Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking Back at 2018

I first began blogging in early February 2015, because I was taking a course about Political Campaigns, and the professor wanted each of us to have our own political blog. I got an "A" in the course, but even after it ended, I decided to keep on blogging. I may not be widely read-- as I've mentioned before, I get the most readers when I blog about the rock band Rush; and I may not be widely known-- I've had an interesting life, though, and I've met a lot of famous people.  But blogging has provided me with a good way to comment on a wide range of topics; I'll probably keep doing it in the new year.

But since it's the last day of the old year, I have a few thoughts to share, and then I have a request to make.  Let's do the thoughts first (in no particular order): 

1.  It's good to be alive.  When I first began blogging, I'd recently had cancer surgery and was about to finish radiation. It was a scary time and I was seeking ways to keep busy and keep my mind occupied. Teaching my classes was one, taking an online course or two was helpful, and so were writing and doing some volunteer work.  Now, I'm four years cancer-free; and while I'm still not as energetic as I was before I got cancer, I continue to be out there trying to make a difference. To all those who are fighting this disease, I send my love, and a friendly reminder that there are more people being successfully treated now than ever before.  

2.  It saddens me that our culture (and our politics) has become so polarized and so angry. I see it everywhere I go. Even some of my students, my friends, folks on social media-- everyone seems to have a shorter fuse. Okay fine, we've been polarized and angry before, and I assume we will be again. But it still makes me sad, especially given that we really do need each other if we are going to try to solve the problems that lie ahead of us.

3.  No, Rush will not be reuniting, no matter how many online rumors you hear. Fans keep hoping, but Neil really is happy in retirement; Alex and Geddy keep in touch with him, but he does not want to resume playing.  Fan groups continue to bring together the many people whose lives were touched by Rush's music, and perhaps Alex and Geddy will find time to collaborate in the new year. I'm glad the three of them are alive and well and I salute them:  they've contributed to so many of us for more than four decades.

4.  It was a dangerous year to be a journalist. Nearly one hundred of them world-wide were killed, and countless others were imprisoned.  News organizations in the US were not immune: individual reporters received numerous death threats, some received pipe bombs in the mail, and others were shot at (or in the case of five employees of Capital Gazette in Annapolis MD, or Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, murdered).  While it has become fashionable to mock and condemn journalists and accuse them of lying, most of these men and women are honest and hardworking and many put themselves in danger every day to keep us informed. They deserve our appreciation rather than our scorn.

5.  In addition to journalists, we lost a lot of other good people, in all walks of life. I was always a fan of former first lady Barbara Bush; and Steven Bochco created two of my favorite TV series ("Hill Street Blues" and "NYPD Blue").  Linda Brown, the young girl at the center of the 1954 "Brown versus the Board of Education" decision, passed away in 2018,  as did Marvel comic book legend Stan Lee. Locally, I will miss Judge Joseph Tauro, a passionate advocate for people with disabilities, and Gil Santos-- for many years, the radio voice of the New England Patriots.  I will miss Boston television announcer Frank Avruch (he played the role of Bozo the Clown on Boston TV when I was growing up).  In addition, I will miss radio and TV talk show host Ed Schultz--  while he was never as famous as his right-wing counterparts, he proved that progressive talk could find an audience and make a profit.

6.  And while I know this will offend some folks, I still believe there are too many guns falling into the wrong hands. As a result, too many students got shot and/or killed this year (more than 100 kids over all).  I'm not opposed to the Second Amendment, and I have friends who are sport-shooters.  But I'm not okay about kindergarten kids having to do "active shooter drills" (a traumatizing experience) or teachers carrying guns in the classroom.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: nobody other than the military and law enforcement needs an assault-style weapon.

Okay, now for the request.  Regarding point number 2, please vow to be part of the solution in 2019, rather than part of the problem. I know that social media can be a great place for sarcasm and snark and rudeness. But the next time you receive a meme that demonizes the folks on the other side, could you possibly NOT forward it to everyone you know, and not "like" it? Most of the memes I see contain fake quotes, and all they do is contribute to more rage, more stereotyping, and more name-calling.  I'm not a "lib-tard" and I hate it when someone sends me a message about "you libs." In the new year, let's disagree courteously, and try to respect each other's views. Thanks for reading me, and I send lots of love and good wishes for a happy & healthy 2019.  


Saturday, December 15, 2018

A December to Remember

I'll admit it: I've never been a big fan of December.  The weather is usually cold here, and it gets dark around 4 pm.  Traffic is brutal (everyone doing their last-minute holiday shopping), and the majority of the mail I get seems to be asking for donations (I had no idea there were so many worthy causes).  And yet, for the past few years, I find myself feeling a lot kinder towards December, because it was in that month that two memorable events occurred.

One of those memorable events occurred on a Tuesday afternoon, 11 December 2012. I was sitting in a faculty meeting, when suddenly my cellphone began to vibrate. Most of my friends know I'm at work during the day, so I rarely get calls. I remember thinking it must be an emergency of some kind, but when I stepped out of the room to see what was going on, it was a number of Rush fans, as well as radio and TV stations, letting me know the guys had finally been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The next day, I got interviewed by CTV in Toronto, and then several Boston stations, and the Boston Globe and the Quincy Patriot-Ledger... Rush's management called me... it was quite a week, to say the least. After the initial shock wore off (so many of us had worked for so long, lobbying the Rock Hall, and it took far too long for Rush to get the respect they deserved), I had time to rejoice with the world-wide community of Rush fans, culminating four months later, with the induction ceremony in Los Angeles. And though it's now been six years since that day when I got the news, it seems like only yesterday, and every year, I am reminded of it when December rolls around.

The other memorable event was quite different:  it took place on a Wednesday morning, 17 December 2014, the day I had surgery for cancer. In late November, I had received the phone call no-one wants to get; but once I knew what I had, the doctors wanted to attack it aggressively. Interestingly, I had an all-female medical team: the oncologist, anesthesiologist, and all the nurses were women.  And fortunately for me, the news was encouraging:  I had a type of cancer that, since it was caught early, would be very treatable.  Still, it was a scary time for me, as I'm sure you can understand.  After I had the surgery, it was followed by a month of out-patient radiation (no fun, but necessary).  During that period of time, I was greatly comforted by my faith, and by the kindness of my husband (who baked me wonderful pies to cheer me up); but what also meant a lot was my friends-- many of whom are members of that previously-mentioned world-wide community of Rush fans.  I'm about to be four years cancer-free now, and while I still have times when I worry, what comes up for me each December is a feeling of gratitude-- no matter how many frustrations and problems I may have, it's still good to be alive. I appreciate every day, and I try to use it for a positive purpose.

And if I have a message to share, it's this: you really can't predict what's going to happen. It might be a wonderful experience (like finding out my favorite band was finally inducted into the Rock Hall and I was invited to be there); or it might be a frightening experience (like finding out that I had cancer).  But the wheel turns, and things rarely stay the same. I say this because some people at this time of year are feeling depressed, or they miss someone they've lost; or perhaps they just don't like December. All I can say is, when you least expect it, things can, and do, get better. And when you think you are alone, you're really not-- there are people who care about you.  One of them wrote this blog post.  And however you spend this holiday season, may you find reasons to be cheerful... and reasons to be grateful.