Sunday, August 31, 2008

To New Orleans with the hope for a new day.
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Some Facts and Places for more

Yesterday was John McCain's 72nd birthday. If elected, he'd be the oldest president ever inaugurated. And after months of slamming Barack Obama for "inexperience," here's who John McCain has chosen to be one heartbeat away from the presidency: a right-wing religious conservative with no foreign policy experience, who until recently was mayor of a town of 9,000 people.

Huh?

Who is Sarah Palin? Here's some basic background:
She was elected Alaska's governor a little over a year and a half ago. Her previous office was mayor of Wasilla, a small town outside Anchorage. She has no foreign policy experience.1
Palin is strongly anti-choice, opposing abortion even in the case of rape or incest.2

She supported right-wing extremist Pat Buchanan for president in 2000. 3
Palin thinks creationism should be taught in public schools.4

She's doesn't think humans are the cause of climate change.5

She's solidly in line with John McCain's "Big Oil first" energy policy. She's pushed hard for more oil drilling and says renewables won't be ready for years. She also sued the Bush administration for listing polar bears as an endangered species-she was worried it would interfere with more oil drilling in Alaska.6

How closely did John McCain vet this choice? He met Sarah Palin once at a meeting. They spoke a second time, last Sunday, when he called her about being vice-president. Then he offered her the position.7

This is information the American people need to see.

We also asked Alaska MoveOn members what the rest of us should know about their governor. The response was striking. Here's a sample:

She is really just a mayor from a small town outside Anchorage who has been a governor for only 1.5 years, and has ZERO national and international experience. I shudder to think that she could be the person taking that 3AM call on the White House hotline, and the one who could potentially be charged with leading the US in the volatile international scene that exists today. -Rose M., Fairbanks, AK

She is VERY, VERY conservative, and far from perfect. She's a hunter and fisherwoman, but votes against the environment again and again. She ran on ethics reform, but is currently under investigation for several charges involving hiring and firing of state officials. She has NO experience beyond Alaska. -Christine B., Denali Park, AK

As an Alaskan and a feminist, I am beyond words at this announcement. Palin is not a feminist, and she is not the reformer she claims to be. -Karen L., Anchorage, AK

Alaskans, collectively, are just as stunned as the rest of the nation. She is doing well running our State, but is totally inexperienced on the national level, and very much unequipped to run the nation, if it came to that. She is as far right as one can get, which has already been communicated on the news. In our office of thirty employees (dems, republicans, and nonpartisans), not one person feels she is ready for the V.P. position.-Sherry C., Anchorage, AK

She's vehemently anti-choice and doesn't care about protecting our natural resources, even though she has worked as a fisherman. McCain chose her to pick up the Hillary voters, but Palin is no Hillary. -Marina L., Juneau, AK

I think she's far too inexperienced to be in this position. I'm all for a woman in the White House, but not one who hasn't done anything to deserve it. There are far many other women who have worked their way up and have much more experience that would have been better choices. This is a patronizing decision on John McCain's part- and insulting to females everywhere that he would assume he'll get our vote by putting "A Woman" in that position.-Jennifer M., Anchorage, AK

So Governor Palin is a staunch anti-choice religious conservative. She's a global warming denier who shares John McCain's commitment to Big Oil. And she's dramatically inexperienced.
In picking Sarah Palin, John McCain has made the religious right very happy. And he's made a very dangerous decision for our country.

In the next few days, many Americans will be wondering what McCain's vice-presidential choice means. Please pass this information along to your friends and family.

Thanks for all you do.

-Ilyse, Noah, Justin, Karin and the rest of the team
Sources:
1. "Sarah Palin," Wikipedia, Accessed August 29, 2008http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Palin
2. "McCain Selects Anti-Choice Sarah Palin as Running Mate," NARAL Pro-Choice America, August 29, 2008http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17515&id=13661-2999727-vkoPlVx&t=1
3. "Sarah Palin, Buchananite," The Nation, August 29, 2008http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17736&id=13661-2999727-vkoPlVx&t=2
4. "'Creation science' enters the race," Anchorage Daily News, October 27, 2006http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17737&id=13661-2999727-vkoPlVx&t=3
5. "Palin buys climate denial PR spin-ignores science," Huffington Post, August 29, 2008http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17517&id=13661-2999727-vkoPlVx&t=4
6. "McCain VP Pick Completes Shift to Bush Energy Policy," Sierra Club, August 29, 2008http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17518&id=13661-2999727-vkoPlVx&t=5
"Choice of Palin Promises Failed Energy Policies of the Past," League of Conservation Voters, August 29, 2008http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17519&id=13661-2999727-vkoPlVx&t=6
"Protecting polar bears gets in way of drilling for oil, says governor," The Times of London, May 23, 2008http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17520&id=13661-2999727-vkoPlVx&t=7
7 "McCain met Palin once before yesterday," MSNBC, August 29, 2008http://www.moveon.org/r?r=21119&id=13661-2999727-vkoPlVx&t=8

Saturday, August 30, 2008

It Is Indeed, A New Day

I knew I couldn’t totally drop politics; they’ve become too much a part of my life these days as I suspect they have for many others, black and white. It is so exciting being on the brink of a brand new day in our country and I have to write about it, to acknowledge, to celebrate, the huge step forward that we have finally taken. I have been so moved by the comments I have read in numerous articles regarding the feelings of black Americans about Barack Obama, his candidacy and the new hope for their future – the future for all of us really because this is a change that has finally come after well over a hundred years; even longer if you go back to the beginning of slavery in this country. And it is a change for the rest of us as well, a change we, too, can be proud of, excited about because we, too, have had a part in making this happen. I’m ready to celebrate that fact!

Bob Herbert of the New York Times spoke to a number of black people in Detroit, Michigan and as he says, it was finally time to pop the cork of that bottle of champagne that has been on ice for so long. It’s hard for many of them to talk about it without tears, an emotional rush. He says that again and again he heard from people the sense of joy and triumph that has helped to redeem at least some of the disappointments and grief of so many years of racial humiliation and oppression. The horrors of lynching and the fear blacks have felt with good cause for so many, many years. And what relief there has to be for those who are old enough to remember all too vividly the horror of those times. As one elderly woman told Mr. Herbert when he mentioned that the weather had cleared up, she told him, “God wouldn’t let it rain on a moment like this.”

These are the people that are beginning, at last, to talk about what this really means to those who for so long, couldn’t eat in the same restaurants as whites, work at the same jobs, had separate restrooms, sat at the back of the bus, were abused mentally, emotionally, physically; those who have memories of friends and families who were lynched or tortured for no other reason that the color of their skin.

These things affect me deeply because, as most of you who have read my posts recently know, I married a black man – not because I was trying to make a statement about anything, but because I loved him and I couldn’t then or now even imagine color as a reason to see anyone as different from myself. I will remember as long as I live the day a little boy on the playground whose father had pointed to my daughter as her Dad walked her to school one day and told him she was a “nigger”. Later that day he approached her on the playground and he asked if she knew that she was a “nigger”. She told me about it later, patting my hand and assuring me that, “It’s okay, he’s just ignorant, Mom”. She was seven years old.

I do have to say that was one of the very few such incidents, most people never thought about what color my kids were, primarily because we raised them in Montana – it was okay to be Black in Montana, just not Native American. Prejudice can happen to people anywhere and for many different reasons – all of which are invalid because we are first and foremost and only, human beings regardless of color, gender, nationality. We walk on two legs and put our pants on the same way.

Maybe, just maybe Obama’s being elected in this country is one giant step for all of us in recognizing, accepting, rejoicing and celebrating our differences instead of pointing to them as something undesirable or to be feared. I do so hope that is the message Obama’s success is sending to the people of this country and around the world.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Time for a Break

The convention is over, Obama's incredible speech finished out a convention of memorable speeches; nearly 40 million people watched that speech on TV, not to mention a packed Mile High Stadium. I'm just about burned out, at least temporarily, and would like very much to think about other things this long holiday weekend as we head into fall. I surely don't want to write or even think about McCain or his new running mate other than to say that I most certainly am not impressed!

The days are getting shorter and while our temperature here is not that much different than it’s been all summer; there is that unmistakable feeling in the air. School will be starting soon and I'll be returning to the Jump Start Program for pre-school children where I volunteer one of day a week. The school is close to our house and I do enjoy it. I'm kind of the "reading granny" and the kids love it! It's a comfort moment in a lot of ways for both me and the kids. In so many families these days both parents have full time jobs and there isn’t always a lot of time or energy by the end of the day to spend much time reading to their children. And kids miss that. I remember how mine loved being read to as they snuggled down in their beds for the night. Their Dad would read to the boys one night and I’d read to the girls and then the next night we would switch. It was a time we all looked forward to and enjoyed. So it’s fun being able to do that for these little guys that are too young to go into kindergarten, but are indeed, getting a “jump start”.

I’m ready to focus on and think about things other than politics for a while – they’ve gotten to be just a bit nerve wracking and I recognize I’m the one that lets that happen. But it’s hard not to when you feel so passionately about the road that this country takes for the next four, eight years. So, I’m turning the TV off for the long weekend, I’m going to start putting a reading list together for the coming months, I’m going to cook some of my son’s favorites and we have a party scheduled for Monday with several of our neighbors and those are always fun. We do a lot of things with them; camping trips in the summer, cook outs and in the fall we get together to watch football games – everyone here are big Seahawk fans.

I’m certain that as November draws closer, I’ll end up back in front of the TV, biting my nails, mumbling under my breath as I watch the debates and the final push. But for now I’m just going to enjoy some down time, some good music, some good books and writing about the fun things in my life instead of politics. Now all I have to do is figure out just how to do all that without cheating!

The Problem That Doesn’t Exist – According to Republicans

I was still feeling the glow this morning from the powerful and moving speeches made at the Democratic Convention and as I read Paul Krugman’s column in the New York Times I saw that I wasn’t alone. They were all eloquent and moving and inspiring. They may not fix our many problems, but they most certainly spelled them out in detail – Americans are and have been getting a raw deal, a belief that is continually pooh-poohed by the Republicans who just can’t seem to understand what people are complaining about. But according to Krugman, the numbers support the Democrats. I’m glad to know that someone who knows far more than me sees the same dismal picture of the economic status of American families. The numbers were bad in 2007 and there seems to be little doubt that the numbers will be even worse in 2008.

And yet John McCain and the Republicans keep trying to assure us all that there is no problem.

Krugman suggests we take a look at John Goodman, a key figure in Republican health care circles, who explains that we shouldn’t worry about the growing number of Americans without health insurance, because no one is really uninsured – all you have to do is go to the emergency room, you can always get treatment there. George Bush echoed the same thought. That must explain why emergency rooms are continually overflowing, that people are waiting hours to be seen. There have even been deaths of people in the emergency waiting rooms because they were unable to be seen by a doctor due to the number of people ahead of them. And, Krugman writes, John Goodman wants the next president to issue an executive order prohibiting the Census Bureau from classifying anyone as uninsured! Yep, that should take care of the problem.

Health care, rather the lack of it, is a major problem in this country which is outrageous for the most powerful country in the world – at least we’re still considered that for now. And while the Democratic leaders – in Clinton’s words “feel our pain”, the Republicans, just sniff and shake their heads – they quite obviously do not. And, as Krugman says, “it’s hard to fix a problem if you don’t even think that it exists”. After all didn’t Phil Gramm describe us as a “nation of whiners”?

This country had better wake up and soon – it is time for a new day in politics and four more years of Republicans is no where near a new day of any kind.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Perhaps There Will be a New Day

I didn’t want the media telling me how I should feel, I didn’t want them explaining every nuance, I didn’t want them looking behind, above, below, dissecting every statement made by Obama as well as the other speakers, so I watched C-Span and it was great! You couldn’t help but feel the excitement; there was so much of it in the air, on the faces in the crowd. There was hope you could feel as it seemed to rise from the crowd. There were tears, but they were of joy and enthusiasm and excitement. And there were tears in my eyes as well and a smile on my lips.

I don’t know what comes next, I don’t know what will happen in the next few months, I don’t know what the end result will be, but I know that I have hope for the first time in a number of years. I’ll take that.

We have the opportunity to take back our country, to return to values that have been lost or shuffled out of sight. I hate to see the doubt and skepticism, that jaded outlook that says nothing can be this good and last, that it’s all just another show. But those negative views are out there as well as the hope and enthusiasm and I can’t do anything about that. What I do know is that they won’t influence or change or negate my belief that, YES, WE CAN!

Chardonnay or Beer?

That seems to be what the Presidential race has come down to in this country full of “bubbas”. I do feel better about the race as the convention winds down and I do think there has been more positive than negative, but again the “bubba” mentality doesn’t seem to have evaporated as it should have. I know, I know, I’ve been told by more than one not to “should” on anything, but there are times when it is called for and this is definitely one of them!

A major part of this country is desperate and cries for reform and change and yet when someone who has managed to pull himself up, educate himself and pay for it the same way most of us have to do, he’s called an elitist! He has a mixed heritage? So what? Most of us do. He started with so little and has achieved so much, as has Joe Biden, but if we all had the same dream and the same determination perhaps we could have done the same things. Are we so small minded and bigoted that we’re automatically suspicious when anyone, in spite of a background so like our own, climbs up the hill and urges us to come see what we can achieve with him? If this is the case – and I hope it isn’t – then we’re in deep trouble. If this is the case, what are we saying to our children and grandchildren?

Forty-five years ago today, Martin Luther King “had a dream”, we all have dreams, but how many of us prefer to sit on our butts and whine rather than work to make that dream a reality? How many of us fret and worry about a “funny name”, the color of skin, rather than see the dream and be willing to work for the chance to make it a reality for all of us?

These are the questions that I’m still asking. And they are the questions that I still don’t have answers for. The next few months will say a lot about this country, about each one of us. I hope when November arrives we’ll see this country wake up and push past the stupid questions, but right now McBushCain has narrowed Obama’s lead. Our country is deep into economic depression, deeper into two wars and weary of Republican fear-mongering.

So, what will it be in November? It’s up to each of us. What do you want for yourself and your family? It’s up to each of us. Tired of the same old politics? Then put up or shut up because this may be the last chance you get to bring about real change. Stop worrying about the fact someone says “isn’t right” instead of “ain’t right”. Take a sip of Chardonnay, it may taste funny, but it can give you the same glow as a sip of beer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Feel Good Evening

And it was – even though I rarely say that about anything political these days. But Hillary came through last night with her speech and tonight when the vote counting was underway and she made her move. Then Bill did what he does best and looked like the man that I use to admire, but had gotten so fed up with during the campaign. Joe Biden a little less fiery than his usual self, but then he didn’t have his own speech writer for this one; still he came across just fine and did hammer McCain. Then there was Obama’s surprise appearance at the very end. I think there was the feeling of hope and excitement, and maybe for the first time a sense of unity – at last!

I’ll still probably be holding my breath for the next couple of months and crossing everything – even though it will be a little hard to walk that way, I’m willing to do whatever I can to help this country pull itself out of the muck of the past eight years. I had such a good feeling when I finally turned the TV off!

So a day that started out a little gray and gloomy, suddenly changed this afternoon when the sun came out, the clouds went away and it was warm and my spirits lifted to the point I was ready to get back to the politics of the day.

I want so much to see this country return to the values that have made us who we are, that have always carried us through the bad times and I believe that we can do it. But there’s a lot of work that has to be done. Tonight, for the first time in eight years, I could feel the rekindling of hope and excitement and I found myself whispering to whoever is out there, don’t let us lose this – don’t let us lose all these good and positive feelings that you could see and feel just watching people’s faces. There were tears and laughter and most of all hope.

I hope the sun has truly come out for our country this time.

Eagles Fishing

These pictures were taken near where my daughter
lives in northern California.
They are such magnificent birds and the pictures
are so great
I had to share them.



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Reflections of the Day

This is the second year that we’ve basically had no summer in Seattle and there was a time when I was still living in Texas that I would have wondered how anyone could think that was bad! I’m not a lover of hot weather, but when it is sunny and warm here it makes you think you’ve died and gone to heaven! It rarely gets beyond the mid 80s during any summer here and when the sky is blue or even with a few big, puffy white clouds, the sun glittering on the blue water of the Sound, it can and does take my breath away. We’ve had a few of those days and the one on my birthday was just one more reason it was such an extraordinary day. But that series of a few gorgeous days seems to have been it for this summer. We’re doing good to get out of the 60s lately; the sun peeks out – maybe for an hour or so and then slips away to shine on some other more fortunate place.

So, I find myself thinking that maybe the weather the past few years with extremes in cold and heat and storms and floods, hurricanes and tornados, is but a reflection of the stormy and destructive time that we are living in, not just in Washington, not just in the United States, but in the world. Is the world trying to warn us of where we’re headed if we don’t get our act cleaned up – literally?

I’ve been watching the convention and while there have been some great and uplifting moments; the disgusting behavior of so many Clinton supporters makes me grateful for the mute button! And just how well do they think they’re going to fare in a country run by John Bush-McCain? Are there actually that many women -- and men who are really that stupid? What a scary thought! I thought she made a great speech last night, but I'm afraid that rather than convincing her followers to vote for Obama, it just made them more determined to vote for McCain, anything to punish Obama for winning the nomination. That thought is even more depressing than the weather.

So, as I looked out my window at another gray and chilly day, I decided to not even turn the TV on today. I’ve dug out some favorite music, found a couple of books that I haven’t read and today I’m going to hide from the world, reality and politics and find another place for my mind to hide out and search for a more peaceful place.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Personal Look at Color

Even growing up in Texas I never saw skin color, not as a child or a teenager in the 50s. I was aware that blacks lived in their own section of town, they couldn’t eat in restaurants around town and they certainly didn’t go to school with me and my friends. But my family owned a restaurant and while blacks couldn’t eat there, they could work there and serve other blacks on a porch off the kitchen. However, when we had parties at Christmas for the employees, it was for all of the employees , we locked the front door of the restaurant and the cooks and dishwashers (they were people, not machines in those days), came out front and we all sat together and ate goodies, exchanged gifts and laughed together.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I went to college for two years, couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with my life, so I left college and went to work. One of those jobs was for a photographer. His assistant was a black man who had a Master’s Degree in Literature, but his job as a white business owner’s assistant was still a step up in those days. We became very good friends and caused a lot of head turning when we walked down the street together, laughing and talking on our way to the bus stop – it probably was a good thing we took different buses because we couldn’t sit together. I never understood prejudice – not then and certainly not now.

In the early 60s I had decided that I wanted to teach school and returned to college. I worked part time for the first six months and shared a house with a good friend of mine. She was from Germany and was a fencer and one weekend she invited me to a fencing tournament that was being held in Dallas. It was there that I met my future husband. He was a member of the Modern Pentathlon Team. It was an Olympic sport primarily designed for those in the military and he was stationed in San Antonio, the team had come to Dallas for the competition. And he was black.

At the time he was dating my housemate from Germany who was white, so when I say they dated that meant that he came to our house for an evening. They couldn’t go anywhere together, so they’d either have dinner at home or they would go to a drive-in and hope no one called the police. After the competition was over and he returned to San Antonio, they would talk on the phone and he would occasionally drive up to Dallas for a weekend. It didn’t take long for this to get really old for both of them and they finally stopped seeing each other.

But he and I continued to talk and to correspond after I returned to college full time and eventually we began to travel back and forth between my university town of Denton and San Antonio. We could go places on the base at Fort Sam Houston.

I graduated from the university two years later and accepted a teaching job in San Antonio at a Catholic girl’s school. We were still limited to dining or going to movies on the base or eating at my apartment or to parties given by local friends and that kept us busy. We occasionally thumbed our noses at society in general by eating at drive-in or going to a drive-in movie. We still turned lots of heads although it was mainly because people weren’t totally sure just what he was – he had almost as mixed a heritage as I did and wasn’t your “ordinary black man”, whatever that means.

He went to the Olympics the next year and when he returned a Silver Medalist, I had a celebration at my apartment and invited all my students. Oh, my, what a fan club they were! I nearly choked with laughter when I overheard two of them talking and giggling talking about how handsome he was and “didn’t he have the greatest tan”! It just never occurred to them that he could be black.

We married soon after that. My parents loved him in spite of a few relatives that refused to have me in their homes anymore. They came to California for our wedding – we couldn’t get married in Texas because it was still against the law at the time. But I walked down the aisle on my father’s arm in a beautiful wedding gown with my head held high and one big smile on my face.

Over the next five years we had four children who got progressively lighter skinned – to the point that to this day no one knows what their heritage is although they’ve never made any attempt to hide their background and they are, and always have been, outrageously proud of their father, as they should be.

We were married for over twenty years, we eventually did get a divorce, but it had nothing to do with race or color – that was easy to deal with, the old hurts and pain from earlier times, with parents and situations neither of us had any control over had left both of us damaged emotionally. But we have remained good friends and have stayed in touch over the years. The children feel very comfortable with both of us and we do all get together now and then.

I have no regrets nor do I think he has. He was a wonderful father and friend. It’s not about color, it’s about being a human being – we don’t all have the same color of eyes or hair so what’s the big thing about the color of ones skin? I didn’t understand it when I was a child and I don’t understand it today.

I’m not voting for Obama because he’s black, but because he has a vision for this country at a time when we desperately need a new vision. Isn’t it time that we put the color of a person’s skin in the same category as having different color eyes or hair? Isn’t it time we look beyond such small, petty and ridiculous reasons and look at the person within? I want desperately to believe that time has come for most of us and I desperately hope that I am right.

Stormy Beauty

These were taken from my son's back yard in Texas. They bring home the beauty that surrounds all of us each day if we
take the time to look for it.
There truly is more to the world than politics and violence and war, but these
days we do have to make time to look for it.
It's worth the effort!



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Monday, August 25, 2008

All I Can Say is WOW!

I just watched first Ted Kennedy and then Michelle Obama speak at the Democratic Convention and I feel such an intense sense of pride, of compassion, of hope and of excitement -- more than I have felt in many years where the politics of this country are concerned, of course, but also for the hopes and the dreams that many of us have for the future. The future of not only our country, but our families, our children and grandchildren. Over the past fifteen years or so, but particularly the past eight, I had pretty much lost faith in our government. I've wondered where we were headed and I didn't like the prospects as I saw them. It still isn't a given that even an Obama administration can put us back on track, but at least I can see that glimmer of hope, that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

I think that tonight I shall sleep very well.

A Long Way Traveled and A Long Way to Go

As I was reading an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times this morning by Roger Cohen, I was struck by both how far we’ve come and yet how far we have to go regarding race in our country.

Cohen tells of being in Elmina, Ghana and of seeing the castle there where slaves who had been forced marched from the African interior, were held in dungeons until their passage through the “Door of No Return” onto the ships that would carry them to the new world.

He reminds us that this trade was continued and overseen by pious Europeans who prayed to their God as they trafficked in black serfs for whom the Americas held no promise, only servitude.

Ghana is a long way from our shores, that time so long ago is hard for us to grasp and it is hard for us to relate to those departure points for millions of enslaved Africans to the plantations of Louisiana or to America’s original sin, slavery, as Obama has rightly called it.

Cohen says that a link between them must be made; that more “American kids should be wrested from their computers and ushered at an impressionable age to that faraway place, where they might gaze through that one-way exit at a heaving sea”.

Perhaps that would help them better understand acts and their consequences, not just a bloody civil war, but they might better see the world’s connectedness. They might be better able to grasp the distance between words and deeds, as in “how far the founding fathers were in 1787 from securing “the blessings of liberty” for one and all”.

And the spreading of those blessings has taken a bloody civil war, civil disobedience, court fights, death and injuries to so many, so it’s no wonder that people around the world are asking if America is really ready to elect a black man.

It has, indeed, already been a very long campaign and the ugliness is everywhere as Republicans, desperate to retain their strangle hold on our country, are willing to do and are doing whatever it takes to win and damn the means. An Italian once said that power wears out those who don’t have it. How true that is! But whatever uplifting moments there have been in this campaign have come from Obama.

Obama has painted a stark but clear picture of our country that is polarized by underperforming schools, health care of a rich-takes-it-all culture at odds with the country’s founding promise to “promote the general welfare”. I feel he spoke to black as well as white when, in a Father’s Day speech said, “that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child, it’s the courage to raise one”. I realize that more than half of black children live in single parent households, but I’d be curious these days to know what the statistics are in white households as well.

Obama said he had chosen to run “because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes”.

That is and has been the basic story of this country from the very beginning, I can only hope and, yes, pray that our country will choose to take the high road during this election, to move past the nasty politics, the lies, the outrageous behavior of radio commentators – and I’m sure you know of whom I speak. The uplifting moments of this campaign has come from Obama who offers us a new dream, a new hope for our future and for the future of our country, for the future of our children. Please, don’t let this opportunity be crushed; because if it is, I’m not sure how long or even if, we can recover, certainly not within my lifetime. More importantly, however, is bringing new hope, new dreams, new possibilities for all of our children and theirs.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Questions for Our Country

Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd, both with the New York Times, had serious and valid questions for the people of this country today. We would do well to listen and we’d better start searching for answers before November if we want to take this country in a different direction.

I’ll start with Dowd: “While McCain’s experience was heroic, did it create a worldview incapable of anticipating the limits to U.S. military power in Iraq? Did he fail to absorb the lessons of Vietnam, so that he is doomed to always want to refight it? Did his captivity inform a search-and-destroy, shoot-first-ask-questions-later, “We are all Georgians,” mentality?”

Rich asks this: “Is a man who is just discovering the Internet qualified to lead a restoration of America’s economic and educational infrastructures? Is the leader of a virtually all-white political party America’s best salesman and moral avatar in the age of globalization? Does a bellicose Vietnam veteran who rushed to hitch his star to the self-immolating overreaches of Ahmad Chalabi, Pervez Musharraf and Mikheil Saakashvili have the judgment to keep America safe?"

Maybe Rich is right, maybe it’s time to bury “Change We Can Believe In”, because zero hour is indeed here and as this presidential race finally gains the country’s full attention, the strategy that vanquished Hillary Clinton must be rebooted to take out John McCain.

The press has not been Obama’s friend, not with 28 percent positive and 72 percent negative and that in spite of McCain’s blatant confusions, memory lapses and outright lies that still barely cause a ripple, lies that include falsifying crucial details of his marital history in his memoirs, as The LA Times uncovered in court records last month.

What does it take for this country to wake up? Change? Yes, we desperately need change. The fierce urgency of the 21st century demands not just “Change We Can Believe In”, but “Change Before It’s Too Late”.

What does it take for us to get past the pouting and sulking of Hillary’s followers? No one is disputing McCain’s courage during the Vietnam War, but people, that was forty years ago! Just how long is McCain going to ride that horse? And what does it have to do with the world we live in now? Other than plant the seeds of fear that causes us to see enemies everywhere? If we don’t take care of our own country now, it truly is going to be too late for “change” of any kind.

Summers in Hico

In case you’re wondering, Hico is a very small town in Hamilton County, Texas. It was founded in 1856. According to early day reports, by 1907, more cotton was bought right off wagons on the main street than in any town in the world. But I digress, my grandparents lived in Hico for many, many years and as a child I spent much time there. There were some Christmases with the entire family of aunts and uncles and cousins. I always loved those holidays because my grandparent’s house had a fireplace! I knew for sure that Santa Claus couldn’t miss that and I was confident there would be even more presents that year.

But the most vivid memories are the summers that I spent there with my cousin, Jane Ann, who was a couple of years younger, but who shared the same love of paper dolls that I did. Now back then you didn’t buy paper dolls at a toy store, you cut them out of pattern books that you could find in the fabric section of what passed for department stores in those days.

Hico was a very small town and our grandparent’s big, old house was close enough for us to be able to walk to town. Within a day or two of our arrival, Jane Ann and I would walk downtown, first to the post office to visit with Thoma, a lovely lady who worked there and who took the mail from our grandparent’s mail box for us. She nearly always had a treat for us as well. Our main goal, however, was the store where we knew there might be an extra pattern book or two from the past month that one of the clerks would have kept under the counter just for the likes of us – our grandmother kept them informed of our visits. But before we carried the heavy pattern books home, we stopped by the local drug store to have an ice cream cone, it was always fun to climb up on the tall stools at the counter and watch the man who worked there load up the cones with, what we were sure was the best ice cream in the world. Then, with ice cream smeared faces, we would head for Mama’s house with the pattern book. And if we were lucky we might even be able to find a wallpaper sample book that we liked to have to make furniture for the paper dolls.

We would spend days, cutting out dozens of ladies and men and children from the pattern book. We always had large families – Jane Ann had an older brother, but I was an only child. I wanted lots of children in my paper family – I carried that desire on to my real family many years later.

We played for hours on the floor of living room there in my grandparent’s house. Sometimes we argued over who was to get a particular paper doll and sometimes those arguments resulted in tears. I do remember one summer when I finally succeeded in getting a prized paper doll much to the disappointment of Jane Ann. Later that year when I learned that she had injured her arm, I felt so badly that I had my mother put the disputed paper doll in an envelope and send it to Jane Ann.

The memories of those summers still play out quite vividly in my mind. The sound of the crickets and the birds in the trees that surrounded the house and could be heard so clearly as we lay in our beds on the screened in sleeping porch. I can clearly remember watching my Grandfather milking the cow in the evenings; running up and down along the fence to the small pasture playing with the young calf, poking grass through the wire for him to wrap his long tongue around.

Lovely memories, made even more dear since I was able to reconnect with, not only Jane Ann, but four of my cousins, their husbands and wife. They came to Dallas where I was visiting my oldest son, David. I hadn’t seen most of them in over thirty years and it was the most fun ever. We met at David’s new house – so new that there was no furniture to speak of and they all brought lawn chairs and we sat around his big empty den and laughed and remembered and ate pizza. Those are very poignant memories for me these days because the husband of my cousin, Laura, died this past year of cancer and Jane Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year.

How blessed we all are to have beautiful and happy memories!


The old black and white photo is my grandparents and their five children.
The next is of the house today with the families of the original five, well, without me. We had been out of touch when this was taken. The last photo is a corner on the main street in Hico.


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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Today or Yesterday?

I’ve had a number of people ask me why don’t I write more about my childhood or even my kid’s childhood and I don’t always know how to answer them. There are times when I really do enjoy looking back and have written several posts about what it was like when I was a little girl, young girl or when my kids were little. It was fun, but the truth is I don’t really have that much interest in what happened “then” as I do what is happening “now”. I have always loved “today” and the challenge to make certain that it will be one of those days that you will enjoy looking back on – a little further down the line.

There are a lot of things in the “now” that I’m not wild about, such as our economy, the disarray – for want of a better word – that our country is in, the war in Iraq, the price of food, gasoline, our infrastructure, just to name a few. But I am a firm believer that the state of our own world here and now is ours to live, to change, to share.

It seems to me that as I sit trying to find that whisper of beauty, that flash of excitement that could inspire me to write, to share, that it comes to me in many different forms. Some of them are from yesterday, but my childhood was not that happy most of the time and I don’t find a lot of joy or interest in revisiting very much of it. The memories from the time during my marriage when my kids were growing up are mostly fun – fun to look back on, fun to reflect on, and fun to write about.

But then there is the “now”! I don’t guess anything is totally perfect, but to my way of thinking what I have now is about as close as it gets – at least personally. That doesn’t mean that I don’t complain about the aches and pains that go with being seventy five, and that I don’t rant and rave about the politics, George Bush and Dick Cheney etc. etc. But there is so much more to my life these days than those things. It is the peace, the gratitude and the joy I feel in those quiet moments, of watching a sunset, having a clear night when you can see the moon, the blue sky --precious after weeks of rain and clouds, the beautiful, colorful explosion of flowers and luxuriant plants that are everywhere here in the northwest. The sight of the water and Puget Sound from the seaplane on my birthday. Fixing something special now and then for my son and seeing his face light up with pleasure. Then there's playing with the dogs, always fun. Ah, and then there is the technology! Computers! Blogging! Being able to stay in such close touch with friends and family all across the country! And there is the pleasure of being able to reconnect recently with members of my family that I hadn’t seen or talked to in nearly forty years! Today, the now is a great time to be alive and there is so much to explore, to learn and to write about!

So, yes, I do look back now and then – in fact my next post will be about the summers that me and one of my cousins spent at our grandparent’s house and how much fun it was. But would I trade today for yesterday? My answer is no, it's taken some time, but I've finally learned to find joy in the present moment and feel no need to always be looking backward in time to find pleasure in the past. There were great moments back then, but there are great moments now and there's no reason not to be able to enjoy them both equally.

Balance

The Democratic ticket now has the balance that it has almost desperately needed and I want to thank whomever, whether Obama himself or his vetting committee for the choice he has made. I’ve always seen Obama as the dreamer, the visionary with youthful energy who can and has inspired us to reach for the higher goals. But those qualities, as admirable and desirable as they are, aren’t enough and, unfortunately he has come across as an elitist. I, personally, don’t believe that is the case, but for many it is and what they want is someone down to earth who can see and feel their own pain. I believe those people can more easily relate to Joe Biden.

Joe Biden isn’t perfect. He has a big mouth and he has said some really dumb things – and who of us hasn’t done that? But, as David Brooks of the New York Times said in his Op-Ed piece yesterday, “voters are smart enough to forgive the genuine flaws of genuine people. And over the long haul, Biden provides what Obama needs.”

Biden has working-class roots with a fierce working class-pride – no one is better than anyone else. He has maintained an unpretentious manner even after serving decades in the world’s most pompous workplace, according to Brooks. Obama has had trouble connecting with working-class voters, particularly Catholics – Joe Biden is Catholic and would be Obama’s bridge. And Biden is loyal, another thing all presidents need, not just Obama.

And, according to Brooks, Biden’s truly outstanding feature is that he’s direct and no matter who you are he will tell you exactly what he thinks and he will do it over and over and over. Presidents need someone who will be relentlessly direct. Obama, who attracts worshippers, not just staff members, needs that more than most.

New administrations sport a lot of the young and the arrogant and, as Brooks continues, they can benefit from the presence of those who have been through the worst and have a tinge of perspective. There will be those moments when a president goes into the cabinet room and announces a decision that nearly everyone else on his team disagrees with. That’s when he needs a vice president who will provide absolute support. That kind of loyalty comes easiest to people who have been down themselves and who had to rely on others in their own moment of need. Biden certainly has that quality to offer. He had a severe stutter as a child and was ridiculed by teachers and peers, he lost his wife, Neilia and daughter, Naomi in a car crash. And he nearly died of a brain aneurism.

While Obama’s vision is inspiring and romantic, McCain’s is more realistic to many. Obama needed someone with the kind of legislative knowledge who can bring the senate together.

Brooks could only hope that Obama was wise and self-aware enough to know what he really needed and apparently he is.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

American Myths and Illusions

This morning I was reading a transcript of a recent Bill Moyers Journal and his guest was author Andrew J. Bacevich, the author of several acclaimed books and his latest is “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism”. I was a little curious because he begins with a quote from the Bible, the Book of Second Kings, chapter 20, verse one. “Set thine house in order.” I’m not happy about the mixing up of politics and religion that seems to be quite prevalent with Republicans and the Moral Majority – although that does seem a misnomer to me, so I felt the need to find out what he was referring to and why. Apparently, Moyer had the same question – not necessarily for the same reasons, but he did ask him, “How come the admonition?”

Bacevich, said he has been troubled by the course of our foreign policy for a very long time and that the book had been his way of sorting out the problems as he saw them. His conclusion was that our biggest problems are within.

He said, “I think there’s a tendency on the part of policy makers and probably a tendency on the part of many Americans to think that the problems we face are problems that are out there somewhere, beyond our borders. And that if we can fix those problems, then we’ll be able to continue the American way of life as it has long existed. I think that is fundamentally wrong. Our major problems are at home.”

I thought about that for a while and finally had to admit that I felt he was right. I mean I have felt that many of our problems have gotten worse over the last eight years of Bush/Cheney politics, but the more I read, the more I realized that a lot of the problems have been growing steadily for much longer than eight years.

Another thing he said in the book was; “the pursuit of freedom, as defined in an age of consumerism, has introduced a condition of dependence on imported goods, on imported oil, and on credit. The chief desire of the American people is that nothing should disrupt their access to these goods, that oil, and that credit. The chief aim of the U.S. government is to satisfy that desire, which it does in part of through the distribution of largesse here at home, and in part through the pursuit of imperial ambitions abroad.” Or in other words our foreign policy is the result of a dependence on consumer goods and credit. This may be a little hard line, but I’m afraid it’s a lot closer to the truth than anyone in this country really wants to admit to.

He feels that, “what will not go away, is a yawning disparity between what Americans expect and what they’re willing or able to pay and that one of the ways we avoid confronting our refusal to balance the books is to rely increasingly on the projection of American military power around the world to try to maintain this dysfunctional system, or set of arrangements that have evolved over the last 30 to 40 years. But it’s not the American people in general who are deploying around the world. It is a very specific subset of our people, this professional army. We like to call it an all-volunteer force.”

The more I read, the more depressed I found myself feeling because there was a lot of truth in what he was saying, but at the same time I felt a degree of bitterness and anger. He served in Vietnam and his son was killed in Iraq, he has reasons to feel bitterness and anger. But strangely enough he seems to feel that in the end Iraq may prove to be the source of our salvation as a country because he hopes that in the end it will cause us to ask serious questions about just where this war came from, what has been the cost, where is the money coming from and how else could it have been spent? And for what? Who bears the burden? It was a fundamental mistake. It never should have been undertaken and hopefully we will be able to see ourselves in the mirror and see what we have become. And perhaps we can undertake an effort to make those changes in the American way of life that will enable us to preserve for future generations that which we value most about the American way of life. Suddenly, his biblical quote made sense to me.

I can only hope if we do indeed set our house in order our children can have a better future.

A Beautiful Way to Make Your Day

Take a few minutes for this. It's one of those priceless reminders of just how much each of us has at our fingertips, not only joy but gratitude for the things we so often take for granted, for the people in our lives, the things that are at our fingertips each day if we are willing to grasp them.

Life is worth the journey...though sometimes it takes a while to find the way. Feel the joy!! It's simple...and these great people point the way. I know you'll recognize the names!!!

www.findingjoymovie.com/

More Big Horn Sheep


DSC00939
Originally uploaded by sylvia.kirkwood

I do wish I could have gotten closer, but rules are rules and you don't want to frighten them so I stayed on the tram with my arms and hands inside.

Mama Buffalo and Baby


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Originally uploaded by sylvia.kirkwood

Plus a few other old species on the tram.

How About Those Horns?


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Originally uploaded by sylvia.kirkwood

Quite a hat this guy's sporting, huh?

Female Elk


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Originally uploaded by sylvia.kirkwood

It was interesting to watch them as the tram moved past, it was obviously nothing new to them and they barely looked up.

Big Horn Sheep


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Originally uploaded by sylvia.kirkwood

Relaxing among the stumps.

Relaxing Buffalo


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Originally uploaded by sylvia.kirkwood

The trip to the Northwest Trek yesterday was lovely, in spite of rain most of the day! I wasn't sure how well my photos would turn out because I had never used my son's digital camera for one thing, as I said, it was gray, the tram we were on doesn't stop because that frightens the animals and you have to keep your arms and hands inside, not be pointing and waving or poking your camera in their face. But you can still take pictures and I did. This guy was just lying near the tram track, observing the visitors with a bored expression.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Remarkable Centenarian

When I lived in Portland, Oregon I took a water aerobics class at a local pool three days a week. They kept the water very warm – 87 degrees, we had terrific instructors and it gave me a “feel good” feeling knowing that I was doing something that was truly good for me. There were lots of people attending the class some younger and some older than I am, but the most remarkable person I met there was a man by the name of Bill Schultz. He was quite tall, white-haired – a nice looking man, but the thing that amazed me was the fact that, unlike most of us who climbed down the stairs into the pool, Bill dived in and swam the back stroke back and forth across the pool for nearly a half hour. So what is so amazing about that? Bill Schultz turned 100 on August 16 of this year!

But Bill has always dived into life. As a teenager in the 1920s, he taught himself mountain climbing and skiing. He canoed and camped across Canada before vans and jeeps made it convenient. On his 50th wedding anniversary, he and his wife, Rose, bicycled the Northwest Coast. He had met his schoolteacher wife, Rose in a Portland ice cream parlor. They were married for 63 years, until her death in 2001. Bill still takes care of their three acre farm where he raises sheep and collects eggs from his chickens -- most of those he gives to friends at the Harmon Pool.

This past week he celebrated the number 100 by swimming with friends at the Harmon Swim Center in Beaverton, ate some cake and ice cream, then drove his ’68 Mustang home for a backyard barbecue with many well wishers. He has been asked many times what’s his secret for living a long life and his answer is always the same, “Breathe in and breathe out”. Bill is considered a celebrity at the pool where he swims three times a week and is known for a happy-go-lucky, easygoing nature.

Bill was born August 16, 1908, in Prosser, Washington, the year William Howard Taft was elected president, the first Model T Ford rolled off the assembly line and Mother’s Day was observed for the first time. And what is his advice for a long life – ‘eat better, keep a sense of humor’. It would seem to have worked for him, that’s for sure.

I’m happy that I had the chance to meet Bill, he is most definitely a remarkable man and I want to send him my very best wishes for many more years. He is an inspiration to all that know him.

If you would like to see more about Bill, check out the video about him at www.blog.oregonlive.com/multimedia and look for “Life is going swimmingly for Bill Schultz”.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

There is Always Beauty


PAAVANJ-JUNAGADH-NATURE PHOTO
Originally uploaded by PAAVANJ

But sometimes you just have to look for it a little harder than usual and lately I've been doing a lot of that. Today with the politics, the economy, the price of gasoline, food, the anger you see everywhere, the rather sad state of the world in general, it seems to me that it is all the more important for us to find and hold on to the precious things around us -- family and friends and the beauty that is everywhere. Those are the things that are important and recognizing that can make all the difference in our daily lives.

I was going to write tonight about John McCain likening himself to Teddy Roosevelt and that is such a crock, Teddy Roosevelt could have easily been more like a Democrat than John McCain could be like him. And, as you can see, my hackles are already up in spite of all those soothing words I was using in the last paragraph! So, when it comes out, check out Douglas Brinkley's biography, "The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America". According to Mr. Brinkley, Roosevelt would be on the left side of politics were he here today. So much for John McCain!

As for me, I'm going in search of some of that beauty I was describing at the beginning of this post. Tomorrow I'm taking a day trip to a place called Northwest Trek. It is a 435 acre wild life preserve and there is a bus load of us going. Once there, we'll get on a tram that will take us all around the preserve and we will have lunch there as well. I know it will be easy to see and experience the beauty and I can't wait! Hopefully, tomorrow night I won't have to struggle to find beautiful things to write about. To see some for yourself, check out their website at http://www.nwtrek.org/

Star Pond,Butchart Gardens, Victoria, B.C.


Star Pond,Butchart Gardens, Victoria, B.C.
Originally uploaded by **Mary**

Another beautiful spot to visit in the northwest. It will take your breath away!

Monday, August 18, 2008

History, Learning and Adventure on the Road Make Great Memories

By late 1971 we had four children ages five, three, two and a half and six months and needless to say I had my hands full. Fortunately, they were all very good kids and well behaved. I had benefited from my years as a teacher and knew the rewards of discipline so I was a pretty strict mother – with that many, that close you’d better be strict or prepare to be bald at a very early age.

My husband was in the Air Force and was stationed at Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana. He got a month leave every year and while most of our neighbors took a week here and a week there during the year, my husband would save all of his until summer and then we’d travel for a month. We had purchased a small camping trailer a couple of years earlier and it had worked quite well, still, traveling with four kids in the back of a station wagon – even with a trailer was not conducive to making long trips. The following fall my husband took the trailer to Dallas and my father sold it for us.

Then just as we were beginning to wonder what our next travel solution might be, my father called to tell us about an ad that he had found in the Sunday Dallas Morning News and that he had checked out. It seems that an oil man in Dallas had purchased a brand new, large, customized Winnebago and had an employee deliver it to him from the Winnebago factory. He planned to use it as his office in the field. He had it two days and died of a heart attack. His family was all quite wealthy and no one was interested in having a Winnebago, they just wanted to settle his estate and move on. My father felt that the price they were asking was too unbelievable to pass up. We agreed and arranged for the loan at the bank and my father handled it from there. It was winter and we weren’t going to be able to travel for several months so my father and mother said that they would keep it at their house until spring, at which time they would drive it to Montana. It was the beginning of some wonderful times on the road and was the absolute perfect way to travel with the four kids and the dog and the cat! It had a full bedroom in the back, a bath with a shower, lots of storage room, a kitchen with stove, eye level oven and a fridge. The couch made a double bed; there was a double bunk over the driver and passenger seats. There was a comfortable chair in the living room area, a pull out dining table. It had a built in vacuum system and just in case traveling became a little too overwhelming, there was a built in liquor cabinet. Looking back in light of the motor homes they have today, it was crude at best, but back then it was a castle on the road!

As the children got older we decided to try and make our month long travels educational as well as fun. We thought with all the historical sites within easy traveling distance we could perhaps liven up history and help make it come alive for them. So, we chose sites and found books about them.

One of the most interesting trips was one in which we pretty much tried to follow the path of the Nez Perce Indians as they had tried so desperately to escape the military troops that were determined to either kill them or get them back onto the land that had been assigned to them in the Treaty of 1863. Nez Perce country in the Northwest included the territory where Washington, Oregon, and Idaho join together. But when the Treaty of 1863 decreased their lands to one-tenth its original size, some of the Nez Perce bands refused to agree and became known as “non-treaty” Nez Perce. Among them were Joseph and his band, located in the Wallowa Valley in Oregon. In 1877, a number of young warriors from Joseph’s band attacked settlements of people who had earlier killed members of their family. When the U.S. Army was sent to make a show of force, the Nez Perce drove them back, and the Nez Perce War of 1877 began.

Fearing retaliation, the non-treaty Nez Perce fled their homelands. They walked or rode and just kept moving in any way they could in order to reach safety. They initially hoped the Crow Indians, their hunting partners on the Plains, would give them shelter once they crossed the Rocky Mountains. When the Crows instead attacked them and stole horses, the last chance for the Nez Perce was flight into Canada where they might live with Sitting Bull’s Sioux.
Traveling over 1,500 miles, through what would become the four states of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and finally Montana, the fugitive Nez Perce kept moving – they were determined to reach safety for themselves and their families. Their long journey took them through the newly established Yellowstone National Park where they encountered several groups of tourists. The journey lasted more than three months, across mountains, rivers, and prairies.

When we finally reached the Bear Paw along the Montana Canadian border where the last battle was fought we were on that last leg of our trip. It was late and in the dark you could swear that you could hear the ghosts of those who had died there and wondered what Chief Joseph's thoughts were. At that time it was a very remote, rugged and somehow a sad place. Early the next morning we walked over the site, there are still holes to be seen where both soldiers and Indians had dug in with the hopes of avoiding bullets. It had the same eerie feeling that you get at the Custer Battlefield. Somehow you can feel the history and it makes an impression that books alone could never achieve.

I feel that those trips were among the best things we ever did for our kids and we all still have wonderful memories of those times. Memories that I know none of us will forget.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Look Back and a Family Hero

The summer of 1947 I turned fourteen and my father decided to take my mother and I to visit a cousin of his and her family who lived in Bandera, Texas. Bandera is a small town on State Highway 16 fifty miles northwest of San Antonio on the beautiful Medina River. It was founded around 1853 although ranchers and farmers had lived in the area since the 1830s. After the Civil War the town boomed as a staging area for cattle drives up the Western Trail. Later it became famous for it’s Dude Ranches, actually it still is.

The cousin we were going to visit was named Ouida and she was married to a member of a family that had lived in the same house since around the 1840s and his name was Frank “Big Daddy” Montague. It was a large ranch where they raised mostly sheep at the time. They also owned the one bank in Bandera. They had four sons, Charles, who had died on Tarawa during WW2, Bruce, who was a fighter pilot in the Marines and who had just come home shortly before we arrived. Then there was Frank Jr. , the oldest who ran the bank and the youngest, George was studying to be a priest. Ouida’s mother, Laura was my grandfathers sister and was in her ninties, but still very active. She taught her great grandchildren French and also how to play the piano.

The old ranch house had been added on to over all those years and had grown from a tiny two room cabin with walls two feet thick, to a sprawling two story home that maintained the original two rooms with narrow slits on either side of the fireplace that they had used to shoot at attacking Indians. The door frame into that orignal part of the house had all manner of interesting things carved in the surface. It was a fascinating place and I remember being totally awed.

Our first night there, they served dinner out on a broad screened in porch. Young Mexican girls that worked for them scurried about setting the table and then serving us, bringing the next dish whenever Ouida gently rang a small silver bell.

Just as we were finishing dinner, a racy little Ford convertible with its top down pulled up out front and a tall, lanky guy in jeans, a white shirt and a white cowboy hat and boots climbed out and headed for the door to the screened in porch where we were eating. I remember thinking that my heart had stopped beating because with his jet black hair, blue eyes and deeply tanned skin he was the most handsome man I was sure I had ever seen. He was Bruce, Ouida and Big Daddy’s third son and he had just returned from the war, he was a Marine pilot and cousin or not, I was in love!

Later that evening after dinner, Bruce invited all of us to go with him to one of the restaurant/bars in town where he said he would teach me to dance the “Cotton Eyed Joe”! and he led us out to the convertible, but instead of opening the door for me, he lifted me up and set me in the front seat. I was certain that I had died and gone to heaven – anyone who could lift my long legs off the ground had won my heart forever. Grinning, my parents then climbed into the back seat and we headed for town. I did learn to do the “Cotton-Eyed Joe”, the “Put Your Little Foot” and a couple of others I can’t remember and it was the most exciting and fun night that I had ever had.

Bruce was also a world champion calf and trick roper and he was getting ready to compete in an event at Madison Square Garden and the day after our night on the dance floor I got a clue as to why I had gotten all the special treatment. He was practicing roping calfs and he really needed someone to open the gate and shoo the calf out of the shute. It was August, it was hotter than hell, but I happily spent the entire day in the heat and the dust shushing calves out for him to rope. I was a little put out when I learned that he had a real date that night, but we were leaving the next morning and my parents wanted to get to bed early anyway. Next time, I thought to myself.

I did get back to Bandera years later and I even worked on one of the Dude Ranches one summer and was surprised to find out as I did some research for this piece, that it is still operating. I also bumped into Bruce years later, he was married and had children of his own by then, but we both laughed about that night years earlier. The years slipped away, I married and had four children of my own. But soon after we married my husband and I spent a weekend on the ranch that they had converted into a dude ranch and my cousin, Ouida, was my first daughter’s godmother. And time slipped by, there was Vietnam and then Europe. We ended up living in Montana and we never made it back to Bandera.

As I was doing the research I also came across an obituary for that tall, dark and handsome first love. He had a remarkable life as you can see.

Obituaries for Sunday, February 19, 2006

As a member of one of Bandera's pioneer ranching families, Bruce began his ranching duties at a young age. It was in these childhood years that he was taught the art of trick roping. This became a lifelong pastime that he shared with thousands of people all over the world. Entertaining others was encouraged by his parents. ...Bruce grew up a member of the St. Stanislaus Catholic Church and attended St. Joseph's Catholic Grade School in Bandera. After graduating from Central Catholic High School in San Antonio, Texas, he was drafted at the age of 18, and chose the United States Marine Corps to serve his country. After boot camp, Bruce received 'high man' honors at ordinance school in Norman, Okla. He then would serve as an SBD air gunner in World War II and later flew Corsair fighter-bombers in post-war China. During the Korean War, Bruce flew 147 combat missions with Marine Fighter Squadron 311 and then, as an exchange pilot with the USAF, became a flight commander flying F-86 Sabre jets for the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing. During this conflict, he had the responsibility of leading Ted Williams (Hall of Fame Boston Red Sox) and friend John Glenn (first man to orbit the Earth) on their first combat missions. In addition to flying, he was involved in ground combat as a forward air controller, in which capacity he played a vital role during the first battle of The Hook. He received the bronze star for directing more strikes than any other Marine forward air controller. On one occasion he directed 48 air strikes within a 48 hour period. At the end of the war he is believed to have had the most jet combat time of any Marine. After Korea, Bruce attended Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Md. He then served as a test pilot, among other duties testing air weaponry at the Naval Ordinance Test Station, China Lake, Calif. He also served as executive officer of Marine Fighter Squadron 114, assigned to the carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt. In Vietnam he was commanding officer of Marine Fighter/Attack Squadron 122, flying F-4 Phantom's from Da Nang. He flew 188 combat missions over Hanoi, over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and while providing ground support at battles such as Dong Ha in 1968. He and his squadron played a vital role in the defense of Da Nang during the 1968 Tet attack. He then became air officer in charge of Marine air support in the Khe Sanh area. In all, Lt. Col. ...Having received a business administration degree from St. Mary's University, Bruce then pursued a career in real estate as a land broker in Bandera for 30 years. He was also a member of First Baptist Church Bandera. He took particular delight in entertaining children with his trick roping at schools, festivals and community events. He was an inaugural performer at the Texas Folklife Festival, where he participated for more than 21 years. Bruce loved roping, flying and spending time with his family. Many of his daredevil airplane antics and tricks are ingrained in local legend, such as buzzing Main Street, the Montague Ranch and other Bandera landmarks with planes. In his last years, Bruce dedicated much of his time as a board member of the San Antonio State School, serving in all the different officer capacities. He also spent a great deal of time writing a military memoir with his son Bruce Jr., titled "The Hook."

How Much We Don’t Know

As I was reading the New York Times the past couple of days the thing that hit me the hardest was just how much we don’t know or maybe how much we don’t want to know, about not only the candidates, but the issues. Both Bob Herbert and Frank Rich made it very clear that we have been so focused on the silly stuff such as who is the biggest celebrity, the New Yorker magazine cover, the over investigated fist-bumping, the Hilton/Spears idiocy that we’re overlooking some of the crucial stuff. Is the garbage all we can think about or focus on when it comes to this election? What does this say about our "lofty ideals"?

We certainly hear and read plenty regarding the war and some international matters, but what about here at home? There are so many issues right here that desperately need to be addressed such as just how many Americans are out of work – more than the statistics show I’ll lay odds. The housing and mortgage crisis, the number of people without health insurance, the surging number of high school dropouts and the rise of violent crime in parts of the country. The infrastructure of this country is wobbling and it is an issue that desperately needs addressing.

Then there is the candidates themselves and while we know just about every gritty tidbit about Obama – we seem to be focusing mostly on the negatives. There are the worrisome thoughts about whether he can really close the deal with ordinary people – whoever they are. And in spite of all that has been written, reported, investigated, publicized, you still hear people saying, “Who is this guy?”

Well, how about taking a look at John McCain. Oh, we know all about his military record, his time in the Hanoi Hilton, but believe me there is a lot more that we don’t know , or haven’t paid any attention to because we’ve been too busy focusing on the color of Obama’s skin. People in this country would do well to start turning that microscope on to John McCain, who didn’t call for Rumsfeld to be fired, who didn’t begin criticizing the war plan until long after “Mission Accomplished.” He didn’t get around to going to New Orleans until six months after Katrina and even then didn’t express sharp criticism of the Bush Administration’s response to that calamity – at least not until this past April and on his own campaign trail. Then there is his embracing those of the “right wing’s agents of intolerance”, spending months courting them. There is also the matter of the many lobbyists involved in his campaign. And then there are his morals, has anyone really looked into his past? Believe me, he could teach John Edwards a few things. I don't care about the affairs, they're politicians with big egos and it surely isn't the first time, I do care about the lying. If they will lie about one thing they can and probably will lie about other things.

And what about the potential first ladies – we know every detail of Michelle Obama’s Princeton thesis, her pay raises, her various statements about “whitey”, being “proud” etc. etc. etc. But how much attention do we pay to Cindy McCain?

Some Republicans who do know about McCain and have serious doubts about him and his ability to lead are switching to Obama. Maybe it’s time for those of us who are truly concerned about the future of our country to spend more time taking a long look at just who John McCain really is and whether he is capable of leading this country. Maybe it’s time to take the microscope off Obama for a little while and turn our focus to the other candidate and the issues that desperately need to be addressed here at home.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Once the Memories Start ………

Last night with all the excitement about the Olympics and the latest from Beijing, I began reminiscing about the 1964 Olympics in Japan and I wrote about my kids, their Dad and the excitement of his winning the silver medal there. Then suddenly today I began thinking about a time during my own childhood – I guess once the memory takes a backward glance, it gets curious about what else it can root out to look at and this is what it found today.

My family moved to Monahans, Texas in the winter of 1942 when I was not quite nine years old. We rented a very small house for a few months until my father could get a job. Once he did we moved to the other side of town – which meant the other side of the railroad tracks – and into a very nice, little two bedroom house with a lovely yard and a nice big garage. I got to have my first real pet, a black mixed breed dog named Moe.

I skipped the third grade when we moved to Monahans because I was pretty far ahead of the kids in that class and the teachers decided I should move up to the fourth grade. It wasn’t the best move because while I had no trouble doing the work, socially I simply didn’t fit in with fourth graders and felt pretty isolated. On top of that I was an only child with parents who were far too busy to spend a lot of time with me and I found myself feeling very lonely and rejected.

During this same period a huge new air base was being built in a tiny community about twenty miles from Monahans on Highway 80, about 230 miles east of El Paso. The little town was called Pyote and the air base was nicknamed "Rattlesnake Bomber Base" for the numerous rattlesnake dens that were uncovered during its construction.

For many men in the Air Force at that time it was their last station in the states before heading overseas. The first troops were assigned within a month, well before the base was completed. Troops and civilian technicians poured in, and the population of the base grew steadily to a peak of over 6,500 in October 1944.

Within four months of its opening, the base had become the largest bomber installation in the country. Despite morale problems caused by isolation and the shortage of off-base recreation and of dependents' housing, Pyote achieved a distinguished record in molding inexperienced individuals into effective bomber crews.

And it was this lack of recreation and dependents’ housing that brought about an enormous change in my life. My parents rented out my bedroom to one couple from the base, then they put three beds and some simple furniture into our garage, made curtains for the windows and the wives of three additional pilots/bomber crew members moved in. The men themselves were required to stay on the base, but when they got off in the evenings they would come into town and spend as many hours as possible with their wives. I can still hear them singing and laughing as a bunch of them would take off down the street, on foot, to search for a cafe, a bar -- there weren't many.

But suddenly, I had brothers and sisters! These guys and their wives were, for the most part, a long way from home, it was isolated, it was barren, it was windy with vicious sandstorms, cold, cold in the winter and hotter than hell in the summer. But instead of complaining, they all made the most of their time there – primarily because of being able to see each other as much as possible before they shipped out into the unknown, not knowing whether they would make it back from the war or not. And I became the little sister to all of them and they spoiled me royally and, needless to say, I loved it.

One of the pilots brought his fiance to town and they had their wedding in the small chapel on the base and I was the flower girl. I was one of the few kids in Monahans during that time that had CHOCOLATE candy! And bubble gum – gum, period! All those delightful goodies that were so sparse and hard to get during that time.

They moved in and moved out, went overseas, wives returned to their homes all over the country and another group would move in. I slept on the sofa bed for nearly three years and loved every minute of it! The guys wrote me letters and sent me presents from overseas, some that were sent to the South Pacific even made me bracelets out of shells they found and their wives stayed in touch for the remainder of the war. They celebrated the holidays with us and they were the best holidays ever and I had never felt so loved!

Before the war came to an end there gradually was less need for off base housing and I finally moved back into my room, the car moved back into the garage. I knew it was a good thing we were winning the war and when it was finally over I jumped up and down and celebrated along with everyone else, but I missed my “family”.

We continued to hear from many of those that had shared our house. Some of the men didn’t make it back and I cried for them and after the war a few of the couples actually returned to Monahans to visit us and it was wonderful.

I hadn’t thought of that time in many, many years. It’s been a fun look back.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Olympic Memories

My children’s father was a silver medalist in the 1964 Olympics in Japan, before they were born, but they grew up watching the games with their Dad with excitement and wonder.

He was in the Air Force and a member of the Modern Pentathlon Team. It’s not a very well known sport in the United States, but has been very popular in Europe for many years. Pentathlon is a composite athletic event, encompassing target shooting, fencing, swimming, equestrian Show Jumping and cross-country running. Pentathlon games are an optimum blend of an athlete’s strength, skill, timing, endurance and determination. Each contestant must participate in all five sporting events, one after the other in order to win the pentathlon.

Originally an Ancient Greek Pentathlon, a primitive version of the modern day pentathlon was introduced during 708 BC for the soldier athlete. The sport comprised five games - Discus, Javelin, long jump, foot race and wrestling. Discus, Javelin and Long jump were categorized solely as pentathlon events and were generally not played as individual sports. These games were a test of a participant’s strength and timing.

The epithet modern is important to discern it from the ancient athletics – none of the events of modern pentathlon were part of the ancient Olympics. The modern pentathlon was invented by the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games. As the events of the ancient pentathlon were modeled after the skills of the ideal soldier of that time, Coubertin created the contest to simulate the experience of a 19th century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines: he must ride an unfamiliar horse, fight with pistol and sword, swim, and run. The event was first contested at the 1912 Olympic Games, and was won by Swedish athlete Gösta Lilliehöök.

Modern pentathlon originated from the military and was a test of the officers’ courage, co-ordination, physical fitness, self-discipline and flexibility. The pentathlon games initially lasted for five days with one event contested each day. In 1984, it was made a four-day event, with both pistol shooting and cross-country run conducted on the fourth and final day. Since 1996, the pentathlon is held as a single day event with all five events contested one after another.

Their Dad’s achievements have always been source of great pride for all four of them and they each have their share of pictures and souvenirs of his days as a member of the Pentathlon Team. So it is fun for all of us to look back over the years and enjoy our own family memories of the Olympics.

Beauty and perfection are everywhere it only requires
that we pause, open our eyes, take a deep breath and smile.
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A Tribute

I’ve done so much ranting and raving about politics and politicians lately that I’m suddenly very tired of the negativity as I’m sure everyone else is, so why add to it? Today I would like to post a tribute to someone who has made such an incredible difference in my life, my comfort and my sense of well being.

I’m not going into a detailed discussion of my aches and pains, but I do have a bad back and bad knees and while I love Seattle, it is very hilly. I’ve always enjoyed walking, but between the hills – some quite steep and my aforementioned hindrances, I found myself sitting around the house more than I liked. I have a car to use for shopping and that sort of thing but with gas prices what they are I don’t do a lot of just driving around. But mostly I missed being able to go with my son and the dogs to the beach or the dog park or just a hike around the neighborhood to look at all the beautiful plants and flowers.
I had a friend in Portland who kept urging me to find an acupuncturist. He said I would be amazed at the difference it would make in my life. Well, the idea of someone sticking needles in and around my body really didn’t do a thing for me, but by the time I had lived in Seattle for three months I decided I had to do something.

I turned to the internet to see what I could find and there were dozens! So, how do you choose? I started visiting websites and finally found one that looked really interesting. It was well done, informative and had a lot of information that I could understand. There was also an email address where you could send questions and I did, wondering how long it would take for me to hear back. My answers came a little later in the afternoon – not from an assistant or secretary or receptionist, but from the man himself. Now, I thought, that’s a first. We exchanged several emails, he answered all my questions to my satisfaction and I made an appointment. I was then able to fill out a questionnaire online so that he could have all the information before I arrived for my appointment.

He shares office space with a rolfer and another acupuncturist on the fourth floor of a small office building that has underground parking – if you lived in our particular area of Seattle you would realize what a huge plus that is! The office itself is very quiet and peaceful, there are no secretaries or receptionists.

The first fifteen minutes or so we talked about my problems and what could be done and then we got to the treatment itself. I never felt any of the needles, they are very, very thin and there really wasn’t even a prickly feeling. That part of the treatment took about twenty minutes and then after removing the needles he did what is call tui-nai or Chinese massage for nearly an hour. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven! I made an appointment for the next week.

I continued going once a week for the next six and I was feeling fantastic! I knew and he made it very clear that he couldn’t “fix” my back or my knees, but he could make me more comfortable and make it easier for me to get around.

I’ve been seeing him for more than a year. When my finances got really tight with the price of everything going up at the rate it’s going these days, I told him I wasn’t going to be able to see him as often. He told me it was important to him that I be able to continue doing the things I loved to do and he cut his price for me to less than half of what I had been paying. I had an appointment right after my birthday and when I went to pay him, he refused to take it, saying that was my birthday present. How often do you find someone like this? Particularly in health care. And in the enviornment we live in today it seems even more remarkable. He’s a young man, married with a brand new baby girl. He is excellent at what he does and I think it is because he sincerely cares about people.

So, that is my tribute and my gratitude to a young man named Tyler Martin.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What Happened to the Sunny Outlook??

The sun was up early this morning and shining in my windows and it seemed the perfect day to write something positive and enthusiastic. Phelps has done magnificently at the Olympics – what a legacy he leaves! And, in general, the US is doing very well, if not in the gold.

I scanned the news channels, then to the Washington Post and the NYT online. The enthusiasm and the positive view began to darken. Thomas Friedman pointed out that John McCain had failed to show up for a crucial vote on July 30 – a vote for a renewable energy bill that would have extended the investment tax credits for installing solar energy and the production tax credits for building wind turbines and other energy-efficiency systems. McCain has missed eight votes for renewable energy over the past year which amounts to a no vote each time. What does that tell you???

Well, how about Maureen Dowd's column? Oh, it's Hillary -- again. She’s obviously still determined that this is going to be her or her and Bill’s convention. So, what about Obama? Whatever he does is likely to look bad. If he hadn’t given her and Bill their spot at the convention then he’d get mauled by all those saying he’s treated her badly. So, he has given them their spot and they’re using it against him. She wants her name put in nomination and a roll-call vote. She’s doing everything she can – they both are, to try and make sure Obama falls on his face so she can say, I told you so, and be ready for 2012!

With those dark tidbits, positive and enthusiastic went out the window and all I really wanted to do was make an obscene gesture in the direction of Washington D.C. So, instead, I’ll write a glowing recommendation for my acupuncturist to post online – he helps reduce that pain in the neck that keeps getting aggravated by Clinton/McCain politics.

And that's what happened to the sunny outlook for today. Ah, maybe tomorrow!