Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thank You, More Please!

I saw a sweet little movie with the title, “Happy, Thank You, More Please.”  It tells three love stories in vignettes with quirky characters and novel circumstances.  Nice.  Not mainstream.  

One of the characters, a beautiful woman with alopecia, (I said they were quirky) has an epiphany during a cab ride.  The cabbie turns to her and, apropos of nothing in particular, says, “The universe is steeped in abundance of all good things.  When you feel this, say, ‘Thank you; more please,’ and you will begin to experience more of the abundance.” 

And then she does just that.  She becomes more thankful, expresses it, asks for more, and receives it. 

Now, I never had that epiphany.  I hardly ever ride in cabs, for one thing.  But I try to be conscious of and express my gratitude daily.  I am thankful for so many things…and they just keep coming. 

Just now I’m thankful for the view from my window as I write this column to you, Dear Reader.  (I’m thankful for you too, by the way.)  I can see the water of the Carquinez Strait made silver by the afternoon sun with clouds’ intervention.  Any moment, a dazzling, golden, heavenly shaft of light might break through inviting spirits to soar.  There is little wind, leaving the water to ripple as it does with a rising tide.  Lovely. 

My Burmese kitten Uma sleeps here on my desk.  She’s a wheezer; so little squeaks match her rising chest on the inhale.  I’m thankful she doesn’t wake up and pace back and forth across the keyboard as she often chooses to do while I write.  I’m also thankful for my new, all-in-one touch screen computer on which she can cut and paste text with a brush of her furry little butt.  She changes the font size and stands on the space bar when her Inner Kitty calls her to do so.  I’m thankful that the IK rests quietly in the moment. 

On vacation this week, my husband works just down the hall.  He’s putting knobs on the doors and drawers of the cabinet he installed for me in the laundry room.  He’s skilled, meticulous, and patient.  His work is excellent and wherever you look in our home, you can see the improvements he’s made for us.  Thanks Honey. 

Our son is healthy and making his way in the world.  Not as fast as we’d like.  Not always in the direction we’d like.  But in spite of his struggles and his side trips, his big heart, quick mind, generous spirit, and loving nature shine the brightest.  Thank God for a good kid.  Thank God. 

Thank God for the US Congress.  I don’t know why, exactly.  I still hold out hope that somehow the rancorous spell of entrenchment will be lifted and their mission and selflessness will kick in.  I say thank God for the Occupy movement.  In spite of their foibles, they show us courage and call us to speak out.  I guess I’m just glad, still and always, to be born and living in the United States of America.  

I’m thankful that whenever I want I can drive my fine car to a grocery store, tantamount to Disneyland for a poor nation, and buy a fat turkey and fresh green beans.  Thanks to my mom, gone since 1977, I can make savory stuffing and gravy without lumps.  I’m grateful to be able to give a little bit to our food banks.  So lucky to be on the giving side. 

I’m thankful for and miss my Oklahoma family at Thanksgiving:  My brothers so tall and handsome and smart and funny.  Their beautiful wives.  My nieces and nephews so sweet and dear.  My stepmother, our only surviving parent or grandparent.   

My California in-laws are about the best a person could ask for.  Compared with my raucous family, they seem quite reserved, even genteel.  They’ve taken me in with such kindness.  I am very thankful for that.  Special thanks for my father-in-law, now 91 years old and precocious.   

I’ve held onto childhood friends and find new friends to be revelations.  Such mighty blessings! 

And so to mark Thanksgiving, I say to the Universe:  I’m happy, thank you.  More please.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

To Breathe or Not to Breathe

Exhaust fumes kill brain cells! 

It’s not as if we didn’t know.  Or that we somehow felt OK about sucking in diesel vapors and billows of petroleum rich emissions while we sat stacked up at the toll plaza with James Taylor on the airwaves.  Damn!  This traffic jam! 

But now, the Wall Street Journal reports that commuters in high traffic corridors are spending record amounts of time inhaling tailpipe gases.  In fact, drivers traveling the 10-worst U.S. traffic corridors each year spend an average of 140 hours breathing in and out behind the wheel, idling in traffic.  That’s a month’s worth of grey matter, up in smoke.   

And it’s not just 'rush-hour' congestion anymore, what with midday and overnight traffic jams accounting for almost 40% of total delays.  The wait in line for an average commuter rose to 34 hours in 2010.  In the 15 largest urban areas, commuters wasted 52 hours every year, each burning 25 extra gallons of gasoline.   

Researchers suspect that the tailpipe exhaust from cars and trucks—especially tiny carbon particles already implicated in heart disease, cancer and respiratory ailments—may also injure brain cells and synapses key to learning and memory. 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any synapses or cells to spare. 

And guess what?  The Washington, D.C., area had the most wasted hours for commuters last year, the most exhaust fumes taken in, the greatest number of brain cells compromised and the maximum number of synapses snapped. 

It all adds up, doesn’t it?   

Rick Perry can’t remember the government agencies he’d scrap if elected president:  Let’s see…Education, Commerce, and…doh!   

Herman Cain has “so many things twirling around in his brain” that Libya doesn’t sound familiar.   

Perry said, “Oops;” Cain swatted gnats.  They could have blamed their campaign dampening brain freezes on traffic in the beltway!  After all, these new public-health studies and laboratory experiments suggest that traffic fumes exact a measurable toll on mental capacity, intelligence and emotional stability.   

Congressional gridlock may be due to rush hour gridlock!   

Oh, right.  Perry and Cain aren’t in Washington.  Traffic must be horrible on the campaign trail. 

Remember the research that cautioned us against buying a car built on a Monday?  The hangover effect:  Assembly line workers needed a full workday to recover from their weekend.  The cars they put together on Mondays manifested problems reflecting their diminished mental capacities, maybe the residual effects of too many brews. 

This new research could be extrapolated to conclude that bills passing Congress on Tuesdays may be similarly suspect:  Tuesday is the busiest morning peak period for traffic backups and fume inspiration.  Woozy legislators make cloudy laws.   

Pedestrians and bicyclists need also beware:  The Journal reviews recent studies that show breathing street-level fumes for just 30 minutes can intensify electrical activity in regions of the brain responsible for behavior, personality, and decision-making.  No question where this will end up ~ in the courtroom.  It’s the next Twinkie defense!  Air pollution made me do it.  No wonder road rage is on the rise. 

Scientists say they don’t know yet whether regular commuters breathing heavy traffic fumes suffer any lasting brain effect, but it seems likely.  Just look around the office.  You can spot the long-term, long-range commuters.  They’re the ones with the hazy eyes, vague expressions, and crabby attitudes.  They can’t complete a sentence without taking a swig of their dark roast Kona and gasping like Perry Mason.  Best to steer clear until research provides us a better antidote than caffeine.  It may be exacerbating the syndrome. 

The scary thing is exhaust fumes can extend farther from roadways than once thought.  Traffic fumes from some major L.A. freeways for example, reached as far as 1.5 miles downwind—10 times farther than previously believed.  It’s creeping into homes, parks, even schools. 

Children in areas affected by high levels of emissions scored more poorly on intelligence tests, were more prone to depression, anxiety, attention problems, and were twice as likely to have autism as children growing up in cleaner air. 

Thank Heaven researchers are exploring ways to alleviate traffic and its toxic exhaust.  Some simple solutions ~ E-Z pass carpool lanes, rerouting cars away from high congestions areas ~ already provide significant improvement.  

Children need their brain cells!  They have a long way to go.   

You and I may just have to hold our breath.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Power of 11 ~ The Meaning of the Day

The sunspot cycle is approximately eleven years.  I thought you might want to know.  After all you don’t want to go through life unaware of the implications of high vibrational numbers and their attendant events, do you?   

The number 11 itself seems to be a big deal. 

This week’s date, 11/11/11, Friday, November 11, 2011, is a “high vibrational day.”  Your connection to the spiritual realm is heightened.  Just sayin’.  Or, more precisely, the numerologists who calculate and track these things are sayin’. 

It’s a good day, so say the sooth sayers, for insights and prophetic visions.  You could even find clarity about something that has eluded you.  Hmmm…so many elusions, so few 11-11-11’s. 

Most predictions and superstitions concerning 11/11/11 are rooted in its mathematical uniqueness.  Basic mathematics reveals some interesting peculiarities relating to the number eleven.  To wit:  Multiplication of 11 - 
(2 digits) 11 x 11 = 121
(4 digits) 1111 x 1111 = 1234321
(6 digits) 111111 x 111111 = 12345654321
(8 digits) 11111111 x 11111111 = 123456787654321 

Blackjack players love the number eleven.  Time to double down!  Dice players fancy the number eleven.  On the come-out roll, it’s as good as the number seven. Number eleven is a popular lottery number, resulting in the per-person payouts being below average when eleven is one of the winning numbers. 

According to those numerologists, we should open ourselves to receive higher order messages on this day.  Be sure, they say, to look at the news events of the day for special meaning. 

You know, I’ve been looking at news events for a long while, hoping to discern some distinct connotation.  Most of the implications seem instead mundane, if not dreadful:  History repeats itself.  And:  History repeats itself. 

It’s no true wonder that the human spirit longs for special meanings, special dates, signs and omens.  We search the horizon for any indicator, any marker that something singular will occur to lift us up, enlighten us, improve our prospects.  

There are media reports that businesses around the world are having 11-11-11 sales, discounts, and deals today.  No doubt some of those sales will extend through the weekend.  That’s a signal that there’s good shopping.  Churches booked weddings for this date in record numbers.  That portends continuing hopefulness. 

My web search found an “eleven expert” with the moniker “paradigmsearch” who declares that for the date 11*11*11, there are only three possible scenarios: 

1. Something good happens — there is no scientific basis for this belief.  Nor are there any known logical premises for this belief.  The belief that something good will happen on this date is based solely on spiritualism, faith, or innate optimism.  This belief is not necessarily a bad thing.  We don’t know everything, intones “paradigmsearch.”  The probability is not zero that something really cool will transpire. 

2. Nothing remarkable happens — this is the most likely scenario.  Just because an unusual date / number sequence occurs doesn’t mean that something extraordinary will happen.  Most often, such a date constitutes a non-event. 

3. Something bad happens — there is no scientific basis for this belief either, thank your lucky stars!  There are no known logical premises for this belief.  The belief that something bad will happen on this date is based solely on pessimism.  But, this belief is not necessarily false; after all, things are most often a mess.  The probability is not zero. 

Kind of a buzz kill that paradigmsearch guy.
But we must not overlook what is vital about this unique date, something that can uplift us and offer hope:  November 11th marks Veterans’ Day. 

Veterans’ Day commemorates the end of “the war to end all wars.” 

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France.

Fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  

President Eisenhower later signed a bill to change the name from Armistice Day to Veterans’ Day, shifting the focus from an ideal concept, armistice, to our revered troops. 

For my part, I pray that nothing bad happens on this Veterans’ Day, 11-11-11. 

I pray that Veterans’ Day will not slip past as a non-event. 

I pray that a high vibrational insight occurs in the psyche of human beings as we pause to reflect on the sentiment of armistice:  End all wars.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

So Many Heroes, Such Tiny Stamps

You don’t have to be dead to be appreciated.  Not any more anyway. 

Up until January of 2007, the US Postal Service required that a person be deceased for 10 years before appearing on a commemorative stamp.  That year, the rule was relaxed to five years deceased before such an honor.  (By USPS tradition, former presidents have always been remembered on stamps the year following their deaths.) 

But now, hoping to boost its sagging revenues, the US Postal Service has abandoned its long-standing rule that stamps cannot feature living people.  It’s a first.  It means that living sports stars, writers, artists, and other prominent people could take their places in postal history along with the likes of George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., and Marilyn Monroe. 

The postal service got into its financial bind at least in part because of the near complete abandonment of “snail mail” in favor of email.  So there’s irony in the fact that the USPS issued its invitation for nominations of living people to be depicted on new stamps on their Postal Service website, as well as Facebook and Twitter.   

Suggestions for commemorative stamps already came in via traditional pen-and-ink submissions at the rate of 40,000 per year.  Now that the electronic call has gone out for suggestions as to whom Americans think should appear on the next round of commemorative stamps, it’s hard to imagine how many ideas will stream through the newly opened automated floodgate.  Who’s going to sort through all that stuff?  Maybe that person should have a stamp! 

On-the-street interviews and my own informal survey drew ideas for honorees from across the spectrum:  Michelle Obama for her work on childhood obesity.  Charlie Sheen, “an American icon.”  (Uh, winning?)  Lady Gaga for her creativity and individualism.  Jimmy Carter for his humanitarian work.  Alice Waters for all that good food. 

Steve Jobs.  Of course!  So sad that he passed before he could receive this particular recognition.  The thought that follows immediately is Mark Zuckerberg.  Life-on-earth changing guy.  Bill Gates.  His philanthropy may be the legacy that gets his face on the forty-three cent-er. 

Comedian Stephen Colbert has already begun his own campaign to become the first living person depicted on a government-issued postage stamp.  He has proposed a “Farewell to Postage” stamp sporting a photo of himself holding a smartphone with an email message to the Postal Service: “See Ya!” 

If fake newsmen are allowed, I’ll vote for Jon Stewart.  George Carlin should already have been “stamped,” along with Richard Pryor.  Other entertainers might be shoo-ins:  Meryl Streep, Halle Berry, Ron Howard, Francis Coppola, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney.   

Perhaps the opportunity presents itself not only for those living folks who already get lots of attention and accolades to get even more recognition, but also for the rest of us middle class schmos to be acknowledged for the following the rules and doing what’s right.  We make the country work.  Put a face on us and that face on a stamp, because gosh darn it, we deserve it. 

Seems like categories of honorees are called for:  Educators, of course.  It might be amusing to show a frazzled middle school teacher trying to coax a seventh grader’s homework out of a dog’s mouth.  Or how about a high school principal throwing a wet blanket at a Homecoming Dance?   

Moms!  Without question moms should get a stamp.  I’d like my mom to represent all the single moms who struggled to provide for their children.  Dads too.  Modern dads engaged with their kids.  Nurses and doctors deserve a nod for their devotion to others. 

Why not stick representatives of American life and cultural phenomena on the corner of an envelope:  Someone who danced with the stars, got lost, hoarded, picked, or remodeled.  No!  The Biggest Loser!  Perfect.

Don’t overlook the over-looked:  sanitation workers, baristas, dry cleaners, and convenience store clerks.  Postal workers themselves! 

What about those who are so often maligned?  Lawyers?  DMV clerks?  No?  Oh well. 

Today the early commemorative stamps are prized by collectors.  But back in the day, the appearance of commemorative postage stamps caused a backlash among some stamp collectors!  They balked at the prospect of laying out ever-larger sums to acquire the burgeoning proliferation of stamps.  So in 1895 they organized to blacklist what they deemed to be excessive stamps, forming the Society for the Suppression of Speculative Stamps.  Really.   

We might need a curmudgeon stamp.