Your Diversion: Spring

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Photo courtesy of Emilie Leger, Deviant Art

It’s Spring! Happy Dance! It’s just a date, as the weather forecasts remind us, but it’s something! As you no doubt are aware, the vernal (spring) equinox means that the night hours are equal to the day hours, and the days are getting longer, as opposed to the autumnal equinox when they start to get shorter.

I’ve been remiss in posting original things of late due to life challenges of various kinds. You know, medical appointments of the “we’re getting older” variety, legal things to bring up to date, issues related to being snowbirds. Stuff we can handle, but that also require excellent self-care. The other day it was doing 3 loads of laundry and making dinner after a fun day of being out and about. I made a video of our visit to the city dock. We love to visit the pelicans. They are such majestic birds. A woman and her children were speaking with a fisherman who was cleaning fish, and the pelicans were hopeful for scraps. He couldn’t give them any, however, because pelicans can’t digest the bones of fish any larger than they can catch in their beaks. All the fish seen at the start of the video were larger than that. The red ones were called vermillions, and the biggest was a grouper. The fish he was filleting was a porgy.

We try to get out to the City Dock often. It was mostly destroyed in Hurricane Irma and we’d been watching the rebuilding process avidly. There were huge cranes brought in to set pilings and do other big tasks. The little covered sitting area was gone, so a new one has been put up, and yards of old, unsafe pier, once a favorite hangout for pelicans and manatees, were dismantled and removed.

My cousin is here for a visit ❤️, so this is my post for today. We’re headed for Tommy Bahama for lunch! Mmm.

Namasté, y’all!

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Your Weekly Diversion, Year 2, Week 1

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Starting the second year of this blog, I’m thinking about where we stand. What does that mean? Where I stand is where I am in this moment, sitting in the living room looking out on the small lake to our west, while my husband watches football. Where do we stand as a country? Boy, I wish I really knew. Yesterday people in Hawaii were scared out of their wits when an imminent ballistic missile attack alert came over cellphones, TV broadcasts and from outdoor speakers. It took a full 38 minutes for the official push announcement to come through on cellphones that it was a false alarm. 38 minutes! People were running around like crazy, some even lowering their kids down the manholes of storm drains.

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Photo from Pinterest

Most of us baby boomers can recall the Cold War air raid drills in the 1950s and early 1960s where we had to crouch under our desks with our hands over our heads, preparing for the possibility of nuclear attack. Many still harbor vestiges of those early fears of being attacked by a missile with a nuclear warhead. We learned as we got older that hiding under a desk would have done nothing to prevent our extreme injury or annihilation, as the entire industrialized world knew after Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Some of us wondered when the bomb was going to get us, and how old we would be when it did. Some families actually built bomb shelters in their back yards. It was a thing. I knew a kid whose family had one. Did you?

Most parents and working adults today have no such memories and only know the recent feud the so-called leader of the free world has been fomenting with North Korea as a potentially imminent threat. No “duck and cover” drills for them. Yet out of fear and chaos yesterday, little kids were dropped by their parents into storm drains! Given that Hawaii is closer to North Korea than the US mainland, within reach of their missiles, and that Pearl Harbor was the site of a deadly attack on Hawaii, this preventable false alarm seems especially cruel.

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Drawing from moziru.com

Now that I’ve scared you, tweaking that old nuclear specter from your unconscious yet again, let’s get diverted! This may seem counterintuitive, but to be relieved of  the torment of this fear, you are going to have to look at it. As a psychologist, I know this from professional as well as personal experience, and although it’s not necessarily easy, doing it really helps. Experiencing fear is a form of suffering. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has said that rather than running from our suffering, we can hold it as we would a crying child and we will suffer less. You can read more about this in his book No Mud, No Lotus. Here is an excerpt from Goodreads:

The function of mindfulness is, first, to recognize the suffering and then to take care of the suffering. The work of mindfulness is first to recognize the suffering and second to embrace it. A mother taking care of a crying baby naturally will take the child into her arms without suppressing, judging it, or ignoring the crying. Mindfulness is like that mother, recognizing and embracing suffering without judgement.

So the practice is not to fight or suppress the feeling, but rather to cradle it with a lot of tenderness. When a mother embraces her child, that energy of tenderness begins to penetrate into the body of the child. Even if the mother doesn’t understand at first why the child is suffering and she needs some time to find out what the difficulty is, just her act of taking the child into her arms with tenderness can already bring relief. If we can recognize and cradle the suffering while we breathe mindfully, there is relief already.

― Thich Nhat Hanh, No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering

So let’s imagine for a moment the fear evoked by that scary reaper, or descending nuclear annihilation or fire of death or whatever you will.  As you allow yourself to think of this fear, see if you can pinpoint what are you actually afraid of.  Is it pain? Death? Nonexistence? Separation from loved ones? Seeing loved ones hurt or dead? Losing your possessions? Living under tyranny or despotism? Okay, if you know what fear thoughts of a nuclear attack evokes, imagine you can hold it in your arms. Give your fear loving, caring attention. Don’t try to silence it with a mood-changing substance or activity. Just sit with it, if even for only a minute. Breathe deeply as you hold your fear. Breathe in with awareness, and breathe out with gratitude. You might do it for a few minutes longer, but only if you want to and feel you can. Now take a couple of deep, cleansing breaths and go do something else. Good for you!

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Photo from quartz.com

Another diversion for you, more interesting than that first one, I suspect. Former Army soldier Chelsea Manning has decided to run for the US Senate in the state of Maryland as a Democrat. This will pit her against veteran Democrat Senator Ben Cardin, a tough slog due to his strong role fighting for progressive issues and taking on Russian interference in the recent presidential election. Chelsea may not win, but she’s definitely showing her mettle. This Guardian story elaborates and includes her YouTube video.

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Something more fun, you ask? Okay, there’s a new bar in Brooklyn called “Kick Axe” where drinkers can throw axes at a target! Wheee! Can’t wait! Um…

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Photo from #catpusic on Pinterest

More? Love inspiring kitty stories? Me too! Meet a cute black and white cat named Pusic.

Since the prospect of nuclear war arguably spawned some of the best the folk music of the 1960’s, let’s not forget that “The Times They are A’Changin” then and now. And since we heard this anthem from composer Bob Dylan earlier, now we can enjoy Simon and Garfunkel covering it.

 

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 52

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Week 52 has arrived and I’m pretty late in getting to it. I’m not sure why my blogging year is up before January 20th, but so it is! It’s been a busy week for us, nothing worth noting here, but plenty nevertheless. The news continues to create stress and distress, especially the devastating mudslides in Southern California. It’s heartbreaking to see the damage and even worse to learn about the deaths of people and countless pets. Sometimes it feels as if Mother Nature is trying to shake us loose with earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, fires and floods.

 

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Hillary Brooke (1914-1999) (photo from Wikipedia)

My first diversion this week is a tribute to a woman I knew in childhood, actress Hillary Brooke. She was an actress, first noticed in “New Faces of 1937” and she appeared in Abbott and Costello sketches and even had a role in the ‘70s TV show “Soap” and My Little Margie” decades before that. Her name was Hillary Brooke. I met her as a friend of my godmother, a lovely Englishwoman who worked as a diction coach in the film industry and taught Hillary her distinctive, plummy British accent. She was born in Astoria, Queens, after all! Hillary gave me my set of Mary Poppins books, and took me hitchhiking when I was about 12 years old during a stay at my godmother’s mountain cabin, after walking back from the little town center tired us out. She had a dog, a black Scottie named Barney. Hillary was the most glamorous, fascinating woman I’d met at that time. Growing up in Southern California, I met quite a few people in the entertainment industry, most friends and clients of my father. Hillary was the first, and I remember her with love.

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Photo by Peter Landers, Wall Street Journal

Okay, next I have a weird diversion for you. In Japan an unusual version of Coca Cola is grabbing attention. Called Coca Cola Plus, it contains a high fiber, laxative additive that fans believe allows them to eat unhealthy food and not digest the fat, thereby leading some to dub it “weight loss cola” as opposed to regular or “fat” cola. If you have trouble accessing the WSJ article here, since they have a paywall, TimeOut Beijing has the goods. And the text in the second link is funnier!

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Now, remember Superstorm Sandy? So does the City of New York, and the City as an investment entity recognizes climate change as the result of fossil fuels raising the planet’s temperature. Therefore, the City is severing ties with their fossil fuel investments. This divestiture could be a huge deal in global economics and spur positive change.

And there’s no one like Bob Dylan to remind us that A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.

Cheers, all, and…

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 51: Happy New Year!

 

 

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We have arrived at Week 51 of Your Weekly Diversion. I began writing these posts in January of 2017. It started as a forum for distraction and diversion from current events and became much more. I guess we’ll both find out next week if the name stays the same or morphs into something new.

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While alluding to the political circus of the past year, we’ve been reminded that it is OUR circus. My fellow Americans, we must live our values and especially at the ballot box. This year has demonstrated what happens when too many of us let charlatans sway us from the truth. And yet, this year has also shown us that when we get woke, we do act in our best interest.

The showman in chief has tried to convince us he has our backs, but really the backs he has are not ours. He has the backs of the rich and powerful. So this year, don’t let anyone tell you he’s kept us safe, created long term and substantial jobs, defended the poor and vulnerable, or enhanced the name and stature of this country. The showman who told us he could grab the genitals of any woman he chose, and double digit women came forward to say he actually did just that, the showman who has taken a baseball bat to the hornets’ nest above the 38th Parallel, the showman who has undone much of the good his predecessors have done, this buffoon has effectively threatened the integrity of our great nation and made us the laughingstock of the world. So, let’s get out there and take action, support candidates who care about the needs of the least among us here and abroad and who uphold the Constitution, do what we can to help others, and VOTE! If not now, when? Get serious! Get real! It matters! And so does today’s post. 😎

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Week 51 deserves some diversions, right?

Okay, so you have a smart gadget that listens for its name and answers you? Even your smart phone will do it, as mine did yesterday when I said, “Are you kidding?” to a friend and Siri answered, “I kid you not.” I kid you not! Hear what happens when Amazon Echo talks to Google.

 

Now, if that’s not enough, how about Animojis doing funny things?

05627218-DC2C-4FEB-B812-E400AFAE5435Check out what happens when a mom tried to text her daughter with the Unicorn Animoji. Enjoy those comments, too!

And so, just to tie this whole fun internet thing up in a fun New Years Eve bow:

 

Before we conclude our diversions, here is an amazing morsel of Food for Thought I stumbled on today. Let’s all Get Woke and Stay Woke:

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Happy New Year to you and yours from me and mine. May 2018 be a whole lot better and brighter than 2017 has been. Meanwhile here’s how 1946 rang in the new, with some cool pix of New York City:

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 49

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Photo courtesy of basketballforum.com

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iPhone photo of a Southwest Florida sunset by Shielagh

Week 49 brings us to the sunset of the year 2017. Next week we will ring in the year 2018, alone or with family and friends, and it seems that many troubling financial changes will begin to take place. Whether or not we are blessed or cursed by those changes has a lot to do with our place on the income and asset continuum. I wish my diversions could overturn the damage it will do to those least able to manage it.

But diversions are needed, and here they are! Many of us meditate these days, perhaps  more than ever. Whether you practice Zen, Transcendental Meditation, Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, walking meditation, or another of the many forms modern meditation can take, you may be part of a wonderful trend of reducing crime.

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iPhone photo of the Waterside Shops Holiday display in 2016 by Shielagh

Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice and Happy Kwanzaa to all who celebrate this week. Since this is the Season of Giving, here is a powerful guided meditation from Saddhguru on giving.

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Photo from gazelle.com

Now, have you ever worried about the danger of getting a brain tumor from holding a cellphone to your ear as often as you do? Good news! Dr. Michael Greger covers this in a recent video. He reports that we are more likely to be killed by a distracted driver looking at his phone than to die from a brain tumor.

I saw this video recently in the comments of a friend’s blog, and I loved it! Turn up your sound and enjoy!

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 48

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Graphic from Wandanalu 2012

As the year 2017 draws to a close, it seems to me that many hearts are heavy. As a therapist I’m hearing about family conflicts, holiday stress and strain with shopping, cooking, wrapping, writing and sending, and nostalgia for the “good old days.” There are some other things dragging at our merriment during this holiday season. The so-called middle class tax cut threatens to send the deficit through the roof, only to be dealt with harshly later on. Its popularity with the people as I write is 29 percent. The “me too” movement is rightly shining a light on sexual impropriety in government as well as the corporate world and entertainment industry. As women and men come forward with credible allegations, people are reminded of their own experiences, some long buried or discounted as no big deal. The breast or butt grab, the unwanted sloppy kiss, the innuendo or outright proposition, the rape, each took a toll and haunted the wellbeing of countless among us.

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Edited image from rainforestferry.com

Here in Florida this week we’ve lit the menorah with good friends, and we’ve made and savored our latkes and matzoball soup and stuffed our faces with jelly donut holes and chocolate. During that same evening we followed the Alabama Senate race and stayed up late to learn the results. We’ve shopped for family and one another and sent off our gifts. We’ve bought some holiday cards but haven’t begun to write them yet. We’ve attended a Christmas extravaganza starting outside with falling snow, a living nativity with cooperative infant, two goats and a little horse, carolers, and then an amazing show with 100-voice choir, orchestra, another living nativity with majestic arrival of the Three Kings, and many carols the 1,800 attendees in the audience sang, and ending with everyone singing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah on our feet. The parking lot at this Baptist church was so vast that shuttle trams adorned with holiday lights ferried the elderly, encumbered and infirm to their cars when it all ended. We did truly enjoy it.

This time of year, it behooves us all to remember those less fortunate and do what we can to help. Whether we donate our goods, our money or our time, the need is huge. Yesterday the Guardian published a story that I recommend to everyone, difficult though it is to read and to view some of the photos. Many may be unaware that some 40 million Americans live in poverty in 2017. It is such a problem that the UN sent a reporteur to see the challenges and report back.

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Photo courtesy of The Guardian

The city of San Fransciso has many homeless people living on their streets, but there’s a bright spot in their picture, Saint Boniface Church. The church is open daily for homeless people to sleep safely in the rear pews, even while Mass is being celebrated in the front of the church, a living example of the gospel of ministering to the poor. Social workers and homeless advocates also make themselves available to help connect the homeless with urgently needed services.

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There is reason to hope today, and we mustn’t let the magnitude of the world’s problems drag us down. Everyone can help make the world a better place, each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Next month we will start as volunteers at our local animal shelter. Bloom where you are planted!

 

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 46

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On Week 46 there’s so much going on in the world landscape that we all need plenty of diversions. Let’s see, the winter holidays are nigh upon us, with Hanukkah starting the night of December 12 this year, and Christmas and New Year’s not far behind. Managing the holiday cards, whether by snail mail or email, and shopping for gifts, whether you give them on 8 nights or on only 1 day, there’s a lot to do! And of course, we have the political circus with its many fronts. You just can’t make up some of these news stories! We need our diversions NOW,  right?

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Tony Leonard and the team of coworkers who worked together to make his prosthetics (photo courtesy of CBS News)

First, how about real good, feel good story? Like the sound of that? So do I! Honda workers built a coworker a new limb, and it works!

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Next, it’s been reported in Lancet Psychiatry that researchers have found a treatment that helped schizophrenics suffer significantly fewer auditory hallucinations than those not receiving the experimental treatment, even when both groups continued to receive standard doses of antipsychotic medication. It’s called avatar therapy. As a mental health clinician, I’m interested in learning more!

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Now, check out what happened when a GoPro camera was placed in the path of molten lava. Be sure the watch the whole video.

And to wrap up this week’s diversions, here’s a song in Spanish called “I Lava You” from the film “Lava” because, what else?

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 45

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It’s Week 45 of this blog, and I hope as you read this you had a wonderful week. Many of us in the US had our Thanksgiving dinners this past Thursday, and some of us saw our football teams lose in holiday matchups. <Sigh.> It’s hard to be a New York Football Giants fan this year. If you celebrated Thanksgiving, I hope it was a tasty and grateful day. And let us remember that football is only a game.

As we enjoy this weekend, we are struck by how fortunate we are. Many are not so fortunate, whether they are suffering from health problems, financial distress, wars far and wide, the pain of mental illness or addiction, or loss from natural disaster such as Hurricane Irma.

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My cousin Paula and I were little girls together in California in the ‘50s. I wish I had a copy of the black and white photo of the two of us at our house when we were so young, maybe three and six. Now we live just an hour apart in Florida where she retired three years ago. Then this past September, Hurricane Irma severely damaged her home. We set up a GoFundMe campaign today for her, and we hope she will be able to get her place fixed so she can stay in Florida. Here’s a link to her page.

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Do you meditate? I often urge clients to try meditation to help them relax and better cope with stress. Apparently I am not the only healthcare provider who does that: Here’s Why I Prescribe Meditation to all my Patients.

I’m ending this with this tune from the Temptations, one of my all time faves!

 

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 44

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Recent sunset we savored here in Naples, my iPhone photo

It’s Week 44, and another week gone where too much weirdness is happening, and it’s not worth the effort to even allude to much here. Let’s just hope that we and our kids, grandkids and elders don’t lose essential, potentially lifesaving medical coverage. And may the powers that be refrain from giving our hard earned money and benefits to those so wealthy they won’t notice it, yet alone need it. And then there are the women who’ve been abused by public figures, now courageously speaking up, something many of us never had the guts to do, only to be trashed by the so-called godly. I have no words.

We have all earned our diversions this week, for reals. So let’s get to it!

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A fun image I made with Recolor last year for Thanksgiving

It’s almost Thanksgiving and it’s been a challenge finding what I needed for our feast. First we checked out restaurants here in Naples. The local paper did a great job listing all who’ll be open with links to their websites. The best places were charging a lot, especially when I only eat their sides, and the ones offering affordable meals weren’t appealing to us. So I decided to cook. Actually I do enjoy cooking. The main obstacle in the last 7 years or so has been the fact that I’m a vegetarian (and I was vegan for 5 years) and my husband is not. I wanted a vegetarian main dish, such as a Gardein, Field Roast or Tofurky roast. I visited each of their websites and couldn’t find any of these roasts being offered at the stores in Naples. The health food store near here closed. Not even Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, at least as far as I could tell on their websites, appeared to have what I was searching for.

 

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Photo courtesy of Restaurant Guru

We were having a good day. An authentic bagel store, Brooklyn Dough with a Hole, opened up recently and we made it over there for the first time that day. They were totally legit! Just how they looked in the case told me that. Fat and shiny, the holes very small. It was around 1pm so pickings were slim, but we bought 4 of them. They were wonderful, by the way! After that we were heading to the big Publix market near us, and they are great stores. I’d given up on a veggie feast and planned on sides and maybe a package of Gardein faux-turkey cutlets. But my husband suggested we go to Lucky’s, a wonderful combo of gourmet and natural foods, much smaller than Publix and easier to navigate when tired.  A local friend calls it “the poor man’s Whole Foods.” It’s all that and more!

I decided on making salad, rolls, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans and mushrooms, gravy and a rotisserie chicken for my guy plus whatever I could find for me. I have the lastest issue of VegNews and their recipe for seitan turkey Wellington looked great but labor intensive.

We started filling our basket in the produce section, and then I headed down the frozen foods aisle toward Meat Alternatives, hopeful for one of the cutlet packages. And then, lo and behold, cue the celestial choir, I saw it: a Tofurky Holiday Feast!

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“Lucky” we are indeed (or at least I am)! My cousin is joining us the day after Thanksgiving and we’ll have plenty of everything to have a second feast while she’s here.

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As far as other diversions, do you need a new iPhone case? Here are some fun ones, especially some very cute cat designs.

And to bring us all into the gratitude of the season, here is a hymn I learned as a grade school girl and love even today. This hymn comes to us from the clear and touching voices of the a capella group Glad. It’s worth hearing with the speakers up!

 

Namasté, and

Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours,  

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 43

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On Week 43, I’m departing from my usual self-imposed prohibition of disseminating  specific political information. The week has been filled with newsy highs and lows, the lowest lows being when supporters of an accused pedophile cite the Bible to justify this skeevy, illegal and unethical behavior, and many use that, “If these allegations are true…” meme which discounts the words of the accuser. Blame the victim. Hadn’t we gotten better than this? I guess not. And the accused is blatantly trying to raise money off the story!

But then there’s another low that rips into the surface of decency and scars all who consume and buy into it: Minutes after the horrific mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Russian bots apparently promulgated the falsehood that the shooter was a member of the anti-fascist group “Antifa” on social media, and it was spread for hours before being taken down.

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And now for our diversions. First, to cleanse the palate of the foregoing paragraphs, here are some words to live by.

 

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Another diversion that may have relevance in your life: It’s Open Enrollment season in the US for health insurance. This is the time individuals and families can shop for health insurance plans and switch to plans better than what they have now, or sign up for the first time. This includes Medicare recipients as well as those shopping for commercial plans. Several people I know have reported to me that, despite the dire predictions, they’ve gotten plans that are saving them money and still provide good coverage. Medicare recipients can elect to switch to Medicare Advantage plans that may save them money but vary greatly from state to state. It’s supposed to take a lot of the stress and cost out of medical costs not paid by Medicare, which includes the 20% and can include deductibles for a variety services and treatments. But the plans often dictate which healthcare providers their insureds can use, called “in network” providers and charge them more if they go out of network. As a psychologist I have had to turn down clients with some Medicare Advantage plans, while being paid by others. So listen and learn and ask around. Make some calls, go online and see what’s what. For all Medicare options, seniors and those on Social Security Disability can visit Medicare.gov, and most people under 65 should go to HealthCare.gov.

All is well with us, getting settled in our winter snowbird nest! Friends are visiting today and we look forward to showing them around. First stop will be Pinchers at Tin City, then a stroll down the ritzy 5th Avenue that leads right down to the beach. And then, who knows?

Yesterday we were eating lunch at our local Tropical Smoothie Café, and as usual they had great tunes playing. So I usually open my SoundHound app to see what we’re hearing. I have always loved this Duke Ellington song, “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” and Gabin does it up brown, as my dad would say. I hadn’t heard this version before, and I love it! Enjoy!

 

Namasté

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