Friday, December 21, 2012

Guns, schools & safety, Texas style

Is the NRA serious?  Armed guards at all schools?

One week after the tragedy at Newtown where 20 children and 6 adults were killed, the powerful rifle association spoke out, saying our country needs to put an armed guard in every school in the nation. Just as our country does at banks, shopping malls and public facilities.

Can you imagine? Guards with guns don't fit the image of what a school should be: safe, a place of learning, young minds and budding ideals, right?

Yet the tragedy of Newtown is indeed a wake-up call that can't be ignored. We must keep our children safe! It's time to find a solution. The crazies with the assault rifles apparently aren't going away. Until our country bans citizens from having such, armed guards may be the best answer. And in Austin, Texas, just such a program has worked for more than 25 years.

The Austin Independent School District established its own police department as far back as 1986. With 68 officers, the department is charged to keep the 125 campuses, centers and adminstrative offices safe. The patrol division operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year round. In 2008, the department became a recognized law enforcement agency under guidelines set by the state of Texas.

Beyond protection, the AISD Police Department also has a Junior Police Academy, which works with middle school students to motivate them "to be outstanding citizens through law enforcement education. An expansion of community policing, JPA transform the traditional role of the police officer into one of mentor and friend, while encouraging our young citizens to be partners, not adversaries, in building safer schools and communities."
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The canine unit adds safety of another level,  working to detect the odor of illegal narcotics and nitrates and components of explosives -- certainly threat issues to the safety of students.

While many across the country on Friday afternoon absorb the words of the NRA, some will be against it and others support it. Even some residents of Newtown said it's "off the mark."  One parent's reaction was that it will instill more fear in the children.

I beg to differ.

Had there been police on campus, would the gunman have been so ready and able to burst his way in and kill? Did not that horrific event of Dec. 14 "instill fear" in the Sandy Hook Elementary School children, especially now the young survivors, who may be terrified of going back to a classroom, scarred for life?

Police and security are there for protection. It seems to work well at AISD in Austin. I suspect most students feel confident that any violence will be acted upon by those trained officers -- and teachers won't have to step into the line of fire as the first defense.

It may not be a perfect solution, guards in schools, but from this part of Central Texas, a police department focused on the safety of students seems to be working out just fine.

It's not the NRA that is killing our children.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Life changing - For Newtown and so many

It's been less than a week since the chaos and carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The shattered dreams, lives and hearts will never be the same. It goes without saying that is the case for the families who lost a child.

Hundreds of thousands across the country -- no, world -- are shaken by this catastrophic event. So many are pained and injured by this assault on the innocent children, and it's time to take notice of the violence that we seem to just look away from instead of saying, "Enough!"

That likely includes the Lanza family, who lost two family members, survivors weighed with a heavy burden over what went wrong, who's responsible. Surely they never imagined their young man would commit such a heinous act. Surely they are choked with emotion and questions as is the rest of the country.

Much discussion is taking place about laws and guns and school safety -- do we add more barriers to places where are children should be naturally protected, in their schools? Do we restrict gun sales? Do we improve mental health care for those troubled by demons? So much, so many questions, and not all with clear-cut answers, but "yes" should win out.

In the end, I believe it gets down to the individual. What can each of us do? How do we make sense of this? How can I help? Is there anything I can do to stop the violence in our society?

I say, "Yes, there is." Because it takes one. One person can make a difference. One person can speak up, to another, and another and another -- to spread goodness and love and light when darkness seems to prevail. We each have a responsibility to "Love one another" and care.

To that end, I have been so moved by the shooting incident of Dec. 14, 2012, and formalized a nonprofit organization initially dedicated to raising money intended to help fund the construction of a permanent memorial for the Newtown shooting victims.

It's called "Cherubs For Children, Inc." and you can help make a difference today, with a donation.

I invite you to read the "Donate/About CFC" page to learn the "why" for this endeavor. Then I invite you to click on the "donate" link and contribute.

We are all part of the whole. We all, in our own ways, either spread love, or we spread hate. Take a stand -- choose to spread the Love and turn around this world of violence.

"Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." (Luke 18:14 NKJ)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Deer doesn't dig this dude's display

This blog post is a reprint of an article I wrote for KXAN.com -- a story and video that has gone viral to unexpected places. It has all the great elements:  a cute animal, a strange story, and a bit of political humor in this election year. I invite you to read below and then watch the video (linked at the end), an interview with Tom and Beth Priem of Austin, TX.

It seemed a dastardly deed -- destroying the display of a devoted Democrat.

The homeowners didn't determine who, not once but four times, deliberately devastated the yard sign that depicted their beloved president, front-yard decor which said they were supporters of the dashing Barack Obama.

They decried the destruction. They didn't know how to deter the defamation -- a direct assault on their property. Was it the devil? Or simply a devious degenerate?

So Tom Priem's wife, Beth, did some detective work, determined to discover the despicable destroyer.

At daybreak Wednesday, with camera in hand and trusty dog, Charlie, by her side, she made a date to watch the drama unfold.

Undaunted, she was dazzled to catch the thief dead-on, daring as dawn broke.

Demur in his approach, the young deer danced on the lawn, the Obama sign caught in its antlers. Delicate creature, the sign dangled for a time, as the buck deftly flung it, dented, to the ground.

Beth snapped the photo just as it landed, destroyed -- proof that it wasn't a dream.

"Apparently, we have a Republican deer in our neighborhood!" said Tom. "The funny thing is, I haven't seen any other signs damaged. The people directly across the street have four signs, the person across the street and to the left has two, and the next house to the left has one. We can't figure out why the deer is attacking our signs.

"We do have a dog, Charlie, who goes crazy when he sees the deer."

Definitely a dilemma.
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View the video on KXAN.com

(Final note: In all fairness of equal time for candidates, here is a link to the Mitt Romney website, deer or no deer!)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Age 60 and (still?) sexy!

OK. I'll admit it. Today's my birthday. It's a big one. Marking another decade is a bit daunting -- and yet, in the end, it's just another day, right? The sun comes up and goes down. At this point, I've also outlived my mother's age at her death by exactly three weeks. God rest her soul.

Today President Obama comes to Austin, the city where I live. I've kidded friends and family that he's coming for my birthday. Of course, he's not. He's coming to raise money for his re-election campaign, of which I won't be a donor. Hey, I'm the one who's supposed to get presents today! And I don't have an extra  $25,000 lying around, which is the admission cost to one of of his evening events.

That said, I also share this birthdate with Phyllis Diller and Art Linkletter. (Remember them?) And the sexy (though a bit crazy) David Hasselhoff. While I don't know what time of day he was born to determine by minutes or hours who is the older, I can say we were both doing the same thing on that day: being born into this chaotic world.

Another rockin' guy I share this birthdate with is the infamous Donald Sutherland -- love him! What an actor.Though he's done a great number of films and television shows, my two favorites are "Kelly's Heroes" and "Eye of the Needle" -- his character in the latter was frightning, yet compelling. His role in the former was just plain hilarious and unforgettable as the stoned tank driver in the comical but serious war movie. I first saw it in the auditorium on the University of Illinois campus with friends. Watched it a dozen times since, as well.

And let's not forget British royalty -- even if by (scandalous) marriage. Today is also the birthday of Camilla Parker-Bowles, the wife of Prince Charles. Who knew? Though much older than age 60, she too will cut the birthday cake today.

Singer Diahann Carroll shares this Cancer birthdate, as does actor James Cagney, and famed author Earl Stanley Gardner. As a former lawyer, his later books about "Perry Mason" was the first series I got hooked on reading while in junior high school.

And so it's just another day. While I'll spend it at work -- helping cover the visit of President Obama -- I'm in pretty good company with those who today, too, will blow out (many) candles and listen to choruses of the "Happy Birthday" song. Maybe the next time I mark another decade, I'll get that trip to Hawaii or Italy I've been dreaming about. Today I've got a president to pay attention to.

Sieze the day!

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Mother's Day Reflection

Mother’s Day was on Sunday and it has been nearly 21 years since the baton passed from when I used to celebrate my own mother on this springtime holiday, to being the woman whose children celebrate her. My mother died on a summer day in mid-July, nearly a lifetime ago, three days before my birthday. I first saw her laid out in the casket on my birthday, her first born, wondering why the coincidence, why on this day of all days were we burying her, at the time of year when she brought me into the world? I never got an answer to that question, but I’ve long since settled the issue in my soul. It just is, and I count my passing years alongside the number of years she’s been in heaven.

Some of her grandchildren weren’t born when she died – my youngest sister was pregnant with her first child when mom passed away, her body ravaged by the disease of pancreatic cancer. And so in the lifetimes of my sister’s three children, none of them ever knew the woman who nurtured us and died entirely too young. They know “Grandma Margie” only from pictures and those long-ago family home movies.

After she died, I found myself looking closely at my face in the mirror each day, searching for signs of how I looked like her. It was part of the grieving process, wanting to hang onto any piece of her that I could. Most of my life, I seemed to resemble more my father, up until the past 10 years or so. As I’ve aged and near the age she was when she died, I see her in fleeting expressions, and it makes me gasp just a little. I see her in my joys and in my sadnesses, remembering what she looked like when I’d watch her live those times.

Because she died before I’d experienced much of what it was to be a parent and an “adult” handling life, I didn’t know what she thought or how she viewed the world. I was too busy being a young mother myself, raising children, working full-time, working out life with their father, while she lived in another state, a thousand miles away.

Now I look back, having gone through the stages she did, and see what she must have understood about the world. I feel what she must have felt about life back then. Her children growing up, no longer tiny underfoot, needing this, needing that from her allowed her to spread her wings and indulge her wants and pleasure. She had more alone time with my father, as well. Our lives weren’t always perfect, but the good times with family greatly outweighed the bad.

It’s an odd time, to become as old as one’s parents. My father has since passed away, too, just two years ago. He was lucky enough to find love a second time and remarried, to a woman who my mother knew and liked, and actually hinted about to him in her last days.

In reflecting on this Mother’s Day, I value the blessings my mother gave to me. Faith in God, love of music, appreciation for art and creativity, the importance of working hard, working well, being nice to people, staying strong in difficulties, doing for friends and being close to family – that was who my mother was at her core, and I celebrate her. Those are the lessons she taught me before she died.

I can only hope she’s looking down from heaven and thinks I learned her lessons well.

Happy Mother’s Day, Margaret Louise. With love from your daughter, now a Texan.


Monday, May 07, 2012

In Sickness and In Health, the Prince Reigns

A friend shared some news with me this week about the health of her young son that left me numb and silent, thinking of the difficult road ahead for her family. She is a woman of faith, with innate strength that will carry her through. First she and her husband must sort through the turmoil of the diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome.

They have had their 4-year-old son undergo numerous tests the past few months, trying to determine what was wrong. He’s been developmentally behind. He’s shown symptoms that may have been mere allergies. In the end, it was an unexpected diagnosis that has sent their world spinning and now will change their family in ways unknown at this stage.

My friend shared the news with me on the same day other friends posted photos on their Facebook pages in memory of their only son, who would have been 28 that day – he had died four years ago of an incurable brain tumor. A Christian family, as well, the tragedy was overwhelming to them and members of our church because he was a young man full of life, of faith, one who had served in other countries on mission trips as a teenager. Bright smile, bright eyes and a seemingly bright future.

As I processed their situations in my head, I was reminded of another life-altering occurrence in the life of a third friend, years ago. She and I were members of a writing group, she an editor at a major Christian publishing house. She had her first child at age 27. It was an exciting time, one shared with group members amid writing projects, her tummy larger each month, growing with life inside. But her world was turned upside-down when the beautiful baby girl born to her and her husband had Down Syndrome.

The fairy tales we hear as young girls talk of princes who rescue (we) damsels, and the loving couples head off into the sunset, happily ever after. Nothing in those tales prepares us for the tragedies and losses that are more often the reality than a glass slipper fitting or a pot of gold tangible at the end of a rainbow.

Yet, the life of a Christian can often be one of suffering. The loss of a child surely the hardest among earthly trials. I’ve been fortunate that, thus far, my offspring have not suffered from severe health issues. My own pain has been of another kind, unplanned endings of relationships – the princes in reality not those of fairy tales, not the happily ever after hoped and prayed for. And life goes on.

As Christians, we know that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, suffered greatly during His time on Earth, savagely beaten and tortured as a sacrifice to atone for our sins, past, present and future. He knew what it was like to lose someone he loved (Lazarus), and saw the tremendous suffering in the world as he healed the sick throughout his earthly ministry. He sees and understands our human pains.

Each of us has sad stories to tell, of loss, of suffering, of feeling ‘cheated’ out of what we thought was supposed to happen. We can’t always know the reasons why losses happen the way they do. We question. We rant and rail in anger at the unfairness of life, of course. And it’s damn hard at times! Yes, devastating. But God can handle our anger, the same way a loving parent comforts a toddler who might be crying and angry over something unfair in his or her little world. Life is not about ‘us,’ but about how we relate to God and to others, and what we make of what we’ve been given.

We are called to have faith, turn to Him in our pain, and trust Him in the plan He has laid out. God sees the big picture that we cannot. He knows why he put each and every one of us on this Earth, and what lies ahead. He does indeed make good out of bad – or mixes good in with the bad, providing little miracles if you watch for them.

I don’t know why there is Terrette Syndrome, Down Syndrome or brain tumors in this world. I don’t know why some babies are born perfectly healthy, and others’ lives end on the day they enter the world -- or why some lose their jobs, and others go on to make millions, why some marriages end, and others are lifelong commitments.

What I do know is that God is greater than any of our tragedies. And this life on Earth is only temporary. We have to approach what life throws at us with courage, strength and determination. We have to hold our heads up, live with integrity, honesty, doing just the very best we can. We were made in His image. We’ve got the strength of the Father in our veins. Let us not be so overwhelmed by our pain that we can’t see the love and blessings He provides through friends, family and even strangers as we navigate the emotional terrain of this (sometimes very ungodly) world.

In the end, the only real Prince there is resides in Heaven. And that’s the best, truest fairy tale of all.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Earth, Wind & Fire -- Texas Style

Readers might think this is a blog about the popular music group from the '70s. They are on tour and perform in Austin on June 11, yes. Earth, Wind & Fire appear at ACL LIVE! at the Moody Theater and tickets are still available.

That said, Texas has had its own version of earth, wind and fire the past few weeks: dry earth, high winds and wildfires that have destroyed homes and changed people's lives. Persons carrying lighted matches are forbidden. Campfires are prohibited. Fireworks are banned. Temperatures in Austin have been in the low 90s -- which is great for those who like summer in April -- but not good for the crops, lawns and blooming flowers.

As Texans look for relief from the heat and pray for rain -- Gov. Rick Perry formally asked for three days of prayer from citizens during Easter weekend -- other states are drowned in downpours. Hurricane experts predict an above-average Atlantic basin hurricane season, statistics calling for 16 named storms between June 1 and Nov. 30 this year.

Where's the balance? I ask. But there's a bright spot here and I've set the scene to simply focus on one humorous image that made me smile on my drive to work this morning.

I hurriedly drove Interstate 35 south into Downtown Austin and manuevered behind a truck to get nearer my exit. Though I hate trailing behind vehicles I can't see around, this one carried unique cargo. The sign on its rear end read "Hurricane resistant skylights."

Oh, really? I asked myself. "Hurricane resistant skylights?" Seriously?

I tried to picture it: Ike and Rita were both pretty ferocius, I recalled. Devastated cities. Destroyed homes as if they were made of straw like those in "The 3 Little Pigs." The hurricanes' power toppled towers, stranded people on rooftops.

"But, Mrs. Smith, if you'd only have purchased our 'hurricane resistant skylights' you wouldn't have all this water in your house."

No matter that Mrs. Smith's siding is gone and the grand staircase to the second floor lies across the road in her neighbor's yard!

I shook my head as I passed the truck, glancing at the flats of windows latched onto its bed. Not hardly, I thought, and laughed.

I suspect after a hurricane passes through, that new hole in Mrs. Smith's roof, compliments of Mother Nature, is more skylight than she might care to see.

Now the only question I have is, what was a truck with "hurricane resistant skylights" doing in Austin, Texas? We've not had a drop of rain -- let alone, a hurricane -- in months.

Or maybe that's where the company has success selling the products, in a place where there are no downpours of any kind -- on the dusty hills and parched plains of Texas.

Look at it this way: the promise of a "hurricane" might sound pretty good about now, to those of us wishing the skies would -- just for a day or two -- swell with thunderheads and pour forth roaring, cool liquid.

It would be an answer to prayers, washing away the high fire danger, filling lakes and streams to normal levels -- and then we can get on with life: pondering how to manage our frizzy hair because it's so darn humid here!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hot Diggity Dog

It's all in the title. I have a dog that digs. And digs.

She digs up my perennials. She tries to dig up the bushes. She's dug numerous holes in the backyard.

My life was content -- I had a lovable, trained Golden Retriever. Levi is a neutered male, almost 4. I thought he needed a playmate, and a co-worker convinced me to look to a local animal shelter.

Then I adopted Bella. That's the name I gave her when I brought her home from the rescue place on New Year's Day. She had been called Molly Ringwald. (I wonder if the actress knows she's had a dog named after her?)

It took Bella -- a black Labrador Retriever / Bassett Hound mix -- just 3 days to learn her new name. I figured I'd gotten a pretty smart dog! She's just a year old now, 3 months later. She and Levi played well together. She is cute, with the look of the black lab half -- except shorter and longer, like the hound side.

First it was one deep hole, in the middle of the best grassy spot in my spacious backyard. Then 2 more, smaller holes this time. I took to filling them in with dirt -- but she was at it again the next day, redigging in the same spot. I pulled out my hair (figuratively) while she pulled out the grass roots by the handful...uh, pawful...energetic and determined to defeat me in my repair work.

So I sought advice. "Use cayenne pepper." "Try setting mouse traps next to the plants." "Put her dog poop around the area where you don't want her to dig."

I tried them all.

The pepper worked for a few hours -- until she seemed to develop a taste for it.

Twenty mouse traps later, some plants were safe; others Bella just bullied her way through and bypassed them.

I dreaded the third suggestion, yet had no choice but to scoop the poop and pile it in rings around the posies. I wondered if next my flowers would rebel and I'd have angry blooms on my hands, along with the odor of dried dog dung in the air.

So far, the poop seems to have done the trick in keeping her from most flowers, but the open yard is still fair game. I have to watch where I step, as if land mines await, not to twist an ankle in her wake.

There was a bright spot in all this, however. One Saturday, I sat soaking in my hot tub after a day of gardening, and as the sun set behind her, darling Bella calmly walked over to the very first large hole she'd dug -- nestled herself deep in the cool ground, settled her head on the lawn's edge, her brown eyes smiling at me. She too was relaxing.

I laughed out loud, never imagining the hole's purpose was so she could be snug in her own way, being brought into a new home, with a new dog friend and a new owner -- adjusting to a new approach to life. I smiled back and enjoyed the moment.

Still, each daily deposit of turd is used to dissuade her from digging. So far, she's winning because she and Levi have the yard to themselves all day while I'm at work to do as they please.

That is, until last week. I've now had a dog run put in -- she can dig all she wants behind the chain link fence, try as she might to get out. My flowers and lawn gratefully recover from her wounds.

I hope that, by July, things will be coming up roses again.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Teens and "Sexting"

It's certainly a different age today than when I was in high school (yes, stating the obvious). When I was in school, passing notes was the thing. I still have some of them saved in a box with my high school memorabilia -- truth -- tucked beneath and among the stack of yearbooks, photos and football game programs, yellowed and brittle with age.

Do teens today even know how to write with paper and pencil, given that their thumbs fly over cell phone keyboards in near constant motion, begging instant responses from dozens of friends?

It's not the same as it was in my day, breathlessly waiting to unfold a note written by that 'special' guy as he hid behind a book in history class, seeming to pay attention but not, then passed via another friend to land in my hands a few class periods -- or days -- later.

I see the advantages of texting fast and furious today -- I'm guilty of doing it myself and it's great.

But it's this bizarre practice of 'sexting,' as it's known -- sending nude photos via smartphones -- that leaves me speechless as to its stupidity. What are they thinking!?

Apparently, they're not.

Just one story in today's news is another instance of a teen romance gone wrong -- and what does the 'angry' guy do, but send to all his buddies on the football team the nude photos of the now-girl-who-dumped-him-who-was-once-so-special. What was he thinking?!

It blows my mind to picture these kids -- and that's what they are -- as being so open, so uninhibited, so non-thinking that they can't look beyond the present moment of 'being in love' and share in a global way their intimate photos -- assuming the recipient will 'never' be tempted to share these pictures with anyone else.

These kids were on computers at ages when the rest of us (note: parents) were managing training wheels on bicycles. They know the world of the Internet, they know the ease of pushing a few keys on a phone to blast information across the world in nanoseconds -- yet they take such risks without considering what they're doing is actually illegal, considering pornography laws. Because that's what it is -- and they get in trouble for doing it, if caught.

Yes, I realize Internet porn sites abound. I know our world is seething with images that many sickos can access from the comfort of their living rooms, and it's a sad state of decline, in my opinion. Let the adults deal with their own problems. I'm ranting about teenagers.

Kids -- WAKE UP. You most likely will not be marrying that current boyfriend or girlfriend -- and when you break up, if it's an ugly scene, realize that person may be hurt and angry and want to harm you. What better way to do it than to share personal information about you? Nothing is more personal than a nude photo of yourself, right? Do you really want it spread all over the Internet or sent to people who have no right to see you naked? Value yourself enough to keep what's private...private.

Parents -- watch what your teens are doing on those cell phones you pay for. Do you want your children to be forever tagged a 'sex offender' for photos they've e-mailed because they think it's the cool thing to do? Have you ever had a talk with your child about this 'sexting' thing? You should -- as soon as possible.

Call me old fashioned. But don't call me a prude. Just call me a woman who still believes that some things are meant to be shared behind closed doors -- and not transmitted in an instant for the sake of titillation or something so absurd as wanting to be 'popular.'

It goes without saying that that kind of popularity has consequences much more harmful than getting caught passing silly notes in class.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Barack Obama chose death instead of life for infants

With the state of the economy so much at the forefront the past few weeks, it seems to overshadow other issues that ought to be included when voters make their decisions and soon cast votes for the next U.S. President.

I believe the issue of abortion continues to define our society. What can be said about a culture that continues to ravage women's wombs, tearing life from an innermost, sacred organ that provides nourishment, warmth and safety for a growing human being? And then says it is okay?

Furthermore, what can be said about a man who has voted against Born Alive four times in three years and was the sole senator to speak against it on the Senate floor in 2001 and 2002? Is this a man who has the integrity to be the head of the most powerful country on earth? I think not.

You guessed it--his name is Sen. Barack Obama. All his smooth-talking rhetoric can't erase his record and stance on this very delicate issue.

The economy may be in shambles. Taxes will go up, no doubt, if he's elected. And botched-abortion babies will continue to be left to die in the shadows of hospitals--at least, in Illinois--because Obama apparently views them as items to be thrown away and not cared for.

If a man cannot stand up for the unborn--nor even those born alive though meant to be aborted--what will he do with the infirm, the weak and the unwanted members of our country, once he's in charge of running it?

I fear for our country if Obama wins.

As you cast your vote this week, consider the abortion issue and put aside worrying about your money. If you're on a computer reading this, chances are you're not homeless, starving, naked and cold. But botched-abortion babies have been left to die just that way.

Reprinted with permission from the Elliot Institute, Springfield, IL:

"Few people know about widespread unwanted, coerced or even forced abortions in America.
Few fully understand its heartbreaking, even deadly, aftermath for teens and women of all ages.
Why are they calling abortion The UnChoice?

* 64% of abortions involve coercion; 84% were not fully informed.
* Over 50% of women having abortions felt rushed and uncertain beforehand, yet
*67% received no counseling beforehand and 79% were not told about alternatives.
* Most suffer symptoms of trauma. Most face a higher risk of injury or death.
* Coercion can escalate to violence. Homicide is the #1 killer of pregnant women.

Those who pressure or force teens and women into unwanted abortions need to know:
* Risk of death for women is 62% higher after abortion.
* 31% suffer health complications after abortion.
* 65% suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
* Clinical depression risk is 65% higher after abortion.
* Suicide rates are 6 times higher after abortion.

Please support leaders who advocate for authentic women’s rights, including freedom from unwanted, unsafe and unfair abortions. Learn more at TheUnChoice.com."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dems and GOP making BBQ pork

Politics never seems to change, no matter what the year or which political party has the lead in polls.

As much as the Republican ticket this year is a breath of fresh air, the air in the past few days is getting pretty stale.

As much as Obama seemed to be a “new” type of leader after the Democratic National Convention ended, he’s no different.

It's the same, old hot air. Nothing but insults being flung back and forth.

What don’t these political figures get?

Let's talk about economics, McCain. You did choose a unique running mate, but it's time to get the spotlight off of Sarah Palin and on to your plans for the country. It’s time to focus on the future and not on your POW past.

Let's focus on the issues, Obama. Quit with the "...ums..." and evasive answers. So you went on Bill O'Reilly's show. Seems that he pinned you in the corner a few times and you couldn't handle it.

Was your running mate, Joe Biden, really serious with the comment he made today about Hillary Clinton? That she is more qualified to be vice president than you are? Does the Obama camp think that will earn the Democratic ticket votes?

There are less than 60 days until the national election on November 4. That’s not much time to educate the public with specifics so we can make an educated vote about which person to vote for.

It’s being said this is a popularity contest. Well, in part it may be, but is that the best way to approach choosing the next leader of the most influential country in the world?

If we wanted to enjoy a pig roast, we’d go to the nearest BBQ restaurant.

McCain, Palin rally held in Colorado Springs

I couldn’t help but notice the lack of African Americans in attendance at Saturday's Republican political rally for Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin. The event was held inside and outside of a hangar at the old Colorado Springs Airport.

Thousands turned out to greet the nominees who arrived on stage about 12:30 p.m. and spoke for roughly 30 minutes total. Cindy McCain stood alongside her husband, bright and smiling from the stage dressed in a bright green dress with orange short sweater vest.

The hockey moms were there. So were Men for McCain, Hispanics for McCain, Democrats for McCain, Catholics for McCain. The signs read so. Cheerleaders, boy scouts, musicians, volunteers and community residents from infants to the elderly joined them.

Many braved the warming sun and stood for hours within the fenced-off area on concrete, crammed like sardines in a can. The lucky ones had credentials that allowed them into the shade of the open hangar, at the front, closer to the stage.

Mayor Lionel Rivera, State Rep. Amy Stephens, Rep. Marilyn Mugrave, and candidate for U.S. Representative Bob Schaffer were front-and-center to greet the crowd and participate in the rally.

One group of family members I spoke with at the end of the rally said they are long-time Republican volunteers. Melanie Richey and her two sons, Jim, 18, and Christopher, 17, said “the rally was phenomenal, energizing.”

The boys remembered working when they were younger to help elect George W. Bush. They went door-to-door handing out information with their parents. They plan to help again this election.

Jim, who attends University of Colorado—Colorado Springs, said he likes McCain because of his “view on economics.”

Christopher, a senior at Rampart High School, said he has been interested in politics and last year took an AP Government class.

“My husband, John, is an Air Force reservist,” said Melanie. “We’re strong supporters and all of us will help this year, as a family, making phone calls and going door-to-door.” She said she had been undecided about supporting John McCain until he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate—a viewpoint many people are beginning to express, if we’re to believe what we’re hearing from the national media.

The family watched McCain and Palin give their speeches on television last week from the Republican National Convention. Saturday's rally messages were identical, though shortened versions of last week’s. This didn’t bother the Richeys.

“It helps to reinforce the message,” said Melanie.

Mayor Lionel Rivera and his wife, Lynn, agreed. I caught up with them in the parking lot after the rally, and asked them what they thought about McCain and Palin doing a repeat of their convention speeches.

“What you learn in politics is to reinforce the message,” said Rivera, expressing the need for McCain to do that.

I, for one, am happy he's put a woman on the ticket. The Democrats didn't see the wisdom in doing it, and now it's sure to be an exciting race.

The question for me, after today, is whether or not that message will reach the African American community. Given that McCain is stressing “Country First” in his platform, doesn’t that convey a concern for all Americans? The U.S.A. cannot afford to become any more divided than it already is, when we think of current immigration issues, or concerns of the poor versus the wealthy, healthcare and the national economy.

Have we as a nation not come further than to look at the choice of candidates as being “black” or “white?” Voters do best when they vote conscience and stance on issues versus a mindset that was fought and mostly conquered in the 1960s.

Barack Obama has frequently said we shouldn’t be a country of conservatives or liberal, but that “we’re all Americans.”

It’s unfortunate that today a balanced representation of all Americans was missing at the rally. Let's hope it's not because they don't care enough to get out and vote. Or is it that McCain's message doesn't yet resonate with all segments of the population?

Palin Power electrifies the campaign

“Palin Power” read the hand-written signs held up at last week's Republican National Convention during the speech by Gov. Sarah Palin as she accepted the nomination to be vice president.

Next might be “Pit Bull Power” as she unleashes the energy she’ll need in the coming weeks when Democrats attack her, referring to the joke in her speech about the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull (“Lipstick.”)

If nothing else, she’s infused electricity into this year’s presidential election in less than a week. No small task, given that the woman of the hour had recently been Sen. Hillary Clinton. One wonders what the senator’s thoughts about this newcomer are. National media doesn’t seem too anxious to put a microphone to Clinton’s lips these days.

Can Palin’s power build to the point that this country will make the move to elect its first female vice president?

If the reaction of last night’s Republican crowd—made up of males and females—is an indication of what the rest of the country is feeling about this new face in the national political scene, then the White House will soon be making room for a baby crib in the Oval Office. And that’s not a bad thing.

Palin, I believe, is relatable to the American public. As she said last week, she understands the challenges many families face. Her small-town upbringing is common across this country.
We don’t often hear much from the rural areas and communities of less than 10,000 population. It’s the big cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco that make the nightly news.

However, it’s the residents of those smaller cities who are the backbone of this nation.

We love a good story about “small town boy makes good.” Now, it’s a woman’s turn.

Let the Democrats complain all they want. Let them fret and worry whether or not Obama is truly the most qualified candidate.

After Palin’s speech last night, it’s evident they have something to worry about.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Gov. Palin may be the answer to a young Democrat's question

In less than an hour, Gov. Sarah Palin will speak to the delegates and the country at the Republican National Convention. She will be the focus of hundreds who will pick apart every line she utters in the weeks leading up to the November election.

What I wonder, however, is what one particular young black Democratic woman will be thinking as she listens to Gov. Palin speak tonight.

This past Thursday, the final day of the Democratic National Convention, a 20s-something woman raised a question in the Youth Caucus of the speaker, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi of California.

I know—I was there, listening to the question and answer session at the end of the session.

This young woman asked, “What ideas can you give to our generation of women to combat all the negative images that we are exposed to today in the media?” She then asked, “Where can young women turn to have better images of themselves and get away from all the images of sex that degrade us?”

Garamendi compared these times to the 1970s and 1980s when his wife was young. He said she and women of her generation spoke up and got mad about a similar time, when women were looked upon as sex objects, to try to change things. He and his wife are parents of five daughters, and the Lt. Gov. said he naturally has a concern about today’s culture.

His advice to the young woman in the audience was “to speak up and get mad.”

My advice to the woman is to look at Gov. Sarah Palin.

In less than one week, we’ve learned what this woman stands for. I believe she naturally will be a role model for women of today's younger generation.

To that woman in the audience of the DNC Youth Caucus, I say, “Here’s the answer to your question--examine Sarah Palin."

We have learned only a few things about Alaska's governor since last Friday, but what we do know is she is a woman of moral values, integrity, not afraid to speak out and do what is right.

To that woman in the audience of the DNC Youth Caucus last Thursday, I say, “I hope you’re watching and listening to Gov. Palin tonight and in the days to come.”

With a woman like Palin in the White House, she can only be a positive promoter of many things dear to the heart of women of all ages: personal respect, appreciation for one’s talents and abilities, love of country and love of family—the kind of woman that is surely needed in such a time as this.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Political Conventions--Or Is It Time for a Woman in the White House?

Last week I was fortunate to work the Democratic National Convention for my job with FOX21 TV in Colorado Springs. For four days I interviewed delegates, attended caucuses, and primarily nosed around for interesting things going on.

I took a lot of photos, wrote numerous articles. They are posted here at this link at www.fox21news.com under the Blogs tab: http://www.kxrm.com/news/news_blog_post_list.aspx?author=Pamela%20Cosel

I will continue to post my reflections about the Republican National Convention, but from Colorado Springs because I'm not in St. Paul, either here or at the FOX21 blog site.

John McCain, you hit this one out of the ball park in choosing Sarah Palin as your running mate! Hooray for your courage, your wisdom, for being the "maverick" that you're called by many.

Is it time for a woman in the White House? Hillary Clinton thought so. (And just what does she think of the news of the past few days? I can't imagine she's very pleased.)

While we'll come to know more about Gov. Sarah Palin in the next few weeks, for now, she seems the brilliant partner for change that the Democrats espouse -- only, yes, we know Palin is a Republican.

For all those women who have said for years that we can have it all--home, marriage, career, children--Palin seems to embody that today. Do I hear those liberal Democrats quietly screaming because it's not a "liberal" woman who is at the forefront of the political world right now?

If Palin proves to be as good as she seems to be, McCain will be a shoe-in come November.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Back Among the Bloggers

This blog has been dead, dead, dead for two months...because I've been busy, busy, busy.

Sad there's not enough time in the day to just write all the time.

But that's actually, indirectly, what I'm now doing.

Two days after my last post, I started a new full-time job with the local FOX TV affiliate. So now I'm on a computer all day there instead of doing my own writing at home. But it's a kick and I'm not complainin'. To be back working directly in media--means I have to be careful what I now blog about.

They're a great group of people at this FOX station, and I'm gonna like it there. Do so far.

There's been the Olympics starting (I don't work for an NBC affiliate, so I have no/can't have any opinion there theoretically, though it is amazing to see a 41-year-old swimmer do so well!)

And the Democratic National Convention will soon be here, just an hour to the north up I-25. Speaking of Interstate 25, do I really want to maneuver my way around Denver--now that Mr. O has caused the powers-that-be to close the main artery through the city? Who does he think he is!? The President?

In 1992-1993, I worked for World Youth Day '93, coordinating logistics with all kinds of government agencies for the event that had 250,000 people from around the world traipsing through the Mile High City. On foot and in cars. Pope John Paul II never asked to have the interstate closed for him!

I guess Obama feels he's of higher authority than...well...the pope..? 'Nough said.

So back among the bloggers means I'd better be more regular with this--if anyone's going to pay attention.

Maybe my new media credentials will help me get an inside scoop that I can post here! Check back soon, ya' hear?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hillary Clinton's Not a Quitter

Let the games begin!

With the Democratic National Convention looming in August, it seems tonight that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is not ready to give up the fight, though Senator Barrack Obama has garnered enough delegates to gain the nomination of his party.

I say, “You go, girl.”

Oh, I won’t be voting for her. I’m a Republican and delegate for my precinct. I supported Mitt Romney, truth be told. Even had a short conversation with him at this past weekend’s Colorado Republican Convention as he autographed my credential. A friend snapped the photo (that’s me in the picture, from behind, Romney responding to my questions).

As I listened to Obama’s fiery speech tonight delivered from Minnesota, I understand why many think he is the answer for “change.” He is a dynamic speaker, powerful in his energy, one whose rhetoric almost sounds “new” – as if no one before has suggested the ideas he puts forth. But they are mere words. Can he really run this country? I think not.

I hear the crowds cheering Obama and think of the enthusiasm John F. Kennedy imparted to people in the 1960s. I was an elementary student then, but remember how my parents reacted to his youthfulness and dynamism. Yes, our family cheered when he beat Richard Nixon for the presidency. Obama is not a Kennedy.

Obama is appealing, on the surface. What lies beneath will be revealed in the coming months. He’s a lot of talk, but I wonder what his agenda for this country really is. Young may be good in the eyes of some, but he lacks critical governing experience, in my opinion.

In the meantime, I surprisingly find myself cheering on Clinton and say, no, she should not have given up the race before now. I say she should yet hold on until Denver. She has been gaining on Obama as she’s won recent primary elections, and has more of the popular vote than he does. That surely counts for something. If the Democratic Party ignores those statistics, I’d cry “foul.”

Are the “good old boys” of the Democratic Party threatened by a woman? While I hesitate to raise the issue of her gender, it seems they’ve tried to get rid of her for a long time now. For what reasons?

Whether or not she is Obama’s choice as a running mate is yet to be seen. I’d say it’s what he needs to trounce McCain, if that’s his aim. Likely, he’ll not choose Clinton, not wanting former President Bill Clinton to make it a threesome in the White House.

Therefore, as we get to know what Obama really stands for and what his plan is for the future of the United States and its people, I think most will find he’s too radical and unrealistic, and cast their votes for McCain.

And may the best (wo)man win.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Policitians Ought to Walk the Talk

The news focuses on yet another fallen politician. Sex, drugs, lies. There is nothing new under the sun, as is written in Ecclesiastes 1:9. News media sensationalize--and the politicians almost gloat--as they reveal details of their fallen ways. Tiresome, typical.

I suppose the power of position makes them think they're above the law. If not the law of the land, certainly the law of what's right and wrong.

But Jesus taught let he who is without sin cast the first stone. (John 8:7). None of us is perfect.

I think we expect our politicians to be. I get tired of seeing it plastered across the news every day, in a blow-by-blow description, all the details aired. Who cares? If it's not about Brittney, it's now about the Mayor of Detroit, Kwame M. Kilpatrick. Maybe they ought to take a lesson from this short video (link below) and Walk the Talk instead. Video by SimpleTruths.com

Do You Walk the Talk?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Did Romney Really Leave Us?

I hereby register my disappointment that Mitt Romney has chosen to remove himself from the presidential race. How could he! Mitt, you’ve left too early! Yet your speech yesterday made sense, and it’s wise to put the Republican Party needs at the forefront, yes, if we’re going to hold strong against the foolishness of Hillary Clinton or the flowery speeches of Barack Obama.

A John McCain supporter I can’t be. Yet. He will need to be most persuasive the next few months to convince me he’s the best choice for the Republican Party. He’s too liberal, too old, too enmeshed in the routine of Washington politics to make me believe he has the answers to take our country in the “right” direction. The only thing he’s got going for him is that he has the war experience, which in this time of war, seems to likely be what we need to deal with these times. Is he really the better answer over Hillary or Obama? Only by default, I suppose.

While I realize Mike Huckabee is an option, I hadn’t leaned toward him as I did to Governor Romney. I’m not convinced a former pastor as President is something this country is ready for.

But it’s more than that. I was sold on Romney’s stance on the economy, states’ rights, health care, immigration and abortion. He seemed to have it all lined up. Why couldn’t other people see that?

For the first time, I am a delegate to the county assembly for my precinct, and also an alternate to the state assembly. I look forward to the process. Only thing is, our precinct voted overwhelmingly in favor of Romney! The vote was 54 of 84 votes. But he’s gone, and so now I’ll have to cast my vote for one of the other two – that is, of course, unless one of them drops out by March 8 (assembly day) and there remains but one choice.

I hold on to the small hope (delusion?) that by the time the Republican National Convention rolls around, the GOP decides to draft Romney as its nominee, anyway!

Yesterday I heard Shawn Hannity comfort a caller, a single mother, on his radio show (02/07/08) as she mourned over the loss of Romney. He pointed out that no matter who is elected, her world is directly affected by the decisions she makes in her life. He was terrific, and uplifted her spirits. While we moan over who our choice for President will be, and though the things politicians decide eventually affect us all in one way or another, our lives go on. Let’s not forget we are the deciders of our own destiny, based on the actions we take.

It’s nice to have a leader at the helm who personifies our own values, however, and that’s why we each vote for whom we will.

In the end, let’s realize that, overall, God is in control. He/she knows which candidate will win far in advance any of the rest of us will know. Perhaps the next four years are to be a test for our country, based on who becomes President.

I pray it’s someone who will keep America strong on the homefront, in our own homes, and one who will uphold the values that this Nation was founded on—whether it’s economic values, personal values, or the way we deal with other countries.

Let’s hope we remain the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

In God We Trust.

Monday, January 21, 2008

NYC Midnight: For Love of Money

For the first post of 2008, below is my entry into the NYCMidnight Short Story Contest. Quite a fun challenge! All entrants are assigned a heat with a genre and subject, and we must write about that in 2500 words or less. Stories are to be written in one week and sent to NYCMidnight. Judging ends and finalists notified by February 29. Finalists will then compete for $1,000 and a trip to New York to meet with editors. The trick is -- finalists have only 24 hours to write the next short story, again, writing the genre and subject given to them by NYCMidnight. I've never written fantasy before in my life. Below is my contest entry. I'd love feedback. Readers can post comments on this blog. Thanks!

My assignment: Genre: FANTASY -- Subject: ATM

Synopsis: Cooper Kingsley lives to be wealthy, near his money, and in control.

___________________________________________________


FOR LOVE OF MONEY

Cooper Kingsley lives to be wealthy, near his money, and in control.

If Cooper Kingsley could go back to riding a horse and buggy, he would. Automobiles are machines to him, and Kingsley hates machines. Though he drives a new Lincoln, the buttons on the dashboard confuse him. A horse might smell dank and sweaty, but it’s easier.

As a young boy, he wasn’t handy with mechanical devices, though his father had tried to teach him about contraptions in the garage before he was tall enough to see above the scarred workbench. He hated machines even more for the way his father admired them, always spending time in the workshop, tinkering day and night.

Turned off, machines sit dead and silent. Turned on, they’re loud with shrill, whining sounds. They made Kingsley feel out of control, and this dislike carried over to adulthood.

Making money is where Kingsley shines. Money is what he likes. He lives to be wealthy. Very wealthy, and in control.

Kingsley likes people, too, for one reason—to boss them, make constant demands. It’s his way or no way. Never mind that he wouldn’t be missed if gone tomorrow.

This morning—like every other morning—he reads the Wall Street Journal, comfortable in his executive office, soothed by the luxury of his leather chair, high above the street ten stories below. He sips coffee spiked with a touch of expensive liqueur. No matter that it’s 10:00 AM. Somewhere in the world, it’s after noon, he knows.

Inside his office, classical music plays softly, piped in from surround-sound speakers, programmed with his favorite selections. His secretary handles its operation. Van Gogh paintings line the north wall, while expanses of glass windows fill the south and west sides of the room. Here it is quiet, serene—a contrast to the crazed chaos that takes place on the other side of the ceiling-high double doors.

***

His telephone’s private line rings, disturbing Kingsley’s reverie. He doesn’t answer it, knowing his secretary will cover for him.

A smugness spreads across Kingsley’s jowly face. Let others do the work. Let them worry about the problems of life. It’s what he thinks at least ten times a day. If a conversation turns maudlin, he puffs on his cigar and waves away the secretary, attorney, or manager who bother him with sad details of their lives. He finds them boring, like his father used to be.

A quick rap on the mahogany door interrupts his musing. “Yes, what is it, Marietta?”

“Excuse me, sir…” His secretary leans only her tight-bunned head inside. Wide owl eyes peer over the top of reading glasses.

“Come in, come in.” Kingsley is irritated, but waves her in.

“The phone, sir. It’s urgent. Your brother, Tom…your father…”

“My father? What does he want with me?” Kingsley shoves away from the desk and stands, his back to her. “Tell Tom I’m not in…” A tenseness spreads across his wide shoulders.

“But, Mr. Kingsley, he said there was an accident. He’s holding on your line.”

He runs a hand through his thinning hair. “All right, all right. I’ll talk to him,” he says. “Shut the door on your way out.”

Kingsley forces friendliness. “Hi, Tom. How are you? How’s the family?” Kingsley thinks back, remembering he’d last talked to his brother at Christmas. Here it is, August. Could it have been that long?

“Hello, Cooper.” His brother’s voice is strained, heavy.

“Go on. Talk. You know I’m a busy man. D’ya need money again?” The words are unleashed and Kingsley knows he’s said the wrong thing.

“Damn, you, Cooper! Still the same arrogant jackass, aren’t you? Some things never change.” Tom’s voice is angry.

Kingsley is quick, hoping to defuse the coming argument. “Look, Tom, I’m sorry. What is it? Something about an accident…” He hears Tom breathe deeply. Sweat moistens his palms and he switches the phone to his right ear.

“Cooper, it’s Dad. A car accident. Drunk driver broadsided him a mile from his house. He’s in intensive care. Hooked up to machines.”

Machines. Kingsley pictures the tubes in and out of his father’s orifices, hears in his mind the noises from the breathing machine.

“Well, not a good situation, now, is it?” Kingsley tries to feel sadness, but the emotion is slow in coming. “What do you want me to do?”

Tom stutters. “Uh…uh. I thought you might want to know. Fly down and be here with the family. Doctor doesn’t know if he’s going to make it.”

Kingsley is slow to respond. He taps his fingers on the desktop, thinking.

“Tom, look. I don’t know if I can get away. Call me again tomorrow and fill me in, okay? I’m sure Dad will be better then, and this will all be a bad dream, right? With good doctoring, he’ll be fine. Whadya’ say?” He’s not sure he wants to see his father, let alone, in this kind of condition.

“You’re not serious!” Tom shrieks. “Does your money mean that much to you—you can’t leave the company for something like this? It’s your father, for crying out loud! King Midas shows his true heart…”

Kingsley tries to defend himself. “Now, Tom, you know better than that. I...well…it’s a busy time of year…”

“Forget it, Cooper. Don’t bother explaining. I’m sorry I called. If he dies, I’ll let you know.” That said, Tom hangs up.

Kingsley wipes his palms with a monogrammed handkerchief, then polishes the brass nameplate that sits on his desk. He knows he should be worried about his father, but he’s learned to care only about money. He turns his thoughts to his investment funds. The headlines say the stock market is expected to fall. That concerns him.

Kingsley opens the business pages. His gaze lingers briefly on a story about the newest development in banking—a machine that takes the place of a teller. A machine—ridiculous. A machine can’t bring my coffee. A machine can’t tell me what I like to hear in meetings. An automated teller machine. Absurd.

Kingsley digests what his brother conveyed on the phone. “Odd that my father is now on an automated life machine,” he says aloud. He pictures his father breathing through a tube, fed by another tube, with switches and lights blinking on a mechanical device next to the bed. Not a fate for me. Hooked to a machine – that’s worse than death.

To dissolve the vision, Kingsley opens the drawer to his desk where he keeps the expensive liqueur, forgetting that Tom said his father’s car was hit by a drunk driver. He takes a long swallow and reaches to buzz Marietta by intercom.

“Yes, Mr. Kingsley?”

“Don’t let anyone disturb me the rest of the day. No calls, no interruptions. I’m working on reports and want to be alone. No need to say good night when you leave for the day—got that?” He loosens his necktie and unbuttons his top shirt button. What he really wants is a short nap.

“Yes, sir. I understand,” she says. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then. Have a good day, sir.”

He unplugs the phone, closes the window blinds, then lies down on the leather couch. Within minutes, Kingsley is fast asleep, snoring.

***

He is awakened by a whirring sound out in the hallway. At first, he’s not sure where he is. The only light comes from a small lamp across the room. No sunlight filters through the closed blinds. He realizes he’s in his office, and remembers that he lay down for a nap sometime during the morning. He looks at his Rolex watch. It reads 10:00.

It can’t be 10:00! He stands and walks to his desk to view the digital clock. It too reads “10:00 PM” in white, glowing letters against a black background.

He recognizes the hallway noise as the sound of a floor buffer. He does a quick comb of his hair, straightens his now-wrinkled jacket, and picks up his briefcase. Kingsley unlocks the door, expecting to be met by a janitor. No one is there.

“Hmmm…must have gone to another floor,” Kingsley says to himself. He walks to the elevator and is surprised to see that the door is open, as if it knew he was coming.

Down on the main floor, he finds the lights in the lobby are off. He fumbles his way forward, leans against a pushbar to open the heavy, glass door, but it doesn’t move. He tries a second time. Again, the door won’t budge.

“Well, I’ll be…” Kingsley was sure the north doors were open 24 hours a day. He looks about for the security guard. He’ll have to walk to the opposite end of the building, go out the back and around to the main entrance. It means walking a quarter-mile distance to be in front and cross to the garage where his Lincoln is parked. How did I get myself into this? I’ve never taken a nap like that.

Unused to walking long distances, Kingsley’s breathing becomes labored halfway down the center walkway. In the distance he sees someone standing at the information desk at the south end. “Wait until I give him a piece of my mind!” he says in a huff. “Incompetence! Those front doors are to remain open!”

“Mr. Kingsley, I wouldn’t go down that way,” a soft voice says behind him.

He turns to see a beautiful, young woman with glowing, blonde hair. She is dressed in white with a gold cord tied around her waist.

“Why not? Who are you?” He doesn’t recall seeing her before.

“I am Angela. I’ve come from your father’s room.”

Kingsley thinks he’s hearing things. “That’s not possible.”

“You should call your father, Mr. Kingsley. He doesn’t have much time,” A tear falls from her eye and lands on the bodice of her dress.

“I’m going to, once I get out of here. I’ll call him from the car,” he says, resuming his walk to the south doors.

She touches his arm and he stops. “Call now or you may regret your choice.” Then she disappears.

His body shakes as he tries to understand what just happened. He wonders if he’s dreaming. Maybe he’s still upstairs asleep.

“Hey! You there!” he shouts to the man standing at the south entry desk. The man doesn’t answer. Kingsley runs to him. He slams his hand down on the granite countertop, thinking the guard is asleep. “Didn’t you hear me?”

“Hello, Mr. Kingsley. I was told you were coming,” he replies. He is a short, dark man wearing a hat, black clothes, holding a cigar. His voice seems to come from nowhere and everywhere.

Kingsley feels a chill up his spine. “You were told? By whom? That woman?” He turns his head, looking for her. “Why are the north doors locked? They’re supposed to be open 24 hours. What’s your name? Who hired you? I’ll report you to your supervisor!” He spouts anger too fast for the man to reply.

“They call me Papa Ghede. I am here to guide you, at your choosing. You hired me,” he says through a wide grin.

Am I going mad? I’ve never seen him before in my life. Kingsley rubs his eyes, searching his recall. He apologizes. “No, I’m sorry, I don’t remember. Why are you down at this entrance?”

The guard points to something behind Kingsley.

He turns to see a strange machine built into the wall between the doors. “Automated Teller Machine” flashes neon red at the top. Below the sign is a darkened window, different shaped slots, and signage with print that is too small to read.

“You wanted someone here to protect the ATM after workers installed it last week. It was your order,” Papa Ghede explains.

I ordered it? I only read about these contraptions this morning in the paper. I told no one to install this…this… machine! You’re lying!”

Kingsley walks to the ATM for a closer look. He reads the instructions. He sticks his fingers into the money slot, intrigued.

“Say, Papa, can I get money out of it now?” He turns to look at him.

The man is gone and the room lights blink off.

“May I help you, Mr. Kingsley?”

He whirls around, expecting to see someone. Again, he is alone.

“May I help you, Mr. Kingsley?” A voice, deeper this time.

He realizes it comes from the machine. His heart beats faster and he feels dizzy. The machine is talking…“Who…who are you? Where are you?” Beads of perspiration form on his upper lip and forehead. The flashing red sign gets brighter and brighter, as if a beating heart.

“I’m here, in the ATM. Would you like some of your money, Cooper?”

It knows my name.

Kingsley’s not so crazy to deny the request, and agrees. “Why, yes…yes, I would. But how do I get it? I don’t much care for machines, you know.” He wonders if he should have admitted that.

The voice is reassuring. “Look in your wallet. Your ATM card is there.”

Kingsley is amazed to find a blue plastic card titled “Bank ATM” next to his bills. “Well, yes, it is. Where did this come from?”

“From me. I’ll take care of you and your money now. I have your records. Your date of birth, source of income, your parents’ names...” The voice is hypnotic and inviting.

Kingsley’s thoughts are jolted. Dad’s accident. I’d better call Tom, especially after the way I treated him on the phone today.

“Cooper, put the card in the slot on the left and you’ll have more riches than ever before. A man like you should always be near his money.” The voice is louder and deeper. Like his father’s.

Kingsley is torn between wanting money and calling his father. He decides he’ll call the hospital as soon as he has a few thousand in hand. He wants his money first.

He pushes the plastic card into the slot. A shrill, whining sound screams from the ATM, like machine noises from his dad’s garage. Kingsley sees the neon ATM sign explode just as his hand is trapped in the slot and he collapses.

***

Kingsley is stirred by voices nearby. He can hardly breathe, though standing upright. He hears car horns, busy footsteps and the dings of an elevator. He feels a catheter beneath his pants. He’s encased in something like a coffin, except for the tiny window in front of his face. Someone is pushing a plastic card into his right shoulder. The pain cuts like a knife.

“Stupid ATM! This machine is out of order again!” A short, dark man wearing a hat is visible on the other side of the glass. He holds a cigar. He puts his face close to the window and whispers, “Don’t feel like working again today, Mr. Kingsley? Keep your money. Some things never change.” He winks, raps his knuckles on the glass and walks away.

A silver coin, like a tear, falls from the ATM and rolls across the floor.

_______________________________

(Author’s Note to Readers: Papa Ghede is a psychopomp. He waits at the crossroads to take souls into the afterlife and is considered the good counterpart to Baron Samedi. He has a very crass sense of humor and a deep hatred of European-based cultures because of the sexual repression they encourage. Papa Ghede is supposed to be the corpse of the first man who ever died. He is widely recognized as a short, dark man with a high hat on his head and a cigar in his mouth and he's constantly holding an apple in his left hand. It’s said that he has a divine ability to read others’ minds and the ability to know everything that happens in both worlds. Source: Wikipedia)

Monday, November 19, 2007

An Angel on Earth

A friend sent me a link to the site GodTube today. I’d not heard of this video site. It’s the Christian version of YouTube. It’s distinctly Christian in nature and currently features a video clip of the most adorable little girl reciting Psalm 23.

Check it out! She’s beautiful and must be the reason why Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me…” (Matt. 19:14) She appropriately wears a pink t-shirt that says “Princess.”

The video was posted by Bluefish TV. You won’t regret viewing it. It will make your day!

Click on the link:

Little Girl and Psalm 23

Monday, November 05, 2007

"Talking With Heroes" Interviews Begin Airing; Third Trip to Iraq

Pamela's note: The information below is not getting out to the national media, so here it is. "Talking With Heroes" is a radio show that airs interviews and comments directly from our wonderful soldiers fighting in Iraq. Bob Calvert, the man behind "Talking With Heroes" is a personal friend, and thus, I post this information for Bob here on my blog. If you want to hear stories from those serving our country, please click on the link below to hear the radio show. As a military mom and wife to a psychologist who counsels some of the servicemen and servicewomen who return from Iraq via the Deployment Recovery Counseling Center, I am grateful to those of you who would listen to what they have to say.

Colorado Springs, CO -- Bob Calvert, host of the "Talking With Heroes" talk show, and Jim Martin, CEO of Altitude Sports and Entertainment Cable Network based in Denver, CO, recently returned from a third trip to Iraq with progress reports for all of America to hear.

Calvert and Martin spent time with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North Dakota National Guard, with 2ID 2BCT Army units from Ft Carson, Marines, Air Force, Navy, Iraqis and more. They filmed on sites in Eastern and Western Baghdad to report progress at a Children’s Hospital, Reconstruction at Baghdad International Airport, new buildings under construction, on convoys and more.

"Talking with Heroes" is not about politics.

The program is meant to help, honor, and support our men and women in the military and their families, and to give our military personnel an opportunity to share their mostly untold stories about the work they are doing worldwide. We believe the American people have a right to hear these positive stories and our military personnel have a right to have their stories heard by all Americans. Americans across the country can now hear many positive progress stories of what our men and women have been and continue to do in Iraq. DVDs will also be available soon.

The team reported from a New Water Treatment Plant in Shunidaq, Iraq and interviewed Iraqis there who sent a message to all in America of thanks from the over 10,000 people in that area of who are now drinking clean water for the first time. They visited a New Iraqi Police Training Academy near Camp Falluja. They interviewed and filmed at TQ Surgical Facility in Al Taqaddum, interviewed Iraqi refugees in Habbaniyu Tourist Village, and interviewed the Headmaster at Al Absaar Primary School in Habbaniyu in Iraq. They went on a Route Clearance Convoy with soldiers from Fort Carson, CO, plus other convoys.

Many military personnel shared stories about progress in their areas. The almost 20 hours of interviews, site visits, convoys and more are airing on "Talking with Heroes" 5pm (PST) Sunday night program on the stardustradio.com internet radio network through January 2008.

"Talking with Heroes" also announces that Denver based regional cable television network, Altitude Sports & Entertainment, will air Third Iraq interviews and footage throughout its 10-state cable territory beginning on November 7, 2007. Those with a sports package on DirectTV and Dish Network can also watch around the country. The broadcast times and dates along with the cities and channels are listed in the Talking with Heroes website at: http://talkingwithheroes.com/information.php?info_id=17

"You Tube" now hosts 11 "Talking with Heroes" 9-minute clips from on-site visits to different locations in Iraq. To view these videos go to: http://talkingwithheroes.com/information.php?info_id=20

Bob Calvert, the host of "Talking with Heroes," is available for interviews. Bob continues to conduct on-the-road, LIVE talk show programs in cities across America. The next live event will be Nov 17, 2007, in Columbus, GA. Details are on the www.talkingwithheroes.com web site.

For Media and Other Inquiries Contact:

Bob Calvert, Host
www.talkingwithheroes.com

Email: bob@youngheroes.us

Cell: 719-310-7814

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dog Days of Summer


It’s been a busy summer. Two months of not posting here means:

1) out-of-state relatives visited
2) I took time out to enjoy the good weather
3) and we welcomed a NEW PUPPY to our home!

Levi has been here five weeks, and it’s now daily regimens of training, feeding, scooping up poop. He’s quickly becoming woman’s best friend.

Golden retrievers are the best dogs in the world. I’ve had two in the past. The first was shot about 30 years ago, killed by a farmer who says our dog was chasing his cows. We lived way out in the country of northern Colorado back then. Nearest neighbor was a quarter mile away on one side, a half mile to the other side. I can’t fathom that our dog intimidated those cows much. It was a sad day when we found Pug’s (short for Puggy Bear) body lying dead next to a friend’s dog, both accused of “cattle rustling.”

The next golden retriever I owned was a member of our family for 13 years. He is buried out in Inyokern County, CA, in the desert back yard where I used to live. A loyal, loving friend Ted (short for Teddy Bear) was. I came home from work one day to find him dead on the front step, a horrifying site. He was covered with ants. I can’t know how many hours he lay there. He’d been fine when I went to work that morning. I guess it was just his time. My boss and his wife were gracious to come help me bury Ted’s lifeless body in the back yard. It was hard to know I was leaving him when I returned to live in Colorado.

Thus, our new puppy, Levi, now three months old, is a welcome addition, now that we’re “empty nesters.” He keeps me company while I work from home. My husband—formerly not a dog lover—is enamored of this beautiful, blond boy.

I’ve not owned a dog for about eight years. I had missed the companionship of a canine. This summer that revelation came over me, and when a breeder friend said her bitch was pregnant with a litter, I was first in line to claim one of the new pups.

I look forward to the coming of Fall, taking the dog for walks in the crisp air (which will do me a world of good) and, later, watching him enjoy leaping in piles of snow.

It’s nice to have a new best friend.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Harry Potter Who? Or Am I the Only One Not Reading Him?

Perhaps J.K. Rowling should run for U.S. President.

I, for one, have never read a single word, paragraph, or book of the Harry Potter series. Nor seen the movie (or are there movies?). Am I bragging? Not sure. I suppose I've not been tempted to turn those pages because I'm not one to follow the masses just because "everyone else is doing it." So all you Potter piranhas, go ahead--enjoy every last word. I hope Rowling did a great job for you!

I suppose it’s all the talk of witchcraft and magic that keeps me at bay. Seems to conflict with my faith beliefs. Now before you go and say, “Oh, it’s that ‘holier than thou’ attitude talking,” don’t be so quick to judge me. Maybe I’ve just simply lost my belief in magic and potions, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. In childhood, didn’t we all believe in things that fly (remember Peter Pan and Tinker Bell…I even named my first parakeet after that fairy) and knew to fear anything boiling and bubbly that a witch had brewed? After all, Hansel and Gretel had instinct enough to fear the witch in the forest whose focus was to eat them.

But not having read a word of the Potter series, I have no idea what the witches and warlocks (are they there?) do for a living—or for fun. Perhaps my disinterest can be blamed on being blasted with the reality of today’s world with its daily news bites about Lindsay Lohan’s next arrest (Oh, will they ever tire of telling us common folk we should care about what the wayward woman is up to? We can only hope…), the rising count of dead soldiers and civilians in Iraq, and another politician who thinks he or she has all the answers for our country when in reality, they are all just blowing hot air at this point, in my opinion. Wasn’t there another debate on TV last night? Missed that too.

With more than a year to go until election time, I’ll wait, thank you, until the field is narrowed to those who have a real chance to win before I devote my time and energy to hearing what they have to say. If the pattern holds true, they’ll all be changing their minds and words in the coming months, anyway, to reflect what they “think” the American public wants to hear without really finding out what are our needs and what is important to us in our daily lives. The ivory towers in Washington, D.C., are far removed from the wheat fields and ranches of our country’s heartland.

Perhaps a touch of Harry Potter potion is what they need. Look at the following he (rather, author Rowling) has. With readers in the millions (or is it billions?), our American politicians could learn a lesson from the bespectacled lad and his creator. J.K. Rowling was quoted in the UK’s Independent as saying that “children and adults had been united by the experience of reading the new volume.” Isn’t that what a good politician seeks to do?

"All the secrets I have been carrying around for so long will be yours, too...Those who guessed correctly will be vindicated, and those who guessed wrongly will not, I hope, be too disappointed!" she added.

Secrets and politicians. Now that goes hand-in-hand, as well.

Is Rowling making a bid for the Presidency of the United States? Potions, magic and secrets just might do the trick.

Or she could instead make a killing selling her recipe to the likes of Mrs. Clinton, the misters Edwards, McCain, Richardson, Biden, Gilmore, Guiliani, Romney, Tancredo…and on and on…will the list ever end?

At least Rowling knew when to stop a good thing, leaving her audience satisfied. It’s too early to know if our politicians can figure out how to do the same thing.