Not Worried About Ebola

When I saw that the NYC doctor with Ebola had worked at Columbia Presbyterian ER, I did feel a little a butterfly flutter in my stomach. That’s where Coco and I spent the night on Friday. (And I had told her, at the time, “Let’s get out of here as fast as we can. You can get infections in the hospital.”)

But I’m not scared. I’m proud that our favorite hospital’s doctors work with Doctors Without Borders.

Borders are made up. Borders are moving. We are all brothers and sisters in this world. Trace us back, and we all descended from some fireside circle. We come from hunters and gatherers — women and children gathering berries in handwoven baskets. We are all eking out our survival. Even now.

I got so lucky in my adult life when I worked for so long (too long?) for the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. I met so many brilliant people — people very similar to Dr. Craig Spencer. They are trying to lift the whole world out of particular miseries — illness, poverty, loneliness, oppression. Through their efforts, for example, and in a joint effort with lots of other do-gooders, malaria is practically history.

I’m also not worried about Ebola because I know that the things that will get you in this life are not the flashy front page diseases or airline crashes. But the less sexy — heart disease, cancer. And it’s better to take care of your daily health — floss, eat right, exercise — than stew about infectious diseases.

That’s why today I’m going for my annual physical and my twice-a-year dermatology exam; on Monday, I’m going for my annual gynecological exam.

I remind myself in this media swirl: It’s the little things that will kill you, not the big things. And I’m trying to take care of all the little things today.

The ER at Columbia Presbyterian – great people doing great work:

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People’s Climate March – Wordless Wednesday

Joined hundreds of thousands on Sunday after church to march.IMG_6877.JPG

These ladies from Code Pink were there — looking awesome and fiesty femininsty gorgeous. Their message? War is not green. Yes. IMG_6876.JPGAnd tons of kids. And patient parents. We had to wait on 72nd Street for about an hour before we could feed in to the march. IMG_6849.JPGHere we are passing by Columbus Circle. It felt like the march opened up here and we could look around. All the humanity. IMG_6854.JPGI like their sign that said, “We have solutions.” It wasn’t just a march where people pointed out the problems. Although there was some of that. Vegans educated us on the reality that cows are a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. IMG_6842.JPGThere was a lot of music. But, as in any march, my favorite is “We shall overcome!” I melt when I hear that at a march. IMG_6857.JPG

There were a lot of young people. We all walked for hours. So fun. IMG_6859.JPG

Does Football Make You Violent?

I played football in fifth grade. I was the only girl on the team, the Vikings. I dropped out before we played a game, but I made the cut. I liked flag (or was it touch) football in college too. We played in Central Park a few times. It was always a great work out.

I am so sick of what I am hearing about football these days.

A few weeks ago, I heard the first disturbing fact: that 30 percent of professional football players will have some kind of early onset dementia.

The other disheartening news — the uber aggressive nature of the sport. I can’t watch it without wincing or groaning. My son, friends and students are in fantasy football leagues so I hear about teams and players. And you can’t help but hear about the players’ aggressive playing. On and off the field. And aggression is different than violence.

The excessive violence of the players — and the way it spills over into their personal lives — is disturbing. Are you kidding me? It’s 2014 and some huge professional athlete beats his little kid with a switch? This is fricken’ nuts. A football player beats his wife and before it’s revealed, he’s suspended for only two games? Ugh.

But at least we’re hearing about it. We’re talking about it. Maybe that’s good. Domestic violence is too quickly shoved under the rug.

We care too much about professional athletes.

I wish people cared as much about actors and artists as much as athletes. I wish we cared about teachers. I wish we valued public servants and sanitation workers. Nurses. Bus drivers. Astronauts. I don’t know. Anyone.

It is so crazy the amount of money that these professional athletes, teams, managers, leagues make.

It’s also this brotherhood thing — that women cannot play. It’s a closed society. I found it creepy when the whole Penn State scandal was uncovered. Male fraternal organizations and any male-dominated groups (churches, boards) creep me out.

not caring

There’s a meme going around: “This is me not caring about football.” The thing is, I used to care about football. Growing up in Chicago-area, you had to love the Bears. Plus I liked playing. I liked being a part of a team.

A few years ago, I met this Ph.D. candidate — a friend of a friend’s at a party. She was a coach at UVM. She did a study surveying collegiate athletes — to find out if they were more aggressive than other students. They were. She was surprised — perhaps, she was hoping to find more examples of teamwork and positive group dynamics in sports. Me, too. We can do better.

As a girl who played football, I know the sport can be fun and a great work out. But, let’s face it, I’m not going to be playing any more.

***

I wrote this from today’s prompt at the Daily Post: Today, write about anything — but you must write for exactly ten minutes, no more, no less. 

Something Good About to Happen

I have had this uncanny sense that I’m about to experience some miracle.

Is it the onset of summer? A time of less work? I have been freelancing, leading workshops, substitute teaching, tutoring and working my ass off. Okay, I wish I worked my ass off, just a little — not that my ass is too big — but well, you know, metaphorically.

And then, there’s the work of family life — the endless meals and maintenance that my three teenagers and disabled spouse require.

But two of my darlings will be in summer camp and one will be on a school trip to Botswana soon. And my husband will be on a fishing trip in Canada. So, maybe it’s just that — soon, for a couple of weeks, I will have less responsibility. I will be free. I can watch what I want on TV. I won’t have to work so hard.

Maybe, it’s the longer days and the light. The birds are definitely chirping when I wake in the morning.

Long summer days, picnics, in Riverside Park.
Long summer days, picnics, in Riverside Park.

I can ride my bike everywhere and I am always happy on my bike.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I feel lighter in spirit. I just know that something good is about to happen. And I wonder what it is.

 

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Birding: What We Saw

I was in Central Park on a snowy Saturday morning with my friend Charles Chessler. He had rallied several of his friends to go birding and photographing birds through a Facebook invitation.

I love walking or riding my bike in Central Park.

Charlie has great charisma. People and birds just love to stop, chat, and pose for him.

I’d gone out birding with Charles a few times before. On this trip we were searching for some rare long-eared owl in the pine trees near the Angel of the Waters. But instead, on that branch, we spotted a fat and still-hungry hawk. We spotted a lot more than that too.

Here’s what we saw:

1/25/14

A couple of finches near the birdfeeder in Central Park
A couple of finches near the birdfeeder in Central Park. (Photo by Charles Chessler)

Baltimore Oriole (male and female)
Finch
Northern cardinal
Dark eyed junco
Downy woodpecker (male and female)
Brown creepers
Goldfinches
Carolina wren
Blue jay
Hawk
Yellow bellied sap sucker
Sparrow

9/7/13

Swan
Grackle
Robin
Northern cardinal (male and female)
House sparrow
Maybe yellow warbler
Mourning dove

4/26/13

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Charlie captures a bird perched on Amanda’s hand. (Photo by Charles Chessler)

Yellow rump warbler
White-breasted nuthatch
Swamp sparrow
Northern parula
Ruby-crown kinglet
Louisiana water thrush
Black and white warbler
Palm warbler
Cardinal
Blue jay
Starling
Red wing blackbird
Black birded green

We go birding in Central Park behind the cafe, across the Bow Bridge, by the Ramble.

For the record, I could not identify any of these birds (except maybe the cardinals and blue jays) without help from Charlie and fellow birders and photographers Dan Lane Williams and Amanda Bielskas. On previous birding jaunts, we met Birding Bob and friend Andy Gershon.

Although I don’t really know about birds, I know about the beauty of birds. As Emily Dickinson wrote:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

Going out for a walk with birders reminds me to slow down, take in the beauty, stop time with a photo, even if it’s cold and snowy — especially then! There’s beauty and hope all around. You just have to look for it.

If you like the beautiful photography of Charles Chessler, (and who doesn’t?) I have a request. Chessler is entered in a photo contest. If he wins, he gets a trip to a safari in Namibia. He is less than one thousand votes away. He needs 212 Votes to pop into 4th place!

Charlie and I are friends from the NYU Stella Adler acting school in the ’80s. He’s a fitness trainer with a specialty for keeping senior citizens active.

If Charlie won the trip, think about the great pics he’d share with us! Vote at BandH Photo Contest. He might even just even invite all of us along — at least on his Facebook stream! 😉

Charlie and I bumped into fellow birder Andy in the fall.
Charlie and I bumped into fellow birder Andy in the fall.
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Snow Day in Riverside Park

Sometimes words simply will not do. So I will show you some pics of today in Riverside Park and Riverside Drive. My Upper West Side was blanketed in snow.

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Change Is Good

“The framers of the constitution meant for it to be continuously updated,” my 11th grade son said at last night’s late-night dinner. “Jefferson and them would’ve thought it was a joke that we still have the right to bear arms and all that.”

This shocked me. Is not the constitution like the bible — holy, sacred, untouchable? Maybe when we lock up our books instead of live them, we lose our self determination. We entrust our happiness to people who wrote documents hundreds of years ago. And not realize we have powers ourselves.

“Other countries amend their constitutions all the time,” my son told me.

I thought of South Africa – in my lifetime – my adulthood, no less – it has revised its constitution to make it more inclusive, more just. The South African constitution has allowed gay marriage, abolished the death penalty, and guaranteed the participation of women and immigrants.

Thank you, South Africa and Nelson Mandela!

I was thinking about all this while I was stuck on a subway bound for New Work City Chinatown. On my iPhone I read the St. Paul and St. Andrew Advent email message from my friend Peggy. She advocated for the United Methodist Church to continue to grow and find new ways to love one another. Like new life on a tree, religions could include and love everyone, regardless of how or who they love.

Beautiful, living, and valuable books and sacred institutions, like religions and marriages, must grow too. Or whither and die.

Today’s daily prompt is about learning. I am lover of learning. I am especially curious on how framers and faith leaders write sacred books and readers read them.

I love learning about happiness and rewiring myself to have a happy life, or at least a meaningful life, given challenges which include patience around my husband’s chronic illness.

Let’s seize our right to grow, even in our constitutions. Let’s seize the day.