Ah, life. As the saying goes, it’s a bitch. After a week on vacation during which I managed to get my body clock back on track, it took three days and one phone call with my old boyfriend (a.k.a. the Love of My Life, or LOML) to screw it up again. Even my mildly sedating anti-depressant couldn’t knock me out before 4:00 a.m.
In my younger years, I didn’t even understand what insomnia was. You’re tired, you sleep. Who the hell couldn’t manage that? The only two times I can remember not being able to get to sleep were when I had my tonsils out at age 7 and stayed awake during my entire admission except during the actual surgery (my younger brother had died five months earlier and to me, hospitals were where children died, so I must have decided that I’d better stay awake just in case) and again in my mid-20s when the aforementioned old boyfriend called to tell me he was getting married (it’s hard to fall asleep when you’re sobbing uncontrollably for about 12 hour straight). Besides those incidents, I never had trouble sleeping until maybe my late 30s.
For a while, I took a nightly tablet of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle. That worked reaonably well and I was able to stop taking it after a few months.
Then came menopause. I couldn’t fall asleep, couldn’t stay asleep, and never awoke feeling rested. It was my psychiatrist who, in the context of a review of my meds (better living through chemistry!), suggested adding trazodone, a mood elevator that can also help insomnia related to depression. I’ve been sleeping pretty well ever since.
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t things that can and sometimes do make it harder for me to drift off into dreamland. I have a tendency to use my laptop or cell phone right before going to bed, a habit that is considered a significant contributor to sleep disturbance. Apparently the electronic glow of the screen stimulates something in the brain that keeps us awake. It wasn’t such a problem years ago when the only lighted screen we watched at night was network television, but such screens are ubiquituos now. And come to think about it, I did sleep much better when I read a chapter or two of a good book before turning out the lights.
Technology aside, another major impediment to sound sleep is mental activity. Most people experience occasional times when their minds run like a freight train and prevent them from relaxing. It could be because of stress at work, worry about a sick family member or friend, or even just having attended a high-activity event after which it takes a while to unwind. If such a mental marathon meets the physiological effects of looking at an electronic screen, watch out.
Which is apparently what happened to me Tuesday night. After talking to the LOML for over 45 minutes, I proceeded to turn it over and over and over in my mind,, analyzing and trying to make sense of every word. Then I journaled about it, which might have helped me untangle it and usher in a restful night if I hadn’t done it in an online journal. Yep, the lit screen again.
It had been so long since I took that long to fall asleep (did I mention it wasn’t until about 4:00 a.m.?) that I had forgotten how miserable it was. It was enough to make me get serious about laying off the electronics before bed. And if I must, I will follow it with a half hour of reading a book or magazine (paper, not virtual) or listening to relaxing music with the lights dimmed.
Those things I can control, unlike the situation with the old boyfriend.
(* Pat yourself on the back if you got the Beatles reference in the title.)
Today is a day of numbers. Some are familiar:
- 11, 175, 77, 93 — The flight numbers of the hijacked planes.
- 3 — The number of airports from which the four hijacked planes originated.
- 8:46 — The time of first impact.
- 2,977 — The number of people killed in the attacks.
- 19 — The number of hijackers.
Others, less so:
- 61 — The number of nations, besides the United States, whose citizens were among the victims.
- 4,300 — The number of civilian aircraft grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration following the attacks.
- 120 — The number of U.S.-bound overseas flights that were diverted to Canada.
- 1 — The number of people who made the decision to completely shut down U.S. airspace.
- 5 — The number of military fighter jets scrambled (alas, too late) from Otis Air Force Base and Langley Air National Guard Base to intercept the hijacked planes targeting the Twin Towers.
Being cheap—and, at the moment, broke—I don’t have television service. That’s no cable, no satellite. The only things I really miss watching are the local sports teams, but I can get those on the radio. Still, it’s nice to watch a movie or program occasionally, and for that reason I compromised and sprung for an $8/month subscription to Hulu.
The nice thing about Hulu is that it isn’t just a site where you can stream, at your convenience, programs other people watch on television. It has its own original programming as well, some of which is quite good. I’m currently watching a Hulu original series called Casual, about a woman in the process of getting a divorce who temporarily moves, with her teenaged daughter, into her brother’s house. The story follows the three of them as they navigate the various relationships (I use the term loosely) arising from each character’s pursuit of casual sex. What’s interesting is that for three people who are getting the no-strings-attached sex they actively seek, they are remarkably miserable
All of which has me thinking about Catholic teaching on sexuality, something about which I’m preparing to lead discussion as part of an adult faith formation program I coordinate at my church. Even people with absolutely no connection to the Catholic church know that its teachings prohibit pre-marital, extra-marital, or same-sex sex. (Yeah, I spent five minutes trying to figure out how to say that last one in a less redundant way but came up empty. Sorry.)
The teaching goes basically like this: the purpose of sexuality is that it be shared between two people who are joined in marriage, for the purposes of uniting them to one another and producing children. As someone who has had sex and given birth without being married, I often questioned why the marriage part was a requirement.
More recently, I have come to some understanding of that teaching, from two perspectives: practical and emotional. My pregnancy was the result of a relationship that wasn’t in any way serious or committed. I ended up raising my child alone, a difficult task materially speaking. On the other hand, when I had sex for love (with someone different), it was indeed unifying. But that relationship ended, and in three decades I still haven’t gotten over it. I wonder if it would have been easier to move on if we had never shared those sexual experiences that seemed to cement the emotional connection between us. For the record, I also had a wild phase when I sought sex for fun, but it wasn’t remotely fulfilling and didn’t make me feel very good about myself. I don’t do that any more.
Maybe that’s the wisdom of Catholic teaching. As much as we may want to believe otherwise, sex is profoundly different from other human interactions. For people who don’t take it seriously, like the characters in Casual, it can be unsatisfying at best and hurtful at worst.
Ten days after breaking his leg in horrific fashion landing a vault in Rio, French gymnast Samir Ait Said is reportedly on the road to recovery.
Ait Said had surgery the night of the injury and posted a video on Facebook the next day, thanking well-wishers for their support and offering words of encouragement to his Olympic teammates (according to a partial translation provided by Yahoo Sports). Yesterday he attended the rings final as a spectator.
Because I’m not an avid gymnastics fan, I didn’t realize that this wasn’t the first injury to keep Ait Said from Olympic competition. Another leg injury prior to the 2012 Games in London kept him off the team entirely. Last year, he declared his desire to medal twice in Rio to make up for what he couldn’t do in London. No one would blame him for being bitter for being denied yet again.
But he isn’t bitter, telling French sports daily L’Équipe (as quoted in the Guardian article linked above) that he is really quite fortunate:
There are worse things in life. I’m in good health, that’s the main thing. You have to put it in context. You know, people died in the Paris terrorist attacks, some people lost their children. I’ve missed out on the chance to make the Olympic final, that’s all. I’m still alive, I have my friends, my parents are here with me.
Ait Said says he plans to compete in Tokyo in 2020. I, for one, will be rooting for him to win big.
Twitter users know that if you don’t protect your account (i.e. restrict who can see the contents), any other user can see your tweets. I tweet a fair amount of news, current events, and political stuff, so it isn’t unusual that someone I don’t know will like/retweet/reply to one of my tweets or even follow me. But I can’t figure out why, yesterday afternoon, I was followed by the verified account of Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista.
Granted, he isn’t the most discriminating Twitter user when it comes to following people. But that doesn’t explain why he added me to the 774,000 other people whose tweets litter his timeline. Nor does it make it any less fun to be able to say that Jose Bautista follows me on Twitter.
I haven’t been this excited since I got a follow from Wayne Rogers, the (now deceased) actor-turned-investment-strategist who played Trapper John McIntyre on the M*A*S*H TV series.
It’s only day 2 of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, but we already have a winner for The Den Mother’s Olympic Boyfriend of 2016.
French gymnast Samir Ait Saif gets the nod not only because he’s gorgeous, but also because this happened to him and he didn’t throw up on international television. He didn’t even yell. (WARNING: Disturbing video at the link.)
If you’re squeamish and would rather not watch the video, here’s USA Today‘s description of the incident:
Ait Said’s left leg snapped on his vault landing, the sharp crack heard throughout the arena. As he rolled over, clutching his leg just below the knee, his foot and the lower half of his shin dangled in the opposite direction of the rest of his leg.
It was not a compound fracture (in other words, the bone did not puncture the skin), but there might still be internal soft tissue damage.
The Den Mother joins many others around the world who send Ait Said heartfelt wishes for a fast and full recovery.
With the Olympics coming up, I got thinking about all the flags we’ll see in the opening ceremony, among spectators cheering on their teams, and at medal ceremonies. Did you know that the colors of the Olympic rings—blue, yellow, black, green, and red—were chosen because every national flag on the planet contains at least one of those colors. (That factoid prompted the Den Son to state that he’d love to start his own country and give it a solid purple flag. But I digress.)
It has always fascinated me how many flags resemble others in some way. There are very few—the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the former Soviet Union come to mind—that are (or were) almost universally recognized. But what about the tri-color flags? There are tons of those, some vertical stripes, some horizontal stripes, that can be confusing to those who aren’t already familiar with them.
How similar are some national flags? Let’s take a look.
Liberia, Malaysia, and the U.S.A.
Liberia, being a nation founded for the resettlement of freed American and Caribbean slaves, deliberately adopted a flag similar to that of the United States, but with very different symbolism. The Malaysian flag is unrelated to both.
Australia and New Zealand
The principle differences (though there are others) are that the Australian flag has what’s called the Commonwealth star under the union flag and an extra, smaller star in the Southern Cross.
Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Argentina
The three Central American countries’ flags are based on the the flag of the former Federal Republic of Central America, which was itself inspired by the Argentine flag.
France, Ireland, and Italy
Tricolors are abundant across the globe, as with these three European flags that all have white in the middle.
Ireland and Ivory Coast
I’m showing the Irish flag again to compare it to the flag of the Ivory Coast, which is merely a differently proportioned mirror image of the other.
Guinea and Mali
Two more vertical tricolors that also mirror each other vertically.
Indonesia, Monaco, and Poland
Yes, those really are three different flags. The only differences are the proportion and orientation.
Luxembourg and the Netherlands
And just to mix things up, here are similar flags that differ only in their shades of blue.
Costa Rica and Thailand
Some flags are virtually identical, but with colors reversed. The Costa Rican flag predates the Thai flag by almost 11 years, so somebody in Thai government was a copycat.
Cuba and Puerto Rico
Something I once learned: Don’t ever confuse these two flags when talking to a Puerto Rican.
Iceland and Norway
Iceland was governed by Norway for many centuries, so it isn’t a surprise that its flag was based on Norway’s.
Denmark, Finland, and Sweden
Like Iceland and Norway, these Scandinavian countries do love their Nordic cross. I can easily identify the Danish and Swedish flags, but for some reason the Finnish flag always stumps me.
Bahrain and Qatar
Prior to 2002, when Bahrain reduced the number of points on its flag, it looked even more like the Qatari flag.
Russia, Slovakia, and Slovenia
Then there are countries whose flags look look like someone else’s, with something new dropped onto the middle, as appears to be the case with Slovakia and Slovenia. For the record, I always get those two confused just because of their names; the flags don’t help.
Mali and Senegal
I’m pointing out Mali again to show it next to Senegal. These countries were both part of the short-lived Mali Federation, whose flag was a version of French Sudan’s, but using the colors of the Pan-Africanist movement.
Romania and Moldova
These two nations share cultural, historical, and geo-political ties, so it isn’t surprising that the Moldovan flag is based on that of Romania.
Italy and Mexico
There are no similar ties, however, between Italy and Mexico.
The Netherlands and Paraguay
Nor are there between the Netherlands and Paraguay. In fact, the latter’s flag was based on the colors of the French flag.
I could go on and on, but I got tired of downloading flag images. Can you find similarities in other national flags?
According to the United States Drought Monitor—a joint program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln— I live in an area that is currently under moderate to severe drought conditions. The portions of my lawn that lack drought-resistant grass are brown and crunchy, and the rest of it hasn’t grown much in the last month. While most of the other plantings are hanging in there, the moneywort in one of my garden beds is almost dead, which is a surprise because it’s supposed to be drought-tolerant. The plants that really thrive in these conditions are the weeds.
This afternoon, I attended a party about 50 miles to the north, in Dunstable, Massachusetts, a town just across the state line from New Hampshire. On the way to my friend’s house, I drove past the town common, which looks about how you’d expect given the lack of precipitation over the last several months:
To add insult to injury, Mother Nature has taken to teasing us. Every time the forecast calls for rain and we all breathe a collective sigh of relief because we really, really need it, the promised precipitation never comes. I’ve lost track of the number of times I have watched a large area of rain on the weather radar heading our way, only to dissipate as it approaches.
That’s all I came here to say. Thank you for letting me vent. Carry on.
Last month’s terrorist attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was universally believed to have been a hate crime targeting the club’s gay patrons. At the time, it made sense; if the attacker had intended to perpetrate a garden-variety assault on a large group of people, he wouldn’t have ended up at a gay establishment purely by chance.
It turns out that assumption might have been incorrect. The FBI has found no evidence that the terrorist chose the Pulse because it catered to a gay clientele. In fact, several of the earliest reports—that the shooter was himself gay, or that he was in the closet—have not been substantiated by any evidence uncovered by law enforcement officials.
Which isn’t to say that he did not deliberately kill dozens of gay people. He just didn’t leave behind any evidence of such intentions. But as the saying goes, absence of evidence isn’t necessarily evidence of absence.
We know that Islamic terrorists, extremists, and theocrats around the world aren’t known for being gay-friendly. In at least ten Muslim countries, homosexual acts are punishable by death. In other places, private citizens who kill gays go unpunished. I’ve never heard an interpretation of Islam that was pro-gay.
In all likelihood, the Orlando killer was anti-gay in the same way that Islamic terrorists are anti-Christian, anti-Jew, and anti-Western: they see it as their duty to Allah to kill “infidels” and “kafir“.
Long-time regular readers of this blog might be aware that I have an ex-boyfriend whom I’ve never quite been able to put behind me. I learned several years back that he wasn’t able to put me behind him, either. Without going into details, he isn’t available. Nonetheless, we have maintained a very occasional communication, more or less limited to major holidays and each other’s birthdays, usually a text message, very rarely a phone call.
I told him a while back that such an arrangement wasn’t acceptable to me. I also told him that he had to be the one to end it because I did so 30 years ago and have regretted it ever since. I’ve tried to be patient while he comes to terms with what he has to do.
Yesterday was my 52nd birthday. For the first time since we reconnected in 2009, I didn’t hear from him. I can think of a few possible reasons:
- He is dead or otherwise incapacitated,
- Some other grave matter has kept him from communicating,
- He is somewhere without cell service, or
- He just decided not to call.
I pray it isn’t 1 or 2. I would understand 3. But my fear is that it’s 4. Our situation is such that I have decided not to initiate direct contact right now.
Once, he read this blog regularly. I don’t think he has for quite some time. But just in case he’s reading now, here’s a message:
LOML, don’t be this cruel. Please contact me, if only to let me know you’re OK.