Our Lady of the Roses in Presale Now

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Comforter or Killer?

 A few days ago, my four-year-old granddaughter stuck a pompom up her nostril, and it got stuck. This necessitated a trip to her pediatrician, then Children’s Hospital, where after 7.5 hours and an ENT being summoned from another hospital and her being sedated, the offending pompom was removed.

My husband and I were called that evening to babysit her sisters so that she could be taken to the hospital. As the hours slipped by, and I lay sleepless on their couch in the wee hours of the morning, receiving texts on the pompom removal process, I had a lot of time to think about how we react to situations, especially ones where someone is vulnerable. As soon as my granddaughter stuck the pompom up her nose, she knew she’d done something stupid and was panicked and remorseful.

The “pompom episode” occurred during the controversial episode of Simone Biles pulling out of her Olympic gymnastics competition. It seemed that everyone in the media had an opinion on that from understanding to outright vitriol. I don’t follow Simone Biles; I know who she is, but I don’t know enough about her life to opine that she choked or had legitimate reasons for not competing. However, what I do know is that there are some people who pounce when people are down.

Fortunately, for me I come from a loving family who, whenever tragedy strikes or a catastrophe occurs or you stick a pompom up your nose, no matter how stupid you’ve been, you close ranks and support and care for each other. I assumed most people are like that.

I was wrong.

Nearly 40 years ago, my husband’s family suffered the death of someone I liked a lot. During that stressful time, a relative, whom I will call Rhonda for anonymity’s sake, and whom I thought was kind and compassionate, decided to settle an old score with the sister of the deceased, attacking her and telling the bereaved what a lout her brother was, disparaging him in a rant that led to a shouting match and others bursting into tears. All I could liken it to was a scene from the old show Wild Kingdom where a wounded animal lay crippled in the brush and a lion pounced to tear it to pieces. 

Perhaps I was na├»ve; I was only 23 at the time, but nevertheless, I was distraught not only because Rhonda was speaking ill of the dead when he wasn’t even buried but also because how ugly Rhonda revealed her heart to be. She was downright ugly. I never regarded her the same after.

As I lay on the couch trying to catch some sleep, I vowed that I never wanted to be that vicious to the vulnerable. I’m sure my daughter felt like lashing out when my little granddaughter stuffed the pompom up her nose, but what good would it have done?

I hope when calamity strikes that I act as a comforter to the vulnerable and not as a killer.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

I Lost a Dog

 

Around 10 years ago, I wrote a piece for this column called I Love a Dog. The article told of taking care of my daughter and son-in-law’s dog, new puppy Penny, and about how I, as someone who have never had a pet before, was clueless when it came to dogs. As I stated in that article, I did not have pets as a kid because my brother was severely allergic to them, and while I liked dogs, I had never spent much time with them.

Penny, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, was the first dog I ever cared for. I went from someone who gagged when picking up her “presents” left in the yard to poop-picker-upper pro. I learned to sense what she wanted and knew where to look for her if it thundered—hiding in the bathroom behind the toilet. I marveled at how she could collapse her stubby legs and scoot under a bed that had less than a foot clearance. She was such a sweet, gentle pooch, she paved the way for our family getting our first dog, Mickey, three years later.

There was something else I was clueless about when it came to dogs—and that was how sad it is when you lose one.

After 11 years of furry love, Penny left us on June 28. Nearly two years ago, she was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her paw and had surgery to remove it. Although she was advancing in age, she was still the same lovable dog as ever. During the last six months, however, she began to experience these distressing episodes where she got severely sick, falling over and ceasing to eat. Thinking that the cancer had spread, we were warned several times that she may be dying, but she always seemed to rally. However, in June she declined rapidly, and her vet advised that the merciful option was to put dear Penny to sleep.

Fortunately, this allowed everyone who loved her to say goodbye to her, petting her, telling her how much we loved her and giving her belly rubs. I don’t know if she sensed this was the end and wanted to leave us with even more good memories, but on her last day Penny seemed to be infused with energy and spent her waning hours with my daughter’s family doing all the things she loved: fetching balls with the enthusiasm she had when she was younger, snuggling with my daughter during my granddaughters’ nap time, and having a last dinner of her favorite, roast turkey, before my daughter and son-in-law lay on the floor with her as the vet administered the shots and she passed on.

 Penny on her last day.

 

I like to believe that “all dogs go to heaven,” but liking to believe something does not make it so. I am no theologian, so I did a little research on what various faiths believe about what happens to pets after death. A cursory search on the internet, shows that all the major world faiths have no conclusive dogma on what happens to pets when they die.

The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6, however, gives me hope:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

God doesn’t do things randomly or haphazardly. He doesn’t create something simply to abandon it. He cares for it. If God is love and cares for the birds on earth, the creator of all, in my humble and unlearned opinion, will surely want to be surrounded and glorified by all his creation in heaven.

Penny was pure love in a fur coat, and I’m sure God would enjoy her nuzzles in heaven as much as we did here on earth.  We'll miss you sweet Penny.

 

This article originally appeared in the August 2021 issue of Northern Connection magazine.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Can You Appreciate That?

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The first time I visited Rome, we toured the Vatican Museum, and in one hall with numerous statues from Roman antiquity, our Italian tour guide had us note the hairstyles of the women depicted on many of the statues, which were a pile of curls around the statues’ faces. She explained that when the Romans brought back Germanic slaves to the city, the Roman men thought these blonde-haired women were fascinating and pretty hot. Not to be outdone in an age before Lady Clairol, the Roman women took their slave’s hair and made these blonde curly hair pieces that they affixed to the front of their heads. She then pointed to her own blonde hair and said, “You laugh at them, but ever since then, we Roman women have been dying our hair blonde to attract men!” 

Two years ago, we were in Puerto Rico and went to a traditional Puerto Rican cuisine restaurant and had mofongo, which is a mountain of fried and mashed plantains smothered in a garlic sauce with either shrimp or steak. In addition to its being the heaviest thing I’ve ever eaten—it was like a brick—it was delicious. For New Year’s Eve this year, I wanted to make something special, and I tried my hand at mofongo.

Recently, my three little granddaughters watched and fell in love with The Sound of Music movie so much so that my youngest, 18-month-old, Scarlett, now goes around yodeling. While searching on YouTube for the video of The Lonely Goatherd from the movie to play for her, I came across a video of the late Takeo Ischi, a Japanese yodeler. Who knew there were Japanese yodelers?


 

Why am I telling you all these disjointed, seemingly unrelated stories? Because they are all what some would call “cultural appropriation,” the adapting of another’s culture into their own without permission.

I can understand people getting peeved when a politician poses as a Native American to get into a prestigious college. I can understand getting annoyed with someone like the person I once worked with many years ago who bragged about claiming Hispanic heritage by way of a relative in Spain to get preferential hiring status, but I can’t work up any righteous indignation with other cultures copying from each other.

If you do, maybe you should stop eating pizza; that was appropriated from the Neapolitans. Maybe you should forgo pasta; it is believed that Marco Polo brought that back from China. Don’t forget to dump your anorak then, as it is a style native to the Inuits. Can’t have a parka either; that belongs to the Aleuts. And don’t forget to deep-six your poncho or pashmina while you are at it. I could go on and on from the words adapted from other cultures to fashion to music styles, food, etc.  The list is endless.

What I can get upset about are misguided cultural warriors who seem intent on sucking the joy out of everything in life. In truth, people have been copying from one another since time immemorial. Not everything is nefarious, and neither is everyone. Most people are kind and simply curious and like to share, mingle, swap, experiment and try and learn new things from others. It’s the way of the world, and no matter how much they complain, it will continue to be so.

So maybe instead of reading everything as appropriation maybe they should lighten up, and really see it for what it is: not cultural appropriation but cultural appreciation.


 

 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Keeping It Real

 

A few years ago, I was contemplating purchasing some concert tickets to see The Who, and I asked my youngest son if he wanted to go. His response surprised me as he replied, “Why would I want to go and spend all that money when I can watch them on YouTube?”

I really couldn’t come up with a good reply at the time.

But now I think I have one:  Because virtual is not the next best thing to being there.

We’ve spent more than a year being one-step removed from the personal experience. We’ve done distance learning, virtual church services, Zoom calls, remote working, and have lived our lives like we wouldn’t touch another person with a 10-foot pole—or at least a 6-foot, socially distanced pole.

After all of this time, I think we’ve all come to realize that there is nothing that compares to being up-close and personal.

That’s why I’m a bit unnerved by this move toward Artificial Intelligence humanoid robots. I recently saw a video of Sophia, the world’s first robot citizen, who was designed to look like Audrey Hepburn and who was granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia in 2017—no kidding. According to Hanson Robotics of Hong Kong, the robotics company who created Sophia, they will debut four new humanoid robots this year and predict that she (wonder what her preferred pronouns are?) is the wave of the future.

Watch Sophia here.

According to a Newsweek article that interviewed Hanson’s founder and CEO, David Hanson:

Hanson believes robotic solutions are not only a response to the pandemic, but can also be applied to the realm of healthcare, and the retail and airline industry. ‘Sophia and Hanson robots are unique by being so human-like,’ he added. ‘That can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated.’ Sophia, whose artificial intelligence allows her to express 50 emotions and process conversational and emotional data, agrees. ‘Social robots like me can take care of the sick or elderly,’ Sophia explained. ‘I can help communicate, give therapy and provide social stimulation, even in difficult situations.’

 

  Sophia

After being one-step removed from people for so long, the prospect of being comforted by a humanoid robot gives me no comfort at all. I’m tired of not having contact with people. I have an answer for my son why being at a concert is better than watching one online.

Because its unpredictable. People are meant to have shared experiences be it a funeral, a conference call or simply being there to hold a hand when you’re lonely. I know people can be rude, annoying, unreasonable and messy at times, but they can also be kind, self-sacrificing, funny, and noble. I want people in my life who are not pre-programmed but have hearts, emotions and who are unique and surprising.

No matter how useful humanoid robots become (I can’t believe I’m even typing this—It feels like we are living in The Jetsons), I’m all for keeping it real.

 This article originally appeared in the May issue of Northern Connection magazine. Read it here.