Who Didn’t Know Cheating is Wrong?

People who are born into abject poverty don’t know how poor they are. Those of us who grew up well below the poverty level didn’t know what we didn’t have. I knew that I didn’t have nice clothes like the other kids at school, but I was oh, so happy when my beloved Grandmother pieced together some clothing for me from a big box of things she got from a second-hand store. And I was so very proud to wear the green polyester knit dress that she gave me – and didn’t really care that I wore that dress every day for three weeks. We got one pair of school shoes and one pair of church shoes, and it was a special trip indeed when we went to J.C. Penney to pick out those shoes.

I just knew that when I graduated high school, I did not want to stay. I wanted to go to the big college town in Lincoln, Nebraska, and make something of my life, so I didn’t have to stay in a loveless, dirty hovel in a town where our family was on the bottom rung of society and looked down upon by all the others. My father, a bitterly raging alcoholic, told me he would pay for a one-year course that enabled me to become a licensed practical nurse, like my sisters. Just no. I wanted nothing more than to study business. My oldest sister gave me her high school’s accounting class study kit, and I spent hours upon hours playing with those ledgers and pretending that I ran my own business. But nursing school? To this day, I think nurses have a God-given talent for helping others while they deal with blood and feces and dying and psychology, and I wanted nothing to do with that.

I worked three jobs at one time so I could go to college. Nobody in my family ever went to college, so this was a big deal for me. I was up at the crack of dawn to wash dishes in the dorm cafeteria, went to classes during the day, worked after class hours as a teacher’s assistant, and then worked evenings and nights in a Hilton Hotel coffee shop. And I was near the top of my class. My college roommate, Judy, came home crying hysterically one night because her wealthy parents did not buy her the new car that she wanted – they just bought her some other brand spankin’ new car in a color she hated. I will never forget that. I walked everywhere in Lincoln, Nebraska until I could graduate and make my own car payments. I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. Judy was so used to having everything her heart desired just presented to her by wealthy parents, that it broke her heart not to get exactly what she wanted.

So now we have young college kids who are thrust into the limelight because their parents thought that the almighty dollar should buy their way into a prestigious college. These young adults, just like my college roommate Judy, expect that they will be given the best of everything. It didn’t really dawn on them that they might not get everything they wanted. There was no realization that they might have to study and work to earn entrance into the college of their choice. But I will bet that they were taught right from wrong. I will bet you they learned at a very early age about cheating. And now? Their parents have taught them the sad story about what happens if you get caught.

I don’t begrudge these kids their wealth. It was a very wise pastor of mine, Dr. Richard Eakins, who taught us that perhaps Christ’s own family was wealthy, and that we should be neither unhappy that we don’t have great wealth, nor should we show any indifference to those who have attained great wealth.

What matters is how the wealth was attained, and what price was paid to attain it. How many young adults attended elite colleges because they rode in on the coattails of their rich parents’ donations? I worked at a local university and I can tell you it happens all the time. If your parents are wealthy judges or lawyers or big donors? You most likely get a free ride. One local college motto is, “Pay your fee? Get your B.”

I learned not to be cheating when I was very small. As we sat at our metal desks in my little grade school, our teachers admonished us not to be looking at other peoples’ papers to answers. I still go to college in my sixties, just for the learning experience and to be around young people, and we are told point blank that if you are caught cheating you will be expelled. But who will expel the parents who cheat to get their kids in?

On Being Judgmental

Years ago, I attended a bible class with other adults my age, and I remember fondly Sherrie and her husband. He asked her, “Why do you have to talk so much?” And she laughed and said, “Because there are some things that I just HAVE to say.” Then all the guys laughed and agreed that yes, their wives have a lot of things that they have to say. It’s hard for some of us not to share and overshare and to remember that just because we think it, it doesn’t have to be expressed.

Which brings me to judgment of others — there is just something that I have to say about that. It is with a great deal of interest to me that the Methodists recently voted that LGBT persons will not be allowed to hold office within the church. Who made that rule? I’ll betcha it wasn’t a gay or lesbian person.

When I worked for a local university, we were allowed to take college classes at no expense, a really great benefit of that job. In my biology class, we did research papers on such things as stem cells, what nicotine addiction does to your body, and things of that nature. In my reading, I stumbled upon a scientific study about the brains of homosexuals and heterosexuals. It turns out that there are specific genetic markers on chromosomal strands of DNA which will denote whether someone is heterosexual or homosexual. Those strands of DNA are formed in vitro; thus, people are born either with heterosexual strands of DNA or with homosexual strands of DNA. I don’t think that was even an issue when our bible was written. There will be a ton of folks who cry blasphemy if we don’t agree that homosexuality is an abomination in God’s eyes. But stop right there! Did Jesus say that? Who said that? As far as I know, Jesus clearly said, “Love one another,” and to love each other as we love ourselves.

Let’s say for a moment that a person is born homosexual instead of heterosexual. As a heterosexual woman, I’m gonna be darned mad if someone tells me I should love another woman instead of another man, and the same thing applies if I was born a homosexual woman, considering the fact that then my chromosomes on my strands of DNA would make me homosexual. Imagine what happens when society tells me I can’t love whom I love, and that I should really love the other side. I just wouldn’t be wired that way.

Don’t we just judge people to the limits because of their choice in whom they love? Jesus didn’t tell us that we should only love heterosexuals – he said love one another, and treat others as you would have them treat you. He’s probably a really modern kinda guy in this day and age when he walks with us, but I don’t think he’s going to deter on his request that we love one another and leave judgment up to his Father.

I always wondered what happens when judgment day comes. In my mind, there we are at the gates of heaven, surrounded by all these fluffy white clouds, and God is seated at one of those long conference tables across from us, and he is taking a long look at our lives, like a child’s vision of Santa reading off his good or bad list. He’ll deduct points for every bad thing we did, and give us credit for the good things, and let’s hope the good things outweigh the bad, and we will get admitted. I know a lot of folks who are going to be marked way down for being judgmental of others according to their own personal beliefs and inability to love one another.

I also believe in the goodness of humans. If we know of a child who is hungry and in desperate need of food, we will feed that child. As Christians, we will do what we can to help that child get food, because that’s what we do. But we will not say to that child’s face, “Are you gay or lesbian? If so, you can’t have food.” And the same goes with our faith. Please stop judging others, and let our Father do that. Jesus did not offer assistance to a prostitute because of an aversion to how she freely gave away sex. He offered assistance to her because he loved another human being enough to want to help her. Let’s be more like that–a little less judgmental of others because their lifestyle is different than ours.

Baby Back Pork Ribs

My friend Ray hails from Kansas City, where you can find many places that sell very good baby back ribs. He smokes them all day long in a smoker and they come out so tender that the meat falls off the bone, and that undeniable smoky flavor with just the right barbeque sauce makes my mouth water.

Since I work so many hours per week, I don’t have the luxury of spending an entire day tending to ribs in a smoker, so I tried to find a good recipe that I could make in my kitchen. The first recipe I tried was a flop, and the ribs were not tender. Then I found this recipe, and it does make really good pork baby back ribs with very little fuss.

3 lbs. baby back pork ribs, trimmed
1/2 c. water
1 medium onion, sliced into thin rings
3 or more tsp. minced garlic (I use the minced garlic in the jar)
Your favorite barbeque sauce

Be sure to trim all the membrane off the back of the ribs before you cut them into large pieces to fit in a crockpot; salt and pepper them to taste. Add the water to the bottom of the crockpot, then place a piece of ribs, topped with several tsp. of minced garlic and slices of onion, into the pot. Keep layering ribs, garlic, onion slices until all the ribs are in the crockpot. Cook on High for 4 hours. Remove the ribs, scrape off the garlic and onion, coat with your favorite barbeque sauce, and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake 10 to 15 minutes at 375 degrees.

If you want to make a good pork gravy, save the drippings from the crockpot and add the onion and garlic back into it, whisk in a few T. of a cornstarch and water mix, and you’ll have some good pork gravy for another meal.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Believe in the Goodness of God

When faced with life’s toughest challenges, we look to the heavens and shout, “Why didn’t you fix this, God? Why did you let this happen? What were you thinking?” And then we hope that God almighty heard our cries of anguish and our anger — but we are met with silence. Don’t think for a flat second that He didn’t hear us. He did. He knows. And when we call out to him He’s there.

It’s very hard for people to believe that the sins of the world are not perpetrated by God. God is love and love alone. Any disasters that befall us, death and destruction, any calamities of the earth – flooding, hurricanes, fires – you name it, were not sent by our God to teach us how to deal with it. These are the calamities of living.

All that we are promised is this: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1. When I was a child, I thought of God above us like a puppet master holding the strings over us and deciding where we go and what we do, and that we were just the puppets down here below. But it doesn’t work like that. Our minds cannot fathom such a great love that God has for us, and neither does He have control over our every move, nor does He set into motion any of the crises of life that might come our way. He does not deal out to us a swift and merciless show of bad things just to increase our faith or to bring us back into His fold. We are solely responsible for what happens in our lives, and some things that happen are just way beyond our control.

I have been guilty of thinking that God is kind of a jerk sometimes. When Jesus walked around doing miracles, we had proof that the lame guy could walk again. He allowed a blind person to have sight again. Where are our miracles today? It seems like they are few and far between. But they are there, in every child’s smile, in every nest’s hatchling, whenever a giant whale leaps out of the water, when the thousands of leaves on a tree form this perfect circle, every time a mother holds her newborn in her arms. These are the miracles that we should be grateful for. When my father was nearing death, he asked a nurse to come into his room and read his bible to her. She asked where she should begin, and he stated he didn’t care – just open to any page and read. So she did open his bible, and before she could speak, on this page unknown to him, he started reciting that page verbatim. He stated to her that he was ready to go, and then he died right there. Was that a miracle, or was that bible so well read that he just knew what page she was on?

The Christian’s glass has to be half full, not half empty. We have to marvel at the miracles of life, and not be consumed by the atrocities that we see. God doesn’t just throw some bad thing into our lives to get us right with Him. He will, however, get us through it, and in so doing, our faith is strengthened. All He ever asked is that we believe. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5. Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. I don’t think God is much of a liar. If He says we get eternity, we do. “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations.” Psalm 100:5. I’m just going to go with that.

Should rich people only love rich people?

If you ever read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, you know that the star-crossed lovers missed their calling to be together because the girl was on the wrong side of the tracks, one of the couple was rich and one was poor, and they didn’t realize their love went way beyond their socioeconomic levels of prosperity until it was too late. Aren’t we all brought up to believe that we should find someone to love in our own socioeconomic class?

When I was a family law paralegal, it always blew me away when someone presented to us for a divorce after some 30 or 40 years of marriage. What changed in the last year or so that made someone decide it was too late to fix it? It is fear and longing for something better, something different, escape from the doldrums that marriage will bring sometimes, and the belief that the grass is greener on the other side. Here’s a news flash: The grass is not greener on the other side because it’s better grass – it just gets watered and fertilized more often. And rich people will stay together far longer than poor people will. They can afford the upkeep to keep the grass watered and fertilized and trimmed to perfection.

Men are fearful of getting into a relationship with a woman who is only after their money, only after their goods, only after what he can provide for her as they reach social security age. And I have heard plenty of women state that they won’t date a guy who doesn’t have a steady income, a great retirement, a luxurious home and all the accoutrements that go with that. That is, to me, the epitome of missing the point. Love should not be based upon a socioeconomic class of rich or poor.

I wish people would get it. You can increase your income with little to no effort if you have the will, the brains and the education to do it. But your heart picks whom you should love, and the rung of your socioeconomic ladder should not decide where you end up. What happens over time, however, is that people forget why they married in the first place. As long as they think they can move to the side where the grass is greener, over that fence they go and they discover the harsh truth that they should have been more concerned with the tender care of the grass and not how green it is.

So can different social classes compete with each other when it comes to love? Would a very rich family accept into their flock their son’s engagement to a very poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks, one whose family was destitute? I so love movies, and The Bird Cage is one of the best. A young man and woman have a “meet the parents” over dinner moment, but the young man has to hide the fact that his parents are both men who are gay. It’s hilarious, but in the end, the truth comes out and we all just have to love whom we love, despite social barriers, despite class distinctions, despite what others might think – “Faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.” I didn’t realize the value of that until just recently. Love is truly the greatest thing you can have, no matter your social status or anything else. A favorite verse from one of the best country songs ever: “Love will get you through times of no money, better than money will get you through times of no love.” Love someone for their character, not what they can give you. You can always get material things, but you won’t always get love.  

Do I Have to Give Up Salt?

The short answer is yes. Yes, you do have to give up salt. Not so long ago, I made the totally ignorant comment to my loved one that I will give up a LOT of things, but salt isn’t one of them. And then my medical results proved that there is a big need for getting my body right again, a need for better nutrition and a need to – wait for it – cut down on salt.

This won’t be easy. I am used to salting my food before I even take a bite. The more salt? The better the flavor. Imagine french fries without salt. Who eats any type of potatoes with no salt? I had a terrible habit of just pouring out a little pile of salt near the fries and dipping the fries in the salt, just like you might dip a fry into those little plastic square ketchup things that you get at Wendy’s. But my days of salt euphoria are over. When you are on a fast track to having your heart quit on you, you will cut down on salt. Sure, my food tastes kind of bland — well, it’s really just blahhhhh — but it surely beats the alternative, I guess.

If you’ve ever heard of Dr. Dean Ornish, or read any of his books that have been around for the last 30 years, you will know that he believes you can actually reverse heart disease by changing your diet to a plant-based source, along with regular exercise, yoga or meditation. Again, if you are headed toward a heart attack, you will do it. Trust me on that. One look into the tender eyes of my grandchild and I can tell you that I want to be around for quite a while just to see that kid grow up. Salt be damned.

Caffeine seems to be another culprit which is going to lessen my lifespan if I don’t give it up. So okay, happy doctor, I will try that. And honestly, drinking decaffeinated coffee is kind of like putting water on your breakfast cereal. I mean, it’s okay, and you aren’t going to die or anything, but there just isn’t any pizzazz to cereal with water instead of milk, and there isn’t any pizzazz to coffee without caffeine. However, after the 4th (or 5th) cup of the stuff, it’s still warm going down, and drinking it is kind of a soothing reminder of how much you still like the stuff. I suppose after several months or years or whatever, it will be like second nature. And the price? Why is decaffeinated coffee so much more expensive in the grocery store? You’ve taken all the good stuff out of it, so let’s make it cheaper, why don’t we?

Let’s take away something I abhor. My little high school in small town Gurley, Nebraska, pop. 230, served for lunch a lemon yellow jello with chopped raw carrots and celery in it, and it made me gag to the point of dry heaves. I’m sure that should be bad for your heart, all that convulsing just trying to remove it from your body. My teacher made me eat it – just a little bit – just a little bit too much. I’ll bet there is a picture in a very old Betty Crocker cookbook of a jello mold that looks like that awful wiggly thing they served. Ugh!

I can barely look at it.

They have fake salt in a blue shaker thing, which just reminds me of putting sand on your food. Great to smudge your toes down in it on the beach, but I surely don’t want it on my food. No flavor. Decaf’ coffee? Just “meh.” Decaf’ tea? Just more “meh.” But I’m going to do it. I’m going to put a pic of my sweet grandson on the inside of my cupboard door, the one that opens for the salt. It’s a minor inconvenience, isn’t it?

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

I work at a job full of the much younger generation. They are so bright, articulate, and where I work? They are kind and respectful, too. They seem to be much smarter than I ever was at their age, and as I strain to see the fine print on my monitor sometimes, I marvel at their fearless ability to move through all the screens without even thinking about it. They have the education that merits a good feel for IT and knowing where to go and what to do on a computer because they had to learn in their high school and college classes. I became proficient in the 70’s on an IBM Mag Card, this wonderful “memory” typewriter — just type a letter, insert a numbered magnetic card, about 4″ x 10″, into this slot and viola, it’s saved for future printing or edits. We thought that was so cool. And right now? I’m wearing the new Apple Watch which can scan and ECG/EKG right to my doctor’s office. I would be lost without my iPad’s “Find Your Phone” app for the times I’ve left my iPhone somewhere around here, and I can take walks with wireless headphones while listening to my iPhone song list. Things have changed in the last forty years. Apple, you are my hero.

I was thoroughly amazed when my college roommate printed out my resume’ on her personal computer in 1976, talked to me about any changes, and then went back to the document and made instant edits. I did not have an electric typewriter in my high school in the late 60’s, early 70’s, so using one in a college setting was pretty cool. The hard, electric tap of the keys from an IBM Selectric, the cool tan-colored metal ones with the ball font that you could clip on and off, made using carbon copies a lot neater, especially when you had more than one piece of carbon paper between several sheets of paper. Having a nearby printer wasn’t a thing yet. And office mimeograph machines were the best way to make copies by turning the crank for each copy you needed. Now I can print a document from my iPhone directly to the printer in my home office without leaving the comfort of my couch. Like that recipe? Click – and it’s printed in the other room. Go figure. Hey, that’s such a cute photo of my new grandson – think I’ll just print it now from home. Amazing.

Can you just imagine the technology that will be in place forty years from now? My grandmother, who was a fearless police guard during a time when women were supposed to stay home, would have just flipped out to sit down and order something from Amazon.com from her home PC.

My realtor friend was sitting with me yesterday having coffee at my table when she proclaimed, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” We were laughing about the stuff that we, as single women, have to learn – the things men did for us, like reprogram the TV. The women on the prairie didn’t know there would be an electric stove and you wouldn’t have to put wood in the stove to cook food. They didn’t know that you could someday have a little square robot thing on the floor that runs around the room and picks up the dirt. And a car that drives by itself? No way. Well, guess what? Way.

I’m headed off to work with the youngsters. I love them and they love and respect me. I bake cookies and cinnamon rolls and give them candy just because I can. I’m still learning my job with these young ones – because I don’t know what I don’t know yet.