“Do your job or else!”

I spent way too much time watching TV today.  But I couldn’t pull away from the teens who survived the shooting of 17 classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They went to see their lawmakers  in Tallahassee and, with deeply moving eloquence, demanded an end the slaughter.

To the students’ shock, they were told, “It’s too soon to discuss this.”

The kids got back on their bus and moved on to the White House. As I watched, I slipped from heartbreak to disbelief to anger to hopelessness.  I cannot image how those kids felt.

“Never again should I feel guilty to be alive.”

“How many children have to get shot?”

“Never again should students have to protest for their lives.  Never again should an innocent life be taken while trying to get an education.”

“Do your job, or we promise you will be voted out!”

“How is it that easy to buy a weapon with no use except war?”

“I turned 18 the day after I woke up to the news that my best friend was gone,” one shaken young man said as he fought back tears.  “I don’t understand why I could still go into a store and buy an assault rifle! How is it that easy to buy that kind of weapon after Columbine? After Sandy Hook?”

Maybe because fans of the AR-15 were quick to explain the gun’s appeal.  Maybe because the NRA speaks so loud and has such endless resources.  Maybe because so many lawmakers are beholden to them.  Maybe because, although President Trump listened patiently, the solution he offered was to arm teachers–an idea that did not go over well.  Or maybe because right-wing provocateurs were quick to start conspiracies flying: “These kids are actors hired by Democrats.”  The most outspoken–and well-spoken–young man was pronounced “a crisis actor.” Or maybe because in the aftermath of that horror,  Rep. Claudia Tenney, Republican N.Y., insisted that “mass murderers end up being Democrats. But the news media ignores that.” No such study has ever been done, and Tenney’s colleagues immediately condemned her saying so.  Maybe… just maybe… that condemnation is a first ray of hope.

The pro-active teens are the second ray of hope.  Like the girl who demanded of congressional leaders, “Why is it that every time we make a step forward you force us back? How can I trade your thoughts and prayers for action?” Point by point, she demanded action, as supporters screamed out a response to each and a drummer beat out a rhythmic reply.

“We will not be silenced!”

Shooting Survivor

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Live Long and Prosper

No, no.  I’m not related to Spock, the Vulcan–although I was once featured on Leonard Nemoy’s In Search of…  And I did have an autographed picture of him until it burned with our house.  But that’s all another story for another time.  My point today is that there is a great way to extend our lifespans.  I’m not selling anything.  No promises, either, although this is definitely supported by scientific data.

The good news is that, as far as lifespan goes, we are on the way up.  We’re already living nearly thirty years longer, on average, than our ancestors of a century ago.  And our children today can expect to live to be over 100 years old.

We’re doing better, but we can do better still.  We can actually increase our life spans.  How, you ask?  By volunteering.  By sharing our particular skills and hobbies with others.  It’s true.  Giving to others is the greatest way to receive.  In addition, we can look forward to less chance of suffering depression, and a greater sense of control over our own lives, more self-esteem, and more general happiness.  All that and better health overall.  Studies show that volunteers who devote 100 hours or more per year to sharing with others receive the greatest health benefits.  And the older the volunteer, the greater the personal benefits.

Who knew?  Well, my dad, for one.  He used to keep bees which he rented out to the owners of orchards and other crops.  It wasn’t volunteer work, though.  He got paid for that. The volunteering came when he went to public schools to demonstrate beekeeping to children, and to tell them of bees’ great benefits for us all.  He loved being with the kids and the kids loved him.  As I was going through his private collection of important things, I found a file filled with handwritten notes of thanks, and of hand drawn pictures of him and his demonstration frame of bees at work.

Thanks, Dad.  Another lesson well-taught!

Dad in his bee beard.  No, he didn’t demonstrate this to the kids.  Though he did show the picture, which they loved!

“Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”

~ Poet Samuel Ullman~

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Good-by, Children. You’re Gone Too Soon.

Yes, once again.  Yet another gunman killed more kids in yet another school in the U.S.  That makes 25 such shootings since Columbine. (Remember our promise then?  Never again!)  At least, I read it’s been 25 such shootings.  I’ve lost count.  How many kindergarteners will never get a chance at life? How many grade school children will never see a rocket span space and return to earth?  How many teens will never know how it feels to fall in love, to get married, to have a child?  How many teachers will not live to draw on their PERS investments?  I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. 

But I do know that I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, and a  true believer in prayer.  And I must say to President Trump, and to numerous members of Congress, “You tell grieving families that your prayers and thoughts are with them.  Good. Wonderful.  But that’s not enough.  You are well-paid lawmakers… our employees, by the way.  Platitudes and promised prayers and kind thoughts don’t heal shattered bodies and broken hearts.  Nor does shifting the blame, as in the comment that ‘the shooter is mentally disturbed.  His classmates should have reported him to authorities.'”

School shootings of this magnitude are the problem of America, which is now awash in guns.  Including assault rifles and an endless supply of magazines of ammunition.  This is not hunting weaponry, folks.  This is the stuff of full-fledged war. Of drug cartels we have armed to the teeth.  Of schoolhouse slaughter.

Does God really help those who help themselves?  Yes…sometimes. He also helps those who don’t help themselves.  And those who won’t.  But other times he doesn’t. Maybe because he waits for us to finally admit to the cost of a land of guns.  Maybe he’s waiting for lawmakers to finally do the right thing and stand up to the NRA. Maybe he’s waiting for us as a country to acknowledge the waste of lives changed forever by guns, and to prefer watching our children grow up to be moms and dads, teachers and writers, scientists and engineers.  To resolve that no American children will ever again have to practice hiding from bullets in their classrooms.  Maybe then the world will no longer have a reason to watch us in horrified dismay.  Maybe then we can pray more honestly.

I am determined to be stronger than the NRA.  I will make certain lawmakers know a burgeoning number of us refuse to think of child slaughter is either normal or acceptable. But my voice alone won’t be heard. Will you join me?

“You must learn to protect yourself with the pen, and not the gun.”

Josephine Baker

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Good News for Black History Month

Dorothy Ngongang and her younger sister Sandra McBeth–formerly Dorothy and Sandra Giles–were raised, along with eight siblings, in a dilapidated five-room hut. They didn’t have much food except what they could catch, forage, or glean.  They could only go to school on rainy days, because when it was dry they had to pick cotton.  “We came from nothing,” Sandra says. Small house–two to a bed, and a bed nothing but a sackcloth filled with hay.

Their father, Bo Giles, was a sharecropper– which almost always meant a raw deal for the renters and a windfall for the landowners who locked families into contracts that drowned the workers in ever increasing debt.  All ten children worked in the cotton fields, sunup to sundown, no matter how hot the day.  No lollygagging allowed.  “I think I got spanked every day because I wasn’t using two hands,” said another sister, Mary. “We had to pick with both hands.”  The family picked around 40 bales of cotton a year. That’s a whopping 50,000 pounds! The pay? As much as $300, as little as $100–for the entire year!

Right across the road was a lovely white house with a manicured lawn and rocking chairs on the wrap-around porch. “We thought it was a mansion,” Dorothy says. Three girls lived there–Joan, Marian, and Peggy Wheeler. Despite the Jim Crow laws in North Carolina of separate schools, separate drinking fountains, and separate bathrooms, the girls across the road loved to play with the Giles girls. And that house with the giant tree on the perfect lawn was the Giles girls’ refuge.

Neither Bo nor his wife Lake ever learned to read, but four of their children earned two-year college degrees, and three others earned master’s degrees.  Dorothy, who finished  at the top of her class, spent years teaching high school biology and environmental science–about as far from picking cotton as she could get.  Imagine her amazement when Peggy, the youngest of the Wheeler girls, called and asked if she would be interested in buying their house.  “No one has lived there for ten years,” Peggy said.  “It’s fallen into disrepair and I can’t fix it up.  There’s no one in the world we would rather have there than you.”

As children, the Giles girls had played across the road at the mansion.  But live there? Impossible!

Not impossible. Dorothy and Sandra had finished refurbishing the house and were in the yard when Marian–the middle Wheeler sister–drove up.  “I’m glad you’re here,” Marian said as she greeted her childhood friends with a hug.  It’s like we kept the house in the family.”

(Based on article in The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, N.C.)

 

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny  matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Three for my Computer, Zero for Me

Three years ago, my desktop computer’s mother board crashed, and with no concern for my under deadline book, my computer gave up the ghost.  Pure dumb luck.  What else could it be?

Last year my laptop crashed.  The repair guy diagnosed the cause as a lightning strike.  No, he really did!

Last month, on my desktop’s second birthday, it wouldn’t start.  Yep, crashed mother board.  Again.

I have been writing long enough that I wrote my first book in longhand.  When I finished I set my typewriter up on the kitchen table and worked all night typing it.  When my family got up to face another day, I proudly displayed my beautifully typed book manuscript… then I promptly spilled tomato juice on it.

I love my computer…except when I hate it.  The problem is, it’s impossible to reason with a machine. Even a super smart one.  It cares not how upset I am.  Or how much I need it to cooperate.  Two crashed mother boards and a lightning strike, and not even an apology.  What to do?  Well, I make certain to back up everything on the cloud.  I located a great repair guy I can trust, one who knows how to speak computer, and I keep him on call. And when I have a project coming due, I pray.  Because it’s impossible to reason with a computer.

“I know there is a proverb which says ‘To err is human,’ but a human error is nothing to what a computer can do if it tries.”

Dame Agatha Christie

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Classics Abridged with a Smile

As a lifelong reader, and with literature as one of my two college majors, I get great enjoyment from John Atkinson’s Wrong Hands.  Here is a sample of John’s book summary humor:

The Odyssey— War veteran takes forever to get home, then kills everyone.

Wuthering Heights– A sort-of brother and sister fall in love.  It’s foggy.

Walden–Man sits outside for two years. Nothing happens.

Crime and Punishment–Murderer feels bad. Confesses.  Goes to jail.  Feels better.

Beowulf —Hero kills monster, blah, blah, blah, bah.  Dragon kills hero.

Dante’s Inferno–All hell breaks loose.

Well, yes.  Sort of.  But lots of fun. Don’t you think so?

The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new.

~ Samuel Johnson ~

 

Posted in Blog | 2 Comments

Puzzled Elephants

If you were an elephant, you would surely be puzzled by the confusing behavior of humans. (No, no. I’m not talking about Republicans. I’m talking REAL elephants.) …Well, sort of not about Republicans.  When Obama was president, his administration slapped a ban on big-game hunters who were bringing elephant heads, tails, legs, and other “trophies” back from Zimbabwe and Zambia.  But when Trump entered the White House, that ban was unexpectedly lifted.  Elephants ran for cover, and animal rights activists protested with roars.

Poor elephants! Their population has plunged from around 10 million in 1930 to less than 500,000 today.  That loss is mostly because of the poachers who have slaughtered vast numbers  of them for ivory, but also for their other body parts.  African elephants are now officially listed as “threatened.”

Why such a terrible change?  President Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric love, love, love hunting big game.

As it has been said:  Until elephants have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

Sad.

“There is no crime, absolutely none, that cannot be condoned when ‘our’ side commits it.”

George Orwell

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Treasures Among the Junk

While cleaning out my dad’s garage, I found an old newspaper clipping of his aunts, Ola and Ollie.  Their story is worthy of a Hallmark movie.  Ollie was younger, but prettier and sweeter.  Boys liked her. They took her for walks and to the drug store for sodas. One of them, Frank, the son of the town banker, asked her to marry him.  The next day she walked to the fabric store and got everything she needed to hand sew a wedding dress.  Ola was older, but no boys were asking her to step out with them.  When she saw her sister’s lovely dress hanging by the door, and the array of gifts she got at parties given in her honor, Ola burned with envy.

The evening before her wedding, Ollie got everything set out.  She dragged the tin bathtub into the kitchen, heated water on the wood burning stove, and treated herself to a second bath in a month. She bid her family an early good night, and went to bed to dream of her life as a married woman. When she awoke the next morning, the first thing she noticed was that the hook on which she had hung her wedding dress was empty. The second thing she noticed was that her sister’s bed hadn’t been slept in. The third thing she noticed was that her almost-husband was gone, too.  Ola had run off with Ollie’s beau, and had taken her sister’s wedding dress with her.  No one could understand why. Ollie spent what was to be her wedding day crumpled on her bed crying.

But Frank wasn’t the businessman his father was. He had trouble just keeping a job, and his marriage to Ola was strained.  As for Ollie, she married Albert, a Gospel singer and recording artist.  Ollie also sang Gospel, and together they made several best-selling records.  Both sisters survived their husbands, and when they were in their 90s, they reconciled.  Ola lived to be 105 and Ollie to 107.

“I can’t believe how old people my age are.”

~Ollie Kinzer~

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Diamonds are a Plunderer’s Best Friend

I think it would do us all good to pause in our puzzling over the fate of our own country and think of others.  Zimbabwe, for instance. It’s located in the Southwest corner of the continent of Africa, it’s foot resting on the country of South Africa.

Three-quarters of Zimbabwe’s people live in hopeless poverty while the ruling elite is wealthy beyond imagination. That’s because of the staggering value of the country’s diamonds.  The populace risk their lives digging the diamonds out of the mines only to have the rulers plunder the valuable stones.  The stolen diamonds are passed along through a complex network of companies based in former British colonies.  Since 2010, Zimbabwe has exported more than $2.5 billion in diamonds, yet only $300 million made it into the government’s treasury.  The money is used to fund Mugabe’s regime. It also funds a terrifying intelligence service that keeps the poor folks digging so that the wealthy elite can grow richer and stronger and stronger and richer.

What can we do?  We can pray. We can send urgent messages to our congress men and women asking them to quit fighting among themselves and use whatever influence our country still has to stop other countries from buying Zimbabwe’s diamonds. Even more, we can outlaw the importation and selling of those diamonds in our country. And then we can pray some more.

“Money often costs too much.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

You Are What You Believe

If you are eagerly expecting my tempestuous reaction to the fake news stories some of you so like to share with me on Facebook, you needn’t.  Maybe you think they really are true, but I know they are totally fake.  Don’t believe me?   That’s okay.  But do find out for yourself. It’s actually quite easy–just run it past Snopes.com.  Snopes is a site that  specializes in debunking fake news.  And boy do we need it!  Have you seen that doctored picture of a troublemaker black NFL player burning an American flag in the locker room?  It’s got lots of people talking.  Only thing is, it never happened.

What a time we live in!  Doctored photos.  Conspiracy theories. Partisan propaganda.  Pranksters.  If you’re like me, you’ve had just about enough!

Which is why I’m so glad Snopes offers us a nonpartisan way to separate truth from fiction.  Because, boy, do we need it!

(Thanks,Wallington Chevron, Seattle)

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments