Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Being Friends

The following research paper was written by my daughter, Anna. (No permission is given to use this material without written consent, but you may link to this blog. Copyright by Anna, April 2009.) She wrote it for her English class online. I will leave my commentary in the comments section at a later time - and leave you for now with your own conclusions for our present society.

One last aside, I mentioned to the girls that their essays might be "lifted" by other students if put online. Lauren remarked that anyone doing something like that was only hurting him/herself (aside from the fact that you can easily use software to discover plagarism). I'm glad my girls have such an attitude. But just in case, I've removed the bibliography. If you'd like to see it, let me know and I'll email it to you.

by Anna

Friends are an important part of society. They cheer us up, entertain us, and provide support. Friends are people we know and trust, and though the amount of friendship necessary depends on the individual, they are essential to our happiness. Despite this, however, a recent study by the American Sociological Review shows that the number of close, dependable friendships Americans have is declining at an alarming rate.

The American Sociological Review, which defines a close friendship as “…confidants with whom Americans discuss important matters,” states that since 1985, the average number of close friends in a person’s social network has dropped by nearly a third. This means that the average American has only two close friends. One in four Americans, the study shows, has no confidants at all. If these rates continue, in forty years the average American won’t have any close friends. Friends are an important part of our culture and society, and their absence could lead to multiple undesirable effects.

There are many possible causes of the decline of friendship. Technology, mobility, and priorities are the most common causes that affect the greatest number of people.

Technology is one of the most suspected causes of the decline, because it enables isolation and many insubstantial, non-personal friendships. Technology can give the illusion of having friends, but unless one forms bonds with those people in real circumstances, the friendships aren’t going to be supportive. Some studies even show that use of the Internet can actually negatively impact the amount of time people spend visiting friends and family. However, people who already have strong friendships and use technology to communicate might not be affected the same way, as long as they meet their friends face-to-face on a regular basis. Tools such as the Internet and television can also be like a substitute for friends, and frequent users may start to mistake entertainment for interaction. The more time people spend watching television or surfing the web, the less they visit friends and have contact within their social environment.

Another viable cause is American mobility. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the average American moves 11.7 times during their life. This type of lifestyle is obviously not conducive to developing close friendships. It teaches people to, out of necessity, become friends very quickly with people they meet. They then develop the type of relationships that they could very easily leave behind. Compared to European and Asian countries such as Italy, France, and Japan, whose citizens often live in the same place their whole lives, it is easy to see how mobility could affect the decline.

A third likely cause concerns priorities. With people working more hours, commuting further, and overall making their job their top priority, social activity becomes less important. One researcher named Yves Smith, in an online article, suggests that job security may have an impact on how casually friendships are treated. People who are afraid of losing their jobs are more likely to skip a dinner party and work overtime instead. Furthermore, the increased number of work hours lessens a person’s energy and makes it more likely that they will go home and watch television or surf the web rather than socialize. Work as a top priority also increases the likelihood that people will move out of state for a job and leave their friends behind.

Social isolation is proven to have deleterious effects on a person’s health, and, therefore, society as a whole. Some of the most commonly affected aspects are mental health, physical health, and economy.

Mentally, a lack of confidants can have an enormous effect. Some of the proven symptoms include stress, depression, anxiety, aggression, low self-esteem, and even memory impairment. Physically, people take less care of themselves when they have no close friends. The mental effects listed above also aid in creating physical symptoms. Society has a large influence on many activities in a person’s life, including diet, exercise, sleep, and routine doctor visits. Those with fewer confidants are therefore more prone to obesity, unhealthy sleeping habits, smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse.

The combination of these symptoms has a startling outcome. Every sense of community is decreasing. Mortality rates of those with fewer friends are skyrocketing. Economically, people with fewer friends are less likely to eat out, go to a movie, volunteer, practice a religion, or invest financially.

With effects so serious and undeniable, it is clear that the decline of friendship is an undesirable phenomenon. The solution is difficult, however, because it rests in the hands of the people. Those who make the effort to form close friendships and get involved with their community are more likely to live healthier, happier, and longer. One study by shows that even activities such as joining or volunteering on a local sports team or library, cutting back on television and Internet use, and keeping or reinitiating contact with old friends can greatly improve their lives and those of others.

Ultimately, friendships—especially close ones—are a very necessary factor to happiness. The decline of friendship is becoming an increasingly urgent issue, and even other nations have started noticing a raise in social isolation. If this problem continues to grow, it could lead to a disastrous collapse of society and culture, and a major uprising of mental and physical instability in people all over the world. Such an effect would in turn cause a myriad of other problems, including permanent isolation, economic and political instability, and other effects. Friends, it seems, are the key to a thriving society, and we can’t live without them. However, the outcome of this issue depends on those whom it concerns.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Anna was at home making dinner when the rest of us began walking in from William's baseball game. We'd driven separate cars, having come from different locations, and dh was the first to arrive. Anna looked up from the computer and paused before saying anything: Dad had a large brown spot on his forehead. Had he been injured? Facial blemish? He got closer and she realized he had a penny stuck there. She started laughing. He pulled it off, looked at it, and said it likely had been in the ball cap he was wearing at the game.

She continued to giggle in that girl giggle and he responded with that man tilt of the head and sneer, saying "he-he-he, very funny" which of course, only made it funnier. Lauren arrived and then I, and we added to the laughter, all the while he shrugged and "tee-hee-heed". I said the only obvious thing: "A penny for your thoughts!"

Later, while dh and I sat watching TV, the girls came in with pennies stuck to their foreheads.

Nests should be built by now, but this dang cardinal continues to fight with himself in our window. We've put out a blanket to cover the window. Wonder if that will work?

It is so very chilly here. My greatest fear is living through an ice age. It seems like it's coming. Will it never warm up?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lesson Learned

William will tell you he had a rough day. Nothing seemed to be going his way: it was pouring down rain, his umbrella was half broken, and something I never noticed before, being short causes you to get a lot more wet on more of your body in the rain than a taller person. He was irritated by the constant piano playing in the house and no one would play with him. I was taking him to Walmart hoping to break the bad mood and lack of activity he seemed to be experiencing on this rainy day.

We perused the toy aisle for some time, and I thought I was very patient. He had allowance money he wanted to spend, but he likes not to spend all of it (he likes to still have a little cash for emergencies) and could not find the perfectly priced toy or even really one he liked. "I know what you're going to say," he said in a voice sounding a good deal like Eeyore. "If you can't find something you like, you should wait." Pleased he was listening, I agreed and suggested we move on to get milk. I had to get back home to make dinner.

He began to drag his whole body hunched over. When that didn't work, he tried some more violent body movements to let the whole of Walmart that he was unhappy. Now, we had a conversation which ended in steam coming out of my ears and my eyes shooting out green sparks. In other words, after all I tried to do for him that day, I'd had it with his attitude.

Finally, he apologized in that "I'm sorrrrrrry" that means he's not really but would I please just shut up about it? Because it wasn't sincere, I replied that I accepted the apology, but he would have to follow up with a changed behavior, in other words "show me" that he was sorry.

That's when my words were vomited back on me, words spoken earlier that morning as the leader of the Children's Liturgy. "But MOM! Didn't you say in Church today blessed are those that believe without seeing? Didn't you mean what you said?" What can one say to that?

Friday, April 17, 2009


I first saw this short movie on Chris' blog. Since then, my daughter has shared it with many people by email and has been banned certain family members from starting a sentence with "YOU, you are...." It starts out a little slow, but I encourage you to watch to the end. Aside from a smile for today, it might give you something to think about. And Chris, thanks for the tip. You, you are awesome at blogging and encouraging other bloggers.

Today, Louise (cat) is to be spayed. Poor, poor Louise.

My internet provider just showed up. They need to work on the po' (pole) outside. I must hurry and publish.

I bought hay for the horses yesterday. My hay provider said he's about out and is cutting me off. I have to reduce the herd!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Orange Shirts

Up at the baseball complex, you often see men in orange shirts painting or doing maintenance jobs. They are alternately respectful, quiet, friendly, uncommunicative, without eye contact, some smiling, tattooed. They are all prisoners. As a town with a medium security prison, we often see men who are (we hope) lower security risks working about town or at the recycle center.

Being a mom, I worry. That's my job. I'm a compassionate person, but when it comes to my children, I'm a tigress. I never leave William at baseball practice without a family member to supervise. Its not that I don't trust the coach but let's face it, he has twelve high energy boys to keep track of and it only takes a moment.... So I tell William not to talk to or go anywhere with anyone that has an orange shirt (or anyone else for that matter). They are prisoners, I explain, people that have done something wrong and are paying for it by spending time in prison. I thought that explained it succinctly, yes? No.

The next practice, Lauren drove him and the first thing Wm. did out of the car was to point at an orange-shirted man and say loudly, "is HE a prisoner??" Lauren assures me that the man did not hear, she thinks. and I'm glad I wasn't there to be mortified.

By the next practice, dh was in charge of Wm's whereabouts and describes a talk in the car. William asked where was America? Dh explained that the United States of America was sometimes just called "America". Did Wm. mean that? Yes, and we don't have slaves in America, right? Dh assented. Then why do we have slaves at the ballpark? What slaves? The slaves in the orange shirts! It seems all this discussion came from Wm watching Liberty's Kids, a historical cartoon for kids that we use to jump start U.S. history lessons. Well, at least he's picking up a little bit, even if we have to straighten it out later.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Thank God for Jeffrey"

Some little boys teethe on baseballs and wooden bats. My son was blessed with animals and big sisters and lots of other things, but despite the fact that baseball was part of the fabric of my childhood, I was late introducing him to it. I don't know why; life seems to run it's own marathon these days.

As a result of that and a 90th percentile body whose brain hasn't yet caught up to it, he's a little behind in his skill level. He also has the "high school syndrome". He was the biggest and best in t-ball, but has moved up a level, and down the totem pole. He'd be at the bottom of that pole were it not for Jeffrey, a young man with great spirit who has really never thrown a ball before this season. Dh, who squirms with me over a missed catch or a thrown ball gone astray, commented, "Thank God for Jeffrey". Jeffrey means that William has company at the bottom.

So, I promised to tell you about the game. It was exciting and very close. All the parents cheered because before our eyes, we could see the bigger boys actually being able to play real ball. The short stop could throw out the batter at first. One boy hit a triple, a real one, not based on bad throws. One little boy who was "playing up" hit in a run and made it to third himself. It was clear that though he probably was only five or six, he could play with the big boys and knew what he had done. It was a joy to see their collective progress.

William made one very good play and got a base hit. Dh and I both looked at each other as the game went into extra innings and we mentally calculated the lineup. We had a runner on base, two outs and we were down one run. "Oh, no!" I said quietly. "Yeah, that's what I was thinking," said dh. These other parents behind us, they were serious about this game. They had once already asked "which son is yours???" and dh laughed and said "the one in the dugout on the bench". But now, now William was up to bat. Last batter, tying run. And....he struck out.

Blissfully, he did not recognize the significance of what had just happened. (Many of the boys do and will cry if they are out or if they make an error.) He smiled and headed back to the dugout. There, the coach sat them down and began to list what each boy had done right during the game, rewarding each with a baseball card. I listened and wondered if he'd mention each boy? And then he got to William. William got a card for his good hit and great play - no mention of the losing strikeout. (As it should be.)

And lastly, the coach talked about Jeffrey. Jeffrey, who made no play and I don't think got any hits, got two baseball cards. Two! You see, the week before, Jeffrey had been up to the plate for practice with the pitching machine. Through an error in alignment, it hit him in the mouth (at 40 mph) and made his lip bleed. At the next scrimmage, he was understandably afraid and backed up from the plate saying, "I can't do this" with tears in his eyes. But at this game, Jeffrey got up to bat. And for his courage, he got two baseball cards. All the parents stood and clapped for him. And for that, I say, Thank God for Jeffrey.

I put a tall fence around the big chicken coop today to let them at some grass. Later while working on Wm's homework with him, Lauren called that Aloha Mo was chasing Travis around the yard. Somehow, he'd escaped and the two were running all over the place. It was easy to catch Aloha. He's lost his privileges.

I've named the white hen Kristen Painter.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Town Monday - Little League

Little League is a big deal in many small towns, and my town is no exception. It does surprise me somewhat that is so popular because in Kentucky, you are more likely to be asked if you are a UofL (University of Louisville) or UK (University of Kentucky) fan than if you are a Democrat or Republican. College basketball or football is big business (and everybody's business) here. There is a minor league team in Louisville (once known as the River Bats, but that didn't sound so cool, so they are now the Louisville Bats) but it has never caught on like the college teams.

Back to Little League. Last Saturday was opening day. Seventy teams with at least 10 players per team and their parents and siblings marched from the fire station to the ball field. It was quite a procession in the chilly morning air. There was no marching band, but we were led by a fire truck.

After arriving at the field, each team was introduced, memorials made, past glories relived, and the National Anthem sung. The first pitch of the season was thrown, as was my schedule for the next couple of months.

The Cincinnati Reds uniform would have been my team of choice, but I'll have to live with a San Francisco Giant. Interestingly, two of the coaches grew up in Cincinnati, and one of the other dads grew up there and went to the University of CincinnAdd Imageati (my alma mater). Having grown up there during the years when they won the World's Series, I had to settle for William wearing #5 - Johnny Bench's number. It seems a little too co-incidental that parents of four kids grew up in Cincinnati.

So, after, there was a game - and you've not seen a more exciting professional game. We lost by one run but we had the loudest parent cheering section ever. More on the game tomorrow.

Run over to Travis Erwin's blog for more My Town Monday posts.

Knowing that a storm was approaching, I ran to the barn, did all the stalls and laid out food, put in the minis and Phantom, and called for the remaining three "big" horses. They would not come as it was only 3 p.m. Tough for them - I did not want to get hit by lightening. Their stubbornness caused them to have to tolerate hail moments later. Maybe they'll learn to come when I call.

Lightening is flashing outside, so I'll close for now.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Tears came to my eyes at last night's service as I saw our priest remove the robes of his office and kneel before four parishioners, my daughter among them, and humble himself to wash their feet. Such a solemn yet joyful Mass, beautiful music and symbolism, along with feeling the sadness of the unstoppable events to come on Good Friday. The tradition and pageantry of the service was very moving.

I hadn't expected that the parishioners would also be called forth to wash the feet of these four, but when they called people forth, I went. I had hoped to get in Lauren's line, but it was very long. Later at home, we laughed, because only the right foot was washed repeatedly and her poor left did not get a better treatment.

After picking up Anna at a Teen Council meeting, I returned home late to assist Lauren with the barn chores. The last chore was to shut up the chickens in the big coop. Lauren and I joked about not reaching in so that I didn't have a repeat episode of chicken poop jacket. As I entered the coop, I saw two hens perched on the top door, preferring no doubt the clean spring air to being shut up. As is my custom, I reached for a hen to put her in the coop, gently pinning her wings so she would not flap me about the face. Evidently, I didn't grab gently enough. In the darkness I hear the unmistakable sound of chicken sh@t being shot out. There was enough light to see that I was the intended target. All down my jacket and pants leg.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think the hen intentionally did it. Rather, I think you can basically squeeze it out of them if you squeeze too hard in the right place. Lauren asked how many poopy jackets I intended to make? For the second time that night, I was humbled. (It is hard to be anything but with chicken poop dripping down you.)

Tomorrow is opening day for Little League here, complete with a pancake breakfast and parade! Ye haw!

After reading here, go to Debra's blog and listen. A good way to start the day.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Corns and All

Our Church's youth minister is awesome, using all the available technology to meet the "youth" where they are. And she had to use every available avenue trying to get just one person to volunteer to have his or her feet washed at Holy Thursday Mass, which is tonight. It began with a phone message, asking Lauren if she was interested. Later, her cell phone rang, her email box filled and she was Facebooked. Will she consent to have her feet washed in commemoration of the washing of the Disciples' feet by Jesus at the Last Supper?

It seems that we needed a representative from each Church group or ministry. The teen youth group's general response, if I may paraphrase, was "EWWWW, GROSS!" No one would do it, and talk speculated around the possibility of getting some old man handling one's feet or of having to wash feet that were, shall we say, less than appealing? Lauren, however, consented to have them washed if there absolutely was no one else who could do it. Thank you, said the youth minister, you're my last hope and you're it! So this evening, she will have her feet washed.

It is a fortunate thing that no one asked me and that I consented. Several days back, it rained and I was doing horses alone as Lauren was out for the evening. As Quid entered the barn, her muddy hooves slid on the concrete floor like a skating rink and her legs went in four directions. She was stopped from falling only by, you guessed it, my foot. I was her "chock". My foot is now brilliantly displayed in technicolor and swelled to look like I've got gout. Not appealing.

Speaking of not appealing, have you seen the Ped Egg? We've gagged each time we've seen the commercial as they demonstrate emptying the thing of shaved skin from feet. I told the girls I was going to get one, use it on my foot, and then make coconut cream pie, using the shavings for coconut. They'll probably never eat that pie again.

Tick season! For some reason, the ticks don't seem to attach to cats, but like to ride in on them. I put flea and tick meds on them, but one cat hadn't had it yet, and I picked two ticks off of him today. Seems I missed one as one was crawling up my belly as I typed this. Itchy now??

William had an awesome piano lesson today.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

It was 9:12 p.m. last night, two minutes past the time I must leave to pick Anna up from art exactly at 9:30 if I don't get behind someone going well under the speed limit. Still, I took time to go to the big chicken coop, fearing that the raccoons might strike. Before shutting the door, I reached over as is my custom to feel the backs of each one, counting them in the dark and training them to be accustomed to my touch. Each gave a "bawk!" and I closed the door.

Returning to the car, I wasn't five feet up the driveway before the smell hit, an overpowering, nasal opening odor. I must have stepped in "it". Or, could it be the dogs, as I had two of them with me. Did they have an accident? No matter, I could not be late, and I decided to just drive and figure it out once I reached the art studio twenty minutes away.

As I drove, the smell became overpowering and I thought that Anna was going to object highly to to the smell in the car. While still driving, I slipped off one shoe, and then the other, smelling each to see if it was the offender. Perhaps I could drive home barefoot, tying the shoes to the roof of the car or something. I could not throw them out - my beloved "cow pie" shoes. But, it wasn't my shoes. The smell, I had decided, however, was distinctly chicken sh@t.

Shrugging, I inched down the windows, but it was so cold outside, I was obliged to also turn on the heat. The fan blowing the heat also blew up the offending smell, so turning off the heat, I shivered the remaining miles.

Arriving at the studio, I stepped inside to tell Anna I was there. "Uh, MOM!" she said pointing at my knit jacket. I looked down and saw that I was covered in chicken crap. Down my front and along my sleeve, I had a nice, green chicken "cow pie". Evidently, when reaching into the coop, and being short of stature, that isn't all that easy, I had rubbed against the door where a chicken had sat and shat.

Quickly, I unzipped the jacket, balled it up, and stuck it near the door for retrieval as I left. I had a pleasant conversation as usual with the ladies there, and we left.

Once in the car, Anna and I started laughing. Very grateful I was that she saw it before anyone else. I told her I could hear her instructor coming out and in her Georgia drawl wondering "what is that smell"? Anna began to laugh that hysterical beyond funny tearful laugh as she pictured her mother coming into the studio covered in chicken crap and being found out by the ladies there. Because she is soon to get her driving permit, I was thankful she didn't have it yet given that she could not stop laughing which might have impaired her driving.

I guess I'll never get the "best dressed mother" of the year award, or even the "doesn't really smell that bad" award. I supposed this is one of the stories that will go in the "remember when mom....." book.

Aloha Mo found his crow.

After some cold, it is supposed to be spring-like again.

Lauren and I have been watching the movie Impromptu. Did you know that George Sands, Liszt, Chopin and Delacroix all hung out together? Very interesting movie so far. One reason I really like Netflix is that we have available to us many videos both on demand and by ordering them by mail that aid in our studies.

Dh said watching William grow is bittersweet: it is delightful to see him thrive but each day is like losing the little boy we love so much. He has grown five inches in one year, and each day is more boy and less little boy.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Fickle Weather, Laptops and Jane Eyre

In Kentucky, this time of year requires patience and lots of drawer space. You must be prepared for the weather to deal you seventy degrees one day and below freezing the next. Therefore, you must drag out all of your spring clothes and mow all the grass one day, and still have available your winter clothes and mittens for the next. Wearing layers makes the entire state look like it is menopausal, peeling off layers like a group hot flash as the day warms. It is easy to get caught wearing either too much or worse, too little. Nearly everyone sports some pink as sunburns have become a memory and it doesn't feel like burning weather yet.

My absence from blogging was prolonged by a cord on my Toshiba laptop. Googling tells me that electrical shorts in the cord for Toshibas are common. Such a little thing, such a big disruption to my life. To read email, I either had to use my ancient desktop in the cold basement, or steal my daughter's Dell cord which seems compatible, but will likely cause some catastrophic meltdown second only to Chernobyl.

Also devouring my time was the re-reading of Jane Eyre , prompted by my daughter who wanted to discuss it with someone. Though I'll admit to skimming a paragraph here and there near the end, the interest for me came after the end and reading the introduction (backwards, I know). Over dinner last night, dh admitted that in high school, they were "forced" to read the book, but he never finished it, preferring a lower grade to having to read such drivel. The girls protested. Our conversation followed the usual route of discussing the historic significance of the book and that for its time, it was considered revolutionary and feminist. Dh wasn't impressed. Pushing further, Anna asked if he knew what book was written by Charlotte's (Brontë) sister. Lauren prompted by making a "wuhh, wuhh" sound. Dh, pulling their leg (I hope!!) hazarded that it was the book about that pig, Wilbur. You know, Charlotte's Web. Slapping of tables and loud hoots of disbelief ensued as dh laughed with his head thrown back. Such is the life of homeschoolers.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Riding "Quid"

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I Disappeared

This morning, it was difficult to get up. The window allowed a slight breeze in the dusk. I listened to the newly arrived birds, a train whistle in the distance, and occasionally, a crow from one of my two roosters. Yet, the day was changing even as I listened - the sun began to rise, and duties called. And on the edge of my mind was my neglect of my blog.

Where did I go? It seems that with the awakening of the spring, I've added outside chores to my indoor. I'm trying to move mountains in getting William into a regular school routine. And the girls are working very hard on their future - which includes me in the discovery and research.

Yesterday, evening found me working on our chicken tractor (a movable coop). Several of the five chickies found a hole in the chicken wire and escaped. Luckily, no large chicken found them them to peck their tiny heads in, no horse trampled them into pancakes. I began by removing wire. But why put new wire on rotten wood, so I set about replacing one of the main runners and a cross strut. The more I pounded, the more rot I found. Like most projects I start, it soon became mass destruction and despair of finishing the project in the time I'd alotted.

One mashed finger, curse word and several hours later, I actually got it back together and be-wired. It will have to be re-built, but will last for a little while yet. The chickies are back, warm in the hay under their mommy's wing.

Aloha Mo (rooster) lost his crow. If you find it, please return it to me. He can't even cluck to the hens when he finds a morsel. Perhaps spring allergies?

On another note: Do you know how much it costs to go to college these days?


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