Perfectly Imperfect

ShuttleDoes perfection exist anywhere in our world? I don’t think so. I know science and technology both rely on precision, and maybe that comes close to perfection. I’m thinking here about space travel and NASA’s ability to plan the timing of shuttle dockings and other such things that are far over my head. I am awed by it all, yet still I’m not quite sure it’s perfection.

 

I think, too, of delicate medical procedures where highly-skilled physicians repair damaged nerves, remove microscopic tissue cells or perform other surgeries. Are we seeing perfection? Certainly we are grateful for a perfect outcome, yet still, I’m hesitant to speak of perfection.

Why am I so insistent about not seeing perfection around me? Maybe it’s because I know how imperfect we are, and maybe it’s because I believe that man was never meant to be perfect.

Heavnly MGI do think it’s interesting, though, to look at the botanical definition of a perfect plant. Quite simply, it’s one that has both male and female reproductive organs. Examples are roses, morning glories, snapdragons, petunias, irises, and lilies.

In that sense, yes, perfection does exist, and as human beings, we can never possibly achieve it… and let’s not get into any discussions of transgender individuals. I’m too old-fashioned for that. You’re either male or you’re female, and either way, like the rest of us, you’re imperfect.

But what’s wrong with that?

One of the most thought-provoking stories I recall is that of the perfect robot baby. This was quite an amusing story, one set in the distant future where would-be parents could purchase a robot baby and be assured of having a perfect child. The young couple of the story decided that would be the best way to experience parenthood. Every mother and father, of course, want their child to be perfect.

They bought their perfect robot baby — this, I believe, was actually the brand-name of the manufacturer — and they were delighted. At first. It wasn’t long before their perfect robot baby began to cry. This perfect robot baby fussed and wouldn’t sleep through the night. It wanted to be fed every three or four hours. And its diapers were often wet — or worse.

The weary new parents struggled for a few days, and finally packed up their less-than-perfect robot baby and hurried to the store to demand their money back. “You told us this robot baby would be perfect,” they exclaimed. “It’s not! It cries! It won’t sleep through the night. We’re always changing diapers, and it spits up on us. We don’t want this robot. We want a perfect robot baby, just like you advertise.”

The salesman’s reaction was one of puzzlement. “But it is perfect,” he pointed out. “It’s a perfect replica of a real baby. Real babies do cry. And yes, you have to change them, and feed them, and they do spit-up. Our robots are designed to do everything a real baby would do, so, yes, every robot baby we sell is perfect.”

Perfectly imperfect.

I’ve always enjoyed that little story, and I often think about how many things in are meant to be perfectly imperfect. And so, my thought for today is a reminder that true perfection doesn’t exist. If we insist on looking for it, we’re always going to come away disappointed.

 

Perfect Illusion

It’s much better, I believe, to celebrate our unique imperfections and know that that’s how life is meant to be.

 

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Success and Failure

It’s going to be a very busy day, so I’ll just post a few quick thoughts for inspiration. When I first logged in this morning to go online, this quote was waiting for me:

“You must expect failure as part of your journey of success, failure and
success go hand in hand, you cannot have one without the other.”

–Richard Parkes Cordock–

That got me thinking more about success and failure. It’s true that they go hand in hand, and it’s been said that every failure we encounter is really only one more step toward success and that the only real failure comes when we stop trying.

It’s good to remember, too, that unless we try, we’ll never achieve success. Yes, we will likely run into disappointments from time to time. Our efforts will fall short. We will know failure. The truth, though, is that we learn more from failure than from success.

In any endeavor, learning what not to do is a valuable lesson, so never be afraid of failure. Embrace it. Make it your friend. Even more, make it your teacher.

What will you strive for today? How will you face failure if it comes?

Be brave, be bold, be courageous. Make mistakes. Try again. Keep going.

Failure Quotes

 

Have a great day!

Summer Reading

Last week when I attended our Fine Arts Association meeting, I spent a little time browsing books at the library — that’s where our meetings are held. As I checked out with a book about artists of the Hudson Valley school of landscape painting, I noticed flyers about the summer reading program. Not only are there programs for youth, there’s also one for adult readers.

I’m in. I love reading, and I’m all for any program or promotion that encourages reading at any age.

The program is called the Adult Summer Reading Re-Mix with a cute “rock ‘n’ roll” theme. It’s all designed as a reading “playlist” so that we can truly rock it out this summer with the written word.

Our goal is to read at least ten books before July 28. Here’s the “playlist”:

  • A book of our own choosing
  • A book by an author we’ve never read before
  • A book with a 2-word title
  • A book written for children or teens
  • A book with the word “Rock” in the title
  • A book about a famous musician
  • A book with a musical cover
  • A book set in Tennessee or Ohio
  • A book with a character who is a musician
  • A book from the non-fiction section

There are also a number of “bonus tracks” we can complete. These are activities such as attending a book club meeting or other event at the library.

The book that I checked out, The Hudson River School  by Bert Yaeger, will qualify as my non-fiction selection, and I’m currently reading a good thriller — The Thinnest Air — by Minka Kent, an author new to me. Another selection already on my list is a young reader’s book called The Struggles of Johnny Cannon by Isaiah Campbell.  It’s intended for readers aged 8-12, and I picked it up recently at Dollar Tree for — yes — $1.00. I thought it might be a fun book for one of the grandkids, and after glancing through it, it looked like such a fun read that I’m keeping it for myself long enough to read it.

That still leaves a lot of books to enjoy, so I’m open to suggestions. Do you know of any books set in Tennessee or Ohio? What about books with 2-word titles? Share your favorites with me. I might enjoy reading them, too.

Oh, the 2-word title — that’s already taken. I re-read Treasure Island every summer. I just got it out a couple days ago to get ready for my yearly reading. But I’ll still be looking for a book about a famous musician (most likely I’ll read a book about James Hetfield) and how about a book with a musical cover?

As I said, I’m open for suggestions! And I do hope you’ll check with your own local library to see what summer reading programs are available in your area.

Wyman Elementary

Our high school class will hold our 50th reunion this fall, and I’ll be looking forward to it, even though it will mean staying up late. When we first began planning the event, someone suggested possible games, such as wheelchair races. One suggestion was to see who could stay up the latest. I can certainly identify with that.

From time to time I visit friends who still live in Excelsior Springs, the little town where I grew up. Each time, I drive by Wyman Elementary School, and my heart breaks a little. The building has not been used in many years. It is now condemned, and I know the time will come when I drive down Dunbar Avenue, and Wyman Elementary is gone. I dread that day.

Wyman

The school was named after one of the town’s founding fathers. It was built in 1912 and it may have been the only school in the area. I’m not certain about that, but I do know that my mother attended high school at Wyman.

By the time I started school in the mid-1950s, Wyman served as one of two elementary schools in town, with classes from Kindergarten through Grade 6. I can still list all of my teachers:

  • Mrs. Wenzel
  • Mrs. Plattner
  • Mrs. McCorkle
  • Miss Best
  • Mrs. Cochran
  • Mrs. McHugh
  • Mr. Kirk

I can recall most of my classmates, as well, although I certainly won’t recognize them when we meet again at the reunion.

First Grade Wyman Elementary

I’m in the middle row, second from the right. I’m sitting between David Stroff and Wayne Shepherd. Standing to the right of Wayne is our teacher, Mrs. Plattner. My best friend, Ramona Wade, is on the front row, third from the left. She’s seated between Brenda Miller and Karen Clevenger.

Most of our class stayed together as we progressed through our elementary years. Along with Ramona, I was very good friends with Anne Heflin — third from the left on the top row — and Debbie Lee — seated on the left end of the middle row. By the time we reached Sixth Grade, we were joined by Verna Zurn, who became one of my very closest friends. Ramona, Verna, Anne, Debbie, and I were chosen as the “art committee” members in Sixth Grade. It was our responsibility to plan decorative themes for holidays and other important school events. We were given the freedom to meet in a nearby conference room whenever we needed to work on our art projects — so long as our assignments were complete, of course. We were all good students, and yes, we took advantage of the opportunity to slip out of class and spend time laughing and playing in the conference room.

The school was huge — three floors — with lots of stairs to climb in whatever direction you went. The cafeteria was on the first floor. I can still close my eyes and recall the delicious lunchtime smells wafting through the building. The food was good. A week-long lunch card cost $1.50 — which included milk. For those who brought lunch, a “milk ticket” for the week was ten cents. For a long time, my mother packed a lunch for me to carry in my little lunch box, but I longed for the hot food my friends got on their lunch trays. Each week, the local newspaper would print the school lunch menu. I would eagerly read through it and decide whether I wanted to buy lunch or take the bologna sandwiches my mother always made.

Wyman Elementary, I recently learned, was added to the National Historic Register in 2008. Will that designation be enough to save the school? I doubt it. Each time I see it, more of the brick has crumbled away, more of the windows have been shattered, more of the steps have eroded to dust. It’s a sad thing to see such a big part of childhood decay.

I dream of the school. Even though I’m someone who rarely recalls my dreams, I do wake up from time to time remembering dreams of Wyman. I dream about the roads surrounding the school, those same roads I walked each morning and afternoon.

Yes, it is sad to see “the grand old lady” — as many of my school friends now call Wyman Elementary — falling into ruin. Perhaps I can take some consolation in knowing that even when she is gone, she will still live on in our hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

Motto Day

When I was growing up, books played a very big role in my life. I learned to read at a young age, thanks to my grandfather — who was also a voracious reader. I started with Little Golden Books, graduated to reading the morning news, and went on to read whatever books happened to cross my path.

One such book was Motto Day, which was published in a condensed form in a popular magazine of the day. I don’t remember which one. No, it wasn’t Reader’s Digest. I recall that it was a woman’s magazine — possibly Redbook.

Old Underwood Typewriter

The story made a huge impression on me, and I felt I could really understand it because I was teaching myself to type by using one of my grandfather’s typing instruction manuals along with his old Underwood.

What does that have to do with anything? It has everything to do with the story of Motto Day.

The story centered around a group of four friends — young adults who were facing problems in life. One, a young man whose name I no longer recall, had recently been involved in an accident that left him blind.

He became depressed and withdrawn, and although his mother did her best to encourage him and help him, he remained closed off from others, refusing to do anything to help himself.

The four friends got together occasionally — always including the blind man — and one day an idea came up. One of the group had read about the value of having a motto. You know, one of those pithy sayings that imparts the wisdom of the ages, like “Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today,” or the well-known Boy Scout motto of “Be prepared.”

For what it’s worth, my personal motto is “If you can laugh at it, you can live with it,” and I do believe that’s true. But this isn’t about me. It’s about Motto Day, so let me get back to the story.

The group agreed it might be interesting — and maybe even valuable — to pick a motto and live by it for one full day. The mottos, they decided, would be chosen at random. So for several days they wrote mottos on scraps of paper and wrapped them around pennies.  (On a side note, I just double-checked on the plural spelling. It can be either mottos, or mottoes. I’ve always used the latter, but I’m choosing the former today, proof that we can, indeed, change as we get older.)

It’s been more than fifty years since I read this story, so forgive me if I’m a bit hazy on the details. The young blind man had reluctantly agreed to participate. He was in charge of keeping the mottos/coins and maybe he had them in a small box. I’m not sure. I don’t remember. What happened is that his mother was cleaning his room and somehow the mottos were thrown away — burned in the fireplace, actually. She’d thought them to be trash, and only as the paper burned away did she see the pennies. Distraught by the mistake she’d made — and having no idea about the upcoming “motto day” — she grabbed a bit of typing she found on her son’s desk. Everyone, you see, had been using the typewriter to write out their mottos. Mother found a scrap of typing, cut it up, and wrapped pieces around the four pennies, certain her son would never know what she’d done. We don’t learn all of this, of course, until the end of the story.

What we do learn is that each of the characters gets a seemingly senseless motto to guide them on motto day. Here’s where that typing book comes in. I remember well how many times I typed the sentence: Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party.

This was the sentence the blind young man had tried typing — in a frustrating attempt to rebuild his life. Even typing this single sentence left him upset and feeling he could never accomplish anything now that he had lost his sight. This sentence, of course, became the source of the mottos the friends received, thanks to the well-meaning mother.

One young woman opened her motto to find “Now is the time” and those words changed her life once she decided to apply them and live them fully for that one single day. Another woman, one with serious relationship challenges, got “for all good men,” and those words changed her life, too. “Come to the aid,” was the message for another young man in the group. After a bit of puzzlement, he found a charity called “Aid” and volunteered to help. The experience, he knew, would end up changing his life. As for the blind young man, he got the words “of the party,” and figured out at once that something had happened.

He raged about it. He berated his mother. He grumbled, he groused, but in the end he resigned himself to living by those words for the day. The group had planned a party for that evening, an opportunity to share their experiences. Knowing that the party would be meaningless, the young man decided to make the best of it. He got dressed. He went out. He bought balloons, he ordered food, and he did everything he could to make the party as festive as possible.

As he went about all of this, he realized that he could navigate the world around him. He could still function. He learned that there were people who cared for him, that people were willing to help when needed. He learned about opportunities available for the blind and resources that he could use. By the time “of the party”, his outlook on life had undergone a complete change. He decided to learn braille. He was going to take advantage of services to help the blind. He was going to go back to school. He looked ahead toward getting a job.

I have tried several times to track down this book. I would love to read it again. Even a Google search turns up nothing, however. I don’t remember the author’s name after all these years, so I’ve been unable to find anything on the story.

Even so, it’s always inspired me. Words do have tremendous power, and even if we don’t always understand the words, there is still meaning there. Sometimes it’s simply up to us to discover that meaning and apply it to life.

What’s your favorite motto? What words do you choose to live by? I found a quick little quiz that will give you a life motto if you don’t already have one. I tried the quiz and came up with “Work hard, have fun, no drama.” That does seem to be an apt description for how I want to live my life.

WHHFND

So now, I’m off to work. I do have a lot of enjoyable activities planned for today — painting, knitting, playing a bit of Beethoven on the piano — and hopefully the day will be drama free. If that fails, though, I’ll fall back on my old standard of laughing at whatever happens, because I know it’s true that if I can laugh at it, I can live with it.

And, by the way, if anyone has ever heard of this story and can provide more information on it, please let me know.

 

Cancelled

RROh, the news, the news! Roseanne’s hit television re-boot has been cancelled due to thoughtless tweets, and here in Missouri the rule of Eric Greitens has come to an end with his official resignation from the governor’s chair, effective today. I find the former a bit amusing — although I feel for the hundreds of people who are now without work because of her. As for the latter, I am profoundly disturbed — not because of what happened but because I voted for Greitens.

EGUnless you live here in the state, you’re probably not aware of the scandal our governor got himself involved in.

From the start, Greitens has been a controversial figure in politics. He is a decorated Navy SEAL who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and later founded a veterans’ charity. He is a Rhodes scholar who has been described as “chiseled and charismatic”. Many considered him the next Republican super-star, believing him to possess the political instincts necessary to rise to the top — perhaps all the way to the White House.

During the campaign, however, nasty rumors swirled around Greitens and his charity. He was squandering the money, it was claimed, on personal image consultants and private pleasures. His service as a SEAL was questioned. Political ads against Greitens were harsh.

To be honest, his campaign ads against his opponent — Kris Coster — were harsh, as well. It was a bitterly-fought race with questions arising about both candidates.

And so, I did my research. I spent time reading news reports on both candidates. I considered the source of each report. I made notes. I compared. I analyzed. After all my diligent research, I came to the conclusion that Greitens was the victim. He was getting a lot of undeserved bad press, I thought. Feeling good that I had done my homework, so to speak, I had no hesitation in voting for the man.

Oh, how wrong I proved to be! Here’s the quick summary from the news:

“…on Tuesday, Mr. Greitens abruptly resigned, more than four months into a scandal involving a sexual relationship with his former hairdresser and claims that he had taken an explicit photograph of her without her permission. He was also accused by prosecutors of misusing his charity’s donor list for political purposes.”

Needless to say, this has been in the news a lot — not just the resignation but the accusations and investigation. Each time his face appeared on television, I winced, thinking again, “I voted for that man.”

The experience may seem almost insignificant — after all, I wasn’t the only one taken in by Greitens and his chiseled, charismatic charm. In the larger scheme of things, my vote made no difference in the outcome. But it has made a huge difference in my thinking.

Where did I go wrong? How was I so easily misled? I did all I could to gather facts and make an informed decision before I cast my vote. As a result, I now no longer feel I can trust my judgments. I feel gullible, foolish, and very vulnerable.

As for Roseanne, I’m not sorry for what happened to her. She brought it upon herself, and I’m sure she’ll come through this just fine. She certainly doesn’t need my concern. I wish, though, that the show could go on — without her. “Why don’t they just keep the show and get rid of Roseanne?” I suggested to my husband. “Her character could have a sudden heart attack or accident, and the rest of the family could go on without her.”

I learned from my husband that I’m not the only one who has suggested that idea, but I haven’t read any news or entertainment reports to see if there is any chance of that actually happening. If it did, I would probably watch the show, simply in some perverse sense of righteousness. “See there, Roseanne? That’s what you get for bringing your personal politics into your business.”

Politics and business don’t mix, in my opinion, and let’s not get started on First Amendment rights. We could talk about the NFL’s new approach to standing/kneeling during the national anthem. I support the new ruling. Stay in the locker room if you want, but if you come onto the field, stand for the anthem.

To me, it’s not really about politics here. It’s about work ethics. It’s about respect — not for your country, but for your job and your employer. If you work for someone, you follow their rules. It’s as simple as that. Of course, in the real world, nothing is ever quite so simple.
Anthem

How do I feel about it all? I’m amused about Roseanne but sympathetic to those who have been hurt by her actions. I’m glad that Greitens will no longer serve as governor but distraught by my own poor judgment in voting for him. And I’m supportive of the NFL owners’ decision. Yes, people have the right to their own opinions, and yes, it’s important for people to take a stand and to act on what they believe is right. But it needs to be done on their time — not on someone else’s timeclock, or in this case, game clock.

Time Traveling

Today’s question is a variation of the “where would you go” theme: If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go? 

Well, you already know where I would go. Jumonville Glen. I’ve written about it several times, so there’s no need to go over that bit of history again. So I’m changing the question a bit. After seeing Back to the Future at the symphony on Saturday, why not have a little fun with time travel?

It’s a fascinating subject. I think everyone wonders what it would be like to travel not merely through space but through time itself. But where would we want to go? Forward into the unknown future? Or back to times and places that no longer exist?

Time travel is a popular theme in literature, and I must admit I’m not a fan. My brain isn’t always logical in the way it operates, but give me a time travel novel — or movie — and my gray matter automatically kicks into “check-out-all-the-details” mode, searching for those little things that simply don’t add up or otherwise make any sense as characters are bouncing from one era to another.

Wikipedia’s entry on Time Travel in Fiction explains it this way:

Whereas hard science fiction may restrict time travel by examining the causes and effects of time travel paradoxes; soft science fiction, fantasy and science fantasy may ignore these aspects and focus on fantastic wonders and adventures.

I’ll have to add romance time travel to that statement. Many of my author friends — and my reader friends, too — are ardent time travel romance fans. It’s a common theme. Main character accidentally gets transported back in time, meets the love of his/her life, and is faced with the dilemma of returning to the present time and thereby giving up love, or choosing to remain in the past, or… could there be another way out of the dilemma? 

As I’ve said, I’m not a fan of time travel in books or movies, but certainly there have been some interesting efforts. And, in looking back, I must admit that I did enjoy these little jaunts through time as a child. My favorite is probably Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s CourtI loved both the book and the movie.

Bing Crosby

I remember, too, how excited my friends and I were in 1960 to attend the local theater for The Time Machine.

Time Machine

My husband and I actually saw this movie on television about a year ago. It was fun to see it again if only for the childhood memories it brought back.

One daughter fell madly in love with Somewhere in Time and was quite upset when I didn’t like the movie. At least I enjoyed Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.

I seem to enjoy the concept of time travel more when it’s viewed from a comedic standpoint. Along with Mark Twain’s yankee and Marty McFly from Back to the Future, I did like Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. I can laugh at these shows because they don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s all in good fun.

While growing up, perhaps my most favorite time travelers were Mr. Hector Peabody — a cartoon dog — and his adopted human son, Sherman.  They traveled in their “WABAC” machine, and as part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show presented “Improbable History” lessons that were both entertaining and educational. At least, that was my opinion of them. This was in 1959-1960. They have since become popular characters in a 2014 computer-animated movie. I haven’t seen it. Maybe I should. Maybe I will.

Waybackmachine3

As a history lover, I would certainly be more interested in going back in time than in traveling into the future. I’m sure the future would be complicated and confusing, and most likely I would regret returning back home to the present once I’d discovered all the newfangled gadgets and technologies that await us. I’m an optimist in that sense, I suppose. I don’t envision any apocalyptic futures for the earth, no ape-filled planets, no Morlocks and Eloi. I think our world will go on pretty much the way it has for thousands of years.

So, even when I throw time travel into the question of where I would like to go, my answer still comes out about the same as always. Jumonville Glen. I’m not sure I’d want to jump back in time and land in the midst of the massacre, but I definitely would travel back to about 1753 when young George Washington was chosen to deliver a message to the French commander at Fort LeBouef. I’m fascinated by that time period, and although I don’t read time travel novels, I do read many, many books on early American history, so I suppose in my own way I already do travel through time a lot. Just as with Hector Peabody and his son, reading history books is educational and entertaining. I highly recommend it.