I Haven’t Quit

Just wanted to let you good folks know I haven’t quit this blog. I’ve had the flu. I thought it was a cold for the first 48 hours so I didn’t get the anti-viral as soon as I should have. This one doesn’t start off making a person feel like they’ve been hit by a truck. It sort of sneaks up on you. I’m calling it the Sneaky Pig Flu.  If you catch it be sure to watch it on the downside. After the fever breaks it can start to drop pretty low within the next few days and you may not realize it. I’ve hit low 95s and have to pay attention to keep that from happening again.

For those of you following humming birds, I still have Ruby-throated ones at my feeders. I’m in Southeast Texas.

I’ll be back as soon as I can.

What Do We Say to Ourselves?

I started to say “I’m working on a new way of thinking” and had to stop myself. I need to rephrase that. Not sure how right now but this is what is going on. I’ve been looking at everything I do as “WORK.” It doesn’t matter if I’m cleaning inside or doing something in the yard – in my head it’s been WORK. Even art and writing sometimes become things that have to be done. Thinking this way clogs my brain and makes my muse hide out someplace.

I am going to change the way I think about this stuff. If I’m cleaning something, like dusting or mopping, that doesn’t take a lot of brain cells and I am usually thinking about things while I clean. Sometimes I’m composing a blog or a letter in my head, or I’m planning a project and setting more goals. That’s not work – it’s ponder time. If I’m doing something in the yard I’m creating order and beauty. Probably “sweatin’ ‘n swattin’ ” (as our meteorologist says we do here with humidity and mosquitos) but that’s just part of life around here. I want to move thoughtfully through the day and not attack everything like it’s just something that has to be done. It’s exhausting to live this way.

This reminds me of when I read one of Don Aslett’s books, “How to Handle 1,000 Things at Once.” In this book he said he used to have a cleaning business. He had one rule that was practically set in stone. Breaking this rule led to immediate termination of employment with him.  If he asked someone what they were doing and they answered by saying they were “trying to” do whatever, they were fired immediately. He said trying implied they thought they might fail and that wasn’t the kind of optimism and confidence he wanted to see. I thought that was pretty rough till I began to listen to what psychologists call our ‘self-talk’. I saw that when I would think to myself that I was “trying” to get something done, it sounded like “I’m trryyyyyyyiiiiinnnnggg to clean this house” or whatever. What a whine! What a revelation of my attitude!

But, I guess it’s really not the words so much in themselves but what they reveal. We do work and we do try and with all our might and high expectations, too. I just want to listen to the way I talk to myself. This all ties in with things I’ve been thinking about concerning God’s Kingdom, hope and His purposes. And here I have to use that word – I’m working on a piece about that. It ties into the caterpillar nursery I had last summer.

And another thing. I’m glad God does His work of sanctifying His people. And He does it with much patience and He doesn’t get tired of us. In fact, He blesses and keeps us, and gives us His peace. Now that’s something neat to think about.

Yard Happenings in Mid-October

We are still waiting for fall here along the Gulf Coast. This year spring hung on longer than usual, then summer hit like a ton of hot bricks. Last week I began to wonder if summer may be hanging on only for winter to hit us with a blast of cold that doesn’t let up. We’ll see. Maybe next week. I know those of you who have lived here but are not from here think I’m nuts because we don’t get four seasons, but we’ll see.

A couple weeks ago I wondered where the snakes have gone. I haven’t seen any in quite awhile. Earlier this year I saw what I think was the same Rat Snake a couple times near the back corner of the house. One of the times I saw it the poor thing had been ‘treed’ on the fence by the neighbor’s pit bulls. I had to distract the dogs with a bit of cat food so the snake could get away. I was afraid he was going to bite one of them. I found a baby Louisiana Milk Snake in the garden one day. That was funny because earlier that same day a friend saw my well-mulched garden and called it my Snake Garden. Later that evening we saw what must have been the momma or the daddy crawling across the driveway. That was funny because my husband and I were talking with our son and one of his friends and along comes this snake crawling right between us. This is a nocturnal snake; I woke the young one but the adult was just beginning it’s normal ‘day’. There were a few others seen in the yard this year, but I don’t remember the details. Since I hadn’t seen any in awhile I thought maybe it just got too hot and they were staying in the shade during the day and none came out unless it was nighttime. Rat Snakes can be seen either night or day.

Well, now that it’s cooled off (down to the 80’s F) I have seen two different ones. I woke a young Louisiana Milk Snake when I moved a cinder block the other day. He was so cute with his little solid black head and pretty bands of red, black and yellow. He has a black band of color between each band of red. That is how I know he’s not a Coral Snake so he’s OK to pick up. He’s so smooth; not slimy like some folks expect snakes to be. I only pick up the small ones though because even though this snake doesn’t bite often and isn’t poisonous, I’m not interested in getting a nasty bite that can get infected.

Yesterday I saw a Western Ribbon Snake. He was on the patio area near the garden. Since he wasn’t in the grass I was able to get a pretty good look at his stripes. There are three striped snakes in this area and once you’ve learned the different characteristics you can tell them apart pretty easily. I had to look fast, too, because this fellow didn’t want to be seen by me at all. He took off like he was late getting somewhere. I did get a second to see the lighter sort of golden stripe down the middle of his back and the black and cream colored ones on his sides that contrast with it. Oh, well. I hope he found the groceries he was looking for. I’m sure he was shopping.

This morning I watched two female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds fight over a feeder. I’ll never understand it. There are two feeders in my yard, plus Mexican Petunias, and Turk’s Cap that has grown out of it’s boundaries – besides all the other feeders on this street – but they have to fight over one feeder. And boy, are the Turk’s Cap flowers popular today. I watched a humming bird, a really pretty rust-colored moth and 5 or 6 yellow butterflies all on them at the same time. Little things like that are just breathtaking to me.

Oh, and I found out what the little fuzzy white flowers are that I think are so cute. They grow on a little vine-like stem close to the ground. A friend told me today they are Virgina Buttonweed and from what she was saying about her dealings with it in her yard, and what I’ve seen online, this little flower that I like so much drives some folks nuts. They want to get rid of it. If we get some frost soon that will take care of it. I’ll miss it though.

Thoughts on “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”

I recently read “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe. This book is about a group of people back in the 60’s who used LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and wanted to share the experience with the whole world. A friend who knew about my daydream of living in a school bus as I travel the country recommended I read it. She said she wasn’t suggesting it for the drug part but the living in the bus part. Well, what I am about to write is not a commentary on drug laws or the wisdom, or lack thereof, of using substances that alter one’s state of consciousness for whatever reasons. When I started the book I was reading for the adventure of the bus, but after just a few pages I wanted to get inside the heads of these heads so I could try to understand the whole scene. Translated – I wanted to understand what the folks who used LSD were thinking. How did this particular group of people start using LSD? Why did they continue? Why did they want other people to use it? What was the philosophy behind their beliefs? As I found answers to some of these questions I noticed a few other things. Group dynamics, their attitudes toward cops, race relations, idiomatic phrases, influence on fashion, music, and art; all these things are in this book. Some have said it is a very accurate picture of what the hippie life was like at this time. If you are looking for a source of info on the drug culture’s views and influence on any of these subjects, this is probably a good one.

So, back to the first question. How did this particular group get into LSD? It started with Ken Kesey, the author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” In 1959-60 he was a paid volunteer (only the government, right? -“paid volunteer”) for some experiments at the Veteran’s Hospital in Menlo Park,  California. He was paid $75 a day to take whatever pill the guys in the white coats gave him to swallow. As it turns out the whole thing was put on by the CIA. They were doing research into drugs they thought might be used for mind control purposes as well as truth serum during interrogations. So, this is why John Lennon said we could thank the CIA for LSD. Anyway, Kesey figured out which was which among the substances he was ingesting and he managed to take some home and share with the neighbors. Eventually, in the name of ‘progress’ the neighborhood was bulldozed so new houses could be built and Kesey moved to a few acres in a redwood forest. Some of the friends from the old neighborhood came around but there were other folks who were just sort of showing up from here and there as well. One group who didn’t just show up, but came by invitation, was the Hell’s Angels. Eventually, the inside group – you know how that goes – every group has a real inner circle – became known as the Merry Pranksters.

From their perspective they were becoming one in some cosmic sense as they used LSD. Where Timothy Leary went into his own religious vein with it, these guys – these Merry Pranksters  – didn’t want to do it that way. They thought the whole world could do this with them and we could all be these creative peaceful people all happily coexisting with one another. Basically, Ego and Non-Ego would merge and all would become part of the Cosmic Mind. If two people happened to have the same thought at the same time they said they were “in synch” and the merge was happening. This anticipated merge of all things into one was also their explanation for such things as the ability to smell colors when they were high. The way to spread this experience was with big parties they called “acid tests.” LSD was not illegal at this time, by the way; that didn’t happen in California till October 6, 1966. So, they could have these acid tests, with music (usually supplied by the Grateful Dead) and strobe lights and LSD in the Kool-Aid, and not be breaking any laws.

Some folks didn’t understand why this generation was unhappy with the world as it was. After all, they had not suffered through the economic hardship of the Depression and had not lived through WWII. The Cold War sounded like just a lot of talk to some of them. The parents of these youngsters thought they had been given everything and they were going to waste their golden opportunity to have a suit-and-tie good life. The parents who held this view appeared to their deep-thinking children to be living a one-dimensional life. They wanted more than a job, house, car and 2.5 children. They had a spiritual yearning, a desire for meaning, that wasn’t satisfied. And a lot of them couldn’t get answers to their questions about life from their parents. Seems some parents couldn’t even explain why they held their own moral and/or religious beliefs. Since the parents had lived through the difficult times, it seemed a reasonable goal to them to just have a peaceful and quiet life along with nice material possessions. They thought a sense of security was a wonderful thing and their offspring thought it was boring and totally lacking in purpose. This group of Pranksters did not want to be a nameless, faceless cog in the machine. They sought an alternate way of living, but not by spiritual means. I really wanted to put a label on this and call it Existentialism, but I’m not so sure that fits. They were creating their own reality and meaning inside their own heads but they also wanted to merge with something outside themselves. Nietzsche, the Bible, the I Ching…all are mentioned in the book but like Tom Wolfe says, everything centers on the experience of using LSD. In that sense, maybe LSD was the religion; during the early 60’s drugs were used in an attempt to find meaning. (Francis Schaeffer wrote about this in “How Should We Then Live.” It’s been about 30 years since I’ve read this book and I probably need to read it again.) In the end though Kesey said they were only going through the same door over and over and he wanted to find the thing beyond this acid thing.

Gotta’ tell you about this bus. It was a 1939 International Harvester school bus that Ken Kesey bought under the name “Intrepid Trips, Inc.” The Pranksters painted it in bright, beautiful, wild psychedelic colors and named it “Furthur.” There was an opening in the top where the Pranksters could climb out and ride on top and play the flute in such a way that the music matched the expressions on the faces of the folks on the street who tried to take in this site. Reactions were mixed.  The US wasn’t real big on bright colors back then. Houses were mostly white or pastel colors with lots of brown and gray roofs, and cars were the same type of tame colors, so this bus was a shocker. So were the passengers with their faces painted with Day-Glo paint and wearing clothing that could really only be called costumes. They drove across the south and then up to New York in a failed attempt to visit with Timothy Leary, then back to California by a northern route. All along the way they gave out LSD to people who had never heard of it before.

I am amazed they made the trip from California to New York and back all in one piece. Oh, this bus adventure happened in the summer of 1964. If I had been on the freeway at the right time I would have seen them pass through where I lived. Back to the “all in one piece” comment. These folks’ heads were so messed up. They had to leave a young lady passenger in Houston who ended up in a psych ward. The driver was coming unglued but they were so freaked out on LSD and other things besides, that just like with the lady, they didn’t realize what was happening to the poor guy at first. When they figured it out they just tried to show him some love and make him all better.  That didn’t work. So, they were really only “in one piece” physically. Mentally, it was a bit different for a couple of them. If you look up race relations in 1964 you will understand the danger they were in when they decided to jump in and swim at a segregated beach at Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. The cops rescued them from that predicament. And of course, anyone who is driving while totally freaked out and doesn’t kill anyone who’s on the road with them is a bit more than “intrepid” – that person is traveling under Divine Protection.

This was one of the most interesting books I’ve read. I learned that you can’t lump the drug users of the early 60’s in with the ones of the late 60’s. In the early 60’s, drug use was tied in with ideology but, by the end of the decade hope was lost as it seemed that society was unraveling at the seams and drug use became a means of escape from life. I’ve run across some of the people who are part of this story in a book, “The Sixties Chronicles.” I remember quite a lot considering how young I was at the time, but reading “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” has made me want to read more about this incredible and tumultuous decade.

Is This Any Way to Prepare for a Trip to the Tropics?

Compared to how humans prepare for a trip to the topics, hummingbirds are a strange bunch. They are attempting to gain weight and lots of it. Obviously, they aren’t worried about how the bathing suit fits. My cousin said she saw one that was so fat it looked pregnant. Their bodies are normally so sleek they aren’t much wider than their tiny head but not at this time of the year.

These little birds have to have lots of food right now so don’t take your feeders down thinking that will make them go south. One thing that causes them to migrate is cooler temperatures but there’s more. They operate on what’s called a circannual rhythm (sort of like our circadian rhythm only this is a yearly one) that tells them when to leave and it has nothing to do with the availability of food. It is governed by shorter days which cause a hormonal change that increases their appetites. They will molt so their feathers will be fresh and in good shape.  And the hormones also cause them to build up some flight muscles. From the looks of their fat little bodies, they will need the muscles to stay in the air. Have you seen how slowly they are flying these days? Another thing you will notice is fewer males. The fellas go south ahead of the females and the youngsters.

When humans prepare to head for sunny climates it’s diet time. When hummingbirds head south they need the calories, so keep feeding and enjoy watching the changes they are going through. I keep waiting for one to waddle in mid-air.

The Question is Not “Should Kevin Jennings Be Appointed?”

I guess I’ve been under a rock this week. Here it is Thursday and I’m just now finding out a fight has been going on all week over the appointment of Kevin Jennings to the US Department of Education. I didn’t know the Department of Education even had a Safe and Drug Free Office to which he has been appointed Assistant Deputy Secretary.

People are upset because Mr. Jennings is a homosexual and not only that but he founded the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, so he’s an activist. And 21 years ago when he was a high school teacher he gave some very bad counsel to a 15-year-old student who told him about a homosexual encounter he’d had. OK, so he’s all that and he said that to the student. I don’t think these things look great on a resume but arguing about who should fill his post is not what we ought to be discussing.

The real problem is that we have the US Department of Education in the first place. Jimmy Carter set it up in 1979 when he signed a bill that separated it from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. (Health and Human Services became the other new department.) Reagan tried to shut down the Dept. of Education in 1982 but the Democrats wouldn’t go for it.

The Republicans were right in 1996 when they stated in their party platform that “the Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place” and called for the abolishment of the whole department. However, as it is with many things, the Republican history of dealing with this department is not consistent. After Reagan tried to shut it down, H. W. Bush wouldn’t touch it, and then along comes ol’ G. W. Bush and he expanded it, rather than close it like he said he would.  And in fact, we have George Bush to thank for the existence of this Office. It was part of the No Child Left Behind Act.

So what we have is an unconstitutional department that sucks up $62.6 billion in regular discretionary appropriations (FY 2009), and if that’s not enough they also got  another $96.8 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  And what do they do with all this money? OUR money? Well, Kevin Jennings is #31 on a list of 94 political appointees to senior staff positions. There are also 12 appointees who have to be confirmed by the Senate. I don’t know if this is the entire list of posts or not; these are the ones who have been appointed since January 2009. I wondered how many people work at this place and what do they do? Turns out there are about 5,000 employees and according to the U. S. Department of Education website, they operate “programs that touch on every area and level of education.”

My question is not about Kevin Jennings at all. It’s about how we can get rid of the whole Department of Education. We obviously can’t count on the Democrats OR the Republicans to do this. We need a president, along with senators and representatives, with libertarian ideals to run this country and get us back to following our Constitution.