Thanks for stopping by, whether you got here by a link or hitting "next blog" -- I am glad you are here. I've also done some writing on homeschooling, and what I learned thinking I was teaching.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Flare-Up of Potomac Fever*

I didn’t have to dress, but I went anyway, and I insisted Doug join me at the 2012 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Who knew we would see so many actors and other performers? (!)

Thanks to c-span for carrying the event, and so showing us the kinds of people who shape our understanding of the world events and entertainment, without comment.  They documented the demise of political satire, and ongoing dependence on bathroom humor, profanity, and name-calling.   We could see the White House correspondents as they saluted one another, schmoozed, and skewered attendees. We heard the President of the United States, and a late-night TV personality perform, for laughs. 

Fifty years ago, women were not permitted to attend the dinner, according to Helen Thomas, interviewed shortly before the dinner by C-span. Indeed their attendance was their right, duty and privilege as hard working journalists, and President Kennedy insisted the doors open wide to women reporters. 

If the increased presence of women will elevate the tone of the workplace, an argument made for changing the culture of the Secret Service, I wonder about the half-century contribution women journalists have made to this evening’s celebration.  


*Poto'mac fe'ver --

 the determination or fervor to share in the power and prestige of the U.S. government in Washington, D.C., esp. by being appointed or elected to a government position.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I’ve never lost my temper

. . . because I know I still have it! 

Just when I think patience and self-control may be resident qualities of my character – life’s little adventures remind me though my fuse is a bit longer, it’s still combustible. Most recently, on another beautiful spring morning, facing no pressure except to get on with my day, a glitch got me – and I got mad.

My computer kept locking up; several times the tiny psychedelic ball whirled interminably, refusing to let me do what needed doing. After what seemed like the fiftieth time, I called the store to make an appointment. Apple’s automated answering machine boasted it could understand sentences – so, feel free to be specific about my problems.  I then was directed to schedule the appointment on their website.
“He-e-l-l—l-o I can’t get to your website; my computer is malfunctioning!”

 Why get so angry at an inanimate object?  It’s not like a computer cares that I am going nuts.  And yes, I yelled this into the phone, even as I knew Doug and his computer were nearby. He calmly scheduled an appointment later in the afternoon.

Then, I got on with my morning, and arrived at the Dallas Pregnancy Resource Center to be a Christian volunteer. There I found the receptionist on her knees, fiddling with the office computer. This larger and older inanimate object had also frozen up, and her considerable translation work was held hostage, threatened with erasure if she had to crash the computer – she was praying aloud while pushing buttons.

Frustrated? Yes.
Fuming? No.

And when the screen came back on, so did her work – and she praised the Lord, who is always good.  

Was there an object lesson here?

Later at the repair place, when the technician ran a diagnostic test or two, she stated the hard drive was OK, and suggested reloading the operating system.  Given my outburst –yelling at a computer – and the object lesson, maybe, I needed my operating system reloaded? (Psalm 139:23-24)

Anger is a risky emotional component in my character.   After all, as some wise soul observed: Anger is one letter short of danger.

What’s dangerous to me threatens others, too.

Will Rogers observed, “People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.”  Giving into anger can harm more people than me, just as planes that make bad landings can hurt more folks than the pilot. (I Pushed Jesus!)

In my time, I have banged pans, smashed glass, slammed doors and banged cabinet doors shut – and I have yelled, removing all doubt I lost my charm – and some brain cells! It seems indulging frustration is like losing my mind – literally! The Roman poet Horace warned, “Anger is short-lived madness.”   Now science has quantified that an angry outburst destroys brain cells – definitely a diminishing asset at my age!  Therefore, this adage bears repeating:

Before you give someone a piece of your mind, make sure you can get by with what is left.  ~ Author Unknown  

Apple’s computer-generated voice remained unresponsive to my angry outburst: I can’t access your website

I wonder what God’s response might have been, if, like my friend, I had prayed instead of fumed? I know Doug ’s morning would have been more serene. 

She that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and she that ruleth her spirit than she that taketh a city. (Proverbs: 16:32) – Or, in plainer language: It is better to be patient than powerful; it is better to have self-control than to conquer a city. (The New Living Translation)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I Can’t Say It Any Better

But, let me try.

It’s not as if I haven’t been writing these past few days – writing is a way of breathing to me. But as I have written, I can hear myself ask: “So, what is your point?” 

The facts are today promises to be another lovely Texas day. Today, I have my health, and I know I have my daily bread. Moreover, today, I have the security of not living in a war zone, like the Sudan, and of having the refuge of a loving husband, a home, family and friends. And the future of the free world does not depend on my decisions today.

Where am I going with this?
This is an Ebenezer kind of day – as have the previous five days. Everywhere I have looked, for several days, color delights. And this has been the stopping point for several meditations.

Why can’t I get beyond this?

I could say I feel guilty -- Some folks have no respite to simply sit, think, and soak in all that is good in being alive.  But if truth be told, I can’t get on paper what my eyes are seeing – what I am feeling.  Others have said it better!

So . . .

When a thing has been said and said well, have no scruple. Take it and copy it. Anatole France (1844-1924)

Just for today – if what I see had a voice it might sound like a poem or a violin concerto. The poet Rilke wrote that if the beauty of spring could be heard, it would resound all over.

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.  ~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

And the composer Vivaldi heard this melody two centuries before the poet wrote, and made it a part of four memorable violin concertos. (Spring)

Solomon concisely expressed what I see:

See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.
Song of Songs 2:11,12

  So did T.S. Elliot:
            APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding 
            Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing 
            Memory and desire, stirring 
            Dull roots with spring rain. (The Waste Land )
Earlier in the month, tornadoes ripped through Dallas – almost unimaginable as I enjoy this morning.  So, Shakespeare captured the disquiet that competes with my joy when Proteus declared:

". . . The uncertain glory of an April day;
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away." The Two Gentlemen of Verona (I, iii, 84-87)

Today, its beauty teaches me I am just one creature in a confounding creation, whose origin, conclusion and daily unfolding are in the hands of a God whose power and purpose keeps the stars; yet, He knows the number of my hairs, and how many more spring days I will enjoy. (Isaiah 40:26, 46:3-5;Psalm 139)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Weighing In on The War Against Women


War is a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state. Now, a conflict has been described as one in which a political party is at war with women.  I am a woman – and wonder how to respond, lest I am caught in the cross hairs of one faction or another.

The weapons are words – some portend personal legislative and economic changes that could deny many of the rights I enjoy. Other words hurt – suggesting that how one woman chose to live her life invalidates her political opinions. And this re-kindled some memories of skirmishes I encountered in the late 70’s and ‘80’s. 

I sympathize with Ms. Rosen – she revealed an opinion, as did a radio personality a few weeks ago, which generated heat, but not much light. Both Ms. Rosen and Mr. Limbaugh expressed opinions that represent opposite and deeply felt convictions about how we [should] live. However, in the on-going clash of deeply held convictions, making our political points so personal impedes conversation.   

Waging war with words can lead to battles that secure no peace.

Staying home to raise our kids was our choice – a choice based on our sense that personally and economically it made sense for us.  When we flirted with the idea of me going to work outside the home, running a few of the numbers showed us the return on that investment would be minimal.  However, the decision dismayed one of our kids: most of their friends’ moms worked --- and that I did not was a bit of an embarrassment.

In the ensuing years, I thought we were past the implication that women who chose to stay home were not as equally informed citizens as women who worked and men. I thought that “choice” included other decisions than simply reproductive rights.

Accusing our political parties of  “waging war” on other Americans shuts off the conversation that we Americans should be thinking about – the role of government in our daily lives, as well as our national life.  Getting personal, like Ms. Rosen and Mr. Limbaugh did, obscure the ability to see how women around the world are denied liberties that American women enjoy.   

When I read about how people live in many other countries, if even a portion of the reports is a true, Americans should take a good long look at what we have (warts and all) and get off demonizing each other. 

·      Women, who work in the home or outside the home or both, know economic realities.

·      Women who are battling their own, or loved ones’ disabling diseases know a thing or two about health care and medical insurance.

·      Women all know that our children face dangers and opportunities that were unimaginable when we were growing up. We all worry about how to communicate with them so we can pass along want we have learned.   

·      Women who care for their parents while caring for their own families or themselves know about the limits of Medicare and Social Security.

·      Women whose spouses or sons have gone to war know its cost in ways no one else does, except men whose wives and daughters have been killed or maimed.   

Our news and social media outlets are purveyors of arms (warring words and images) that are escalating our conflicts. See the brouhaha they fomented by blogs and tweets about SC Governor Nikki Haley’s income taxes!   Whether and how they might restrain their “sales” of these weapons are worthwhile questions.

Alas, there’s scant profit in being civil.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A New Form of Slavery?

William Gilmore Simms was a well-respected and popular Southern author in the mid-to late 19th century and one of many authors who wrote opposing Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. “[T]hese novels tended to feature a benign white patriarchal master and a pure wife, both of whom presided over child-like slaves in a benevolent extended-family-style plantation.”

Nobody today believes – or remembers -- Mr. Simms’ accounts, no matter how many accolades his contemporaries awarded him. Enslaving another human being is wrong – a word that barely conveys the immorality of the deed, whether perpetrated by the Africans, Portuguese, Spanish or English.

Reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, nowadays is often disdained because Tom, who responds to his oppressors with charity and forbearance, is too passive.  (A criticism that suggests its author hasn’t really read the novel.) Unfortunately too few people today understand what Mrs. Stowe created: an accurate description of a “benign” white patriarch master, Arthur Shelby, who was willing to sell Uncle Tom down river to pay off his debts. And none of the lives of those enslaved were lives lived under benevolent care!

Slavery ruined people and families, black and white – even as valor, charity, and conscience refused to break under its yoke.  And Mrs. Stowe masterfully shoved its apologists’ noses in the stench from that “peculiar institution.” But, slavery and its wounds still remain a part of the American conscience to today.  

Our government is stumbling under another yoke – entitlements. Our [well-intentioned] programs entrap and make dependent their beneficiaries with just enough to get by, but never enough to become independent. And we have entrapped Americans from all races, classes; 53% of all Americans enjoy some type of government assistance.  We can’t live with the cost, and we [think we] can’t live without the services. 

Could we be enslaving a third and fourth generation of American citizens?    

We meant to be helpful, creating nets through which the most needy could not slip – but we have created a system that is as unfeeling and self-perpetuating as the 19th century plantations.  We promise to care for the aged, infirm, unemployed, and the young -- all who will come into our welfare system through a variety doors – with borrowed money -- the way plantation owners borrowed to sustain their endeavors.   

Who wants to talk about debt, anyway?
Just as Mrs. Stowe knew that slavery could not care for people ripped from their homes, transported against their will, and brutalized; that eventually its masters would dispose of their chattel when pressed financially, our government is unable to honor all the promises it has made to Americans.  

So, it feels much like the times when Mr. Simms' novels were lauded for portraying a rosy picture of a noxious institution.  Arguing that our government (Ma’ser) means only help and kindness to its beneficiaries –  (we slaves )– ignores the reality there is not enough money to go around to care for our citizens and pay our debts.    

The bill will come due, and it is only a matter of time before one group or another gets sold down river to buy more time.

There was something so piquant and original in these elucidations of humanity, that Mr. Shelby could not help laughing in company. Perhaps you laugh too, dear reader; but you know humanity comes out in a variety of strange forms now-a-days, and there is no end to the odd things that humane people will say and do. (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Chapter 1 )

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Up early this morning, I thoroughly enjoyed a leisurely pace – putzing – and settled down to inscribe and address a stack of recently purchased birthday cards for friends whose birthdays occur in the next few days.  Carefully selecting them, I anticipated a few moments reflecting about the people and how they have been a blessing in my life, most for many years. I slowly reached for my coffee . . .

And overturned the blasted cup all over the dining room table!

·      Do you know how much coffee is in one little old mug?

·      Do you know how far that half-cup can reach on a Monday morning? 

Every single card got baptized!  (So did the newspaper, my Bible study guide,  some books and a couple of placemats. ) Hustling into the kitchen, retrieving towels, I moped up the mess – assisted by  my wonderful husband who sprang to attention when he heard me yell: “Tell me I did not just do that!”

Happy Monday.

Now stained with coffee, and drying out on the stove top, the cards no longer are fresh and cheery salutations; they look weary and worn.

Dare I send them? 

 On the one hand – a few were one of a kind; on the other, so are the people to whom they are going – new friends and old, family and in-law, all dear, and each unique.  A few might think the coffee stains were an intentional part of a new paper pattern – but most friends would see the creepy patterns now adorning the envelopes, and the return address and know exactly what happened!

Alas – among its other excellent properties, the fresh, hot coffee sealed too many of the envelopes too firmly – rendering them decorated but useless.

However, the upside is I was nowhere near the computer this time when I overturned my coffee!

·       Bad is never good until worse happens.  ~Danish Proverb

·      Every path hath a puddle.  ~George Herbert, "Jacula Prudentum"

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Very Palpable Hit

Last night after a yummy impromptu supper with family, we settled down for an after-dinner chat that ranged from money worries to politics and then to medical care issues – my doctor is no longer performing mammograms; they are too costly. On the conversation rambled, arriving at our experiences with family members who were subjected to extraordinary medical procedures which prolonged their lives, but added nothing to the quality of them.  And then we stumbled onto our plans for our funerals, and the cost differential funerals versus cremation – amidst much nervous laughter.

Maybe it was just whistling past the proverbial graveyard, but suffering and death are the borders within which we experience love, and joy and peace. Birth is the unique gate through which we passed into this pasture, and death its only exit.
This exit, death, intrigues poets and playwrights and surely, increasingly, has my attention! 

Death in itself is nothing; but we fear
To be we know not what, we know not where
John Dryden. 1631-1701. Aurengzebe. Act iv. Sc. 1.

            “Death is a very palpable hit.” (Hamlet Act 5, scene 2, 280–283)

This morning, knowing the fear and anticipating that hit, I remember and celebrate a promise made to a handful of men who could not grasp its meaning for a few days:  Because I live, you also shall live.  (John 14:19)  Instead of a terror, death has become the instrument without which I can’t be freed from its very clutches. (Hebrews 2:14)

But with that hope, comes a caution, dear reader -- Many who plan to seek God at the eleventh hour die at 10:30. (An anonymous alert drawn from John 8:24.)

May God bless your celebration of this day, gentle reader, so that if you fear death and all that attends it, your fear of death becomes the confidence in what I hope for and assurance about what I do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

* Quotations from Christians Quoting.  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

More on the TEXAS Tornadoes


The blessing of the written word – and live cameras! Were it not for the chronicles of the storm captured by print and photojournalism I could not have pictured the extent and force of the damage – or the miracle that no one lost their lives!  And even this extraordinary weather event recedes in the rearview mirror of life as we raced through another day.  

Today, Mr. Steve Blow in the Dallas Morning News wants to give credit where credit is [really] due:  to man’s wisdom. People playing it safe – in Dallas, Plano, Lancaster and Forney Texas -- are the reason no one was injured in the thirteen tornadoes that touched down Tuesday. 

I am glad so many acted so wisely. In contrast, the  off-duty Dallas police officer who helped shelter many didn’t feel it was just what he had learned that made him useful:
"With any situation, as a police officer, we always think, 'What could I have done different?'" he said. "This was Mother Nature. I had no control over what was going to happen." (article)  

An interactive map shows the numbers of tornadoes and where they touched down approximately. One cell was an f-3 tornado with wind speeds exceeding 150 mph, two others were f-2, with winds over 100 mph.   (We live between University Park and Dallas – around the center of the map.)  

So, we can congratulate ourselves – hundreds of thousands of people remembered to take appropriate shelter.  That in itself is a miracle – in every sense of the definition of the word! 

act of God: an event that appears to be contrary to the laws of nature and is regarded as an act of God
amazing event: an event or action that is amazing, extraordinary, or unexpected -- "It'll be a miracle if we get there on time."
marvelous example: something admired as a marvelous creation or example of a particular type of science or skill -- "a miracle of modern engineering"

[ 12th century. Via French < Latin miraculum "object of wonder" < mirari "wonder at" < mirus "wonderful" ]

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Trucks Fly Today in Dallas

And they flew on the wings of angry tornados’ winds – some which were clocked at 100 mph. (Reports of damage) We anticipated thunderstorms, but because of our morning’s work, we missed the news and were shaken to learn four tornados had been sighted within thirty miles of our home.  By the end of the afternoon, perhaps twelve twisters  touched down!

This is the third or fourth tornado scare in six years– and we were here for “Rita’s” threats to the Gulf coast as well. So, we should be somewhat accustomed to it -- but no.

Our little home, although old, is well built and able to withstand many of Texas’ weather challenges. So, too, were many of the homes that splintered under the force of wind and flying debris – rubbish that included an eighteen-wheeler. 

Can you imagine how those folks feel who lost all their possessions while hunkered down in a bathtub – hoping to be spared   a violent death, praying to protect the little children huddled beneath them?  

Tonight as I listened to people who had lived through minutes of utter terror recount what they did – find a windowless room, away from outside walls, and cover themselves if possible with a mattress; they followed directions because they believed their lives could depend upon the precautions they took.  Mercifully, it appears many folks were spared death and injury.

Why is it that we can follow directions so well when we are told a tornado is coming, and so rebellious when offered a way of escape for our eternal souls? 

Today’s storms reminded me how all of a sudden life can change . . . God makes His appeal through nature and through Scripture. But too many of us prefer our own way – and we leave the children entrusted to our care wandering loose when the storm warnings are blaring. 

God has given us shelter – another chance. How many times must He make the offer? My favorite choir, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, asks how many times He must show us His love.  Please click the link and enjoy this song – but don’t wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow you may face something bigger and more unexpected that than a flying 18-wheeler!   

This week Christians will remember the gift God gave so that we might escape the death our sins have earned.  Friday we will count the cost, and Sunday we will celebrate our freedom.  (Isaiah 53)  But don’t wait until Sunday!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

News from the Garden 2012

 Any color geranium makes me happy; but red ones are my favorite. I don’t remember when or why exactly they are so pleasing. No one I knew growing up grew them. Somewhere along the line, however, their jolly colors made me smile.

Is it daydreams of thatched English cottages they invoke?  Or memories of our trips to Southwest Harbor Maine they ignite?

Whatever connection they make, they evoke joy.

 Gladly I paid the purchase price for this year’s hanging basket; carefully I am tending it so that its glory will not wilt too quickly in Texas heat and sunshine.

I can report that the freesia bulbs I thought the squirrels devoured survived their foraging and the winter.  They bloomed even as the winter pansies faded away for the very reason the bulbs thrived – Not much cold weather!

Moreover, the Christmas bulb – the late bloomer – flourished outside, and gives every sign of blooming perhaps in a few weeks?

The roses are also returning, having endured a severe pruning the end of February.

And the square patch of earth that has heretofore appeared scraggly is yielding full and luscious colors – than for now delight.

This year I mean to properly plant my pink flamingo plant stands – with something that will withstand the heat or drought.   Can you spot them in the photo of yard? Maybe a lush pink elephant ear caladium will appropriately draw attention to their whimsical design? Though they are one step removed from tacky – barely -- they too make me smile.

A garden is a good thing – this one that was so well-established before is a humbling delight.  So many others have made it possible for me to putz about and get a great deal of credit for something in which I play a small part.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Can I Afford Not to Vote?

April Fool’s Day  is not a favorite day for me.  Probably because I am never clever enough to pull off a convincing prank, I remain obtuse enough to be fooled repeatedly, and therefore do not like the mirror this day affords. But the reminder of how easily I can be fooled, and how willing remains a timely one.

I finished reading a book (better described as a pamphlet) by Andy Andrews, How Do You Kill Eleven Million People: Why Truth Matters.  (Electronic edition) It is an expensive choice of reading material – but its content provides valuable insights – You have a mind – USE it! The real purpose of the book is to get readers to answer that question for ourselves. (Page 49)

Come on over to my NEW autumn's garden to see how I update the review of an important book:http://autumns-garden.com/citizenship-is-no-joke/