I just had to share a little triumph with you this morning. Men may not want/need to read further because this is really something only women will understand. Most men to whom I tell this story simply give me a puzzled look and say, "OK" and move on.
In the great scheme of life it is absolutely nothing, but we all need moments when we pump our arm and give a "yes!" in honor of a personal accomplishment! Two things, actually. Last year I bought a new lawn trimmer. My little yard doesn't need much, but it does need me to trim a few spots to make it look more finished. Anyway, when I used the trimmer I kept getting more line than I wanted. The line would frustratingly wrap around the feeder. I would stop, untangle it and then get about 5 seconds worth of trimming before I had to do it again.
This Spring I was venting my frustration to a friend who asked how the trimmer operated. I have to press one button on the handle and hold it down while I press the starter. She told me that the first button was to feed the line and I should let go of it when the trimmer motor engaged. Simple thing, but "who knew"? I certainly didn't, but it made sense. I did as she directed and "Voila!" It worked. Press first button and then quickly push and hold second button and release first button. Great excitement and pleasure. It worked and my yard never looked better, mostly because of a new triumph. Of course now I hold the second button as long as possible to keep the trimmer running so it won't feed out more line than I really need. Convoluted thinking, but, hey! it is the way my mind works.
Second, victory. Great excitement! I bought a new lawn mower in April. I have an electric one because yanking the string to start the mower has never been something I was excited about. Most guys can do it on the first or second yank, but not me. I guess the newer mowers are easier, but with my small yard I have stuck to electric. So -- a new mower. Beautiful orange and black. I used it May, June, July and most of August. It had a grass catcher, but the grass never went into the bag. The mower would mulch and leave the grass on the lawn where it would dry and then look messy. I spoke to the store where I had purchased the mower. They didn't have any answers. I was frustrated.
About a week ago, as I was hosing off the mower to clean it, I told myself to think this problem through. Think logically! O.K. The mower had a grass catcher so there had to be someplace the grass was to come through and into the bag. I turned the mower on its side and began to inspect the undercarriage. I found an opening and discovered there was a PLUG!! that had to be removed before the grass could be blown into the bag. Eureka!! This week I mowed the yard and emptied a bag full of grass! I could not have been more pleased!! Wild applause, please!!
Now, in the first paragraph I said men don't seem to understand my small victory. Somewhere along the line there is implanted in our brains that women have certain jobs and men have certain jobs. That is one of the unwritten codes of marriage from what I observe. For the most part men get the oil changed, mow the yard, check the upkeep on the house, etc. I know things are changing and women do much more of this kind of work now and men are handier in the kitchen and with the kids then they were a generation or two ago. But when I walk into the garage in town and make an appointment to get my oil changed and tires rotated there is a slight feeling of "I don't really belong here." Being single I got over that long ago. However, small accomplishments with machines is a big one for me. Mainly I don't want to know how they work, just that they will work and so this summer when I figure out something like the trimmer and the lawn mower that is HUGE for me!
So, kind friends and gentle people, it has been a great way to end the summer. I wonder what new mountain peaks lie ahead??
It was a disturbing piece on the radio — NPR. The commentator was interviewing a lady who had been studying the times in which we live in relation to history. Her work had been done on the subject of civil wars, such as in Syria, Lebanon, places in Africa and then our own Civil War as well as places in Europe. Talking with authors and historians who covered civil wars, the prevailing feeling was we are seeing something similar to that happening in our country right now. It is not a shooting war, in the trenches kind of action, but there is an alignment of viewpoints taking place which have already led to strong feelings, speaking out and violent actions. One historian had a map of red and blue states today and over that placed a map of Civil War alignments and it was almost the same as it was in 1860.
“If you don’t remember your history you are condemned to repeat it.”
The changes we are seeing in every corner of the globe, in countries of every economic level are major and have been a long time in their development. In the U.S. we see a fracturing of our Congress and a loss of effectiveness in the judicial system. The executive branch has lost its moral leadership position in our government. What we have taken for granted for the past 250 years has been shifting under our feet. Not only the loss of power in the government, but the fracturing of societal norms which seem to have caught us by surprise, have been appearing for a long time.
The European continent was the birthplace of many national groups over thousands of years of history. The dream of unification was attempted with various empires which only survived for a short while. The European Common Market was another attempt at that unification, but today the undying rise of nationalism is causing it to fray at its edges.
The only thing constant in life is change and the changes have been fast and furious in the past fifty years. Advances in technology have made us more one world than any other activity. Multi-national corporations have billions of dollars invested everywhere and many young people think of themselves as citizens of the world rather than of a single nation.
This line of thinking runs counter to the national groups in every country who are demanding their own piece of land. I remember when the Soviet Union fell apart in the 1980s. Where there had been one nation, the U.S.S.R, there were now 15 independent nation states with names that had not been uttered for nearly one hundred years — Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and on and on. Where once there was Czechoslovakia there is now the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic. After a particular bloody and lengthy war Yugoslavia was torn apart into Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia. Ethnic cleansing was a reality in Bosnia and Serbia and involved Moslems and Christians who had lived together for centuries until the civil war tore them apart.
I recently read an autobiography of a young woman who survived the tribal warfare in Rwanda between the Hutus and the Tutsis. Nearly 800,000 people were killed in the conflict. In Cambodia over 1.7 million people were tortured, killed, and starved when the Khmer Rouge tried to remake the country into a Communist state.
In our own country we like to think of ourselves as above the fray of European entanglements and a portion of our history is the attempt to keep ourselves at arms-length from these disturbances. But we cannot be an island unto ourselves. We are an integral part of a much larger picture and we must deal with our our internal divisions and broken history.
The speakers I heard on the radio news program were not ‘doom-sayers’, predicting a collapse of our government, but they were people who have studied the issues and much like the reality of global warming in a world that has for too long shut its eyes and is now facing the results of that denial, we need to be looking at our world with new vision, studying history, knowing our own values and being ready to compromise. Compassion and understanding between peoples has never been more important than right now. Teaching our young people how to live these values has never been more important that right now. Something to think about as we begin another school year.
Sitting on my new porch, enjoying my freshly mowed grass, and watching the clouds on a cool day is not to be missed! Life is good because God is good!
Enjoyed my time in Cheyenne with my nephew and family. He and his wife are in their early 40s, their children are 17 and 12, they both work hard. I think they are pretty typical of the average professional family today. On Sunday evening we had a barbecue with my cousin's daughter and husband and their family of four who also live in Cheyenne. Cole (my nephew) and Lisa are second cousins so it is neat they got acquainted and enjoy each other's company. Lisa's husband is a civilian contractor at Warren AFB, Margy works for the State AG's office, Cole recently moved from a job with the state and is now with Black Hills Energy. Lisa is an attorney with the AG. So they are all professionals and it was such fun to visit and just to listen to their world and how they perceive it. Being state employees is its own little world. They had lots of funny stories to tell.
On Sunday we attended an Interfaith Worship service at the Civic Center in Cheyenne. Margy sang in the mass choir. There were Jewish and Moslem clerics as well as pastors and priests all helping celebrate the 150th anniversary of Cheyenne. It was a great service. I enjoyed a leisurely and yummy breakfast with them all at the Egg and I in Cheyenne following worship. It was a good time to visit.
Monday morning I headed south to Denver. There was a lot of road construction so I took 287 from Ft. Collins south into the city. It not only rained the whole way but the traffic was awful for this 'country mouse'. But using my GPS on my phone I drove with few problems right up to the door of my aunt's apartment house. She is 94 and still active and alive! We watched a movie, did a little shopping and had good conversation. She navigates when I drive and sometimes I think she wonders if we are going to make it. In city traffic I am so cautious it takes me awhile to get anywhere. Going home I stayed on Interstate I-25. By leaving at 6.30 a.m. I missed a lot of heavy traffic.
As I was driving in the heaviest traffic I was passed by a 'beater' making good time. On the back windshield was written "Impeach 'em all!" Wonderful!! Actually a pretty good way to make a statement.
Drove home on Tuesday, 600 miles door to door. It was a beautiful day across Wyoming. The conversation was about the eclipse on the 21st. Wyoming is expecting huge amounts of traffic from Denver north and Billings south. It will be quite a day for Douglas, Casper, and points in that central part of Wyoming.
So, wonderful company, good food, great conversation. As we say in a table grace: Bless the food before us, the friends and family beside us, and the love between us.
It is time to dust off a couple of books which made their mark in the mid-20th century but have over time been pushed to the back of the shelf: President Kennedy’s essay, A Nation of Immigrants and a book by Harvard professor and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted. At the time of Handlin’s death in 2011, the New York Times wrote this:
But his [Handlin] best-known work, “The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations That Made the American People,” which won the 1952 Pulitzer for history, was aimed at an audience of general readers in making his case that immigration — more than the frontier experience, or any other episode in its past — was the continuing, defining event of American history. Dispensing with footnotes and writing in a lyrical style, Dr. Handlin emphasized the common threads in the experiences of the 30 million immigrants who poured into American cities between 1820 and the turn of the century. Regardless of nationality, religion, race or ethnicity, he wrote, the common experience was wrenching hardship, alienation and a gradual Americanization that changed America as much as it changed the newcomers.
It seems we are about to have a new lesson in immigration and the part it continues to play in our American story. Anti-immigration feeling has always been a part of our history, rearing its ugly head in the mid-1800s when thousands of Germans fleeing war in Europe came to America. Their culture was new to the white, Anglo-Saxon, protestants who were the principal citizens of America at that time and the WASPs didn’t like them. The potato famine and poverty brought the Irish to America by the thousands. In New York, store owners posted signs in their windows NINA which simply meant, No Irish Need Apply. On the West coast it was anti-Asian feeling, the overwhelming of America by the “yellow hoards”, although thousands of Chinese laborers were needed in order for the trans-continental railroad to be accomplished. Building up the dry deserts of the far West created huge vegetable truck farms owned and operated by Asians. We all know the tragic story of the Japanese-Americans who were forced into camps at the outbreak of World War II. They played out a tragic chapter in American history.
All of us wear the mark of the immigrant on our foreheads. Every American researching their family history will eventually have to ask the question, “Yes, but when did we come to this country and from where?” Our uniquely American culture is a stew of religious faiths, music, cuisine, literature, fashion and on and on. To be American is to carry the genes of men and women of desperate courage. A great uncle who came from Norway said, “There has to be a place where people don’t have to work like horses to survive.” He came to America and Wisconsin and later brought over his parents and little brother, my grandfather. My grandfather always liked Theodore Roosevelt’s quotation, “Show me a man who is proud of his fatherland and I will show you a good American.” My Swedish grandfather lost his father when he was nine years old. There was nothing for him in Sweden so like a brother and two sisters before him, at 19 he left his mother and other siblings behind and came to America. My father remembers a group of Swedish homesteaders standing and visiting with each other. They began to speak Swedish and my grandfather said, “We speak English. We are Americans now.” We see that statement proved out in the deaths of young men and women of various backgrounds who enter the military and prove how important democracy is to them and their families.
In later years our history has seen Vietnamese boat people and Africans, people from Mexico, Central America, and the Middle East fleeing war and poverty. I remember reading of a Ph.D. college professor from Vietnam who fled that country with his family and worked as a custodian and his wife as a hotel chambermaid so their children could have an education and live in a free country. True to the unwritten code of the immigrant, education was the key to upward movement. My grandparents and parents always talked about more education and their children and grandchildren have fulfilled that dream.
In the upcoming discussions about immigration reform there are two paths which parallel each other — periodic reform is needed in any process or institution. There is always a better way to do things and America must be a safe place for those who are afraid. But the parallel path is one which feeds on racism and cultural hatred. Xenophobia or fear of the stranger is known in every society and America as much as anywhere. Our greatness as a nation has been the power to bring all people into the great mix. Every person brings something special.
President Kennedy wrote: This was the secret of America: a nation of people with the fresh memory of old traditions who dared to explore new frontiers, people eager to build lives for themselves in a spacious society that did not restrict their freedom of choice and action.
Recently I heard from a second cousin in Sweden. Her daughter has come to America to marry a man from Brazil and they will make America their home. I couldn’t say it better.
I think I am going to make Lynn Anderson's old country song my song -- I've been everywhere, man, I've been everywhere. I've crossed the deserts bare, man, I've breathed the mountain air. . .I've been everywhere. . .
Well, not quite, but I am sitting in Cheyenne, Wyoming, after a 500+ mile drive across Wyoming.
I left Glendive yesterday and drove to Miles City to attend a seminar on local government issues. There was a panel of State government officials and people from the League of Towns and Cities and others who explained the legislative session and its results to us. There were city employees and elected officials from Colstrip, Forsyth, Baker, Glendive, Ekalaka, Miles City and Terry. Always interesting. The head of the DNRC talked about the fires east and west; infrastructure was discussed; the head of MDOT discussed how the rise in gas taxes will help with state highways. Local government is much more complex than one has any concept. It is more than keeping weeds cut and controlling pigeons!!
Then I went on to Billings. Always a lovely drive through the Lower Yellowstone Valley. The Powder River was drier than I have seen it for many years. The Director of DNRC said they are calling this drought a 'flash drought' as it was totally unexpected. It may last until November according to some predictions.
Today, Friday I headed into Wyoming. Maybe a little more moisture in that area than we. They are preparing throughout the state for the solar eclipse on August 21st. Motels along the path of the eclipse are booked solid.
This is the week of the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, so there were lots of bikes on the highway. I think maybe they dropped off a little once I was passed Casper, but the highway was really busy with RVs of all kinds. The 80 mph speed limit means everyone drives way too fast because, of course, if it is 80, than you drive 85. I was tired at trip's end.
The drive from Billings to Hardin puts you on the Crow Indian reservation. As you get to Hardin, the Little Big Horn Battlefield and south the Big Horn mountains add a different dimension to this part of Indian Country. The mountains parallel the highway at least to Casper and beyond. It is not Montana prairie country, but rather begins to blend into high desert country with a rugged beauty all its own. On this trip you pass Glendo Reservoir and De Smet Lake. Other people were heading west into the mountains toward Powell and Cody.
When you get to Buffalo you are in Longmire Country. The books and tv show are really popular and Buffalo now celebrates "Longmire Days" in the summer.
Next to Tom Selleck's Jesse Stone I do like Walt Longmire.
I am in Cheyenne for the week-end with a variety of activities with my oldest nephew and family. Abby will be a Senior in high school this year and Evan in the 6th grade. Good kids. Their parents have done a good job.