Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Don't tell me...

Don’t tell me...
     To look at things in the past.  You tell me the same or worse things have been done.  It doesn’t justify the now.  Regardless of timing, wrong in the past does not ameliorate wrong in the present.
     That he is better than the alternative.  You simply can’t prove it.
     You’re up in arms about sexual harassment but you have the gall to support a misogynistic embarrassment to my gender.
     You can forgive the deceit and blatant lies.  
     To respect the office of the president.  How can I when he doesn’t?
     That we the people elected him.  No!  WE!  Didn’t!
     To remain quiet because I will alienate others.  If I don’t speak my mind, I’m akin to those who support him!

I taught speech.  In my career, I spoke to my children of respect; it should not have to be earned...it has to be lost.  He has.  Yet today, I speak to the good in this country.   I speak to the good in this people.  I speak to honesty, dignity, and fair play.  Mr. Trump, I can not speak of you.  
Don’t tell me...to remain silent any longer!

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 place...one 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.”