Tag Archives: reality

Children Don’t Belong in Plastic Bags! by Arhonda Luman

It was a day like any other. I was at work styling hair and giggling with my customers, until one man, who was patiently awaiting a haircut, remarked “OH! That scared me!”

He had all my attention. I jerked my head around so quickly it nearly spun off my shoulders. His face was ashen, but a smile slowly appeared.

He was not the type of man to be easily scared. I tried not to panic. Cautiously, I asked him, “What happened?”


He grinned a bit more but the smile wasn’t quite to his eyes yet. He was trying to recover his senses. mannequin  Quiet stalked the room like a lion does it prey. Every eye was upon him.  The room full of people waited for his response.

He looked into the room next to where I work and said, a little sheepishly, “I thought there was a child in that plastic bag on the floor.”

I had to go look at the scene because I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. When I entered the room, I knew what had happened.  The child wasn’t a child at all. It was a mannequin head that is used for practice. It had been packed into a bag to take to State Board when my granddaughter went to test for her license.  My little boys, who are akin to a hurricane, had made a spin through the room and knocked it off the table without my knowing. Ha!  It was funny, but I couldn’t laugh.  I had seen the look in my customer’s eye and the stress on his face. He couldn’t believe I would have a child in a plastic bag, but his eyes saw something different. His emotions were torn asunder trying to decide what he should do. Clearly, if there had been a child in the bag, he would have contacted child protective services as fast as his fingers could dial. And he should have if that were the case.

I forgot this incident. It blended into the obscurity of a sea of episodes that one accumulates over a lifetime. Then, yesterday, I was playing on Facebook, and something drew my eye to a video. It was about a homeless man being a hero. It drew my attention as sure as it was a magnet and my eyes were steel. As I watched it,  everything stopped around me. There was no sound, only the caption below.  I watched in horror as the video revealed what is missing in the hearts of many people.

The city was a large one.  The day was frigid. Busy people brusquely walked to and fro. Some were shopping, others were trying to get to work. The little boy stood on the edge of the sidewalk holding a black plastic bag. He was begging.

I leaned closer to my computer screen. Bile rose in my throat as I saw people, waltz by him as if they could only dance to their own music. So lost in themselves, they could not hear the sound of the little boy’s distress. They were all bundled up for the day in their warm coats, hats, and gloves.  Gucci shoes clicked on the concrete. Men glanced furtively at their Rolex watches.  They never even noticed the boy wearing a t-shirt in freezing weather.

My mind furiously searched for answers to a thousand questions. Was this video staged? Why isn’t someone helping?  Can’t someone give him some warm cocoa? Why doesn’t someone go to a thrift store and buy him a jacket?  Who is holding the blasted camera??

Of course, it was a surveillance camera, In my distress, I almost missed that nugget of knowledge.

homeless-in-americaI screamed at the monitor screen, “Help him!”

The boy stood in the cold for over an hour. When he could not stand the cold any longer. He climbed into the large black plastic bag to shield himself from the wind. Only his head and shoulders were visible. Hundreds of people passed him. Still, no one offered help.

“Why?” I didn’t know. I cried.

After two hours, a homeless man approached the little boy. He sat him up so that he could look into his eyes. He removed his coat and placed it around the child. Though I couldn’t hear what he said, his actions spoke volumes. The coat was symbolic. By giving it, he offered the boy hope.

Again, I had questions. Why did the homeless man wait so long?  I shuddered. The sobering clutches of reality made its grand entrance.  I knew what he had been wrestling with in his soul. He had a front row seat in the arena of humanity and witnessed first hand, his own fate. If he gave up his own coat in the freezing temperatures, it would likely mean his death. It was obvious to him, anyone who did not have enough compassion to help a child, would never find enough in their hearts to help a grown man.

I was ashamed.

Have we become a nation that can ignore the cry of the little children? We, who live in the land of milk and honey, can we not spare a cup for the poor and desolate?  What are we to become if our bowels of compassion are locked so tight that all that is good in us dies.

Kindness is one of the cheapest commodities available. There is no reason it cannot be freely given. The homeless man set an example for us all. He, who used the frigid sidewalks,  to teach by example,  gave all he had, himself.  In so doing, he gave hope and encouragement to those not as fortunate as he. He might not have a college education or drive a luxury vehicle. He might not own anything but the clothes on his back, but he jeopardized his life to save a child. Even he knows, children do not belong in garbage bags!


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ELECTION YEAR – One Person’s Struggle with Heart and Mind

They say a person should follow their heart.  As a natural born idealist, my heart tugs at my mind. My heart has good intentions.  It knows what it wants.  My mind warns me that, at least in some cases, the heart has a tendency to ignore reality.

I have been an idealist for a very long time.  My favorite song is John Lennon’s Imagine.  I can imagine; and, more, I want to imagine.  However, I see caution signs all around me.  The biggest sign is the one that says humans are not even close to the idealism of a world imagined by John’s poignant lyrics.

I grew up in a family that was not only run by a militarist dictator but one who was also a criminal.  He ruled over his realm with an iron fist and demanded everyone acquiesce to his commands.  The partner in his parenting relationship was a weak individual who would rather hide her eyes than stand up for what was right.  She had her mind and idealisms yet it was easier to do as she was told and allow her dictator spouse to rule with impunity, regardless of the outcome.  Having been the one subject in his realm who experienced all his authoritarianism, including his secretive propensity for criminal behavior, I retreated into my mind.  That is where I began to listen and lean to the left of politics.

When I left home and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1970, it was an easy choice for me to embrace the anti-war movement, feminism and every single anti-establishment sentiment that rippled through the environment of that movement.  Later and as a liberal arts college student in the midst of an institution that taught idealism, I flirted with socialism.  At one point I even joined a young socialist group.  It was there, at the meetings, that my idealism got its first taste of reality.

The group’s ideology was one that tugged at my heart; but, the political structure of that ideology forced me, for the first time, to question the reality of that ideology.  The structure dictated that I behave according to the group thinking.  I was back where I began under the roof of a dictator who wished to own both my soul and body.  So, one evening, as we all sat around a huge table, I spoke my mind.  I questioned the political structure of the group and asked why I should allow them to tell me how to live, but more, how to think.  I never returned to that group, but went my way knowing that I needed to gather more information before I committed to any one humanly orchestrated ideology.

Election year, 2016, finds me back at the crossroads of ideology vs. reality.  There is no doubt that my heart and mind still exist on the side called liberalism.  I am an ardent liberal.  However, my 68 years of real world experience cautions me to weigh all the information before I commit to who I will cast my vote for now and in November.  There’s one more element involved.  One of the two opposing candidates is a woman.  I have never given up my feminist affinities.  I know that part of me is solid because it is always weighing all the information.  My father ensured that part of me would stand vigilant at all times.  Nevertheless, there is still the matter of my heart.

It would be so easy for me to feel the bern.  John Lennon’s Imagine and Simon and Garfunkel’s Looking for “America” pulls me to that side of the spectrum.  I want to imagine.  I want to believe.  I want to follow my heart.  Alas, my mind and its wealth of learned knowledge won’t allow me to slip silently into the slumber of the song the siren sings.  I know too much.

I am 68 years old.  I am a recipient of Medicare.  Before making the decision of how I wanted to have my Medicare administered, I joined an organization and sold Medicare to people who were first time recipients and those who were existing recipients, but had never been exposed to the different insurance choices within the system called Medicare.  I demanded of myself to know my choices.

Medicare in its purest form is not all it’s cracked up to be.  Medicare in its purest form means a recipient is subject to pay 20% of all medical costs.  At first blush, that doesn’t sound all that foreboding.  However, when one weighs the medical institution that currently exists in the U.S., for a typical human recipient, financially, Medicare is a prohibitive system.

Imagine the typical full-blown hospital bill for one hospital stay.  Such a bill includes copious fees for, e.g., doctors, tests, and procedures.  They also include facility usage fees which include those $100 Kleenex boxes.  Fact:  given the evolved and complicated medical institution, based on one hospital stay, a person on straight Medicare could easily go bankrupt.  It would take much more than eight years to rein in that system, and it wouldn’t go quietly.  The party on the right, lobbyists, the drug companies, doctors, et. al would fight tooth and toenail for the status quo.

I recall the McDonald’s guy, Morgan Spurlock, currently with CNN, did an investigation on the cost of getting a colonoscopy in the U.S.   During his one-hour report, he broke down the history of our medical institution which is the elephant in the room.  It’s big, complicated to the point of incoherence, and has one goal in mind.  Profit.  Through hours of research, Morgan could never lock down a cost for the procedure.  What he did discover was that in the U.S, without insurance, this procedure would be too costly.  Instead, he opted to go to Thailand for a vacation/procedure holiday which cost him less than what the procedure less the vacation would have cost him in the U.S.  In other words; the medical institution has had years to become what it has become.  One man named Sanders is not going to have the time to rein in that system in four or even eight years.  Bernie Sander’s call for 100% Medicare for everyone is a pipe dream.  The siren is singing a myth.

Medicare for everyone?  I sure as hell don’t want to be put on pure Medicare.  Having had dual knee replacement surgery, I would have already experienced bankruptcy at the hands of the medical institution.  With a Medicare Advantage plan, I had to know all my plan co-pays to monitor the bills mailed to my home by the sub-contracted medical industry called Medical Billing.  If I didn’t know my plan co-pays, I would have wound up paying, at least, five times what my co-pays were.  In reality, the medical system is corrupt.  It complicates its corruption with layers of red tape, hidden information and multiple layers of sub-contractors.  The medical institution is determined to keep the system too difficult to understand.  Had I not known my plan, I would never have made the phone calls I did to verify that the numerous bills that found their way into my mailbox were bogus.  I may have unwittingly paid them.

Okay, you say, there are institutions in place that keep the cost of Medicare down.  Yes, there are, but, guess what?  They are all run by another institution called the insurance industry.  Medicare Advantage insurance companies are the institutions that, just as all medical insurance companies do now, negotiate with the medical profession to keep medical costs in check.  Because I knew my co-pays,  my procedure was well within my budget.  However, reality tells me that most people will not know their co-pays and will fall victim to the crooked medical institution that sneaks bills into the mail that are not owed.  I know this because I sold Medicare Advantage to Medicare recipients, existing recipients.  Most recipients have no clue what their co-pays are.  Thus, they fall victim to medical billers who slip in bills that tell the recipient he/she owes the difference between retail and the negotiated fees for a procedure.  Did I just lose you?  The point, the Medicare system is so complicated that to think of making it available to the masses is pie in the sky.  It will take more than two terms of bern to create a system that could become that ideal system.  Mr. Sanders would have to become a permanent president to make that happen and, the other party would have to cease to exist.  It just isn’t realistic.  It’s the song Imagine in spades.

Yes, there’s another alternative for keeping down cost called Medicare Supplements or Medigap.  Having sold it as well, unless a person was chronically ill, I typically steered people away from it.  For a healthy person like myself, it’s a waste of money.  Where Medicare Advantage is a pay-as-you-use insurance plan, a Medicare Supplement plan is like car insurance.  You pay a high premium every single month whether you use it or not.  Plus, with every birthday, the cost creeps up until the premium becomes prohibitive.

One more thing to consider.  A single payer Medicare type system for everyone means for everyone.  That includes the one-tenth of 1% of the population who are billionaires.  The Donald Trumps of the world would also become beneficiaries of a Medicare system called Bern.

Then there’s the promise of free college tuition for everyone.  Think about that institution and its red tape and hidden fees, etc.  Eight years of one presidency isn’t going to be able to make a single dent in that system.  Plus, even if the presidency became a forever one, 100% free tuition for everyone means the children of the one-tenth of 1% billionaires would also become beneficiaries.  That doesn’t even sound like pie in the sky to me.  It sounds like pie in the face of the 99.9% of non-billionaires.

Well, here I am back at the beginning of my quandary.  Should I follow my natural born idealistic heart and allow myself to feel the bern or do I listen to my pragmatic years of experience in the real world?

I don’t know about you, but I chose to face reality.  The U.S. is not ready for a Bernie Sanders.  There’s a lot of prep work to do before the U.S. can begin to work toward his dream.  There are institutions that must be reined in, some that must be created and some that must be eliminated.  There’re lots to do.  The U.S. is not ready for Mr. Sander’s revolution.  It is pie in the sky and a disaster waiting to happen.

I know who I’m casting my vote for in a few months and in November.  I’m voting for the woman who is still fighting to break through that damned ceiling, the one who has the real experience and fortitude to take on all the big boys, domestic and foreign, the one who will build on all the good that has come about over the last eight years.  I’m voting for the battle worn lady named Hillary Clinton.  She will get us closer to the bern than the Bernie will.


Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

Infinite Reality by J J Dare

Have you ever been so involved with a book that you feel as though you are part of the story? Is it the writing that draws you in, the connective flow of the words on paper? Does the plot seem personally connected to you, maybe even written as though it’s about you? Do the descriptive paragraphs make you feel as though you are right there in the thick of the book’s action?

As with everything, how a book affects the reader is subjective. Take this bestselling book, The Bible: one person may feel as though they are in the heat of a righteous battle with swords blazing fire from the heavens while another reader may be wishing for the Cliff Notes or a made-for-TV-movie.

I have another theory: what if we truly are transported to a new world by the writer? As an author, I am creator of my worlds. I breathe life into my characters and turn them from flat words on paper into real people the reader can identify with.

Those who know me know I am fascinated by the “what ifs” of reality. I’m a longtime subscriber to what used to be known as “hokum.” Now, it’s known as quantum mechanics. I’m in good and, sometimes, wacky company with this broad band of thinkers who aren’t content with the pat answers to life and everything surrounding it.

One of my favorite theories is that of Schrödinger’s Cat which deals with the basic principle of reality: what is it? Is it something seen or unseen? Can it be both? How can something solid and real be unseen and untouchable? What the *bleep* happened to the cat?

According to the world of science, we’re told we only use a small portion of our brains. So, what is the other portion doing? Sitting around twiddling thumbs and playing chess?

Second point: how many dimensions are there? Classical physics states there are four, string theory says ten, M-theory boasts eleven and other lesser known theories suggest infinite dimensions.

So, if we combine the idea that the majority of our brains are doing something but we don’t know what it is AND the possibility of infinite dimensions, what we might have is a new way of looking at life. What if we are living other lives in other dimensions and our brain in this life is unaware of those other lives?

What if the catalyst to transporting you to another as yet unknown dimension is a story? Wouldn’t that be a hoot! For naysayers, here’s my rebuttal in advance: yes, we have a pretty good idea how life began here in this world, but who’s to say in other places (I hesitate to say “worlds” because it makes other realities seem solid and they may not be) our alternate lives begin as fully conscious adults hatched from incubated eggs or as lives given birth by the strong emotions of a reader reading a book he or she cannot put down?

While I can’t prove my theory, it can’t be disproven. That’s the beauty and the curse of theories. But . . . what if?

Oh, and by the way, when my next book comes out (whenever I finish editing it, which, good grief, may run into next year), when it comes out, remember to mentally pack as many cases of SPF 100  sunscreen as you can get. Your alternate reality self will need it.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch


Filed under books, life, musings, writing