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 18

 

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Week 18, and each day this week seems to have brought one Breaking News story after another. What do we do with the parry and thrust, the he said-he said, the weird, the loony, the scary and the unbelievable?  To paraphrase Bette Davis in “All About Eve”: Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy fight.

So of course we need our diversions. Here goes. Mother Jones magazine says that we are turning to comfort foods to salve our fears and quell our anxieties.

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Some turn to Pinterest to ogle food porn, those succulent photos of cheesy macaroni casseroles, pans of iced cinnamon rolls, plates of pretty cookies, pots of spicy chili, and recipes for every imaginable ethnic cuisine or dietary plan, and every way to cheat you could possibly want. If you want to enjoy a meal and not go crazy off the dietary deep end, it helps to search “healthy smoothies” or “salads” or your desired way of eating, be it vegan, paleo, low-carb, plant-based, high-protein or what have you. Then the food porn is at least in your wheelhouse. Hmm, sorry for the mixed metaphor 🤔.

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It is during times like these when mind-fulness, focus on the experience of the here and now, is crucial. The projection into the future doom and gloom, the downfall of our democratic civilization, the climate meltdown of our planet home, a nuclear holocaust, and all the other scary prospects that the future might hold if this or that happens, is a kind of mental exercise that only brings suffering. We have enough suffering, or dukkha, in our lives as it is. The Buddha said that dukkha–suffering, is the First Noble Truth. So to learn to stay focused, meditation is a great help.

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Helping others can help lift us from a potential pit of despair. Suffering may be unavoidable, but it brings good karma to help alleviate it whenever we can. A dear friend of mine and his wife are helping to bring water to an arid part of Africa, a location where women and children have to carry heavy containers of water on their heads up hills just to cook and wash. If you would like to help the Abonse Pipeborne Water Project, they have a GoFundMe campaign on right now.

This week’s musical diversion comes to us from 1962 when cellist Yo Yo Ma performed for President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy and President Eisenhower after having been discovered by famed cellist Pablo Casals. His older sister played the piano to accompany this precocious 7-year-old boy’s amazing performance.

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 16

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The Sixteens above commemorate The Pixel Project’s “16 For 16” Campaign: “A campaign in honour of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence while raising funds for the cause to end Violence Against Women.” Definitely worth it.

Ready for some diversion? Here’s what I’ve got for you this week. You’re worth it!

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Putting ourselves first is often wisest, especially when wishing to help others.  As we hear from a flight attendant on every airline flight, we must put the oxygen mask over our own nose and mouth before assisting our children or others around us. So when we neglect our own needs in the service of others, we will not be able to do it for long. We must refill our own cup if we wish to share generously with others. Here’s a good piece by Marc and Angel: An Open Letter to Those who Always Put Themselves Last. You’re worth it!

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Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, Shimane prefecture, Japan
日本語: 足立美術館。所在地は島根県安来市

One thing we must do for ourselves is cope as well as we can with stress. Avoiding stress is impossible, but drowning in it is usually avoidable. What can we do to minimize stress so it is less toxic and destructive to our lives and those who care about us and those who may need our help? We’re all worth it.

  • Breathe deeply and mindfully to reduce anxiety; it works!
  • Eat nutritiously and regularly; starvation is no virtue.
  • Sleep at least 6 hours every night, but no more than 8 is best.
  • Exercise at least 3 days a week and walk on the other days.
  • Practice your spiritual or religious beliefs sincerely and often.
  • Meditate, do yoga, pray or seek peace and beauty, as in the zen garden above.
  • Live your values, which means understanding what they are.
  • Give and receive love, affection and kindness freely.
  • Seek help for your own problems: therapy, medical treatment or expert advice.
  • Consider adopting a pet if your circumstances permit; they enrich our lives.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff (most is), pick your battles and put down the bat.

Moses Sumney is a recent musical discovery of mine, thanks to a video in a GQ article about Brad Pitt. The article is good, and Moses Sumney is definely “Worth It.”

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 13

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

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.

Namastéimg_0154

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 10

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A whirlwind week to be sure. Hearings, press conferences, tweets, accusations, retractions, awkward posturings, leader of the free world clowning in the cab of a semi like a ten-year-old kid, lies and obfuscations, more tortured logic, dead Russians, Russian guy thrown out a window and surviving, Russian guy poisoned (twice) and living to tell the tale, spy vs. spy, intel insanity, naïveté and contortive backstabbing. Whew!

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So to the diversions. First, is there a vacant lot that bugs you? Is your neighbor’s yard an eyesore? You need to learn how to be a guerilla gardener. It looks like a lot of fun and good for the planet besides. Like these nasturtiums. They could brighten that sorry corner.

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Sort of stressed about now? Maybe you need to meditate. You already do? Fantastic. Then hit that cushion and get your om on. My meditation practice has transformed my life in a good way. How else are we going to find our center in the midst of the circus? And remember, they ARE our monkeys. If you don’t have a sitting practice yet, Lion’s Roar has a meditation how-to to get you started.

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I enjoy cooking, and I collect cookbooks and I pin recipes I find online on Pinterest all the time. Now Mother Jones tells me I’m doing it all wrong. Curious?  Check this out.

And now for your musical reward for reading this blog today. Rock music! Neil Mendoza built a contraption that actually uses rocks to make music. You won’t believe it! Ok, maybe you will. “Here Comes the Sun!” Enjoy!

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 4

Diversion seems essential these days. I get mine from observing the birds, turtles and dragonflies on the large pond behind our place, reading well-written legal novels and police procedurals, cooking and baking, walking and working out, visiting with friends and family, and enjoying the gorgeous Florida weather, sugar-sand beaches and gulf waters. And my writing is less of a diversion and more of focused, creative process, which thanks to WordPress and the Daily Post I’m doing much more regularly. I also read the blogs of my fellow WordPressers. Many have inspired me to do more, write better, and persevere. We really have some great writers in this community. I’ve begun a series of short stories on this blog, or perhaps chapters of something bigger, but for now it’s at least a serial fiction. Lit crit is welcomed!

So where are we this week with diversions?

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Do you meditate regularly? Me, too, but there are many kinds of meditation, and you might enjoy trying something new.

 

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Did you ever wonder what your choice of car color may mean about you? Gas Buddy has some answers.

 

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Photo courtesy of Demoose, airliners.net.

 

 

 

 

 

I never knew how dehydrating inflight air can be until I read several blogs on the subject. I don’t fly more than once or twice a year, but some of my friends and family take lengthy flights across the globe with some frequency. Info in these three blogs might just save your skin. Really! Even you guys might learn something you can use.

 

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Flow chart courtesy of Ferguson fan @tbskyen

Lastly, I need to remember this above all. Truly. I mean tattoo it on the insides of my eyelids. Or print it out and put it on a mirror or inside of a cupboard door, or over my desk. These short questions are golden. Many thanks to Craig Ferguson for asking them. He probably wasn’t the first to say them, but he has brought them to the masses, i.e. us. In fact, this may be the best part of this post today.

So, Lionel Richie:

Namasté

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Nine-eleven Fourteen Years On

Cityscape, by Michael Leu, etching from the collection of the author.

Cityscape, by Michael J. Leu, etching from the collection of the author.

September 12, 2001

Brooklyn, New York

Yesterday our world changed and our lives will never be the same again. Yesterday at 8:46 a.m., while I was driving to my Manhattan office, just yards away from entering the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, I looked up at the twin towers of the World Trade Center. What I saw will be burned in my memory forever. I saw the North Tower explode into a fireball, with confetti-like showers of shattered glass glinting in the sun across the blue sky around the buildings. Plumes of black smoke began pouring out. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I looked to the people in the cars around me, and no one else seemed aware of it. I had 880-News Radio on, and they were not speaking of it. I tried to call 911 but couldn’t get through. I called (my friend and colleague) and told him what I was seeing. By then I was going into the tunnel, unable to leave the queue in which I found myself. As I proceeded with painstaking slowness, often dead-stopped, I listened to Don Imus on the radio and CBS radio also. About 20 minutes after the first explosion, which I now knew was the impact of an airplane, I learned another plane had crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Before I emerged from the tunnel into the now-war zone of lower Manhattan, I also heard President Bush speaking of the crisis for the first time.

When I emerged, I saw both towers flaming and spewing clouds of black and gray smoke. All traffic was diverted to downtown, emergency vehicles and MTA heavy equipment blocking all routes north. Unable to get to my office, which I would have done if permitted, I got on the FDR heading toward the Brooklyn Bridge. There were very few vehicles on the FDR, and most were pulled over by the side of the road, their occupants standing together, cameras trained on the WTC towers, which were still burning furiously. I opened my window and shared a sentiment of shock and dismay with a man standing by his car. Car radios were all on 1010-WINS, as was my own at that moment, the doors open and the sound of the news briefs and unfolding events in the air. I got on the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge. Traffic was very heavy and slow onto the bridge. I saw masses of people streaming north and east, away from the Financial District. As I listened to unfolding events, I learned that the South Tower had collapsed and wasn’t there anymore. Suddenly people began running onto the roadway where I was, running furiously away from a large, billowing white cloud rolling from Ground Zero towards me. I had to use my wipers to remove the ashes and dust that began to accumulate on my windshield. I put on my fog lights and headlights as my car and those people around me became enveloped in a thick dust cloud. We crept onto the bridge. Pedestrians clogged the center walkway, and I had seen probably thousands walking across the bridge to Brooklyn before my view was really obliterated. As I crept across, pedestrians hurried along the paved roadway, too, and at times they seemed to engage angrily with drivers ahead of me, but I was not aware of why. At one point, a car came at our queue head on, speeding the wrong way towards Manhattan, filled with men who looked like plain-clothed police.

When I got to the Brooklyn side of the East River, I stayed on surface streets and laboriously wended my way home. I parked my ash-covered car in my parking garage, and tried to find out about (my husband). His brother didn’t answer. I knew he was in the field, working the New York City primary election. I didn’t know which borough he had gone to, and I was worried. I called my mother to tell her I was okay. She had been beside herself with worry and had tried to call but all circuits had been busy, she said.

I finally got through to my husband’s boss who said he had heard from him and he was in Brooklyn. As we spoke, he came through the door to our apartment. I have never been so glad to see anyone in my life. We have been together since, attending meetings and calling friends and family. He has been unable to reach anyone in his organization. I can’t get to my office because no one is permitted below 14th Street in Manhattan, and my office is between 12th and 13th Streets. I have called my patients. As far as I know, they are all okay.

Today I made arrangements to stay with my husband wherever I go, and to meet (a close friend) at a meeting. We’ll have lunch together. I also left my name and phone numbers with two local hospitals in the event that my services as a clinical psychologist are requested. I have heard that the volunteer response to this act of war has been incredible. (Our son) and I spoke last night. He has his own challenges now, but he was relieved to know we are safe here.

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September 11, 2015

Brooklyn, New York

Today I elected to pull a long-ignored journal from its place in my office armoire at home, thinking I would read what I wrote about my experiences on 9/11/2001. It’s interesting to me to read what I believe are discrepancies with what actually happened, but then perhaps those details that feel real and true now are the discrepancies from what actually occurred. For example, my recollection is that I looked up and saw a gaping hole in the North Tower with flames pouring out and sparking shards of glass, which we later learned were mostly papers floating out from the offices that had been blown open and were now on fire. For days afterward we found some of these papers, singed or intact, on our lawn in Brooklyn. My recollection now is of compulsively calling my mother while I was in the tunnel, but unable to get through. I believe I was in there over an hour listening to eyewitness accounts of what was going on above. I carried a cellphone and had for several years, but my husband did not, so I never tried to call him, not knowing where I’d find him that day.

Photo courtesy of Bay Ridge Phantom, 2006

Photo courtesy of Bay Ridge Phantom, 2006

A year or so later I published a professional paper, “Impact of the World Trade Center Disaster on a Manhattan Psychotherapy Practice” and gave my impressions of that day from my experience and from the perspectives of my patients. Reading it later I cringed at how patriotic it seemed, but such were those very overwhelming days. I don’t mean to suggest that loving one’s country is in any way undesirable. But in the months and years after 9/11/2001, love of country seemed often to be co-opted by some for political gain, or fearmongering, or whipping up war fever.

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We drove across the Brooklyn Bridge today, just blocks north of the memorial events downtown. The traffic was brutal what with closed streets to accommodate the dignitaries and the grieving survivors of that awful day. Our city now is vibrant and still ever on the build. Cranes abound as new skyscrapers arise, and parking spaces are harder and harder to come by in Park Slope.

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The best thing about the news today that I sampled on my iPhone as we traveled to the country for the weekend was the photo of a group of 14-year-olds on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, all born on September 11, 2001, wearing t-shirts reading Hope, and Unity, and Kindness. Life goes on, and that we must never forget, even though we eventually will die, as will all those we love, but this is as it should be. Impermanence is an oft denied reality of life as we know it. The shock of knowing it so starkly as we did that day knocked us sideways. I conclude this post with a version of the Buddhist Metta Sutta, adapted from that offered by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in his book, Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice (2011, Parallax Press):

May each of you be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.

May you safe and free from injury.

May you be free from anger, fear, afflictions and anxiety.

May you learn to look at yourselves with the eyes of understanding and love.

May you be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in yourselves.

May you learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in yourselves.

May you know how to nourish the seeds of joy in yourselves every day.

May you be able to live fresh, solid and free.

May you be free from attachment and aversion but not be indifferent.

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