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photo by Sheri Dixon

Monday, May 31, 2010

Honoring Our Lost By Finding Sanity

Andy Rooney had a very nice Memorial Day piece last night- photos and stories of men he'd served with during World War II- men who never came home.

I had ancestors who served overseas- my grandfather and his brothers served in World War I- grandpa came home but didn't talk about it, one great-uncle did not come home, and one did, but wasn't "quite right" ever again.

I have friends who've served during wartime and peace- making sacrifices great and small, from horrifying to merely inconvenient- in the name of our Nation and its Safety.

I thank them all for their service.

What I wanted to say here today I'd held off on putting to pixels because I wasn't sure, didn't want to minimalize in any way what our men and women in uniform are doing- have done- will continue to do- for our country.

But at the end of his on-air time, Andy Rooney said (and I'm paraphrasing) that the greatest way to honor those who will never come home is to make sure, to find a way, somehow, that no one has to ever die again in a war.

And that's what I wanted to say.

I wanted to say that while I understand that nations consist of people and people are by nature argumentative and squirrely and that there will most likely always be disagreements, bad feelings and even hatred between different societies, there MUST be a better way of dealing with it than to have each country throw wave after wave of living bodies at the other one.

I've long thought that if the leader of one country was pissed off at the leader of another one, we should just arm them both and let 'em have at it.

Winner take all.

I know world leaders think long and hard before resorting to armed conflict, but I guaran-damn-tee that they'd think one more time if it were their own asses entering the ring.

Now, granted, alot of world leaders are not particularly scrappy nor physically fit, which is a hoot since they're the ones who throw other peoples' kids at the war machine, so maybe World Leader Armed Combat would not be the most prudent way to solve it.

No worries- I still think it's a good idea,

AND I can eliminate pretty much not only the hellacious expense of staging a giant war by not using huge amounts of ammo, vehicles and bodies to accomplish it

AND not only will it not cost the entire national budget- it would actually diminish the national debt-

*Pay Per View Mercenary Foreign Relations Dispute Resolution*

I'm not kidding and not in the least making light of the Day- historically, it's been done.

The greatest warrior of each country battling each other mano e mano- the stuff of legend, the stuff of story and song, made all that much better by the modern technology that would allow spectators to watch from the comfort of their own homes- to be up close to history without the danger of dying for it.

Because at the end of the day, no matter what starts a war, the end result is never who is "right" and who is "wrong", but who has the most money, toys and sheer amount of bodies to throw at it- bodies that happen to be someone's son, daughter, father, mother- humans that should be at home with their loved ones doing normal human things for the duration of their normal human life.

There ARE humans who enjoy a good fight- live for the thrill, the excitement, the hunt, the strategy, and even the pain. Every society has them.

These are the men (and women) who should be fighting each other.

Of course the optimal scenario would be for everyone to get along and to not fight wars at all.

Tree-huggin' ol' hippiechick that I am, even I am not prepared to believe humanity is that...human.

Next best thing- leave the wars to the warriors and leave the majority of us literally in peace.

To those serving, and who have served- I thank you, my family thanks you, and we wish you and your families homecoming- and peace.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Stuff of Our Lives

We're packrats.

All of us are packrats. If we bring something into our house, it's found a home forever. Doesn't have to be useful, or valuable, or even recognizable- once over the threshold, it's a permanent fixture.

Alot of our friends are also packrats- the ones we feel most comfortable with. We do have friends who seem to "travel lightly" through life- who can actually say "If I'm not going to use this again, or if I don't know what the heck it is, or if I haven't laid hands or eyes on it for a year, out it goes".

Those people kind of creep me out a little bit.

Now, I'm not talking the stuff of Cops- piles of trash and garbage climbing the walls, oozing out from under the beds, and evolving or mutating its way out of the fridge. I try to keep all that stuff under control (although there are two or three closets in this house I won't open).

No, our stuff is mostly books, magazines and memorabilia. Photographs, negatives, prints and enlargements stack up the years and vacations, births and birthdays before I went (mostly) digital.

Books. Don't speak to me of Books. Every one of us is a sucker for a good book. I know there's a world of information on the interwebs, including books available to read, but there's something about holding a real book, feeling its heft, turning the pages- reading is (or should be) a tactile event as well as a visual one. Given a choice of destination for an afternoon, all of us will choose Bookstore over mall, or sporting event, or watering hole/eatery. The only thing that rates higher than a bookstore is a park during pretty weather.

So we have books. Thousands of 'em. They've long outgrown our many bookshelves and stack on every horizontal surface in every room and stalagmite up around those surfaces- satellite islands of books surrounding the mainland shelves, dressers and tables.

Any inch not occupied by photographs or books contains memorabilia- the stuff our moms called knick knacks. Not purchased from the furniture store, or Pier One- the knick knacks of our life were hand-picked by my favorite designers- my children and friends. From a tin rooster to a family of resin giraffes to a carved and painted gourd each piece reminds me of the giver and it gives me happiness to dust them, to handle them, to be able to touch something linking me to a loved one no matter how far the distance or time between us may be.

Now, all this stuff would not be a problem except...

...we're fixin' to move. We need to market the house.

If you have ever seen five minutes of the Home and Garden Channel, you know that a house must be more than clean, more than located in a good neighborhood, and more than priced fairly.

It must be "staged".

Staging a house means, in a nutshell, that all personal items must be removed, and all rooms painted a neutral color. Perhaps now is a good time to mention that our rooms are lavender, red, peach, blue, yellow, pink, green, and even a plaid- not a neutral in sight.

Are we starting to see the problem?

I guess I shouldn't worry.

No one in their right mind will make it past the drooly giant dog on the front mat, the turkey on the porch railing, the goats in the yard, the chickens in the tree and the ducks everywhere else.

*We're doomed.*

"Wanted- funny farm desires new caretakers- must love old houses, big trees, small livestock and have excellent sense of humor and imagination."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Migration Day

Our house just got quieter, calmer, infinitely emptier.

I remember road trips my family made to Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin- when the Canada Geese were migrating.

The marsh was covered, every square inch, with geese- flying, swimming, eating, and generally filling the air with proof of their presence- the cacophony of wings beating, honking, the sheer LIFE of them almost indescribable.

Then one night they'd be gone, mostly of a piece, just like that.

And the marshlands were silent- even the fulltime residents unable or unwilling to make a peep or chirp in the unfamiliar vacuum.

That's our house today after our migrating Snowbird Montanan pulled out of the yard headed for the mountains till autumn silents the cicadas, banishes the waves of heat shimmering just above both pavement and pasture, and blows away the aroma of sun-cooked pine- all the lazy, sweltering, familiar things I personally love about Texas.

This is our second summer of having Uncle Joe in our family. I've heard people say that "Joe carries his own weather with him". He's a big guy, with a forceful personality, and there's no way you're ever NOT aware that Joe's around. This has shifted the atmosphere in our normally quiet household, but not in a bad way. I believe that we all balance each other out- that Joe "shakes things up a little" while we "level him out some".

Last summer Joe had surgery at the VA Hospital in Montana and we traveled up there to be with him. Not (just) because we've never been to that part of the country and it made a good excuse for a totally kickass vacation, or because he has no friends up there who would've made sure he was alright- he's got a whole herd of good friends going back the 35 years he's lived there, but because

That's what Family does.

And it meant the world to him that we were there for his surgery, and that we could meet all his friends and get the opportunity to see his Life Before Us- Helena Montana.

This year it was our part of the familial equation that was medically grounded, and it was Joe who held the fort and the farm- spending over a month caring for critters he never asked for and a house that's way too big for one person. Not (just) because he desired to do an intimate study on the sex-lives of poultry, or needed somewhere totally quiet to continue his writing endeavors, but because

That's what Family does.

And it meant the world to us that never for one moment in over a month did I have to worry about Home, because someone was caring for everything who actually knows each critter and every minute of the daily routine.

So the wind has gone out of the sails of our lives for a while, but that's not a bad thing either. We've got a ton of projects that need done this summer that only the three of us can do- mainly going through this house top to bottom and shedding about 1/3 of the "stuff" in it in anticipation of trying to get moved to our other place, and Joe will be trying to accomplish the same in Montana with his "stuff" that's still up there.

Come fall, we'll all be ready for the return migration and moving forward with our plans for the future- plans that've gotten delayed some, and shifted a bit, and revised a tad, but never canceled, because

That's what Family does.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Blue Light Special Holds No Power Over This One...

I have a confession.

I'm a terrible failure as the parent of a future consumer.

This began when we decided to home school our son, for even though our reasons were varied and included the blocks of time we need to be out of town for medical visits to Houston, the large teacher to student ratio in our local school, mostly we're doing it because so much of what we feel is important to learn and experience can't be found cooped up in a classroom, but must be gotten for real and for true- be it Nature or Theater or Museums or Wonders of the World- the stuff of road trips.

So he missed out on peer pressure and brand indoctrination.

And even though he's as wishful as the next kid when it comes to gadgets, games and other treasures, he's got a different way of looking at things- something I'll gladly take both the credit and the fall for.

The other day in the car he asked me "Mom? Am I spoiled?"

I told him yes. And no.

Yes, because he is what amounts to an only child, even though he's got 2 half siblings they don't really 'count', being so much older than he is- grown and gone already. Whatever time, money and energy we have is devoted to him and him alone.

No, because by and large, he doesn't take advantage of that position.

I asked him if someone had accused him of spoilage, and he said "No- I was just thinking about getting the PS3 for Christmas- I know it was pretty expensive..."

Whereupon I reminded him he did not recieve the PS3 LAST year when it was new (and $400), but this year when it was NOT new (and $250). That alot of the hype and furor over a new gizmo is being the first on the block to get one.

This child of 10 then cast forth the following opinion-
"Well, once something is out for a while, the only distinction the person who got one first has is that they paid alot more for theirs".

Sorry, Shopping Frenzy God- you do not have this boy's soul.

Then we were talking about houses- specifically the new house we are planning on building, and that instead of a bigger house, we are planning on trading down- smaller house, fewer rooms, less of everything. Not because we have to because of budget (although our budget IS thin), but because we WANT to.

He told me about a friend's mothers house he was in while we were in Houston- he said they have a gigantic house for just 2 people- the friend's mother and his sister who lives with her.

In addition to the clearly lavish digs, there are apparently very large-screen tv's and a furniture wonderment of sofa that seats 8 and includes cup holders, foot rests, the literal 9 yards.

Then the common sensible spirit in the boy stuffed the budding consumer parts back into the shadows and said "But there are only 2 people who live there, and one of those is in a wheelchair- what in the world do they need a sofa that seats EIGHT for?"

I'm afraid "Trading Up" and "Bigger is Better" are also concepts that are lost on this one.

I'll admit that this is a boy who does not raise his hand to ask to go to the rest room, who is easily bored with mindless repitition, and who has a very hard time rising before 10am and sleeping before midnight.

But he's also a boy who holds the elevator door open for people without being asked to, who remembered all my favorite dishes when he and a friend went to the chinese restaurant to pick up food while I was sick, and who cares for and about even the littlest critter on our farm.

So while I'm horrified (evil grin) that our boy is not gaining the important skills needed to function in a consumer-driven society,

I'm heartened and proud as can be that he's growing into a wonderful man, and a most excellent human- just like his daddy.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Oh, To Be Twenty One Again

Not really. I wouldn't be 21 again for all the tea partiers in Kentucky.

When I was 21 I was pretty newly married with a tiny baby. I thought I knew what I wanted from life, and how to get it. My husband and I had a written plan and believed that if we followed that plan, we'd attain all our goals and be happy ever after in no time (well, at least by the 20 year mark of that neat little plan).

When I was 21 I was pretty conservative, having given up my wilder days of the late teen years (drinking age was 18 back then and I crammed alot of partying into 2 short years).

My friends and I had partied across the country- drank tequila shots in the back of a shag carpeted VW bus with an obscure rock band in Yellowstone Park, almost accepted the marriage proposal of a French Canadian lumberjack from Yellowknife, yanno- normal everyday teenage kid stuff...

So at age 21 I was all grown up and worldly.

'Round about year 30, everything started going to hell in a handbasket.

Turned out things weren't really black and white after all- there were like a million shades of gray.

Turned out marriage sometimes doesn't last forever no matter what you promise or how hard you try to make it work. Things like alcoholism and abuse are really "extenuating circumstances" and no matter how much you want them to go away, no matter how much you try to pray them away, they stick around.

So at age 33 I was divorced, with a house I couldn't afford and 2 children.

So at age 33.1 I did the exact wrongest thing and married again for all the wrongest reasons.

By age 35 I was divorced again and in Texas- the only good thing to come of that marriage was the move to Texas.

For here I met my current husband and recieved the blessing of a new start- a new marriage and a new baby at the age of 40.

And I make jokes, telling people my childrens' ages- almost 29, almost 24, and just turned 10- give it a minute for them to realize I was almost in the clear, those olders were almost grown, and I say "Ya. I know. What was I THINKING????"

I tell people that only the young should have babies- not because of the sheer energy needed, although there is that- but because youth is blessedly ignorant.

When my older 2 kids got sick as babies, I was concerned, and worried, but not too much. I walked the floor with their feverish little selves and thought "They are sick, but they'll get better".

When Alec got sick as a baby, I was concerned, and worried, and walked the floor with his feverish little self and thought "People die every day, and alot of them are babies".

Because here's the thing.

At 21 I had not lived. Not really. For really living means being aware that this thing called life isn't forever. Someday we'll stop- someday we'll all stop.

I read once that when you reach the half century mark, Life stops giving you things and starts taking them away.

While I don't believe that completely, since I am sure to always try new things, meet new people, go new places- an idle mind and body do get old- I am aware now more than ever that every sun sets on a day that will never be repeated.

One more grain of sand through my hour-glass.

You'd think that realization would make me WANT to go back- call Do Overs on alot of my life and be able to do things less...stupidly.

Yet everything I've done, even (and sometimes especially) the stupid things, have made me who I am, shown me what's important and what's useless bullshit, made me acutely aware of the value of things that have no price tag or blue book.

I'm 50. And graying. And pear-shaped. And tired.

I'm crabby more than I should be, and impatient with those I love more than I should be, and so ashamed of both traits. Even while sniping at my loved ones I think to myself "How on earth did I ever get so lucky to have these wonderful brilliant funny dear people in my life?"

I realize this and am able to relish every little good thing in my life only from the perspective of age, of aging, of being aged.

And I wouldn't be 21 again for all the tea partiers in Kentucky.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Siddown Matt, and Let the Lady Talk

My dad was a news photographer- and a gifted one.

For years he accompanied the reporters to the stories, recording the visual aspect that would catch the readers' eye even moreso than the headline- a thousand words and all that.

I remember him coming home from football games, sometimes scuffed up from being inadvertently tackled at the sidelines- that telephoto lens sure messes with depth perception.

I remember him coming home from celebrity interviews, sometimes with an autograph.

I remember most vividly him coming home from the sad stories- accidents, fires, tragedies of all sorts, and almost without exception he would've taken his photos and retreated quickly before the reporter started their part.

What he couldn't stomach were the questions. Not well thought out information gathering journalistic inquiries, but those the reporter perceived as such.

"Mr. Jones- you've just lost everything you own to the tornado that went through last night- how do you feel?"

"Mrs. Smith- you're very lucky to have survived that auto wreck- how does it feel that the rest of your family didn't make it out of the car before it exploded?"

If the average reader gasps and is tempted to throttle the reporter, it's considered "hard hitting coverage".

The reality is that it's not. It's insensitive, shock value garbage just a little lower on the journalism food chain than supermarket tabloids. At least those have no basis in real life and don't tear the guts out of suffering families.

Even your average kindergartner can't help but ask incredulously, "How do you THINK it feels, you dumbass?"

Or, if the reporter really has no idea of what to ask, the next best thing is to ask what you've got loudly or rudely and call it "edgy".

Matt Lauer is the master of this form of "hard hitting, edgy journalism".

You can tell that he thinks he's doing great- that his role as anchorman for the morning show will be validated if he gets heavy-handed with the guests.

Sorry, Matt. It's not. All you accomplish is to be completely unlikeable by coming across as rude and pushy.

An interview is basically a conversation between two people even though the interviewer generally has an idea of what he/she wants to cover in the allotted time frame.

Cutting off the answer to the question you've just asked is rude, no matter who you're talking to.

Raising your voice to someone is rude, especially if that someone is your guest. On your show. Your morning show.

If I see a Matt Lauer interview coming on the TV, I turn it off.

Yanno who gives an excellent, calm, thought-provoking interview?

Ann Curry.

Class act all the way.

Just once I'd like to stick a microphone in Matt's face and say, "Matt Lauer- no matter how hard you try, how loudly you interrogate or how abruptly you cut off your guests mid-sentence, you will never hold a candle to the reporting skills of Ann Curry."

"How does that make you feel?"

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Seagull Management

I'm a boss.

I haven't always been a boss- most of my life I've been an employee.

The last 8 years I've managed a clinic for 19 area Veterinarians- the same clinic I was an employee at for 7 years before I became the boss.

Becoming the boss is sort of like becoming a mom. When you hold that new baby in your arms, you think with white-hot conviction "I will not make the same stupid mistakes my own mother made- I will be the Perfect Mother".

By the time your child is 5 years old you hear your mother's words flying out of your own mouth and you look around in horror thinking "Where the hell did SHE come from???"

So when I became the boss, I thought "I will not make the same stupid mistakes all those bosses I have worked for made- I will be the Perfect Boss".

I made sure the clinic was fully stocked and updated.

I made sure there were cokes in the fridge and chocolate on the cabinet shelves.

I made sure there was name-brand shower gel in the bathrooms.

I fought long and hard to institute both performance bonuses and the ability to offer group health insurance.

I allowed the technicians the freedom to choose their own hours and schedules- thinking that since they were all, yanno, adults, that the clinic would be staffed and cared for by people who were cheerful and who wanted to be there- on accounta they chose when they would do so.

I was annoyed when the staff not only did not keep the clinic clean, but seemed to willfully tear it up.

I was dismayed when faced with disputes that made the back seat battles between my offspring siblings look like the ultimate in diplomacy. "He's not cleaning up after himself". "She keeps drinking my water". "HE'S BREATHING MY AIR".

Thoughts entered my head that were depressingly like what I'd heard OTHER bosses utter in frustration and anger.

"What's the matter with these people?"
"Don't they know how hard times are and how good they have it?"
"Employees just can't be trusted- you have to watch them every minute".

But here's the thing-

Those same employees have stepped forward time after time and taken on things that are clearly NOT in their job descriptions- just because I needed them to.

Those same employees have not cursed me because we're not giving out bonuses anymore (and no more will be forthcoming till the economy turns around), but have thanked me that when I needed to cut hours to save our budget I did it without firing anyone outright or canceling the health insurance.

They understand that while they can't say "You don't know how hard this job is" because I've done every icky part of it myself, they can be sure that I will be fighting for them and their rights, because I've done every icky part of it myself.

So while my bosses question the wisdom of my "hands-off management", I refuse to tighten the reins and become a "looking over the shoulder" boss- because that way does not lead to increased production, but to increased resentment.

I refuse to engage in the Seagull Management I've experienced all my working life- the boss who swoops in, makes a lot of noise, shits on everyone and flies out again.

I believe in my employees but am aware that at some point MY bosses may decide to "make an example of someone" since too many of them are of the school that nothing gets staff attention like firing someone and it'll be me saying

"Welcome to Walmart- would you like a buggy?"
or
"For 49 cents more you could Texas-size that".

And working for the Seagull Manager.

Again.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Just An Ordinary Day- How Extraordinary

We got back into town a week ago yesterday, after over a month's forced interment in the Houston Medical District.

During that time, everything revolved around time spent at the hospital. Every minute, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, was ab-normal to our family. There were no daily farm chores, no big meals to be prepared- with just a kitchenette in the hotel room, there was no baking, roasting, broiling. The cleaning and linen laundry was done by the staff, our laundry was done in the hotel laundry room- no outside clothesline.

Most of our time was spent inside- the hospital, the hotel, the grocery store- and the times we made to spend outdoors were not fulfilling- there are no stars to be seen at night there, nor quiet to be had even surrounded by trees in a park.

The sounds, the smells, the oppressive closeness of millions of other people crammed into the cement jungle weighed heavily on us and we yearned for our little town of 756 people, the countless stars at night, open windows and the music of nature lulling us to sleep.

The first week we were home was devoted to catch-up, and acquainting ourselves with some new, although temporary realities.

"We'll have the home health people come give you a hand" seemed benign and helpful. What they don't tell you is that there is a nurse, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and a nutritionist- all with their own schedules that we must fit in between doctors' appointments and lab work.

I had a bi-monthly board meeting to prepare for and attend, and there were some pretty hefty changes at work that I had to institute, along with all the stuff that got way-sided while I was gone.

So this morning I got up at 7am and did what I most longed to do.

Not sleep in. Not put my feet up to read a book or watch a movie. Not go shopping or take a long bubble bath.

I did the morning chores, and delighted in the easy routine and the simple yet genuine pleasure of the animals at breakfast time.

I made a big brunch for my boys- pork chops, gravy, scrambled cheesy eggs and biscuits with lots of fresh ground coffee (cocoa for Alec), and delighted in the easy routine and the simple yet genuine pleasure of the boys at breakfast time.

I cleaned the guinea pigs and shuffled some around- separating out weanling babies and pregnant mommas- reflecting on almost 30 years of raising these endearing little critters.

I baked up a storm- 2 batches of triple fudge kickass brownies- one for us and one for a friend of ours who just had surgery on Wednesday, and an apple pie for the friend who ratted out which hospital the first friend would be at so I could surprise him and keep him company all day.

Cleaning the house is something that's not normally on my Favorite Things To Do list, but after being gone so long it's cathartic- possibly a form of "marking my territory" to go through the house room by room- making sure those few things that really bother me when they're undone get done correctly- in a way only a Mom knows how to do.

For dinner I made spaghetti sauce with italian sausages and mushrooms, and homemade garlic bread- heavy on the parmesan cheese.

All the cooking took just about every pot and mixing bowl I own, and it was good- the fact that we don't own a dishwasher not a burden, since washing by hand lets me remember where I got each mixing bowl, and appreciate the heavy smoothness of my grandmother's rolling pin.

And all day long I tended to the new puppy we got Friday- taking her outside where she demonstrated her obvious brilliance by pottying like a good doggie each and every time. While a new puppy might seem outwardly like the very LAST thing our family needs at this particular juncture, Fizzgig is a welcome diversion for Alec, for Ward, and for me- she's as sweet as she is smart, and has snuggled her way into our hearts in less than three days.

So I sat down here at 10pm- fifteen hours after rising this morning- the only times I've sat down otherwise all day were to pee, and here I am.

I'm stiff, I'm exhausted, but after a week of being here, I finally feel like I'm home.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

the Laramie Project- Too Close For Comfort?

The Laramie Project is set to be staged in Tyler Texas- the closest "big city" to us, the city where I work.

I'm excited about it- as a theater lover from Way Back, it's the first thing I'd like to see (other than the childrens production pirate play my 6 year old was in) that the Tyler Civic Theater has put on in the almost 16 years I've lived here.

In my former lives I've been an actress in high school, seen productions in Milwaukee and Chicago, and held season tickets to the Theater Guild in Racine Wisconsin, so I was thrilled to see something "out of the ordinary" being offered here in admittedly conservative East Texas.

Here. Take a look-

http://www.tylercivictheatre.com/laramie_project.html

Alas, my joy was short-lived.

http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2010/04/13/Will_Texas_Theater_Cancel_The_Laramie_Project_/

Seriously? THREE whole people objected to the subject matter and they were going to tank the whole production?

I love East Texas. It's fabulously beautiful and for the most part, the people are wonderful. I tell folks that it's the Shiny Buckle of the Bible Belt and that's true. I tell folks that around here your choice of religion is Baptist, Baptist, Methodist and Baptist and that's true.

The Shiny Buckle Baptists and Methodists I'm proud to call my friends are Christians as Christ meant them to be and I love each and every one of them.

It's The Others I take issue with- those who take it upon themselves to not only Spread the Word, but who zealously Act as Judges (and Executioners if they feel that's called for).

Like this guy-

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Theres-a-whole-lot-of-demon-going-on/375099533426?ref=ts

I'd like to think that these folks are the minority, but like the Tea Party, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck they are also a very vocal minority- wielding power imagined or monetary, and hollering to wake the dead in order to get their own way- to fit the entire planet into the suffocating straitjacket that is their reality of What God Wants.

So it was distressing to me that THREE people could have this effect on an entire community along with coloring the reputation of that same community to the rest of the world.

Is it "just" the subject matter that is the problem?

Or could THIS have anything to do with it?

http://www.nytimes.com/1993/12/27/us/killing-of-a-gay-resident-stirs-activism-in-an-east-texas-town.html?pagewanted=1

That's the most publicized case. I can think of two others since then that were 'suspected' homosexual hate crime murders.

Is The Laramie Project and the story it tells too close for comfort? Because for all intents and purposes, in 1993, Tyler WAS Laramie. In many ways, Tyler IS Laramie.

And if that's the case, Tyler needs The Laramie Project even more than other cities- needs it to learn, to reflect and grow in a good way- a way that does NOT produce young people who feel it their God Given Command to hate, even kill, someone based on sexual preference.

Needs it like a tent revival on the banks of the Neches GOOD GAWD can I get an AMEN?

Time for the people of East Texas to make a stand. I'll be standing in line to buy my ticket- to make a stand for kindness over hatred, education over ignorance.

Follow and support the Laramie Project Tyler at

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/The-Laramie-Project-Tyler-Civic-Theatre/110722015613797?v=wall&ref=ts

Monday, May 10, 2010

Texas Public Schools- You've Done It Again

Fine. I'll admit it. I was mostly asleep while listening to the news this morning about 5am or so. But my ears perked up and I had a brief, shining moment of hope for the (rightly) maligned public school system in Texas.

First came the push for avowed ultra-fundamental Christians to strong-arm their beliefs onto not only Texan students, but students nationwide thanks to the 'other end of the spectrum' California not being able to afford textbooks anymore. Where in past years, the two biggest buyers of school textbooks canceled each other out and balanced each other in what our students learned, the textbook manufacturers are now poised to bend to the will of the Texas textbook review board- and as Texas leans, so will lean the Nation. Strike One.

Then came the stunning revelation that this self-same group of people decided to EXCLUDE certain historical figures from the history books it's ordering. But not to worry- it's no one important like Thomas Jefferson. Oh. No. Wait.

One of the people deleted from history as planning to be taught to our children IS Thomas Jefferson. No longer an "Important Historical Figure".

Kind of thrown under the bus with poor ex-planet Pluto. Strike Two.

This deciding board in Texas is not comprised of people you'd assume- people like teachers, or professors, or experts in anything school-like. There's a nice couple from not too far north of here who stalwartly strive to Bring God Back Into School and get that nasty old EEEEEvolution out of the science books.

http://www.textbookreviews.org/index.html?content=about.htm

There's the head of the whole shebang- a dentist. A dentist who was VOTED OFF OF the school text book board but has made it his goal to shove all of his fundamental agenda straight into law before he has to step down.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_McLeroy


So I was sleepily giddy when I heard the teaser for the upcoming news story- something like "Texas public schools to change the maximum student per classroom laws".

I thought "FINALLY"- one of the big reasons we decided to home school was the 1 teacher per 22 student ratio in our public schools- 1 teacher, NO teacher aide(s) or helpers and 22 tiny 5 year old minds and bodies to nurture and encourage. Impossible. The thought that there was finally going to be a more sensible teacher/student ratio in the lower grades was exciting.

So I fought off dozing off to hear the story.

Here's where it got weird.

The law is not so much going to be "changed" as "abolished". Seems that it costs the public schools alot of money building extra classrooms and hiring extra teachers, and what's really being suggested is that we need to have 1 teacher for MORE THAN 22 students, grades kindergarten-four.

Of course. If we care so little about details like separation of church and state, teaching scientific facts, or keeping the FOUNDING FATHERS in our history books, why should it matter that our smallest, youngest, most impressionable citizens are being packed into classrooms like cattle in the feedlots? Strike Three.

What a coup for the Ritalin pushers.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

When I was a child, I was taken by my mother to Sunday School and church. Every single Sunday. I grew up in the church and believed what I was taught- even turning into a Sunday School teacher myself for a while.

I believed in the Bible. I believed that God was personal, and real, and cared about me and my family as individuals- like Santa Claus he kept an eye on us all and took notes on our progress, our lives, our daily travails.

As I grew older, though, things didn't add up anymore. I had questions.

The questions were readily answered by Those Who Knew Better Than Me, and I believed the answers. Until I had a minute to think about them. Then they generally didn't make a damn bit of sense. Sometimes even less sense than the questions themselves.

Q: Why do newborn babies die? They haven't done anything wrong. Do they just get a minute on earth then an eternity in heaven?
A: It's all a part of God's Plan. Even so short, their lives touch those around them and teach those left behind important lessons.

Q:What about all those people who never get to hear about the story of Jesus? Do they still go to Hell even though it's not their fault they don't know?
A: Yes. Unfortunately they go to Hell. That's why it's so important that we send missionaries everywhere as soon as we can.

Q: Diseases like cancer- alot of those people are good people who never did anything wrong- why should they suffer like they do?
A: No one is without sin. Life is full of opportunities to make ourselves right with the Lord.

Q: So, if Forgiveness and Redemption are given to anyone who truly regrets sinning and accepts Jesus as Savior- any old mass murderer can go to Heaven?
A: Yes. If a person truly accepts the Word- Heaven is theirs.

Q: If God can do anything, why does he let babies die, good people get cancer, and people kill other people in the first place?
A: Free Will- we must endure what comes and go to God of our own free will.

We watch South Park. Yes, it's a cartoon filled with profanity-spewing little children and Kenny always dies at the end of every show by some horrible means.

The writers also generally nail every social issue square on the head- from Gay Rights, to people with disabilities, to Saving the Rainforest, to the meltdown of our Financial Institutions, to any and all religions.

In one show, the parents of Stan are standing at his hospital bedside- comforting him while he endures the physical and emotional insult of having a bleeding hemorrhoid. He asks why alot of very bad people seem to do ok, nay fabulously in life, while people like himself- a pretty good little boy- suffer.

They tell him the story of Job. Sort of a dare-fest between God and Satan. And Job loses. Loses his health, his home, his family. But he never loses faith in God, who is pleased because He doesn't have to pay up to Satan. Stan rightly observes

"That's the worst story I've ever heard".

And decides then and there that there is no God.

I've just witnessed my husband endure trials that make what Job went through look like a day at the circus. For over a month- every time he started to get well BANG- slapped back down by the Fickle Finger of Fate. Over and over and over again.

And much as I love our friends who love us and pray for us and who say "God is so Good- to God go the glory" every time Ward's made progress, I beg to differ.

I know, and am sorry, that they had nothing but prayers of encouragement when he got smacked down by one major surgery, then a week of medically-induced delirium, then another major surgery, then heart failure, then pneumonia- weeks of never-ending issues that were obviously NOT the Glory of God At Work. There were almost palpable pauses of disbelief on their parts- as they grasped for something good to say, some comfort they could offer up to me from God as I watched my husband slip away violently time after time.

I believe there is a Higher Power. I believe there are consequences for how we act in this life and that how we live now will affect our next live(s).

But I believe that Ward is still here- very weak but still kickin', partly because of the medical staff at the hospital, partly because his wife sat at his bedside and told him he was NOT allowed to die and he's as frightened of me as all the hospital staff learned to be, but mainly he's here because he has tremendous will, and phenomenal courage.

Yes. God, or Mother Goddess (which I prefer) or the Higher Power may have gifted his soul with those attributes, but HE used them- HE fought back with more strength than anyone thought he had.

Mother Goddess gave his soul the gifts- he struggled damn hard to use them- to stay longer with me, and his son-

To Ward goes the glory- the admiration and the love.

He is more my hero now than he was before- something I told him the other day in the hospital- still fuzzy and trying to reconcile the loss of over a month of time from his consciousness and the loss of all his strength and muscle and about 30 pounds from his body, depressed and frustrated with them both- and our son looked at us and said "Wow. That's saying ALOT".

Because he has always been, and is even moreso now- My Knight In Shining Armor.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sustainable Sleight of Hand

It's one of the Great Buzzwords of this (and part of the previous) century.

Sustainable.

As in Sustainable Energy Source.

Whether or not there's an actual shortage of oil, most people are coming to realize that maybe we SHOULDN'T have all our energy eggs in one basket- since lots of things can happen in addition to merely running out of something. There could be a natural disaster that drives up the price (Hey- it could happen. Oh. No. Wait. It just did), or the people overseas who get in the way of harvesting OUR oil could become finally and completely fed up with us blowing the shit out of the dirt on top of it- dirt they happen to own, live on, and love- and kick our asses out of there.

So everyone on all sides of the political and environmental arguments agree- something needs to change.

Here's where it gets weird.

The Need More Fossil Fuels Crowd says "Drilling Offshore and Clean Coal Technology-
THIS is what we need to sustain the American Way of Life".

The Tree Hugging Owl Kissing Crowd says "Solar, Wind and Hydroelectric is our Future-
THIS is what we need to sustain the American Way of Life".

Factions on both sides promote nuclear energy, and factions don't, but the ending statement in every case is
"This is what we need to sustain the American Way of Life".

What I can't understand is why a nation supposedly filled with adults can't look at our recent history of use/abuse, waste and appalling requirement for our own ultimate creature comfort at all times and at any cost with objectivity and realize

"Damn. What a country of whiny selfish bastards we are".

Why isn't anyone saying what really needs saying, which is to follow the above revelation with

"We need to change our definition of the American Way of Life to include things like respect for our planet, respect for others who LIVE on our planet, and to live our lives in a way that proves we care about more than just what WE think WE need RIGHT NOW- that we care about crazy things like what kind of planet we're leaving to our children, and their children, and THEIR children- that we're NOT different from our parents and grandparents who did WITHOUT stuff to ensure a better future for those they loved, and that they would be very very disappointed in our refusal to grow up and do the same for our children. That we're very sorry and promise to put away our gas guzzling toys and to do better, to make them and our children proud of us".

But that wouldn't fit on a T-shirt.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Explaining the Concept of "Opposite" To a World That Loves a Catchy Slogan

Let me start out by warning my readers that the subject matter of this piece is abortion.

Let me further add that my own views on this subject have changed over the years, since I seem to have been one of those people who was very rigid and conservative in what outwardly appeared to be my wild youth and young adulthood, and am now an old frumpy wrinkled hippiechick who sees the world as varying shades of gray even though (I don't think) it has anything to do with developing cataracts.

Finally, this is not going to touch graphically on the actual subject matter, but on how it's presented for public consumption- the wording of the polarized opinions and the semantics of attacking the opposition.

Now that I have effectively lost my entire audience to either distaste or boredom...

Here's what I don't understand.

Pro-Life is not the opposite of Pro-Choice.

By the very definition of "opposite", the opposite of Pro-Life is Anti-Life, which would be Pro-Death.

Everyone is Pro-Life. We're every one of us Pro-Life and Anti-Death. It comes from being human and presently locked into mortal bodies. The Pro-Lifers explain that what they mean is that they are Anti-Abortion.

That's great. EVERYONE is Anti-Abortion, the opposite of THAT being Pro-Abortion, and even the Pro-Choice crowd is not Pro-Abortion. I don't know of a single woman who would choose abortion as their birth-control of choice, or a doctor who lightly performs the procedure. I have been told (by a man- not to discount the tale) that "I know a woman who doesn't use birth control and just aborts- she's had like seven of them". If that's true, she's a real exception to the rule of being human and not really "mother material" in my mind anyway.

Now, the opposite of Pro-Choice would be Anti-Choice.

(Inserting here that typing the words "Anti-Choice" and having them stare back at me in black and white gave me both the heebie jeebies and a panic attack).

Anti-Choice.

The opposite of Anti-Choice would be Pro-Despair, Pro-Entrapment, Pro-Domination.

The opposite of Anti-Choice would be Pro-Death on many levels both spiritual and physical.

Because Choice = Free Will.

The free will to choose which path you take, what to have for breakfast, which god to worship, and whether or not to call in sick just because it's a beauty day outside.

I cannot fathom being so backed against the wall financially and emotionally that the only choice I feel I can make is one that a large portion of Moral Society will condemn me for.

That the Pro-Life/Anti-Choice crowd largely consists of a group of people who believe in the God of Free Will has always seemed incredibly incredible to me.

I understand being committed to protecting life, but realistically, the choice offered- have your baby and put him/her up for adoption- is unrealistic.

Here's why.

My husband and I spent several years looking into adoption after surgery rendered me incapable of having more children. It was very discouraging.

We didn't want to do an international adoption- our premise being that there are plenty of children right here who need a home.

A lot of agencies dismissed us outright because we couldn't give them the name of our Church Home and references from a pastor.

A lot of agencies dismissed us outright because of our ages (we were both over 40) and the fact that we already have biological children.

One agency said they'd be happy to work with us- and even encouraged us to apply- our ages were no problem, our family size was no problem, and they added the happy fact that the one program we were eligible for (Program C) was very budget-friendly as well- around $5,000- most of that tax-deductible- instead of the $20,000-$30,000 cost of adopting a Program A or B baby.

I asked about waiting time- Programs A and B had waiting times of one to four YEARS. I was told "Honey- get your home inspection done and as soon as it's signed, paint your nursery because your baby will be on his way home".

What was the difference?

Programs A and B are newborn Caucasian babies.

Program C babies are "hard to place"- mixed heritage, non-Caucasian, mothers with dubious drug records, un-known fathers. The fact that we would prefer a boy was an added extra- across the board in all races and programs, adoptive families prefer to adopt girls over boys. I don't know why. To me, boys are ALOT easier to raise.

Ward's health issues have precluded, overshadowed and put on hold our plans to adopt, but that doesn't change the fact that all those Pro-Lifers are NOT lining up to adopt babies who are born into bad situations and of questionable heritage.

The fact is that many of those Program C babies will be headed into an already over-flowing foster care system- and as a MOTHER, I would not want that for my CHILD- to be blown off into the wind like a dandelion seed- with no secure future, no assurance of safety or love or stability.

Once Ward's better, and we're able, we'll be adopting as many of those Program C baby boys as we can- because everyone deserves a family and a home, and they are welcome in OUR family and in OUR home.

My wish, nay, my non-church-homed prayer is for there one day to be no difference between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice- that those who are truly Pro-Life will step up and afford REAL choice to those who so badly need it, instead of pushing them farther back against the wall with vague intimations of "well- you have a choice- put your child up for adoption"- to be there with open arms for both baby and mother for real and concretely.

To look an actual suffering mother in the eyes and say "I will love and care for your child. I will personally make sure he's OK".
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