Absentee Voting and New Twist……

As regular readers know, I avoid politics as a subject. This, however, is a case where civics can cross into politics. In all the noise about mail-in ballots, there seems to be confusion about objections. I’ll start by saying “mail-in” has existed for a very long time, but was traditionally called absentee ballots. That’s because in years past, many people made voting day a priority. Employers were (still are) required to give a certain number of hours off to allow time to get to the polls, vote, and return. There was no early voting then. People who would be absent would apply for their ballot, fill it out and yes – mail it in. Generally, that applied to military and other personnel who knew they would be away on election day. Even older people often had someone take them to the polls to be able to vote. That’s what some of the drives during the Civil Rights Era were – filling buses with people to ensure they could make it to the polls. Population growth, longer commutes which might make it difficult to get to the polls in time, and those who didn’t have access to transportation, etc., began to use absentee/mail-in at a greater rate. Early voting came into play to try and accommodate some of these situations.

There have always been issues with ensuring absentee ballots are properly accounted for and counted. Some errors are human carelessness, some will full mistakes, some delivery errors, and fraud. The concerns with increasing mail-in to large scale is proportionately increasing errors and fraud. Example of a will full mistake is throwing away ballots rather than delivering them. Example of fraud is filling out another person’s ballot, influencing them to fill it out in a way they might not otherwise do, or knowingly having an ineligible person fill out a ballot.

Absentee/mail-in is and always will be a legitimate form of voting. Greatly expanding it comes with risk.

Watching the Storm…..

As with other things that don’t slow down because of the pandemic, we’re looking at a Hurricane Watch beginning Sunday. There had been expectations Hurricane Isaias would weaken in crossing the mountains of Dominican Republic, but it didn’t go in that far. We’ll keep an eye on things of course with the hope of an eastward track to go out into the Atlantic. As I have said on many occasions, there is plenty of empty space for hurricanes to swirl around all they wish and interfere only with shipping and air traffic. Florida Power and Light (FPL) does year-round trimming and scheduled pole and line replacement to “strengthen” against storms. They have been systematically replacing wooden poles with taller concrete ones which are more resilient and the added height helps raise the lines to prevent falling limbs and trees from tearing them down.

Even though we do have the whole-house generator (despite all the hassle we endured), our development does not normally lose power because the utilities are underground. That of course isn’t a safeguard if there is flooding. At any rate, tomorrow is likely to provide clarity of the situation. Direction and speed can change with little warning which is what makes it difficult to know how much to prepare. Too much and people feel it was a “wasted” effort. Too little and there are obvious problems. We both happened to fill our vehicles this week which takes care of that task. It is the reality of living here, and as one friend said Thursday, at least with hurricanes, you do have some warning. They were previously in tornado-prone country. So, in the literal rather than figurative sense, we really will see what tomorrow brings.

Conflicting Experts……

I meant to finish this yesterday and was interrupted. As I’ve mentioned before, my father was a forester for about sixty years although he did finally quit tromping around the woods so much in his early 80s. Anyway, he was once called upon to be an expert witness in a civil suit. The issue was a tree that was cut down, fell the wrong way and damaged the house in question. I don’t recall the particulars because they aren’t important. He recounted there were actually three experts who testified about the situation. What surprised him was each of them provided a different analysis and that left the jury with the task of trying to decide which, if any of them, they believed. This is not uncommon.

There are multiple problems with experts. The first is credentials. As I may also have previously posted, I am by no means a scientist, but my sister and brother-in-law both are. In the years of being around them and listening to different things, I learned how narrow some science focuses can be. When my sister was considering seeking a new position, she was well credentialed in her field, to include having received national and some international recognition. In her particular field though, there were only a few positions open in the entire that were an actual match. All scientists have common understanding of certain things, then branch out to where they have little, if any understanding, in other areas. We’re all more familiar of course with this in medical practice. The GP is only the first stop if something specialized is the problem.

Speaking of problems; human nature, particularly if someone is an “expert”, is to be reluctant to admit one doesn’t have the answer, or worse, if one has made a mistake and must openly acknowledge that. And so, we come back to what to do when two equally credentialed experts provide assessments/recommendations that are the opposite of each other. If no hard data can support one position or the other, we choose whom to believe based on multiple factors; one of which is likely to be one’s personal view, which in turn may be driven by emotion. It does make decisions difficult.


Unexpected Loss….

Strong emotional content alert. I’ve written about loss and dealing with grief on other occasions and probably even the intense aspect of loss with no warning. This, then, may be a post to skip. Irony will “out” at times because with so much attention on COVID-19, the fact that “Death waits for no man” in the normal range still applies. One week ago yesterday, I picked up a friend at 5:00 a.m. to take her to one of the strings of “prep” appointments one has prior to a scheduled out-patient surgical procedure. She was in great spirits and her son was to pick her up later. I sent a text the next afternoon to check on her. She was fine; had slept on and off most of the day, but was ready for the CT scan scheduled for Friday. If she was finished in time and not too tired, she would join our small group for Happy Hour. When she didn’t show for that, we assumed she was either running late or tired. I meant to text/email on Saturday, but the day got away from me. Her not reaching out first was a little unusual; not enough to raise concern. At 10:30 Saturday night the call came from the other friend who’d been at Happy Hour. When she received the news and called me, no one knew quite what had happened, but our friend had passed away. The shock set all of us back and it took a while to get the correct version. For reasons as yet unknown, she suffered a seizure followed by a heart attack during some part of what was a routine procedure and they were unable to resuscitate her.

Our friend had been to dinner Thursday evening, her usual smiling, pleasant self. As everyone has attempted to come to grips with this, the comment of, “I didn’t know she was ill,” is understandable except she wasn’t, not precisely. The condition she had (can’t recall the exact term) is one that many deal with; that medical technology is such, you go in, have an out-patient procedure, rest up a bit and make sure you do your follow-up with the doc later. Then there are those tragic turns no one anticipates and no one is prepared for. Her service is today and due to the COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, what would be a full church will instead be a relatively small group at the funeral home although the service will be “live-streamed”.  Watching a loved one/close friend suffer through a lengthy illness is incredibly difficult. Coming to grips with sudden death, especially when it is, “too soon”, carries with it a different level of loss. (She would have been 73 in September)

The Irony of Erratic Sleep…..

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I’ve always been a morning person, routinely waking between 5:00 and 5:30. This was helpful during my Army career as there are so very many early morning calls for different reasons. Nothing prepared me though for a child that did not sleep through the night until he was four years old.

I mean, people often prepare you for 3-4 months and you think, okay, I can do this. While that would have been difficult enough, this was of course the tragic year when my first husband was killed which meant I was now doing this as a single parent. I tried everything that should have worked, might have worked, etc;. It was a success when he slept for as long as three hours at a time. Anyway, we both came through it. Later, within a few weeks of being deployed to Desert Shield/Desert Storm, I served in a position where sleep was not a priority. I was also in a position where we were in the desert, but not in a direct combat zone. Hubby was further in, although not a direct combat zone either. We managed to get through that as well and did sleep a great deal the first few days when we re-deployed.

A couple of years ago, I began having issues with insomnia. I’ve tried a number of techniques and do give in and take an over-the-counter supplement maybe twice a week. Without that, my pattern seems to be 3, maybe 4 hours of sleep, then awake for 1-2 hours, then another 3 hours. Once I awaken the first time, if I’m not back to sleep in 15 minutes, it isn’t going to work so I move into the front room and tune into the Spa Music channel. I frequently fix a cup of chamomile tea, come up and log onto Twitter as I drink my tea, then head back down after to sleep on the very comfortable love seat. Perhaps I will eventually shift out of this.


Weddings and Marriages…..

My cousin’s youngest daughter is among those who have had to cancel their wedding. It would have been a lovely outdoor event on a beach in Alabama the first week of May. The issue with trying to reschedule was my cousin wisely said they would not go for a date that was also during hurricane season which meant pushing into the fall. Rather than try and manage all that, the couple decided to forego a wedding for a civil service and as soon as they are able to travel, they will go on the honeymoon.

That brings to mind a friend who was discussing his daughter’s upcoming second wedding. He was quite clear about the fact he never thought her first husband was the right man for her, but did dutifully write the large checks for the “perfect wedding”. I suspect he did not refrain from at least one, “I told you so” though when the divorce was finalized. The second husband-to-be did meet with approval, but the event, while still quite nice, was not going to be anything like the first one. His comment to me was, “The last time we paid for a wedding; this time we’re paying for a marriage.”

I have posted previously that people may spend their money in whatever way they choose. Weddings, like cars, certainly have a range from economical to astronomical. If one has always wanted to own a Ferrari and either has the resources to do so or chooses to sacrifice buying other things in order to have the Ferrari, that’s fine. I, on the other hand, don’t even have that on my “if we win the lottery list”. That simply isn’t where I would want to put $200,000 (or in that ballpark). So, for my second cousin who won’t have the pageantry, it will still be a marriage.



The Paradox of the Arts…..

As I have discussed in previous posts, our son becoming a dancer was not what we expected and of course I have never had the commercial breakthrough as a writer. Hubby takes fabulous photographs and while he has sold several, it certainly hasn’t been substantial. The small percentage of anyone in the arts making a decent living, (not to mention the tiny percent that become rich and famous), is why so many parents say, “Well yes, but what are you going to do to make money?, to the actor, artist, dancer, musician, singer, writer. In this current crisis it is especially difficult as so many are independent and therefore don’t properly fit into an employment category. One of the reasons for the block grants to states was to allow them to use funds for programs they may have to help individuals like this. Florida has such a program, apparently Virginia where they kids are does, too, and I would like to think the other states do as well.

So, the paradox here is as people are sheltering in place, particularly if they have children, what are they doing? Reading, watching television, listening to music, playing video games, doing some kind of arts/crafts; in other words using the arts to help distract them/fill their days. There is a definite element of irony.  Like everyone, we hope we are soon able to start a return to “normal” in the sense of getting what have been termed non-essential businesses back to work. Most major corporations can weather a few months, but for the proverbial “mom and pop”, it’s extremely difficult. Aside from the economic aspect, there is a psychological impact that some will find they don’t recover from. With Easter on the horizon, I suspect many people will be thinking of the term “resurrection” with more than the traditional meaning.

An Interesting Point…..

Potentially emotional alert. I am one of probably a lot of people who didn’t recall the Swine Flu of 2009 was in fact a Pandemic from January 2009 to August 2010. Like many others, I thought the Spanish Influenza of 1918-1920 was the last one. There were more than 12,000 deaths in the U.S. during the 2009-2010 one which was basically a 10% death rate. So far, with COVID-19, it is holding around 2.2%. The interesting point I ran across earlier today is differentiating with cause versus presence of the virus and death.

This is not actually splitting hairs. It’s a bit like what happens when counting scuba diving fatalities. Heart attack is the prime example. If an individual suffers a fatal heart attack while diving, that doesn’t mean he or she wouldn’t have had the same fatal heart attack under similar circumstances.Let us say the individual did not go diving that day, but instead worked in his or her yard, raking leaves or weeding. The same level of exertion set up the attack which had the same fatal result. It would not likely be referred to as a “yard work death”, but most assuredly is listed as a scuba-related death.

In the case of the COVID-19, a number of physicians are now trying to explain the fact a person has the virus and dies doesn’t mean the virus was the cause. The inclination is to make the assumption the virus is the cause, but that may not be correct, nor can it be determined unless an autopsy is performed. This will probably not happen under the circumstances. It does support the concern that people with underlying conditions are more vulnerable to the effect of the virus. The deaths are tragic and does not lessen the pain of loss, no matter the actual cause. However, as decisions are being made that impact the entire country from a social and economic perspective, it is important to try and pinpoint the true degree of danger.

Thinking of My Grandparents……

We Babyboomers who had grandparents we were close to often did not necessarily pay attention to their stories of coping with the Great Depression. In each case for me, what they dealt with was bad, but paternal grandparents had the farm in rural Arkansas and maternal grandparents were in a very small Louisiana town. They, therefore were somewhat shielded from the worst of what people saw with breadlines and utter devastation in places where the Dustbowl hit. Daddy, born in 1924, was a youngster throughout that time and had nothing to compare deprivations to. Since his parents had some livestock, to include chickens, and grew produce for their own consumption, crops for sale were on a relatively small scale. Mother, the youngest of three, was not born until 1930 and so had little memory of the most difficult years. While they did live in town, one of the claims to fame of the local bank was it stayed open, having somehow convinced people (it was in fact named People’s Bank) to not have the kind of “run” that closed so many down. I now wish I’d listened to the story of how that came about.

My point here is if our economy cannot restart until around May, that will be approximately two months of intense closure. Several state are already declaring June for three months. Logically, there will be a ramp-up rather than a “roar back” for another some months until full recovery. This then is why the “old rule” of having six months (preferably a year) worth of living expenses in savings would seem to have been accurate all along.This mantra from many of our grandparents, passed on to their children (our parents) is rooted in what they experienced.

For those who  live paycheck-to-paycheck because of low-paying jobs/high cost of living areas, that has never been doable. For those who chose spending versus savings, once we get through this, the old adage may be something they re-visit.





Supporting Local Restaurants…..

I don’t intend to get into politics. We are as is being said, in “uncharted waters” (or whatever term you prefer), yet some of the restrictions set out are simply not sustainable. As more hard data becomes available rather than mostly modeling, decisions as to focused solutions will hopefully come about in the next week or two.

In the meantime, small businesses considered non-essential will see some financial assistance with passage of the economic bill yesterday. Help will not be immediate of course, which goes back to the point of the mantra of having three-to-six months of savings set aside to carry one through emergencies. Many, of course, do not have that various reasons.

In the case of a barber shop being closed, there’s nothing we can do to help them. With our local restaurants, we can, and are doing carry-out to reflect at least the same rate as we usually do, and a little more. Less than two weeks ago, when I had one of those lunch out five days in a row in addition to the standing Wed and Fri Happy Hours, Hubby joked about me having lunch out more than anyone he knew. In general though, I do have lunch out at least once and often twice a week, so there is no reason not to do that now. Fridays nights have always been pizza night for us and Hubby’s favorite is Papa Johns. Under the circumstances, he said we would use one of the family-owned places instead until they are all able to re-open for regular business. I was especially glad to see the governor here is allowing those restaurants with their liquor license to sell beer and wine to go. (The usual laws pertaining to it being bagged and no open containers in the vehicle still apply). After all, when we dine out, we always order a bottle of wine or beer. I am also glad we’re in a position to be able to do this for at least a while.