Friday, March 27, 2009

A Jewel Amidst the Rubble

This week I’ve been reading…well listening to…the audio book “America War Letters”. Well, most of it. The first disc was missing, leaving the American Revolution and half the Civil War AWOL, but the remainder, concluding with Bosnia, was fascinating. I know. Doesn’t sound like a cheerful way to spend a commute. I knew hearing about events like Pearl Harbor’s casualties would hardly qualify as entertaining.

But I’m a girl. When I was growing up, girls didn’t join the Marines, they wrote letters to them.

Curiosity led me to their stories. Personal stories. Letters written in the cold and dark, often surrounded by the enemy. Sure, I knew anything with “war” in the title meant death wouldn’t be far behind. You almost instinctively know that any writer who cheerfully boasted, “Hey, I’m too mean to die”, was doomed. Thankfully the book is a balanced mix. allowing for reflection on the past without sinking into a pit of despair over “man’s inhumanity to man”. It’s like stepping into history as it happens. This isn't a scholarly account but impressions of the “common man”, usually reporting from the front lines.

I came away grateful to have been spared their realities.

Letter writing is a fine art which we are smothering into electronic submission. But even machines can’t remove the human factor. Nor can time. The letters run the gamut from Grunt to General to Presidents. Some grabbed you by the throat, others by the heartstrings. Like the personal note of sympathy from Pres. Theodore Roosevelt to a grieving mother when his family had also just lost a son to war. A note telling Mom everything was fine and to please send cookies, while a letter to Dad admitted the harsh truth. Ranging from patriotic to scared, cheerful to lonely, the soldiers did their best to comfort those they loved…people who were safe and warm. Back home.

And each letter ended with the same belief: don’t worry, I’ll be all right.

It was the language of the WWII stories which made me love them most. Without the curse of “reality t.v.” people still used the most descriptive words to tell vivid stories. Words were the tune which twirled you around the room. Even horrifying stories often contained humor. One was from a nurse on a ship bound for home. Having packed all their clothing for the trip, the nurses decided to sleep nude. Their ship was bombed as they slept. The nurse described in great detail how all but one “poor unfortunate soul” had found their coveralls and shoes. Can you imagine taking time to get dressed in the dark when your room is filling with water and the ceiling is literally falling on your head? But “proper lady” etiquette ruled and only one woman went topside in her birthday suit. Their words didn’t just tell a story, they made it real. Tangible. Every soldier had a story to tell.

But none did it as well as Sidney Diamond.

Sid was 16 when he met 14 year old Estelle on a playground. Walking her home the second time, he knew she was the girl he'd marry. They pair even discussed marriage. Then came Pearl Harbor and Sid dropped out of college to join the Army. His letters to Estelle were heartwarming, funny, tender and so filled with love they made YOU feel better.

A true wordsmith, Sid’s sense of humor was interwoven with phrases that still haunt me. Only in that era did “Darling” and “Sweetheart” sound so sincere. Whether teasing or serious, there was no doubt how much Sid loved Estelle. On Leave for 2 days, he dropped to one knee in Central Park and put a ring on her finger. Two days later, he shipped out.

Their correspondence illustrated a true love story. With humor. After waiting for a care package which hadn’t arrived, Sid “addressed” the Postman. “You probably come from a very happy family. I love you. The girl receiving this likes you. So please allow her to send me a pen and cigarette lighter. And a kiss. Hey! In the letter. Tend to your own business and sell stamps.”

But it was Sid’s command of the English language which made you understand why women use to swoon. One of his letters ended,“For you, a very fond caress. A kiss. Because…just because.”

When his friends began to die, Sid turned to Estelle as “the only person to whom I can moan because it sounds so childish.” Asking her to forgive his melancholy, he suggested she dump the letter in the nearest trash basket. The war was wearing him down. Soldiers departed, Sid explained, never arrived. Even the Chaplain referred to the dead as the departed. Did that mean you could only truly arrive when you died? Sid wondered. Asking her to disregard his mood, he added, “It is terrible to live with memories only. I’m moaning and groaning on your very nice shoulders. I want to be with you. I love you. Your Sid.”

War began to grind Sid down. Only his love for Estelle made it tolerable. On a letter written Christmas Day, Sid noted, ”Poems, songs, stories of love and eternal devotion are written about everlasting, enduring, powerful affections like the love which holds us together. Don’t mind the overdose of sentimentalism. Maybe it’s the night.”

Tired of being practical and unable to share his whereabouts, Sid’s sense of humor was waning. Between death, the unrelenting cold and time spent apart from Estelle, Sid had grown weary. And yet he ended letters on a high note. After sharing the low points that Christmas, Sid added, “I love you Darling. Whatever happens, be happy. That’s my only request. Fill your life. Only keep my little niche open so that if I ever get home, there’s one place waiting for me. My corner of the world. Let it be a small alcove in your heart. Put a comfortable chair there and always keep a warm fire going. …It’s where I belong. It’s my home. With you. Estelle it’s not softness. It’s not weakness. It’s a fact. I need you. I need you. I need you. Enough of this. I love you extensively. Your Sid.”

Sid had warned Estelle it might be awhile before she received mail. A month later she received the following. “Darling, somewhere in the Philippines but…[a] very tired [b] very dirty and [c] busy as all hell. We’re moving constantly. Please excuse brevity. I love you. You make my foxhole warm and soft.”

Another month passed and Estelle was becoming worried. Coming home to the boarding house where she stayed, Estelle found an envelope in her room. Bearing her name in unfamiliar handwriting, it had no return address and contained only a newspaper clipping. Sid had been killed three days earlier in Luzon. He was 22 years old. Estelle had not seen him since the day he put a ring on her finger almost two years earlier.

In spite of knowing it could happen, I heard myself hiss in a wounded whisper, “No!” A tear rolled down my cheek. I felt a dull ache inside. After all those words of love and laughter, it was as if I’d lost Sid too.

Life went on, pushing Estelle with it and eventually she found love again. In 2004 she published a book which compiled the letters she and Sid had exchanged. It was entitled “An Alcove In The Heart”.


Funny, you look just like I pictured you.
Sid, you really were a jewel of a man.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Don Quixote is my Hero

I spent yesterday on the phone... tilting at windmills.

That sounds more poetic than I wasted 10 minutes talking to a credit card rep who very wearily confirmed what I have always suspected: credit card companies are evil. Maybe a necessary evil at times, but they don't need to get such joy out of winning.

I received a confusing bill. One portion showed a credit of my last payment, made a week prior to deadline. Beneath this was a note,"We did not receive your payment. If you fail to make a payment twice in one year, we will raise your APR."

You already raised my blood pressure.

So I called, remaining calm at first. I played nice during the round of "Press the Correct Button". If you win this round, you proceed to "Real Live, probably pissed off Representative." He wasn't really lively but I played along as the gentleman put me through the mental gymnastics portion of our game: who are you, spell your name, what's the last 4 digits of hubby's Social Security number and mother's maiden name. I asked whose mother, hubby's or mine?

I was met with stunned silence. I took this to mean I'd won the Bonus round.

Before Rep. Man could recover, I gave him hubby's Mom, followed by mine. One of the two met the legal requirement for him to actually speak to me...live and in person. I politely posed my question about the contradicting statements: we credited your payment...hey you didn't make a payment. I pointed out I'd paid a week prior to deadline, which I'd confirmed with my bank, who had posted my check.

Let the games begin.

Long story short (no need to raise your blood pressure too), when paying bills, I had two side by side. I paid the minimum balance... on the wrong one. This left me a mere $14 short, which seemed like a no brainer to me.

Silly me to bring a brain to play with Credit Card Rep. Man.

He advised me, presumably with a straight face, that had I paid the remaining $14 prior to the March 10th deadline, I would not have been stuck with an additional "Bad Customer!" charge of $39. When I pointed out that I hadn't received the company's correspondence until March 21st, he merely sighed.

"You mean to tell me that I could've fixed this problem by the 10th if I had in fact known about it prior to March 21st?" I asked through gritted teeth.

"Exactly."

Well, there you go. There are no "Do Overs" in Credit Card land, even it you've been a good customer making timely payments for years. Simple human error is not allowed. Computers can make errors which will be overlooked or explained away, but honest humans are not afforded the same courtesy. No pun intended.

Now I know why Wall Street and the American economy are in such bad shape. They have the same banker as my credit card company.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Yo Sister Friend!

The one thing I never counted on when I began a blog was finding friends. Not just invisible people who make you laugh, cry or allow steam to vent from you ears. REAL people. Who share their lives. Ups, downs....even sideways moments. The quiet readers have really found a place in your heart when you find yourself nodding at their words, as if they were sitting across the table and you wanted to show how intent you were on listening to their stories.

Thursday was the worst day I've had a work in a long time. Some of you already know how I feel about that subject. I'll just say that while I'm use to "No" being the stock answer to questions and I don't mind constructive criticism, I am still shocked when it' s laced with condescension issued by someone without a clue.

I admit it. I cried at the nasty tone of the responding memo. It was so uncalled for. Then I cried over the phone to poor hubby about working for people who only want to take the credit...then bleed me dry for more ideas. I sniffled on the way home, wondering how in the hell I can find an answer in this economy when there are people without jobs. I even contemplated e-mailing Susan when I got home because I knew she'd understand.

She beat me to it. And on top of that, she gave me an award.

I have been gifted with the "Sisterhood Award", which meant a lot, but especially coming from Susan. We're still trying to figure out how we were separated at birth as I was born first...and a few years earlier. Doesn't matter. Although an ocean separates us, a thread of invisible highway has united us. Laughing, crying, encouraging....I couldn't ask for a better friend. And that's exactly what I consider her; a dear and true friend.

And as with all awards, the joy is in passing it on to other deserving women. The first which came to mind would be my Scottish sister, Rachel. Poet and song writer [only music separates the two, right?], she's help expand my horizons while not laughing at my silly questions. Besides, she may be the only person I know who can out ramble me on paper. :)

Then there's Poetikat. Also a poet, it's her "Blast from the Past" posts which keep me in stitches. I'll never feel old as long as Kat is there to remind me of the angst of teenage years, from the time we thought boys were stupid creatures with no manners...until they took a turn for the better and became....interesting.

Ironically, one I want to name actually gifted the award to Susan...and that would be Peggy. I find myself often visiting during times of political strife or economic stupidity and finding myself sighing in relief. Peggy can also see when the Emperor is not wearing new clothes, making me feel that perhaps one day, we'll get America back on track.

Finally, I'd name my own sister but I've promised to keep her blog quiet for now. She's using it to work out her own life. Review. Plan. Ball the plan up, throw it at the trash can with a grin and try again. So in order to keep my promise, I'll have to be quiet. But I'll send her a note.

Spring has sprung....and it brought a host of lovely faces to the day. Thanks ladies for making life fun when the memos bring me crashing back to earth.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ogden's Return

Ah Spring. When the swallows return to Capistrano. When a young man’s fancy turns to something mushy and pollen becomes thick enough to shovel. I’m pretty sure if I could design a fashionable holster for carrying tissues on your side, allergy sufferers everywhere would make me a millionaire. And I’d be the first customer.

In the Spring of my 12th year I was introduced to Ogden. Life would never be the same. And every spring I murmur his name softly. First with a smile, then with a giggle.

Ogden will be with me until the day I die and yet, he will still live on.

On the first day of Spring the year I was 12, my beloved English teacher Mrs. Teer took a magic marker and went over to her cheerfully decorated bulletin board. We found this odd, as our willowy teacher always wrote our lessons on the chalk board. (Please tell me some of you are old enough to remember chalk boards?!) With a Mona Lisa smile on her lips she began to write. I can still see her, looking slightly uncomfortable at bending her height in half to scribble on the low board. As she wrote the word “riz”, we began to look at each other in confusion. Incorrect spelling was the highest offense in her class. Well, just after “not giving it your all”. As we all contemplated reaching for a dictionary to discover if this was a new word, meaning a new test, she did it again.

This time, she wrote “iz”. Just short of panicked, we glanced around the room, looking at each other for reassurance and finding none. When she was done, Mrs. Teer turned around with a self satisfied smile, only to be greeted by a classroom of 7th graders glaring at her with apprehension and one communal thought?

Mrs. Teer, have you lost your mind?

She had us read the short poem out loud, our fear giving way to giggles. And unbeknownst to her, she began a tradition in my household between eldest and youngest siblings. For every spring since I left home, I’ve sent a postcard to my baby brother. There are two things on it: his address and the poem. No signature. No return address. Probably a confused mailman or two over the years. But it’s not spring until this goes out in the mail:

Spring is sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where
the flowers iz?

The bird is on the wing.
Now isn’t that absurd?
I always thought the wing
was on the bird.


After his son was born, my brother suggested that perhaps I’d want to start sending the postcard to my nephew. I think it was my brother’s way of suggesting he’d gotten too old for the ritual. Funny, the eldest [that would be me] enjoys it too much to quit. And this from a man who, the year I forgot to send the postcard on time, REMINDED me he hadn’t received any spring mail.

Although the mail will be e-mail this time, the tradition continues. Years ago I ran into Mrs. Teer and told her what she’d started. I don’t know which part of her was more pleased: the teacher who made an impression or the impish woman who’d tickled our funny bones while laughing along with us.

So nephew dear, I guess now it’s just you and me…..and our mutual friend, Odgen Nash.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pole Dancing

When your best friend from college sends you an e-mail that contains the words "hysterical", "pole dancing" and "share with hubby" you have to wonder what kind of day she's had. The kind I had to share.



You gotta admit...the bear has moves.

And I can't get the tune out of my head.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Historical (or hysterical) Moment

Telemarketers. It's okay. I'll wait. Finish the eye rolling, grumbling and um...descriptive words of your choice. More than four letters allowed. I understand they're just doing a job but they have become the bane of our existence and have ruined many a meal. Well, not at our house. Not anymore. We signed up for the "Do Not Call" list and most of those calls that began five minutes after picking up a fork have ceased.

The work phone, however, is now their latest place to play.

Today I answered the phone at work, only to be greeted by that voice we've all become oh-so-familiar with when asking for Technical Assistance with a computer. Yes, that sing songy, outsourced voice belonging to some guy in India stuck in a room with a herd of his companions had found me at work.

"Hello," he began, reading quickly off his prompting sheet. "I need to talk to you about your copier," he added matter-of-factly, as if we already had some type of relationship.

"I don't have a copier," I replied politely. Well, not really. My job did not provide one so my old printer/copier came to live with me at work.

"What?" he asked, sounding incredulous as he employed the old keep-them-talking-on-the-phone-until-you-regain-control-of-the-conversation tactic.

"I don't have a copier," I repeated cheerfully.

"What?" he asked, sounding more worried than skeptical. I imagined him paging ahead in his manual for How-to-deal-with-people-who-don't-understand-the-question.

"I work for local government," I explained patiently, refusing to yield the conversational floor to him. "I don't have a copier in my office."

"What?" he asked, truly perplexed that someone in the modern world was copier-less.

"You'll need to talk to our Purchasing Agent, Mr. Smith. He handles all of our-"

The last sound I heard before the connection was broken was, "No copier?"

So make note for historical purposes: today a Telemarketer hung up on me.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Waking up to Ireland

Today I did something I don't normally do...I watched the "Today Show". Why? Because most days I'm too busy getting ready for work to bother. Today the pollen won the Head Clogged Wars and I stayed home. Okay, so maybe it's part mental health day too.

But it came with a perk. Ireland.

When I was a kid, the "Today Show" was where Hugh Downs would explain, in a most paternal manner, the news of the day. He'd read it to you, rarely clarifying unless it was something technical from say NASA that the average Joe wasn't familiar with. Barbara Walters sat at his side, earnestly tackling news stories while trying to look most professional in a male dominated occupation. Now that show is more celebrities, diets and fashion show. The news gets a five minute allowance at the top and bottom of the hour. So why did I stop flipping channels to watch it?

I was trying to figure out why Weatherman Al Roker was trying to River Dance.

Apparently this week the show is set in Ireland. This morning they came to us from Wicklow County, where a beautiful lass had a bountiful table of "Irish" foods for them to sample. I remember two things: Irish Soda Bread [somehow desecrated with an "updated" mix of Italian ingredients!] and the fact that everything was grown on local farms...so if you didn't like something, you could tell folks which farm to stay away from.

But what caught my attention and made me linger was a reporter's piece entitled "The Road Less Traveled".

How could I not watch that?

Turns out one of the reporters had a second cousin in Ireland. As the reporter explained it, their grandfathers were brothers: the reporter's grandfather had immigrated and the brother had not. The men were about the same age, in their early sixties, but their attitudes were so different! The Irish cousin was laid back and content to mosey along, whereas his American cousin was like a kid hyped on sugar, head constantly rotating to take it all in. How, I wanted to yell, can you enjoy the scenery if your head is spinning like a windmill?

The piece was about staying away from tourist spots to take back roads, ones less traveled. I believe they said they were in County Sligo, but I'm not sure. To tell the truth, my eyes were too busy drinking in the scenery, complete with an ornery fat sheep which would not yield the right of way. Ironically I found the tiny road beautiful as it wound through the country side. The reporter was having a fit about going down the middle of such a tiny lane and nagged his cousin about it.

"So you just keep on, driving as if you're the only one on the road?" the reporter grimaced as they crested a hill, followed by a blind turn.

"It's all in God's hands," his cousin replied jovially as the reporter continued to grimace around each bend.

I liked that cousin.

I do remember that they stopped at a store in Mayo and talked to people. Well, if you want to call it talking. Ever insistent upon those short stories, the reporter was heard in an overdub asking questions, while the locals' answers were reduced to five word sound bites. Well, except for one older gentleman. At first I thought they'd cornered him and requested that as a wise looking old man, if he's spout some "Irish wisdom" for the Americans back home. Yes, that "wisdom" came in two quotable sound bites and an Irish blessing. The last one was offered with heartfelt sentiment and a twinkle in the eye. The reporter later said the old man had cornered THEM and didn't want to stop talking.

Good. I thought with a smile. A real human being who refused to speak in sound bites.

When they returned live with the reporter, he was sandwiched between a non-dancing Al and the female host. Of all the beauty of the country and the people, the reporter was still shaking his head over anyone driving so confidently down those lovely lanes. He just didn't get it. His fear of the possibility of another car around the bend made all the scenery slip from view. I'd be willing to bet he saw next to nothing on the road less traveled...unless they were parked.

To tell you the truth, I would've been perfectly happy to have ridden with the Irish Cousin because he was confident. And happy. Truly happy. After all, if you're going down the road less traveled, you should do it with a smile and a sense of adventure.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Taking a Break

Friday afternoon the weather was beautiful...and then it took a turn for the worst. We've gone from 75 degrees and sunny [and sunburned last weekend!] back to the 40s, cold and rainy. Since the work week ended badly [I won't bore you] and I was feeling less than sunny myself today, I decided to take a break after the usual laundry and get those pictures out of the camera.


For Susan...
the tree we bought... which came with a house.
The mailbox is at the end of that long driveway!

For Ken....okay, so it's not a goldfish.
But the sun was setting and Mr. Cardinal was shiny!

For those of you who have kids...
this is our eldest son, Smokey

And Smokey's son, Boudreaux....it's a l-o-n-g story.
We call him Bou
And yes...he either looks hungry or guilty.


And for Radge
this is my little corner of the world.
Yes, I do like bears.
The second one on the right holds my reading glasses.

Going left to right.....
A Native American Suncatcher[Mohegan tribe] Medicine Wheel...
more about that later.

Next a shadow box containing Rachel's poem "Auchmithe Road"
along with a couple of pieces of Scotland.
Yes, my attempt to own real estate worldwide.

The map is from Shug's latest work.

The screen shot is from last week's kite flying contest.

Tour's over...carry on.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Amazing

Okay, Wednesday's almost over, meaning we've gotten over the hump for the week. {Easy boys!}

I don't post music often and I know some of you might click to the next blog when you hear it's a stirring rendition of "Amazing Grace". But if you'd like to see a performance by Il Divo in Rome, this is the one for you. It has a twist in the middle I didn't expect.

If you fancy bagpipes, give it a listen.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So today wasn't going so well....

...as I'd been in the kitchen since 8:30 a.m. this morning preparing lunch for the seniors. Usually, I love to cook. But I didn't sleep well last night because the pollen is rearing its ugly head early, making me clog up. Breathing is like work. Add to that my lovely work induced sunburn from the kite flying contest which makes me burn up one moment, then shiver the next. It's a good thing just my arms were exposed. I'm so lily white that if any more of me had seen daylight, I fear I would've burst into flames and been spotted from outer space.

So when I went to work with the kids this afternoon, I took a deep breath [well, not too deep considering how well that's working] and opened the door as if trudging towards Death Row. Most days I don't mind working with the kids. Their attitudes can get in the way but I've learned how to make that disappear. They all looked at me expectantly, calling out my name cheerfully. Then, noting my empty hands, they turned back to their books. You see my little con artists have figured out the pattern: when I cook on Tuesdays, they tend to get the left over desserts. I'd already sent the cake on with my co-worker, so they didn't have a clue.

Just so this story makes sense, you should know that I'm the only white face at the Center. That doesn't bother me but anything new about me evolves into some of the most um...interesting topics of conversation. They still can't comprehend why I refer to my baby fine, straight locks as "really bad white girl hair." They love the texture and are constantly playing with my hair. Yesterday I had to endure our two youngest kids constantly touching my very touchy sunburnt arms. Our smallest girl, Teonna, is in kindergarten and the color of my arms alarmed her greatly. She kept placing her tiny hand on my arm and saying, "It's hot!" as if the red color had turned my arm into a stove burner. Truth was, my skin was still right warm and stinging yesterday. I explained what had happened and asked ever so kindly for her to leave my poor arms in peace. Each having done the test touch and asked a zillion questions, both girls agreed to stop.

And yet every five minutes I'd feel Teonna's little hand gently taking my arm's temperature.

I don't want to kill the kids' curiosity but pain isn't fun either. So I'd just look in her direction, and the prying hand would disappear. The only time I squealed was when she went to the other arm and poked it, as if checking to see if a loaf of bread was done. Through gritted teeth I said,"Teonna, please use your hands to hold on to your cards and let's just play our game." She agreed.

Twenty minutes later, the little hand stole over on to my arm again. Like a mother scolding her child, Teonna sighed,"Still hot." Somehow we made it through the afternoon with no screaming.

Today I came in and my little nurse immediately reached for my arm. Before she could, the other woman yelled at her, "Don't touch her arm! She's sunburned. That hurts white people. If you did that to me...," and she trailed off in disgust.

Ah, diplomacy.

Since tired and worn out is tough on the patience level, I hoped a simple explanation would suffice. Teonna had a frown wrinkling her brow and I wasn't sure if she was concerned or about to cry. Very quietly I said,"Yep, it still hurts. But not as bad." That declaration seemed to help. Teonna ran to the table, handed me a piece of paper and then hid behind a door. Here is the note in it's entirety. And remember, she's in kindergarten.

To Mrs [my first name mispelled hilariously but she tried]

Fome Teonna

I love you Mrs. [me] becos you is sow grat


Funny, my sunburn doesn't hurt any more. And I gave her a hug just to prove it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hey Ladies! It's YOUR Day.

March is "Women's Month", with March 8th the date set aside to honor women internationally.

I don't usually post stuff I've previously written, but this is a story I put in the senior's newsletter this month. Although the statistics are for the U.S., it's still interesting to see how roles continue to expand and sometimes reverse.

So women, I salute you. And guys, you might just want to call your Mom and tell her the good things you remember about what she's done for you.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

March...when men's thoughts turn to basketball's "March Madness", the Irish celebrate St. Patty's Day and Daylight Savings Time returns. Those yearning for spring think about gardening while kids fly kites until the roaring wind dissolves into a gentle breeze.

But ladies, did you know that March is YOUR month?

National Women's History Month began March 8,1857 as a work condition protest by women in New York City factories. It’s evolved over the years from a day to the month of March. Other than the women in your family, what do you know about women’s contributions to society?
According to U.S. census statistics, in 2007 there were over 153 million women and 149 million men. Men outnumber women until the age of 42, when the statistic reverses. By the time they reach 85, women outnumber men 2 to 1.

As society changes, so does the rate women marry and have children. 62 million women are married, with 59 million widowed/divorced/never married. There are 82 million U.S. women who answer to "Mom", although the choice to become a mother later in life has changed the birthrate from 3 to 1.9 children. [Guess my height makes me a .9] In 1996 there were a million stay-at-home Moms. Ten years later there were 5.6 million. Even though 39% of women are considered "not employed", they still work taking care of children or others.

For employed women, 18% earn more than their husbands. Yet there’s still room for improvement in the workplace. In 2006, women earned 77 cents for every $1 earned by men. Why are things changing? Education. It’s the foundation for moving up the corporate ladder.
88% of women complete high school compared to 84% of men. 26 million women age 25+ have obtained a Bachelor's Degree, which is double the rate in 20 years and exceeds that of men their age. In 2008 women earned 380,000 Masters Degrees and represented the majority of students obtaining law or medical degrees.

With knowledge comes power. 22 million women work in education, health and social assistance industries, and outnumber men as tax preparers and travel agents. Their numbers are also rising in traditionally male occupations: 84,000 police officers, 9,000 firefighters, 315,000 lawyers, 278,000 physicians/surgeons and 37,000 pilots. In 1950 the military was less than 2% female. By 2008, 15% of active duty soldiers were women. 34,000 of that figure represents Officers. The number of female veterans rose to 1.7 million in 2008.

6.5 million women have turned their nurturing nature into self employment. They’ve hired 7 million people and brought in revenues totaling $939 Billion. Women operate 72% of social assistance programs and over half of nursing/residential care facilities. And yet, no matter what their work situation, 30% still make time to volunteer in unpaid positions.

Whether owning an advanced degree, a business or busy raising the next generation, women know the power of social change. And they use it. In 2004, 65% of women 18+ voted, compared to 62% of men.

Today is an excellent time to march up to the women who've made a difference in your life and say "Thank You!"

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Go Fly a Kite!

Okay, I admit it. My job is...unusual. One minute I'm cooking lunch for senior citizens and calling Bingo, the next I'm doing homework with elementary school kids. And then there are days like today. Our Annual Kite Flying contest. This was my 15th one. Only one parent complained to me this year and sadly, he was right. Since my task is to take the entry fee by default I become the Complaint Department. Much to the man's surprise, I agreed with him, then apologized that those in charge of the microphone had forgotten how we play the game. He said the day was ruined for him and his two kids and I said I hoped he'd try again next year. He smiled and added he didn't think it wasn't my fault. Well of course not. The person game enough to apologize is hard to stay mad at.

Instead of stories of human nature at it's least lovely, here are some of the photos I took. It was the perfect day to fly a kite...just the right temperature and just enough wind to keep kites airborne instead of trying to wrap them around tall, immobile objects. Charlie Brown would've been in 7th heaven.

On your mark, get set....fly!


Kites came in all shapes and sizes...and the majority were flown by girls!




Okay, this was a "boy" entry....once he wrestled it away from his Dad.



The tails were often like jigsaw puzzles.


And Mom served as cheerleader, taxi driver and pack mule.


There were ribbons awarded and memories made.



And at the end of the day....

well, even the kites were tired.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Beauty of Brick Walls

There's a saying in the south, "I know I'm preaching to the choir." Loosely translated it means being aware you're explaining stuff to people who already know about it. You can't get new church members if you keep trying to recruit from those already inside. One of my seniors asked me a question the other day that fell into the category of "exasperating". Not the senior. The act in question. We were equally frustrated at what we saw as common sense which was being ignored by the powers-that-be. As I pointed at the concrete block wall in my office I sighed sadly,"Pick a brick and talk to it. Same effect. Some days," I added morosely as the senior looked on, equally annoyed,"I feel like all I do is hit my head against a brick wall."

Today I learned the beauty of brick walls.

In an effort to turn my thoughts away from things I cannot change, such as using common sense when those up the ladder shun it as evil, I've been reading on my lunch hour. The book this week is "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch. Pausch was a PhD. in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University and did ground breaking work in virtual reality. Yes, I said "was". Pausch had pancreatic cancer and his odds were so bad no one bothered to quote them. Many professors are asked to deliver a "Last Lecture" as inspiration to their students. Most don't know how close the end is when they deliver. I almost didn't buy the book because I envisioned it swaddled in sadness. And yet, Pausch remained upbeat because he believed that those motivated by childhood dreams went on to do their best work.

The fact that a PhD. believed in childhood dreams as motivation made me grab the book.

The book also serves as life lessons for his young children. I loved how proud he was of his own parents. The stories he shared about them had obviously shaped the man. He even made some of those childhood dreams come true. There's one about NASA and one about Disney...but I'll let you discover that for yourself.

What jumped out at me today was this statement: "The brick walls are there for a reason. They're not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something."

I will no longer slam my head against one.

So Dr. Pausch, wherever you are now that you're no longer earthbound, I salute you. And thank you. I finally get it. The brick wall can't stop me if I choose to scale it and climb over. All I have to do is dream big and work hard.

And Doc, I think you'd appreciate the fact I just had a vision of Tinkerbell sprinkling fairy dust over Disneyland while mouthing at me,"I believe".


Monday, March 2, 2009

Break Monday Boredom...Be a Super Hero

Poetikat challenged me to try this. So here's what happens when you take a quiet southern chick bored with her job, cross her with Robin Hood and throw in an item from hubby's archery shop.

Try it for yourself at The Hero Factory. Thanks for the laugh Kat. I needed that.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

R.I.P. Mr. Storyteller

I’ve gotten to that point in life where those who came before me are starting to move along. You know, those “adults” who inspire us. Even actors who came from a generation noted for style and class, not hounded by the paparazzi or willing to sell every detail of their soul for 15 minutes of fame. How many of you just envisioned Paul Newman? For me, it was Ricardo Montalban. Not the “Fantasy Island” version, but the man who danced in old musicals as the suave and debonair stranger. Okay, so as a teen I loved listening to him discuss the “Corinthian leather” car seats of the Chrysler cars he peddled. It was even funnier when he later admitted he’d made the "Corinthian" thing up because it sounded more exotic. I admired him for telling the truth and laughing at himself. And I could’ve listened to him read a phone book. For hours.

Most of the time when I learn of the passing of an adult I’ve admired for years, there’s a momentary sadness, accompanied by a heartfelt “Aw, so-and-so just died.” Of course in the case of Sr. Montalban, it was accompanied by a little girl sigh of, “Aw no, not Ricardo!” Today I learned of another death among the famous and the “Aw” was accompanied by….

“No more rest of the story.”

Paul Harvey passed away yesterday at the age of 90. For most people, living to 90 is a feat in itself. For the world of radio broadcasting, they lost a legend. Paul Harvey had been in radio for over 70 years. And for all his accomplishments, what he is best remembered for are three minute segments called, ”The Rest of the Story.” Harvey knew how to weave a story that hooked you from the first sentence. Stories like the one about a young boy in Cuba whose dream was to play baseball. His family was poor but if the boy could become a professional baseball player, he could take care of them. Harvey described how hard the boy practiced, how badly he just wanted to play the game he loved because the money would go to his family. But the boy failed to make that professional team. These stories always ended the same…with the name of the person.

In this case, the boy was Fidel Castro.

And thus, having announced the answer listeners had waited for with baited breath, Harvey would concluded with, “And now you know, the rest of the story.”

Most of the stories were motivational. All of the stories made you try to “guess who”. Sometimes the answers were even shocking. This may have been merely entertaining to most of the world but to me, those stories fed my insatiable curiosity. I’ve always felt this inexplicable need to know why people are the way they are and Harvey’s stories were like….chocolate for my addiction. They didn’t just create what is known as “driveway moments”, where you arrive home, but stay in the car to hear the rest of the story.

They shaped the way I tell stories.

G’night Mr. Harvey. Thanks for entertaining me. For educating and often enlightening me. But best of all, thank you for encouraging me to continue to seek the rest of the story.