Monday, September 29, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?

For years now we have regularly received unsolicited credit cards [not just the offers] in the mail. We have even heard of people whose dogs and cats have received offers of credit. A few pet owners have taken the companies up on their offers in order to illustrate the irresponsible techniques used to obtain customers.

My parents decided many years ago that they did not need a credit card and canceled the one that they had with JC Penney’s. They have always managed very well by paying for whatever they needed with cash. They have been driving old “Hope So” since they got her new in ’84, so every so often another part falls off or something loses the baling wire holding her together. It’s still a pretty good old car—for a Chevy. But the best part about old Hope So is that the parts are still available and she isn’t requiring any payments other than the normal gasoline and oil.

Not many people would drive a car as long as my parents have; and most people would not be capable of building their own house with their own two hands. Dad and Granddad built the house back when I was a very young child, but it is still sound—if a little small when the family comes in from all over. But the main point is that it has been paid for since I was about 10 or so. No house payments or rent. No car payments. Just food, gasoline, dog food, and utilities.

The parents were able to build their house because Dad served in WWII. The government wanted the men to be able to come home and build, go to school, or otherwise become happy citizens of America. Back then, that idea worked well because people knew that their future depended largely upon their own abilities to work and pay their own way.

When men and women returned from Viet Nam, things had changed dramatically. The changes since that time have been so life altering as to challenge the very nature of our nation. Men like my father and grandfather worked because they would have gone hungry (and did a few times) if they didn’t work. People of my generation worked because that was the way that they were raised. We have always had credit if we needed it. Our generation was not inclined to abuse or overuse credit simply because of the examples set by our parents.

In the 60 to 80 years between generations, our country has become a debtor nation. It is probably difficult to discover someone who has not overused credit cards. Too many young families have declared bankruptcy. In fact, an entire industry has arisen to help people learn to manage finances and debt. I am sitting here shaking my head at that thought.

Today we watched Congress and Wall Street labor under some of the problems that our irresponsible behavior has caused. We cannot blame a political party, a section of America, a generation of people, or even an industry. Complex problems are compounded in this upheaval simply because too many have failed to protect themselves from the consequences of greed, gambling, and other forms of avarice.

I suspect it will be awhile before we know exactly what breed of animal has been begotten, but in the future many people will be firm believers in the use of some sort of prophylactic for our economy. Meanwhile, someone is going to have to get around to burping this baby. I can hear it already!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

How Much Worth in an Opinion?

I love to read almost anything by Dr. Mardy Grothe. I bought one of his books called Oxymoronica some time back and will have to get a copy of his new book I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like. He gives quotations from famous people in his newsletters. Somehow the subjects nearly always hit the spot or thought for the week. Currently we have much debate in the U.S. over politics and economics. One of the first quotes he gave today made me grin and want to use it:

"Elinor agreed with it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition." Jane Austen, from "Sense and Sensibility" (1811)

When someone finds fault with my reasoning, or what is perceived to be the lack thereof, I just grin (figuratively or literally) and nod and go right along thinking my own thoughts. I don't mind discussing ideas rationally, but I won't stoop to name calling. Somehow I don't think anyone has enough experience to match me on that particular field unless it would be some good little Jewish mama whose name calling would be spoken or written in Yiddish. And most people would not recognize when they had been insulted anyway.

For anyone who actually enjoys the exercise of the brain cells, I highly recommend anything collected by Dr. Mardy Grothe.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Date Makers

Well, Fang’s toenails are pink again. DIL cleaned the pink off his fingernails with nail polish remover last night before she and number one oldest son left on their “date.” Taking the children to Cici’s for pizza—or in little girl’s case, black olives and a couple of brownie bites—just seemed pretty risky with all the rednecks around. The pink toenails are funny, but daughter-in-law’s comment was funnier: “I would never have imagined thirteen years ago that I would be holding your hands and cleaning your fingernails for you.” It IS a little strange, but thirteen years ago he didn’t have a little princess flitting around leading him by her little finger—otherwise known as a granddaughter.

We had breakfast at IHOP this morning. Fang and I always share a big steak omelet because it is too much for one person. They make a good cup of coffee, but McD’s has got them—and everyone else—beat on the coffee front. Sonic makes a caramel latte that is decent, but the whip cream hangs from the roof of my mouth when I drink theirs. Bleah. Probably never saw a cow!

DIL had to pick up something for their fall fair for the pre-school where she is the director. Kids like something called Camp Rock—which has nothing to do with pretty rocks. Anyway, we did a little shopping and found a couple of hoodies for the kids. I had planned to order each grandchild a hoodie from my niece when I ordered them for our students, but these were pretty and actually cheaper than the ones we plan to order. Ours will have the ACC logo on them, but the grandchildren picked out some kind of comic cat and a neat little black one with silky material. Little boy also found a t-shirt that listed his schedule: video games, legos, video games, munchies, computer games, video games….

Oh, and we found a set of beads with plastic string and elastic string for making bracelets, necklaces, and earrings out of cute little hearts, stars, cars, critters, and more smiley faces than I ever thought possible. And yes, I had to string bracelets and attach fasteners. But it kept a little girl still and happy for two solid hours while her daddy studied for a psychology test. Little boy was putting together some kind of Star Wars thing with umpteen gobs of teeny tiny pieces. I understand now why parents used to love wooden blocks. They can be seen; the child can see them to pick them up to be put away; and no one gets a midnight surprise in the foot by stepping on teeny tiny plastic pieces.

The ornery dog was actually IN the yard when we got home, but we let him out to dance around in his happy circles until we got the front door open. He bounced in as the cat scooted out between Fang’s feet. It looked like one of those precision drills where the band members maneuver their trumpets and tubas as they cross-march through the lines—but with music played at 78 rpms.

The answering machine had worked overtime while we were out, so returning calls took a little time. One call wasn’t a return call, however. Our dear friend Janis has torn two muscles in her back messing with a cheap vacuum cleaner that made her pull and push too much for a woman her age. She will turn 74 the day before Halloween. And she can work circles around me and always could. Shaking head…. She is normally a very active and healthy person, but she and her family doctor thought she was having a heart attack the day she hurt her back. She ended up in the emergency room for EKG, ECG, X-rays—who knows, maybe EGGs—and an IV. All of that cost $2200--plus an ambulance bill for the ride from the doctor’s office. She hasn’t even got that bill yet. She is thankful to have Medicare and a full coverage supplement. Somehow I just can’t understand the charges--$700 for the use of the emergency room….

Sitting here wondering when my friend last had cut flowers on her table….I know, living flowers are pretty in the yard, but right now cut flowers say what I want to say. A couple of people I know will be getting roses in the spring for their yards, but roses on her table right now just may be a pretty good perker-upper for our friend Janis. Besides, the armadillos root up things in her yard. These Texas-sized termites eat anything except mesquite trees! Yeppers. Roses on the table will work.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Punctuation Day

According to one of the writers I enjoy, today is National Punctuation Day.
alphaDictionary * Free English On-line Dictionary

I like using words that mean more than one thing, but using punctuation in a manner that can cause a sentence to be read in more than one way just tickles my funnybone. One evening this week a friend asked me for some examples of sentences that could be read more than one way. That got me started again.

Seething, the cook threw the steaks back on the grill. Without the comma, we are about to do violence to the cook.

A note left for the secretary: Please retype all the letters, which are incorrect, in my office. Oh boy! Those commas mean that we can, or probably should, throw out the clause "which are incorrect." That leaves: "Please retype all the letters in my office." Sitting here shaking my head and remembering the dress code handbook for a school in Indiana: No clothes, which are distracting, may be worn to school. Oh boy! and watch out for campus security. I hope that they have a good supply of blankets for covering up all those distracting little lambs or limbs. Big evil grin.....

Most people who have had advanced English or even an English teacher with a sense of humor have seen this one: Woman without her man is nothing. It could be written: Woman without her man, is nothing. OR Woman: without her, man is nothing. Another grin here....

Punctuation marks have names. Bet you didn't know that unless you were a keyboarding or an English teacher. Dr. Beard says that we haven't given a name to the @ sign yet. In some countries they call it an elephant trunk, a cat's tail, a monkey's tail, or some other name associated with a critter. I don't care that it originated with the grave accent over the French A. It gets my e-mail where it is going. But my imagination is now piqued and ready to begin playing with ideas for a new name. Look at it again. @ I have seen belly buttons on babies that looked a bit like that. The French can have their escargot or some other snail. It could even be a pill bug (sow bug to some). Still thinking....

Well, maybe I can sleep on it. After all, it looks a little like one of my grandchildren's bed covers--all balled up.

Maybe someone else will have some ideas. I am open for (SOME) suggestions.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Weekend Wedgies

Well, so far “we” have studied fractions, whittled sticks, exhausted the dog, worn out the PawPaw, and tried the patience of the Ma. BUT we have also stepped on toes, led ‘em by the nose, and given a couple of wedgies. Does the big grin on my face show?

Apparently these two could live on fried or scrambled eggs, root beer, and Ma’s pancakes for at least two or three days. They don’t eat anything called casserole, veggies other than carrot sticks, or chicken that didn’t come in a McDs little ten piece container. Somehow I feel as if I am paying for MY raising and that of my children as well! Yes, Mother, I remember the English peas. Maybe if they had been on Daddy’s plate….

Tomorrow we all will meet at the nursing home to visit MIL. Maybe she will remember the daughter. She didn’t remember our oldest son last time, but she knew she liked him for some reason. Shaking my head . . .

The parents attended the grave site rites of one of the last of their old time friends. They called him Boomer. He was a sweet fella, if a bit homespun. He was buried in his farmers’ overalls. His overalls pretty well set the tone for the way everyone else was dressed. All the women except Mom were in pants—and her navy blue dress was pretty warm on this September day.

Dad seemed to think that it was a pretty interesting coincidence that he and Ralph met during the Pioneer Reunion over in Henrietta when they were boys of 10 and 11. They didn’t know each other’s name, but they got to be friendly that day and attended a movie called “Boomtown.” The next time Ralph saw my dad he waved and said, “Hi, Boomer.” Only my parents called Ralph Boomer—except for the children and grandchildren. Anyway, yesterday during the Pioneer Reunion, the parents went over to the funeral home to say goodbye to their friend, so Dad thought it was quite a coincidence that they met and said goodbye both times during the Old Settler’s Reunion.

Dad always has some good stories from our family history to share. He told one recently about Mother’s grandfather going to town to get some gasoline for his old car. He came in and told his family that he had gone to buy some of that Marie No Kick for the car. Not many younger people have ever heard of “Ethel No knock.” That was the name one fuel company gave to their gasoline. The ethel was supposed to reduce or eliminate the engine knocks. But Granddaddy Major called it Marie No Kick. Sitting here shaking my head and thinking that some things must be hereditary . . .

Well, next weekend we will spend some time with the other two grandchildren. No wedgies in that forecast! Little Miss will probably expect a captive audience while she parades in her boas and heels—or maybe a participant in another of her tea parties. The boy will have his own time pretty well allotted to his own interests. He doesn’t usually need to be entertained. Their parents can have some alone time together. Or not. We enjoy them just as much as we do the kids. It just seems like we don’t see all of our kids together very often. Maybe Thanksgiving . . .

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wonderful Weekends

Thursday night three different students invited me to go away for the weekend—and No, they weren’t TELLING me where to go! One suggested fishing as a relaxing get away. As much as I appreciated her offer, I don’t do worms, stinky fish, and chiggers. A good book and a shade tree out by the lake would be ok, however. Plenty of sun block, a cooler of tea, a picnic lunch….could anything be better?

Well, yes, something could be better. Two grandsons, a crazy dog, an old grandpaw who carries a nice sharp knife for whittling and making willow whistles, a good book, a shade tree, and a great big mug of tea. Golden Fried Chicken is not far away from a major lake and park, so why make a picnic lunch when it is easier to just let the best chicken frying business in town make it for us.

I hadn’t thought about going after the boys as being a restful way to spend the weekend, but we happily spent a little over an hour being entertained with boy tales coming back from Decatur where we met our daughter and exchanged free time for two full-time fellas who laugh, eat, make boy noises, and generally provide for an interesting weekend.

Tomorrow after the dew dries sufficiently, we will visit the canyon below a friend’s house. We will be armed with some kind of heavy sack, a hoe, and a heavy hammer. We are going geode hunting for the youngest boy. I just hope that we don’t manage to find any lovely rattlesnakes to make our weekend more memorable.

I have no idea why all the children in our family like rocks. Daughter, granddaughter, mother, and grandmother are all rock hounds. The grown men of the family just want the rocks to be in nice neat areas without grass. Can’t imagine why! Grandpaw did say he would saw a geode into two pieces or more so it shows the interior without losing the pretty crystal look. I think he likes the idea of using one of his noisier tools.

I grinned as I wrote that. We tease that this man has every tool known to man and Harbor Freight. His favorite piece of mail or e-mail is from Harbor Freight. Shaking head.

We only have one other project for the weekend. Oldest grandson missed a lesson in changing fractions into decimals. Lovely. I always despised math, but this weekend we will look up the lesson in my math book and do some fractions for a future business executive. One grandson does rocks; the other does origami and fractions. Nothing ever dull around here! Who knows! Maybe I will enjoy fractions this time.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Convoluted Thinking

Recently I decided that maybe I had not read a book by James Fenimore Cooper called The Prairie. Apparently I had read it because it was well marked in my handwriting from 1967 when I was still in school—college. But memory of plots apparently isn’t any more my strong suit than concise language was Cooper’s. It takes honest desire and patience to read this book. It reminds me of another book I read this spring called Thelma: A Norwegian Princess. That was the book for which my Grandmother Pollard was named by the midwife. It is a wonderful story full of moral premises and character, but even if the type were as large as print for semi-blind folks, the loquacious author enjoyed words over much, I think.

Sometimes I think that part of the trouble with our world today is the overuse of pussyfooting around with words and terms. If I am responsible for a problem, I will willingly take the blame/credit for the blunder and face the irritated party. But patience is not my long suit. Words that piddle around the bush just don’t cut any male bovine excreta with me. Basically, what my thoughts are tonight is that people should take responsibility for their own flippin’ actions or lack thereof. As a teacher that might sound pretty harsh, but we all make choices that affect what happens to us in life or in any given situation.

While I was reading e-mail tonight, I came across an article from Heartlight that talked about how we need to feel that we are given the approval—the approbation—of someone who matters to us. For many of us, that commendation needs to come from a father that we respect and love. IF we don’t feel we ever really gained his approval, of if we can’t really respect that man, we have a problem with our self-image—and sometimes with our self-talk. Men who have that problem will be the ones who have to portray themselves to others as an authority figure with big bold letters—or constant reiterations of their authority. Women handle things entirely from a different sphere. They will substitute something or someone for their father or the image they have of their father.

All this nice neat psychological stuff makes sense in words, but it doesn’t make a bit of difference to the person who deals with someone whose ego needs to be propped up or someone who still hurts like a little child for lack of loving approval. Fang asked me tonight if I would leave him if we lost everything like some of these people who have lost homes, vehicles--everything they owned basically. When I told him why I married him, he just about fell over laughing, and then he told me I should have married him for the money. Maybe so, but I married him—in truth—because I trusted him. Sometimes we sense more than we can actually see in a situation. When men and women marry, it should be—in my estimation—for trust.

So I have beaten around a couple of bushes so far, but maybe I can get to the point. Each person is responsible not only for his or her actions, but also for his or her perceptions—let me put that in caps: each person is responsible for his or her own PERCEPTIONS! More than once lately I have heard that we have to deal with perceptions and how people’s perceptions are THEIR REALITY. My thoughts are that this approach is so much avoidance of realities as to be unfair, unjust, irresponsible, and unrealistic. For instance, my MIL has to be told regularly that her family comes to visit her. To her, time is simply years. So she is reminded in order to help her with her convoluted thinking because her mind suffers from dementia. As far as I know, not one of my students suffers from dementia. Stress, yes. Dementia, no.

As a teacher I have spent years trying to make some things understandable to students. Some things are difficult to explain—English spelling rules come to mind. Even so, when people have trouble understanding another person’s INTENT, then plain language takes precedence over diplomacy or so-called tact. Tell things as they are, as they can be, as they should be. Then let others make their choices based on those terms. We don’t have to interchange terms. We don’t even have to give analogies to explain circumstances or expectations. Convoluted thinking happens in nursing homes and with those whose minds are otherwise under the influence of certain distractions of life. Most situations in life are best explained just as Sergeant Joe Friday would have said it, “Just the facts, Ma’am—just the facts.”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Not Even the Dogs

Harley B has been with us off and on since he was just a pup. We are our youngest son’s dog sitters. We love the son and I guess we are pretty fond of the dog. But Harley is as difficult to manage as any teenager. One good thing about him is that he will eat anything. Well, almost anything. He doesn’t eat cooked asparagus, thank you very much. He ate every sprig that came up in the bed where it was planted this spring. In fact, he dug every plant up at least three times before he finally gave up trying to decide why I planted those awful looking roots and left them alone. Like a goat, however, he grazes on just about anything that grows.

Our other major problem with Harley is the fact that he has found a secret way out of the yard. So far it is his secret alone. After both of us have walked the fence line and examined both sides of the fence, we still have no idea of how he is getting out. He never goes far, fortunately. He prefers the bench on the front porch to his dog house any day. But his favorite spot is between our chairs in the office floor—preferably with the air conditioner going. Oh to lead a dog’s life in this household.

The youngest son promises to come get this dog next year when they move out of California and back to God’s country (Texas, as if you didn’t know). Meanwhile we got a call from him letting us know that we had forgotten something---his birthday was yesterday. Shaking head and wondering where my sense of motherhood went. Actually, I think I have forgotten the birthdays of the other two children and my own as well—at least once. NEXT year I will try to remember, but no promises. At least this year his birthday was celebrated with lots of wind—Ike made landfall on his birthday.

Ike has still been active even though the folks on the coast are beginning to push out from under the debris. In Arkansas the wind blew trees down overnight and now the winds in Indiana are supposed to punish them for another few hours. Each state has its own version of “bad” weather. We get so much wind on a normal basis that most of the trees that had ever planned to lie down and roll over have already done so. One of the things I would like to do is see a season in each state—well, except maybe Kansas, Nebraska, and Nevada or one of those places that is so packed with people that someone’s lights are always shining in the night.

A couple of friends aren’t exactly satisfied with life and the way things are going right now. So that makes at least three of us. I suggested that we volunteer for park intern duty. All three of us are teachers and ready to do something a little different. So far I have found a couple of places in Colorado that sound pretty good. Then there is that wilderness trail up in Wyoming or somewhere up there in the northern part of this country. I suggested that I could do the trail work if one of the others would do the cooking. Carla volunteered to call Pizza Hut. Hmmm. Maybe Robin would do the paper work and keep the bears out of the pizza cartons.

Well, that darned dog is out again. I know he can jump into the back of the truck flatfooted off the ground—without the tailgate being down, so maybe the fence is just not tall enough. Or maybe he has learned to climb a chain link fence. Either way, I have to go put him back in the yard before he scares someone or licks the neighbor’s kids clean. I wonder if the park service would allow a dog to go on an internship . . .

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Even the Little Children

My friend Rose C has a good sense of humor and maybe just a bit of political leaning. She sent me the following titled "No Offense, Just the Facts."

I was talking to a friend of mine's little girl, and she said she wanted to be President some day.

Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there, so I asked her, 'If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?'

She replied, 'I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people.'

'Wow - what a worthy goal.' I told her. 'You don't have to wait until you're President to do that. You can come over to my house and mow, pull weeds, and sweep my yard, and I'll pay you $50. Then I'll take you over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food or a new house.'

She thought that over for a few seconds 'cause she's only six. And while her Mom glared at me, she looked me straight in the eye and asked,

'Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?'

And I said, 'Welcome to the Republican Party.'

Her folks still aren't talking to me.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Are You a Democrat, A Republican, or a Redneck?

My friend Carla sent me something to enjoy:

Are you a Democrat, a Republican, or a Redneck?

Here is a little test that will help you decide. Answer this question:

You're walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children. Suddenly, an Islamic terrorist with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, praises Allah, raises the knife, and charges at you.

You are carrying a Kimber 1911 cal. 45 ACP, and you are an expert shot. You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family. What do you do?

Democrat's Answer :

Well, that's not enough information to answer the question!
Does the man look poor or oppressed?
Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack?
Could we run away?
What does my wife think?
What about the kids?
Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand?
What does the law say about this situation?
Does the pistol have appropriate safety built into it?
Why am I carrying a loaded gun anyway, and what kind of message does this send to society and to my children?
Is it possible he'd be happy with just killing me?
Does he definitely want to kill me, or would he be content just to wound me?
If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while he was stabbing me?
Should I call 9-1-1?
Why is this street so deserted? We need to raise taxes, have paint and weed day and
make this happier, healthier street that would discourage such behavior.
This is all so confusing! I need to debate this with some friends for few days and try to come to a consensus.


Republican's Answer: BANG! .............................................................................................................

Redneck's Answer:

BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG ! Click ..... (Sounds of reloading)


Daughter: "Nice grouping, Daddy! Were those the Winchester Silver Tips or Hollow Points?"

Son: "Can I shoot the next one?"

Wife: "You ain't taking that to the Taxidermist!"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Leaders and the Rabbi

Yesterday I wrote about leaders. Today I have a video link that leads to quotations from some of our greatest leaders:

Some things are worth watching more than once, and that little video is one of them.

Then a friend of mine sent me something which just about made my day:

A priest was called away for an emergency. Not wanting to leave the confessional unattended, he called his rabbi friend from across the street and asked him to cover for him. The rabbi told him he wouldn't know what to say, but the priest told him to come on over and he'd stay with him for a little bit and show him what to do. The rabbi comes and he and the priest are in the confessional.

A few minutes later a woman comes in and says 'Father forgive me for I have sinned.'

The priest asks 'What did you do?'.

The woman says 'I committed adultery.'

Priest: 'How many times?'

Woman: 'Three times.'

Priest: 'Say two Hail Mary's, put $5 in the box and go and sin no more.'

A few minutes later a man enters the confessional. He says 'Father forgive me for I have sinned.'
Priest: 'What did you do?'

Man: 'I committed adultery.'

Priest: 'How many times?'

Man: 'Three times.'

Priest: 'Say two Hail Mary's put $5 in the box and go and sin no more.'

The rabbi tells the priest that he thinks he's got it so the priest leaves.

A few minutes later another woman enters and says 'Father forgive me for I have sinned.'

Rabbi: 'What did you do?'

Woman: 'I committed adultery.'

Rabbi: 'How many times?'

Woman: 'Once.'

Rabbi: 'Go do it two more times. We have a special this week, three for $5.'

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Team

Years ago a man got together a group of men whom he handpicked because he knew them well. HE knew them. They learned to know him. His actions, his words, his laughter, and even the way he walked helped those men know him. He was an authority but not an authority figure. His ego did not stick out in all directions, but he was a leader, nonetheless. He taught his group of men and made them his family. He shared his food, his thoughts, and his love with them.

The man who started the group trusted the men he had chosen to do what he expected of them. He told them that he would have to leave them to do things the way he had instructed them. The men could not begin to imagine doing without their teacher and friend. But the man died and the group of men went separate ways.

The purpose for those men was not finished, however. They did not continue to walk about together as a group, but they went home by twos not understanding what they needed to do next. Each man must have known in his heart of hearts that his life was not the same and no longer really belonged to himself. But not one of the men knew how to go forward without a leader. They had to wait to be told.

A leader: Someone who shares his thoughts, his love, and his sense of direction. A leader can be trusted to want and to know what is best for those whom he leads. In this world we will never have a perfect leader if we are looking among mankind. But our perfect leader is still there if we will listen and follow. He won’t be found in a place, in an organization, in a philosophy. Like the wind, some things are felt but not seen; like love, some things are known but not held.

Some of us must listen carefully to find our purpose or wait quietly until it is revealed. While we wait, we will share what we have of love, of understanding, of patience. That is the way of a leader.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Rainy Day and a Good Book

Not much in this world—other than little babies or puppies—is better than a good book--unless it might be a rainy day and a good book. Considering that we are just a bit beyond the little baby stage and not particularly interested in a new critter of any ilk, we have just about the best of all possible worlds right now. Oh sure, we are just as susceptible to the vagaries of the economic marketplace, the irritation of chiggers, ticks, and politics as anyone else. But doggone if it isn’t pleasant to just curl up somewhere and escape into a good book.

Broken Trail by Alan Geoffrion was just lying there stuffed on top of some books someone gave me. I only kept it because I thought Fang might find it enjoyable. He likes almost all things Western—particularly Maverick—the TV series. He even has the grandsons hooked on that one so that the daughter has to record the show when they are not home to watch it. Shaking head and taking a deep breath. Anyway, I am so glad that I picked the book up and read a few pages because I really did not want to put it down after I started it. I read about half of it last night and finally made myself go to bed. Then all day at work I looked forward to getting back to the book. It was definitely worth the read.

Violence doesn’t appeal to me, but realistically I know that it has happened in the past and will continue to happen. But this book does not elevate violence into some kind of glorified experience. Instead, violence is met with the force necessary to prevent death or the recurrence of violent acts of men and women. The Western backdrop gives a reassuring measure of hope to the principles of a man of integrity who involuntarily rescues five young Chinese women who were kidnapped and were to be sold into the slavery of prostitution. Prentice Ritter is the main character, but it is easy to tell that it is the life of the Westerner that has molded his character just as much as his favorite horse, Bob Tate, has molded Print’s legs into a bow.

Reading about men of character lifts my spirits, but reading about spunky women who aren’t afraid to learn to deal with the world around them absolutely inspires me. The working title of this book was originally Daughters of Joy. It probably wouldn’t have sold many books or have been made into an Academy Award movie with that title, but I still think it is a great title for the story.

Finally, I agree with one of the thoughts of Print: I can’t ever remember a horse that smelled bad.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Not All Things Are Believable

The title probably just about says it all for the skeptic, but some things would be NICE to be able to believe. Rose C. sent me an e-mail with pictures of a mass re-enlistment that took place in Baghdad on the Fourth of July of this year. The captions did not mention the number of men/women re-enlisting, but some pizzeria in Chicago shipped over 2,000 frozen pizzas to be served that day to the troops. The pictures in the e-mail were inspiring, but a non-techie like me could not get them into the correct format for blogger. Let's just say it was wall to wall troops.

Why don't we hear more about good stuff like this? Why do we have to turn on the news and hear only garbage and grief? It's ok to learn about what is going on in the world no matter if it is good or bad, but do we really need to know who is pregnant and who the baby daddy is? It used to be that I could look up the news on AOL without feeling as if I had slipped into the checkout line at the supermarket between the tabloids telling about the latest bust up or booze out among the celebrity couples. Someone must read those things or they wouldn't still be around, but intelligence never stood still for that kind of daily reading! I would just about rather gag on statistics than on tabloid gossip!

Anyway, Randy T. sent an e-mail with an Australian skit in it that was about the environment and a ship losing its front. Snopes--that ever handy little lie detector--and a quick-witted friend set me straight that it was, indeed, a joke. That joke was one I could have enjoyed believing. It isn't like the gunslinging teachers of Harrell District--a truth and true-to-Texas scenario.

Now speculation is not the same thing as telling tall tales, but it seems that every commentator (as opposed to un-common tators) has his or her favorite bit of speculation that soon becomes the belief of most of the viewing or listening audience. Say anything enough times, loudly enough, and convincingly enough and folks just have to believe it--or have a very good reason NOT to believe it. NOT believing the generally accepted theory or speculation of a commentator somehow earns one a label as either partisan or ignorant. In my estimation, this tendency to accept the views of commentators has changed the entire political and social fabric of our country. Who determines WHAT we hear about our troops and their movements and work in different countries? Who determines what we learn about political figures and their pasts or what has gone on in their bedrooms? For that matter, who determines innocence or guilt when the press decides to "convict"--or exonerate--someone?

Ok, let's take it closer to home. We all used to trust the corner grocery store to charge fairly and to give back the correct change. After all, the man who owned the store was our neighbor. Well, obviously that has changed in most cities. Even so, we usually just watch as the cashier rings up our purchases at Wally World or wherever. We feel we can trust the cashiers to do their best to get things right. Some stores even have a policy of letting you have an item free if you can show them a mistake made by their employee. But what about our friendly neighborhood utility company? My parents had--stress HAD--an account with a company called First Choice Power. They got an electric bill for $408 plus odd cents this month. Oh, the company doesn't do the reading of the meters, by the way. But they look at the numbers and send a bill based on the kilowatt hours used. The company also didn't answer its phone for several days until I found a number online that actually was connected to a real person. Real person or otherwise, because my name was not on the parents' account so that I could speak for them, I could not even request that the meter be read again. I understand the necessity to protect their customers from tacky people who might have someone's power turned off just to be spiteful, but let's face it, the company is ultimately the one who sends out the bills. Does it make sense that two little old people in their 80s are going to jump up and use 1692 kilowatt hours as opposed to 623 the month before? That's more juice than our two households could use--with the air conditioning running 24/7! Whoever read that meter needs glasses--and the company who does the billing needs a reality check! Numbers DO lie!

Whether it is a concerted shaking of our heads over "tabloid-type" newscasts or simply a desire to be able to be believed when we ask a company to check for errors, something needs to change in our collective attitude. HIPPA was put in place so that no one could obtain personal medical information that was basically private. IF a person chooses to put out information about his or her health or the children's health, that is one thing. But as a nation we need turn away from gossip and gossipers. HOW we hear of things does make a difference--just as WHY we listen makes a difference. I just wish that someone could start a good rumor that would spread and make a difference in our lives--something like Congress has repealed the income tax, or better yet, daylight savings time has been ABOLISHED! Wheeee!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Politicians and Other Peculiar People

Labels on people or even on critters have always made me somewhat uncomfortable. It reminds me that children can be made to feel very inferior simply by being called some stupid name--even if a child's parents were the idiots who came up with the name. We can overcome someone calling us fatty or fancy prancy or skinny ninny and such silly things. Childhood bullies have been collectively condemned by parents with that old saw: sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Male bovine excretia! Words hurt just as much as any rock up against the back of your head. For one thing, we have a tendency to remember only the bad stuff we hear people say. That's probably why gossip has such a long life. It never grows weaker, only worse!

Today someone sent me a video of an Australian politician who was explaining that it is very uncommon for the front to fall off one of those oil tankers. After all, it was hit by a wave and THAT is a very uncommon event on the sea. The commentator asked where the ship was taken and the politician said that it had been removed from the environment. Removed? asked the commentator. The politician explained that it had been taken out to sea where there was no environment, just birds, fish, and sea. Oh boy.....

It must be very difficult to be bunched together in the same group of people as such a man as that and others like him. What kind of person must one be to have the courage to call oneself a politician? I suppose for the devil of it we could compare a couple of politicians. Let's see, who would fit the bill on one hand and leave an honest person on the other hand? Thinking.....

Well, while I am thinking, I will just do a little Texas comparison: Red Adair and Sarah Palin. If a person knows anything at all about wildfires in oil wells, thinking about the waste of resources and the extreme danger of putting out the fire might give a little bit of a picture of what it would be like to try to keep from wasting one while controlling the other in government. If we manage our resources and do our best to prevent waste, we might have a better chance of controlling the wildfire of government spending. Red Adair did it with nitroglycerin--dynamite or little tiny vials of high explosives. I think that just about describes Sarah Palin. Does it sound as if I might admire the lady? Dang skippy!

Oh, Texans are a breed apart from the rest of the group. Go to any country and tell folks you are from Texas and they want to hear you talk, see you walk, and watch you draw your shootin' iron. Texas is, indeed, a state of mine--mind. We know a spunky woman when we see one and we call a liar a liar when we hear one. Personally--not speaking for other Texans here--I look forward to seeing some decent government programs coming up next year with McCain and Palin. One is a veteran and the other a common sense woman who can "get 'er done." Now that is a perfect combination. Foreign policy and domestic policy riding in together to clean out the lawbreakers and the dadgummed lawyers! If they need a Texas ranger, we will be happy to loan 'em one. That's usually all it takes--just one. But these two--McCain and Palin--may be all set to change the brand on the face of politics. 'Bout time.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Smart Remarks and Other Smiles

Some of us just get an attitude once in a while. Sometimes that attitude hits others as amusing—and sometimes not. For instance, someone said that the Democrats were a bunch of lawyers and the Republicans were a bunch of businessmen. Then I noticed that Obama said that the election would be decided over economic issues. Now, just which one of those people would I trust my money with—the blinking lawyers or the guys who know how to make money honestly? You guess.

Today one of the office personnel sent out an e-mail saying that our new boss will have his first year anniversary this month and did we want to pitch in and get him something. I hit reply to all and asked if anyone had any horse shoes. Oh yeah, attitude!

Then a friend of mine sent an old joke that had been reworked slightly:

A driver is stuck in a traffic jam going into downtown Chicago ... Nothing is moving north or south. Suddenly a man knocks on his window.The driver rolls down his window and asks, "What happened, what's the hold up?"

"Terrorists have kidnapped Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O'Donnell, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. They are asking for a $10 million ransom. Otherwise, they are going to douse them with gasoline and set them on fire. We are going from car to car, taking up a collection."

The driver asks, "On average, how much is everyone giving?"

"About a gallon."

Yeppers, attitude!

Then there is one from my favorite columnist in the local paper:

How Now Joe Brown, September 3
By Joe BrownTuesday, September 2, 2008

Nicholas Evans, author of the novel “The Horse Whisperer,” along with his wife and in-laws, is recovering from cooking and eating toxic wild mushrooms they picked in Scotland. I can’t believe ordinary people would pick mushrooms in the wild and eat them, but some folks vote Democrat and some Republican. Who knows what’s correct?

You may have noticed that Joe listed both parties—just slightly diplomatic—or sneaky, depending on the point of view.

You can’t believe everything online or in the newspaper, but if what I read today was true, Sarah Palin was trying to help the people of Alaska pay for their fuel costs with some of the money that she managed to save from different branches of the state offices.

That story reminded me of my friend Jan whose husband always gave her a budget each month and the money to pay for the things she always bought. Once in a while she would tell him that the price of things had gone up and that she needed more money—and every year she managed to save a thousand dollars or more out of her household money for whatever they needed for their vacation trips. Her husband got his money’s worth and she felt good about managing the finances and always buying the bargains in order to save money.

But Jan didn’t live in Alaska. Those folks pay triple the amount we do in Texas for their food and anything else they need. And to tell the truth, the money Jan used to use to buy her monthly groceries and household items would just about pay for the oatmeal, sugar, butter, and cream for a family of four—without any meat or milk—for one month today!

Unless we actually get some leaders who know how to manage our national finances like Jan managed her home budget, we are never going to get out of the hole. It’s a pretty deep hole, too, so it’s about time we stop digging. We are going to need more than a sense of humor and an attitude to get us back on track. But knowing what we are going to have to do and gritting our teeth until it gets done seems to be something I see in the Republican candidates right now.

Anyway, I don’t have much use for lawyers even if Honest Abe WAS a lawyer. I am not sure they make honest lawyers anymore. And yes, THAT is my attitude!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hang Up Your Hat

Sometimes we know when it is time to quit what we are doing, slow down, and even put away the branding irons before we cross the bars on some heifer's flank. Tonight three phone calls came in while my class was needing help with tables, letters, and footnotes in reports--plus a couple of final tests. With my mind on the tests instead of the calls, I tried to put my phone in my bag and noticed that I had the mouse in my hand instead of the cell phone. Yeppers, definitely time to put away the branding irons.

Every five weeks one of the sections of a class will be having final tests for a subject. That means every five weeks we have an entire group of nervous nellies running around the school working themselves up into a tizzy. Today one student came in crying and told her story and how she got a ticket in a work zone--with NO insurance--ad havoc. We listened and then took her to our clinicals teacher. Her blood pressure was so high that he made her sit down and rest quietly before she had a stroke. Nothing in life is worth that kind of health hazard.

But I started thinking about the student's problem. She wasn't paying attention to her speed because she was upset about something else that happened this morning. Her mind was not on her current activity. She didn't put her mouse in her bag, but she put her anger in her driving.

We all seem to have a tendency to think that we can multi-task and have everything come out just fine. Sitting here shaking my head. No, some things just need special concentration or we reap the consequences. Putting a mouse in my bag was no biggie. But what if I had been using the paper shredder and had papers in both hands--one to shred and one to file. Maybe that really wouldn't be a disaster. But it certainly could have caused some problems.

Today I went to see a specialist in one of the medical fields. His attention to detail amazed me, but when we completed the examination, I was thoroughly appreciative of his attention. He made sure that what we had feared was not one of the problems we were going to have to face. No, we didn't find the source of the problem yet, but I have a feeling that he won't quit until he knows what is wrong and why. He didn't worry himself with details about his business. He dealt with ME and my problem. I wish more people would take the time to concentrate on the job that they have chosen to do. Yes, I know. My cell phone shouldn't even be ringing in the classroom, and normally it doesn't because my students pay for my time--they deserve my attention to the details they need for their education. The same holds true for any job: the waitress needs to get the order right; the mechanic needs to listen and look for problems that might cause future problems; the pharmacist needs to be sure the medications won't conflict with meds already being taken.

Basically we need to hang up our hats and give it a rest if we are too tired to deal with our work on the best level. The truckers and other long distance drivers need to pull up and rest--while the ladies with the cars full of kids need to get things calmed down before they ever get on the road. And for pity sake, put those danged cell phones away or pull over to talk and text! Stay off my bumper; stop for red lights; and don't run over those kids in the crosswalks! Life is in the details, but concentrate on one at a time if it can be a matter of life and death. This is not just a calf we're branding. This is a life to be living!

Monday, September 1, 2008

There Are Days

We visited the MIL today in the nursing home. She asked the great-grandson if she saw a gap in his teeth where some had fallen out. He wouldn’t smile for her. Given time he would really have enjoyed her. She always loved the children and playing with them. She picked at them and baked cookies and had them “help” her in the kitchen. But that has been years ago. Now she has people who enjoy her company among those in wheelchairs, bibs, and walkers.

MIL was pretty today in her denim dress and matching shoes. She looked happy. I asked her if they had already had dinner. She said she didn’t remember. I guess if a person can’t remember having eaten dinner, then nothing else much would be a problem either.

Our youngest son remembered her blackberry cobblers and summertime on the farm when he was young. He wrote a poem for her and we framed it and gave it to her to hang on the wall. It was proudly displayed in her living room until the day we took it down to pack up the house and all the little keepsakes that can’t be taken anywhere. I know. Someday the kids will probably have to do that in this old house. But that doesn’t make me feel as sad as seeing—and hurting for the memory of—the MIL. In a way she taught me what NOT to do as a MIL, but in other ways, she taught me what love for family was all about. SHE had a mother-in-law who lived in her back yard, for pity sake!

Having the granddaughter here since Friday reminded me of how MIL made the children feel as if they were the only people in her world. Of course, with our little miss “into it” we have to be watchful just to be sure that she is safe. Given some time, she will be more delightful than she is now and less of a scary responsibility when she visits. But still, I remember our children went to the farm and PLAYED all day and into the night with MIL and FIL. THOSE were some happy times. I would like to give our grandchildren even a part of what our children had back then.

Then there are days like today when I see what life has become for someone like MIL. I am not sure I want to see that kind of life—even if I don’t remember those other days. My youth was spent as much as possible on the back of a horse or with some kind of critter on the farm or outside in the sunshine. Maybe the sun is not as kind to me these days, but I would still rather be a part of nature than a little old person sitting among faded memories and failing minds.

He didn’t write it for me, but the son’s poem works for these thoughts:

A Field of Plenty

Lay me down in a field of bluebonnets
Place dimes on my eyes and turn away
Let me lie and dream my mesquite tree dreams
Let the red clay absorb me
Like dust on a rainy day
And I will be
Warm to the diamondback's belly
Underfoot a coyote's trail
A cottontail's burrow
A field of plenty
Reflecting the sun
Harvesting the rain
And giving in my silence
I will be more than ever before
I will be no more

© 2006 Hanan Joseph Dickerson