Category Archives for Free-for-all

Happy Birthday Abe!

February 12: Abraham Lincoln's birthday of course. 

Every year (or at least most of them), my children beg me to read the Gettysburg Address to them on Lincoln's birthday. They sit riveted as I recite this timeless piece of history. "Thank you Mother," they say, their voices full of emotion. "We are so grateful that you make time for these things that we love so much. You are amazing."

Okay, it doesn't go exactly like that. But Hey! A girl can dream.

Anyway, I love the Gettysburg Address and all that it stood for in that time in history. A few years ago, I wrote a piece about it. You'll find it here and it includes the full Address too for your reading pleasure.

Happy Birthday Abe! You were the real deal.

 

Thanks be to Technology

“Baker! Get in here!” Two remotes in each hand and I still can’t turn on the TV.

“Calm down, Mom. All you have to do is . . . “

“Don’t teach me. I don’t want to learn . . .”

“It’s so easy Mom; if you’ll just listen.”

“I don’t want to listen. I don’t want to learn. Just turn the stupid TV on for me.”

My son says I’m ridiculously impatient when it comes to technology and I suppose he’s right. I admit there are times when I miss the days when control was up close and personal and not one bit remote. But lately I’ve been thinking about technology that I appreciate. Here’s my annotated list.

Automatic Teller Machines also known as ATM’s. I remember when they came out and we were all nervous about this robot that took our money. Thankfully, the ATM has proven quite trustworthy. I love me an ATM. I love that no matter what time or day it is, I can go by the bank and get cash or deposit a check. Plus, now you can get postage stamps from these accommodating little automatons. Sweet.

Email. When I was in grad-school the first time, back in 1991, a friend of mine edited my papers for me. I printed them out on my daisy-wheel printer, separated the pages and removed the side perforations. Then I would drive over to her house to deliver them. During that year, her husband gave her some truly unbelievable information that she passed on to me.

“Vic says that there is a way to send documents from one computer to another,” she said.

“No way,” I told her. “I don’t believe it.”

“I know,” she said, shaking her head, “But he says it’s possible.”

Sure enough, before long, we were zipping papers back and forth and soon enough our computers sent whole picture albums to each other. Of course there are limitations. Now my laptop is in relationship with so many different computers it is susceptible to all kinds of viruses. Nothing, it turns out, is perfect.

Digital Cameras. Some of my readers will find this hard to believe, but back in The Day, there was a limit to how many pictures a camera could take before running out of something called film. In fact, I remember going to G.A. (Girls in Action: a mission-focused church group for, well, girls.) camp at Chowan University and taking my camera. And film. And flashes (the built-in flash came later). My mother would caution, “Don’t take too many pictures while you are inside and you should have plenty of flashes to last the week.” So when digital cameras came out (not the early ones; those were just irritating), it was so freeing. Take as many pictures as you want. Delete the ones that don’t turn out. Then load them on your computer and let it distribute them to your loved ones. Love it.

Texting (and cell phones in general). Need to send a quick message that doesn’t require a response? Text it. Forget your grocery list? No problem. Just have someone from home text you the list. Want someone to know you are thinking about them? Send an electronic warm fuzzy from your cell to theirs. Texting is quick and efficient. Of course it can also be outright rude. There is that.

I am also quite fond of my microwave and my programmable oven. Digital music is pretty awesome too. Oh, and my GPS. Love that thing.

So really, I like technology. And when I can’t get the TV on, I just curl up with my Nook instead.

Take Greed Out of the Ballgame

Published November 7, 2009

Caleb Spady, a 10 year old with DIPG, dreamed of being a Texas Ranger for a day. On the day his wish came true, the Rangers played the Angels. Reggie Willits, a fellow Okl.ahoman from Caleb's home county, welcomed him personally and continued his relationship with his young neighbor until Caleb passed away from brain cancer in July of 2009.

Caleb Spady, a 10 year old with DIPG, dreamed of being a Texas Ranger for a day. On the day his wish came true, the Rangers played the Angels. Reggie Willits, a fellow Okie from Caleb's home county, welcomed him personally and continued his relationship with his young neighbor until Caleb passed away from brain cancer in July of 2009.

I’m not a baseball fan—I’ll give you that. Still, I'm also not an anti-fan. I care if my son’s favorite teams win (which means the Red Sox and anyone playing the Yankees) and I like the Angels—because Reggie Willits is a real live angel, that’s why. (See caption at right for proof of this fact.) But no, I didn't watch the 2009 World Series. I did hear it, though; and I heard a lot about it.

Back in 1967, according to Google Answers, the average pro baseball player made around $6000 a year. In 2000, the average salary for the same job was $1.9 million. But get this. The median household income in 1967? Around $33,000. In 2000? Approximately $45,000. So, let’s just make this simple. In 1967, a pro ball player made one-fifth of his annual income playing ball; he made the rest some other way or he slipped below the average. Today, a ballplayer makes enough for his family plus 41 other families to live at the level of the common folk. (These numbers are, of course, for salaries, and don’t include income from commercial endorsements. I think we can assume there were no such things back in the 1960’s.)

 

Then there are the ads. An ad for this year’s World Series ran, on the low side, $100,000 for a 30 second spot. These ads tried to get you and me to buy stuff: stuff or services, we can’t afford because we don’t make $1.9 million, but that we will pull out our plastic and purchase because we think we will be better off if we have that which is advertised. (Also, perhaps, a discussion for another time.)

All this is appalling, but I heard something today that absoflippinglutely blew my mind. If you watched the World Series you noticed that during the game, little banners ran across the top of your screen pulling your eyes away from the batter. Stats of the player? Details about the game? NO! Another dadgum advertisement. You get this right: the $100,000 and up for the actual commercials was not enough! They needed more. What in the Sam Hill?

I don't care how much a person likes baseball. This is crazy.

Greed. It’s a nasty business.

And [Jesus] said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15 (NRSV)

(In the words of my preacher friends, "That'll preach.")

Zhenya's Igloo

As a parent volunteer, I have often tutored kids for whom English is a second language. Such was the case a few years ago when I was working with a young Russian boy who was a student at my children’s elementary school. One day, we were working on adjective/noun constructions. He had written a story about building "a house from snow." I gave him some examples of the preferred English structure.

"If you build a house from brick, you call it a brick house. A house from stone is a stone house. A house from clay is a clay house. Is that clear?”

He nodded, eyes bright with new awareness.

Ahh, the joy of teaching: of shining the light of information into the darkness of ignorance. How much better off would this child be because I, the educated one, had taken time from my all-important schedule to stoop to his level of academic neediness, bringing him this nugget of knowledge? Surely his life was now changed forever because I had shared my gift of teaching with him.

Energized, I pressed on. "Great. So if a house from brick is a brick house and a house from stone is a stone house, what would we call a house from snow?"

He smiled and with great confidence he answered, "Igloo!"

Chocolate Sleaze

Have you noticed all the half-priced candied hearts and discounted chocolates? Ahha. It must be February. February: Valentine’s Day, President’s Day and Dental Health Month! I wonder. Did America’s dentists choose this month because we eat so much chocolate, or because George Washington’s teeth were notoriously unhealthy? The world may never know.

In any case, I’m thinking more about truffles and petit fours than toothbrushes and presidents, how about you? Chocolate. It’s everywhere. No longer content to be confined to the candy shelf, in February, Chocolate struts its stuff on every aisle in every store. It sprawls out over office desks, offering free pleasure to all who will take and eat. Shameless!

So what’s a sweets-freak like me supposed to do when Chocolate starts putting on the moves? Tell you what I want to do. I want to jump headlong into the waiting arms of the tempter: gorgeous, luscious, sweet-talking Chocolate. Chocolate accepts me just the way I am. It doesn’t care if I add a Hershey bar to each hip every hour. It never asks me to limit my portions. Never. Instead, Chocolate says, “Have just a little bit more. It’s okay.” Who could resist?

Meanwhile, there stands Healthy Choices. HC says, “I love you just the way you are too. And I love you too much to let you abuse yourself.”

I don’t want to hear it.

HC persists. “I’ll take long walks with you. I’ll keep you company when you plan your meals and when you do your grocery shopping.”

Chocolate’s melting, looking a little weepy.

HC stands taller. “Come on, let’s grow young together.”

And so we live happily ever after. Occasionally we even enjoy the company of our friend Chocolate, a real sweetie who I like to visit, as long as Healthy Choices comes with me.

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