January 24, 2008


I've been under the weather for a few days, and I know I've been a little lazy about blogging, but I'm still thinking of everyone.

It was nothing serious, just a pretty high fever and chills, and a couple of days in bed--but honestly folks, I felt like I might have to head out to the ER! However, with a lot of loving care, and pampering, from my husband, I'm feeling almost good as new.

Just so you know, he is never happy that I balk about seeking medical help, but I know that you know--if you've read some of my posts--why I am never too eager to do that, and mostly just tough it out, if I can.

While I'm trying to find something really good to blog about, and while hospitals and medical stuff is on my mind, I thought I'd share the following essay with you. It's actually from a radio broadcast in Indiana. It gave me a smile, or two--I hope it will do the same for you.

Humor in the Hospital
When I tell people that I’m a hospital chaplain, the person often makes a face and says, “Oh, that must be depressing.” But there’s a lot more going on in hospitals than pain and suffering. In fact, if your eyes and ears are open, even the darkest situations can provide a bit of needed comic relief.
I first noticed this phenomenon years ago with a family in the intensive care waiting room. Crises bring out the best or the worst of families, and this one was not functioning well. Shouting, threats, blaming each other for old issues. Even the television was blaring away, demanding my attention. The show? Family Feud.
Sometimes humor sails through the hospital room like a sparrow, easy to miss. I was leading a somber prayer with family in one room when a little boy leaned his head around the bed and stuck his tongue out at me . . . causing me to forget not only the patient’s name, but how the rest of the Lord’s Prayer went. Other times the humor emerges slowly, as with the elderly patient I was having a normal conversation with until I asked where she lived. “Wisconsin,” she said. “Oh,” I replied. “Are you visiting this area? “No, silly,” she said. “I’m right out on Faber’s farm. You know where that is.” “Faber’s farm? I said. “Oh sure you do, its right here,” she said. Then she reached under her sheet and said, “Are you ready?” “Ready for what?” I hesitated. “I’m ready to give you my urine sample now.” I called the nurse.
Marriage relations can be a source of mirth in the hospital. Like the woman from the trailer park explaining why her husband was having chest pains. “Aw, he’s just mad ‘cause I brought home more ferrets,” she said. Then her cell phone rang. “Hello?” she answered. “No. This is Janie. I’m talking to the doctor. What? It’s Janie,” she repeated into the phone. “J.R.’s wife. No, this is his real wife.” Another time, a woman had me paged to her husband’s bedside, stat. When I arrived, she said, “Oh good. He’ll tell you how he wants to die, and I’m going down to get a salad.”
Race relations can have its lighter side, in the hospital. One Caucasian man had foolishly been smoking while using an aerosol can of black spray paint. The can exploded causing minor facial burns. When I pulled back the curtain of the ER double room, I found the white man on a gurney with a very black painted face. The patient on the other gurney? A black teenager. The white man with the black face rolled his eyeballs up at me and said, “My face hurts.” The teenager just held up a hand and said, “I don’t even wanna know.”
Even cancer is no match for a sharp wit in the hospital. My friend Stacy is a breast cancer survivor. She introduced me to a group of attractive women having coffee after their weekly cancer support group and yoga class. “So, what did you think of them?” she asked me later as we walked down the hall. “Great people,” I said. “Yes,” she replied, “and not a boob at that whole table.”
Humor and faith are always essential partners, but especially in the hospital. One wise nurse shared with me that she has just two very short prayers each day. In the morning, she prays, “Whatever.” In the evening her prayer is, “Oh well.”
As I leave the hospital this evening I meet a neighbor coming in. “Oh hi,” she says, “do you work here?” “Yes, I’m a hospital chaplain.” “Ew,” she grimaced. “That must be depressing.”
I just smile. “Whatever.”
Broadcast by Jeff Nixa on December 08, 2006

January 21, 2008

So, How'd You Break Your Arm?

A friend sent this story to me. Even if you don't ski you'll be able to appreciate the humor of the slopes as expressed in the following account:

A friend just got back from a holiday skiing trip to Utah with the kind of story that warms the cockles of anybody's heart. Conditions were perfect...12 below, no feeling in the toes, basic numbness all over...the "Tell me when we're having fun" kind of day.

One of the women in the group complained to her husband that she was in dire need of a rest room. He told her not to worry, that he was sure there was relief waiting at the top of the lift in the form of a powder room for female skiers in distress. He was wrong, of course, and the pain did not go away. If you've ever had nature hit its panic button in you, then you know that a temperature of 12 below doesn't help matters. With time running out, the woman weighed her options. Her husband, picking up on the intensity of the pain, suggested that since she was wearing an all-white ski outfit, she should go off in the woods and no one would even notice. He assured her, "The white will provide more than adequate camouflage."

So she headed for the tree line, began lowering her ski pants and proceeded to do her thing. If you've ever parked on the side of a slope, then you know there is a right way and wrong way to set your skis so you don't move.

Yup, you got it!!! She had them positioned the wrong way. Steep slopes are not forgiving... even during the most embarrassing moments. Without warning, the woman found herself skiing backward, out-of-control, racing through the trees...somehow missing all of them and onto another slope. Her derriere and the reverse side were still bare, her pants down around her knees, and she was picking up speed all the while. She continued backwards, totally out-of-control, creating an unusual vista for the other skiers. The woman skied back under the lift and finally collided violently with a pylon.
To add to all of that, she had broken her arm and was unable to pull up her ski pants.

At long last her husband arrived, putting an end to her nudie show, then summoned the ski patrol. They transported her to a hospital.

While in the emergency room, a man with an obviously broken leg was put in the bed next to hers. "So, how'd you break your leg?" she asked, making small talk. "It was the stupidest thing you ever saw," he said. "I was riding up this ski lift and suddenly, I couldn't believe my eyes! There was this crazy woman skiing backward, out-of-control, down the mountain, with her bare bottom hanging out of her pants. I leaned over to get a better look and fell out of the lift." ... "So, how'd you break your arm?"

January 19, 2008

The Donkey

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do.

Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down.

A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.

As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.

Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
Free your heart from hatred - Forgive.
Free your mind from worries - Most never happen.
Live simply and appreciate what you have.
Give more.
Expect less.

NOW ............ the rest of the story:
The donkey later came back, and bit the farmer who had tried to bury him. The gash from the bite got infected and the farmer eventually died in agony from septic shock.

MORAL FROM TODAY'S LESSON: When you do something wrong, and try to cover your *ass, it always comes back to bite you.

*I know what you were thinking, but I was still talking about the donkey!

January 18, 2008


Witty Quips and Funny One-Liners from the Campaign Trail

John McCain
"In case you missed it, a few days ago Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock Concert Museum. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at the time." --referring to the years he spent as a P.O.W.

"We spent $3 million to study the DNA of bears in Montana. I don't know if that was a paternity issue or a criminal issue." --on wasteful congressional spending.

"Thanks for the question, you little jerk." --after being asked by a high school student if he was too old to be president. For good measure, McCain then threatened to draft him.

Mike Huckabee
"I'm from Hope, Arkansas, you may have heard of it.
All I'm asking is, give us one more chance."

"We've had a Congress that's spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop.

"Whether we need to send somebody to Mars, I don't know. But I'll tell you what, if we do, I've got a few suggestions, and maybe Hillary could be on the first rocket."

Mitt Romney
"If I adopt the same policy, we're going to need a heck of a lot more chairs in the Cabinet room." --Romney, who is a Mormon, referring to Rudy Giuliani's comment that he might let his wife attend Cabinet meetings

"I think the reason that some 28, 29 percent are not comfortable voting for a Mormon is they think they're voting for Harry Reid." -- on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is also a Mormon.

"You look at that Democratic debate, I had to laugh at what I saw Barack Obama do. I mean in one week he went from saying he's going to sit down, you know, for tea, with our enemies, but then he's going to bomb our allies. I mean he's gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in one week."

"I'm a little late. I bumped my head and broke my hair." –at the 2007 Gridiron dinner

Rudy Giuliani
"Look, for someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a very frightening thing that’s happening right now." --after a lightning strike cut out his mic as he was answering a difficult question about abortion during a Republican debate.

Hillary Clinton
"Well, that hurts my feelings." --on why voters like Barack Obama better.

"You can always tell when the Republicans are getting restless, because the Vice President's motorcade pulls into the Capitol, and Darth Vader emerges.

Barack Obama
"I don't want to be invited to the family hunting party." --on revelations that he and Dick Cheney are eighth cousins.

"Hillary is not the first politician in Washington to declare 'Mission Accomplished' a little too soon."

Joe Biden
"I mean think about it, Rudy Giuliani, there's only three things he mentions in a sentence -- a noun and a verb and 9/11 and I mean, there's nothing else."

January 17, 2008

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on 'THIS' side of the road before it goes after the problem on the 'OTHER SIDE' of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his 'CURRENT' problems before adding 'NEW' problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

ANDERSON COOPER - CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he's GUILTY! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain. Alone.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its life long dream of crossing the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your check book. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken. This new platform is much more stable and will never cra...#@&&^<>C% ........ reboot.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

AL GORE : I invented the chicken!

DICK CHENEY : Where's my gun?

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens!

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

Yes, I know this has been around the block a few times, but I thought it was a good reminder of what goes on in a presidential election. Whether or not an answer makes any sense, could just depend upon the one you ask.

It's a long, long, time until November--maybe, by then we will know the real reason the chicken crossed the road.

Maybe, we should just ask the chicken.

January 12, 2008

Somebody's Hero

I've written a few things on here about the plight of people in nursing homes, and other health facilities. Much of it had a sense of negativity about it, I know, but I was writing from my own experiences, occurring mostly during the long period of time that I cared for my invalid mother. She was incapacitated for several years, and although a very short period of time was spent in a nursing home, that is where she received the most negligent care.

Throughout her illness she received care from Home Health Care agencies, some of which were not good, but in reading this article, I was reminded of some of the very positive aspects of it all, too.

My mother had enough health insurance to assure that she had access to all that was needed in taking proper care of her. One of the benefits was that it paid for Home Health, which is the service mentioned in this article. To be honest, I must say that most of the workers who helped to care for my mother were like the one mentioned here. On the other hand--as I've mentioned in other articles-- there were those who had no business doing what they were doing, or not doing in many cases.

Involved in Home Health care are RNs (registered nurses,) LPNs (licensed practical nurses,) and aides. It is the aides who have the most "hands on" care, and some of them are wonderful, caring, individuals who are hard workers and take great pride in what they do. Consider yourself blessed if your loved one is assigned these workers. They do become like members of the family, and the family caregivers look forward to their visits, and the respite that they offer. They come in all sizes and all colors, and you learn to love and accept them just the way they are, just as they do with the families they serve.

It is true that many horrible events occurred in the care of my mother, and I still regret that she had to endure one moment of it, but as in everything there are the bad apples, and then there are the truly dedicated ones. I appreciate the ones who helped with the care of my mother, and they still hold a special place in my heart--they are my heroes. I know that the lady written about in the following article is somebody's hero, too!

Finding her purpose: A mother's inspiration lets a caregiver ease life's toughest pains
By Georgea KovanisDetroit Free Press

Mary Graham, left, uses a comb to do Mrs. Allen's hair at her Detroit, Mich., home. Graham is a home health care aide who cares for sick people and has a wonderful relationship with their families. Photo: Hugh Grannum/MCT
It's a little before 8 a.m. when Mary Graham pulls her 1988 silver Buick Regal onto a west side street and rolls to a stop in front of a still-sleepy bungalow that is home to nine people ranging in age from just over a year to 81, and a dog she doesn't trust.
Mary is here to see Mildred Allen, the woman who raised children and grandchildren in this little house, who watched her fortunes rise and fall here, and who has become so ill from diabetes and Alzheimer's that she will probably never leave — at least not alive.
"How are you today?" Mary asks, cheerfully, hopefully even, as she leans over the bed and tries to wake up Mrs. Allen.
Mary likes to think Mrs. Allen knows her, if not by name, at least by sight. She likes to think that Mrs. Allen looks forward to her twice-weekly, hour-long visits. That Mrs. Allen, who appears lost in a fog of sleep and confusion, knows more than she lets on.
"I don't want to lay there like that. That's no quality of life," Mrs. Allen's granddaughter said one day, as she and Mary were fixing the elderly woman's bed. Mary changed the subject, just in case Mrs. Allen understood.
Mary has lifted Mrs. Allen — she would never dream of calling her by her first name — out of the bed and into a wheelchair, and is rolling her toward the shower.
"Mom, mommy," Mrs. Allen moans.
"It's all right," Mary says.
It is difficult to know when or how or where a person will find his or her life's purpose, the thing that makes being alive about more than just getting out of bed in the morning.
But this is where 51-year-old Mary Graham found hers: bathing people who are too ill to take care of themselves and are too much for their families to handle, washing away the sour stink of sickness, leaving them feeling refreshed and renewed even though their flesh may be rotting from bed sores.
There is a great demand for people who do what Mary does, though it's not a job many people want — the intimacy can be as off-putting as the pay, $11.45 an hour. Which makes experts wonder and worry about who will care for our aging population, our grandparents, parents, even our sons and daughters. Nationwide, about 3 million people work as home health care aides, nursing assistants or personal care aides. By 2017, we'll need a million more. And by 2030, when all surviving baby boomers will be at least 65, we'll need an additional 3 million.
They are in and out of sick people's houses for as long as their doctors and nurses think is necessary and as long as their insurance companies are willing to pay.
Some recover. Others don't.
The majority of Mary's patients, including Mrs. Allen, linger somewhere in between, somewhere in the twilight — that vague time of day between sunset and nightfall when the moon and the sun both occupy the sky. They are alive, but not really living. Dying, but not ready to go.
They rely on Mary to give them back a little bit of the dignity they lost a long time ago.
She relies on them, too.
They are her ties to her own mother, a link to the past.

It's a sweltering hot afternoon in July 1979 and Mary is feeling ill. She wants to take a nap, but the phone is ringing.
It's Vanessa, a girl from her mother's neighborhood, calling from a pay phone — which is odd because the neighbors always use Mary's mother's phone. Vanessa says she and her grandmother are worried because they haven't seen Mary's mother, Glaydean Oliphant, all day.
She'd just gotten home from work when the phone rang. Now she is back in her car, driving the four or so miles to her mother's place to make sure everything is OK.
Mary opens the front door and is hit by a blast of stagnant air that makes her feel as if she is suffocating.
"Mama, Mama!" she yells.
Glaydean Oliphant is sitting on the couch with her orange cat at her side. Saliva is dripping from her mouth. She is wet with sweat. Her eyes are open, but she seems to be asleep.
Mary screams for a neighbor. "Call 9-1-1! There's something wrong with Mama!"
Sickness tests people.
It breaks some, causes them to walk away.
But it also makes some people stronger. It helps them see what's important, what they can't live without, who they can't live without. And, during the summer of 1979, that's what happened to Mary.
Mrs. Oliphant, 61, had a series of strokes that left her unable to walk, struggling to talk and generally confused.
Doctors suggest a nursing home, but that made Mary uncomfortable. The strokes changed her mother, but sending her somewhere would mean losing her altogether.
She knew the best place for her mother was at home with her.
She leaves her meter-reading job and becomes her mother's full-time caregiver. "I thought she was going to get better," Mary would say years later. "She didn't get better. She didn't get any worse. She was at a standstill."
One morning in November 1986, Mary's mother grabbed her daughter's nightgown and wouldn't let go.
"What is it?" Mary asked.
Her mother looked her straight in the eyes and said, "Thank you for everything."
A few minutes later, she dies.
One of Mrs. Oliphant's visiting nurses, impressed with the way Mary cared for her mother, suggests she pursue a career as a nursing aide.
And that is the job Mary has had for the past 20 years.
She likes old people, she likes to know how couples met, and she is always impressed when she meets a husband taking care of his wife, a husband who didn't run when things went bad. It is a commitment she never had from a man. And as for who might take care of her if anything happens, she says she hasn't thought about that. She says she doesn't expect anything bad to ever happen to her.
"Mary is my girl! Mary is the best!" says Henry Washington, who is 90, lives in Detroit and has sprained his ankle. He is happy to see Mary.
Patients tell Mary they want to die and she tells them she's pretty sure God has every single person here for a reason. If they start questioning that reason, or start questioning God, Mary will say, "I can't help you on that because I got to stand in front of him too, one day."
She believes in Heaven, which she hopes is like Hawaii. But even if it's not, she knows the hospice patient is better off now. He isn't suffering anymore.
Sometimes, she says, "I look at my patients and I say them a prayer. I say, 'I hope they see my mom."'

I have just one more thing to say about this article: "God Bless you, Mary Graham."

January 10, 2008

Republic Of Lakota Withdraws Treaties Signed With U.S.

Recently, a friend brought this to my attention, along with some interesting, and thought provoking questions, and I quote: "Wouldn't it be interesting if they declared their independance, (they have essentially done just that!)? Would the US squash it? Would they send troops? This could be very interesting...would it incite other Native Americans to follow suit?"

While reading this, I immediately thought of Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, who now owns more than 2 million acres and 16 ranches in seven states – Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota and Oklahoma!

Lakota Indians Withdraw Treaties Signed With U.S. 150 Years Ago
Thursday, December 20, 2007

WASHINGTON — The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States.

"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us,'' long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means said.

A delegation of Lakota leaders has delivered a message to the State Department, and said they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the U.S., some of them more than 150 years old.

The group also visited the Bolivian, Chilean, South African and Venezuelan embassies, and would continue on their diplomatic mission and take it overseas in the coming weeks and months.

Lakota country includes parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

The new country would issue its own passports and driving licences, and living there would be tax-free - provided residents renounce their U.S. citizenship, Mr Means said.

The treaties signed with the U.S. were merely "worthless words on worthless paper," the Lakota freedom activists said.

Withdrawing from the treaties was entirely legal, Means said.

"This is according to the laws of the United States, specifically article six of the constitution,'' which states that treaties are the supreme law of the land, he said.

"It is also within the laws on treaties passed at the Vienna Convention and put into effect by the US and the rest of the international community in 1980. We are legally within our rights to be free and independent,'' said Means.

The Lakota relaunched their journey to freedom in 1974, when they drafted a declaration of continuing independence — an overt play on the title of the United States' Declaration of Independence from England.

Thirty-three years have elapsed since then because "it takes critical mass to combat colonialism and we wanted to make sure that all our ducks were in a row,'' Means said.

One duck moved into place in September, when the United Nations adopted a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples — despite opposition from the United States.

Here's the actual notice which was posted on the Lakota Republic's website:

Republic of Lakotah

P.O. Box 99Porcupine, SD 57772
JAN 1, 2008
Notice to All Foreign Governments and Private Owners of Real Estate within the Republic of Lakotah

The United States of America;
The States of: Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska;
The County and Municipal Governments Operating within the Republic of Lakotah; and All Private Owners of Real Estate within the Republic of Lakotah
Lakotah, through its government, have appointed representatives to withdraw from all the treaties with the United States of America.
Lakotah, through such representatives, have formally withdrawn from all agreements and treaties with the United States of America. The reinstitution of our freedom and independence is found in law.
Lakotah has reclaimed sovereignty as a nation and over its traditional lands.
Despite many years of repeated bad faith on the part of the United States government towards the Lakotah People, the Lakotah hold no animosity toward the American people, most of whom have had no part in the actions of their government. We wish to deal with the American people in good faith and in a win-win manner.
While we have the right to impose liens on all of the real estate in our country, we prefer to come to resolutions with you all with out resorting to such measures. Accordingly, at this time, we are only declaring liens on real estate held by governments foreign to the Republic of Lakotah, but not on real estate held by private parties.
The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States of America and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties substantiate this freedom.

Lakotah welcomes the opportunity to meet and discuss this matter. We are in the process of scheduling meetings and will issue public invitations. Should you desire input with regard to scheduling these meetings, please contact us at the above.

Russell Means, Chief FacilitatorProvisional Government
Republic of Lakotah

Well, okay--I guess Ted Turner doesn't have too much to worry about, then. But then again, I don't think that Mr. Turner worries all that much about anything. Unless it would be about having to renounce his citizenship? Hmm..now that is thought provoking.

And We'll Hear Them All

January 09, 2008

John McCain Pledges Allegiance

The picture here is of an American flag, and a POW-MIA flag. Perhaps there is no one who can appreciate the meaning of both, more than John McCain.

There are those to whom our American flag has no particular significance, and express that sentiment by choosing to ignore it when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited, or the National Anthem is played, but here's what John McCain had to say about it:

As you may know, I spent five and one half years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. In the early years of our imprisonment, the NVA kept us in solitary confinement or two or three to a cell. In 1971 the NVA moved us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men to a room. This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change and was a direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans on behalf of a few hundred POWs 10,000 miles from home.

One of the men who moved into my room was a young man named Mike Christian. Mike came from a small town near Selma, Alabama. He didn't wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old. At 17, he enlisted in the US Navy. He later earned a commission by going to Officer Training School. Then he became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967. Mike had a keen and deep appreciation of the opportunities this country-and our military-provide for people who want to work and want to succeed. As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home. In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves and other items of clothing. Mike got himself a bamboo needle.

Over a period of a couple of months, he created an American flag and sewed it on the inside of his shirt. Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike's shirt on the wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important part of our day now, but I can assure you that in that stark cell it was indeed the most important and meaningful event.

One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did periodically, and discovered Mike's shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it. That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all of us, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours.

Then, they opened the door of the cell and threw him in. We cleaned him up as well as we could. The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept. Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room. As said, we tried to clean up Mike as well as we could. After the excitement died down, I looked in the corner of the room, and sitting there beneath that dim light bulb with a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian. He was sitting there with his eyes almost shut from the beating he had received, making another American flag.

He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was to us to be able to Pledge our allegiance to our flag and country.

So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you must never forget the sacrifice and courage that thousands of Americans have made to build our nation and promote freedom around the world.

You must remember our duty, our honor, and our country.

*The above text is an abbreviated version of a speech given by Senator John McCain, a Vietnam veteran and former POW, before the Republican National Convention in 1988.

January 08, 2008

I Know There Are Some Who Will Disagree, But...

I thought that this was an interesting, and thought-provoking article.

Dallas - During this presidential campaign, voters will hear much about the divergent economic realities between "the rich" and "the middle class." Yet there is another partition in America that is less visible, but no less troubling. The great divide between the civilian and military communities leaves the nation and its electorate ill-equipped to make informed judgments about military and international affairs.

I recently returned from a trip to San Diego, during which I toured the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and spent two days at sea with the officers and crew of the USS Nimitz. To say the least, it renewed my respect for the professionalism, competence, dedication, and sacrifice of America's men and women in uniform. I was deeply impressed by the vigor and apparent confidence with which they attend to their duties.

A quick glance at the troops I met immediately revealed a broad representation of America's ethnic groups – a diversity that's typical throughout America's armed forces. Statistics reveal high standards of educational attainment and the near nonexistence of illegal drug use or criminal backgrounds. Many come from families in which military service is a common experience. Yet I can't help concluding that the upper and upper-middle or "elite" social classes seem to be conspicuously absent.

A Navy admiral told me, "America is not at war. Its military is." He was acutely aware that a prominent segment of society had little but tax money invested in the outcome.

The civilian leaders with whom I traveled to the ship were clearly surprised by their exposure to young Americans who were seriously and stoically preparing to deploy to a war from which some might not return. Concepts of duty, honor, and sacrifice were simply not central to the life experiences of these civilians. America's elites don't necessarily lack patriotism, but precious few of these leaders have engaged in military service themselves. They simply lack reasonable reference points.

In the middle of the 20th century, military service was near universal for American men. While some used their privileged status to escape arduous or risky duty, society as a whole came together in the common cause of national defense. As a result, America was full of veterans who could place "news from the front" in context for friends and neighbors.

For example, to the extent that the American family received accurate estimates of casualties from the Normandy landings in 1944, a nearby uncle or father would have been able to put those figures in context by declaring, "I was on the Western Front in the Great War; we could have lost many more on Omaha Beach. All things considered, it seems that they managed that campaign as well as could be hoped."

A society with veterans represented at all levels of the community is better equipped to interpret accounts of inadvertent civilian casualties, interrogation interpreted as torture, or prisoner abuse. With the abdication of the upper classes from military service, most elites in the media, private sector, and government service don't have the intimate human context for the realities of war.

The debate about US engagement in Iraq is at its core an estimate of whether America is winning – or indeed can win, given the circumstances. The fourth estate long ago declared this war unwinnable. But how do we know that? How can they?

No electorate can make informed decisions about the exercise of military power in a far-off theater if it lacks a reasonable measure of collective experience with military matters. And any society that restricts its information and analysis to the sound bites of "embedded" journalists and political pundits will find itself highly susceptible to the manipulations of partisan politicians and interest groups at either extreme of any debate. It is simply too difficult to separate hope from fear and fiction from fact.

What can we do to correct course? To begin, America must find a way to reengage the nation's elites with the satisfactions and sacrifices of military and national service. Leading colleges should reinstate ROTC programs. Corporations should emphasize postmilitary recruiting. Likewise, professional organizations such as bar associations and business trade groups must seek opportunities to attend military expositions and demonstrations.

Just as America responded to the Soviet Union's Sputnik launch some 50 years ago with a vigorous effort to strengthen math and science education, America today must overhaul its school history curricula to engage students in military culture. And it must equip them to effectively and skeptically evaluate future military and political issues in the context of past experience.

It is only with an experienced and knowledgeable citizenry that we as a nation can prosecute sound strategy to achieve US policy goals while avoiding the pitfalls of failure and their attendant human, financial, and diplomatic costs.
• Peter A. Gudmundsson, a former US Marine field artillery officer, is CEO of Dallas-based Beckett Media LP.

January 07, 2008

Think About It

* They travel miles in the heat.

* They risk their lives crossing a border.

* They don't get paid enough wages.

* They do jobs that others won't do, or are afraid to do.

* They live in crowded conditions among a people who speak a different language.

* They rarely see their families, and they face adversity all day every day.

I'm not talking about illegal Mexicans; I'm talking about our troops!

Doesn't it seem strange that many Democrats and Republicans are willing to lavish all kinds of social benefits on illegals, but don't support our troops?

That's just sad.

January 06, 2008

Show Me Your Faith...

I was thinking recently about religion, and the personal beliefs and convictions held by some--beliefs and convictions which to those holding them, are as natural as breathing, but may seem bizarre to others.
In the various religions that I have read about, heard about, and experienced at one time or another, they have been as normal and practical as anyone could want, and others have been somewhat confusing, as far as what they preached and practiced. Others, which I must admit were more "read about" than personally experienced, seem downright bizarre, and scary, but when it comes to personal convictions, they are just that--personal. To each his own, and far be it from me to try to change them. I know what I believe, and what my personal convictions are, and I don't want anyone trying to change them for me, either.

One of the strangest of these various religions that I have heard about involve the snake handlers, which are mostly found in Appalachia, and particularly around Sand Mountain where I lived for awhile as a little girl, and then again for awhile, years later.

A few years ago, I became interested in a case involving a preacher, Reverend Glenn Summerford, the pastor of a church whose members believed in, and practiced the ritual of "taking up serpents" or snake handling. At the time, there were at least three churches on Sand Mountain who practiced it. It seems that the pastor became suspicious of his wife, and according to reports, forced her hand into a box full of rattlesnakes until she was bitten. He was convicted of attempted manslaughter, and sentenced to 99 years in prison.

As bizarre as all this sounds, the people who practice snake handling are not crazy, but very dedicated in their adherence to practicing what they believe, and this belief is based on a verse of scripture found in Mark 16:17-18 which says:"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover."

They are fervent in their belief, and they take this scripture, literally. They feel that if their faith is strong enough that they will not be bitten, and if they are, that it will not kill them. As strange as it may seem, there have been but few deaths in all the churches which practice snake handling, and when it happens, they believe it was because their faith was not strong enough, or that they had not waited until the Lord moved on them.

There are laws in most states, other than Georgia and West Virginia, which prohibit the practice, with small fines, but they are not usually enforced because it is seen as a religious practice, and that is, after all, what all the hue and cry is about lately--freedom to practice any religion we choose. I guess it just depends on which side of the fence you're on when it comes to something like this--whether you approve, or disapprove.

I've wondered, since some are requesting special areas for foot washing to satisfy followers of Islam, if they will have to start providing sections containing cages of rattlesnakes in public areas, too--you know, so that those who like to handle serpents can practice their beliefs? And don't forget the religion that is based on smoking marijuana, or the one which sacrifices chickens, or the one...oh, I know, I know this is beginning to sound ridiculous, but I was trying to make a point, which is that we do have freedom of religion in this country, and freedom of speech, but sometimes we just get so carried away, that we don't know when to stop!

~But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."

James 2:18
New American Standard Bible

January 05, 2008

Letter From Grandma

Dear Granddaughter,
The other day I went up to our local Christian book store and saw a "Honk if you love Jesus" bumper sticker. I was feeling particularly sassy that day because I had just come from a thrilling choir performance, followed by a thunderous prayer meeting. So, I bought the sticker and put it on my bumper. Boy, am I glad I did, what an uplifting experience that followed. I was stopped at a red light at a busy intersection, just lost in thought about the Lord and how good he is, and I didn't notice that the light had changed. It is a good thing someone else loves Jesus because if he hadn't honked, I'd never have noticed. I found that lots of people love Jesus! While I was sitting there, the guy behind started honking like crazy, and then he leaned out of his window and screamed, 'For the love of God, Go! Go! Go! Jesus Christ, GO!' What an exuberant cheerleader he was for Jesus! Everyone started honking! I just leaned out my window and started waving and smiling at all those loving people. I even honked my horn a few times to share in the love! There must have been a man from Florida back there because I heard him yelling something about a sunny beach.

I saw another guy waving in a funny way with only his middle finger stuck up in the air. I asked my young teenage grandson in the back seat what that meant. He said it was probably a Hawaiian good luck sign or something. Well, I have never met anyone from Hawaii , so I leaned out the window and gave him the good luck sign right back. My grandson burst out laughing. Why even he was enjoying this religious experience!!

A couple of the people were so caught up in the joy of the moment that they got out of their cars and started walking towards me. I bet they wanted to pray or ask what church I attended, but this is when I noticed the light had changed. So, I waved at all my brothers and sisters, grinning, and drove on through the intersection. I noticed that I was the only car that got through the intersection before the light changed again and felt kind of sad that I had to leave them after all the love we had shared. So I slowed the car down, leaned out the window and gave them all the Hawaiian good luck sign one last time as I drove away. Praise the Lord for such wonderful folks!!
Will write again soon,

* Maybe, there are still a few people like Grandma around somewhere--you know, with the kind of sweet innocence which, somehow, sees only the good in a situation, and is oblivious to the mean-spiritedness of those all around --but I hope that they aren't going around flashing that Hawaiian good luck sign too often! The next time someone gives it to us, maybe we should just think about the goodness of Grandma!

January 03, 2008

The Bill Of No Rights

The famed "Bill of No Rights" was written in 1993 by Bill Napper, a self-described amateur philosopher. He is from Mississippi, and ran for a U.S. Senate seat in 2000, as a Libertarian.

It is said that it resonates with a number of issues, including the one which most often causes our ire to rise, which is the sense of entitlement, so prevalent in today's society.

The Bill of No Rights

"We, the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid any more riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior, and secure the blessings of debt-free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great-grandchildren, hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines for the terminally whiny, guilt-ridden, deluded, and other liberal bed-wetters. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that a whole lot of people are confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim that they require a Bill of No Rights."

You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV or any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire them, but no one is guaranteeing anything.

You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone — not just you! You may leave the room, change the channel, or express a different opinion, but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.

You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy.

You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes.

You do not have the right to free health care That would be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested in public health care.

You do not have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim, or kill someone, don't be surprised if the rest of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.

You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you away in a place where you still won't have the right to a big screen color TV or a life of leisure.

You don't have the right to demand that our children risk their lives in foreign wars to soothe your aching conscience. We hate oppressive governments and won't lift a finger to stop you from going to fight if you'd like. However, we do not enjoy parenting the entire world and do not want to spend so much of our time battling each and every little tyrant with a military uniform and a funny hat.

You don't have the right to a job. Sure, all of us want all of you to have one, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities of education and vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.

You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have the right to pursue happiness — which, by the way, is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an overabundance of idiotic laws created by those of you who were confused by the Bill of Rights.

*Unfortunately, those whom the author had in mind when he wrote this ,will probably never read it.

C'est la vie.

January 02, 2008

A Mule Story

This is a story told often by Brandt Ayers, who is owner and publisher of my down-home newspaper, The Anniston Star. He has published it at least a couple of times over the years, and it is just too good not to share with my friends.
Brandt Ayers: A mule and a horn
We had stopped for gas at the small, north Georgia town of Greensboro. A headline on page 4 of the local weekly, The Herald-Journal, caught my eye, "Story About Horace The Mule."
Back on the road, I repeated the headline to Josephine who exclaimed, "Not OUR Horace." It turns out the tale (some say it's true) features Josephine's great aunt Fan Lamb, mistress of the family plantation, Greenfield, in eastern North Carolina.
The saga of Horace was told by a family friend and fabled North Carolina raconteur, the late Edmund Harding. For years it was a Christmas Eve tradition in Tarheel papers, but its good-natured commentary on life's surprises seems more appropriate as a greeting to the New Year.
— H.B.A.
Mrs. George Wood, now deceased, of Chowan County, had a mule, who was named Horace. On Christmas Eve she called up Dr. Satterfield in Edenton and said to him, "Doctor, Horace is sick, and I wish you would come take a look at him."
Dr. Satterfield said, "Oh Fanilamb, its after 6 o'clock and I'm eating my Christmas Eve dinner. Give Horace a dose of mineral oil and if he isn't all right in the morning phone me and I'll come out and take a look at him."
"How'll I give it to him?" she inquired.
"Through a funnel," replied the good doctor.
"He might bite me!" she protested.
"Oh, Fanilamb — you're a farm woman, and you know about these things. Give it to him through the other end."
So Fanilamb went out to the barn, and there stood Horace, with his head held down, just moaning and groaning.
She looked around for a funnel, but the nearest thing she could see to one was her Uncle Bill's fox hunting horn, hanging on the wall, a gold-plated instrument with gold tassels hanging from it.
She took the horn and affixed it properly. Horace turned his head, but paid no attention.
Then she reached up on the shelf where medicines for the farm animals were kept. But instead of picking up the mineral oil, she picked up a bottle of turpentine and she poured a liberal dose into the horn.
Horace raised his head with a sudden jerk. He let out a yell that could have been heard a mile away. He reared up on his hind legs, brought his front legs down, knocked out the side of the barn, jumped a five-foot fence and started down the road at a mad gallop.
Now Horace was in pain, so every few jumps he made, that horn would blow. All the dogs in the neighborhood knew that when that horn was blowing it meant that Uncle Bill was going fox hunting. So down the highway they went, close on Horace's heels.
It was a marvelous sight! First, Horace — running at top speed; the horn, in a most unusual position, the mellow notes issuing therefrom; the tassels waving; and the dogs, barking joyously.
They passed by the home of Old Man Harvey Hogan, who was sitting on his front porch, well "into the cups" as they say down east. He hadn't drawn a sober breath in 15 years, and he gazed in fascinated amazement at the sight that unfolded itself before his eyes.
Incidentally, Harvey is now head man of Alcoholics Anonymous in the Albemarle section of the state.
By this time it was good and dark. Horace and the dogs were approaching the Chowan River Bridge. The bridge-tender heard the horn blowing and figured a boat was approaching. So he hurriedly went out and elevated the bridge.
Horace went over the edge, straight into the river and was drowned. The dogs jumped into the water after him, but they could swim and climbed out without much difficulty.
Now it so happened that the bridge-tender was running for the office of Sheriff of Chowan County, but he managed to get only seven votes. The people figured that any man who didn't know the difference between a mule with a horn up his rear and a boat coming down the Intercoastal Waterway wasn't fit to hold any public office in Chowan County.
*No, the picture is not of Horace, but it is the best that I could come up with at the moment!