Sunday, February 18, 2018

Tipping Point

I am NOT writing this piece to change anyone's mind.

I AM writing it to vent - to attempt to manage my grief, my anger, my feelings of depression and utter hopelessness at the absolute insanity of these mass shootings. At the senseless loss of young lives because of bullets. And for the lives that have maybe not been lost, but suffer guilt for the very reason that they were not mowed down. For the bodies that have become incapacitated, paralyzed, the minds that have been traumatized, for ever. The horror of these shootings NEVER goes away, yet the headlines vanish almost instantly.
When will the people of America reach a tipping point - when will they come out loud and strong and clear, when will they shout out - NO MORE GUNS.
The hypocrisy of that man who says 'our thoughts and prayers are with you.' Bullshit - they never were and never will be.

And the mentally ill are blamed.
And the FBI are blamed.
And the school security is blamed.
And the parents are blamed.
And the students are blamed.
And the teachers are blamed.

Everything outside guns and ammunition is blamed.

I have said this before - THIS is terrorism - what is terrorism but to create terror? We do not need to seal our borders or blame immigrants.

The enemy is us. And we are also the ones who can stop this. By shouting out - NO MORE to the NRA and their money. To the scared and angry white men (sorry, white man, but this is what you have created).

And you have the gall to call ourselves a civilized nation.

And did anyone see 60 Minutes last Sunday?(before the most recent school shooting.) A law is going through congress which will allow anyone who has a gun license to take that gun with them wherever they go in America. For example, in Montana one is allowed to carry an unconcealed weapon. If someone from Montana decides to visit New York, or California, or any other state which does not have those laws, they can take their weapons with them. As one 'pusher' who was interviewed said - "It is the same as having a driving license. As long as one has a licence they can drive anywhere." I apologise for not quoting this segment exactly. It is always hard for me to repeat these interviews and shows in an articulate fashion, but do check 60 Minutes - I am not mad. These were supposedly sane individuals being interviewed.

Studies have been done on Palestinian children, Israeli children, Irish children, South American children, Afghani children, South African children, Syrian children, Mohingya children. There have been studies on the consequences of violence on children in the inner cities in America. I think by now these can be expanded to all the children of America. not just those in the inner cities.
It was found that the ones who fare the least well are those in the inner cities (and now expand it) because there is NO reason for the violence. Many family lives are no longer intact, and there is no hope. In most other countries there is always hope; that the 'good' or 'bad' side will survive (this depends on which side you are on, the 'good' or the 'bad.')
This does not hold true for the children of America. This is a nation growing up without hope. We see the consequences daily.


Monday, January 29, 2018

My present thoughts

Hi there. These are my chirpy musings for anyone who has been following some of my recent posts about being ill.

I am well aware that almost everyone I know, and those I don't know, have been ill, or are ill, this season. This despite the fact that people have received the flu vaccination, and/or have been boosting their immune systems with vitamin supplements, tinctures, elixirs, syrups, hand washing, avoiding contact with public places, and so on. A multitude of people beginning to live like Howard Hughes!

After my bout with pneumonia, I began acupuncture treatments. The acupuncturist told me that an unusually large amount of people had contracted pneumonia last summer.

So - I am going to go out on a limb with my musings.

It is my opinion that the immune system of our planet is depressed. It is impossible to separate ourselves from our environment, and our environment is ailing. The more we pollute our planet and destroy its natural healing ecosystems, the sicker we will all become.

This does not mean that I am about to embark on a totally dissolute non-caring path, but just to be aware that there are no miracle cures and instant fixes.

Friday, January 19, 2018


I feel like I'm on some kind of ghastly/ghostly roundabout. I was stuck on it in July 2017, then everything improved. Six months later I am stuck on it again.
I think roundabout is the right term because it is certainly NOT a merry-go-round.
Late June last year I was ill with pneumonia. In my post entitled FELLED of June 30,2017 I wrote about my getting sick and my very frustrating experience with Kaiser.
Exactly 10 days ago, January 8, 2019 I awoke with a sore throat. A sore throat for me does not bode well. It seems like that is my first warning sign of some kind of impending illness. I immediately prepared gallons of hot water with lemon, ginger, and honey, and took my Chinese pills which I swear by. Despite this I began to cough, and cough, and cough. Then came the congestion in my head and nose. Not too bad, as everyone and their mother has either flu or a bad cold. I did not have a fever and was not felled, so I knew it is not pneumonia. For 10 days I didn't contact my doctor. However, yesterday morning with no sign of this cough and congestion abating I thought it wise to tell my doctor. I sent off an e-mail and immediately received the form letter response that she is out of the office.
Roundabout -- deja-vu --here I am again, stuck at the same spot. I reacted like anyone who has been totally traumatized by a previous similar experience, I did not want to pursue the matter. However, I rallied and called to make an urgent care appointment.
Roundabout -- deja-vu --the nurse said she could not find any same day appointments, but would get a message to my 'provider's office' and someone would call me back by the end of the day.
Roundabout - deja-vu -- here I am, stuck.
I went off to my art class with my phone in my pocket. I apologised for my coughing and sneezing to my feloow students and told them that if they don't want me there, to say so. They were most accommodating, but asked me not to kiss anyone. I had to restrain myself.
Toward the end of class my cell phone rang - it was a medical assistant from another office. She said I needed to go for a chest x-ray and then she could make me an appt. with a doctor if I wanted, or I could wait for my doctor to return.(????? WHAT) I thanked her and told her to definitely make me an appt.
So this is where the medical system is quite phenomenal - I went for the x-ray and miraculously there was no one else in the radiology department. I had the x-ray and the results were sent to the doctor's office in 10 minutes flat. It would have been even less time if I could follow instructions and put on that 3 -armed robe quickly before the x-ray. Does anyone else find some difficulty in donning these items? I seem to have some visual impairment - it is most difficult for me to follow illustrations.
I went to the doctor who saw me punctually. She was a lovely YOUNG (they are all so young) woman who actually used a stethoscope to listen to my lungs, then she looked at my throat and ears. She told me the x-ray results were fine, but prescribed antibiotics, and expalained to me the reason I should take them. This is how I remember doctor's visits in the days before computers and all things digital and electronic.
I really don't know whether doctors know how palliative it is to actually look at and touch a patient.
So, that experience on the roundabout was definitely an improvement.
However, I had an issue with my landline and had to call ATT and this experience has proven to be deeply traumatic in the past. After two frustrating hours of replying to questions on an automated voice machine, and also trying to chat online with a technician, all to no avail, I had begun to wail into my cell phone - "person, human, agent", on and on. Despite my pleas the dam machine always had more questions so it would know who to refer me to - I kept on sobbing, tearing out my hair, coughing, spluttering and repeating "agent" until eventually a human answered. I do believe he actually understood the problem, and eventually admitted that it seems to be a problem with their lines and it was not my fault for not rebooting the gateway (I had done so) or my insinuations that the problem was on their side.
So, this was Thursday night - I now have to wait until Monday morning for a technician to come. The up side is someone will come (I still have hope) and solve the problem. Of course if it IS my fault, I will have to pay $99. If it is on their side, I wont pay.
My trauma comes from when I moved, over a year ago. ATT had informed me that it would be no problem and their service would fix my landline and internet on the first day. Needless to say - one month later it was resolved.
So, anyway, these are the reasons I feel like I am on a roundabout - it stops during summer, then stops during winter.
I do know that these are first world problems and frustrations, but they do niggle.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Trusted Traveler

Today, after a rather unsettling interview, I became a trusted traveler.

I don't know whether any of you have had any reason to be interrogated by a bureaucrat? Whether it be a customs official, or whether you have had to apply for citizenship, or any such thing in your own country, or in a foreign country?
As you know I am from South Africa. I grew up in a time when one did not question authority. Luckily I was not really put in such a position as I was classified as a first class citizen who had no brush ins with the law.
When I first left to go to England I applied for and received a work permit. Upon my arrival at Heathrow my passport was scrutinized. The oficial looked at me, at my passport photo, and at the work permit. After long silent minutes had passed he stamped my passport and told me to register at the Aliens Office the next day. The next day I sat on the wooden benches of the office together with other aliens. We were people from all over the commonwealth waiting for the official stamp of approval. Not too bad, just my first experience of dealing with the workings of bureaucracy.
My friend and I left the office and were walking to the tube station when a man walked toward us and spat in our direction! Luckily the spit landed on the pavement. He also said "go home filthy bloody foreigners." This was our official welcome!
This was followed by dealing with all the various ministries in Israel at a time when there were no numbers to be taken so that one could be seen in order. There were also no queues, nor even any vague idea that they may be useful in containing the pushing, surging crowd. I will not bore you with the ensuing chaotic details.
Then I came to America and applied for citizenship. This entails the filling in of endless forms, mailing them in with money, of course. An exam which required the purchase of a book, the study of the declaration of Independence, of the amendments, the system of democracy in the United States, and all its institutions. Once again, I will not go into this at length, but it was harrowing, and I can read, understand, and write english.
When I first left Israel I had a most upsetting run in with the Canadian officials. I had a multiple entry visa into Canada but the official in Quebec questioned my visa and actually called me at an Ashram in the Laurentian Mountains the next day to check whether I really was going to where I said I was going. He also added that I cannot go in and out of his country as I please!
One doesn't argue or try to reason with these petty bureaucrats.
Early this year I decided to apply for the Global Entry Program. It took me about three hours to complete the online application. I also had to send in $100.00. The money was immediately processed and I later received a notification that my application had been approved, and that I needed to apply in person for an interview. The first available time was the 30th November at 11.45a.m. I would have to go to San Francisco Airport. This was in March of this year. I put in my application for that time and then received a notification that I needed to bring my passport,, my driver's licence, and if that did not show my current address, a document proving residency, e.g.a bill from a utility company.
As I said, I received this advice in March. I made a note of the interview time in my calendar. During that time I traveled to England and Japan. My passport expired and I received a new one. The Global Entry Program received another designation - The Trusted Traveler Program.
Today I took BART to San Francisco Airport. I gave myself well over an hour. At 12th Street Station in Oakland the BART train stopped and the driver announced that there was police action at the West Oakland Station and no trains could go through. She would keep us updated. After 15 minutes the train resumed and I made it to the airport in time.
The doors to the Trusted Traveler Program are of course locked. After some time a uniformed man came out, shut the door behind him and asked for the names of the people waiting and the times of their interviews. He checked these on a clipboard. I was called in and went to booth No. 1 as directed. The same uniformed man asked for my passport and my drivers license. My drivers license still has my previous address, although of course this was officially changed over a year ago, when I moved. It will be on my new driver's license which is not yet due for a couple of years. My passport has a different number than the one which had expired. He gazed at me with his blue cheerless penetrating eyes and said I should have brought proof of my new address. "Did you not read the letter?" he asked.
"Yes," I replied, "in March, I just forgot."
He looked to a woman sitting behind him who was apparently training him and said I should be sent home and would need to reapply. Thank goodness she intervened, addressing him without either of them looking at me, that if I have a smart phone then I should show proof of address with something else. Amazon to the rescue - I showed them my address on their account.
He then asked me many questions and said "if you lie about anything you will not be granted permission." In the past five years where have you been other than Israel and India.
Oh my god, I simply could not recall having gone anywhere. Eventually I said, England. He then asked about Canada and Mexico - oh yes I said, Canada, I forgot it was a foreign country. I was in Mexico also, but maybe it was longer than five years ago. I totally forgot to tell him Japan, but after a lot of questions and much scrutiny of my application, and my new passport, and my fingerprints, I was told that I have been granted permission to become a trusted traveler. He gave me a booklet and told me to read it word by word, but not in his presence while he was talking to me! (I had dared open the book) - quickly I closed it and dutifully listened to whatever else he had to say.
Let my travels begin!

Thursday, November 23, 2017


These are the things I am grateful for, today and everyday.

For waking up
For restored health
For family
For friends
For a roof over my head
For food in my stomach
For the kindness of strangers
For the sunsets
For the beauty of autumn
For a wonderful new job
For the smile of babies
For music
For books
For art
For the ability to recognise these things and to be grateful for them

Friday, October 13, 2017


This was the view yesterday from my house and one from Solano Avenue. The sun is actually blood red - the camera doesn't quite capture it.

These fires are just awful, I am not sure what other words to use.

Just last week I was in Mendocino. Driving up 101 north and west on 128 I was struck firstly, by the beauty of Northern California, especially in this season as the grape leaves in the vineyards are beginning to turn, and shades of russett appear as if a painter had just added them into his painting of the tawny, golden hills. Bucolic and peaceful looking, far from the woes of the world. However, I was also struck by how tinder dry everything appears, despite the fact that we did have rains this winter. I mentioned this to my friends and she told me how difficult it is for them to get fire insurance. At this point I will quickly add that they are, so far, fine.

I have never watched disaster movies, but right now I feel that we are unwilling spectators in an endless movie.

Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, the volcano threatening to erupt in Bali -the world is really out of balance, and I am not even mentioning HWSNBN.

I am also struck by how people are helping each other, This is one of the encouraging things that happen in disasters and wars. It is lovely to know that humanity can act in this manner. Perhaps we should try to always behave with consideration and compassion, all the time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

God's Little Creatures

I have a confession to make. This is something that is really hard for me to admit, because I am, for the most part, rather a courageous woman, even if I say so myself.

On the surface of things I state and in fact, feel, that I believe in the right to life of all sentient beings, from the tiniest ant, to the largest elephant. I am a defender of sentient beings. I have attended meditation retreats where we vow to spend 10 days in silence, and to not harm any sentient being. How well I remember a retreat in the foggy dampness of a redwood forest in Northern California. We lined up for showers - coldwater showers, in silence. I remember when I stepped in the shower and there on the wall was this most unappealing slug looking thing. It was big, at least 3 " long - magnifying in my mind to at least 3 feet. It had these pine needle looking things sticking out of its head. I was new in America, and new in California. How could I know that this was the state mollusk. A banana slug - something I had never before seen or encountered. It was all I could do to stifle a wild piercing scream.

I shared a bedroom with my sister in South Africa. I seemed to be the only one in our house who stayed up late, lying in bed reading, or studying. Always poring over a book, the light of my bedside lamp to my left, close to my head.

All was quiet, and I savored this time, then the moths would come. I am completely petrified of moths. I remember screamiing in our room one night because there was a zebra moth (black and white stripes) who had flown into our room seeking the light. My father held the moth in his hand, trying to show me how beautiful it was and telling me that it wouldn't, couldn't, do anything to hurt me. All the while I trembled and shrieked and cowered down, hands over my head.

Once when I was living on kibbutz during a period of terror attacks I saw this thing crawl into my home - it was really ugly - I saw horns and fierce eyes, and an artillery shell on its back. I looked at it as it crept even closer and Iyelled. My neighbour came running into my home with his Uzi, prepared to defend me, to defend us. I stood there frozen to a spot pointing at this thing - "Ah Nesta," he said, lowering his Uzi "that is just an artzav." (whatever that is in English I don't know.) Some insect that eats the roots of trees."

I have never attempted to squash or kill these creatures that come in the night, or during the day, or whenever they please - instead I scream and cower and pray, and try to shoo them out.

These fear and horrors have not abated with age. One of the joys of living in Northern California is that it is for the most part, benign.

Today at work, the woman I work for (I am a 'sales associate') called me from outside the back door near the garbage.

"Be careful when you take out the garbage tonight," she said. She pointed to what looked like a stick under a handle of the lid of the garbage. However, the stick was clinging upside down it seemed, with four legs around the handle. We approached it carefully to observe this thing. It really looked like a small broken piece of branch, or wood, except for those legs. It was not moving, and we did not see wings or eyes or anything, but it did cling, unmoving. I picked up a little twig and she took it from me and held it out to the thing and feinted a poke - we both screamed. The stick remained still, sticklike. She poked again. Again we screamed, rather loudly. This occurred in a city, and it was near dusk. We do have neighbours. One would thingk that the screams of two women in a back yard might attract the attention of some neighbours, or anyone passing by. How easily we could have been stabbed or strangled - absolutely noone came to find out what the screams were about.

After she left for the day I took the garbage out to the kerb. This thing remained there throughout the bumpy ride. I photographed it and just then a neighbour did appear, not to save anyone, just to bring out his garbage.

"Look" I said to him.

"A walking stick", he said, calmly and knowingly. "It lives in the trees and eats leaves and insects".