January 26, 2014

Anecdotes of Grandparents

  Alright, here's the blog form of the answer to that second 'about the author' page question.   What are your grandparents like?   Well, my grandparents are very interesting people. They certainly know a lot. But then again, whose grandparents don't? Well here we are taking the trip down memory lane again. *Coughs like an old person* WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL... I HAD TO GET A RIDE TO SCHOOL FROM MY PARENTS. UP HILL IN THE SNOW BOTH WAYS. AND THE CAR WAS BAREFOOT, TOO. Heh. Yeah I think I'll take a slightly different approach to this story.   My grandmother was very unique lady. She came from a Swedish family, and was one half Swede by blood. She was really good at meeting people. Sometimes when we would go out to breakfast with my grandparents at Cracker Barrel,  it always happened that she would make friends with complete strangers. My grandpa would tease her and tell her to stop talking to strangers.
  When she wasn't making friends everywhere she went, she was usually doing something crafty.  She would make jewelry, and dream catchers, and she liked to do paint-by-numbers.  It was during one of these crafty moments when she and I were making an Easter egg basket together.  It was a big sturdy pink basket, and she had all these little things laid out that we were going to hot glue onto the basket.  Fake flowers, little iron on patches, buttons, ribbons, bows, and more.  We set to work creating the basket.  I would stick flowers and things on the basket where I wanted them, and she would help me glue them on (since apparently I was too young to be trusted with a hot glue gun.  Maybe they thought I would set the house on fire or something.  I can see it now, little me running through the house and stopping by the walls with my hot glue gun cocked and ready to squirt anybody who came around the corner).  Anyway, after a while the glue gun started to get pretty goopy, and those little invisible spider-web threads of glue started getting everywhere.  She just got kind of tired of trying clear them away, and eventually they were all over her, me, the basket, the table, and the fake flowers were starting to get glued together.  It was just a mess.  I remember trying to pick them off of her, and it took such a long time!

  She was always so kind to me, and I really shouldn't have been so mean to her.  Although, a 7 year old's idea of 'funny' is pretty much the same thing as mean.  There was one time when I stayed over at their house for the night, and she had tried to give me a bath.  She filled the tub up with water, and sat on the toilet lid and watched me take a bath.  (Again, this idea with not trusting kids to handle themselves... I don't think I would have drowned in four inches of water...) That night I was being an absolute goof ball and essentially amusing myself by laughing at my own jokes.  It was hilarious to me, but to her, since I was supposed to be taking a bath and not sitting there giggling like an ape, it started to get annoying.  That's when she started to threaten me.
  "Stop laughing and take your bath, or I'm going to get the flesh water!"
  Of course, she didn't really say flesh water, she said fly swatter, but I definitely heard flesh water.  And that just made it that much more hilarious.
  I sat there and laughed harder than ever now, and repeatedly teased her about it.
  "Flesh water!" I giggled, "Is that like water with chunks of flesh in it?!"
  To anyone else this would have been rather disgusting, but when you're already high on your own jokes there's no turning back.
  "Oh no!" I mocked, "Here she comes with the flesh water!"
  For a little while she just sat there glaring at me, and then she just walked out.  After that the laughter slowly ebbed, and when I stopped laughing I had to actually get ready for bed.

  Then, when I was still in grade school, and my parents were extremely busy with their jobs, my grandparents would come and pick me up from school.  Grandpa would park the car and come in to get me, and when we came out Grandma was usually asleep in the passenger seat.  Now you have to admit, that was just the prime opportunity for a practical joke.  I would walk up to the window very slowly, and then knock loudly on the glass.  I swear, every time she would freak out and glare at me, and I would just wave and grin back.  I was so evil.  But it was so funny.
  After they took me to their house with them, and I ate dinner and did my measly homework, my parents would come by to pick me up.  When I would say goodbye to them, I would give Grandma a hug, and then to say goodbye to Grandpa, we had this little ritual.  He would go stand across the living room, and I would run from one end of the room to his end and then jump at him to give him a hug and kiss.  This was okay until I started getting bigger, and then my parents made me stop because they said I was going to hurt him.
  In 2006, my grandmother passed away after becoming sick for a long period of time.  I have the intention of keeping these funny moments that I've just related to you as my memory of her.
  After that my Grandpa remarried, and thus created the memory of the Legless Shepherd, which I related to you all a few posts ago.
  I hope this has left you all feeling happy from the funny stories I have just shared. :)

January 25, 2014


  Alright, so on the page I just made 'about the author' there were some questions that I didn't fully answer.  Here's the first post that I promised I would write in order to answer those questions.
  Did any [pets] stand out to you?
  The answer is yes.  I've only had two cats, but I have some funny memories of both of them.  The first cat I have ever had, was an old cat that my mom had long before I was even born.  Her name was Sophie, and although both my parents have told me what a good cat she was, and how funny she could be, she was never really that way to me.  I have the feeling that after I was born, the cat got jealous of the attention, and she was also probably not very fond of the quick movements and spontaneous actions I would take.  I can remember a time when I was in the basement and I walked past the coffee table only to be hissed at by the cat on top of it.  Knowing that hiss was a sign of hatred, it made me angry that the cat hissed at me, and so I swung my stuffed animal at the poor cat and whacked her on the head.  Now, of course, I do regret doing this, and I would not advise anyone to follow in my footsteps.  However, I was probably only about three when that happened, and I didn't really know what I was doing.  When I was about five, Sophie died, and for some reason I was really sad.  I had no reason to be.  That cat hated me, and I had hated the cat for hating me. We had never built any kind of relationship, and yet I can remember being in tears about it.
  After that cat, my mom went to the shelter to see if there were any cats there that we could adopt.  She found one female kitten and her brother, and not long after that we went back and got the female.  The shelter had already named her Snickers, and the name fit.  She's kind of a calico/tortoiseshell color (her brother was a little black kitten, and he was adopted on the same day we adopted ours).

  Since we got her when I was still little, I of course tried to do some silly things with her.  I once tried to teach her how to shake, like a dog.  Of course, she just got angry at me and ended up running away.  A couple of times I tried to make her a pretty string collar, but she just thought I was trying to strangle her when I put it on, and again, ran away.  Another time, I tried to give her a bath by filling a sink full of water and attempting to put her in it.  At the moment I had no idea that most cats didn't really need baths, and this one certainly didn't want one.  She put all four of her feet on the edges of the sink and ended up growling and twisting so much in my hands that she got away.  
  I'm still not sure why she never bit me.  
  Since she got past her kitten years, (and I got past mine,) she has acted more like a strange dog than a cat.  Of course, the whole 'shake' thing never really worked like it probably would have on a dog.  And she doesn't play fetch.  But she would rather sleep on an empty grocery bag on the floor than in someone's lap, or even in the little bed we made her.  Apparently trash is much more luxurious than fabric or a pair of warm legs.
  She also loves the ice machine.  Every time we run ice through the freezer door, she gets all excited!  If an ice chip falls on the floor, she crouches down, ready to attack it.  She will sit there in wait until one of us flicks the ice across the floor, and then go racing through the kitchen to chase it.  I have no idea why its so fun for her to chase something cold and wet across the floor, but its hilarious for us to watch.  
  Even though she might be a little strange, Snickers is our cat, and I will always love her.  

January 21, 2014

The Legless Shepherd

  Just before Christmas a year or two ago, (no, no, don't worry, I'm not going to get all poetic on you and start rambling about creatures stirring and houses...) My grandparents had picked me up from school so my parents could get some stuff done and then pick me up later. I worked on my homework until they called me for dinner, ate dinner, and then of course I went off to waste my evening playing games. Not too long afterward, my parents rang the door bell and came inside to wait in the warm house while I gathered my things. (I swear, every time I come home from school or anything I look like I'm running away from home with my home, because I have so much stuff.) I finally got my two coats, my computer, my lunchbox, my water and my backpack and came to the front door where everyone was talking. Of course, parental conversations are never short, so I wandered around the living room until I got bored enough to go look at yet another mini nativity scene set up on a table. The whole scene was fine and dandy, and all the little people were going about their everyday lives of doing absolutely nothing. All of them but one.
  I dropped my bags on the floor so I could take a closer look, and picked up the dying figurine of a shepherd. Unlike the others, he wasn't herding frozen sheep or watching the manger, he was laying on the snow-fluff flat on his back because he didn't have any legs.
"Grandma what happened to this guy?" I asked, "Oh, he got dropped and his legs broke off at the knees."
Indeed, he had but thigh stumps to run around herding sheep with. But no. This shepherd wasn't giving up yet. This guy was the Black Knight of shepherds. With his unmoving lips he was yelling at me, "I'm not dead yet!!"
  Some how in the process of falling and breaking, he had broken both his legs off at the knees, but his shepherd's staff had survived. I laughed. "Well, at least he can still use his staff!"

January 20, 2014

Of Little Importance

  I find it interesting that when we are all still little, everything is so much bigger than us. I don't mean to sound profound (because to something little, of course everything is big!) but I guess what I'm trying to say is that we were able to notice everything. If a fellow playmate had a bandaid on one finger, it was generally common for everyone to ask, "What happened?" Thus, even the smallest injury such as a papercut would not go unnoticed by a child's small eyes. The kid with the bandaid would then relate his horribly gruesome tale of how that mar came to be, and everyone else's eyes would fill with concern.

  To a second grader (at least the kind we had at my school... I don't know about the rest of you) a papercut was like a fatal injury. I can also remember playing in the sandbox on the playground and filtering through the sand and finding all the tiny little shiny pieces which we called "crystals." We would use these to "trade" for sand toys and things with other kids. It was a very complicated economic system. After second grade when "crystals" became less of a hot commodity, the new trading tool was "soft sand" which was made by using the younger children as slaves to grind the sand mill. Just kidding. It was really just filtered fine sand.

  To us older people, from around 11 up, we've lost this sense of importance for little things. A papercut is just a fleshwound, sand is just sand. So what has caused us to lose this mindset? Some would argue it was age. I would say that it has a lot to do with age, but I also believe that pride and education play a role too. We know too much about the world to find any kind of value in sand specks. They're just silica after all. But perhaps we believe ourselves to be too highly educated to find importance in tiny things too...

January 15, 2014

Education and Why We are Like Rome

  Education these days is not what it used to be. Education used to be for the purposes of making better citizens, and these days, its more about making money. For example, a lot of teachers these days do not teach because they find it to be fun or 'their true passion'. They do it because its a paying job, and even though its not a very high pay job, they do it for the money. I am not saying this applies to all teachers, because it certainly doesn't, but this is the case in many schools other than mine. You might ask someone, "Why do we force people to go to school?" and hopefully they would reply, "To make the children better citizens." or something of the like. Unfortunately, these days that definition of education is not as true as it was 70 years ago. Now, people are forced to get an education in order to prepare them for the money-making world in front of them, and to set them on a path for a career. In some ways, this type of mentality was very Athenian. The Athenians based their whole economy and lifestyle around money and monetary status. But this is also very Roman.

  After the 3rd Punic War, Rome was receiving more and more influence from the Greeks and surrounding countries. The Greek idea of knowledge and education was philosophy and art. This contrasted with the Roman ideals because before this time period, the Romans had been centered around pietas, a Roman honor system which showed a man his place in the world. The first part of this system was respecting the gods, then came protecting and honoring the state, and then came family. Only after this order had been completed was a Roman 'allowed' to concern himself with his own well-being. But after the Punic Wars, the Romans had more slaves and Greeks living among them, and changing this mode of life. The cause for this: education. The Romans made their Greek slaves become the teachers of their children. But because they were not Roman, they taught their own ideals and ways to the children, and the next generation of Romans were more Greek than Roman.

  The Greeks taught the Romans how to use speech and persuasiveness to sway the crowds. This was a skill that only helped with the Roman demise. The young generation, those who had been taught these skills, were the next in line to be placed into politics. Once they got there, they used these new-found skills against their political opponents. Now they could sway the crowds with words and the people electing them were more interested in what they said than they were with how honorable a person was. Those being elected were able to turn the crowds they spoke to on their oppenent like a pack of dogs, only by saying a simple sentence. The fighting now turned inward as the people of Rome attacked each other with words. Honor turned from being won by wars to being won by politics. The Roman political system had much earlier been based upon how much money someone had. Just to see what kind of transition had happened, here is a small diagram:

  Before: Battles-->Honor-->Honor+Battles-->Money-->Politics
  After: Battles-->Greek Slaves-->Greek Education--> Sly Speech-->Politics (for which money was already necessary)--> Honor

  And so, now the Roman political system was more about money and speech than honor. Because this was the case, the Romans ended up much like the Athenians did, because their honor system centered around money. The Athenians fell becuase of their greed, and now that the Roman government was corrupted by money and greed, the Romans, the greatest empire in the Mediterranean, eventually fell as well. Now as to why this all relates back to us. Our education system is no longer about gaining knowledge, its about making good grades in order to be hired and make money. When our country was founded, the Founding Fathers based it off of a lot of the principles which the Romans used. They wanted it to be like Rome, the greatest and, so far, longest lasting empire the world has ever known. But they realized, if they based it entirely off of what the Romans did, this country would fall into the same problems Rome did, and thus fall. The Founding Fathers did not want this nation to fall, so they tried to correct the mistakes the Romans made with their government. The Founders were men with a good classical education, an education not corrupted by money, and so they did what the ancient historian, Livy, suggested: "The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find yourself and your country both examples and warnings; fine things to take as models, base things rotten through and through, to avoid." And yet, in trying to correct the mistakes of the past, they ultimately fell victim to them. The Founders did not anticipate the problem to lie in education, and because they, and now we, are so unaware of this, we are slowly moving back into the rhythm of history and becoming both Roman and Athenian in their demise.


  Hunger; it’s something we've all felt. Whether it is for food, for knowledge, for money, or for power, all of us have felt it gnawing at our insides. Perhaps this is why Katniss Everdeen became such an admirable character in the Hunger Games; because she fed that hunger, and kept it alive. Because she didn't stop striving, never settled for half-way, and fought until that fire had been quenched. As we look around us, or sometimes even at ourselves, we see hundreds of people every day who have not satisfied that hunger. People who have given up on their hopes and dreams because they seem impossible or too hard to accomplish. These are the people who have settled for less than what they deserve. This is the woman who has given up her ideal of a good man for someone who abuses her. This is the man who gave up his dreams of his own company, and now flips burger's at McDonalds. This is not to say that these things should not be used as stepping stones to one's dreams, and in many cases they must be. But to give up your dreams entirely for something mediocre, just because those dreams seem unrealistic, is a terrible thing. Even though those dreams may seem out of reach, or too hard to grasp onto, determination will split the odds. And let me tell you, the odds are never completely in your favor. If you don't take the risk, you will never know what could have become of it. So why wait to pursue those dreams?

  My mother always told me about having "a fire in your belly," and once you have it, you should never let it out of your sight. Although money, education, status, and many other things may stand in the way, constant pursuit will eventually lead to a good outcome. 

  What inspired me to write this was the credits page of the recent movie "Iron Man 3." Seeing all of those hundreds of names of people who all contributed to its making was spectacular. When someone watches the movie, they don't generally think about the guy who designed the costumes, or manned the camera. They get wrapped up in the main characters and the plot. But to think that even the second assistant of the second camera man would make it onto the credits is amazing. Imagining what it must feel like to be that second assistant, who was only a tiny fraction of the making of the movie, but still have been a part of it all must be wonderful. And then the watchers must wonder; did they make it all the way up the ladder from flipping burgers at McDonalds? Probably. This is an example of someone who was probably a no-name low-life who lived among you and me. Someone who the neighbors knew as Joe, or Bill, or the guy who always over-watered his lawn. He lived among us. And yet he became part of such a great thing as an epic movie. These are the kinds of people who we should all be. The kinds of people who never gave up on their greatest dreams, and chased them with all their heart.


     If only we could open our eyes and already have an understanding of the world; open them for the very first time. That way, we would not take for granted the unique planet we live on. Imagine opening your eyes for the first time and really being aware of the significance of it. The small petals of a wild flower would be the most delicate, but also the most awe-some and the slightest dip in the land would seem to unbiased eyes a lush valley.  And then the even greater things would be unimaginable. The mountains and rainforests would literally rip away the air from our lungs because of their sheer beauty. The way we are raised, we are literally spoiled.  Not only because so many of us have everything we could possibly need at arms reach, but also because we have become so accustomed to the beauty around us that we ignore it, take it for granted. Even from the very first moment we open our eyes, we start down the path of ingratitude.  When we are so young, we have no idea what anything is, let alone what true beauty is or what it means.  When we think of beauty today, most people could tell you that its the way that something looks; how pretty a certain person is, how gorgeous that piece of art is. But there is something else which today not many people would call beauty, something deeper and less aesthetic than our textile world wants us to believe.  True beauty is not about how something or someone looks, and its much more basic.  Its something which none of the five senses can really do justice.  Its the soul which contains real beauty.