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, Weekly 37



Now we find ourselves at Week 37. It’s been quite a challenge for the planet and for human kind. My mom’s 92 year old baby sister just fell and broke her pelvis. We are all praying for her healing and return to the active life she loves. Then my cousin finally got down to her home in Florida only to find leaks and other damage. Another cousin found that her Florida art gallery and museum and all the contents survived undamaged, although trees and plants on the grounds were devastated. Friends with property and family in Puerto Rico are anxious about their wellbeing. And then there’s the political circus with its twirling and gesticulating, gyrating and posturing, bellowing and sanctifying its innocence in the face of a blunt reality that begs to differ.

Painting  by Yukon artist Natalie Parenteau

Do you smudge? If not, here’s why you might want to start. Science backs up the belief many share that smudging is good for our health and can be good for the air we breathe. I do it in the office between clients sometimes, especially if the vibe has been especially intense or just to give me a lift. The wonderful work of Canadian artist Natalie Parenteau as seen above can be found here.

The colorful seaside neighborhood of La Perla in Puerto Rico inspired singer Luis Fonsi to write and perform his iconic “Despacito”. Before you get to enjoy the video make earlier this summer, here’s how La Perla looks after Hurricane Maria, in a sobering video clip.

Now, the joyous “before” to remind us all how much work will need to be done for the people of Puerto Rico and this pastel paradise to be restored to gain. “Despacito”:

                                                            Namasté

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 35

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London number by Tim Rich

Now at Week 35, I find myself wondering where the week has gone. The answer is pretty simple. This time last week we were gearing up for Hurricane Irma from up north. Our house watch man put up our storm shutters, and not the cool permanent rolldown or accordion ones but the kind that go up slat by slat, labor intensive and time consuming. He took everything out of our freezer and disposed of it so we won’t find something awful when we return in a few weeks.

We watched cable news and the Weather Channel compulsively, but we’re grateful for the windows into our world in Naples they gave us from almost 1,400 miles away. The Naples Daily News also delivered news updates throughout the days and nights.

Friends and neighbors down there shared their stories during and after, and people really struggled and suffered from the heat, humidity, damaged buildings and anxiety. The storm was so unpredictable. Hearing about the dreaded surge, a friend left his first floor apartment with no window protection and went to family with a big house with the best storm shutters and a generator. They were harder hit and all had to go to neighbors with a second floor where the comedy of errors in the telling afterwards had us in stitches but had to be stressful to the max going through it. He told us there were whitecaps in the street. When he got back to his place, it was dry and damaged. Go figure.

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Graphic by Shielagh from 2012 visit to the Everglades

Us? Our condo made it through unscathed. It’s unbelievable that the lake overflowed but stopped right at the edge of our lanai and didn’t spill over and seep inside. It’s a miracle. All our friends, family and neighbors survived, although a cousin and some good friends suffered serious damage. Neighbors lost terra cotta roof tiles but we’ve been told by two people that our building did not. A hundred trees were blown down or otherwise destroyed on our street alone. And rumor has it that an alligator has taken up residence in our lake!

The hard part for us was the delay in learning our fate, getting a message at first that sounded dire, and then the good news started trickling in. Although over 85,000 households are still without power in Collier County, ours was restored on Wednesday, although not confirmed by Florida Power and Light until Friday afternoon. Earlier that day we got a recorded message that they were aware we still didn’t have power and were promising it by September 22. We hold everyone who is suffering loss of power, home damage, homelessness and fear in our thoughts.

So I’ve been diverted and distracted all week, barely aware of other news in the world. Mostly terribly sad and distressed for all the people in the Keys, Marco Island and the hard hit Caribbean islands that are virtually uninhabitable now. The devastation is hard to take in.

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This AA 11th Step Meditation by George Lewis was a comfort to me to listen to and I sent it around to friends in Florida and those waiting and watching anxiously from afar. And I learned I could tee it up on my iPad and make it play on my TV without doing anything special! Wow!

Not many fun diversions this week. But white giraffes!

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Photo from Tree Hugger

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 34

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Graphic courtesy of Donna Downey’s Simply Me

Week 34 and I almost forgot to post this week’s diversions. We are in the middle of a hurricane, except we are 1,380 miles away from our home there. I can only say I’m glad to be safe, and we hope that all our friends, neighbors and all beings down there are safe, too. Many have evacuated, but others who are dear to us decided to ride it out. We’ve been texting with friends and family in and from Florida, from Naples to LaBelle to Daytona to Sarasota to Miami. This is the worst hurricane to hit Southwest Florida in generations. At least that’s what Brian Williams on MSNBC just said. I believe it. Suddenly I don’t care about politics. Or dieting. Or finances. Or the family challenges that might grab me at another time. We are glued to the TV coverage of Irma. Right now Mike Bettis on the Weather Channel is leaning into the 95 mph wind blasting up US 41, also known as the Tamiami Trail. They have just reported that the water level has risen 5 feet in just 20 minutes, so the surge has begun, and fast.

 

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Graphic from Polyvore

It is truly an opportunity to practice the program. If not now, when?

We have heard from friends and family from Florida and all over the country wishing us well. We’ve heard from friends in Canada and India, and I’ve heard from several clients aware we have a home in Naples and spend about half the year there. It’s so wonderful to know we’re loved and cared about and I don’t have anything more to say. But this…

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Graphic courtesy of Not Salmon

I heard this poignant song on satellite radio this afternoon. Jessica Allossery, a beautiful, beautiful voice singing “I’ll Let You Go”. This is for all of you and all that we care about, remembering that everyone and everything that we love and care about is of the nature to change. That’s from Buddhism’s Five Remembrances.

 

Namasté 

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Serial Fiction, Chapter 5: Better Now

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Photo and graphic by Shielagh, copyrighted 2017.

She sat on the beach, a few feet from the water where the sand was dry, watching the waves as they slid in and out, their swish and sizzle setting a soothing rhythm. Being down here was so wonderful. Staying with Gramma was a little weird with all the old people she hung out with, but feeling safe was worth it.

Michelle hugged her knees to her in the cool morning air. She came here a lot, mostly because Gramma could see her from the big picture windows of the apartment. In a way it felt she wasn’t trusted, or like being treated like a kid, but she knew it was because Gramma cared enough to keep her in view. She had her cellphone on her all the time, and Gramma would call her when she wanted her to come home. She figured, too, that if Gramma ever saw someone unsafe nearby, she’d call her, and if, God forbid, anyone tried to hurt her, she’d call 911 in a heartbeat.

Besides, she knew she was helping Gramma just by being there, because her grandfather had died a few years ago, and now Gramma had lost her son. It must be hard, Michelle, thought, and she was glad she could help Gramma too somehow.

The last few months had been a blur. Amanda had told her mom that Michelle’s mom’s boyfriend had been “inappropriate.” The first night she spent over there was one she knew she’d never forget.

“Let’s call your mom now,” Amanda’s mom had said, and Michelle got on the extension so she could listen. After a couple of moments of small talk, Amanda’s mom, Gloria, had told Michelle’s mom, “Michelle isn’t safe at your house, Donna. Your boyfriend has been touching her, and you have to do something. Get him out of there, and report him to the authorities.

“You little liar!” her mom had screamed. “You’re just making that up! He wouldn’t do anything like that!”

Michelle had sobbed, “It’s true! He comes in my room!”

“I don’t believe you,” her mother had said in a weird, quieter voice.

Gloria had spoken to her mom calmly and clearly, continuing to say that the creep had to go, or Michelle would be staying at her house. It had only gotten worse. Her mom had shoved her clothes into a couple of black garbage bags and dumped them on Amanda’s front lawn the next day. Thank God she’d taken most of her personal stuff and school books to her locker and had the rest in her backpack. Looking back, she began to feel as if she’d known she’d be getting out of there fast.

Gloria had helped Michelle tell the police what had been happening. The policewoman who came over had been really nice. She took a lot of notes, and she said a social worker would come see her, too. That had been okay. By then she’d told Amanda and her mom, the police and now this nice lady who reminded her of her English teacher, and the more she told it, the easier it was, especially when they all seemed to believe her.

“We need to find a better place for you to live. I’m sure you can’t stay here at your friend’s house indefinitely,” she’d said, looking at Gloria. Gloria had said that Michelle was welcome as long as she needed to stay, but they’d talked about a lot of other things, and it was decided that staying with her dad’s mom, her Gramma, in Florida, was the best thing, and the social worker had called Gramma right then.

“Oh, baby! I am so sorry!” Gramma had said, and in a few minutes, it was all arranged. The next week she’d flown down to Florida and in a few days was registered in a school with a lot of smart and creative kids. Gramma had been a teacher and she knew all about the Sunshine Academy. A friend of hers had taught there and she said they even had a school psychologist that kids could go see for free if they had problems. “It’ll be good for you to talk to someone,” Gramma had said.

So here she was, on a beach in the morning before school, mentally tossing her problems into the water as her therapist had suggested. Math test, sadness over not seeing Timmy anymore, not even getting to talk to him because her mom wouldn’t let him, missing Amanda and other friends, and some of the boys. The creep was gone. He’d gone to jail for a little while, but Gramma said his lawyer had gotten him out, and he could stay out as long as he went into counseling and did community service, but he wasn’t allowed to be near kids. Her mom said she would never forgive her for this. Michelle didn’t care. Not really. Like her therapist said, it was complicated. Mom had problems she needed to work out. A tear slid down her cheek and she brushed it away with her sleeve. Yeah, she cared.

She watched the seagulls wheel overhead, mewing like cats. A big brown pelican suddenly swooped down and scooped up something in its bill. Probably a fish.

Her phone pinged and she looked at it. “Time to come up and get ready for school,” was Gramma’s text. She got to her feet and brushed off the sand. She realized she really did feel better now.

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For the Daily Post

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 13

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Welcome to Week 13. My focus has been a lot closer to home this week. Somehow it just feels better that way. We are preparing to migrate north. Here are the best photos I took this week.

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Steve and Tex, a Biblical Naples sunset, Daisy and the Easter Bunny, flowers peeking through a box hedge, and our blooming magnolia.

We’re having a drought here now and the fire risk is very high. The lake’s water level is lower than we’ve seen during this season. We hear it’s supposed to begin raining nearly daily soon, and it sure seems like a good thing! When the wind blows across Florida from the east, we smell smoke and find little bits of ash on our cars. Right now the culprit is the Cowbell Fire near Alligator Alley. It’s over 30 miles away from us now, but sometimes we can see a column of brown smoke in the air. Hundreds of fire fighters and their equipment and other resources are battling the spreading blaze.

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Okay, take a deep breath and calm down. Hey, guess what? Research now validates what we who meditate have known forever: deep breathing is the best way to calm down. UPDATE: Wow, since I posted this, I just learned that my friend and fellow blogger Joan Rothchild Hardin had written an extensive post on the breath.

As we prepare to hit the road in a few days, let’s hope it’s not a hard road.

Yes, indeed, sweet young singers Lennon and Maisy help us pray that Hard Times Come No More.

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 8

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So how was your week?

Here in SW Florida we’ve been experiencing close proximity to a brushfire that devastated 7500 acres of pine scrub and palmettos and created a huge, mushrooming column of choking smoke that hung about for days. Only four rural structures were destroyed, and thankfully no one was hurt, but that smoke was epic. Here’s what we saw from our driveway on Tuesday.

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Collier County brushfire 3/7/17

The Collier County fire paled by comparison to the conflagration in Washington DC spawned by hot air, smoke and mirrors, hubris, hypocrisy, and paranoia. And, no, it isn’t the same on both sides.

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Photo courtesy of Travel Wires

Now for your diversions. Column of impressive smoke, you say? Italians can claim the prize, produced by Mount Etna this month.

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After all these fiery natural phenomena and irrational political bombast, I needed some good news. A man lost his beloved parrot. Thanks to an implanted ID chip, the parrot was found years later and reunited with his owner. You’ll have to read this to learn the change the parrot exhibited upon his return.

 

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Here’s another feel good diversion. When her dad wouldn’t do it, a business leader walked a lesbian bride down the aisle.

And I wouldn’t leave you without some good music. My cousin from Knoxville, Tennessee shared one of her favorite artists with me this weekend when she and her sister came for a fun visit. Here is Amos Lee and “Southern Girl.”

 

Namasté

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