04 May 2011

Quote Unquote, or Don't Forget I am NEVER Wrong!

I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Unless you don’t do the whole Facebook thing, or you don’t watch the news, you’ve seen or heard about this quote.  Lots of hullaballoo about it.  Did MLK say it?  Yes.  No.  On and on.  A little research would solve this whole dilemma, but it seems no one knows how to do it.

But I did.  Because I used it on a posting and someone jumped on it and told me it was mis-attributed.  So I checked.  Which I should have done in the first place.  Silly me.  Expecting the people who FB to be concerned about correct.

And I discovered that it all depends on where you put the quotation marks.

Seems the first sentence was written by a FBer (I can’t track down the true identity for certain and I don’t care enough at this point to pursue it any further) and the rest was, indeed by Dr. King.  The passage comes from his 1963 book Strength to Love: 

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says "Love your enemies," he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. ... The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

So why am I coming out of my long silence to write about something trivial like this?

It’s not to preach the importance of proper punctuation, although that is important. 

It’s not to preach the importance of checking something out before you say it, although that, too, is important.

It’s not even to comment on Dr. King’s quote, although it is a powerful and profound sentiment.

It’s to remind folks that I am NEVER wrong!  After I posted the first quote and was questioned about it, I did my research and went back and explained where my mistake was.  THEN this morning some little chit comes on and says I am still wrong and that there was a news story and everything saying the whole thing was made up.


I wanted to go smack her for being stupid.  Obviously she didn’t really listen to the whole story (I have no illusions that she READ it anywhere!).  And if she read my initial response she would have seen the correction and source information.  But noooo-ooooo.  It’s much more fun to jump on the bandwagon and say what everyone else says, and then feel all superior and smart.

Dumb bimbo.

(Note to anyone who is reading this…..I am just having a little fun at some nameless gal’s expense.  But remember, I am NEVER wrong!  Even when I spend half of this blog talking about the initial mistake I made!)

19 April 2011

Remembering Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995

It's an iconic photo.  Part of America's history.  An image of a tragedy in my country.  One lone portrayal capable of humanizing an epic slaughter in a city I know and love.  Since that day in 1995 we have, unfortunately, faced even greater destruction of American lives in this country - Washington DC; Shanksville, PA; New York City.

As a historian I am accustomed to studying death and tragedy.  Wars and rebellions.  Massacres and individual murders.  My hobby honors those who fought and died in the US Civil War.  I have visited many of the monuments and cemeteries in this nation which honor and remember those who died:  large national graveyards, small roadside memorials, memorials that strive to teach and remember and explain, and those which simply are.  Each one is a poignant reminder of those whose lives were cut short by war, by murder, by nature.

I visit them and I try to maintain a professional cool.  I take photos.  I make notes of architectural styles, the poems and other written words and how they are used to direct our thoughts a certain way.  I note whose names are missing (the hijackers of Flight 93 are not mentioned by name anywhere in the memorial, even the transcripts of the cockpit voice recorder simply list them as "male voice in Arabic" or "hijacker"). 

But the historian always loses out to the person.  I become a mother who looks at row upon row of tombstones or tiny chairs or endless names and thinks of the devastation my only son's death would wreak on my life.  I read the mementos, the letters, the testimonies, I see the little handmade items brimming with love and longing and my heart nearly breaks for the sorrow of the mourners.

George Santayana said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.  Albert Einstein is (improperly) credited with saying that the definition of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.  I cross this great nation of ours and see these memorials to insanity and forgetfulness (or read the paper or watch the news) and I despair.  Are we doomed to forever be ruled by and ruined by a few petty individuals who have no regard for life and love and hope and humanity?

But I remember what Mahatma Gandhi said.  "Remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won.  There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it:  always."   And Robert F. Kennedy gives me hope with his reminder that "It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.  Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope."

So perhaps these photographs and monuments and memorials are here to remind of what we have lost, but also to remind up that in the end evil loses, and that in each tragedy or war or massacre there are also stories of heroism and bravery and goodness and love.

Today as I remember the horror and fear that was perpetrated on 168 people in Oklahoma City - and their families and friends, their city, their state, their nation - I will also remind myself that there were brave men and women who leaped to assist, who rendered aid, who comforted the terrified and grieving, and who immediately got to work to find and punish those responsible for this evil.  And I will take comfort and hope.

History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed.  They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats. - B.C. Forbes

28 March 2011

Woke him up screaming two nights in a row

Poor Scott, it was his Spring Break last week, and he wanted to stay up late and sleep in until noon, and two nights in a row my screaming woke him up out of a dead sleep.

Normally I am not a screamer.  Not that kind, either.  ;-)  I am quiet and reserved just about all of the time.  Even nightmares don't set me to hollering.  I might be too scared to sleep without all of the lights on, but I rarely make any noise.

But last week.....well that was a different story.

The first night was totally Scott's fault.  HE was having the vivid dream, in which he was arguing with his brother, John.  To make a point about how serious he was, Scott pinched John's arm.  Only it wasn't John's arm.  It was me who got pinched.  Imagine you are blamelessly sleeping away, not hogging the covers, not stealing pillows, not taking up more than your share of the bed, when you are wakened up by your beloved viciously pinching you.  Yep, I woke up to the sound of my screaming (and a severe pain that ended up in a bruise).  Poor Scott was scared out of his mind from HIS deep sleep.  We laughed it off shakily and went back to sleep.

The next night I dreamed that I was in a bowling alley after hours (do not ask me why, I don't recall anymore, but as is always true in dreams, it made sense then).  Scott and the bowling alley owner were out in the parking lot discussing who knows what.  The bowling alley suddenly got dark as the security system kicked in.  Afraid that I would set off sirens I tried to hold still.  (see, quiet and unassuming)  But I heard the ominous sound of claws tick, tick, ticking across the floor.  I held my breath as they approached, and then I felt a large dog's breath on my face.  (I forgot to mention that for whatever reason, I was sitting on the floor)  I scrambled for my cell phone to turn on the flashlight, only to see a large Doberman Pinscher about to take a bite out of my face (he, too, was quiet and unassuming in his attempts to maul me!)  I grabbed his snout with both hands to keep his mouth closed, but he easily flicked my hands off of him and lunged for my face.  I tried to scream and nothing came out, so I inhaled deeply and let 'er rip.

Scared the holy bejezus out of Scott on that one.  Scared me, too.  He asked if I was okay, I apologized profusely, and we fell back to sleep.  With no more dreams and no more screams.  The next morning I explained my dream and we could not figure out what might have triggered such a dream.  We make terrible dream analysts, I guess.

Luckily, the next couple nights were scream-free.  Which is fortunate, since I think Scott would have suggested I sleep on the couch if I did THAT again!

Sweet dreams to you all!

05 March 2011

Good job!

(Note:  The purpose of this blog is not to have my friends tell me how great I am, but to challenge all of us to look for the great people around us every day.)

My dad and mom always taught me to say "thank you" to people who provided me with assistance.  By their examples, I learned to truly appreciate it when someone went the extra mile for me, or spent the time to provide excellent service, or went above and beyond to help me.  My parents caused me to see and realize that while we all enjoy great customer service, we tolerate mediocre service, and when someone really truly provided service, they deserved to be noticed and appreciated. 

My dad, in particular, taught me that if someone was particularly good at his or her job, it wasn't sufficient to simply tell them thank you.  I recall several times when we had to wait for a frazzled manager to appear so that my dad could tell him or her that our waiter, or the clerk, or the front desk person gave excellent service and he wanted the manager to know that this employee was an ideal representative for that particular company.

In my job I help a lot of people.  I like what I do, and I really appreciate it when a taxpayer tells me that I really helped them, or I made a difficult situation seem possible to resolve, or that I was very kind and helpful.  I have to admit, it feels good to receive a compliment like those.  My goal is to provide excellent customer service, to give the IRS a better reputation, and to make the taxpayer feel respected - not stupid for asking a question.

But yesterday I received a copy of an email that my boss sent to the director of our whole branch.  Seems a taxpayer that I assisted called my manager and told her how much she appreciated my help.  My manager passed that little tidbit along and I received a letter from our big boss thanking me for my work.  I have to tell you, it felt pretty darned good!

And it made me realize that there are literally dozens of people with whom I come in contact every week who provide services to me.  Most of them are so-so at best, but every once in a while someone really makes a difference.  Sadly, I hadn't thought about thanking them and telling their bosses what a fantastic employee they have.  So my challenge to myself - and you! - is to find one person this week who really shone when they did their job, and then let their boss know.  Maybe it's the guy at Starbucks, the gal at the tire center, the driver of the bus, the clerk at the grocery store, the gas station attendant.  And yes, I know, sometimes the manager isn't there, so that means we actually may have to take the time to get a phone number or address and then remember to call or write or email.  But I have faith in us.  We're grown ups.

Because, after all, if we want to continue to receive good service, no - if we want to continue to receive excellent service, then we have to let these good folks know that they are appreciated, and that the time and effort they put into their jobs is noticed and appreciated.

And to those of you who read every silly word I write, thank you for making me feel like I make sense!

27 February 2011

Why 101 Things in 1001 Days?

I have had several people ask me why I am bothering with my 101 goals in 1001 days.  Folks at work see me with my binder, working on things, checking off items, doing research, and they ask.  Family members have wondered out loud why I need something so formal as a list of goals with a specific due date for completing them.  A few friends have suggested that I am only setting my self for failure and disappointment with such a long and varied list.

Usually I just laugh it off and say that it gives me something to do to keep out of trouble. 

But I have a reason for each and every goal that I have listed.  They are more than desires, they are more than dreams or wishes.  These are things that I want for very real, very personal, very tangible reasons.  These are things that, if I didn't do them, I would feel like I had let myself down, that I had settled for less than I could be or do or make out of my life.

And I don't know about you, but I rend to get overwhelmed by all the things that "need" to be done every day.  I find myself faced with so many things calling for my time and attention that I don't accomplish anything by the end of the day.

But this list keeps me grounded.  When I have a few hours of "free" time, I can turn to my list and work on the next item that strikes my fancy.  Make a list of all of Katharine Hepburn's movies.  Design the quilt for Scott.  Window shop online for new dishes.  Cut out the canvas for my floor. 

By having this list, I am getting things finished that I know I would still simply be wanting to have done.  My dad's scrapbook is completed.  It took me almost 5 years to do it.  Well, actually, it took me about 5 days, spread out over 5 years.  And now I ma halfway to having the one for my mom's side of the family completed as well.

I have almost stopped dropping f-bombs.  Checked the 7 day goal off the list, and I am now on day 16 of the 30 day goal.  I think I am going to do it, and that makes me really happy. 

Flowers, calling my mom weekly, writing to my family members, these are all little things that make me happy, that make me feel like I am in touch with the nice and good things in my world.  So while you might not care about flowers at all, mine make me smile every time I see them.  And there is no such thing as too much happiness in life.

There are a number of physical challenges on my list.  Things I want to be able to say that I have done to prove to myself that I am capable and confident.  But up until now they have been simply dreams.  With my list, I am now moving forward in making these dreams a reality.  I am finding out the amount of planning an preparation that is required for each one, and finding ways to work on each little step. 

To those who think I have bitten off more than I can chew, I respectfully disagree.  And I guess only time will tell.  Yes, there are a lot of things still to be accomplished.  And it is possible that I won't be able to say "DONE!" on the 1001st day.  But I am not worrying about that right now.  I believe that I can accomplish each and every one of those 101 items.  On the cover of my 101 Things in 1001 Days binder I have the following quote:

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.

Remember, I have completed two marathons! 

26 February 2011

Looking forward to some dog days

This is an Irish Wolfhound.  Kinda big, huh?  It's the kind of dog I would really really like to have, if I could have a dog.  But the amount of space needed to keep it happy - and the amount of food!  So I have had to adjust my sights to something a bit more realistic.

Years ago, when I was a junior in high school, I bought a cut little puppy at the pound.  The man at the pound assured me that the puppy would not grow up to be very large - a requirement that Mom laid out.  The cute little puppy, Frisky, turned out to be a German Shepherd, weighing in at 95 pounds.  He was gorgeous, full of energy, huge, and a tad bit bonkers. 

                                     (This isn't Frisky, but it is a German Shepherd, so it will do)

Frisky loved people and when someone would come to the door Frisky didn't bark at them.  Or bite them.  Or jump up on them.  No, Frisky would wag, wag, wag his tail and squirm closer and closer to the visitor, and then he got so excited he peed on their feet.

Frisky came to a sad end which I won't detail here, but I have always longed for a large dog since then.

My next dog was the polar opposite of my previous big dog.  He was Kermit, a toy poodle.  So much for my big dogs, right?  He really was never my dog, though.  Yes, I was the one who brought him home, but I was a college student, and couldn't take him with me back to the dorms, so my Mom agreed to keep Kermie for a while.  She kept him for 12 years until his death.

                                         (Again, not Kermit, but this guy could be his brother!)

My husband is allergic to dogs and cats, so we can't have an indoor dog.  But some day, when we get a little land so that a dog could be outside with room to roam, we will get my German Shepherd.  Once again, I will have a big dog to run with, play with, and rely on for some protection.

I just hope he doesn't pee on your feet.

25 February 2011

Time to turn on your brain....me too!

Not sure you can see this very well, but it is a little snowman I built on the hood of our truck yesterday morning.  He lasted about a mile and then sailed off in a flurry of snow and wooden arms.  The photo has nothing to do with this blog; I just thought he was cute and wanted to share him.

A few days ago a friend called me at my cell phone number from his cell phone.  The reception was so poor I could barely hear him and he thought I didn't know him or was angry with him.  I spend all day on the phone at work, and sometimes I can barely hear or understand callers who are using their cell phones. 

It got me to thinking that we are pretty stupid people.

I am old enough to remember when the only phone anyone had was a land line.  And you expected crystal clear connections every time you made or received a call.  Static on the line was unacceptable.  Voices fading in and out was unacceptable.  And dropped calls?  Not tolerated.  Once you were connected you expected to stay connected unless a) one of you hung up, or b) a phone line went down.  Otherwise, there was no acceptable excuse for being disconnected before you hung up.

I am also old enough to remember when there was this room in every house called a kitchen.  It had appliances in it designed to store, prepare, and cook food that was later served in a meal at a table where all of the family members would gather, sit, eat, and enjoy the food and the company.  Sure, there was a certain amount of work involved in the overall preparation and cleanup of the meals, and the quality and quantity of the food in the meals varied, there weren't always a lot of food choices within the meal, and sometimes you were served something that you would rather die than eat (liver and onions with a side of lima beans and mashed potatoes from a box immediately comes to mind).  But overall, the meals I ate at home - whether cooked by Mom, a grandma, or myself - were good meals.

Here's the part about us being stupid....

We have let marketers sell us quite the bill of goods.  We have decided to sacrifice quality for "convenience".  I put convenience in quotation marks for a reason.  As a HUGE fan of my smarter-than-me phone, I love being able to check my emails on breaks at work.  I love being able to make phone calls from my car (hands-free of course, and always paying attention to the road).  I love being able to take a picture and immediately send it to my friends and my "friends" world-wide.  But I lived without all of these things just a few years ago.  My life will not end if I don't check my emails until I get home at night.  I do have the weekend for calling my family in far-off and exotic locations like Miami and Pittsburgh.  And I am not convinced that the world is any better for seeing a photograph of my front yard with snow in it.

Sure, my phone is fun.  Sure, there are times when it makes life easier.  But is it any better when I have conversations that sound like this:  "What?.....Wait, I didn't hear that last bit.....You're breaking up.......Crap, we're heading into a tunnel, so if I lose you I'll call you back on the other side."  Really?  That is considered convenience?  And no, this is not because of my carrier.  I have had two, and the problems are real, regardless of who provides your cell phone service.  Admit it, your cell phone's reception is not as good as that of your land line.  Or at least your pre-VOIP land-line.

And we have accepted the premise that the convenience of frozen food, boxed meals, deli food, fast-food and most restaurant food is the most important factor in choosing our meals.  So what if the food isn't really made the way we like it?  So what if it is five to twenty times more expensive than the cost of making the identical meal at home?  So what if it isn't the healthiest choice available?  We believe that we are busy busy people with too much to do and too little time to do it.  Something has to give, and it sure isn't going to be our favorite TV shows, or our busy after school schedules, or our time on Facebook.  And besides, we are tired, and we worked hard all day, so the last thing we want to do is cook when we get home.  So is it Taco Bell or Applebee's or Papa Murphy's, or Stouffers tonight?

I don't consider myself a Luddite.  I like my technology just fine.  I don't understand it.  I still have to call my son for "tech support"  But I am not advocating throwing out our cell phones and other technology.

And I am not saying that we should stay home and be housewives or househusbands simply to provide cooked meals for our families.

But I am saying that we have bought the marketing hook line, and sinker. 

We don't even think about what we do anymore.  We have become brainwashed into thinking that "convenience" is about being available to anyone and everyone, and having anyone and everything at our fingertips, 24/7.  We believe that we are too busy to be bothered with cooking and that processed and pre-packaged foods taste good enough.  (I will always contend that Mom's spaghetti sauce beats the pants off of Olive Garden any day, and anyone's grilled burgers taste better than Burger King's flame broiled and microwaved burgers)

No, I am not arguing for getting rid of all of this, or even any of it.  I am simply asking us all to think about what we are doing.  To consider our choices.  And then to really make a choice and not allow some really clever marketer to lead us around by our ears, our bellies, and our egos.