Monday, December 18, 2006

"Christmas" or Christmas?

Letter from Jesus:

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth just, GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Now, having said that, let Me go on.

If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can and may remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15:1-8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it.

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile - it could make the difference. Also, you might consider supporting the local suicide hot-line: they talk with people like that every day.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.

8. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them (and I suspect you don't) buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Marines, the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

9. Finally if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

PS - Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember,

I LOVE YOU - Jesus


A friend emailed me the above and I got a good chuckle out of it. But then I started thinking - always a dangerous thing, I know, LOL. There are a lot of truths in it. Yes, I know the ACLU and other organizations are trying to "shut down" religious references in public. Christmas bears the largest brunt of this effort because Christians are the largest religious group in America. (for an explanation of the ORIGIN of the phrase "separation of church and state" please look to my reply in comments section of Don't Drag ME into This!; 19th comment down, or so, with posting time of 6:14 AM.)

The Bible teaches Christians to "do good" in secret and to not be boastful. When did everything get to the point where we are clamoring for public displays of nativity scenes and menorahs and God knows what else? When did it become important which religion had more or bigger or equivalent symbols out there? There are other ways to stand up for your faith besides all this silly bickering that is in the newspapers every other day.

I am Christian, but I think my thoughts would apply to other religious groups. Is it my town's job to bring Christmas to me? Or is it MY job, as a Christian, to bring what Christmas teaches me to the world? A "Christmas" tree - not so important. A Christmas meal and gifts delivered to an underprivileged family - very important. A "Christmas" nativity scene in the village square - not so important. Attending a Christmas church service with gratitude and love in our hearts - very important. The furor caused because a salesperson is mandated to wish us happy holidays instead of Merry "Christmas" - not so important. Treating everyone we meet with respect, patience and a smile - very important.

Whether you substitute Chanukah and menorah, or other religions and symbols, I think it all boils down to one thing. Don't look at what the world "owes" your faith - but look to find what good your faith can bring TO the world.

Merry Christmas!

A small santons crèche that I keep out all year round.
Santon means "little saint" and is a type of folk art
from the Provence region of France.
For an idea of the scale, the sheep is only an inch, tip to tail.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Beta Blogger

Well, I think I managed to switch to beta blogger tonight. I think some of the other templates are pretty cool, so I may swap around once in awhile!

Before switching, I was having problems leaving comments on other blogs that had already gone beta. Some advice that others gave me was to choose the "Anonymous" option to leave comments. This does work - but please remember to leave your blog or screen name in your comment, since it won't appear if you post comments anonymously.

Meanwhile, If anyone has any idea how to change the column size, please share! I'd like to make the column on left, with blog lists, less wide and make the "story" side wider.

Addendum: Some things I like better about beta are easier template changes, easier to add blogroll links, easier to change font/colors and when someone comments and it shoots you a notification email it has that blogger's link right in the email. You can click and go straight to their blog with out having to go to your own comments to click on their link there.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Breathe Again

Very early this morning a casual friend of mine emailed and asked me to call her. She and I are both members of the same online stenciling group. We have emailed extensively over the years and have even talked on the phone, but we've never met face-to-face. She lives near the university where my son goes to school, but in the few times I've been in the area we haven't had time to "catch up" in person.

I called her and she told me how she had just heard on the news that there was a gunman loose near the university. The South Campus, where the dorms are, was in lock-down mode. She was hoping I could call my son and tell him to stay put, wherever he was.

Do you know what happens to a mother's heart when she hears something like that? It stops. I tried calling my son's cell, no answer. I left an email message. I kept trying the cell. I finally called the university Public Safety office - they told me about the lock-down and that no students had been hurt. No students hurt. Take a deep breath. But where is he? Is he someplace safe? I called a dean's office and the secretary informed me that a suspicious man had been seen in the residential area across from South Campus at 3:30 am. The police came to investigate and the gunman shot ten rounds at them. Public Safety was notified and the South Campus went into lock-down at about 4 am. Take another breath. Chances are he was in the dorm asleep, at the time of lock-down - meaning he was still in the dorm.

I finally heard his groggy voice at about 10:30 am. Breathe again. He had not answered the phone because he had been asleep. Yes, college students can pretty much sleep through anything, even emergency phone calls from mom every ten minutes. My son's roommate had an early morning class but was soon back in the dorm room after being stopped by the lock-down - they had all gone back to sleep.

I found out that back-up was called after the gunman fired on the local police - along with a SWAT team and K-9 units. They never found the gunman. My son called later in the afternoon and told me not to worry, everything was back to normal. Maybe for him.

Several weeks ago The Rev. Dr. Kate posted a a wonderful blog entry on proverbs, quotations and maxims, called Words of Wisdom. I have just the one for today:

"Making the decision to have a child--it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." - Elizabeth Stone

Monday, November 27, 2006

Don't Drag ME into This!

Several weeks ago, before the election, I read an article written the day after the NJ Supreme Court ruled that gay couples were entitled to the same legal/financial rights and benefits as heterosexual couples. President Bush's quote caught my eye. He reiterated his stance that marriage was a union between a man and a woman and said:

''Yesterday in New Jersey, we had another activist court issue a ruling that raises doubts about the institution of marriage. . . I believe it's a sacred institution that is critical to the health of our society and the well-being of families, and it must be defended."

Sacred? Defended against what?

I started thinking about this from my vantage point of 28 very happy years in a heterosexual marriage. When we got our marriage license at our local municipality, there was nothing sacred about it, just an exchange of paperwork, money and blood test results. Come to think about it, I'm not even sure we're legally married! A friend came with us as our required witness. She had to fill out a form where she had to put down how long she knew us. She put down ten years. I just gave her an incredulous look and we finished up. Out of earshot of the county clerk's office I asked her WHY she had lied and put down ten years when she had known us for four years. She said she was afraid that they wouldn't give us the license if she didn't put down that she knew us for a really long time. We were all hysterical laughing! To this day, we kid her about it. The next week our civil union was followed with a church ceremony.

But back to serious matters - the president's use of the word sacred bothered me. Merriam-Webster Online shows multiple definitions for "sacred," three being related to religion and one meaning "highly valued and important." I wonder which version of "sacred" President Bush meant? As the leader of this diverse nation, with separation of church and state part of the fabric of our country, I hope it was not any of the religious meanings. If he meant that marriage is "valued and important," well, yes, I agree with that. What I don't understand is, if marriage is "critical to the health of our society and the well-being of families," then why not try to include as many people as you can?

I also don't understand the part about how marriage "must be defended." Against what? I have read and heard people talk about how allowing gay people to marry will change their own marriages. I can't see this at all. My marriage is between my husband and me, thank you - it is certainly not going to be affected by what someone else does with their relationship. Could anyone seriously think that any of the following could possibly be true:

"Oh, Honey, a married gay couple just moved in next door - I can't deal with it, I'm going to have to divorce you."
"Dear, that married gay couple looks happier than us - I'm going to try being gay for awhile."
"Oh, no, a married gay couple in the neighborhood, keep the children away, it may be contagious!"

I really don't get it. Defend against WHAT? I'd appreciate it if someone could tell me how someone else's loving and committed family could be a bad thing for me or my family. I can't even imagine a scenario where a gay marriage would affect my own.

As for the school situation where a child has two "mommies" or two "daddies" - teaching tolerance and respect for all other people can only be a plus. Having a child who needed special education services because of learning disabilities, I am aware that there is far too much taunting and bullying that goes on in schools. If tolerance and ethical behavior were taught in every classroom, it is my opinion that this country would be in much better shape.

I would love to see a system where the government issued only civil union licenses, giving all couples the same legal and financial benefits. Then, if a couple wanted to pursue a religious marriage ceremony, that would be for them to work out with their own religious institution.

So for the record, President Bush, my husband and I are doing quite well. We really do not need any defending from gay couples, families with gay parents, or any of the gay people legally married in Massachusetts. Maybe you can concentrate on more pressing matters that we do need defending from - things like terrorists, the cost of healthcare, or the tax structure that favors the very wealthy.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thanks, Velvet!

I am working on another post, but meanwhile thought I might post some photos inspired by Velvet Sacks. She has been treating us to photos of her world . Sometimes, we are so busy rushing and doing, that we miss what is. I run past interesting little treasures every day, usually mumbling, "I have to get a shot of that someday."

Today was someday.

The most graceful and silent lawn mowers available. Residents of the horse farm, across the road.

"Shhh!" she clucked. "The worms don't have a clue. . . I've got my camouflage on today!"

When was the last time you saw a child playing in shorts, knee socks. . . and a beanie?

Do you think this white pine might make a cool climbing tree?

An unexpected bouquet of sunflowers from my husband.

Sometimes our treasures are right there in front of us - we just have to stop and take the time to look.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dona Nobis Pacem - Grant Us Peace

"There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Jesus Christ." Galatians 3:28 NRSV

Whether you believe in Christ or not is immaterial to the meaning of the verse. African, Asian, Australian, European, North or South American - we are all members of the human race - we all have the same DNA. One's country, social standing, wealth or gender does not make one person more "valuable" than another. Yet, everyday, people are killed senselessly, without a thought to the fact that each one is a precious person.

I am greatly troubled by the war and violence throughout the world. Three more soldiers dead in Iraq today; one newborn baby found dead in a recycling plant by workers sorting through paper; rape and killing continuing in Darfur. Everyday we see too many examples of inhumanity in our country and around the world - both within countries and between countries.

What can we do? Sometimes it all seems so depressing and daunting, the quest for peace. I started thinking about some of the the generic things we can do. We can vote. We can write letters to our representatives voicing our opinion. We can write letters to the editor of our local paper.

I spent the morning pondering what else I could do to make a difference in the world. I was in the grocery store parking lot and a woman was turning into the spot next to mine. There was a shopping cart in the way that she hadn't seen when pulling in. I put my hand up for her to stop and I moved the cart out of the way. She gave me a big, cheery and very surprised sounding "Thank you so much!" I had barely gone out of my way - yet she was so appreciative. That's when it hit me. I may not be able to stop the war in Iraq, single-handedly - but I can do a kindness for my neighbor. Isn't being kind to one another what peace is all about?

I challenge you all to do a kindness a day. Just one. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Compliment someone. Donate blood. Go without a meal and donate the money to a charity. Give up a seat on the bus to someone who looks more tired than you feel. Leave a supermarket coupon on the shelf where someone else can use it. Let the mom juggling a baby go ahead of you at the bank. Use your imagination. Your kindness might turn someone's day around - it might even cause a chain reaction of kind acts.

It will take time and effort to achieve peace in the world. But meanwhile, we can try to achieve peace in our hearts and in our towns.

Many thanks to Mimi for her wonderful dream and call to action for world peace. Dona Nobis Pacem.


Friday, November 03, 2006

My Lucky Day

This morning, I was browsing my usual haunts and I passed through Dr. John's where I saw his link of the day for New York Nitty-Gritty. Being a New Yorker, born and raised, I am so excited about this site. I look at the photos and it is like looking at the city through my own eyes. Nitty-Gritty notices the same beautiful and quirky things about the city that I would.

In appreciation, I would like to share a photo of the city that I have been saving for a special post. Many thanks to Dr. John and New York Nitty-Gritty.

Today is my lucky day, eh, Dr. John? ;-)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Beauty and the Beast

I recently read an article about why leaves change color. Turns out the leaves are always the glorious and varied colors of gold, russet, red, purple and orange. However, during the growing season, these beautiful shades are masked by the hardworking (and very green) chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the wonder chemical that can take a little sunlight, water, carbon dioxide - and abracadabra! - turns it into the carbohydrates needed to nourish the plant.

But when the days get shorter and the nights get colder, the plant stops producing food. The chlorophyll breaks down and disappears, leaving the spectacular "true colors" of autumn to shine through. This artist's palette of color is short-lived, however because as the chlorophyll winds down, the branch grows cells at the point where each leaf is attached - soon the leaf will be severed from the branch and winter will be upon us.

Well, now that I've been a beast and force fed all this science to my innocent readers, here is the beauty I promised. Although I must admit, the colors are not as spectacular as in past years, so I will keep looking for better examples. This post was started last week and I've been walking around with my camera ever since, looking for some worthy foliage. I think the colors have been weak because it has not been cold enough for a dramatic change.

But I can live with that ;-)

This is the little tree-lined road, where I live. Every time I go home and pass by all this beauty, it reminds me to be thankful for every blessing in my life.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Oh Say an You ee?

Please friends, file this entry under "Don't Try This at Home." For the past several days, my spae bar has not been working; even though I would hit it at the appropriate plaes, allthewordswouldruntogether. Well, this has happened to me one before, so I thought I would try the same fix.

My omputer is overed by Apple and I should have just taken it into the store whih they reently opened at the mall near me. Not neesssary, I thought. So I shut down the system, turned my laptop upside down and gently tapped it to dislodge whatever was under the keyboard. Well, that didn't work. So I shut it down again and got the vauum out. Remember, I have done this before.

So I took the leaning tool of the vauum and vauumed the keyboard. Just like last time. All of a sudden, I see a key missing. Uh oh. Uh oh BIG time. I grabbed a pair of latex gloves from my studio and emptied the vauum bag onto some sheets of newspaper. I then had to break apart and squeeze all the dust and dirt in the vauum bag. Dust and dirt that I never thought I'd ever have to see again, having vauumed it one already. I finally found the key after feeling my way through three quarters of the ontents of the vauum bag.

So my spae bar works well now and I hanged the vauum bag, whih really needed it. But I still have to go to the Apple store tomorrow. In ase you haven't notied, I'm missing the key between x and v.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Winter Color

This past week I've been on hiatus enjoying the company of my favorite freshman, home from college. I've also been coordinating a blood drive which will take place today (public service announcement - please donate blood if you can - there's a desperate shortage!)

In between everything else I have been impatiently checking the trees every day. They are mostly still green. It has just started to get a little chilly around here, so I imagine they will soon begin their last hurrah of brilliant colors before winter sets in. Desperate for a color fix, I revisited photos I took while visiting The Gates last year, in Central Park.

The Gates was an art installation by the husband and wife team of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The artists first conceived the idea for The Gates in 1979 and asked the City of New York for permission to install the work. Permission denied. Denied, denied, denied. They finally got permission from the new Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, in 2002.

We went to see the installation on a beautiful February day in 2005, after a new snowfall. We started off by going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we enjoyed a rooftop view of The Gates crisscrossing through 23 miles of trails in Central Park. What was astonishing was how crowded the park was! So many people strolling the park, enjoying the day and the artwork in the middle of the winter.

We spent the afternoon walking The Gates. Everyone in the park was smiling, friendly and in awe of this magnificent project - it felt like a party. I think NYC sorely needed a project like this - it brought a little fun and wonder to a city that had been grieving since 9/11. I think the art did not consist solely of The Gates - I think there was a synergistic effect of the installation and the visitors. It was not like a museum, where visitors go to look at artwork. I think in this case, the visitors were an integral part of the artwork. I think the ephemeral nature of the installation also added to this feeling of excitement - it was not something you could go back to. There was only a two week window for this exhibit. We were very fortunate to experience The Gates.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, go - and don't forget to post photos for the rest of us!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Smarter Than the Average Bear

Today I read an article about animal intelligence - is Flipper REALLY as intelligent as a human, or is that big brain just due to fat cells that keep the dolphin brain warm? What with the recent posts about dogs from Velvet Sacks and Ordinary Life I started thinking about our Tasha. She was a golden/labbie mix and passed on 4 years ago at the ripe, old age of 16.

Tasha was not the brightest dog; definitely not Lassie or Rin Tin Tin material. She never learned to play fetch - she played her own version, which we called "keep away" - she would run after a ball, but would not bring it back. She wanted us to chase her to get the ball back. She never did catch on to the fact that she had to bring the ball back if she wanted us to keep playing. Tasha also liked to watch TV - she would always bark at other dogs on TV - especially the cartoon ones. She was a funny girl, stupid, but we loved her anyway.

One incident comes to mind, though, when Tasha was about 3 and my son was about 1 1/2. We had just gotten back from vacation and I had picked Tasha up from the kennel. The kennel people had given us a biscuit to give her, but since she was prone to carsickness, I waited until we got home to give it to her. I plopped my son down on the couch, gave him the biscuit and told him to "Give it to Tasha," who was sitting next to him. I then stepped into the adjoining laundry room to get a load started.

All of a sudden I heard Tasha whimpering, so I went to see what was going on. My son had put his little arm, all the way up to his elbow, down poor Tasha's throat to try and get the biscuit back! Tasha was doing her best not to bite down or in any way hurt him. I extricated my son's arm - which did not have any teeth marks or other damage on it - and he immediately started crying "Tasha bit me!" For several weeks after, he would hold up an arm and say "Tasha bit me" to try and get some sympathy from various friends - most of the time we would say "Wrong arm, kiddo! and he would immediately hold up his other arm and continue "Tasha bit me" . He was too funny.

So, Tasha was maybe not the smartest dog that ever lived but she came through when it was important - she always knew to be gentle with children, even when provoked. A lot of humans could stand to be as wise as my Tasha was.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

For My Guests. . .via Dr. John

Well, although I can't get through to the list to verify, rumor has it that I'm on Dr. John's Marathon List. If this is true, Dr. John, I am not worthy, but I thank you for your kindness.

I hope this isn't "cheating," Dr. John, but I would ask guests to indulge me by reading a difficult post I wrote, Blood Done Sign My Name It is about a phenomenal book, written by Timothy Tyson. Although the subject matter is heavy, the book was wonderful and enlightening to read. Which is more than I can say for my blog review, LOL, but I hope you read it anyway.

Of course, if you are interested in "lighter fare," my last post, Do They Still Call It a Facial? should do the trick! It boggles the mind what people with too much money will do to relieve themselves of the excess.

Thanks so much for visiting and sorry, I didn't have time to come up with something new for today - we helped my mom celebrate her 75th birthday yesterday - and my freshman son is home from college for the week! All good things :-)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Do They Still Call It a Facial?

Today I was flipping through the paper when I came upon an article on facials. As I read the article, I realized it was about "facials" for those OTHER cheeks. You know, the ones between your lower back and upper thighs.

I was amazed and continued to read how people part with $120 and up (way up!) for each session of various treatments including cleansing, detoxification, microcurrent therapy, microdermabrasion, massage and exfoliation of the old gluteus maximus. Who knew?

Many of the women interviewed said they do it to pamper themselves and feel good about themselves. I started thinking about what I would do with the "facial" money, that would make me feel good.

1. Buy myself a huge bouquet of flowers, or maybe two. Preferably sunflowers.
2. Splurge on an expensive technical book on metalsmithing that I've had my eye on.
3. Take an adult ed class and learn something new.
4. Donate the money to breast cancer research, in memory of a dear friend who died of the disease.
5. Send my daughter a ticket to fly home from college for the weekend - or just give her the equivalent in clothing/shoe store gift cards.
6. Send a box of goodies to our soldiers in Iraq, through a friend who is a retired Army nurse.
7. Take my husband out for a fabulous dinner.
8. Donate the money to our local food bank.
9. Buy my son a Mets team jersey.
10. Take a few great friends out to breakfast.

Hmmm, buffing my buns didn't seem to make the list. What would be on your list?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Lesson of a Lifetime

Last year, my son went on the "trip of a lifetime" with his Boy Scout Troop. About a dozen of the older boys and leaders went to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico for two weeks and 70 miles of backpacking in the wilderness. The photos above are some of the many he took (pretty good for a 17 yo, huh?) - but I particularly want you to pay attention to the last photo.

They trekked from elevations of 6,700 ft up to 12,415 ft. All they had was what they carried on their backs - a tent, water and freeze dried rations. They had to carry all their trash out. Outdoor latrines were the norm. They had to beware of wild bears and snakes - as well as some other critters, the identities of which he thought it best not to share with me. None of this deterred him.

At one point, they were at the top of a gravelly and very steep slope, much like in the last photo. Here, I am going to cheat a little and use his words from a college essay to tell the story:

"I found out that we would be climbing down 1000 feet in only 1/8 of a mile. If this sharp decline didn’t scare me enough, the guide told us that this section of the trail caused lots of major injuries. I was so scared I thought I was going to die. I knew that with the 70 lb. pack on my back, one slip would have me rolling down the mountain like an avalanche. When we finally got to the spot where we would descend, my legs started to feel like jelly. I realized that I had two choices. I could let my fear keep me up there and hold up my crew, or I could overcome my fear and climb down the mountain. The descent really wasn’t as bad as I originally thought it would be. Sure it was steep and there were many loose rocks, but there were also many trees to grab onto in case you felt like you were going to fall. From the experience of Philmont I have learned that I could overcome my fear."

I think this was a wise lesson to learn, at 17 - or any age.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I just got a new cell phone, last May. It did not hold a charge well, so in August I went in and they promised to send a replacement. They sent me a replacement all right - but with no battery or back plate. I had to use my existing battery and back plate. Hmmm, wasn't charging part of the problem here? Isn't the battery the piece involved with charging? But hey, what do I know.

So now I have a phone that has a back plate of a different shade. Plus it still doesn't keep a charge. Last weekend, my husband and I both charged our same model phones, then left them both on all night. His was still fully charged in the morning; mine was dead. There's scientific proof!

So back to the store. They need to test it for 1 1/2 hours. So I come back a little shy of that and wait on line to pick up my phone. They claimed to have had the phone on a call for 1 1/2 hours and it dropped two bars of power, so it's ok, per them. Huh? I wasn't gone for 1 1/2 hours, but I won't quibble over minutes, there are bigger fish to fry here. I pleasantly asked the young lady what this phone was rated for on standby time.

YL: "200 hours."
Me: "Well, my phone only lasts 12 hours, so there must be a problem."
YL: "No, your phone is fine. The battery life depends on the phone options."
Me: "Hmmm - I have the same options my husband has, but his phone held the charge overnight while mine died."
YL: "Well, color phones use more power."
Me: "Ok, is the 200 hour rating for this particular phone?"
YL: "Oh yes, it is."
Me: "Does this particular phone come in a black & white version?"
YL: "Oh no, just color."
Me: "Sooo maybe I can assume the 200 hour standby rating is for this phone, in color?"

At this point, the young lady excused herself to go into the back room to talk to the supervisor. She comes back saying "We can give you a new battery, but you'll have to wait 20 minutes." Great, I'll be back.

So now I just have the back panel that is a different shade than the rest of my phone. I can live with that.

Monday, September 25, 2006

There's Wood Under Them Thar Files!

Ok, I'm not the best housekeeper in the world, much to my husband's chagrin. But honest, I've really been trying hard since the kids have been off to college. Normally, I take piles of paperwork that accumulate all around the house and carry them over to the desk, where I place them and pretty much don't think about them again. For the past three days however, I have been exerting a herculean effort to reduce the Mt. Olympus sized pile of papers on my desk. I have forced myself to look at every single piece of paper and decide - right then and there - how to dispose of it. Could I afford to part with it? Is it something that I positively will never use again in this lifetime? Ok, reluctantly into the trash - after all, there MUST have been a reason why I held onto it - what if I just can't remember right now?

Well, on to the next pieces of paper. Into the receipt box. Into the medical file. Into the trash. Into the contractor file. Trash, trash, trash. Hey, this isn't so bad! Oops, I really should pay this bill, right now. Ok, bill paid AND filed away! Now we're getting somewhere. Is that an encouraging little speck of desktop I see over there??? Now to go through a batch of newspaper sections, looking for the articles that I had found interesting at some point. Hmmm - now WHICH article was I interested in? Ah yes - cut it out AND file it - remainder into the paper recycling pile. ATM receipts - filed. Checking statements - filed (oh, do I have to look at those?) College loan papers - filed. Recipes into the recipe box, where they belong, of course.

Trash, trash, file, trash, file, file. It's like an archeological dig. Is this really my life? No, I don't think so, which is why I'm so disinterested in it. But on the other hand, getting to see more desktop is exciting! Although I'm not quite sure why . . .

I finally see the full desktop! There's my stapler, tape and letter holder. But I also see a beautiful blown glass piece in the shape of a small milk bottle, decorated with random millifiori, that we had purchased at an art show; a spectacular red and gold glass piece from St. Petersburg, given to me by a friend who visited Russia; a handmade wooden box with beautiful inlay, that I was surprised to win in a free raffle sponsored by a fine craft guild; a Waterford votive candle holder given to me by my dad, one Christmas. Such treasures and memories. I had forgotten about them, buried beneath the everyday detritus of life.

I think I'll tackle another room tomorrow and see what other long-lost treasures I can recover.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Blood Done Sign My Name

Well, I've tried thinking of things to write about in this brandy-new blog of mine. But every time I do, my mind heads to the same place. So I have no choice but to share a bit about a non-fiction book I read recently. It's not a clever or fun topic, so I understand if you pass this one by. But I really do hope you read on.

Blood Done Sign My Name by Tim Tyson, was the book selected for this year's "One Read" program, at my son's college. I can't say the last time I was so affected by a book - it gave me the chills. Tyson, who grew up in Oxford, NC, relates the story of how his friend's father - a white shop owner - chased, beat and murdered a young black Army veteran in cold blood. I was thinking how horrible the racial strife was in the South and how I'm glad those days are long over. Until I read that this murder occurred in 1970. I couldn't get over the fact that this happened in MY lifetime. My goodness, I remember 1970!

Tyson fleshes out the book with his personal experiences, growing up as the son of a minister during the fight for civil rights. Now an adult who is a Professor of African-American History, he has placed his experience within a historical context. He talks about how English law originally stated that the status of a child, free or slave, was the same as the status of its father, However the American slave owners changed the the law so that the status of a child derived from the mother. When a white slave owner fathered children with his slaves, not only were there no repercussions, but the slave owner was increasing his slave population, or his property holdings. Tyson talks about the history of slavery in this country - and how the crime of slavery was so great that the monstrous lie of white supremacy was devised to ease the white conscience. Well, I knew the crime of slavery was huge, of course - but I never recognized it as the reason for the birth of white supremacy. It all makes sense, doesn't it? I was a math/science person, never liked history and I guess I never put it all together until I read this book. What an admission of my stupidity! In my own defense though, I don't think the history books of 40 years ago delved into the matter in quite the same way as BLOOD.

Tyson, a white man, relates how he saw black people being treated as less than human, not so very long ago. He talks about what his father did to aid the civil rights movement through the pulpit. He discusses segregation, which resulted from the big taboo, of needing to keep black men away from white women - because of the old idea of a child's status being derived from the mother, how could one then justify keeping down a child born of a white mother and a black father? He also discusses the continuing intellectual and emotional toll on black people, caused by the idea of white supremacy.

The book is full of Tyson's observations and includes many interviews with those involved in the civil rights movement. He is able to discuss the civil rights movement extensively as an eyewitness; the peaceful marches, as well as the violence used to gain equality. Civil rights were never just "generously" bestowed on black people by the whites - they were a hard fought and hard earned "right."

When we went to Parents Weekend at my son's school, they had a Parents Book Club discussion about BLOOD. The large lounge was SRO and the refrain I kept hearing was "I can't believe I was so ignorant of what was really happening." That is exactly what I thought. I'm now 50, just three years older than Dr. Tyson. I grew up in NYC and had friends of all colors. I never considered myself a racist. But when I finished this book, I really had to take a good, hard look at myself. The following from the book really hit home for me - "Many people who care are mired in guilt, as if the agonies of history could be undone by angst." I care and I feel guilt, but I don't even know why and I'm sure it doesn't serve any purpose. I am first generation in this country; my parents are from France. Perhaps I feel guilt because I know my parents to harbor various degrees of racism? Perhaps I feel guilt for just being white and having a white person's privileges? Or is the guilt there because I see the injustice still existing today and have not stepped up to do anything constructive about it?

I am still reeling from this book - it has altered a perspective that I did not think needed altering. I have asked my family to read it - my husband was just as affected by it. It should be required reading in every high school. But what are the chances of that happening? Every high school in NC now has a classroom set of BLOOD with a study guide. It's a start. I have called my local school district to ask them to consider putting this book in the humanities curriculum. It is a gripping book, but very readable because of the personal context. If you get the chance to read it I guarantee you will not come through the experience unchanged.

I guess we still haven't come as far as we pat ourselves on the back for, when it comes to equality for all Americans.

Addendum - Just reread this post this morning - I don't want to give the impression that this was a dry book of just legalities and interviews. This is Dr. Tyson's engrossing memoir of growing up in Oxford, from the age of 10 to young adulthood. It is a life story, placed within the greater context of the civil rights movement. I don't care what color you are, it is a book not to be missed - and no, I am not getting any kickback royalties on it. Shucks.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I have been amending as I go along here, pretty much NOT knowing what I am doing. But today I taught myself how to edit the side bar - not completely what I'm thinking of, but it's a start. Then, I also wanted to figure out how to upload pictures. I love taking photographs, especially with a digital. I was trying to select a few photos to post, for "practice." In my "Interests" one thing I put down is color - I love color. When the fall hits here and the trees go all red and gold my brain goes on color OD. I can just stand and stare - well, maybe not for hours, but for a long time. I've picked out a few photos with lots of different colors and textures. I hope you like them too.

This was a beautiful sunset, from our last vacation. I just kept snapping away, as the sun sank, very calming.

This is from the south of France. My parents are from there, I'm first generation here. I suspect I'll be writing a bit about there, down the road. The stonework on this building was incredible, very detailed. The teal blue shutters were just so unusual, especially on such a stately building where one would expect plain, somber black.

This is a local spice vendor at the weekly "Marche" again in Provence, in the south of France. Can't you just smell the lavender, cinnamon, paprika, cumin - and the delicate dried rosebuds, all the way in the back?

Here are some great warm neutral shades for both the terrain and the beast. I don't know if she's a donkey or a mule, but she was sweet!

Hmmm. . . seems it didn't matter whether I selected medium or large size when uploading photos - both came out the same size. Will have to research this discrepancy further.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mr. Toothpicker

Last night we went to pick up a car that had been in for service at our local Jeep-Chrysler dealer. It was after hours, so I had to go into Sales to pay and get the keys. I walked through the doorway and I could see two salesmen at the back counter. One was standing in front of the counter, talking to the one seated behind the counter. The guy behind the counter had half his hand in his mouth, apparently picking at a back molar. He continued picking at his teeth, even as I walked up to the counter. The other guy asked how he could help me and tried some inane banter. I wasn't biting and just told him I needed to get my car.

Finally, Mr. Toothpicker extricated his hand from his mouth and said "Phil, I'll get the young lady her car." Phil said, no, that's ok, I'll get the paperwork. I was thinking, "Please, please Phil, get my paperwork, don't let Mr. Toothpicker near anything I have to touch!" But no, Mr. Toothpicker got my paperwork. Then he got my keys. Then he took my credit card. Then as I frantically and unsuccessfully looked for a pen in my bag, he handed me a pen to sign my charge slip. All with his toothpicking hand.

I got my car. Then my husband and I headed off for a quick bite at a local fast food Mexican place. As soon as I walked into the restaurant, I told him what happened at Jeep, and immediately went to wash my hands. Now, I'm not a neat freak, as anyone who has ever been to my home knows. My son has come back from a week of Boy Scout camp, crusted in dirt and bragging about how he ate ants on a dare, none of which phased me. But this toothpicking business was, for some reason, beyond what I could deal with.

Please, Mr. Toothpicker, although dental hygiene is an admirable quality, can you please save it for a more appropriate and private moment?

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Beautiful Day

It was a beautiful day. The sky was a deep blue, with no clouds to water down the brilliant color. The weather was somewhere between warm and crisp - past summer's heat, but not chilly enough to require a sweater. You couldn't ask for a finer day.

I had gone to work and was glazing a client's master bath, about eighteen feet up on a scaffold. I was concentrating on the decorative painting and listening to my discman. All of a sudden my cell phone rang, which was unusual. My children were in high school; my husband was at work in the city. It was my daughter screaming "Where's daddy, where's daddy?" I was confused and told her he was in the city. She kept screaming at me "I know, but WHERE in the city?" I told her he was probably at corporate, and I asked her to calm down and tell me what was going on. She told me about the WTC getting "bombed" - details were still sketchy. She calmed down a little when I told her that her father was uptown and I told her I would try to call him. I was on my hands and knees on the scaffold, shaking and not trusting myself to be able to climb down. I knew when he went in for a corporate meeting they frequently had off-site breakfasts or presentations. He could be anywhere. No luck reaching him. Then my daughter called again and told me about the Pentagon. I couldn’t begin to understand what was happening.

My client came in from her tennis lesson and told me New York City had been attacked. She turned on the TV, but I was too frantic trying to reach my husband to watch. My husband's secretary finally called - they had been able to get a call out from corporate to my husband's office and she in turn was calling families to let us know our loved ones were okay.

My first instinct was to get my children and keep them safe at home. But was home safe anymore? I decided the distraction of being in class and with their friends was better than watching the horror on TV. I went back to work, so that I wouldn’t have to think; art has that power, to absorb one’s being.

When I finally got home and turned on the TV, my brain couldn’t take it all in. The wound in this city I was born and raised in, my city - where everything between Wall Street and Ft. Tryon Park had been part of my playground growing up. I could only watch the news for short bits at a time. We went to a special church service. We came home and watched again, all the while not believing, not understanding. I can still feel the love and community of that day – also the sorrow, grief and helplessness. For months after, the NY Times printed daily pages with a small picture and bio of each of the victims. I read every single one and said a silent prayer for each of them and their families. How could I not?

In the years to follow, whenever there was an especially spectacular fall day, I could never figure out why a chill would suddenly run through me. In 2004, I finally realized it was because of the similarity to that beautiful day, 9/11/01. I thought it was just me, that I was being freakishly sensitive. But no, after speaking to many other New Yorkers, I find it is a too-common eerie feeling.

I’m not a poet or a writer. I’m just a New Yorker. I am so very proud of my city, all it has overcome, how life and living continues despite the immense shadow of those towers that no longer exist. I can’t forget the enormous evil, the murder of all those poor souls. To echo the bumper stickers I still see every day, “I will never forget.” 9/11 is never very far from my consciousness, or any New Yorker's.

Today was another beautiful and perfect fall day. But here it is, five years later, and the wound is still as raw as if it happened yesterday. We lost 2,948 people - people like you and me - on 9/11. We have lost another 2,657 service men and women in Iraq since then. When does it end?