It’s How You Look at It

 

Everybody and their dog is familiar with: Is the glass full or half empty?  It depends on your perspective.  My thought was as long as there is more libation to add in the glass what did it matter.  However, I’ve meet a handful of people along the way who are consumed with negativity.  Sadly, these folk never have a good day, they never see the silver lining in the face of adversity, and they don’t laugh at their own foibles.  Further, they are unable to accept blame for their own mistakes.

Witness the PT Barnum circus in Washington.  For the first time in history, only PT knows the truth–everything else is “fake.”  Wow!  I must be the most stupid person on earth to watch a PT video, which is immediately denied as “fake,”  if there’s a backlash. It’s a most curious world.

As most of you know, a week ago I turned 70.  Not a number I necessarily wanted to be, but I can’t deny my birth certificate, nor my passport.  I can’t call it fake news.  It is a fact. Yes, Sue, you’re 70, and the sun is still shining.

Admittedly, I had a tough time turning 70.  It was a anchoring moment…until my one of my high school friends posted:

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Yep, it’s all in how you look at it.  A mere 21 in Celsius.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve no desire to be 21 again–50ish perhaps, but not 21.  Working all day, staying up late partying all weekend, or squeezing my squashed behind into trendy clothing.  But at least I’ve a comeback remark when someone asks, “How old are you?”

“Fahrenheit or Celsius?”

About to be 70

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Who knew?  I thought I was the female version of Peter Pan.  Yet, the next time I blog I will be a septuagenerian.  Believe me, in the past several months, this reality has been on my mind. Seventy has forced me to examine my life.  Have I made a difference?  Have I contributed to the greater good?  Have I been the best mom I could.  I don’t know.

 

Then last night I decided to take another tact; I asked myself, “What modern invention rocked me?”  My grandfather, who was born in 1892, said over and over, electricity changed his life.  Of course, he enjoyed the convenience of indoor plumbing too, which came later.

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In preparation for this blog, I asked my 93-year-old mother what rocked her. She struggled with her answer, describing herself as a child of war–born shortly after WWI and living through WWII.  She did note she and my dad got their first television in 1950, which later morphed into a big-screen entertainment center.  Microwave ovens, cellular phones, disposable diapers, and rotary lawnmowers.

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I suspect you think I will say the computer–it, indeed, rocked me.  It certainly changed my life, but it was not the first thing.  It was my watch. Like many, my first big-girl watch was a Minnie Mouse. Admittedly, numbers have never been my best friend, and I labored learning to tell time.  My maternal grandmother frustrated me when I’d ask, “What time is it?”

“Quarter past.”

What does that mean?  There’s no quarters on my watch, nor halves, nor three-quarters.

Eventually, I mastered the art of telling time, but my world was shakened when Texas Instruments introduced a digital watch in the early 70’s.  Now, with a simple button press,  I instantly knew it was 5:45.  I didn’t have to wind it.  I was in heaven! Thus, began my love affair with watches.  I have designer, analog power ones, and was once gifted a Rolex.  Rolex–the most over-priced, over-rated, high maintenance watch on the market.

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I’ll take my newest one any day.  You know the one.  The one that counts my steps,  monitors my blood pressure, sends me messages and emails, allows me to answer in-coming calls, search the internet, etc.  And it tells time!

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Seventy is creeping up my shorts.  Got to go.  Time’s a wasting.

 

On Being 105

 

According to folklore, dog years are multiplied by 7.  Thus, I have a part pomeranian, part yorkie who recently had her fifteen birthday in people years or 105 dog years.  Meet Tessa Marie Jenkins, the centenarian!

Tessa was her original name, but over time, Marie and Jenkins were added.  Why? I don’t know.  In her early years, she was an active, friendly little dog, but then she became a recluse.  She spent the majority of her time under the bed.  So much so, that many of our family and friends asked, “Who’s that elusive dog of which I caught a glimpse?”  She kept her distance even from me.  She ran and hid if I tried to pet her.  I had to feed her in a separate room, as she wouldn’t eat in front of the others.  My kids called her a diva.  “She’s too good for our company.  Such a high-maintenance snob!”

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Then miraculously, two years ago Tessa Marie came out from under the bed.  She ate with my other dogs, and she even came to parties.  I took her to the vet for her innoculations and check-up, and the vet said she was in wonderful condition.  “Sue, you must have just had her teeth cleaned.  Her teeth are immaculate.”  I only nodded–little did he know her teeth had never been cleaned.  (I’m not a fan of routinely putting dogs to sleep for teeth cleaning, unless infection threatens their health.)

These days Tessa is a spry, active and very demanding 105 year-old.  She barks and barks until she gets a dog biscuit or three.  I can’t tell her “no” because she is stone deaf.  Yet, when her internal clock goes off, she barks until her dinner is served.  She barks when she needs to patrol the backyard, and she barks when she sees someone at the front door.

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Tessa has lived in my house for 15 years and has never gone near the swimming pool.  However, this week, during a romp, she fell in the deep end.  I was in shock!  She’s freaking old; she’ll have a heart attack and plummet ten feet down.  No.  She swam to the side, where my cabana boy rescued her.  Though I was sure she’d have some type of injury or side effect, she shook herself off as we towel-dried her.  She sprinted around the yard; I imagined her singing: Hey, now.  I’m a Rock Star!  I was amazed at her energy.

I guess I need to add this to my daily, dietary intake:

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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?

 

Thank You for Your Support

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Yes, I stole this line from an old Bartels and Jaymes commercial.  But it is apt.  My brother, Bruce, and I want to thank you for your support of our first novel, Renato.  It published several weeks ago on Amazon and on Kindle, and we’ve been very pleased with the response.

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Renato is a timely tale of three generations, which traces the enormous power of mob influence not only in commerce, but in politics.  Dr. Andy Miller and his dog go for a walk the day after a Phoenix monsoon.  The dog runs up the debris-littered wash and returns with a prize.  Miller pries it from her jaws and discovers it is a human mandible.  A mandible which will launch an investigation into organized crime, drug cartels, and American politics.

Set in Ohio, Massachusetts, California, and Arizona, this work of fiction has a strong element of truth.  It was written after three years of research, interviews, and personal visits to verify its accuracy.

Some folk have already asked if there’s a sequel coming.  Writing a novel is hard work.  It  sucks the authors in and takes over.  Neither Bruce, nor I can promise the resurrection of Dr. Danny Sweeney again, but we’re currently working on a plot line.  Time will tell, so until we meet again on Amazon, thank you.

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Hey There, You’re a Rock Star

 

FreeVector-Rock-StarsYears ago, I co-taught Sunday school with another church member, and one Sunday she said, “Sue, I’m tired of my nomadic life on the road.”  I knew she traveled several times a month leaving both her husband and children to fend for themselves.  But she was making mega bucks.  “You know I have a teaching degree I’ve never used.”

No, I didn’t know it.  “If you think you want to teach, I can arrange a interview with our HR assistant superintendent.  You realize you’ll never make the same amount of money you make now.”

“Of course.  There’s more important things than making loads of money.  I need to be with my family, and I want to make a difference in the lives of kids.”

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“Deb, teaching is the most important profession in the world, for without a teacher there can be no nurse, no attorney, and no plumber.  I’ve observed you; you will be fabulous.”

Deb was hired as a teacher in a Title I elementary school and earlier this week emailed me:  I’m so proud to work for such a supportive governing board and superintendent.  You’re rock stars.

Rock stars?  The true rock stars are you and your fellow teachers.  You who are paid $35-40,000 per year to educate our future.  You who collect warm clothing for children in need.  You who tutor children at risk.  You who work tirelessly day after day to ensure each child maximizes his/her potential.

Curiously, I’ve never swooned over The Beatles, Smash Mouth, nor Justin Timberlake.  Yet, I’ve been euphoric when I witnessed the myriad of student accomplishments made possible by caring and dedicated teachers.  So unless Bruce Springsteen wants to run away with me, teachers will be my #1 rock stars!

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It Pays to Advertise

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Most of us are bombarded with advertising.  All with promises of the best car, the best detergent, the most energy efficient car or appliance.  Oh, dear God, yes, I’ve been sucked into these claims of years.

I’ve bought miracle cleansers guaranteed to make my shower sparkle.  I bought wrinkle-free clothing, five-minute meals, and solar pool covers.  None of those products delivered their false promises.  Yet, I kept on buying–searching for the one.

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As time and age reduced me into a shar pei, which I could not bear to look at in a bathroom mirror, let alone a full-length mirror, I searched for hope.  And with simple clicks on my computer, I bought beauty creams, make up, oils, and elixirs all guaranteed to forestall my aging process.  Sadly, not one of them worked.

Finally, I just gave up.  I chose to no longer be a victim of a publisher’s clearinghouse subscription, nor a free week at a Maui timeshare.  I solved my problem.  Then, I spied this:

Really?  You want to move me?  Do realize how much stuff I have?  A Ford Focus?  Not to mention, how many muscular men could sit in a car of that size! I almost rolled over the sidewalk laughing in hysteria.

Given the current state of our world, this is what pays to advertise.

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I Hate Snakes

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Yes, I suffer from ophidiophobia or fear of snakes.  When I walk into a classroom and the teacher has a snake in a glass aquarium, I freak!  I perspire and feel nauseous.  I pray I won’t faint in front of the class.  Lo and behold, this week two encounters almost sent me to an early grave.

I was brunching with a high school assistant principal and merely asked, “What’s up in your world?”

“OMG! I have to tell you what happened.  A teacher called my office to report a kid had a snake in his backpack.”

I gagged on my waffle.  “Dear God!”

“The custodian and I went to the classroom and took the student into the hall.  The young man was wearing a hoodie.  Just as I was about to inquire about the snake, it poked its head out of the hoodie front pouch.”

Again, I gagged.  I would have died in the hallway and been trampled during class change.  “What did you do?”

“Followed protocol.  Took the kid and his snake to my office and had him put the snake in a large plastic container, called the parent, etc.  Look here’s a picture.”

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Lordy it was huge! “What is it?”

“A ball python, named Keith. Mom took it home.  The kid received a restorative discipline.  It was fine.”

Fine?  Doubtful.

Two days later, an unexpected visitor slithered into my backyard.  My dogs were hysterical.  I tried to get them in the house and away from the harmless king snake, but none listened.  Then Max, my cabana boy’s dog and self-appointed defender of me, leapt into action. He grabbed the snake and tossed it in the air three times.  The snake left the earthly world, and Max proudly strutted around as my savior from evil.

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And though it was painful for me to witness, I was delighted Max agreed with me, “The only good snake is a dead one.”

 

Crisis on 38th Street

 

21994414_10155766019509173_8283207962716558555_oI was working at the computer when my cabana boy rushed into my house.  “Sue, Sue where are you?”

Now since this thirty-year-old is not prone to hysteria, I jumped from chair and sped to the kitchen.  “Matt, what’s up?”

“I’m having a crisis?”

“Really at 2:45 PM on a Tuesday afternoon?  What is it?”

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“My prof just emailed the class and said we’re having a taco potluck tonight.  I’m in charge of the meat!  I’m on break from work; I don’t get off till after 4, and I have to be at class at 5! What am I going to do?  I don’t know how to make taco meat.  Should I go to Taco Bell and try to buy it from them?”

“Do you have the ground beef and seasoning?”

“No.  I’m doomed.”

“Do you want me to save your sorry self?”

“Would you?  Oh, I owe you.  I owe you big time.  Anytime you need something done just let me know.”

By the time Matt returned from work, showered, and changed clothes, the taco meat was bubbling away in the crockpot.  His crisis was resolved.

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“Thank you, thank you, thank you.  You know what’s weird, Sue?  I’m the only guy in the class.  The gals all were assigned things like, chips, tortillas, and sour cream.  I got the one thing I just couldn’t walk into a grocery and buy.”

I smiled, “No.  Not weird, my dear.  You were being tested by the prof.  She wanted to see if you could deliver.  She taught you a subtle lesson on sexism.  So as you plug in the crockpot at class, proudly announce that guys can cook.”  I don’t doubt for one moment that wily prof wasn’t smirking.

 

 

 

 

Validating Student Voice

 

Supreme Court Ruling: “Students do not shed constitutional rights of freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Tinker v. Des Moines, February 24, 1969.  (Unless their acts of expression are disruptive to the educational process.)

Many of the key participants in the Revolutionary War were surprisingly young:

  • Marquis de Lafayette, 18
  • James Monroe, 18
  • Gilbert Stuart, 20
  • Aaron Burr, 20
  • Alexander Hamilton, 21
  • Betsy Ross, 24
  • James Madison, 25

Young people, like the students in our schools and universities.  However, unlike the founding fathers our informational world has shrunk.  Students today are much more aware of global affairs and have key-stroke access to myriads of up-to-the-minute information.  They are socially conscious, they are articulate, creative thinkers, and they don’t want to be murdered in their schools.

In 2012, when 26 were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we gasped in horror.  Even POTUS wept as he met with loved ones of those lost. Yet, school shootings continued.  The recent heinous act in Parkland, Florida, awakened teens across the country.  When I was in Houston earlier this week, my high school teacher/coach niece said her students were suddenly aware.  “Mrs. Cook, Parkland is so similar to us.  It could happen here at TJHS!”

With this new realization, students have held walkouts–all peaceful, most of them where they stood silently for 17 minutes in remembrance of the 17 lost in Parkland.  Thankfully, most school leaders worked with students to ensure their safety by opening their football fields, gymnasiums, or auditoriums to allow the kids to gather for 17 minutes.  Of course, there are a handful of schools who chose to suspend student participants–stupid. A teachable moment lost.

Many of the these high schoolers will vote in 2018.  They will outlive you and me.  We should guide and applaud their activism in hope our world will be a safer, kinder, and more inclusive place than it is now.

Who wants to go dump some tea in Boston Harbor?

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