We don’t have to agree, but we do need to talk

I had begun a blog this week on a fabulous Geico TV commercial featuring the rarely-acknowledged triangle soloist.

And it would have been good, but my heart wasn’t in it.

The commercial features a concert with a triangle soloist putting his heart and soul into his moment in the spotlight.

Granted, it’s a commercial selling insurance, but in my humble opinion, triangle guy should be nominated for an Emmy for his acting, a Grammy for the musical performance and whatever award exists for the comedic value – it’s the trifecta that made for one of the best commercials I may ever see in my life.

Then Las Vegas happened. Another mass shooting in our country, and I could not concentrate any longer on triangle guy.

As a nation, we can and must do better. It is well past time to talk about it and find solutions.

Call me naive, but I’m sure an answer exists that will be suitable to most everyone, and more importantly, save lives.

I alone don’t have those answers, and neither do you. But together … it’s possible.

I want to be very clear: I have been a gun owner since I was 18 years old. I am, I humbly offer, a really good shot. Further, I have had two members of my family murdered with guns. I get both sides of the issue better than most.

But fundamental human rights will always win with me.

My grandson is two years and four months old. In his short life, the United States has seen 19 mass shootings with the first one of his life happening in his home state of South Carolina. four days after he was born.

Killed in these mass shootings have been 194 of our neighbors, with several hundred more injured.

I recognize I’m not in a good geographical location for this conversation, but a conversation needs to be had. This isn’t about politics, it is about human lives, the safety of which should be our utmost priority.

Like everyone else, I don’t have the answers, but I have ideas.

Some things I think are worth looking at include requiring liability insurance for gun owners; requiring the buyer’s medical information bureau file before selling a gun; banning the sale of an apparatus that can turn a semi-automatic weapon into a fully-automatic one. Those are just a few.

There are those who would say these things infringe upon their constitutional rights, but I can’t think of a greater infringment of my rights than laying on the ground with a bullet in me.

I’ve heard great ideas from many people who are looking for solutions, and who are not bolted into their way of thinking no matter what. It’s going to take a lot of compromise to get this done, but now is the time to start.

To fix this, everyone is going to have to give up something, but it is doable.

I’m sure discussions about how to prevent this from happening again have been had all over the United States this week, just like in our office.

We don’t necessarily agree on all of the solutions, but each of us brought some good ones to the table. It was a starting point, and if we can do it in our office, it can be done on a national scale.

More than 10 years ago, one person – ONE – tried to get on a plane with a bomb in their shoe. Thankfully, they were unsuccessful. Because of that, today we all have to take our shoes off to get on a plane.

Nobody says that is an infringement on our civil rights because it worked.

Do not let the bad guys win. Do good because it’s good. Act out of love, not fear. Be kind.

We all want the same thing, really, and as my favorite poet Maya Angelou said, “We are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike.”

Show up at the table with that in mind. Show up on Facebook and Twitter with that in mind.

So do your good because you know it’s good. Don’t grab the bait on social media that encourages hatefulness and discourse among the people you live among. It’s not worth it.

I want to find answers because I think life shouldn’t look like this for my grandson. So, do it for your grandchild, your grandparents or your third cousin, twice-removed. But, please, let’s talk and stop this madness.

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My future may not have hair, but it has hope

Between the general foul moods of my countrymen and discovering recently that female pattern baldness is a thing, I needed a break. I needed unicorns and rainbows; and cotton candy and kittens.

Disappearing hair notwithstanding, national and global news seems to have everyone on edge this  week.

With no unicorns, rainbows, cotton candy or kittens handy, my relief came in a phone call about a little girl whose actions remind me that good always bats last.

The feature picture on  the front page of this week’s issue of the Iowa Park Leader is a result of the phone call that pulled me out of that funk.

Little McKyla turned seven years old last week and the only gifts she wanted for her birthday were those that could feed people who are hungry.

This week, she gathered up all the canned goods and non-perishable items she received for her big day and took them to the Iowa Park Food Pantry for distribution in emergency food boxes.

McKyla gets it.

Her mother tells us she has been volunteering her time to help distribute commodities to local families. She is a little girl with a big heart as it says in the photo caption on page 1.

And I pray she represents the future of our community and nation.

Only seven years into her stint of being human, she understands that other people sometimes need a hand up; and that other kids might not have the abundance of food in their home that she enjoys.

A little girl after my own heart, McKyla reminds me that good remains in the world and the best part is it is coming from her young generation.

It reminded me of last year when a young man named Tanner asked for money for his 10th birthday. While that’s not uncommon, what Tanner wanted to do with the money was.

Tanner took his birthday money to church and gave it as an offering so “other people learn more about Jesus.”

We need to learn how to act again, folks. These innocent, generous minds haven’t been taught to only take care of their own; or to judge the why of someone’s circumstance.

They each understood a need and filled it in the purist way they know. By giving, by sharing.

There is a book out there by Robert Fulghum titled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The first thing on the list is to share everything. The last thing on the list is to be aware of wonder, which is what I’m doing here because it is indeed a wonder to see that degree of selflessness.

We all need to read that book, twice.

If we took the book seriously, Facebook and Twitter would look different; our country would look different; and if we took the lessons to heart, we would look different.

I hear a lot of people griping about the millennials these days, and to be quite honest, the millennials are the people raising these children who are so generous in spirit. They must be doing a lot of somethings right.

If this is the case, we should all just act like children again, because these kids seem to have their act together, and they also still have their hair.

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Thanks for the memories #deadraccoonto

To underscore the foregone conclusion that my husband and I are the poster children for the “Opposites Attract” movement, I offer this:

Last week Canada gave me the gift of laughter, the kind that makes you want to share it.

I ran across a story about Toronto, its fine citizens, a dead raccoon and a slow animal services division and it made my day. It may have even made my year.

In fairly short order, at 8 o’clock one recent fine morning, the Toronto Animal Services Division was notified of a dead raccoon on a sidewalk in the city. Animal Services said they would be there shortly to properly dispose of the dead animal.

Four hours later, a picture of a dead raccoon – laying on it’s back  – appeared on Twitter, surrounded by the humble beginnings of a memorial gifted to it by the great people of Toronto.

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Unless it was a well-trained raccoon, it was most certainly no longer living. And after watching years of Law and Order, it appeared to me to have died of natural causes.

The initial memorial surrounding this unfortunate animal included a rose, a note that read “Rest, dear raccoon. Help is on the way from the city,” and a framed photo of a raccoon.

By this point, my laughter has reached the point of hysteria and tears.

A Toronto councilman, Norm Kelly, got involved via Twitter, asking Animal Services to hurry up because it was getting out of hand.

But they didn’t hurry up, and what followed made me want to take a trip to Toronto and meet the hilarious people who live there.

Throughout the afternoon the memorial continued to grow, and more flowers and sticky notes had been added, along with a condolence card and a Sharpie for mourners to leave their thoughts.

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They left some great thoughts, by the way.

By mid-afternoon, the dead raccoon had his own Twitter hashtag, appropriately #deadraccoonto.

By 8 p.m., the flowers and notes were piling on, and burning tea lights had been added, morphing the site into a candlelight memorial. Also, someone left a donation box so the raccon could have a proper burial.

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Councilman Kelly tweeted for  citizens to keep their trash bins open that night in honor of the dead raccoon.

By this point I was laughing so hard, I was struggling to breathe.

Finally at 11 p.m., a city worker showed up to remove the raccoon from this spontaneous celebration of it’s life and said to the small crowd that had gathered, “Seriously guys, it’s a dead raccoon,” obviously not understanding how this deceased raccoon had united an entire city.

After he whisked the little guy away in the Animal Services van, those who remained lit one last candle and gave a eulogy.

Then I did what I usually do. I showed Bobby the story like a cat dropping a dead bird at his feet expecting him to be as tickled by it as I was.

??????. ????????? ????? ??????? ?? ???? ????? ??????? ??????? ??????.

He was not tickled.

I was mid-knee slap when Bobby looked up at me from my iPad with the familiar expression of horror he gives me when I show him something I think is funny.

“I would have tied a Get Well Soon balloon to his paw.” I said.

“I know.” Bobby responded.

You have to love a country with a developed sense of humor and a working knowledge of social media.

And you don’t have to love the people who appreciate their humor, but you should.

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Norm Kelly Twitter gold….you should follow him @norm

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The Best of 30

Celebration

I have been in the newspaper business my entire life.

I began working at the Iowa Park Leader when I was around six years old – apparently the age of viability in my family – with my brother and sisters, helping our parents hand-stuff grocery store inserts into the paper on Wednesday nights.

I helped out like that for around 12 years, with my pay being a place to live and my Mom’s good cooking.

My parents started this newspaper in 1969, boldly moving the entire family – which included five kids aged four to 12, and two dogs – from the Texas Panhandle to Iowa Park to start the Iowa Park Leader. I was the four year old.

Child labor laws notwithstanding, it would be a full 15 years before I began receiving a paycheck for my work at the Leader. Which means, this week is my 30-year anniversary at the newspaper my parents began.

And, this month is the Iowa Park Leader’s 45th anniversary in Iowa Park.

I was hired as a college student in 1984 to write what we in the business call “canned copy.” I also took out trash and did anything else they asked me to do.

As my writing chops improved, I began writing real news stories and feature stories. After several years I shifted to the advertising department, and began writing this column. I’ve also been a photographer, accounts receivable clerk, circulation manager and occasional whipping girl.

My resume is dysfunctional, yet functional.

I have a lot of memories growing up in the midst of paper and ink.

Sometimes in the newspaper business, the rewards for your work are karmic and deeply personal. It has never been a secret that a journalist might starve to death before she gets to her 100,000th word. In that way, it’s a passion and a calling. And any journalist who tells you otherwise probably works as an anchor on the Today Show, and as such, cannot be trusted.

With that in mind, I’m sharing some of my favorite memories from the past 30 years.

•  Hearing my Dad pound away on a manual Underwood typewriter, striking the keys faster than a hard rain could just so his fingers could keep up with the story he was simultaneously writing in his mind.

•  Going to the printing plant every year to watch the Christmas issue roll off the presses and taking in a big breath of ink and press lubricant. I knew early on that ink really, really was in my veins. I still love that smell, and would love a candle called “Newsprint,” if any of my really crafty readers happen to also make candles.

•  My Mom and Leader Publisher Dolores Hamilton gave me perhaps some of the best advice  of my life in my first year here: “Don’t ever learn to do something in this place you don’t want to do for the rest of your life.”

That actually applies to most things in life, not just at work, and I think about it all the time. Because, really, it could mean a bad habit; doing laundry; or telling somebody that you thought an Andy Griffith Show episode was pretty good one time. But it also applies to every single job I’ve had here.

•  On pressdays when the entire office would stop working for 3 1/2 minutes to sing Jerry’s Jeff Walker’s “You Don’t Have to Call Me Darlin’” every time it came on radio. “I was drunk the day my mom got outta prison.” Good times.

•  Early in my career a teacher came into our office one August morning just after the school supply lists came out in the paper. This teacher was very upset that we did not use the word “Prang” in front of the word “watercolors” on her class’s list. Dad explained to her that it was against the law for schools to specify name brands on products, and in fact, if they require a specific brand the school district is required by law to supply it. This did not satisfy the teacher, who in between blowing snot and high pitched screaming requested to see a copy of this law. My Dad, a mostly reasonable man who already would have knocked any one of his own five children into tomorrow for behaving this way, said simply this: “Lady, I know murder is illegal, and I don’t have a copy of that law in my office either.”

•  Getting to meet Texas governors, US Presidents and First Ladies. I’ve also met numerous other politicians. Several of whom made my skin crawl, but a handful of them (Kinky Friedman being one of them) restored my faith in humanity, if only for a short while.

• This job has afforded me numerous opportunities to raise money for some of the worthiest causes, including the Iowa Park Food Pantry, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the IPHS Scholarship Fund and Friendly Door, to name just a few.

•  Very selfish highlight: Our newspaper winning first place in the nation with an ad my brother, Kevin, and I collaborated on  that was very divisive when we ran it, but was actually brilliant. I still stand behind that ad.

•  To my knowledge, the Iowa Park Leader was the first weekly newspaper in the state of Texas to go to desktop publishing. With that said, we were probably also the last to get a fax machine, internet and to accept credit cards – which we now do!

We also have a Facebook page and I’m about to force Kevin to get a Twitter account (who’s with me?!?!)

There are more good memories than room to share them, which is a good thing.

Many, many thanks to my advertising clients – both past and present – and you who read what I write each week. You make doing what I do worth the ride.

And to my co-workers Dolores (also known as Mamala), Kevin and Sherrie, thank you for your love of the craft and also for ignoring me when I’m behaving in a (what you call) weird way.

I don’t know that I have another 30 years of the newspaper business in me, but I’ll probably see you next week.

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