James Dobson’s Retirement From Focus On The Family

Originally, the title  of this blog was Focus on Faux Pas.  That would be my major faux pas that connected to the radio program, Focus On The Family.

A couple of years prior to retirement, I arrived at the classroom with a super fantastic idea for a welcoming bulletin board.  During the summer, I wrote letters to the incoming students and included a request for a family picture.  By the first of August I had photos from most families, a huge roll of gold paper, large letters cut from blue flock, terrific photo frames and embellishments to impress the most jaded of bulletin board crafters.   (Our school colors are blue and gold.)

Step ladder in place, table filled with my trove and I was totally excited about my best-ever effort.   In a few hours, I was standing back in admiration.

As the week went on, other teachers began to prepare classrooms and, as always, there was a wonderful spirit of coming back together and the excitement of a new school year.

But I noticed something different.  Usually we were very easy with comments of praise about colleagues’ efforts.  My friends were oddly quiet about my masterpiece.

I looked again, carefully inspecting for something to cause this quiet.  It looked beautiful–smiling families, artistic frames, sparkling background, clever bits of this and that.  Nothing wrong that I could see.

Could I have spelled it wrong?  Cut the caption with crocked scissors?  No.  Looked great.

Focus On The Family in giant blue and centered perfectly.

Gently, my dear partner, Linda, said, “Pat, do you ever listen to James Dobson’s program?  Know who he is?  Realize his agenda?”

“No, my radios stay grooved into NPR and I rarely switch to AM stations?  But why the question?”

Gentle as she is, Linda could not suppress the smile at my confusion.  With all due respect to Mr. Dobson and his focus, this would not fly in a neighborhood public school with great diversity of religious affiliations.

Faux Pas, indeed, became Welcome Westwood View Families. And that quiet?  It  took on a definite bent of teasing laughter.  What a great place to work!


Thou Shalt Not Steal…Number 8 (ccr)

Not being a gospel scholar, I need reminders and refreshers as I search for a mustard seed of understanding.  I have memorized The Sermon On The Mount because it seems the very essence of Christian living.  The Prayer of St. Francis is also committed to memory because the man added a chapter to the Sermon.

Recently, I read a passage from Luke.   “…is a God who lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty”   Doesn’t that say  God loved the poor?  Doesn’t lifting up the lowly translate to a level of comfort and dignity for those who live on that bottom rung?

Granted, it does not say that God loved the lazy, the indolent, those who use deception and fraud to cheat the system.  But it does imply that the least of my brethren deserve more than daily struggle for survival.

I have heard sincere people talk about shelters as if they are places of choice, as if shelters protect the dignity of life.   And if the shelters are full?  In these times, shelters are often full.  Free or reduced cost health clinics operate in crisis mode. Far more people need the help than appointment times can accommodate.

Social services barely survive the needs.  Churches respond, but too often the church’s response is the name and address of a social agency.  Families, too, have little left to give.  Supporting out of work family members or helping struggling friends deplete the reserve.

Recently, some  out of work acquaintances talked about the choices available to those without any network of support.  Basically, beg borrow or steal pretty well covered the choices.  Begging might garner enough to eat for the day but no boot-strap magic in that.  Borrow?  From whom?  There is nothing left to borrow.   But—- Thou Shalt Not Steal.   Maybe.

In this time of million dollar bonuses, bail-outs for those too big to fail, ostentatious living on inflated salaries we might need to reconsider exactly which actions transgress that eighth commandment.

Research At The Salvation Army Center

An old friend living in Dallas is writing his chapter of the current economic Book of Sadness, 2010.   In SOP of today, JH lost his job and his home.   Turn the page, and his is hit by a driver who left the scene without stopping, let alone offering assistance.

A broken arm, crushed foot and penniless, JH moves into the Salvation Army Center on Harry Hines in Dallas.   When one of my sons learned the story, he contacted me so we could help JH.  Distance was a problem, but if we each sent letters and money, JH would know he had friends who cared.  My son knows JH very well and asked if I would include a copy of Four Ordinary Woman in my package.   Doing that two-birds-stone-thing, I bought a copy from a local bookstore (increased our sales by one), wrote the note, included the financial help and sent the package.

I mailed that package on February 16, 12:37:48 and tracked for delivery.  Post Office says that the package was delivered on February 19 at 10:36 AM.

Today, February 23, JH has not received the package from me nor the card and gift from my son and his wife.  I have logged six phone calls in an effort to resolve this.  My daughter-in-law and my son have made calls.  The response from the manager at S.A. on Harry Hines?  “Researching.”   They are “researching” the situation.

Obviously, you are sensing my frustration.  How much research is required to walk to the incoming mail area, look through packages and follow-up with answers.  How many days from the time of postal delivery does the management require to deliver mail to residents?  The postal service took less time (3 days) to move the package from Parkville, Missouri to Dallas, Texas than it is taking the management to deliver the package (6 days) from one room of the center to another room of the center.

My most recent phone call was at 2:00.  Once again, Mr. ___________ needed 45 more minutes of research.  Call back in 45 minutes.

To quote my son, “I suspect some foul play here?”   How I hope he is incorrect.  I never pass a red kettle w/o digging deep.  My donations go to the Salvation Army Store on Prospect Avenue.  This organizations has owned my trust for years.  And please don’t tell me that they are not responsible for any problems created by employees.  They are responsible.  The Mission Statement of The Salvation Army is a sacred trust.

Recently, I served myself a plate of crow.  I pray I need a second helping.

Missing Muse

3:30 CST and I cannot find a thought of mine that is worth saving.

Earlier today, I talked with Chris as he shared some very nice news.  As is our habit, we ambled off into many subjects including that DNA study that supposedly helped explain many of our attitudes and behaviors.  Did I blog about that yesterday?  Seems like a long time ago.

Anyway, Chris totally disagreed with the DNA study and that led to a discussion of folks making up our family lineage.  That resurrected the old stories of some pretty amazing (and some quirky) ancestors.

Uncle Andy was on a World War II landing craft that had more men than life jackets.  The story goes that Andy gave his life jacket to another and more frightened person on the boat.  At least that is the story that came with the telegram announcing his ‘missing’ status.

Uncle Bill was a gunner on a World War II air craft.  He was small, wiry and could fit the cramped gunner bubble.  Bill served honorably, lived through the war.  After that, life wasn’t so good…years of suffering the after-effects.  We made it to the VA hospital before he died, but could not begin to erase the years of pain and loneliness.

Mary Louise was tough, barely five feet tall and ruled her four sons and two daughter with iron clad Catholic beliefs.  Break curfew and your belongings would be on the front lawn–that sort of iron clad stuff.  Breast cancer ended her life but she went with dignity and a firm belief that the after life was as beautiful as her Catholic beliefs.

Elizabeth was a field hand, daughter of a share cropper in a bleak Missouri area.  She worked the fields, rushed to prepare the meals and then back to the fields.  All of this ruled by a hard drinking and severe father. Later she became Lizzy, married, raised a family and worked every day of her life until glaucoma took her vision.

The memory of our people, our ancestors and our families is worth preserving.  If any thought of mine is worth sharing, it is a plea to give your grandchildren the gift of those who came before.  Write, record, share the stories so the grandchildren own that piece of themselves.

Mental Illness

or simply mentally different? As is my habit, be warned–a ramble is fermenting.

Quirks keep us interesting.  Lock-step thinking is boring and leads to lemming behavior.

A recent conversation with my daughter-in-law centered on a  seminar about our genetic make-up having been altered by generations of behavior and attitude.  It is logical, but I never gave that possibility a thought.  To me, DNA was our physical being, not our prejudices and manners.  If the seminar ideas are true, the Mars vs. Venus concept has been honing for centuries.  The ‘ah-ha’ possibilities are endless if we examine the Women’s Movements, Integration, Political Parties, and the ugliness of attitude.

And what of mental illness?

If DNA gave me blue eyes and cracked fingernails, did it give me a gullible nature and a tendency to try for solutions to whatever is askew?  Is being called a Pollyanna a characteristic as embedded as matching my DNA with my siblings?

All of us have someone in our lives that is different, odd or really off any definition of normal.  We shake our head at the perspective they have of life  and their place in our world.  “She/he could change if the desire for change is strong.  Why doesn’t she/he get help?’  Doesn’t our attitude border on cruelty?

If you ever smoked or discovered that your drinking habits were no longer social, you know the struggle to change.  How many New Year resolutions centered on weight and exercise–year after year after year?  How much more are these habits within personal control than are deep depressions, bi-polar, the menu of mental illnesses?

Pharmacology of treating mental illness changes the brain using chemicals to calm the manic and level the depressive.  Talk therapy examines attitudes and life experiences with the hope of facilitating change.   These tools are miracles helping to make life a blessing rather than a constant burden.

This ramble will run over itself, probably going in circles, because I am more frustrated than knowledgeable.   But how do we help those we care about, those we love, when their burden is so impossibly heavy?  How do we reach deeply enough into their depression to offer any balance?  How do we even broach ‘depression’ when their pain obstructs so much?

Quilting 101

Perfect day for quilting.

Mix of snow and rain glueing itself to everything, creating that Christmas card look that is growing less of a dream with each storm.  Shoveling was a workout that wasn’t going to happen by my usual a long walk, so shoveling counts as a plus for the day.   Polishing wood or knee level floor scrubbing can wait a bit longer.  Too hyper to read  so  a quilting project is the perfect choice for my start and stop mood.

A couple of months ago, I wasted money through a catalogue purchase of  twenty-five 10 inch squares of mini-matched fabrics.  Cutting for quilting is too much like math so I opted to pay extra and let a factory handle the scissors.  I just knew they would be beautiful, matched, squared and ready for creating three beautiful quilts.  Did I mention that I wasted triple money on this plan?  I did.  And those  squares are still piled on the sewing table.    I cannot find a way to arrange without tossing at least half the pile.  Some pieces are just so ugly.  My creativity hasn’t stretched far enough to silk purse this three eared piggy.

But today is the day.  Armed with see-through rulers, rotary blade, cutting matt,  tailor’s chalk and determination I have the pieces spread on the living room floor.  (Crawling around arranging and rearranging is another exercise plus for the day.)   Maybe reducing the 10 inch squares to 5 inch squares  reduces the ugly parts, right?  Like a spot reducer diet that never actually works either, right?  Or how about a really old-fashioned look, a granny quilt made from worn out family clothing and no pretense of matching?  But who would wear clothing from such ugly stuff?

A true quilter would head for the fabric store and simply purchase new fabric that compliments the salvageable squares.  To me, that is good money after bad so not going to happen.  But I have come up with a solution.


Blog about it and see what you, Gentle Reader, have to say about erasing ugly from fabric.  As for me, I need to clean up that living room floor, go back outside, reshovel the deck and walk, and feed the cardinals that bring such beauty to the winter whiteness .  Would’t that make a beautiful quilt!

One To Eternity

That is my scale of importance.  It ranks close to the 15 minute rule in darker moments.  Something happens to rattle my calm and I need to find a buffer.  Enter the One-To-Eternity Rule.

Sarah Palin accuses the president of expecting Americans to sit-down-and-shut-up.  Questioned further about the source of her statement, she stumbled into a  remark about his condescending general persona, excusing her spin on the truth.

The Olympic silver medalist, Evgeni Plushenko, castigates the judges for awarding gold to  Evan Lysacek, a man who cannot execute the quad saying that a quad-less routine is not a sport but merely dancing.   Later, Bob Costas interviewed Evan Lysacek.  Lysacek was a gentleman refusing to take the bait of Costas reading Plushenko’s whine.

Scotty Lago won the bronze in half-pipe and posted questionable photographs of himself on the internet.  Doesn’t that qualify for some sort of annoyingly dumb award?

Back to my scale.  In true and valued importance these incidents rank on the single digit side, counting just a smidge more than a golfer who believed that skill and money gave him license to dismiss the rules of integrity.

The macro and micro world are racked by things that matter.  Haiti and the struggles of her people to eat and sleep in safety, to find jobs to earn what  replacements for moments of destruction.

Creeping nastiness in the world of politics and government, a nastiness that gives ordinary citizen a need to forget civil discourse in favor of personal attack.

A world economy that widens a rift between blue-collar struggles and white-collar comfort.

“Need work.  Ask for my resume.”  The new sign of the street corner times, replacing the, “Hungry, please help.”

Forty-five applicants for every available job on a government site.

A Man I Know taking the passenger seat from his car so he can replace it with plywood and pillow…his new home without a home.

A teenage boy will be tried as an adult for stabbing his cousin, killing her for teasing him.

The scale is tipped beyond balance.  These are matters for eternity.