SIPs and VIPs

When we returned from Monterey, California recently on American Airlines, we had no problems with people wearing masks or on-time arrivals or departures. However, there were many self-important people (SIPs) and very important pets (VIPs).

On the flight between Monterey and Phoenix, we had three very well-behaved lap dogs and one cat that kept meowing “Why?” the entire hour-long flight. One dog belonged to two SIPs who carried more luggage than they could handle and felt that they were entitled to take up as many bins in the small regional jet as was required. Of course, that meant that they held up planing and deplaning so that they could accommodate the entitlements they felt they deserved.

In the Phoenix airport, one first-class couple (talking about the seats they purchased, not the quality of their behavior) crashed the line nudging aside people already in line out of the way. They made a to be heard comment about priority boarding not being announced yet at the same time that Priority 1 boarding was clearly displayed on the Gate marquee. Even they had to wait for the wheel-chair passengers and one VIP parent to finish getting into their seats.

Walking around the Charlotte airport, I saw more dogs on leashes than children walking with their parents. (In case the above sentence is too ambiguous, I saw no children on leashes or harnesses.)

While we were in Charlotte, awaiting the plane to Charlottesville, we saw one woman with two immaculately behaved Italian greyhounds. She had a large fuzzy throw for the dogs to rest on, a pillow, an overfilled tote bag, and a pair of dogs on a leash. Both dogs (a male and a female) had velcroed pads or supports about their lower backs. I’m not sure if it was to prevent puddles or protect the nervous, fragile dogs’ hips and lower back. She and the dogs boarded ahead of time–I’m guessing she needed more time to board with that much to organize.

The final SIP was a large man who held up the line because he thought he had lost the cellphone he had just been gazing at, announced that someone must be sitting in his seat (despite an empty aisle seat in his row), and as soon as he took his seat asked if he could use the bathroom before the plane left the gate. Once he wedged himself into the bathroom, he couldn’t figure out how the doors opened so that he could get out. The bi-fold door folded in and he was trying to force the door outward. He immediately chatted up the young woman sitting next to him, bragging about his golf game, despite her telling him that she did not play golf. When the flight attendant asked us our drink preferences, he asked for a double Scotch and water, which he never finished because he continued to chat up his young seatmate for the entire flight.

When we finally got to the Charlottesville airport, one young coed felt she no longer needed to wear her mask while waiting for the luggage to appear. Her boyfriend kept his mask on.

The Seance

It was a dark, but not stormy, night in December. My sister and I were in high school. She and her boyfriend, one of my classmates, and I were sitting in the family room staring at the fireplace.

“Let’s have a seance,” my sister suggested

“Who should we conjure up?” her boyfriend asked.

“How about the Devil?” I replied.

“Good idea.” “Why not?” “Let’s do it”. Everyone concurred.

We sat silently for about 10 minutes as the flames shifted from the familiar hands in prayer tapers to an angular shape with two horns appearing on the top. Slowly eyes and a mustached mouth emerged in the middle of the shape.

For several long seconds, nobody said a word as the facial details sharpened in front of us, the tension crackling louder than the flames.

“Let’s stop the seance, now!” somebody shouted, breaking the collective spell. The flames reshifted as the face receded.

We never had the nerve to have another seance.

That Tractor Has a Flat

I was driving up US20 heading north, exiting Orange, Virginia at about 40 miles per hour. Traffic was moving very nicely and Phlash Phelps was in the middle of identifying his City of the Day on Sirius 60’s Gold. I was in the zone and enjoying some time to myself.

As I was passing the Harley Davison shop, I noticed a green and yellow tractor parked in the grass on the side of the road.

First impression: John Deer Tractor.

Second impression: First time I’ve ever seen a tractor with a flat tire. Wonder if this is why it is parked there.

Third impression: Tractor is made entirely of square and round hay bales which is why the tire appeared flat.

How long has it taken you to notice something on the side of the road, accurately?

November 30 is National Personal Space Day

This is the third year of National Personal Space Day.

National Personal Space Day “November 30th promotes kindness toward sensitivities and supports healing by recognizing everyone’s right to decide when and how to be touched, or not.

Touch can hurt. Germs can harm.

The day provides an opportunity to be aware of a person’s unspoken need for space or a gentler touch. When you see someone wearing the peach symbol, forgo the handshake or hug and offer a genuine smile instead and offer another way to show you care.”

All we are saying is give Peach a chance.

White Space Expanded

The literature scholar Alan Jacobs argues that we need to embrace “not a permanent silence, but a refusal to speak at the frantic pace set by social media.” He calls silence “the first option — the preferential option for the poor in spirit, you might say; silence as a form of patience, a form of reflection, a form of prayer.”

How I learned to shut up and be still Author Headshot
By Tish Harrison Warren

White Space is the blank space left around a PowerPoint, print on a page, or words in a lecture or sermon. It provides a respite from thick block of text, graphics, or words and allows us the chance to absorb what we have just seen, heard, or experienced.

After reading this thoughtful essay that someone shared from the New York Times, I realized that White Space could also be extended to our lives as well as our various activities.

“Candle Flame” by Sam Bald is licensed under CC BY 2.0
As Thomas Kildare writes, “Advocacy in support of the oppressed, the poor, the marginalized and the pursuit of peace requires action. Particularly in a democracy, we have a responsibility to raise our voices to call for a more just and compassionate society for all people.
But the practices of silence, contemplation and stillness are essential disciplines in Christian spirituality. If you survey the advice of the saints from the past two millenniums, a consistent piece of advice emerges: Shut up. Be still.
If we fail to engage in active practices, Alcántara says, “we risk becoming distant, aloof, and detached from the world around us.” But he also says, “if we fail to engage in receptive practices, we risk becoming distant from ourselves, offering living water to others while we die of thirst.” 
By Thomas Kildare

A (Self)-Educable Moment

I was getting my flu shot at a local pharmacy an tried to joke with the pharmacist giving me my shot .

“I’m being facetious when I say this, but this shot won’t turn me into a zombie, will it?”

His response wasn’t what I expected. “For some people, that is their belief system. You believe some things that you can not prove.”

“Sort of like religion,” I replied.

“I suppose,” he finished with a jab of the needle.

I had never thought about this as a belief system and I suppose for many people it is. America has a long history from the witch trials in Salem through the Scopes Monkey trials in 1925, where some people passionately believe in things that many do not.

Prior to today’s beliefs in the reality/unreality of the Coronavirus and whether or not Antifa caused many of the violent protests in the past year and a half, the one of the last times we had such with hunts was in the 1950s with Senator McCarthy and the Red Scare.

All of this as passed, until the next wave of hysteria arises. I hope that this wave subsides sooner rather than later.

The Comings and Goings of Friendships

Did you meet a new person today?
Were you glad when they left
Or hoped they would stay?

Not everyone will turn into a friend
for which we are grateful
from beginning to end.

Some friends aren't what we had expected
Friendships aren't easy
So don't feel rejected

Some of them bless us by staying awhile
They leave us fond memories
That can still draw a smile

Some of them make us glad when they leave
Not what we hoped for
Not what we perceived

Each one we meet as some potential
to teach us a lesson
Learn something essential.

Each person we meet is a blessing or curse
We hope they aren't bad 
But sometimes they're worse.

You Can’t Talk Sense to Your Inner Toddler

About age two, that previously sweet baby learns the power of the word NO! It may be followed by “Don’t touch that”, but once the child hears NO, he realizes that he must obey or refuse. Refusal seems the more instinctive reaction.

Fast forward to the teen years. NO returns from both parents and teens. Whereas the toddler results to tantrums, teens yell and slam doors or they go passive/aggressive with sighs, rolling eyes, and shoulder shrugs. “Whatever” becomes a standard response of disdain.

Then came the pandemic which has turned many adults back into teens or toddlers. “You’re not the boss of me,” they metaphorically shout to anyone that recommends or mandates ideas ranging from masks and social distancing to getting a vaccine. Instead of the passive/aggressive response of many teenagers, they respond with fistfights on airplanes, sermons from pulpits and government buildings, and disregard for previously respected scientists and medical professionals. The only winner is the mutating COVID virus.

I'll do it when I'm ready
You're not the boss of me
You'll never be able to show me
 things I don't want to see

Why do you always tell me
the things I need to do?
You can talk till the cows come home
you're message will not get through.

I'd rather die than listen
to things I know aren't true
At least what I read on the Internet
is not advice from you.

This is supposed to be
the land of the brave and the free
So I'll keep on doing just what I want
'cause you're not the boss of me.

I'll continue doing
what I believe is best
Even if it kills me
But I'm willing to take that test.

To the Fool on the Hill

Day after day, alone on a hill
The man with the foolish grin
Is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
And he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

Dear Fool,

Today your alternate sense of reality might not be so gently judged, unless you are in politics.

Between COVID, politics, woke/cancel culture, and race–with the exception of race, many of the old litmus tests like nationality, religion, and values seem to have been thrown out the window or onto the compost pile of history.

Elite at one point was a typewriter size that got 12 characters to an inch, while Pica was 10 characters to an inch. We could all agree on that.

We still have self-proclaimed purity tests that measure what agrees with our versions/visions of what is right. Perception has replaced fact about what is true and what is not.

I can like what you say, but if I do not endorse everything you say then I am against you. That is one type of purity test–when is enough sufficient?

Superman stood for “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” But we don’t agree on what any of those things mean anymore.

Fool, do you have anymore room on that hill?

Thanks. I’m asking for a friend.

“The Fool on the Hill Has Stepped Away” by garlandcannon is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Why Does Everyone Like Canadians?

I was just watching a Trevor Noah from the Daily Show skit about Who Hates Who. It was funny and seemed to be fairly accurate. He was emphatic about identifying who hated who but would not get into the why. He said that everybody hated the United States because we had invaded some countries, overthrew government in other countries, bombed several countries but even the countries we had liberated from the Nazis in World War II now seemed the hate us.

He finished by saying “Nobody hates the Canadians,” while he donned a maple leaf hat. That reminded me that I have heard several Americans say in passing that they will say they are Canadians when overseas to avoid the stigma of being from the United States.

Is it because Canada:

  • Invaded fewer countries
  • Has a national health care system
  • Has a dryer, gentler sense of humor than the United States
  • Is generally less prejudiced except for the French/English issue although the nation is bi-lingual
  • Doesn’t overthrow other countries’ governments
  • Are usually a polite people
  • Seldom has mass shootings
  • Treats its indigenous people much better
  • ???

Circular Logic

The government needs to do something about this COVID virus.

They recommend wearing a mask

That infringes on my rights and freedom.

Are you maintaining social distancing?

That’s another infringement.

Are you staying home?

Heck no! I have the right to go wherever and whenever I want.

Are your kids participating in hybrid or distance learning?

No, I’m paying taxes so my kids belong in school–period.

Will you get a vaccine?

No way. I don’t want to the government injecting something weird into my body.

The government just passed the new stimulus bill.

I don’t have direct checking so if I get it at all, it will take months. The government hasn’t even gotten my unemployment benefits straightened out. I’ll say this again, the government needs to do something about this COVID virus.

Circular logic

The wheels of conspiracy theories operate much faster than the wheels of government.

Live in the Time of Coronavirus, Pt 22: First Anniversary-What Would You Include?

The traditional 1st-anniversary gift is considered to be paper, while the modern gift is a clock, which commemorates the passage of time over this important first year.

What artifacts would you include on the first anniversary of COVID?

  1. paper mask
  2. shot record of COVID vaccinations
  3. COVID test results, perhaps showing luck or virtue
  4. snips of the changing political and social views on mask wearing
  5. changed work schedule or filing for unemployment benefits
  6. pictures of friends and family that you have not seen for a year
  7. cancelled event tickets
  8. programs for events never attended
  9. invitation to your first post-COVID gathering
  10. take-out menus
  11. 2020/21 calendars showing how empty life was, except maybe for medical appointments and Zoom meetings
  12. diary (see calendar entry)
  13. copies of all of the COVID jokes and toilet paper memes sent around by people desperate for a reason to smile or even laugh
  14. election memorabilia
  15. collection of recipes used this past year
  16. pictures of the garden or other hobbies you took up this year
  17. lessons plans from home schooling
  18. list of lessons learned
  19. changing or morphing political/cultural opinions
  20. new books read or streaming platforms watched

2020 in Hindsight

According the calendar, 2020 began on 1 January and ended on 31 December. Trump dominated the year. The year may have begun in September 2019 when the House first moved to impeach him and ended on January 13, when the House moved to impeach him again. He is the first president to ever be impeached twice.

Like the of the previous impeachments, (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton), the presidents have been accused of impeachment, but never found guilty in a Senate trial. The outcome on this one may follow that trend.

In 2020, Trump both exceeded and met my expectations. When he was surprised by someone asking him if he knew that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg had passed, he replied that he did not know and called her “very great lady.” In that instant he made no disparaging comment about her. I was very pleasantly surprised.

Almost every other time, he met my expectations, even on January 6 when he encouraged the crowd to storm the Capital and Pence to throw the Electoral College results.

On that day and since Vice President Pence has exceeded my expectations by acting the way that most of us hope that a President would act.

December Holidays to Celebrate–Part 2

Chanukah begins Thursday evening, December 10, 2020 and continues through Friday, December 18, 2020.

Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods.

The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication,” and is thus named because it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple ). Also spelled Hanukkah (or variations of that spelling), the Hebrew word is actually pronounced with a guttural, “kh” sound, kha-nu-kah, not tcha-new-kah.

The Winter Solstice is December 21. The next winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere occurs on Monday, December 21, 2020 at 5:02 a.m. EST. It’s the astronomical moment when the Sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn, we have our shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere in terms of daylight. Regardless of what the weather is doing outside your window, the solstice marks the official start of winter.

Roots Day is December 23. No, it is not planning on where to plant your live Christmas tree.

National Roots Day on December 23rd encourages families to delve into their family history, heritage, and ancestry.

Each year during the holidays is an ideal time to collect family information. While families gather around the table telling stories and sharing memories, someone is sure to be the family historian. It is entirely possible a grandparent, parent, aunt or uncle has already started a family tree and will share with other family members.

December 25 is Christmas.

Christmas (or Feast of the Nativity) is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is preceded by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night; in some traditions, Christmastide includes an octave. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world’s nations, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season centered around it.

Did you know: In 567, the Council of Tours “proclaimed the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany as a sacred and festive season, and established the duty of Advent fasting in preparation for the feast.

October 30 is National Speak Up for Service Day

Speak Up For Service Day on October 30th recognizes the importance of young people to be actively involved in community service. Too often, the good deeds of young people go unnoticed by their communities. Speak Up For Service Day gives recognition to the overlooked. It serves as a reminder to tell others about the contributions of young people to their communities.

This year seems like a particularly good time to recognize this day. Young people are taking an active role in this year’s election by serving as poll workers, urging people to vote (for whoever the candidate maybe), going door to door or making phone calls urging people to vote, etc. With many seniors (the normal poll workers) afraid to come out because of COVID, the young people are filling a vital role as an unprecedented number of Americans turn out to vote in what has been called the most important vote of a lifetime.

History from the National Speak up for Service Day website.

The Speak Up For Service Project’s history began in 2003, when the Fargo, ND Lions Club initiated a public speaking contest for area high school students in honor of Laura Christensen Espejo. Laura devoted her life to improving the health care services available to the less fortunate in the Fargo community and Peru, the country of her husband, Lucho. Lion Robert Littlefield coordinated the contest on the local level. Soon, he was launching it as a statewide initiative while serving as District Governor in 2010-2011.


Rosie the RiveterDuring WWII, I can became We can as exhibited in the popular Rosie the Riveter poster. Seventy-five years later, as we mark the anniversary of VJ Day,  there is  not much we left–it got we-weed away.

The almIghty I has become I CAN do almost anything I want  whether it benefits me or anyone else.  Whether it’s


  • wearing a mask,
  • maintaining social distancing,
  • peaceful protest,
  • voting on legislation that may move this country forward

we have become so locked in our I Can isolation that we will harm ourselves, our country, and our future.

It takes us a while to get used to anything that might preclude us from doing what  we want, whenever we want:

  • Wearing seat belts
  • Smoking in restaurants, bars, grocery store check out lines, and on airlines
  • Wearing shoes and shirts in a restaurant
  • Giving everyone an equal opportunity to
    • vote,
    • apply for jobs and higher education
    • marry whoever we’d like
    • live wherever we can afford

But most of us get there eventually.