Is There Hope in the Middle of Hell?

“There are two big forces at work, external and internal. We have very little control over external forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness and pain. What really matters is the internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I have complete control.”

~ Leo F. Buscaglia ~

It looks like a scene from the middle of Afghanistan, Iraq or Iran – a bombed out warzone.  But instead of bombs, it was an EF4 tornado that ripped through the middle of America and desimated the lives of hundreds of people in Oklahoma. Entire housing blocks were razed, cars mangled beyond recognition and what remains are scraps of the lives of normal communities on what started out as a normal day.

Among the missing and the dead, children. These children went to school at Plaza Towers Elementary School; they laughed and ran and played on a playground that exists no more. Rescue workers worked through the night and are still working today to find those children who have not been located in the rubble.  I choose to believe there is hope for these children and their frantic parents.

People across the United States are pouring out their wallets, their closets and their homes to help those affected by this disaster. Facebook pages have been created to help people locate property that was dropped miles away from where they were originally housed. Photographs and documents that landed on the ground as so-called falling debris up to 100 miles away (at this point,) might look like detritus but are in fact irreplaceable artifacts or documents for somebody.   Facebook, Petfinder and other organizations are helping people find their furry babies and reunite them with their families.

Here are some of the community pages set up on Facebook at this time:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=o.477306085682757&type=1#!/MooreTornadoLostAndFound  -Moore Tornado Lost and Found

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=o.477306085682757&type=1 – Photos of Moore Oklahoma Tornado Pets Lost & Found

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=o.477306085682757&type=1#!/MooreTornadoRelief – Moore Tornado Relief

And here’s the link for Petfinder. http://www.petfinder.com/ 

There are many other pages on Facebook designated to help those in Moore, Oklahoma try to rebuild their lives. There are also many more organizations around the area and the country taking donations.

Everyone is talking about how so many have died or were injured.  It could have been worse. Much worse.  Moore has 36 sirens in their community. These sirens in Moore, Oklahoma saved many lives.  Residents had 16 minutes to find shelter. If you haven’t experienced the process, the sirens sound once the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning. They serve as a signal to turn on a television or radio to get more detailed information about the storm and instructions on how to seek shelter.  Most people that live in Tornado Alley know how it works. We are taught from a very young age what that sound is – what it means. 

I’ve lived in Tornado Alley, which encompasses 12 states, my entire life. As a child, the tornado drills in school prepared us for what “could” happen, but hasn’t occured here in Amarillo as long as I have been alive. I always assume when the sirens sound danger is moments away.  This is a danger I pray doesn’t happen any time soon.  And as the threat of more storms lay on the horizon, I pray none find their way to Moore, a town of 55,000 that has been decimated twice now by mother nature. I pray these survivors find peace and hope in the middle of hell.

The Big Business of College

I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.

~Ray Bradbury ~

I was reading an article today about why the cost of higher education is through the roof.  Here’s the link:

I have a sound theory.  College isn’t about education anymore. It’s about business and making money. 
There are many courses that are required by universities in order to get a degree.  Many of these classes are irrelevant to what a person is going to do with their life.  When I started college eons ago, I needed 120 hours to get a degree.  That number has risen to almost 140.  Why? Because some brainiac figured out if they make a person take more hours, they get more money. 

Some classes I find obsurd are as follows:

Physical education is rather pointless. Unless someone is majoring in fitness / nutrition or has an interest in some kind of athletic activity, why are we making people pay a lot of money for something they can do on their own?  It is NOT the university’s job to make sure individuals are “in shape.” It is personal responsibility.

College algebra. Why is this necessary? Is it put in place so math teachers have jobs? I have never used it in my line of work, yet it was required to get a degree. (Yes, I’m bitter.)  That was a lot of money spent for a class that’s unnecessary for many individuals.

 Visual / Performing Arts.  With the utmost of seriousness, I ask WHY are we making people take classes in music, art appreciation, dance, theatre etc. I can understand if you are a liberal arts major, are majoring in an associated field or just have an interest in them.  But to force many people to take this class is insane.  I’m sure it falls under the “rounding out a person” category, but again most of the people I know have considered these classes pointless, trivial and a waste of funds. 

Humanities.  Here is the description of HUMA 1315 from a major university that falls into this category.  ” Selected topics from visual and performing arts and how, through their diversity, they interact, promoting an understanding of creativity. Fall, spring, summer I.”  WTF???

I also call into question other classes that are required for anyone seeking a college degree. Among them is your choice of 6 – 8 hours of science.  I understand it’s important to know a bit about how the natural world works. However, much of this should have been received in the previous 13 years of education.  Why are we forcing people to take a science class when it may not have any bearing on what they are choosing to do with their lives?  It’s a bit like college algebra in that regard.

Another questionable class is Speech or Interpersonal Communications or what have you. If you are going to do something in life that requires you to get up in front of people and speak, it makes sense.  However, if you are not, why are we subjecting those people to taking this class? I don’t get it.

Right now educational institutions need to do an about face and do what’s right for the students and not their bottom line. Colleges and universities really need to focus on education that matters.
Albert Einstein said it best… “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”



A Horse is a Horse, Of Course

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body 

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.” 



It’s been a long weekend at the OK Corral.  I’m still battling this plague that has taken root and refuses to subside.  And with the assistance of the chilluns and my sweet hubby, I have achieved a long awaited goal: shaving down all four fur babies for the summer. Oy! With all of the fur, I’m pretty certain Cruella De Ville would have been pleased with the new coat. 

And speaking of getting the animals ready for another hot, dry summer here in the Panhandle.  I was watching part of a series tonight that intrigues the daylights out of me.  It’s “North America” on the Discovery Channel.  Tonight one of the sequences included the wild mustangs in the southwest US.  Amazing creatures running with their manes flowing behind them across the open land – wild and free.  

http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/north-america

Occasionally I sit and think what the US used to be like. Yes, we have all of the modern “conveniences and luxuries.” However, imagine what it was like for the settlers in their wagons or on horseback.  And before the dawn on email, was snail mail.  We joke about it today, but once upon a time it was the only way to communicate long conversations long distance. 

Pony Express stations were placed at intervals of about 10 miles (16 km) along the route [1], roughly the maximum distance a horse can travel at full gallop. The rider changed to a fresh horse at each station, taking only the mail pouch (called a mochila) with him. The mochila was thrown over the saddle and held in place by the weight of the rider sitting on it. Each corner had a cantina, or pocket. Bundles of mail were placed in these cantinas, which were padlocked for safety. The mochila could hold 20 pounds (10 kg) of mail along with the 20 pounds of material carried on the horse, allowing for a total of 165 pounds (75 kg) on the horse’s back. Riders, who could not weigh over 125 pounds, were changed about every 75–100 miles (120-160 km).

This makes me want to ask really important questions.  125 lbs? How many grown men weigh 125 lbs? Were these adults that ran the pony express? I don’t believe so. I found some information on the internet that indicates boys as young as 11 rode the Express.  Picture it… an 11 year old averaging 10 days on horseback through some of the roughest terrain on earth (From St. Louis to California.)  This totally dispels the notion I had in my head of a big rugged cowboy riding through the open range to get the mail to where it needed to go.  

I believe in many ways the Express was actually the precursor to horse racing.  Today’s jockeys weigh between 115 and 125 lbs, but many try to keep their weight about 110 lbs for the big races (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes.) They also have to be at least 16 years old. 


One of these days I’m going to go to the Pony Express Museum and check out the exhibits and maybe learn a little more about our history. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing.  The museum is located at 914 Penn Street, St. Joseph, MO 64503 and also on the web at www.ponyexpress.org

Hypochondria, Handkerchiefs and Other Novel Adventures

“Being sick feels like you’re wearing someone else’s glasses.” 
~Megan Boyle~



I have been down and out with the flu, influenza, or what I would not-so-lovingly call the plague.  After a week of anti-biotics, Tamiflu and a host of over the counter meds to help with the symptoms, I am still running a low-grade fever, coughing  and so congested it’s not only hard to breathe, but open my jaw.  In fact, I contemplated the entire concept of lock-jaw today.  I can honestly say I didn’t know much about it and found the following: 

In unvaccinated individuals, tetanus is contracted through a cut or deep wound which becomes contaminated with the organism. Tetanus has also been associated with clean wounds, surgical procedures, insect bites, dental infections, and intravenous drug use. It is not transmitted from person to person.  A common first sign of tetanus is muscular stiffness in the jaw (lockjaw), followed by stiffness of the neck, difficulty in swallowing, rigidity of abdominal muscles, spasms, sweating and fever.  The incubation period is usually eight days but may range from three days to three weeks. Shorter incubation periods are associated with more heavily contaminated wounds.  

Reassuring in the fact I can’t think of a “recent” wound that would allow this and I’m good on the rest – no surgeries, bites, dental work and DEFINITELY no drugs. 

With this “plague,” I have felt a bit like Typhoid Mary at work.   Yes.  I am going to work despite the fact I am still sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching and can’t breathe.   I missed almost two weeks between being out of town training and last week when this evil organism took over my body.  I don’t know of anyone at work that has this (yet), but the kids and hubby are getting a little ticked at me.  Something about “not feeling good” and sniffling, sneezing, coughing… I’m sure you get the picture. 

In fact, youngest came in earlier tonight to ask about Kleenex.  She needed some.  I don’t have any — perse. I have what’s left of three boxes of Puffs Plus, the greatest tissue for severely congested people ever made.  (Lotion is such a blessing and helps with the chafing.) 

Strangely enough, most people call tissues “Kleenex” and with good cause.  It’s the name brand that first became associated with the disposable tissues in the 1920’s.  By the 30’s Kleenex was being marketed with the slogan “Don’t Carry a Cold in Your Pocket.” Its use as a disposable handkerchief replacement became predominant.

I’m not a fan of the handkerchief.  In fact, I have an almost “Sheldon Cooper Aversion” to them.  There’s something about its reusability that rather disgusts me.  I don’t care if they are “green” or “coming back into style.”  I have a hard time with the concept of, despite being washed and theoretically clean, carrying around a piece of cloth that has been used to absorb some of the grossest bodily fluids to emit from a human is somehow wrong. 

There is also the legitimate problem of absorbency.  

I have personally gone through TWO large boxes of Puffs and an entire “mega” roll of Charmin Extra Soft bath tissue during this illness. There are not enough handkerchiefs to keep my nose dry in this city.  

And sanitation… 

The amount of laundry it would entail is insane and frankly, where does one store a used ‘kerchief? I don’t wanna carry my own snot around in my purse.  Quite the conundrum, eh?
So typically, I avoid the problem completely by carrying around a wad of tissue and a plastic zip-lock bag in case I can’t get to a trash can to dispose of the bacteria-laden paper product. 

During this viral attack on my persona, I have also found out a few things about being sick. 

1) The higher the fever, the less I give a crap about anything or anyone.  Pretty much my family could be starving or walking around naked and my only thought is, “so?” Sad, I think, when I get too far into myself to care for others.

2) Breathing is not to be taken for granted and apparently I do.  I woke up in the middle of the night the other night and I couldn’t breathe.  I’m not sure what happened, but I was gasping for air like a fish plucked from the water and dropped into the boat.  It passed, but I realized at that moment oxygen is a beautiful thing. 

3) I’ve always got to be doing something and NOT doing anything other than laying in bed is torture. 

With that said, it’s a conundrum wrapped in paradox. 
There is no energy to do anything so I torture myself by thinking of all the things I need to be doing and then really not caring about it so much as I try to take a few deep breaths.   
Lather, rinse and repeat. 

Finally, I should be working on the novel.  I don’t have the energy so I am blogging. It’s easier on the mind, clouded by good drugs.  I haven’t written diddly-squat in  a couple of weeks, the plot line is still messed up and I am cranky about it.  I’m not sure how yet to fix it and that too is bothering me.  



Scrivener looks promising, but at this point, I’m not sure if it’s helping or hurting the process.  I actually have used it for a few things, but I’m thinking at this point breaking out index cards and a notebook might be better. I don’t know.  For me this feels like one of those things that’s supposed to make writing easier and because of all the bells and whistles makes it harder.  I don’t know if others have this issue.  I should go on the forums and ask, but again… rule 1 comes into play.  I haven’t really cared THAT much to do so.  

I am hoping to get the ball rolling again by this weekend.  I want to feel productive, aside from doing laundry, and get the words back down on the page.  Maybe, just maybe, this fever will FINALLY break and I’ll get back to caring about something. 

For now though, my only concern is sleep and sleeping a few hours without having to blow my nose 437 times.  Maybe tonight is the night. 

C’est Cirque du Soleil


Ceci est d’avant-garde. C’est magnifique. 
C’est cirque du soleil.

I didn’t have the opportunity to see Cirque du Soleil in the theaters when it was released in 2012.  I would say it was my loss, but one never knows, eh?

Last night, for lack of anything better to do, we rented Cirque’s “World Away.”

This is not the first Cirque production I have seen.  In 2001, Cirque released “Alegria,” which I found to be rather magnificent in its own right.  The live show was filmed over the course of three days and I was transfixed -mesmerized by the skill, strength and agility these performers exude.

Fast forward to last night.  This was a dimension of Cirque, a perspective as it were, that couldn’t be captured by sitting in the audience or by sitting and watching “Alegria” or another performance on DVD at home.  The scenes were shot from the rafters on much of this so you see the wires. You see the performers “hanging” what looks to be 70 feet in the air and it’s breathtaking.

If you have a chance, rent it.

If you have a 3D TV – definitely rent it.  This movie was MADE for 3D and while I don’t have a 3D TV I am willing to bet it is spectacular, spectacular..

And if that’s not enough convincing… decent storyline and kick ass soundtrack round it off.  You can never go wrong with the Beatles and acrobatics.

St. Louis Adventures

“Now, on the St. Louis team we have Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third. “
~ Bud Abbott ~ 
(Of Abbott & Costello) 

This week, I had the privilege of going to St. Louis, MO on business and stayed in a hotel downtown.  Props to the Embassy Suites. I will stay there again. However, I wanted to also take some time to reflect on what was a really good trip. 

First, when you go to st. Louis, you have to see the Arch. Most people go up to the top of it and look down over the city.  Frankly, I have been to the top of many tall buildings and looked down over many cities. I’m sure it’s a cool view, but unless I’m in NYC or Paris, this really isn’t going to WOW me, if you know what I mean. There were some other things that did. The park surrounding the Arch was beautiful… the spring green was amazing.

St. Louis – Gateway Arch

Within walking distance to the Arch is the Old Courthouse. I am a sucker for really pretty buildings, old architecture and history. If you put them together, it’s irresistible.  I took the following picture at sunset. 

St. Louis Gateway Arch & Old Courthouse 

The next morning, when there were a couple of sessions that had nothing whatsoever to do with my job, T and I skipped out and went for a walk through downtown and we went inside. 

Inside the Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott Case was tried and decided

Dred Scott, a slave who had lived with his owner in a free state before returning to the slave state of Missouri. Scott argued that his time spent in these locations entitled him to emancipation. In his decision, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, a staunch supporter of slavery, disagreed: The court found that no black, free or slave, could claim U.S. citizenship, and therefore blacks were unable to petition the court for their freedom. The Dred Scott decision incensed abolitionists and heightened North-South tensions, which would erupt in war just three years later.  (Thank you History Channel for succinctly saying what I wanted to. )

I sat in the judges chair, the defense attorney’s spot and prosecutor’s seat.  I cannot imagine any of those individuals would hazard to know just what this case would mean. 

 
Inside of the Old Courthouse to the top of the rotunda

Looking out the “back door” of the courthouse to the Gateway Arch


While I was in St. Louis with T, there was “Food.” I mean food in the mouth-watering, non-McDonald’s-style-restaurant, yummy-deliciousness that can be found many other places than where I live.  I was in hog-heaven. 
Tigin’s Irish Pub at 333 Washington Avenue was outstanding.  http://www.tiginirishpub.com/stl/

I ended up having the Pulled Lamb French Dip. $12.95 
T had the Chicken Boxty Quesadilla $9.95  
For the amount of food. The price was well worth it. 
Atmosphere and service were really good. 
I also had a mixed drink – a kamikaze – which I’m pretty certain the waitress / bartender didn’t really know how to make.  It was heavy on the sweet/sour.  At the end of a long day though, the food more than made up for it. 
Empire Deli and Pizza Company at 1131 Washington Ave was excellent
We didn’t stray from downtown during the trip, but really wanted something simple for lunch. This hit the spot.   This was a huge slice of Veggie Pizza (baby spinach, tomato, squash, zucchini, and no tomato sauce, but cheese and an alfredo type sauce. Delish!) Yes, I even had to take a picture of the food. 

Hard Rock Cafe, St. Louis at 1820 Market St.  was really, really good. 
After walking for what seemed like forever  (it wasn’t) and passing our 100th park (it wasn’t), we ended up at Union Station, which we really wanted to see.  Inside the old terminal, it’s now a lounge for the hotel and a sort of shopping complex and other things.  One of my favorite places is the top of the “whispering arch.”  At the bottom of the arch (as I’m standing on the second floor) you quietly say whatever it is you want the person at the other end of the arch to hear and say it. Poof, the sound travels the arch and they hear it.  
Be advised: best not to be talking behind someone’s back… 
After traveling through Union Station… the Hard Rock.  Again, for me and whether business or pleasure, trips out of town are almost always about the food.  I had the:  

It was one of the best salads I have eaten in a long time.  And of course, I wouldn’t be me unless I included a shot of the food, eh?

Let’s see, what else can I tell you about St. Louis?  

The Metro is clean, air-conditioned and fast.  We got to Union Station, once we got on the train, in about 5 minutes. If we had walked it the second time (because we had to go back for swag at the Hard Rock) then it would have been about 25 minutes on foot.  The train swings by about every 12 minutes so that’s not too shabby.  Round trip cost us $4.50 each – much better than the taxi that starts off at $3.50 for the first 1\10th mile and $.22 for each mile after that. 

The Dubliner – ate there one night and literally our dinner starts off with “Five drunk women walk into an Irish Pub…” and we weren’t the women!  It got really loud, really fast and I was NOT in the mood for listening to a group of drunks.  T and I were concerned the bartender kept serving the obviously intoxicated.  Food was “so-so.” We both had burgers and on a scale of 1-10, I would give mine a 6. It might actually only have a 5, but because it has Gouda cheese it gets a bonus point.  The mixed drink / shot “Applesauce” was FAB. (Goldschlager, Apple Pucker and Pineapple juice.) 

Game night for the St. Louis Cardinals… park downtown early. There are many garages within walking distance and they are reasonable.  Also, unless you are a die hard Cards fan, leave a little early. Getting out of the garages can be a nightmare.  Downtown St. Louis is a grid of one-way streets and I saw more than a few people cursing up a blue streak. (Of course, that night the Cardinals also lost…) 

The Mississippi River was above flood stage of 30.0 feet at 32.2 feet.  It was supposed to go back down in a couple of days; however, I also wonder if they factored in the rain / snow that was supposed to hit the day we left town.  We  get tornados – they deal with moisture control issues. Interesting. 

The PEOPLE were awesome.  They were some of the friendliest folks I have met in a long time. From the folks at the airport, to the hotel employees to people we just met while walking around town, I was somewhat surprised and amazed at how friendly everyone really was. 

There were a lot of other things I really wanted to do, but didn’t get to do because of time constraints. However, I can definitely say there WILL be a next time.

Thank you St. Louis for a wonderful time.