Melanie writes: 2022 Is bearing down on the world. In my opinion 2021 was 100% better than 2020, but it hasn’t been without its own set of problems and fresh worries. I’m hopeful that 2022 will somehow see a return to ‘life before Covid’ , but I also realize that’s a foolish hope.
At 12 a.m. on December 31st/Jan 1st, what will you be doing? (use your own time zone please)
Toasting the New Year with my husband, sister, and brother-in-law. We will probably be drinking one of the wines I’ve brought to their house to share on that evening.
Is there a tradition you have for New Year’s Eve?
The four of us have gotten together on New Year’s Eve for several years. They provide the venue and games, we provide the food. This year we’re having pizza and have the chance to sample several wines from my “collection.” We play games, always Scrabble, but since we’ve acquired some new games in the last couple of years, including a Trivia game, we will play those as well. We play games until midnight, then turn on the TV to watch Chicago bring in the new year! And we toast! Shortly thereafter, Dale & I take our wines (if anything is left) and go home to bed.
Do you have any hope or reason you find that next year will be better?
Oh yes! Because of vaccines, we are not in the situation we were a year ago. But Covid still rages, preying on primarily the unvaccinate, but frightfully also many vaccinated! Dr. Fauci says that the omicron variant seems to produce milder symptoms, thus fewer hospitalizations in the long run. And travel opportunities are now available! I know several people who have traveled already, mostly to Europe. After a few false starts, we now look forward to a trip in March to Southeast Asia. Travel requirements will make things more complicated, but we are ready to face them, after staying within 50 miles of home for two years!
On the other hand, I think the political situation in the U.S. will get worse. Too many people believe the 2020 election was “stolen” and that Biden is not a legitimate president. In the latest polls, 70% of Republicans now believe the Big Lie!! Due to the vast array of media sources, Americans live in different universes. Bridging that gap, enlightening those who are convinced the virus is a hoax and the election was stolen, will not be easy! So there will be more violence, less civility, and meanwhile, people will continue to die from gun violence every day, while Congress does nothing to stop it.
What’s the biggest personal lesson you learned during 2021?
Not to take life for granted. It is important to live life as fully as possible and to take obstacles in stride. I do not think life will return completely to what it was at the beginning of 2020. Changes have already been made that will affect us for a long time to come. And Covid may be with us for a long time, but it will become manageable, people getting vaccinations every year just like we do for the flu. We will, we must, adapt!
Describe in 1-3 words how you feel going into 2022.
Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge continues with a color theme, this week the colors of our flag (whatever that happens to be). Here are some photos featuring the red, white, and blue (and sometimes other colors as well!).
What is your least favorite holiday side dish? (for any holiday) Anything with raisins. Also, I am not fond of peas and pearl onions. I like onions, but it’s a dish that’s not worth putting on my plate with so many other more delicious choices!
What is the ugliest or most tasteless decoration you’ve ever seen? Those over-the-top decorations with a million lights that light up the entire neighborhood! Also, it’s kind of incongruous to see Santa Claus flying down to the Holy Family in a manger!
What is a cherished or unusual (either or both) family tradition from your childhood? Watching the black-and-white 1950s version of the operetta Amahl and the Night Visitors. My siblings & I watched it so many times that we practically memorized it! (You can find the 1951 version, the 1963 version and a newer version on You Tube.)
You’re walking down the street, feeling great — what holiday song would be playing in the background? All I Want for Christmas Is You.
GRATITUDE SECTION (Always optional)
Feel Free To Share Anything That You’d Like Today! Wish Someone A Happy Holiday! Our Moorings choir sang this to end our concert this year for the residents of our community. Of course, the video is not of us!! But it’s the same version we did. It’s a nice, upbeat song, so I wish you…and you, and you, and you, happy, happy, happy holidays!!
MERRY CHRISTMAS (or whatever you celebrate this season) AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!
What is your opinion of the state of health care in your country? Adequate or inadequate? What could be done to improve it? Hoo boy! This is one that has been highly and hotly debated in the last several years! How to get all Americans good health care while at the same time letting insurance companies run the show? It ain’t gonna happen! We need what Europe has: “free” health care for everyone – I know it isn’t really free, but it is run by the government and taxes pay for it, with the wealthy paying much more than the average worker. There are people who combine travel with medical needs, going to Spain, for example, to have hip replacement surgery which, even for Americans who don’t pay into their system, is many thousands of dollars cheaper than having it done here.
The United States has an excellent medical system; by that, I mean that it has the most advanced technology and research, and perhaps the most highly trained medical personnel, but, as we have seen in this pandemic, the “excellence” is spotty – concentrated in some areas, very inadequate in others. It is not evenly distributed and even with sophisticated equipment, many hospitals lacked basic PPE for all medical personnel when their hospitals were flooded with Covid patients. Many more people died than would have if hospital staff had everything it needed to treat them.
People (especially children, it seems) come to the United States to have some advanced procedures done that aren’t available in their countries, and they get special visas to stay in the U.S. for as long as their treatment lasts. Doctors Without Borders sends well-trained American doctors to poor countries to help people who have little or no health care. We hear about both of these efforts, but until Covid-19 hit us hard, the deficiencies of our health care system were largely unknown by the general public, (except, of course, people who already had had horrific experiences dealing with the cost and availability of health care). We did hear about people dying because they didn’t have insurance and couldn’t pay specialists who could help them. This is a travesty, revealed especially once “Obamacare” (Affordable Care Act, or ACA) was being debated. President Obama clearly wanted to make health care more affordable and more equitable, but because of the influence of big pharma and corporate insurance lobbyists, the middlemen – the insurance companies – were allowed to administer the program. When I retired, I had the option of a COBRA policy from my school district, which I would have to pay for. I compared the cost of that policy with what I could get of equal value from the ACA. Registering for the ACA was initially less expensive, so I dropped the COBRA, meaning I could not later get it back. My medical insurance from my employer ran out in August of the year I retired, so I got a Blue Cross Blue Shield “silver” policy – a deductible that wasn’t prohibitive and a “reasonable” monthly premium of about $550. It was difficult to be responsible for this entire cost, (even though the premiums are calculated on a sliding scale according to your income) since I was no longer working, but I figured that I only had to have it for a year and 9 months and then I could get Medicare. In January of the following year, only four months after my employee insurance benefits ran out, the monthly premium of my BCBS silver policy went up by more than $200 a month. Now it was higher than the COBRA would have been, but I was stuck with it. The following year, it went up again – this time to over $1,000 per month! Fortunately, I turned 65 in the middle of that year and was then eligible for Medicare, but even so, the cost was nearly prohibitive for those first six months. I imagined what it was like for people in low-wage and no-insurance jobs; although they had subsidies from the ACA, their costs must have gone up too. I heard horror stories of dilemmas far worse than what I experienced. So, while the ACA did make medical insurance affordable for millions more people than before, there were millions of people that still couldn’t afford it. The ACA was and is far from perfect.
I believe health care is a right, that should be available to all. That is why I am in favor of a single-payer system. However, with the innate distrust of the government that is embedded in American culture, I don’t know when or if it will ever become a reality. Perhaps another entity could administer it, so it wouldn’t be associated with a government “welfare state.”
What are two words that describe you best? scatterbrained intelligent
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what it’s like? Yes, we get up around 8 am, and go to the kitchen, where Dale gets his coffee and I warm up water for tea. We each get a banana, and sometimes a small piece of cheese. Then we sit in our living room in front of our fireplace (in cold weather seasons) or on our screened porch (in warm weather) and read. Unfortunately, this is so pleasurable that we let it go on too long before we really start getting ready for our day, which, 5 days a week, starts with an exercise class between 10 and 11 am. Then we have a proper breakfast, take our morning meds, get dressed and go.
What’s something that really makes your blood race? Wishing I lived in a country that values its children more than guns.
Do you enjoy singing festive songs during *insert festive celebration that you observe to replace “Christmas” if it’s not relevant to you * Christmas carols or songs? Yes, of course – because it’s only one season a year. I also like to listen to the radio station that plays all Christmas music during the month of December. By New Year’s Day, I am sick of all these songs and want to go back to “normal!”
Feel free to share something that brings peace to you. Knowing that my son is OK, taking care of himself and no longer using drugs & alcohol. Until 6 months ago, worrying about my son was a constant stressor, but he has managed to finally get out of his rut and do the things he needs to make progress in his life. He calls often, sometimes with problems that frustrate him, but we always talk it out and he realizes his problem isn’t unsolvable. He is surrounded by people who care about and support him. He is a joy to be with now!! I look forward to spending Christmas with both him and our daughter and son-in-law.
If you had the power to strike one person in your life permanently speechless, who would it be? (Real names aren’t necessary, vague descriptions are fine… and yes, this is being asked in fun and not to be mean). Donald Trump
If you could relive your childhood over again, what’s one thing from this modern world world today you’d want to take back with you? My computer/word processor. Writing would have been so much easier! Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple are the standard colors of the rainbow. Name something you love (or greatly admire/appreciate) for all six major colors of the rainbow! (Sorry indigo, you’re just blue-purple. Hot pink? You’re too flashy!) Red: apples and tomatoes – because they are delicious to eat! Orange: Zinnias and Dahlias – they are pretty and bright! Yellow: bananas – I eat one every morning! Also daffodils – because they are the harbingers of spring. Green: trees & grass – the primary color of nature Blue: sky – because it means the sun is shining! Purple: my parka which used to be my sister’s but she passed away and I got many of her clothes – it still reminds me of her! All 6: M&Ms (except purple, which is brown instead). I love to sort them by color and eat them one by one.
If you were to open the world’s most accurate fortune cookie, what would your fortune inside it read? You will lead a good life and travel a lot, but also bear the consequences of many of your decisions. Santa’s tired of people leaving him out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve night! If you really wanted to get on Santa’s good side, what would you leave out for him to eat/drink instead? (This question applies whether you celebrate Christmas or not. It’s just for fun, so imagination? Welcome! ) A good, cold glass of beer (Santa seems to be more of a beer person than a wine person), hot tomato vegetable soup, steak dinner, and a cup of hot chocolate!
GRATITUDE SECTION (Still optional)
What plans do you have for the upcoming holiday/celebration/festival season? Socializing in a party atmosphere with co-residents, even if we still need to wear masks! Also, going to plays and concerts again!
How do you feel about sharing your computer or phone password with your partner? I think it would be confusing having to switch back and forth, and also, my husband has visited web sites that I don’t want to have anything to do with. This kind of browsing leads to a lot of spam in his email accounts, and some of it really offensive to me. He is not doing this so much now, but sharing would also mean that I would sometimes want to use the computer when he is using it. I have a lot of projects, artwork, and writings on my computer that I want to have exclusive access to.
As for passwords, we do share those sometimes, or make slight alterations when we use the other’s passwords.
What is the greatest struggle you’ve overcome? (This isn’t meant to be invasive, just use general terms if you’d like. Or if not, feel free to pass on the question. That’s allowed too). Living with ADHD – a lifelong struggle. BUT…My life has been pretty good and happy; the main struggles I had were in adulthood – parenting and teaching. I was smart enough to get through my school years by figuring out my own coping strategies; I had no idea that I had any sort of disability. But in adulthood, I realized there was something not normal about me compared to other people and eventually was diagnosed with ADHD. Parenting was a challenge: I had (have had – it’s still ongoing although it’s better now) a lot of problems with my son’s mental illness, which affected his education and his adult life and my inconsistency and difficulty in coping with his problems while living with ADHD (both mine and his). Teaching because it was much more challenging than I thought it would be. I was well into middle age when I got my teaching degree. When I was finally diagnosed with ADHD, it explained a lot of my struggles but didn’t really make them any better, except that I stopped being so hard on myself. Teaching with ADHD is a huge challenge – having ADHD affected my memory (especially short-term memory), my ability to be consistent, my penchant for losing (misplacing) things I really need at the moment I need them, maintaining order in my classroom, etc. A lot of colleagues would throw out a casual comment that they ‘must have ADD’ because they kept misplacing things – they had no idea what actually living with it was like every day.
If heaven is real and you died tomorrow, do you think you would get in? Why or why not? (this is purely speculation, no bias if you don’t believe) Yes, I’m pretty sure I would get into heaven (although I don’t believe in it as a physical place where one goes after death), because in spite of the things I have done wrong, maliciously or not, I am basically a caring and compassionate person. That said, to me the idea of ‘heaven’ is what remains in the memories of those who survive me. Do they remember me with fondness or animosity? I am pretty sure that my father went to ‘heaven’ because no one ever says a bad word about him. He was an exceptional man, a compassionate person, and a great dad. And conversely, those who go to ‘hell’ are those truly evil individuals that people and history have judged harshly – Hitler and Stalin come to mind.
What makes you feel like you really need to be alone? When I need to get things done that no one can or should help me with. For example, if I am working on a photo book of our trip to France, I need to have a large block of time undisturbed. Sometimes I get so busy with activities and other commitments like volunteer work, exercising, or housework, that the days fly by and I never have the time I crave to work on my computer projects (blog, photo books, writing, transcribing letters, working on photos, etc.) or to finish a book I don’t seem able to make progress on.
GRATITUDE SECTION (as always, optional)
Do you have any traditions around this time of year? Not anymore. I used to always stay home on Halloween to greet the little goblins and superheroes that came trick-or-treating, and to give out treats equally to all. I sometimes would put on my witchy costume and get into character. I didn’t like to be out on Halloween because sometimes older kids would vandalize houses where no one was home, or steal Halloween decorations from my front porch. Now that I live in a senior community, there are no trick-or-treaters, although the last couple of years we spent in our house before moving here, the trick-or-treaters had really diminished in number. Sign of the times, I guess.
Since I am retired, I don’t get into the spirit of Halloween anymore, because I’m not seeing the excited faces of the children in my classroom and I no longer participate in the fun activities we used to have at school with the kids. In fact, Halloween and Day of the Dead are the only time of year that I miss teaching.
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.