A Peculiar Crossroads

Almost a decade ago, I launched this blog. The nameplate has changed slightly but my general high regard for Flannery O’Connor (from whom the blog name was admittedly plucked) hasn’t diminished. I don’t recall our first meeting (in the pages of a book), but my philosophy as a young writer was partly formed thanks to her insights.

Her book Mystery and Manners set in motion my lifelong interest. I borrowed the book from the library. We were casual acquaintances then. By the due-date, I realized I couldn’t relinquish the book! In those pre-Amazon days, I scrambled to find a hard copy to purchase but found none.

As a last resort, I located a photocopier and proceeded to copy over 200 pages, dime by dime. (The above photo shows that well-worn copy.) I omitted the first chapter (21 pages) which relates O’Connor’s tale “The King of the Birds.” It was an amusing story but not worth the extra buck. Continue reading “A Peculiar Crossroads”

Educated Opinions

Experts. We rely on them. We make life choices based on the advice of experts. Before having a vehicle/appliance/roof/computer repaired, we consult the expert, someone who by reputation has achieved a level of knowledge and expertise worthy of respect. In fact, we so highly value their abilities, we pay them.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

We crave the wisdom of medical experts. A highly-respected figure who’s both a physician and immunologist, for instance, would logically command attention and even admiration. Or a government official (less an expert but we listen nonetheless) may yield information worthy of consideration.

Unfortunately, mistakes happen. A physician could remove your leg instead of your appendix. Your computer guru could delete 30,000 emails instead of a virus on the hard drive. (It could actually happen!) In the real world, human beings – yes, even experts – can be miserably inept. Continue reading “Educated Opinions”

Stand

Tensions are nothing new for New York City. According to History.com, an 1857 NYC squabble (illustrated below) involved two rival police forces. It’s an interesting tidbit from history, don’t you think?

With this long-ago situation a variant of what’s happening today in cities across our country, newscasts have become more tedious by the day. Incidents like this, and this, and this certainly give me pause. What’s next? The whipping post and pillory? It seems intentional humiliation of individuals is now an acceptable power tactic to keep the timid, huddled masses in line. Continue reading “Stand”

Warring With Our Souls

Over the last couple weeks, COVID-19 has all but disappeared from front page news spreads having suddenly been supplanted by protests, rioting and looting. Yes, George Floyd’s murder was a despicable act of first-degree hate. There should be no debate, nor the excuse of possible extenuating circumstances.

Having said that, it is impossible for me to reconcile the understandable grief with senseless acts of barbarism and destruction which have been perpetrated as payback for this man’s death. If you think that’s a cruel or heartless thing to assert, you should probably go follow a different blog. (I’ll be equally direct in the paragraphs below.) Continue reading “Warring With Our Souls”

Jail Break!

Here we are … 8, 10, 12 weeks in with this crazy (and seriously overheated, if I may offer my personal opinion) pandemic. Have you enjoyed this bizarre social experiment as much as I have? (Granted, one of my last posts noted my comfortability with self-isolating.)

It’s been relatively easy for me to follow the guidelines. We live in a state where stay-at-home recommendations (for the most part) were modest, mostly respectful to sensible adults listening and heeding medical and government guidelines. Truth be told, my Beloved has trudged off to work every single day. It’s what he does.

Then, a week ago, we saw the headline “New York Times lists COVID-19 daily growth rate in NWA as highest in the nation.” Imagine the reactions! This isn’t something we aspire for top-list status. For myself, I’m hoping herd immunity kicks in soon.

Still, we’re adjusting here. And the good news I’ve been reading about – seemingly everywhere –  is that rioting, looting and pillaging cures the spread of COVID-19! It certainly takes the spotlight off  all the dreary predictions and public shaming (when someone isn’t wearing a mask … or sin-of-sins, failing to maintain proper distancing).

Long after a range of normalcy is restored across the world, the awful effects of COVID-19 will remain. So many individuals have lost their livelihoods and scores of businesses have been crippled beyond return. I’m no doctor, but even I can see this virus will go down in history beyond the number of people who died from the disease itself. I can’t help but think of its long-lasting psychological impact on children.

Further, the ease with which government encroached on personal liberties was stunning. (If that doesn’t bother you, maybe take some time to read the US Constitution.) Measles, influenza and smallpox were serious concerns for the founding fathers, but somehow they managed to secure our nation and enumerate certain rights of citizens … despite the numerous health challenges they encountered.

Don’t misunderstand, I know the virus was (and remains) a notable threat, especially for elderly folks with other health complications. As various states continue to transition through phases of re-opening, I’m optimistic we’ll see states and the country as a whole flourish and regain some economic and spiritual wholeness. But please, let’s not forget the essential freedoms previous generations fought and died to uphold; let’s hold them close, close enough we won’t let go.

In the meantime, a sonnet reflecting my thoughts on the lock-down.

Elbow Room

When it comes to isolation, I’m something of an expert. (Someone – maybe Dizzy Dean? – once said: it ain’t bragging if it’s true.) Though I enjoy the company of a wide range of friends and loved ones, I’m quite content spending time alone. In fact, whenever there are times I must engage socially, it’s not long before I must grab time alone to replenish my sociability reserves.

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Unlike the social “deprivation” others are enduring, I’ve suffered no hardship from enforced social distancing. If I’ve needed to go out (grocery shopping, the post office, etc.), I’ve gone. In the beginning of March (as things first started closing down), I went to the post office where one of the counter clerks wore a surgical mask. It surprised me, but if that’s what she felt she needed to feel safe, I had no objections. Individuals should have the freedom to make those decisions for themselves.

Continue reading “Elbow Room”

Been There, Done That

Stir-crazy yet? Some people have more tolerance than others, I know. Still, more and more people are expressing similar frustration:  how long must this go on?

As I read back through old posts, I was reminded we’ve been here before. Back in October 2014, it was Ebola, another virus of considerable risk. At that time, my concerns centered on my elderly mother as well as my mother-in-law who passed away in 2017. Right now it’s my mom (now in her 94th year) who remains foremost in my thoughts. Continue reading “Been There, Done That”

Straight-Up Grandstanding

Honestly, it sounds almost so silly to say but . . . few things raise my ire as much as careless (or ignorant) use of language. Yesterday, this video (below) by Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) received attention on various web services and blogs. Referring to her as the “Bronx Bolshevik,”  Biz-Pac Review ridiculed her cringe-worthy assertions.

One of AOC’s Democratic challengers, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera said: “keeping AOC in office makes us (the citizens of NY-14) look like fools.” Twitter posts were amusing and predictable. I leave it to others to express their reactions as they may.

For me, my first impulse was to ignore the video. I dislike contributing additional views to any video I consider inane. But AOC’s statement irked … specifically the repeated use of that non-word:  patroning. My spell-checker rejects the nonword, and so do I!

Continue reading “Straight-Up Grandstanding”

Know When To Hold

The recent commemorations of D-Day have sparked my reflections. With this final day of June 2019, my thoughts center on my father-in-law (FIL) whose birthday it is. He was born in 1921. I’ve mentioned him in several previous posts, most recently here.

Born in Kansas, the second child of Fred and Georgia, Max learned early the importance of hard work, a way of life embedded deep in their German heritage. He often reminded his sons how his own father tied a block of wood to the child’s foot so he could reach the tractor’s gas pedal. Able-bodied children learned the value of work to help families survive.

This work ethic propelled young Max into adulthood. Ambition and aptitude directed him to Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science (now Kansas State University) where he prepared for his future career as an engineer. As sometimes happens, these plans were interrupted by the shadow of war. Like many of his peers, this engineering student enlisted in the US Army.

When Max reported for active duty, he served with the Signal Corps stationed in the Philippines. His eldest son (also named Max) was born during this overseas deployment.

Following World War II, Max pursued various engineering and corporate positions that brought him success. He was wise and expert, an admirable man. He and his wife raised four sons, each of whom exhibits distinct character qualities (even facial expressions) learned from their father.

Looking back though, I’ve come to realize … to my regret … I didn’t know my FIL well. He was an imposing figure to me, tall and commanding as one might expect of a former Army officer. As his daughter-in-law, I found myself unable to establish a comfortable level of familiarity where I could characterize him as my friend. Though he was kind and cordial, he seemed a generally quiet man, sometimes prone to share stories, but usually content to observe the interactions and conversations of those around him.

Mostly, what I know of the man is what I’ve seen reflected in my Beloved. The second child of a second child, my Beloved mirrors his father’s disposition as a generally quiet man. Observing my Beloved’s love for me and for his children and grandchildren, I’m grateful to his father for being a good dad and provider.

Perhaps more than anything else, I realize my FIL passed on to my Beloved a precious spirit of play. Pictured at right in the final years of his life, Max displays the winning hand in a monumental match of Texas Hold’em. To start, there may have been eight or ten competitors sitting at that roundtable contest. One by one, they went down in defeat to the most seasoned (and senior) card player at the table. Even as a man in his 80s, Max delighted in being champion of all.

We don’t have much occasion to break out the cards these days, but whenever my Beloved splashes his grand-twins in their mini-pool or welcomes the grandchildren to hop on top his truck for a raucous ride around the lawn, I’m gratified by his joyous spirit of playfulness … and how Scriptureonce again – demonstrates its essential Truth to our everyday lives.

Jumping the Cactus

No matter how often I’ve seen it, this 2017 Progressive Insurance commercial always makes me laugh. I’m reminded what the commercial says about human nature. More to the point, it demonstrates the human propensity to ignore the old adage:  speak less, listen hard. When someone mentions taking the kids to soccer practice and you’re willing and ready to jump the cactus, there’s a definite failure to communicate.

This week’s news didn’t highlight the failure to communicate, but it did cause people to re-think their understanding about what it means “to hear.” Yes, I’m referring to the Laurel/Yanny debate initiated by a Reddit user posing a simple question:  what do you hear? Continue reading “Jumping the Cactus”