Friday, July 28, 2006



I’ve been out there on a philosophical and fanciful limb long enough. Today we’re returning to the real world. It rained heavy last night so put on your rain boots and lets walk in my yard.

Now the first thing I want to show you is my grove of tomato plants. Don’t they just think that success is all about growing grand foliage and nothing else? I hoped to teach them different so I took out a pair of clippers and ruthlessly trimming their finery. They drooped their heads and examined their ripped and tore dresses. But only temporarily. They are now back in good humor and with such shredded clothes, they have turned their vanity from dress-up games to making tomatoes.

But I also have my special pet tomato, Oscaro, in a big container right by the front stoop. This is the tomato that Hub and I talk to. This is the tomato we poke each day to test for moisture. And this is the tomato that we give a last ‘Hurrah’ too before going to bed. With all this attention Oscaro is my biggest tomato and this is the one with loads of large green tomatoes. Hub was hoping it was a yellow tomato because green can turn to yellow with a whole lot less effort than green can turn to red. But no, although I planted some yellow tomatoes, this one is a red one.

Anyway, some time ago I read in a National Geographic article that when tomatoes were surrounded by red crystals of some sort, they could "see" the red, and thinking it was other tomatoes, they attempted to compete by ripening more quickly. I even wrote a blog about it.

In the photo that accompanied the magazine article, it was easy to see that the red crystals the researchers used had a reflective sheen. I was thinking about this today when I remembered that in my gift-wrap stash I had a red gift bag as bright and shiny as a piece of tin foil. So I tucked it under the biggest bunch of green tomatoes on my Pet where it would catch the reflective rays of the sun. I’ll let you know later how that goes.

But I want to show you something else. There is a young elm tree in front of my house that originally came here in a rather accidental way. One of my daughters rented a rambling old house in the city. While helping her clean up the yard I discovered an old discarded wooden box in an alleyway. It had obviously been there for some time. The box was filled with dirt and in that box were seedlings, the largest being no more than about 6 inches high. I recognized one as a maple, but nothing else, but then I’m no big botanist. But I suspected that they were young trees rather than wild flowers or annuals.

So I yanked up the derelict box, rotted and blackened as it was, and, to Hub’s horror and dismay, I put it in the trunk of the car. When I got home I planted those foreigners in my vegetable garden. That was a few years ago, and from those seedlings I now have 3 elms, 1 maple, 1 apple tree, 1 flowering plum, a horse chestnut, and a couple of remaining trees that have not yet been identified. But the tree of interest right now is one of the elms, Her Elmness.

After allowing Her Elmness a few years to flourish in my vegetable garden until she was well established Hub and I moved her in front of the house. She was weakened by the shock of transplant and leaf-damaging insects took up residence in her branches shortly after. So then each spring Her Elmness would sprout new growth in every direction but come early July the leaf marauders would invade and by fall she was so damaged, it looked like she would never survive another year. Despite that, Her Elmness has doubled in size in only three years.

I adore Her Elmness and I want her to grow up to look as sophisticated as the many mature elms that line so many parts of the Old City. But each year her life is in jeopardy and my fears increase that she is going to die. I have sprayed her with commercial insecticides and garlic water and boiled rhubarb potions, all to no avail. I wanted Hub to put a hose to her roots and saturate her feet with Diazinon but he was unwilling to do so. Said Her Elmness would eventually fight off the pests with her own immunity. If not, "Whatever happens, happens. She’s equally likely to die from chemical poisoning. Remember how upset she was when you saturated her with your rhubarb potion?"

So in my helplessness, I studied and researched tree pests, to discover a cure for that which is ailing Her Elmness. I found little but was still grateful to find that she is not in the final grips of the dreaded Elm Disease.

Then I heard a talk-show on the radio describing the conditions of my elm. A gardening expert said the condition was superficial, needed no treatment, and eventually the tree would fight it off. I was skeptical then and I remain skeptical now. And of course, there is Hub, in the background saying, "I told you so."

So now, again this summer, the insects took up residence in Her Elmness. In no time her fresh tender leaves were warped and wrapped and blackened. She looked dreadfully unhappy. But Her Elmness is fighting back like my tomatoes fought back. With most of her central leaves dead, she is bypassing them and pumping moisture and nutrition to only her newest foliage.

And so, Her Elmness, with leaves so ripped and torn that one might as well consider them clipped away, has responded just like the tomatoes did. The final two feet of each branch are growing leaves like a monster out of control while nothing is happening with the wizened leaves at all.

Yesterday I measured the new leaves and was amazed. My two other elms, that have not been dealing with an insect invasion have normal leaves that measure 3 x 1 ½". Her Elmness’ new leaves are an incredible 71/4 x 5". That is the honest-to-God truth. Her Elmness is out there in the front yard waving banners at the ends of her branches like some kind of flag ship. Those leaves are big enough that even if you ripped one in half, each half would still cover, with room to spare, Adam and Eve’s shame.

I see now that the insects have completed their cycle and are gone for another year. In the meantime Her Elmness has still time before fall to weave more, and bigger leaf flags. My hope now is that the insects are cyclic and that having completed a 3 year invasion, they will now depart for several years before returning. By then, Her Elmness, will wave her many new flags and laugh in their faces.

A rather touching incident with little dog today, but I’ll tell you that story next time if nothing more exciting comes up.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


I’ve explored in my mind all the reasons I blog. I’ve considered it might be out of boredom, a need for social interaction, to provoke thought, or because of my own vanity. And I thought I had it pretty well nailed down. But then Eleanor posted a note on July 24th about a survey that changed all that. You might want to go to her site and check in out.

In the meantime, I wanted to let you know that after reviewing the survey questions, I became aware of a whole new aspect of blogging that formerly eluded me. It was like a sudden blogger conversion. What brought me under conviction were a number of questions that compared real-life friends to blogger friends. And my conversion shone this new light on my blogging relationships.

I concluded that we blog because here are friends willing to listen to us whether we are sensible or not. Sure some may break away from our nonsense after only reading the first two lines, but we don’t see or hear it happen – the shrug, the vulgar expletive of disgust, and the dismissive slam on the mouse button. But in real life, in the physical world, we feel the emotional cut of that dismissive wave of a hand, that sneer, door slam, or that glazed look coming over the eyes of our listeners.

And cyber friends give us the best support whether our complaint is a whim not worth mentioning or an earth-shattering event. They choose words carefully to provide the best comfort. Even on days when they think we are losing it and beyond help, they don’t let on. They pretend we’re still A-okay. So we don’t feel the rejection we sometimes feel in real life when we are so distracted and abstracted that we cannot think clearly. In the real world, on those days, our friends become uncomfortable and quickly rise from their chairs and prepare to leave.

Blogging is so different. It seems like no matter how confused a person is, as a coalition, we assume that the confused one will be okay as long as they don’t shut down their site. As long as they continue to blog. But always, for a time we are more attendant to that individual. We stay near, hovering in the background, until we are sure they are in a state of good recovery.

And cyber friends are loyal. If you are like me, you probably don’t precisely tally up incoming and outgoing links, or even pay a lot of attention to those who drop you because you gave voice to some radical, out-of-the-mainstream ideology. But why would we? An erased link is not an action as harsh as someone abruptly hanging up a phone with a loud willful crash or rotating the receiver inside a metal garbage can.

And if we need advice, our blogger friends all rally. Not with impertinence or impatience. Instead with gentle and caring options. In my own experience, none have ever been overtly rude to me. And if they were, does it matter? It’s not a crashing blow. When we can’t see their real-life polish and sophistication, it’s not even a put down. Many of us simply dismiss it as someone who is ill-mannered, normally discourteous, and probably having a bad day. In real life, if it’s the mayor, or the doctor, or the school principal, it’s hard to dismiss rudeness with that same level of ease.

But the biggest downside of real people in real life is how inadequate they make those feel who are already plagued with insecurities. It is not intentional on their part or on ours. But innate comparisons always bubble to the surface. They look at us, we look at them, and the auditing starts. Totaling up an endless list of comparisons. Comparisons in grooming, posture, walk, talk, teeth, weight, and stomach protrusion. And comparisons of goals, social positioning, career, education, etc. All things that many of us are more sensitive to than we care to admit. In the blog world, all that kind of baggage becomes misty considerations buried in fogs that make most of them quit invisible. Virtual friends seldom make us feel inadequate even if we’re not intelligent enough to pick up all that they lay down.

And finally, we share with cyber friends things we would never share with real people. That’s why so many bloggers appreciate their anonymity. Our most intimate secrets are safe, even if shared, because our friendships are outside the circle of neighborhood gossips.

So out of all this comparison and analogy, I suddenly realized why I blog so avidly. It’s time well spent with true-blue friends.

Would you agree?

Monday, July 24, 2006


I not only have visual astigmatism, that hard-to-define problem with vision that warps and waves straight lines; I have a philosophical kind of astigmatism as well. A problem that causes me to see some things in a stranger light than most. Particularly when it comes to politics and global peace.

But before I continue with the politics of this discussion, I need to direct your thinking to how people are counseled in today’s world. In today’s world, people are warned about drug abuse, not by Puritans (those never exposed to the stuff), but rather by people that have been there, done that. And the reason for that is that Addiction Counseling, or any other counseling for that matter, seem to be far more effective, when conducted by former victims that are finally ‘clean’ or ‘dried out’.

Now hold that thought, because now we are going to look at the political landscape. The trouble in the Middle East. It initially blew my mind that anyone would turn to the U.S. for guidance to quell the situation. But then, (giving my head a shake) – of course they would. It rightly follows along with the same line of thinking as the counseling seminars we provide for various debilitating life-problems.

So who better to host discussions with Middle East leaders than George Bush or Condoleezza Rice? The seminar is probably not yet in full sway but I know what the Secretary of State is going to say. She is probably going to say something very similar to what the former drug addict might say in his speech to discourage the use of drugs. Her speech will sound surprisingly similar.

“Look, we know where you are coming from. We attacked a country with rockets prior to an assault by them. We have already done what you are doing. A few years ago, we foolishly set a precedent for war without retaliation against warring aggression. We have been there and we have done that. You don’t want to be doing the same. Don’t be making the same foolish mistakes we made.

See, what happened with us. Now we are in such a mess. Soldiers are still dying daily on both sides and innocent people as well. Can’t you see what has happened? Do you, for one moment want to end up in the same mess as we are in? To be in the midst of a situation that goes on and on, with so many deaths, and no end in sight? You don’t want to be doing this. For God’s sake, heed my warning. Get out now, before it is too late.”

Do you think this will deliver the desired impact?

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Now I don’t think I’m an adrenaline junky but that doesn’t alter the fact that everyone needs an adrenaline rush now and again. The jolt of a new sensation. And, of course, it is ridiculous to think that at my age I could take up some radical sport like car-racing, mountain-climbing, or bungee-jumping to create that adrenaline rush I long for. But still, regardless of crotchety limbs and unsteady hands, I long for an occasional fix of that special elixir coursing through the causeways of my body.

Now the whole point of this rant is to find something that without risk to body and bone I can do to give myself a mad, glad, rad adrenaline rush, and today I have focused on that because I am in a particularly dour mood.

When I think about what I’ve found in the past particularly enjoyable, I seem to always go back to some time when I was able to give someone something that they truly valued and longed for. Sometimes a material gift, sometimes a gift of time. And from this contemplation stemmed the thought that perhaps I could get an adrenaline rush by giving away to others the things that I personally value most. Not stuff I can pack into a real wicker hamper, but a figurative hamper packed to the brim with the invisible and intangible goods such as a listening ear, a gentle touch, concern about another, admiration or acknowledgement of another’s efforts. These are just a few examples that quickly come to mind. Of course there are many more.

‘So how do I get the stuff for my hamper?’ you may ask. ‘And how can I plan to give an unending abundance of that which I may have seldom received? Without the ability to buy or give hand-me-downs, how do I plan to stuff a hamper?’

Yes, I have limited hand-me-downs and purchase is out of the question. I know that even though the big kahuna of all coffee houses has delectable coffee for sale, they have no shelf stock of the condiments of laughter and delightful conversation to go with it. There are no aisles in the market place of listening ears ready to hear someone vent. One can’t buy a compliment for one’s efforts to conquer fear or deal with conflict. One can’t buy and bag queries from another as to how they are doing. But even though these things can’t be purchased, and believe me, if they could I would have an abundance of them just for me tallied up on a way-out-of control-charge-card, I can still give a windfall of all these things I long for to others.

This is all so amazing. And you know what? Although the giving of such gifts does not necessarily bring returns, it is still a fair exchange. That is the intriguing irony in all this. If we give away what we can’t get, what we can’t buy, what we can’t make, yet what we value most, in return we get something really special. An adrenaline rush in response to an action as risky and foolhardy as any sky-diving attempt.

Oh, and by the way I have a small package in my hamper just for you wrapped in pretty tissue-paper []’s.

[I care about you. Have a great day!]

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


I’ve always thought I could be so much happier if I didn’t hold in my mind such a large chunk of skepticism about everything. I am skeptical about religious doctrines. I am skeptical about politicians, about education standards, about government policies, and social policies on health, tolerance, acceptance, medical care, even addictions. Big skeptic, that’s me.

And amidst all this turmoil, suspicion, and indecision, I have always thought if I were more accepting, more easily swayed, less picky, I would be much happier. Way happier. Happy as a lark. Phased by nothing, discouraged by nothing, saddened by nothing. Disappointments would never be earth shattering. Everything would be in good order. Neat, tidy, acceptable.

I could adapt to all events and the social norms around me with a certainty that the world and the people in it are well-organized and all doing the right thing. I could take comfort in knowing that every thing in every day is just as it should be as long as the planet rotates, the sun comes up, flags fly, diseases are cured, churches stand, and criminals are punished.

But I don’t feel that way, because, as already stated, I am a skeptic. And oft times a miserable skeptic muttering to myself after watching the news, “What stupidity?’, muttering to myself after watching self-help experts, “fine in theory, but no practical app.” Muttering to myself after watching a med commercial, “How stupid is that? The side effects are worse than the malady?” And daily mutterings about, “What is this world coming to?” Makes me think that if I could just rid myself of my skepticism, I could be as upbeat as a 40-foot tidal wave.

But today I realized something. My skepticism is more a blessing than the curse I have always thought it to be. Because without skepticism I could be all too easily indoctrinated into any religion or cult. And I could be so cloned by the leaders of that doctrine that I would never doubt or question anything they said. But living with my skepticism has me believing in God, but at the same time some days doubting his existence. But isn’t that good? It keeps me ever wary and watchful.

Without skepticism, there is much less to think about and granted that probably makes life a whole lot more comfortable. But I surprised myself when I realized what a big downside there is to a life without doubt, indecision, and skepticism. Living without skepticism is like living without sight. Too easy an acceptance of things promotes numbness of the mind. And living without skepticism locks one into determinations that they don’t understand and feel no need to understand. That can’t be good.

I was surprised to realize that with skepticism always running interference in my mind, I ponder all things and question all things. Skeptics cannot be so molded to a political party’s philosophy that they lose their ability to question the sense and sensibility of that party’s programs and strategies. And skeptics cannot be so indoctrinated with physical exercise, diet, health consciousness, and child-rearing research that they never question whether a program is right for their own emotional and physical uniqueness? Skeptics are open-minded. All debate is open-ended until skeptics draw fast conclusions which they seldom do.

So today, I write this in honor of skeptics, at the same time skeptically wondering whether or not writing this was a wise choice.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

# 164 NO KNIGHTING, but what about SAINTHOOD?

You know the letter I wrote on (see #159, June 15th entry) to the Queen requesting Knighthood for Bobby. It’s not going to happen. My request has been refused. I am much pained by the turn of events, but when I am in pursuit of something, I don’t quit until I’ve exhausted all efforts. There is yet one other honor that might be equal to, or greater than, that of Knighthood. So this week I wrote yet another letter.


Most Holy Father, I wish to make a request for Sainthood of someone to represent the protection and blessing of the Common Man - He who has done much of worth, but nothing of notice.

Most Holy Father, I understand that the criteria is proof of three miracles and there are three that are undeniable miracles.
The first Miracle is that this man has put up with me all these years.
The Second Miracle is that he has survived all the turmoil.
And the third Miracle (this one pending) is if you would grant my husband, Bobby Smith, the special blessing of Sainthood, particularly since the Queen has refused him Knighthood, that would indeed be a Miracle.

And Most Holy Father, I am also given to understand that yet another criteria is that the body of would-be-Saints, when exhumed, show little or no decomposition after two years. This criterion also holds true. Bobby has been on the couch for two years watching Lone Star and there is no trace of decomposition of any part of his body.

So, Most Holy Father, for these reasons, I entreat you to let Sainthood for one, specifically Bobby Smith, proceed assuming that you find worthiness in what I have told you.

With All Sincerity,
Roberta Smith.

So now I must ask my readers, If this request is also refused, where do I go from here??

Friday, July 14, 2006


I saw a dark mantle,
Draped over the sun.
It folded itself,
It stretched,
It tucked in the edges.

Then came torrents.
Of warm, magical, nitrogen-laden rain.

Monday, July 03, 2006


If anyone should understand and see the need for stem-cell research it should be President Bush. He should be more able to see and understand it better than Nancy Reagan. And our Canadian leaders should be able to see it clearly as well particularly after the last Liberal reign. Yes, stem-cell research may present us with new dilemmas but no matter what they are, they can’t be worse than what we have at the moment.

In recent weeks I have decided I want to see stem-cell research but I want to see it diverted to appropriate areas. A cure for Alzheimer’s is appropriate but there is something more important to be done with this research first. We may not be ready for this until the Year 2020, but we need to find a way to create a creature with attributes of better leadership if this planet and civilization is to sustain itself.

So let’s get on with it. Let the researchers do their work. The recipe can’t be that difficult to mix and bake up a batch of quality leaders to list on our voting ballots. Magnetic leaders with ethics, morals, and a fire in their bellies to rule a country and its people in the best possible way rather than wielding corrupt-tainted powers in secrecy. We could remove ‘ego’ and ‘self-preservation’ and ‘arrogance’ and ‘oil monopoly strategizing’ from their DNA. We could increase ‘compassion’, ‘common sense’, and ‘justice’.

When it comes to ‘change’, I hate it more than most. I prefer to cling to the old ways but when the old way isn’t working, when something in the recipe is burning my gut or making me want to puke, it’s time to alter the recipe. To remove the ingredient that causes distress.

So I say if we can’t find worthy leaders, if there are none on our ballots, then let’s create some. And if that works out, we’ll be skipping down the road to global stability in no time. Exporting leaders rather than political and religious values that are so impossible for other cultures to swallow. We’ll export a Leader to Mexico and another to Iraq. Maybe one to Iran as well. We’ll flavor the recipe for these cloned leaders with cultural understanding around a solid base-mix of integrity and honor. And we’ll baste and saturate every preferred ingredient with wit and wisdom and the appeal needed to win an election.

So now, are there any special qualities that you want to add to the recipe? I think we already know what we don’t want.