Would I care this much?

May 31, 2010

In honor of Memorial Day, a very patriotic businessman we know sent all of his clients a letter that shared this story from John McCain.  I had heard it before, but it never fails to move me.

As you may know, I spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.  In the early years of our imprisonment, the NVA kept us in solitary confinement or two or three to a cell.  In 1971, the NVA moved us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men in a room.  This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change and was a direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans on behalf of a few hundred POWs 10,000 miles from home.

One of the men who moved into my room was a young man named Mike Christian.

Mike came from a small town near Selma, Alabama.  He didn’t wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old.  At 17, he enlisted in the US Navy.  He later earned a commission by going to Offi-cer Training School.  Then he became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967.  Mike had a keen and deep appreciation of the opportunities this country—and our mili-tary—provide for people who want to work and want to succeed.

As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home.  In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves, and other items of clothing.  Mike got himself a bamboo needle.  Over a period of a couple of months, he created an American flag and sewed it into the inside of his shirt.

Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike’s shirt on the wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance.  I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important part of our day now, but I can assure you that in that stark cell it was indeed an impor-tant and meaningful event.

One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did periodically, discovered Mike’s shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it.  That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, and for the benefit of us all, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours.  Then they opened the door of the cell and threw him in.  We cleaned him up as well as we could.

The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept.  Four na-ked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room.  After the excitement died down, I looked in the corner of the room, and sitting there beneath one of those dim light bulbs with a piece of red cloth, another shirt, and his bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian.  He was sitting there with his eyes almost shut from the beating he had received, making another American flag.

He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better.  He was making that flag because he knew how important it was to us to be able to pledge allegiance to our flag and our country.

So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you must never forget the sacrifice and courage of thousands of Americans to build our nation and promote freedom around the world.  You must remember our duty, our honor, and our country.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands—one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

If I, or you, were going to be beaten for displaying our country’s flag, would we be brave enough to do it anyway?  I hope so.

But today we remember and honor those who fought and died for our freedom so that we might never have to find out.

Marble Head

May 28, 2010

Yesterday I went for a follow-up visit to the oral surgeon who removed some of my wisdom teeth last week.

He said everything looks great and he has every expectation that my jaw bone will fill in nicely where the teeth were removed.  He remarked that it’s a little unusual in women “my age” to find such solid bones (he can say that because he’s about my age!).  Anyway, he said my jaw bone looks like marble!  I’m sure he meant that to be flattering, but the mental picture that flashed through my mind was of marble columns in very old buildings! Well, I guess that’s better than being told you have a jaw bone that looks like petrified wood!

Genetics are an interesting thing.  On the one hand, I unfortunately inherited, among other things, a predisposition to hearing loss and addictions (in my case, food!) and flat feet.  But on the other hand, I am fortunate to have inherited from my never-broke-a-bone-in-her-90-plus-years Mama, good dense bones.

I am thankful for that inherited trait.  But please don’t get any ideas from what the doctor said.  I’d just as soon not become known as Marble Head.

I really want to know!

May 27, 2010

I love my blogging friends, C and V, at Stickhorse Cowgirls, and it’s not just because they are some of the few blogging friends I have whom I have actually met!

A few days ago, V did this post that just listed five questions.  She answered them first, and then she asked her readers to give their answers.

I was actually surprised at how interesting it was to read the answers to those five questions by her commenters who were, of course, complete strangers to me.

So, I thought I’d try that here.  Now, I do have to say that I never get alot of comments on this blog.  I’ve always assumed that’s because there is something about my way of expressing myself that doesn’t encourage response!

But this time, I would really like for lots of you to answer my questions because I think it might be fun for all of us.  Or not.  Let’s see.  Here are the five questions I have chosen to ask, and my answers:

1.  Are you a homebody or someone who is always looking forward to your next trip?

I am a homebody.  I enjoy traveling occasionally, but I’m always delighted to return home.

2.  If you had to be in a talent show, whether you wanted to or not, what would be your act?

I might read some poetry!  When I competed in speech tourneys in high school in the poetry reading category, I came to realize that there are lots of interesting, sometimes funny poems that I enjoy!

3.  They say that of all the senses, smell has the longest memory.  What a favorite smell you remember from your childhood?

My mother’s yeast rolls.  They were heavenly, to taste as well as to smell!

4.  If you were alone in your house (no family members or pets to worry about) and there was a fire, what would you grab as you ran out of the house?

My “brain”, i.e. my purse!  It contains all my credit cards, my checkbook, my wallet, my address book, my camera and even an umbrella!

5.  Do you have a favorite quote or saying that comes to mind frequently because it seems to frequently fit the situation?

Actually, my husband is the one who first became a fan of this saying, but I find it comes to mind often for me too, because it fits soooo many situations:

“Nothing is impossible if you don’t have to do it yourself.”

Okay.  Now let me hear your answers!


May 25, 2010

A year before Hubby ran for Sheriff for the first time, we were at a law enforcement conference in Seattle.

One morning Hubby and I had had breakfast in the dining room of the hotel, and then he left to go to his first session.  I lingered, drinking my coffee and reading a newspaper since I didn’t have anything planned until later in the morning.  The dining room quickly cleared out as all the other attendees also left for their first sessions and most of the spouses left too.  The woman at the table next to me ended up being practically the only person  left in the dining room besides me.  We noticed each other about the same time, and commented on the fact that we were both newspaper-reading, coffee-drinking “lingerers”.

We got to chatting and the subject of running for office naturally came up (since the majority of attendees at the conferences are elected officials).  Her husband was the sheriff in a large city in a western state.  I had already noticed “Mr. Sheriff” because he was handsome, tall and slim with a mustache and salt and pepper hair.  He looked exactly like what you would picture a sheriff looking like!  And he definitely stood out in a crowd, even of other sheriffs, because he always wore cowboy boots, a well-tailored suit and a Stetson and walked with a self-assured swagger.  He was the prototypical old west sheriff.

“Mrs. Sheriff” was not nearly as imposing a figure.  She was just a very friendly short, slim, cute redhead.  And I especially liked her because she acted very interested when I told her that my husband was getting ready to run for sheriff in our county for the first time.  She then began to tell me about her husband’s first run.  It was obviously one of her favorite memories.

She said he was the lesser known, under-funded candidate and no one really gave him a chance to win.  But the two of them decided that he might lose, but it wouldn’t be because they hadn’t tried.  So they worked harder than they had ever worked in their lives on that campaign.  They made their garage “campaign central” where they made their own signs, and and even designed and printed their own flyers to pass out to voters and volunteers.  And in the end, to just about everyone’s surprise, “Mr. Sheriff” won!

By the time “Mrs. Sheriff” finished telling me the story of her and her husband beating the odds and using long hours of hard work and dedication to achieve that “impossible” win, I was thrilled for them.  What a great story!  And it inspired me to think, “That’s the kind of dedication we need to have for Hubby’s campaign!”  She also went on to give me some very practical tips she had learned about running a campaign.  Before we left the dining room, I told her how much I appreciated talking to her and hearing her story and that it had been an inspiration to me.

These law enforcement conferences are very large, so it’s not surprising that we didn’t run into each other face-to-face again, although we did see each other across a large room a few days later and waved.

Even though Mrs. Sheriff and I never talked again, that conversation we had was one of the highlights of that conference for me.  Her enthusiasm was infectious.

Now, fast forward to the next year and the next annual law enforcement conference in another city.

Hubby was by that time in the midst of his run for the sheriff’s office here, and I was hoping to see “Mrs. Sheriff” again because I knew she would be interested in how we had applied some of the suggestions she had given me the previous year, and I was sure  she would be pleased to realize what an impact our conversation had had on me.

On the first day of check-in, I was sitting in the lobby with some other members of our state’s delegation and noticed Mr. Sheriff come through the door into the lobby, but walking through the door arm in arm with him wasn’t “Mrs. Sheriff”, but a tall, beautiful, voluptuous blonde.  Later I heard through the grapevine (gossip knows no speed limits, no matter how large the gathering) that he had dumped his long-time wife for the young blonde, who was now his wife.

What a disappointment.  Mr. Sheriff no longer looked handsome and admirable to me.  Now when I looked at him I just saw cocky and self-serving.

Maybe the former Mrs. Sheriff has a happy new life now and can look back on her life as Mr. Sheriff’s wife philosophically and still have fond memories of the good times.  I hope so.

And I hope that Mr. Sheriff, even though no longer married to her, treats the former Mrs. Sheriff with kindness and respect.  From what I know, she deserves it.

But I wonder if it ever crosses Mr. Sheriff’s mind that if he’d had a glamorous, probably high-maintenance wife like his second wife when he first ran for sheriff, instead of his fiercely loyal, hardworking first wife, he might not have ever been Sheriff.

Let’s talk turkey …

May 24, 2010

… about teeth!

Of course, I’m not talking about turkey teeth, because they don’t have any, so that would be silly.  And I’m hardly ever silly (at least not intentionally).

What I mean is let’s talk frankly about our teeth!  They are so important to us.  We need them to chew, smile pretty and hold our jaws apart!

But sometimes we don’t really appreciate them because they just do their job and aren’t “the sqeaky wheel” so we take them for granted.

I bring up this subject because I had surgery on Friday to remove three of my six wisdom teeth.  And there’s nothing like dental surgery to bring your teeth to the front of your mind and make you appreciate them!

I had just returned from having my three wisdom teeth on the left side removed.  How can you not feel sorry for someone who looks like that?  ‘That’s a clever little ice pack wrapped around my head.  Doesn’t do much for the “do”, does it.

I’ve always known that I had the four routine wisdom teeth (although only partially visible because there wasn’t room for them), plus another one on each side above my upper wisdom teeth.  They are called “buds” because they are small, undeveloped teeth.  And as long as none of these gave me any trouble, I was advised to just leave them alone, because removing them would be more complicated that removing “normal” wisdom teeth.

So when the dentist found some infection by one of my wisdom teeth last week, he sent me to an oral surgeon who said “The time has come.” and removed the three on the left side on Friday.

That’s the reason you haven’t heard from me here for the last few days.  Hubby and I have both been babying me, because my jaw is sore and swollen.  And I have a very busy schedule of pain killers, antibiotics and gargling both salt water and a medicated rinse.

Anyway, I had two points in writing this post.  First, to let you know that I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth — I just haven’t felt like posting.

And, secondly, as a reminder to appreciate your teeth and take good care of them.  Because when you’re 64 and you have to have something major done to your teeth, you’ll be glad for every minute you spent flossing and using an electric toothbrush to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible, and that you go to the dentist regularly so that  when there is a problem, it’s found and resolved quickly.

Yesterday (Sunday) was my worst day.  I was the most swollen and sore.  And because the swelling is just on one side, I have to say when I looked in the mirror I didn’t just look like a chipmunk as I had been warned I would, but because I looked lopsided, I looked like an off-kilter, drunken chipmunk!  Unfortunately, I couldn’t even laugh, because it hurt.

But this morning when I got up, the swelling is down as well as the pain and for the first time, I feel like I’m on the mend!  Hooray!

If wisdom teeth were gold, I’d be a wealthy woman.  Especially with what gold is selling for today.

Duncan’s Ledger: Those Deadly Pies

May 19, 2010

A poem my grandfather wrote down in his ledger while sitting around a campfire or a bunkhouse with other cowboys about 100 years ago, which gives us some humorous insight into the anonymous author’s experience with food preservation!

Those Deadly Pies

I loathe, abhor, detest, despise,

abominable dried apple pies.

I like good bread, I like good meat,

or anything that’s good to eat;

but of all poor grub beneath the skies,

the poorest is dried apple pies.

The farmer takes his gnarliest fruit,

’tis wormy, bitter and hard to boot.

They leave the hulls to make me cough,

and don’t take half the peelings off.

Then on a dirty cord ’tis strung,

and in a garret window hung.

And there it serves a rest for flies,

until it’s made up into pies.

Tread on my corns and tell me lies,

but don’t pass me dried apple pies!

“Teaming” with Success!

May 18, 2010

On June 5, my book club will be walking as a team, calling ourselves the Literary Lappers, in a fund-raising walk sponsored by the local Cancer Services.

What a successful way “walks” have become for worthy organizations to raise money.  And such a win/win for everyone — the organization raises money, and the groups of walkers have a good time taking  a walk together through a beautiful park.

Oh, and one more thing, I’m supposed to ask friends to “sponsor” me.  No, I’m not taking bets on whether I fall down or not.  But thanks for asking.

So if you would be interested in donating to the support of cancer treatment and research, mention that in your comment and I’ll e-mail you the information.

I’m looking forward to a walk in the park with the Literary Lappers but, lest you get the wrong impression because “lappers” somehow sounds like “runners”, let me just clarify that we will be walking, with no spandex and very little sweat involved!

His mother’s apron strings

May 17, 2010

I took this picture of Hubby with his parents when he was about 30 years old.

An old saying refers to a “mama’s boy” as “tied to his mother’s apron strings”.

Well, Hubby wasn’t tied to his mother’s apron strings — he just liked to untie them! (I looked for a picture of his mother in an apron, but I remember that if pictures were going to be taken, she always took it off.  So, no picture of that.)

Hubby occasionally liked to tease his mother by walking behind her while she was working in the kitchen in her apron (the bib type that didn’t fall off just because it was untied) and just quickly tugging on one end of her apron strings to make them come untied.

When he would do that, his mother would just feign aggravation and then laugh and re-tie them.  No big deal, but a fun shared “tradition” between mother and son.

And when I first saw him teasing her that way when we were dating, I was charmed.  It’s interesting to see now that even though I’m sure I didn’t realize why my teen-age self was charmed, I think it was because of what this said about his good relationship with his mother  and also that it showed such a fun-loving side of his personality.

There is another old saying, “If you want to know how a man will treat his wife, watch how he treats his mother.”  That is certainly true with Hubby.  He teases me just like he teased his mother, although seldom in exactly the same way, because I hardly ever wear an apron!  But I enjoy him teasing me, just like I know his mother did.

Just a Dog

May 16, 2010

I received the following in an e-mail yesterday and I was so touched by what Catherine Moore had written that I wanted to share it with you.  At the bottom of the e-mail it said to share it with four of your friends, so I don’t think that she will mind that I share it here.

May this touch your heart as it touched mine:


By Catherine Moore

‘Watch out! You nearly broadsided that car!’ My father yelled at me. ‘Can’t you do anything right?’ Those words hurt worse than blows. I turned my head toward the elderly man in the seat beside me, daring me to challenge him. A lump rose in my throat as I averted my eyes. I wasn’t prepared for another battle.

‘I saw the car, Dad.. Please don’t yell at me when I’m driving.’ My voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than I really felt.

Dad glared at me, then, turned away and settled back. At home, I left Dad in front of the television and went outside to collect my thoughts. Dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a promise of rain. The rumble of distant thunder seemed to echo my inner turmoil.

What could I do about him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and Oregon . He had enjoyed being outdoors and had reveled in pitting his strength against the forces of nature. He had entered grueling lumberjack competitions and had placed often. The shelves in his house were filled with trophies that attested to his prowess.

The years marched on relentlessly. The first time he couldn’t lift a heavy log, he joked about it; but later that same day, I saw him outside alone, straining to lift it. He became irritable whenever anyone teased him about his advancing age or when he couldn’t do something he had done as a younger man.

Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday, he had a heart attack. At the hospital, Dad was rushed into an operating room. He was lucky; he survived.

But something inside Dad died. His zest for life was gone. He obstinately refused to follow doctor’s orders. Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with sarcasm and insults. The number of visitors thinned and then finally stopped altogether. Dad was left alone.

My husband, Dick, and I asked Dad to come live with us on our small farm. We hoped the fresh air and rustic atmosphere would help him adjust. Within a week after he moved in, I regretted the invitation. It seemed nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything I did. I became frustrated and moody. Soon, I was taking my pent-up anger out on Dick. We began to bicker and argue. Alarmed, Dick sought out our pastor and explained the situation. The clergyman set up weekly counseling appointments for us. At the close of each session, he prayed, asking God to soothe Dad’s troubled mind. But the months wore on and God was silent. Something had to be done and it was up to me to do it.

The next day, I sat down with the phone book and methodically called each of the mental health clinics listed in the Yellow Pages. I explained my problem to each of the sympathetic voices that answered. In vain. Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly exclaimed, ‘I just read something that might help you! Let me go get the article.’ I listened as she read. The article described a remarkable study done at a nursing home. All of the patients were under treatment for chronic depression. Yet their attitudes had improved dramatically when they were given responsibility for a dog.

I drove to the animal shelter that afternoon. After I filled out a questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the kennels. The odor of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved down the row of pens. Each contained five to seven dogs. Long-haired dogs, curly-haired dogs, black dogs, spotted dogs all jumped up, trying to reach me. I studied each one, but rejected one after the other for various reasons, too big, too small, too much hair. As I neared the last pen, a dog in the shadows of the far corner struggled to his feet, walked to the front of the run and sat down. It was a pointer, one of the dog world’s aristocrats. But this was a caricature of the breed. Years had etched his face and muzzle with shades of gray. His hipbones jutted out in lopsided triangles. But it was his eyes that caught and held my attention. Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly.

I pointed to the dog. ‘Can you tell me about him?’ The officer looked, then shook his head in puzzlement..

‘He’s a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere and sat in front of the gate. We brought him in, figuring someone would be right down to claim him; that was two weeks ago and we’ve heard nothing. His time is up tomorrow.’ He gestured helplessly.

As the words sank in, I turned to the man in horror. ‘You mean you’re going to kill him?’

‘Ma’am,’ he said gently, ‘that’s our policy. We don’t have room for every unclaimed dog.’

I looked at the pointer again. The calm brown eyes awaited my decision. ‘I’ll take him,’ I said.

I drove home with the dog on the front seat beside me. When I reached the house, I honked the horn twice. I was helping my prize out of the car when Dad shuffled onto the front porch.

‘Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad!’ I said excitedly.

Dad looked, then wrinkled his face in disgust. ‘If I had wanted a dog, I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of bones. Keep it! I don’t want it’ Dad waved his arm scornfully and turned back toward the house.

Anger rose inside me. It squeezed together my throat muscles and pounded into my temples.

‘You’d better get used to him, Dad. He’s staying!’ Dad ignored me.. ‘Did you hear me, Dad?’ I screamed. At those words, Dad whirled angrily, his hands clenched at his sides, his eyes narrowed and blazing with hate.

We stood glaring at each other like duelists, when, suddenly, the pointer pulled free from my grasp. He wobbled toward my dad and sat down in front of him.. Then slowly, carefully, he raised his paw.

Dad’s lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw. Confusion replaced the anger in his eyes. The pointer waited patiently.. Then, Dad was on his knees, hugging the animal.

It was the beginning of a warm and intimate friendship. Dad named the pointer Cheyenne . Together, he and Cheyenne explored the community. They spent long hours walking down dusty lanes. They spent reflective moments on the banks of streams, angling for tasty trout. They even started to attend Sunday services together, Dad sitting in a pew and Cheyenne lying quietly at his feet.

Dad and Cheyenne were inseparable throughout the next three years. Dad’s bitterness faded and he and Cheyenne made many friends. Then, late one night, I was startled to feel Cheyenne ‘s cold nose burrowing through our bed covers. He had never before come into our bedroom at night. I woke Dick, put on my robe, and ran into my father’s room. Dad lay in his bed, his face serene. But his spirit had left quietly sometime during the night.

Two days later, my shock and grief deepened when I discovered Cheyenne lying dead beside Dad’s bed. I wrapped his still form in the rag rug he had slept on. As Dick and I buried him near a favorite fishing hole, I silently thanked the dog for the help he had given me in restoring Dad’s peace of mind.

The morning of Dad’s funeral dawned, overcast and dreary. This day looks like the way I feel, I thought, as I walked down the aisle to the pews reserved for family. I was surprised to see the many friends Dad and Cheyenne had made filling the church. The pastor began his eulogy. It was a tribute to both Dad and the dog who had changed his life. And, then, the pastor turned to Hebrews 13:2. ‘Be not forgetful to entertain strangers.’

‘I’ve often thanked God for sending that angel,’ he said.

For me, the past dropped into place, completing a puzzle that I had not seen before: the sympathetic voice that had just read the right article.

Cheyenne’s unexpected appearance at the animal shelter, his calm acceptance and complete devotion to my father, and the proximity of their deaths. And, suddenly, I understood. I knew that God had answered my prayers after all.

Life is too short for drama & petty things, so laugh hard, love truly, and forgive quickly. Live While You Are Alive. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity. Forgive now those who made you cry. You might not get a second time.

May your Sunday be blessed.  Sandra

In the blink of an eye …

May 15, 2010

Sixty-four years ago today, I was born into a family that already had four half-grown kids!  But, luckily for me, bedrooms, lives and hearts were rearranged to make room for one more.  I know how fortunate I am that I was wanted and loved, even though I was a surprise.

The “big kids” crowd around to get a look at the “new kid on the block”.

I was 4 months old in this picture and Daddy had me standing on the hood of the car!  Maybe that early experience is the reason I’ve never had much fear of standing on a stage to speak?

And then he sat me on the fender of the car.  Makes me look kind of “fast” doesn’t it?  Maybe that’s the root of my life-long “need for speed” when driving?

Seriously, sixty-four years have gone by so fast.  And if I have any regrets they are the times I didn’t slow down and savor important moments that were only going to happen once.  And, conversely, I truly treasure the times I really did “take it all in” and enjoy a special moment.

I know it’s easy for me to say and, especially if you are very young, it may be very hard for you to believe, but in some ways sixty-four years have been like the blink of an eye.

So if you would like to give me a birthday present, my sincere wish is that you remember what I have just said, and truly “stop to smell the roses” on your life’s journey.  I promise you, you will never regret it.  And it would be a wonderful gift for me if I felt I had helped you remember to do that.

God has blessed me in so many ways, and those of you who visit this blog are an important part of those blessings.  Thank you.