Wednesday, March 19, 2014


After three years of conflict and turmoil, Syria is now one of the most dangerous places on Earth to be a child,” concludes the report by UNICEF. (Feb. 11, 2014) " least 10,000 children have been killed. The real number is likely to be even higher.

According to an article this week in Newsweek Frontiers Without Medicine, 60% of the hospitals or clinics in Syria have been damaged or destroyed, and 50% of the doctors have fled the country. Children are dying at an alarming rate due to curable diseases. No medical care, vaccines or drugs are available in so many of these war-torn areas. Newborns in incubators are dying as power is cut by bombing. Sadly, many more are dying of starvation in areas that are blocked from receiving any humanitarian aid by both the Syrian army and the rebels. It is estimated that at least one million children live in areas under siege.

Doctors Without Borders or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) "stands for an impartial humanitarian action, independent from all political, economic and religious powers." (Wikipedia) The Nobel Prize-winning nonprofit organization of volunteer doctors and medical personnel is one of the groups currently working in Northern Syria at great personal risk. Four of their personnel were kidnapped in January, and 34 members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (Red Cross) have been killed since the war started. Doctors Without Borders needs our financial support (even though the doctors are volunteers money is needed for equipment and supplies), as does Save The Children, UNICEF, and Oxfam, who are all contributing to the desperate needs of these children. I'm sure there are more humanitarian groups who would welcome our donations.


This past weekend I had four of my grandchildren visiting. As I observed their health and well-being, I realized how blessed our family is. Not only do these children have more than enough of the basic needs like food, shelter, and medical care, but they also are fortunate to be born in the United States to families with the ability to give them many if not all of the luxuries in life. Most of them have televisions in their rooms, smart phones, electronic tablets, computers, the latest fads in clothing.. and all get their own vehicles when they come of age. Glasses, braces, musical instruments, as well as music and dance lessons, which are luxuries for many children, are available to my grandchildren.

Which reminds me. My youngest grandchild, Kelly, who is in the second grade, has shown an unusual interest in playing music. Her mother inherited a lovely piano from a grandmother. Since Kelly was a toddler, she has been fascinated with this piano, and even started playing her own little "tunes" - some of which were quite melodious. During a recent visit by her older cousin Cameron, he started to teach her music. He went so far as to put the musical notes on the piano keys for her, and she has been teaching herself to play. Mom and Dad have now lined up piano lessons for her to begin in the near future.

This grandmommy doesn't have a piano, but I have quite an assortment of rattles, a tambourine, Indian drums, an African tongue drum, and even a couple of "Indian" flutes - small wooden flutes. Kelly has always loved the sound of these flutes, and pulls them out at every opportunity to make a little music. When she found out her school teacher plays the flute, she began to pester her dad for a "real" flute. After searching the internet, Matthew finally found an affordable one for a beginner. Since that time, Kelly has been watching videos online to learn to play the flute! She has not yet mastered the lip placement to get a lovely sound, but she's close. Then she can work on her hand placements! She won't go to a school that offers music lessons until she reaches Middle School, however, as determined as this smart little miss is, I believe she
will make "real" music long before then. She will make the fifth of my seven grandchildren to play a musical instrument.

Kelly is amazing in her understanding of adult ideas, and her ability to give her opinion on subjects that many adults fail to recognize never ceases to surprise me. Recently she and brother Travis spent the night, and at dinner she was excitedly telling me about a trip to Dallas they made. They spent the night next door to a family who had chickens in their back yard. I explained to her that those were what we call "free range" chickens, and that in the past all of our eggs and chickens came from that source. I told her and her brother that now most of our eggs come from chickens who spend their entire lives in little cages. Kelly immediately jumped in and told me in no uncertain terms, "Well, they need to change that rule!" We may have a future vegetarian in our family. At the very least, another animal rights activist.

Kelly gave me a sticker made from a self-portrait she did in art recently. She told me that she got the background from the movie "Tangled". (I'm afraid I haven't heard of that one.) When I complimented her on her drawing, she unabashedly told me that she and another girl were the best artists in her class. I love the self-confidence this beloved child has gained from her loving family. 

Love all the children.. and may we help end the suffering of those who aren't so blessed.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Nearly all of my life I have been called an optimist, with the exception of a few short years when I suffered from clinical depression. With treatment, understanding, and the grace of God I pulled through those years – mostly by removing myself from an unhealthy relationship. Some years it has been a struggle to maintain an optimistic attitude. I was often called Pollyanna for doing so when others did not feel my situation or the conditions of the world warranted it.

In recent years, as I no longer struggle to “make a living” (thank God for Medicare and generous children) I have had more time to witness in greater detail the events going on in the world. If one is not careful, this can lead to a depression in the most optimistic of persons. For some time I devoured my newspapers with broadcast news for backup. With the acquisition of my first computer – thanks again to my generous children – I discovered the “miracle” of the Internet and more news than I could ever read. My Favorites and Documents files have to be reviewed often to delete items I thought were absolutely important for me to re-read. For a few years I had cable TV - which was almost my downfall. One can listen to just so many pundits and their mostly negative rhetoric without absorbing that negativity. I no longer have cable (I'm thankful), and have discovered the absolute pleasure of watching PBS and what I consider their balanced view (makes me sound like FOX News, doesn't it?) on current events. Although I notice a few corporate sponsors creeping in, for the most part the lack of big spenders that they must appease with their news broadcasts leads me to believe they are more accurate than other news outlets. I still surf the web, reading different online newspapers - that's an oxymoron today, isn't it? I guess the proper term is news sites. And I still watch broadcast news, alternating different networks to see if they are reporting the same things.

I have to take a break now and then, and do a lot of soul-searching and I must admit, a lot of praying. An article I read online listed "10 Habits of Optimists". As this was more interesting than the article "6 Things You Don't Know About Ear Wax", I looked at it and I discovered one of the habits is to "Tell Your Stories". This is something I feel I've done a lot of through the years, however, there may be a few of my stories you haven't heard yet. Two of these were brought to mind recently because of the Russian military takeover of the Crimea region of the Ukraine. 

Many of you reading this were not even born when the old Soviet Union invaded Hungary in 1956. I was in high school, and I have to admit that I don't remember much about it. If anything, I might have felt the anxiety my father was having at the possibility of another war - this time an even more dreadful war as the Soviets also had atomic bombs. After all, Dad had already served three tours of duty in the Army - in both WWII and the Korean Conflict. Thank goodness, President Eisenhower was a prudent Republican politician, even though he was a former 5-Star General in the U.S. Army. ("I Like Ike" was a motto in our house.) Knowing military intervention might trigger another war with a catastrophic release of atomic weapons upon the world, the U.S., under his leadership, did nothing. The far-distant location of Hungary may have influenced the decision not to intervene, as closer to home, Ike was dealing with the Suez Canal crisis. Economic sanctions would be pointless, as the Russians took what they wanted from the countries they occupied after WWII. No one called Eisenhower "weak" for not wanting to involve the United States in another war, this time in Hungary. And we still remained one of the world Superpowers. Therein lies the memories of the following stories I wish to share.


In 1968, living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, my then-husband and I made a trip to the area of Taos to look at property that was to be developed on the outskirts of this resort area. The man who was developing it, and trying to raise money (he wasn't going to get any from us, as we didn't have any) to put in roads, utilities, etc. was a grey-haired, Hungarian immigrant, perhaps in his late 60s or early 70s. He was delightful, and charmed us with not only his accent and upbeat personality, but also the food he brought along for our visit to the site.. warm ale, green chilis (my first taste of them), cheese, sausage, and a delicious round loaf of home-baked bread. When we stopped for our lunch, we were ravenous from the high altitude. As we ate, we listened to our host tell his horrific story of when the Soviet Union took over his home country of Hungary. 30,000 lives were lost in that invasion.

Soviet Union Invades Budapest, Hungary

Along with many intellectuals and professional people of Hungary, he was taken to the Soviet Union as a "political prisoner". He spent nine years as a prisoner who was forced to work at his profession as an architect, for the benefit of the Russians, under armed guard during the day. At night he was returned to a prison cell. I have forgotten most of what he told us about his escape from Russia, although once, he hid in a farmer's barnyard. The farmer dug a hole for him to climb into, then he covered him with cow manure from the yard. He made the hair on my neck stand up as he told of Russian soldiers searching for him, and even walking over the site where he was buried. 

Eventually making his way to the United States, the gentleman told us that he was working to make money so he could continue to travel the United States telling his story about the Communist Russians to schools and any other venue who would have him. He could not stress strongly enough the brutality he and others suffered at the hands of the Russians as they pushed their way across eastern Europe, hungry for power and domination. It was during this time (1968) that the Soviet Union was invading Czechoslovakia, and the United States, again, was not intervening. After all, we were heavily involved in Vietnam. I don't recall anyone calling President Lyndon Johnson "weak" for not helping the Czech people at the time. Nor was the U.S. no longer considered a Superpower.


Let's go back in time to the year 1962. I was living with my husband and children in Roswell, NM, surrounded by 12 Atlas lift-silo missile sites. These were underground missiles. Walker AFB was located there as well. We had two neighbors during the year we lived there who were engineers at the sites. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, our next-door neighbors were a young couple with two children, both in diapers. Barb and Luis were their names. They were fun to be with, and we became close friends. I will never forget that October day when Barb came over, babe in arms, her face flushed as she rushed to tell me Luis had just called her... something he had been warned not to do! He told her to load the car with clothing, diapers, baby formula, water, and food, and to be ready to leave at a moment's notice. He didn't have time to - or couldn't - tell her more. She was frightened and therefore, it scared me as well. We did not have 24-hour news coverage in those days, but I turned on the television in case we got some kind of emergency signal. I called my husband at work, and he told me not to worry, I didn't need to get the kids ready for evacuation. The evening news told a different story. The missile sites around Roswell guaranteed that we would be a target if Khrushchev decided to ignore President Kennedy's warning and the U.S. blockade he had set up. The United States came the closest it has ever come to being in a nuclear war. The rest is history.


Two stories, two different presidents, two political parties and different outcomes. We intervened by blockading any more arms or missiles reaching Cuba from Russia, but would we have actually fired nuclear weapons if Khrushchev had not backed down and removed their missiles? Cuba is only 90 miles from the United States. Obviously, we could not allow the Soviet Union to aim their nuclear missiles at us from that near country. They could have destroyed a large portion of the U.S. before we could respond and return fire on Russia. We later learned that despite all of the overt threats, Kennedy and Khrushchev were spending lots of time on the telephone behind the scenes, hashing over details of the crisis and what the options were for a solution.


President Obama faces some of the same decisions in regards to Crimea. The distance of the Ukraine from the United States, and the fact that the taking back of Crimea (which had originally been a part of the old Soviet Union) by Russia will not immediately affect us is similar to the situation in Eastern Europe those many years ago. So far, Putin's military has not brought any violence upon the region. So far, he hasn't pushed further into the Ukraine. This time, economic sanctions may prove to be the best solution to the attempted takeover. Diplomatic isolation, asset freezes and travel bans against oligarchs have been suggested. Europe's diversifying its energy supply and developing pipelines that do not run through Russia, along with assistance from North America's oil and gas, will put added pressure on Russia, as its economy cannot tolerate lower oil prices.

Politicians who are pushing for military intervention in order to enhance their own political stance in an election year, should be working together with Obama's administration and our European allies to stop this bully Putin in his tracks. Publicly accusing Obama as being "weak", and suggesting his policies have reduced the United States' standing as a world Superpower only do more to encourage Putin, who is seen as a power-hungry narcissist, anxious to regain the status of the old Soviet Union. 

As President Obama and Putin are also talking by telephone behind the scenes, let us all send prayers for a peaceful resolution that will benefit not only the citizens of Crimea and the Ukraine, but the rest of Europe as well. My optimistic nature believes this is possible. Our Congress should come together and stop undermining the current administration. "United" is what makes our nation strong - not the ability to go to war. 

Tell me your stories that impacted your life.

and love,

Monday, March 10, 2014


Number One Son Craig's children have been very busy. Here is an update on what's going on in their lives.

This summer Cameron will be head youth counselor at the Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch in Colorado, where he will provide music and entertainment as well. Needing a change of pace from the 9-5 job he's been working at in Dallas, and having a chance to travel both before and after the position in Colorado, Cameron is excited about the change. He will be able to save money (free lodging and food), and to eat what the guests eat - "prime rib on a weekly basis"! Gotta love young men's appetites! The photos of the ranch are beautiful - cabins that all face the Colorado River and views of the mountains.

I asked Cameron (who sings opera) if he knows any country/western songs. He replied, "I will be bringing my guitar, and I know a few country/western tunes. I need to brush up on Willie, Waylon, and Johnny, and get good on the classics. Opera doesn't fit into this at all..." I told him to shop Goodwill and buy western shirts for the summer.

As I looked at the Guest Ranch's website, it dawned on me that Cameron may not have been on a horse. This will be interesting, as some of the photos show the kids riding horses. As Youth Counselor, he might be expected to ride with them. Well, he told me he's determined to become a full-time adventurer. This will be a good start. Cameron, the kids staying at the ranch will be very lucky to have you as their counselor - even if you don't know how to ride a horse.

Cameron's younger sister Hannah told me that February and March are the busiest, most stressful times for her. For an eighth grader, that is most unusual (I think). When she sent me her schedule, I had to agree with her. Recently she participated in the Irma P. Hall Theatre Arts Festival in Dallas. Their website describes this event as follows:

"Talented Dallas ISD students from 9 high schools, 10 middle schools, and 23 theatre programs ..compete for awards in playwriting, directing, and acting.. 

..The festival is believed to be the only theatre festival in the state that addresses crucial skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation. The goal is for students to learn 21st century skills, while also celebrating student creativity."

Hannah competed in improvisation, interpretive mask, costume design, and performed an original monologue. She got blue ribbons in each, except for costume design, so she earned a gold medal. She wrote me the following:

"This Saturday I am participating in Academic UIL, which is a competition where you enter events to show your intelligence. (I haven't yet heard how she did in this. As she's a straight A student, I'm sure she excelled.

A week from tomorrow I am getting my braces off, so I'm really very excited about that, and that afternoon I have auditions for the big spring play. Two days after that, I go to a major choir competition, and two weeks after that, I have an even bigger choir competition."

Whew! To top all of that off, Hannah was accepted into Booker T. Washington Performing Arts High School, after auditioning with a monologue from "Oz" . Way to go, Hannah. You make us all proud.


Looking at the above photo, wouldn't you think the boy in the black pants kicking up his heels is having a good time? That's Matthew's son Travis at one of his Cotillion rehearsals. When I asked him if he liked dancing, he made a face and said, "No! I hate it!" Could'a fooled me.. By the way, notice how the girls look so much more mature than the boys. Here's how he looked the night of the Cotillion Ball. He doesn't look like someone dreading the evening, does he? Maybe he's just looking forward to the good meal. The boy's got a big appetite!

His mom just sent me a photo from the local paper about the 6th graders at his school making up their own line dance and performing for their parents. Travis is in shorts, looking cool with his sunglasses on. He neglected to tell this Grandmommy about doing this - perhaps because I might not believe him when he tells me he doesn't like to dance?

Travis much prefers sports to dancing. Good exercise either way. He just finished basketball season, and his team lost only one game. Unfortunately, that was a tournament game. Next year, Travis. Before he was finished with basketball, baseball season started. And little sister Kelly was playing soccer. It kept Dad and Mom, Amy, jumping for about a week.

Travis and Kelly spent the night with me this past weekend, giving Amy and Matt a chance to go out and sleep in the next morning. When they woke up, Amy called the kids on a video chat. Here they are watching her and telling her about their time here. Isn't technology wonderful?

Miss Kelly is fast becoming one of our stars in the family as well. I will tell you about her accomplishments - and personality - in a future blog.
Being around family helps keep one's mind off the terrible events happening in the world. Sadly, the news of those events is waiting for me. I try hard not to let them anger me, or focus too much attention on any particular event. "What you focus on, increases." Better to focus on the love of family. And send prayers for peace, comfort, and resolution to the world.

Peace and love to you and yours,