Wednesday, March 21, 2012


photo source
Don't mind me, I'm about to have myself a little rant.  Today's topic:  LUCK.  Timing, genetics, socioeconomic class, gender, race, career, housing, health... it's all a matter of luck.  And anyone who tries to tell me differently (today) is going to get a mouthful in return.

I had a dream last night that a friend offered to buy us a house.  This is a wealthy friend, a kind friend, and perhaps a generous friend?  In the dream, she felt that Dan and I were working so hard and had been dealt a bad hand, she wanted to help (plus, purchasing a house in the Philly burbs didn't make a dent in her family's bank account).  I woke up wishing for a sponsor.

This fantasy led me back to a comment another friend (let's call her Chrysanthemum) made to explain another friend's (let's call her Daffodil) acquiring a lovely new home.

Me:  Wow, Daffodil's new place is really great!  They got so lucky.
Chrysanthemum:  No, it wasn't luck.  They worked really hard.

Me (now, 4 months later, thinking): That's total CRAP!  We worked really hard, too.  And we were/are down in the trenches every single day, helping other people's children.  We work jobs with pride and love and compassion and we SURE DO WORK HARD.  But since education is grossly undervalued, and teachers grossly underpaid, we don't earn millions of dollars every year.  And that lack of funds leads to stress about paying for what we do have and worry about how to afford what we lack.

My beef today isn't even about money though.  It's more about the fact that so so many of life's determining factors are out of our control before we're even born.  Take Paris Hilton for example, or someone like Kim Kardashian.  Neither of these girls has worked hard a day in their lives.  They were born into wealthy families, with excellent bone structure and a love of the camera.

The most obvious dependent-on-luck factor is health.  You can make every possible healthy choice known to science and even then, your cells can poop out on you.  Working hard makes for good ethics, high productivity, and potentially even prosperity.  But it doesn't account for luck.  I don't wish bad luck on "Chrysanthemum" (I've heard she's experiencing some of her own at the moment), but I do wish for a little change of perspective.

Hmm...  I wonder, if perhaps a trip to visit one of my families' homes in North Philadelphia might do the trick.  I visited with a baby today (a 9 month old, born 10 weeks premature) whose mother is having her 4th child via c-section next week.  There are no fewer than 10 children (and counting) living in the house and I won't go into details about the physical conditions.  Use your imagination.

How about this new baby that's about to enter the world?  What luck has already been bestowed upon him/her?  I wonder if, by working hard, s/he will be able to learn to communicate with spoken language?  Or perhaps to do basic computation?  To land a minimum wage job?  To eat a fresh vegetable?  Are these attributed to hard work?

Don't misunderstand.  Many of us fortunate enough to have been born into families who valued education, spoken and written language, and who passed along a love of learning, did and do work hard.  Through school, college, first and subsequent jobs, we attended, studied, completed tasks presented, and felt good about our deeds.  But in order to get to a place of deed doing, someone was there behind us, setting an example, and prodding us to hang up the phone, eat a good breakfast, clean up after yourself, be polite.

It could've been me (or you) born into a house overrun by half-dressed, hungry children, growing up in a neighborhood where it's too dangerous to play on the sidewalk out front.  What luck.

Aah.  That's a little better.  Thanks for tuning in for Whiny Wednesday.


Still on my vacay from Facebook (24 hours and counting), I am on the prowl for some inner quiet - some relief of the guilt and (illogical) shame I tend to place on my own shoulders.  My mom sent me a link to a challenge our Rabbi wrote about on his tumblr:

"From computers to smart phones to iPads, these devices have much to offer us, but they can often overwhelm our ability to quiet ourselves and find peace." - Rabbi Adam Zeff

I think I'm gonna give his unplugging thing a try.  This Shabbat (Sabbath/Saturday for me), I'm going device-free.  It will be difficult, to intentionally not check email or fool around on Pinterest (how will I pass the time while Judah is having his swim lesson?).  But I like the idea of reconnecting with people, making actual eye contact, and enjoying the company of others.

Are you game?


  1. Hi, Mia,

    I came to your blog today after being linked by my Mom (our mothers are friends). I just had to say, as a social worker, this blog puts perfectly into words "the luck factor" that I've been trying for ages to explain to many of my more successful friends and acquaintances. Well said!


  2. Wow, really well put Mia! I have also come to these conclusions long ago, after losing my husband to sudden suicide due to untreated depression and being rocketed into poverty myself for a short time (in Boston, before I knew Gill, your uncle). And I had enjoyed a good life (before this event), worked really hard to receive my Ph.D. in Toxicology at Pitt and had a postdoc at Harvard Medical School at the time of his death. Suddenly, I had no money and had to depend on Social Security while my husband's death was investigated by the FBI for 6 months and life insurance could not be paid out. Allison, then 18 months, did not receive Christmas gifts that year. My church offered to pay our mortgage (I then received the life insurance in April of 1994 so I did not take them up on their offer) and my parents paid for my husband's funeral (they are not rich). Luck and generosity. It was also luck that Social Security considered my postdoc training and not employment (this is a gray area) and paid out Social Security to me as well as Allison). And we were in the middle of a refinance and the mortgage company dropped it without penalty. Luck and generosity. In addition, my sorority sister from Penn State happened to be the head hospital administrator for Mass General, where I had my postdoc. She pulled strings to get Allison into the on-site daycare (which had a year long waiting list) so that I could continue my postdoctoral training so that I could get a job in my field. Again, luck. Shortly after, I was recruited into a job at the health branch of the EPA in NC based on my merit and hard work that got me a great reputation in my field, but it was luck that had that job open in the first place (these job openings come every 10 years). At no time did I feel entitled or wish that someone would give me something though. But miraculously, people came through when needed. So, with all this political talk of budget cuts, government cut-backs, and elimination of entitlement programs like medicare, medicaid and social security, I'm going to fight tooth and nail to keep them (as well as Planned Parenthood, Head-Start and other programs to help the misfortunate). Despite my friends, despite my family. You have to have experienced it sometimes to get this, so I don't get mad--I just keep pushing. Hang in there and peace and love to you.


    P.S. Enjoy the hiatus from FB and it is a good idea to put computers and mobile devices away on Shabbat and reconnect with the people face to face. Personally, being here in bed with my injured knee for a month, FB has been a lifesaver from boredom! I also have connected with people from my past, who I have known a long time, lost contact with, and we picked up on FB like we never had a 30 year break. It also is good because I don't have to look up people's email addresses.

  3. I've read way too many trashy magazines this fortnight, so I know that Kim Kardashian is a poor little rich girl? hehe When I relapsed I kept thinking why can't I be Paris Hilton or KK? But then I'd have to have sex tapes over the internet - still preferable to having cancer. We just have no's kind of liberating and scary at the same time.

  4. oh wow...that was fun. i opted for listen to the words vs trying to ID what the weird letters were - in the spam filter section...Damn it didn't work the second time.