Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Friday, March 29, 2019

Becoming




So this morning I just finished Becoming by Michelle Obama. This much discussed book is likely or has already been identified as the most read or listened to autobiography/memoir of all time. Some of my former students, of this long retired history teacher would no doubt find it hard to believe, when I say, for this review I’m at a loss for words. What is there to say that won’t sound like a bunch of hackneyed clichés or overdrawn superlatives?' I'll try to choose my words carefully and with restraint.

Becoming is a book exactly about that. How a child and then a young girl grew up first in a racially diverse mostly blue-collar working-class neighborhood on the south side Chicago. Her rock-solid family was anchored by  a father who despite serious physical handicaps worked a full-time job for the city, never complained and brought laughter and fun to all those around him. Then there was her mother, who fostered in her children that with no excuses they should always strive to be the best that they could be. Incidentally, this should always include using proper grammar  Finally, there was an older brother who steadfastly protected his little sister and often paved the way for her on their mutual road to success. As we know, it is often the case that our early childhood sets the template for who we become.

Each following candid chapter reveals more and more of the becoming theme. Michelle’s high school years were marked by the effects of the white migration to the new suburbs. The south side of Chicago began to suffer the effects and trauma of poverty, crime and drugs. The self-actualization of the word "ghetto" only worsened the problems. In the mostly black high school, which Michelle attended, she was asked  "why are you so white?  Grammatically correct English was no doubt a factor there.
 In succeeding chapters we meet a striving young woman who regularly asked herself she was “good enough?” Needless to say she was both while attending an elite Ivy League university and beginning work at a Chicago law firm where she  hoped someday to become “a partner.” Obviously both of these institutions were largely white and mostly male-dominated.

 The next chapters becoming for Michelle involves an unlikely romance and marriage involving two people so different in their upbringing and lifestyle one can hardly imagine  how in the end it all works so well. Of course, the last becoming involves politics and the White House. Here the details are rich and compelling and  include an evolving marriage and raising two girls as normally as possible in the White House. There is some  disdain for politics  at the beginning of the stages but overall  little rancor,  Michelle’s tagline "when they go low, we go high” pretty well sums it all up what is left out in these final chapters. We saw all the lows on national television. The highs in those White House years when a special woman and her family did us all proud.
So now as I promised, without all the superlatives and clichés I could think of, I will  simply say this is the best autobiography/memoir I have ever read. And to those who for whatever reason have yet to read it I believe anyone who approaches this story with an open mind and a little empathy will find it touches the heart.

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@Barrie Summy

Saturday, March 23, 2019

A very good Valentines day in dementia land

It had been most recent Valentines day and I had been invited to  lunch and a party with music.  It was with my special Valentine. When I got there, Barb had a new friend to go along with us. Her name was Nancy. Nancy Nancy and Barb apparently  held hands, on a regular basis.  Barb  regularly reassured her when  Nancy cries that everything was going to be all right. She had also promised to be the matron of honor for another somewhat confused lady who believed she was going to be married at the end of the week. Naturally, Barb volunteered to be her matron of honor.  All of us sat together for Valentines lunch at a big table after I cleared with the authorities that this was okay and seemed no danger to anyone. I also consulted with the pianist who was providing the music and asked if she could play some slow music after lunch, preferably waltzes, so Barb and I could dance. All I could think of was the Tennessee waltz. In the meantime, the pianist was playing golden oldies from the 50s.  My lunch group along with others at other tables seemed to be having a good time and I encouraged my group to guess the songs  from the 50s and we played guess the name of  that tune  and the singer. All the people with dementia beat me soundly in that game. Some bad jokes on my part, more fun and  then I told them Barb and I were going to dance. And so we did. Alone at first and then several other "mixed"married couples(caretaker and resident) joined us. Finally,  some of the aides began rounding up people from other areas in wheelchairs and brought them to join  the dance party.  Here they held hands h with those in wheelchairs and they danced also. Towards the end as some of the smiling laughing people began to sit down from exhaustion, one of the big shots showed up with the camera and took pictures of the  crowd. Later, I asked for copies and told them with their permission I might advertise their wonderful institution by putting those pictures on my blog. Unfortunately, because this facility is part of a giant corporation and they have lawyers, there are some "privacy"issues involved in that . So eventually, I expect to get an edited picture of me and my beloved dancing through the night at our best Valentines day ever, and they will be posted on this very same blog :-) Ray
 

Monday, March 18, 2019

A message from my guardian angel


From my beautiful daughter-in-law, Deanne.

It seems that  my widowed daughter-in-law not only is Barbs and my guardian angel but she also has a gift for writing. The following excerpt from a recent letter she sent me gives a hint of that talent. The following take is from a list of complaints I vented to her. The best one though refers to the love and kisses I get from Barb when I arrive at memory care and the fact that she hangs on to me and won’t let go when I’m about to leave for our home.
Dearest Ray,
Even though your oak tree is dying, “Google” is monopolizing the internet, Verizon has robo customer service reps, robber-baron hospital and senior care companies have umpteen red tape hoops to jump thru, closed bank accounts unfortunately can no longer cash checks, and your energetic and vibrant wife of nearly 53 years still has the  intense hots for you, it’s good to know you  have your sense of humor intact😄...and that “Dragon” is a helpful dictator (ooh—now that’s an oxymoron!), or should I say is “helpful at dictating.”  I love that you are  a “half glass-full” kind-of guy—a realist BUT definitely an optimist 😁.

 

 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A bad day


Bad day

It was a really bad day off  and I came close very close to being killed twice driving. You gotta admit that’s a bad day.  Then the crummy weather forecast we've been having here here in Minnesota for months was really bad. Again. Of course, being gone all day to visit my wife in memory care forced our first ever house dog Lily into making a mistake  or two bedroom rugs.  Other than that I was notified that the pileated woodpecker who had visited my suet feeder for the first time in several  decades visited and began taking chunks of bark off the largest oak tree.  My friend Mr. science proceeded to inform me that my  the oak tree  was, no doubt, dying because somehow the woodpecker knows that and is  chipping away  because it prefers to eat the frozen worms under the bark causing the incipient fatality instead of the usually preferred suet.  Actually that's not all that made that day ""special". Instead I'll just  mention and explain why I had a bad day driving. Perhaps I was a bit distracted though I don't text. There were  10 foot drifts and snow piles along our gravel   road which heads down a hill to a busy highway. That highway has a curve in which speeding trucks appear suddenly.  Between that and the snow  I missed a speeding semi hauling a load of gasoline by about a second. I would’ve been toast. Later, that same day after visiting my tax specialist, I headed home about 30 miles. And shortly after leaving Harmony about five semi’s approached me from the other direction. Several unsecured items flew out of one of them and I only had time to duck as they flew right at me.  With the bang I ducked, held onto the steering wheel and was literally covered with shattered glass. Of course, the semi's kept on going and while I slid into the ditch. Fortunately I was mostly uninjured, though some small embedded glass was stuck into my palms where  I had gripped the steering wheel. I think that qualifies alone on having a bad day driving.  Yup. On the  much brighter side later I talked to my bride for 20 minutes from her new  abode in memory care. She was happy, joking, glad to be in her “apartment” in  Now in retrospect it really wasn’t that  bad a day. When I finally got home I had decided a black cloud had been following me. Later speaking to my daughter-in-law Deanne over the phone she  told me it was a good day because the good Lord and the guardian angels were watching over me. On second thought it was a really good day.....:)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Alzheimer's request

No new book review today, just a picture framed poem given to me by my friends and neighbors, Bruce and Rita H. As most of you are aware Mrs. T., My dearly beloved wife Barb, is now in memory care. I cried when I read  these words the first time, but now I think  they and might be very helpful for all those who meet friends, who are in the final stages of that horrible disease.
Alzheimer's request
Do not ask me to remember.
Don't try to make me understand,
kiss my cheek and hold my hand.

I'm confused beyond your concept,
I'm sad and sick and lost.
All I know is that I need you,
to be with me at all cost.

Do not lose your patience with me,
do not scold or curse or cry.
I can't help the way I'm acting,
I can't be different though I try.

Just remember that I need you,
that the best of me is gone.
Please don't fail to stand beside the me,
'til my life is gone.
Author not known.
Posted by Troutbirder (ray)

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Cats and dogs


Cats and dogs

Well, dear fellow bloggers, it seems as though my prediction that icy cold Minnesota weather and my vertigo would limit my nature photography and blogging. Thus Troutbirder has ventured into more personal domains and even the occasional rant. Today I present cats and dogs. A somewhat controversial subject.

As the picture shows dogs are well disciplined by their masters. Cats on the other hand are either brave or foolish in the face of a potential enemy. Also wildly independent.
I begin by noting Mrs. T and I had a beloved house cat for 18 years named Simba. Previous to that two other cats named Tiger and a black cat named after a black revolutionary.  Unfortunately, both were run over by a neighbor on the road behind our house chasing endangered birds. We also had four hunting dogs and two German shepherds, Baron and now Lily.
As this picture indicates German Shepard dogs and other breeds can be organized into teams. As individual they would have a much more difficult time and often can't survive without humans. But working as a team they can be dangerous predators killing large animals like deer. 

It seems a librarian and I disagreed about the merits of dogs and cats. She would relentlessly prove the superiority of cats over dogs in hundreds of ways. A typical example was that dogs had Masters. Cats had staff. My response to that was the fact that dogs were domesticated somewhat earlier than cats. Thus cats were closer in their behavior to the wild. Cats for example are great and skillful predators. Killing mice in a useful manner and endangered birds to the detriment of that species.
 Our experience with giant Baron and Simba was relatively peaceful. They often slept in the same room and basically tolerated each other. When Simba was sitting on the sofa or a chair she would whack him with her paws. He tended than to go someplace else to lay down. And the other hand when Simba jumped down to the floor Baron began his herding/chasing act so Simba would jump up to higher ground so she could take a defensive position. They never got To a cat/dog fight. :-)




Dogs are much less predatory except when in packs. So as the cat advocate continued to educate me on the superior merits of felines, I finally retaliated. It seems likely I pointed out that in case I was walking in the woods and died of a heart attack, my loyal dog would lick me trying to save me. After that proved fruitless he would likely remain at my side for a long period of time guarding my body. On the other hand, in the same circumstance involving you and your cat I would give your beloved cat a maximum of an hour before it would start eating you. In that manner, unfortunately, I rested my case.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Finally a new book review on TroutbirderII

In 1996 modern library edition of two of Theodore Roosevelt's early books. Click on me and my friend Mark Twain in the picture above.