Monday, December 31, 2007

This 'N' That

This will be a mish-mash of thoughts and experiences.

Yesterday I went to the store about mid-afternoon while the Cowboy game and several bowl games were televised, I giggled to myself, as traffic was almost as light as Christmas morning. Anyone ever heard Texas is a football state? Actually, I woulda been watching too if I had an aerial. I don't, and the landlady forbids satellite. I refuse to pay cable. So-no football. Considering how the game went, I am just as glad I missed it.

Two weeks before Christmas, I had an emergency and had to call my oldest son, who in turn called my youngest son. Moms are supposed to give help, not ask for it. I really, really hated that. But a funny thing happened. I knew my sons loved me, but I didn't really know how much. And I was expecting them to go all bossy and tell me what to do. They didn't. They were very loving, and we sat down as a family and decided how I would proceed with me getting a full vote. It was a wonderful gift. Presents? Faugh! I got pure, undiluted love for Christmas. What is better than that? And I got the frills, too. I am a very lucky woman.

I usually make my goals and resolutions on my birthday, but this year, I will make some resolutions for tomorrow. I hate whiners, but realize I haven't been meeting some goals because I snivel "it's too hard." I will work on this. Another flaw is my prayers each day for blessings, but when extras come along, I tend to say, "no thank you, I have a plateful and I don't need seconds." How stupid is that? For 2008, I vow to say yes more often than no. And I've always had trouble asking for help. I've worked on this for years and will continue to do so. And I look forward to a happy year. That most of all.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Short Christmas Can Be Twice as Sweet

Shopping last Friday (Dec. 14), I began noticing a lot of people smiling at me. Huh, I thought. What's THAT all about? And then I realized I myself was smiling and happy, humming along with the Christmas carol music and having a good ol' time. Yup. I've always said my Christmas spirit clicks in around Dec. 15. And it did. And I realized how instinctively wise I've been all these years not to start shopping until a week-10 days before the holiday. I'm not a holiday marathoner. I may not even be in the 5 K unless I'm part of a Christmas relay team.

When I was working, I could always dive into the job and avoid this holiday activity until I was ready. (By the way, has anyone else noticed the ads seem particularly numerous and repetitious this year or is that just me? )

Yes, I got about half my shopping done early, but not with joy. At all. I tried not to scowl, but I did fantasize about finding the control panel in some stores and ripping out the wires so I wouldn't hear Christmas music before Dec. 1 for Pete's sake. Even after Dec. 1. I was polite to the clerks, honest. But I suspect I looked kind of grim, because I felt kind of grim.

So next year, I will go back to my usual habits of shopping two weeks before the holiday and quit worrying that most of my friends are organized and are finished long before now. (Talked to one friend this weekend and she has almost everything wrapped. For me, this simply does not compute.)

But then, as I said, I seldom enjoy shopping. It's like being told that for the 12 days of Christmas, we will eat turnips every single day, isn't that great? While listening to Wagnerian operas. While wearing shoes a half-size too small. And I should be thrilled and looking forward to this. Oh, and did I mention? We will pay through the nose for this because It is Good For The American Economy.

But Friday, I really enjoyed shopping. Spent 31/2 hours, in fact, which for me is amazing. Got some stuff for me, too. And now I'm listening to some of my favorite Christmas carols, and I've gotten cards from people I don't hear from but once a year, and I've seen some longtime friends who are usually too busy to synq schedules, and that part I enjoy very much. The spiritual part is a major component, whether or not I'm involved in organized religion in a particular year. At least half my friends eschew the God stuff completely, and that is fine with me. As they accept that for me, it's an absolute essential of Christmas.

This year, I keep thinking about the people who lost their homes in California and the Northwest, and that some folks in Oklahoma are just hoping they will have lights and heat so they can get home for Christmas. Not what they had planned, most likely. And I remember Dr. Seuss' book about The Grinch, who discovered to his puzzlement that even when he took away every single trapping of the holiday, the Who celebrated because Christmas just comes.

I think I will try very hard to be a Who or remember a Who this year. All the time singing carols along with the radio.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Spankings versus Beatings

(sigh) been meaning to write this for days. Just lazy, I guess.

There has been a big brouhaha across the nation over Massachusetts lawmakers considering the absolute ban of pinching, spanking, etc., of children by the parents. And I agree. That's just silly. I've heard some psychologist on radio saying unfortunately, some parents just go too far. Well, that's true.But the majority don't seem to. Go through any school, and you will not see kids with bruises and welts in the halls. You will see smooth-skinned kids without injuries, so far as we know. (A handprint on the butt doesn't show.)

In my state, there is a misconception that the state protective agency doesn't want anyone spanking there kids. That's just not true. Most workers were spanked and in turn, spank their own kids. BUT---

What is a spanking, and what is a beating? My parents both spanked me. Dad used his hand on my bottom (outside my clothes). He got a lot of strength into that swing, and it stung. Sometimes left a red mark that lasted 10 minutes. Mom was the product of Southern parenting. She sent me out to pick my own dreaded switch with a few leaves on the end, and then she switched my calves, three time My, that stung! and again, the marks had faded in 10 minutes. While I was getting the corporal punishment, they were both telling me what I had done wrong, (Dad much louder than Mom) how disappointed they were and how they expected me to act in the future. Spankings were not frequent. They really made an impact, so to speak. And I surely didn't want another one. But I never had a mark. That's a legal definition, by the way, of spanking, except I think Texas law gives the marks up to an hour to fade.

Pinching is okay, too, see above. But I have seen kids with 3-4 red-purple marks on their arms from what must have been really vicious pinches. Life-threatening? Nope. Probably doesn't even interfere with the parent child bond too much. Most folks I dealt with seemed to think that unless there were bruises or welts, the spanking would not do its job. Frequently used implements are wooden spoons (one mom meticulously hit her eight-year-old 70 times; she was not out of control), sticks, yardsticks, thick wooden paddles, belts (for some reason, many I saw held the smooth leather end and swung the buckle, leaving gouges where the tongue bit into the skin one or two inches) and the ever popular electric cord. There are dads who have their children drop their pants and lean over a chair so they can spank them bare-assed. That usually leaves bruises for several days.

And no, the state will not take your kids away for any of the above, unless it's considerably more severe than I have discribed.

Discipline means the parent is in control and has a goal, a lesson to be learned, from the spanking. Too often, I've seen evidence the parents lost control and just flailed away.

No, foster parents are NOT allowed to use coropral punishment. Think about it. Why? The kids have already been abused, to the extent they have been taken out of their homes. Foster parents get extra training, and many are super good with kids anyway. You should see the appearance and behaviour of these kids after six months of predictability, safety, and consistent rules. You really can parent effectively without spanking, hitting, slapping or pinching. But for many, it takes classes to introduce these new ideas. It's kind of like always knowing how to use a hammer very well, and then going into a class where you learn about a whole bunch of new tools and how to use them. You hardly have to use the hammer at all any more.

I remember a 13-year-old girl with a single mother we were dealing with. Mom was 28 or 29 and absolutely beautiful, and a very strong woman. She dealt with the schools, with social services, with police, and she was invariably polite. But she had decided what she was going to do and she was not to be dissuaded.

Daughter, 13, was also beautiful and fully developed. At the point of our visit, she was 3-5 months pregnant and stubbornly refusing to reveal the identity of the father Oh. And she had a mouth. Sometimes she got in scuffles at school and ended up in alternative classes. Mom was beside herself.

So the day came when she came to school with welts all over her, electric cord welts. No open cuts, but welts, on her arms on her back and yes, on her barely pregnant belly. This was not discipline. This was Mom utterly losing it. Kid wasn't in mortal danger, but still--not supposed to happen. And it indicated a bad situation at home where things could escalate. I was on-call that day (meaning from 4:30 p.m. that day till 8 a.m. the next morning I was called to handle any reported emergency that came in to my county.) My boss sent me out to get a signed paper contract (not legal in court, but most folks who sign such contracts and put their name on it will honor it. Health care counselors sometimes use the same technique with depressed clients to keep them safe till the next session.)

"There is no way we are picking up this kid," my supervisor told me. "and you are not to leave without a signed contract." Nice work if you can get it...thank God by then we had cell phones.

When I got to the home, Mom was in the kitchen cooking supper. She wasn't happy, but did let me talk to her daughter alone in the bedroom. She turned off the stove and we began to talk. And we talked and talked. She steadfastly refused to sign anything. She obviously was angry and frustrated with her daughter. After two hours, I was getting a little desperate because I relaly needed to use the bathroom. I figured I would have to excuse myself, drive to a store a block or two away and return, hoping she would let me back in.

Finally she sighed and said she didn't understand what was going on these days. Her mother had whipped her children and no one intervened. She said she guessed my parents had never spanked me. No, I told her emphatically. I was spanked.
"Then you had bruises," she said. No, I told her, I had spankings and switchings but I never had a mark after about 10 minutes. She stared at me. I looked at her. We had a joint epiphany. It had never occcurred to her a spanking or whipping could be administered without some lasting marks. It had never occured to me that she didn't understand it could be done withOUT leaving lasting marks. We talked another hour and somehow my bladder perservered. And ultimately she signed. And she kept her word, too.

So when people talk about giving spankings, I've learned that what one person means may be very different from the law. And in many cases, this doesn't matter a great deal. But I still run into people who rhink spankings or whippings mean beating the kid black and blue or leaving switch marks that last for days. That DOES matter.

Government doesn't have a right to intrude on your family to insure your kids a happy childhood. You can still be as dysfunctional as you want. You just can't beat your kids black and blue or puncture their skin with belt buckle tongues or leave bleeding wounds. That's not too intrusive, is it?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Oh, Tannenbaum, how lovely are your branches!

Trees for Troops is an organization that got off the ground three years ago. This year AmEx is assisting. Contrary to the name, most of the trees are not going to the troops, but to their families, who have very little money to pay for fresh trees.
The growers are donating much of their expense, and Amex as well. Here's the thing--they need you-or someone like you--to buy a tree or two. You can do this on-line this weekend or get a list of places you can go by to make a donation.

This is no big, huge mega organization. Three years ago they distributed 4,700 trees. This year they plan to distribute 17,000 to 20,000 trees. In Texas, most of the trees will go to families at Fort Hood or Lackand.

What does a tree mean to someone? I don't know. I only know as an adult, my sons and I went out one holiday year to pick out the tree and here was this white pine. The tree of my childhood. And very pretty. My dad liked them because he said the branches were far enough apart to really see the individual ornaments. Oh, but that tree was so much more than pretty. It was a whole childhood. Both my parents were gone. I had an uncle who sent us $150 each year. He didn't know it, but his annual gift paid for the tree, the food, and any gifts I could eke out (one was always a paperback book.) But that tree. It was twice the price of the regular trees. I looked and looked at that tree, but I couldn't justify paying for that tree. So I started to turn around to leave when my older son grabbed my arm. "Mom," he said, "get it Let that be your gift to yourself this Christmas."

And so I did. And it WAS my Christmas gift. It spread our home with the scent of balsom, sparkled beautifully, shimmered as I played Christmas carols and listened to my children laugh. A tree can be mighty special.

I can't remember most of the Chrismas presents I've gotten in my life, but I'll never forget that tree.

So this weekend, consider a donation to Trees for Troops. You might just put in a little magic for some kids missing their parents at Christmas.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Countcher blessings and quitcher bitching

Some years back, I was making a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. I was using an old, glass pie plate that certainly was inexpensive, but old enough it was deeper than its counterpoints today. The crust was already rolled out and lying in the pan as I combined the ingredients for the filling. The oven was heating.

Suddenly, I had one of those moments where I felt so connected to the generations before this present moment. My grandmother, who married in the 1890's, had bought this plate--I don't know when--and used it. My mother had made pies in this plate. And here was I, making my filling from my mother's recipe in a 1935 church cookbook, before stoves had thermostats. Recipes called for a hot oven or a moderate oven or a warm oven. My mother's recipe differed from most modern pumpkin pie recipes in its use of ginger. It always seemed to me her pumpkin pie was just a little better, but that may simply have been love and tradition. But there I was, at the kitchen counter, making a pie as my mother had, as my grandmother had, using the same dish. And for that moment, we were connected. I wasn't a lone woman standing there but a link in a chain of women, each of whom had loved the next generation and cooked for them. And, I feel quite sure, giving thanks for what they had. Because I DID know those women.

When I was growing up, there was always seven for dinner--my three grandparents, my uncle, my parents and me. We raised turkeys, so the bird was very fresh. Dad made the dressing the night before. (As I've blogged, I've come to wonder where he learned to cook, because he did, quite a bit. And he always made the stuffing and cooked the turkey.) As I got older, he delighted in showing me how he made the stuffing. The secret, he said, was to go by the smell. He cooked and stirred until it SMELLED right.Celery and onions, and he always added a finely diced apple. Fresh cornbread, still hot from the pan. Stale bread that had been bought a week before and sat on the refrigerator getting stale. Less bread, I think, than cornbread. Salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and a little sage. Smelling right had to do with the spices. A can of chicken broth,maybe, or more likely or he would boil the neck for broth, to provide the flavorful moisture to bind it together.Then refrigerated overnight to ripen the flavors.

The next morning he would waken at 4:30 a.m. to stuff the turkey with the dressing, saving enough for an 8X8 pan for my mother, who preferred a dryer stuffing with giblet gravy. It went in a large roaster and into the oven. In those days before infusion, he was pulling it out every 15 minutes or half hour to baste it again. His turkeys were always juicy and flavorful. I would awaken to the wonderful aroma of baking turkey and stuffing throughout the house, in addition to the possible breakfast smells like frying bacon. Since the turkey had to stand for awhile when he pulled the finished bird out before he could cut it, there was plenty of time to cook mother's stuffing and the Hubbard or acorn squash, each with their pat of butter and salt and pepper. They weren't SO bad, just not my favorites, but my history buff parents insisted that at the first Thanksgiving, the Indians brought squash and maybe succotash. THAT I really liked. Mashed potatoes, and no, we didn't do gravy, unless someone wanted to use the giblet gravy, and I think some did. Mother always made a sweet potato casserole, too, which we ate on the day, and she mostly threw away a few days later. A relish plate full of cut celery stalks, black and stuffed olives and maybe sliced dills. Mother served store-bought rolls, but always put out a compote of cherry preserves. Cranberry sauce.And then, while I carefully cleared the table, Mom would go whip the whipping cream to go on our slices of pumpkin pie.

Grandaddy was a Methodist minister, and we always asked the blessing before meals anyway. The Thanksging prayer was longer, but, I think, pretty interesting as he thanked the Lord for stuff I had just taken for granted during the year.Much conversation and laughter. A lot of love at that table.

The first time my husband took me to his grandmother's in Oklahoma for Thanksgiving, I realized how different holiday customs can be. Here, too, was custom and tradition. The same white tablecloth. But my word. First, his cousin and her husband and his aunt and uncle were there, as well as his mother and brother and us and his great-aunt. Secondly, there was a turkey and a ham and was there a roast? maybe. Dressing, and her recipe required eggs and was baked outside the turkey and was delicious. Giblet gravy and regular gravy, and yep, the same store-bought rolls, and at least three kinds of congealed salads and green bean casserole and...I can't possibly remember. Fruit salad with marshmallows, melt in your mouth pound cake and at least three kinds of pie. I think it was more like five kinds. And again, a lot of laughter and conversation. There was a lot of love at THAT table, too.

As I like to think there was at my own. I never provided the bounty his grandmother did, but I added ham to the turkey and extra dishes. One year, instead of turkey or ham, we had fried quail breasts and grilled sirloin steak. And I made more than one dessert. Some years, we invited friends to join us, and my late brother-in-law and his children were regulars at the table for several years after his wife was killed in a traffic accident. I have not cooked such a meal since the arthritis hit about 10 years ago. I am struggling to get back some of my coping skills to do more than simple cooking now, but it will be awhile. But in my whole life, I have never sat at table for Thanksgiving with anyone but people I really liked and enjoyed. Something to be thankful for.

Friday, on the radio, several persons were sharing stories of Duty Gatherings, where at least some if not all the persons dislike or feel contentious about the others and someone always takes umbrage, grabs their family and storms out. A friend told me she had a Duty Thanksgiving which wasn't so bad because they mostly got along and the food was good. But there was no question of her spending the holidays with her parents. It Wasn't Allowed. And this doesn't even get into the nasty drunk family member who destroys the peace. I guess, maybe after a few years, you get used to it? But how horrible to say, "I have to go" rather than "I want to go."

But this is the holidays, the time of illusion, where fantasy is in full force. Someone was saying recently that this is no longer a period of truth, but of image. So many of us care more about the appearance of how things are to the reality. (Huh. wonder how holiday dinners are for members of Congress.) There are as many expectations and traditions as there are families.

I simply give thanks this year for the many, many happy holidays I have shared and the love my family has shared. How lucky, lucky I have been.

One man on the radio said his family, he and siblings all grown, were simply having more and more trouble with a traditional dinner since his mother's death. She had always done it. Getting together wasn't the problem, they all really like each other. But a few years ago, they said the heck with it, pulled out the grill and had a delicious holiday meal of grilled hamburgers and French fries. It was, he said, a great relief. Makes sense to me.

Well, next week is round one. The easy one. Just a meal and family. The big, complicated doozy of a holiday is ahead. I'll probably run into you at Walmart sooner or later. (Did I mention I really hate to shop, almost ANYtime?) But at some time, maybe not till Christmas Eve but sometime, I will get to awe and wonder. And then all will be well.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Cheerleader Drugs in Modern Medicine

Somehow, a cookie must have followed me home, because now almost every time I open e-mail, I've got three offerings for Viagra.Other than deleting, I don't know what to do, but it is mildly irritating. Before the Viagra showed up, it was offers for mail order drug programs. At least there was some logical chance I could use those.

When I read a magazine, there are always several pages advertising drugs ranging from antihistimines to heartburn remedies,and antidepressants,to hormone therapy to rather mysterious ads that advertise drugs whose use I can't figure out.

The radio also abounds with drug ads.

I understand there is a plethora of drug advertising on television as well. When I moved into my current home six years ago, there was no aerial and I refuse to get cable,so I seldom watch television. But plenty of ads are out there. People with tivo tell me they escape the deluge by simply deleting the advertising on the shows they watch.

Is the advertising effective?

At the same time all this advertising is hitting the public, drug company reps are hitting the doctors, leaving boxes of samples for the doctors to try on their patients. Or refill orders when the doctors have started using them.
Patients show up with a wish list of drugs they want to try and discuss it with their doctors. Sometimes they have conditions that contraindicate what they want to try, sometimes not. Sometimes the doctors have a good supply of what the patient wants to try and there seems no harm, so off they go with a handful of samples to try before coming back for a prescription. So yes, use of those drugs is up. ca-ching!

Then let us not forget the surgical ads. Knee replacements with specific brands is a frequent one I hear. Now a partial knee replacement. Lap-band surgery to control weight. I read in a national news magazine recently (don't remember which one) that an increasing number of parents are getting the surgery for their teenagers, even when they are not morbidly obese. And (shudder) that creepy facelift surgery where they don't really cut but thread string through the muscle and suture it at the sides of the face to lift the desired area. (I did see some video on this and it gave me the creeps). And, of course, laysic(sic) surgery for better vision.

The surgical ads are effective, too.

Apparently, we consumers who are howling about the high price of our meds, mean only those meds that basically keep us alive, like blood pressure, heart and vascular meds, diabetes, etc. No ads for those. Maybe it's the fact we don't get to choose. I just know the American public is asking for more medical drugs and procedures than ever before. And I marvel at the effects of the advertising, because that has to be a factor.

Now consider the kid watching cartoons who asks for the toys advertised during the commercials. And we chuckle indulgently at the susceptibility of our children to tv advertising.

Well, folks, you are all grown up. And you see an ad for this medication or that medical procedure, and you say, ooooh, gotta have it. You don't even listen to the possible side effects.

To me, the kids make more sense.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Warming of Bank Customer Service

Had a visit at the bank recently. I've had an account forever in one of the large, mega-size banks (partly because they have ATMs all over the place.) After all these years, never once have they offered a service that would save me money. So I was intrigued when they said something about coming in to cut my service charges. I made an appointment to be there.

The day of my appointment, I overslept and had an earlier appointment. I threw on some clothes and dashed out the door. After that appointment, I stopped at a restaurant for some soup, then moseyed over to the bank, getting there on the dot.
I ran my hand over my clothing, automatically smoothing and tucking any tags that had come out.

Whoops. That's when I learned I had my shirt on wrong side out. I hate when that happens.

Well, I was on time, so I went in. And indeed, the bank wanted to change the designations on my accounts, leaving the account numbers alone. I shouldn't be paying ANY charges, the young man said. Click. It was done. Anything else he could help me with? he asked. I asked if there was anything he could do about the over-frequent promotional materials the bank was sending me? All I wanted each month was my statements. He said he believed he could do that, went somewhere else on the computer and clicked. We'll see, but I'm pleased overall. He tried to sell me a bank credit card, which I refused. Then I asked for info on how to go online to check my accounts and make payments. He set up my user password and gave me three pages of instructions to utilize it. So now, maybe, I won't be quite as much a disosaur as previously.

We parted most amicably, me having rather warm feelings for my bank for the first time in oh, 13 years.

I brought this up at Yahzee later that week, and the others agreed: banks have had a sea change. They are warmer, friendlier, offering actual services. A financial friend we all know says it's because of the competition among too many banks, and a bunch of those banks are going to go under in the next few years. Oh, well.

In the meantime, the season of bank warming towards the customer feels very nice.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Have You Hugged Your Kid Today?

Experts in child development say that by the time we are two--certainly by the time we are three--we have developed our "world view". Is the world friendly? Welcoming? is comfort offered when there is pain? Enough to eat? Is the world topsy-turvy, sometimes with care and food and warmth and sometimes with slaps and being left alone, sometimes for hours? are basic needs met, but nothing extra? is the world dangerous, with a need always to to try to go unnoticed? Environment can change much of this, one way or the other,but at our core, these beliefs are solidly a part of us very, very early. If we are ignored early enough, long enough, we lose the ability to attach to other human beings at all. Some very specialized therapy in short supply is available, and a few of such ignored children can re-learn how to attach. But a lot don't.

In my work with dysfunctional families, I remember a visit to a foster home where the foster mom told me exuberantly she had taken the baby in for his second round of shots, and "he howled the walls down." I shared her delight, not at the baby's pain, but his response to it. His first round of shots had been shortly after he came into her care. Four shots, four painful shots, and he never reacted. He never whimpered. His expression never changed. His life experience had already taught him, "don't make a fuss." Now, a few months later, he had gotten used to a regular routine of food, bath, hugging, rocking and playing. He had learned if he cried, someone came and made it better. So the vaccine shots absolutely enraged him. And he bellowed.
And, of course, he was hugged, soothed and comforted. He was still under a year of age. Plenty of time for his expectations of the world to improve.

I remember a little boy about 3. His mother was a druggie who allowed her home to be used by a number of drug dealers in return for her free access to the drugs. And, of course, they would all indulge and party in the evenings, with this toddler just kind of wandering around. His first year of life wasn't so bad. His father was there, made sure he was cared for during the day, feeding, bathing and loving him in the evenings and weekends. (Mom was already disappearing for weeks at a time to do her drugs.) But when Joey, let's call him, was about a year old, his dad was killed in a traffic accident. And Mom moved in with her drug dealer friends. She paid almost no attention to him. He had no toys. She would bathe him and change his clothes occasionally, and she went through the fast food drive through for hamburgers and french fries. So he WAS fed. No one told him to go to bed or took him there. No one called him to eat. No one talked to him much other to tell him to move faster or get out of there. Toilet training? Forget it. Mom DID change diapers fairly regularly. Mom was arrested. There was no family, so he came into foster care.
Toward the end of the case, when it all began to hang out, I learned one of the drug dealers, high one night, had pulled a gun and aimed it at Joey, threatening to kill him for "making little boy noises." When I confronted Mom, she denied at first, then admitted it. Her lower lip stuck out. "He aimed the gun at me, too!" she said. But it never occurred to her to move the guy out. He was her supplier.

We knew she was probably going to go to prison for a number of years(which she did). Joey would be adopted. So I went by the foster home frequently to observe him and get a handle on his needs. He didn't know how to play, I learned. He would fiddle with a toy for a couple of minutes and move on. He didn't know how to play with other children. And he showed absolutely no separation anxiety. He fit into the household happily and never asked about his mom. He did have trouble eating at first. The foster mom made meals like meat loaf or baked chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans or broccoli, or some such thing. He had never seen food like this, and only began to eat after several days of refusing the food. This was also probably a test. Nobody yelled at him or grabbed him by the arm and threw him in his room when he didn't eat. Over time, I became convinced his attachment ability was pretty badly damaged. His permanent home was going to take parents with a whole lot of time to devote to him.

And we found the home. They had already adopted two children with fetal alcohol syndrom (which occurs when the mom drinks heavily throughout the pregnancy.) Such children take infinite patience and a 100 percent commitment to routine. Their girls were doing phenomenally well. And they wanted Joey to make them his "forever" home.
The adoptive mother was busy in church, school, and community. She dropped all her activities to be with Joey 24/7. While her girls were at school, she played with him, read to him, sang to him, rocked him. When they got home, they did family things involving all three children. She was just always there. And after three months, he finally slowly began to respond. He attached to her first, of course, then to the rest of the family, one by one. A year later, they were a bonded, happy family.

His birth mom relinquished her rights. She wasn't much more attached than Joey was to her, but she wished him well. She was pleased he was "happy in a good family." And he was.

Which brings me to a news story I heard last night. A woman has received the death penalty after police performed a welfare check and found her passed out on the floor amidst numerous beer cans, and her six-week-old and 16-month old babies dead in their beds from starvation, apparently days before. She had formula, diapers and bread in the house. She simply didn't feed the kids. She also had a two-year-old who was still alive. Authorities said he survived by eating dry rice and noodles he foraged from the cabinets. These kids fell through the cracks. It's true they wouldn't have made much, if any, noise. Neglected children, as I said, have learned not to cry. And in any case, they were slowly weakening as they died. Thry weren't noticed for far, far too long. I get that helpless, "this didn't need to happen" feeling, but exactly what? We can dream up scenarios all day long, but that doesn't mean any of it would apply to this case.

I have worked with many, many families who were deemed risky, but not so severe that the kids needed to leave, and I have also dealt with the whole extended family in some homes where the kids did leave to live temporarily with a grandmother, aunt, or uncle while the parent or parents untangled themselves. When I began this work, sometimes I just had young, or incompetent parents. I would say in my last five years, way more than 90 percent involved alcohol or drug use. A lot of the addicts' children may have been exposed to drugs in utero (fetal alcohol is easier to recognize). Such children often have learning disabilities. Some lack much ability to control anger or other emotions because that part of their brain didn't finish developing.

It makes me wonder about the society my grandchildren will deal with. But surely there aren't as many drug-affected kids as it seems. Surely.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Little Plate Works

Please read the comments on "A Canadian Describes His Health Care System." This is a flawed e-mail I posted, and the comments include two lengthy comments from Canadian residents. Very informative.

My Little Plate diet is going well. I've lost another five pounds, which puts my weight lower than it has been in 15 years. Sigh. When I weighed then what I weigh now, I was two dress sizes smaller because I worked out and walked a lot then. But I can exercise now only very gently and can't walk any distance at all. My knees are very happy, however. And Little Plates keep my food costs pretty low.

I suspect this diet will work even if your preference is starches and fried meats. Fortunately, I really groove on broccoli,squash and brussel sprouts, not to mention salads, carrots and asparagas. But I do eat bread, and desserts, and garlic mashed potatoes. Just not very much of them. My rule is: if it fits on a salad plate, no stacking, I can eat it. And the longer I do this, the less I find myself wanting french fries or fried chicken. My doctor told me several years ago I shouldn't eat a helping of meat larger than the palm of my hand. Currently I couldn't eat more than that if I had to. Generally, smaller.

As fried foods go, Mexican food is my downfall. Again, I can't eat large quantities, so that helps. Recently, I ate a bean chalupa with lettuce and tomatoes, and on another day got a crispy(corn tortilla) chicken taco which came with chips and queso, most of which I threw away. Just learned about a new restaurant that serves a slice of pizza and side salad. Need I mention these meals cost under $3 apiece?

The thing is, I don't ever feel deprived. I can eat anything. Just not very much of it. And that's okay. I don't know how this would work if I were more physically active. Maybe I would enlarge the helpings to a luncheon plate.

Still, Little Plate is working. And I am really glad.

When I started, I had 4-5 plates a day. As my stomach became accustomed to the smaller meals, I reduced the number of plates.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Before modern medicine came along

I remember my father trying to explain the wonder of having been a boy who harnessed up the family buggy every Sunday for church, and as he told me this, he had just returned from a business meeting in New York City. Flying, it took a few hours to get home. As a child, I wasn't too impressed, but enough that I remember the story. The changes in his lifetime were huge.
The changes in my lifetime have, I think, been more subtle, although the advent of the personal computer has changed society radically.
In one area, the changes have been huge: Medicine.
Most of the first 10 years of my life, Dr. Fagle made the trips to our house when I was sick. And I was sick a lot. I was 35 before I learned I have exercise induced AND allergy induced asthma. I don't wheeze. I just shut down, have trouble breathing and start coughing. When I was a child, the doctor simply diagnosed it as croup or bronchitis. I would run a fairly high fever for days and cough and cough. Sometimes I had trouble breathing. Mother had a rocker in my bedroom that had the most comforting creak sounds, and she would hold me on her lap and rock, the better for the vaporizer to puff eucalyptus-scented steam into my face to ease my breathing.
Only once did I have to endure a mustard plaster: some friend of my parents' recommended it as absolutely a remedy to break up the chest congestion. It stunk, it stung, and my parents discerned no appreciable difference, so I didn't have another one, thank goodness.
There were no pharmaceutical medicines. Got it? None. In the 30s, doctors got sulfa, which they didn't know very much about using (Interviewing a long-retired doctor in the 1970s, I was surprised to learn that overdoses of sulfa were common. The telltale symptom, the old doctor told me, was that the patient's ears would turn a deep, navy blue.) Penicillin came along in the early 40s but was not available, for the most part, for civilians. Penicillin was reserved for the soldiers. And doctors didn't know very much about when to administer penicillin, either. We did have aspirin, at some time or another.
But back to the "medicine" that was available.
I remember the time Dr. Fagle came out to examine me and pulled a prescription pad out of his big satchel. He proceeded to write his prescription--a recipe combining lemon juice, honey and raw egg whites beaten into soft peaks. (All three are soothers for the throat). Mother made up the recipe in a big bowl. I couldn't wait for each dose. And, since long-term coughing roughs the throat and bronchials, the soothing mixture actually worked a bit.
The doctor continued to come to the house when I was sick, when I had chicken pox, when I had measles. Generally, I would miss a week or two of school. My parents would pick up my assignments for me to do at home, except when I had measles. Measles required dim light to prevent eye damage, it was thought. Measles was really boring. No reading. And we didn't have a TV, either.
In fifth grade, I started feeling sick on the last day of school before Christmas break. When I got home, Mother took my temperature. Yep, up and rising. I had a slight rash. My tongue was strawberry pink.
Dr. Fagle had moved away, so Mother called the new doctor, Dr. Baumgartner. She was indignant to be told the new dcotor saw patients only in his office, so in we went. I had scarletina. So home I went to bed for the entire Christmas vacation. I was allowed to get up on Christmas morning and for Christmas dinner. Otherwise, I was confined to bed. No antibiotics, and it took that long for the illness to run its course.
(A few years ago I worked with a family where all four children had varying degrees of immune deficiency. On one visit, two of the girls were sick and feverish. The oldest had a slight rash, and yep, a strawberry tongue. I urged the mom to get them to the ER, where the oldest was the medical wonder of the afternoon.The young docs had read about scarletina, but almost none of them had ever seen it. They all came by to see her. With antibiotics, of course, she was over it in two or three days.)

Anyway, life changed. The doctor never again made a home visit.
Antibiotics began to appear. And antihistimines. And all kinds of treatments for all kinds of ailments. When I was growing up, a child contracting leukemia had a death sentence. Not so true today. Medicine has continued to evolve. I continue to be amazed at some of the treatments today, particularly the surgical procedures.
Medicine has come a long way from a bowl of lemon juice, honey and egg whites.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Canadian Describes His Health Care System

This is an e-mail I received. It seems in line with the comments AD posted to me, so I thought I would post it. Can't vouch for the veracity. Can say it rings true for a bureaucratic health system. Don't mean to be a Sally One-Note, and will get on to other things next.

Health Care in Canada

"This comes from a friend of a career Marine, who just happens to be a Canadian. His thoughts on the recent health care proposal might be of interest to some."
"Hey Guys; I saw on the news up here in Canada where Hillary Clinton introduced her new health care plan. Something similar to what we have in Canada. I also heard that Michael Moore was raving about the health care up here in Canada in his latest movie. As your friend and someone who lives with the Canada health care plan I thought I would give you some facts about this great medical plan that we have in Canada.
"First of all:
1) The health care plan in Canada is not free. We pay a premium every month of $96. for Shirley and I to be covered. Sounds great eh?
What they don't tell you is how much we pay in taxes to keep the health care system afloat. I am personally in the 55% tax bracket. Yes
55% of my earnings go to taxes. A large portion of that and I am not sure of the exact amount goes directly to health care - our #1 expense.
"2) I would not classify what we have as health care plan, it is more like a health diagnosis system. You can get into to see a doctor quick enough so he can tell you "yes indeed you are sick or you need an operation" but now the challenge becomes getting treated or operated on. We have waiting lists out the ying yang some as much as 2 years down the road.
"3) Rather than fix what is wrong with you the usual tactic in Canada is to prescribe drugs. Have a pain - here is a drug to take - not what is causing the pain and why. No time for checking you out because it is more important to move as many patients thru as possible each hour for Government reimbursement
"4) Many Canadians do not have a family Doctor.
"5) Don't require emergency treatment as you may wait for hours in the emergency room waiting for treatment.
"6) Shirley's dad cut his hand on a power saw a few weeks back and it required that his hand be put in a splint - to our surprise we had to pay $125 for a splint because it is not covered under health care plus we have to pay $60 for each visit for him to check it out each week.
"7) Shirley's cousin was diagnosed with a heart blockage. Put on a waiting list. Died before he could get treatment.
"8) Government allots so many operations per year. When that is done no more operations, unless you go to your local newspaper and plead your case and embarrass the government then money suddenly appears.
"9) The Government takes great pride in telling us how much more they are increasing the funding for health care but waiting lists never get shorter. Government just keeps throwing money at the problem but it never goes away. But they are good at finding new ways to tax us, but they don't call it a tax anymore it is now a user fee.
"10) My mother needs an operation for a blockage in her leg but because she is a smoker they will not do it. Despite her and my father paying into the health care system all these years. My Mom is 80 years of age. Now there is talk that maybe we should not treat fat and obese people either because they are a drain on the health care system. Let me see now, what we want in Canada is a health care system for healthy people only. That should reduce our health care costs.
"11) Forget getting a second opinion, what you see is what you get.
"12) I can spend what money I have left after taxes on booze, cigarettes, junk food and anything else that could kill me but I am not allowed by law to spend my money on getting an operation I need because that would be jumping the queue. I must wait my turn except if I am a hockey player or athlete then I can get looked at right away. Go figure Where else in the world can you spend money to kill yourself but not allowed to spend money to get healthy?
"13) Oh did I mention that immigrants are covered automatically at tax payer expense having never contributed a dollar to the system and pay no premiums?
"14) Oh yeah we now give free needles to drug users to try and keep them healthy. Wouldn't want a sickly druggie breaking into your house and stealing your things. But people with diabetes who pay into the health care system have to pay for their needles because it is not covered by the health care system.
"I send this out not looking for sympathy but as the election looms in the states you will be hearing more and more about universal health care down there and the advocates will be pointing to Canada. I just want to make sure that you hear the truth about health care up here and have some food for thought and informed questions to ask when broached with this subject.

"Step wisely and don't make the same mistakes we have.

"The saying is: "If you think Medical Costs are high now, what till you see what it costs when you get care for free."


Monday, October 8, 2007

A Sign to Live By

I was amused to see a line of pegs outside the men's room at a local grocery store with a hand-lettered sign: "Please remove aprons before entering." When I asked about this, staff told me earnestly that this was simply compliance with a federal rule for all grocery staff. (ahem) There were no pegs or signs outside the women's facilities.
Yep, sometimes being a woman really CAN be more convenient. I snickered all the way to the car.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Never rolled down a sand dune? You've missed something!

You trudge up to the top of a tall, steep sand dune and lie down carefully, your body horizontal to the ground, squinch your eyes shut, and throw yourself, rolling, over the dune.
Whappity!Whapity-whap-whap-wha=wha-whap, faster and faster as you careen towards the foot. An historical thrill ride, at the least, maybe even prehistoric. And still a whale of a lot of fun. And you dust off the loose sand, trudge back up, and do it again.
The Tularosa Basin of New Mexico is a pretty good place to grow up. Alamogordo is on the east side of the valley, nestled at the base of the Sacramento Mountains. On the west is the Oregon Mountains, or more formally, the San Andres.These jagged, purple-blue spiky mountains are dry, and a pleasure to the eye.And below them is a long, white line on the horizon.
White Sands National Monument.
When I say that, I feel formal and pretentious, as if I'm making a formal introduction for our neighbor, Miss Caroline, who I have known for years, by her more formal name, Mrs. Woodrow Mcneil-Forrest.
The White Sands were simply where I played when I was growing up. We always got an annual pass, and we went several times every year. I don't think we ever went without a picnic packed. It's not like there are restaurants out there.
But the sands are special. For one thing, they aren't really sand. They are pure, white gypsum, which matters enormously in mid-summer. As A kid, I neither knew nor cared. All I knew was, when we got there I could pull off my shoes and socks and immediately run onto the dunes. But it is important, because gypsum, unlike sand, doesn't retain the heat. It might be warm on a 100-degree day, but it won't burn the feet.
Dig down a foot or two, and you may even find wet "sand", nice and cool. If it isn't wet, it will still be cool, pleasing on a hot summer day.
I'm not sure if its like exists anywhere else. Over millenia, the gypsum cystals have gathered until now 275 square miles of white gypsum are humped into dunes that are sometimes 80 feet. And you can stand on top and look as far as you can see, and not see a thing but white dunes with undulating wind ridges, with the mountains in the distance. It is beautiful.
But the real point is--it is fun.
The little museum up at the gate is interesting to visit, with its rodents,lizards, toads, rattlesnakes and some insects that have morphed over the centuries into albinos.
Back when my father was a boy in the early 1900s, he told me, a group from town would hitch up the horses to several wagons and they would head for the Sands on a Saturday morning. The dirt road wound 13 miles through the valley before reaching the dunes. It would take a couple of hours to reach the dunes and then travel some distance in--probably not too far, for concerns about getting lost, but far enough that the sand no longer had any plants here and there, and dunes were tall. Then the women and kids waited in the wagons while the men explored the site, killing off any snakes. Dad said one time, the men found 13 rattlers before the women and children got out. The men used pickaxes to dig troughs in the gypsum. The water table, about three feet down, would fill these with brackish, salty water the horses could drink. Boards and sawhorses had been brought along to set up a long, rough table. Remember, this was before paper products or plastic, so each family had to bring their plates, silverware and glasses. Jars wrapped in burlap bags to keep them cool were joined by jugs of fresh lemonade and tea. A watermelon transported with a block of ice was still cool when they arrived. The men played baseball. The women tossed their heads and a number "wickedly" took off their stockings and shoes to play in the sand with the kids. A few even rolled, and of course, the men did, too. And just as in my childhood, the kids climbed to the top of the highest dune and rolled and rolled and rolled. We dug caves in the side of the dunes, we walked "no more than two dunes over" I imagine their parents said, as they said to us. Two dunes over, and it was complete wilderness. No one in sight but us. Way cool.We played and we romped, and we got hungry.
White Sands National Monument was created in 1933. My father's memories are before any formal park was created. With the park came rules, and better roads into two major picnic ares, and concrete picnic tables with aluminum roofs, and small, durable barbecue grills on the sites. And park employes, and of course, a fee to enter. Not a very big fee, even today.
With the big groups, like a church or town group, came the fried chicken, meatloaf, pinto beans, ham, salads, green beans, breads, cookies, pies, cakes, and of course, the watermelon, which we could eat by the slice sitting on the dunes just spitting the seeds out. Familes on their own might bring hamburgers or hot dogs to grill or, gee, even steaks and chicken.
Our Fourth of July fireworks were always at the Sands. Why not? Great viewing, nothing to burn.
Thousands still visit every year. If you go, try to stay for a sunset. A New Mexico sunset seen from the top of a dune is very special.It is a good place to be with someone you love very much.
During the summers, the national science labs in the areas come out weekly and do a lecture on the dunes, using modern equipment to show pictures of some of their work. Astronomy is very big in the area. There's some neat stuff, no extra cost for the Ph.D. talking, and no need to move from your comfy seat in the sand in your cutoffs.
Who first explored the dunes or discovered the fun?
All I know is, there is a 400-year-old legend of a headstrong young bride from Spain who insisted on coming out to marry her sweetheart, who was part of Coronado's entourage as he explored the Southwest looking for treasure. She brought with her a beautiful wedding dress packed in its own trunk to wear when she was married, and being wealthy, had her own entourage to follow Coronado to where they were camped near the Sands.
Just days before she arrived, her sweetheart was sent out with three other men to explore the area. They were told to take a quck look at the dunes' interior. They never were seen again.
The headstrong young bride was beside herslef. No one could stop her in her grief. She donned her fine wedding dress, took her horse, and headed into the sands to find her love. She also was never seen again.
Such passion! such tragedy! the story has woven into the fabric of the Southwest for 400 years now. And it is said, if you are there just at twilight, when the wind may lift the sand just lightly into the air, you may hear her soft call for her lover, and see her form, slightly bent as she hurries over the next dune, still searching for her love. I have met several people who say they have seen---something. They can't swear it was just a gust of wind.
Is there a reason the legend still lives after 400 years?
I do not know.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

More Evidence of Fractures

"Yes, I know Canada does a good job. That doesn't mean I think our much larger, more populous country with all its pharmaceutical companies, profitable health insurance companies and lobbyists can do the same." (my last blog)

Ambulance Driver commented, "A great many Canadian doctors and healthcare providers would disagree with that statement. In Canada, those that can afford it cross the border south and get their medical care in the US. This is an increasingly common phenomenon.

There's no question that our healthcare system is broken, just like our legal system.

But as someone much smarter than me has said in the past,

"It's the most flawed, inefficient system in the world today...except for everyone else's."

This was AD's answer to my blog on national health care and I was both pleased to get it and saddened. We've all been told national health care is just great elsewhere, so we should have it.

Never did go for this logic. I guess we citizens assume if pharmaceuticals are cheaper in Canada, their medicine care must be better, too. Also specious logic.
But we always want a bargain, don't we? I believed the PR about Canadian health care. I appreciate the correction.

So Bush is vetoing the CHIPS bill the Democrats have proposed. Yesterday, the Democrats pitted the words of a 12-year-old boy against the President's comments. Brilliant, in a way. Also egregious. It is as cynical a political move, as uncaring of children, as anything I have ever seen to use this boy in national politic manuevering. Great fodder for next fall. Thanks, kid. Have a good life, y'hear?

I don't want to imagine how low politics can go. Everytime I do, someone goes lower.
And again, we can vote the rascals out. But who in the world do we vote IN?

AD said our medical and legal systems are broken. I agree. How broken in the political system?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What Are You Willing to Pay for What You Get?

I was startled when it was reported on "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?" that 51 percent of the population is in favor of national health insurance. Wow.
Yes, I know Canada does a good job. That doesn't mean I think our much larger, more populous country with all its pharmaceutical companies, profitable health insurance companies and lobbyists can do the same.

When Hillary Clinton announced she was for national health insurance, one critic, no, I don't know who, and that's dangerous. But he opined it would enlarge the federal government about four-fold, and that sounds like a reasonable enstimate.

And then yesterday the report came out that the only way Social Security can continue solvency is to cut benefits while increasing spending. Allen Greenspan was saying virtually the same thing last week as he talked about his book, and that the Congress is ignoring needed changes when baby boomers are coming into retirement with a vengence.

A charitable hospital district in the area estimated covering routine care beyond emergency care for indigent patients with no insurance for just their county could boost expenses in one year by 40 million dollars.

Everyone is posturing for votes. The truth is barely skimmed in the media, it's more just quoting who has the best sound bite. It is all about the emotion and popularity and who's winning. I am so tired of this. It didn't used to be such work just to find out the facts. Maybe I had more energy, but I don't think so. Not only is Congress mostly operating as a bunch of sugar daddies (or mommas), journalism does an increasingly poor job of covering it.

Oh, yeah, there's a lot that needs to be improved in health care. I just have heard nothing that makes me think nationalizing it would help. Medical care on the par with say, public housing would not make me happy, I think. Ask vets about the VA Administration. Extremely spotty record.

Sigh. It's seems every time I pick a cause, it's defeated, But I hope not, or planners at least come up first with something coherent and address the aging population and the illegal population problems along with the rest of the population.

Both House and Senate will approve a bill this week increasing health insurance benefits for children. Bush has already said he will veto it and both parties know they don't have the votes to overcome a veto. So this seems like a gesture signifying nothing. Bush is reported to have said he will veto because the bill would cover children whose families already have private insurance. How do I find out if this is true? Oh, and they say they would pay for this by increasing cigarette tax again, when everyone piously prays the higher taxes will encourage people to stop smoking. Gee, what if it does? Then what?

I don't like the way my country is being run, and I don't like the choices that are being made, and God help me, there don't seem to be any alternatives.National Health Insurance won't give us more choices. It will give us less. There are too few already.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Smiles with my Tomato Basil Soup

A medium level chain restaurant I used to avoid at all costs has made some menu changes that now bring me in fairly regularly. They are actually offering plates with meat and vegetables people might really want to eat. And they have expanded their soups to four. Yeah, the obligatory cheese broccoli and baked potato, but also French onion and tomato basil, served with a variety of salads and thick half sandwiches. I also like this place because the wait staff is excellent. With two universities in the immediate area, diners almost anywhere around here are pleased to have a plethora of bright,coordinated young people who are determined to get the best tip out of their customers by providing excellent service.

But the young woman waiting on me last week was a cut above.Yes, she topped up my glass every time before it was half empty. She didn't annoy, but she stopped by to check on things. She was cordial, punctilious, efficient. She was more. She came across as a real person dealing with another real person. She had a warmth in her interactions. She SAW me.

When I was taking my change for the bill at the end, I stopped her as she was about to zip off again and thanked her for adding a measure of enjoyment to my meal, because she did. I told her she moved so fast, I bet few people got a chance to tell her that very often.

"Oh," she said, "last week it happened two times. It turned out one of the people at one of my tables is a manager at Macy's. She said if I wanted a job any time to come see her. Then I was trying to handle the situation at a table where the diners had complaints about the food. Another ccustomer at a nearby table stopped me, and told me I had excellent people skills and if I wantted a job to come see her, and SHE was a manager, too!" And she beamed.

Well, I don't know if either of those jobs would pay any more than what she gets waitressing, but it's a kind of security knowing other jobs are out there. And it is good to know people still appreciate good service and say "thank you." (I know you and I are polite and genteel, but what about all those OTHERS?)

And for the most part, I do run into pleasant, polite people. Men and even young women hold the door for me. When I'm trying to break into rush hour traffic, sooner or later someone is going to pause and let me in. And I try to pass these courtesies on. I strongly support Random Acts Of Kindness and I need to be on the lookout. I've got at least two to pass on.

But back to the waitress. Excellence shows, I think, whatever we may be doing. Some of our young people still adhere to the adage of taking pride in their work and doing it well. In fact, I suspect --a great many?--most?--do good work. They just have no longterm loyalty to the firm. Which is only reasonable.

I wish that young woman much success. All I know is, her smiling service added a lot to my tomato basil soup and spinach salad with grilled shrimp.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I Prefer only Invited Guests

I came into the kitchen and discovered the fire ants in the back yard had invaded. Two crisp slices of bacon, left draining beside the stove the night before,had definite movement over them. (I guess the fact I left them out overnight says something about me, but oh,well.) They weren't swarming over the bacon, but they were definitely there.

So what did I do? I tapped the paper, which sent most of them diving for cover, rinsed the bacon under hot water, to make sure they all were gone, dried them on a paper towel, and put them in a baggie, thence into the refrigerator, which I should have done in the first place. And I cleaned the space where the bacon had been. Did I go after the fire ants.? Naw. Those of you who deal with the critters know why: they will sting and hurt you. And raise pus pockets, and itch and hurt.

But I got to thinking. Why do I consider ants "clean"? If it had been cokroaches on that bacon, I would have thrown it away and torn apart the kitchen.

If you have a drink beside you and fruit flies fall in, do you flick them out and go on drinking? Maybe you just shrug and mutter, "more protein", and drink. But what do you do if a housefly buzzes into the same drink? Ewwww! I throw it out, I thoroughly rinse the glass (note: true hygenists would get a fresh glass,) amd get a new drink.

What we tolerate and don't tolerate differs widely. As a caseworker in many homes, I learned a lot of people cohabit comfortably with cockroaches. They are not necessarily dirty people. Many of them bathe daily and wear clean clothes. But when they sit on the couch to watch TV, they will flick an encroaching bug off the couch without thinking about it.

In college, I had a friend who was the son of missionaries that went to India. He said flying cockroaches-- big ol' things-- would fly into their food and they would simply spoon them out, hopefully hurling them at another sibling, and go on eating.

Me? My ex-husband used to joke that he was afraid to put rat shot in the .22 for fear I would start aiming if we got a cockroach.

The ants? Got to find my ant bait or go get some new stuff. They are not to be tolerated, either. You Yankees just don't know how good you got it. No chiggers, no fire ants, no killer bees. At least we share mosquitoes. I think we do better as a nation if we share SOME tribulations.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

This Country is MY Country

When I was growing up, I remember my parents telling me over and over about Pearl Harbor, how they were at Sunday breakfast, listening to the news on the radio when the bulletin was announced: the Japanese had hit Pearl Harbor. They were stunned, as was the nation. But they knew what had happened; it had already happened. And they knew who. And we were already at war, if not then officially with Japan. There was grief, but there was immediate, tremendous anger. On Dec. 8, 1941, probably a majority of men in the United States went down to the recruiter's to sign up for military service.Many, many more men were to die before the war finally ended following the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. Women died, too, of course, who had enlisted as nurses or other support positions to care for the injured and troops. Many sacrifices were made, in service and at home, for years.

On Sept. 11, I was getting ready for a meeting to determine the future for a family I was working with, working with a couple who had volunteered their services and taken this family in. It was an important meeting for this family's future. I was listening to the radio as I got ready. There was a silence, and then the newsman came on and in a rather blank voice announced a plane had just crashed into one of the twin towers. He added that at that moment, they had no information to indicate this was anything but a tragic accident. And then the second plane hit. And we knew. We all knew. We weren't sure what we knew, except this was no accident.

I was on my way to my meeting when the third plane hit the Pentagon, and I screamed at the radio, "WHAT'S HAPPENING?" Then the news that all aircraft in the U.S. had been ordered to land. As I headed west towards my destination, I saw an airliner coming in to land at D-FW Airport, and I thought, "That's one of the last I will see for awhile."

When I reached my destination, they had the television on, and there was absolutely no way we could cope with the business that brought us together. We watched as people in New York reacted, as debris came down, and witnessed the companies of fire fighters and police walking into the towers, with almost a swagger in their steps....We watched and saw the first tower fall, the wind and debris swooping down the streets and people running for their lives, and then, the fall of the second. We were numb. We prayed. There was nothing else to do. How many? My God, the towers held 50,000 people when fully occupied. How many?

We finally got ourselves together and dealt with some of the business we were there to conduct. I wouldn't say it was the best thinking or planning any of us had ever done, but we came up with a plan.

I went back to the office, swinging by one of the fast food places I frequented, and the clerk who often served me was at the window. As I paid for my food, I asked, "How are you doing?" Her lip trembled and she almost cried. "I'm making it," she said, "but it's hard. You know?" And I did. I don't think I could have done her job that day. Sometime that day, we learned about the crash of Flight 93, and sometime after that, started learning what transpired there. Those people were heroes. Just like the firemen and police who went into those towers. We owe them a tremendous debt. I will always be grateful.

The information came in bits. I think it was the next day before I first heard the name, Osama bin Laden.

I know that night, George Bush spoke to the American people. Now, I've never liked Bush. He irritated me (and still does) extremely. But that night there was a sea change. He was the Commander in Chief, and I was grateful to hear his voice. I needed to hear it.

I've long since returned to being the Loyal Opposition. There is a change in that, too. I do worry that our rights and freedoms are being whittled away bit by bit. But they aren't gone, and this is the United States, and I realize, as never before, what a privelege it is to live here. I always knew it, but it has been driven home. Maybe that has something to do with my feelings about illegal immigration, because those folks live here, but they really have no idea what they really have.

I've always loved the sight of an American flag rippling in the wind. And whatever rights or wrongs I think my country is responsible for, it is MY country. And the waving flag, or flags, simply touch my heart even more deeply than ever before.

So if there are sad memories, and there are, there is also a deepened love of country, a better knowing of just what it means to be an American. I mourn the dead.The deaths were horrible, and those families and friends will grieve the rest of their lives. But I also celebrate the deeper love of country. I especially celebrate it today. I will continue to in the years to come.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Look! My pants are getting baggy!

As a person with a slow-normal metabolism, I'm always needed to exercise regularly if I was going to have that second helping or dessert. I am a veteran of most of the diets out there. I find nutrition interesting and read on it.

Back in 1977, I interviewed the author of the liquid protein diet, and decided to try it. A pathologist in the area was doing the weekly bloodwork and oversight this diet required, and I was really motivated. Fortunately, about the same time, the manufacturer came out with a liquid protein flavor that didn't require mentholatum in the nose to choke down (I was REALLY motivated.) I worked out five times a week while on the diet and read a number of books on dieting and eating psychology and how to change my lifestyle. I quit tasting anything when I was cooking. I still don't. In 21/2 months, I lost 65 pounds, and I never felt better or had more energy in my life. I learned to enjoy the feeling of an empty stomach. (My husband, however, said he caught me several times caressing the food in what he thought was an unseemly way.) Re-entering the eating world was a little touchy before I settled on a comfortably full feeling that wasn't feeling stuffed and settled down.

Yeah, I know. Lose it fast, gain it back immediately. Well, I kept at least 80 percent of that weight off 20 years. And I continued to work out.

And then I developed RA and sat down on my bum. Lost mass quantities of muscle tone, and gained, mmmm, about 50 pounds. I don't quite know why I did that. I knew better. I didn't and don't want to become debilitated, but I made sure that's what happened. Go figure.

For the last year, I've been following my "little plate" rule--if it fits on a luncheon-size or salad plate, I can have anything I want. No layering allowed. The tummy becomes accustomed. And almost effortlessly, I was losing two to four pounds a month.

Something happened about two months ago or more. I lost my appetite, for one thing. It was summer and sultry, but--I just wasn't hungry. So I quit eating. At all, some days. No, I didn't forget to eat. Eating anything just sounded icky. Last coupla weeks, my energy has been shot. Big surprise there.

I don't have any scales. Last week was my birthday, which is my day for making resolutions and goals, rather than New Year's. So the day before, I plugged my quarter into the electronic digital scales at the grocery store. And nearly fainted. I had lost a significant amount of weight. The next day at a friend's, I weighed on her scales. Yep, hers were lighter than the grocery's. I had really lost that weight. And once I noticed, I began to see how roomy my pants and shirts have become. I haven't lost so much I need a new wardrobe yet, but my clothes are definitely roomy.

Yeh, I had farkled my health and done stupid stuff but I had lost weight. Always a thrill for this woman. Well! I thought. Now to build on this. So I've started on a regimen to eat three meals a day (don't always make it),and put nothing but healthy food in my mouth (and I do count the two scoops of ice cream Thursday). Fortunately, I really, really like squash, brussel sprouts and broccoli. A week later, my energy level is almost back to normal. And I've lost another three pounds, which is a little fast for a sedentery 64-year-old woman. I've started exercising again. I'm seeing a chiropractor for some of the back problems. I am hopeful for the first time in a long time. Won't it be nice if my doing something stupid turns out well? I have more results already than I had expected, however ill-gotten. The effort I am now putting in is worth it, whatever the results. I have to remember that.

First-born Syndrome is almost killing my oldest son, I think, who is aquiver with desire to tell me what I need to do next and to pick up the pace on what I am already doing. But he is holding his tongue, because he really does love his mother. And I appreciate it. Second-born is more laid back. He just makes "keep comin" signals with his hands.

I had to write about this, since I am so intently scrutinizing my own navel at the moment. A lot of my concentration is here for now. And God knows we women will almost always show interest in another woman's tale of, "There I was when I lost weight" story.

My knees are very grateful. They have quit hurting the day after my cycling exercises.

So I will see where this next year takes me. And I will try to be more mature in my behavior henceforth. In the meantime, it's kind of fun for a change to be trying to eat MORE calories instead of cutting down. That won't last long, of course, but still.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Great Voice is Silenced

When my sons were growing up, I went to great lengths to expose them to as many cultural experiences as I could---with two deliberate exceptions. I feel guilty about that....

One was baseball. I think they both played T-ball when they were four or so, but I never, ever exposed them to baseball again. When my oldest was older, it IS true that the image of a ball hitting him in the face while his mouth was full of extremely expensive braces was a deterrant, but much larger than that, I didn't want either of them to discover that they wanted to play baseball, thus relegating me to the stands for game after game after game of a sport that makes my eyes glaze over.

The other was opera. Now, when you grow up listening to classical music, and I did, you hear the odd snatch of opera now and then, and I was aware of many beautiful solos by men and women that were lovely to listen to. But overall? yuck.

When I was 22, I was fortunate to spend 10 weeks in Europe, and saw three first-rate operas during the course of it. The first was "Dr. Faustus" in an outdoor Greek amphitheater. It was a beautiful night, the smell of thyme wafting from the hills, and I really perked up at the ballet dancing included. The second was "Carmen" at La Scala. Full pageantry. Live elephant on stage and everything. One of my co-travelers turned to me with shining eyes and exclaimed, "Isn't this magnificent!?"
I blinked at her. I was bored out of my mind. The third was "The Magic Flute" at some really big deal music festival somewhere in Scotland. I don't even remember it.

So I came back, convinced that nope, opera really wasn't my cup of tea. So I never took the boys.

But over the past 10 years or so, my opera consciousness has been rising. I've deeply enjoyed the music. Come to look forward to it, in fact. A great deal of that is due to the efforts of just one man--Luciano Pavarotti. What a glorious voice. And how tirelessly he performed, not just for himself, but to promote opera, opera, opera. He brought thousands, or more likely, tens of thousands, to an appreciation of operatic singing, of the music of the opera. He sang with such joy in the music. You could feel it. And it was contagious.

So it is with genuine sadness I learned yesterday of his death. The world has lost a great treasure.

And I've learned that just like trying vegetables we don't think we are going to like, we need to expose ourselves to as many as possible of the experiences this world has to offer.

I didn't take my sons to the opera. But in a few more years, maybe I can take my granddaughters.

Godspeed, Pavarotti.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Childhood Memory of Trinity Site

While I was sleeping peacefully in my crib at age two in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico, the first atomic bomb was being tested at the other end of the valley in 1945.
Locals did notice the brilliant flash to the northwest and speculated. Everyone knew top secret testing having to do with World War II was going on, and speculation very logically connected this to some new kind of war weapon. No one was very surprised when the truth was revealed.
Throughout my childhood, I kept hearing about a little girl in Roswell, I think, who happened to be looking out her window at the moment of the brilliant flash, and she was permanently blinded. There is absolutely no proof such a girl ever existed, but I heard the story over and over growing up.
My mother was a seventh grade history teacher the year we took advantage of one o the two open house days at Trinity Site when I was in early elementary school. It took about an hour from Alamogordo, I think. There weren't so many of us--30 people in seven or eight cars, perhaps. There was a brief greeting and welcome by a high-ranking Air Force officer.Being a sensible young girl used to the interminal boring rituals of adult ceremony,, I paid no attention. The site was secured all around with tall, chain-link fence. There were some sparse walkways, and a small,low, one-story building with a few informational pster boards explaining the difference between fission and fusion and basically giving some sparse info on how the bomb worked.
Outside, there was a not very impressive depression of bare earth in the ground.where the bomb actually detonated. Some kind of debris nearby. And not nearly far enough away, this 4-6-inch concete barricade maybe three feet tall (it may have been taller; I'm working on really old memories here) where the scientests and techs hunkered when the bomb went off.
Everywhere, the ground was covered with one and two-inch clods of pale bluish green, melted earth. It felt rough, but slick and almost ceramic. There were bubbles in it. I may be wrong about where the scientists were; after all, the melted earth also extended beyond that concrete wall.
It was deliberately a small bomb, so the area of melted earth was not much more than 200 feet in circumference, if that.
Was I scolded for picking up this radioactive earth to look at it? Oh, no. At that time, geiger counters hadn't even made their debut. The idea of any peril from that melted earth didn't enter anyone's mind.
In fact, my father approached the Lt. Col. in charge and explained my mother's profession. He asked if there might be a box and if she could take home souvenirs of the site to give her students. The officer agreed, and himself went off to find a smallish cardboard box for Mother, who probably collected 100 pieces or so. And we brought them home. Wish I knew where one of those pieces was today.
Dad stored the box in the pump house, and sure enough, for several years Mother did give her students pieces of the melted earth to give them a true feel (pun very much intended) for the heat and power of that small blast. She kept several pieces to at least show later students what the very small bomb could do.
The men at Trinity Site changed the world. When they did it, some of them were afraid. They weren't quite sure what would happen.They all died, I think, before any of the positive uses of atomic energy began to come into being. I will research that again, but I remember several wrote correspondence where they expressed dispondency over their great success.
Trinity Site is this ordinary, unussuming place surrounded by chain link with a simple little building in the middle, the whole sitting in the middle of nowhere. Twice a year, someone comes up early and shovels out the dirt and spider webs since the last open house, and they do it again. I have no idea how many people come today. I have heard from others that about the only change since I was there in the early 1950s is that every piece of atomic earth has long since been picked up, making the site even more unprepossessing.
I rather like the idea that it is available to the public on a limited basis, but it hasn't been spruced up or fancied up. It is as it was when the initial explosion occurred, pretty much. The presentation fits the history.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Reason for Everything

A recent statement has been plaguing me: "I believe everything happens for a reason."
Yes or no?

Yes, I do believe everything happens for a reason, but I happen to think some of the reasons are pretty horrible. And some are just cosmic. That one of the factors of human nature often is to find a silver lining or fix the problem as best as can be done in no way mitigates the fact (to me) that life has pretty awful parts to go along with some really wonderful parts. And I don't believe that my faith will protect me or set an umbrella over me and the ones I love. But I don't see any reason to be fearful, either.

There's nothing good going on when a man beats a two-year-old to death because the man is angry with the child's mother. This'll show HER. Oops.

There's a reason when 500 Kurds are massecured in a town far from the American military control. A couple, really. Power and hate.

Greece has had more than 50 persons die in forest fires this week apparently set by greedy entrepreneurs who hope the destruction of forests will clear land for future economic development. The reason is greed.

The tsunami a couple years back had reasons sunk in physics. Lotta people died. Much destruction.

The six miners trapped in the collapsed mine in Utah. Much research will go into the safety of this facility. For now, I'm willing to call it an act of nature.

What I see is that evil, greed, power hunger complicates lives. Many folks with these traits go on to live they find to be happy and satisfying. Funny, though, that they often eventually make that misstep that brings them down. Or they do something really stupid. (An awful lot of people in prison may be bad, but they are also criminally stupid, and that gets them caught.)

Of course there's a reason for a positive belief system. For faith. They add quality of life. Simplify things. And at times, when I am squeezed down in a situation, are the backbone that lets me step out unafraid when I kinda think some dragons may be lurking. And if you look for good things, you will find them, actually more than you are looking for. I suspect it is the same if you look for the bad things. Now there's a miserable lifestyle, and some people do choose it.

But no matter how positive we strive to be, bad stuff goes on, often done on purpose by our fellow man. We note it. We process it. We do what we can. And we go on.

There's reason for everything that happens. But some of the reasons are just sad.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Winners In the Spotlight

Wahoo! I don't usually get energized by TV, but this is an exception.

Terry Fedor, the ventriloquist who does increcible voice impersonations--all without moving his mouth-- won the Talent in America contest, and will be interviewed on KRLD-AM 1080 in Dallas at 11 a.m. Monday. He was ubtervuewed there about two weeks before the competition. A Metroplex resident, I salute him.

Cass Halliday, the runnerup, wonderful vocalist also from the Metroplex, will be interviewed Tuesday at 11 a.m. KRLD-AM-1080 in Dallas.

These both are WOW. Hope the future opens up for both of them, and it seems to be doing so. Amazing, the talent we all have around us every day.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

What I Want May Change, but Give It To Me And I'm Happy

For the last couple of days, I had been feeling snarly. I wasn't too interested in what you had to say, and I wasn't too interested in what I had to say, either. I basically wanted to curl up with a good mystery where I couldn't figure out the killer until the last 30 pages or less, is that too much to ask? Often, it is. I had the radio on, and the pillows plumped nicely on the bed for reading (don't have a couch any more). Food didn't sound interesting, and although I wanted to drink water, the lake has turned. I am unaccustomed to buying bottled, so I had a choice of Diet Dr. Pepper or dirt-flavored water. I wandered over to the computer a time or two, said, "nah", and went back to my book. Better for the universe and me both, I figured.

But yesterday afternoon, I had Something to Do, and I actually perked up a bit.
My oldest granddaughter and her mom were finally going to see "Harry Potter." Youngest granddaughter and I were going to see "Underdog", decidedly not two thumbs up, but what the hey, it's wholesome and she's five, and we would be going together. And she was pretty revved, herself. So they left, and then we did, and we got matinee tickets and food. I had neglected to buy and stuff candy in my purse, which is so small that's about all from outside I can bring in that will fit. I've decided I need a bigger purse again. I'm not sure about what that says about my respect for movie rules or if I'm breaking any laws or what. I usually don't eat or drink at movies, which is a good thing. Youngest granddaughter got one SMALL bag of popcorn. one SMALL soft drink, and a package of fruit chewies. Total was $8.75. I boggled and paid. No wonder they can afford the lower matinee prices.

We got seated, and the previews began, then snagged. Time sped by. She and I were seated comfortably, she had started on her chewies, the air conditioning was on, and we were having a good time talking with each other. It took something like 20 minutes, I think, and then they started the movie. Which she thought was very funny and I found funny enough to be pleasant. We should have been out of the theater first, but with our delay, we got out after mom and big sister, and they were waiting for us. As we left the theater, a nice man in a suit pushed two tickets in my hand. "What's this?" I asked in surprise. "Two complementary tickets as an apology for the earlier glitch."

I laughed. "Didn't bother us, but thank you" I said. I mean, how many of us have wickedly crowded schedules after a Disney movie? But hey, I have two more tickets now. Free.

Sisters compared notes. Both felt they were the winners. The oldest got to see Harry Potter. I mean, we're talking Harry Potter. The youngest got candy as well as popcorn and a drink. We're talking sugar. Both were well pleased. So were mom and grandma.

A front passing through had dropped a little rain, and the recent high temperatures were subdued to a low 90 with a light breeze, very pleasant. My snarly mood just evaporated.

This morning I got up fairly early for a Sunday to meet a friend from Midland, 41/2 hours away, who was in town briefly. We met at a little cafe about a half mile from my home where they serve nothing but breakfast on weekends. Really good breakfasts. Really fast, efficient friendly service. And they have huge mugs for hot tea and coffee. As usual, one of the fire station crews had shown up enmasse (they have some incredible three egg omelets stuffed with meats, cheeses and or vegetables), really good hashbrowns, huge biscuits you can get with a side of sausage gravy....and more, of course. They have much smaller breakfasts, too, or I would never go. You have a choice of about six kinds of toast. You can order sliced tomatoes or fresh fruit instead of the hashbrowns. You have Choices. I love that in a restaurant.

I love breakfast outings like this. Genelle and I had not seen each other in at least six months or longer, and spent a couple hours catching up. It was such a nice way to start the day.

So I am socialized again. Smiling at strangers. Interested in what others have to say. And I still have about a fourth of a pretty good mystery to finish. And everything I thought of to write about would take more effort than I felt like putting in this afternoon, to tell the truth. So I, too, am journaling a bit.
I try not to do it often because my life,though satisfying to me, is pretty mundane.
I resolve never to be reduced to telling you I washed clothes and then the dishes. I test out about 50-50 on introvert-extrovert, so my reading regimen might have gotten me to the same emotional place just about as soon as two visits with people I care about.
Seeing the family and my friend, I suspect, left my smile bank with more deposits.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream...

As I was preparing for bed the other evening, it occurred to me that my way of getting to sleep may be different. Not aberrant, just different. So I was wondering how the rest of you do it.

I never fall asleep with the book on my chest. Or while watching tv. And very seldom even listening to the most soporific music. Nope, I have to decide. I know there have been times when I was so exhausted I just drifted off, but even those are seldom. Yes dears, I do remember satisfying sex and it may have done the job, too, but that was long ago and far away and I just plain don't remember.

Since I've been nine or 10 years old, I have to be on my stomach, and I have to have a recent or favorite book in mind. Then I start weaving the next after the end chapter, and pretty soon I'm asleep. Usually, by that time, in my own dream. Anyone else out there do that? It's not anything I talk about, just one of my personal habits. But the other night it just struck me--I bet other people do it different.

My oldezt son doesn't get enough sleep anyway, and I suspect he's the hit the pillow and sleep type. His wife likes to go to sleep listening to an audio book. My grandchildren are usually asleep five minues after turning off the light and hitting the pillow. My younger son does toss and turn. Haven't really discussed this with others. Certainly haven't taken any surveys.

Sleeping soundly is another issure. I have nights when I sleep all night, others when I wake up, toss, turn, and go back to sleep all night. There's a huge difference in the amount of rest I experience. As lazy as I am in retirement, a good night's sleep is more elusive than it used to be. Still frequent, thankfully.

For those of you that hit the bed and drop off, you are blessed, and I suspect a whole lot of you are. But for the rest--anyone want to share their sleep rituals? Insomnia is a whole bigger problem. I've certainly experienced it, but for the most part, I wash my face, brush my teeth, pat my pillows into a comfortable pile, turn out the light and start imagining, which soon turns into dreaming. Works for me.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Sickening Shooting of A Few Good Men

Over on Fatal Attraction, Phlegm Fatale muses about a horrible event in the Metroplex early Sunday morning. A little more information has come out, which I will try to incorporate. A motorist stopped at what appeared to be a car wreck on the side of the road and went forward, saw that the stranded motorist had a shotgun in his lap and ran away. He called 911 and pulled away. Two more motorists stopped and approached. Both were shot dead. A third samaritan stopped and approached and was shot critically. The police arrived, and one patrolman was shot in the face, in the right hand and right leg. His injuries are not critical, though it appears he will lose his left eye. The motorist then killed himself. There are reports other motorists stopped, one with a conceal-and-carry, and shots were fired, but this apparently had no effect on main events.

So the community mused this morning on the radio--can a good samaritan take the risk these days? Admittedly, only a small number of dangerous ones are there, most of the need is legitimate, but you are a parent with children to raise. What do you do? A number called in with efforts to help gone wrong where they were shot, robbed, or carjacked. And yet, about half of these people still said, "Yeah, I'm still going to stop after I assess the situation, because you just can't not help." The ones who said they would not stop seemed really troubled by their decision, and did say they would call 911.

Interestingly, several women called in to say if they are the one stranded, they would just as soon not have some stranger they don't know approaching. They said that's why they have a cell phone and roadside assistance. Killing by senseless killing, we are becoming more wary and afraid of one another. And yet many people continue to act to help in a crisis.

A police officer I know said a disturbing trend on 911 is the calls they are getting, in the middle of the day,when an unexpected visitor knocks on the door. The visitor is a stranger. The home resident feels threatened and calls the police. Personally, I seldom answer the door for unexpected calls these days because it is almost always someone trying to sell me something. If it's the neighbors, they will catch me later. But puh-leez! 911 for an unexpected knock?

Remember, this is the Metroplex, where we have crammed more than 7 million bodies into six counties. Last I heard, we get about 350 newcomers moving in every day and moving somewhere in this seething mass of humanity. Even when I go to the grocery store, I'm surprised when I run into someone I know. It just doesn't happen very often any more.

I don't know about moon phases, but this weekend in the 'plex was extraordinarily gory, brutal, and often lethal. Fights, shootings, beatings. Time to focus on some more positive lifepoints.

Go for the selfish creature comforts. It's supposed to hit 105 degrees today and nothing has been said about rolling blackouts or strained power grids. Just in case, though, I think I'll do the wash in the morning rather than at the peak of the energy use right now.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Great Gift of a Child

Back a few years when I was medical writing, I got a call from a woman who was very excited about a new public outreach program and she wanted me to write about it. And it was pretty wonderful. So, as it turned out, was she.

Back then, Fort Worth had a State School for the Mentally Retarded, which has since been closed. But it was open then and started a community outreach program where therapists would come to the home to work with the families each week.

This family was in great need. Their third child was born with only a little more than one-third of her brain. She was so profoundly retarded she had no ability to suckle her milk. She had to be taught, and she did learn, and survive. She was also hydrocephalic. Her head was easily twice normal size, with a shunt leading down the side of the head to the neck to drain off some of the excess water. For all this, she was a pretty baby, with a healthy, well-nourished body and a pretty face even through all the swelling.

The team came weekly to work the baby through a full array of motions and exercises designed to stimulate and strenghen, and they taught the mother how to do it the rest of the time. She was so excited. She was learning so much about child development that she never knew before. She loved helping her baby work to strengthen and grow.

When I saw her, the baby was about nine months old. She couldn't hold her head upright yet, but her mother said determinedly that she would. She could lft her heavy head off the mat for several seconds now when lying on her tummy. She worked every single day to strengthen her back and neck muscles. And she was responsive. She smiled when her mother picked her up. She wriggled happily when tickled. She seemed to notice the brightly colored toys around her and would reach out with a hand when her mother moved one closer.

"I don't know why she was born the way she was," her mother said, "but she's been such a gift. She has taught my whole family so much."

She said in the past, for Christmas she would have bought her two older girls dolls, perhaps, and some plastic toys, but "not this year! I'm learning to think about what enriches them, too." They got the dolls. They also got some books and educational toys she thought would have a good effect on their growth. "I never used to buy books. Now I read to them every night." She said they all, her husband included, had learned more about patience and gentleness.

She and her husband had married almost right after high school. They lived in a comfortable older house in a shabby-genteel part of town. Their lives had been satisfying and quite ordinary up until this baby's arrival. It was no longer ordinary. But it still seemed long on the satisfying.

As I was leaving, she told me,"One day, she will sit up. She will learn to talk. You'll see."

About three years later, I was saddened to read the obituary of this special little girl.
The shunt had developed an infection, always a danger in such cases, especially back then, and she had died.

But my heart lifted at one of the final paragraphs. She had been attending half-day nursery care, where she had learned and could say the names of her classmates. She attended sitting up in a small motorized wheelchair. She could count to five. And she had lately started on her ABCs.
Sad her life ended so soon. But all told, in four short years, quite a success story.

And I'll bet her family still remembers her as a precious gift.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


A few years ago, my family was all sitting around the breakfast table, waxing vehement on our pet peeves of grammar today. My younger son, who did not participate, listened with interest for awhile and then gave us all an equable smile. "You people," he intoned, "need to get a life."

Well, maybe so. But this is my last ditch effort to save an endangered verb, one I am very fond of. Pretend I'm Saving the Whales.

There have always been two. Lie and Lay. These days, even in books and journalism, LAY is taking over where it is grammatically incorrect to do so. Poor LIE is being ignored.

LIE is a very nice, precise, quiet verb. It deals with you, and only you. It does not involve any other thing or person. Consider it an introvert. Just you. That's all it is about.

You are tired. You LIE down. You took a nap yesterday, when you LAY down. You have done this before so you HAVE LAIN down. Or you HAD LAIN down. That's it. Short. Sweet. Personal. No one else involved.

LAY on the other hand is an extrovert. Interactive, always messing in. Lay is about doing what you want to do to someone or something else. So you LAY the baby down, or the packages. Yesterday you LAID the baby down for her nap. Or you LAID the packages on the table. Or, what the hell. You LAID your lover. Gramatically that's pretty correct. You did something to someone else that involved being horizontal (mostly).
And you HAVE LAID or HAD LAID this before.

But people are beginning to ignore LIE. They will say they LAID down for a nap when they were the only one taking it. This is so wrong. It grieves me.

Please, for the sake of a fine old verb that his been around a long time and is still useful, use LAY or LAIN when using LIE, and LAID and LAID for LAY. Honest. A small piece of your life will be less confusing. Isn't that worth a lot?

Save a fine old verb for future generations.