Friday, April 24, 2009

Bits and pieces of this and that

Coming home from tai chi this morning, I saw - as I've seen on three separate occasions - a dad waiting for his son's school bus. Each time, dad was on his cell phone, and each time boy jumped off the bus to run to dad - who continued talking on his cell phone as he and son turned to walk home. No acknowledgment, no hug, no "could you hold on a minute, or could I call you back?" Just dad and son walking home from the bus stop with no conversation or contact. Expensive neighborhood, which doesn't mean anything, but dad needs to hang up and pay attention.

Listening to Rush this morning. His guest host was a guy by the name of Mark Davis, who I guess is a big radio hoo-hah in some place called "Texas." BUT! Mark Davis was talking about the level of discourse in today's America and how mean-spirited and hateful it has become. He was bemoaning the loss of the good old days, when people actually had interesting and informed and thoughtful and respectful debates over their differences! When people who believed differently could disagree without being disagreeable! When ad hominem attacks were unthinkable! When opposing points of view could be expressed without name-calling, perjoratives, or repeated use of the f-bomb! What made this so interesting to me (other than the oddity of hearing it expressed during Rush's time slot) was that I had just been thinking the very same thing! Mr. Davis lays today's sound-bite opinions mainly at the feet of newspapers and news magazines that invite comments by readers. And I don't think he's too far off the mark. And both conservatives and liberals indulge in all of the most egregious behaviors. He did lose me when he said that Rush's show never sinks into hatred or name-calling (sorry, Mark, I've heard it there myself), but his point was valid. At least to me. I wonder if he'll be invited back to host...

A couple of weekends ago, we had grandchildren overnight and one of them woke up with a bloody nose. A one-time event, but it was certainly traumatic for all concerned. Blood around the mouth of a toddler at 3:00 a.m. can be quite shocking, in case anyone ever asks! Fast-forward to last weekend when I finally remembered that some of that blood (not much, though) had splattered onto the white duvet that was on the bed. So, here's my little household tip, especially since I really didn't want to take the duvet off the comforter and wash, dry, and reassemble: Blood on whites comes off pretty darned well with hydrogen peroxide. After you've gotten as much as you can, rinse carefully with plain water and a clean washcloth; if any blood spots remain, use a Q-tip and your favorite chlorine bleach to just touch the remaining spots, rinsing again afterwards. I've never had it fail, and I've never had holes in linens from the bleach. The Q-tip keeps you from using too much bleach, and delivers just enough to remove the blood. Just don't forget to rinse (wipe off) with water and a clean washcloth!

Household Tip #2: Red wine can be removed from white dress shirts (I've done it), white carpeting (done that, too), and almost anything else by soaking the stain in a solution of 50% hydrogen peroxide and 50% liquid dish detergent such as Ivory - don't use detergents with color in them; use only white or clear, otherwise you'll likely have a whole new issue to deal with! It may take a day or two of soaking or some scrubbing if it's a particulary bad stain. And it's always best if you get to it right away. But it works, and I swear by it.

With the good example of my youngest son and his wife as my guide (not to mention a little boost from Michelle Obama), our neighbor and I are planting our vegetable garden this weekend. I've always wanted to grow veggies, but was afraid it was more the idea of it that appealed to me and that the actual execution would prove too much of a chore. By joining forces with a neighbor (as Ben and Briana have done), it will not only halve the labor, but increase the pride and enjoyment. Since both families consist of only two people (and half of my family isn't crazy about produce!), we've agreed that we will donate anything beyond our modest requirements to the local food bank.

Next week we're off to Europe! This week it seems that spring has well and truly arrived.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sometimes I just can't sit back and be quiet

For the second time in as many days, I've been assaulted by an email from someone in my family or extended family. No, I didn't say I've been assaulted IN an email, but BY an email.

I am a Christian, with what I consider to be Christian values (remember "Love thy neighbor," and "Do unto others"?), but I do not insist that my family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, blog-readers, or even the people who go to my church believe as I do. I think one of the greatest freedoms we enjoy in this nation is the freedom OF religion: that means you can be Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Secularist, Wiccan, Atheist, or any of a bazillion other religions and expect your choice to be respected.

I do not believe that organized prayer should be returned to schools. I believe children can pray whenever and however they choose as long as no one else (especially the school administration) dictates to whom or for what they should pray or not pray. I mentally cringe when I recall the daily New Testament reading in my school and the Christmas pageant, realizing today that there were a fair number of Jewish children in my classroom. I also ponder how difficult it must have been for the Catholic children to hear the closing words of the "Christian" Lord's prayer ("...For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory..."). Those lines were added later (most scholars believe from the Illuminations done by monks) and Catholics do not say them. So, no prayer in schools. Unless, of course, EVERYONE gets a turn and the Christian parents will allow their children to sit through readings from the Koran, prayers to Isis, etc.

I don't think the lack of prayer in schools is responsible for the "moral decline of America." I think people make choices, and some of them are bad ones. I don't think the tragedy at Columbine, Alabama, upstate New York, or any other such tragedy is because there is no prayer in schools. If that's so, then how do you explain the Sunday School teacher and granddaughter of a minister, sexually abusing and the murdering her daughter's playmate? Was she denied prayer? How do you explain Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, or Ted Haggard - ministers all - straying from their marital vows? As I said: people make bad choices.

I think the words "under God" should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. They weren't added until 1954, after all, so really don't have the imprimatur of centuries, regardless of what Sarah Palin thinks. In fact, the Pledge didn't even come into being until the late 1800s, and I'm not even sure we should have a pledge. For an interesting article, see here.

I don't think gay marriage, people living "in sin" (I'm guilty!), or the host of other "ills" that some claim are besetting this nation mark the end of Life As We Know It. I think a lack of empathy, the great divide between the haves and have-nots, the increasingly intrusive nature of the extreme right and their brand of narrowly-defined religious values into government, and a need among many to be "right" no matter the cost to their fellow humans, are far greater threats to unity and continuation of our way of life.

I don't think taxes are bad, but necessary. And I found it intriguing that while Gov. Perry of Texas was stirring up his constituents to secession from the Union, many of them were waving American flags.

I don't think firearms should be outlawed in this country, but I can't think of one good reason for a private citizen to own an AK-47 or any other kind of assault rifle.

I'm sure I've offended some of my readers (and perhaps some of my family members), and for that I am sorry. I'm not normally an offensive person. But *I* have been offended, and those who committed the offenses had no regard for my feelings.

Sometimes, even the most tolerant of people can be pushed once too often.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sshhh - it might be Spring!

Here in the part of the country often referred to as the "Pacific NorthWet," we take Spring pretty darned seriously. It is arguably our most beautiful time of the year once it deigns to arrive.

Frankly, we don't really expect the daily rain to subside until July 5th or thereabouts, but we are occasionally graced with some truly beautiful days before then.

Inevitably, though, just as we are glorying in the budding trees, the clouds will roll in and the rain will once again dampen our streets, frizz (or uncurl) our hair, derail our plans, and send us scurrying indoors for family celebrations.

Jim and I enjoyed having Ada and Addison for Friday, Friday night, and Saturday, while their parents enjoyed some couple time and a good night's rest. We colored eggs on Saturday - no photos, though; it was a very intense 20 minutes and I didn't dare leave long enough to get my camera!

We also went to the park - twice! - and had fun in the sunny, but somewhat chilly, weather.

The kids were returned to their respective parents on Saturday, but arrived again this afternoon to find that the Easter Bunny had visited Gran and Grandpa's house, leaving lots of fun things for them. They brought their moms and dads, along with Ada's grandma and uncle. We had lots of good food, fun, and general hilarity.

In the midst of our celebration, we also had a vist from Mr. & Mrs. Mallard D. Ducks. This is the third year we've been their fast-food restaurant of choice and they know they can always find cracked corn in the yard.

We know that Mallards do not mate for life, so we're not certain if it's Mr. or Mrs. who always finds his or her way back, but we're so happy to see them that we don't ask questions.

In a few weeks, our rhodies, azaleas, fuschias, and honeysuckle will fill our yard with riotous color and we'll bask in warmer, rain-free days on the deck. Till then, we gratefully welcome the brief respites from rain, the bright faces of children, and the return of "our" ducks!

I think it might be Spring!

Friday, April 10, 2009


I have a confession: I'm a secret listener of Rush Limbaugh.

I know, it's hard to believe that someone who spouts such liberal thoughts actually tunes in her radio to the man who calls himself "...America's Anchorman... America's Truth Detector; the Doctor of Democracy; the Most Dangerous Man in America; the All-Knowing, All-Sensing, All-Everything Maha Rushie; defender of motherhood, protector of fatherhood and an all-around good guy." There's a simple reason for this: I truly believe it's important to know what the people I disagree with are saying. If we willfully blind ourselves to opposing points of view we run two obvious - and perhaps other, less-obvious - risks.

The first risk is that of being surprised by information that we may not glean from mass media (every outlet has some kind of bias these days). The second risk is that of indulging in surrounding ourselves only with like-minded people and news, thereby losing opportunities to learn to defend our own positions, or even to learn something that may change our minds.

So now that I have defended myself for indulging what appears to be aberrant behavior, I'd like to turn to the concept of sacrifice.

Today, Good Friday, is the most solemn day in the Christian year. It is the day that Christians observe the most stunning act of sacrifice known to mankind. The day that a teacher, a good man, the one many believe to have been God Incarnate, willingly gave up his life for the redemption of mankind. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13 KJV)

Jesus taught by example the concept of sacrifice and sacrifical love, even for those we do not know, even for those who may persecute us, condemn us, even kill us. And that message was so strong, so believable, that even today we have people whom we call martyrs, people who will give their livelihood and their lives for causes and people that provide no benefit to them, but who believe in the concept of the greater good.

So what connection does Rush Limbaugh have with sacrifice? Well, on a recent weekday Mr. Limbaugh railed against sacrifice while promoting self-interest. As I listened, I was struck by how many people on the Far Right, many who call themselves "Christians," subscribe to the concept of sacrifice as an undesirable action. To be fair, Limbaugh approves what he calls "sacrifice" when it's performed for the benefit of our children and families; but to sacrifice so that others not related to us may benefit is derided as "...cheating them out of their own self-interest."

Perhaps the following quote, lifted directly from Limbaugh's own transcript of his program, will better illustrate how he feels:

"Everybody wins when everybody's acting in self-interest. Selfishness is a different thing. Self-interest is excellence; self-interest is what's desired; self-interest is what makes people want raises; self-interest is what makes people want their families to be secure; self-interest is what makes parents want their kids to be properly educated; self-interest is what propels the United States military to victory. Not sacrifice. Not the concept of sacrifice. Sacrifice is giving something to somebody you don't know to make yourself feel altruistic. You're not sacrificing. It doesn't make you great. But giving something to your family because you provided it for them, that is good. But if you run around just giving people who do nothing for you, who are just worthless, don't have anything to do with you, you're cheating them out of their own self-interest."

And so, Rush Limbaugh dismisses the entire meaning of Holy Week and Easter, reducing not only Jesus' sacrifice, but the sacrifice of countless others - recognized martyrs, police officers, firefighters, and just plain people, who gave their lives so that others - often unknown to them - might live, or be safe, or share in the promise of this life.

On this Good Friday, 2009, and on all the days and years to follow, I hope I am never too self-important to subscribe to the belief that only me and mine are deserving of what I am able to give. And I am ever-thankful to those who have sacrificed on the battlefield, in the Civil Rights movement, for women's rights and older Americans' rights, in labor struggles, and in countless other ways, so that I - and you - might have a better life.