Saturday, December 13, 2008

Toys for Tots and Hard Time Reflections

As I shopped online for toys for baby Nic’s first Christmas, I came across an old childhood favorite, Careers. Oh the hours I spent playing that one with the cousins. I will teach Nic to play cards and board games and I promise to be more patient with CandyLand than I was with Nic’s dad.

Well, shopping and thinking about toys is something I haven’t done for so long that I’m kind of out of practice. My venture to Toys R Us last Sunday was a great disappointment. I felt so out of my element. I prefer to shop online and the toy I ordered from Amazon arrived in a couple of days.

Toys are a large part of my life at work too as they pour in as we prepare to fill the wish lists of the kids in our Christmas program. The folks at Toys for Tots where we get a lot of toys from are reporting that donations are down, and yesterday we got far fewer than last year. It’s been a struggle at our non-profit. We don’t know yet what the end result will be, but it is safe to say Santa is adjusting to leaner times.

Which all leads me to wonder, what course of materialism have we set ourselves up for? Have we built up our children’s expectations too high? Have we lived too far beyond our means for far too long?

I remember Mom talking about the Great Depression and being thankful to get oranges and peppermint candy canes at Christmas time. She knew the meaning of doing without. We Baby Boomers and our Generation X and Next offspring really do not yet know that lesson.

Mom’s Okie family fell on hard times and headed off to California when the Dust Bowl hit, wiping the topsoil needed for healthy crops off of their little hardscrabble farm. They got as far as Arizona. The kids old enough picked cotton alongside Granny and my grandfather. After a time, they loaded up the truck and headed back to Oklahoma and got by with the help of family. Not until WWII did things turn around. Mom went off to work for the government in Washington, D. C. and the country rebounded.

So, dear gentle readers, while I reflect and ponder these questions, I still am encouraged by the true spirit of Christmas. I see it everyday in the people giving to those less fortunate. Officemates who give up their traditional gift exchanges in favor of helping others. School kids who emptied their piggy banks and delivered an envelope stuffed with dollars and coins. Scouts, Key Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis, Lions, churches of all kinds, businesses, individuals. They are coming through.

As one donor said to me, “I am doing ok—at least for now.” I like that. Me too—at least for now

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

She Stopped and Changed Course

With a slight layer of snow on the ground, a mostly flat prairie landscape has prepared itself for winter. Acres of cornfields as far as my eye could see now sport only stubs of the once flourishing crop. Almost overnight, we went from waves of green to stark barren ground sometimes dotted with flocks of Canada geese.

I almost cried the other morning on my way to work. The day, devoid of sunlight, was too much a reminder of the long, cold period ahead. How, dear gentle readers, did this former girl of the South find herself so far North? Do I dream of warmth and short winters? You bet. But most of all, I’d love to know that I wouldn’t have to worry about slipping on icy walks, steps and parking lots.

On the way back from dropping off Scott at school, a beautiful deer darted toward the road and I prayed she would stop before my car crashed into her. A small prayer was answered as she stopped and returned to the barren cornfield and I continued on my way.

I am tired. My days are busy. So busy there is little time for reflection. Maybe though this winter is just the right time—a time to beware of slippery dangers not always apparent, a black ice if you will. Maybe, just maybe, the long winter will bring a healing spring full of new growth. It’s something to look forward to.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sewing Up Some Football

Months ago I wrote about my adventures in learning how to quilt. Maybe I should say my misadventures. I have ripped out more than I have sewn it seems (did that pun escape you?).

However, Nic’s quilt for Christmas, which I hoped to have finished by the Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl game—it’s today dear gentle non-football-fan readers, is coming along.
I have discovered that this project, launched with nary a pattern to guide me, has been immensely fun as well as immensely time consuming. My day job is interfering in the progress of this seat-of-my-pants project.

I am not your grandma’s quilter, content to choose a pattern someone else designed. I have chosen to design my own. Yet, what you see here is not what I set out to create. It was much more ambitious.

There is much left to do but I have finished the quilt top. Next, I will attach the back and inner batting to the top and then “quilt” the whole thing by hand. Thank God it is only a crib-size quilt. And thank God for the little Project Runway Brother sewing machine I recently bought. I used it to appliqué the letters and footballs.

I will let you know how it turns out, but I have a football game to get ready for. ROOOLL TIDE!

NOTE: I like the new sewing machine from Brother but do not expect to see me trying out for Project Runway. Now if they had a show about designing quilts and such, I might give that a shot.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Favorite Childhood Christmas Presents & Memories

As Christmas approaches, I was thinking about what were my favorite childhood toys.
My first memory is of Tiny Tears. She cried tears and wet her diaper and I loved her. I must have been about four or five when she came into my life one Christmas. She became the favorite doll until that more sophisticated Barbie stole my heart.

But rooting around in my mom’s closet one pre-Christmas Saturday, I discovered that Santa has lots of help from you-know-who, and Christmas anticipation was set back a notch or two. That is until another Saturday right before Christmas.

During the week, Mom worked her secretary job at Maxwell Air Force Base, commuting 20 miles from our home in the country to Montgomery. Saturdays became her days for grocery shopping at the Piggly Wiggly, errands and trips to JC Penney’s to try on what seemed like hundreds of dress as I tagged along.

When I was growing up, downtown Montgomery was THE place to shop. Pre-Selma to Montgomery march, pre-shopping malls and strip shops. There were two five and dimes. A trip downtown usually meant a visit to S. H. Kress where you could find all manner of cheap stuff, some of it not made in China. Sometimes we’d get a blue-plate special at the lunch counter—the white lunch counter. Even as a child it didn’t make sense to me. Why was there a separate entrance marked “colored” at my pediatrician’s office? The water fountains, the lunch counters.

But I have digressed, dear gentle readers.

On this particular post-Santa Claus-enlightenment Saturday, Mom and I headed to Montgomery Fair Department Store. Yep, the same place where Rosa Parks once worked as a seamstress--work that wore her out so much that she refused to move to the back of the bus that fateful day that launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

I already knew my big present that year was going to be a bike. As I nearly raced down the stairs to the store basement and laid eyes on it, I could hardly believe what I saw—a pink and white beauty with handlebar streamers sure to fly once I mastered the art of bicycling.

Christmas was yet to come this year but no Christmas since could match how I felt that day. I learned to ride the J. C. Higgins bike with Grandpa Parsons’ hands supporting my wobbly first efforts. He held on and as I gained momentum, he knew when it was safe to let go and I sailed off, streamers flying.

I invite my dear gentle readers to share favorite childhood Christmas memories. Send me an E-mail and I’ll post your responses or leave a long comment.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tis the Season

Matthew 17:19-20 “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Long-time readers may recall a couple of years ago, I wrote extensively about Christmas. Starting about this time in November of 2006, I focused numerous posts on the topic of Christmas. Last year brought the 2nd Annual Christmas Countdown and with this post, I, as the proprietress of the Alabama Kitchen Sink blog, hereby and forthwith launch the 3rd Annual Christmas Countdown. TA DA and you may now pop the cork on the bubbly.

There’s a new twist this year. You see, my 9-5:30 workday is as one of Santa’s elves. Do you think I’m kidding?

Okay, I am not really an elf, but I feel like one and my days revolve around getting ready for Christmas, and I get paid for it. Wonder what Santa pays his elves? The nonprofit I work for, the Humanitarian Service Project, is helping 1,400 needy children and 115 low-income seniors this Christmas as the organization has helped those in need for nearly 30 years.

It all started that Christmas in 1979 in the spare bedroom of the founders. Year by year community support grew as did HSP’s reputation. A couple of years ago, the organization moved into a location with its own warehouse for storing the food and toys collected.

Located in central DuPage County, Illinois, HSP serves the forgotten in a sea of plenty. The people we help are hard-working families with children or seniors trying to stretch meager incomes to provide just the necessities like food. We wonder what the Christmas Project will bring this year. Already we have lost some sponsorships for our seniors.

Each day I talk to struggling families. Jobs are lost, illness strikes. A mother must tell her little ones Santa can't make it to our house this year. Why? How would you answer that question? Surrounded by the materialism of our culture, I would think this is a hard question. Some may say that we reap the rewards or failures of our own self determination, hard work, and choices.

One of my co-workers and I were talking about what makes people give to others while some choose not to help. An interesting thought best pondered another day.

The Humanitarian Service Project is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, and a Four Star Charity Navigator Charity. If you’d like to make a donation, you may do so through Network for Good.

Mission Statement:
It is the mission of the Humanitarian Service Project to alleviate the pain and suffering that poverty brings to needy seniors and children living in DuPage and Kane Counties, Illinois, without distinction of gender, race, creed, caste, or color.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Awake—Omar tells her
But she sleeps and
Barely hears my voice

I’ve been spending a few minutes this morning purging. I don’t mean the definition associated with bulimia nervosa. Sorry for that image.

Yet, it might be somewhat appropriate in a subconscious way. I have thought about writing about some things that have happened in my life in the last year, each time backing away for whatever reason.

This morning as I set out to clean up the files on my computer, I found constant reminders of a previous life. Reminders of good times--photos of trips to Italy and celebrations of family events like birthdays and my son’s wedding. Amidst these pleasant occasions, I opened a letter laying out problems to be dealt with or ignored. Then a poem. Work files that hold no interest for me now. Sketches not of my making. Remnants of another’s life intertwined yet with mine but no longer of my concern.

As I choose what should be deleted, I keep coming back to the letter. Only now after weeks of contemplation, do I begin to evaluate the truth, casting away blame on one level but not another. I decide to keep the letter as a reminder to awake.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Morning After in Obama Land

If you didn't vote for Obama, I guess you are a bit disappointed this morning. Here in Chicagoland, there was a buzzing energy all yesterday as we went through the day. Nervous, anxious and wondering if just maybe he/we would pull it off. I tried to get tickets to the Grant Park shindig but was wait listed, and I'm not sure I would have ventured into that sea of Obama if the tickets were forthcoming.

And now, the work continues. The election was the tip of the iceberg.

Look for a centrist Obama despite the Right-Wing fears of a Left bonanza. This is the only way to accomplish change. It's going to be interesting. Stay tuned. And get yourself an Obama t-shirt.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Pandora Rocks

I’ve been listening to Chet Baker Radio today as I re-immerse myself in a long-tabled project. I have son Scott to thank for turning me on to Pandora. I’ve added a link so that you can check it out, but I am enjoying my Chet Baker and company as I work nearby.

The way Pandora works is that you pick an artist and they pick music they think you’ll like. You can thumbs up or down it and create your own little “radio” station. Fitting, in that Scott is taking a radio production class this semester away from Hendrix College at our excellent community college, Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove.

And a rambling afterthought. One of my favorite bloggers, Marsha, is soliciting view on whether her high school daughter should go away to college next year or stay at home and attend a community college. Of course, I chipped in my opinion, which I must confess is also rambling. Do y’all see a trend here? My conclusion was to weigh the pros and cons but of course this blogger is well ahead on that front.

Me, I never wanted to go to college anywhere but the University of Alabama. So, I never struggled with that decision. However, decades later when I wanted to learn design skills, I found the Advertising, Design & Illustration program at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn was excellent and my instructors were talented as well as great teachers.

Where was I? I am supposed to be working on a “long-tabled project” and not blogging. I told you I was rambling. Add distracted to that too

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hearth and Home

Politics and worry about the economy dominates my thoughts Monday through Friday as I listen to NPR on the way to work. I could talk about those fears. I could talk about Christmas. That’s on my mind 9 to 5:30 each day at work. Maybe I will write about that later since Christmas talk is a tad early for most of you, I know.

Instead, I will write about family. This week saw two milestones. Thursday, October 23, marked the eighth month of life for grandson Nicolas, and Friday, marked his Uncle Scott’s 20th birthday. While other pursuits capture much of my time, and the troubles and problems of the world can pull my head away temporarily, my heart is with my family.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Saturday in Batavia, Illinois

I miss blogging. When I do finally get around to it, my posts are long, rambling pent-up words that flow as slowly as the Fox River, which is nearby. But today is Saturday and I am free and the day is mine. Why not spend a few minutes doing something I enjoy before turning to more mundane matters like cleaning the clog out of the bathtub?

It is only October and the pumpkins and Obama signs on my street remind me that we still have Halloween to get through before the election. My favorite sign, however, was perched atop a hammock. And the sign count on my block—6 Obama to 1 McCain.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chasing Bear Bryant

“It’s not the will to win that matters - everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” Paul Bear Bryant

Georgia Bulldog fans dressed themselves in black to psyche out Alabama’s Crimson Tide for the Saturday night game. Frat boys painted their shirtless bodies with black. Little did they expect the evening to turn out as more of a funeral. Bama, under Nick Sabin’s coaching, came to play and play they did, ending the first half with a 31 to zip lead. While Georgia managed to adjust somewhat the second half, the game ended 41-30. I’d say that’s a funeral.

The real story is that when the Tide rolls like this, fans dream that the new coach is chasing Bear Bryant’s legend.

In August, Forbes magazine featured Sabin on the cover with the headline, “Sports’ Most Powerful Coach.” The story begins with this question: “College football has long been a big business. But the money and control Alabama gave Nick Saban raised the stakes to an unprecedented level. Is he worth it?”

Football, and especially football in the South, is akin to religion, and I am very religious in autumn when the boys are on the field and the leaves have only begun to think about falling.

Make no mistake, Forbes is right. This is big business. As University of Alabama President Robert Witt says of the recent $500 million capital campaign, “We have had 100,000 donors in that campaign, and a major reason they support us is football.” Tight-fisted Alabama taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for Saban’s salary or the athletic program. A higher caliber of student is attracted to the university and fundraising is easier. And many faculty members have quieted their criticisms for these very reasons.

But Bulldogs, remember, the good guys always wear white (and red). Roll Tide!

Photo Note: Nicolas Bryant and his daddy were all decked out in Bama attire for Nic’s first game watched on ESPN.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Voter Registration Deadlines Approaching

Y’all know my love of politics. Last night’s debate between John McCain and Barack Obama was a draw in my opinion.

I’m generally not into bashing and trashing since heavens knows there is a ton of that already on TV and online. I do think, however, that Sen. Obama came out looking and sounding more presidential and was the more gracious of the two candidates. Obama faced Sen. McCain, looking directly at him when he spoke to him. My Mama taught me to look at a person when I spoke to him, didn’t yours? And Sen. Obama was confident enough to agree with Sen. McCain on several points, a clear signal that this is the man who can bring us together and not push us further apart.

Debate and economic turbulence aside, I am finally getting around to my point today. Last Thursday on the way home from my new job, I stopped off at the library and registered to vote in my new hometown. The deadline for registering to vote is fast approaching in many states, including here in Illinois, which has a deadline of 28 days before the election.

A great resource for voting information on a state-by-state basis can be found at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. In a quick perusal on my part I found that voters in Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Wyoming can register to vote on election day, and voters in North Dakota don’t even have to register at all, the only state which does not require such of her voters.

The rest of y’all unregistered voters better get yourselves over to the town or county clerk, library, or wherever they sign up folks soon. You can also register by mail in many states. And the Obama folks have a great voter information site to aid with registration too. But please vote! Too much depends on it to sit this one out.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thinking Ahead to October

Thinking ahead to October, I am reminded that soon you all will be seeing a bunch of products to make us aware of breast cancer. Seriously, do we need any more reminders?

However, this is the third year that I have created a new design especially for October’s onslaught of the pink ribbon and here it is. There has been an evolution of sorts as the first year saw a design with the pink ribbon forming the “l” in “Believe.” I wanted very much to believe that things would turn out okay. Last year without a single pink ribbon, I focused on retro designs aimed at getting women in for those annual mammograms, and I have noticed several large purchases and imagine that health educators are behind them.

And now with this year’s design, I hope to offer a message that no matter where we are on our journey, we must continue to live our lives to the fullest each and every day.

Where a Fully-Read Book Might Take You

If you read yesterday’s post, you will recall that I recently completed reading a book. As a woman who has endured, survived and suffered through way too many changes of late, I see why Joan Anderson’s The Second Journey The Road Back to Yourself caught my eye.

I fully intended to sit in one of Batavia Library’s comfy chairs and read a bit of the book, which I did. However, when it was time to go, I took the slim volume along with me. You see, Joan Anderson had 10 years earlier lived out one of my fantasies when she left her everyday life and spent a year by the sea in a journey to self-discovery. I haven’t read that book, but there is a part of me that wishes I could go off to some isolated natural environment and contemplate exactly what course and direction I want to steer the rest of my life. I don’t suppose younger readers will get this. They are too busy raising families and building careers and time is way too short for this sort of self-indulgent exploration. While time is not endless for them, it is indeed not quite so pressing an issue as it is with the older among us.

It had been 10 years since Anderson wrote her first book, the bestseller A Year by the Sea, and she was again ready to explore how her life was evolving. Anderson writes,

Now, as part of my ten-year inventory, I reflect on what is outlived in my life today. I’ve known for some time that holding on to anything ruins it, as does clinging to old ways, outdated ideals, worn-out relationships, and lifestyles that have run their course. As a culture, we seem to prize permanency. Certainly the familiar is comforting. But the way we were is not the way we are, and why would I want to still have those parts of my life that have lost their zest? Perhaps one of the reasons I felt so compelled to come out here today was actually to witness massive change. None of us can control the way life passes: we can only adapt.

Before writing the second book, Anderson again found herself at what I call loose ends. The first book propelled her into a notoriety of book signings and retreats and a newly found status as a guide or mentor of women seeking self-discovery. By all accounts, she was successful. Yet, her busy life was not all that she desired, and thus, the author set out on the second journey, a journey that this time included a visit to the mystical and remote Scottish Isle of Iona.

Maybe when I write and publish my book, I will be able to jet to my island of self-discovery. She writes:
The call to a second journey usually commences when unexpected change is thrust upon you, causing a crisis of feelings so great that you are stopped in your tracks. Personal events such as a betrayal, a diagnosis of serious illness, the death of a loved one, loss of self-esteem, a fall from power are only a few of the catalysts. A woman caught thusly has no choice but to pause, isolate, even relocate until she can reevaluate the direction in which she should head. Should she stay the course or choose another path?

But alas, many of us inhibit our capacity for growth because the culture encourages us to live lives of uniformity. We stall, deny, ignore the ensuing crisis because of confusion, malaise, and yes, even propriety. Yet more and more, I come in contact with women, particularly in midlife—that uneasy and ill-defined period—who do not want merely to be stagnant but rather desire to be generative. Today’s woman has the urge to go against the prevailing currents, step out of line, and break with a polite society that has her following the unwritten rules of relationship, accepting the abuses of power in the workplace, and blithely living with myriad shoulds when she has her own burgeoning desires.

Anderson’s book got me to thinking anyway. And I actually finished a book. Not too bad for a woman who has endured, survived and suffered through way too many changes of late.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Guilt and the Half-Read Book (Part 1)

A week or so ago I noticed a link to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. “The Pleasure of Half Read Books” caught my attention. I thought to myself, well, at least I have company.

Blaming everything from mega-bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble with their coffee shops and comfy chairs to the Internet and Books on Tape (CDs), the author of the article writes,
But if you were to force me to accept responsibility for having given up on reading books to the end, I would trace my habit back to finishing my doctorate in contemporary literature years ago. I realized then that except for books that I might teach or write about, I never had to finish another book unless I wanted to. I wasn’t going to be tested on any book for the rest of my life.

That is as good an explanation as any I know. I have started more books lately than I have finished, but tomorrow I will tell you about one that I did finish. Meanwhile, take William McMillen’s advice,
So don’t despair if you have a half-read book taking up space on your desk. Don't feel guilty about not finishing it just because you are a professor. No one cares, and you shouldn't, either. Just move it over to the bottom shelf of your bookcase and find something new. You’ll feel liberated, trust me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Whoopi-Do We Are Still Here

The world's biggest physics experiment has succeeded in its first major test as a beam of protons was successfully fired all the way around a 17-mile tunnel beneath the Swiss-French border. From the AP

You might have caught a bit about the event on the evening news when there was talk that it could possibly cause our planet to implode into a black hole. Something like that—I am not a physics person. Well, it obviously didn’t, and the “end of the worlders” can go back to worrying.

Here in my new hometown of Batavia, we know a thing or two about energy. Batavia was once home to windmill manufacturers and we have windmills all over the place. But the biggest and finest claim for the City of Energy is Fermilab, named for Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi, one of the most highly regarded physicists of the atomic age.

I reckon they’re smashing atoms and accelerating and colliding them as well, and so far everything here in Batavia seems to be just fine, and I am sure they will be fine in Geneva (Switzerland, not Illinois' Geneva which is just up the road from Batavia) too. Ahhh! We have escaped another “Chicken Little” scare.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Tale of Two Nic's

Mom reports on baby Nic’s CarePages Web site:
“Nic got a special delivery today from Nick Swisher of the White Sox. He signed his name and “D30” on the sentimental blanket we dropped off at the White Sox office and mailed it back to us with a nice note from Swisher, via the community relations dept. We weren’t sure that would happen, but it’s a great keepsake to have from his first baseball season. Not only does Nic share Swisher’s first name, they also have the same fighting spirit. Let’s hope the White Sox carry the season into October for Nic!”

In Chicagoland, you are either a Cubs fan or a White Sox fan. Well, that’s my opinion. It’s kind of like Auburn and Alabama. You can’t really be for both. No way.

When the family attended the recent White Sox game, they took the White Sox blanket that accompanied Nic through heart surgery and asked if Nick Swisher could sign it for Nicolas. Happily, the great White Sox player obliged, and now the littlest White Sox fan has a nice memento.

Go White Sox!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Kid on the Block Rating Colleges

Forbes just came out with a challenge to venerable U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings of colleges and universities. America’s Best Colleges ranks 569 four-year institutions out of approximately 4,000 schools in the country.

My son happens to attend Hendrix College, which ranked #97—not too shabby for a little gem of a private college half-an-hour outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. I wonder though about any methodology that uses for 25% of the evaluation.

Oh well, what the heck. These beauty contests are what they are—just one tool to look at in the college-selection process. If your son or daughter is beginning the process, look up some parents whose students currently attend potential schools, have your student visit the campuses and sit in on some classes.

I had a Cincinnati mom write me asking about Hendrix College and I gave her my honest opinion, and my son blasted the college’s overbooked housing situation in the e-mail he sent. Word of mouth is just as valuable as these rankings.

More later after next weekend’s sojourn to Razorback Land. College Boy will be setting up housekeeping in an apartment. Are sophomores really equipped for this level of responsibility? Ah, the worries of helicopter parents.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Littlest White Sox Fan

Baby Nic is probably the littlest Chicago White Sox fan, and today he and his mom and dad will be at the game when the Sox play the Kansas City Royals. Nic is a lot like the White Sox team. He hasn’t given up when down and he has spunk and spirit unmatched.

Back in February when Nic entered this world months earlier than expected, all who have come to love him hoped for the day when his day-to-day world would not revolve around doctors, tubes and machines.

Finally, after heart surgery, EEGs, EKGs, feeding tubes, respirators, heart and breathing monitors and other invasive procedures, little Nic will be a boy attending his first baseball game with his mom and dad. It doesn't get much better than this.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Three Little Piggy Quotes

I don’t know if these quotes were really said by those to whom they are attributed, but I like them.

Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not commit adultery. Don’t eat pork. I’m sorry, what was that last one? Don’t eat pork. God has spoken. Is that the word of God or is that pigs trying to outsmart everybody? - Jon Stewart

You can put wings on a pig, but you don’t make it an eagle. - Bill Clinton

You should never try and teach a pig to read for two reasons. First, it’s impossible; and secondly, it annoys the hell out of the pig! - Will Rogers

Note: the artwork is available for purchase.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A Higher Standard

I supported John Edwards before I turned to Barack Obama. I find news that the rumors of his affair were indeed accurate no huge surprise. He scripted a story for his ambitious campaign and followed it until he had no out but to say the National Enquirer got it right. Apparently, he even fooled some of his campaign staff, who insisted the NE was just engaging in cheap tabloid journalism. While exiting the political arena, Edwards fired a bit of a salvo in John McCain's direction when he mentioned McCain's own marital history.

But I don’t think John McCain will touch this story with a 10-foot-pole, since the war-hero returned home and found the wife he had left behind changed. The first Mrs. McCain, once a swimsuit model, had been in a terrible car crash and was disfigured. Accounts differ, but the marriage ended. From UK’s The Mail:
Carol insists she remains on good terms with her ex-husband, who agreed as part of their divorce settlement to pay her medical costs for life. ‘I have no bitterness,’ she says. ‘My accident is well recorded. I had 23 operations, I am five inches shorter than I used to be and I was in hospital for six months. It was just awful, but it wasn’t the reason for my divorce. ‘My marriage ended because John McCain didn’t want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that just does.’
According to Carol McCain, McCain married Cindy a month after their divorce was final.

Sen. McCain is not quick to give much detail on this part of his life, preferring instead to emphasize the scripted version. It was a long time ago and I don’t blame him.

However, I find myself asking what matters in determining a politician’s character. Are our ties to Puritan forefathers and mothers too tight? Is there a new standard? Or a politicians’ standard (lower of course)? How are we to regard flaws of a moral nature? Every time a public figure admits to a transgression of Edwards’ nature, I wonder.

Yet, I recognize a politician who strays can still be an effective leader. I guess I just wish the politicians would realize that we are looking to them to be better. You are choosing this course. How can you think every rock will not be overturned in your public life as well as your private life? And y'all, please stop being so family values preachy if you do have these extramarital skeletons rattling around in your political closets.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Oh You Great Big Beautiful Doll

Some poll says people are tired of hearing about Obama. Maybe the media will take the hint and give us a break. I am for Obama, but I do not think I can stomach one more silly story about that ditzy Tyra Banks modeling as Mrs. O in Harper's Bazaar. On the plus side, it does give more fodder to E's Talk Soup and that cute and talented Joel McHale.

Even Dover Publications paper dolls are getting into the spirit of hype. They have new additions to their paper doll collection with offerings of Barack Obama and John McCain. I don't know, but I think the artist captured John McCain's rod up his back stiffness. Barack's likeness looks okay, but Mrs. O looks like a Stepford Wife.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Answer

On August 1 two teenage boys found the remains of Sheila Joan Noblitt over six years after she disappeared one cold January day in 2002. It looks like she died from exposure.

I became acquainted with the case after writing about what happens when you Google your name. I heard back from a detective handling the case and from one of Joan’s relatives.

To the Noblitt family, I am sorry for your loss. We do not know each other, but I can only imagine how hard these last six and a half years have been wondering what fate befell Sheila Joan. May you find this closure as sad as it is, brings peace.

note: link to earlier post.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Health, Insurance and Calling Dr. Kildare

A few days after sending in a hefty check for COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) coverage, I pour over the differences between choosing a PPO or an HMO. I have a new job, and I must choose health insurance coverage. I long for the days of Dr. Kildare and Marcus Welby, M.D. Things were so much simpler then.

As I look at papers, more acronyms like HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) jump at me. I will have to call the benefits administrator to see if there is an exclusion for pre-existing health conditions like my Big C. Since I have had no gaps in coverage, I should be okay on this front.

Additionally, with a million dollar baby in the family, I watch my son and daughter-in-law struggle with insurance issues each day. A preemie born as early as baby Nicolas soon becomes a veteran health care consumer.

So, I do not know on what planet those who think everything is hunky-dorky with health care in the U.S. happen to be living. It certainly isn’t the one I’m on.

I don’t know if one politician can do anything to move America on this front and help bring much-needed reform in this area, but I damn sure don’t think John McCain, the so-called maverick Republican, can. I will give my vote to Barack Obama and hope he is a man of his word about working across party lines to bring this change.

It’s a real challenge to fight the influence of corporations and organizations with payrolls full of former politician- and backslapper-lobbyists, but I am putting some of what little money I have left after paying for my health insurance on Obama.

Pop Culture Note: Photos: 1) From Calling Dr. Kildare with Lew Ayres as Dr. Kildare and the great Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Gillespie. I had no idea there were so many Dr. Kildare movies in the late 30s and early 40s. I believe there were 10 with Lew Ayres and Barrymore continued with a few more movies as Dr. Gillespie after Ayres went off to war (as a conscientious objector who served in the Medical Corps). 2) TV’s dreamy Dr. Kildare portrayed by Richard Chamberlain is the Dr. Kildare I grew up loving.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Christmas in July

I hardly ever mention that I offer some of my designs on CafePress, but it struck me odd that someone would be buying this yard sign in July. Maybe she is like my mom was--always thinking ahead. Mom would scout out bargains all year long so that by the time Thanksgiving rolled around she was done with her shopping. While I am my mother's daughter, I never caught the shopping bug. Just give me the ease of online shopping and I am one happy camper.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Little Pleasures

New grandmas are apt to go overboard. How can you walk into a department store without seeing something just too cute to pass up? I steadfastly assert that I am not yet one of THOSE new grandmas.

My latest purchase was only $5 and it was for a good cause too. The other day while paying for some socks, I noticed the Kohl’s Cares for Kids books and plush animals near the checkout registers. Kohl’s says it donates all of the net profits to organizations working with health and education programs for children. Eric Carle’s “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?” caught my eye. Carle, illustrator of the classic, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” creates wonderfully bright and charming tissue paper collages.

Depending on your age, you probably grew up with Carle’s books or bought them for your children or grandchildren or as baby gifts. My son still has his tattered copy, which has now been passed along to the newest family member, Nicolas.

So, this little hardback became the latest addition to Nic’s blossoming library. You would imagine a family of writers would love books, wouldn’t you? I don’t know if Nicolas will be a writer or set out on his own course, but so far, this little guy has had one incredible journey. For now, his parents are telling his story on their new blog, Illinois Preemie. Later, Nic, Grandma Sheila expects to hear from you.

Friday, July 18, 2008

For a while I fell off the face of the earth

I landed in Batavia, Illinois, a far-far western suburb of Chicago. Long-time readers might be curious about this journey, but for now, I intend to be discrete and mysterious about my detour along life’s pathways.

My new home, a quaint little town clustered along the Fox River, captured my eye immediately when I first drove into the downtown central business district. Yes, there is still a thriving downtown here, not yet lost to the strip-shopping centers which populate west Batavia along Randal Road where every manner of chain store or restaurant is at your beck and call. The mayor wrote this about his town, “Batavia in some ways looks like a town that time has left alone.” This part of the Fox River Valley is lovely, and I am no stranger to the river having once lived in a Craftsman-style house overlooking the Fox for a short time in Appleton, Wisconsin.

While Batavia is doing a fine job of straddling old and new, I found her charm immediately apparent with tree-lined streets of homes ranging from Victorian painted ladies to one classic Frank Lloyd Wright home. I can walk to my insurance agent, bank, pharmacy, coffee shop, and library.

The library features a mural of the art accompanying this post--John Philip Falter's "Fox River Ice-Skating," which was the Saturday Evening Post cover for Jan. 11, 1958. In the upper right corner, you can see the Challenge Windmill Factory, another Batavia landmark. Batavia dubs itself “The City of Energy,” a right fine tagline since it served as home to five windmill factories during its early years, and it has been the home of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) for more than 40 years.

Well, that’s a short introduction to my new hometown. More later but don't expect me to write about ice-skating on the Fox River or anywhere for that matter.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Gone Fishin'

Dear Gentle Longtime Readers:
I haven't been posting as much lately. You see, I have a new distraction: a new job. I will eventually get back to posting on a semi-regular basis, but I will mostly check in on my favorite blogs when I have a little extra time. But, I will still surround myself with words since the job entails a boatload of them. Happy blogging!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Practical loses out to indulgent

Like one of my favorite bloggers, I don’t write about products for pay. Yes, I know there is a Google ad at the top of this post, but I don’t even bother to see if there is any money in my account, and I certainly have no control over what ads Google plops up there. Ads for Ann Coulter books, sexy singles, quilting supplies, the University of Alabama and of course kitchen sinks—they are all somehow related to the content here or at least Google seems to think so, although I still haven’t figured out the sexy singles connection.

So, this cute little Springer Spaniel stuffed animal by Douglas is not an ad. As a new grandma, I am prone to impulse purchases. Ogilvy, a Springer Spaniel plush dog, was one such purchase. I thought new grandson might like this much quieter liver and white spaniel to match the real life Monte version.

I know new parents would love more practical purchases, but sometimes a grandma just has to be indulgent.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Dog Senses Danger

My son called me on his way to work this morning. “Did you hear about the earthquake?” he asked.

I had and was going to E-mail him later to ask if they had felt the quake in the west suburbs of Chicago.

My daughter-in-law had been awakened by a shaking house and had tried to convince my skeptical son that she wasn’t imagining things. Only after checking the morning’s news did he realize she was right.

Now, unlike the west coast, you don’t really hear too much about earthquakes in the Midwest, but according to the U.S.Geological Survey, "this region has more earthquakes than any other part of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains." For example, the New Madrid Fault is one you might have heard about most. Back in 1811-1812, a series of earthquakes hit New Madrid, Missouri, and even changed the course of the Mississippi River. Today’s quake, which occurred in the Wabash Valley fault system, was centered in southern Illinois and was felt in St. Louis, Cincinnati and even as far as Canada. Because of the region's geology, earthquakes here tend to be felt over much greater distance.

But, what captured my attention was the strange behavior of grand-dog Monte as reported by my son. My son said that yesterday Monte was barking at the ground like he was terribly afraid. Monte's legs were trembling from fear. From past experience, I know dogs will bark at a lot of odd things--motorcycles, vacuum cleaners and especially items that are out-of-place; however, I am now convinced Monte is an earthquake-detector dog.

The National Geographic
has an interesting article on the subject of animals sensing earthquakes. Next time, I think I’ll listen to Monte when he sounds a warning. I have a new level of respect for him.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

When Whimsy Strikes

In looking for an image this morning, I consulted Dover’s Pictorial Archive Series, “Life” Magazine Cuts & Illustrations 1923-1935. Life got its start in the late 1800s with founder John Ames Mitchell patterning it after the Harvard Lampoon.

Mitchell, himself a cartoonist, gave many budding artists a start including Charles Dana Gibson, who was famous for the Gibson Girl.

During Life’s heyday, works of some of the country’s greatest commercial artists appeared on its pages including illustrations by Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

Dr. Seuss fashioned a career illustrating for big advertisers like General Electric and Standard Oil, drew political cartoons, joined the Army during World War II and eventually wrote and illustrated children’s books, which we remember him for best.

This is the illustration that caught my eye this morning. I don’t know how it was originally used, but I thought it needed some orange.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Call Me

I’m a total nut about serendipity. Here’s a recent example.

Our house phone had been out of order for God only knows how long. Since I was away for two weeks, I can’t say when I would have noticed it. Some time during that time though, husband called and asked if I ever had any trouble with the phone. Well, yes that was a strange thing to ask me, but he did set up an appointment with AT&T to have it checked.

The repairman showed up and promptly found the source of trouble. Our service box had been struck by lightning he deduced. Anyway, I was happy that the source of trouble wasn’t with the house wiring which would have meant we would have had to pay for the repair.

Here’s the serendipity. Even before Mike called (that’s the AT&T guy) to tell me the phone was working again, I heard the phone ring and answered. It was a call for Scott about a summer internship. Good timing or serendipity? Well y’all know what I think.

Plus, Mike showed me how I could troubleshoot to see if the house wiring might be at fault should we ever have trouble again. You take a working standard phone (you do still have one of those, don’t you?) out to the service box and plug it in. That could tell you the house wiring is at fault if you get a dial tone out there and not inside. But I guess if you don’t, you’ll need to call the phone company anyway because it could be a case like ours or not.

Friday, April 04, 2008

My Two Cents

I think I might know why so many of us are in economic trouble.

Yesterday, the third grocery store I went to had the hazelnuts I needed for a recipe. I paid for the package with two one-dollar bills and 50 cents in change. My purchase totaled $2.48. The cashier asked, “Do you want your change?”

You are darned tootin’ sweetkins. “Yes,” I replied with a hint of sarcasm. I reckon Dillon’s thinks my two cents doesn’t matter much to me. Well, two cents is two cents, and after awhile a big grocery chain with two cents extra from every shopper could actually add up to some free money.

I guess the stories about the death of the penny are true. But I’ll keep my two cents for what it’s worth.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Eco Shopping

I was in an eco mood yesterday when I popped into Wal-Mart. It’s been awhile since I’ve shopped there, and I noticed that Wal-Mart has embraced green and organic like only Wal-Mart can.

Organic is sometimes more expensive than non-organic, but the fresh organic sweet potatoes and lemons were nearly the same price.

Then, I noticed the Palmolive dishwasher detergent called Eco and decided to try it since it was less expensive than regular brands. I passed on Clorox’s new green brand but perhaps I’ll give it a try soon.

The display of Campbell’s Tomato Soup with the Earth Day label practically demanded I buy a can. Plus, I remembered that April 22, is Earth Day.

And finally, all this talk about ‘green’ reminded me of my favorite green character, Kermit the Frog, who sang, “When green is all there is to be” . . . “I think it’s what I want to be.”

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Chancing It

April showers bring May flowers. What do Mayflowers bring? Why Pilgrims of course.

I thought of the old saying and kids' joke yesterday when I got what I deserved shower-wise. I tempted fate with two quick stops before getting caught in a downpour at the last shopping foray. I thought briefly about taking the blue and white Seton Hall umbrella so casually tossed on the back seat of the car. So, that’s why I got what I deserved and why I never would have made it as a Boy Scout had I been eligible to join their ranks of “always be prepared.”

Perhaps had I not dallied over the produce or if the young cashier hadn’t wanted to run back to the frozen isle to get me another sugar-free popsicle package because the one I selected was too soft or if I hadn’t been mentally tallying up prices in my head to reach the magic $90 so that I could use a $9 off coupon, I could have beaten the storm. But maybe I was destined to get a drenching to the bone. It’s been a while after all, and a shower can wash away many things including predictability.