Monday, December 26, 2011

A Beautiful Christmas Walk With Abigail, My Copilot on the Chariot

A lovely bridge to start the walk

Abigail off leash-trying to choose which way to go

I think I heard a twig snap-this way!

She's so enjoying this!

An area for families to play

For future rock climbers

This bird is native to Texas, but I'm not sure the name

A brief rest to reconnoiter

Passed this couple twice-taking turns on the phone. they were with a gorgeous Weimerainer, who was just too fast to snap a picture of.
The road of life has many curves

A tree cave...I wonder what creature abides in there?

 Mouth of the crick

Civilization looms-even here

And, of course, some jerk had to toss a soda bottle. Even these decomposing leaves wont' help break down this plastic for several thousand years. 

There's just something about a babbling brook! 

Another babbling section. Sometimes they make me think of Hank Williams (the real one) and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" No explanation for some feelings, I guess.

I love waterfalls too. Even man made ones.

A real bridge to nowhere

Really, People!?

This is a trash barrel about 30 yards from all that trash in the water. Those morons had to work harder to get the trash into the creek. Sheesh!

A gorgeous golden asks to greet Abigail
Oh, wait, there's TWO!

It's been real. Gotta go!
It looks like a dead end to this home's fence, but the trail shifts left.

Wonder how old the leaves are that made these fossil images? They're so clear! :-)

I walk at a good clip for a fat chick, but not that fast! Oh-it's for bicycles. Silly me!

If we get lost and never return, you'll find us here

Poor Santa! So much build up to the big day, and when it's over, he's totally deflated!

No wonder Herod couldn't find the manger; it is hidden in the Mira Vista subdivision of Fort Worth!(There were a couple of cool dogs here too, but they were too quick to get pictures of .) But really, what is this structure?

Mom, I think it's this way-but I'm getting worried!

So, this is what it looks like when reindeer scrape their antler fuzz-it sparkles!! Or maybe they collided with this tree and that's why Santa was flat in that guy's yard? 

Still can't resist that babbling brook thing.

This sight depressed me. But it is, after all, a city park. 

Three weeks ago, these trees were vivid with color. Oh well, I guess it's to be expected three days after solstice.

Something's not right here. We've come too far.

Will we get back in time for the movie? Check my phone-we've got one hour to make our way back. Can we do it? We've been walking for an hour. That's about 4 miles...AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!

Definitely lost. But a recognizable landmark. Head EAST X SOUTH, Ye Wanderers. 

Well, we were only about a mile out of our way, and we learned a little about the geography of the area. The walk back was on the road in a residential neighborhood. We made it home, and Dad was worried that we were gone so long, but we made it home for the movie and the day was a great one after all. 

Ahhhhhhh-Dad giving Abigail a foot tummy rub. All is right with the world. 

But why'd he have to stop?



Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Believe It's Called A "Murder"

I've always wondered who came up with many of the collectives we use, and why. The guy who came up with "a murder of crows" has particularly intrigued me. Possibly he had some experience with a bunch of crows that lead him to claim that this was an appropriate collective. Sometimes we use the same collective for different things. There is more than one animal that is called a "herd" in the collective. So I would think that if I decided that a "murder" of employees of a certain multi-national super store chain in which I am budgetarily forced to shop, it shouldn't stir up too much fuss. This feeling is particularly intense right now, I'm guessing now,  based on unprofessional self analysis, because of their holiday commercials in which perky, articulate staff, which I have never actually found in one of their stores, happily help people do their holiday shopping. So today I am chatting with the very nice lady who was checking me out and she started to put my bag of potatoes in a plastic bag. I shouldn't fuss at her-I usually bring my own bags, but I said to her, in my best plain English, "No, thank  you-those don't need to be in a bag." We continued chatting about grandchildren and such, when I added, "You can put more things into the bags, and put non-food items in bags with food, I don't mind; I'm a fan of the fewest possible bags." Those were my exact words!!!!!!! I can't emphasize enough that those were my exact she cluelessly put only one or two items in each bag, and complimented me on how "patient" I am. Patience is not the reason I want fewer bags! I was so frustrated that I had to fight back tears as I put ALL THOSE PLASTIC BAGS in my truck. Yes, I recycle. Yes, I should never leave the house without my reusable bags, but please-I did say something, and she did smile and nod as if she understood

While in that line, I saw something that really stuck in my craw, as we say in Texas. Vaseline in little jars, selling itself as "the original lip therapy." Now they are using Carmex sized containers so we can all have them in our purse. First of all, I don't think anyone wants to hear me rant again about packaging. If anyone were listening to me, there would be a movement against Sunsweet Prunes being wrapped in individual plastic wrappers, etc. But I developed a bad case of liberal guilt about using Vaseline on my lips YEARS ago. What is Vaseline? Petroleum jelly. Petrol....that means it is a petroleum product, as in made from non-biodegradable oils products that will never break down. Never in any meaningful sense of the word. It also ONLY comes in plastic jars. Statistically only about three percent of people recycle, so that's an unimaginable number of plastic containers, made with petroleum products, being filled with petroleum products that add to our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels. Does anyone see a pattern here?

But not all was bad in the grocery shopping today. I needed coffee. My husband will not drink any coffee that doesn't come from Starbucks, so I stopped at Starbucks to get a pound of Morning Joe Blend and a salted caramel mocha. We like the Morning Joe Blend flavor, which is really just a repackaging of the Starbucks Gold Coast Blend, but with the Morning Joe Blend some of the money goes to educational programs. And I have a hard time resisting the Salted Caramel Mocha, even though drinking coffee in the late afternoon is usually a bad move for me. The nice lady at the microphone took my order, but when I got to the window, I saw the hottest barista I have ever had the pleasure of being served by. So the day wasn't a total loss. I must also add, he asked me if I wanted the coffee in a bag. My lungs dropped, and I sucked in hard and smiled and, looking at all the grocery bags in the cab next to me and I said, "How many bags does one person need after all." He smiled-gorgeous teeth, green eyes that were clearly not contacts, and said, "I guess that depends on the person." Yes indeed, Handsome. Yes indeed.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The War On Holy Days

Before I explode into the rant I've been holding back for the last couple of weeks, I've seen a couple of things lately that brought a smile. One of them was on my Altoids tin. Now, I LOVE Altoids, especially the Cool Honey and Ginger flavors. Right now I have a tin of ginger ones, and, as is my habit, I looked at the label the other day and was very confused by the ingredient list: "Naturally flavored with other natural flavors." What does that even mean?

I also picked up the adorable Santa snow globe my Secret Santa at work gave me in order to shake it up and make it snow. I noticed a sticker on the bottom that said, "For Decorative Purposes Only." As opposed to what?

I know this is off the subject of holidays, but I've been reminded this week of the argument over earmarks. A couple of congressman have introduced a bill that would make them illegal. My question is, how exactly will an earmark be defined? And why are they going after less than one percent of the budget when there is still so much wasteful spending and so many unnecessary subsidies to corporations that make those nasty earmarks look almost invisible. One man's earmark is another man's representing his constituents.

I am an atheist. Or non-theist. Or humanist, or rationalist...whatever name one chooses to call it. I've been this way for a long time. Longer actually than I knew myself. I was raised in the church, and was active for a long, long time. But I'm not really sure that I ever actually believed. In the mental health field, this is called "fake it til you make it." I never made it, and finally had to admit that I am not a  believer. I have friends on both sides of this divide, and it was quite a surprise when I realized that my non-believing friends are frequently more moral and ethical than those on the religious side. I think there are several reasons for this; not the least of which is that if this life is all we have, then how we treat our fellow man matters a great deal. Another reason, one that I was taught in church, is that Christians have forgiveness for "all sins, past, present and future." So according to that line of belief, once you "accept Jesus," it doesn't matter what you do, you have forgiveness. Isn't that convenient? There are even passages written by Paul in the New Testament in which he gives a rationalization for this: My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak." We are besieged by Satan and temptation all of our lives, even when we have invited the Holy Spirit into our lives. Of course, these sins we commit after being saved won't send a believer to hell;  the believer has forgiveness. But it may prevent that person from leading someone else to believe.

But the code-the morals that are taught in the New Testament: love your neighbor as yourself; treat others the way you wish to be treated; be humble and not arrogant; don't be materialistic are all notions that can make all of our lives better. The Code of Hammurabi, an almost exact precursor to the Ten Commandments was produced circa 1772 BC. The first version of what we now call "The Golden Rule" is from around 624 BC. Scientists have suggested that the desire we have to live in cooperative communities has contributed to the ability of humans to survive and thrive all over the world. Cooperative communities certainly gave humans an advantage when we moved to hunter-gatherer societies. Just like wolf packs can catch prey much larger than any individual wolf, when humans cooperate, survival is more likely.

But this is all just background noise for me right now. It is Christmas. Which occurs on December 25th. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah comes first; it is the eight days from December 20 through 28. Winter festivals of light also include Saturnalia, Mithras (very similar to Christmas,) Brumalia, Loi Krathong from Thailand, and Diwali from India. The reason the early church decided to celebrate Jesus' birthday around December 25th was in order to incorporate what pagans were already doing. It is all about the return of the sun after the winter solstice, or the "shortest day of the year." That way it was easy to claim that Jesus was the light of the world, and thus the days become longer after his celebration day. In the African American celebration of Kwanzaa, the dates are December 26 to January 1.

So, when did it become about material gifts? According to an old friend of mine, who is Jewish, Hanukkah was not about gifts until the Jewish children began to feel left out with all the gentile children getting so much in the way of material things for Christmas. I confess to not knowing how the other religions in my list celebrate their festivals of light, though I'm sure there are candles and lanterns involved.

The American economy is in the crapper. It has been since 2007-that's when the recession officially began. That was almost five years ago, and it is turning back only very, very slowly. The wealthy have done very well during these five years, but the middle and working classes have done terribly. The average male salary has gone down every year since 1973. That is nearly forty years  the standard of living for middle class Americans has been going down. But this year, the spending on Christmas is up beyond any expectations. Not only does the spending appear to be going up, people are using credit cards. Not bank debit cards, credit cards. Too much spending on credit was one of the problems that started our whole downward spiral! And there are, once again, multiple stories of violence as shoppers rush through stores to get their best possible deals on the things they "need" the most. So, despite my feelings about the adopted reason for this celebratory season, I am reminded once again of my distaste for the hypocrisy that surrounds Christmas. While Bill O'Reilly is shrieking about the so-called "War on Christmas," and people are macing each other to get the best sale merchandise, I would only say that I am not ashamed or embarrassed at all to say to anyone, "Happy Holidays." And for all of you who find that offensive, consider its root; basically I'm telling you, Happy Holy Days." It isn't about Christmas, which even Christian scholars say is not Jesus' real birthday, it is about acknowledging that for all of the time that humans have lived cooperatively together, the time of year in which the sun finally begins to stay out longer has been considered holy.