Shirley’s Blog.

The Case of the Disappearing Blogger

On Feb. 1, the Polar Vortex turned my basement into a minor Niagara Falls, leaving behind a flooded guest bedroom and bath, laundry and furnace rooms that remain gutted with water damaged walls, floors and ceilings but as yet no restoration.  The Vortex created extensive damage in many upper midwestern states’ buildings, causing  insurance and basement restoration firms to be deluged for help.  We think we may finally have found a restoration company we can afford now, four months later.   Thus, the return of the occasional blogger.

Yet, I feel surrounded by bleakness.  Our Minnesota Spring has been most reluctant to free us from too much gorgeous snow,  dangerous ice, and cold windy days.  Even though ice houses of avid fishermen have been closed for the season, and deer hunters back home, TVs bring no relief with its bombardment of hopeless political news.   A cartoon in my local paper pictured a very cold looking man looking at a shivering man holding his hands over his ears.  The first man asks, “Frostbite?”  The second highly distressed looking man replies, “No, Sound Bites from Washington Politicians!”

Yet yards are too wet and so ‘not ready’ for eager gardeners.  In my social world of mostly women whom I cherish, too many leave us each year to death or retirement facilities, reminding us remaining of how tenuous is life.  And how hard we must work to be less burdensome to our children.  My daughter is one of many who must watch over her aging mother and be concerned about the grandchildren.  Articles begin appearing with great regularity about the burden of baby boomers who find themselves wedged between old folks and millennials.

And yet the millennials certainly have their issues.  They will be forever paying off their college education debts while seeking employment that satisfies and helps pay off college and medical expenses.  It certainly feels like my generation truly lucked out.  Born during WWII, we learned frugality and volunteerism, lucky enough to be among the recipients of the G.I. Bill that made college affordable.  I chose to pursue a doctorate, graduating with no student debt and having my choice of varied desirable professions, giving me a career I truly enjoyed with great benefits as well.  Not only were the baby boomers faced with too many pursuing too few desirable jobs but too often the down-sizing of available work included cut benefits and pitiable raises.  My millennial friends seem more accepting of their frugal life styles, perhaps finding fun way of adapting.  Perhaps I’ll explore their worlds next.

So I guess I am ready to continue my writing of blogs, a pursuit I enjoy.

Let Me Entertain You

The ‘natural entertainer’ need only rely on ‘his gut’.  No formal study is required.  Thus he harms no one — other than perhaps those who believe his humor is based on fact.  Notice how he struts onto the stage, with a huge smile going from ear to ear on his orange shaded round-shaped face.  His eyes twinkle with joy as he listens to the adulation of the crowd.

“See how I act,” he may say, having no need to speak truth.  “See how I can act like a President — no big deal,” as he moves woodenly from side to side, holding his arms and hands stiffly at his side.  The audience roars, giving him the mass adulation he needs as he says with a lop-sided grin, “How am I doing?  Do you want more?  Like this”?

He can tell lies fearlessly to this crowd who require being entertained.  Thus, if challenged by a reporter in the crowd on some simple fact like the number of people at a previous event, the entertainer need only point to the person yelling in a commanding voice, “Get that lyin’ person outa here with his ‘fake news’ – as the crowd yell, “Get him out!”

Since he seldom holds convictions for many announcements he makes — except maybe – ‘build the wall’ – he can quickly shift convictions – either denying he ever said it or blaming the idea on a former president.  “Works every time,’ he says or so it seems.

It also seems miraculous how this man plays the shifting blame game so openly and yet so flawlessly.  When will those elected to serve us and our Constitution begin demanding leaders follow truth and law — not letting those who yell ‘fake news’ or ‘witch hunt’ get by with such childish behavior.  

Leave entertainment for actors on Saturday Night Live!

On Honoring an Honorable Man

The word quickly spread throughout our small group of friends:  “Have you heard, Bob Klas died Friday?”  As a young boy from a very large family in Wabasha, his first business was selling popcorn from a homemade shop.  It was the first of many ventures that eventually resulted in his becoming President and CEO of the Tapemark Company in West St. Paul, where he remained a continuing member of the Board of Directors.  He and his devoted wife, Sandy,  created a large family, including several children with special needs.  Together they served on various boards and gave away millions to Universities, hospitals, churches,  schools and people in need.

 Sandy  became my best friend soon after I met her in 1973, when we both served on a Special Education Council in the St. Paul schools.  With her great sense of humor, she collected friends easily and taught me the joys of having fun friends.  In fact, I dedicated my second memoir published by Amazon to her as she had judiciously read every page of my manuscript, guiding me to its eventual conclusion.  This woman has many talents and this one may have been influenced by her parents who had been reporters of the local newspaper years ago.

Three of my present girlfriends, also great admirers of Sandy and Bob, knew we had to attend the Visitation to be held near Bob’s business.  Although the weather was   forbidding, now with its windy, cold rain pelting and turning the 10 or 15 inches of fleecy white snow into slippery hazardous ice, we four, no longer spring chickens, were determined to get there.  Although three or us were over the age of 80, our youngest, Phyllis,  still in her 60s, who could multi-task and drive anywhere, insisted on picking us all up and getting us there, even with roads and sidewalks turning into ice.   Sandy and I often referred to her as ‘the kid’ since she was so much younger than us but still, for unknown reasons, seemed to like us.

 On such a horrid weather day, hundreds turned out to honor Bob and his supportive wife.  It was rather like a class reunion, with so many of us enjoying seeing  friends and acquaintances we hadn’t recently seen.  I even ran into my daughter and ‘son-in-law! ‘  Reluctantly we bundled up, getting ready to tackle the even harder cold rain waiting to pelt us as we left.  Dropping me off last, we discovered the street, sidewalk and front porch were now virtually sheets of ice.  It was apparent there  was no way I could safely get out of the car, cross the street, get on the sidewalk and onto the porch.  

“It’s apparent we have to find some Ice/Melt somewhere,” Phyllis said.  One of her many talents is her quick ability to move into a problem-solving mode in a calm, matter-or-fact way.  Not only did she locate a filling station nearby, she purchased the last huge container of Ice/Melt, caressing it lovingly as she tentatively found her way back to the car.  She insisted I stay in the car until she had adequately covered the sidewalk and porch with newspapers she had purchased to spread over the Ice/Melt, then assisted me into my home.  

As perilous as it was for anyone to be out in this weather, horrid for even Minnesota, the four of us were so pleased we could be among the many who weathered the ice and rain storm to ‘honor this remarkably honorable man’!

Scenes from Yesteryear

To find relief from the  world of Trump, full of lies about crises that don’t appear  to exist, while worshiping a world of countries run by dictators who rule with an iron hand, I wonder what happened to that simpler middle-class world of families who lived without iPhones, held jobs that offered security, whose children attended schools where no one feared being shot.  Those were the days!

On the other hand, such home towns as mine could be awfully boring.  Everyone pretty much looked the same.  My community was white Protestant with few exemptions and special education didn’t exist so little help for those with special needs.  I moved out in 1950, ready to redefine myself to be more interesting so I picked a small college where no one from my home town would be and learned how to dress, smoke, drink, flirt and make interesting small talk — thus preparing me to transfer the next year to “the Big U” where I would be absorbed by over 20,000 students from all over the world!  That’s where life for me truly began in all its many shapes and forms.

Eventually I ended up in Minnesota with a brand new husband, Ph. D., and  Linda, my teen-aged daughter — and here I still reside, single, with a  married middle-aged daughter,  who now looks after me.  

Such was not always the case.  The two of us lived together comfortably for many years – but there were times when neither of us could figure the other one out.  On such occasions, we’d end up our night in the kitchen, trying to puzzle it out over glasses of wine, while having what I”d call our ‘kitchen confessionals’.  I liked my life!  But why couldn’t she just get out there and ‘make things work’?

I must now confess that I sure wasn’t much of a psychologist.  She kept trying to explain that the world each of us grew up in was very different.  True, there weren’t many of us born in the ’30s and ‘40s — only about 75 million of us.  The G.I. Bill changed millions of lives, creating great jobs.  But Baby Boomers with 80 million peers, found too many competing for similar opportunities — thus stripping many of her generation of the optimism my generation had experienced, instead leaving them skeptic.  

The older I get, the fewer people I find very knowledgable about generational differences.  So I now thrive on seeking out millennials, among the 76 million of them, who were born with cell phones and personal pagers while in diapers.  At least I now have a ‘jitterbug’ which I’m  learning how to use when many of my generation just gave up trying.  Now it is those Millennials saying in today’s NYT, “Fly Financially on My Own?  Get Real!”  For those without parental cash, there’s some kind of debt hangover that holds them back.  For many it’s student-loan debt that ruins their credit.  I can’t believe it!  I graduated from the university with a Ph. D., no debt, and many job leads!  Neither my daughter, nor my Millennial friends have experienced that.

In today’s world of clashing headlines, full of disasters and predictions of even more insecurity if you follow the wrong leader or listen to ‘fake news’, I guess we shouldn’t feel too surprised to find wide generational differences among us.  

Therefore, more on Generational Differences coming up in future blogs!

Polar Vortex and Trump are both Polarizing

Arriving home to hear what sounded like Niagara Falls in my basement, I cautiously peeked down my basement steps to see water gushing from the entire ceiling as far as my eyes could see, filling the floor with ankle deep water. It turns out my frozen pipes had  burst due to the polar vortex. Polarizing and paralyzing, like Trump, both are equally terrorizing.

Now, seven days later, nothing remains in my recreation room, bedroom, bath, and laundry room but piles of wet junk and barely recognizable  furniture.  I was stunned!  This cannot be in the place I call home.

One expects floods along the coasts, raging fires in huge forests, tornados inland in season but all my years in the twin cities, I’d never even heard of a Polar Vortex.  We’re told another polar vortex is heading our way. My home’s fate is now to be determined by plumbers, rapid restoration companies, insurance men and professional abatement companies to remove asbestos, broken tile, carcinogenic materials, then rebuild walls, replace floors and make it ‘all like new’.  

Like Trump demands his ‘Wall’, I certainly want at least what I had.  Not having his wall and me not having basement access sucks out one’s life and pushes everything else into the background.   

Yet I would not consider blaming others for the fate that now overwhelms me.  I can just hear my best friend saying, “Aren’t you glad you’re all grown up now and can handle such a crisis like a ‘grown-up girl’?”

Perhaps Trump should seek such advice from Nancy.

Man and Superman Meet Nancy

George Bernard Shaw’s book, “Man and Superman,” was assigned for discussion at our Fitzgerald monthly meeting held at the University Club in St. Paul.  Written in 1903 when Shaw was 47, he advanced his revolutionary ideas of the advocacy of a mystic force that creates and goes on creating life, which he calls  the Life Force —  ‘the working within man of Life’s incessant need to learn more and more about the possibilities of a better life.’

Presented in a format most confusing to me – a series of acts where the inferior woman becomes the aggressor and the  intellectually superior man becomes her victim, the book gets most murky for me with its plays within plays, until I get to a part near the end of the book entitled:  THE POLITICAL NEED FOR A SUPERMAN which moves me to compare Shaw’s Superman with a man called Trump.  And here I wander off-script.

Shaw suggests the need for a Superman is a political one.  Countries driven to Proletarian Democracy by the failure of alternative systems,  often start depending on the existence of Supermen acting as despots or oligarchs.  Countries like France or USA are independent protected democratic republics — but as neither are healthy, wealthy or wise and could be worse instead of better, their ministers alas, are not experts in the art of dodging popular enthusiasm and duping popular ignorance. 

The politician who once had to learn how to flatter kings now must learn how to fascinate, amuse, coax, humbug, frighten or otherwise strike the fancy of the electorate.  He must hold popular convictions with excessive energy convincing others that he is indeed ‘the man for the mob’

Who, I ask, is more ‘the man for the mob’ than our very own Trump?  Is he working to help Russia conquer America?  If he is unknowingly or actively working on behalf of Russia, this would get him involved not only with Mueller, heading the investigation, but also with our new leader of the House, a woman named Nancy.  Whereas he  could easily control the House’s previous leader, a man named Paul,  Trump finds Nancy easily sidesteps all his efforts of control over what he wants, politely but firmly insisting he not call her ‘Nancy’, but Madam Speaker of the House. Thus he finds himself involved in shutting the country down far longer than he had intended — making it the longest government shutdown in US history.  Yet she calmly maintains that to negotiate further with her,  he must first end a shutdown that has become frightening to thousands of Americans, who end up working for no pay.

Now finding himself laughed at by many who had feared him, he states that if she continues to make the same demands when they meet again in three weeks, he will close down the government again and return to his initial demands.

Since I am more a blogger than a writer of anything, I know not how this shutdown will finally end .  Will it effect whether our Trump continues to look and act like Superman?  Or become a mere mortal.

What do you think?

Janelle, Is That You At My Door?

Busy typing in my sunroom, I heard a banging on the back door — and there was Janelle smiling enthusiastically at me, saying, “You didn’t answer your doorbell — you didn’t answer me banging on your front door!  But your car was there so I just knew you were.  Oh, how GLAD I AM to SEE YOU!” she exclaimed as she entered, taking off her cute jacket and squeezing me tightly.  If anything, she was more glamorous than ever, wearing her hair long under a fashionable hat, in a sharp casual winter outfit.

I had talked with her from time to time but the last I knew, she had left Minnetonka to return to NYC where she sought medical care from a doctor she trusted, and advice from close friends on marrying an older man who desperately wanted her as his wife.   I had been reluctant to advise her because she had given me strong reasons why she shouldn’t —  even though marriage would have given her the citizenship that as a DACA she so badly needs.  “All I want,” she had said then was, “I just want to marry someone my age, someone I truly love and want babies with.  And he is not that man.  But neither have been any others I have met.” 

Before talking further, she handed me a wrapped bottle of wine, a gift-wrapped little box, and a piece of jewelry she had made from Czech and Japanese seed  and other beads.  It was strikingly beautiful.  What hidden talents this sophisticated lady possesses.  “Open up the box,” she urged.  It contained a beautiful long silver chain containing several turquoise stones, my birthstone.  Strangely enough, I had never owned any turquoise jewelry.   

We then settled down with cups of tea while I plied her with questions.  “When I last  saw you the day before you left for NYC, you said you just needed to get away and talk with NY friends, then maybe spend time with him in Florida because you had only known him about a month.”  She interrupted me excitedly saying, “And that told me he was just a ‘dufus’, no one I could possibly tolerate no matter how rich he might be.  And that was even doubtful.  I also realized that I am a big city gal and not a midwestern, no matter how nice it is.  I’m also not being preoccupied about my ‘Dreamer’ status.  I’m perfectly capable of living a good life with good people so I’m returning temporarily to Minnetonka to join my party-loving crowd there and will figure out what to do next.  What I also suddenly realized was that my circle of friends have invariably been much older than I.  We have many ‘generational’ differences.”  I could resonate to that since my last ten or more years I have been experiencing how my generational differences have made huge differences in relations with my daughter and other younger people.

It seems to me that Janelle has gained the insights she sought in NY and Florida.  And I now am more hopeful that the partial government shutdown our President is subjecting our hapless country to, may eventually force a compromise with our new Democratic controlled House to again sponsor a bill that will combine border security measures with protections for “dreamers” like Janelle.  This had been approved by both houses but rejected by Trump when proposed last year.

Democrats could compromise to win relief for undocumented immigrants.  A million dreamers were brought here illegally by parents.  Democrats could use a visa lottery program awards of 50,000 applicant visas yearly—because according to  Wayne Nealis, a writer for the Community Voices section of MinnPost, an electronic Minneapolis daily newspaper, the present program does not have wide public support.  Instead one could use those slots to gain legal status of another 50,000 parents of Dreamers each year to keep those families intact.  It came close to passing in the 2013 bill for comprehensive reform and border security.  A June Gallop poll showed 83% of Americans favor allowing Dreamers legal status and a route to citizenship.  The MinnPost Compromise suggests if Democrats hold firm, Trump and Republicans are not likely to oppose a solution that their poll shows many of heir own voters favor.  Putting the offer on the table would test whether Trump and Republicans are serious about making a deal.  Then Janelle would be free to explore the world and live her dreams as I have been free to do.

The ‘President’ Speaks?

There’s not enough Hallmark movies to cover the national depression created by our Lion’ King whose lies keep insisting ‘the sky is falling down’ and that only he as King knows truth.

Although a new year has begun and the Democrats are now in control of the House, the President used a nationally televised Oval Office address Tuesday to rally public support and blame Democrats for a partial government shutdown.  It is now in its third week. To escalate public support for building the long promised border wall last night, he described the U.S.-Mexico border as a ‘growing humanitarian and security crisis,’ urging Congress to give him the $5.7 billion he has repeatedly demanded for the wall.  He added that the federal government ‘remains shut down for one reason and one reason only:  because Democrats will not fund border security. 

Responding in their own televised remarks, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of misrepresenting the situation, urging him to reopen closed government departments and release paychecks for hundreds of  thousands of workers. 

It has appeared to many that Trump has misused the Oval Office presentation to  create  fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.  Trump had promised Mexico would pay for the wall but when that failed, he is now trying to convince Congress and the rest of us to ‘foot the bill’.  Schumer reminded him that American democracy doesn’t work that way.  “We don’t govern by temper tantrums,” he said.  Pelosi added that the president has “chosen fear” rather than facts in making the case to us who want to start with facts. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged Congress and the Trump administration to reopen the government, throwing its support behind a deal that would combine border security measures with protections for “dreamers” brought here illegally as children and those in the temporary protected status program.   This had apparently been approved by both houses but rejected by Trump when proposed last year.

Letters from the National Governors Association decried the use of a government shutdown to gain leverage in unresolved policy disagreements.  Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, which represents most of the 800,000 affected federal workers, said his members want the shutdown to end but do not want to see Democrats yield to Trump’s demands on the wall.  They blame Trump for backing out of a deal that was there that everybody had agreed to, and it did not have to happen.  House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, told reporters that our responsibility is to do what we think is in the best interest of the American people and the effective and efficient operations of their government.”  He does not believe that Trump has the authority to direct the military to construct a border wall without congressional consent, even with an emergency declaration, and could wind up abusing his powers.

Is it sheer folly to think that a Lion King can turn into a democratically elected President?

A Blog for a New Year

Although I wrote, ‘A Blog for Christmas’, I sent it only to out -of- town people on my Christmas Card List.  Most women might agree that December makes harsh demands on us.  The need to get the house decorated, the cards addressed and mailed, cupboards stocked with food and gifts, parties planned and attended, all leave us exhausted, tossing and turning in bed. 

On those few nights when the phone seldom rang – and I looked at my computer with an absolutely blank mind, I decided to substitute blogging with the quiet life style I imagined Emily Dickinson to have. 

My daughter, her husband and their family of two parrots and a huge standard poodle, sprawl out comfortably in their rustic cabin-style home hidden high in its woods, surrounded by hundreds of oak trees, deer and eagles flying overhead.  Their family includes two parrots, Rio and Corky, and Molly, a huge standard poodle who weighs over 100 pounds.  Molly demands attention and loves her family dearly – which includes her Grandma Shirl.  We each feel contentment.

When quietly back home, seated before the TV sipping an eggnog, I again enjoy the various lights blinking about the house, enjoying the antics of Murphy Brown as I read through more Christmas letters from faraway friends. 

Suddenly sitting alert, I realize  I am now ready to continue bringing ‘my take’ on what’s happening in the world of Trump.  It might be safe to say, he has not made our daily lives more full of hope and love of family and communities.

How sad to be so filled with hate for any who disagree with one’s hateful views of the world — even other white guys who dared to disagree.  How will he deal with Nancy as Speaker of the House, who will not be intimidated?  Let’s find out!

Hatred Corrodes the Container It is Carried In

So said Sen. Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming, as he concluded his remarks at the funeral of his dear friend, former President George H.W. Bush, our 41st president.  With a twinkle in his eye, Simpson informed us that George had mentioned he talk no more than ten minutes.

Glancing about the huge majestic room in Washington Cathedral, where Sen. McCain’s life was celebrated four months earlier,  President Trump and his wife could be seen joining the row of the trio of ex-presidents and their wives.  Apart from a brief handshake with former President Obama, as Trump’s  wife slid in next to him, there was no interaction between President Trump and the others.

Many speakers spoke of George H.W. Bush as a President who devoted his political life to serving American citizens — not exploiting them for personal gain.  His son George Jr., proudly described his dad as America’s best one-term president — a claim that might well be met with agreement by most presidential historians.  Defeat at the polls for his second term did not diminish his popularity as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of us who participated  or were glued to our TVs during the six days honoring this humble man. 

There was high praise by many for the last of the presidents who fought in WWII,  praised for his military service and public responsibility.  I was surprised at how glued to the TV I was and how much I learned that I should have probably known but did not about the difficulties he handled with such grace and humility.  At any rate, I had to agree with Sen. Simpson’s final remarks,  “that those who travel the high road of humility in Washington D.C. are not bothered by heavy traffic.”

One wonders how President Trump felt that day as he was totally ignored by the thousands there.  Not the same audience as those who attend his mindless talks about fake news, witch hunts and the need to ‘build that wall’ to keep those criminal immigrants out of our country!  Watching the thousands turn out to view the train pass by carrying the body of this modest patriot was further proof that the kind of republicans Trump represents are not the kind the world witnessed these six days.  One wonders if the present politicians serving in today’s house and senate realize the serious effects resulting from allowing their party to be highjacked.  The party of true patriot republicans must wonder how this was allowed to occur.

In spite of the awkwardness President Trump and his wife must have felt that day,  surrounded by thousands of mostly republicans who totally ignored him, his behavior was described by others traveling with him several days later as withdrawn.  Unable to maintain a heavy schedule abroad—during his public duties, skipping events in France and the U.S, to honor America’s World War I dead because it was raining—was a decision ridiculed by others.  Apparently he blamed aides for his political troubles and ordered Vice President Mike Pence to take his place at an economic summit in Asia.  Some aides felt he was beginning to realize he actually lost the midterm elections, leaving him vulnerable to congressional oversight for the first time in his presidency. 

Political junkies find it hard to stay away from the never-ending news.  Others retreat to Hallmark Movies or sports.  This is life in the USA as the year approaches 2019.  Stay tuned.

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