Posts filed under ‘Social commentary’

The Man In The Hole

coveredwellThe residual effects on a family of a nation in recession are playing out with textbook accuracy here in my home.  After months, weeks and hours searching fruitlessly for a company willing to hire two middle aged people who are overqualified for half the available jobs and under educated for the other half..Pap has descended into the hole. 

I’ve dealt with his depression through all 28 years of our marriage and I’ve always had a mental picture of an abandoned well, Pap curled into a fetal position at the bottom.  Most of the time, I can also see a few ropes dangling into the hole, well within his reach if he’ll just extend a hand.  One rope tied securely to me, a couple clutched in the meaty hand of  one of his friends, a slender piece of shiny nylon drifting down to him from his faith in a higher being.  Before, he eventually grabbed onto one of those ropes and pulled himself back into the sunshine. 

This time he snatched onto the well’s lid as he let  a dwindling bank account, no health insurance, no prescription coverage and the steady elimination of little luxeries so we can take care of the necessities push him down to the cold, rocky bottom of this abandoned well. 

I don’t pretend to truly understand his kind of depression.  I can’t see my husband in this scowling, emotional, self-centered man.  He doesn’t seem to hear me or see me. He can’t look forward or back. He’s living completely in the dark, miserable, horror of the moment, blind, deaf and irrational. 

With the cover on the hole this time, I fear we who love him are just not strong enough to lift it off.

March 5, 2009 at 9:29 am 10 comments

The Earth…If You Think About It

Have you seen that commercial that says something like, once you’ve made one change to help the planet, it changes your thinking forever? That ad got me thinking about my own journey into noticing that there were steps my family needed to take that would be better for us and better for the planet we inhabit.

It started in the garden, of course. I love working in the garden and it’s always been important to me to provide pesticide and hormone free fruits and vegetables to my kids. Around here, the only sure way to do that is grow it yourself. But, the expense and work of turning clay into plantable earth was beating me down. Then I found this book: Lasagna Gardening.   My battle with the weed infested flower beds here at my new house reminded me that this is THE ONLY way to garden. 

The process is really simple, rather than digging into the ground, you build on top, using all the waste materials from your yard that you once sent to the landfill. It starts with several inches of newspaper, add your grass clippings, dump the leaves, add more grass clippings and the weird lettuce leafs, peelings and misc. shells from your kitchen, add more tree leafs. Once you have several layers – brown, green, brown, green…you can plant right in it. No weeds, no bugs and the most beautiful flowers and vegetables you’ve ever seen. All my gardens at the old house were lasagna gardens and that got me thinking….

With five kids we could haul out ten or twelve bags of trash every week. Do you have any idea how many sheets of paper five kids throw into the trash? How many aluminum cans? It was costing us a fortune. So we set up a simple system to collect these kinds of things along with the plastic milk jugs for recycling. That got me thinking….

Energy efficient light bulbs are not that much more expensive than regular ones, and it is proven fact that they’re better for the planet. We had a small windfall a couple of years ago and decided to spend it replacing all the light bulbs in our house. Yesterday I replaced the light bulb in my favorite reading light. I can’t remember having to do that since we put the new, environmentally friendly bulbs in. That got me thinking…

Plastic bags and bottles will lay in the landfill for 100 years or more. There are chemicals in plastic I don’t want to think much about. I know what kinds of chemicals they treat my tap water with and it’s scary. There are ingredients listed on my cleaning supplies that I can’t even pronounce… I think this will be my new set of problems to resolve in an environmentally friendly way.


April 23, 2008 at 8:12 am 8 comments

Influenced By:

I’ve been reading Memoirs of a  Geisha by Arthur Golden.  My first impression was that the life of a Geisha was much more squalid than I had believed.  My second was that much of this story reminded me of the stories I’d heard of the Octoroon Balls and the society that created them from about the same time period.  We women are a resiliant and resourceful bunch. 

There was one sentence from Geisha that has stuck with me:  “We viewed ourselves as pieces of clay that forever show the fingerprints of everyone who has touched them.” 

I’ve always looked at babies as pieces of clay,  waiting for that combination of people and circumstances that will mold them into the adult they will someday be.  I can see the influence of the people I’ve bumped into in myself, so much more than that I look like my father, but have my mother’s coloring.  The person I am today is the result of many people’s influence, some good, some bad.

Friends, family, co-workers, strangers I’ve talked to in airports and hospital waiting rooms…they’ve all poked, prodded and helped in the creation of the me that lives today.  I can directly attribute the fact that I’m nice to everyone to the people who’ve passed through my life and were mean to me. 

What about you?  Who were you influenced by?

October 15, 2007 at 10:28 pm 17 comments

Random but Timely

Better living through Pharmaceuticals:  I first started smoking in basic training.  Smokers got breaks every hour or two while the rest of us tidy lunged airmen continued to pick up rocks on the drill field under the scorching, midsummer, Texas sun.  Being a lazy social soul, I joined the smokers, with every inention of quitting again once I got to technical school.  That was thirty years ago.   I’ve tried to quit, but I have one of those personalities that just latches onto things.  If I’d ever smoked a joint, snorted a line or shot something into my arm at any point in my life…I’d still be doing it. 

During one of our weekend meetings, the doctor mentioned a newly approved prescription called chantix.  My insurance covered it, so I’m giving it a try.  It works by blocking nicotine from getting to the sensors in your brain that control urges.  Its not addictive (remember when they used to give people valium to help them quit?  Jeesh), and there’s an activity plan that goes along with the program, things to help with the “habit” part while the chantix works on the “addiction”.   *******

The writer’s block passed when I woke up to bird song this morning, and a day filled with light.  Sunshine would be better, but I’ll take what I can get.  I finished the second to last chapter this morning and will start the final chapter tonight.  Apparently I have no choice but to move to Florida, Southern California or the Bahamas if I’m expected to write every day.  **********

I had a meeting last night that included a cross section of the town leaders with a sprinkling of common folk ranging in age from 23 – 70.  We were supposed to be talking about community improvements, but soon wandered off topic to a discussion of the difficulty our businesses are facing finding people to work.  That turned into a discussion regarding this new generations knowledge of work ethics and discipline which quickly dissolved into talk of the war in Iraq.  Those of us in the room that are veterans are seriously worried about the inevitable need of a draft.  Several of us are worried that the foundation of these young people that may get sent to war is not sturdy enough for soldiering.  Remember that those of us flapping our jaws about this subject are the ones that raised the young people who may be sent off to war.  We weren’t insulting our kids, we were chastising ourselves. 

All of us wanted to give our children a better childhood than we’d had.  We’re worried that we’ve made them too pampered, supervised and soft to make good soldiers.  Because while the military has been technologized from one end to another, all it takes is one satellite going down and our kids are fighting just like their grandfathers did.  On the ground, hand to hand with people who haven’t lived a cushy American life.   

February 27, 2007 at 11:02 pm 16 comments

Motherhood – Round Two

Its very odd raising young kids again at my age.  I deliberately had all my kids in a lump, when I was young.  Pap and I thought we’d do a better job of parenting if we took it on while we were brimming with youthful vitality.  That was pretty much true.  I certainly got through the mountains of laundry, taxi service and tutoring with energy to spare when my kids were Jazz and Bri’s ages.  I’m not yet 50, so its not exactly like I’m toddling around on my walker to take care of these kids, but it definately feels odd.  The world has changed so much since the last time I was waiting on afternoon announcements and the cannon ball attack of a small kid just set free from classes. 

During round one, taking care of my own kids, everyone was about my age in the lobby at school.  We were picking up kids in our suits and high heels, mentally ticking off the number of minutes it would take to shove some macaroni and cheese down their throats before we ran off to gymnastics, karate or dance lessons.  We were 80’s Mom’s – bringing home the bacon and frying it up in the pan.  That’s how I learned to multi-task.  Back then I could supervise homework while I cooked dinner, planned a birthday party,  called around to organize a car pool and prepared the agenda for the next day’s meeting.   

Here in round two, everyone in the lobby is still my age.  In fact, we’re pretty much the same people.  We’ve traded in our business suits for wind pants or jeans, there are more grandfathers than grandmothers hanging out waiting for the little darlings… but there are many of us on round two of parenting.  I wonder if this new generation will come out better than those 80’s kids.  We grandparents are a smart, savvy group.  We know stuff and are not easily fooled. 

January 26, 2007 at 2:31 am 21 comments

Big Box Killed the Pot and Book

My small town was once a bustling community producing some of the world’s finest art and functional pottery.  The train ran through twice a day, shipping this ware by the car load all across the country.  Our residents were all working and spending their money right here at local stores.  Their tax dollars went straight to parks, roads and the school in our neighborhood. 

The first blow to the pottery industry came from foreign imports.  They were so good at copying our patterns they could have knock-offs out within days of the original hitting the shelf.  The second blow came with highway improvements that made getting into the city so much easier.  The killing blow was the creation of the “big box”, who took advantage of  both those things: easy access and cheap foreign imports.  Our potteries couldn’t compete with the price and American’s started settling for second best…or worse. 

The book industry is facing a similar fate.  Today I read of yet another independent book store that’s closed its doors forever, unable to compete with the big discount bookstores like B&N or Borders on top of thebooks.jpg internet options.  It seems people want that best selling page turner for $6.95 or they’ll just skip reading altogether. 

There is nothing I love more than small bookstores run by knowledgeable people who genuinely love books.  If you’re a small publishing company or a new writer (who isn’t royalty, an actor or an axe murderer), those are the kinds of bookstores that give you a chance.  They help you build readership.  They don’t have the shelf space or the traffic to mass order their books so how do they compete with Amazon, who immediately discounts every book 40%?  They don’t, they suffer the fate of my pottery factories.  Unless they step up and try something new.

The internet is here to stay, along with Amazon, and all the other virtual “big boxes” that will crop up in the future.  I care first about keeping people reading, if the only way to do that is making books cheap, its up to companies like mine to figure out how to keep the quality of the writing high and the presentation inexpensive. 

As for me, I like my books with dust covers and sturdy covers.  I read ’em in the tub and carry them with me everywhere – they have to have some constructional substance to them.  I keep them on shelves where they’re  handy for yanking down to pull out a quote.  I like the smell of new books.  I’ll pay for this kind of quality. 

December 27, 2006 at 6:18 pm 26 comments

Whirl Plates! Whirl!

Things are happening fast and furiously around this joint!  Due to popular demand, tomorrow I will update you on my haunted nutcracker… the dog gone thing just insists on being a nuisance, I took nine pictures of him and none of them came out…maybe I should hold him in front of a mirror??

Regarding all of you that also dream in color:  When I was in the Air Force, that was one of the questions on the psychological tests they made us take, whether you dreamed in color or black and white.  In my flight of sixty, I was the only one who dreamed in color.  I was also the only creative one in that batch of 60 girls.  Judging from the response I got here from a bunch of writers… I think it must be an off shoot of being left (or is it right?) brained.  Who knew?

Here in my little town we’ve had a conundrum.  Ohio is an anti-gambling state with the exception of the lottery, scratch offs and what is commonly known as the Chuck E. Cheese law.  A ridiculous piece of legislation written to cover the fact that the Chuck E. Cheese pizza places have had “games of chance” forever and some whahoo decided that was gambling.  CEC is a kids place, human sized habitrails, skee ball, and grown adults walking around in animal costumes.  Anyway…. they pass this law allowing “skill games” to cover CEC.  Of course it didn’t stop there, other people looking to make a buck used this law to open game parlours all over the place using those game machines that spit out tickets when you win which they trade for prizes or cashiers checks (which is supposedly less like gambling than just giving them cash- jeesh).  At first, we just had one of these places open up on Main Street.  Then the City next door abolished them and took the issue to court. So they all moved to my little town.  There are a number of reasons this bugs me.  The first being they’re taking up space that could be occupied by a business with actual employees so the town would get some tax money off the endeavor.  The second is they’re fleecing our elderly citizens who go there for an opportunity to socialize that they don’t have outside of church.  In opposition to these game parlours is the Apostolic Church.  They’ve opened up business on Main Street too and painted a mural of hell on the front window, complete with a lake of fire full of screaming people.  They may have stopped short of putting fistfulls of tickets in these burning sinners hands, but they do have all of them facing the game parlour next door.  What’s not to love about small towns?

Distressing news that has a happy ending regarding the two oldest grandgirls.  Since their Dad moved them out of his father’s house and into his mother’s house with a flock of other people, their grades have dropped and the court has denied his application for shared parenting.  Since Tiffany is not yet settled in her own house and its the middle of a school year, they will be coming to live with me.  The girls are excited, they like staying with Pap and me.  They have their own room, their own toy closet and their own shelves of books and games in the library.  Pap has been teaching Jazz to cook, which they both love and Bri writes with me.  It will be fun and help them get back on track before they have to move again with their mother. 

Down to the last few presents to wrap up Christmas Shopping, how’s everyone else doing?

December 14, 2006 at 10:48 pm 7 comments

Look Into My Eyes….

isabelle-lounding-4.jpg 

It’s tricky maintaining a consistently pleasant attitude.  The grumpy and curmudgeonly of the world seem to find happy people a challenge.  A test of their gloom spreading skills.  They find a joyful persona somehow…suspicious, abnormal, less informed, dare I say it…silly. 

This is Princesses wicked cat Isobelle.  She isn’t really a cat.  She’s an offspring of the Grinch, disguised as a cat, spirited into my house through a deceptive farmer.  Probably wasn’t even a real farmer, just some mean guy DRESSED as a farmer.  It is Isobelle’s mission to destroy my Christmas Spirit.  She will fail as miserably at stealing my joy as those who came before her:

   “If being grounded for one week is so darn funny, you can have two.”  Still smiling.

   “Airman!  Wipe that smile off your face and give me twenty!”  Still smiling.

   “Mom, I just crushed the bumper of your new car into grandpa’s truck.”  That very nearly worked, but then I remembered I had insurance and laughed out loud. 

This cat is a rookie.  She’s wreaked havoc on the shiny ornaments at the bottom of all my Christmas trees, completely shredded a wreath I’ve had since Tiffany was a baby and knocked wise man number three off the dresser breaking his little turbaned head off.  She’s debeaded the chandelier in my dressing room and then dragged the beads all over the house, chewed through the cord that normally lights up the wreath in the guest room and turned a “blanket” of snow into “cotton balls” of snow.  She drinks out of Pap’s Ice tea glass and eats the dog’s food, but I’m still smiling.  She’s just a cat.  These are just things.  I’m secure in the knowledge that whenever these antics cease to amuse me, there’s a large German Shepard just up the street that would enjoy a cat snack.    

December 8, 2006 at 8:07 am 22 comments

Ethics and Extreme Wealth

My friend, Clay Guy, dropped off a transcript of an interview some kids did with the world’s two richest men, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.  Of all the questions that were asked of these two moguls, two stuck out to me. 

Bill Gates commented on reading.  He was asked what super power he would assume if he could have any and he answered – to be the fastest reader in the world.  Reading falls high enough on his list of priorities that he schedules chunks of time off, strictly to read.

The other comment was from Warren Buffet.  When asked his opinion on ethics he said (and I’m paraphrasing since I left the article at my office) that he tries to live every day as if every second is being recorded by a very pushy and hostile reporter that will be broadcasting his daily report every night on the National News.  He said that he trys to never do anything he wouldn’t want his family, friends or associates to see. That is the best description of ethical behavior I’ve ever seen.

There were a lot of jokes going around about Mr. Buffet during the announcements of his donation of 85% of his enormous fortune to the Gates Foundation.  I saw lots of cartoons of the man with his family dressed in rags or squeezing nickles.  I thought then, as I think now, how jealous of another’s success do you have to be to ridicule the man for GIVING AWAY his money? 

When asked why he didn’t leave his fortune to his children he said: “I want to give my kids enough so that they could feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing”.  That sounds like a formula for successful, community conscious, young people to me.  We never have too many of them.

Mr. Buffet said something else that really resonated with me.  “I work in a market system that happens to reward what I do very well – disproportionately well. Mike Tyson, too. If you can knock a guy out in 10 seconds and earn $10 million for it, this world will pay a lot for that. If you can bat .360, this world will pay a lot for that. If you’re a marvelous teacher, this world won’t pay a lot for it. If you are a terrific nurse, this world will not pay a lot for it. Now, am I going to try to come up with some comparable worth system that somehow (re)distributes that.”

An honorable thought, equitable redistribution, but I’m not so sure giving it to the Gates Foundation was the best way to accomplish that mission.  Maybe I’m not smart enough to understand the structure of the Gates Foundation, but from what I can see, they focus on just three areas:  Global Development (money to building libraries, teach agriculture and hygiene, provide water and sanitation to other countries.)  Global Health (money to fight diseases in other countries) and the United States Program (money to improve technology in libraries, and create programs to raise standards in high schools.  They also seem to be providing a steady stream of income to any non-profit organization in Washington State and Greater Portland Oregon). 

Is it just me, and I am in no way saying these are not worthy causes, but why are the two richest men in America, one of which feels that there exists a moral inequity for hard working American people,  spending most of their great wealth, that they earned from American people, on other countries or their own neighborhood?

November 14, 2006 at 6:45 am 16 comments

Once the Dust Settled

Is it just me or was that the most emotionally draining Tuesday we’ve had in a very long time?  I like topics that get people talking.  I find it very interesting to see many different angles on the same problem.  Thank you to everyone who commented here yesterday, I appreciate that even the opposing positions were made in the spirit of debate rather than ridicule or hostility. You are magnificent people.

Locally, the vote was more social commentary than any I’ve ever seen.  Across Ohio the majority said NO to gambling, smoking in public, and adding any more liquor licenses to their towns and villages.  They said YES to raising the minimum wage to $6.85, cemetery, school, tax and fire levys.  A grievous piece of crooked politics was corrected in the County auditor’s office and in this mostly red state, a whole lot of Democrats won seats at everything from commissioners offices to the Govenors Mansion. 

Democrat or Republican, these new leaders campaigned on a platform of change.  Now it’s our job to watch them closely and make them pay up on their promises or explain why they can’t.  I’m registered as a Democrat, but I’ve voted across my party lines on many occasions, in an attempt to pick the best “person”.  We asked for change, we definately got it.

November 8, 2006 at 5:33 pm 14 comments

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