Saturday, March 28, 2009

Remembering and paying attention

Recently on our American WWII Orphans web we have been chatting about testing and VA benefits we received for college as a "gift" from the government to us war orphans. Most of the folks recall intensive VA testing and some were turned away as not qualified or not college material. I truly do not recall any separate VA testing for my benefits...I wonder if perhaps they accepted my school grades and tests for college to determine that I was college material. I know I'd have remembered an all day test and a trip to Pittsburgh at the time because that was the big city to me, a New Kensington girl. I do recall that at our senior awards when they mentioned scholarships, etc. that my VA $$ was mentioned. I know there was no one else in our high school class with a dead WWII father so someone must have known about the benefits and decided it was worth mentioning.

But this makes me think how it takes more than one's self to recall memories. It takes family and friends. I recognized this in November while we were in CA when Steve was in the hospital. He and Jerry both recalled my escapades in the white Toyota which I'd totally blanked out on. It took me a good week to remember that car but to both of them it was very clear. Funny who recalls what.

I've always been known to have a very good memory, especially remembering names of people, etc. People would ask me, how do you remember them? I don't know I just did. When I was giving details to the police about some unfortunate episodes, they questioned my clear memory but Jerry advised them, "best believe her she has nearly total recall." But these days I don't pay as much attention as I did in my career days to names although I've had to learn all in our move here to MN. I'd embarrass myself by not remembering some one's name. I decided I needed to just begin to pay attention, like I used to when I worked. After all these people are now around in my life, more so many than the career ones.

I was talking to one of my long time school/hood friends and she remembers different things than I do from our growing up years. But when we talk the memories return. It takes someone else to trigger those old memories. This is very different from my 92 year old MIL who remembers vividly the way back thens but doesn't know what she did an hour or day ago.

Memory is important to me. Maybe because my mother had Alzheimers and I listened as she forgot most things about life. I was so down hearted when she could not recall things from my childhood or even her trips to CA. That's an insidious thing to be robbed of memories and recall.

Maybe paying attention is the secret. I know for sure that when I don't pay attention to what I'm doing I often have troubles. Focus rather than meandering mind.

I just talked to Dorothy, who asked for my support as state Deputy party chair. I'll likely be attending our state party convention this year as I'm alternate delegate from this county and the delegate is not attending. Dorothy called me yesterday and I'd not yet returned her call. Well it was more important to her than to me. But when I said goodbye today I nearly called her Kathy. Where was my mind--well on a wander. As I said, it was her call not mine. I'd told her that I really hated these convention meetings--or most meetings which are a flash back to the bureaucracy. This is an all day meeting. I mean who meets for all day but politicians. You can bet my mind will be meandering then!

One of my mentors in my state career once commented that I have the attention span of a cocker spaniel. He knew that if I became bored in a meeting my mind would wander. Face it most meetings were boring and there were always those who had to say something ever so trite just to hear themselves talk. I often said, "I have nothing to add" to help a meeting close. Well wandering attention, served me well in the bureaucracy. Kind of like Senator Hiyakawa who used to sleep, giving the attention that the issue deserved. We'd be better off today if our congress slept--wait a minute they kind of do as they are brain dead anyway and do not read the legislation.

Back in that day, as a defense (entertainment) to meetings, I created my own cartoon--Delilahbert. I was a Dilbert fan, and decided there must be a female counter part. Wish I'd saved some of those sketches but I didn't. This was pre-cellphones where I could have been texting or web browsing. I will have the opportunity again to bring back Delilahbert and now that I've remembered her, I will have a way to amuse me in meetings. Aahhh remembering is a useful thing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's Spring at last, I think




Exactly a week ago today on March 10 we saw the first robins of 2009. In fact it was about 5:00PM and our front yard from which the snow has melted but the ground is still not thawed hosted flocks of robins. Looking out the front window, I spotted their orange breasts. the robins are not our favorite birds here in MN. In fact, we have decided they are kind of nasty. Two days before the robin spotting I noticed a pair of doves on the ground at the bird feeders. That was my first clue of spring.

We have become amateur bird watchers here in MN. It's easy to do, just look out any window to spot cardinals, sparrows, nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers of all varieties, robins, crows, hawks, grackles, red winged black birds, juncos, wrens, buntings, etc. Well the variety depends on the season. The eagles are back along the Mississippi, fishing, standing on some floating ice and observing the water, then soaring with a catch. It's a marvelous sight and so common here that people pay little attention. For us though, the eagles are intriguing magnificence. One photo here from 2 years ago...Trouble is I can't get a photo because there is no pedestrian walkway on that highway bridge. Even I am not foolish enough to stop on a 65 mph roadway and pull over to get a photo. The same reason I can't get the best photos of our bluffs in all seasonal dress. Also along the river we see the returning egrets, cranes and herons. And all this just on our way to La Crosse.

At our bird feeders, though we have had a different species partaking this year, deer known as Mama and Bambi. They knock the feeders around to loosen the grain and seed and then come up and graze. Bambi is quite indifferent to me as I open the back garage door, step out onto the walkway and still keeping a respectable distance, calling "Bambi, get out of there..." Bambi looks at me non-chalantly, puts his head down and continues to graze, "oh, it's you, harmless." This severe winter brought the deer up to our doorsteps, to nibble on evergreens. While it's quaint it's not a good thing. There are many piles of deer do-do, aka scat all over the yards. And they are rude enough to leave scat in a drain pipe that Jerry'd set along the front to drain the melting snows into the farther part of the yard. The other day we chased Bambi and Mama from the feeders three times. Now when they see Jerry they must know that he used to hunt their cousin's in CA because they flee immediately. But me, not.

The last several days have been gorgeous and balmy in the high 50's and 60 degrees--sunny and warm enough for shirt sleeves. Walking weather and time to get out and patrol the neighborhoods. There are many homes for sale across So. 11th St. Several are by owners and one of interest to us is Jerry's cousin's. We have no interest in buying or moving from our home, but we are just observing. Their home is small and a good starter or a small enough for an older person, but no takers so far. It's been on the market since last fall. The cousins plant to vacate the north and head south to Texas where some of their adult children live. Funny thing is they lived there before and she, Shirley, didn't like it. but then Shirley doesn't like anything so that's no gauge. Another cousin also has one of the houses on his property for sale in an effort to evict a non-paying renter. The renter is his god-child who has never paid rent for 6 years, so why it's become an issue with him now, who knows. It has been a long winter.

But for now we know that spring is on it's way. The daylight savings time change brings us light to nearly 7:00PM here in the north. The downside of that is the sun shines so intently in through the kitchen and dining room that any dust on table or floor is readily observable. Really Friday, March 20th is the first official day of spring. So we look toward departing tundra and warmth ahead bringing tons of outside chores.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

One read and a flop

Continuing to post my reads so that at the end of this year I will know what I read and hopefully not buy the same book when I see them at a sale.

BIG FLOP: Red River by Lalita Tademy
I read her Cane River novel a couple years back and thought it was ok. So I picked this from the sale table of Barnes & Noble. Big Mistake. Supposedly based on the true story of what happened in April 1873 in Colfax, LA but slow writing. About the newly freed black residents during the beginning of Reconstruction. With friends in Alexandria, La. and having visited Colfax Parish I thought I'd enjoy this. Pure torture to get through 92 pages. I thought it would get better. This goes right into the donate bag.

Sunrise by Karen Kingsbury is one of those fluffy women's books that took only a couple sittings to breeze through. Karen is a well known Christian writer who is very popular with lots of women, and some men too, I guess. This book will be the first in the Baxter Family Sunrise series and introduces Dayne Mathews, the returning lost son from Hollywood to the Indiana Baxter family. It is an easy read and enjoyable enough and one of those books to set with when not wanting to concentrate too much. Family and faith triumph and all is well. And no 4 Letter words to worry about. No big language either .

The Preacher and the Presidents by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, published 2007 the true story of Billy Graham and his years as counsel to all the presidents from Harry Truman through George W. Bush. It's an excellent book and a keeper for my library and one I will only loan to those I absolutely trust to return it. I have this idea that grand daughter and niece can help me catalogue all these books when they visit in April--wonder if that will work. I can use their help to read titles, authors and enter into a data base. But back to this great book which I bought at the Christian book store using the gift certificate our departing minster gave me last year. I loved every page and reading the history of different events. Over the years I have developed more respect for Gerald Ford though I was very against his pardon of Nixon. I came to understand why Ford took that action and agree it needed to be done. This book contains other information about that in Ford's own words invoking his belief in God. As I read through the JFK era I realized how far we have not come as voters. Graham predicted that with the election of a Catholic president "never again would religion prove so divisive. I think that is a hurdle that has been permanently passed." How wrong, think of those who spurned Mitt Romney because he was a Mormon in 2008!

I especially liked reading the different episodes with the different Presidents as if I were reading short stories. I never lost my train of concentration because the chapters are distinctive. This is the kind of book that does not have to be read at one sitting and is still so enjoyable. From the skepticism of Harry Truman to the embrace of Nixon each presidential encounter is different.

It shows Billy Graham's humanity and weaknesses too as he gets drawn into some political areas where he vowed he would not be drawn. I was fascinated by the LBJ interactions with Billy Graham. The chapters on Nixon demonstrate Graham's devoutly helping his friend and yet even Billy Graham is manipulated and deceived by Nixon's shenanigans and perhaps distrusted by some of the Nixon colleagues. Billy Graham never admits that but trusts. The reader perceives that from the writing . This book shows Grahams's remarkable character and conservative leanings, but never reveals his political party. Perhaps it intrigued me because I too started out a Democrat.

There is interesting perspective about the disagreement between Norman Vincent Peale and Billy Graham and a mention of William Randolph Hearst. Billy Grahams's famous crusades are slightly mentioned this book. The real focus is interaction with the presidents and his determination to keep their trials and quests in confidence.

Some quotes to give a flavor of the writing: From the authors, "We knew that there were millions of people inclined to see Graham as a saint: we'd also encountered those who dismissed him as a showman, a sycophant, or a pawn of powerful men, with a mass-market message too silky and simple to merit further study. Graham agreed to talk to us without any conditions or control over what we would write. He had one challenge to us as we set out:"I hope it will just be fair and honest and tell the bad and the good." The book does that!

"Of the 11 presidents he'd known, 10 became friends and seven of those close ones. They entered into an unspoken covenant of private counsel and public support..."

"That still left the problem of election years. Again and again he vowed to stay out; again and again he was drawn back in. He always reminded people he was raised a Democrat and had friends in both parties and while this was true, it became clear long ago he had the soul of a mainstream moderate Republican...."

"His reluctance to challenge presidents privately or chastise them publicly reflected his conviction that the truth that mattered most was the gospel truth;..."

Reading this book left me much more curious about Billy Graham. And I have pulled his autobiography "Just As I Am" from my shelf and placed it out front on the To Be Read shelf.

Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown, who is one of my favorite mystery, thrill writers is a typical Brown book. Burke Bastle is the cop with nothing left to lose and Pinkie Duvall is the corrupt attorney who would make him lose it all. It's a quick read with fascinating characters including a Madame of a New Orleans bordello and the former cop who becomes a recluse running a fishing resort on the bayou. My only quibble with Sandra Brown is that despite the intrigue and great stories she cannot write without including sex scenes. While some find these steamy I guess I show my age by being bored and skimming past that. However, this is another good read worth taking along on a plane ride. It's paperback and easily left behind once read.

That's the catch up on my 2009 reads so far.

Monday, March 9, 2009

More to learn all the time

Lately we have been hearing a lot about Twitter. Jerry, who thinks I'm an up to date techie on most things, asks me, "What's Twitter?" Well I think it's another search engine but then I hear Martha Stewart talking about Twittering, asking her guest, "Do you twitter your friends?" Sounds obscene to me. Well time to take a break from Martha too, I think--her last few shows have featured rap guys (I hesitate to use the term artists) doing crafts with her....."Hey Martha girl, I mean ya know, this be 'de way to do "dat?" I suspect this is her attempt to draw in viewers. Well that draws out viewers like me who have less than no interest in rap, hip hop or whatever they call themselves. Or maybe this is to play to the players in DC as she touts Obama the Hero. Yech! Is everyone in the east a liberal?

Anyway do I need to now learn to Twitter? My cuz, Diane tells me I have to Tweet if I Twitter. She thinks she's funny! I do too!

Shoots, I have just mastered Facebook after nearly a year. It's where many of my friends and relatives are congregating. Yet I admit to being a bit cautious there too---I don't use my primary email for it and never play their games nor purchase through it. I'm just not that comfortable there yet. But yesterday while it snowed (again and still!) I downloaded Facebook to my Blackberry. So see I am capable of lots of techie stuff.

A compliment from a friend via email about how smart I was in a reply I wrote cautioning people to be careful on the 'net made me recall how being known as smart was the highest compliment folks could pay me. Then in my career days when we did a lot of personality profiles and assessments. Mine invariably revealed that I valued intelligence, smarts above all else. I still do value intelligence. And that is why I don't do stupids!

I have a low tolerance for dummies. But they are all around us. Boxes of rocks. The entire dumbing down of our schools has brought us to where today's high school graduates are clueless and need at least a couple years of college to achieve some smattering of education...well that supports the constant need for higher education till we have an entire society of people educated (using the term loosely) far beyond their level of intelligence.

Now I've been around long enough to know that my idea of stupid is often someone else's idea of a jewel! Else why would the voters have elected U NO Who in November? I continue to be disgusted with those who are led as lemmings and who are unable or unwilling to think, research or even ponder. Just taking media's word for it. and there we have the Obamas leading us along the path of the pied piper. Oh I know he has his fans, why some of my friends and family are Obamanites. OBAMA= One big ass mistake, America!

But dummies and stupids. When I get annoyed one of my long time friends in CA reminds me, "you never did do well with stupid." So why would it be any different today? And then lest I join them I have to continue to learn and I suppose that means researching and exploring things like Twitter.