Friday, October 15, 2021

Let's Call It What It Is

The other day I saw a Twitter repost on my cousin’s story on Instagram:

“They let Magic Johnson play basketball with FULL BLOWN HIV but won’t let Kyrie Irving play because he won’t get a COVID shot.” – Laverne Spicer

Let’s break this down:

FACT:  You cannot transmit HIV through a cough or a sneeze.

FACT:  HIV is NOT an airborne virus.

FACT:  HIV cannot be passed person to person through breath.

FACT:  COVID-19 is an airborne virus that can be transmitted through air vapors from person to person.

FACT:  A person with COVID-19 can infect someone else through a cough or a sneeze.

This means that there was virtually no way that Magic Johnson was going to infect anyone with HIV on the basketball court. The person most at risk of a health concern was Magic Johnson himself, with his compromised immune system.

Now let’s focus on the real issue here. Although I disagree with his choice, I respect Kyrie Irving’s right to not want to get vaccinated against COVID-19.  But the COVID virus, the vaccine and his rights and or choices are not the issue here. The issue is that once again, Kyrie Irving is not willing to do the job that he is paid millions of dollars to do:  play basketball! This is another season of Kyrie Irving coming out to show us that he really doesn’t want to play basketball anymore. It’s time that Kyrie just stopped playing the one game he does engage in with his team, his coaches, the owners and the fans:  pretending he still wants to play professional basketball.

Last season he behaved like a fifth grader on a new travel team. And that is a clear insult to fifth graders, because both of my daughters played travel basketball in the fifth grade and they were never allowed to just not show up at a game. He chose not to play a game last year, and didn’t even call his coach. He informed his fellow players, but not his coach. I’m sure the “Hey, don’t pass me the ball tonight, ‘cause…I won’t be there,” might have felt like the responsible thing he could do for his teammates at the time, but what grown-ass adult doesn’t tell their boss they’re not showing up for work?

This came after a disappointing season with the Celtics where he was unable to be a team player, both on and off the court. He walked off the court before the game against the Milwaukee Bucks was officially over. Before the season began he declined to be photographed for the cover of Sports Illustrated with Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, citing his indifference to not single out individual players as more important than the total team. Guess what Kyrie, you managed to single yourself out on that one anyway.

So let’s not pretend this latest controversy is about the COVID virus and his right to not get the shot. This is just another Kyrie Irving tactic to draw attention to himself that he wants us to believe is about something else other than what it is about. Even after his Instagram Live video, where he stated that he does want to continue to play basketball, I have my doubts. Outside of injuries – which he has had many, as a lot of players do – Kyrie has still managed to make his time off the court more memorable than his time on the court. We don’t keep talking about the number of points Kyrie can put up, or how many assists he racked up. His skills were once admirable, but his spirit is what has waned. And unfortunately for Kyrie, he is less entertaining and lovable as Kyrie being Kyrie, than Manny was being Manny.

If Kyrie wants to paint, or make music, climb Mount Everest, learn carpentry, volunteer for a food pantry or Habitat for Humanity, or play video games, sleep in late, travel the world, or go work in a mine, coach, teach or anything else, then he should do so. Life is too short to be doing something that doesn’t bring you joy. He should be man enough to stand up and say, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

I hope that Kyrie finds his way in one direction or the other. I won’t fault him either way. When he was on the court and playing as a team player, he was fun to watch. Now I would much rather say goodbye to Kyrie and wish him well in his next endeavor than continue to be frustrated by his lack of enthusiasm for the game he claims he wants to keep playing. His attitude is disappointing. His refusal to play is irritating.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Learning More About 9/11

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attack on the US. I’m sure there will be stories all over the news today and tomorrow, reminding us of what happened in 2001. We will hear over and over again, “We will never forget.” Right now I’m more interested in what we don’t know.

Yesterday I read an email that addressed this very issue. The CEO of a life-coaching school put out her newsletter with two stories from 9/11 that I never heard before. The largest marine evacuation in history took place that day after the US Coast Guard put out an open alert to all water vessels to help move people out of New York City and into New Jersey, to safety. Ferries and personal boats answered the call. For the remainder of the day they transported people out of the city. The estimate is that half a million people were assisted that day after the bridges and tunnels were shut down and the city became locked in panic, fear, and destruction.

In the small town of 10,000 in Gander, Canada, a community came together to host 6,759 strangers. The passengers and crews of 38 jumbo jets and 4 military flights were diverted to Gander to land when the airways into the United States were shut down. For security reasons, most of the people on those planes sat on the aircrafts for 24 hours waiting for information and approval to exit. Then, for the next five days, the residents of Gander put them up in hotels and in their homes, providing shelter, food and clothes for the stranded, before they could re-board their flights and continue on their journeys.

I am positive that there are other stories out there like these. There was s/heroism that day in New York, Washington DC, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Now we know there were acts of selflessness, empathy, and kindness in areas where the tragedy was not actually happening, but people were being affected. It had never occurred to me until yesterday to think about the other ways in which this country and our neighbors came together on that day. You don’t know what you don’t know.

I remember where I was and what I was doing on September 11, 2001. I was scheduled to go in to work later that day at Framingham State (College) University for a training session of my student tour guides. As I enjoyed the morning at home with my one year old son, I was literally doing airplane rides with him on the family room floor as I watched The Today Show. I already knew that the first plane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. As Jake’s belly balanced on the soles of my feet, his tiny hands in mine, I turned my head towards the TV just in time to see the second airplane crash into the South Tower. I remember hearing Matt Lauer get flustered as he tried to explain to the viewers what we were all seeing live. It was still being assumed that there was an error or issue with air traffic control. Within the next several minutes the whole country would know that we were indeed, under attack.

I know I will never forget. But this year I am going to do a little research and see if I can find some other stories about 9/11. I know what I know, and I also want to know what I don’t know. And then I want to remember that, too.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Dress Code

Wednesday night is date night with Ed. We started this new tradition in our lives in October 2020. Except for three separate weeks when we rescheduled due to a family situation and then couldn’t keep the date for the week, and one week when Ed was out of town, we have managed to keep our commitment to each other week after week.

I put a lot of effort into my wardrobe for date night. I like to look good for myself, but also for Ed. Maybe even more for Ed. I know there are some feminists out there that would like to call me on that, but I don’t have a problem wanting to be physically attractive for my husband, especially during the times that we have devoted to just the two of us.

Date night for me is a series of events. First we decide where we will go and then I decide on an appropriate outfit. It’s about enjoying the feel of that outfit as it puts me in a psychological frame of mind to focus on my marriage, and it’s about the actual time I spend connecting with my husband. Some people dress for success. I dress for date night.

Last week as we were seated at our table at The Sole Proprietor in Worcester, I lamented to Ed.

“Why doesn’t anyone dress for dinner anymore?” My complaint was met with a swift, “I’m sorry I didn’t put on more than a sweater.”

“Not you,” I acquiesced. “You look nice:  pants, a sweater, and shoes.” Then I discreetly nodded my head in the direction of at least three tables near us.

“I mean the people in jeans, sweats and sneakers. Dirty sneakers,” I sneered.

Ed just looked at me with his “You poor, neurotic soul. I hope you find your way out of this anxiety-inducing situation because it really doesn’t make a difference to me” face.

So I quickly relaxed. I took note of myself. I put myself in check.

“Well, I’m going to continue to dress for dinner,” I stated proudly. “Because it’s what I like to do. I like to get dressed up to go out and I’m going to keep doing it.”

“There you go!” Ed smiled.

So how come other people don’t dress to go out anymore?

When I was growing up we didn’t go out to dinner often. It was a rare outing that was mostly reserved for special occasions. Occasionally there was a random dinner outing, and then it was even more special. I would think, "It’s not Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or someone’s birthday, and we get to order from a menu that isn’t printed in fluorescent lights hung up on the wall above the fry-o-later? Whoo-hoo! Let’s get dressed!"

My parents made us dress for dinner. We never went to a restaurant in jeans, shorts, dirty sneakers or anything that wasn’t considered “dressy” or appropriate to wear to a wedding. Going out to eat with my parents when we were in elementary school meant wearing a dress or a skirt and top, tights, and shoes. In high school we were allowed to wear nice “slacks,” as my mom called them, but still no sneakers. Shoes. Un-scuffed, shoes. Sometimes it meant borrowing something from my sisters, or even my mom, to find an outfit worthy of dining out. But there was never an allowance for an inappropriate outfit.

Similarly, my grandparents impressed upon us the need to dress appropriately when we were out in public. My grandmother believed in dressing “smartly” and the outfit you wore when you left the house made an impression upon others and told people something about you. She believed that you dressed for dinner and for travel. My grandmother made me an outfit specifically for my first flight on an airplane. I was ten years old, flying to California with her and my grandfather to visit family. She made me a denim wrap-around skirt and a buttery-yellow, short sleeve shirt. She bought me brand new sandals and I also picked out my first pocket book. (My mom was cleaning out closets last fall during Covid and found my old purse. It was finally time to put it in the trash.) My grandmother didn’t believe that it was appropriate for people to dress casually on an airplane. She believed that people should take pride in their wardrobe as they headed off to places away from home. She was quick to point out the matching track suits of several couples who boarded our plane out of New York, ensuring that I knew just what she meant when she said some things were not meant to be worn by a respectable traveler.

I love deciding on a fun outfit for a ride on an airplane, especially if I am travelling with Ed. It helps to spur my excitement for long hours seated on a scratchy, germ-infested woolen seat cover. I like knowing that when I disembark from the aircraft that I am ready to go:  to lunch or dinner, to the bar for cocktails, or straight to an event. What I choose to wear on an airplane, or even a car-ride to a fun destination, helps keep my mind focused on the activities ahead.

Studies have shown that work-from-home people are more efficient, focused and productive if they change out of their pajamas before heading to their home-office or kitchen table. At first it may seem really cool to have an extra hour of sleep. Some feel fortunate to roll out of bed and not have to shower and stress about an outfit. But over time, that relaxed frame of mind is a detriment to concentration, motivation, and accomplishment. To “Dress for Success” applies whether you leave the house or not.

Your wardrobe isn’t just about the big events of your life. It isn’t just about the weddings, anniversaries, milestone birthdays, engagements and client-building meetings. Your wardrobe is a reflection of you and it helps spark the frame of mind that you want – or need – in any given situation. What you wear catapults you to your jumping off point of every event in which you engage.

So dress for success. And dinner. And travel. Dress like you mean business, even when your business is all about 100% fun, love and filling your belly.

I fell off of my own wagon...twice

I just arrived here today to post something I wrote the other day. I knew I hadn't been here in a while, so I was surprised to see my last post. I wasn't surprised about the date and that it's been six months since I posted to my blog. I have had several years when I posted multiple pieces and then disappeared for a long time. Instead, I was surprised that my last post was about challenging myself to write shorter posts. Until I had read it all the way through, I didn't even remember writing that or posting it.

The irony here is that as I edited my most recent post, I was a little concerned about its length. I really do struggle to put thoughts out there that are short, sweet and to the point. I really do not do Reader's Digest! 😑

The post that will follow after this one is just over 1,000 words. It would be a good exercise for me to post pieces closer to the 500-750 word count. It would also be beneficial to those that check in now and then to read my words. Shorter pieces would be more blog-friendly.

Wish me luck. For both our sakes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Word Challenge

I joke a lot that “I don’t do Readers’ Digest” well. If you are not familiar with “Readers’ Digest” then you won’t understand the correlation that I am trying to make. For those of you smitten with the tiny, square magazine filled with quick and easy real-life tales of s/heroism, drama and comedy, as well as the basics of health, nutrition, wellness and finances whittled down into a few pages, scattered with some witty humor and cute cartoons on several pages, you hopefully understand what I am trying to say about myself:  I may be short in stature, but my stories are usually long and detailed, not abridged and edited for quick review. I like words and I like to use a lot of them.

So I am going to challenge myself to put out some quicker, shorter bursts of musings and creativity. My goal is to write something in these next few posts that will challenge my verboseness, confining myself to many fewer words than I normally allow. I’m not even sure what I will be writing about, but we can both be assured that it will be something I know, that moves me to grab a pen in the middle of the night and scribble on the pads of paper on my nightstand, there for that “emergency,” or to tap away at this keyboard. I’m curious if I can feel just as passionate in fewer words.

My first goal was 250 words. Done.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

When Protocol Defies Logic

I am a born rule-follower. I drive the speed limit on city and country roadways, often using cruise-control to ease the stress of staying within the limit. When I stand in line, I don’t approach the counter until asked to do so. I wait for the host or hostess to seat me in a restaurant. You will never find me in the express lane at the grocery store with more than the accurate number of items allowed in my hand-cart. I don’t believe in the motto “Rules were meant to be broken.” I largely believe that rules keep order and quell anarchy. I live with anxiety and for me that means that I become anxious with situations, people and things that I can not control. For me, rules are the antithesis of anxiety. Rules give me comfort…

Except when rules are just rules and serve no greater purpose. When rules and regulations degrade into accepted protocol and cease to serve the safety, convenience or learning model that they were designed to protect, help or educate, they have passed their expiration date and need to either be revamped or abolished altogether. I cannot stand protocol for protocol sake.

In the wake of 9/11, many places and organizations sought to tighten their entryways and limit the flexibility and accessibility of their environments in the name of safety. Airports and airlines demanded more stringent identification documents as well as limiting and eliminating certain items and materials from passing through security checkpoints and ending up on airplanes. Similarly, many businesses, especially those run by the government, required identification and recorded knowledge of people entering and leaving their buildings.

I wouldn’t argue the relevance of these rules and protocols in serving a greater good to know who is “in the building” at any given time, and therefore being able to track who is affected by activities within the building, as well as who might be responsible if something goes wrong. Unfortunately, when the protocol is established without a plan for execution that covers all the bases, then the protocol is simply protocol for protocol sake, and does nothing to actually enhance the security it is trying to elevate.

In 2002 I was still working in undergraduate admissions at Framingham State (College) University. At a mini-fair hosted by Holliston High School in Holliston, MA, admissions counselors were not allowed in the building until they showed a picture ID and gave their name to the guidance staff member seated at the front door of the school. Then and now, I would not argue the decision to ask adult strangers entering a high school to show identification and write their names in a log book. What concerned me was the relevance of that ID and name on that day. The high school did not have a list of names of the college representatives who were expected to show up that day. They had no way of knowing that the person showing the ID was the counselor assigned to that school, or if that counselor indeed did work for that college. The protocol lacked a key element:  it didn’t have anything to balance the check it was making.

Recently I encountered a similar protocol quandary. My seventeen year old daughter applied for and got a job with Panera Bread. As part of a condition to be employed, Miranda was asked to get a Work Permit.  We were told that the work permit needed to come from her home school district. We live in Sturbridge but Miranda does not attend Tantasqua Regional High School. Several times over the phone and in person we were asked by representatives at the high school and the superintendent’s office, “Does she go to school here?” When I answered, “No” I was then asked, “Does she live in the district?” To which my answer was, “Yes, we live in Sturbridge.”

A work permit does not come from the high school that the students attends. It is granted by the school district in which the student lives. So it really doesn’t matter if the student goes to school there. The initial first question should be, “Does s/he live in the school district?”

Furthermore, there is a place on the work permit for a parent to sign their permission for the child to work. Why isn’t the work permit solely between the parent and the child and the employer? Why does the school system even need to be a part of the work permit process? If someone else should be knowledgeable of a student working, taking hours away from their studies, then why isn’t the work permit signed off on at the school the student attends?

When the process was complete, a complete stranger in the Tantasqua/Union 61 School District gave Miranda permission to work, without knowing anything about Miranda as a student or a person. What exactly did Tantasqua give her permission to do that I or her father could not have given on our own? I would encourage the necessity of a work permit if it came from the town administrator’s office, as knowledge of the young residents of town who are impacting the community, commerce and their own educations and family lives. In rare circumstances I’m sure there are situations of students being taken advantage of by either their families or the employer, and there should be a checks and balances system to protect minors.

Rules, regulations, protocols, guidelines – it doesn’t matter what you call them as long as you follow them – seems to be the philosophy of some ordinances. If these directives are to achieve what they are designed to achieve then they need to be vetted for inaccuracies, redundancies and ineffective steps that delay, harm, negate or completely avoid the intended result. Give me a rule that makes sense and I will follow it to a “T.” But unfortunately if you give me a rule that has me running around in circles to achieve nothing better than wasting my time, then I will have to declare foul and label myself a rebel. Or at least label myself confused and frustrated. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Are You in the Choir?

 It’s a very simple question:  who really listens when we speak up?

Is it the white guy in your neighborhood who calls all black men he meets “Brother” and attempts to shake hands with a hand-clasp while he leans in for the shoulder bump? Is it the woman that followed my teenage girls around American Eagle, pretending to fold clothes after everything my daughters touched, or didn’t touch at all? Is it my husband’s former boss who refused to give him an advance during a very difficult financial year, but gave an advance seven out of twelve months in the same year to the white salesman in the company that was the #2 to my husband’s #1 status? Or is it the husband and wife who don’t have any close black friends, in fact nearly no black friends at all, that showed up to the Black Lives Matter rally held in my town?

I’d like to believe that all of them are listening. I’d like to tell myself that the more we speak up, the more people will take notice. I want to believe that the people that are in need of the eye-opening information are the ones pricking up their ears, pausing as if E.F. Hutton were about to speak, and taking note of the necessary information to rid themselves of stereotypes and assumed beliefs. My heart wants to believe that they will recognize themselves in the ignorance they see on television, stop to question it, and make a concerted effort to change.

Unfortunately, I am either too cynical or too much of a realist to believe any of that. I believe that the people who are listening are the ones that have the “least” to learn. The people that are taking notes, questioning themselves and those around them, and putting themselves in vulnerable places to have to admit their own ignorance publicly, are more than likely to be the people who already have spent time learning about other cultures and races and trying to live a life of tolerance, acceptance and less judgement.

This doesn’t meant that these people don’t have anything to learn. Most of them do. Their hearts may already be in the right place, but their experiences leave them neglectful of the certainty upon which to take a stand and be heard alongside of us. They aren’t ignorant in the negative sense of the word, they just don’t know.

They don’t know what is offensive. They don’t know what micro-aggressions are. They don’t know what it feels like to be afraid in a group of your peers simply because your skin color is different. They don’t know the challenges of biting your lip in certain circumstances and knowing when it is time to speak up. They don’t know about being on the receiving end of hatred and disgust. They just don’t know.

So we welcome them to our fights. We applaud them for standing up. We thank them for cheering us on. We compliment them for their honesty. We encourage them to not sit back down. We pray that they will bring more like-minded enforcements.

Like any process, the dialogue of change that develops into actions of dissection, examination, possible destruction and the reconstruction of something better, takes time, effort and patience. It also takes people willing to be a part of that process. That means people willing to do the preaching and people willing to sit in the congregation and be healed. There are plenty of us willing to stand up and be heard. There are also plenty of people willing to walk in the door, take a seat and be show the light. It can happen in one day, or it may take several. Some people will walk back out the door and never come back. Most will come back, hoping to find a greater understanding and more answers to the many questions that arose from the first time they sat down. It’s okay if you don’t get it the first time. It’s okay if it doesn’t feel “natural.” It’s okay if it feels hard and vulnerable. All good change requires moments of uncomfortableness when the mind and body are getting used to something different. The key is to not give up. The power is in believing…

Believe that the world can be a better place for everyone.

Believe that all people are created equal.

Believe that we are stronger together than divided.

Believe that our racial and ethnic differences add more beauty to this world than any one race or culture could produce on its own.

Believe that we are all brothers and sisters and each of us deserves the support of that human family to not only survive, but to thrive.

If you have stepped inside, please take a seat. And thank you for coming. If you have already declared yourself as a member, congratulations for returning, and not giving up. If you aren’t sure what to say or do, don’t worry. We will guide you.

A church is a very quiet place without its choir. We need you.