IN THE AGE OF FIRSTS

Listening to the news this month started me  thinking about the idea of “firsts.”  It’s the first time so many nations around the world have faced a deadly virus like COVID-19 in such a short time period. It appears to spread like the seeds of a dandelion in the wind. Most countries are not prepared to treat so many sick people at the same time. This notion of firsts sent me down the rabbit hole of events in the past sixty-plus years I experienced for the first time.  The following list included those personal and political events that were and are significant to me.

Dear Reader,  your list, oftentimes depending on your year of birth or your belief-system, will likely be different than mine. If you are averse to looking at political opinions that may be different from yours, please stop or read this blog at your own risk. Commercial photos borrowed from online sources and one personal picture are included. I often escape into the world of Star Trek to imagine another way for the world to be.

My timeline of ‘firsts” recalled.

JFK’s assignation, blood spatter on Jackie Kennedy’s pink suit

1025-social-jfk-1427362-640x360.jpg

Rural District 60 that I attended closes for three days to give us a chance to watch his funeral parade

Johnson’s rise to power, Lady Bird’s roadside flowers bloom on today

Vietnam war – veterans still battle PTSD

Black Power – urban riots

Women’s Movement for equality – fifty years later women still make a fraction of men’s income

Peace marches – draft numbers, veterans and college men burn draft cards

1968 National Democratic Convention violence

National Guard kill students at Kent State in 1970, sobers the country

Star Trek provides another vision of peaceful exploration in space

I begin freshmen year at UNL – Johnson’s Great Society programs pay for my undergraduate degree

Move to Syracuse NY for grad school

Watch Nixon’s “I am not a crook” speech, stoned in a hotel room

Watergate break-in – Nixon’s resignation

Ford, a place holder pardons the crooks

Began first post-graduate school job same year Carter is elected President

Carter’s one-term marked by Americans captives in the Middle East

Reagan’s election begins nation’s slide to conservatism

My son was born and my daughter three years later, both during Reagan’s presidency

Liz & Zeke 1987

HW Bush serves one term, starts a war with Hussain and calls it Desert Storm

Clinton’s legacy forever tainted by the affair with Monica Lewinsky, ruins Hillary’s political aspirations in the process

911 attacks change the national psyche

Islamic terrorists rise to power

George W, nicknamed “Shrub” by Molly Ivans, elected President, blames Hussain for 911 and escalates Middle east hostility fighting his Daddy’s war

2008 recession Stock Market plunge – greedy inside traders, risky banking practices

My marriage breaks up after eight years of George W, divorced as Obama takes office

Obama rescues economy, pushes progressive agenda, the healthcare overhaul gives my daughter health insurance that covers pre-existing conditions like her Type I Diabetes

“The history of the Affordable Care Act – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. It is more commonly known as the Affordable Care Act (or ACA) — and it’s most commonly referred to by its nickname, Obamacare.”

I retired in 2018, start living on a pension

The Donald elected because he is White and obnoxious from my perspective. His election is the US retaliating against Black President Obama

Lost and ill-prepared, Trump dismantles everything he doesn’t understand, including pandemic planning office

COVID-19 spreads around the world – National response shows our country unprepared, Trump wants to be center of attention, NYC becomes the epicenter of US 

Reuters

A deserted Times Square is pictured following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo AllegriREUTERS

Stocks in free fall as economy shuts down, pensions drop

States are on their own, some better than others respond to the crisis – death toll rises

Need international cooperation to beat a virus that doesn’t recognize borders

Senators learn about the virus before they tell the public and sell off stocks making millions in dirty insider trading – politicians both sides of the isle bought and paid for by lobbyists

Get past this national illness, file charges against crooked Senators

Head of UN calls for halt to all hostilities worldwide, establish health corridors between warring parties, countries, factions – unite to fight the virus

2020 Summer Olympics postponed a year

Star Trek Picard finishes a second season moving war off-planet

Some people may be naturally immune to COVID-19, scientists investigate

Time and Quiet

Sometimes I need quiet to free my brain of daily distractions to put pen to paper or fingers to my keyboard. There’s certainly a lot to distract us as we search for good news amongst the mostly bad news about COVID-19 that is on TV, social media, and in newspapers. The reader will see a few random “quiet time” photos from my collection in this blog to break up the text.

cropped-july-2015-104.jpg

In retirement, I work two days a week and live alone. Before the recommendation to shelter at home, I’d spend my workday breaks running errands and/or meeting friends for lunch. On other days, I attended volunteer organization meetings, planned dinner parties, and went out to local bars and restaurants to hear live music and eat out.  Nearly everything is now canceled or closed. The State Department just announced that US citizens should not travel abroad during this pandemic and everyone abroad should come home. I canceled a trip to Ireland planned for the end of this month.

20190208_133415

This blog entry is a celebration of the enforced quiet many of us are experiencing due to our time at home. There’s a real benefit to social distancing. I wrote copious journal entries in my adolescence. After I started college, studying took all my time and I let it go. During graduate school, I read The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.  I credit that book to a personal awakening and renewed interest in writing. A new job, then children, again put the idea on the back burner. A painful divorce eleven years ago freed me to consider writing again.

cropped-dsc02547.jpg

I read an article recently that likened writing to a form of worship. I’m more inclined to think of it as a daily meditation or therapy. Writing with a writing group helped me recover from divorce. I established a daily writing routine that I continue to maintain.

The writing group’s monthly meetings keep us all working to bring new work to a shared critique. I’ve made longlasting friends in the process. As a decidedly nice side-benefit of my writing time, I’ve published poems in journals, magazines, and anthologies. I’ve published two chapbooks and a full-length poetry collection has been accepted for publication.

20190223_093019 (2)

My take-away from enforced solitude, listen to the quiet and allow your inner voice to guide you forward.

I was lost in June.

20190610_061400

My dear friend died at the end of May after a long bout with cancer.  During her life, she organized trips around the world from Antarctica to Nova Scotia to Russia to China and many places between. This lady loved to research and plan trips.  She held a master’s degree in History and as a long time teacher of high school and college students, she also taught her fellow travelers about the history of every place she visited.

I was privileged to travel with her to seven countries, seven states, and two Caribbean islands over a fifteen year period.  She also shared many trips with her sister and her nieces.

June was lost time vacillating between tears of loss and celebrating our many adventures. Other friends ask me, “where’s your next trip?”   It feels odd to think about traveling without her, but her sister wants to plant a “memorial” trip in her honor.  There will be more about that trip as it unfolds.

Today, I’m celebrating the flowers of early summer, like the pink rose above and the yellow rose below.   Yellow roses grew in my parents’ yard.  I snagged a clipping before they moved to town in 1982.  This tough rose keeps coming back every June, regardless of how cold the winter.

20190601_160010

The California poppies bloomed with gusto this year as well.

20190610_061415

The peonies in the featured image above bloomed just in time for my friend’s memorial service.  I took peonies to decorate my parents’ graves on Memorial Day, as well.

July begins hot with temperatures in the mid-nineties but promises to be a good month.

 

Shete Boka National Park

20190208_111848

Located on the north end of the Caribbean island of Curacao, the Sheta Boka National Park is, according to their website, an “Area with more than 10 beautiful Boka’s (inlets) where three species of turtles nest. A boka is, in fact, an inlet. Shete Boka stands for ‘seven inlets’. Years ago, the environmental group Amigu di Tera arranged excursions in this area along seven bays. Hence, the name is taken, although in reality there are more than seven coves in this national park. The park begins at the beautiful Boka Tabla where large, unpredictable waves crush against an underground cave. An impressive experience!”  Learn more at https://www.curacao.com/en/directory/do/sights-and-sounds/shete-boka-national-park/

Prevailing northeast winds buffet the island.  Trees on the north end of the island are often bent like the featured image or dwarfed from the wind’s impact.

I visited the park on a tour of the island during February.  It was a restful vacation away from this frigid Nebraska Winter and did wonders for my mental health.  The crashing waves in the first photo were the highlight of the park.  The tour bus also visited a lovely park beach.  Our group had an hour to swim or sit in the sun.  I opted for sunshine, but many dived into the turquoise water.

20190208_122502

The tour bus also stopped at the salt ponds to see flamingos. We were able to walk near a series of protected pools where many flamingos dipped their elegant heads in search of food.  The flamingos have a peaceful existence eating in the still water.

20190208_143630

I noticed unusual water creatures at the edge of the pond.  I’m not sure of their biological identity, but they are quite beautiful.

20190208_143507

Curacao is a destination to consider to get away from northern winters.

Visit to an island

February is as cold this year as a home freezer that has gone too long without defrosting. Frost and ice cycles cover the northern plains.  Snow is stacked in piles around homes and buildings, roads ditches are full, and roadways blow shut again with every wind.  Fields, sky, trees are all shades of grey and white.  Roads are treacherous to drive. We stay at home if we can.  Everyone I talk with is ready for spring.

20190223_093602

In comparison, the colors of the Caribbean are brilliant blues, pinks, yellows, and lavender. I decided to vacation on an island this year for a change from this Nebraska winter.  A friend and I traveled to Curacao, an island in the Caribbean, that I learned about from former students.  It’s a beautiful island with wonderful eighty-five degree sunny days, balmy evenings and fabulous beaches. 20190208_122502

Although the Spanish explored this area early in the 1600s, Dutch warships pushed them out. The religiously tolerant Dutch welcomed Jewish refugees from Europe. Together these diverse groups developed the island’s natural deep-water port into a pivotal shipping mecca.

In the 1800s, the USA donated a floating bridge across the bay that opens to admit huge container ships, oil tankers, and other commercial ships.  The bridge connects two sections of the capital city, Willemstad.

20190207_190953

The photo above shows the floating bridge lit up at night to allow commercial boat traffic to enter the bay.  People could stay on the bridge when it opened and ride along.  We rode along several times.

20190208_170916

This photo shows one of the tug boats that came through the bridge. The tug is heading out to sea to escort a larger ship back to port.   The buildings were designed after those in Holland.  All the house are brightly colored and picturesque.  For example, the Postal Museum was located in a house constructed in 1690.

Cruise ships (as shown in the featured image), visit the island regularly.  There were two cruise ships docked nearly every day during the week we spent on the island.  These tourist visits are vital to the country’s economy.

More about island tours in future blogs.

Retirement Anxiety

I’ve worked part-time selling irrigation parts, in a kitchen dish room, and winding used film.  My full-time jobs include working for a grant-funded group home, a developmental disabilities office, and a state college. I’ve been employed in some capacity for nearly fifty years.  Each job provided a regular paycheck.  My anxiety is on high alert without a paycheck for the first time in my adult life.

money pink coins pig

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

I thought about retiring for nearly a year. When I was confident that I should retire, I considered when to retire.  I selected a date close to my birthday and turned in a letter of resignation giving three month’s notice. I sought a peaceful exit from employment.   Many events unfolded during those three months that made me question my timing. This lovely chocolate dessert was a happy departure from a series of unhappy events.

20181203_195045

The college hired a new vice president who was my supervisor for a few weeks before I retired.  He holds many similar views to my own regarding student services.  It will be interesting to see if he is able to change the negative culture that shaped my decision to leave employment at this time.

It was also short-sighted of me to retire before the Christmas holiday.  Another paycheck would be helpful now until retirement funds become available.

On the home front, my rural well failed.  The well company was unable to remove a dysfunctional pump from the old well.  The first attempt at a new well was a failure, beginning with clay collapsing into the new pit, installing 80 feet of steel piping to stabilize the clay, and running into rocks below 80 feet. It took two waterless weeks for the crew to drill a new 220 foot well that reliably produces potable water.  The expense nearly drained my savings.

20181114_081549

A colleague and I are setting up a mental health private practice in the county seat.  This process also involves start-up costs to pay for office rent, insurance, legal fees, accounting fees, etc.  It’s unclear how long it will take to generate income.

20181218_170522

As winter weather settles around me, I’d like to take a vacation to a warm place.  It’s 6 degrees Fahrenheit today and dropping as the day goes on.  However, I’d like to feel more financially secure before I make definite plans.

IMG_20181208_092217_855

 

 

 

Hail Storm to Heat Wave

A severe thunderstorm with hail swept though eastern Nebraska  and into Iowa on Father’s Day.  I drove from a family reunion 70 miles west of my house, back toward home late afternoon.  It was sunny and 75 degrees at the family gathering.  As I drove east, the temperature dropped and a rain front became visible on the eastern horizon.  The storm was moving east.  I followed it, believing the edge of the front was far ahead, but as I neared the last turn east toward  home, I caught up with the storm.  There was heavy rain intermixed with hail, beating a tattoo on the car’s roof, hood and  trunk.  At times I could not see to drive and pulled to the side of the road until it cleared a bit.  There was no place to pull completely off the highway as there are no shoulders.  I was a bit shook up after the drive, but neither the car or me suffered any serious damage.

My dog was home alone. She hates thunder and was happy to see me return.

Cell phone May 2017 274 Pickles

A week later, another big storm swept the area, dropping five inches of rain in one day, but no hail this time. It’s a wet year here, but I am fortunate to live on a hill and don’t have to worry about floods, unlike many people who live along the swollen creeks and rivers that feed the Missouri.

The low pressure systems behind all the rain storms turned into a high pressure front that ushered in, and continues to bring, excessive heat and humidity.  I’m not a fan of this part of summer, but my plants and flowers are thriving as well as all the area crops.

As summer marches on, I’m taking steps toward the goal of retiring this fall, along with baby-steps toward beginning a part-time business.  It feels good to see the end of the road.

Road west 2017