Yes, I give thanks, even in 2020

crisis consumerism

Give ThanksSince I need to give thanks in 2020, I have to figure out how I should frame it. Usually, at the beginning of the following year, I address a series of questions. I thought I would try one of them right now.

Are you richer or poorer?

The answer is yes. On one hand, I/we are quite grateful that my wife managed to keep her job during the pandemic, no small thing since her husband is retired. She didn’t get laid off then rehired as a full-time substitute, which reportedly happened in a local school district.

On the other hand, we have taken on additional debt. We got a new car. Plus we took out a home equity loan to fix the back porch. This is not an aesthetic decision, either. The inside of the porch roof is falling down and, when it rains, the stairs are like an ice rink.

Still, it was nice to discover that the assessed value of our house is greater. The improvements we made in the past decade, replacing the front porch, redoing the bathroom, and even replacing the shed proved to be worthwhile investments. In fact, we could have borrowed more money; we chose not to.

Government work

I made some extra cash working the Census. This meant that when the batteries on the lawnmower died, it was not a source of distress. I could just get more. In fact, the Census was good because it forced me to get dressed and leave the house. Because none of us were going out much in the spring, we saved on clothes. We also didn’t go out to eat as often, even when we tried to make up for it with takeout from the local restaurants.

With a full year on Medicare and supplemental insurance under my belt, so far, so good. I didn’t know whether the money I get from my former employer would be adequate to cover the costs. Since my wife and daughter are still under my insurance, even though I am not, this works out well, too. Even though I was inarguably underpaid, the benefits have proven to be good.

I also got unexpected money, from my local newspaper’s contests more than once to $150 from Wells Fargo.

It occurs to me that I’m not really thinking of this year over year. I’m surely better off since I got married. We were really broke when we got hitched. My bride decided to quit her decent-paying but soul-sucking job. Buying anything seemed ill-advised.

Now, I can indulge in what a friend of mine called crisis consumerism. I’d pretty much swore off buying any more music when I retired. THAT’S off the boards. An Elvis Costello reissue on eBay. Linda Ronstadt from a dealer on Amazon in the UK. Graham Nash and Lucinda Williams from a library sale for $1 each. And more Rhiannon Giddens.

Oh, yeah

I’m thankful for more than filthy lucre and what it can buy me. I am quite thankful for people, even if it’s mostly on ZOOM or some such. I’m sure I’ll get more into it in a few weeks.

Thank you very much for music

Sly is especially thankful

Thanksgiving is coming. To the degree that I have maintained sanity this year, it’s been from listening to recorded music. A lot.

One of my friends envies how invested I am in music. It’s not as though I made a choice. It has always been omnipresent. I still remember chunks of my father’s singles collection. I sang in school, in church, with my father and sister. I’m appreciative of that, but there’s never been a point when it wasn’t a big part of my life.

Thank you very much for music.

Some songs about thanks

Sam and Dave – I Thank You  (“I want everybody to get up off your seat And get your arms together, and your hands together And give me some of that o-o-old soul clapping.”)

Led Zeppelin – Thank You   “If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.”

Sly and the Family Stone – Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) –  I was a sucker for songs by artists who refer to their other songs. See Creeque Alley by the Mamas and the Papas, Glass Onion by the Beatles. This includes Dance to the Music, Everyday People, Sing a Simple Song, and You Can Make It If You Try. Thank You For Talking To Me Africa  A stoned version of the above.

Boyz II Men – Thank You. The first song on their second album, and my favorite

Andrew Gold – Thank You For Being A Friend. The late son of the late, great Marni Nixon. This is the theme of the TV show Golden Girls 

The Beatles – Thank You, Girl. The perennial B-side, of the single From Me to You in the UK, of the single Do You Want to Know a Secret in the US

Alanis Morissette – Thank U  

John Denver – Thank god I’m a country boy 

Neil Diamond – Thank the Lord for the Nighttime.  My absolute favorite Diamond song.

Broad appeal of Thanksgiving

Take this holiday into your own hands

turkey dinnerThanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I believe giving thanks is a social, and personal good. This Alternet article explains why.

“When Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, first advocated for Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1846, she argued that it would unify the country. In our research, [we] have been able to show that Hale’s vision for the holiday has been largely fulfilled. Inclusivity of people and traditions has been Thanksgiving’s hallmark quality.

“A reason for its broad appeal is that it lacks any association with an institutionalized religion. As one interviewee told us, ‘There is no other purpose than to sit down with your family and be thankful.’

“And after interviewing a range of people – from those born in the U.S. to immigrants from countries like South Africa, Australia, and China – it became obvious that the principles and rituals they embraced during the holiday were universal no matter the culture: family, food and gratitude.”

As the title of the story reads, “How everything about Thanksgiving as we know it was shaped by the marketing industry.” Somehow, the fact that we’ve been steered to eating turkey, cranberry, and pie doesn’t bug me as I suppose it should.

Romancing the holiday

Still, I recognize that there’s an American myth around the holiday. It’s the stuff I learned growing up about the Pilgrims and the American Indians, which makes a lot of folks uncomfortable. The article by Corinne Oestreich in Huffington Post, As A Native American, Here’s What I Want My Fellow Americans To Know About Thanksgiving, speaks to this:

“If I could ask one thing from my non-indigenous fellow Americans when it comes to Thanksgiving, I would ask that you refrain from teaching the romanticized version of the holiday. Read to your children about what it means to be thankful, what it means to heal and be a family. Learn as a family about the tribal nation that is local to where you live.”

In this polarized political environment, sometimes learning “what it means to heal and be a family” seems to be an insurmountable task. Yet, if it is possible – and sometimes it’s not – we try.

“Take time during dinner to recognize whose traditional lands you give thanks on. Take this holiday into your own hands and understand that not every Native will have good feelings about this day, and be accepting of that. We can all choose how we feel about this holiday, but it is always our own choice.”

I suppose this is a bit of a Debbie Downer ending to a holiday post. So it goes.

Limit political stress for better health

essential strategyDr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen, MDs, posted an email ad, Limit Political Stress for Better Health, I’m a not a devotee of Oz and don’t know Roizen, but it sounds about right, especially with US Thanksgiving coming up.

“A University of Nebraska survey found that nearly 40% of people say politics are stressing them out; 20% are losing sleep or are fatigued or suffering depression because of politics; and 20% report that political discussions have damaged friendships. This worries health professionals.”

ONLY 20% report damaged friendships?

They lay out a plethora of ailments including depression, anxiety, headaches and chronic pain syndromes. “It can exacerbate asthma and COPD; damage the circulatory system and heart; disrupt your hormone balance and immune system; increase your risk of dementia and cancer; cause digestive upset; and even alter fertility.”

Altered fertility? Maybe this explains the diminishing birth rate, not just in the United States.

“That’s why it’s important to find a way to de-escalate anxiety, anger, and conflict about political events (while remaining committed to every American’s involvement in the political process — including that uncle you disagree with).”

Even HIM? OK.

Avoiding political stress

“Here are some tips to avoid the stress of politics:
• Limit time spent watching and reading news coverage.
I fail.

• Turn off your phone’s news alerts.
I think this is a GREAT idea, actually.

• Ask friends to drop the subject, and talk about movies, books, or food instead.
I see the first two as problematic. For instance, I can see someone recommending “Why Trump Deserves Trust, Respect and Admiration,” a real book title with blank pages. Someone responses with the newest book by conservative author Dinesh D’Souza.

Do you really want to discuss a Michael Moore film with half of your relatives?
And heck, food’s dangerous too. It can engender debates about foie gras, meat, or food produced from farther than 100 miles away, to name just a few topics.

• Use physical activity (60 minutes daily) and meditation to calm your stress response and mind.
Yes, walk away from these discussions and discuss the weather. “Climate change is killing us!” “There’s no such thing!”
Or, ah, er…

With Thanksgiving at hand, what are now SAFE conversation starters?

Thanksgiving 2018 and JFK assassination

Governor Scott Walker was an enemy of labor and particularly teachers.

JFK Thanksgiving Day proclamation 1963
JFK Thanksgiving Day proclamation 1963
When I went out with a woman named Susan in the late 1970s and early 1980s, she always had a particular blessing at Thanksgiving. She invoked the memory of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was assassinated on 22 November 1963.

I’ve linked the two events in my mind so much. When the anniversary and the holiday actually happen on the same day, which took place in 1984, 1990, 2001, 2007, 2012, takes place in 2018, and won’t happen again until 2029, it seems…correct.

Maybe because my daughter was studying world religions recently, but it’s like – stay with me here – the principle of Yin and Yang, that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites. The pain of loss and disruption and uncertainty is somehow paired with the joy of thanks and hope and renewal.

Anyway, here are some things I’m thankful for:

* Kindness, as exemplified by custodian Carolyn Collins’ Closet of Kindness

* The truth tellers: Especially Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and, for more current info, A Closer Look – Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Also The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, which has found its own voice.

* Some of the election results, including All 19 Black Women Running for Judge in a Texas Race Won

Zach Wahls was elected as a State Senator for Iowa’s Senate District 37

Would it be ungenerous to be thankful that certain people lost? Probably, but I am. I’m only human.

Governor Scott Walker appears to have been defeated by just enough to not get a recount, a policy he himself enacted. He was an enemy of labor and particularly teachers. As Borowitz wrote: Unskilled Wisconsin man unable to keep a job.

Notorious Vote Thief and Incompetent Gubernatorial Candidate Kris Kobach Loses. As Kansas Secretary of State, he “built his career on voter suppression, whipping up nativist fervor by claiming that a large number of noncitizens are casting ballots. (They aren’t.)”

Democrat unseats Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in Orange County [CA] House district – “Rohrabacher’s friendliness to people with links to Russia has become more controversial.”

Rowan County, Kentucky’s Kim Davis, the clerk who refused to sign marriage licenses for gay couples, loses to Democrat.

Author of North Dakota Voter ID Law Targeting Native Americans Loses His Seat–To A Native American – Randy Boehning, a GOP state representative, was unseated by Democrat Ruth Anna Buffalo

On a more positive note, I’m thankful to Gus and Mary and Jack and Adriana and Becky and others who visit my blog almost every day; those bloggers I’ve been following, including, but not limited to, Arthur, Chas, Jaquandor, and Chuck.

I’m thankful for my library friends; my church friends, in particular, the choir; my hearts friends – next game is March 9!

I’m thankful for my old friends such as Uthaclena, who dragged me to a ball game; Karen; and notably Carol, who went to visit my sister after her accident.

I’m thankful for my in-laws (REALLY!), sister Marcia, and niece Alex; my niece Rebecca, who took great care of her mom; sister Leslie, and all those other folks, especially Leilani, who treated her.

I’m thankful for my daughter, who always teaches me something new; and my wife who tolerates me.

Finally, I’m thankful to the folks I email or message when I’m feeling down, which includes some of the above.
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With the closing of Camelot