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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dream Up Some New Year's Resolutions

The start of a new year. Ah, New Year’s resolutions. I have assiduously avoided making New Year’s resolutions for quite a few years. If you don’t make New Year’s resolutions you can’t break them, can you?

Making New Year’s resolutions are a lot like setting goals and objectives. You, know, the kind you are required to set if you are employed by a corporation. I hesitate to admit this, but I have been employed by large employers for so many years that I can remember when management by objectives was a new and novel concept. An idea sold to companies by expert consultants for big bucks. Well, at least that is something that has not changed, expert consultants, I mean. The saying used to be: an expert is anyone who lives more than a hundred miles away and charges more than a hundred dollars an hour.

However, some things about that saying have changed. If you can hire the expert for $100 an hour it is unlikely anyone will believe he or she is much of an expert on anything.

But I digress, as I often do. How can it be that someone who has spent so many years deliberately avoiding setting personal goals and objectives at New Year's, or any other time of the year for that matter, would write a column on her personal goals and objectives for the upcoming year? 

Well, the truth, surprisingly, is often the best place to start. I have three goals, supported by three objectives to reach those goals, in mind for the upcoming year. And they literally came to mind during the time I do my best thinking, that is, while I was not aware, at least consciously, that I was thinking. My mind, for some reason, has to be tricked into thinking productively about anything complex or deep. 

For example, if I have a problem, I find the best way to solve it is not to think about it. I know this may sound a lot like procrastination. But it is not. It is a new concept I call “Creative Nonthinking”. When I Nonthink a solution comes to me, out of the blue, if you will. This sudden solution often comes to me upon awakening in the morning. 

Even though my mind has worked like this for as long as I can remember, it is somewhat startling still to awake with a full blown solution in my head, whether it is a key passage to a brief, a solution as to how I can find time to get the car into the repair shop and still juggle the other things I have to do that day, or how to make amends to a friend whom I may have inadvertently offended. 

Apparently while I thought I was sleeping my brain has been working out the solutions to whatever puzzle it could not complete during the day, just methodically fitting various pieces with each other until they snap together into a sunrise solution. 

It is startling enough when this happens with regards to a problem I had been thinking about the day or so before. However, it is completely disconcerting when it occurs with regard to a problem I did not even know I had. It is a lot like when your mother tells you, “you know, you really ought to invite your cousins for the holiday dinner,” when you did not realize you were hosting the holiday dinner at your house this year.

So it was with complete surprise that I awoke one morning to discover I had three full-blown personal goals, complete with objectives, pre-formed and neatly packaged in my mind, upon awakening one recent morning. You may be eager to know what those three goals, and the objectives to their attainment were. But I am not going to share them here. 

Oh, they are three very useful goals for me. And they might be useful for a lot of other folks. But I am not going to share them for three simple reasons. First, they are not terribly startling and surprising. 

The second reason is they just might be a tad more information than someone out there cares to know about me. No, really, they are not terribly embarrassing or personal but they are MY goals and objectives. I don’t want someone to ask me in six months how I am coming with my three goals, or even just one or two of them. 

The third reason is the primary reason I am not going to share them. They literally are my “dreamed of” goals and objectives. If I share them with you it would make it just much too easy for those of you who believe in setting goals and making new year's resolutions to borrow mine rather than dream up your own.

So instead I challenge you: put your mind to the task to come up with your personal goals for the year ahead. And then don’t do anything more except get a good night's rest. In the morning, if you have some great goals for the new year you can take credit for your mind’s work while you slept. If, instead, you come up with a solution to some other problems while you slept you can be pleased with that result. And if nothing else occurs, you can take as a goal to more often get a good night's rest and pat yourself on the back for having taken a step towards meeting that goal. 

You also can recommend me to any of your friends or clients in need of an expert on Creative Nonthinking. I am available at a fee of something over $100 an hour. Oh, and the hours that you sleep are billed by me to you for your Creative Nonthinking time.

Happy New Year's.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Brain Mix Ups

Awhile back I talked about how hard it is to learn a new language. So now I have another question. Why, when I try to think of the Spanish word for something do I find a long-forgotten German word on the tip of my tongue?

 It would make sense in a way if French or some other romance language popped in my brain, if I’d studied French, and if the French and Spanish words were similar. But none of that is the case. I didn't study French, a similar word does not pop in my brain, and the German and Spanish words are nothing alike: compare “Perdon, por favor” with “Enshulegen Sie, Bitte”. Nothing alike. And yet, for some strange reason, studying Spanish is helping me recall the German I studied a lifetime ago.

It’s a lot like when I try to recall the name of an actor. Another actor’s name will pop up. Compare Gary Cooper and Cary Grant. They really only have a few things in common. They were contemporaries:  Cooper was born in 1901; Grant in 1904. Both were good actors.  

They don’t have similar names, though in a pinch one might try to rhyme their first names. Their appearances and styles were quite different. Cooper was the essential cowboy type--strong, silent, and comfortable on a horse, in the outdoors and shooting a gun. Grant was known as debonair and sophisticated. Screwball comedies, and con jobs were more his style. One thing they had in common--both shared the screen with some stunning leading ladies. Think Ingrid Bergman in "Notorious" and Grace Kelly in "High Noon".

So why do I often retrieve one of their names when I know the other actor was in a particular film. By some obscure connection I seem to have mentally filed the two names and they stick together when I reach for that mental file. 

 Or, there is a friend (let’s call her “Mary”) and the daughter (“Marie”) of another friend (“Susan”). I know Mary and Marie and never mentally confuse their names when I think of them. They are quite clearly fixed in my brain. But when I try to say either name, the other one frequently pops up and into my mouth. Their names are both linked by Susan, whose daughter is Marie and who introduced me to Mary many years ago. 

For a reason I cannot fathom I always stumble over the names Mary and Marie as they are stored in the same verbal, brain file-folder and again the mental pages  stick together.

If you’ve ever seen the kids’ movie “Donald Duck in MathMagic Land” I think it explains some of my memory issues. In Donald’s brain there are cobwebs, unfiled stacks of papers and misfiled documents. Much like the office in which I sit at this very moment typing this essay. 

My office is a little bit of a mess. Ok, a big mess. I rationalize that the clutter helps me come up with ideas. It also helps me remember what I’ve been meaning to do with various projects that I notice as they are sitting out and about. For me, out of sight is literally out of mind.

But a lot of the clutter is because I don’t know what to do with the stuff. Some of it needs to be tossed or recycled. Some of it needs to be filed. I used to try to file the detritus of the mail I receive by subject matter. That never worked very well because when I went to locate it I couldn’t remember what topic I had filed it under. 

Now I file based on chronology. (Translated:  I put it in a box in the order in which I receive it.) So if I go to look for something I sort (Translated: "dig") through the pile based on when I think it was received. Works as well as any method I've tried.

With such a mish-mash of an office and filing system is it any wonder my mental files are in disarray? Obviously, I’ve filed “foreign words” for “excuse me” all together rather than Spanish words in one file and German words in another. If I remembered, or ever knew the Latin word for “excuse me” it would be in that folder too.

People whose names begin with “M” and who have a connection with “Susan” are all in another file folder, Just like Gary Cooper and Cary Grant, forever to be pulled out when I see one or the other and try to say the name. 

I can use iTranslate, Duo Lingo and other language Apps to solve my language filing issues. If someone has invented a smart phone app that solves my mental dilemma of mixing up similar names of friends or sort-of- similar celebrities who are filed together in my brain I need it.  Maybe a facial recognition and name app that I could just download to my brain? And another that would straighten and dust my office would be nice. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Tsunami of Holiday Events

The holiday season almost always is filled with delights and disappointments. In my mind’s eye there is a perfect Christmas. A combination of Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life” letting Jimmy Stewart live again; Santa in the “Polar Express” giving the first gift of Christmas (a bell only small children who still believe in the magic of Christmas can hear); and an actual Christmas Eve from my memory where a shimmery snow started to fall just as we walked out of church where my Mom had played the organ at Midnight Mass.

That’s a lot of expectations to throw at any holiday. In reality, most of my Christmases have more in common with “A Christmas Carol” before Scrooge finds the true meaning of Christmas.

To add to the disillusionment, this December, the warm Louisville weather has inspired me to play Jimmy Buffet’s “Christmas in the Caribbean” rather than “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”.

All of the events we’ve attended individually this past week or so have been delightful. Nevertheless, I feel as if we’ve been drinking from a fire-hose of festivities rather than just attending a delightful mix of activities. For someone who doesn’t have many social obligations the rest of the year it can be daunting.

A recent Friday night was dinner and an Over the Rhine (OTR) Concert at the Kentucky Center with dear friends. OTR has released three Christmas albums in the last 25 years. They describe their holiday music as “reality Christmas”. Though I swear I am not actually depressed, the dreary days and endless holiday chores put me precisely in the mood for OTR’s songs, such as “All I get for Christmas is Blue”, “My Father’s Body” and a cover of that well-loved holiday downer by Merle Haggard, “If We Make it Through December”, rather than songs about sleigh bells and city sidewalks.

I spent a recent Saturday afternoon at the Nutcracker Ballet with another charming group of friends. Even better, the group included children young enough to have a touch of wonderment as snow fell on the stage and the audience during the scenes in the “Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy”. Even I had a sense of wonderment—snow falling on us while it was at least 70 degrees outside? 

We finished out the concerts with a very old-fashioned, Celtic Christmas concert by na Skylark (with Irish bagpipes and harp) and one of my favorite musical groups, Keltricity.

As Henry Austin (guitar and vocals) explained, many cultures and religions, as well as pagan groups, have celebrated a mid-winter holiday. As the days get shorter and the light thinner approaching the winter solstice, humans for centuries have gathered to make merry. Perhaps we’ve done that to counter the seasonal affective disorder only recently identified that causes many of us to struggle with this time of year.

As na Skylark and Keltricity performed music, some of it dating to the 1400s, at a time when mankind was coming out of the dark ages and the repression of austere religions, winter celebrations (whether or not religious) brought people together in this darkest time of the year.

Sometimes I wish I could take a rain check on at least a few of the activities occurring in December.  Unfortunately, one feature of this time of year is that even for people like me who ordinarily engage in a minimum of social activates, it’s inevitable that at least two events I really want to attend are in conflict. That happened again this year. I was really sorry to miss seeing one wonderful group of friends because of a prior commitment.

I hope you enjoy this season with every bit of the holiday magic from your favorite movie. And if, like me, you are eagerly awaiting what may be one of the biggest events of this year’s holidays, the latest Star Wars movie, I will wish you a very Jedi happy holiday with “May the force be with you.” After that I expect to be ready for a long winter’s nap.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holiday Stylemaker

My recent post on life as a senior Stylemaker, all while wearing white sneakers, has caused some soul-searching and the need for a little more honesty. 

Despite my preference for comfort, I usually do not attend holiday parties wearing a sweatsuit and white sneakers. In fact, nearly a month ago I went to the mall specifically to buy a couple of holiday outfits that would be appropriate for the tsunami of holiday parties and events headed our way.

I returned home with a pair of sleek, ankle-length black pants and two party tops. All went quietly into my closet to await the December festivities.

The day of the first event I pulled the tops from my closet. The first was a black, long-sleeved sweater embellished with pearl-wannabe’s. Very pretty. But the temperature outside was an unseasonal 70-plus degrees. After two minutes of wearing that top it went back into the closet to await winter weather. Has climate change really come to this: a person in a Midwestern state can't wear a sweater in mid-December?

I pulled the other top out. It was black velour. It looked just as warm as the sweater but thankfully didn’t cause profuse sweating when I pulled it over my head. I was thinking—great choice. Looks seasonal but feels fine.

But this top had other exciting features too. I must have read somewhere that fringe was in style. And asymmetric hemlines. As the second-choice top had both: an asymmetrical hemline and longish fringe. I thought I made a very fashion-forward statement with the fringed top and slim slacks. I even wore black flats to complete my “Black is the new black holiday look.”

Then I tried to use the restroom at holiday event one. Think disaster: fringe in the toilet, fringe stuck in my pants zipper. This tunic should have had a warning label that at least included diet restrictions. I decided I could not consume any drinks, festive or otherwise, since using the restroom in this outfit was just out of the question. Despite the heat I wore top number one to my next event.

Given the unseasonably warm temperatures and also the unintended encounters with toilet bowls, laundering of both tops proved a must. My new holiday tops had detailed instructions for laundering. Both suggested hand washing the garments, placing them flat to dry and then taking great care to iron all wrinkles.

I generally translate “hand-washing” into put in a delicates-washing-bag and toss in in the washer and hang dry. I’m happy to say both tops survived their laundry ordeal. And the fringed top looked particularly good once it dried, needing no ironing of any kind.

Now if there is any woman with experience wearing an asymmetrical tunic with long fringe who would care to share how to keep the fringe out of the toilet and the side zipper of pants, I may actually have something festive I can wear to the remaining holiday parties. Otherwise, it may be back to sweats and sneakers.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Senior Stylemaker

I like to read one of the women’s columns, “Stylemaker” in the Courier Journal, our local paper. This feature article consists of a series of pretty standard questions, and answers from a local person the paper has dubbed a “Stylemaker”. Fun, entertaining, and--sometimes scary.

The first question usually asks the “Stylemaker” who her “Style Icon” or inspiration is. Though there are a number of ages, different ethnic and racial backgrounds and different images of the chosen style makers represented, I use “her” to refer to Stylemaker because, while there may have been a male Stylemaker, I can’t recall one.

Frequent answers to the “Style Icon” question include Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly. Then, if the Stylemaker is young she mentions some icons I’ve never heard. Often she ends with a nice reference to her stylish mother, grandmother or favorite aunt.

I don’t expect to ever look or dress like Hepburn or Kelly, but there was a time I channeled Dana Scully of the X-Files. She wore dark pantsuits and high-necked blouses. The “don’t-mess-me-with-me” working-woman wardrobe. That look also sounds a lot like Hillary Clinton’s current wardrobe so maybe we both followed FBI agent Scully as a style icon.

Lately, however, I’m more in tune with my mother’s style. Particularly her white tennis shoes worn for virtually all occasions. I now can identify with how she felt. My feet too have a lot of mileage on them and need all the comfort they can get. The only problem with this style choice is my husband refuses to take me to dinner at a nice restaurant unless I change from the white sneakers. I know, small price to pay for a perfectly broiled salmon and a chocolate dessert, which I did not have to make.

So, on to another question.  “What are the building blocks of your style?” Often, the responses are: classics, slim leggings, and certain color schemes. About as close as I come to “building blocks of my style” are sweat pants and sweaters for winter; loose capris or cut-offs and t-shirts for summer. No style icons needed.

I’ve already written about how all of my acquaintances wondered what big event I was attending when one recent day I wore dark jeans and a button-down shirt. So I guess that’s my answer to: “My go-to dress-up outfit”.

Another question often asked is: “Time it takes you to get dressed?” You’d think a “Stylemaker” who writes from home and wears an easy wardrobe would answer: a very short time. But I can’t say that’s true. It’s not even easy to answer that question. Do I count the time to have my coffee first? I certainly can’t get dressed before I drink coffee. Then, do I count taking a shower? What about the exercises I do in the morning before I get fully dressed for the day? And do I subtract the time I spend sorting and starting the laundry while getting dressed? There are just too many issues with answering this question. In truth, it takes about five minutes to get dressed once I decide I have to be somewhere.

I will end with my favorite question: “Every woman should wear a (fill-in-the-blank) at least once in her life.” Most Stylemakers are predictable in answering this question, saying something like: a perfect little black dress, pencil skirt, sweater set, or a perfectly-fitted pair of jeans. Of course, we all should wear something that is “perfect” at least once. But the most recent Stylemaker was original. Her answer: “An adhesive bra and low back dress.”

Keep in mind she wasn’t answering what her favorite dress-up outfit is, but what EVERY WOMAN should wear at least once. After I picked myself off the floor from laughing I tried to erase the visual her answer provoked.

While her response may be ok for the 2% of the female population, that is, those women under 30 years of age and 120 pounds and smaller than a B cup. But has she looked around at the other 98% of the female population in this country? Does anyone really want all the rest of us wearing a backless dress with an adhesive bra? I think not.   

I’m not a Stylemaker so I have never tried this “once in a life” clothing suggestion. There might have been a time, age 11 or 12, I could have pulled it off. But my mother would not have allowed it. And I don’t think I ever would have wanted to. It’s largely the “pulling it off” part that sounds so unpleasant. But maybe that’s just one non-Stylemaker's opinion.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Senior Citizens –Part 2

I recently wrote about some of the indignities and uncertainties for those of us reaching our golden years when we try to get a senior discount. Or should that be silver? My hair is more silver than gold these days—at least without help from some of those products they sell at the drug store.

I’m sure there are people—whether they actually qualify or not--who are offended if someone offers them a senior discount. We do live in a youth obsessed culture in this country. But even if I should think it’s a good problem to have--I’m tired of being asked my age, or for my ID, to get the senior discount.

However, I’ve hit on the perfect solution to get a nice discount and also avoid “senior day” at the drug store. With all the recent online discounts, I scored 25% off and free shipping, which is better than the senior discount, from Walgreens by ordering online.

There were no pushcarts or busloads of other seniors to try to navigate through.  I didn’t spend any time, effort, or gas driving to the drug store. Instead I just carried my package in from the front porch after it was delivered a few days later.  And recognized I’d also scored a free, reusable box and packing materials. How is that for thrifty?

On the internet we all are ageless.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Who Is A Senior Citizen?

A previous post about learning a foreign language caused me to take a small mental digression. Days later I’m still puzzling over it. Have you ever wondered who you are? It may have something to do with those two years of studying German and reading existential writers like Herman Hesse. But this is my existential question: Am I a senior citizen?

We've heard 60 is the new 40, seventy is the new young old age. And lots of other silly phrases trying to hide our fear of aging and also the collective concern about the huge bump of baby boomers rapidly turning into the old geezers. 

How it is that despite the number of oldsters, everyone and every organization, including the federal government, has a different definition of what it means to be a senior citizen? Maybe we need a geezer organization to help us. 

Oh wait, we have one. The AARP. And they start counting us early. By AARP standards, I’ve been a senior for over a decade. Now, my husband finally has reached Medicare age and I’m close behind. But neither of us has reached the age for full Social Security benefits and won’t for some time. 

And I can tell you that creates some issues, even with those organizations. Medicare sort of assumes you are on Social Security when you sign up as they want to deduct your premiums from your Social Security check, which you aren't getting yet unless you take early and reduced benefits. I suppose that wait for "free money" is only going to get worse for those coming after us. And how is it free money if we've paid into Social Security our whole working lives? So many existential questions. So few answers.

But beyond the government, the confusion of who is a senior is just as great. I go to one movie theater and I’m a senior citizen. But not at another chain. What about at the zoo, science museum, art galleries? What am I? Adult (which according to some airline fares is everyone over the age of two and younger than a senior) or Senior Citizen? Try sitting on an airplane next to one of those two year old "adults".

Then there’s always the fear, or should I use the more accurate German word, "angst"--if I claim senior citizen status--are they going “to card" me? There was an earlier time the possibility of being carded also created angst--before I was legal drinking age or just past it and didn't look my age. Then there were the years when it was a compliment. Now I suppose it again could be considered a compliment. 

Except for the fact that most of the time neither I nor the cashier know at what age a person is considered a legitimate senior citizen. Should I have to declare my age every time I buy a ticket for some venue? I feel a bit like Andy Rooney, one of the great, unapologetic geezers, when he used to say things like—“Do you ever wonder, who makes up these rules?”

Everyone seems to have their own definition of who is a senior. Do I get the Walgreen's senior citizen discount or is it CVS that treats me as a senior citizen? I don’t know and it probably doesn’t matter, as I try to avoid senior citizen day at the drug store if I possibly can.

On senior citizen discount day, folks my age or older are delivered by busloads at the drug chains to shop. The pushcarts are wheeled out to the buses so the senior shoppers can lean on the carts as they head into the drug stores to cruise the aisles. “American Graffiti” cruising has come full circle as the boomer generation is now perusing the adult diaper aisle with pushcarts. How many romances have blossomed on senior day at Walgreen's? Something we will probably never know.

 While I also do not know for sure whether I or anyone else is a senior at any particular age I'm happy to say I found a German word that sort of describes my feelings about it. Wikipedia says "Sehnsucht" is a German noun that is difficult to translate but relates to a deep emotional state of longing or yearning. Sort of how I feel about trying to know if I am a senior. 

I propose a simple test, at least for the drug store: if you need to push a cart to walk through the drug store you get the discount. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015


I woke up this morning thinking about the many people and things for which I am grateful. These are not in the order of importance but in the order they came to me.

I’m grateful for the first cup of coffee that tastes like a little drop of heaven. And the second cup that clicks on those centers of my brain that bring a feeling of satisfaction along with the bonus of alertness. And then I’m grateful recent studies suggest those two cups of coffee are actually pretty healthful. I can enjoy my coffee without concern my caffeine addiction is bad for me. How great is that?

I’m grateful for the warm sun on my face as I go outside to get the newspaper on this sunny day. And I’m grateful for the comfortable home that keeps me warm and dry on the not-so-pretty days. I’m sorry there are people who are homeless or refugees and do not have the comfort of a safe home.  I’m grateful there are good people in this city, state and country and others who are willing to take the risk to offer shelter to the less fortunate.

At the top of my list, I’m grateful for my loving family. I am so grateful for my husband and that we share our lives, that we have two beautiful sons, and they have wonderful families. I also am very grateful my husband now has finished treatments for an illness and that we not only have the wonders of modern medicine but the benefits of health insurance.

Our two grandchildren bring a smile to my face every time I speak to them, see them, or even just think of them. How much gratitude I feel that they are a part of our lives!

I am grateful I have a big brother who has always looked out for me. I wish we saw each other more often. But I am so happy we share thoughts, by email, phone or otherwise on a regular basis. I’m also grateful we are on the same track on so many levels. We don’t argue about politics, religion or even sports. How grateful I am that when we talk it’s like we are kids again: we always are on the same team, rooting for each other.

I am sorry we are not seeing the whole family this holiday but I am very grateful we will see most of them over the Christmas holidays.

I am very grateful for the rest of my family and many dear friends. Though I don’t always see them as often as I would like, they are there with an encouraging word and helping hand when I need them. And I am grateful when I can do the same for them.

I am grateful for music: it brings joy to my heart. I am grateful for books, amusing TV shows and entertaining movies. I’m grateful for email which brings me easy communication with far-flung family and friends. And I’m grateful for the internet which brings me a wealth of information without ever leaving home.

I could not have imagined these amazing research and communication tools when I was young. I don’t think there ever has been a time where it was easier to gain knowledge or find the answer to questions. I hope we continue to realize, expand and protect the truly astonishing possibilities of this world, not just sit entranced by cute cat videos. Though I have gratitude for them too and the amusement they provide.

There are so many things for which I am grateful I could just go on and on. You may be grateful I am not going to list them all and am starting to wind down. Just now I readily found multiple recipes for gluten-free sweet potato pie. I plan to make that pie shortly and then be very grateful when I eat it.

I hope you also have many true people and things in your life for which you are grateful. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Foreign Languages and Aging Brains

My husband and I have started taking a Spanish class. Why you might ask? Several reasons. First, and most importantly, our son and his fiancé are planning a wedding in the Dominican Republic where some of her family lives. We thought it would be nice to be able to communicate with some of the bride’s family in their native language. And a little Spanish might be helpful on the trip, ordering food and drink, and so forth.

Second, we thought learning another language could be good for our brains.  And finally, how hard can it be? Everyone says Spanish is one of the easier languages to learn and we already know a lot of Spanish words: “queso”, “vino” and “gracias”. Food, drink, and thanks—I’m thinking all we need to know is how do you say, “Check, please?”

So why is it so hard to learn the rest of the language? Regular and irregular verbs, matching the genders and number of adjectives and nouns.  And what’s with all the inanimate objects having to be masculine or feminine? Seems in English we are removing gender even from words that refer to people. Police officer instead of policeman or woman. How gauche to call a flight attendant a steward or stewardess. So why in Spanish do I have to learn whether the table and chairs are masculine or feminine? No one answers that question.

I suppose my disgruntlement with the difficulties of learning another language stems in part from the fact that I was never very good at learning another language, at least not a spoken language. I was never all that good at memorizing anything. Maybe I should just acknowledge I’m happy to be sort of fluent in English.  

Studying Spanish verbs at my age is at least as hard as when I was trying to memorize spelling words and multiplication tables back when I was in grammar school. I was so slow to memorize those things my mother in her exasperation would hit me in the head with the vocabulary and multiplication cards. It didn’t help me to remember but it did make me dislike studying.

In four years of high school Latin, I eventually learned to translate the written word. Not too surprisingly, there wasn’t much call for speaking Latin, a dead language. And to top it off, the nuns who taught us Latin, taught us to speak based on what some expert believed was Cicero’s pronunciation. Incidentally, this Ciceronian pronunciation does not correspond with Church Latin, legal Latin or any other known pronunciation. Whatever the pronunciation, I did not excel at spoken Latin. And I remember very little of it now. Thank goodness, I haven’t run into Cicero and had to try to say whatever the Latin equivalent is for “Hola”. 

In college I studied two years of German. By my second year I could read Herman Hesse in the original German without needing to translate. Not too surprising since again my language classes had focused on the written rather than the spoken word.

My verbal skills in German lagged far behind. This was despite the fact my grandparents and my father were native German speakers. Probably though, hearing German at a young age resulted in my ability to reproduce German sounds fairly easily. But other than a very few memorized words and phrases, (“Guten Tag, mein herr” for example) which sound fairly authentic, I am clueless in German. When push comes to shove, I’m quickly revealed as a Deutsche-fraud.

On a European trip when we changed planes in Munich I said a few words in German to a TSA-type official who was digging through the gestalt-like mess in my luggage. The Frau-in-Charge, unlike her French counterpart in Paris, did not politely switch to English as I mangled her language. Instead, the Frau-meister gave me a stern lecture in German about German grammar. At least that’s what I think she was doing. I didn’t really understand anything she said.

So what folly is it to think that now, as a senior citizen by most calculations, I will be successful in understanding and learning to speak Spanish? I’m tempted to engage in a slight digression as to whether I’m actually a senior citizen. But I will try to save that detour in our journey to Spanish language land for another post.

Maybe my problem in memorizing is I take too many mental side- trips down the discount aisles. So, anyway, back to learning Spanish with an old brain. We all believe what we’ve been told, that learning a second language is a good challenge to the brain as you get older. Just as we’ve been told lifting weights and running is good for an older person’s physical well being.  Unless you drop dead of a heart attack first.

And no one talks about how damn hard it is to learn new words in a language you’d never even heard until you were middle aged. Or how painful it is to walk around the track, let alone run, when you’re in your 60’s and have bursitis in your hips and arthritis in your knees. I must be in the senior citizen category and entitled to some of those discounts if the exercise, mental or physical, is that painful.

Now that I’m sort of a senior citizen, everything makes my brain hurt. I’ve long since solved the problem of not remembering spelling words and multiplication tables with Spellcheck and a calculator on my cell phone. So now I’ve also downloaded iTranslate. Who needs a smart, young brain when you have a smart phone? Too bad there isn’t a smart phone App that replaces exercise.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The David Wax Museum: A New Sound

WFPK’s (91.9) first Winter Wednesday of the season opened at the Clifton Center with two very different musical groups and sounds.

Daniel Martin Moore’s excellent voice on the mostly low-key, laid-back songs was largely drowned out by the too-heavy percussion of the first set. Like the title of Moore’s album, “How It Fades”, my eyelids and I were fast fading.  In fairness, the audience seemed to appreciate Moore and his back-up band more than I did so maybe my reaction had something to do with the sound at our second-row seats. But my expectations were particularly low for the next group about whom I knew nothing.

Then the David Wax Museum burst onto the stage and their sound knocked the sleep out of my eyes. I had gone to the concert a blank slate. I came away wowed.

They brought a variety of instruments, riotous appearances and a sound totally unexpected. Wax, with earthy vocals, played guitar and a small, guitar-shaped instrument that looked a little like a ukulele. He also channeled Jerry Lee Lewis on keyboard. On “Guesthouse”, also the name of their latest album, Wax seemed to channel Paul Simon’s vocals and rhythms.

Slezak played everything from accordion to keyboard, fiddle, bells, and a donkey jaw. She also has a fine voice. Together they and their band which included an upright base, percussion and what appeared to be a mandolin, performed a range of music with strong Hispanic roots, gospel and dance music. Will Oldham contributed one strong guest song. By the time the set was ending the audience was on its feet dancing and calling for more.

After the concert, a little research revealed that David Wax, and Sue Slezak  combined Mexican-American and American and Irish folk music to produce a mind-bending genre of Mexo-Americana music.

The apparel choices of the band demand mention. Wax wore two toned-pants—the front aqua and the back black--with a wide, off-white belt and a short sleeve shirt with epaulet-type treatments. Slezak graced black jeggings and a floral, tropical-print bustier. And guitarist Charles Rivera wore what could have passed for a mechanic’s jumpsuit in royal blue with matching headband. By comparison, the other musicians’ clothing was not memorable.

The husband-wife team of Wax and Slezak credited not only WFPK, the Clifton Center, and the band’s on-site support team, but also an aunt and uncle back at their hotel who were caring for the couple’s two-year old son. Our thanks also to all, including that aunt and uncle for making this first Winter Wednesday concert most memorable.

This morning we enjoyed hearing “Guesthouse”, the album, with breakfast. The David Wax Museum’s web site shows an extensive touring schedule. If they are playing at a venue near you do yourself a favor and see them. If not, listen to at least one of their albums. You won’t fade away.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Electronic Babysitters—Then and Now

I saw on the news and read in the New York Times the shocking news: many kids under the age of 5 are often left to be entertained by a digital device instead of spending quality time on a parent’s or caregiver’s lap.

Experts said a small, self-reported survey added to evidence that the unsupervised use of mobile screens is deeply woven into childhood experiences by age 4.

Keeping in mind this was a very small study, experts nonetheless say they think this result not only is surprising but probably also representative of the dangers many young children are exposed to today.

The horror.  Not like us lucky children of the golden age of parenting. We, who grew up in the 1950’s with stay-at-home moms and non-stop parental nurturing, were, like the TV families of yore, the last generation raised in idyllic days when all things were better. Or at least we are led to believe.

Return with me for a moment to those thrilling days of yesteryear. My brother and I would creep from our beds in the early morning hours while our exhausted parents slept. You may think we were reading great children’s literature, imagining wonderfully creative inventions. Or building make-believe castles and rocket ships to the moon. Only the last item has some truth. We tried to build our own rocket ships. But they always crashed, sometimes burned, and on occasion, created fire hazards.

And if truth be told, which I intend to do as I lift the covers of those idyllic times, most of the early morning hours were spent in more mundane, passive, and dare I say it—unsupervised electronic diversions.

There was nothing creative or interesting about it. In those early morning hours, before the sun or our parents were up, what we actually were doing was watching the TV while waiting for programming to come on. For those of you born after 1980 I have a big revelation. Unlike today, there wasn’t 24-hour television. So we would watch the Test Pattern. On our black-and-white TV.

If you are too young to know what a Test Pattern is, you can take my word for it—the Pattern had no educational benefit, no socially redeeming value. In fact, one Pattern was a Native American head so it was not even politically correct. But the few TV stations that existed back then ran some type of Pattern before programming began. And they were even more boring if you did not have a color TV.

We would sit, huddled under a blanket, watching that Pattern until some type of program came on. Then we sat as close to the TV as we wanted. Remember our parents were still sleeping. Once a program came on, no matter how moronic--we watched, totally entranced, as we were passively entertained by the then latest technology.

You may say--but, once our parents were awake we had the benefit of “one-on-one” attention from at least one parent. No, not so much. It’s true--while our dad worked at least two jobs to support us, our mom was a stay-at-home parent. Unless dad was laid off one of those jobs. Then mom also had to find a job and dad cooked. Not a particularly good solution on either count. Dad couldn’t cook and mom had few job skills so earned very little.

We lived in the suburbs in those early years. Again that sounds pretty idyllic. But it was miles from libraries, parks, or playgrounds. Also a long distance from places where one might take music or dance lessons, play organized sports or participate in group activities.

Since we had only one car and lived several miles past the bus line we were stuck in our neighborhood unless we walked. Mom shopped by riding the bus, then taking a several-mile hike, all the while carrying groceries with two young kids in tow. Similarly she did the household chores with old-fashioned appliances. An educational project for me was placing clothes’ pins on the side of a bucket while mom washed clothes in an old-fashioned wringer-washing machine and then hung them on a line to dry.

There was very little time for parental attention even if that had been the norm. And direct parental attention was not the norm. Adults in the 1950’s and even into the 1960’s engaged in adult activities.  Children found their own activities. They were supposed to be seen and not heard. So as long as we were relatively quiet we were on our own.

Maybe it was a plus that we had much more freedom than subsequent generations. My brother enjoyed riding his bike within his one-mile boundaries of the neighborhood. I was never adventurous enough to ask what my boundaries were, especially after I badly sprained my ankle while executing a turn on gravel. Instead I spent that summer learning a new mode of transportation--hopping on one foot.

We had the occasional idyllic days constructing forts in the nearby woods. Unfortunately, since we had no readily available transportation, we hadn’t joined any scouting programs where we might have learned to recognize poison plants. Nor had we heard that jingle about “Leaves of three, let them be.” So those adventures were inevitably followed by month-long bouts where my brother and I were covered with poison ivy welts. One particularly bad case resulted in my brother’s eyes swelling shut. All in a typical 1950’s perfect summer.

Because of distance and money issues, going to the doctor’s was rare. An illness had to be life threatening (high fever and / or lots of blood were the criteria) to require medical attention.

While some things for children today may be better than they were in my recollections of growing up in the suburban baby boom era, I do not advocate the latest digital devices to babysit infants and young children. With or without scientific support I believe the attention of parents, grandparents or other committed caregivers is superior in most respects. But I also do not advocate a return to the Donna Reed method of child-rearing.  While we baby boomers were not exposed to digital screen devices, nevertheless, we did the best we could to entrance ourselves with the technology available.

No one knew at that time what the dangers were of allowing unsupervised youngsters to sit glued to a Test Pattern.  Lord knows we probably lost some IQ points. And while we had plenty of freedom to explore the unknown there were substantial dangers associated with our explorations. There probably always will be.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Keltricity Christmas is Coming to Town

It is with profound hesitation that I write and publish this post. We each have our favorite secrets. This is one of mine.

Keltricity is a treasure, a local musical group that regularly plays Celtic and related music, here in Louisville and other locations. 

Do you ever get that feeling of déjà vu? That’s what I have when I hear Keltricity play. There is a familiarity in the music--as if I know the sounds in my bones. Not so much in this lifetime, as I don’t trace my ancestry to Celtic roots. But then who really knows? Or perhaps, to quote another musician, Bob Dylan, “T’was in another lifetime…”

Henry Austin (guitar and vocals), Laurel Fuson (accordion), Joe Burch (mandolin) and Jannell Canerday (fiddle and vocals) blend a unique sound in their performances of  traditional Irish and Scottish music, songs from Cape Breton and French Canada, along with Cajun and newer Celtic music.  

You can hear the roots of bluegrass and country in a lot of the songs Keltricity performs, from the sweet and sad, “High on the Mountains”, the melancholy “Oh, the Dreadful Wind and Rain”, the romantic “Galway Girl”, to the lively Contra Dance tunes and Irish polkas. The last category I didn’t know existed until I found myself toe-tapping along.

Keltricity can be heard generally on at least one Friday night a month at The Bard’s Town, where you can listen, drink and enjoy better-than-average pub food. It’s great entertainment and a lovely evening. And would be a bargain at twice the $5 suggested cover or whatever contribution you feel inspired when the hat is passed between sets. 

Keltricity also plays at Contra Dances and recently performed at the Grand Ball for the Jane Austen Festival at The Galt House in Louisville. This year, as in past ones, they also were one of the bands at the Louisville Irish Festival at Bellarmine University.

As wonderful as this musical group is at any of these venues, something magical happens when they perform their very old-fashioned Christmas concert. This year it will be at the Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church across from Holiday Manor.

Here are some of Keltricity’s upcoming dates:
Cincinnati Contra Dancers, November 14
The Bard’s Town, November 20
Yule Y’All in Cincinnati, December 5, and
Yule Y’All in Louisville, December 12.

You can get more information online at

I wouldn’t have posted this blog if I minded your knowing about Keltricity and how good they are. But, please, don’t buy up all the tickets before I get mine.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Gauthier and Gilkyson: A Treat Not a Trick

There must be some meaning in which songs are still with you several days after a concert. On Halloween evening we heard Mary Gauthier (Pronounced: GO SHAY) and Eliza Gilkyson at the theater at Kentucky Country Day School.  The wonderful acoustics of the theater, the easy informality of the two singers and songwriters, as well as the comfortable surroundings gave us a feeling we were listening to two old friends singing in their living room to a group of friends.

Several days later I can still hear Gauthier’s warm voice in my head, no iPod necessary, singing “Mercy Now”. And Gilkyson’s there too, particularly singing the haunting song, “Greenfields”, written by her father, Terry Gilkyson. 

That song was made more poignant by her description of her conversation with her father about the song. She explained she had been putting together an album with music that had an environmental meaning. She told her father she thought “Greenfields” was the perfect metaphor for man’s callous relationship to Mother Earth. Her father’s response was: stop looking for hidden meaning. Instead, Terry Gilkyson said “Greenfields” was about Eliza’s mother who had been the love of his life but then left him. So much for hidden meanings.

Mary Gauthier and Eliza Gilkyson, engaging in gentle patter about songs and songwriting, and for the most part taking turns, sang lots of other memorable songs. Highlights included Gauthier on “Last of the Hobo Kings” and her particularly impeccable timing on “I Drink”.

Despite both women talking about how much easier it is to write a song about a break-up than about a happy romance, Gilkyson sang several happy songs, including “Roses at the End of the Day” and “Beauty Way”. She also performed a memorable song, “Jedediah 1777” so named for her eighth-generation ancestor, crediting a treasure trove of his letters written at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War as the basis for most of the lyrics.  

Gauthier and Gilkyson closed with “Touchstone”, asking the audience to join in as they converted Pete Seeger’s last name into a verb. On an encore, they “Seeger’ed" the audience once again into singing along on Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”

I’m still riding high from the concert. Hope you are too from whatever songs are swirling in your head.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Melancholy of Autumn

This week, I was wowed, as if by a spectacular impressionist painting, when the brilliant hues lingering on the trees were at the height of their color: oranges, reds, golds, purples, and every shade in between.  The soft light of early November must contribute to the visual splendor of the foliage.
While walking in the park, I commented to my husband, “The trees are unusually beautiful this year, particularly considering the dry spell we had this summer.”  
My husband’s reply, “Every year you say, ‘This is one of the most beautiful falls I can remember!’”  
And I suppose he is right.  You see, he has a better memory than I do.  Both for statements and places.  I remember faces and smells.  But apparently I do not remember how beautiful the autumn season is, from year to year.  Every year I am struck as if it were the first time, seeing the breathtaking colors.  Nor do I recall, until reminded, that I have this same reaction of mouth-open, jaw-stammering awe.  But now that I am reminded, I suppose it is true.  Nonetheless, the fact I have been here before does not diminish my visceral pleasure in the experience.  Maybe it is because I don’t remember the vivid colors from year to year that I experience each “wow” autumn for the miracle it is.
 By November the trees will have lost most of their colorful leaves.  I am saddened by how quickly the seasons pass.  Meanwhile, my Mother enters what looks to be her final phase.  She talks to me for a few minutes a day, responding to my questions with a word or two.  She no longer has the energy to talk much.  I don’t know if she even has the energy to listen.  But she seems to enjoy hearing my voice.  I remind her of the time I had laryngitis on Thanksgiving.  Our oldest son was one year old.  Mom had said at that time she would be happy to talk for me.  And she did.  Now I don’t know if she remembers the experience or is shaking her head “yes” just to be companionable while I am visiting with her.  That son is grown and has two youngsters of his own.
While the scene through my window is late fall with dabs of color here and there being overtaken by the grayness of winter, in my garage it is spring.  The less hardy outdoor plants that no longer fit into the house proper are consigned to the garage.  And there, ferns are happily waving near the front of our cars.  A tall bay leaf tree also breathes in the garage odors.  I wonder if the car fumes will affect any bay leaves I cut for stews. Intermingled with the ferns is a potted azalea that has summered on the patio.  Now it is in full bloom, having mistake the change of location, and the garage’s cool, but steady temperatures as springtime.  Bright Barbie-pink blossoms peak between fern fronds and greet me every time I pull into the garage.
Inside the house, asparagus ferns that had waved merrily all summer on the front porch now are turning yellow and shedding their needles.  A hardy Thanksgiving cactus persistently blooms in its favorite window.  Rosy blossoms perch on the ends of nearly every waxy cactus flower.  The cactus looks too good to be real.  And yet the only attention it gets is a weekly watering and benign neglect in its favorite window.
The leaves have fallen too quickly from the trees.  But we cannot hold them back and prolong the season.  We may not even remember how beautiful the season was until the next time it comes around and we again are reminded of the world’s spectacular beauty.
(Adapted from an essay written during another autumn)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell Blazed

Sunday night’s performance by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, backed by the “Blazing Jimmy’s”, the tag for the rest of the back-up band that Emmy Lou announced they had decided on just in time for the this, their final performance of the tour, was, in one word—blazing.

I’d first heard Emmylou back in the mid-70’s and thought she had the voice of an angel. Sweet and pure, almost a crystal bell in tone. She still sings like an angel with that crystal bell perhaps a little deeper but just as pure and sweet. Rodney Crowell, who said he also first became acquainted with Emmylou back in the 70’s, though more intimately as he is the songwriter for many of the songs on her albums, nicely harmonizes with Emmylou’s sweet voice.

The back-up, “Blazing Jimmy’s” are an accomplished group of musicians who added to the musical experience. The musicians rocked and harmonized, stomped and created music that was memorable. From “Pancho and Lefty”, “Red Dirt Girl”, “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”, to “Stars on the Water” and “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”, the packed house was thrilled by the variety and depth of the music.

Though fans of Emmy Lou, like I, waited with baited breath for Emmy Lou’s solos. Her voice, a fine instrument that rivals the angels seems to only have improved with age. 

The concert, part of the Troubadour Concert Series was at the Lexington Opera House in Lexington, Kentucky.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dirty Dancing, the Broadway Series: Nails It

Thursday night’s performance of Dirty Dancing at Louisville’s Broadway Series follows the 1987 Patrick Swayze / Jennifer Grey movie of the same name with Christopher Tierney in the role of Johnny Castle and Gillian Abbot in the role of “Baby.” But you don’t have to be a devoted fan of that movie to appreciate this production.

The play tells the story of Frances “Baby” Houseman as she comes of age, sexually and politically, in 1963 while her family is vacationing at a Catskill Resort. The show touches politically and morally sensitive issues of abortion, segregation, voting rights and freedom riders, as well as class differences and sexual activity among young people.

The story is well told, the performances are tight, and the dancing energetic and engaging. Plus, the singing takes no back seat. In fact, Doug Carpenter (Billy Kostecki /Singer), with his rendition of “In the Still of the Night”, took the roof off the theater and practically blew the audience away.

For mature teenagers and adults this production certainly is worth your time and money. This is good musical theater at its best. The dancing was well executed and a joy to watch. The singing knocked my socks off and left me humming some of the more memorable tunes. (The playbill mentions this production was able to acquire the rights for some songs intended to be in the movie but were not able to be acquired.)  And, finally, theater-goers were left with serious issues that are still relevant today.

If you can still get tickets for this show do so. But leave the small children at home. As thrilling as the singing and dancing were, this show was not appropriate for some of the young children in the audience, as judged in part by the overheard questions from the child sitting on a lap next to us. This is not the “Lion King” but a strong PG-13. If you take your teenagers along, be prepared to discuss some of the topics raised by this serious musical. You and they most likely will benefit from the discussion.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Geezer Grandma With a License To Sue

Four phone calls this morning. Several with a robotic voice, congratulating me on my upcoming birthday. One with a live person who could not understand my request that she “please state her business”. All she would tell me was that her name was Joan and she was calling to wish me happy birthday.

I suppose I’ll never be lonesome now that I’m two months away from my 65th birthday and everyone wants to congratulate me. Everyone, that is, who sells Medicare supplemental insurance.

Just for the record, if anyone out there is listening, I do not want a stranger, whether live or robotic, to congratulate me on my up-coming birthday. I’m on the “No Call List” for a reason. That reason is if I don’t know you, I don’t want you to call me.

Nowadays, the only people who call unannounced are robots. Even my friends and relatives, though they don't need to, generally text or email to ask first if it’s a good time to call. For the record, I’m happy to talk to friends and relatives unannounced. If my hands are covered in cooking splatters, or I’m taking a shower, I won’t pick up the phone. But leave a message, I’ll call back, and we can happily chat.

Salespersons, on the other hand, whether you are trying to sell me Medicare supplemental insurance, or anything else, will not leave a message. They just keep calling back. So I answer those calls, try to get a live person and ask to be taken off their call list. But to no avail.

Here’s the deal. Joan, whoever you really are, I don’t know you and I don’t want to know you. I don’t want you to wish me happy birthday--two months early—or ever. I have enough friends and they don’t try to sell me insurance on the phone. And I especially don’t want to know all the robots that keep calling me.

So, be warned. The next ones to call, I’m recording your calls. I may notify the Attorney General’s Office of your violation of the “No Call List”. I may file a lawsuit seeking a restraining order and damages under the Consumer Protection Act. Or, if you are a real person, I may blow the loudest whistle I can find in your ear.

When you get close to age 65 you also get crabby when strangers keep calling to try to sell you something. We may be older but we aren’t stupid. And I can still find my way to the courthouse.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Let’s Stand Up and Be Heard: Call For Gun Control

Another day, another shooting. Or several shootings. I’ve had enough talk where politicians wring there hands and say nothing can be done about guns. Or let’s look at mental health. It’s time Americans stood up and said, “Enough talk. Let’s see some action. Take their guns away.”
And it is an American phenomenon. Because we are a country of guns. Elisabeth Rosenthal eloquently and factually explained, More Guns = More Killing.
Below, I am re-posting an essay I wrote back in 2012. The location of the shooting is different. The victims this time are college-aged rather than elementary age. But three years later and we are still dealing with the same problems, the lack of will by elected politicians to do something that actually will make a difference. That is, take away the military-style weapons from the general populace.

Enough with blaming mental health professionals for not identifying which particular young or middle-aged or old male will be the next mass shooter. Most of these mass killers are male—that is probably the best demographic in identifying the next shooter. Women tend not to kill a whole group of strangers first if they decide to end their lives. We do not have the ability to identify who is going to suddenly decide to take out a bunch of other innocents as he ends his life is a news-worthy fashion. But we do have the ability to prevent every-day folks from acquiring an arsenal.

Mental health professionals, even the best of them, and I’m married to one of them, cannot predict which loner, which disaffected person, which otherwise normal person is going to be that one. This latest shooter, like a lot of the other mass-shooters, while perhaps a little strange, or someone who kept to himself, did not do or say anything that under current laws would have given a clear clue he needed to be committed or kept from having access to the ridiculous, military-style, deadly weapons legally available in so many places.

Let’s stop giving a pass to politicians too cowardly to stand up and do what’s right. “Stuff happens.” That’s what Jeb Bush said of the most recent mass shooting. He used the cleaned-up version of “Shit happens.” Is that what he would have said if he had known one of the victims? I think not.

The demi-god Trump said something like, “It’s too terrible to talk about.” He who talks about everything and is not afraid to go anywhere. Another coward.

Hillary is not a god, or even a demi-goddess. But she has mustered, even before this latest tragedy, the courage to come forward and argue for sensible gun control. Good for her and for anyone else who has the courage to make themselves a target of the NRA and do something to stop the next tragedy before it happens.

That is my litmus test for a politician who will get my vote. They must be willing to take on the NRA. They must be willing to talk about sensible gun control.

These latest shooting victims could have been my children. My grandchildren. My husband. Me or my friends. Or they could have been you or yours. Do you think the families of the latest victims suffer any less than you or I would if it had been our family’s loss? Does each and every one of us have to lose someone before we put an end to the madness?

Join me and shout “Enough”. I will not support any candidate who does not speak out and stand up for sensible gun control.

Written December 2012
I promised myself I would write more upbeat, happy essays. After all, life is too short to wallow in sadness. And I did claim this blog was mostly about the amusing things in life with only an occasional dose of seriosity.
But then I turn on the news and see the funerals of little children.

Local news is no better. If they are not covering the national tragedy in Connecticut, they are reporting on local violence and threats to schools in Jefferson and other counties in Kentucky.

Meanwhile, the front page headline of Louisville’s Courier Journal proclaims drastic budget cuts in Kentucky to school safety. A Kentucky state representative is quoted as saying we “need to study” what happened in Connecticut before we think about putting more money into school safety.

We aren’t back in the 1700’s, which incidentally is when the Second Amendment was adopted, and when stagecoaches and the Pony Express carried the news. Don’t we already know what happened?

A young male with easy access to military style weaponry shot his way into a locked school and massacred little children. Back in the 1700’s I suppose we would have called out the Calvary and blamed the Indians for rampaging. Maybe we would have evacuated families with children to a fort.

In the New York Times an architect writes about how we should “harden” our schools like we have done for airplane cockpits to keep the crazies with guns out. Or maybe we should just make schools, movie theaters, churches, mosques, shopping malls and wherever else a crazy person with legally-purchased automatic or semiautomatic weaponry and accouterments might go into fortresses. That would take a lot more money and for more than just school safety.

Retreating to fortresses would not protect us and our children even if we could afford it. The answer is obvious as the noses on our face and the guns in our hands.

 Our love affair with guns and belief in an inalienable right to a gun-toting “frontier” way of life with 21st century weapons has created the opportunity for this mass carnage of innocents.  And politicians’ blind adherence, until now when some sane voices have emerged, including Louisville’s own brave Representative John Yarmuth, to the NRA’s big stick have the blood of innocent children on their hands.

What century are we in—with 21st Century guns and an 18th century mentality?