Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Platonic Refrain

Given the depressing nature of the comments trashing the very idea of democracy that I reacted to yesterday in this space, I decided to go back a few years to a post I made about PLATO AT THE GOOGLEPLEX, a terrific book expanding on the conceit that Plato is on a book tour for his latest,THE REPUBLIC, and in the course of the tour speaks to many iconic figures of our current culture.  The  great thing about the book is that, since it is Platonic as all get out, it does a beautiful job of explaining democracy.  I wish some of those sad thirty somethings who have despaired over the state of the world would consider the following thoughts I posted a couple of years ago:

But I want to talk mostly about laws and justice here.  Plato proposes a fascinating thought experiment.  Imagine you had in your possession a ring that would render you invisible whenever you wore it, reminiscent of Perseus’ helmet in CLASH OF THE TITANS (“I’m invisible.  Can’t you see that.”).  When invisible you could do anything you felt like with no fear of getting caught, no fear of retribution.  You could walk into a house and take whatever you wanted.  You could rifle money out of cash drawers.  Lurk around girls’ or boys’ locker rooms.  Steal cars.  Take free rides on airplanes.  Anything.  Would you take advantage of that situation?  Regardless of your answer, what percentage of the rest of us would?  Most everyone would answer, “Of course not.  Of course I wouldn’t take advantage.”  But do you think that’s an honest response?  If you had the ring long enough, wouldn’t you be tempted to use it for little stuff?  You’re short of cash and you’ve left your bank card at home.  Wouldn’t you slip on the ring and score that Twinkie, or that $100,000 bar?  Who’s it gonna hurt?  And wouldn’t that make the next transgression a little easier?  I mean, that’d just be human, right?

Plato goes off from that experiment to suggest that at the extreme end of the range of human desires lies the ring.  If heaven or hell were not hanging over our heads, we would all ultimately agree that being able to do anything we would like to do and get away with it would be ideal.  Of course, we would also agree that the worse that could happen to us is if someone else who was getting away with everything did anything to hurt us.  The space between those two conflicting desires is the realm of law and justice.  Since we have no choice but to live in a community (Plato thought that anyone who lived outside of society was by definition either a god or a monster), we have to cooperate to survive.  We have to have a social contract.  And to do that we would have consider questions like “What is the good life?” “What makes life matter?”

Even more than that, the good of the polis, the city-state, outweighs the good of the individual.  Anything else equals chaos.  Sparta honored collective glory.  Individual glory—a life that matters—was secondary to the glory of the state.  Athens gloried in the individual, but a life that mattered for the individual was still one that furthered the state.  The braid of beauty, truth, and goodness held this magical society together.  The pursuit of any part of this trilogy was the purest endeavor and one that could not help but further the good of the state.  All politicians in Plato’s utopia would be the poorest people in the state and forbade extravagance so as to guard against the inevitable corruption that comes from the combination of power and wealth.

In the ultimately unsatisfying chapter where Plato is interviewed by the Bill O’Reilly character (It is unsatisfying because you finally see that it is not possible to win an argument with a prating knave.), Plato asks Roy McCoy if he would rather refute someone, or be refuted?  Would he rather hurt another, or himself be hurt?  McCoy treats it like a trick question.  Of course, he would rather refute, would rather hurt than be hurt.  What kind of idiot wouldn’t?  Plato is just that kind of idiot.  He is the kind of idiot any polis needs to hold it together.  The USA of the first part of the twenty-first century is in short supply of such idiots and if we had them they would just queue up to be demolished by the pundits, the cable news hosts, the bought and paid for politicians.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hillary doesn't know the meaning of FUBAR

House Republicans Do

There were these two incidents on Facebook recently that I need to sort out.  Let me quickly bring you up to speed on the first.  I posted Trey Gowdy's comment after his panel of angry, old males unsuccessfully attempted to scold Hillary for not agreeing with their narrative.  He said that there was nothing in her testimony that was new information.  I commented that the Republican response to this would be to start a new committee and then I wondered "how can anyone align themselves with this collection of vindictive nut cases?"  In other words, it was a typical political post for me.  It was a rhetorical question, but one of my friends replied "how can people align themselves with a lying dirt bag" like Hillary, or words to that effect.

My response read something like ". . . your comment is at once pedantic, groundless, and idiotic.  That's why I like having you as a Facebook friend, next to you I seem smart."

Okay, okay.  I admit that my remark was mean spirited, especially the part about him making me seem smart.  But there is a difference between his comment that Hillary is a "lying dirtbag" and my initial post wondering how people can align themselves with "vindictive nutcases."  If, for example, I walked into any gathering of people in the country and announced that I was getting sick and tired of all those "vindictive nutcases" on the Benghazi Committee, everyone in the room would know exactly what I was talking about.  They would have read the accounts of politicians pandering to their base, speaking for the microphones, looking for sound bites for next year's campaign.  The word nutcase and right wing Republican go together like milk and cookies, raw tuna and wasabi.  There is ample recorded evidence of their vindictiveness.

But to say that Secretary Clinton is a lying dirtbag is a different proposition.  It is, as I replied, groundless.  God knows there have been committees, eager journalists, and political rivals galore trying to pin something on her for as long as she has been in public life.  What?  Thirty plus years?  These inquiries, all of them, have been successful only at innuendo and weird conspiracy theories.  What did the latest batch of emails turn up?  The startling piece of information that Hillary didn't know the meaning of FUBAR.  I'll bet House Republicans do.  

I promised myself long ago that I would never let someone get away with a bullshit comment.  To say that Hillary Clinton is a lying dirtbag without a single shred of objective proof is bullshit, so I let the guy know it was bullshit and promptly unfriended him.  I'm  67 years old.  I don't need to waste my time with delusional people.  

The other incident is much more disturbing.  One of my Facebook friends made the following post:  "Please don't make comparisons of Obama to Stalin or Hitler or whatever.  Give it a rest."  Now there was a sentiment I could agree with, but then I regretfully read through the comments.  Let me share a few.

-"Why not?  They're all Rothschild's puppets." 
This one gave me pause.  I can only assume the writer is referring to the Jewish banking family and is therefore implying that all these politicians were bought and paid for, but I'm having a hard time seeing the Rothschilds giving Hitler much support, or vice versa.  Maybe the writer is being metaphorical.  Let's hope.

-"I have 0 interest in a system that says my rights don't exist simply because I'm outnumbered."
My first reaction is that this guy must have studied with some of the more right wing members of Green Mountain's Social Studies department.  Does this person have even an inkling of how our government works?  Last time I checked, the founding fathers went to great lengths enumerating that commenter's rights.  

-"I don't care what religion you follow or believe in, if anything.  These people in power are evil and not worth being considered leaders."
Words fail me.

-"I personally don't need a leader."
Maybe.  But you do need someone to teach you (personally) how to write.

-"Democracy is a joke.  3 wolves and one sheep vote on what is for dinner.  The sheep must die because it is for the greater good?"
This person must also be the product of a questionable social studies curriculum.  Someone should tell him that wolves and sheep can't vote.  

Let's get serious.  Don't these comments make you overwhelmingly sad?  I have smart Facebook friends.  Successful.  Family people.  Well-educated.  But the cynicism is oppressive isn't it?  

I wish I could end on a nicer note.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Being Ben BenFranklin

This morning it is Katherine--NOT JIM.  Don't be confused.  I know it's hard to tell us apart.

I spend a lot of time lately trying to figure out who I am and what I need to do to feed my wee soul.  It is one of the things I have in common with Stephen Colbert.  He keeps having installments in a continuing bit called "Who is Me?"  He took a lie detector test on himself the last time.

It's hard not to lie to yourself.  My lies are kind of cute though.  I like the one I tell myself that I'm aging in something akin to Meryl Streep.  I used to think I was doing as well as Jane Fonda (leave out her hair), but she's not looking so good these days.  Mostly my lies to myself feed my vanity or rationalize away shopping.  My favorite lie here is about the practicality of buying something for myself--it just has to be cheaper than seeing some sort of therapist.

I won't even begin to talk about the lies I tell to myself about needing to purchase yarn.  Only a knitter could understand.  I'm amazed I knit, look at yarn websites online as though they were porn, and am contemplating joining my knitting friends for a fun-filled weekend of knitting classes in Ft. Collins next spring.  How did I turn into a knitter?  Anyway,  I'm working on a lie about needing to walk the CSU campus so I can go to a knitting fest.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Part of self-awareness, for me at least, is self-improvement.  Every time I take a good long look at myself, I discover there are these little things that make me not like myself as much as I would like to like myself.  I thrive on liking myself.  I hardly ever get into this mood and mode without going on some kind of diet and work-out reform.  It almost always coincides with a five pound weight loss.  It works out.  I work on the weight while I figure out what I really want to work on.  I keep using the word "work" intentionally.  This self-improvement shit is hard work.  I'm old.  I know this.

Part of this self improvement is also always a return to my life as a Junior Language Arts teacher.  It was one of many teaching assignments, but this one was a challenge.  The class covered the entire history of American Literature (we nicknamed the book BIG RED and it weighed a ton) and a virtual plethora of writing and speaking challenges.  It was tough to say if the kids liked reading the Iroquois Constitution, writing the multi-genre research paper, or giving the required speech the most.  I know the Horror Unit (God I hate the word "unit"--it is the most confining word in education) was a hit.  We watched PSYCHO (permission slips included).

Peter Herrold and I taught the class together.  We created together.  We often put our classes together for presentations.  We created quizzes and tests that were rife with really funny jokes.  Peter's jokes were the best.  I really liked our assessments.  It was working with Peter and our attempt to make Junior Lang Arts a vital and interesting class that made me fall in love with Ben Franklin and his quest for self-improvement.

BIG RED had a large chunk of stuff to read about the Revolutionary Period of our country.  You may have all sorts of patriotic feelings about Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John and Abigail Adams, George Washington and any number of other tried and true patriots, but I want to tell you they are a bitch for a high school junior to just decode much lest get all excited about.  Motivation is tricky here.  That's where Ben Franklin comes into this.

Ben, though not a piece of cake to read, at least is readable and he has a really cool sense of humor about himself.  We had a chunk of his Autobiography in the book and a play he wrote about his battle with gout and something else that I just don't remember right now.  The play was a real kick.  Peter would dress up as Ben (he looked great--really) and I played Lady Gout who attacked him with the gout.  The kids liked it.  They laughed at the right parts and watching Peter standing there with a loaf of bread under his arm to show his gluttony.  They were no doubt relieved they didn't have to read the thing as homework as well.  Anyway, after our performance, we launched into the idea of self-improvement and the part of Ben's Autobiography that was in the book that outlined his lovely, but failed attempt to become a better guy.

I re-read that sucker every year I taught that class.  I believe in Ben's self-improvement system.  It beats the heck out of anything I've seen on the Oprah show.   Just like Ben, however,  I fail at the system.  I think that's what I like about Ben's self-improvement system the best.  It's okay to fail.

Ben's idea was that you identify the virtues you wish to achieve and attack them one at a time.  You try each and every day to work on a virtue and put a dot on a calendar each day you make it through having upheld the virtue.  When you got a fortnight of dots in a row, you were ready to move to the next virtue.   I don't really remember the number of days you needed to get dots in a row, but I've always wanted to use the word "fortnight" in a sentence and this seemed like a good time.  What can I say?  It's not like the masses are reading this.  You get a lot of dots in a row and you move on.

I remember some of his virtues.  Frugality is one.  I hate frugality.  It's low on my list.  I know it's important, but it just looks like failure to me.  I usually start with something that has hope of success. That's why I start with the weight thing.  It's concrete and I have a history of success.  Frugality...I can't even make it through a week.

Last year I observed a teacher at The Ben Franklin Academy and they emphasized one of his virtues each month.  I hated who picked them.  December was frugality.  How can you do frugality with Christmas on the horizon?

I don't remember all of Ben's virtues.   The virtues weren't important.  The process was.  Thank you, but I have my own demons.

I have kind of Zen goals and creativity goals and figuring-out-who-I-am goals and I am, of course, in the process of trying to lose about five pounds.  The problem here connects with one of my Zen goals.  The goal I am working on here is DOING ONE THING AT A TIME.  Another goal, PUTTING SPACE BETWEEN THE THINGS YOU DO, is pretty much in place because it has always been in part of my nature.  I like hanging out between activities as much as I like the activities.  My next goal is to focus in on the activity that goes before the space.  I'm sucking at it.

Doing one thing at a time is hard.  I am struggling right now.  There is a football show on in the background that would normally be off, but I am taking care of Janet Simmons' Fantasy team and she has Andrew Luck and I am semi-trying to decide if I play Luck or Alex Smith for her.  I am a terrible Fantasy player.  The responsibility of this sits heavy on my heart.  I can't even type a post about doing one thing at a time without multi-tasking.

The other hard thing about doing one thing at a time is that another Zen goal is jumping into my life and I haven't even been working on it.  Or I didn't think I was.  It's about gratitude.  I keep bumping into gratitude and it's on my Zen list.  It wasn't near as high on my list as doing things one at a time, but it's looking like it might just disappear by the wee act of simply paying attention.

In the last few days I have found myself grateful for the following:
1.  The Pope.
2.  The Broncos Defense.
3.  Cowboy boot weather.
4.  Reading stories to Willa before her nap yesterday.  Gramps usually does that.
5.  Making meatloaf with Willa before Franny picked her up to take her home.
6.  That my jeans zipped.
7.  Jim made me poached eggs last night.
8.  Chris's family gets to go to NYC next week.
9.  Franny's new house is almost done; it is so amazing.
10.  Going to bed and waking up with Jim each morning.
11.  Living a life that does NOT involve dressing up as Lady Gout anymore.

That's enough.  I am going to stop writing and really give the Andrew Luck decision some real focus. It is nice to feel like famous people.  I like thinking I have things in common with Stephen Colbert and Ben Franklin.  Ben, like me, always improved and moved through virtues, but he back-slid with style and forgave himself with wine.  Me too.

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Note About Frank

We have been going to the YMCA at Mineral and Broadway for the past 18 years, although our attendance has been sporadic of late.  During all of those years a great old guy named Frank has been a constant.  He passes out towels and locker keys in the morning.  More often than not we locker next to one another.  He always has a friendly word for every one in his thin, breathy little voice and he has a twinkly sense of humor.  He's the kind of guy who understands and appreciates all the little ironies that fill a big place with lots of employees and lots of members.

We hadn't been to the Y for the past two weeks for a variety of lame reasons, so when we walked in this morning we were devastated to hear that Frank had died of pneumonia just a few days previous.  There was a sign on the check-in desk letting us know that there would be a small reception for Frank's family and friends the day after tomorrow.

I didn't know Frank except to joke around with him every morning.  I didn't even know his last name.  Still don't.  But I did admire him, and not just because he was some nice old guy with a locker next to mine.

For all those years we have been going to the Y, Frank never missed a morning work out.  There he was walking around the track, alternating laps between a straight forward stride and then once around backwards and then once around doing those scissor things that the aerobics instructors make their charges do in order to drum up business for osteopaths.  Frank wasn't fast, but he was determined.

About ten years ago, just when Kathie and I were beginning retirement, Frank was stretching by hoisting one leg up on the track railing and then leaning forward to touch his toes.  He promptly shattered a bone in his leg.  We all worried.  We all clucked that someone of Frank's age shouldn't be doing things like that.  On my part, I decided never to hoist my leg up on a railing and it is a decision that has been working for me ever since.

In a surprisingly short time, Frank was back at the Y walking with his various gaits around the track.  He was still stretching, but being a little more careful, and until the day he died he was constantly at it.  Here was a guy determined to live for ever or die in the attempt.

His passing has given Kathie and me renewed determination to follow suit.  I figure with a combination of daily work outs, healthy food, and lots and lots of sex we have a real shot at it.

Katherine and I miss Frank and mourn his passing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"Wouldn't It Be Nice"

About twenty years ago, Kathie and I were invited by Phil Gonring to be his guests at a gala dinner for Denver's movers and shakers honoring important teachers out of their pasts.  We met Phil at the old Hilton ballroom and sat at a table with, among others, Jared Polis, who at that time was just a fabulously wealthy internet entrepreneur beginning to get interested in politics, education in particular.  I remember Katherine tried to hit him up for a grant, but to no avail.

It was a lovely event.  It was unlike most events I've been to honoring teachers.  We didn't have to walk through a line and put slices of pizza on our paper plates, and instead of a giant transparent tank of punch in shades of pink, we were served wine and could even go up to a bar and get a drink.  To top it all off, there wasn't a power point projector anywhere in sight and no butcher paper.  Bill Cosby spoke instead.

We were looking forward to The Coz, but his speech was the only disappointment of the night.  He got up on that stage and commenced to commiserate with all of the noble educators gathered there.  He praised us for our determination to fight for the kids in the face of antediluvian authorities who are systematically bent on destroying public education.  He praised us for performing in appalling conditions, in over-crowded classrooms, and in buildings falling apart for lack of care.

As he was talking, it slowly dawned on all of us that this man had no idea what he was talking about.  His descriptions of public schools, dysfunctional buildings, and rampaging kids was right out of BLACK BOARD JUNGLE, maybe TO SIR WITH LOVE, but certainly nothing that any of us in that room had experienced.  Instead of addressing the very real issues confronting education, Cosby just reacted to his Hollywood generated conception of schools.  He relied on speaking points that missed the mark time and time again.  I almost felt sorry for him when he clearly couldn't understand why he wasn't killing.  Judging by recent developments in Cosby's life, you think he would have learned to stop feeding lines and assorted crap to his victims.

He thought if he fed off our anger about education he would be a success.  The thing was that we really weren't very angry.  We were well fed, a little high, and in the company of our favorite people, star students.

I've been taping Colbert and watching each morning.  I have heard him talk to Jeb Bush, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump.  And after each conversation I thought of Bill Cosby telling us what he thought we wanted to hear on that night twenty years ago.

I will start out by saying they all seemed like nice people, even Trump.  Jeb and Ted seemed very uncomfortable, as if their staffs had insisted they appear against their wishes.  Joe seemed exactly like Joe.  He was funny, wore his heart on his sleeve and always said exactly what he meant.  Poor guy.  That's why he hasn't a prayer of getting the nomination.  Trump was witty, with a confidence bred of billions of dollars, and he did a nice job of spelling out his fantasy of a 2000 mile wall paid for by Mexico.  Elizabeth Warren was an emotional basket case who actually left Colbert a little embarrassed and completely speechless.

That brings me to Bernie.   I agree with almost everything he says, just not the way he says it.  Quite frankly, I don't see that much difference between his progressive rage and the conservative recalcitrance he decries.

A recent Daily Beast article explains that Bernie has a solid lead over Hillary among college types.  To offer evidence, they followed Bernie to one of his raucous campus events and interviewed a handful of attendees, asking them to explain Bernie's appeal.  What follows is a list of paraphrased quotes.

-I like Bernie's message on the environment and inequality.
-He's not making compromises in his vision
-Wants 12 weeks medical leave
-Wants to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour
-Wants to expand Social Security
-Wants to increase funding for jobs, education, etc.
-Wants to force (!) publicly funded elections by insisting (!!) any Supreme Court nominee pledge (!!!) to undo Citizens United
-Wants to raise taxes on the top tenth of the top one per cent.

Favorite Bernie quote among the audience:  "While they have the money and the power, we have something they don't have.  We have the people."

I agree with almost everything, but I think messages get lost when they are shouted at you.  Now, I believe Bernie's shouting is legitimate rage.  I feel it.  Most people I know feel it.  But it's still shouting and the message gets lost.  Sometimes, like in the case of the Republican field, a candidate shouts because he has no message and he wants his audience to simply feel the rage.  Let's hope they come to their senses and realize their method destroys the country, and it doesn't do the Republican party any good to boot.

I've been working on "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by the Beach Boys.  It think it is the quintessential rock song and should be Bernie's campaign anthem.  But he needs to be careful.  There are a couple of chords in the verse that are nearly impossible to play.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

I Know My Religious Shit

There are these terrific people from St. Louis, Terry and Ellen, who stay a week at Jenny during our stay.  They've been going there longer than we have and they always bring Father Robert (I'm pretty sure that is his first name), a long time family friend, with them and put him up in his own cabin.  If you know the rates at Jenny Lake Lodge, you will agree with me that Terry and Ellen are building up big time points in their heavenly bank account with their largesse.

Terry usually shows up in the lodge around six in the morning to pick up some coffee for his group and we sit for a moment by the fire and visit about yesterday's golf game and today's hike.  My favorite chat this past summer happened the day after Pope Frances compared the excesses of capitalism to the dung of the devil.  Trust me, the vast majority of the guests at Jenny Lake Lodge are raging capitalists or they couldn't afford to be there, so it was clear that Terry was not pleased that the Vicar of Christ had basically condemned his life style (Actually, he only condemned capitalism's "excesses", not the thing itself.).

"Ya know, Christ hung out with rich people too," Terry said with confidence.

"That's right," I agreed, "like when he was kicking them out of the temple or comparing their chances of heaven to camels getting through needle eyes."  I didn't really say that.  I try really hard to refrain from news and politics of any description when I'm in the Tetons, but it took all my Christian charity to refrain.

I can't say I'm surprised by the conservative reaction to Pope Frances.  Rick Santorum must be going crazy.  Bill O'Reilly as well.  All those folks who want to defund Planned Parenthood, build a wall, and deport children simultaneously must be pissed.  The Pope evidently doesn't agree with them.  He even has suggested the possibility of forgiving abortions.  Has the whole world gone mad?

I am also not in the least surprised by the Pope's pronouncements.  I am the product of a Catholic boyhood.  The sacristy at Our Lady of the Mountain in Estes Park was my second home.  I was trained by Jesuits at Regis (You ever notice how didn't just go to a Jesuit school, you get trained by one?).  I hung out with Fathers Boyle and Maginnis at Ernie's at 44th and Federal.  Tom Steele baptized by first child.  So Pope Frances is what I would have expected of a Jesuit.

All the Jesuits I've known (lots) share some commonalities.  They are, to a man, remarkably erudite.  They are articulate.  They care a lot more about Aquinas and Augustin than they do about passing judgement on others.  In their theology classrooms, God was almost an afterthought.  They understood that there are precious few clear cut moral choices.  They drank great scotch and told ribald stories into the late hours of the night.  They were also deeply spiritual.  They knew the theology.  They practiced what they preached.

Frances is just reminding us who Christ really was.  What he really taught.  Contrary to what they would have you believe, He was not a capitalist.  Nor was he a socialist.  He was a humanist; that's what transubstantiation is all about.  At least that is the understanding I took away from 27 hours of theology and one incredibly gruesome reading of SUMMA TEOLOGICA.  He is saying all these great things, these seemingly liberal things, but if I know my Jesuits there is nothing liberal about them.  He's just speaking truth.

There was this great moment on Colbert's tribute to the Pope show the other night.  When Colbert asked Andrew Sullivan (one of my heroes) how difficult it was to reconcile his homosexuality with his Catholicism, Sullivan responded that it was his Catholicism that forced him to "come out."  Sullivan's Catholicism, he said, trained him to be honest, to be a truth teller, and to have courage.

I am not a practicing Catholic.  Far from it.  But I do know my religious shit.  I have Jesuits to thank for that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Butterflies Get Sick And Die

Ursula is dead.

Kathie informed me about an hour ago and I just this minute walked out to the back yard to confirm her diagnosis.

There she was in the large planter base (or whatever you call the plate things that pots drain into) covered with the grass Willa and Jaydee fed her last Thursday, her larval stage a curled up, withered, and blackened husk of what it was just four days ago.

Her existence was in question from the moment Willa found her crawling toward The Girl Garden in the back yard, Jaydee prompting her along with a blue Tonka mini pick-up.  Willa quickly bent down to show her sister how to pet the little crawly thing and she was really gentle with the beast until it slithered onto the palm of her hand.  It was only a little flinch, but the would be butterfly was dashed to the ground.

I transferred the creature to the plant thing in hopes of prolonging her life long enough for Willa and Jaydee  to get a good fix of Nature and gathered them around to look at it as though in a frame.  Willa dubbed her Ursula and the two girls spent a good fifteen minutes gathering grasses from around the yard to put in Ursula's new home.

During dinner later on, we all took turns looking in on Ursula.  She didn't move much and when she did it was usually to flop on her back, little feet wiggling in the air.  Jaydee ignored her, moving on to other things.  Willa was determined to prod her back to a more lively state. Ken was skeptical.  I, having been to a butterfly farm in Belize where the guide assured us over and over that butterflies--all of them--get sick and die, was more resigned to Ursula's fate and poured myself another sangria.

The problem is I pick Willa up at school today and take her to our house to hang out until one or both of her parents picks her up and I don't know what I should do about Ursula.  Katherine is in favor of tossing Ursula into the bushes, betting that Willa will never notice.

I am more apt to take the Jack Nicholson approach to this situation:  "While transferring the insect out of the planter, Colonel Martenson, is expedient and efficient, it isn't exactly the American Way!"

No, I think this might be a great moment to teach Willa (Jaydee might be a little too young for the lesson to really sink in) about the ephemeral nature of life.

"Gramps, where's Ursula?  What happened to Ursula?"

"Ursula's dead.  She got all black and dried up and I threw her in the bushes."

You don't want to pull any punches when you're teaching kids a lesson.  Just lay it out for them.  But be compassionate.  You'll notice I'm not going to opt for the make-her-feel-so-guilty-she'll-crumple approach.

"Gramps, what happened to Ursula?"

"You kept touching her and she died."  

A little harsh you think?  Hey, it's a tough world out there.