Tag Archive for life lesson

Help Prevent Another Sandy Hooks Tragedy

The woman behind the reception desk at the elementary school I visited this morning was obviously overworked; she barely glanced at me as I stood waiting to sign in. After several minutes, without looking up from her paperwork, she asked, “Can I help you?”

I told her my name, that I was a performer sent by a local company to tell stories to the students, and told her the name of my contact at the school. “Fine,” she said. “Just sign the visitor sheet. The library is around the corner.”

“Would you like to see my driver’s license?” I asked. “No, just sign in, please,” she said, as she turned back to her work.

“She will never identify me in a line-up,” I thought as I signed the sheet.

I sauntered into the school hallway, a complete stranger to everyone there, able to roam the halls at will. No one had checked my identification — in fact, no one had even looked me in the eye. I had no name tag to identify me, and I was lugging two enormous handbags (that could have held an arsenal of guns and ammunition!) which no one had bothered to inspect. Not a single person stopped me to ask why in Thunder I was wandering around among these children.

I later discovered that NONE of the school doors were locked during school hours. Any visitor could come and go without passing the reception desk!

What is wrong with this picture?

Y’all, it hasn’t even been a month since the tragedy at Sandy Hooks Elementary School, yet the folks at this school had a lackadaisical attitude about visitors. Some folks are ranting about putting guns in the schools (which sounds like a recipe for disaster on many different levels) while other people rave about gun control (not being a gun owner, that would be my inclination). Before we do any of that, however, maybe we should take a long hard look at the “security” levels of the schools?

I would love to tell you that my reception at this school was an anomaly, but it is the reception that I get at least half of the time. It is true that at some schools there are two doors I have to get through before I have access to students, I have to show my identification, and I am escorted through the halls (even when I have to step to the bathroom during the day!). Those are the exceptions to the rule.

The most disturbing thing to me is that in twenty-seven years of storytelling, no one has EVER checked to see what I am carrying in my handbags! Usually the most dangerous thing in my handbag is a knitting needle, but just because I smile sweetly and look like a benign grandmotherly type doesn’t mean you should automatically trust me. That grin of mine could be masking a stone cold killer.

When I arrive at your child’s school to tell stories, I should discover that I can’t be admitted without the receptionist buzzing the door open. That is a security measure that would cost the school district some money, but would be well worth the price. In addition, the receptionist should have a set of safety procedures to follow before admitting me to the campus. This should include checking identification, examining my handbags, and (perhaps most of all) observing me in order to notice whether I am acting like a “normal” person. If I seem agitated, for Heaven’s sake don’t let me near the kids! Those same procedures should be followed for parents, grandparents, and all visitors (including children of the teachers) WITHOUT EXCEPTION.

Now, I readily admit that heightened security at the front door won’t change the scenario much if a lunatic comes to a school with guns blazing from the get-go. However, better security will make the school a less attractive target. As long as the nut cases can get their hands on an arsenal of guns, “security” won’t stop them from shooting at malls, restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, churches, or schools. But, before we start arming teachers shouldn’t we make schools as secure as we possibly can? Shouldn’t we make sure that the folks at the reception desk are at the very least paying attention to who walks through the doors?

Parents, do you know the procedure for receiving visitors at your child’s school? Perhaps, it is a good time to inquire about that in order to help prevent your school from being the next tragedy.

Serendipity of the Dragonfly

twelve spotted skimmer

I only noticed the dragonfly on the screen this morning because the internet connection was broken. My morning modus operandi is to make a pot of coffee (strong enough to walk to the cup by itself), then wander into the office to check my two e-mail accounts, my two Facebook accounts, and my site statistics for the blog. Then I squander an hour or so rambling around the internet and posting ridiculous pictures and quotes on Facebook. I rarely see the beauty that Mother Nature provides until after 9:00 a.m.

This morning, however, the Internet gods had abandoned me. When I plopped down at my desk, I opened my browser to find that I couldn’t get an internet connection on my computer. Frantic, I raced for the iPhone for a 3G connection, but got zip, nada, bupkiss . I got the same story with my iPad. It was a conspiracy! Both Charter Cable and ATT wanted to drive me out of my mind. I thought it was the Apocalypse, but that doesn’t happen until December 21st (so they say). “What has happened to my world?” I wailed, as the five felines at my feet joined in sympathetic caterwauling.

Despondent, I sat on the porch with my coffee pondering my predicament. “Without the Internet,” I wondered, “what is the meaning of life?” Clearly, I need some intervention, because I’m addicted to the Internet!

I struggled to remember what I did with myself before the WWW took over my world. Yes, I’m ancient enough to remember life before the internet (and there was life), but I’m old and my memory is shot. Feeling bereft, I opened my eyes and saw the battle-scarred beauty clinging to the window screen and was instantly enchanted. I grabbed my camera to see if he (I think it is a “he”) would “pose” for me. You can click the picture to see a close-up, if you so desire.

As you can see, the Internet eventually came back, and I was able to discover that my visitor is a “Twelve-spotted Skimmer.” Obviously, his life has been a hard one recently, for you can see that his wing is torn. Even so, he is quite lovely.

“Don’t dragonflies have some kind of symbolism?” I thought. This led me to look up the folklore of the dragonfly, where I found this passage:

The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.

As we said in the Sixties, “Heavy, man.”

Was it serendipity or synchronicity that I should find a dragonfly on the morning that I am pondering my internet addiciton? I have no clue. However, I am interpreting my meeting the dragonfly this morning to mean that perhaps the Universe is telling me to turn off the computer and discover the real “WWW” — the Whole Wide World! It’s a day to discover what to do without the internet!

What would you do?

A Serving Of Jelly And Philosophy

I scanned the road as I drove down Highway 105, searching for my jelly vendor. The gorgeous faux-spring weather seemed likely enough to bring a roadside vendor out to play. I certainly hoped so, because my sweet tooth was aching for jelly like Mamaw used to make (although she never made mayhaw) slathered all over a biscuit.

mayhaw jelly on a biscuit

I told you about finding FatFrog’s lip-smacking-good mayhaw jelly a couple of years ago, but maybe you never read that. If you want to know what a “mayhaw” is, click that link. Today, I was in luck. Mr. and Mrs. FatFrog were set up at an intersection. She was working sudoku puzzles while he waved at every single car that passed. I swerved right in and screeched to a halt.

After we howdeyed and shook, I reminded them that I had visited them before and blogged about them. Mr. FatFrog said, “Well, thank you for that. We don’t have a computer, so we never saw it. But, our family told us about it.” Indeed, several of their family members came in to comment on that post.

When I mentioned that I was probably going to blog about them again, Mrs. FatFrog looked up from her puzzle. She smiled at me sweetly and said, “If you do then tell them that the FatFrog lady has Alzheimer’s.”

Do whut?

I looked into the intelligent eyes, and happy face, of a woman about my age. “You’re kidding, right?” I said hopefully. She looked perfectly healthy to me.

Mrs. FatFrog shook her head no. She was totally serious. Terror struck my heart as I looked at her. I joke when I lose my keys that I “have Alzheimer’s,” but in truth there is no chronic disease that frightens this storyteller more (not a single one).

“How old were you when you were diagnosed?” I asked, hoping that she was really a well-preserved 70 year old. This just doesn’t happen to people my age.

“I was 54,” she said. She told me she had been a math teacher in a middle school (which shows right there that she was always a pretty special person). One day, she couldn’t do an ordinary math problem … and it got worse. That’s when she went to the doctor and was diagnosed.

Her husband told me that they hoped that someday soon the Alzheimer’s Association walks will get as much attention as the walks for cancer so that money can be raised to find a cure for this insidious disease. Mrs. FatFrog agreed. She said, “I like to tell people about it, because it can happen to anyone and if you think you have it you should be tested.”

Mr. and Mrs. FatFrog are retired now, and they sell mayhaw jelly on the roadside as a hobby. They stay busy, and she does sudoku puzzles to keep her brain active. In the summer, they will go to England to visit their daughter … and the very first grand-baby.

They lamented that the child wouldn’t be born in Texas. I snickered, “Oh, just send a jar of dirt for them to put under the hospital table and the kid can say he was ‘born over Texas soil.'” Mrs. FatFrog laughed, turned to her husband, and said, “Help me remember that.”

“This has its perks,” she joked. “When I goof up, I just remind folks I have Alzheimer’s and they forgive me just about anything.”

She must have seen that I could barely manage a crooked smile to hide my fear.

“It’s really not too bad,” she said. Then she leaned forward and peered over her glasses at me. “I actually do very well on just a little medication … and I know why. It’s a God thing,” she whispered. “I’ve got more work to do right here before I’m gone.”

We said our goodbyes and I came away with two jars of mayhaw jelly … and something to think about. I realized that part of the reason this woman seemed so healthy is her optimistic attitude … and her faith that she has a reason to live.

I don’t talk about religion much on this blog. What I believe, as Hopalong Cassidy might have said, “comes under the heading of my business.” It doesn’t matter to me what you believe … that’s between you and your Maker (or if you are an Atheist, it’s between you and the gatepost over there). This perspective works whether one is Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Wiccan, a Scientologist, a Raëlian (or any one of the many different religions out there), or even if one is an Agnostic or Atheist. It’s universal.

Mrs. FatFrog taught me that if you wake up every morning sure that there is a reason that you are walking the planet then you can muster the optimism to face any adversity. Some days, it might be difficult to see exactly what that reason might be, but we have to believe we live for a purpose.

I’m going to chew on that with my biscuits and jelly.