Monday musings – insignificant or significant

Life offers many experiences from the insignificant to significant. Approaching my 62nd birthday, I can share that more than a few things people believe are significant are not really important. Conversely, little insignificant things may have been gateways into something more meaningful. As Robert Frost wrote, the road not taken has made all the difference.

The girl or boy you did not ask out, as your friends labeled the person too different, might have opened your eyes to wonderful experiences.

Being prevented by your parents from attending a party may be mortifying for a teen, but does not make that big a difference in the big scheme of things.

To this point, the most well-adjusted Hollywood couples, live away from the superficial Hollywood scene. They crave the reality, not perception.

Being genuine is far more important than being popular. Choosing to help or listen to someone with a problem, is far more important than being “liked.”

Changing your mind on a major decision may prove embarrassing, but it is usually for the best. Life events are worthy of as much introspection as possible. I have never regretted unwinding a major decision.

Saying “no” may be unpopular, but it is also more than fine to decline. People sometimes overcommit and end up letting people down.

Take the time to ask your older relatives about your heritage before it is too late. I still have unanswered questions, especially after doing research online. Knowing your lineage and history is gratifying, even if the history reveals some warts. Our kids love to speak of their roots.

Finally, one of the things my wife and I miss with the COVID-19 limitations is talking to people we encounter on our travels, near and far. A trip to Ireland was seasoned by chatting with Oola, who grew up in a corner of Belgium, very close to two other countries, eg. Take the time to talk to folks. It may make all the difference.

Caleb’s Crossing – a good book with a dose of history

Take a surprising true story – the first Native American to graduate from Harvard in the 17th century. Season it with a historically appropriate context. And, mix in a story told through the eyes of a growing young daughter of a minister and you arrive at “Caleb’s Crossing” by Gretchen Brooks, who is a Pulitzer Prize winner for her 2006 book “March.”

Bethia Mayfield is the girl growing up in the settlement of Great Harbor on what is now called Martha’s Vineyard. Her father has an earnest effort to convert and educate members of the Wampanoag tribe on the island. While Bethia is not allowed advanced schooling given her gender, she listens to her father’s lessons to her older brother, Makepeace. Since her brother is not the best of students, unlike his younger sister, she gets the benefit of hearing the lessons repeated.

As she lost her twin brother in a terrible accident, she wanders the coast, woods and meadows. She befriends a a Wampanoag boy about her age. She eventually gives him an English name of Caleb. He is as curious to learn as she is and he teaches her about where good berries can be found and how to fish. He also teaches her his language and vice-versa. Yet, other than taking her berries home, she must keep her learnings to herself.

I will stop there as not to reveal too much plot. If you are a woman, this book will exasperate you at times. You will pull for Bethia throughout and wince when she does headstrong things that her mother cautioned her about. She will acknowledge that she may have said too much on occasion in the book.

While Bethia and her story is fiction, there are many parts of the story that are true. Brooks points these out at the end of the book, as she does not want her book to replace history. Yet, so much is unknown about Caleb and another Native American Harvard student, that the story is a good teaching aid.

“Caleb’s Crossing” is a good book. It is not a can’t-put-down-read, at least to me, but it is entertaining. Men will find it of interest, but women will likely be more invested with how it portrays the subservient nature of girls and women in the mid-to-late 17th century and how Bethia overcomes obstacles.

Who do people believe is the most mentally sound per a Fox poll?

The incumbent US president wants to make this election about mental acuity, a fight he believes he can win. Not so fast, per a poll in July by Fox News, the conservative news outlet Breitbart reports in the article, most of which is repeated below:

“A majority of Americans believe President Donald Trump neither has ‘the intelligence’ nor ‘the mental soundness’ to ‘serve effectively as president,’ according to a Fox News poll released on Sunday.

The national poll, conducted July 12-15 with a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points, found that 52 percent do not think Trump has the intelligence to serve as president while 51 percent do not believe Trump has the ‘mental soundness’ to be in the White House. Just 42 percent think Trump has the intelligence to be president while 43 believe has the mental soundness to be president.

Despite Trump’s attempts to make the election about former Vice President Joe Biden’s mental acuity, 51 percent still believe Biden has the ‘intelligence’ to be president while 36 percent believe he does not. The poll found that 47 percent believe Biden has the “mental soundness” to be president compared to 39 percent who think he lacks the the mental soundness to be in the White House.

A majority also believe Biden has the judgment to serve effectively as president while a majority think Trump does not.

Trump’s poll numbers–and his standing in the most critical swing states–have plummeted as his approval rating on his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic has cratered since he began rambling at the coronavirus press conferences in March.

His re-election chances are increasingly tied to his Coronavirus approval rating, which has hit an all-time low. The Fox News poll found that Americans trust Biden by a 17-point margin to better deal with the Coronavirus pandemic.

Trump’s low Coronavirus approval rating has put Biden in a position to win record-levels of support in the suburbs for a Democrat, and it has also cut into the president’s support with one of the most important swing constituencies—white Catholics.

A Washington Post-ABC poll released over the weekend found that Trump has been losing support with white Catholics since March, when Trump led Biden by 13 points among this critical group. That lead is now down to just four points (51 percent to 47 percent). As ABC noted, ‘Trump won white Catholics by 61-37% in 2016.'”

Note, this poll was done before the acceptance speech by Joe Biden at the DNC Convention, which even Fox news and opinion people gave high marks. But, what the poll above does not measure is common decency and empathy. The most profound speech delivered at the convention was done by Brayden Harrington, a thirteen year old boy who stutters. He noted Biden has gone out of his way to share his history of stuttering with the boy, even offering tips that helped him.

For the life of me, I simply cannot envision the current president taking the time to do that.

A link to the article is below
https://www.breitbart.com/2020-election/2020/07/20/poll-majority-believe-trump-lacks-intelligence-mental-soundness-to-be-potus/

Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa saves two women from surf

The life saving skills of the president of a country is usually not an issue for voters. But, it elicits citizens’ respect, if the president acts to help people. We cannot even get the US president to worry enough about 170,000 plus lives lost due to COVID-19.

Courtesy of Australian News World,

“The locally known swimming skills of Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa are being praised again after he assisted the rescue of two young women last weekend.

Mr de Sousa was at a beach in Portugal’s Algarve region when the two women in the water were swept by currents after their kayak capsized.

The President was filmed helping the pair with life guards.

‘They were dragged away from another beach to this beach, the boat turned over and they swallowed a lot of water and they couldn’t turn the boat up, nor swim, nor get back onto the boat, the current was very strong,’ he told reporters on the beach.

‘So, it was possible to push them and help them get away from the current.’

Mr de Sousa is on a work holiday tour, visiting all Portuguese regions during summertime to show his support for the tourism sector, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the rescue, the President said he hoped the pair would be more careful the next time they entered the water.

‘It was a big scare for them, they swallowed a lot of water,’ he said. ‘Fortunately, me and another patriot helped them.'”

This kind of story is needed in today’s contentious world and one where so-called leaders are not accountable. Kudos to Mr. de Sousa.

https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/world/portugals-president-marcelo-rebelo-de-sousa-saves-two-women-from-surf-at-popular-algarve-beach/ar-BB184Mxs

Thirteen years and counting

Yesterday was the thirteenth anniversary of the start of my going alcohol free. The echo still remains, but it is a faint one and usually pops up at certain times in the late afternoon. It is indeed manageable. The following link is to a post I wrote on my sixth anniversary, which remains my most visited post. If you have this issue or know someone who does, I mention some teachings therein I gleaned from others. The key one is “I am not going to drink today.”

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/six-years-alcohol-free-but-still-want-to-drink/

Let’s follow the example John Lewis lived

The following is necessarily short, as my local newspaper was kind enough to print it in its “Letters to the Editor” section this morning.

Watching the memorial service for Congressman John Lewis, I noticed the words kind, caring and courageous were used often. A staff member noted he was a great boss with several people working with him for over 10 years (a few over 20).

Lewis embodied the words spoken about him. Civil and nonviolent protest will be his lasting legacy. His example is followed by a significant majority who participate in the multiracial Black Lives Matter protests.

Those few who choose violence may make the news, but they dilute the message. Steadfast resolve is a much greater weapon. It galvanizes people.

Let’s honor Lewis for the person he was and how he conducted himself. Black lives do matter.

A boyhood crush passes away

Many great people have died in the past week, Congressman John Lewis, leading the pack through his advocacy and courage. Yet, someone this old fart had a crush on passed away over the weekend – Olivia de Havilland. Here is a brief snippet (courtesy of Wonderwall) of an article that tells more about her to those with whom her name is not familiar.

“Olivia de Havilland, an icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age and the last living star of ‘Gone With the Wind,’ has died at 104. The five-time Oscar nominee, who twice won the Academy Award for Best Actress, passed away “peacefully” in her sleep at her home in Paris, her publicist announced on Sunday, July 26. De Havilland became a household name after starring alongside Errol Flynn in films including 1935’s ‘Captain Blood’ and 1938’s ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood.’ As she took on more serious roles, like that of a patient at a mental institution in ‘Snake Pit’ (1948), awards poured in for the actress. That continued through the end of her career and included a National Medal of Arts honor in 2008. Shortly before her 101st birthday, Queen Elizabeth named the star a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. De Havilland was also known for a long-running feud with her sister, actress Joan Fontaine, and for her historic 1943 court victory over Warner Bros., in which Hollywood’s unfair suspension clause was deemed unlawful.”

While she won her two Oscars for Best Actress in “The Heiress” and “To each his own,” this young boy remembers de Havilland for her work with Errol Flynn in “Captain Blood” and as Maid Marian in “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” She said in an interview, she was smitten with Flynn, but never acted on it. This is apparent when Flynn’s Robin Hood climbs up to her room and her Maid Marian blushes way too easily. For little boys, we were Errol Flynn, and she was the object of our affection.

While she is best known for playing Melanie in “Gone with the Wind,” she won her awards when she demanded better parts. However, playing Melanie was so well done, I remember my mother saying how she did not like how Melanie’s husband Ashley Wilkes treated her. Melanie deserved better than the wishy-washy Wilkes’ inattentiveness. De Havilland made us pull for Melanie even more. Please note, I am setting aside the disservice this movie did for how it portrayed slaves.

I recognize fully de Havilland is not a John Lewis or a CT Vivian. But, for this grown-up boy, she will forever be the woman blushing in the window with Robin Hood.

The Porch People – let’s revisit

About six years ago, I wrote the following post about why it is important to visit people. With COVID-19 ever-present, we have been able to visit neighbors as we walked, chatting from across the street. But, we need to make more phone calls and visit (with social distancing) folks who are not getting enough social interactions.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Clifton Taulbert, the author of “Eight Habits of the Heart” and “Once upon a time when we were Colored,” which are terrific reads and offer a series of life lessons told through a historical lens. Yet, a book he wrote called “Little Cliff and the Porch People” with the illustrations of E.B. Lewis is also helpful in telling his history growing up in the Mississippi Delta and sharing the importance of relationships and community. You may be saying to yourself what an odd title and who are these “porch people?”

Cliff was raised by his great-grandparents and on Saturday, his great-grandfather would coax little Cliff to go get ice cream in the town thirty miles away. What seemed like a journey to nirvana would become a test of patience for little Cliff. You see, his great-grandfather would use the journey to stop and visit with everyone whose house they passed, who were out sitting on the front porch.

Back then, it would be so hot inside a house in the Mississippi Delta, the people would migrate to the front porch built with shade and cooler breezes in mind. Before television and the internet, people would pass time chatting on the porch waving at passers-by. Little Cliff’s great-grandfather knew this, so he made a special effort to see everyone, to check in on families to learn about their illnesses, recoveries, needs and joys while sharing fellowship.

For a child wanting ice cream, Cliff notes this was a huge test to put off his desire for ice cream. But, he began to see the pattern and learned the importance of visiting with others. Just listening is critical. Offering words of support and the occasional piece of advice is helpful. And, as part of the community, he would learn that sharing people’s needs with his family would create a chain reaction to offer help to those who could use it, even if they did not specifically ask for it.

In the book, Little Cliff tells of his great-grandmother sending him off to borrow some butter to cook with asking him to not stop anywhere and hurry back. Cliff had learned that this was not possible, as he was obligated to stop and chat with folks along the way. The quiet truth is the great-grandmother knew this as well, which is why she sent him on the quest. He would learn the importance of speaking with others and she would gain knowledge of how others are doing.

People have always been in need and will always have needs in the future. Sometimes, the needs cannot be resolved by themselves, so the community can help lift people up. Even though front porches have been replaced by back decks and fewer people are walking, we need to remember the “porch people” and make sure we take the time to check in on folks and see how they are doing. We can hope they would do the same, as you never know when I kind word or a friendly ear can help.

President claims others are lying

The following letter was forwarded to my local newspaper yesterday. I hope they print it. Please feel free to adapt and use.
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I find amusing the headline “President says everyone else is lying.” This headline involves a president and his sycophants attempting to blame others for his misinformation and mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to this day. Per an ABC/ ISPOs poll, 67% of Americans disapprove of his handling of the pandemic. Until he focuses on helping Americans instead of how it makes him look, he will continue to misinform us and more Americans will get sick and die. Pandemics do not care about optics.

The music of The Bridges of Madison County

A few months ago, I rewatched the movie “The Bridges of Madison County.” The movie stars Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep and is directed by Eastwood.

The movie is about a weekend tryst between a photographer who traveled to the area to take pictures of the county’s covered bridges and a woman in a routine marriage. Her husband is away with the kids camping.

The movie is very good, but is bathed in wonderful music of the 1950s and early 1960s. Eastwood is very musical, so he took time to select music that accentuated the romantic scenes between the two.

Johnny Hartman and Dinah Washington are featured several times. If you don’t know Hartman, think Nat King Cole with a deeper voice. Irene Kral appears a couple of times and Barbara Lewis sings “Baby I’m Yours,” her biggest hit.

My kids bought me the soundtrack CD for Father’s Day. It is smooth listening music. If you are looking for a birthday present, it is a nice treat. And, it is not just for older people, as my oldest son in his late twenties knew who Hartman was.

We have several soundtracks that well-accented the movie they were in. They range from “The Big Chill” which has artists’ songs to “The Last of the Mohicans” whose score is marvelous. And, if you want to get a selection of themes, John Barry has a CD of several movie themes he wrote such as “Born Free,” “Somewhere in Time” and “Out of Africa.”

What are some of your favorites soundtracks?