Group Writing: A 30-Second Phone Call


Several months ago, I wrote a post about my latest volunteer work for Cornerstone Hospice: making bereavement calls to check in on the people who were left behind, and I was a bit nervous about it. After all, to one degree or another, these people were experiencing grief and loss, and the last thing I wanted to do was to increase their suffering.

I had two possible ways to communicate with them. If I reached them on the phone, I would ask permission to ask a handful of questions about how they were doing; by asking them, I put them in charge of our discussion. Although I anticipated that the conversation might be trying, I found that I could trust my instincts, and although some people were quite reserved, others opened up and shared the life and death experience with their loved one. Some conversations were brief, and others were extended and very sweet.

Instead of the conversation being the hardest part of connecting with the bereaved, however, I found that leaving a voicemail was even harder than I had expected. In only 20 or 30 seconds, I wanted to make those moments comforting and helpful. I wanted to sound authentic and not like a recording. I wanted to sound sincere and empathetic.  I wanted to communicate my genuine care for them.

Quote of the Day: Dangerous Water


Water is everywhere. If you turn the tap in your kitchen or bathroom, what flows out of the faucet is drinkable water (at least in most places).  City water all over America is normally inexpensive and available for people and animals to drink.  Depending on where you are, the tap water may be “hard” or “soft,” with those terms referring to the level of minerals in the water.  When we lived in Minneapolis, the city water was relatively hard, so we had to use more detergent than normal to get our clothes clean, and in the shower we had to use more soap and shampoo.  When we visited my husband’s relatives in rural North Dakota, the water there was so hard that the animals could not drink it, unless they had been born on the farm!  There was so much salt in the well water the family used that we needed to use bottled water to brush our teeth and shower!  The house had its own water-softener, and it was very expensive.

On the other hand, the water here in western Washington is so soft that they have to add minerals to it to make it palatable!  When we came back to Seattle in 1974, we got a rude awakening when we did our first load of laundry, and discovered that we only needed to use less than half the detergent than we used in Minneapolis!

I was fascinated by an article I read in the Wall Street Journal about the manufacturing of computer hard drives.  It seems that, in the process of making the hard disks and the semiconductors that are part of them, they need to use what is called “ultra-pure water.” Here is a description of that water: [italics mine]

Having My Cakes (and Eating Them, Too)


The great cities of the world all seem to have signature desserts. Paris is famous for its macarons. Rome loves its gelato. Buenos Aires is synonymous with dulce de leche, and Tokyo thrives on mochi. And here at home New York City worships cheesecake, Atlanta is enamored with peach cobbler, and you can’t leave a New Orleans eatery without ordering a beignet.

But there is one dessert that I’ve always felt was unquestionably the best in the world – well, at least in my world – and that was my Grandma Pearl’s German chocolate cake. Unfailingly moist, profoundly chocolaty, and never too sweet, it was deliciously drenched in that crazy coconut and pecan frosting with eight little decorative cherries she carefully placed around the rim. This was the stuff childhood dreams are made of. Pearl’s masterpiece was the highlight of every family festivity and the best dessert I’d ever eaten. Until.

Until I visited Vienna. And in one afternoon at the Sacher Hotel, Grandma Pearl’s 60-year reign came to an end. You see, I had a slice of the world-famous Sachertore and, as the song goes, nothing will ever be the same again.

Raid Rant: Short, Sweet or Sour — Maybe Spicy


Bark Scorpion, Alan Rockefeller, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I could go on at some length, but of course I have. So, to fill an empty space and take a writing stub off my draft spindle, I offer the short version, each sentence a summary of paragraphs, indeed of multiple articles and videos that may come to your mind. Hereafter a raid rant: short sour, sweet or sour — maybe spicy.

Trump owns this. His long silence on the J6 political prisoners led to the American Stasi’s raid on Mar-a-Lago, and to his almost certain fraudulent indictment, show trial, and false conviction by a jury of his haters. He shoulda known. The McConnell and McCarthy congressional cabals also own this, along with the weaponized IRS poised to crush the coalition of working-class citizens Trump first led, as surely as the IRS crushed the Tea Party, to the benefit of the Congressional GOPe. Sorry to say, but your favorite conservative senators and representatives have been no more real opposition than the Washington Generals. They will do no more in the next two years than their team did to actually stop Obama. All these fools or knaves are endangering our constitutional republic as surely and imminently as the feckless Kerensky government led to the Bolsheviks’ victory and 70 years of Soviet socialist tyranny. They all shoulda known. Finally, we have been in similar peril before: Alien and Sedition Acts, anyone? We are not foredoomed to darkness.

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This September’s theme is “Constitutional.” This month includes a day celebrating the ratification of the original United States Constitution. “Constitutional” is both an adjective and a noun, with three meanings, each or all of which you might play off in composing a post of any length. You might rant, reflect or recollect. Consider the various […]

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Quote of the Day: How America Differs From Other Countries


My wife recently read Proof of Life: Twenty Days on the Hunt for a Missing Person in the Middle East, by Daniel Levin. Here’s a quote from a man known as the Sheikh:

You see, my friend, most societies and countries are like ours here [in Lebanon]. They are dysfunctional because they are tribal at their core. But America is different. The reason America is exceptional has nothing to do with its power. No, my friend, the reason for America’s exceptionalism is that it is not tribal. It is a melting pot of many cultures, many ethnicities and religions. And if this American experiment succeeds, then all of us who thrive in tribal conflict in this part of the world, all of us who cannot get out of our way, all of us who cannot evolve, then all of us are lost. That is why I am rooting for America to fail. And that, my friend, is hatred.

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If I had my youth to live over again, I would pay lots more attention to Jethro Tull.  Since I can’t turn back the clock, here’s one of my new favorites.  Bungle in the Jungle discusses animals, and people’s behavior.  My very favorite line from the song is “He who made kittens put snakes in […]

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I’m new to Battlebots, the competition show of killer robots destroying each other for fame and glory.  Apparently this has been going on for decades, but I only became aware of it sometime during the last year when I was over a friend’s and they had multiple taped episodes playing in the background.  It was, […]

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A Lunch Invitation to a Polish Milk Bar


It took seventeen hours of grueling airflight and two frantic airport connections for me to travel from Kansas City to Warsaw last fall, but I knew it would be so incredibly worth it. Poland had been on my bucket list forever and pandemic be damned, I was not going to postpone this trip again. But now that I was finally here, I had a desire that must be satisfied before I could visit one cathedral or memorial – I needed lunch. A good lunch. A non-airline-food lunch. A hot, inexpensive, fast lunch. How surprised I was to find a meal that met all these criteria waiting for me in an establishment advertised by a cow with a clover in her mouth. This neon bovine is how you know you’re in a milk bar – a bar mleczny – and it was the perfect introduction to the delicious country of Poland.

Milk bars are one of the enduring remnants from the Communist era and although they are far fewer in number than during their heyday in the 1960s, the bars that survived continue to provide good/hot/inexpensive/fast meals – all subsidized by the Polish Government. And I was headed for one of the oldest and most popular in Warsaw: Bar Bambino.

Proudly anchoring the corner of Krucza and Hoza Streets, Bar Bambino serves a diverse clientele of colorful old timers, preoccupied professionals, boisterous school children, and curious newbies. (That would be me.) We were all welcome as long as we joined a line that stretched down the block. I learned that starting at 11:00, this was a daily occurrence. But the line moved quickly and before I knew it, I was inside the utilitarian dining room, staring at a wall menu in Polish.

Quote of the Day: Corporate Smoke Screens Disguise the Left


“The fundamental problem with wokeness isn’t just that it offers the wrong answer to the question of who we are. The deeper problem is that it forecloses the possibility of shared solidarity as Americans. If we see each other as nothing more than the color of our skin, our gender, our sexual orientation, or the number of digits in our bank accounts, then it becomes impossibly difficult to find commonality with those who don’t share those characteristics. Yet if we define ourselves on a plurality of attributes, then we find our path to true solidarity as a people.”

― Vivek Ramaswamy, Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam

If we were honest with ourselves, most of us would acknowledge that we want to be seen as someone “unique.” But the Woke Left thinks that those attributes come from superficial factors, not from who we are and what we offer to the world. I could tell you that I’m a white woman, a writer, a Jew, a wife, a teacher, and they will give you a glimmer of an idea of what I’m made of and who I am. But in fact, I am much more than any of those characteristics.

The Fine Art of Snacking


I love snacking. Love. It. Of course, I adore eating in all its forms, but there is something special about snacking. Watching a movie, reading, playing with my phone, working on the computer, or chatting with family and friends: all of these delightful activities are made even more sublime with the addition of snacks.

So herewith, my nominations for the best snacks in each of the theme’s categories (plus one: savory). It’s important to note that a snack is different from a meal course: that is, my favorite dessert (chocolate chip cookies with milk or mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches) will be different from my favorite sweet snack.

Post Honey Ohs cereal, dry, straight out of the box. This snack can’t be beat for crunchiness, sweetness, and sheer shove-it-in-your-face-like-there’s-no-tomorrow snackability. I’m (not really) ashamed to admit that one box contains approximately one serving. Best consumed while playing with your phone. Suggested beverage: fizzy water.

Group Writing: The Prison of Madness


When darkness snuffs out the light
and children are abused with abandon
and people are told they must suffer
with no hope for salvation

When they condemn those who live in peace
and demand they must give up hope
for the future
for the benefit of the whole

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I mostly consume books in audiobook form these days—combination of being able to listen to audio sometimes while working and having tired eyes when my work’s done. My Audible wish list and library are full of weighty books on important topics that yeah, absolutely, I’m going to get to, for sure, but … the idea […]

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Short and Very Sweet


My Texas granddaughter is short and very sweet. She is the 13th member of the exclusive club whose 15 members get to call me ”Grandpa.” We traveled to Dallas for her gala second birthday. She is seen in the pic on the right with a small fraction of her birthday loot. She now has just enough hair for pigtails but is already girlishly aware of her clothing choices. Tireless, bright, and energetic, she seemed to know the names of every animal and much else in a visit to the marvelous Perot Natural History Museum.

I find that with my grandsons (as with my sons) that my disposition to them when they arrive is colored by impatience for when they are old enough to throw a ball or bait a hook, and we mostly just roughhouse in the meantime. I sometimes think that the father-son relationship is mostly a series of initiation rites.

The sheer sweetness of little girls is something to enjoy in the moment unconditionally. I have always been a little awed by my daughters from the moment each arrived.

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As is my wont, here following is a brief playlist to set the mood for the monthly theme. As it is a very abbreviated, belated, theme, you get a short playlist with short, sweet, sour, or spicy songs. You want short songs? The Dead Kennedys, a punk band, have a 29 second “Short Song.” The […]

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This August’s theme is “Short and Sweet or Sour, Maybe Spicy.” Yes, it is late in the month, so let’s keep this short and sweet (or sour). In the final third of the month, the third period if you are a hockey fan, drop a short post on the topic of your choice. Make it […]

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Quote of the Day: Planting the Almond Tree


“Look, one day I had gone to a little village. An old grandfather of ninety was busy planting an almond tree. ‘What, grandfather!’ I exclaimed. ‘Planting an almond tree?’ And he, bent as he was, turned around and said: ‘My son, I carry on as if I should never die.’ I replied: ‘And I carry on as if I was going to die any minute.’” – Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

These are troubled times. We have had several threads here on Ricochet wondering whether the United States will dissolve into chaos in the next year or the one after that. I have been seeing those kinds of conversations on other blogs I frequent. And yes, I believe it could happen, and have written about getting prepared.

Quote of the Day: Calling Out Fellow Republicans


Gov. Ron DeSantis calls out his own party–

‘If they get majorities in the Congress, I’m sick of them talking,’ he said during the ‘Victory Dinner’ event as dessert was being served. ‘I’m sick of them telling us what they’re going to do. I’m sick of them going on cable and doing this, and prattling. In Florida we don’t just talk, we do,’ he added.

When you contemplate the changes that might actually happen in Congress after the November elections, do you think anything will be different? I think Gov. DeSantis is in the ideal position to lecture Republicans in Congress on actually doing something. He’s repeatedly demonstrated taking action: defying the federal government to assist Floridians regarding the pandemic, protecting our children from early gender training, to the corruption of our school curricula; preventing banks from discriminating against customers who might not fit their criteria for “woke” corporations. He doesn’t just speak out; he initiates legislation and takes the continual onslaught of criticism.

Quote of the Day: Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, on Beauty


We periodically receive in our email a little newsletter from Dr. Arnn titled “The Life of Hillsdale College.” They are always stimulating and reassuring that real education, not indoctrination, is taking place at Hillsdale. This one was received on March 1, 2022. Having spent a fair amount of time with Dr. Arnn, I can hear his voice speaking the words.

On Saturday, our chamber ensembles performed in our Christ Chapel. A week earlier the Chapel chorus performed Evensong. These events and many like them resounded in that magnificent structure, a blessing to us all designed by the splendid architect Duncan Stroik. They are the product of skill and work cultivated for years and decades. In that work, the students and teachers continue a line as long as civilization.