Saturday, December 31, 2016

Welcome to Adult Coloring - The Latest Craze!

    Wouldn't it be nice to return to childhood when your biggest decision was whether to use the peach crayon or the apricot?   I had a friend in kindergarten who never used her purple crayon.  She was saving it for something special.  When I found this out, I was dismayed that I had not had the foresight to save my purple crayon as well, although I wasn't sure why.  For kids, coloring is a social activity.
     While out Christmas shopping this year you may have noticed the walls of adult coloring books in some of the major department stores.  Welcome to the world of adult coloring - the latest craze!  It is touted to be very relaxing and great therapy for those with frazzled nerves.  Apparently by the number of coloring books available, anyone and everyone is doing it.  You can buy full sized 8-1/2 by 11 books, or miniature versions, apparently to carry in your purse and take out while waiting in line at the bank or the doctor's office -  I guess anywhere you are likely to have a few extra minutes.  I guess you are supposed to carry an extra pack of crayons or colored pencils with you at all times as well.  If anyone asks, just say they're for the grandkids. 
     The first thing I ask when I see those walls of intricately designed coloring pages is "Who has time for this???"  Well, since it's that time of year between Christmas and New Years Day when the parties are over but it's not yet time to take down the decorations, apparently I do.  I didn't want to make the commitment of $10 to buy a full sized coloring book.  Instead I went to one of the many online coloring pages for adults and printed out a few samples.  There are myriads of themes and styles to choose from - something to meet every taste. 
    Luckily my husband and I are pack rats and even though my youngest is 17 years old, we have not yet thrown away all the art supplies from his childhood, so I found a good supply of crayons and colored pencils in the basement.   All I needed to do was knock the crust off of some of waxier crayons, sharpen a few pencils, and I was coloring away!
     My first picture was a medieval wood cutting of monks, lords, and ladies sitting around a table sharing a meal.  The second one was a Picasso-like portrait of a guy eating some fruit.  All told, it took me a couple of hours to color these two.  You can see the results below this article.
     It was amazingly fun, easy, and relaxing, although I am not sure of adult coloring etiquette so I have a few questions:
    1.) Is it permissible to mix crayons and colored pencils on the same page?
    2.) Why are the quality of crayons so different. Some are smooth and go on the paper like silk, others go on bumpy and unevenly.  How do you fix that?
    3.) If the artist made a mistake in the rendering, should you correct it, or just color it like it is?
    4.) If you are in a new relationship, at what point should you admit that you spend your free time coloring?
    5.) Is it okay to color in public?  How about during your break at work? How about while waiting in line at the unemployment office? Will it affect your chance for a promotion/employment? 
    6.) Where do you display your finished works?  Do you frame them?  Hang them on the refrigerator?  Throw them away?
    7.)  Is it possible as an adult to color too much? At what point does it change from a relaxing hobby to an obsession? At what point does it become a ridiculous waste of time?
    8.) Should you admit your coloring habit to your friends?
   Soon Christmas break will be over and I'll be heading back to work.  I'm sure I won't have time for much coloring then, but in the next few days I may indulge in a few more coloring adventures.  If you want to join me, just do a Google search on "adult coloring pages to print" and you will find many pages for your enjoyment.  Happy coloring!  Let me know what you think of my creations below.  (Oh, and may I borrow your purple crayon?  :) 


On the Edge of 2017 - Anticipating the New Year with a New Presicent

   Once again it's time to say goodbye to an old year and hello to a new one, with all the hopes for a brighter future that the New Year celebration usually brings.  We in the U.S. just witnessed an ugly 2016 election with some of the seamiest, dirtiest, most outrageous partisan tactics at the highest level that we have ever seen.  Many are still in shock over the results of that election, including me.  (For those who follow my blog, you may have notice I have been missing in action for a few weeks.  Actually I have been working on writing some books for children on themes of diversity and acceptance.  I almost feel like it's too late for the current generation, but maybe the next generation can be saved if we start now.) 

    But back to the topic at hand.....we look forward to 2017 with some anxiety about what our newly elected president will bring to the office.  How will out lives change?  Will he settle down and become "presidential?"  Will he carry out some of his most outrageous promises?  Will he ever hold a press conference, or will he continue to govern by tweets?  Will he repeal Obamacare?  Will he build the wall?  Just what can we expect from our new president and his cabinet in the years to come?

     Americans wanted change and it's change they got.  If early prognosticators are correct, Trump plans to reverse the direction we have been going as a nation on many key issues, such as environmentalism (by pulling out of the Paris agreement,) promotion of clean energy (by promoting the coal industry), and immigration (by curtailing further immigration of certain groups such as Muslims and deporting some who are already here.)  Given his sudden flip flops on positions, it is hard to say which of these policies he will really implement and which were simply tools he used to get himself elected, and now that he is in office, has no intention of fulfilling.  Remember  his rallying cry?   "Lock her up!"  Looks like that's not going to happen either.  But how many votes did he win from people who believed he would?

      I have heard from several evangelical Christians, Franklin Graham being one of them, that the election of Donald Trump as president was the answer to their prayers.  I understand where these people are coming from.  They feel that one of the greatest evils of our society is the millions of abortions performed each year.   They believe President Trump will nominate Supreme Court justices that will reverse Roe vs. Wade and make abortion illegal.   It's understandable that Christians would feel this way.  I do agree abortion is a bad thing and should be the last resort as a solution to an unwanted pregnancy, maybe only used in cases of rape and incest.   But does God care more about unborn babies than he does about poor people who depend on Medicaid, that is likely to be cut under a Trump presidency?  What about social programs that provide care for those babies who would be born if abortion is illegal?  Is it okay with God for those to be eliminated?  Does God turn a blind eye to the millions of people who will go back to being uninsured if Trump repeals Obamacare?  Is God in favor of a nuclear arms race?

     Neither party's platform holds the key to all moral issues.  Republicans like to think they hold the high ground, but a quick examination of their policies reveals that they don't.    It is true that God works in mysterious ways and "all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28.)  Maybe Trump's election really was an answer to prayer, but only God knows the ultimate plan and whether President Trump will lead the American people to the Promised Land or if things will get so bad that we will all turn to God begging for forgiveness and deliverance.       

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Theory Behind the Nearsighted Geek

     We all know the stereotype of the nerd with coke bottle glasses sitting in the corner with his nose in a book.  He (or she) is extremely intelligent but has no social skills. He only associates with other nerdy types with similar introverted personalities. He's never had a date and doesn't seem to want one.
    I am one of those near sighted geeks. I can relate to people one on one fairly well but put me in a room full of people, especially loud gregarious people, and I am ill at ease. I recently spent an evening with a group of loud, laughing, joking people and had trouble keeping up with the conversation. Although I knew each of these people individually, they seemed to take on completely different personalities when together as a group. They interacted with each other in ways very foreign to me. It was like they shared a rapport that I was not a part of.
     Their ability to interact did not seem to have any correlation to their level of intelligence. Some of these folks are professionals and some are laborers. I think it has more to do with how they learned social skills as young children.
     I will add here that my uncorrected eyesight is 20/400 and I did not start wearing glasses until I was in the fourth grade.  I think my lack of social skills is directly related to my uncorrected poor eyesight as a child.
     So what is the connection between poor vision and introversion?   If you think about it, many people with poor vision were born that way.  Their inability to see well may have only been discovered once they went to school and had eyesight screenings, or had trouble seeing the black board. That means they spent the first 6 or 7 years of their life living in a world where they could only see a few inches in front of their faces.  As babies and toddlers, they could only interact with someone who was in very close physical proximity. Without the ability to see or make eye contact from across a room, it was harder to join into group conversations and play. Their social development was hindered and to compensate, they may have turned inward and developed a rich inward fantasy life, thus the later interest in study and books.  By the time they got older and had their vision corrected, the phase of personality development that gives us the ability to interact in large groups was over and they had missed it. They would forever be behind their peers in social ability.
     I believe that' s how the stereotype of the nearsighted nerd developed. Like all stereotypes, it has a grain of truth in it.  No matter how hard a I try I will never be a social butterfly, but with a little conscious effort and practice I can learn to take action and not be a social wallflower. This is just my theory.  If anyone knows of studies that have been done to prove or disprove it, I would like to hear about them.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Safety Pin Solidarity

   I made this years ago as a cub scout leader. It seemed a little cheesy at the time but now I will wear it proudly as a symbol that I as an American do not tolerate racism, bigotry, hate speech, misogyny, religious prejudice, and other forms of mistreatment of minorities and I will stand against those who tolerate and promote it.  Won't you join me? 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Our Leaders Reflect Who We Are as a Nation

     The stock market tanked overnight, Putin & the Russians are celebrating, and Muslims and Mexican Americans are asking themselves if they should stay or leave the country.  What has brought about this strange chain of events?  In case you are living under a rock, Donald Trump has been elected the next President of the United States!

     Despite being one of the richest countries in the world with one of the highest standards of living and more freedoms than almost any other nation in the world, Americans have decided that's not enough. We need to take better care of our own interests.  Trump has promised to make America great again, promising an economy which hearkens back to the America of the 1950s and 60s when the post war industrialization and baby boom lifted the population and the fortunes of almost all of us. With all the  factories running full speed ahead, there was no shortage of jobs, and the standard of living for the average American rose higher than ever imagined.

   This went on for decades, until 1994.  Then came the North American Free Trade Agreement passed by President Bill Clinton, and as Ross Perot once put it, a “huge sucking sound” was heard across the country as many of our manufacturing jobs went elsewhere.  Americans have adjusted to the new norm by taking jobs in the service industry, health care, and the computer industry, among others.  This is not to say that NAFTA did not have adverse affects, but the average American is still wealthy compared to those of many other countries around the world.  To prove this, just ask yourself how many cars your family owns? How many televisions, video games, and cell phones?  When was the last time you went more than a few hours without food?  I realize some Americans lack those things, but the vast majority of us compared to other nations do not. 

    But still we feel slighted.  Donald Trump knew this and so he has promised to bring lots of manufacturing jobs back to America by imposing high tariffs on foreign goods and penalties on companies that move production elsewhere.   Never mind the fact that many of those companies are the very ones that still employ thousands of Americans here in the U.S. as well.  Forcing companies to manufacture products in the U.S. will force either prices here at home and abroad to go higher, or wages to go lower in order to compete with India, China, and others.  (Did I mention that Donald also wants to abolish the minimum wage?)  He will bring jobs back but at a cost because either our markets will dry up because we can't compete or wages will drop. 
    He's also going to build a wall along our Southern border to keep out illegal immigrants and force Mexico to pay for it (although they have flatly denied this.)  He's going to deport all illegal immigrants. 

     These are just a few of him amazing claims to fix everything wrong in America singlehandedly.  Has he ever delineated how he is going to do all these amazing things?  No, he hasn’t got a clue, but that doesn’t matter to us gullible Americans. We bought it hook line and sinker, and so we chose him for to be our next president starting in January of 2017.  We have had things so good for so long, it would never occur to us that someone may not have our best interests at heart.  He’s a billionaire, right? That means he’s smart and can do anything he says he can do.  Well I think he’s a billionaire.  That’s what his tax returns say, I mean, oops, oh wait a minute…..  

     But at least he’ll keep us safe.  He knows more about ISIS than the generals. More importantly, he will have full access and control of the largest most powerful military in the world.  That might come in handy after the next presidential election, or even in 2024 when his term limit is up, in case he gets beat.  He’s already told us he doesn’t like defeat.  He said himself that he would refuse to concede if he loses at the polls.  That will be a lot easier to do in a few years when he has full control of the army, navy, air force, and marines.  If he wants to stay President, it will take a coup to remove him from office, if he so desires. At least that's what his words suggest.

     There was  a strange quietness among the people I work with today.  I know that a lot of them are staunch Republicans and voted for Trump, but for all their talk and bluster I don’t think they ever really expected him to win. They thought they were casting useless protest votes against Hillary Clinton and the evil she represents in the Republican psyche.  Today, though, there was a stunned silence hanging in the air.  It was as if we were a group of adolescents that had played a dirty trick on an elderly neighbor, only to find out the next morning that we burned her house down and killed everyone in it.  The atmosphere seemed to be tinged with shock, amazement, guilt, remorse, and awe at the power of our own actions to wreak havoc. It was if everyone was silently waiting for the next shoe to fall, and fall it will, though nobody knows what form that will take.  Given Trump's unpredictability and instability, anything could happen. 

     I think the leaders we choose are a reflection of our own selves looking back at us.  This year I see a very ugly reflection.  It's meanness, and misogeny, and bigotry, and selfishness, and lack of compassion for those less fortunate, all wrapped up into one.  It's a refusal to recognize the humanity in others, and unwillingness to share the blessings we have with those less fortunate.  It's an "I want more" attitude and to hell with those who get in my way.  Want a great country?  How about fostering an environment where the gifts of others are welcomed and nurtured, regardless of where they came from, what they look like, or how they worship, as long as they are working toward the goals we all share and play by the rules.
     Let’s hope Donald Trump and a good deal of the rest of us awaken out of our xenophobic, misogynistic, fear-and hate-mongering trances to realize that the future of America is in large part riding on our words and actions in the next four years and beyond.  Let's put aside the bickering and arguing and recognize each other as fellow citizens of this great land, and let's work together to keep America as great as she has always been.      

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I'm Glad It's the Last Debate

   By the time you read this, the last debate between Trump and Clinton will probably be over, a "winner" and a "loser" will have been declared, and the pundits will be busy picking apart every statement, but I'm glad it's the last presidential debate of the 2016 election. Here's why:

1.) We will no longer be subjected to mental images of the size of anybody's "hands."

2.) We will not have to learn any more new dance crazes, like the "Hillary Shimmy" or the "Donald Jerk."

3.) We won't have to wonder about the hidden psychological meaning of extreme sniffing.

4.) All the Ken Bone red sweaters are sold out.

5.) We won't have to learn any more new nicknames, like "Little Marco" or "Crooked Hillary."

6.) We can get over the fact that the future of our great  nation is being decided based on who can tell a lie most convincingly.

7.) We won't have to wonder any more if anyone's Wiki leaks.

8.)  Hopefully no more people will bring up memories of real or imagined sexual assaults from 30 years ago.

9.) We won't have to keep explaining to our children why it's not okay to interrupt, even though the people on the stage do it.

10.) We don't have to find out how much lower anyone will stoop to be elected president.

11.) We can get the election over with and put this terrible election of 2016 behind us and get on to probably not more important, but at least less depressing things.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Trump's Not A Rapist - He's Just an Oaf

     Suddenly Republicans everywhere are up in arms about a leaked 2005 video that has Trump talking demeaningly about his failed attempt to seduce a minor soap starlet. (By "minor" I mean "not major." I don't mean "under aged.") Lots of big named politicians are now denouncing him and distancing themselves, in attempts to salvage as many Republican votes as they can in the upcoming elections that are less than a month away.
     His running mate Mike Pence is using the opportunity to pander to the religious right by suggesting we should pray for Trump's family. I'm not saying that's a bad idea but they seem to be doing pretty well, despite the boorishness of their father.  They have grown up knowing about his affairs and moral code, which seems to be "above all else, make money." 
     Let's face it. In the leaked video, Donald Trump was doing what a lot of American males do when women aren't listening, and that's bragging about real or imagined sexual exploits.  He just didn't expect the rest of America to be listening.  Donald Trump was a pretty-boy rich kid who undoubtedly had access to beautiful women his whole life. He doesn't see anything wrong with taking advantage of it.  It's doubtful that his rock solid supporters, white non-college educated men, see anything wrong with it either.
     When he said he could do anything he wants to women, he is probably stating the truth about some opportunistic females.   There is a certain segment of women out there who would willingly subject themselves to this treatment by someone with his money and influence, in order to gain whatever benefits they could gain. Not to say that all women would do this, but someone like him knows the chance when he sees it.  "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Use and be used."  That's the name of the game. He apparently did not have success with this particular starlet though, even though he tried. Maybe he knows enough not to push it when a woman says no. There is no evidence that he actually assaulted or raped anyone. He just talks big.
    Where have the suddenly outraged Republicans been for the last 25 years? Trump has been in the public eye for most of his adult life, and not for doing good works or making civic improvements. He was apparently a regular guest on the Howard Stern Show. Just that alone should tell you something.
     I don't believe Donald Trump ever raped anyone, just like I don't believe Bill Clinton ever did. I do believe they both were boorish toward women and took advantage of their celebrity and status to use certain weak members of the opposite sex.   Bill Clinton's mistake was thinking all women would welcome his advances. They didn't. Trump's mistake is thinking that money, celebrity, and a few key buzz phrases (like " build a wall" and "make America great again") are enough to cover up a lifetime of self aggrandizement and bad behavior, and that one's personal character does not count when running for president.  Trump is not a rapist. He's just an oaf who is better off sticking to the entertainment business, where good morals and honest behavior are sometimes a liability, and where being a boorish oaf can be an asset.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Should We Elect A Politician for President?

   In the first 2016 presidential debate, Donald Trump repeatedly reminded us that Hillary Clinton has been a politician for over 30 years.  He said this with disdain, as if it were something to be ashamed of.  He also regularly boasts that he is "not a politician", and that is one of the main reasons he keeps telling us we should vote for him.  I suppose that means we can trust him, right? 
     A politician, according the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is "a person experienced in the science of government, especially once who is actively engaged in conducting the business of government."  Since she graduated from college, and even before, Hillary Clinton has been actively involved in finding ways to better her community, first as a lawyer, and then as the wife of a very powerful and popular governor who eventually was elected President, and finally as a senator, and secretary of state.  By that definition, Hillary has definitely been involved in politics for a very long time.
    But doesn't it make sense that we should elect someone who is experienced in government to the highest public office in the land?  We want someone who is familiar with how government works, has a working knowledge of world events, and can hit the ground running.   A U.S. President does not have the time for "on the job training."  A crisis could occur on his or her first day in office that he or she must have the expertise to handle.  There is no room for major blunders without affecting the lives and futures of millions of people.
     Of course experience is not the only quality we are looking for in our presidential candidates.  We want someone who is intelligent, compassionate, and can make good judgments.  We want someone who will consider how laws and policies affect all Americans, both rich and poor.  We need someone who will protect our interests both at home and abroad, who has the diplomatic skills and cool headedness to be able work with world leaders in a way that enhances cooperation, minimizes conflict, and protects our interests.  We want someone who is calm in the face of conflict and criticism.
  Yes, Hillary Clinton has made mistakes.  Nobody is perfect. But she admits to those mistakes and states how she should have done things differently.  She does seem to have learned from her mistakes.  Has Donald Trump ever admitted to a mistake without being forced to do so?  Is he cool headed?  Does he have diplomatic skills?  Can he control his tongue? 
   If you were going to have brain surgery, would you want someone who was not a brain surgeon operating on your brain?  If you were building a home, would you ask someone with no building experience at all to build it?  If you were taking a plane trip, would you be comfortable if the pilot had never flown a plane in his life?  Then why should we place someone at the helm of our government who has absolutely no political experience, and none of the aforementioned qualifications. 
     You may be bemoaning the fact that we have to choose between Clinton and Trump.  Would that there were other candidates to choose from.  There were, but we're past that stage and now we have to make the best decision we can, and we have to live with it for the next 4 years.   
     Donald Trump can continue to complain about Hillary Clinton's 30+ years of political experience.  Every time he does so, it just makes the case for electing her President that much stronger.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

In Defense of Stoic Lutherans

     I am a member of a traditional Lutheran church.  We have recently made an attempt at starting a "contemporary" worship service.  We still have retained the 4 required elements of a Lutheran worship service - the gathering, the word, the meal, and the sending - but aside from that it's pretty loosely Lutheran.  We do the confession at the beginning, and the prayers before communion, but the rest of it is mostly music and reading of scripture. 
      Since nobody in our church has ever led a contemporary worship service, we hired a worship leader who is not from the Lutheran tradition, thinking that she would not feel such a need to stick to the more "traditional" forms of Lutheran service from the past and would bring us a more of a natural, contemporary flow to our worship.
   She stayed with us for about 5 months but has resigned.  She gave many reasons for her resignation but the main one is that the Lutheran church is not her type of church.  Her background is charismatic Pentecostalism.  She said she does not find Jesus in our service and it does nothing for her.  She is used to people raising their arms in worship, becoming emotional, and falling on the floor in tears.  None of that happens in our worship. We are a rather controlled, quiet bunch.
    I know that it is a trend in modern churches to lean toward displays of rapturous emotion during worship.  Many modern day Christians have come to expect some kind of emotional high at church, without which they feel they have not really worshipped at all.
   But is that really true?  God looks on the heart, not on outward appearance. He does not compare two congregations in worship and say "Well, I like that one better. They are raising their arms while they sing.  They must love me more."
     God is not that easily fooled.   He knows what is truly in our hearts, regardless of what we look like outwardly.  He does not need us to raise our arms and sway in rapture to the music with our faces bent heavenward to know if we love him or not.  He knows those who do and those who don't. 
     Lutheranism has roots in Germany and Norway, countries whose people are characteristically stoic and not given to open displays of emotion.  Can one not worship God in spirit and in truth and still be quiet about it?
       Equating lack of emotionalism in worship to lack of true faith is like thinking that if you don't swoon every time your spouse of 35 years walks into the room, you no longer love him or her.  Lutheranism is about God's grace for all people, and knowing God loves us, no matter how we feel.  He is with us in the highs of our lives as well as the lows.  His love for us and ours for Him is not dependent upon how we feel at the moment.  Yes, it's great to feel joy and happiness in the presence of the Lord at worship, but we don't have to wave our arms in the air so everyone knows about it.  It is enough that we know and He knows, and believe me He does. 
      We can please God by worshiping Him loudly or quietly, and we can also please Him by loving our neighbor and doing what is right and good in our lives.  We can please Him by quietly following Jesus' example and treating others as we would want to be treated.  We can please Him by teaching our children and grandchildren about how Jesus sacrificed his life for them, and that we should live in service and sacrifice for others. 
      There's nothing wrong with raising your arms in church and swooning if that's what you want to do, but there's nothing wrong with sitting quietly in the presence of the Lord and being content in the knowledge that we are loved, no matter what.  "Be still and know that I am God."    

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

More Domestic Haikus for Your Enjoyment

   I had so much fun writing my vacuum cleaner haiku I decided to write a few more.  In case you forgot high school English, a haiku is loosely defined as a three line descriptive poem invented by the Japanese which is in the following format: the first line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7, and the last line has 5.  It doesn't have to rhyme (thank goodness.)  A true Japanese haiku contains the juxtaposition of two opposing ideas, separated by a "cutting" word at the end of the second line.  C'mon!  Two ideas in 3 lines?  Leave it to the Japanese to try and fit so much in such a small space.  I'm lucky to have squeezed one idea into mine.  My samples below are gleaned from everyday domestic life.  (You write what you know, correct?)  Read each paragraph below as a separate haiku.  (This is not a multi-stanza poem.)  See if you can identify with any of these:

Colors dart and hide.
Dirty water out!  Glug, glug!
New in!  Shine, fish, shine!

Dark, white, and colors.
Load in.  Load out.  Fold, fold, fold.
Fresh duds for Sunday!

Shiny tile dazzles
After an ammonia scrub.
No spots left behind.

Detritus of lives
scattered over counter tops.
Put it in a drawer!

It looks like chaos -
A teenager's bedroom floor.
Please do not disturb.

They watch "Walking Dead"
While she plays the violin
for a separate peace.

Up, sleepy breakfasts,
Separate cars go separate ways.
Regroup for supper.

   Questions? Comments? Complaints?  I'm listening.....


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Domestic Haiku at 3 a.m

  It's funny how the human brain works. I wrote a haiku type poem at 3 a.m. this morning. I had awakened from sleep as I often do around 3 a.m. and realized my husband was snoring. This is a ritual I'm sure many readers are familiar with.   As I have done many nights before, I grabbed my alarm clock and headed upstairs to finish my night's sleep in the guest bedroom. On the way up I passed my upright vacuum cleaner that I had taken upstairs a few weeks ago and never brought back down. I tell you this knowing full well that I'm revealing how infrequently I vacuum.  Anyway, as I passed the vacuum standing there in the dark, these words came into my head:

The vacuum cleaner
Stands sentry at the top of the stairs.
Will I ever run it?

    Okay, to you purists I know this is not a great artistic work and it violates true haiku form of 5-7-5 syllables, but for not even trying at 3 a.m., it was pretty close!  It makes me wonder what weird machinations of the human brain cause one to write verses about vacuum cleaners in the middle of the night. Have you ever had a similar experience? Do you think the human mind is more creative when half asleep? If you have any evidence of this from your own life, please share. I'd love to hear it!

UPDATE: Now that I've had some time to think about this, I have updated my poem to true haiku form -

The vacuum cleaner
Stands sentry in the darkness.
Dust sleeps unawares.

Wow, I never thought I'd get so creative over a vacuum cleaner. I feel a surge of more domestic haikus coming on....

Saturday, August 13, 2016

An Early Arrival - In Heaven

This post is written in memory of my cousin who committed suicide on August 3, 2016.  It's a fictionalized version of what might happen when a suicide victim meets his family in Heaven.  It is not meant to be scripturally accurate.  Names were changed to protect the privacy of his family.

Joe: “Dad!  I’m here!  I’m  so happy to see you!!
Dad: “Joe!  I'm happy to see you too, but I'm surprised.  You're early."
Joe: “How did you know I'm early?"

Dad: "Look behind you. You brought your unfinished work with you.  

Joe: "Unfinished work???"

Dad: "Yes.  Look behind you."

Joe turns around and sees several baskets stacked high with flowers, more beautiful than any he'd ever seen on earth.  He also sees bags of large rocks.

Dad: "See those baskets of flowers?  Those are the joys you could have spread to others on earth in your remaining years, but now you won't be able to.  And see those bags of heavy rocks?  Those are the burdens you would have helped carry for others.  Those baskets and bags will have to go to the reassignment committee for redistribution.  Someone else will spread those joys and carry those burdens.   But tell me, what brought you here so soon?"

Joe: "Things were getting rough down there.  I just couldn't take it any more. I had to get out of there, Dad.  And I missed you and Grandpa so much."

Dad: "You mean you committed suicide???"

Joe: "It's okay, Dad. I met Jesus on the way in and he forgives me."

Dad: “Of course he forgives you.  He forgives everyone who asks, otherwise you wouldn't be here.  But what about Linda
and the kids, and your mom?"
Joe: “Oh, they’ll be fine.  They weren’t so happy with me anyway.  I think they’ll do better without me.”

Dad: “I'm not so sure, Joe.  You can look through that porthole over there and see how they’re doing.   They look pretty sad right now."

Joe: "Is there anything I can do to help them?"

Dad: "I'm sure Jesus is already working on it.  He'll assign special guardian angels and comforters to your family, and the reassignment committee will be sending people to pick up the extra workload you left behind.   
   But by coming here early, you have given up the chance for many blessing and rewards, Joe, like the blessing of seeing your grandchildren, and the reward reserved for dads who raise faithful children to adulthood.   But there's nothing you can do about that now.  You're here and there's no going back.  Let's go find your mansion."
Joe: "Mansion???"
ad: "Sure. 'In my Father's house are many mansions.'  Let's go find yours!!"
(They arrive upon an attractive split level much like the one Joe lived at on earth, but much more heavenly.)
Joe: "It looks pretty nice, Dad."
Dad: "You did some good work on earth, Joe.  You were kind and patient with others and you loved lots of people who needed it.  This is your reward.  See those other houses up there?"
(Joe sees hundreds, maybe thousands of big and small houses hovering around, above, and below them, as far as the eye can see. The higher ones are more magnificent, and the lower ones are attractive but more plain.)
Dad: "Mother Teresa lives in a solid gold one close to the top, next to St. Paul.  You can visit her if you want.  Joe DiMaggio lives in that one over there.  We can visit him too."
Joe: "Wow!  This is awesome Dad!  What can we do next?"
Dad: "Let's go meet the rest of the family......your Grandma will be so happy to see you!  Welcome to Heaven, Joe.  You're going to like it here." 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Best Friends are the Ones You Met in the Seventh Grade

"To Grabber, My best friend and 100 proof nut! You always like the stupidest people! (Bob Marsh) Dag!  Well, never lose your sense of humor (?) I don't think I could get along without the crummy jokes!  Willie '71-'72"

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Dianne "Willie" Williams Whiteside who I met in seventh grade and who passed away yesterday, July 23, 2016.

    Think about yourself when you were 12 or 13 years old, in the seventh grade.  This was a time in life when everything about you was changing - bodies, voices, hair, skin.  Nothing was familiar - everything was in a state of flux.  You looked in a mirror and wondered who was looking back at you.
      In my town at this point in our education we left our isolated little cocoon-like neighborhood elementary schools, where we'd associated with the same kids since the age of 5, and were thrown together with hundreds of kids from other neighborhoods in a junior high school.  Add to that the confusion of puberty - the sudden urge to be liked by the opposite sex, while at the same time knowing they hated you.  You were unsure of yourself, trying to find a way to fit into this new social structure, to stand out and distinguish yourself from others, before you were lost in the hodgepodge of adolescence around you. 
    But then one day you suddenly found an island of safety - a friend. You caught someone's eye as they were laughing at a dumb joke you told.  Or you caught them scribbling the lyrics to your favorite song on their notebook.  You noticed they wore the jeans you had admired in the catalogue that your mom wouldn't buy you.  You felt a strange kinship....and so you spoke, hesitantly at first, but then the more you talked the more you realized that you were cut from the same cloth, experiencing the same feelings, annoyed at the same teachers, in love with the same rock stars, infatuated with the same group of boys.  Everything came rushing out until there was a river running between the two of you that flowed with all your thoughts and dreams and emotions.
    From that point on you spent more and more time together, shared more secrets.  You slept over at each others' houses on the weekends.  You ate lunch together, walked to classes together.  When you weren't physically together, you were talking on the phone.  And when you couldn't do that, you read over and over the notes that had been passed to each other during the day at school and composed new ones to pass tomorrow.
   If you were lucky you found 2 or 3 of these close allies, or even had a whole gang of them.  It was like a life raft to cling to in the teen years, a safe haven from the rest of the world around you.  Psychologists will tell us that in an effort to break away from our parents and become independent mature adults, during the teen years we form extra strong bonds with those of our own age group.  We form our own little "secret society" of peers to give ourselves an identity, and to try out different roles, test our likes and dislikes, explore interests, and learn who we are as people. (Horse puckey!  You were the coolest people on earth. That's why you had the best friendships!)
     But back to our story:  as you grew older and entered high school, you may have formed new strong bonds with others but you still kept the old bonds intact.  These were the people you did daring things with. You smoked cigarettes or pot, you stole bottles of alcohol from the corner store and drank them in each other's bedrooms unbeknownst to the parents puttering around down below.  You went skinny dipping, stayed out all night and told your parents you were at each others' houses.  You snuck out of the house at 3 a.m. and ran around the neighborhood.  You had parties and hung out with the whole extended gang of friends you had made.  You tested your wings and dared each other to go  further.  It was not all sweetness and light though.  There were fights, arguments, jealousies, and competitiveness.  There were break ups, hurt feelings and running away, but you always had your island of friendships to come back to.
    Suddenly and all too soon it came to an end.   You moved on to college, jobs, families, work and life.  If you were persistent you may have been able to keep in touch and see each other occasionally for a few years, but more often than not life took you in different directions and you eventually stopped talking at all.  You sometimes thought of your old friends  in fleeting moments and wondered how they were doing, or bumped into each other at class reunions, but it was never the same.  You could never recapture the intimate, innocent camaraderie of your youth.   You could never  go back to that world of your teens, when you and your friends were alone on that island, as the world teemed around you but you were safe as long as you were within each others' line of sight; when you were isolated from all the good and bad that would happen in your futures; when you spoke a language that only you yourselves could understand, and you had each others' backs, and nothing in the world would ever tear you away from each other.

       In memory of Dianne "Willie" Williams Whiteside 1958-2016


Friday, July 22, 2016

The Cowardliness of Terrorism

     Terrorists like to think of themselves as soldiers but they are not soldiers.  If they were soldiers they would fight a worthy opponent on a field of battle. It takes courage to go up against someone who is armed and trained for combat and ready for a fight.  It takes courage, no matter what cause you may be fighting for, to go into battle knowing that you may be the one who is wounded or killed, to know that your opponent has deadly weapons and knows how to use them.  It takes courage to put your life on the line and risk danger and even death to defend  your country, your people, your cause.  That's why we call our soldiers "heroes." 
     But terrorism does not require courage.  Terrorists don't fight against a worthy opponent. The terrorist takes advantage of the element of surprise on the most defenseless and unsuspecting among us.  The terrorist only fights when his "opponent" is unarmed and totally at their mercy.  It doesn't take courage to kill teenagers hanging out at McDonald's, who can't even run away, as they did today in Munich. It doesn't take courage to walk into an airport and gun down a bunch of travelers who are innocently waiting to board a plane, as they did in Istanbul and Brussels.  It doesn't take courage to murder revelers in a gay bar enjoying a few drinks on the weekend as in Orlando, or to storm into a concert halls, restaurants, and bars and gun down 130 unsuspecting people as was recently done in Paris.  And it doesn't take courage to get into the cab of a truck and drive through a crowd, killing 84 people who were out enjoying a night of fireworks, many with families and small children, as happened in Nice.
     Even suicide bombers are not courageous. They do not sacrifice their life for a cause or the greater good of others. They sacrifice their life for the promise of some great heavenly reward that awaits them in the hereafter.  They hide their selfishness behind black masks and disguises, afraid to show their faces to the world.
   Terrorist are not heroes.  Terrorists are washed up fanatics of a lost cause who's only aim is to hurt the innocent and most defenseless among us and wreak havoc before they die.  They do not fight their
opponent on the field of battle because they know they cannot win.   They are cowardly misfits whose lives are wasted and who are going straight to hell when their wretched life is over.  May God have mercy on the souls of their many innocent victims.       

Friday, July 8, 2016

Can't Put the Problem of Gun Violence Back in the Box

   America should not be surprised at the events of this past week - the killings of 2 innocent black civilians by police officers in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, and now the slaying of 5 police officers in Dallas, Texas.  Our society has elevated the right of gun ownership to the point that no one can interfere with anyone else's seemingly sacred right to own any kind of firearm they want and carry most of them in public.  Is it surprising that those who carry guns as a means of protecting the public are jumpy?  Almost everyone has their finger on a hair trigger these days and fully anticipates that everyone else does too.
    With the NRA as the high church of gun ownership, we have believed their mantra that the answer to the problem of gun violence is simply "more guns!"  We've been fooled into thinking that the only way we can protect ourselves and those we love is by matching firepower with firepower.  Whoever has the biggest gun and pulls the trigger first wins!
     So now we have 3 year olds blowing their brains out with loaded pistols found under granny's pillow while granny is downstairs cooking supper.  We have fathers accidently shooting & killing teenage sons at inside gun ranges during their "bonding" time.  We have deranged zealots wiping out dozens of victims at a time at movie theaters, bars, and office Christmas parties.  It doesn't even really surprise us anymore, does it?
     We have more gun deaths in our country right now that at any time in human history, but still we believe the NRA's lie that the answer is still easier access to more powerful weapons for anyone and everyone.
     So we will continue to reap the fruits of our society's misguided and reckless dependence on guns for protection.  Pandora's box has been opened, and the death and misery that has escaped can not be recaptured and stuffed back in.  Gun violence is with us to stay, and will only increase as more and more people feel the need to own a gun. There are now more guns in the United States than there are men, women, and children.  All we can do is grow numb to the daily news of accidental deaths, murders, and outright massacres, and pray that it doesn't happen to you or someone you love.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Gone With The Wind...and Glad Of It

     For a about the 40th time, I watched my favorite classic movie "Gone With the Wind" last night. Well, let's say, I watched most of it.  It's a long movie and though I've seen it in its entirety, I've never sat though the whole thing in one sitting.  I've seen it so many times I have many of the key lines memorized and can anticipate them, but with every viewing I still notice something new.
   For those unfamiliar with the story, "Gone With the Wind" is a historical fiction novel written in 1939 by Margaret Mitchell.  It's the story of  the O'Hara family who were American cotton plantation owners during the 1800's in Georgia.   It especially focuses on the family's beautiful, fiery, and cunning daughter, Scarlett and her unrequited love for the southern gentleman Ashley Wilkes, who by family tradition has married his  sweet, saintly, and mild-mannered cousin, Melanie Hamilton.
   The story plays out against the backdrop of the American South.  It opens with a written, over-romanticized soliloquy about the grand and "gallant" civilization of  slave-holding plantation owners, calling them "knights and ladies."  There are scenes of "darkies" peacefully working the fields, with no cruel overseer or bullwhips in sight.
     For some reason I never before realized how stereotypically the film portrays the black slaves owned by the O'Hara family.  They are for the most part portayed as dull, dimwitted, overgrown children who need the guidance and protection of their white, more intelligent owners.  Their dullness is emphasized by repeated scenes of them stupidly chasing around chickens, sometimes in the rain.  The only one who seems to have any sense at all is Mammy, the head house slave. Throughout the film she attempts to keep Scarlett on the right track, serving as her guide, conscience, and mother-figure, though she is often ignored.
   Prissy is the adorable but whining, hysterical house girl who enrages Scarlett with the lie that she knows how to deliver babies when Melanie goes into labor during the battle of Atlanta. After Scarlett returns to the house after an unsuccessful attempt to fetch a doctor, Prissy's confession that "I don't know nothin' about birthin' no babies!" reveals her as a liar and earns her a sound slap in the face from Scarlett.
   Porky the house slave is good hearted but slow.  When Scarlett returns home with a captive cow, he protests, "Whose g'wine to milk that cow?  We's house slaves!"
    The book was written in 1936, barely 75 years after the end of the civil war.  Perhaps we were not yet ready to admit the cruel and inhumane ways that the slaves were treated by the Southern plantation owners.  There may have been a few who were treated kindly, but even those were still human beings held captive in servitude against their will.  Most had lives of indescribable suffering.  But in 1936 it may have been easier to look back through a set of rose-colored glasses, and infer that their lives were happy and peaceful.  After all they were just slow dimwitted children who needed someone to look after them.
     I still love the move - the romance, the pageantry all played out against the backdrop of one of the greatest dramas of American history. But as for the inaccurate portrayal of the blacks of the era, newer films like "Twelve Years a Slave" tell the true horrific story. As for "Gone With the Wind"''s sugar coating of slavery - I'm glad it's gone with the wind and hope it does not return.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Go West Virginia!!

     When you think of snorkeling, you think of the blue waters of the Caribbean, and coral reefs populated with wildly colored tropical fish, don't you? But this week I learned to snorkel in a most unlikely place -Summersville Lake, West Virginia. This mountain lake is known for its deep, clear waters and steep rock cliffs. The water is clear enough that on a good day you can see down from 25 to 40 feet.
     Snorkeling is an awesome experience. It's the act of swimming under water with a mask while breathing through a plastic tube, or "snorkel." It takes a little bit of getting used to because one part of your brain wants to tell you, "no, don't breathe under water" even though you know it is safe. Once you relax and get the hang of it, it's very relaxing.
     The only sound you hear while snorkeling is the steady rhythm of your own breathing, and if you are in an area populated by boat traffic, the occasional passing of a boat. Of course, you have to snorkel away from the speed boat lanes and stay close to shore.
     At Summersville Lake you will be pleasantly surprised by the underwater landscape. You'll see large and small  boulders that have dropped over the years from the nearby sandstone cliffs. You'll see the sunlight filtering down in rays through the water and dappling the rocks below.  You may see a school of fish swim by, unfazed by your presence in their territory. Logs and stumps are scattered here and there that you wouldn't notice from above the water. You may even see a stack of rocks placed there by a previous snorkeler or scuba diver, as if to say "I was here." (We humans can't resist leaving our marks wherever we go. ) My favorite snorkeling spots were shallow areas between 8 and 25 feet deep with slow drop offs to put my feet down on or rocks to climb on and take a break when I need to.
       Snorkeling is easy, fun, relaxing, and great exercise too. You will experience a sense of peacefulness and awe at the underwater topography that is normally reserved for the aquatic inhabitants that call it home. If you have never snorkeler you should try it. If a trip to the Caribbean is out of the question, head for Summersville Lake, West Virginia, the next best thing. You won't be disappointed!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Trip Is On - And It's Insured!

     Should we go or should we stay?  That's the question I've been asking since my son was invited to tour Europe with a high school honors band next year.  Sounds like a great opportunity, doesn't it?  Especially when friends and family members are also invited.
     But did we want to spend 20 times what we normally spend on a vacation in one trip?  And what about terrorists - some of the cities on the itinerary have been locations of terrorist attacks in recent years?  And how about that 8 hour plane ride?  My husband has flown once in his life and was sick the whole time.  Was the trip really worth it?
   My teenage son was enthusiastic, but really wanted his friend to go too.  The friend was hesitant.  How would a 16 day absence affect his relationship with his girlfriend?  At the tender age of 16, those are the issues that are uppermost in one's mind.  Problem solved - they broke up.  One obstacle removed.
   The other boy's dad was gung ho but his mom was worried.  Was it safe traveling in Europe now?  I decided to pose the question to a colleague I work with who lives in France.  Her respose was, "Yes!  Let them go!  They will have the trip of a lifetime, see wonderful things, have wonderful experiences, and bring back tons of pictures and memories that will last a lifetime."  She reminded me that the big cities have high levels of security, and the small towns are safe.  She also commented that unlike the U.S., citizens in Europe do not have access to firearms.  It's probably safer in that regard than traveling to New York or Chicago.
    Then there's the money issue.   Even though my husband and I both have fairly good jobs, my family lives frugally. We don't buy things we can't afford. We put away money for college and a rainy day. We have saved for retirement.   But this will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip that could open our eyes to the world, and may open doors of opportunity for the students that they otherwise will not have.  This is not something that should be passed up due to the price tag.  Let's do it!
     My son who is 16 is much less concerned about the risks - he only sees the chance for adventure and opportunity.  Oh, the optimism of youth!  I'm hoping a little of that carefree spirit of adventure rubs off on me in the process.  What is life if you are afraid to go out and experience it?
     As for travel sickness, there is always Dramamine and other medications to make travel more comfortable.
     And so the deposits have been made, but to be prudent, a travel insurance policy has also been purchased.  It covers the trip cost in case we cancel due to illness, or work obligations, or layoff from our jobs, or the travel company defaults, or we miss our plane due to a car accident, or the trip is interrupted due to natural disaster, or the city we are traveling to is subject to a terrorist attack, or someone get sick and has to go home.  No sense being too optimistic.  It's always good to temper the cavalier spirit of youth with a little bit of worldly caution.  The only thing it won't cover is breakups with girlfriends.  Let's keep our fingers crossed about that one.
      The only thing left to do is to apply for passports, read up on the places we'll be visiting, and start counting down the days to the trip, which is over a year from now.  Bon Voyage!


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

God Can Move Mountains - and Sometimes Concrete Steps

    If you read my last blog post you know I recently participated in a church project where a group of church members spruced up the outside of an old home in an impoverished neighborhood.  Of all the tasks we were charged with that day, the most daunting was the removal of a large set of cement steps that was not being used and was no longer needed.
     My husband is quite the handy man, having done lots of repair and remodeling on many homes.  He was sure that with a few hours of jackhammering he could break up the steps and have them out of there.  The plan was to replace them with some nice shrubbery.
   But after about 3 hours of jackhammering, he had barely removed a fourth of the stubborn mass.  Apparently they were very old, and the older concrete gets, the harder it gets.  Also, they had not been poured around a wooden form but were solid concrete.  These things were not budging, and my husband was getting tired.  Besides, we needed him to help with the other work that still needed to be done.  Our work crew was blessed with a lot of women who knew how to do yard work, but we couldn't run a power saw. There was lattice to cut and another set of wooden steps to rebuild.
  So what to do? I am not one who bothers God with my every little problem.  I figure he has more important things to do and leaves the day to day issues up to me to resolve. But this was not a little problem - this was big.  The steps were now looking pretty bad.  Chunks had been removed here and there and they now even uglier than they were before, and probably a hazard for anyone to climb on.  So I decided we needed help.
     You know the Bible verse: "If you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain 'Be though removed' and it will be cast into the sea."  Well how about some concrete steps?  We had already approached a couple different bobcat operators who were running up and down the street delivering mulch.  "If you could split them in two we could possibly pick them up," they had told me.  But they were not even close to being split in two.  We were getting desperate, so I did the only thing I could think of.  I prayed.  "God, we need your help.  Please send someone to help us get these steps out of here."  And then I waited and watched through a few more hours of futile jackhammering, while the steps dissolved at the rate of about a half inch an hour.
     But wait! Who is that coming down the street?  They mayor!   "Hey, Madame Mayor!  Can you call someone to come help us get these steps out of here?"  She was immediately on the walkie talkie calling for help.
    All that jackhammering had managed to knock a few inches off at the top and bottom of the steps.  A neighbor had offered a steel chain, and our crew had already done the dirty work of crawling under the porch and wrapping a it around the steps.  The bobcat arrived, they hooked up the chain, and lifted.  The steps rose about 6 inches off the ground, just enough to allow the bobcat to drag it out into the road and drop it there.   Now it was the city's problem!
    Thank you Lord!
We knew you'd help us.  Oh, and thank you Madam Mayor.  God sometimes uses the most common of people to move mountains.  And sometimes he uses them to move concrete steps.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Impact Your Town, Impact Your Life

  I spent the day yesterday working on a community project called "Impact Massillon 2016."  The town of Massillon was founded in the 1700s by a New Englander sheep farmer who was looking for a more temperate climate for his frail wife.  It was named after French clergyman Jean Baptiste Massillon.  It's a small working class town on the Tuscarawas River which grew into a thriving wheat trading city in the early 1800s when rivers and canals were the main routes of transporting goods.   During the first part of the 20th century many European immigrants came here to work in the local steel mills.  Now it's a middle class city of about 30,000, known mainly for it's high school football tradition.  (Ever hear of the Massillon Tigers?  How about Paul Brown?  He grew up and started his coaching career here.)
    Impact Massillon is a yearly project when the local churches combine efforts to spruce up a run down neighborhood in the city.  The leadership team decides what neighborhood will be the target of the effort, probably based on condition, need, and proximity of nearby parking for a large group of people. The churches sign up, and each church is assigned a house or houses to work on based on the number and level of difficulty they sign up for.  The homeowners must also sign up to participate.
   The churches are responsible for buying their own materials and some of the local merchants offer discounts for the project.  The churches recruit their work crews and the planning begins.  Volunteers and home owners alike sign waivers releasing the project from liability in case of accident or injury.  In order to increase the sense of community and decrease a sense of competition between churches, everyone wears the same project t-shirt on Impact Day.  The churches are encouraged to purchase t-shirts for the residents too in order to make them feel included
    When work day arrives, the street is blocked off to outside traffic.  Hundreds of people arrive early in the morning. The sound of hammers, saws, and power tools fills the air.  Dumpsters are placed at strategic locations for construction waste, and bobcats buzz up and down the streets, delivering mulch and carrying away yard waste, rocks, broken concrete, and dirt.
   At lunch time everyone takes a break.  The residents are encouraged to join the work teams for lunch, and a brief Bible study is held in order to emphasize the reason for the project:  We are doing this to show that God's love is for everyone. We are our brother's keeper.  We are meant to follow the commandment "Love thy neighbor" in our own cities in true action, not just in words.
   Then it's back to work. The projects range from "easy", which would be picking up refuse, redoing landscaping, planting some new plants, and spreading mulch, to "difficult" which could be rebuilding a porch, painting an entire house, or building a retaining wall.  Some crews finish their work in a few hours, others take several days.
  We had a "medium" project which involved some major yard work, cutting down lots of weeds, mowing grass, trimming trees, porch repair on 3 porches, painting 3 porches, removal of concrete steps, building 2 flower beds, and planting shrubbery. It took a crew of 15 (including 11 adults and 4 teenagers) about 8 hours to finish, with the help from 5 or 6 high school boys from a neighboring church.  I am especially proud of our young people who worked tirelessly without complaint.  I think these types of projects are invaluable in teaching altruism and volunteerism to young people.  Our residents, who are renters, did not interact with us too much but the homeowner, who is handicapped and not able to do the work himself,  joined us for lunch.
    It was an awesome experience. We accomplished much in just a few hours.  When help was needed, folks from other crews offered advice and manpower.  Most of all, a sense of community was formed.  It is my hope that the residents of that neighborhood have a renewed sense of being loved and cared for by this community.  Billy Graham's latest DVD was passed out as a witness to the reason behind the work.  I was a little hesitant, a little doubtful, a little wary to become involved in this project, but I am now glad to say that I participated in "Impact Massillon 2016" and am looking forward to doing it again next year.  "Impact Massillon" impacts lives.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rest In Peace Harambe

      I have watched with fascination and horror the videos of Harambe the silverback male gorilla interacting with the 3 year old boy who crawled into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo this past week.  By now you probably know that the zookeepers made the difficult decision to shoot Harambe in order to prevent him from harming the boy.  I’m sure you’ve heard the outcry from every angle: why did the zookeepers shoot Harambe rather than try to lure him away?  Why were the parents not watching the child more closely?  Why are there gorillas in captivity in a zoo anyway? Why? Why? Why?

     Some are saying that Harambe was not trying to hurt the boy.  At times he seemed almost gentle, hovering over the boy as if “protecting” him, holding his hand, and when the boy tried to scoot away, pulling him in closer so he could not escape.  But there are also moments when he was agitated, grabbing the boy by the leg and dragging him through the moat, the boy’s head bouncing off the cement.  After that particular incident the boy sat as if in a daze, probably seeing stars.

    It’s probably true that Harambe was not intentionally trying to hurt the child.  If he had wanted to, he could have snapped the boy's neck in an instant.  But it’s hard to spend time with a 400 pound gorilla without getting hurt. After just 10 minutes of “play” the boy had already suffered a concussion.  It’s hard to tell what Harambe would have done with the child if he’d been allowed to “play” with him much longer. He was obviously fascinated with the boy and didn’t quite know what to make of him, and he didn’t want to give him up.  (I’d be curious to know if male gorillas in the wild interact with their babies and treat them gently.)

     What were the alternatives to killing Harambe? Someone could have snuck into the enclosure and tried to steal the boy away. I doubt that would have worked. Harambe had already laid claim to the boy and probably wouldn’t have given him up without a fight.  They could have waited for Harambe to tire of the boy, but who knows how long that would have taken, and how beat up the boy would have been by then?   They already said that tranquilizing Harambe would have taken time and may have agitated him more before he became unconscious.

    It’s sad that an innocent beast had to die just because he was being curious and doing what came naturally.  The boy never should have been in the enclosure in the first place. If my child was expressing persistent interest in crawling into a cage with a male gorilla (which onlookers say that he was), you can bet I’d be the one dragging him in the opposite direction for a good talking to or spanking if necessary.  But it’s too late for that. Harambe is gone. 

    What are the lessons we can learn from this sad event?  1.) Watch your kids, all of them, no matter how many you have.  It’s your responsibility as a parent.  It only takes a moment for them to put themselves or someone else in danger.  2.) Don’t assume anything is 100% fail safe.  For 38 years nobody penetrated that enclosure but it only took a 3 year old a few minutes to do so. 3.) When it comes down to it and a choice has to be made, be thankful that there is someone level headed and decisive enough in the vicinity to make the right choice and do the hard thing to save you or your child.  4.) After it’s all over, ignore all the self-righteous protesters who don’t know anything at all about male gorillas.



Sunday, May 29, 2016

You Can Take It With Europe

    There's an old saying in this part of the world that says "you can't take it with you."  It means that you can't take your money with you when you die so you might as well spend it and enjoy life now.  This has come to play in my life recently when my 16 year old son was nominated to be a "band ambassador" to Europe. That means that he has been invited to join an honors orchestra and tour 8 countries in Europe next summer, sightseeing and performing in London, Paris, Venice, Switzerland, Austria, and several other cities. It sounds like a great opportunity for a youngster to see the world!  The only catch is the price, which equals about 1 month's worth of my wages per person.
     When my husband and I attended the information meeting, we thought the price would be about half of what it actually turned out to be.   But oh well, what the heck!  My usually thrifty husband threw all caution to the wind and said "I think we should all go."  (Adults are invited to participate also, for a slightly higher fee.)
     So now we are considering taking a European vacation that costs 20 times what we normally spend on our trips. Up until now we have traveled in the eastern half of the U.S., only venturing as far as a one day drive could take us from our home base which is in Ohio.  (I hate long car trips.)  We have gone as far north as Vermont and as far south as Virginia, and never left the U.S.A.  We have only stayed in a hotel once.  For many years we camped in a tent until recently we went all out and bought a truck camper - the kind that perches in the bed of your pickup truck. There's about enough room inside for two people to stand up and turn around, but it keeps you up off the ground and keeps the critters out of your food.
   So now we are considering jumping on a plane, flying for 8 hours across a vast ocean, and spending 14 days in cities we have only dreamed of or seen pictures of in travel documentaries.  We will be spending a quarter of a year's wages in a two week period, and exposing ourselves to jet lag and possible terrorist plots, not to mention hours on buses with 150 loud and rambunctious teenagers. 
     Are we crazy? Should we do it?  Will it be the experience of a lifetime, or something we will regret, especially when we look at our savings accounts?  I don't know.  I guess there's only one way to find out.  Our son is excited for the opportunity to play in an orchestra in world famous European venues.  My husband and I are not getting any younger - we are both within 4 or 5 years of retirement age.  Who knows when an illness will strike one of us down and we will no longer be fit for travel?  We've always wanted to go to Europe "someday."  Why not now?  If we don't go now, will we ever?
     All in all, I think we should go.  Yes, it's a lot of money. Yes, there are risks to traveling, but there are also risks to staying home. Do we want our son to grow up adverse to adventure and afraid of broadening his horizons and stepping outside of his comfort zone?  He will meet some wonderful people who share the same interest in music.  He will have the honor of playing with some of the best musicians in the state.  He may have the time of his life, and so may we.
    I believe I've talked myself into it.  After all, you can't take it with you, but you can take it with you to Europe.  Watch this blog for future updates.

Monday, May 16, 2016

New Song for North Carolina HB2 (Parental Discretion Advised)

I composed a new song for L.G.B.T.I.  issues.  Here it goes:

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do!
Where you gonna go when you hafta poo?
Since you're in North Carolina
And don't have a vagina.
Men to the right,
Now don't you fight
Or you violate HB2.

I'm sorry!!!  This issue is just so confusing and ridiculous to me, all I can do is make up silly songs about it.  I guess I'm being childish, aren't I?  (But I think the rhyming is pretty good, don't you?)

I'm clearly old fashioned in my views and my song choices.  Hope I didn't offend you on either count. 

Thanks for listening.

Friday, May 13, 2016

No Room for Men in the Ladies Room, and Vice Versa

  I have to make an apology for my previous post (which I have deleted) about the North Carolina HB2 bathroom law which mandates that in government buildings, including public schools and universities, transgender people must use the restroom of the sex of their birth.  I was confusing transgender with transsexual.  According to Wikipedia, "transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex the doctor marked on their birth certificate."   In plain English, this means a boy who feels more like a girl, or a girl who feels more like a boy.  A transgender person my have all the appearances of one sex but feel inside that they are the opposite sex.
   On the other hand, a transsexual is someone who has undergone medical procedures to transition from one sex to another - a man who converts to  a woman, or a woman who converts to a man. This can involve hormone therapy to raise or lower the voice, plastic surgery to change bodily appearance, and the conversion of the sexual anatomy through surgery. 
     If you are a person who feels that they are some other sex than what they were born, I feel badly for you and know you have struggles.  However, using a public restroom affects other people.   In the interest of keeping public order, I feel that a transgender person should use the restroom of the sex of their birth until they undergo transition to the opposite sex. at which point they legally become a member of the opposite sex. Up until then they are still whatever sex they were born as, no matter how the may feel about it.
   This has nothing to do with preventing molestation in public restrooms.  Multitudes of people have been molested by persons of the same sex or the opposite sex. Gender has nothing to do with it.  The only way to prevent molestation is to have a responsible adult accompany children to public restrooms.
     This has more to do with keeping order and preventing panic.  You may feel like Fay Wray on the inside, but if you look more like King Kong on the outside, you should use the  men's room.  If it make you a little bit uncomfortable, I'm sorry. At least all the other people sharing the restroom will not be alarmed.
  Where this gets sticky is when someone has started the transition or looks more like the opposite sex than their actual sex.  Then they should seek out a unisex restroom when in those buildings. 
   To be honest, most people in a restroom are not paying much attention to who else is in there with them, they just want to do their business and get out.  If you feel that your presence is going to look out of place and cause commotion, don't go there, no matter what you feel like doing.  It is in the better interest of the public to have men and boys in the men's room and girls and women in the ladies' room.  For the small percentage of the population that this makes uncomfortable, unisex rooms should be provided.  Many buildings already have these in the form of "family" restrooms.
    When it comes to locker rooms and showers, the same rule applies.  As long as your body is male, use the men's. As long as your body is female, use the women's.  Anything else is liable to cause alarm and confusion. 
      My position on this issue falls under the same category as the prohibition against yelling "fire" in a packed theater.  It's in the best interest of the general public.  Some areas of public life are black and white, and this is one of  them.  Gender is defined by physical anatomy, not by who you feel you are on the inside,  especially in the eyes of the people with whom you are sharing the restroom.