January 2014

33 articles in January 2014

Wwebster defines “enable” as to give ability, power, or means to make able”.  At first you look at this definition and it seems to have few negative connotations. But, when you take away the individuals responsibility to enable themselves and replace it with someone else taking on this responsibility then this definition becomes negative and dangerous. 

I’ve taught for over three decades. In this time I’ve worked with responsible and remarkably intelligent young men and women whose hard work and perseverance allowed them to attain their dreams. Something disturbing is happening to my students who happen to be your children.

A few days ago I gave a class of students their semester final. As I was handing out the exam many of my students asked when there would be a make-up exam. I have to admit I was surprised by their question. I asked if they studied for their test and they told me this was unnecessary because they knew they would be allowed to re-take the test.

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If you look up at the Heavens on a clear dark night, you will see many twinkling dots that are the stars. They seems to almost fill the sky and each one sparkles, flashes and flickers like a very precious jewel, as it tries to outdo its neighbour and attract your roving eye. Somewhere out  there, when time was just a baby, there was only one little star. It scurried around the planets, spreading its message of peace and goodwill to all. This is its story.

Llong ago before life existed here, a happy peaceful tribe lived on a much older planet than ours. Their village was in the very middle of a vast tropical forest and they were surrounded by giant trees that seemed to reach right up into outer space.

The tribe was completely isolated from any other tribe but because they lived a very simple life in leaf-covered huts, they wanted for nothing. They had no need to roam or explore, as all the fruits and animals of the forest were close at hand and their river water was pure and plentiful. The only thing that was in short supply was sunlight. The branches of the trees covered all of their land and the only sunshine that they ever saw was the few golden rays that filtered through between the leaves and they never got sun-tanned. Because they never met with other tribes, they did not realise that they were the only pale-skinned people on the whole of their planet.

One day, the wife of the handsome chief of the tribe realised that she was soon to have her baby and,  as was the custom of the tribe, she went to live with the other mothers-to-be. There, she would be looked after by the widowed women of the tribe until her baby was born and they were ready to leave.  Their large hut was set some distance from the rest of the tribe and the men were not allowed to visit the area.

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Tthe visitor, on that morning, was a middle-aged, shabby-looking fellow, in carelessly-ironed clothes, with a worn-out waistcoat of light grey colour. His small, neglected beard gave the impression that he had, perhaps, merely left shaving and it had grown in this manner.

He spoke coyly. “You gave an advertisement for the marriage of poor girls.” “Yes, of course” I replied. “I came here for that” He uttered the words one-by-one: as if he was not able to find appropriate ones. A mixed feeling of confusion and amazement enveloped me, for I could not understand him. No doubt, we had given an advertisement in a newspaper, but it was meant to raise funds. Though the advertisement did not bring sufficient response, it did not cause us any loss: the newspaper had printed it as a part of their charity services.

Our organization has recently taken up a poverty alleviation project which includes the marriage of poor girls as an important component .We have already conducted a seminar for the purpose and it was quite successful. In fact we succeeded in pricking the consciences of the participants and received a number of promises, and announcements of huge donations. The presence of news reporters on the occasion gave us an assurance that these promises would certainly materialize.

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Ii have a sleigh in the corner of my yard. It is a full sized antique sleigh my wife fell in love with as we traveled down Route One in Kennebunk. We found it at the oddest of places. It was displayed in front of a store that sold fish and flowers. At first this surprised me but driving home we noticed a store that sold quilts and lobster rolls. At first I thought my wife was crazy. Why would people who have never been in a sleigh or probably never even saw a sleigh want to purchase one?

My wife reminded me that the wagon that stood in the corner of our yard had decomposed to the point very few people could recognize it as a wagon. My brother-in-law, who is very handy and has many tools, was salivating hoping he could get his hands on it so he could reconstruct it and place it at the corner of his yard. I, on the other hand, have a difficult time with a Philips screwdriver. I haggled a bit with the man who was selling the sleigh. I shouldn’t say haggled because I paid him what he wanted but he did help me get it on the back of my truck. I can’t say he was an odd character but he did have that look, which felt like he was debating whether or not he wanted to sell me the sleigh. I guess I passed some sort of test because I had a large red and black antique sleigh in the back of my truck.

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Jjonathan was looking dismal. Robbit had never seen his friend looking quite so forlorn, not even on that rainy wet day when Jonathan had fallen over on a slippery corner and got mud on his nice shiny shell.”What’s up?” asked Robbit.

“Oh, nothing,” said Jonathan, and carried on sliding glumly along the little snail-trail that led to his house.
Robbit stared after his friend anxiously: whatever it was, it must be really bothering him if he wouldn’t even talk about it. Robbit hopped thoughtfully after the retreating shell, trying to think what to say.
“Bad day at school?” he ventured, “get your sums wrong?”

Robbit almost always got his sums wrong; and his spelling. Getting things wrong at school was just the way things were for Robbit. Maybe, he thought, if you were extremely clever like Jonathan, then getting a sum wrong might make you unhappy.
But Jonathan just shook his head glumly; it wasn’t anything to do with sums.

“So, why are you so gloomy, then?” demanded Robbit.
“Bullies,” mumbled Jonathan at last.
“Bullies?” asked Robbit, “What bullies?”

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Tthe arrival of seriously-cold weather means different things to different people. Some look forward to temperatures that freeze our lakes and ponds so they can skate on the ice with their families.

Some yearn for deep snow so they can drive often to their favorite ski mountain and swoosh exuberantly down its slopes. Some drive to the nearest liquor store to buy the cartloads of booze they will need to get them through until next May. As for me, the arrival of winter means one thing: it is time to get my annual flu shot. For most people this is no big deal. For me it is one of the most dreaded events of the year. I have to confess that I have a real fear of needles going into my body.

It just seems to me there is something inherently wrong about someone spearing my arm with a long hollow cylinder that injects cold liquid fear into my inner being. I would really rather suffer through the flu but my employers make me suffer through it, because they are blackmailed by our health-care provider who will jack up our collective premiums by a kajillion dollars just to teach us a lesson and because the president of the health insurance company wants to build a golf course next to his villa in Bermuda.

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Tthere comes a time in every winter hermit’s life when he has to venture out of his cave to see if the temperature has risen above the 32 degree mark. The other day I did just that and discovered 21 straight of sub-freezing temperatures had come to an end. This also meant that it was time to do my pre-spring chores.

The first thing I did was wander out to survey the damage caused by the Town’s efforts to keep the road clear of the snows of January. To my dismay the bright fluorescent marker I used to find the drainage pipe that directed the waters of the spring thaw away from my house, and thus from turning my basement into an indoor swimming pool, was either buried under a mountain of snow or had been deposited on the other side of town.

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Eeverything seems to be going faster today. This is probably because I am slowing down but trying to keep up with today’s dynamic society takes a lot of energy.

This is true in all aspects of our society. Between the lightning fast Internet connections, cell phones connected on everyone’s ears, and even instantaneous news that seems to get reported before the news takes place I am not sure if I am living in my own present. The other day another part of life sped up faster than I ever though possible. This is a part of life I thought I wouldn’t mind speeding up a bit. I am talking about the annual bout with the winter flu. For the past ten or so years I have been trying to beat it down with a flu shot.

Everyone tells me the shot is not fool proof because the virus is perpetually changing. I then ask why I should bother getting the shot. I am told if I don’t I will get the specific flu the shot is trying to protect me from and without the inoculation this specific flu can make my life miserable. But, I always ask about the other flu’s the shot can’t protect me from. I am told they will soon come up with a vaccine for those. Needless to say every time I leave the clinic where I get my annual shot I feel like I just left a place where they sell bridges.

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Wwhen I moved to York, Maine about 40 years ago, I believed it was one of the best moves of my life. I knew I would not make as much money as I could make back in Massachusetts.

However, the quality of life York offered, and the chance to raise a family here, were irresistible. The one thing I did not want to do after I moved here was to buy a boat. This, apparently, marks me as some kind of eccentric because, even though I live well inland from the ocean, I am now surrounded by boats.It seems that every one of my neighbors owns a boat or has someone very close to them who owns a boat. Looking out my window all I can see is boats and trailers parked in their driveways or someplace else on their property.

Those who don’t have their boats in their yards have them tied up at some mooring or slip that costs slightly less than their house. This never bothered me until my neighbors decided I should get out on the ocean where they thought I belonged. It seems sitting on a dilapidated old beach chair in the shallows, which is how I like to spend most of my summer days, didn’t count. For a long time I was real good at making up excuses why I couldn’t join them on their boat excursions out onto the ocean. Eventually, I sensed a certain disdain from my neighbors, as if there had to be something wrong with me because I wouldn’t get off the land and onto the water when offered the chance.

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Eeverything seems to be getting younger today except me. People have been wearing clothes and shoes I wore in the mid-seventies.Time seems to be going backward.

The most popular music is over forty years old with the same people still singing it, and most of our live productions and movies are followed by numbers designating how many of the same kind came before them. There is one reality that will probably never come back; the drive-in theatre. Feeling a little depressed, I came to the realization that the drive-in theater represented a good portion of my pre-adult life. A life that only lives in memories and is as gone as the drive-in itself.

My first memory of going to a drive-in was when I was a little boy of perhaps seven. My parents loaded up my two sisters and me in our 1956 red and black Ford Galaxy. The two colors were separated by the thickest and shiniest chrome piece that, to this day, I have never seen again. Inside a tight thick plastic shield covered the seats with bubbles in it so you would not stick when you sat down.

We all sat in the back in nervous anticipation. We were never sure which Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy we would be watching. I remember clearly how we had to wait in line in order to pay one price for the whole car. My mother always directed my father to the center most portion of the lot in front of the screen. We never drove to the front row because my mother said if you get too close to the screen you would lose your eyesight.

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