Holidays: A Study in Family Dynamics

Years after leaving your family of origin, it can be fascinating to return for a few days. If you have some background in family dynamics, you may sit back and observe some interesting patterns that don’t seem to vary even decades later. No matter how much you change, your place in your family usually doesn’t.

Carter Family Christmas in 1966

Here’s a few examples. In my family I am the youngest and am treated as such. I’m the little sister, permanently. There is no escaping that role. My brother and I were usually quieter than our older sister, and sure enough that is all still true. There are usually one or two family members who need and demand a lot of attention, and it’s funny to watch how most of us quickly fall into our old roles. My dad was a college professor. In his day he loved to hold forth on any topic related to botany or biology. We all respected his opinion at least on those topics. My big sister is tops in her field in long-term care, perfect training for helping out my parents now that they are past age 85. These two are our family orators

The only real change in my family is that as my parents have aged they have gotten much quieter. They mainly sit and listen to us “younger” members (all in our 60s) ramble on about some “modern” topic like politics or technology. None of us have kids and we don’t exchange gifts, so the holidays can be relatively calm in our family.

I always look forward to getting together with my family and then I am also happy to return afterward to our modest country home. This time I observed to Mike on our return home that we must all be a tiny bit OCD, because returning to a place where everything is where we left it brings feelings of security and comfort, especially as we age.

This place is truly HOME SWEET HOME TO US NOW!

The Sun is the BEST Writing and Writers’ Magazine I know of! Here’s a free sample for you:

If you’ve never heard of “The Sun” you need to find out about it now! It has no ads, it’s just pure wonderful writing supported by dedicated writers. In case you don’t believe me, here’s a link to a short essay from one of their award-winning pieces.

The Cure for Racism Is Cancer

America, that old problem of yours? Racism? I have a cure for it: Get cancer. Come into these waiting rooms and clinics, the cold radiology units and the ICU cubicles. Take a walk down Leukemia Lane with a strange pain in your lower back and an uneasy sense of foreboding. Make an appointment for your CAT scan. Wonder what you are doing here among all these sick people: the retired telephone lineman, the grandmother, the junior-high-school soccer coach, the mother of three…

When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters…

In the midst of a number of medical biopsies, scans and tests, I am learning exactly how LARGE my breathing problems are. Time to accept this new reality! My sleep study showed that I come very close to not breathing during the night, and my walking test explains to me why I feel so dizzy just walking a few blocks. Yes, it’s true this all came up after moving to a higher elevation, but I’m certain I had nodules in my lungs before. Living here just made the problem much more obvious to me.

Now to the question of why. Since I never smoked or was regularly around second hand smoke, I have to conclude that my work environments, old libraries, and the air pollution everywhere in our world have been very hard on my lungs. I have always felt a bit like the canary in the mine. I’m always the first one to notice bad air before anyone around me.

My brother, who has worked in asbestos abatement, informs me that old libraries are one of the worst places in terms of asbestos pollution. In fact, I worked at CU-Boulder when they were removing some. I have also lived in quite a few polluted cities like Bangkok, Taipei, Hong Kong, etc. I used to joke that I have had bronchitis in the most exotic places…not so funny now.

Why should this matter to you? Whenever I see someone smoking now I want to go and tell them how awful it is when you cannot breathe like you used to, or do any of the things you used to enjoy. In summary, do everything you can to protect your lungs from anything that will limit your breathing in the future because:

Struggling for breathe SUCKS!

Cancer-free for now!

A Cancer Cell

I had a Petscan a couple of weeks ago and a lung biopsy this past Thursday. Yesterday I learned that they found “no cancer cells.” For those who don’t know, a Petscan helps to identify “hot spots” in your body to check for unusual cell growth and disease. It is much more detailed than a Catscan or MRI. I found the Petscan results quite interesting, but the biopsy was particularly amazing! How can they target a small tumor and then go in and obtain such a microscopic tissue sample?

But I soon realized the more important question is how do I deal with so much more information about what is happening in my body? The technology is outrunning our ability to deal with the results! To tell you the truth, I was more concerned about what treatments might be needed and how they might affect my overall health than having “cancer.” Treatments like chemo or radiation sound scary enough.

I’m glad there are treatments, but none sound real “healthy.” In the past we just wouldn’t know what was happening inside until it was too late. Now we are able to know so much more so much earlier. Then we have to decide how to think and feel about all of this information. It certainly helps me focus much more clearly on my own mortality and I happen to believe that that is a good thing. How do I feel about my life so far? Would it be OK if it ended now?

A nation born of racial violence…

It does not take a genius to see that by killing most native peoples in this country and then importing native Africans to produce our crops for us, our very existence was based on racial violence. Anyone who hates immigrants today must hate themselves, because we are almost all immigrants to this beautiful land.

As one who rarely quotes the Bible, I say, “Violence begets violence” in all of human history. Our nation was born of violence against the aborigines of this country first, and then Africans who did NOT want to come here on slave ships! In the West we have a long history of hate for Latinos, the Chinese and the Japanese. What a country! And now we act surprised that the violence continues?

A nation born of immigration and racial violence should not now be surprised that racism and violence continues to this day. I see absolutely no end in sight. Thoughts and prayers will never be enough. A total change in human conscience is in order.

If you can’t count on the ground beneath your feet staying put, what can you depend on?

1906 San Francisco Earthquake… YIKES!

I’ll never forget my first earthquake. I was living in Bangkok at age 19. I had taken a bath and was just standing up when I felt super dizzy and disoriented. Being from Kansas, I assumed it was my problem. It never occurred to me that the earth beneath my feet was moving!

I have lived in a number of places that experience regular earthquakes, most in Asia, but my first professional position after graduate school was at the University of Utah Government Documents in Salt Lake City. You should see the EPA report on what a major earthquake could do to that town!

When I studied Chinese in Taipei we had short ones about once a month. And each time I thought, ” I hate this place and now I’ll probably die here!” That convinced me permanently not to live in an earthquake zone and I haven’t since. I figure life is stressful enough without having to worry about the stability of the ground beneath my feet. Those that live in earthquake zones with 99% chance of the big one perplex me. Fatalism at its best I guess.

After the recent quakes, the Governor of California said Saturday that “governments must strengthen alert systems and building codes, and residents should make sure they know how to protect themselves during an earthquake.” Good luck with that!

When the entire earth seems out to get me, I am not optimistic…