Saturday, October 31, 2009

Healthy Terror

A couple of years ago someone at a PTA meeting, when I asked why they didn't celebrate Halloween at the school, breezily said she thought some Jewish parents had complained.

Yeah - right. I didn't even bother to correct her WAY off information. No Jew I have ever met has disparaged Halloween. We like it so much we have another one, called Purim, in the Spring :)

But In a continuing effort to get common sense brought back into decision making and viewpoints, let's think about why so many schools now don't celebrate it. And let's applaud the ones that do.

It's a secular holiday. So is July 4th. Some would like to associate Halloween with pagan worship traditions that go back thousands of years, and they would be right. But many others see it as a Christian holiday, All Hallows Eve. Of course the early Christians, specifically Romans conquering Europe, found it easier to Christian-ize existing holidays than to force the locals to take on new holidays. I love how practical the Romans were - win the fight, then win them over, don't fight battles that don't matter. Merging of traditions among tribes is probably something that happened from the beginning of human time.

Who gets to own the holiday now is my question. If we let the Pagans or Catholics take over, isn't this tyranny by the minority?? As much as I hear certain radicals railing against things like atheists pushing prayer out of schools (when in fact it was our Founding Fathers - pretty smart guys all in all), how can these same people run from Halloween calling it "unchristian" because a very small number of people actually see it as part of their religion??

The beauty of Halloween is you DON'T have to be Catholic, or Wiccan, or anything to celebrate it.

Not that we hear Pagans, Wiccans and Devil Worshipers (G-d help them) demonstrating on the street for equal rights. Pretty sure the lessons learned by burnings, drownings and torture over centuries has sunk in.

If people want to celebrate or "observe" (spooky word!) Halloween at church or with gatherings of friends, and Christian-ize it, have at it.

Has anyone noticed that we don't worry about worshiping the Sun God on Sunday, or the Moon G0d on Monday or , did you know, Mercury on Wednesday (see french, mercredi, or your latin) or Thor on Thursday... these were Roman Gods (actually I think Mercury is Greek and Hermes is Roman). But we don't throw out our Roman numerals, or our Gregorian (Catholic) calendar.

We don't need to dump on other religions just because it isn't our faith.

This is the problem with radicalism. And I'd like to compare it to knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing, in ever so polite a way. It comes from fear. "I'm right and by god you're wrong." Could be you are right, but it isn't up to anyone else but me to figure out right and wrong for me, within the context of my beliefs and values. In fact it's my job to figure out good and evil and what is neither or both. Not your job. It's like happiness, an inside job.

Halloween is both about personal choices and public property. A Frankenstein lightening rod!

Why let anyone take over something that is public property? I refuse, for instance, to yield the ever shrinking Middle Ground, where sane, common sense people should - are in fact *obligated* to - take a stand. To me this is an ethical question and based on "If you aren't part of the solution, then you are part of problem."

Halloween is also common, sacred ground. Not in the sense that it is sacred to Pagans, or Wiccans, or Catholics, but in the sense that it is part of the human condition to have deep dark fears.

Those horror stories, movies, plays (who is more terrifying than Shakespeare?) and costumes... Perfect. Glorious! Amazing!!!


Because on Halloween, not only do we get to be creative and playful, but WE GET TO MAKE FUN OF SCARY STUFF. What is better than a good fun scare to help us confront the darkest parts of the human condition? For me two things are scary: radicalism/arrogance mixed with power and "not knowing". What is in the dark, will it kill me? Am I smarter than it? Can I see it or name it??

Just as children who have never heard scary stories still dream about monsters, we all have our demons and dragons. As adults they are made real with recessions, job losses, divorce, death, illness, taxes, politicians, insurance companies and fat cat swindlers.

I love fairy tales, especially ones about the dragon or Scary Thing that is outwitted by a calm or powerful foe. This is how we teach our kids and reassure ourselves that terrible things can be overcome. Better if you are calm, and bonus points if you are funny. To be wise and therefore able to outwit the scariest thing you can imagine is to gain unlimited power. Just ask Yoda.

How sweet is that?! Love 2 for 1 deals!

Not only does Halloween provide days of childlike wonder, creativity, an excuse for candy and Fun! but it also gives us the chance to face our deepest fears, run screaming! learn from them (we survived!) and maybe, just maybe, even laugh at them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Abuse is making anyone do anything they aren't ready for. Testing agencies and bureaucrats again strike out - can't make good decisions when it comes to children. Pressure-cooker kindergarten - The Boston Globe

I loved Freakanomics

What went wrong with this one? And like any other large stumble, what about the claims in Freakanomics? Do I have to re-examine them all? Super freaking wrong

Risks of Parenting

This is an amazing story. Reminds me of when I realized, 13 years ago how much courage and determination it takes to risk having kids, loving them completely, and pondered how we go out into the world with them everyday, and manage to live a "normal" life with our entire hearts being on the line. Modern Love - To Mother Again, With Courage -

No Anti Trust laws for Insurance? Really?!

This I didn't know - that insurance companies aren't subject to anti-trust laws... Reform needs to be real reform.
Congress cranks up pressure on insurance industry Health Reuters

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Brain waves and Visual Images

This is the study to which Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka Yarn Harlot, referred in her talks circa 2008: Science Netlinks: Science Updates. Great stuff on brain functioning, worry beads and my favorite, les tricoteuses, or those women who knitted during French Revolution beheadings! Perfect material for the beautiful month of Halloween, or All Hallow'eds Eve :)

Creativity, Your Brain and Working Smart

Hard Work's Overrated, Maybe Detrimental. | Design & Innovation | Fast Company

This is a no-brainer. Years ago when designing databases or programming I'd take breaks and bounce a raquet ball around the office, out on the deck or just take a walk, eat, and then get back to it. But bouncing a ball, a large motor skill that kicked my brain into a different mode, worked best. I didn't have to get verbal. In fact, getting verbal was hard, like switching from one language to another. Literally, you reach for words after thinking in "computer-ese" for a while.

Repetitive motion, by the way, like bouncing a ball, knitting or pressing a single key repeatedly, has been shown to push processing into the higher reasoning centers of the brain. They think it's because your "old" or primal brain (is this the limbic system?) is engaged by the repetitive motion.

A very smart knitter, Yarn Harlot spoke last year in Atlanta and pointed out this research, where participants watch a violent video of a car crash, and how their residual trauma afterward is lower if they are doing something repetitive (like knitting) while watching.

If they were having a conversation and watched the wreck, their trauma after was deeper and more difficult to shake. Researchers concluded that keeping the smart part of your brain busy, and letting just the primal brain concentrate on the video, created more trauma. It's the primitive side of us, literally that which is hard wired, that cannot process the events as well to protect us. This may also be why children process and perceive so well, but are poor interpreters. They have well developed primitive brains, but haven't been able to develop the more sophisticated regions yet. Hence the long time needed to grow up.

Even teens have amazing things going on it their brains, including a newly discovered "die off" of old, less used cells around 16 - 18 years old. Neuroscientists believe it has something to do with the brain's need to make room for growth in other areas where you need more power.

When you are working, if you are using your "higher" brain skills, take break. Do something peaceful and repetitive. If you are using "basic" brain skills, like driving or running equipment repeatedly, read, do a puzzle, or chat with someone during breaks.

So the dwindling American vacation? Makes us less productive, if our job is to be innovative. And who gets to be less creative at work? Isn't that what we created computers for, to do the boring repetitive work? Isn't that why we shipped all our manufacturing jobs overseas? (blog for another day)

By the way, an interesting side note - not long ago The Atlantic published that multitasking makes us stupider. No surprise to me. I've been saying for 18 years that multitasking is a lie - you can't do two things at once well, you just do two things and have to work faster. I have proof. Feel free to make me prove it.

And some even say that Google makes us stupid.

I used to imagine hamsters on a wheel in my head, especially when I can't sleep. These days, I'm starting to switch to habitrails imagery. And very fast mice.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Powerful Plant

I've been fascinated by this plant since it captured me and MY HORSE about 30 years ago on a trail: What is Kudzu? What if we could harness it's amazing ability to grow A FOOT each day!? Could it solve the world's energy crisis and oil dependency?! Talk about "going green"!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Funny article

100 Cups of Coffee - 100 Men - Heather Sellers on Finding True Love -

Deep Survival

In my continuing quest to make the blog reflect my many interests, here is a book recommended to me today: Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why I haven't read it, but a good friend has and I trust his opinion (Thanks Bruce). I have read and highly recommend The Survivors Club. Great site and book.

I'm now looking hard at going into Emergency Services as a career. I may go for a Masters of Public Administration at Georgia State, where I can add a Certificate of Disaster Management, or I may apply to the DeKalb County Fire Dept for a fire medic position. This last appeals because I would get 8 weeks of training and a salary, which could lead to being a trainer and administration, maybe even eventually some Chaplaincy.

As usual, I'd like to do both. The job and the Masters. I think it could work, but two recent developments will affect the process.
1. New motto: no crazy sh*t.
This stems from having learned to look carefully before I leap. I've always had a good measure of self discipline, which helps a lot. But I see this as a time to develop more. The other reason to implement this motto is just sheer volume of changes. I've had a lot going on the last several years: changing locations, changing relationships, changing jobs, and then changing careers. Yeah, enough to make anyone a bit batty, and we won't talk about where I started from ;)
2. No decisions right now.
Considering the level of disruption in my life, just like thousands upon thousands of other families and individuals, I am taking a break from major decisions for the time being. Truly burn out has set in. This I know because I've pretty much stopped traveling. And I lost the defrost button in the car. Not literally, just couldn't see it. For about three weeks. Yeah.

It was a great year of being on the road, seeing people in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Pensacola, Charleston and St. Louis. I loved every minute of reconnecting those who are deeply dear to me and mine. Now I'm ready to be still for a while. It's a great time to do it, as I love Fall in Georgia. and Football :)

I'll keep researching my options, applying to jobs that are in the emergency services field, consulting and looking at work that would use my background (such as IT, training, accounting, etc.) but I'm clearly still in the information gathering phase of a huge life transition. I will pick up a part time job for cash flow. There is great scholarship funding here in Georgia, thanks to the lottery (which I have strong, mixed feelings about).

I have to say that it is very reassuring to be with family and close to good friends from high school. I do love Atlanta, and it's great to enjoy Georgia these last two years. My teens are coming down tomorrow from TN and we are going hiking, knocking around and probably bowling. I treasure these times.

Seems that many people will continue to reconnect to family and work out the kinks while we collectively face the rupturing and pains in our economy. It's important to be realistic, consider options you may never have considered before, such as : moving in with parents, or having them move in with you, giving up the big house with no equity for a rental, giving up the car for something cheap and dependable, stop paying the creditors if there isn't any income, and instead save a real emergency nest egg, etc.

In the end, we will all get through this time. It is a moment in history. Pivotal in our country and very possibly the world.

It seems like a burning off too of non-essential things and values. Good time for clearing out old junk and outdated ideas.

We will hopefully reclaim some valuable lessons from our parents and grandparents: work hard, spend wisely, don't ever owe money if you can help it, get a good education (or get more), take care of each other, be content with the small things. Pray. Build community. No one is entitled. Be resourceful. Play fair.

The best things in life are both free, and priceless.

Peace out,

'Consumer Reports' Chief Backs Health Overhaul : NPR

Great news on the Healthcare debate. 'Consumer Reports' Chief Backs Health Overhaul : NPR I'm encouraged that they have not only been writing extensively on the quality of healthcare in the U.S. but also examined other systems around the world for what works well and what doesn't. Glad to see them weigh in.