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Beware: Political Quicksand Ahead

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Slip sliding away....

Slip sliding away….

Quicksand is a colloid hydrogel consisting of fine granular material, clay, and water. Quicksand forms in saturated loose sand when the sand is suddenly agitated.

In other words, wow, did I walk into it this time.

I’m not particularly vocal about my political beliefs, though if I find a kindred, like-minded human I can wax on with the best of them. But I do go by the maxim that most individuals have their own take on politics and policies and I’m not likely to move them one way or the other.

With sorrow I report that not everyone adheres to that discipline.

I normally teach 4th to 6th grade students at our Lutheran church on Sundays between services, but Sunday the kids were at a weekend church retreat out-of-state, so I had an early out, so to speak, and was able to socialize with adults in the building next door during a ministry fair. I thought it a nice change after weeks in the classroom. I said hello to several friends and after a while drifted to the side of the room while waiting for my husband who was catching up with some of the guys. A gentleman struck up a conversation with me, beginning his discourse with his passion for fixing things and how he volunteers frequently at church for building maintenance.

As he spoke, I was congratulating myself for meeting someone new, taking an interest in his interests, and practicing my listening skills.

“He seems lonely,” thought I.

He continued to tell me how he has tinkered with the doors to make them safer, rescued stuck keys from unlikely places, changed lightbulbs in precarious positions.

“Really knows his stuff and glad he’s stepped up to take charge of these issues,” I mused.

Now retired, he ran through the path of his career and enlightened me about the intricate internal machinations of mounted cameras in his field of work.

“Well,” I reckoned, “no wonder he has this attention to detail. He’s a lifelong tinkerer.”

While I pandered to myself, I suddenly realized he’d jumped the shark. Now he was talking politics. My incessant nodding became less robust.

I became the civics teacher: “The President doesn’t hold the purse strings on that, Congress has the fiscal responsibility Our Congressman and Senator …”

Oh, he was familiar, by Jove. No, but he’d have none of that. In fact he began lecturing me. Giving me a treatise on how this country was spiraling down.

I’ve been taught to be kind to others; I’ve also been taught to be assertive. I was polite, but not to the point of agreeing.

Then came the quicksand. The discourse devolved as the saturated loose sand was suddenly agitated. “John” gave me all the talking points about why all guns should be legal and how We all should be packing and if We would all just do that We’d all be safe. He was including me in his we.

What I said was, “You and I don’t agree.”

He continued with his best persuasive speeches and I said, “Listen, my mother’s classmate died in that parking lot that Gabby Gifford was shot in last year.”

“Well, that will happen,” he said, “Nothing we could have done could have prevented it.”

“Really? If he — the shooter — had had a lesser caliber gun and had to reload, she would have lived, I think.”

He disagreed and told me about all the public officials who pack guns, basically implying “Then, why shouldn’t I?”

All I could think was, “Just why is he patting his hip right now? Didn’t anyone notice that I was a shade of light green right now with nausea?”

I said there was an armed guard at Columbine, and that didn’t prevent those horrors.

“Well,” he said, “It’s not a perfect system.”

I said, “I have taught for years” — Sunday School, not that he knew it — “And I would lay down my life for the kids, but is that really what we want from our teachers?”

Oh yes, he thinks that’s just how it should be.

He had made up his mind.

So have I.

It's harder than killing.

It’s better and hurts less..

Why didn’t I just say it?  Jesus just doesn’t want us to kill each other. He just doesn’t.

Now it’s back to the classroom and the students for me where I can teach love and not fear.

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Hunger in the Heart

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I get all manner of calls as a marketing coordinator for the Food Bank. Primarily I field calls from businesses and organizations who are interested in staging a food drive in the region to help those in need. It’s a positive role I have — helping people to help other people. After three-plus years of working with various groups, the call a couple of weeks ago was quite different.

Michael began, “I have quite of bit of food to donate. Cans of food. Health foods. Some long-term meals ready to eat.”

Now, we do get these calls: someone is moving and they don’t want to take their food. They are cleaning out their cupboards to start fresh. They know their food will soon expire and want it to go to use. For these people, for various reasons, we ask them to pack up the food and drop it to one of the many places that partner with us for us to pick up on our scheduled routes. We are delighted they think of us and we certainly distribute all the food we get.

Still, this seemed different. Michael continued, “My son was a bit of a survivalist.”  We talked some more about this and that and I said I would get back to him.

I talked to my co-worker and then to my husband and I called back, made an arrangement to pick up the food in two days’ time using our SUV and my husband’s brawn. I felt we needed to reach out to this gentleman, not for his food, not to shore up our own resources, but because we are ultimately a part of the fabric of our region as a caring place.

Michael stood in the midst of chaos in the rented condo that son Chris had lived in for about five years. The small space was filled with boxes of clothes, food, cleaning supplies, cast-off golf clubs and art leaning against walls to be carted off, and soon. In fact, the realtor waited outside to show the place to a client wanting to move in ASAP.

Chris was a health nut. Exercise fiend. Employed, but working from home as a Computer Tech. He loved the mountains and the desert. Chris had political beliefs that caused him to collect food that would help him survive for long periods of time. No one knows yet why Chris died at 42. People saw him the day before and he seemed well and in good spirits. The coroner has the case, but that will take some time.

Now Chris’ Dad was trying to make sense of it all. “People will tell you that losing your child is the worst pain you can ever feel. I think they’re right. And for me, I don’t even know why he died and what I could have done to make it different.”

He talked. I listened We gathered the food. Discussed it all. We made decisions about what the food bank could use and what we had to leave. Then he opened the freezer and we found a large coffee can-like container. The outside indicated it was filled with seeds. Non-hybrid vegetable seeds. Chris never got to plant those. He never got to see them bloom.

canned seeds

It’s a small thing, I know, with all that this gentle man is going through — but perhaps it will help — I’ll send him a photo of the vegetables in the garden this summer so that he will know that Chris is feeding others and helping people who need food assistance right here in the place he loved so much.

The State of the Higher Union

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My Guest Blogger today is ProgressivePapa

It’s a heartfelt message of love on Valentine’s Day and on our Journey of Lent.

The State of the Higher Union.

I encourage you to follow this gifted writer at http://www.progressivepapa.wordpress.com

Start with a New Page

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New year, new beginnings, new life.

New year, new beginnings, new life.

The days they do fly and here we stand at the third week of the year. That great post I had all written in my head to greet the baby new year — the one that was the overlay of new beginnings brightened by New Year’s weddings because I finished Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding at the dawn, was to be a remembrance of the two New Year’s weddings — 20 years apart — that we’ve been honored to attend. I got bogged down choosing and sizing the art. Oh what a dandy that blog could have been. Too late.

Too late, too, was the comparison between our lives to Gulliver’s Travels as written by Jonathan Swift. Oh how the Lilliputians could so aptly have been compared to our Congress and lawmakers. It was pithy — or at least how I had blogged in my head on the backs of my eyelids while I drifted off to sleep.

My next  was an open letter to all the NFL bystanders — we patient partners who stand by while our TV rooms turn blue with the slang slung at Jim Nance and Joe Buck to quit blatantly  favoring the ref’s call for their perceived favorites. No need to write that one now — our team, the Niners are going all the way with the help of hometown hero Colin Kaepernick. Fist pump all the way!

A reason to cheer in the new year.

A reason to cheer in the new year.

Oh the riotous post about our small grey kitty who habitually spills unwatched beverages and has killed off two electronic devises in two weeks. And yet, by God, we still love that scamp. The theme boiling up was something about this unconditional animal love while trying to comprehend why we struggle to do the same for our fellow human friends and relations. That one was written as I drove to work, never making it to the tips of my fingers and onto the screen.

My next post was gunna be — am I just too old, too work-worn to go through yet another boss?   It’s me railing against change, against new systems or worrying about what the new expectations shall be. Am I “up” for it mentally to read the tea leaves of exactly what’s in the head of a new boss? What if the term out-sourced comes up? When in life do we ever stop having to justify our existence?  My allegory of the new and the old. The beginnings always and yet beginning again. Yep. That one, too, came in the night, when my mind wouldn’t stop racing the clock.

One for the books 2

New reads, new ideas, new worlds to explore.

But it’s One for the Books by Joe Queenan that has me sleeping through the night again. His newly published book about reading (a personal passion of mine) helped me re-set my thoughts. Writing of the state of reading today after examining his own patterns, interviewing 65 of his friends and relations and maligning everyone from book reviewers to English teachers, to some of the authors themselves, mostly he bemoans the time slipping away. Voracious in his reading (he reads up to 150 books a year), he’s yet to get through Eliot’s Middlemarch even while reading up to 40 books simultaneously and he hasn’t washed his windows in 17 years. And for him, that’s OK.

These January blogs will never see the light of day, never be fleshed out completely, but for me, this has been a most positive month. These blogs: I’ve thought them up, one by one; they’ve entertained me and I am not looking back. No, not I.

Resolution Off the Charts at 23,749

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If 23,749 was a distance, it would get me back and forth from my home in Reno, Nevada to Pittsburgh five times.

If 23,749 was a height, it would be 10 feet from the summit of Makut Parbat in the Himalaya.

23749 is a Zip Code, or will be one someday, near Norfolk, Va.

Add up the calories in 53 fried Twinkies and you get approx. 23,749.

The 2012 road to reading led me to new adventure.

The 2012 road to reading led me to new adventure. (photo by Marjorie Williams)

If 23,749 were an a circumference measured in miles, it would be more than that of Venus.

If 23,749 were an age by days, it would be 65+ years.

In my case, 23,749 is the number of pages I have read in 2012. Whoa, really? Well, that’s what Goodreads tells me in my stats for the past year.

But more than that, 23,749 means I more than accomplished that goal of reading 75 books this year that I set January 1, 2012.

Me.

I accomplished a New Year’s Resolution. It’s traditionally something I’d be keen on for the first month or so of a new year. For example, running for exercise, giving up butter, sleeping eight hours a night, organizing all the closets — those have traditionally made my lists.

The key to this success? I love to read, I have access to a lot of books and I could measure results. The challenge was time — finding the time to make it happen. Even though my life is busy, busy, busy, choosing books that were sure to compel me to read kept the momentum going. For me, that meant good books — no trash, very few best sellers and portable — the books may or may not be classified as classics but necessarily not high-brow. Good books and never stopping. As in finishing a book and starting a new one the following day or even the same day. Not letting my brain, eyes or fingers for page-turning rest when I had made time.

A bonus to it all has been starting this blog. That in itself has been an adventure and one that will continue into 2013.

IMG_4481

Autumn reading warmed my heart. (photo by Marjorie Williams)

So want to know what I’ve been reading? I did blog back in August about the first 50, so here are the final 34 for the total of 84:

18 Fiction

16 Non-Fiction

I got into an Irish thing in August between Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw reading An Ideal Husband, Dubliners and Pygmalion by each and  add a biography – Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions by Frank Harris.

The looming elections led me to read Common Sense by Thomas Paine, The Theory of Social Revolutions by Brooks Adams, The Souls of White Folks by W.E.B. DuBois, and Griftopia by Matt Taibbi. The books helped me to make sense of our history, economic and social challenges.

The need to totally escape into thriller led me to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Cinema Murder by E. Phillips Oppenheim and the Fortieth Door by Mary Hastings Bradley.

My love of baseball and music drew me to Paul McCartney: A Life by Peter Ames Carlin and Moneyball by Michael Lewis.

Get your English on — with a maiden name like Melton, I must have some connection to John Milton. So I dove into Paradise Lost and continued on to The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, the little-read Anne Bronte with Agnes Grey after Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forester, for non-fiction, the autobiography of Charles Darwin and to round out the English sprint I read Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.

My friends, I do buy American and from modern authors too: The aforementioned Flynn, The Road by Cormac McCarthy (intense and good), The Heart is a Lonely Hunger by Carson McCullers, a juvenile read Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata and A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway.

I’ve got this ancestry research part in my soul that I love to enrich so to play with the theme: Hey America, Your Roots are Showing by Megan Smelenyak, Maria by Curtis Bok, Chapel Talks for School and Camp by Anne Barton Townsend (a great-aunt to my husband) and Western Carpetbaggers by Thomas Fitch.

Great Short Poems edited by Paul Negri was and is a heart-felt treasure.

Stranger than Fiction by the Voice of Reason radio personality and Don’t Know Much About Geography by Kenneth C. Davis came by way of a visit to the local used bookstore. While Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min came from my Mommy.

I thank the University of Nevada Journalism Department for bringing author Mark Kurlansky to town to lecture. I crammed in advance of the visit to read the epic 1968:The Year that Rocked the World. My 2013 list will include Salt and Birdseye by Kurlansky, for sure.

Ever on my spiritual path I welcomed (along with Milton and  Townsend above)  Jesus, A New Vision by Marcus Borg and Help Thanks Wow, the “new one,” by Anne Lamott.

IMG_4738

The snow flies as the year closes, but the reading continues into every season. (Photo by Vic Williams)

What’s on the bedstand now? I’m in the mid-point now for Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty and Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Getting me up to that momentous 23,749.

Far more than a number, reading helped me associate my life with books and my books with my life. It has energized me, lifted me, educated me, entertained me, changed me.

Bliss

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In you came, with the summer.

With your Beatles and your books and your clubs. Your romantic poetry, baseball-loving, barbecue-cooking self.

In you came with the Sierra wind, brown-eyed, broad smile, beer goggles at a Neil Young concert.         

Sat on the Shakespearean beach and drank in the moonlight. We sipped the Divine cure for loneliness and heartache and have tended to the seedlings of our dreams.

Kissed our soles and souls then hand-in-hand we’ve made each other laugh, making a life and a marriage, together.

Years of  “I Love Yous,”

In all, 21.

Breaking for Heartache

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A sharp intake of breath, then lungs full, but not a cry – yet.

“Oh no. My baby.”

A parent recognizes the cry of her child. The tired cry. The hungry cry. The frustrated, sister took my toy cry. The “Owie!” cry.

But this cry – different. Never before heard, but I knew.

I pulled the car over and asked Madeleine, then 8, “Baby, has it happened, are you at the end? Oh dear.”

Madeleine begged to read “Where the Red Fern Grows.”   “Well, are you sure?” I asked. “It’s SO good. Might be sad, though”

Unperturbed, she ordered the Wilson Rawls’ classic from the scholastic book order.

by Wilson Rawls

Voraciously she read the story of Billy, Old Dan and Little Ann – a boy and his two dogs. On the drive home from a visit with friends, it was dark. She wanted the dome light of the car on to finish. Seeing she was close to the end, I told her that the dome light disturbs the other drivers (I wanted to delay the inevitable). However, light is just a little thing to an eight-year-old.

Now at the curb on Mayberry drive – how prophetic – I hastened to her side of the car while six-year-old Marjorie asked what was it. “Is she OK?”

For this was the cry of heartbreak. The First heartbreak.

“Why mom? Dan AND Little Ann? Why?”

The truth. A book can break your heart. Oh, there’s the poorly written book, and the one with the stupid ending. The one with the evil villain – but that end is expected, it’s telegraphed throughout the narrative.

This is different. Be clear – a good book will break your heart with its unexpected beauty, the characters you’ve fallen in love with for 226 pages; these characters are good and solid and innocent. Oh. Hurt.

It can be that the story is so well written. It may also be that this heart wrencher is the mirror in which you see yourself.

A long time ago, “Laughing Boy,” a short 1930 Pulitzer Prize fiction winner by Oliver La Farge about a Native American couple in New Mexico was my Red Fern. I had no knowledge of this book, only that it was on the stack of a brother’s college books. The same thing – at the climax, I cracked open with a force of emotion. Utter meltdown.

That memory helped me sooth my girl.

What could I say? Just hold her. Let her cry.

After a while, I managed to say, “Let’s go home. We’ll read the last bits together.”

The heart can mend. Wild violets, rooster heads and mountain daisies still make us smile.

Madeleine’s fifteen now and growing in every way. Ever optimistic, she barrels into life, school, and friendships and some day it’ll be a relationship. She’s bound to have those Red Fern days; I just want to be there with her to find the wild violets, rooster heads and mountain daisies by and by.