Monday, January 31, 2011

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back Into the Garden ...

Bigfoot is back and is rooting in my lawn like a pig at its trough. Enough already!

When last we left the garden at Fort Chapman, Mr. Possum and Mr. Skunk had been sent on their way(s), and peace had returned to the tranquil setting surrounding the bucolic fort.

Unfortunately, the two miscreants appear to have had relatives who stuck around to wreak their revenge with a further round of divot tossing. After a break of four or five days, the mysterious, curiously invisible creatures have struck once again.

The lawn had just been beginning to heal ...

An elderly gardener I met at a luncheon recently, who looked a little bit like Miss Marple, heard my tale of woe and said nothing until I got up to leave.

"I have just two words for you, young lady," she said. "Beneficial nematodes."

"Beneficial nematodes?"

"Yes, they will eat your lawn grubs and solve your problem. Make sure they've been refrigerated."

I must look into this. Nematodes are a totally gross kind of round worm and they were the culprits that ate my impatiens in Florida. Discovering beneficial ones that need to be chilled, like wine, is a new one on me.

But its either that, spend several hundred more dollars on Andy-the-Trapper in an on-going hunt for recalcitrant suburban game, or ... where the heck did I put my father's service revolver?

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Sensual Beauty of Old Linen

I used this scalloped, embroidered old tablecloth I found in my mother's things, as a window curtain in the hall bath.

I have a confession to make: I've turned two old worn-out linen tablecloths into curtains for my bathrooms. If this is a sign of my growing eccentricity--go ahead and turn me in to the eccentricity police. In the meantime, I will make a second confession: I think old linen has a sensual beauty almost unsurpassed in the modern world.

Unless you take a baseball bat to the master bath in my parents' home, you are stuck with those Eisenhower era pink-and-gray tiles. I painted everything white and soft gray, and then ...

... I found this old pink-and-gray tablecloth in my mother's rag bag. It had been so loved and used it had a big hole in the center. I cut it in half and hemmed it and used it in the pink-and-gray bath's window.

I have a friend who inherited some beautiful old linens from her great aunt. She has put some of the best pieces into framed shadow boxes and placed them on her walls, because, she says, she wants her children and grandchildren to know what old linens looked like.

I'm not ready to frame mine yet. I try to use them and live with them as much as I can. The way the light touches these fabrics, and the life in their fibers is a joy to the senses. They are also durable, usable, and nice to hold--whether in your hand as a handkerchief, or in your lap as a napkin.

Irish linen napkins I found in a re-sale shop.

Pink linen cocktail napkins that belonged to my mother.

I continue to put linen guest towels in the bathrooms: but I have only rare success in getting anyone to use them. Miss Manners suggests you put a wicker basket on the floor so people will know to use them and toss them into the basket. I've tried that too and still no one will use my linen guest towels! People are so afraid that you might be required to iron them again! Other than hire a washroom attendant for my next party, I'm not sure what to do.

Linen guest towels. Please use!

Ironing simple, flat things, like towels and napkins is not a hard job. On a rainy day, you can stay in your jammies, turn on the television and iron your linens while you watch classic movies. The movies take me back to a time when there were beautiful linens everywhere, and women wore hats and gloves when they went out, and men shared their handkerchiefs with women when they cried. And you could trace a women from the initials and the lace on her handkerchief.

The subtlety of linen damask. This has a pattern of Parma violets woven into the fabric.

Blue and white are a common color combination in old linen. I wonder why?

In Florida, where old people go to die, I found a wealth of old linens in second-hand stores. Sometimes, I would find a whole box of Irish linen napkins that had never been used, though the box was ancient and had suffered a little in storage. I'm now forcing myself to stop looking through the piles of linens at these shops.

I'm surrounded by beautiful linen and I'm using beautiful linen. It is recycleable, reusable, natural, green, practical, and best of all, it is the perfect combination of beauty in form and function.

But I have to stop buying it. I need to leave some of it for the rest of you to find and enjoy.

Linen from Portugal conjures up ancient traders with bolts of frabic and ships with holds full of spices: but Portugal still produces beautiful linens.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Shining City? Or The Sum of Our Parts?

I covered a number of State of the Union addresses during my years as a reporter in Washington D.C. I'm not sure how significant these speeches are, in terms of America's history and its direction. Since the invention of television, they've become, mostly, a chance to see how well a president can present his ideas--if he has any--and if he does, to see what kind of ideas they are.

The office of president is, as they say, a bully pulpit. And from this bully pulpit this year, there was something missing. What wasn't there, was a vision of America as a nation of extraordinary exceptionalism. A nation which has always faced challenges and from which great inventions come on the morrow after the trials of today.

For, in the end, the reason people keep flooding our shores, is not because, here, one finds a chicken in every pot, a car in every driveway, a television in every bedroom, and a computer on every desk. It is because here people are free to dream.

Barack Obama is the embodiment of all that makes America so special: yet he has spent so much time analyzing the trees, he seems to have missed the forest entirely.

He tells us that in South Korea, homes have better Internet access than we do. That Europe and Russia have better roads and railways. As if one could measure America's value by material things! You can't measure a person that way: why do so with a nation?

We're the only nation ever invented based on the ideal that each of us should have the chance to rise or fall as we choose. That we should each have the freedom to think and worship and dream without interference from anyone.

These things, perhaps not surprisingly, have made us rich beyond our wildest dreams. And if we face economic issues now, it may be because we've used our innovation and creativity to prosper and our leadership got used to spending our tax money like drunken sailors on leave.

They ought to cut that out. We can handle the belt tightening. Can they?

So when I listened to the State of the Union address last night it made me think back to Jimmy Carter: a nice man and a good man, but another man who saw America as the sum of its parts--with a "malaise" upon the land.

He was followed in office by a big man of great optimism. President Ronald Reagan occupied the same space at almost the same time and saw something entirely different. Reagan saw instead a shining city on a hill in which all things were possible. Then he worked to make it all come true.

Internet access, roadways and bridges, rail lines and deficits are only small things. Ideas are big, and it is ideas that have made America.

"America is too great for small dreams."
Ronald Reagan

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Life Imitates Art

The Yard Bunny amidst the shrubs.

When I looked out this morning from my kitchen window, I saw the Yard Bunny feasting on my lawn. I truly did not mind. After the mess the skunk and opossum made digging up the lawn, a little munching by the yard bunny was nothing to complain about.

I grabbed my iPhone and snapped a few pictures. And when I downloaded the shots, something struck me. The Yard Bunny, camouflaged by a sea of shrubs in a heather color similar to the Yard Bunny's coat, reminded me of a famous drawing by Arts and Crafts designer William Morris.

Englishwoman Beth Russell has turned it into a needlepoint design and that is where I had seen it.

As a long time needlepointer, I have needlepoint cats, a needlepoint pig and piglets, and I even have a needlepoint snail. Looks like we need a needlepoint Yard Bunny around this house, to round out the decor. My friend Lisa says my lucky rabbit may have returned now that the other, more violent critters (Mr. Skunk and Mr. Possum) have departed.

Thus, I have several new things to be thankful for. I can get started on a new needlepoint project--The Arts and Crafts Yard Bunny hiding in shrubbery while dining al fresco at Fort Chapman. And, sigh, peace has once again been restored to the garden.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pilot Traditions and an Old Shirt

Robin and her father, age 78, getting ready to go flying from NUQ on a sunny California day.

I brought down a box from the attic on Friday. It didn't have much in it, but it was all interesting stuff. My father's yearbooks from Auburn University; some letters my mother wrote to a friend while she was planning her wedding; Dad's sheepskin from Auburn; Mom's high school diploma.

And then there was this curiosity. It was a white shirt, with blue polka dots. It had a lot of the back cut out of it and had some writing on the still, very starched, collar.

The Shirt.

Nothing was terribly dusty in the box and it all had been carefully sorted. Some time in the last ten years, Mom and Dad had gone through the box and thrown out the things they didn't want. Everything that remained was tied up in neat little bundles.

Everything except the shirt. It was just sitting there in the box: not folded, not unfolded. Just there.

I looked more closely at the notation on the collar. It wasn't on the underside of the collar with the laundry marks. It was on the outside of the collar. I recognized my father's neat, engineer-style printing:

"1st Solo 3-2-41 Inst. Al Lumpkin time 10 min"

I never knew my Dad was superstitious--though many pilots are.

It had to be the shirt my father wore when he made his first solo flight in a J-3 Piper Cub at the Auburn Airport, March 2, 1941.

His Pilot Log Book was also in the box and it confirmed the date.

He had been a college student in 1940 and learned of a government-funded program for flight lessons: if you met the qualifications and passed the physical--he told us about this once at the dinner table--the federal government would subsidize your lessons.

He had wanted to learn to fly all of his life, but had not had the money to do it. Now, he had a chance. President Franklin Roosevelt knew America would soon need pilots; knew there was a war on the horizon; knew in the meantime, it would look like just another New Deal program if the government paid one group of young people to train another group of young people to fly.

Dad told us he was so nervous the day he took his flight physical, he was afraid his blood pressure would disqualify him. But, with the help of a kindly nurse who allowed him to take a few breaks between BP tests, he passed.

And so, while keeping up with his studies in engineering at Auburn, qualifying for two engineering honor societies--Tau Beta Pi and Pi Tau Sigma--and working part-time at a soda shop, he also zoomed over to the flying field at Auburn for lessons.

He always had lots of energy.

William Ashley Chapman at his first job, with Cessna Aircraft, in Wichita, Kansas. He got his pilot's license while studying engineering at Auburn University.

On the second day in March 1941, when he was twenty years old, William Ashley Chapman made his first solo flight. Al Lumpkin, his instructor, whose name we know only from the scrawling on the shirt, had to sit on the sidelines so Dad could earn his pilot's license.

He landed safely and marked his shirt in celebration. I asked a pilot friend about this and he said he had seen shirts, marked like my father's, pinned to the walls at rural airports.

Dad's appears to have been cut to pieces in the back. I suspect the tradition is that others, taking their first solos, would cut a piece out of the back of one of these lucky shirts, just for a little insurance. It is just a guess. Otherwise: my father was way too thrifty to let anybody cut up a perfectly good shirt!

When he left Auburn, in June 1941, he must have taken the shirt with him. He kept it the rest of his life.

And he was lucky. He spent five years in the Atlantic and Pacific in World War II and survived without a scratch. He married the girl of his dreams and loved her for sixty five years. He had a successful engineering career and another in the Army Reserves. He earned a Masters Degree in his spare time and invested his money wisely. When he retired he found he was earning more than when he was working.

One day, he looked around and realized it was now okay for him to have some fun. At the age of sixty-eight, he returned to flying and requalified for his license.

I always thought he made his own luck. He worked hard, never valued things much, and kept his life free of clutter.

But he saved that shirt. And since he lived to be ninety, he saved it a long, long time.

If you called it a lucky shirt: you couldn't be far wrong.

I might just cut off a piece of it, myself.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Without a Fare-Thee-Well, Mr. Skunk Vanishes

The trap was sprung Saturday morning.

When we last left Mr. Skunk in his Creature Catchers nest--or "trap," as it is less charmingly called--he was resting comfortably, perhaps wondering why the grub buffet--also laughingly called my lawn--was so near and yet so far.

It was still sprung Saturday afternoon, and I crept close enough to see that there was a black creature inside with a white stripe down his back.

And there he sat when my cousins picked me up at 5:20 p.m. Saturday, for a classic film at the Stanford Theatre. (Bette Davis in 1934's "Fog Over Frisco"--called "the fastest movie ever made." It is a murder mystery with great location shots of San Francisco almost 80 years ago.)

Since the Creature Catchers' business card says they work "Seven Days a Week," I had called them earlier in the day, even though it was Saturday, to report Mr. Skunk's capture. I didn't hear back from them, and, by the time I went out that evening, I was beginning to wonder if my prisoner was going to have to spend the entire Martin Luther King Jr. three-day holiday in the poky.

When I returned home from the movies and dinner, I forgot to greet him before going to my own evening's rest.

The next morning, the Fog wasn't over Frisco, it was right over my own hometown.

The Santa Clara Valley, between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, can sometimes have the fog roll in.

Wandering out to get the newspaper, still rubbing my sleep-filled eyes, I could barely see the redwood in my neighbor's backyard. It was a real pea-souper of a fog.

Shadows and fog in California.

But as the sun rose and the fog began to clear--both in my yard and in my sleepy head--it was apparent that something was definitely missing.

Mr. Skunk had vanished. And he had disappeared in the night along with his white-plastic-legal-humane-food-filled Creature Catcher trap.

He left without a goodbye of any kind. I've known a few skunks in my time and I've learned that this is often how a skunk takes leave of you.

The empty flagstone where Mr. Skunk used to be.

He was either abducted by aliens, or "relocated" by Andy of Creature Catchers. Or, he ran off with another skunk, leaving, as is usual in these cases, the mess behind for someone else to clean up.

Thus ends our latest adventures with Creatures. We hope we are well rid of them all, for the present. I thought I had sworn off those fellows, years ago.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Creature of Trap One Revealed: And Then ... A Surprise in Trap Two ...

Yup. That's a creature, all right. (That's Andy from Creature Catchers doing the science part of his job.)

I had a busy day and was finally able to meet up with Andy back at the ranch--I mean ranch house--after 2:00 p.m. Thus, is was the afternoon of the first day of incarceration for the Creature in Trap One before we were able to serve him with a writ of habeas corpus and allow him a chance to get out on bail.

There was food in there. We met all the international treaty requirements on prisoners.

Andy, a truly nice man from Creature Catchers, put on these really huge gloves. Then, he tipped the trap endwise, opened the lid, and looked inside.

"That's a really big 'possum," he said.

"Would it be ... I mean ... do you think I could look?" I asked him. I've only seen a live marsupial in the zoo, except for that one time I saw this 'possum as large as my house in my Florida driveway. I caught him in the headlights of my car and ... wait, I'm getting off track here. Let's get back to California.

Andy said it would be okay. So I approached. My iPhone camera at the ready.

Mr. Possum said hello by barring his sharp teeth and hissing.

One look was plenty.

But could this be the Creature who has done all that damage to my lawn?

Andy said yes he could. Should you haul him away, I asked? Yes I should, he said.

"If he has been out grubbing on your lawn in daylight," he said, "he may not be healthy. That's not normal for a 'possum. They come out at night." The lawn damage seems to take place at about 3:00 in the afternoon.

Then, to add to the fun, my Neighbor came over to kibbutz. He's the guy who is trying to train his big, friendly, yellow Lab called Toby Tyler. Toby has grown to an enormous size and is working very successfully at avoiding all attempts at behavior modification. (Toby is also a very good television critic and writes for this blog, from time to time, when he can sneak away from his important "sit" and "stay" sessions.) But back to the Neighbor, who arrived sans Toby.

The Neighbor comes over to look into the trap with Andy. The Neighbor agrees it sure does look like a 'possum.

"What are you going to do with that thing," the Neighbor asked? "You're not going to kill it, are you? I like 'possums. I had one that used to come in my doggie door and drink from my dog dish."

"Naw," said Andy. "I'll just relocate him."

"How about if we relocate him to your yard?" I asked the Neighbor. Ha ha ha, he said in return.

So, as the sun began to set in the West, we took one last look at Mr. Possum before Andy took him to the truck.

Bye Mr. Possum!

Mr. Possum hissed goodbye to us all. They Andy said goodbye too. It was his wedding anniversary and he wanted to get home so he could take his wife out to dinner.

Andy smiles his goodbye.

Before he departed, Andy moved Trap Number Two to the place where we had success with Trap Number One. Why not? It was baited and there might be another creature involved in lawn grubbing that had been working with Mr. Possum on his Lawn Damage Project.

If Trap Number Two was still empty after the weekend, Andy said, he would just come and pick it up and take it away. No charge.

Then ... this morning ... I had to pass Trap Number Two on my way out to get the newspaper. It was Saturday and I had slept until 7:30 a.m. and the sun was up. Oh No!

Trap Number Two. Saturday. 7:30 a.m. Sprung.

Trap Two had been sprung and I could see something inside, resting quietly in the nest-like surroundings of the white plastic trap. It was black and white.

I called the Creature Catcher hot line. Their card reads: "Seven Days A Week."

The Trap awaits Andy.

I need to get Andy to the house ASAP. Because if Toby Tyler should come over to visit before Andy does, and that black and white thing in the trap is what I think it is ... the entire neighborhood is going to know about the meeting of dog and ... Creature Number Two.

I'll keep you posted. Oh, I said that yesterday. How about "stay tuned?" Also--possibly--stay clear.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

One Trap is Sprung: Too Early to See Into It!

The sprung trap. Is there a creature inside?

Bulletin! One of the "Creature Capture" traps on my front lawn was sprung in the night and we've captured a creature, or at least I think we have. The trap doesn't have an open grill, but is like a plastic container, and though there are peep holes, I didn't want to get too close when I went out to get the newspaper at dawn, lest the creature inside is a skunk.

This was Andy, setting the traps several days ago. It is the trap in the foreground of the photo that now has something in it.

I had begun to suspect that the creature that has been rooting in my lawn may have made a nest up in the crawl space of my garage. The garage is enclosed, but creatures have ways of going in and out that we know not of.

Since the lawn-tearing-up activity--rooting for grubs the experts say--seems to take place when I've left the house or have snuggled by the fire with a book i.e. when the house is quiet; I made a point of taking an hour off to read quietly yesterday at about the time in the late afternoon when the lawn bandit attacks.

This is what a baited trap looks like, when it has not been sprung by a creature.

As I relaxed and read--I'm working on Dracula right now, a somehow appropriate book for a week of creature capturing-- I heard something make slight noises above me: either on the roof or in the attic. I didn't think there was a way into the attic for a creature, but creatures can sometimes find or make a way.

Anyway: when I finally started to make noises and went to the window, the lawn had suffered another attack. Sod had been tossed hither and thither and the pieces were really big: like double-sized divots on a golf course. But the creature had vanished.

Here is what the military calls my lawn BDA--or Bomb Damage Assessment--which in my case is a CDA or Creature Damage etc.

Sly fellow!

Last night, I left the garage door open a crack, in case the creature really does have a nest in there--in the rafters or eaves--I wanted to make it easier for the thing to get out. At dawn today one of the traps was sprung.

We await Andy, the great suburban hunter of irritating creatures, to come and check that trap. I haven't told him, but I'm still yearning for a cap like Davy Crockett.

I'll keep you posted.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Would Someone Please Ask This Woman to Stop Talking?

Sarah Palin says she can see Russia from her backyard. I wish she would just go there and leave us all alone.

Of all her many gaffes, the gaffe-iest was her release--on the day of the memorial service for the Tucson shooting victims--of a video statement attacking others for blaming her, and then using a leaden phrase like "blood libel" in her discourse.

In the first place, if she wants to play in the big leagues, she is going to have to go to the ballpark. Phoning in the game on Skype won't cut it.

In the second place, and I must address Sarah directly here: Sarah--it isn't always about you. Especially not on the day of a memorial service devoted to the victims of a mass shooting that include a nine-year old child.

A good day to say nothing.

So far, there has been no such day for Ms. Palin.

When she accidentally created the new word "refudiate," she then called further attention to herself with a Tweet that read: "Refudiate,' 'misunderestimate,' 'wee-wee'd up.' English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!"

I don't got to. If I don't want to. You wee-wee up. I've just gone.

The good news? Palin is so ill-informed and, at the same time, so egotistical, I think she will last a very short time in a presidential race. She'll flame out faster than Gary Hart with Donna Rice on his lap on the yacht Monkey Business in Bimini.

Faster than Dan Quayle at the chalkboard teaching children to misspell potato.

Faster than John Edwards getting a $300 haircut.

Faster than an escort service with Eliot Spitzer on the speed dial.

Faster than Governor Mark Sanford finding his soul mate in Argentina.

Sarah Palin knowing next to nothing about American foreign policy--nor having much interest in it! That will be a problem. Not caring about the English language. That could trip her up. Having the experience of being Governor of Alaska for just two years and then quitting to be a Fox News contributor. Everything she has said in her Fox job is on the record and will revisit Sarah like a bad meatloaf dinner.

Would you like me to go on? No. Neither would I like me to go on.

Her own words will be enough of an anchor for her to carry around, like those chains Marley's ghost had to drag through eternity in A Christmas Carol.

This is my opinion. And since I can see my opinion from my backyard, I'm entitled to it.

I don't want to compare her to a shooting star, because a shooting star is brief--but it is a joy.

Sarah Palin is more like a rash. Annoying but temporary. We hope.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Tucson Shooting and Its Aftermath

Brooks and Shields on the PBS News Hour, discussing whether it was the "high level of violent discourse in America" that caused the shooting in Tucson.

What happened in Tucson was a terrible, terrible thing. What happened afterward was also very, very sad.

Like the murder of John Lennon, the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, the slaughter at Virginia Tech, the mass murder at Columbine High School, and the deadly bombings by Ted Kaczynski--and so many other sadly similar cases--the perpetrator appears to have been a mentally disturbed young man.

From the blather that followed the Tucson case, one might never know that. On every news program I have watched since the shooting--most especially the News Hour on PBS--there were long discussions about the "political discourse in this country" and "whether it has become too violent."

Poppycock is the nicest thing I can say about analysis like that.

I'm not a medical person. But I was a minor public figure who appeared on television for more than two decades. During those years, I got hundreds of disturbing letters from disturbed people.

I came to recognize that some mentally ill people, with certain specific kinds of symptoms, focus their illness on people they see on television and in other media. No matter what the person in the media says.

Imagine a Congresswoman or a rock star or a President of the United States and you can multiply the weird letters and threats I received by a huge number.

I received so many letters from people with these illnesses, I kept a file of them for many years in the "just in case" department of my desk drawer. The letters had many things in common though they were written by unrelated individuals.

The letters were almost always hand printed. In very small printing on both sides of the paper. And they were almost always many, many, many pages long.

In them, the writers told me of plots by the CIA and the government to cause mind control through the things I, and other public figures, were saying to them on television.

The writers frequently told me they knew this because they were getting signals from me or from others via the fillings in their teeth.

I'm not writing these things to you, so that you will laugh: though, it is true, when I write them now, this material does seem that it might be good material for a farce.

But the people who wrote them then and write and think these things now, were and are not farcical. They were and are very serious and believe what they write. Evidence? Tuscon, Arizona.

In my case--and this was some years ago--one young man who wrote me these things made an attempt on my life and was incarcerated for it. He later escaped, threatening, once again, to kill me. After I had a very sleepless weekend, while he remained at large, I returned to work, relieved to be alive.

But shortly after I walked in the door of the television newsroom where I worked, he called me on the telephone and said he was in the lobby of the TV station and would I come down and see him. I told him I would be right down.

Then I called the police. As they took him away, he screamed again that he would kill me. I had never met him.

What distrubs me now, about the Tucson shooting, is that the discussions about this particular horror, seem to be taking place among people who have been living on the moon.

These shootings are not about politics. Or the CIA, or John Lennon, or Ronald Reagan, or anything polticial or news related at all.

These terrible eruptions of violence are about mental illness and about our treatment of those who are mentally ill. Somehow--and I don't know whether this is due to legal or medical decisions--we, as a society, have accepted that the way to treat people with these often dangerous illnesses is to give them a prescription and send them home. Period.

I have heard not one discussion following any of these incidents about how we might better diagnose and treat--and possibly institutionalize, for their own safety and ours--the dangerous mentally ill, so that these murderous rampages might be avoided.

That would be a worthwhile discussion to come out of this devastating case. I'm looking forward to the day that Mr. Brooks and Mr. Shields of the PBS News Hour--who are both honorable, intelligent men--will enlighten us with their thoughts on this truly important issue.

Not talking about the mental health aspect of these deadly shootings is the least humane thing we can do. Both for the victims and for those who struggle with their terrible delusions.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

A Nation That Works as a Family: A Guest Post from an American in Israel

Robin writes: Dr. K. is an American citizen who is currently living in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, teaching Mental Health First Response. He was asked to do this in order to introduce Israeli citizens to the world of mental health and encourage them to gain the power to act in the event of a crisis. He is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor from the Orlando, Florida area, who has been board certified in General Counseling by the National Board of Certified Counselors for more than fifteen years. He has a Masters Degree and a PhD in his field. I asked him to tell us about his life in Israel. For the safety of his family, we identify him only by a pen name:

This is a neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, where the writer of this post has been living and working for six months.

An American Living and Working in Isarel
a Guest Post
by Dr. K

"“Hamas asks Gaza groups to stop attacking Israel” reads the headline in today’s Jerusalem Post. Every day we read something like this; yet, another Kassam missile has struck the Western border of Israel. Last week, a nursery school was hit during the time that parents were dropping their children off in the morning. So even the terrorist group Hamas, which has called for the destruction of Israel, is asking for this to cease, because they fear retaliation from the Israeli Defense Force.

It is Monday morning; the second day of the work week in Israel. (RC note: in Israel the work week runs Sunday to Thursday.) On Sunday, the streets were busy with little vans that pick up children for school--including my three children--and cars and buses driving to work.

As far as I can tell, there are no weekends in this country. No one mows lawns, because there is no grass. No one washes their cars, because there are tight water restrictions. The neighborhood here in Ramat Beit Shemesh has no single dwelling house like my home town of Longwood, Florida; rather, the buildings are usually five to six stories high, and are all the color of sand, made with Jerusalem stone.

All buildings are made with thick cement walls, so you can forget about ever using a hammer and nail to put up a picture. Oh, there are plenty of homes that have plenty of beautiful pictures on the walls, but they were put up using drills. You see, the beauty of the houses are all combined with the functionality of safety.

This is a necessity in Israel. My two young boys share a room (painted blue) which doubles as our bomb shelter. It has thick cement walls, a huge metal door, and no air vents; but to them, it’s the “boys room,” because the “girl’s room” is pink, and it belongs to their four-year-old sister.

I am preparing for a morning class and an evening class this month, since I am wrapping up the last class on Mental Health First Response, a twelve-week course I designed, in order to teach lay people exactly what mental illness is, and how to react when there is an unexpected crisis. I am equipping them with the capacity to act, and, I hope, helping them to have the courage to be able to assist their friends and family in a time of crisis. Fortunately, for me, there is a huge interest in the class.

People care about each other very much here. A teenager knocked on my door on Saturday, going house to house with a sad-eyed little girl, trying to find which house her family lived in. A couple of months ago, my seven-year-old son did not come home from school on the van with the other children. He apparently got carried away in his play, and had no cognizance that the van was even there to pick him up.

I was livid, and I called the van driver on his cell phone and yelled at him. “That’s it! My son is standing on some street corner lost in the in the Middle East, and I need to call the police”. Hell, I don’t even know the phone number for the police, and they may not understand my language. The van driver tells me in his broken English: “Relax. This is Israel. We will find your son.”

Then, a taxi driver, who knows me from the neighborhood, suddenly beeps his horn outside my dwelling. He recognized my son from the neighborhood, and gave him a ride home.

That is something that would not have happened in Orlando. It is one lesson I will take home with me, when I return to America."

Dr. K
Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel

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