Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sports and Politics

Polling conducted by Scarborough USA, a joint project of Nielsen and Arbitron, showed that Republicans hold the edge among die-hard sports fans with only minor exceptions. NASCAR fans, like fans of the PGA and NFL, were broadly skewed to vote Republican and WWE fans tended to vote with the Democrats. I guess one mindless endeavor for each party is only fair.

Thankfully however, according to the same poll, fans of both of these culturally inspiring sports are less likely to vote than fans of the more cerebral and complicated competitions like college football and PGA tournaments. I guess there is some solace in that.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Another Day Another Dollar

It's 4:00a.m. I am wakened by Brian going in and out of the house. There is two inches of snow and cold. The furnace runs and runs. I must get up to make sure he closed the door. He didn't.

On his return from his smoke shed..(he doesn't stay long because of the cold)..he confronts me and says .."There's a dead mouse upstairs." Like it's personally my fault.

I say, "Yes, I can tell. And wander back to my bed."

The downstairs door slams again. I get up..go down to make sure the door is shut. It is not. I say.."Brian, Quit this damn running in and out. I have to work today." He says, "There is a dead mouse upstairs." at which time I loose my temper and tell him to "get his %$# up there and find it and do something about it."

He gets a huge wad of paper towel. (He is very fastidious about THAT sort of thing.) It doesn't take long for him to find the dead creature. I think it had tripped and broke its neck over one of the piles of rubble in his room. He nearly runs down the stairs and out the back to dispose of it.

He wants to know how long will it smell bad in his room. I have lost patience and I want to go back to bed.

"Probably forever," I say, "but light a candle anyway. If nothing else it will appease the spirits."

He looks at me like I'm nuts and I am always nuts at 4:oo a.m. so I wander back to my bed.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Phantasy Called the Middle Class

The distribution of income in the United States forty years ago was not significantly different from that of other developed countries. The power and stability of our middle class was the envy of business communities and governments worldwide.

The opportunity for an individual, through their own effort, to enter the middle-class was better than any other country in the world.

The facts today are far bleaker. To find societies as unequal as the United States currently, you must forget about all the developed nations’ economies and look to Latin America.

In addition, today a hard worker motivated to acquire middle class economic security for his family, has a better chance in almost all other developed countries including Canada and Great Britain.

In 1967 as a single mom with three kids I had a factory job that paid $5.75 an hour (I cleared about $875 a month) with monthly bonuses and full health care. My house payment was $211 a month for a reasonably nice three bedroom ranch on a three acre lot. My utility bills ran less than $100 a month and $100 a month fed my kids, who were all big eaters. House maintenance, car payments, car maintenance and insurance, medicine, school supplies and clothing pretty much ate up the rest.

Our vacations were spent camping at one of the many Federal parks les than a day’s drive away. The fee was $2.00 a night with all the swimming, boating, hiking etc. free ..bathrooms, showers and water supplied free.

My budget was tight..and it was close..

But I didn’t know how lucky I was!

In 2007 factory jobs were gone..replaced by jobs offered by Walmart, McDonald’s, QuickTrip, truck stops, etc. and the local nursing home. Office workers’ and service workers’salaries had quickly dropped in direct correlation with the destruction of the unions in the 1980’s. Although not heavily unionized themselves, they had benefited from the wage floor gained by the unions for their own workers. Office workers and service workers now joined the ranks of the minimum wage worker.

A worker, with or without a family, was looking at the same $5.75 an hour, (minimum wage had stagnated through the Bush W era), health insurance costs of $500-$700 a month, minimal housing at $500 amonth, $500 a month to keep a car to get to work, $2-$3 a gallon gas, $200 a month utility bills.. Even a two-wage earner household bringing home $1800 a month..or the lucky individual who had escaped the minimum wage trap and earned $10-$12 an hour..(they would be clearing about $1400 a month) would still be having an impossible struggle.

And that vacation at the Lake? Forget that! Camping rental the last time I checked was $15 a night. Water, shower and toilet services had been suspended at many locations and fees instated for some services formerly provided. Fifteen dollars plus a night may still sound cheap if you are retired on a 1970’s retirement benefit or in the top earner bracket but when you’re living on $1400 a month with a family it’s not so cheap.

Something is terribly wrong here. When workers no longer have any hope of attaining the security of the middle class..when the wealth of our country no longer goes to those who work.. something is terribly wrong.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas-The Hope and Light of the World

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke2:7

2010 years ago this winter a teenage mother, watched over by her middle-aged husband and warmed by the breath of the cattle of the fields, gave the world Christianity.

To a world where slavery, poverty, suffering and ignorance were the norm, a small, a very small, glimpse of light..a glimmer of hope, pulsated in the heart of humanity.

Rumors concerning this particular child had been circulating long before the humble birth. Men long distances away from that miserable little barn, who had spent their lives studying the prophesies of the world’s great religions of the day and the configurations of the heavenly bodies they believed to be set in motion by “the creator of all”, were convinced that something momentous had happened and set out to observe and record the event. Heads of state surreptitiously made their way to the grass-filled manger and knelt by the tiny child.

It is said that a sword pierced the young mother’s heart upon his birth as the knowledge of his true life and purpose had been revealed to her.

Christianity, cursed by the viciousness, greed and intolerance within the human family and blessed by the undying belief in the possibility of goodness, changed the world.

The new religion, made only stronger by the persecutions of those whose interests were immeasurably threatened by its existence, spread west and north across Europe and east into Central Asia, constantly changing yet ever the same. Great battles were fought..many suffered and died..over seemingly small and insignificant theological points that we now accept without question.

Although not a military one, the first and most significant battle within the church, well chronicled in the New Testament, is Paul’s assertion that salvation was for ALL people. The failure of Paul to win his case would have strangled the new religion and delegated it to just another sect, among many sects, within the Jewish community.

Western Medieval Europe, ravaged by war and famine,settled into a few tenuously organized and fragilely constructed governmental bodies that found they had far less need for expensively maintained standing armies that had been in place for generations. Not to mention the depredations and pillaging committed by a bored and rapacious population of young men with very narrow skills. Thus was born the Crusades. They served two purposes. The troublesome armies were let loose in other neighborhoods and much wealth and loot was brought home.

And so, through the years, man’s interpretation of Christianity has swayed and morphed between sanctity and savagery. The world was flat. The world revolved around the sun. Fire at the stake purged unbelievers. Women were ordained by law to “suffer” child birth and die if necessary without interference from the ungodly measures of science. Disabilities were the result of sin. Poverty was an affliction placed there by a loving God and not to be tampered with. Were the poor not well beloved by the Lord and therefore more blessed than the pitiful wealthy?

War is waged. Populations are ravaged and destroyed. Bodies desecrated, children exploited. In the name of Peace and Love.

Slavery and its degradations was embraced and upheld by the church for centuries. Birth control is still anathema within some Christian communities. Even here, in this multi-blessed country that we live in, a large segment of the Christian population truly and genuinely believes that the rewards of the world should only rightly be held by those of the same race or gender or sexual orientation or religion as themselves.

Yet that small light brought forth in those meager circumstances 2010 years ago, often dim, flickering frighteningly, smudged by the excrement of evil alive and well, still glows. It ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes. Its devotees struggle and stumble. Yet it glows.

Who has not stood alone in some dark hour and cried out. “I believe. Oh Lord help Thou my unbelief.” ?

And the breath from that crying out causes that feeble glimmer to leap into light again and we are sustained for another hour..another day.

Because of that child.. The Christ


Thursday, December 2, 2010

McCain, Please go home.

Today Senator McCain (R-AZ), the same who blessed us all with the Palin Family, roused again from senatorial stupor to attack Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, regarding his position on DADT and his acceptance of a lengthy study by the Army suggesting that most service personnel couldn't care less about whether the guy or gal on a mission with them was gay.

Now it's the study itself that is flawed?

Why are we still listening to this aged one-issue Senator who consistently proclaims his love for all things military and claims the right to speak for them?

I have tremendous respect and admiration for the Senator's service, which consisted of completing Navy Jet Flight Training and surviving years of torture and isolation in a POW camp. He was retired from the Navy as a Captain, a good deal less rank than that of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, whose military credentials he was questioning.

For the life of me I cannot see how McCain's experiences make him competent to set military policy or order military affairs, or even to order men.

This is all just too ridiculous. We have so many real problems And McCain is still wringing the last shred of juice he has out of this rag??

I just wish McCain would go home. Other people go to Arizona and retire, why can't he? I also wish he could put Sarah Palin and her family back into what ever box he found them. I wish we could hear from real people, and there are some, with relevant ideas to listen to.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Memoirs-A Family in Luck

A Family In Luck

Even in those postwar 1940’s and ‘50s years posthumously stamped with the imprimatur of “the good old days” and the “true period of American family values” our family was not a storybook family. Well into late adulthood we, the get of the strange pairing that became our parents, railed at the Scot's harshness of our mother while holding the gentle amiableness of our father in utter contempt.

Like most ungrateful children, and all children are ungrateful, our every failure and disappointment was laid at their feet.

But then none of my friends had a story book family either and even within the tensions and failures of our own family I knew that we were luckier than a lot of other people.

Our neighborhood, in those years, was a quiet one with every third house being inhabited by a single woman or women. The three Ostertag sisters never married. Beaulah Rittermeyer never married. Mrs. Faucett was a widow, as was Mrs. Mathews, Mrs. Rientschler, Mrs. KirkPatrick, Mrs. O’Dell, Mrs. Crabtree and poor Mrs. Gallup whose husband, driven mad, it was said, by the death of their infant son, lived out his life at the St. Joe Asylum for the Insane. Shieldsy, a family friend, and Poppy lived quietly with Poppy’s damaged lungs..he was gassed in France during WWI… and visits from their daughter and occasionally one of their sons.

It was not a particularly bad neighborhood nor was it a particularly good one. Just a conglomeration of people whose generation, scarred and manipulated by two world wars, an influenza pandemic, (a 1918 global disaster in which 28% of the U.S. population suffered, and 500,000 to 675,000 died), a depression, a land killing drought, and in some instances, the struggle to figure out the ground rules in a new country or how to live after losing everything, lived their lives.

Three of my peers ..in the neighborhood… were victims of habitual incest, two of my closest friends lived on dirt floors, one of whose mother was severely mentally challenged, childhood entertainment at the home of another friend consisted of hiding behind the sofa and watching her mother entertain her men friends and the one friend I had whose family came closest to belonging to a storybook family..because they were catholic and attended church en masse.. lived, as did her mother and siblings, in real fear of her Irish father who liked to use his fists on them.

Three of my friends were raised in what was then referred to as basement houses, one of which had no partitions and one bed for a family of ten. These were simply basements upon which a house had never been built.

The boy that I was later to marry grew up, with his five brothers, in a basement. Stacked at night on pole beds to keep dry when it rained because the basement leaked so badly. They could tell you about wading through inches of water, carrying their shoes, to reach the door and starting for school without breakfast and with lunch (which was called dinner back then) just a fantasy someone else dreamed up.

But the biggest difference in the lives of my family and that of my peers was in the matter of entertainment.

We went places. We did things.

Wound together like a snarled ball of scratchy wool yarn harassed by an ill-tempered cat..we went places and did things.

Every summer we made our pilgrimage to Swope Park, home of The Kansas City Zoo and the infamous Swope Lookout. Often caravanning …the washtub with the watermelon, a jug of tea and a couple dozen bottles of Coca Cola and Nehi pop (orange for me, grape for my brother, Merle and Crème Soda for sister, Marion, with tea and Coke for the older people) in someone's trunk and the packed food boxes in another, we always made one stop on the highway at Leimkuhler’s Gas Station and Ice-house to buy a 25 pound block of ice to be chipped over the watermelon and pop and covered snugly with a gunny sack.

We went to the show at the Armour regularly, partly for the movie and more importantly for the newsreels. We went to Nelson’s, the neighborhood tavern/dance hall. We were regulars at the skating rink.

In the summer we would not have missed going to Winnwood Lake each weekend with it’s free show, outside dance floor and the multicolored juke-box that blared boogie woogie until mid-night, not to mention the on-grounds carnival. Occasionally we swam in the man-made lake but only when one of my sisters had a swimsuit to show off.

In the autumn and through the winter we were regulars at The Brush Creek Follies, a country music show that appeared regularly at the Shriners Temple Auditorium in Kansas City. We saw the young Minnie Pearl and Tex Ritter and Red Foley, Tiny Tim (who wasn’t tiny at all) and Herb Kratoska and Tex Owens and his daughter Laura Lee whom I was named after. Many of these entertainers became friends of the family and were guests in our home.

My parents knew personally members of the The Texas Rangers, a western harmony group franchised to KMBC Radio in Kansas City during that time. Among other things they did a noon-time music and news thing that we never missed. One of my earliest memories is being held high in Mother’s arms so I could listen to the little plastic radio on the shelf on the kitchen wall while the Texas Rangers sang Pony Boy (my favorite song) and dedicated it to me, little Nanie Stock.

There was a lot of spur-of-the-moment stuff. Someone would have an idea and off we would go! Like the time they installed the searchlight at the waterworks in North Town!

One night all of a sudden, off to the South West, a huge shaft of light, inspired by the great search lights over London during the War, swept the night sky. It was awesome..nothing short of miraculous. We all jumped in the car and off we went to see the actual item. There it stood. A huge beam of light seemingly coming right out of the ground there in front of the Water Works building! Piercing the sky farther than even the mind could see! Standing there in that family, dressed in varying degrees of shabby, we were one in our awe, connected like no other family.

It seems to me that this was our real story..…we ran and flew and crashed and rose to run again....like a kite with long tails, everyone clutching..no one allowed to let go. It's true, you don't choose your family. It is the luck of the draw.

But in many ways that mattered we were a family in luck!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

The life and times of my Mother and Fathers’ generation was filled with so many stupendous life-changing disasters that the Influenza Pandemic of 1918 has become less than a blip on the radar.

The speed of this pandemic, so deadly, striking so quickly and disappearing as quickly (it lasted about 18 months), made it easier to forget the proportions of the tragedy it inflicted.

But the shortest stroll through any cemetery of that day reveals the flotsam of family tragedies marked by the headstones of young adults. “Rebecca Morris..1895-1918 “Mother and Wife.” “Jerome Patterson… Beloved Son..1902-1918” and on and on.

In the United States about 28% of the population suffered, and 500,000 to 675,000 died.

Kansas City and St.Louis, Missouri were particularly hard hit.

State officials first reported on the presence of influenza in Missouri on October 11, 1918. However, influenza had appeared in the state long before that date. By the third week of October, 3,765 influenza cases and 90 deaths had been reported from St. Louis, with 558 cases and 13 deaths being reported for October 16th alone. State officials, however, rarely had access to accurate figures and the actual number of cases and deaths was probably higher than that.

On October 24th, state officials maintained that "conditions are either stationary or improving" in the state. But on October 25th, the situation took a turn for the worse. Influenza began spreading into rural districts. Between October 26th and 28th, the situation continued to be dire, with rural and urban areas across the state reporting high numbers of cases and deaths.

This Pandemic, targeting the future of populations by striking hardest in the young adult age group, is seldom even regarded when considering the devastations of a worldwide drought, the worldwide economic collapse and two world wars.

Yet the loss of so many in their most productive years must have left a gap. So many orphans, so many unformed families, so many crippled lives, so many losses. And as in all losses, the true cost is never known because it IS lost..not to be regained.

I have spoken to adults left orphaned by this disaster. Their lives, and the lives of those who took them in, were altered and invariably diminished. Being an orphan in the first half of the 20th century was not an easy thing.

If a Pandemic of this proportion struck today the world would be in an uproar.


Great Resistance From Troops Against Vaccinations:

"Camp Dodge, Iowa, May 1.—Elmer N. Olson, of Goodrich, Minn., a soldier in training here, refused to submit to vaccination. He was tried by general court-martial and sentenced to fifteen years in the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth."

1918-19 Influeza in Great Britain: survivor statement as an adult.

In early 1919 my father, not yet demobilized, came on one of his regular, probably irregular, furloughs to Carisbrook Street to find both my mother and sister dead. The Spanish Influenza pandemic had struck Harpurhey. There was no doubt of the existence of a God: only the supreme being could contrive so brilliant an afterpiece to four years of unprecedented suffering and devastation. I apparently, was chuckling in my cot while my mother and sister lay dead on a bed in the same room.

Winston Churchill:

on the Influenza Epidemic of 1890

“For though it ravaged far and wide

Both village, town and countryside,

Its power to kill was o’er;

And with the favouring winds of Spring

(Blest is the time of which I sing)

It left our native shore.”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Day Bud Killed the Goose

On the Sundays of my childhood the table was always stretched to the limit with extra plates and extra people, neighbors, stray relatives, kids kicked out by their more discerning parents, friends and often the unsuspecting prey of one of my older siblings.

On these occasions the menu was expanded to surpass the ordinary weekly suppers of meatloaf, beans and ham, tuna and noodles, goulash etc. This added Sunday touch usually meant a trip to the back yard for somebody, hatchet in hand, to do in a chicken or two or even on rare occasions a duck. They were quickly scalded, plucked had a little cold water run over them and popped into the skillet if young enough and if not, sentenced to serve considerable time in the oven. This kind of menu, with Mom’s biscuits and gravy and anything scrounged from our ill-cared-for garden, could be stretched a long way and always was.

Not a member of our family reached adulthood without acquiring the skill to look at a platter of chicken, mathematically determine the number of pieces divided by the members of the board, so to speak, and know without asking how many pieces or what piece would be their lot. The old saying ”I get the neck of the chicken..” did not come out of thin air. Merle and I generally got the wings.

The day Bud, the newest and, on this occasion most unfortunate, member of our coterie of friends, was charged with killing the goose, I was very uneasy. In the first place I was sorry to kill the goose, even if we had worked our way through all the chickens for the year. He was not a bad old goose and liked to follow me and my brother around. I would miss him.

And then Bud was a novice at goose killing. That worried me a little. To me, even with his sleeves rolled up, Bud looked awfully dressed up for goose killing. He was not and never became, a country boy. He came courting in the dress of the day, that is a white dress shirt, neat grey slack pants and shiny brown oxford’s. I sure hoped he wouldn’t get goose blood on his good shoes.

But what I should have been worrying about was my brother, Merle. Merle was what you might call accident prone.

The goose was easy to catch. Like everything else in the backyard in hopes of handouts better than their regular fair of dried up grass hoppers, half cracked walnuts and June bug grubs, he followed anyone who made the mistake of going out there. He never seemed to catch on to the Sunday dinner thing.

With Merle in the lead and the goose under his arm we angled down the path, through the weeds, to the spot where the chickens were generally killed. There past the cinder pile and under the walnut tree was a big rock.

The general run of things was that someone would hold the victims legs while someone else stretched the neck out over the rock and someone else swung and whacked. Miraculously on rare occasions, if pressed for time, Mother was able to single handedly do the deed and be scalding and plucking in half the time. But for the rest of us it took three people. It was not a pretty sight and I don’t think any of the victims liked it.

I know Bud didn’t. I don’t think Bud had ever killed anything in his life and I’m sure he never did again. His mistake was he was just not forceful enough! His first whack missed completely causing Merle’s hand to slip on the goose’s squirming neck. Just as he was taking a second swing Merle let go to get a better grip, just in time to get his thumb in the way.

Missed the goose again..got the thumb. Blood spurted..not goose blood..all over the shiny shoes. I forgot I wasn’t supposed to cuss and said “Damn, Bud.”

I glanced up to see if he was mad about the blood thing or the cussing thing and he didn’t look mad but his face was whiter than the goose. I think he would have passed out if he hadn’t been afraid of falling on top of the goose and Merle’s bloody thumb.

Merle sucked on his thumb and hollered, “Hit him again” and Bud did and the goose was dead, or at least trying to be. He was harder to catch dead than he had been alive..flopping around in the tall grass.

Merle finally got hold of him and we hung him up to bleed out before taking him in to Mom. Merle stayed with the goose but I felt like Bud needed someone worse than the goose did at that point. Anyway, he let me hold his hand all the way to the house.

He continued to date my sister and turned out to be a great brother-in-law. We loved him dearly. After all, you can't hold one little accident against a person.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Airport Patdowns

Maybe because I don't have a dog in this fight and seldom fly I am thinking we are feeling sorry for the wrong people for the wrong reasons here! There are two people involved in these little docudramas, the "pattor" and the "pattee"!

The next time you find yourself in the boarding call waiting area look around at your fellow travelers and pick at least three whom you would like to stand face-to-face with and whose armpit, cleavage and crotch you would be willing to stick your hand into, even if it was gloved.

I'm not surprised that some travelers, finding this procedure embarrassing and degrading, are in revolt. I'm also not surprised that the pattors are not. They cannot afford to revolt. They need the job.

So I guess my sympathy leans toward the pattor charged with conducting the pat downs in the face of crappy verbal abuse, jokes that would make you cringe and the contempt of people who ought to know better...or at least behave better.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ski Season

I hear it’s skiing weather again and I am all for it! True, here in the glacier scraped flatlands of North Missouri skiers are a rather insignificant part of the sporting population..unlike deer slayers, turkey hunters, rodent trappers, cat-fish snaggers and such..but I have fond memories of the skiing world.

Yes, I have skied. At one point in my life, in those insanity driven days of somewhat youthful motherhood, thinking it would serve to prepare them for “life beyond”, I often bombarded my suffering children and grandchildren with experiences over which I had no control. (Other than the ordinary day to day stuff over which I also had no control.)

The Great Ski Trip was on the list and I remember it well……we were living in Henry County back then and…


The planning stage of this trip had gone well, I thought. Kathy, at Clinton’s “Going Places” travel agency had done a great job for us. Also there was a lot of communication beforehand. I remember a conversation with my oldest son, Les, calling from his home in Kansas City.

“Well, Hi, Son. What’s up?”

“Nothing much. I just called to see what you were wearing to ski.”

“Oh, something warm I guess. You know how I hate to be cold. Something warm and lots of it.”

“Well, why don’t you let me pick you up something up here in Kansas City? How about ski bibs? (snowpants for big people)

“Well, I kind of thought I might wear my snowsuit. You know. The one I got the winter we kept the hogs.”

A long silence here. I think he was trying to remember what my snowsuit looked like.

“Mom, I don’t think they are wearing too many snowsuits on the slopes. Why don’t you let me pick you up some bibs? What color is your jacket?”

“I don’t know. Just a minute.” I had to lay the phone down to get to the side of the house where the window by the basketball hoop was.

“John, what color is that coat you said I could borrow?”

He said it was brown.

“It’s brown,” I tell Les, “Brown with tan arms. I remember now.”

Another silence. This conversation was beginning to drag.

“Mom, I don’t think they’re wearing too much brown anymore.”

By now I was getting bored and changed the subject. I hate conversations that don’t seem to be going anywhere.

Later, I had to admit, the kid was right. We didn’t see too many people in shiny-blue snowsuits. Mostly they wore matching mauve, pink, blue, yellow or gray ski suits with little square bottle warmers velcroed to their backsides.

My son turned out matched up like an advertisement for Johnny Walker, with gray ski bibs and matching jacket, gray and mauve-rimmed goggles and mauve and gray eiderdown gloves. The kid had turned into a yuppy!

At ski school my youngest son, John, and three of my nine grandchildren, Sean, 13, Stephanie, eight..(or maybe nine), Chris, nine..(or maybe eight,) and I struggled with “pies”, (that’s keeping the front of the skis in a pigeon-toed position), stopping, (anyway you can,) and “getting up off the ground.”

According to ski types there is an acceptable way and a disgusting way to get up. I tried to master the first, which involves tucking your knees under you and raising yourself with your arms. During this process I noticed that a disproportionate amount of body weight had recently and mysteriously settled below my waistline.

I opted for the disgusting way and you don’t want to hear about it.

We survived ski school and by afternoon were on Schoolmarm Trail a gentle trail designed for grandmothers in blue snowsuits and small children.

I only fell four times! I was ecstatic! What did it matter that I took the slope in the pie position? I could ski!

We stood in line to buy lunch and another to get a table to eat at. The only time we had a table to ourselves the whole weekend was when Chris threw up during a rest period the first day. I guess it was the altitude.

The next day, still beaming over my accomplishment on Schoolmarm Trail, I scrambled up the shuttle-bus steps in my overstuffed snow suit expecting another day of success on skis.

But it was not to be. This mountain was different. This mountain was not kind. My “pies” did not hold. My skis kept crossing, sending me somersaulting downwards and crossways.! If they didn’t cross I built up too much speed and bounced from snow bank to snow bank!

I was miserable.

At this point my son, the Yuppy, turned into a cross between the Nordic Ski Patrol and Ghengis Kahn.

“Use your downhill ski! Turn! Turn! Don’t lay in the trail! Get up! Use your downhill ski! Turn! Turn! Don’t lay in the trail!”

Like Erma Bombeck, I tried to remember those days before he was born and why I had wanted a child. There must have been a reason but I couldn’t think of any.

I fell seventeen times before I stopped counting. It was getting very tiresome. I was getting very angry. My son was beginning to exhibit signs of embarrassment I hadn’t seen since he was a teenager.

I tried to look at things from his point of view.

Yes, it must be embarrassing to look down at your fat little mother, in her out-dated snowsuit, groveling in the snow. Yes, I could understand that. Thinking of his problems helped me put the whole thing in perspective.

Calmly removing my skis I announced that I would walk to the next spot on which I felt competent to ski. “When pigs fly,” I muttered into the zipper tab of my snow suit.

By the look on my sons face you would have thought I had suggested trussing up my grandchildren and using them for snowshoes!

“Nobody walks on the mountain,” he says.

“I walk on mountains,” say I.

“Nobody walks on the mountain,” he says.

“You said that, Boy. You’re wrong. I walk on mountains,” I said.

“It’s against the rules,” he says. “Nobody walks on the mountain.”

“You know what they can do with that rule?” I say.

He looked at me and started to say something but didn’t. I think he was remembering the time I threw the chair at him for torturing his sister.

I walked down the mountain.

…But I DID SKI! For one day..I DID SKI!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Can We Do It?

As George Washington lay dying, strangling on his own phlegm and unable to swallow, he agonized over the future of the new country he was so instrumental in creating. The week or two prior to his sudden illness was spent thoughtfully preparing a statement to the nation on the danger the new country faced. It was never to be completed.

Not for the first time, and certainly not the last, the new government, imperfect and embryonic as it was, stood ready to crumble and slide back into the old European mold of violence and privilege.

It was, of course, a matter of money. Of who had access to it and who did not. Bankrupt and debt ridden, the new government had turned to the genius of Alexander Hamilton, a bastard son of a Scots, West Indian planter and whose claim to financial aptitude was as bookkeeper of a West Indian Island store. Within weeks Hamilton had hammered out a financial system that, with the help of Salomen and other financiers, allowed the new government to stay afloat.

A glaring problem with Hamilton’s system was that it pretty much invalidated the continental scrip in which the men who had actually fought the war had been paid,, therefore leaving them penniless, while the men who had benefited greatly by the money changing hands, as it always does in war time, gained exponentially. In short it was paid for by the poor who had already been robbed of most of their livelihood for the years it took to win the war.

Tom Jefferson, that radical dreamer, and the stubborn genius of the little James Madison weighed in hard against this usurpation of the wealth of the “common man” with limited success.

And thus the new government fell into two factions, The Federalists, who believed only those with access to capital had the intelligence and no-how to govern and the Democrats, who had great faith in “the common man.”

Upon hearing of a plot by the Federalists to wrest the control of government from the people who had fought for it by instigating an electoral tie, and forcing an appointment of one of their own, Andy Jackson, out in Tennessee, called up 100 of his militia followers and prepared to march. The governors of both Virginia and Pennsylvania threatened to take similar action.

Compromises were made, deals were cut, the fragile new government survived.

Down through the years the two-party system has continued its ebb and flow, the struggle between privilege and poverty, the powerful and the disenfranchised.

The adversaries names and their agendas have altered and clouded at different points in history but the basic questions have remained the same. Can we do it? Can ordinary people govern themselves?

And secondary but of supreme importance is the question; Is the purpose of government to protect the material wealth and opportunity in the hands of the few, the strong, the quick? Or is it to maximize the welfare and the opportunity of the many?

Time after time in our history this country has been torn down the middle, seemingly hopelessly divided.

The question of slavery threatened to strangle the new government in its crib. Only by kicking the can down the road to the next century did the founding fathers reach agreement.

News of the French Revolution and its excesses set neighbor against neighbor once again. Thugs roamed the streets of our port cities filling the taverns, threatening private businesses, ready to club and annihilate those of opposing views.

The Indian question, later settled so violently and illegally by Jackson who, defying the order of the U.S. Supreme Court, drove the Indians from their rich Georgia farms, split the country once again. The Louisianna purchase was derided and railed against as being an irresponsible assumption of debt the new nation could not afford. The purchase of Alaska, known as Seward’s folly, after the Senator who accomplished the acquisition of that distant and frozen wealth, divided Congress and the country.

And when the chickens came home to roost on the question of slavery and the right of a state to override the laws of the federal government finally had to be settled, our worst nightmare as a nation came to pass in the Civil War, leaving scars still apparent in our political and social system 150 years later.

In both World Wars this country argued the question of "Who's Side Are We On?" In both wars the reaction of our large German immigrant populations and the capitalists who made deals with German munitions companies had to be considered.

In 1940 FDR was fighting to resist tremendous Congressional and industrial pressure to get into the war ON THE SIDE OF THE GERMANS. Henry Ford personally demanded that the President plunge the country into support of the AXIS.

Desegregation rewrote the political landscape and set up a social and political division that has lasted for decades.

We have always been divided. We have always suffered fools. Greed always corrupts. Mediocrity and ignorance have always been celebrated in segments of our population. Good has not always triumphed. Justice is often delayed. Do these current divisions and celebrations of ignorance and crippled vision exceed our capacity to sort things out?

I don’t know. I do know that the question is, as it always has been;

Can we do it? Can ordinary people govern themselves? Is the purpose of government to protect the material wealth and opportunity in the hands of the few, the strong, the quick?

Or is it to maximize the welfare and the opportunity of the many?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pay Back Time!!

MY adorable granddaughter locked her mother and her big sister out on the deck last night and they had to call 911. She stretched out on the couch with the remote and Louie the dog, totally ignoring their frantic efforts to get her to unlock and let them in. The fireman had to crawl up a ladder and in the kitchen window to gain access.

She will be two years old next week.

She has a wonderful mother and all her friends are telling her what a great story this will be for when she gets older. Ha! I am the mother of her father and I can tell her...but won't..it's just the beginning.

We pulled John out of lakes, off of crick banks, from beneath tractors and chicken coops, down from tall trees..barn rafters..porch roofs.. and all this before he was four.

Then he became harder to track..the woods called..the creek wandered..people kept going off and leaving him because he was "too little" and his only recourse was to follow. Well, he did grow up.

And now he's got Ainsley. Hahahahahah!!!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Polish, the Revolution and That Danged Troublemaker Archibald Campbell

Casimir Pulaski was a Polish nobleman by birth and a military commander who fought against Russian domination of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. When this uprising failed, he emigrated to North America as a soldier of fortune. During the American Revolution, he saved the life of George Washington and became a general in the Continental Army. He was a cavalryman. He died of wounds suffered in the Battle of Savannah. Pulaski is one of only seven people to be awarded honorary membership in the United States.

The Seige of Savannah was an encounter of the American Revolutionary War in 1779. The year before, the city of Savannah, Georgia had been captured by a British expeditionary corps under Lieutenant-Colonel Archibald Campbell. The siege itself consisted of a joint Franco-American attempt to retake Savannah from September 16, 1779 to October 18, 1779. On October 9, 1779, a major assault against the British siege works failed. During the attack, Polish Count Kazimierz Pułaski, fighting on the American side, was mortally wounded. With the failure of the joint American-French attack, the siege failed, and the British remained in control of Georgia until July 1782, close to the end of the war.

The battle is much remembered in Haitian history; the Fontages Legion, consisting of over 500 gens de couleur—free men of color from Saint-Domingue—fought on the French/American side. Henri Christophe, who later became king of independent Haiti, is thought to have been among these troops.

In 2005 archaeologists with the Coastal Heritage Society and the LAMAR Institute discovered portions of the British fortifications at Spring Hill. The brunt of the combined French and American attack on October 9, 1779, was focused at that point. The find represents the first tangible remains of the battlefield. In 2008 the CHS/LAMAR Institute archaeology team discovered another segment of the British fortifications in Madison Square.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Color Blind Revolution

The following piece is totally plagiarized, mostly from Wikipedia which plagiarized various Colonial source documents.)

Crispus Attucks, a Free Black American, was the first American martyr in an event prior to the Revolutionary War itself. The son of a native African and a Native American of the Natick tribe, Attucks ran away from his slave owner and became a sailor and whaler. He learned to read and write and to understand the basic principles of different types of government.

Attucks attended meetings with other patriots to discuss taxes levied by Britain, and wrote a letter of protest to Governor Thomas Hutchinson, the Tory governor of Massachusetts. On March 5, 1770, at Dock Square in Boston, Attucks was with a group of men who were defying the British Red Coats. He was the first man to die in the ensuing skirmish, later called the Boston Massacre.

As the first to die for the American cause, he was buried with honor, and a monument on the Boston Common was erected to immortalize his sacrifice.


Salem Poor, a Free Black-American, married, and twenty-eight years old, enlisted in a Massachusetts militia company commanded by Benjamin Ames. Poor was also engaged at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

He has been described as having been among the most prominent and meritorious characters at the battle of Bunker's Hill. Indeed, the historical painting of that scene, by Col. Trumbull, an eyewitness, done in 1785, gives Peter Salem , with other black patriots, a conspicuous place.

That he distinguished himself is certain; six months after the battle, fourteen Massachusetts officers, all of whom had taken part in the battle, petitioned the Massachusetts General Court to reward Salem Poor as follows.

"To the Honorable General Court of the Massachusetts Bay: The subscribers beg leave to report to your Honorable House (which we do in justice to the character of so brave a man), that, under our own observation, we declare that a negro man, called Salem Poor, of Col. Frye's regiment, Capt. Ames' company, in the late battle at Charlestown, behaved like an experienced officer, as well as an excellent soldier. To set forth particulars of his conduct would be tedious. We would beg leave to say, in the person of this said negro, centres a brave and gallant soldier. The reward due to so great and distinguished a character, we submit to the Congress."
Cambridge, Dec. 5, 1755.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Was Benjamin Franklin a Socialist?

I am now hearing that the mandating of health insurance of individuals so that the more responsible no longer pay for the irresponsible who can pay but don't is "Un-American and a Socialistic blasphemy".

I wonder what Benjamin Franklin would have to say about this attitude toward mandating individuals to meet a common need. HHHMmmmmmm!!


Under (Benjamin) Franklin's goading, a group of thirty men of Philadelphia came together to form the Union Fire Company on December 7, 1736. Their equipment included "leather buckets, with strong bags and baskets (for packing and transporting goods), which were to be brought to every fire. The blaze battlers met monthly to talk about fire prevention and fire-fighting methods.

Homeowner's were mandated to have leather fire-fighting buckets in their houses.

Incidentally, the one thing that Franklin said gave him the most satisfaction of all his accomplishments was his co-founding, by a combination of public funding from the city of Philadelphia and private donors, of Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in the Colonies, "to care for the sick, poor and insane who were wandering the streets of Philadelphia".

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Well, Today IS Another Day

The baby chicks my friend brought for me to chick-sit yesterday, (just before the power outage, and only those who have nurtured newly hatched chickens know how upsetting that was) are doing well.

I am working on this artsy-crafty thing for the reunion and on Reunion Day I want all smart alecky comments on the results held at a minimum please!

Let’s just say it involved wallpaper scraps, spray-on glue and Styrofoam..

Now, in addition to all my socks being brown from the newly applied floor stain that all but one experts polled say will NEVER dry, (I’m betting on the one) and the seat of all my jeans sticking to everything I sit on, my fingers are now semi-permanently webbed with an “industrial strength” tacky glue! And the wallpaper scraps never scrapped out right to my measurements (nothing ever does) so it looks a little like a Home Depot decoupage thing..

I think I’ll go out and watch the baby chickens and relax.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cleaning Glitch in Clean Land!!

The cleaning and refurbishing bug has hit a wall. What can I say?? Something is wrong with the stain I applied to the floor day before yesterday. It still isn't dry! What can the matter be? Who knows?? Surely it will dry eventually and let me slather on the other stuff that's supposed to make it hard and impervious to slops, spills, hammers and other domestic tools dropped by accident!

And did I mention that we inadverdantly cut the TV cable in two? What nut bag ran it under the carpet like that anyway? (Just call me Nutbag.) And we were so proud of remembering to get new blades for the box cutter to cut the carpet with.

It took a quick but necessary trip into town to Radio Shack to sustain my TV addiction.

The Radio Shack guy spent a good deal of time explaining how the ends were to be bared, poked in to the little brass gizmos and crimped with an ingenious hand tool which he loaned me. I only messed up one end and I thought that was pretty good for someone as unmechanical as myself but the fact remains that BOTH ends had to be workable.

However my mother didn't raise any dummies so I finally figured it out and with only a yard and a half of duct tape, the connection is working perfectly!

I would write more but I need to start working at getting the Red Walnut (whoever saw a red walnut?) stain off the bottom of my feet.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Winter is Coming

Winter is coming and I have the cleanup-paint-up, fix-up bug.

Don't ask me why. I never get the Spring Cleaning thing but this time of year I have an urgent need to not spend a long winter in dismal dirt and disaray.. (I love alliteration.)

Last week Brian and I tore up and drug out the old carpet.

That left us looking at 100 year old oak floors. There were three options. Lay new carpet. (I can't afford it.) Hire someone to lovingly refinish the old wood (I can't afford it) and freeze our butts off this winter, ...or compromise. Well I compromised. We are staining the old floor a deep red something or other kind of imitation wood juice and covering it with polyurethane stuff.

We will still freeze our butts off this winter but we will do it beautifully as the floor is a great surprise! It really looks good if I do say so! And the old woodwork matches so closely that it just needs a light rub of stain to pull it all together. I am so pleased with us.. I hope I will remember all this exuberance this January.

I am tired of the living room. I did it in the old Lizzy Borden colors..(mustardy yellow walls to go with the dark 100-year-old woodwork)thinking it was just sooo Victorian, as is the house, but Lizzy has had her day and the mustardy yellow walls suck!!@

Besides that nobody extant understood when I said it was the "Lizzy Bordon style". So a nice, calm cream-white stuff is going on the walls.

Can't wait to get it done.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

I wrote this piece nine years ago and it continues to reflect what I believe to be the truth about our country, The United States of America, and what I consider to be the greatest metropolis in the world, New York City.


Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, we found out. With absolute clarity, under profound and indelibly imprinted experience it was revealed to us. In the indisputable and universal language of disaster and despair we met our heroes..... and they are us.

Somewhere on the way to the bank...while making this the richest nation ever, during our passionate discussion of life and the value of it, during our playful moments at ballgames and on vacations, in our moments of art....sharing with our children and the world our joy of life and appreciation for the past, and in our creative moments.. as we developed the most amazing technology intended to save lives, to communicate with each other and to create and entertain....we became our own heros.

We became the people we saw in New York City, Virginia, Pennsylvania and in the skies last Tuesday.

We became firefighters that set out to climb 90 flights of stairs laden with 120 pounds of equipment needed to do their jobs and to save lives. We became priests who did not hesitate to follow them in. We became the kind of people who would not leave a man in a wheel chair behind in fear for their own lives. We became men and women who stood in line for six hours to give blood to strangers who needed that blood.

We have reared children who spent their day making peanut butter sandwiches for those waiting to hear from their lost ones. We reared children who grew up to be young men who recognized that they were to be used as part of an incredibly horrible weapon launched against the most precious symbol of our nation and decided to not let it happen.

We have become a people who may anoint any kind of leader they choose. Rich or poor, intelligent or less so, moral or immoral, sick or well, ...because in bad times, in HARD times, we lead ourselves and each other.

I do not say this with arrogance or pride. I certainly take no personal credit for this phenomenon. But I have recognized it, as many others surely have in these past few days, with the most awesome humility and gratitude.

And we in calmer ports,...in gentler mid-west, west and southern climes..............have often held New Yorkers in very low esteem. We have asked ourselves why they have to be so loud and move so fast and act so gregariously. Many of us had let ourselves become convinced that these New Yorkers were all a hard and uncaring people capable of great meanness.

Last Tuesday, September 11, 2001, we saw the heart of New Yorkers....bloodied and hurt beyond knowing....with perfect discipline and order...performing incredible feats of courage, love and faith. We have seen the value of their character, and I for one will never forget them.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


North Missouri is very pleased with itself.

For spectacular clarity of color and perfect temperatures and humidity there is nothing better than a September North Missouri day. My wandering self has always wallowed in these days, allowing a little piece of my mind to float aimlessly in their easing balm, storing up the equilibrium of September to defend against North Missouri’s harsh winters.

In September in North Missouri you do not need sunglasses. There is a natural softness to the air. Not a smudging but just a gentleness to the eye kind of thing.

And the breeze is light..kissing the cheek as it blows gently, ushering in at the end of each day a still and glowing moonlight, so very different from those maniacal wild storms of deep summer.

North Missouri is very pleased with itself in September. And so am I.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Will the Real American Please Stand Up?

If George Washington had had a personal banker his name would have been Haym Salomen.

It became a regular practice -- the Revolutionary leaders' diaries testify to this- "that when money was needed for the Revolutionary War, you went to Haym Salomon."

But Salomen was more than a banker. He was a gambler and he gambled his life and his fortune on a new country based on a new idea.

Sympathizing with the patriot cause, Solomon joined the New York branch of The Sons of Liberty. In September 1776, he was arrested as a spy but the British pardoned him in order to use his abilities as an interpreter for their Hession Mercenaries.

Solomon used his position to help prisoners of the British escape and encouraged the Hessians to desert the war effort. In 1778 Solomon was arrested again and sentenced to death, but he managed to escape, whereupon he made his way with his family to the rebel capital in Philadelphia.

Tortured and imprisoned by the British more than once., Haym Salomon negotiated many loans for the Colonies from France and Holland, but never took a commission for himself.

According to legend, General Washington's appeal for funds with which to maintain his ragged army at Valley Forge came to Salomon on Yom Kippur. Salomen reportedly turned to the congregation and suspended services to secure pledges for what Washington asked of him.

Washington, in August of 1781, struggling constantly with Congress and the individual states to raise money for his army, saw a chance that should not be missed. Washington with his main army and the Count de Rochambeau with his French army could take Yorktown if they could just get there.
(Ever heard of Yorktown? It was that little battle that won the war and created the new United States of America.)

Washington needed $20,000 for food and forage and wagons and clothing but Congress turned him down.

Congress had no powers of direct taxation and had to rely on requests for money directed to the states, which habitually refused.

When told there were no funds and no credit available, Washington gave a simple but eloquent order: "Send for Haym Salomon".

Haym again came through, and the $20,000 was raised. Washington conducted the Yorktown campaign, which proved to be the final battle of the Revolution.

The Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3rd, 1783, and ended the Revolutionary War, but the financial problems of the newly established Country were not over. It was Haym Salomon who managed, time-after-time, to raise the money to bailout the debt ridden government.

In 1893, a bill was presented before the 52nd United States Congress ordering a gold medal be struck in recognition of Solomon's contributions to the United States.

The Congressional Record of March 25, 1975 reads:
When Robert Morris was appointed Superintendent of Finance, he turned to Solomon for help in raising the money needed to carry on the (Rev) war and later to save the emerging nation from financial collapse. Solomon advanced direct loans to the government and also gave generously of his own resources to pay the salaries of government officials and army officers. With frequent entries of "I sent for Haym Solomon", Morris' diary for the years 1781–84 records some 75 transactions between the two men.