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Friday, November 28, 2014

'The Perfect Gift'

And so it begins. The annual push for 'the perfect gift' is under way.

I truly have come to hate that phrase. What is 'the perfect gift' anyway? Is it a $60,000 Lexus? An expensive diamond ring? Maybe it's warm clothes, new shoes, or a nice hot meal. Maybe it's an unexpected act of kindness or some hours spent volunteering for a non-profit organization.

Yesterday's newspaper's news sections seemed an afterthought, tucked behind countless ads breathlessly touting all the great bargains to be had on 'black Friday' or 'black Thursday.' It took a while to even find the news sections of the paper, buried as they were among dozens of ads.Thanksgiving day no longer is a day of family, food and football. Now it's a race to see which store will open the earliest. Midnight opening no longer are good enough. Some retailers are open all day on Thanksgiving, while others open their doors to the impatient crowds at 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. Greed rules!

My daughter will be 21 in a couple of weeks, and there are only a couple of things on her wish list. There is nothing I need. My wish list includes a couple of 'oldies' CDs and a copy of the Carole King biography. That's it. I have been trying to get rid of a lot of my things, so the last thing I want is a bunch of new 'stuff.' I get much more pleasure from donating to my favorite charities than from pursuit of things that aren't needed.

I wish we would return to the old ways of celebrating Christmas, with an emphasis on family, faith and charitable works. I understand that not everyone celebrates the religious aspects of Christmas, but the rampant commercialism, the emphasis on finding 'the perfect gift' and the push to show someone how much you love them by going into debt, is a sad commentary on our society.

So give up the search for 'the perfect gift' and focus on what truly matters. People are expecting homemade cookies and fudge from me, which I will gladly supply. This year, give of yourself, your time and your talents.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Be Thankful and Be Happy


As Thanksgiving 2014 approaches, let us pause amidst the rush and stress of our daily lives to reflect on the many blessings we have. Life may not be as good as we would hope, we may have personal, family, health or financial struggles, but always remember that there are millions of people in this country and around the world who are so much worse off than we are.

Life often isn't easy, and it often isn't fair. Dreams don't always come true. But rather than focusing on what we don't have, on our problems and struggles, let's focus on what we do have.
  • Do you have a safe, warm place to live? Many don't. Imagine living on the streets in all kinds of weather.
  • Do you have food in your pantry? Many struggle to put food on the table. This is especially true in New Mexico, where I live. This state ranks first in the number of children who don't get enough to eat. It ranks second in the number of senior citizens who struggle to get food. That is an appalling statistic.
  • Do you have warm clothes for the winter? Many face the cold weather without adequate coats, hats, gloves and shoes.
  • Are you healthy? Not everybody enjoys good health. If your health is good, count your blessings. Many struggle with health problems. And many struggle to pay for needed medications, or have inadequate or no medical insurance.
  • Do you have a job, whether it pays well or not, even if you don't like it? Many have lost their jobs and struggle to make ends meet. Some have searched for employment for so long that they have given up.
  • Do you have friends or family? Many, particularly the elderly, suffer from loneliness and isolation.
This time of year is challenging for a lot of people. Daylight is short, temperatures cold, and there is the ever-present pressure to have a perfect holiday gathering and to find 'the perfect gift.'  It's sometimes difficult to focus on our blessings. So let us make a real effort to appreciate all we have, to reach out to those less fortunate than we are, and to be happy whatever our circumstances. As the saying goes, "It isn't having what you want. It's wanting what you have."

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Value of Wildlife

I am sickened and disgusted by the current war on wildlife. From coyote killing contests to trophy hunting of magnificent bears, the slaughter never stops.

How can anybody take pleasure in slaughtering animals that mean no harm to anyone? Hunting deer or other animals to provide food for one's family is somewhat understandable. At least then the animal's life is not wasted. But shooting a wolf, bear or mountain lion for fun, or to make a rug, is just sick. And just as bad are the Facebook photos of the grinning cretins proudly posing with their trophies. Who can possibly consider this to be fun? I even saw a picture of a naked mighty hunter, posing as he straddled a beautiful but dead bear. Can you say 'pervert'?

How about the picture of the newlywed couple proudly posing with a dead zebra they had just shot, or the family that paid tens of thousands of dollars for the right to murder a gorgeous male lion?

I never will understand how anyone can kill an animal -- be it bird or bear, wolf or wolverine -- for fun. The Albuquerque
newspaper ran a photo a few months ago with an article about the popularity of hunting classes for young people. The photo showed a teenage girl posing proudly with a sand hill crane she had shot. Why did she murder a sand hill crane? These beautiful, graceful birds are no threat to people. They eat corn and other grains. And they are not consumed by humans. So why did this girl feel it was OK to kill this bird?

New Mexico, where I live, is not a state hospitable to wildlife. Some cities have coyote-killing contests. The excuse is that coyotes are a threat to cattle. In reality, coyotes kill very few cattle, and slaughtering coyotes has no effect on predation rates. In fact, such contests may even cause the remaining coyotes to increase their rate of reproduction. And the prize for the team that slaughters the most coyotes over the weekend? A case of beer. Attempts to ban coyote killing contests in this state were rejected by our wonderful legislature.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a wolf was killed by a mighty hunter just outside the boundary of Yellowstone National Park, where approximately 100 gray wolves live in peace, safe from fools with rifles. The unfortunate animal -- an alpha wolf -- had left the park, and was killed by a macho person with a high-powered rifle. No matter that this wolf was wearing a clearly visible radio-tracking collar. Loss of one of the alpha wolves in a pack frequently results in the demise of the entire pack.

Two highly endangered Mexican gray wolves -- which are illegal to shoot at any time or
place -- recently were found killed. One of them was the alpha male of his pack. Their cause of death is under investigation, but I'd bet my house they were killed by hunters or ranchers.

My heart breaks when I read about the murder of Satao, a magnificent bull elephant who had lived more than 50 years. He was killed, as are so many African elephants, so the Chinese can enjoy their trinkets of ivory. According to National Geographic, "Conservationists estimate that 30,000 to 38,000 elephants are poached annually for their ivory, which is shuttled out of West African and, increasingly, East African seaports en route mainly to China and other Asian consumer countries such as Thailand."

Money, it seems, trumps everything else in this world. For enough money, anything can be bought -- wildlife, glorious landscapes, politicians. It makes me ill to see what our world has become. And now that the Republicans control both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, I fully expect the attacks on our environment and wildlife to grow even worse. I am very afraid for our country. Our precious wilderness areas
and the wildlife who live there must be protected. They are not commodities to be sold to the highest bidder. Public lands and national forests belong to the people of the United States, not to oil companies, ranchers or any other group wishing to pillage these natural wonders for their own financial gain.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wildlife Under Attack

I am sickened and disgusted by the current war on wildlife. From coyote killing contests to trophy hunting of magnificent bears, the slaughter never stops.

How can anybody take pleasure in slaughtering animals that mean no harm to anyone? Hunting deer or other animals to provide food for one's family is somewhat understandable. At least then the animal's life is not wasted. But shooting a wolf, bear or mountain lion for fun, or to make a rug, is just sick. And just as bad are the Facebook photos of the grinning cretins proudly posing with their trophies. Who can possibly consider this to be fun? I even saw a picture of a naked mighty hunter, posing as he straddled a beautiful but dead bear. Can you say 'pervert'?

How about the picture of the newlywed couple proudly posing with a dead zebra they had just shot, or the family that paid tens of thousands of dollars for the right to murder a gorgeous male lion?

I never will understand how anyone can kill an animal -- be it bird or bear, wolf or wolverine -- for fun. The Albuquerque newspaper ran a photo a few months ago with an article about the popularity of hunting classes for young people. The photo showed a teenage girl posing proudly with a sand hill crane she had shot. Why did she murder a sand hill crane? These beautiful, graceful birds are no threat to people. They eat corn and other grains. And they are not consumed by humans. So why did this girl feel it was OK to kill this bird?

New Mexico, where I live, is not a state hospitable to wildlife. Some cities have coyote-killing contests. The excuse is that coyotes are a threat to cattle. In reality, coyotes kill very few cattle, and slaughtering coyotes has no effect on predation rates. In fact, such contests may even cause the remaining coyotes to increase their rate of reproduction. And the prize for the team that slaughters the most coyotes over the weekend? A case of beer. Attempts to ban coyote killing contests in this state were rejected by our wonderful legislature.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a wolf was killed by a mighty hunter just outside the boundary of Yellowstone National Park, where approximately 100 gray wolves live in peace, safe from fools with rifles. The unfortunate animal -- an alpha wolf -- had left the park, and was killed by a macho person with a high-powered rifle. No matter that this wolf was wearing a clearly visible radio-tracking collar. Loss of one of the alpha wolves in a pack frequently results in the demise of the entire pack.

Two highly endangered Mexican gray wolves -- which are illegal to shoot at any time or place -- recently were found killed. One of them was the alpha male of his pack. Their cause of death is under investigation, but I'd bet my house they were killed by hunters or ranchers.

My heart breaks when I read about the murder of Satao, a magnificent bull elephant who had lived more than 50 years. He was killed, as are so many African elephants, so the Chinese can enjoy their trinkets of ivory. According to National Geographic, "Conservationists estimate that 30,000 to 38,000 elephants are poached annually for their ivory, which is shuttled out of West African and, increasingly, East African seaports en route mainly to China and other Asian consumer countries such as Thailand."

Money, it seems, trumps everything else in this world. For enough money, anything can be bought -- wildlife, glorious landscapes, politicians. It makes me ill to see what our world has become. And now that the Republicans control both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, I fully expect the attacks on our environment and wildlife to grow even worse. I am very afraid for our country.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Fall Has Arrived

Today seems like autumn. The temperature never climbed past 55, the sky is cloudy and we have had periods of rain. Add to that the first day of being back on Mountain Standard Time, and it finally seems that fall is here.

Some trees are still holding on to their red and golden leaves, but it now seems that winter can't be too far away. It's a day that makes me want to cook a pot of soup or stew, or maybe bake some cookies. It's definitely a day for comfort food, warm and satisfying. It's a day to break out a sweatshirt or sweater, and to slip into corduroy slacks.. It's a day to stay inside and listen to that all-too-rare sound of rain on the skylights. It's a good day to ensconce myself in my comfy chair, prop my feet up on the matching ottoman, and enjoy a good book. I bought this chair last year from a furniture consignment shop. It's covered with a print pattern of books, which makes it perfect for my office. It isn't too big, and it's very comfortable. Nearby is an old floor lamp that once belonged to my parents. Most mornings, I read the paper while seated at my desk. But on Sundays, I sit in my library chair, enjoy a cup of hot tea, and read the Sunday paper.

As I write this, the remains of a rotisserie chicken are steeping in the slow cooker. A friend just e-mailed that she made a pot of meatball soup and some brownies today. There is a freeze warning for this area tonight. Grocery store ads are filled with the ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Yes, fall has arrived.