Thursday, October 30, 2008

If All Else Fails, Talk About the Weather

Some people are not going to be happy about anything and want everyone to know their opinions about everything from the price of stamps to the ubiquity of cell phones. About the only way to avoid a confrontational diatribe concerning their opinions is to get in the first word and keep going back to it in a positive manner—vociferously if necessary. The first word in Texas just has to be the weather.

If global warming has had any effect upon the weather in Texas, no one would notice. In fact, one July 1st, back in 1956, my grandmother and a friend were down on a creek bed for some reason when Grandmother snorted her opinion that it would be a cold day in hell when something happened. Not thirty minutes later a little snow shower fell on her and Faye Lyons. Now to this day I could not tell you what started that conversation, but it was Grandmother’s 50th birthday and her friend was trying to cheer her up. She apparently got her wish in a backhanded way; not everyone got snow on her 50th birthday—especially in July in Texas!

For quite awhile now my friends have been attempting to get me to check out every e-mail ‘factoid’ with in order not to look like a fool when I passed on some opinion that I thought was based on fact. Not every opinion, ‘fact,’ or strange story will show up in Snopes right away, but eventually the controversial e-mails make it to that site to be checked for veracity. Learning to check for facts has also been interesting when ‘photo-shopped’ pictures make the same rounds of gullible folks like me. I just tend to believe what I want to believe. Proof of the facts certainly can deflate an opinion or a cherished belief in a hurry.

Now not everyone got to see that snow flurry back in ’56, but I would bet my upper plate on its occurrence if for no other reason than because of how much fun those two old ‘hens’ got out of that birthday gift. Snopes won’t be able to go back to Clay County weather records for that particular creek bed near the Zachry ranch, and you can bet no one from any other state who hadn’t ever seen a strange blue front roll in across the Red River Valley would believe the story. But at least that weather story probably wouldn’t cause a fuss in politics, religion, education, or which operating system is best for a computer. No sir, the weather just might be the best topic for right now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkins are so pretty. Well, they are not pretty like flowers or lovely flowering bushes, but in their own humble, bright orange way, they ARE pretty. They remind me that fall leads to Thanksgiving and family gatherings--and pumpkin pies. I am not fond of making pumpkin pies, nor do I do the carving thing. In fact, I have read that the great big pumpkins have very little taste. The little ones make good pies and good pumpkin soup or bread. I vote for the pies and bread. Anyway, here is my less messy offering for fall fun. Carve your own virtual pumpkin.

Happy Halloween !!!
This is addictive! Use the little blue knife to carve your pumpkin then press done - It's fun!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What to Leave Out

Grandmother Pollard had one of those little signs carved out of wood that looked as if it were the alphabet trying to find a word. After glancing at it in just the right manner, the sign would spell out Jesus. Other signs and t-shirts have words that can be read as opposites--love or evil, for instance. And recently a friend sent us a video of a fountain in a Japanese mall. The fountain spelled out words as the water fell. What struck me about these messages was the idea that what was left out was just as important as what was left in.

Clichés like ‘less is more,’ advertising slogans or cartoon quips, and technological terms used as verb forms eventually become a form of shorthand communication. Our language is still evolving—so much so, in fact, that someone from our age could not have been understood in the early 1900s; nor would a person from our times understand many of the terms from those earlier days. If truth be told, English from country to country can be very difficult to understand without the differences produced by time, technology, and media influences.

Helpful articles about how much to put in a blog entry suggest that short blogs are easier to read—and more likely to be read. So perhaps leaving out certain indicators allows a reader to use his or her imagination to fill in the spaces. However, writing lacks the capacity for a smile and quick nod of the head without the use of words. No matter what age or manner of technology writing represents, the connections created by the writer for the reader will have gaps left for understanding; but those gaps only matter when the words filled into the spaces make sense to the reader.

A so-called language puzzle asks the question: how far can a wolf run into a forest. Supposedly the answer is half way because the wolf would then be running out of the forest. As far as I am concerned, the wolf has run “into” the forest as soon as he passes the first tree. After that he is running “in” the forest no matter which direction he might go.

The word-puzzle example highlights our dependence on the lowly prepositions—the same words that make me look totally ignorant in my use of French. Some terms simply do not translate when one attempts to use prepositions that have two or more meanings in a language. The only recourse given to a writer who has my particular limitations is to leave those suckers out and use active voice—put the blame on the subject where it belongs. Elisa Doolittle might have said that the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. I, on the other hand, would have to say: Rain hit Spain today!

Does it matter what is left out? Does ACCURACY matter? You decide.

Family and Friends

Sometimes strange things bring people together. Few people ever get to choose their family members; if they did, many of us would be making regretful decisions in that area too. As it is, the closest thing to family we get to choose is a mate. Apparently, if the divorce and remarriage statistics are to be believed, many people are not too happy with their choices.

Not unlike parenting, no foolproof guidelines come with marriage. Oh, to be sure, the bookshelves overflow with parenting and marriage books that claim to give the best advice for a successful marriage or perfectly obedient children. This is where we throw in the sale of the oceanfront property in Arizona . . .

Once a parent, always a parent is just a fact of life. But once a mate, always a mate doesn’t necessarily compute. Yes, some children may end up in Nebraska after their parents decide that parenting just isn’t their bag. But fewer children are dumped than mates any day. But parents don’t just happen to “meet” their children somewhere and “fall in love.”

A young man I once met told me that he did not understand how people just “fell in love.” At the time my naiveté scored off the scale, but the example of my parents and grandparents gave me a little bit of an idea that once was enough.

The young man I mentioned was walking with me as I brought my horse back from a pasture. In our walk we met up with an older woman who lived near the pasture with her husband. I spoke to her and happened to ask her how long she and her husband had been married. I don’t remember now how many decades they had been married, but I said she must really love him. She gave me and the young man a funny look and said, “Luf, luf! What is there after luf?”

That old couple had met when she was just a girl, and she worked just as hard as he did until they died. That is not to say that they were gloriously in love or even happy with one another. I never knew whether they were or not, but women her age never left their husbands in those days.

I wonder if they were still friends. One of the most wonderful aspects of marriage, in my book, is being able to have a dear friend who knows me better than anyone else. That is not to say we always agree or otherwise get along perfectly, but it does mean that I trust and would rather be with my mate more than anyone I know.

Strange circumstances may bring couples together, but finally it is the mutual trust and friendship that keeps them together. Both the trust and the friendship are choices.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Books and Movies

Carla Beard seems to have a knack for finding some of the best in literature for young people--and the movies or other sites to make it "live" for those who want more than just a good read.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
posted by carla at The English Teacher Blog - 14 hours ago
From Susan Zingraf, Director of Finding Inspiration in Literature and Movies: Heartland Truly Moving Pictures and Miramax Films invite you to a FREE special advance screening of the highly anticipated film...

One of these days maybe I will find a book store like The Book Rack that carries some of the newer books for teens and pre-teens. With three voracious readers coming up in the male section of the family, we will need a bigger bookcase too. Little girl is still in the readers and those jump start things, but she can almost read the words of her favorite books. She will be a few years behind the boys and may not want to read about the Civil War however...imagine that.

Our oldest son wants us to go see Fireproof--and take hankies...for some reason. And now we are going to have to wait and see The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Oh, and then there is something called Madagascar II?

It is amazing how we entertain and educate ourselves today. A child can dial 911 because he has seen it done on TV; a teacher creates a medical terminology game based on Wheel of Fortune; and a zoo caretaker straps a teenager's skateboard to a turtle to allow it to be mobile again. We definitely are an innovative people in this nation. Characters from a book can become more real to some people by incorporating the story into a movie--one of our better innovations.

We all learn in different ways, but I honestly do believe that Americans have more ingenuity and more--I guess the word would have to be fearlessness. We aren't afraid to make a mistake; and we aren't afraid--usually--of what others think of us. We have the "can do" attitude. We also have a most compassionate response to others. Not many books nor movies today that are made for young people will leave out those elements. Maybe we are better teachers than we ever thought!

Any parent or teacher who wants a source for great ideas and resources should bookmark The English Teacher Blog or check out Web English Teacher. The English Teacher Blog

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gifts and Givers

Recently I read The Shack and felt that I had been given a different perspective on God. That perspective felt like a gift—an unexpected and wonderful gift. Then this past weekend a man gave one of our children a gift that can only be called uplifting—which is pretty funny since they were very busy falling through the air. Thanks to this man’s generosity, we have a picture of the two of them in free fall 13,000 feet up—on the way down. Apparently jumping out of a plane and falling through the air before opening a parachute can give one an entirely new perspective on life. Not many of the people we know could give a 29-year-old man a new outlook and a feeling of purpose in life. It was such an unexpected gift.

Yesterday Fang and I heaved, sawed, drilled in screws, and otherwise put in a full day of remodeling. We were sitting here in the office at our computers when he said, “Thank you. I love you very much.”

While I am not unaccustomed to his telling me that he loves me, I wondered aloud why he said thank you. His answer was simple, yet it surprised me: “You helped me accomplish what needed to be done today. I am thanking you for that.”

Not everyone says thank you, and he didn’t have to say anything at all. But he did. His appreciation was his gift to me.

It seems that a spirit of appreciation permeates our society when we look around at it. Back some time ago a couple of big companies made drugs available at reduced cost. Whether or not anyone wrote thank you notes to these companies is not the point, but some of us truly appreciate the fact that we can buy generic drugs for $4 whenever we need them. And now a supermarket chain has announced that certain antibiotics and prenatal vitamins will be free with a prescription. That was something special as a gift in my book!

The cost of a gift may or may not mean anything. That simple thank you given to me the other evening just made my day 100% better than it already was. But what made it so special was the fact that it was so unexpected and so freely given. I hope that none of our family will need any antibiotics this winter—and CERTAINLY no prenatal vitamins! However, knowing that someone is willing to help out those who may need those drugs makes me feel richer. That probably sounds weird, but I can’t think of a better word than richer to explain the feeling that we have resources we didn’t know we had. It’s like suddenly finding a $20 bill in a jacket you wore last fall. Or better yet, it is like discovering that your “Friends of the Family” card has earned $100, and that the check will be here this week while Sutherland’s sale is on. (Sutherland’s—our favorite lumber and hardware store—has to be visited at least once a month according to Fang.)

The author of The Shack didn’t know exactly what effect his book would have, but he must have known that his vision was worth sharing. Sutherland’s doesn’t have to use a rewards system to keep customers, but that reward will be returned to them in another purchase. Wayne Berryhill may get an extremely rare thank you note from our number one youngest son, but I know for a fact that the gift he gave our son was really the sharing of a love for life. Expressing appreciation for that kind of gift may take awhile—it might just mean that the younger man will learn to be the same kind of giver as the man who gave the gift.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could give unexpected gifts—a smile, a compliment, even just the right of way. Hmmm. I have some extra flowers that need to be repotted and a friend who just built a sun room.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Cathedral

An e-mail today portrayed mothers as builders of cathedrals.  The children and grandchildren and their children after them are built from her gifts of love—the mundane details performed endlessly—(and sometimes mindlessly, let’s face it).  The never—absolutely NEVER-ending laundry, the meals, the dirty dishes, the dirty floors, the boo boos, the missing books, the misplaced baseball uniform, the forgotten library books . . . Mothers take care of these details.

I sent that e-mail to my girls and to a friend who is a teacher.  She is “mom” to an entire English class.  She responded and told me that today she had not been a mom to anyone, but rather a stressed out lady who was dealing with some agitated teenagers.  It is difficult to feel that one is “building” anything of value when the messes seem bigger than the progress.  That happens in any building project.  Get out the broom, sweep up the mess, and get reorganized.

We have been in the process of finishing out a room that we started remodeling a couple of years ago.  Yes, we are slow to get back around to some things.  Even so, this room is going to be beautiful despite its intended purpose.  I wanted wood instead of sheet rock, and the beaded pine is lovely.  If Fang will quit getting scratched up and bleeding on it, it won’t be difficult to varnish out to keep it from getting stained.  He has me doing the ups and the downs—climbing and squatting to put the screws in the top and bottom.  Today he yelled at me that he was ready for me to come in the room and do some screwing.  I had to laugh.  The window was open, and the back door neighbor was out in her yard.  She must think we are really pretty spry for our age.

Some of our friends think that we do remodeling for a hobby.  As long as it has taken us to finish most of the house, it could be that they are correct.  But I saw a commercial on TV this evening that reminded me that more families are beginning to find things to do together.  We don’t have to go somewhere or make a big deal out of ‘having’ things to have some plain old-fashioned fun.  I remember sitting on the wooden ice cream freezer while Daddy cranked the handle.  And I felt needed when he had me stand around with the staples to hand him when he was building fence.  Little things can make a big difference when we are building cathedrals.

Our daughter and her family visited the Winchester House in San Jose, California.  It seems that Sarah Winchester believed that she would live as long as she was “building” on her house.  It was unfortunate that she thought of her house as the thing she should be building, but I suppose the workmen who continued to be employed didn’t mind.  But a lesson in her life is not too difficult to discern.  With her resources she could have built many houses—not for herself, but for those who needed them.  She could have furnished an entire village and given the children lessons from her own hands.  Instead of being a widow who had also lost her daughter, she could have had a family of children and friends.  Instead of leaving a silly house for gawking tourists, she could have built a future for generations.

In a couple of weeks there won’t be much more sawdust to track through our living room—I hope.  We will be thinking of Thanksgiving plans and our children.  But this meal together as a family is just one more beam raised for the supports in our cathedral.  We won’t live to see our grandchildren bring their families together before God to thank Him for His blessings.  But we will build just as diligently because He sees the builders and knows the love we give in our hearts.  These children and grandchildren have been given to build His cathedral.  Praise God.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Seeing Things Another Way

My life has never been so important that I needed to rush through it, but rushing things, words, events, and just life itself has become a bad habit. I find it difficult to sit back and wait for the "all in good time" events in life. But maybe change has come to me for a good reason. Maybe it is time to see others with a different outlook.

The link to a video may not seem like the greatest material for a blog, but this video is worth watching.

Another way of looking at things came from Kim Komando:
Video of the Day: If you're looking for a touching story, you've found it. It's about a hard-fought adoption on the other side of the world.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wastelands—and Seas

Two or three problems affect nearly everyone in the developed world—and some of the nations that are not considered “developed.”  First on the list is what some people have called “built-in obsolescence.”  Immediately I think of the number of television sets in the average American home.  We started out with a TV that had tubes of all sizes and shapes.  It had a nice wooden cabinet that eventually became a decent looking bookcase after the tubes all went south.  And yes, those glass tubes were hauled off to a landfill somewhere, but some of the little tubes had been replaced two or three times before we finally had to give it up.

Since that first TV, everything that has even remotely resembled a TV around here has been made almost entirely of plastics and some kind of solid state gizmos.  Replacement parts are non-existent.  When something goes out, the entire TV might as well be thrown out.  And in February, anyone who has one of the non-digital types will have to get either a converter or a different kind of TV in order to watch the local news.  And this is called progress.

Once I read a short story about some civilization called Consumer.  In that story, everyone who was patriotic had to consume as much as possible in every product line in order to maintain a strong economy.  Does this sound familiar?  If we are given a tax cut, we are expected to invest our “excess” money or buy something.  We are given a tax rebate from our own money and are expected to help stimulate the economy.

Now, let’s think again about that “built-in obsolescence” idea.  My parents bought a Whirlpool hot water heater nearly a year ago.  The plumber told them that if something went wrong with it, they would just have to trash it and buy another one.  Well, something went wrong, of course.  But the parents grew up with the motto of “waste not, want not.”  They came from a long line of men and women who knew how to make everything serve twice.  In fact, on one of my chairs is a quilt that was pieced by Dad’s grandmother.  The entire quilt is made from pieces of flour sacks pieced together with those little cloth tobacco sacks that her husband bought when he rolled his own cigarettes.  Anyway, Dad bought a thermo-coupling from Sutherland’s and repaired the hot water heater.

The American Water Heater Company does not have to be overly concerned about very many little 82-year-old men repairing their water heaters, so they will undoubtedly continue to put out a product that may or may not last a year—despite the six year limited warranty.  And whoever comes out with the next line of TVs, computers, or laptops will just continue to crank out the latest and greatest without a thought of what will happen to the replaced product.

We ALL have a stake in what happens to our world—both now and later.  Right now we are each contributing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  That four dollar watch picked up for little Susie at Wal-Mart comes in a plastic box, and the pretty plastic bow strings to decorate the package will looked nice tucked under the wing of an albatross.  However, the nice fish that eat near the garbage patch will ingest a certain amount of plastics that are broken down into the smallest particles of plastic.  If that fish is caught and taken to market, Susie’s plastic bow ends up on our plates and in our end of the food chain.

Once upon a time I rebelled at buying wrapping paper for a wedding shower gift and decided to be “different.”  The gifts I gave were a bath towel, four matching wash cloths, a hand towel, and some wooden kitchen utensils.  Folded, the bath towel made a “vase.”  The hand towel made the “bow” around the “vase.”  The kitchen utensils held four “flowers” made from wash cloths.  No surprise, but it got the point across.  I did not waste one piece of wrapping paper that was going to be thrown in the trash after everything was said and done.

We are coming up on the time of year when merchants expect to make their biggest haul.  Almost every item will be packaged in an attractive “gift box” of plastic with more plastic fillers around and over the products.  Most of those products could be bought separately and placed in a (non-plastic) basket or in a useful cloth bag.  I am thinking of my favorite woven straw basket as a container for an entire “grab bag” of goodies for a family gift giving.  Straw baskets can be lined with a small towel or pillow case for small items.  In fact, my linen rack in the bathroom has three small baskets for toiletries and wash cloths.  Nothing gets lost, and spills or leaks are as simple to clean up as tossing a wash cloth in the washer.

It isn’t easy being different, but it can be fun if an entire family makes it a point to be conscious of what is going to be thrown away after all the fun of surprising others is over.  Sitting here thinking about what a shock an outsider would get at seeing all these bundles in the living room wrapped up in towels, pillow cases, wash cloths, and maybe tied with colored crochet thread or knitting thread.  Grinning at the idea of starting a new trend….

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Back in 1990, the government seized the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada for tax evasion and, as required by law, tried to run it. They failed and it closed. Now are we going to trust the economy of our country to a pack of nit-wits who couldn't make money running a whore house and selling booze?

This is the type of amusing or eyebrow raising items that are sent to my parents. I am sitting here with a grin on my face recalling the headshaking things we have discussed lately. My dad discovered that he could track the price of gasoline online and often calls Fang to apprise him of the latest discounts on the other side of town--15 miles away. We laugh every time we drive out and go by the Murphy's over on Highway 79. We watch the prices as we go by each time and see how much they change in a matter of minutes. Today was just such a day. On our way over to Sutherland's, the price at Murphy's was $2.59 a gallon for unleaded. On our way back it was $2.58.

All this minute by minute price changing reminds me of a can of corn that I bought back when stores still had stickers on each item--before the days of bar codes. A worker was in the process of putting new stickers on cans which were already on the shelves. I stopped to get a can of corn and he graciously handed it to me--and put a new price sticker on it as he did. Now just how did that corn cost them more sitting there on that shelf! I suppose the same could be said of almost any commodity--and yes, I know all the arguments about replacement value, etc.

Even though bar codes have made reordering and inventory record keeping a breeze for stores, it definitely has its disadvantages for customers. A store we visited one day this week had signs up indicating that certain products were on sale for $7 each. Because I was watching to see that Fang didn't load bags of cans on top of squishables, I wasn't paying attention when the $7 item went across the scanner. I DID ask the clerk if she had taken off the coupon on that item. She pointed to it and said, "It's right here." We got to the truck and I looked at the bill. The sale item came up $7.23 and the coupon had NOT been taken off. Grrrr. Oh, I could have gone back in there and found the teller, interrupted her work, and demanded my $1.23 or I could have gone to the customer service counter and complained. As it is, I just will sit here and feel that Wally World has done it again! It's easy to drop prices if the cashiers pick 'em up again.

It doesn't take much to irritate most of us--ever-changing prices, faulty products, or an invasion of unwanted guests like lovebugs or flies. Dad said that my brother discovered a mouse in his new house. After years of martial arts training, Sterling found a way to dispatch a mouse. I have a cat AND a dog that live in this house and neither one of them have caught our resident mouse. But I won't wait for the government to come up with a better mouse trap. We might have to move to Nevada!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Christy's Story

Today I tried to write about a friend’s life as an abused spouse.  It is difficult to imagine this pretty lady with her bubbly laugh and wry sense of humor being terrified into submission by some hairless ape; but life has no favorites, and we all make mistakes.  She would be the first to admit that she had no idea what she was doing when she married a jealous and overbearing man.

I am reminded that first impressions are very subjective.  Sometimes we see and hear what we want instead of being aware of realities.  We choose to be deceived in some instances.  Women are not the sole proprietors of that kind of choice.  Men, companies, and even nations allow themselves to be deceived.  And inevitably the reasons are too similar to be separated by gender, race, or nationality.  Everyone is looking for the storybook white knight on his galloping charger.

Women have a tendency to be submissive to a certain extent from their upbringing and by the role models in their lives.  They are willing to give up a certain amount of autonomy in order to “please” someone.  As a nation, we have given up some of our common sense in order to “protect” ourselves.  Shaking head—rolling eyes….

Christy began with a small adjustment to her life and ended up almost as a prisoner with children to protect.  She finally ran—just ran—with little hands in hers and a child in her arms.

Nations can’t run.  They have to stand up and change their own realities.  And that takes internal fortitude and common sense—from individuals and from the agencies that they represent.  This nation has been abused—badly—by those to whom we have looked as responsible partners.  But we can’t divorce ourselves totally from the situation because WE are part of the problem.  Every choice we have made has been part of the delusion—part of our make believe life.

Christy is a successful person now as wife, mother, grandmother, working woman.  She grew up and learned to look at the realities of life.  She stopped looking outside of herself and realized that what she needed had to begin from within—she had to have courage.  Christy’s story is not a fairy tale.  She is still living the life she has chosen.  Others—individuals as well as nations—need to make some courageous choices.  Being deceived is, at some point, a choice.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Future Faith

The following quote struck me as more than appropriate for me, for the city in which I live, and for the multitude of unemployed or under-employed people who are facing an uncertain future:


Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present. (Halford Luccock)


I read the quote in Heartlight, but I have read some like it by both ancient and modern writers.  In the King James Version the plowman is told to plow in hope.   The human spirit works best when fueled by hope.


Today our world is in a crisis of belief: We don’t believe in ourselves or in others.  We cannot trust because we see only the untrustworthy. We are blinded to the good, to the hopeful, to those worthy of trust because we are overwhelmed by the narrow perspective of details piled upon details—all of which seem to foretell only more gloom and doom.


What the world needs right this red-hot minute is a little “future faith.”  Future faith begins with appreciation for what we DO have rather than what we DON’T have.


I am making a list and checking it twice:  clean water, sunshine, decent weather, friendly neighbors or other people who care, decent food, books to read, health, a good old cat, Fang, the breeze off the lake, a tree for shade, a wooden bench to sit on, children—mine and others, a happy mutt, a few flowers, a bed at night, access to the Internet…this may take awhile…


Looking back on the list, it is obvious that things are not necessarily listed by priorities, but simply as a ditzy old brain came to them.  Maybe the best list would be one that began with priorities, but survival and living life is not necessarily the same thing.  Most of the things on my list are simply not possible for many people today.  Just clean water alone is impossible in many developing nations.  Our tap water is drinkable, but in some parts of Mexico, the water is tainted by sewer seepage.  Villages have no source of clean water.


In the movie Back to the Future 3, the main character was offered a glass of water that looked like a tadpole hatchery.  Predictably, the kid looked at the water as if it had come straight out of a creek.  In many parts of the world, that could be considered GOOD water.


How does one have hope if even water to quench one’s thirst is not available?  How does one have hope if one has lost the house, the car, the world as one knew it?  It is difficult to have hope if one’s roof is gone and the foundation of society seems in upheaval.



Circumstances can turn us upside down and inside out.  Despair seems the logical reaction.  But what is done is done.  All we can do is go forward, but going in forward with courage takes hope beyond reason, beyond mere belief.  Courage requires future faith—not blindly walking on, but looking forward with our eyes on something better in life.


Battles were lost, but wars were won.  Lives teeter on the brink of despair, but living goes on.  All things might be lost, but things are things, not life itself. 


Churchill once said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.  Fear casts out hope.  So that means that to have hope is to have courage.  Hope for the future is faith in what is not yet part of the present.  Courage NOW: the future takes hope.  Blessings upon those who need to SEE hope to have courage.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Lighter Side

Whenever something gets too serious around this place, Fang has a way of finding something amusing to spring on me.  Today he told me that he had entered us in a contest that would allow us to go to London for five nights and six days and live the life of James Bond.  A small doubt flittered through my mind about his entering any contest, but then I thought about the “living like James Bond” part.  Seeing those hair-raising car chases always elevates my blood pressure, so I told him that he might not be able to even get me in a James Bond car, much less out on the wrong side of the road to drive.  He said I was not to worry; the only way we could accept a prize like that would be for James Bond to take naps in the afternoon.  Rolling my eyes and chuckling.

Later as we were driving on the street next to Harbor Freight, I pretended that the truck was attempting to pull over into the turn lane to go to his favorite tool store.  I really had to fight that steering wheel for just a bit there.  Yes, he laughed too.

Finally we had a phone call from the youngest son who got to hear how “his mother” was putting all these things in the storage room in her imagination.  Of course, this was the first time that I had heard that the weight machine was going in there.  Hmmm. 

The things we overhear sometimes are very enlightening.  Just wait until he finds out who is coming for dinner on Friday night!  Giggling and planning the shopping list for the weekend: popsicles, the essential macaroni and cheese, white bread, root beer, pickles, black olives, foot-long wieners....

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Saying What You Think

Despite the political and economic turmoil prevailing at the moment, most Americans continue to argue, discuss, cuss, or otherwise express their views in no uncertain terms. The freedom and even the interest to do so make us a stronger nation. Even within families, differences of opinion usually create a stronger understanding, appreciation, and tolerance of others. Note the word “usually.” Some people are too determined to be “right” or the “boss” to listen or understand—or even to try to understand—others’ opinions. Some family violence exists simply because one person determines what constitutes “mastery” of situations or relations. How sad.

At one time, children were to be seen and not heard. But the caveat to that was that age—if not education—allowed those children to express their opinions and to be heard by their elders as they were able to show “common sense.” Respect for elders or for authority figures was a given. Respect was expressed by listening politely and appropriate actions.

During my lifetime women have often been treated as if they were children—to be seen and not heard, to listen politely rather than be an active participant, and to serve the coffee or whatever was the “appropriate action” without expectations of respect or appreciation. Those women who expressed an opinion were considered trouble makers or subversive. And the woman who carried her thought to a reasonable action was guilty of revolt.

That attitude is still alive and well in too many places. Are women even aware of what they are facing in the market place? So many laws have been passed to "give" us equal rights that I believe we have been lulled into a displaced belief that we actually HAVE equal rights. As long as we have terms like "team player" running rampant in the offices, women will never have the cajones required to play the same games as men. Men are "all about team work." Right. And they make up the rules as they go. The rules made by men are FOR men.

Tonight a re-reading of “The Revolt of Mother” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman has refreshed the idea that women sometimes take action simply because to do otherwise is to make them of less worth than a mere possession—a cow, a load of hay, a horse, a barn, a car, a garage, or whatever it is that signifies that a man is in charge of his life and livelihood.

Sarah, the main character in “The Revolt of Mother,” certainly did her share of the work involved in providing a livelihood for the family. She did not, however, have any voice in the distribution of income. The worth of a woman has never been equal to that of a man; for that reason, her voice has had little worth, as well. Not until Sarah put one thought into action for justice did she find that she had more worth than she had known—or more than her husband had realized.

These thoughts are not about one woman or even American women. I look back at Chaucer's Tales and even back to the Bible and see that women had little or no rights. Genghis Khan (after he had pretty well slaughtered all opposition) tried to give women equality in the areas he conquered. What was his reason? Perhaps the Khan saw that women did understand justice better because they had never had it.

It is about time that thinking women who see injustices put their thoughts into action. It is time for women to say what they think and follow up with even one action to make this a better, stronger nation—a stronger and more just world. We are not witches who will terrorize with thoughts. We are thinking women who can make a difference in the quality of life.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

All In How You Hear It

Leaving a job that I mostly loved--especially the students--it is not particularly likely that I will again teach English to the same caliber of students that I have seen for the past twelve years. Even so, I realized that my language ranks right up there with the Southern best when I found a link to Dr. Beard's Southern English. A Glossary of Southern Accents - alphaDictionary * Free English Online Dictionary

Oh my word! For years now I have loved Texas expressions that have caused me to "bust a gut" laughing, but some of these Southern words are just adorable. Mother-in-law was born in Texas and used many of these expressions that I had never heard when growing up. My mother was the direct descendant of a minister-teacher of the old school who used "shall" and "will" in their appropriate contexts. MIL, on the other hand, was of the school who claimed that their wealth was known by their "cattle in the bank and money out West." It is a good thing that she is unaware of what is happening out West today. She can still watch the Animal Planet without becoming aware of the economic and political turmoil intruding on the collective consciousness of the rest of the nation.

Dr. Beard made the an interesting statement:

"Your accent has nothing at all to do with intelligence or knowledge of the rules of grammar. It is simply a regional dialect and dialects are equally grammatical; they are simply slight variations in the grammar of a given language that characterize the various regions where that language is spoken. All dialects have rules every bit as rigorous as those of the standard dialect, which is usually determined by the most influential social class."

Occasionally I make a spelling error or an agreement error--even throw in a fragment or two. But I know the difference and would not TEACH others to use fragments as if a fragment were acceptable in a letter or report. However, a blog is a critter of an entirely different species--or genus. Somewhat like Southern English, a blog can have initials like MIL to denote people in the family or initials like ROFL to indicate a level of amusement. Most of the time--with a few exceptions when I find my high horse needs a good gallop--this blog will concern what I find amusing in life. I suspect that my high horse is kicking his heels at the NCLB project right now, but my sudden freedom from a stressful situation requires some time off to enjoy walking the dog at the moment.

Until next time: Cheers!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Latest News

These young people that we love so dearly are each touching our lives and making us happy that they were the biggest part of our lives as they grew up. The daughter exclaimed in joy this evening when I gave her my latest news. The youngest son exclaimed, "Congratulations!" as if I had won a prize or something. The oldest son is probably studying and getting some rest. I am sure he will know what the others know by in the morning--and we will probably get a phone call from him wanting to know why he wasn't called already. I am HOPING that he is able to study. My news can wait until he has time to think about it.

Meanwhile I know that he is busy because his blog consisted of:

“Due to recent budget cuts and the rising cost of electricity and oil, the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off”

Lisa was kind enough to type up Hanan's latest, and I think that is going to be the main content of this blog tonight. Parts of it pretty well sum up how I feel about some things tonight. And then there are those among my friends who could say some of the same things about the "butt end of a pepper tree." A big grin has spread across my face when I think about Zachary's thoughts about my news. Yes, I love him too. Sweethearts and former students are always part of life. We just don't always know when the "former" is coming for us. So this is where the cowboy rides away.

Love for Paul
By Hanan J. Dickerson – 10/01/2008

Cigars and Beer
Cheap cigars and beer
A 4 by 6 view of the butt end of a pepper tree
Concrete, wood & stucco
A broken down bar-b-cue, no dog, no grass, no beauty
Old memories that are slowly fading
And now to my greatest despair, Paul Newman is gone
These are the days of change
When my heart can no longer rest easy
I have no cool hand pulled from the deck
For my eyes give away
Cold and gray, without a new sweater to hold me together
Fall might just take me away
Back to lonely visions of the past
When I tried to earn my love or drink it away
News of a dying nation
Old religious beliefs of rapture
A million pictures flashing through my mind as I try to sleep
And dream of something peaceful
So I can face the day like the man I’ve tried to become
I think of guilt when I think of God
I think of old pain when I think of love
I think of the time that has passed despite it all
And am thankful that I am still alive to search for a Cool Hand

The History of a Sign

We had a meeting of the teachers and the director yesterday. I keep bristling at the concept that we have to deal with people's PERCEPTIONS rather than with facts. And then my cousin in Arabia sent a link to me that made me understand the idea better. The video is of the first place winner at Cannes. Notice that the man's contribution was understanding.

I wish I could show this to all of my students. Maybe that will happen yet. But right now I will just try to incorporate my own little bit of understanding into the words I use and how I hear what is said to me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Paying Dues

Words, no matter how wonderful, can never speak with the same volume as actions. In fact, just a small action can speak much more volubly than the loudest proclamation. When the action is unexpected, it will be remembered longer than the most erudite or efficacious speech given from any podium.

One of my students has been struggling to get her keyboarding speed to a passable level in my night class. The program we are using averages the three basic sections of their typing grade so that any one area will not necessarily cause a student to fail. This student, however, was intent upon getting that elusive “A.” Her documents were well formatted; her tests were all good, but she simply could not seem to get 31 words per minute with three or fewer errors.

Last night my little friend got 33 words with only three errors. I sang a little ditty and did a high skip dance for her in celebration. Yes, I looked absolutely ridiculous. But that is not the point. I celebrated her victory with her. Will she remember the night she finally got 33 words per minute? Doubtful! Maybe she will remember the night her teacher sang a silly song in celebration for her. THAT is more likely.

Some of the most important things in our lives are those which are shared with others. The camaraderie I see in my classes is built from day one by those who never knew each other on the previous day. But they share nervousness, laughs, and trials until they actually feel that they are working together. They begin to help each other; they begin to care about each other. Some of them will form friendships that will last for years.

Students become sensitive to the actions, the expressions, and the tones of their teachers. Today I must have been frowning because one of the students asked me if I was angry because my eyes were squinted. An explanation about the pain in my back (probably from the high kick at the end of that silly little jig dance) satisfied her concern. But I noticed today that the students smiled and spoke to me as they left saying they would see me tomorrow in English class. I wondered why they were so relaxed and happy today. Then I remembered that I had picked up a stuffed toy off my desk and threw it at a student or two. The toy makes a silly boing sound. As unexpected as the sound was from that elephant toy, having a teacher throw it at them was even more unexpected—and fun.

Jigs, silly songs, and stuffed animal throwing were never in any curriculum that I ever took in college. But my students are learning and having some fun even when they are grousing the most about having to do so much work. The work—and pushing the students to get it done—is just part of paying our dues. The attitude comes free of charge.