True stories with a twist!

images-10“Why do I have to waste my time studying places I never heard of and will never hear about again? This whole project is a total waste of my time.”

These were the words of one of my high school classmates as our history class began a unit about East Asia. Far East: Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam.

Yes, those countries were remote and beyond the radar of our awarenesses at that time, the wonderfully innocent, relatively trouble-free 1950s.

Way too soon after my classmate’s objection to studying those countries everything changed. We were at war in Korea. Who ever heard of Korea before then? Whether they heard of it or not, every male above eighteen was called to serve in the military. There were no choices. In the days of the dreaded draft, very few young men escaped the call of the army.

Even Elvis Presley had to learn the names of those countries and where they were, as he signed into the army as Private Elvis Presley. We all knew the names of those countries by then. They were in every news headline.

By the time the Korean conflict erupted I had lost touch with many of my classmates. Including the boy in my history class. I sometimes think of those days and wonder what became of him. Was he one of those clueless young guys who suddenly discovered that his life was more closely connected to those countries than he ever could have imagined?  images-9

I don’t know whether he was against learning, against having to study subjects he deemed unnecessary, or whether he was a conscientious objector. I do know he lived at a time when individual opinions were not considered; no one was given the choice of whether to fight or not to fight. Soldiers were not given tests to determine their knowledge of far eastern countries.

What does this subject have to do with today’s situation? Teachers reading this post, may consider getting similar rebellious answers when studying the moon’s topography.

Just assure any questioning students that “You never know what facts of which places you might need to know in the future.”

HI, FRIENDS, THIS EMAIL ARRIVED THIS MORNING. Everything in quotation marks is part of the email.

 

“From: Eric Anderson <lordship-grey@hotmail.co.uk> Subject: Inquiry. Date: June 26, 2014 11:33:13 AM EDT Reply-To: <ausdda@gmail.com>

Good Morning I want to place an order in your store,I will like to know if you ship to Singapore. Do you have credit card facility?Get back to me with your website.I will await your prompt response.

Best Regards, Eric Anderson”

 

This message has SCAM written all over it.

1) I do not have a store.

2) Do I ship to Singapore? HUH?

3) Credit Card facility? Me? Whaaat?   Please be careful out there… Ronnie

images-4Isn’t Google the most incredible source of information the world ever could imagine? Nobody has to drag out the Encyclopedia Britannica to find elusive answers. Nobody has to travel to the library to spend a day at the research department. Nobody has to call a friend to ask.

I am filled with wonderment every time I ask Google a question and within seconds, receive the carefully researched, perfect answer. I am in awe of Google’s brilliance. He’s smarter than the winners of TV’s Jeopardy, can out-spell any top spelling bee champion and is even smarter than the GE Science prize winner and Pillsbury bake-off winner combined.

I depend on Mr. Google to help me clarify all sorts of facts, from the dollar amount of the national debt to a tricky word on a New York Times crossword puzzle. Dear Mr. Google always covers my back. What a capacity for knowledge; what a storage of facts his brain recalls.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I have developed a huge crush on Mr. Google. I dream of life with a being who is so smart, so intelligent, so well read. What would it be like to live with someone who knew all the answers to plumbing, electrical and construction problems? Can you imagine the ecstasy of living with a guy thoroughly enlightened with the Kama Sutra, who knows all of Anais Nin’s work, and even has a passing knowledge of Fifty Shades of Gray? All three editions?

But it’s too late now. If only I had met Mr. G years ago we could have had an exciting and harmonious life. I would be on cloud nine, and all the other happy cliches, having an ideal information source near me at all times. I would be happy to have him by my side, feeding me facts I need as I needed them. I would love that.

Or would I? What would it be like to live with someone who knows everything? Someone who could correct everything anyone said. Someone who could put you down for your ignorance of quantum physics. Nobody likes a wise guy. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Nobody is interested in an opinionated, self-impressed boor.

Would he ever respect my point of view? Would I ever have a chance to express one? Would I remember that I even have my own point of view? Mr. Smarty-Pants would become tiresome quickly. I would get irritated just hearing him expound on his boring old facts. Who really cares about the numbers of the National debt? Look it up in any financial paper, or ask a stock broker. Crossword puzzle answers? Getting the answers is cheating anyway and I shouldn’t be counting on him to get me through the puzzle. Well, maybe Saturday’s puzzle.

My friends would think he was a creep and a nerd with a giant ego. People would avoid us; nobody wants to be second guessed, put down and contradicted at every turn. I’m lucky to have my imperfect, faultlessly human and challenging life. Perfection is overrated. I’ll take “human flaws” any time.

Anyway he probably slurps his soup, bites his nails and perpetually scowls!

 

“I’m prettier than you are,” roared the mountains to the low lying seashore. “     images-2

”Only a fool would attempt to compete with MY beauty,” answered the haughty, self-impressed seashore.”

“You’re just flat and boring,” responded the mountains.”

“You’re jealous of my long, sunny beaches.”images-3

“Are you kidding? My majestic winding trails are fascinating.”

“But you are dangerous to visit. You provide room and board for bears and snakes.”

“And your stinging sea nettles and jellyfish make one step in the water a painfully threatening gamble.”

“Aw, shoot,” spat out the seashore. “Visiting you means subjecting yourself to horrible poisonous plants that make you itch until the skin tears and blood gushes.”

“Look who’s talking. It’s impossible not to walk on your beaches without stepping on sharp pebbles until your feet bleed and get infected.”

“Oh, but just picture a wonderful clambake on the beach at night with a roaring bonfire and everyone singing old songs.”

“That can’t compare with the campfires in the woods with char-cooked hamburgers and hot dogs.”

“Now see here, you two: I am equally proud of all my children, and I am sick of all this bickering. Keep that up and I’ll send you up to the moon so you can see my real masterpiece.”

“Yes, Mother Nature,” they meekly replied as one. “We’ll behave. We won’t fight any more…

But those moonscapes couldn’t possibly be as beautiful as we are.”

images“You’re a writer? What do you write?”

The conversation starts the same way every time I meet a new person who asks what I do.

But today I can say, as an answer to “What do you do?” that I am a world problem-solver. I meet people from one continent on earth and connect them to people on other continents. I have made warm friendships with many of them. More importantly, they have helped each other. As of today I can add the following story with both my sincerity and the wonder of 21st century communication.

The story starts years ago, when three of my stories were published in the Metropolitan Diary column of The New York Times. It was so effortless that I thought submitting articles and having them approved for publication was a snap! I write it, they read it, they publish it, and my resume keeps growing. But those three stories of mine that the Times published were an example of Beginners’ Luck. Since that time I have sent many amazingly brilliant works to various magazines and newspapers. The editors should have jumped to attention, ordered the news room to “Stop the Presses!” and rushed my masterpiece into the next edition.

After a while of going through this frustrating exercise and receiving rejection letters my son suggested, “Why don’t you start a blog? Everything you write will be published, no editors will demand rewrites, and you won’t need an agent.” So I did. It was a great idea, it is great fun, and I have made many wonderful on-line friends whose work I look forward to reading every week.

Today I was responsible for a connection that will hopefully change the direction of someone’s life, and it’s all because of telling two people from other parts of the world that they should contact each other. And here’s why:

A blogger I discovered early in my days of blogging , and whose whose work I very much enjoy is Cecelia, who writes a blog called thekitchensgarden.wordpress.com. Celi was a drama teacher in New Zealand and now lives on a seven acre farm in Illinois. She raises pigs, chickens, cows and bees, and grows all the family’s food.

The second blogger in this story is Uzo, a chemist and story writer from Nigeria who writes a blog called 85degrees.wordpress.com. His stories are exciting thrillers based on tribal laws of his characters. Uzo devoted his recent blog to my book, En Garde, My Battle With Breast Cancer. In that article, after mentioning my book, he says that he is trying to make soap to sell in the markets. Since Nigeria has limited opportunities for employment, and limited manufacturing, an idea that can propel a person to self-employment is advantageous to everybody, including the government.

But the soap making process created a problem that Uzo expressed. I knew from reading Celi’s blog that she makes her own soap and has connections with experienced soap-makers. So I wrote a post to Uzo telling him about Celi and a post to Celi telling her about Uzo. They immediately connected through wordpress and are working on finding a solution to the soap-making process.

That is amazing to me: “Nigeria contacting Illinois!” We keep hearing that “The world is so small.” If more of us could introduce people who could share knowledge and help each other develop skills, it would be a richer place. It is truly uplifting to see how quickly most people respond to the call for help of another human being, and how eagerly they share their expertise with others.

I wish good luck to everyone working hard to come up with that one winning idea, and a real life fairy godmother to come to their aid!

SAY CHEESE

Unknown        That’s what people say when they’re about to take your picture.

I understand the desire to have smiling faces in photos, but I think saying’s “cheese” creates people with phony smiles. The “cheesy smile” doesn’t give anyone to show a smiling expression, but  an expression of one who’s just had a Novocain shot.

A photographer with a great touch for getting real smiles was working at a doctor’s wedding we attended. He told guests to say, “malpractice,” causing everyone to laugh. The pictures showed everyone having a wonderful time.

When I’m facing the camera I think of something funny I’ve experienced; a favorite memory that will elicit a smile.

Which brings me to the subject of coffee. Most people who drink it like fresh coffee. The fresher the better. Freshly ground coffee beans are best of all. The current popularity of the one cup at a time coffee makers attest to this desirability of freshly brewed coffee. When my future husband and I were dating I spent the weekend at his family’s house one weekend, and my future in-laws invited my parents to lunch. The in-law family included his parents, a sister, a brother and an elderly grandmother.

Grandma, I had discovered in previous visits, had her own way of managing coffee. She believed it was a crime to throw food away. So she recycled the family’s coffee. She poured the old brew into a pot, added milk and warmed it up. Then she poured it into individual cups and served it to unsuspecting guests. My father was a coffee purist and one of the “fresher is better” believers. I had never thought to mention grandma’s coffee preparation methods to him.

Dessert time soon arrived. When offered the choices of coffee or tea my father said,”I’d like some coffee, please.” Grandma went into the kitchen to prepare it. Will I ever forget the look on my father’s face when he took a long sip of Grandma’s concoction? The taste was so foreign: so different from what he expected that he almost spit the mouthful of recycled coffee out all over the imagescarefully laid table. One look at his shock and disbelief was one of the funniest sights I ever saw. Its memory remains in my mind, and makes me laugh every time I remember that day.

So I never have to “say cheese” to force a smile; I simply recall the memory of my father reacting to is first taste of “Grandma style coffee.”

It’s early in the morning; what could be struggling so energetically out in the back yard?

I leave my warm, soothing cup of hot green tea and look outside to check out the cause of the activity.      images-6

I see a Robin Red Breast pulling on a long string. His problem is that the string is connected to a pole having something to do with mechanics of the nearby koi pond. The robin doesn’t care about technicalities such as whether strings are tied to poles by humans, not when his needs are materials to build his new spring nest. He remains undeterred by the pole’s stubborn attitude and pulls the string so hard that the force of his mighty bird-strength almost propels him backwards onto his tail feathers.

“Drat,” I imagine him saying, “I’ll show that pole-snatcher not to mess with a Robin during mating season.

And with his new resolve, he marches back to face his foe. This scene continues for a few more rounds, when he flies off into a newly budding tree. I see him there, as yet un-camouflaged by full flowerings of leaves.

There he remains until early the following morning, when the pole begins re-undulating. There, at the base, is the dedicated Robin determined to get a special piece of string to start his new nest.

But nothing has changed; the string is still attached to the pole and no matter of Robin strength will pull it free. I carefully and silently open the sliding screen door, camera in hand, hoping to get a portrait of a man on a mission, in the guise of a bird. But the hint of my intrusion warns him and he flies away.

Time to bring some logic to this situation; I recall my college classes and ask key questions:

1) What is known? Answer: I know the bird wants the string.

2) What is keeping him from reaching his goal? The string has other plans.

3) How can this dilemma be solved? Provide a substitute for his string-fetish.

So I cut pieces of yellow string used for recycling newspapers and scatter them around the stubborn, string-holding pole.

Next morning the bird resumes his task, whistling “To Dream the Impossible Dream,” from the show, “Don Quixote.” He looks longingly at the pole, the impaled long string tantalizingly close to his reach, and yet unavailable, picks up a piece of yellow string and flies away.

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