Wednesday, December 31, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


Our cousin has a great formula for making New Year’s resolutions that she can really stick to. The rest of us fall away by mid-January with ours, but she prevails, year after year. What a success story of sheer will power and determination! Here are her resolutions for the coming new year:

1. Don’t eat monkey brains.

2. Don’t go sky-diving.

3. Do give yourself an “air kiss” every time you look in the mirror. It’s a great way to start every day on a positive note . . . and drives strangers in restrooms in airports, restaurants, arenas and stadiums absolutely crazy.

Hey . . . nobody said making and keeping resolutions to make your life a little better had to be so doggone serious!

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes


A University of California at Los Angeles law professor has issued a call to change the law to allow California's 4.6 million noncitizens to vote in local elections.

Joaquin C. Avila of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center cited census data that found that noncitizen adults comprise large portions of California municipalities, such as 32 percent of Los Angeles. Since these legal and illegal aliens contribute to the economy and government revenues, but are denied political representation, Avila called the situation "political apartheid." He said to be fair, they should be allowed to vote.

On the other hand, some would say they should be arrested and deported, not given the right to vote. Citizenship is the cornerstone of the American system of government with responsibilities as well as rights, and it is controversial indeed to consider extending voting rights to illegal aliens, who deliberately have broken the law, or even to their legal immigrant counterparts, who are still, to be honest, aliens and not citizens. Letting illegal aliens vote would be the same as letting people vote who come to the polling both in the nude or rob everybody standing in line, and the poll workers, too.

To read Avila’s brief, see

For the other point of view on the intricacies of Americanizing immigrants – how it takes a lot more than moving here and getting a job to become an American — see the website of the respected think tank, the Center for Immigration Studies:

Monday, December 29, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents


Q. Why do so many middle-school and high-school students have “A” and “B” averages, but test like “D” or “F” students on standardized tests? The discrepancy is particularly apparent in math. Why is this happening? Can we fix it?

Yes, this can be fixed. What’s needed is a reality check to school administrators about late grade school and middle-school math instruction. It is substandard, and it shows. To try to cover this up, rampant grade inflation is deceiving parents and the public into thinking that all is well in math class. But it’s not.

School administrators mean well: they know algebra is a “gatekeeper” course for college-preparatory math and science. They want all students, especially disadvantaged ones, to have algebra under their belts. But the strongest predictor of failure to learn algebra is not race or income level – it’s a lack of adequate academic preparation. The curricula and instructional methods in use from grades 1-8 are poor, on a wide scale. That’s what needs to be fixed.

In an attempt to get more “nontraditional” students taking upper-level math in high school to make them eligible for math and science majors in college, many school districts haven’t done the obvious thing – beef up the quality of their preparatory math classes in the lower grades. Instead, they have watered down the content of pre-algebra courses, removing important but difficult material.

A common problem is that a district wants more students to pass math classes so that it “earns” more credit on the statewide accountability index. So the district will try to guarantee high pass rates by making the classes artificially easy. But classes without content set up students for later failure in algebra. Then many kids have to repeat algebra in ninth grade, and may never really “get” it.

Solution: place kids in algebra class based on how they do on standardized tests . . . not school-created tests, or GPAs.

Homework: Keep up with math instruction trends, especially California’s, on the website of the Hoover Institution,

Sunday, December 28, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams


And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
-- Matthew 6:28.29

So there I was in the dressing room at Dillard's in a death grip with a black strapless bra named ''FiFi.''

Let me explain.

Underwear is my nemesis. I hate buying it. I hate being ''sized'' for it, and haven’t been since I was 13.

Consequently, I still wear underwear that I've had since I WAS 13.

The DNA is breaking down in the elastic. The fabric is so worn, it's cheesecloth.

These undies are all so tattered, I'm close to doing the scandalous thing teenagers today are doing: wearing no underwear at all. They call it ''GOING COMMANDO.'' Well, huh. Mine already looks like it's been through a war.

The bras are missing hooks. They have stretched-out straps. My husband forever destroyed the graceful mystique of breastfeeding by calling the flaps of my maternity bras ''bomb bay doors.''

The centerpiece is a nuclear-strength panty girdle at least 20 years old, purchased, I believe, at a Strategic Air Command garage sale. This lethal weapon is so tight I have to be hoisted by crane into a chair. If I'm standing up, I can only balance by leaning on a wall, and when I'm ready to move I stick my arm out for someone to pull me upright. When I pull it on, the underground command center near Omaha goes DEFCOM 4 because of the release of radioactive fusion molecules into the atmosphere.

Fortunately, my daughters are not so lingerie loony. When I take them shopping, though, the bras on display remind me of hundreds of poodle noses pointing north, east, south and west. I get the willies. Once, a bra displayed down low scraped my shin. I turned, glared, and commanded, ''Down, FiFi.''

Ever since, we've called bras ''FiFi’s.''

So, anyway, our daughter Neely was to be presented as an Omaha Symphony Debutante at an elegant gala Saturday night. I'd known for months that I would need a black strapless bra for my gown, but of course, had put off buying one.

So the day of the ball I raced to the mall, grabbed what I thought was about my size off the rack, and snuck into a dressing room. It was quickly apparent that the bra I had selected was my size, all right . . . four pregnancies and a few million Godivas ago. But I was in a hurry. So I tried to make it work.

Beads of sweat dotted my brow. I bent over backwards, grimacing. Both hands fumbled to connect hooks and eyes I couldn't see, two inches apart. My hands were greasy from a recent application of lotion, and my glasses were slipping down off my nose, when suddenly. . .


. . . the bra shot out of my hands like twin cannonballs and smacked into the dressing room mirror. I heard a shocked gasp from next door.

I couldn't just do nothing. So I said what came to mind:

''DOWN, FiFi!''

There was an eerie silence. I think she bought it. I hope she hasn't needed a prescription since.

Well, I was so embarrassed, I just grabbed a bigger size, paid for it, and high-tailed it out of there.

That night, I flossed and yanked all the chin hair, but couldn't find my nuclear-strength panty girdle. I simply bragged that I had had waist augmentation surgery.

My beauty routine included bag balm -- that’s right, what farmers put on pig udders -- to try to tame my left eyebrow, which is trying to ''Go Andy Rooney.'' At least that’s better than ''Going Commando.''

But I should never have worried. Neely was the prettiest debutante, nobody even looked at the mothers anyway, my FiFi was the right size, and best of all, nobody knew what I went through just to get decent underwear for such a swank event.

'Til now.

But keep these unmentionables unmentionable, OK?

Or else I'll have to sick FiFi on you.

SATURDAY: FUNdamentals


Football, basketball, baseball, golf. Football, basketball, baseball, golf. Maybe some volleyball and soccer once in a while. But basically, for most Americans, it’s football, basketball, baseball and golf.


They’re great sports, but there’s oh! so much more. New Year's is just the time to explore the "more." So why don’t you resolve to get busy, make a list, do some research, watch the paper, ask around, look at bulletin boards at sporting goods stores, and get a regular group together for a once-a-month sports outing to some of the athletic endeavors that are a little off the beaten track.

Most of these should be going on in your area or within a reasonable drive. Here’s a sample schedule:

January – Curling

February – Hockey

March – Team roping

April – Wind surfing

May – Log-rolling

June – Pigeon racing

July – Sailboat racing

August – Miniature boat racing

September – Model airplane flying

October – Hunting dog field trials

November – Equestrian competition

December – Ice fishing

Friday, December 26, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


High on the post-Christmas priority list should be getting thank-you notes off in the mail. It is critically important that mothers teach their children to write thank-you notes for gifts received, special favors rendered, and sit-down dinners or lunches provided.

Within a week, holiday thank-you’s should be off in the mail. But for some kids, getting started is the hard part. It’s like pulling teeth. If your child has trouble putting pen to paper, here are some alternative ideas that should make the thank-you note as much fun to receive as the gift was to give:

-- Thank-You Picture. Give your child crayons or markers and have your child draw a picture of himself or herself using the gift.

-- Thank-You Story. Have your child write or type a funny story in which the gift serves as the solution to a mystery or develops magic powers.

-- Thank-You Crossword. Your child could write down several words that describe the gift, and then arrange them in a crossword puzzle. Make blank boxes for each letter, and write clues. Put the answers on the back.

Thursday, December 25, 2003



Most families have been touched by divorce, just one more reason all families have to practice acceptance and readjustment on a regular basis. At Christmastime, it can be very difficult for a second or third spouse to come into the family circle, knowing there are precious memories he or she knows nothing about, and various allegiances and traditions of the new family member has not been a part.

Rather than destroy what has been, build upon it. A lovely Christmas gift for a new spouse is a book of family memories and recipes. Buy a nice cookbook with detachable recipe cards that are in plastic protective sheets. Then email family members and ask for their favorite Christmas memories, traditions, gifts, experiences, even dinner menus. Also ask for the recipe or two or three for which they are “famous.”

They should email these back to you, and you can print them out to fit the recipe cards. Use double-sided tape and insert back into the protective plastic.

The new family member will be doubly appreciative of your thoughtfulness, for being let in on family lore and favorite foods is a double blessing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


You enjoy the sweet, sentimental ones. You love the picture ones. You endure the long, chatty letter ones. But there’s nothing quite like Christmas cards that are funny.

This year’s winner is from a neighbor whose father just turned 90. Where did they take him to celebrate his birthday?


There was a picture enclosed. You have never seen such a great, big grin on such an old, old guy.

That’s the Christmas spirit! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes


Today’s schoolchildren would be amazed at what they’re missing. Christmastime used to feature a whole season’s worth of bulletin boards, manger scenes, classroom giving trees, carols at Christmas programs, Christmas parties with traditional Christmas themes like candy canes and Christmas trees, and the exchange of gifts and cards between students and teachers.

But nowadays it’s not unusual for a classroom to be totally empty of any decorations, activities or references of any kind to Christmas. Field trips to see “A Christmas Carol” on stage have been canceled for alleged offense to certain members of the community. Kids have gotten hauled into court for handing out candy canes to their classmates because that is considered outrageously too religious. You can’t even say “Merry Christmas” in some schools – you have to substitute the tepid and impotent “Happy Holidays” instead.

Some schools have even stripped their Christmas programs of any references to Christmas – which would be funny, if it weren’t so sad – leaving music directors to struggle with the drivel of “winter songs” instead of the beautiful music of the ages that relates to Christmas, which generations of American children have enjoyed before.

Of course, we can’t have schools endorsing or promoting one religion over another. Nobody wants that. But what we do want is for our schools to have the freedom of expression and free speech guaranteed to each of us in the U.S. Constitution. And it’s crystal clear that observing Christmas in public schools is perfectly legal.

The whole thing has gotten pretty ridiculous, especially since the very first right guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution is the right of freedom of religion. That’s in the First Amendment. The Constitution in no way, shape or form requires school officials to censor Christmas or intimidate or silence those who would celebrate it. There’s no call for suppression of free speech in the doctrine of the separation of church and state. The vast majority of schools are violating their own students’ and teachers’ constitutional rights, and it’s sad to see.

For an excellent booklet of background information to share with school board members, principals and others who may not be aware of their own legal rights and those of their employees and students in this important area, see and download “Seasonal Religious Expression on Public Property.”

For more on the anti-Christmas side, see

Monday, December 22, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents

Fostering Americanism

Q. What can moms and dads do to support our schools in helping make children proud to be American?

Educators have dropped the ball in many ways on civics education, American history instruction, and character-building for America’s future. Most states have Americanism education statutes that often are being ignored. They shouldn’t be. Parents can:

-- Photocopy your state’s Americanism statute regarding K-12 education; the statutes are available in the public library. Distribute copies to parents, teachers and school-board members showing what schools are supposed to be doing along these lines. Example: is Veterans Day observed?

-- Most school boards are supposed to have an Americanism committee, by law. Find out who the chairman is and contact that person, offering your service, ideas and support.

-- Give a beautiful 11� x 22� color Pledge of Allegiance poster to teachers and students; this is a possible PTA project and would be fine to post in classrooms, hallways and teachers’ lounges. Gateways to Better Education, P.O. Box 514, Lake Forest, CA 92609 or call (800) 929-1163.

-- In what shape is your school’s flag? The American flag is supposed to be crisp and free of tears and ragged edges. School budgets are tight and replacing a worn flag may not have top priority. Parents, the PTA, a Scout group or the local veterans association might collaborate on buying a new one and dedicating it with all students at attention.

-- Give your district flyers on Americanism essay contests that students can enter, and other opportunities to learn.

-- Invite government and military officials to give Career Day speeches to help promote public-service careers.

Homework: Get the book, “Making Patriots� by Walter Berns, or see “Community Support,�

Sunday, December 21, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams


Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
-- Ephesians 3:20

One Christmas Dad gave Mom a shiny, new garbage can.

It went over like a lead balloon. I mean, we all knew the old one was banged up and disreputable. But this was Christmas.

''See if the lid works,'' Dad suggested.

She did, getting ready to El Kabong him with it. But she didn't. Because . . .



I remember reveling in the extravagance. Mom looked so happy. It was beyond her wildest dreams. Dad went from the doghouse to the pinnacle, and we kids were all elated.

You just get so filled with joy when a father goes all out to show his love.

That's why I'm not surprised about what’s been happening lately to a friend of mine who has just been through a rough time. She's Nebraska's leading lady of Christian activism, head of Nebraska Right to Life, and a wonderful wife and mother, Julie Schmit-Albin of Lincoln.

Bottom line: about this time last year, she did the right thing and got hammered for it.

It goes like this: she had been receiving emails from a disgruntled Planned Parenthood clinic manager that contended there were health violations going on inside the clinic. She turned them over to the State of Nebraska, and the allegations proved true. The clinic was put on probation.

But because the man who leaked the information wasn't supposed to have access to the internal emails, both of them got in big trouble. They were charged with felonies.

Her computer was confiscated. She was fingerprinted and mugshotted. Her name was on CNN. Her kids and their classmates saw her all over the local media. She faced a possible five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

She didn't know he was doing anything wrong by sending those emails. All she wanted to do was to protect women's health. It was all so badly misinterpreted. She felt like people were wiping the floor with her heart. It really was the pits.

Ultimately, though, it worked out OK. She did 60 hours of community service making blankets for Project Linus in a pretrial diversion program, a route she chose to bring peace to her family life.

Look what has happened to her since:

-- She won not one, not two, but three door prizes at the National Right to Life convention in St. Louis in July.

-- Upon her return home, she learned she won the only free makeover in a drawing at her hair salon: a perm, pedicure, manicure, the works.

-- She bought the winning raffle ticket at her church festival in October. Grand prize: $2,000.

-- She won $50 at an antiques store drawing in Lincoln's Haymarket.

-- The White House called to invite her personally to the Nov. 5 ceremony when the President signed the ban on partial-birth abortion, an important slice of history in the ongoing battle over the sanctity of life, her life's calling.

-- And last but not least, hers was the winning entry out of hundreds of thousands in a national Sun-Mart drawing sponsored by Nash-Finch Co./Coca-Cola. She won free airline tickets for four to New Orleans, complete with French Quarter hotel accommodations for three nights, tickets to the Sugar Bowl, and $500 cash.

Julie says she has never won anything in her life until these last few months. These prizes have blessed her beyond her wildest dreams. She feels enveloped in love and reassurance.

That's what it’s like to be a Christian: you stay faithful to the Lord, and you hang in there. You can feel the power of that love and you know that, eventually, you are going to be blessed.

Outrageously, audaciously, extravagantly so.

Because that's God’s nature. That's the whole idea of Christmas. It was just so extravagant. The gift of the Christ child is like a surprise mink coat: outrageously, audaciously wrapping us all in the unexpected grace of the manger and the cross, and the incomparable love and glory of Jesus Christ.

So maybe you won't get a mink coat, a $2,000 raffle prize or a trip for four to the Sugar Bowl this Christmas.

But if you've got Jesus, you've got it all.

There's no gift more extravagant. Isn't it wonderful?

You just get so filled with joy when a Father goes all out to show His love. Amen, and Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2003

SATURDAY: FUNdamentals


A fun party right before Christmas is a combination of caroling and a road rally. Your office work group, civic club, golf buddies, Sunday School class, or any other gathering of adults should make a list of about five people you want to cheer up with a caroling excursion.

Who to carol to? It’s always a good idea to ask for the names of shut-ins from your church, or visit people from your workplace who have been sick, maybe some newlyweds, perhaps a retirement home, your child’s coach, your boss, or people you just plain like.

Call the people you’d like to carol and make sure they will be home that evening and are expecting you. Make your invitations, by phone or by mail. Now map out your itinerary based on where the “carolees� live.

Start the party at about 7 at your house, set up “carpools,� distribute maps and flashlights or candles with a safety “skirt� to protect against drips, and pile into cars. Gentlepersons, start your engines! Now drive from place to place, pile out and carol, and pile back in, feeling happy about brightening someone’s evening.

If anybody plays guitar and can bring it, that’d be great. You could photocopy words to 10 or 12 hymns and distribute them as well. Make the type size big enough to see in the dark! Keep each song to just one or two verses if you can. Short, but sweet, is the name of the game with caroling.

But here comes the funny part: bring the loudest battery-operated boom box you can with a recording of a huge choir doing a voices-only, or “a cappella,� Christmas song. As the cars arrive at each “carolee’s� house, turn on that song full blast. They’ll think there’s a choir of 500 people out on their front porch! Even if you only have four or five carolers, lip-sync the words as they open the door. You’ll all get a big laugh!

Then turn off the boom box, and share the real thing – your voices lifted in the best songs of all time, celebrating the best thing that ever happened – and best of all, you get to go back to the host’s house after everyone has been visited, for refreshments and more singing, if you wish.

Friday, December 19, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


One of the sweetest things about Christmas is that it's perfectly OK for adults to show a little childish humor and whimsy. This is high humor for kids, and a great message to give them: the fun doesn't stop when the grown-up years begin.

Here are three ideas for Christmas whimsy that will create adorable memories for your child on down the road:

1. Santa Rings the Doorbell

Most kids have a best friend. Purchase in advance a small gift for that friend. Make it something that your child would enjoy, too, and get two of them. Put them in tissue and put the tissue in Christmas sacks, marked ''To ___ From Santa.'' Now invite the best friend over, a few days before Christmas. While the kids aren't looking, sneak the two sacks to the front doormat. Prearrange with an older child in the family or a friend to ring the doorbell and then run and hide. When the kids come to the door and see the presents addressed to them – EARLY! – they'll scream with joy.

2. Manger Scene Playability

Having a manger scene to play with is a great way to familiarize your child with the Christmas story, the reason for the season. Many families have an heirloom nativity set that’s a ''don't touch'' item, but it's smart to buy an inexpensive second set, perhaps in the after-Christmas sales, made of wood block or other sturdy play-worthy material, so that your child can have a ''hands-on'' experience with the story of Christ's birth. Remember, children learn through play!

3. Enlist an Accomplice for Christmas Eve Drama

Here's a fun job for a fun uncle, family friend or someone else who perhaps doesn't have children at home but loves the joys of childhood and the amusing mysteries that, we find out later, never would have happened without a grownup who liked to play as much as kids do. Whether or not you invite this person to your Christmas Eve festivities, arrange in advance for him or her to have some jingle bells in the car. Right when the kids are going to bed, the person can walk or drive outside the children's bedroom windows and shake the bells just enough to be heard. Just a taste of excitement to REALLY make it impossible for them to fall asleep!

Thursday, December 18, 2003



When someone you know is diagnosed with an illness like cancer, it’s time to roll out the power of friendship. You can make a “power box� to be filled with the encouragement and support of friends throughout the battle. Especially when it’s something like cancer, with the processes involved in chemotherapy and radiation, and the many ups and downs of the ordeal, the constancy of having something tangible on hand to help the person stay focused is a big help.

Buy or make a really nice recipe box that holds 4� x 6� cards. But instead of traditional recipe cards, go to a stationery store and buy a pound and a half or more of colored cardstock. You’ll want a rainbow of colors.

Each card is to become an item of “power� in the form of an encouraging message, picture, drawing, quote, artwork, clipping, joke, Internet printout, recipe, suggestion, anecdote, Bible verse, prayer or whatever else it might contain.

Make up one example to show others, and then distribute these cards among the person’s friends. Give the person a quantity of them, too, to add cards that come in the mail, personal observations, mementoes of special gifts or phone conversations, and the like.

Sample idea: cut out a picture of Saddam Hussein at his capture, paste it on the card, and write, “Things COULD be worse – you could see this in your Monday morning mirror, or see this across your breakfast table.� Then write the promise of Micah 7:7, that things are never as bad as they look: “Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.�

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


People may underestimate the importance of University of Nebraska football on the culture in the Cornhusker state. It has been in turmoil over some coaching changes recently.

On the Sunday morning when news was spreading of the capture of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, people were calling each other and greeting each other at church, saying something like, “WE GOT HIM!”

But in Nebraska, people thought that meant the Huskers had hired a new football coach.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes


Douglas County District Judge Greg Schatz is in a hotseat right now for setting a prison sentence some say was too light. The Omaha judge gave a defendant 10 to 15 years in prison when the max was 175 years.

The defendant had been convicted of the rape, robbery, assault and false imprisonment of a mentally-challenged woman. He faces another trial for an alleged jailhouse murder contract on her life and another long prison term if convicted. Because of publicity in the case, Schatz recused himself Monday from that second trial.

The thing is, Schatz is being criticized by Fox TV superstar Bill O’Reilly, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, and many others for being ''soft on crime.''

But none of them were at the trial to see how strong the case was, or wasn't. None were at the sentencing. There were no sentencing recommendations from the state.

Nobody but the judge read the pile of documents about the defendant's history; he is reportedly mentally-challenged, too. The critics don't know why there wasn't a plea bargain, how likely this defendant is to be rehabilitated, or how heavy a threat he posed to public safety in the future.

Neither the victim nor her family were at the sentencing, either, although they had been notified. There was no victim impact statement.

Now, look. We've invested in our judges to judge, and 99.9 percent of the time, we're silent when they do.

But all of a sudden, these ''critics'' are out there loudly saying Schatz was too soft.

He's not. He has a good court record. He's a good judge. A just one.

Years ago, when I was a cub reporter and Schatz was a wet-behind-the-ears prosecutor, he made one of the most brilliant legal maneuvers I have ever seen. It nailed a high-profile murderer who might otherwise have gotten off. So it's funny that now Schatz, with 25 years of Courthouse experience, is being criticized as soft on crime.

No, he isn't. I saw him use the truth, like a sword, to prove a crime and win justice.

That day, I saw the photos from the crime scene and nearly threw up. The victim's throat was slit as with a machete. There was blood everywhere.

The young man was accused of killing an older man. The situation was inflammatory. The young man's defense was that he was out of money, the older man picked him up off the street, and took him to his apartment to feed him. Suddenly, out of the clear blue sky, the young man said, the older one foisted himself on him, demanding homosexual sex. The young man ''lost it'' and killed him in self-defense.

The prosecution said the killing was deliberate during the course of a robbery.

The defendant brought in a high-powered, older lawyer from another state. He was very good. I sensed that the jury was siding with the defendant. Schatz was going to have egg on his face, bigtime.

Well, he gave his closing, and the slick out-of-town lawyer rebutted with skill and style. But Schatz was allowed to rebut the rebuttal.

That's when he did his swordfighting.

In a dramatic reenactment, he showed the jury that the young man had to have been sitting down when the victim's throat was slit so violently because of the angle of the cut. I remember Schatz wildly swinging that imaginary knife through the air, showing how it must have been. It was riveting.

That meant the defendant had to have had the big knife concealed. In turn, that meant he had the killing planned.

And, most damaging of all, the young man had to have been naked . . . because there was no blood on his clothes.

Nobody had realized this . . . except Greg Schatz. He'd saved it for rebuttal, just in case.

Everyone in that courtroom sat stunned. I swear you could hear the sound of a sword being triumphantly jammed back into a scabbard.

When the jury went out, a Courthouse old-timer and I exchanged glances. '''Textbook move,'' I said.

''They don’t teach that move in textbooks,'' he replied, respectfully.

The jury came back in five minutes. Guilty.

That's the kind of a person I want for a judge. Not a softie: someone who thinks. One who sees things the rest of us don't. One with the courage to act, no matter how it might look from the cheap seats.

One who takes our laws, and with transcendent wisdom, diligence and a bit of dashing derring-do . . . creates justice.

Monday, December 15, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents


Q. There are some graphic sex scenes in our sixth-grader’s assigned book for English class. When we complained to the teacher, we were labeled “censors.” That hurt!

Go back to that teacher, and gently point out the difference between “censorship” – which only government has the power to do – and “prudent book selection” – which school officials are supposed to do. There are thousands of good books for kids without graphic sex. Come on, now. Stand your ground. You are right and they are wrong.

Simply stating your concerns and belief that that book is outrageously inappropriate for minor children in the captive setting of a public school is by no means “censorship.” It’s just common sense, and the proper exercise of parental duty.

Ever since moral relativism invaded public education, younger educators have misunderstood the importance of judgment. Just because racial discrimination and sex discrimination are bad, they have concluded that any form of discrimination – judging – critical perception – must be bad. But of course, good judgment is good.

The confusion stems from a U.S. Supreme Court case involving the Island Trees district in Levittown, N.Y., in which it was established that school boards cannot order books removed from school library shelves even if the content is anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic or just plain filthy. Why not? Because that would constitute censorship: the school board would be in the position of deciding what is “orthodox” and what ideas are good for kids.

But that’s a misinterpretation. Again: good judgment is good.

Ironically, what’s really being censored in our public schools today are classic works of literature. These books are off most reading lists because students today lack the vocabularies, reading comprehension and analytical ability to handle classic books that previous generations enjoyed. That’s the story that should be told.

Homework: A great gift for teachers or school libraries: “Invitation to the Classics,” edited by Louise Cowan and Os Guinness.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams


(H)e hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
-- Isaiah 53:2b

We gave our daughter Eden her dream car for her 16th birthday, a red 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse. I know: we are deranged, she is spoiled, we should have spent that money on the starving masses. . . .

But we listened to her two older sisters. They pointed to the endless hand-me-downs ''Beamer'' has endured. Not fair.

Besides, they said, it'll get her where she wants to go, so we won't have to. Bingo!

She has already ''Beamerized'' it with a dashboard hula dancer and ''Bowling Bob'' from her discriminating friends, plus a dolphin dangling from the rear-view mirror, a flowered steering-wheel cover, and a CD container for 5,000 essential tunes. Then there's this felt doll named ''Elliott'' clinging to the ceiling. . . .

So much for sophistication.

But then everybody thought back to THEIR first car. Nobody ELSE had any sophistication, either.

Mine was “Whitby,” a nerdy gold '65 Chevrolet Impala. My husband's was a '64 Pontiac Star Chief, a barge on wheels.

My neighbor topped us all with ''Bruce the Magnificent,'' an enormous green Buick with a terminally peeling vinyl roof.

It had four doors in three colors. After a hit-and-run sideswipe, she had gone to the junkyard for a front quarter, and two doors, all from different model years, and all of which she installed herself.

Yes, ''Bruce'' was no “Car and Driver” cover boy. But he could hold 15 friends. Therefore, everyone loved him.

He only got four blocks to the gallon. But gas was 28 cents. It worked.

Since the radio didn't -- work, that is -- she duct-taped an AM radio to the dashboard. Voila!

The dome light didn’t work, either. So she had a big flashlight that would sit in the front seat. Whenever someone needed light, they'd turn it on, and everyone would yell ''DOME LIGHT!''

The wipers worked, but wouldn’t shut off. She had to crawl under the dash and pull the fuse out. She finally learned to leave the fuse half in, and reach down to turn the wipers off and on at will, steer, operate the pedals – everything except actually see the road.

But it ran. It was the only car that would start on cold, snowy mornings. She was Miss Teen Chauffeur.

When she graduated, her dad sold her ''Bruce'' for a dollar. She loaded everything she owned into it and drove to Chicago. The weight of the car caused the tailpipe to rest on top of the brake line. So she was zooming 70 mph on the eight-lane, and suddenly, no brakes. Beads of sweat!

Luckily, her buddies were driving behind her. Via sign language, she alerted them. They ran interference for her in the traffic. Using the emergency brake, she managed to pull off and come to some semblance of a stop.

Later, on another highway, she heard this flapping noise, only to look in her rear-view mirror and see what remained of the tattered vinyl roof flying through the air and landing, you guessed it, on the car behind.

They all survived, somehow. Bruce ruled the roads for two more years. He finally rested . . . in pieces . . . after she sold him for a $499 profit. The new owner put the engine into his own car.

She likes to think the Spirit of Bruce lives on.

What a car. What a ride.

The story reminds me of Someone whose birthday we're about to celebrate. Someone priceless, loveable and humble. Someone who might not have looked upscale, either, but whose transportation services are totally reliable, too.

Someone to carry you in unique style and personality, with plenty of room for all your friends, who comes through for you in all sorts of weather.

Someone beyond magnificent . . . to take you exactly where you want to go. Dashboard ornaments optional. All you have to do is hang on for the ride of your life.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

SATURDAY: FUNdamentals


Here’s a neat gift idea for a new grandmother: a “Grandma Remembers” box for each grandchild.

Purchase a lovely decorative box, large enough to hold at least 8 1/2” x 11” sheets of paper, with a lid. Even better is to purchase such a box in wood or sturdy cardboard at a craft shop and cover it with special fabric, or decoupage it. You can also decorate it with fabric paint. Mark on the lid, “Grandma Remembers Ashley,” or whatever the grandchild’s name is.

Give the box to the grandmother with this idea: as the baby grows up, Grandma can quietly collect little mementoes in that box. You know: the birth announcement, baby pictures, refrigerator drawings, homework papers, thank-you notes, postcards, vacation pictures . . . all the little mementoes of growing up that busy parents often fail to keep.

Then when “Baby” graduates from high school or college, or gets married, the “Grandma Remembers” box makes a lovely, meaningful and unique surprise, unmatched in thoughtfulness and charm.

Friday, December 12, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


Nothing will make you sick faster than watching people leave a public restroom at an airport or football game without washing their hands. Ewww! Were you raised in a barn? That’s a recipe for spreading the flu and other illnesses. Where was your mother in this most important of hygiene routines?

Here’s an easy way to make sure your children wash their hands after every bathroom visit, sneeze and possible exposure to unwanted germs, as well as before meals and at bedtime and first thing in the morning: make it musical!

From toddlerhood, teach your child to sing or hum “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” while washing hands. That ought to take about 15 seconds, which ought to be enough time. By the time they’re “tweenies” and too cool for that song, they’ll know the drill and be in the habit.

Set up a sturdy stepstool if necessary so that your child can comfortably use the sink. Make sure the water supply is adequate, not just a trickle. Use an anti-bacterial soap, not just a pretty one. A pump style soap dispenser is a good idea for kids.

Teach your child to scrub top and bottom of hands, get under fingernails with the fingernails of the other hand, to get between fingers, and around and inside rings. Rinse well and dry with a disposable paper towel.

When they finish their song and put their paper towel in the wastebasket, teach them to give themselves a little applause – with their brand-spankin’ newly-clean hands!

Thursday, December 11, 2003



For a small decoration that’s as sweet as its main component, make these little angels and set them around or put them on plates of cookies as a surprise garnish. You will need:

Hershey’s Kisses, silver-wrapped

Bow-tie pasta

Gold and other shimmery color spray paint

Mini-marshmallows, cut in half to produce two round-front pieces

Gold or silver glittery pipe cleaners, cut in short lengths

Hot-glue gun

Spray-paint both sides of the bow-tie pasta on newspaper in advance. A garage or unfinished basement floor is a good place to spray-paint.

Hot-glue a piece of pasta onto the back of a Hershey’s Kiss to resemble the wings on an angel’s body. Hot-glue a mini-marshmallow half for the head. Fashion a mini-halo out of a short length of gold or silver pipe cleaner and stick into the mini-marshmallow. Draw on a face with marker if you wish. You can glue on little bits of pasta or raffia for hair, but it’s not necessary. What IS necessary is that you remind kids NOT to eat the angels!

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


Logic goes out the window when it comes to maternity clothes. Consider the lowly pair of pantyhose: you’d think this would be a no-brainer. Just make the waistband stretchier. Right?

Wrong. Pantyhose manufacturers have decided to make it much more complicated. So pity the poor, unsuspecting pregnant consumer, who spent the last half of her pregnancy fruitlessly pulling up her pantyhose, which continually curled down her hump of a stomach into a tight band around her hips.

She’d pull them up – yank, yank, yank, yank.

They’d fall back down – bloop, bloop, bloop, bloop.

Finally, the problem was diagnosed. Maternity pantyhose manufacturers make not one, but two seams, in the front panel, to accommodate the growing midsection.

But she didn’t know that. She saw the two seams, and thought they went in back, where she had two of . . . something else.

So she wore them backwards the whole time.

That’s what they call . . . labor pains.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes


The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that Americans have the right to keep and bear arms. It was so important, it was prioritized as Number Two, right after freedoms of religion, speech, the press and assembly.

But then again, we have the specter of so many horrible gun crimes in our society. That has given rise to an active lobby to institute gun control in various forms. Gun control has become a huge issue worldwide, led by the United Nations.

Pro-gun people say gun control would destroy individual freedom, weaken the public's ability to defend themselves, and expose us to oppression, terror and crime.

Anti-gun people say that if you can keep one person from committing suicide with a gun, or save one child’s life in a school shooting episode, gun control is worth it.

Any time you have human being involved with such a volatile issue, you will encounter difficult conundrums. Here are a few:

-- According to the Liberty Committee, chaired by Texas Rep. Ron Paul, in the countries of the world that do have strict gun control measures in place, nearly 2 million people are killed each year by oppressive, genocidal governments – who can get away with it because the citizens they are killing are largely unarmed and cannot fight back.

-- Also according to the Liberty Committee, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco has been investigating the illegal possession of submachine guns by the bodyguards of none other than United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, head of the world’s leading proponent of gun control.

-- On the other hand, according to gun-control proponents, it is inexcusable for the American people to allow school shootings, drive-by shootings, sniper attacks and all the other gun violence to continue unabated. They say anyone who denies that background checks of gun purchasers saves lives is a hypocrite.

For more on gun rights:

For more on gun control:

Monday, December 08, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents


Q. The First Amendment guarantees our children religious freedom, even when they are in school. So why can’t my child pray at lunchtime . . . or certainly before a big test?

Your child certainly can. As long as the prayer activity doesn’t disrupt the educational process, it’s fine. Here are some prayer freedoms to teach your child, from the Family Research Council:

1. Meet for prayer before school, at lunch, or after school.

2. Form a prayer group. Children in these groups deserve the same access to school facilities as other noncurricular student groups.

3. Pray before sporting events, with a huddle for players open to all.

4. Participate in "See You at the Pole,”

5. Rally others to pray for specific events. When trouble afflicts a student body, community, or nation, students can call classmates to a special time of prayer. Example: death of a fellow student, birth of a teacher’s baby, or responding to a terrorist attack or local tragedy.

6. Distribute prayer materials with friends. Students can distribute written prayers, tracts, or religious books in the same way that schools allow them to hand out non-religious materials.

7. Participate in a released-time program, allowing students to attend off-campus religious instruction. They are legal in all 50 states.

8. Share a visual prayer on a shirt or display them on book covers. If students are allowed to wear clothing with printed messages, religious messages cannot be censored.

9. Huddle with a friend. Whether in front of a locker or in the corner of the lunchroom, students can always stop and pray with a friend during non-instruction time, as long as it doesn’t disrupt school procedures and routines.

10. Bow their heads. Students may bow their heads and their hearts at any time in school, whether before a math test or a meal.

Homework: For ongoing information on protecting the American way of life, see the Family Research Council,

Sunday, December 07, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams


Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
— Mark 10:14b

Mary had turned her life around. The birth of a child with Down syndrome sobered her up, fast.

She even started going to church. Her husband was angry and refused to go, which was hard. But she knew she needed it, and so did her three children.

Because of David’s disabilities, she felt it was important that she work in the church nursery with him. He required constant supervision. The other children became frightened when he would turn off the lights suddenly; it was just that the fluorescent lighting hurt his weak eye muscles, later corrected with surgery. Eventually, though, he settled in, and she was able to go to worship regularly.

By age 5, David had outgrown the nursery. “He’d go to hug other kids and he’d tip them over,” Mary recalled. A nursery volunteer had spanked him for pushing other kids down, even though he didn’t mean to.

She knew it was time for him to learn about faith. It kept her going and would serve him well, too.

She enrolled him in the preschool Sunday School class, warning the teacher about his behavior challenges, how he couldn’t sit still. She offered to help. The teacher said she preferred not to have parents in her classroom. “Don’t worry, he’ll be fine,” she promised.

The first time Mary arrived to pick up David after worship, the teacher smiled. Everything had been “fine.”

The following week, it was the same.

The next week, there was a little strain. The mother again offered to help in the classroom. The teacher again declined.

The following week, the teacher was visibly stressed.

“I’ve been thinking,” she said. “David should go back to the nursery. He just doesn’t belong in Sunday School.”

In others words . . . he was kicked out.

Mary was shocked. Faces and shapes and colors swirled all around her in the crowded hallway. She took his hand in a daze, got her other children, and went to the fellowship hall for their regular doughnuts and juice.

All the time, she cried silently to God. “What do You want me to do? All I want is for David to learn Your Word. Am I supposed to always be his teacher? Should we go to a different church? Help me, Lord!”

She fought back tears, as the churchgoers moved all around her, and her children finished their snack.

She became aware of another woman across the fellowship hall, looking at her, trying to make eye contact. She avoided her, preferring her silent misery, her private pity party.

The woman stood up and moved purposefully across the room to stand by her.

She said, “Excuse me, you don’t know me, but . . . I couldn’t help overhearing what that teacher said to you.”

Mary cringed. What? Another rebuke?

The woman continued, “I want you to know that I disagree with her. Your son does belong in Sunday School. If it would be all right with you, I would like to be his teacher.”

It turns out the woman is a special education teacher by profession, but had to quit teaching that year to work in her husband’s new business.

She missed teaching “special” kids a lot. It was the love of her life.

When she overheard David’s rejection, she saw an opportunity to meet his need . . . and her own.

She arranged to be David’s one-on-one mentor in the regular Sunday School class. That took the load off the regular teacher, and still allowed him to be with kids his own age.

She has been David’s one-on-one Sunday School mentor now for 10 years. He’s totally mainstreamed. No problems.

Today, David joyfully talks about Jesus, and about his teacher, who helped him find his faith and his place, safe and secure, valued and understood, in the lap of the Savior.

It took a woman with ears to hear and eyes to see, to take a little boy with Down syndrome . . . and lift him up to the place where he belongs.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

SATURDAY: FUNdamentals


It’s romantic, it’s different, and it’s tasty. Fondue is a great choice for a meal or snack when you want friends and family to be physically close, active and enjoying the cooking process every step of the way. It’s best with four to six people per pot.

A few essentials: a metal fondue pot is best for meats that will be fried in hot oil in the fondue pot. A ceramic fondue pot is best for cheese or chocolate. You might need to own or borrow both kinds of pots. A great solution allows you to nest a ceramic pot inside the metal one to function as a double boiler, so that cheese or chocolate inside won’t scorch. It’s a good idea to fill the pot with really hot water for a few minutes, then pour the water out and pour in the oil, cheese or chocolate as you serve.

You can get electric pots, but Sterno is a great way to go, too. It should keep oil bubbly-hot for an hour and cheese or chocolate hot for two hours. Look for Sterno fuel paste with adjustable flues in the hardware store, supermarket or a kitchenware store.

Make sure your forks have different colored handles or whatever so that guests can keep straight on whose is whose. Teach the “figure eight” swirl with the fork as you dip into cheese or chocolate, to discourage the fondue from separating.

Each diner will need a plate and regular fork as well as a fondue fork. Give everyone a folded paper towel to blot oil off meat, wipe up spills, etc. Depending on what else you serve – salad, vegetable casserole, rolls, and so forth – you may need other tableware as well. Remember, take your time: the fondue needs time to bubble back up to the proper temperature.

To be true to form, serve a hot beverage with a fondue meal, as the Swiss do. Examples: hot apple cider, mulled wine, hot tea or shots of kirsch.

One more thing: if you lose your bread or other “stickie” in the fondue, a man has to buy a bottle of wine for the next time, and a woman must kiss the man of her choice.

Fondue recipes should be available in a cookbook. Here are some serving ideas:

Meat fondue: In a metal pot, never ceramic, pour grapeseed oil, peanut oil, olive oil or vegetable oil that has been preheated on your stove to the point where it sizzles when a piece of meat is put into it, or 375 degrees if you have a deep-fat frying thermometer; keep it that temperature with a Sterno; allow six to eight ounces of room-temperature, boneless meat per person; beef tenderloin, boneless chicken, sausage, pork tenderloin and shrimp are all good choices; check a cookbook to offer sauces, perhaps sour cream and horseradish, béarnaise, a mustard sauce or a flavored mayonnaise.

Cheese fondue: lay lettuce leaves or lemon leaves in a bowl and arrange bite-sized vegetable florets, spears or sticks that you might want to blanche in advance in boiling water for two minutes; place a pretty napkin in a basket and offer large cubes of firm bread such as French baguettes, sourdough, English muffin wedges or focaccia; to make the cheese sauce, mix it on the stove and pour it into the fondue pot for serving.

Chocolate fondue: do not use a metal pot, but do use ceramic or perhaps a chafing dish; to avoid scorching, you can put a simple votive candle under the preheated chocolate in the pot; choose bittersweet, semisweet, milk chocolate or white chocolate and slowly, carefully melt in a double-boiler; you can add a little heavy cream and a tablespoon or two of Cognac or liqueur; cube angel-food cake, pound cake or cookies; if you want brownies, you can cut them the day before and wrap in plastic in the refrigerator and then take the plastic off and they should hold up in a fondue; set out strawberries, peach chunks, banana chunks, fresh pineapple, raspberries or other fruits.

Friday, December 05, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


One of the most important jobs of a mom is to build up the dad associated with their children . . . whether or not you are still married, and here’s hoping, for the kids’ sake and your own, that you are.

The top priority of anyone who has children is to be married when they come and stay married as long as they’re under your roof. Even when that unfortunately doesn’t happen, moms should still foster a good relationship between their children and the father. That’s an absolute must.

Here are four good websites to share with the man in your life that will keep you both pumped with ideas for how to “ace” this most important of life tasks, fatherhood:

Thursday, December 04, 2003



Here’s an oldie but goodie that’s a lot of fun for the very young and the very old. In fact, it’s something a lot of fun that they can do together!

You will need:

Clothespins – rounded tops are most life-like; big ones and small ones are great


A little light blue fabric

A little printed fabric of some other colors


Thin, rough barn twine or string

A bit of clean straw

Cotton balls

An old brown terry cloth washcloth or bit of brown fake fur

Brown and white construction paper

Gold rope, ribbon or elastic thread

Gold pipe cleaner

Gold glitter

Hot glue gun

Make Mary and Joseph out of clothespins with cheesecloth robes. Tie at waist with barn twine. Draw on faces with felt-tip marker. Give Mary a blue light-blue head covering, and Joseph some other head covering. Tie around head with twine or string.

Make Baby Jesus out of a small clothespin or cut one off with a saw; wrap with cheesecloth

You can make tiny halos out of the gold pipe cleaner for those three if you wish.

Manger: fold and cut brown construction paper to size. Put bits of straw in the manger. Add Baby Jesus.

Angel: wrap gold ribbon and cheesecloth around another clothespin. Hot-glue construction paper wings decorated with gold glitter or lined with gold rope. Add a gold pipe-cleaner halo. You can loop some gold thread around her and tie her over the rest of the manger scene if you wish.

Sheep: cut a clothespin in half or use a smaller one. Hot-glue cotton balls or pieces of cotton. Draw on a little sheep face. You can hot-glue half-toothpicks together and hot-glue on for legs if you wish. If so, color black with marker.

Cow: to the same-size clothespin, hot-glue brown terry cloth or fake fur, complete with ears and tail.

You can make wise men, shepherds, gifts, a star, and any number of other props to go with the story. Let your child decorate white shelf paper and cover a small shoe box to hold the set together during the Christmas season, and from year to year.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies

Sweet Sixteen and a Surprise on the Car Ceiling

She just turned 16 and her dad got her a little red car. It’s the car of her dreams, and boy, is she excited. It’s a few years old, but it’s still hot-lookin’.

The longest dad-daughter hug on record was followed shortly by long moments in the car, studying the dashboard and the owner’s manual, trying out all the buttons and gadgets and windshield wipers and how to get the gas tank open. She backed it in and out, in and out, to make sure she could do it smoothly.

She purchased a couple of CD holders so that she can have her tunes at hand, and a unique decoration to dangle from the rear-view mirror.

The thing is, at 16, to look cool.

But there’s one thing most people wouldn’t notice.

On the ceiling of this hot new car is a flat felt doll. His name is “Elliott.” He wears pink shorts. He sticks to the fabric ceiling of the car. He’s there for no real reason.

Or maybe he’s there for the most real reason there could be: she’s still only one part woman, another part girl.

And that, when you’re 16, is cool, too.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes


An old high-school football coach I know has this mantra:

''Head down, knees bent, drive through!''

That's what Nebraska football fans are going to have to do, now that the firing of Coach Frank Solich is a done deal. We just have to get through this, and move on. Yes, in some ways it was horrible. But in many ways, the controversy has been a good teaching tool both for the adults and the young people involved.

To Coach Solich, Nebraskans say ''Thank you!'' And we mean it. You are loved and admired. Remember that. We need to be modeling to our kids our respect for Solich's conduct and work ethic, every bit as exemplary as the great Nebraska coaches of the past.

I know, from visiting with a few relatives of Cornhusker football players, that the young men are disappointed and confused. They feel ''empty.'' But one of the assistant coaches was wise enough to use this to teach. He put an arm around a young player who was mourning Solich's fate, saying that it wouldn't be Nebraska football without him as coach. He was mourning the assistant's possible impending job loss as well. But the assistant coach told him, ''You can’t invest all your hope and belief in a man. You can only trust in God. This, too, shall pass. Everything's going to be OK.''

You know, it really is. I've only worked with one person who was fired. He had a lot of kids. Like Solich, his job performance was hard to evaluate, straight up. But like Solich, there were indicators that, to the neutral eye, made firing justifiable. But we all liked him. The day he was let go, we were shocked, and we complained, and we mourned.

I saw him a couple of years later. He said getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to him. It hurt a lot at the time. But it worked out for the best.

I hope Frank Solich tells us the same thing, some day.

As for Athletic Director Steve Pederson, I'd say it’s obvious he loves Nebraska and he's trying to do what’s best for us. It's just the WAY he fired Solich that is repulsive to many people. Would you want YOUR dad or YOUR son treated like that? I don't think so. I guess I'd hope Pederson can go to some remedial charm school and learn how to translate his well-known warmth and people smarts that served us so well when he recruited for us, into his conduct pertaining to the employees of our university’s ''front porch,'' its sports personnel.

I have to back up Pederson's statements about our recruiting weaknesses, bigtime. We don't woo anywhere near as well as our competitors. That goes for football players and for star scholars as well. Football players I've talked to felt kind of bad about getting a photocopied postcard from Nebraska, maybe with Coach Solich's signature, when other schools were sending them warm, charming, handwritten letters from coaches minutes before big games, and going after the hearts of their moms and dads with sincere and focused determination.

Meanwhile, we've had not one but two blue-chipper scholars in our family so far who were only lightly recruited by the University of Nebraska, again with second-class methods and materials compared to the competition. Both of them chose out-of-state schools that sent a sophisticated barrage of recruiting materials for a full year, as well as personal attention, interviews, visits and phone calls. They felt wanted! They felt pursued! Chances are, our two children will not come home to Nebraska to live because of this. Their hearts were wooed elsewhere by superior tactics. So you bet, recruiting matters. The personnel changes in the football staff might have been warranted for that one reason alone.

But here's my real concern: the parallels to Enron. Everybody knows that a proud and strong Nebraska company, Northern Natural Gas, later called InterNorth, got swept away by a slick-talking, Wall Street-savvy carpetbagger named Ken Lay. He renamed it Enron – always reminded me of ''entrails.''

It used to be a solid performer, a sound stock, a wonderful corporate citizen and a Nebraska success story. It even had a neat name.

Everybody knows what happened, though. They moved the company to Houston. They changed the corporate culture drastically. The stock looked fantastic for a while . . . but it was all a fraudulent house of cards. People's lives got ruined. It's still a shameful mess.

Comes down to greed for money, lust for fame, thirst for the quick fix, a lunge for power down the slippery slope into an ethical morass. We’re still paying the price for that, here in Nebraska, in everything from LB 775 to the erosion in the longtime civic and cultural good influence that InterNorth provided for so many years. A lot of people wish that, 20 years ago, stockholders never would have let outsiders get control of that proud old firm.

I see some parallels here with Nebraska football. Bo Pelini is a striking figure with the elements of greatness, for a coach: he's imposing, he's passionate, he's smart, he's got that pro pastiche, and he's bold.

But he's gone off on some people in his first year of coaching here. That ain't Nebraska. He used some pretty coarse language when he got in the face of K-State's coach for allegedly running up the score on us. How mature is that? Can you imagine Tom Osborne doing that? Devaney would have cussed, and probably more colorfully, but he would have done it privately . . . and devoted his energy into doing the same darn thing back to K-State the next year.

It comes down to character. You can't have excellence without it, not in any field of endeavor, but most particularly, when you're coaching other people's children in sports.

Bo Pelini appears to be the front-runner for the permanent head coaching job. Is Bo Pelini a potential Ken Lay? Could he be one who may make us look good on paper for a while, but ultimately destroy us with conduct unbecoming a Nebraskan? Could the pressure and the big bucks that are at stake induce an outsider to give in to the win-at-all-costs craziness that has so corrupted so much of athletics at all levels? Could we become a . . . Miami? Ewwww!

You bet that's what could happen, if we ''stockholders'' in Nebraska football don't keep watch. That's a key task for Steve Pederson – right after charm school -- being a ''maturity mentor'' for the wild young stud with talent, so that he winds up a winner in all departments, including heart, kind of like Seabiscuit.

That's our hope for whoever takes over. We hope he's another Devaney and another Osborne . . . and when it comes to solid Nebraska values and conduct and character, another Frank Solich.

God bless you coaches, one and all. Head down, knees bent, drive through.

Now . . . GO BIG RED!

Monday, December 01, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents

School-Based Day Care

Q. Is it a good idea, or a bad idea, for public schools to be getting into the child-care business? Seems like they’re putting too much on their plate again. And it seems to be improper governmental impingement on local private-sector child-care.

Not only that, but full-time, school-based day care is actually bad for children later on, and ominous for future discipline problems – disobedience, destruction of property and fighting – in public schools.

The number of hours children spend in day care is linked to the level of behavior problems they have later in life, according to a federal study published in the scientific journal, Child Development. The researchers found that, as the hours of day care increased, the reports of problem behavior generally increased right along with them. Researcher Sarah Friedman said the findings held true for all income groups of children in all out-of-home structured settings.

Another study, from the University of Minnesota, showed a significant increase in hormonal measurements of stress among preschoolers in day care (those measurements fell for those same children on days they spent at home).

A third, by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) -- the most comprehensive ever conducted -- found that the more time children spent in non-parental day care arrangements, the more likely they were to display aggression, disobedience, and conflict with adults.

Of course, the reason public schools are getting in to early childhood education is that it brings in revenue. But with increasing evidence that full-time, out-of-home day care is bad for children and hampers the school environment, public policymakers may want to reconsider the billions of federal dollars going to subsidized day care. A better idea is to cut government spending to lessen the tax burden so more parents can stay home for more of those crucial early years.

Homework: Give school board members the books, “Miseducation,” by David Elkind, and “Day Care Deception” by Brian Robertson.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams

Who's Teaching Whom?

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
-- Matthew 7:8

There I was, on my knees at the bedside of Madeleine Badeleine McGee McGoo McGuire, trying not to fall asleep while trying to get HER to fall asleep.

We jammied, we brushed, we flushed, we rocked, we read, we tucked. Now all that remained was to sing her one song, and with a kiss and a hug, I'd be outa there. But what song?

College drinking songs were just not cutting it any more as lullabies. How about a ''teachable moment''? I could sing something inspiring, like ''Jesus Loves Me''!

I shut my eyes and sang, trying to sound spiritual. I opened them again at the refrain . . .

. . . and saw that with every syllable I sang, Maddy was shifting a big bubble of air from cheek to cheek:

''Yes,'' (left cheek bulges)

''Je-'' (right cheek bulges)

''-sus'' (left cheek bulges)

''loves'' (right cheek bulges)

''meeeeee!'' (left cheek bulges and holds for three counts)

Everybody's a comedian.

I've come to believe that the true value of Christmas is that God came to earth to show us what He is like so that we can survive our children's utter unpredictability and interminable questions.

The other day in the car, Maddy informed me, ''There are NO giants!''

We'd been over this. No monsters, aliens or easy diets, either. I looked at her in the rear-view mirror and replied, ''So?''

''So how could God have been big and strong enough to make the whole world . . . if He isn't a giant?''


I tried to explain. ''Well, 'cause things don't have to be big, to be strong. Our tires aren't very big, but they hold up the whole car.''

She was unmoved.

''But I've never SEEN God. How do I know He's real?''

Music was playing loudly on our car radio. Eureka! I caught her eye again in the rear-view mirror and said brightly, ''Well, God is a lot like music. You can hear music, can't you? But you can't see it.''

She nodded. I turned the sound off. ''And now you can’t hear it, either.'' I turned it back on. ''But even if you can't hear it or see it, the music is still playing. It's still real . . . just like God.''

I checked her reaction in the mirror, and congratulated myself.

First rule of parenting: NEVER think you're winning.

She came back with a barrage:

''Is God furry?''

''Does He have a wife?''

''How did He make me?''

''Does He get sleepy?''

I was stunned . . . chastened . . . a broken woman. I reverted to the old standby of parents throughout the ages: ''I don’t know,'' ''I don’t know,'' ''I don’t know,'' ''Ask your dad.''

She'll get all her questions answered, one of these days. Maybe she'll share them with me . . . when she comes to visit me at the funny farm.

There's nothing like having a human being less than half your height show you how much you don't know.

That's how it is with children, though. You can never tell who's teaching whom. And now's the time of year to remember that.

An older friend of mine once raged about how kids don't belong in worship services because they're so disruptive, and how terrible it is when parents don't control their children and ruin things for everyone else.

Then recently she sat next to a girl of about 5. And guess what? She was a perfect angel . . . until the very end of the sermon, when she suddenly leaned over and whispered to my friend, ''Would you please open your hand and close your eyes?''

The woman, with some trepidation, did.

She felt something placed firmly in her palm. When she opened her eyes, she saw a gold star.

Hmm. Long time since she'd gotten a gold star.

She thought it was God's way of telling her she'd been ''a good girl.'' She went bananas — silently, of course — to the child's delight.

Think what a blessing she would have missed if she'd been an old Scroogette instead, and shh'ed the little one away.

Yeah. Be ready. Don't miss the blessing. Like that first Christmas, it's totally unexpected, very precious, and often hard to explain.

There's a lot to be learned from the happy, holy spirit of a little child. You may not find out if God's furry . . . but He'll give you a gold star just for paying attention.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

SATURDAY: FUNdamentals


For something a little different, plan a Birthday Brunch for your favorite birthday person. If you’re adventurous, send out invitations instructing guests to come in their pajamas and robes, or sloppiest loungewear. Offer a prize for the best bed hair.

You might choose a matching theme for birthday gifts such as calling this a “comfort shower,” and guests are to bring something the birthday person will use to feel comfy.

Have it on a Saturday morning. Tape up balloons and streamers and at least one banner or sign to make things look festive. Party hats are pretty much a must for a morning party, to get everyone’s eyes open.

Serve a scrumptious brunch with orange juice served in fancy glasses for the kids, or mimosas (champagne and orange juice) for the adults.

Instead of a cake, serve the birthday person a tall stack of buttermilk pancakes, with a candle stuck right in the middle. Watch out, though: the hot pancakes are likely to melt some wax off the candle that will have to be picked away.

Alternative: the day before, scoop ice cream in your favorite flavors and roll or press separately into mini chocolate chips, finely-chopped nuts, or coconut. Freeze. At serving time, mound the scoops into a glass or silver dish or flat bowl and stick a number of birthday candles all around the mound of scoops. It makes a beautiful glow . . . to match the honoree’s happy face at all this special attention.

Friday, November 28, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


The holidays can be trying for mac-and-cheese kids. When you go to somebody else’s house for dinner, even if the buffet is crammed with food choices, there may not be a lot there that kids recognize, much less get excited about.

There can be some embarrassing moments, like a young child shouting: “Mooooom! There’s nothing here to EAT!”

Families that rely too much on the same old fast foods and kid-pleasing dishes may want to rethink the kinds of habits that creates. You don’t want vegetables to be foreign to your child. You don’t want your child to be rude. And you don’t want your child to grow up without a well-rounded knowledge of the wonders of foods.

You can avoid pickiness and narrow food tastes by gradually introducing your child to the wide world of flavors. All it takes is a little planning and record-keeping.

Write numbers from “1” to “52” on the front of an index card. Tape it to the inside of a kitchen cupboard you use a lot.

Now, once a week, plan to include some kind of food item that your child hasn’t had before. Look through a cookbook or a restaurant menu for ideas. Include spices, fresh produce, plants you can grow in your yard, and items from the health-food store, which you can take your child with you to shop for and make into a good learning experience.

Record these “food introductions” on the index card. Then serve that dish some time that week.

The family rule should be that the child has to take at least one bite of everything on his or her plate. (For future attorneys that may be lurking on your family tree, better make sure to add “and swallow” to that rule.) If you introduce only one new dish a week, it will be a pleasant adventure . . . for you AND your child.

So here’s how your list might look for a few weeks:

1. Tomato aspic
2. Steamed baby artichoke with lemon butter
3. Zucchini bread
4. Couscous
5. Tapioca
6. Fried okra
7. Cheese grits
8. Starfruit
9. Sweet potato casserole
10. Homemade mushroom soup

Bon appetit!

Thursday, November 27, 2003



Smart wives know a secret: if you want things to go well for you, things have to be going well for your husband. At least, that’s the simplest way to have a happy marriage and a peaceful, contented home life. For many, if not most husbands, the top of that list is what has been going on in the old boudoir.

You already have a network of close female friends, most of them married. So you’re all in the same boat. How can we be deliberate about making our husbands happy? How can we encourage each other to keep it up in this most private, but important, of departments?

Well, you know how kids’ clubs have a secret “knock” and sororities have a secret handshake? Why don’t you and your women friends have a secret “husband blessing” that you can pass along?

Come up with a code name. Perhaps the word “lucky” is best. You’ll also need a coded reply to make it clear the message got across. Try “whoopie.”

Now, seduce your husband some night. That’s right – initiate romance. Set out candles or massage oil. Rent a romantic movie. Park the kids at their friends’ overnight. Whatever seems loving and fun . . . go for it. Everybody knows that nothing blesses a husband more than this.

Next day, call one of the friends in your group, and use the word “lucky” in your conversation with exaggerated emphasis. Maybe you just say, “I was so LUCKY to find shoes on sale.” The friend should reply with something like, “Oh, WHOOPIE for you!”

That’s the friend’s signal to seduce HER husband . . . and then pass the blessing on with the code word to someone else in your group.

Keep the “blessing chain” going for as long as you can. Never tell a soul . . . especially not those slightly puzzled but very happy husbands, who feel blessed and appreciated . . . and very, very lucky to have such loving wives. Whoopie!

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


The resident 3-year-old produced this list of blessings for which she is thankful, and she recited them in this order:

1. My Care Bear

2. My Hello Kitty soap thing

3. Mom and Dad and my sisters

4. Sparkles

The last item is what she saw in the first snow of the season, when the sun shone just right.

That list just about sums up what we really need in this life: love, cleanliness, family . . . and sparkles.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes

Public Health:
Is Medical Discrimination a Reality?

There’s a growing movement trying to stop the continuing trend toward “health disparities,” or more illness and death recorded in certain minority groups compared to the U.S. population as a whole.

Racial and ethnic minorities such as African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Native Americans have been shown to have a more difficult time accessing health care and experience worse health outcomes than majority populations. Meanwhile, rural residents are on record as receiving less preventive care and medical treatment than urban residents.

Key areas in the debate include diabetes, cancer, infant mortality, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS and depression.

Some of this apparent “disparity” may be patient-driven – smoking, drinking, poor nutrition, harmful environmental exposures and so forth may be more prevalent in the minority populations that show ill health. But some of it may be because of various forms of discrimination within the health-care delivery system, or structures and features within the system that need to be changed. One idea: finding ways to make minority patients trust their doctors more and seek medical treatment instead of avoid it.

For more about the problem and what is being done to address it:

Health Disparities Collaborative:

National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institute of Health:

American Medical Association’s Health Disparities initiatives:

Monday, November 24, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents

The Revolving Door

Q. It drives me crazy when a big shot in a state’s teachers’ union takes early retirement, runs for the state board of education, and wins, because of the heavy funding from the union, the state’s No. 1 lobby. Don’t we elect state board members to control it? Is there more of this than in other fields?

Probably. Job-hopping in education is more than simple career progression. It has a lot to do with how money and power are employed in the nation’s schools, and how ideas and methods spread from place to place. There are so many groups that influence education policy and spending – commissions, consulting firms, universities, professional organizations, political groups -- that the job-hopping and power-flow picture gets convoluted very quickly.

Our current U.S. Education Secretary, Rod Paige, for example, used to be superintendent of schools in Houston, which is under fire for apparently fudging dropout statistics while he was there. The director of the Pittsburgh school district's math department, Dr. Diane Briars, is a former director of the highly influential National Council of Teachers of Mathematics – whose math standards became the laughingstock of the nation in California and resulted in a huge “math war” to get rid of them. She also is on the advisory board of Core-Plus, an “integrated” math curriculum for the high school level, which has been under fire for quality issues by the anti-fuzzy math crowd.

It’s everywhere in education. Pundits say superintendents do their jobs to impress their fellow superintendents around the country, not local parents, teachers and taxpayers, because it is their fellow superintendents who have the contacts to get them their next job.

The smart student of power in schools will keep track of moves through the revolving door made by the local education power elite.

Homework: The education world’s many connections and conflicts of interest at or near the top of the power elite are detailed in the research manual, “America 2000 / Goals 2000” by James R. Patrick, Citizens for Academic Excellence, P.O. Box 11164, Moline, Ill.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams

Closer Than a Brother

(T)here is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
— Proverbs 18:24

They were two little buzzheads, growing up together in central Omaha. They did everything together: walked to school, played Army, went to camp, went hunting . . . and loved each other, though they never said so. They covered each other’s backs.

Dave and Steve. Gas and brakes. Ham and eggs. Best friends.

It must have been hard, in junior high, when Steve moved away. But that made way for me. Dave and I dated for seven years and have been married for nearly 26. In all that time, Steve has always treated me like a sister.

In a wife’s heart, that’s big. So I consider Steve my best friend, too. He’s 6’4” with curly brown hair, military bearing from Air Force ROTC, a great baritone, a booming laugh . . . and an indomitable, manly spirit.

His life has been ablaze with glory and adventure, humor and bravado. He was almost killed by the talons of an enormous eagle in Canada, but dove to the ground just in time. He almost died of the bends while deep-sea diving in Hawaii. He won that trip by taking first place in the Kansas City Barbecue Cookoff one year with a super-secret recipe that I think had something to do with cigar ashes.

He’s the only person I know who has ever caught someone else tape-recording his conversations, for real. His brains and skill as an attorney have helped a lot of clients out of a lot of jams.

He even has a spectacularly unusual hobby. Steve is the Bird Man of Kansas City. On his acreage there are stately swans, peacocks, and most of all, messenger pigeons.

The things I’ve learned from this man. Did you know, for example, that there are messenger pigeon “studs”?

It’s never a dull moment with this guy. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise last week when his family called to say that he was going in to emergency heart surgery with an aortic aneurysm the size of a grapefruit. They asked us to pray, because he was literally a heartbeat from certain death.

Oh, Steve! Please, God!

Word spread literally around the world, thanks to the Internet. We had a sleepless night, receiving phone updates. Surgery went on for eight hours. They put him on a heart-lung machine and replaced the blood vessel. There was seepage of blood into his chest cavity. He coded three times. His body temperature had to be reduced to 15 degrees Centigrade. He could be brain-damaged. If he didn’t wake up by the following evening. . . .

But he did wake up. He squeezed the hand of his son, our godson. He told his sister he loved her. He asked his dad if they were going to keep “cutting on” him. He told his mother, brave through the vigil, that she needed a breath mint . . . and then smiled his goofiest smile.

Steve was back.

Everyone was amazed: the damage had been termed “catastrophic.” Actor John Ritter had recently died of this. Our local daily newspaper had earlier that week carried a front-page story about a teenager who died of it, too.

But we were prepared for a miracle, whether we knew it or not: my husband had just talked to a business associate who had miraculously lived, thanks to the same surgery Steve had.

Prognosis: excellent. He’ll have a three- to six-month recovery.

So it was with joy, not sorrow, that Dave made the trip to Kansas City. By one of God’s “uncoincidences,” their college roommate for four years at Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was in town for a meeting, and joined the reunion.

Dave planned to tease Steve that the football fortunes of the Cornhuskers must’ve almost broken his heart.

He came around the corner in the ICU, and caught Steve’s eye through the window. Despite the tubes and monitors, Steve raised his right hand . . . in salute.

There is a friend closer than a brother. All those who were a part of this miracle saw him, in the hands and minds of the medical team, in the tears and pounding hearts of Steve’s loved ones, and in the prayers of those who joined the fight and share the amazing victory.

You know who our real best friend is. All we can say is: Thank you, Jesus!

Saturday, November 22, 2003

SATURDAY: FUNdamentals


Here’s an easy party idea, or just something fun to do with your friends. If your life was a movie, who would “play” you, and who would “play” the people in your life?

This was invented by a highly imaginative friend of mine ( who spent a long, long, LONG weekend at a “dry,” danceless wedding in another state. Without much conventional partying available, she went to that place in her head where it’s party time all the time: her imagination.

She wrote, “With pen in hand, I enjoyed the rest of the weekend with delightful casting observations, which ran the gamut from Robert Redford to Boris Karloff, and from Goldie Hawn to Joan Crawford. We recreated the scenes and laughed until tears ran down our faces. Kathleen Turner, popular siren of that time, would play my character, of course.”

She writes that the “casting” game has stood her in good stead. “Over the years, when someone really irritated me, I could take a step back and think, ‘Hmm. Who would play him the movie?’ Choices among Jimmy Stewart, Jiminy Cricket, Jim Belushi, Jim Carey and Jim Nabors always made me laugh and lifted the seriousness of my irritation to a new reality.”

But she warns that you have to think before you “cast.” Once, a petite friend suggested that the voluptuous Catherine Zeta-Jones should portray her. Ms. Wurtz immediately snickered.

“What’s so funny about that?” her friend demanded.

“Uh, Zeta-Jones is so . . . TALL,” Ms. Wurtz stammered.

Friday, November 21, 2003

FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom


A cornucopia is a familiar symbol for Thanksgiving, but did you know that it refers to a “horn of plenty,” proclaiming abundant blessings?

You can get a cornucopia made out of many materials, including basketweave, and use it as a centerpiece in the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

Place a little sign next to it that says: “Count your blessings,” with a supply of scratch paper and pens and pencils. Encourage everyone in your family to write down things they are thankful for on a piece of paper, and put it into the “horn of plenty.”

Whether it’s the family dog, or a friend’s successful surgery, or the color orange, or Dove ice cream bars . . . whatever comes to mind, write it down and put it in the cornucopia.

Then on Thanksgiving Day, take the blessings out of the cornucopia and read them aloud as you feast. Talk with each one with your children, to make sure they realize all the blessings that surround their life . . . and exactly Who they’re from.

Thursday, November 20, 2003



Workaday, routine, humdrum daily life can be borrrrrrrring. That’s why it’s fun to “plant” a little humor all around your house and garden. These unexpected special touches will cheer your soul and make visitors to your home smile and feel at home.

Say you have a favorite figurine of a bunny. Find a little ceramic of a carrot, in proportion to its size, to display alongside it.

Say you have a child away at college. Display his or her picture right next to the tissue box.

If you have some decorative birdhouses displayed on your patio or porch, find a miniature one to put with them and paint a little sign: “Mosquito House.” Or place that on top of a tall stake and stick it into the soil of a large potted plant in your house.

Some families set a humorous tone with their welcome mats, which say things like, “Who Asked You?” and “Go Away.”

Then there’s the whole world of humorous plaques, pictures, aprons, door signs, and all the rest, to keep the tone light and the mood high-spirited throughout your home.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies


We were on our way to a football game with my husband’s uncle. A raconteur, he was full of funny stories about people he had known in the area 40, 50 and 60 years ago. We had teased him mercilessly about the nicknames he still used for people now in their senior years:




And so on and so forth.

Must be something about the World War II generation . . . old-fashioned radio shows . . . comic strips . . . just something that older men do . . . we teased him a lot about being kind of out of it, in an endearing way.

And then we walked toward the stadium. And who did we see, coming toward us, but an old friend of ours, from our collegehood days several decades after our uncle’s?


We hugged him, and introduced him to our uncle.

“’Star,’ huh?” he said, with a twinkle in his eye. “I thought your generation was too cool for nicknames.”

BUSTED! But you know what they say: the more things change. . . .

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes

‘Made That Way,’ Or Not?

Next time someone defends homosexuality as being biologically caused, genetic, or simply that the homosexual person was “born that way” and has no hope for change, turn to science for the truth.

Scientific studies have failed to turn up the fabled “gay gene.” Homosexual orientations are generally understood to have been “culturally transmitted” to those with certain biological “heritable traits” who are influenced by certain situations in childhood. Those traits and experiences predispose that person to make some of the voluntary choices that lead to self-identification as a practicing homosexual.

Key items to refute the “born that way” claim include the fact that among identical twins, it is rare that both are homosexual. If the condition were involuntary and genetic, it would be rare that both twins were NOT.

If homosexuality were primarily a genetic trait, then it should be diminishing in prevalence, since the “genes” for homosexuality weren’t being passed on by reproduction, but instead, by all accounts, it is on the increase.

Also, there are thousands of people who once self-identified as homosexually-active, but with therapy, along with lifestyle and behavioral changes, they now are either heterosexual or celibate. (See In contrast, one cannot “change” one’s race or eye color or other genetic trait. Once again, it’s clear that homosexual behavior is an acquired behavior, not something irrevocably forced on someone by fate or biology.

Another difference: you can “abstain” from sexual behavior, but you cannot “abstain” from having brown eyes or being 6’4”, for example.

Unfortunately, there have been a number of bogus or at best, inconclusive studies that purport to point to a genetic cause for homosexuality. But they have been completely discredited. One famous one by Dean H. Hamer contended that his study of the autopsied brains of 76 self-described homosexuals showed overwhelming biological causation for homosexuality. But it was repudiated by other scientists for significant research flaws and contradictions, not the least of which was the fact that Hamer himself is a homosexual who has been a speaker for pro-gay groups. Significantly, scientists calculated that a researcher would have to study no less than 8,000 people to link such a complex behavior as homosexuality to a particular gene, and Hamer's study was of 76 men, and even at that, there were many discrepancies in his sample group. However, before the repudiation could become widely known, Hamer’s “conclusion” was relied upon by judges in Colorado’s “Amendment 2” decision, which basically repeated the erroneous belief that homosexuality is primarily a genetic, involuntary condition.

That’s why it’s important to educate the public, especially legislators and judges, about the scientific truth.

Studies have pointed to various “heritable traits” that tend to run in families and are associated with the development of same-sex attractions. These include anxiety, sensitivity, inwardness, and an intense symbolizing capacity. If such a person is subjected to sexual molestation or other environmental triggers of homosexuality, then the person can indeed be “pushed” into the behaviors. But it isn’t irreversible and it isn’t permanent.

Homosexuality is therefore much closer to alcoholism as a condition that does seem to run in families and is influenced to a degree by biology, but also by cultural and familial situations . . . and, like alcoholism, can be resisted and overcome . . . one day at a time.

For more information:

Article, “The Gay Gene: Going, Going . . . Gone” on the Family Research Council’s website, by a former lesbian, Yvette Schneider

Book, “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth,” Jeff Satinhover, M.D.

Website, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality:

For the opposing point of view, see the website of the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network,