My mom is 92. She was born in 1917 and will soon be 93. She lived through the Great Depression and her stories about those times are harrowing to us. She, though, remembers the times fondly due to loving parents, especially her dad, and in spite of her family’s rather extreme poverty. I guess “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, because mom is doing very well.

My mother had 8 children (with my father of course, who we still miss very much). These 8 children were not as prolific but managed 13 offspring. Now there are 25 great grandchildren so now our clan numbers 48 and, with the 16 spouses, numbers 64. All from a little 92 pound woman.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!


We are so awful to teachers in this culture. Everyone thinks teachers hardly ever work and that they enjoy totally undeserved job security. Stop blaming teachers for the problems with our schools. Most teachers are excellent educators. They work hard planning lessons; collecting materials; considering the presentation of lessons; helping students master those materials; checking students’ grasp of materials through homework, projects, tests; marking said projects, homework and tests; and often leading an extracurricular activity or two. Many teachers spend their own money when school resources fall short.

There are teachers who have tenure who shouldn’t but a good peer review system can help with this problem. It is possible to end the contract of someone with tenure, but careful documentation is required. Tenure protects academic freedom, it always has. Otherwise school administrators could fire teachers when they didn’t like the ideas expressed or when a parent expressed displeasure, or on a whim. You have the years before tenure to appraise a teacher’s effectiveness. Life does happen,however, and teachers may need help adjusting after certain personal and professional traumas. Whenever money gets tight we go after teachers and teacher’s unions. This is a terrible trend. It allows parents and students to pin all the evils of school failure on teachers.

Public school for everyone is incredibly important to the health of a society but perhaps we all start to take the availability for granted. School starts to seem like less of a privilege. I’m not saying we should make school attendance more competitive but I’m saying we need to keep the idea of school fresh, and exciting somehow. Students who have free access to school tend to experience the school-as-prison syndrome and often act out accordingly. There is an awful lot of psychology involved in education, but not a lot of psychologists. Schools have children from the age of 4 until the age of 18. The strongest value of having a psychological partnership with schools would be during puberty. Creative idea like schools that are more like camps or schools that are more like laboratories or seminars or community internships might be worth exploring.

In other words, I think we have gotten blase about our schools because we are spoiled by our bounty.

If an area of our country is really losing population how can we expect to keep all the same services? Are we sure some cuts aren’t appropriate? Have the numbers of students really fallen or haven’t they.

Global Freedom

Freedom sounds as easy as breathing, but it’s not. Freedom is decisions made over and over again. Global freedom is another issue entirely. We’re not talking about our own freedom here. When we use force to set other people free, when we ask other nations with other beliefs to accept our notions of freedom – ethnic freedom, religious freedom, freedom for women and children – are we actually interfering with that culture’s freedom to choose. We are, perhaps, doing this for selfish reasons, to protect our own freedoms which are threatened by and our apparently threatening to other cultures. Can you use force to make people free? Can you use force to set people free? Is it a matter of semantics, in other words, beliefs and intentions? If you really intend to free rather than subjugate is it OK to use force? Do we just respond when our own liberties are threatened by other groups or do we take the offensive either diplomatically or militarily – make preemptive strikes against those who like to suck away freedom from others? I can’t believe that I sound like I’m talking myself into being a hawk? I am not a hawk. I am someone who likes things to be “fair”.

If I had to wear a burka I would hate it. But I hear Muslim women who say it is part of their religion and they don’t mind. Of course, I hear other Muslim women who sound like they hate the burka and actually feel like prisoners inside of the traditional clothing and the traditional rules for Muslim women. Some educated Muslim women who experienced life free from these restraints apparently became suicidal when they once again had to follow traditional Muslim rules for women. Do we just say to ourselves “stay out of it, it’s none of our business” or would we then be like one of those people who looks the other way if they see a crime or abuse? Freedom is certainly hard.

Let Freedom Ring!

Eric Fromm wrote a book called Escape From Freedom. Ironically he published his book in 1941. I guess he only had to catch Hitler’s act for a little while to figure out what he was up to. This book was required hippie reading in the 1970’s and it has stayed with me all this while. In this book Fromm’s premise was that freedom is so scary to people that as soon as people win their freedom they start to give it up. He has lots of evidence to back up his argument.

In America we believe in freedom, we write songs about it. We have made a cult of the “individual” which is also about freedom. We may have achieved more personal freedom than any other culture. But we are piece by piece, giving our freedom back in exchange for things like health care, safety, security? At what point does my individual freedom curtail yours. After all, as long as there is one other person nearby there is no such thing as absolute freedom, and freedom is a meaningless concept if you are alone.

Is freedom really free, or is freedom really a responsibility? We have the freedom to go to school or not after age 16, but we have the responsibility to take care of ourselves as adults, to earn enough money to house ourselves and feed ourselves, don’t we? So although we are free to leave school, as a consequence we may experience less freedom in our adult life because our choices may be more limited.

Are we free to be evil? I’m pretty sure we all agree that the freedoms of good people are a higher priority than the freedoms of bad people, although this is not always practically possible, or in reality doable.

We are free to travel almost wherever we want, to sleep on the beach, to party all night, but bad people are free to mess with us when we do these things, they are free to “play” with our safety and security, to terrorize us.

Perhaps the freedoms we treasure most of all are the freedoms of the mind, the freedom to think as we wish and to speak and write as we wish. Even here we have to accept limitations.

Freedom is a touchy thing, a squishy concept. It is a goal that perhaps cannot ever be reached. We will always have to accept relative freedom as opposed to absolute freedom. How will we know when we have let too much freedom slip through our fingers? People have different “freedom thresholds.” I guess we have to be vigilant that the limits of freedom are not set so low that we wake up one day to find ourselves oppressed or dead. Although in America we have given up some of our “freedoms”, so far we have not given up our “Freedom.”

One of our greatest fears as a result of our national debt is that we have sold our freedom, we just don’t know it yet. We are afraid that we have sold our freedom to China, or our children’s freedom to our largest creditor. This would be one of the saddest ways to lose our freedom. We hope we still have time to buy our way back to solid ground.

We have to remember that the immigration issue is really about freedom in almost the same way that the civil rights issue is about freedom and the gay rights issue is about freedom, terrorism, and on and on. It may be uncomfortable to live in a country that allows a wide range of diversity, but it does taste like freedom. We are constantly threading our way through a maze of decisions to either keep a freedom or give one away or find a balance that allows us to feel free enough. The fact that we make these decisions every day and still seem to come down on the side of relative freedom is America’s most wonderful and admirable trait. We must continue to chose as much freedom as a situation will allow. It is our national “angst.” We are a nation that constantly examines the nature of freedom.


Search for candance bushnellSearch for janet evanovichSearch for sophie kinsellaI’m talking about the guilty pleasures of “Chick Lit”. I have had so much fun reading “Chick Lit”. It is light and hip and very refreshing, remarkable like the Chiclet gum.

If you haven’t read Sophie Kinsella’s books and you fell like popping a bon-bon, read the Shoppaholic books, Twenties Girl is also fun. I just finished The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews, also enjoyable.

A few other titles:

Mercury in Retrograde by Paula Froelich

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

Or just type Chick Lit into the Amazon “go” line, tell it you want books you’ll get a great reading list

The Bridget Jones books were probably among the first “chick lit”

Anything by Janet Evanovitch while technically not chick lit, still definitely bon-bons. She had written 14 plus books full of silliness, hot men, furneral parlors, perps, and hand guns.

In this case you can tell a book by its cover, because chick lit covers are very easy to pick out once you get used to the way they look.


Yesterday we had lunch at Francesca’s Cucina in Syracuse. Francesca’s is a wonderful place. It has great food and the ambience is both warm and modern without being overdone. Music is from the Great American Songbook for the most part.

But the real reason I want to write about Francesca’s is because they offer something even better than ambience. They are committed to serving their customers. My friends had relatives visiting from Luxembourg. Their plane was due to arrive in Syracuse from NYC at 1:45. The restaurant does not serve lunch after 2;30 pm. They told my friends that as long as their party was in the restaurant at 2:30 they would be served. I think our whole party finally assembled at 2:25. Francesca’s staff were as good as their word. They served us and we had the entire menu to chose from. We were there until 4 pm and we never felt that they were impatient for us to leave. We enjoyed the same relaxed and delicious lunch we would have enjoyed if we arrived at noon.

The point of my praise is not to encourage parties to start scheduling late lunches at Francesca’s but it is meant to show that they are true restaurant professionals.

Oil Spill 2

This oil spill is not like Katrina. Katrina was an unprecedented natural event compounded by human error in which a really large city was destroyed by a really large storm. There were people involved, lots of American people and they were stranded without the attention they should have had. The amount of time it took to visit and rescue those people was unconscionable. This was a problem you could throw money and resources at. But our government couldn’t decide whose resources should be tapped. Those people almost died because of what was essentially a turf war. Rescue first, turf war later is the lesson we should have learned from this.
The oil spill is different. I watched on the Internet for 4 or 5 days while news sources said there was no leak. Even I didn’t believe that and I know nothing about undersea drilling. If the industry had not been in denial they might have been able to tackle the problem before it was so large. It’s even scarier to think that oil companies don’t have a fix ready for when this kind of thing occurs.
Now we are going to see those sad, sad birds covered with slick oil and we’ll see beautiful beaches soiled by oil and healthy wet lands suffocated by oil. What we won’t see is the people who lose their jobs, although I’m sure we’ll hear the numbers. Seafood could be quite scarce for awhile. These are not houses built by humans, that can be rebuilt by humans. This is our beautiful Earth spinning in the emptiness of space, our lovely world that is our only home damaged once again by us.
Nature is resilient – it may be able to repair itself, but it will take a long time and we may reach a “tipping point” where nature no longer bounces back.
This is a turf war between government and big business. The Big business in this case is supposed to be an expert in oil technology. Obama can’t fix this. He has to rely on experts. He can throw money at it and people to help with clean up, but clean up will not be effective until this oil stops flowing. The well has to be capped. Obama can’t cap the well. He will have to rely on either the BP Corporation or maybe the Army Corps of Engineers.
No this is not like Katrina. There are no stranded people. But it does hit a fragile area that may be even more damaged than last time.

Eco Terrorism?

I am no longer a trusting soul, although I used to be. I always seem to imagine the worst. I am a suspicious and skeptical person these days. I see two environmental nightmares occurring in very close proximity. I recall that we elected a president who said he wanted to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. Most Americans seemed to agree with this. When Obama said he wanted to use a mix of different approaches to beef up domestic energy sources he started to lose voters here and there. He mentioned nuclear. Some voters are staunchly against increasing the use of nuclear energy. Clean coal – some voters believe there is no such thing. Increase offshore drilling – another group of supporters makes it clear they do not back this strategy. At least Obama never seemed in favor of drilling in ANWR. We do have a dilemma that speaks to what our economy will be like in the future, how much we will be able to produce in the future, and how we will keep our preeminent place in world politics if our economy doesn’t stack up.
I can’t help wondering if, perhaps, these terrible “energy-related” accidents could be the work of some eco-terrorist group who wants to block Obama’s homegrown energy program because they think he’s wrong. Instead of telling him he’s wrong, maybe they decided he needed a demonstration. If this isn’t people trying to make their point, then maybe the cosmos is having its say. The American energy problem still remains, unsolved and very real. We may still have to use some of these very dangerous technologies unless we can come up with some kind of global energy clearinghouse that shares and rations the world’s resources and thus, effectively, takes energy out of the power equation. I wish we could do that before we have nothing left that can fly, swim, or sing.
Can you be cynical and idealistic at the same time. Apparently. But, I guess, at the very least these thoughts officially add me to the ranks of the “nutburgers.”

House Shopping II

I did not manage to buy a house before midnight last night. My real estate agent was too conservative. She did not step up to the challenge. She did not want to write a contract with a contingency clause. She felt that her reputation would suffer. I wish she had had a little more moxie with a hint of rebellion against the establishment. But she did not. So far I have not even seen one house, exterior or interior. I did not pass “go.” I did not collect $8000. I know I started too late but I am very disappointed and, in this case, have missed out on a substantial chunk of money. I am more than disappointed. I am depressed and angry with a strong dose of fultility thrown in because it’s over. I do get to continue to search for a new home, but probably no one will offer to hand me $8000 again in my lifetime. OK, I’m done with my “hissy fit” and it really was not the real estate agent’s fault. Some little grown up part of me understands this.

House Shopping

It is April 30th, the last day you can purchase a home and get the $8,000 tax credit. I am frantically (actually kind of calmly) trying to purchase a home by midnight tonight. I just started looking two days ago. I just got prequalified yesterday. My real estate agent is busy today and cannot help me until 4:30 this afternoon. I will be loyal. I have a mobile home I have to sell so there will be a contingency on the sale. Is this nuts? Probably but I always miss these kinds of special deals. Also intesest rates are so low right now. I have to try. I will post about the outcome.