The Santa Claus Challenge

th-2Most of us remember when one of our classmates declared that Santa wasn’t real.  Some of us ay recall the famous Dear Virginia editorial response published in the New York Sun in 1897.  Even though, I’m old, and even though I’m currently living through the most turbulent, hateful times I find deplorable, I still believe in Santa.

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Santa Claus is a spirit, who resides within most of us. When we were children, he miraculously answered our letters on Christmas morning.  In most cases.  I didn’t get a pony, but a got a Schwinn bike.  I didn’t receive a drum set, but I got a guitar.  Surprisingly, I was never disappointed.  I was happy with all my gifts–except the underwear.

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As I aged, my experience led me to a greater understanding of Santa.  A mythical figure, who lived in a dreadful climate, who urged children to be good, who fulfilled wishes, for what?  A plate of cookies and a glass of milk?  Doubtful. Santa Claus , St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, or whatever your moniker, came to teach.

His lesson embodied the Golden Rule–do unto to others.  But Santa tweaked it a tad.  Do unto others with anonymity.  For me, there’s no greater joy than giving without acknowledgement, nor accolade. And yes, there are a myriad of ways to get a tax deduction without revealing or bragging.   Trust me, I know.

Inside of each of us is Santa Claus.  In times of disasters, strangers help others; sometimes risking their own safety to render assistance.  With the holiday season fast-approaching, I urge you to accept the Santa Claus challenge.  Do something for someone anonymously.  You’ll be surprised by the joy you receive.    I double-dog dare you.

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Change the Filter

“Thank you, Alexa, for reminding me to change the air filters.” A necessary chore in most home across the US. In fact, filters are found in many products from coffee pots, to car engines, to cameras. Yes, they all need changed. But it’s time to change the most important filter of all–the human filter.

Politics is flush with those incapable of knowing when to change or clean their filters. Number 45 is a good example. His unnecessary mocking of Lying Ted, Ron Sanctimonious, and Youngken as Chinese. Is that really becoming of a President? James Robison of Life Outreach International, an evangelical minister and former supporter said he told 45: “Sir, you act like a little elementary schoolchild and you shoot yourseelf in the foot every morning when you open your mouth! The more you keep your mouth closed, the more successful you’re gonna be!”

Another example is the heir-apparent Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, who vows retaliation. Against whom? The Democrats? Well, so much for the Congress working together to resolve issues, he’s planning for war. My list could go on of politicians, like Arizona gubernatorial candidate, Kari Lake who promised to secede Arizona from the Union upon her victory. Obviously, she was totally clueless about the Arizona Constitution. And yes Kari refuses to concede her election loss because it was rigged. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Herschel Walker must have never been to school with some of the strange notions that spring from their mouths, as conspiracy theories or Georgia is the greatest country in the United States.

My advice to all elected politicians and wanna-be’s is simple: Think before you speak and silence is golden.

Yes America, We Do Know How to Count

This week I’ve been asked if Arizona knows how to count by family and friends across the country. Yes, we do. But it’s complicated. Perhaps, you recall in the 2020 Presidential Election No. 45 chanted, “the election was stolen.” Of course, it was only stolen in states that failed to re-elect him. Millions of folks jumped on the proverbial bandwagon and agreed, without proof, the election was stolen.

In Arizona, millions of dollars were spent on recounting votes. In fact, the votes were recounted six to eight times, and no evidence was found, except for a handful of people who voted for their deceased relative. Even the State Attorney General, a Republican, proclaimed it: horse shit!

Enter the state legislature in January 2021, who arduously revised campaign election laws. Thick, impermeable layers of bureaucracy were enacted. So, what really happened last Tuesday? The storm. The first glitch that voting machines in several areas didn’t work for as long as eight hours. Now, most of us have encountered similar experiences: the well-rehearsed power point presentation fails to start in a room full of people; the refrigerator goes out on Thanksgiving eve; or the car won’t turn over when you’re due at work. Yes, these things are frustrating, but it’s called life.

Secondly, these voting machines could be replaced with state-of-the-art equipment. Ah, but that takes money. Something the legislature has routinely been unwilling to spend. They don’t like schools, nor state universities. They don’t want to talk about water issues, nor crime. They complain about the border, but make no effort to resolve issues. (Their solution of the Wall is ludicrous. Really, talk about an antiquated idea. Ask the Chinese or the Germans.)

The biggest problem, though, was skeptical behavior and bureaucracy. Election deniers of 2020 preached, “Don’t turn in your mail-in ballot until election day.” Almost a million didn’t. Now the elections department was strapped with verifying each and every signature before the ballots could be counted. The process of signature verification is also complicated, tedious, and laborious, for it requires an election employee, a Republican and a Democrat monitor to verify each one. Of course, there are those who are grumbling the delays are due to corruption. No. Just following the law.

This national firestorm could have been avoided had people just sent in or dropped off their ballot over the month-long voting period. It seems the majority no longer trusts any one or institution. While there are times I proceed cautiously, I tend to trust. I didn’t hesitate to drop my ballot at the post office the day after I received it, and thus it was counted upon receipt–not a month later. I sincerely believe most people are good and try to do the right thing, and I do believe it’s most harmful to disparage American services. I love having my trash picked up, my mail delivered, my fire and police services, and my public schools and universities.

I can’t wonder if the erosion of trust continues, will the US Mint redesign our currency? Perhaps, God is out too.

I Was A Coward

As a student in a college drama class, I was chosen to direct a one-act play, The Valiant. Written in the early 1920’s by Holworthy Hall and Robert Middlemass, the play is about James Dyke, a confessed murderer who has been sentenced to die, except no one really knows who he is and from where he comes. Near the end of the play Dyke quotes a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: Cowards die many times before their death. The valiant tastes of death but once.

While I’ve never forgotten my directorial debut, I recalled it vividly last night and was ashamed. Ashamed for my cowardice over fifty years ago. Ashamed I didn’t have all the pertinent facts I needed to fight back against an injustice. A shame I’ve carried for fifty years.

In the late 1960’s our chapter of a national sorority attempted to pledge a Black freshman coed, who would have been an outstanding asset. However, the alum advisors overrode the decision of the collegiates, and she was not offered membership. While some of my sorority sisters were equally appalled, I wrestled with the idea of deactivating. But I didn’t. I didn’t have the cajones to do so. In short, I was a coward.

I’ve managed to somewhat suppress that awful experience until yesterday when the mailman brought the new issue of my sorority magazine. As I perused it through dinner, I encountered an article about the first Black member. OMG! The landmark event occurred 300 miles away at another Ohio college in 1966–two years prior to my experience! Had I known that then, I would have fought back. Or would I? I’ll never know.

I’ve worked really hard to overcome my cowardly ways, Whether I’ve made any inroads is up to my Judgment Day verdict. But like Caesar said to his wife, I’ve already died many times over my behavior. I ain’t no valiant.

Happy New Year: I’m Not Kidding

As a child, I always looked forward to Halloween, even if I had to wear a heavy coat over my costume. I dreamt about how long it would be until I could escape the tedious routine of school. However, all of those memories faded far away the older I became. And I realized that tomorrow, Halloween, is nothing more than the kickoff to the holiday season. Certainly, all the stores from retail, to pharmacies, to groceries have already been preparing us, but today, when I actually perused the calendar, I realized how swiftly the year had flown.

The best news is the election is in 10 days! The endless nasty ads will end and campaign literature will stop littering my mailbox. Tom and Tabitha Turkey have gone into hiding as Thanksgiving is a mere 25 days away. For those who celebrate Hanukkah, it’s time to find your dreidels, for your celebration begins in 49 days. Millions of children will delight in the arrival of St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, and Santa Claus in 56 days. For those of you mailing packages, the Post Office is recommending a date of no later than December 15. So you better get a hustle on, or do as I, and join Amazon Prime. If Amazon doesn’t have it, you’re not getting it!

Now, if this is not enough to boggle both your and my minds, in 63 days, it will be a NEW YEAR! A time for resolutions, albeit a time to make firm decisions to do or not to do something. When the newly-elected are sworn in in January, I hope and pray they have the fortitude and courage to resolve to bring put our American Humpty Dumpty back together again, rather than stroking their own egos and lining their own pockets. America is teetering; its el-hi educational system is faltering, violence is rampant, climate change is ravaging, and ignorance is flourishing. Time will tell.

Tomato Worms: Ye Gods!

I do have several creatures I abhor, like scorpions and snakes, but a tomato worm is near the top. Not only are they disgusting in appearance, but in one night they devastated three of my tomato plants. According to my research, they are also fond of peppers. eggplant, and potato plants. Sphinx moths lay eggs, and the worm that hatches, which can be as long as two inches, happily chomp the plant right down to the ground.

As usual, Mother Nature camouflages them in green making them very hard to detect until I witness their destruction. Curiously, I’ve been planting Phoenix gardens twice a year for over thirty years and never had one worm–contrary to the four I’ve killed this week. Hell, the only reason I knew what was going on was because of my childhood experiences. My grandmother taught my sibs and me to seek them out in her huge garden. Of course, like kids do, we made a game of it to see who could find the most! Though harmless, we’d use a stick to pry their sticky feet off the plant and then stomp on them. Birds would feast on their carcasses.

Yesterday, my next door neighbor came over, and I said I needed to check the garden; again another tomato worm. I showed her. “Ye, Gods!” she exclaimed. “That’s they most despicable thing I’ve ever seen.” She gagged. (Highly doubtful, as she was a med tech in her early life, but she was clearly taken aback by the wanton destruction of my plants.)

Unlike some of the other creepy crawlys I’ve blogged about, these pests have no value to the environment. So if you see one, don’t feel guilty–nuke it and move on.

PS Thank you for all your recommendations on Italian food. Trying a new sauce recipe today.

In Italian Withdrawal

I’ve been back from New York City for a week and am in serious withdrawal from delightful Italian food. I have lived in Phoenix for almost forty years and have yet to find excellent Italian food, so my time in New York included binging on savory tomato sauces. The pasta was inconsequential: spaghetti, rigatoni, penne, it didn’t matter–just as long as it was smothered in excellent sauce.

I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, where I devoured fabulous pizza, calzones, meatballs, and of course, spaghetti. Thus, when I could not find a superb Italian restaurant in Phoenix, I decided to make my own sauce. Sadly, after forty years of practice, I’ve been unable to create anything that compares with either Youngstown, or NYC. I rue the fact I had little interest in learning how to cook in my youth and early adulthood. Certainly, it wasn’t taught in my stupid junior high, home economics classes, nor by my mother, who thought Ragu or Chef Boyardee were quality spaghetti sauces.

My ship sailed when I moved to the desert. Gone were my grandmother’s homemade cinnamon rolls and peach pies, gone were my mom’s orange cookies, and forever gone Italian food. Now, if any of you have recommendations for me as to what restaurant to try, I’m willing. If you have any recipe for me, I’m willing to learn. But realize, I have a distinctive palate: I don’t like vodka, nor wine in sauce. I don’t like sweet sauce. Thank you in advance, the Italian Addict.

A Boy Named Sue

As many of you know, I’m going to have a grandson in mid-February, and I’m most delighted. My daughter and son-in-law are considering names, but their choices are currently more plentiful than John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. Plus, each week I’m told another set of possibilities. Thus, they two grandmothers-to-be decided to take control, particularly since both are first names are Sue.

Not wanting to spend a lot of money on our foolishness, I found a copy of the sheet music, complete with Johnny Cash plastered across the cover. I put it in a cheap frame and pasted a note on top of the frame glass: Both Grandmothers Agree. The expectant couple face-timed both of us giggling, grandmas when they opened it. Talk about a BOMB! Neither my kid, nor my son-in-law had ever even heard the song, let alone could understand the grandmas’ humor!

Our joke was met with meh. (What is a meh, anyway? A muffled sound emitted from a wired-shut mouth?) Yet, all was not lost, for I learned an intriguing trivia fact about A Boy Named Sue. So intriguing I posed this question last week in one of my monthly gigs: Who wrote both the music and lyrics to this Johnny Cash hit? I waited. A few random guesses. I coached–think outside your boxes. A few more random guesses.

Shel Silverstein. See, you learned a random conversation starter for a dull party. You’re welcome.

HELP! If You Can.

In the last two weeks, I’ve heard or been sent this plea three times. Once on behalf or a school, once on behalf of the school district within which I reside, and again at weekly trivia in the neighborhood grill. Our trivia host made her plea on behalf of our local food bank. Now, none of this in itself is surprising, but all three were in need of the same things! Not food, nor clothing, but personal hygiene supplies.

The most pressing needs were for toilet paper and feminine hygiene products, followed by diapers, toothpaste, shampoo, bath soap, laundry detergent, and cleaning supplies. It seems the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or the old term food stamps can only be used for food. And while I agree food is the basic priority, I think in America we should also assist with personal cleanliness. Diseases can be easily spread from dirty hands and from disgusting filthy bathroom habits. Both of my grandmothers, who survived the Depression, not only fed their children, but made sure they went to school in clean clothes, regardless the condition of their patched jeans or oversized jackets.

This week I was sickened to hear stories about girls who wouldn’t go to school that proverbial time of the month because they had no sanitary pads, nor tampons. They didn’t want to be the laughing stock of the seventh grade. I guess if the males in this country want to control my body, they should at least give me a discount on such products once a month. I guarantee if the situation was reversed and men endured cramps and periods, things would change!

Please check with your churches, food banks, and schools to find out if the needs of your community are similar to mine. If you can help, please do so. Do unto others.

Annabel Lee Revisited

In 1849, Edgar Allen Poe published his last poem, Annabel Lee. Earlier this week I was prompted to remember this poem, in fact, one of the various poems I memorized by American poets. I’ve blogged before about my eccentric, quirky fifth grade teacher, Miss Peddler, who made her students memorize one poem a week, as well as learn to march around the classroom singing while she played patriotic songs on the piano. She’d rip up student papers in front of the class if she found their handwriting unacceptable, she never hesitated to swat a boy’s backside, and once in a fit of anger she threw a potted plant out of our second story, classroom window. Further, she sent two students to the home ec room every morning to prepare her breakfast, which she enjoyed at her desk, while listening to Arthur Godfrey on the radio. No one was permitted to either approach her desk, or ask a question during that time. But probably, the most outrageous thing she did was send two students every other week to her bank (on a four-lane highway) to cash her paycheck.

What is my point? In the last year, I’ve lost two dogs to old age. Six months ago, I bought a mini goldendoodle, who is the spawn of Satan. I decided the cause of her bad behavior was partially due to lack of entertainment; she needed a companion. During my Face Time conversation with the breeder, she asked, “What are you going to name her?”

“Good question. I’m an English teacher, probably something theatrical or literary. Something like, Annabel Lee.” I still have NO idea why I said that. Then I added, “We loved with a love that was more than love, I and my Annabel Lee.” I’m sure the breeder thought I was a nut job, crazy woman.

Miss Annabel Lee was delivered from Salt Lake City yesterday morning after a ten-hour road trip. My other pup, Harper, seems delighted. And to my dear Miss Peddler, the terror of Washington School, thank you for teaching me how to memorize–an invaluable skill, and for trying to improve my handwriting. You lived and taught at the right time, for you would have been fired 100 times over today.

(PM me if you want to see; I’m conducting an experiment with my kids. HA!)

Dr. Suze Studies Boys

As many of you know, hopefully, I will become a grandma in February to a grandson. I’m delighted to be sure, but I’m more delighted it’s a boy. Now, I know nothing about little boys, except I have a slew of great nephews–eleven to be exact, so most of my knowledge comes from observation.

I just returned from Houston last night, where I observed four of them. They were far from interesting; they we’re hilarious and provocative. In fact, one of them argued with me that math was more important than reading. Imagine someone trying to argue that point with me!

But the most intriguing was my fourteen-year-old great nephew, CT. CT is a freshman and the center on the Freshmen Football team. To me, he’s uber handsome, yet shy and reserved, so I can hardly imagine him grunting on the front line. With homecoming a few weeks away, he asked a freshman girl to be his date. A topic, which was discussed at dinner Saturday night. My sister (his grandma), my two nieces (his mom and her sister), and I all peppered him with questions; he just beamed and grinned as he answered. (However, I was surprised with his bravado when asked if he knew how to dance. He laughed, “Of course I know how to dance!”)

This is where I learned something, for I always wondered what boys thought about. CT had his own questions. First, he had to ask her again in a creative way–I guess that’s a new thing, and he needed help. We obliged. Next, should he give her candy or flowers when he asked her? Finally, where should he take her to dinner?

Now, I’m not sure we four busybodies helped him. He’s yet to figure out the details of suit or sport coat, transportation, or after dance event. Just then his younger brother joined our conversation, “CT, why are you making such a big deal of this? I thought you asked her as a friend?”

CT grinned. His sunburned cheeks shone. His eyes danced with merriment. “Because you never know what may happen between friends.” Be still my heart.