Sunday, February 28, 2010

MARY JANE: She's a dangerous friend

Realizing that many think marijuana should be legalized and taxes made, I wanted to put this article out here. Marijuana is not a harmless drug as many have touted. Think about this article and realize that the marijuana of the Woodstock days is long gone and the effects are getting more costly with each "toke over the line." Just something to chew on with your morning scones and herbal teas.

SATURDAY, Feb. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Long-term use of marijuana can lead to increased risk of developing hallucinations, delusions and psychosis, a new study shows.

Australian researchers asked nearly 3,100 young adults averaging about 20 years of age about marijuana use. They found that almost 18 percent reported using the drug for three or fewer years, about 16 percent for four to five years, and just over 14 percent for six or more years.

Among the participants, 65 had been diagnosed with a "non-affective psychosis" such as schizophrenia, and 233 had at least one positive item for hallucination on a diagnostic interview conducted for the study.

The researchers found there was an association between length of marijuana use and mental health.

"Compared with those who had never used cannabis, young adults who had six or more years since first use of cannabis [i.e., who commenced use when around 15 years or younger] were twice as likely to develop a non-affective psychosis and were four times as likely to have high scores on the Peters et al Delusions Inventory [a measure of delusion]," wrote Dr. John McGrath, of the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, Park Centre for Mental Health in Wacol, and colleagues. "There was a 'dose-response' relationship between the variables of interest: the longer the duration since the first cannabis use, the higher the risk of psychosis-related outcomes."

Friday, February 26, 2010

PART TWO: Naive and protected

So, where were we? Oh, yeah, I was in a strange bed and an even stranger man was standing in the room. He smiled and said, "Sorry to wake you, I just needed my belt." Picking up his belt, wishing me a restful night, he extinguished the light and left. Surprisingly, I rolled over and went back to sleep.

The next day I traveled to an inner city elementary school and began the testing reading skills of little kids. It was amazing how willing the little guys were to do well on the tests set before them. Eating lunch with the teachers in the lounge was an unique experience for me, as I wasn't an education major at this point. Sitting among the teachers and listening to the daily chatter bouncing around the tables made an impression on me.

Each day I followed the same routine of testing elementary students, eating cafeteria food with teachers and returning to the trailer in the evening. No one knew exactly where I was and what I was doing, but anxiety about my situation never surfaced.

At the end of the week, we packed up all of our equipment, boarded the small plane and took to the night skies. Watching the blinking lights below and eventually the familiar structures, made me grateful to be returning to my own territory. Since I had been able to conduct more research than the professor originally predicated, I was paid twice the original amount. Another chunk of tuition was earned, along with a unique adventure bonus.

It never occurred to me that I was taking any risks by traveling out of state in a personal plane, staying out in the middle of nowhere by myself and trusting a young, charming professor. I could have just as easily been kidnapped, tortured, sold into human bondage or killed. But none of these dangers ever crossed my mind and so thank goodness everything turned out so well.

Many young ladies take less risks and find themselves the victims of their innocence and predators who hunt for targets like them. If there's a lesson to be learned from my experience it would be this: when a young person wants to have an adventure make sure there's a older, wise person nearby who can discuss all of the possible outcomes.

God does really take care of fools and children; as I was both at that point in my life. Thank you, God for giving me this experience and keeping me safe.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Back when I was a junior at the university I was offered an opportunity to earn "good" money assisting my professor with developing testing of children. At the time I was earning a little over a dollar an hour and this opportunity would not only pay me well, but I would be traveling to the location cross country in a small four seater private plane. Being young and ready for an adventure I made arrangements at my job, packed my bag and drove to the local private airport.

Flying hadn't been a good experience for me before, so anxiety immersed my perception of the happenings. Settling in the co-pilot seat actually helped with soothing my frayed nerves, as I had become a partner in the flying experience. My professor/pilot gave me instructions on what to look for in the night sky, as we floated through the darkness.

Everything was so peaceful, until the first lightning bolt lit up our path. Quickly, the smooth gliding changed into a anxious, bumpy journey. Cinching my seat belt tighter gave me a brief feeling of security, until I realized that if the lightning struck us, hitting my head on the ceiling would be the least of my worries. Stormy weather didn't seem to bother the pilot, who eventually found a smoother path above the storm.

When we reached our destination, I began breathing again and found myself inside a small, remote hanger. Waiting for us was my professor's friend who drove us to the place where I'd be staying during the research. Out in the middle of tall, pine woods sat a trailer which was to be my home. Not until I looked around at the desolate location did I get that nudge in the pit of my stomach that made me realize that no one knew exactly where I was. This was well before cell phone, remember and there was no phone in the trailer. When we entered the trailer, I could tell that someone called this place home. Everything was neatly arranged and yet it looked like someone had just walked out and would return shortly. Assurances were given to me that I should consider this my new home for the duration.

Soon, the events of the day began to take its toll and the two men left me alone in the middle of a remote forest to fend for myself. Standing in the hot shower then burrowing under the covers relaxed me and allowed sleep to find me. All was well, until the middle of the night, when the overhead light was thrown on and a strange man stood in the middle of the room. I grabbed my glasses to help focus my attention, "Who are you?"

Underlying fear bubbled to the surface, as I waited for an answer. What had I gotten myself into? Reality of my situation finally hit me, as I waited for a response from this tall, dark man.

I will continue this story in a latter blog. Stayed tuned....

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


The last few days I found myself transported back to a much younger time in my life. Holding my grandlove and inhaling sweet baby smells emitted from the blond curls was all it took to ignite my time machine. Being the object of exploration of soft, gentle, probing fingers made my heart warm. Tickling my ears and checking out the details of my gown, the precious fingers caused me to smile. Meeting eyes contacted yesterday's child with today's new love.

When it came to feeding this baby, I found that interest in the spoon was sometimes not as strong as curiosity in surrounding items such as lights, reflections from mirrors, and unseen magnetic visual pulls. This interest in the world served as another connection to the past, as these distractions allowed me to understand the high level of awareness my daughter demonstrated at a very early age.

Inability in mastering traditional crawling techniques hasn't slowed this sweetie down in the least. Army crawling towards the pet dishes, dust bunnies under a recliner or other tempting "no-no" kept me alert to the stealth exploring of tiny fingers and waiting mouth. For now, the photo albums, magazines, and coffee table treasures are safe; however, soon they must find higher ground to stay away from exploring fingers and mouths.

Exercising all the muscles and brain powers zap the energy reservoir eventually and the fight to stay awake is a loud, defiant one. Convincing him to give in to the Sandman makes me chuckle, because his mom was a crusader against naps during her childhood. Her Nana would "trick" her into taking naps by saying, "You don't have to sleep. Just close your eyes for a little while." It worked like a charm every time and my daughter is amazed now, that such a simple trick worked.

Nanas have some special powers that others don't possess. How do I know? Well, now that I am a Nana, I have fought that resistance to naps and so far I am the champion. I'll let you know how it goes, as he gets older, but for right now, we cuddle and I convince him that it will be okay and I am still here and he nods off with a last futile attempt to stay awake.

I appreciate the feeling of watching all the milestones my grandlove meets, for with each one I relive the wonder of childhood all over again. I feel that being a grandmother is the reward for being a good mom, because I see what a wonderful mom my grandlove has. Recently, she hugged her young one to her breast and smiled, "I didn't know that I could ever love anyone as much as I love him."

My thought? "Now, she finally understands how much I love her." What a precious, unique feeling and blessing I have been given. All the gold, jewels, and money in the world cannot buy what I have earned, the love of a child and grandchild.

Thank you, God for blessing my family with love, compassion and appreciation.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

MZ. UNDERSTOOD: Couldn't play dumb

Today was the last day for Mz. Understood on The Victoria Advocate. Her demise was brought on because of a response to an article about plagiarism. Aprill Brandon wrote an article concerning plagiarism and how it isn't a good thing, but her generation has been doing this lazy act for some time.

Mz. Understood was shocked that Chris Cobler allowed Aprill to write an article concerning this issue. Surely, he realized that this "hot topic" would garner some responses from readers.

One of the favorite bloggers on the website is known for plagiarism and yet he is allowed to post and post and post. He doesn't cite his sources and puts blogs out there. At first, Mz. Understood didn't even address this blogger, until her original comment was deleted. The original comment dealt with Chris Cobbler's past somewhat shady employment record. Taking a direct quote from an interview with Mr. Cobler and reprinting it in the comment section was all that it took for the delete button to be pushed. I have included this information on this site, as it won't be deleted:

Ultra-bizarre item of the day:
"The Greeley Tribune says it will end a years-old practice of copying stories from competing newspapers and falsely labeling them as Associated Press dispatches. "That's clearly a very bad journalism practice," admits Tribune publisher Steve Weaver. He says the practice began several years ago under editor Chris Cobler, who was just named Poynter Online managing editor."

A February 23 blog concerned an admission by folks at the Greeley Tribune that they'd routinely published reports from other area newspapers under an Associated Press byline without going through the AP. The Trib's article about this practice noted that it had begun under the editorshop of Chris Cobler (pictured), who had recently been named the managing editor of Poynter Online, the Internet branch of the Poynter Institute, a Florida school that places an enormous emphasis on ethics.
Things have changed for Cobler since then. Today, Poynter's journalism-news page, overseen by Jim Romenesko, posted a memo from Poynter Online editor Bill Mitchell noting that Cobler would no longer be coming aboard.

Here's the text of Mitchell's note:

We've come to the mutual conclusion with Chris Cobler that he should not take up his position as managing editor of Poynter Online.

Since word of the improper usage of AP material by the Greeley Tribune first came to our attention last week, we have done our best to make sense of the conflicting reports about just what happened. We have not been able to satisfy ourselves that we have a clear picture of what Chris's role may or may not have been.

In the course of interviewing many of his current and former colleagues and competitors over the last several days, we heard much that confirmed our initial judgment of Chris as an extraordinarily talented and accomplished journalist well suited for a leadership position at Poynter. At the same time, Chris agrees that our inability to resolve doubts that have arisen would make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to succeed in the job.

We appreciate the concern that Chris has expressed that his hiring not call into question the ideals that Poynter strives to reflect.

Because we found ourselves in the unusual circumstance of dealing with questions raised publicly about someone we had already hired but who had not yet reported for work, it's important that we be as forthcoming as appropriate about how we've resolved the situation. We've tried to do that above, and will not be making any comments beyond this statement. The Institute has a longstanding policy and practice of not discussing personnel matters.

We wish the best for Chris and his family.


This decision was no doubt unpleasant for Cobler, but it only enhances Poynter's reputation. There's no question that the Tribune's policy regarding AP reprints was beyond dubious, and because it happened on Cobler's watch, he would have arrived at his new job already under an ethical cloud. And when it rains, it pours. -- Michael Roberts
More Messages: Copy Cats
By Michael Roberts in More MessagesFriday, Feb. 23 2007 @ 10:31AMThe motto that's affixed to the Greeley Tribune's logo is "Your Home, Your News." But while the first part of the slogan makes sense, the second half is a bit dubious when viewed in the context of "Tribune Puts a Stop to Questionable Practice," an embarrassing article/confession that appears in today's edition of the newspaper.

According to reporter Sharon Dunn, who apparently drew the short straw and was stuck trying to put the best face on this mess, the Tribune has gone well beyond reprinting stories from other Associated Press-member newspapers with an AP byline -- something that's done routinely throughout the industry. "In some instances," Dunn writes, "the Tribune would forego AP's filter, running other member stories with AP bylines that hadn't been processed through the wire organization."

In other words, folks at the Trib would see pieces they liked in rival papers such as the Loveland Reporter-Herald; a Herald editor issued the complaints that finally brought the matter to a head. Then, instead of waiting until the AP made them available, or asking representatives there to put them in the hopper, they'd slap them in their paper and call it a day.

The problems with this methodology are off the chart, so it's no surprise that Dunn's report has generated a hefty number of comments on the Trib's website. An example: "Too bad the 'quality we enjoy' came from the Fort Collins and Loveland papers." Likewise, several journos who hang out on the Testy Copy Editors chat page have expressed their dismay, with one declaring, "Holy CRAP. I can't believe anybody did that even once."

In fact, folks at the Tribune have been borrowing from competitors in unauthorized fashion for around a decade. Moreover, the person who unwittingly began using this technique was former Trib editor Chris Cobler, who (irony alert) is set to become managing editor of Poynter online, a branch of the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based school that's devoted itself to, among other things, championing journalistic ethics.

Sounds like this incident would make a good lesson for students. Perhaps Cobler could sit in. -- Michael Roberts

News Site Credibility: Whom Do Readers Trust?
Course Instructor:
Chris Cobler
Chris Cobler is editor of the Victoria (Texas) Advocate. A University of Kansas graduate in journalism, he started his newspaper career in 1982 at his hometown newspaper, the Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal. In 2005-06, he was the first Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellow in community journalism at Harvard University, where he studied the digital future of newspapers.

Mz. Understood was brought up to believe that in this country the truth was important, so she posted the truth about stealing people's work and calling it your own.

When the facts were laid out by her, then the coffin was fitted, nailed down and shoved into a deep, dank hole by Mr. Chris Cobler.

Tisk, Tisk, Mr. Cobler, your paper would have been much better off leaving Mz. Understood to post. She was intelligent and forthcoming. Those two characteristics might be a bit much if you have something to hide, however, so I do understand why you had to kill and bury her. You just shouldn't have done it so obviously and you should have buried her deeper.

Mz. Understood will be heard and I will make sure of that. Her voice of reason and questioning mind is welcome here.

Banning her from The Victoria Advocate is truly your loss and blogspot's gain.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Best of any Show: Not so miniature Yorkie

Watched the Westminister Dog show a bit last night, but my four-legged companion couldn't keep his eyes open. He passed out in his stylish sweater and only stirred when he heard the click of the camera.

Oh, when I come back in my next life, I want that easy-breezy dog's life.

GANGS: Watch out for the signs

In San Antonio, a few years ago, gangs were making a huge showing at the schools, so at a faculty meeting the principal warned all the staff to be on the lookout for signs of gangs forming: kids wearing the same colors, brands, and symbols used as a gang affiliation. This was becoming a problem and the teachers were warned to report anything that looked suspicious.

Later that week, a frantic young teacher ran into the principal's office to report that there was a new gang in the school and it had recruited almost all of the students. Rising quickly and preparing to attend to this crisis, the principal asked the young lady what gang affiliation did she observe. Her reply, "I don't know what gang it is, but they all are wearing black marks on their foreheads!"

Letting out a huge, relived sigh,"What church do you attend?"

"Baptist, why?"

"It's Ash Wednesday. The gang symbols will be gone by tomorrow."

True, sad, funny story.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

MOM: A Slice of America's History

Some years ago, I took my mom to the movies and I was entertained by a wonderful story that wasn't delivered through the movie projector. Nonchalantly, she turned to me at the end of the movie, "You know, I tried out to play when I was young."

Fascinated, I encouraged her to share this unknown chapter of her life.

Growing up in a large family, my mom was very active. She played baseball with her brothers, cousins and sisters to pass the time. Pitching and hitting proved to be something my mom enjoyed and excelled in. When the scouts for the all girls' baseball team came around, my mom and her best friend tried out.

I can just imagine how excited my mom and Dorothy were to prove their talents to the scouts. At this point my mom and her friend had grown up in the country and their whole lives were spent very close to home. My mom's competitive nature was an asset. At the end of the try-outs, Mom had made the cut, but not her friend. Friendship loyalty was the deciding factor when Mom turned down the offer; if her friend couldn't go, then she'd stay behind.

Mom stayed best friends with Dorothy through many decades. I wonder how different her life would have been if she would have seen the world with Dorothy, while playing a sport she adored. Obviously, I wouldn't be here, probably, as I doubt that she would have married my father if she had seen the world a bit more.

My mom's story stayed silent within me, until I was walking with her and the rehab nurse after her difficult heart surgery. Mom looked so weak and frail, with that "grabber" belt around her waist, paper-thin skin stretched across her knuckles as she gripped the walker and her thin white hair. I could see the way the young nurse looked at my mom and she didn't know the warrior that was deep inside my mom. Out came the story of trying out and making the baseball team. My mom walked a little taller, smiled a little brighter and her blue eyes sparkled with the memories of that dusty summer day when she was strong and young. I was able to change the nurse's perception of Mom, with just that simple story. Hope surfaced and surrounded us in that hall and Mom began to remember the buried inner strength she needed for her recovery.

Every day, I would call on that warrior spirit within her and not let her quit. She never gave up on me and I knew that I wouldn't let her quit, either. Her strength was regained and her spirit became hopeful and determined. We had better times ahead and I know that having that story helped in so many ways.

Whenever I see "A League of Their Own" I remember that my mom was good enough to make the team, but there was another plan for her life.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


This picture represents my family's guardian angel; she's resting as she gets a vigorous workout on a daily basis. There are many times when I am not aware of the smoothing out of life's bumps she has provided, so I will just spotlight a few times that she has made our lives better.

When I first saw this angel, I was taken back by her presence. Everything matched in her attire. Her earrings matched her necklace, bracelet, and ring. This jewelry ensemble accented the distinguished clothes she wore. As she floated down the hallway, I was met with a smile that was repeated with her eyes. Not a hair was out of place and her dignified manner extended to every task she completed. Professional interactions were the beginning of our relationship and on that basis our friendship was built.

I found talking to her easy and we laughed as much as we talked. Upon discovery that we were married to the same type of man, we knew that our "sameness" was greater than any difference other would perceive.

She was the person who I found solace in when my mom's health became an issue of dealing with a loved one's death. Upon the coupling of my daughter and a toxic man, I was able to sort through my feelings and emotions with this angel of mine.

Questions in the workplace, struggles with health issues, finding the groove in my ever-changing life roles, and other difficulties were sorted out with laughter and guidance from my angel.

Joys and happiness were shared, also. Sometimes that meant serving punch at a wedding; holding a newborn grandson; or listening to the same story again.

When a promised vacation found my family stranded thousands of miles away from a safe harbor, this angel provided the means of safely returning us all to home.

Later, constant physical pain and deep depression tempted me to give up to the dark, whirlpool of death. My friend demanded a promise from me to fight and not give up. Some wretched nights I would only have that promise to cut through my mind's fog. A lifeline of friendship can be stronger than any man made material; it can save a life and offer tomorrows. Softly spoken words of encouragement from her kept my head above the waves of despair.

In return for all that my angel has given me and mine, I only have this small gift of words.

Thank you, my friend. Your heart and soul shine brighter than any jewel.

GOD SAYS "NO!": My Life rejoices in his decision

Back in my early college years, I fell deeply in love with Bill. In order to understand this young man, one must picture his fresh face, brown eyes that sparkled when he laughed, slight-built body, and an inquisitive mind. We were introduced by our mutual love, the written word. He fancied himself as the next big-town reporter and I loved the work we did on the college newspaper.

Our time together had its own soundtrack, as the music we enjoyed still resonates with me. Many musicians passed through our town and concerts were affordable. Neil Diamond was one of the romantic performers; my daughter still teases me about seeing him. Outdoor venues, smoky auditoriums and college campuses provided plenty of opportunities to experience the "surround sound" of live performances.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's concert was recorded and I still have the LP of that special time, where we sat upstairs with our legs dangling through the railing. My embroidered bell bottom jeans, love beads, gauzy shirt and brown leather clogs made me look so individual that I succeeded in looking like every other long, brown haired girl there.

My concert experience are remembered fondly and I know that I have related them one too many times to my daughter when she turns to me, upon hearing the beginning a familiar song, "Yeah, Mom, I know. You and Bill were sitting in the balcony when The Fifth Dimension sang Won't you marry me, Bill? "

What I don't repeatedly tell her is how completely devastated I was when Bill broke up with me. Prayers to God were answered with a loud, definite "No." I beg, pleaded and bargained with God to make it right and give me back the lost relationship. Again, a resounding, definite, "NO."

Now, I am so grateful, because without losing Bill I wouldn't have gained the most incredible life I have. My husband would have been lost to me, my daughter wouldn't exist and to think of not having my Grand Love breaks my heart.

So, thank you, God for being patient with me and giving me the most fantastic gift of all, my precious family.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Am I the only one that finds this winter dragging on and on and on and on.....? I heard today that as of now, Hawaii is the only state that hasn't received snow in the last couple of days. What is going on?

Usually, I don't even wear a coat; just some light, zippered sweater and I'm good. Today, I hurt from the cold when I was out and about. I am now trying to warm up with the help of a snuggles blanket and the heat from this laptop. Guess a cup of hot chocolate is called for and then my insides will be comforted, also.

Speaking of snuggles blankets, the other day an extended family was celebrating the 70th birthday of their mom/grandmother at a popular restaurant. Of course, when she opened her present, we paid attention. My husband looked at me and kept eating, after I whispered, "I didn't know anyone really gave that as a gift. Is it a good gift?" He shrugged as he scooped up more enchiladas.

This family appeared as if they cared for their matriarch and yet I was a bit shocked that on her momentous birthday, the best they could up with was a "Snuggie". I kept waiting for her to take something else out of the box, because someone pulled a prank and wrapped a "good gift" in that box. Imagine my surprise, when she did open the box and sure enough it was a red Snuggie.

Kept waiting for the Chia Pet to make its way into the place of honor, but only cards and hugs followed. Maybe I have grown too cynical, but I thought someone who turned seventy deserved a gift with a lot more personalization. Guess with this cold front, she's probably happy and I sit here grousing about unknown people and their tastes in gifts.

I am going to warm some milk, add some chocolate and see if that will improve my outlook. Hope so, 'cause the temperature keeps dropping, the rain keeps plopping and the dog keeps...never mind.


I was riding in the backseat the other day and entertaining my grand love and the sun was just perfect for creating my very small menagerie of shadow animals. Luckily for me, my audience can be fascinated easily. Bunnies and birds cavorted across the car, creating a new focus for a restless tot.

As he gets older, I better corral more animals and remember more songs as the eye rolls I see in the rear view mirror signal me that my repertoire craves polish and expansion.

Any suggestions out there?

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Having Aprill in the same line as "stupid" is truly redundant.

Drug and alcohol abuse seem to be what she lives and then records for The Advocate. She is one of the fair-haired children who works for the paper. I understand that she is there to add some youth to the paper; however her views are so skewed that she's the barfly equivalent of Myra. Inebriation demonstrated through different speech patterns is what passes as humor in Aprill's articles.

As if that isn't bad enough, she is now on the Board of Directors for CASA. That appointment is wrong in so many ways. Aprill's maturity level is on level with many middle schoolers. CASA deals with very serious issues on a daily basis and I am sure that a sense of humor helps the case workers get through the day; however, there's a difference in a sense of humor and no sense at all.

In my opinion, Aprill Brandon's appointment to CASA's board should be reversed. Until she understands the importance of sobriety in a fulfilled life, she doesn't need to have anything to do with such fragile children.

Youth should be enjoyed, but when given the responsibility of making decisions concerning children, it is time to grow up.

Friendships: Going with the Ebb and Flow

When I was young, my friends were from the neighborhood. We went to school together, played at each others' homes and enriched our lives with all that we shared. Squabbles were settled easily, toys were shared, secrets were traded and brothers were tormented. We would sleep out in my playhouse, and the boys would come in the night throwing tin cans, rolling off the roof to scare us; which it did. Their silly giggles outside, however, dispelled the feeling of goblins and replaced it with the goofy brothers we knew.

Changing neighborhoods, states, and friends proved to be a huge adjustment,but this life lesson taught me to expand my circle of friends. Games I had played up north were unknown in my new neighborhood. Give and take with the new friends allowed me to learn as well as teach. Since we could play outside year round, the major obstacles for me was enduring the scorching heat and prickly, painful sticker burrs. Didn't have any life experience to teach me that something so small, could hurt so very much. Bike rides replaced sledding. Rattlesnake warnings were as casual as warnings to watch out for traffic. Even though, I came from Yankee land, my new friends and I established bonds that were comfortable and enriching.

Early teenage years brought a new environment and more challenges. Economic changes to our family took away many possessions and yet our family managed. I was undergoing physical changes that drew me further into myself and books became even more a retreat for me. Being alone, was not my nature so by high school, I branched out and gather a very small group of friends to my heart. We were a diverse group from all sorts of family configurations and we accepted each other for ourselves and not monetary riches or lack there of.

Many nights were spent at other people's houses, because the situation at my home made the weekends unbearable. Looking back on this time, I realize that my mom was stuck in a toxic situation and when I would escape on Friday nights and return on Sunday nights, she was worn out from the weekend fray. I always let her know where I was and when I came home, she was grateful to see me. My friends' families were accepting of me and for that I am eternally grateful.

Off to college and my experiences afforded me such a variety of friends that when I look back on those years, I realize that my education of life didn't just take place in the classroom. Friends introduced me to facets of life that were so foreign to anything I had ever dreamed. Throughout my college years I kept a small handful of friends who were as diverse as the decade in which I found myself. There was Dina, my friend who took me into her circle of friends and protected me from myself. There was Mary, my Italian, hot-blooded, quick tempered friend, who rescued me and put me on a plane to leave the state. Other friends filled in my years at college and helped me discover my dreams and play a part in the fulfillment of them. And then there was Bill. (Someday, he will be a blog all to himself.)

I will stop at the college years and continue another day with rest of my life. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 8, 2010

HOME SCHOOLING: Multi-faceted Issue

People throughout the centuries have fought very hard to make sure that their children would receive the best education possible. For many years, girls weren't even allowed to attend school past the first few years. Even in this year, there are countries that don't value schooling outside of the home. This brings me to the mine field, otherwise known as Home Schooling.

My views are based on personal experiences, which aren't everyone's? My step-dad had to drop out of school at a very young age so that he could work. He barely could read and it was a family secret for years; which I didn't even know until I was older. Shamed that he didn't have formal education followed him throughout his life. Even without a formal education, he could read blueprints, build anything, weld in any environment, establish a successful business and be the best grandfather anyone could ever imagine. No, he wasn't home schooled and I know that home schooled children are academically superior to many other kids. My point for this aspect is that he didn't just miss out on reading skills, he was behind in social skills. Yeah, I know good home school "teachers" make sure that the kids are involved socially. Those experiences aren't the same as dealing with bell schedules, waiting your turn, paying attention in a diverse environment and many other school-specific activities.

It is ironic, being raised by an semi-illiterate parental unit, that I would go on and finish graduate school with my Master's in Education. Throughout my school years, the lessons I learned weren't restricted to the curriculum set before me. There were many nuances that I had to decipher and acquiring that skill prepared me for the "real world" outside of my educational settings.

Challenges in life have not blocked me, because of the training I learned in the classroom. Working in a group in the classroom and being stuck with the kid who didn't want to work on the assignment was a lesson onto itself. Sitting next to someone who was smarter and knew how to decipher the math on the board, taught me how to ask for help from a peer (no, not cheating, just "explain it to me in different terms.")

As a teacher I had many different types of learners in my class. When I would have a former home schooler arrive in my class, there were very obvious gaps in the learning of the child. Favorite subjects were over learned, while the less-liked subjects were sorely lacking. Parents who had home schooled had the best of intentions and multiple resources at their disposal. However, parents are meant to be parents and tutors after the school day, not the main teacher.

Parents love their children more than any teacher can ever, in spite of claims from teachers that they love their students. No one can love a child as much as a caring, nurturing parent. Since parents trust doctors, dentists, dance instructors with the care of their child, why would they think that they could provide a better education than a certified teacher? To me that is just ludicrous.

Parents, be involved with your children's education at their school. Volunteer. Read stories to the kids in the classroom. Become a teacher's aide. Whatever you have time and talent enough to do. Just leave your child in school and let them learn all that they can.

In all things, be willing to listen to people around you. None of us is really smart enough to go it alone.
~ John Clendenin

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Books: A Sensual Experience

I've written about this long-lasting love affair I've had with the written word, before, but as is often the case I've remembered other things I thought I'd share.

When I was growing up, public library visits were frequent and I was left to indulge any flavor of books my hunger desired. For awhile I read every Dr. Seuss book that I could find. My mom was always practical and she did try to persuade me to read more mature books, but once I showed her that beyond the silly pictures were words whose meanings I had to decipher, she backed off. I was only in the third grade and I did stumble over the words, but when I sat cross-legged on my bed reading aloud, my room filled with palatable flavors of wonder.

Biographies intrigued me, as I wondered how someone would live a life worthy of being recording in such detail. Again, my mother brought me back down and explained that even when there was dialogue, it sometimes was embellished by the writer. That helped me relax, because I sure didn't want to remember every conversation I had to give to the author of my biography. Helen Keller was my favorite biography. That should have been a clue to how my life would take a dramatic turn later on.

Books were honored in our house. No dog eared pages, allowed. Sign your name neatly on the card for the librarian. Return the books on time. Read every day, even if just a little bit.

Now, people are giving up on the feel of the paper as it caresses the fingers turning the pages. Smelling the aroma of a freshly bought book or the musty aroma of the second-hand book that had escaped from your house years earlier. Those reminders of how precious books are, quickly are fading like yesterday's cut flowers. In spite of technology, we must contain to enjoy the experience of paper, thoughts, and ink. Books are treasures for young and old; for rich and poor alike; for city folks to country bumpkins.

Books are the great equalizer. Sit down with someone who loves books and all barriers disappear.

We need books.

We desire books.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Training a husband: Silk is better than Steel

When I married, I wasn't any spring chicken, so I did know a thing or two about the male species. With that being said, I've learned exactly how much I didn't know about the male species through my interactions with my husband of more than thirty years.

Let's start with the simple idea of expiration dates on milk. I remember clearly, waiting in the car and looking at the huge smile on my husband's face as he handed me the gallon of newly purchased milk, "I really had to look hard, but I finally found today's date!" I thought he was joking, until I read that indeed today's date was stamped on the milk jug.

Taking a deep breath, I calmly explained that even though I appreciated the effort of reading all the dates and finally snapping up the last of "today's date" he would need to go back in and find a date far into the future. I was afraid at this point to tell him to find a date far away from today's date, because I surely didn't want last week's expiration date on our milk. He did huff and puff, but finally he took the jug back into the store and slumped back, wordlessly handing me the milk. To this day, he finds the best date in all the dairy case.

Back when we first married, ice was made in metal trays in our refrigerator's freezer. I suppose that there was a manly rule somewhere that stated that the person who took the last cube was responsible for replenishing the liquid to the tray. I don't know, although I did ask. Aggravation met me many times when I wanted a glass full of ice and there were only two cubes left (one from each of the trays in the freezer.) It got to the point that I began to learn to drink lukewarm sodas and water, until I came up with a brilliant solution. When he wasn't looking I loaded up the freezer with ten ice cube trays, so that at least I would have ten ice cubes, if needed. Many the times I found out the filling all ten trays was an act requiring balance and the ability to hold open the refrigerator's door with my knee, because the freezer door was spring loaded. Finally, a few years ago, we were able to purchase the appliance of my dreams....a refrigerator with an ice maker. No more warm drinks and glares in my husband's directions have decreased remarkably.

We were blessed with my mother for transportation of our daughter from school, except for rare cases when she couldn't because of doctors' appointments. My husband assured me that it wasn't a problem, as his office was only a few blocks from our daughter's school. Armed with sticky notes and verbal reminders, my husband gallantly took up the duty of picking up our girl from school. Luckily, our daughter learned to be calm and not panic, even when she was left standing outside waiting for her dad.
A call to his office, "Dad, how are you?"
"Fine, Hon."
"Dad, how was your day?"
"Okay, what about yours?"
"My day was fine, Dad. Hey, Dad, did you forget anything today?"
A pregnant pause and then, "Nope, don't think so, Hon. Why?"
"You forgot to pick me up at school, I'm still here."
A very pregnant pause, "I'll be right there." He was there in five minutes and she forgave her dad.

Two days later and I won't repeat the above dialogue, as it was basically the same, except, she added, "Again!" to her last statement. So, we all learned an important lesson that week, in spite of adoring someone to the ends of the Earth, you can forget to pick them up from school.

What other lessons have I learned these last thirty some years with the man I love? I know that in spite of all of MY faults (I do have many) he loves me and would do anything to see me smile. He is my closest friend and confidant and the best milk buyer in the world.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Experiencing Life: One Cruise at a Time

If anyone had asked me ten years ago what my favorite activity was, taking cruises wouldn't have made the list.

A few years ago, my mom passed away and as we were leaving the cemetary in our friend's car, they said, "You know what we need to do? We need to take a cruise together." I sort of agreed and then preceeded to talk to them over the next few months, until I was convinced that a cruise would maybe help ease over the stress and pain we had been enduring for the past year.

My apprehension was concerning sea sickness for me and having enough to do on a seven day cruise. Well, fears aside, we finished making plans and began to get excited. We didn't know what to expect, so questions were readily answered by our friends.

Packing everything but the kitchen sink, we drove with our friends to Galveston for our July cruise. You could literally feel the excitement in the truck as we traveled to the ship. My first glimpse of the ship overtook me. I never had imagined how large the big, white boat could be. And that was just seeing it from the dock.

We finally unloaded the luggage, checked in and walked up the gangplank. From the first smile and "welcome aboard" we were transportated into a place where anything we desired would be provided with a warm eye-included smile and "My pleasure".

Our cabin had a window (on later cruises we would experiment with different floors and category of cabins) and plenty of room for everything we brought with us. Stashing our things in the little cubbies and closets, we began our seven days of wonder.

Since we had our friends to rely on, our maiden cruise went on without a hitch. Muster stations were found, shore excursions were booked, dinner plans made and foreign lands were explored. We enjoyed everything that was offered and went to bed each night with a smile on our faces.

By the time we returned to Galveston, we realized that we had found how we enjoyed our hard-earned vacation time and money. Cruises brought us closer as a couple and opened up new lands for us to explore.

Cruises have become the salve to soothe our overstressed lives.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Follow the bouncing ball: Sing along, everyone

When I was growing up, Mitch Miller had a television show and during that show, they would play a familiar song and on the bottom of the screen the lyrics would be highlighted by a bouncing ball. Remember this was way before video games concerning rock stars. You could sing along and make a fool out yourself and feel entertained. We did alot of silly things before cable television and DVDs to have a good time.

With that introduction to this blog, let me also remind you of the elementary tune,
"Do your ears hang low?
Do they waddle to and 'fro?
Can you tie 'em in a knot?
Can you tie 'em in a bow?
Can you throw 'em over your shoulder
like a Continental Soldier?
Do your ears hang low?"

Take those two things and wrap your mind around the fact that on The Victoria Advocate there is a cadre of posters who are wearing jock straps that are three sizes too small causing both their brains to be oxygen-starved. The only subject that they care about is SPORTS; not academics, social behavior or even traffic safety concerning the schools. Just sports; preferably one that involves playing with a pigskin. There is one poster who must sleep in a jersey, clutching his ball, because this guy is so hyped up on "Rah Rah Juice" that he is mean to anyone who even questions VISD for anything.

Okay, guys, let me tell you, there is more to life than football, honestly. School spirit is wonderful, but it must involve more than athletes.

I want to leave you with this song, that is dedicated to a stormy guy who is a comment bully on The Advocate website:

Do your Boys hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie 'em in a knot?
Can you tie 'em in a bow?
Can you throw 'em over your shoulder,
like a Continental Soldier?
Do your Boys hang low?

Hope he doesn't take offense, because LOL. (He uses "LOL" whenever he puts out some of his humor, so I hope he finds this as funny as I find his comments.)

Hey, if it was good enough for Fruit of the Loom to use the song in an ad for their underwear, I can, too.

Fun Ferret Fact: It is best to have your pet ferret's scent glands removed, unless your nose is not working well.