In the carefree days of my youth

Winters were magical and white

I am in such a weird place right now. It’s a complex mix of emotions caused by shifts in my life. It’s in the way this world has become so bizarre that it resembles a dystopian, futuredoom novel. It’s in the subtle changes that age brings about to both physical and mental awareness. It’s just in everything. Weirdness abounds, and I am no stranger to weird, having had that label all my life. I’ve embraced it, inasmuch as I think we all have weird within us. Some consider it a compliment; others seek to cloak their weirdness in “normal”. Sooner or later, though, that cloak falls off or there’s a gust of wind and we glimpse their weird, even if only for a moment. Weird is unique; it is to become a part of a community where there is acceptance; it is human at its very core.

Let’s not gloss over the fact that weird – or the perception if such – is a negatively polarizing idea, too. That weirdness I embrace could be seen as offensive or unacceptable to someone else, and they may seek to change my mind or, more alarmingly, silence my weirdness. Weird is a broad term, too; it can pertain to self, lifestyle, religion, community, mindset; it adapts to whomever is regarding it. Being weird can mean anything. And to some, that’s just unacceptable.

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Zachary Boon
M. Thomas
History 103
October 8th 2018
Irreversible Global Catastrophe
Imagine an entire world with a population exceeding nine billion inhabitants that are starving and suffocating at the same time. This world is the exact size of the Earth, exept this world is covered more than eighty percent by oceans. The population will dwindle over time; however, this is not something the inhabitants would prefer. This planet could be Earth in a few hundred short years.

Advancements in industry and global trade have had many positive impacts on the world economy. The ways of merchantilism are over, but, in the wake of revolution and modernization, humanity has lost sight of the future. Globalization has had both positive and negative effects on society. The effects of globalization have led to increased carbon emissions, resulting in elevated temperatures on the planet. The effects of our new, global economy have resulted in potentially irreversible damage to our ozone layer. We need to take measures to prevent this before it is too late.

Globalization affects every living soul on the planet in multiple ways. At its base, globalization is a system of trade that is meant to make the world work as a global market to distribute imports and exports. The system is not limited to natural resources and manufactured goods. It also includes labor, services, and capital. Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times collumnist Thomas L. Friedman describes globalization as “the flattening of the world economy through globalized trade, outsourcing, supply-chaining and political liberalization. The use of technologies allows businesses, such as large multi-national corporations, to maintain customers,

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suppliers and even competitors on a world-wide basis. The breakdown of businesses into components along its value-chain creates opportunities for multiple businesses located at various spots on the globe to participate in the production of a single good or service.” (Friedman).

It is important to realize that, without international trade, many impoverished nations would be unable to feed their people, attain start-up capital to manafacture local goods, and import life-saving medications that are the difference between life and death to many global citizens.

In order to understand the need for globalization, a brief history of mercantilism and human greed is neccesary. Mercantilism is an economic theory that promotes government regulation over a country’s economy. A government employing the theory of having more goods being exported than imported, resulting in higher profit, is a concept of great benefit to that country. Merchantilism was used with initial success by the French government in the 16th century until the inevitable collapse of the nation’s economy, playing part in the French revolution.

Mercantilism protected the British Empire’s economy by restricting foreign trade. Through the principles of this theory, the British and French were able to create jobs and increase trade, resulting in a booming economy. Countries with a large population would ideally be able to provide a self-sustaining supply of labor and a market. In the 18th century, Britain did not allow manufacturing in its colonies. This gave the British the ability to create a one-way street that created dependency on their empire internationally. This was done on purpose to create a controllable market for their exports. The colonies would send their natural resources back to Britain to be manufactured into goods that were sold locally, abroad, and in the colony’s markets.

The issue with a one-way street is that there is no return traffic. The British were able to use the theory to their benefit because of the obvious position of power it placed them in. The

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British empire experienced economic growth that translated into military and international power. When employing the fundamental principles of mercantilism, profit and gain are of the utmost importance. Disregarding the wants and needs of the most important resource – the people – mercantilism would eventually lead to revolution. When people are not treated equally to some degree, they tend to get upset. Mercantilism places profit above human rights and free will.

One of the major inconsistencies with this theory is that it creates a monopoly. The initial success of mercantilism was deceptive because it inevitably led to England losing its colonies in the Americas. Simply put, it was unfair to the colonies, led to the American Revolution, and eventually, the stock market crashed for the English.

Globalization is a modern way of spreading the wealth in the wake of the injustices that have occurred throughout history. However, for the many great things that have been accomplished socially through global trade, scientists are warning of the unintended effects of globalization on our planet.

With rapid industrialization comes unforseen effects to Earth’s atmosphere. Through reasearch conducted by Susan Solomon, an atmospheric chemist at the United States-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), scientists have been able to determine that the earth is experiencing an increase of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere (Solomon). The NOAA warns that, at our current state and trajectory, carbon emissions will continue to rise over the next one hundred years from three hundred and eighty five parts per million by volume, to an estimate as high as six hundred parts per million by volume (Solomon). This rise in carbon emissions has led to global warming.
Global warming is the rise in the average temprature of the earth over the course of the past fifty years. This is best defined by Amanda MacMillan, an outspoken author and member of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). MacMillan describes global warming as such:

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“Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other air pollutants and greenhouse gases collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface. Normally, this radiation would escape into space—but these pollutants, which can last for years to centuries in the atmosphere, trap the heat and cause the planet to get hotter. That’s what’s known as the greenhouse effect.” (NRDC).
Most scientists concur that the globalization has directly affected the rate at which global warming has progressed over the past fifty years. The progressive escalation of the earth’s temperature has directly impacted weather patterns globally. This temperature change has led to “ longer and hotter heat waves, more frequent droughts, heavier rainfall, and more powerful hurricanes” (Macmillan). Antarctica has lost on average 134 billion metric tons of ice per year, according to the NRDC. The ice that has melted in Antarctica has resulted in receding shore lines globally. Residents of coastal comunities are at an elevated risk of losing their homes due to the elevation in the earth’s ocean tempratures. Warmer water has translated into violent hurricanes that build power over warmer waters (NRDC).
Scientists such as Susan Soloman have warned that if we do not act now, we may find ourselves in an irreversible state. Solomon’s research has concluded that, in earth’s present state, it could take one thousand years to reverse the damage that has been done over the past fifty years. Solomon’s thousand year estimate is only possible if we reduce carbon emissions to zero. Bringing major industy to a hault in the name of the earth’s health would be difficult to manage, because so many countries are dependent upon mass production that people would lose jobs, economies would fail overnight, and people would die. Scientist are warning that if we do not take action soon, the climate change that has already happened will become irreversible.

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Globalization has done many great things for developing nations. Jobs have been added, children are no longer starving, and the world is working together instead of against each other. Many would argue that the social impacts alone are enough to risk the earth’s health. This type of thinking does not take into account that globalization is creating unforseeable problems for future generations. Reasearch has been presented that implies that the ozone is actually healing. Many scientists dismiss this notion, presenting new information almost daily that contradicts the idea that we are doing enough to prevent future catastrophy.
Increased land temperatures lead to many issues that are affecting us now. As droughts continue to be an issue, people will struggle to grow crops. Worldwide food production will diminish over time and the planet will become less fertile. Hurricanes will continue to grow in size as the earth’s water temperatures rise. Coastal citizens will not be the only ones affected by increasing ocean levels, as the coast creeps slowly toward the interior of the continents. For all the good that we attain today through a healthy global economy, it will be lost tomorrow. Future generations will have a higher population density and less land to farm. The people in the future will realize that their ancestors had the opportunity to prevent this; yet, we chose to live lavishly at their expense.
Globalization has had positive and negative effects on society. The effects of globalization have led to increased carbon emmisions resulting in elevated tempratures on the planet. The effects of our new global economy have resulted in potentially irreversible damage to our ozone, and we need to take measure to prevent this before it is too late.

The Female Older Sibling Unit Chronicles, or: why, you ask, is my face twitching?

The Female Older Sibling Unit Chronicles, or: why, you ask, is my face twitching?

The Male Sibling Unit and I braved the mist of a particularly soggy morning today, and walked up the hill to collect small stones for my garden footpath creations. I’m making some decorative, flat discs fashioned out of concrete, and needed some interesting little stones and pebbles to decorate them with. I found a wonderful piece of slate that had been run over by a car and broke apart in a perfect mosaic of a rose. I can’t wait to paint and place it.

The Male Sibling Unit was notified, last night, that he will, in fact, be competing in the Swim Meet at the State Special Olympics next week. He had been told he was an alternate about three weeks ago, but the head of our county committee called me on Wednesday to let me know that The Male Sibling Unit would be going. I was waiting for the congratulatory letter to hand him. Ever since he found out he probably wouldn’t be going, he has made life very difficult. He lacks the ability to see outside of his own wants and desires; you might call it selfish narcissism, but I simply refer to it as The Way He Is. He can no more help it than I can make it FUCKING STOP RAINING. I blame the committes that chooses the participants; there used to be a hard and fast rule that competitors could not go every, single year; they would alternate, attending every OTHER year. This allowed all the participants a chance to enjoy three days of competition and fun at Penn State, where the State Special Olympics are held every year. It was a more than fair process. For whatever reason – maybe lack of participants, although I seriously doubt that – The Male Sibling Unit has been attending “States”, as we refer to it, every year for at least a decade. He has competed in track and field as well as swimming, and even bowled a couple of times. The past 5 years have been exclusively for swimming, because his legs swell due to the diabeetus. He’s amazing in the water, where his strongest category is the backstroke.

Nature is a funny fucking duck; she gifts in areas when she takes away in others. He may lack the ability to reason in an advanced way, but I’ll bet he can beat your ass swimming. You want him and not David Hasselhoff saving your ass if you find yourself drowning, because The Male Sibling Unit is true Baywatch material. The Hoff was probably using a stunt double.

Anyway, The Male Sibling Unit has been giddy as fuck ever since his coach messaged him, and I truly want to fart in her general direction or do something offensive to let her know that I am not pleased that she let the cat out of the bag. Not only did she ruin my surprise when the letter came, but now, instead of maybe 2 swift days of deliriously happy babbling and text messages and oral list-making and constant interjections about States into every conversation and when I say “every” I mean every – even if it happens to be about explosive diarrhea or an upcoming colonoscopy – I shall now be treated to 5 days of deliriously happy babbling and text messages and oral list-making and constant interjections about States into every conversation. Did I mention constant?

Don’t get me wrong: I am really happy for him. He absolutely loves participating, and as he is 44 now, there probably aren’t many years of competition left. I love that he can be with his friends, and make new ones, and be enveloped in the magic that is a Special Olympics event. It is a truly beautiful thing to see individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities shining brightly and taking part in a camaraderie with other competitors and the volunteers who are so awesome. They are stars; every, single one.

I was just hoping to not lose my shit and explode with frank and genuine exhaustion before he leaves and I am treated to three glorious days of peace and quiet; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The fact that The Husband has Friday and Saturday off is even more exciting.

We can eat steak without me having to prepare a different kind of meat for The Male Sibling Unit because he choked on a piece once, ten years ago, and is now quite adamant that he will choke again if subjected to its deliciousness. When he sees me place steaks in the shopping cart, the interrogations begin:

“What am I gonna eat?”

“I’m gonna have hamburger patties, right?”

“You could get me cube steak.”

“I don’t know what I can eat.”

We can jump in the car and take a short trip, just us, which doesn’t happen very often, and not have to worry about blood sugar readings.

We can have loud sex without the risk of an interrogation the next day (“What were you yelling about when I was in my room watching The Price is Right last night?”) or even worse, PeeWee Herman-like laughter coming from upstairs at an, ummm… crucial moment.

More than likely, we will simply spend three days breathing, with an occasional “Hope he’s having fun” interjected here and there. It will go quickly, that three days of peace, and then The Male Sibling Unit will return, triumphantly, with whatever medals he has won. There are always a couple and last year, there was gold.

So yeah, only 2 days of nervous prep was preferrable to 5, because by the end of 5, I am a gigantic ball of nervous, bajiggity twitch, likely exploding once or twice (or a dozen) times with

“Could we PLEASE talk about something else?”

or

“For the last time, YES you can pack your suitcase Wednesday.”

or

“No, I do not need to tell you what I’m going to be up to while you’re gone.”

or

“Yes, yes, yes, I hope you get the gold AGAIN and become THE TWO-TIME GOLD MEDAL CHAMPION.”

Time apart is good for the both of us. I use it to recharge and resolve to be a better sister, and I hope he uses it to remember that I’m the only sister he’s got.

Oh, who am I kidding?

He’ll return to interrogate me with demands for a play-by-play of our activities while he was gone and assurances we did, indeed “miss him”. He will investigate the cupboards, the fridge, and the freezer for new groceries he can plunder, and his hawk-like attention to detail will ferret out ANY addition to the house, be it a new rag rug in the bathroom or a new coffee cup from the Dollar Tree.

Finally, he will ask when his “celebration dinner” will commence – because we reward even a bronze or a fourth place ribbon with a special meal.

Alas, it won’t be steak. But it will likely be bangers and mash. At least it won’t be fish sticks or chicken tenders. I’ve successfully trained his pallet to request fancier food, even if it does come in tube-like form.

Here’s to hoping that the next 4.5555896 days don’t result in high blood pressure and an ER visit because I am sure all the blood vessels in my head have exploded.

It isn’t always a goddamn picnic.

It isn’t always a goddamn picnic.

The Male Sibling Unit has been inconvenienced AF today, much to his irritation.

*GASP* I asked him to accompany me to the post office to mail a package and then, adding insult to injury, I asked him to help me carry stuff home from the grocery store. This threw his “schedule” off about 10 minutes total (Oh FUCK, there’s a SKIP-BO tournament at STEPS today!!) The needling, angry comments persisted until – in a fit of anger as I watched my last fuck drift off, like a helium-filled balloon into the sky – I LOST MY SHIT.

In the middle of a street. A dead one, thank Christ.

In gravely quiet tones (Clint Eastwood has nothing on me) I took my stance and warned him that if he spoke one more word – just one, or even a fragment of one – I would NOT be replying and furthermore, I would take immediate, consequential action upon arriving home. Go ahead, Punk: make my day.

The Male Sibling Unit blinked, perhaps not understanding me. “Why?” he managed to ask, uncertain as to why I would want to refrain from reacting or replying to his witty repartee and chiding banter and irritating-as-fuck declarations of obstinate fury because oh my fucking god, SKIP-BO STARTS AT 2PM AND IT IS 1:42PM.

I countered his why with “Why should I listen to you say things that just piss me off? Does it make you happy to ignore me when I ask you to stop and does it thrill you to upset me? Hmmm? Does that delight you?” Now I was channeling Jack Nicholson’s Joker and not Dirty Harry.

Something in my tone, or on my face, seemed to actually connect with him, and he replied quietly, and with mild surprise, “No, it doesn’t.”
We resumed our walk and the rest of the trip home was blissfully silent.

And then, like a light switch being flipped, he resumed with the attitude as soon as we closed the door behind us. The walk to the community center takes him about 5 minutes, so getting there on time, or maybe just a minute or two late, wasn’t going to be a problem.

The Male Sibling Unit apparently doesn’t grasp the meaning of “self-sabotage” and so he commenced to do just that with flawless execution. 10s across the board, folks! I asked him to bring his cat’s dish down from his room so I could fill it. I listened, overhead, as he walked into the bathroom at least three times, back into his room, slamming the door, and then, as I stood with the cat food mixed, and ready to go into the bowl, he came down the stairs…..empty-handed. He stood on the landing and asked, with the fakest innocence dripping from his voice that I have ever heard, “Do you need Ragnar’s dish?”

Dirty Harry returned, once again. Or maybe a combination of him and the “Get off my lawn” character Eastwood portrayed with such realism. I was getting tired of this.

“Did I ask you to bring it down?” I menaced, digging my nails into the palm of my hand so as to not slap the piss out of him. If ever there was a moment in which I deserved the Medal of Freedom – since apparently the requirements are much more relaxed now – it was this one. Tiger Woods got one for much, much less.

“Well YEAH. Duh.”

Again, I beseech you: am I not the most worthy of the Medal of Freedom? I ask this because The Male Sibling Unit is still alive; I didn’t punch him in his large schnozz or Gibbs-slap the gray matter out of his bald head. I growled at him, when he returned with the bowl, “Take this to Ragnar and then get the fuck out of my sight.” The Male Sibling Unit stomped back up to his room, shouting, “I’m NOT GOING. I’m STAYING HOME.”

This, right here, is a prime example of what I encounter almost every day with The Male Sibling Unit because of his intellectual impairment. I share with you the funny stuff, the sweet stuff, and most of you think that life with The Male Sibling Unit must be one hilarious conversation or incident after another. It must leave me feeling so blessed.

I do. I am. But days like this are the norm, and days like this, I don’t talk about. Maybe I should. Maybe I do him a great disservice by making it seem as if he is a barrel of laughs and his hysterical antics are a constant source of delight for me. Sure, there are many, but he is, after all, human. He has bad days, too. And he has less ability to cope with them than others do, and so it falls upon me to “manage” those moods, and outbursts, and angry moments when he bites his hand or hits the wall or slams a broom handle into the screen of his television (true fucking story), shattering it. Most of the time, and especially when his schedule deviates just a millimeter off course, The Male Sibling Unit is a 6 year-old trapped in the body of a diabetic, hyperthyroid-encumbered 44 year-old man. It is hard. Hard for me to remain the Zen-like, big sister who has in truth been his mother figure since he was a baby. Hard for him to control the narcissism that is as much a part of him as his eye color.

Maybe I don’t always handle such moments with the patience and grace that I should. Today, certainly, was not my best moment. All I could think about was that if I didn’t get him out of my sight, I might lose my shit again, and wake The Husband up with my Banshee screech. He worked all night; hearing me Channel My Mother would not be the best way to be awakened.

“The FUCK you ARE,” I shouted after The Male Sibling Unit as he stomped up the stairs. “Feed the cat and GO TO STEPS.”

He practically ran out the door, tossing a meek “See ya later” at me as he breezed past.

Glass of wine mid-afternoon? Why, I do think I will.

Oh fuck me, it’s a political rant.

Oh fuck me, it’s a political rant.

This month, back in 2012, I lay on a procedure table in a Cardiac Cath Lab, technicians milling about, doing their job; which was to diagnose why my heart was galloping, racing, pausing (gulp), and flopping inside my chest in ways that an unborn baby does in the womb. I was experiencing pain and shortness of breath.

My cardiologist came out of the booth after my catheterization and held my hand. He was aware of the structure of my life: the elderly mother at home, a daughter and grandkids living at home, and a full-time job that was both thankless and required me to do illegal things on a daily basis. He said, “You’ve got to end some of the stress in your life. Is any job worth dying for?” Afterward, as I lay, flat on my back for 4 hours in order to give the femoral artery that the catheter had been inserted into time to close and seal up a bit, I was inundated with calls from my workplace.

“You ARE coming in tomorrow, right?”

“No, I am on bed rest tonight and tomorrow; no stairs or overexertion for 48 hours after that.”

“Well, then Jennifer can’t take her vacation.” (A coworker who had put in for that day six months earlier.)

I resigned, by email, the following Monday. I did not hand in a two-week notice or give them time to scramble and offer me maybe a dollar more an hour. They never called to see if I was okay; not once.

Turns out, my doctor was right.

Six weeks later, the entire remaining staff walked out, too. The morning that happened, my former boss made frantic calls to my voice mail, asking how I was and begging me to call him back.

I declined.

I learned how to be terrified every, single day in my five years there. I was angry, sick, and worried about going to jail due to the questionable business practices I was forced to engage in. I’ll be on meds for my heart until I die, but the friends I made there went through the fire like I did.

One died of a cancer not diagnosed in time because she gave her whole being to that thankless job – 25 adult years, then death at 48.

One struggled with infertility that only resolved itself after she left and removed the stress. She now has two beautiful children.

One was only there for a few months, but was of independent enough mind to say, “Fuck THIS” and get out.

Countless others left for better atmospheres and less stress both before and after I resigned.

We all share a kinship; we were in the trenches together, commiserating wearily whenever we could. We are all better for not being there anymore.

What’s the point of this little ponderance? I honestly don’t know. I guess I’ve been feeling my age lately, seeing it on my face and realizing that I more than likely have less time left on this rapidly-heating planet than I have thus far lived.

I feel a sense of urgency, especially when I ponder the alarming rate at which this country is going to shit due to the admittance of prejudice, bigotry, and racism; all just fancier words for hate and intolerance. Two states have curtailed the rights women fought for decades to secure and one more is set to do so.

The country is being governed on a social media platform.

It’s been proven that a dictator so filled with loathing for our country that he wishes to destroy it by any means necessary has, in fact, set the stage for it to happen. He has done so with the help of those who were voted into office under the auspices of wanting to “Make America Great Again.”

I asked, when this campaign slogan first emerged, “What makes you think America isn’t great now?”

The truth is, we weren’t – aren’t – great. We allowed a reality circus act to take over the White House; a criminal and charlatan. He brought with him his crime family and then installed more of his kind to Cabinet positions.

Oh yeah, we, the opposition (the Resistance) wring our hands, bitch, shout, and roll our eyes every day. We demand change. In the beginning, we took on his supporters and tried to “understand” them. The marginalized. The unheard. The forgotten Americans.

Where, exactly, did that get us?

I’ll tell you: it got us here. Here is where we are, in a dystopian sort of reality where even the movie Idiocracy seems better.

In this reality, the *President spends hours on Twitter, bullying and giving stupid nicknames to those he’s actually really threatened by, and in Alabama, you better not get raped by your uncle and then find yourself pregnant because guess what?

You’re gonna be giving birth to your son/daughter-cousin!

Did I ever expect to be contemplating just what relation a figurative baby conceived by the rape-incest of a niece by her uncle would be to the niece forced to give birth to said baby? Fuck no.

And yet, here we are.

I can almost look back on those five years of hell, from 2007 to 2012, with fondness and nostalgia. I was stressed, but at least we had a noble, presidential man in office for most of that time, and I never feared for my grandchildrens’ futures. I could sleep at night, knowing that competent people in government weren’t going to get us blown up. No, nobody is absolutely perfect and none of them were infallible, but at least they could read.

And spell.

And pronounce “origins”.

And never used words like “bigly”.

Or made fun of prisoners of war, disabled journalists, or referred to a black supporter as “my black man right there.”

They didn’t think white supremacists were “very fine people.” They didn’t sexualize their daughters. They didn’t refer to their meetings with the North Korean dictator as “A love story”.

Neither one of them – George W. Bush and Barack Obama – was accused of sexual assault. Neither one of them had declared bankruptcy 7 times. Neither one of them had such bad credit that only Russian Oligarchs would lend them cash.

Say whatever you will about either one of them – especially Dubya – but I was proud to call him my President, and even prouder to call Obama my President, too.

I will never say that about Trump.

Yep, 2012, on that Cath Lab table, I was scared, but I knew there were solutions. Ah, the memories!

I’m more afraid now, because, according to polls, 48% of the country thinks like Trump. What’s the solution to that kind of hate? How do we walk back the wheels set in motion to reverse Roe v. Wade?

I fear for my granddaughters.