Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My latest letter to the editor.....

Dear Editor:

When our American-Statesman was delivered on April 17 , it was arranged so that the top half of page A1 (first-day coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting) and the bottom half of Life & Arts (a feature on the movie "Hot Fuzz") were the first two things you saw when you flipped the paper over.

The image of the gun-toting Simon Pegg from the movie "Hot Fuzz," with a caption that says "irony is not lost on American audiences," is particularly apt today. It's ironic that newspapers that flash images of men with multiple automatic weapons in the entertainment section will produce splashy front-page coverage when our latest national gun rampage tragedy strikes.

I know all about the argument that guns don't kill, people do, but feeding our society graphically violent images surely has an effect, as well.



Statesman's photo caption from today's letters to the editor page:
The violence at Virginia Tech dominated the cover of the American-Statesman on April 17. If subscribers holding the entire edition of that day's paper flipped it over, they were met with a photo of actor Simon Pegg, armed to the hilt for his role as a cop in the movie 'Hot Fuzz.' The movie was featured in Life & Arts that day.

They even responded to me (and another reader whose letter got published with the same general gripe that I had):

Editor's reply

I certainly understand how readers could have been disturbed by the image of an armed policeman from the movie "Hot Fuzz" in light of the tragedy at Virginia Tech on April 16.

In hindsight, we should have pulled the page back at the last minute and replaced the photo, but further complicating matters was the fact that April 16 was our department's first day using a new computer system, so it was quite a hectic day for us as we learned how to do our jobs in a new way.

This slipped by us, and we do apologize.

Kathy Blackwell

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for such a nice treat. Julie, mom and I got to enjoy a fun evening out together eating the best chicken fried steak and seeing Wicked. I was so happy to see it, since there were no tickets to be had during my New York trip. When Mom told me about the show coming to Dallas Fair Park, I was very excited, and the show was worth the anticipation.

I loved it!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Chris Bell would have been my favorite governor.

I am on various political mailing lists and what is becoming my absolute favorite is a group called Faith in Texas. Chris Bell (or someone in his office) writes essays about different legisation pending in the Texas Capitol Building. Today, I got a wonderfully thoughtful piece about the Marriage Counselling Bill.... I'm reprinting the whole thing because it sums my views up perfectly:

The hidden agenda in marriage proposals
By Chris Bell
The Examiner, Friday, April 20, 2007

All divorcees really needed was a little classroom instruction. Who knew? Apparently, the Republicans, and now they're taking action. Under their proposed legislation, Texas couples who take an eight-hour course in conflict management and communication skills will get their marriage licenses for free while the uneducated will see their license fees doubled to $60.

The goal of the bill is to reduce the need for poverty programs by lowering the divorce rate. It's part of the Texas Conservative Coalition's agenda which also includes lengthening the waiting period before a no-fault divorce can be finalized.

The proposed legislation is painfully simplistic and represents a shallowness of thought that's somewhat breathtaking even for the far right. While marriage counseling is highly advisable and required by many churches before a ceremony will be performed, it's hardly any type of guarantee of a solid union.

A class might offer couples some ideas and skills to draw upon when the going gets tough, but to pretend that's going to result in a greatly reduced poverty rate is pure fantasy.

The bill assumes that it's divorce that could lead someone into poverty, while completely overlooking the fact that perhaps poverty had a large hand in the marital strife to begin with. Nothing causes bigger problems in a marriage than financial challenges, but instead of a willingness to invest in programs that could possibly give people a leg up and provide access to the tools and resources they need to get ahead, the stated goal is to be able to cut back on those very programs in the future.

When will the far right learn that fixing what ails us in Texas is neither simple nor inexpensive? We have one of the highest poverty rates in the entire country. That's not the least bit surprising when one considers the fact that we also have the highest dropout rate.

Education is the only proven poverty prevention program in the world. However, instead of making the necessary investment in public schools and doing everything we can to make sure that young people will have that key to unlock a bright future, we continue to put Band-Aids on gaping wounds and allow the far right to cloud the discussion with ideas like required marriage counseling.

We're fooling ourselves by continuing to take the magic wand approach to governing: A simple change here and a simple change there and poof n the glory days of Texas are back! But we didn't get in the position of competing for last place overnight, and there is no quick fix. We have seen years of conscious indifference to the less fortunate in our state.

Now people are waking up to the fact that it's not just somebody else's problem; poverty comes with a high price tag for us all. We need to take a serious approach to eradicating it. Required marriage counseling is far from a serious approach. In fact, it's borderline ridiculous.

Here is last week's essay about teaching the bible in public school:

Touchy issue of teaching the Bible
By Chris Bell
The Examiner, Friday, April 13, 2007

I wish Warren Chisum was Jewish. Or some other religion. Or maybe just not such a zealot. Then I could possibly have some faith that he's well intentioned. But there's just something about a right-wing Christian Republican representative from Pampa who has been the driving force behind so many far right initiatives in recent years proposing that the Bible be required teaching in public high schools that touches a nerve.

Taken at face value, I have no problem with the proposal. The Bible is fascinating, and there's no question that young people, regardless of faith, could gain much by knowing more about it. I know that from personal experience. However, ironically, the person who taught me the most about the Bible was Jewish.

I had the privilege of visiting Israel a few years ago, and the gentleman who served as our tour guide was a Biblical scholar. Being in that special place with someone who knew so much caused the Bible to come alive.

My concern is not over the separation of church and state. I'm cynical enough to believe the very reason Rep. Chisum is making his proposal is because he would like to see exactly what concerns the critics: Bible courses not designed to educate about the history contained therein but, rather, courses that will attempt to convert students to Christianity. That's called proselytizing, and it has no place in our public school system.

We've already seen what can happen. More than 20 high schools in Texas currently offer Bible courses. The Texas Freedom Network, a nonpartisan group of community and religious leaders which serves as somewhat of a watchdog over the religious right, did a study of those courses and found only three were really sticking to a truly educational format.

One district reportedly went so far as to offer a PowerPoint presentation titled "God's Roadway for Your Life" with slides proclaiming, "Jesus Christ is the one and only way."

Just as in government, being in the religious majority calls for a certain level of responsibility, including respect for the views of others. Some are worried about the lawsuits that could be spawned by Chisum's legislation if passed. And while I'm sure there would be a lot, that's the least of my worries. I'm more concerned by the opportunity the legislation would create to trample on the beliefs and feelings of others.

Imagine how a non-Christian might feel attending or even just hearing about the "God's Roadway for Your Life" presentation. Years ago, I attended a local Jewish organization's luncheon. The blessing was said in Hebrew. I understood none of it, and I felt somewhat out of place. As we sat down, a member of the organization said it should have been said in English as well. Former State Representative Paul Colbert, who is Jewish and extraordinarily bright, was also at the table. He said, "No — that was the whole point." I've never forgotten it.

Needless to say, Warren Chisum wasn't at the table.

You can sign up for these essays here:


OK, am I the only person who is amazed at the wonderful, prolonged Spring we are having this year? Usually, it lasts one week and we are right into Summer, but this year, ooohhh la la. Prettier flowers than ever (the bluebonnets on the way to Possum Kingdom Lake last week were amazing), frequent rain keeping things gloriously green, and the weather so nice and cool. I just smile all the time now.

And it is my favorite time of year, because things are just falling off my job list. Wednesday I pulled off the last of my monthly teachers' luncheons at the kids' school. I help each grade level pull together a pot luck on the third Wednesday of the month. April was Kindergarten's turn, and after some sweating it out, they really came through. So that little task is done until August. Had a fairly successful Girl Scout meeting yesterday, only two to go, yippee.

My birthday/anniversary weekend is coming up on May 5/6. Can't wait, although that weekend is so full of events, I'm not sure if David and I can break away for a meal out, which is really the only thing I can think of that I need. (really need a date!) I could use a sleeping bag this year, a grown up sleeping bag, since I still use the one I got in 2nd grade and last weekend it was cold! And some running shoes, so I guess I do need a few things. We are throwing a baby shower May 6, for my assistant troop leader who is both pregnant and moving her family to Norway in early June, so in the big scheme of things I don't need anything at all compared to her.

And finally, today specifically is the perfect Spring day because it is looking so lovely outside, and Joey got a playdate for after school that should last until after 4pm. Max has soccer until after 4, and I don't pick up Emma until around 3. A whole day..... and Robbin's doing art at home today and invited me over, and tomorrow I head up to Fort Worth to see the musical Wicked with my mom and sister, as an early birthday gift.

Perfect, perfect, perfect Spring! I'll have to file this away for when I'm drowning in the humid heat of mid summer.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Art Camp was Fun

I had a great weekend.

Robbin took Connie and me to her old YMCA summer camp west of Fort Worth at Possum Kingdom Lake. We had a job to do, get a kiln in the art shack up and running, and in exchange we got to use a cabin for free for the weekend.

Robbin showed us all around her girlhood camp. And we had a beautiful, relaxing weekend of f-u-n!

My two comrades in Art (and fun) Connie and Robbin. We stopped en route to Camp Grady Spruce at this lovely garden shop.

Road Trip food in Lampasas!

Art Central, we devoted the cabin's downstairs area to our workshop, and the upstairs to sleeping.

My joyful little houses..

This is my rifle
This is my gun
One is for shooting
One is for fun.

When I told David we shot guns at camp, he corrected me with the poem he learned at Friday Mountain Boys Camp.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Leaving for Camp

I have the best husband in the world. After being gone only a month ago on my girlfriend trip to Waco, he's letting me loose again. This trip was sort of a last minute plan, cooked up by my crazy art producing friend Robbin.

She used to attend a YMCA camp west of Fort Worth as a kid. Today she is a fundraiser for the camp, so she has secured a cabin and an art kiln for the weekend. I'm heading up in about an hour with Robbin, friend Connie, margarita mixings, blender, swimsuit, art projects, books for a fun weekend.

I feel a little more guilty than I did leaving town with the high school friends. Probably because the two trips are a little close together, however I don't think the kids suffer nearly as much as I imagine when I am gone.

I'm hoping to give David a free weekend pretty soon. He deserves it.

Photos when I return!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!
We had a wonderful day. A dear friend surprised us by bringing the kids Easter Bunny biscuits right after we woke up. (shaped like Easter Bunnies, not made with Easter Bunny meat) That simple gesture was the only thing that got us to church on time today.

We had an egg hunt and service at church where we sang the Handel's Hallelujah Chorus off the cuff and very loud!

I had the added bonus of not having any trouble saving seats for the five of us, which made me happy...

On the way home, David realized he needed to put gas in the car, so he dropped me off at the house to change shoes (wink, wink) while he took his sweet time with the kids.
I made sure the Easter Bunny got all the eggs hid.

This slight of hand takes me straight back to my childhood every year. We had a Sunday routine when I was little. We went to church in Arlington, and on the way home was a Buddies Supermarket. Every week, every single week, we would stop on the way home for mom to pick up milk and stuff, and we would look at the Mad magazines and Wacky Packs and blow our allowance before heading home. On Easter Sunday, strangely enough, we would make the trip straight back home (good idea to me). But Dad would only drop off mom and THEN drive back to the grocery store to get milk. Were Mom and Dad crazy? I still recall the feelings of frustration that my parents could pick the absolute worst day of the year to mess up the routine.

Then one year it finally occurred to me that the Easter Bunny's handwriting looked exactly like Mom's, AND we had the mixed up morning errands... well, that did it.

So, I've been very careful never to reveal the Easter Bunny's handwriting and our Easter Bunny has started putting loose change (one coin per egg) out as a treat, so my kids are inclined to buy in for a couple more years.... I hope.

12 cents! Yippee!

Then, my mother in law came over to celebrate Easter and her birthday with a big ham dinner, cake, pie and relaxing. It was a fun day....

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Just when the weather is perfect.
The trees start shedding all their pollen.
And I'm too stuffed up to enjoy it.
I feel rotten.

But the weather is glorious.

That's why I haven't posted lately...
sniff, sniff....