Monday, December 22, 2008

12 Days of Christmas (Tech Toy Version)

On the first day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
A cell phone ringing.

On the second day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
Two HD TV's and
A cell phone ringing.

On the third day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
Three Dell computers,
Two HD TV's and
A cell phone ringing.

On the fourth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
Four Wii consoles,
Three Dell computers,
Two HD TV's and
A cell phone ringing.

On the fifth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
Five Ipods playing,
Four Wii consoles,
Three Dell computers,
Two HD TV's and
A cell phone ringing.

On the sixth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
Six camcorders recording,
Five Ipods playing,
Four Wii consoles,
Three Dell computers,
Two HD TV's and
A cell phone ringing.

On the seventh day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
Seven Garmins directing,
Six camcorders recording,
Five Ipods playing,
Four Wii consoles,
Three Dell Computers,
Two HD TV's and
A cell phone ringing.

On the eighth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
Eight Tivos taping,
Seven Garmins directing,
Six camcorders recording,
Five Ipods playing,
Four Wii consoles,
Three Dell computers,
Two HD TV's and
A cell phone ringing.

On the ninth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
Nine Elmos talking,
Eight Tivo's taping,
Seven Garmins directing,
Six camcorders recording,
Five Ipods playing,
Four Wii consoles,
Three Dell computers,
Two HD TV's and
A cell phone ringing.

On the tenth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
Ten surround sound systems,
Nine Elmos talking,
Eight Tivo's taping,
Seven Garmins directing,
Six camcorders recording,
Five Ipods playing,
Four Wii consoles,
Three Dell computers,
Two HD TV's and
A cell phone ringing.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
Eleven DS games,
Ten surround sound systems,
Nine Elmos talking,
Eight Tivos taping,
Seven Garmins directing,
Six camcorders recording,
Five Ipods playing,
Four Wii consoles,
Three Dell computers
Two HD TV's and
A cell phone ringing.

On the twelvth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
Twelve Blue-ray players,
Eleven DS games,
Ten surround sound systems,
Nine Elmos talking,
Eight Tivos taping,
Seven Garmins directing,
Six camcorders recording,
Five Ipods playing,
Four Wii consoles,
Three Dell computers,
Two HD TV's and
A cell phone ringing.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Grateful For.....

It is -5 degrees F with a windchill of -25 to -35 degrees F. I'm watching the snow blowing and swirling out the patio doors as I type.

I am grateful for many things on such winter days: a roof over my head, my functioning furnace, wool socks, cozy throw. But I am most grateful for indoor plumbing.

Good Samaritans

It is heartwarming when people can help others, but the good Samaritan role takes on a brighter glow during the holidays. On Friday I watched one stranger do several acts of goodwill to another, and I'm still enjoying the happiness.

I rang bell for the Salvation Army from 2:00 - 4:00 Friday at a Walgreens. The temperature outside was in the teens and the wind was blowing fiercely, but business was brisk. (I was fortunate to be ringing between the doors of the store so was able to stay warm) Around 3:00 an old, rusty truck with a handicap license plate parked in the handicapped parking space, and its owner limped into the store. The driver had long gray hair, glasses, a long gray beard (I will call him ZZ since it was a ZZ Top beard), a dirty, worn insulated denim jacket, dark jeans, scuffed boots, a brace around his right knee and he brandished a cane.

In short order he made his purchase, returned to the truck, and after repeated attempts, failed to start the engine. ZZ lifted the hood and tinkered with whatever one tinkers under truck hoods but could not start the vehicle. In time he was approached by a customer offering help. This person, who shall be known as GS (good Samaritan), dressed in slacks, leather shoes, nice ski jacket, gloves, but no hat, spent the next 15 minutes helping with the tinkering. Eventually ZZ came into the store looking for starting fluid. He came out purchaseless and rejoined GS. After a few more fruitless minutes they drove off in GS's van eventually returning with HEET and some spray for the carburetor.

Things got exciting when the carburetor spray started on fire and flames were coming from under the hood. Running into the store I tried to find a clerk and fire extinguisher but to no avail. As I was poised to call 911 the two men put out the fire with their gloves and some metal disk thingy from under the hood. For the next 30 minutes they continued to work on the truck, a fire started once again, was put out, but the engine never kicked in.

My bell ringing shift ended, and on the way to my car I stopped to ask if either wanted coffee but no one did. ZZ was on a blanket looking underneath the truck and GS stood by. The Samaratin informed me that ZZ is from Iron River, just got out of an Appleton hospital, and did have friends with whom he could stay until the truck was fixed. GS was going to give him a ride to that friend's house.

Seeing a stranger so dedicated to helping this obviously disabled man with this old old truck is what allows me to continue to believe in the goodness of people. GS seemed genuinely surprised when I thanked him for his kindheartedness, but I had seen many people walk by the truck and ZZ without a word. And I had watched as this hatless man stayed with ZZ for an hour in the freezing cold. It is easy to ring a bell for two hours, and it is easy to drop money into the red bucket. True charity is stopping to help on a cold cold winter day and giving time, patience, and assistance for a needy person.

I experienced the giving vicariously but it touched me. GS gave a gift to ZZ, to me, and to himself. I hope ZZ has many good Samaritans in his life, and that a stranger's kindness made his Christmas merrier. GS impacted my holiday, and I wish him as much joy as he gave me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What I Learned Today

Just a few simple lessons I learned (or re-learned) today:

If you have a cut or broken skin on your hands, do not apply Purel! It burns and stings if you do!

Turn off your cell phone. It isn't always a bad thing to not be found.

A&W root beer from an A&W is much better than canned root beer.

Some days it is better to just listen and not give advice.

Neutrogena makes some darn good hand lotion.

None of these are life altering, earth shattering revelations but today they are my lessons learned.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Children's Names

I grew up in a generation of children named Kathy, Susan, Debbie, John, Michael, and Daniel. My name was considered unusual. My children's names are not exotic although not as common as one might think. My daughter was the only one in her school with the name Ann. There were a few other Patrick's in school with my son but not an overabundance. We tried to avoid the popular names. As a teacher I often experienced a classroom with four Christine's, three Jennifers, or three Jason's. We did not want our children to have the same names as many others.

The past 15 years have seen an upsurge of unique names, some of which are now common. It first started with naming babies after states: Montana and Dakota were front runners in the state name game. Kade, Hunter, and Madison which were unique years ago are now common.

I can appreciate a parent wanting to give a child a name that is uncommon because a name is an integral part of an identity. But, planting a different name on a child who for the rest of his/her life will have to spell it aloud or explain its origin is not what a child needs. Again, in teaching I slaughtered the pronunciation of Siobhan and Taylee (accent on the first syllable). During breaks in the teacher lounge on the first day student names would be discussed. Names such as Heaven, Norval, and Nived (Heaven's father was a minister, Norval was a family name, Nived was Devin backwards).

But what I heard on the radio this morning was so bizarre. In Holland Township, NJ, Heath and Deborah Campbell named their children Adolph Hitler, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, a girl named for Schutzstaffel head Heinrich Himmler. Mr. and Ms. Campbell are Holocaust disbelievers whose living room is decorated with swastikas, and other German war memoribilia. This family came to the media's attention when a store refused to decorate a cake for little 3 year old Adolph's birthday. They have also refused to make a cake for JoyceLynn Aryan Nation. However, Walmart has consented to make the cakes. If you care to read more on this story, it can be found at http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/warren-county/index.ssf?/base/news-0/122923112231930.xml&coll=3&thispage=5 The parents do not consider themselves racist and do not believe the names will cause their children harm.

Huh? Are they serious? Names are so important to a person's identity. That may be shallow on the part of society, but let's face it, we have preconceived notions of people from their names. While one may not want a name common to many others, to give a child the name of a historically odious person is cruel.

Ironically, German law insists that all German baby names must be approved by the German Standesamt, also known as the 'Office of Vital Statistics. (YeahBaby.com). While most do not want that much government involvement in their lives, people like the Campbell's do give me some pause. I wonder if their children upon turning 18 will rush to court for a name change.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Snow Globe Living

I love Christmas. The decorated trees, garland, Santa decorations, shopping for gifts, outdoor lights, the spirit of the holiday. However, there are people in my life who do not share this Christmas joy. This year, rather than being beaten down by their bahumbug-edness, I have announced that I am living in my snow globe world, ignoring all Christmas nay sayers, Grinches, Scrooges.

Holiday music plays in the background of my snow globe; "It's a Holly Jolly Christmas" is number one on the list with "Welcome Christmas" (the fah who for-aze song) a close second. The snow sparkles, I'm warm and cozy with an inner glow and the only shaking of my globe is when I'm jumping for joy. If a Humbug comes into my space I just turn up the music and loudly sing along. I have an example from just this morning. I went to Shopko, which has two entrances, and Salvation Army bell ringers were at both entrances. I donated to the volunteer, did my shopping and at the opposite entrance the bell ringers were singing. Hmmmmmm. I made my purchases, exited the store, and encountered the same non-singing bell ringer to whom I first donated. I was almost out the door when I had a thought which I shared with him, "The other bell ringers are singing." He replied, thinking he had an excuse, "I know. I can't carry a tune."
Always wanting to expand my globe I told him I would put $5.00 in the bucket if he sang a Christmas song. As often happens with unsure Christmas celebrators, he hesitated with an uncertain look on his face. To help him out I started, "We wish you a Merry Christmas" and we sang two verses together. Since I believe my singing voice was worse than his, I hoped he felt more comfortable. When we finished the song I place my money in the bucket, clasped him on the arm and said, "See, there you go! Merry Christmas!"

I'm not sure he was totally enveloped in my holiday snow globe, but we gave it a good try. You never know what seeds of joy, Christmas, and happiness you plant. While I try to keep my globe intact, I don't mind letting others in to enjoy the warmth and Christmas spirit!



Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sears Commercial

Sears is broadcasting a holiday commercial that has caught my eye. Or rather, has caught my ear. The background music is very enticing, and I finally googled the commercial and came away with the song name -- "World" by Five for Fighting.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-kpR32B-Uk&feature=channel

I became acquainted with this group's music a few years ago when I became enchanted with their song "100 Years." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-kpR32B-Uk&feature=channel

Five for Fighting's music has a pleasant light rock quality, but the lyrics secure its place in my heart. The lyrics are thoughtful and touch a very emotional part of me. While I have often felt that certain songs are ruined when used to promote commercialism (remember the "1812 Overture" and how it became the Puffed Wheat theme song), I must thank Sears for bringing my attention to "World."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

December Bliss

It is snowing, windy, gray outside, but I am yellow sunshine inside. This December I am singing "It's a holly, jolly Christmas" aloud, loving holiday decorations inside and out, and feeling a Christmas spirit I haven't felt in many years. I'm not wanting to analyze why at this time because I want it just to flow.


I smile at strangers and am saddened by their unspirited response, their consumption in their burdens, their untapped joy. But, by giving them a smile maybe I can plant a seed of holiday cheer. I have always loved Charles Dickens' "I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." (A Christmas Carol) What better time to begin than in the month of Christmas!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Holiday Shopping

I had written this article for the New London Press Star paper last year and felt it worthy of another reading.

Christmas is a conflicted holiday. No, I am not talking about the religious Christmas versus the Santa Clause Christmas. I am talking about “We wish you a merry Christmas” versus “Ba Humbug.” On one hand people contribute generously to those who struggle to provide for their families during the holidays. The Salvation Army’s bell ringers are a cheerful tradition and that organization promotes the Adopt-a-Family program. Bins for Toys for Tots are located in many stores, banks seek toy donations for local children, and food drives are common. There are always less fortunate families we can help at the holidays, and it is heartening to see communities open their pocketbooks to do just that. This is the “We wish you a merry Christmas” side of the season.

However, this spirit of goodwill doesn’t always remain strong once people head out to complete their Christmas shopping. “Ba humbug” tramples down the holiday mood when gift buyers encounter the typical December retail challenges. Anyone who has gone Christmas shopping knows that the stores are more crowded, clerks are overworked, certain products fly off the shelves becoming difficult to find, and driving in parking lots can require nerves of steel. My method of dealing with these situations is to refuse to go shopping the day after Thanksgiving and to avoid the mall after December 15. However, if you find this technique is not an option for you, I would like to offer six suggestions on how to make Christmas shopping more pleasant for all involved.

1) At any time of year it is foolish to shop when one is in a hurry but in December it is ludicrous. Waiting in check-out lines is standard fare this time of year, so if you find yourself in that situation why not spend the time daydreaming, strike up a conversation with another person in line, or take deep breaths and try to relax. You may find the lines less long if you avoid peak shopping times. Stores open earlier and stay open later and are less crowded during those uncommon shopping hours. The mall is often less crowded during the supper hour. Take advantage of these times and you may lessen your gift buying stress level.

2) Store clerks take a brunt of holiday shopper displeasure. Kindly remember those employees are hired to check you out of the store; they are not responsible for the lack of stocked items and do not create store policy. I have seen shoppers verbally abuse store clerks for no other reason than they needed a scapegoat for their holiday frustrations. I have also witnessed a shopper knock over an entire shelf of lotions and cosmetics in a small specialty store and walk out of the shop without apologizing or lifting a finger to clean the mess. If a clerk is rude or truly inept, contact a manager to discuss the employee. Otherwise, remember that the store associates are human beings who are dealing with many many stressed people and your yelling at them solves nothing. Heeding the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) will guide you to appropriate behavior.

3) Shoppers can become self-absorbed and oblivious to those around them. The mall is more crowded than usual and navigating the hallways presents challenges. Adding to those challenges are the groups of people who stop in the middle of the hallway to chat, inconsiderately ignoring the roadblock they create. Whether in the hallway of the mall or aisle of a store, pay attention to those around you and the space you occupy. Move aside to talk so others can pass without wishing you bodily harm. Strollers need to be kept as unobtrusive as possible for the same reasons. There are times when taking small children shopping is necessary, but if a stroller is involved it is important not to block aisles or run up on a person’s heels with that stroller.

4) Good manners can go a long long way during the holiday shopping season. When you bump into someone a simple, sincere “Excuse me” is appreciated. Opening the door for a person whose arms are full is just a basic gesture of courtesy. And if the door is opened for you, remember that a “Thank you” is not an option, it is a must. If a person behind you in line has only one or two items and you have a cartload, it is a thoughtful gesture to allow that person to go ahead of you. Since you have paid attention to suggestion one, you will not be in a hurry and should feel good about your kind actions to a fellow shopper.

5) Smile. If you are crabby when shopping, force a smile. You may be surprised at how your mood can improve by your attempts to smile. It is as though you are fooling yourself into not being crabby! Smile at strangers and lift their moods. It is supposed to be a cheery, happy, jolly time of year and acting accordingly will go a long way into keeping Christmas in our hearts.

6) Internet shopping is a modern way of avoiding the holiday retail pitfalls. Shipping and handling adds to an item’s cost, you say? Yes, it adds to the monetary cost, but you are saving your sanity and your time by avoiding crowds and traffic. Many sites will gift wrap and send the gift right to the recipient.

After looking at this list I realize that these are tips that could be implemented year round! But this busy shopping season is the perfect time of year to begin using them. You may be pleasantly surprised that “Ba humbug” does not run through your mind as often, and others will appreciate your Christmas spirit. Let’s try to make the shopping as stress free as possible and concentrate on the joys of the holiday.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Much for Which to Give Thanks

Last week a friend commented that there isn't much to be thankful for in today's economy. 401(k)'s are disappearing, the stock market is a dismal daily reminder of our crashing financial world, companies arrogantly beg for corporate welfare, the unemployment rate keeps rising, and there is no sunshine on the horizon for our economy.

I realize our country is facing dire issues. I understand that many families are facing horrific financial challenges while the holidays are rapidly approaching. But, I disagreed with my friend. There is still much for which to give thanks.

We have elected a new President who has recharged citizens and given the country a new sense of hope. With all the hardships facing our nation we still live in one of the greatest countries on earth. We have family and friends to love and support us. Our children are great sources of joy and pride. Our homes are heated, we have indoor plumbing, paved roads, and lawfulness. (These are things we take for granted and which many 3rd world citizens dream of) We have public education, freedom of speech, public assistance, heat and electricity in the winter even if we can't pay. Most of us have TV's, radios, MP3 players, cell phones, computers, microwaves, and a car. We have come to think that many of these items are necessities when they are actually not essential for our survival.

Maybe we need to make a list of all the tangible things we own and of the non-tangible things we have. I'm betting the non-tangibles are most important to us, but we forget about those more readily.

With all my heart I believe that things happen for a reason. Is it possible that our economic crisis will allow us to reevaluate what we need and what we want and then focus on what is truly important to us? As we sit before our abundant meals on Thursday may we reflect on what we hold dear in our hearts and find thanks for all we have.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tivoli Dream

Last night I dreamt another person and I were walking down the main street of Glenwood, Illinois, the town I lived in as an elementary/middle school student. We crossed the railroad tracks and passed a old, decrepit building emitting the most wonderful spaghetti sauce smell. I declared this place to be the Tivoli restaurant, an establishment my grandfather worked as an electrician and that my family frequented in my youth. My traveling companion and I entered the building, surrounded by the lucious cooking smells while also surrounded by run down conditions....poorly patched paneled walls, worn carpeting. After repeatedly asking if anyone remembered my grandfather, Amos Denham, we are finally introduced to a dentally challenged, middle aged red head who had known him and cheerfully led us to the basement so we could chat. While in the basement rats crawled out of a hole in the wall -- as in life, I was afraid of these aggressive rats . We were able to wrap the rats in blankets and coats and scare them off. The dream quality of the rats was that they were not only black and brown, but pink and lime green. It should be noted that they were just as frightening in the brighter colors.

I am not sure what precipitated this dream as I haven't thought or discussed that restaurant in years. I did have a conversation about my grandfather recently when during a political discussion with my son I commented that he had been a "Humphrey man." It has left a melancholy feeling this morning. While the dream brings to mind childhood memories and unearths forgotten places, it has left me with a melancholy feeling of missing my grandfather. Maybe the reason for the dream is to simply bring back to life someone who has left me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Face to Love

Ahhhh, I am having writer's block so browsed Blogger for inspiration. Blogs of Note are fun to view and I found http://www.apiferafarm.blogspot.com/ this morning. I love animals and am touched to read this blog which should be shared.

One picture on the blog is of this donkey who has a face one has to love! If I had a hobby farm I would own a donkey, a llama, a goat, ducks, kitties, and many dogs. There is something adorable about all these animals and many more.

I know people who don't believe animals go to heaven. What kind of heaven doesn't have animals? A friend, who is very religious, once said, "If my dog isn't in heaven, I don't want to go either." I cannot imagine spending eternity without animals.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Obama


It is difficult to describe the overwhelming emotions I am feeling almost 12 hours after learning Barack Obama is my President-elect. I have tears in my eyes at the feeling of joy and hope and pride for the future of my country. This man, aided by the events of the last eight years, has brought about a historical voter turnout, has instilled a hope for this country that had virtually disappeared, and broken a barrier many thought would not fall away in their lifetime.

Voters under 30 voted 2-1 for Obama, and there is hope they will continue to be involved in politics; they have seen how their votes count and that they do indeed have a say in their country's events. May that youth keep at bay the cynicism my generation has let overtake us. May they continue to be involved, be vocal, be active in the process that can be frustrating, bogged down, and tedious -- but a process that allows us to vote for change and voice our opinions loudly and clearly.

There are hard times ahead of us, changes that need to be made, work that must be done, but we have a President who will lead us, scold us, encourage us, prod us, embolden us --- there is hope where there has been a hole in our hearts. We will now have a President who can work for the good of this country and will force us to work for that good--for we are all in this together. Giving this country back its strength and its pride is a duty for us all, not just the responsibility of the President. May we hold ourselves as accountable as we hold our President.

I believe Barack Obama is the man we need for these times, the man who will give us back our strength, pride, and encourage us to work for what we need. He gives me renewed hope and inspires me as no other has.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vote


This is the bottom line.

No excuses, no indecision, cast your vote, voice your opinion,
take charge of your right.

Obama Posters


Barack Obama instills an optimism for the country and renewed interest in the political process. I am more excited about this election than any election in my voting life. Part of the excitement is the choice of candidates -- rather than voting against someone I am voting FOR a candidate. If McCain wins I can stomach that choice (I cannot stomach Sarah Palin as VP, however). But, Obama offers a hope and opportunity for this country to regain international respect lost in the last eight years.


The posters created for Obama reflect the creativity, artistry and poetry people feel from him. In this blog entry are some of my favorites.















Friday, October 31, 2008

Political Break

I interrupt the political blogging for a chicken break. Yesterday at Barnes & Nobles I found a chicken calendar. Not typically a chicken aficionado, I began to admire this creature after browsing through the barns at the 2007 Calumet Country fair. I never realized there were so many exotic looking chickens out there in farmland! Fluffy tops, colorful feathers, and flowing tails made chickens look like birds from paradise and not from the rural farm. Playing into my fascination with chickens was a story told by a son and mother at the fair. A 12 year old boy was showing a bantam chicken and had been involved in 4-H for a few years. The boy's father had died a year earlier and the mother, while disliking anything having to do with the chickens, decided supporting her son and becoming involved in his interest would help them both through their loss. She was as thrilled to be at the fair as he was!

Those of us living in a city and not involved in farm life tend to picture generic chickens, cows, horses, pigs, and rabbits. What the fair taught me is the diversity of these animals. The common Guernsey has uncommon relatives. The rabbit that feasts on my shrubs has designer cousins. The calendar pictures yesterday reminded me of the fun I had last summer and in these dismal economic times, that was worth more than the cost of the calendar.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Young Voters

The young woman at the Steve & Barry checkout counter was non-verbal until she spotted my Obama Hope bracelet. She anxiously asked where I had gotten it and told me this election will be her first time voting. She was excited about voting and very excited about voting for Obama.

Seeing the youth vote grow by leaps and bounds this election season is fantastic! In the 1972 Presidential election (McGovern-Nixon) I was one of the new 18 year old voters. (Allowing 18 year olds to vote came from the fact that this age group was fighting and getting killed in Vietnam so they should be able to elect their leaders) I was thrilled at the opportunity to have a say in my country's leadership and have been a dedicated voter since. The youth vote was not active for many years and while I'm not sure why, young voters are again actively involved in this important process

The issues facing this country directly impact young voters. Money for college, employment possibilities, gas prices all affect them and they need to choose the President they believe will best solve our current national woes. While I am sure there are young men and women who back John McCain, there seems to be a large percentage of young people who are voting for Barack Obama. In fact, he seems to have inspired a renewed interest in voting among this group and many others. Whatever the outcome of this election, it is gratifying to see more people involved in this right.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Nine Days to Go


Poster by Casey Brooks.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Casted Vote

I voted today. Since I am new to the area I needed to register and thought it better to register early since a 95% voter turnout is expected in this area. While I will probably be here on November 4 I decided not to take any chances and wanted to cast my vote so it can be counted. My daughter had a dream that for some reason she didn't vote and when she awoke Nov. 5 Obama had lost by 1 point! Not wanting such a dream to come true for us, I am happy to have done my civic duty.

It is incomprehensible to me that some people choose not to vote. Admittedly there have been times I've voted against a candidate rather than for one but still made the effort to vote. Some have said they don't like either candidate or don't know for whom to vote. Since indecisiveness is not one of my afflictions, I do not understand these sentiments. This campaign, in particular, has provided a plethora of information so a citizen would have to be making an effort NOT to access information.

Our right to vote is still historically new, and some of us have had the right to vote for even less time. To not vote is spitting on the very basics of this country and the basic tenets of the US. People in assorted countries in the world risk their lives to vote yet in this country citizens blithly ignore their personal involvemnt in this special process.

A citizen can complain about the bureaucratic mess that is Washington, D.C., may grumble that their vote won't matter, gripe that no one is concerned about the "little guy." If you don't vote, if you aren't involved in holding representatives accountable, if you don't stay informed then you, as a nonparticipant in the system, is just as responsible for this country's mess. By voting we have a say in who represents us in Washington and we have the right and responsibility to tell those elected officials how we feel about issues.

I have little patience for lazy citizens, and I still believe citizens can make a difference. In fact, I often relish being a thorn in an elected official's side. (Maybe if more people thought of it as a sport or we had betting on a fantasy congressional team more people would be interested.) Don't bother saying you don't have time for writing letters, emails or making phone calls --- we're all busy and those contacts don't take that long to make. Look at it this way. By abdicating responsibility for keeping informed on issues and not communicating your thoughts to your representatives then why shouldn't they abdicate their responsiblity to you as a constituent.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Happy Smurfday

It is the Smurf's 50th birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SMURFS!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Real Americans

North Carolina Republican Rep. Robin Hayes told McCain supporters that, "Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God." Didn't we go through the formal weeding out of real and unreal Americans during the Joe McCarthy debacle? Hmmmmm, during the 1950's "real Americans" feared and rejected communism. I'm a little foggy on what Americans are fearing and rejecting today. I do know that Barack and Michelle Obama have come under the "real American" microscope because of an email claiming that Barack didn't put his hand on his heart when reciting the Pledge of Alliegence, he is a Muslim; Michelle admitted to not always being really proud of her country, and Fox News (holders of all things "really American") pointed out the terrorist hand bump used by the Obamas. Gasp!

This issue must be further explored. If "real Americans" work hard, accomplish, achieve, and believe in God then "unreal Americans" must be non-working, unaccomplished, unachieving atheists. Here I thought I was associating with liberal friends only now to realize they are all closet conservatives because they work, accomplish, achieve, and believe in God.

One more reason to vote for Obama is to end this ridiculous talk of "real Americans" versus "unreal Americans." Once President, Barack Obama can set this nation on the path of resolving real issues, helping the US continue to be a real melting pot, and celebrating real diversity. I think a country filled with only Representative Hayes's cookie cutter, like minded, Stepford population would be mighty boring.

(P.S. As a resident of Wisconsin I am always gratefully awed that we vote for a Democrat in Presidential elections. Joe McCarthy was from Appleton, Wisconsin; the John Birch Society is based in Appleton; the Republican Party was born in Ripon, Wisconsin.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Designers for Obama


http://www.designforobama.org/ is a site of campaign sign designs. As an Obama supporter it was worth a "look-see." Just another form of support for our new hope.

Body of Lies


We saw "Body of Lies" starring Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. Both men are gifted actors and usually headline thought provoking movies. "Body of Lies" is so thought provoking that I am still mulling it over today.

DiCaprio plays Ferris, a CIA operative who is sent to Jordan to track a high ranking terrorist. Crowe is a CIA chief based at Langley who is in charge of Middle Eastern affairs. The movie is intense, fast paced, and violent. It is also an insight into a part of the world I do not profess to understand. After watching this movie I am even more disquieted about the region than before.

"Body of Lies" underscores the violence in the region, the lack of trust between not only the US and Muslims but the lack of trust between Muslims. Lives are not sacred, human sacrifices are used for gain, torture acceptable -- by both Americans and Muslims. What the movie shows is that in the Middle East the veneer of civility and sophistication covers primal behaviors and cruelties by both West and Middle East.

Do I think the US presence in Iraq has lessoned terrorism? No. Do I think a surge in Afghanastan will lesson terrorism? No. What I think might lessen terrorism is our finding alternative fuel sources so we can wave goodbye to the oil sheiks, leave the Middle East to their own fighting, and concentrate on doing non-violent good deeds. I am tired of us spending time in a land of nations who have been fighting amongst themselves longer than anyone can remember.

Do history teachers spend more time teaching US students about the Middle East than they did during my school days? Why do we as Americans understand so little about a part of the world that impacts us so greatly? Because of our dependence on oil we are intricately tied to the Middle East yet we know so little about the culture. But,like many Americans I try not to give much thought to the Middle East, and this movie brought those thoughts to the forefront in a movie screen large way, and I can't get them out of my thoughts. Which is probably where they should remain.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

HGTV


One of my escapes is to watch HGTV. I don't have a natural decorating sense and am in awe of those who do. I have picked up decorating tips, color ideas, and accessorizing thoughts from this show. What also appeals to me is that many of the houses redecorated are not million dollar houses but middle class homes. This means the ideas and applications are within the realm of possibility for me.

House Hunters are episodes I find fascinating. House prices vary so much across the US and this program also gives glimpses of housing markets in other countries. From watching this show I realize that living in Wisconsin means my housing prices are very very reasonable. In central Wisconsin one can buy a decent house for $170,000. I have watched people on House Hunters buy run down, virtually unlivable homes for $300,000! There may be things I don't like about Wisconsin (winter) but cost of living is very reasonable.

I must not be alone in my addiction to this show because most women I know also love HGTV. I think part of it is an interest in seeing how others live....like taking a walk at night, looking into an uncurtained front window of a home and catching a glimpse of the room decorating. HGTV allows us to be voyeurs and spend legitmate time looking into the homes of others.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

AIG Payback

I contacted two of my Senators and one House representative regarding the $442,000 spa retreat taken by AIG bigwigs. (Senator Kohl voted for the bailout; Senator Feingold and Represenative Kagen voted against it) Taking that retreat on top of golden parachutes is a slap in the face to the average tax payer who cannot affort such vacations but who are footing the cost of the payout.

Senator Kohl and Representative Kagen's offices took my phone number and address so I can be contacted with a response. Okay. Senator Feingold's office at least talked to me about the situation. That aide told me he wasn't sure there was anything legal that could be done to AIG for spending the money on the spa but that the Senate is conducting hearings into the matter. I suggested that these unethical individuals who obviously have no moral compass will leave the Senate chambers laughing at how they got away with the scam.

Today it has been reported that Eastern Oregon Representative Greg Walden and 48 other U.S. House Representatives co-signed a letter to Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke demanding AIG refund any money it spent on a lavish retreat after it received an $85 billion bailout. I hope their demands are taken seriously.

My question is why AIG can't be asked for the bailout money to be given back? Why should people from that company be given golden parachutes and not expected to use that money to fund their own bailout? If the Senate demands the money what is AIG going to do---sue the government? Good luck with that.

The gall and cavalier attitude of those directors in taking that vacation should infuriate every taxpayer, elected official, and US leaders. The offenders should receive more than a slap on the hand; they should have to feel the pinch the average citizen is feeling.

For heaven's sake, Martha Stewert went to jail for her insider trading. I doubt her mistake cost thousands/millions their retirement funds. These executives who have thumbed their noses at us need to be punished.

Monday, October 13, 2008

John Cleese Poetry

John Cleese wrote this poem about Sean Hannity. Sums up my opinion of Hannity!

Ode to Sean Hannity

Aping urbanity
Oozing with vanity
Plump as a manatee
Faking humanity
Journalistic calamity
Intellectual inanity
Fox Noise insanity
You’re a profanity
Hannity

Autumn

Bursts of yellow, orange, rust in flowers and leaves
Cloudless sapphire skies
Hazy filtered sunlight, warmth tinged with crispness
Apple sweet and dry decay mingled
Scurrying squirrels over fallen leaves and acorns
Spices of pumpkin and leaf smoke

Appreciate the moment don't dread the future cold
Preserve a burst of yellow leaves to
View in dead white winter

Seasonal cycles give variety
But I could live forever in fall
Always bathed in golds and soft warmness.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Huh?

Can someone explain to me how a governor can violate the trust placed in her by state residents but that such actions are not unethical. Can this behavior be allowed to go unsanctioned by the state's legislature?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Her French Son

While in a local department store I walked past a mother wheeling a stroller, her 5 yr. old son walking by her side. The boy suddenly darted away from her to look and then attempt to smell a perfume bottle on the counter. The mom chided her son to come along and leave the perfume alone also mentioning that it is for girls. Skipping over to her he brightly said, "Ooh la la!" I looked at the mom, she looked at me, and we cracked up.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Puhleeze

Fact check time. Finally free from her handlers' fetters, Sarah Palin's new mission is to declare Barack Obama a companion of terrorists. Golly, gosh, gee, tell me it ain't so, Sarah Louise! I cannot believe that after 20+ months of campaigning we are finally being told the truth about this bleeding heart left winger who wants to obviously lead our country down the jihad's path of destruction. Gosh, darn it, we had to wait until the maverick's maverick of the frozen tundra thundered into the lower 48 to save us from ourselves.

Puhleeze. The low level fear mongering so familiar to the Bush era raises its ugly head in these times of McCain's desperation to gain poll points. Whenever Bush's popularity dipped he elevated the Homeland Security rating -- the nation routinely went from a yellow (elevated) to an orange (high) rating depending on the whims of Karl Rove and his ilk. I was hoping this misuse of position was an antic of the past.

With only 32 days until the election, the major media is reporting that the McCain campaign is "taking off the gloves" and accusing Obama of terrorist connections for "palling" with William Ayers, a 1960's radical(founder of the Weather Underground) known for setting bombs in protest of the Vietnam War. No less than Time, the New York Times, New York Post, Chicago Sun Times and even Fox News have declared this claim untrue.

The key question is why the McCain campaign is focusing on fear mongering rather than spelling out his economic plans, clearly explaining his health care plan which would mean clearly explaining to the American public the difference between tax credits and tax breaks (I'd also like to know where a family can purchase a $5000/yr. health insurance policy), and explaining how he isn't going to raise taxes while supporting the Iraq War, bailing out Wall Street, and dealing with an $11 trillion debt.

Fear mongering appeals to the population who can't or won't fact check. Since I have met too many voters who believe any email that comes across their computer and who fail to fact check, I continue to hope that leaders and leader wannabes will take a higher road. I had high hopes for McCain (while supporting Obama) until he decided to become less maverick and more mainstream conservative.

It would also be worth noting that while William Ayers was a "protester" in the 1960's; using the word "terrorist" in today's society is tantamount to linking him to today's Middle Eastern terrorists.....and thus hoping to associate Barack Hussein Obama to terrorism. A new low and a great disappointment that someone as John McCain would use this tactic.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Music

Since I have listed favorite books and movies it would be logical to list favorite songs next. However, I am unable to make that list since there are simply too many favorite songs (compositions) to list.

I can list my favorite rock groups/artists: Eagles, Eric Clapton, Sting, Moody Blues, AC/DC, Doobie Brothers, The Who, Sheryl Crowe, Sarah McClauchlan, U2, Bon Jovi, The James Gang, Traveling Wilburys, Def Leppard, Pink Floyd.

But, I also like certain songs by Ozzie Osbourne (Mama, I'm Coming Home), Molly Hatchet (Dreams), Poison (Every Rose Has Its Thorns), Bare Naked Ladies (One Week), Foo Fighters (Learn to Fly) and many other songs and artists.

I enjoy Loreena McKinnet who is a Celtic singer, Eva Cassidy who defies classification (and was a favorite of Ted Koppel),George Winston, and Vince Geraldi's "Charlie Brown Christmas" soundtrack.

My parents enjoyed Russian composers and I grew up listening to anything Tchiakovsky, some Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Rimsky-Korsakov. Ravel and Verde were sometimes allowed to join the party.

I also grew up listening to show tunes and still know the lyrics to many of the songs from Sound of Music, The King and I, Oklahoma, South Pacific, West Side Story and the drinking song from the Student Prince.

Recently I have found Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman which brings me to opera. I cannot say I enjoy more than those at this point but it is a start in a new genre for me.

I do not begin to understand rap or hip hop although can appreciate the rhythm of some in small doses.

Last, but not least, I am a sucker for Christmas music. My favorite seasonal standards are Joy to the World, Noel, Hark the Herald, Once in Royal David's City, Oh Holy Night, and Do You See What I See. Mannheim Steamroller is a constant for me during December.

Music enhances my mood and can set my mood. It is tied to memories and fills in the blanks of a day.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Favorite Movies

Yesterday was favorite books; today is favorite movies.

Ferris Buehler's Day Off
Grease
Close Counters of the Third Kind
To Kill a Mockingbird
Mary Poppins
The Sandlot
The Sixth Sense
The Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge
Casablanca
Million Dollar Baby
My Fair Lady
Oklahoma
Sound of Music
Moulin Rouge
The King and I
Fiddler on the Roof
Miracle on 34th Street
Beverly Hills Cop - both movies


Let me explain why some of these movies are on the list. Ferris Buehler and Beverly Hills Cop have rule breakers as the main character plus both have a sense of humor. Both aspects appeal to me.

The "old" musicals have a special place in my heart. I love the music and the simple story lines.

To Kill a Mockingbird and Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge are based on a movie/short story. Mockingbird is the only movie I liked almost as much as the book. Occurance is better than the book and this is the only time I have ever said that about a written piece over a movie.

When flipping through channels The Sandlot, Ferris Buehler, Grease and Beverly Hills Cop are movies I will always stop to watch AGAIN. There is something about them that I love.

I have watched many a mediocre movie but there are a few reallyreallyreally bad ones that come to mind:

The Weatherman
Vanity Fair
The Goofy Movie (I fell asleep)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Favorite Books

It is "Banned Book Week." I've written on this topic before so won't go into my opinion details again. However, I will celebrate reading by listing my favorite books. I have read a plethora of books in my adulthood and find reading my great escape. No money spent in a bookstore is wasted. Of all the books I have read, the following always stay with me:

Gone With the Wind (read it 5 times)
Atlas Shrugged (read it 3 times)
Brave New World
Ethan Frome
Winds of War/War and Rememberance
Beloved
Of Mice and Men
To Kill a Mockingbird
In Cold Blood
Sons and Lovers
The Crucible (technically a play)
The Pearl
The Promise/The Chosen
Something Wicked This Way Comes

Others may come to mind after I publish this but these are ones that impacted me in some way.

Anyway, here's to reading --- banned or otherwise. Viva the first amendment!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Both Sides Now

I went to see Barack Obama last week. It was exciting to hear the lead in speeches by state politicians and a chill ran down my back when Obama came on stage. It was also energizing to talk to others who shared my political beliefs. The Resch Center was filled with 6,000 people who shared my political beliefs.

In Presidential elections Wisconsin votes for the Democratic candidate; Milwaukee and Madison are the Democratic strongholds. I live in a part of the state that is a Republican stronghold. The John Birch Society is based in Appleton, Joe McCarthy's bust is still in the Outagamie County courthouse, and the Republican Party originated in Ripon. So to be with 6,000 other Democrats was not only unusual but refreshing.

As irritated as I can get with some Republican viewpoints, I admit that if everyone thought alike it would be not only boring but unhealthy. The difference in opinions keeps discussion alive, a chance for compromise, an opportunity to look at other sides of an issue.

Financial Crisis

I have followed the financial crisis more intently than I typically follow any financial issue. I dislike meeting with my financial planner even though he is a friend and nice guy. I have a cursory knowledge of investments .... I choose not to try to understand more than necessary. I know who to call if I have questions and if issues arise.

However, the current situation demands closer attention on my part. Until today I was finding it interesting....a bit scary, but more interesting....Today, I am afraid to really concentrate on it because it seems worse than first imagined. While I would like to revert to my "let's live in fantasy land and not worry about such things" persona, this situation seems to call for a more grown up me. (Have I said I dislike reality?)

The basics of what I understand about the situation is this: lending giants irresponsibly made loans by speculating the worth of properties and when the housing market tanked they were shocked by their losses. These giants needed to fold because they had no money which means the stock market (which I can't even pretend to understand) dropped to all time lows and now credit for everyone has tightened. After watching an educational cartoon on CBS on how credit works and why/how it will be affected I can understant that this will impact us.

Now, I don't think tightening up credit a bit is a bad thing for most people. It seems we all rely too much on credit cards, spending beyond our means, etc. But, since the House failed to pass the bail out bill today it looks like the tightening will begin to bruise us. Again, I'm not sure how that will impact on me in particular but I sure have the gut feeling that it won't be good.

I can't even say whether I think it is good or bad to have the government (YOU and ME) bail out these institutions. Part of me finds it ridiculous that citizens have to help out .... as someone said, "It is the commoner helping out the aristocracy." I'd like to say let them go down. But, another part of me thinks that our country cannot afford to let these institutions fail because of the impact on the "commoner."


When I can't get my head around the issue is when I want to go into my happy little fantasy land. In that world there isn't even money . . .

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Octoberfest

Today was Appleton's Octoberfest. I have yet to attend. The kids always had soccer tournaments the same weekend or other plans would not allow it. I want to go to an Octoberfest before I die. Another item on my "bucket list." LaCrosse has a great Octoberfest --- I hear. The ultimate would be to go to Munich to celebrate.

Why October fest? I love autumn. Soft sun, no humidity, blue sky, warmish-cool weather, changing leaves. It is a celebration of season and I'd like to be part of it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gulls

Dedicated to Steven.

Just because something eats garbage doesn't mean its ugly.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Random Musings

People who refused to leave Houston and Galveston when given mandatory orders to leave are now being rescued. They should have to pay for those rescues.

McCain and Obama need to stop giving us ads that tell us what is wrong with the other and discuss the issues.

After the age of 10 birthdays should become non-celebratory days. As someone who is celebrating her 54th birthday tomorrow, I do not need a reminder of the day.

Brett who?

I wonder how Barbara Bush feels knowing her son is one of the dumbest Presidents the US has ever suffered?

Wouldn't the US be a nicer country if naps were mandatory? Why didn't the founding fathers make it a Constitutional right to nap?

I am so glad my family and Dan do not hunt. The entire kill it, gut it, eat it concept is difficult to fathom. I don't even like thinking about how meat actually makes it to the grocery store. In fact, if I take the time to really look at meat in a package I usually put it back and eat vegetarian.

I love watching HGTV. I would love to have my house on one of their shows and have them do a room makeover. However, I don't want to have to do the projects with them.

Obsessively Anti-Palin

I am obsessively anti-Sarah Palin. I spent lots of time over the weekend reading as many articles as possible about what is wrong with her as the VP choice. I only hope voting Americans wake up and see what is wrong with her as a McCain running mate.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sarah Palin

I just don't care for Sarah Palin as the Republican VP choice.

I watched her acceptance speech and tried to keep an open mind. Yes, she is a good speaker and her comedic timing is down pat. As a national newbie I found her biting sarcasm and perceived smugness unearned. Actually, I find her sudden elevation to this political status unearned. The Republican party touts her qualifications as mom, involvement in PTO, hockey mom, city counselperson mayor of a small town, governor of a state with 670,00 residents. Okay, I'm a mom, had involvement in PTO, worked on the passage of two school referendums, elected to two three year terms on the school board. While Palin finally traveled outside the US for the first time last year, I have traveled to other countries 9 times. Hmmmmm, I am more qualified to be at least lt. governor let alone VP.

During her acceptance speech Palin, the hockey mom, joked that the difference between pit bulls and hockey moms was lipstick. Petty as it may seem, I didn't like that. I've never liked the dig in and chew 'em apart sports' parents. No perspective.

The entire package has no depth. How shallow or desperate are the conservative Repubicans that an unknown of unproven value excites them to the point of frenzy? Do they really think that their Presidential candidate, should he win, will consult with this newbie on issues of importance? Much like Dan Quayle, she will be just another pretty face put out there as a vote
getter.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Men's Fashion Faux Pas

Men fashion don'ts:

Large gold chains. Such an outdated disco look or pimp wannabe accessories. Only an Olympic athlete can pull it off, preferably if there is a sentimental story behind the chain.

Tennis shoes with khakis. Tennis shoes can be worn with faded denim, athletic apparel, or shorts. That's it. No exceptions.
White socks with anything other than tennis shoes. (Well, maybe a white tux) How ghastly is it to see white socks peeking out of dark dress pants or dark Dockers; this is a beacon announcing that the man is "clueless."

Black socks with shorts. This is such a stereotypically old man look and the only men possibly able to be given a fashion pass on this is an old man. If a man is so dense that he wears black socks and shorts, he should be not be allowed out of his abode without fashion police clearance.

Shirtlessness. There are a few young men with beautifully sculpted bodies who can pull off the shirtless look. Unfortunately, there are more men whose body should never be shirtless in public. Because men seem to lack the wherewithall to know when they should remain covered a law needs to be passed that makes it illegal for any male over the age of 7 to be shirtless. However, if a shirtless male fashion police force is ever established, I would volunteer to "license" men able to go shirtless.
Comb overs. No one is fooled by comb overs. It is better to embrace baldness than to pretend it can be covered. Cut the remaining hair close, shave it off, or wear a hat that never leaves your head.

Speedos should never be a consideration unless an Olympic swimmer. Come on, guys, look in the mirror. I'm not sure a eunich could successfully wear one. Less is not more.
This may not be a complete list but it is a start. If you have read this list and think you can be an exception to these rules.......you are wrong. Tis better to error on the safe side than be the subject of female snickers.

Monday, August 18, 2008

August Already

Where the heck did the summer go? It is August already. I like fall -- the colors, crisp and cooler weather, but the impending winter casts a shadow over the season. Summer is only 3 short months. It has been a cooler, wetter summer this year and actually more enjoyable than the drought summers of the past few years. Oh, how I wish summer could last 4.5 months, early fall 5.5 months, winter 1 month and spring 1 month. Don't bother telling me about growing cycles.....if this was the way it was it would all work out. Trust me on this.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Escaped

I have escaped NL! Moved out and closed on the house Thursday --- such a liberating feeling. For how many years did I desperately want to leave NL and now have achieved that goal. A great new chapter has begun.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Packing/Moving

overwhelmed, overwhelmed, overwhelmed
stressed, stressed, stressed
tired, tired, tired
achy, achy, achy

BUT

happy, happy, happy

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have gotten so tiresome. Men who have had their moment in the spotlight, black men who worked to better their race at a time when blacks did not have equal rights. Men who still crave the spotlight so jump into crises allegedly to help but distract from issues instead.

It is time for these two to step out of the spotlight. If they want to "do good" and better "their" people or any people why can't they do it without drama? Bill Clinton is the white counter part since he can't stay away from the spotlight either. Such people lose credibilty after a time, ruining their reputation by opening their mouths too often and too inappropriately.

Barack Obama seems to rile both Jackson and Clinton even as he proceeds calmly toward the Presidency. Jackson doesn't think Barack's black enough, and Clinton compared him to Jackson and both former leaders have had to apologize for nasty remarks made about the nominee. It seems Clinton and Jackson are jealous of Obama: Jackson was not able to reach the heights Obama has and Clinton seems jealous of his win over Hillary. He also hasn't needed any of these men to help him reach this goal. (yes, past actions by them have gotten the nation to accept a black candidate) It is Barack's time in the sun and Jackson/Clinton need to realize they are mere shadows now and with each verbal faux pas they are losing any political stature they might yet have. It would be better to quit while they are ahead than be laughed at from behind.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Democracy

Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they've told you what you think it is you want to hear.
Alan Corenk

The great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter a chance to do something stupid.
Art Spander


Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.
George Bernard Shaw



Sunday, July 6, 2008

At the Zoo










We went to the Milwaukee County Zoo yesterday. A nice, sunny 80 degree day and while we did not see all the animals we saw our fair share. My favorites were: gorilla (Cassius -- 430 lbs), orangatang (Tommy -- and one hairy guy), zebras, sea lion show (how fun to be a trainer), penguins (Empirer and rock hoppers), elephants (Brittany was putting on a show with her trainer -- she paints and the paintings are for sale). The male rhino was huge and his horn was very long. In the rhino's case his horn size matches his penis size because this guy was unbelievably huge on both ends!
Simon and Garfunkel sang "At the Zoo" and the tune and lyrics are catchy:
"The monkeys stand for honesty,
Giraffes are insincere,
And the elephants are kindly but they're dumb.
Orangutans are skeptical of changes in their cages,
And the zookeeper is very fond of rum.
Zebras are reactionaries,
Antelopes are missionaries,
Pigeons plot in secrecy,
And hamsters turn on frequently."


Interesting personification of the animals. I doubt I think giraffes are insincere. Are lions hardline bargainers, flamingoes divas??

I enjoy going to the zoo as long as I don't think about large animals being locked into small environments. While understanding that many of these creatures are endangered and that by breeding them in captivity allows the species to survive and knowing that trainers work to keep them mentally stimulated makes the unnatural living circumstances palatable to me, how sad that animals are reduced to surviving by our good graces.

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th of July

I just took an online citizenship test. Immigrants wishing to become US citizens must pass a written test. How many US citizens who were born here could pass the same test? Now, maybe with studying for the test prior to taking it more people would be able to pass it. But just pulled off the street, out of the blue, and plunked down to take the test -- how would we do?

I received a 90% although I admit to having to guess at some questions. Maybe I'm feeling a bit smug about my score. But my online test was multiple choice and the real test is fill in the blank (at least that is my understanding).

Maybe all of us should have to take and pass the citizenship test every 5-10 years to be called a US citizen. But, I suppose forcing someone to be informed would be a violation of our independence.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Meditation

I'm in an 8 week meditation class, and it has been a most positive experience. There are 7-8 middle age women in the class, and the teacher, an OTR, is very low key. Much time is spent paying attention to our breathing....not increasing it or drawing it out but the mere effort of breathing. We have also spent two weeks on body scanning and this week we are concentrating on Hatha yoga poses. I am soooooooooo relaxed when I leave class. But even better than that is I remember to stop myself when in stressful situations and concentrate on my breathing. One time in irritating traffic I turned off the radio and thought about breathing. The immediate lessening of stress was magical.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Butt Crack Rock


This picture is too good not to post. This is a rock in Joshua Tree National Park we discovered on the second day at the park. The park does not advertise it as Butt Crack rock, prefering to designate another rock that looks sort of like a skull as Skull Rock hence indicating their assumption that people will think it an important picture taking spot. But this rock is stunningly simplistic and just so right for today's culture. I just had to share the picture.

Monday, June 9, 2008

City Deer

Another popular lawn ornamentation in Wisconsin are deer statues. Some of us call them "city deer" since they are displayed in front of homes in the middle of a city where no deer would graze. The deer in this picture were found loitering in the lawn of a house near Walmart. Anyone familiar with Walmart knows no self-respecting deer would go near Walmart. Guns are sold at Walmart. Guns are sold at Walmart by people who should never be allowed near guns to people who should never be allowed to touch a gun. I am convinced city deer are in danger of being shot during deer hunting season but probably are in danger even in the off season -- especially near Walmart.

Do people buy "city deer" to bring the home owner closer to nature while living in town? Are they deer lovers? Do they worship the deer? Do they have an obsession with deer that stems back to the traumatization experienced from watching "Bambi" as a child?
So many questions.......

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Book Quotes

The Worst Day of My Life, So Far by M.A. Harper holds three great quotes. Not your run-of-the-mill inspirational quotes but real people having a bad day quotes. The protagonist has come home to care for her elderly mother and the book tells the story of the mother and daughter at this time in their lives.

"Every morning that I woke up in Auletta and realized that I had not yet poisoned her, nor put my head in the oven, I figured I was doing okay."

"Never look at your high school yearbook when you're depressed, I learned. Unless you know for a fact that the Homecoming Queen now weighs three-eighty. Or is dead."

"Chocolate is a serotonin booster, cheaper than Prozac. As a matter of fact, chocolate and a couple shots of bourbon and a yearbook full of fat dead people have been known to induce actual laughing fits."

Down to earth and honest is what I like about these.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The War

This war is impacting our nation in so many horrific ways. The death of soldiers was not unanticipated. That doesn't mean the deaths are any less important or any less of a loss but death is a known entity of war. But what of the reprecussions of war now demanding attention?

Soldiers wounded in this war have a 90% survival rate which is applaudable while also presents the injured with rehabilitations never before seen in a war's wounded. Savage head injuries and facial disfigurations cause mindboggling challenges to the survivors. Loss of limbs have been a tragedy of war since wars began but ingenuity/progess in prosthetic design helps survivors better adapt to non-military life.

2007 soldier suicide rates were at an all time high and soldiers with facial disfigurement committed suicide at an even higher rate. (2100 soldiers injured or tried to kill themselves in 2007 compared with 350 in 2002; 210 succeeded in killing themselves)

And then there are the children of wounded soldiers. ABC News ran a segment tonight about the impact of parental war injuries on children. Head injuries and PTS can cause a parent to experience extreme mood swings, anger issues arise, wounds create physical challenges -- and it isn't just the soldier who deals with all this. Their children suffer from the changes in their parent.

It is clear our country's leaders did not prepare for this war in any capacity other than to invade Iraq. Troops were inadequately equipped, medical facilities in the US are embarrassingly shabby (think Walter Reed), and the VA is unable or unwilling to provide veterans with the care they need and deserve.

I despise this war and the leaders who got us into this situation. But the soldiers who volunteered are doing their job, at an embarrassingly low salary, and should be given excellent treatment upon their return. Their families must be recognized and healed also. I'd like to see our elected officials receive the care given to our returning soldiers; things would change quickly then.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Saint's Bracelet Continued

I've started wearing the Saint bracelet again. I wore it while in River Falls for Ann's college graduation and while paying the lunch bill at Mariachi Loco, the gentleman who waited on us complimented the bracelet. He then asked if I had a favorite picture and I showed him the angel that I like. He picked out three he liked and said that the picture of baby Jesus reminded him of his three year old son. Since this is a bracelet popular in Mexico I was tickled he liked it. He is from a small town near Guadalajara but only gets back there once a year.

This is a perfect example to a drive by conversation that I will always remember. The sincerity and interest shown by this stranger was endearing and, like many of these kinds of conversations, I would have loved to continue talking to him but time did not allow for it. As short as it was, the impact of this chat will be long.

Windmill Lawn Ornament

Windmills are popular lawn ornaments. In the Little Chute/Kimberly, Wisconsin, area windmill ornaments are a visible reminder of the significant Dutch population in the region. The windmill in this picture is very tasteful. This is not always the case. I have seen pink windmills, bright blue and white windmills, and some crudely crafted brick and arrow/twirly thingy creations that make Gladys's donkey look classy.

I spotted this windmill while out looking for more tacky lawn ornmaments. The quest continues.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lawn Ornaments

Spring. Green grass, perky yellow dandelions, tulips, robins, lawn ornamentation.

There are tasteful lawn ornaments: birdbaths are one, hard-to-go-wrong decoration. Bird houses are another simple example. There are some attractive bronze/copper metal flowers. Important rule to remember in any lawn decorating with objects is that less is more. A few birdbaths are good -- 10 are not. 3 birdhouses are fine --- 12 aren't.

Walking the dog the other day I saw an interesting combination of outdoor decorations. A windmill, conastoga wagon, lighthouse, and miniature gazebo lined up in front of the house. This is in central/northeastern Wisconsin area. The gazebo would work here although this one must be for lawn gnomes, rabbits. A lighthouse would be good for a house on a lake. I suppose I could pardon the owner for the windmill if they are of Dutch heritage. But the conastoga wagon? This is a new lawn decoration. Maybe the homeowner moved from Colorado (or somewhere else out West where such wagons were common "back in the day.")

I don't get it. I hope it makes the home owner happy, though. But maybe just one of those items would be better than all of them. I vote for keeping the gazebo and planting flowers inside. Maybe put a lawn gnome inside. Just a suggestion.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Playing it Safe

I've never been a risk taker. I fear failure and don't always adapt well to change. As a child I never felt I quite measured up to people's expectations. It has taken 40+ years to get past worrying about what others think, but I still am not much of a risk taker. There are times when I so vey much want to spin a pencil on a map of the US, point the car in the direction indicated and drive. No plans, just drive. That in itself is a pretty safe venture but would still be fleeing some obligations and responsibilities for a time. Go as far as I want for as long as I want doing whatever I want on the way. I love reading stories of women who have done just that.

I want to escape. I want to take a risk at something. I think that is why the thought of teaching in Mississippi keeps coming back to me. Why don't I just get in the car and drive to Mississippi and see what it has to offer. What is to lose in doing that? Why am I so bogged down in what I know? I tell people about the Mississippi idea in a joking manner because I don't want to hear their objections. Some people I don't tell at all because I don't want to hear their opinions on why this would be a bad idea.

So much of my life has been lived inside my head because it is easier to live just with me than explaining and listening to others. A counselor once told me I am my own best friend because I've had to be. At the time I didn't consider that a positive but now I'm not so sure.

I envy people who can take a different route and pay no attention to the advice of others. If it doesn't work out they have gained experiences. At 53 years old I have been playing it safe my entire life. Am I going to die without having done anything exciting? Without taking any risks?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Driving Hazards

While in Appleton this morning I saw the results of one car accident and listened to the radio report of 2 others. The two were on Highway 41 south by Neenah to Oshkosh. The other was on Northland and Lynndale which is a well regulated intersection. I was caught in the traffic backup of this last accident and at first wondered how the heck someone could get into an accident here. Upon further reflection I realized that we aren't always "in the moment" when driving. How many times have drivers had near misses and avoided an accident by the grace of the driving gods. How many times have we driven to a destination and, upon reflection, cannot remember the drive because our mind was on other things.

The accident on Northland and Lynndale was a van that had flipped. Probably easier to do thanI want to realize.

Imagine driving along on a sunny, pleasant 70 degree spring day and suddenly have your entire world changed in a split second --- changed either due to your own neglegence or someone else's. We are all too distracted these days and distracted behind the wheel of a car is not good. An obvious statement but how often are any of us putting ourselves and others in danger because of this distractedness?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

No Ideas

I'm having a writing block. Or maybe its an enthusiasm block. I think of things to write when I'm not near paper or computer. Not earth shattering ideas but still ideas. They disappear when I want to write.

So let me be cliche. I am cast adrift on the sea of nothingness. I am blank, devoid of creativity. My pen (keyboard) is forlorn from uselessness. I mourn my muse.

You get the drift.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Offer

My house went up for sale on Monday (sign goes in the yard tomorrow and so far nothing online)and today I made an offer to purchase on a house in Appleton. Contingent on the sale of my house, of course. This is all a bit overwhelming. I've lived in NL for 27 post college years and while I am ready not to live there, it is a change. How often will I see the kids when they come home, will I stay in touch with the friends I care about in NL, will I like this house as much as I love the own I now own.

My mind keeps racing ahead, thinking about the house as though I am on the verge of moving. Landscaping, paint, furniture, storage......the space where the playset sits could be turned into a garden.

Much like the shopping god, the house god will decide if I get this house and if mine sells. Well, St. Joseph will hopefully have a hand in my house selling.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pie

Pie
Pie
Me oh myNothing tastes sweet, wet, salty and dry
all at once o well it's pie
Apple!
Pumpkin!
Minced
an' wet bottom.
Come to your place everyday if you've got em
Pie
Me o my
I love pie

These are the lyrics from "The Pie Song" in the movie "Michael" starring John Travolta, William Hurt, and Andie MacDowell.

Pie is one of the perfect foods. So many kinds of pie but it seems an underrated food. Cake gets more press -- birthday, wedding, cup. Pie receives attention at Thanksgiving when pumpkin and mincemeat become important. Apple pie is linked with America; "American as apple pie." Pecan pie is Southern as is peach pie. I guess all the rest are up for grabs.


I like all fruit pies and while some people are picky about crusts, I don't place a lot of attention on the pastry part of a pie. It is important to have a crust but, for me, it doesn't make or break the pie. Cream pies are dicey. While banana cream pie and coconut cream pie are yummy, I want no part of chocolate cream pie or French silk pie. Pecan pie is too sweet. Key lime pie is a favorite while lemon meringue is just okay.


Cheesecake is cut like a pie but is called a cake. It has a crust of sorts but is called cake. While cheesecake is very good, I'll take a fruit pie over a cheesecake.


We were at Betty's Pies in Two Harbors, Minnesota, last summer. The restaurant had a full menu and then about 50 pie varities. The place was packed and the pies are famous. I can't imagine being near Two Harbors again without stopping in at Betty's Pies.


Norske Nook in Osseo, Wisconsin, is known for its pies. I had sour cream and raisin pie there, and while a seemingly an odd combination, it was a delicious pie. I think they may still use lard in the crust.


Baker's Square has good pies although not as good as Norske Nook or Betty's Pies. My favorite at Baker's Square is their strawberry pie. Mmmmmm. Hard to go wrong with strawberries anyway but this pie is extra good.


It would be great fun to go into a restaurant and order a slice of each pie just as was done in "Michael." Whipped cream and vanilla ice cream would be available sides. Now that's my idea of a party.

Miss America

I have never had a desire to be Miss America. However, I do enjoy the typical "I want world peace" response given to the question and answer session. If the pageant participant's father works in or owns a munitions plant would she really want world peace?


I would like to hear one of those beauty contestants say "I want a red BMW convertible." "I want to get out of these friggin' high heels." "I want to sleep with Johnny Depp." "I want a huge steak, baked potato piled high with sour cream, and a ginormous banana split since I've been starving myself for this pageant."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ignorance is Bliss

Simple Mind
"My grandmother used to say life was so much easier when you were simple minded. It's taken me almost my whole life to understand what she meant." Brian Andreas

This quote reaches back to the "Ignorance is bliss" philosophy. And I'm beginning to think there is truth in this maxim. It goes with the "What you don't know won't hurt you." What I don't know I can't care about. What I don't understand I won't pay attention to. Suppose this all relates to my underachieving tendency but I've been thinking that dumbing down might not be a bad idea.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Saints Bracelet

I bought a bracelet in Palm Springs and have worn it every day since the purchase. It is made of wooden squares and each square has a picture of a saint. Since it was purchased on Holy Thursday we joked that it would be good luck. Funny thing, though, I was in a good mood and happy each day I wore it ------ until Friday.

I am not a particularly religious person. In contemporary questionairres I fit the "spiritual, not religious" category. I just like the idea that there could be a talisman for me. Even if it was a placebo effect talisman.

I don't agree with a lot of Catholic teachings but like the idea of angels and saints. The St. Anthony prayer is the shining example of catholic mysticism which is appealing to me. When an item is lost and I want to find it I say "St. Anthony, look up and look down, something's lost and must be found." I kid you not, that prayer works!

So, I guess I put some stock in the saint bracelet simply because I want a simple means to a good mood. Maybe I'm giving up too soon. Possibly I should keep track of the good days when wearing it and figure out the percentage. Oh, forget it. Maybe I should just wear the bracelet and take what I can get. Maybe just wearing it because I like it and it reminds me of Palm Springs is enough. If a good mood comes along that day, all the better. (I still want a lucky talisman so I'm open to suggestions or gifts!)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Drive By Conversation

I had a drive by conversation today. (These are unplanned conversations with people you don't know and probably won't see again.) I was at Archiver's and was printing pictures after taking a scrapebook class. The conversation began when a late 60-ish woman (Bonnie) asked if I was using a memory card to print the photos. The pictures I was printing were from Joshua Tree which led the conversation to her being from Arizona but looking to move to the UP. She grew up in the Chicago area and has lived in New York (didn't like it), Virginia (was okay), and California (loved it). She and her husband have become disenchanted with Arizona and want out. Bonnie and her sister are going to open a stamp/scrapbooking store in the UP. She was such a fun person and I hope I remember to drive up to Quinnesec to see this store!

Drive by conversations are refreshing, fun, and educational. A person connects with you for a short snapshot of time, you learn something about them but there is no commitment for an indepth relationship. No demands, expectations, no obligations. But you remember the person and the conversation and that it you enjoyed the time with that person.

Sun Aged Skin

I noticed today that my neck and upper chest skin is getting "crepey" and have some brown age spots. All due to aging and sun exposure. I'm not too upset about this because it represents time spent outside on hot sunny days and well earned tans. I do believe memories from sunny summer days are typically happy memories for me.

Sunshine+warm weather+a tan = happy

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Delayed in Paradise

We were supposed to depart Palm Springs last Friday morning and get into Green Bay at 7:00 p.m. While Patrick was in the lobby getting coffee that morning he overheard a conversation discussing three hour flight delays in Chicago. Come to find out, our flight was canceled! Unbeknownst to us Chicago was in the midst of a snow storm --- snow was such a vague notion to us in the 80 degree, palm tree, florally deluged climate of Southern California. A call to the travel agent confirmed the canceled flight and notified us that we wouldn't be leaving paradise until Saturday evening. That meant TWO MORE DAYS IN PALM SPRINGS!

Patrick pouted for half the day because he was ready to return to New London and spend some time with his friends over the weekend. And let's face it, the kid had spent five days with his mother and sister which was proably enough for him. He had been a good sport and agreeable about whatever we wanted to do. So, Ann and I left him at the hotel (he sat by the pool and ordered a pizza) to go to Tiffany's and the art museum.

Ann and I thoroughly enjoyed our delay in Palm Springs. Tiffany's is in a beautiful outdoor mall that boasts sculptures and flower gardens. I felt a bit intimidated walking into Tiffany's but the staff made us feel so comfortable, and we laughed a lot.

We stopped for a soda at an outdoor restaurant in the mall, and Ann introduced me to endamame (pronounced attamommy) which is steamed pea pods topped with sesame seeds. This was so tasty and the perfect snack for us. After sitting there for about 15 minutes a sprinkler-like system located on the overhang of the restaurant turned on. It seemed like a soft spray of water but didn't really get anything wet. I'm not sure what the spray was but it cooled down the area and was refreshing.

Next it was on to Saks. Ann had never been to a Sak's before. We just browsed the clothes which were out of our price range. When we stopped at the Chanel purse department a delightful sales associate stopped by to ask how many of each we wanted. He had a great personality and told us about living in Palm Springs; he had moved there from New England and loved being in California. After looking at a $1600 Chanel necklace, Ann and I moved on.

There is an art museum downtown and Ann had originally wanted to stop there but we had run out of time. This delay afforded her the opportunity to finally see it. We didn't view the entire museum but what we saw was impressive. Both of us love contemporary art and that is what we saw. The staff was also chatty and informative. Apparantly some people think it is acceptable to touch the artwork and these two staff members regaled us with some of their horror stories about such happenings. (It is amazing that people think actually touching the painting is an okay thing!)

After the museum we headed back to the hotel and then to dinner. Since we were going to pull an all nighter the next evening no one was in a hurry to go to bed so we stayed up til midnight or so and didn't get up until mid morning on Saturday.

After packing up all our belongings and loading them into the Ugly-mobile (PT Cruiser) we went for lunch at an outdoor cafe. The hotel was agreeable to our using the pool after checkout so after eating we went back and spent the afternoon working on suntans.....or in Ann's case, brightening her burn. I swear the girl was a glowing beacon of red! We sat, chatted, read, and splashed in the water until about 4:30 when it was time to get dressed and head to the airport.

We left Palm Springs to fly to LA at 8:00 p.m. Departed LA at 11:00p.m. and arrived in Chicago at 4:55 a.m. We finally arrived in Green Bay about 7:30 a.m. Easter morning. I have to admit that the night wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I'm sure watching "Alvin and the Chipmunks" made the flight whiz by!

This trip meant so much for me. To spend that time with my children is something I won't forget. Who knows when I will have them together again for a vacation. So this was a special
time for us.