Graduation Day

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“There’s a time for joy. There’s a time for tears. A time we’ll treasure through the years.  We’ll remember always graduation day.”

On Thursday night, I had the honor of addressing graduates at two of our high schools.  As I surveyed the audience, I saw both tears and an abundance of joy.  I spoke about several students of the class of 2018, whom had overcome insurmountable odds to receive a diploma–a Congo refugee, who had been raped and fled to America with her baby.  This senior mastered English in less than six months, worked, and went to school full time and earned a scholarship to nursing school.  I spoke about a special education student who was a member of the golf and the tennis team and the concert band.  I spoke about a male dancer who’s a character of the video game, So You Think You Can Dance, –yes, he’s that well-known, and a guy who invented a new guitar pedal, which will revolutionize modern music.

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When I reflect on my high school graduation–over 50 years ago, I remember how special it was for the families of many of my classmates, whose parents were immigrants.  I remember the fabulous graduation parties with wonderful ethnic food.  And I remember the brewing war in Viet Nam.  While it was a joyous time, it was also a time for fear.

Last night, my neighbor (originally from England) asked, “Sue, what’s up with all this graduation bs?  In England, high school graduation was expected. University graduation was cause for a celebration.”

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Now, I could have launched into a long oration about the history of American education and the symbolic, significance of high school graduation, but I refrained.  For me, high school graduation is the first educational mile marker on the road of life.  Yet, I’m dismayed it has been both marginalized and commercialized by such ludicrous traditions of preschool, kindergarten, sixth grade, and eighth grade graduations.  Caps and gowns, limos, and parties ad nauseam for mere children? Why?

 

A Greater Heart

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(This is the last of my series on national heart month.)

Sharen is the owner of my ‘hood bar and grill.  She went to school in the ‘hood, raised her family in the ‘hood, and for the last twenty-some years ran a business in the ‘hood.  Her working day begins at 4:40 AM and sometimes doesn’t end until well after 10:00 PM.  Most of the time, I’m in awe of her energy.

This month she opened her establishment to the high school baseball booster club for a fundraiser.  In fact, she hosts three such fundraisers each year: baseball, pom and cheer, and the marching band.  She solicits donations from her vendors, discounts the food and gives the organization a share of the bar business.  In three hours the baseball boosters raised almost $4,000 to support the team.

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Sharen said, “I’m from the ‘hood and a huge supporter of public education.  Occasionally, I do training for wannabe small business owners, where I remind them to be active contributors to their communities.”  She paused, “Sometimes I just wish I could give more.  I do the best I can.”

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America is jammed with good hearts.  Maybe someday we will applaud them with the same enthusiasm we have for an Oscar winner or a MVP.

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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Skeptical Sue

IRS-scam

 

“This is the IRS. You have failed to make your payment, and federal agents have issued a warrant for your arrest.  Please call this number immediately to avoid prosecution.”

“Oh really?” I shouted at the recorded voice.  “Bring them on, baby.”  Sadly, in Arizona, folk called the number and lost over two million dollars in the scam.

internetscam-620wThe news in awash with unsuspecting people being ripped off to free their grandchild from a Mexican jail, wire money to buy a designer puppy, or help some romantic interest get home from abroad.  Dating sites are filled with these predators.  I’ve also received a number of emails informing me I won the Irish Sweepstakes or I’m the last known heir of a family fortune.  Of course, I needed to wire “x” amount of money to claim my prize or my inheritance.

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What chaps my heinie most is scammers prey on the uneducated and the elderly.  When I read an elderly woman gave her life savings to someone who promised to repay her double the amount in an hour, it sickens me.  So for the most part, I research those with whom I do business.  My tile guys, my roofer, my HVAC guy, my pool guy, my landscaper have all been vetted by recommendation of friends or outstanding reviews.  Nor do I purchase big ticket items, like appliances or cars without perusing consumer reviews.

Yesterday when I went to the grocery store, I needed to change a Ben Franklin into two US Grants.  My grocery houses an unknown bank, probably some start-up.  I handed the teller my Ben Franklin, “I just need two fifties, please.”  He marked my bill with an authenticating pen.

“Do you have an account with us?”

“No.”

“Would you like to set one up?”

“No. Thank you.”

“Our policy does not allow us to give change to non-customers, but I’ll make a one-time exception in your case.”

WTF?  It’s not like I asked for $100 in quarters, nickels, and dimes. No wonder I never considered doing business with this sketchy bank.

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The Cicada and The Tortoise: A Curious Tale

Admittedly, I’m a technological immigrant.  Further, I’m technologically challenged.  I belong in a special class with any 10-year-old teacher.  Even five-year-olds today, know more than me.  My daughters and the school board folk have drug me into this new arena, and I know just enough to be dangerous.  While I enjoy that the world is now just one arrow key away and adore my cell phone convenience, I abhor “auto correct”  and the feature of speaking rather than typing. Lord knows, I sent far too many incoherent messages and emails.  A heinous crime, when the author is an English major!

On the other hand, I laugh uproariously when I receive one of these messages.  This week I received the following:

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Hmm.  A large cicada, which looks like a desert tortoise.  I was engulfed in laughter.  A family pet?  Even funnier.  Did they clip its wings so it wouldn’t fly off?

Really?  I see no likeness in the least.  Yet, I was sad I have no artistic talent.  Can you imagine the joy of creating such a creature?  I bet Dr. Seuss would have drawn and made millions on this hybrid character.

My neighbor and I had several hilarious conversations discussing the email.  We concluded the sender must be whacked.   Twas, not the case.  Damnable auto correct was at fault.  Behold the sulcata tortoise.

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The Wall

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The news runs rampant with stories of building a wall between Mexico and the United States.  While the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China ultimately did little to prevent infiltration by the “enemy,” the proposed Trump Wall seems to many to be the answer.  I find it curious, though, that Canada is not being walled out also.  Guess it’s long forgotten that some of the perpetrators of 911 entered that way.

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Yesterday, I was leafing through my ancient English 101 anthology and reread Robert Frost’s Mending Wall.  It begins: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”  In New England, the spring ritual for many landowners was to mend the wall that nature damaged throughout the winter.  Though often a laborious task it was a necessary, annual tradition because “Good fences make good neighbors.”  Hmm.  I find it paradoxical. Nature battles against the wall.  Tradition battles against nature to keep us and even countries apart.

When I moved to Phoenix, I was amazed that most houses had walled backyards.  Unlike my Ohio upbringing, where I often roamed through three or four backyards to my friend’s house.  We neighborhood kids sledded down our neighbors’ hill every winter; we weren’t walled out.

Unfortunately, I’ve met people with walls.  Folk devoid of humor and zest.  Folk who prefer to remain within their cramped life without friends and a sense of community spirit.  Their self-imposed isolationism boggles me.

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True, I live in a walled community; it keeps my dogs off the street.  Some of us with small children fence our pools to prevent child drowning.  But my ‘hood has not walled out each other.  We socialize, work collaboratively together, and even borrow a cup of sugar when the need arises.

Frost asks:  “Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn’t it where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.  Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out.”

Robert Frost penned this poem 103 years ago.  Hmm.  Our world is no longer a simple fence on a New England acre.  What are we mending?  Another paradox….

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