Stay home if you’re contagious. That’s the current advice from doctors. Decades ago, when  most working people lived paycheck to paycheck, people went to work sick.  Even bragged about it. You were tough and maybe even heroic to ignore your misery and punch the time clock.  Employers made things worse, docking people for too many sick days.  Perfect attendance translated to the perfect employee.  TV advertisements for various cold medicines bolstered this mentality. First, you saw a man coughing and sneezing before taking the advertised pill. Hours later, he would be pictured at work.  Even today, pharmaceutical commercials promote the idea of masking your symptoms and soldiering on.  That’s how TV ads help spread viruses.

Last week, I sat in a car dealership for two hours while my car was being repaired.  It was a lovely waiting room, with comfortable lounges, computers, WiFi,  free coffee and snacks. Luckily, I’d brought my kindle, while others were stuck with cell phone trivia.  The man across from me had a cough, and I prayed my immune system was up to speed.

Big Pharma makes big bucks during flu outbreaks

By the next afternoon, I felt lethargic and thought maybe the cold weather had worn me out.  But  the next day, I knew what had happened.  I’d caught a cold.  And I knew exactly how.  Just as it happens so often, when you go to a movie, and someone behind you is coughing or sneezing.  Why do people do this?  Why is it socially acceptable to go out in public when you ought to stay at home?

I’m thinking of the latest pharmaceutical ad for a cold remedy.  It’s a commercial I actually enjoy. First, the man is seen sneezing and looking miserable.   Suddenly, he takes the advertised capsule.  Fast forward to a treadmill, where he’s doing a little dance routine.  He’s smiling happily.  But what about the other people in the workout room who’s breathing in his contaminated air?

Outwardly,  he appears to be perfectly healthy.  He’s not sneezing or spreading his cold virus through coughing.  Nevertheless, he has a cold or the flu.  And he’s filling the air around him with the virus he’s carrying.  Recent studies have shown that we can get infected by the flu virus simply by breathing the same air as a carrier.

Who benefits when the cold and flu season is at its peak?  You guessed it, Big Pharma.  This year, their profits must be soaring.  Why should they want sick people to stay home?   More cold and flu in the population means more sales.  This is why you see aisles full of cold and flu remedies in pharmacies.  It’s probably the most profitable game in town during the flu season.

Television ads encouraging sick people to mask their symptoms and leave their house  should be banned. TV ads help spread cold and flu viruses

6 Things You’ll Miss About January

Even if you’re a winter person, you reach a point where you are fed up with  cold weather.   You try to get over it by envisioning  a day in July.  Imagine :  Your  sweaty legs sticking to your car seat.  Tossing and turning all night, but it’s too hot and humid.  You’re simply exhausted.   Hold those images for 2 seconds.  There! Aren’t you glad it’s Winter? ? ?  Not really. Summer memories are cold comfort when it’s below zero.  But wait. here are 6 things you will miss about January next July.

In July, there are 6 things you will miss about Januay
Winter is the time to snuggle under warm sheets and get a good night’s sleep.

A good night’s sleep.  It’s an established fact that people sleep better in the winter. Turn down the thermostat, and snuggle under flannel sheets.  It stays dark  until about 8:30, so you’ll probably get an extra hour’s sleep.

You can always dress for cold weather, but not for hot.  When it’s snowing, you can pile on layers of clothing to keep you toasty warm.  Not so if you’re trying to enjoy a summer picnic. Even if if you’re in  a nudist colony , you are still going to sweat.   And get sunburned.

Productivity increases in winter months. You have more energy.   It’s been scientifically proven that people make better decisions in cold weather..  Hot weather slows down your brain. .  You don’t feel like studying or doing anything that’s mentally taxing when it’s 90 degrees outside. There’s a reason why countries with cold climates are more developed than tropical regions.

Skin and hair look better in cold weather. Your pores tighten,  and your complexion clears up.  Hair doesn’t get  greasy and frizzy like it does in hot, humid weather.

You don’t have to do as much laundry.  Because you sweat less,  outerwear stays clean  for a longer time between washings.

No insect bites.  You don’t have to slather on insect repellent every time you go outdoors.  You can take a walk outdoors without worrying  about bee stings or  West Nile Virus .

It may be cold comfort when its below zero, but you will miss these 6 things about January.


Many pastimes, like bridge or golf, can be intensely competitive.  But when a  player high fives or gloats after winning, it’s  annoying to the losers. A winner  showing  pleasure at the other’s persons failure is seen as arrogant and offensive.  For awhile , it looked like Nancy Pelosi was a class act.  She appeared somber in a black dress, and declared she was praying for Trump. But her pious image changed when she signed the articles of impeachment.  She gloated and flaunted herself in a bright pink dress.  Then, she merrily  pulled out 30 gold pens with her name engraved on them. After signing impeachment papers, she  giddily handed out the pens as souvenirs.   Pelosi’s pens were a crass act.

Nancy Pelosi handed out impeachement pens engraved with her name
After signing the articles of impeachment, Pelosi handed out souvenir pens engraved with her signature.

Yes, I know.  Trump has made fun of her and called her names.  He’s been a boor.   She has every right to be happy she finally got him impeached.  But, just for the sake of decorum,  a  more dignified behavior would have been in order. Do  you pray for your enemies, or dance on their graves, Mother Nancy?  You can’t have it both ways.

The Speaker of the House  seems to forget that roughly half the citizens of the USA aren’t happy about the impeachment. But she made it clear that she doesn’t care about that “basket of deplorables” in this country who voted for Trump. Basically she was sticking out her tongue and jumping up and down like a rude little kid .    And she  trivialized the whole impeachment proceeding, as if it were just a party game.

“Do not gloat when you enemy falls, and do not let your heart rejoice when he stumbles,  or the Lord will see and disapprove, and turn His wrath away from him”

…..Proverb 24: 17, 18


There’s some psychological competition between  Northerners and Southerners  each winter.  If you live in Florida or Arizona, or have spent mega bucks renting a condo, you tend to enjoy hearing about snowstorms up north.  Conversely,  Northerners who  stay at home laugh when their snow bird friends complain about a run of  cold weather Down South.    Right now, winter schadenfreude is at its peak.

Everyone enjoys a winter vacation in the South, except when the weather turns bad
Winter schadenfreude peaks out in January, when Southerners  laugh about snowstorms up North.

While living  in Florida year round, I remember the joy of basking in the sunshine while the media blasted horror stories about ice, snow, and  power outs up north.  That felt good for a few months.   But along came early summer, and when it  got hotter and more humid, and the greenery turned yellow,  I missed cool spring rains, deep green leaves, mysterious gray skies and daffodils in bloom.   I grew tired of the torrential rainfalls, and the searing heat of summer in Florida.

The thing I remember most clearly: you seldom saw children playing outside in residential neighborhoods.  Kids stayed inside in the air conditioning all summer.  Hard to believe, but the sameness of perpetual sunshine gets boring after a while.  Then, i yearned for the crisp cool air and brilliant foliage of an Indiana autumn.

Let’s say you’re spending $3,000 a week for a condo on the beach in January.  Your enjoyment of each expensive day is inversely proportional to how bad the weather is back home.    On the other hand, a week of cloudy, cool, days in your rental seems  like a wasted $3,000.   Added to that regret is the hassle of packing your car for days ahead of time and  staying in motels  along the way, which may have bedbugs and lumpy mattresses.

Of course, some very lucky people own homes or condos in resort areas, and can afford to fly back and forth at will.  I’m not talking about those fortunate folks.  I’m thinking of the millions of people who pack up the car and endure the discomforts of a very long journey for a relatively short winter vacation. Driving hundreds of miles back and forth can be hazardous.   Unexpected misery along the highways may include big city traffic hassles;  blinding rains;  snowstorms in March; Spring  tornadoes, hour long traffic stalls due to deadly accidents; and food poisoning in strange restaurants.

There's a psychological competition between northerners and southerners during the winter months. Winter schadenfreude is at its peak.
Northerners feel winter schadenfreude  when a cold spell hits the South.

Finally, one day, you decide that after a certain age,  going South for the winter isn’t really worth the effort.  You get in a load of wood or install an electric fireplace.  You invest in warm flannel sheets. And then, one night in  January, you find yourself comparing temperatures between here and there.  When you see a bad weather forecast in  your old resort city, you smile to yourself, thinking of all those folks shivering in cold damp condos and yes, you feel a bit of schadenfreude*.


*schadenfreude:   pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune


While you’re young and active , it takes a lot to make you happy.  A big wedding.  A new house. Buying a late model car.  Giving birth to healthy children.   When that phase of life passes, you look forward to a busy retirement.  Many people ditch their homes and spend their golden  years exploring the United States in a big, expensive RV.  But what happens when you can’t do those things anymore?   When your horizons narrow, it’s time to refocus and enjoy the little things.   Seniors:  Savor life’s simple pleasures.

Although you own a car,  driving at night or an the interstate isn’t an option. But , you can still drive to the river and take a long walk  Or have a picnic in the park.  How many times does a working person  take time for such leisurely activities?  Yes, they might run or power walk  because that what’s people do now to keep fit.  But it’s really not as much fun as watching the ducks swimming across the water  while you sit with the sun on your face.

Going out to dinner at a fine restaurant was once a weekly highlight.  Now, a steak dinner with French fries is liable to keep you awake all night with heartburn.  It’s not much fun to eat out when everything is covered with butter or cream, or loaded with Mexican spices.  If you still enjoy cooking, it’s time to enjoy those old fashioned recipes that are easy on the tummy.  As an example, there’s nothing so delicious as Swiss Steak.  Choose a thick cut of lean round beef and simmer it all afternoon. ( You can leave off the gravy if you get heartburn).  Find some low fat, low calorie recipes in an old cookbook or on the internet.  You won’t miss those fancy restaurant meals at all. And you will certainly sleep better.

When your horizons narrow, begin to focus on the little things in life
If you can’t go South for the winter, bring Amaryllis bulbs back to life and watch their blooms unfold while the snow falls.

Indoor gardening is a great  joy when you can no longer drive South in the winter. Right now,  the stores are full of potted tulips and hyacinths. Lately, I’ve been having fun with amaryllis bulbs stored in the basement last fall,  and revived to re bloom this winter. . It’s exciting to see those little buds coming up out of nowhere, and watch them inch their way up to a beautiful, vibrant flower.

How often does a working person or busy retiree take the time to read a good book?  The average person only reads one book a year!  But now, those long winter afternoons provide a chance to go back and read the classics once again.  War and Peace.  Anna Karenina. Vanity Fair. Moby Dick.  Wuthering Heights. You may have had to read these books for a lit class, but this time around you can enjoy going back and lingering over every word.

Now is the time to get creative.  Paint pictures. Knit scarves. Write a blog.  Compose a poem.

Finally, get back in touch with childhood friends and relatives.    Maybe you can’t get together in person, but you can still write letters and talk on the telephone.  A surprising number of seniors have e mail, and know how to text.

Now is the time to focus on all the simple things you were too busy to enjoy before. Fix yourself a hot cup of tea and watch the snow fall..

Seniors: Savor Life’s Simple Pleasures


Our city council recently passed a law allowing chickens within the city limits.   I grew up in the days when most people had “country cousins.”  When we visited the farm, I can remember chickens wandering all over the property.  They had their own house,  but they only laid eggs and slept there.  I don’t remember anything very appealing about them, except for the food they produced. And of course, there were always roosters chasing the hens.  But now, city chickens must  remain celibate.  No roosters allowed.   The city makes lonely chickens the law. That seems a little mean spirited, to me.

If you want to keep urban chickens, you can't have a rooster
If you want to keep urban chickens, you won’t be able to have a rooster.

Free range chickens provide lots of fresh eggs, if you don’t mind cleaning off the poop.  They also provide chicken meat.  Did you ever witness the killing  of a chicken?  I did, many times.  My aunt was a tough farm wife with no mercy. The chicken would be strung up on a clothesline before she wrung its neck. At that point, I closed my eyes and ran away.  The next time I saw the ill fated bird was after it had been dipped in boiling water and the feathers plucked.  At last,  the hen was cut up and coated with  flour before frying.  Yes, it was super delicious.  But I can’t imagine anyone wanting to set up a chicken slaughterhouse in their own home.

What worries me most about the new chicken law is code enforcement.  Who is going to check every chicken coop for roosters?  Or make sure there are only 8 chickens in a pen?  Roosters wake you in the morning but hens also make noise with their plucking.

Code enforcement in our city is an exercise in futility and hostility. First, we only have two code enforcement officers, so they don’t get around much.   If you turn in someone  who doesn’t cut their  grass, the officer informs them that a neighbor has complained. Lets face it,  an irresponsible  neighbor is typically hostile if confronted. . When he finds out you’ve reported him, you’re apt to feel some repercussion.   So, it’s seldom that anyone turns in a complaint.  Consequently, the culprit’s  weed filled, overgrown yard is a blight on the neighborhood  Now, if that same next door neighbor decides to raise chickens, we’re in for a long, hot, stinky, noisy summer. And code enforcement will not be of much help.

Urban chickens also attract unwanted intruders.  Raccoons, mice, and possums will want to get at the chickens and their feed.  Since we live across from a park, we have enough of those critters invading our property already.

And what about the vegetarians who might live nearby?  A yard full of chickens will certainly be an unwelcome sight.

I can’t imagine what convinced our councilmen to vote 5-2 in favor of the new ordinance.   What will be next?    Pigs?  Dairy cows?   There’s a reason most metropolitan areas  don’t allow farm animals within city limits.

Sadly, the ordinance has already passed.  Our  city has made lonely chickens the law.


Some of you may remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.   Nikita Khrushchev decided the Soviet Union was going to establish a nuclear missile base in Cuba.  But President John F. Kennedy said we weren’t going to have enemy missiles 90 miles from home.  He told the Russians to dismantle the  bases. Furthermore, he told them stop sending missiles.    He formed a naval blockade around Cuba,  and threatened the use of military force.    The Russians set sail, anyway.  As a result, America held its breath for 13 long days.  We were on the brink of nuclear war.   Khrushchev and Kennedy were eyeball to eyeball.    Finally, the Russian ships turned around and headed home.  The recent conflict between Trump and Iran reminds us of the Cuban Missile Crisis.    Did someone just blink? 

In the Cuban Missile Crisis , America was on the brink of nuclear war
Kennedy and Khrushchev were said to be eyeball to eyeball during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

The election of  President John  Kennedy  caused as much controversy as the election of Donald Trump. The Republicans claimed the Democrats stole the election in Chicago.

The Republicans hated Kennedy just  as the Democrats hate Trump. But Kennedy had an advantage. The media adored him,   That changed in 1961, after the  Bay of Pigs fiasco.      111 Americans were killed, and 1100 taken prisoner.  Now,  public opinion turned.  Many Americans thought  Kennedy was “dangerously incompetent,” as Joe Biden might say.

But  Kennedy turned defeat into glory  after the Cuban Missile crisis ended. At last, he was seen as a strong leader.  By the same token, many Americans now believe Trump is a hero after eliminating  Iran’s terrorist General Soleimani.

In ordering the killing of Soleimani in Iraq, President Trump took a bold risk.  But, no Americans died in Iran’s subsequent missile attack on a US base in Iraq.   Will Trump go down in history as  a strong leader?  Did someone just blink? Or was the confrontation with Iran a fiasco? Only time will tell.