Friday, August 11, 2017

"A man and a woman are meant for each other--are meant for each other as husband and wife."

I sit here on the deck, the fan hard at work keeping the flies away, the whirligig spinning in the light northerly breeze, a third of the way into my whodunit, the dinner plate hibiscus proudly displaying three amazing blooms, the beast curled up at the feet of his mistress and the woman I love, having ingested a small glass of wine and a nosh, the sun casting a shadow on the garage proclamation..."You Are Loved," and I know it just as well could read "You Are Blessed!"  We have chosen to spend this, our 44th anniversary, quietly together.  We have spent previous anniversaries in exotic places, exploring new and unusual things or returning to places we love.  Each has been an amazing event.  But somehow, this is right.  The beautiful yellow butterfly.  The busy dragonflies.  Even the youngster who has apparently started band this summer and has learned how to make his trombone make loud and definitive noises stresses the idyllic feeling of the day.  I know that somewhere passed these garden fences, there is turmoil...there is hatred...there is uncertainty.  But today?  For us?  The world is a quiet, a beautiful in which we truly celebrate each other--where we have been, and where we are going--according to the most beautiful song sung at our wedding ceremony:  Together Forever.  It is true.  Blessed!  And the garage is right!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Music to my ears

"They" say, music soothes the savage breast.  Miss Lucy used to judge the tenor of our mood by how we played the piano.  The harder we struck the keys, the farther from the piano she went.  Eventually, "they" became right--the physicality of actually beating the piano keys had a calming effect on us as we played.  Aggression was often replaced with the simple pleasure of making the instrument yield to our desires.  Now don't get me wrong.  After 9 years of lessons, I'm still lucky I can play from the John Thompson third grade book...but thank god for those 9 years.
Miss Lucy is gone.  I understand "they" are still around.
During the first years of our marriage, we bought a Yamaha (the piano, not the motorcycle).  And let me tell you, while there have been times I have "ridden" that instrument, during the last few months it's been ridden hard!  Injustice irks me.  Play.  Bullies irk me.  Play.  Lying irks me.  Play.  Lying about lying really ticks me off.  Pound.  Pound.  Pound.
A good friend of ours recently donated to our musical library--Reader's Digest song books--tunes with which I am familiar--old hymns, songs of the 50's and 60's, The Beer Barrel Polka and Puff the Magic Dragon.  Nothing gives me more pleasure than to sit at the piano and hit about 85 % of the notes correctly.  Hot stuff!  Sometimes, if they are in my 6 note range, I even sing along.  You would be stirred by my three verse rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."  But I digress.
Let me give you an example.  I watched the World News Tonight (for me, usually a HUGE mistake).  The president's lawyer lied.  And then lied about lying.  Mr. Trump did write Trump Jr.'s response to the question of meeting with the Russians.  And I pounded out a chorus of "Call Me Irresponsible."  The North Koreans could easily have killed passengers on a plane with their latest ICBM missile test, and it was "Ring of Fire."   Two sheriff's deputies were repeatedly shot, and it was "What the World Needs Now."  Thankfully, by song three, I could begin to actually play rather than pound.  "Brighten the Corner Where You Are" made me smile a little.  "America the Beautiful" reminded me of the incalculable good that still exists in this country, and you would have stood up for "God Bless America!"  "When Day is Done", I believe that there is goodness and truth in the world.  I believe that in the end, it will win.  I believe "We Shall Overcome!"  I just hope the piano survives!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dear Mr. Scaramucci

I've never met you.  I'm glad.  But I wish you had met Miss Lucy.  She would have looked you in the eye (as she did me on SEVERAL occasions) and informed you that language is the true indicator of intelligence and class.  The baser the vocabulary, the lower the intelligence and the lower the class.  I just read on-line the publication of The Independent Daily Edition:  UK and World News.  You rant at the President's chief of staff using vulgarity and yellow journalistic epithets.  The humorous comment that follows "I sometimes use colorful language" is perhaps the most blatant example of misrepresentation I have heard.  Or so I thought.  I went on to read that leaks upset you because you are a Roman Catholic?  Huh?  (See Miss Lucy's first caveat above!)  Had you been in my classroom, Mr. Scaramucci, you would NOT HAVE BEEN in my classroom.  I would never allow a student of mine to speak that way. I would never allow a child of mine to speak that way (nor would Miss Lucy!).  I would never expect a reasonable adult to speak that way--especially a representative of the President.  I know the words.  I've used the words.  Selectively.  In private.  When an appropriate audience is present.  I would never speak that way in public.  You see, I was a communications instructor for 34 years.  I understand the power of language and it's ability to heighten or debase the speaker.  And I am, above all else, Miss Lucy's son.  Shame on you!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Reflections on being Presidential

As my second (and final) year as President of the South Dakota Retired School Personnel swings into full gear, I believe it is time to look back and reflect on what I learned year one.  (Understand, my “ascension” to the presidency was a hard fought battle, fraught with late night strategy sessions and early morning coffee.  I ran unopposed, and I believe came quite close to losing.)  The lessons were many—some a review and some brand spankin’ new!  I will enumerate them—in my own executive order!

1.         When (not if, but when) you screw up, OWN IT!  The phrase, “I made a mistake”, is not anathema.  If, however, you choose to sound a little more erudite, you can always do it in a foreign language—like German—“Ich habe upgescrewed!” (I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes)—or Latin “Mea Culpa!  Mea Culpa!  Mea maxima Culpa!”  Perfection is simply unattainable.  Heck, even the electoral college screws up occasionally!
2.         Having admitted your humanity, you have several courses to follow.  You can ask for forgiveness.  You can attempt to atone.  You can cry, gnash your teeth and pull your hair, but you must do all three. Unfortunately, not having the ability to do part three, that option wasn’t open to me!   Once you have followed every course available, MOVE ON!  Dwelling on past mistakes is like choosing to live in a dormitory your entire life.  EEEEEEK!
3.         When confronted with a Herculean task (like planning the yearly convention), decide where you want to have it, come up with a theme, appoint an amazing committee and then sit back and watch the true masters at work.  Put another way, pick the right people and then get out of their way so they can do their magic.  (Side note—having made those "appointments", not one chosen member has had to resign for collusion with a foreign power!)
4.         Recognize the worth of EVERY member.
5.         Never underestimate the abilities of the people around you.  You will only be wrong (see #1).
6.         Plan ahead. 
7.         Monitor and adjust.  Your original ideas may be brilliant, but there is always someone out there with higher wattage!  Allow them to shine.
8.         Be visible.  You can’t help someone if they don’t know you are there.
9.         Delineate what is expected of your “staff”.  Each person has specific responsibilities, but can’t/won’t perform them if they are unclear (or non-existent!)
10.       Always, always, always bring fudge!

I don’t take Air Force One to my meetings—I take Ford Edge ’15—with the VERY BEST DRIVER in the world.  I don’t own a plethora of red silk $500 ties (or for that matter, $.50 used ties purchased at a thrift store).  I wear old man shirts that are somewhat loud, eschew ties, and are TOTALLY comfortable.  My shorts show my old man legs, but they’re my best feature so if you’ve got it….   My hair is cropped short, my wife is the prettiest lady (and thankfully the most forgiving) I have ever met, I use invectives on occasion (but NEVER Tweet), I have a treasure trove of PG 13 stories (and even more R rated that I don’t get to tell too often—Dirty Johnny was my hero growing up!), I associate with the very best of the best, and can truthfully say that edging out my non-existent opponent has been an amazing experience.  I definitely can say it’s a great year to be president—at least for me!  Know you are loved!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Fiddler Jones

Perhaps it's because we ran into former students and/or their progeny.  Perhaps it's because on occasion, Mother Nature has an amazing way of reminding us to enjoy the time we have.  Perhaps it's just because I am old and my mind wanders to an earlier time (and at least to this point, comes back!).  Whatever the reason, this morning Fiddler Jones rests at the forefront of my thoughts.
Those who truly know me know I have, since high school, been infatuated with Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology.  We performed the play as our senior drama farewell.  Invariably, I had interpers do selections from the Anthology.  I directed the play for Town Players.  You would have thought I had cleansed my soul's need for sharing Mr. Masters.  Yet, this morning, for whatever reason, there he was.

The earth keeps some vibration going
There in your heart, and that is you.
And if the people find you can fiddle,
Why, fiddle you must, for all your life.
What do you see, a harvest of clover?
Or a meadow to walk through to the river?
The wind’s in the corn; you rub your hands
For beeves hereafter ready for market;
Or else you hear the rustle of skirts
Like the girls when dancing at Little Grove.
To Cooney Potter a pillar of dust
Or whirling leaves meant ruinous drouth;
They looked to me like Red-Head Sammy
Stepping it off, to “Toor-a-Loor.”
How could I till my forty acres
Not to speak of getting more,
With a medley of horns, bassoons and piccolos
Stirred in my brain by crows and robins
And the creak of a wind-mill--only these?
And I never started to plow in my life
That some one did not stop in the road
And take me away to a dance or picnic.
I ended up with forty acres;
I ended up with a broken fiddle--
And a broken laugh, and a thousand memories,
And not a single regret.

All too often, we become driven by rhythms others would have us hear.  We succumb to the expected...the norm (if there is such a thing!).  We strive to be a "success"--in the eyes of others--and subjugate our own inner drums.  We are the amalgam of other expectations.  Don't misunderstand.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  It can be, however, if during the process, we lose our own heart's vibration.  There's a popular philosophy that states in the end, we don't regret the things we have done, we regret the things we never did.  Socrates said, "know thyself/"  Or as Mr. Shakespear;s Polonius opined, "To thine own self be true."  (Thanks, Harlene!)  You may not fiddle...but you have your own beat.  Syncopate today!

Monday, April 10, 2017

I miss you...

I miss you, little Ruth Marie Nelson Chase Olson.  When I hear that Mitch McConnell’s proudest moment is success at thwarting the constitution to get his desires, I miss you.  When I hear that the Senate effectively voted to overturn the rights of the minority to crown a new supreme, I miss you.  When I hear we have lobbed missiles into Syria and are steaming toward Korea, I miss you.  When I hear “fake news” and “alternate facts” and watch the demise of programs that care for the poor and threaten to cut support of the arts, I miss you.  When I think of Betsy DeVos, I miss you.  Your clear head and rejection of ridiculousness would have provided, if not answers, at least understanding.  And along with you, I miss my country:  The country that supported democratic processes:  The country that worked toward reconciliation rather than division:  The country that understood that those less fortunate than we need care:  The country that knows the impact of the arts on development of a caring population.  Someone is taking it away from me.  I can’t listen to the news.  It only fuels my incredulity.  Instead, I read, or play the piano, or work on a speech or volunteer…or cry.  I tell people professionally that anger is a wasted emotion.  It cedes control to the instigator.   But I am to the point where I fear anger is better than the feeling of despair.   I am 67 years old.  I have lived my life to do what I can to add value to the circumstances that I encounter.  With a little luck (and some decent genes), I will live a few more years.  I believe that in time, my country will recognize what’s happening and return to the humanity it used to symbolize.  Tweets will come from birds, bullies will be rebuked, and even though we disagree, my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will be recognized.  Sooner than later, please!  Cue music—“This is My Country.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The "tour" de force--in rhyme, of course!

For those of you who have been here before, you know that inside me lurks a rhyming savant--I may not do many things well, but I can rhyme!  Case in point...

The Great White Stay--Le Grand Sejour Blanc


So some of us drove and some of us flew
Some we did know--we'll know all when we're through.
Exposure the first? A room full of stuff
'Twas boots, coats, and hats to warm us enough
And thousands of geese who gave up their all
To keep up us quite warm so we'll have a ball!

The group quite diverse but not so with name.
There's Bill, Bill, and Bill and none quite the same.
The Y chromosomes, replete with three more
And two start with T--Trent--Tad names they wore.
That leaves us one man whose name is unique
'Tis Jeffrey our friend, and fun he does seek!
The ladies?  Quite differ in manner and name
There's Barbara, Denise, in no way the same.
We've Jackie and Peggy, Patricia, Miss Vaugn,
Nancy and Sarah and Cathy along.

And this was the group Samantha did meet
Her job?  To inspire and make trip so sweet.
We start out with food, a supper surprise...
The weather determined a railroad demise
A plot shift indeed but options we talk--
Then back to our rooms...I waddle...some walk.
The bed it does call...adventure awaits
I bid you good night...we're friends now...we're mates!

Day two--jour deals

A breakfast that's hot, then on to the bus
Morning museum with nary a fuss
The planets glide by, the sparklers appear
Two bears--two dogs in the sky--not to fear.
Then hist'ry of province and ship named Nunsuch
Displaying it's bosoms on stern oh so much!

A taste of the French is our stop for lunch
Receiving high praise from our motley bunch
Then ' other museum, high tech--bits and bytes
Remind us of tenets--of wrongs and our rights.
'Twas supper came next, then hotel did call
The morning comes early--good night one and all!

Day 3--Jour trois

We're working real hard to stifle a yawn
For leaving was at the butt crack of dawn,
To airport we head, board plane that will go
To Churchill, our goal, and wait for the show.
The morning?  Explore!  Then what do we do?
Why eat...need you ask...let's try something new.
There's ops for photos and Myrtle, a hoot
Be strong and be brave, but your own horn don't toot!
Comestibles done we gear up and go
The breath we do hold while waiting for show
Aurora provides--Amazing, Devine
A long day is done, it's time to unwind!

Day Four--Jour Quatre

Good breakfast is done, we pull up a spot
Samantha informs of things we know not!
But thankful are we that she knows a bunch
Two trivia champs when we go eat lunch!
A tour through a part of Center quite large
A bear's mouth a slide?  It gives us a charge.
Itsanitaq  lore--aboriginal things
Like carving, and stories, the history brings.
A stop at Parks Can., then home for a rest
Before we eat more, it's what we do best!
And following supper, a film and a drink
One made us sleepy, one made us think
But now is the time for eyelids to close
To rest for what comes--tomorrow--who knows!

Day five--Jour cinq

Appropriately named--a church on a hill
A hist'ry lesson with our host named Bill
The stained glass window that if it could talk
Would tell us a story our minds it might shock.
Of course there was lunch--we shall not abstain
The thought of a diet goes right down the drain
Then curling begins, the stones we do throw
We choose up our sides--we won don't you know!
And special this day, not just cause it's cold
We celebrate god she's how old?
The birthday dessert gives just the right touch
To send us to dome--to see lights and such.
And two stay out late--for them light teasers
The rest head to bed...I guess we be geezers!

Day 6--Jour six (pronounced sis)


No way that this day could start any better
The toast it was great the coffee seemed wetter
And what was the cause? Of course you must know
Potatoes for breakfast!  We're ready to go.
On bus we  do gather to head to our spot
Researching up north--some learnin' we got
And snow cut with saws and piled up just so
The igloo was built while the wind it did blow!
Then Gypsies for lunch, desserts were our start
From Fred and mom Helen, we sadly depart!


It's back on the bus, to mushers we go
The very best way to get through the snow!
One final attempt to capture the lights
Alas sweet Aurora she gave us no brights. 

 So home for one more--one time we do sleep
We're needing our rest for schedule to keep


We start with plot twist, we end the same way
The last day has changed--we learned it today.
The shoes for the snow we give up quite hard
But early we leave thanks to Mr. Blizzard.
We break our fast then we get in the van
Sweet Lawrence does drive, he's such a nice man.
We'll finish the trip--Fort Garry we'll sleep
And say our goodbyes, but mem'ries  we'll keep.
Life's not defined by the places you end
It's simply about the joy of a friend.
And that's what we are and because this is true
It's safe to say thanks...we truly love you!