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Smile Awhile
Monopoly

The board game Monopoly is probably the most popular board game ever invented.  What child didn’t grow up playing this game with friends or family?
Personally, my involvement with this game goes back to when I was 12 years old playing with my sister Melinda.  Melinda was two years older and she always beat me at everything --- Monopoly was no exception.  One night after a particular bad thumping by Melinda, I scraped “Boardwalk” and “Park Place” off the board with a butter knife.  I don’t think Melinda and I ever played Monopoly together again.
Which brings me to the point of this column.  Last week Monopoly ventured from their original eight tokens (shoe, Scottish Terrier, race car, cat, top hat wheelbarrow, thimble, and battleship) and replaced the wheelbarrow, cat, and thimble with the T-Rex, Penguin, and rubber ducky. (The cat replaced the iron in 2013).
When Melinda and I played she always picked the shoe.  (I should have thrown the shoe away instead of mutilating the game board).  For some reason I always felt that having this game piece gave her an unfair advantage.  I still do.
Milton Bradley (the board game maker) conducted a poll and discovered that those who frequently played the game wanted to include the T-Rex, Penguin, and rubber ducky.  (I’m sure Melinda would still want the shoe).
In all these years, the tokens may have changed from time-to-time, but the properties have remained the same.  Lord knows Donald Trump cut his teeth on this game because he did indeed “own” Boardwalk.  And it goes without saying he owned several properties that had hotels on them, too.  And I’m pretty sure he owns at least one race car, a battleship, and several rubber duckies!
When I told Ronnie what I was going to write about this week, he told me about a game his neighbors had when he was growing up called The Merry Milkman.  A game in which you traveled around the board delivering milk, cream, butter and eggs.  (I actually thought he was kidding).  But it seems that if you happened to land on “Cracked Bottle” you lost a turn.  Needless to say, they also played with a “Sara” who scraped “cracked bottle” off their game board, too.
The last board game I played with my son was called “Life”.  JR was about 11 years old and the object of the game was to graduate high school, attend college, get a job, get married, buy a car and house, have children, then retire. The general idea was to be a success. At some point into the game JR went bankrupt and he looked at me and said, “I can’t be bankrupt I have a wife and two kids!”  And coming from an 11 year old that was pretty profound.
Have a good week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile!


Poison Oak
On a hundred summer evenings

In my teen years, as far as I was concerned, the word history meant absolutely nothing to me except a dreaded -- and very boring --subject I had to suffer through in both high school and college. I sort of hate to admit that since I really liked Mr. Dutton, my high school history teacher.
Anyway, he’d likely get a kick out or knowing that these days one of my favorite channels on TV is the History Channel. Guess you might say that time -- and that particular channel -- has changed my perspective a bit.
I’m sure I wasn’t any different than any other pimply-faced adolescent at the time and it was just natural that I had no sense of history regarding the world in which I lived. The coal company for which my daddy worked; the church I attended; even the food on our table seemed to just appear there and were simply taken for granted. The history behind those things and how they came to be, was the farthest thing from my mind.
At elementary school, when the bell rang after recess and we lined up to enter the building, even though the name of H. S. Howes was written in foot-tall letters above the entrance, I never once gave thought to who might have been responsible for the state-of-the-art structure in which I was being taught, and that there was something called the Johnson County Board of Education that furnished the salaries (as meager as I’m sure they were) for those responsible for instructing me in my basic educational needs.
As far as I was concerned, all those things could have been natural formations, like the hills that surrounded me; the clouds that danced and pranced over me as I shot cap-busters at other boys my age as we ran off energy re-enacting the cowboy show we’d watched the previous Saturday at the Sipp.
In those days, I didn’t know, nor did I care, that more than thirty years before I was born, a group of entrepreneurs in some far away city, had sat down with construction and mining engineers and mapped it all out. The very house in which I lived had once been a tiny, numbered square on a large map. It was several decades before I gave any thought to such things.
Even though I had no sense of history, I suppose I shouldn’t beat myself up about it and be glad that one thing those days did, was help me store memories of a hundred summer evenings when life-long friendships were formed as I played until darkness drove me indoors; when my most important thoughts consisted of the best place to hide in order to avoid detection by whomever was “it” in our nightly game of kick-the-can.
Now, thanks to the History Channel, I’m reminded that even the most seemingly insignificant thing has a past. When viewed from that perspective, “history” may not be such a bad word after all. Guess any kind of learning is better late than never.


Downhomer
Signs of the Times…

Monday. March 20. This nationally designated first day of spring has not been much different from the days that went before it.
Lately, there has been nothing spring like in the temperatures we wake to, just more of the cold, rainy mornings we’ve had all month. In addition, if March has come in like a lion, will go out like a lamb, or if by chance it be the reverse, it had better hurry up. For some time now I have anticipated the day when those lovely little redbud trees will suddenly burst into bloom. Actually, their dry looking and twig like branches have had a slight precursor of purplish color for a couple of months. In my very fertile imagination, I can almost sense of all that wake up sap flowing up through those spindly limbs. However, it sure seems a slow process, with none as yet in bloom. Not to fret. The weather reports all say that by Friday of this week, the weather will moderate, and it will be more spring-like. If it does, and if the redbud blooms, we know it will cause a fall back in our weather patterns. I don’t know why we have redbud winter, but we do. Nor can I say why so far, this long overdue season is dragging its feet. We delight in any sign of its arrival; have loved the daffodil which have bloomed in such yellow abundance, but now is fading. It’s been some time since the frogs first begun to sing, and finally, I can say I also have seen robins, lots of robins. Yet our days still seesaw from spring warmth to winter cold, and I think the robins have headed back to where they come from. Even so and while we wait out this interim time till spring has fully sprung, we have to be glad we dodged the bullet of that recent March storm which really did a number in places around us; going as far north as where my son Steve lives in Maine. He called home to report that their latest snow/ice/wind/blizzard had them glad to shelter in place. He also told me that soon as the storm passed, folks in that area headed out through the snow to the sugar camps. There, in the deep woods they began their late winter, early spring maple-syrup production processes.
I am very familiar with this, can remember back when my siblings and I were younger; and all of us went out with our father and his crews when they did this labor intensive, but always rewarding practice. I’ve wondered why our part of Kentucky does not do this. Sugar maples do grow here, though not as many as in those other parts of Kentucky where actually, some small elements of this venture is being practiced. So why doesn’t some farsighted and enterprising young farmer plant sap producing maple trees the way others have planted apples, with maple syrup another way of benefiting the economy! Maple syrup is easy to make; most of the labor involved is in the gathering of the clear sweet sap. Usually the weather will still be very cold and raw feeling. Even so, braving those outdoor elements to tap sugar trees is a self-rewarding venture that ultimately gives you delicious tasting syrup to pour over your breakfast pancakes. I remember doing this in Maine. In addition, I also remember my family making maple syrup in Michigan, and I continue to wonder: Why does not someone do the same here.
Less sweet than maple syrup but just as satisfying in another way to our winter weary palate is the first of the season’s taste of Morel Mushrooms. Son Bob, rushing the season, took a couple of brief survey strolls through some of our woods, hoping for even one glimpse of this delectable mushroom. So far none had popped up to be seen. Old friend Oral Conley used to tell me that when the oak tree leaves are as big as mouse ears, it is time to hunt morel. It really doesn’t seem to matter, though, whichever of the signposts of nature you follow, morels come up when they come up, and I once picked them in a skiff of snow.
I love morels. However, being no longer able these days to roam the hollows or climb the hills of home, and because I really do love the taste of them, I buy my morels on line. The company I most frequently use, the Oregon Mushroom Company, has sent me an email to say they would be picking and will have morels ready to ship by the end of March. So no matter what the ensuring days bring; more winter days or spring ones, I try to wait it out in anticipation. Another of those things, which I often wonder about, is why some one doesn’t start a morel farm in this area as they have in other places. I know that by using the search bar on the internet you can find everything you might need for this project. There are also, on those same sites, complete and detailed instructions from any of the suppliers that you choose to use. I once thought I’d try my hand at this, and while my interest has in no way waned, my strength has. Now, as I fill the place where I am; I listen to the Lorelei music as this season begins its tune-up. These are days to be savored, and I thank you, God, for this beautiful, eternal time of renewal.


Education and Common Sense
I’m really impressed with Neith Gorsuch

I spent all of yesterday morning glued to the television watching the senators grilling Judge Neil Gorsuch, the Colorado judge who has been nominated by President Trump to fill the vacancy left when Judge Anton Scalia died suddenly a few months before the Presidential election.
Gorsuch was selected by this same group for his present judgeship by a vote of 100-0, but this selection is hampered by politics.
The 49 Democrat senators are furious because  Majority Leader, Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell, refused to consider  President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Scalia because he said he wanted whoever won the impending election to get to pick the new justice. The nine-member, now eight-member since one seat is vacant, Supreme Court is deadlocked, with eight of the members voting  for laws that agree with the Founding Fathers’ interpretation of the Constitution. Four others think the Constitution can be interpreted in a more modern way.
President Trump has promised to appoint a judge that will fill Judge Scalia’s role—as a “strict constructionist.” (Read conservative.)
If Gorsuch is appointed, the decisions will likely be 5-4 in favor of the conservatives. It’s a Big Deal.
I was impressed with Judge Gorsuch’s answers to the questioners who were trying their hardest to find some chink in his armor. He was cheerful, respectful, thanked them for their questions that let him clear up misunderstandings about some of his decisions.  He did not seem to get annoyed at any time during the grilling. I wanted to slap Senator Al Franken’s jaws; he was so rude, but Gorsuch smilingly answered Franken’s impertinent questions.
He said that half the people were unhappy with any decision that a judge made. Somebody wins and somebody loses. He says that his client is always THE LAW.  If the law is bad, that is a job for the legislature, who make laws. The judge’s job is to INTERPRET the law, not fix a bad law.
He says he has a gavel, not a rubber stamp, and that no man, including the President of the United States, is above the law.
He said that when President Trump interviewed him for the position, he did not ask him to vote any way. If he had, he (Gorsuch) would have walked out.
He also stated that there are no little people or big people. When he puts on his robe, he is not a Republican judge or a Democrat judge. He is there to interpret the law of this nation, and determine who broke those laws, and what the law says is the punishment for that law.
Regardless of whether Obama’s pick got a raw deal, we have an honest, fair, brilliant man who respects the law nominated for the Supreme Court now.
I hope and pray that the Senate will again vote for him 100-0.


The Soapbox

May you live in interesting times

There is a quote attributed to an ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Seemingly innocent, the words act like an iceberg, concealing the true meaning for later discovery.
Someone uttered those words to me during my high school graduation. I was living in Inver Grove Heights, Minn. after my dad had left the Air Force with 20 years of service under his belt. For the first time in my life, I was living in one place for the foreseeable future and I was not thrilled.
After a lifetime of moving from place to place and meeting new people, I wanted to keep going, experience new things and, frankly, live a life of adventure. To this day, I can’t remember who said those words to me, but I am thankful to them, and at the same time apprehensive of what else life may throw at me.
I joined the Air Force myself, as an officer, and traveled to faraway places, met celebrities like Robin Williams and Patrick Stewart; and worked for generals who are now commentators on CNN. I’ve experienced disasters ranging from ash fall from the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, hurricanes, tornados, wildfires and flooding. I had been on the forefront of history, like on 9/11 when the twin towers fell. It has been my luck to marry a man who attracted trouble just as easily as I have. As the years passed and I had children, I figured our adventure days were in the past. Not so. Strange circumstances and dramatic events keep following us around.
I’ll give you an example. A few years ago, my husband and I were enjoying a rare night out without the kids to celebrate our anniversary. We were sitting at the bar, enjoying a cocktail while waiting for our table for dinner, chatting with each other and, as it was an anniversary, marveling at the life we’ve managed to make together.
As we were chatting, I noticed the bartender behind the bar seemed to be having a bad day. The older gentleman was moving slowly, and fumbling slightly with the glasses, seemingly concentrating hard on his task. I shot my eyes to my husband and he nodded as he had noticed the same thing. We both sighed at that point. Here we go again.
When the bartender slumped, dropping the glass, my husband was quicker than I, hurling himself over the bar to catch the man before he hit the floor. Meanwhile, I was grabbing a waitress to tell her to grab the manager and asking if he had any health conditions that she knew of. Long experience had us moving as a team, I slipped around the bar to take vitals, while Jason, cradling the man, spoke with the manager to explain what had happened.
We stayed with the man and spoke with the 911 operator to relay information to the EMTs that were there within five minutes. I had managed to sweet talk one of the other waiters into sharing his diabetic testing kit and managed to use it so we knew the bartender’s blood sugar numbers were not normal. Once the EMTs arrived, we handed off the bartender to their tender mercy and shared what information we were able to gather.
We were kindly thanked for our help and gently ushered to our table. The manager stopped by to apologize for the disruption and thanked us for helping the bartender. Needless to say, we got our interrupted cocktails for free that night.
When events like this happen, it is the matter of long experience to use our heads and common sense to react and flow with the chain of events. It is nothing that can be taught in schools, and everything to do with experience. It is why I agree with the Johnson County School system policy of teaching students how to do CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. I also think it should be required to teach something else we learned in the military, a little thing called the “self-aid and buddy care”. It teaches troops how to respond to injuries and accidents, basic first aid to help victims reach qualified medical care without hurting themselves or others. It is an expense that can pay for itself many times over with each life touched when this training is used.
In the meantime, I plan on plugging along, letting life throw whatever it may in my path, keeping a good sense of humor and sense of wonder, and doing my best to use what the Lord gave me to do his work, however necessary.



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