Tom Klaus is the Driveler. On March 16, 2020, the first day of the Novel Coronavirus shelter-in-place order for his state, he started writing a daily blog to keep himself from stressing too much about the pandemic situation. He thought the daily blogging would last for only a couple of week but it stretched on to 77 consecutive days. Then he continued writing daily for a while after that as well. At some point the blog became The Daily Drivel...mostly because he was mostly writing the stream of consciousness drivel that was pouring out of his head, running down his face, and, sometimes, out of his mouth. In November 2020 he launched The Daily Drivel as a free-standing website/blog.
In our part of the world (Maryland) the roll out of the vaccine has been slow. One of us is eligible now for the vaccine as a “senior citizen” and the other of us will be eligible in March. However, attempts to schedule an appointment for the vaccine, even by our senior citizen, have been fruitless. We are not, however, frustrated, panicked, or feeling helpless and hopeless. Getting the vaccine will not change our behavior:
We will still mask up (actually, we are double masking)
We will still maintain at least 6 feet distance from people when we are out
We will continue to stock up when we shop to minimize trips out, connect with people over Zoom, and remain at home.
What seems clear is that getting the vaccine creates a false sense of safety and security for some people. These folks start planning in-person gatherings and are generally less careful about masking and distancing. Too many things are still unknown about the virus to justify this kind of confidence.
Even more, the great unknown is how much we will be impacted by the variants that have been identified – so far. “So far” because variants will always occur and there are likely to be more. For this reason, the best advice we hear is get vaccinated, then still mask up and stay away from other people.
Farewell to Dolly
On Monday January 25th we said good-bye to Dolly, our remaining miniature schnauzer. Dolly was diagnosed in March 2018 with Cushing’s disease and mass was discovered on her spleen. She was given less than 3 months to live if she didn’t have an expensive surgery to help her live…oh…maybe…another 3 months.
After consulting with my former vet and friend in Iowa, we decided to go with his recommendation to simply love her, make her comfortable, and put her down before she began to experience much pain. Since that time we’ve been expecting that we would have to let her go at any time. In fact, and this is a bit embarrassing to say, we made, and cancelled, three previous appointments with Peaceful Passage, believing her time had come. Happily, we were wrong.
We really believed Dolly would go before Madison. We were wrong. We lost Madison in June 2020. It turned out Dolly’s mass was not cancerous and she lived for nearly 2 years more.
We never really knew the ages of Madison and Dolly. They came to us through a rescue in Hagerstown, Maryland and the breeder where they got the dogs would not release any records on them. The breeder said they were “a couple of years old” but, of course, that could mean 2 to 5 years old. We had Madison 12 years and Dolly 11. Our best guess is that they were 14+ years old, which puts them solidly at the upper end of the life expectancy for miniature schnauzers.
Our house is quieter than usual now and we miss the opportunity to take a break to walk a dog. So, will be bring a new dog into our home? Probably, but we aren’t sure when that will happen.
I Can See Clearly Now
Nope, that’s not a reference to the Johnny Nash song but, of course, it could be as I haven’t done a music focused blog in a while. Oh, heck, here it is…go ahead and enjoy it. Great song for the Class of ’72.
Okay, seriously, I can see clearly now as I had cataract surgery in late January. I’m still in the process of recovery following a seemingly endless eye-drop routine. However, the change in my sight is remarkable.
There been another change, though. I no longer need glasses, and, in fact, I cannot see with my prescription glasses. That is a BIG change given I’ve worn them for more than 55 years. The most challenging part of this change is getting used to seeing myself without glasses. I am having some difficulty getting used to seeing myself THAT clearly.
A Little More Music
Here’s a really nice video from the Tacoma Refugee Choir which was shared by regular reader Maggi. The video is about staying safe in the midst of the pandemic. It is titled “Put it On.” Some great lines in this video, like: “It’s not fashion, its compassion.” Enjoy!
When Donald J. Trump delivered his now famous “American Carnage” inauguration speech in 2017 we misunderstood it. We thought he was describing the United States as he saw it but he was really previewing the America he wanted. Last week, on January 6, 2021, we saw the spoiled fruit of Trump’s real vision for American carnage.
Like most Americans this week, my brain cells have been working over time to make sense of what we witnessed this week. In this post I’m going to do my best to convey what I’m coming up with so far. In this moment, as a country, we are still on information overload so I will not try to cite everything. I think of myself as a researcher and essayist, not a journalist. However, I do rely upon multiples of time-tested, trustworthy journalists and other researchers for the information that informs my thinking and writing.
The question that has been rolling over in my mind is this: What does accountability and justice look like in the wake of the attempted coup on the United States last week?
To answer this question there are three legal concepts we have to understand: free speech, sedition, and treason. For my sources I am relying on the National Constitution Center and Findlaw. Both sites translate the Constitution, constitutional interpretations, and law into more understandable language for legal dummies like me.
Let’s begin with the concept of free speech. This is what the Constitution says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Certain types of speech including: defamation, true threats, “fighting words,” obscenity, child pornography, and false commercial advertising
A speaker who is in a special relationship to the government, such as an employee or elected official “even based on content, when their speech is incompatible with their status as public officials.”
Speech under a less demanding standard of “reasonableness.”
Now let’s turn to sedition. Sedition is legally defined as a conspiracy between two or more people to:
To conspire to overthrow or destroy by force the government of the United States or to level war against them;
To oppose by force the authority of the United States government; to prevent, hinder, or delay by force the execution of any law of the United States; or
To take, seize, or possess by force any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.
FindLaw, Seditious Conspiracy and Federal Law: The Basics. January 10, 2021
Finally, as unbelievable as this all is, we need to clarify the meaning of treason and how it relates to sedition. In this case, I’m going to let FindLaw make the point again:
Sedition differs from treason (defined in Article III of the U.S. Constitution) in a fundamental way. While seditious conspiracy is generally defined as conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state, treason is the more serious offense of actively levying war against the United States or giving aid to its enemies. Another way of looking at it is that seditious conspiracy often occurs before an act of treason.
Findlaw, Free Speech, Sedition, and Treason. January 10, 2021
How are free speech, sedition, and treason relevant to the issue of accountability? Simply put: Certain free speech can result in siditious conspiracy and that conspiracy can lead to treasonous acts. Justice can only be done when there is accountability and we have to be willing to hold people accountable. This may be the biggest problem of all in this situation and begs the question: Are we willing to hold everyone accountable who has accountability? That, my friends, is a really, really big group of people. Let’s look at just a few (or many) of them.
Donald J. Trump
Regardless of why he does it, Trump is on record ad nauseum pushing the boundaries of free speech and potentially engaging in seditious conspiracy. If we are willing to hold him accountable, despite all the risks of agitating his easily agitated Trumpists base, it is the purview of the Congress and the courts to determine his to determine his culpability and penalty. For this reason, the House is moving swiftly to act. But we must be willing for him to be held accountable.
The Republican Party/GOP
To be clear, in my family, social, and professional circles I associate with Americans who have diverse political views: Libertarian, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green Party, Socialists, Monarchists, Anarchists, and, yes, even Trumpists. The Republicans I know are as appalled by Trump, his actions this past week, and his repeated failures as I am. However, it has to be said that the Republican Party has been, and continues to be in this moment, missing in action. This is a crucial time for the GOP.
The Republican Party is afraid of holding Trump accountable for fear of losing the Trumpists but it fails to understand the long game. Not all Trumpists are the hard core followers who attempted the coup at the U.S. Capitol last week and who came to DC with guns and explosives. Many just wanted the experience of protesting in Washington, not an invasion. We know that because of the number of people who have since abandoned Trump and the Trumpists. Some members of the GOP did it in the votes to certify the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (e.g. Loeffler, Lankford, and Graham). As Foxs News and other outlets have reported there has been a flood of resignations since the Capitol invasion: cabinet members, senior staff, and lower level staffers did it by immediately resigning. At least one Trumpist rioter says showing up was the worst decision of his life and, as identities are exposed, arrests are made, and indictments come out, many other Trumpists may also have second thoughts.
If the GOP thinks the Trumpists are a valuable part of their constituency at this moment, they are wrong. The PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll shows that while the country is divided about removing Trump from office right now, the vast majority of Americans condemn the attempted coup on January 6th. The GOP does itself no favor now or in the future by failing to hold Trump and the Trumpists accountable. Doing so means it will lose even more support from the “average American” which is the real silent majority. We must be willing to hold the Republican Party accountable for its part.
The Democratic Party/Dems
In the spirit of transparency, I identify as a Democrat. However, I am not a “Proud Democrat” because I do not always agree with what the the Dems do. So why do I identify as a Democrat? Because the Dems, though sadly imperfect, align with my core value and belief in the greater good for all better than any of the other options…so far. That being said, the Dems are also accountable. The Dems are accountable because they have been complicit with the Republicans in creating the sharp political division that exists in this country. There have been many missed opportunities for the GOP and Dems to come together to govern for the greater good. They failed to do so because of outside interests, internal interests (aka politics), and, sometimes, just downright stubbornness. The intractability of their positions have resulted in a Congressional stalemate and national division it will take years to heal.
The Republican Party has been as partisan as possible during the periods it has controlled Congress over the past decade. The temptation for the Dems will be pay back. At least, that’s how it appears the game is played, and the game has been “on steroids” for the last generation or so.
The Dems have an opportunity to set a new standard of collaboration with Republicans. For the rational, non-Trumpists remaining in the GOP, collaboration will be especially important for helping establish the Republican Party again as an honorable, fair, and dependable opponent – not enemy. This, I believe, will be important for the healing of the country. For it to happen, though, we must be willing to hold the Democratic Party accountable for its part.
Individual Trumpist Legislators and other Trumpists
Accountability is already happening for this group but it is unclear how far it will go. Trumpist legislators (in both the House and the Senate) have unmasked themselves as Trumpists more than Republican. Major corporations are stepping back from financially supporting GOP Senators who objected to the certifcation of the 2020 election. It began with a trickle of three corporations early in the weekend, by Monday morning (today) there was a gush of corporations suspending support of Republicans who moved to de-certify the vote and even all political contributions. This trend is forecasted to grow and continue, especially toward others in the GOP if the Republican Party does not take steps to return the party to some semblance of what it used to be when it was really the Party of Lincoln.
How do we hold these lawless lawmakers accountable? You know the answer to that and it involves ballot boxes not bullets.
And what of the other Trumpists who were outside, then inside, the U.S. Capitol? It’s not looking very happy for them. There is a nationwide “manhunt” on for them. (Did they really not bother to consider that virtually everywhere in DC is in the view of surveillance cameras?) People have been arrested already from Hawai`i to Florida. Friends and family, who recognize their selfies and photos in social media, are calling the authorities.
As sad and tragic as it is for these deceived Americans, we must be willing to hold Trumpists accountable.
The Media (as an entitty, both news and social)
In an age when the velocity of information is faster than our ability to fully comprehend it, two things must be true:
The Media – in all its forms – has to be responsible
We must be media-wise critical thinkers
The Media has to be committed to doing good research on its stories and to reporting its findings honestly. Overall, I believe much of mainstream media does this. Most media outlets will not release a story unless there are multiple sources. Ideally, those sources will go on record but that doesn’t always happen out of fear of retribution, especially during the Trump administration. For that reason, they need to have even more sources to ensure the credibility and consistency of the story. Using anonymous sources is not any cause for alarm as long as it is made verifiable through multiple sources who give the same story. We should not give a single second of consideration to the Media sources that fail in this most basis responsibility to truth and unbiased reporting.
Okay, look, everyone has a bias. When the Media is wise and honorable, it is upfront and clear about that bias so consumers can make informed decisions about whether to pay attention to it.
Social media has a particularly difficult challenge because it tries to provide an open forum for people to engage one another. That’s fine…but part of holding them accountable might be regular tutoring in the restrictions of free speech from the National Constitution Center. Also, I think it is a mistake for social media to be allowed to get into the “news business.” Most do not appear to have the expertise, infrastructure, or interest in vetting their stories as professional journalists. All of this to say that accountability does include regulation of the social media.
The Media, in all its forms, has the responsibility of shining a light on the most important issues, events, and figures of our day. Let’s be honest. Donald J. Trump has been important only because he has held the Office of the President of the United States. Period. Prior to his riding the escalator down Trump Tower in New York to announce his candidacy, he was thought of as unimportant if he was ever thought about at all. The Media treated him as a sideshow during his campaign but then, when he moved inside the big top, as the ringmaster, he had the spotlight. We can hold the Media accountable by urging them to avoid the next sideshow and stay focused on what really matters. I get it…they have to give the Office of the President their attention and it just so happened Trump was in that office. But now they have a choice. What matters is not Trump’s posts on social media, rants, conspiracy theories, temper tantrums, lies, etc. Media is accountable because it empowered Trump to become larger than life and more important than he ever was. Now they need to be held accountable for keeping the microphones and cameras off of him.
Now, what if the Media fails to be responsible and self and external regulation fails? What are we consumers to do? We have to be critical thinkers on our own. We have to recognize the valuable role Media plays in our society and, at the same time, scrutinize and evaluate what it tells us and call it out when it is gets the fact wrong and when it spews minformations, half-truth, conpsiracy theories, and other lies. We must be willing to the hold the Media accountable for honesty, integrity, and focusing on what really matters.
We the People
In the final analysis it is We the People – all of who live in the United States and its territories – who need to hold ourselves accountable for failing to:
Protect our fragile democracy from relentless attacks.
Live out the basic lessons we learned as children on how to play well with others…even those we disagree with (this is also known as “civility”).
Speak truth to power.
Build open, honest, and kind relationships with one another.
Listen thoughtfully, patiently, and seek to understand what is being said before we respond.
Assume and believe in the best intentions of all of us.
See and respond compassionately to the cries of any and all of us who feel marginalized and left behind – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, status, faith, or political leanings – not just at this time of an unprecedented pandemic but always.
Follow the “Golden Rule” of treating others like, no, even better than, we would like to be treated.
Seek truth – not just the convenient kind that supports our ideology but the inconvenient truth that tests our ideology.
Research candidates and being clear on our most deeply held values and ideologies to ensure our candidates are in alignment.
Vote in every election in any legal way available to us to ensure that our voice is being heard and considered.
Call for accountability for all those I’ve mentioned here.
But, of course, we must be willing hold ourselves accountable. We are not without blame for what happened last week. We can and must do better in the future because our future depends on it. Will we?
Look, 2021, I’m not trying to put any pressure on you but, geez, 2020 was a really lousy, stinking, rotten, sucky year. Yes, I am expecting better of you but I also understand that things do not always go as planned. Still, do your best, okay? There are a lot of folks around the globe hurting because of what your predecessor gave us. Is it too much to ask for more good than bad over the next 12 months? Thanks for your consideration.
Here We Go Again
With temperatures dropping steadily and occasional skiffs of snow in the air, I pulled my wool Winter socks out of storage last week. If you have been a devotee of this blog (who isn’t except most of the world?) you know that one pair of wool socks, formerly known as Bert Left and Ernie Right, became an integral part of my pandemic survival plan.
I decided on the first day I wrote this blog to wear them daily without washing them for as long as possible. At the time I wasn’t sure how long that could have been. It could have been until I was given the choice of sleeping in the garage or in the house. Or it could have been until the dogs stopped coming to me for a head scratch or doggie treat. Or it might have been until the wool fabric rotted and fell off my feet or, alternatively, my feet rotted and poured out of the socks.
As it turned out, “as long as possible” was until May 27, 2020 and Day 72 of my daily blog-a-thon. Bert and Ernie went unwashed for the first 72 days of the pandemic. It was an experiment in my endurance, our household’s collective sense of smell, and, more importantly, Clemencia’s tolerance of her husband’s ill-considered behavior. Finally, in the Day 72 blog Bert and Ernie were no more. They blew it. They sneaked out of the house on their own without masks like too many Stupid People have done in the months of the pandemic. I could not longer abide such risk-taking and insubordination so they disappeared into the washing machine and dryer, emerging as new, but well worn, socks.
Or so I thought.
As I was putting my wool socks into my dresser drawer I heard a familiar voice:
Bert: Hey Bonehead, where ya’ been?
Ernie: Yeah, what did you do to us?
Me: What?!? You two are still alive?
Ernie: Well, not really alive, I mean, we ARE a figment of your imagination but, hey, we are a pretty real figment.
Me: It can’t be, I put you in the washing machine myself and I saw you tumbling in the dryer.
Bert: Uh-huh. We know. And we aren’t very appreciative of it…though we were really glad to be off your feet.
Ernie: So, Bonehead, where have we been and what did we miss?
Me: You’ve been in a box in the closet with my other wool socks that are too heavy to wear in warm weather.
Bert: Did we have our own box? We deserve our own box, you know. I mean, hey, people only read your drivel because of us.
Me: No, you didn’t have your own box. You were in with all the others.
Ernie: That’s a fine way to treat us, Bonehead. Think of all we did for you!
Me: Did for me!?!? You’re kidding right? Look at what I did for you! I gave you two personalities and brought you to life…even if only in my imagination.
Bert: Big deal! We didn’t need you for that, Bonehead. We came to life to help you out.
Me: Help me out!?! You almost killed me! You ran away without masks, got bored, came back, and waltzed in the door like you were entitled to be treated like the Prodigal Sons. No way! You might have brought the virus into our home.
Ernie: Hey, there was only one Prodigal Son, you numbskull. And did we bring the virus here?
Ernie: Then what are you whining about?
Bert: That’s enough of your complaining about all the good things we’ve done for you. Now, what did we miss while we were stuffed away with all those “other” socks?
Me: You missed a Presidential election. It looks like we are really going to get a new President of the United States.
Ernie: Is it that “Bootahedge” guy (or whatever his name was)? I kind of liked him.
Bert: Is it Bernie? I liked his hair and how stern he always looked. My kind of guy!
Me: No, it is Joe Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice-President.
Bert: Oh, well, that sounds fine. What’s going to happen with that Trumpet guy?
Me: You mean “Trump”?
Bert: If you say so.
Me: He has been doing everything he can to contest the election and say that he won…even though he lost by 7 million votes and in the Electoral College.
Ernie: How can he do that?
Me: Well, he can protest it but he can’t prove there was any cheating or that he actually won, so it seems Biden and Harris will be inaugurated in a couple of weeks.
Bert: What about the virus thing? I’m feeling a little congested myself.
Ernie: Bert, that’s only because we’ve been cramped into a box by Bonehead where we had to breathe in the fibers of other wool socks.
Me: The pandemic is roaring on. So far there are about 350,000 people dead and over 20 million cases of COVID-19 that have been reported in our country.
Bert: Wow, that seems like a lot. Hey, Ern, I’m thinking we need to go back into that box for a while, you know?
Ernie: Sounds like a good idea, Bert. Hey Bonehead, can you give us a lift back into the box.
Me: Nope! In fact, I’m wearing you today!
Bert and Ernie: Oh, great! Ugh!
If you haven’t already seen this, I think you’ll enjoy Dave Barry’s Year in Review for 2020. Of course, if you have already seen it, you may enjoy reading it again. I love the subtitle of this year’s article: “And we thought past years were awful.” That kind of says it all but Dave Barry says it in his own inimitable way. Enjoy!
The Religion News Service published a piece titled What Jesus Means to Me as a Muslim. It is not a long piece to read. It is quite thoughtful and interesting. It also has expanded my own understanding of Islam, for which I am appreciative.
It has been a while since I’ve included any song parodies in the Drivel. However, I did find one that I thought was share worthy. This is from Chris Mann and it is The 12 Days of Quarantine.
Have you ever wanted to yodel? Who hasn’t! Here’s a brief video from a young yoderler named Cassidy that will give you the basics.
The View from Jeff
I’ve got two fun Jeff Logan originals for this blog. One is Christmas themed and the other New Years. Hey, by the way, don’t forget to check out Jeff’s Instagrampage for more of Jeff’s fun and funny work.
I agree with Jeff. I’m so glad to have 2020 in the rearview mirror. As I was out walking yesterday I smelled a friend of mine nearby and followed my nose to his back deck where we chatted for a few minutes (and, yes, we were more than 6 feet apart). I know…it sounds terrible to say that I could smell him but I did, but allow me to explain. He smokes a distinctive brand of cigar and though I don’t know the brand, I knew it was him from about 50 yards away.
He is about four years older than me and we have played golf together on a few occasions. He is a Vietnam War veteran and saw some pretty scary and awful things in his military career. Despite all that he has seen in his life he said to me, “Tom, I never thought I would say this but with all we’ve been through this year, this is the worst time I’ve ever seen.” We talked about how our parents were born just prior to the Spanish Flu pandemic in the last century and how they also lived through the Great Depression. This pandemic is for us what those may have been for our parents. As frightening and discouraging as that could sound, we realized, though, that our parents made it through and it gave us hope and confidence that we will as well. Hope and confidence is what it will take to get us through…no matter how long it lasts.
Instead of the usual closing I’m going to leave you with one last video as a New Year’s greeting from Clemencia and me to you. Let’s all work together to make 2021 a happier, healthier, and healing year for all.
HO! (sigh) Ho! (sigh) ho. (deep sigh). It is tough to get into the holiday spirit this year, eh? Well this Klaus has a mixed bag of drivel for your holiday enjoyment. (Featured Photo by Tom Klaus: The Icelandic Yule Lads at The Pearl in Reykjavik, December 2019)
What Did She Say?
Actually, this is really cool. A 17-year-old student in Fort McMurray, Alberta (nearly as far North in Alberta as you can get…but not quite) entered and won the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. Not a small deal. She won a $250,000 scholarship for herself; $50,000 for her high school science teacher; and a $100,000 award for a new science lab at her school. How’d she do it? By explaining a complex scientific concept to drivelers like me. You can see Maryam’s award winning entry below.
We love the sound of music at Strathmore with its all wooden interior. And we especially love to hear Handel’s Messiah performed there by the National Symphony. Of course, it is not happening this year. Instead, the National Philharmonc is performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on this Sunday, December 20th at 2:00 PM in a physically distanced live concert. The concert is free to stream. You won’t be disappointed. The National Philharmonic has led the way in doing virtual performances during the pandemic. We’ve seen a couple of them and they are wonderul. Just navigate to this webpage, and scroll down to “How to Watch National Philharmonic.”
If old time and roots music is more your style (I love this as well as classical music), then check out the Common Ground on the Hill Holiday Concert Extravaganza, which will be broadcast live and free on its Facebook page beginning at 8:00 PM on Sunday, the 20th as well. Common Ground on the Hill is a Maryland Folk Life Center based at McDaniel College in Westminister. One of my dreams is to head off to Westminister (about 45 miles North of here) with my ukelele to attend their summer event in Westminister. For two weeks they offer all kinds of folk arts classes where I can study under ukelele virtuosos. Maybe next summer…or in 2022.
So, if you are looking for some special live holiday music, check these out. We hope to “see” you there!
The View from Jeff
You know, I’m not into wishing people “Happy Holidays” this year…which has been a pretty lousy, unhappy year overall all. This year Clemencia and I came up with a different holiday message for a very different year. We hope it speaks to you.
This past week we have been treated to some very beautiful and unique sunrises. Our kitchen dining table sits next to a window that faces East and the views are sometimes spectacular. My favorite sunrise this week, and in quite some time, is the one you see above.
Here’s another in which we caught the sun peeking over the horizon.
Here’s one more, from this Saturday morning, which has its own kind of beauty. It was foggy and the fog eerily highlighted the street lights.
Each day I try to take a 3 to 5 mile power walk. This year I’ve worn out two pairs of Skecher hiking shoes and just started on my third pair earlier this week. We have a walking trail that is 2.12 miles around and by the time I walk to the trail entrance and back home, it adds about a half mile. I am trying to walk four miles per hour but, so far, my best is 3.6 miles per hour. At 4 MPH I’m practically running – so I’m okay with the slower speed. When I run it is like when I wear shorts – it tends to scare small children. It really is better that I just walk fast.
On my walk I frequently see a beautiful great blue heron who lives on a pond in our neighborhood. A few weeks ago I saw the bird sitting at the very top of a tree and was struck by how large the bird looked compared to the branches it was perched upon. I took a couple of pictures and one of those is below.
I had to use the zoom function on my camera to get this picture but, unfortunately it doesn’t do the beautiful bird justice.
Here the heron looks like a fudgesicle on a stick tucked into the branches. Not very flattering for such a majestic creature. However, yesterday I saw the bird at its favorite pond and got a picture that does it justice and in which you can see where the blue in blue heron comes from.
Since my Mortality and the Season of Joy post last Monday, December 7th, I have received several very kind comments on Facebook, in Messenger, and even as blog comments. I read each and appreciate them all. A couple of them have even resulted in deeper conversations from with readers. Again, thank you for reading, for your interest, and for your comments.
Allow me to remind you that while I do post a link to TheDailyDrivel.com on my personal Facebook page when I write a new post, I have decided that I am not going to respond to people via Facebook. I am not “liking” responses, I am not responding to comments, and I am deleting comments that are offensive to me or which I judge to be rancorous. However, this does not mean you can’t communicate with me or that I won’t communicate with you.
You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can send me a comment via this blog. Do remember, though, all blog comments are moderated.
Blast from the Past of Stranger Things
It is about 7:00 AM on Sunday, December 13 when I am writing this. All is quiet inside our home. Outside there is the faint sound of traffic on Interstate 95 that we can sometimes hear and then there is this…listen carefully:
What did you hear?
If you think you hear a tuba playing some kind of “oompa” music, you were not mistaken. The music continued for at least an hour. It was an interesting way to start a Sunday morning.
It reminded me of growing up on our farm in Iowa where my mother would awaken me in the morning with any of the following music:
In her country music phase it was Eddy Arnold’s “Cattle Call.”
It was all, frankly, a bit jarring, regardless of the tune or genre.
Still, today, the tuba caught my attention and took me back.
The Pew Research Center published an interesting piece in its FactTank: News in the Numbers on December 11th. Twenty Striking Findings in 2020 is a striking piece to read and view (lots of interesting graphs and charts). Item #3 caused us to race to the front door to make sure it was securely locked. It read:
For the first time since at least the Great Depression, a majority of young adults in the U.S. were living with their parents this year.
Forty years ago today, December 7, 1980, my father began the final year of his life.
This reflection has been stuck in my mind for several days now so it is time to process it. Those who are familiar with my writing in TheDailyDrivel.com know it is a stream of consciousness blog and it is likely to go in any number of directions. Sometimes, like today, it comes out as a memoir.
A quick word about memoirs. My parents had four children – my three sisters and me. However, each of us grew up in four different families with these same parents. That’s not unusual. The experience each child has in its family is unique due to birth order, number of siblings, family circumstances, state of the parents’ relationship, etc., etc. By the time I came along (my youngest sister is 10 years my senior) the family experience I had was different from my sisters. For this reason, my memories and memoir is not theirs and never can be, anymore than theirs can be mine. It is not my intention to speak for them and their experience with our parents because I cannot. Hence anything I write here should not be associated to them. Family therapists have more eloquent ways of explaining this phenomenon of siblings growing up in different families with the same parents, but I hope this will suffice for now.
My father died on December 6, 1981, on my sister Carol’s birthday and in my 27th year. Yesterday, of course, was the 40th anniversary of his death. In his book, Tuesday’s with Morrie, Mitch Albom observes, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
I have a complicated relationship with my father. He was an alcoholic, and his drinking was particularly bad throughout my teens. However, I now understand he struggled with addiction for many years before and after that period. In my earliest years we lived in a four-room house on my grandfather’s farm. It had a toilet but no bathing facilities. In the cold months we bathed in a tub in the kitchen and, in the warm months, under a rigged up hose and shower nozzle in the cellar. When I was entering grade school we moved into my grandfather’s house, after he moved to town, where we had a bathtub in an upstairs room and a toilet in a small room on the main floor. In junior high school we moved from my grandfather’s house on the family farm into another four-room, one and a half story house in town. It was an exciting move because, for the first time, we had a bathtub and toilet together in the same bathroom. Odd the things that stand out in our memories, eh?
That house in town was small for three people. The last of my three sisters had moved away from home six or seven years before our move. From about age 8 on I was an “only child” with my sisters grown, married, and moved out. Sometimes my mom and dad seemed to be more like grandparents than parents. I had nieces and nephews who were only three to five years younger than me. It was a bit weird to see my parents be grandparents while they were still supposed to be parents to me.
In truth, though, I parented them. My dad would walk home from the bar most afternoons in time for supper in a state of near black out. He would have driven the three blocks home but he’d often forget that he drove his truck there. My mother spent most evenings raging at my dad for his drinking until she finally went to her bedroom on the 2nd floor. Dad’s blackout state meant he never noticed, or remembered, the raging. But I do. I also remember how everyday I felt like I had to keep the peace. Sometimes covering for my dad. Sometimes siding with my mom. Often putting my dad to bed at night. Always strategizing on how to keep some level of peace in our home. There were days when that small house felt like a tiny house with walls that kept moving inward.
The stress of parenting my parents was enormous. Our family doctor observed my father walking to and from the bar each day (he had to walk right by the doctor’s office) and likely surmised what was happening in our home. He knew that I was under extraordinary stress as a teenager. During a routine sports exam, he noted the impact it was having on me and prescribed mild sedatives to help me manage the anxiety. However, I was scared of drugs of any kind as well as alcohol, so I took them sporadically for a month and never refilled the prescription. In that time my family had more in common with the Vance family of Hillbilly Elegy than any of the smiling, middle-class, white families we watched on TV sitcoms.
There was one day each year I looked forward to: Christmas Eve. It had nothing to do with religiosity or gifts. It was all about the opportunity to be just a kid. As a family we were a mixed bag religiously. My two oldest sisters were raised as Lutherans and my youngest sister and I were raised as Methodists. In our German family’s tradition we celebrated Christmas Eve. It was the time when all my sisters and their families came home. On that one night I did not have to feel solely responsible for keeping peace between my parents. My sisters were there to run interference and I could laugh, play, and be a kid.
My mom was an amazing cook and baker. The food on Christmas Eve was unlike any other day of the year. I loved Christmas eve. In fact, after I graduated from high school and moved out, I always made a point of being home for Christmas Eve. Until 1978.
In September 1978 I became the minister of a thriving rural church in Iowa. It was located over three hours from my hometown and had a tradition of holding a Christmas Eve service. In 1978, for the first time in my life, I had to miss Christmas Eve in order to lead the service at the church. My duties during that time meant I also missed Christmas Eve at home in 1979 and 1980.
In 1981 I changed jobs and it meant that I’d be able to join my family again for Christmas Eve. I was very excited. By the late 1970’s my mom and dad seemed to have achieved a different way of being in their life together. Mom seemed a bit softer and Dad’s drinking seemed to be more controlled. I had heard from Mom that Dad had missed me being home for Christmas Eve and was really looking forward to my return for the holiday.
I made it home but I was both too early and too late. I was called at work on Monday, November 30th and told my dad had fallen ill in the middle of the night. I drove home and took turns sitting with him in the hospital until he died the following Sunday, December 6, 1981.
Odd things happen in the moment when people pass away. I remember two things that happened. First, my mom turned to my sister, on whose birthday Dad died, and said, “Happy birthday, Carol.” That elicited a gasp from the nurses. Then all of my immediate family members – sisters and brothers-in-laws – turned to me and said, nearly in unison, “What do we do now?” Everyday since I have felt the unrelenting emotional weight of responsibility for my family.
For the past several days my heart has been carried back to Iowa by these memories. In fact, the memories have been intense and unshakable, hence the need to write. I think they are so strong because I’m also wrestling with my mortality, and that of people I know back home, in the midst of this terrible spike in COVID-19.
Another friend told me this week that she is scared of what is happening with the pandemic because it is all so out of control. I agree. I’m scared too. I think we’d both agree that our fear is not so much about the virus. We both know how to mitigate it and we do the things we need to do to protect ourselves: mask up, physical distance, wash hands, etc. Our fear is rooted, instead, in the actions of people who are not taking it seriously and who, out of ignorance, or political leanings, or both, refuse to take the same precautions. We can protect ourselves from a virus easier than we can protect ourselves from such stupidity.
In facing my own mortality, I remembered my dad on the anniversary of his death. None of us knew on December 7, 1980 that he would have only 365 more days. I thought there would be another chance to be at home for Christmas Eve.
Yes, my relationship with my dad was complicated. For all the ways his addiction prevented him from being present in my life, he did one thing for which I am forever grateful: he did not confine me to the same life to which he had been confined. He let me go and, in fact, was proud of me for going.
I saw his pride in one thing he did which seemed silly at the time. In the Spring before I graduated from high school I received a financial award letter from the community college in Burlington. My dad thought I had received a merit scholarship. He got so excited for me that he tracked me to an athletic event I was attending in another town and hand delivered the letter to me. I opened the letter and read it, but it wasn’t a merit scholarship at all, only an award based on financial need. He was so proud, I didn’t have the heart to tell him it wasn’t what he thought.
In the Fall of 1981, when I learned he was looking forward to me coming home for Christmas Eve, the trip took on a new meaning for me. It was no longer about respite, but a way of saying thanks to my dad for letting me go. I never got to say thank you and Christmas Eve has not been the same since. Today it comes and goes with a bit of sadness.
What is the most appropriate adjective this year, of all years, for the phrase “_____ Thanksgiving?”
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Lib Thanksgiving
At least one family I know has a fun and funny Thanksgiving tradition. Each year, after dinner, the family sits around the table doing a Mad Lib that has been written by a family member. You remember Mad Libs right?
Those are the fill-in-the-blank stories which are created when people suggest nouns, verbs, and adjectives without knowing what the story is really about. For example, they might be asked for an adjective, verb, and noun for this line:
(ADJECTIVE) Tony (VERB) to the store and bought a (NOUN).
Of course, Mad Libbers don’t actually know the line so the complete sentence could turn out to be very funny, very nonsensical, and even very racy. Usually, they are just very funny. Like, “Upside down Tony gargled to the story and bought a new tire.” Okay, okay…I thought it was funny.
This year we have an actual Mad Lib Thanksgiving. What is the adjective we will use to describe it? Frankly, “happy” doesn’t work for me because this has been a year of such unhappiness for so many and it still isn’t over. While I write the rest of this blog, I’m going to continue to think about how I will answer the question I posed at its beginning.
If you are looking to take a break from the endless news cycle and COVID-19 ravaged football games, there are three short pieces I recommend you read today. All came into my email inbox over the past 24 hours and each spoke to me in different ways. Just click on the header link to access each of them.
Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor and writer from Maine, writes a daily blog which my friend Dave introduced me to a few months ago. In this blog she writes about the history of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It doesn’t follow the story we all learned as children – you know, kindly Pilgrims and even more kindly Indigenous people who didn’t let the Pilgrims starve. It focused instead on how President Abraham Lincoln came to proclaim the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. More fascinating than how it came to be is why it came to be. I won’t bury the headline but I won’t give it away either. Be sure to give it a read yourself.
Last week, David Leonhardt, the writer of the The Morning newsletter, in the New York Times, asked readers to send him six words that describe what made them thankful in 2020. I found it to be – all at the same – the most beautiful, moving, sweetest, and saddest of all articles I’ve read recently. After a very brief introduction by Leonhardt, the remainder of the article features the six word descriptions submitted by reader. Leonhardt received over 10,000 replies and, of course, he could not publish them all. Here are six that touched me, but, please, take a few minutes and read his list:
This is a blog written by my friend Geri Seiberling. She and her husband, Kevin, started etc!graphics, a visual communications company, in Carlisle, Iowa in 1988. Their office is directly across the street from the building that house the office of my first consultancy business, which I opened in 1998. Geri and Kevin were very helpful to me in establishing the “look” of that business. Unfortunately, that business was just beginning to get a foothold in 2001 when the events of September 11th happened. The subsequent impact on the U.S. economy forced me to finally close the business in 2004 though it actually died in late 2001 and early 2002.
For this Thanksgiving holiday, Geri published her blog as a letter about the year 2020 to her future self (to be opened again next year at this time). It is one of the most creative, hopeful, optimistic pieces I’ve read this year. It very much reflects Geri as I remember her. I’ve not seen her or Kevin since I left Iowa in 2005 but I remember their office was a place I could always stop by when I needed good advice, a sounding board, or just a word of hope and optimism.
Answering the First Question
I opened this blog with this question: What is the most appropriate adjective this year, of all years, for the phrase “_____ Thanksgiving?” I’m going to try to fill in that blank now.
This year I have become more aware of my privilege as a white American male than ever before. My awareness was further expanded about 12 hours ago.
Last night we had a Thanksgiving Zoom with our children. A daughter is in Brooklyn, New York, three hours away. A son and daughter-in-law are in Columbia, Maryland, fifteen minutes away. All three reported being overworked and wildly stressed. All three looked exhausted and like they had aged several years over the past several months. I’m guessing we must have looked older and more worn to them too.
However, we all also reported that we feel fortunate to be in a different place than some of our friends who have lost jobs, income, and loved ones to COVID-19. Also, we have all remained healthy. Only one of us has had a possible exposure to the virus that necessitated COVID-19 testing. We all regularly mask up, maintain physical distance, and otherwise do the right things to ensure we remain healthy, protect others, and don’t become a burden to the already overburdened health system. And, we all feel a certain amount of survivor’s guilt to be so fortunate so far.
I understand my privilege now extends to being one who still has a regular income, a place to call my home, food on the table, minimal worries about the physical health of our children, fewer worries about our children’s financial health and well-being than some parents, a plan to stay safe and well, and the resources to animate that plan.
How dare I, from this position of privilege and through this lens, wish anyone a “Happy” Thanksgiving this year? I don’t dare.
Wherever you are, whatever your situation, I can only hope for you a restful, peaceful, and safe Thanksgiving.
I went back in time yesterday at the point of a needle. As the Walgreen’s pharmacist pushed the needle in, I was transported back to Doc DeYarman’s office in Morning Sun, Iowa.
Doc DeYarman’s office was on the second floor of one of the buildings that lined our single main street in Morning Sun. I don’t remember him clearly. He gave me my childhood immunizations and was my doctor until I was about 10 years old…then he moved away. I’ve always felt a little responsible for that in the same way that I’ve felt responsible for the death of my piano teacher. I had one lesson…then she died. I must have been a really hopeless student and, perhaps, all the wailing and kicking I did in the doctor’s office disqualified me as a patient, too. Happily for me, he only moved away.
Because I saw him so early in my life I do not have many clear memories of him. I do remember laboriously climbing the stairs to his office. With each step I took, my feet seemed to get heavier, my anxiety and dread escalated, and I would begin to whine that I was feeling much better and didn’t need to see him after all.
I also remember his scary white coat. Seriously…I really think it was just like this one, with straight up collars, like mad scientists wear in the movies.
In fact, now that I think about it, this could be a picture of Doc because I don’t remember what he looked like. As far as I know, he may actually have been headless.
The only other thing I remember was the needle he used. I’m pretty sure there was just one that he used on everyone and it was just a sharpened Slurpee straws. Okay, that may be an exaggeration…it was probably a sharpened plastic coffee stirrers. Whatever it was, it was gigantic and it hurt.
Which brings me back to Walgreens. I can’t say that getting shots is my favorite experience (Gee, THANKS, Doctor DeYarman!) but as I’ve grown up and older, I find it a much more tolerable experience. Until yesterday.
As soon as she started pushing the vaccine into my arm it began to hurt and I feared I’d flashback to being a child in Doc’s second floor office. However, except for a moment when I imagined throwing myself on the floor and wailing like I was being attacked by a million honeybees, I was just fine. I stood up, thanked the pharmacist, walked out of the little medical privacy area (where such procedures are performed), and made my way through a crowd of people who had raced over to find out what was going on. (Perhaps my wailing was not imaginary?)
I did ask the pharmacist why the shot hurt so much. She explained that the vaccine for shingles is a slightly thicker liquid than for flu or pneumonia and many other vaccines. In fact, it has to be mixed by the pharmacist before it can be administered. Of course, I had to get the last word in so I said, “Okay, I get that. But does it still have to be as thick as maple syrup?” She laughed maniacally, as she pulled at the top button on her mad scientist’s coat, and said, “You know there are two shots you have to get for shingles now, don’t you? Just wait until you get your second shot, funny man!”
By the middle of the day yesterday my left arm was really sore. By nightfall I was not feeling well and by the time I went to bed I was updating my Last Will and Testament. I had a lousy night’s sleep and today my brain is not much good for anything except for writing a blog. Lucky you, huh?
Clemencia, my delightful spouse who possesses an infinite amount of optimism, reminded me regularly throughout the day “the pain of shingles is far worse than the discomfort of the shot.” I just hate it when medical people (of which she is a retired one) say, “This is going to be a little uncomfortable.” Then, of course, it hurts like H-E-Double Toothpicks, right?
Unfortunately, as in most things, she is right. Shingles is a horrifically painful disease and the “uncomfortable” shots are a preferred alternative.
Aside from being in a post-shingles vaccine delirium, why am I writing this today? Because everyone has a big decision to make about the COVID-19 vaccine when it is finally widely available. It will be important for as many Americans as possible to get vaccinated if we want to eventually live pandemic free. I know some folks are not comfortable with vaccines on principle. Some folks don’t like needles and getting shots. I’m in the latter group myself but this is really important. As Clemencia would say, “a little discomfort saves a lot of pain.”
The pain of COVID-19, as we now know so well, is not measured in sore arms and a lousy night’s sleep. It is measured in destroyed organs, the inability to be with loved ones in their final moments, and, of course, death.
Whatever your feeling about needles, shots, and vaccines in general, I hope to see you in a COVID-19 vaccine line sometime, somewhere soon.
On Saturday night we went to Pluto…and a little further…just for fun. And it was fun, cool, incredible, and downright really good!
Back in March we had hoped to attend a potluck dinner and presentation at our Quaker Meeting with friends from Baltimore County. The presentation was to be done by Alice Bowman, who is a member of our Meeting and who is Mission Operations Manager (MOM) for NASA’s New Horizons project mission to Pluto and beyond at the Johns Hopkins Applied Science lab just a few miles from our home. Notably, Alice is the first woman to fill the role of Mission Operations Manager, by the way.
Her March presentation had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it was not until now that she was able to deliver it to our Meeting. And, of course, the presentation was by Zoom. However, that did not make it any less fascinating. Alice recounted the story of New Horizons, which launched in January 2006 shortly after it was demoted as a planet. Though this was a blow to her team, they carried on. In July 2015 New Horizons flew by Pluto and took some extraordinary photos of the planet, such as the one you see above in this blog. With the flyby New Horizons entered the history books.
However, New Horizons is not finished. On January 1, 2019 it also did a flyby of another object in the Kuiper Belt. Now known asArrokoth, the object has a most unusual shape. Be sure to check it out.
New Horizons has continued to fly outward from the Earth at a record breaking speed of 36,400 mph. At this point, New Horizons is only halfway through its mission. It has enough fuel to keep going until the mid-2030’s and, hopefully, it will continue to send photos back of everything it sees out there.
Last Saturday we were joined by our friends from Baltimore County and also friends from Kansas. As much as we like to disrespect Zoom after so many months of being confined to it, it would not have been possible to gather these friends, or the whole of our Meeting, without it.
If you’d like to see the presentation…or one very similar to it…check out this 53 minute presentation from YouTube featuring Alice speaking to an astronomy group.
Kudos to Alice and the New Horizon’s team for a series of amazing feats of daring and skill to bring Pluto closer to us all! All I can say is “Wow!” And I still prefer to think of Pluto as a planet.
After several months of hanging out on my professional website I decided it was time to give The Daily Drivel it’s own home. So, here we are. Nice view huh?
Welcome to the new home of The Daily Drivel!
After several months of hanging out on my professional website I decided it was time to give The Daily Drivel it’s own home. So, here we are. Nice view huh?
If you followed it before, no problem. All of that content has been moved over to this new site and you should still be able to see it. You can even read it again…but I’m not sure why you would.
So this will be brief today. It’s a crazy busy time for me in the real world of work so I’ve not had much chance to post a Drivel in a while. I did hear there was a Presidential election in the U.S. but it could just be fake news. 🙂
In the time I’ve been away, the most monumental thing is what happened in Canada. If you’re a reader of the Drivel you know Jeff Logan is a friend and regular contributor to The Daily Drivel. Jeff Logan, who lives in Calgary, Alberta (hence the Canadian connection), has added something new to his resume. He is now Dr. Jeff Logan having earned his PhD in Organizational Leadership from Eastern University. He crossed the finish line on November 10 when he defended his research and dissertation titled, Laughing and Leading Together: The Effective Use of Affilitative Humor by Indigenous Leaders in Southern Saskatchewan. Say THAT three times without tripping over your tongue!
In his most recently cartoon contribution Jeff is discovering the sad reality of completing a PhD program…you are never really done until the last edit is made. Congratulations Jeff!
The View from Jeff
That’s it for now! Don’t be Stupid People! Wear a mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands.