Good Enough For Government Work

Before retirement, I worked for city government. My co-workers and I were well aware of the stereotype of government worker do-nothings with fat salaries and fat benefits and fat pensions, leaning on shovels all day or shuffling papers at a desk.

There probably were places where that stereotype was true, but I don’t think it was true of most of the people I worked with. I think most of my colleagues, whether working outdoors or inside, were dedicated to their jobs and enthusiastic about doing their best for the citizens they served. I worked with lots of bright, talented people.

Many of the people I worked with had wicked senses of humor, too. We liked to mock the stereotype by sometimes remarking, when we finished a task, “Well, that’s good enough for government work.”

In retirement, I still say it sometimes when I’ve finished something I know isn’t quite perfect, but is as good as I can get it at the time.

Every time I say it, it makes me smile. It makes me remember the good times I had working at the City and the good friends I made there, and it reminds me to be proud of the work I did there. And that’s a good thing.

Joy and Peace, and may you be good enough at whatever you do.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

How Blue Birds and a Mouse Got Me to Stop Sucking My Thumb

I sucked my thumb until I was seven years old.

Child development experts say it’s normal for a child to suck a thumb or a finger for the first one to two years. After that, it may indicate a problem. For me, it indicated a problem. I was an insecure little kid, and thumb-sucking was my Linus blanket.

I only did it in bed at night, and it was always my left thumb. My parents did everything they could think of to make me stop: bandages, gloves, bitter liquids, thumb splints, begging–everything. Nothing could make me give up my addiction.

Until the summer of my seventh year.

That year I became a Blue Bird (baby Campfire Girl), as did most of my seven-year-old school girl friends in little Seminole, Oklahoma. One of the joys of Blue Birding was you got to go to a summer camp with other Blue Birds and older Camp Fire Girls. (Yes, back then Campfire was just for girls.)

So off we went to summer camp, excited about what for many of us was our first time away from our parents. We felt so grown up.

We were assigned group cabins to sleep in, and my friends and I were all in the same cabin (neat!), along with a few other Blue Birds we didn’t know.

The first night we all got in our beds, and a counselor turned out the lights and wished us goodnight. In the darkness, I started to suck my thumb, as usual. Sucking my thumb made a little squeaking noise. I’d done it so long I was oblivious to it.

After a few minutes, a voice called out in the darkness:

“I think there’s a mouse in here. Hear that squeaking?”

Mortified, I jerked my thumb out of my mouth. The squeaking stopped instantly. My cabin mates listened a few moments in the dark silence and concluded the mouse or whatever was squeaking must have left.

I was safe. I had not been revealed as a thumb sucker. And after that, I never sucked my thumb again. Never wanted to. What my parents had tried for five years to stop, the fear of ridicule by my peers did in one night.

Sometimes you just have to wait for the right moment to break a bad habit.

Former thumb suckers, I’d like to know how you quit. Or did you?

Peace and Joy,

Thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

In Case You Hadn’t Noticed . . . .

We are having a Constitutional Crisis.

I said in one of my early posts I would not write about politics because I wanted my blog to be positive and inviting to all, not just to some who might share my point of view. For the most part, I’ve stuck to my word.

But now is a time for all of us, regardless of political position, to pay attention to what is happening in our country.

We have a president who is claiming Congress has no right to investigate him for anything whatsoever, who is defying congressional subpoenas for anyone in his administration, present or past, and claiming he is above congress and, indeed, above the law.

The last time a president tried being above the law, it was 1972-74, his name was Richard Nixon (“when the president does it, that means it is not illegal“), and he had to resign rather than be impeached. That was a constitutional crisis, and we survived it.

Now we are in another. Let’s hope we survive this one, too.

When the nation’s founders convened in 1787 to craft the U.S. Constitution, they created three branches of government and articulated their powers in the first three articles of the Constitution. Article 1 defines the Legislative branch (Congress), Article 2 the Executive branch (the President), and Article 3 the Judicial branch (the Supreme Court).

It is no accident the founders defined the powers of Congress in Article 1 of the Constitution. There was vigorous debate about whether the Executive branch should be supreme over Congress or vice versa. It was assumed George Washington would be the first president, but some wanted Washington to be president for life, or even reign as a king, with congress subordinate to the monarchy, as in England.

Other delegates, mindful of King George III’s tyranny over the colonies that led to the revolution, rejected a monarchy and argued for a republic, with Congress having power and oversight over the Executive branch.

The advocates of congressional oversight over the Executive branch won. Thus, Congress and its powers are articulated in the first article of the Constitution, and the powers of the President in the second article. The president’s term of office is four years, and the president’s principal duties are to see that the laws Congress passes are faithfully executed and to preserve, defend, and protect the Constitution.

The founders foresaw the possibility of a rogue president. That is why the Constitution gives Congress oversight and impeachment powers over the President, but does not give comparable powers to the President over Congress. Congress is answerable only to the people, through elections. The President is answerable to Congress. Deadlocks between Congress and the Executive are to be settled by the Supreme Court.

In the last two years, this president has attempted to turn the Constitution on its head, with the President having ultimate authority over the Congress and all activities of government. He has even said–supposedly jokingly– it would be a good thing if he were president for life.

From the beginning of his presidency he has expressed admiration for authoritarian dictators. He tried many times in many ways to stop the Special Counsel’s investigations into Russia’s influence in the vote that elected him. He now claims that investigation is closed, that it exonerated him, and that Congress has no right to further investigate him or his administration. Thus he refuses to recognize any congressional requests or subpoenas for more testimony or records, and he now says he will refuse to work with Congress on any legislation as long as it is investigating him.

His latest act is to authorize an investigation into the origin of the Special Counsel’s investigation and to declassify all classified intelligence information so that his attorney general can build a case that the investigation into his election was treason.

If this president’s attempt to exert executive authority over Congress is unchecked, it is the path to tyranny. We have seen it happen in other countries many times before.

Benjamin Franklin was one of the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The convention deliberations were held in strict secrecy, and when the convention ended anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall to learn the results.

Reportedly, a friend of George Washington, Mrs. Elizabeth Powell, asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin answered, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” 

A republic–if you can keep it. Franklin’s words were never more true than they are today.

We are in a constitutional crisis. If you believe in prayer, you might want to pray for our country. If you believe in action, you might want to pressure your congressional representatives to do their duty to remove this out of control president.

MKJDKC Washington Addressing the Constitutional Convention. Image shot 1856. Exact date unknown.

I Wish I Had . . .

. . . Studied Latin.

I have a long list of things in my past I wish I had done differently, and my depression has to do with a lot of them. When I was depressed, I limited my options.

I thought I’d share some of those I Wish I Hads from time to time. Here’s the first one.

In high school and college, I studied French and Spanish. I didn’t study Latin.

French and Spanish are based on Latin. So is English. English was my best love and my strong suit in high school, and I knew I would be an English major in college.

It is said that to understand and use the English language well you really need to know Latin. But I never studied it. I thought I could get by without it. For an English major, how stupid is that?

If you study English language or literature, sciences, the law, medicine, government, et al (Latin for and others), you will be awash in Latin words and phrases.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, all educated English speakers would have known Latin. Our founding fathers were among them. Our national motto, e pluribus unum, (out of many, one) is Latin.

Latin is supposed to be a “dead” language now, but it thoroughly permeates our English language. (Permeate, from the Latin permeare, to pass through.)

We use a lot of Latin words in every day English. Here Are Just A Few:

Agenda, bona fide, consensus, de facto, et cetera, facsimile, habeas corpus, incommunicado, media, non compos mentis, onus, per capita, quantum, renegade, semper fidelis, terra firma, ultra, versus.

Pretty good for a dead language, huh?

I read more non-fiction than fiction these days (biography, history, medicine, politics, science), and I frequently find myself having to stop and look up a Latin word or phrase I’m unfamiliar with. I’m reading the redacted Mueller report now, and it’s full of academic and legal Latin.

So yes, I kick myself regularly now that I didn’t learn Latin.

Peace and joy, and I hope your “I wish I hads” are few.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

On Language: Are you anxious or eager?

Today’s post is about the words Anxious and Eager.

Mary was anxious to buy a new car.

Sid was anxious to meet her.

We anxiously awaited the train.

All three correct, because anxious and eager mean the same thing, right?

Well, no.

Our language, being a living language, is always changing.

The English language would be much poorer today if the Norman French hadn’t invaded Saxon England in 1066 and brought with them a whole new vocabulary: words like ancestor, attain, bachelor, boutique, chevalier, clarinet, cul-de-sac–to name just a very, very few. Look up a list of English words of French origin and you will see just how thoroughly the French language embedded itself into English beginning with the Norman Conquest.

Similar things happen on a smaller scale whenever English-speaking peoples come in contact with people from other civilizations and cultures: From Greek, we get atlas, chaos, muse, and democracy, the very foundation of our government,

Mogul and Mantra from Hindi,

Algebra and Coffee from Arabic,

Angst and Kaput from German,

And last but not least, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and eight other U.S. state names, plus hundreds of county, town, river, and creek names from the Native American people displaced from their lands by their European invaders.

It seems early settlers loved Indian places names, but Indian people themselves–not so much.

Okay, back to anxious and eager.

The foundation of modern English and the Romance languages (Spanish,PortugueseFrenchItalian, and Romanian ) is Latin.

The word Anxious comes from Latin, and means uneasy, greatly troubled by uncertainties. The origin of Eager is also Latin, and means enthusiastic, wanting to do or be something very much.

Now go back to the three questions above.

Was Mary uneasy or greatly troubled about buying a new car? Or was she enthusiastic, wanting to do it?

She could have been either, depending on circumstances, but most likely the prospect of buying a new car made her enthusiastic and very much wanting to do it. Thus, she was eager .

The same could be said of the next two sentences: The desired word probably would be eager.

Yet nine out of ten times these days when you hear someone say anxious they really mean eager.

Language purists like me get their innards all twisted when they hear these meanings commingled. We don’t like perfectly good words taken over by other words that don’t really mean the same. We want anxious to mean troubled about something and eager to mean looking forward to something.

ALAS,

Language purists like me are fighting a losing battle on keeping words as they are. Because here we come to another truism about our living English language:

Over time, word meanings change.

Once, awful used to mean awe-inspiring. Now it means really bad.

Meat was once any solid food, as opposed to drink. Now it refers to animal flesh.

Not that long ago, if you said something was dear, you meant it was expensive. Now if you say something is dear, you probably mean it is loved and cherished.

This meaning migration is one of the things that makes English such a rich, vital language. Popular usage makes it happen, over and over again. We can’t stop it.

Anxious and eager could have different meanings to future English speakers. (Assuming there will be future English or any other speakers, given what we have been doing to our planet. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)

HOWEVER,

In our lifetimes, I’m still a language purist. I’d still like to see us use anxious to mean uneasy or greatly troubled about something, and eager to mean greatly enthusiastic about it.

That’s my two cents’ worth.

As always, Peace and Joy,

And thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

On Body Tattoos and Piercings

I’m showing my age in this post. It will not win me any fans.

Yesterday at the grocery store the young man who checked my groceries out had tattoos on both arms from elbow to wrist and face and ear piercings in more places than I would have thought possible.

He was a nice, personable young man. He provided good customer service. I enjoyed the transaction. Still, I couldn’t get past his tattoos and piercings.

I hate tattoos.

Anywhere on the body.

Always have.

Always will.

I hate piercings.

Anywhere on the body except the ears.

I like pierced ears, on both women and men.

I even like multiple ear piercings, although I’m told it’s not good to have piercings in the cartilage, as some people do.

I pierced my own ears, with an ice cube, a cork, and a needle, when I was in college. OUCH!! The holes came out uneven. I’m considering having them redone professionally.

Back to Tattoos: I do have a few friends with tattoos, but I like them, anyway. (The friends, not the tattoos.)

Unlike my friends with their one or two tattoos, people these days get their arms, legs, and other body parts totally tattooed.

I think the only people who should wear tattoos are Polynesians. Polynesians look good in their tattoos. Their tattoos have class.

As for all the non-Polynesians with their totally-tattooed body parts, I want to ask:

What about your body made you think it would look better with tattoos?

When you’re old and your skin has turned to crepe paper and your tattoos are sagging into your wrinkles, will you still be glad you have them? Or will you wish you had never done them?

Back to Piercings: Why do you like to adorn your eyebrows, nose, lips, tongue, nipples, belly button, whatever, with studs and rings and whatever?

When you’re 80 years old, will you still enjoy having those studs and rings in your tongue and your lips and your nose and all those other body parts?

Just wondering.

Peace and joy to all tattooers and piercers anyway,

Marjorie Beck

Thanks for reading my post.