Yes, my child. We have had GREAT Presidents and Teddy Bears.

Yes, child.
We have had great Presidents.
Theodore Roosevelt

He was the only man to win the top prize for peace and war – the only president ever to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. And he won the Nobel Peace Prize. At 43 he became the youngest President in the Nation’s history, becoming the 26th President of the United States at the age of 42 – in office from 1901 to 1909.

He jump-started the conservation movement, and was the first voice of reform in American politics. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa due to his outstanding grades, he was appointed Police Commissioner in New York and began to drive out corruption there with his usual fearlessness. President McKinley then appointed him as Secretary of the Navy. Later, he was elected Governor of New York in 1899. He worked very hard to make the Panama Canal a reality and obtained the Pure Food Act in 1906, regulating the food industry. He attacked corruption ruthlessly.

By the way, I found it interesting to discover that Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing about a peace conference in September 1905 between warring Russia and Japan. Later, Franklin Roosevelt, his Fifth cousin (same family), would be notable for getting a commitment from the leader of Russia (then the U.S.S.R.) to Enter a war (WWII) against Japan (same countries), after Germany’s impending surrender. Theodore was a Republican, Franklin a Democrat. You cannot make this stuff up. History is always fascinating and, like politics, truly strange territory indeed.

Franklin Roosevelt proved to be another of our great Presidents. You would not believe the problems he had to deal with – a world wide great depression and a world war, and all while having to cope with the deadly disease of Polio. Do you know why he is Honored with his image on the United States coin – the dime? Because of his crusade to defeat polio and the “March of Dimes” campaign to raise funds to fight this horrible disease!

The Teddy Bear, so beloved of children everywhere, was named for Theodore Roosevelt, after he refused to shoot a defenseless small cub black bear on a hunting trip. Yes, the Teddy Bear was invented in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt. He was an outdoors man and a hunter, but also loved animals. In 1902, President Roosevelt legendarily spared this life and prompted a plush toy craze for so-called “teddy bears.”

Teddy BearYes, I am the proud owner of one. It was given to me by my Mother at the tender age of six. No, you may not borrow him. He is in almost as fragile a condition as his owner. And you may not borrow me either. I have napping to do. After all, we are almost the same age. And what he represents possesses far more wisdom than I can imagine having. By the way, his ears are totally worn out from being dragged around on the floor – by his ears. I simply must stop doing that. The students say it is embarrassing behavior (like they never embarrass anyone with their behavior). I blame “Teddy” Roosevelt for all the abuse.

And I blame my “Teddy Bear” for acquiring a major in political science. I must admit that my professors never accepted my eccentric behavior or that of “Teddy”, my bear. I think he also majored in political science. Why not? I told the other students he was a Baylor Bear. You would be shocked at what he got by with, claiming to be the school mascot. And, I believe he learned far more than me. His transcript may appear blank, like his stares. But he charmed all the teachers and students and got by with frequent naps, while I had to take copious notes. Next time around, I am wearing a fur coat and cuddling with everyone. One is never too old to learn!

Why the bears have all the fun?

Why let the bears have all the fun? By the way, convincing the wife to dress like this – was difficult!

President Theodore Roosevelt became the Father of Conservation. As president, he created five national parks – America’s best idea – which doubled the previously existing number and signed the landmark Antiquities Act. What he did was to preserve and protect the environment and wildlife of the United States. He was dedicated to preserving the country’s natural beauty. He created the Grand Canyon Game Preserve by proclamation in 1906 and the Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908.

“There can be no greater issue
than that of conservation in this country.”

– Confession of Faith Speech, August 6, 1912

Yes, my child. We have had truly great Presidents,
and adorable Teddy Bears!
Teddy Bear CartoonA 1902 cartoon in the Washington Post was the inspiration behind the birth of the “Teddy Bear.”

 

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The Story of Love Begins and Ends With You.

The price of inaction
is far greater
than the cost of making a mistake.
                         – Meister Eckhart

Another beautiful creation found at the school.

Another beautiful creation found at the school.

Raising a child today is an overwhelming and seemingly, at many times for so many parents, impossible undertaking. Supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood is today much, much more precarious and difficult than in any other generation. The prospect makes you feel worried about your ability to be successful.

All right! Who invited these clowns to lunch?

All right! Who invited these clowns to lunch?

This is becoming much more apparent as evidenced by so many children unable to survive what is rapidly evolving into an overly complex and incomprehensible future. Drop-out, drug and alcohol addiction and suicide rates are unbelievably high and accelerating.

My friends, by the millions our children are not surviving. But can we really place the blame on our overworked and stressed parents? I think not. What I do think is this: for answers, perhaps we have been looking in all the wrong places. We want to compete with other nations, and yet we already spend more to protect ourselves than all other nations on earth, combined.

Franklin Roosevelt was so right. The only thing we have to fear, is fear. And fear is running rampant. It is taking us so far down into a hole,

It was me!

          It was me!

that we cannot see the light above.

Natalie & Stoney were great friends.

Natalie & Stoney were great friends.

We place so much emphasis upon competition with other nations, that common sense and logic no longer reside in our neighborhood. We get so enamored with it, that our leaders forget the fact that human needs and desires can become insatiable. Our fears can override our capacity to employ common sense.

Moderation in all things” is a line from Andria, written in the second century B.C. by the Roman playwright Terence. And it echoes the “Golden Mean” emphasized two centuries earlier by Aristotle. The word ALL is employed in this concept with tremendous wisdom.

Competition with other nations, can become satiated with fear. And in overreacting, we suddenly find test scores and so called standards becoming our whole focus in education. I have witnessed the wholesale elimination of fundamental educational components such as vocational education classes (yes, entire programs), fine arts programs and (if it can even be believed) recess. And parents were asking, “Recess? Really, Recess? Are the members of the school board NUTS?”

Perhaps. They may need to hear the recording of Franklin Roosevelt reminding us that fear is what we need to fear. They may need to have it explained to them. Or better yet, just vote for board members who are more in control of such things as emotions and common sense . You know, there was a time when a person elected to such an office brought prestige to the board. Today, more often than not, they run for a place on the board to gain prestige for themselves. How sad.

My friends, in such an emotionally charged climate, we forget that what children truly want and need is very simple. The want love. They want us to know that how they feel is far more important than any other thing on earth. They could truly care less about a number on a piece of paper. And I must agree. Please throw away the paper and do not throw away your child for what is printed upon it. The ink on the paper will fade with the passing of time. But the love embedded in the heart of your child, can also fade. Poor judgement may become a tragic lesson too late for the learning.

So  express in words and deeds to your precious children just how much you truly care for them. Let them know of the depth of your love. And in the wink of an eye, your heart will be turning. You will feel two hearts beat as one. And you will come to know just what this life is really all about. In that moment, a great truth will be revealed.

Walking Stick on Door

The walking stick – among the most intriguing of insects – has raised camouflage, mimicry and defense to a veritable art form. I’m trying to teach this one to read.

The story of love begins and ends with you. The veil of all fear will disintegrate in the presence of your love. Your life will become focused, if you look through the lens of your heart. For, my friends, nothing else matters. Not to your children, not to you and not to me.

If you die today, will your child ever know the true depth of your love? Why don’t you turn off your computer, now, and quietly go to him or her and ask, “May I speak with you for a moment?” And when you do, search in their eyes for the soul of the child you once were, and tell them the truth – that your life begins and ends with them, that nothing else in this life, or the next, matters. Without the shadow of their smile cast upon the landscape of your life, the sun will never shine.

Can you believe this tiny beauty. He was gently placed back where he was found.

Can you believe this tiny beauty. He was gently placed back where he was found.

As Rod McKuen so beautifully intoned in music :

“I’ll catch the sun and never give it back again.
I’ll catch the sun and keep it for my own.
And in a world where no one understands,
I’ll take my outstretched hand,
and offer it to anyone
who comes along and tells me,
he’s in need of love,
in need of hope
or maybe just a friend.”

It is so good to need love.

Our precious Natalie passed away.

Natalie

Natalie

I fondly recall seeing her about 14 years ago. She was at the top of the hill just east of the school. Natalie was beside the road where someone had dropped her off. She anxiously awaited her “loyal” master and looked longingly into each passing vehicle. She was the most beautiful dog I ever saw.

I felt very sad for her and took food and water to her side for four days. Finally, I drove up the hill, placed her in my car and into my heart and brought her home. And what a blessing she has been for so many years.

NATALIE

Our beloved Natalie truly loved everyone she met.

Why her owner left her along that road, God only knows. But that person left behind a lesson in true loving. He left out in the cold a real friend that warmed the hearts of many.

And now, as I listen to the lilting lyrics of another song by McKuen, I reflect upon the many years with my friend and companion, Natalie. When he sings that, “Love’s Been Good To Me”, I can embrace, with deep gratitude, the music of Natalie’s life. Yes, love’s been good to me. And Natalie was there to give as much love as her small heart could.

Natalie attended the service for Rosie.

Natalie attended the service for Rosie. She felt the loss as much as I did.

You know, I could never be alone, because Natalie had a home. And I was there to share it with her, along with countless children here at school. I know our students, past and present, will be saddened by her loss for she made her home in our hearts.

Reflection upon such gifts as God bestows, sometimes gives us the wisdom to be grateful.  So as you go along life’s brief journey, it’s a good thing to remember that it is filled with remarkable gifts.

When, in the eye of time,  my dear friend Robert “Stoney” Burke and I said a heartfelt and tearful goodbye, my prayer was one of thanksgiving. What a beautiful gift the life and love of Natalie was to me, to Stoney and everyone. What a Blessing.

Here we find a rare display of color.

Here we find a rare display of color in one of our friends.

Thank you.

The Gift Of You for the Salvation Of Us All

 If the only prayer
you said in your whole life was,
“thank you,”
that would suffice.
                                       – Johannes Eckhart

Kylie was always kind enough to feed the birds.

Kylie, always kind, loved to feed the wild birds.

It is so important to give of yourself.  Giving, even a smile, can help you lower stress and lower your blood pressure.  When your mind and body feels gratification from giving, you relax and the blood flows freely.

I am reminded of my truly wonderful days in Scouting, To “do a good deed daily” was the goal. And the positive influences of this dynamic program deeply impacted my life and the philosophy of our school. Scouting, at its core, is dedicated to giving of yourself and becoming aware of and developing an appreciation for all that is so breathtakingly beautiful in Nature. It teaches us to “Be Prepared” and do so by protecting ourselves with our God given natural resources.

My Mother, Marie & Werner Bendorf

My Mother, Marie, and Werner Bendorf, present the Eagle Scout Award to William (Skip) Anderson.

As an Eagle Scout (at the tender age of 12) and later as a Scoutmaster of Troop 57 in Abilene, while enrolled in college, I became the beneficiary of a proud tradition. My fondest memories of my youth are centered in Boy Scout Troop 17 and in being with our beloved Scoutmaster, Werner Bendorf.

Having survived the Holocaust, he especially appreciated life and he endeavored to share his truly dynamic love of living and his very special love for everyone around him. Privately, he shared with me, among many things, that forgiveness was the only pathway forward in life, the only way home. And there was so much that happened in his life for him to forgive. The transgressions felt in our lives simply cannot ever compare.

I can truly say that without the compassion, understanding and deeply felt love of this man for my Mother and myself, I could not have survived. I am in tears as I write this and simply cannot continue, at this moment, to share more with you about the special gift of Werner’s life. But I plan to tell the full story, later, of the stunningly beautiful gift I received, when our lives intersected.This precious man may no longer be with us, but I can assure you that his spirit resides deeply embedded within every fiber of my being. As I remember all the love he shared so willingly in life, I can feel his heart still beating within me. Yes, the love you give to others is the only thing you will ever truly possess. And it shall be yours forever.

Because of such caring people, and that of my loving family and friends, the story of my life begins and will end with Love. Above you will find my very favorite quote, from Johannes Eckhart. So now, my prayer in life is one of Thanksgiving. Dear Lord, and my dear and precious family and my wonderful friends,  from the very depths of my being, I want to sincerely “Thank You”. From you I have found the Love of God.

The NO VACANCY sign is always out.

The NO VACANCY sign is always out.

Back to the Garden

Mankind’s first home was an unbelievably beautiful Garden, not a crowded, polluted city. And I believe that one simple solution to so many of our problems lies in returning home, going back to Nature, searching for the overgrown pathway that leads back to the Garden. Realizing just how happy we can be, requires us to think about simplifying our lives and becoming intimately and closely connected to the stunningly beautiful natural world around us.

025And a part of that natural world includes our delightful and beautiful friends, the Birds. They are an absolutely critical part of our survival. But, my friends, they are now threatened by pollution and our destruction of their habitat. Yes, when our homes were constructed, the trees were uprooted and the wildlife was given absolutely NO consideration. If you want to know who owned this land before we did, or even the Native Americans, look up into the relatively few trees that are left. The real deeds to our properties, were in the good deeds of Nature’s beautiful inhabitants.

Our feathered friends, and protectors, are not just beautiful to look at and listen to. We need them to control the insect population, transfer pollen around, move nutrients from the sea to the land and clean up the environment. They are the best and safest natural pesticide you could possibly employ. And how do you lure them to your yard? I love working in the yard and have been adding bird houses and bird feeders and baths.

Dr. and Mrs. Anderson seem to be enjoying life.

Dr. and Mrs. Anderson seem to be enjoying life. But why the fur coats – it’s 94 degrees and what’s with the “Cool Dude” sunglasses?

To diminish mosquito populations, attract birds that eat insects on the wing (they catch flying insects in the air). The main ones are swallows such as the tree swallow, violet-green swallow, barn swallow, eastern kingbird chickadees, house wrens, gray catbirds, bluebirds, vireos, etc.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently classified 97 species of birds as globally threatened. And what can we do to help? Well, a truck load of common sense would help.

Ian fed the birds and then helped himself.

Ian fed the birds and then helped himself.

We must act now to stop the process of global warming. Warmer environments lead to mosquito-borne pathogens that kill species like birds, horses and, you guessed it, people.

My dear friends, at this critical moment the birds need us, just as we need them.

If you care about our children, if you love being in the natural world, if you enjoy employing common sense, there are a few, simplistic things you can do.

1. All Electric cars are fast becoming available. Please make it a priority to buy one. Make your next purchase a car that can be charged with solar cells or a small windmill (you can make it a vertical model that will not knock the birds out of the sky).

Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, has hinted that his firm is considering “freeing” its patents to help speed up electric car development. If by some coincidence, hanging by the slenderest gossamer thread of fate, you should chance to read this, Mr. Musk,  I beg you, on behalf of all humanity, to please do so. And, as you are well aware, you can do so much more than this.

Elon, I ask that you make the spirit of Ben Franklin, which embodied the very essence of what makes America such a good and Noble idea, and the rest of us, very proud of you. Ben, as I mentioned last time, contributed to the world by giving to it his many inventions at no cost, refusing to own patents on any invention. He never patented any of his inventions. He was willing to share his ideas for the benefit of all, and without personal gain.

Elon Musk, you are very close to becoming a true patriot, like Ben Franklin. A patriot is one who devotes his life to serving his country and his fellow citizens. And our Nation is today in critically desperate need of such men and women. We need true patriots, like America’s educators, who can put the well being of the Nation and its citizens above the self.

An unimaginable depth of compassion for others, exemplified by the life of Franklin, is necessary today for the survival of our children on this planet. Perhaps, Mr. Musk, you can go beyond inclusion in the annuals of mere History. Perhaps you can become deeply embedded in the hearts of your fellow Americans. My prayer is that you become so enlightened.

2. Eliminate plastic bags from you shopping habit. This needs no elaboration.

3. Place a birdhouse, birdbath and bird feeder in your yard.

Kirby, will you take out the, uh, well, uh, never mind.

Kirby, will you take out the, uh, well, uh, never mind.

4. Stop using pesticides! You do not need them. And your children will truly suffer from being exposed to these extremely toxic chemicals. Use the birds (dare I say, and bees?) instead. They will eliminate the pests.

At our school we do not use pesticides. We provide birdhouses, bird feeders and bird baths for our special friends. And they give us an environment for our children that is virtually free of such things as misquotes (the deadliest creature known to man, that kills more people on earth than any other creature – known to carry over 550 viruses, and many of them, like malaria, estimated to kill over 600,000 people each year, west Nile virus and yellow fever, among many others.

Saffy, will you take out the trash?

Saffy, will you take out the trash?

Economically priced bird houses, feeders and baths are simple, effective solutions to helping the birds and your family. Providing for our feathered friends is a natural method of controlling pests. Another is simply leaving as many wasps/yellow jackets alone as much as possible. They devour mosquitoes and deadly spiders and are not naturally aggressive.

Instead of spraying insecticides all over the place, spray the wasp nests with water from the hose and knock down their nests. This encourages them to move, but not far away. Later you will find them on the outer perimeter of your property, where they can live in peace and save your life.

OK Lila, will you take out the trash?

Lila, will you take out the trash?

Pesticide exposure has been linked by good and solid research to cancer, birth defects, infertility, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, reproductive problems, degenerative diseases such as Dementia (by as much as 70%), Parkinson’s disease (a 70% increase as well), Alzheimer’s disease, Type II Diabetes and many others.

Studies show that chronic low-level pesticide exposure is associated with a very wide range of nervous system symptoms such as: headache, fatigue, dizziness, tension, anger, depression, and impaired memory. Child IQ loss has been linked to pesticide exposure in the womb and can elevate the odds for ADHD in children.

 

OK. I'll take it out myself.

OK. I’ll take it out myself.

Think about it. We share this small planet. And as they fly, feed and nest, the birds help us in countless ways.

Birds and humans are complex and vulnerable organisms. We are, like other species, co-dependent. At the end of the day, the fate of the birds will also be our fate.