Monday, February 18, 2019

National Drink Wine Day 2019

I'll bet most of you didn’t know that today's the day! I’m happy to do my part to let you know about really important things like National Drink Wine Day. It’s what I do. You’re welcome!

Sometime after 5 O'Clock, I’ll be doing my part to celebrate this momentous occasion.

If you pull your weight, I won’t have to drink an extra glass to compensate!

Whether you imbibe or not, I hope this Monday is a fine day for you; I’ll be checking in again in the near future with another post of monumental importance!

"Bulldog Ben" Basile

PS: I did have some thoughts on the fact that N.D.W.D. falls on the same day as Presidents Day this year, but I'm gonna keep all that to myself! Now where's that Pinot Grigio? 

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Where grief, mental health and self-care come together

Very important information near the end of this piece if you're in dire emotional straits right now.

It was five years ago today that our family lost our Mom. So I want to talk about my Mom's passing today and about some very important issues which connect with the story. Issues that are a part of the stories of so many of us.

It was Feb 17th of 2014, that she passed. I made a point of "escaping" today to watch a ballgame; it was very therapeutic for me. Because I last saw her alive on Valentine's Day, I get very solemn when I see the the day approaching.

I got her a bouquet for V-Day and dropped it off at the Nursing Home where she had been for the five months before her death.

She had spent months in Convalescent Homes twice before; once for a bad fall and once because she nearly choked to death while eating.

In the choking incident, she coded while in her room. She had been eating her dinner and began to choke; she aspirated a very large bite of chicken and was unconscious when the staff found her.

The pulmonary specialist later told us that she was very fortunate to have survived as he had never removed a piece of food that large from a patient's lung and seen them live.

This was still--as you might imagine--a huge crisis. She spent the next six days in ICU and was then discharged to the Nursing Home where she passed five months later.

The family and I definitely saw the need for her to be there. She was at constant risk for falling, having taken three falls, one of which broke her shoulder. In addition, Mom had a very serious issue with depression and anxiety and frequently talked about wanting to end her life.

I had taken care of her for the previous seven years. For the last two, I was literally with her 24/7 as she couldn't cook for herself or get around without help. Most days, her mobility was close to zero.

She was at great risk for self harm or choking; the loss of many back teeth had made the choking risk even greater.

So when she was back in a facility, my brother John and I understood the need for it. She was on a list to have only softened foods and to never eat alone.

After two or three months of this routine, Mom learned that she could override John's instructions--he was her medical surrogate--and take herself off that list and eat food without a nurse or CNA in the room with her.

We were very concerned about this, of course, but could do nothing to change it.

It was only five days later that Mom was eating a sandwich--the nightly bedtime snack--without a staffer present. She choked on the sandwich and died in her bed.

This was devastating! For me, my brother and our family. My son Chris and I had to go, say to the staff, "yes, that's Mom" before EMT's would take her to the morgue. It was a life-changing experience and not only for the reasons you might imagine.

Mom was pretty much defenseless when she would descend into that cloud of despair, but as the saying goes, the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree.

While caring for Mom, I was also struggling with constant thoughts of harming myself. And I had been walking on the edge of that abyss on-and-off for about 20 years before that.

But being a care-giver around the clock with few-to-no-breaks for years had made the problem of wanting to end my life much worse. 

To be brutally honest, the only two reasons I didn't were that the role left me no opportunity, as I wouldn't leave Mom alone for any reason. And I was 100% certain that it would crush her completely and suck every note of joy from her life.

So the fact that she died, and that she died by choking, after my brother and I begged the staff to try to keep that from happening, made everything worse. 

And this was a good thing, but not without irony: it also meant that her death would not come from self-harm, as we had dreaded for so long. I had gotten in the routine of keeping her Xanax and other powerful meds locked in my safe until dosing for many years.

So today marks five years since Mom passed. As I said at the top, I tend to get morose, introspective and very solemn each year as we approach Valentine's Day. It's good to be able to say that the thoughts of taking my own life are somewhat easier to deal with now.

I remain under a Doctor's care for my depression and anxiety, as I was for the years I took care of Mom. A situation where both the patient and the care-giver deal with serious mental health issues can be very tough. I'm very grateful I did get through that challenging time.

There are three things I'd like to see from "spilling my guts" here about Mom's passing: the first is to remind everyone to cherish the moments you have with the ones you love. None of us knows when those moment will have slipped away forever.

The second thing is that for those of us who think about harming ourselves, it's vitally important to practice good, proactive self care. Make sure you're under the care of medical professionals, take appropriate meds and keep an eye on stressful situations. That last one is so critical!

The third thing is that someone you know may be very, very close to the edge of that abyss. If so, please take a moment to let your friends and/or family member know that you care. Especially to ones who withdraw from life, family and work activities to a degree that seems extreme or just doesn't make sense.

Take special care with any friend or loved one who begins to speak in the past tense more than would be normal or begins to give away cherished or important possessions. This is a sign I've missed. Badly. 

When I say that, there's another situation, another story I have in mind. But that story will come another day.

This last week has been very stressful for me. For a couple of different reasons. I needed to ask for help and I did. And I got a lot of it and I'm very grateful! 

Please watch out for those who are at risk, who are in despair!

Call or text this number 24/7/365 if you need to talk: 800 273 TALK (8255)

Here's a link to the site of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I've contributed to their fine work and recommend them highly.

Ben Lawrence Basile

Fox News isn't buying trump's fake emergency

The 75% of the American population who can plainly see that tRump is a complete fraud aren't buying this whole National Emergency charade.

What is pretty damn remarkable is the Chris Wallace of Fox News isn't buying it either!

The scoop: tRump advisor and icon of the Neo-Nazi movement, Stephen Miller appeared on Wallace's show Fox News Sunday last week to defend the president's ideas about border security and the fake emergency in particular.

And Chris wasn't having it!

To read a thorough treatment of how the interview went and what it may mean. follow this link.

Here's my own take on what it means to have Miller bushwhacked like that on the uber-friendly territory of Fox News: it's the prelude to what even Fox knows is coming!

It's the prelude to the network pivoting to a trump-less future for the USA! Well, for the White House, anyway!

Yes, you heard me!

Hair Hitler's fate is so thoroughly sealed at this point that even his best buds at Fox can see the handwriting on the wall.

They know he's going down. They know it's going to happen sooner, much sooner, than it appears and they're getting ready for it!

This was not just a wild hair up Wallace's butt!

And that will be more and more clear to everybody in the next 30 to 60 days!

"Bulldog Ben" Basile

© 2019 Ben Lawrence Basile

Monday, February 11, 2019

About gender roles in 21st Century America

Let's talk about gender roles. About those roles and how they've changed in the last generation or two...

I've typified that whole list of Alpha Male characteristics all my life but the truth is, I've been on a journey over the last several years to drop the mask and interact differently with others.

Especially with women. Especially in light of how our culture is shifting, or has shifted to a more woman-centered way of doing things.

Being a boomer, this shift was a very big deal for me. Truth be told, I thought it was awful when I first began to see it clearly.

And then after a while I would whine about how the culture evolved from men being in charge to women being in charge without any transition time in between where we at least paid lip service to being equals and negotiated everything, and so on...

And now I see that--although friends or couples are free to discuss stuff, negotiate stuff and deal with stuff anyway they want--we have passed into a time when women get to hold the power stick.

Like a lot of us--a lot men in particular--I saw how these things were changing but was probably well behind the curve and wasn't able to "see" it all clearly or articulate how this was working itself out in our culture or how it might effect me and my relationships.

So by the time I had any real grip on this, it was pretty much a done deal.

I spent most of the '90s seeing that a patriarchal system had  been weighed and found wanting but convinced myself that the new way of doing things was the aforementioned negotiation and perpetual compromise model that I carried around in my head.

But I get it. Someone has to chair the committee. And although, as I said before, friends and couples certain can work these things out in any way that's mutually agreeable, for most folks, Mom is wearin' the pants.

Of course lots of people don't see it that way. And a lot of men are resisting. You go, bro!

At this point, I just have to throw out a joke. A joke, I hasten to add, that I heard back in the '60s!

Dude says: "I wear the pants in this family! And I have my wife's permission to say so!"

Now, humor aside, I can now see clearly how ugly and vicious men who cannot or will not accept this can be. It puts many culturally conservative people in the US--your evangelical crowd, especially--in common cause with extremists in other cultures and religions.

The things done here and all around the world to "keep women in their place" are often horrible! And it's astonishing that so many conservatives in the US are fully on-board with that kind of thing and don't see how that attitude, when carried to its natural end, essentially makes them into a sort of American Taliban.

This fight is going on everywhere. In every corner of the planet. And even though the particulars can be very, very different, the general process tends to be quite similar.

I think most of us are ready to accept that one of the most important--if not the most important--skill any man can bring to a relationship is the ability to say "yes, Dear!"

So let me offer up my own take on where we are as far as gender roles and all of that: "Happy wife, happy life" is a fine mantram for us when we're not quite sure where we are or what works in a 21st Century relationship.

Men who cannot or will not get on-board drag their feet at their own risk!

"Bulldog Ben" Basile

© 2019 Benjamin Basile

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Fighting Funny Food Phobias

Some of you may know that I spent a huge chunk of my working life as a server. At Disney, and many other places. Some well-known chains, some Mom-and-Pops, a pretty good cross section of restaurants.

And that's one reason why I enjoy doing restaurant reviews. I love to cook and bake; being a foodie is a big part of who I am.

Now, sanitation is one of those things that everyone who cooks--whether at home or in a 5-Star establishment--thinks about.

When you're in the business, a big part of your training is in safe food handling procedures.

And that's as it should be. I'm not trying to say differently.

But some of our attitudes about food, how we prepare it and our relationship to it have become just a bit... shall we say, just a bit overly-sanitized.

Let me flesh that out a bit: our ways of preparing and even thinking about food are a huge departure from how humans have done it for all but a tiny fraction of the time we've been on the planet.

Two brief anecdotes about my experiences with food and how we prepare it will help shed some light on this.

Unless you're reading my blog for the first time, you know I love camping and just about anything else one can do outdoors for fun.

And I'm happiest when I'm cooking on my propane, two-burner camp stove. It's just way too much fun!

This may seem funny, but you should have seen how hard I tried in some of my first outings in the great outdoors to translate restaurant "best practices" into the camping environment.

Yeah, it was pretty funny!

It wasn't too long into the process that I gave up trying to always keep something more-or-less sanitized--even if just paper towels--between my cooking utensils and cutlery and those not-sanitized picnic tables.

It feels really good now to just cook my stuff, tongs and utensils, ladles and pot stickers, lids, grits and bacon bits, all flying around and coming to rest God-knows-where until the good stuff eventually comes to rest in my belly! Where it should go!

Even I am not OCD enough to prepare my food on one of those glorious forays into the Mom Nature's back yard the way we do in a decent eatery or even in my kitchen, for that matter.

Last little story about this and how my awareness has evolved: I opened a container of brown rice the other day and found that some moth-like pests had paid a visit between the time I emptied a bag of rice into the jar and that moment I opened it up. And, yes, that had been a long time.

Not sure if they were able to get in there--it was a very cheap container--or if they were larvae who "came of age". Rice and grits and pantry pests! It's a thing.

Don't know. Didn't have to know.

The "me" before my camp cook's epiphany would have gone "yuck!" and then summarily thrown out the rice.

The "me" after illumination picked out the corpses of the moths or weevils or whatever the hell they were, cooked the rice and enjoyed the hell out of it.

A little onion, garlic, cumin and weevil protein--loves me some o' dat!

So I've tried to get past some of my silly food phobias and feel like I've come a long way.

But I'm thinking that if you go back just a bit further--in terms of human evolution, I mean--our forebears would have handled the bug-in-the-rice thing a bit differently.

No doubt in my mind, that they would merely have picked out the bugs and eaten them! 

Dead or alive!

I guess at the end of the day, I'm actually a pretty modern camper!

"Bulldog Ben" Basile

© 2019 Ben Lawrence Basile

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Twitter had a SOTU contest!

Yes, they did! A very cool contest to sum up tRump's State of the Union address in exactly 240 characters. Well, you know me... I just had to enter:

When he speechifies, the true believers in #Cult45 grasp their remotes in their tiny, trembling hands, don their red hats and huddle together before the flickering image of their orange-tinged god, eager for him to vomit up those profanely-sacred hate-nuggets on which they feed!

If you were thinking of submitting an entry, you can log off now!

Bulldog Ben Basile

© 2019 Ben Lawrence Basile

Monday, February 4, 2019

About Gabbard and Harris as 2020 approaches

I'm writing this one to put on display my reaction when a good twitter friend of mine wrote that Tulsi Gabbard--whom you almost certainly know is running for the Democratic nomination--is too cozy with authoritarian types. Know that I don't disagree with that observation.

But here is the rest of what I had to say in response to what he wrote:

But Gabbard also tends to fall off the other end of the pier. She is a Democrat but is sympathetic to the kind of "progressives" who are often passively-aggressive and strident in their criticisms of the Dem party. Mostly for not being pure enough.

It makes me think she's making it all up as she goes along. I think she's mostly an opportunist and will be whatever she thinks we want her to be if it would help her get the nomination. 

Hillary--whom I adore--also had this pliability. She was, it's true, a consummate politician. But somehow that made her a witch and a pariah in the eyes of Republicans and even a lot of Dems--and almost all indies. 

Yet when Tulsi Gabbard or even Bernie, for that matter, show the same bent, the same skill set, no one says a word! 

I'm sick of this double standard under the big tent of the Democratic party and I'm not going to give a pass to Bernie or Tulsi or anyone on that. 

Now's not a bad time to say that I'm all in for Kamala Harris. I think she's just what we need going into 2020.

I'd very much like to see a Harris-O'Rourke ticket for this one.

And I'll work and contribute to help bring that into reality.

"Bulldog Ben" Basile

© 2019 Ben Lawrence Basile