KEEPING BUSY

 Being confined can begin to affect anyone after a while. This Covid 19 virus is infecting millions, killing thousands, and depressing an entire country. Cases are again on the rise, and before long, we might be back where we were during the worst of times, and that means things will close down again. I’ve had a spurt of energy, most likely caused by being stuck at home most of the time. That’s good for completing projects around home, but not so good for my old body.  

Pulling weeds isn’t one of my favorite tasks, but I’ve worn my hands raw doing so. The flower beds are now clean as a whistle. The areas around the pool would be neat and tidy as well, but Amy read that leaving the dead stalks of flowers gives birds seeds to eat. Eventually, I’ll be able to cut those things down. 

Leaves are beginning fall, and my property if full of trees. Most are oaks, and they stingily let go of their leaves. I usually rake, blow, and mow leaves until January, at which time I yell, “Uncle!” The remaining leaves will fall by spring. I hate dealing with leaves because the end result is that I come down with an upper respiratory infection from the dust and mold. Still, keeping the yard clean requires plenty of time, something of which I have plenty right now.  

Winterizing around here eats hours. I have to lug all the pool furniture to the basement and to a small outbuilding. I cover the pump and other waterlines that might freeze during the winter. Amy always likes to sit on the screened porch in the cold weather, so the propane tank for the fire pit needs to be filled, and the heating lamp bulb needs to be working. Reels must be put in the dry after hoses have been drained.  

Projects inside are keeping me busy as well. I decided to paint my office. My son Dallas had a five-gallon bucket left from sprucing up his condo. The green walls in my room were covered in marks, and a coat of gray paint spruced the place up. I cut in the baseboard on my hands and knees and climbed a ladder to paint around the ceiling. The room looked nice with the contrasting white woodwork.  

I was going to paint my bathroom with the same color until Amy stepped in. She suggested that a bathroom that was smaller than a closet need a lighter color. Yes ma’am! I found some white paint and poured about a half-gallon in the gray bucket. After some mixing, the gray was much lighter, and I began the painting process. In a bathroom, painting behind a sink and toilet and above the shower stall requires a contortionist. More clean-up of paint drips and drabs are required. I finished and liked the results, regardless of what others thought. 

The problem with all this “virus-work” is that an old body suffers. My arthritic hands ache. Joints creak and pop, and sore muscles throb. The most upsetting part of all is realizing how difficult getting up from the ground or floor has become. I found it necessary get a chair or the ladder to push up and get to my feet. After cleaning up the equipment, I took a bath and sat down on the couch. Before long, I’d dozed off and felt as if all my strength had disappeared. 

For a million reasons, I hope this pandemic is conquered before long. One of the biggest reasons is that I want to hop in the car and go somewhere that doesn’t involve any kind of work. I might just go to stores and simply walk around and look for hours. With winter coming, my lists of projects will increase, but my desire to complete them will dwindle.  

PUPPIES AND CHILDREN

 Lately, I’ve put a great deal of thought into puppies and small children. I’m not sure if this mental activity is the result of my advancing age or if I’m returning to my past youth. Still, who doesn’t like...puppies? Unfortunately, I know plenty of folks who aren’t such fans of small humans. At any rate, I’ve been thinking and watching both groups for a while.  

A passel of puppies produces smiles on our faces. They love to play from the first days of life. A litter piles on top of each other and roots for food. No sooner are their eyes open than they begin games with brothers and sisters.  

After they’ve been adopted by some loving family, those small fur balls annoy humans until they give up and play. Some younger dogs find ultimate joy in chasing a thrown ball or stick; others find more excitement in wrestling matches with their humans. A few are much more content lying on their backs and having someone rub bellies.  

Because pups need plenty of exercise and socialization, owners take them to dog parks. There they are able to play with other K-9's of every variety. While a pup might be skittish around bigger dogs, in only a matter of time, it joins the pack at the park and plays and runs and growls and barks with the best of them. Some play is rough, and occasionally, a yip can be heard, but rarely does another dog intentionally hurt a pup.  Anger, distrust, or hatred are foreign to pups. They love everyone and every dog with whom they have contact. No dog ever refuses to play with a dog of a different color or breed. 

Small children are also precious creature who are fun to watch. Left to their own devices, meaning that parents stay out of the way, little guys and girls will fall into play with little effort. Oh, sometimes an argument arises over a toy that two children want, but for the most part, toddlers instinctively know now to play together. Leaders aren’t assigned by gender; either boy or girl can be “it.” The lead roles in games are taken usually by the children who suggest the game in the first place. All children are welcomed into the group. The more the merrier is the philosophy for them. No one is excluded because of skin color, gender, or economic status. 

I, for one, am disgusted with the inequalities between races and social classes. It’s time we adults learned from puppies and children how to get along. They teach us that the color of another’s skin or fur and the amount of money or type of background are irrelevant. We are all God’s people; we were created by Him in His own image. To say otherwise is to deny the existence of a loving and wise God and to reject the teachings of His son. Let’s try to mend the wounds that have so long caused so much pain. Instead, let’s be determined that all God’s children’s lives are important. “Red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight.” Do you remember that song from childhood? How old were you when you learned it? Did you forget what it means?  

We have much work to do. It should be done collectively. The chance to reunite this country and its people exists, but only if you and I play together like puppies and children. 

SOUNDS OF SPORTS

 Sports made a return to our lives not long ago. A collective sigh could almost be heard echoing from coast to coast. We Americans love our teams and crave seeing them on screens or in stadiums or courts. This year’s edition of sports is unusual and difficult for some to get used to. 

Baseball is America’s sport. That’s been the slogan for years. Yes, many will stay that football has now taken that position, but for some of us, baseball is still king. Although fans are upset that they can’t attend games, I like the new setting. The only unappealing things are the cardboard characters that fill the seats. The purity of the game comes through. A 90-mile-an-hour fastball makes a wonderful pop as it slaps the leather of a catcher’s glove. When a hitter catches a pitch with the sweet spot of a bat, that distinctive sound announces the departure of a baseball to the upper deck of the stadium. 

I enjoy the sound of voices from the field. The ump’s calling balls and strikes add color to the game. Managers yelling from the dugout to shift players in the field or encourage a pitcher or batter increases the excitement of the game. Players have always talked with each other during games, but actually catching a bit of the conversation allows us to understand that many are friends, not diehard enemies, of players on the other team. Reverberating swear words as a hitter strikes out or hits into a double play, while not pleasant for networks, show us that that athletes are intense competitors who want to always be perfect.  

Football also gives us a new experience during this pandemic. Professional games are played in empty stadiums. The players don’t seem to suffer too much from the absence of fans. When the ball is put into play, all athletes demonstrate their unique skills with thrilling catches and pounding runs. Hearing quarterbacks call out cadences or audibles gives fans a feeling that they are closer to the action. The cracking of pads when tackles are made remind some of their glory days when they played high school or little league games.  

One time when I wish the sounds weren’t so clear is when a player is injured. The scream from the pain or the sobbing at the realization that the season is over sobers even the most avid fan. Neither do I like hearing the taunting and trash talking between players. Most often, that yammering can be heard between receivers and defensive backs. I’d much rather hear some good-natured teasing that ends with smiles or nods. That could do much more in teaching young players how to behave as players.  

Golf is better when viewers can hear the discussions between players and their caddies or the chit-chat between players. The distinctive sounds of a booming drive or a solid iron shot indicates that the ball is headed toward a minute white hole located on a stamp-size green. Groans let audiences know that wayward shot will explode scorecards. A deafening cheer at a par-three hole alerts all that a hole-in-one has occurred.  

After months of staying at home, we need some sports to help ease anxiety and boredom. If this pandemic continues and closes these loved sports, Americans will have to find places with their families where they can make their own sounds from the crack of bats, the smack of leather, and the thump of a kicked football. We can survive this time without sports. Yes, that will be difficult, but if we do what the science tells us to do, we can ensure that sports will return next year. Hang in there!   

IGNORE THE SCARE TACTICS AND VOTE

 Turn on the news and listen to all the upheaval about the November 3rd election. Neither party seems comfortable with the possible outcomes of the presidential or senate races. Who’d have ever thought that a presidential election could scare a nation so much?  

A two-party system has long been the backbone of our political system. From local to national elections, folks have had the choice of either Republican or Democratic candidates. On occasion, an “independent” candidate has played a role in elections. However, most elections end with a winner from the two major parties. 

The deciding factor in many races has been the group of undecided voters. They are the ones who declare loyalty to neither party; they, instead, cast votes based on their determinations of the best candidate, the one who will represent the best interests of the country.  

From recent reporting, that independent group has disappeared. Voters are more polarized than ever. The president has his rock-solid base. They follow the man regardless of any mistakes or questionable acts he commits. Biden has his own base made up mostly of minorities, more liberal individuals, and a new group of “Never Trumpers.” Polls indicated that the number of undecided voters has shrunk to its smallest number ever.  

The good is that American citizens this cycle see this election as a turning point in our country’s history. They want to elect the man this time who will develop the country in the image that is most pleasing to
them. That means that the percentages of voters might soar to heights that are worthy of the greatest democracy ever built.
 

What’s bad is that too many tricks and lies and scare tactics are being employed. Mail-in voting has taken place in several states for years, and our servicemen and women have mailed ballots in for years.


Those states have had incredibly low numbers of voter fraud. However, fear mongers are declaring that massive numbers of fraudulent ballots will be dumped into this election. Officials try to alleviate fears by assuring that the system is safe and that every ballot has several security parts to prevent such terrible things from happening. 
 

Russia interfered with the 2016 election and is working nonstop to extend its meddling in the 2020 contest. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies are uncovering these attempts by the Russians, as well as other countries. At home, the management of the USPS seems intent upon destroying mail-in voting by removing machinery, cutting overtime, and sending out voting instructions will incorrect information.  

This pandemic is also negatively affecting the election. Many voters might skip voting altogether because they are afraid to stand in lines to cast ballots. Senior citizens are most at risk of the harmful effects of Covid-19, and although this group typically comprises the largest number of voters, individuals might feel compelled to choose between health and voting.  

We are told that mail-in voting could clog the system and delay the naming of a winner by days or even weeks. If that is so, then solutions that alleviate delays in counting of mail-in ballots should be developed and introduced now. I’ve heard for years how apathetic the American public is when it comes to voting. Now we have a red-hot race that might lead to an all-time high in voter participation. We’ve sent men to the moon; we’ve developed cars that can drive themselves. Shouldn’t our country’s greatest minds be able to create a method accommodate voters, allows mail-in voting, and counts votes in an efficient and timely manner? 

I’m excited to vote. I hope you are. If you qualify for an absentee ballot (Tennessee doesn’t allow mail-in voting for everyone), make sure you fill out the form to request one and get it in as soon as possible. Otherwise, put on a mask, go to the polls, and make your voice heard. Otherwise, keep your mouth shut and don’t complain about the outcome. Voting is your right and your responsibility in a democracy.