Monday, December 31, 2007

Hopes for Y2K+8

2007 was a mixed bag for me; filled with absolute joy and intense sorrow. The lessons learned this year were hard-won and life-altering. Attending my 40th high school reunion demonstrated that I need to stop burning my bridges. It has been my habit to live in the present and to jettison the past. By doing that, I now realize that I also abandoned pleasant memories and great friends. In Y2K+8 I'd like to change that. Family has always been a mainstay that, admittedly, I took for granted. We're shocked to hear about siblings who hate each other or off-spring who haven't talked with one or both parents in years. Estrangement is not entirely foreign in my family, but each of us knows the others would be there in an emergency. When we learned in October that our Dad had cancer, all five of his children and their families went into research mode to learn about the latest treatments. Hope was an important element for all of us. Our family had dealt with cancer before and we all decided survival was our goal. Prayer chains among friends and family around the country provided powerful motivation and comfort. Practicality came in the form of chemo-therapy. Two weeks of grueling, expensive treatment brought no improvement, so hospice services were enlisted. Within a week, Dad was gone. The suddenness of his passing stunned all of us, but we agreed that it was better that way because he didn't have to suffer any more. No words were needed to know that our family unit would remain strong and offer whatever support Mom needed or wanted. Love and appreciation take priority now. Family is often a fragile conglomeration of members who are related by genetics, adoption or marriage. Confronting such a huge loss either splits members apart or strengthens family bonds. I plan to do a better job of showing appreciation for my strong, connected family. I also hope to continue Dad's efforts to strengthen the ties between more distant family members. Early on he knew the value of strong family roots, most of which are Norwegian. He wanted very much to learn and share more of his mother's ancestry with living and future generations, a task made more difficult by natural Norwegian reticence. [Note to Nancy: Are you up for it? Maybe we can succeed together.]
Y2K+8 may become one of the most trying and enlightening years of my life and I look forward to the challenge.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Slow-Dancing With Boys

Fragrances may be strong memory triggers, but music I listened to in my pre-and-teen-years conjure such vivid memories that I can't help but grin!

Tunes like Acker Bilk's mellow Stranger on the Shore and Henry Mancini's moving Moon River remind me of my first slow dances with boys. At the age of 13, we were all terribly naive about anything romantic, but hormones were starting to shape our imaginations.

During after-school dance classes we learned the box step, cha-cha, waltz, jitter bug and other, choreographed dances popular during the early 60s. There were no gyrations or grinding and only kids that were actually going steady got close for slow dances. The rest of us kept a tense distance to ensure propriety.

I remember the dreamy thoughts I had after dancing with equally shy boys. They concentrated so hard on getting the steps right and not brushing too close to the girls' slightly-developing bodies that their right hands left sweat marks on the backs of our dresses. Of course nerves made the girls' hands equally moist.

THEN. . . in came the twist, monkey, mashed potatoes, froog, the jerk and other dance styles that involved flailing arms and booty shaking, but no hand-holding. I'll admit that they were fun, but they removed romance from dancing. Yeah, there were a few slow dances thrown in to let us catch our breath between fast dances, but it wasn't the same.

Now that I'm a middle-aged type, I think I understand why adults wanted us to stay pure as long as possible -- innocence never can be reclaimed once it is lost or stolen. How sad that today's children seem compelled to give it away so early.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Please forgive me!!

For any of you who wanted to string me up after you tried my recipe for Jack Daniels Balls, I offer profuse apologies. The correct amount of Bourbon for a single recipe is 1/3 cup. Being that I usually make a triple recipe, I had a cup of Bourbon stuck in my head. This was not a joke recipe as was a previous one for rum cake. I hope you found some tasty use for the glop you ended up with -- topping for ice cream or pound cake . . . ? Hope you can forgive me.

Conrad the Cobbler

Before the Cathedral in grandeur rose At Ingleburg where the Danube flows; Before the forest of silver spires Went airily up to the clouds and fires; Before the oak had ready a beam, While yet the arch was stone and dream; There, where the alter was later laid Conrad, the cobbler, plied his trade. It happened one day at the year's white end; Two neighbors called on their old time friend. And they found the shop, so meager and mean Made gay with a hundred boughs of green. Conrad was stitching with face ashine But suddenly stopped as he twitched a twine and said, "Old friends, good news at dawn today. As the cocks were scaring the night away The Lord appeared in a dream to me and said, "I am coming your guest to be!" So I have been busy with feet astir Strewing the floor with branches of fir. The wall was washed, the shelf was shined And over the rafters the holly twined. He comes today and the table is spread With milk and honey and wheaten bread." His friends went home and his face grew still As he watched for the shadow over the sill, The knock, the call, the latch pulled up. The lighted face, the offered cup. He would wash the feet where the spikes had been And kiss the hands were the nails went in. And then at last would sit with Him and break the bread as the day grew dim. As Conrad mused there passed his pane A beggar drenched by the blinding rain. He called him in from the stony street And gave him shoes for his bruised feet. The beggar went and there came a crone Her face with wrinkles of sorrow sown. A bundle of faggots bowed her back And she was spent with wrench and wrack. He gave her his loaf and steadied her load And sent her off on her weary road. Next to his door came a little child Alone and afraid in the world so wide In the big wide world. Catching it up He gave it the milk from the waiting cup And carried it home to its mother's arms Safe and secure from the world's alarms. The sun went down in the crimson West And with it the hope of the Blessed Guest. And Conrad sighed as the world turned gray, "Why is it, Lord, that your feet delay? Did you forget that this was the day?" Then, off in the silence a voice was heard. "Lift up your head for I kept my word. Three times I knocked on your lowly door. Three times my shadow was on your floor. I was the man with the bruised feet. I was the woman you gave to eat. I was the child on the homeless street."
written by Violet Cobb

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Eschew Obfuscation

See how many of these old adages you can translate into everyday English without consulting a dictionary. Enjoy! 1. Pulchritude possesses solely cutaneous profundity. 2. Freedom from incrustation of grime is contiguous to divinity. 3. Surveillance should precede saltation. 4. Male cadavers are incapable of yielding any testimony. 5. Neophyte's serendipity. 6. Where there are visible vapors having their provenance in ignited carbonaceous material there is conflagration. 7. All articles that coruscate with resplendence are not truly auriferous. 8. It is fruitless to become lachrymose over precipitately departed lacteal fluid. 9. Eschew the implement of corruption and vitiate the scion. 10. Members of an avian species of identical plumage congregate,

Friday, December 21, 2007

Congress Uses DC Public Schools AGAIN

I cannot imagine another school system anywhere in the country that has been more abused and exploited by the Congress of the United States of America than DCPS. The latest (at least to be publicized) is a $2 million reading curriculum forced on us by Mary Landrieu, Democratic senator from Louisiana. The program has virtually no track record, so our children are once again being used as guinea pigs. The primary losers in this scenario are innocent children who must constantly adapt to new programs that don't always help and sometimes, set them back. Secondarily, educators and parents must somehow cope with these forced-feedings. [Odd how water-boarding comes to mind. . .] The biggest beneficiaries are the lobbyists who are winning lucrative contracts for their clients through their friends in Congress who, of course, also benefit. With this constant interference, it's no wonder our children's educational system is a mess. Professional educators and parents should make curriculum decisions, not the U. S. Congress.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

National Fight Song vs. National Anthem

I've been sick with way too much time to ruminate about nothing in particular. Then it hit me this morning --out of the blue and without codeine cough syrup: Americans need two special songs, like some universities have. The Star Spangled Banner -- which already is in an appropriate march cadence -- could be our national fight song. America the Beautiful could be our national anthem -- a love song about all that is beautiful and special about the United States.
. . . by the rockets red glare; the bombs bursting in air. . . vs. . . . and crown thy good with brotherhood. . .
Yeah, I know this is not a new debate, but think about it. Do we need to be reminded of our current hawkishnesss or more about the brotherhood and unity that have made us strong and unique in the world?
Look up the lyrics for both songs and see if you don't agree with me.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gratuitous Cuteness V

Oh, how I'd like to be about two years old right now. No worries, just delight and excitement about the coming holidays.

Come rain, sleet or snow (all promised by the weather forecasters) I'll pick you up at the train tomorrow, Carolyn.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dylan Thomas wrote . . .

And death shall have no dominion. Dead men naked they shall be one With the man in the wind and the west moon; When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone. They shall have stars at elbow and foot; Though they go mad they shall be sane, Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again; Though lovers be lost love shall not; And death shall have no dominion.

I am so Spoiled

Every morning I enjoy a cold glass of orange juice and a hot cup of coffee.

I can choose a cool shower or a hot bath.

Clean clothes are the norm.

Several pairs of shoes meet my every need.

I learned to read and write years ago.

I cook for pleasure.

My door has three locks.

Health insurance is a given.

A machine washes my dishes.

A soft bed awaits me every night.

Transportation is a short walk to the garage.

I survived cancer.

Distant friends and family are a phone call or email away.

On a cloudy day I can turn on more lights.

When it rains or snows I can watch it from a comfortable chair.

My good fortune is magnified by a husband who loves me regardless of morning dragon breath and bed-head-hair. Wealth is not solely measured in dollars. I wish I could share my wealth with the man who lives next to the overpass.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Frags #1


















Million Dollar Idea

Ankar Shanker, a 25 year old Indian student recently was accepted into the prestigious London School of Economics. With such happy news he also realized that he didn't have the $110,000 it would cost to attend. He deferred acceptance until he could raise money. Wake Up and Smell the Million Dollar Story is the blog he started to fund his graduate studies. He plans to write a new short story every day for six months to attract readers. He also proved his worthiness to attend this school by taking advantage of a free Google program called AdSense which, for a fee, displays advertising on his blog. Since December 1st he's made about $130. I, for one will be checking out his blog, an easy, free way to help a young man realize his dreams. http://MillionDollarStory.blogspot.com

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Life is Good


We are entitled to it. . .

H--eal your heart. A--llow yourself to be happy. P--urge negative thoughts. P--retend to be happy until it becomes real. I--nvite only good thoughts into your mind. N--otice and appreciate the beauty around you. E--mbrace your inner child. S--poil yourself in guilt-free ways. S--ilence your suspicious mind. -Angst is wasted energy and is mentally and physically harmful. +Joy opens the heart and mind to positive energy.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A "Dad Moment"

This morning I hauled out my sewing machine to do some quick repairs -- yeah, right! The first piece I sewed ended up with a dirty, linty blob on the back of it -- sewing machine was a bit dusty. Suddenly, I found myself taking it apart, bringing out the vacuum cleaner, WD30 and a brush to search and seize every speck of lint and thinking "Do a Job!" Will I never be free from Dad's influence?! :- / Once I got into it, I found myself enjoying the task and went on to thoroughly clean and oil the whole thing. It now sparkles like when it was new in 1972! At this rate, it may last another 35 years. . . thanks, Dad.

Jack Daniels Balls

Christmas just wouldn't be the same without bourbon balls and now's the time to make them so they have time to mellow. Men always snicker when I bring these out -- wonder why ;-) 1 6oz. pkg. chocolate chips ½ cup sugar 3 Tbs. light corn syrup 1/3* cup Bourbon (doesn't have to be Jack Daniels if you'd rather drink it) 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped 2 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers Melt chocolate chips in double boiler or microwave. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, syrup and Bourbon. Combine crumbs and walnuts and stir into chocolate mixture and blend well. Shape into one inch balls and roll in confectioners sugar. Store whatever isn't immediately gobbled-up in an air tight container. *corrected 12/23 -- sorry

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Rudderless

There's a noticeable change in how I look at life since my Dad died. At the moment, I feel lonely and unable to stir-up enthusiasm for much of anything. When spouse comes home in the evening, it's a huge relief and all I want to do is stay in his arms. When the entire family was together for the memorial service last Friday and a few days before and after that, it felt good being around them again. Now that they've dispersed, I worry more about Mom. Her house was filled with conversations and laughter among three generations of people who love her and each other. Now, she's there alone. Mom is a strong woman, but having lost the man with whom she shared 62 years, her life can never be the same. We kids try to bolster her and she takes great joy in spending time with her grandchildren. Carolyn will spend a weekend with her grandmother in mid-December. Her joie de vivre can't help but bring cheer wherever she goes. Still, we will all be facing our first Christmas and New Year without Dad. [Every time I say or write his name, I tear-up. Hope that ends sooner than later!] I have so many good memories yet feel so empty. I guess this, too shall pass. . .

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Something to consider as we select Christmas gifts this year.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thankful

I've shared our view before so here's an example of late autumn. Yesterday we had temps in the high 70s and today we're enjoying more seasonal 40s. The sun sparkles off the leaves which I can't quite capture and the colors truly are spectacular.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

11/16/07, 6:15 p.m. -- he's gone. . . ..

. . . the man who. . . . . . cradled my head against his chest during painful ear-aches and rocked me til my crying stopped. . . . allowed me to help him with home improvement projects when I was as young as 8 years old. . . . blew bubbles inside of bubbles with gum my brother and I collected on Halloween. . . . made me giggle with pride at the Girl Scouts father and daughter square dance. . . . bought a rag-top Rambler, painted it flat black, installed glass packs and took us for rides under viaducts so we could hear it rumble. . . . built a special sled so that he could take his babies for walks in the snow. . . . commuted 64 miles round-trip so that his family could have a carefree life in the suburbs. . . . believed I was pretty. . . . smiling with pride, pinned a corsage of tiny, pink roses on the pink satin and lace dress Mom made for my 8th grade graduation. . . . tried to teach me to drive stick-shift. (Mom finished the job.) . . . forgave me for hitting a curb and flattening a tire while learning to drive stick-shift. . . . hid his sadness when he and Mom delivered me to college. . . . got the family home safely during a bad thunderstorm when the brakes went out and all he had was the old-style twist and yank hand brake. . . . kept five siblings from killing each other. . . . hand-crafted a piano bench for me out of walnut and oak from Mt. Vernon. . . . shared a crying towel with me the day his mother died in our house. . . . drove thousands of miles with whining, cranky children on numerous memorable, family vacations. . . . kept his silence when I fell for the wrong man -- three times! . . . resuscitated the family dog --twice -- after heart attacks. . . . melted my heart when he turned and said, "I love you" as he walked me to my marriage ceremony. My Dad influenced my life and many more in ways he probably never realized. He challenged all of us to do and be our best and served as our example, protector, disciplinarian, comforter, and loving Dad and Poppy to his children and grandchildren. His wife/our Mom always came first and was his best friend, lover and mainstay for more than 62 years. Rest in peace, Paw.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Circling the Wagons

During the great migration to the frontiers west of the Mississippi, settlers circled their huge Conestoga wagons or Prairie Schooners, to protect themselves at night and when danger approached. The same sort of thing is happening in my family. Only in our case, we are trying to provide a circle of love and comfort as death approaches one of our members. I struggle with needing to be there and not wanting to make a scene. All of us are trying to keep our emotions at bay, but they're just under the calm surface we work so hard to maintain. I will go.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wisdom

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways , but narrower viewpoints.

We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life.

We've added years to life not life to years.

We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor.

We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.

We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.

We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less.

We've learned to rush, but not to wait.

We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships.

These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.

These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.

A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it.

A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.Give time to love, give time to speak!

And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

If you don't send this to at least 8 people....Who cares?
--George Carlin
[George was considered a radical comedian in the 60s, 70s, and 80s and his "comedy" always hit the nail on the head. He's still brilliant!]

Friday, November 9, 2007

Just Keep Breathing

Despite the muffled hum of traffic, the only sounds penetrating the stunned silence are the soft cadence of a little clock and my mother's voice echoing in my head -- hospice. We knew the time would come, but kept pushing it farther and farther away. Just yesterday Janet and I planned the menu for Thanksgiving dinner at Mom and Dad's. Today I pray that we'll all still be together by then. Tears sting my eyes at the thought. During the last several weeks, I've found myself randomly weeping. Guess I'm still trying to prepare myself for the inevitable. I read somewhere that tears carry away toxins, so I let them flow when I'm alone. The weather seems to match my mood -- chilly, cloudy and still. Where do we go from here. . .. . one day at a time.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Cinnamon Pie -- Sin on a Pie Plate

People must have done strange things to get through the Great Depression. The following recipe is purportedly one popular during those dark days. It's a once-a-year kinda dessert in our house because it's so rich. But, oh, is it good! 1 10" unbaked, deep-dish pie shell 4 eggs, beaten 2 Tbs. ground cinnamon 2 Tbs. flour 2 Tbs. butter, softened 2 cups of sugar (the reason it's a once-a-year treat!) 1 cup of water Preheat oven to 375. Whisk everything together, in order (you can use a blender) then pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake for 40 minutes. It will set up when it cools. If you really want to gild the lily, top with whipped or iced cream.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Golden Rule for the 21st Century

The original Golden Rule says simply that one should treat others as one would like to be treated. Indications are that it may have slipped from the minds of today's tech-savvy, competitive types, thus a few hints: Rather than telling someone not to forget something, suggest that he remember something -- it's kinder. Remember to take your glasses rather than don't forget your glasses. Excuse me, please and thank you are not terms that indicate weakness; they are linguistic, social lubricants. Please use them. Rather than bumping into someone on the sidewalk, stairs or wherever one is perambulating while engaged in important conversation ("wuddaryagonnawear?"), take notice of approaching pedestrians, step aside and continue on your way. Rather than leaning on your car horn when you think another driver has done something offensive, such as pulling in front of one's own auto, let your blood pressure stay at a reasonable level and know that the dastardly driver's pressure is probably up from driving like a maniac and he/she will no doubt die from a stroke! THERE'S your revenge. When one's spouse/partner/roomate takes out the trash, thank him or her -- it's a dirty job. If one lives in an apartment building, put trash down the chute provided for it. You'll make everyone on your floor happy because fewer bugs, mice and rats will come looking for eats. Regardless of where you are, if you make a mess, clean it up. Other people and animals will appreciate it and you can be proud of yourself for making the world a better, maybe even safer place. Speaking of pride, watch for the pitfalls of taking pride in the wrong things; example: one's freshly couffed hairdo on a rainy day. Being poked in the face by the umbrella of someone who won't tip hers enough to get past someone else with an umbrella makes for bad feelings, possible injury and maybe a lawsuit. Men and boys who comment on the appearance of ladies with whom they are not acquainted prove that they have yet to evolve past their knuckle-dragging, grunting, hairy ancestors. Perhaps (just perhaps) they would view their behavior differently if it was their mothers, daughters, sisters or girlfriends being subjected to the same comments. Empathy and sympathy could be powerful tools if more of us practiced using them. Social skills are crucial whether one is attempting to get a job or propose marriage. Again, it's the linguistic, social lubrication that helps one get the desired results. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you actually works!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Woke up in a pit this morning.

Not literally, but strongly metaphorically. It's one I've spent varying amounts of time in throughout much of my life. It's depth depends on what's going on in my life and thankfully, my stints there are becoming fewer and shorter. Nevertheless it's a place I hate but that requires occasional visits. Being an optimist at heart, I tend to subdue and bury negative events and thoughts. Can't let go of them because I'm also a pack-rat of emotions. As one might imagine, these traits pose tricky problems for my psyche. It may sound complicated, but it's really very simple: from time to time, the negatives outweigh the positives and my brain basically shuts down to defrag. This morning I woke up alone; spouse had to go to work very early. The sun flickered around the edges of the drapes, but my body felt like lead. Today held the promise of magnificent weather, but I couldn't raise my head from the pillow. The phone rang several times out in the living room -- spouse checking in with me. When I finally dragged myself out of bed, Caller I.D. listed 9 calls from him. Worried that he might have broken something or was bleeding, I called him. He was fine and I decided it was time for me to get my s--t together and start the day. When I was still working full-time, I forced myself to put on a happy face and went to work. Now that I control my time, I can allow the negativity-purging-process to take as long as it needs. It's far quicker, with longer-lasting results when I listen to my mind/body. The days are getting shorter and Sunday marks the end of daylight savings time. I'll try, again this year, to convince myself that less daylight is OK and actually beneficial for the trees and hibernating critters. Maybe I'll put the tiny lights out on the balcony railing earlier this year and put up our tiny Christmas tree in November rather than waiting til December. It's all about light in winter. The more the merrier -- or less depressing, depending on how long it takes me to get out of bed in the morning.. . .

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Road Map to Happiness

Never HAVE had a sense of direction. Still trying to get there. . .

Friday, October 26, 2007

Blot #80


Daycare

Imagination vs. Knowledge

Even though I was born to talented parents, my creative genes seem to be dormant. My singing voice is mediocre, and I totally lack the abilities to draw or paint. I'm proud to say that my four siblings have fared far better in the way of inherited skills. I, on the other hand take comfort in something Albert Einstein believed:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
Now there's a skill I have in spades! As a child I'd wander through my imagination without restraint -- something that didn't always please my teachers or parents. Nevertheless, my make-believe world was usually uplifting and positive. But then there was the recurring dream in which I became separated from my parents because I was too adventurous and wandered away from them. I outgrew that -- eventually. As a college student and young adult, my imagination took a dangerous turn as it placed blinders on my good sense. I chose the wrong boyfriends and suffered because of my poor choices. In my late twenties, two men who would now be called stalkers piqued my romantic imagination. One cooked food and tried to deliver it to me along with flowers and romantic gestures -- harmless, but annoying. The other was anything but harmless as I soon discovered. He learned my name by listening to my conversations with friends. He phoned me often at work, commenting on what I was wearing, my physique (you get the idea). When he wrote a 17-page letter describing what he wanted to give me and how passionate he felt about me, I freaked. It ended with an ominous sentence referring to Arlington National Cemetery. THAT got my imagination roiling!! I made sure I wasn't alone walking to or from work. So. . . imagination is a good thing as long as it's tempered by knowledge and good sense.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Blot #77b*

* This is labeled 77b because the original was bronze paint on a dark blue/green background. Thanks to a few simple tech. tricks, I made it look like this. I rather like this version better than the original.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Salam / Shalom

Thanks to the generosity of a special contractor, a Jewish congregation in Arkansas will finally have a new temple. Since 1981 Temple Shalom members have worshipped where they could, even buying a house to convert into a temple. Those plans were abandoned when residents complained about anticipated traffic problems. When the congregation purchased another property, general contractor Fadil Bayyari, a devout Muslim, born and raised in the West Bank, stepped in to help. He saved the members of Temple Shalom many thousands of dollars by waiving his regular fee and their synagogue is well on it's way to completion.
"Abraham is our forefather. We are cousins.
How we got to hate each other is beyond me."
-- Fadil Bayyari
Mr. Bayyari deserves praise not only because he recognizes the common threads of two, major religions, but also because he lives by the ancient, basic tenets of his faith, not the radicalized interpretation being instilled in the minds of today's young people.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Big News

The White House has just appointed a new director for the Office of Family Planning in the Department of Health and Human Services. The OFP is mandated to provide counseling, contraceptives and preventive screenings and has a budget of $283 million for those programs. But that's not the big news. The big news is that the new director doesn't believe in contraception!! She justifies that belief by stating that "fertility is not a disease". I'll grant her that, but what about the burdens unplanned pregnancies place on the low-income women who must bear them? Will the United States turn into a western version of Romania during Ceausescu's era? Families there were not allowed birth control of any sort. Orphanages became ignominious warehouses for thousands of babies abandoned by desperately poor families that could not afford to feed and clothe them. Appointing someone to head an agency who is known to disagree with the mission of that agency is just deranged if not outright sadistic. If this a matter of payback for Bush/Cheney cronies, shame on them.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Stunned

You know how it feels. Maybe you receive a glancing blow to the head and you're momentarily disoriented. You're not quite sure what happened but you try to pass it off because you weren't knocked out, you're not bleeding and maybe you're a little embarrassed by the attention. Still, your bell was rung and you're unsettled. News can have the same affect. I received news last evening that was totally unexpected and unbelievable. How? Why? How bad? When? The sadness of it hits first, then the numbing emptiness sets-in. The flood of tears turns into stillness and the mind goes blank as the ultimate outcome becomes clear. Life is finite, but we're never ready for the end. The task now is to keep my wits about me and to try to be helpful and attentive. Having had a brush with death I now value life and love more than I ever did before. No one is guaranteed another day much less another week, month or year. Each moment is a gift, not to be wasted. I love you, Paw.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


"Earth laughs in flowers."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"The Decider" does it again. . .

"I really appreciate the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce for giving me an opportunity to explain why I have made some of the decisions I have made. My job is a decision-making job. And as a result, I make a lot of decisions. And it's important for me to have an opportunity to speak to you and others who would be listening about the basis on which I have made decisions, to explain the philosophy behind some of the decisions I have made." -- George W. Bush [This man scares me.. . ..]

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Deep Mourning

Our household is in deep mourning over the Cubs' loss last night and their elimination from the play-offs. We're also in shock over the fact that, three times, they had loaded bases yet couldn't score. As Cubs fans all say, "there's always next year." Perhaps they're waiting for the 100th anniversary of their last championship to win a second. . . ?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Think about it. . . .

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. -- John W. Whitehead

Gratuitous Cuteness IV


Rusty was Mom and Dad's dog and fun-loving companion for many years. The moment they spotted her in the shelter, they knew she had to come live with them. During the summer, her coat was clipped to keep her cool and she seemed to revel in shear/sheer delight after her trims. RIP, Rusty.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Power of the Subconscious Mind

For the past several days I've been struggling with a sense of fear and sadness. Until yesterday I couldn't pin it down to anything specific. Then I read a newspaper article that brought it all back. It was five years ago this month that two snipers terrorized the Washington, D.C. area. They randomly killed 10 people; ten men and women they didn't know, who had done nothing to them and whose families and friends were left in shock and unimaginable anguish. The entire region suffered with them and feared for our own lives. Taking advice from law enforcement, we didn't linger outdoors, in parking lots or at gas stations, trying to keep a car between us and an unknown assailant's bullet. We walked a stooped, zig-zag path to get into grocery stores and avoided unnecessary trips away from home. There was a pall of tension that hung over the region until the snipers were finally caught in an almost serendipitous way. My mind tries to disengage from memories like this, but sometimes my subconscious mind thwarts that. As soon as the sniper memories flowed, the faces of several young adults from Sarajevo (in the former Yugoslavia) came to mind. Years ago, I'd arranged a debriefing for an American Red Cross committee I worked with to get first hand insights on the on-going tragedy in that historic, beautiful, old city. The savagery of shellings and sniper attacks on civilians trying to fulfill basic human needs for food and water was incomprehensible. Each one of these young men and one woman had witnessed friends and family killed. One man told of his best friend being hit by a mortar while both took cover in adjacent doorways. It's not a huge leap to imagine the same things happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can't help but wonder how humans have evolved the capacity to carry-out such atrocities against fellow humans. At one time the four Geneva Conventions were honored, thus saving lives, human dignity, history, infrastructures, and so much more. Waging war also is expensive, so putting limits on damages saves money. Is there simply too much money to be made by the industries that feed conflict and aid in the recovery? I don't want to believe it, but . . .

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Honeybees in the Military

I think I now know one reason why there is a shortage of these busy little pollinators -- they've been drafted into the military! The Defense Department put $2 million into the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project. Yup, their keen sense of smell got a bunch of honey bees a gig as explosives sniffers. No joke -- using the Pavlov method, honeybees were fitted with tiny harnesses holding tinier cameras and trained to sniff-out TNT and plastic explosives. They were exposed to different chemicals for a few seconds and rewarded with sugar water when they identified explosives. Now I don't argue with trying to avoid death and mutilation by early detection of explosives, but training honeybees. . . ? I think they're much more effective pollinating plants and should be left to this crucial service.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Happy Pig or Dog -- you choose.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The music has stopped. . .

. . . there will be no dancing in the streets - naked or otherwise - this year. The U.S. Senate failed to rouse enough votes to even put D.C. voting rights on its agenda. Does taxation without representation mean nothing anymore?! The Minute Men must be spinning in their graves! I wonder how other Americans would be feel about paying their federal taxes and having absolutely no say in how they are spent. I would hope that the complacency of many Americans would give way to indignity and loud protests. I just feel like crying. . .

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Heroes Inside the Beltway

Despite the seeming pleasure some take in bashing the federal government as a whole, there are thousands of federal employees who labor on in spite of who might be occupying the White House. I live in Washington, D.C. because I love the city. I've never been a federal employee, having spent my working life serving non-profit organizations. Non-profits, like the federal government undergo leadership changes on a fairly regular basis. An unfortunate fact in both arenas is that new leaders often feel compelled to reinvent the wheel -- wasteful and frustrating for long-time employees. Maybe its a power thing, or they just don't get it. Either way, momentum on projects is often lost or worthwhile programs are abandoned all together. STILL, some manage to carry-on and accomplish great things. In 2002, the Partnership for Public Service established the Service to America Medals program to reward the most exemplary federal employees. Following is a sampling of this year's winners: John S. Morgan of the Justice Department created a program that enables local law enforcement to glean and use DNA evidence to close cold cases. Frazer Lockhart of the Energy Department, stationed in Colorado, completed the first successful cleanup of a former nuclear weapons facility $30 billion under budget and 60 years ahead of schedule. Nicole Faison of the Department of Housing and Urban Development created an income-verification program that ended fraudulent payments in HUD's rental assistance program by a cool $2 billion dollars. David Vessely of the Department of Veterans Affairs discovered hormones made by the heart that can benefit treatments for congestive heart failure, cancer, and kidney failure. As in any bureaucracy, there are slackers who don't carry their weight and others who sacrifice extra time and energy because they believe in the mission of their agency. Too often the chiefs take all the credit when it was the Indians who did the work. Three cheers for the Indians!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Comb-Over

A reasonably good looking man crossed the street in front of my stopped car yesterday and he had the most amazing comb-over I've ever seen. My first thought was WHY?! Then I wondered how he could believe no one would notice it. It started about 2" above the nape of his neck, went straight up the back of his head and ended in a remarkable swirl on top of his head. It made the front of his hair look as if it was parted on one side and combed toward the other, but there was no part. I was embarrassed for him! My spouse has a lovely balding head with a few, wispy hairs still hanging on at the top. We joke about it, and he knows I would never trade his sweet-smelling, soft-skinned pate for a full head of hair. Too bad other men aren't comfortable enough to BE themselves. There are some very sexy bald/balding men out there and part of their appeal is that they don't let a loss of hair bother them.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dancing Naked in the Streets

Several months ago, I proclaimed that I would do the above if D.C. won a vote in Congress. Our next chance is this Tuesday when the Senate finally considers a bill granting D.C. and Utah each one new member in the House. Utah already has a few as well as it's allotted two senators while D.C. has none. Even if the Senate gets it together enough to vote for D.C. residents to have the same rights as every other American, Bush has promised to veto the legislation. I still cannot understand his belief (also held by some senators) that granting D.C. voting representation is unconstitutional. Teddy Roosevelt:
To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Racial Tensions at U. of Md.

Recent reports of racially targeted harassment -- specifically, a noose found hanging from a tree outside the Black Student Union headquarters-- triggered deja vu for me. During the Spring semester of 1970, I moved back into a College Park women's dorm I'd lived in the previous semester. It was in a quad of two men's dorms with a dining hall in the center. As soon as I got on the floor several dorm-mates rushed up to tell me that my roommate was Black. Seemed they were worried about that. Having been born and raised in the Midwest and my closest friend in middle, high school and now is Black, I was perhaps a bit naive about race relations. Beverly was already in our room, unpacking, so I introduced myself and started unpacking, too. I was a few years older but that didn't seem to bother either one of us. The College Park campus is huge and it had students of every description. Streakers did their thing in the quad and goofy stuff went on, but nothing nasty -- until someone fired a shot at the president of the Black Student Union. Instantly racial lines were drawn. A dorm meeting was called by the BSU president who was justifiably enraged about the attempt on his life. The tension between Beverly and me was palpable for a while, and she spent more time with Black dorm-mates. I felt ashamed because someone of my race was suspected of the crime. I don't think she ever thought of me as a racist, but pressure from her Black peers strained our relationship. It is such a disgrace that, after 37 years, there are still people who want to divide Americans along racial lines. Of course there are also people who want to divide us on ethnic and religious lines, but that's a whole other despicably, tragic conundrum. Next year it will be 40 years since Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated within months of each other. That's half a lifetime! Have we learned nothing from these horrendous events? Discrimination of any sort is stupid, painful, destructive and useless because we harm our own civilization. The United States once represented freedom, tolerance and opportunity. Our reputation as a people is on trial here and abroad. I hope we can restore it before it is irreparably damaged. PEACE. . .

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Happiness is. . . Part III

. . . rain at night . . . spouse arriving home safely each evening . . . a spontaneous hug from my teenaged nephew . . . finding a special piece of drift wood . . . bright sunshine on a cold day . . . watching a praying mantis sway with the breeze . . . being serenaded by a mocking bird . . . ridding my PC of a new batch of viruses . . . the mathematical intricacy of a Bach concerto . . . watching tourists watching a great blue heron in the Reflecting Pool . . . the little Indian market where I buy chikki -- sesame seed brittle

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Reason for Hope?

A team of California-based scientists studying melting icebergs in Antarctica reported finding blooms of microscopic plants in a radius of up to 2 miles around icebergs. They are released when ice melts in the warmer Weddell Sea. In turn, they feed the phytoplankton, attracting tiny krill upon which whales and fish feed. The phytoplankton also consume excess carbon dioxide. I'm not suggesting that humans abandon efforts to decrease greenhouse gases that are causing the ice caps to melt. Rather, I view this as a sign that perhaps this is one of many cycles the Earth has had and will continue to go through. Human neglect may have sped-up the process, but I believe that The Earth has a way of protecting itself against the abuses of its inhabitants.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Best Cake Recipe Ever

1 or 2 quarts of Rum 1 cup butter 1 tsp. sugar 2 large eggs 1 cup dried fruit baking powder 1 tsp. baking soda lemon juice brown sugar nuts Before you start, sample the rum to check for quality. Good isn't it? Select a large mixing bowl, measuring cup, etc. . . . Check the rum again. It must be just right. To be sure the rum is of the highest quality, pour one level cup of rum into a glass a drink it as fast as you can. Repeat as necessary. With an electric mixer, beat 1 cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 seaspoon of thugar and beat again. Meanwhile, make sure the rum is of the highest quality. Try another cup. Open second quart, if necessary. Add 2 arge leggs, 2 cups fried druit and beat till high. If fruit sticks to beaters, just pry loose with a drewscriver. Sample the rum again, checking for tonscisticity. Next, swift 3 cups of pepper or salt (it really doesn't matter). Sample the rim again. Sift 1/2 pint of lemon juice. Fold into chopped butter and strained nuts. Add a babblespoon of brown thugar or whatever color you find. Wix mell. Grease oven and turn cake pan to 350 gedrees. Now pour the whold mess into the boven and ake. Chek the rum for thickness and consistennessee and bo to ged.
Happy Labor Day!

Home again

[I just realized I neglected to post this right after we came home. We had such a marvelous time with my sister, her family and Tucker that I decided to post it now -- just a month late.] Spouse and I returned home yesterday evening, narrowly escaping the worst of the evening rush hour. My bravado in driving 1800 miles round-trip to visit family in the midwest vanished when reality set in. That's a lotta mileage -- especially with a spouse who didn't want to drive in the first place. I did all the driving and think it's gonna take a while to recuperate. Still . . . it was worth it! We first crashed quite comfortably at my sister's house in Libertyville, Illinois and I finally got to meet Tucker in person/dog. I was so busy just being with him and observing his charming ways that I totally forgot to photograph him. The good news is that my sister and her family have already captured him on film. Spouse and I felt so at home and so thoroughly enjoyed spending time with nieces and nephews and inlaws, we didn't want to leave. Bro-in-law, Tom took spouse to a Cubs game (which they lost)but quality time was much enjoyed. Patty and I had make-overs done in a department store and walked out looking like slightly greasy ladies of the evening. The night we arrived was a planned joint birthday party for Patty and our sister-in-law at Pete and Phil's gorgeous home. Chef Pierre outdid himself as usual, preparing an extraordinary feast for all 20 of us. I was slap-happy to begin with from driving for two days and got even more so with my wacky family at the party. Slept like a rock that night! I feel so fortunate to have a family like mine. We've all grown into remarkable individuals and forged families of our own that carry on and extend the love we all share.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Simple Pleasure

Sometimes I like to do stuff simply because I know how. Take darning socks, for example. My Dad's mother taught me how when I was 11 or 12. Having survived the Great Depression, she could also darn silk stockings, but that was a skill I didn't think I'd ever need what with the availability of cheap, nylon stockings, which I was not yet wearing. Anyway, not having a darning egg, I use the handle of a particular screw driver which works just fine. There's something so satisfying about repairing something and making it useful again rather than tossing it as we are so prone to do. It took less than 5 minutes to darn holes in the toes and heels of a pair of my husband's socks. Sweet!

Think Before You Speak

U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D -S.D.) made a debut speech at the Sioux Falls Convention Center yesterday following a near fatal brain bleed last fall. More power to ya', Senator!

"I believe I have an unfair edge over most of my colleagues right now. My mind works faster than my mouth does. Washington would probably be a better place if more people took a moment to think before they spoke."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I first noticed this ole boy clinging to our balcony wall this morning. He and his crew have been pretty busy these hot nights. Seeing him there all by himself made me feel a little sad for him. But then it occured to me that maybe he's recuperating for a heavy date!

Cicadas are cool critters and I love the symphony they provide at night. That, fireflies and the earthy, warm fragrance are what make summer unique. Having said that, I'm looking forward to the cool, slow-decaying fragrance of autumn.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Poppy's Birthday

Last evening we celebrated Dad's birthday. It was actually on Thursday, but since two of his daugthers were bringing the "feast," Saturday worked better for us.

Spouse and I were about an hour late due to heavy traffic diverted around a popular, crucial bridge under repair. In view of the Minneapolis disaster, I don't think anyone's complaining too much any more.

Anyway -- back to the birthday -- 7-year-old Alex, who had been looking forward to the event for several days could hardly wait to get through supper and on to the cake his mother baked and decorated. It was Dad's favorite; white cake with peanut butter icing. Being a creative sort, Janet made it even tastier by adding some cocoa powder -- a little like Reese's pieces.

There was no holding Alex back when the cake was served. Breaking with a long-standing family tradition that holds the first bite for the birthday boy or girl, Alex happily dug in and declared it deeeeelicious!

Anger = Wasted Energy

Since being confronted by someone who does not know me with a false claim, I spent an enormous amount of energy being angry and indignant. It was fueled by pride in a nearly spotless reputation as well as shock and disbelief. Friends told me to forget it, but the incident was like an ugly, dark cloud over my head. FINALLY, I've reached the point where I realize spending any more energy on something I cannot/could not control is pointless. I can now feel empathy for the victim of someone else's destructive act. Her behavior was reprehensible, but due to her distress and pride in her vehicle. I hope that she comes to realize that people are more important than things. With this posting, I am putting the incident out of my mind.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Blot 56

me -- angry

(My previous post was just a little too cute, thus something not cute.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Gratuitous Cuteness III

During these August dog-days, I start thinking about the joys of winter. Zach was born in February and Rusty seemed enchanted by the little, sweet-smelling bundle in his Moses basket.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

My Home Town Part II


Small scale charm still defines the "downtown" of MHT. Market Square was and still is the heart of the shopping district. In the 1950s and 60s it was surrounded by tidy, mostly family owned shops with the Marshall Fields store anchoring the west end of the square. The train station was across the street to the east of the square, so riders had a short trip to do some shopping.

Since my family left MHT in 1968, many of the family-owned stores have been sold and some subdivided. One, the shoe store remains, but is unrecognizable from updating. When I was little, the store had a fluoroscope through which we could see our feet inside the shoes -- cool. It was the lastest tool to help properly fit shoes on children. Heaven only knows how many of us were over-exposed to its rays.

MHT still has narrow streets lined with lush landscaping and quaint gas lights. The old estates of the Schweppes, Armours, Swifts, McCormicks and more have been subdivided and the population has doubled. It has also become a town of nouveau riche, much less welcoming than it was 40 years ago. Old money families, middle and lower income families all attended church together and shopped in the same stores. African-American families lived on land purchased many years earlier by their great-great-grandparents, some of whom arrived via the Underground Railroad. MHT was a marvelous mix of grounded, fair-minded individuals who cared deeply about their community.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I'm Hooked!

A stitch in time saves -- absolutely nothing if you don't know how to sew. When in doubt -- don't admit it. Give a man a fish -- and he'll say "what the heck am I supposed to do with this?" Early to bed and early to rise -- makes life really boring. If you give an inch -- they'll take away your ruler before you can give away any more. It's like the blind leading a bunch of three-year-olds. Pennies wise, pounds mentally challenged. It you want to make a cake, you've got to break some boxes open. A fish out of water is like a woman without make-up. A fish out of water is like a man without a beer in one hand, scratching his butt with the other. Beauty is only skin deep -- it starts getting really yucky if you go any deeper. It's as easy as pie -- from the grocery freezer case.

Blot #59

"Fraternal Twins With Attitude, Arguing"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I need help -- I can't stop!

A bird in hand is better than a handful of manure. If, at first, you don't succeed -- move back home. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and your mascara runs. He who forgives and forgets -- keeps getting beaten up. The err is human, to forgive is really, really hard. He who laughs last, doesn't get the joke. It is better to give than to be shot for a few bucks. If, at first, you don't succeed -- fuhgedaboudit! I can't stop coming up with these things! Do you think I need help?!

Slogans that didn't quite make it. . .

If we can't the best -- we'll settle for second best! For those nights your mind won't be still -- one application of the new and improved Clubbstik and you'll be out for the count in no time flat! Romantic moments like these call for Fart-Not -- a man's best friend. When in doubt -- second guess yourself. Crotchitee -- the underwear your mother wants you to wear. If all else fails -- give up! [Yeah, maybe I DO have too much time on my hands. ; - ) ]

Monday, August 13, 2007

My First Kitchen

When I moved into my first apartment in 1971, it was in a building built in the mid-1930s. It was in a great location, low rent and within walking distance of my first job.

Note the size of the kitchen. It may have been an afterthought because the floor was roughly the size of a small trunk. The sink could hold a pair of shoes and the stove was about half the size of today's models. If you look closely near the bottom of the frame, you will see my antique refrigerator. Yes, it had a wooden door and a center freezer about the size of a lunchbox. The freezer never froze ice or anything intended to be frozen, but it did freeze milk and any fruits stored in close proximity -- which was the entire frig!

Note the stylish color choices -- harvest gold, sunset orange and avocado green. I lived in that apartment for 12 years. I don't know what possessed me to take this picture, but it sure brought on some guffaws when I recently found it!

"The Heart is the Seat of the Soul"

A gentleman in the UK had an artificial heart installed several years ago and has since noticed unpleasant changes in his personality. Since the mechanical heart was installed --saving his life-- he has lost empathy and a sense of caring for others. He lost many of the heart-feelings of affection and love he once had. The late, young Mattie Stepanek, wise well beyond his years, reaffirmed the heart/soul connection for me with his "Heart Songs." He had a contented soul despite having a progressive illness that took away his physical strength, mobility and eventually his life. This man, who lost his heart to save his life, has my sympathies. I'd rather suffer a broken heart or feel a heart flooded with emotions of any sort than not.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.
Omar N. Bradley

Brilliant Idea!

For several generations, Congo, formerly known as Zaire, suffered under the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu encouraged corruption by his government favorites making himself and them very wealthy at the expense of the Congolese. When he was overthrown in 1997, Congo was once again thrown into upheaval with various factions vying for power. Back in 2002, the United Nations recruited teens, nominated by classroom teachers, to be trained for a special parliament aimed at serving the needs of children in Congo. Daily, children or parents appear before members of the teen parliament to be adjudicated in cases of neglect, abuse or abandonment. Sometimes a mother will complain that her husband is not providing support for her and their children, or a child will ask for help in correcting poor parenting skills. Invitations are sent to offending parties rather than subpoenas inasmuch as the teen-run institution does not carry the authority of law. It is an enforcer of moral law and adults are listening. Members of the parliament now nominate and vote for new members and need very little if any adult supervision as they deal with real-life cases. They are professional and serious about their work and adults are listening to them. I salute these teens and admire their dignity, good sense and the positive example they are setting for young and old. The U.N. got it RIGHT on this one!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Leave her alone! She's my Mom, too!


I just love the little black paw raised to smack her sib and Mom looks totally worn out. No wonder, she had a litter of 14!!

Ah, to be four again. . . .


Oy Vey!!

Now I'm really starting to feel like a cloistered nun. First it was the 100F degree/poor air quality days that kept me indoors, now I can't take the car out, even if I want or need to. Part of the ceiling over the driveway that carries a street under and through our complex collapsed yesterday afternoon and now the street and both garage entrances are off-limits! If we get mail that won't fit into our tiny mail boxes, I'll have to walk three blocks instead of two to retrieve it. I know that doesn't sound like much, but it irks me that our mail boxes are so small that they can't handle a CD, much less most magazines! My cabin fever is getting truly ugly these days!! . . . ...*sigh*. . . . ... .

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

It's Still My Body, Right?

If I had a terminal illness and my last chance at a possibly successful treatment was denied to me by court decision, couldn't that be considered endangerment or attempted murder on the part of the courts? OK, having limited knowledge of the law, I let common sense guide me. I still think I have a constitutional right to choose. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit just overturned a decision made by a panel selected by the same court to deal with the issue last year. As simple sense might indicate, this panel determined that terminally ill patients may not be denied access to potentially lifesaving drugs. Not denying access leaves the decision in the patient's hands. Hey, if a dying person wants to participate in an experimental treatment that may or may not work, I say Thank You for helping to further medical science. Of course the decision rests solely in the hands of the patient and should not be coerced either way. If said patient is made aware of all anticipated reactions and possible outcomes and still wants to give it a try, it should be allowed. I leave the legal-eez to those who know about liability and all that. My concern is giving the terminally ill patient a choice, thus a chance.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"The United States seems to have become the superpower that can't tie it's own shoes."
-- John McQuaid commenting on the Minneapolis bridge collapse and how we have allowed our national infrastructures -- dams, bridges, levees and roads to disintegrate.

My Hero for Today

Jeremy Hernandez is the young day camp counselor on the school bus that was caught in the Minneapolis bridge collapse. He did what most other, caring humans would have done without thinking twice; he helped the kids get out of the bus and to safety. For this he has been labeled a hero, a title that has been casually awarded these days to people who are actually survivors of dreadful things. Jeremy is a real hero because he risked is own life to help others. That's the definition of a hero! I salute Mr. Hernandez for this and perhaps a little more personally for not abandoning his respite fishing trip away from the hype when the White House requested a photo op. We have something in common. Years ago I was invited to the White House on a hot, humid summer day to witness the signing of a bill on the south lawn. I'm susceptible to heat-related illness, so I politely thanked and declined. The young staffer who phoned with the invitation was positively indignant . Tee Hee!!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

My Home Town: Part I

As I recollect, my home town (MHT) was established by a group of Presbyterians looking for a more hospitable spot than downtown Chicago. Relocating onto the shores of Lake Michigan may have been a given, considering how many survived the great Chicago fire by going into the water. That's not to say the good founders anticipated another, catastrophic fire. Rather, I think they considered that it would be advantageous to live next to such a huge source of fresh water and avenue for transport. Besides, its beach was gorgeous! But I digress.

Another factor in their decision may have been the abundance of trees and spectacularly rich soil. The combination of proximity to the lake and ample trees may have signalled milder summers than in the big city and plenty of fire wood for cold, Midwestern winters.

Chicago is called the Windy City with good reason. MHT does not have the same issue. It rises at least 100 feet above the shore, so cold winds off the water are not such a problem and cool breezes, also off the water, are a blessing in the summer. Lake-effect snows that so often plague areas east of the Great Lakes are not such a problem in MHT because it is on the western shore of the lake. However, that's not to say we didn't have our share of snow and ice. We had blizzards and ice storms that cut electricity for days and sometimes even closed the schools (hurray!).

Back to the lake and beach --

Nearly every non-thunder-storming summer day of my youth was spent on the beach and in the water. Early morning was favored by our mother because it was quiet and the water was often glass smooth. It was also as clear as glass and, until mid-August, as cold as the glacier that created the lake millions of years ago.

As soon as school let out in early June, we couldn't wait to hit the water. Some fool-hardy types dove straight in and came up sputtering and shivering. I, on the other hand, favored slow immersion which could take 10 agonizing minutes. The trick was to avoid getting one's arms in the water until the rest of one's body was numb. When it finally came time to put my arms, shoulders and head in the frigid water, skin already submerged was red from the cold. Deep breathing and extreme courage were required to finish the slow immersion process. Once in, we didn't want to have anything but our heads above water because even the slightest breeze would send shivers through us.

It must have been the chattering teeth and sluggish movement that signalled the moms to call the kids out of the water. It was crucial to quickly reach the towel or blanket to wrap around myself. The sun only started warming me up full minutes later. Goose-bump-flesh only disappeared when the bathing suit was dry -- then -- it was back into the water. Summer was too short to waste time on dry land!

Large bodies of water calm and inspire me. The beach in MHT was pretty natural during my youth. A few, rusting steel break-waters helped to slow the erosion of the coarse-sand and stone beach. The lake was so wide that we couldn't see Indiana across the water. As a child, the beach seemed to go on for miles, but of course it was maybe a 1/4 mile from the water intake facility at the north, to the no-man's land near the army base, south of us. For a town of 7,000 it was plenty big enough, well loved and used.

Bad news: erosion is a fact of life on the edges of any body of water, be it a stream, river, lake or ocean. Lake Michigan regularly shifts its sand bars and beach sand. It's a natural thing and, for many years, it was accepted as such.

Worse news: someone had the grand idea of placing giant, concrete jacks along the natural shoreline and in spokes out into the water. The results are hideous to a purist like me and a bane for beach-lovers farther south that are now losing their beaches because MHT beach is snagging all of the shifting sands on the jacks-islands. My sadness over this equals my anger. It's selfishness to the extreme and I can't bear to visit MHT beach.

Whoever said "you can't go home" was right. . .

LFHS Class of '67

A very talented classmate of mine took this recent picture of the high school from which we graduated four decades ago. She and I and about 200 other classmates recently gathered from far and near to celebrate that fact. (FYI: Actor Vince Vaughn also graduated from LFHS but years later.)
Looks like a country club, doesn't it?

Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of one Biff T. and a handful of others, people who grew up together and had not seen each other in decades, spent many hours of quality time reminiscing and catching up on careers and families.

While it was pure joy to hear how classmates had succeeded in their personal and professional lives, it was comforting to know that some of us had slipped and fallen yet managed to pick ourselves up, made better choices and contributed to society. Our privileged youth now is appreciated and evidenced by how we have lived our lives. Some became doctors and lawyers; still more are educators. We have all done good work and can be proud.

Though we graduated during the so-called summer of love, war, assassinations and political upheaval soon obliterated the notion of everyone loving everyone else. Our generation has been cursed and praised for all sorts of things, yet we turned out pretty well. It will be interesting to see what we do in retirement, so: Biff -- I'm offering my help with the 50th.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Welcome

This gorgeous, fragrant lily was sacrificed to grace the guest room we enjoyed at Pete-and-Phil's. It was among dozens more equally spectacular lilies that Phil cultivates in one of their gardens. It was soon joined by a cluster of delicate, small, ruby red roses, a surprise on our second day.

In addition to being treated to fresh flowers, we enjoyed sharing their bounty of veggies which Pete puts to excellent use in his gourmet cooking.

All of these growing things added to the marvelous nighttime fragrance we enjoyed on their second floor, screened porch. The property contains a wetland, so the night was full of sounds and smells we don't get in the city -- a real treat!

Happiness Is . . . . part II

. . . when the Chicago Cubs are in first place . . . warm, earthy fragrance of a summer night . . . spotting an American flag while in a foreign country . . . a dog, curled up on my feet, gently snoring . . . finding one more bar of soap when I need it . . . being recognized by someone I haven't seen in years . . . avoiding a gigundous pothole . . . having all the ingredients on hand to try a new recipe . . . the feel and smell of crisp, clean bed linens . . . someone else to change the bed linens . . . finding that the house plants survived 12 days without watering . . . Tucker, his head in my lap, gazing into my eyes . . . George Gershwin's music played well . . . hearing the National Anthem sung, not crooned . . . receiving a hand-written letter from a friend . . . NOT getting lost

Thursday, August 2, 2007

F-16s Over Foggy Bottom -- Again

Yup, some poor pilot of a tiny Cessna inadvertently flew into restricted airspace yesterday, miles from the Capitol, but close enough to send fighter jets to intercept him. Of course by the time we hear their unmistakable roar close overhead, they've already flown over. Sometimes I instinctively duck when I hear them -- as if that would help . . . Jets also fly in tribute to fallen airmen during funerals at Arlington. Watching the lone plane soar off into the wild blue yonder still brings tears to my eyes. Living across the Potomac from the cemetery and being able to hear more frequent cannon and rifle salutes, reminds me daily of the continuing sacrifices being made by our service members and their families. Air Force jets flew high above DC for many months starting in September 2001. At first it was scary hearing them way up there day and night. Then, it became a comfort knowing they were there, keeping watch over us. I keep our military in my prayers and hope that you will too.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A New Friend

Spouse and I just returned from a vacation in the midwest. We also learned that we will never, ever drive all that way again! Nevertheless, we had a marvelous time -- once we got there -- and came home with great memories; one of them a new, feathered friend.

Meet Paloma, my younger brother's parrot.

She whistles far better than any human I know, including a trill I've never been able to master. She talks up a storm and is crazy about my brother. She gets positively kittenish when he gives her a "shower". When she sees the special spray bottle come out, she gets really jazzed. I shot lots of pictures, but she was so into it, most came out blurred. She gets positively ecstatic when the hair dryer is aimed her way. She flutters and flaps her wings, tilts her head seductively and just gives in to the warmth, the whole time exclaiming her happiness in her own language. What a little flirt!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

We do not inherit the world from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

--Native American saying

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gratuitous Cuteness II

It was a warm autumn day and we were chatting in the back yard when Patty remembered it was almost time for Carolyn to get up from her nap. Only problem was she'd woken up early and no one heard her calling. I think she was feeling like maybe we had forgotten her. Her mom's embrace soon cured that.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Good Man

This gentleman was a top executive with the Continental Casualty Insurance Company in Chicago in the early years of the 20th century. He had done a lot to protect workers, including the introduction of shields for machinery belts in factories. He also insisted that Frank Lloyd Wright prove that his design for the Johnson's Wax Building was structurally sound before he would underwrite the construction insurance. [It was and still is.]

He had a loving family of four children and his beloved wife. When the Great Depression struck he paid CCI employees out of his own pocket for several months because he knew that they, too had families to support. His financial wealth was never the same, but his wealth in friends and goodwill grew exponentially.

Medical science fascinated him and he studied it quite a bit. He was also knowledgeable about nature, mechanics and just about everything else inquisitive grandchildren wanted to know. His fun-loving, gentle ways made him utterly approachable. In his later years, he grew a nice, round tummy where cranky babies found comfort and a resting place.

Every summer during my youth, my family would pile into our car and drive the 600 miles from home to visit him and my grandmother in Pennsylvania. I think I can speak for all 16 of his grandchildren when I say Poppy managed to make each one of us feel special. Our special thing was strolling hand-in-hand to the corner drugstore for frosted mugs of root beer and one-on-one time.

Sometimes my longing for him is unbearable, but recalling so many happy memories helps me get through it.

One Way to Stop a Robbery. . .

. . . .offer the guy a glass of fine, French wine! Talk about quick thinking -- a group of friends had just finished a feast of grilled steak and shrimp on a back patio in Capitol Hill and were chatting and sipping wine. Through an unlocked gate, a hooded man suddenly appeared, pistol drawn. He grabbed the 14-year old daughter of one of the guests and demanded every one's money. In a stroke of genius or utter foolhardiness, one of the guests told the guy they'd just finished dinner and were enjoying a delightful wine, and would he like a glass. Letting go of the girl and tucking the pistol back into his belt, the guy put his hood down and cheerfully accepted. He then took a piece of cheese from the buffet and declared it delicious. Still sipping on his wine, he asked if he could "get a hug." Everyone took turns hugging him and when he asked for a "group hug" they again obliged. Then the happy interloper left through the gate, carefully placing his now empty crystal wine glass on the ground. At that point, the "other guests" silently scrambled into the house and called 911.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Simplicity

Back in the day, we didn't need fancy, inground pools with water falls and slides. A hose and a wading pool worked quite well, thank you, especially if you had a tall kid to hold the hose.

Can you tell. . .

. . . that I'm passionate about where I live? There are more than half a million people who call the District of Columbia home. I'm not talking about suburbanites who say they live here because it's easier and more recognizable. We residents are the ones who tolerate the daily V.I.P. police escorts, protesters, and special events. They're part of the price we willingly pay to live in the nation's capital. D.C. is divided into quadrants as well as diverse neighborhoods. Tourists seldom visit them unless, maybe, they're lost. Brookland, Friendship Heights, Glover Park, Anacostia, West End, and Marshall Heights, to name a few, are not as recognizable as Capitol Hill, Georgetown or Foggy Bottom, but each has it's own character and history. The U Street corridor, for example, was once THE PLACE to see and hear the likes of D.C.'s own Duke Ellington and Billie Eckstein as well as other great African-American musicians, writers and philosophers. Frederick Douglass built a gracious house he called Cedar Hill in Anacostia. Marjorie Merriweather Post built her house on the edge of Rock Creek Park and filled it with treasures from Imperial Russia. Her extravagant, tasteful gardens blend in on the edge of the park, another treasure in itself. Both are open to the public. No, I don't work for the city or any tourism company. I just love D.C. and wish more visitors could enjoy it as we residents do. It's SO much more than its museums and memorials and I've just scratched the surface of my town's cultural riches.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Ye Olde Post Office Pavillion

Washington, D.C. is filled with somewhat hidden treasures. Everyone visits the monuments, museums and memorials, but this gorgeously restored and updated building at the corner of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Ave. NW is a must-see. It's also a great place to people-watch, shop and eat. The clock tower, visible through the glass roof, provides marvelous views.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

GO CUBS!!


This adorable little guy got it right when he was a toddler.

Somehow, somewhere during his first quarter century on this Earth he was tragically corrupted and now supports the (shudder!) White Sox.

How could he have gone so wrong?!. He was such a good boy . . .. *sigh*
Go Cubs and, there's always next year. . . .

Leave it to the French. . . !

Western civilization, in its best sense, was born with the promenade. Walking is a sensitive, spiritual act. Jogging is management of the body. The jogger says I am in control. It has nothing to do with meditation. -- Alain Finkielkraut.
Liberal Frenchmen are chastising their new President, Nicolas Sarkozy for jogging, of all things. Apparently French intellectuals never have approved of sports or physical fitness, saying anything beyond strolling is undignified. Say what?! Granted, not everyone has attractive knees, but criticizing Mr. Sarkozy's choice of exercise as imitating American presidents, is just goofy. He's been jogging for years.

As for jogging's benefits, my husband is a prime example. He may never look his age and his health is nearly perfect because he jogs. This pic was taken at the end of one of the seven Marine Corps Marathons he's finished. His best time was 3:25!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I'm impressed. . .

People who learn to read, write and speak another language impress me. Oh, yeah, most of us took one of the romance languages like Spanish or French in high school, not too hard because of similarities with English words. German is another language with familiar sounds. I'm talking about people who grew up reading from right to left, or top to bottom in an entirely unrecognizable alphabet to the English-speaking world. Most of the Asian and Middle Eastern languages have absolutely no relation to English, yet people from those parts of the world have mastered our language! My husband grew up reading, writing and speaking in Farsi, also known as Persian. It's a beautiful looking language, but bares no resemblance whatsoever to English. And -- it's written and read from right to left! I still marvel at his ability to understand and use American English. Idioms and colloquialisms on the other hand, are hard for me to explain and we Americans use plenty of them. He frequently consults his Farsi/English and English/Farsi dictionaries. A charming side-effect of his bilingual-ness is that common words or phrases come out front to back or inside out. We both love brout sproussels (Brussels sprouts) and think Clark Bagle was a great actor. His latest was the name of a flower shop -- Nosy Guy Florists. Nose Gay just didn't compute! ; }