Monday, March 31, 2008

'A Hint of Melody'

"You get married, a child is born or not born, in the middle of the night there is a knocking at the door, on the way home through the park you see a man feeding pigeons, all the tests come in negative and the doctor gives you back your life again: incident follows incident helter-skelter leading apparently nowhere, but then once in a while there is the suggestion of purpose, meaning, direction, the suggestion of plot, the suggestion that, however clumsily, your life is trying to tell you something, take you somewhere." ~~ Frederick Buechner

Friday, March 28, 2008

Vodka and a Storm

This morning Tom and I drove to a hilltop nursery twenty minutes from our home. While we left the colors of spring in the valley, we encountered snow on the ground at 1700 feet and, brrr, a much colder temperature. Zipping our coats we tramped around examining tall skinny birches.

At one o'clock, as we four enjoyed our Meatballs in Vodka Sauce by the dining room's picture window, we noticed snow falling. Snow. It fell on the cherry blossoms, the hyacinth, the daffodils, and the new baby lawn. Considerable wind dramatically swayed trees. A bluebird landed in the bird feeder. Instead of eating he perched, confounded by the snow landing on his wings and head. He shook his robust body and flew away.

Into the Trooper the girls, Sammy, and I hopped. Opportunity didn't have to knock twice before we'd open our attention to it.

Various cloud formations played hide and seek for several hours with a bright friendly sun. Even as heavy gray snow clouds dominated one large area of the sky, rounded cumulus clouds allowed bright blue to blaze elsewhere.

Colorful new life applauded nature's glory undaunted by unseasonal, vivacious weather.

"Sunshine on the water makes me happy..."

Tame and tiny as it might seem, snow like this in late March in the foothills of our less than 500 feet above-sea-level valley is rare and worth saving in photo form.

Spring Break invigorates and relaxes.

These three birds joined several others for a bit of play - or so it seemed. They swooped and soared catching the updrafts of wind. Envy entered my heart.

Soaking it in.

Churning like some angry god's breath piled clouds dominated the northern sky.

We ended our journey with tiny snowflakes on our windshield and a little tub of Coldstone ice cream in a white bag for later.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Nags Among Us

"James U. McNeal, a professor of marketing at Texas A&M University, is considered America's leading authority on marketing to children. In his book Kids As Customers (1992), McNeal provides marketers with a thorough analysis of 'children's requesting styles and appeals.' He classifies juvenile nagging tactics into seven major categories. A pleading nag is one accompanied by repetitions of words like 'please' or 'mom, mom, mom.' A persistent nag involves constant requests for the coveted product and may include the phrase 'I'm gonna ask just one more time.' Forceful nags are extremely pushy and may include subtle threats, like "Well, then, I'll go and ask Dad." Demonstrative nags are the most high-risk, often characterized by full-blown tantrums in public places, breath-holding, tears, a refusal to leave the store. Sugar-coated nags promise affection in return for a purchase and may rely on seemingly heartfelt declarations like "You're the best dad in the world." Threatening nags are youthful forms of blackmail, vows of eternal hatred and of running away if something isn't bought. Pity nags claim the child will be heartbroken, teased, or socially stunted if the parent refuses to buy a certain item. 'All of these appeals and styles may be used in combination,' McNeal's research has discovered, 'but kids tend to stick to one or two of each that prove most effective...for their own parents.'" ~~Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation
Why this quote you ask? Yes, my kids are pretty much beyond the nagging age. It never works too well on me, never did. Sometimes, yes, when I'm tired. But mostly nagging just annoys me into a snit which my kids know is not a good mood to be around. Because I seldom give in they give up. They've learned to find healthy, acceptable ways of procuring their wants and needs.

No, this quote didn't jump out at me because of my kids. It jumped out at me because of adults I know who follow these nagging styles and approaches. I tried to raise my kids contrary to this so that they would not abuse others with nagging as children and into adulthood.

Would that parents everywhere would consider the lessons taught when they give in to juvenile nagging tactics.

Alas there must have been many weak parents who have given in to the nag for sprinkled throughout society are childish, whiny adults who nag nag nag subjecting the rest of us to behavior unappealing, annoying, g r a t i n g.

Grow up, already!

There. Off my chest and into cyberspace.

Sorry 'bout that.

For What It's Worth

"You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build character and courage by taking away a person's initiative and independence. You cannot help people permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves." ~~ Abraham Lincoln, 1861
In an age when too many people are unashamed to show their outstretched palms expecting us to support their dreams and goals by handing over money we've earned by the sweat of our brows, money they don't want to take the time to earn as they are too busy being 'important' in their own eyes I wish we had more examples like Abraham Lincoln around, a man who understood the value and satisfaction of pulling one's own weight.

For all of you out there who 'know', my hat's off to you. Keep it up.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Beatles' Kids

Just a sweet little video for any of you who are, along with me, Beatles' fans. Enjoy!

And by the way....Happy Easter!!!

Friday, March 21, 2008

"Typical White Person"

This morning (Thursday 3/20/08) on WIP AM 610 Sports Radio in Philadelphia, host Angelo Cataldi interviewed Senator Obama. During the beginning of the segment (about 07:40 AM) Mr. Cataldi asked the Senator about his comments made during his speech on Tuesday regarding his “white” grandmother.

From the tape of today's interview, here is Obama's answer:

"The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, she doesn't, but she is a typical white person who, uh, you know if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know, there's a reaction there that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way. And that's just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it. And what makes me optimistic is we see each generation feeling a little bit less like that."

I turned the radio on this morning just in time to hear the short excerpt which included the above quotation. I hadn't heard anything about this morning's interview before; it was all brand new to me. I'd heard Obama's speech on Tuesday, thought it was good, rousing, quite inspirational though I was sort of off-put by the "white grandmother" remarks. I remembered hearing Jesse Jackson confess one time that when he could hear someone following him on the street he'd be relieved when, looking over his shoulder, he'd discover they were white. He was unhappy feeling that way, but said his own real-life experiences had taught him thus. On Tuesday I thought during Senator's Obama's speech that the reactions he attributes to his grandmother are not 'white only.' They are human. And so are the problems.

I'd put the Tuesday speech aside in my mind until I heard today's remarks by the Senator. "Typical white person"? Huh? "Bred into our experiences"? Bred?

I felt insulted when I heard the remarks in the first speech and the remarks today only intensify those feelings. It seems to me that remarks like this incite racism rather than illuminate it for the wrong-thinking that it is. Just as Senator Obama cringed at his grandmother's remarks, I'm cringing at his.

I find it difficult to think of voting for a man who obviously broadly sterotypes me. I'm beginning to sense that Senator Obama may be a wolf in sheep's clothing.

My choices are becoming clearer.

Victor from the Dark Domain

Of all the characters on the Star Trek television series I most relate to Counselor Troi, the Empath. She was a 'feeler' sometimes to the point of incapacitation.

Anyone who knows me knows I shy away from violence in the realms of both reality and fantasy. I just can't take it. And sobbing tear-jerk stories leave me wrung out. I'm a 'feeler.'

For me emotions are not stuffed but flow freely, rising from the deep places, hovering, saturating, speaking both rationally and irrationally. Not the gauge I depend on for truth but often the measure of revulsion, compassion, even understanding.

When my loved ones have pain in heart or body, I feel pain, too.

When the Twin Towers fell I struggled to breathe, couldn't function for days, reeled.

When the first men, women, and children began dying in the Iraq war - on both sides - so began my empathic mourning as a mom, wife, sister, friend.

When Bill Clinton squinted his eyes and pointed his long crooked finger at me through T.V. glass I cringed in embarrassment for my country.

When I study the past fifty years of Tibetan history, including current events, I feel defeated sadness, loss.

When a United States athlete receives an Olympic gold medal to a lifting flag and blaring anthem I cry in happiness for them, share their pride somehow.

When a baby is born to someone I love joy swells.

But empathize though I do it's not possible for me to fully grasp another's pain or joy for I am removed from it by degrees, it's not personally mine. I can only imagine or relate through similar recalled experiences.

There is personal empathizing, however, when I think about the events Jesus endured 2,000 years ago. His discomfort from harsh treatment at the hands of his accusers on the walk from garden to town frustrate and sadden me. The sickeningly unimaginable pain of whippings and beatings he later endured tear at my heart and mind, yet I don't know exactly what he physically felt. I've never undergone such treatment. The long stagger to the Place of the Skull is an event I resist reviewing; emotion screams at me, begging that I think about something else, anything else. Then torturous crucifixion nails puncturing flesh, huge thorns tearing delicate temples and brow, suffocation, thirst, muscle cramps, racking pain. These horrors I can only imagine or relate to on an infinitesimal scale. Jesus' pain and suffering leap far beyond my ability to grasp.

But the shame, oh, that is mine. No empathy necessary, this is truly felt. This is all me - and you. Here we are the cause. The pain of knowing this is sharp, unavoidable, and extremely unpleasant. I profoundly squirm over and over at each remembrance. Grief. Remorse. Humiliation. Disintegration.

Then like a salve the truth of the Resurrection comes to mind, not hiding Jesus' suffering but offering a reason, not erasing my innate despair but mercifully changing the outcome of it. Forgiveness. Hope.

Easter confronts. Easter wrenches. Easter relieves.

Easter requires examination.

In all of life we'll find no greater love than this.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Snow? Huh?

First day of Spring and it snows this evening. Here in the valley. It didn't stick down here but it did stick 100 feet higher. All three weather people say it will snow as we sleep though we may not have much to show for it in the morning.

And I've been talking about dead-heading my daffodils.

Will wonders never cease.

Surprising weather.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Irish Food for Paddy's Day

Today we used our noon meal to honor St. Patrick's history in Ireland with Irish Stew made from lamb, fresh vegetables, and homegrown herbs.

It all started with cutting up fresh local lamb and chopping vegetables.

This is the before picture.

While the stew simmered I put together and baked Irish Soda bread made from fresh ingredients such as whole wheat, buttermilk, and oats. Tom discovered today that honey is a good topper.

Steaming Irish Stew after a few hours bubbling in the pot.

An ambience of candles, flowers, family, and a beagle chewing on lamb bones settled us right down. We savored - s l o w l y - prayed earnestly, and relaxed definitely.

We'll round out the day with a viewing of our favorite Irish movie, Waking Ned Devine.

But first...a nap.

In the wearing of the green may you never be pinched!

Erin Go Bragh! (Ireland forever!)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

St. Patrick's Day

Sung by the Wailin' Jennys

Of all the money that I ere I spent
I spent it in good company
And all the harm I've ever done

Alas it was to none but me
And all I've done for want of wit

To memory now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be to you all

Fill to me the parting glass
And drink a health whate'er befalls
Then gently rise and softly call
'Good night and joy be to you all.'

Of all the comrades that e'er I had
They're sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e'er I had
They'd wish me one more day to stay.

Since it fell into my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I gently rise and softly call
'Good night and joy be to you all.'

But since it fell into my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I gently rise and softly call
'Good night and joy be to you all.'

So fill to me the parting glass
And drink a health whate'er befalls
Then gently rise and softly call
'Good night and joy be to you all.'

~~The Parting Glass

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Tenuous Strand

"Life is a series of meetings and partings." ~~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
My words lie deep these days, not making themselves available as anything more than feelings, deep thoughts, emotions.

My mother and grandmother always said that death comes in threes. I'm not a superstitious person, yet I have often found this to be the case with death. Why it is, I do not know. 

Three deaths this past week. One. Two. Three. Like blows to people we love. Shocking. The blush of pulsing blood in cheeks one day and a week later the body is still, the heart beats no more, the lungs no longer lift for air. Spirit flies away.

In addition to the passings of this week, one son suffered the pain of kidney stones out of the blue. So hard to know that he is enduring such pain. Relieved to know the cause of the pain.

Next day, our eldest son calls from another city. Car wreck on the freeway, not his fault, could have killed him. The careless RV driver who ran him off the road kept speeding down the busy thoroughfare, leaving my son to pay all the damages. Insurance companies are cynical.

Thank you, God, that the boys are alive, that they can laugh.

Thank you, God, for good memories of the ones who left Earth this week.

A tenuous strand it is that holds us here together, walking the timeline in unison...for now.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Put to the Test

Carl Honore's book In Praise of Slowness finally found its way to my fingers last night. The kids in bed, my freshly washed hair in a towel, and the house fairly quiet - ahh. At last. I've been looking forward to this. Needing this. Reading, relaxing. Sinking into a concept that fits my outlook well. 

The book examines the raging Western lifestyle/mindset that declares time is money, and tardiness will slide you into Hell. Presenting a new mindset, one I partially describe in this post,
 Honore artfully opens the portals to a new, gardenesque way of living, one that honors life and beauty, health and relationships, nature and nurture even in the midst of the whirlwind we call 'everyday life'. 

Tom told me this morning, "I'll drive the girls to and from the tutor so you can have the morning off."


I read some more. Feeling very good about it all. "It fits. This is what I want. A thoughtful life that is slow when need be and fast when necessary. Balance."

Feeling refreshed with two more chapters under my belt I decided that I'd do a little straightening up, get myself road ready - at a leisurely pace, mind you, for I was very relaxed - and I'd give the girls their lift home. Blue sky warmth beckoned and Tom was deep in a project. "Thanks for your kindness, but I'll get the girls. I want to." Kiss. Good-bye!

I smiled to myself while driving. "The girls and I can stop by our favorite market for fresh produce and bread for our noon meal. Yes, this will give them a chance to relax a little from their heavy studies." Our market is beautiful and uncrowded. 

In the market we stopped to smell colorful spring flowers, lifted a hand basket for our few listed items, and proceeded toward the produce aisle. My cell phone rang. We are staying close to the phone these days as there has been an ongoing family health emergency this week, one that matters quite a bit to us. Surprisingly, it was Tom on the phone, not my sister.

"Joe's been taken to the hospital. Come home." My twenty-three year old son was experiencing severe pain in his back, so extreme that his boss had driven him to the emergency room.

We replaced the hand basket and headed straight for the car and home posthaste.

Slowness, remember? Every single car in front of me drove at least five miles under the speed limit. People crowded in front of me. The lights changed to red just as I approached. I smiled at the irony. Here I was racing for the hospital when a moment ago I was the picture of soothing calm. 

"Hurry up! Why are you driving so slooow! My son needs me!!"

My crazed mind yielded to calmness at last. "I'll get there. Racing won't take but a few seconds off the time. He needs me to be sane when I arrive, not wild-eyed with road rage." 

It made a difference. I just needed balance. I drove my fastest, safest best while in my mind remembering that life unfolds at its own pace. Events will transpire as they ought. Before me was the choice to contribute to their unfolding in a natural way or to disturb, pulling others into a vortex of unnecessary speed.

Calmness chosen.

Joe is fine. Kidney stone. 

Over the intercom in Joe's hospital room we heard harp music around one o'clock. For about five seconds. Harp music in a speaker that had been silent except for paging of staff.

We found out later that the other family emergency had ended - around one o'clock.

I'm looking forward to my book at bedtime. It's been a weird yet contemplative day.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Maybe It's the Water

Thirty years ago my brother and I were discussing cancer's prevalence. He joked, "Someday they'll track the cause to something common, like tap water." We chuckled.

My son Ben sent me this e-mail today:

"Just when you think it's safe to drink the water!!!

This stuff is really getting out of hand."

He added this link.
Maybe this could be the answer to high-priced medicines? Skip the drugs, just drink the water?

Talk about recycling...

But be comforted. "We recognize it is a growing concern, and we're taking it very seriously," Benjamin H. Grumbles, the EPA's assistant administrator for water, said of the drugs' presence. 

Worries begone. They're taking it seriously.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Foot in An Acre

A long-time friend popped in yesterday just as I was setting a hot lunch to the table. His welcomed presence at our meal was illumi-nating to me, a slow learner.

See, he's very conservative. Listens to all the conservative talk radio available, reads right-wing periodicals. He's very intelligent and worth listening to. We did the Il Dolce Far Niente thing by lingering long after the food was gone, so riveting was the discussion.

"Interesting," I said to Tom this morning. "My very liberal friends have the same opinion of the government and big corporations as this, our very conservative friend. They say basically the same things. Distrust. Frustration. Confusion. All over the same stuff.

"And yet, liberals and conservatives behave as arch enemies. Most of the time these really avid 'wingers' - left or right - have no room for kindness toward one another. Bickering. Name-calling. Anger.

"They basically agree on most subjects yet have hissy fits over a few. I think it's the government's way of keeping us at odds with one another so that we won't wake up to realizing how much we have in common. I mean, if we did, we'd be standing shoulder to shoulder, picking up rocks, turning to face the real enemies, hurling and knocking them out of the way."

One square foot of disagreement in an acre of commonality.

We need to celebrate our agreements, focus our energy on the real matters at hand, stop letting the powers that be manipulate us with fear, and talk radio, and babbling news shows, and constantly pointing out our few differences, stoking those feelings of helplessness, even hopelessness.

Who knows? Maybe if we common, everyday citizens learned to work together to wrestle power from the hands of the elite few, then set about to restore our freedoms, well, just maybe we'd find that the one square foot of differences becomes reconcilable.

Friday, March 07, 2008

DST - A Drag

Clock shifts reduce sleep duration and efficiency, particularly for late-risers after clocks spring forward. Effects on circadian rhythm are severe and can last for weeks.The government of Kazakhstan cited health complications due to clock shifts as a primary reason for abolishing DST in 2005.

Clock shifts correlate with decreased economic efficiency. In 2000 the daylight-saving effect implied an estimated one-day loss of $31 billion on U.S. stock exchanges. Clock shifts and DST rule changes have a direct economic cost, since they entail extra work to support remote meetings, computer applications and the like. For example, a 2007 North American rule change cost an estimated $500 million to $1 billion. ~~Wikipedia
There. Health and money. If you don't care about one you're likely to care about the other.

I dislike Daylight Savings Time. We are a swing shift family. I likes my sleep.

I may be cranky for the next six months until the clocks change back.

Please, bear with me...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Honey-scented blossom breezes. Sprouting vegetational variety. Trekking across our spongy lawn I am hopeful, curious. Surprises greet me as I visit my once asleep friends. "Who made it through winter?" They all did! Bursting buds between tired leaves, color bedecked shrubs, or up from the soil bulb leaves poke - hello! - and I'm there. Hello!

Discarding winter's inwardness my spirit delights to climb up, stretch toward the sun, the eternal sky, the warmth, just as do nature's spring beauties. Outwardness. A clean slate. Forgiveness and forgetting. Like a new bud, or a burst of heather I am renewed. Alive. Pulsing with thawed energy.

Sighing invigoration.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Hmm...I Wonder Who Will Win?

The Russians are voting today.
"Medvedev is a wonderful, young, handsome energetic man who will continue Putin's work and be a shining example to our children," said Tamara Razumova, who works in a polling station in Moscow."*
Wonderful. Young. Handsome. Energetic. Yeah, that'll get the job done. What more do you need? (I've actually heard my fellow citizens using these same adjectives to explain why they're voting for Obama.)
"Polling stations offered food and office supplies at a discount. In Medvedev's native St. Petersburg, some voters quaffed bargain beer at their polling place. Others showed up for the goods - but didn't bother to vote."
Bargain beer. An idea whose time has come? I imagine the vote would increase among certain U.S. constituents if amber liquid beckoned at polling places. If I weren't already a faithful voter the office supplies would tempt me.

But the Russian election is no laughing matter. No matter how unhappy I am with McCain, Obama, and Clinton at least I have a certain amount of voice. Plus I can choose whether or not to vote at all without jeopardizing my livelihood.
"Government-paid teachers and doctors across the country complained that they were being pressured to vote at their workplace under the gaze of their superiors, to ensure a convincing win and a high turnout for Medvedev. Golos, an election monitoring group, reported similar accounts.

Sofia, 25, a history teacher in southwestern Moscow, said the principal required her and colleagues to cast ballots at a polling station set up on the school premises.

'This is terrible, they are not leaving us any choice,' said Sofia, who declined to give her last name out of fear of losing her job. She said she destroyed her ballot in protest."'
Keeping Russian elections in mind, I will curtail my sniveling about the madness of a U.S. election year. I will be grateful for what I have, vote the best I can, and consider that the strength of our country lies within each of its citizens. If we don't like it, we need to work for our desired changes. While holding onto good we can work for better.

(And if anyone bribes your vote at the polling station have the class to sell it for premium brew only. Your vote it worth more than a Bud Light.)

* All quotes from the Associated Press