OPTIONAL SUNDAY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Optional

After getting up a dozen times this morning to try and convince Bonnie to stop barking — which only something crunchy will accomplish, it would seem — I began to wish I was deaf, too.

Normally when I get up in the morning, I take out something to defrost for dinner but I decided today is optional. I’m not doing squat. I am tired. I’m frustrated. I don’t want to cook dinner, put away laundry, or clean anything.

I’m sure by tomorrow, I’ll manage to get past this, but right now, I am feeling as un-housewifely as I ever have. Am I the last woman of my age who cooks dinner — a hot dinner — every night unless I’m hospitalized? Do other people get a day off sometimes?

Is any woman married to a man who actually recognizes that dirt is not something to be ignored because you-know-who will take care of it, but actually cleans it? Just wondering.

So today in Optional Sunday. I will do as little as I can. I might even go TWO days and option Monday, too. I think I’ll call it “Marilyn’s Weekend.”

UP UP AND AWAY: WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

Many things are up for me. I am a very short person and I can’t even read the top shelves in my kitchen. And worse, I’m shrinking.

Nonetheless, all my picture will be much upper than my kitchen shelves because I’m basically so frustrated, I do not want to show the world how short I really am.

Also, the terrible thought that what goes up — like when I try to climb up on something to get something else — must come down. Me. Down. Crunch.

Photo: Garry Armstrong
At Tuskegee Airmen event … an antique plane in flight
Downtown — Prudential Tower, Boston – and I sincerely hope it does NOT fall down.
Up and up again

IT’S THE THEATER

A Hall of Fame Teacher

There are a lot of dedicated teachers.  Many find a good school and stay with it for decades.  Most of us can recall a teacher like this.  The fortunate ones will encounter several as they go through school.  I had such a teacher.

It is rare that over 20 years after a teacher retires, her legacy lives on.  At my parish and high school, current administrators frequently hear from alumni the stories of a teacher they never met.  “Mrs. Kittler was the best teacher I ever had,” many remark.  The praises have not stopped long after the teacher retired and moved away.

Photo Credit: St. Benedict HS archive
Photo Credit: St. Benedict HS archive

Laurette Kittler started out with a brief foray into acting and seemed to have a promising future.  She decided to follow another passion however, and went into teaching.  In the spring of 1959, St. Benedict High School asked her to come direct a show they had already started.  Apparently it needed help, and a lot of it.  At that time she was teaching at another area school.

The production of Tekakwitha was rescued, more or less, and in the fall of 1959 she moved to St. Benedict where she taught and directed shows for the next 37 years.  Most years it was not one play, but many productions.  Summer shows were frequently part of the program too.  It was not just the drama students who participated.  Often other students showed up to participate in the spring musical.  You just were not cool if you did not join the show.

In recent years a facebook group dedicated to Mrs. Kittler has been formed and hundreds of former students have posted thousands of pictures and programs from past shows.  It seems the legacy was not only contained in the dusty store rooms of the former convent at St. Benedict’s, but also in the albums, cabinets and closets of the former students and parents.

Photo: Courtesy of Monica Kaepplinger-Bofani
Photo: Courtesy of Monica Kaepplinger-Bofani

In 2015 Mrs. Kittler decided to answer the call of her former school and students and return to Chicago from southern California.  She was honored as a “Hall of Fame” teacher, and current and former students entertained her with songs from shows she directed.

Alumni wished to thank her for the impression she made on their lives.  Students wished to meet the teacher whose name still echoes through the halls of their school.  After the show, she stayed to meet everyone who wanted to talk to her or have their picture taken with her.  She was a rock star.  Shouldn’t all great teachers be treated this way?

Former students, director and musical director of the tribute, with Mrs. Kittler

*****

It’s The Theater, by Rich Paschall

Project!
She said “Project!”
I thought I was screaming
At the top of my lungs.
Be loud
And also strong.
You have to be heard
Up at the highest rungs.

“Articulate!
And you’ll be great.”
She said that I mumble
And words are not too clear.
Sounds nice
And clear to me.
Why can’t she hear it all,
When she’s standing oh so near?

It’s the theater.
I love the theater,
It has taught me how to act,
And has taught me how to sing,
But more than that.
I learned of life.
Now I hit my mark
When I’m doing anything.

“Hear you!
I can’t hear you,”
Came a voice out of the dark
From the furthest seat away.
I cannot see her,
But I can hear her,
And I’m told I must be louder
In everything I say.

“I’ll go east.
I could go east.
You have to play the show.
And you have to do your best,
But I can walk,
And my hat will float.
I have shown you all the way.
And now you must do the rest.”

So we pray.
It’s time to pray.
We are asking Saint Jude
If he can save the day.
But we’ve been taught.
We learned our lines.
We are ready for our moment
When we can start the play.

It’s the theater.
I love the theater.
It has taught us understanding
Of the world all around.
Not just emotion,
But its compassion
Has us soaring through our lives
With our feet back on the ground.

It’s the theater.
We thank the theater,
The teachers and director
Who helped us find our way.
The lessons learned
Went way beyond
The shows and the songs
To reward us every day.
*****

Note: I had to explain the “walk east” reference to a current student. It was a favorite saying of Mrs. Kittler. She would tell students in her own unique way, that when the curtain opens, they must stay and do the show. Her job is done at that point, and she could always walk east until her hat floats if the show was not ready. Lake Michigan is east of us.

Before shows at the school when we were students, we would always say the same prayer and then ask St. Jude to pray for us. This saint is considered the patron of desperate situations and lost causes. It was just an inside joke for the drama students.

Mrs. Kittler is alive and well and willing to greet former students who vacation in southern California and wish to visit.  I can think of no other teacher who has had an impact on so many generations of students. Did you have a teacher like this?

See highlights of Mrs. Kittler Hall of Fame tribute and some of her speech here.

ESAU WAS A HAIRY MAN … Presented by Marilyn Armstrong

These may be the funniest guys ever … except for maybe Monty Python … sometimes Mel Brooks … and Carl Reiner … 

These guys were first and somehow, they are just perfect, even today.

So in this passage, we explain that being hirsute is offensive to God. And from this …

You may put away your bibles. Don’t forget to drop some money in the basket.

WALKING THROUGH PARADISE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Paradise

Although Jerusalem was my home and I loved it beyond words, I had a second passion which was the Galilee. That northern part of Israel is rich and beautiful. The wildflowers alone are worth a trip in the spring. I don’t know how the seasons are now.

The best little piece of the Galilee is Tel Dan, archaeological site and nature reserve.

Wild poppies in the Galilee

In Hebrew, it is “Gan Eden” and there’s a sign (or was, anyway) in English that read “Paradise” with an arrow. Just follow the path.

I haven’t been back since September 2001 and much has changed, especially the weather. But it used to be that May in the Galilee, the open fields were covered with wild poppies, scarlet against the green grass.

Waters in full flow at Tel Dan – Photo by Shmuel Baram

Israel has a climate that is not unlike Arizona, which is to say winter is rainy and green. Chilly unless you are atop a mountain, but not usually cold … not like the cold we get here. Spring starts very early, in January when the almond trees bloom and April and May are typically breathtaking. The ground is still moist from the winter rains and the world is green.

Later in the summer, months after the rain has ended and it’s just plain hot with a blue sky and sun that never ends, everything turns brown or beige or tan with little green to be found except on balconies overflowing with flowers.

Review of Tel Dan

One spring, we traveled up to Tel Dan. It is obvious that there has been considerable development, archaeological, in the park itself, and of course, hotels. When we were there early in the 1980s, it was a park with some archaeology work in progress, but no hotels. No fancy walkways.

It was a “school trip” or a family outing. Now it’s fancier and there is more to see, but I think I liked it better before the betterment.

Entryway to Tel Dan Nature Reserve

There’s a lot of information about it and a lot of photographs, too. This is one of the magical places in the world. You can see it, feel it. It is part of the source waters of the Jordan River and has been in existence since before Abraham which is at least 5,000 years.

Wading pool at Tel Dan

There are several websites about the park, but this is the one at which I would start: The Tel Dan Nature Reserve. The site is written in English and Hebrew (there are probably other languages too). It includes some amazing photographs. The big waterfall is the Banias (originally probably “Panaeus” from the Greek).

The Dan River

When I was there, there were no “floating walkways.” You just tripped along rocks and roots through the flowing Dan river as it bubbled up out of the mountain. There are deep pools which look inches in deep because the water is absolutely clear and frigidly icy. That’s where I met my first bee-eater who was every color in the rainbow.

The Banias by Mount Hermon

There is also a lot of archaeological digging in progress. There remains much more to discover including caves, alters and probably a lot more below ground. It is one of the oldest known sites in the area. Not as old as Jericho or the caves at Carmel, but very old and continuously inhabited for most of its time.

I walked through Paradise and I don’t doubt for a minute that it was indeed Paradise. It felt like it to me.

THE CANAL FLOWS PAST US – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: CANAL

We live in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor which is sort of like a national park but without the funding. That’s the Blackstone Valley for you. Incredible historic areas which are unique to this continent.

Little bridge and locks over a tiny canal

Mills and a river with many canals and locks that rolls along for miles by the river. Sometimes, the river and the canal are one unit. When the water gets rough, the two parts divide into two portions, one having locks to allow barges to deal with waterfalls and white water, the other just the river. Uxbridge has one of the larger sections of a free-flowing canal.

Canal and Blackstone River where they separate and become two streams.

In Worcester, they actually buried the canal under its streets. Worcester is an ugly little city that is always trying to dress up like a real city and never succeeds. Maybe because of its history of putrefaction, factories, river pollution, sewage pollution and some of the ugliest architecture I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Along the diagonal of the canal

Perhaps NOT burying the canal and polluting the river might have made them a more attractive location. We tried to buy a really lovely house up there, but no bank would finance it. It wasn’t that the house wasn’t a beauty. It was glorious and for us, cheap. But the banks wouldn’t finance anything up there. They said: “Buy somewhere else.”

And that is how we wound up in The Valley. By the river and the canal.

Steps to the canal

You cannot live in this valley and be further than a quarter of a mile from the river, a tributary, a stream, pond, or a canal. We have more parks than grocery stores and banks combined. We have herons, swans, ducks, geese, and about a million (or more) snapping tortoises in the river. Also, trout and baby trout.

The canal in summer

Finally, fishing is allowed in many places and sometimes, even swimming. Personally, I’m not swimming anywhere near where those snapping tortoises are hanging. I value my toes.

And the river and bridge in winter

This is a beautiful place to live. A little light in the culture department, but if nature does it for you, this is a great place to live.

And in the autumn …

And we do have the country’s first free public library in the middle of town. Just so you know, we used to be a bit snazzier!

Blackstone Canal

I’LL GIVE YOU MY REALITY IF YOU GIVE ME YOURS – By Tom Curley

I figured it out! The solution to reality! This reality! This reality TV reality!

The problem is not so much that we are living in a reality TV reality. The problem is that we’re living in a REALLY BAD reality TV reality. Face it, it’s not working. Each time something happens that we might think is positive, the next day — or the next hour — we discover we were deluded.

youtube.com

Do you know what does work?

Fictional TV reality!

Think about it. There was a show called “Designated Survivor.” In it, the whole U.S. government was blown up during a State of the Union Address.  The Executive Branch, Congress, Supreme Court? Wiped off the earth.

The only cabinet member that had to stay home becomes the President. He has to rebuild the government from the ground up. While he’s doing that, there’s a mysterious cabal in which the ones responsible for blowing everybody up are also trying to take over the country.

In spite of that, their government and President are doing a lot better job than ours! They are noticeably more sane and coherent and sometimes, they make intelligent decisions. Imagine that!

tvguide.com

So here’s what we do.  We switch realities!

It’s a win-win for everybody. How? It’s simple — at least in theory.

First

The current administration leaves the government and instead, goes on real TV, 24/7. Every day. You like watching the news? You’ll never miss another show!

Second

On Fox News. They all go to work on sets that look just like Washington, D.C.  They do the exact same things they do now. It will be just like on  “Big Brother”. Only bigger.

And on Fox News.

quickmeme.com

They can pass laws, write executive orders, cancel health insurance for the whole nation, eliminate “Meals On Wheels” or just kick puppies. Whatever they want! Trump supporters won’t be upset because they only watch Fox News.

As far as they’ll be concerned, everything is normal.

It just isn’t real.

“And it’s only on Fox.”

Third

OK, great you say. But what about real reality? Who’s going to be the real President? The real cabinet?

Here’s who. Honest to God fictional ones.

thegeektwins.com

The cool part is, we have a lot of options. We have lots of choices for President. And if we dig into the DNC pool, we’ve got dozens more. Hell, every billionaire is ready to declare!

We could have Jeb Bartlett. He was a great President. Don’t believe me? Watch “The West Wing.” Again. As a matter of fact, just keep watching it over and over until you feel better. It’s like a political tranquilizer.

theoddessyonline.com

We’ve got Dennis Haysbert. I’m pretty sure he was President twice.

nndb.com

We’ve got Morgan Freeman. Not only was the President, but he was (is currently, I believe) also God!

knowyourmeme.com

The list goes on. Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers … (Oh, for God’s sake, Google the rest.) You get my point.

Now, appointing a cabinet becomes fun!

Fourth

Secretary of State? How about Tia Leoni? She’s already a Secretary of State and seems to be doing a pretty decent job of it every Sunday. Let’s give her the job for the rest of the week.

cbs.com

Attorney General? Julianna Margulies. She’s a lawyer, ran for State’s Attorney and by almost all accounts, is a good wife.

cbs.com

Secretary of Defense? I admit, at first, I was leaning toward Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Then it hit me.

CHUCK NORRIS! Think about it. We could cut the military budget down to nothing. Nobody’s going to go to war with us. Nobody fucks with Chuck Norris!

memegenerator.com

ISIS COMMANDER: We will destroy America!

ISIS GUY WATCHING THE NEWS: Sir, America just made Chuck Norris Secretary of Defense.

ISIS COMMANDER:  Shit.

(Insert favorite Chuck Norris joke here. My favorite? Chuck Norris once counted to infinity. Twice.)

pinterest.com

Department of Education? The cast of Sesame Street.

themarysue.com

Depart of Health and Human Services? Pick any of the stern but kindly Chiefs of Staff from any medical show you’ve enjoyed over the years. Any of them will do fine. (Except for Dr. Zorba. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.) (Extra points if you get that reference.)

humansofjudiasm.com

Department of Housing? Chris Rock. OK, he really doesn’t have any more qualifications for the job than Ben Carson does. But I just like the guy. He’s funny.

memegenerator.net

(If you get that reference, you get double extra points.) I could go on, but you get the point.

Five: The Election

How do we do this?

We have an election. Not the usual kind. What with voter suppression, low turnouts, gerrymandering, the Electoral College, and just candidates that don’t have the right scriptwriters, our elections are not working out well. That’s how we got into this mess, to begin with.

We have the election the same way reality TV shows do it. Everybody gets to vote from their smartphone, their computer, their tablet, or Android device. You can email or text your vote. You are only allowed to vote up to 20 times on any given device. You can vote up until 10 pm Eastern Standard Time.

ethnews.com

Granted, this will fire up the Millennials and confuse the hell out of old folks. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s still better than the Electoral College.

We can set up March Madness-style brackets and have an election every week for maybe a month until we get a winner. Imagine how many office pools there will be. You might even win!

yankeeinexile.wordpress.com

And we, the people, elect everybody. The President doesn’t get to appoint his cabinet. We do.

This is absolute Democracy at work!

It could work!

As a cheese-faced person who somehow actually became President of the United States said to a bunch of totally incredulous Black people:

theoddeseyonline

“Give it a try. What have you got to lose?”