Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I grew up in Michigan. Visited Canada numerous times. Listened to CBC regularly. So I feel a bit of kinship with our northerly neighbors. And, like many other liberals during these Bushy years, I've let the thought drift through my head "Wouldn't it be great to move outta this Bushwhacked nation and try Canada for a while?"

Well, that thought is again clouding my head. Our neighbors are, once again, putting us to shame in the human rights department. The Canadian Parliament has backed same-sex marriages. It's expected that the Senate will do the same, allowing Canada to become one of the few countries in the world that allows gay civil marriages.

The Parliament did this despite significant opposition from conservative religious groups, including Catholics, who made every attempt to twist the purpose of the bill to suggest that religious marriages would be required. The bill, of course, only covers civil marriages and the rights and benefits pertaining unto such unions. Churches and temples can continue to perform or refuse to perform religious rites, as should be their prerogative.

What is so scary about gay people being afforded the right to marry? The American furor over this completely eludes me. Outrage over pedophiles? Count me in. Horror over children starving or being abused? I'm right with you. Righteous anger over racial or ethnic biases? Let's do it.

But legally sanctioning something that people are already doing so that they can have the same civil rights that straight people have? Anger over this seems so short sighted. Even if you do believe that being gay is wrong and immoral, isn't it more immoral to abuse or starve children? Isn't it more wrong to mistreat people because of the color of their skin? Why not spend your collective rage stopping things that really matter?

What people do in their bedroom really doesn't matter. It doesn't change the moral fibre of our nation. The government abusing prisoners held in OUR names, now that changes the moral fibre of our nation. Giving gay people who are already living like married people the same rights that straight married people have would seem to actually strengthen the moral fibre of our nation.

(And what IS moral fibre, anyway? Does it make people less cranky because they aren't as constipated, like food fiber? Or does it merely straighten the backbone and make one cranky as they look down on inferior others?)

All that conservative claptrap about the promiscuous gay lifestyle? Isn't that appeased by this act? Republicans, don't you want those gay folks to stick to one partner, thereby limiting their exposure to the clearly God-given punishment for being gay, getting AIDS?


(And, by the way, why don't conservatives rant and rave about the straight promiscuous lifestyle promoted by Sex in the City, et al? Why is it so much worse to be gay and promiscuous--if, indeed, gay single people ARE more promiscuous--than straight and promiscuous?)

Anyway, want to congratulate Canadians for their obviously forward-thinking government. Anyone want to come over here and help us run ours--out of office, preferably?

Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bush blab

Oh please. I know I shouldn't be whining on this topic at this late stage. But couldn't the past 8 years of Dubya be only a bad dream, from which I can wake and find a country in debt only to those nations who owe us respect as a bastion of human rights?

Your President continued on track this evening, continuing to link 9/11 and the Iraq war by some magical string of logic only he and his oil cronies can hear. "There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home." Um, George? In life, it is very rare that there is only one course of action. Of course, thanks to the Downing Memo, we know that you didn't consider any other course of action. Rather you made the facts fit the action that you wanted to take.

It is ludicrous that Bush continues to describe the forces in Iraq as "coalition" forces. How uninformed does he think the American people are? OK. Don't answer that.

And we can't set a time table for withdrawal because "it would send the wrong message to the enemy, who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out"? What. So we never withdraw? Or we just never tell the Iraqi people that we're going to withdraw and sneak out in the middle of the night so the enemy won't know? And doesn't this statement also indicate a total dearth of knowledge of the culture we're dealing with. Martyrs don't wait anyone out. They keep on attacking until they're dead. Then they inspire others to die. And so on, and so on.

So Bush answers the question of whether the human sacrifice entailed in this struggle is worth it with a clear and resounding "yes". Guess it's easy for him to say, given whose children are dying and whose are not.

Until tomorrow,

Friday, June 24, 2005


Truly, it is blistering hot here. I feel so somnolent, indolent. Sleepy, even. :-) When I open our back door, the heat smacks me in the face like a hot wet towel. It's blowy today, and I'd swear I smell bread baking in the breeze. But it's not bread in the oven, it's me.

The sprinkler is slowly spinning around and around, lazily tossing water on my grass and plants. The yard is so shaded that nothing ever gets enough rain water, so I must sprinkle regularly to have anything grow. The water droplets are dancing in the wavering sun, swirling in circles, little juicy pieces. Definitely the most energetic movement out my window.

My newly cleaned windows give me a clear view of my neighbor, Al. He's a great neighbor, newly retired and ready to chat at any time. Al loves this weather. Always has. So he's off this mid-afternoon to golf in this heat. Oh my. I can't imagine lifting my head right now, let alone a golf club.

I roller skied earlier this morning, after a lecture from Tehra on the evils of overheating. At 88 degrees, I did my best to take it easy, roll slow, enjoy the scenery. But it's pretty impossible to slow my pace--I'm a bit mechanical that way, always ski at the same speed. Two tall glasses of water, a cold shower, and a lunch later, I'm still a bit woozy. Good thing I have the next two days off (exercise 5 days a week, take two days off).

I'm off to read a book. I'm reading "Painted Veil" by Beverle Graves Myers. Great series about a Venetian castrato who dabbles in investigation. Maybe tomorrow I'll do a book review of the past month or two!

Until tomorrow,

Thursday, June 23, 2005

General Update

1. The Doormats
Ahh. The doormat man apologized. Though he indicated that this is apparently approved behavior in the business world. Frankly, if it is, it shouldn't be. Hello? Isn't the point of business to get things done and make money? How is calling people names an effective way to move toward that point? Or any other.

But I digress, as usual. I know that doormat man and I are on the same page, as we both want to clarify roles and get things done. And that's a good place to be. Neither one of us are doormats, apparently.

For all that I regularly participate in conflict, I do not enjoy it. Felt a palpable sense of relief on seeing his addy in my inbox.

2. Summertime
And the living is ea-sy. No fish. No cotton. But the gas prices are high. ;-) We are just riding the slow river of no school right now. Bouncing along each day, letting it take us where it may.God, we are so lucky.

Annie's in the midst of playoffs, so that is dominating our evenings. I can think of worse ways to spend my twilight hours, watching these girls smack the ball around and cheer each other on. During the day, she's at the pool or the library or a movie or IMing friends or busy being bored.

Jonathan's writing and reading. Which would be his idea of a perfect day unless, of course, he could have unlimited screen time.

And me? I'm working hard at working out, as I've committed to losing 20 lbs by the end of the year. I'm not a dieter. I don't believe dieting is healthy. But I'm paying attention to eating when I'm hungry only, and keeping healthy food in the house.

I'm into a new series of books: The Crown Journeys series. Just finished the Alex Kotlowitz book about Chicago. It's mostly a Chicago I don't know. I'm grateful to Kotlowitz for introducing me to it. And he's an Oak Parker, so you gotta love him. :-)

My deck petunias are gorgeous, a deep fuchsia that lights up my green, green yard. I love my yard, my shady tree-filled oasis. It is not as beautiful as so many are here in Oak Park. It is not well-planned or well-crafted. It is not "finished". But it's cool and quiet, even when the heat hits 90 and the neighborhood kids are shrieking. My cottonwood and maples drape the area with leafy whispers that cover a multitude of sins, sounds, and sweats.

God, we are so lucky.

Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Talking about the truth

Why are people so afraid of talking about uncomfortable things? I don't understand it. Something will happen in an organization to which I belong. And we're all supposed to forget about it having happened. We're certainly not supposed to talk about it. And we're definitely not supposed to talk to the person with whom we have the beef. Where's the beef, I ask? And why can't we talk about it?

OK. I should be specific, so you know the context within which I speak. I was at a board meeting the other night. We were discussing a subject that, while it did not appear on the surface to be a hot topic, definitely is so. During the course of the conversation, one of my fellow board members called us "doormats".

If you know me, you won't be surprised at my reaction to this. "DOORMAT? You're calling ME a DOORMAT?" Because, of course, everything IS about me. ;-) Clearly, this gentleman was directing his comments directly at me.


Interestingly enough, though, he did not back off one iota. Nor did he point out that he wasn't talking to me. Which I take to mean that he was talking to me, as well as the others in the room. He continued talking and calling us doormats. I was a bit perturbed. Imagine that, knowing me.

So, anyway, I wrote an email about it to the board yesterday. Again, imagine that, me wanting to clarify and actually talk about what happened. I said that I thought Mr. X should apologized. Why? Because, last time I checked, name calling was not on the approved list of business behaviors. Even relatively benign name calling.

Of course, I did make one eentsy, weentsy crack about not necessarily being up to date on business behaviors since, after all, I am just a house wife. But beyond that crack, I really was very sincere and business-like, discussing the issues inherent in the angst-ridden discussion.

No responses. None. Nada. Zip. Definitely no apology from Mr. X. And no other on point responses from the rest of the board. What's up with that? Are they all DOORMATS or something?

I'm really surprised that I haven't heard back from Mr. X. He's a good guy, a hard worker, and bright and usually polite person. I would have expected him to be somewhat contrite, though not to apologize for his position (nor would I expect or want him to).

I don't know. I don't understand why hiding from things is more comfortable than discussing them. It so does not work for me. I would prefer to know what others think, rather than to ponder in the wee hours of the morning what they might be thinking. I know that I'm in the vast minority, that most people avoid conflict, avoid discomfort. And I'm truly not advocating confrontation for every situation. I get that confrontation and discussion is not always the best immediate route. But here's what I said to someone about a similar situation:

"As you've probably guessed by now, I'm all for opening cans of worms. If you don't, they rot and smell bad. The smell rarely is contained by the can and it tends to linger. I'm also all for being circumspect about when and how you open that can, if there are good reasons for waiting or managing the situation in a different way. It's not a pleasant job."

I'm getting really tired of this position I hold on this particular board. Really tired.

Until tomorrow,

Monday, June 20, 2005

Easy Target

Well, well. Betsy Hart, one of my favorite conservative columnists, is getting a divorce. I suppose it is not nice of me to rejoice in another's pain. And surely her situation must be painful. And I don't wish that pain on her. There is, though, an element of payback when someone like Betsy has made a living out of harshly judging others' decisions and now faces others' judgment that I admit to savoring.

Betsy has written numerous columns on the sanctity of marriage. Here's a quote from one of them:

"Marriage is about the fabric of civilization, and the responsibility we have to each other and to each other's children to keep that fabric from unraveling. That means that no matter how the media and the Post's divorced poster mom might wish to portray it otherwise, there is no 'good divorce.'"

"Happiness is so often a matter of choice, of getting the focus off of ourselves, and it doesn't always have to be a hard choice at that. Maggie Gallagher writes in her book "The Case for Marriage" that in a broad survey of self-described very unhappy marriages, five years later fully 86 percent of couples who stuck it out described their marriages as "happier" with most saying they were now "very happy." Many of these couples received no counseling."

Let's look at Betsy's situation. Reading between the lines just a bit, it appears that her husband cheated on her. Either he refused to stop or she was too hurt by his adultery to stay married to him. So she "(o)ut of personal integrity and a desire to stand for what I know marriage should be, I eventually took the steps necessary to legally dissolve the union my husband had already discarded."

But she knows "the children and I will be OK. That's because I remember Joseph in the Bible, who could say to his brothers even after they sold him into captivity, "you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good." I fully believe that God is sovereign in this, and is even (somehow) using these terrible events for his own honor and the ultimate wellbeing of my children and me."

Ack, ack, ack. Can I just say ack, on so many levels? First, how can she take the stand that she and the children will be ok after so much anti-divorce rhetoric? Divorce is selfish, remember? Perhaps she should've just tried longer and harder to choose to be happy.

And ack to the notion of God being sovereign over sin. I cannot and will not believe that God uses evil and sin and bad stuff. Even using them for good is an idea that is anathema to me. This is a part of the Bible that I choose not to believe. We may choose to use icky stuff (that would be the religious technical term otherwise known as sin and evil and bad stuff) in our lives for good. But don't try to tell me that God is sovereign over sin. That God countenances sin. I prefer a God who has no influence over sin--or good. My God, last time I checked, gave me free will over such things.

But I digress. Let me wander back to Betsy-bashing. Her next step after divorcing her ratty husband has been to move away from him, from Virginia to small town suburban Illinois. Huh? Thought the family was sacred? Now, not only does she make her children CHILDREN OF DIVORCE but she rips them away from their father, too?

Apparently, she has moved back to her hometown, where her children are now "surrounded and supported by many friends and my large family. We have started a new life in a little town with people with big hearts." You know, that's wonderful and very sweet. But, as Betsy's noted in the past, a village can't take the place of a father. Her children need their father, adulterer or not. What is she thinking, one might ask? Betsy's sounding a bit self-centered to me. How shocking, given her previous rantings against such activity. One might almost think she's human and makes mistakes like the rest of us.


Until tomorrow,

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day

In church today, our pastor didn't recognize fathers. Instead, she had us use our prayer time as a time to meditate on what the men in our lives had done for us, and asked us to offer up gratitude for those things.

I'm all for gratitude toward men. Mankind. Menkind. As a feminist, I'll go ahead and be the first to admit that I am occasionally guilty of male-bashing without sufficient cause. Honoring men for their male-ness, their other than female-ness, is just peachy by me.

But what's wrong with Father's Day? Or Mother's Day, for that matter? Why can't we focus on mothers or fathers, just for a day?

(I know I'm hardly the first to discuss this, but the avoidance of honoring parents really bothered me today. And it's my bloggie, so I'll cry if I want to . . . .)

Why can't we simply have one day a year to honor our mothers and fathers? What is so harmful and hurtful about that? Why must we be so inclusive as to never have a holiday that, by its very identity, excludes another? Hell, we DO have such holidays. Last time I checked, Veteran's Day celebrations don't include those parents who served our nations at home by caring for soldiers' children. Graduations don't honor kids who have two more years of school left, or students who failed their senior year. And they shouldn't.

Set-aside days are just that: set aside. It's okay to set aside a day to honor someone. Or something. The act of setting aside a day is not intended to dishonor something (or someone) else. It's simply one way of shining a little light. Brightening someone's day. Acknowledging the work that some do.

To everything there is a season, says some wise book. Exulting in summer peaches isn't a put-down to winter sledding. It's enjoying what each season has to offer. Recognizing a subset of human experience isn't a put-down to the rest of human experience. It's enjoying what that subset has offered us.

What about the feelings of those infertile men and woman who so desperately want to be parents? Or the men and women who haven't found a relationship in which they are comfortable bringing a child into the world? Those can be terribly sad situations. We tried for 9 months to get pregnant the first time around, and that was painful. I know that our experience does not give me sufficient insight into how hard it is to be infertile, though.

What I do know is: Mother's Day isn't supposed to be all about me. Nor is Father's Day supposed to be all about my children's father. That's one facet, and clearly the one that could be painful beyond measure for those without children.

But that's not the only facet of those days. Mother's Day is about my mom. And her mom. Father's Day is about my dad, and his dad. It's about honoring those who raised us and/or those who birthed us (obviously, this might not be the same person).

What about those who have lousy parents? Yep, we all know people who are, or have, lousy parents. I don't mean just parents who've made mistakes, as that would include all parents. But abusive, psychotic, downright evil parents. How can we subject their children to a day honoring the people who hurt them, sometimes irreparably?

I would gently urge us all to be a bit more generous, even in our pain. Can't we be unselfish enough to allow for one day, just one, the possibility that it's not all about us? Can't we have a day that does not focus around us and around our feelings? Maybe we had horrible parents. But couldn't we let those who had great parents celebrate them? Maybe we can't have biological children? But couldn't we let those who can celebrate with them?

It's good to care about others. It's good to empathize and sympathize with those among us who are hurt. Because we all hurt, sometimes. But we all need to celebrate sometimes, too. Let's celebrate more, and let our hurts go. Just for a day.

Until tomorrow,

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Selling death to our youth

Lovely information of the day. Did you know that there's an Army publication called the "School Recruiting Program Handbook"? I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The Army is a business. It doesn't make money, it takes lives. And the only way to get lives, without a draft, is to recruit them. But how they recruit them is stomach-turning.

Recruiters are recommended to start recruiting at younger ages. "If you wait until they're seniors, it's probably too late . . . .First to contact, first to contract." Well, that makes me feel good. Start when teenagers have less of their frontal lobes developed so that they are more inclined to exercise risky behavior, like joining the Armed Forces.

Schools are expected to assist in this recruiting. "It is reasonable for the armed forces' recruiters to expect school officials to: . . . Assist in developing awareness of career and educational opportunities offered by the armed services." Not only is my government going after kids, trying to convince them to engage in war, but I'm to expect this of teachers and principals whom I trust to nurture and educate my child?

To achieve this, staff bribery is strongly recommended. ". . . have something to give them (pen, calendar, cup, donuts, etc), and always remember secretary's week with a card or flowers." And "Deliver donuts and coffee for the faculty once a month. This will help in scheduling classroom presentations and advise teachers of the many Army opportunities."

Classroom presentations?? OK. I understand, though abhor, the notion of presenting the Army as an alternative for students considering the future at events like job or college fairs. But giving them access to the classroom, where education is supposed to be happening is incredibly troubling. Military propaganda as curriculum. It's sickening.

High school parents, please become paranoid. The Army recruiter is encouraged to do everything s/he can to create that first contact with your child. Assisting in registration, eating lunch in the school cafeteria, lead calisthenics for the football team, and get involved with Boy Scouts. Recruiters will be preaching Army wherever they go.

And they are targeting students of color. The handbook specifically tells the recruiters that "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday is in January. Wear your dress blues and participate in school events commemorate this holiday." Doesn't mention dressing up for Washington or Lincoln's b'days. Hmm. And they are to assist in commorating both Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month.

Recruiters are told to focus on kids who are struggling. "Contact college students who are home during the holidays (remember that many first-year college students do not return to school after the first semester)." "How is their second semester financial situation?" And there's a special section in the handbook on the "Stop-out Cycle", which details when, in each semester, a college student is most likely to be "open" to recruitment.

Recruiters are to prey on parental financial fears regarding college, as well. "Never pass up the opportunity to address the parent-teacher association . . . . At this stage, many parents will be pondering how they will finance their child's education."

What can we DO about this? What can I do about this? A good op-ed piece about this is here.

Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Liberal Media? Puhleeze

While reading Kathleen Parker's op-ed piece on Howard Dean this morning, I had a few moments to ponder the notion of liberal bias. While my link goes to the Orlando Sentinel, Parker's home newspaper, I read her generally conservative pieces in the Chicago Tribune. Today's headline for this opinion read "Loud and loony".

Now, initially, I figured that was probably an accurate depiction of what Parker had to say. After all, she's pretty conservative and doesn't mince words. I like that in a woman, even if I don't agree with her. After reading the piece, though, I didn't quite get from whence that headline came. "Loud"? Yes, she definitely describes Dean as loud. But there is absolutely not one word in this piece that describes Dean as "loony". She says he isn't exactly accurate. She says he lacks a light touch. She says he has no sense of humor. But nowhere in her column does she describe him as being "loony".

So whose opinion is that, anyway? Hmm. Let's see. Could it be the Tribune's opinion? Their editorial, on the opposite page, dismissed Dean and his words out of hand. In fact, they actually tried to refute the notion that Republicans are primarily a white Christian organization by citing Condi, Paul Wolfowitz, Elaine Chao and Alberto Gonzales. Don't know how to break this to you, Editorial Board, but four people of color, religion, or ethnicity do not a diverse party make. Even Parker had more sense than to try to defend the Republican Party on THAT ground.

The Trib states, "If (Dean) thinks the nation should focus on more substantive matters, he might dispense with the insults and try talking about those issues--calmly." Since when is calling a spade a spade an insult? Since when is speaking the obvious an insult? Read Parker's statistics.
They confirm Dean's statement.

The Trib continues to disappoint me with its conservative bent. And when I can't get accurate headlines, I worry about the accuracy of the news within this paper.

Until tomorrow,

Monday, June 13, 2005


I wonder what it's like to be Jonathan. That's my son, Jonathan. He has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. People with AS have normal to high IQs (Jon is way smarter than I'll ever be) but have major social skill deficits. Social relationships are conducted in an odd and inexplicable language that they do not understand. They also tend to be, um, obsessed with particular (and sometimes peculiar) topics. This can also hinder relationships. Ever tried to carry on a conversation with someone who only really cares about discussing D and D?

Jonathan doesn't tend to have too many conversations, give and take interactions. He gives lectures. Fortunately, he is droll and well-versed in any number of topics. So his lectures tend to be on the amusing side, even if they are on topics about which I care little. They do give me insight into what he cares about. And listening is a way of showing him how much I love him. So I do listen. As long as I can. :-)

The lack of social understanding comes up in surprising places. Jon is homeschooled. As part of his English studies this year, he's been reading American Literature. Generally, he has very high comprehension of all material that he reads. But if a novel were to be focused mostly on relationships, say a Henry James novel, it is all Greek to him. He can't impute motives to characters' actions. He can't put himself in a character's shoes to understand why s/he would think or feel a certain way.

I wonder what it's like, reading these books. He says it's just plain annoying. The books are almost nonsensical to him. Life amongst us neurotypicals (that's what people with AS call us) must be equally nonsensical at times. Despite my life-long attempts to teach him, he doesn't really understand why his dad gets so angry at him or what hurts my feelings. He's brilliant at understanding scientific theories. But he doesn't generalize emotional reactions from one person to the next.

One of the best authors on AS is a woman who has it, Liane Holliday Willey. I've found her books "Pretending to be Normal" and "Asperger Syndrome in the Family: Redefining Normal" have helped me so much to walk for just a second in J's shoes. I can read him passages from these books and he tells me, "Yes, that's it!"

But those are just moments. I can empathize and sympathize with my boy, almost man. Even as a shy introvert, it is beyond my imagination to live in a world where relationships are rarely comforting and always confusing.

Just thinking about him today. :-)

Until tomorrow,

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Urban wildlife

Ha. You probably thought I misspoke. That I really meant "urban nightlife", being an urban girl as I am. Nope. Wildlife. Urban wildlife.

Urban wildlife has one purpose: to annoy the urban girl. Go out into the country, the woods, the 'burbs, and wildlife is emblematic of beauty. The sleek beaver slipping into the water, having carved a downed tree to a fine point. Trout leaping upsteam, shining through water droplets as it heads out to spawn. Out there, wildlife demonstrates that we haven't killed off all habitats in the human quest for total domination and sublimation of the environment.

Here, in Chicagoland, animals drive us bonkers. Domesticated animals are bad enough. I use the term "domesticated" somewhat loosely. Walk up and down the sidewalks past the beautiful Oak Park homes and what are my senses inundated with? The aroma of poop. Dog poop, thankfully. But poop, nonetheless. There are 5 dogs per household in Oak Park. Really and truly. Work that out to dogs per square inch, think about where all of those dogs are letting loose their excrement, and let your olfactory senses run . . . away.

Then we have the noise pollution. Again, every house on the block has 5 dogs. And they all bark every time any other dog barks. Say there are 10 houses on each block. That gives you 50 dogs barking at all times. Because there is always one dog barking, which means there are always 50 dogs barking. My most especially included. :-)

That's just one example of one domesticated animal. The wild ones are infinitely worse. Take squirrels. Please, please take them. Remove them from my yard. Yes, you think they are cute. They are. Fluffy tails bouncing behind them as they scamper up and down tree trunks. Deft little paws clinging to branches. Fine. Just stop clinging to my flowers. The damn things dig up flowers faster than I can plant them. And they purposefully torture the 50 dogs on the block, goading them by standing directly above each dog, pelting them with "chase me, you dumb dog" vibes which then said dumb dog must give in to or die trying.

My next door neighbor, Roz, traps them every year. This strikes me as somewhat useless. Because we Oak Parkers are kind and liberal, the trapped animals are NEVER killed. They are trapped and released. In a forest preserve some 3 miles away. From whence they make their way right back into our yard. Or perhaps some slightly more nearby yard, displacing the squirrels from that yard into our yard. The supply is never-ending.

Possums are another one of my favorite city wildlife. The damn things are creepy, plain and simple. Totally silent, they'll stare you down for endless moments should you happen upon one in a summer evening. Playing dead, I'm told. Well, duh. If you're balanced on top of a fence, you're not dead. Yet.

I know that I'm supposed to have a animal lover's reverence for all animals. And this one in particular. "Oh, it's so wonderfully adaptive, having lived for thousands of years." Baloney. It's lived because it alternates between being creepy dead silent, then hissing and biting. Have you seen the teeth on those little runts?

I've left my favorite urban wildlife for last. Adorable little bunnies. Yes, they really are cute. But they love to nibble on my young spring sprigs. I've lost whole bushes to these chewing stuffed animals. Hostas, flowers, ivy. You name it, they eat it. And bunnies are as dumb as the day is long. How else can you explain a mother bun building a nest in a yard with a noisy retriever?

Guess the bunnies can't be all that dumb. They keep outsmarting me!

Until tomorrow,

Friday, June 10, 2005


We're in the midst of a thunderstorm this evening. It's one of those summery, simmery storms that erupt seemingly out of nowhere. The sky is blue-ish, the breeze warm enough to bake an apple pie and stiff enough to blow out the damn pilot light. Then the dark clouds begin to roll in. Billow is too soft a descriptive term. Abrupt, they loom above, like a way too tall person who's just a bit threatening.

The light. I love the light of a storm. The sickly puce overhead, bilious. Looking like Someone's about to vomit up there. It makes my knees shiver, reminding me of tornado warnings past. The night my parents went out, leaving me in charge of my brothers. A storm didn't blow over, and we huddled in the den, watching the weather reports and the sky. Feeling the eerie stillness before the winds.

Or there is the lack of light. The deep, enveloping darkness that sweeps in with alacrity, sucking the breeze out. Blinds pulled, shades drawn, a knock-out blow. It feels like you've stepped into a closet and inadvertently elbowed the door shut. Too little air, too little light.

Tonight, it was the green light. The storm swept in with a great deal of circumstance, but very little pomp. I'll still need to water this evening, as it added little, if any, moisture to the ground. Yet the moisture in the air could be wrung out like a sponge. Water is never where you need it.

Now it is twilight. Emerald and cornflower, with a few deep gray clouds lurking overhead. Annie's in the papasan across the room, waiting for some couch time with Mom. Schafer's there, too, hiding from the thundergod in her lap. But I want to linger at the window a few more minutes, savoring the tag-end of this weather.

Until tomorrow,

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

What IS it about George Dubya, Imposter President, that brings my blood to a steady boil? Is it his boyish good looks, with that sly sneer? That damn it I'm right self-assurance? That joie de vivre in the face of absurd accusations about torture, loss of civil rights, murder?

Hard to say, generally speaking; there are so many possibilities. But today, my little arteries are all astir about the Downing Street Memo. Have you read the Downing Street memo? Here are some of my favorite parts of the memo, parts that really give me a great deal of respect for Bush and his Administration's intelligence and (most of all) honesty.

"There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Facts were being fixed around the policy. Hey, what's the problem with that? Facts are fungible, aren't they? A tweak here, a twist there. Soon, the facts are, hmmm, not the same facts we started out with. In fact, they become lies. Like a child who desperately wants something, the facts becomes disposable in order to reach the goal. "But mom, everyone's doing it." "Lighten up, Mom. It's no big deal. You're so old-fashioned." Dealing with feelings, rather than facts, is far more persuasive, isn't it? And much harder to refute.

Here's more:

"It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

Shocking, simply shocking. I wonder why we chose to take military action, then. What possible reason could George Dubya, scion on an oil-rich family, would have to want control over Iraq, an oil-rich country? It boggles the mind, the motives of these politicians.

And this lovely gem:

"The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation."

I feel much better about our military involvement now. Clearly, we did this legally. After all, our intervention was, and continues to be, humanitarian in nature. After all, think of all those schools we've built. The children we've killed who might otherwise have attended those schools. And the soldiers whose lives have been ended or ruined through their service in this war. Killing people is worth the price of a free Iraq. Isn't it? Now Iraq is free from the terrany of Saddam. Instead, Iraqis can look to those bastions of liberty, The Bush Adminstration, authors of the Patriot Act and Gitmo, to guard their oil, er, civil liberties.

Thank goodness this was released. Now I can rest easy, and urge my reps to full-heartedly support our President. Think I'll go fly my flag now.

Ahem. If you haven't already, you might want to go here and sign Rep. John Conyer's (D-MI) letter to Bush about the Downing Street Memo.

Until tomorrow,


Illinois is weird. People graduate from 8th grade in Illinois. With a great deal of pomp and circumstance, parties and hoopla. We just didn't DO that in Michigan. Truthfully, I don't know if this is strictly an Illinoian tradition, a K through 8 school tradition, a parochial school tradition, or what. But it just seems darn odd to me. Good bye school, I get. Yippee, I've got four more years before I finish this up, not so much.

This evening, I was at the 8th grade graduation at my daughter's school. The 7th grade parents, of which I am one, host this very large and elegant shindig. So I spent the day cooking, chopping, and chatting. My legs are tired, but I really did enjoy it. Working with someone is the easiest way to get to know them. And I am definitely still in the getting to know you stage at Annie's school.

I was wary, initially, of my ability to fit in at this school. It seemed pretty clique-y to me. (I'm intimidated because of the rich suburb it's in, never feel good enough in that kind of setting.) But with my putting myself out there just a little bit, the moms have been very welcoming. Nice.

And they didn't mind me today, mucking around in the whole excluding girls topic, either. I talked to several moms, including one of the excluders. I learned much, and hope that maybe some changes will take place. I'm not sure why no one has done anything about this in the past. Maybe it didn't seem worth doing, or people were uncomfortable bringing it up.

I was reassured to hear that no one thinks Annie is doing any of the excluding. But she and I talked about it this afternoon. And she was upset to hear that the other girls felt excluded at times, just as she had, by the Queen Bees. Glad to know she's thinking and feeling about it. Perhaps she'll make some different choices in the fall.

Back to the grads. They were really beautiful tonight. The girls dressed up in very formal attire, lovely dresses, as well as the boys. Not in dresses, of course . . . ! And these kids are so tight. There are 20 some in the class, so they know each other really well. Which certainly can be both negative and positive. But it seemed pretty positive this evening.

Annie was being Annie throughout, mixing with all of her friends, being goofy. Even though I think this graduation stuff is pretty goofy, I look forward to seeing her next year, being both serious and silly in her formal attire as she looks forward to the next step.

Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


The day after Annie's birthday, she refused to go to school. Thought maybe she was flexing her teenage muscles, but it quickly became clear that she was panicked about going. After 20 minutes of simply refusing, she finally explained why she wouldn't go. There was to be a field trip that day. And during their last field trip, the Queen Bee of Annie's "friends" was pissed off about Annie sticking up for herself in some manner or another. So she excluded her from the group. And Annie was very afraid that this would happen again.

I comforted her, of course. Told her what shits her "friends" were for excluding anyone. Then we talked through strategies: what to do if it happened again. Annie is blessed with being an easy to like girl. Any other girl in her class would be happy to hang out with her. So, armed with that, I made her go to school. Physically assisted her out of the car. :-(

Everything turned out fine that day. She came home herself, happy and calm. But exclusion is still on her mind. And mine.

Excluding. What a lousy, crummy social construct. Is there any more basic human emotional need than to be with others? Why do we torture one another by deliberating punishing others with withdrawal? Power, I think. And feeling enough about yourself that you need to boost yourself in this way.

It is a very powerful feeling, excluding. You be mean to me? You do something I don't like? Well, I'll get YOU back. I'll get everyone to be nasty to you--or worse, just plain ignore you. You don't exist. I get to suck the power out of you and be bigger.

And what a way to keep people in line. Religions do this. Shunning. Disfellowshipping. Meidung. Cherum. They're all about punishing those who break religious laws of various sorts and protecting those who don't. It seems an incredibly unkind manner of enforcement to me. I suppose punishment isn't meant to be kind. Yet I thought religions, spiritual walks, and the like were to be disciplines. As in disciples, as in learners.

Being a parent I am, by default, a teacher. Punishment is the worst format from which to teach. All that is learned is guilt and anger. Consequences? I'm all for consequences. But jails are full of people who have received punishment, yet continually come back for more. Recidivism certainly indicates punishment doesn't cause a whole lot of learning.

It is powerful, though. Which brings us back to why both people and religions do it, I think. If I'm afraid of you, you can boss me around more. Pretty basic. Excluders and shunners and the like are bullies.

I am hoping my girl can tear herself away from the bullies.

Until tomorrow,

Monday, June 06, 2005

Researching confusion and the Media

On one of my email lists, a friend brought up the topic of The New Freedom Initiative, once of our imposter President's newest plans. Coincidentally, I'd read an article about this in the Chicago Tribune this weekend. Felt pretty comfortable about it, as described by the Trib.

I really should consider the source, though, shouldn't I? The Trib is a very conservative paper. The past few weeks, I've been looking into press issues and how the media in the US are negatively influencing public policy by keeping diverse opinion and perspectives out of the media. I ought to know better than to depend on the Trib as my sole source of information, eh?

So, after posting my initial thoughts (which were that the idea of universal volunteer screening of children for mental health problems didn't sound all bad to me), I decided to spend some more time looking around. Seemed the responsible thing to do.

The Christian/right wing site World Net Daily (which purports to be a "fiercely independent newssite committe to hard-hitting investigative reporting", but seemed to be mostly interested in bashing the left) , pointed out a "political-pharmaceutical alliance" in the program NFI is modeled on, The Texas Medication Algorithm Project.

I know that there is a sizable faction of conservatives who do not like psychotropic medication, no matter what the circumstances. While I'm not terribly excited about medicating away every ache or pain, be it physical or mental, I've personally experienced the wonders of antidepressants. I'm not willing to assume that a program prescribing such drugs is, prima facie, bad.

OTOH, don't trust the drug companies. Not one bit. Big business is in business for business. They want to make money on the back of mental illness. Despite not liking that World Net Daily, I started reading more about TMAP. TMAP is a set of guidelines/algorithms, ostensibly tools for doctors to use while treating mentally ill patients in the Texas publicly funded mental health care system.

Or is it a program that forces doctors to prescribe newer, more expensive drugs to patients (people incarcerated or in mental hospitals--yeah, let's pick on those who are least able to defend themselves) before physicians were allowed to try older or generic drugs?

Reports on TMAP vary widely. Sigh. I'm getting more and more confused. A number of sources indicated that TMAP was funded by pharmaceutical corporations. Surprise, eh? Apparently, a PA investigator lost his job by reporting pharmaceutical corps pressuring those involved in the program to use their meds. I stumbled across numerous interesting webs (say here or here) that seemed reasonably trustworthy, indicating that I ought to be worried about all of this.

I read "Complications" by Atul Gawande and learned a bit about medical algorithms. So I understand their potential value. But I don't care for algorithms that place emphasis on choosing drugs to make more money for big pharm corps. Not a bit. You can look at the actual algorithms here , which seem to back up all the negative claims.

After two hours, I have determined that I am against the New Freedom Initiative. I will contact my reps in DC to tell them so.

But Arrrgh! It took me two hours to do enough looking around to form an informed opinion on one topic. Who has time to research like this for every topic of importance? No one. But if we don't, who can we trust to give us the information necessary to make good decisions, protest poor government? That's why I've gotten more interested in the media right now. We all need a media source that is trustworthy and thorough. And clearly, we don't have any mainstream media that fit that bill right now. Hello, Fox News?

Big business, be it pharm corps pushing their new pricey drugs or mega media giants owning more and more media outlets, is in this for THEIR benefit. Who is watching out for ours?

Until tomorrow,

Saturday, June 04, 2005

13 year old girls

There is something horrible happening at my house right now. Startlingly horrendous. There are 7 (that's right, seven, 7) 13 year olds in my living room. They are playing "American Idol". They are lipsynching (is that how it's spelled?). To really awful music. Then judging one another ala Paula, Simon, and Randy.

I am old. :-O Overnight parties were banned a few years back, after the night from hell. Otherwise nice children making bald-faced refusals to stop screaming after 1am does not enamor me to party sleepovers. So this party lasts only from 4p to 7p. Then ONLY two teenies come back for an overnight. Which will be relatively quiet. Decibels within the range of normal. Or at least not ear-splitting.

But I can't say that this party is a stellar alternative to the party from hell. Even Schafer the woo-woo dog is hiding from the cacophony. Good thing we drugged him for the thunderstorms that passed through a few hours back, or he'd be hiding underneath the computer table from the thumping bass line and squealing sopranos.

Groups of 13 year old girls should be outlawed. They should not be able to gather in gaggles larger than, say, three. Just as geese become bolder and more obnoxious as the gaggle grows, so goes 13 year old girls. They goad each other to higher and higher levels of annoying behavior. There were many conversations about the relative "hotness" of various babies, er, teen idols. There was an alarming discussion (quickly ended by me) about "weinises" and their relative properties.

It's almost 7pm now. They are heading out to play in the sprinkler. It's odd and more than a bit jolting, how quickly they go from being little girls to preternatural women. They went from joking about "weinises" to running under the sprinkler, shrieking like 7 year olds. They paraded along the sidewalk in their swimsuits. Some of them look good enough to literally stop traffic, while others look like those 7 year olds. I probably should've put the kibosh on that, too. But I couldn't bring myself to see them as traffic-stopping until I saw the look on another mom's face when she arrived at the end of their parade down the block. Argh.

Around 7:15 I was able to have a nice chat with the aforementioned mom, whom I'm really enjoying getting to know, amidst the continued chaos. And we ended that part of the evening watching Annie and Kathryn doing their highly amusing disco dance routine to some highly 80s music.

After 8p, it appears that the estrogen/adrenaline level has finally lowered, though. The three teenies are ensconced in front of a screen, watching "Mean Girls". Very appropo viewing, as Annie has had trouble with one of these girls BEING mean to her. Watching this movie is a rite of passage for A, as I wouldn't let her see it for quite a while. Just seemed a bit harsh to me, and wanted to protect her, I guess. But since she's experienced it in her own life, and since the Mean Girls don't win, I think it will be a good view for her now.

I'm a tired puppy, friends. Yawn.

Until tomorrow,

Two Things

Thing 1.
Yesterday was our anniversary. 21 years. Truly amazing. He's a good guy. And, as I often tell my friend Ann, he's doing the best he can. :-) We didn't celebrate until today, as we had family in town. And Annie had another softball game.

A lot of life gets planned around softball right now. But there are only a few games left, for which I am both sad and grateful. It is much fun to watch her play. She is so smooth out in the field, her throws fluid and her moves athletic. And when she gets ahold of the ball and gives it a good whack, wow!

Back to the anniversary. We had a lovely dinner out at Cucina Paradiso Had some yummy beef. And bread pudding to die for. Overly full, I am.

Thing 2. Or so.
Sometimes, it is really hard to be a friend. I have a good friend who is going through a really difficult time right now. This friend is definitely incapable at this point of being a friend to me, for various and very good reasons. Said friend is making it incredibly difficult for me to be available: putting conditions on the friendship, tests, "if you do this, we can't be friends".

I am really struggling with what it means to be a friend, what a friend is and does. How am I supposed to know when we've gone beyond friendship into mental health struggles that I am not prepared to deal with? How can I be supportive but not get emotionally eaten up? Where does privacy begin and end?

This person is incapable of anything but an all or nothing friendship right now. Either tells me EVERYTHING or NOTHING. Can't manage personal boundaries, can't tell the person that really should be told EVERYTHING everything.

I am tired tonight. And feeling a bit of a failure. Though I don't think I should in this friendship. I think I'm doing a decent job in a no-win situation. But I'm not liking it. Finding no joy in it. And am deeply wishing I knew what would be best for all concerned.

Until tomorrow,

Thursday, June 02, 2005

My second--and last--teenager

I am such a lucky mom, having the two incredible kids that I have. But today I'm thinking of Miss Annie. My baby turned 13 today. She has been incredibly excited about turning 13. Counting down the days for the past 80 or so!

I remember standing in church Sunday morning, 13 years ago yesterday. We had moved a week before that. I was tired and oh so very huge, ankles literally the size of grapefruits. I knew baby was coming. And I was so happy that morning, singing in the choir, seeing my friends looking back at me, feeling surrounded by their love.

I remember sleeping through most of labor. Then waking suddenly at 2:15am, telling Carl we HAD to go to the hospital NOW. He called our friend Karen, who was to stay with Jonathan during the natal event. Then he took a shower. Karen arrived to find me leaning over the kitchen island, having huge contractions. Carl was drying his hair. :-)

He still isn't quite sure what he did wrong. "But we couldn't leave until Karen got there!"

I remember the nurse telling us that it would be a couple more hours yet before the baby came. Carl left to call work. I screamed for a nurse. "I'm having a baby!" She didn't believe me, sauntered in. Looked. I was having a baby. Gosh, they move quickly when you're suddenly having a baby. "Don't push." Ha.

I remember my absolute and complete shock when the anonymous resident who delivered Annie said, "It's a girl!" Don't know why, but I had convinced myself I would have another boy. Another boy would've been wonderful. I love boys. But I was thrilled to have a girl.

My slow to warm yet extroverted girl. My sporty and smart girl. My anxious and very brave girl. My beautiful both inside and out girl. I love her so much. Can you tell? :-)

Happy birthday, Annie!

Until tomorrow,