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A TGB READER STORY: The Sunflower Meditation

By Judy Anderson

Hi, Ronni. Several months ago, you made a list that stuck with me. It did so because I’d recently done a meditation that evoked your desire to be surrounded by puppies and kittens who would tumble and play and make little kitten noises and generally entertain themselves by squirming in and out of the circle of your arms.

Here is that sunflower meditation:

The field is covered with millions of yellow sunflowers: some giant size, nearly two feet across, some as small as a quarter. I love these sunflowers, they are so cheerful that I yearn to bury myself in them.

Instead, I sit down, pulling them toward me, rubbing my face with their scratchy black seed heads.

Voices. I look up. Laugh. I’ve never seen such a sight. The sunflowers have all turned into yellow cats and kittens, millions of them. Some 10 or 20 of them have assigned themselves to me, leaving an overflowing basket of yellow kittens on my lap.

They’re crawling in and out of the basket, meowing in their sweet little kitten voices, looking up at me, hoping I’m Cat Mom with milk. Mom cats try to keep up with their babies. Some shy cats hide underneath cats not so shy.

More yellow cats than I’d ever seen. There are hundreds of them with jobs: a band of feisty yellow cats patrols the perimeter. Curious big cats at the Cat Border Inspection Station inquire of my provenance.

Jellicle cats, want tips on breaking into Broadway. Muscular tough yellow cats patrol the subway stations in New York, tiny mischievous cats put their cold noses in my ears, and Quizzical Cats call out to each other with the answers to Cat Jeopardy.

A big floppy avuncular cat crawls onto my chest and stares me down, looking for a serious tete a tete. I pretend to understand him and respond in my version of Cat Talk.

He nudges me, commanding my attention. Full of advice, he nods his head sagely, pats my cheek with his big soft paw, and says, “It’ll be okay, it’ll be okay.”

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EDITORIAL NOTE: You are a prolific bunch of writers and there is now a backlog of reader stories to carry us almost to summer. So for awhile, I am not accepting new stories until we work through some of the ones already on the list.



Living and Dying

Well, I've gone and done it again - read yet another book on dying when I said I wouldn't do that.

This one, titled Dying: A Memoir, by Australian writer Cory Taylor who died of melanoma in 2016, is a whole lot more autobiography than death but there are a few points that resonated with me.

Taylor's book is not the only one that speaks about working through anger as a universal response to a medical death sentence.

Most books about death do that but I've never experienced it and as I may have mentioned in the past, the one thing I have learned all on my own through 77 years of life is that if it happens to me, it happens to thousands, millions of others.

I'm pretty sure that just as we each find our own way to live our lives and no two are alike, that applies to dying too – at least for those of us who are privileged to be given some time to contemplate this monumental transition into the unknown.

I've never asked myself, “Why me?” That is not to say I'm more virtuous than anyone else; it just doesn't occur to me. I'm more likely to ask, “Why not me?” and perhaps that's related to the fact that everyone in my family dies of cancer. What else should I expect.

Another assumption in much of the writing about dying is that we-the-dying spend a good deal of time reflecting on our pasts. Really?

Once again, not me. I've been parsing my past for all these 77 years. I know my regrets, I've made as much peace as possible with my transgressions, learned what life lessons I could glean and moved on.

How I feel about the past is how I feel about an award I once won. I wanted it badly and was thrilled when my name was called. But the next morning I was disappointed that I couldn't summon the same feelings of joy and excitement as the night before.

Of course not, I eventually realized. Because it was yesterday. What's on for today is what I cared about that morning.

A third concern of death writers – amateurs (those who are dying) and professionals (reporters and “experts”) - is dealing with unhappiness and depression.

That can't be easy but again, not me.

Some of my attention nowadays is taken up with the anticipation of death in the relatively near future. I'm almost accustomed to it now as an appendage to most of what rolls around in my head.

Which is usually about the day's priorities. I'm very much a live-in-the-now kind of girl which is to say, death sentence or not, is there something yummy for lunch?

Have I told you that food is a great, good advantage of my personal cancer predicament? As the nurses regularly remind me, keeping up my weight is crucial to my well-being so that I don't fall into frailty. That means I can eat pretty much any- and everything I please.

The higher the calorie count the better and it should include a lot of animal protein, fats of all kinds and most other stuff I used to think is unhealthy for me. Well, in fact it is still unhealthy, but as one of the oncology nurses told me, “The cancer will kill you faster than the diet.”

So keep eating. (I'm fairly certain there are a couple more orange cranberry muffins in the freezer.)

What I am finding, at least for the moment and subject to change over time, is that dying isn't too different from living. Certainly that “predicament” is never out of sight or mind, but for now it doesn't matter much in day-to-day life.

Yes, I count out my pills once a week, I show up for chemo sessions and worry a bit about what a new scan will show about how or if the chemotherapy is working while ruminating on this ultimate existential quandary.

It doesn't feel too much different from life before diagnosis.



ELDER MUSIC: Songs About Cities - Hollywood

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

LA5

I've done a column on Los Angeles, but Hollywood is rather a special case so it gets its own column (only because there are enough songs to justify that – never let a chance go by).

TOM RUSSELL is fond of writing about real people, and he does it so well.

Tom Russell

In this case it's the playwright and author William Faulkner, who spent some time in Hollywood as a screen writer (which included The Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not). Tom's song is appropriately named William Faulkner in Hollywood.

♫ Tom Russell - William Faulkner In Hollywood


BONNIE RAITT should know about Hollywood as she was born and brought up there (or thereabouts).

Bonnie Raitt

She later went east to college in New York, but more especially to the folk and blues clubs there, also hoping to improve her guitar playing skills. And boy, did that pay off in spades. Her contribution is Marriage Made in Hollywood.

♫ Bonnie Raitt - Marriage made in Hollywood


Someone who has occasionally teamed up with Bonnie for concerts is BOZ SCAGGS.

Boz Scaggs

I’ve always thought of Boz as a fine guitarist but it was his singing that brought him to world notice with several big selling albums in the seventies. Singing or playing, it doesn’t really matter. Here he is with Hollywood Blues.

♫ Boz Scaggs - Hollywood Blues


THE EVERLY BROTHERS certainly seem to know the pitfalls of trying to get a job in Hollywood.

Everly Brothers

Although by the end of the song we realise that there’s an ulterior motive behind their concern. They just want their baby back, rather than have her become a success. Little Hollywood Girl.

♫ Everly Brothers - Little Hollywood Girl


Although better known as an actor in Australia, JON ENGLISH was also a singer, songwriter and guitarist.

Jon English

When young, he was a member of several bands in Sydney until he was plucked to perform the role of Judas in the original Australian production of Jesus Christ Superstar. From then on, Jon alternated between music and acting, including roles on TV as well as Gilbert and Sullivan and the like.

Alas, he died a couple of years ago. From his time as a musician we have Hollywood Seven.

♫ Jon English - Hollywood Seven


CLEO BROWN is yet another artist who was born in Mississippi and went to Chicago. In her case, her family moved when she was still a kid.

Cleo Brown

It was there that Cleo learned to play the piano. She started playing on the vaudeville circuit and later took over Fats Waller’s radio program when he left.

During the downtime, she had a couple of newcomers play to give them a bit of a break – Dave Brubeck and Marian McPartland. Cleo’s contribution is When Hollywood Goes Black and Tan.

♫ Cleo Brown - When Hollywood Goes Black And Tan


Here’s a first: this is the first time that BILLY JOEL has appeared in my column. Oops, I just checked and found that that was a little fib, he has appeared once before. I’m getting a bit unrememberful in my old age.

Billy Joel

Nothing against Billy, it’s just the days are rare when I think, “Oh, I must play some Billy Joel”. Today is one of those days and it’s one of his hits, Say Goodbye to Hollywood.

♫ Billy Joel - Say Goodbye to Hollywood


EDDY BELL (whoever he is) has obviously been influenced by Chuck Berry and also, to a lesser extent, Bobby Bare. Could do worse than those two.

Eddy Bell

I hope Chuck received some royalties from the song Johnny B Good is in Hollywood.

♫ Eddy Bell - Johnny B Good Is In Hollywood


THE NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND are mostly thought of as a country influenced band, but they began their existence in Hollywood (or environs).

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Of course, around the time they started, The Byrds, The Dillards, Rick Nelson and others were dabbling in country sounding music mixed with rock so it was in the air. They acknowledge both streams that made them a success in Hillbilly Hollywood.

♫ Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Hillbilly Hollywood


Trust DORY PREVIN to bring us down with her song, although if you don't listen to the words it sounds rather jolly.

Dory Previn

Actually, none of the songs today could be called happy go lucky. But Dory's is particularly depressing. Perhaps that's the general theme of Hollywood.

♫ Dory Previn - Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign



INTERESTING STUFF – 2 February 2019

MORE THAN YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT GROUNDHOG DAY

Today is Groundhog Day on which Punxsutawney Phil predicts how much longer winter will last depending on whether he sees his shadow.

Here's a story about how this annual ritual came about – and it's not even very interesting, but there you are.

MAKING SNOW FROM BOILIING WATER

As anyone not hibernating knows, this past week gave the U.S. a record-breaking cold spell, a dangerous one that killed several people.

In no way ignoring that terrible outcome, there suddenly are dozens of videos online of people showing what happens when you throw boiling water into sub-zero air. Actually, it's beautiful. Take a look:

How does this happen - that water turns instantly to snow? And why does the air need to be super cold? Wired magazine explains for us:

”Actually, this is a great example of water in all three phases: solid, liquid, and gas. The boiling water starts off mostly in the liquid phase. However, since it's so hot, the water has enough energy to make the transition from liquid to gas.

“Hot water evaporates faster than cool water, which is why this trick works better with boiling water.”

There is a more detailed explanation at Wired.

HORSES FROLICKING IN THE SNOW

Take a look at this – footage of horses playing aorund in deep snow earlier this month in Austria. Who knew horses enjoy snow?

THE SMITHSONIAN COLLECTS THE WORLD

Here is a nice little video showing off a few items in the vast collections at the Smithsonian Institution.

ARE THESE THE WORLD'S SNEAKIEST ANIMALS?

The wild monkeys of Gibralter appear to have fleecing tourists down to a science.

MODERN CAVEMAN

The YouTube page tells us that

”...real-life caveman Angelo Mastropietro has made his hermit dream a reality - by spending over £160,000 turning a 700-year-old cave, carved into 250 million year old sandstone cliffs in the the Wyre Forest, into his dream home.

“The 38-year-old, originally from Worcestershire, was living a high-flying life as the head of a successful recruitment company in Australia when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007. The condition led to him being temporarily paralysed - and inspired him to seek a simpler life.”

I'm not so sure about “simple” but this cave home has all the modern conveniences and is amazing.

HOW DOES YOUR KITTEN GROW

You know how it goes: you bring home a tiny little kitten (or puppy), so fragile and so cute. Then the next thing you know, like human children, the animal if full grown and you can't remember when that happened.

Now we can see how that works right in front of our eyes.

”A photographer from Warren Photographic Ltd documented the growth of their silver tabby Maine Coon kitten named Freya over the course of 10 months.

“The photographer then distilled this footage into a brilliant 26 second time-lapse that shows Freya growing from a tiny newborn kitten to a gorgeous long haired cat.”

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog.



New Social Security Legislation Plus The Alex and Ronni Show

On Wednesday this week, Representative John Larson (D-CT), Chair of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced the introduction of the Social Security 2100 Act.

There are more than 200 co-sponsors for the legislation – all Democrats – even though the bill includes some conservative elements. As long-time Social Security and Medicare advocate, Nancy Altman, explained in Forbes:

”These include a tax cut for middle-income seniors and other Social Security beneficiaries who are currently required to pay federal income tax on their benefits.

“They also include the restoration of Social Security to long-range actuarial balance for three quarters of a century and beyond.

“In addition to requiring the wealthy to contribute their fair share, the legislation would gradually increase the Social Security contributions (FICA) of workers and their employers. FICA, which currently applies to wages up to $132,900, would also apply to wages above $400,000.

“The FICA rate, currently at 6.2% on employees and employers, would increase by .05% a year — 50 cents a week for an average worker — until it reaches 7.4%.”

Even with such strong support among House Democrats, the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate or White House this time. But in the past few years, the political atmosphere about Social Security has shifted from all talk all the time of cutting it because the program is bankrupt (it is not) to expanding it.

Representative Larson is committed to holding hearings throughout the country to debunk such myths and educate the public on the importance of Social Security to all Americans:

“'We need to educate and unmask so many of these myths,' Larson told [Reuters reporter Mark Miller].

“'We need to talk about why Social Security is an earned benefit and not an entitlement. Certainly it is something you are entitled to, but the word makes Social Security sound like a poverty program or a handout. Nothing roils people who have been paying into the program their entire lives more.'”

Keep that in mind: don't let anyone tell you Social Security is a “entitlement”. It is an EARNED BENEFIT that every working American pays for through payroll deductions during his and her working life.

Be sure you let your Congress person know you support this legislation and remind them every now and then how important this is – even if they already support the legislation. You can do that here via telephone, email or postal mail.

The legislation may not make it through the Senate this year, but it will happen eventually. A majority of American support it – even President Trump during his 2016 campaign (although I do know that he can change his mind on a dime).

* * *

My former husband, Alex Bennett, and I had our regularly scheduled Skype conversation on Tuesday.

Somehow it turned into mostly a bitch session - complaints about minor things that are unlikely to get fixed so what's the point. Maybe it's just blowing off steam on entirely unrelated issues going on with the government in Washington, D.C.