Sweetie in the South

Dear Hubby and I had reasons recently to travel to east Texas. While there, we availed ourselves of the fine breakfast cuisine offered at a local diner, whose previous owner was obviously the company affectionately known amongst most Southerners as “Awful Waffle”.

DH and I were on a tight budget, and had stayed at a motel with only ONE outlet available, after we unplugged one of the lamps. I, therefore, arrived at the diner with a cell phone running on fumes, and so scanned the seating area for an available plug for my phone charger.

“Good morning, sugah! Wheah would y’all lahk to sit?” came the greeting from a woman who looked straight out of the cast of “Alice”. Both of the waitresses wore identical white uniforms, and were about the same age and wrinkle index. They had honey blonde hair, which obviously came from the same Clairol box, and put up in a respectable and predictable up-do. Their accents were true Texas drawl, and would have been perfectly suitable in any parody of southern living. Not that I am free of any accent, either, of course!

“May I sit here?” I asked, “Do you mind if I plug in my phone? Our motel didn’t have one, and my battery’s running low.”

Immediately, the two women (I’ll call them “Mabel” and “Betty,” to make things easier) tried to outdo each other in hospitality. “Why, suhtainly, sweetie, you can plug in raht theah and put yore cord ovuh the bayuck of the booth,” said Mabel. “Or theah’s anothuh plug ovuh heah, if you’d lahk to sit heah instayud,” Betty called out.

I chose the first booth as they fussed over me, making sure I could reach the plug and had my phone properly stowed away before bringing our menus to us. By that time, I had come to the conclusion that no sentence was complete without “sweetie,” “sugar,” “honey,” or “My Lord”. “What would y’all lah to drink, sugah?” Mabel asked. “Are y’all ready to orduh, sweetie?” “Would yew lahk moah tea, honey?” Dear Hubby and I were very well taken care of my our waitress twins, and entertained between services by their ongoing prattle about a third missing waitress, which they alternated with conversations with and about their regular customers. The two women carried on almost shamelessly with an older man whom it was obvious had breakfast at the diner every day. His personal life, and the life of another “regular” were fodder for their very audible conversation. They knew their people, and I could imagine them having an order in the kitchen before any of their regulars made it through the door. Dear Hubby and I kept smiling at each other as we ate our breakfast and listened in on the very public conversation, and every few minutes we were “honeyed” or “sugahed” as they provided excellent service to us.

I felt like I had stepped back in time, and someone’s momma was fussing over me. I don’t get called “sweetie” very often, and even though Mabel and Betty both “honeyed” my husband, I was in no way offended. These phrases were as much a part of their makeup as was, well, their makeup! I could no more imagine these women without their “sugah” as without their lipstick!

I may make an excuse to go back soon, just to be fussed over again and partake of that old southern hospitality. It would be worth it!

Birds of a Feather

Being one of twelve children does not always mean that you have someone with which to spend time. Our family tended to divide itself into cliques, among ourselves and also among our neighbors. Judy, who lived across the street, was close in age to both my next oldest sister and me, so we both spent time with her. Judy also had a pony, which made her place an even more inviting destination. Of course, at age nine or so, almost anywhere except home would be more inviting, pony or not.

One day, as I was helping Judy curry her pony, she looked up and asked, “What’s that?” Swiveling, I covered my eyes and saw a speck on the horizon in the clear blue sky. “Prob’ly just a plane,” I replied, and turned my attention back to the curry comb. We combed and talked some more, and then she said, “It’s getting bigger!” I turned again, and sure enough, the speck had grown. “It’s not a plane,” I said, stepping away slightly as if I would actually get a better viewing angle on the object. “I can’t tell what it is,” I said. We both continued to stand there, curry combs in hand, pony waiting patiently for more attention, as the speck grew and grew.

It was long, and thin, whatever it was, and our curiosity continued to hold us spellbound. It grew longer and longer, never leaving the horizon but growing towards us, like yarn from a skein. It wasn’t until it was overhead that we could determine what it was…

Birds! A huge, long flock of birds! They were some kind of sparrow, maybe, flying in formation. As near as I could tell, they were flying about 10 deep, about 20-30 feet wide, and the sides straight as if they had been sliced with a knife. Even the front was only barely ragged, mostly straight across. They were flying low enough that we could hear them and see individual birds. There were no loud sounds, only soft chirping as they carried on whatever conversations birds have while flying so close together. And the sound of their flying – like the whisper of wishes on a soft spring breeze. It was like a waterfall of air, brushing gently over rocks as it made its way to whatever final destination lay ahead. Judy and I were hypnotized, watching and listening. At one point, the line of birds stretched as far as the eye could see in either direction, still in formation. Finally, the line of birds ended, and we continued to watch until they were a speck again, on the opposite horizon.

Judy and I looked at each other. Words failed us for several more minutes. “No one’ll ever believe us,” I said. It was unbelievable that nobody else in the neighborhood had seen this event, but Judy and I were the only ones granted the privilege of sharing this enchanting moment.

Arachne’s Daughter

I was out walking early one morning, when I spied a beautimous spider web, with the dew drops seeming to gather and magnify the light of the early morning sun. Today, my muse visited me, my imagination took off, and here is the result:

As I walked along one morn,

I spied a work of art

Delicately spun by canascent arms

In the wee hours of the morning,

Before the sun arose

And displayed the glory of the work.

In the center of the shining drops

Sat the creator, squat and dour.

As diamonds do the dewdrops shine!

Their brilliance dripping from the strands,

And I could imagine some wood nymph,

With delicate fingers plied the web from its perch

With high laughter and many thanks.

Casting the many strands about her slender neck

And resting upon her delicate bosom,

She dances through the dark hours with her friends,

Similarly arrayed.

Arachne’s offspring waits impatiently

As the nymphs play in the moonlight,

With diamond-like strands draped over flowing locks,

Or fastened about slender waists,

The wood-nymph eyes shining brightly,

Their laughter and grace filling the wood.

Their graceful feet brush the grass

And slender arms raised in revelry.

As they dance, their eyes, like their borrowed jewels flash

Under the gentle glow of Selene’s chariot

As she makes her way across the sky

To her sleeping lover, Endymion,

And the nymphs laugh and sing the darkness away,

With musical voices beyond man’s ken

Issuing forth from their red lips.

As Selene’s glow fades, Apollo’s work begins,

And the wood nymph rushes

To return the borrowed finery.

With hushed tones she again extends thanks

To the creator of her borrowed jewels,

Who glares at her with many eyes.

The wood nymph carefully hangs the web,

Every strand complete, every drop still intact,

And blowing kisses at Arachne’s daughter,

Disappears like a vapor in the morning breeze,

And Apollo’s burning chariot removes the glistening dew,

And the magic of the night sleeps, waiting,

While Arachne’s daughter faces Apollo’s glow.

The Speech I Would Like To Hear

With the nomination of Barak Obama as the Democratic Presidential candidate, I began to wonder what I would like McCain – or any candidate – to say. There is so much that I wanted to include, and I’m writing this, like, really, really late at night and my brain cells are half asleep and I must be up early in the morning and my sentences are starting to run together….anyway, I would love to hear this from a candidate:

Dear Fellow Americans,

We come again, as we have done so many times in the past, to a crossroads in our history. With each election, we are called upon to make somber decisions to determine a future we cannot yet see, based on a past many of us do not fully understand. Every election cycle, we must decide who will lead our country based on a series of statements from an individual designed to make us trust and believe in his or her message. Every four years, we are asked to query ourselves “What do we really want for our country? What will work to the benefit of the largest number? How will we meet our challenges? Who will speak for us?” These are potent questions, requiring serious introspection into what made us who we are today. No man, woman, or civilization can ignore the past, for it is our past that educates us as to what our future should be.

Our Founding Fathers had an education that is, unfortunately, not available to most of our young people today. They designed a nation with a system of checks and balances that has worked remarkably well, when used as designed. They lived in a time when the energy of the people was built upon the excitement of pushing westward, conquering new land and making it fruitful. I wish I could have been there, at the beginning of our nation, as new Americans planned futures to be determined by the sweat of their brow and the spark of imagination fueled by the new discoveries they made as they conquered this land. This energy carried people of all races and creeds from sea to shining sea, filling the land and making it fruitful. They met their challenges with enthusiasm and stern determination.

Where is this determination today? This next part will be hard for many to hear, but when my mother found me running a fever, I was forced to take my medicine, no matter how nasty I thought it was. And though I resisted, the medicine usually helped me to overcome my illness. As I grew more mature, I began to look forward to “taking my medicine,” whether it be for a physical or fiscal illness. While sometimes difficult to swallow, the hard lessons I’ve learned over the years have helped me move into my future with more confidence and practical knowledge. With that in mind, I address a problem that has been weighing heavily on my mind.

The Founding Fathers never envisioned a land where so many were dependent upon society for their basic necessities. Instead of putting shoulder to the wheel, there are too many hands outstretched. Our government was charged to “promote the general welfare” – not to provide welfare! Somewhere along the line, promoting the general welfare has been redefined. The “pursuit of happiness” has been redefined as “equal outcomes”. Nowhere were the Founding Fathers assuming that we would have an equal society. Every individual has different temperaments, attitudes, work ethics, talents, and desires. How can such a diverse people end up equally wealthy or equally happy? Attempts to create such utopias have failed every time; human nature works against it. Equality cannot be forced upon a populace. As a compassionate society, we must care for those who are truly in need – the handicapped, the elderly, and those who are temporarily down on their luck. But it is not compassionate to keep anyone addicted to that lifestyle.

And there was certainly never envisioned a group of politicians who would work so hard to keep that dependency going for the gain of the politicians. The professional legislators need their dependency to be re-elected, and buy those votes with promises of a brighter future that, for the most part, have not been kept. Individual responsibility has been purchased with the creativity and productivity of our nation’s young. The enthusiasm that could have been poured into providing new services or creating new jobs has been stifled under the burden of welfare. I ask that our new congress work on creating a system of permanently moving our welfare families out of the chains of poverty. I ask that more money be granted to the Small Business Administration and other similar organizations to assist these people who have talent and dreams to start small businesses, teaching them basic business fundamentals and helping them to establish their own futures, futures that they control. Imagine the growing dignity of these new business owners and employees, who begin to control their own destinies, to be treated as they should be, as people with intelligence and competence. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be overnight, as generations of welfare mentality must be overcome, but I believe it can be done! The only thing that separates these people from those already successful is only expectations. If we expect these welfare dependent to progress to responsible citizens, we must put together incentives and provide the tools for them to learn the skills and attitudes necessary for success. I then expect that they will be able to overcome the heritage they have been living. Bring the fathers home, build up the families, give them hope for a future, and see what happens! Capitalism has been the best system to endow the most people with wealth, and wealth is not a zero sum game. Our society welcomes as many success stories as we can possibly generate, and the wealth of one person does not prevent another from achieving success. With a vested interest in the proper running of the economy, these local leaders and their employees will become more responsive to the promises and actions of their leaders.

I ask that the American people scrutinize their leaders and ask themselves “Have they performed as they promised? Is my life better, truly better, in significant ways because of anything they have done? Have they worked not just for the benefit of our particular area, but in ways that are not a detriment to other taxpayers? Are they honest? Should I vote them in again for any reason other than I recognize their name on the ballot?” Be honest with yourselves, and make your legislators honest with you. And please, if you cannot answer all of these questions, take the time to educate yourself before putting someone in a position of power over your life of which you know so little. Good government is totally dependent upon an informed and involved citizenry. You are just as responsible for good leadership as the people you vote into leadership positions.

Our Founding Fathers envisioned a political system where politicians were “of the people” and “for the people”. When the ones who create the laws must live under the laws to which they give birth, they are more considered in their deliberations than when they are immune to the consequences of their actions. Unfortunately, we have career politicians who, while they may mean well, have lost contact with what it means to live with their own regulations. While in Congress, they enjoy privileges and perks that their constituents can only imagine. Congress should be subject to the same rules, laws, and regulations that they impose upon their constituents. Our leaders are called to lead, not abstain, and to lead by example. I ask for complete transparency in our Congress – every transaction and meeting should be made public. While the substance of meetings may need to be kept confidential, these men and women hold the public’s trust, and must be completely honest. The only way for this to happen is for the people to be able to watch them, since the temptations of public service can weaken even the most stalwart of morals.

Leaders should be men and women not just with a calling or desire to serve the public, but people of vision. This vision should be based upon the Constitution and the fine history of achievement of our citizens. Our history is filled with examples of bravery, innovation, intelligence, and high moral standards. Why should we believe that things have changed? Why must we believe the worst in ourselves? It is no wonder that we seem to be spinning our wheels, looking to the guidance of other countries’ examples to determine what we should believe or how we should behave. America has long been a beacon to other countries. We are accused of racism, when we have fought so hard to extinguish that evil. While pockets of discrimination may still exist, we are certainly not the bastion of racism that some claim. “Capitalism” is not an evil word – it is capitalism that provides the most and best opportunity for success to happen! What is the glamour in examining our weaknesses, or even create new problems? Yes, we must be realistic in our evaluations of ourselves, but it is not necessary to wallow in our misery. If your car goes off the road into the ditch, you don’t exit the car and roll in the mud! You find a way to get your car out of the ditch, get back in, and continue to move towards your destination! The same applies to our country – we need to abandon the selfish urge to flagellate ourselves over past evils. Focusing on problems does not make anyone stronger or more morally correct than the person who dusts himself off and moves on. Forward motion is not possible if all you do is look in your rear view mirror. Americans are generous, friendly, industrious people, and we should accept the good in ourselves and our country as we correct our deficiencies – and move forward!

There are so many other things to discuss, but those will have to wait for future opportunities. But I have high expectations for our future, if we return to equality under the law, personal accountability, self responsibility, equal opportunities instead of equal outcomes, the principles of free markets and capitalism, and a belief in the inherent goodness of our country. Let us return to the basics of our forefathers!

Dirty Pool

I was at a basketball tournament this past weekend, watching Handsome Son and his team mates battle for points. They won their first two games handily. When game three came around, though, things changed.

Naturally enough, as play progresses through the tournament, the teams become more evenly matched, at a higher level of ability. I was busy videotaping the play for the coach, and so was focused more on the taping that observing the actual small things that happen during the game. On a side note, I wanted to smack the woman sitting next to me. While I didn’t mind that she was screaming, screaming, screaming to support her team, what I DID mind was that she was screaming, screaming, screaming incessantly. The woman NEVER SHUT UP for more time than it took to take a breath or talk on the phone about how bad the referees were calling the game.

The game was close all the way through to the end, with our team ahead until the last ten minutes, when the opposing team started to slowly catch up. The last few minutes had the lead swapping back and forth – us – them – us – them – until it appeared that the tension caused one of our players to snap as he seemed to throw his opponent to the floor. Instantly the benches cleared and the adults had to jump in to separate the players. Our coach simply pulled our players from the floor and took them out to the hall. There were only a few seconds left and he conceded the game so he could talk to the players. The idiot woman next to me actually asked, “They are forfeiting the game? What does that mean?”

I packed my camera, grabbed my gear, and joined the team out in the hallway. I’ve watched these boys in practice and in play, and I knew that there must have been an explanation for what happened, because these guys just don’t act like hoodlums. It was in the hallway that I learned about the illegal pokes, jabs, grabs, and nasty things that were said from the opposing team to our guys on the court. Our young men played an honorable game, attempting to ignore the cheats and play above it all. The supposed attack of our player against the other was actually one of these acts: the opposing player had trapped our player’s arm between the basketball and his body (our player was attempting to tie up the ball) and would not release his arm, even after the whistle blew. Our player finally had to forcefully jerk his arm loose, and that effort culminated in the opposing player falling to the floor. To much of the audience, it appeared that our player was the instigator, when it was actually the other way around. Our player was condemned, while the other player received “victim” status.

My sense of justice was thoroughly aroused. I feel the same way when liberals are allowed to say almost anything against conservatives and get a free ride. I feel the same way when Democrats go into churches and campaign, when Republicans cannot even give personal testimony of their faith without cries of “repeal the church’s tax exempt status!” I despise the Republicans when they bend over backward to accommodate the liberals in Congress and get spit on in return.

Like our team, the Republicans keep trying to play an honorable game, trying to outplay the bad players, but much too often, as in the tournament, we end up forfeiting what is important. Our coaches keep telling our team that we are not supposed to win, since we are not an “established shoe team,” with large corporate sponsors and pretty jerseys; we are not supposed to win. The fact that we win as often as we do causes consternation among the team coaches of the teams that are “supposed” to win. We are supposed to outplay the referees, overlook the tardiness of the other teams (which should be a forfeiture of the game, but never is), and play clean games. It is frustrating that our young men should have to play against such dirty pool, but I suppose it is a form of life skills training. It still isn’t right.