Friday, December 28, 2012

Bless the Beasts and the Children, Putin and Adoption

Toys, toys and toys.  I am pre-Barbi, I admit, so the toys I remember were stuffed animals, a small table and chairs, and books.  Walking into IKEA, I always check out their children's department.  This time, in their stuffed animal area I saw this wonderful spotted Leopard Seal and baby.  How do they do it?  Boris, the Leopard was an earlier purchase (see previous blog).  Their designers must study photographs of these animals to get the shape just right.  There is a whimsical side to their designs as well when you see a stuffed snake with a real rattle in its tail, a rabbit with a back pack and a small rabbit peeking out, finger puppets, hand puppets and all kinds of pretend play items.

I think that we all should make our young children's lives as magical as possible.  What children really want is your time with them, but not parked in front of a video screen.  Reading to them is special and there are so many beautifully illustrated books out there, stories from all over the world, and libraries where these books can be checked out.  Ask your adult kids what they remember from growing up. You may be surprised.

When I taught in Los Angeles, I would buy Dr. Seuss books for the expectant mothers I had in my class.  They were always puzzled by the gift.   "This is for you to read to your child," I said.  Then, after a pause, "Didn't anyone ever read a book to you when you were little."  No answer, just a shrug of the shoulders.

To segue  into my next point about caring about children everywhere, this morning in the "Wall Street Journal" was an article that Vladimir Putin, in retaliation for political decisions that we enacted which included restrictions against Russians who were accused of human-rights violations, will sign a bill that bans U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children. This includes adoptions already in progress.  Many American families request adopting children with special needs.  Russia has 120,000 orphans, with fewer than 20,000 Russians listed as prospective adoptive families.  Russia does not have the facilities to help many of these special needs children.  And so, political pawns are made of these Russian orphans.  Many kids do not have the advantage of caring parents.  This has to be very sad news for the prospective parents who are waiting and the kids who are hoping, hoping, hoping, to be adopted.  Perhaps Putin, with international pressure, will change his mind.

I am adding this website from a couple who adopted a child from Russia.  It is heart-wrenching, but a tribute to a couple who cared enough to adopt a special needs child who would had died without their help.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cat Condos and Boris

I am excited since this is my first post.  I am a leopard, adopted from IKEA, created in China, with relatives in Russia -- think Snow Leopards.

Boris and Cat Condo
Notice this wonderful condo, which I want for myself.  Yes , I know, I cannot fit into it, but it is perfect for viewing from the roof.  Tasha made it for her son and daughter-in-law's cat, Lola, and sadly this is my last day to have it, as the condo is going to its new home.  Tasha wanted me to tell all the cat people out there that this is a Martha Stewart design for which you can get directions on the web.  Cats do love it -- they can enter through the door, climb to the second floor and look out from the roof.  It is a great gift and only takes three boxes, a glue gun, and an Exacto knife.

So with great sadness, I will share this picture with you.  No more cat condo for me unless. . .I can talk Tasha into making anther one.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from Hobbes, Molly and Boris

Merry Christmas from Hobbes, the stuffed lion puppet,; Molly the American Girl Doll; and Boris the Leopard and of course, Lover of Words.

These three will be my guest bloggers from time to time in 2013.  Hobbes the lion is a published author; Molly is an American Girl Doll, circa, 1940's who is a fashionista; and Boris, a stuffed leopard recently adopted from IKEA, whose family comes from Russia, will all be writing their opinion on various topics.

To all the writers and readers out there in cyberspace, our wish for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and, as Tiny Tim says in A Christmas Carol, "God Bless Us Everyone."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How to Beat the Holiday Humbug and. . . .

Two blogs that I would like to recommend: and

Lori wrote: "How to beat the Holiday Humbug" a few weeks ago and the John Tesh radio show noticed it, decided to highlight the article and interview Lori live on their show, part of  It was also one of their favorite holiday interviews this year and she will link to the interview on her blog on December 22.  Her blog is always positive, upbeat and has as its theme: "How to Simplify, Connect and Enrich Your Life."  Lori has so many ideas on her web-site.  How she finds time to write, work, be an amazing step-mom to my two grand boys and a wonderful wife to my son, I have no idea, but I am so fortunate to know her.

Lori chooses to be public, but my next recommendation does not, so I will not use her name.  She writes a blog called, 

Her writing is witty, sometimes acerbic, but never dull.  If you have young children and sometimes get frustrated with the day-to-day happenings in your life you will be able to relate to her blog.  Not only does she write a blog, but she has written a book called, Mom's Had a Rough Day.

I count as my blessings these two amazing and talented women in my life as I raise my glass in a cyber toast to them.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Celebrate the Introvert!

"A shy man no doubt dreads the notice of strangers, but can hardly be said to be afraid of them.  He may be as bold as a hero in battle, and yet have no self-confidence in the presence of strangers."
                                                                    -- Charles Darwin

There is so much to the book, Quiet by Susan Cain, that to summarize key points is difficult.  She discusses everything from genetic differences, how different cultures have an "extrovert ideal,"  when to act more extroverted than you are, "how to encourage quiet kids in a world that cannot hear them," to the difficulty in getting an MBA at Harvard if you are an introvert.  The last section:  "How to Love, How to Work," is worth the price of the book.

Ms Cain's end-notes are long and extensive for those wanting to read more about this topic, (a trait of introversion, by the way).  Introverts, no matter what degree, will celebrate their uniqueness after reading this book.

So now when my sensitive personality reacts by flinching at unexpected loud sounds, cannot read books or see movies that are too violent, worries about Africa, is moved to tears by music or art, and gets my feelings hurt much too often (this trait I do not like), I understand why.

My guess is that out in the blogosphere, there are more I's than E's. . .are there?  The blog community is perfect for I's.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Introvert or Extrovert and "Know Thyself"

Have you ever read a book that gave you instant insights about yourself and people you know?  Quiet by Susan Cain is such a book.  A friend or husband reluctantly agrees to go to a party or dinner with you and leaves before the dessert course, leaving you surprised, hurt, mystified, puzzled, angry or all of the above.  Embarrassed, especially if is your husband (or ex-husband as it was in my case). You smile and leave later still smarting over what you consider was a deliberate rejection.  This, and similar scenarios was my experience. The telling sentence I remember was:  "I don't care what you do, just don't include me." Assuming it was all my fault, we never worked out our differences and divorced.

Another example, as in the case of friends, you ask and ask a friend to go somewhere with you, perhaps to an event, and are turned down, more than one time.  Why, you ask yourself, as you perhaps wrongly assume that the friend just does not want to be with you.
Book recommendation

In Ms Cain's book, she explains the introvert personality through history, science and research. True introverts are not good at making small talk; it makes them uncomfortable --  parties and large groups may be too much, and even having to endure a long dinner with friends where everyone just talks, is difficult.  Or large, noisy crowds where extroverts are energized by people, introverts are drained by them and have to leave to re-group.  It is almost physically painful, which explains the sudden departure.

There are degrees, of course, on the spectrum of introversion and extroversion.  Introverts are the best listeners.  They do not feel that in social situations they have to talk all the time.  Observing the scene is their preferred method of participation.  Introverts enjoy and thrive in their alone time.  This is where they work best, writing, thinking, reading, planning, creating, enjoying their inner world.  But in our have-to-be-extroverted society, introverts are often misunderstood in many situations like school and work, and in school situations, especially before college, have to be "fixed" by parents and teachers who don't understand.

And of course, I am not talking about ignoring a child who is depressed and having real problems at school.  Imagine a a child who is quiet, loves to be alone much of the time, likes to read, work on projects, is happy, has a few good friends, gets good grades, but. . .the parents are worried.  Why doesn't he/she like play dates, going to social events at school, or talk much?  What is wrong?  He/she will never be a success in college or in life unless he/she becomes more outgoing, more assertive, think the parents. 

Consider a few examples of introverts who have changed the world:  Albert Einstein, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Rosa Parks. . . .

Can an extrovert and introvert be married to one another and be happy?  Yes!

To be continued. . . .

Thank you to whomever was my two thousandth visitor today, 12/03/12.  I wish I could thank you personally.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving in the UK, a special memory

Years ago, I was part of a student-teacher exchange from California State University, Long Beach to Winchester, England.  We were a group of seven young women, I was the oldest, who stayed at King Alfred's College while we were student teachers at the various schools in the area.

My dorm room which was private, overlooked a small street and an ancient Roman wall.  I was still in awe of all the buildings and artifacts from Winchester's history--Winchester Cathedral, Jane Austin's home, St. Catherine's Hill, a hill fort mentioned in a Thomas Hardy novel, the old pubs, and Winchester College, a public school I visited and so much more.  I often thought if I could just place all the memories and atmosphere in a bottle and inhale them from time to time, to revisit this special time in my life, it would be wonderful. 

Thanksgiving was a few days away and we were all feeling very homesick.  We had been in Winchester since September and even though the experience was rewarding in so many ways, we were missing our family and friends.

In our student mail boxes we all received an invitation -- to a Thanksgiving dinner to be held in the main dining hall (not as elaborate as the one in Harry Potter), but large enough for all our meals.  What could this mean, we all thought?  Thanksgiving, we knew, is not celebrated in Britain.

Thanksgiving day arrived.  We dressed up for the occasion and walked to the dining hall.  It was beautiful.  The staff had made such an effort to make our American holiday special for us.  The cafeteria was transformed -- complete with candles, table cloths, sherry and wine.  I was seated next to John Cramner, King Alfred's College principal (a special seat for mature students?).
Mr. Camner was the epitome of a British gentleman, handsome, white haired, and a good conversationalist.  I learned all about "Bread Sauce" which I had never had before and was told by Mrs. Cramner that I could buy it at Sainsbury's. After the toasts, we began the meal which did include turkey.  I had to do a reality check, here I was so far from home, having Thanksgiving dinner in England with the head of a British college.

I even remember singing, "My Country 'Tis of Thee," and the Brits singing "God Save Our Gracious Queen."  We felt so welcome, thanks to our British hosts.

As we walked back to our dorm rooms in the twilight, our homesickness disappeared, and we counted as our very good fortune, the opportunity to study and learn and experience a unique city in the United Kingdom, Winchester.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, even if you do not celebrate the holiday and a special thanks to my husband who made the adventure in England possible for me while he stayed in California for three months and ate frozen dinners.

PS  King Alfred's College is now the University of Winchester.

Any special Thanksgiving memories that you remember?  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

National and International News- - looking for a positive article

My favorite morning activity is reading the newspaper, especially the Wall Street Journal, so much quieter on the ears than watching TV news.  So as I drank my coffee this morning this is what caught my eye:
Dover Press, Clip Art

   "Violence Reaches Israel- Syria Border"
   "FBI in Petraeus Case Under Security"
   "Afghan Women Fear Rights Will Erode"
    "Xi Inherits an Economy That Needs Work"
    "Lenders at Odds Over Greek Debt"
    "Green Party Shakes Up German Politics"
    "Spanish Bank Freeze Foreclosures"
    "Sex, Lies and Gmail"
    "Earth to GOP:  Get a Grip"
    'Turkey's Islamist Turn, 10 Years Later"

But there is good news:  "U.S Redraws World Oil Map"  writing that shale boom here will surpass Saudi Arabia oil production by 2020 and "Looking Past Fiscal Cliff to a Genuine Tax Overhaul."

And in the front section, a book review: Ian McEwan's latest, Sweet Tooth.  It is a spy novel and looks good.  Atonement was excellent.

In the back section:  "New Rules for Flirting," and a music review, Mary Black, an Irish singer and songwriter who just had a successful opening night in New York.  Her new album is "Stories from the Steeples,"  featuring Irish, Australian, and British song writers.

So there it is - - choices.  The U.S. is not the only country to have serious economic problems and scandals.  Look at the trees, not the forest.  Count your blessings, read a good book, flirt a little, buy an album from a artist that is unfamiliar.

Tomorrow, a real pleasure - - the Van Gogh exhibit, which we will see with friends from out of town.  It should give me more positive "trees" to write about.  

Are you a "Forest" or a "Trees" person?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Orion's Belt, Shooting Stars and the 2012 Election

"The fault Dear Brutus in not in the stars, it is in ourselves."
                                                     --Julius Caesar,  I, ii, 134

I have two sons who reflect our divided country.  My oldest son went to a little college in the southwestern part of the state, the other went to the University of Colorado in Boulder.  The first works in the private sector, the second is a teacher.  They hold opposite political views.  But I love them both dearly, we just do not discuss American politics.  My Republican son and I had a long telephone conversation late last evening.  And I felt better that we could talk.  I hope that they are proud of their mom who at her age still cares enough about our country to go out and work for her political candidate with passion and conviction.

Having a hard time sleeping last night after the election,  I stepped out onto our deck and looked up at the stars which are especially bright at 4 AM and looked for Orion's Belt and there it was - - the one constellation that I can always recognize.  And I saw a shooting star!  I felt at peace, and ready to begin a new day.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jersey Shore: "It's gone"--but not Wildwood, New Jersey

New Jersey shoreline - - devastated after Hurricane Sandy,  but not Wildwood, New Jersey, not quite.

It's hard to imagine the effect of Hurricane Sandy living here in Colorado.  But I have relatives in New York, and have not heard from one of them.  Being without power, dark and wet, the uncertainty of tomorrow--there are no words to describe it.

Wildwood, New Jersey in happier days
One article in the Denver Postsays that the 127 mile New Jersey coastline will never look the same.  A  photo showed a roller coaster from a Seaside Heights, amusement park, partially submerged in the high tide.  One paragraph caught my eye.  It described Wildwood, the most popular beach, which is on the southernmost tip of the Jersey shore, with not as much damage, and the promise by officials that it  could be fixed by Memorial Day.

Wildwood,  the memories come streaming back,  a place where as a little girl, I vacationed with my family, escaping the hot summers in New York City.  I still remember the boardwalk; I was only four or five.  I remember the ocean, the amusement park, being teased by my cousins who took me on the scary ones, the gypsies who told your fortune and seemed very exotic to me, sandy bathing suits, the smell of salt air, and so much more. 

These were not posh areas, but places "down by the shore" where families from all backgrounds could enjoy the water and get away from big cities, with boardwalk fun, salt water taffy, friends and family.  Some stayed only for a weekend, some longer, in inexpensive cottages or rooms you could rent.

In a later era, Bruce Springsteen, in his song about "Sandy," describes boardwalk life - -  the name is prescient.  It can be seen on You Tube - - "4th of July, Asbury Park, New Jersey, 'Sandy'"

New Jersey - -  setting of movies, Broadway shows, television shows - -  will come through this.  Their citizens are tough, hard working and determined.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

El Dia de los Muertos

In Mexico, a special celebration takes place on November 2, called El Dia de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead.  I was introduced to this celebration while teaching in Los Angeles.

This day comes from an ancient Aztec ritual that honors the memories of the dead with food, candles, and special ceremonies.

It is a joyous time, when loved ones who have died are remembered with food, stories and altars made at home which include photographs of the deceased, food he or she liked, drinks, flowers (usually marigolds) and candles.  Stories, remembrances, and happy times are told and retold.  A visit to the cemetery, if possible, is included and the items from the altar are taken there.  The belief is that the spirit of the diseased returns once a year on November 2nd.

This is how one of my students explained it to me.  "Mrs. R., it's boring being dead, and once a year we go to the cemetery and make a little party for my grandfather with food he liked, cigarettes, his favorite beer and photographs of the new grandchildren, flowers, too."

So every year, on November 2nd, my students who wanted to share this celebration showed other students a sample of their altars.

Folk Art from Mexico celebrating the Day of the Dead is festive and ironic as skeletons are portrayed in little dioramas doing everyday things--getting married, dancing, family groups, but all are skeletons.  Then there is the special food, sugar skulls, pan muertos--this is a sweet bread where the dough is molded into rounds decorated with shaped dough bones across the top and much more.

My favorite El Dia folk art is this wonderful skeleton made of paper mache. which my sister bought for me when she was in Mexico, knowing how much I like folk art.  I call him Albert and around Halloween, which is now, I take out and display my Halloween decoration and the ones I have collected commemorating El Dia de los Muertos.  If you are ever in Santa Fe, there is a folk art museum there that has many, many examples.  And if you go to Mexico, see if you can find others to buy.  

Much more information on You Tube and Google.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Warning: Political essay

The Road Not Taken
Collage by author of post

"Two Roads diverged in a yellow wood, . . .
 And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the under growth;

Then took the other, just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I ---
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference."
                         Robert Frost

President Obama has been our president for four years and now it is for all of us to review the past four years and decide, based on his record if he should  be elected for another four.

Here is what we have:

*27 million unemployed
*deficit of more than $1 trillion per year, adding more than $4 trillion to our national debt, now $16 trillion over the last four years
*downsizing military to WW I levels
*foreign policy uncertain and weak which led to murderous attacks on our embassies and prevarication concerning these attacks
*disdain for our allies
*no clear plan for reducing our debt
*squeezing small businesses with more regulations and higher taxes

And more of course. . .

We have come to a fork in the road and there is no turning back.  We have two different choices.  The poem as it relates to this essay is ambiguous.  Is President Obama or Mitt Romney the road less traveled by?

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep."

Thank you Robert Frost for both these poems, even though I have a feeling that we would not have the same political views.

I have promises to keep for my children and grandchildren so I take this election, very, very seriously.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Politics in Other Countries

One of the many bloggers that are on this site, from the United Kingdom, answered my open question, see previous blog.  Why are some people not interested in politics, especially American politics?  Because they are not interested was her answer. I actually wanted to hear from other Americans about the elections,  but I would be very interested in learning more about other countries' politics.  Here in the US, we just get snippets of information.  I know that Canada elected a conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.   But how many parties do they have and do Canadian citizens take part in elections as far as working for their candidate. I know, I know, I could Google information, but it would be interesting to learn more about politics from people who live in other countries.  Our problem here is that the election cycle is too long and most of us are tired of all the ads and wish it were over. What about politics in India?  How does that work?  And other countries as well. And do politics in other countries cause problems between family members as they do here?

One of the beauties of these blogs from the A-Z Challenge, is how much I learn from other bloggers.  My only regret is that I am not writing a book, so it's hard for me to enter in the book discussions sometimes.  Although, I am a huge supporter of writers and their talents, as a "lover of words."

Just my thoughts today as I look out from my window at the beautiful Fall colors. Pikes Peak is showing the first mountain snow fall. This is a clear day where you can see forever.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fashion vs Politics

On my last blog, I posted a short story concerning Hobbes, my alter ego, and I working in the Romney  campaign, here in Castle Rock.  Not much of a  response, at least in the comments,  but as all of  you know who have blogs, there is a "stat" counter which tells the blogger how many views and comments.  The only thing that keeps me writing is the "views" counter, which shows me some people do read the blog, all over the world.  But fashion seems to win over politics:  H and M blog, 50 views; Romney blog, 9 views.

I am saddened that more of us don't discuss politics, underline "discuss." I have this fantasy of myself, younger of course, sitting in some cafe in lets say, Paris, wearing a beautifully cut suit, arguing politics, American and  French, in impeccable French.  What fun to have a real discussion, not just the hardened views on either side.

I do understand people's reluctance to be public about anything in this age of anything goes. So, thank you to all of you who just "view."  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hobbes and I Work on the Romney Campaign

Hobbes pausing between  calls to voters

Last Saturday, Hobbes and I worked the phone banks for the Romney campaign.  Hobbes is a stuffed lion puppet, my alter ego, who has his own website.  He wanted to write my blog today to describe his experience.

Hobbes:  Tasha, is very passionate and concerned about the election, so she decided  to volunteer last Saturday to call voters from the Romney headquarters in Castle Rock, Colorado. "I have to do something, Hobbes." She was a bit disappointed because she was not able to talk to many voters directly. Often she  reached an answering machine and then left a pre-recorded message. Tasha says that because of the caller ID feature, most people screen their calls.  But Tasha says volunteering made her appreciate those who do call her at home,  and from now on, she will answer those calls.  It just takes a few minutes, and it is a way of saying thank you to those who do volunteer to work for this election, for either party.  I was not allowed to do the calling, but I would have enjoyed answering the the phone with, "Hi, my name is Hobbes, the friendly lion and I am calling about the election with a few questions for you. . ."  click.

Tasha has never worked an election before, telling me she was rather cavalier about past elections.  (Yes, she did vote for Democrats in the past), but this one is different, she feels.  There is so much at stake.  It is so much easier being a lion, I have to admit.  There were many volunteers, all ages and one even gave me a chocolate chip cookie, my favorite.

After working for three hours, it was time to go home.  It was a chilly fall day as we stepped outside Romney headquarters, and I think Tasha did feel better -- she did something.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

H&M, Light Rail and a Glorious Fall Day

Living in the suburbs of Denver, I am totally dependent on a car as a means of transportation.  But the lure of going, "downtown" and shopping at H&M, a trendy Swedish store, made me consider using Denver's light rail.

In the frivolous part of my heart, is a "girly-girl."  Love clothes, reading fashion magazines, lamenting the fact that I cannot wear many styles or high heels anymore, I still like dressing up, just like I did when I was a little girl trying on grown up clothes and longing to grow up and enter the mysterious world of womanhood.  Little did I know what it really meant.

I had read about H&M.  It's a kind of IKEA but for clothes.  H&M began in 1947 in Sweden as a woman's clothing store and now has shops all over the world.  The clothes are trendy, some classic, and inexpensive.  The philosophy behind the store considers the environment, working conditions of the factory workers who  make the clothes, uses organic cotton,  team approach to management, very IKEA.  The H&M website outlines its history.

I shared my idea of going downtown via light rail and visiting H&M with a girlfriend; we set a date and were off on our downtown adventure.

We have a station a short drive away.  Parking is easy in a four level garage.  We bought our tickets and were off.  What a pleasure it was not to have to drive as we whizzed over the rails, chatted and watched Denver neighborhoods pass by.

Thank you H&M.  It was fun!
We ended up at Denver's Union Station, took the free shuttle to the heart of downtown and stepped off the shuttle in front of H&M.  What could be better?  But first, lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe nearby.  We ate outside, right on 16th street, the main downtown street.  People watching was perfect.  Living in the suburbs, the big city idea is forgotten.  I guess I miss it, remembering New York City, where I spent the first seven years of my life.  Blue skies, a bit cool, looking down the street, remembering Denver  as it was, added to the perfect day. Then, fortified with yummy hamburgers, we crossed  the street and entered the world of H&M.

Men have no idea about the pleasure of shopping.  They usually know what they want, buy it and get out.  We love to look and touch, especially touch and sometimes take hours to wander around and enter the world of  "how would that look on me?"

Time passed quickly as we shopped.  Then, happy with our purchases, we left H&M, retraced our steps to the light rail and then home.  The end of a perfect day with a good friend.

Post Script:  Sometimes, to get away from politics, personal problems, and serious issues, I think it helps to have a frivolous (not serious) day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rally for Romney in Colorado

Last Sunday, September 23rd, My husband and I attended a rally for Romney/Ryan in Jefferson County.  Colorado has 9 electoral votes which could go either way, so both Romney and President Obama are paying special attention to this state.

We arrived a little early, but not early enough and were surprised at the crowds that were gathering, more than we expected, as we walked quite a way to the school grounds where the event was held.  Later the crowd was estimated at more than 6, 000.

The mood was happy and positive.  Young people, old people, little kids, babies, were there.  Some signs read, "Hispanics for Romney, "  "Democrats for Romney." and of course, "Romney for President."  No negative signs or impolite written comments.  People were helpful, kind and friendly.  American flags were everywhere.

The mood intensified as we waited for Romney to appear.  First,  a few films, then a country and western group revved up the crowd and then. . . . there he was, just a few hundred feet away, wearing the white shirt and jeans that seem to be his standard rally gear.  He was passionate about jobs and the need for creating more of course, and the need to stem the tide of enormous debt we have, 16 trillion dollars, and that America still has great days before it, but we need to get our fiscal house in order.  We need to increase our military not decrease it, all that we had heard before.  But on that chilly October night, I felt a connection to all the people there.  We are still proud of our country and will work hard if given the opportunity.  We don't want handouts.  We are still the best hope.

For one way to help visualize numbers, my engineer husband likes to relate it to time, since we all deal with time, all the time.

     One thousand seconds is about 17 minutes.
     One million seconds is about 12 days.
     One billion seconds is about 32 years.
     and one trillion seconds is --  are you ready? -- 32 thousand years.

Our debt is 16 trillion dollars.

Note:  The Denver Post's headlines the next day:  "Romney rolls out his sales pitch."  Would they say that about President Obama?  A bit condescending?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

"The Canary in the Coal Mine" or Romney vs Obama

The "Canary in the Coal Mine" refers to the practice years ago of coal miners taking caged canaries down into coal mines to warn the miners of gases that might have been present.  If the canaries stopped singing and died, it was a warning to get out of there.  This cliche is appropriate for the coming election here in the United States.  Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate is warning all of us that there are great dangers ahead for our country.  Our debt now is 16 trillion dollars and continues to climb.  The jobless rate is high.  We are downsizing our military and reducing the number of naval aircraft, and the number of planes.  We are dismissive of our allies including Israel, and the UK.  With others, we have not kept our promises.  In 2009 President Obama cancelled a deal which we had with Poland and the Czech Republic in which we would build an interceptor site and radar that would provide protection of the US homeland and allies from rogue ballistic missiles. Meanwhile we send billions of aid, money which we borrowed from China, to countries like Egypt who cannot keep our embassy personnel safe.

The fiasco of President Obama's misplaced foreign policy led to the burning of the embassies in many Muslim countries all over the world, and the murder of embassy personal, and an ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stephens.   Two Navy Seals who died defending the embassy and saved many lives inside, we understand, was not even mentioned by President Obama's remarks when the bodies were returned to the United States.  And when our embassies were burning, President Obama flew to Las Vegas for a fund raiser.  President Obama spoke before the United Nations today, September 23, with no plans to have private talks with any leaders, because of "scheduling conflicts" but will have time to chat on The View tomorrow.

In past election years, if my candidate did not win, I was still assured that the candidate who did win would still have the best interests of America at heart.  I do not feel that way this year and I am very worried for my children and grandchildren.

The canary's voice is getting fainter.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Frank Sinatra and "Once upon a time, the world was sweeter than we knew"

Last night, my husband and I attended a performance of The Chick Sings Frank  at our local castle.  Yes, we have a castle in the neighborhood.  Years ago, a wealthy Denverite, built a stone castle in the hills of Castle Rock.  This was modeled after a Scottish castle and built from rhyolite, a stone common here..  The last owner, "Tweet" Kimball, bought the castle and land and created a showcase where she put all of her treasures:  paintings, antiques, and family heirlooms.  After she died, she left her home to the county with the stipulation that the castle and 3,100 acres of  land not be sold but kept in perpetuity.  Now, the Cherokee Ranch Foundation uses the castle for all kinds of events to raise money to continue the work of the foundation. If you are fortunate enough to see them you may glimpse some of the  elk, bears, mountain lions, that roam the land and eagles and hawks that soar overhead. If you are in the Denver area,  it is a worthwhile visit.  Yes, I know, it's not like European castles, but. . . .

It was a cool, fall evening as we drove up the hill from our home, just minutes away.  A huge tent awaited the performance as we made our way into the castle for a tour and dinner.  Dinner among the paintings and the other memorabilia was perfect.  After dinner we walked  to the tent finding just the right seats.

Frank Sinatra was not from my era.  Here in Denver we had just heard of the Beatles, and in the years following in college, there were folk singers:  Judy Collins; Peter Paul and Mary; John Denver; the Smothers' Brothers; The Four Freshman; The Kingston Trio.  Rock and Roll was here and there, but not quite the hit  in the Midwest as both coasts had the latest music first.  But Frank Sinatra had a comeback with his movie roles and was having hit songs again.  All of us in the throes of those sweet first loves felt that his songs spoke to us.

 Lannie Garrett, a well-known  pop and jazz singer here in Denver, was introduced along with her accompanist/arranger. And then magic, as she began to sing songs Frank Sinatra had recorded or sung publicly,  from what she called, "The Great American Songbook."

"Once upon a time, the world was sweeter than we knew. . ."  so timely now..  I suppose every generation feels this looking back.   Another, "Last night when we were young, love was a song, a song unsung. . ,"  "Strangers in the Night,"  "Summer Wind,"  "They Can't Take That Away From Me."  On and on through the evening as the memories of my younger years washed over me.  The coming election, the burning of the American flag, the murders of our embassy personnel, the political rhetoric, the sad pictures of the hatred of young men storming our embassies, all vanished into the nostalgia of my younger world of my boys, school, work, and of the time when I had all those years ahead of me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apologies No Answer to Mayhem and Murder

On 9/11 two American Embassies were attacked by Muslim extremists, one in Egypt and one in Benghazi, Libya,.  Christopher Stevens, our ambassador to Libya, was murdered, as well as two Marine guards and one other person.  I believe that an embassy official was also murdered in Egypt.

Yes, there was a terrible YouTube video concerning the Muslim prophet that was their justification for the attacks, but since this video came out some time ago, I think it was just used to foment these attacks to coincide with 9/11.

Please consider that a Muslim in this country is safer than a Christian in any Muslim country today.  We have free speech in this country, sometimes it is unpleasant or worse.  I know there are Libyans and
Egyptians in both countries who deplore this kind of violence and want their countries to be free of tyrannical rule, but exchanging what they had before for extremists is not the answer, either.  Always. . .be careful what you wish for.

I do not think we have anything to apologize for, as in the tepid responses of both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama in their first comments after the attacks.  Now their comments are a bit stronger.

It seems to me that what the Obama administration is doing is what I call  "reactive foreign policy," that is reacting to events rather than protecting our interests.  Apparently there was an incident in Benghazi last month when WW II graves of our soldiers were desecrated.  Anticipating an attack on both these embassies prior to 9/11 might have been a good idea.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11, Thoughts and Prayers

Today marks the day, eleven years ago, when our country received a blow to its heart.  Two planes rammed the Twin Towers in New York, another the Pentagon in Washington, and another crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, diverted by the passengers who saved whatever goal the terrorists had in mind.

I tried to find some kind of poem, or writing that I could use for this post, but could not find anything that seemed to reflect or   adequately describe what happened that day.  But through this book, a personal story is told and reminds us that 9/11 is an individual, personal story for every one who lost their lives that day and their families.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a novel written in the first person by a young boy who loses his father in 9/11.  The boy has Asperger's, a form of autism, but reflects the high end of the spectrum.  He is 9-years old, bright, sensitive, and deeply mourns his father who was in the Twin Towers on 9/11

The Atlantic Journal Constitution said,  in a review, that this book was the first great novel written about 9/11.  It was made into a movie which was difficult to watch but well done with Tom Hanks playing the father.

I read the book, a little at a time.  And always during the day, not at night before sleep.  Mr. Foer is a brilliant writer who makes his main character, Oskar Shell, seem very real as the reader is there every step of the way with him in his journey to make sense of what happened.

There are no answers or explanations for 9/11.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Blog makeover and intellectual property

Still tinkering with changes.  OK, I made the header photo smaller plus the title.  I liked Stephen Tremp's suggestion to use the space on the sides for comments on books, other blog recommendations, etc.  Meanwhile, one of my ideas for themes was to discuss Wall Street Journal article, especially the weekend edition.  But, being wary of the intellectual property warning, I called the WSJ today to find out if I could just chat about an article on my blog.  They have a website where you can  order reprints and ask permission.  I decided to fill out the forms and ask for permission to use an article I read in the Saturday/Sunday issue.  In order to reprint the article on my website, and to have it available for 6 months it would cost, are you ready?  $925.00!  I decided to pass.  I did not need the 6 month option, but there was no other.  All I wanted to do is to quote a few lines or just to paraphrase some sentences, and use quotes and attributions.  Oh well.

A few years ago, I self-published a book called, Hobbes Goes to South America, using a stuffed lion puppet's "voice."  We had gone on a cruise around the perimeter of South America and I wanted to share the trip with my grandsons.  Instead of the usual narrative, "we went here, we went there," Hobbes was photographed going here and there and talking about it in his lion's "voice."  It was so  much fun and I published it on  The book has my copyright.  But my object was to give the book to family and friends which I did.  However, if I had chosen to sell the book, I would have had to get every single person's written permission to use their image, every steward, every entertainer, etc. etc. The photographs were ours.

I do understand from the point of view of the creator of the article, poem, book, movie, music, etc.  I do.

Another question:  What about posting book covers on our blogs, this would be books that are not written by us?  This would be to promote the book.  Technically, this is intellectual property, I think.

I am continuing to learn.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Blog Critique and Makeover

Yes, it's Fall and time for new beginnings.  I needed advice about how to improve my blog and found a  Laura is a marketing consultant and author.  She offers advice on layout and general comments about ones blog by posting your blog on her blog and asking for others to add to the critique of your blog.  I emailed her a few weeks ago and she was kind enough to add me to her list.

Since I am not writing a book, I just needed help in improving my blog itself.  And I learned so much from  her and those of you who took time to comment.

This will take time.  Over the next few weeks you make see tweeks here  and there.

First there is the layout.  I am such a non-geek when it comes to the techy stuff, but will learn how to delve into the "advanced" google layout.  Everyone liked my header photo, but said it was too large, there was other advice as well.

1.  Improve layout.

2.  Re-do profile to say more

3.  Too many topics - - theme, if there is one, is not clear

4.  Be careful about intellectual property

5.  This is my idea:  visit other blogs to study layout, this would help.

I would welcome more comments, about your own blogs as well.  Thank you especially to Laura.

Here in Colorado Fall is in the air, chilly mornings and evenings, trees are changing color, my favorite time of the year.  A perfect time to re-think my blog and the thought of starting over: like a new semester in school, new books, new teachers, new crayons  (in elementary school), improved blog.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Autism, Thunder Shirts, and a French Bakery

Learning, learning, learning

No more blues for me.  The clouds have lifted.  Today I learned about Thunder Shirts.  What are they?  They are weighted vests for dogs who experience anxiety over thunderstorms, but they are used for other anxieties as well.  Check google, and write in "Thunder Shirts."  Apparently they exert enough pressure on nerve endings to calm dogs who get anxious over hearing thunderstorms.  A friend of mine, who volunteers at a hospital here, told me about a therapy dog who was brought into the hospital, but as the storm clouds appeared outside, his owner said, "I'll have to put on his thunder shirt."  I have to admit, I was surprised.  But when I heard this story, I remembered going to a lecture by Temple Grandin, the renowned expert on autism, who has Asperger's, when she discussed using a squeeze box to calm herself down.  Weighted vests are used for kids with autism, especially those who have sensory problems as the pressure calms them.  So here is a connection - - - with animals too.

We all have times when we feel ill, or sad and what we want to do is to cuddle up with a comforter (very good name) or a blanket.  And we do feel comforted.  Think of the little kids who drag their "blankee" around.  And the blankets that are made and sent through Soldiers' Angels for our troops in Afghanistan especially are appreciated.  I did make blankets for the soldiers in Iraq, but lately have not, busy, thinking of other things, but the Thunder Shirt information reminded me to begin that project again.  Making a blanket and sending it through Soldiers' Angels, or other organizations is something we can do, and I can do again.

Reading about a French Bakery in our area peaked my curiosity.  Yes, it was 20 minutes away, but I wanted to see what it was like and to sample their baked goods.  Not only did the  pastries look delicious, my husband and I decided to have lunch there.  And, I had an omelet served in a baguette  and sealed at one end with soft bread.  The omelet is filled from one end.  I learned that it is a specialty of the Alsace-Lorraine  region and in the past was served to sheepherders who, having been sent off by their wives with this lunch-in-a-baguette, would have a hot, tasty lunch at midday, with the steam from the omelet softening the bread inside.  I learned this from the owner's wife.  The French bakery was welcoming, with gracious hosts, cloth tablecloths and napkins, bottled water at the tables, and French pop music playing softly in the background.

My mood lifted.

What do you do when you get "the blues?"

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blogs and Blues

Topics I cannot write about:  

I have entered the late summer doldrums and have run out of ideas, plus experiencing a touch of the blues.  I have one of these weird personalities--too sensitive which goes along with reflexes that react too strongly to everything.  Cannot pump gas from a gas pump without jumping when the handle clicks off.  Cannot open a biscuit can without flinching when it pops.  Cannot watch a scary movie without closing my eyes, or if at home, leaving the room.  So, when it comes to writing a topic on my blog, I self-censor many of them because I do not want to hurt any ones' feelings.  For example:

Topics I cannot write about:

1.  politics (too many friends are liberal/progressive)

2.  feminism (women do not "have each others' back") --  women who think nothing of having an affair with your husband;  feminism and the whole sisterhood thing is superficial.  The blog I will never write "What ever happened to sisterhood?"

3.  getting older and aches and pains and ageism (I do miss the "second look")

4.  my family, too personal

5.  face lifts and the whole beauty thing (might write about this)

6.  losing my faith and why

7.  missing, missing, missing the relatives and friends I have lost

It helped to write this list.  Are there topics you avoid writing about in your blogs?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Putin vs the Punk Band -- Kafkaesque (characterized by surreal distortions and usually by a sense of impending danger)*

A few weeks ago I wrote about the quiet protests in Moscow, where writers and others silently marched to protest Putin's crackdown on dissenters and his questionable re-election.

Despite threats of heavy fines and more for any demonstrations, vocal or otherwise, not sanctioned by the Putin government,the  all girl Russian punk band, "Pussy Riots" demonstrated their opposition to the Putin regime by performing anti-Putin lyrics in the Church of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.  For example:  "Virgin Mary drive away drive away Putin."  The group which has been jailed since March, has just been given their sentence--two years in prison after a trial which seemed like something out of Alice in Wonderland.  The presiding judge read the verdict which noted the defendants
shape of their heads, and emphasized their "mixed psychological disorders, including, "individualism, stubborn expressions of opinions and unwillingness to cede positions." Although this seems ludicrous, other business leaders, attorneys, have been jailed after trials using trumped up charges to imprison them.

But, this punk rock band has gotten more attention, and perhaps as Gary Kasparov, the famous chess champion and journalist said, who himself was roughed up and jailed after answering questions to journalists in front of the court house, "It may take a punk band to bring world-wide attention to Putin's crackdown on dissenters." 

There's more, though, Madonna, who at a recent concert in Moscow said, "Nadia, Katya, and Masha, I pray for your freedom.  The Russian Orthodox church is involved in all this and see the women as "devils."  "War has been declared against the Orthodox people," said a top church official.  And. . Madonna is being sued for 10 millions dollars by some Russian activists because she came out in support of gay rights in her August 9th concert in St. Petersburg. 

Kafkaesque describes this.  See above definition. *Second College Edition:The American Heritage Dictionary.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Autism: One more post.

Several months ago, I entered this short story in the Trifecta contest.  I am re-posting it as the story reflected some of the stories I heard from families with  kids with autism.

Red Car, Blue Car

Red car, red car, red car; blue car, blue car, blue car. The small blonde-haired boy bent over the toy cars, intently arranging them in the same pattern again, and again. As his mother watched, her face a mixture of fatigue and questioning, she asked herself the same questions she had asked herself so many times. Why the intense fixation over certain toys; the meltdowns, screams over unseen terrors; no response to hugs, so many unfixable behaviors, and most difficult of all, no words, just sounds and small grunts to indicate desires.

As she watched, an image came to her. There is a deep, dark space between us; his thoughts cannot reach me. I cannot comprehend what he wants, what he thinks, how to help him.

The past few years came rushing back, their joy at having their first child, but as time went by, the realization that something was very, very wrong. Tests, doctors, therapists, psychologists, always searching for answers, a way to make Matthew whole, but there were no answers. Her marriage slowly disintegrating from stress and lack of attention. Her husband away at work for longer and longer hours.

As she watched the cars being lined up, her small son seemed to take no notice of her. She tried crossing that deep, dark space again. "Matthew, Matthew, where are you?" He looked up. "Mama?" he said.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Autism Ribbon
Autism Logo
The Puzzle of Autism

Odds of a child becoming an Olympic athlete 1 in 28,500.  Odds of a child being diagnosed with autism: 1 in 88, with 1 in 55 boys.

Normally, I do not write about personal family things, but today, after watching the Olympics and seeing this latest stat in one of the ads, I am moved to write about autism.  I  have four grand sons, one has autism.  Three of the boys are doing well.  But. . .autism breaks your heart every day.  There is no cure and the effect on families, emotionally, financially is enormous.  Relationships suffer, families sometimes break apart.  Siblings bear the burden as well, sometimes becoming very compliant in order not to create more trouble for parents.

Yes, much is being done.  Technology will help kids with autism.  Awareness by the public is important.  My grandson is mainstreamed, so this means that teachers and students have to be very tolerant as he struggles with the challenges of learning every day.  The little things that do not bother regular kids, the lights, the bells, the noise, the frustration of trying to keep up with other students and not being able to fully understand.  And there is always the bullying.

My regret is being older.  I feel I need more time and energy  to help more.  Meanwhile, everyone in our families, including three sets of grandparents, do what they can, which includes: specialized classes and lectures, technology, researching on our own.  There is always the search -- please give us answers -- but there are none.

I appreciate all my friends and family who forward information about autism and their moral support.  Autism is a world-wide problem and affects families on all social strata.  Perhaps there will be answers someday.  Meanwhile. . . .

Thursday, August 9, 2012

China vs U.S. and the Olympics

The emphasis on the State vs the individual is glaringly made clear during these Olympics.

China's goal was to win more gold medals than the U.S., and the pressure on their athletes during this final week is enormous.  Liu Xiang, the star Chinese hurdler, was an example.  He fell during the 110 meter hurdles.  Just before the start, the Chinese broadcaster said, "Liu is not as perfect as he used to be" referring to his injuries during the Beijing Olympics four years ago.  So, with that perhaps ringing in his ears, Liu fell early in the race.

Last week, 23-year-old weight lifter Wu Jingbiao, apologized for winning the silver instead of the gold medal, and did this bowing before the TV cameras.  And a younger female weight lifter was referred to by some Chinese newspapers as "One of the countries biggest failures."

Not all the Chinese news media were so harshly critical, some calling for change in the quest for global recognition via the state system of sports and the training and expectation of their athletes.  Some even referred to Liu as "Brave Liu."

Here, of course, we are disappointed when our athletes don't do well, but we all understand that our disappointment does not come close to the disappointment the athletes themselves feel after years of practice and sacrifice.  Adding to that would be cruel, in my opinion, and we do not humiliate these athletes. The puritanical years, where people would be put in stocks with signs around their neck listing their sins, are over.

The contrast between the two systems is stunning.  

These are my thoughts relating to an August 8th article in The Wall Street Journal.

Note:  One day later, August 9th, 2012.  China is now "PR-ing" and replacing photos of Liu's falling with praise for his past successes.  Perhaps they read The Wall Street Journal.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Marilyn:  Still remembered 50 years after her death, August 5, 1962

Today I am re-printing a short story I wrote about Marilyn Monroe.   

M is for Marilyn or:

The Seven Year Itch 

Joe always hated his name. That is, until he found out that his beloved Marilyn had been married to Joe DiMaggio–imagine that, married to a "Joe;" she must have loved him, he thought. " Joe, Joe, Joe" she would have said, and through time, those words drifted over to him, resonated in his mind and became her words to him.

It was the white dress that did it. When he saw the movie, "The Seven Year Itch," and saw her standing over the transom, her hands holding down the white, accordion-pleated dress, as the skirt blew around her, her red lips parted in a huge smile, obviously enjoying the sensation. She was pure sex and he felt pure lust. He fell in love.

From then on she became an obsession. Her image engraved in his brain. Every photograph, every bit of trivia that he could afford, he carefully collected and displayed. Many evenings at home, he would rearrange his Marilyn memorabilia over and over again--photographs, books, dolls, so many things. His favorite was a Marilyn wall clock-- her legs were the hands of the clock, and some of the positions were quite erotic–his favorite ebay acquisition.

Sometimes, feeling especially lonely and vulnerable, he would stare at his favorite photograph of her–looking sad and lonely too. She understands, she knows how I feel, he thought.
There were times when a very strong feeling would come over him; it was hard to describe, it was as if he became someone else.
He opened his closet door. . . . . . . . .
Time passed.

The door of Joe’s row apartment opened, and a very attractive blond walked out. It was a warm summer evening and she wore a clingy, jersey dress that accentuated her curvy figure. Her makeup was carefully applied, the red lips accentuated into a pout. Was that a mole on her lower cheek? She walked down the street with small, sometimes unsteady steps, and disappeared into the night.