Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Shrine for a Stranger

You know how every once in a while you’ll see a little memorial shrine set up by the side of the road for someone who had died there? Crosses, wreaths, candles, teddy bears. Respectfully, I find these iconic altars curious. I’m not the type of person who is drawn to return to a geographical location of death or burial. For my own personal self, it's too morbid. I prefer to remember my loved ones the way they were in my life, not by visiting a quiet piece of land where their bones lie six feet below my feet, nor the place where their blood once spilled, carrying their soul - the part I loved - out with it. But everyone deals with loss differently.

There’s a little shopping area near my office. Very typical – containing a market, nail salon, Chinese restaurant, candy store, bowling alley … things like that. There are several entrances into the shopping area from the surrounding main roads. On one of these entrances, in the little island of land moated by curbs separating incoming and outgoing lanes, is one of these memorials.

The adornments circulate and vary. There are usually flowers. Sometimes action figures. Often an assumedly handmade wooden cross. Occasionally written items are tacked to the tree (letters, poems, lyrics?) in protector sheets. Now and then a picture will be there. 8x10, a young man with chestnut hair and a groomed beard. Once I saw a pizza left there, from a shop located in another area of town, carefully placed as if to share. I assume it was his favorite. This morning someone had lit a candle. The kind that comes in a tall thin glass jar featuring a screenprint of Madonna and Child. The wax was yellow. Despite the wind and misty rain, the flame burned strongly.

What happened there? Was he in a car accident? Was he in a fight? Shot? Stabbed? Did he simply trip and crack his head on the curb?

Who tends to this site? His significant other? His family? His friends? Does only one person return and return to keep the point of his last moments on earth marked, or do hoards of those who loved him circulate by?

I’ve been at my present company for going on 8 years, and often run to this shopping center for errands on my way to or from work. I use that entrance frequently as it is less traveled. And always, this shrine has been tended. I’ve never seen anyone there, but clearly it is visited and kept up. Someone, be it one or many, has kept that man’s memorial freshened up and its adornments rotated for at least 8 years now, and possibly longer. I find myself struggling to remember something about this person whom I’d never met. A person who, regardless of that fact, was clearly loved in life and missed in death. So much so that this humble makeshift site of remembrance is never neglected to this day.

I suppose that’s the purpose. To ensure that this life is remembered, even if there are no memories. To cause others, even complete strangers, to pause and wonder – and remember even abstractly that he was ... that he just was.

I never knew him, but I doubt I’ll ever forget him either.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Thankful Heart

I used to work for a company that was owned and about 85% staffed by Jehovah’s Witnesses. JW’s do not celebrate any holidays or birthdays, considering it to be a form of idolatry. We of “other ways” were permitted to take the day off without getting any grief about it, but we weren’t paid for the holidays we took. As an inquisitive casual Christian, I once asked one of my coworkers why they didn’t observe Thanksgiving, being that it was a day of prayer and thankfulness. He told me, “Because WE are thankful EVERY day.”

Frankly, I found that response very annoying in its condescension.

It’s been probably 12 years since I had this brief conversation, but I think back on it every year. As time goes by, regardless of the fact that it generated from the teachings of a doctrine with which I personally do not agree, its simple stand-alone truth has come into a better understood light. With so much to be thankful for, it is indeed a shame that most people are only thankful for what we have in flitting afterthoughts, if at all - and only pause to more deeply reflect and appreciate during holidays set aside for such.

It’s no doubt been at times a rough year in my little world. Among other things, I’ve buried two of the most dear and loving people I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing life and times with, and at times I still reel from missing them so. Especially with one who died too young, naturally I wonder why these things happen. But, they do. I can’t let the bad situations bog me down. I focus on how much joy was brought into my life for simply knowing them. How they had made me a significantly better person. The valuable lessons they taught me about family, friendship, perseverance and love. Yes, I must let them go, and with great reluctance – but I am so thankful for having known them. And I am thankful they are now free from their troubles and in God’s hands.

But while grieving is vital, it's important that it not become a "career". The sadness of those losses aside, I remember that I have a wonderful and loving husband who makes me smile every day. We have the most marvelously incredible little boy who teaches us daily new joys of life. We have a sweet and gentle dog that is a model of unconditional love for us. We are all healthy and sound and to top it off were fortunate enough to have been born in the United States, land of Liberty. Though my family is scattered, they are good and strong people who have shown me what it means to lead by example. I have friends that are true treasures. I have a “dream home” on some beautiful country land and my husband and I have jobs that we not only love but allow us to provide for our family while also enjoying some finer things.

All in all a rather typical, one might even say stereotypical, list of items for which to be thankful. But they are so worthy!

Indeed every year brings its bounty of highs and lows – found treasures and losses. Sometimes the lows get to me, and seem to stick with me longer than the highs. I often catch myself getting into modes of being sad, stressed and/or cross. For what reason? What burdens are so heavy that I can’t find joy in the many blessings in my life? Yes, I’m constantly scrambling, perpetually fretting, often stressing, and always chasing after someone or something. But this means my life is full of others with which I share love and happiness. And that truly is the biggest blessing.

It’s easy to get caught up in feeling sorry for ourselves or allowing our hearts to harden, proclaiming we have no one to thank for our life and accomplishments but ourselves. But as I grow older, watch the world grow and evolve around me, I begin to understand what my coworker was saying at the heart of it. It’s a fulfilling thing to gather with friends and family on marked holidays of Thanks, but true thankfulness carries on and flows freely every day of the year. This Thanksgiving, as we hurry around the state and visit with relatives, cope with screeching herds of kids, and I hug my husband and pick birthday cake out of Incrediboy’s hair, I’ll be opening myself to the Lord to teach me how to have a more gracious and thankful heart on a daily basis – for ALL my blessings - because I am so very blessed, it should be no other way.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Who Hit the Fast Forward Button?

I turned around and you were two,
I turned around and you were four,
I turned around and you were a man
Walking out my door.

- Unknown (to me anyway)

We took Incrediboy to the portrait studio this weekend for the big 2 year old photo session. I was semi-dreading it because the last two photo sessions have been less than smooth due to a budding shy stage and general uncooperativeness. But let me tell you, he was absolutely charming. Just perfect! We got some of just him, and then some family portraits, as is our adopted annual custom upon his birthdays. Then the Hub had a great idea of getting a shot of just him and the boy, and of just me and the boy. I’m glad he thought of that because both of these came out absolutely precious. My wonderful Hub, with our wonderful boy sitting on his knee, both looking prouder than the other. The one of me with our boy, cheek to cheek, hugging, smiling.

I mean you’d just gag if you saw them, they’re so precious.

Our family portrait that we selected – it’s great. Couldn't have asked for a nicer shot! But it's almost sad in a way. Incrediboy is sitting so nice, in his tan corduroys and blue sweater with the white shirt collar folded dapperly at the neck, with one hand resting casually on his knee … He looks so … grown up. How can a 2 year old looks so grown up?

Thanksgiving is around the corner. This has become a flurry-esque time of year for my little family, as we also have Most Beautiful Dog’s anniversary of coming to live with us (which happens to be today – 3 years! – yes, I know we’re dorks but remember, we love our dog to a ridiculous degree) and Incrediboy’s birthday along with Turkey Day.

Two years ago this week we anxiously awaited the arrival of our miracle child – the one we never thought we’d have. Incrediboy was born on a Tuesday, and we brought him home from the hospital on Thanksgiving morning. It was cold and rainy that day and we were exhausted and scared out of our minds. Friends dropped by with care packages – turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, gravy and pie. Then more friends with more care packages. We ended up with enough food to feed us for a week – and it was a heartwarming thing to be remembered by friends in such a way on a family oriented holiday.

Incrediboy’s first birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day, which was appropriate on so many levels. We’d all had a long, exasperating, and exciting year of adjusting to one another, and the Hub and I were more grateful for our little man than anything we could have fathomed. We took his photo at the minute he was born the year before. We topped off Thanksgiving Dinner with birthday cake. Incrediboy, surrounded by adoring cousins, had his own little cake and had a ball making a complete mess with it. As we leaned in for a picture, Incrediboy took a big fist full of cake and, with a big grin, smashed Daddy with it. What a clown! I knew even as it was happening that this would be the one Thanksgiving I would most distinctly remember for my entire life.

This year the baby is almost all gone and has been replaced by a little boy. He stands as high as my hip now – tall and thin – and while still holding a special love for Elmo, can’t get enough cars, tractors, trains and heavy equipment in his little life. I can remember my best friend telling me as I desperately clawed at sanity after getting no decent sleep for 10 straight weeks, “I know it seems like it will never end right now, but before you know it you’ll be wondering where the time went.”

She was right.

My boy is growing up so fast. How does that happen? When time strides along in faithfully identical increments of measure, how is it that entire chunks seem to scream by as if shot from a gun?

Before we know it he’ll be starting school. Getting involved in sports and social activities. He’ll be away more than he’s home. Next thing we know he’ll be off to college. We’ll help him load his things, move it all into a cramped dorm room, and then watch him wave goodbye to us in afterthought fashion as he begins to meet the new most important people in his life. I can’t begin to grasp that – so I focus as much as I can on the present. Spending as much time with him as I can. Writing him mother’s love letters in his journals after he goes to bed, Elmo clutched tight against him. Taking too many pictures and hugging him every time he gets within arm’s reach. Because it’ll be here before we know it.

My little Incrediboy. Please don’t grow up too fast.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Life in Longhand

Of all the mementos that have come down from earlier generations, I most treasure those that have been hand written. Letters, cards, notations on the backs of photographs, recipes jotted in margins of cookbooks – these are the things that are true wisps of the people who were here before – casual fingerprints left behind, echoing whispered voices that will never fade so long as they are handled with care.

When Incrediboy was 16 weeks old, I started a writing project. It will take me many years and I have no idea what will result in the end, but I knew I wanted to do it regardless. I bought a set of blank Flavia books. Each is a different color, each with a different little painting on the cover and a single word possessing a lovely, magical quality. Words like Dreams, Moments, Adventures, Passages. Within these books I have started a set of journals for him. All are written in letter form, but my approach varies from entry to entry. I have written about the house from which we moved – the house he was born in and will not remember. I have written about his first steps, first words, first haircut. About the time he was so ill that we were afraid we’d have to hospitalize him. About the day he wriggled out of his shoes, ran barefooted through the back yard, and first took notice of the variance between rough warm concrete and the soft cool spring grass. Stepping from one to the other, and back again – over and over, fascinated.

I don’t write just of these milestones, though. I have also written about our hopes and dreams for him. Tough lessons he will have to face and process. Values and virtues, advice and aspirations. Lessons for him, and lessons he has taught his father and me. Remembrances of how he handled himself in good times and bad, as they happen, from his Mother's viewpoint.

Dreams, Moments, Adventures, Passages.

Not just the tight honeycomb of our lives either. I also wanted to record the world as it was during his youth. Current events. Historical moments. The way they really happened, from a firsthand perspective. Who knows what our country and our world will be like when he reaches adulthood. Who knows how the authors of his history texts will portray what actually took place. I want him to know, and I want him to remember, the events of his life - both micro and macro.

Someday I’ll give these handwritten memories to him. Maybe when he graduates. Maybe when he gets married, or when he has his first child. I don’t really have a set time in my mind, but I will know when the time is right. I just want him to have a piece of me and himself that he can hold in his hands, leaf through, learn and reflect. When he is a grown man, rather than visiting my grave (because I will not be there) I hope that Incrediboy will remember me by opening these journals - my sometimes sloppy, always loving longhand bringing us together again. Most of all I hope that through the receipt of these journals he will more deeply realize and appreciate, on multiple levels, what a blessing it is to be gifted a life.

Monday, November 14, 2005


“Being unforgiving is like drinking poison,
and waiting for the other person to die.”

Much like the old poem finding occasional rebirth, now and then a certain quip will burst forth from the mundane dialogue of life as the most poignant morsel of wisdom.

This is a line from this past Friday’s episode of my favorite TV show, “Ghost Whisperer”. As I’ve mentioned before, I love ghost stories. And I mean * LOVE * ! Ghost stories! If you love ghost stories too check this show out. Anyway, last week’s story involved a man of, let’s say, undesirable character, who had died and sought to relieve a personal burden by seeking forgiveness for some offenses before he could leave this world. He had made the above statement, a realization that had come to him all too late but was soon enough for him to pass to those he was leaving behind.

I have mused about forgiveness before, but this quote brought it all back to me in a new voice. It is difficult to forgive someone who has deeply hurt us, even altered the paths of our lives with their actions. I work hard at my battles with this very thing. I only have a few storms in my life of which I can’t seem to fully shake the resentment – but man, are they powerful. I say I forgive, but with those few experiences I will sometimes catch myself returning to feelings of bitterness and anger when I think upon them. I’ve often thought of unforgiveness as a veritable pair of cement shoes, preventing me from moving on to happier days while others, including those who hurt me, leave it (and me) all behind them.

But to put the concept of unforgiveness in these terms – the metaphor of a grudge poisoning you yourself rather than the person who hurt you – is, quite simply, perfect. Just a perfect description. We like to think that sending mental daggers at those who have hurt us is beneficial – somehow assembling a signpost so that bad karma will find them. But to not forgive really doesn’t affect the offender in any way. Chances are, as the resentment eats away at your heart and soul and you harbor the bitterness years later, the offender has moved on and all but forgotten the entire event. Meanwhile, like a runaway kidney stone, the grudge calcifies your insides. Sometimes people even forget how to separate their hard feelings for one situation from all the rest.

So what’s the purpose? Just to poison yourself?

Even putting the teachings of my personal faith aside (which indeed commands me to forgive if I expect forgiveness from the Almighty), the ability to forgive those who have broken my heart in one fashion or another is emancipating on multiple levels. The shackles of a grudge weigh down no one but the harborer, and the venom only turns back on them and their own present life and immediate company.

I don’t want that. I don’t know who would.

Forgiving isn’t forgetting, and it isn’t saying what someone did was all right. But it does release the power the offense holds over me. No doubt many tasks of forgiveness take some time and great amounts of effort. But as this quote captures in its simplistic simile, it’s a goal well worth pursuing.

The next time the bitter bile of a grudge bubbles up within me, I'm going to remember this new perspective, and work on detoxing myself.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Puppy Panic

Most Beautiful Dog gave us quite a scare yesterday.

As I pulled into our drive after work, I saw the Hub scurrying frantically about outside. When I got out of the car he informed me that Most Beautiful Dog was missing.

“WHAT?”, I said in disbelief.

We have an underground fence, so Most Beautiful Dog can safely cavort to his heart's content around the contained property. Hub put him out in the yard when he got home and when he checked on him a few minutes later, he wasn’t in sight. Hub hunted the property and all the favorite cubbies therein where Most Beautiful Dog likes to be nosey. Shed. Wood pile. Back of the barn. Side yard. No dog.

As we began a frantic search, a million thoughts raced through our minds. Most Beautiful Dog is a pureblooded, less common sporting breed and, you will not be surprised to hear me say, most beautiful. And I’m not just saying that because I’m his Momma. He is absolutely show-dog gorgeous. Being that it’s hunting season and we live near hunting land, our immediate thoughts were some nasty hearted hunter happened by and stole our dog.

Most Beautiful Dog has very strong hunting and tracking instincts. It’s quite amazing to watch his nature in action. When he was only 8 weeks old he used to freeze in a perfect point at leaves skittering through the yard. But he’s lived the “life of Riley”, spoiled terribly and never having been formally trained as a career hunting dog. If he were stolen for such reasons, would the thief be mean to him? Beat his butt for not performing? (gulp) "Dispose" of him?

Calm down, maybe he wasn’t stolen. Did he just … get loose? He’s respectfully timid of his boundaries as the collar gives quite a rude shock if tested, and he’s never tried to bite the bullet and bust through. But if a bunny or a deer sacheted by close enough, would he forget himself? Would he be scared by the jolt, get disoriented and run the wrong way to get out of the range? Would he find his way home? Would he go chasing the horses down at the equestrian campground and get his head kicked off? Would he be hit by a car? Be otherwise injured? Would he lose his way back, and spend the hard-frost night out there scared, hungry and cold? Would we ever see our baby dog again?

I’m good at maintaining my cool until crises have passed, but I was getting panicked at these bombarding worries all caving in on me in a matter of seconds. Hub was feeling the panic as well – not only do we love Most Beautiful Dog to a ridiculous degree, but we are both extra sensitive right now due to our friends’ recent mortal loss of the canine peg of their heart.

I could hear the blood thundering past my eardrums. I could feel the sickening lump growing in my throat and swallowed it back down. Hard.

Hub jumped in the car and blasted out of the drive to search the area, spewing gravel behind him. As he pulled away, I heard a faint, familiar jingle of tags. I looked at the next property over, and there stood Most Beautiful Dog. His face seemed to be saying, “What’s all the hubbub?”

I was so relieved I could barely stand. I called Hub and told him Most Beautiful Dog was found, and then lured the dog back home with Scooby snacks. His collar had lost its charge and somehow he’d figured out he could wander out of the invisible box. We showered him with pats, strokes, and kisses, and told him never to scare us that way again. His sweet angelic face studied ours inquisitively, not understanding what all the fuss was about, but not in any interest to discourage the loving attention he was getting :). He wagged his nubby tail and returned our kisses.

Hopefully this taste of freedom won’t start any bad thought processes in that most beautiful knuckle-head. If so, he’ll find out tonight that the mean ol’ collar is back in action. We’ve got our fingers crossed that the proper heeding and respect for it will still be in tact.

Incrediboy was napping through the entire search and rescue operation. I tell you, if it’s not one boy giving me a coronary, it’s the other … and I’m sure in no time they’ll be teaming up their efforts!

Happy weekend, everyone.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


In early April, the Virginian coastal waters are still so cold that just dunking your toes in will trigger a goosebump stampede all the way up to your scalp. I don’t know why this hadn’t occurred to me and I was expecting the waters to be warm. Could be I was just so happy to be at the shore again, for the first time in seven years.

I was a senior in college, and on my first unchaperoned vacation with some good friends. We weren’t the typical spring break binge drinking, “girls gone wild” types, and were simply out to relax in a new place and decompress in the midst of the spring crunch and angst of devising plans for post-college life. When I look back, many vignetted memories flash through my mind – wandering through the vendor booths on the strip, visiting the oceanic museum and aquarium, one of the girls having an allergic reaction because there was apparently chicken meat in a hot dog she ate, watching the fighter jets fly over, hitting the crazy beach clubs (okay, so we partied a little bit). But what I remember most are the soul-quenching, communal evenings of … nothing.

One friend’s parents owned a beach house there. It was a small weathered beach house in a crowded cluster of similar beach houses. We spent most of our evenings out back of that house, and at that point where warm town air collided with cool ocean breeze we’d build big raging bonfires in the sand. There we would sit. Drink a few beers. Share stories, jokes, memories. Ponder our futures. And stare at the bright dancing flames and the dark endless sea.

In those days, music accompanied every move. The soundtrack of our lives at that particular point was a strangely ethereal recording by a group named Enigma. The album was called MCMXC a.D. (The Roman numerals for the year 1990), and was a sultry tapestry of chimes, keyboards, haunting woodwinds and sparse breathy vocals layered over soft brushstrokes of percussion and electric guitar. We played it over and over on our trip, particularly at our bonfires. Being that we were virtually alone in our section of the beach, we’d turn up the stereo as loud as it would go, allowing the sensual music to bounce off the empty houses, skip across the surface of the rolling waves, penetrate our souls and take residence therein. It was a perfectly perfect accompaniment to our atmosphere.

There was a cut from that recording that got a lot of radio play, called “Sadeness”. Occasionally I’ll still hear it on the radio and will immediately be transported back to those evenings. I’ll practically be able to smell the sweet salty air of the ocean. Feel the warm caress of the fire on my face, the rolled bandana around my head that always held my unruly hair at bay, the rough driftwood trunk we sat upon, and the coarse sand that I never could get back out of my shoes. The taste of Mickey’s Malt Liquor is almost detectable as I once again envision the spooky glow of our light darting around in the foam of crashing waves.

I never see a single person I went on that trip with anymore. Except when I hear that old song again. Then we’re immediately together once more for a few brief moments, symbolically standing together on our tiptoes at the edge of the springboard, serenaded by music and surf under a moonless sky dotted with stars.

I love that about music. Instant time travel.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Memorial

After many health battles, a dear friend of mine lost her beloved dog this morning. I just wanted to ask anyone who reads this to please send your compassionate thoughts and prayers for her. Thank you.

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor;
those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again,
just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing;
they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance.
Her bright eyes are intent;
Her eager body quivers.
Suddenly she begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, her legs carrying her faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.
The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head,
and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

~ Author unknown

Rest in Blessed Peace, Sweet Doggie

EEK! A poem!

I've been feeling like a schlep for such drivelly posting lately, so I thought I'd share a poem. Not that my poetry is anything stellar, but at least it's something a little more creative than electoral griping :D. I didn't date this but it was written fairly recently, at a time when I was feeling very overwhelmed about some things.

Now the mystery of why I don't write much poetry anymore will be solved. ;)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Blunt strikes of a wrecking ball
Cave in a peaceful sanctuary.
Abrupt crumbling clatter
All around.
The shrill shriek
Of cinderblock on cinderblock.
A structure built with pure heart
Concerned only with beauty, serenity?
And no match for brutal strikes
From quiet, unfounded malice.
Nothing to do but crumble
Under the force.
Try to protect what’s left
But the wrecker blows on
Blind, unfeeling
Pre-formed opinions
Of what is important
Of what is offensive
Only concerned with its own view
Its own aggressions.
Pausing on occasion
To allow false hope
That the onslaught has passed.
But as soon as the dust settles –
Until only rubble remains.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

PSA Time - Please Bear With Me

It’s Election Day and I’m going to be boring and talk about politics. But I hope you’ll all stick with me because this is the kind of stuff of which people need to take notice. Even if you don’t live in my state, take it all into consideration, because this kind of sneakiness goes on everywhere.

Riddle me this, Batman. There are five Issues up for vote today in my state. The ads place them all into neat little packages, but anyone who pays attention in life knows that a package known as an Issue is never neat nor little.

One Issue is publicized as bringing more jobs to the state. Who wouldn’t want that? But I looked up the Issue on line, because there's always more. Here’s what it’s really about. It OK’s spending tax money for uses other than the levied purpose. Give us your money for something specific – but we reserve the right to spend it on something else. Nice. It also approves the engagement of joint ventures with and/or lending credit to private entities out of public funds. Um, not liking that idea. It also approves a mysterious committee to doll out $500 million in corporate subsidies, on recommendation of an out of state reviewer. Excuse me? Oh, and here’s my favorite. It allocates state tax money to be used in stem cell research. "One of these things is not like the other..." Does that seem just kind of slipped in quietly? Regardless of how you feel on THAT topic, the very fact that it's squeaked in there arbitrarily ticks me off. In any case ... Doesn't sound so simple anymore. Hmmm ... (rubbing chin thoughtfully) ... No.

The rest of the Issues deal with political accountability reform. After the last few “big” elections everyone’s concerned with legitimacy in the system. But read between the lines, friends, and check this out.

One Issue proposes a 35 day window to cast an absentee ballot (of which you need no explanation as to why you need an absentee ballot) – and you can also cast a provisional ballot if your absentee ballot has not been yet accounted for at the time of election day. Of course the provisional ballot will be thrown out if the absentee ballot is received within 10 days after election day. Um, (sniff-sniff) what’s that smell? Legalized voter fraud? No.

Another Issue, one of three that would be state constitutional amendments (pay attention kids, that’s important!), would allow labor unions to funnel unlimited, undisclosed amounts of money into the political process through a new title wrongly labeled “small donor”. Please. I work for a union shop. There’s nothing small about union funds. It would also allow a wealthy candidate to use his own income to fund his campaign and not have to disclose that. But if a less wealthy candidate would earn funds legitimately to make it fair and even, he wouldn’t be allowed. Oh, that’s nice! Let me think about it for a minute. NO.

The next two Issues are my favorites. Yet another Issue would place official political accountability in the hands of an appointed panel, selected by the officials themselves. How convenient for the officials! Once appointed, each panel member is in for LIFE, and will hold no accountability to voters. The commission would also be granted unlimited power to spend tax money as they see fit, with no control by voters or other state leaders. And, my personal favorite, it would also remove the authority of the state court to review the commission’s activity. What the -- !!! NO!!!

The last Issue would end local control over elections and would create a statewide review board. This sounds not so bad, until you read on that the board would hold no accountability to voters, would eliminate the Secretary of State’s role in the system, and allows this new board to also have a “blank check” for tax spending, even if taxes would need to be raised to cover their choice of spending. Fantastic! NO!!!!!!

See what I mean? The ads will make it all seem so simple. But the Devil’s in the details. Big government, taking the power out of the hands of the people? Sounds a lot like socialism to me. You’ve got to read the fine print!

If you’re still with me, you rock. And I hope I’ve given you something to think about. I know this sounds corny to some, but it’s not only a blessing and a privilege but a duty to go vote. So please take some time today, to LEARN what your area’s Issues and candidates are all about, and go vote.

Back to my normal fluff next time, I promise. May God Bless America!

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Rather Blustery Day

Over the weekend, we caught the skirting of whatever spawned the terrible storms in Evansville, Indiana and surrounding areas. The wind howled and moaned through our yard and beat against the house, and thick lumpy clouds from white to soot raced across the deep blue sky. The last colors of autumn that clung despirately to the branches are now mostly gone.

I had to run to the grocery store yesterday, and cut through the town we live near in order to get to the closest (although not my favorite) market. As I drove past the schoolyard, I could see the bright yellow maple leaves showering down into loose piles along the side of the road. As I approached, the wind picked up and rousted the leaves into a big cyclone of color and activity. It was almost as if they saw me coming and were getting excited about it. By the time I met with them I was driving through a blizzard of what looked like bright dancing golden butterflies. I could hear the leaves whispering past the windows as I drove through them – “Shhhhhissshhhhh” - and I couldn’t help myself. I giggled.

There’s something about windy fall days. True, they knock the beautiful painted foliage down, but it’s fun to see the leaves carrying on giddily in the air – and to join in the dance if I can.

Friday, November 04, 2005

And That is That

Every so often, you will run across something you’ve seen countless times, and suddenly it’s bathed in a brand new, heart-thrilling light.

This happened to me today.

When I was little I often read my Mom’s A. A. Milne books (author of Winnie the Pooh). Some were stories, while others were poems. One book was titled When We Were Very Young, and contained a very ordinary poem about a boy named John. I read it so many times I could recite it by memory to this day.

I’ve been wandering through a book of quotes compiled by Robert Fulghum lately, and once again ran across this poem. (Robert Fulghum penned the brilliantly simple modern classic All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.) Mr. Fulghum added some thoughts on what this poem means to him, and there sprung forth its new meaning for me. His perfect summary follows. Just wanted to share it.

John had
Great big
Boots on;
John had a
Great big
John had a
Great big
Mackintosh –
And that
(said John)

- A. A. Milne

If you live for a long time … you cherish the feeling of being warm and dry and still out in the weather. This poem expresses that sense of well-being. A child understands. In the quest for God, when you find out there is nowhere God is not, and that you are as much a part of the universe as the farthest star, you have a sense of well-being not unlike the child in this poem. That is that … It’s a state of being, understood by a child of six or sixty.

- Robert Fulghum

How wonderfully delicious and comforting is this concept? That though we are so small, in such a vast universe, we are so loved by its Creator. Each and every one of us. Nevermind that we don’t deserve it, that doesn’t matter. We are His special ones, His great love among all of His creation. A love so great, that this state of being - this warm, snug comfort that we can receive from the mere knowledge (and will hopefully notice at some point) - is only a glimmer of what His heart holds for us. And through any storm, His shelter is there, to keep us warm and toasty in the elements.

I don’t know about you, but this is just the sort of thing I needed to be reminded of today.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Traditions Remembered

Between the dazzling sensory-overload seasons of Halloween and Christmas lies the warm, comfortable hominess of Thanksgiving. As the eleventh month commences, I’m looking forward to time spent with family – and am also looking back.

My grandparents lived an hour away from us, and while visits were frequent they were always a special and highly anticipated occasion. Even our beloved border collie would spring to the windowsill with excited whimpers at the query, “Where’s Grandma?”, looking in the direction from which their immaculate Skylark would arrive.

By tradition, Thanksgivings were spent at my grandparents’ house when I was little, and in my heart the memories of those times are what define Thanksgiving for me.

My Grandma was a tiny lady with sparkling blue eyes. She was the kind of lady who always wore necklaces that looked like some sort of hard candy, and sundresses with a fuzzy white cardigan sweater, be it January or July. She wore thinly applied pink nail polish and usually had a rubber band or two around her wrist, just in case she might need them. She used words like davenport and pocketbook and billfold, and found complete and joyful fulfillment in her life’s role as a housewife.

My Grandfather (we always called him “Gramps”) was strong and soft and full of warm hugs and deep laughter. He smelled like shaving cream, and always had a twinkle in his eye behind his horn rimmed glasses, as if enjoying a private joke. He’d let us beat him at checkers, and would save pennies for us, rolling them in brick-red paper tubes. He was kind and generous, and everyone who knew him loved him.

By the time we’d burst into their house with all of our noise, Grandma would have already been up for hours, happily cooking and whistling. The house would be full of the delicious smells of roasting turkey and homemade gravy and stuffing (never store bought, always from scratch). Oatmeal-date cookies and a bowl full of mixed nuts in the shell would always be at the ready, and a candy dish full of chalky pink peppermints on the coffee table. Gramps would have the football game on, though no one would really pay much attention to it for being busy visiting.

Grandma would need Gramps to help her lift the big roaster (with the chip in the enamel from when Dad shot at it with a beebee gun when he was little) several times throughout the day. She’d meticulously baste and fuss over a much-too-big bird, and supervise as it would be tucked back into the oven for a while. Mom would help with whatever Grandma would need help with, and somehow everything always managed to be ready at the same time. We’d laugh and share and reminisce while eating too much because we couldn’t help ourselves with Grandma’s good cooking. After dinner, Mom and Grandma would rattle away in the kitchen with cleanup chores and Dad and Gramps would doze in the living room. My brother, long and lanky, would stretch across the floor and watch football as I went to my special drawer in Grandma’s writing desk and got out the Silly Putty and comic books. In a few hours, we’d all stuff down a slice of pie and a turkey sandwich with Miracle Whip before returning home.

Gramps passed away in early 1981, and we’d bring Grandma to our house for Thanksgiving after that. In time, as my brother and I grew up and got busy with our own lives, Thanksgiving became downscaled at my parents' house - they would make a small turkey breast and a few trimmings, and take a care package to Grandma at the assisted living center. But for all intents and purposes, we kids were released (too easily?) to create our own holiday traditions with our new respective families.

I now have spent Thanksgiving with the Hub’s family for many seasons. We have compounded a whole new collection of holiday memories and traditions and dishes (wouldn't Gramps marvel at the concept of a deep fried turkey!), have watched our families grow, and now celebrate Incrediboy’s birthday at the same time of year. Though dynamics have changed vastly (for me in particular), Thanksgiving still holds its special blessings each time it rolls around and the happy memories of my past intermingle with tomorrow's memories being made now.

This year will be especially bittersweet for me, though. Grandma died this past March, and while I have not spent the holiday with her in many years, it will be strange to know she’s no longer with us.

All the more reason to strive at making these wonderful moments ones which will be looked back on fondly by Incrediboy, Hub and myself, and the rest of our ever-evolving family. In future years, I will give extra thought to the work and the joy going into and coming out of these times. May our own chatter and clatter echo those of my Grandparents’ home on those Thanksgivings of many years ago, and do so with justice.