A MinD in MoTown

Talk about hyperbolic.

If someone were to you ask what two of the most “insidious and dangerous” threats to society and the world today were, what would you answer?

Terrorism, homicide (in general), global warming (maybe not the insidious part…), AIDS (not sure about insidious here either), etc. Far from that lengthy list for so many of us would be gay marriage and abortion. However, Pope Benedict XVI seems to think otherwise*.

Reading about actions like this one from the sole person leading the faith that I grew up with make it that much more difficult to ever consider returning to my Catholic roots. As someone who very strongly believes in a woman’s right to choose and regularly advocates for same-sex marriage, how can I possibly rejoin a church that so openly dismisses both as two of the most major “threats” without consideration of every other danger that plagues our society?

Not only do I find these claims by the Pope completely ridiculous, but misplaced as well. Our world is burdened by things far worse than abortion and gay marriage. So many people regularly face hunger, poverty, sickness and immense, actual threats to life and happiness such as war, terrorism and bigotry. Yet the Catholic church, with the Pope at its helm, wastes its time on gay marriage and abortion? Perhaps this simply puts a wider rift between myself and the only faith I’ve ever truly known.

For years now Catholic officials have questioned why so many young people are turning away from the church and becoming atheist, agnostic or joining other religions. Maybe, just maybe, statements such as this one from the Pope have something to do with it.

* If you check out the article, what I continue on to say might make a bit more sense. It also helps slightly that you know I have quite an estranged relationship with Catholicism.

Oink. Oink.
November 2, 2009, 5:01 pm
Filed under: Just whatever, News Girl, Perhaps I am a bit strange, The swine

The sore throat started Oct. 11. A really dry cough started developing last weekend. And by Friday, the day before Halloween, I’d been regularly hacking up a lung for nearly six days. It was time to see the doctor.

And what was my diagnosis? I HAD THE SWINE!

Not once in those three weeks had it even remotely dawned on me that I had the flu, let alone H1N1. Sure, I spent quite a few days feeling not-so-awesome, but I seemingly attributed every single symptom to something else, causing me to completely ignore the virus stewing in my system. And in that time, the bug that is receiving far too much hype in the media* did its business then went along on its merry way.

That’s right, I ignored the swine flu and it disappeared all on its own, which makes me wonder why exactly people are freaking out about this virus as if it’s going to wipe out half of all humanity. People die every year from the regular flu, yet few people stop to even consider that before talking about the new pandemic facing society. Perhaps we all just need to calm down a bit … and ignore its existence as I did!

When I had body aches, I figured it was my persistence at the gym finally paying off. The migraines? Something typical for me. And the nausea? A result of the headache, of course. The cough and horribly sore throat was just a minor cold I picked up during my Penn State visit. But the fever? Well, I was having some blood-sugar level issues lately, so I just assumed that was to blame considering I felt a bit better after eating.

Not one of the symptoms stuck out to me as something unusual for my daily life mostly because they weren’t all affecting me at the same time. The fever seemed to come and go occasionally in the three weeks. The sore throat slowly became the cough, both never occurring together. The nausea and migraine arrived hand in hand, but my headaches sometimes progress to the point of physical sickness due to the pain. I seriously never even considered something bigger was to blame for how wretched I felt, on and off, since leaving Pennsylvania in mid-October.

Although the doctor cannot definitively confirm that I had H1N1 – whatever virus I did have, that or otherwise, is seemingly gone – she was fairly certain of my diagnosis after we sifted through all the symptoms. Apparently the wretched cough that’s been plaguing me for more than a week now is a lingering side effect of the flu. (Boo hiss, for sure.) After some over-the-counter medicinal suggestions and a prescription for some heavy-dosage cough syrup – to help me sleep because the cough has been preventing me from getting more than two hours of ZzZzs at a time – the doctor told me I wasn’t contagious and could go about my daily business without worry. Sure, I most likely did have H1N1 at some point, but it dissipated over the three weeks and I wasn’t a threat to anyone else, though I can’t help but wonder ever so slightly even anyone caught my mild case of the swine**… Hm…

The news industry has been inundated with H1N1 Influenza A reports for months now. And it seems that regardless of what media outlets say, or don’t say, the public is consistently fearful of this flu, even refusing its vaccine because of supposed potential side effects. And I, for one, find this entirely ridiculous. After all, I didn’t even know I had the swine flu and my immune system bounced back, fighting it off without antibiotics. I bet I could’ve avoided it all – including this annoying cough – if I simply had the vaccine.

A school district employee said it best at last month’s school board meeting, “This is just another type of flu we’re going to have to get used to.” Such an on-point statement. Although this particular strain is new and has caused death and severe sickness among some, the seasonal flu we’ve all become accustomed to at this point has done the same year after year and yet the panic surrounding it seems little. I think it’s about damn time we all take a big step back and look at the situation and realize that many people can have mild versions of H1N1 and be perfectly fine following a few crappy days. Sure, some people are prone to having something like the seasonal flu or H1N1 wreak havoc and cause more damage to their system. Maybe it’s time we all cease the fear and go about our daily lives, just listing this particular flu as another potential demon of winter. Because really, it’s not much more than that if you ask me.

* For me to technically be part of the media and say this is quite a big deal folks.
** I know, for certain, that the boyfriend doesn’t have any version of the flu and he is, by far, the most likely candidate. Actually, he started feeling terribly ill last Wednesday and by Thursday night, he thought he had the flu. He went to the doctor Friday morning to find out what he could do about it, but they said he didn’t have the flu. He had strep throat. Upon hearing that, I assumed that was what had been bothering me for the three weeks so I made a doctor’s appointment. But I didn’t have strep – I even asked for a throat culture to ensure I did not. So we were both sick, with different things, and didn’t pass it on to the other. Bizarre, right?

Who needs money anyway?

When my company implemented furloughs – required unpaid days off work – it came as no surprise. Most media outlets were already jumping on that bandwagon, forcing full-time workers into 32-hour weeks to save a few million dollars. But I never realized how grateful I’d be for the free time and the lost wages.

Unlike many others who work in this environment, I have a supplementary income from the restaurant I serve at on weekends. So when the furloughs were announced – one per month through September – I figured an extra shift or two each month would even out the monetary loss. And with just as much cash in hand, I took advantage of the work-free days by relaxing at home, conducting massive cleanups of my entire house or heading out of town to enjoy a long weekend*.

September arrived and I scheduled the last of my furloughs – used, along with paid vacation time, for a trip to the Outer Banks of NC. And then, shortly after returning, the news came: More furloughs would be necessary.

At first I was disappointed. Talk of wage raises was swirling prior to this announcement, but that quickly faded as six additional work-free eight-hour days were planned before 2010. 

Less than a day later though, my anger and agitation turned to relief as I remembered how much these furloughs allowed me to do so far this year that was previously beyond my reach when I worked six or seven days each week.

Not only did I visit Scranton on a non-holiday weekend in August, but I traveled to the Outer Banks this month, Virginia Beach in July, Penn State in April, Carowinds in June and so much more. (And thanks to the newly implemented furloughs, I’m heading back to Penn State in two weeks for a four-day weekend.)

These furloughs have strangely provided me with an amazing year of adventures and fun. So perhaps I won’t get a raise – bummer! – and maybe I’ll have to grit my teeth through a few more waitressing shifts, but with so little paid time off, these furloughs have helped me attain a happiness that was slightly missing in 2008 because all I seemed to do was work.

I guess this somewhat defines “turning lemons into lemonade.” I have seriously made the absolute best I could out of a very crappy situation, and what more could I have asked for? My wallet might struggle here and there, but I’m genuinely happy and that’s worth eating Ramen noodles for an entire week on occasion, for sure.

So, have you been in a similar situation where you’ve been able to “turn lemons into lemonade”? I’d love to hear about it. And if you’re in the media business, how have furloughs impacted your lives? I’m curious to find out.

* I suppose it should be noted that I can afford and often schedule one weekend off at the restaurant each month as well.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
June 26, 2009, 3:01 pm
Filed under: News Girl, RIP

I was at work yesterday when the news came through. “No way,” was my first reaction, refusing to believe that it was possible, assuming it was nothing more than another ridiculous tale from the ever-churning rumor mill.

But it was true: Michael Jackson, at only 50 years old, was dead. The self-proclaimed King of Pop was gone, and I was in utter disbelief and shock.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why that was my gut reaction, and why part of me still can’t wrap my mind around this sad notion. I’ve never been a huge MJ fan, although I can easily sing along with every No. 1 hit he attained. And despite my brief attempts at the moonwalk in my youth, I have no memories hinged to the star. Yet something inside kept me glued to my television last night, rapidly flipping between CNN, MSNBC and MTV as this story unfolded. I simply could not walk away from the remote, nervous I’d miss something important or interesting. And it was on my couch that I fell asleep, MJ news still streaming from the set when I finally woke up around 4 a.m.

June 25 became a day when history happened. You hear people today talk about the day Elvis Presley died, or John Lennon, or Jim Morrison, or Kurt Cobain. Our parents or grandparents mention these musical figures and how the news of their deaths affected fans around the world. And as conflicting reports came in from CNN versus the Los Angeles Times yesterday, I was watching the same kind of moment in history; the day a bright star in the sky finally burned out.

Naturally it was sad when Ed McMahon passed away earlier this week, and Farrah Fawcett took her last breath yesterday morning. But – as horrible as this may sound – their deaths weren’t surprising. As an older man with a variety of health issues, McMahon’s death was sad, of course, but nothing shock-worthy. And articles were written nearly daily about Fawcett’s consistently declining health as she battled anal cancer for the last three years. For many, Fawcett’s death was merely a question of “when.”

But Jackson … very few individuals can truly say they saw this coming. Like the others, there were noted health concerns, and maybe a few mental health inquiries as well. But he was 50 years old and slated to embark upon a 50-concert tour in London within the next month – a tour that was said to mark yet another comeback for the star whose peak likely came in 1980s. I can’t imagine anyone seriously believed with more than a grain of salt that his death would be imminent.

So when it unexpectedly occurred, it was nothing short of a monumental moment in history. This phenomenal pop star, the man who paved the way for so many others, was dead and my eyes were transfixed to this news. Maybe it was the journalist in me, or maybe the girl who, one day, would like to tell her kids where she was when MJ died, but I couldn’t pull myself away and I’m glad I didn’t.

Listening to what this man meant to so many, ranging from the everyday person on the street to some of today’s best performers in the entertainment industry, clearly Michael Jackson touched their lives in some way. And to hear that, to see the musical legacy he will leave behind, was quite significant.

Yeah, sure, he also unfortunately departs this world as “Wacko Jacko,” a man who was accused of child molestation, who had a pet chimpanzee, who dangled his child over a balcony ledge, and whose appearance was regularly tabloid fodder. However, his talents could never be denied and his popularity still remained strong despite the crazy tales coming out of Neverland Ranch and beyond. And though some may want to focus on his weaknesses, the iconic symbol MJ has become will never tarnish for the majority of fans mourning his death today.

As corny as it is to say, Michael Jackson was more than a man – he transcended to both myth and legend. He may be gone, but his reputation – both the good and the bad – will live on, and I can nearly guarantee his death with hold the same semblance as that of Elvis. People will talk of this moment, of this single fatality, for years and decades to come, and I can say, with detail, where I was and what I watched unfold. And even though this particular entertainer held little astonishment for me, his death will remain more than historic. It’s pretty damn epic in my lifetime.

Take your dog to work day!
June 23, 2009, 6:59 pm
Filed under: Adventures in "Motherhood", News Girl, Recommended by yours truly

Her inquisitive self will most definitely be at work with me on Friday.

Her inquisitive self will most definitely be at work with me on Friday.

You read that correctly, and this Friday, June 26, is “Take Your Dog To Work Day.” And if you don’t believe me, you can visit the official site before asking the boss if Fido can accompany you.

I, for one, can guarantee my Sophie girl will be with me at the Tribune office at the work-week’s end, and I hope your puppy can tag along, too. And if you’re curious what the top five pet-friendly employers are, check out this article from Petside.com, which is an awesome Web site filled with tons of helpful information about animals – everything from health and wellness to interesting pet news.

Speaking of pet news, I found quite the gem on Petside as I was perusing the site today: “Indoor Pet Loo: The Litter Box for Dogs.” No joke! Apparently this grass-topped box is “perfect” for the late-worker, the apartment-dweller, the older pet owner or just your average lazy individual, although it got some mixed reviews.

The Pet Loo.

The Pet Loo.

Could it be beneficial? Sure. Sophie sometimes doesn’t hold it long enough for me to get my arse home from work and I’m sadly greeted by a special present as I walk through the door. In times like those, the Pet Loo would be ideal! However, I had cats once and their litter box was not fun, not to mention the fact that this square box (of sorts) costs $200!!!! Last time I checked, grass was free and likely didn’t stink up half the house. So I guess, as with everything, the Pet Loo has its perks and its downfalls.

In other related news, the Associated Press released two articles/polls today about pets, “Americans consider pets family” and “Half of pet owners give pets human names,” both of which I found somewhat duh-worthy and yet interesting. Check them out if you have a chance and are craving a heavy dose of doggy articles today.