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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Open letter to a telemarketer

Dear human,
   Telemarketer lives matter, and Jesus, or Esteemed Revered Personage of  your chosen belief system (L. Ron Hubbard?) loves you. Bet that's not what you expected. Perhaps you did not receive enough positive reinforcement as a child. Maybe that's why you now do what you do. Or are you just desperate? There is always the chance, of course, that you are simply a sociopath, but I shall choose the high road and not go there.
   Last night you called at an inopportune time; maybe in your line of work, there is no such thing. I suppose *opportunity* is more on side of caller, rather than callee. On this occasion, I was dealing with the incapacity of another individual, and knew neither the duration, nor severity of the malady, nor what ensuing complications might be. Fortunately, I have ability to remain calm in times of crisis, so merely informed you neither Mister nor Missus were available. Why tie up the line berating you, when someone who could update me on condition of Head of Household might at that very moment be trying to get through? Besides, berating is not my MO - I much prefer to *kill with kindness.* (It's ever so much tidier.)
   I am aware telemarketing is a global industry and persons trying to 'make a go of it' actually go to school to learn persistence, innocuous manipulation and intimidation, even what accent might facilitate success. I am casting neither blame, nor aspersions - I just want to see you in a genuinely satisfactory line of work. The individuals you call should be clients, not "marks" and you should be selling something of durable value.  Do you understand? At the end of your career, you should leave a legacy, not merely a bank account. Is this something you would teach your offspring, have them continue the family business? I guess the payoff is real enough, because obviously you're still doing it. It just strikes me as somehow, what shall I say, slimy? No, you aren't holding your victim at gunpoint or otherwise coercing an individual, but please explain yourself. I am truly interested - because a problem cannot be solved until it is first understood. And *Houston,* we definitely have a problem.
   Oh, not me so much. You see, I am that fortunate individual who comprehends the meaning of "enough:" I have what I need and am content to live within my means. Not everyone is that lucky. Often it seems greed is considered a virtue and those who don't grasp for *more* are pitied and seen as somehow deficient. But, I can live with myself and genuinely like the person who looks back from my bathroom mirror. Everybody deserves that.
   Will an actual telemarketer ever read this? If so, will said individual be moved to question the situation? Remedy it? Who knows? Meanwhile, if you have read it, I hope you are left with a smile.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Basta et bueno [letter 105]

Dear friend,
    I have just - well, in last few hours - come from lunch with a couple former schoolmates. During our meal, we talked about what has been going on in our individual lives and laughed at little age-related things we experience. I told them I would be sending a blog letter about yesterday and today. A couple months ago, I sent an illustrated letter to one of the guys from our class. A week or so later, his wife told me how much he had enjoyed it. One of my foreign correspondents wrote saying these cyber missives fill in spaces left in time between paper letters.
   You may wish to settle in with a beverage while I tell you about my gourmand experiences. Thursday, went with a bus group to Northville, Michigan. We had a guided tour around some of the historic neighborhoods, but the main attraction was a meal and show at Genitti's Hole In-the-Wall. The play was an interactive cast-written piece of slapstick, titled Murder on the 13th Floor, which had people laughing the whole time. The headliner though, was the food, and was definitely *worth writing home about.*
    We were served a seven course meal: each course brought to our tables "family style." First, a pot of Italian Wedding soup was set at table end, along with bowls and a basket of bread. Martha, a member of our party, elected to serve, passing each bowl down the table as it was filled. We had been told the soup was 'chicken based,' which apparently meant the chicken didn't really have anything to do with the soup itself but had been in proximity during preparation. Most notable feature of this dish was presence of little white beads of [maybe] pasta. A tasty concoction and I was tempted to have another bowl but opted to pace myself, since there were six more courses to come.
   Next came salad course: iceberg lettuce, pickled banana pepper rings, cucumber and tomato, slices of black olives, pieces of salami, all served with Italian dressing. Third course: pasta alfredo; tubular pasta with a thick creamy alfredo sauce. This was followed closely by Italian sausage cooked with chunks of onion and slice of sweet bell pepper. A platter arrived, bearing fifth course - golden crusted chicken accompanied by sauteed slices of zucchini. Sixth course was the only one I found disappointing; a thin slice of Italian pork steak, served with roasted potatoes - but hey, one out of seven isn't bad. Finally, dessert: cannoli, providing a satisfying taste of sweetness.
   Today, had lunch at Mario's; a Mexican restaurant on Beecher Street in Adrian, Michigan. Two of our friends couldn't make it; we missed them but had a good time nevertheless. We meet monthly and always have fun. I told my companions I had a title chosen and would be blogging after I got home. "Basta" is Italian for "enough," and "bueno" is Spanish for "good." After paying our tabs and hugging each other, we went our separate ways; I had a bit of grocery shopping which needed to be done.
   Arriving at apartment complex, drove around back to unload car. Good thing I had not planned on using a cart, since neither was available. Perishables and *important stuff,* i.e., cheese and beer, are in the fridge; rest can wait.
   Tomorrow is Third Saturday, so will be meeting with other Tecumseh alumni at a local eatery. Food is an integral part of most social events, at least in my world, and the company is every bit as important as the food - in some cases, more so. Guess I have taken enough of your time. Write when you can.

Abbracci y besos, [hugs (Italian) and kisses (Spanish)]
Jo Ann

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Far-flung friends - letter 104

My dear one,
     Receipt of your most recent missive has caused gladness to positively bubble up within me: I feel quite giddy. Considering the distance traveled, it is amazing it arrived in less than two weeks. Still, that is less time than it has taken for letters coming from Africa. Though I have never left North American continent, I see the world through correspondence; at least those places from which I receive mail.
   That was a handsome photo you sent, and I was duly regaled by your musings on "loquacious" W. Good thing I live alone: I would probably be driven to distraction - or worse, something punishable by law.
   Glad to hear scorpion upon which you inadvertently trod did not cause extensive damage. Kindhearted soul you are, am sure you felt remorse, even though you were not actually at fault. You are considerably younger than myself - as I was reminded by reference to coming school year. Called another person of my acquaintance to ask when would be a good time to visit and was told, "Anytime we're retired." I have lived in your workaday world: done my time, so to speak. I do not regret it of course, since that is the means by which I came to whence I am. It is one of my many blessings to seek and find the pleasures offered at each phase of life.
   Presently, a neighbor's dog is being walked by someone other than her *mom* and she is yipping and yapping; sounds like a squeak toy. Just went to the kitchen for a glass of cold tea - have gone through gallons, this summer - and as I pulled a glass from drainer, a Corelle plate began to topple. Corelle purports to be break-resistant, but why risk it? Anyway, am once again comfortably ensconced in front of my screen, typing away. This will reach you long before the pen-and-paper version is even written.
   Believe I mentioned dinner theater outing this past Sunday, and am soon going on another. Did you know Michigan has over ninety-five (95) professional theater groups? Several are within an hour's drive from Tecumseh. I am so glad to be back in my home state, particularly in an area where theater art is prevalent.
   Well my dear, we shall be in touch - either via electronic media or the more charming and personal "snail mail."

Until then,
Jo Ann

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Poetry from My Jeff Years [2005-2007]

   Whether love is *true* or not, the course of it rarely runs smooth. My relationship with Jeff was akin to experiencing bipolarity. Angst, it seems, fuels the creative process; so *whatever else* Jeff was, he was my inspiration, and I wrote many poems during our time together.

This was written late in 2005. It is written in Jeff's *voice,* based on several of our conversations.

THE SEARCH FOR MYSELF
When did I become this man, this stranger who's myself?
It started many years ago when I put my heart up on a shelf.
I've walked into a hundred lives, unsure what was in store,
and stayed until I realized I had to leave and close the door.
How did I become this stranger? Who is this man I am today?
I think I put my soul in danger when fear made me lock my heart away;
I always look into the eyes in search of hopes and dreams;
I'll never tell you any lies, won't be a part of any schemes.
This is the man I am today, moving forward toward my goal;
to find my heart and soul again: to be a part of something whole.
***

Written 2 January, 2006:
The Choirgirl's Prayer
 He was a man out of Time but he didn't know the reason -
and when he could not find his Rhyme, it felt like an act of treason.
Then he met this biker chick, with tattoos but no Harley;
her wit was biting and very quick and man, the girl could parley!
Sometimes the man's eyes seemed to glow, his voice got low and serious:
the woman wondered, "What's this now?" and so she became curious.
"Oh, you don't want inside my mind: it's dark and kinda scary -
even I'm not sure just what you'd find. If you enter, best be wary."
But Biker Mama wasn't scared, she'd known her share of demons -
And sent 'em packin' straight to Hell! She sang and they fled, screamin'!
Also known as Choirgirl, she held her high notes long;
She knelt before the throne of God; a prayer was in her song.
She prayed for words to travel Time and Jesus knew the reason:
She sang her best friend words of Rhyme - that he might find his Season
***
Another time I wrote in Jeff's *voice,* After he'd  said - for at least the dozenth time - I didn't have enough "twang" to sing country:
My Baby Don't Sing Country
What you gotta understand about my baby is, she can't sing a country song.
But give 'er fancy words and a few high notes and, by dang, she can belt it out all day long!
Oh the girl is more than half-ways crazy and I think I kinda like it that-a-way.
She's like a magnet on the fridge of my life and I'm sorta hopin' that she's stuck on to stay.
You know she's got more words than Mr. Webster, or Funk and Waggonals combined;
I really think she makes more than half of them up: I'm tellin' you my baby is plumb outta her mind.
No, my baby don't sing country 'cause her twang just flat ain't worth a damn;
But when she smiles and she whispers, "Please kiss me," I take her in my arms and I say, Yes, ma'am.
Oh she writes me beautiful letters and she tells me things that I've never heard.
Sometimes I call her up to ask her, 'What does this part mean; and, Honey, what was that word
at the bottom of page five, is it spelled with an 'h' or a 'k'?
'Cause it could mean something totally different - and I wanna understand whatever you wanna say."
Oh my baby don't sing country - it's the one thing that her voice can't seem to do:
But when she laughs or she tells me that she loves me, well you know that I just can't feel blue.
No, my baby don't sing country but it really doesn't matter much at all -
because she tells me that I'm somethin' special - yeah, Baby makes me feel like I'm 12 feet tall!
Her twang ain't worth a damn and she's got too many words.
She whispers to me things that no one else has heard ...
But my baby don't sing country.

Jeff had played a tune he had composed for guitar, and said it needed words. This is what I wrote:
THE WIND WHISPERS, ROARS and SINGS
Hear the wind's song, whether mellow or strong.
Just listen, it's singing to you - of the changes it brings
from Winter to Spring; there is death and then life anew.
It can strip the trees or rustle the leaves; it's always and never the same.
It blows where it will, often gentle and still -
but sometimes it's wild and untamed!
The wind sings its tune from September to June.
There are days when it loses its voice.
You can soar like a kite, spread your wings and take flight,
or hide from life, if that's your choice.
The wind sings its song throughout your life long,
filled with sorrow, excitement and bliss.
It can cut deep and sharp,
it can sing like a harp -
or touch you like you've just been kissed.
The wind moves the clouds,
it roars hard and loud
and then fades away like a mist.
The wind laughs as we play and then blows away
and sometimes it blows us a kiss.
A whispering breeze, a fierce cry that can freeze -
and then, once more, a soft gentle kiss;
a warm and lingering kiss.


Following are more or less in order from March-December 2006:

Promise of Spring, Colors of Fall
Even if her life were a hundred years long,
by the time she finally met him more than half her years were gone.
And she knew the only reason the past even mattered at all
was it had brought her to this season with the promise of Spring and the colors of Fall.
And of course her days were cherished and her nights were filled with dreams;
and she treasured every moment and she found a life between the mundane and the glory -
where most our lives are lived.
She opens every new day like it was wrapped up with a bow,
it's a joy to say, "I love you" and know it's really so.
And she knew the only reason the past even mattered at all
was it had brought her to this season with the promise of Spring and the colors of Fall.
Cold Winter is behind her, with another yet to come -
Spring brought a cleansing rain, she's been kissed by Summer sun.
She doesn't let life pass her by: she lives in God's design;
She's in the Autumn of her life and she savors it like wine.
And she knew the only reason the past even mattered at all
was it had brought her to this season with the promise of Spring and the colors of Fall.
She's come into this season with the promise of Spring and the colors of Fall.


At Your House

Am I a guest or am I "at home"? Shall I do dishes or leave them alone?
I try to remember where everything goes and if I can't reach, I stand on my toes.
I'll make the bed while you take a shower; then we'll drink coffee and just sit for an hour.
No words need be spoken but much can be said
by the smile on my lips or the tilt of your head.
It's nice to be both lover and friend, to have a comrade on whom you depend -
Whose tears you dry, whose joys you share, Who, though miles away, will always be there.
How great to be your friend and your lover; to know that you care but that you won't hover.
Sometimes I finish your sentence and sometimes I can be wrong.
I hope you don't feel the need to build fences - I'll try to slow down and let this grow strong.

This also came with a tune in my head. I seem to recall it was a season of cooler weather.

Married Or Not
It's not so much whether we're married, or if I live here or there, 
as just spending time together and knowing you really care.
You always make me feel welcome, though you tease me and tell me to leave:
It's not til you tell me you're kidding that I kick back, relax, and just breathe.
I know that the time isn't right yet; we've got things that we have to do;
But I want to spend my future in a house in the mountains with you.
Maybe I heard what I wanted to hear so I could believe in my dream -
But the simple reality is, we make a very good team.
There are days when I hear a voice on the breeze say, "Girl, you don't have much time.
So damn it, just tell the man how you feel - even if the words don't rhyme."
Dear, it's great to know that I'm welcome - but I want you to want me to stay;
Perhaps the time's getting closer, though it's not gonna happen today.
You'll remain in my heart and when death us do part, I'll still love you til the end of all days.
Yes my dear, til the end of all days.

"The pen is mightier than the sword," so it is often said.
It true words thud into your chest, explode inside your head.
Yet is silence any better, not knowing really bliss?
True words are not a fetter: They shine, they sparkle, they glist!
They say the pen is mighty - mightier than a sword;
I think it's a bazooka, the power of written word.
When it is down on paper, it can be a rusty knife -
it can leave a jagged wound, rend heart from soul, change life.
But words can also heal; mend fences, comfort friends -
and do the most amazing things right up until THE END.
And truly it can go beyond.


This was written before I went to a Texas Songwriters in the Round weekend event:

The lady said to write love poems, which shouldn't be hard to do.
But over the years, time and again, my heart has been broken in two.
It's quite a while since the last time it happened and my heart has started to mend.
But there's a glitch, an imperfection, and sometimes I go 'round the bend.
Anyone over the age of three has undoubtedly been in love.
We all write sappy lines about stars and such above.
Love sonnets can come from broken hearts, from those who feel bereft.
Just as glorious music from Beethoven, long after he'd gone deaf.
The mysteries of life, like Love and Death, have neither rhyme nor reason.
Whence we are called, thither we go - no matter the hour or season.
Love well, my darlings, sing out loud and share a fleeting glance.
Such are the things of songs and dreams and even of romance.
Rhyming couplets oft evoke an air of love sublime.
My prayer for you is that your love grows ever stronger over time.
Late 2006
The Weekender
He says, "Honey you're all that and more," 
[the *ph* kind of "phat" - which is good].
Says he can't believe no one's claimed her as his own -
Adding, "Best I can do is open my home."
For a day at a time, here and there a few times a month for over a year.
He goes to her place, or she comes to his house:
But she's a weekender, she's not a spouse. They share a toothbrush, two dogs and a bed;
he says she glows with a light - blue and white - she didn't know she had.
In a life that's too short to have big regrets, of *take it, or leave it,* she takes what she gets:
a lifetime of joy and moments of bliss, at the touch of his hands, in the warmth of his kiss.
Her words are a gossamer web that she weaves; then it's Sunday again so she packs up and leaves.
Monday is coming (fifty-two times a year); she recalls he once said, "I can't sleep, with you here."
She takes her dog and goes back home; she's always welcome but he needs time alone.
She does too, just not as much.
They know what they have is solid, yet intangible: that sometimes words don't rhyme.
And that's okay. 
***
From New Year's Day, 2007; I'd gone to Eldorado, Texas to celebrate with Jeff. He got a call from one of his exes. Emotions were running high and it was not the best of times.

Dissolution, Disillusion, Desolation
"Happy freakin' New Year," the face in the mirror said.
Why had the words, "We have to talk" sat in her gut like lead?
Yet ever the philosopher - an optimist it seems - she thought that it would get better,
having started with shattered illusions and broken splintered dreams.
He said, "I can't be responsible for someone else's life" -
And what she heard when he said that was *I don't want you for my wife.*
Then she told herself, Get over it: you've loved and lost before;
With luck you'll learn to breathe again, so pick your heart up off the floor.
Dust it off, mend the hurts, put it away for now:
Someone will love you, she told herself; someone who knows how.

Going through old letters, in 2016, and doing some serious winnowing, I found the following, from January 2007:

He said he felt sorry for Spock. cause Kirk always got the girl -
Spock would've said, "That's illogical; this isn't a perfect world."
She looked for a change in the *whether* - to leave now or maybe just stay?
She decided to follow her heart, since her head might get lost on the way.
He told her, "You're such a writer," and "You've got to sing what you mean,"
adding "You'll have to be a fighter if you want to capture your dream."
Spock was a whiz with numbers but he just never took a chance.
A woman longs for adventure and laughter and someone who'll ask her to dance.


Finding that sent me on a mission: I knew I had written more and decided time had come to put them together in one place - since people had been asking me to do so for a long time. These were unearthed within days of each other:
SPRING APPROACHES
It is time: Demeter anticipates Persephone's return.
We are restless, weary of being dreary.
We think we would like Spring to linger until Autumn but we are foolish.
Perfection is not for this side of eternity:
we must endure Summer's heat and Winter's cold...
and bleak, wet days and thunder bold.
There's nothing like one of Summer's blast furnace days
to make a cold beer taste so damn' good.
Or maybe a tall glass of lemonade if you're a teetotaler.
And the musical sound of icicles snapping is a beautiful counter melody
to the crackle of logs in the fireplace.
Let us not be hasty to dismiss the charms of every season;
ginger ale days, cold beer days, apple cider days, hot cocoa days...

Savor the flavors, listen to the subtleties of sounds.
Sing with all your heart, especially when it's breaking.
And don't forget to make a wish before you blow the fluff off a dandelion.

Another one that was *born* with a tune, but I'm not exactly sure when:
Headed Nowhere
Wasn't headed for nowhere when I got in the car.
Checked the gauge and I had half a tank, so I knew I could go pretty far;
I drove out past the east side of town and turned down a dirt road.
The whole world lay before me it seemed but still somehow it felt like there was no place to go.
Even so.
[Refrain] How can blue skies look so dark? Are these clouds in my mind? pretty days seem just like a dream; I want to wake up and find myself there: anywhere with you.
I think about you every day, across so many miles.
I miss your laughter and the songs that we sing; I miss the warmth of your smile.
I eat in front of the TV, I fall asleep alone.
I wish that we were together but for now, you're only as close as the telephone.
And I'm still alone.
[refrain]
i write my words for strangers, just hoping to leave my mark.
I face emotional dangers, lying alone in the dark.
I want to reach out and touch you but you're so far away.
I long to kiss you goodnight, Dear, and wake up next to you every day.
Won't you come home to stay?
[refrain]

Tag: Anywhere at all, with you.
***
I remember having written the next poem one night after I'd gone to bed. Words just started coming so fast, I had to get up and write them down.

You save me, I'll save you
 I thought I fell and hurt myself, but that was just a dream: 
I know I'll never fall alone, 'cause you and I are a team
You save me and I'll save you - it's been like that all along
picked out a tune and you wrote down some words, together we made a song 
This isn't the first time that's happened, because music is what we do best
Honey, you know I'm set in my ways, while you take on life with such zest
When I say my prayers every morning, your name is on my lips
I pray for the Lord to keep you from harm and guide us both on our trips
There are 365 days in a year, ev'ry fourth year it's three sixty-six
I'll do what I can if you're in a jam, you'll help me out in a fix
I keep asking myself just why did we meet?
Maybe to keep us from tasting defeat
The cliches have been tested by time and it's true:
It's a cold, cruel world - but it's warmer with you!
Baby, don't lose your spark and your drive,
or the warmth of your smile that keeps folks alive
When my ship hits rough water out on the sea,
You stand like a beacon, your light guiding me
You want to save me from being alone,
to hug me and kiss me, when I come home 
I'm trying to save you, so why can't you see
that you can do so much better than me?
Yes, I'll "save your bacon," pull your ass from the fire
jack up your car and then change your tire
But just 'cause the world's spinning out of control, we don't have to rush like the rest 
You gotta slow down and give me some space, let me catch up, at least catch my breath 
And maybe someday, we can breathe the same air,
while a mountain breeze plays with your hair
I'll play my guitar and you'll sing a song
And when you've "gone home," you know I'll be along
'Cause girl, when you're standing there talking to Peter,
I'll have to come and say, "I'm here to meet 'er,
"She's my best friend, so please let us through"
You saved me, now I'm saving you
After we get through those gates made of pearl,
I'll look in your eyes and say, "Now old girl,
"we're here for eternity and I'll be amazed
"if we don't make 'em crazy in the next few days
"I brought the guitar, let's sing songs of praise:
"We'll start by doing Amazing Grace
"You'll make me sound good, like you always do
"You saved me for this, and now I'm saving you" 
***
In August 2007, I was working full time and going to school, so Jeff started going out with someone else.
STARVING TO DEATH
There is a hunger in my belly because I have a sore tooth and have not taken solid food in a couple of days but as my stomach shrinks, the hunger subsides.
There is a hunger in my heart because loved ones have gone or moved away but the hunger is somewhat satiated by memories and phone calls.
It is the hunger in my soul that I fear the most, for it threatens my weakening grasp on what is left of my sanity. This hunger is fed by long hours, long, tedious drives, a lover's betrayal and the disillusion that comes from the sound of dreams shattering and seeing the splintered shards lying like a broken mirror; ready to cut you when you try to pick them up, knowing they cannot be whole again. But when this hunger is fed, it does not abate: it grows. And it is devouring me.
Is reality so wonderful? Is sanity worth the struggle to hang on?
I release my grip, one finger at a time...

3 Sept. 2007
My love writes sad songs - there have been so many wrongs
done to him, done to me, all our lives.
This song gives pain a voice ...
I think you made the wrong choice.
But you're gone and love is undone
When we loved through the night, it always seemed right
and our music is how we loved best.
We flew far too high but it was so pretty and bright:
Then, like Icarus, we fell from the sky.
You landed where it was soft,
I crashed - broken on jagged rocks -
because you weren't there to catch me.
Will you even cry when you hear that I've died?
Or just go on with someone else at your side,
while telling yourself that you never lied?
***
There you have it folks: poems written over a couple years.They express sorrow, joy, and frustration in multiple combinations, in varying intensities. It hasn't been easy reliving these intense emotions over a matter of days, so I will likely rely on old material for a while.

Love always,
Jo Ann

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Champions

   I first sent this out as an email in 2008. In August 2016, much attention was on the Olympic Games, held in Rio de Janeiro. Paralympic Games are becoming more well known, but have a long way to go. *Glass ceilings* abound.
***

   I'm sure there is an official Handicap Awareness day, week or month, but I don't know when it may be. Still and all, we should try to be kind and supportive of everyone because it is simply the right thing to do, not because a calendar arbitrarily dictates it.
   Midst weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth - which seems increasingly prevalent - there can be found stories which encourage, uplift and inspire. One might have to dig for them, but these gems are worth the effort. During a 2008 phone call to my sister, I quipped, "I feel a column coming on;" I worked for a newspaper at the time. Lynn told me she had been watching an encore presentation of the Paralympics: athletic competitions for physically challenged athletes.
   "Regular" Olympics get a lot of media attention and I do not begrudge them air time. After all, who can deny the thrill of watching skill and muscle play in action? A lot of vicarious living is going on. Unfortunately, Paralympics do not garner attention in like proportion. Lynn told me about a gold medal swimmer whose legs are amputated below knees and who only has one arm; the other being no more than a stump. Another Paralympian has also been swimming for several years. Her life was altered drastically during a visit to her doctor. This athlete had completed the swim season but had been plagued by headaches, nausea, and double vision. An ophthalmologist was consulted to address last symptom. During course of examination, doctor told the parents to contact a neurologist without delay and schedule an MRI. Following this procedure, the athlete underwent surgery to remove a plum-sized tumor from her brain. Upon coming out of anesthesia, her first question was, "Can I still swim?"
   Nelacy, a track and field  athlete, did not compete in 2008 event, because he's undergone knee surgery and was not sufficiently recovered. He, and others, adamantly object to having Paralympics equated with Special Olympics. Special Olympians all receive medals: Paralympians, like their able-bodied counterparts, compete for gold, silver, and bronze. I don't know if Paralympians are awarded endorsements but see no reason why they serve as spokespersons, promoting adaptive equipment.
   Lex Gillette, an improvisational pianist, held, in 2007, the American long jump record for the totally blind. He took time off work to compete in 2008's event and brought home a silver medal. Originally from North Carolina, he went to Chula Vista, California to attend Paralympic training center located there. Being totally blind due to cataracts and glaucoma, Lex has a spotter who tells him when to jump. As my brother-in-law says, "Now that's a leap of faith!" Lynn met Lex when both worked as servers at OPAQUE, LLC, a dining-in-the-dark experience first popularized in Europe. All waitpersons are visually impaired.
   Tatyana McFadden was, in 2008, the second-fastest wheelchair racer in the world. Tatyana was born with spina bifida and spent first few years of her life in a Russian orphanage. Not seeing any future for the child, staff prayed for her death. Fortunately, Tatyana was adopted by an American couple. Her mother relates Tatyana often repeated a Russian phrase which translates not just "I can do  it," but "I can do it myself!"
   It seems many able-bodied persons regard the handicapped either as contagious or pitiable, when all those individuals really want is to simply be treated with the same respect as other people. We have all heard the maxim, "I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw someone who had no feet," and still we bemoan, bewail, and deplore our lot in life because we wish we were taller, richer, thinner, better-looking, more popular, whatever. Inordinate value is placed on superficial attributes.
   Adopting an attitude of gratitude can be difficult, and maybe you are not quite ready to say something nice. How about refraining from saying something negative? That seems like a reasonable and easily attainable compromise.
   Go ahead, be daring; look on the bright side of life. What have you got to lose but your cynicism?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

[Letter 103]

Hello my dear,
   I have been going through closets, digging out old notebooks, throwing veritable reams of paper into recycle bins, and generally attempting to de-clutter my life. I know you have been doing much the same thing, just with less paper.
   Went to breakfast with a friend this morning, then came home and threw myself into my task with one goal in mind but came across something that derailed my train of thought. So now I am taking a break and having a cool drink and sharing an old essay, that I wrote who knows when, with you - because you probably need to have a cool drink and put your feet up too.

Lighthearted Theology for the Open-Minded
   We are told in Genesis 1:27 that God created male and female in God's own image. To me, this indicates that God, though by convention assigned masculine gender, has a feminine side. Though they claim to have been God-inspired, ancient scribes were, presumably, all men. Thus, they carried, through no fault of their own, a gender bias. Goddess worship had fallen out of favor: ergo, God, the Supreme Being, must be male.
   Nonsense! Just as Picasso is more than his blue period; Michelangelo, so much more than even his magnificent David; and Shakespeare, more than Romeo and Juliet, so Almighty One is not fully served when confined to one gender. To do so implies one gender is better than another. That rankles.
   I believe Jesus must have had the occasional *bad hair day.* I'm not just talking about the money-changers in the temple thing. Take a look at Mark 11: 12-14.  Jesus cursed a fig tree for not having any figs on it - even though "it was not the time for figs." (New American Bible) Seriously, what is up with that? Jesus was hungry and saw a fig tree in the distance. Unfortunately, the poor tree had the audacity to be barren. I can hear it all now: *No figs? Do you know who I AM? Well, just for that, nobody will ever eat figs from you again. So there!*
   What I'm saying is, we are all made in the image and likeness of our Creator - Who apparently can get a little pissy sometimes. How else to explain mosquitoes, sweat bees, wasps? Okay, mosquitoes are food for bats, so we can let them slide. But wasps? Really?
   Anyway, I believe Almighty gets my warped sense of humor. After all, created in God's likeness, where did I get it from?
   Guess it could have been an off day; everybody has them.

Alright, run along and play,
Jo Ann

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Wisdom of Kermit

   Just to avoid confusion, I'm referring to the muppet, not the town in West Texas. Who knew a frog could be so profound? "It's not easy being green." It isn't particularly cheap or convenient either. Of course, you realize, I am using "green" to mean eco-friendly. So yeah, it's NOT easy; but being green  is exactly what we must all strive to do to ensure our survival. I was going to say the survival of the planet but I'm pretty sure if we humans let our greed cause our demise, Earth will do very well without us.
   While I lived in Brady, Texas, I got a neighbor interested in recycling and took her Diet Coke bottles and the cardboard boxes from her ice cream treats, to big dumpster near police station. It made her feel good to know she was keeping even that little bit out of a landfill. We don't have to move mountains to make a difference. I know folks who think recycling is a joke because it costs more than incineration. But if it is such a big joke, why aren't more people laughing?
   Regarding the convenience issue, why not place bins for plastics, glass, metals, and other recyclables around town, if it is not being done already? Another option might be to designate certain days for pickup, either of designated material(s) or general recyclables. It is unfortunate that many apartment complexes do not offer this service, but I have been known to ask a neighbor if I might set my recyclables out with theirs. Several states require a deposit on glass and aluminum beverage containers, figuring folks will have incentive not to throw that money away.
   For those who promote incineration over dumping, it seems a good idea to find a way to reclaim the energy generated by combustion so it doesn't just *go up in smoke.*
   As for conservation, even something as simple as turning off water spigot while brushing teeth can save numerous gallons over time. If one uses a dishpan, water can be used to water gardens or flush toilets. Some people reliant on cisterns for water supply, follow *California rules:* "If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down." Some prissy types may find that offensive but it seems preferable to a world in which not enough people have an adequate supply of potable water. Earth's population is growing and we are going to run out of a lot of things if we don't practice self control.
   There are measures which easily fall within one's capabilities to execute. Find one you can live with and do it - if only to prove to yourself you can. Maybe on your way to being green, you'll even find the Rainbow Connection.