Chalk-free zones coming soon to a campus near you

 

There is no doubt as to what must happen following the Emory University scandal where students were traumatized after someone chalked “Trump 2016” around campus. Obviously, the time has come to ban chalk.

That’s right, Chalk Free Zones. No chalk permitted within 500 feet of a university campus.

Oh sure, I can hear some of you belly aching now saying, “Chalk doesn’t traumatize people; people traumatize people.” That line won’t fly. We saw them and we heard them. And Emory University President Jim Wagner saw them and heard them, too, which is why he invited them inside the administration building and gave them all milk and cookies (unconfirmed) to ease their distress.

It may have been Emory last week, but who knows where it will happen next. Breaking News! This just in – North Korea is dispatching regiments to chalk “Trump 2016” along the 38th parallel in an attempt to further intimidate South Korea.

Yes, we must ban chalk. Oh, put your pocket Constitution away, the right to keep and bear chalk is not in there. Until such a time as a chalk ban is in place, we will conduct chalk background checks (free eraser for saying that as fast as you can three times in a row).

What’s more, we will card those attempting to purchase chalk, although those under the age of six will still be permitted purchases.

Any schools that still have chalkboards in use must replace them with dry erase boards immediately. Governors, call out the National Guard if you must.

Furthermore, the makers of chalk must be held accountable. Senate hearings on the money-grubbing chalk producers must commence at once. It is time to drag their fingernails across the chalkboard. We will demand compensation for students traumatized by chalking and forced to seek their “safe place.” Makers of chalk must be fined heavily and forced to conduct chalk-safety programs.

Chalk aggression must end. Restaurants that chalk menus on the wall? Cease and desist. Hopscotch? No more, kids. All those crafters creating Pinterest boards on chalking? Delete.

What’s that? The President has just announced that mass chalking does not happen in other advanced countries.

No college student must feel unsafe—at any time or in any place – ever.

As for those of you howling that one in two people in some far away country have chalk and they have the lowest chalking rate in the world, I don’t believe the propaganda.

But I do believe that this group of students at Emory is our new reality. And so is this—some of tho se students may have a degree when they graduate, but they won’t have a clue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing everything is not enough

The first paper to run my column 25 years ago used to publish the Biblical text of the Resurrection every Easter on page one. Eventually, the text on page one was shortened and continued inside. Then the entire text moved inside. Soon, the text will likely disappear entirely.

Let’s be honest. We are outgrowing the need for faith. We’ve outgrown God. We’ve reached a point in science, technology and sophistication where many believe we can out-God God. We can do arm and face transplants. We can fertilize human eggs in petri dishes. We can erase portions of human memory. We revel in the triumphs of science. Behold the wonder of treeless paper.

We can now hear, know and see almost everything—into the far reaches of the galaxies and into the thoughts and minds of our fellow man. We can slip apps onto smartphones that allow us to access someone’s every move, text, email and phone call. Omniscience has been redefined by Silicon Valley.

Our ability to understand the human condition is unprecedented. We have a reason, rationale, therapeutic explanation, statistical analysis and talk show for every rotten behavior under the sun. The notion of sin is anathema.

A headline on the Salon website proclaimed Christians, evangelicals in particular, synonymous with bigotry and abject stupidity. (How’s that tolerance thing working for you, Salon?) Faith is openly disdained in many quarters, an embarrassing relic to be purged from the public square.

And yet . . .

And yet there are times we’re not nearly as omniscient and omnipotent as we thought. Sitting beside a loved one gasping for life’s final breaths, stunned by the news on the other end of the phone or engulfed by the unimaginable, every fiber of our being cries out. Those anguished cries are rarely for science or statistics, they are the deep cries of a human heart pleading with God to make sense of the mystery.

Likewise, in parallel moments of beauty beyond comprehension—the incoming tide, the sunrise, holding the loved one who survived or embracing the prodigal who has returned—our hearts burst with thanksgiving and wonder in gratitude to the God who is there.

Maybe we haven’t outgrown the need for God after all. Perhaps we’ve simply filled what French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal referred to as every man’s “God-shaped vacuum” with creature comforts, distractions, ease and entertainment.

In places where creature comforts are scarce and oppression is routine, the need is more palpable. Reports from Iran are that as many as one million Christians now meet secretly in underground churches, risking imprisonment or death.

Practice of the Christian faith may not be as safe as it once was, but there was never anything culturally safe about Christ. So why does the Christian faith not only continue, but continue to grow? Pascal claimed that the God-shaped vacuum “cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”

This Easter, Christians circling the globe, in climates of both safety and danger, will celebrate with joyful voices and quiet whispers the cherished hope and promises of Christ.

 

How do you spell master communicator?

File this under our ever-growing chronology of amusing stories of the increasingly hearing-impaired.

I am making dinner and the husband is working on his computer at the kitchen table when one of the grands runs into the kitchen and breathlessly asks, “Grandpa, how do you spell Kate?”

She is clutching an index card and marker. Clearly it is a matter of great urgency. The kids are playing school and making a nametag for the youngest (the youngest in any crowd routinely having little-to-no say in the roles which they are cast).

“What was that?” he asks, looking up from the computer.

“How do you spell Kate?” she asks.

“I’m not sure I understood you,” he says.

His ears aren’t what they used to be, but whose are? To complicate matters, the girls have high-pitched voices that often sound like teeny tiny squeaky little mice.

I momentarily consider intervening and spelling Kate for the child, but decide it will be far more entertaining to let this play out on its own.

“How do you spell Kate?” she asks a second time.

“Cake?”

“No, KATE!”

Still not comprehending, he says, “Use the word in a sentence.”

“Ok,” she says. “How do you spell Kate?”

She’s got him now. He said to use the word in a sentence and she did use it in a sentence—and a fine one at that.

“No, no,” he says. Having perfectionist tendencies, and insistent on thorough communication (communication so thorough it can sometimes rewind to the previous 30 minutes, or even the previous two centuries), he attempts to illustrate.

“Let’s say the word you want to spell is car. OK?” he says.

“OK,” she says.

“When I say ‘use it in a sentence,’ I would say, ‘I am going to take a trip in my car.’ See what I mean?”

“Yes,” she says.

“OK, so use the word you want me to spell in a sentence.”

“OK. How do you spell Kate?”

His head is on the table and his shoulders are heaving. I think he’s laughing, but he could be sobbing. He can’t possibly make it any clearer. Or any more confusing. But that doesn’t mean the man will stop. He is about to illustrate with yet another example when her twin sister barrels into the room to serve as interpreter.

“Grandpa!” she shouts. She waits for eye contact. Good move. You can tell she has worked with the man before. “Grandpa — Kate like in KATIE!”

“Oh,” he says in a here-to-save-the-day tone of voice. “K A T E.”

A short while later, the youngest appears in the kitchen wearing a nametag that says Kate Love. Apparently they went out on a limb and spelled Love on their own. They’re fast learners.

 

 

 

Knowing when to step up

A poem fell out of the back of my desk calendar along with some sweet memories. “Somebody’s Mother” is a tender poem from long ago about a young boy helping an old woman cross the street. As a girl, my mother used to give a dramatic reading of the poem to her youngest sister, knowing full well that it would make her cry. My mother was satisfied with her job as orator once she saw the tears.

Some years ago (because quirky runs in the family), our youngest daughter and a friend, then in middle school, were hanging out for the day and I came across that poem by Mary Dow Brine. I told them I could read them a poem that would make them cry. They were game. I gave my best reading and by the closing line there were indeed tears. But the tears belonged to me, not the girls. Quite naturally, the girls were amused that I had made myself cry.

The poem is about the milk of human kindness, having the vision to see beyond ourselves and practice the not-always-so-simple “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Flash forward and that same daughter, a lovely young woman who was then in high school, had gone downtown one evening with six classmates to an Indiana Pacers game. The game ran long, and afterward they wanted to get something to eat. One of the boys suggested they go to Hooters, and “not just for the wings.” Our daughter and the other girl in the group said they were not going to Hooters. The girls determined they would go elsewhere and meet up with the guys later.

As they were about to go their separate ways, one of the boys stepped out of the pack and said it wasn’t safe for the girls to be walking alone downtown late at night, so he’d go with them.

That young man will never know what his actions meant to us as parents until one day he has a deeply loved, teenage daughter of his own. I should have written a poem titled “Somebody’s Daughter.”

Instead, I wrote the young man a note explaining the etymology of the word virtue. (Word people can be so dry.)  His actions had modeled virtue. I thanked him for exercising concern for the welfare of another at the expense of his own standing among his peers, not to mention forgoing the scenery at Hooters. I explained that virtue comes from the Latin “virtus,” the root of which is “vir,” which means man. By exercising virtue, he had proven himself a man.

How amazing that there was a time when even in language, virtue and goodness were inextricably linked to what it meant to be a man, to what it means for any of us—man, woman or child—to be fully human.

 

 

Philatelic fella’s psychedelic find is frowned on

For starters, let me be clear that I do not blame the post office. To their credit, the post office offers a wide variety of stamps. To the husband’s credit, he has a wide variety of interests, stamps being among them.

Those two things appear a good match on the surface, but there are two underlying problems. First, when you buy stamps to use, you must use them. Secondly, there are few things we send by snail mail today.

The last time either of us mailed a hand-written personal letter was probably 20 years ago. With the exception of our utilitities, we pay most everything online. Today, the items we most often send by mail are sympathy notes and get well cards. Those are the last two forms of human communication yet to be hijacked by the digital age.1394568362000-HENDRIX-FOREVER-SINGLE-STAMP-JY-3209--62766592

“Aren’t these cool?” the husband asks, flashing a sheet of Jimi Hendrix stamps.

Four stamps with an image of Jimi Hendrix with a background of swirling colors come together on a quadrant at the center of the sheet to make a psychedelic image. Four quadrants then come together to form an even bigger psychedelic image.

Yes, they are cool. And I could be overthinking this, but when you send a note expressing sympathy on the heartbreaking loss of someone’s mother or father, doesn’t it seem bizarre to attach a stamp bearing the likeness of the guitar hero of the ‘60s noted for amazing talent and heavy drug use?

“We are deeply sorry for your loss.” And then I plant a stamp on the envelope that screams, “Let me stand next to your fire.”

Fortunately, the Purple Haze stamps are not my only option. The husband also returned with vintage Barnum and Bailey Circus Poster stamps as well.

“Didn’t they have any flags or flowers?” I ask.

“Sure they did; but we’ve had those lots of times.”

Because the husband of many interests also has interests in art and design and history, these stamps are a win-win—artfully designed and commemorating historic events. Nonetheless, the circus stamps are only marginally more appropriate for notes and cards to the downcast.

“We were sorry to hear of your dreadful accident on the ice and learn that you will be immobilized the next six months.”usps-vintage-circus-stamps

I’m torn. Do I use the stamp of the tightrope walker or the stamp with the man in red standing on his head at the bottom of a flight of stairs with his top hat on his feet?  On second thought, I may go with the clown in the red and white striped tights taking a bow.

I could always write under the stamp, “No insensitivity intended.”

I sent out another sympathy card last week. I went with an old Christmas stamp I found in the desk drawer.

The husband noted that since these new stamps are so great, we should use them selectively.

Done. A Jimi Hendrix just went on a magazine renewal and circus stamps on a couple of birthday cards, but we still have a lot left.

I hope the power company appreciates them.

 

Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Contact her at lori@loriborgman.com

The accountant won’t rest until the dog does

The only good news an accountant can ever have for you is that the IRS called and demanded you stop filing taxes. Naturally, when our accountant told us the “good news” that his two-man firm had merged with a larger firm, we were suspicious.

He said this would be advantageous to us should he retire. We were dumbfounded. “Why would you want to retire when you can keep doing our taxes?”

He whipped out his cell phone and showed us a picture of a beautiful sunset on a sandy beach. “Don’t you agree I should be there?” he asked.coastlie

“No,” we said in unison.

“Actually, I can’t retire until my dog dies,” he sighed.

He explained that many of the 55+ communities in Florida “hate animals and children.” Restrictions at his community allow fish but prohibit birds, dogs over 15 pounds and children. (Apparently restrictions on children hold regardless of weight.)

“It costs $30 a day for a pet sitter,” he said. “For that money I could buy a new dog every time I return from Florida.”

We remained unsympathetic to his plight, although we were increasingly sympathetic toward the dog.

“Look at this—the view from my balcony.” It was a silhouette of two palm trees against a fiery red sunset.

“Dime a dozen,” the husband says.

“Right. And you can’t get frozen nose hairs and frostbite in Florida,” I said. “Stay here. And don’t forget about your dog.”

He said a lot of people get a doctor’s note saying they need their dog as a support animal to cope with mental distress. But those notes are being more closely scrutinized because of fraudulent claims.

I’ve read stories about people in senior living communities claiming they need pigs, monkeys, snakes, mice and even miniature horses as emotional support animals. The best claim was from a man who needed a parrot. He was granted permission and then he claimed he needed two more parrots. Then when the man would visit the pool, sauntering about like a pirate with a parrot on his shoulder, the parrots began attacking others at the pool.

We stated to our accountant that we were still unmoved by his plight of being torn between doing taxes full-time in a frozen tundra and sipping drinks with tiny umbrellas on a sandy beach with blue skies. So he showed us another picture. This one was of his dog seated in his office chair behind his desk.dog in chair

We were moved now. As a matter of fact, we had a lot of questions: Is the dog on salary? Who has been signing off on our taxes—the accountant or the poodle? If the poodle works outside the office, are his fees lower than our accountant’s?

It doesn’t matter. Our ability to sleep at night because a trustworthy man has done our taxes for years should not get in the way of him enjoying winters in Florida. We are grateful for the years we have worked with our accountant, which is why the next time we visit we are going to take a small thank you gift. A St. Bernard.

 

Coarse language gets attention, of course

liarI liked it better when presidential candidates spent more time shaking hands and kissing babies than calling their opponents liars and losers.

Of course, I also liked it better when family-friendly television shows closed with sappy theme songs—a stark contrast to a family-friendly show that recently closed with kids singing  a refrain that constantly repeated a swear word. I’m not sure if the creators intended it to be cute or funny, but it was neither. It was stupid.

I probably shouldn’t have written that. The s-t-u-p-i-d part.

I once used that word in front of one of the grands and she asked what it meant. I was about to explain the meaning (writers like dissecting words, right?) when her mother materialized out of thin air, sternly reminding the child and Grandma that we don’t say that word.

It’s like we’ve all been roughed up by a heavy grit sandpaper. We lack smooth edges.

There are no longer euphemisms for body parts or body functions. These days everybody goes directly to the graphic and gross.

A part of me shrugs and asks, who cares? Language is fluid, right? Thou thoughtest words changeth not?

Yet, there’s a level at which the coarse language demeans and demoralizes us all. Not only is the speaker demeaned, but the listener is demeaned as well. We become a little less human and a little more animal. Something of loveliness dies.

Maybe coarse language is an easy way of getting attention. Maybe people think coarse language is way of proving strength.

Ronald Reagan lobbed one of the greatest challenges of the last century when he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” His words still echo—and not a single @%*&#!.

I graduated from the Journalism School at the University of Missouri many moons ago when every student had to survive news writing with Hal Lester. If there had been a Marine Corps of journalism profs, Lester would have been the commandant. He could thunder about the misuse of a semi-colon and reduce a room full of overly-confident, smart-aleck college students to quivering ninnies.

One day a rogue asked if we could use vulgarities in news copy. Lester glowered. Then he thundered, “The only people who use vulgarities are people with poor vocabularies.”

I’ve always remembered that. Maybe our coarse language has nothing to do with losing respect for ourselves and one another. Maybe coarsening language is because we’ve all grown a little more stu—er, maybe we’re just not as bright as we used to be.

Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Contact her at lori@loriborgman.com

Keep calm and color on

The only coloring books I had as a kid were of Cinderella. When I heard that six of the 20 top-selling books on Amazon are adult coloring books, I thought they were updates of Cinderella these many years later.

You know, pictures of Cinderella with bunions on the feet that used to wear the glass slippers. Pictures of Cinderella with gray hair and an extra 20 pounds. Pictures of Cinderella and and the Prince with little birds helping find their reading glasses.Cindrella glasses

Wrong on all counts. Coloring books for adults are coloring pages with intricate patterns, garden, animal and nature themes. Others feature cities, architecture, Harry Potter and swear words. Yep, you read that right.

The adult coloring book craze is touted as a wonderful way to relax, although if you’re coloring swear words (may I suggest red?) you might be better off in an anger management class.

Libraries are falling all over themselves hosting adult coloring nights. They are strictly BYOCP: Bring Your Own Colored Pencils.

Despite the popularity of the craze, there is something slightly jarring about it.

If my doctor colors, I don’t want to know about it.

For some reason, I’d be more understanding if our accountant colored. Maybe it’s because of the stress of working with numbers and the government, and the fact that he’s at a desk most of the day anyway.

Now if our insurance guy unpacks his laptop and I see a coloring book in his bag, we’re finished.

When our kids were growing up, I felt the same way about coloring books that I did about Barbies. I wasn’t likely to buy them, but if someone else did, that was fine.

Our kids had Anti-coloring Books. They were coloring books with a sentence or two on each page that gave kids ideas of what to draw and then they colored their own pictures. They say that kind of thing is too stressful for adults today. Adults need to have guidance and structure—pictures with lines. And someone to cap their washable markers. That’s not true; I made that last one up.

We’re all looking for ways to reduce stress today. We work at relaxing so hard that it has become a major source of stress.

Last week I was talking to a woman whose eyes were darting back and forth as she pondered out loud whether she’d have time to work in a massage that day. Her schedule was full, but give that woman a crow bar and she’d find a way to crack it open and really relax.

A study on cardiovascular patients, from a team of doctors in Italy and the UK, examined the relationship between stress and music with different tempos. The conclusion was that slow and relaxing music decreased blood pressure and heart rate. They also concluded something else—people’s bodies relaxed even more during the pause between the tracks of music.

Silence. Imagine that

 

Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Email her at lori@loriborgman.com.

 

 

 

 

Husband flips channels — are houses next?

We have been married more than three decades. You think you know a person, but the surprises never end. I turn on the television and the husband says, “On sweet!”

“It’s not the food channel,” I say. “It’s one of those home remodeling shows.”

I am about to flip the channel when he says, “Leave it. Those on sweets are incredible.”

I can tell we aren’t communicating (it isn’t the first time – not even the first time today), so I ask what he is talking about.

“En suite—it’s a large bathroom that joins a bedroom,” he says. “You know.”

I don’t know. And I’m not sure he knows. So I do what anybody does in the face of the unknown —I quietly Google it.

The man is right; en suite: so as to form a suite: connected: <bathroom en suite>;

I am stunned. I am not stunned because he is right, but because he is current on bathroom design. I’d thought the only thing the man knows about bathrooms is where to find the clean towels.

“Look at that,” he says. “It’s a rainshower shower head. Nice.”

My jaw drops. Who is this man?

“No, no, you’ve got it wrong,” he snaps at the television. “Upgrade the cabinets. It will be worth it.”

Then he turns to me and says, “They’re probably looking at about $15,000 right now.”

Sure enough a number pops up on the side of the screen saying $14,500

The man is good. One of the girls calls and asks what we’re doing. “Your father is helping remodel a bathroom on television,” I say.

“Interesting,” she says. “I told him we were having tile work done in our bathroom and he estimated the cost within dollars.”

I hang up and ask how he has become an expert in luxury bathrooms. Without looking away—and who can look away when they’re rerouting plumbing, knocking walls down to the studs and unpacking a soaking tub—he says, “The gym.”

The husband joined the gym a few months ago.  He’s lost 10 pounds, lowered his blood pressure 20 points and become a home en suite expert.

Turns out he always takes a treadmill in front of the cable news channel and when he grows bored with the news, he switches to the television set next to it, which is HGTV.

“En suite televisions,” I crack.

He is not listening because “Love It or List It” is doing a reveal.

“Wonder what it costs to replace old grout,” I say.

“Grout is nothing,” he says. “That’s a small job.”

“Hmm. The upstairs bathroom – “

Just like that, he’s out the door to the gym.

 

 

 

 

 

The wonder of so many different sizes and shapes

The man who passed the baby to my arms, quietly said, “Dwarfism.” I’d noticed something different about the baby before, but didn’t put it together.

I saw it ncroppedow, his tiny body and his disproportionately large head. But the size of his head and proportions are not his most memorable features. His most memorable features are his dark brown eyes. They are mesmerizing and deeply soulful.

We locked eyes and his eyes searched mine. His gaze was deep, as though he was trying to convey a thousand thoughts, none of which I could decipher.

Well, one thought was clear. He didn’t care for the man who handed him to me. It was probably his loud voice. Or his deep laugh. Or his beard. In any case, the little guy preferred female company.

His parents are here somewhere among the families milling about, kids running, half-empty bowls of soup and paper plates. His dad had led worship in the church service earlier that Sunday morning. If you met the baby’s dad on the street, you might think he would be a good person to help you move furniture. Mom is average size. So are their other three children.

This one came in different packaging.

We spend a lot of time, money and energy idolizing, enshrining and striving for one certain style of physique and one narrow definition of beauty. In reality, every single one of us arrived, and will eventually grow, into infinite varieties of shapes and sizes, some fashioned a little more uniquely than others.

The baby’s parents are glad they live where they do, which is to say in an inner-city neighborhood littered with boarded-up windows, human brokenness and occasional gunfire. They are engaged in ministry to the poor. You might think they are somewhat crazy, but we cherish our somewhat crazy friends. They save us from succumbing to lives of bland white bread and homogenized everything.

There are many other children with disabilities in this neighborhood. So maybe this little one’s differences will be accepted more readily. Maybe his differences won’t be ridiculed quite as often.

One thing is sure—he’ll be surrounded by love here—love from a hundred different directions and sources.

His head is heavy and my arm is going to sleep now. I’d readjust my holding position, but it would mean risking the lock we have on one another’s eyes.

He’s not a baby you can sling on your hip. Even putting him up on your shoulder would be a tricky move. I wonder how she does it. Probably like any mother would, she has adapted to his weight distribution, his needs, his likes and dislikes and has a good idea as to what is going on behind those big brown eyes.

Surely, it will be hard for him to walk, I say to someone near. A voice answers that he has already pulled himself upright holding onto something.

Maybe he didn’t know it was supposed to be hard.

 

Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Contact her at lori@loriborgman.com