Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You Don’t Have To Be Crazy

Texas weather explains the way Texans behave:  two quilts in the morning and a fan the evening before means that it was hot when we went to bed and cold when we woke up.  Today we ran the air conditioner in the truck, and Fang got sunburned on his neck while working on the Mustang.  The ground is warm enough—for the moment—to plant something like petunias and snapdragons, but this weekend it might just freeze off the blooms.  Plant cabbage, onions, and radishes and smile.  Plant anything else and the grub worms will enjoy the rotted seed.

And if the weather is not enough to confuse our lives, just look at the poor bemused, confused, and abused trees.  Plums, apricots, and assorted fruit trees have already begun to bloom.  So much for the fruit crop this year!  It’s February, for pity sake!  The mesquite hasn’t even got a tiny bit of green about the limbs; its sap is still down around the roots like any sensible tree.  It’s another month until Easter, so the calendar and the weather are hopelessly unsynchronized.

And just look at that peckerwood!  He is out there on that old dead elm tree just a bleep screepin’ his heart out to attract a mate.  If she has any sense at all, she hasn’t even packed up to leave Georgia yet.  But don’t tell that to the silly finches or the cedar wax wings.  Honestly!  It is just too early to be expecting bugs, buds, and berries.  Except for the flippin’ love bugs!  HOW in all that is right about freezing weather do those bugs make it through the winter and come back fifty fold every other week?  The whole world could come to an end tomorrow, and those bugs would just keep on multiplying!

With a water hose in one hand and a digger in the other, my efforts moved around some wild verbena and a couple of those sticky little weeds that look almost edible—for deer, that is.  If we don’t get a flood pretty soon, we might as well call in the dogs and call it a summer.  Nothing is going to grow in dry heat.  Even the water from the washing machine and the dish water wouldn’t be enough to keep a good flower bed going.  But the roses will not die for lack of water even if we have to move them next to the dog’s water bowl.  It makes one wonder how the early pioneers ever grew enough to eat, much less anything to make a house look like a home.

Up north a friend is watching for an early crocus.  They may still get some snow.  If we are lucky, we won’t get any tornados.  And yes, insanity makes all the difference in how one lives with weather.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Years ago my brother mowed grass, ran errands, and did those little things for the neighborhood widows whenever one of them needed something done. Mrs. Donald, for instance, had him clean out the ashes where she had made lye for her lye soap. Whatever he learned in the process of helping her just expanded his knowledge of life as it once was. He learned to love the little old grandmother types in the process of helping them. Mrs. Donald was the only neighbor he invited to witness his marriage in our mother’s front room.

Our parents are in their eighties now. Dad, never bigger than a pewter fizzle in the first place, is still headstrong even if the strength has left his legs and arms. Yesterday the son of an elderly neighbor stopped by to ask if he could help load a water heater that needed to be hauled off. Roger has always been a sweet guy, but when I heard that he had stopped to offer his help, I felt he deserved a hug or at least a pat on the back. He may be the same age as I am, but the boy who helps his neighbors is alive and well in his spirit.

This boy-next-door helpfulness may be apparent in other nations just as much as it is right here in Texas, but to me it symbolizes something that is from the American mold. One of our friends introduced me to a young woman who serves in Iraq as a munitions and ordinance specialist who blows up ammunition, bombs, and other dangerous stuff that needs to be disarmed. Even guys who really like loud bangs know that her job is extremely dangerous. But she is serving because she knows this job needs to be done for her ‘neighbors’ in Iraq. Even though she has been offered work with private security companies, she stays with our American military and continues to do her work.

My brother would come home from a hard day’s labor when he was 17 and go mow Mrs. Donald’s grass. Roger stopped on Sunday on the way back home after helping his own mother. Mary lives in the extreme dangers of Iraq and chooses to stay despite the danger because she can serve others in ways that they cannot help themselves. Young people or old, it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Somehow they did and are still doing what the commandment demands: Love your neighbor as yourself. Thank God for the boys and girls next door.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Returning home from Mansfield today, I glanced back at the dog and wondered if he was really that tired or if riding in the truck caused that expression on his face.  His eyes were woebegone and he just kind of drooped.  When we got home, he was excited to see his own back yard—without having the need to remark all of his territory.  He happily chased up and down the side fence in a cuss fight with the neighbor’s bitch, but he only made three or four mad dashes along the fence before he was satisfied and came back to the back porch.  He wanted IN, thank you very much.  He wanted to lie down on his floor, on his rug, near his cat and near his family.  He is only three or four years old—mentally reminding myself to check the date with his vet.  But he has worked hard since Wednesday night when we went to Mansfield.

Animals that don’t actually peck each other have to establish their territory in some manner.  Dogs that are not allowed to fight must see who is tallest and whose leg will stretch highest when they mark their areas.  It has to be exhausting work.  And to top it off, two cats sat in the back door and laughed at the dogs through the window.  Then it was also obvious that some kind of female furball that looked like a dog and sounded like a dog was allowed to sleep under the covers with the big dogs.  And to top it off, the boys left for the weekend and didn’t stay and play.  For a dog, that has to be a tough situation.

Riding for two and a half hours in the back seat of the truck with several loaves of fresh spelt bread that couldn’t be touched would have tortured the cat, but the dog took it all in stride until the stop at Braum’s.  The place just smells so good!  And nobody notices that the dog is sitting here drooling!  Sigh….

Well, one can of dog food and the cleanup of the cat food later and the dog is now resting on his bed.  Back to just living with the old folks should be pretty relaxing.  Maybe tomorrow a new ball will show up in the yard…..

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rain and Shine

It rained, hailed, and rained some more. And then the sun shone, and the grass stood at attention to get its growing orders. The elms budded; the skunks came out to dance on the roads; the black tom cat came to visit the neighbor’s cat. The older neighborhood cat climbed a tree and declared the coming of spring. It can’t get much better than that.

The sun shone and Sutherlands put out potato and onion plants for sale. The bulbs donated from the Coors company flower beds came up and seemed to be considering their time of bloom. The entire flock of cardinals brushed across the tree tops to sing their songs while the purple finches chipped in chorus. The lake whirled under the wings of the sand hill cranes, the pelicans, and sea gulls. The ducks and geese kept looking north. The foals nudged their dams as the stallion snorted at passersby. It can’t get much better than that.

Puppies and kittens grace the month’s calendar page. “It’s the kitten month,” declares the child. “When can we walk in the rain?” asks another. “We can help plant the flowers,” one child assures us. “We can still roast marshmallows in the fire pit,” declares another. It’s that time of life, and it can’t get much better than this.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Good Book or The Good Book?

One small word distinguishes one book from another. THE good book refers to the iconoclastic book that differentiates between gods and God. So many words have been written about that book, that men have either come to doubt its authenticity or have chosen to venerate a specific version as holier than any other. Scolding men for their double mindedness, the greatest teacher, the Christ, told them that by their traditions they made the law of God of none effect. If something as meaningful as the rules of life can be so easily disregarded, it should not seem strange that man can disregard the meaning of life itself in his conceit.

The subject of ethics—the moral principles which normally govern a culture—has become as effective as a political cartoon. Moral choices that run counter to popular demands and the courage to stand up for principles have become increasingly rare. From the individual who chooses to live beyond his means, the stars and athletes who choose to live in sordidness, the CEOs and politicians who feel that they are above the law, to the lawless criminals who rape and ravage our society, these have lost the sense of social conscience that guides our national character. When the subject of ethics is tossed into the arena of the media, no one can conclusively determine where to stand. Does a man have the right to go into overwhelming indebtedness? Does a woman have the right to a litter of children? Does a killer deserve to die after a gruesome murder? Does a politician deserve a different set of standards than the ordinary citizen?

Nothing sells better than a disturbing story or one that can be considered controversial. Such is the reason for most of the so-called ‘news’ brought to the American public by its entire media. The negative construct is so complex that the media simplify each separate disaster and dastardly deed. Eventually, social sanction is given so that tax evasion is acceptable; ‘death with dignity’ (euthanasia) has value; and psychotic parenting becomes the norm.

No people as diverse as those of our nation are going to accept willingly one standard set of rules for life and living. Morality cannot be legislated or regulated no matter how much we might try. What little we can do has to come from individuals who accept responsibility for their own thoughts and actions. America has always been an individualistic nation. But the whole is still made up of its parts. We must choose the better part of ethical existence--no matter which book we choose to read.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rain, Sleet, or Hail?

Not that I would ever gripe, mind you, but we actually got moisture today. Dad called and wanted to know if we got a good rain and sleet. I told him we got a decent rain and hail. When something the size of a pea hits the ground, bounces, and then sits there for a bit, it's hail. When it hits and splatters, its sleet.

In Texas it doesn't really matter what kind of moisture it is as long as it fills up the stock tanks and lakes. As it is, our lake is filled with water fowl and a foul odor. The morning breeze from across the lake would just about gag a maggot off a gut wagon. The golden algae bloom has killed off enough fish that the birds just sit there and eat their fill of floating fish right out in the middle of the lake. About the only time the birds aren't feasting in the middle of the lake is when the wind is up making chop fish suey out of the mess. And to think a humogous rain would take care of the entire situation! Can just imagine what the drainage ditch off the dam spillway is going to smell like if we ever get enough rain to see it go over the spillway again. Somebody down river is going to need a gas mask!

The pretty weather makes me want to go out and play in the dirt. Oh, I would put in some seeds too, but mostly I just like to play in the dirt. I don't think I ever plan to grow up. It's too much fun to do stuff like play in the dirt and walk in the rain. Besides, I am old enough now I can be a kid if I want to. So phtttt>> there!

Monday, February 9, 2009

A One-Room Country School

This evening our President expressed his concern that our Congressional leaders are not really working together for the best interests of the nation. Now that seems really shocking, doesn’t it. For years we have watched, and cringed, when Congress gets together and decides that the nation can pay for another wonderful program—whether or not the program will help the American nation. It makes a person just want to slap someone up the side of the head. But none of that! We can’t expect Congress to learn overnight that they are going to be put on a budget. Yes, you heard it right. CONGRESS on a budget! And term limits! And accountability! And laws that make sense! And no automatic retirement benefits! What job in our society provides retirement after only two or four years!

Now for education, we expect every city to find a decent teacher or two to work with a room of children and teach them to read, to do basic math, and to write comprehensible sentences and essays—just like the old one-room country schools. No child will suffer from lack of knowledge or lack of technological prowess. And each child will be able to walk no more than a block or two for classes. Children in inner city areas will be escorted by two male parents both to and from school. Children promoted by their one-room schools will be allowed the option of home schooling with visiting teachers or attendance in public schools with class sizes determined by subject and the availability of teachers. No class will have more than twenty students at the junior high and high school level.

Employment for any teenager who does not want to continue in school will be mandatory and provided by each city. Jobs will be appropriate to the strength and abilities of each young person. All nursing homes will be staffed by teenagers who will ‘shadow’ a nurse or appropriate care giver. All parks and recreation programs will be staffed by other teenagers. All public programs will staff any available positions with teens who do not continue in higher education. Any business that will hire a teenage helper for two years and train the young person, will be tax exempt for the amount of wages offered to the young person. All parents who prefer to home school their children to avoid having those children go to work in public programs must prove that their children attend some kind of classes or otherwise participate in helping others in the community.

Soon this dream will have to come to an end and I will surely wake up, but it is so good to think that children could actually be educated, that parents would be responsible for their children, and that Congress could make responsible decisions. Imagine personal responsibility as a basis for living in a community. Oh to dream…..

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Algebra, New Shoes, and the Bible

Sixty years ago math held little importance for a mother. Her ability to feed and nurture her family gave her a sense of being needed. She read to her children and explained the relevance of the stories from the Bible to their lives. What she taught them was reinforced by their teachers in school. The children could repeat the ‘Golden Rule’ and explain who was to be considered ‘a neighbor’ without pause. Children understood the necessity for caring for their clothes and shoes, and no child would have complained about his or her supper—even if one serving was English peas. And a frown from Father was not to be taken lightly. A lecture about respectful behavior inevitably followed any horsing around at church.

Forty years ago high schools required algebra and geometry classes for graduating seniors. Failing either class required repeating the class. A good math teacher had tutorials for those who asked for help, but the school system did not require that of teachers. Kind hearted teachers gave of their time and knowledge willingly.

Gym shoes were an extra expense for families, but the shoes were great for absorbing the thorns of the ‘goat head’ stickers in Texas by the time summer rolled around. Each fall the new pair was never worn except on the gym floor until school was out. School shoes were also church shoes—cleaned and polished on Saturday night. Teens were allowed to sit together in church, but a minister who stopped the sermon to correct them could plan on hearing about their punishments later—along with an apology.

Twenty years ago children were offered generic math classes for those who really did not ‘understand’ algebra. The business math classes were considered remedial but taught the concepts of figuring interest on loans and bank statement reconciliation. Children who needed help were offered tutorial classes after school as mandated by the districts for the many children whose parents both worked and had no time to help them. Many of those students came to school early for breakfast because no one was at home to prepare a meal. Many school systems had to implement a dress code to keep children from wearing ragged jeans and shoes to school. Jeans and shoes with holes were an expensive fashion statement. School systems also did not allow organized prayer in school.

Today the algebra taught in second and third grades is equivalent to that used by junior high students twenty years ago. Calculus is even an option in some junior high schools. Dress codes require shoes to cover toes: no flip flops allowed. The Bible may be taught as a class in literature or history—not as a type of religion and not from the Bible itself because of the diversity of editions available.

Math—algebra or other concepts—has long been considered a necessity for the educated person. And while styles and fashions have changed what children are wearing—what they are now choosing to wear—those decisions are based on social expectations more than health or safety. Someday the knowledge of the Bible as history and literature may be just as prevalent as the knowledge of algebra or as widespread as the notion of Cupid in February—maybe in another twenty years?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Grades for Competence, Congress, and Common Sense

Three teachers discussed the meaning of an F and its effect. One noted that students had been advanced to classes beyond their capabilities when they had already failed to comprehend materials in requisite classes. The effect of advancing those students was to set them up for failure—period. Another teacher asked if failure still meant failure. That question brought up the following instances of failure and its meaning:

A woman who already has six children and no means of support has eight embryos implanted and brings them to a viable delivery date. She suddenly becomes an expert on children and, in the opportunistic spirit of the times, she also combines her own exhibitionistic greed and the media’s concupiscent craving for something to print or portray on TV or movies. What grade should she be given? She has learned her lessons well. She knows what will sell.

HOW can one woman possibly have enough time in a day to love and speak with each of those fourteen children? Who will teach them to tie their shoes, wash their hands, play nice with the babies, and answer others with respect? Do these children have a chance of feeling cherished and protected?

Erin Staal, an 11-year-old boy, has written a book called Words Kids Need to Hear. If a child can express the basic idea that children need to hear—from their parents or someone—that they are loved, then how can the rest of us ignore that common sense that tells us that human needs must be met by the important humans in our lives? No amount of money or things can ever replace a cuddle or a quiet word from Mom or Dad.

Erin deserves an A. Any media connection that aggrandizes this so-called mother should get an immediate F and a trip to the cleaners.

Meanwhile let’s pass out grades for competence, income tax evasion, and Congressional conflicts of interest.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Good Place to Check for Goodies

Recently some of my posts have been accepted by an e-zine:  

With a plethora of articles and links to medical references and support groups, SlightlyCreaky is a neat publication for even those of us who are not quite to the "creaky" stage of life.  I found a bean soup recipe that pleased even me--and I am not overly fond of beans of the dried variety.

Anyway, I invite any and all to enjoy some good reading.  Bill will tell readers about life in Colombia, SA, and Hal will explain the scams that all of us should be avoiding.  Sooner or later someone HAS to come up with a birding or gardening article each month.  I keep trying to grow things even in this dry old Texas soil, and the birds--cedar wax wings, flocks of cardinals, and purple finches by the bagful--just keep visiting us on this old hill.  Now if someone could just tell me the name of some of these blue flowers and that funny looking bug that shows up every year or so--and I am NOT talking about love bugs.  I don't care WHAT their real name might be.  I do NOT love them!

Come visit.  Come read:

At Loose Ends—The Greatest Scam

One of the “children” who grew up around our kids stopped and told us that her parents (in their 70s) had both gone back to work.  They don’t need the money; they just need to feel useful and busy.  Then one of our older friends (70s) asked this morning about where she should do some volunteer work.  River Bend Nature Center seemed like a good place for anyone to lend a hand since it features the natural world the way we used to see it.  An e-mail from a younger friend told of her frustration since injuring a leg and being unable to return to work.  She wants to get up and go to work.  To add insult to injury, her elderly mother fell on our recent ice and, unable to get up and do her usual things around the house, was feeling at loose ends.

Mother once told me that women don’t retire—as long as there is a man around, a woman stays busy.  I suspect that as long as anyone feels needed, that person feels useful in one way or another.  Mother can’t see to sew any longer, so she bakes dozens of cookies and bakes pies enough to fatten a teenager—and Dad never gains an ounce!

Back when the children were in grade school, several of us “stay at home” moms were the backbone of the PTA—Parent Teachers Association.  We made copies, worked in the lunch room and on the play ground, shelved books in the library, and baked goodies for the teachers’ lounge.  We learned much from the experience—everything from how to organize a bean supper to how to order books for a book fair—but the main thing we did was stay involved in the education of our children.  We were known on sight by every child and every teacher.  It was not uncommon to receive a hug from someone’s child just because we looked familiar.  And sometimes those hugs were as much for our benefit as for that of the children.

ALL people are really needy people.  We all need to feel that somehow what we do or say can make a difference.  I believe we were made in such a way that we are only complete when we can share ourselves with others—both spiritually and physically.  None of us are disabled unless we are LIFE disabled.  We have to participate to feel alive; we need those loose ends gathered and entwined into the lives of others.

Retirement my hind foot!  That has got to be the biggest scam of all!  Don’t tell me to live it up unless you have something to challenge me in exchange for a work schedule!