To bare arms … or not?

To Bare Or Not To BareMark my words, Congress will soon be forced to deal with an important issue that arose in the last session. Should women be allowed to wear sleeveless dresses in the Speaker’s Lobby? This dress code rule has been around for some time but only recently came to light, fueled by the hype that is a part of everything that comes out of Washington, D.C. Because what one wears is now a part of the whole freedom of speech thing.

In my opinion, Congress should stick to its guns (to mix constitutional amendments) and keep the dress code.

Surely, someone has said, “How you dress is how you want to be perceived.”  Congress has long had the code of “professional business attire”, hoping to convey the image to their constituents that they are serious about the debates they have and the decisions they ultimately make. If they don’t care what we think and believe their comfort is the primary concern they can wear Cargo shorts and flip flops.

I’m just saying that if Congress allows sleeveless dresses, then it won’t be long before someone will interpret that to mean tank tops. Which brings cleavage and bra straps. And when that happens … because we can’t discriminate … men will be allowed to sag their pants and show their underwear, too.

All I can think of to say to that is eeeew!

Don’t call me, I’ll call you

Many things in life don’t work the way they should. “Easy Open” packaging comes to mind. But was there ever a bigger national flop than the Do Not Call Registry?

The idea was proposed in June 2003 with every land-line owner’s approval. The plan was to give us a choice about whether we would receive telemarketing calls or not. If you disliked  being interrupted at dinner or awakened on your day off, you should put your name on that list. If you enjoyed that sort of thing, do nothing.

Though everyone, at least everyone I know, approved, it didn’t go into effect until February 2004. It took 8 months for the courts to decide this law did not infringe on the telemarketers’ freedom of speech.

Interesting. If I call you twice a day for a week it would be harassment or stalking. But get Big Business involved and things change.

Once the registry was in place, citizens rushed to sign up. Finally, peace and quiet. Then we found there are exceptions. Non-profit agencies can still call asking for donations. Surveys, with their thinly-veiled sales pitches, are allowed. Any business you have an account with, or have sent an inquiry to, can make a “follow-up” call (or 10). Of course bill collectors are exempt. Add to that the people who simple ignore the law.

Now, here’s my theory about what happened. Someone hacked into the Do Not Call Registry and sold all those numbers to RoboCalls International!

And the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communication Commission, the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, Secret Service, nor any of the large telephone companies can do anything about it. Ya think?!

All politicians: LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE. Make America great again. Give us back our privacy. Our life, liberty, and  pursuit of happiness.

Who says I can’t miss it?

You can't miss it.

The words I most often hear that are just not true are, “You can’t miss it.”

Oh, I can miss it! I can miss a clearly marked exit, I can miss the painted guidelines for a parking space, I can miss a step and fall up the stairs. I can miss the eye of a needle, I can miss a lethargic fly just waiting to be slain. I can miss the answer button on my cell phone. And sometimes, but not often, I can miss the punch line.

One day last week at the education cooperative where I work, we experienced a rather major crisis. Our internet server went down. Now when that happens I know exactly what to do: Call the Technologist.

He happened to be out that day but wonderful techie that he is, he is usually able to help even when not physically present. Brook called him and was told to reboot. She said to me, “He said to find the black box with the word ‘Cisco’ on it. He says you can’t miss it.” Oh, great.

Three of us entered the server room, which has about as many wires and and blinking lights as the inner workings of a nuclear sub. I looked around for a box about the size of a crate of toilet paper with six-inch letters proclaiming CISCO…or maybe even SISCO. There was nothing like that anywhere in sight.

We call Jonathan back to tell him the server box must be missing, it is not in the server room. We’re passing around my cell phone (which I can’t believe is working in there with all those electronics), when Sandy says, “Here it is!”  And there, among a bevy of machinery, on a small black device the size of a DVD player written in 2 point font, is the word: CISCO.

Are you kidding me? Who says I couldn’t miss that?

Well, the server was turned off and then on again. The Internet returned. Brook could continue the Google workshop and the GT Coordinators could resume their ZOOM.

Because we finally found something we “couldn’t miss.”

That’s the Way Moms Roll

Opening the kitchen drawer that catches everything, I found a black twist tie. You know, the kind that comes on bread wrappers or occasionally in a box of garbage bags.

Why was I saving it? Who knows. But now that I have it, I know exactly what to do to make it a fine and beautiful gift for a friend.

One day last week, a co-worker shared that she was trying to remember to keep her arms to her side because when she raised her arms, one could see the white twist tie holding the zipper on her pants closed.

Now, I didn’t have to wonder why she was using a twisty to avoid a wardrobe malfunction. Because she’s been a mom for 28 years, that’s why! And when you’re a mom and your zipper won’t work and you can’t find a safety pin, then of course you make do with what you have. (Twist ties and/or rubber bands also work when you’re just a little bit pregnant and a button hole won’t quite reach the button.)

Making do is something we learn early on in motherhood. Our little girls are all flounces and frills. They have headbands pinching their brains out or a bow plastered in their hair with KY jelly. They are wearing black patent Mary Janes and lace is stitched to the tops of their sox.

Mom, on the other hand, didn’t get a chance to shampoo her hair, only just discovered a run in her hose, and the zipper on her new pants won’t stay zipped. That’s just the way moms roll.

The only thing I saw wrong with my co-worker’s outfit was that the twist tie was white. It didn’t match the pants she wore. My little black wire would fix that.

With my gift, the twisty nestled at her waistband would match the pants sporting the broken zipper.

What more could a mom want.

It’s Never too Late

Monarch Butterfly

We live in a world of second chances.  How often are we offered the opportunity to turn our mistakes around? The Christian faith is a religion of second chances. We mess up and God forgives us. Again and again.

Saturday was Earth Day — a time when we celebrate the gift of our beautiful world. This year many used the occasion to try to bring attention to humanity’s misuse of the planet.

We hear about holes in the ozone layer, climate change, glaciers melting, certain creatures becoming extinct, and the steady depletion of our resources. Some are frightened by what we hear. Some would say that this is simply the natural order of a world evolving. It has happened in our history before. Probably true, since scientists say California was once a huge glacier and dinosaurs roamed about. Should we try to be more responsible, work to turn things around? Some say that there is no point. A controversy, for sure.

By the way, I’m kinda glad the world evolved to the point we are now. We’re not living on an icecap and dinos are no longer with us. I mean, the commute is horrible when it sleets  …. and hitting a deer is bad enough, a dinosaur would really mess up your car. So ultimately things work for the best. But I digress.

Most of us have heard of the Dust Bowl of the Dirty Thirties. Years of over-using the soil finally took its toll. There were several suggested solutions to our ecological crisis and Franklin Roosevelt, in his first 100 days in office, began soil conservation programs. Congress argued about what needed to happen, about spending money on a lost cause. It took years, (too long a story for this blog) but there was recovery.

So, we can turn it around if we want to. My wonderful niece, Leah*, has a farm that she and her husband have made into a way station for Monarch butterflies. Each spring she hosts more than she can count. Just a few years ago Monarchs were believed to be vanishing. People like Leah have intentionally invited them to stay, offering them a safe place to rest as they migrate.

And just yesterday, the wild flowers (aka weeds) in my yard were nourishing several honey bees!

Well, you certainly got the “Limited” side of my point of view today. In school, science was my worst subject and I took it only because I wanted to graduate. You might be wondering what the point of this message is. If I’ve done my job, I’m not supposed to have to tell you. But here goes:

All is not lost. Whatever mistakes we have made, wherever we are in life, it’s not too late to turn it around.

*Visit Leah May Horsley on Facebook and like her Butterfly Bluff Gardens page for information on plants that attract butterflies and many other gardening tips. Thanks to Leah for the lovely picture at the top of this post.


Just the Fax

Wonderful opportunities come my way as a result of having access to a Fax machine.

I have had several offers for bargain weekend accommodations at Branson or Cancun. I’ve never taken advantage of these invitations. I’m just a little skeptical. I have to wonder what sort of hotel room is available in a resort town for the price they quote. “Certain restrictions apply”? “Available only during hurricane season”? or “Double occupancy only”?

I know. Usually the “guests” are subjected to a hard-sell presentation for a time-share somewhere in the vicinity. So much for the vacation lures.

However, a fax message that caught my attention recently stated that I am pre-approved for a $69,000 small business loan. Whoa! I don’t own a small business but I might just start one. After all, I’m pre-approved.

My latest correspondence informed me that I am “being considered for inclusion into the 2017 Women of Distinction …”  I will be listed among “the most accomplished professionals . . . for having expert status” in my field. All I have to do is fill out the form and fax it back in. (It’s interesting they want to include me when they don’t even know my name.)

What is it about my life that inspired this recognition? I’m a Mom, a Grandma, and a (Great) Grandma Dot. I will admit I excel at that. When I kiss a boo boo it stays kissed.

I’m a writer. Wow! How exciting if I were being honored for my fiction. But, alas, I doubt it.

I’m also an amateur actor. But applause during the curtain call is really all the kudos I need there.

I’m a secretary, which is the position that gives me access to the fax. Perhaps this is where I have gained distinction. I answer the phone promptly – usually – and operate a mean copy machine. I can shred like nobody’s business. I can also perform “other duties as assigned.” Let’s face it, a good secretary/ administrative assistant keeps the place running and everyone on task, but seldom wins awards for her/his job performance. Satisfaction comes from knowing that the lowest person on the totem pole is often what holds up the whole cotton-picking totem pole.

So, there it is. Fill out the form and be included in the Secretary Hall of Fame. I’m being seriously considered. Maybe even pre-approved.


And the TP Controversy Lives On

What a surprise for me to find that some were offended by my letter to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

I was trying to be funny.

Okay. One of the first things writers learn is that humor is subjective. What amuses one, goes over their neighbor’s head. What makes one laugh, might anger another. Someone takes your hyperbole literally. Perhaps I should have put quote marks around “wrong.”

What I had hoped to convey (in a humorous way) is how we pass over the important issues and let the trivial raise our hackles. It was (supposed to be) a hint that maybe we all should lighten up a bit. Another thing writers hear is: don’t try to explain your humor. So I’m done with that.

However, I was NOT criticizing the artist. If I knew his/her name I would give credit. I would never be critical of anyone who can draw a picture in which the object is recognizable.

While I may be stupid, as one insinuated, that is a matter of opinion. I am not ignorant (there’s a difference) to the original instructions for hanging toilet paper. I knew the U.S. Patent office cleared that up years ago.

I just find it ludicrous that anyone who doesn’t live in my house should care so deeply about how I install the TP roll. Again, an attempt at humor.

So, consider me properly chastised. Now we can get back to the important issues.

Is it INvelope or AHNvelope?

The uncredited drawing appeared in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on February 17 and again on February 18, 2017. The letter to the editor appeared February 22. This post is not intended to speak in any way to the issue the Op-ed and Editorial addressed.

How to Kill a Perfectly Good Saturday

Once or twice a year I vow I must clean the closet in the guest room. This is my indoor, long/short-term storage space. Every time I clean or straighten it I find items I had forgotten existed or else something I had been hunting for months.

I remembered that on the shelves above is the long-term storage of board games rarely played and 1990-era Happy Meal toys. The 18 gallon plastic tub in the floor against the back wall holds Legos. The side shelves house rolls of Christmas wrap, boxes and bags, tissue, and various types of gift-wrapping supplies.

The remainder consists of short-term items I needed to get out of the way temporarily because a guest was arriving to use the guest room. I had pushed them inside this space to deal with later. And later is now.

I begin with strong resolve, sorting the new-and-used gift bags and tissue into two categories to store in plastic bins: Christmas and not Christmas. I make a mental note (not the most effective sort of note for me): DO NOT EVER BUY TISSUE PAPER AGAIN. EVER. Also, do not purchase a gift that does not fit in a bag.

Continuing, I find 6-7 afghans. Most were knitted by me at different stages of my knitting expertise. One belonged to Pokey, our chocolate Lab who died this year. Okay. Too soon to get rid of that. One afghan goes to Good Will and 4 in a sturdy plastic bag. One rests on the back of the recliner, its fate to be decided later.

The next box I unearth has the potential to halt the momentum. Journals, circa 1980 -1999. I moved to Arkansas in 2000 and I knew this box had come along with me. Don’t remember putting it in this closet. This is suitable reading for a cold winter day. If we ever have one.

I choose a book at random. 1997. I was a widow with an 8-year-old boy. Stuck in front was a loose-leaf page of written reminders. I’ve always been a list-maker; wonder why I kept this?

Pay rent
Go to Target
Iron shirt

(here the printing changes to a childish script.)

pay Phillip’s alowinse

help Phillip ride his bike

take Phillip to mickdonalls

buy him something

Ah yes.

Reading for a cold winter day.

Or for a perfectly good Saturday.

This time I won a few . . .

It’s always a good day when you gain more than you lose. And the week just past was pretty good for me. I learned a couple of new things and re-learned a couple of golden oldies.

Saturday morning I lit my water heater. A first for me. I live in a 1940’s era house that had an old water heater when I moved in 15 years ago.  Every time the wind blew a little bit the pilot light went out. Since said heater was old, to relight it meant to lie on the floor with a fireplace match or something similar (my youngest son rigged a bent clothes hanger with a go-fer match). Then the process was to hold down the button while poking the lit match into the center of the tank and hoping after the task was complete you still had a full head of hair.

A couple of years ago, I bought a new water heater. Imagine my vexation the first time the wind blew out the pilot light! Admittedly, it was hurricane force winds that also broke tree branches, not the slight breeze that had accomplished this feat in the past. But still!

Not to worry. The new little beauty has a striker, similar to the one on a gas range, that relights the pilot. Eventually.

This past week was windy, but mild. Those stiff breezes should not have had enough energy to blow through the vent and extinguish the flame, but I noticed Friday afternoon that the hot water wasn’t hot.

Since the directions for the relighting of the pilot were printed on the bottom 1/4 of the tank, sitting on the floor was necessary. I did all the things it said: turn knob counter clockwise to “off”. Then turn clockwise to “pilot.” While holding the button in, push the striker once a second for as many as 90 seconds! Italics and exclamation point mine. Supposedly, before 90 seconds passed the monitor light would commence flashing to let you know the pilot was on. Do you know how long 90 seconds is?

I was not sure I was brave enough to do this, but determined to conquer, I held the button down with one hand and pushed the striker with the other. The pilot caught on the 37th strike!  Thankyoulord.

Another challenge met this week: I learned how to work Sudoku. I love crosswords and other word puzzles but I have never mastered the number game.

My children are all in the “There’s an APP for that” generation, so at Christmas, my daughter, Kathy, put a sudoku app on my Kindle Fire. On it I can play the easy easy easy game (that lights up the number when it’s put in the wrong place). I have played it every day.  Last weekend I tried to solve the sudoku puzzle in the newspaper, using the same strategies. Sure enough, (after several hours and lots of erasures) I had success. All the numbers lined up correctly. Now that’s something I thought I would never be able to do.

The things I relearned are a little personal to go into here, except to say I may have once again become aware of the truth of certain cliches: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” But it’s not all small stuff. So “choose your battles,” otherwise when something important comes along you won’t have energy to respond because you have ruptured your eccrine gland sweating the small stuff.

I also re-learned the admonition: Never rent a movie if the last word in the title is “2”.

Blessed to Be a Blessing


What a wonderful weekend!

After recent maladies (see last week’s post) kept me home, this Saturday I was finally able to drive over the (Arkansas) river and through the (Saline County) woods to spend some time at Couchwood, home of my BFF, Pat.

Pat is a poet, novelist, and accomplished musician.  Her first career was as high school music teacher, but she also served as choir director, pianist, and/or organist in her local church before retiring a few years ago. She was lured out of retirement in December to assist in worship services at a small church in Grant County. Which leads me to tell of the blessings I received this past weekend.

Sunday morning we drove through the beautiful countryside below Saline County to Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Tull, Arkansas (Pop. 486. The town not the church.). A white steeple appeared as we rounded the last curve on Highway 35. Just past the cemetery and up a short rise sits the white building that houses a congregation established in 1885. A poster on a side door gives the dates and hours the food pantry is open.

The inside of the sanctuary looks much like the typical country church with the sign (available at Cokesbury Books) announcing the number on roll (35), the attendance and offering the previous Sunday.

I am recognized instantly as a visitor, of course, and introduced from the pulpit as “Pat’s friend, Dot.” As the service begins, the pastor shares the whereabouts of the few members who are absent. Now that’s a close knit congregation. If you’re not there they know why. The membership in many small rural churches tends to be senior citizens, but the group gathered this day is made up of mostly Baby Boomers or younger.

The hymns, chosen by the pastor, have something for everyone. Opening is “Morning Has Broken”, made popular during the “Jesus Movement” of the Sixties. The Hymn of Preparation: “The Old Rugged Cross”, an old old favorite, and closing with “Hymn of Promise” a newer song by Natalie Sleeth.

After prayers and offering, Pat began the introduction to “The Old Rugged Cross” with gusto. I had never heard her play that style, reminiscent of Old Time Methodists at camp meeting under a brush arbor in August. It was wonderful. I’m sure she used all 88 piano keys. That accompaniment had everything but a glissando. And did we sing along!

Joining our voices together left us lifted and prepared for the message from Mathew 5:1-12. Not a brag-list of how blessed we are, but an assurance we are indeed blessed and in turn are called to be a blessing to others.

As the young acolyte left, symbolically carrying Christ’s light into the world, my feeling was that this group of people certainly fulfills that command, as they go about being the Church in their scattered jobs and their presence in that community. I felt blessed to have worshiped with them.

Chatting with folks after the service, I learned that the pastor’s son lives in my Dream Hometown and that another congregant originally came from Carlisle, AR, just a bit to the east of us. He knew my dentist, Dr. Burleson, who has written two books about his childhood in Carlisle. I might have found more “small world” stories, but it was 10:30, the Sunday School hour and time for me to start my trek home.

Blessed indeed.

Visit my BFF Pat Laster’s website

James Burleson’s books: The Redneck Chronicles found  here