I Am a Happy Wanderer…

This from the Huffington Post and NYT:

A new study by Daniel Gilbert and Matthew Killingsworth, confirms something we’ve all suspected: most of us are mentally checked out a good portion of the time.

This study shows that just under half the time, 46.9 percent to be exact, people are doing what’s called “mind wandering”.  They are not focused on the outside world or the task at hand, they are looking into their own thoughts. Unfortunately, the study of 2,250 people proposes, most of this activity doesn’t make us feel happy.

The study was designed to find out what kind of activities people did throughout a day, and which made them happiest. Mind wandering was just one of 22 possible activities people could list. 

Researchers found that people were at their happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation. They were least happy when resting, working, or using a home computer.

People reported that their mind wandered no less than 30 percent of the time, during everything except love making.

I’m sorry, were you saying something?


We Are All Immigrants

My good friend, Frumpzilla, over at The Frump Gazette had an excellent piece the other day on the U.S. as a nation comprised of immigrants.  If you haven’t seen it yet, click here.  It’s a must read, as always. 

Our country used to “lift our lamp beside the golden door”, but now it seems we’ve turned out the light and are pretending nobody’s home.

That got me thinking about my own family immigration history.  Some ancestors were here as early as the 1630’s, having left France by way of England after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris.  Others, the Norwegian side of my mother’s family, got here fairly recently in the 1870’s.  Since they’re the “newest” immigrants in my family, I’d like to show you some photos and tell their story a bit.

This is my maternal grandmother, Annette, or "Nettie." She was first-generation Norwegian-American and grew up in Wisconsin.

This is her father, Carl. He came to the United States from Norway in 1871 when he was 20 years old. He joined his brothers who were already working in South Dakota as lumberjacks and eventually settled in Wisconsin and became a successful farmer and respected member of the community.

This tiny little lady was Nettie's mother, Amelia. She came to the U.S. from Norway about the same time as Carl, but as a teenager with her family. Here she is seen in her 80's posing with some of her sons and daughters. I think she had at least nine children, including two sets of twins!

This beautiful young woman was Nettie's sister, Emma. She died tragically at the age of 18 from peritonitis following a ruptured appendix. She had been working at the home of neighbors as a maid or house servant. It breaks my heart to think that she could have been saved if only antibiotics had been discovered earlier. I think the lovely lock of blonde hair tied with a ribbon that I found in my grandmother's old family Bible had to have been hers. In the list of names of the children and their birthdates that my grandmother inscribed in the Bible many years later, Emma's name is conspicuously absent. Perhaps it was too painful for my grandmother to contemplate.

Here is Nettie as a schoolgirl. She's in the middle row to the left, the one with the white shirt, black tie and white floppy hat. When I look at these kids, I try to imagine what they would look like wearing modern clothing. How many Hannah Montana t-shirts would be on the girls and how many sports jerseys and skater pants would be on the boys? It boggles the mind! (One of the girls to the right of Nettie has had the misfortune of having her face scratched over in the photo. Maybe an early form of "de-friending" in the pre-Facebook era?) Click on the photo for an enlarged view.

Nettie went on obtain a teacher's certificate, enabling her to teach the 3rd grade. Some of the subjects were new to me. I looked up "orthoepy" and found it to be the study of the pronunciation of words. Since my grandmother was a Gemini, like me, I'm sure she would have loved to blog if she had been born in my generation! It seems Nettie wasn't taught to speak Norwegian. Her parents, regrettably, didn't teach their children their own native tongue beyond some words and phrases. They only spoke it when they didn't want the kids to know what they were talking about! This is something I wish had been passed along, since bi-lingualism is so much easier to acquire when you're a child rather than an adult. But apparently they felt that they weren't in the Old Country anymore, so that is what they chose to do. There are some people today who don't see the benefit of knowing other languages besides English, but I think we are so much richer as a nation if we recognize that we aren't the center of the universe. Just sayin'... (Again, click on the image to enlarge it.)

Here we have Nettie and her class standing in front of the one-room school house she taught in for two years until she met....

...the dapper young dude on the left, my grandfather, Harold. His ancestors were the ones who were French Huguenots who escaped from France and came to the Colonies in 1630. Harold and Nettie were married and a few years later came...

...my mother, Iris.

Nettie, Harold and Iris moved to California in the early 1930's but came back to Wisconsin to visit family. (The little girl is the daughter of a neighbor.)

My mother found her own hunky dude in the form of my father, Jack, seen here on his Coast Guard ship during WWII. His ancestors came to this country from the Alsace region of France, probably in the early 1700's. (That region typically veered back and forth between the control of France and Germany until finally coming under French rule in recent times.) My Dad's relative during the Revolutionary War provided meat to the troops, so we qualify for membership in the DAR for that "patriotic assistance." They say an army travels on its stomach....

Their union was "blessed" first with the arrival of my brother, Tim, in 1943 and then with me in 1947. Will you get a load of the noggin on that baby!

This is Nettie holding my brother, Tim. Unfortunately, sometime just prior to my birth Nettie was stricken with pernicious anemia, an auto-immune disorder that prevents the absorption of vitamin B12. (I recently learned people of Scandinavian heritage are particularly predisposed to this condition.) Before it could be discovered, she had severe damage to the motor nerves in both legs and for the rest of her life she could only get around haltingly on crutches. My brother remembers her when she was active, able to work (and bring him presents every day!) but I never knew her any other way than as an invalid confined to her home.

This was taken at our home in California, probably around Thanksgiving. Although Nettie is standing with the help of Harold, you can see her crutches leaning against the wall by the door. I don't blame her for not wanting to be photographed with the crutches she depended on for at least twenty-five years. That's me standing in the doorway. I hated to dress up for holidays, so as soon as Grandma saw me in my fancy dress, I zoomed into my room and changed into something more comfortable--jeans and sneakers.

Although Nettie couldn't get around, she remained true to her Gemini nature. Her legs didn't work but her hands were exceptional. She created wonderful handmade fabric dolls and knitted and crocheted items for family. This photo is Nettie and Harold's 50th wedding anniversary. Nettie died in 1965 and Harold followed soon after in 1967.

So here’s a look at a family history that started with some brave individuals who took the chance to come to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their descendants.  We owe them a lot.  We are a nation of immigrants, and we should never forget it.


Richard’s Story

Polio.  Perhaps to someone born after 1957, this word probably doesn’t evoke much more than hazy images remembered from a high school history book or health class.  But to people who were born prior to that year, it was a word that held an icy grip on the hearts of parents and families across the nation.  

The polio epidemic of 1952 was one of the worst outbreaks in the U.S., with 58,000 reported cases that year alone.  The following year saw over 35,000 victims.  Nearly everyone either had a family member affected by the disease or knew someone who had been touched by it.  The cause and the transmission of polio weren’t widely understood.  Parents lived in fear of summer vacation because that time of year seemed to be the peak season for infection.  Mothers kept their children home and inside, away from any possible contact with others.  Public swimming pools were closed.  Some people even resorted to keeping their windows sealed tight, out of fear the disease was somehow borne on the summer breezes.

In 1953 I was about six years old and my older brother was ten.  Our neighbors across the street had four children, two of them grown and on their own.  The youngest, Richard, was thirteen and was often a playmate of my brother’s.  Richard was an active, happy-go-lucky kid of the 1950’s.  But that all changed forever.

In July of 1953 Richard and his family had just returned from a camping trip.  My brother had gone over to Richard’s house and the two of them were having fun playing in the family’s travel trailer.  A day or two later, Richard woke up with a stiff neck and back, which worsened over the course of the day.  A visit to the doctor resulted in his being taken to L.A. County General Hospital to the communicable diseases ward, filled with many child patients just like him.  As his condition deteriorated, he underwent a painful spinal tap, a tracheotomy and was put on a respirator.  All this without ever being told exactly what it was he had or what he could expect.  He was later transferred to Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, California, which was located in our hometown.  (“Rancho,” as it has come to be known, became the hub of polio treatment and continues to this day to be an important center for rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries and other neurological conditions.)

Richard spent many months in an iron lung, the tank-like device that breathed for him because he couldn’t do that for himself.  Eventually, he regained that ability and was finally allowed to return home.  He wore a full set of leg braces on each leg, enabling him to walk, but with difficulty.  He graduated from high school in 1959.  Because of his disability, he was prevented from working full-time but made up for that by becoming a writer for publications on medical disability issues and by working with medical students who needed to know more about polio and its effects. He is also president of The Amigos Fund which raises money for patient care at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital.

Despite all that polio took away from him, he still remained a positive and optimistic person.  However, in the 1980’s Richard encountered something that had begun to affect many polio survivors:  post-polio syndrome, or the onset of deterioration of the muscles and nerves that had been affected in the initial disease.  There are several theories about the cause of this, from the over-use of muscles compensating for the effects of polio to a possible reawakening of the virus responsible for the disease.  Whatever the reason, currently there are over 1.1 million polio survivors living in the U.S. and many are facing the same situation.  Richard subsquently required an electric wheelchair in order to be able to get around.  He also had to have another tracheotomy so he could use a portable respirator.

In one of those strange flukes that are so common now with the advent of the internet and “Googling,” I connected with Richard after all these years and found that he is president of a non-profit organization called The Polio Survivors Association.  His website is www.polioassociation.org.  It provides much needed information about post-polio syndrome to anyone who is interested.  There is also a forum for survivors run by the Salk Institute called Polio Today at www.poliotoday.org.  

The average age of polio survivors is about 64.  The doctors who initially treated these patients are gone now, leaving a void in the understanding about the vagaries of this disease and its aftermath.  Richard will be celebrating his 70th birthday in June and remains an upbeat person, even while facing the loss of all the triumphs over polio he fought so hard for in the past. 

Here is a brief video slide show set to music which he created for YouTube about his experience with polio.  Please take a moment to watch it and then give thanks for your health and for those determined people who pioneered the polio vaccine. Unfortunately, many parents today take this for granted and are against vaccinating their children for any childhood illnesses. 

They need to watch Richard’s story and reflect on the lessons it holds for us all.


Mr. Trump? Papers, please….

Whiplash inducing quotes of the day from Donald Trump, who, when asked by Larry King if Mexican-Americans have reason to be distainful of the new law in Arizona giving police the right to stop anyone that they think might be in the country illegally, said this:  

TRUMP: Well, I can see that, but if you think about it, and nobody wants to say it, you have a Mexican-American, and then you have a blonde guy walking down the street, well Mexico doesn’t have a lot of blondes, okay? And these are the people who are coming across the border.

KING: But do you favor stopping people on the street?

TRUMP: What are you going to do? I mean, are you going to stop people to see if they’re supposed to be there? And personally as a citizen I wouldn’t mind, I really wouldn’t mind.

KING: [to Melania] Would you mind if people from Slovenia were stopped if they looked funny?

M. TRUMP: Well, I think everybody needs to have papers, you know, and be legally here. We need to have papers if we go anywhere else in the world, so people need to have also the papers here.


You Go, Girl!

Hai!  My new favorite t.v. show is “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on LogoTV.  You know, the gay channel that has commercials for lesbian cruises to the Caribbean?

I watched it for the first time last night and got sucked in by all the drag queen drama and fabulosity.  It was the season finale where America’s Next Drag Queen Superstar was chosen.  The show is kind of a cross between American Idol, Project Runway and La Cage aux Folles.  The winner was “Tyra Sanchez,” who was victorious over the other two finalists, “Raven” and “Jujubee.”  Of course, there was much backstage bitchiness, but what was fascinating was the part of the show they call “Untucked,” (think about it) where the contestants are shown without all the big hair and makeup and simply as….men.  But when they are transformed into drag queens…..well….the transformation boggles the mind.

Damn!  Those “girls” looked so good, that if I had to share a stage with them, I’d come off looking like a lumberjack or a longshoreman in comparison.  I am female, but they are uber-females, honey!   And RuPaul herself/himself is something else. 

Here are some of his/her quotable quotes:

“You are a burning sensation and I don’t want an ointment to clear it up.”

“With hair, heels, and attitude, honey, I am through the roof.”

“I do not impersonate females! How many women do you know who wear seven inch heels, four foot wigs, and skintight dresses?”

“What other people think of me, is none of my business.”

“I don’t know karate but I do know kr-a-zy.”

“We are born naked – the rest is drag.”



How Many Pigs Will You Take for a By-pass, Doc?

Chickens for Checkups

Last week, Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sue Lowden suggested that people who could not afford health insurance should “barter” with their doctors. Despite criticism and mockery about the ridiculousness of such an argument, Lowden recently doubled down on her approach (watch here):


Don’t Piss Off Mother Nature

Well, the big Tea Party rally scheduled for our fair city ran into the wrath of Mother Nature today in the form of steady rainfall.  I drove past the corner on Main St. where protesters were supposed to gather with their “tasteful signage” on display, but none were to be seen. 

The covered area of the nearby park where speeches were to be given by such notables as the Mayor (and some people I never heard of) wasn’t exactly overflowing with humanity either.

Such a pity.