Thursday, January 31, 2008

Quick Debate Note

CJ and I watched the 127th Democratic debate tonight. Exaggeration alert. Apparently it was the 17 debate. It just seems like we've seen so many more, I guess. This one felt particularly important for me to watch, as I've now got to choose between Clinton and Obama.

You'll notice I haven't blogged about Edwards quitting. Here goes: I'm very disappointed. I thought he'd follow through on his promise to remain in the race until the convention to continue to push his agenda. Whatever his reason for quitting, it is a loss for the Democrats as he continued to shape our discussions and elevate the campaign. No word yet on whether Elizabeth Edwards' health issues have worsened. Hope not.

Tonight's debate seemed decent. Substantive. Awfully darn civil, of course. What was THAT about? Must have both taken the temperature of the country after last week's rancor and decided that attack politics weren't going over terribly well for either of them. Hillary's retort regarding having too many Clintons and Bushs in the office (it will take another Clinton to clean up after another Bush) was a zinger. Barack got off a good line when he attacked Romney's business acumen by questioning how good a businessman could he possibly be after losing so much money in the campaign.

Policy differences between the two remain few. I still agree with Hillary about the need for mandatory universal health care. See here for my argument on why this is so. But she is too hawkish for me. Still can't apologize for voting for the war in Iraq. And she's sounding positively predator when she discusses Iran, too.

The economy may be the issue of the moment. But the war is absolutely a driving force behind our economic woes. And it will continue to drive us into the ground, both economically and personally, if we don't elect someone who will end this war as soon as possible. And I believe Barack Obama will do that.

I'm hoping that Edwards will endorse him soon. If not, I've still made my decision.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hyperbole: The Sequel

Yes, this evening Annie was the proud recipient of her driving permit. The school distributes these at a parent and teen driver meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to scare the bleep out of both the parent and the driver. It succeeded, at least in this household.

First the new superintendent, Attila (truly), spewed out a bunch of facts, such as 99% of teens die while driving a motor vehicle, 99.9% of teens will drive like maniacs, so just sell your soul to the devil now to pay for both the horrible talk therapy you'll need to recover from this experience and the physical therapy those few children who survive will need.

Maybe he wasn't quite that hyperbolic. Perhaps that's just left over from the previous blog. I think the superintendent really said something like the vast majority of teens have at least 2 accidents in the first three years of driving and driving is the biggest killer of teens.

This was after the lovely film clips that were showing while we all walked into the auditorium of kids who had been in teen car accidents: a girl who could no longer smile, a stomach-wrenching shot of a compound leg fracture before it had been set, and a severely brain damaged young man.

The content of the meeting was actually pretty decent. I thought there was a fair amount of practical advice. And it was good to know that we (parent, teachers, and student driver) are all going to work together to help teach our kids to drive. Some of the practical advice was a bit too graphically practical for my taste, though. For example, he recommended keeping a parent's hand on the wheel for the first few weeks, while the other hand rests lightly on the parking brake.

While the teen is driving.

Because we don't have a brake on our side of the car.

So I guess he's thinking that we're going to need a brake on the passenger side of the car.

Annie the Anxious really didn't need any of this sobering stuff, though perhaps others did. She asked, upon leaving school, what she was supposed to do when (not if) she has a panic attack while driving. We immediately agreed upon the following course of action: pull over and stop driving. I then reassured her that virtually everyone learns how to drive, even the most anxious of people, and few of them have panic attacks while at the wheel.

Kidding aside, I think she really will be a fine driver. I guess I think it would've been nice if she could've started out not terrified before she even sets foot on an accelerator or brake, though.



It's about to happen. The Biggest Weather Event Ever. A Winter Storm is Approaching. Danger, danger, warning Will Robinson! My husband called to tell me he'd been announcing "potentially life-threatening conditions" in his weather reports this morning. Geez-o-pete. Might it be possible for us to get a grip on our societal obsession with all things weather-related? Or more globally, all things hyperbole?

Yes, a nasty storm is on the horizon. Potentially. They call it weather prediction for a reason, though. Weather predicting, as happens with so much else in life, is an imperfect science--closer to an art, to my eye. When dealing with such inexactitudes, the large scale capital letter italicized media reactions seem a touch overblown.

So does the NOW--New York State press release castigating Senator Edward Kennedy for endorsing Obama over Clinton. Ouch for us feminists. It's a betrayal of women to choose Obama, a male candidate with impeccable feminist credentials, over Clinton? This statement seems to confuse being a feminist with creating knee-jerk requirements that any woman should prevail in this race simply because she's a woman.

Apparently the national NOW organization agrees, having quickly released a statement recommitting itself to Clinton but making nice to Kennedy and backing away from NOW-NYS's intemperate and unreasoned reaction.

Girlfriends, I want a woman in the White House as much as the next feminist. But not enough that I'll vote for any woman. And not enough that I'll vote for a woman that if I feel she will make a lesser president than the other candidates presented.

I continue to support Edwards. But I am waffling at this point. I'm not convinced at this point that he'll have enough delegates to bring him some influence at the Convention, which would be my main reason for voting for him. I am undecided between Clinton and Obama, but heavily leaning toward Obama.

Here is today's good reason why I might support Obama: I think Obama could be a true bridge between the gay and African-American communities, possibly bringing black liberals more in line with mainstream liberal opinion supporting gay rights.

While I'm deciding, I'm going to attempt to avoid hyperbole, as well as avoid driving in The World's Most Horrible Storm Ever this evening.


Monday, January 28, 2008


I have often been shallow for the past year or so. I am worried about how I look, how much I weigh, whether my clothes make me look even more matronly than I already am, and whether I fit in regarding said issues. It's very annoying, and I feel like a weenie preteen for admitting it.

In a small epiphany this weekend, I determined the cause for this look-focus: my new church. To be more truthful, it's my reaction to Grace. Our church is in a upper class town (though not necessarily chock full of rich people). And it is high church. Nothing like our old church, where casual was di rigour, and my black jeans passed for dressy.
People dress for church, and they dress well. Some dress very well. Very well indeed.

So I knew when I switched over that I'd have to acquire a more suitable wardrobe. Hence the beginnings of the focus on looks. When you have to buy clothes, you must, of necessity, actually look at the clothes you are buying. Worse, you have to look at them in a mirror. On you.

When I do that, I notice that I am no longer 30 and 135lbs. And I am ashamed to say that I am still struggling to accept that. I'm fine with being 46. 46 is a good age. I'm happy and healthy. I exercise vigorously and regularly. I'm even healthy given my weight, which I recently announced at a dinner party but will not regale you with here, thank goodness.

I could even accept the weight number, as a numerical figure. But I can't accept the figure I have received from my weight. And society is not helping me one single bit.

Example one. I am told that some expert on Oprah recently told us that your nipple (girls only) should be situated between your elbow and your shoulder. The friend who told me this then joked that she didn't mean it should be attached to your arm, it was merely a height indicator.

Well, hell. Too bad Oprah's expert isn't pushing for the latter because I could easily do so. Then my arms could help hold up those girls. If my nipples were actually located between my elbows and my shoulders, I would absolutely have the 50s cone shape going on, and my breasts would probably be classified as Weapons of Mass Destruction.

As is, they are only destroying my back and the lines of my clothing. I could easily wear shirts two sizes smaller if it weren't for the previously darned useful, still occasionally enjoyable but mostly in the way appendages. Instead, I'm reduced (sic) to wearing tent-like shirts.

In my previous before-I-was-overweight life, I depended on khakis and oxfords, neatly tucked in. Not so much now. Don't like tucking things in. It takes up precious space in my always tight waistband. And a tucked shirt covers nothing. No jelly belly, for instance. At least my gray hair prevents me from being asked if the belly is a boy or a girl.

So I dither in front of the closet weekly, looking to disguise the jelly belly and the girls. This past Sunday, I asked myself (as always), "What can I wear that won't make me look 40 lbs overweight?" Then, in a head-smacking moment, I realized that there was NOTHING I could wear that wouldn't make me look 40lbs overweight. Because I am 40lbs overweight. Not even a really good corset of rib-breaking quality would rein my middle regions in enough to pass for that 30 year old woman.

That notion was a bit freeing. Nothing is going to make me look thin. So I should simply wear what I want, right? Not so fast. I still have to dress up a bit more. So then the quality of the clothing, the type of clothing, comes into play. I believe I've blogged in the past about not having the right shoes. You know, pointy shoes.

Pointy shoes are, according to Stacy and Clinton on "What Not To Wear" which I watched for a second time this weekend, wonderful for making you look slimmer. Something about extending the line. Also, they told me (well, not actually me, but a young version of me who preferred to wear athletic clothes all the time) that your pants should be as wide as the widest portion of your leg, so as not to cling to fatness and emphasize the same. Maybe I truly could find nice clothes that would be flattering and make me look, well, better. Or more like those who look so good.

Pointy shoes would make me feel like I fit in, I sometimes think. Nice business work clothes would make me feel like I fit in, I sometimes think. Perhaps an array of purses, all carrying a fully loaded makeup bag would help.

How did I digress into this mess of caring about what others look like instead of who I am? It's not like anyone has ever (by look or word) suggested that I am not toeing the line at my new church when I wear my more casual but not blue jean look and no pointy shoes. But I look around and I focus on the few who look quite lovely and sophisticated and feel that I should be doing the same.

Yet I never have been lovely and sophisticated. I've always been me, a person who has never been particularly fashion-forward and who regularly spills things, usually at nice gatherings. Pricey clothes never last long with me in them. I forget I'm wearing an expensive blouse, wander down to the basement and paint is magically attracted to my right sleeve. Or I find the only nail sticking out on the entire baseboard and it leaps out and snags my wool pants.

Sometimes, I think I want to be something I'm not. But when I get right down to brass tacks, I realize that I still wouldn't feel like I fit in, even if I wore nice business clothes and pointy shoes and weighed 40 lbs less. That feeling like I fit in has far more to do with getting to know the insides of the people than focusing on their outsides. And it has even more to do with me and my insides than any part of them.

Fudge. Why is growing up such an ongoing process?


Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday's Feast - 25 January 2008

Thought I'd try this again. We'll see if I stick with it.

How many times per day do you usually laugh?

Probably 5 to 10 times a day. Twice as much if I take Maggie to the dog park. I find dogs at play to be incredibly amusing. There's amazing abandon involved. Even the posturing is for fun.

What do your sunglasses look like?

I have no idea. I believe the lenses are dark. In fact, I believe the frames are dark, too. I have a distant memory of the frames being somewhat angular. Rare is the day that they are actually seated on the bridge of my nose. I usually forget I own them. Wonder if wearing reading glasses most of the day this winter will change that?

You win a free trip to anywhere on your continent, but you have to travel by train. Where do you go?

Go west, middle-aged woman. I would so enjoy seeing the wide expanses of the West, both north and south. I'd go north first, hitting the Rockies, the high plains, Montana (birthplace of my Grandma S), all the way out to the coast. Then I'd head back home through the south, hitting all the beauty that way.

I'd read. I'd get off and sight-see. I'd drink it all in. Ahh.

Main Course
Name one thing you consider a great quality about living in your town/city.

When my children were little, it was definitely the high volume of parks. I'd say that most homes are no more than 4 blocks from a great park with room to run around and play.

Now, I'm very grateful for the abundant trees in this very urban village. Makes living here palatable for me, being able to gaze into my back yard and see my wide sturdy cottonwood, anchored on Ridgeland Avenue as it probably has since the house was built 100 years before. I love knowing that it was here in Oak Park when my grandparents lived here.

If the sky could be another color, what color do you think would look best?

Palest sunset pink with a hint of yellow. All the time. Gorgeous and flattering to old people, too. ;-)


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Diversity Training

Interesting study on the efficacy of diversity training on promoting diversity in the workplace came out this week. The study looked at 31 years of data from over 800 workplaces. It found that after diversity training, the number of females and minorities in management positions actually declined (ranging from 7.5% fewer women to 12% fewer black men).

The researchers believe that these programs fail for two reasons. First, diversity training that is mandatory, imposed by a company, seems to bring a backlash with it. Second, many of the programs were not specific to the needs of each specific business and the issues it might have or skills it might need to improve to retain a more diverse employee base.

Why do I care about this study, you might ask, as it doesn't seem particularly relevant to my life as currently led? Well, I'm curious about things. Many, many things. And something I've always been curious about is diversity training in many different areas of life and the effect it has on those involved.

The idea behind diversity training is to achieve heightened awarenesses of our biases, as well as a heightened appreciation of the benefits of a diverse population in whatever area of life we are receiving that training. After going through this kind of training myself in several areas of life (church, volunteer organizations) and watching people react to it, well, I'm not really surprised to hear this study's findings.

It just seems to make those who are already wearing their biases on their sleeves cranky. Experiencing an attitude epiphany toward women or African Americans (or whomever their own nasty little secret hatred runs to) is rarely due to outside influences. Personal experiences change people's minds.

And what's the point, again, beyond being aware of biases and aware of positives? Yes, awareness is often the first step in making changes. But it is also usually the last step. Witness my relationship with food: Yep, I'm eating too much. I know it. Now pass me the popcorn, please.

It makes sense to me that successful sensitivity/diversity training would need to be specific. Why are we having this training? Is it because someone simply thinks it's a fine idea because it will look good? Is it because someone has accused the business or group involved of being racially insensitive? Is there truly a need?

If so, answer the need, ASAP. Ditch the generalized stuff and address the specific issue at hand.

Me, I'm more interested in improving things. And awareness seems a long few steps aware from improvement. Why not have training that is very task or group specific? An HR person who agreed with the study's findings said, "Programs that work focus on the business advantages that come with diversity of thought, and that requires having people with diverse backgrounds."

So figure out why expanding the diversity of your workplace would increase the bottom line, and act accordingly. Determine why helping your congregation and staff become racially sensitive would increase the number of African Americans who feel welcome to worship with you and address the situation. Or, if you'd prefer to be a little less business-like in your worship, assess what would Jesus do if his neighbors felt unwelcome at his temple.

But don't do it because it looks good. Do it if, and because, it is good. For everyone.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Brain Freeze

My brain is a bit too chilled for any biting analysis today. Yeehaw, it is cold in these here parts. And I'm not speaking of the outdoor parts (-4 in my back yard this morning), but rather of the indoor parts (57 in my kitchen this morning). That's what happens when you convert a porch into a kitchen and expect one heating duct to suffice for such a large space.

Speaking of space, my trust little space heater (safely operated, of course) is keeping me company so that I can make a few concise and salient observations before my fingers fall off.

My disappointment in John Edwards' performance in the last two primaries knows no bounds. Realistically, he has no shot at the office. But I had hoped he could continue to shape the agenda of the Democrats and possibly have some pull come convention-time with the ability to throw some delegates to either Clinton or Obama. That plan is not looking terribly grand at the moment.

Nor does the Montana superintendent who canceled a speech on global warming by Nobel-prize winning scientist Steve Running because some in the community thought that the speech would be "anti-agricultural". I refuse to believe that our agrarian brethren (sistren?) would, as a group, be so short-sighted as to believe that global warming should not be discussed because of its potential economic impact on the farming community.

Though, clearly, many believe it is not only acceptable but desirable to artificially shape community discussion. Hence the complete disappearance of John Edwards in media coverage after the Iowa caucuses. Edwards came in second, remember? Yet, during the following week, he received only 7% of the candidate campaign coverage, which was less than 1/5 of Clinton's coverage and less than 1/4 of Obama's coverage.

I've heard the arguments: Edwards didn't have enough money for the long haul, his race wasn't historic like Clinton and Obama. But shouldn't the press be reporting the story as it occurred? Iowa said "Pay attention to John Edwards." The media said "No, don't bother. He won't win later." Seems wrong to me.

Something that seems right to me would be the notion that possibly plastics (or the chemicals in them) are making me fat. Which would let me off the hook for eating too much and moving too little.

Lastly, a reminder of why the Presidential elections are so important: The Supreme Court. Justice Antonin Scalia, placed on the Supreme Court by Republican Ronald Reagan, proclaimed that there is "no painless requirement" in the Constitution regarding executions or punishments. Which part of Constitutional Law do you think he missed at Harvard Law School? Oh, the part where the Constitution says no cruel and unusual punishment?


Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Have you heard about the indie movie "Juno"? All the teenage girls I know (including the one with whom I live) love it. Roger Ebert loved it, too. It's the sweet, sassy, heartbreaking story of a girl who decides to have sex with her best friend, gets pregnant, then decides to carry the baby and give to an adopting couple.

"Juno" is creating a rumble of controversy among women and mother of teens. Does it glorify teen pregnancy by having a wise-cracking cool kid carry a baby and seem ok at the end? Is the film anti-abortion because Juno decides not to have one, or pro-choice because Juno considers it? Shouldn't Juno be more, um, chastened by her experiences?

I've asked my girl a couple of times what she thinks of the movie. I also asked her to read Katha Pollitt's op piece in The Nation. Pollitt definitely falls into the category of thinking "Juno" glamorized teen pregnancy by having it (and the eponymous star) be so cool.

Annie scoffed at both Pollitt's opinion and the piece. She doesn't think the movie makes being pregnant seem cool in the least, though she loves the character Juno. Nor did she think the movie encouraged girls to take charge, have sex, and manage a pregnancy. "That never occurred to me."

I think Juno is appealing to her (and her friends) because Juno is funny and independent, yet sobbed in her hospital bed after giving birth and giving her baby up. She took responsibility for her actions, but didn't pretend to be a grownup about it all. She stayed who she was throughout this life-changing event, which is a very hard thing for girls to do.

Me? I sobbed through the second half of the movie, as Juno watches grownups fall apart and tries to hold it together. As she gives birth. As she cries, then moves on. Was she chastened enough? What, did she need to wear a scarlet B on her t-shirt the rest of her teen life and give sermons on having learned her lesson? She was a thoughtful character who obviously felt deeply about doing the right thing for this baby who came through her life and left it. Can there be any doubt that it changed yet, yet left her still a kid?

Soundtrack is fun, too, if you like funky-twangy.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Train wrecks and other magnetic events

Carl and I watched "American Idol" this evening. We watched a bit last year, bonding with A over it. Half way through the show, A disappeared. After a while, we glanced at one another, silently wondering what in the heck we were still doing, watching the trashy show flashing on the screen. Hence the magnetic event reference.

The first weeks of American Idol are astoundingly awful. There's this dichotomy happening. One is appalled at the often blatantly cruelty exhibited by the judges: making fun of contestants, shrieking with laughter at their voices and appearances, and a general attitude of base ridicule. Some of the contestant's faces reflected such genuine hurt that it was painful to watch.

Why is it acceptable, nay profitable, for important (sic) people to treat peons disrespectfully? Oh. Never mind. That's what the corporate world teaches us daily. People are not important; money is important. And those most likely to make money are those we would not make fun of: attractive, normal folks with some talent.

On the other hand, at least as the show is edited, many of the contestants were truly awful--unattractive, sometimes odd people with little or no talent. And, more offensively, many of those auditioning were deeply offended by not being chosen. There's an entitlement attitude rampant among those auditioning, an attitude that says, "Well, of course I'm talented enough to be a star. You are nuts to think otherwise."

One of the least palatable segments of the show is the post-interview, where we get to watch one rejected contestant after another proclaim just how wrong the judges were, usually an opinion liberally sprinkled with bleepable language.

Is this all the fault of pop psychology: always find something to praise about your child, don't ever discourage them, and let them know they are the center of your world? Or is it that children are lifted up as being central but reality shows them otherwise: if I'm so important, why do my parents come home from work 45 minutes before bedtime, try to buy me off, or don't care enough to make rules and stick with them?

Maybe it's none of the above, and there's nothing deep about it. Maybe society is going to hell in the proverbial handbasket and there's not a damn thing we can do about it. It would certainly seem so, after watching two hours of that dreck.

The election continues to be a magnetic event aka train wreck for me. But, of late, I'm fear I have nothing new to say on the topic. I'm glad that Hillary and Barack toned down the racial rhetoric today. Or maybe that's just an easy out for this white liberal.

I guess the only other election news is, gasp, while I'm still behind John Edwards and his campaign platform, his smile is starting to wear on me. The fake one. I know, I know. They all have fake smiles. It's their job, to smile constantly. Except when they are to look compassionate. Or fiery. Or parental. It's all an act. But I don't like catching them at it. And John is such a movie star that it looks particularly bad, somehow, when he flashes his fakey grin with the pearly whites.

Ah, deep substantive election analysis. I know that's why you stopped by.

Liz :-)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Results and what they mean part 1

Arrived home from my first Board of Ed function to hear New Hampshire declared for Hillary in a very tight race. Yet again, so many are surprised--and eager to draw conclusions from what has happened. Clinton was inevitable. Then Obama was inevitable. What does it all mean?

What is all means is we've only just begun. It is not time yet to draw conclusions. Did Clinton win because of a sudden massive rush of women supporting her against the bad mean men? Did Obama win in Iowa because his message of change resonated with those new participants who showed up in droves? We always want answer, permanent solutions that will not change, even in this sea of the Change election.

Probably we'll have to wait a little longer, be a bit more patient, to have our answers. We'll have to live with a little bit of uncertainty to achieve the change all seem to want (though clearly we don't all want the same change!). Perhaps, instead of trying to nail down what's happening, we could simply watch it happen and participate in the process instead of constantly trying to prognosticate.

The process is, as always, just as important as the end product. I'm off to savor a beer and watch those who will not heed my advice and prognosticate and pontificate to earn their keep. ;-)


Different strokes

I was having lunch with a friend today. We were talking about different types of people. She is one of those folks who have constant calendarizing occurring in their brain: what's coming next? am I doing what I'm supposed to? is X doing what she's supposed to? I am not one of those folks.

I am the one who forgot our last lunch because I neglected to put it in my electronic calendar aka Palm Pilot. I have an electronic calendar because my brain calendar is non-functional. Think of my mind as a slippery brain on which biological memory post-it notes simply do not stick. The note, which cannot adhere to such an unforgiving surface, flutters to the ground as I move to the next interesting thing--and is completely forgotten.

And merely entering a date into my electronic calendar is not sufficient. Oh, no. Unless it is, at a minimum, weekly recurring event, I will forget it if all I've done is put it on my calendar. I must put it on my calendar. I must check my calendar numerous times each day. I must activate the alarm on my calendar, so that I do not forget at the last moment if I become engaged in something else.

If it's a highly unusual event, not part of my regular life, I must plaster numerous areas of my house with paper post-it notes. Those who know me know this. They have been known to ask me, "Did you put up a post-it to remember X?" It's good when people know you.

Why is all this true? What is wrong with me? I'm not faulty, just differently abled. I am always right here, right now. I am never thinking about the next hour, minute, day. I am here--and completely lost in here! Want to talk to me while I'm reading a book? My family jokes about the delay factor involved in gaining my attention: "Mom." Pause and count to 5. "Huh?" Wait another 5 seconds for good measure, to make sure I have fully emerged from whatever world I was in while reading.

Beef stew has been on the menu for three weeks running now. Today is the first time in those three weeks that I've actually made it. Why? Because beef stew needs to be started around 2pm. And I don't usually cook dinner at 2pm. So I have to REMEMBER to start the stew at 2pm on the day planned, which I managed to forget to do two weeks running.

I'm usually busy doing something else at 2pm. And, unless I plaster a post-it on the back door or set an alarm, I will inevitably be so involved in whatever I am doing at 2pm that I will forget to start cooking. Admittedly, I've been a bit lazy these past two weeks, it being holiday time and all. So my usual admirable coping skills (involving the post-it and/or the alarm) were not in use. I was reading, instead.

We ate out a bit more than usual the past two weeks. :-)

Now, please note that I do not use my differently abled-ness as an excuse for living a disordered life. I am a responsible adult. I am rarely late. If I volunteer for an organization, you can count on me to do what I've volunteered to do. I pick my children up at the correct times (most of the time). That is because I have done what truly responsible adults do who have slippery brains: invented coping mechanisms to bypass the slippery brain problem.

Visualize it as wrapping my brain in velcro each morning. As long as I remember throughout the day to check my calendar regularly, enter new calendar or to-do items into my calendar, and use the post-it system faithfully, I can run a functioning house because I stick to it. Pun intended. I stick to the system because I can't handle the guilt feelings that result when I do not stick to it.

So, once again we see that guilt has its uses.

My friend T is a calendarizing gal, as well. She often wishes she was more of a lost in the moment, slow down and smell the flowers type. I suppose there must be coping mechanisms to help those folks, too. Maybe you could calendarize losing yourself once at week at 7:45p . . . ?

Liz :-)

PS. Please note that I am assiduously avoiding all election conversation for today to avoid boring you, fair readers. I'm sure there'll be something interesting to discuss tomorrow!

Monday, January 07, 2008


What do you think about Senator Clinton's tears and the surrounding brouhaha? Of course, because she's clearly such a hardened woman, we must ask if they were faked or genuine. After watching the video several times I, in my official role as arbiter of all truth, declare that Hillary's tears were, indeed, real.

Had it been Bill . . . we all know how well he cries, off the cuff or on cue. But all accounts suggest that Hillary doesn't do crying. She's never struck me as much of an actress, nor easily emotive. The emotions seemed genuine, though I doubt the impetus was the topic at hand during the meeting. Every liberal commentator has declared her sky is falling, she's a goner. Who wouldn't cry, given how much she's put into this? But, yes, again it's all about her (per yesterday's blog).

John-Boy, aka my candidate, said something foolish in response when asked for comment: "I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business."
Ack. Apparently Elizabeth toned him down later and he was able to sound a bit more sympathetic.

While Obama gets points for not jumping all over Hillary's tears, he's still in negative territory with me today. His NH campaign chair has served as a state pharmaceutical lobbyist (he has also lobbied in many other areas). Seems like poor judgment to me. It's hard for me to take him seriously as an advocate for health care reform if he's hired a pharmaceutical lobbyist to help run his campaign.

As I read through the blog and comments from whence this info came, the conversation between comments was very interesting. I guess the blogger who posted this info is a former Republican and alleged Hillary shill. I guess that's supposed to make me ignore the information (though it appears to be entirely factual, according to other sources). I guess I think that's short-sighted.

If it is the new inevitability, that Obama will be our candidate, it behooves us to vet said candidate well before he comes up against McHuckaRom. We really don't want to wait and let the Republicans do the dirty work for us. Democrats know what that's like--and it ain't pretty. Let's make sure we know what we're getting with each of these candidates. Giving Obama a pass because he's the first "inevitable" African-American candidate is a very poor idea, certainly not one that the Republicans will embrace.

John Kass, a Chicago Tribune columnist, keeps taking pot shots at Obama. I agree with very little that Kass says, generally speaking. But he knows dirty politics. And I am still uncomfortable with his continued intimations that Obama and Chicago politics are cozy. I would be thrilled to be convinced that it's just Kass. Feel free to do so.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

One more thing

And can I just say that this whole "vertical" hook that Huckabee is using drives me nuts? It's almost as offensive as the not-so-well-hidden crosses in his ads. If you're going to run on your Christianity, then stop playing games and do it. Don't use these game-playing rhetorical stunts that let all of us Christians know we're part of the in crowd, while not so subtly excluding the secular world. And don't hide your cross, either. Either use it or lose it, Pastor Huckabee.

The Republican side of the debate was quite dispiriting. I disagree so strongly with virtually all of the stances these men take that it was hard for me to watch. I did enjoy seeing Romney look bad, though.


Post Debate Thoughts

This latest round of debates was interesting. I confess to having watched a number of them, while simultaneously knitting, reading books, or finishing puzzles. But last night was the most informative yet, given the winnowed number of Democratic participants. We really got to hear what Obama, Edwards, Clinton and Richardson had to say--and how they said it.

It was striking, how annoyed we all were (all four of us were watching at various points of the evening) with Clinton. I kept wondering if I held her to a differing standard, harsher, because she's a woman. The constant self-references were distracting. It seemed like the message was Me, rather than here are the thoughts and policies which I support.

Her best moment of the evening? Easily the point when she said, quite honestly, it seemed, that it hurt her feelings that people didn't like her as much as Obama, then dryly noted that she would go on. It was a glimpse inside, just a peek of who she really is beyond the performing I will not be a shrill woman on stage Hillary.

Obama was good. Smooth. On-message. He focused on his message, did his inspiring JFK thing. As he said, words are important. Hope works miracles when paired with action. And he definitely makes me believe miracles are possible if we act.

If we're comparing Kennedys, though, I'm still idolizing Bobby--and comparing John Edwards to him brings me no disappointment. Edwards radiated populist fire last night in classic late-era Bobby Kennedy fashion. He brought us back to his message again and again: economic fairness and the tyranny of the super-rich.

Yes, I know that both Kennedy and Edwards were/are among those wealthy few. I don't think this dilutes their message one iota. Edwards is using his wealth to focus us on the injustices of the US economic system. He's the only one who's been preaching to the middle class throughout the campaign. Now, when suddenly this week the economy is the issue, Obama and Clinton are jumping on the bandwagon. But Edwards has been playing my song all along.

They are all Democrats. In the end, I'd vote for any of them. They all play my song, in essence and in point of most facts. Obama makes my heart sing, but I don't always know what he plans to do or why. Clinton makes me annoyed that I agree with her, even as I'm tapping my foot to her tune. And Edwards? He's not as lyrical as Obama, as stone-cold poised as Clinton. But I know exactly who he's singing for and why. Which is why he continues to get my vote, though he has no money to buy it and may well be out of it by the time I get to vote.


Friday, January 04, 2008


I admit to becoming really excited by the Iowa Caucus last night! There's no sign of inevitability in these races, boys and girls, and that's good news for everyone. We have no need of dynasties in these United States. We have no need for bought elections, where money is King, and no need for the notion that we have no choice but to bow in obeisance to that King.

I put my cynicism aside for a few days. I really thought that money would buy those caucus results for Clinton and Romney. Those fat wallets felt like steamrollers, set to squash their puny opponents. But, for all our complaints this week about Iowans having too much influence, they proved their worth. They looked beyond money and ads and power, listened to the candidates, and chose accordingly.

Huckabee surely can't be a surprise winner in Iowa. The large evangelical vote was a no brainer for him. And his folksy appeal was designed to win in the Midwest and the Bible Belt. It's hard for me to imagine him making headway in the East, though.

Obama's speech was very presidential and inspiring. All of the Democratic candidates talk about change, but he talks best. Can he walk the walk? I still don't know. Interesting story about that (a positive one) here. I thought Edwards' speech was great, too. It was a good distillation of what he's all about. I'm still a strong Edwards supporter, and was thrilled that he edged out Clinton. Clinton's speech was, by contrast to the others, annoyingly all about me, me, me, rather than we.

I agree with those who think Edwards has shaped this campaign for the better, forcing Clinton and Obama to get specific about health and poverty. And, given the hope coming out of Iowa in the form of thousands more Democrats excited about participating in this election, I'm not willing to give up my hope that Edwards can--at the very least--keep shaping this election for the better.

On to New Hampshire.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Under the bridge and over the dam

Time flies when you're having fun away from the keyboard. My kids and I spent the past week up at my parent's place in Elk Rapids, aka The Winter Wonderland. The woods were lovely, dark and deep. The bay was shivery gray, with enough ice for Annie and the Maggie-pup to romp out several hundred feet.

And the snow, ah, the snow. Dad and I had some very nice skis on the busy Vasa trail. As my daughter would say, "It was a frickin' freeway out there." There were an astounding amount of people out enjoying the snow. We particularly enjoyed the woman who, in a rather Frenchified accent asked us, "Why do you sometimes do like zee duck and sometimes go straight when you ski?"

Which would be a way of asking "Why do some people skate ski and other ski classic?" The answer is because some of us are middle-aged slackers who have thighs of jelly and some of us are frenetic fitness fanatics who enjoy torturing themselves on a regular basis. As someone who turned 46 this week, I fall into the former category, naturally.

And my thighs of jelly take me to gorgeous vistas on the ski trail just fine, thank you very much, even if I am a bit slower than those skaters in their skin-tight lycra outfits and flashy yellow ski boots. The slower the ski, the more you see--you see?

Carl was in a cooler clime, too. Florida is experiencing a bit of a cold snap, so all those Midwesterners who headed down to bowl games in FL were shivering in their flip flops. But CJ was a happy camper, with Michigan bringing home a surprising victory for Lloyd Carr's final game.

And now we're all back at home, slowly making our way through the lovely Christmas mess we hastily left behind last week. At the same time, we're celebrating our January birthdays, Jonathan and I. He's the first, I'm the second. Today is already the third, and we're still working on the first!

Numbers are odd, even when they're even. Jon is 20 now, no more a teen, as he has loudly proclaimed over and over this week. He's lording it over Annie, our only teen now. Which is odd.

Odder still is my being 46. It's one of those numbers that has struck me as "old". Not early 40s, 46 is firmly ensconced in middle age. Jelly thighs, gray hair, and a memory like a sieve are all features of this middle-agedness. I mostly don't mind. And I don't feel old. But the number is bothering me this week.

I remind myself: better to be 46 than the alternative. This is a helpful perspective to take on many issues. My reality may be less than perfect. But the alternatives often are no more appealing. Call it "settling" or call it "embracing what you have rather than longing for what you don't/can't have". Either way, I find that perspective bracing and affirming.

Doesn't mean I'm not still dreaming dreams. But, at 46, I know that dreams don't always come true. They will languish indefinitely if I do nothing beyond dreaming. And, even if I work hard and am lucky, I will probably still be in this particular reality. Inhabiting a slightly dilapidated Queen Anne bungalow on Ridgeland Ave, with my interesting family, living a life I could not (would not? I don't know) have dreamed of 24 years ago, unwilling to let go of it for any other dream or reality.

Time flies. We don't. Today, that's ok with me.