Sophie’s Story – a Christmas Tail

Recently I was searching through my collection of photos on the computer. It was definitely time to weed out the thousand or so of pictures no one would ever see…including me.

It is a kind of thankless task, this weeding. Most of the pictures were of unidentifiable blades of grass blowing dramatically in the wind or out of focus faces. Or in-focus faces I didn’t recognize.

But one series of pictures brought back some funny, lovely, sad memories of Sophie, a tiny white poodle who found her way to me for such a very short time… and the journey that made her mine.

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I thought it was a little too soon, getting another pet when my dear cat Romeo had only been gone a very short while. But my daughter was very insistent. “You’re moping,” she said. “You need another pet. Now!”

So there I was, at the local Pound, searching for – a dog? Yes, my doctor told me the cat was irritating my allergies so I should get a dog. A poodle, he said, would be best because poodles don’t have fur, they have hair.

I’d been searching for more than an hour. There were so many wonderful dogs there, and they all looked like they needed my love. But there was something missing. No one particular dog seemed to know my name.

Until the very helpful volunteer, Lisa, who had been showing me around the kennels said, “I have a little poodle in the back. She hasn’t even been put out front yet. And she’s rather dirty at the moment, but….” She looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Yes, you’ll be perfect for her.” And with that she turned away and walked in the back room.

A dirty poodle? I am a perfect match for a dirty poodle? That didn’t sound really promising. But then Lisa came back into the room. And in her arms she held a shivering, quivering little rat of an obviously terrified dog.

“We haven’t even had time to give her a name yet,” the lady said apologetically, while staring at me almost as hopefully as the little dog seemed to be doing.

YES! Oh YES! This was my dog. She needed cheering up more than I did, I thought. And I was about as sad as I’d ever been.

So I brought her home and scrubbed and scrubbed until she practically shone bright white. Then I took her to the vet to check out all the information I’d received when I got her papers.

That, it turned out, was a little sketchy.

Age? About seven, I’d been told. But my vet thought she was closer to 11. General health? Could be better. Needed a bath and some flea powder and maybe several visits to the vet and the dentist. Probably nothing too serious.

Okay, that last guess was WAY off the mark. Poor baby needed 17 teeth removed and had several growths that needed attention. According to the vet at the Pound, the dog had been left in the road, apparently right after giving birth. She was still lactating!

So I made an appointment with the vet for a total check up and then called my daughter so we could consult on a name.

By this time – about three days – we had some idea of the dog’s personality but we still hadn’t decided what to call her. So we huddled. The three of us, two of us tossing suggestions then watching the unnamed pup react.

Rosie? No. Prissy? Ugh! Lucy? No. The dog was unimpressed.

“What about Sophie?” I asked.

All of a sudden, the dog, who up to this time had been totally uninvolved, began to howl!

Daughter Celia got down on the floor and howled back at her. The dog howled longer and louder, standing on one foot and then the other.

THE BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER!

 

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I had THE name! Sophie! After that old time singer, Sophie Tucker.The dog obviously agreed.

And we were all happy.

Sophie wasn’t a very social dog. She was timid and shy around strangers. She didn’t make friends easily in either world…her animal world or my people place. But she loved my daughter and she loved me. And for us, that was proof enough of her character.

And she was loyal from the get go. A friend who had come to sit with Sophie when I had to be out the entire day, said that the dear little dog sat in front of my chair and just stared at it for most of the time I was gone. And that was after only about a week after claiming her as my own.

Call me easy, but it would be hard to convince me that Sophie wasn’t exceptional.

Unfortunately, Sophie wasn’t with me for very long. Her many “not too serious” problems turned out to be worse than was originally thought, and suddenly one evening she began to howl all by herself. Not the companionable sound we loved, but a mournful cry in the night.

I tried all the things I’d done to soothe her when she first came to me, but nothing worked and so I raced her to the hospital. I never took her home again.

But I sat with her and I loved her and she never took her eyes from me until they closed forever.

But for four years, Sophie and I sat and howled and laughed…until we cried.

 

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There’s No Place Like No Home

When I was a kid, and I’d choose to complain about something IMPORTANT that was missing in my life…like a chance to be a movie star or something equally available to everyone, my parents would drag out that boring talk of about “feeling sorry for the man who had no shoes until I met the man who had no feet.”

Since I never noticed if people wore shoes, unless of course, there was snow on the ground, and I certainly never knew a man who had no feet, I didn’t really care a whole lot about their plights, especially as it compared with the real life drama of my own depravations.

But three days ago I ran into a situation that was, to my mind, comparable to being the man who had no feet.

Back story here: I am having to make some life-altering decisions about what to keep and what to give, sell or throw away from among all the things I have amassed during my 91 years on earth.

The little statues of the Balloon people? Oh no, never. I couldn’t part with those because they remind me of a particularly tender moment in the lives of my daughter and my sister. Oh no, never.

But maybe the metal birds Celia gave me for Xmas? I could give them to Danny who has fewer “memory pieces” than the other kids. But no, they are my memory pieces, not Danny’s so that wouldn’t work.

Well, Anthony always admired the cabinet in the bedroom. I could give that to him to cherish. But he’s in Mexico. It would cost much too much to ship that piece. It weighs a ton.

And my dear John, the romantic in the family who collects family history things…like the mirror that needs resilvering that he prefers with its blurred reflection because it reminds him of all the family members, past and present who stared into its depth for reassurance before heading out to face the world. What more can I ask him to take in?

But how can I give these things away … give them to thrift shops to sell to people not even remotely connected to me…except through a mutual love of thrift shops maybe?

But the fact remains, that I have to unload a goodly portion of the things I have cherished for a number of years so that I can more comfortably move into a wonderful new tiny house that is being built for me by two of the world’s finest citizens.

I really did feel like the guy with no shoes. Well, not NO shoes. Actually there are 46 pairs of shoes in my closet. But a girl needs to match stuff doesn’t she? And now I’m expected to do without some of them. Big sigh!

And then I met three men who had no feet. Okay, let’s be real here. They DO have feet. They are living, breathing walking around men one of whom has a magnificent dog that goes everywhere with him.

What they haven’t got is A HOUSE TO LIVE IN.

Right. They are members of one of the world’s fastest growing communities.

The Homeless.

I met them rather reluctantly the other day when I was out walking Boy. Boy is my dog in case you haven’t met us before.

It was early in the morning, 6:30 I think. We, Boy and I, turned left as we left our building. There was no one out there yet, but we are early risers. It was familiar territory. We take that walk every morning of every day and have for a goodly number of years. I was used to being the only person on the street.

But this time there was a difference. Up ahead of me I saw some activity and spotted a rather haphazard looking collection of carts and wagons and three men.

Whoa! What is this presence that is pushing its way into my pristine world I wondered. But, being the insecure kind of woman I am, rather than go investigate, I crossed the street and pretended I hadn’t seen them.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t like not knowing. I had to prove that I wasn’t afraid to walk on my own street just because there was something new and strange happening on it.

So the following morning I girded for battle. I’m not sure exactly what that means but it’s a left over from the same era as the shoes and feet story. Anyway, I went out and once again, and with great determination, headed west.

And sure enough, there they were again. They were sweeping up the area and dusting off the blankets of the previous night’s outdoor sleep over. They folded and chatted and shared one cigarette, and, as I got nearer, they stopped sweeping and moved to the side of the walk so I could pass through without incident.

Happily I didn’t do that.

I stopped and I spoke with them. And I asked them about why they were there – they’d been put out of the park, they said – and they told me they had to leave this place within three days or they would be put in jail. I ask about where they would go and what they would do with all that stuff they were moving around.

But they smiled politely, said they had no idea where they would, or even could, go. What I could see was everything they still owned in the world so they had to move it to someplace safe or the police would confiscate it when the men were sent to jail.

They said it quietly with a wry grin every now and again, but always with a note of hope. That was the thing that got to me finally….that note of hope. What could they hope for?

They were all past the age where companies would be vying for a chance to hire them. They couldn’t even clean up or iron their shirts so they would make attractive petitioners.

The only word of complaint I heard, and it wasn’t said for my benefit really, they were just sort of thinking out loud. “Sometimes it’s tough. We worked long and hard to end up here,” one said and the other muttered agreement and went back to sweeping.

I went back to walking Boy who’d been sitting very still, watching that beautiful, big, long haired German Shepherd, who was totally silent and never moved a muscle that I could see.

I went back to my apartment and gathered up three bottles of water and a couple of bucks and walked back up, and handed them to the men. There was none of that artificial “no thanks, we’re fine,” kind of conversation. They accepted what I had to offer – which wasn’t much, and said thank you. I went back home and they went back to packing stuff. I stopped back later with a box of dog chews.

I saw them again today. It was D Day. D as in DEPART. They had to leave. They didn’t know where they were going. They said they’d probably be back around some time and they’d look for me. And the big beautiful dog came over and jumped up and licked my face and the man holding his leash told him to get down and he did. But that felt good, that moment when the dog spoke to me.

Later, I walked past the spot where they had stayed for three days. There was no sign they had ever been there.

I came home again and looked around, and nowhere in my heart could I find the nerve to complain about what I was giving up. I, who had all this “stuff” to give or take, was the woman with 46 pairs of shoes and I had just encountered the men who had feet, but no table to put them under.

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Just to prove there is still beauty in the world, I have chosen this photo from among the fantastic selection Bobill Weaver provided for my use to make this Blog sparkle. I have entitled it:

RAPTURE FOR A RAPTOR.

raptor

You can practically hear the wind ruffle his feathers as he sails across the water on skis made of – well , yes – tonight’s dinner.

Think BEFORE You Write

Writing is a funny kind of business. Especially writing for something as wide-spread and potentially influential, as Face Book.

I like writing. I’ve been doing it for a lot of years…a whole lot of years.

I like to write funny, even if the topic I’ve chosen is terribly serious, like childbirth or war or losing the last five pounds on your way to a perfect size six.

The trouble is, there is no way to really “know your audience” which is, of course, absolutely essential if your desire is to write something people really want to read about.

And there in lies the rub.

I know the potential readership onFace Bool is up there in unimaginable numbers. Not that most of them, not even a couple of thousand of them, are lining up each month to see what gems you have in mind for them this time. It isn’t the number that is so intimidating it is the anonymity of them.

I am, by nature, kind of skittish. I don’t want to say anything that is going to upset anybody. I would like to think that is because I am one of the world’s most empathetic of people. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings or insult their ancestors or anything like that.

That’s what I would like to think.

The fact is however, I am afraid of backlash.

I have this need to be – not loved perhaps – but at least liked. I don’t want people to find me abrasive or divisive or any of those other ive things that are so prevalent these days.

But folks? Have you read FaceBook lately? It is a melting pot of hates. People on the left hate everyone on the right and the guys in the middle can’t imagine how all of you “fanatics” could have arrived at your god awful decisions!

Nobody cuts anybody any slack “You are either for me or against me and I really don’t want to talk about it.” seems to be the accepted position.

I think that once, long ago, perhaps when I was an impressionable teenager or maybe even into my twenties, I was one of those people.

I was in a very democratic university and we loved to love everyone. It made us part of the changing world and all the student leaders were agreed…”We would overcome” just about anything that stood in our way.

It took me a long time to discover that our solidarity was based on a united front of agreement on the fact that people who didn’t think like us were – at the least – idiots. At their worst, they were evil. We were a part of a democratic society which only loved other liberals.

However, it was also at that same university that I discovered, much to my dismay, that we had not all evolved to this lofty plain.

I was a member of a business fraternity for women. See, even the title was evolved. We were a Fraternity – a place where we could all be equals…but it was for women only. That’s a subtlety that escaped me at the time. But be kind…it was 1947.   Rosie was only recently riveting.

Anyway, I was elected president of the Fraternity and was going to a meeting of all the chapters somewhere in Chicago I believe.

There was a motion on the table that was to deal with at that meeting: Should this Fraternity admit either or both Japanese or Jewish students.

Wait! We had been excluding people on purpose? I thought we just didn’t know anyone who wasn’t – oops – just like us!

Okay, I thought, this is a no brainer. We just vote everybody in. Easy, huh?

But no. It wasn’t easy at all. The Fraternity members voted to admit the Japanese students!

No Jews? Wait. This is Temple University. Of course you have to admit Jews…

But I was wrong. You didn’t HAVE TO do anything.

I tried to resign my position but it was pointed out that I had agreed to represent the organization and to present its positions etc…so I went. I presented their positions and then I resigned and left.

I was VERY proud of me. Of course I was no longer a member in good standing, but I felt so – so – gloriously righteous.

I turned on them as quickly as they turned on me.   People I thought of as friends or at least Fraternity sisters ceased to be individuals to me. They were all lumped into one big group of people who were too stupid to see clearly what was so obvious to me.

That lasted a couple of days and then I began to realize that I missed some of them. That I like most things about many of them.

Now, just in case you’ve been wondering where I’m going with this whole meandering theme, here it is.

I realized that, despite our disagreements, they were still basically nice people. I might hate their social opinions, but that didn’t mean they had suddenly lost everything that was good about them. It meant instead that they thought in a different fashion from me.

Instead of sending out hate filled, foul-word laced accusations, I should talk with them. Understand how they got where they were and if there was anything – short of accusing them – that I could do to have them rethink, I should do that.

I’m still working at that. I believe I have reached a spot where I can agree to disagree. We have to learn to respect other people’s ideas however wrong we feel they are.

I have friends who are what are referred to as Cafeteria Catholics meaning they embrace the church, just not all the dishes put on the table. But they don’t give up on the entire organization or all the people who still DO believe that the whole dinner is perfect.

There are issues that seem to me to be perfectly clear. In all honesty I can find no justification for many of the moves being made today by our government. But I don’t believe that unleashing hatred via Face Book is a good way to arrive at a consensus

I cannot see for a moment how so many voters decided that giving almost anyone a gun would solve the world’s problems. Talk about it.  Face to Face, not Face Book to Face Book where you can lash out and hide at the same time.

I cannot understand how bringing the government to a halt for even five minutes is a good way to make a point

But then neither can I see how sitting at home composing Face Book essays on how anyone who likes Obama is a crazy person whose ancestry is in question as seriously as the President’s. Or that by taking a stand against Obama you are proving that you are thinking without a brain.

Republicans come in as many different shapes, sizes and colors as do Democrats and Liberals are a whole rainbow of their own. But no one group melds into a solid block of idiocrats who think everything the entire party stands for is perfect. We really have to buy smaller paint brushes. Or better yet…throw away the paint brushes and go out and talk to those people who don’t think like we think and try to understand how they got where they are.

I’m not saying it is easy. About a month or so ago, I had a conversation with someone I’d thought of as a fairly rational being until he said he thought he’d vote for Donald Trump. I started to make a joke but then I saw it. He actually meant it. He WOULD vote for Donald Trump for President of the United States.

I can’t believe I know someone who would do that.   @#$%^*&.

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a hummingbird

Another of the marvelous pictures from Bobill Weaver’s collection. I have a bit of a personal history with these little beauties. I love to watch hummingbirds and I think the natural flowers are better for them than the red sugar water that is used to entice them. So I went out and spent about $100.00 on plants with red flowers that I’d read would bring the little darlings to me. My neighbor put up a $19.95 red lantern-like device. Guess where the birds are.

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ABOUT ANTS

About Ants

I have a rather ambivalent relationship with ants.

On one hand, I really, really hate them. And with good reason. They keep invading my home. As uninvited and unwelcome as I have tried to make them feel, they seem perfectly contented to arrive every summer and plan on moving in, like those relatives who arrive every year to swim in your pool and eat your food and then go home without so much as a thank you.

Anyway, last year we had a real home invasion and my mild anti-ant feelings turned to hate.

It happened like this:

I’d invited a guest for lunch. I had the house looking particularly sparkly clean because this lady is a specialist in clean houses. I have never seen a single knife out of place in her home. I scoured and scrubbed and really had to admire my work.

She arrived. Punctual as I knew she would be. She admired my apartment (Good.) She thought it was wonderfully decorated. (She was right.) But then she noticed. There was an ant crawling across her foot.

Horrors.

We stared in fascination at the little pest as it calmly crossed over her arch and back on to the floor. I leaned over to swat the blasted thing when my guests yelped!

“Betty, look!” And she pointed toward the French doors which were open on to the balcony.

I looked and swore rather loudly.

“DAMN ALL!”

There, filing solemnly across the floor was a whole army of the tiny little soldier ants. Marching at least four abreast…(Can ants do that. Do they even HAVE breasts?) moving relentlessly across my well scrubbed and vacuumed floor and my guest’s feet, and into the kitchen.

It took about three seconds for my guest to gather up her belongings, reassure me that she knew it honestly didn’t have anything to do with not being a good housekeeper or anything unpleasant like that. And leave the premises.

Okay, that’s what she said but I knew, and know to this day, that she went home convinced that it would never happen at her house.

I called a friend who lived down the hall because I wasn’t sure what the next best move was. Sue arrived armed with many cans of killer things (all environmentally safe for animals) and some ant traps, and set to doing stuff.

While she sprayed and chatted she told me about her own problem with ants. Only hers had been marching along the ceiling. Who knew ants were not subject to the gravitational pull that rules the rests of us?

She looked up to demonstrate where they’d been moving through her apartment and said,

“Don’t look now Betty but…”

Too late. I looked at the ceiling. And sure enough, the second army was invading there…The entire periphery was fully engaged.

Ultimately we DID defeat them. At least to the degree that they left town…or my apartment and I didn’t really care about the rest of the town.

I didn’t care how it got done either. People showed up and sprayed the whole place, after I emptied ALL the cabinets. My dog went to visit friends for a couple of days and I visited relatives who loved me with or without ants. And when I returned, all was serene.

No more ants. And ultimately I forgot about them. But, as a new hot dry season came on I began to worry. I didn’t believe I could withstand another attack. So I did a bit of studying up on ants.

Does it help you any to know that there are about 10,00 species of ants in the world? I don’t feel any better now that I possess that knowledge. It seems that the little beasties that so happily move into our homes are fairly friendly. They don’t bite – much or often – and they don’t destroy much except your peace of mind.

But then, working on the theory that there is good in everything, I began tot think about how determined and well disciplined their particular world was.

Think about it. They all work for the Queen…which seems like a good plan. I may even write a book about The Ant Who Would be Queen. The title sings, doesn’t it?

But just consider the odds they face. The ants that come visit me so enthusiastically are about a quarter of an inch long. To get to my apartment they have to climb three stories of stone building…okay, before any purists point it out, I know the building isn’t all stone, but I’m generalizing so I don’t have to look up any more information…stop pushing.

Now if the building is three stories high and the ants are ¼ inch long, that’s a journey about as long as the Donner party undertook, and you know what happened to them!

So now I have this rather begrudging respect for ants. Not ALL ants. Just the ones that come to my home. That doesn’t mean I’m going to welcome them or that I won’t still spray with some of that Orange stuff that isn’t supposed to hurt my dog.

What it means is – I’ll feel sorry for them while I do it

The very word, FAITH, stirs up some really strong emotions in most people. The thing is, people usually have faith or they don’t. Doesn’t matter particularly WHAT it is we have faith in, if we have it, it’s usually a very strong belief system, not necessarily attached to logic or common sense.

When you agree to accept something “on faith,” you agree without demanding proof.

Faith is traditionally equated with religion or belief in a supreme being, usually referred to God.

When I was first becoming aware of the various ideas of God, He (we didn’t even think of the possibility that God might be anything but male) was all mighty, all powerful, all seeing and all loving. And since I didn’t have a date for the senior prom, I thought He might also be really thoughtless.

In the modern world, the question of faith is much debated. People don’t have a whole lot of it. Not in anything and certainly not in one all powerful being.

Instead, we have a whole lot of faith in THINGS.

Yes, of course there is one particular THING on my mind right now. It’s THE ELEVATOR.

It is a fact of our lives that we, as a people, TRUST elevators. With our lives. We have total faith that these magical cages will carry us up an ever increasing number of feet into the air and bring us back to safety at the push of a button.

BUT…

it also occurred to me the other day, just as I was getting in to an elevator for a quick ride to the 27th floor, that elevators are scary! I know there are cables. I’ve seen cables…heavy duty, really reassuring-looking ropey things that hum constantly through the buildings and (usually) do an exceptional job of delivering passengers to the desired destination.

But think about it people. Elevators are run by computers.        Now think back. How long has it been since your computer crashed?

So maybe all you lost were the day’s emails…because being a careful and aware type person, you will have backed up your information. But suppose you haven’t backed up everything and the thing you didn’t back up runs the elevators!

You jut fell 27 floors! Sorry, but you know how computers are.

What made me decide to write about my perhaps irrational fear of elevators? I don’t know. I guess I made myself nervous. And when I’m frightened, I don’t like to be alone. So I figured I just spread the fear around. Now we can share. And sharing, as we learn from very early on, is a good thing.

GOING DOWN?

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This particular picture just seemed to timely to miss///I call it Bad Hair Day in Birdland and dedicate it to Donald Trump.   Lest anyone suspect me of being a Trump fan, that’s sarcasm.aaa trump hair pdf

ON DOING THE RIGHT THING

ON DOING THE RIGHT THING

We read a lot in this country about “DOING THE RIGHT THING” Apparently astronauts are good at it. As are soldiers and marines and service men and women of all stripes.

Nuns, I understand are good at it. At least I found them excellent teachers and one of them gave me a cure for hiccups that works like a miracle – or charm, depending on which side of miracles you come in on.

But on the whole, we, the average run of the mine kind of people…I don’t think we’re real sure right now just what constitutes that elusive Right Thing.

I’ve been particularly aware of Right Thing challenges for the past several Politically Correct years.

But it has really intruded on my world recently.

For one thing, almost all of the rules regarding correct behavior that were sacrosanct in my growing years are now gone. Discredited if not down right insulting to many.

Like the bit where a gentleman stood up when a lady entered the room. Oh dear, I can’t even imagine the number of PC errors I’ve made here.

First of all, the term “Lady” seems to have taken on a strange glow. A Lady used to be a woman with dignity and fine manners and usually a caring attitude…sometimes a demanding attitude to be sure but that’s different problem. Now it is seen by many, as a synonym for weakness I think.

Apparently, by standing up when a lady entered the room, a gentleman was suggesting that she was incapable of getting from the door to a chair on her own. Today’s woman frequently takes umbrage at this kind of thing, seeing it as more of an accusation that she can’t get her own damn chair.

I’m not suggesting that we return to that gesture – and that’s what it was intended to be – a gesture of respect. Kind of nice, but hardly an issue. Besides, I like those gestures.

Right now I am busily trying to follow more urgent Right Things.

Like using less water.

I have cut my shower time…first to five minute every day. And then, because I didn’t feel all that refreshed, making it a 10 minute shower every other day.

Ah. That’s better.

Then I moved on to the part about the dishwasher. Dishwashers, by their very nature, use a whole lot of water, so it is suggested that we use them only when we have filled them.

I tried that. But food left on the dishes dries on the dishes and often stays on the dishes, particularly if, like me, you live alone and only fill the machine every four or five days. Besides, who wants to store dirty dishes for a week?

So I tried filling the sink with very hot water and then putting all the dishes in to soak so that when I put them in the dishwaher, all the easily removed stuff will be gone.

And then I read that all the running water it takes to rinse things is at least as much as the dishwasher was going to use in the first place.

Okay. Still trying to do the right thing. I hand wash most dishes and use the dishwasher when I have had a large group to dinner.

Satisfied yet?

Don’t even suggest it.

No. there are other methods, and I had to put aside one of my favorite hates in order to try this one.

Paper plates.

Now, paper plates are quite anathema to me unless and until you are off on safari somewhere in which case, of course, don’t be silly. You do what must be done.

In this case, I took to serving my own meals…when I was sure no one would ever see.. on paper plates! Right. I still hate them, but I DID feel holier than a lot of thou(s).

Until.

And you knew by now that there was an until lurking didn’t you?

Until I read that paper towels and plates etc were overloading the trash collections of the world and we should limit our use of those things. I’m back to china and linen…If I’m going to be disapproved of, at least I will be comfortable.

Those are a couple of the easier things that are bugging me. I hesitate to get started on the bigger, more controversial problems. Because I am aware of the uproar some of them incite.

Like:

A: Dietary choices (example, the tendency of non meat eaters to flood Face Book with horrific videos of animals being viciously mistreated. I do not question the value of their stand against cruelty to animals. I do believe they go overboard on the not-very-subtle suggestion that pro-meat eaters must be willing co-conspirators in the anguish.

B: Immigration: Are all people who are not like us for whatever reasons, therefore unworthy to share what we already have?

C: Politics: Are men and women really evil because they choose to identify with the Republican as opposed to the Democratic party…Or Vice Versa?

We really must begin to paint all of these problems with narrower brushes. The wide sweeping condemnations that show up every day in (anti)Social media are driving us all insane and making it harder and harder to approach any subject that can be considered even minimally controversial, as anything but a cataclysm waiting to happen.

I once hoped to start up a discussion group among my friends. But I have been appalled by the hate that fills the pages of my computer every day and I can’t imagine having a civilized discussion.. What is even more daunting is that much of it comes from my friends. They are liberals and want the best for everyone but can’t seem to abide anyone who doesn’t plan on giving it to the world the way they think it should be given.

Theoretically we all claim to want everyone to have the right to his or her own opinion. But reading Facebook, what I read is that what you think damn well be what I think too.

AFTER THOUGHT: I just finished reading a piece in the Wall Street Journal that suggests that ranting is not necessarily the good thing we have been told it is. Somehow the idea that we have some kind of anonymity has given folks a false feeling of security so they are free   say every hateful thought they are nurturing – if only for a matter of minutes.

One unfortunate soul apparently went on line with a really nasty opinion of his – need I say – former Boss. Boss read it. Man is looking for work. Maybe Think First is still a good plan.

SECOND AFTERTHOUGHT: What’s really scary is that Donald Trump is the Republican front runner to fix our problems…and apparently he hates everyone.

HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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And now we move on to the Bird of the Month portion of this Blog. Bobill Weaver, whose photographs of birds – whether in flight or sometimes in quiet family mode –inspired me to ask if he would share some of his favorites . This Cardinal is but one of so many and they are all beautiful…and sometimes funny. The Cardinal, however, seems a perfect picture of regal. That’s just my opinion, but I feel very strongly about Cardinals.

cardinal

IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO!

 

All of our lives we are fed the bromide, ‘it is better to give than to receive.’

Like most people, I grew up taking for granted that everyone would give me stuff, and resenting it when, suddenly people stopped giving to me, and I was expected to give in return.

It starts at the moment of your birth, this split activity of giving and receiving.  Mother, that paragon of giving, GIVES you a great push – and suddenly – voila!  There you are.  On this earth and already screaming for someone (Mother) to give you sustenance…which she does in the form of milk that she happily takes from her own body in order to sustain yours.  That seems fair so far – right?

But of course, in between Mother giving you a push and her milk, some doctor or nurse has voluntarily given you a good hearty smack on the behind to start you on you way.

You should have paid attention to that smack because along the way, you get lots of smacks attached to the giving and getting.

I would suggest that if you run the usual path between giving and getting, you are a happy taker until about age five, when all of a sudden people are yelling at you to (dreadful word) SHARE!

What ARE they thinking?  So you fight.  But you lose.  Ultimately you share or they will never let you out of kindergarten.  But you don’t have to like it.  Getting was definitely better than this new bit about giving in return.

Then, somehow, you do something good for someone.  One selfless act, later describe as “a random act of kindness.”  Maybe you help an old lady across the street. Or you give a dollar to a not very good street musician just because he looks cold and hungry and you aren’t.

And guess what?  It makes you feel really good about yourself.  You have given something to someone “just because.”  There is no instant return on that investment. Just the joy of having done the right thing.

So – now you are giving.  Feel better?

Well, maybe for a while.   People may look at you with a hint of admiration that was missing when you were a taker.  Now you are a giver…and one step closer to sainthood. Or maybe, and this possibility does exist, you are resented for giving.

Complex.

I learned about the resentment one day when a usually peaceful and accepting friend of mine came bursting into my house…or as close as he could come to bursting, confined as he was to a wheelchair.

“Damn it.  Why can’t people leave me alone?  Why can’t they just let me do the few things I can do for myself instead of insisting on helping me?”

There.  A whole new element is introduced into this giving and getting paradox.  When is it better to watch someone struggle than to offer help?  When are you a selfish bastard for walking across a street, unencumbered by illness or age, and leaving the blind man on the curb, waiting?  And how do you know?

So now we have reached a point where it doesn’t seem to be a good idea to give or to receive.  And there in lies the lesson.   There is a long pause here while I try to imagine what the lesson is.

Perhaps the lesson is that all of this give and take has been helping you get ready to be the caretaker. Caretaker.  The word is practically a cliché these days.  Almost everyone will, at some time, become the giver instead of the getter.  And the men and women who gave us life or taught us how to meet it, now must become takers.

It isn’t an easy change, on either end of the equation.  But perhaps it is the best example of giving and getting.  You give where it is most needed and what you get back is that feeling that you have done the right thing, for all the right reasons. And you take, because you must and you celebrate that someone loves you enough to want to do this for you.

Put most simply: Once again, LOVE is the answer.

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And now, as I promised, a new feature.

There are a great many things about Facebook that I don’t like.  I don’t like the spell check that changes my words to suit itself…or the opportunities so many people take to write really unpleasant things about other readers and writers.

But there is also something totally grand about it.

Take for instance the chance Facebook gave me to see some of the astounding pictures Bobill Weaver has taken over the years of all the birds that seem to follow him wherever he goes.

I’ve never thought enough about birds to consider how wonderful an invention they are, but lordy, they do add beauty to the world and Bobill has captured a great deal of it for our pleasure on Facebook.  It is a great gift.

So, for the next six months, I am going to share some of the pictures Bobill has shared with his followers.  I think you will be astounded by their great variety.

He has selected some of his own favorites and written a bit about each picture. We start with his Female Blue Heron.  Enjoy, please.  Betty.

This female Great Blue Heron is waiting for her mate to return with more nest-building materials at a rookery in Venice, Florida. When he arrives with the goods, she will take the materials from him and arrange their nest.

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jpeg bird

 

For the photobugs among us: Bobill took this with a zoom lens @560mm; camera mounted on a tripod.

 

On Voting Against, Not For Just About Anything.

I have been feeling guilty of late. For the first time in a VERY long while, I didn’t vote in an election. Not this last time…there were only two people to vote for or against so I did. But the time before that. There were a number of choices and I couldn’t agree with me on any of them.

Except as to who is was I wanted to vote AGAINST. The answer, unfortunately was – just about everybody.

I can’t even think of it as MIXED feelings. I’m against just about everyone. Because, I find, I don’t believe in anyone anymore. I can’t think of a single politician who makes me trust that he or she is the ONE person in the world who could lead us home safely. And that includes everyone on the ever increasing list of persons who believe they can do the job.

I believe President Obama is one of the most informed and knowledgeable men to ever fill that office. I believe too, that being very, very bright is not the most important quality Americans look for in a leader.

America looks for someone who will come out swinging, Tell the world that America is about to be heard from and that he/she is ready to lead the charge. Obama, on the other hand, wanted to collect all the facts and THEN, and only then, tell the world. However, if he changed his mind about the plan he would then be accused of flip flopping, and everyone knows a President can’t do that.

I surprised myself recently by discovering that I like any number of things Republican. I’ll pause here while you shake your head in bewilderment about how a thing like that can happen.

I DO believe the government is going too far into the private lives of the public. I DO believe that at some point, we can’t pay for everyone to have part of everything. I DO believe that listening in one everyone’s conversations is going way overboard.

Things like that.

But I DO believe too that children brought here as minors illegally MUST be allowed a shot at the American dream. It is what they know and grew up thinking was their dream too.

I believe pieces of each parties platform and not enough of either.

But the Republicans have given me so much to worry about.

I fear that their abortion rights will send women scurrying back into the alley where someone with a coat hanger can almost guarantee that there will be no live child born of an unwanted pregnancy.

But is that a GOOD thing?

Of course there is prevention…pills that will ensure no pregnancy…well, almost insure…but when they are wrong, when the pill doesn’t work…then what? Another mouth to feed in a family that is already way, way underwater?

And about those pills. The Republican party in many states is planning to limit the access to them. Which means what? No sex?

Sure, that’s going work.

But let some of these leaders try explaining that to their – I’m at a loss for a word….I don’t want this to sound as a list of things men do wrong…and I was about to say “Let them explain that to their mistresses.” But that suggests that only MEN indulge in out of family activity. And I don’t think that for a minute…holy hell!   I watch television. I know about these rich women with nothing better to do than buy themselves a hobby. But what do you call a rich woman’s pet? Is gigolo still a good word?

And what of the Gay Community? They can be outlawed just traveling from state to state. They can be refused service in restaurants and barber shops and other establishments where the un-American activity of bigotry is allowed to flourish…with legal backing. Why? What have they done, these mostly peaceable men and women who occasionally get on your nerves by dancing in the street in funny costumes – or none?

They don’t make love to each other the way “normal” folks” do? How does that impinge upon YOUR life? You don’t like it…don’t do it! But I don’t believe for a moment that we should make laws against it. Isn’t that a religious question? And if it is, shouldn’t you leave it in church?

So far the Party has offended and threatened the rights of immigrants, women and gays. Who have they forgotten? Oh yes, Old folks. All kinds of cuts seem to be in the air for people who dare to live too long and then get sick.

And it is true that many of us are no longer able to hold jobs and do useful things with our lives. But we worked hard to get here and now that we need a return on our investment in Social Security and other government aids set up to allow us to retire in peace, those things are under attack.

And speaking about attacks…what about programs for vets? I know BOTH parties proclaim their intention to help the men and women who have been fighting other peoples wars for years. And they come home to what? A sad history of neglect.

We created these war by agreeing that we had to do something to help innocent people around the world. And we do, of course. But that should guarantee that we provide returning fighters their chance at quiet retirement, if that’s what they need, or a decent job so their families can live the way they would have lived if Mommy or Daddy hadn’t gone to war. And that should be paid for by a grateful nation. I don’t see it happening.

There is one thing people in both parties seem to want.

TRANSPARENCY. The quest for Transparency is everywhere. But I don’t see how that can work. The way I see it, The American people would like their president to keep them in the loop about things like where, where and how all plans are being made to defeat all comers. Apparently we will rely on the enemy not to read, or listen to these bulletins which are for our eyes and ears only.

I am not, but nature, a political person. What I am is sad. I used to be sure who was right and who was wrong. Now I am lost. Everyone is right AND wrong. It just seems that more people are wronger than ever.

And I’m against that!

AMEN!

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WORD OF THE MONTH

PEDANTIC: Bookish. Learnedl Literay. A very good work.

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Next month, I promise, that beautuful bird picture I told you to expect. A glitch or two has backed us up a bit.

WORDS TO LIVE BY (or not)

Something I have discovered since turning 90. People really do seem to expect you to say something wise and, perhaps, inspiring every now and again.

When I tell people my age, the reaction I get is usually very flattering. They usually start with a surprised look and a hurried, and apparently sincere “Oh you aren’t” or – and this one surprises me every time – “You are my hero.” I, in turn hasten to assure them that I really, truly am 90, and, so long as people protest that I do 90 very well, I will continue to announce it at any available opportunity. But the hero bit I find kind of daunting. So far, it seems to me, the most impressive thing I’ve done is not die.
However, I have begun to collect little bits and pieces of wisdom I have gained through these many years. I mean, come on, you’d have to be an idiot not to have learned something along the way.
And you, my lucky readers, are about to get a bit of

THE WISDOM OF THE AGED.

One of my favorite bits of wisdom and one I have tried to work with is:
There is no such thing as a free lunch – the price is always too high.
Haven’t you found it so? Now I’m not saying that when a good friend invites you to lunch with a hearty “Come on, I’ll take you to lunch at this new place I know.” you should refuse. No way. Take him/her up on it…it doesn’t happen that often.
But when someone you hardly know suggests taking you to The Melissa Restaurant in Santa Monica, chances are you will be expected to pay for it one way or the other.
The first time that happened to me the would be “friend” requested a recommendation for a job I knew he couldn’t do. He didn’t get it – not the recommendation or the job, And he never spoke to me again, but it was a lesson learned.

Everyone is pushing his own piano.

Number two is just one of the many ways people say “Everybody has problems.” I know that, but I don’t always pay it the kind of attention it deserves. Because, if you stop to think that when someone is behaving badly it might just be because something terrible is going on in their lives, it becomes your duty to be considerate and kind.
I am not a confrontational person. (usually) However, on this one occasion I was helping to set up tables for a fairly formal luncheon at church. I placed the knives, forks and spoons in their proper order and made sure all the napkins faced the same direction.
I had just about finished when I noticed a woman following me around the room, changing the setup. How dare she! I thought and went back and set them to right. But so did she. Finally I told her, in no uncertain words, that I knew how to set a table and I didn’t appreciate her changing it.
The lady burst into tears and ran out of the room. Another woman who had watched this all go down came of and said, “Take it easy on her Betty, her mother died on Monday and her husband had just walked out on her.”
That was her piano. I learned another lesson. But Death AND Divorce? That really seemed like overkill to make a point.

Sometimes a lie is just a nice gesture.

I have a friend who prides himself on always telling the truth no matter who gets hurt. I find that wrong. There are, it seems to me, times when one of those little white lies folks talk of, are not only justified, but kind. If a friend asks me if a dress makes her look fat, I find out a couple of things. If the dress has never been worn and can be returned, the truth works. I tell her that I don’t think it’s as flattering as it might be. But if the dress is hers forever I find something about it to like and tell her about that. According to my thinking, if she owns the dress, and I tell her she looks fat in it, she will never enjoy it. So who get hurt if you cross the “I always tell the truth” line?

With age comes wisdom. Versus Too late smart.

Too late smart is an old Pennsylvania Dutch saying and I believe it is fairly self explanatory. We learn and learn as we go, but we’re still a work in progress no matter how many years we get to spend trying.

With age comes wisdom? The jury is still out.

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THE WORD OF THE MONTH: Okay, here’ a word I don’t ever expect to hear but it amuses me:
STARVEACRE; hungerweed.

Oh wait. I almost forgot to mention this one.

If God were a woman – diets would work.

A word about next month’s Blog. A gentleman, whose photographic genius I admire tremendously on FB, has given me permission to use one of his pictures with my Blog. However, my daughter Celia, (my guide through all the things I find to mess up when trying something new) is away this month. But next month she will see me through placing the photo. You will enjoy its quiet beauty. I always do. Betty

A Bunch of Stuff

My mind just doesn’t seem to want to settle on one topic this month. I keep coming up with really fine opening sentences and then discovering that the topic I had in mind isn’t the most important thing I have been thinking of lately.

So rather than devote the entire April Blog to one subject, I am going to deal with a number of nit picky things that annoy me.

GUILT! I find that the omnipresent media has made it impossible for me to hate anyone or anything without feeling guilty. Which, you might say, is a good thing.

HOWEVER, in defense of my guilt I offer these examples:

I HATE rats. I have tried not to. I’m sure there is some reason for their existence, but I have to tell you…I can’t think of what that reason might be.

Let’s take a cold look at rats. They aren’t pretty, they aren’t petable…have you ever held one in your hand? They are boney and have that slick looking tail.

I remember once, long years ago, I walked out from a friend’s apartment and came face to face – so to speak – with a bunch of rats who were happily playing some private little game of their own on the front lawn.

My friend thought that was cute. I screamed for a week.

I realize that rats have a right to live. Just not at my house.
I was out on my balcony a while back and I noticed my dog was pawing at a bag of dog food stuffed in a corner. He moved closer to the bag and suddenly a humongous rat bolted into my apartment through an open window.

Death and damnation! Now what?

I obviously couldn’t go inside…there was a rat in there…so I leaned over the balcony railing and waved frantically at cars passing by. For 45 minutes – give or take a few – I did that and many of the friendly folks going by waved back, but no one seemed to understand that I was in need of help.

Short story long, I finally gave up. I picked up my dog and raced through the apartment and out the front door. Then down the hall to report the whole problem to the apartment manager.

Very sensibly he set a trap for the rat., and several days later, he announced triumphantly that he ws successful. The rat was dead. Long live the cheese!

Now here’s where the guilt comes in. Because every cause seems to have fervent devotees, hundreds of people are sitting poised, ready to attack, anyone who kills an animal. That rat has been dead for six months and I’m still feeling guilty. Relieved, but guilty.

Oh yes, I also hate squirrels. When you think about it, squirrels are rats with pretty tails and a PR rep who works at Disney.

LANGUAGE

I have been thinking a lot recently about our language. It is a difficult language to learn I know… But it is a language in which one can paint wonderful, lyrical pictures.

But today, very few people take advantage of the thousand upon thousands of words just sitting around, waiting to be called upon.

Instead of searching for THE one word that says exactly what someone is trying to convey, we have created an alphabet of substitutes…

Take LOL for example. Or even worse…ROTFLMAO

Admittedly that saves a lot of ink, but is the writer likely to be found rolling on the floor laughing his ass off? It doesn’t seem likely to me. For several reasons. The first of course being that it is impossible to sit at the computer and call up that message
Most of the lines chosen to be followed by such a collection of letter are really not all that funny. Very few professional comedians actually cause members of the audience to roll around on the floor. Which, considering the condition of most floors is a good thing.

THE SUBTLE WAYS REPORTERS INFLUENCE THOUGHTS.

We are all well aware of the fact that our news sources do not, as journalists were supposed to when I was first learning the craft, present the news without prejudice.

Most of the time the slant is so obvious as to be ridiculous. But sometimes and more dangerously, it is subtle. A tiny thought that one person is more capable than another can be planted and absorbed without notice.

My favorite example of this occurred way, way, way back when I was still a student.

It was an election year and we had two newspapers in Philadelphia. One blatantly Republican, the other blatantly Democrat. Both were reporting an important televised event in which the two candidates were to speak.

The first paper wrote: “Mr. Fleming was asked to open the meeting.” Suggesting, but never saying that Mr. Fleming was more worthy. The second paper read, “Mr. Fleming was chosen by drawing the long straw, to open the meeting.”

Message sent? Mr. Fleming DID open the meeting, but not because he was the better man, just lucky at picking the long straw. Both reports were true, but only one was honest.

So…what’s on YOUR mind?

WORD OF THE MONTH

DECLIVITY: it isn’t the word itself particularly. It is just that it reminds me of my sister’s love of words. She used the word declivity to mean a pot hole. Now come on…That’s pretty grand! Actually declivity mean something sloping or a downward inclination.

IT TAKES TWO

It was several years ago when I ran across this problem. A young (high school age) girl, Zoe, was talking about a problem she had with another girl she had always considered a good friend.
“I don’t know what’s the matter. I mean, we were all just fooling around you know. And Angie got all mad. Like we were being mean talking about her hair!”
My friend was truly confused.
I asked if Zoe was sure Angie knew it was a joke, and she said yes…and I asked “Was she laughing?” And Zoe looked confused…Apparently Angie hadn’t been laughing.
“It was real stupid.” Zoe said. I mean, she cried.”
I suggested that if the people on both sides of a joke weren’t having fun, then something was wrong. Apparently Angie’s feelings were being hurt. Basically, I said, when the person you are “joking” with is moved to tears, you are walking in to bullying country.
Zoe was horrified. SHE was NOT a bully. She realy loved Angie. “We’re best friends.” She protested. “Or we were! Honest Mrs. B., we didn’t mean to make her cry. We all thought we were having fun.”
It’s a slippery slope, that line where two people having the same conversation have totally different reactions to what is going on. I know because I did it myself recently.
I was visiting a friend in the hospital and there were nurses and other hospital-type folks coming in and out of the room constantly, and things were getting a bit crowded.
At one point, a woman walked in carrying some papers and I got up to leave. I said I would take myself to the gift shop and see if I could buy me something to cheer me up. Then, turning to the newcomer I said, “I’m going to leave my purse with you. Don’t steal it, okay?” and exited, laughing.
I stopped laughing when I got back. It seems that the woman took exception to my “Don’t steal my purse” line.
“How come,” she reportedly said to my bedridden friend, “How come white people always think a black person is going to steal their purse?”
I couldn’t believe it – on two levels. I hadn’t really considered that the woman was black. I just that everytime I went in to the hospital the staff warned me not to leave money in my purse or wear expensive jewelry. It was a JOKE line.
Okay two things. One is that if I’d really thought this lady was going to take my purse I wouldn’t have called attention to the fact that I was going to leave it…I would have taken it with me.
The other is that I don’t have the idea in my head that any black person I meet is likely to rob me.
Then I flashed back to that long ago conversation with Zoe. If both ends of a conversation don’t understand the intention, something has to give. Problem with that? I haven’t a clue as to how one accomplishes that.
Sometime back either Harry Belefonte or Sidney Poitier was quoted as saying that, while he appreciated being pointed out as a “handsome BLACK man,” he would really prefer to just be recognized as a handsome man.
Alright…immediately I see two problems here. The first is that I am mixing up Sidney and Harry. I expect to be accused of thinking that all black men look alike. No such thing. I know those two faces very well. They are both gorgeous, both black. It’s my memory that’s going, not my good taste in men.
The second thing is that I disagree totally with the quibble. I believe that when someone calls another person a handsome black man he/she is calling up a particular type of beauty. It is a different look from a handsome white man or a handsome Arab, and, to my mind, it is an essential part of the person.
The big problem as I see it, is that some people still use “black” as an accusation. Not always, and, at least in my world, not most people. Just too, too many.
So how do we go about building a world in which we can be at ease when using these descriptive terms.
Thus far, I haven’t a clue. Obviously it isn’t safe to ignore a person’s roots. But it also isn’t safe to insist upon recognizing them. So how do we begin?
It would be wonderful if we could all just overlook the past many hundreds of years of hurling insults at each other and instead take a magical step into the land of beginning again.
Need I say – “That ain’t gonna happen any time soon.” So what is the next step?
For all of you who began this little trip with me hoping I had an answer…I don’t. What I have is a question.
Is there something in YOUR attitude? Something in YOUR tone of voice? Something in your use of these words – OR the way you hear these words, that can make a difference? Condescension? Accusation?
I don’t know, but I intend to make an effort to understand where the other guy is coming from. Maybe if we all just pay close attention, we can meet in the middle somewhere.

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WORD OF THE MONTH

EMPATHY: One of the words listed in the thesaurus for empathy is TRANSFERENCE. Maybe that’s one place to start. Try putting yourself in the position of the person who feels belittled. Can you change the way you phrase a thought so that you both know your purpose is to be a friend? Or, as the one who feels belittled, could you take down you guard just a little on the off chance that the person speaking really means well?