Month: October 2015

DISAGREEMENTS

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FacebookRecently I was involved in a disagreement—of sorts—on Facebook, yet!

It did not end well.

I think we mutually “unfriended” or blocked each other—whatever one does when one decides not to speak to another in cyberspace. (I still do not have a handle on this Facebook thing. And people are still at me to be on those other social media outlets as well! Can you imagine?)

Anyway, my opponent’s last words to me have nagged at me ever since. Not continually, mind you. I do have a life of sorts . . .

Her words: “You are gross.”

Never mind the adolescent “Valley Girl” slang straight out of the 70s—or was it the 80s? The thing that bothered me was that she chose to label me rather than address the issue or behavior with which she disagreed.

And it strikes me that therein lies a more or less universal problem in public discourse these days. And what’s more public than Facebook? Too often we choose to attack people rather objects or ideas they may be expounding. Is it any wonder that we have become more and more polarized as a society?

Republicans and Democrats alike: take note.

What are the possibilities of compromise when one party is calling the other a “liar”? (Or “gross”?) Sincere discussion of an issue can hardly follow when one party is seething over some (nearly always unsubstantiated) epithet. Attacking the messenger, instead of offering an alternative position, hardly ever changes anyone’s mind.

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THE MARVELS OF FACEBOOK

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Social media—again. . . .

OK. I admit it. I, too, am on the way to becoming—well—somewhat addicted to this social media thing. Most days (when the addition is more or less under control) I thank Sharon Wylie-Lamson and Joan Atkinson for dragging me kicking and screaming into this part of the world of technology. Other days, I curse myself for allowing them to do so.

I thought I was doing very well with email alone.

And I really deal with only two of those other venues: Facebook (thanks to Sharon), and my own website (thanks to Joan). People are always telling me I should be on Twitter or Pinterest or this or that other entity in cyberspace. Thank you, no. This is enough for me. I’m not running for public office.

I am on LinkedIn, too, but I never do anything with it because I lost my ID number with them and God knows I spend enough time with Facebook! And I don’t even spend time on any of those games (so, please, stop inviting me!) Facebook alone provides a great escape mechanism for procrastinators—and let’s face it (no pun intended): I AM the undisputed queen of that lot!

I joined Facebook because I was convinced it would be a good way to get the word out about my books. And it has been! But the best thing about Facebook for me has been that it puts me in touch with so many former students. I love to see those profile pictures that show me the now persons who developed from the teenagers I knew way back when. (However, in the interest of full disclosure, I often have to search the recesses to make the right connections. . . .)

It astonishes me that so many of them are grandparents. Some are even great-grandparents! So I scroll through my home page looking for names I recognize and marveling at the variety of former students’ interests and achievements.

Dawn Warren, once president of my Model United Nations group, copes with being the mother of three active little boys. Kirk Fertita, a student body president, has his own computer consulting business. Hannah Toon followed her father into the medical world, but her children and pets take a huge chunk of her time. Rob Engelbach is an avid reader whose comments I always appreciate. George Schneiderman is an aficionado of bar drinks—who’d a thunk it? Bret Paesel has been successful in both acting and writing and currently teaches writing classes. And she seems to be doing as good a job at parenting as her own parents did! The three Swan girls—Scarlett, Rita, and Fran are doing well. Ditto Brian Eisenach who married his classmate Debbie Davis. The two of them just sent their daughter to MIT. (Wasn’t it just yesterday that they were themselves in my high school English class?)

I could go on and on. Axel Borg is a college librarian; his brother Scott is a scientist. Patrick Higby is a military general. But I’m sure you get the picture: I love hearing these things. And I’m sure other teachers do too.

So—thank you, Sharon and Joan!

CATS—WELL, KITTENS

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Christmas JoySome of my readers may be familiar with a novella I wrote a few years ago called “Christmas Joy” about a kitten that helps a little girl traumatized by her mother’s death. What many of you may not know is that I am not especially fond of cats.

No, I don’t dislike them; at worst, I’m indifferent and ignorant about felines. But I could not turn down an editor’s offer to write a novella even if it had to include a kitten. So I went out and bought a book on kittens and Googled cats and wrote the story. Wouldn’t you know “Christmas Joy” has been my most enduring success?!

Two years ago in late spring a TV repairman, searching for a good location for a cable said, “Those two kittens under your deck are real cute—and curious.” My reaction was, “Kittens? What kittens?” Turns out a mama cat had, a week or so before, decided that a spot beneath my deck was a perfect (purrfect?) place for her delivery room.

She was, of course, a stray, but she was not a wild, feral cat. She was obviously used to people. But her babies were not. And there were not two kittens, but six. Five with yellow and white stripes and one black and white one (I think I later identified both fathers as neighborhood pets.). Just as obviously she was a nursing mother and she and the babies were hungry.

What was I to do with seven hungry cats?! I called animal control who referred me to ARGONN (the Animal Rescue Group of Northern Nevada). Wonderful organization, that. It took a while for the rescue—nearly two weeks—during which I fed mama and her babies and delighted in the antics of the kittens. I had no idea there were so many kinds of cat food! And those babies were so darn cute!

Ignorant as I was/am about felines, I was sorely tempted to keep two of those kittens. But that summer I was to be gone for extended periods of time. It just was not practical. ARGONN assured me they would get proper care—shots, neutering, and then be given to good homes.

I was reminded of this adventure when a former student, Hannah Toon, posted a similar story on Facebook. I still kind of wish . . .

PLANNED PARENTHOOD

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C-SPAN last week gave us several hours of the general debate of the House of Representatives’ infamous bill to defund Planned Parenthood and the House’s Committee hearing grilling Ms. Cecile Richards, head of that organization (who, by the way, held up well). Appalling. Simply appalling. Thank God the Senate killed it.

OK. I admit that I’m no expert on Planned Parenthood, but I’ll wager the organization has prevented far more pregnancies than it has terminated, but the right-wing nut cases insist on talking about only their agenda items: PP provides advice about contraception and it provides abortions.

Never mind that it provides vital healthcare to women (and more than a few men) who have no other resource for such. Even its most ardent detractors (the honest ones, that is) are forced to admit three essential facts about Planned Parenthood:

(1) Abortions account for only about 3% of PP’s services.

(2) Very, very few of those are the late-term abortions that certain members of Congress delight in recounting in gruesome, gory detail. (In fact the majority of abortions in general are performed in the first trimester, most in the first six weeks.)

(3) NO federal funds go toward the abortion aspect of PP’s services. (PP abides by the law.) The federal funding PP receives is largely indirect. PP is reimbursed through Medicaid for perfectly legal procedures—just as thousands of clinics and hospitals are reimbursed for services rendered.

That said, I fail to see the logic in even considering shutting down the entire government over funding for Planned Parenthood. The current outrage was fired up by a series of videos that were so highly edited and doctored that even Fox News had to back away from such blatant propaganda. And the author of those egregious videos has admitted on CNN that they were faked.

But Republican candidates for President have not repudiated them (or did I miss something?). In fact, while the others seemed mostly to show a bit of restraint on the topic, Carly Fiorina doubled down on her ridiculous declaration in the first Republican debate that PP is in the business of selling body parts. That lie elevated her in Republican ranks, though. Go figure.

Planned Parenthood. Doesn’t the title say it all: that, ideally, parents plan to bring children into the world? Unfortunately, ours is not an ideal world. Thank God Planned Parenthood is there to help many folks caught in less than ideal circumstances—as well as provide such services as routine pap smears, breast exams, and educate young people on contraception.

The so-called “Pro-Life” people have every right to their anti-abortion stance. But they do not have a right to blatant distortion and garish/ghoulish exaggeration to smear an organization that does such a deal of good in the world.

And I DO wish they cared as much about the lives of children after birth as they do about fetuses. That would be truly PRO-LIFE.