Questions and some Answers

I saw these questions on Judy’s blog and thought it might be fun to try it. You can find them on Question Time over Coffee
Have you ever slept on / in a hammock?
No. I’ve BEEN in one but didn’t like it much.
Do you find it easy to maintain friendship with other people?
Yes and no. I have some life-long friends, but very few. More casual friendships based mainly on proximity usually fade pretty quickly. I don’t consider myself good at “friends” because a lot of things I like to do such as writing and painting aren’t done socially. Even walking in nature with my dogs isn’t very social. I’ve found very few people in my whole life who think THAT’S fun.

I also think that as we get older friendship is a different thing. We’re not “out there” as much or in the same way. We don’t need to form alliances or transactional relationships because we’re not working. What’s called being ‘set in our ways’ seems to me to be that we are more self-aware and knowledgeable about the amount of ambulatory time we have remaining, and we might be less likely to be profligate with it. I come from a long-lived family, and I’ve seen it. BUT I would really like to find another woman around my age and ability who wants to go X-country skiing but so far no luck.
Are you a person of ethics? 
I believe in being kind.

If so, how does that impact your daily life?
I think ethics are part and parcel of who we are, so ethics wouldn’t so much impact our daily life as determine it.
Are you decisive or indecisive as a person?
It depends. 😀

What is your process of writing a new post for your blog?
I get up in the morning, make my coffee, feed my dogs, drink my coffee as I write my blog. I write to a prompt every morning and have for 9 years now. It’s fun, it’s built a community and helped me as a writer.
If you were asked to create a Top Fifteen Book List holding books that you felt everyone should read at least once in their life and would never regret reading what titles would you include?

I honestly don’t know what everyone should read. My neighbor loves mysteries and comes over to tell me what she’s reading. I would never read them, but she loves them. My 15 favorite books? I can write to that, but I don’t know. I’ve read so many books I can’t even remember…

Stones of Silence by George Schaller
Candide by Voltaire
Italian Journey by Goethe
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Emerson’s essays
Sections of Thoreau’s Walden
No Horizon is So Far and Skiing Into the Bright Open Liv Arneson
Red Chamber Dream by Cao Tsui Chin
Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer
Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki

So many books and parts of books — I can’t list them all or narrow them down to 15.

I like my own novels 😍
How important is it for you to know a person’s real name? 
[Be this online, off line, social media or blogging] 
I don’t really care
When at school what were your top five subjects that you were passionate about?
Art, English (literature), Physics — truth be told, I didn’t like school very much

Why was this – what did you love about them?

I love art. It was the only subject I was passionate about. I was good at English. Physics told me something about the external world.

Are those five subjects still present in your life today in any form?

I’m a writer and a painter. And physics is an inescapable aspect of life.
Are you a photogenic person?
Depends who’s taking the picture. My friend Lois takes good pictures of me even though every time I look like one of my maternal aunts. What’s up with that?

Are you eager to appear in family or friend snap
I don’t care. I’ve learned it can mean a lot to the person taking the photo.

Are there many photographs of you from and over the various stages and ages of your life?

With regard to the paranormal do you choose to not believe because there is nothing to believe or because you feel it is safer to not believe?
“There are more things in Heaven and Hell than are dreamt of in all your philosophies.”

Are you a non-believer or a believer?
How are you with meeting strangers/new people who might or could become new friends? 
I’m an open, friendly, curious person. I give people second chances and the benefit of the doubt.

Is there a process you adopt to identify if they are the right fit for you?

Generally if we hang out more than twice I think there’s a shot at friendship. If we have common interests then there is definitely a shot. If they can engage in conversation that’s NOT about other people, that’s a good sign. If they have a sense of humor and understand how to converse for amusement, then I’m in. I avoid people who like to show off or are unnecessarily polemical or competitive. I’m a good listener so a lot of people will use me for that. That’s their thing, but it is usually not a two way street.

Featured photo: Selfie after I came back from X-country skiing for a couple of hours. I don’t look happy in the photo, but I was VERY happy — and tired. I was trying to get a photo of my eyes to go with the China book in which there’s a chapter about how my green eyes surprised the people in Guangzhou, where I lived. It’s not a flattering photo, but somehow I like it.

Thoughts on My Brother’s 65th Birthday


My brother, his ex-wife, and daughter, 1979

The other day I read an article by a guy who’d lost his brother to alcoholism. I got very angry with the writer. His whole point was that if there were a scientific and methodical way to treat alcoholism, no one would die of it. The writer (I wish I could find the article and if I do, I will insert it here) railed against AA and other 12 step programs because, mainly, they put the cure of alcoholism in the hands of the alcoholic.

Statistically, AA works for only between 10 and 20% of alcoholics. Personally, I don’t think the statistics matter when one sober person is enough (IMO) to call the program a success, at least for that person’s family.

I get it. No one wants to rely on the drunk to cure his/her own problems. Who is more unreliable than an alcoholic?

Anyone who loves an alcoholic wants a powerful outside force to come and wrest the problem from the drinker and awaken that person to the wonder of a sober life. I wanted that for my brother every single day of his life. For a time I thought I could BE that power. Later I thought I could ally myself with that power (various rehab programs and hospitals that tried to help my brother). I busted my ass working extra jobs to pay for my brother’s rehab, housing, food, medical care. In all that I learned something important.

There is no such power.

The United States already spends about $35 billion a year on alcohol- and substance-abuse treatment, yet heavy drinking causes 88,000 deaths a year—including deaths from car accidents and diseases linked to alcohol. (“The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous” The Atlantic)

Science continues to research the problem of alcoholism (which is as old as humanity, I think, since we started brewing brew and vintnering vino early in our history) and comes up with chemical aids to treat and help alcholics. The bottom line THERE is that even with the help of science, the alcoholic has to be motivated to use the medications or the psychological treatment.

It’s a pretty common-place notion now that many alcoholics have underlying psychological problems and that booze is self-medication. My brother very likely suffered something like borderline personality disorder. Both our childhoods were traumatic at key moments in our development, and we were very different kids. Some people are intrinsically more reslient than others, less dependent on others, react differently to stress, able to develop alliances outside the family. I am a survivor; my little brother wasn’t. Even as kids if someone picked on him, I beat them up. My reaction was to fight back or leave. My brother’s was to stay there and take it.

In 2004 I realized that though he called me, he didn’t even know where I lived, what my life was like, or much about who I was. I was just an open wallet to him and he would — and did — lie and con me to get money. It was hurting me teaching 7 classes and holding down a 20 hr/week clerical job. His life wasn’t worth more than mine. “Don’t call me again until you stop drinking,” I said on the phone, feeling like my heart was being pulled from my chest.

“Fuck you,” he said.

I never heard from him again. I was totally OK with that. I had realized that I couldn’t do anything to fix my brother. It was 100% beyond me. I wasn’t mad at him, I loved him as much as ever, I wanted him to pull his shit together as much as I ever had, but I finally understood that it wasn’t my job. I had a lot of help reaching that point, the kindness of loving friends who’d experienced something like this in their lives and some of whom knew and loved my brother, too. I took a lot of shit from some of my family over my decision, but those who understood really did understand. I will always be grateful. ❤

No one ever saves anyone who isn’t already clinging to the shore asking for help while he or she tries to pull him/herself up.

My feeling now about alcholism is that there isn’t, and will never be, a “one size fits all” cure for this problem other than the one we know and that is that the alcoholic can stop drinking if he or she is motivated to do so. I’ve known several people who stopped drinking because something outside of them mattered more to them than drinking. My dad’s sister, my dad, my grandfather — just to name three, but my list is longer than those three family members. People do stop, but my brother didn’t. He died of an alcoholism related stroke in 2010. I didn’t even know until five months later.

Today is my brother’s birthday and he would be 65. The ONE thing he refused to try was AA. Who knows?

In any case, I miss my brother, and I would much rather be baking a cake today than writing this. I think I’ll go take a walk. ❤

Two songs for my brother and me:



The best song about addiction I know: