Monday, January 11, 2016

The Lottery

Here’s a grim conflation of thoughts: on this day (January 11), the first recorded state lottery occurred in 1569—Queen Elizabeth I instituted it in England (read more here).

Once that caught on, other lotteries popped up various places, including the early American colonies, where lotteries helped capitalize early development.

Now, in 2016 the U.S. is seized with an overwhelming lottery fever with the Powerball in January, which has reached—as I write this—a total of over 1 billion dollars.  Yes, I did write Billion. (No doubt, Queen Elizabeth I would LOVE such a national outpouring of … madness for money.)

Of course, there have been other lotteries.  Think the draft lottery in the 1960s, during the Vietnam conflict. Thousands of men drew the wrong number, were sent to Vietnam and then were killed there.

One of the most astonishing and horrifying stories in American literature is Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.”*  It is such a riveting story, and when you read it the first time—it takes your breath away.

Oh, my—I just had a sudden awful thought. Since Donald Trump is so derisive and dismissive of immigrants in our country, I hope he doesn’t read the story “The Lottery.” It might give him an idea of how to “get rid of immigrants.” One at a time.

Nah—I feel a bit relieved. Such an approach while sensational, would be far too slow, not splashy enough for his Trumpness.** Does this conflated thought sound crazy to you? Me, too.  But then, I thought people taking his Trumpness seriously and actually voting for him sounded crazy.

*If you have not read it, you can here.

** From here ever after, I shall refer to him as his Trumpness.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

An Open Letter to Donald Trump

I have one message for you—STOP IT. 

  • Stop saying you want to make our country great again, and then spend most of your time on the campaign trail belittling and diminishing and marginalizing people. 
  • Stop playing on the fears and prejudices of people so that you bring out the ugliest of ugly behavior.
  • Stop making it acceptable to boo a peaceful protestor and have her escorted--based on prior “orders to remove all disruptive” attendees at one of your rallies.
  • Stop being the huckster that you are—handing out thousands of FREE tickets for one of your “shows” to be held in venues that will not accommodate the number of people who want to see your “events”.  
  • Stop saying the fire wardens or other reasonable officials won’t let all the people in who want to be at these “events” when in fact that was part of the planning, part of the PLAN—making it seem that your events are so popular that thousands want to get in. 
  • Stop making it acceptable to be a racist—yelling racial slurs and physically attacking people.
  • Stop setting our country back 200 hundred years.
  • Stop saying things like "There is hatred against us that is unbelievable. It's their hatred, it's not our hatred."
  • Stop pretending that you have the moral high ground so that you castigate a former president for his own sexual indiscretions when your life is far from a shining example of purity.
  • Stop taking our country down a road that history has seen played out many times before, most recently Germany in the 1930s.

Stop it.
Stop it.

  • Before the Statue of Liberty has to lower her lamp and change the message to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” to EVERYBODY WHO IS NOT WHITE JUST GO AWAY.
  • Before we are too far down the road to a frightening vision of governing.
  • Before we end up on the dust heap of history, another failed nation.

Before we lose whatever greatness we may have had.

Friday, January 01, 2016

What Can We Give our Children?

Perhaps you too have the perennial seasonal question around Christmas time...what can we give our children?  Of course, with Amazon each of them can compile a wish list, complete with selections that come from other vendors for which Amazon is the convenient place-holder.

But, prompted by some recent national news,  I've been thinking that there are other "things" we can give our children.  The news to which I refer is the detaining of the so-called "affluenza" teen and his mother. You may recall this woeful story. Two years ago, when a 16 year old, this young man and some of his friends stole beer one night, proceeded to get drunk, went for a joy-ride with some friends and lost control of the vehicle plowing into some pedestrians--killing four, and injuring nine other people.  When he was charged and tried with "intoxication manslaughter" his attorney argued that he had been so coddled by his wealthy parents, thereby being deprived of a sense of responsibility: the defense having been dubbed the "affluenza defense."  The judge bought it and sentenced him to 10 years PROBATION.

Two years later, a video began making the rounds showing this teen apparently drinking, in violation of his probation. Rather than FINALLY making him face the consequences of his action, his mother fled with him to Mexico--where they were caught last week.

So why this recitation of such a sad and depressing story?  Because it answers, in part, my question--what can we give our children.

Here's a list: 
(Feel free to add your own thoughts)

  1. A sense of personal responsibility;
  2. An understanding of the concept of the common good;
  3. A respect for living things--creatures and plants;
  4. A desire to help others;
  5. A capability to exercise self-control;
  6. A wonderment at the intangibles in life;
  7. A love for music, literature, and the arts;
  8. A joy in personal relationships;
  9. Respect for one's own self
Oh, yes, I could go on.  Each of these thoughts listed is amorphous. Perhaps that is as it should be--we do, after all, have differences in the great vast complex family of humanity.  But the underlying bedrock principle is universal.

So, what can you give your children?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Home for the Holidays

This year, my husband and I will be doing something different for Christmas...we will be staying home for the holidays.  Alone.

For many years, now, we have either traveled to be with one of our children--or we have stayed home and the children have come to us.

But this year is different--as a family, we gathered at Thanksgiving at our son's and our daughter-in-law's home in San Diego. And, after braving a 12 hour flight directly from London, our daughter and our son-in-law along with their two little ones joined the gathering.  We were all there to witness and celebrate the baptism of our son and daughter-in-law's little girl. 

With that momentous a gathering, which was really like a Christmas--complete with gifts for the three little ones--we decided that we would stay in Pennsylvania, our son and family in California, and our daughter and family in England.

But, simply because we are "home alone" does not mean we forgo decorating, baking and celebrating.  To the contrary. We got our usual live tree--and had it fully installed and decorated by the first weekend of December.  I have baked--at least four batches of shortbread by now--and mailed tins of shortbread to various family members.

I even got out the Advent calendar...though I confess I keep forgetting to update it.  

As for gifts--thank goodness for Amazon--wish lists and packages!

So, Christmas day will be quiet--we will roast a chicken (better size for a smaller feast) and make all the trimmings. If we are fortunate, we will see our children via the wonder of Face Time. And all will be merry.


Sunday, November 08, 2015

Stories in Stone

Nearby where we live there is a cemetery. With an atmosphere that is park-like it has become a favorite go-to walking place for me and our dog.

Years ago, two dogs back I used to walk our dog there.  That dog--an English setter (show not hunting) loved to see the squirrels there. One day, she spotted a squirrel who had not seen her, and for at least 15 minutes she inched up on that squirrel. Our dog's muscles were all aquiver as she silently inched one paw in front of the other. I think the squirrel must have had a near-heart attack when our dog suddenly pounced...but the squirrel got away.

Anyway, after a time, there came a day when the cemetery posted a big prominent sign you could not miss:  NO DOGS ALLOWED.  I was annoyed, and bemused. I thought--ok, no dogs. But squirrels, chipmunks, Canada geese, and foxes all running amok.  But, no dogs.

About a year ago, I decided to see if the dreaded NO DOGS sign was still now, we had another dog, a lab mix--our sweet Ziva.  She gets many daily walks, so adding the cemetery aka park
would be an asset.  Sure enough, the sign was gone. So our walks there have commenced.

Since dogs like to take their time--sniffing every tree, or blade of grass, or whatever--we spend some time there. And I have taken to reading cemetery plaques.  These plaques or stones are flat on the ground, some made of marble and some of brass.  Whatever their composition, they all tell a story.

Herewith some examples:

--A name with a birthdate in the late 1890s, but death date. Someone was forgotten? Or didn't die (unlikely). Or the family either did not know or had not recalled where that burial plot was.

--Many graves with death dates in the late 1960s, most of them of young men in their early 20s.  Most likely killed in Vietnam--my generation's war.

--Two names side by side--or actually a double stone but with a name removed from its prior place. The one side has birth and death date, the other...blank. No doubt, the surviving spouse found someone new, remarried and decided to be buried elsewhere.

--several small stones with birthdate and death date the same day.

--finally, a stone with four names on it, all one family: mother, father, daughter, son.  What happened? Some tragedy. But what? An accident? or some other untimely end?

Whatever the circumstances, every stone a story.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Autumnal Musings

As the growing season draws to a close, I am often drawn to thoughts about growth. Growth in the plant kingdom is something I observe every year--I love to plant annual flowers and then revel in their blooming glory all summer long. Growth abounds in the summer, but growth is not an ever outward process--the end of summer comes.

Of course, then comes autumn. Much as I love autumn, I always rue to impending death of the flowers I have enjoyed. Of course, as I garden I observe, and muse, and draw conclusions about life...about living.

Much of my time of late has been taken up in continuing to help my father and step-mother as they age and transition. In many ways, it is like the life cycle I observe in the flowers.  (Before anyone takes offense, I am not suggesting that people aging is the same as plants aging,  but as in everything nature has much to teach humanity.)

Since my parents live in a retirement village, and are now in sheltered care, transitioning to nursing care, I observe many facets of what it means to age.  Frequently, when I am visiting I encounter other elderly people--people I don't know. But I always try to be cheery, to be helpful, to say a kindly word. And it is the reactions that amaze and baffle me. 

A few people simply don't/can't hear me, and so my cheery comments fall on "deaf" ears. A few reciprocate--smiling and responding, even if briefly.  It is the other portion of responses that always surprise--the people who harrumph, and complain and are downright unpleasant.  One day, as I was exiting the elevator, I caught and held the door for an elderly man on a motorized scooter who was entering the elevator.  Rather than say "thank you" to me for holding the door, he snarled I CAN DO IT FOR MYSELF.  OK, then. So much for being nice.

While that example is somewhat extreme, it is not an isolated example.  And what it has made me do is examine my own aging process and the way I respond to people.  Of late, I find myself very intentionally cultivating an attitude of being grateful, of expressing thanks.  

In every encounter I have at this retirement village, especially with staff, I try to say--THANK YOU. Thank you for the work you do, for the care you give, for the thorough professionalism you display while you are also showing great care and compassion.  Maybe my efforts of overdone--but given that I have observed so much ingratitude I feel my verbal affirmation is the least I can do.

As I deliberately try to show gratitude, I am hoping that it is also cultivating in me a growth tendency--as the twig is bent, so the tree's inclined.  If the day comes that I am a resident in such a facility, I hope the attitude I display will not be curmudgeonly and grudging. 

Maybe by now you are scratching your head and thinking--wasn't she talking about fall flowers.  Well, yes I was.  The way a flower grows, even as it draws near the end of its season, is greatly influenced by the encounters along the way.  I know, I know--the analogy is imperfect. A flower can't decide to water itself to enhance its growth and beauty. But it can make the most use of the water and sunshine it receives.

Where does that take me? What I have determined for myself is that I will cultivate gratitude and thankfulness. I do not want to be the person who pushes away help with a curt--I CAN DO IT FOR MYSELF.  I want to be more like a flower that blooms in its time, in response to water and sun. The beauty of that flower remains long after the petals have fallen.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Pussy Cat Pussy Cat, where have you been?

Why, yes, that is me riding a carousel with a special girl.

Remember that children’s rhyme?  The next line was “I’ve been to London to see the Queen.”

Well, yes—we’ve been away. 

Hence no blog for…oh, awhile.  
And, like Pussy Cat, we’ve been to
London.  We didn’t see the Queen, though  last summer we did actually see the Queen’s “house” when we toured Buckingham Palace and saw the Royal Collection—an amazing collection of paintings.

So, here’s what we saw on this trip: 

Some things are still there

Something else we saw, but...didn’t see exactly.

As we passed Lord's Cricket Ground, on our way to St. John's Wood, where we attended church in a lovely Church of England church--I noted this poster.

Advertising the second test of the Ashes. OK—if you have to ask, you don’t know what it is.  Cricket. Enough said.

The second test was played at Lord's Cricket Ground--sort of the Holy Grail of cricket. But, already I've exhausted my knowledge of this sport.  

(The fourth test of the Ashes has now been played elsewhere, and England did rather well.)

The St. John's Wood church is one of my favorite churches in the world. Now, I have not been in that many...considering how many there must be worldwide.  But I've been a few and I love the classic interior of this church, with its fantastic acoustics.  The church has an 8 member choir--that's all. And yet they sing beautifully, full voiced and thrilling to hear.

The remaining sights were personal and familial.

Such as...
A little girl who likes to jump in muddy puddles
a little girl showing Papa the ropes!

Two little girls with crash helmets...which they need when they ride their scooters!
Nearby where we were visiting is a large recreation area--lots of excitement there, including a local fair. See the photo at the top of this blog.

Also various types of transportation.
A tractor picking up trash in the park

An air ambulance picking up a patient 

Two dear people riding a teacup! 

BUT, BEST OF ALL, WE SAW THESE PEOPLE! (and one is brand new)