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Archive for the ‘Civics’ Category

Immigrants vs Plastic Water Bottles

Three weeks ago I bought a 24 pack of bottled water. Then, I had a conversation with my adult son, Jack. He asked me to start teaching my youngest child, Sandor, about the dangers of water bottles and plastic bags. Plastic bags and bottles take roughly 1,000 years to decompose. That means those 24 bottles will be gone from our land fills and oceans in 3018. Crap, this planet in trouble.

Everyone has heard of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive island of trash, made up, for the most part of plastic, and it’s bigger than the state of Texas.

Eighty five percent of sea turtles die because of plastic stuff in the ocean.

Plastic crap is destroying our beautiful little green and blue planet. And that’s what all my kids are afraid of….not immigrants. I have four kids and not one is worried about immigrants taking something away from them. They are all smart, educated young people. They are not naïve or stupid. And they simply understand the dangers of plastics and pollution.

They also understand that the likely hood of an immigrant or refugee ever doing them physical harm is statistically minute. According to Business Insider, ” The chance of an American being murdered by an undocumented immigrant terrorist is 1 in 10.9 billion per year. ”

Not one of my children wants a minimum wage job, so they are not worried in any way, about immigrants or refugees taking jobs. Plus, they appreciate the beautify and diversity new cultures bring to America. They love and thrive on new experiences and ideas.

My husband and I will be gone in 20 years and we’ll be leaving the great country to our kids and others like them. So I’m going to follow their lead.  They are not worried about immigrants and know with smart laws and restrictions there’s room in America. But they are terrified of the destruction brought on by plastics pollution. Plastics will take more form them, entire species of animals, clean water, air and land, than immigrants ever will.

You want something to be afraid of? Each day, people in the U.S. throw away more than 60 million plastic water bottles, most of which end up in landfills or as litter in America’s streets, parks and waterways.

We can only make things better when we recognize where the true danger and threat lies.

Door Knobs

Our house, Hampoland, is a comfortable mess. A strange, unorthodox home that’s served as a sanctuary not only for our four children, but for many of their friends, kids, stray dogs and young adults, who have sometimes needed a safe and happy refuge from the world.

Structurally, it’s miraculous the house still stands. Walls are cracked, so we spackle and paint. The floors rise and fall with the seasons. The answer…more throw rugs. Hampoland, is a five acre redneck homestead, our youngest daughter, Lex, who is 22, compares to a Dr. Seuss “Who House”.

This morning, I realized what I’ve known for years.  Most of the doors in our house can’t be fully closed and most of the door knobs are splattered with paint and are  a rattling, jacked up mess.  Our knobs are unable to fully close and lock any interior door in the house, much less keep it secured. They are loose and jangle in their holes, incapable of keeping anything inside or outside a room. Our doors can be pulled closed, then just as easily pushed open.

Years ago, we could have replaced all these useless door knobs, I suppose. But it never seemed important. New furniture has been moved in and out, cars have been bought and sold, kids have headed off to college, graduated and started their lives. But replacing the ten dollar door knobs was never a priority.

In this house, doors can’t really be closed. Push just a little and you’ll always be able to get in.  And maybe that’s a good thing. So, when Alex and I die and this house is demolished, I hope each of our children will take a trashed and useless Hampoland doorknob. Because, when there is love, doors can always be opened.

A Tragic Doggy Tale

We have three dogs and two lovely new couches. I bought the couches last week and I’m very proud of them.  But the world is not the same not in our home.

I’m only going to write about two of our dogs today and I’ll change their names. I don’t want them to be upset by my story about them.

  1. Bert is a white dog with brown spots.  He’s some sort of pit bull mix, which is funny because I always swore I’d never have a pit bull. But God has a sense of humor. Bert showed up in our yard a few years ago. He’d been so abused he wouldn’t let us touch home for two or three weeks.  Bert is an uncomplicated dog and now so happy with his life. His thick white tail wags constantly and thumps joyously on furniture and our legs. He sleeps on his back, untroubled by serious thought, and snores like a freight train.
  2. Hamlet is a brown boxer mix who Lex rescued from starvation several years ago.  He’s an exceedingly handsome dog with expressive ears and six toes, that kind of freak me out.  He is hopelessly in love with Lex and I suspect he has rather complicated thoughts.

When the new couches were delivered all the dogs were very excited and sniffy.  They watched as we tried out different positions, trying to discover “the perfect spot.” Then they all returned to their doggie lives. Except for Hamlet.

For several days he’s been very unhappy and out of sorts. He paces back and forth in front of the couches, annoyed that he’s not allowed to curl up on them.  There are lots of other comfy places for the dogs, in the house.  Rugs and doggy beds.  They can even snuggle with Sandor in a real bed. But Hamlet doesn’t care about those places any more.  He only wants to be on the new couches.

At night we literally have to put shoes and chairs on the couches to keep him off.  If I walk into the kitchen, he immediately jumps into my spot. I tell him to get down and he moves very very slowly, obviously annoyed with me.

Sure, Bert made a move for the couches a couple of times. But we yelled at him, so he got down and has moved on.  He doesn’t even care about the couches anymore.

Bert rolls and wiggles on his back, cheerfully scratching a hard to reach spot, while Hamlet sulks in front of the couches.  Bert happily pesters me for a treat in the kitchen, while Hamlet stares dolefully at the off limit couches.

Bert and I have both tried to get Hamlet to play, but he refuses. I sit on the floor, looking into his handsome eyes and scratching his favorite spot. He ignores me. Hamlet is obsessed with the couches he can’t have. He has the Garden of Eden and all the delicious fruit, but only wants the forbidden apple.

The moral of the story? I don’t think God planned on all of us having everything.  We each have different gifts and wonders to enjoy. Love what you have, add to your world, make it bigger and better if you want. But don’t lose a single day being jealous of those who have what you do not.

Be a Bert.

 

 

 

 

A Miracle on Central

Yesterday while listening to Alan Alda discuss his Parkinson’s diagnosis and I remembered a miraculous story from a long long time ago. If you fact check this story I’m sure it’s loaded with inaccuracies but it’s a true story.

My grandfather, Dr. Jack Stell, was a surgeon in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He studied at Ouachita Baptist University and Tulane, then opened his practice here, between 1915 and 1920. As a surgeon at St. Josephs’ , he was loved, even adored by his nurses, who were all nuns at the time, because it was a Catholic hospital.

As a Baptist in the early 1900s my grandfather was not a fan of the Catholic church and he did not approve of the Pope’s power or position. But he loved, respected and needed  his nurse-nuns.

During the early 1940s something started happening. Many of the local surgeons were enlisted during WWII and working to put soldiers back together elsewhere. So, there something of a shortage of surgeons in Hot Springs. Daddy Jack (the grandkids name for him) was extremely busy.  He and his habit clad nurses worked almost constantly.  But, Daddy Jack started noticing that something was wrong.  Tiny tremors in  his fingers then hand hands, began frustrating him. At first, no one noticed. But he knew something was terribly wrong.

After a year or so he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s . But Hot Springs and the hospital still desperately needed his surgical talents.

When I was a little girl, in the 60’s, my mother, and ancient withered nuns, would tell me stories about my grandfather. Old nuns in  dark  heavy habits , would  take me into their offices, give me ice cream or pudding from the hospital kitchen and tell me stories.  The one repeated to me so many times was simple and beautiful.

Daddy Jack told his nurses about the diagnosis. Together, they decided before each operation, they would all kneel, on the cold tile floor in the operating room, and they would pray, as one, for his hands to be steady and true. The Baptist doctor and Catholic nuns joined hands and asked for a miracle.

God listened. For almost two years Dr. Jack Stell and his nuns prayed and continued with the life saving surgeries.

Once Hot Springs was repopulated with a few more surgeons, Dr. Jack Stell retired to his home on Prospect avenue.

As a little girl, I would eat my pudding, listening to the old nuns as they wiped their eyes with handkerchiefs they miraculously produced from their sleeves.

Today, I understand the power of their faith, love and conviction. Back then, I only knew I had to sit and listen to their stories in order to get any goodies.

 

They Tapped My Daughters Phone! For Real

My daughter Mary called and said emphatically, “I think my phone is tapped, Mom.”
I smiled and wondered if she was off her medication because this has happened before. Then in my smarmy, patient Mom voice I said, “Why would anybody tap your phone honey?”
She took the bait. “Ok, consider this. I work with Middle Eastern refugees and I’m studying Arabic.”
“Yeah, but look at the stuff you teach your students. How to shop and use coupons, how to rent an apartment and fill out a job application, that’s not crazy or dangerous.”
“I know, Mom, but they don’t know that. they just know I spend a lot of time with Middle Eastern refuges.”
I nodded. “Ok.”
“Because my students are from the Middle East, I study a lot of Middle Eastern websites so I can understand where they are coming from. I check out sights from Syria, Iran,Eritrea, Congo, Somalia, you know.”
“yeah, I get that.” I say, seeing the pieces of the puzzle come together.
She continued, “Andy and I work with the ACLU and go to a lot of protests. And I took a pretty long trip to Uganda this year.”
I sighed, “Yeah, I forgot about that. ”
“And technically I work for a Chinese corporation. I mean, that’s who writes my checks.”
That’s when I grimaced. “Man, you do check a lot of boxes. If I was the CIA or something like that, I’d totally be checking you out. I think our tax dollars are being well spent.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought, and a lot of my friends have told me my phone makes funny noises right before I pick up.”
I grunted, “That’s not good. Ok, if they interview you you just need to tell the FBI or CIA, who ever that you are Episcopal, and Episcopalians don’t get radicalized. We play golf.”
Mary laughed, “Good point.”
“Ok, and honey, there’s a whole list of words and phrases you probably need to avoid on the phone. But I can’t tell you what they are.”
The truth is Mary, my beautiful daughter is super patrotic, loves America and wants to save the world. But if you call her….you probably need to be careful what you say.

Why I’m A LibTard

This morning I went to the polls and asked for a Democratic ticket. Because I live in rural Arkansas a lot of folks are shocked when I’m willing to make that admission. So, I wanted to lay out just a few of the reasons I generally vote as a democrat.

  1. I strongly support feeding kids breakfast and lunch at school and providing free after school programs.  These things are constantly on the chopping block and that frightens me.  I’ve known too many kids who literally don’t have food at home and school meals are just about the only thing they can depend on. The same can be said for Senior Feeding programs.  It is our moral duty to take care of the vulnerable. This administration doesn’t really seem to agree.
  2. I’m a hard core environmental voter, maybe because I have four kids and want to leave them something beautiful here on our precious blue and green planet.  I want to protect the gulf of Mexico, the Arctic, the National Parks, whales, coral reefs, bees and  the Buffalo River. I could go on.  I think coal and fracking are  dangerous and filthy.   I understand this may cost jobs but it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.  We are smart and I believe can find ways to create jobs without threatening the environment. I’m a big fan of Capitalism but I believe we can do better.
  3. I believe in global Warming and fully support alternative energy like  solar and wind.
  4. God gave us a beautiful planet and I think it’s a sin to abuse and deface it.
  5. I like guns, I own guns. But I don’t think any civilian should own assault style fire arms. No body but the military should be able to kill 20 people in one minute.
  6. “Tough on Crime” sounds wonderful but has put far too many young black men in our prisons for minor offenses. This costs tax payers billions of dollars and is often times not effective. I’ve seen first hand white people get much lighter sentences than black people. I believe the  system is rigged to benefit the wealthy and the white.
  7. I think regulation to protect consumers are good.
  8. Gay people don’t threaten me or my family and I believe they should have equal rights to marry whom ever they like.  And God loves gay folks the same way he loves me, flaws and all.
  9. Cuba, swing those doors open.  Cutting them off hasn’t worked for 50 years.  Also, opening trade with Cuba is great for the Arkansas farmers.
  10. I support DACCA, give them a path to citizenship. Don’t be cruel, they were kids.
  11. Some of my more liberal friends would probably suggest I’m too hawkish because I believe in a strong Military and I like guns. but there you go. We’re all different. I could add to this list but I think I’ve made my point.  One last thing.  conservative talk show hosts like Rush, Glen and Chris constantly state that liberals are “angry, hateful and don’t love America, despise Capitalism, don’t believe in God and want to take ALL YOUR GUNS.”  That’s just not true.

Because I’m A Middle Age White Lady

Last week I competed in a Poetry Slam and out of 15 poets I came in 15th! Dead last! But we had a great time, Sandor decided he likes Slam Poetry at 15 and some folks have contacted me cause they actually liked my poems.
So here you go…

Middle Age White Lady

When my sons are pulled over by the police, late at night, I’ve never been worried
Because I am a middle age white lady … and they are my blue eyed sons.

When I wander aimlessly through the Dollar Store
Suspicious cashiers never follow me
Never wait for me to shove a bag of Funyuns in my pants.
They don’t study my enormous purse as I check out,
Because I am a Middle Age White lady.

My children go to a wonderful redneck public school with soooo much money.
My kids get all kinds of lavish opportunities from their school district
They March on a million dollar AstroTurf football field

Because they are the children of a middle age white lady.

Because I have several bank accounts and credit cards,
a responsible amount of debt
I pay thousands of dollars less for my cars. Thousands!
Because I am a middle age white lady.

300 years ago, when my ancestors came to America
They were searching for freedom and opportunity… Fortune and adventure

It’s easier to be me, much easier, I guess. Because white privlidge does exist.
And those who say it’s not a real thing are morons and in denial.
My family is safer, we have glorious opportunities ….. because I am.
Just because I am.

And here’s the second poem…It’s a true story. I didn’t get to read it at the Poetry Slam because even a 10 year old girl in a unicorn shirt got a better score than I did.  But I think that was just the “cute vote.”

This one is called

Bad First Wife

In front of a food truck on Park Avenue you slap my husband on the back.
“Good to see you Buddy”

Hold up a minute! 30 years ago you slept with my husbands first wife.
In his house….in his bed…and now you two are back slapping buddies?.
Instead of backstabbing acquaintances?

He’s supposed to forget all about what you did to him ….or her…in their bed.
He burned that mattress you know…that’s how pissed he was.

What happened to the cold cone of silence?
Listen, Because you slept with his first wife they got a divorce 29 years ago!

Damn it. You’ve aged well and you’ve still got that ruggedly handsome thing going on.
And you’re actually kind of charming.

But you’re the reason they got divorced.
And then I met him.

Well…we’ve had a pretty good run for almost 25 years.
The mortgage on the house is paid off.
Four spectacular kids… full college scholarships.
We just got a glorious new bathtub installed …it’s pretty fantastic.
And after all these years of marriage we still actually like each other…we have fun.

30 years of silence…30 years…that’s a really long time.

And this is a very small town.

I nudge my husband with my elbow, in front of the food truck on Park Avenue.
And he says…“I’m doing all right. It’s good to see you, man.”

It’s All About Choices

Melissa Stringer

I know a young woman, in her early 20s who’s a very serious MMA fighter. She lives to train with her team, and they train hard. They train for hours a day, sometimes two or three times a day. Melissa’s whole world is about taking care of her body, nutrition and fitness.

She’s a pretty girl and typically, when Melissa leaves the gym or says good buy she says, “Make good choices!” in her adorable sing song voice.

I think that might be the smartest thing anyone can tell any of us. Simply “make good choices”. At work and at home. Choose to work a little bit harder, choose to be a better parent, brother or sister. Make good choices when dealing with people, choose to be kind and polite. Choose to be hones and supportive. Those are all good choices.

For teenage boys,I know, this is an hourly battle. Bad ideas explode in their brains like popcorn. And they struggle to learn which bad ideas to latch onto and put into motion and which to ignore because it will no doubt result in a grounding, a ticket or an arrest. They are really smart but they desperately want to pass the slow truck on a curve even though it’s raining. Why not to throw the water balloon at their friend in the living room? Skateboarding down the tile staircase seem like an awesome idea.

Melissa constantly has to make “good choices” or she’ll never be ready for her next fight. It’s all about the decisions she makes.She has to be very, very careful what she eats or she’ll never make weight. When her friends are eating pizza and Oreos she has to go with a protein shake or she’ll never achieve her dream. Like all the fighters she trains with, Melissa has to decide to go to bed early,instead of hanging out with her friends or she can’t train early in the morning.

Adults aren’t above making good and bad choices. I wish I made good choices more often. I wish I’d pay off our car instead of insisting on a vacation. I wish I ate a salad for lunch instead of the giant delicious gnarly brisket burger. I wish I went for a hike with my son and the dog instead of watching The Big Bang rerun for the third time.

But I’ll keep trying. Because there are folks like Melissa out there, reminding me to “make good choices.”

Why Girls Don’t Tell

Recently dozens of women across America, have stepped up and admitted to being sexually assaulted, abused or harassed. Most of these women have not said a word for years. And across the country, people are howling “Why didn’t she speak up thirty years ago? Why wait all this time to come forward with sexual misconduct charges?” I know why these women waited and I’m gonna explain it to you.

When I was 12 or 13 years old I went to a pool party with my mother and father, who was an architect. The party was  hosted by a contractor who was building a shopping center my dad designed. They had been working on the project for over a year. There were several other couples there but I was one of only two kids. The other child was a little boy, probably three years old. All the adults sat around the pool with their cocktails while we splashed around in the pool.

At 13, I was skinny and tan with long hair. And on that day I was wearing a purple and gold bikini that I loved. After a while I went inside the contractor’s house to get two glasses of orange juice.

As I opened one of the cabinets for a glass, I felt someone behind me, pushing up against my back and butt. I turned around and it was my dad’s friend, the contractor.

He told me my swimming suit was coming untied and then he started trying to mess with the swim suit strings on the back of my neck. I tried to move away but he blocked me and then started tracing my tan line with his finger tip, from my shoulder down the side of my right breast. When I tried to move away again he  smiled and said, “Don’t you want me to help?”

I ran out of the house and jumped into the sparkling blue pool.

I never told my mom or dad about the incident. I couldn’t understand why a grown-up was acting so weird and gross. And I was afraid if I told anybody I would get in trouble or it would start a fight between my dad and his friend.

I told one girlfriend about the incident, but nobody else. And she didn’t think I should tell anyone either. That’s how important decisions are made when you are 13 years old.

I tried to forget about the incident for the next twenty years. It was nothing, who cared? It was over and nothing really happened. Right?

It wasn’t until I was thirty years old and had a daughter of my own that I thought back and got mad. I got furious! How dare that scum bag put me in that situation. It scared me and made me feel as though I’d done something really bad. If anyone did something like that to my daughter I’d beat the snot out of them.

And if I learned twenty or thrity years later that this creep was running for political office, a position of power, I would spill the story in a heartbeat. I would tell anyone who would listen. But there wouldn’t be any proof and I doubt anyone would believe me, because I was thirteen years old and didn’t knowthe rules. I didn’t know I was supposed to tell when adults did gross, weird stuff, because I was only a child and had no way of understanding adults.

My Version of Eco-Terrosm

It Spring time and that means the turtles are on the move.  I don’t know why they feel the need to cross the street in order to woe a another sexy turtle mate successfully.  I don’t know why they can’t date a turtle from their side of the road. But they can’t, so  they must cross the street.

And every Spring I see the thing that absolutely enrages me.  People run over turtles. It’s horrendous and completely avoidable. If you can’t avoid hitting a turtle you should not have a drivers license.  If you do it on purpose, you’re going to Hell.

This was my frame of mind last Spring when I came up with a new plan to save the turtles.  Alex didn’t know what was going on when several boxes of plastic turtles arrived via Amazon Prime.  The first box had 100 tiny turtles in a plastic bag. They were adorable, buy only the size of a quarter.  They were too small for my plan.

I hit pay dirt with the next delivery, six perfect, life like plastic turtles, hand painted from Germany.

At first Alex was fascinated by my plan to save the turtles. Then, as he watched me carefully insert a big fat nail into the beautiful plastic turtles his fascination turned into fear…for me.

“I’m gonna put this on the side of the highway. If people run over a turtle they’ll get a flat tire,” I announced.

Alex laughed, then realized I was serious. Really, really serious. “I’m pretty sure that’s against the law.”

“Who’s gonna know?” I shrugged.  “I won’t put them near out house.”

“Seriously, this is a bad idea, Diana.”

“We’ll see,” I said in my best “casual I’m not gonna do it voice”. I didn’t want him to be arrested as an accomplice.

Eco-terrorism suits me. So, this Spring, if you see a turtle looking for a hot date. I suggest you do everything you can to avoid him.

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