Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beware Ye Who Ignore the Sanctity of the Sign

This is my No Soliciting sign. You tell me:  Is there anything unclear about it?  Because I find it’s one of the sad ironies of life that Boy and Girl Scouts are the only salespeople on earth who seem to know the definition of soliciting. And of course they are the only groups for whom the sign is not intended.

I think I nearly have my technique down for those who ignore it. I look for my beloved sign and ask, “Did my sign fall down?” It’s always there, of course, so I point to it. “No!” I say, “There it is!” Then I quietly shut the door.

Because it shocks me how many people ignore the sign. I know people need to make a living and all, but it is generally accepted that we don’t disrespect others to do it.  And I figure my sign pretty much warns them that I am not going to be terribly receptive to whatever it is they want me to do.

According to Dictionary.com, a definition of soliciting is: “To seek to obtain by persuasion, entreaty, or formal application.” I looked it up, because one guy tried to tell me that soliciting only referred to sales, and he just wanted to ask me to change my religion. Or sometimes they just want to ask me a question, which turns out to be do I want to buy their product or service. Once someone told me his sales pitch was a “customer service update.”   Here’s news, Mr. door-to-door Customer Service Updater: poop, by any other name, still stinks.

Then today, a guy who was apparently working for a politician came to my door at the wrong time. I had my headset on to make a phone call as soon as a fax had gone through, which I was hoping to get accomplished before leaving for an appointment that I was trying not to be late for.

He told me he needed to get so many names of people who believed in non-violence. Was I non-violent?

I wasn’t trying to be sarcastic. Really. It just came out. I pointed to the sign, then my phone, and earnestly exclaimed, “No, I am extremely violent.”

He ran. Actually ran! Well, to be technical about it, he stumbled backwards a few paces first.

No Motorcycles
No Chicken Suits
No Exceptions
~Sign from TV show, “My Name is Earl”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Totally Random Tuesday-Charm

I’ve learned the hard way that Charm has an evil twin…called Manipulation.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer’s Submerged Treasure

When I was a kid, my friends and I spent every summer up at the neighborhood pool. We’d get up in the morning, swim till we went home for lunch, and then go back. I can remember being so sore-eyed and sunburned and freckled and worn out that I’d go home and fall asleep in the afternoons on top of my bedspread and a tangle of wet, chlorine-bleached hair.

Now my kids are involved with our subdivision’s swim team. When we first got started, my then four-year-old struggled down his lane looking more like he was drowning than swimming. I had to fight the urge to jump in and save him with each bob of his little head.

He grew up to be a lifeguard as a teenager and now runs that same swim team as head coach.

A few years later my daughter decided she wanted to be on the team because her big brother was. You had to be able to swim the length of the pool in order to join. So with her characteristic, iron-willed determination crammed into a preschool body, she plunged in and swam the fastest, funniest little dog paddle I’ve ever seen. Now also a teenaged lifeguard, she seems to slip through the pool with the long-legged ease of a water nymph.

Swim meets last a long, long time. So long that my survival depended on learning to love it all—from the bullhorn to the banners to the warm, heavy honeysuckle musk of sultry summer night air.

But here’s my little secret: it’s the properties of pool water that I really love. It’s weird, I know, but I am mesmerized by the shifting shimmers of color, the shivers of light, the sparkle of a silver splash. I was horrible as a stroke judge. Everything was okay in the beginning of those Monday night meets when I could remain transfixed by the fluidity of movement. But as the sky darkened, I had to fight the hypnotic draw of the movement of fluid instead.

Because the most exotic magic happens at night when the sky turns to cobalt and the pool lights up in that molten-turquoise glow with streams of golden bubbles. Oh, those bubbles! Silver in the day but gold at night—there and then gone, a precious treasure, alchemy of air, champagne of summer nights.

Art, aching to be born, will find a way! ~Karen Greene

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Totally Random Tuesday: Marriage

Marriages are about discovering each other by being ourselves. Friendships are about discovering ourselves by being with each other. Amazing how different those two are. That would explain why friendships seem to last longer than some marriages, too—we are infinitely more interesting to ourselves than to anyone else.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The REAL Real Fathers

I was helping in a high school math teacher’s classroom when one of her troubled students stomped out, so frustrated that neither of us could reach him and so angry that I was a little afraid of what he might do. Later I passed him standing with an elderly custodian who was leaning thoughtfully on his broom. I caught a snippet of their conversation as I passed. “Remember,” the custodian was gently coaxing, “how we talked about taking deep breaths and counting when you’re angry….” And the boy, taller than his elder by at least a foot, was nodding, calm now.

I smiled. Thank heavens for father figures. At one time I thought men were the gentler gender, the nurturers. Now I realize how very lucky I was to have taken good men for granted. And they are becoming even more rare. There are women who abandon their children, certainly, but the families without fathers are everywhere, it seems—my home included.

Adults who remove themselves from their responsibility to others are not only impossible to respect, but in a sense they remove themselves from true meaning in life. In the grandest of schemes, deadbeat parents essentially render themselves nothing more than life’s chaff. The most crucial and elemental priority in parenting is loving the children enough to be there. To abandon a child of any age for purely selfish reasons is one of the most abhorrent of all evils.

Child support payments alone, even when paid on time and in the correct amount, are mere attempts to buy off responsibility. Cheap attempts. Trust me: the percentage that goes for child support—at least in Missouri—doesn’t pay for a fraction of the true costs to rear a child. And that’s only the financial costs. To say that money is all it takes to rear a child is ignorance bordering on imbecility. If that were all it took, we could lock children in a room, shove money under the door, and—voila!—the quality of the adult who emerged would depend solely on the size of the money pile.

And then we hear about the vicious: the ones who imitate kindness in order to abuse.

It’s a shame that the deadbeats and perverts seem to eclipse the genuine men, the men who are willing to help guide the young. And they do exist, of course. They are teachers, coaches, stepfathers, members of the clergy, maybe, sometimes a nice neighbor. Or a school custodian. They are fathers to children who are not their own. They are the kind of men who know that only brutes conquer and cowards control. Real men stand up and lead.

This is because real men have more than muscle: they have minds and hearts and souls as well. These are the kind of men who put a paternal arm around the shoulders of our youth because these men possess the inner strength that matters most in life and the wisdom to know how important it is to pass along. They are strong enough human beings to stand up and take responsibility for what lesser men have deserted. Their gift to young people is their gift to the world. And it is huge.

These are the true unsung heroes of life. Yes, they do save lives. And they save the quality of so many more. As long as these men exist, fatherless boys will glean a real man’s character and enjoy the self respect that comes from being one. Fatherless girls will seek respectable men and enjoy the mutuality that comes from loving one. Because of these men, how many lives are improved? These pieces of Self given conscientiously enough will never die, but grow exponentially. On this path, immortality is a given. These men are fathers in the very best sense.

On this Father’s Day, don’t forget to thank a man who gives his time to young people—a father figure. If they are not his children, thank him all the more. Thank the man who is big enough to see outside of himself. Thank him for being one of the many who strives to do a father’s job when a “real” father won’t.

I believe you have a responsibility to comport yourself in a manner that gives an example to others. As a young man, I prayed for success. Now I pray just to be worthy of it. ~Brendan Fraser

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Horror of Haunted Appliances

My TV set is haunted. It’s not that I’m not used to haunted machinery; it’s just that some hauntings are more annoying than others.

In high school, for example, I had an old fashioned, windable alarm clock that used to jump off the night stand. For the longest time I thought I was knocking it off in my sleep because I’d find it on the floor every morning. Until one time I woke up in the middle of the night and watched it jump. I guess a spring was going haywire in there or something, but it was a creepy thing to watch. Like it was committing a nocturnal suicide of sorts.

Now I have haunted stuff that I find sort of endearing, like my printer that clicks and hums at odd times, as if it gets bored with sitting quietly for too long and needs to remind me that it’s there and waiting.

But the haunted TV is too much. It’s not just that it turns itself off on its own. It’s the timing. It has a talent for sensing the absolute climax of a story.

Like on those home shows, just as the people open their eyes to look at their newly remodelled room, and they let out a gasp and the camera just starts to pan so we can finally see the “after” look, and— *PLINK*

So I fumble madly for the remote. If you press buttons enough, sometimes it comes back on. But by the time I get it back on again, all that’s left is a commercial.

Or on mysteries: “Holmes, I must tell you that I believe the killer to be….” *PLINK*

“….Honey, I never told you this, but your REAL father is….” *PLINK*

“….And this season’s winner IS….” *PLINK*

Then the other day, just as the Cute Guy was beginning to emerge from the bathroom clad only in a towel…you guessed it. *PLINK* Like automatic censorship. Or torture.

That does it. I’m all for an appliance with a sense of humor, but that was just mean. No wonder my TV was so cheap. I thought I was getting plasma. Instead I got…ectoplasma!

Overheard at a funeral: “If she could see how badly they did her makeup, she would die all over again.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Totally Random Tuesday-Games

I think you can tell a lot about a person from the way they play board games. For example, I knew a man who used to cheat—but only if he was playing against family members or little kids. The smaller the child or the closer the family member, the more likely he was to cheat because it was easy to get away with and he wasn’t as worried about securing their approval.

We live in such a competitive society that winning is everything to some people. I’ve watched reality shows where the contestants really don’t seem to care about the prize; they only seem to want that validation of winning.  

It seems to me that the person who really won the game is the one who got the most out of playing it!

Monday, June 14, 2010


 I was in another teacher’s class at a local high school during the weekly pledge of allegiance and national anthem. It is only said on Mondays at our district now. My attention was drawn to counting. Out of 20 students in the classroom, only four stood. Four. One fifth.

I looked around at their faces and postures. It was clear that it wasn’t their religions that kept them seated. Didn’t appear to be defiance, either. It was apathy. They just didn’t care.

A few short years ago, when our country was attacked, flags flew everywhere. These children wouldn’t remember, but still—what fickle people we are. Does this mean that our country is only great when we are victims?

I deeply admire the one-fifth who stood. It isn’t easy being the non-conformist, least of all when you’re a teenager.

My district has its own high school for children who couldn’t make it in other schools. Last time I was there on pledge of allegiance day, I looked around at the slouching. What gets me is that a lot of these kids join the military. I told them that. I asked them how they’d feel knowing that people back home weren’t even willing to stand for the flag they were risking their lives for. One boy said, “Hey, that’s right. I’m going into the army.” And he stood. Then another stood, and another. And they all stood. All of them.

I felt a surge of pride. Mistakes? Sure. But the beauty is that we’re here because of mistakes that happened before we got here; we’re set up to learn from them. Give us your huddled masses…and we will give them a chance. In all things human, apathy is one of the greatest enemies. And respect is the key to success.

Today I will stand up for our flag. Even if I stand alone, it’s nothing compared to what others have done for me so that I might have the privilege of living beneath it. Happy Flag Day.

The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” ~Albert Einstein

Friday, June 11, 2010

Yook at de Widdum Bee Bee Bun Bun!

My daughter is a composed, serious-minded girl. And yet, when we see one of the bunnies feasting on the (many) weeds surrounding our patio, both of us let out ear-splitting squeals of delight. I wonder what it is about a baby bunny that makes our voices rise in pitch and compels us to talk baby talk? I never spoke baby talk to my children. In any other situation, it sort of makes my skin crawl. And yet, here I am speaking the most disgusting baby talk ever.

But him is so coot!!! Barely bigger than a hamster, he would just fit into the cup of our hands. And odd that we both have the most curious urge to fit him into our hands—to scoop him up and feel his soft fur. I guess it’s some sort of natural adaptation that gives him a chance to grow into a big, mean bunny who can join the bunny gangs in our yard and spend his days tormenting our dog.

This baby bunny is smart, though. He runs when he sees us. If he knew we only wanted to pet him rather than eat him, would he run?

My guess is he’d run faster. From the baby talk.

“Tell me—like you done before….About the rabbits….Please, George.” ~Lennie in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Totally Random Tuesday-Summer

Winter twilight promises only that the day is over. Summer twilight promises that the night is about to begin.

This picture may not have been taken at twilight, but it is a random picture of brugmansia 'Ecuador Pink' which also happens to release its haunting summer fragrance at night.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Head Held High

I’ve had several friends who’ve had breast cancer. So I can’t help but wonder how I’d handle the hair loss issue if my turn came.

One friend has Facebook contests modeling different wigs. Some are pretty outrageous. People vote on which one she will wear for the week. So far no one has voted on the hot pink one, but if they ever do, no question she will wear it.

I’ve always thought I would like to go au naturelle. Why hide? It seems ridiculous in ways to wear fake hair. The thing is, though, I would never have the guts. Not to mention how horrible I’d look bald. Shoot, I often don’t like how I look with hair.

Then the other day, for the first time in my life, I saw someone do it. I was walking through the hall at school, and a spunky home ec teacher was practically bouncing along, making eye contact with everyone, absolutely daring them to admire her beautifully bald head. Her message was clear: I have cancer and I AM NOT GOING TO HIDE.

I didn’t have a chance to introduce myself and tell her how I felt, so I gave her my biggest grin that I hope conveyed every ounce of the admiration I feel. And what’s more, she does look beautiful. Truly. If I told her that, would she believe me? I believe she would. More than beautiful, she looks like an amazing woman who isn’t afraid of a fight.

Go, girl. Win. We are cheering for you.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. ~Ambrose Redmoon

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Totally Random Tuesday for the Birds

                                Do hummingbirds get diabetes?