Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year, New You

Every year, on January 1, many people promise themselves changes. They make resolutions, vow to follow through, and very few actually see the fruition of the seeds they planted.
Often, fear of change is the biggest obstacle. Staying with the status quo is simpler and more predictable than changing routines or situations, even if the outcome would be better. Civil Rights issues have exemplified fears of change for over a century.
Relationships are a more personal example. While I am in full support of dedicated partners, I also know that some people stay with a significant other simply because of habit. Marriage vows are wonderful, but they are meant to be a two-way partnership. The balance may shift within the relationship, but there should always be give and take. If one side isn't keeping up his or her end of the deal, why should the "better half" maintain a broken contract? Yet, relationships from marriage to casual dating will continue because the miserable party would rather continue than endure change for potential better.
Looking at a more global concept, people fail to care for the environment because they don't see how one small effort can affect the greater good. Yet, I personally can see an impact from my own recycling efforts. I was recycling before recycling was popular. I would pick up cans on the side of the road, bundle newspapers, and encouraged co-workers to follow suit. When I moved outside of the city limits, and recycling containers were not accessible, I got out of the habit. Recently, I made the extra effort to find drop-off sites, which are actually more accessible than I realized. I have reduced my garbage by half or more, and the process was much simpler than I had imagined. What if everyone in my community reduced their garbage by half? What if everyone in the country reduced their garbage by half? One person, making one effort, could create an entire chain of change!
Whether it is complacency, habit, or lack of motivation, change, when needed, doesn't haven't to be difficult. All that is required is the first move.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow Storm

A man named Mark saved my life today, and he doesn't know it. When the last student left after taking the exam in my class, it was 3 p.m. I made sure the computers were off, turned out the lights, and locked up the classroom. The building was empty except for the secretary; her husband would pick her up at 5 p.m. When we had looked out the window earlier, snow covered the commons area of the community college campus. By the time I walked out the door, slush covered the brick sidewalks. I shuffled to check out the traction. If the bricks weren't slick, I knew the asphalt should be fairly safe. One other car was on the far side of the parking lot and the snow was coming down fast and thick.
I ambled onto the road, driving slowly, but not too worried since the snow was fresh and not icy. The road crested a hill before snaking downwards. I wouldn't have given it much thought except a large SUV was sitting in the left lane with a crushed front end. The nose was pointed toward the yellow line, the back end leaned into the far ditch. Seeing the car made me slow down, but as I gently applied brakes to stop, I felt my own car try to fishtail. The road was much slicker than I had assessed, and this particular location was treacherous. Just ahead, a man was walking along the road towards the closest house.
Cell phone reception in this county is non-existent; the house looked empty. I rolled down my window and pulled up next to the man. "Do you need help or want a ride?" He stopped and looked at me. I could tell he was dazed, but seemed relieved. He knew the man in the house, but didn't think the owner was home. "Could you give me a lift home?" I didn't hesitate to let him get in the car.
As we moved forward, he told me where he lived, which wasn't too far. The shock was wearing off, and I could sense his shakiness. "When I saw the trees, I figured that was it for me," he said. He had decided to visit his friend "before the roads got bad." He came over the hill and started spinning before he realized what was happening. After bouncing off a tree, the car came to a rest on the opposite shoulder. He was bumped around, but fortunately avoided serious injury. Mark and I made quick introductions and I slowly drove him home.
"Should I call the sheriff? Or just get a tow-truck out here?" Mark was trying to decide the best course of action; his wife was out of town, and he was getting shakier by the minute. I suggested he call the sheriff to report the accident. At least then, he'd have it on record in case he wanted to file insurance. Noting he didn't have collision, I said, "Do it anyway; you'll regret it if you don't." His plan was to get his brother to drive him back to the scene of the accident. He also had another car at home.
When I dropped him off, I turned down his offer to reimburse me for gas. Instead, I thanked Mark. If I had not seen his accident, it would have been me on side of the road. Being in a much smaller car, I probably would not have survived, much less been able to walk.
On my way home, the snow came down harder, traffic was scarce, and the two-lane highways were barely visible under their white blanket. I drove carefully, thankful for the opportunity to not only help Mark, but to recognize that his accident saved me from tragedy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Tis the Season

The holiday season is supposed to fill people with Christmas spirit, glad tidings, and fa-la-la-adry, yet I am meeting more people than ever who seem to be running low on ho-ho-hos. Not only is their cheer missing, they seem to feel guilty and apologetic for their deflated attitude. I must confess, I am among the sojourners of dolefulness.
Part of the problem is the retail world's vehemence towards profiteering from the gullibility of consumers. During a time when people should give to others because of caring and loving relationships, the public is inundated with marketing campaigns. Commercialism has saturated the intimacy of a sacred season, and the virus is spreading.

Christmas merchandise and decorations were going up in stores before Halloween. Across the aisles from skeletons, cauldrons, and witches' hats were reindeer, stockings, and Santa caps. Spooky laughter and clattering competed with singing elves. The Nightmare Before Christmas is taking on more relevance as each year passes. I can recall when the Friday after Thanksgiving was an unveiling of Christmas sales, decorations, and yuletide greetings. My mother's memories go even further back, as she recently recalled the magic of the holiday season's unveiling. "We would drive downtown on Thanksgiving day, and all the store windows would be covered with brown paper," she said. "On Friday morning, it was like Santa had waved a magic wand and changed everything." Brown paper was removed to reveal storefronts decorated for the season. The city's lights and decorations lined the streets. A parade beckoned the multitudes, and when the show was over, shoppers filled the stores. Retailers can't gain a huge impact on Black Friday when they start competing for shoppers a month ahead of time.

Commercialism, however, is not the only thing that ruins the season for me. Self-righteous Christians have started thumping their Bibles to the tune of the Little Drummer Boy, as well. Narrow-minded thinkers have joined in on a campaign to ban "Happy Holidays" in favor of "Merry Christmas." I suppose this is the follow up to putting the "Christ" back into "Christmas," or the opposition to "Xmas." Unfortunately, ignorance has led the way to a path of intolerance and misunderstandings.

Xmas is actually a clear and equal representation of Christmas. "X" is the Greek letter "chi" which is the first letter of Christ. Using the term Xmas is not a sign of disrespect, but rather an older homage.

Saying "Happy Holidays" to another person is not negating the impact of Jesus' birth. Instead, it carries on what I believe to be His message. The Jesus that I believe in would say that it doesn't matter what the day is called, as long as people remember the true purpose. His birth gave people hope and a reason to follow His word. He offered messages of unity and respect, regardless of differences. Even among Christians, the beliefs vary. To denounce another person's faith, is to disrespect a child of God. How can a true Christian go against the very teachings of Christ?

Whether someone just recently observed Ramadan, is lighting the Menorah for Hanukkah, will celebrate the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, attends Christmas Eve mass, or has a merry Christmas, I wish everyone a Happy Holiday.

In the meantime, I will continue to sort out my disdain for the retailers and the holier-than-thous, and find my own light within to merge with the one above.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

New Moon illuminates skewed justice

Celebrating a birthday at the movies is not unusual, but a Chicago woman spent two nights in jail for trying to record the event. She now faces up to three years in prison for film piracy charges. The 22-year-old recorded a group of friends singing "Happy Birthday" to her older sister who turned 29. Presents were opened and the gaiety was caught by camera, along with approximately four minutes of the feature film, "New Moon."
The accused claims that she was not filming the movie, voices can be heard, and the focus is on the party subjects, not the feature. I have no reason to doubt that is not the case, and believe authorities should let the incident go with a warning.

The main crime here, not punishable by law, is the ruckus this group probably made for the remainder of the audience. Movie tickets are expensive, and I don't tolerate rudeness in a theatre. If you have a phone call, conversation, screaming baby, or other distraction, I will remind you to leave when you don't do so promptly. My imagination goes wild at the prospect of witnessing a full-blown birthday party with adults giggling like adolescents while the movie is playing! (On a side note: Why would you open presents in a theatre? Where do you keep them - on a sticky floor or in a seat that flips closed?)

Like many accused criminals, facts surrounding the incident can cause a great deal of embarrassment, regardless of the final outcome. A grown woman spent two nights in jail because she was recording the ridiculous behavior of a party while watching a very bad, very adolescent movie. Perhaps Hanna Montana DVDs and Britney Spears CDs were among the gifts!

While Chicago police broke up this movie piracy scam, the Salahis have bounced a check to a liquor store for $24,000, they roam free after breaching White House security, and are trying to scam payment for interviews. As politicians have proven for many years, criminals get free reign in the D.C. area.

Maybe it is time for Justice to remove her blindfold and take a look at her enforcers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Reflecting as a caregiver

Caregiving doesn't have to be a full-time effort for the duties to be all-consuming. When someone you love needs help of any kind, they stay on your mind, often interrupting your thoughts and efforts towards other obligations. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I find myself neglecting this blog at times.
I constantly see topics I wish to address, but my mind is diverted towards my own survival and the needs of my mother. Even though she is in a retirement community, she lives independently, but not self-sufficiently. Thus, my reason for creating a new blog.
Muttonchops is designed to address social issues, so rather than sprinkle in unrelated topics, I am creating one that focuses on caregiver issues. Hopefully, I can provide insight and humor, as well as unload my brain of some stress so that I can redirect my energies to more productive endeavors. At least, for now, that's the plan. Feel free to sit in on the Caregiver's Window Seat (

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Left home alone

My sister lives in the suburbs of Memphis and brought a recent news article to my attention. A mother of two toddlers, ages 2 and 3, left the children at home alone while she and her aunt "ran errands." The house caught on fire killing one child and leaving the younger in critical condition.

The fact that the aunt seemed more worried about the condition of her purse and public assistance card than the children only added to public disgust. As I watched the woman speak on camera, I wondered if she was mentally unstable or was drunk. Yet, she was too coherent to be inebriated.
I then turned my thoughts to my own 26-month-old granddaughter. I called my daughter to share the report. Incredulous, she said, "Why did they BOTH have to go ... no wait ... they were going to score drugs!" Her answer fits perfectly. It explains why the aunt is so disconnected, why they wouldn't take the kids, and why they'd reason away risks. My daughter went on to conclude that the children probably got hungry and tried to cook food.
This is complete supposition, and hopefully, the facts will come out. Public outcry lambastes the district attorney for not filing charges. I can only hope he is trying to assemble a strong and tight case against the women so that they have no chance of being dismissed on a technicality.
A myriad of books give child rearing advice, but none offer technical guidance. If you lack common sense and need a manual to raise children, then 1) don't have them, and 2) at least look at the law books. In North Carolina, it is illegal to leave children under the age of 12 unattended. I'm sure other states have similar laws, reinforcing the fact that baaaaaad parents are everywhere.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crawford vs. Balloon Boy

As I sat working on the computer, I was also watching "Strait-Jacket" on the Turner Classic Movie Channel. The actress screamed which was louder than the rest of the movie had been. My 20-year-old son came in to see what happened. The following conversation ensued:
Me: I'm watching an old Joan Crawford movie.
Son: I don't know who she is.
Me: Did you ever see "Mommie Dearest"?
Son: Yeah
Me: That movie was about this actress.
Son: Ohhh - the crazy woman.
Me: Well, she wasn't crazy - just ...
Son: Oh - yeah - right, beating people with wire hangers isn't crazy. Wait -beating CHILDREN isn't crazy!
Me: (laughing hysterically)
Son: (walking away) Good to know who's side you're on mom!

She's no worse than Balloon Boy's parents. At least Crawford already had her fame established and was a shrewd business woman. Her children were adopted as accessories. Balloon Boy was a forced accessory to criminal behavior. Who's crazy now?!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wisdom to know the difference

The italicized text below was sent to me in an email, obviously supported by the friend that sent it. The message absolutely makes my skin crawl and sends chills up my spine. I will send a note to the person saying "Surely you don't believe this crap?" yet I am fascinated by the way people are so easily led, or accept such sweeping, generalized remarks.
Even the most wholesome of television shows has issues. The Cleavers and Nelsons had no racial diversity and set a standard of an unattainable family lifestyle that forced the average American to build a wall around any deviation from the publicized "norm."

Do people immitate what they see on television? Or is television merely a mirror of what people do? Personally, I see give and take in the public's relationship to media. Video games and movies do not create violent children. Unstable children believe they can mimic fantasy.

My children would see idiots doing things on television, laugh, and say, "How stupid can people be?!" They learned the difference between fact and fiction, and used critical thinking skills, which serve them well as adults. If only the creator of the following statements had critical thinking skills of his or her own!

The following are examples of what we are teaching and allowing to be taught to our children. There are many others that do much the same.
How much of the following do you want your children doing?

  • American Idol – Dance your Ass Off - Dance – We glorify sexually explicit dancing

  • American Idol - Sing – We glorify singing of immoral actions

  • UFC - Cage Fight – WWE - We glorify “no rules” fighting

  • Various Fraudulent Movies [Fahrenheit 911, Inconvenient Truth] Actors – We glorify acting and actors of ill repute who have no real veracity, character or life experience

  • Various Shows in search of Food - Food – We encourage the glorification of food and gluttony

  • Commercials Drinking – We encourage the glorification of drinking and drunkenness

  • Mad Men - Sex – We encourage sexual promiscuity, adultery, corrupt business practices

  • Chemistry Teacher Making Illegal Drugs - Drugs – We glorify the manufacture and sale of illegal drugs

  • Queer Eye for the Straight Guy – Glorification of homosexuality as a “normal” lifestyle

  • Glorification of Politically Corrupt and Questionable people - OBAMA AND COMPANY

And all the above comes from the “ Hollywood ” crowd and movie/network moguls.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Crazy like a Criminal - Smart details Mitchell's assault

When I read the details of Elizabeth Smart's ordeal from when she was held captive by Brian David Mitchell, I admired her strength and ability to move beyond the nightmare that consumed nine months of her young life.
When I read that she was testifying at Mitchell's new competency hearing, I was stunned. I suppose I assumed that the guy was rotting in jail, where he should be. Instead, he has been tested, and re-tested, for mental stability. Obviously the guy is whack-o! Why are we spending good tax dollars on having him evaluated for competency to stand trial? Anyone that would creep into a little girl's bedroom at night, whisk her away for a make-shift wedding, keep her tethered to a line, rape her multiple times on a daily basis, and threaten to kill her entire family if she tried to escape, is beyond any level of sanity.
The man is coniving, calculating, and dangerous. He sang hymns in court and preached to the judge - which easily could be an effort to underscore his insanity plea. Since his religious outbursts are evidentiary to his being off-balance, does that mean that zealots declaring God's word in an unusual manner are subject to being considered insane? I'm surprised there is no outcry from evangelistic corners whose representatives should be insulted!
Anyone that commits a crime has to be somewhat unstable, though many are saner than some of the oddities in Walmart. When a crime is committed, and continues repeatedly or long-term, there should be no doubt that the accused is off-balance. Any serial killer is a prime example. If they are competent enough to carry out a crime, they are competent enough to stand trial.
I believe in our system of "innocent until proven guilty," but Mitchell wasn't plucked out of thin air, and the evidence is far beyond circumstantial.
The only thing crazier than Mitchell, is the system that wants to "prove" he is insane.
Charles Manson

Friday, October 2, 2009

Summer in the South Pole

All of my life, I have recognized that everyone has a story, and that became more deeply seated when I was a news editor. Taking mom out and getting our nails done today proved there to be no exception.
I would never expect an eyebrow waxing to lead discussing a trip to the Antartic with a stranger, but it did. As I settled into the chair for a pedicure, a few words were exchanged with the woman next to me. When she learned I was going to get my eyebrows done, she wondered if she should follow suit, noting her upcoming trip to the South Pole.
South Pole?! Suddenly penguins from "Happy Feet" were dancing through my mind and the interrogation began!
Emily Wilson is currently a physician's assistant in Greensboro with cardio and internal medicine experience. She said that, after doing the same thing for about 20 years, she was ready for a change. Recognizing a great opportunity and adventure, she pursued a position with Raytheon Polar Services which is under government contract to provide services to the US Antarctic Program . Her family is in Philadelphia and there are no local ties or children, so she is making preparations to be down there by Oct. 15.
She'll live in a dormitory-like atmosphere, with computer access but no television. "Which is fine with me," she said. South of the equator, spring is beginning. There is only one day and one night at the South Pole, so she'll be there for the day - which actually lasts six months. Astronomy is another of Emily's interests and she seems excited to be able to learn more about the studies underway at the site.
I recalled the story about the doctor that was rescued from a polar station when diagnosed with breast cancer. Emily confirmed that she will be at the same location. In fact, Dr. Nielsen passed away in June, 10 years after her leading non-medical personnel through a biopsy and initial self-treatment.
Emily's trip to the McMurdo Station will include a 24-hour plane trip to Australia, with a few hops and a final military flight from the tip of New Zealand to the Antarctic. When she returns state-side, Emily said, "I have no idea what I'll be doing." I have a feeling, she won't have any problems finding a job -- or another adventure. As for myself, my ears - and mind - are always open.

Follow Emily's blog for updates on her experience at .

Friday, September 25, 2009

Straight on Gay

A dear friend sent me the quotes listed below, in an email. Not only did I find the comments funny, I found them astoundingly accurate and insightful. Then I began wondering why people are so anti-gay. I can remember being secretive more than 15 years ago when my first husband could no longer deny his own sexual identity, but why is this segment of the population still under scrutiny?
When I was around the age of 10, my family lived in a new development, and there were plenty of young girls around my own age. We played and went to school together. It wasn't long before a cycle of ostracization developed. One girl could look at another in an odd way and suddenly, the stronger of the two had the rest of the group ignoring the one. I came home crying on more than one occasion, as did others, I'm sure. One girl tried to pick a fight with me, but I refused. I couldn't bring myself to punch her, even after she shoved me. Miscommunication and insecurities seemed to lead the way for peer banishment. People moved, dynamics shifted, we grew up, and got over it.
Why can't adults do the same thing? People get on the offensive because they don't understand another person. Instead of trying to become educated, it seems easier for some to remain closed-minded and denounce differences. Others even try to stand behind religious documents, such as the Bible, to justify their hatred. Again, miscommunication and insecurities seem to lead the way to hatred.
One undeniable, proven factor about the Bible is - it was written by humans, altered by humans, and historically used by religious leaders as a way governing the minions. Stories were handed down verbally before eventually being written. They've been translated so many times that it is practically impossible to know what the original message intended. While there are wonderful messages, there also is room for miscommunication and misinterpretation.
Now, don't get self-righteous on me - I believe in prophecy, a higher power, and in Jesus' teachings. However, the God I believe in is kind, infalible, and put us together on earth to learn from each other. The person that assembled these quotes and sent them in an email, in my eyes, is a messenger of God's intentions - as we all should be - and that message should be one of unity.

If homosexuality is a disease, let's all call in sick to work: "Hello. Can't work today, still queer." ~ Robin Tyler

I'd rather be black than gay because when you're black you don't have to tell your mother. ~ Charles Pierce

"Dear Abby," In response to a reader who complained that a gay couple was moving in across the street and wanted to know what he could do to improve the quality of the neighborhood. 'You could move.' ~ Abigail Van Buren.

The one bonus of not lifting the ban on gays in the military is that the next time the government mandates a draft, we can all declare we are homosexual instead of running off to Canada. ~ Lorne Bloch

Why can't they have gay people in the army? Personally, I think they are just afraid of a thousand guys with M16s going, "Who'd you call a faggot?" ~ Jon Stewart

My lesbianism is an act of Christian charity. All those women out there praying for a man, and I'm giving them my share. ~ Rita Mae Brown

Soldiers who are not afraid of guns, bombs, capture, torture or death say they are afraid of homosexuals. Clearly we should not be used as soldiers; we should be used as weapons. ~ Letter to the Editor, The Advocate

You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight. ~ Barry Goldwater

Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands? ~ Ernest Gaines

My own belief is that there is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror. ~ W. Somerset Maugham

"Drag is when a man puts on everything we lesbians won't." -Robin Tyler, comic

If male homosexuals are called "gay," then female homosexuals should be called "ecstatic." ~ Shelly Roberts

My mother took me to a psychiatrist when I was fifteen because she thought I was a latent homosexual. There was nothing latent about it. ~ Amanda Bearse

It always seemed to me a bit pointless to disapprove of homosexuality. It's like disapproving of rain.... ~ Francis Maude

The only queer people are those who don't love anybody.... ~ Rita Mae Brown

The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision. ~ Lynn Lavner

Related posts : Prop8 or Prop Hate? and Anti-Gay Cash Cows

Monday, September 7, 2009

America - land of the free

Complaints about immigrants are uttered in living rooms across the country. As Americans, we feel our space is invaded and that “foreigners” are usurping our resources. We fight hard to keep our freedoms, our jobs, roofs over our heads, and food on our tables. Yet, we are complacent and unappreciative of what we do have.
Fortunately, I have met some people that are educating me about the realities that exist beyond America's borders. News reports that used to seem so far away have materialized into very real faces that I am getting to know each week.
Every Saturday morning, I volunteer with a movie-making class. (see inset for details) The adult students are immigrants and they are each creating a one-minute film related to a journey. I am getting snippets of their stories during class discussions and when I offer one-on-one assistance.
One student’s journey began when she fled religious persecution. As a Christian in Burma, Joyce was a minority in her homeland where 90 percent of the population is Buddhist. Government rulers consider Christianity a progressive western influence and its practice is prohibited. Books published outside of the country are contraband, making the Bible illegal. Violators are thrown in jail.
Joyce left Burma, huddled with her daughter and 20 other refugees, covered with tarps, in the bottom of a boat made to hold four people. As they crossed the waterway, they prayed waves would not capsize their overloaded boat or they would not be discovered by the water patrol.
Once they arrived in Thailand, guides led them across the country. Joyce said they walked for weeks, barefooted in order to reduce the sounds of their footsteps. They walked through swamps, peeled away leeches, waded through high grasses, thick brush, and over thorny vines. “We couldn’t make a sound, even when the thorns pricked our feet,” she said. The snap of a twig could give away their location to human traffickers or policing authorities. After walking across Thailand, Joyce made her way into a Malaysian refugee camp, eventually coming to America.
She continually gives thanks to God and seems excited to have an opportunity to record her story.
Last week, as she and I walked across a parking lot to film a segment for her class project, she looped her arm in mine and smiled. I commented about how much I admired her for what she has endured. She stopped and pointed to her feet. “I never believed, I never dreamed, that I would ever be here, with my feet on this parking lot, in this city, in America.”
She and her husband are together, both working and contributing to the community.
“I gave my first paycheck to help other refugees, said Joyce. “I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food to eat – I don’t need anything else.”
I was humbled and choked back tears as Joyce hugged and thanked me for helping her with her story.
Her English is broken, but her emotion is universal.

“Movie-Making for Immigrants and Refugees” is a partnership between FaithAction International House (including its VISTA volunteer, Trish Perkins), the American Friends Service Committee, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Worlds Touch, an international technical assistance organization founded and directed by Trish, in her spare time. Through digital storytelling, participants have the opportunity to acquire new technological skills, hone communication skills, as well as interact with the community at-large.
For more information, check out the links above as well as Trish’s blog.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Keeping kids on a leash

A mom in Georgia is now under public scrutiny for dragging her toddler by a leash through a store. At first glance, the tactic seems brutal, but after watching the video I am convinced people need to cut this mom some slack - at least until all the evidence is presented.
My biggest pet peeve is how the masses make snap decisions based on initial data, popular opinion, or what is politically correct.
In handling children, there are some that believe a higher road should be taken. They seem to have a zen approach, talk calmly to little ones, and never use corporal punishment. My experience with such saintly parents has been that they are 1) oblivious to the unruly and disruptive behavior of their children; 2) don't have children and are working from theory; 3) are blessed with sedate tots; or 4) they are lying about how they raise their kids.
Instead of assuming the woman with a toddler on a leash is the reincarnate of Irma Grese, let's provide the benefit of the doubt with a more viable option. Assuming the child is wearing a harness, and not a choker, he quite possibly has previously demonstrated the need for restraint. The mother is not yelling, running or struggling, but instead is walking deliberately, keeping her head held high. Such stature reflects the determination of other moms when they ignore, rather than give in to, a child's tantrum.
When I was a toddler, my parents took the family to visit the USS North Carolina. I was about three years old and can remember bits of our visit. It was the early '60s, the days before car seats and seat belts, but my mom believed in safety. A harness was available that could be secured by a seat belt, so mom bought it. A nifty gadget, I could have range of motion, but if she had to slam on brakes, I was secured to the seat. When we arrived at the ship, mom used the harness as a "leash" because I was extremely active and she envisioned me getting away and falling overboard. My parents heard people make comments under their breath and saw heads shake in disapproval. Still, I was safe and mom was thankful for the restraint. I remember wearing the harness and was only bothered because I knew I couldn't get away!
Payback is hell, and my own daughter graced me with the same unruliness I had provided for my mother. Except, Elizabeth's antics were laced with the thread of "no fear."
My mom could squeeze my hand in public and I knew the signal meant, "stop misbehaving." Getting my daughter to hold my hand was a challenge and when I tried squeezing a warning to her, she responded by collapsing to her knees and yelling, "Owwwww! STOP squeezing my hand .... you're HURTING me!"
She threw a tantrum in the grocery store so I ignored her and went around the corner. I waited for her to come running in fear. HA! When I feared for her safety and peered around the corner, she was happily playing with the stock.
Elizabeth's dad and I tried to calmly discipline her while we were shopping at JC Penney's. She was around three years old and enjoyed hiding in the racks of clothes. Exasperated, we decided to use a "scare" tactic. "Where's Elizabeth?" I asked, feigning concern." Her dad responded, "I don't know, maybe she's gone forever." We backed away, keeping an eye on the rack where she was hiding. We watched, crouched behind another rack, expecting her to pop out at any moment, with a look of terror at the prospect of being abandoned. We waited, stifling giggles of expectation. We watched, but there was no movement. Giggles turned to concern and we moved closer. She was gone. Fortunately, we guessed her direction correctly and caught up with her a few hundred feet down the aisle. She was happily toddling through the store without a care. So much for teaching her a lesson.
Watching this video only brings back the emotions tied to my own experiences and I absolutely can imagine myself in this woman's shoes. If I could go back in time, I'd do things a bit differently. Surveillance videos would catch me doing the same thing this woman is, with one difference - I'd have a smile on my face!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

FCC has "Little" problem

Joan Rivers has always been hysterically offensive and will poke fun at herself as much as she does others. Donald Trump is just offensive and everyone makes fun of him. I even risked insulting a dog when poking fun at Trump.
funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Together, Rivers and Trump have managed to upset a small - make that "little" - segment of the population by using the word "midget" on "Celebrity Apprentice." As a result, there has been an uprising a subversive move towards having the word banned from television.
As a writer, I know how important word choices can be. I also recognize that verbiage is only 10 percent of spoken communication. Intonation, intent, content, and body language all contribute to nuances of messages. Being politically correct is getting tiresome and this isn't the first time I've addressed the issue.
Banning a word from television doesn't make it any less or more offensive. In fact, such a ban is the technological equivalent of burning books. Instead of prohibiting language, discussion should be encouraged in order to educate the masses. Avoiding a word doesn't make it go away. The government, in this case the FCC, is not the authority that I want dictating public verbiage.
Certain words, in certain circumstances, uttered by certain people can make a word bad, funny, or just awkward.
I've heard the "n" word --WAIT --Trying to be politically correct here is an oxymoron!
Correction: I've heard the word "nigger" used by racists and felt disgusted at hearing it. I've laughed hearing the word spoken by black comedians in jokes or scripts. I've also rolled my eyes when hearing my own grandfather use the word, not as an epithet, but only because he was born at the cusp of the 20th century and it defined his culture. Sure I scolded him, was embarrassed for him, but I also recognized he meant no harm.
Sometimes efforts to be politically correct can backfire, such as the case when Houston's director of affirmative action called a councilman a midget instead of a dwarf and the public official took offense. The employee giggled when she made the mistake, which seemed to add insult to injury. Perhaps, the giggle was a natural reaction to an embarrassing mistake. Immature maybe, but not derogatory.
At other times, political correctness can move the harm from one set of toes, and cause someone else's to fall victim. A "little person" in El Paso was interviewed regarding the proposed ban. Daniel "Tiny Titi" Moreno finds the term "midget" offensive. He doesn't mind being called tiny but endorses the ban. He also has the nickname "Titi." At first glance, I was personally offended at what I thought was one of the seven words banned on television, made famous by George Carlin. Titi is actually pronounced TEE-tee, which I am not sure is any better than my first impression.
I was a young child when I learned that midgets and dwarfs were not the same. Dwarfism is actually a condition causing disproportion in a person's body. Generally the head is average in size but the body is smaller, with specific attributes. A midget is a miniature version - proportionate, just smaller. A pygmy is even smaller than a midget. These are real terms with genuine definitions. They didn't develop from slang and the term "little people" has emerged within the current generation as the preferred terminology.
I've heard people stumble over the words in an effort to be polite in describing a little person, ultimately shrugging or nodding, indicating no harm, no foul.
It is hard enough to get people to play by the rules, but when the rules are changed mid-game, we have to offer some sort of allowance. When I was a kid, I was called "crippled" because I walked with crutches. I knew people didn't mean harm, but the word made me cringe. Handicapped became the choice word until "disabled" became the norm; and now, the term has graduated to "physically challenged." A person is no longer mentally retarded, nor do they have "Downs Syndrome," or any other brain injury. Instead, they are now "mentally challenged."
Increasing vocabulary and expanding our ability to describe our fellow humans is a plus. However, the most mundane word can be twisted to invoke hatred.
1) What is that? - an innocent question about an object
2) Did you see that? - an accusation of something inappropriate
3) She thinks she's all that! - a derogatory comment
The issue is not words, but what people are actually saying. We must stop "hearing" and start "listening."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Nicole "Zamboni" Bobek

Nicole Bobek has been arrested and charged with being part of a drug ring. The former figure skating champion has homes in New Jersey and Florida and is believed to be involved in the distribution of methamphetamine.
Hmmm ... Imagine that - a figure skater in a ring, manufacturing and distributing "ice" ... Let's call her "Zamboni"!!
If she gets caught in the "snow" or starts "speed" skating, does that mean she's an all-around winter sports champ? Does living in Florida and maintaining a NJ home make her a "snow bird"? Unfortunately, the evidence is piling up, and this gal may end up a caged bird.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Anti-Abortion Terrorists

The murder of Dr. George Tiller and subsequent discussions have me recalling incidents where my own ob/gyn has feared for his life.
Dr. Tiller was in the foyer of his church when a 51-year-old man shot and killed Tiller for performing abortions. A radical pro-lifer felt justified in killing a physician - a grown, well-educated man that was meeting a medical need in a legal and safe manner. Such vigilantism is pious and sacrilegious, going against the very nature of pro-life mantras. Members of pro-life organizations speak of perpetuating life, yet they have no concern for quality of life. Jim Buie addresses the issue using a very personal example, with his recent article in Newsweek.
When I first met my gynecologist, I was impressed with the questions he asked. He wanted to know about me, what I wanted for the future and whether I had concerns. It wasn't the usual rubber stamp process and he looked me directly in the eyes. When I became pregnant with my second child, he became well-informed about my first pregnancy and considered me high-risk. While I knew he deeply cared about my baby, I also knew he focused on me as the patient. I did not become a mere host, secondary to the potential developing person.
I never felt rushed in his presence. During one visit, when I had questions, he put down the pen and file, sat down, looked at me squarely and said - "okay - what's on your mind." He was paged three times for a phone call and never flinched, never took his eyes off of me. The nurse poked her head in the room, and said, "Dr. X is on the phone for you!" My doctor calmly said, "Tell him I will call him back." Complete focus - what every patient dreams of - was mine.
His care and concern stayed with me and when I found out a local group of anti-abortionists were harassing my doctor (one of only two physicians performing abortions in the area at that time) and his family, I was livid. I cheered when the local paper reported he was filing a law suit and called his answering service to leave a message of support. Even the operator seemed pleasantly surprised at my message of goodwill, indicating she had been fielding a majority of hate calls.
Because of the intrusions he has suffered at the hands of zealots, I have respected his privacy and avoided asking direct questions about his experience. Still, I learned that protesters gathered regularly at his home, blocking the driveway, following his children, and presenting in a threatening manner. He finally moved to a gated community where all visitors are screened.
In an interesting twist, my mother recently moved to a retirement community and her next door neighbor happens to be one of the protesters sued by my physician. I haven't dared inform the neighbor of the odd connection. I know her as a wonderful woman who has a heart of gold, yet mom has held witness to this neighbor's piousness when she gets on her anti-abortion soapbox. She believes innocent children are being taken to slaughter by the millions and lets her opinion be known whenever possible.
In her mind, the protesters quietly pray for divine intervention. Yet, medical professionals have died at the hands of zealots justifying their actions in God's name with the belief that abortion is wrong. Instinct has us learn to avoid danger by avoiding those who could potentially cause harm. To stalk someone and then gaze in disbelief when accused of harassment and threatening behaviors is incredulous.
Regardless of individual beliefs, we can not begin to understand the decision that is made by each woman pursuing an abortion. To further compound the issue by interfering with a woman's right to quality medical care is barbaric. Most of all, doctors should not have to fear for their lives to provide those rights.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Vortex of violence

Bob Sweeney: There was a moment... when I used to blame everything and everyone... for all the pain and suffering and vile things that happened to me, that I saw happen to my people. Used to blame everybody. Blamed white people, blamed society, blamed God. I didn't get no answers 'cause I was asking the wrong questions. You have to ask the right questions.
Derek Vinyard: Like what?
Bob Sweeney: Has anything you've done made your life better?

Today concludes a week filled with irony in actions that merged history with present day. An 88-year-old white supremacist (allegedly shot and) killed an African-American guard at the entrance of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC two days before what would have been Anne Frank's 80th birthday. The play "Anne and Emmitt" - an imagined dialogue between Anne Frank and Emmitt Till - was to open at the museum the same evening of the shooting, but of course was postponed.
Whether coincidence or deliberately planned, FX network ran "American History X" several times this weekend. If you haven't seen the movie, find it, buy it, rent it - but be prepared to be shocked. Breaking all taboos, the movie lays racism, supremacy and hatred on the line and adds on heavy violence and language.
The message is strong - if only it could be required for all high school students. Then again, maybe it takes a certain level of intelligence to understand the movie's message - an intelligence that von Brunn lacks.
The main character's younger brother writes a paper, concluding with a quote from Abraham Lincoln:
Danny Vinyard: So I guess this is where I tell you what I learned - my conclusion, right? Well, my conclusion is: Hate is baggage. Life's too short to be pissed off all the time. It's just not worth it. Derek says it's always good to end a paper with a quote.
He says someone else has already said it best. So if you can't top it, steal from them and go out strong. So I picked a guy I thought you'd like. 'We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.'

A turning point in the film, Derek Vineyard (Edward Norton) symbolically sheds his negativity, with flashbacks of himself and his younger brother at the beach. The swastika remains, perhaps as a scar of his internal battle that led to his hatred.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Fire department focus of flaming

An article in today's News & Record reports that the City of Greensboro's hiring practices may be discriminating against minorities seeking jobs with the fire and police departments. Judging by readers' commentary, I'd say a diverse population has come to a consensus: the article itself is lacking fair representation.
Casting a shadow over the ceremony for 19 graduates of the fire department's training program, the reporter spouts statistics proving the diversity of the department is not reflective of the city's population. While the writer focuses on race, she fails to note the lacking diversity of women and that more than 16 percent of the population is over the age of 60. Do we want older firefighters, too? The "right" people can not be forced to apply for specific jobs.
One possible reason given for the imbalance is the fact that minorities are not passing the entrance exams. Applicants are required to answer half the questions correctly. Only 50 percent, folks! Most schools consider a grade below 60 as failing. I doubt the city is issuing SATs but if tests go beyond the scope of job needs, then revision may be appropriate. However, keep in mind that mathematical reasoning coincides with critical thinking skills. Firefighting is not just spraying water on flames. Precise science and related aptitudes are required.
Greensboro's fire department maintains excellent Accreditation and ISO ratings because of their operational standards, which includes hiring policies. I, along with a majority of other article commentators, want the best of the best coming to the rescue when flames are lapping at our heels and consuming our homes.
When someone is willing to fight for lives and property; when he (or she) puts his body and mind through extensive training; when he takes an oath and graduates with a class of others who comparably excel - that firefighter deserves recognition that goes beyond any demographic label. - Medical Fire Shields

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Playing for Change

Music. Sometimes the sounds are so powerful there are no words to describe them; the player's energy makes contact with the listener, ripping through to his very soul. Even the most hard-hearted can be moved to tears with no explanation. Playing for Change has managed to create a grassroots movement with musicians that have created this auditory strength, and I dare anyone to stand in its way.
Starting in Santa Monica, California, a street musician was recorded while playing "Stand by Me." The recording has literally gone around the world, and, at various stops, other musicians have added tracks.
The music alone is great, but when punctuated by the realization that these people have never met, are not famous, and simply displayed their talents on the street in an effort to create a single, harmonic tune to prove the world can work together in a way that is pleasing to everyone, the glass ceiling is shattered.
A number of songs have been created, and celebrities like Bono and Norman Lear are putting their efforts behind the movement, but the promotion is being fueled by social media. I'm adding a log to the fire and extending a torch. Visit the website, watch the video, and pass the flame.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

State employees face wage cut

I've been a bit discombobulated lately with trying to develop my personal marketing plan for potential job leads, teaching part-time at a community college, and resisting the urge to dive under my sheets and wish the world away. Still, I keep plugging away, fueled by the rewards of seeing students in my classes progress and grow in their quest for knowledge. It is in this endeavor where my current post has sprouted.

The issue
North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue has taken drastic action to help restore the state's ailing budget. Making a profound and obviously difficult decision, Perdue is recalling 0.5 percent of state employees' annual salaries. Every person employed by the state is affected, including school teachers, college professors, staff, faculty, and employees with various state agencies. Considering this half-percent cut totals $65 million, it's a small sacrifice on the part of state employees, yet a drop in the bucket when one considers the state is facing a $3 billion deficit.

Individual sacrifice
Theoretically, someone earning $40,000 a year, (certainly not me)would have $200 deducted from their paycheck(s) between now and June 30. The logistics have not been finalized, but this could mean $100 out of each paycheck in May and June or a one-time deduction from either check. If I were fortunate enough to make $40K annually, I probably wouldn't notice the deduction. However, for many people living paycheck to paycheck, the cut is going to bleed. In my case, the cut is only a few dollars and going from broke to broker isn't much of a stretch!

I like Perdue, and her solution is innovative. Not since World War II have citizens of this country been encouraged to share the burden for an altruistic cause. Americans used to do without nylons, sugar, and meat and felt they were contributing to the cause by doing so. The pay cut, just like war rations, is not voluntary, but, with the right PR, Perdue could actually raise the spirits of state employees who are sacrificing individually for the benefit of the whole. (Insert "Old North State" music here).

NC vs. Feds
On the other hand, there are some problems with the enforced recall.
The federal government has issued incentives and stimuli - literally free money - for improving the economy, yet the state feels it is necessary to revoke hard-earned salaries. (Ok, it's not free, but it's immediate cash flow vs. Perdue's revocation of cash). Some might even consider Perdue's actions seccessional: the proverbial state spittle shot towards the federal eye.

Contract? What contract?
Many, if not all, educators, have contracts that specify their salaries. My contract, signed by the college's representative, states how much money I am to be paid per hour and the specific amount I will be paid each month. In turn, I signed the contract in agreement. Is it legal for Perdue to break the legally binding contracts made in good faith between schools and employees? If it is legal, should all contracted workers be leary of signing future contracts? The state solicits bids on various jobs such as highway paving and building projects. Through contractual agreement, the business is guaranteed the money; the state is guaranteed the work. If the governor can step in at any time and break the contract, what recourse is available? I can't imagine a paving contractor conceding to a post-contractual reduction! In no way am I suggesting a class-action lawsuit - the state has enough troubles. Yet, Perdue is, in essence, stealing from her employees which is not a way to win their loyalty.

Lottery fund - Kah-Ching!
Somewhere among the state's budget line items, are lottery receipts. Against focused protests, but to the delight of the residential majority, the state lottery was passed just a few years ago. Net profits are designated to benefit North Carolina's educational system. Like the lottery, the state's food tax was initiated in the '60s by former Gov. Terry Sanford, in an effort to raise money for education. Unfortunately, the additional tax dollars were quickly absorbed by the general budget and the designation long forgotten. Have our lottery funds gone the way of the food tax? What happened to the millions intended for additional educational funds? Perhaps, instead of providing additional educational dollars, the lottery proceeds are merely replacing the original educational budget which now may be diverted to other budget lines. Has the educational system really seen an increase? Shouldn't the lottery help prevent already under-paid teachers from suffering Perdue's sweeping salary recall?

Money comes and goes so quickly!
In recent months I lost a job at a municipally-funded non-profit agency. We saw years where no pay raise was available to us, yet the city employees whined because they only received a four or five percent raise. The most recent pay raise for this particular agency was a one-half percent annual pay increase, which would be administered as a one-percent increase over six months. Perdue's cut doesn't affect this agency, but if it did, these employees would see their meager raises taken away.

Drastic times call for drastic measures, and it is time for Americans to pull together in a call to action. The rich are suffering while the poor are gouged to the bone. Over the years, I have paid numerous visits to state and municipal agencies and have dealt with a multitude of employees. I can name very few employees that have shown exemplary customer service, much less acted as though they appreciated their jobs. I also know that I am not the only one to complain about poor teacher performance or bad service from state employees. Perhaps these are the ones that should have holes cut in their pockets, or better yet, let the public vote on the ones who get to keep their cushy state jobs! If a can were placed next to every state employee, and the public were able to put votes into those cans, state employees would actually be held accountable to the tax payers that provide their salaries, Perdue would be off the hook, and state residents would have cause to rally together!

Fodder for Ewe
Unfortuately there are no simple solutions. If there were, we wouldn't be in this mess. The bottom line is written in red. We all are suffering financial woes and the economy is in baaaaaad shape. Still, there is hope, and, one-by-one, the flock can jump the hurdles ahead. As we shear our wool and head to market, remember the give and take required for a circular economy. We caaaan't be afraaaaid to spend, we must never hoaaaard, yet we should always, always, keep our eye out for the wolves dressed like ewe!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Twitter help

If I don't get my butt in gear, this blog will die from lack of attention! Still, lack of attention here doesn't mean I haven't been busy elsewhere. A new task seems to jumble everything around but once the dust settles, I can usually steer things in the right direction again.
One of my latest projects was to develop a new video. Twitter is rising fast in the social media stream but there are still a lot of people that haven't even heard of it. After seeing a number of questions from newbies, I decided to highlight how to get started. With a basic launch pad, folks can blast off with Twitter and tweet around the world. I'm planning to do more and am going to try to find new and different angles on the how-to of Twitterdom. Suggestions? Questions? Leave them in comments and I'll respond!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Paranormal activity

Not only have I veered away from my normal routine, making my actions "para" normal, I have gotten involved with a new group delving into the "real" paranormal. (Is that an oxymoron?) As a couple of us work to stabilize a fledgling group, I find myself immersed in articles, information, blogs, and banter.

From the age of 3, I have experienced interactions with the paranormal, but until more recent years, I have kept my recounts low-key. People already thought I was weird, so I saw no need to fuel the fire. With the onslaught of a myriad of television programs addressing "the other side," paranormal discussions have become more mainstream.

The change in society's barometer has me pondering a couple of points. Television is given far too much power in our lives, shaping societal attitudes and opinions. Rather than people gathering information and really analyzing data for themselves, they accept everything on television as-is. In some rarer cases, there are those on the opposite side of the spectrum denouncing everything on television.

Another point that bugs me is how, suddenly, there are paranormal "experts" that general followers assume are skilled and credentialed. Efforts to standardize paranormal investigation are great but in a field where there are no proven statistics, I should think that the game is still developing rules.

Theatrics, editing, eerie music, and over-zealous networks with big investments have set the tone for ghost hunting. Grocery store rag sheets take photos of stars with unusual expressions and apply totally irrelevant cut lines; the same is possible with clever television editing. In some cases, the shows are staged. Imagine that!

Unfortunately all the drama created by media has created a sub-set of thrill-seekers rather than legitimate evidence-based investigators. The saying, "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup" is apropos to this situation. The inexperienced and unskilled are jumping into settings unprepared, stirring up activities that are best left alone. Ouija boards are bad - period. Yet there seems to be a resurgence in their use, and I even saw one in an advertisement about "finding the love of your life."

Looking for truth and evidence is honorable. Seeking cheap thrills by riding on the coattails of others - living or dead - is downright criminal.

If you want to learn more visit: or find us on twitter at

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A job worth doing

Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves,
some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all.
~ Sam Ewing ~

Recently, I stopped at an unfamiliar gas station and filled up the tank. The station was at a busy intersection, had plenty of pumps, and a good flow of customers. Still, it looked dingy and depressed. An older woman was in the cashier's booth alone and she seemed pleasant enough. I wouldn't expect her to be out scrubbing pumps or sweeping after dark, but surely someone would care enough to clean up a little.

As I waited at the pump, I read the sign above my head. (I'm short so everything is above my head). The contrast between the signs' statements and the appearance of the station gave me cause to chuckle. I suppose someone found "a little better" way to put up the notice with duct tape.

No matter what your job is, someone will notice if you do good work and a LOT of people will notice if you don't.

The sign states:

Your visit,
a little better
From clean facilities and friendly service, to quality fuels – every
time you stop by, you can count on BP to make your day a little better.Thanks for filling up, and come back soon. For a little more fun, visit a little better

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Just Peach-y

South Carolina ranks second in the nation for peach production, with California coming in first and Georgia third. On Interstate 85, just south of the North Carolina-South Carolina border, Gaffney, SC created a water tower that pays homage to this wonderful fruit.

If memory serves correctly, Jerry Bledsoe, formerly of the Greensboro News and Record, wrote about this wonderful icon, noting it's similarity to an elephant's butt.

I recently ventured south and grabbed my camera as I approached the border. Since I was doing about 70 mph and didn't have time to pull off the road, I snapped off a few shots and hoped for the best. My first photo was the typical highway approach shot. As I neared, I was in for a surprise.

I had heard that this once desolate area had acquired some outlets and restaurants but I was quite shocked when I saw the stores. I suppose the famous elephant's butt has produced enough fertilizer to encourage growth. Someone was even clever enough to put a particular restaurant at the foot of the tower, giving a whole new meaning to the term "fat ass." Perhaps that should be "Fatz Azz"?

Housing Horror

Television holds few shows that I will watch religiously but one of my top favorites is Bill Maher on HBO. He manages to get an eclectic mix of people on his panels and has various guests on representing both conservative and liberal views, though the show is primarily liberal. My primary reason for watching is that I am able to get tidbits of news that seems to be overlooked by mainstream media.

Tonight's panel included Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) who is serving her 10th term in office. Among the interesting insights into the current state of the economy and the bailouts, Waters commented that "Americans have no idea how bad things really are." If that wasn't depressing enough, Maher pointed out that the housing market in Detroit is the worst in the nation. The motor city represents more than just a segment of the U.S. population - it stands for American ingenuity, pride, commerce, and manufacturing. According to Maher, the average home in Motown is going for $16,000 and the city is a "Ghost Town."

I was in such disbelief, assumed he was exaggerating, and I did some research of my own. A year ago, eFinance was already talking about the "Housing Market Nighmare" in Detroit. In June '08 the average Detroit home was going for $20,000 and by December, the average was down to $18,500. Now, according to the Chicago Tribune, the average rate is $7,500 - much lower than Maher's dismal report.

In August, a woman bought a Detroit home as an investment property and paid only $1.00 . That's ONE dollar! I suppose, if she had held out a bit longer, she could have gotten it for half that price!

The only thing I find spookier than a ghost town is the frightening state of the economy. The economy is baaaaad but we can't go getting our woolen undies in a twist. We can't panic, we can't quit spending and we certainly can't run from the problem. Instead, we need to be educated about trends, be aware of the issues and make sensible decisions for a stronger future.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Power of the Blog

Exactly two weeks ago, I posted "Public and accessible" which described the antics of trying to access a public building in my hometown. As I thought about the problem, I knew I should do more than just bemoan the issue here. I wrote an email, included the post's link and sent it to the county commissioners, the county manager and the county attorney.
I am pleased to report that two of the commissioners responded, promising to look into the issue. Interim County Manager Brenda Fox responded with a letter, (hard copy, signed and sent through the USPS!) dated February 10. I'd like to share this with you because I always give fair consideration to all sides of an issue.

Dear Ms. Carter:
This correspondence is in regard to your February 1, 2009 e-mail to myself and the Board of County Commissioners concerning access issues at the Guilford County Courthouse in Greensboro.
The Courthouse is in the midst of a large renovation that has created some inconvenience to our customers. Many different areas have been modified and/or blocked off for some period of time. As a part of this renovation, the Lower Ground (LG) entrance on Eugene Street has been closed to the general public but remains open for use as handicap entrance in compliance with A.D.A. regulations.
After receiving your e-mail, I check and discovered that, indeed, there was tape across the door and a sign indication (sic) no entry. This signage has been removed and proper signage will be put on the entrance door immediately.
As a part of the renovation project, we will be creating and installing a new sign package for the entire building which will correct all old signage and better reflect the changes we have made to the building. The new signs should correct the old signs and make navigating the Courthouse easier than before.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your correspondence and your interest in Guilford County. I sincerely regret your trouble and any inconvenience you experienced on your trip to the Courthouse. With your input and the new signage package, we hope to make your next trip a little easier.
Brenda Fox

I must admit, it is nice to find a positive and simple solution in a day where bureaucracy tends to get in the way!
Good job Guilford County!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Stewards of the Land

The now infamous photo of a fireman giving water to a koala that survived Australia's wildfire has been seared into my mind. I feel sad for the many human victims of the disaster down under but nothing compares to the anguish I feel for the lost terrain and wildlife.

People have greater chances of survival in such situations. I don't know all the details of this particular travesty, but generally humans have the opportunity to get out of harm's way. Wildfires are a little trickier than some events because they have been known to jump, winds can be less predictable, and people near the initial outbreak are more prone to be caught by surprise. Those that choose to wait until the last possible minute to get out are just asking for trouble and I honestly don't have much patience with them.

Tornadoes, lightning strikes, tsunamis, earthquakes and other sudden events do evoke more sympathetic responses from me so I am not totally brash.

Still, I get the impression that people don't really think about the consequences of disasters as they relate to animals and the environment. While approximately 200 people have perished in Australia, more than 1 million animals have been sacrificed not to mention the charred terrain encompassing an area twice the size of London. What seems to be the act of an arson has completely disrupted the balance of nature on the other side of the world. Trees and plants provide oxygen, the food chain leading up to human needs has been interrupted. In the case of the Koala, eucalyptus forests were destroyed and will limit their grazing territory.

Humans are stewards of the land and animals yet we destroy rain forests and wildlife with the belief there is "plenty to spare." New species have been discovered in South American jungles in the last year. We have no idea what unknown creatures were destroyed in Australia. Animals (including humans) and plant life interact to maintain balance in nature. When there is a major jolt to the system, the balance will fail.

We may not see change right away, but the effects will be felt thanks to a pyromaniac. When watching the news, look beyond the human travesty and take in the whole picture before "ewe" think it only affects another herd.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Public and accessible?

My frustrations with governmental bureaucracy have escalated since recent visits to the Guilford County Courthouse. I can empathize with the paper trails and the fact that these folks have to deal with the "general" public so my complaints are not typical. My disgust is focused on the maze of navigating entry. The architect designing this place should be shot and the idiots that approved the plan should be sentenced to navigating the facility daily sans use of "employee only" doorways.

Herein is my saga. According to county ordinances, my mother needed to file my father's will within one year of his death. He passed away in November and she wants to get these types of needling tasks out of the way. Everything they owned is either in her name or jointly titled. She is the sole heir and executrix - very tidy and uncomplicated.

Mom has COPD and has a handicapped parking identification tag. She drives as little as possible and I have been taking her on these more complicated excursions. The day we went happened to be the coldest for our area this year (around 19 degrees by mid-day). I concede that it was a poor choice of days in relation to her health but I can't help the weather didn't cooperate with my schedule.

The Estates office is in the Guilford County Courthouse which shares a courtyard with the Greensboro Municipal building. I've bounced around in both buildings and can get around fairly well. This was my first trip trying to navigate with a physically challenged person since 9/11 and Homeland Security.

We parked in a "wheelie" spot in the shared parking lot and walked to an entrance about 50 feet away marked "Handicapped." This entrance went into the municipal building but I knew we could go through the building, up an elevator and easily cut across the courtyard.I pushed a speaker button to gain access to the building. The woman asked where we were going. I responded and she said, "I'm sorry but I can't let you in this door. You have to go over to the courthouse entrance." I quickly explained mom needed to get out of the cold ASAP and the courthouse entrance was up a huge flight of stairs. The unidentified voice apologized, refused our entrance and said we could enter the courthouse on the street level through their handicapped entrance.

We turned around and walked across the parking lot, the entire length of the county building (about a half a block), turned the corner and walked another 50 feet to a wheelchair ramp. At the bottom of the ramp were two sets of darkly tinted doors. One set had signs "NO ENTRANCE" and the other set were marked "EMPLOYEES ONLY." The employee entrance was unlocked so I went in prepared to spout ADA regulations if we were refused access. Inside the lobby, a glass wall separated the two sets of doors. The security guard on the "no entrance" side started yelling and came around to our side. She was mean, ugly and yelling: "You can't come in this way. You have to use the main entrance" I retorted, "We're not leaving - she's disabled and we can't navigate the steps. Where's the handicapped entrance?" Ms. "Beulah Balbricker" instructed us to come into the "no entrance" side which is the handicapped entrance. On that side, they had the security scanners and walk-through. I said, "We didn't know we could come in here because it says 'no entrance.'" Beulah said they don't mark it as handicapped because if they did, everyone would suddenly become handicapped. I didn't say anything - I COULDN'T say anything - my jaw was hanging open. I think God had a hand in it, too because if I had been able to speak, the words that would have come forth would have caused my certain arrest. Mom needed a ride home so I stayed out of jail.

We passed one set of non-public elevators located next to the handicapped-marked-no-entrance-entrance and walked through a labyrinth of hallways to get to the public elevators which are adjacent to the courtyard entrance on the far side of the building. Then we walked back through the halls to get to the Estates office, which is located directly above the handicapped-marked-no-entrance-entrance.

Thankfully, the folks in the Estate office are very kind, helpful and maintain the atmosphere of a funeral home - very unlike the scallywags wandering the halls around courtrooms and paying fines at the clerk of court's office.

We worked our way back downstairs and I told mom to wait by the door. I dashed out to the lot to retrieve the car. Looking at my watch, the meter was going to run out any minute. Looking across the lot, the officer was already writing a ticket. I approached and started a futile argument. 1) We're in a handicapped spot so getting back on the dot might not be possible, especially with the maze that takes longer to navigate; 2) the meter JUST ran out; 3) accessibility is pathetic meaning they take advantaged of disabled folks by charging more for parking or issuing tickets knowing it will take them longer to get into and out of the building.

The meter maid (or meter male in this case) apologized because 1) he didn't know when the meter ran out since he was just coming back from lunch 2) once he starts issuing a ticket, he can't stop.

Again, I mumbled under my breath to avoid arrest.

We filed the will but there is debate over what type of letter we need for one insurance company. One document will cost around $60 the other only $30. I went back on my own (using the stairs which were unkind to my asthma) but there is still debate, so after clarifying between my mom and the insurance company, I will trek up there for a third trip.

I treasure the fact that I can be of help to my mom. I do not mind the files, documents and other red tape. I'll empty my purse, show that my camera is really a working photographic device, demonstrate that my penlight has dead batteries, walk through scanners and let the guard "do me with his magic wand." What I do mind is the hodgepodge of locked doors, barriers, yellow tape, and obstacle courses established for taxpayers to gain entry into a "PUBLIC" building.

Below - the view is of the courthouse steps. The county building's handicapped entrance is hidden and unmarked behind these stairs. Currently, the entrance of the courthouse is sloppily cordoned off with yellow tape and everyone must go to the opposite side of the building.

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Below, the view of the parking lot shows the city's handicapped entrance (straight ahead) with the handicapped parking just to the right. If you navigate the view a bit, and look behind the tree on the left,you can see the steps that unchallenged pedestrians are supposed to climb in order to access the county building.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Twitter tweets

A recent blog regarding Twitter protocol stimulated my small literary repertoire. To re-tweet or not to re-tweet was the question. 'Tis nobler to recognize the author than to forsake the attribute, in my most humble of opinions. Some believe the full statement should be re-posted and others believe the mere mention of said Tweet should satiate the appetite of those that ache to dine on others' crumbs. Though I believe it is wise to not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for I am crunchy and good with ketchup, the stir over retweets can be likened to a tempest in a teapot. As a gesture of homage, I dedicate the following parody to Twitter.

by Iris Carter

based on
Say over again... (Sonnet 21)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Say over again, and yet once over again,
That Tweet thou dost love. Though the words repeated
Should seem "a cuckoo-song," as thou dost tweet it,
Remember, never to the Mac or PC,
iPhone or SMS, without her cuckoo-strain
Comes Twitter in all her text completed.
Followers, I, amid the tweets greeted
By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt’s pain
Cry, "Speak once more—thou Tweet!" Who can fear
Too many posts, though each in sequence shall scroll,
Too many following, though each shall read and cheer?
Say thou dost Tweet, Tweet, Tweet—toll
The silver iterance!—only minding, Dear,
To Re-Tweet me also with honorable intent and toil.


Say over again... (Sonnet 21)

Say over again, and yet once over again,
That thou dost love me. Though the word repeated
Should seem "a cuckoo-song," as thou dost treat it,
Remember, never to the hill or plain,
Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strain
Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.
Belov├Ęd, I, amid the darkness greeted
By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt’s pain
Cry, "Speak once more—thou lovest!" Who can fear
Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll,
Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?
Say thou dost love me, love me, love me—toll
The silver iterance!—only minding, Dear,
To love me also in silence with thy soul.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Grammar Slammer

I've always been a stickler for grammar. The English language is a treasure for me and I love to manipulate words and sentences. I now have a new part-time job teaching composition at a local community college. In fact, getting organized with a new schedule has put me behind on my blogging but I think I am getting back on track, now!
Editing one's own writing is difficult because we often see what we intended to write, not what is actually on the page. I'm sure there are errors in my blogs as well as other works but I do try to proofread as much as possible.
In my first classes last week, we discussed the important of writing well. I contended that if everyone could write, I wouldn't have a career - both as a teacher and as an editor. When I questioned the class about reading something that is written poorly, they stated that it reflects on the writer. The person is perceived as less intelligent and non-credible.
A friend emailed a link to me for a blog that focuses on blog tips. My immediate reaction was, "great concept!" Unfortunately, the writing is full of errors with changing tenses and mismatched subject/verbs. I hope someone will pass along a tip to this poor soul that obviously had good intentions. Maybe I will go back myself and offer some friendly advice. In the meantime, heed my warning here lamb chops: Baaaad writing = baaaaad reputation!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Twitter Litter

Twitter Litter
1. Scattered rubbish posted by tweeters on Twitter
2. A condition of disorder on Twitter caused by useless tweets
3. Propaganda spread on Twitter by egocentric tweeters

I follow a variety of people on Twitter. Some folks follow me in return, some don't. Some have thousands of followers, some have only a few. Some tweet often, others go days without tweets. I often find great links to much needed information or enjoy a friendly "hello" from someone I've met online.

As I perused tweets one evening, I came across a comment by someone ranking high in their number of followers. It seems they had gotten some unkind remarks from another tweeter and were goading more reaction. I followed links to responses and figured out the tiff between egos. Admittedly, I got voyeuristic pleasure from watching the public lobs yet I also realized I was following someone merely because they are a noted guru of social media. This person has not provided any useful information for me yet I follow because others continually comment on his popularity and knowledge.

Why are we compelled to follow the herd instead of our instincts? I suppose I fear missing some great epiphany from this almighty and powerful tweeter however if he did happen to drop a morsel worthy of nibbling, I'd miss it because I don't do anything to track his tweets. Maybe I follow, assuming that thousands of others must have a valid reason that I am overlooking.

Whether it's Twitter or other networking sites, we should consider our own needs and not those of popular opinion. If someone is leaving an abundance of Twitter litter on your page, toss them in the trash and avoid the litter bugs. Follow someone that is going to lead you in a positive direction.