Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 165/365 Strange Fruit

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

I repeat:

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.*

September 12, 2009, Clay County, Kentucky: the body of a census worker was found hanged in a remote section of the Daniel Boone National Forest, with the work "Fed" inscribed on his chest. His truck and his computer were found nearby.

Clay County is in the southeastern part of Kentucky, predominantly and intensely Republican and predominantly and intensely fundamental Christian.

Fox News, Glenn Beck, Hannity, Michele Bachmann and your ragtag bunch of teabaggers, claiming that "Obama's census takers would use the information to put their opponents in concentration camps" (6-26-09, Glenn Beck,Fox News)- this needs to be laid directly and squarely at your feet. You have blood on your hands.

I grew up in the South in the late 1950's and early Sixties. There were horrible things that took place back in these mountains and across the South.

Do you really, really want to go down this road again?

Again, I repeat:

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

*George Santayana

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 164/365 Help The Real Victims!

It's not often that I asked my gentle readers for help, or point them in the direction of helping others, but this time, the situation is dire.

Please refuse to support the public option or even refuse to support ANY health care reform, since doing so would take food out of the mouths of health care executives.

Please agree that if you have ANY pre-existing health conditions, you certainly are not entitled to insurance that would cost the insurance companies even a dollar.

Please agree to continue to send in your increased premiums every month, because the health insurance companies really NEED that money.

In exchange, they will check and doublecheck your claims, and deny them for many different reasons (a variety of options), from typos to a long-since forgotten cold you had decades ago.

The insurance companies are only thinking of you, and in exchange, we need to think about them, and their overworked executives.

After all, who's more important? You and your family, or the health insurance companies?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 163/365 The Real Thing

For anyone who has ever seen the real thing, from that moment on it becomes a no-brainer to distinguish hype and media-created frenzy from the genuine article.

Beatles in 1964 versus "the newest band that will change music forever".

Aretha Franklin versus "the newest company promoted pop diva".

Classic Coke versus new Coke.

Patrick Swayze versus the other so-called leading men.

Mountain Lake Hotel in Giles County Virginia versus mouse-created plastic resorts.

When I was a child, my dad took a position teaching at a biology summer camp a half mile or so away from the Mountain Lake Hotel. That summer in the early sixties was very much like the summer portrayed in Dirty Dancing, at the fictional Kellermann's Resort.

Well, except I was seven, and, unlike Jennifer Grey's character Baby, and being a child, people put me in the corner all the time. Usually I deserved it.

That summer the lake was full and all it's mysteries remained on the bottom.

But in 2008, the mysteries were exposed when the lake bed ran dry, and a pair of old leather shows were found embedded in the cracked dry mud of the lake bottom. Eventually a ring, and a tooth were found, leading to the identification of a man who had been boating with his wife and two friends in 1921, fallen from the boat and drowned. Of course, close to his remains were the
casings of several .32 caliber bullets. I know I always take a .32 caliber handgun with me when boating. Don't you?

The lake has slowly started filling again. Someday the famous gazebo may be on the waterside again.

Summer of 2009 puts the dock about 7 feet from the water.

That's what real things do - they ebb and flow -always changing, forever inconsistent.

And sooner or later, they change forever. And you lose them.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 162/365 For Your Consideration

Our country has always been good at memorials, Gettysburg National Cemetary for example. Pearl Harbor and the beautiful eternal Arizona Memorial.

This week was spent remembering 9-11 with media events, personal recollections, and the unsettling memory (for me) that Friday was *exactly* the same sort of day it was eight years ago: bright blue sky, blinding sunlight, crisp fall air.

I wonder how different things would be if our country was half as good at preventing death as we are at memorializing it.


3,000 people died in the 9-11 attacks.


Every two months, 3,000 people die in America because they are denied insurance.

Sixty days from now, the equivalent of another 9-11 attack will kill another 3,000 Americans.

Another sixty days later, another 3,000 will have died.

And so on.

To the tune of 18,000 Americans a year, dying not from terrorist attacks, or disaster, hurricanes, heat waves, earthquakes or floods - but just from not having insurance.

18,000 American sons, daughters, husbands, wives, babies, grandmothers, grandfathers.

What if 18,000 troops were killed tomorrow in Afghanistan? Or 18,000 died in a horrible attack on one of our cities? The public would rise up and demand payback.

Why in the world are we so accepting of this month's health dead, and next month's health dead, and the next month, and the next month, and the next month and the next month.......?

**Figures courtesy of National Academy of Sciences, via Nicholas Kristof

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Day 161/365 Snakes and Karma

Being a homeschooler means encouraging your child to explore their interests, wherever they might take them. Sometimes this backfires on you, and they meet someone at the science museum, who turns them on to having a ball python. Then, their interests end up at the top of the steps, in their room, in a locking tank.

(Personally, I am convinced this is the universe repaying me with its warped twisted idea of karma, just because I killed that black snake earlier this summer, but whatever....)

So this is Grendel (yes, named after the "monster" in Beowulf - we have a running joke in our house about Beowulf). He (or she, we're not sure yet) is a baby ball python -born in captivity- about 14" long - a deep luminescent black, with coppery designs.

After all the researching, shopping, looking, and convincing Grandma it was okay - Grendel has spent almost all of his time hiding inside his little house. Much ado about nothing.

Then we found out that he was moody and cranky because he was in the middle of shedding.

Now, he's feeling much better, and has come out to explore his tank, and to pose for his closeup.

He actually has a sortof of Mona Lisa smile. He's a baby so he has no teeth. His preferred meals are "pinks", frozen baby mice that sortof look like plastic toys that used to come in gumball machines (probably dating myself here).

The reason his breed are called "ball pythons" is because when they are stressed or scared, they curl themselves into a ball, hiding their heads, until the danger goes away (think of it as crawling under the covers). As near as I can tell, they are more afraid of us than we are of them.

When he grows up, in 4-5 years, he'll be somewhere between 5-6 feet. He'll need a bigger tank.

And probably something bigger to hang on.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Day 160/365 Schoolrooms

According to our local paper, the public school board has made a decision to spare the local school children the opportunity to listen to President's Obama's address. They plan to record it, view it for political content, and then, maybe, allow some children to view it, unless their parents choose to opt out.

I seriously doubt this would have been the case if the former occupant of the Oval Office had chose to address the school children of the United States.

It was definitely not the case when the first President Bush addressed the nation's school children (an action heartily applauded by the Republican Party).

Actually, there has never been much complaint about any sitting President addressing America's children. He has been, after all, their president. FDR actually started an entire charitable movement when he asked children to send in their dimes to help other children suffering from polio. If President Obama tried this, the opposition would probably accuse him of stealing from children.

For all of you who pulled your children out, or refused to allow them to attend school today, or who insist on getting your news secondhand, you should be ashamed. One would hope that your children are capable of discerning what is valid and what is not. If they are not, you should examine the quality of the school they attend, and your capabilities as parent (this is a great opportunity to say "let's listen to the presidents message and see where we agree and disagree - but we will listen because he is the president").

In case you have second thoughts and would like to offer your children the opportunity to read and decide for themselves, here's a link to the actual text:

The only difference I can see between this president and any previous one is one that is glaringly obvious in photographs.

Those of you who refused to allow your children to participate - read the text and see what horrible, political ideas are presented. Next time maybe you'll think for yourselves or at least honestly re-examine your reasons for objecting.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Day 159/365 Why We Do The Things We Do

Upon the occasion of a family emergency I found myself wondering why I turned out one way rather than the other, why I deal with things the way I do, and why it would never occur to me to run screaming into the night like Prissy in Gone With the Wind.

All I can say is I'm lucky enough to be related to these three women, my great-aunts: Lucy, Onie, and Addie.

These are three of the toughest women ever born. Never, in all the time I knew them, did I ever see them back down from any person, place or thing. Never even a blink in the face of adversity. Just "figure out what needs to be done, and do it."

Aunt Lucy, on the left, was an English teacher, old school, meaning not only did she expect papers turned in on time but she also expected they would be brillant and creative - anything less was a sinful waste of paper and graphite. She taught high school, and eventually married one of her students, a year after he graduated, remaining married to him for over sixty years. She became the historian in the family, ferreting out all the little generational details, to the point of visiting the chieftain of the clan in Scotland -no call to warn him, just marched up to the front door and introduced herself. Like any mountain girl, she figured they were cousins, so it was okay.

The woman laughing in the middle is my Aunt Onie. Her full name was Leona, but she was so tiny, it was shortened to Onie from the beginning. I have no memory of her when she wasn't laughing. She became an English teacher too (the family is riddled with them), famous for reading her students papers and then arguing the contents with them in class. Her greatest love was debate - what viewpoint you held was unimportant. What mattered was that you were able to present your reasons for holding that position, and discuss the pros and cons. She waited late to marry, with the ceremony performed in the parlor of the family farm, leaving immediately afterwards for her new home across the state in Newport News. A year later, she and her husband were in a horrific car accident on an icy winter road. He died instantly and she suffered an injury that would cause her to have a pronounced limp the rest of her life. She continued teaching, but never remarried. When she died forty years later, she was buried beside the man she had only known for a year and a half.

On the right is Addie, short for Adeline Virginia Magruder- being the oldest girl she inherited all the family names and ancestral history. Although the entire family was nothing more than a pack of rabid devoted Roosevelt Democrats, Addie was the most rabid of all. She served as County Chairman of the Party, then Southwestern State Section Chairman all the while writing letters directly to FDR discussing his New Deal. College-educated like the rest of the children, she had no tolerance for willfully ignorant people, and a great belief in the ability of the American people to accomplish anything they put their minds to. She inherited a love of horses from her father, and established a stable of Tennessee Walkers that was the envy of local horsemen. She chose not to marry, remaining on the farm after my great-grandfathers death to watch over her mother. After my great-grandmother's death, Addie maintained the family homestead, supervising and hiring crews of men to work the fields during harvest. One of the great family mysteries is a shooting that took place involving Addie and one of those hired men. I found the letters that flowed between the other siblings as to what to do, and they are very careful to refer only to generalities. The gun disappeared, as well as the court records.

So what did I inherit? Love of family and its history, being a Democrat, knowing when to laugh and how to debate politics.

Most importantly: never back down, and do what you have to do.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Day 158/365 Things To Remember

In case of emergency:

  • Be able to open a child-proof bottle of aspirin

  • Know how to drive a stick shift

  • Live very, very close to your local hospital

  • Be grateful if your hospital has one of these
  • Count yourself fortunate if your air ride is to a state-of-the-art coronary unit.
  • Take a deep breath if you are one of the lucky ones with health insurance.

Thanks to Wendy, Nancy, Ann and Dr. Savage at the Coronary Care Unit, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.