Category Archives: Observations

My Big, Dysfunctional Family

Our little neighborhood in Oregon is a magnet for drama.  To paraphrase the wonderful Alexander McCall Smith, “When people don’t have enough to do, they turn on their neighbors.”*

This community depends on its owners to run things, which might be ok if we weren’t a bunch of amateurs — some well-meaning; some self-serving. Many are retired executives who haven’t quite grasped that nobody here actually works for them. This leads to micromanagement, incompetence, and finger-pointing. Our motto should be “Once burned, twice shy” because we put a big bullseye on our backs the moment we volunteer.  After doing your bit, who needs more aggravation unless you’re a certified martyr or control freak?

The problem is that we’re all part of an extended “family” living in close proximity but connected only by the circumstance of choosing to live in the same neighborhood and, otherwise, having little in common.

Were this a Regency play, the cast of characters might read as follows:

Sir Bluffalot: “Whenever I’m wrong, bullying has always worked for me.”

Mr. Bragalot: (Bluffalot’s illegitimate brother) The self-styled expert on everything, no matter how trivial.

Our Lady of Perpetual Discord: Creates conflict so she can swoop in to solve it, ignoring pesky facts that might contradict her cast-iron assumptions.

Saint Gossipus: Want everyone to know your dire financial situation? Tell Saint G.

Aunt Sweety: A beautiful soul who sees the good in everyone.

Cousin It’sTheirFault: She takes no responsibility for her part in events since it’s much easier to blame others.

Uncle High Dudgeon: No issue is too small to overreact.

Miss Representation: Loyal subject of Saint Gossipus, the truth is a pliable commodity.

The Twins, Pitiful Pearl and Timid Timmy: “Please, someone else, solve my problems for me.”

Lord Blinker: Storms into battle for the woman he loves, armed only with outrage.

Sister Sycophant: “I can’t be bothered to find out anything, so I’ll just mix up a big batch of Kool-Aid and pass out the straws.”

The Moral of the Story: Hire professional management. If that’s impossible, avoid all meetings, curl up with a good book, sleuth out some trustworthy friends, and enjoy a nice glass of wine.

Cheers!

action alcohol art beverage

Photo by Posawee Suwannaphati on Pexels.com

*”If you don’t have things to keep you busy, you end up starting fights with your neighbours.” — The Second-Worst Restaurant in France

 

Happy Random Day

Not only is today a lot like yesterday — and probably tomorrow — but I don’t seem to be able to focus on one particular topic. A few things are buzzing around my brain. First up:

Can You Get COVID-19 Twice?

As with everything else, nobody has a clear opinion. Or they change faster than a politician’s election strategy.

Reported in today’s Washington Post:

Doctors emphasize there is no evidence of widespread vulnerability to reinfection and that it is difficult to know what to make of these cases in the absence of detailed lab work, or medical studies documenting reinfections. Some people could be suffering from a reemergence of the same illness from virus that had been lurking somewhere in their body, or they could have been hit with a different virus with similar symptoms. Their positive COVID-19 tests could have been false positives — a not-insignificant possibility given accuracy issues with some tests — or picked up dead remnants of virus, as authorities believe happened in hundreds of people who tested positive after recovering in South Korea.

Suspect Sanitizer

The FDA has warned that some hand sanitizer brands labeled as containing ethyl alcohol actually contain a much more dangerous ingredient.

The agency reported that there has been an increase in hand sanitizers that have tested positive for methanol, or wood alcohol. If methanol is absorbed through the skin, it can cause blindness and hospitalizations; even death if ingested.  For the complete list, go to FDA hand sanitizer updates.

Men and #MeToo

It’s not just women who’ve been harassed by men in power.  This fascinating article looks at how some men have suffered too. And no, they weren’t the abusers.

Life In 3-D

How about a random mantra? Decode the problem. Decide the next steps. Deliver change.

IMG_1949

(Random beach photo from a recent walk)

 

 

Good News Monday: Boredom Buster

Guess who else is bored with COVID-19? Penguins!

It seems they’d been extra fidgety over at the Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, England until a donor came up with an ingenious solution: a bubble maker.

No mere entertainment, the CPC (chief penguin caretaker) explained that the bubbles also keep the penguins’ predatory reflexes sharp.

One wonders… could there be a tie-in between champagne and aggression in humans? Is this why some wedding celebrations turn into drunken brawls?

Anyway, the article and video are seriously cute.

cold nature cute ice

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

COVID-19 Spending and Saving

Perhaps the only upside to what I call the “pandammit” is that I’m not shopping like a drunken socialite, to quote my friend S. Which doesn’t mean I’ve stopped shopping altogether; it’s more that I’m buying different things.

Big-ticket items flew out the window as life got simpler and our activities remain close to home. Meanwhile, entire categories (hello, hand sanitizer) became essentials. What a topsy-turvy world! (Google reports that the expression “may be an adaptation of the medieval verb ‘tirve’, meaning ‘to turn or to topple over’. It has also been suggested that ‘turvy’ is an allusion to ‘turf’ and that ‘topsy-turvy’ means ‘with one’s head on the turf’.”) 

Spending more

  • Amazon – miscellaneous household items, esp. hard to get stuff
  • Whole Foods delivery in the early months
  • Fresh fruits and veggies from farmers’ market and small specialty grocers
  • Cooking gadgets
  • Wine and booze – do you even have to ask why?
  • TV streaming services
  • Zoom membership
  • Books
  • Vitamins, supplements, acetaminophen PM
  • Face masks — whoever predicted one would need a wardrobe of these?!
  • Cute socks
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Fresh flowers to maintain sanity and illusion of elegant normalcy

Saving more

  • Makeup, especially lipstick – kind of pointless when wearing a mask, no?
  • Hair salon – spreading out appointments and doing trimming/touch-ups myself until desperate
  • Pedicures – My toes are not worth dying for
  • Restaurants
  • New clothes – to go where, exactly?
  • Travel
  • Cultural events/theatre/opera tix
  • Massages and facials (see pedicure)

Yep, things are definitely tirving these days.

photo of inverted woman on wooden chair

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Good News Monday: Bad and Good Women Get What They Deserve

First up, breaking news: Amy Cooper, the white woman in Central Park who called the police on a Black bird watcher, will be charged with filing a false report, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Ms. Cooper will be arraigned in October.  If convicted — which seems likely since the incident was captured on video and went viral — she could be given a conditional discharge or sentenced to community service or counseling rather than jail time. (Counseling seems like an excellent idea, regardless of any other punishment.)

On Memorial Day, Ms. Cooper who’d been walking with her dog, encountered Christian Cooper (no relation), a Harvard graduate and bird watching enthusiast, in the Ramble, a semi-wild part of the park where dogs must be leashed.

Mr. Cooper said that he asked Ms. Cooper to leash her dog, and when she refused, he attempted to lure the dog with treats, hoping to compel her to restrain her pet. (Pet owners don’t like strangers to offer treats and usually leash their dogs to avoid this.) The encounter then got ugly when Ms. Cooper decided to call 911 and tell them that an African-American man was threatening her life.

That’s the Bad Women part of this report. Now, let’s celebrate more illustrious women.

On a more positive note, this year marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the long-overdue right to vote. In honor, The National Trust for Historic Preservation is currently crowdsourcing locations where women made history.

Savingplaces.org directs visitors to a number of distinctive destinations, including the house where Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting in 1872, the First Ladies’ Museum, Frederick Douglass’ D.C. home, which Helen Douglass and the National League of Colored Women worked to save, the first secondary school for women, the home where the initial Girl Scouts meeting was held, and many others. They’re hoping to receive hundreds of suggestions.

[pixabay.com]

Coping with Covid-19: It’s About Time

Many of us joked at the beginning of this pandemic that introverts would be better equipped to handle long periods of isolation. We’re all still inside reading, while our extrovert friends and family — plus all those manic folks we’re seeing on the news — are out cavorting as if the emergency is now over.  If only.

I’ve been thinking that another factor influencing how crazy-making this is, is whether you generally prefer having structured or unstructured time.

Most people have a strong inclination towards one or the other.  Put another way, do you tend to feel happier during the workweek, when you have a series of tasks that need to be done, colleagues with whom you interact, a feeling of achievement when you complete a project? Are schedules and routines useful rather than burdensome?

Or are you more of a “free spirit” who doesn’t like to follow a regimen? Are you happiest at the weekend with no particular agenda and the option to use your time as your own?

Being retired, I notice less of a difference than I did in my career life, but I clearly still fall into the “structured” category. For example, I’ve always liked to make lists and plan appointments ahead of time. Sundays and major holidays can be frustrating because certain things are closed and I can’t get stuff done.  (Are structured people more prone to impatience, too, I wonder? Don’t answer that!)

Of course, Covid has tossed many options out the window. But knowing which type you are can help you deal with stress and uncertainty by adding more or less structure to your day.  If you’re an “S”, try keeping a calendar of even the most banal activities so you can feel some sense of accomplishment as you tick them off your list. If you’re a “U” who hates following rules, enjoy the relative freedom of working from home and taking breaks when you feel like it.

I’ve read that S’s often instinctively pair up with U’s, which may be nature’s way of helping us find balance in a relationship: The “structured” person can do most of the planning and organizing, while their “unstructured” partner comes up with spur-of-the-moment fun stuff.

Is scheduled spontaneity the best of both worlds? Or merely another oxymoron in our current reopening-but-not reality?

man break dancing on street

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Captive Audience

From the Department of What’s The World Coming To…

Barcelona’s Liceu opera reopened on Monday. Its first concert was performed in front of an audience of plants, NPR reports. Much nicer for the performers, I surmise, as at least plants don’t cough, rattle candy wrappers, and forget to shut off their cell phones.

Then again, this plant appears to have nodded off.

white flower on green leaf plant

Photo by Nadezhda Moryak on Pexels.com

The Pandemic Ten

Remember the “freshman 15”, aka the pounds everyone seemed to gain their first year at college? It’s déjà vu all over again.

Back in the day, the culprits were pizza, beer (and/or weed), and nerve-wracking new experiences like late-night cramming and unprecedented freedom.

This is different, and not just because I’m older. Month after month of the same old, same old has led to inertia and tedium with a constant low hum of anxiety buzzing along underneath.

I don’t really care what the government is recommending… Dear Husband and I are staying put except for essential and unavoidable tasks. Since we can’t travel or eat out with friends, we’ve amused ourselves by cooking food from different cultures and pretending to be elsewhere. Unlike traveling, however, we are not burning calories by walking extra miles through cities, museums, and the like. Even my Fitbit is bored.  The result: packing on extra poundage like a wild animal in captivity.

Like many of you, I eat when I’m stressed even if I’m not physically hungry. And what I’ve realized, as my own little world keeps shrinking — while I’m not — is how many of my essential needs aren’t being met… which leads to stress… which leads to snacking.

  • Order and control. Toss this one right out the window. We have no idea when this will end and can’t do much about it except to continue social distancing and wearing a mask. Plus, staying informed is highly overrated when so much of the news is just plain sickening.
  • Anticipation. It’s hard to plan for a trip or special event when there’s nothing on the calendar.  And being worried about catching the virus en route does dim one’s enthusiasm.
  • Personal space.  If you’re someone who needs lots of alone time, a pandemic is not your friend.
  • Sleep. Stress and worry make sleep elusive, or fitful at best. Which in turn affects your body’s balance of the hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When the body is sleep-deprived, ghrelin levels spike, while the level of leptin falls, leading to an increase in hunger, especially for junk food. (I don’t know how it knows, but it does.)
  • Variety of experiences. When going to the grocery store is the weekly highlight, life’s a little blah no matter how nice your home or neighborhood is.

Anyway, it’s useful to know the triggers. Now I need to get serious about my action plan, as I refuse to buy a larger-size wardrobe. Who’s with me?

photo of a burn fat text on round blue plate

Photo by Natasha Spencer on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Mini Rant

I recently posted about some drama in our tiny neighborhood, and am sorry to report that it’s only gotten worse.

Today, a surveyor came to check a height pole that had previously been approved by the county.  Whether or not the height is correct is beside the point — in all probability, it is lower than the allowed limit. That will be decided by mathematics.

What disturbs me is hearing that a group of neighbors decided to hang out in the street and on lawn chairs to eavesdrop and comment throughout this process to… do what? Intimidate the people who are building the home? Make the surveyor nervous? Register their disapproval of something without having all the facts?

Several were people who believe themselves to be devout Christians.  I have to wonder: Is indulging in malicious gossip, spreading misinformation, and jealousy masquerading as “concern”, what Jesus would do?

 

 

 

 

Small Town, Big Drama

bubble-2022390_640What is it with people who continually need to stir the pot? As one friend says about our coastal location with its dramatic cliffs and sweeping ocean views: “We live in paradise … what do we have to complain about?”

And yet.

I get it. We’re all stressed, stir crazy, and a little crazy-crazy. But oh, am I tired of people lashing out. We have a worldwide health crisis, rising unemployment, an unpredictable economy, and a significant lack of leadership. Do we really need to make things unpleasant in our own communities?

Let’s see.  We have one neighbor threatening to sue another because they had the audacity to build a home on the empty lot RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM. She couldn’t have predicted that this might happen eventually? Or that no design in the world would make her happy?

Meanwhile, “Joan” — who is in charge of a lot of things although not actually everything — has been lobbying to get “Margaret” on a committee that already has enough members, claiming that she’s wanted to join for months. Mind you, Margaret has never directly asked anyone ON the committee about participating. But Joan decides to tell her she’s “not welcome.” What could possibly have been accomplished by hurting her feelings?!

Last week, we had a neighborhood brouhaha about a request from one neighbor to have some branches trimmed from a tree that blocks their TV satellite reception. From one guy’s reaction (“I’m shocked, appalled, aghast!”), you’d have thought someone was suggesting butchering his firstborn child.

I like trees too. But I’d likely run screaming into the abyss if I didn’t have the distraction of a few good TV shows.  I wouldn’t wish “no TV” on my worst enemy.

The latest is “PooGate”. “Tim” complained to the president of our board of directors that there’s a pile of dog poop where “Phil’s” lot borders theirs — the implication being that it’s Phil’s dog’s fault. Sure, that’s unpleasant. But couldn’t Tim simply point it out privately to Phil? And maybe it’s not even dog poop, since who’s knowingly going to leave it sitting ON THEIR OWN PROPERTY?!?! After the entire neighborhood has been alerted to Phil’s “transgression”, it turns out that they were merely dirt clods from construction across the street, and the totally unrelated odor was wafting over from a nearby sewer plant.

Can’t anyone just calm down?

Sigh.