Thursday, March 31, 2011

Patience is a Virtue

Patience is a virtue that I don’t have.  Not that I have a lot of others as I tend to be somewhat of a virtue-less person.  But mostly I have to be the most impatient person there is.  I mean when I start a diet, I have to see results immediately.  When I try a new wrinkle cream, I expect to wake up the next morning with teenage-looking skin.  Things just don’t work fast enough for me.

That’s probably why I drive so fast.  While I really like to drive my car, to me, it’s a real waste of time to travel.  I get so impatient driving from one place to another, that I guess I figure if I drive faster I will have more time to do more when I reach my destination.  I wish we could all be like Star Trek and transport ourselves everywhere… Scotty?  I would love to just pop into where I was going so I don’t have to sit in traffic or drive behind these num-nuts who drive agonizingly slow.  It completely unnerves me to be behind someone who thinks that 25 mph is being all Parnelli Jones and has to drive like they are going through a school zone.  Then they decide to use their cell phone and start weaving all over the road.  I mean, really, can’t they chew gum and walk at the same time?

Eating and sleeping are two other time wasters if you ask me.  I know it is really evident that eating is one of my favorite things to do, but it does take time to cook a meal; time that could be used for something else.  Can you imagine what we could do if we didn’t have to eat or sleep?  There would be so much more time to do everything. I am not really sure I know what I would do, but I am sure that I could find something. 
I suppose that I really need to slow down though as I know that rushing through life is not really good for me.  All this rushing could give me a heart attack, or stroke, or something.  But it would be quick way to go.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Paid for an Argument

It has been said that politics and religion, should not be discussed at cocktail parties because it can start an argument.  If you do venture into those areas, and find yourself floundering, it is best to reach for the phase, "I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree!" and move on.  However, there are those people who love to argue.
I work with one such person and no matter what I say this person always has something to say about it.  At first I thought it was just me.  I was relatively new to the group and this person had been here a while and I thought they were just correcting me on proper procedure.  But now it’s been some time and I think I am pretty familiar with my job, but still this person finds fault with everything.  It is really maddening and annoying.
How should I deal with this?  Most of the time I just repeat the phase above and move on, but sometimes I get so mad I have to bite my tongue to prevent saying something I am going to regret later.  Fortunately I don’t report to this person so my outbursts might not be that risky, but you never know what the future can bring and one day that could be the case.  I think people like to argue because they just like to be right all the time.  It is a challenge to deal with those kinds of people, but I have found some things that can help.
You first have to understand that sometimes a person could have a personality disorders and you can’t do anything about it.  You also have to recognize the fact that there are always going to be impossible people.  People are different than you, they don’t think like you, their backgrounds are different, and sometimes you just don’t get along with everyone.
Understand that it's them, not you. If you're dealing with an impossible person, they probably tell you over and over again that everything is your fault. It isn't. Remember, "It takes two to tango." Chances are, they are the ones at fault and don’t want to recognize it. You will only raise your own blood pressure going to their level and taking the bait to fight.
Stay calm in the situation.  Don't reply with angry words and, whatever you do don't cry - this will only get them going. Walk away, start another conversation with a totally different topic, and maybe find something you can agree on. Redirect by focusing on something, anything positive in the situation or in the conversation.  In some ways they need to be treated like a child, so just as you do with a two-year old who is hell bent on touching that priceless antique, redirection is your only salvation.
Finally, this is your chance to be a manager.  You need to manage this impossible person so that he or she is less damaging to you.  Silence is really golden in this case, and reasoning won’t work.  Impossible people do not listen to reason. They don't recognize their mistakes and feel they have no flaws. You must understand and manage this attitude without blaming them or giving in to anger. In the end you are the better person for it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Well Rounded Education

Since 1867, education has been deemed mandatory for all children in the county through the Department of Education. Since that time the department and the laws governing education have changed a bit. But our country still offers “free” education for children between the ages of 5 to 18, public education. Our local school boards dictate what the curriculum will be within the parameters of the law, meaning that all children get the basics overseen by the federal government.

For the most part, education in this county has done the job. According the Wikipedia, the country has a reading literacy rate at 99% of the population over age 15, while ranking below average in science and mathematics understanding compared to other developed countries. In 2008, there was a 77% graduation rate from high school, below that of most developed countries. These statistics have caused many a politician to expound on the need for a quality education for our youth and tout their ideas on how to get that learning are as different as snowflakes.

There has also been much discussion about the type of curricula that our children should have. Greater emphasis has recently been place on math and science recently, primarily because of the scores on the standardized tests and competition with other countries for those disciplines. However, not much attention has been paid to the humanities, and to my knowledge there are no federal guidelines surrounding how much or how little art and music should be included in subjects taught.

Few people believe there is a strong correlation between the study of music and the discipline of math and science, and I am sure that many would be surprised to learn that such a connection exists. But there is a strong relation and if more people knew about it, there might be more of an emphasis to including the humanities in school. A study was done in 2009 that shows that music participation, such as music lessons taken in or out of school or even listening to classical music attending concerts, has a positive effect on reading and mathematics in early childhood and adolescence. This study should pave the way to including a more well-rounded education that will improve the overall scores in math and science, while at the same time providing a method that helps a child improve their self esteem and just might encourage them to stay in school.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Honor Your Dead

Death is a much bigger business than people think it is, but it seems as if nowadays, once you are dead, you’re dead and no one is going to pay attention to you any longer.  That seems to be the sentiment of one local cemetery in Norristown. 
Back in the Victorian times, cemeteries used to be places where families would go to be with their dearly departed and spend a lazy summer afternoon.  You can see evidence of that if you go to one of the large cemeteries in the area such as West Laurel Hill where the grounds are meticulously maintained.  According to one site I looked at, “views and practices related to death and burial in America paralleled those of Europe and began to change significantly in the early 1800s”.  Graveyards were made elaborate and landscaped like parks.  People had various customs they would follow, such as wearing mourning clothes for a specific period of time depending on your relationship to the deceased. 
Nowadays death is something we rarely talk about.  It is a difficult subject to talk to your parents about, and certainly one you don’t discuss around the proverbial water cooler at the office.  Many people seem to have a fear of dying; I know I did until a few months ago.  But that’s not what this entry is all about.  This entry is about the abysmal shape of the Tremont Cemetery on Sandy Street in Norristown.  A few days ago, I happened to be in that area and wandered through the graveyard.  I was shocked and dismayed at the condition.  As you can see in some of these pictures, the grass is overgrown, headstones toppled, and trash strewn about.  Is this any way to honor our dead?  Tremont has some incredible history there.  Yes, most of the people buried there were poor, in fact it is rumored that there is a mass grave of the people who died from the flu in 1918.  But it is significant as Tremont is a cemetery where blacks and whites are buried together side by side.  That was almost unheard of in the 1800s.  But the minister at the First Baptist church at that time was very forward thinking and demanded that it would be that way. 
I had a chance to communicate with the new pastor of the First Baptist Church, who owns the property. They have a small congregation and with limited resources they can’t maintain the grounds and only mow the grass in the spring and summer.  I know of several groups who used to help out, but don’t any longer.  We have a wonderful peaceful place in our community and it is falling apart.  It could be a beautiful park if people could get over their fear of death and just go and sit and contemplate in this small open space.  And since the owners of the property don’t have the resources to help, they need help from us.  After all, evidence of our past is there, including some people who fought and died for our freedom and they are being forgotten. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sharing History

Last night I attended the Norristown Bicentennial Dinner held at the Savior Hall.  It was the first in a series of events that are being planned to commemorate the 200 years of Norristown’s history.  It was a fun evening and my husband and I had a great time eating, dancing, and talking to people we have known for some time.  The band was Jump Street, and they did a variety of music covering bands from the Temptations to the Black Eyed Peas.  The food was provided by Zone’s Catering and it was quite tasty.

Norristown was established on March 31, 1812 and I am sure that things were quite different back then.  For one thing there were far less people than the current 39 some odd thousand souls, then being about 500. Some early statistics show that it was subsequently enlarged in 1853 and 1909. In 1900, 22,265 people lived there; in 1910, 27,875; in 1920, 32,319; and in 1940, 38,181 making it the most populous community for a borough.  Many people don’t realize that Norristown was not a borough starting in 1986 when they established their first home rule charter.  It changed to a municipality, but everyone still called it a borough until 2004 when the new charter was established.  It was at that time that the actual name started to be pushed.  But I am sure that people will always call it a borough as old habits die hard.

Norristown was at one time a bustling town with many downtown shops, a hotel, two movie theaters, and much industry.  Being the county seat, many people came here to do a variety of things involved with government.  Norristown has its fair share of notables that include actors, sports figures, revolutionary generals, and musicians.  Now the town is in a decline and has suffered many setbacks in the last 5 decades.  But I have faith that the powers that be will work to improve things for the future. 

I was not born in this town, but I am sure that I will die in this town.  I have faith that all is not lost as some would have you believe.  Maybe it’s the fact that I live here and I want the best for my house value, but I have a gut feeling that things will eventually turn around.  Norristown has a great past and a promising future.  It only takes faith and people who believe.  Let’s enjoy reliving the past 100 years and making plans for the next century.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Driving through town, and especially walking, I can’t get used to seeing litter lying about. The municipality tries to do what they can about it, but it keeps on coming. It is hard to regulate, hard to control, and it’s pervasive. For years I have struggled with this notion that if there are laws against littering then things would get better. I used to think that people would want to have their properties looking nice and would take care of things like clearing the trash from their front sidewalks.

Then, suddenly the other day I came upon a thought. Perhaps people just don’t know how to pick up the litter. So maybe we have to teach people how to do it. Just maybe we don’t have to have all these laws perhaps people don’t understand how to bend over and using their fingers to pick up that burger wrapper on the sidewalk. Perhaps they just don’t understand the concept. Maybe they don’t think people can perform that kind of movement.

Perhaps we have to tell people that humans can actually do that action. People have with muscles in the lower half of our bodies that allow them to bend the upper torso forward so that their hands are closer to their feet. In this position, one can use their fingers to grasp something that is on the ground and then reverse that movement and raise the lower half of our bodies upright and place that item that was on the ground in a trash receptacle.

All my life I just thought that people just didn’t care. Now I know it’s because they don’t know how to bend over. Geez, what a revelation!

Monday, March 21, 2011


Over the weekend, we had a murder in town. It was a senseless killing, not that any killing make sense, but this one defied all logic to me. A young man was shot down while walking home from his girlfriend’s house in order to get home before his curfew. We are finding out that this young man was a model citizen. He was a junior member of the ROTC, he was active in his church, and he was doing well in school. He was picked on a little, some said, while others said he was someone they looked up to; someone whose life they could emulate. The shooter has not been caught yet.

The police reports say this is a robbery gone bad. However, the word on the street is that someone had a beef with him and found someone with a gun and hunted him down. If that is the case, the question in my mind is what prompts some people to do that kind of thing? Why do some people think that guns will solve anything?

Guns are made to kill people. It’s a simple as that. The second amendment does not give us the right to kill another person. It gives us the right to have a well-armed militia, and in time of relative peace in our country there is no need for a well-armed militia. Guns don’t solve anything because once you use one, whether it’s to defend yourself, or as an attacker you end up with a bigger problem that the one you started off with.

The logic that if everyone had a gun we would all be safer is no logic at all. Maybe if we all had a brain, we would all be safer is the better way to look at it. It all comes from the fear that the American culture breeds in us which dictates everything we do from buying the right toothpaste for fear of being shunned because your breath is bad to the need to protect all of our worldly possessions with locked doors and alarms. What’s more important here; things or people?

But I suppose the biggest reason some people want guns, is that guns wield a sense of empowerment. I suppose that these people think they are weak and useless without a firearm in their possession. I suppose that these people think that they will be able to do anything with a firearm in their waistband. I suppose they think that they will be the ones to be feared with a firearm in their hand. They’re right, but they are not feared because of the gun, they are feared because they are a menace to society and too brainless to know how to deal with life.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Outpouring of Support

Last night a fundraiser was held to assist two elderly people in our community.  Their house was caught up in a fire that took out four homes shortly before Christmas and the woman of the couple nearly lost her life, but was saved by several firefighters.  It wasn’t a fire caused by a smoldering cigarette, or a pot left on the stove.  It was a fire caused by the senseless violence of a gang of young men who threw a firebomb at a house that was attached to their house.  Theirs was a total loss and the only things left are the four walls holding up the structure. 

The fundraiser was mostly organized by their son, who has a catering company in a nearby town who does beef and beer type events.  One reason I attended was that one of the civic organizations that I belong to assisted in the organizing and selling tickets.  However, most of the planning was done by the son and most of the guests were friends and family of the parents.  It was really heartwarming to see that many people come to support those two.  500 tickets were sold, and needless to say the place was packed, as you can see in this photo.

Samuel Johnson said, “There will always be a part, and always a very large part of every community, that have no care but for themselves, and whose care for themselves reaches little further than impatience of immediate pain, and eagerness for the nearest good.”  In most cases I believe this to be true.  There are so many people who could care less about what the implications of their actions on those around them.  Case in point the totally selfish action of the gang member who put four families out their homes to settle some misguided sense of justice.  However, last night’s outpouring of support for two members of the community to help them rebuild their lives goes against those words.  We all have it in us to join together and give a leg-up to another.  I just wish more people would rally around and do what is right for a change.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Let's Make Learning Fun

I read an article about an independent project that was put on Facebook by a friend of mine. A school in Massachusetts allowed some high school kids to create their own curriculum for a year and it changed the life of many of them.

Reading about these kids moved me to tears because I think about the failure of so many young folk in my community who don’t complete their education. They probably get lost along the way and fail to catch up and end up dropping out. To them education is not important and they fail to see the reason why a high school diploma at least will give them a leg up in the ladder of life. Life on the streets gives more relevance to where they are right now. The boring study of algebra has no significance to what’s important in their lives. When I hear of schools like the one in the article, I know that some place, somewhere, there are people who care.

If school were an interesting place, a place that gives the students the desire to learn and explore the world things could be different. But teachers are put in a situation where they want to teach these young minds, but they are caught between the desire to make a difference in a young person’s life and making sure they perform all the tasks they have to in order to meet the school’s expectations. I spoke to a teacher a few months back who was so frustrated with the paperwork she had to fill out with the No Child Left Behind policy, so could hardly do her teaching. I could see how utterly hopeless she felt and imagined that her original desire to become an educator fell by the wayside. So we’ve ended up with schools pushing kids through like a factory making parts for widgets.

My son recently finished school. It was the most boring thing for him to do. He was not challenged with interesting discussion and fascinating problems to solve. He was not allowed to think creatively about how to solve a dilemma. He was given standardized tests and rote memorization and the last year was a struggle. I know a lot rests on his shoulders, but maybe if the high school where he went had more to offer it would not have been so difficult. His teachers wanted him to succeed and we had many discussions about how it could be better, but I think they could only work with what they were given in terms of the curriculum.

We need to engage kids again. We need to allow them to explore their environment and tell us what’s important to them. We need to create more a partnership in learning. These kids are our future and draining them of all creativity and a zest for life doesn’t bode well for us in our golden years.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I hate being on pills. There used to be a time when I didn’t mind it, but now I associate medication with old age and it saddens me and makes me feel like a failure. About three weeks ago I had a medical situation and my doctor sent me for blood work and some other stuff. It came back with my cholesterol levels as being too high and my blood pressure was through the roof. So now I am on blood pressure medication and a statin. The blood pressure medication makes me tired and when I went back for a check up after taking the pills, she did see an improvement so she said I could take half a tablet for the blood pressure. I am still on the hook for the statin until I have more blood work in three months and lose the weight. Truthfully I haven’t been doing much to lose the weight. Bicycling season is coming up so I figure I can eat the same things and bicycle and should be fine. It happened last season I hope it will happen again. I don’t eat bad stuff, I just eat too much of it, and the regular exercise was enough to drop the weight so I am counting on that again.

I just turned 57. I don’t’ look 57 and I am sure I don’t act 57 and further more I don’t feel 57. My concept of 57 is really based on my mother at that age and the celebrities I grew up watching in movies and on TV. Like Cher and Goldie Hawn, and Sophia Loren. They don’t look their age but it’s because of plastic surgery and makeup and air brushing. I know I won’t be able to maintain my youthful appearance forever and I am noticing fine lines where I haven’t seen them before. My skin has that old lady appearance that I see on my mother and that saddens me more than anything. There have been changes that I don’t like having to wear my reading glasses more and more. Sure I really don’t mind the absence of menses, but I hate the hot flashes. So there are tradeoffs.

Yesterday I went to an event celebrating Women’s History. The woman leading the event was a friend of mine and when I walked in she was singing along with a song about hot flashes. We all laugh about them but they are not comfortable; not comfortable at all. But it is one of those things that we all have to go through, I suppose. That is if you want to take pills for it. More pills. We have become a nation of pill takers and the older I get the more annoyed by that I become. I don’t want to be fixed by a pill; I just want to be fixed. So I will continue to take my pills like a good girl, and continue to eat right and exercise and hopefully soon I will be able to get off this medication and strive for living life naturally again.