Indulge me as I take a brief trip down memory lane.

I started blogging in 2003, at the time focusing on NASCAR although often chasing down rabbit holes and/or digressing. In May of 2005, for reasons I don’t recall I created a character to occasionally show up in the blog. Specifically, a polar bear named Gord.

Gord was named after Gord Downie, lead singer of iconic Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip. His manner of speaking (yes, Gord could talk), featuring frequently beginning his sentences with “why …” was patterned after Mike Myers’ character in Wayne’s World. Gord himself was a kind and gentle sort, living in a zoo and frequently chatting with his friend Cherie, a thrasher who spent most of her time at the zoo although not an official resident.

Over the next few years I fleshed out Gord’s character, introducing assorted elements such as his occasionally listening to “the night whispers,” i.e. spirits of the deceased. He was a handy bear to have around, quite useful for illustrating stories via his storytelling gift.

It occurred to me back in 2009 or thereabouts that Gord would make a nice subject for a sort-of children’s book. I say sort-of because, as I sketched out a plot centered around Gord, there were certain crucial elements a bit darker than usually considered kiddie fare. But, given how one of my earliest movie memories was watching Bambi’s mother get shot, I knew it could work. Another element keeping it from being your normal children’s book is my being anything but skilled in keeping my writing at a child’s reading level. Far too fond of the florid. Not nearly fond enough of staying within the boundaries of acceptable grammar and syntax, but that’s a whole ‘nutter story.

Anyway, in 2009 I started on the book. Plot was sketched out; and I got several chapters into the first draft before losing focus along with most all of my writing mojo during the ’10s. Things get thrown out of proper priority when you’re battling the depression monster pretty much 24/7. Ah well.

Although Gord the polar bear has frequently crossed my mind since I set the book aside, Gord Downie’s passing a couple of weeks ago has sufficiently brought him back to the fore to where I’ve actually dusted off the book and slowly started working on it again. As mentioned above I lost most all of my writing juice this decade as I’ve been too busy trying to get through things. Not that I’m through them, but sufficient balance and joy have rekindled to where the creative spark is again expressing itself through both greatly increased musical activity and again being able to write. I’ll take it.

When or if I’ll finish the Gord book I do not know, nor what I will do with it should I complete it although I suspect I’ll go the self-publishing route as I have before (coughgodsnotdeadbook.comcough). This I do know: I’ve quite missed my silly polar bear. Hopefully he’ll stick around long enough for me to finish telling the story so far.

Some say the world will end in a bang, and some say with a whimper. My world ended with a ringtone.

Looking back, the whole thing played out like a farce but was really a tragedy. It all started in late August when my beloved Shirley complained about a sore on the top of her right foot that she blamed on a bug bite. As the days passed, the pain was a minor but constant irritant that she hardly mentioned.

But by the Friday after Labor Day, Shirley was in misery and hobbled around the house with a limp. Despite my protests, she refused to see the doctor. She changed her mind on Sunday when she could barely walk without pain shooting up her leg.

The doctor on Monday diagnosed the problem as an infection, not an insect bite, and prescribed a round of heavy-duty antibiotics. Shirley took the meds religiously, but the pain kept getting worse. By the following Sunday, she couldn’t get off the couch where she had set up her base of operations.

She didn’t complain the next day when I told her – and her doctor – that I was taking her to the hospital. I had to call an ambulance because she couldn’t walk. After we arrived, the emergency room doctor immediately administered a painkiller and hooked her up to an IV antibiotic.

Progress was slow, but by the fourth day of treatment, nurses and doctors could touch her foot without her screaming. On the seventh day, she was actually able to walk to the bathroom. Her doctors started saying she could be sent to rehab in a couple of days to prepare for her return home.

The big day was Wednesday, Sept. 27, when Shirley was released to a nursing home a mere block from our home. She was bubbling when an ambulance brought her to the facility at 4 p.m. Feeling better than she had been in weeks, she said she could be home after six days of rehab, but she might need a wheelchair for a few days until she got her legs back. She was especially happy because she had been able to watch the season debut of NCIS – her all-time favorite TV show – the night before without interruptions by pesky nurses. As she had done at the hospital, she offered me half her dinner when it arrived, but I wasn’t hungry. She couldn’t stop smiling.

Thursday morning was bright and beautiful, and I called Shirley at 11. I didn’t worry when she didn’t pick up, figuring she was either napping or going through physical therapy. Four more calls at half-hour intervals had the same results.

Then, at 1:15, the phone rang.

“There’s been a change in Shirley’s status,” said the woman, who identified herself as the rest home’s director. “Can you come in as soon as possible?”

Four minutes later I walked through the door, was ushered into the director’s office and took a seat.

“Shirley has coded,” she said.

“I don’t know what that means,” I said.

“She is non-responsive,” she replied.

I put my face into hands and froze as she said a team of paramedics and nurses were working on her.

She handed me a box of Kleenex and left the room. While shuddering uncontrollably, I prayed harder than I ever had before. Twenty minutes later she returned and said, “I’m sorry.”

My world came to an end. Only three months earlier we had celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary and talked about what we would do on our 50th. The odyssey that had opened with a silly little sore on her foot had closed with what the medical examiner called a pulmonary embolism.

It was a bad dream, a very bad dream, and I couldn’t wake up.

I thought back to when we had met at my brother’s wedding in June 1975. I had been bumming around the country Kerouac-style for several months but came back to stand up in the wedding. Shirley, meanwhile, was a Cincinnati girl who had become close friends with Mary, my future sister-in-law, while studying together for a semester at the University of Edinburgh.

Between the wedding in the morning and the evening reception, the guests gathered at the eastside Detroit house of Mary’s parents. I and my buddy Mike sat quietly on lawn chairs while Mike’s mom and a strikingly attractive girl were chatting up a storm. It was lust at first sight. I couldn’t stop taking side-wise glances at the beauty with long auburn hair and a figure that could have graced a Playboy centerfold.

When the girl left to get a Coke from the house, I acted with boldness and bravado. “Mrs. Roberts,” I said, “would you please introduce me to the girl you’re talking to?”

I don’t think Mike ever really forgave his mom for introducing me and not him to Shirley Sizemore.

We danced on air all that night, which ended with Shirley departing for Cincinnati, a five-hour drive away. But she didn’t leave before we exchanged scraps of paper with our names and phone numbers scribbled on them.

For the next year we endured a long-distance romance, but it wasn’t too bad. We managed to see each other at least three weekends a month, and a bit more when we had time off work. Finally, our physical attraction developed into something deeper, as I grew to cherish her intelligence, humor and common sense. She took a gamble and moved to Michigan in the Bicentennial summer of 1976, living with my parents while I roomed with friends in a sprawling old Victorian.

On June 25, 1977, the two of us became one, and my life truly began. As with many marriages, our honeymoon turned into a shakedown cruise, and we went through some rough patches in the early years. But there were plenty of good times to smooth things over.

The 1981 birth of our daughter Denise was a joyful event with a dark lining. As we anticipated Denise’s arrival, Shirley fell seriously ill with an abscess that caused her temperature to soar to 104 degrees. Immediately after doctors operated on the abscess, the baby popped out – seven weeks early. Denise spent her first month inside an incubator until she was big enough to come home.

That turned out to be our first experience with Crohn’s disease, which plagued Shirley for the rest of her life.

No such drama accompanied the birth of Sandy, our second daughter. Shirley was feeling so comfortable that I had to force her to go to the hospital because of the timing of her contractions. Fortunately, the hospital was close by because Sandy arrived about 50 minutes later.

As time passed, our lives grew full and rich. Shirley served eight years as a Brownie and Girl Scout leader, was a volunteer at her church and spent several years as a substitute teacher. Meanwhile, I was plugging away at the newspaper, taking various jobs and working different shifts to provide for the family. Luckily, Shirley and I preferred frugality over extravagance, which is how we were able to put Denise and Sandy through college on my less-than munificent salary.

But Crohn’s disease clawed its way back into our lives in the 1990s, and Shirley’s life slowly grew smaller and smaller. The first thing to go was her substitute teaching and then her church activities. Still, she never lost her joy or love of life even after the prednisone she took to control her Crohn’s was destroying her body in other ways.

For the past 15 years, Shirley was virtually homebound as she became hesitant to spend more than 45 minutes in a car or visit any place that didn’t have conveniently accessible restrooms. At the same time, I gladly imposed limits on myself so I could be there for her. It was the least I could do for someone who had given me two great children and such a terrific life.

In the weeks since her passing, I’ve had to go around the house with blinders because too many things bring up too many memories. The silliest trinket can make me break down if it evokes images of Shirley’s glee or excitement.

Her idiosyncrasies live on, too. She kept two file cabinets for our important (and not-so-important) documents, and I searched through them for her insurance policies. When I couldn’t find them, I remembered she told me a year ago she had put them in a strongbox that she kept “in a safe place.” The place is so safe I still haven’t found it.

Only two days ago did I dare to delve into Shirley’s purse to see if anything in it needed my attention. There, inside her wallet, was the most important paper of all: the small scrap with my name and phone number I had given her on a warm June night on the east side of Detroit 42 years ago. I had no clue then how my life would begin … or end.

by baldilocks

Many of my Facebook friends – most of whom are conservatives — are arguing about controversies of recent vintage and of this particular day: whether or not to continue watching the NFL, whether Christians should allow their children to take part in Halloween festivities or participate in those festivities themselves. I find it amusing, as I do with most purse fights.

But today is also another anniversary: the 500th anniversary of the day on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, signaling, in hindsight, the Protestant Reformation. I put up a short status noting the occasion and received not one bit of blowback from my Catholic friends like Fausta or our host!  Not one bit of purse fight. I’m almost disappointed!

Seriously, I love that noting this event in 2017 is almost mundane, especially since the split between the two parts of Christianity generated lots of bloodshed all those centuries ago and did so for some time in the previous century.

The evolution of this relationship between Catholics and Protestants was exemplified by the fact that, when my great-aunt was alive, I would drop her off for Mass at St. Brigid Catholic Church in South Central LA, continue on to my Protestant non-denominational church in Glendale, then, when my church’s service was over, come back to retrieve her.

Having read a lot about theology and church history, one overarching theme seems inescapable to me – every church denomination is capable of falling into error, division and even violence because we forget these things: that God believes in freedom and that our primary commandments are to love Him and each other. I, for one, don’t want to forget.

God bless the peace between His children and Happy Reformation Day …

And thank you, my Catholic friends, for the love and for the reconciliation.

Also, this seems like a good place to put a link to Peter’s book, The Perfect Protestant and Catholic Prayer.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

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I have an online friend named Alison. Alison is smart, witty, and quite attractive. Unfortunately, Alison is also dealing with a pancreas from hell, this manifesting itself in numerous hospitalizations including one at the present time. Prayers for her healing are requested.

Alison recently moved to Las Vegas. No, not because she wants to be a showgirl and no, not because she’s all that stoked for 115° “at least it’s a dry heat” days during summer. I believe it was a combo career/fresh start move. I teased her the real reason she moved to Vegas is because she wanted a nice new shiny hockey team for which to cheer. And oh, what a team it is turning out to be; more on that in a bit.

Hockey is, of course, a sport quite native to Nevada, where every fall as soon as the leaves stop spontaneously combusting from the heat and start turning colors eager players grab their skates, sticks, and pucks as they head out to the nearest casino and wait for the craps tables to freeze over so they can lace ‘em up. At least the National Hockey League believes so, as a couple years back when it came time to select a location for a new team the NHL chose Vegas over those hockey know-nothing rubes in Quebec City. Most Montreal residents would argue Quebec City is the destination location for know-nothing rubes period; however, this is a debate best left for French-preferring Canadians. But I digress.

The Vegas team’s owner is a proud West Point graduate, this manifesting itself in his preferred name for his new team being Black Knights after Army’s West Point sporting teams. Alas, Army said we’d rather you didn’t, hence the Golden Knights came to be.

The Golden Knights are Vegas’ first major league sports team. Thus, despite the admittedly limited experience local sports fans have with hockey save for the select few who in years past attended a minor league or NHL exhibition game there, excitement ran high. Season tickets? Sold out. Good seats still available? Um, not really. Locals snapping up anything and everything bearing the Golden Knights logo? Oh, you betcha. Despite the not baseless assumption that as an expansion team it was a ripe lock certainty the team would be mediocre at best and most likely downright awful, enthusiasm ran high for the season’s beginning …

… right up until a few nights before, when a madman fired on a crowd of Vegas concertgoers, murdering more than fifty and wounding hundreds.

What to do?

Refer back to Alison. She is good friends with a married couple in Vegas. Said couple has taken shifts to be with her around the clock during her current hospital stay. Because that is the kind of people they are.

Now, an expansion team’s home opener is invariably loaded with flash and splash, a massive celebration for one and all. However, it was unimaginable for the Golden Knights to hold such an event. Their situation was not unlike one the Oakland A’s faced in 1989 after winning the World Series, sweeping cross-Bay rivals the San Francisco Giants. Said Series had a lengthy unscheduled break, as shortly before Game Three a massive earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area, leveling buildings and freeways, breaking bridges, killing and injuring many. In lieu of the usual championship parade, the A’s opted for a modest public ceremony. Obviously even this would be far too much for Vegas. And so all eyes were on T-Mobile Arena, the Golden Knights home, to see what if anything could be done to both acknowledge what had happened and facilitate the desperately needed escapism sports provide.

The Golden Knights delivered on both counts.

First, it introduced one at a time some of the first responders – law enforcement, paramedics, doctors, nurses, firefighters – whose heroism and work in the face of nearly incomprehensible horror saved numerous lives; each accompanied onto the ice by a player. The team then played roadrunner to the Arizona Coyotes en route to a 5-2 win.

Although I am a San Francisco Bay Area native, hence a Sharks and long before Los Tiburones swam into San Jose an Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals fan, the Golden Knights hold a place in my heart. My Dad and oldest brother were both career Army. The last time I saw my brother before he passed away a few years ago, one evening we watched an Army football game on television. So, when I watch the Golden Knights (I’ve caught every game thus far this season on either online television or radio) it reminds me of my brother, the one with whom I was the closest and most alike. I miss him terribly. Connecting with the Golden Knights brings a sense of him always being with me. It’ll do until that great and glorious day when by Jesus’ grace we will be together in His presence.

Alison’s friends staying with her day and night; the Golden Knights proving a healing focal point for a reeling community trying to make it through a satanic assault. Such actions are love in action, or love on ice skates if you prefer. These are actions we should all strive to emulate. Perhaps we can’t stay with a sick friend 24/7 or play hockey. That’s okay. We can do what we can, which is usually far more than what we believe we can do. When we do what we can, good things happen. That will do. Very nicely.

Oh, and that obligatorily bad expansion team?

They’re currently 7-1-0. Hottest team and the best record in the NHL.

So much for that obligation.

Be careful when you answer the phone! If you are told that a relative is injured or in some kind of other desperate situation, beware.

It’s commonly known as “The Grandparent Scam”, because elderly people are often the victims, but it could happen to anyone who isn’t sufficiently skeptical and gets caught off guard. Someone tried a variation of this scam on me a few months ago, but I am always suspicious of calls from unknown numbers so it didn’t work, but some rotten crooks almost got my favorite Auntie and my mom just the other day. If you’re not familiar with this particular con, here is how it works:

The target gets a phone call from someone either pretending to be their grandchild (or other relative) or a cop, or a lawyer, or a kidnapper, and says that the intended victim’s loved one has been hurt in an accident (or is in legal trouble, has been kidnapped, or is in some other kind of peril) and the only way to help them is to immediately wire a large sum of money somewhere – and don’t tell anyone or the person you love’s situation will greatly worsen!

If the victim complies, that money is gone forever, and their information may be sold to other scammers as an easy mark to get set up for more schemes. It’s a cruel crime, targeting vulnerable people and using their love for family as a weapon against them. Fraud.org provides some helpful information about this:

Stay safe. Be Informed.

The victim is urged not to tell anyone, such as the parent of the “grandchild” because they do not want them to find out about the trouble they’ve gotten themselves into. The grandparent never hears from their fake grandchild again and is tricked out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

To detect and avoid the Grandparent Scam, NCL’s Fraud Center recommends the following tips:

  • Beware of any urgent solicitation of funds, especially if it is needed to pay for unexpected bills, such as bail money, lawyer’s fees, or doctor bills
  • Before sending funds, independently contact the relative (or parent of the relative) the scam artist is claiming to be (or represent) at a known phone number to verify the details of the story.
  • Scam artist’s payment method of choice is the wire transfer. Any urgent request to wire money should be treated suspiciously.
  • Be aware that fraudsters attempting the Grandparent Scam may call late at night to confuse potential victims.
  • Consumers who have been victims of this scam should immediately report it to local law enforcement, their state attorney general and NCL’s Fraud Center at Fraud.org.

The FTC has additional advice:

Verify an Emergency

If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a family member or a friend desperate for money:

  • Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.
  • Verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer.
  • Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine.
  • Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
  • Don’t wire money — or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.
  • Report possible fraud at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.      MORE

The con artists will even make an effort  to “help” the victim. Via WBNS-10TV – Columbus, OH:

“Often times they’ll hand the phone off to a second party on the phone, alleging that’s the attorney and that serves the purpose of getting a different voice on there so they don’t continue to question whether this is my grandchild’s voice,” explains Sgt. Kline.

He goes on to say that sometimes, the scammers will even go as far as arranging taxi transportation for grandparents to get to the location where they can get the money orders.   Full Story HERE

The call that I received, from a strange cell phone number, said that my “husband, son, or brother” was in a horrible accident in a nearby town and had been taken away by ambulance, and the caller was someone who had been on the scene before emergency services arrived and that my male relative had given them my number to call as his own phone had been damaged in the accident. The guy who called me could not tell me the name of my injured loved one, saying that he was hurt so badly that he could barely talk and that he didn’t have any ID on him, they could not tell me what hospital my “husband, son, or brother” had been taken to, and they could not tell me my own name or how the injured male was connected to me, because my loved one was too messed up to say it before he was carted off  to an undisclosed location. I think the caller was expecting me to go to the location he had given me (the alleged scene of the accident) or meet him elsewhere and I do not know what would have happened then, but it didn’t get to that as I cut the guy off and insisted that he must have gotten the wrong number because I knew full well where all of my people were and I hung up.

The scam that targeted my aunt and almost robbed my mom was more like the ones described when you look up “injured relative phone scam” in a search engine, my mom got dragged into it because her sister is currently housebound recovering from a serious medical issue. Both women are in their eighties and love their families dearly. Here is how I found out about it:

My cousin called me two days ago looking for my mom. My mom lives 100 miles away so I figured she must have assumed she was up visiting or just called my number by mistake. My cousin was very upset. I told her that she’d reached my house, not my mom’s and that my mom was not here. My cousin told me that my aunt had gotten a call saying that another cousin, my aunt’s grandson, was hurt in an accident but that, “It was a trick” and that we needed to get hold of my mom, who was on her way to Western Union on behalf of my aunt. I guess my aunt had gotten the call and was so distressed that she called my mom for help, and my mom was going to withdraw almost two thousand dollars from her own bank account and wire the money on my aunt’s behalf.

Unfortunately, my mom had already left her house, she doesn’t answer her cell phone, and I did not know the location of the Western Union nearest to my mom, so I spent a good chunk of time fretting about it before my mom finally got back home and I could speak to her. Luckily, my mom started to get suspicious as to why she couldn’t just write a normal check and why there was no name for who to make the money order or transfer or whatever out to, so instead of completing the task, she went back home and called my aunt, who had by then been advised by my cousins of the con so nobody was hurt this time. Thank God.

Some versions of this nasty trickery also target people through email, text messages, and social media.

Please be careful if someone contacts you with an “emergency”, and tell the people that you care about who may be vulnerable to such tactics as the one described above to be cautious as well.

*******

MJ Stevenson, AKA Zilla, is best known on the web as Zilla at MareZilla.com. She lives in a woodland shack near a creek, in one of those rural parts of New York State that nobody knows or cares about, with her family and a large pack of guardian companion animals. 

Over the last two years my wife has really fallen in love with the Patriots, she has consumed the game with a passion that only matches her love of quilting.

Today despite my own misgivings I turned on the game for her (I’m pretty indifferent except for Brady) and while Tom Brady, Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick all stood there were a bunch of Patriots taking a knee.

When she saw this something happened that I didn’t expect.

She told me to shut it off.

As she said: “they’re paid to throw and catch pigskin, protest on your own dime, your own dime and your own time…this girl is not going to fall all over anybody because they are babies, spoiled overpaid babies. Put on your big boy pants and grow up.” ”

She didn’t stop there “the Patriots are supposed to be a class act and that shows no class at all.”

she had plenty more to say but I can’t type that fast.

She also apologizes to Tom, Grok and everyone who stood and while she will always root for her boys but as of today as long as there is a Patriot kneeling for the anthem, the TV gets shut off or changed.

The people at work will be shocked when she doesn’t ask for the score of the game, but if they want to make a statement fine, this is hers.

I really didn’t think this would happen and I suspect neither did the NFL.

May they be happy with the path they have chosen.

Update: Apparently they lost a large chunk of the crowd at the game too:

During the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Gillette Stadium, 17 Patriots players decided to take a knee, including defensive starters Devin McCourty, Malcolm Butler, Duron Harmon and Stephon Gilmore.

The fans didn’t like that

Fortunately for the NFL as MSNBC show you can still make a good living with a niche market.


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I spent most of Sunday night in my closet.

Not in the coming-out-of-the-closet figurative way: I actually was lying on a down comforter on top of a foam pad with two pillows while hurricane Irma pounded away outdoors. I’m fortunate to have a closet large enough to sleep in, and it was the quietest place to be. I played my old Gregorian Chant by the monks of Santo Domingo de Silos CD that I had uploaded into the iPod years ago, and dozed on and off.

By 5:00am or so the wind had died down enough that I went back to my bed. Power was cut off at 5:45am with a “pop!”

Living through Irma in Central Florida was as frightening as when I spent hurricane Sandy in the family room of my Princeton house in 2012. I would have much preferred to have been dining with Pete and Stacy instead.

However, the amount of damage where I live was minimal. No flooding, a few tree limbs down, no electricity, but the house was completely intact, and we had natural gas and running water. We were under tropical storm warning until 4pm on Monday and it remained cloudy, but the strong breeze helped to dissipate the humidity and cool the house.

This is the view from the back porch at 10am Monday,

My sister in Miami, who had fifteen (!) people staying at her house, also had no damage to her property – and neither did any of her guests.

We are grateful beyond measure.

The local FM radio station has been covering live on talk radio since before the storm, and they have done a great service to the entire area with very informative updates and a great amount of emotional support to all the callers. Local officials, utility company spokespersons, rescue personnel, owners of private businesses, all regularly call in with updates.

Electricity was restored yesterday, much to our delight. The food in the freezer didn’t thaw.

Parts of Florida are greatly affected, but every person and organization (private and public) in the state is working towards restoring normality. The coordination between public and private is extraordinary. I have never experienced anything like it.

If you are traveling to Florida, make sure to check your route/airport in advance. For instance, Miami International airport is still under limited schedule.

On the bright side, the Gainesville Police Department promises a calendar, and perhaps the officers from Sarasota may, too.

In thankful praise to Our Lord,

UPDATE:
For the win,
Nun With A Chainsaw Becomes Symbol Of Post-Irma Cleanup: ‘She Rocks

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

by baldilocks

A little secret: I had to do community service for a misdemeanor. My crime: carrying a loaded weapon in public. (Hey, it’s California.) I plead guilty and, because it was a first offense, I received community service. Some might remember that I fractured my left wrist from a fall back in 2012. I had been doing community service when it happened.

During my community service – CALTRANs — most of the other offenders were black and Latino. They were there for things like major traffic violations which did not result in injury or accident – mostly first-time DUIs. Most were much younger than I was and I had little in common with most of them as far as our personal interests went.

However, one politically astute guy was there for fixing cars without a business license; his “crime” had caused him to awaken, he freely admitted. Still another guy – whose offense I don’t recall — and I discussed current events and religion a few times. Both men were very intelligent.

One day, as we performed our usually task, cleaning up the freeways, three groups formed: a black one, a Latino one, and a very small group who refused to go there. Of course, I was a part of that last group.

I walked up to the last guy I mentioned — part of the black group – and said, “What are we doing? Forming up according to race now? This isn’t prison.”

“It’s natural to do this.”

“It’s also natural to urinate and defecate where you stand, but our parents train us not to do that.”

He had nothing to say to that, but I noticed that he separated from the group and started working by himself.

I tell this story to point to the implications behind “natural behavior”: that it’s perceived as good and right. The Bible, of course, tells us otherwise for the most part. The natural man has no knowledge of God and feels more kinship with other human beings who look like him – starting with his immediate family and branching out to his ethnic tribe.

It’s natural. It’s also deadly to truth.  We’ve never completely gotten rid of ethnic tribalism and we watch as it crests once again in our “modern” era. However, those of us who think we are more enlightened and don’t see race should not think of ourselves as better than our carcass-worshiping acquaintances. Often, we create our own tribalism. It behooves us all to be wary of it.

Because when we lie to ourselves for too long, those lies begin to look just like the truth. Naturally.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism!

We live lives of privilege.

We can spend hours debating politics, deciding what to wear to work, which running shoes to buy, which cut of beef to grill with shrimp and veggies for dinner, and where to spend our vacations.

We also spend substantial amounts of money, time and effort on our homes. In addition to my blog and reading addictions, my greatest and probably most expensive addiction is my house, HGTV included. I have purchased, improved, lived in, and sold three houses.

I bought my fourth house, moved in last month, and have spent a great deal of time unpacking and deciding what to keep and what to toss. Yes, I should have done that when I first left NJ for FL, but was renting an old townhouse with a popcorn ceilings and knew I was going to buy a different house later on, so here I am, sorting and unpacking. I’ve even been trying to decide whether or not to add curtains (I’m not a curtains person).

These past days my obsession has been Hurricane Irma, as you already know. From the looks of the latest forecast models, my area of central Florida will get hit with 100 mph winds (category 2) at 2am Monday, which I’m dreading. My rational brain knows I live in a well-constructed concrete house with underground utilities away from the waters in an area where people from Miami have come for shelter. My irrational brain worries.

I spent a scary Hurricane Sandy in my house in NJ reading the Psalms out loud so I wouldn’t have to listen to the wind. My house was untouched by the storm. All I needed to do was to schedule having a few tree limbs removed from the yard and stay in a hotel until the electricity was back. Sandy’s eye was almost eighty miles away; Irma apparently will be ripping right through Florida.

I am, of course, worried about possible damage to my new house, but I’m also worried about relatives who decided to stay in Miami. They are hardy folk who have lived in Miami for decades and are definitely less worried than I, a newcomer. In contrast, a friend who also has lived in Miami for decades is not taking any chances, shuttering down her house and sheltering at the hospital where her husband works.

Having Jim Cantore in Miami does not ease my worries at all.

I’ve been reading hundreds of Facebook posts on Irma. The more annoying are those urging all people in Florida (population 20 million) to “get the [insert expletive] out.” The more encouraging are photo journals of friends living in Puerto Rico who now have no electricity and water but whose homes and cars are intact and were not flooded.

Yes, life is tough. Yes, there are bigger things and existential questions we should be concerned about. Yes, we are blessed every day, for which I am abundantly grateful.

But yes, I’m superficial enough I’d rather be thinking about curtains instead.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

This morning, Dr Starnes at Childrens’ Hospital of Los Angeles walked into the waiting room and told me that the repair done to my 2-month-old son’s heart was a success. He said he should be in great shape for years to come. I’ve documented my feelings about the medical system that has helped my son multiple times in his short life. They deserve blessings and have my complete gratitude.

The events that led to the operation this morning were a bit less mundane than a successful operation. You see, Jacob was lifeless on Sunday.

I was downstairs working in my office when my youngest daughter ran in and said that my wife needed me. I rushed upstairs to find her frantically trying to get Jacob to breath. He had just had a bath and was just getting dressed when she noticed he not only stopped crying but also stopped breathing. By the time I got upstairs, he was starting to turn purple.

We rushed downstairs. My oldest daughter called for an ambulance. It wasn’t going to be fast enough. I ran for the car followed by my wife. She drove as if she’d had EMT driver training, honking her way through intersections while being careful enough to keep us from getting into a collision. Meanwhile, I was with Jacob in the back seat. I checked his breath – nothing. I checked for a pulse – nothing. I reached into his throat and felt no obstructions. His body just stopped.

When I was 16-years-old, my nurse practitioner mother made me take a summer job working at a nursing home. She wanted me to appreciate life and see what it was like at twilight. I learned many valuable lessons as a CNA at two nursing homes in Oklahoma City. One lesson I had never had to apply was CPR. I remember vividly doing chest compressions on plastic figures, including several hours learning how to do it differently on infants. 27-years later, that training came into play.

For four minutes in the back of the vehicle, little Jacob was lifeless. His body was limp. His eyes showed no recognition, no movement. No life. Blow, count, blow, count, chest compression, count, chest compression, count. After the third round of CPR, the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard come painfully through his lips. It was subtle, so quiet I wasn’t sure at first if it was just a result of me pressing on his stomach. He let out a slight whimper. Then another. Then another.

We got to the emergency room. They were waiting for us. My daughter had canceled the ambulance and told them to expect a man with no pants, shoes, or socks running in with her baby brother. They acted quickly and admirably. Within ten minutes the whimpers were replaced by full-throated cries. We answered several questions, got his old doctors connected with his ER doctors, and after about half-an-hour they got me to put on some hospital socks and thin hospital cloth pants.

We’re now at our third hospital in five days. Along the way, the CPR story has made its rounds. That really isn’t the story, though. I know. I was there.

Nothing in my hands or breath brought my son back to from the brink. In God’s plan, Jacob had more to do. How he reached down and made Jacob breath and made his heart beat again is beyond me. It could have been the jolt of a memory to cover his nose and mouth with mine rather than just the mouth as is done with adult CPR. It could have been a driver in a hurry who had a feeling he needed to slow down before entering an intersection that my wife was crossing. It could have been God protecting Jacob’s body from harm I could have brought to him by pushing too hard during compressions.

I don’t know what brought my son back to life. All I know is that it was the will of God. I am humbled and grateful for this blessing that I do not deserve.