t always have to be handled right there, right then. Sometimes it’s okay to wait a while, and let there be positive experiences, and negative experiences separately.

Fortunately, he’s young and bounces back pretty easily. And at the end of the visit, we found an aquarium in the front of the store where they had many living examples of fish (big ones!) found in the local waters. The living examples helped mitigate some of our feelings about the trophies on the walls, floors, and atop the shelves.

Cabelas-fish-1 Cabelas-fish-2

Remember, I accept hunting as well as animal protection and preservation. I do know that there are hunters and hunting organizations that do a lot to help conservation of many species, and it helps their experiences too.  I have no wish to destroy what I saw on those walls. Many of the animals were beautiful, and seeing the mount gave me a perspective that can’t be duplicated without being right next to the animal – not likely, for most of us.

It’s okay to be sad in a place of heavy memories. And it’s also okay to be smiling. It’s not simple. There is no “one true way”. Be yourself. Just try to see and experience everything you can in this one life you have.

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Study versus worship – what the “Alien theorists” do right

Why do we insist on saying that ancient people “worshipped” something, when we don’t have any proof? If we find symbols and writings on a structure, or strange equipment that we don’t understand, we seem to immediately jump to the assumption that these were some sort of primitive people who drew the symbols as an expression of religion.

It would be the same as if a human in 5000 years found one of our observatories and immediately assumed that those people “worshipped space”.  Or if someone found the remains of a medical school and decided that “those humans worshipped the human body”.

It’s ridiculous.  What if the people who built Stonehenge were studying space, the planets, the movement of the sun and moon through the seasons?  To simply say that they built it for “worship” risks demeaning them and what they did.  Just because we don’t have specific knowledge of what they did, felt, and believed, we shouldn’t try to put them into some sort of framework that WE understand.

I think we do that just to make ourselves feel better, as if we know ALL about them.  Well, we can’t, because we are not there.

And then we have the Ancient Alien Theorists.  These are the folks who think that humans were helped along in our evolution by visiting aliens who contributed a bit of genetic engineering to push us down the path of advancement a bit faster than we were going.

Most of the time they sound like a bunch of wackos. But they do have one trait I appreciate – an open mind.

They ask questions when they find something new to them. If there’s not a known and proven answer, they entertain all sorts of options – and the most interesting of them dig in to see if they can find evidence for those options.

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two months later

Well, he didn’t give up on himself or us, but the end indeed came – more or less as I feared it would.
Grandpa, you were loved by your family, and by so many others who met and knew you over the years. A selfish part of me wishes you had been able to be here for your 101st birthday, but it wasn’t to be.

I love you. I miss you. We think about you every day. I hug my kids a little closer, and a little more often. We cry together. We smile together when we talk of you.

I’m glad you’re not hurting anymore. I wish you were still here.

W.D. Lindsey 1912-2013

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Things you need to think about – aging family members

File under “things you need to think about, even though you don’t want to.”

This has been a sometimes overwhelming year already, for me and my family foursome, and now that my 100 y.o. grandpa is about to move out of the mobile home he’s lived in for almost 35 years, and into a completely new apartment and environment, I’m worried about what that transition will do to him, and to my family group’s connection with him, now that he’ll be farther away from us and out of convenient “I’ll just stop by” location.

I know that I’ve only been doing the 3-4 times per week visits to help out (and do his shopping, and the short-notice run-by to help with his medication at any hour of day or evening) for a few months, and my dad has been doing the same thing for 9 years now and (quite reasonably) wants to have grandpa closer to him, but I can’t help worrying – is this change going to kill my grandpa?

He’s always been an independent man, as shown by the fact that he was still driving his own car until his 99th birthday, and the fact that he still lives on his own, well past his 100th birthday … until the beginning of next month. When he’s moved to a new place, where he doesn’t know the area, and doesn’t know the people, will he be more likely to just give up and say to himself “I’ve lived long enough, it’s time to go”?

I know he’s in pain these days, I help him apply the patches with the meds that help control it; but his life is still worth living. Is it selfish that my kids and I want him to keep going so we can get more years with him?

I lost my grandma back in 2004, but I’ve still got my grandpa. I don’t want this to mark the beginning of the end, and I’m afraid it will.

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The people I dream of being – continued

This week I began to look up some of the people I have admired over the years, from all stages of my life so far. Many of these are authors, which is not surprising in the slightest considering how much of my life has been devoted to reading.

One of my earliest favorite authors was Anne McCaffrey, who died in late 2011 having published almost 100 books and stories in her lifetime (see Anne’s bibliography, obituary 1, and obituary 2). That’s a number I can only dream of matching for now.

As I began to look up her past I found that she too had divorced: she after twenty years of marriage, to my 13+.  At that time her two younger children were about the age of my children now.

She was fortunate enough to have published several short stories while she was still married and her children were growing up, and was able to focus solely on her writing before her divorce (see her website, maintained by her son Todd).  After filing for divorce she moved to Ireland, both because her family originated there, and because of new tax laws at the time that made financial sense for a working author. She too struggled at times to support herself and her children in those first years after moving to Ireland, and it was only after she’d published several stories that she signed a book contract that allowed her to buy a house and have a more secure future.

As I’ve looked into her life more this week I am struck again at how much I love and respect this author. She was one of my first “favorite authors”, if not the very first. I still re-read her books today, and look forward to getting my children started on them in the hopefully-near future.

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‘Only 8 more years to go…’

“Well, my youngest is eight– (or ten, or twelve, or fill in the blank) so it’s only ten– (or eight or six, or …) more years to go until I can start focusing on myself.”

Yes, but by then the elderly grandparent you’re currently spending hours a week with (so that he can continue living 95% independently and doesn’t have to be “put into a home”) could give way to the now-elderly parent that you will have to do the same thing for.

When does it end?

Well, that’s the wrong question – those things will continue as long as you have living family members that you choose to stay involved with.

Is the only alternative to abandon that family? To give up involvement with them so that you can focus on yourself and your dreams and goals? I’ve certainly heard of and known a number of people who choose exactly that solution.

But I can’t allow myself to believe that’s the only viable option – the idea runs counter to my soul-deep connection with my family.

So how do I make room for myself in my own life?

(And whose life is this, anyway?)

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The people I dream of being are not the people I am

I’ve looked for role models for much of my life. The people I am drawn to have some things in common with me, but many things about their situations are diametrically opposed.

I read about the independent type who “chucks it all” to go off and follow their own path.

I read about the children of single mothers who, with their mother’s support, have risen above the circumstances of their childhood to achieve great success. Many of these, although they may appear to have “done it on their own” came out of an environment of support and encouragement that reinforced them as they made their way through the world.

I read about men (especially in past decades) who have achieved their success with the support of the wife and family who stand behind them; or, rarely, at their side.

What about those individuals who long to create things, to make their way through uncharted life paths, and at the same time bear such heavy responsibilities as raising children and supporting a family at the same time?

Are those individuals, the people like me, doomed to put off their aspirations while those other responsibilities hang heavy at the front of their lives?

Is supporting my children, and hoping to guide them better, the best that I can do?

Is “my turn” already over?

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what to read? check this graphic!

The other day I saw a very cool graphic designed as a sort of flow chart with summer reading suggestions. The graphic itself is several pages long, but well worth checking out if you are a reader in search of new ideas for the upcoming season.
See it here Continue reading

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you can find such neat things on the internet these days…

… Like this tool that compares a chunk of text to the words used in Shakespeare’s plays. How Shakespearean is your writing? http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/08/how-shakespearean-are-you/  I checked five different posts from my blog here and got scores between 85-89% for all of them! 

What fun things have you found lately?

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