Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kickoff Time

The band played the Star Spangled Banner while the football players and the audience stood and saluted the flag. It's Ben's last band season and Logan's first season to suit up and stand on the sidelines as a member of the Junior Varsity. When it hit me that both boys were out there doing something they love, something they have worked hard for, I could not hold back the tears. It was just too much, the beautiful weather, the music, the flag, the uniforms, the joy, and all the work and love that had brought us to that moment swept over me and I lost it. I fought to muffle sobs, wipe my face, and tried to explain to myself why I was crying. I still can't explain it, nor can I recall that moment without crying all over again --  just as I'm doing right now as I try to write about it.

This is the first year with the new band director and the show looks good with recognizable music from Pachelbel's Canon, the Beatles, and Green Day. The band is not yet in uniform, but I like the way they look in their black tee shirts and khaki shorts. Uniform fittings are next week and I'll be busy altering pants for a couple of weeks. The band is young this year -- about half freshmen -- so there will be lots of work to do.

The football team had a great day playing against Saint Joe Belton. The Ozark team won the toss and ran the opening kickoff  back 88 yards for a touchdown. When the other team got the ball, they immediately fumbled and Ozark recovered, scoring another touchdown. Four minutes into the game they scored for the third time. And so it went. The final score was 69-13 and everyone on the sidelines got a chance to play. Logan was thrilled when he got in on the last play of the game. So was I! The weather remained pleasant until after the game and then the skies opened and watered our parched landscape.

Ben spent the evening watching a centipede eat a fly. I joined him long enough to snap this picture and observe just how fast those little buggers can move! I didn't like that part.

Today we celebrated Grandpa Steve's birthday with a midday dinner prepared by Julia and some killer chili made by Ash. John showed us his photos from his recent mission trip to India where they installed water filters in people's homes. He got a great perspective on village life in that part of the world.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Political Rant (1)

Never start with an apology. OK, no apology, but I must explain that my opinions come from a naive perspective, but feel so right and logical to me that sometimes I think I’ll burst if I don’t tell someone.

I’d like to see Mitt Romney’s tax returns not just to see how much he paid in taxes, but I’d also like to know how much he paid in medical expenses. His wife has a serious medical condition and because of his great wealth, I’m assuming no expense has been spared in providing her with superb medical care. I hope his medical health care plan can guarantee all Americans that level of care.

I’m curious also about how much he donated to the Mormon Church. As I understand it, Mormons tithe – give 10% of their income to the church. Of course, if Romney didn’t pay taxes in some years, I guess that meant he had no income and wasn’t obliged to tithe. Not sure how that tithing thing works with the Mormons, is it 10% of the pre-tax income? How much he donated to the church is of course, none of my business, but I’m curious if he is as (dis)honest with the church as he is with the rest of us. I’d also like to know what other causes he lends financial support to; I’d like the opportunity to get to know the man by the company he keeps or at least by the company he supports.

I’m concerned about racial issues as well. The Mormons have only recently accepted blacks into their fold. Romney has 0% of the black vote according to polls. Not surprisingly, blacks will vote for Obama. I’m very concerned about the overall effect a Romney Presidency would have on race relations. 

Then of course, there’s the whole Roe v Wade issue and the definition of rape. Romney needs to make a clear unequivocal statement about his position.  

The Supreme Court: Three justices are in their ‘70’s: two Reagan appointees – Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy; one Clinton appointee – Ruth Ginsberg. A Republican president could pack the court, leaving only three justices appointed by Democrats: Sonia Sotomayer and Elena Kagan (Obama appointees) and Stephen Breyer (appointed by Clinton).

Taxes: Trickle-down economics are a failure. We need taxation at a level that funds defense, infrastructure improvements, and a social welfare floor (universal health care and tax credits), beneath which no one should have to live. 

Prison Reform: Prisons are now a major industry. We have the largest per capita incarceration rate on the planet. I don’t think it’s because we have better laws and are more effective at enforcing them. We have a society that breeds criminals and we criminalize illness. We must sort through the prison population to find out what could have been prevented (outlaw assault weapons) and what could more effectively be served through health care initiatives (mental health and substance abuse).

The bailout: A big mistake, in my opinion. The same funds should have been used to establish public works programs a la Roosevelt in the ‘30’s – programs to rebuild the highway system, promote alternative energy solutions, promote techno-literacy, subsidize public education, etc.

More to come on military spending and taxation, public education, the infrastructure, health care reform, and whatever seizes my mind. 

Please feel free to rant right back at me. I won’t “unfriend” you; I will consider your opinion, try to understand why we don’t agree, and let you know if I change my mind. I'll try to come up with more fully developed, but succinct discussions in the future. For today, it's a shotgun approach to several topics that are bugging me. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Cost of Public Education

I truly believe Ben and Logan are getting a good education in Ozark's public schools. But, it isn't exactly free -- here's an example of some of the fees and supplies expenditures since school let out in May. Our free education has cost nearly $1,000 this summer. 

Band Booster Shirts                 $   40
Band Activity Fees                      160
Chorale Activity Fee                     10    
Speech and Debate activity fee  15
Marketing Activity fee                 10
Football Spirit Pack                     94
Football Booster Club               25
Football pictures                       48
Football buttons                        10
School Pictures                         96
TI - 84 Plus Calculator              99
Misc School supplies                44
Football camp                           50
Drivers Training                      100

(Sorry for the poor formatting -- blogger and I have a disagreement on how to make this a neat column -- I lost).
And then there are clothing items: marching band shoes, football cleats, dress clothes for speech and debate, and a renaissance costume for the Chorale Christmas Madrigal. I'm hoping it will slow down now that school is back in session and the fees and supplies for the fall semester are behind us. This is Ben's senior year and I know that comes laden with expenses for special trips and activities. On top of this we support a rash of fundraisers and donate many volunteer hours. It's exhausting, physically and fiscally. I can't imagine the pressure on the financially strapped working parents. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

And They're Off

 Logan waits for the bus to take him to the first day of his sophomore year. He's 6'1" and 195 pounds and considers himself a jock. His face displays his typically teen-aged sullen attitude. In spite of his best efforts, his kind sweet self often shines through (not this morning, though!). He'll be taking a second year of Spanish, Honors Algebra II, Honors English II, Honors Biology I, Honors Contemporary American History, Marketing, Weight Training, and Competitive Speech and Debate.
Ben is taking the car just because he can; and I have no need for it today. He wants to get there early so he can look around. His classes include: Band, Chorale, French II, English IV, Advanced Placement Calculus, Advanced Placement Physics, Anatomy and Physiology, and Honors World History II. The Advanced Placement classes (Physics and Calculus) are eligible for college credit. He was also qualified for Advanced Placement English, but couldn't work it into his schedule and still take all the music and the other AP classes. I'm certain he will be intellectually prepared for college and we're working on pulling together the social end of it.

It was making me feel weepy to send him off for his last year of high school, but before he could pull out of the driveway, a caravan from next door pulled into the street -- the Dad's truck piled high, Mom's SUV full of boxes, and the daughter's shiny VW bug crammed front and back with odds and ends. She is on her way to Kansas City for a six-year medical degree program. KU has a program that combines medical school and pre-med in an intense six-year program. Now, that brought tears to my eyes. She's an only child -- I can't imagine how wrenching it is for those parents to send her off.

Next door on the other side, child #2 starts high school, and child #1 transfers to Catholic High School in Springfield. All around me are bigger transitions than we face today, so I guess I'll try to cheer up. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hen Party

Friend Sharon had a birthday a week ago and I wanted to celebrate with her. Because she's so skilled at attracting interesting people, I asked her to choose four friends to invite for lunch. And she did. I had a great time planning the party and preparing the food and then they all showed up and the fun began. Going around the table from the left: Louise (from church and she went to St Louis with us a couple of weeks ago) Delys (from church) Sharon, the birthday girl, Sue (also from church) is standing between Sharon and me, and Molly, long-time friend of Sharon and fellow book club member.
We just sat around eating and talking, and oh yeah, there was that Proseco, too. I thought it was a great group -- well done, Sharon! And have a good year.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Crazy Hair Day

 Ben created this look to celebrate Crazy Hair Day at Band Camp. He achieved it by squishing his hair around with his hand, using no gel or any other products. He eschews all enhancers in his grooming rituals except soap and shampoo. Just doesn't think it's natural and he is committed to being natural come hell or high water. Note the natural fuzz on his chin. He has yet to shave (doesn't think it's natural). He'd probably change his mind if he only knew how close to the Hollywood norm he has come!
He's always gone all out for crazy hair day -- his kindergarten version in the picture above. This was not natural, but the result of coloring gel. He did win first prize in the kindergarten division and was quite proud of himself. He hasn't changed all that much!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What To Do?

 My back porch thermometer read 104 degrees when I left home to go grocery shopping. I took a small detour through the neighborhood, looking for houses new on the market so I can both evaluate my asking price and keep tabs on smaller houses I might consider as our next home. Driving down a nearby street, I saw an old woman sitting at the curb in the heat of the sun. It just didn't look right to me, so I stopped and asked if she needed help. And she said yes. She may have been hard of hearing, confused either by the sun or dementia, or maybe not fluent in English, but she seemed unable to put together a sentence to explain what was wrong. She appeared to be about 80 (I took her to be several years older than me) and reasonably healthy. She was carrying a sweater, a carefully folded blanket, some mail, and a wallet. When I asked her if she could stand up, she said, no. Did she want help standing? Yes. I got her to her feet, but she didn't seem to want to walk. She pointed to the nearest house when I asked where she lived, but said no when I asked if anyone was at home. I didn't have my cell phone with me, so I couldn't call for help.

Another car pulled up with a woman and a child in a car seat. We decided she would go knock on the door of the nearby house. A man answered and said yes, it was his mother. We got her into the car and drove her a couple of hundred feet to the house and her son took her in. I hope she's OK. I hope her son realized she might be dehydrated and got her to drink plenty of water. I hope they get an ID bracelet for her.

So many thoughts:
  • If I had my cell phone, I might have called 911. Then they would have incurred a bunch of medical expense and fuss and bother.
  • Maybe I should have called 911, maybe she did need medical attention.
  • Why was she carrying a blanket, her wallet, the mail?
  • Was she going to be safe at home?
  • Did I do the right thing? Should I have done more? Should I respect her privacy? Should I follow up?
  • I must never go out without my phone again!
  • It could have been me -- in fact, it was me, in a way, when I fell in April. 
  • I should have an ID bracelet.