Monthly Archives: June 2015

10,000+ Steps Today, but 2 Steps Back: the Knee Saga, part 50

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About 7:15 p.m. C.S.T., while on a rather plodding one mile walk during my youngest’s evening fencing class, my Fitbit buzzed on my wrist, confirming I had reached my daily goal of ten-thousand steps. It was a glorious feeling! I haven’t felt the buzz of my chameleon-like friend in nearly four months, and I have missed it so. The question from here, however, is how many more ten-thousand step days can I rack upfitbit-colors in the remaining days of summer?

Sigh. I suppose I shall find out soon enough. You see, I had my twelve-week post surgery follow-up today, and while things are better than they were on 9 a.m. on March 18th, April 18th, May 18th, and even June 18th, they are still not back to where they were on March 17, when the “only” orthopedic problem I had was a two cm “high-grade” tear of the proximal hamstring tendon (under my butt cheek) in my left leg (at this point, dear reader, I will refer you back to my post of May 18, “A Day in the Life of My Knee,” for the full-story about my surgery). Due to continued pain at the medial joint line and my inability to walk a mile, let me amend that, “stroll” a mile, without pain three months after surgery, my surgeon has ordered a new MRI on my bum wheel.

Once the results come in, he and I will discuss “the future.” What, oh, what will it be? If a “frank” tear, a screaming, blatant, obvious tear is evident in my meniscus, then we will be looking at another surgery, perhaps in the fall. Dear Surgeon, thinking aloud during our tête à tête today, commented that the question would then be whether to attempt another repair or to debride the tissue, leaving me sans a medial meniscus in my right knee. I quickly assured him I was leaning towards removal. I am so sick of being sidelined, that between waiting an additional quarter plus for the outcome of a second procedure that only has 60/40 odds of healing properly and would require another $#@%^!!!! six weeks on crutches or a removal that would have me walking again within days, my answer is, “Get rid of it.”  I know that undergoing a complete menisectomy is starting the clock on a total knee replacement, but that may be ten years dfrustrated-kit-247x300own the line, not my fourth surgery in two years in three to six months if the repair fails again.

Of course, the idea of waiting until the fall if surgery is indicated, gives me time to get stronger, for my very angry hip muscles to relax, for my gait to improve, for the feeling to come back into my knee (nerve damage sucks!), and for me to be in a better frame of mind. All of those things will make recovering much easier on me (and my family), and I could use a little “easier” right now; I could also use a lot of exercise “release.” When you are someone who needs exercise, who craves the outdoors, but you have to put all of those desires upon the shelf for a season, well, I think I finally know what a castrated tom cat feels like now.

Still, through it all, I have tried to maintain a good perspective, even if I have had pockets of sadness and thrown a few pity parties here and there. A dear friend of mine suffers with MS. Her physical decline started in her early 20s, when her children were very small. She is now in her 70s and has been wheel chair bound for the last decade. Before that she progressed from requiring a cane to a needing a walker. I am blessed.

Earlier this year, combat veteran Noah Galloway was on Dancing with the Stars, a show I never watch. Fortunately though, I caught the video of Noah on Facebook several months back. And I was in tears. I feel like such a complete wuss, whining about a little nerve damage and a torn meniscus. This amazing man is nothing short of a walking miracle, and my pain, or my frustration is nothing.

Indeed, compared to many millions, I am blessed beyond measure. Like us all, I have to remember that I am an eternal soul stuck in a fragile, imperfect, mortal body. I shall run, no, SPRINT, in the eternities, even if on this Earth I have to be content to racewalk. Or even sit on the bench for a while. Since I’m not quite ready to take that final step-off into perfection, I guess I shall await the outcome of my upcoming MRI and continue to bide my time in this telestial sphere. Maybe, just maybe, I can finally get some help for that torn hamstring, too.

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She May Be a Beast, but She’s My Beast, You Jerk!

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When my oldest was tiny it was pretty clear to us and others that she was a bright child. She quickly picked up on the sign language signs I taught, bobbed with rapt attention at her Baby Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven videos, chatted incessantly, and was anxious to engage the world around her in meaningful ways (like staring people down until they made eye contact with her). As new parents, my husband I anxiously looked for signs that our little bit was the second coming of Einstein, purchasing flash cards to help bolster her language skills, reading to her frequently, and offering educational programming sure to stimulate her latent genius genes. She gave us a bone here and there, gave us hope that our first born would be the next great child whiz, but nothing too astounding.

Because this stay-at-home mama needed a break from Miss Crazy High Energy, High Demand, Blondie went first a friend’s house two days a week, then to mother’s day out (MDO) the following year, where she thoroughly stressed out one of the teachers in her two year old class. Why? Simply put: the child would not nap. No, no, she insisted on being up and about during nap time, bothering the other kids and continuing to explore. The other room teacher was happy to take my active toddler to the office to make copies or walk her around through the hallways if it kept her quiet. The other teacher, however, would have none of that. She was an older woman with a military background who had had her one son, her golden child, later in life. My fair-haired square peg refused to fit into the round hole this teacher expected her to. Much to the chagrin of said teacher, Blondie fell fast asleep the moment we walked in the house. She was a champion napper for me (praise be!)!

Her strong will and quick wit made feeding, potty training, and getting her out of her crib into a different bed a real challenge. Try as I might to get her to sit in a high Jumperchair to eat, she just wouldn’t have it.  Until she was too heavy for it, I had to sit her in a doorway jumper and let her bounce and spin to her heart’s content in order to get food in her body.

I was certain she knew when she needed to use the toilet by the time she was two, maybe 2 and a half, but did that matter? No. The more frustrated I got, the more she dug her heels in. Finally, as I was heading into the third trimester of my second pregnancy, a therapist I was seeing at the time while trying to deal with my mom’s sudden death suggested I “ask” dear daughter if she “wants” to be potty trained. That was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard, but it worked, from that day forward, it worked. The only time we ever had another problem with toilet issues was right after baby number two showed up to usurp her place as “The Baby,” and even then her regression was short lived.

If only kicking her out of the crib so the new member of the household could have it would have been that simple! The “big girl bed” (a twin) and the new digs (big girl bedroom) did very little to persuade her to let go of her crib or the nursey. We finally broke down and bought the kid a toddler bed during the transition, storing the twin for awhile. Even then, it took much longer than expected for her to warm up to the change in space. It didn’t help that she was none to thrilled with the introduction of a baby sister into the family. Goodness, those were some difficult bed times.

In kindergarten, getting her moving and doing all that needed to be done, in order, every day, earlier than it had been done in MDO, became the big battle. The saving grace was that Mrs. Stewart, her teacher, was patient and loving, and Blondie adored her. When she could keep her hands and feet to herself, my little one shined, though she hated doing the Sight Words flash cards and phonics activities, which were her homework. She despised practicing what she already knew (or thought she knew “well enough”). End of story.

Blondie in the aisles at Target

We moved to a new house, town, and school district just up the road during the summer between kinder and first grade. I knew little about the new district or our assigned school except that it was “better” than our “good” old district. A well-informed, well-connected neighbor steered me towards getting Blondie into one of the two special dual-aged classes her new school offered, a class where first and second graders worked side by side with each other. Perfect for a precocious kid! Or not.

At the first six-weeks’ parent-teacher conference, my Blondie was “Smart! Bright! Amazing!” but by Spring Break her teacher, who had tried everything her young, childless, recently married self could think of to keep my square peg in her seat and focused on work, not cutting up, yapping, or playing, was done. Now the report was, “If she keeps this up, she’ll fail out of elementary school.” Really? My crazy little squirrel was already being doomed to failure at the ripe old age of 7? Dear husband and I were not prepared to put our daughter on Ritalin at that moment, so instead we put her in Montessori.

Montessori helped my kiddo love learning and doing again, and I loved the philosophy, but by the beginning of third grade we were really wondering if the kid would be “more likely to succeed” with meds. Work was just not getting completed; and while the teachers weren’t worried, we were. So, we went through an extensive testing process with her to find out that three of the four components used to measure I.Q placed her in the “high average” category, but her verbal component, the “I cannot process anything in my head, so that’s why it all comes out my mouth” part of the test was up in the 130’s. That number alone explained so much. Nevertheless, the therapist said no to ADH/D meds (they might help, but would likely make a few of her ever present tics much worse), pronounced her on the Gifted and Talented spectrum, and wished us good luck! I’m still unsure whether or not Montessori was the best money ever spent, as it seemed to reinforced a few of her less-than-helpful-for-school personality traits, such as a propensity to procrastinate, but at least she got to spend two years enjoying quirky kids like herself, making true friends, some of whom she is still in contact with eight years later, and doing real hands-on learning in areas and manners far different from public school.

Had we stayed in the area, we would probably have kept her in Montessori, but instead we moved to a suburb of Nashville, TN for her fourth grade year, then to Houston for fifth and beyond. She went back to public school in Nashville and stayed there through middle school. Blondie had wonderful teachers for the remainder of elementary, but the struggles with focus, drive, and attitude towards drudge work continued. I assured her teachers I was “on her,” not to worry. Her dear, sweet, sainted, fourth-grade teacher, even cried over a letter I penned confirming that I understood she was trying her best with my intelligent, but strong-willed and often complacent learner, and that I didn’t blame her for Blondie’s issues, like failing to turn in work. The poor woman was so used to getting letters from parents blaming her for their child’s failings, she hardly knew what to do with my note of encouragement and commiseration.

At various times I have been given predictions about the future of Blondie’s educational attainment that

Oh, goodness! Is my eye twitching again?

Oh, goodness! Is my eye twitching again?

echoed that of her flustered first grade teacher, and her dad and I have wondered endlessly about her ourselves. She loves to learn what she wants to learn, but grade or no grade, if she doesn’t burn to learn it, good luck getting the work done or getting her to take an interest. As much as I appreciate passion and know that grades aren’t everything, it has been hard for dear husband and I to watch a child fully capable of make straight A’s opt for less because a subject or a paper just wasn’t as important as watching You Tube How-To videos on Anime that particular week. Trying and falling short is one thing, but a zero, or rather lots of zeros, show nothing but a lack of effort.

Yet, just as she did as a baby, she has impressed us and others in many different areas. She began piano lessons at six, but tried to trump her teacher by memorizing her pieces by ear. Getting the child to learn to read music was torture— to all involved. She really had no patience for etudes, theory, and the traditional way of learning. Once we moved to Houston, I gave up on piano. Her abilities were evident, but her desire was nil. Thus, when she asked to take cello in fifth grade, I declined her request. However, she renewed her fervor for cello the following year in middle school, so hubby and I relented. Private lessons began in seventh grade; and in eighth, she got a cello for Christmas. Oddly, once the cello was acquired, her practice habits went kaput. Her desire to play was there, but it was not enough to override the attention she preferred to give other things. Plus, the kid had an issue with performing, or rather competing. She was good, very good, but as her middle school orchestra teacher noted, “It’s easy to be a big fish in a small pond.” It didn’t help that being the big fish filled her with no small amount of pride, and I don’t mean of the positive sort. It was the kindergarten flash cards all over again!

Going into high school, my oldest decided it was time to join her younger sister in the ranks of the homeschooled. Although, she is hardly homeschooled; it’s more like she’s chauffeured. Blondie, who is going into her junior year now, liked the idea of deciding for herself the trajectory of her high school years. It would have been very easy (on me) if she had opted to do some on-line classes like those offered through places like Keystone Academy, K-12, or Freedom Project. Alas, Blondie, as anti-social as she can be, thrives on discussion and classroom interaction with teachers and students. In other words, you have finally bought into my argument against government schooling and you want to homeschool, but you won’t do it at home? Wonderful (twitch, twitch).

In Houston, we are extremely blessed to be in an area that is home to such a broad variety of homeschool (HS) opportunities. Among the offerings available to assist the HS community, are several co-ops. They function similarly to a private school, but are typically based on a college model, allowing parents and kids to pick from an array of classes and pay for them individually each month. A child may do one class at such a facility, and every thing else at home, or vice versa. We have two such places within thirty minutes of our home, and were preparing to set up a schedule of classes for her at both, when, near the end of Blondie’s eighth grade year, I found out that Houston Baptist University (HBU) had begun an encapsulated dual-credit high school program based on the Great Books and utilizing the Socratic method of teaching. And joy of joys, they would be offering two classes at EE, the co-op closest to us. Blondie was over the moon.

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So much for seeing my daughter perform at Carnegie Hall

Because of two simple classes, HBU opened up an entirely new pathway for my oldest: doing college instead of high school. We expected she would do some college work during high school, probably in her junior and senior years, but thanks to HBU’s Academy program, dear daughter’s college started at fourteen. In order to progress further, Blondie changed campuses for her HBU classes this past year. Instead of a twenty-minute drive each way for classes twice a week, we now load up, drive fifty minutes out to the main campus, then closer to two hours back, due to rush hour traffic. Last summer, she also began taking dual credit classes from our local junior college, and this summer she’s added on-line classes from BYU. Her college transcript will look like a patchwork quilt, but two years after coming “home,” my under-achieving over-achiever has nearly thirty-five college hours under her belt. By the time she is eighteen, Blondie will have her Associate of Arts and then some, or in other words, seventy plus hours.

It has by no means been an easy path for either of us. My poor car has driven many miles; I’ve sat and waited many hours; and not being as big a wiz at math or science as Blondie is at history and English has required her to get tutored by a friend’s son for high school math, which means one more place for me to drive for classes. Because of this weakness (which is shared by both me and her father), dear daughter will have her electives and Humanities-type college credits out of the way far ahead of those (accursed) STEM areas. Nevertheless, she’s figuring out what college is as a high schooler, learning to communicate with professors (including the oddballs, the jerks, and the non-communicative ones), and understanding what kind of work is expected. There is still some continued teeth pulling on my behalf, particularly for those “Why do I have to take these?” core classes she dislikes, but she’s making A’s and B’s and is excited to launch up to BYU-Idaho in a couple of years to pursue a degree in Illustration. Not too bad for a kid who almost flunked first grade.

Having my oldest “home” has been both wonderful and utterly exhausting. In the course of our crazy driving schedule (which will get SO much better for me after she gets her license this summer. Fingers crossed!), some things have inevitably fallen through the cracks. The most important for me was the time I had to spend in person (and awake) with my youngest. Her fifth grade year, Blondie’s freshman year, was almost a wash. To remedy this she began on-line classes with Freedom Project last fall. But the second most important thing that got lost in the shuffle was cello.

I’m terribly sad about this. I love the cello; so does my daughter. I adore most classical music, as does my daughter. Unlike my daughter, though, I have zero musical talent, unless you count appreciating fine music. She had a truly terrific cello teacher who was so excellent with her, and whom she enjoyed. But… just like back in elementary and middle school, you can try and fail, but you can’t fail to try. And unfortunately, that’s exactly where she’d gotten to with her practicing. So, this past week, the three of us, Blondie, her teacher, and I, put an end to two years of frustration sprinkled with fleeting moments of brilliance. Cello lessons are no more. Sigh. There was no doubt this was coming. In fact, it was already clear to me that next school year, which will be every bit as jammed up with classes in various places as this past one had been, was going to be incompatible with the schedule of practice (one whole hour a day!) he expected in order to see improvements, let alone finding a three-hour block for her lesson, including drive time. We were prepared to wrap things up with him, but he beat us to the punch on Friday, sending us packing in a rather unceremonious fashion, asking that I contact him to confirm that Blondie was or was not going to get her crap together to continue lessons with him, at least through the summer.

Well, it took me about five minutes in the car with her for us to both decide it just was time to cut bait. He’d understandably lost faith in her, and I was tired of driving all the way to BFE for her to flounder and falter and fake her way through a lesson for which she was unprepared. Listening to that was painful on many levels! Seriously, it was time to “tap out,” and that was the exact memo line designation I gave my email to Mr. Cello. I thanked him for his time, energy, effort, and patience, but it was evident her passions had turned to other things. Add a new job in to the mix of drawing, writing, academics, and breathing, and the kid just doesn’t have anything left for cello. “You have been wonderful, but we’re done.”

The response I got back was hot, to say the least. “I hope she gets her behavioral pattern ducks in a row because when she gets to college, professors will either gleefully flunk her or (more likely) dismiss her entirely. I am out of energy carrying the whole load for her lessons and if by some odd chance she comes back, I will have no more patience in regards to her practice discipline or cavalier attitude with appointment times.” Whew! I agree, however…..

Yes, getting her out the door to a lesson forty-five minutes away is a pain, as getting her out the door has always been. Yes, sometimes, that is me that makes us two or four or six whole minutes late. Sometimes there is traffic or a wreck or a slow-moving vehicle or some other unforeseen issue we can do nothing about, and we never have an hour an a half cushion in the schedule to override these problems or ensure we are there early. No, Blondie doesn’t emote anymore, so when you gripe at her or ream her for something, she is more likely to shut-down than speak up for herself, unless it is me reaming her. She is almost the exact opposite of crazy, high-strung nut ball who I had to chase down the aisles as church as a toddler. Some where, somehow, for some reason only she knows, my dear daughter has trained herself to disconnect from her emotions to the point it is hard to read what is going on in her head half the time— even for me! Unless she’s happy, that is. We are a laughing family, and she does that with gusto, but she’s uncomfortable expressing deeper, more complex emotions. As her mom, and an emotional red-head at that, it makes me a bit crazy at times, too, but I don’t dismiss her as ‘cavalier.’ Yes, if by chance she comes back [to cello], it won’t be to you. And that’s O.K. with us.

His note gave me great pause for thought this past weekend. His angry, flustered missive contained a nugget of truth about my child, but it also sought to sum up much more about her than anyone who doesn’t live with her twenty four-seven could ever know. She is ‘in college’ and doing quite well, thank you very much! She does appear (and is) dismissive and without discipline in regards to practicing her cello, which is, of course, what we paid you to teach her, but you should see her drawings! The child is amazing, better and more dedicated to honing her craft than I ever was. You should hear her discuss Aristotle or Dante or pontificate on the coolness of Euclid (math without numbers, she CAN do!). You should hear her teach a lesson or give a talk at church. That kid has a natural talent and a love for teaching that is evident to all. Yes, I’ve had to ride her about some course work, there are things this forty-four year old mom with a college degree knows about college that a newly minted sixteen-year old doesn’t. Yes, she procrastinates, which she comes by naturally. Yes, she is still working on becoming the human being God means for her to be. Aren’t we all?! Yes, she is still trying to figure out exactly what she want to do and be. Yes, she is a bit of a punk at times, but she’s a faithful kid, a bright kid, an intelligent, sensitive, pain in the butt! But she’s MY pain in the butt!mama_bear_mode-1405984

So, yes, Mr. Cello, my kid failed to meet your exacting standards (and wasted a lot of my gas and my money in the process); yes, she has interests beyond cello, and she can be terribly pig-headed and lazy about learning difficult things, but thank heavens there is more to my kid than cello! Thank heavens! we didn’t listen to her first grade teacher, but instead sought out something that was a better fit for her. Thank heavens!I didn’t put her in military school the semester she blew off turning in half her math papers in seventh grade. Thank heavens! I can see her more for the totality of who she is and appreciate that she is a beautiful, intricate work in progress trying to find her way through a complex puzzle of classes she chose for herself. I love this kid, and I don’t expect you to see the greater proportion of what makes Blondie ‘Blondie,’ Mr. Cello. There are days when even I can’t see it. But, for now, just know others before you have made dire predictions about my daughter’s future and been wrong, too! You are not alone, and she will be just fine.

Blackberry Days of Summer

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It would be a marvelous thing if I could create a coffee table-sized book of happy, carefree moments from my childhood, but I can’t. By the time I came along, my mom and her first husband (not my father) seemed to be ummmm… winding down their marriage. IMG_20150525_174741_kindlephoto-19231427When I was eleven, they divorced. Then they both up and quickly remarried. Need I say this wasn’t a great time for me?

Seriously, after twenty-six years together, I kind of expected a bit more introspection before either would even consider marrying again; and I absolutely hoped for a little, “Hey, sweetie, we know this will affect your life in a major way, so let’s talk about it…”  Yeah, no, that didn’t really happen.

Adding insult to my emotional injuries, I’m fairly certain that three to five months before tying the knot again (especially with kids involved) doesn’t constitute cogitation, self-examination, meditation, deep contemplation, or any other deliberative act one might undertake before slipping a ring on one’s finger and dragging one’s child/ren into another relationship. But, hey! I was just eleven, what did I know about anything? Well, nothing except what it was like to live in a broken, busted, dispirited family not of my choosing.

There are millions of us out there, kids of divorce, and I feel I can say with absolute surety that at least fifty percent of those probably had it much, much worse than I. In all likelihood some of my struggles in processing the whole mess created by the adults in my young life stemmed from my personality type; some kids just don’t do well with sudden changes and being kept in the dark about important things. Even still, it took a fair bit of therapy in my 20’s and early thirties, and a whole lot of journaling and praying and scripture studying for me to start to move beyond what were some terribly difficult years.

Out of my experiences has grown a few parenting mantras. One of these is, “I want my kids to need less therapy than I, and for my grandkids to need none.” My second favorite mantra, and one of the prime reasons I have been a stay at home mom for sixteen years, is, “If my kids are going to be screwed up, I want it to be all my fault.” I’m rethinking that last one, to be sure, as I’m finding out certain children just don’t need that much outside help! Nevertheless, twenty-three years of marriage, a college degree, two kiddos, and a deep and abiding faith in God later, and I’ve got the past mostly…in the past.

Anyway, this post is about a few of my pleasant childhood memories, and for that I must start with a description of where I spent my “formative” years. I grew up in a small town northwest of Ft. Worth; Azle was its name, and it was the epitome of southern and redneck.

My neighborhood, which was called Pelican Bay, was way out in the sticks. It was essentially an over-sized, roughly one mile wide by two miles long, mobile home park on the edge of Eagle Mountain Lake (where I spent every spring dreading tornado season). Mother and her husband, who had just retired from the Air Force, moved out there from Shepherd A.F.B. in Wichita Falls, a larger, more sun-baked version of Azle, two hours northwest of Ft. Worth. Both were originally from the winter wonderland of Payette, ID,  so in retirement they opted to settle somewhere more hospitable in the colder months, and Azle was it.

Unfortunately, they had been sold a bill of goods about Pelican Bay’s riding stables, lake access, private club house, beach-side restaurant, cheap acreage, and paved roads. In the end, they, and some other suckers like them got shafted. The Bay never was more than a mobile home park with crappy roads peppered with pot holes the size of Buicks and big weedy lots in the middle of flea, tick, and scorpion prairie-land nothingness. Although, I will admit, during my time there, despite Pelican Bay’s deficient amenities, many, not all, but many of the mobile homes and lots were actually quite nice, underpinning, fences, landscaping and all. I’m sad to say none of it has held up. To make things worse, a friend recently sent me a link to an article about Pelican Bay having been part of a toxic waste dump before they “developed” it into the lakeside paradise of my misty water-colored memories. Joy.

The cake from my 25th high school reunion in 2014. Gads! Am I that old already?

Despite how nice our lot or house might have been, I had brick and mortar dreams, and in my teens I grew to despise everything about our tiny corner of Tarrant County. But in elementary school both Azle and Pelican Bay were home to my friends, some family, the teachers I loved, Karen, the bus driver who took me to and from school for almost my entire life and gave me my first cat, one high school, one middle school, one junior high, and two elementary schools, which were vicious rivals (our third elementary school came along when I was in third grade)– and we were all proud to be Hornets. From the smallest pee-wee football player to the biggest high school lineman, we were all decked out in green, white, and black. Azle was Hornet Town, U.S.A. For better and worse, most of the kids I started school with in kindergarten were also in my graduating class.

The neighborhood store closest to my house was a mile away near the lake, and I would ride my bike there for candy just about every day in the summer. One of the perks to that trip was “torturing” the minnows held in tanks outside of the store for the fishermen. By walking from one end of the tank to the other, you could cause the tiny fish to flee en masse to the oppose side. There was also one monster bug zapper hanging above the tanks, which glowed purple in the night and filled the air with rapidly occurring snaps and pops as mayflies and June bugs did their best Icarus impersonations every night during the long summer play season.

I don't think Coppertone made a "burqa" level SPF in 1978!

I don’t think Coppertone made a “burqa” level SPF in 1978!

Our neighborhood pool didn’t have a life guard on duty, thank goodness! My older brothers and our friends would ride up there (not necessarily together) and spend countless hours every summer. My girlfriends and I would have underwater tea parties, play Marco Polo, and see how long we could hold our breath under the water. We would also practice our crazy dives off of the (gasp!) diving board, doing our best to avoid belly flopping. I would inevitably get sun-burned to a crisp (because melanin-deficient red heads should never use Pina Colada Coppertone), but go right back out the next day. Heavens! Did I get some hellacious blisters?!

Anyway, around the corner and down the dirt road from our trailer was a blackberry patch. I can’t say for sure, but that patch was probably an eighth of an acre- pretty substantial for what seemed to me to be a spontaneously growing spot of heaven on earth.  Just about the time school would get out, back when humans ran our schools and we were out by Memorial Day, is when the berries would turn from hard, red, and inedible to dark and luscious, ready to be picked.

Along with other neighborhood kids, my brothers and I would brave the mosquitoes and the thorns (and I would try not to think about snakes), and we would fill Mother’s Tupperware tubs as full as we could with plump, ripe berries, eating at least as many straight from the vine as we delivered hwallpaper_20080925035435_18634803912ome. I always hoped for sour ones over the sweet, after all, I was the girl who ate lemons, but it was hard to resist those big, sweet berries with their cells so swollen with juice they were the size of toddler’s fist! They were quite simply: divine.

My mom would take our cache and make cobblers and jar after jar of jam, complete with paraffin wax caps. However, my taste buds did and still do prefer raw things to cooked. Raw cookie dough, raw batters (all kinds), raw bread dough, raw berries- salmonella be damned! Cook the item and it quickly loses its appeal, as far as I am concerned. Well, unless we’re talking about meat, poultry, and fish. At that point, please, please, bake, broil, baste or barbecue away!

We got a few summer’s worth of berry gathering out of that berry patch, but not much more than that. I seem to recall a conversation about the actual owner of that land, and ergo the berries, being 51TrXzGpocL._SY300_upset that people were harvesting his fruit and we had to quit “trespassing.” Later, at one point in my ‘tweens,’ I actually went Trick or Treating to a small double-wide on that very spot. It’s like the vines were the Wicked Witch of the East and someone dropped a house on them. The horror of knowing their house was sitting atop my beloved berry patch was a perfect Halloween ‘trick.’

As an adult, I’ve planted two blackberry bushes of my own. Having a memory of pain only slightly faded by time, I was smart enough to select the thorn-less cultivar ‘Navajo’ for my gardens. In childhood, it was ‘the bitter with the sweet,’ but now I know there are plenty of de-thorned alternatives, which allow berry lovers to have their cake and eat it, too.

The bush shown above is in its third fruiting season. I snapped that pic about a week and a half before the berries started turning dark, at which point my oldest daughter’s job became “fighting the mockers.” With bowls in hand, she would rush into the yard, scaring away the pesky, beastly mockingbirds who insisted upon stealing from my vines. Our cats are no good at that sort of thing, so my blondie would have to do. And she “did” with vigor!

What you see to the right is two day’s worth of berries. We were pulling a good half gallon a day for at least eight days, and just slightly less than that for another seven to ten days. I gave away many, many bags of these beauties during late May and early June. Our carpet installers two weeks ago each got a bag; lawn guys, math tutor, massage therapist, chiropractor, scripture group, cello teacher- bags for all! I was giving away so much that I almost forgot to keep somblackberriese for us.

As much as I love my berries fresh, I did consent to make one cobbler. Whiny oldest objected to the paleo recipe, so she went without. Younger daughter and I got it all. The girls and I discussed making some freezer jam, but nothing ever became of that. Could be I got sad every time I thought of boiling my shiny berries into oblivion…in sugar. Mostly though, just like my brothers and I once did, we simply ate them straight off the vine (and out of the bowls in the fridge).

I checked yesterday and only got a small handful off my vines. Today, there were none; our berry picking season has officially come to a close. The few remaining berries in the fridge are losing their tartness, so I guess it’s time to make another cobbler and wrap things up with a bow. It’s going to have to be a small one though…and very, very paleo! 😉

Bummed as I am about waiting another year for blackberry season to start in my backyard, I have two things to console me. First, Blackberries only fruit on new canes. Every year the old canes die off after fruiting and fresh ones begin shooting up near the end of the season. As I type, new canes are working their way out of the ground, giving me a glimpse of how much bigger my haul will be in 2016. Unfortunately, due the severe weather we’ve had recently, I’ve already lost a new cane…and it was as tall as me! Second, I have my memories of those more simple, more carefree days in the late 1970’s, hunting through thorn- ridden berry bushes with my brothers, cramming as many sweet and sour orbs into my mouth as I could before getting yelled at to “Save some for mom!” Fruiting season 2016 is only eleven months away. I think I can wait.

DIY in the Kitchen (and playing with “grains”)

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About three weeks after my knee surgery this spring, which was two weeks after the car accident with daughter no. 1, I lost it in a really.bad.way. I’m normally a very active person, but at that point I’d been on my butt for the better part of five weeks and was going just a bit stir crazy. People had been having to step in to drive dear daughter to her college classes thirty minutes away, three days a week. Dear hubby had had to take off two days a week during that period in order to get her to her furthest classes, fifty minutes away21063_261319_0815691001416237591…or two hours when coming home in rush hour traffic. Friends from church had taken me to appointments, brought me my daily fix of a medium Coke/ Coke Zero split from Sonic, brought in food, etc. Everyone had been wonderful, but I was done! It was enough.

So, despite the swelling; despite the difficulty of crutching about and having everything be so HARD(!), I got back into the kitchen (this was also spurred on my youngest asking around dinner time one day, “So, who’s bring in our free-food tonight?” Oh.no.you.didn’t. I will not raise a welfare queen (or a Democrat!)). It wasn’t fun, it was the antithesis of easy, but I planted my unstable tuckus on a stool in front of the stove and began the arduous process of DOING SOMETHING!

Besides cooking on that fateful day, I also began to explore making different DIY health/ beauty/ drink items. In years past, I have been known to go off on “organic tangents,” but eventually the grocery bill increases get to me. I also start pondering the fact that billions of people live without organic products and foods (largely because they are too bloody poor to afford them!) and they do just fine, living to healthy, ripe old ages. Besides these factors, when I start things from scratch, time constraints seem to eventually harpoon my good intentions. In all likelihood, all of the above will eventually happen this go around, too. But, for now, I’m enjoying myself (as long as I can keep the costs down) and will ride this ride as long as it lasts!

The first experiment I started began with Water Kefir grains. I discovered Kevita, a water kefir product, at Sprout’s last year, but DANG! That stuff is pricey! As in days past, Katie at Wellness Mama proved to be a fount of information for my new project. Since ordering some grains from Poseymom a month and a half ago, I’ve had some good batches and some bad ones, but what I like about water kefir is that it is so cheap and easy to make (mostly) that if one batch is bad or I screw up the flavoring, I can try again immediately. And, unlike kombucha, kefir grains aren’t too persnickety, nor do they look like some alien life form on my kitchen counter that my kids are constantly complaining about.

The only drawback to making water kefir? The grains have expanded so much that I feel rather like Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice! Seriously, if you want some, I’ll ship them to you- just send me a buck or two for postage! My scant quarter cup of dried grains has expanded into over four cups of happy, active kefir love—and I’ve given away several cups already!

After I got kefir bubbling, I moved on to lotion bars. A year or so ago, I bought raw cocoa butter thinking I was going to be whipping up my own chocolate, but that never happened. So, when I stumbled upon Katie’s Lotion Bar recipe, I thought, “Bingo!” I ordered some beeswaxdeodorant containers, and silicone molds off of Amazon, grabbed some NOW Shea Butter at Sprouts, and got to work! I love this stuff! It is so simple, so easy, and one recipe goes quite far. The deodorant containers are brilliant, by the way. I bought a lotion bar years ago at our local Renaissance Festival. Unfortunately, it was pretty quickly covered with lint and hair from sitting in the bathroom. Those simple containers eliminate that problem! One note: cocoa butter has a strong odor of its own. If you want to change the scent of your mix, don’t be too stingy with the essential oils.

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What my family thinks I do in the kitchen

Whipped body butter is also pretty wonderful, but don’t chill it, then let it get warm, then repeat. When I first mixed it according to instructions, it absorbed beautifully. But when I decided to share the fruits of my labor with friends, my batch went through the chill/ warm process several times and got less willing to absorb. Instead, it began sitting on my skin more like pure coconut oil does. Blech.

This liquid hand soap recipe is easy, but I like to add a few teaspoons of vegetable glycerin to the finished product to make it a little more gel-like (and a little less likely to shoot from the pump at rocket velocity!). Actually, because of that problem, I truly prefer the Foaming Hand Soap. The only real issue I’ve noted with the foaming stuff is that it takes some time to get used to the “feel” of the added oil on your skin. It does leave a bit of a residue…to the point my picky-butt oldest daughter refuses to use any of my DIY soap. Brat!

As far as a Body Wash recipe goes, I had to search a bit more for one of those. The basis of sooooooo many such recipes is Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap.  I don’t know why, but Dr. Bronner’s, even the baby formula, even well diluted, doesn’t get along with my…nether regions. So, using either of the above soap recipes in the shower got tossed out the window- quickly! The formula I settled upon still uses Dr. B’s as a constituent, it still irritates if I’m not careful, but I really like feel of this terrific Coconut Milk and Honey blend. Kudos to Kristin at Live Simply. She also has a nearly perfect facial cleanser. I tried for a moment to love oil cleansing, but quickly went back to my old cleanser. In fact, after two days, my feelings about oil cleansing quickly became: ain-amp-039-t-nobody-got-time-for-that_o_1582005

In search of a simple hand and body cream that absorbed in quickly (and wouldn’t it be great if I could use a pump!?), I found Simple Nourishing Hand and Body Cream at Whole New Mom. I will note this is an odd little recipe. I prepared it according to instructions, filling two 4 oz. jars, but one took a good while to start solidifying (as in a week!), the other is still fairly liquid. According to Adrienne, this has something to do with the shea butter. I’m OK with that though. The one that is more solid, I love to use as a face moisturizer. The other…ummm, I’ll probably stick in the fridge eventually. Yeah…maybe even tonight. Another one I want to try is this Homemade Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion (without coconut oil). I agree with you, Kristin, I’m a bit sick of coconut oil, too!

Toothpaste! Who’d a thunk you could make such an excellent product? I seriously think this is my favorite DIY. I have sensitive chompers. Could be the 16 fillings in my adult teeth! Unfortunately, my mom wasn’t the tooth Nazi I am, and growing up, we were allowed to drink Coke and eat candy with wild abandon. It is a good thing I had a fast metabolism as a kid or I probably would have looked something like Augustus Gloop rather than Violet Beauregarde!    Due to this “parental oversight,” I spent a LOT of time in the dentist’s chair from the time I was five until about fourteen, when I finally took responsibility for my own dental hygiene. (Thanks to the multitude of experiences I had at the hands of the evil pediatric dentist Dr. Kouri, my kids have been spared even a single cavity!) Nevertheless, no conventional toothpaste, even Sensodyne and its ilk, have helped my tooth sensitivity.

About eight years ago I discovered Evan’s Garden, a mom and pop company in Florida. Well, they have a most wonderful “toothpaste” that I found did away with my brushing sensitivities in short order! It was pretty amazing; I used it for about a year, and then I got distracted and forgot to order before I ran out. So, then decided to try to find something local. I tried a few brands from Whole Foods, but nothing inspired loyalty. And then I found Trader Joe’s Anti-plaque Toothpaste. It worked and works great. It is definitely my commercial paste of choice, but it’s not like there’s a TJ’s on every corner, and ec4409cd24c39f97489d4eb4db70b643sometimes life gets too busy to make a special trip. Unfortunately, I have discovered going back to conventional toothpaste for any length of time is a non-no. The sensitivity, which is worse around my period (and was one of my first pregnancy indicators with both girls. Gotta love hormones!), comes back quickly.

I first tried this recipe from Kristin, but I was uncomfortable with the large amount of coconut oil going down my sink and leaving a gross residue in my sink. In composition it was a little…solid, and in practice it was wearing a sore spot on my gums. I think maybe substituting the liquid bentonite clay I already had on hand, as opposed to ordering the powder form she linked on the recipe, may have kept the mix from being softer; and in all likelihood the quarter cup of baking soda was the culprit working on my gum line.  Alas, my search continued.

Katie’s Remineralizing Toothpaste came across my desktop last year, but I blew off the idea of making it at that time- too much trouble. And where does one get Calcium Carbonate anyway? Oh, yeah. Amazon. That’s also where I sucked it up and ordered the bentonite clay. Hmm, how do I feel about this recipe? I LOVE THIS STUFF! At first I stored it in a small Zip-Loc bag with a small snip in a corner (how fun is it to “cake decorate” your toothbrush in the morning? Lots!), but today I remembered I had something similar to a Go Toob in a kitchen drawer! So I squeezed the bag o’ paste into the silicone tube and voila!

My latest grain play, has me attempting to make Milk Kefir. It’s been an interesting process and I’m finding the grains are a little more picky than water kefir, but I have hope milk kefir will eventually be something to enjoy- particularly when I try it with coconut milk.

Of course not every DIY try is a success. I’ve had a few here and there that just didn’t work for whatever reason. The most hideous “epic fail” of my recent experiments was this Natural, Non-Greasy Hand and Body Lotion from DIY Natural. Sorry, Betsy. I tried twice. It was a horrific mess, and it will take many moons before I attempt to emulsify anything again. In this case, store-bought stuff will just have to do.

I also trirascalafricansanddoged Katie’s Natural Shampoo. It was great going on, but gross coming out— unless I used her recommended 50/50 water and apple cider rinse. But then I smelled like apple cider vinegar…noticeably. I don’t think so. In fact, the last time I went through a big “organics” cycle the only shampoo I tried that worked in every way and didn’t make my scalp start itching after a week was from Evan’s Garden. In recent months I’ve been using Ology brand products from Walgreens, and you know, I think I’ll just stick with them. Really, I have colored (for 13 years), do color, and will continue to color my hair every 4 weeks with Miss Clairol for at least another six years (when I turn fifty)(don’t even talk to me about henna or Naturtint. I tried them both, and both fried my hair!), natural shampoo is the least of my concerns! Thanks for the pre-mature grey genes, mom and what’s-his-name. Yeah, setting color aside isn’t even part of the discussion at the moment. So, why both worrying about natural hair care?

You have any tried and true recipes you love? Post them, please!

My Wonderful Summer Experiment (meant to torture my children, improve reaction times, and increase family togetherness)

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Oh, what joy abounded in my household a few weeks ago when I figured out how to go in and change our Wi-Fi access code. Of course by ‘joy abounding’ I mean my twelve year old daughter looked like she was going to have a seizure, carrying on as she was. There was some serious wailing and gnashing of teeth echoing through the house! You would have thought I’d taken away her birthday. Gratefully, since my second born waswifi-password “fitting” enough for three or four kids, my sixteen year old took it in stride (more or less). According to the youngest, I’d just ruined her entire life and made “relaxing” a nearly impossible task. Right. Sure. You run with that. Oh, mom…

I was born a bit of an old soul, but that didn’t keep me from being an idiot during my second decade of life, a ‘the-universe-revolves-around-me’ teenager. As a parent of sixteen years now, I don’t think my oldest was fully out of diapers, precocious as she was, before I understood the phrase uttered by mothers and fathers for more than five millennia now: Just you wait. In fact, I’d bet good money it has always been said with a shaking head, twitching eye and pursed lips, and was preceded by a long sigh.

Yup, when I finally got “it,” got what my mom meant by all of those angry, frustrated sentiments uttered under her breath about me getting mine one day, it hit like a lightning bolt. My immediate reaction was, “Oh. I’m sooooooo sorry, mom.” Unfortunately, my mom passed away when my oldest was two and a half and I was just barely pregnant with daughter number two.

Trying to get kids to do their “fair share” around the house, to learn that at a certain point they can absolutely learn to fix their own lunches, wash their own clothes, and, yes, wipe their own butts, is the eternal struggle of all good parents. Slacker parents, parents who think it is just easier to let Pumpkin sit and play video games or hang out with friends rather than teaching them (and expecting them) to clean the kitchen are doing themselves and their kid’s future room mates, spouse, or employers a huge disservice. Work is good. Hard work is even better. I fear I was a slacker for a few years too long. I should have expected and required more from my kids at an earlier age. Getting them moving in the last couple of years had been like trying to get the Tin Man moving after a period of rust-induced torpor! But I’ve kept up the good fight, even on those really, terrible, horrible, horrific days when I almost threw in the towel and did “it” myself.

However, nothing has worked so well, been proven to be as powerful an incentive to work as destroying their internet access. Behold, my joy is full. Interestingly enough, when the distractions of instant access were removed, my girls found ways to connect with each other, and me. Best decision ever.

 

Just Some Random Thoughts…

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One of the perks of being off of social media is that I’ve stopped feeling the need to post twenty times a day whenever something “striking” happens to me. Still, I feel the need to journal about some of these things, as a few are dilbert_randomtruly important. Hence, this blog post: a bunch of little things all wrapped up in one little blog bow, not twenty or twenty thousand individual posts. So, here it goes…

  • My husband started a new job at the beginning of the month. He’s in federal law enforcement, and will be for another three years or so. I’m hoping and praying this new agency jump will be his last (and best). In our 23 years together, he’s worked for four different agencies, with a 13 year stint at the FBI being his longest; his time at the Bureau would best be described by Charles Dickens’ opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”My dear hubby wanted to be an FBI agent from the time he was a little boy. Leaving the Bureau was the death of a dream for him, but after September 11, and after Director Mueller got a hold of the reins, it was a dream that needed to die.  He’s been searching for a new “home” every since, a legitimate agency (as opposed to many which have no business even existing!) where he can serve the tax payer by busting the bad guys and serve his better angels by solving the puzzles that the criminals create for my white-collar guy. He’s very, very good at what he does, and he takes seriously his role as a protector of tax payer funds. If only the government itself cared for our funds as much as he does, government spending would be half of what it is now!
  •  My oldest monkey was supposed to take her driving test last week, but alas, we didn’t have all of the paperwork we needed, nor did we have a signature from my husband, her “official” parent-teacher.
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    This magnet is actually on my car

    ..who is out of town until month’s end! Alas, now, it will be mid-July before another appointment at our local DPS is available (unless I can squeeze her in at one 50 miles away in the sticks!). Grrrr!! I am so ready for this child to be driving herself around. Despite my dear daughter’s recent accident and other harrowing experiences teaching her to drive this past year, I can’t fathom parents (or kids) that aren’t chomping at the bit for their sixteen year old to take that leap. Sadly, that seems to be the new norm though…right up there with children living in their parents’ basements until their mid-30s and being on their insurance until the “child” is TWENTY SIX!! Not in my house! 

  • Another milestone for my oldest: she’s got her first job! She’ll be working at a newly remodeled Chick-fil-A near our home. She’s cute in her work uniform and chunky black slip-resistant Skechers. “It’s my pleasure to serve you” is her new mantra. However, her feet are feeling the pain of being on them for six hours at a time. Smart as she is though, she’s decided $8 plus bucks an hour towards greater financial independence is worth a little pain. Kudos to my big kid!
  • I have been having a hard time getting back to normal walking post knee surgery. I was on crutches with zero weight bearing on my right leg for six weeks. Since weaning off of them, beginning on May 18, I’ve had an incessant problem with knots/ trigger points in all the muscles that originate on or around the hip joint. Add to that the difficulty of breaking through the scar tissue around my
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    It feels like it some days

    knee caused by both the surgery and the direct impact of an air bag, and regaining full flexion and extension hasn’t been a cake walk by any stretch.Physical therapy has helped with rebuilding some of my strength and balance, and being in the pool for most of my therapy has been a blessing, but nothing has done for as much for my pain and the issues which I feel are hindering my progress as the massage I had a few weeks ago. My therapist beat the snot out of the knots and scar tissue! Parts of it hurt like mad, at one moment I even came off the table! But in the end I got off the table feeling better than I’ve felt since the wreck on March 18th that started all of this mess! I am proclaiming a miraculous healing. Ok, maybe not, but I’m happy to be able to see some light at the end of this tunnel which has felt kind of dark and endless at times. God bless those that are in truly horrific accidents, military or otherwise, who must completely rebuild themselves. You are my heroes.

  • Being the mom of teen-aged girls, even homeschooled teen-aged girls is so hard. My mom raised three girls and two boys, and I have no doubt the girls were the hardest. Like my girls today, I was a “good kid.” I didn’t smoke, drink, party, carouse, do drugs, sleep around, or engage in various and sundry stupid teen behaviours (though I was a bit of a crazy driver (still am)), but I was difficult.I was mouthy, self-centered, mean, emotional, angry, and most of all: lonely. Due largely to a few divorces, sudden remarriages to unpleasant peeople (all of which I had zero say in), and other family issues, my teen years were not fun. Still, my mom tried. At forty-four with two girls of my own and a very stable marriage, I know that now. Hind-sight is an amazing thing.My mom passed away suddenly the day after some pretty routine surgery thirteen years ago, threw a blood clot. I never got to say good-bye. For the most part, we had a strained relationship. I loved her and she loved me, but we were both quite crummy at demonstrating that love in meaningful ways, meaningful to the other, that is. As a protective measure, I have closed the doors on relationships with several family members, and am fully at peace with those decisions (even if some family members take issue with my decisions). The only regret I have, however, is that mom and I couldn’t have had more time to work things out. I wish now, now that I’ve got two teen girls driving me to the highest highs and the lowest lows on alternating days of the week (minutes of the day), I would love to talk to her again, to commiserate, to tell her I’m sorry for…being a self-centered monster of a teen girl, and to thank her for not taking me out of this world just about every other day for driving her crazy and adding to her problems!
  • Speaking of girl issues, I was taken aback by the activity my twelve year old’s class did this past Wednesday at church. Unbeknownst to me, this activity, which was centered around a discussion on real beauty, internal beauty, the beauty that matters, was to culminate in a make-application lesson. No, not just skin care, or “wash-your-face-so-you-don’t-get-zits-or-look-like-you’ve-rubbed-bacon-grease-on-your-face.” No, it was an actual make-up how-to. Granted, it was of the “How not to look like a tramp” variety, but it still hit me like I’d just been told the leaders were teaching a sex-ed lesson with a banana!
    Walking past the room in which the event was occurring, I was struck dumb seeing my precious, beastly little twelve year old, with whom, thanks in part to a big sister who could care less about looking girly, I’ve yet to discuss when she gets to wear make-up, being made up. I was not a happy mama. I was shocked, and saddened, truthfully. Our girls are innocent for such a small moment of time, pure, precious, and unadulterated. The world is constantly pushing them to grow up younger and younger. Girls in my own conservative faith are not immune to that influence. Plenty of the female children in my congregation have

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    Yeah….NO.

    parents markedly less concerned than I am with letting their young ladies look “older.” Whoopee. Good for them. Matters not a whit to me. As one who wears cosmetics sparingly (Seriously, my daily routine entails curling my straight eyelashes and brushing on a bit of mineral powder to counter appearances of skin damage. On really big days (or for the week after I get my hair trimmed shortly), I’ll run a line of grey eyeliner over my top lids. If it’s a really big deal, I’ll wear some mascara, too.), my immediate reaction was to calmly tell my dear child afterwards, “You can wash that stuff off at home.”Unfortunately, the explanation I gave for my opinion of her newly made up face did little to assuage her hurt feelings. She’d had fun. She’d wanted me to tell her she was beautiful and I’d ruined it! Tears ensued. Epic fail, mom. To be sure, I could have handled things better. But still… my opinion stands. Make-up will be discussed closer to fourteen, and don’t even ask about wearing heels until you’re staring down the barrel of junior prom! You’ll be “older” soon enough, dear child. And don’t even try the “But So & So’s mom lets her” argument. Society and culture have always had various “Rites of Passage.” Certainly, playing in the make-up is one of those rites. I just strongly object to having the timing of those rites get pushed further and further back with each generation, or having that timing altered by someone else. In other words, “As for me and my house, we will not cross that line before it’s time!”

    P.S. For all the crying and squalling that occurred at home Wednesday evening, I’m grateful that not a word about make-up has been breathed since!

    Thoughts? Feel free to post!

Some Political Sort of Things That Caught My Eye Recently

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  • Barak Obama, Re-Founding Father, by Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal.  I am disheartened by Congress’s willingness to roll over and play dead, and the judiciary essentially rubber stamping everything Obama. We need a robust division of powers as George Will identifies in his BYU Forum Address “The Political Argument,” from Nov. 5, 2013. I fear our Republic won’t last much longer if we can’t expect more push and pull from our three branches of government.

Cogent bits of Henninger’s column: The central feature of Mr. Obama’s rewrite of what one might call the Founding Fathers’ original vision has been to abolish Congress. Yes, the 535 men and women elected to Congress still show up at the old Capitol building, as they have since November 1800. But once past passage of ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank, the 44th president effectively retired Congress from its historic function. If you put the president behind the wheel of a car in front of the White House to visit Congress, he’d probably get lost.

“Obama’s power grabs” is Republican boilerplate. Voters don’t care about power grabs. But most voters, perhaps including many pre-2008 Democrats, still care about being represented in Washington as defined by the first Founding.

  • More wonderful words from George Will given April 21, 2015 at Yale’s William F. Buckley inaugural “Disinvitation Dinner.” Seriously, this is truly brilliant stuff infused with no small amount of humor. Here’s just a bit:

Yesterday, the Democratic Party, the oldest political party in the world, the party that guided this country through two world wars and is more responsible than any other for the shape of the modern American state—the Democratic Party’s leading and prohibitively favored front-runner candidate for the presidential nomination announced four goals for her public life going forward. One of which is to amend the Bill of Rights to make it less protective. It’s an astonishing event. She said that she wants to change the First Amendment in order to further empower the political class to regulate the quantity, content and timing of political speech about the political class—and so far as I can tell, there’s not a ripple of commentary about this in the stagnant waters of the American journalistic community.

 Well, the belief that the First Amendment is a mistake and that the real right that people have regarding speech is the right to avoid speech that annoys them. The column that got me here tonight, for which I am grateful to admit, contained the following sentence, and this is the one that got me into trouble. Roger mentioned it. I said: Colleges and universities are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous and when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims will proliferate. And to ensure that they proliferate, we have amended the doctrine of micro-aggressions and to the idea that one has an entitlement in our entitlement society to a cocoon of serenity everywhere.

 Well, as proof of this, I give you the following: I mentioned the Princeton Graduate School. No one at the Princeton Graduate School pays a dime of their expenses. They are by any measure the top one one-thousandth of one percent of the most privileged people who ever lived on this planet. And a few of them, the Black Graduate Caucus, the Latino Graduate Student Association, and Graduate Women of Color recently sent the following protest note to the Princeton administration because Princeton has shuffled their diversity and multicultural and sensitivity bureaucracy by adding two new people. Their protest said this: Princeton University has deepened the anguish and intensified the alienation of its graduate students of color. Stop laughing this is serious business. Students of color are constantly besieged by the racism at Princeton. Surviving Princeton for students like us is more than a struggle. It is a battle for one’s life and sanity for the dignity of one’s nonwhite flesh.

trigger-warning

This premier event is meant to celebrate those who have been “dis-invited” from speaking on college campuses in recent years- all because the left wing-nuts of the faculty or student body didn’t want others  to be able to hear an alternative point of view. The recent practice of silencing opposition is otherwise known as CENSORSHIP, INTOLERANCE, and CLOSED MINDEDNESS. Way to go, lefties. FYI: The freedom of speech isn’t just for you! Oh, yeah…Trigger warning!!

One more thing from George Will: The Speech Every 2015 College Grad Needs to Hear from Prager U.

Experience teaches us: in order to know oneself well and develop harmoniously, a human being needs the reciprocity of man and woman,” said Pope Francis.  “When that is lacking, one can see the consequences.”Those consequences fuel confusion and error, said the Pope. “For example, I ask myself, if the so-called gender theory is not, at the same time, an expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it,” he said.  “Yes, we risk taking a step backwards.”

 “The removal of difference in fact creates a problem, not a solution,” said Pope Francis.

Seeking to change or dissolve the complementarity between man and woman produces intellectual, social and spiritual darkness, the Pope continued.  “God entrusted the earth to the alliance between man and woman: its failure deprives the earth of warmth and darkens the sky of hope,” he said in his April 15 audience.

The order established by God between man and woman and creation is the key to harmony, said the Pope.

“The great refamily-procsponsibility of the Church, of all believers, and first of all of believing families, which derives from us, impels people to rediscover the beauty of the creative design that also inscribes the image of God in the alliance between man and woman,” said the Pope.

He continued, “The earth is filled with harmony and trust when the alliance between man and woman is lived properly. And if man and woman seek it together, between themselves, and with God, without a doubt they will find it. Jesus encourages us explicitly to bear witness to this beauty, which is the image of God.”

My own faith said something quite similar in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” in 1995.

 

  • EPA: Fracking Process NOT Harmful to Drinking Water. Great! Now, can we frack for gas, drill in ANWAR, build the XL Pipeline, and start exporting oil, too! All of which will create jobs and revenue and get us off of foreign oil. What is bad about any of that if undertaken in a “good stewardship” manner?
  • Proof that Some People Can Be Offended by ANYTHING! We have become ridiculously thin skinned. More than anything, people screaming about perceived offences need to be met with a brick wall of deafness to their complaints. Perhaps, if college administrators, bureaucrats, business owners, and book and magazine editors would give these individuals a sucker, a balloon, and a pat on the head (with a mallet) instead of a platform from which to cry, people would cease to be so offended.
  • I heard part of an interview on Dennis Prager’s radio program this week wherein he was interviewing Professor Alfred Mele on his new book “Free: Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will.”  I found his words quite provocative, well, at least they would be for those who believe that we can’t possibly be held responsible for our actions for any number of exponentially expanding reasons from “My mama didn’t love me” to  “I was having a bad hair day “to “McDonald’s didn’t warn me their coffee would be hot.” Well, that’s just a bunch of crap, to be quite clear. Things have happened, will happen, and do happen to make it harder to make good decisions, but very few of us can ever claim what is essentially an insanity defense for any of our actions (keep in mind, I do believe that some are unable understand the weight of their decisions, but not near as many as the bleeding hearts would like). The same thing needs to happen to most who use this excuse for bad behaviour as I recommended in the above point: balloon, sucker, smack.

That’s all for now, I suppose. More later.

Farewell to Elder L. Tom Perry

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I’m a Christian of the Latter-day Saint, a.k.a. “Mormon” variety. More specifically, I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are governed on Earth, if you will, by a prophet and by a quorum of twelve apostles, just as in the ancient church. When any one of these men passes away, the body of the church feels it. And that is no less true of Elder L. Tom Perry than of any other of these wonderful men who sacrifice so much to stand at the forefront of LDS leadership.

Elder Perry is one of those shining leaders who has been around since my very early childhood, havingL-Tom-Perry-newsbio-GC-Oct-2010-with-wife been ordained an apostle when I was three years old. Thus, I have come to know his radiant smile and infectious spirit quite well. Throughout the time of a man’s apostleship, which may last decades, (our leaders have a tendency to live well into their 80s & 90s!) he gets to speak for the entire church to hear at least twice every year at our semi-annual general conferences. Elder Perry’s is one of those speakers who couldn’t speak enough! Since becoming truly aware (as in “with a clue”) during general conference, which likely happened around my sixteenth year (1987), when I was old enough to drive and choose for myself whether or not to go to our church meeting house forty minutes away in order to watch the conference broadcasts from Salt Lake, I have enjoyed his tone, his countenance, and his messages, which always seek to uplift and lift us up towards Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

Elder Perry will surely be missed! But things in the Lord’s church do keep a moving. Now, the church will move forward with selecting a new apostle to fill his shoes, difficult though the task will be.

Elder Perry V2

Biography

Official Announcement of Elder Perry’s Passing

Elder Perry’s Last Conference Talk: Why Marriage & Family Matter- Everywhere in the World