Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday's Feast

Who is the easiest person for you to talk to?

Tehra or Nancy or Ann. All are warm and always genuinely interested in what I have to say. And I've never felt judged by them, so I'm free to be me, flaws and all. What a gift. :-)

If you could live in any ancient city during the height of the quality of its society and culture, which one would you choose?

Tough question. There are so many fascinating ones from which to choose! I'm hemming and hawing as I imagine I'd be living as a woman, and there are few societies where being a woman would allow me to experience the best of any society's culture. I'm thinking ancient Ireland (early AD), under the Brehon law, where one of my favorite fictional sleuths, Sister Fidelma, lived. The earth was still wild, women had a modicum of power. And who could resist the temptation of living in a land where the makers of the law were required to be a chief, poet, historian, bishop professor of literature, professor of law, a noble, and lay vicar?

What is the most exciting event you’ve ever witnessed?

The birth of my kids. Or maybe the Michigan Marching Band emerging from the tunnel of Michigan Stadium. I sense a womb/vaginal theme here. Exciting doesn't have to mean good, I suppose. Watching the Twin Towers fall, one at a time, was exciting. In a terrifying way.

Main Course
If you were a celebrity, what would you do for a publicity stunt?

Advertise my latest movie by parasailing through the Gulf of Mexico, trailing an ad banner for said event across the sky while I show off my tanned and toned body to the masses.


What do you consider the ideal age to have a first child?

Whatever age an individual needs to be to figure out that, generally speaking, you put your kids first without making them King of the Castle. Parents have a responsibility to do what's best for their kids. It doesn't get to be all about you anymore. Some people have achieved enough personal growth to do that at 18. Some people never ever get there.

And let me note freely that I'm judgmental of parents who think they've put their kids first by giving them whatever they want whenever they want it, a buying off of the next generation through things bought or power given, not time spent and ethics instilled. Is that related to age? Nope. Just my little extraneous nugget of parenting pontification. ;-)


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Speaking of inconvenient truths

I love meat. I am particularly enamored of red meat. I come by my predilection quite honestly: my Grandpa Thompson (as well as many of his uncles) worked in the Chicago Stockyards. He used to force feed fatty beef to my dad, who holds a vomitorious disdain for fat-streaked meat to this day.

I'm not big on fat, myself. I've taught my kids the unfortunate habit of inspecting meat with an plan to operate on it, intent on removing any of that icky white stuff. But lean red meat, with just enough fat to make it tasty? Mmmm, says me. I'm a steak and potatoes kind of girl. More's the pity for my cholesterol levels.

Now I find out that more's the pity for my environment, too. Apparently the animal rights groups are banding together to bandy about research indicating that raising animals for meat is worse for the environment than driving around one of those penis-envy Hummers.

I am so bummed. I've worked really hard at the whole avoiding my car thing. I ride my bike around town (sometimes, at least). I always bundle my errands, preferably combined with picking up a teenager or two. I drive a low-emissions vehicle. And I'm teaching my college student how to ride the bus rather than mom's taxi service. While I'm not driving a Prius, I'm not driving a Lincoln Town Car, either.

But not eat meat? It sounds like a bitter cold and drab culinary world to me. How do I love meat? Prepared too many ways to count. Think thick slabs of steak, possibly with a little pat of butter dribbling down the side (I know, I know). Sweet spicy chicken satay. Juicy burgers on the grill. Andouille sausage nestled in a pasta dish.

Of course, the real reason I can't give up meat and go veggie is that, um, I don't like vegetables. I particularly do not care for green vegetables. The starchy ones, the ones that are bad for you? Those I like. Corn, carrots (uncooked, please--or with brown sugar on them), potatoes of all kinds. Other than that? Not so much.

So what's a good green girl to do? Choke down the broccoli, pass on the pork chops? I know it doesn't have to be all or nothing. I can do good by cutting back on meat, serve it less often. But, while I'd be very happy to drive a Prius or do some other car-related good deed for Mother Earth, I sheepishly admit becoming one of those people, not wanting to make changes in my life because they would be rather inconvenient for me.

Pretty soon, I'll have to join the shamed smokers, huddling on street corners, furtively clutching my burger, hurting both myself and the environment to feed my bloody addiction . . . .

On the horns of a dilemma,

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Out of all the facets of the current Bush administration that have amazed me over the years, its unsurpassed ability to ignore reality or--better yet--to create its own more hospitable reality never ceases to astound me. Remind me about that last election. Wasn't there a sizable uprising of voters who made it abundantly clear that the populace wants out of Iraq? Even in districts where we voters didn't dump incumbents, the people's will seems pretty clear at this point.

Get out. Now. Yesterday.

And what is the Executive Branch of the government doing today? Pitching a total of $197 billion in additional spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Which doesn't include the $460 billion Defense Department budget.

The war in Iraq is now costing US $3 billion a week.

The Iraq war has already cost us over $330 billion.

Guess how much of our money the US government spent on Education last year. $56 billion. Read it and weep, folks. That means the Department of Defense Department spends almost 10 times more money each year than the Department of Education.

Here's my most unoriginal thought. What if we had spent every warfare penny in Iraq on education? What if we only spent that supplemental $197 billion on education? Or repairing the ruined Iraqi infrastructure so folks would have electricity and clean water? Couldn't that possibly have spread Democratic principles a bit farther than the tried and true method of killing people?

I know I'm being simplistic. But surely no more simplistic than a government who truly believes that you can bully an already culturally and religiously divided land into a single nation by killing off massive quantities of their people.

Here's a reality I'd like to avoid: the reality of being an Idaho Republican. I'm sure it's a fine state, full of lovely people. I'm hoping that, perhaps, Larry Craig is underestimating those fine people. Because, clearly, he thinks that the most important fact Republican Idahoans need to know about what he did was THAT HE'S NOT GAY. Not that he wasn't unfaithful to his spouse or didn't break the law. Not that he didn't lie. THAT HE'S NOT GAY.

As Ron said of Hermione, "She needs to sort out her priorities." It's a sad state of affairs for Republicans. They've spent so much time gay bashing that one's sexuality is now more important than sexual ethics, fidelity, lawfulness, or morality. Family values, my friends, family values.

My favorite reality of the day? Leona Helmsley has left $12 million to someone who obviously meant a great deal to her. Her dog. She also attempted to make one last effort to control her family by reaching out from the grave to require yearly grave visitations as a requirement of several of her grandchildren receiving a bequest. At least it isn't The Queen of Mean's grave they have to visit. Apparently, they have to be bribed to visit their own father's grave.

Nice last touch, don't you think? Perhaps I should review my own will and find some way to jerk around my surviving family. Thank goodness I'll have little to leave them--there will be nothing to fight over, nor hold over their heads!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Things That Ought To Make You Barf Because They're Filling *My* Mouth With Bile

Thing One: Using pro-environment actions as status symbols.

As usual, I'm a bit behind here. Didn't realize that being eco-friendly has become way cool. Cool enough that hybrid cars must look cool to sell well. Because, after all, what's most important about owning a hybrid: how it looks or what it does for the environment? "Owning a hybrid is all about saying 'Look at what I'm doing for the world,'" says auto analyst John Wolkonowicz of Global Insight. "If you can't say that, the whole purchase is a waste of time."

Thing Two: Alberto Gonzales

Need I elaborate? Bush lauded the man as one of "integrity, decency, and principle" who was subjected to "months of unfair treatment". Is this the same Alberto Gonzales who removed all semblance of Justice from his department in his work of perjury, prosecutorial purging, and pro-torture tactics? Does Bush actually say anything believable anymore? Is he (or anyone else in his administration) capable of speaking truth?

Thing Three: Children with no health insurance

We continue to throw billions of dollars away killing Iraqis. At the same time, we don't have enough money to continue with safety net health insurance programs with children. As the federal government continues to rob Peter to pay Paul (or would that be Halliburton?), uninsured children rose 1 million in two years, to a total of 8.7 million children. Nice. But why am I surprised? We don't care about the health of Iraqi children, we don't care about the health of US children. That's what being a Pro-Family Values Republican Nation is all about.

Thing Four: Ted Haggard's back--and he's begging for money!

It is truly amazing, the gall of some people. You'll remember that Haggard is the swine who masqueraded as a conservative pastor some years back, all while living a secret life as a gay man. He went off to be de-gayified. It was obviously successful, as he's still married. Ahem.

Now, he's back asking for people to fund his degree studies in, of all things, counseling. Go here to read the sordid story--and the weird, creepy tale of the denomination he's working with (Assembly of God).

Thing Five: The Media

I know, I know. We always blame the media. But this story takes the cake. How can you make yet another story about a gay Republican who lies about it after arrest and conviction be any creepier? Re-enact it on tv news.

Off to find the big blue bowl . . . .


Monday, August 27, 2007

Growth and change

I've been thrown for a loop recently. You'll no doubt be surprised that it made me somewhat loopy.

Oh. Perhaps that happened long before the aforementioned recent events. ;-)

I had a nascent friendship flop like a dead fish on the deck of my life. Pretty picture, eh? Yeah, well, words fail me when friendship fails me. Or when I fail in a friendship, which is how I tend to interpret events. It must be my fault because, after all, it's all about me.

Whether or not that's a realistic life view, it certainly can be an instructional one. If it's all my fault, then I can figure out what I did wrong. I can fix it. I can make it all better. Puts me back into control, where I so long to be. Ha.

So I've been doing autopsies of several failed friendships over the past 15 years. Yes, overanalysis is my middle name. But why not analyze? Why not figure how to do a better job next time around? Saves me and any potential friends some pain, maybe. Also lets me intellectualize instead of feel bad, a plus in my book. ;-)

What did I do that caused this friendship to flop in such a smelly and sad way? Let us count the ways.

I leap into intimacy too soon. My attitude? Life's short. Really getting to know people is fun. I love to dive into a friendship when I feel like someone is an Anne Shirley kindred spirit kind of person. For some people, my approach is quirky and pleasant and enjoyable. For some people, my approach is presumptuous and odd and invasive. Moral of that story? Either be more respectful of others boundaries--or don't try to make friends with those who aren't comfortable with your boundaries.

Next? I tend to be a little too black and white. All or nothing. One way this shows up in friendships is either I stay in close contact--or I never call, email, write . . . . Some find the latter, while not endearing, understandable given my baggage. They accept it, even if they don't like it, because they like me. And others find it unforgivably rude, and don't like me. At all.

Likewise, some find staying in close, even, daily contact endearing. They tell me to call more, write more, email more! While others find it claustrophobic and wish I'd figure out what the phrase "personal space" means on an emotional level. Moral of that story? Everyone has different wants and needs. If your behavior doesn't meet another's wants or needs, either change your behavior (if it's worth it to keep that person in your life) or find a new friend (if you can't--or won't--change).

Finally, I was up front about my peculiar neediness. A lovely facet of my personality is that if you hurt my feelings, I will tell you. Not in a particularly hysterical way, of course. Just a matter of fact, hey, this happened and I felt bad. I try to make it clear that I'm not looking for an apology. Hell, if there's fault to be had, it's probably mine. But I like to keep the air clean and clear. I sense disapproval a mile away. I'm a veritable Princess and the Pea of hidden conflict. It makes me so uncomfortable that I have to confront it.

Yes, that's right. I hate conflict so much that sometimes I cause it. It seems the lesser of two evils to me, and has made my life so much freer. I can't live any other way than to keep things open.

For me, if I air little grievances, they stay mosquito bite-like. Bug me a bit, itchy, then they disappear, never to return. If I suck it up and push down my feelings, they fester, tending to come back and bite me--or someone else. But others feel differently. Some think minor grievances shouldn't be aired because they are, well, minor! Get a life and move on. Certainly an understandable--and quite laudable--approach to life. Probably one full of great mental health. Just not mine.

Moral of that story?
Some things are non-negotiable. Each of us has to negotiate our own perilous path to mental health and well-being. It's sad when those paths don't intersect well. Friendships that might have been are lost. But it's not the end of the world.
I keep telling myself that new friends will come. And I know that old friends are cherished.

Last thought? An over-arching theme that I'm trying to plug into my life, in the wake of being so upset about the loss of this particular friendship. Someone wise posited to me (and others) that when we care too much about what others think, it's a form of idolatry. Why? Because who or what we fear becomes God, operationally. We let that person (or thing) become the boss of us, the Maypole around which we fashion our lives.

I'm still ruminating on this one and what it means for me. Perhaps I'll be here, chewing my cud on the topic tomorrow. Or maybe I'll have to chew up Alberto Gonzales . . . .


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Friday's Feast on Saturday

I noticed my old friend Suna doing this and think I'd like to try it. Better late than never!

Say there’s a book written about your life. Who would you want to narrate the audio version?

Emma Thompson. She's a great actress, does irony well. Yanks love her so maybe my book would sell more better in the US with her voice attached to the project. Notice that I'm assuming I've written the book on myself . . . .

Take the letters from your favorite kind of nut and write a sentence. (Example: Perhaps every avenue needs understanding today.)

Why Ask Loony Nuns Under Trees?

If you could go back in time and spend one week in another decade, which decade would you choose?

The 70s. I could save my incredibly cool Peter Max pants from the trash bin, make sure I didn't leave my green and white striped swim sweat shirt with all my swimming patches on the ground at the swim meet in Farmington, and start therapy sooner.

Main Course
Name a song that brings back memories for you.

Speaking of the 70s, "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night. I was skating around the Kurtz Elementary School gym on skate night, dressed in my little navy mini skirt that mom said EVERYONE would be wearing--but no one was. After a few embarrassed moments, I didn't care. I was zooming, I was cool and gracefully as I circled the gym over and over.

Do you prefer to wash your hands in cold water or warm water?

Well, duh. Cool in the summer and warm in the winter, the better to regulate my internal temperature. :-) When you're consistently flashing and freezing, you take whatever relief you can get.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Guess we're not in charge, eh?

And I don't mean the Democrats. I mean we human beings. The storms that came through the Midwest and wreaked havoc in our area remind me, unoriginally, that we are at the mercy of nature.

Anecdotes tell the whole story in little pieces.

My husband was out picking up our daughter from school when a tree fell on his car. He's fine--the car, not so much. Couple thou of damage, we imagine. Yet, a block north of us a car sits, completely flattened by a tree. The teenage owner was on his way out to the car, keys in hand, when the tree smashed down.

Neighborhood basements that are usually bone dry are crying out for sump pumps with three feet of rain mucking up the rec room furniture. Three houses up, a tree fell across the length of the yard, landing on top of the swing set often filled with children. There is no power in many places, including the blocks surrounding us.

My parents were surprised that none of this was reported in their news. They live in the Midwest too, but their area (Michigan--six hours from us) is currently suffering from drought. Just last week, it was so dry there while we visited them that we were loathe to have a bonfire.

For all the noise dramatic weather makes (including the overly-emotive reporting heard in area news reports, posturing each and every storm as the largest storm ever in the history of time), each event is a relatively small blip in the space of a nation that spans the width of a continent. I relish these moments when I am reminded of how small we are. I like being reminded of my relative place in the world. It helps place all my personal drama in the proper perspective.

Not such a big deal. Could be a bigger deal. Lucky it's not such a big deal. Keep breathing. :-)


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sad, very sad

It's miserably hot and wetty here today. One of those days when I feel wrung out simply from walking from the car to the grocery store. So, in a rare moment of exercise avoidance (and it is rare--I'm rather compulsive about exercise) I decide not to roller ski today.

Thus, I wander the house. What can I do indoors to raise up my heart rate and work up a sweat? In this weather, I could simply wander the house to accomplish the latter goal. I could go down to the basement and ride the old Nordic Trak for 30 minutes. Ugh. I'm in a phase of hating machine workouts. Decide to look for a yoga tape. Can't find the one I want. Don't want to try the Pilates one again. Sheesh, that was like abs boot camp--not happening for me.

I pause in my meandering in front of the television. I notice my daughter's dance pad on the floor. Ah ha! Today's exercise. :-)

Takes me 20 minutes to figure out how to manage the technology of the Play Station 2, 3 or29. I have never used it before. Eventually, I figure out how to plug in the dance pad and scrounge around the pile of games for Dance Dance Revolution, the software key to my 45 minutes of sweating.

Better try the training mode first. Maggie the dog sits at the foot of the dance pad, staring at me. She then glances up at the clock, obviously noting that it's already time for her after-exercise walk. I ignore her pointed stares and practice my moves. Ooo, I'm good. The deal is that the dance pad has four arrows upon which you step depending on what arrows is so indicated on the tv screen. The movements are meant to simulate dance steps, keeping with the beat. Simple. I'll be good at this. I was in marching band for many years. I can dance. Sort of.

The training mode finished, I launch into a beginner easy fluffy wuffy cream puffy song. Clearly, even a baby could do this routine. Uh huh. Jonathan walks into the room during this first attempt. Raucous laughter ensues, followed by exclamations of gratitude that no one can see me so his embarrassment is limited to his own private brush with my weirdness.

I am sopping wet. I keep stepping myself off of the dance pad, making it rather difficult to hit the arrows. But every time I look down to reposition myself, I miss a bunch of steps. It appears to me that occasionally one needs three feet to succeed at this game. Or possibly that I have two left feet. I wonder if I missed the instructions likening this game to Twister, and begin pondering the use of both hands and feet.

The damn game BOOS when you miss a step. Now, is that very nice? Is this the kind of treatment we want our sensitive and precious children to receive when they do not succeed at a video game? At this point, I'm thinking I might have to get rid of the game because it is clearly going to teach my daughter the wrong message about making mistakes. Mistakes are good. We learn from them. I think.

After 45 minutes or so of trying the same song over and over, I begin to get it. Sort of. There is less booing and more applause. However, I notice that my shapely calves are starting to ache. I am suddenly reminded of my Sudoku obsession. Have I mentioned this before? I won't go into it all now, but suffice it to say that I don't like failing. At anything. And my definition of failing, unfortunately, appears to be not being awesome at whatever I attempt. So I work and work until I get better. No matter how long it takes. Or how sore my shapely calves are getting.

Sadly, I turn Dance Dance Revolution off, and plop on the couch to ice my achy legs. I am old. I am lame. But I'm getting better at it! But, at what am I improving: DDR or being old and lame?


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Soporific or stimulant?

"I just get sleepy when I read," said Richard Bustos of Dallas. Ack! I'm kvetching over the poll that says one in four adults have read NO, none, zero, nada books in the past year. I am flabbergasted. How can the rest of the world not live like I do? Books are air. I couldn't do without reading any more than I can dispense with breathing. Books are manna. I suck them down whole, in huge bites.

There is a wonderful Prelutsky poem that we used to read to Jonathan quite regularly (and is now hanging on our living room wall) that sums up my reading life:

Books to the Ceiling
Books to the Sky
My piles of books are a mile high
How I love them
How I need them
I'll have a long beard
By the time I read them.

Of course, these days my pile is no squalid bedside tower. It's a cyberlist. Our wonderful and indispensable library takes online requests. So I have about 1,415,269 requests currently awaiting fulfillment, bringing me fun and provocation and respite in book-sized proportions on an almost daily basis.

Anyway, I wax rhapsodic because I am always amazed and saddened when the rest of the world doesn't do things the way I do--it is all about me, you know. ;-) But, truly, how much they miss (to paraphrase Anne Shirley), those non-readers. I know, you're all busy. Working, parenting, keeping up with the Jones, vacationing.

But I also know what you're doing instead. You're watching tv or gamboling around on the internet. No, don't try to deny it. I know you. I live with you. You don't have time to read because you are too busy watching reruns of "Frasier" while reading sports gossip online. You don't have time to read because you are deeply involved in who is the next American idol and hitting redial as you vote and vote.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. :-) I like "Frasier". I voted for Taylor Hicks over Katharine McPhee (dumb, I know). I litter my writing with coy references to tv and pop culture. Not that there's anything wrong with that . . . .

But those fun things, that I definitely enjoy. They don't feed my soul like reading does. And I'm not talking about hard reading, non-fictional tomes that analyze the world. Even mysteries, to which I proudly claim an addiction, touch my heart, make me think, lead me to ponder and star gaze. Books feed wonder. They make me imagine worlds, force me to participate in the story. Encourage gazing, not glazing.

Best book this month? "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia" by Elizabeth Gilbert. Best mystery this month? "Detective Inspector Huss" by Helene Tursten (I'm on a Scandinavian kick right now).

Get a life--or lose yours for a bit. Read a book. :-)


Monday, August 20, 2007

Rambling return from hiatus?

Well, I'm considering it. I miss writing. And being read. But the summer is almost over, our collective schedule will rev up, and my spare time will shrivel up smaller than Bush's brain in a nonce. Harumph.

Much has happened since I last posted, and yet nothing much has changed. Funny how that works out. All of our life events seem so big, so all-encompassing as they occur, but fade into smears on the windows, barely seen or even noticed. J is in his second year of college at the local community college. A is a sophomore at the local high school. CJ is still on the local radio and still subbing as choir director at Grace Lutheran.

And me? I'm still highly local, too. Centrally located right here in Oak Park, Illinois. Busy, busy running in place yet getting nowhere in particular. Which should be fine as I'm a Be Here Now Ram Dass kind of meditating independent Lutheran. But I'm having trouble with it at the moment. I'd like to be
there instead.

There would be, what? I'm not sure. Finishing the book I started writing 6 months ago? "Finishing it" makes it sound somewhat progressed, which I don't think is a terribly accurate depiction of 20 pages. Practicing law in some socially relevant save the world kind of way? But only 5 hours a week, since that's about the time I feel I have to devote to stuff outside the home, with CJ working two or three jobs, plus lots of other outside gigs. And, oh? Could I earn about $15,000 a year doing so, so that I can start paying for J's college tuition next year?

Isn't it annoying to hear upper middle class people who don't have to be employed whine about what to do with their lives?

Politically speaking, nothing new has much happened since last we spoke, really. Bush is still in office. His administration continues to flout the law at every turn. Democrats ineffectually squawk and flap their wings, accomplishing little. People keep dying while Bush keeps lying. Trite but heartbreakingly true.

I've been watching the various Democratic debates. Am sometimes heartened by what I hear. But I'm tired of the posturing--and there's such a long way to go before it's all over. I like Obama. I like Clinton (though a bit hawkish for my tastes). I like Edwards. If I could vote for anyone at all--meaning I didn't care if it was a "wasted" vote and was purely voting on the issues, what a novel idea--I'd probably vote Kucinich.

On the Republican side? Honestly, there's not a candidate on the horizon who doesn't make me want to regurgitate. Did I ever mention that, as a child, we used to wile away the hours at swim meets coming up with all the synonyms for "vomit"? There are a lot, you know. Way more than that old wive's tale about there being a million Inuit words for snow.

We also used to eat dry Jello packets for "energy". :-) I'd have to say that's as good an energy policy as any I've seen the Republicans come up with!

Off to make the doughnuts . . . er, brownies. Sorry. Doughnuts were the last church. Need brownies for the staff dinner tonight at Grace.