Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hippity Hoppity

Saturday 9: Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1950)

1) Which do you prefer: colored hard-boiled eggs, chocolate marshmallow eggs, or plastic eggs with coins inside?

A. How about just those nice milk-chocolate egg footballs, or a Cadbury Egg? I love Cadbury Eggs.

2) What's your favorite color of Peeps (yellow, purple, or pink)?

A. I don't like Peeps. My favorite color is blue. Do they make blue Peeps?

3) All this talk of sweets is making the writer of this meme (Sam) hungry. What's for lunch?

A. Yogurt.

4) This song was introduced by country singer Gene Autry and it's still a favorite. Please share some of the lyrics. (And you're on your own; Sam didn't include a link to the song this week.)

A. Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin' down the bunny trail, hippity hoppity Easter's on its way. He's got Jelly Beans for Tommy, colored eggs for sister Sue, there's an orchid for your mommy, and an Easter bonnet, too! (That's from memory, I didn't look it up.)

5) Gene Autry was so popular that a town in Oklahoma named itself for him. Have you ever been to Oklahoma?

A. I think I have driven through Oklahoma, way back in 1976 when I was 12 and my parents drove across the US from Virginia to California. But otherwise, no.

6) In addition to singing, Mr. Autry made 93 cowboy movies. What's the last movie you saw?

A. I guess Game of Thrones isn't a movie, is it. My husband was watching The Waterboy while I was paying the bills the other night, but that doesn't really count as I wasn't paying much attention and I really dislike Adam Sandler movies. The last movie I saw at the theater was The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I don't really watch a lot of movies, as you can tell.

7) He and his horse Champion also had a TV show. Can you name another famous horse?

A. Mr. Ed. He was a talking horse. There was also Secretariat, which won the Triple Crown in horse racing. The Disney movie about him was great. There, that's a movie I have watched.

8) Gene Autry also recorded "Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer," and it was, of course, wildly popular, too. Who is your favorite recording artist?

A. I am partial to both Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow, though I liked both of their earlier works more so than what they are producing today. I don't really have a favorite, more like a certain style of music that I prefer.

9) Back to the holiday celebration at hand -- Easter is considered the season of rebirth. What leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated?

A. A good night's sleep helps. A massage is nice. Inspired conversation with friends is also good. And I like the idea of healthy blood. Everybody needs healthy blood; I'm just not sure how one gets it and keeps it.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Books: The Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings
By Sue Monk Kidd
Copyright 2014
360 pages

This story is inspired by history and the true story of Sarah Grimke, an early abolitionist in the 1830s. In real life, Sarah, at age 11, was given a young slave girl for her handmaid. Sarah taught the young slave to read, and the slave was beaten so severely that she later died.

Kidd reimagines the story, breathing life into both Sarah and Hettie, the slave girl. She allows the slave girl to live, though, and offers the reader a look at what a life in chains - figuratively and literally - really means.

This a book about courage, hope, faith, and women. Mostly it is about women and their need to find their voices - their heartbeats that give meaning to life beyond the prescribed roles dictated by a patriarchal and unforgiving society. I fear it is a tale that still rings true for women even today, for the many who are kept bound by the dictates of economy and lack of education.

It is also a good reminder of the times this country has attempted to leave behind, and a hit upside the head to those who think we have stepped so far that periods like these are best forgotten. We are doomed to repeat what we forget, and this is something better remembered.

I recommend this book highly to anyone who wants to read about virtue and who would like to understand what courage really means. If you are interested in reading how one might go about fulfilling the dreams of life, you might find your own courage in the passages of this book.

The characters portrayed here will be staying with me for a very long time.

Oprah picked this book as one of her book club picks. You can see a short interview with Sue Monk Kidd here. Oprah writes about why she chose the book here. She calls it "a conversation changer" and there is no argument from me. I hope it changes conversation in the living room of every home.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday Thirteen #340

Here are some folk remedies. These all come from Folk Medicine: A New England almanac of natural health care from a noted Vermont country doctor, by D. C. Jarvis, M.D., copyright 1958. These are listed for entertainment purposes only; I have no idea if any of them work.

1. To lose weight, sip two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water AT EACH MEAL.

2. For chronic fatigue, add three teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a cup of honey. Place the mixture in a wide-mouthed jar. Take two teaspoons just prior to going to bed.

3. Two teaspoons of honey taken at each meal will prevent headaches. If a headache occurs, take a tablespoon of honey immediately.

4. For high blood pressure, increase your consumption of apples, grapes, cranberries, or their juices.

5. For dizziness, take two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in water every day.

6. Gargle with a mixture of one teaspoon of vinegar to a cup of water for a sore throat every hour. Swallow the mixture after gargling.

7. Honey is an efficient way to end bed-wetting.

8. For a cough, boil one lemon slowly for 10 minutes. Cut the lemon in two and extract the juice. Add two tablespoons of glycerin. Add honey until you have filled the drinking glass. Take one teaspoon at a time. Stir before taking.

9. Chewing honeycomb helps with breathing disturbances.

10. Chew honeycomb once a day for a month before hay-fever season; your symptoms will either not appear or be mild.

11. Kelp helps with heart pain. (If you are having chest pains, please see your doctor right away.)

12. Foods such as radishes, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, rhubarb, potatoes, peas, strawberries, mushrooms, lettuce, bananas, cabbage, egg yolk, and onions can help add iodine to your diet. Cod liver oil is also rich in iodine.

13. When you are expecting an active day, omit wheat foods, wheat cereals, white sugar, and citrus fruit and fruit juices from your morning meal. Instead eat rye or corn foods and cereals. Use honey for sweetener. Eat an apple, grapes, or cranberries.

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here. I've been playing for a while and this is my 340th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mustard Meadow

In a number of hayfields around the area, you see a profusion of mustard flowers. My husband said the mustard came in with alfalfa seed several years ago; thus the great masses of yellow.

I think it looks quite lovely but it doesn't make for very good hay. This field needs to be reseeded.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday Rant

Today is tax day in the United States. All taxes from last year are due today.

It is also the day quarterly taxes for the current year are due if you pay estimated taxes. Small business owners are likely to do this.

In the last presidential election, there was a lot of talk about how half of the country (it's really about 46 percent) doesn't pay federal taxes. The talk never centered on the reason why these folks don't pay federal taxes.

It's because they are too poor. These are low-income folks, many of whom are elderly (remember, we're an aging population). They're the people who work for minimum wage at fast food places, in retail, and other service jobs. They are the backbone of the country and the tax rate is structured to keep them from being burdened with taxes. Otherwise they wouldn't be able to eat.

It is worth noting that tax cuts enacted under the Bush administration - under a Republican president - also reduced the tax burden on people who probably could afford it. Those cuts increased child tax credits, earned income credits, and increased deductions and other exemptions. All of that had the effect of increasing the number of people who pay minimal taxes.

However, very few people pay no taxes. There are state taxes, local taxes, food taxes, gas taxes, and no end of fees out there. I don't see how anybody can escape them entirely.

In Sunday's edition of Parade, they ran their annual "What People Earn" article. The thing I always find most striking about these articles is what it reveals about what we value as a society. We value entertainment more than public safety, for example. Sports over national security. If we didn't, then the paychecks would reflect different priorities. It also indicates that different areas of the country have different value systems.

Matthew McConaheghey earns $19 million. An assistant to the mayor in Seattle earns $80,000. A fire chief in Utah makes $110,000. Here locally, our county administrator makes about $132,000 (that's not in the article, that's just something I know). A library director in West Virginia makes $8,840. A stadium beer vendor in Pennsylvania makes $12,000. Vice President Joe Biden makes $230,700. A Montessori teacher in Idaho earns $26,000. A firefighter in Indiana earns $52,000. A mental health counselor in New Mexico earns $31,200.

Does it not concern you that 46 percent of the people in this country are too poor to pay taxes? Shouldn't that give you pause? Shouldn't we, en masse, as a society, stop and reexamine our value system?

Is this healthy? You can't expect the disabled or the elderly to get out and work harder. You can't expect the low income-earner to do better when there aren't jobs out there. We've reached a point where people simply have no upward mobility because the jobs aren't there. You can't go from flipping burgers to a nice union job at the Ford Motor Company anymore. Those higher paying jobs in production have vanished, sent overseas or done away with because a robot can turn a screw.

I have a little house that I rent out. I have figured out that in order for someone to live there and be comfortable, they really need an income of about $36,500.  That's one person. That's well above the poverty level in this country, but I think that should be the bottom line. That's $100 a day to eat, pay rent, put gas in the car, pay for heat and electricity, and pay taxes. Maybe on that $36,500 you could go out to eat once in a while. I would consider this amount to be a living wage.

The inequality of salary and our declining value system, the one that puts going to the movies or watching sport over having the house fire put out or health care issues taken care of, concern me more than any other issue taking place in this land. I think there are solutions available for this problem that would solve other problems, too.

For example, what if there was a program that trained young men how to solarize a home? What if every household became a more green environment? That's a lot of jobs in construction right there. What if we each had a windmill?

Our infrastructure is failing. The electric grid needs work. Roads are falling apart. There is a lot of work to do and little will to fund it. What would make you happier, paying a little more in taxes so a road can be repaired, or having the road repaired by some big corporation that then charges you a $2 toll every time you go through it? Aren't you still paying for it either way?

What if we built more hospitals, trained more nurses and doctors, and had the health care that would truly make the United States the most enviable country in the world when it came to taking care of its citizens?

What would happen, do you think, if we put people over profits? What if we tried to become the happiest country on earth instead of the richest?

Virginia is often rated high as a "great state for business." It always irks me because I don't want to live in a great state for business. I want to live in a great state - a great nation - for people. I want this country to be the best that it can be, and that means it puts people - you, and you, and me - first.

Not the Koch brothers, not Exxon, not Monsanto. But us, We the People of the United States, who long ago joined together to create a more perfect union.

If we do not change this, if we do not once again come together as a society that cares about one another, that sees inequality and does something about it, then this grand experiment is over, and we have failed.

Pay your taxes today, and be grateful that you earn enough to have to write the check. There are an awful lot of people out there who do not have that opportunity. They are not lazy, they are not slobs, they are not objects of derision. They are people who work just as hard as you do, but maybe have had a little less luck or fewer opportunities.

In a blink of an eye, that person could be you. All it takes is one car wreck, one house fire, one heart attack, one lawsuit. And you'd better damn well not forget it.