Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

I have an attitude problem, one I've had a couple of years. I'm ageing, in fact, have been ageing for a number of years now. I find it very difficult, so I beat people to making comments about it. I go on the defensive. "Come on," I'll say to younger people, "I'm an old lady, blah, blah, blah...."

I have come to a crossroads: I can continue down this "I'm so old" road or take the road less traveled: I can keep alive and mentally oiled and conditioned to accept age and make it a calling card. I'm going positive.

There are, of course, problems in going positive. I have a mother who is so very critical. "I tell the truth," she says, like an Old Testament prophet anointed to do just such, as they did back in the day. Her "truth" to me is that I am losing my brain, meaning it is declining. She says it is noticeable. I say poppycock! After I stopped teaching English, my brain did start to decline. You know, if you don't use it, you lose it. Now that IS something I hold true. 

Years ago, I broke my foot and could not walk on it one whit and used a crutch as a substitute for that leg. After several weeks on that crutch, my good leg developed muscles and the bad leg withered to almost half its size. Again, a point to make: After seven years of not teaching, I went back into the classroom as a French teacher. Voila! Talk about using one's brain! J'ai enseignie beaucoup d'étudiants . Nous avons mangé du pain et bu du café en classe . Nous avons visité Natchitoches , la première ville de Louisiane. Mes élèves étaient heureux d'y aller. (I taught many students. We ate bread and drank coffee in class. We visited Natchitoches, the first city in Louisiana. My students were happy to go there.)

The newest brain research indicates that memory is not static, that it changes with experiences which greatly impact how the brain develops or declines. In other words sitting in that rocking chair can rot the brain, whereas taking up fishing or making quilts enhance the brain because of the new-ness and the challenges of the experiences. Learning technology would also be an experience-enhancing challenge! 

Here is a link to what researchers have discovered about the brain and how to evaluate brain research sites:

Please read further into this fascinating field.

So, back to my resolution. It is based on the truths of three people.

Number one is my sister, who is an organizational wizard. She worked a number of years for a company and notably the manager whose job was to take businesses in trouble and teach them how to fix their problems. As his personal assistant, my sister also learned how to do what he did. I have been in such a spiraling decline (not brain), that I needed help in getting organized and climbing my way out. She has been my teacher and promoter and cheerleader.

Secondly, Joel Osteen is a television preacher, and, of course, a megachurch preacher. His sermons, criticized by some as "feel-good" sermons, have made a big impact on me. He is the champion of the power of positive thinking. Words have power, he declares, and he admonishes people to be wary of what words they allow into their brains. 

Thirdly, I saw Jane Fonda on a late night show recently in which she promoted her newest movie, which is about youth and ageing. She is 74 and says she feels like a newbie. She felt old at 20 and 30, but now she has once again re-invented herself. Madonna does this, the wild and wooly Miley Cyrus does this. Staying the same old person you once were is ageing. I know many people like this who stay in a rut.

So, my resolution is to face the future unafraid, to grasp opportunities, shoot, even make opportunities. Only the truly ageing person will sit down and turn into a potato. I'm striking out in new territory.

I'll let you know how it turns out in a few months....

New rant and praise: Neighbors

My house is the second house from the end of a two-block street in a fairly established neighborhood, created in the 1970's. I bought this house after my divorce and have been here 13 years. 

The first buyer on the street was a major in the Air Force, an engineer. He chose the house on the end next to the local park. With no one there to contest him, he bought a huge chunk of what should be my back yard on the west side. He bragged that his land stretched from pole to pole (telephone poles, one at the edge of his property, the second ten feet into what should be my property.  No one told me about this disgrace when I looked at the property. I assumed the line went straight down from the fence, not a 45 degree angle.

Well, the old man died a couple of years ago, and his son "gave" the house to his 19-year-old son. Yes, I know, a teenager, and his live-in girlfriend. However, those two, and including his mudding friends, have been wonderful neighbors. No one drinks or smokes (maybe one friend) or even curses. They don't play loud music even when they have cookouts and swimming parties. 

Even at her young age, the girl/woman is a school photographer with a side business. I really like this slightly chunky blonde with the beautiful face. The dude is medium height, nice-looking, and has curly brown hair which is ALWAYS covered by a sideways cap from his collection of cap. I mean ALWAYS! However, he is one the most polite young men I've ever met!

So, what's the rant? Uh-oh, you missed it--his grandfather bought some of what should be my land. "His" property is shaped like a pie wedge, and mine is a lesser, reversed pie wedge, while all other properties up and down the street have straight boundaries. One day, Young Dude tells me that they plan to extend his fence to the bayou to encompass his land and prevent his dogs from roaming my land (to do business). Imagine a fence at the top of the flat section, then draw a diagonal line over onto my property. I told him that I would be blocked from getting my lawn mower down there. (I call my back yard Down Below because we have two levels, the street height, and the hill extending to the bayou which marks our northern borders.)
Know what he said? "We'll work something out." I trust his word.

Note: I'm concerned that they've broken up. Her car has not been there in a month, her two big barking (and annoying) dogs are also absent. His friends no longer hang out there. Maybe someone is in the hospital. I don't know.

So much for one set of neighbors. It's late and the other neighbor is such a piece of work that I need to have a clear head to write about her.

To be continued...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Politics 101

Who should be president? Do you "like" any of the Republican candidates? Hillary? Why and/or why not?

Right at the beginning, I'm going to declare my disdain for Hillary and leave it at that. What this blog is about, then, is my opinion of the Republicans.

Beginning with the first Republican debate, I have been impressed with all of them, both tiers. 

So we do have really qualified men and women willing to tackle the office of president. Of course, they must have big egos and nerves of steel and backbones that won't break under the intense scrutiny they undergo on a daily basis.

What I most like about these candidates is their high intelligence, a willing commitment to the ideals of the presidency, a knowledge of American history, and a litany of what can be done to restore the integrity of our national pride.

In "The Sound of Music," the nuns had this to say about Maria: "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" She was irrepressible, full of high energy, and committed to being free and following her own star. So, I say, is Donald Trump.

Do you remember bra burning (if you're of a certain age). Its point was to shift the pendulum from the extreme of the '50's with women in their place. "Burning bras" had the audacitty of swinging that pendulum from staidness to free-ness. Damn those bras. "Let it all hang out." And it did. And so does Donald Trump.
He's like a petulant child, uttering forth all his glib comments. However, they make us think. Is he speaking our minds? Are we allowed to say those things? Of course not, but here is a presidential candidate saying them. Political correctness had reached a point of silliness--no "Merry Christmas." It had to be "Happy Holiday" or "Happy Winter Solstice" or some such.

Truly the country was founded on religious freedom but in a bifurcated way. On the one hand, freedom was granted to those "like us," but not to those who practiced a variation of Protestantism. The word itself was a precursor to the rabbling of voices that finally grounded itself into the new country. If the country was founded on religious freedom, then the opposite, devil worship, or even the hint of it, almost destroyed communities. The witches of Salem threw out accusations, setting the path of future behavior. Does not the Donald make variant accusations like the girls of Salem, planting ideas of questionable behavior or differences.

Attacking Fiorina's looks, saying he will deny Muslims entrance into the country, promoting Putin makes me think the Donald is not a serious candidate.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What is fishing? Ch. 8: Cheating....

Yes, cheating. I didn't think so at the time, but later had to admit that I probably cheated. What pointed me in that dire train of thought? I had had no luck catching anything for days. Someone, probably my mother, told me to buy catfish bait and throw it all around my part of the bayou. So I did. What stinky stuff!!

Nothing happened for a couple of days. Then the barometric pressure changed: rain was on the way. What happened next was my messenger about the barometer: fish started biting as if they had not eaten in a good while. I would throw in my line and -bam!- my cork started bobbing, then running this way, then that way, then down! I had so much fun playing those fish.

I would think I had them, then whoosh--the line went limp. Over and over, finally  victory and I pulled out a beautiful fish. I caught eight fish that day, mostly blue-gill bream, a couple of gorgeous sun perch, and surprise, surprise, a nice fat striped bass.

It is that striped bass that caused me to think perhaps I had cheated. He swallowed that hook! Oh, how I hate that. I have my needle nose pliers but this hook was too deep to avoid injury. Ug, half his tongue came out with that hook.

I always imagine giants in the sky treating me as if I were a fish, with identical torment that I bestow upon fish--and even worms. When I tear those Canadian Night Crawlers in half, I imagine the screams that must rip through their bodies.

Anyway--the aggression with which the fish attacked my worms, the powerhouse way they tried to evade capture made me think that, maybe, just maybe, I had cheated by using the catfish bait.

"No, that's not cheating," my sister assured me. "Have you ever watched fishing competitions on television? They use every method known to man, woman, and beast, plus things the audience knows nothing about. So forget this cheating notion." So I did.

My day ended well into darkness. My happiness, I'm sure, lit up my surroundings. One last cast--and they were still biting. Wow...

Addendum: Click on the following clip to see just what monster hood a striped bass can grow into: (I think you need to cut and paste) 

A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.