Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Good Memory

A few nights ago, Spouse and I were watching “Too Cute” on the Animal Planet channel. For those of you not familiar with it, it is a show featuring utterly adorable puppies and kittens from birth through joining new families.

When a clutch of Wiemaraner puppies came on, we simultaneously said “remember the dogs . . . .?”.

Years ago, we were driving home across the Whitehurst Freeway when we came to a broken-down car. A woman and two handsome Wiemaraners were standing close to it. It was a cold, windy day made worse by their being on a elevated highway next to the river. There was no shoulder for her to pull onto, so they were in the active roadway.

At the time, I was driving my dearly beloved Pinto station wagon, so we pulled over and offered them a lift. [This happened before cell phones, so they were really in a bind.]

The two big dogs seemed happy to jump into the back and the woman climbed into the back seat. The dogs soon lay down and the woman thanked us for stopping. She was headed for her husband’s office at 16th and K Streets, so we drove her there.

She thanked us profusely. As we drove away I believed she would have done the same for us had our roles been reversed.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Creepy-Cool Coincidence

Early last week, I read about a special sculpture on loan from Italy to the National Gallery of Art, here in D.C. Two photos were included in the article and soon I became obsessed.

“Dying Gaul” is a fatally wounded warrior in battle. His weapons lie near him and his face is stoic, disappointed and filled with pain. It is beautifully and incredibly realistically rendered in marble. To me, it represents the futility of war and terrible waste of human life.

Last evening, I started reading a novel and, about a quarter of the way through, one of the lead characters revealed that she, too was obsessed with the “Dying Gaul” sculpture. The coincidence creeped me out.
 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I met Uncle Sam on January 26th, 1981 . . .

 . . . and here he is:
His name was John W. Rusk and he had been "Uncle Sam" since 1947.  We met in the Rayburn Senate office building when I went up to The Hill for my work.  He was just strolling around and handed me the above postcard.  He said that many others had tried to take his place but that he was the original and genuine "Uncle Sam."
 
On the back he signed it in elegant script and wished me well.  He was soft spoken and a gentle man, unlike so many Capitol Hill minions.  I think we need someone like him to remind Congress of the pride and dignity he embodied.

Monday, December 2, 2013

"The Drowning Guard"

A recent news story reminded me of a novel I read several months ago. The news story was about a planned tunnel to be constructed under the Bosporus between the eastern and western parts of Turkey.

The novel, by Linda Lafferty, is loosely based on actual people and events during the 1820s in the Ottoman Empire. If you have any interest in that part of the world and it’s history, this is a fascinating story. The lead character is the Sultaness Esma, favorite sister of the sultan and a woman before her time.

As was customary in that time and place, the Sultan maintained a large harem. The women were essentially slaves, but generously pampered and kept hidden away, to be summoned only for the Sultan‘s pleasure. It was, however, not customary for a woman to have a harem, but Esma did. Her harem was a group of women friends to keep her company in her gilded cage. [Sons of living Sultans also were held under what might be considered house arrest so they were less likely to try to depose their fathers.]

Esma had her own palace and ran it as she pleased -- sometimes testing the severe restrictions placed upon women. She was purportedly a beautiful and seductive woman with a strong sexual appetite. The story goes that she took a different Christian bed partner every night. Following her frolics with each man, he was silenced by being drowned in the Bosporus, thus the drowning guard.

As were most of the guards and male servants, Esma’s had been captured during military campaigns and forced to serve their Ottoman captors. Considering their inescapable fate, they were clothed, fed and sheltered as valued servants. The man Esma chose to drown her victims was a Serbian Christian with whom she fell in love. Of course, being a Muslim and royalty, she could not act on her feelings.

The novel is well-researched and written. The characters are believable and well expressed.

So, getting back to the news story -- I imagined divers stumbling across the skeletons of hundreds of Esma’s victims during construction of the tunnel. Not something I’d want to discover.
 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Stripping the Washington Monument


For those who might have forgotten, we had an earthquake and hurricane during the same week a couple of years ago.  While we’ve weathered many hurricanes over the years, earthquakes were a new experience around here.

Washington icons including the Washington National Cathedral and the Washington Monument both suffered serious damage.  Countless smaller structures also were damaged.

Thanks in large part to a private donation, the WM is nearly completely repaired and may reopen in the Spring.  Interior repairs are still going on, but the outer, sandstone and mortar repairs are finished.

It wasn’t that long ago that routine maintenance necessitated scaffolding surrounding the WM.  An artist installed light blue fabric and lighting that looked especially beautiful at night.  The same effect was repeated this time around and is now being dismantled.

Last week I was concerned about the scaffolding workers because the weather was cold and very windy.  [Can’t be easy working under those conditions, 500 feet in the air and on a hill that is popular with kite-fliers.]  However, today is brilliantly sunny and 70 degrees.  I'd give anything to be up there with them -- the view would be extraordinary!

P.S.  Congress was very lucky that the enormous cast iron dome on the Capitol didn’t collapse during the quake.  Thankfully, the slaves who built the structure did an excellent job.  Yes, slave-labor built many Washington landmarks.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Assassination


On November 22nd in 1963 I was a newly minted high school freshman.  After only two months in high school, I hadn’t yet gained any sophistication or maturity as had many of my classmates.  I admit it; I was a dweeb, but that was OK.

Mr. Crampton taught freshman English and, although I thought he was kinda cute, he was a strict, demanding teacher.  [I thought several of my male teachers were kinda cute, but it was just raging hormones.]

In my high school, it was unusual to hear announcements over the P.A. system during classes.  When the familiar little noises of the system being activated got our attention, Mr. Crampton stopped his lesson so that we could all hear what was so important.  All eyes went to the speaker on the wall.

In mere seconds, our world stopped rotating on its axis and everyone held their breath in shocked horror -- President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas and had been rushed to a hospital.  As we gaped, open-mouthed at each other we had no idea what to do or think.  Even stolid Mr. Crampton was at a loss for words.

What seemed like mere seconds later, word came that the president had died.  The blood that had drained from our faces earlier stopped when our collective hearts skipped a beat.

After the moment it took to absorb this dreadful information, tears started burning and breathing became difficult.  The next announcement was to release us from class to gather in the gym to await buses to take us home.

Melancholia is common among teens, but it was outweighed by fear and dread that day.  I wouldn’t say mass hysteria broke out, but every one of us wondered how our country could survive the blow and, indeed, how the world would not collapse around us.

I don’t remember how I got home.  I don’t even remember what members of my family said -- I was in a daze that lasted until the funeral.  I can still hear the slow beat of muffled drums accompanying the cortege to Arlington National Cemetery.  The magnificent, high strung, black, rider-less horse with boots facing backwards in the stirrups was so evocative of our young, charismatic president.  The truth of our loss was overwhelming.

Memories from those days are still vivid:

The president’s hands flying up to his throat;

Mrs. Kennedy crawling over the trunk of the limo to help the Secret Service agent into the car;

The horrified and heartbroken crowds who had gathered to welcome the president;

Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby in a crowded hallway;

The view from the book depository where Oswald took aim;

Mrs. Kennedy stoically witnessing Lyndon Johnson’s swearing-in on the plane that would bring her husband’s body back to Washington;

Events seemed makeshift until the funeral.  It was formal, orderly and dignified.  The solemnity of the event was not spoiled by too much talk from TV commentators.  The simplicity of the formal, military honors was utterly appropriate and moving.

When the bugler muffed a note while playing TAPS, it was as if he was as overcome with emotion as was the rest of the country.  He felt bad for missing the note and had never done it before but I can’t imagine anyone not understanding.

Fifty years after that horrible day, the memories are surprisingly vivid.  JFK’s daughter, Caroline has just been sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan and will be there on the 22nd.  I wish her peace.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Some color or a Monday night


Getting very frustrated!

For more than a week, I have been unable to post any pictures on my blog.  Can't figure out why and blogspot is not responding to my feedback.

Any ideas . . . ..???

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Body Parts

When I mention that I have a substantial postcard collection, friends often give me some of theirs.  This* one came from a friend who visited Gerusalemme (assuming that is present-day Jerusalem).

It looked kinda kinky on first viewing.  When I read what it was on the back of the card, I dropped it in shock.  The shriveled object in the center of the suggestively-shaped thing is believed to be a finger from the Apostle Paul.*

Personally, I think it is grotesque and, at the very least, unseemly, to enshrine and display severed body parts.  But I'm a Presbyterian, so what do I know about such 'sacred objects.'  Also, I have to wonder how this relic was obtained.  I mean, did someone just sneak up to Paul's dead carcass and whack off a finger?  Maybe his other fingers and toes are spread out around the world . . . ..!!

*Note:  Eerily I was unable to upload the promised photo.  I tried several times.  Do you suppose I have displeased the heavens?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Please say a little prayer . . .




This adorable 8-year-old is under-going chemo for lymphoma. He lives almost 700 miles from me, but I love him just the same. His human mother (my sister) has steadfastly shared pictures and stories about Tucker so that I could enjoy him from a distance.
 
All of his human family members are devastated and praying that the chemo can stop his cancer. He has been cherished since he was born. His closest furry friends are a tiny Westie named Bailey and his next door neighbor, also a Goldendoodle.
 
When you have a spare moment, please ask God to send Tucker and his family strength to get through this. Many thanks!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Love Autumn


Around D.C., Autumn often arrives slowly, producing lovely mixes of colored leaves that last for a while because the really cold weather doesn't usually arrive until December or January.  I also enjoy the migrating Lady Bugs and Monarch butterflies.

Hope you are enjoying whatever season you are entering and appreciate the change.  I know I could not live in a place where the weather was always the same, but to each her own  .   .     .

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My sermon for a sunny Saturday.

Oh, to be so carefree and have no worries again!  I still feel like this on occasion and wish I could be four again (without having to repeat my teens.)  I wouldn't be a teen these days for love nor money!

Children are forced to grow up too quickly and lose nearly all of what should be carefree childhood.  They cannot play outdoors without worrying about being snatched.  Parents instill their little ones with fear of strangers to the point where friendly, harmless types like me feel afraid to even smile at a little child, much less strike up a conversation.

Can we ever go back to a time when children left the house early in the morning and played until they were hungry?  We didn't need fancy toys and manufactured our own adventures using our imaginations and whatever raw materials were at hand.

I fear that modern electronics and lazy/too busy parents are responsible for children missing out on their childhoods.  Cellphones, computers, television and electronic games prevent kids from developing their minds in a natural way.  Just once I'd love to watch a child pick up a stick and some leaves to create a little boat to "sail" on a puddle.  Running just because she can should be allowed without the rigid control of "helicopter parents."

I wish . . .
 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

An Indian Prayer

The following came in a mailing from an American Indian nation asking for donations to their school. The simple, pure prose appealed to me because it uses words I prefer to formal prayers with their thees and thous.

Genuine humility is an important element when one is praying and this prayer embodies that -- for me, anyway. The author is not credited.


O’ GREAT SPIRIT,
Whose voice I hear in the winds,
And whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me!
I am small and weak.
I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever
behold the red and purple sunset.

Make my hands respect the things you have
made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make we wise so that I may understand the
things you have taught my people.

Let me learn the lessons you have hidden
in every leaf and rock.

I seek strength, not to be greater than my
brother, but to fight my greatest enemy -- myself.

Make me always ready to come to you with
clean hands and straight eyes.

So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my spirit may come to you without shame.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I am not Malala . . .


. . . and I thank my lucky stars that I am not.

Living in a country that requires education for all children and pays for it with taxes is a huge gift. Too many of us did not and still do not appreciate the ease and safety of getting an education in the U.S.

Another reason I am not Malala is that I possess none of her courage, strength or perseverance. This sixteen years old young woman has already had nearly a life time of experience and still remains a thoughtful and intelligent girl willing to put others first.

Malala Yousafzai spoke to school girls from the D.C. region during a recent event sponsored by the World Bank. During the Q&A session she was asked if she had ever wished she was a boy and what she would advise fathers of girls.

“I would tell them don’t give anything extra to your daughters, but don‘t clip their wings. Let them fly, and give them the same rights as your sons. Give them a chance to be a human being.”

Those who tried to eliminate her influence by trying to kill her instead created a martyr. This poised, gentle young lady is now an inspiration to girls and women worldwide. I hope and pray she lives a long and fulfilling life.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

History Repeated



The photo illustrates what happens when one of the huge rolls of newsprint ends and another begins. It also seemed analogous to the story that was cut in half by it in today’s Washington Post.

It is about Syrian Christians being tormented because of their religion. Christians in other majority-Muslim countries also are being targeted and harassed or murdered because of their faith.

Just as Christian crusaders centuries ago believed that Jews and Muslims were infidels and must be driven out of the Holy Land, Muslims are using the same reasoning to go after non-Muslims.

The three, major world religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam all worship one deity. The name for this deity is different within each group but it is one and the same. Wouldn’t it be grand if they could all embrace that fact and let all the other dogma not get in the way of living in harmony?

I have no bone to pick [forgive me] with Muslims and Jews not eating pork. And so what if their Sabbaths are on different days? Women who cover their heads will get no argument from me. [I do make an exception for the burqa because it is simply inhumane.] Religious restrictions are important to each group but are not excuses for hatred and discrimination.

Religious intolerance has stewed for centuries, some worse than others. It’s on a tear right now. If I had my way, Jerusalem, an ancient city at the heart of the three major religions, would be a neutral, internationally policed city. I can dream, can’t I?
 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Pick-a-little-talk-a-little, pick-a-little-talk-a-little . . .

. . . CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP, pick-a-little-talk-a-little-more. . .

With apologies to Mr. Meredith Wilson, the above seemed the right caption for this photo.  Can you guess the group (in Washington, D.C.) to which I am referring?

 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The biggest feet I've ever seen!

This is a U.S. Park Police horse on the National Mall.  I should think anyone wanting to make trouble would think twice before messing with THIS big boy!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Did you know . . .


. . . That in 1963 it took a minimum wage earner 6.7 years to buy a moderately priced house? In 2013, it takes the earnings from 16 years of work to buy that same house.

. . . A movie ticket in 1963 averaged 86 cents as opposed to $7.96 (or more) in 2013.

. . . A tank of gas required 3.4 hours of minimum wage earnings compared to 8.4 hours in 2013.

. . . In 1963 a one pound loaf of bread cost 20 cents and a pound of coffee was 69 cents. In 2013 they cost, respectively roughly $1.41 and $6.01.

A minimum wage earner at $7.25 per hour must work 21 minutes to buy a half gallon of milk; an average wage earner at $23.89 per hour must work 6.3 minutes to buy that same half gallon. At a minimum average of $4,615.38 per hour, a typical CEO needs to work 1.9 seconds to buy that milk.

Is it any wonder that the minimum wage needs to be increased? CEOs’ wages should be cut to a reasonable level so that other workers can earn a living wage.

Statistics from the Bureau of Labor

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Fourteenth Century Soap Opera


Unwittingly, I downloaded a novel similar to “Katherine” which takes place during the same time period and with many of the same characters. The difference is that it was written from the a very different perspective; that of The King‘s Concubine, written by Anne O‘Brien.

King Edward III of England was married to Phillipa who bore him numerous children, only a few of whom survived to adulthood. His first son, who would have been Edward IV had he lived longer, produced a son Richard who would become king at the age of 13 when Edward III died. [I sometimes wish that royals had chosen from a wider range of names, but it is what it is. Ya gotta pay attention to the roman numerals on these guys.]

Anyway, Phillipa and Edward had an arranged marriage but were lucky enough to actually fall in love with each other and it lasted the rest of their lives -- with one, considerable distraction.

During a hunting expedition, Phillipa was thrown from her horse, dislocating her shoulder. It was not realigned properly so it caused her agonizing pain for the rest of her days. She also suffered from something called dropsy which also caused pain and severe swelling. She remained mostly stoic about it, but there would be no more romping between the sheets with Edward.

Knowing what a manly man Edward was, Phillipa decided that if she couldn’t satisfy his conjugal needs someone else would have to. After careful consideration, she hand-picked Ann Perrers for the purpose.

Ann P. had been abandoned as a newborn at a convent and was raised and pretty much enslaved by nuns until Phillipa came to visit one day. Phillipa’s retreat at the convent was intended to help her better cope with her pain through prayer and meditation.

Now Ann was not a pretty girl. Indeed, she was constantly reminded of how ugly she was. Mirrors were not to be had in convents, so she was unable until much later to confirm that, yes indeed, she was ugly. However, she had developed a crafty mind and learned to read, write and do figures -- something rare for females in those days.

Before Phillipa entered the picture, the nuns, in all their wisdom [and greed] made a financial arrangement with a wealthy merchant who would wed Ann and take her off their hands. She was 16 at the time. The marriage was never consummated and Ann’s husband died not long after they wed, so back to the convent she went.

When Phillipa saw this obviously unhappy teenager, living in misery with nuns who didn’t like her, she saw a good candidate with whom manly man Edward could relieve his manly needs.

Edward didn’t take to the idea immediately. But Phillipa eventually convinced him that it was what she wanted, so he gave in. Needless to say, it was a bit of a shock when Edward discovered that Ann was still a virgin. She had been married afterall! No prob. He conquered that impediment and they went on to years of unwedded bliss.

Since Edward was still married, Ann became an adulteress and whore and was not at all popular with members of the King‘s court.

Ann was strong-willed and her quick mind fascinated Edward. In short order, he became besotted with her. This hurt Phillipa, but she reminded herself that it had, after all, been her idea. Silks, furs, jewels and more soon eased Ann’s guilt and she really got into being the King’s whore.

Her influence over Edward soon riled his family and court members who wanted a piece of the action. As Edward aged, he became more and more dependent on Ann.

War was a constant feature during that time in history. Someone was always trying to conquer and abscond with someone else’s turf. Even then, Ireland was a hotbed of discontent. France and England constantly fought over and took territory from each other and then fought to get it back again. In attempts to gain or regain territory, marriages between royals were arranged, often leading to disastrous results.

Ann had been banished by her detractors who considered her a dangerous [and expensive] influence over the King. Meanwhile, Edward became more and more demented. When Phillipa died, Edward gave up on living. That’s when things got really sticky. Politically astute/devious members of his family and court realized that Ann was probably the only person who could get through to Edward, so they dragged her back to London.

In Edward’s fragile state of mind, he was angry with Ann for having abandoned him. For whatever reason [probably political] she didn’t tell him that his family and friends had sent her away. They soon kissed and made up, but Edward could no longer “tumble” Ann, so she started looking around for someone else to play with.

Along comes William Windsor, an influential member of the royal court and literally a Knight in shining armor, handsome beyond reason. He, too was politically ambitious and recognized the same attributes in Ann. He could have had his pick of any one of hundreds of court beauties but chose Ann because she held the king‘s reigns. [Pun intended]

Knowing this and the fact that she was not at all pretty, Ann initially didn’t trust the handsome dude. William eventually convinced Ann that, if they put their heads together, they could benefit from their close proximity to the King. Ann had accumulated a good bit of real estate over the years but, being a single woman, her ownership was tenuous. Once a woman married all of her possessions, including her body, automatically became her husband‘s. Ann knew that her enemies wanted to strip her of all her “ill-gotten-gains”, so she agreed to marry William only after he promised that her properties would remain under her control.

When Edward eventually kicked the bucket, a tangled web of intrigue, slander, kidnapping, and murder followed and weird Richard III became king, causing all sorts of mayhem. [He was the last English King to die in combat and his remains were discovered under a parking lot last year.]

Meanwhile, Ann and William escaped to live out their lives in comfortable wealth -- at least that’s what the novel implies.

I must admit that I love reading this medieval stories because many of my mother’s ancestors were active in those days -- the Campbells, Lancastrian Roses and more. Life was hard during those times, but so interesting!
 

Monday, September 16, 2013

They don't fool me . . .

. . . manufacturers who are producing smaller sizes of their products and selling them in what appear to be the same size packages as several years ago. Prices inevitably rise but what’s going on now is deceptive at best.

Remember when you could buy a one pound package of coffee? Now it’s down to twelve ounces, having been 13 ounces for a short period. The price for the brand we buy remains about the same, but we’re getting less for our money.

My favorite graham crackers were the first shrinking product I noticed. There was a time when I couldn’t bite off the end of one; now they’re narrow enough that I can. The packaging looks the same and the price has about doubled.

Even toilet paper is not what it used to be. Rolls now seem to be a half inch narrower than they once were. I can tell because it used to be difficult to get it onto the holder and now there’s plenty of space for fingers to ease the roller onto the holder.

Spouse and I enjoy snacking on an oat cereal popular with toddlers. Looking at the box on the grocery shelf, it looks the same as always. However, when you pick it up, the box is much thinner than it used to be. The height and width are not changed which makes you think you’re getting what you expect.

I realize that drought, flooding, the cost of fuel, and other natural and manmade disasters have necessitated price rises. The packaging tricks, however, seem like a deliberate attempt to profit at consumers’ expense. Manufacturers are trying to pull the wool over our eyes that we are paying more for less.

Next time you‘re in the grocery store, see if you can spot these tricks. I won’t even mention the price of meat -- it’s bad enough to make me seriously consider going vegetarian!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mini-Rolling Thunder - 9/11/13



A small procession of bikes streamed by this morning.  I was surprised to hear them because I don't remember them from previous anniversaries of this date.  The pictures aren't clear because it's a hazy, hot day today.  Twelve years ago it was a sparkling-autumnal-gem-of-a-day.

On this day in 2001, I was home recovering from abdominal surgery the previous month.  Spouse worked noon til eight in those days, so was still home when the carnage began in New York.  Of course we had the TV on like the rest of the East Coast, trying to find out what was going on.  I phoned my sister in Illinois and was talking with her when the plane hit the Pentagon.  We heard and felt that.  I started shaking and blathering at that point.  Then hundreds of staff from the State Department (large prisonesque building in bottom photo) started walking and running away from the building.  When we heard a fourth plane was heading toward Washington, I nearly lost it.

Standing on our balcony, watching people fleeing for their lives, I wondered where we could go to be safe.  We live within blocks of important federal buildings and the White House, all of them potential targets.

A young woman who lived across the hall from us asked if she could hang out with us.  She was terrified, too.  Thankfully, she gave me someone else to focus on.  I gathered what wits I could and tried to comfort her.

The rest of the day is pretty much a blur of anxiety and stress.  It took hours in shock to truly embrace the fact that thousands of people died horrible deaths.  It would be days, months and years before victims' families and friends received confirmation of their losses due to the incredible scale of destruction.

For months, the skies were silent except for the fighter jets circling high above Washington day and night.  It was a comfort knowing they were watching out for us.  Still, I felt like I was waiting for "the other shoe to drop."  A little more than a year later, we were again terrorized by the so-called D.C. Snipers.

To this day, I say the 9/11 terrorists failed.  Yes, they caused immeasurable pain and damage, some of it long-term.  What they didn't anticipate was that their crimes would unite Americans and strengthen our resolve to support and defend our way of life.

New security measures are not convenient but have protected us from further attacks.

Now, if we can just regain our rights to privacy . . . .

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sweet Nostalgia

I felt like remembering some happier times for my parents.  Dad has been gone for 6 years now and Mom is 88 and confused most of the time.
 
This poofy pink dress was one Mom wore when she sang concerts in the public schools.  She had a lovely soprano voice that she freely gifted to our community through our church and our local opera company.  She had lots of fans and fan letters to prove it.  One local gentleman always gifted her with a stem of orchid blossoms following an opera performance.
 
Dad loved her gift of song but was sometimes a little jealous of all the men who fawned over her following performances.  There was never any reason for him to worry, though.  The two of them were totally devoted to each other and their family.
 
The baby grand piano was one Mom grew up with and moved with our family us several times.  My sibs and I practiced on it during years of lessons.  It was to have become mine when Mom and Dad were ready to downsize.  Sadly, living in an apartment, we couldn't accommodate it so it went to my Mom's niece.  Her two, highly musically gifted daughters have made good use of it and I think it will remain in the family for another seventy years.
 
The painting in the background was one Dad did in high school and now hangs with several more in my home.  He could also play the piano and on one occasion, played a four-hands piece with me for family members.  THAT was very unusual and special.
 

Friday, August 30, 2013

August 28 -- a date to celebrate and to mourn


Wednesday was a big day, here in D.C. Famous and many not so famous gathered in remembrance and celebration of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Moving speeches were made, music sung and banners waved. It was a truly feel-good event.

Wednesday was also the anniversary of a dreadful page in our history. It was on that same date in 1955 that a 14-year old, African-American boy from Chicago was tortured and lynched in Mississippi. His name was Emmet Till.

Young Emmet had made is first trip to the south to visit cousins in Mississippi. Coming from the north, he wasn’t aware of Jim Crow laws. Of course he was familiar with discrimination, but of a more subtle sort.

Pubescence may have clouded his judgment about how to act around females. As a relatively carefree, brand-new teen, away from home, having fun was foremost in his mind. Worrying about other peoples’ opinions of him may have never crossed his mind. Little did he know that the color of his skin could get him killed.

When Emmet spotted a pretty woman, he did what most any red-blooded American boy would do. He complimented her with a wolf-whistle. His Black cousins may have turned fifty shades of white at that point, knowing that what he had done - simple as it was - was considered an insult and crime.

It didn’t take long before grown men, including the woman’s husband, dragged Emmet into a barn, beat the living daylights out of him, then lynched him. All of this done in the name of a lady’s honor. [I hope that said “lady” was forever haunted by what was committed in her name.]

We still cannot claim that all Americans are treated equally. Until those of a certain age are gone and take their segregationist and racist attitudes with them, the struggle will go on.

Younger generations are the hope for our future. However, we must protect them from the twisted thinking of neo-this-and-that groups that foment anarchy and chaos. We CAN overcome!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Oxymoron of the Day

Buddhist gangs attacked a Muslim neighborhood and torched Muslim homes during a rampage in northwestern Burma. They did this after hearing rumors that a young Buddhist woman had been sexually assaulted by a Muslim man.

Was I wrong in believing that Buddhists were some of the most peace-loving people on Earth? Granted, their country, aka Myanmar, has been wracked by violence since the military took over some years back. It’s just too sad that people who once lived in what seemed like harmony are at each others’ throats.

Sexual assault is horrendous. The rule of law, however, should be allowed to do it’s job of determining guilt or innocence. Rule of mob is never a good alternative.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Celebrating Young Women


Having been born in the middle of the last century, I feel kinda old sometimes. My body is no longer kind to me, but my mind is, most times, still enjoying life as a 34-year-old.

When I saw pictures of a read about the McLean all-stars from about a dozen northern Virginia middle schools playing in the Little League Softball World Series I was thrust back in time. So much has happened to elevate young women from tittering, pretty little girls into strong, capable young women!

Athleticism and participation in sports were not top goals for the majority of the girls I knew in middle school. Yes, I played badminton and volleyball and failed miserably at golf and tennis. Still, I was never encouraged to get rough and tough in order to win because I was a girl. Good sportsmanship was far more important.

It makes me so proud to see members of my gender succeeding in so many more ways than were available to me when I was their age. They don’t worry about getting dirty and sweaty or sacrificing “prettiness” to win a game. Perfect make-up and hair simply cannot be considerations when one participates in sports.

Though the McLean all-stars may have lost in the World Series, they remain champions and role models for their younger sisters coming up behind them. These young women are proof that the “fairer sex” is not weak and that they are capable of great things.

I would like to hug each member of this team and reassure her that she will always be a winner when she gives her all, whether or not she wins the game.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What qualifies as news?


Well into the A section of yesterday’s Washington Post, right above an item about a Russian surgeon being arrested for keeping packets of heroin he was ordered to remove from a human “mule’s” stomach, was a short paragraph of jaw dropping news.

Granted, not everyone is interested in women’s rights in our own country, much less in other countries. Still . . . .

The newly elected president of the Islamic Republic of Iran appointed a WOMAN vice president for legal affairs. Just the fact that President Rouhani campaigned with the promise to involve more women in government was ground-breaking. Let’s hope his word is good.

In too many countries, women remain at the bottom of the political and economic ladder. A few pages later . . .

. . . . in the same issue, was an open letter to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Signed by members of the U.S. Congress, it urged him to stop his planned changes to an extraordinary organization: the Grameen Bank.

The gentleman who started this Nobel Prize-winning institution did it to enable impoverished Bangladeshis, most of them women, to take out micro-loans in order to start small businesses. For example: the purchase of a sewing machine could enable a person to earn financial independence for herself and her family. [search Grameen Bank and see how this brilliant, small-scale idea has spread around the world]

Grameen Bank’s clients and investors run the bank, avoiding the national political mire. If Sheik Hasina gets his way, his cronies would replace borrowers who currently sit on the bank’s governing board. In essence, Grameen Bank would become a government institution -- ruinous to it’s mission. In other words -- if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Grameen Bank works because it is humane, fair and practical. This is not the time to disenfranchise those who so desperately need, appreciate and benefit from Grameen Bank loans. Honor, not handouts make people strong. Repayment rates prove this.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

After almost half a century, we still don’t get it.

When I went off to college in 1967, I fully intended to become an elementary school teacher. It was a most appropriate vocation for young ladies in those days -- that or secretarial work, nursing or marrying and raising a family. Our futures were pretty limited.

First semester went well enough, taking core classes that all freshmen had to take. Luckily for me, I aced Spanish because my college class used the same book we had in high school. Other than that, I was a mediocre student more interested in sororities and social life.

Second semester exposed me to a rough gang: political science majors. Not only did they know how to party, but they were liberals! Coming from a long line of conservatives, this was quite an eye-opener. My liberal gene really kicked-into gear following the assassinations of M.L.King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy in 1968.

That was also an election year and we held mock political conventions on campus. The civil rights movement was very hot and growing stronger and more militant by the day. Dr. King’s message of peaceful revolution was pretty much abandoned after he was gunned down. All hell broke loose.

At the same time the Vietnam War was causing many of us to agonize over drafted friends who went off to fight a war they detested and either died far too young or came home terribly damaged.

I considered myself a Peacenik but felt helpless because I had no power -- not even old enough to vote. Protesting was pretty pointless in my college’s tiny, rural town in the middle of the corn belt. However, passions were just as strong as they were on larger campuses across the country.

The summer of 1968 is memorable because of massive and often destructive demonstrations of frustration over the national status quo. Our military seemed to be doing more harm than good in Southeast Asia with huge sacrifices of human lives and tax dollars. It was a no-win situation that kept writhing along. Television and print media provided a constant stream of graphic details.

That summer also brought my political-science-major boyfriend to my family home 30 miles outside Chicago. He was determined to join the protests at the Democratic National Convention. I was reluctant but gullible enough to take the train into the city with him. We visited Eugene McCarthy’s headquarters and bought campaign stuff. Then wandered around.

As we headed toward the convention center, BF was trying to find out where the action was. He was ready to jump in with both feet while I knew my dad would string me up if I got arrested. It took some heavy persuasion to get him on the train back north to my safe, quiet home town. We all know what happened later that day and night and BF was so disappointed that he missed the ruckus.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Today, in 2013, I came across a paper I wrote for my political history class in 1969. That is what triggered all of the above. It also struck me so true for our current status as a world power.

The paper was a comparison and critique of J. William Fulbright’s The Arrogance of Power and William Appleman Williams’ The Tragedy of American Diplomacy. I certainly won’t bore you with the whole thing, but a few paragraphs struck me as so relevant for now, in 2013. Remember I wrote this in 1969.

According to J. William Fulbright, America has reached a point in its history as have other nations, where it is in “danger of losing its perspective on what exactly is within its realm of power and what is beyond it.” He adds that American “power tends to confuse itself with virtue” and as a great nation it is almost a duty to remake less great nations “. . . in its own shining image.” Williams has basically the same attitude towards this philosophy. “This insistence that other people ought to copy America contradicts the humanitarian urge to help them. . .”

Both men agree that the American form of democracy and everything that it encompasses cannot work and cannot be justified in most other nations. The necessity for self-determination by other governments and people is often over looked by our basically well-meaning makers of foreign policy.

As far as foreign aid is concerned, Fulbright and Williams agree that the United States has overextended itself to the point that it is almost ignoring the domestic and economic problems within its own population by trying to be a ‘rich uncle’ to every poor, underdeveloped country it can find.

Will we ever learn?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

"Katherine"


I never thought that such a simply titled book would excite and move me in the ways it did. If you enjoy reading Medieval history, I highly recommend this book to you. It could be called a romance novel, but that is a small part of the story. The characters and events are real and the author, Anya Seton, did a remarkable job of fleshing them out.

Katherine Swynford was forced, at the age of 15, to marry an older, somewhat brutish man. He was smitten with her, but had no idea how to express his feelings or how to be a gentle, loving husband. Having no choice, she submitted to him and bore his children.

John of Gaunt, aka the Duke of Lancaster, and son of King Edward III of England was an older, man who, after his beloved first wife, Blanche died, was forced to marry a member of Castile’s royal family for political gain. It was in no way a love match, but they both did their duty.

During the 14th century, the Black Plague wiped out much of Europe’s population. By some lucky fate, Katherine Swynford survived the disease when she was a child and became immune. Subsequently, she was brought to the royal court to tend to the Duke’s wife who was afflicted with the dreaded disease. She became governess to the Lancaster daughters and in short order, she and the Duke of Lancaster started to fall in love. Being devout Catholics, they both tried to avoid the entanglement, but failed.

Geoffrey Chaucer was Katherine’s brother-in-law and adds an interesting element to the story. During this period, the Reformation was also starting to gain strength and was a significant factor in the lovers’ story.

Royal intrigue, bastardy, political machinations, incredible wealth and poverty, lust, mental illness, overwhelming religious fervor and guilt -- it’s all there and makes the book and hard to put down.

The only gripe I have is that the Kindle version I downloaded is full of typos, something all too common in e-books. Still, this story is well worth a read.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A pumpkin walking on bread sticks.

That’s how I would describe a woman I recently saw.

I suspect that stretchy leggings are probably very comfortable - but - there are people of certain shapes who should avoid wearing them in public. I admit that I am one of those who should not [and does not] wear them.

To add to her, shall we say awkward style, she wore a too short blouse that might have looked OK from the front, but definitely not from the rear which was my viewing angle. I was embarrassed for her and quickly looked away stifling a grimace.

Very few of us look like models, but some won’t give up trying to. It pains me to see an older woman in heavy make-up, dyed hair, too short skirts or shorts, and ridiculously high heels. Admittedly, I still wear make-up but I’ve toned it way down as I’ve aged. I feel more confident wearing a little war paint.

Perhaps I may be a bit old-fashioned, too. After all, I did wear a slip, stockings, and girdle under the dresses I wore most everywhere until I was about 37. I think they have now gone the way of the whale-boned corset.

Jiggling butts and bellies, and see-through skirts are not attractive. And platform stilettos?! Please . . . Designers of women’s footwear are all masochists! [or is it femochists?] And designers of women’s head gear think we all have the same-sized heads, for pete’s sake!

I’m just reminded of some pitiful looking comb-overs on men. Some go to extremes to cover bald spots and they just look goofy. I thought that when Rudy Guiliani gave up his that others might follow suit. I wish they would. There are some very appealing balding and bald men out there who exude comfortable confidence in who they are. Now that’s sexy!

So . . . . to all the ladies and gentlemen out there: please make an honest evaluation of your appearance - from all angles. Trying to look like a 25 year old when you are 60 just makes you look foolish and undignified.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

True Facts About The Mantis Shrimp



If you need some real chuckles, this is for you!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I do not and can not understand.

A White Man armed with a loaded pistol stalks and confronts a Black Teen armed with a bag of candy. WM doesn’t like the way the BT looks and acts. Caught off-guard and feeling put-upon, BT tells WM to mind his own business. WM and BT get pissed and start fighting. WM pulls pistol and shoots BT dead.

WM admits shooting BT.

WM is arrested, jailed and goes to court. Jury finds WM innocent of all charges. Hunh?!

Now lets reverse the roles: BM confronts WT because he doesn’t like the way he looks. A tussle ensues in which BM draws pistol and shoots WT. Can anyone believe that the outcome would the same?

Racism and prejudice still thrive in the U.S. Even though this country is composed of people from every nation on Earth. Historically, each new immigrant group has had to swim through the molasses of prejudice to embrace their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The premise that all men [humans] are created equal is deliberately ignored by those who came earlier, don’t want to compete for the American Dream and are willing to walk-over anyone who challenges them. They enjoy provoking feelings of inferiority in others. Vicious cycle.

I do not understand how Florida law can allow someone who admits to shooting someone else, particularly an unarmed stranger to get away with it and not be punished. Another life has been abruptly and brutally ended!

I can not fathom that the WM in this case was not at least charged with and found guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon, stalking, and/or interfering with law enforcement. When the WM called 911 to report that he was following a “suspicious character“, the police told him to stop, that they would handle it. But he decided he knew better.

The guy shot and killed another guy and he is judged innocent?! Unreal. . . . . ..

Thursday, July 11, 2013

It's getting ugly at the Tabard Inn

During the early 1970s I worked across the street from this ancient little inn. After work, a group of us would cross the street to enjoy some Tabard hospitality. During the winter, we took over a small parlor with a big fire place. As many of us that could crowded onto a long, antique sofa across from the fireplace. Shots of Jack Daniels further warmed our cockles.

During warm weather you could find us on the back patio enjoying Singapore Slings, whiskey sours, etc. The tiny restaurant produced some great meals, too. But this was before it became a landmark and “in place to be.”

Now it appears that the Inn’s ownership is leaving many of it’s employees very unhappy or showing them the door. Sexual harassment should have subsided long ago, but it seems to be alive and thriving at the Tabard. Having had to put up with it during the 60s, 70s and into the 80s, I thought we had evolved enough to understand that it is NOT RIGHT.

To my astonishment, I read that the Tabard’s owner told one female employee who complained about an uncomfortable “touchy-feely” experience with a male employee to take his sleazy comments and actions as compliments. Can you imagine?!

Are men incapable of adapting to modern standards of decorum? Unwanted sexual advances, particularly in the work place are now forbidden by law. What will it take for men and, admittedly some women, to understand this?

There is a time and place for everything. Someone’s work environment should be free of embarrassing or uncomfortable behavior. Speaking from personal experience, the fear of being groped and/or assaulted with sexual commentary is damaging and nerve-racking.

So, to the owner of the Tabard, I say: Step into the 21st century and stop accepting and supporting the Neanderthal behavior of some of your employees. If you don’t, you will lose.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Here we go again. . ..

A newly minted member of Congress, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.), is testing his congressional wings by proposing that red light and speed cameras in D.C. be banned. Hmmm -- do you think he might be a speeder and red-light-runner?

Congress has already dumped our voter-approved gun control laws. Now this. There are sound reasons why D.C. needs it’s traffic laws and controls. They were not put in place simply to annoy members of Congress.

Maybe Rep. Bentivolio doesn’t mind speeders and red-light-runners in Michigan. Washington, D.C., however, is a small area with heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Sometimes visitors from other countries look the wrong way when crossing streets or forget that green means go and red means stop.

This proposal is just one more arrogant attempt to throw weight around. D.C. residents did not elect Rep. Bentivolio therefore he needs to butt-out of local matters. Besides, how would his proposal help his constituents -- IN MICHIGAN?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stuck in the Mud

Yesterday a MD-90 passenger jet got stuck in the mud while attempting take-off from Washington National Airport*.  I'm sure it was no fun for the passengers and crew and, thankfully, no one was injured.  Nevertheless, it seemed like a perfect analogy for what's going on a few miles away up on Capitol Hill.

Congress continues to argue over legislation addressing important, national issues. This must be very frustrating for members who understand what collaboration and compromise mean.  Without term limits, members of Congress must always push for the interests of their constituencies to help ensure they will be re-elected.  Can't say that I blame them; the perks for members of Congress are huge and well beyond the reach of an average American.  And -- they are all paid for by you and me.

Mud-slinging is nothing new in D.C.  There's always plenty to go around and plenty of people willing to sling it, even if it means endangering American lives and increasing world tensions.  Frankly, I'd like to sling some mud on one Edward Snowden.  I value my privacy and accept that, in today's world, some of it must be sacrificed to help ensure my safety.  To deliberately reveal national secrets is nothing short of treason.

*I refuse to add Reagan to our airport's name.  Does no one remember when he fired all the air traffic controllers?!  Besides, the late president's name is plastered on enough edifices as it is.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Six New Blood Brothers and Sisters


Early this Spring, I had total hip replacement surgery. It has been a resounding success -- after some glitches got worked out.

Among several things I had not expected was the necessity for six blood transfusions; four during the surgery and two more about two weeks afterwards. I remember signing papers giving my doctor permission to transfuse blood, but I never dreamed I would need any and certainly not that much.

The only time I was aware of getting donated blood was when my doctor put me back in the hospital after two weeks in a rehab center. It was a huge surprise and a moving experience watching someone else’s blood flowing through clear tubing into a vein in my hand. To think that people I will probably never know would donate their very lifeblood to a stranger made me feel so grateful.

When I worked for the local American Red Cross chapter, it was customary but not required to donate. Blood supplies run dangerously low during summertime and holidays when regular donors take vacations.  Staff members knew this and made a point of donating during those times.

Even though I reacted (fainting, low blood pressure) every time I donated, I gave eight pints before the nurses told me not to give any more. Truthfully I was not totally broken-hearted because I hated those big ole needles. Still, I feel bad that I can’t help people who need my type A+ blood, especially now.

So . . .. on the off-chance that any of the donors who helped restore my health read this -- many, many thanks. We have a connection I will always cherish.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Moved to Tears


Since 1988, hundreds of thousands of motorcycling U.S. Military veterans from around the country have congregated in Washington for Memorial Day weekend. Their Rolling Thunder roars through Arlington National Cemetery and through the city reminding all of us of their comrades’ sacrifices during the wars Americans have fought.

Most of the guys are around my age, having fought and survived the war in Vietnam. They are MY vets.

Matt McClain’s picture in the Washington Post this morning brought tears to me eyes. Two of MY vets in jeans, black shirts, hats and dark glasses stood on the narrow island dividing north bound and south bound traffic on 23rd Street, heading north, away from Memorial Bridge and the Lincoln Memorial. Between them was an Army Pfc. In dress uniform holding a stiff salute.

This has been done before and too few realize what a fete it is to stand at attention, holding a formal salute for several hours. That’s how long it takes for Rolling Thunder to make its way out of the cemetery and up 23rd Street. Two of MY guys left their bikes to support the Pfc. One braced his saluting arm and the big, tattooed guy on the other side was touching his other hand.

I’m so very proud of MY vets because they have been making extraordinary efforts to assure that their brethren at arms returning from the Middle East are welcomed home. MY vets were made to feel ashamed and unwelcome when they returned from Southeast Asia. Most of them were not volunteers as today’s military members are, so the ugly homecomings were even harder on them. Too many of them still suffer following their horrific experiences.

I credit MY vets for inspiring military bigwigs to recognize and treat things like PTSD and traumatic brain injuries as the real afflictions they are. Too often, in the past, only injuries that were visible to the human eye were taken seriously.

My own, late father only revealed a few of the horrors he witnessed in WWII during the last days of his life. I had to press him for details after watching a documentary on WWII in the Pacific, where he served in the Navy. My mother, his beloved wife of 62 years, had the strength and unconditional love to enable him to live a long, mostly happy life. (I say mostly happy because raising five kids wasn’t always a happy experience for any of us.)

Families left behind suffer the most, I think. Receiving word that someone is categorized as Missing in Action is almost worse than learning of someone’s death in war. For years I wore my MIA bracelet in remembrance of an Army Pfc. who was unaccounted for. I reluctantly mailed it in when a project to make a statue out of the metal from all those bracelets was proposed. I never heard anything about it afterwards. If anyone knows what happened to this project, I’d sure like to know.

I just opened an email from a friend wishing me a Happy Memorial Day. What on Earth is happy about this day?! Businesses hold Memorial Day sales in hopes of making more money and others just enjoy a day off.

I wouldn’t call myself a kill-joy, but come on, people -- this is a day to remember our war-dead. Amen.

 

 

 

Friday, May 17, 2013

My take on the IRS mess

I'm 100% sure that the President knew nothing about the nefarious dealings going in inside IRS offices until very recently.  I'm also convinced that the plan to deny/delay granting nonprofit status to conservative groups was hatched around water coolers in one or more regional IRS offices.

Supervision of thousands of employees must cause major headaches for the leadership of any federal agency, particularly when some of them are furloughed for the sake of saving tax dollars.

This is not the first time the IRS has been slapped on the wrist for stupid stuff some of their staff do.  There have always been employees who, just out of curiosity, looked up the tax returns for famous people.  Even the lowest clerk on the totem pole can access very personal information about any one of us. Unfortunately, the age of electronics opened a Pandora's Box. There is no privacy anymore.

Personally, I'm a liberal thinker.  However, workers in government agencies must remain neutral and obey the regulations and laws governing their responsibilities.  It's not always easy when one is passionate about his or her political beliefs.  But trust is hard to earn back once it has been questioned.

Since no one really loves the IRS and paying taxes, heads must roll.  Sadly, that usually means heads high on the totem pole who very likely had no idea what those working several management levels below them were doing.  It's time to take a closer look at those on the bottom of the totem pole.

 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bury him at sea.


All the hand-wringing and nasty commentary about where to put the remains of one of the Boston Marathon bombers disappointed and disgusted me. He’s dead, so what more damage can he do?!

Some said his remains should be sent “home” to Russia. Who would pay for that? -- American taxpayers. I’d prefer that my tax dollars go to feeding the hungry and housing the homeless.

No cemetery wanted to accept the remains and it took great courage on the part of a funeral director to accept the body. Even then, he was threatened and scolded for doing the decent thing.

Granted, for some, Tsarnaev will become a martyr. His gravesite could become an impromptu shrine where like-minded extremists visit for inspiration. Another possibility, listening to some who are angry about his burial in American soil, is that his grave could be desecrated.

The decision to bury Osama Bin Laden at sea was brilliant. It left no gravesite where his followers could exhume and display grizzly remains to incite more violence. It also preempted any shrine in his honor.  Since Islam does not approve of cremation, burial at sea seems like a better, more decent choice, even for "the bad guys".  Better out of sight and out of mind.
 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day 2013


Beautiful, isn't she?

Up close, she's not quite as beautiful.

From space it's hard to see toxic smoke billowing out of chimneys; a huge man-caused "island" of plastic bits floating in the beautiful, blue waters of the Pacific Ocean; crude oil seeping into the Gulf of Mexico and countless other places; rivers and lakes so contaminated it's dangerous to even touch the water.

Somestimes I think we humans are too smart (smug?) for our own good.  We develop weapons that can destroy huge chunks of continents and everything living there, leaving it uninhabitable for generations to come.

Developing poisons that kill almost instantly and usually torturously occupies minds that would be better used to find cures or preventatives for diseases.  Even the treatments we have to combat polio, malaria, measles and more don't get to the needy because of misguided or partisan thinking by those with superior weapons.

We humans are pretty blase when it comes to caring for our planet.  We are not yet to the point that we can simply abandon Earth when it becomes too toxic to support life and fly off to another planet.

Earth is hurting because of human abuse and neglect.  Selfish interests are destroying our people and our planet.  What good will all that hoarded wealth do when Earth can no longer support life?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Will they never learn?

Thugs who pull-off reprehensible deeds like detonating bombs at the Boston Marathon will never learn:

When you attack one American,
you attack every American.

It doesn’t matter if the perpetrator/s turn out to be homegrown or foreign; nothing unites Americans like an attack on innocence. For proof of this, just look back to the atrocities September 11, 2001. Yes, we all suffered, but we drew together as a nation to protect our way of life.

On April 15th, children, moms, dads, grandparents, siblings, friends and supportive strangers came out to cheer-on those participating in a grueling marathon. I’ve done it myself during Marine Corps Marathons here, in D.C. You cheer for every runner, not just your own, because they all need and deserve it.

Freedom of speech allows and empowers Americans to express their grievances. Covertly killing, maiming and terrorizing unsuspecting victims is cowardly and achieves nothing but hatred directed at those responsible.

We will grieve our losses and help those who need it any way we can. Then we will move on knowing that the American way of life works and will survive. . . .

[Even though Congress continues to refuse to put limits on the types of weapons that can be sold to the general public and with unlimited quantities of ammunition. The original Minutemen must be twirling in their graves.]

Friday, April 12, 2013

Eagles Amongst Us

An article in today’s issue of The Washington Post triggered a memory.

While foolishly juggling too many grocery bags in an effort to make one trip between the store and my car, I stumbled and dropped several. Thankfully I didn’t fall, but it was still embarrassing and annoying.

Within seconds, a strapping young man appeared seemingly out of nowhere. After making sure I was OK, he easily picking up the bags and carried them to my car and waited while I got the trunk open.

My words of thanks felt pitifully inadequate, but he just grinned and said he was an Eagle Scout and it was his pleasure to help. Having had two brothers in scouting, I knew what it took to earn that distinction. As I snapped shut my gaping mouth, I shook his hand and said I was proud to meet him.

The Boy Scouts of America have produced young men like this for more than a century. However, now, they are going to great pains to identify and excommunicate those who are “different” -- gay. It seems that some religious and secular organizations are adopting Puritan principles when it comes to sexuality.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if it was possible to gather statistics on how many boys who earned Eagle Scout status during the past century were homosexuals. Now THAT would be an eye-opener!

One reason there seems to be an explosion in the LGBT* population is that its members have organized and now have strength in numbers. They’re fighting back against decades of fear, confusion, mistrust and outright hostility to embrace their human rights. It is still an uphill fight.

Here, in the nation’s capital city as elsewhere, gay and transgender persons have been viciously attacked and/or killed because of their differences. What the Boy Scouts is doing is just as damaging psychologically.

Being excluded from something because of the way someone was born can be excruciating. I would compare it with saying you can’t join this or that because you don’t have green skin and purple eyes. LGBT people are born as they are. Think about it; why would anyone choose to be discriminated against and ostracized?

So, to the young man in Bethesda working hard to earn Eagle Scout status, I say BRAVO and don’t give up the fight. Plenty of people believe in you and hope that revealing the truth about yourself will help to change the status quo.

Every child deserves a chance to achieve excellence and to earn the praise that goes with that achievement. Scouting has been a firm advocate for that until now. It needs to step out of the mire of social disorientation and return to it’s laudable roots.

 
*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Excited Anticipation

For the first time in many months, since my health dramas hit, I've found a cool diversion that should appear any day now.

The so-called 17-year locusts are coming!  Billions of them will be clawing up through soil that has held them dormant for the past 17 years.  Why they hang out underground for so long is a mystery to me.  However, their sole purpose, once they emerge, will be to find mates to procreate.

I clearly remember the last time these cool/creepy looking insects "visited" our region.  They are so hot to trot that they will fly right into people and objects in their frantic search for sexual release.  Their urgent, boisterous mating calls become a solid wall of inescapable, constant buzzing.  To my ears it sounds just like the tinnitus I hear all the time, except louder.
Photo: Seventeen-year cicada or periodical locust
Cicadas emerge from the ground as larva. They soon grab onto a tree or any other rough surface to shed their skins and free their transparent wings.  As a kid, living in the Midwest, my playmates and I spent hours trying to collect the most shells.  The sharp claws left on the shells made it possible for us to wear them on our clothing -- something we thought was truly awesome.

One benefit of this 17-year appearance is aerating the soil.  Millions of 1/2 to 1 inch holes open up as the cicadas emerge from the ground, allowing rain to reach deeper into the soil.  That's my theory anyway, and I'm sticking by it.

For those who dislike stepping on their crunchy bodies or being smacked in the face by one clumsily flying in search of love, remember that they've been without everything for 17 years and won't be around for long.  So enjoy the red-eyed, gossamer-winged critters for what they are: a miracle of nature.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I'll be out of touch for a while.  Going to get myself some new hip hardware tomorrow!
 
These begonias grew in our balcony flower boxes a few years ago.  We're thinking of doing begonias again, maybe with some petunias.
 
Spouse and I both love the scent of  "4 o'clocks", which I think are also called nicotiana or some such name.  They blossom every evening and give off the most beautiful fragrance.  They are a tad messy though, shedding big seeds that are not fun to step on bare-footed, which I usually am.
 
After yesterdays disappointing non-blizzard, the sun is shining brightly and my thoughts are all about
Spring -- that is when I'm not obsessing about tomorrow's surgery.  The Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin are supposed to peak during the last week of March, so there is reason to hope that Spring will come before Summer hits with a vengeance.



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Looks like we dodged the bullet!

As much as I love snow, I'm kinda glad we didn't get clobbered as some had predicted we would.  Counties west of D.C. did, however get hit with some significant snow.  My part of the District (Foggy Bottom) has had hours of rain and occasional snow showers, but no accumulation.  It's amazing how just a few miles of distance can result in totally different weather.

Shutting down schools, some businesses and governments was probably a good idea since workers commute from areas that have lost electrical power and/or have trees down in inconvenient places.  Rush hour is more like traffic on a Saturday afternoon.  I hope there won't be too many bad surprises for those folks heading out of town.

But cheer up!  Any snow we got will be gone soon enough.  Our temps will be back into the 50s in a few days.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

It's Panic Time Redux in D.C.

The D.C. region is bracing for our first, named snowstorm; Saturn.  Locals have already changed it's name to Snowquester in keeping with the federal government's latest move.  The storm is supposed to hit tonight and dump anywhere from three to eight inches on us.  We shall see. . .

Living pretty much equidistant from the Atlantic Ocean and the Blue Ridge Mountains our weather is notoriously quirky.  Both can influence it, so making predictions are difficult.  At the moment, the sun is shining warmly and brightly.  There is a thin skin of clouds that barely blocks a lovely blue sky.

IF we get snow, it is expected to be wet and heavy.  There are already visible buds on the Cherry Blossom trees.  They're small enough that they should survive, but it was just announced that they should reach their peak during the last week of THIS MONTH!  Please join me in keeping fingers crossed that Snowquester will be our last big winter storm.

 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Not So Fast, America!


From what I’ve been reading, it seems that there are plenty of Americans cheering the pending federal government sequester scheduled to begin this Friday.

Take a minute to think what that means not only here, in the D.C. Region but to average Americans everywhere.

In this case, sequestration will prevent federal workers from working full time or furloughing them because of budgetary constraints. In other words, many of the services Americans have come to expect and take for granted may be curtailed or delayed.

For examples, it takes millions of man-hours to manage and distribute VA benefits, health and education benefits like Medicaid and federally funded programs for childcare and education, and many other federal services that aren‘t quite as visible, like federal meat inspections. Your own finances may suffer when IRS refunds are delayed or messed-up for lack of adequate human resources. It cannot all be done by machines.

Yes, the D.C. Region enjoys a fairly high standard of living but, of course that is relative to the cost of living here. It ain’t cheap! Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of federal workers commute long distances to labor for all of us. Often this is in somewhat rustic offices inasmuch as many federal office buildings were built before or during WWII.

So, my fellow Americans, think again before you caste aspersions on federal workers. Right now many of them are concerned about how deadlines set by law will be met when their work week is cut short, or they are furloughed. Of course rents and mortgages won’t pay themselves, either.

When you think about it, the Federal Government is the largest nonprofit in America! It is controlled by the whims of Congress and the President -- not a pleasant or easy position to be in.

I you will forgive my bastardization of a familiar quote: From a few much is expected and little is given.


[Full disclosure: I am not, nor have I ever been a federal employee. I have, however, worked in formal collaboration with many. I found them to be conscientious and devoted to their agencies’ missions. It’s too bad that the “bad eggs” get so much notice. There are far more “feds” who take their jobs seriously and deserve our respect.]

Friday, February 15, 2013

Gratuitous Cuteness

On this cold, February day, following St. Valentine's Day I felt the need for some cuteness.

This little doll is my #2 goddaughter, Carolyn on her first birthday.  She is now a ravishing 25 year old.  She could truly charm the birds out of the trees -- even now!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Human Sacrifice

It’s bad enough that D.C.’s football team has a name which, to Native Americans is equivalent to the N-word for African Americans. Now the team’s management is sacrificing a remarkable young man for the sake of winning games.

Robert Griffin III is a brilliant, dignified young man who happens to be a splendid football player. When he arrived in Washington to throngs of cheering fans, he kept his feet firmly on the ground and maintained a healthy skepticism regarding the adulation.

In short time, RGIII has become a heroic, saving grace for a mediocre football team. Not only does he know how to through a football, but he isn’t afraid to run with it when the need arises.

There are very few professional athletes who can provide the sort of role model Griffin does. His modesty, integrity, intelligence and professionalism make him unique in the world of sports heroes. I have the feeling he will not succumb to the adulation that has turned other athletes into embarrassing caricatures of themselves.

Unfortunately, he may succumb to injuries exacerbated by greedy team management. Last Sunday’s game was disastrous. I’m not talking about the fact that the team lost. I’m referring to the crippling sacrifice of one of the teams most promising players.

It wouldn’t surprise me if RGIII insisted on playing though he knew his knee wasn’t 100%. However, it is the responsibility of coaches and management to weigh the benefits of playing in a game vs. further damage to an already injured player.

I pray his injured knee can be repaired so that it will not cause him permanent problems. It would be a crying shame if it ends his football career but he has huge potential on or off the gridiron. Good luck, Robert.