Honor code

I was brought up to be honest.   I shoplifted a box of Jell-O when I was four because I loved raw Jell-O.  My mother took me back to the grocery store.  She made me apologize to the manager and pay for it out of my five-cents-per-week allowance.  Thanks, Mom.

George always said I was a twit.  Although he was very honest, he thought I made too much of it.  Whenever I noticed I was undercharged for an item, I always brought it to the attention of the store.  I won’t go on with other examples but, yes, I am a twit.

In 1969, we moved to Charlottesville, VA, where I started  work on a master’s of education at the University of Virginia.   In those years, the campus was segregated by gender.  Women could only attend classes in the School of Education and no other departments because–well, I don’t know why not.  However, all students had to attend a meeting about the HONOR CODE which was very important then.    We listened to a speaker explain honor for thirty minutes, then had to sign an honor pledge.  I was married with a small child and had only cheated on a test once in my life, in sophomore general science and have felt shame for years.  This is the only time or place I’ve confessed that.  But, very simply, when working on a master’s degree, I wasn’t going to cheat on a test or do anything dishonorable and felt a little insulted I had to listen to an explanation of honor as if it were a virtue I’d never understood or considered, then sign a pledge that I would be honorable.

Those who already plan to cheat are not going to be stopped by signing a pledge.  They’re perfectly willing to lie if they plan to cheat.

I reflect on this because of what we’re hearing about the great number of rapes on college campuses that are not investigated, are covered up, when the woman is encouraged not to call the police or to rock the boat or to open herself to the inevitable attacks that come when a woman cries rape.

And in the midst of all this is the University of Virginia.  I wonder if a campus leader still discusses the importance of being honorable, the need to be an honorable gentleman and Cavalier.  Does that leader realize there are men in the audience who don’t consider rape to be a dishonorable action?  Or perhaps some–yes, a small minority but a woman who is raped for three hours by seven men considers that to be a huge number of men–believe the woman wanted it or deserved it or shouldn’t have been drinking so she couldn’t consent or say no.  Obviously there a few young men who haven’t been taught what honor really means, didn’t learn during the required meeting about the honor code that all deserve to be respected, even women.  Seems to me that many universities ignore those offenses because they believe the reputation of their institution is more important than the protection of all their students. Or perhaps they believe boys will be boys.

Yes, the great majority of students consider these crimes reprehensible; the behavior of the university, unfathomable and, perhaps, criminal.  This weekend, crowds marched across the beautiful campus of the University of Virginia, protesting the lack of honor by these men and the less than honorable actions by the administration.

NBC News said tonight that since 1998, 180 UVa students have been expelled for honor code violations.  None of those infractions were for sexual assault.  Does this suggest that as long as a man doesn’t cheat on a test, whatever else he may do is just fine?

Which brings up my question:  Why bother with an honor code?

What a difference

imagesThe other day, I asked a woman how she met her husband.  “I worked for the government in DC at the end of World War 2. While I waited for transfer to France, I went to a small store to buy clothes.   The owner said she had a nephew there with the FBI and gave me his name and phone number, telling me to call him. I did. We went out and got married a few months later.  I always wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t gone to that store or told the owner my story.”

I ended up teaching Spanish for thirty years because my mother didn’t like the French teacher in high school and enrolled me in Spanish.   Because a huge percentage of my life and income has been based on speaking Spanish, I can’t get my brain around the imagesdifference in my life because of a chance remark from the French teacher to my mother.

In your life, do you see a place where you might have been a different person if one tiny event had been different?

Do you see a way chance or coincidence changed you life?  I wonder what I’d be like today if I’d majored, for example, in PE.

The tiniest difference

imagesAs I imagine you all know, the First World War began one-hundred years ago when Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand.    During the years of the war, nineteen million soldiers died.  19,000,000.  Nineteen million.

What we don’t realize is the inciting incident of the war to end all wars happened due to chance and bad communication.  Several nationalists had planned to assassinate the Archduke that morning but following a plan riddled with mistakes, didn’t get closer than one grenade that missed the car of the Archduke and his wife.  Later in the morning and after that initial incident, the driver of the Archduke’s car took a wrong turn because no one had told him the route had been changed.  The car stalled only a few feet from where Princip stood.   He took out a gun and shot both the Archduke and his wife from five feet away.

Would history have changed if the driver had been given the correct information or if imagesPrincip hadn’t been released by the police?  Probably not because nations determined to go to war will find a context.   Remember the Gulf of Tonkin  Resolution? Weapons of mass destruction? However, the spark probably would come at a different time and a different place.

My challenge for you:  think of a moment in history that could have gone one way or another if one tiny event had changed.  What if Columbus had headed north?  Or if President Lincoln had had better security or gone to bed early?   I’d love for you to share that.

 

The medicine is worse than the disease

imagesIf you’ve read my Facebook posts, you know I’ve been sick for two weeks.  I thought it was allergies until I woke up with a cough that hurt my entire body and a voice like a dying  buffalo.  Another hint I’m really sick is that I wake up in the middle of the night hearing a very soft, “Meow, meow,” and realize the sound is coming not from a cat but my lungs.  Finally went to the doctor who gave me a strong antibiotic, a steroid pack, codeine-laced cough syrup and several inhalers.  I think she was worried about me.

And for two weeks, I suffered not only the breathing/coughing problems but also the side effects of the drugs.

I don’t take steroids because I experience ‘roid rage.   Terrible, terrible ‘roid rage.  I’ll be chatting with a friends and, suddenly and without warning, flames come out of my mouth.   This time, I’ve stayed home and talked to as few people as possible because I do like to keep my friends and I don’t want anyone to gossip about the vicious woman in apartment 514.

With the antibiotic, I discovered two side effects after I looked them up last week: imagesconfusion and extreme drowsiness.  Not a surprise.  I was so confused and sleepy, I was barely able to google the side effects.   Add to that the cough syrup with copious amounts of codeine and I might as well stay in bed so I wouldn’t hurt myself or others.   In my confusion, I forgot the time change and arrived at church an hour early Sunday–just in time for Sunday school.   About the drowsiness:  Saturday I sat down to a full day of college football and slept through entires halves.  Once I slept through most of a game and woke up to see teams in uniforms I didn’t recognize.

DSCN0445One of my favorite times of the day is after breakfast when I sit on the sofa, drink coffee and watch the news with one cat on my lap and the other next to me.  The three of us slept all morning.   I tried editing a book and kept falling asleep on the pages.    When a writer falls asleep while reading her own novel–well, not a good sign.

And the confusion!   I looked for an early voting place and never found it.  I called about an electric bill which I don’t owe and never understood the explanation.    I worried I’d entered the zone of elderly confusion but, having taken the lat of the antibiotic on Saturday, I discover the fog has cleared.

I’ve lost two weeks but am well.  Thank goodness.  Excuse me.  I think I’m going to take a little nap now.

Things that go BEEP in the night and during the day

imagesThis morning I woke up to the sound of beeps.   The complex is getting a facelift.  The Conservatory is beautifully maintained which takes a great deal of work.  So for a week we’ve had cherry pickers ascending and descending with a lot of beep-beeps.   After the first few, the cats settled down.  I didn’t do that nearly as well which surprised me because I thought they were much more high maintenance than I.  It took me two days until I stopped noticing the beeps.

The other day, I heard very light beeps, about four or five minutes apart.  The tone wasn’t loud enough for me to discover where it came from–odd because this is a very small apartment.  I got a chair and put it in the middle of the kitchen where I sat to try to locate the sound.  Nothing.  I moved to the hall.   All this movement away from them worried the Maggie-and-Toy1cats.  They followed me every place my chair and I went meowing and generally upset.  I finally decided it was  low battery on the sprinkler system and called maintenance to take care of it.  Aah, the luxury of having people who do these choirs.

Then there was another beeping that came at varying times and I could not catch the culprit no matter how I listened.  Finally figured out it was a warning the battery on my cell running down.  Most of you probably know that, but I’m helplessly behind with cellphones.  If I plug it in, I’m fine.  If not, I wonder where that buzzing’s coming from.

The  sounds I love to hear come from real creatures:  Scooter purring and Maggie meowing loudly to nag me to come with with her and pet her.  People outside laughing and enjoying.  The sounds of people dining together or laughing in water aerobics.

For sounds are not always noise.  They warn and comfort and remind us that we aren’t alone, that the world is going on and we can join in.

Whoops–the beep on the dryer just sounded.  Excuse me while I fold sheets.

Courtesy at the H-E-B

kindness-is-contagiousI went to the H-E-B grocery store yesterday.  As sometimes happens, I was really tired and drove the little electric cart around to pick up the items I needed.   This happens a few times a year–when I hurt or exhausted–and every time I think I need to write about how rude people are to the handicapped.   So, here I go.

Many able-bodied people (a pejorative in some circles) see a person in a wheelchair or the electric mobility aid and think, “Slow.  Must get ahead of.  Must get around.”   I have seen shoppers actually hurdle the feet of people in wheelchairs or dash in front of me so I have to hit reverse suddenly so I don’t run over them.   It’s as if there were a race with money riding on who got the loaf of bread and carried it to check-out first.  Why?

Even worse than the shoppers who do this are the workers there who have nearly pushed me out of the way in their haste.   I’m a woman of little patience but I’ve learned it in the grocery store because otherwise I’d probably start yelling profanities.   Yes, I write the sweet books in which the characters don’t use those words, but I have heard them and I could use them.

So I beg of you, concede the right-of-way or wait and please don’t run in front of handicapped people.  It shows more about you than you might think and teaches your children a negative lesson.

What can shoppers do to help?  At first, when people in front of me in the check out lane asked if they could unload my cart for me, I was insulted.  I can take care of myself, thank you.   Now I appreciate the offer and accept it.

Also, if there’s something on a high shelf or in a freezer case, offer assistance.  I can stand on my own but getting up and down often is painful and many in wheelchairs cannot.    We can always turn you down but I’m always grateful for the possibility.

Treat handicapped people as you treat anyone else.  I have a brain.  Talk to me.  Don’t ask my friend if I want something.   Ask me.

Wander around the store to see if it seems accessible and tell the manager if it’s not.  Today I’m calling my local H-E-B because in the bakery department, many small tables had been set up to display items, so many that I had great trouble getting around.  I had to back down aisles, move back and forth to make a turn.  If I’d been going straight, the aisles were wide enough but having to turn, no.

What else can you thing of?   I’d like to add to the list.

 

Baseball and my lack of a moral compass

10610469_10152750714193373_7906439356951706763_nI loved baseball all my life–until the strike.

My father loved nearly all sports and started taking me to games when I was three or four.  My family spent cool autumn Saturdays in Lawrence, Kansas, attending University of Kansas games and drove from Kansas City to Lawrence once a week during basketball season to watch the Hawks.

In the summer, we went to Kansas City Blues games–minor league baseball–until the Athletics came.  I even interviewed the manager of the A’s for my high school newspaper.  When the A’s left for California, I became a Royals fan and, because we lived in Hays, Kansas, for five years, we went to several games every summer.  I was in the stands when George Brett was hitting .385.   During tornado warnings–which came weeklin in Western Kansas–we sat in the basement and listened to games.

George’s favorite story was when I was sitting next to two men who were keeping score and arguing about a play and if a player should get an RBI.  I leaned over and said, “The run scored on an error so it was an unearned run and no RBI.”

Then the strike hit in 1994 and  World Series was cancelled.  I was irate.  Furious.  I mean, really, really angry.   I vowed, “If you’re going to take away my World Series, I’m not going to another game.”   I kept that vow for  years.

For years, once a week George would look at the standings in the newspaper and say, “You don’t want me to tell you about the Royals.”   I didn’t ask.

Then, last year, the Royals started doing well and hooked me only to break my heart.  This year, I got interested after the All-Star break although I could only watch games with Texas teams.  Others were blacked out.

And I discovered something terrible about myself.   I had not stopped being a baseball fan due to a moral stand.   I no longer watched baseball because the Royals were a terrible team.  Yes, I have to confess this:  I am a fair-weather fan.  I also want to confess I’m having a lot of fun this post season!

Lessons from a move are never learned. They just fade away . . .

As I look back, here’s what I’ve learned with this move

images1)  Moving is even worse than I remembered.   I didn’t want to move. Before I made that decision,  I recalled that every move I’ve made–except those way back when I possessed so little everything  fit in the trunk of my car–has been horrible.  One of my friends said that God did everything to get me to move and that took a great deal but, fortunately, God’s will is omnipotently stronger than mine.

2)    I never give away enough when I downsize.   When George and I moved from the house at Buchanan Dam with a shed and carport, I had that planned out with a place for every piece of furniture marked with tape.   But not on this move.   I’d given so much away, I felt sure there would be plenty of room.  Somehow over the two months before I moved here, the apartment got smaller.  As the movers brought in boxes, they laughed, a lot, about how I was going to get these piles of boxes into this much smaller place.  I had to call a junk company to carry off a large piece of the computer desk so I could move from my study to my bed without having to climb over furniture.   I’ve also made several trips to the Salvation Army with the trunk of my car full of little stuff.  And all those baskets I mentioned in an earlier blog?  I hope the Salvation Army has use for about twenty of them.

3)  Friends are wonderful.  Many, many thanks to those who gave of their time and muscles and boxes to help.  I couldn’t have done without them.

Yes, I’m here and am thrilled by the new possibilities.  I feel safer with an extra level of security.  In the previous apartment, the turnover was so great, I didn’t know anyone but the noisy neighbors overhead who delighted in bothering  the old witch downstairs    Here, there are no hyperactive children or crazily macho fathers and the soundproofing is great.   The pool is larger and heated and there are people who want to get to know their neighbors.  

What I’ve learned is that moving can take me to a better place and I’m really happy about that.  What doesn’t make me so happy is that moving takes three months out of my life every time!

Any uplifting stories of moves you’d like to share?

 

My life by tote bags

toteIn an earlier blog, I mentioned my problems with organization, how I use baskets and notebooks and colors to keep track of all my stuff and what I should be doing.   In THE MATCHMAKERS OF BUTTERNUT CREEK, Gussie uses different totes for the various sections of her life.  Yes, I took that from my life.  I had one tote for school–a very large one–another for church, and many others for volunteer activities.

Today, I mostly use my totes for shopping and realize anyone looking at them would learn a great deal about my life.   One is from an anniversary of the founding of my college sorority at Kansas State.  Whenever I carry that, I make sure my hair looks good, my shirt is clean, and my shoes don’t look too ugly.  I do that because living here in Austin, I fear a young collegiate Theta will see me and think, “I didn’t think alums looked that bad.”

I have another with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) logo on it.  This is a communion chalice on a St. Andrews Cross.  That cross is on its side and looks like the letter X which causes people to ask me if I’m a member of the temperance league.

Another tote has this written on it:  “My  hero can kick your hero’s . . .”  Well, I’ll allow you to fill that in so I won’t insult any readers.   I have totes with Romance Writers of America conference themes and one with the symbol of one of my publishers, all of which might tip people off that I’m a writer.

Many years ago, my dear mother-in-law gave me a tote with “Cats and Books” on it.  That pretty well fills in my other interests:  pets and reading.

What’s your favorite tote?  What does it tell people about you?

Cats do the darndest stuff

When I moved into my new apartment, I realized there is no ceiling fan–the first room I’ve seem without one since we moved to the South nearly thirty years ago.   I bought myself a small fan to put on the table next to me.,  Oddly, this fascinates the cats when it’s on.  Of course they like to have the breeze blowing in their faces but, even more, they love the taste of the fan.  It’s plastic.  When it’s on, they lick it and lick it.   Fortunately, they can’t get their tongues inside the grill–well, until Maggie, the timid, quiet cat, attempted to bite off the plastic grill.    I don’t allow that.  For her safety, I turn the fan off when I’m out of the room.   When I see her chewing, I give her a little push and say, “No”–cats always respond so well to “No”–but this does not deter her.

Okay, all you cat people out there, please help.  Why does she do this and how to stop her?   Please do not lecture me on the danger involved–I understand this.  I’d just like some insight into her tiny brain.

Seven years ago, George made a rope at one of the craft centers in Vacation Bible School.  He brought it home and gave it to Scooter, his gorgeous and self-centered cat.  Scooter loved it.  Why would a cat like a six-foot length of handmade rope?   This soon became like worry beads to Scooter.  When he’s upset or feels abandoned, he drags the rope around the apartment and makes the saddest, most heart-rending meows you’ve ever heard.  When I’m gone, I can tell if he’s felt alone because the rope has been moved from one room to another.

So, another questions for you cat people:  Why does a cat drag a rope around when he’s sad?

Many thanks to all for helping me understand feline behavior.