A Writer’s Week Wrecked by Public Tragedies…or not?

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The “It comes in Threes” began with a Spade

It all started with random comments made when I would check my Facebook feed sporadically earlier this week while juggling summer camp schedules and other countless domestic duties. After reading similar posts saying: “Kate Spade, so sad, RIP” I decided it was time to investigate further.

The news was everywhere and I felt sadness for a woman and her family whom I don’t know—truth be told, I would often see her purses in the department stores and thought them clever and cute but never bought one for myself.

Out of respect for the work she put it into her fashion line with the support of family and friends, however, I wish I had if only to take a moment to say “thank you” to her for coming up with a fun line of products that many people have come to enjoy and share with others through the years.  We sometimes wish that we could have helped another person in pain after the fact right?

No Reservations, Parts Unknown and Clearly No Idea

Friday morning arrives with a foggy mindset as I had been doing my best not to read too much about depression and suicidal tendencies in the wake of Kate Spade’s personal tragedy made public and dissected by everyone who took the time to type, tap or dictate their view on the how, why and what to do to avoid more macabre news notifications.

Again the social media water cooler lit up with the news of yet another soul departed by their own devices. The setting was in France this time starring Anthony Bourdain: his buddy found him and then as I finally just pulled up one of the news websites like CNN it became real and now the tears started to burn. Bourdain found dead by apparent suicide and while on-site filming for a new season of his “Parts Unknown”.  This particular show has been a way for me to vicariously live through his travels and be inspired to have courage in my culinary choices as I most recently tried Jamaican food in a local gas station–while the outside appearance of the establishment was unsavory, the food within is heavenly. (note: Mama D’s Calabash for my local readers in Palm Beach County)

At this point I stopped reading anything online or by way of smart phone except to dispatch some personal messages to some friends about it. When Friday afternoon rolled in, so did a fantastic thunderstorm outside our home here in south Florida with violent flashes of raw electricity and rattling thunder. I walked into our pantry and pulled out a fine red wine and paired it with some cheese from Switzerland (another inspiration from Bourdain, wine and cheese make great bedfellows all over the world). As I drank the wine slowly and savored the cheese, I lit a candle and watched the waterworks rage outside with life-wrestling drama.

Now the tears started to moisten my stoic and disciplined eyes. Simultaneously I felt mad and sad. There were waves of jealously coupled with tremors of righteous anger from feelings that injustice had been rampant this week with the public news of these suicides while there were probably many others in the world who died similarly this week but most of the social media users and cable news companies will never know about.

I didn’t cry as I prayed for Spade and Bourdain’s souls watching the storm continue outside our window, the lights flickering for a moment after a close bolt of lightning struck across the street. You see, I believe many people struggle with depression. Perhaps it could be argued that every human being on this Earth will have a depressive episode even if only once in their life. When these suicidal tragedies occur, there are some of us that feel relief that we dodged the proverbial bullet at least this time.

We can do the research, the therapy and the general public is capable of pontificating our views on the matter of depression and the links to suicide with or without scientific reasoning. Here’s what I know from experiences with depression in my lifetime: it doesn’t discriminate and the dark battles within us all can rival the best cinematic representation of fights, i.e. Lord of Rings or Game or Thrones visuals. It can be lonely and dangerous.

It’s positive that we’re having these discussions regarding depression and the afflictions that can result from it as uncomfortable as they can be at times. How we treat each other really does affect us. People are more connected than they realize and I don’t just mean through “friending” or “snapchatting” each other. We’re in a time of great social evolution but we can get stuck in the mud too easily with our emotional reactions to each other as we interact.

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“Things That Matter”: Crying Now

While still letting the recent news of Bourdain’s simmer and reduce, I made the habitual swipe and tap to check social media only to see a note about a farewell letter from Charles Krauthammer. In the whirly dervish of the past several months of political and economics news cycle it was somehow lost on me that I hadn’t seen him in person during “talking head” shows.

As I read his letter aloud to my husband, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/interactive/2018/06/08/fox-news-charles-krauthammer-says-goodbye-to-colleagues-friends-and-viewers.html ,the tears started cascading and making it difficult for me to keep my voice calm as his words came alive in our living room. Thomas and I cut our teeth politically in Washington, D.C. together and we always enjoyed Krauthammer’s commentaries in print and in person. As moderates ourselves who believe in people over party, we found his discourse refreshing and hope its legacy continues.

My tears may have been partly for Charles having to suffer physically from such an illness but I suspect my heart also breaks for so many of us that find it difficult to find Peace in our respective lives while we still have healthy breaths to live. We can fall into the trap of hurting each other and ourselves when we lose the stillness and grace of Spirit in this world. Krauthamer loves chess and now sees his “checkmate” ahead and shares an uncommon candor in accepting his fate in the calm letter to the world about it.

Weekend Renewal

Like John Lennon once sung in “Believe” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRhq-yO1KN8, I do hope and believe in the idea that people can strive for peace within themselves as well as with each other to “be as one”. +

R.V.S.Bean

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Socially Responsible Investing and Our iChildren, Androidkids or Cybernanny

A possible art piece in the future: sketch by Ramona

Welcome to 2018: a year where those who have the largest shares in big companies like Apple Inc. (AAPL) are in a position to exert their self-proclaimed moral responsibility to address the astonishing rate at which humans are interacting with the computer processors on their smartphones and similar devices.

The Premise

The article released this past Saturday, January 7th by the Wall Street Journal reports that there is currently a push by some large shareholders in Apple that are calling for the company to make changes to their systems to help parents exert more control and limit phone usage. If you haven’t read it already, I recommend it: https://www.wsj.com/articles/iphones-and-children-are-a-toxic-pair-say-two-big-apple-investors-1515358834

Personal Past

I personally have written for years on this subject about the possible negative effects on our children and their interaction with digital technology and social media. At the end of this piece I’ll provide links to my past blog articles for context and proof that although I’m not a medical doctor, my experience as a mother of three children has weathered me into the philosophy I have on this general subject today.

The Short and Painful Truths

We’ve all been guinea pigs since our computers made the leap from the Oregon Trail game in green on the screen to the Internet on PCs to the smartphone on some of your wrists.

Somewhere along the way parents everywhere forgot that babies and children watch their caregivers and strive to copy them relentlessly. So while parents obsess over how many “likes” they’ve racked to their recent Facebook post or are scrolling through Pinterest ideas for dinner that night, their young are taking that in as normal behavior even when they are vying for their parents’ attention in the process. Even more alarming is that many parents may spend more time trying to “capture the moment” in forms of photo bursts, videos and vines than actual quality time conversing or participating in activities with their children.

I refuse to personally judge anyone in this area as I’ve made my own mistakes regarding this new frontier of instant messaging and phone calls at a touchscreen’s length. Instead I’m comfortable sharing my own personal journey as a way of giving some ideas to parents and caregivers that perhaps they can weave into their way of life — in turn helping the next generation have an idea as to how to navigate their own progeny in tandem with our technological advances yet to come.

Parents: Put It Away

This is a blunt heading and intentionally so. This is not easy and perhaps quite impossible for many people depending on their line of work. Thankfully there is the “vibrate” setting for most devices and which I use constantly.

Before you dismiss this idea entirely, do yourself a favor and think about how much time you actually interface personally on a daily basis with your child or children. The answers will vary depending on vocation and age of the children of course but the effect should warrant an honest assessment.

Here’s what I’ve learned in just under 10 years of being a mother myself to three children under the age of 10: they grow up quickly and learn even faster!

If you make it a point to interact with your child without the smartphone attached to the palm of your hand it will help them bond not only with you but also know how to engage with other humans.

The questions will come and with them your respective answers as it goes with the majority of parental interactions with their young — in my case, my older children have inquired as to why they don’t have phones. My responses to these repetitive questions are simple and hopeful. For example, I let them know that their father and I don’t see a need for it nor is it allocated for in our family budget. In addition, we believe they will have them one day in an even better model and aren’t missing anything in the meantime.

While investors are suggesting to companies about how their technology can be manipulated to help give parents control the reality is that the control is with the parents themselves all along.

People, Artificial Intelligence and Beyond

Guess what? We’re still all test subjects together as we progress in this whole new world of cyber-digital interactions and integrations with homo sapiens.

We’re talking about parental controls available on the iPhone platform and before we know it we’ll be reading psychologists’ research papers on the emotional integration of robot-nannies on our grandchildren one day.

To be sure we’re excelling in incorporating these new devices into our lives so quickly without knowing its effects until we become aware of the effects. Although we focus mostly on negative consequences, we should be fair and acknowledge where the technology has been very helpful for parents and kids alike.  For example, I recall a scratchy long distance land-line phone call to Greece with my great-grandparents whom I could hardly hear — our kids get to Facetime with their grandparents in California.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and need to read something that will assuage the fear of the unknown I reccommend “Abundance” by Peter H. Diamandis. It’s a helpful book with opening our mind to the possibilities of the good things that can come out of our digital evolution together.

Global Village Is Not the Front Line

Ever since the release of the World Wide Web late last century, the world has shrunk down to what is commonly referred to as the “global village”.

This shouldn’t be confused with the world that our children know when they are born and growing up in our homes. We as parents and caregivers are still their front line in seeing and interpreting the world around them.

In the end the moral responsibility still falls on us individually to make parenting decisions that we feel are right for our own offspring.

Blessings to all you out there raising children in the 21st century and beyond!

R.V.S.B.

P.S. As promised, past blog links of mine concerning children and cyberworld:

“The Gentle Art of Blessing”: A Book Review and a Cautionary Tale

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“The Gentle Art of Blessing – A Simple Practice That Will Transform You and Your World” by Pierre Pradervand

A Book Review

Initially I picked up this book at my local Barnes and Noble bookstore because the title and decorations on the cover looked calming.  In my hectic life, reading is often a source of entertainment, of learning and at times of healing.  I perceive this as a healing and educational sort of book.

Besides his book, Pierre Pradervand has a website that describes his life work: http://www.gentleartofblessing.com

The premise of this piece is to encourage everyone to consciously bless others–even if they’ve directly wronged you or others.  The author uses extensive references from Christianity, Native American wisdom, Arab proverbs and other cultures around the globe.

An excerpt from his book that encapsulates a mini-version of his discourse style:

“That is why loving unconditionally is the most important activity in the whole universe, and the one most       able to produce the deepest happiness. We do not love unconditionally to satisfy some abstract moral law or some faraway deity.  As the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, wrote, ‘You love because you love. There is no reason to love.’ If the very ground of our being, our very essence, is love–which is one of the postulates of this book–then love is simply the most genuine, the most natural expression of our true being.  And in active love, we will also discover a wonderful path toward happiness, health, and fulfillment–but it will be an unintended result, so to speak.”

As I write this book review, I freely admit that I haven’t completed reading–It is one of those books, however, that keeps on giving even if you are only able to read a few pages at a time over the course of several months.

A Cautionary, yet Comical Tale: How One Takes Inspiration to Action

In the wake of reading an incredible chapter from “The Gentle Art of Blessing”, I felt confident driving out during a recent Monday morning with a certain set of goals in mind for my children and I.

It all began with getting the boys packed up quickly in the car after I received a call-back from my women’s health physician’s office that they were able to squeeze me in immediately.

After frantically rushing through stubborn traffic patterns, I made it upstairs to the second floor with my kids for what I thought would be a short 5 minute wait.  The waiting room wait was more like 50 minutes–the ball beads and wire toy on the floor lasted as entertainment for about 15 minutes–not enough for my energetic little ones.

My name was called and we were checked in by the nurse into the examination room.  Figured this meant I’d be seen shortly after I dressed myself in an attractive paper sheet while also refereeing the under-stimulated offspring that were now quite set on getting each other all ruffled up for jest and jeering purposes.

I cannot come up with a figure for how long I waited in there because ultimately when the nurse practitioner came in she was attentive and efficiently thorough with me.  In fact, she even had someone in training along with her who was quite helpful in distracting the youngest to my left while I could maintain eye contact with the older child to my right–priceless when one is quite helplessly laid back on the examination table.

Thankfully when I left the doctor’s office I was ready to pursue the course of action intended to assist me in being healthy again as soon as the pharmacy could fill the prescription.  Now I faced the minor problem of our vehicle nearly out of fuel and we were late for our next appointment.  So I called the office to alert them and although they assured me it was fine whenever I made it, I felt guilty for being tardy all the same.

This brings me to the climax point of my small and common tale: I turned out of the medical plaza area and drove down the road a little bit to turn into the very next gas station.  Upon rolling up to the pumps I noticed that the space was cramped with cars at each fueling kiosk and it was difficult to get in the right position to fuel up (my gas cap is on the right side of the car).  This was a challenge, but I assured myself that all was well and it would work out as it should.

It took me a few minutes of circling around the four lanes of gas pumps available but I found the right spot to pull up behind a Bentley–mind you, I’m in my 12-year-old beat-up mama SUV.  Assuming I was in the home stretch of this thwarted morning, I swiped my credit card anticipating the display prompts like “please enter your zip code” and so forth to begin fueling already.

Alas, I got the dreaded “please see the cashier”.  You know, the one person you really don’t care to see or walk all the way across the fueling and parking area to go inside and complain that your card is not registering on the supposedly convenient digital outdoor gas pumps.

Once inside I was able to clear up the little set-back after pleading that I didn’t have my ID on me and head back outside again to finish the job.  I saw the back door was open and rushed over and in a relieved-but-furious manner scolded my oldest for having opened the door in the first place.  As I closed the car door I hear a woman’s voice raised in a near-yell, “Excuse me, excuse ME…”

I turn to my right to face the middle-aged looking woman with a blonde up-do, brightly colored with floral pattern sundress who is standing with one hand on her hips and the other on her shiny, cherry red sports car.  I lock eyes with her and she continues in the same irritable tone: “Can you please move your car? I can’t reach my gas door!”

There was a good full second or two that passed as I stood in shock just looking at her deep into her eyes, the noise level and harsh tone hanging in the air between us.  My anger lit quick and intensely hot inside like that moment you throw a match onto a pile of charcoal that’s drenched with lighter fluid in the outdoor grill (for those of us still using that archaic method).

Somehow how I managed to mechanically respond in a deliberately trying-to-be-nice voice that “Yes, I would be happy to help you–a nicer tone would be nice though”, as I was simultaneously aware that my carnal instinct was to rush at her with all possible physical force and throttle her and yet cognizant that my impressionable young sons were witnessing every moment transpiring.

As I marched in front of my vehicle (left, right, left, right…do NOT start running at her), I kept watching her as she explained hastily that she had tried the “nice” route by yelling after me before–as in when I was walking into see the holy cashier to beseech that they take my money so I could fuel up, endure a verbal lashing from a complete stranger and somehow make it to the late appointment for my children.  “I’m late for work!” she blurts out as I’m entering my car to back up and fight every urge in my right hand to throw the gear into ‘drive’ instead of reverse.

I exaggerated my backing up of the car and found myself stretching the gas pump to reach my own fuel door–too prideful to move again I made it work somehow.  The anger was boiling inside me, like a lava flow that’s got to go somewhere, it festered and was pouring out of my mouth and I was trying to direct its wild track into “the gentle art of blessing” as impossible as that seems.

Silly as it sounds, the first thing I did was make a triplicate sign of the cross with my right hand toward her muttering in a barely audible, but don’t-care-if-it’s-heard voice, “God bless you because I can’t right now”…that at least started to help ease the caustic edge of my fury by transferring the full ability to love to Someone a little better capable at the moment.  Then, I kept mumbling to myself that I want to understand her and am just hurt because I really didn’t mean to foul up her morning–I was barely keeping afloat in my own planet of experience this beautiful Monday morning.

Then a calmness came over me and I looked over her way again now that we were closer together and pumping gas respectively and said in a soft manner, “You know, I didn’t mean to park that way, I just pulled up as far as the guy’s car before would allow me”–without looking at me she quickly replied, “I know, it’s okay…” (It sounded apologetic too, much improved from our first interaction).

As comic relief would have it in our cosmos, our gas pumps clicked at the same time indicating our cars were satisfied.  “Have a good day”, she said with a definitive and much kinder tone to me as she closed her fuel cap, “you too” I said with a relieved sigh.  Thank God we both were walking away a little bruised but able to heal quickly and move on with life without holding each other in a grudge–or worse, paying forward our mutual frustration to any other unsuspecting souls.

Ending Note

Again, I understand that reading is difficult for many of us to do with our respective, hectic lifestyles–but if there was one book I recommend having at your night stand it would be this “The Gentle Art of Blessing” by Pierre Pradervand.  He has a talent for speaking to everyone, no matter what religious background or lack thereof.  The stories shared are the kind we find in many family oral traditions.  Ultimately, Pradervand acknowledges the universal truth that we are all connected somehow and Love begets Love.

R.V.S.B.

 

 

 

 

 

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"