I haven’t participated in Fandango’s Provocative Question lately – mainly because I haven’t been on my blog much lately – but this question I cannot resist because it is about my favorite subject: ICE CREAM!
What is your favorite ice cream? Please list not only your favorite flavor, but also the brand that is your favorite. Please be specific.
Let me give you an example of what I’m looking for. I like Cookies and Cream ice cream (which flavor inexplicably didn’t make Ally Bean’s published list). And my preferred brand of Cookies and Cream ice cream is Breyers. But my very favorite flavor and brand of ice cream is Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream from Ben & Jerry’s.
Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite food is, I say ice cream. Ice cream, to me, encompasses classic ice cream, gelato, sorbet, and frozen yogurt. I am partial to flavors that involve chocolate and/or coffee, but I have always thought my favorite ice cream is peppermint ice cream, especially when it is topped with hot fudge sauce, because peppermint and chocolate go so deliciously together!!
But lately, I’ve branched out because there are so many wonderful flavors and combinations out there. I love Ben & Jerry’s and also Haagen Dazs. If I am splurging and come across some Ben & Jerry’s, I’ll look for a combination of flavors I prefer, such as chocolate/dark chocolate (preferably with chocolate pieces blended in), coffee, caramel, or a sorbet such as raspberry (my favorite sorbet flavor). The one Fandango posted looks good and I have probably had it before because I not only love B&J’s ice cream, and ice cream with pieces of cone in it, but I’m also a fan of Stephen Colbert!
My husband and I live in a senior community and very early on, I learned that the ice cream flavors offered for dessert here are really great. Most of the time, they have the basic flavors as well as coffee, so I will often choose that, and it’s great, but they also have some other very popular and scrumptious flavors, like mint chocolate chip or roadrunner raspberry (vanilla with ribbons of raspberry and big chunks of chocolate), “hazelnut” – which is actually dark chocolate with slivers of hazelnuts, and dark chocolate raspberry – this is my new favorite! We have a mini-mart here which sells pints of some of the best flavors, and they are all made by Hershey. Not what I would have expected, and also not as healthy in terms of ingredients (they use high fructose corn syrup), but they do have some interesting flavors such as those I’ve mentioned above.
If I’m in a tropical country, or a place that I can get tropical flavors, I also love coconut, mango, and passion fruit ice cream/sorbet. In Brazil, I used to order doce de leite com flocos, or dulce de leche (a sort of caramel flavor) with chocolate pieces.
So you see, it is really hard to pin down my MOST favorite, but peppermint is always a great choice for me as well as dark chocolate anything or mocha – chocolate/coffee mixed in some combination. OK, I need to stop writing this and go to the freezer to get my dark chocolate raspberry ice cream for dessert! YUMMMM!
If there are only three things in life that truly matter, what do you think they are and why did you choose those three?
My answers are all about love, which leads to all else that truly matter.
Self-love. If you don’t love yourself, you will not have the capacity to truly and selflessly love others, and you will probably have a miserable life. Self-love (or self-esteem) involves self-care: taking care of your physical and mental health and seeking help when needed; searching for work that really suits you and that you like; it brings out loving characteristics, such as kindness, respect, honesty, gratitude, and the ability to smile every day. Self-love allows you to feel gratitude for things great and small that you have or that happen to you. Self-love also is genuinely accepting love from others.
Love for others: friends and family. I am lucky to have a wonderful extended family that loves and supports each other, and we are also financially secure. I am blessed for that! But even without actual kin, you can create a family of sorts with the people that love and care for you, perhaps a group/organization you belong to, or people who share your residence, or just your friends in general. Love for others, though, goes beyond these relationships. It is also caring for people you don’t even know, people who live in other countries, compassion for those who are suffering, nearby and far away. There is too much hate in our world today. Love for others means being kind toward others, showing respect, being honest, helping and showing interest in others. Love for others is non-judgmental; it’s about showing gratitude for others’ gifts, support, love, and care. If more people spent their time loving others, instead of hating or putting people down, this world would be a much better place! We might even have peace all over the world – imagine no more war!
Love for Earth or the natural world. I am reading a very good book right now, called Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The author is a Native American (Potawatomi) woman who writes about loving and showing gratitude for the gifts we receive from others, especially from the land. She shows how the natural world gives us gifts every day, which we would appreciate if we just stopped and looked around: every living thing, as well as non-living things, is here for a purpose and each has its own work to do to provide gifts to other living things, including ourselves. We are part of the web of life of this planet and we should not take it for granted.
Love for Earth means taking care of it – this is the home of everyone and every thing we know, and it’s the only one we have – as of 2022, we cannot move anywhere else! Climate scientists are issuing dire warnings that we must curb our reliance on fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases. Already the planet has heated up to the point where we are seeing more natural disasters: flooding on coastlines as the sea level rises, wildfires that destroy everything in their path in areas with prolonged drought, hurricanes which have increased in number and intensity due to the warming of the oceans, avalanches where excessive rainfall causes the eroding of the soil, and many others. It will soon affect us all, especially our children, grandchildren, and successive generations who will continue to live here. And scientists warn that eventually it will be an unpleasant place to live.
To love the Earth, we must stop polluting air, land, and bodies of water. Increasingly, medical scientists are finding that many forms of cancer are caused by breathing polluted air or drinking polluted water. Also, the land is home for many animals who share this planet with us and we are trashing their homes! A sixth massive extinction is taking place right now, and it is being caused by human activities. Even if you are a person who really doesn’t care about people outside your circle of family and friends, every creature on this planet has a purpose – plants and animals that feed us, species that provide medicines which can cure many diseases (and we haven’t found them all, so some may become extinct without being able to provide us with its gift of healing medicines), and the removal of which disrupts the food chain, either in minor or major ways – we can make predictions but cannot say for sure how serious the impact of altering any particular food chain will be.
People who show love for the natural world work, if they can, to advocate for cleaner ways of living, for finding solutions to problems such as how to provide fuel to heat people’s homes, provide energy for cars, machinery, etc. A great lover of the Earth is the Swedish young woman Greta Thunberg, who has turned her local protest at her high school into a worldwide movement. But there are many ways to love and show gratitude toward the natural world, including recycling, reducing what we use (such as single use plastics), and reusing what we can. It includes walking outside on a pleasant day and appreciating the beauty of the flowers (if they are blooming where you are) or the cycle of life, in which each season has its purpose to perpetuate future seasons. It includes having gratitude for the (hopefully) fresh air we breathe, for the coolness of a stream we dabble our toes in, for the sun that warms us and the moon and stars which cheer us.
Fandango has an interesting and relevant question for us this week; in fact, the issue has been on my mind the last several days. Fandango prefaces the question as follows:
It seems to me that there are a lot of things to worry about these days. Whether we’re talking about the climate, politics, the seemingly never ending pandemic, natural disasters, social injustice, mass shootings, cultural clashes, or wars, the news is rarely good. I have almost gotten to the point that I’m considering stopping reading or watching the news because I find it both disheartening and depressing.
So with this in mind, my provocative question this week is this…
What worries you the most about the future? Why is that your biggest concern? Or are you not that concerned about the future?
Last week, I was on the verge of tears, watching a news piece about voting restriction laws that are being passed in various states around the country. If these laws are allowed to take effect, the Republicans in Texas, Georgia, and elsewhere will be able to overturn election results that they don’t like, by removing election officials and installing others of their choosing. This has come about as the “Big Lie” has not been allowed to die – there are still Trumpian politicians who have convinced a large minority of people that the Democrats corrupted the election and that Trump, in fact, had won, not Joe Biden. I believe these politicians are fully aware that there was no fraud and that Biden is the legitimate president, but they continue to fuel this lie for their own interests. It occurred to me, as I watched Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, that if they get away with it, they will destroy what is left of our democracy. The Republicans, under these laws, will have the advantage over the majority, and will control the election results, in their favor. They know they cannot win elections unless they cheat – the victory of the Democrats in the 2020 election and the special Senate election in Georgia, in which two Democrats ran close races against Republican challengers, and won, flipping Georgia – always a Republican stronghold – to “blue.” The Georgia GOP has its greedy eyes on Fulton County, where Atlanta is located, and has already removed its top election official. It is really scary.
Then this week, climate scientists put out a report on the status of climate change: it is no longer a threat, it is a reality now. A 4,000 page report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which includes work by 234 authors who are experts in climate science, and roughly 14,000 citations to existing scientific studies, is the most comprehensive look at climate change and unequivocal in its pronouncements. The Washington Post, on August 10, published a review of this report. The Post cited five major quotes from the report:
‘It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.‘
‘The last decade was more likely than not warmer than any multi-centennial period after the Last Interglacial, roughly 125,000 years ago.‘
‘Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe.’
‘With further global warming, every region is projected to increasingly experience concurrent and multiple changes in climatic impact-drivers.’
‘Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.’
Although the Biden administration has pledged to finally do something to mitigate climate change, and the Democrats’ large infrastructure bill includes attention to climate change especially in the manufacture of electric cars, it will unlikely be enough. Other countries have also pledged to make drastic modifications to their energy infrastructures, but so far, there has been way too little change. I understand – industries are reluctant to make the kind of changes that they fear will impact their bottom line, especially since the investment in making the changes will have to be done long before measurable results (as well as their profits) will equal these efforts. And U.S. politics have always focused on short-term (about the length of politicians’ time in office) fixes for short-term results. To really make the kind of changes that will lead to meaningful benefits to society at large, politicians need to become far more altruistic in their vision for the future.
It’s time to stop finger-pointing at other countries (such as China and Russia) who are big polluters but have not committed to major changes. We need to get to work on this “yesterday, if not sooner” (as a former boss of mine liked to say) and encourage others to follow us.
What more real-life proof do we need that the situation is dire than massive out-of-control fires burning in so many areas of the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere? Half of one of the largest islands of Greece, Evia, a major tourist destination, is being decimated by wildfires. Even the Big Island of Hawaii is combatting fires. What about the “heat domes” that have settled for weeks over places that have never dealt with such hot temperatures? Portland, Oregon, reached 116 degrees Fahrenheit, and even Death Valley is hotter than ever, with reported temperatures of 134 F! Two years ago, people died from the heat in Paris, France, which saw unprecedented temperatures of 109 deg. F, in a country where few residents have ever felt the need to invest in air conditioning their homes.
In its conclusion the, WP article says, Even if current emissions pledges are realized, they would amount to just a 1 percent reduction in global emissions by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. Scientists say the number needs to be closer to a 50 percent reduction.
What can we do RIGHT NOW?
We already have the technology to hook residences and businesses up to energy created by wind farms. I have received phone calls offering a great deal on putting solar panels on the roof of my home and switching my residence to 100% solar & wind power. If this kinds of things are being done already on a small scale, why not expand it to include entire cities, states, and yes, even whole countries?
2. Many businesses are realizing that the switch to green power is in the near future, and are getting on board. They have understood that they will not lose all their profit from fossil fuels, because there is plenty of money to be made embracing the new energy technologies. And LOTS OF JOBS will be created! Committing to green energy can vitalize the entire economy! That’s what the much-criticized “Green New Deal” is about.
3. Yesterday, on BBC World News on the radio, there was a discussion regarding methane, the second largest cause of global warming. The first thing that comes to mind when I heard the word ‘methane’ is cows. Cows and pigs. Their farts and manure are culprits, made worse by feeding the cows a diet mostly comprised of corn, which is not in the bovine’s natural diet and which its gut has a hard time processing. Waste in landfills also emits a great deal of methane. The BBC report indicated that methane is a more short-term problem that can be dealt with. While CO2 emissions are, of course, vital to deal with, the ways to lower methane can show more short-term results which would benefit not only the planet as a whole, but also humans in every sector. (It sure would smell a lot nicer too!)
I looked up the BBC report online and found it, referencing more findings in the IPCC report. “An aggressive campaign to cut methane emissions can buy the world extra time to tackle climate change, experts say.” The BBC online article goes on to make the following points.
“One of the key findings in the newly released IPCC report is that emissions of methane have made a huge contribution to current warming.
The study suggested that 30-50% of the current rise in temperatures is down to this powerful, but short-lived gas.
Major sources of methane include agriculture, and leaks from oil and gas production and landfills.”
One of President Biden’s goals is to totally convert our automobile industry to electric power by 2035. But we don’t have that long to wait for many major changes to be made. Like Greta Thunberg, I am depressed that there may not be the human will to think long-term. Yet this planet is the only home that humans and other organisms have!
Fandango’s Provocative Question #122 is about REGRET.
Lucille Ball, the American actress and comedian, was quoted as saying…
“I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.”
For this week’s provocative question I’m going to ask you to think back upon the life you’ve lived so far. And as you do so, consider this week’s question:
What is your biggest regret in life?
I suppose I could name several “regrets” I’ve had in my life, or the “biggest regret”, but I understand why I made the decisions I did at the time. So, I prefer to think of those things as mistakes, or the “roads most easily taken” without thinking ahead.
I understand myself a lot better than I did when I was young. I was always beating myself up for stupid things I did or said, but I am nicer to myself these days. I like the way my life is headed now, in spite of being a “senior citizen.” Actually, being a senior citizen, except for reminders that my body is slowly falling apart, is quite nice. People at this age are much more forgiving, and more accepting. Every day, I look forward to traveling again, pursuing hobbies I enjoy, and relishing time with family and friends.
So I have “no remorse, no regrets.” Easy come, easy go!
Where do you get most of your news from? Do you consider your primary news source (or sources) to be objective purveyors of truths and facts?
I admit to being a news junkie – or more accurately, an information nerd. I rely on a variety of media for news. I always watch Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and usually Lawrence O’Donnell right afterwards. Being on Central Time, these shows are on at 8 and 9 pm, respectively, not too late to then catch the local news at 10, followed by the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. These news sources are somewhat subjective, but there is good analysis and an attempt to present more than one side of an issue.
When I’m working in the kitchen or on laundry, or when I’m alone in my car, I tune in to NPR on the radio. National Public Radio is the most objective news source, in my opinion. I hear various opinions on there, and I also like the stories people tell.
I also subscribe to a regional newspaper. The Daily Herald that I get covers the northwest suburbs. I like this newspaper because they have a mix of national and local news, as well as human interest stories. And I always turn to the editorial page and read the letters to the editor and the columns. It’s interesting to know what people feel compelled to write to the newspaper about.
However, I am alarmed at the plethora of sensationalist “news” outlets, online, on TV and the radio. Some of these media outlets perpetuate conspiracy theories that are completely outlandish and untrue. Yet, millions of Americans tune in to these media outlets and are indoctrinated into believing the mainstream press is “left-wing” and “fake news.” I am concerned with the millions of Americans who live in a seemingly alternate world when it comes to current events. I visualize it as a chasm, such as a fault after an earthquake. How does one talk to a person who thinks, for example, that Donald Trump really won the 2020 election and that Biden is illegitimate? It may seem ridiculous, but a lot of people do believe this, and what will this ultimately lead to in a country with a proliferation of semi-automatic weapons? We’ve already gotten a preview with the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. As long as there are Republicans and Donald Trump fanning the flames of these false narratives (even though they know better), and states “recounting” the ballots from the 2020 election, there will be plenty of people who think it is real.
It’s also sad, because many people have become so jaded about the news and about journalism in general. I have noticed that some of the commenters about this question on Fandango’s page express their complete disaffection with the news. I have great respect for journalists and am an advocate of a free press which is necessary for democracy to succeed. But with social media and the easy access to online “information” there are a lot of lies being perpetuated. And therefore many intelligent people just tune out completely. An apathetic or misled public is a very dangerous trend!
Have you gotten vaccinated for COVID-19 yet? If not, are you planning to? If you have, or are planning to, how do you think your life will change afterwards? If you’re not planning to get vaccinated, why not?
Yes, I got both doses of the Pfizer vaccine in February. I was lucky because of where I live. Seniors had priority and many senior living communities contracted with one pharmacy or another to have their staff and residents vaccinated. That’s what happened here. We were strongly encouraged to get the vaccine, and 97% of our residents and 77% of our staff got it.
I had no reaction after the first dose. After the second dose, the next day I felt a general malaise. No particular symptom, except headache, but just sort of achy and yucky all day. This was easily alleviated with a nap and Tylenol for my headache. At first I thought it was because I had exercised heavily after the vaccine when I found the fitness center nearly empty and had the machines to myself as well as time. So, I expected my legs to feel achy and weak, but it was more likely a reaction to the vaccine.
I think everyone should get vaccinated unless one has medical counterindications. In my opinion, the fear and distrust of the vaccine is silly. We’ve watched our political VIPs and celebrities get vaccinated on TV to encourage people, but unfortunately, everything about Covid has been politicized in the U.S., so there is a swath of people who refuse to get vaccinated, wear masks, etc. A lot of people, close to a majority here, don’t trust the government period. It doesn’t help that over 20 states have either never had a Covid mitigation strategy and have kept their economy going full speed, in spite of spikes and super-spreaders of the disease, or just arbitrarily decided last week to lift all mitigation because their governors have declared Covid to be “over.” No, it is not! Whatever people say about Illinois, I am glad we live here because our governor has been very sensible and cautious in his approach to controlling the pandemic. But I get angry that other states have the right to do nothing and their citizens can travel to other states and infect other people. At this rate, we’ll never beat the pandemic!
However, the good news is that, since the last week in January, a much more serious and effective national strategy has been implemented and we are now AHEAD of the goals set by the Biden administration in terms of number of people vaccinated. In fact, in a total reversal from last year, we are performing ahead of other nations in vaccinating our population! Yesterday, it was announced that since our supply of the various vaccines will exceed our population’s needs, we are going to share some of it with other countries, such as Canada and Mexico. We are on track to have every adult fully vaccinated by the end of May. Those who don’t get the vaccine will still benefit from “herd immunity.”
So more sensible states are now starting to cautiously “open.” There are many variants of the virus, some more virulent than others, which are circulating around the world, so we can’t celebrate totally yet. School districts, with restrictions in place in classrooms, are starting to have students go back to school in person. Teachers and other school personnel were given preference for the vaccine. Restaurants are opening, as well as other venues, with reduced sized clientele.
Our daughter and son-in-law, who are in their 30s/40s, have appointments for the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine next week, and so in a few weeks we’ll be able to visit each other again. Our senior community is slowly bringing more in-person activities back: our dining room will open, by reservation only, next week. A Great Decisions group will be reconvening in April. An art workshop is now being allowed, and more people (15-20 instead of 5-10) are being allowed in the activities that are already meeting. However, in spite of our high percentage of vaccination, we are still required to wear masks and stay socially distanced. A lot of people, including us, don’t wear masks outside on campus, unless we stop to talk to others we encounter. In public we do, though.
As for life after Covid, I am not worried. My husband and I are going to take a road trip in the fall regardless of what the status of the disease is (although we will avoid states with high infection rates). Also, we plan to take some 4-day trips in the summer to visit relatives in the Midwest.
At the beginning of 2022, we are planning a delayed cruise to the Amazon. Right now that area is a hotspot of infection, but I feel confident that this will improve by the end of the year. If not, then we’ll postpone again. Later in 2022, we still plan to go to Australia & New Zealand, and I don’t anticipate any problems by then. I guess we have to stop postponing renewing our passports!
I think life will change post-pandemic in society in general in several ways. Long term problems have taken on greater urgency due to the pandemic, or the pandemic has showed us that we cannot ignore them anymore. I think President Biden, a moderate, has moved a little leftward, due to the urgency of problems exacerbated by both the pandemic and the 4 years of Trump, such as climate change, poverty, access to affordable health care, racial inequity, and hate crimes. Currently his administration is laser-focused on overcoming the pandemic and getting needed funds to people and institutions that need it. Anyway, I believe we will see more movement on solutions to problems that have long festered.
I think – or hope – also that people will emerge from this crisis with a greater appreciation for things that they have taken for granted: family, education, clean air, nature, and simple things like having lunch with friends or hugging our kids.
I personally am looking forward to a couple of live art events, “Immersive Van Gogh” in May and a Frida Kahlo exhibit at a regional community college in June. My husband and I are members of an organization that provides ushers to plays and concerts, and I’d like to get back to that, but I don’t know how long it will be before theatre and concert venues go back to normal.
Remember, WEARING MASKS WORKS! It’s the best way to avoid infection.
Fandango’s intro to this week’s Provocative Question: Valentine’s Day is just four days from today. This coming Sunday is a day that people in love all around the globe — well, okay, in the United States, for sure — celebrate love and romance. So my perhaps not so provocative question this week is all about Valentine’s Day, how you feel about it and how you plan to celebrate the day.
Here’s my question….
How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Do you consider it to be a special day, one where you express your deep love and appreciation for your significant other? Or is it just a commercialized “Hallmark Holiday” where you feel pressured to spend money on cards, flowers, candy, jewelry, and/or expensive dinners in order to stay on the good side of the one you love? Either way, what, if anything, are your plans for Valentine’s Day this year?
I do believe in Valentine’s Day as a way to celebrate our love for others. Some people need to be reminded to remember loved ones or to say “I love you.” Those who don’t express themselves well verbally can get a card and a small gift. My husband, Dale, used to get me flowers every year.
Actually, Valentine’s Day isn’t like other “Hallmark holidays” – it has a long history, although the facts are a little uncertain. One story says that Valentine was a priest during the Roman Empire. Emperor Claudius II forbade young men from getting married because he thought unmarried men made better soldiers. The priest thought this was unjust and continued to marry young lovers in secret. He became a martyr (either this priest or another religious figure, the Bishop of Terni) when he was imprisoned for performing these secret marriages. He was held in the home of a noble, and there he healed the noble’s daughter of blindness, which caused him to be considered a saint. Before he was tortured and put to death on February 14, he sent the girl a note signed, “Your Valentine.”
Whatever the story or legend, Valentine’s Day began to be associated with love during the Middle Ages, and St. Valentine became one of the most popular saints in Europe. When selecting a date to celebrate this saint, some believe Feb. 14 (originally Feb. 15) was deliberately chosen to correspond to the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, celebrating the Roman fertility god, Lupercus. Unlike Valentine’s Day, however, Lupercalia was a bloody, violent, and sexually-charged celebration of animal sacrifice, random matchmaking and coupling to ward off evil spirits and appease the god of fertility. To learn more about St. Valentine and Lupercalia, go to the History Channel’s website page about the history of Valentine’s Day.
There are what I would call Hallmark holidays (like “Sweethearts’ Day” and “Grandparents’ Day”), but Valentine’s Day is not one of them.
However, I have a special reason to “believe in” Valentine’s Day as a special day – it’s Dale’s birthday! So I have a special valentine all of my own!!
It’s not necessarily fun to have a spouse with a birthday on a special day like Valentine’s Day. It’s hard to get restaurant reservations for that special birthday dinner, and some places have special menus and the cost is higher! If you’re like me, who tends to forget to do things until the last minute, you’re out of luck calling around to get reservations on the actual day of Valentine’s Day. I look for that special combo Valentine’s Day birthday card, and I can usually find one or two. But generally, I give him two different cards and a gift more appropriate for his birthday than the token gift I would give for Valentine’s Day.
A popular Valentine’s Day gift is candy. Especially if you are a woman looking for something to give your spouse or boyfriend, candy is usually the default. But neither Dale nor I need to have such temptations in the house! I could get flowers for him – after all, why shouldn’t a woman get flowers for a man? Men like flowers, too, at least most of them seem to. But if I got him flowers and he decided to surprise me in the same way (since candy is a no-no), we’d have too many flowers and it would seem more like an even exchange than something special. I think this is why neither of us bothers to buy the other one Valentine’s Day gifts anymore. I have to find a gift for him anyway.
It used to be a double whammy when I was teaching, because invariably there would be a Valentine’s Day party for the kids, and parents would bring in all kinds of goodies that I generally found irresistible. That would be after hustling the night before to sign a Valentine’s Day card for each student from the packs of 10 or 12 that I’d bought at a store. I didn’t usually worry about providing treats, because parents usually did that, but I generally would get at least a bag of candy so I could give one or two pieces to each child along with the card.
Then after the festivities at school, I’d go home and…there’d be candy or possibly a birthday cake. Fortunately, I am not teaching anymore, and being retired, it’s our job to sit back and let the kids do special things for us! In fact, our daughter has already warned us that she plans to make her dad a cake this year, which she hasn’t done the last few years. (But she’s all domesticated now that she’s married – she or her husband often cook special dishes for us.) That said, instead of being able to get together and share it, she’ll probably have to drop it off over the fence of our complex and we’ll be stuck eating the whole thing! I shouldn’t complain – everything she cooks is great and often quite innovative, but I seem to be in a perpetual struggle to lose weight!
My brother-in-law celebrates Valentine’s Day every year by performing “Singing Valentines” with his barbershop quartet. I don’t know if they will do it this year, but I will miss seeing it in our community dining room (which is closed due to Covid). Anyway, it’s a great surprise gift for someone’s special sweetheart and the group earns quite a bit of money that day!
Whatever the case, although we should celebrate love every day, I think it is a wonderful thing in these always challenging times to have at least one day called Valentine’s Day.
“Blogging is a medium of words,” says Fandango to introduce this week’s Provocative Question. “All of us who blog are wordsmiths. We use words almost exclusively to express ourselves, to tell our stories, to weave our tales, to write our poems, to help others to understand and possibly even appreciate our perspectives.
In the real world, words can take on different meanings depending on context, inflection, facial expressions, body language, and other countless factors. But in blogging, such visual cues are, for the most part, absent. Thus, the challenge of conveying your intended tone and the underlying meaning of what you write can be daunting. It gets down to the age old writer’s dilemma. Is the content what matters, or how the content is portrayed or presented?
So, as we are all writers who use words to paint pictures, my provocative question is simply this:
In the context of blogging and writing, what do you think is more important: what you say or how you say it?”
First I want to say that I straddle two blogging worlds: writing and photography. Writing and photography (art in general) are two consuming interests of mine, so I do some of both on my blog. I always intersperse written posts with pictures (even if they’re not my own*), which I explain below.
I didn’t think this question was particularly controversial until I started formulating a response. To me, writing is a lot easier than speaking, because (even though I do talk a lot, I admit) when speaking, I tend to blurt out what I want to say without thinking about it too much first. I know that is correctable by thinking carefully before I speak, but then whatever my thoughts were, I’ve forgotten parts of them and I don’t end up sounding as brilliant when I voice them as they sounded in my mind! My husband says writing doesn’t allow for nuance (such as tone and inflection) but I think it does. My husband is not a writer, although he reads a lot.
I think WHAT one says is ultimately the most important thing, but if it is not conveyed properly in words, its proper meaning may be lost on some readers. And there is something to be said for beautifully written pieces. Fine literature certainly is enhanced by the author’s style and some readers will gravitate toward certain writers for that reason. On the other hand, a poorly written book will turn me off to that writer even if I enjoy the story. Lots of times that means using very standard phraseology and clichés, making the story sound simplistic. The worst thing to me is bad grammar. I have read books in which it appears no editing was done. There are lots of misplaced apostrophes, one of my pet peeves, or commonly misspelled words are misspelled. Or things like “I got used of it” is wrong – it should be used TO it, but this is a common mistake. I accept such things if the author is writing the dialogue of a character that speaks that way, but not in the general narrative. Bad grammar and wording can so detract from the text that one can lose track of what the author is trying to say.
However, the meaning IS most important. I don’t want to read the elegantly written screed of a right-wing fanatic. If I don’t like the message of a particular writer, I will ultimately stop reading his/her work. People inject their writing with all kinds of hidden messages and subtext. Good writers do this. But in daily life, the words one uses matter. Then there is the general written message of most people out there – the stuff we read on signs and instructions in our every day life.
Someone made a serious blunder when coining the phrase “Defund the police.” I don’t think that is what they really meant. Yes, it’s concise and fits well on a protester’s sign, but its message is a real turn-off. Because my political beliefs are slanted to the left, I have heard the entire dialogue of the meaning behind this phrase. It should be “Reform.” It is the idea of taking some of the money that is poured into police departments with the expectation that the police can and should respond to, and appropriately handle, every conflict that might arise, born out of any number of society’s ills. The idea is really about how to use state and local funds to alleviate poverty, homelessness, drug use, etc.
Other written slogans are imbued with a particular subtext that the slogan’s originators want us to believe. “Pro-life,” for example, is used by people who oppose legal abortion. They are more accurately called “anti-choice.” I say this with no political agenda – I respect and understand their position, but anti-choice is more accurate. What they want is for women who get pregnant not to have the choice to abort the unwanted fetus, or at least for no public funding to be used for abortion. If they are truly pro-life, do they care about what happens to unwanted children after they are born, who may suffer poverty, neglect or abuse? I am not convinced that they do, because their sole focus seems to be on abortion. Many of them are right wing politically, who want smaller government, which usual means fewer public social services. Would pro-life people support transferring a good chunk of the defense budget to public education? That would save lives on both sides of the equation. Does that pro-life protester support the death penalty? If so, how can (s)he claim to be pro-life?
I know that I have deviated from the topic and injected even more controversy into it, but though I am using public slogans as an example to talk about meaning and subtext in writing, inaccuracies – deliberate or accidental – in writing are important. If one is writing a persuasive essay, it is necessary to provide reasons with as little bias as possible, if the writer is to convince readers of their point.
Sometimes the topic is good but the author rambles and repeats. No one is going to want to read past the first few paragraphs. I took a writing class once that was about writing for an online audience. The instructor advised us to break up our essays with photos because otherwise we will lose an audience that is used to a quick read, especially online. I myself am guilty of that, but if the writing is absorbing enough, I will continue reading. And to do that, the writer must draw me in and keep me interested – so although meaning is important, how one writes about it is important also because if you lose your readers, you will never convey your meaning.
So, bloggers (note to self)…
Be concise. Write what you mean. Mean what you write. Use visual images. Don’t ramble.** Show off your writing skills. Remember, writing is a balance between WHAT and HOW.
*All images in this post were downloaded from Google.
I haven’t participated in Fandango’s Provocative Question lately, but I’m back! And #104 is a good one for me, because I am a former teacher and education has always been an interest of mine:
Today’s provocative question is about formal education. We all have our opinions on how best to educate and prepare our children to succeed in today’s highly complex world. So this begs the question:
What do you think is the one subject (or thing) that should be taught in school that isn’t?
Oh, there are many answers to this question! Students today don’t learn about half the things they should nowadays, and especially in the U.S. Therefore, I cannot just name one, but three, but grade level may determine the priority given to each.
Life skills: this includes how to maintain a bank account, how to treat others in a civil society, how to live on your own, conservation, the responsibilities you have as an adult, parenting, managing a household or a budget, etc. This encompasses a wide range of topics, which are always changing (for example, in the past I might have said “how to balance a checkbook” but young people don’t use checkbooks anymore). This should be taught in middle school and high school. In middle school it could be more about decision-making, civility, and diversity. The curriculum should be somewhat fluid, because different communities might have particular needs and students have different needs. High school students maybe even should have some input about what is taught.
Historyshould be a required subject every year of high school, and also middle school. One high school year is not enough to learn all of U.S. history, which is always being added to. And standards for teaching history include many things that we weren’t taught when I was in high school, such as Native American history, and minorities’ contributions to our society. (When I was in school, it was mostly about leaders, dates, etc. We had Black History but it was a separate subject and not mandatory.) At least two years should be dedicated to U.S. history, possibly three, and at least one year should be world history.
Starting in elementary school, from kindergarten on, all students should learn a foreign language. This is a very rare thing in American schools and most Americans are not only monolingual but woefully ignorant about the rest of the world. Even high schools don’t always require it. All research shows that the best time to learn another language is before the age of 12. My local school district in Des Plaines used to have Spanish classes as part of the curriculum in elementary school but only once a week and this program was discontinued along with the dual language program when budget cuts had to be made. It should be as important a class as math or English. One of this country’s major shortcomings is ignorance of other peoples and cultures. We are a large country and a world power but so is China and all their students learn foreign languages starting in elementary school. In fact, BECAUSE we are a world power, we should be more knowledgeable about the world . If other nations can teach these things, why can’t we?
One good way to start elementary school students to learn another language is to implement a dual language program. Many school districts have bilingual programs, but that is not quite the same. Each school would select a foreign language that is predominant in their community and hire teachers fluent in both languages. Then the regular curriculum – math, reading, science, social studies, etc. could be taught in both languages from the beginning! Instead of trying to figure out how to find the time to teach foreign language, just integrate the foreign language into the regular curriculum. This would have the benefit of teaching children academic as well as social language. There are some good examples of dual language programs in the U.S. (which in some cases have replaced regular bilingual programs) and Canada has had them for a long time. But it isn’t a priority here, so therefore, unless you live in an enlightened district, it won’t be done. I have taught in a couple of dual language programs and it is definitely the best way to teach children a second language.
You may wonder, how on earth is it possible to add all these extra things to the curriculum? I don’t know about life skills, but these other subjects (language, national history and world history) are part of the regular curriculum in most countries and judging from recent studies, the major industrialized countries are all doing a better job at educating their kids than American schools. I remember learning that in a typical British school, kids may have up to 11 regular subjects each year! (If you are in Britain and reading this, perhaps you can verify if this is still the case.) In the U.S., we have for too long emphasized the teaching of subjects that are part of standardized testing, so social studies and foreign language became less important or even ignored. Learning about other countries – history, geography, politics – and their languages is so important in the world we live in today, and I think we do a great disservice to our students by not giving these subjects the emphasis they deserve.
Oh, and by the way, ALL students should have, as part of their regular school supplies, an iPad, tablet or laptop computer. Yes, all this costs a lot of money, so why not budget more for education and less to build weapons?
By provocative, I don’t mean a question that will cause annoyance or anger. Nor do I mean a question intended to arouse sexual desire or interest.What I do mean is a question that is likely to get you to think, to be creative, and to provoke a response. Hopefully a positive response.
Last week I asked for some suggestions for potential provocative questions and a few of you came through with some good ones. This one comes from Paula Light over at Light Motifs II.Her question revolves around interpersonal relationships. She asks…
When it comes to your friends, your spouse, your significant other, or members of your family, is it better to confront them about things they say or do that bother or upset you or is it better to try to ignore those things in order to maintain peace in your relationship?
It depends on several things: how close I am to that person or how well I know them; what the issue is (really important or trivial); my mood; the kind of person I’m confronting.
With my husband, I sometimes ignore whatever it is that bothers me (like leaving the toilet seat up) or if I am in a prickly mood, I will say something like, “I really wish you would…” But if it is really important, I will say something right away. Sometimes Dale is on the verge of saying something inappropriate (well, I know it’s inappropriate – Dale has no filter sometimes!), and I intervene to stop him, so he doesn’t offend the people he’s talking to or embarrass me (because he rarely gets embarrassed – that’s part of having no filter). What really gets me is when he picks on me to correct a habit and then HE starts doing the same thing! Like turning off lights. OK, I know our monthly payment to this senior community includes utilities, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about wasting electricity! I am always concerned about the environment, and don’t like to waste resources unnecessarily. He used to tell me to turn off the lights, but now he is the primary guilty one. I often just do it myself, because he does a lot for me, for us: laundry, dishes, and other things for the umpteenth time without complaining.
There are some people who are very sensitive, however. I have a friend that I really have to be careful what I say. I don’t criticize her ever. Sometimes she’ll be telling me something, and I say, “Oh, really?” – which is a common response to show interest – she takes it the wrong way, getting very defensive as if my response implied that I didn’t believe her.
I usually don’t confront family members, either – I’m too accommodating. My sister, for example, does something that is really annoying – during a concert or play, when I’m sitting next to her, I hear her murmuring to herself. She always does this, so I figure either she doesn’t realize she’s doing it or she can’t help it. I don’t know why she does this. Maybe it’s not that I’m accommodating, I’m just chicken! I don’t want to provoke or offend her, and I know I have little habits that offend other people too. Would I want them to confront me? I guess I would if it were serious, like if I had really bad body odor. I would want my friend or relative to tell me so I could do something about it.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t confront most people about stuff that annoys me. Sometimes I avoid the person, if it’s possible – it depends on my mood. Dale is the only one that I do confront now and then. After all, I have to live with him, and nowadays, while we’re stuck at home, we’re together almost all the time.
In fact, when other people confront my son, I defend him even when I know they are right. That is because I don’t want him to be provoked because he easily gets out of control and starts yelling and swearing. He is very sensitive, so if someone hurts him, he overreacts. Then the other person gets mad and starts yelling and swearing back. But I know that he is fundamentally a kind person.
I’m also very sensitive. When someone hurts me, I tend to withdraw and lick my wounds, but if it happens often, I will confront the person. Dale sometimes yells “SHUT UP!” at me when he could react less strongly, or he yells at me from across the room in a tone of annoyance when we are on vacation, in other words, in a situation where others in our tour group witness it – that is very embarrassing. I do talk to him about this, but only when we are alone in our room. I have gotten into the habit of reminding him about this BEFOREHAND – because I know it’s going to happen when he gets annoyed when I linger to look at something or take a photo.
I think I know why I am reluctant to confront people about the things that bug me – I just want PEACE and HARMONY among the people I’m with.