Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Where Were You 18 Years Ago Today---When "Somebody Did Something"?

You know, sometimes I think America has collective Alzheimer's.  Our nation as a whole seems cursed with an awfully forgetful nature.  On 9-11, 2001, I was sitting at my desk on my old job when my secretary gasped for breath, turned around, and in an incredulous voice blurted out that someone had just flown a jet into the World Trade Center.  Soon, another jet followed.  The country was under siege--because "somebody" (who happened to be Islamic terrorists) did "something" (attacked our Pentagon, took down our World Trade Center, and killed over 2,000 innocent Americans in an act of Islamic jihad).  Since then---18 very short years ago--amnesia seems to have set in.

So when President Trump tries to put a temporary travel ban from known Muslim terrorist hotbeds, AND GET SEVERE PUSH-BACK FOR IT; when people like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib can run for congress (AND get elected!---waaaah?) and then say the awfullest things, and stay in office;
when loud-mouthed idiots like Semator Corey Booker--who used agreement with Brigitte Gabriel (who lived in Lebanon and knows what she's talking about) as a litmus test against a judicial nominee--can run for makes you shake your head at the country and wonder---"Are you people playing with a full deck?"  Because some people obviously are not.  Somehow liberalism apparently warps the mind, and this isn't the first time I've thought that.

Fortunately, some of us haven't drunk the Kool-Aid, we still have our faculties, and we can CAMPAIGN and VOTE.  Let's use today's remembrance to remind ourselves that about half the country is walking around in a stupor in Leftist la-la land, and let that spur us to action as we head into this next election year.  It's not the time for singing  Kum-ba-ya around the campfire with our enemies as they plot our destruction--it's time to take in a good dose of reality and to get busy. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Eight Years Is A Long Time...

Can you believe it's over?  Yes, it really is!  Obama is OUT of office.  Trump is in.  It has been a long eight years, and I am so thankful to Almighty God that our nation has survived.  Who ever thought that so much damage could be done by one president?

I can't even begin to recount all of the damage that Obama has done.  Everything from dissing Israel, to paving the way for Iran to have nukes, to social experimentation with our military, to trying to shove transgender bathrooms and even shower rooms down the throats of our public schools--it's been a hideous, revolting eight years.  Did you ever notice that when conservative (especially RELIGIOUS conservative) people said what they thought about something, it got to where it was always with hushed voices, it was always subdued, and people tended to keep their opinions private---but the liberal Left was out-and-proud with whatever garbage they wanted to spew--they could even be militant about it--for you to disagree made you a "hater", a "racist", a "bigot", a "____________-phobe" (fill in the blank with anything you want).  Well, no more.  The era of run amok political correctness has come to a screeching halt.

Still, a lot of damage has been done that is going to take time to undo.  Baronelle Stutzman still lost her floral business.  Aaron and Melissa Klein still lost their bakery.  Atlanta fire chief Kevin Cochran still lost his job, and the Rowan County Kentucky Clerk, Kim Davis still spent time in jail.  Seeing our White House bathed in rainbow colors to celebrate (?) the Supreme Court making homosexual "marriage" legal is so revolting that it practically amounts to blasphemy--and reminds us all just how close we were to losing it all.  It's a sobering thought to consider that, if the Left had gotten their way, a new wave of Orwellian viewpoint discrimination was about to engulf our nation.  Christian colleges and universities would have been denied eligibility for federal money (student loans and grants) if they didn't bow to the Leftist agenda, people would have been denied jobs, people could have lost their parental rights---we came "this close" to absolutely seeing our nation go over the cliff.

I had certain plans for this Inauguration Day that I have observed--making a point of flying our flag, dressing up in a special set of clothes in honor of the occasion, playing "Happy Days are Here Again" after lunch at work, going out with my wife for a special celebration meal this evening, setting aside special time for worship and expressing thanksgiving to God---even updating this blog with my thoughts were all on my agenda.  I have one other thing I must do before I retire for the evening--and this will no doubt be repeated often: I'm going to pray once again for the hand of Almighty God to guide the heart of our new president.  He's going to need divine intervention, and so are his closest advisers, to reverse all the damage that has been done over the last eight years.  He's also going to need the hand of God to keep him safe--I'll pray for the salvation of his soul while I'm at it.  I'm so thankful tonight to be an American---and for the hope that, one more time, God has granted us a reprieve.  Let's redeem the time, as the Scriptures say, and not while away our day of grace.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Bittersweet Fourth of July

So it's the Fourth of July.  Time for sparklers, firecrackers, and patriotic zeal, right?---Yeah, I suppose. And we're doing the Fourth of July thing--there's a nice red, white, and blue bouquet on the table; we've got plans for a picnic party and fireworks this evening--yet I can't escape a sense of mourning today, like being at the hospital bed of a dying relative and sensing that a final good-bye is coming near.  I almost had tears in my eyes as I unfurled our flag this morning and hung it out. As much as I want to believe in a hope for a recovery, now it looks like the disease process is just too far gone.  Sad.  It's been a nice country.

And just like someone working through the impending loss of a loved one, I'm remembering the good times.  Remember when people were proud to be an American?  Remember when they called it "the Good Ole USA"?  Remember when it was "let freedom ring!"--Liberty and Democracy would always prevail and eventually ensure that right would win out--wasn't that what they taught us?  I think about glorious July Fourths of the past--times when the bands at parades played patriotic songs, and I knew the words--because they taught us those songs at school!

Yeah, they really did.  Our hearts would swell with patriotic pride and excitement as our grade school teachers taught us to love America--back when more people thought there was something here to value and something to love.  They didn't teach us to duck our heads in shame and to apologize--they were too busy teaching us about Benjamin Franklin, the pilgrims, the founding fathers.  And then there was the Liberty Bell--when they told us its peal was heard "around the world", in our childish innocence that took everything literally, we really thought it was somehow, magically true!  But children grow up, and sometimes innocence gets violated by reality.  And just a few days ago, that happened to this entire nation.

Friday, June 26, 2015 marked a death-knell day in America.  The Supreme Court, a body I had always been taught to admire and hold in the highest esteem, in an act of jaw-dropping judicial overreach and crazed lunacy mandated that homosexual "marriage" would be legal in all fifty states. Could it really have come to this?  People are now talking about stripping tax exempt status from churches.  Here?  In America?  Christians who cannot, in good conscience, decorate cakes or provide flowers for homosexual "weddings" are now being run out of business, sued, fined, and financially destroyed---and our Republicans in congress sit there...doing nothing...and letting it all happen. Again.

Just like they did with Obama-care.  Just like they're doing with our defenseless borders and run-amok immigration. Just like they're doing with Eric Holder and Fast and Furious, Lois Lerner and the IRS scandal, Hillary Clinton and the Benghazi attack.  They sit there indolently, maybe hold a few hearings and beat their chest, spouting rhetoric--but unless there are dollar signs attached to it, nothing gets done...ever.  When all of this was brewing, the majority of our leaders looked the other way, and now they appear to have walked away entirely.

So yeah, it's been a nice country.  I hope it survives...I really want it to.  But if someone doesn't stand up and stop the train from barreling over the cliff, it's just a matter of time before this once glorious and beautiful train crashes and burns, becoming one more entry in the death registry of historic nations.  Perhaps the epitaph on the tombstone should read, "having had every chance to preserve our freedom to be a righteous, prosperous nation, this is what we did with it".

Please, God, my prayer today is "let me be wrong--let this all be just an overreaction on my part." And I'm looking around the hospital room (or is this a hospice?) asking for somebody, please, anybody to tell me that somewhere, somehow, there may still be a glimmer of hope for our once glorious, so-beautiful nation. After all, sometimes even false hope is better than no hope at all.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Roses Will Bloom Again---Just Have To See How...

We buried our French poodle today...Rosie...a beloved pet of sixteen years.  This is hard.  Rosie came to us as a puppy--a 35th birthday present from my family--the best birthday present I ever got.  I had never had a poodle before and didn't know what to expect.  Five pounds soaking wet...this little dog was brilliant!  She promptly had us obedience trained and wrapped around her little paw.  What was fascinating, though, was that for such a smart little animal, I don't think she ever figured out that she was a dog.

When Rosie came to us, we tried to put a gate up to keep her downstairs.  We had cats, however, form whom that gate proved to be no challenge.  It promptly proved to be no challenge for Rosie, either, as she learned to do as the cats did--she's stick her little paws into the holes in the gate and scale it!  She was lithe, with long, graceful back paws--she saw the cats doing what cats do and figured that she could do the same.  This gets better....

We would sometimes go out into the yard at our house, soon to be joined by Rosie, and we coudln't figure out how she was getting out.  Well, one day I looked up in time to see my dog on the first story ROOF of the HOUSE.  She had found a place where an upstairs window had no been secured, and was using it to come out onto the roof.  That still didn't explain how she was getting into the yard, however.  I watched her---she came near the edge of the roof and looked down.  Then, in a move that had me gasping for breath, I watched her jump off the roof and land on the sidewalk below, completely unharmed!  Cats could jump from high places, afterall, so she decided she could as well.

THE "HUMAN" YEARS--When She Practically Worshipped Us:
Fiercely loyal to her family (us), Rosie was one of those dogs who ferociously ordered strangers out of her presence (and EVERYBODY was a stranger, even if they were family friends who had been to the house several times).  It took MANY repeated visits over the course of a long time for her to even begin to back off---everybody else could expect to get barked at and treated the way the goldfish treated the Cat in the Hat ("He should not be here; he should not be about...").  We thought it was comical...our friends weren't always so amuzed.  At any rate, just THINKING she heard someone knocking at the door was enough to get her started barking.  Many were the times when one of us merely banged or tapped something, and she'd jump to the conclusion that someone was at the door.  During her younger years (when her sight and hearing were good), I never had to worry about noises at night---if I thought I had heard someone prowling about, I'd just look to see if Rosie was on alert---if she wasn't worried, then I certainly had nothing about which to be concerned.

Rosie thought she was a person---and she practically worshipped us.  She got in the habit of greeting us when we had been away.  She jump up and down on her hind legs with her front paws in the air and vocalize---not really bark, just make wowowowowowow sounds.  I finally figured it out one day: WE (the humans) walked around on two legs and talked---she she thought that SHE was supposed to walk around on two legs and make sounds come out of her mouth!  Well, that's my theory anyhow...and it seems plausible.  At any rate, Rosie adored us.  She'd prance around and holler when we'd come in---I often wondered what the neighbors thought, as she would be so loud, that it almost sounded like she was hurt or something.  She wasn't---she was just thrilled that we had come home.

When my wife would get up in the morning, Rosie often could be heard first, barking to "herald" her arising and coming out of the bedroom.  In the days when she still had a full set of teeth, she'd run behind my wife and grab her skirt while she walked.

We're an Apostolic Pentecostal home---we regularly can be heard glorifying God with lifted hands---I wonder if she learned her behavior from us (do you suppose?).  :-)  All I know is that Rosie was an absolute object lesson in worship.

Rosie was the queen of the house.  We have two cats--if they got too rambunctious or tried to eat while she was "dining", she would shrilly "scream" at them and put them in (what she considered) "their place".  And WHEREVER we were, there she'd be--and if the cats tried to intrude, she'd try to chase them off.  If we sat on the couch, she had to be on the couch with us.  If we sat on the love seat, she wanted to be on the love seat.  She slept on the bed when we were in bed---I took to the habit of wrapping her up in her own little cocoon of blankets.

YES, WE SPOILED HER (and I wouldn't have had it any other way):
As she got older and less able to get up and down---again, our obedience training kicked in.  We put pillows out in front of the bed and in front of the couch, but half the time, she wouldn't need them.  She'd come to where we were and whimper---so we'd pick her up and set her on the couch/bed/love seat (wherever).  If she stirred in the middle of the night, I'd gently lift her down off the bed so she could go do her business on her doggie pad in the bathroom---then she'd come right over to my side of the bed so I could provide "elevator service" and wrap her back up again.  I smile to think about it now---I'm glad I did it.

We spoiled Rosie rotten---and why not?  Isn't that what owners are supposed to do for their little lap dogs?  When my wife had breakfast, she'd feed her part of her eggs---and often fried a separate one for her.  When I'd have a midnight snack, she'd come into the kitchen (of course!) to ask me to give her a bite--she had our patterns down.

My wife works third shift---she'd watch my wife, and when she could sense that she was fixing to go lie down, she'd trot off to the bedroom AHEAD of my wife (so she wouldn't miss her opportunity to try to sleep on the bed as my wife slept).  She studied us and had us down.  Brilliant.  Stunningly, uncannily brilliant little dog...and I was proud of her.

Pets...particularly dogs...take on the personality of their owners through the years, thus becoming both a reflection of and an integral part of their families.  And as we pamper and spoil them, it's as though we're pampering that little child inside ourselves.  I'm glad we pampered Rosie.  I'm glad we put up with her quirks.  I'm glad we gave in to her and indulged her.  It may have seemed like a bit of a nuissance at the time---now I'm just glad we did.

Rosie crowned our home with so much joy; so much unconditional, uncomplicated love---my heart is crying tonight...I'm going to miss her.  But my heart is also gladdened tonight--I'm at peace, and thankful for the 16 years that she shared our home and our lives.  She was our first Oklahoma pet (one we acquired after moving here in 1997), our first poodle---and day in and day out, "Queen Rosie" was our constant companion.

So today has been hard.  I chose to bury her in a place of honor in the FRONT of the house.  My wife and I have decided to plant a beautiful bush guessed it, a ROSE her honor.  When we see the roses bloom, when we smell their fragrance, we'll remember Rosie and rejoice in the good times, the wonderful memories, and be thankful that she was a part of our lives.

Just one final thought...I've always been told all my life that animals don't have souls and don't go to Heaven.  Well, that may be true.  But then again, didn't John the Revelator see horses coming out of Heaven?  Where'd THEY come from....hmmm?  So you never know, do you?  :-)   Maybe Roses really will bloom again.  At any rate, THANK YOU JESUS for the 16 years we had with Rosie.  We loved our little dog, and we were blessed.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Diploma Arrived Today

So it's official.  I'm now Troy L. Fullerton, MA (is there such a thing?)  Hmmm...gotta think about that one.  I just got my diploma in the mail today from Mid-America Christian University for my Masters degree.  Since it was in Developmental Leadership, what does that make me?  A "Master of Leadership"?  Some people who know me well would probably smirk at that notion.  I wouldn't blame them if they did.  :-)

This day has been a long time in coming.  Truth-to-tell, I submitted my thesis back in January, and the degree was already conferred, at least by THEIR dating system, on the third of May.  (I say that because I think they do whatever they have to do to confirm and verify everything, and then backdate the official date.  I turned in corrections to my thesis when school got out and waited for what seemed like forever).   In fact, I'm already working on my doctorate at this point--so the degree has been on my record for a while.  But without that diploma in hand, it was like a cake without icing.  The substance was there, but not the celebration.  Then I saw the mailman putting our mail in the box, and I noticed a large envelope...and I knew that the long-awaited day had arrived.

At any rate, as per my personality, I had to make it an event.  I went and got my diploma cover (the empty one they give you at the graduation ceremony) out of the closet and took it out to the mail box with me. There it was. I read it carefully.  I put it into the cover and smoothed it into place.  I came into the house, got down, and gave God thanks.

My degree was challenging.  Not only did it involve areas that are "weak muscles" (such as finance, business), but the material was entirely in Spanish.  It was time-consuming (they all are)--and I stopped and recalled those hours, and hours, and hours---the late nights writing papers, the research for my thesis.  Some of the classes were incredibly difficult (one in particular), and I had a couple of rough spots when I just didn't think I was going to make it.  There were times when I KNOW it was the Lord helping me through.  I'd feel overwhelmed, and then I'd sense this small voice directing me ("Here, just do this, this, and this"--"Just get something written down"--"Look, all you have to do is this, see?"--"That'll work")...and I'd think about how badly I really did want that degree.

So God, this is for you.  I just want to thank you.  It's to YOUR glory, Lord--I couldn't have done it any other way.  I love you, Jesus.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

No, The Jews Didn't "Steal" Israel From The Palestinian Arabs

Some of the biggest perpetuators of misinformation can make themselves sound so scholarly and knowledgible that those who don't do their homework become easy prey. Lately, it has become popular to assume that Jews were Johnny-Come-Latelies to the land of Israel, that they took it from the Palestinians (who had been their "for hundreds of years"), and that they should give up the land and leave. So do they have a point?  DID the Jews come in and take the land, displacing it's rightful owners? Is the Jewish presence in Israel is a modern phenomenon, and are they simply interlopers who should never have been recognized in the first place?  Let's take a look at the historical account:

Israel (A.K.A. "Palastine") was under Roman control during the time of Christ, but the territory was still Jewish. It wasn't till after the Second Jewish Revolt that Rome attempted to drive out all Jews from the area--BUT THEY NEVER GOT THE JOB DONE.  There was an uninterrupted Jewish presence in the land, even despite the Roman efforts at displacement.

Jews attempted a revolt during the time of Byzanitne rule in A.D 351-52.  The revolt was unsuccessful, and Islamic rule lasted 1,300 years, but under Islamic rule at this time, Christians and Jews were both allowed to live there, being considered "people of the book". All during the time of "Crusader Rule" (up till A.D. 1187) there was a Jewish presence in Israel--it never was eradicated.

During Mamluk rule (which takes us up till A.D. 1516), Maimonides established a synagogue in Jerusalem--it's still there today. Then, the large immigrations came during the Ottoman rule, which came BEFORE Great Britain (or America) had any say in the matter.  I say this because another popular theory is that the Jews came only because of the supposedly illegal Balfour Declaration.  THIS, I believe, is even more important than the non-interrupted Jewish presence. Between 1881 and 1903, some thirty THOUSAND Jews immigrated, and between 1904 and 1914, another forty thousand Jews came.

The Jews were already there, and under Ottoman Rule, all of these thousands and thousands of other Jews came--before New York or London were even in the picture. Again, this was all before the Balfour Declaration of 1917 (which, by the way, was approved by the League of Nations in 1922--it wasn't an illegal mandate). By the time of the Balfour Declaration, the territory was legally in British hands--and it was theirs to govern and then turn over. They had already declared that it would be a Jewish homeland, and they finally turned it over to the Jews in 1948.

This is just a brief, thumbnail sketch, but I'm writing it to show that A. Jews never did just "leave" (though efforts WERE made to force them out), and to show you that the Palestinians never were in control of the land to begin with,..and B. the Palestinians CERTAINLY weren't told to "move over"--the Jews were already in the territory. I hope you find this informative--I really don't think that most people understand the history of the Jewish people in Eretz Israel.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind
Troy L. Fullerton
Veronica Sawyer glanced at her watch and frowned.  It was five forty-five on a Tuesday night, and she was bored, mad at her boyfriend, and not ready to go home—much like most other days.  She wished it were the weekend. 
Veronica had spent the day at a friend’s house lying around on the couch, texting, smoking, and watching the soaps—“not much a single mother of three gets to do”, she reasoned.   Her friend had left to pick some things up at the store for a get-together she was having later on that evening.  Veronica could have stayed for it, of course, but she wasn’t in the mood for one of her friend’s get-togethers, particularly when she heard who all was coming.  “Nah, that’s okay,” she had said when she turned down the invitation.  She didn’t give any explanation, but it just seemed to her that some of the people her friend hung out with were majorly annoying. 
She looked at her watch again and sighed, grabbed her cell phone and shoved it into her pocket, and dragged herself off the couch.  She made her way into the kitchen of her friend’s apartment and helped herself to another big piece of cake so she wouldn’t have to worry about coming up with something to eat.  She just hoped the kids didn’t have the place tore up any worse than it already was.  She pulled on her jacket and walked out the door, heading for home.
The mid-day sun had been so bright earlier that she had to squint when she went outside.  But by now the sun had faded, and the weather had become depressing.  It was now a gray, drizzly day—the kind Veronica hated.  It disgusted her that the weather service, “with all its technology”, wouldn’t do something about it. 
Then, as soon as she got in the car and turned the key, she noticed that the little read oil light stayed on…again.  “Why can´t they make a car that works?” she said out loud to no one in particular.  She thought about the mechanic—the one who always overcharged her.  Obviously, he wasn´t doing his job right, or she wouldn´t have to keep getting her car serviced.  “Or maybe they just sold me another lemon,” she thought, and it made her all the more depressed.  Every car she ever owned seemed to have problems like these.
  By now, the kids would have been home from school for a couple of hours…and they probably would have eaten all her left over baloney, her donuts and chips, and even gotten into her ice cream.  “Who knows?  Maybe they heated up some Ramen noodles in the microwave, instead, this time,” she thought out loud, hopefully. 
Veronica hardly ever got in the mood to cook anything, and she never did have supper time, but food shouldn’t have been an issue, either.  There was always something in the fridge—some hot dogs, a little lunchmeat, or a few pieces of left-over pizza.  They had chips and pop as well…so the kids shouldn’t have been hungry.  They could always open up a can of Spaghettio’s or even have the leftover chicken nuggets and French fries from their last trip to McDonald’s if they wanted something different.  But no, half the time, they got into HER food…and that irritated her.
The previous night had been a bore.  Veronica had been up half the evening watching television until the kids had either fallen asleep on the couch or had gone to their rooms to play video games until they dozed off in their clothes.  When she got up, she looked around and grumbled about the house.  The clothes strewn about needed to be gathered and washed, and there were dishes to do, but she didn’t feel like doing any of that.  Some days, she just wished some Fairy Godmother could appear, wave some kind of magic wand, and make all of that clutter and the boring jobs she hated to do go away.  Sometimes she wondered why the kids didn’t do it—though how they would have ever learned remained a mystery.  She just wondered why life had to be so depressing, and, as usual, tried to escape into her television programs.
After all her shows were over, she stayed up on Facebook until the early hours of the morning and then lay down and plugged in her cell phone, since it had run out of juice.  She ended up texting back and forth with her friends till she fell asleep sometime late into the night…she couldn’t be sure when.  The television was still blaring in the front room after she woke up, long after the kids were off to school.  She lay around in bed skimming through a magazine, bummed out because her life wasn’t more like that of the people she read about in the tabloids. 
When she finally decided to get up, she stretched and yawned and wandered toward the kitchen to get some coffee.  She eyed the stack of papers and unopened mail on the table, but she didn’t bother to go through it.  Just then, she thought she heard her cell phone ring.  She stumbled through the living room and back toward the bedroom to answer it, tripping over a sack of groceries that had never been put away.  Back in her bedroom, she grabbed her phone, but she had missed the call.  She looked at the call log--it was her mother.  “Now what does SHE want,” she thought.
Taking the phone with her back to the kitchen, she fixed herself a cup of coffee and sat down in her usual place on the dilapidated couch back in her living room to call her back.  As the call went through, she glanced at the floor.  The rug was a stained, unsightly mess with crumbs and trash lying about.  It needed vacuuming badly, but Veronica never had the time…or so she told herself.  The call went to voice mail, per usual…her mother always let her calls go to voice mail so she’d know who was trying to get a hold of her and could call back at her convenience.  “Look at your caller I.D., woman”, she said out loud as the recording droned, but when she heard the beep, she just said, “it’s me—call me back”, and hung up.
In the corner, on the bookshelf, a scanner blinked a sequential row of lights, periodically springing to life when a cop made a traffic stop or an ambulance was needed somewhere.  She kept it going so she’d know where the cops were at all times, and so she could hear if her boyfriend or a family member was in any trouble.  She figured her mother would be calling back and decided she´d better get up and turn it down while she was on the phone.  So she pulled herself up, frowning at all the effort she was expending, and trudged into the next room.  Sitting down again, she waited a few minutes while she stared at the phone, waiting for it to ring, but it never did.  Finally, she clicked onto her mother´s number and tried the line again. 
This time her mother answered.  The news was more of the same old garbage:  One of Veronica’s brothers was in a fight at school and got suspended…again…and was issued a citation by the school’s resource officer.  They needed money to pay the ticket.  One of her sisters was pregnant…again…and had just lost her job.  Furthermore, her mother´s current live-in boyfriend had been arrested after another bar fight and needed bail money.  It always seemed like her family knew when she was supposed to be getting her monthly assistance check, but this time they were out of luck.
The father of her two oldest kids had been by and had given her some cash about a week ago.  But by now, the money was gone, and the father of her youngest had flown the coop.  Under the circumstances, she thought her current live-in boyfriend would pony up some money till her assistance check came through—after all, it’s not like he didn’t owe her.  He was supposed to be paying half the utilities and half the rent.  But he was just as bad as her last boyfriend had been about being out of money when it was time to pay up…and the boyfriend before him had been even worse.  So she, too, was out of luck, it seemed.  Such was life. 
She was still mulling all of these problems over in her mind as she made her way across town toward the house.  Just then, her phone rang.  Veronica’s experienced fingers automatically groped for the cell phone, flipped it open, and accepted the call without looking.  It was her friend Tiffany, who lived in the projects.  Tiffany made some mindless small talk, and then she asked what time her boyfriend would be home.  Veronica thought it was suspicious that Tiffany seemed so interested in her boyfriend, but she hadn’t really known him long and didn’t really care all that much, either, particularly today.
“Girl, he knows better than to show his face!” she retorted, “and I´m not in the mood for any foolishness from those kids, today, either.  As far as I’m concerned, they’d better stay out of my way and leave me alone, if they know what’s good for them.  No hassles.  Not today.”  Not on most days, actually.
After she hung up, Veronica´s thoughts shifted back to the weather, then to her car, and then back to her current boyfriend.  Ever since she kicked her previous boyfriend out and started shacking up with this one, it had been the same old thing—he’d say he was going to give her money, but then lose it all gambling—which she could understand.  But what REALLY irked her were the times he’d blow his whole paycheck down at the tavern, buying rounds of drinks for his buddies.  She thought it was funny how he never invited her along when he did that.
Then she thought of Tiffany again. “Perhaps they’d make a nice couple, after all,” she thought to herself with a wry smile.  As old as she was, life still seemed so much like playing house that it reminded her of grade school.  And just like when she was in grade school…well…she found she had grown tired of this “playmate” and was now ready for another.  Even though she had dropped out of school as soon as she got pregnant with her second child, in a lot of ways, she had never really left the playground.
As soon as her current boyfriend moved in, her youngest had started calling him “Daddy”—just like he had with the one before, but her oldest girl resisted.  She was always such a problem child, it seemed…always giving her boyfriends the cold shoulder every time a new one moved in.  At least her youngest was used to the way life was.  “Well, looks like he´s fixing to get a NEW daddy”, Veronica thought as she turned the corner and pulled up to the house.  But then, “what´s this?” she thought---as she saw that there were two strange cars parked in her driveway.
Startled, and then intensely curious, she studied the two cars with a wide-eyed, mystified expression.  “Now who would be coming here at THIS hour?” she thought.  Right away she thought of the cops---but these weren’t police cars.  Instead, they were modest, family cars...not new, certainly not Cadillacs, but neat.  One of them was a hatch-back with a bumper sticker from some educators’ association that she´d never heard of before.  The other was smaller, with a box of books in the back seat.  With her mouth hanging open and wondering what was going on inside the house, she wandered toward the front door.
As she approached the screen door, she could smell good food cooking, and noticed immediately the strange absence of the usual sound of the television—it had been turned off.  Wondering what was going on, she opened the door and saw a rather official-looking lady with a tweed skirt and a sharp looking blazer standing at the table.  The lady’s graying hair was pulled back into a neat bun, and while she wasn’t smiling, she looked friendly--matronly, really--as though she were supervising a social gathering.  As Veronica walked closer, she saw that the woman had all of her children gathered around the table.  As soon as the woman caught sight of her, she introduced herself.
“Oh, Hi, Miss Sawyer, I’m Mrs. Stephens.  With the exhaust fan running, I didn’t hear you come in.  I’m your daughter Meredith´s teacher at the grade school.  And this is Mrs. Richards, Timmy’s teacher” she said as she gestured back toward the kitchen area.  Veronica hadn’t noticed her yet.  Mrs. Richards turned around, smiled warmly, and said “how do you do,” then turned her attention back to the freshly-used pans she was washing in Veronica´s sink.
On the table, there were baked chicken, potatoes and gravy, green beans, and even a little fruit dessert which her children were eyeing, hungrily.  The smells were exhilarating, and the kids were ready to dig in.  But first, Mrs. Richards came in and announced, “Now, before we eat, Mrs. Stephens and I always give thanks to the Lord.  We’re not trying to push our religion onto your family, you understand, but since we’re going to be eating, too, do you mind if we offer thanks?”  The kids wrinkled their noses and looked back and forth between the teachers and their mother---they’d never seen anybody do that before and didn’t know what it looked like, or what to think of it. 
The teachers offered a simple prayer.  As the kids grabbed for the food, ready to start piling it on their plates and shoveling it in, one of them turned around to turn on the television. “NOT SO FAST”, Veronica heard Mrs. Stephens exclaim.  The children came to attention and looked at her.
“First of all, let’s all take our napkins---that’s right, those are NAPKINS, Jimmy---and lay them on our laps.  No, Timmy, we don’t watch television at the table—and, Meredith, sweetheart, let’s not start eating until everyone has a portion.” 
“Uh, uh!  No, no, we don’t reach across the table…that’s bad manners,” Mrs. Richards explained patiently and authoritatively.   Then Mrs. Stephens sat down between the boys and said “No, no, not like that…here, THIS is how we hold our fork—with our fingers…like this” and she showed them how it was done. 
Then Mrs. Richards started the table talk with “so how was YOUR day, Meredith?”  She asked each child to tell something that had happened on the playground or on the way home from school.  “And whom did you play with after school today, Timmy?” she heard Mrs. Stephens say as she helped Jimmy hold the knife to cut his chicken. 
As Veronica stood and watched, she felt herself becoming more and more indignant.  “What are you doing here?” She asked, and then she realized how abrupt she sounded and tried to soften it with, “I mean…I didn’t know you were coming over.”
Mrs. Richards looked up and said, “Oh, didn’t you get our note, Mrs. Sawyer?  We sent out a flyer from the school.”
“I never got it---or if I did, I didn’t read it,” Veronica admitted.
            “Won’t you come and join us?”  Mrs. Stephens asked. 
            Veronica declined, saying she had just eaten a big piece of cake at her friend’s house.  Leaving Mrs. Stephens to tend to the children, Mrs. Richards got up from the table and walked over to where Veronica was standing behind the partition in the living room area.
“This is part of our No Child Left Behind program,” Mrs. Richards went on to explain.  “The school holds us, the teachers, entirely responsible for everything involving your child’s educational success, regardless of any…uh, ‘challenges’ they may have in their personal lives.  We’re constantly told that good teachers don’t make excuses, so absolutely no outside factors are ever taken into consideration.  As far as the Department of Education is concerned, if any child is not learning and passing end-of-instruction tests, then it’s entirely the teacher’s fault.  The school’s rating goes down, and now, even our pay depends on our test scores,” Mrs. Richards explained.  Then, she turned her attention back to the children and admonished one to chew with his mouth closed.
Mrs. Stephens then got up and walked over to Veronica and continued the explanation while Mrs. Richards returned to the table.
“When we saw that we were being held entirely responsible, and that even our jobs were in jeopardy, we formed an ad hoc committee of teachers to examine the problem.  We realized that the factors preventing…uh…how shall I put this…a LARGE SEGMENT our struggling kids from succeeding had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with our performance in the classroom.  So we put together volunteer groups to go out and fill in the gaps on our own time and at our own expense to ensure that the kids have what they TRULY need to succeed.  Obviously, there is still so very much we cannot do…so much we can’t change,” she said, wistfully, and she looked away, slightly shaking her head.  “But we’re doing what we can to give every child a chance,” she said, and then she, too, went back to the table to continue helping Veronica’s children while Veronica sat down on her couch and eyed everything with interest, still not sure what to think about all of this.
When the children had finished, they stirred and started to get up, but not before Mrs. Stephens insisted that they wait to be excused from the table.  She had to help Jimmy pronounce the words, “excuse me”.  As one of them again reached for the television, she announced, “OH, no!---not now—we’ve got some evening activities to do!”  There was a chorus of whining complaints, but she steeled herself.
Timmy, the youngest, was to get his bath first, and get changed and ready for bed.  And he did not like it---not one little bit!  But Mrs. Richards consoled him by explaining that this was a SCHOOL night, that he needed his rest so he could learn, and that she’d read him a story and tuck him in as soon as he was ready.
Veronica was still wondering what any of this had to do with her children doing well in school.  She looked across the room.  There in the corner sat a basket of fresh laundry—obviously the ladies had washed up some clothes when they first arrived.  How long had they been here?  What ELSE had they done? 
Then Jimmy told his mom, rather matter-of-factly, “She made us pick up our rooms, make our beds, and pick out clothes for tomorrow as soon as she came in,” and he was pointing at Mrs. Richards---obviously, she had arrived first.  “And she even IRONED them!” Meredith said, proudly. That startled Veronica—Mrs. Richards had obviously brought her own iron and ironing board as Veronica never had any use for such things.
Then Veronica cast her gaze back toward the kitchen where Mrs. Richards had been washing up the pots and pans.  Veronica realized that she probably had to wash a lot of dishes in order to put supper on in the first place.  She shrugged her shoulders and picked up a celebrity magazine.
            As the children moved past her, they were protesting that Mrs. Stephens had turned off the computer and put away their cell phones, as soon as she arrived.  They were asking to use them now, but Mrs. Stephens was sticking to her guns…as soon as they helped clear off the table, they were to meet her in the living room to get started on their homework.  “I’ll be there to help you”, she explained.  She assured them that it wouldn’t even take an hour, and that they’d have plenty of time to enjoy themselves for a while before bedtime.  They gave a surprised look and said in chorus, “Bedtime?” and then they stared at one another in bewilderment.  This, too, was a new concept for them.

            So the dishes got cleared away; the homework was finished; and the children were bathed, read to, and prepared for bed.  Somehow, though, they still had time to play before it was time to turn out the light.  Then, the ladies gathered their things, thanked Veronica for allowing them to work with her children, and quickly let themselves out into the night.  Veronica saw their headlights shining through the curtains on her windows and listened as they backed out of the drive and drove away.  As she walked over and locked the door, she absent-mindedly looked back around the room.  Suddenly, she cursed.  “Lousy teachers,” said out loud to nobody in particular, “why couldn’t they have picked up this living room and vacuumed the floor?”  And with that, she plopped down in front of the television and tried to forget her troubles…again.