Saturday, February 28, 2009

NOW I'm scared.

Newspapers are dying. They don't seem to be essential to commerce, so they are being allowed to die. And I think, I believe, they are essential to our freedom.

Sound bites don't give the big picture. National news isn't invested in regions, states, or communities and is more easy to control than individual press. Newspapers cover both sides of local issues, in more detail than any other medium. A newspaper uncovered Watergate. Because of their scope, newspapers have uncovered more corruption than any other medium. They cover the special interest groups, but they also give coverage to the other sides.

No, they aren't perfect. Most of the population doesn't trust journalists, or see much use for them. In a failing economy, commerce spends very few advertising dollars on a medium with a shrinking number of subscribers.

We've had newspapers in America longer than we have had the United States. If they die,I really can't identify any viable new source for information in the wings. We have so much information on the Web, so little of it vetted and true.

In my lifetime, I never expected the extinction of print journalism in this country.

It is not dead yet, and perhaps it will survive. The economy will improve, and the economics of newspapers may change to thrive in this changing world.

Some complicated changes are coming up. I want my information from a source that gives one side-blah, blah, blah, and then says "on the other hand", blah, blah, blah, and gives the second or third view.

I learned many years ago that we can never get to the certain truth of anything, but only an approximation.But don't censor my access to the information I need to decide what the truth is. I don't want the liberal facts or the conservative facts. Give me all of 'em, and let me sort it out without filtering through political party propaganda.

That's why I believe we need newspapers to keep our speech, our actions, our movements, and our personal decisions as free as possible.

Newspapers are one of our guardians of all that freedom. Without them, where is our public forum? Television can take only a few stories a day--and a minute is a long time to give to them. Where is our recourse? To whom do we speak?

Yes, my view is slanted because I was a print journalist many years ago. I wrote about a lot of people, met some movers and shakers and interviewed them.But overall, overall, when I remember those years and think of the stories I wrote, it is the average folk I remember most vividly, the "little guys" who were also important and had gifts to give society.

If the newspapers are gone, who will speak for them? Where will their voices be heard? To whom do we bring our causes? the faces that inspire us to contribute, to pull together, to build? Too many will not be seen, not be heard, become virtually invisible, powerless, in our communities.

And that will not be good for democracy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What It Is

So many times, when we say we want change, we mean, "YOU change." We are in times when so much is changing, it is hard to keep track. And a lot of it isn't good.

The vanilla bean crop is threatened because of climate. Chocolate is threatened because of greed (see TIME magazine,2/16). Newspapers are threatened throughout the United States because of the economy, and news came a couple of days ago that Seattle may become the first major city to lose both its local newspapers--and I'll blog about that later, because I really believe a free and local press is a cornerstone of democracy and freedom. T. Jefferson and I agree. It is surreal that in 1965, I was a pioneer as a woman journalist in hard news, and 40-some years later, the industry I pioneered in, a bastion so-called, of America, is in peril.

Glaciers are melting in the Himalayas, source of water for some 5 million people, I understand? California is in its third year of drought, meaning that as soon as a month from now, the water allocation for farms may be cut off to provide limited resources for the rest of Californians--and affecting the foods produced for the rest of the nation. Here in Texas, so far the year has been very dry, and thousands pour into the state every month. We, too, provide a lot of the nation's produce.

Party politics still seems the same old, same old on both sides, and duly elected officials would rather see their constituents go down the drain than compromise, work together, and go for a fix. Huh. Well, I'm not surprised, but I admit, I still hope a little. We CAN. That's the sad story. We really can do wonderful, marvelous things, and some are doing them, but others aren't.

Can't do anything so much about that. I can vote, and I can write letters, and I can pitch in on local stuff. I can throw my strength to protect freedom--for instance, I don't want to own a rottweiler or pit bull, but a proposed statewide ban on the ownership of these breeds is wrong, wrong, wrong. I can be a strong family member. I can love folks. I can be more open to persons in my life who need me--and try to keep my eyes open, so I don't miss someone who does. I can try the best I can to live a life that eases my conscience and that I can call good--and whether I deserve it or not, it is good. Beautiful, in fact. I can, and do, laugh often. And I am embarrassed, but have to live with the current fact of how often I am moved to tears. Nothing all over the place, just a little overflowing for a minute or so.

I thought I had a plan for this year, but that's off the rails and going in an entirely different --and exhilerating--direction. Whoopee! I'm hanging on, the wind in my hair and a grin from ear to ear.

I'm not ignoring, you understand. Worldwide, things are serious. But love is still to be found, choices to be made, happiness to be noticed and enjoyed, and thanks to be given.

If this sounds like a cliche, it isn't. It is so heartfelt, my eyes are tearing up as I type it.

This week a good friend ended up in the hospital. Diagnosis: most curable kind of leukemia. BUT. She isn't just afraid of needles, she's phobic. Also very strong. I had the honor to be with her when the oncologist nurse started the IV for her blood transfusions. She was still. She was cooperative. She threw the sheet over her head so she could not see, and clenched my hands with her other hand so hard I was surprised afterwards they weren't bruised. All I could do was hold on and try to telegraph as much strength and love to her as I could. She went through the panic attack, accepted that for now that was all she could do, and thanked the nurse afterward. I am so grateful I could be there, that holding on may have made a difference.

I guess I see that kind of like a metaphor. All I want to do is hold on and try to make a difference. If I can, it has been a good and satisfying life, that I hope has a few decades to go.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

You Can't Buy My Love

Actually,John answered the puzzle in 20 seconds. And as simple as it is, I was going to renege and not run the list, but I do get some international readers for whom English is a second language. So:

Easy--but still fun. Riddles don't have to be portencious.

My father taught me well.

Today is Valentine's Day, largely considered by males to be a commercial extravaganza to eke money out of men. My dad saw it differently, and indeed, lived in a different era.

I've heard a lot of ads for jewelry. Ha! Of course, cards. All for the females.

My dad celebrated any day that encouraged a special expression of love for my mother and me. My mother reciprocated. I am puzzled by the female only drift of today's advertising, because it wasn't that way at home.

Yeah, men sometimes need a little goose to do something romantic. I would say especially in Texas, but that isn't so. Maybe women do, too. But as a child, I didn't feel left out when my dad got Mother a box of chocolates. I did understand the hierchy when I got a bag of heart-shaped redhots as my due. Mom would always share at least one piece. And she did, indeed, LOVE chocolate. Her eyes would dance and her smile was sweet at breakfast when we exchanged cards and gifts. She always had something for him, too. My dad, living in a dress-tie world, loved bowties, the kind you tie yourself. She often would give him one,which he would wear to the office that day. He always tied them a little off-plumb, which he insisted gave them individuality. He gave her mushy Valentine cards, and she returned the favor. And I gave cards to both.

A couple of days ago, I gave cheap, pretty boxes of Valentine chocolates to my granddaughters, and they actually were excited. I got spontaneous "Thank you, Grandma!" responses. That made me feel really good. And made my heart swell. Which I think was the original purpose for Valentine's Day--simply to take a day to do a little something special to make the love swell.

In February, we need it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mental Exercises

OK, This is from an e-mail I got that many of you have already seen. It's a ONE-WORD RIDDLE, and I give you the first word. Remove one letter at a time until you are left with a single letter, also a word. And, out of curiosity only, time yourself.

My 98-year-old friend John did not use pencil or paper, only his mind. He solved the whole thing in less than 45 seconds, and that includes his two mistakes. How well can you do?

The word is STARTLING. Tick, tick, tick.

I'll list the answers in the next post.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Going AWOL Before You Start to School

A news report this morning featured a small boy, 21/2 years old, who apparently wandered away from his rural family home in South Texas last night, apparently following the family dog. An area Equine Search team volunteered, along with law enforcement and other community volunteers, with no success. They searched all night.

About 8:30 this morning, a report went out that the family dog had come back. An hour later, the good news came that the boy was found, apparently unharmed. It was a chilly night, probably in the 30s or below, and he was dressed only in a shirt and jeans, but he was fine.

It took me back to a time when I was about 4, living near the foothills of the Sacramento Mountains in southern New Mexico. It was probably November, sunny but cool, and I was wearing a red sweater with a shirt and jeans.

I was allowed to walk alone in the greasewood and cacti around our home, but I was supposed to stay within calling distance and come back promptly. (In retrospect, I was probably called back about every 10 minutes. That seemed really long to me then, but apparently not long enough.) I had the two family dogs with me. I deliberately decided to disobey and go further out to explore. I did this on purpose, I distinctly remember. I wanted the freedom of uninterrupted exploration. I was tired of staying in the same old close perimeters and wanted to see new territory.

I ignored my parents' calls and made a beeline for an arroyo (deep dry wash), where I could duck in and disappear from sight. Pretty soon I couldn't hear them anymore, and happily I walked on. I had a fine time.

The dogs disappeared twice, and my parents told me later they went back to the house, probably for water, but they always came back to me. No one could follow them.

I know I was gone for a number of hours. After awhile, I became aware there were people looking for me. Uh-oh. Still intent on my adventure, I walked on, with a vague notion that there was a lot of commotion over my Walk in the Wild Side that was probably not going to end well for me. I had been very naughty, I realized that. But I stubbornly also wanted the freedom to explore on my own. So I just kept going. I think I had some vague idea about spending the night in the foothills, about two miles away. With a low, desert landscape and mountains, I knew exactly where I was. I knew where my house was. I just wasn't ready to go back there.

Finally I reached a dirt road about a mile and a half from my home and debated crossing it to get to the land beyond. I stepped out, looking left and right, and spotted my daddy's car moving slowly down a hill about a quarter-mile away, coming towards me. I ducked back into the bushes, but he had seen the flash of my red sweater, and he found me. I knew the jig was up and didn't run. I was resigned to a spanking and a scolding.

This, remember, was the 1940s. We didn't even have a private home phone, just a party line (027-J1). So he had to drive home with me before my mother knew I was safe, and then they personally had to notify the searchers. To my astonishment, they even held me up in the air to a low-flying plane. They had called in a friend who was a pilot to look for me. He waggled the wings and flew off. Boy, that was COOL!

I was astonished. I had been just fine. I had had fun. They were so relieved to have me home they hugged me and hugged me and no mention was made of a spanking and they were so happy to see me, at age 4 I had no idea of the stark terror they had been through. Because it WAS November. I wasn't dressed for a night out, and I was prone to bronchitis. Predators came down the mountains at this time of year to search for snacks in the desert. Coyotes. Mountain lions. Wolves? Too cold for snakes, at least. I could have fallen somewhere. I could be injured. I could....well, later when I became a parent, I understood.

So they told me I couldn't go outside the fence. The gates were locked. BOR-ing.
I spotted a hole in the chicken wire fence to keep in the chickens, and a few weeks later, when my grandmother had come out to take care of me for the day, I took off again.

Unfortunately (from my point of view), a man Dad hired to do farm work was on hand that day. All I remember is that his name was Braulio, and the only English he spoke was to call me "Baby," which I hated, and when my lip went out, he would laugh and call me that again. And then my daddy would laugh with him, and I would really be enraged.

So I scrambled under the fence and had just set out when Braulio came up and caught me, swinging me up onto his shoulders as we headed for the house. I remember he smelled of oreo cookies. And my grandmother called my dad. This time, he came home from work, and this time he lectured me loudly and spanked me proper. So I didn't do it again.

Years later, when my younger son was 3 or 4, he took advantage of my distraction while I was writing a check for a purchase at the mall and took off. I turned around, and he was gone. His older brother had seen nothing. So we searched the store and finally headed into the mall, where I did find several people who had seen him running by. They had noticed such a young child on his own.

"Why didn't you stop him?" I desperately asked one witness.

"Ma'am, he was running like he knew just where he was going."

And in my fear and approaching terror, I related nevertheless. Oh, yeah. He knew where he was going. To freedom, and adventure, and to run as fast as he wanted....

It only took us about a half-hour to find him. Reflecting on my own experience, I spanked him immediately and scolded him all the way to the car. (He had reached the far end of the mall when we found him.) In contrast, I had been missing for hours.

The little boy on the news today was gone overnight. About 15 hours. But a happy ending.

It's no wonder a belief in guardian angels is so popular. It's darned wonderful, all in all, that any of us grow up.