Erma and Irma.

During my lifetime I’ve known two women named Erma. Actually, one was named Erma and one was named Irma. The latter I knew in person; the former I knew by way of newspapers and books.

Now, I’m going to clue you in on something. I’m not a housewife and I have never been a housewife. But even as a youngish lad I enjoyed reading my grandmother’s books by Erma Bombeck. I knew nothing about puberty and sexually reproductive practices, so I had no idea what Erma Bombeck was writing about when she lost everything in The Post Natal Depression, but her style was humorous and friendly, and after seeing her segments on “Good Morning, America” (usually when I was home from school with the flu or something), it was easy to read her passages in her midwestern accented voice. Erma Bombeck wrote in a “wry” way but she always made me laugh, even if I didn’t know what I was laughing about. I had no relationship with cottage cheese, I knew very little about cleaning alabasters (I think it had something to do with a bird cage), but I did dream about travel and I could identify with the idea of Mom and Dad arguing in the front seat of the 1978 Chevy Impala.

Now the other Irma I knew in person. She lived on a farm that wasn’t too far from us. My dad’s cousin’s divorced wife and kids would hang out with my mom and their kids (prior to the divorce) were aged right around my sister and me, and we’d spend plenty of summer days together. Irma and her husband Sam owned a dairy farm and we’d go over there to visit. The drive was fun in that it was across hay and cornfields on a backroad called the Sheepskin Road. Irma drove a Chevy Malibu with bucket seats (I considered this quite fancy) and the downstairs bathroom had an early 1970s era front loading Westinghouse Washing Machine. Irma was always very nice, very grandmotherly, and like Erma Bombeck, Irma was always positive and would go out of her way to take care of the people around her. Once in a great while I’ll dream about Irma and I have no idea why. Maybe it’s just a friendly way of waking up with a smile on my face.

I spent some downtime reading old columns by Erma Bombeck today. I still don’t know how to clean an alabaster (who knew a bird would get dirty?) and I don’t know anything about having a kid standing stark naked on top of the television set while I’m writing my latest blog entry, but like Irma, Erma makes me smile.

I hope the two of them have had the opportunity to share pleasantries on the other side.

Stargazing.

Clear Night on Smith Lake by Nathaniel Polta on 500px

I spent some time daydreaming about what we are going to do when we’re able to travel about this country again. I told my husband I want to drive far away from any city lights on a moonless, clear summer night and just gaze at the stars. I want my vision to be filled with the beauty of space. There’s a whole huge universe out there and I want to see its awesomeness, unimpeded by city lights. I want to watch comets dance and see satellites streak by. I want to lose myself in thoughts of who is sitting on another planet, many light years away, wondering what’s going on near that pale, little yellow dot in their night sky. I want to feel hope.

I want to lose myself in the stars.

Idling.

In these unprecedented times my head is going in many directions at once. When the world gets noisy, I have a couple of ways to get things back in order: I fly an airplane, I go for a long drive, I lose myself in technological endeavors.

I can’t fly an airplane right now, we’re not suppose to be going for long drives, and I’m probably spending too much time losing myself in technological endeavors.

What to do?

Truman has the right idea: throw yourself down on the floor and look out the window to watch the clouds go by. I’m going to try doing that a bit more today. I tried a couple of days ago for a few moments and I immediately noticed the lack of city sounds and the lack of air traffic in and out of O’Hare and Midway. The trick to watching the clouds go by is to quiet the mind. I’ve never been one to really meditate because when everyone else in the room is concentrating on their breath all I hear is my tinnitus.

But watching clouds go by? That might work.

Attempt.

I’m sitting on our balcony enjoying a glass of wine and recovering from watching much of the latest Democratic debate. This time it was hosted by ABC and then packed 3500 people into an arena to cheer and yell and get that whole “make it a sport” vibe going. If you liked candidate one the best, call 1-866-HELPUS1 from your Cingular Wireless phone. Winners to be announced next week after a concert by Dave Matthews with Hootie and the Blowfish.

I’m typing a blog entry using the virtual keyboard on my iPad Pro. Apple was quick to show off a miniature keyboard on the iPad Pro during their event on Monday, but even with iPadOS on this device I can’t figure out what gesture shrinks the keyboard. I’m still mixing up undo and redo as well and I haven’t mastered “cut and paste” with the grab and drop gesture. Perhaps I need to be facing east or something.

There are thunderstorms moving into area and even though it’s mid September it feels as stifling hot as a hot summer night in July. This weekends suppose to calm down a little bit unless someone grabs a Sharpie and changes the weather.

I’ve been pondering spirituality a little bit over past couple of days, and how spiritual beliefs can enhance one’s life instead of dictating it. I haven’t quite figured this out in my head, but I’m being a geek about it and trying to marry my love of science and reason with a spirituality around energy and love. I do not think these concepts run in opposition of one another and I do believe certain spiritual beliefs can be intertwined into one’s life intelligently. Perhaps I was moved by last night’s viewing of the fan film from the Star Trek Universe called “The Holy Core’. I also had an amazing conversation with a monk a couple weeks ago, perhaps the effects from that are still weighing on my mind.

Perspective.

Please watch this video in full screen with the audio turned on. Best enjoyed on something bigger than a smartphone screen.

H/T to Lew on my Twitter feed for bringing my attention to this.

RIP Penny Marshall.

Penny Marshall passed away last night. She was 75 years old and had been struggling with diabetes. Most famous for her role as “Laverne” and ABC’s “Laverne and Shirley”, Penny was also well-known as a movie director for famous films like “A League of Their Own” and “Big”. I always loved how she moved to a version 2.0 of her entertainment career with her roles behind the camera.

About a month ago I watched several interviews with Penny on YouTube. She’s was a little eccentric, wicked smart, and a creative person through and through. Her talent will be missed.

Universe.

The Universe leads us to where we need to be. We moved to Chicago, which meant we needed to find a new primary physician. Getting acquainted with our new primary physician involved an annual physical and associated tests. He urged us to get the tests that middle aged men should get; for my husband this involved a colonoscopy. It was his first. During the colonoscopy the doctor discovered some roughness to his prostate and he was urged to get that checked. He had his prostate checked on at 5:04 PM on 5/4, he received news that he was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. The blood tests had spiked and come back down, but the biopsy was the tell-tale sign. Because my husband is relatively young in prostate years (don’t tell him that, it’ll go to his head), the best course of treatment was surgery. For older guys they go with radiation, but for younger guys, they go with surgery because if the cancer is contained to the prostate, the cancer is completely removed. If radiation fails, they can’t do surgery, but if surgery doesn’t get it all, they can do radiation. My husband made the decision to go through with the surgery and as I type this he’s in the operating room. The procedure can take 3 to 4 1/2 hours. I will be able to see him again this afternoon.

If we hadn’t moved to Chicago, resulting in finding a new doctor, we probably would have been lazy about our annual physicals and who knows how long he would have had this cancer without detection. His cancer was caught early, very early, in fact. There is over a 97% chance that he will be 100% cancer free when all is said and done.

He likes numbers. We both like numbers. We especially like these numbers.

For the 22 years that we’ve been together I’ve always been the one that is going into surgery with his support. For the first time in our relationship the roles in this regard are reversed. It’s been amusing but we’ve settled in.

I’m putting my trust in the Universe today.

Life Goal.

When my time in this life on this planet comes to an end, I want to be able to say to whoever greets me on the other side, “I’ve done everything I can to make the world better. I’ve used every ounce of talent. I ran with every opportunity. I mustered up the energy to keep going and I always tried to set an example. I used up everything that was given to me and I’m ready to rest a bit before doing it again, better than before.”

Day By Day.

I’m not a religious person. I’m a confirmed member of the Methodist church. I was baptized when I was a baby by the minister of the church, who happened to be my great uncle. Rumor has it I peed when they sprinkled the water on me but I don’t know if I’m remembering that correctly or not. I was a baby so I don’t remember the incident but it sounds like something I would do.

My grandmother was the organist for the small Methodist church that we went to when I was a baby. I can barely remember her playing the organ and me waving at her; the church closed and combined with the slightly larger congregation in the village. My grandmother rarely went to that church as she believed the organist shouldn’t be paid to play for Sunday service and that organist was paid. She rarely talked about this but she mentioned it to me once when I was in my teens. That side of the family rarely talked about such matters but once in a while there’d be a small discussion. It’s like when my grandmother told me she could spot those “gay boys”, usually a waiter encountered during travels, and that was ok, she could just spot them. She knew what was up with her only red-headed grandchild. Like my grandmother, my dad never talked about these things either but he was adamant that his two children be confirmed by the church and that I sing in the choir when I was old enough to drive myself to choir practice. My dad rarely made demands of us (outside of the usual family stuff), but that was one of them. I’m happy about my time singing in the church choir and the couple of times that I filled in as director as a senior in high school.

With the constant barrage of news in today’s world of chaos, I sometimes think back to those times when things were calm and people didn’t throw around their beliefs like so much up chuck, much like I do when I spout opinions here, there, and everywhere. My it’s years of not talking about things that’s fueled my impulse to talk about these things to do. Silence wasn’t demanded, it was expected. The only time controversial topics were really banned from discussion is at the dinner table; apparently too many family meals my father attended as a child ended up in yelling and tears, and he wasn’t going to have the same thing at his family meal, so we’d just talk about school and work and various things like that. The only time the family dinner had any sort of turmoil is when my mom forgot to put in meat in the chili (don’t ask), or my father couldn’t fathom what to make of sloppy joes, or my mom plopped a grilled hamburger patty on top of spaghetti. My father would question, my mom would start to take it away and throw it in the trash and I’d eat it so that no one would cry.

What does this have to do with “Godspell” (as pictured above)? Well, “Godspell” is one of my favorite Broadway shows, and listening to the soundtrack helps me find my center. The simplicity of the performances, especially in the original Broadway cast album and the follow-up movie soundtrack, remind me of the simplicity of my youth. There’s no screaming to be found as performers try to “out run” each other with yodeling noises in place of notes or crazy embellishments. The simplicity of the music, and the heart in the performances, help me reconnect in my spiritual beliefs: do good things, work hard at what you do, and love. Make people smile. Be a light in the world.

As I was walking about the other day I was daydreaming and wondering why the louder Christians don’t talk about all the great passages in the Bible. During my grandmother’s funeral in 1996, the minister, a lovely woman named Betsy, began the service by loudly proclaiming Proverbs 6:6 “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise.” She said this with such a booming voice that to this day I’m convinced that even my grandmother jumped. That’s such a simple verse, though. Don’t be lazy, work hard at your task. God or the Goddess or the Universe, or whatever name you choose to use, if you choose at all, just asks that we work hard to be good people and to love one another. All of that other stuff about being gay and eating shellfish and mixing clothing fibers… that’s all a bunch of crap probably inserted by a crabby human and/or translator that felt they weren’t getting enough attention.

The truth of the matter is, my spiritual beliefs are not anyone’s business but my own. Your spiritual beliefs are none of my business. Just keep it simple. Do unto others as they would do unto you. Be a good person. Work hard. Give more to society than you take. Love.

Keep it simple. Day by day.