Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

I was reading the newspaper this morning. There was an article about a couple of prisoners and their resolutions for the new year.

Hmmmm. News does tend to get stale and I suppose something a bit different is needed to catch the reader’s eye.

After reading the piece I thought a little more about resolutions.

This new year tradition is not really about keeping the promise we make to ourselves late in the evening of December 31st. It’s not about commitment or will power. Or the disappointment when we fail to follow through on our declaration.

It is about hope. Pure and simple.

We make resolutions, year after year, because it represents hope. To be a better person. A healthier person. A kinder person. Whether we even realize it or not. It’s the hope for improvement.

Renewable hope.

Those two guys are in prison but they can still make resolutions. Hoping to be better in the new year. In some way.

We all can.

I wish you a new year filled with health and happiness. And that you carry hope in your heart all year long.

 

 

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I am at my mom’s house in New England. Got a bit of snow this morning. Didn’t last too long and there was not much accumulation.

But it still needed shovelling. Like it always does around these parts.

So I strapped on dem duck boots, gloves and cleared the cars. Then I did the driveway, sidewalk and stairs. I did the neighbor’s sidewalk and then went to the other elderly neighbor’s house and did her driveway, sidewalk and stairs.

By the time I was finished I had more than seven thousand steps on the old Fitbit!

Cleaning the snow around the cars reminded me of a sad story I read last year.

A father in the Northeast was shovelling the family car out of the driveway while his wife and two little children, escaping the bitter cold, waited inside the running automobile.

They soon died of carbon monoxide poisoning while he was just outside shovelling.

The tailpipe was clogged with the snow and it forced the carbon monoxide into the car.

What a terrible, terrible tragedy. The father was paralyzed with the shock of it. Who wouldn’t be?

Stay safe this winter.  If you are living in a snowy region remember to check that the exhaust pipe is clear. Also to keep furnace vents in the home clear of snow.

 

 

 

 

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Facebook has a “memory” feature. It notifies you with this message, “You have memories with “so and so ” to look back on today.” There is an “On This Day” tab on your Facebook home page.

Not sure how they choose the random postings or the years.

But yesterday’s memory included one from six years ago. An exchange between co-workers.

Work friends are interesting. You’re thrown together in what sometimes feels like a totally random roll of the dice. Quite a bowl of soup. End up spending so much time with them that many end up occupying a special place in your heart. I do a pretty good job (pat on back) of keeping up with some of my old co-workers but I have to give a shout out to Facebook for making that a bit easier to do.

I consider many of these folks to be cherished and dear friends. Those shared hours and many experiences built lifelong connections.

Here is yesterday’s memory.

Bob C. to Mary

December 14th, 2011

“Mary, I was looking at some of the pictures you have posted and I have one question. Are you ever going to look older than you did when we worked together?”

Chris B. “liked” this comment.

Mary to Bob C.

December 14th, 2011

“Dang, Bob, can you say BEST BOSS EVA??? It was a near tie between you and Brian R. but you just forged ahead and won! You are very sweet but keep in mind photos can be very deceiving!”

Brian R. to Mary

December 14th, 2011

“Well, Mary, apparently C. (he called Bob by his surname) has learned to be a suck up as he got older, while I’ve become more of a curmudgeon!  

Why would I share this with you? Definitely not for any additional banter. I certainly look older than I did when I worked with Bob, Brian and Chris.

But because things change in six years. Shoot, things change in six minutes.

Bob passed away of a heart attack on May 29, 2016. Chris would die from cancer six months later on November 17th, 2016.

Brian is still, thankfully, alive and kicking. And not the curmudgeon he makes himself out to be.

A boss of mine in Dallas just died this past week. And I’ve lost other work friends over the years.

A Facebook notification like this causes one to pause for a moment. To take a trip down memory lane. It also makes a person consider what they write, text and post. What it reflects. And the lasting legacy of those words. It reminds us of just how fleeting life can be.

On this day I wish you all a season of fond memories. Of those who are no longer here and of those who continue to be a special part of our lives. I wish you wonderful words.

 

 

 

 

 

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Each day I take a walk by myself here in Delhi. Mostly at a local park named Lodi.

I try and give the Fitbit some action. But I also sit and do a lot of watching. There is always something going on here. More than twenty types of birds. Hawks swooping down with their unique scream agitating the crows. It’s a cacophony that the forty young deaf people doing some type of team bonding in the middle of the field cannot hear. Soccer/football playing. Family photo sessions. Picnics. People working out on exercise equipment. Contortionists in the yoga section.

Starting to see some of the same people each day. An old fellow with what appears to be a radio in his hand. A guy walking a Bull Terrier just like Spuds Mackenzie-except black. Too many young lovers to count. Not sure if they are same ones each day. An elderly man who is undergoing chemotherapy walking with a cane and a young assistant. He wears a tweed jacket that is too big for him and a black Greek fisherman’s woolen cap. A guy playing the flute on a bench in the middle of the park.

India really is incredible. You never know what to expect. Every day is different.

See below for some of my park photos. I hope you enjoy them.

nowine2

I am all for this.

nowine

Wait a second! The back of these signs. I’m getting mixed messages here.

greenbirds

Bird house in the middle of the park? Check out the two photo bombers.

greenbirds2

Hundreds of these birds in the park. Never gets old.

sacredfig

Caught my eye. Sacred Fig. Considered a sacred tree for Hindu folks.

disabled.JPG

Very cool. Section of park that has exercise equipment for those in wheelchairs.

turquoise

Not the best quality photo. Color coordinated Sikh family photo shoot.

carving

carving2

Loved these carvings.

hijira

Hijra (transgendered folks) looking for monetary donations from people in the park.

smoke

Not sure what the colored smoke symbolised.

lilies

Lily pads.

colors

steppingstones

Stepping stones.

narcissus

I call this one Narcissus.

pigeon

sweetpotato

Sweet potato man. As in the potato is sweet. I am not sure about the man.

wall

birds

hawk.jpg

hawks

Hawks on the ground, in flight and resting in the trees.

vendor

Vendor with a lot on his mind.

palms

Palm trees.

spuds

Spud Makenzie’s Indian cousin.

parrakeet

I happened upon this crew. A parakeet chowing down with three squirrels.

lovem

M for Mary.

doggie

A dog just curled up and napping away.

yoga

Seriously how does one do that?

donotfeed

I liked this sign. They certainly spelled it out for visitors.

exit

The end. I slip under the chain to exit at Gate 11. Not where I entered. 🙂

 

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

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About six months ago my husband told me about a Parsi funeral ritual that takes place in India. I had never heard of it.

Parsi is a Zoroastrian community. These folks from Greater Iran fled mostly to India centuries ago to avoid persecution and to retain their religious identity during the Muslim conquest of Persia. Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion before Islam.

That’s just a snippet of a history that could fill books.

Ain’t gonna lie. I was horrified when I heard about their funeral practice.

Sky burial.

Letting nature take its course. No burial. No cremation. Just exposure to the elements on an elevated area. Cutting up bits of the body for the vultures to feast.

Towers of Silence.

I was soon reading about different rituals. It appears that there are many reasons for this Sky burial. Tibetan Buddhists feel it is a generosity for the departed because it’s providing life source for other creatures and they respect all life. Some feel that the body is only a vessel. That fire and burial pollute the earth. Some view the dead body as impure.

Practicality, rather than religion, might have also played a role. The places where these rituals originated tended to be rocky with no source of timber.

India’s pretty cool in a lot of ways. It’s just so diverse and in many ways tolerant of other practices.

This ritual still takes place today.

But there is one small problem. Well, not really small.

The vulture population declined drastically. The birds (the cleaner uppers) were getting sick from eating the carrion of Indian livestock.

Hmmmm.

I learned more about vultures than I ever cared to imagine.

Since it’s India (Hindu) there are 500 million cattle and only 4% of that number is for human consumption. Cows are considered sacred so most people aren’t eating them.

That’s a bunch of cows.

So when cattle die the vultures are a welcome sight. A natural and efficient process.

But due to an anti-inflammatory drug which was being given to the cattle the vultures started dying in droves. Their system couldn’t take this particular drug.

By now I am not thinking about funeral practices at all because I am so fascinated by vultures!

Apparently vultures can make efficient, quick work of any animal carcass and due to their metabolism not suffer the effects of (or carry) any pathogens from their recent meal. Stops with them.

Wow! Truly cast iron stomachs. Except for when humans inject animals with a certain drug.

This decline in the vulture population has led to a host of problems for India.

Huge problems. It was a natural system. And when things break down….

In the 1980s there were 80 million vultures. Today several thousand. That’s unbelievable.

Vultures used to pick clean the carcasses in no time. Now the dead cows and other animals rot in village fields.

Contaminating the drinking water.

And if there are no vultures on the scene? Who takes their place in this pecking order? No pun intended. Who’s on deck?

Rats and wild dogs (India has 18 million wild dogs-seems like about a million on our street alone lol) are all too happy to step into the newly opened positions. But they, unlike vultures, do carry things like rabies, anthrax and plague. And pass it on to us. The humans. Yikes!

Back to the Parsi death rituals. They are still performed but not with the same frequency due to the decrease in the vulture population. Some people are opting for cremation. Those who choose the “old way” will be doing so with the assistance of solar reflectors to move things along. Remember when you were a kid with a magnifying glass trying to use the sun’s reflection to burn a piece of paper. Yeah, that. Same.

I never knew anything about the Towers of Silence. And I did not know much about vultures except maybe seeing them as a menacing backdrop in cute Disney movies. Or observing a turkey vulture munching on roadkill that one time in Lake Tahoe while we whizzed by it.

Pretty amazing to think about it. One small bit of human tinkering can upset a system that has been working just fine. Maybe from the beginning of time. Compromising the health of a nation. And in the process eradicating rituals that have been around for centuries and centuries.

First I was horrified to hear of the Parsi practice. Then I moved on to understanding and sort of appreciating it. I remain sad about the Indian vulture crisis and its effect on the nation.

Lastly, I’m feeling more than a little sympathetic for the Parsi community as they lose a grip on pieces of their tradition and identity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I try not to be too superstitious. Been working on this for years.

Most are harmless enough, right? Maybe even a bit fun.

Not stepping on a crack in the sidewalk wouldn’t have actually prevented “Mother’s broken back.” But it might have made the boring walk down the street to Cabral’s corner market for a loaf of bread and a pack of Mom’s L&Ms a little less monotonous for a kid.

I remember when a bunch of us kids were passengers in Mrs. Gillett’s car. She was our neighbor but also our friends’ grandmother. That’s the real reason we were in the car. Anyway, when Mrs. Gillett came to the railroad tracks in the road she lifted her feet. Not for long. Maybe just a few seconds. Nope, she wasn’t doing it to strengthen her lower abs. She did it for good luck.

I still do it.

But I falter from time to time. Step on cracks all the time and my Mama is perfectly fine.

Recently, I was in a Delhi shop. Narrow as all get out. One of the employees had a ladder out in the middle of the floor. No way for me to go around it. So I waited. Waited some more. There was no way I was walking under that thing. No way.

Also have this other thing. I should always leave from the same door I entered. Not sure where that one came from but I am always aware of it.

But this is absolutely one superstition that should be left by the door.

Here is why.

In 2003 I was living in Dallas, Texas. On a February evening, many, many miles away in my home state of Rhode Island there was a terrible fire in a night club. It claimed the lives of one hundred men and women. And injured hundreds of others. Like horribly injured.

Young people were just having an evening out, listening to music and enjoying a respite from one of New England’s long winter nights. Like I did many a time. As you probably did.

Pyrotechnics (fireworks) which were meant to add a bit to the show ignited the foam that was used for sound insulation in the walls and ceiling. Within FIVE minutes the Station club in West Warwick was engulfed.

People could not see the exits due to the heavy smoke. There was also a massive crush as people tried to get out the main exit. The place where they entered at the beginning of the evening.

So there were different causes of death that night.

The following is a video, taken ten years ago, of my cousin John who was a firefighter in Warwick. It also features his bandmate (yes, singing firefighters) who was actually present at the Station when the fire began. The video is dated 2007 and John has recently retired as a Lieutenant. But the message in this clip is still as important today as it was then.

You do not need to leave from the same door you entered.

John is still in the band and after the tragic Station fire the group would post a floor plan of each venue on their website. He states how important it is to make note of an exit.

I also learned something yesterday that struck a similar chord.

A family that I knew in Kuala Lumpur was recently on a holiday in Yangon, Myanmar. Yes, the perks of living in Asia.

Seems that on October 19th they were asleep in their lovely, colonial era hotel only to be wakened around 3:00am by banging noises. Sounded like people yelling and pounding on doors. But the family couldn’t understand what they were saying. Maybe drunken revelry? Terrorism?

They tried the front desk. No one answering. Finally someone picked up and told them to evacuate immediately due to a fire in the hotel.

The two teen daughters left first and then the parents a few minutes later. The mom was sort of freaked about the separation but they were soon reunited and safe.

Police were shoving people aside and trying to evacuate but there was no clear communication, very disorganized and pitch black.

I want to just note here that this luxurious, teak and iconic hotel was considered a 5 Star property.  So it doesn’t really matter where you stay. The rules for your personal safety should always be the same. Regardless of the price tag. Or tag line.

Her advice?

“Don’t take for granted emergency exit information.”

She stressed the importance of staying together. Checking to see if there is a fire alarm and sprinkler in hotel room. Having a plan to meet up if separated. The importance of being close to your family and knowing where they are at all times.

This is the time of year when a plethora of seasonal activities will beckon. Many will welcome the opportunity for indoor, festive gatherings surrounded by loads of people. Seeing the Nutcracker, Christmas musicals, plays, concerts, sporting events and attending worship services.

Some will travel and spend time in hotels. Or pass through airports.

All happy as larks to be in places with closed doors keeping out the cold or staving off the heat.

Have fun but take note of exit signs immediately upon entering. Communicate a place to meet with family members if case you ever get separated. Don’t take for granted emergency exit information. Do your homework. And remember you do not need to leave from the same door you entered. Ever.

Wishing you and all of your families a safe holiday season. Hoping you employ these safety measures all year long. Some superstitions should absolutely be left at the door.

Update: My cousin, John, told me that he was actually supposed to be at the Station the evening of the fire. He did not attend because he didn’t want to be the “third wheel.” But a few folks thought he was there. Including his fire chief.

 

 

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We have all heard that there is no road map for grief. So it can be a difficult and tricky course for many to navigate.

Each of us is like a snowflake. Unique. Just like our grief is unique and how we deal with our loss.

I remember one of my aunts, after losing her husband, telling me that she just kept herself busy, busy and busy. In hindsight she thinks maybe she kept herself too busy.

Another aunt was told to travel after the loss of her spouse. And she did. Accepted every invitation.

Just two examples among many.

Everyone takes a different course to find their way through grief and find their way back again. To discover their new normal.

Life is never the same when we lose a loved one. That is a fact.

The same aunt who was “too busy” wrote those exact words to me in a letter after my uncle Stiophan died.

“Life will never be the same.”

And it wasn’t. But that didn’t mean that life couldn’t be good for her again.

A friend, Donna B., had shared a website this morning on Facebook and I thought it was interesting. Shows another way of dealing with grief.

The owner of the website lost her mother, who was in her fifties, to early onset Alzheimer’s. Her aunt stepped in as surrogate mom but she, too, would soon fall victim to the same disease and be gone within a year.

Here is her website.

https://griefbiscuit.com/

I thought I would share it with you. Who knows? Maybe it will help someone through the upcoming holidays. Or the next six months. The year.

There are also some tips and tools on the site designed to help those who are grieving. I particularly liked, “Be the Sherpa.”

Wishing peace and comfort to all of those who are suffering this holiday season. Now and in the new year.

 

 

 

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