Friday, October 31, 2008

About the ghosts of Halloween

They're here in the aisles of a discount store long gone, where a little girl picks out a witch costume, and contemplates how scary she'll be in the short black skirt, the cape, the hard plastic mask with warts and a long, crooked nose.

They're flitting around a stuffy classroom in the elementary school in Fitchville, Ohio, where the kids have left their desks and ineptly frost cupcakes, and that same little girl is just a little disappointed when she doesn't win the contest.

They're lurking in the corners of a big house with a long driveway off a state highway, where the knocks on the door with cries of "Trick or Treat!" are few, but the excitement of giving out candy is great.

They're following a group of four little kids as they trail around Fitchville, a town without a stop light but with enough streets to make a Halloween bag pleasantly heavy. The sharp fall wind might whip through her costume, and the little girl wonders why that lady always gives out apples (who needs an apple? There are plenty at home!), but she and her sisters and brother will have plenty of good stuff, anyway.

The ghosts whisper to me, reminding me of that little witch of long ago, and for a moment I ride a broom high above the few streets of Fitchville, catching a glimpse of the pumpkins flickering in the fall night, hearing the children shrieking between houses, feeling the wind that rustles the last leaves off the trees.

The ghosts of Halloween fly with me, always.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

About a chance of snow

Hearing the furnace kick on in the night,
feeling the warm air on my face. A drowsy sound.

Waking up and it's dark; reluctant to leave the warm flannel sheets.
A great act of will power to arise.

Peeking out the window. Afraid to see white.
But just the darkness of the lingering night.

Opening the door, letting the cat out, a blast of chill air wakes me up too quickly.
The wood floor cool to my feet.

In the sanctuary of the kitchen, I begin the liturgy of the coffee.
Its incense fills the house, a simple gift.

Getting ready, a shower cleansing and reviving me.
Blessed water.

Donning my office armor.
Putting on my game face, a sturdy defense against the day.

Turning on the radio to a litany of bad news.
Not the least of which is, a chance of snow.

Friday, October 24, 2008

About what might, or might not, be important

Actually, I woke up thinking about a dream I'd had, which starred someone I really don't care about. And wondering why I'd dreamed about THEM--what did that MEAN? Then deciding ... that the dream just wasn't important (sorry, Dr. Freud).

Then I started thinking about today, and being glad it was Friday, and about how our work lunch bunch is going to a new Chinese buffet today, and that it would be fun. (And, hopefully, tasty.) And how a small thing like lunch with friends is important, because it means you have friends whom you want to be with.

Even if you end up talking about about politics, which is important, but sometimes depressing. Because we are a polarized society, and divisions among voters can be so ... divisive. Debating politics, rather than arguing about them, seems impossible in the current climate, but some of us try. And being judged on one's politics--that's what hurts the most. That if you are of a certain political bent, you've less patriotic, or even, sadly, less MORAL--that's hard to take. I might not be Joe the Plumber, but I am Cathy the U.S. citizen, and hopefully I'm just as American as Joe.

And I turned on the radio to the news on NPR that world stock markets were tanking--same song, third or fourth verse. And I got to thinking maybe I should change allocations around in my 403(b), even though I have no idea what I should move money TOO, or even if much is left to move....

So then I got to thinking about last night, when I was taking care of two of the little girls for a short time as their parents were at a parent-teacher conference for their big brother. Tay wanted to play her new memory game, so we got out the pieces and spread them on the floor. C-dawg wandered over and we tried to match up the Mickey Mouses and Goofys and Mickey Mouse Clubhouses (it's a Disney set).

We weren't having much success until we started cheating by turning all the pieces right-side-up. Since we all did it, I guess it's not cheating.

C-dawg had a piece with two bees on it, and couldn't find its match. "Are some pieces missing?" I asked. "Maybe," Tay said.

I made a sad face and in my full-of-fake-tears voice said to C-dawg, "Oh, these bees are all alone! We can't find the match."

She looked at me with 4-1/2 year-old disdain: "It's only a CARD," she told me.

I just laughed. I should have known better than to try to pump up sympathy for some cardboard bees.

That girl's got her head on right. She's not wasting any tears, or even fake sympathy, over something that isn't important.

But I still wonder where that other bee card went.....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

About if I ruled the world

And the song that is in my head today, maybe because of the proximity of the election, and the rueful look on President Bush's face every time I see him on TV lately:

Viva La Vida--Coldplay

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own
I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt, and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Calvary choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
Once you go there was never, never an honest word
That was when I ruled the world

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in.
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become
Revolutionaries Wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Calvary choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

Hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Calvary choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter will call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

Friday, October 17, 2008

About getting crowned, and I don't mean on your head like a queen or even a princess

First it's the bad news during your teeth cleaning when the hygienist says, oh what is that? It might be a crack.

And she looks closer and puts the little camera in my mouth and suddenly there is my entire mouth cavity in all its pale pink moistiness on TV in front of everybody.

And she zooms in on the suspicious tooth and runs her little pointy instrument of death and poky torture over it and says, yes you have a crack right there see it?

And after trying not to look at all that mucous membrane grossiness but now I must look and just say, yea.

Because what to Miss Hygenist is just a crack in Number 18 Distel or Buckle or whatever that must be fixed is a future of pain and hurt and several hundred dollars for She Who Must Sit All Uncomfortable In the Dental Chair.

Then Miss Hygienist calls in Dr. Dentist and I'm thinking maybe he is waaay too young to even know what he's talking about and I ought to get up and go somewhere else, somewhere with a nice, old, cheap dentist, but this young one, when my pale pink moistiness is not filling the TV screen, he lets me have the remote and I can watch anything I want to during cleanings and get headphones too. So I guess I'll stay.

So Dr. Too-Young looks up on the screen then down in my mouth with his little mirror of decay detection and says, yep, she's got a crack in Number 18. She needs a crown. Let's get it scheduled.

And right then I am not wanting a crown, but some crack sounds good.

So I make the appointment at a time in the future that seems really far away but I know it's not. It's just long enough for the nice ladies at the front desk to send away for an insurance estimate, and yes, I take time to thank God I have dental insurance, and I get the estimate back and it's four figures, and no the insurance doesn't pay anywhere near that much so I'm wanting that crack again.

But that tooth, when the hygienist touched it with her shiny sharp instrument of death, it did hurt, so I know I better get crowned.

Which I did: After an hour of needles jabbed into my gums, numbing me to the point of drooling, jaws of life keeping my mouth open to the procedure, the high-pitched wail of the drill vibrating my whole head, my mouth filled with fluffy white putty stuff, the pungent airplane-glue-stuff that keeps the temporary crown on, not even CNN's Most Political News In the Morning could keep my mind off my mouth.

I just want to go home--and I can't even to that, because I have to go to work.

Where I sit, numb from lip to ear, tongue to cheek.

Queen Catherine of Novacaine. All hail. Sorry about the drool.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

About 10 questions regarding Cathy's trip to Minnesota, for the2nd time this year

Cathy spend the weekend coming and going to Minnesota! Let's find out more!

1. Cathy, why did you go to Minnesota AGAIN?
To a wedding, of course, my nosy friend! My BFF's youngest son was married in Mille Lacs/Onamia.

2. Where/what the heck is Mille Lacs?!
It's a beautiful area about 2 hours north of Minneapolis, my geographically challenged friend. On an Ojibwe Indian Reservation, there's a big casino and resort. There's also a big lake. And did I mention the casino?

3. Okay, we'll bite on the casino. How'd you do?
Your concern is appreciated, my thoughtful friend. I'm chicken to play 21 and I suck at slots. Even penny slots. In other words: I did badly. But it was fun trying because they have free pop.

4. Free pop? Weren't you too sloshed from the free booze?
Unfortunately not, Kemosabe. Mille Lacs is a dry county. I mean, desert dry. Nada. Smoking at the casino--okay. Drinking at the casino--doesn't happen.

5. So how cold was it in Minnesota? We're sure winter has hit up there.
Not so much, my meteorologically inclined friend. While no record warm temperatures were set, it was a balmy 66, although much more cloudy with more chances for rain.

6. How about the fall color? Past peak?
I'd say, just at peak, my nature-loving friend. Many more reds and yellows than we see here. Also, more evergreens of the pine persuasion.

7. Okay, so you flew into Minneapolis. We know the airport is right next door to THE MALL of America and your personal Mecca, IKEA. Did you bite?
Fifty-fifty, my shopoholic friend. Indeed we could not pass THE MALL without a short lunch stop at Bubba Gump's and a quick dart into Marshall's. So sadly, IKEA must wait for another day.

8. In this time of financial crisis, how do you gauge the mood of the traveling/gambling public?
A discerning question, my inquisitor. Airports: busy. Airplanes: VERY full, to standby levels. Mall: Busy. Casino: Packed. Topics of conversation: Anything BUT the value of one's 401K.

9. And how was the wedding?
Tip-top and smashing, Miss Manners. The bride and groom, teachers both, were young and beautiful; the bridal party a fun-loving bunch; the families pleased with the union; the ceremony, heart-felt and joyous; the reception, a damn fine party. And did I mention the cake?

10. So, was the manic pace of the trip worth it?
Any trip that includes a visit to the Mall of America and wedding cake, my solicitious friend, is more than worth it. Plus, we saw two windmills on the way to the event. And, we got to dance to Hey, Ya! Now that's my kind of reception.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

About the fear of fear itself

Sometimes we need to listen to the pastor; sometimes to the poet; sometimes to the professor. In these days, we are often left listening to the politician and the pundit--unfortunately.

The politicians have too much at stake to be able to speak candidly--dare I suggest, even honestly? A handful of votes can decide an election, even a national one--hello, Florida. And the pundits have too much at stake, too, for common sense to prevail over hysteria--a ratings swing to another channel can mean one's job.

So I got to thinking about President Roosevelt's speech, which seems to be getting quoted by left and right, in miniature. How much more do we know of it than the "fear of fear itself" line? And if indeed that snippet is painfully true this October, how much more of the speech can we learn from?

There is much, and in that spirit, I reproduce the text and offer a video. The speech is President Roosevelt's First Inaugural Address, on Saturday, March 4, 1933.

President Hoover, Mr. Chief Justice, my friends:

This is a day of national consecration. And I am certain that on this day my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency, I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impels.

This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure, as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunk to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; and the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone. More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

And yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered, because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply.

Primarily, this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True, they have tried. But their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They only know the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

Yes, the money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of that restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy, the moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days, my friends, will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves, to our fellow men.

Recognition of that falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, and on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation is asking for action, and action now.

Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing great -- greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our great natural resources.

Hand in hand with that we must frankly recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land.

Yes, the task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the values of agricultural products, and with this the power to purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, the State, and the local governments act forthwith on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered, uneconomical, unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities that have a definitely public character. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped by merely talking about it.

We must act. We must act quickly.

And finally, in our progress towards a resumption of work, we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order. There must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments. There must be an end to speculation with other people's money. And there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency.

These, my friends, are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new Congress in special session detailed measures for their fulfillment, and I shall seek the immediate assistance of the 48 States.

Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own national house in order and making income balance outgo. Our international trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of time, and necessity, secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy. I favor, as a practical policy, the putting of first things first. I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international economic readjustment; but the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment.

The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not nationally -- narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in and parts of the United States of America -- a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance that recovery will endure.

In the field of world policy, I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor: the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others; the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.

If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize, as we have never realized before, our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take, but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress can be made, no leadership becomes effective.

We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and our property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at the larger good. This, I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us, bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in times of armed strife.

With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.

Action in this image, action to this end is feasible under the form of government which we have inherited from our ancestors. Our Constitution is so simple, so practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has ever seen.

It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations. And it is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative authority may be wholly equal, wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before us. But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure.

I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption.

But, in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis -- broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.

For the trust reposed in me, I will return the courage and the devotion that befit the time. I can do no less.

We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young alike. We aim at the assurance of a rounded, a permanent national life.

We do not distrust the -- the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.

In this dedication -- In this dedication of a Nation, we humbly ask the blessing of God.

May He protect each and every one of us.

May He guide me in the days to come.

And may cooler heads, common sense, and wise policies prevail!

Monday, October 6, 2008

About the conversations I overheard

Just walking around at the Apple Festival on Sunday.

"... I think there's a entrance in the fence over this way by the grandstand...."

"What is that?" "It's from the basket-weaving tent." "But what is it?" "It's a potholder or something."

"Did you see the debate the other night?" "Yea, I thought Sarah Palin...."

"Your candle looks like a banana."

"Do you want to make a doll?" "That's not a doll." "It's a doll made of corn husks." "That's not a doll."

"Mommy I need a drink." "Do you want some root beer?" "Mommy do I like root beer?" "Yes."

"I might buy that basket." "What's it for?" "For the cat." "I don't think the cat will sleep in that basket."

"Where are the elephant ears?" "That booth is closed." "But I saw people walking around with elephant ears!" "Don't ask me."

"Do they have caramel apples without the nuts?" "Do you want a whole apple or one cut up?" "I don't care, I just don't want nuts."

"And I think he is for McCain, but there's no sign in the yard...."

"Where did all these people come from?" "Can't just be Kendallville."

"Let's go listen to the music." "I want to dance." "You can dance." "You dance with me." "Ah, no."

"Let's go to the craft area." "It's in the livestock barn." "Well I hope they cleaned it out."

"They're shearing sheep over there." "Why do they do that?" "We make clothes from the wool." "Oh, yuck!"

"Did you hear this joke on Fox News? No African-Americans are going to vote for Obama because...."

"Did we have that last year? I thought we had the Caramel Apple Sundae...."

"Yea, it goes until 5...."

"Where'd we park?"