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photo by Sheri Dixon

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Freedom- *ow* It Burns

So there's this proposed mosque somewhere in the vicinity of the spot the World Trade Center used to sit on.

Not ON the spot. Not even in VIEW of the spot. But alot of people are very upset and want something done about it. If not through normal "Sorry, this area is not zoned for a mosque" channels, then by torch and/or wrecking ball if necessary.

It's an abomination, they say. A symbolic "Up yours, America" from the Muslim community to build so close to what is seen as hallowed ground. Ground their loved ones died on.

But here's the thing- the Muslims proposing the mosque aren't the same ones who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center. They're American Citizens and if they want to build a mosque in a properly zoned area of New York City (although technically this will be a community center, but that's sorta splitting hairs) then they have every right to and should be able to withOUT heckling, threats, or hatred being spewed at them.

Freedom of religion- to practice your spiritual beliefs without fear of reprisal- is the American Way according to our Founding Fathers' Given Rights.

Freedom- holding us all safely on equal ground.

Yesterday Glenn Beck held a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Now, he SAYS he "had no idea" of the significance of that date- that it was the same date Martin Luther King Jr. made his "I have a dream" speech right there in that same place. I call bullshit on that, but that's not what this is about.

Glenn also said his rally's mission was to "take back the Civil Rights Movement".

From WHO??? Black people??? Yes. Lets all get behind the middle aged paunchy white man and TAKE BACK the Civil Rights Movement. Could he possibly get any more sickening???

But here's the thing- Glenn, while NOT being a journalist, NOT being a politician, NOT being particularly smart, NOT being any damn thing except a paid snake oil salesman (please see his expose about the horrors of the American Health Care System 18 months before changing networks and FOX paying him to say "The American health care system is the greatest on the planet), Glenn Beck IS an American Citizen.

And if he wants to stand on the spot a Great American stood on and spew senseless self-aggrandizing thinly veiled hate mongering drivel, he has every right to do so withOUT heckling, threats or hatred being spewed back at him.

Freedom of speech and Freedom to assemble peacefully-is the American Way according to our Founding Fathers' Given Rights.

Freedom- *ow* It burns...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

One Thing Led to Another...

..."I looked up Sheri's blog today and all I got were these stupid links"...

I know. I know. But when tied together they really do make sense. I think. I hope.

I'm just very tired, sad, concerned and frankly filled with trepidation about things people around me say, think, pass on regarding America One Nation Under GOD and close on the heels of that, the "facts" that we, as a Christian nation, know about the religion of Islam.

I grew up Lutheran. I've never done a study on Islam. I'm as ignorant as the next Americano. But common sense tells me that if something is true for a huge number of Christians (like- they're not all the same and don't even agree on most things most of the time- hence the many many different types of Christian churches), then, mayhaps, just mayhaps it works the same way for Islam.

But first and foremost, we're sitting on American soil, breathing American air and eating American food. That part's incontestable, since we're all so damn unhealthy from the fast food we'll all be dead long before any Muslim terrorist gets us.

Here's what it says in the First Amendment-

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances".

NO LAW respecting an establishment of religion OR prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Pretty straightforward. No Official American Religion- the founding fathers were ESCAPING religious persecution and wanted to make sure it never happened to anyone else. Got it.

"WHOA WHOA WHOA- Our Founding Fathers were good upstanding Christians- you said so right up there ^^^ all that mess about them not wanting to be persecuted."

Well, yes and no. Some were, some weren't, but they ALL agreed, nay felt passionately that Church and State were to be at all times separate.

http://www.freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Was_the_United_States_founded_on_Christianity%3F


"But wait. Right in the Pledge of Allegiance it says "God". Why is THAT written that way unless we are to worship and follow the God of the Bible?"


Well, here's the thing. It wasn't. It was changed, and if you read about the author, he'da been mighty pissed about the change in the wording. All the changes in wording that've occurred as a matter of fact- he took great care to condense it according to our founding fathers' vision for this country and one of his main concerns (as was theirs) was that some one religion or special interest group shove through stuff that shouldn't be there. Like god.


http://www.oldtimeislands.org/pledge/pledge.htm

"OK. Whatever. But right on alot of our public government buildings, right next to the (new) Pledge of Allegiance are the Ten Commandments- those are from the bible- I'm sure of it."

Yes. Yes they are, and they were carved in stone long after the founding fathers were gone. Because they didn't want them there.

http://www.au-ma.org/TenReasons.html

"Fine. USA not technically a Christian Nation. You win. BUT those Muslims- their whole holy-book thingie teaches them to Die for Islam- to wage Holy War against anyone not Muslim- it's true. I seen it on the interwebs and on the TV. OUR bible teaches love, and compassion and peace."


Ummm. No. Not really. Here's where that whole "if all Christians are not the same then it stands to reason that all Muslims are not the same." Also a big dose of "lets not take things out of context".

http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/1086.htm

"But wait- They ARE training their babies to die for Islam and be terrorists- see?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTTAn0UTcCU&feature=related

Nope. Can't argue with that. It's horrifying. How could any peaceloving GOOD religion encourage its babies to die for it?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97NFNXk8aFc

"Hmmm....OUR Bible camp isn't like that. And anyway, those kids don't have real guns and aren't playacting terrorist acts. Surely they'll grow up and see it was meant as a metaphor".

Ah. Yes. Of course. Like these Christians-

http://www.godhatesfags.com/

"Hold up there, Missy- those are NOT Christians in MY book- they are a tiny percentage of hate-filled wackos who've perverted the Bible to their own vicious purposes- they do NOT speak for the majority of Christians".


*Exactly*

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Best Birthday Present Ever

I know my birthday was last week, and it was lovely.

And of course the BEST Best birthday present ever is having my family around me, good friends beside us, and a healthy (if sagging) physical constitution.

But

Other than those (very precious) gifts, yesterday I received the Best Birthday Present Ever.

The interwebs (as I've mentioned before) is a wonderful place. We've met people from all over the world here and, thanks to a love of travel and a quest for unusual family vacations, have managed to meet quite a few of them in person.

Without fail, the people we think we'd like in person have turned out to be just as they appear through our computer screen but better, because there's real sharing of coffee, conversation and hugs.

One couple who is more special to us than most (and that's saying something) are our friends Bruce and Cheryl in northern Minnesota. (Please see Bruce's Compass Rose blog- it's in my Favorites List).

We've been to Bruce and Cheryl's place twice now, tucked into the heart of a state forest and partially cradled in Mother Earth's arms, their home is as warm and welcoming and natural as they are.

Until recently, "personal hygiene issues" were taken care of in the outhouse, but what an outhouse! Perched among a clump of birches, bright, airy, and cleaner than my own bathroom at home, the outhouse was papered with memorabilia Bruce and Cheryl had collected over the years.

On my very first trip to the outhouse, I noticed the little metal button on the wall and mentioned how much I liked it.

That was six (?) years ago. Our second visit was three(?) years ago and I again mentioned the little button. (please excuse the question marks- these last eight years have sort of all muddled together...)

Yesterday in the mail was an envelope from Bruce and Cheryl. Inside was a note-

Sheri...
Happy Birthday. This pin has been hanging in our outhouse for years...the rust tells the tale. We can think of no one who better deserves the title than you.
From our outhouse to yours!
Love to you.
Peace, health and prosperity.
Cheryl and Bruce


And out it dropped, quiet as a snowflake, powerful as friendship, and magical enough to make me smile every time I think about it AND the friends who cared enough to remember such a tiny thing-



...and never fear, Cheryl- I may now hold the button- but you will always retain the title.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

They're Just Jealous

Any time anyone has a discussion about why and how come the rest of the world feels anything but positive warm fuzzy feelings about America, especially if the discussion is between Americans, and most especially if those Americans have never actually been off of American soil, it'll make a predictable decline from Statement A to Statement C.

Statement A- "Everyone wants to be an American. This is the greatest country on the planet. Land of the Free. Home of the Brave."

Well, to be honest, although America IS a very nice place (mostly) and we are free (mostly) and brave (mostly) the shocking truth is that quite a number of people who live elsewhere DON'T want to be Americans. We're also known for our less desirable traits such as aggressiveness, pushiness, selfishness and an almost prideful ignorance- all things Americans abroad have driven home to every other country in the world.

Other countries have things like running water, grocery stores, opportunity for the industrious and excellent educational systems. Rumor has it there are even flush toilets in other countries.

Statement B- "America has been the World's Protector- why don't they appreciate us, those ungrateful bastards".

Although SOME of the military intervention abroad has been purely humanitarian in nature, a whole lot more has been totally self-serving, something that's evident when our military presence remains long after the immediate threat is gone. It comes as a shock to alot of Americans that we overstay our welcome many places (refer to the less desirable trait list above).

Statement C- "They're Just Jealous".

I don't think so. I think they just don't like us. I think they may WANT to like us but we make it so difficult.

For instance- it came to me as in a vision why we're so disliked the world over and it all boils down to three words-

Sun Chips Bag

Yes, Sun Chips Bag. Americans are angry, annoyed and positively obsessing about Frito Lay's new bag that the snack chips Sun Chips come in.

I'm not sure what started it- the bags have been out at least 3 months, but suddenly it's everywhere- Facebook, YouTube, the Today show, even an article in the Wall Street Journal- all having to do with how LOUD the bag is.

We live on a planet where there is hunger, poverty, pollution, inequalities of all sorts, and Americans are spending a huge amount of time and energy bitching about the noise a paper sack makes when we open it to knosh on our marginally healthy but still mostly empty calorie expensive SNACK food.

What slays me is that most of the people bitching about it live and work in huge cities filled with noise that's constant, gnawing and oppressive. To drown it out they've always got their Ipods in their ears or some sort of media on.

Really? Your BAG is too noisy? Poor, poor baby. How EVER will you manage to EAT YOUR BETWEEN MEAL SNACK in enjoyment???

The bag is too noisy. I'm sorry. I can't stop typing that.

The bag is too noisy. Nope. Still absofuckinglutely ridiculous.

And the very epitome of Why the Rest of the World Dislikes America.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Family Dinner

Two tables were pushed together at the Indian Restaurant to accommodate the six of us.

Myself, Ward, Alec, and our friends Jordan, Ben and Jason.

And even though our blood relatives are scattered far and wide- my older son, brother and my parents in Wisconsin and my daughter in Virginia, there was a sense of family that can't be denied there at the table.

My mom had called yesterday since she was headed out of town today and through the weekend.

My brother winged me on Facebook this morning.

Dinner with the above cast of characters is like one of those Olive Garden commercials, but not as trendy, and much more irreverent.

The laughing and sharing of food and drink (both offered and snitched), staying just quiet enough to avoid being bounced to the curb, and remaining juuuuuust tactful enough to keep the diners at the other tables from turning green- all made for a sure-enough genuine family dinner that rivaled anything from The Waltons.

When older son Dave and daughter Erika called me during dinner that made it better- because for just a few minutes we were all at the table together if only through the invisible thread of cellular technology.

It's been a long day, in some ways a stressful day as I bang my head against the Social Security "I'm sorry, we've made a mistake- could you please send us $13,000 back" wall. A worrisome day as I watch my 20+ year old little lap-warmer poodle suddenly and alarmingly deteriorate, health-wise. An exciting day talking to the designer and banker about getting things lined up to start building...finally...at long last.

But I've got Ward- getting stronger every day- now and always my Knight in Shining Armor. And Alec- who received his 2nd degree level 3 black belt tonight before dinner, our friends/adopted sons Jordan, Jason and Ben, my son Dave and daughter Erika who both make me proud each and every day, my parents still healthy and feisty, an entire herd of friends (really family) around the world who sent me love and little notes, and life is good.

Last year I made it to the tippy top peak of the half century mark and am officially tipped to the other side, but I'm ok with that.

I'm bullheaded, ornery, impatient, and sarcastic. Yet for some reason I'm surrounded by people who love me in spite of myself. Who could ask for a better gift?

Happy Birthday to me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Getting Away With Murder

If you've been following this blog for any length of time, or if you've known my family for any length of time, you know we've had a pretty rough 8 years or so with Ward's health. Particularly the last 4 years, and VERY particularly this past April and May.

If you're new here- take a look see at the postings from April and May (mostly April) so you know what the hell I'm talking about today. We'll wait right here.

(sound of Muskrat Love muzak while the rest of us are on blog-hold)

I know the worst of that whole Abysmal April was the time period after hearing the words "When we tried to wake him up from anesthesia he went into heart failure and stopped breathing". Most specifically the 12 hours or so after that- when they really didn't know if he'd ever wake up again. If they'd ever be able to turn off the machines breathing and beating for him without marking the time and covering him in a sheet.

People say something horrible is "like a nightmare", but when you're really truly wide awake living it you pray for a nightmare to give your life a little levity.

And during that time, four thoughts ran through my head over and over and over again without stopping- on a mental loop trying to lasso my sanity.

One- What will I tell Alec? Ward's his Hero.How can I raise him all by myself?

Two- Ward told me before this surgery that he'd be ok, he said "It'll be alright- I'm going to be fine- you and I have a lot we have to do yet". Ward has never lied to me in over 15 years, and I was by god going to hold him to this one.

Three- Please. As in a prayer. One word asking that I not have to...ever...not now, not ever... go to the computer, log in and type "I am a widow".

Four- Visuals of our friends Sunni and Jim, Sharlotte and Edward. Quiet, kind, patient Jim. Ornery, exasperating, kind Edward. Sunni and Sharlotte alone now- just in the past few months- having typed "I am a widow" into the blank of their lives that asks "marital status".

It was this last thought that was the most terrifying. There was basically nothing wrong with either Jim or Edward and they had nothing in common health-wise with Ward- Jim was younger and Edward older- except for one thing. They both (like Ward) went into the hospital with something fixable. But Jim and Edward never made it out again.

Jim went into the hospital following a mild stroke. He ended up contracting pneumonia and dying there.

Edward went into the hospital with intestinal problems that required some surgery. He ended up aspirating during a post-op MRI, contracted pneumonia and died.

Ward was much more fragile. Much less healthy BEFORE his "alarming event".

He'd entered the hospital after numerous infections and bleeding episodes but deemed well enough for the surgery to repair the failed graft that was the source of the infections and bleediness.
He went from a long complicated surgery
To a very bad drug reaction
To an emergency surgery
To his heart and lungs saying "That's it- I'm out".
To mechanical support in ICU
To pneumonia
To staph infections
And then, amazingly

To a slow, torturous, frustrating, frightening but hallelujah praise whoever's up there recovery.

Ward was lucky. Ward IS lucky. Alec and I are lucky.

And it so easily could've slipped quietly,quickly and fatally in the other direction. As it did for our friends. Not people in the news. Not abstract figures or names in the death notices. To our friends.

That's a few months behind us, and Ward's still making slow but sure recovery, so what in blue blazes am I doing re-hashing all this mess???

We've got a guinea pig show coming up and Sunni and Jim are guinea pig friends. We've stayed more than once at their home and cherished every minute we've ever had with them.

I talked to Sharlotte today- she lives just up the road from us and we buy hay from them. She and Edward have always been there for us for any reason and at any time.

So I had both couples on my mind lately. Couples that aren't anymore. Not because of natural causes or an accident or because they didn't make it to the hospital in time.

They died BECAUSE they were at the hospital. And not tiny little bohunk boonies hospitals- Sunni and Jim live in Austin and Edward went to our large regional hospital (clever hint given two paragraphs down). Just as Ward almost died directly BECAUSE of what was done or not done for him or to him at the hospital- MDAnderson Cancer Center- one of the premier hospitals in the world.

And it's not just some freak bad karma following my friends and me around zapping our menfolk- this shit happens every day in every hospital in this country.

Way back when we were just starting on our Cancer Family Adventure, I was waiting for Ward to get his hydro-therapy at our large regional hospital. Let's call it Trinity Mother Frances in Tyler Texas. To pass the time, I went to the cafeteria for a cuppa coffee.

On every table were little placards- colorful cardboard centerpieces to both inform and make dining more enjoyable. That was a very long time ago, but the gist of the placards was this-

Hospital Death Awareness Week (fill in the dates)
A week of educational seminars focusing on lessening the occurrence of death due to hospital-contracted conditions
(listing of educational seminars)
Trinity Mother Frances Hospital 20XX goal- LESS THAN 1,500



I re-read it a few times, in different light and at different angles because there was no way I could fathom
a) that this was something they'd put in the PUBLIC cafeteria for loved ones of patients to peruse and
b) that "Less than 1,500" was something to shoot for, death-wise.

And I guess, from the safety of this far away from our own near-death experience, I can breathe, close my eyes, and get truly and totally pissed off about a hospital that thinks "less than 1,500" is not only acceptable, but admirable.

That healthy people can go into a hospital in good faith and with no real concerns and not come out.

And that the hospitals are not accountable.

They may express concern. The individual players may grieve right with you, because I really believe that most of them ARE there to heal, to care for, to nurture other humans and the problem is that the environment they have to do it in is toxic and/or managed not by health professionals but by accountants and insurance companies and/or the systems used to keep records is ridiculously cumbersome and archaic.

But when you enter a hospital in America for any reason whatsoever, you must sign a little paper before a doctor will even come into the same room with you. That paper says that you give the hospital and its staff permission to treat you as they see fit. That the outcome of your visit may or may not be favorable to you, and may end in disfigurement, a worsening of your condition, the addition of new conditions or possibly death.

It's a permission slip.

It's a golden ticket.

For getting away with murder.

And I think of Jim and Edward and Sunni and Sharlotte. I look at Ward- the shadow of what he's been through hangs on him, dragging him down, and he fights his way through it every single day- for the last 3 months and for many months to come.

And people who've never skated that close to the edge shrug apologetically and say "Well, what can you do?"

And people who've tipped into that frigid bottomless pit go to the phone book and call a lawyer and see what they can do. And the answer is "Not much".

We actually saw a lawyer way back when we found out that Ward's surgeon here in Tyler was well aware that she did not get all the cancer when she enucleated his eye, even though she told us she did, and even though they radiated the snot out of the area (they told us) "just in case".

Although the lawyer was sympathetic, and he AND his medical advisor said she'd not done the right thing, he declined the case. He said the only cases he could afford to take were what he called "jaw-droppers"- something that a jury would just freakin' not believe- and that had ended in death.

And we told him that while money would sure be nice to pay off all the subsequent "this was caused by her actions/inactions" expenses that had already totaled into the tens of thousands of dollars, our main goal was to make her stop.

Make her stop and THINK before saying "Oh yes- I do these all the time".

And I believe that's all most people who bring lawsuits for medical negligence want- because no money on earth will fill the hole losing your spouse, your parent, your child leaves in your heart.

Just STOP and think before doing something, or before blowing something off.

Because you've got someone's life in your hands.

And even though we've signed the permission slip, you need to do everything in your power to not have to use it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Nothing Sadder Than a Blank Page

I've been staring at this big empty white rectangle for several hours now, and just like the meteor shower, if you stare unblinking at it long enough you can see stuff happening even if it's really not.

Stare into the sky of a hot, humid nighttime and teeny little dashes blip across the static sparkling stars- are they meteors? Or involuntary twitches of your eyeballs?

We call them meteors and go inside, itching the bites the mosquitoes have inflicted in spite of the bug repellent.

Stare at this big empty box long enough (and with a self-imposed deadline of a midnight posting) and words appear- most of them backspaced into oblivion before ever getting a chance at being seen by more than the author- and for that the reader may be thankful.

*Trust me*.

Most of the words that appear here are involuntary twitches that flash between my brain and my fingers, and most of them are gawdawful.

So they get backspaced and disappeared and I think "Yanno, maybe this whole 'writer' thing was just a phase and I need to take up something more my speed- like Afternoon Napping".

And I guess the problem is that nothing particularly post-worthy happened today.

Some mildly annoying, momentarily frightening, but not insurmountable things.

Some very good, very happy, "This is the sort of thing that will give me a warm fuzzy every time I think about it for the rest of my life" things.

Nothing huge in either direction.

Nothing to even piss me off just enough to get all worked up about.

No. Wait.

On Saturday Night Live, right now- Weekend Update with Seth Meyers just showed a map of Australia, a big-toothed reptile and the word "Alligator" underneath it.

Are you freakin' kidding me?

There are no Alligators in Australia. None. Not one. Zero. Those big-toothed reptiles in Australia are Crocodiles. Always have been. Always will be.

That's the sort of thing that makes me insane.

Remember the movie "Romancing the Stone"? It was a pretty good flick for its time.

Right at the beginning, when the bus carrying Kathleen Turner collided with Michael Douglas' jeep full of exotic birds he'd been collecting for the pet trade (wildly illegal btw) and they all flew the coop literally? And he explained the worth of the various kinds of birds- so much for a macaw, so much for a conure, so much for a sulphur- crested cockatoo?

Ruined the whole rest of the movie for me. On accounta there ARE no sulphur-crested cockatoos (or any other kind of cockatoo) in South America- THOSE are from Australia.

If you're going to cover a story- even in a pretend news show, or write something into a movie script, make sure you've got your facts straight.

Because there WILL be people out there who will catch it if you've tried to scrimp on fact finding.

We are watching. We are listening. And we will be pissed off by such slovenly research. Because life is messy enough without our entertainment being screwed up.

I mean, if we can't trust Seth Meyers and Saturday Night Live to deliver factual accounts of the weekly news in review, or the producers of a movie they purposely set in South America to find out what actually lives there, we may as well just give up all hope of seeing anything remotely resembling the real world and turn on FOX News.

Wow. Almost midnight.

That was a close one.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Summer of Our DisEnchantment

So the election season has begun, and everyone politically inclined is crowing pre-mature victory, cackling at the real or imagined disasters of opposing parties or quaking in their boots at the prospect of being unseated and summarily dismissed after the votes have been counted.

A while back, we had one party in control of our governmental decisions. Some were good decisions, some were very very bad decisions. That happens all the time, no matter who is in charge. Because the government is made up of people, who are flawed- no matter what they say or believe or how they've lived (or claim to live).

Government is Big. There's no getting around it unless all the states decide to secede and try to survive in the world on their own. Government is Big because this country is Big, with alot of people and issues, and whatnot.

So for that period of time, one party (lets call them Republicans) were in charge. Any time the opposing party (lets call them Democrats) tried to have any sway or influence on some of the really big, possibly bad decisions, the Republicans swatted them with a rolled up newspaper and sent them packing. They called this Majority Rule and said it was the American Way, and called them a buncha whiners.

After a while, things started to go sour and the State of the Nation began to curdle.

The Republicans said "Hey- nothing happens overnight. It's a Big Country. We just need more time to turn this around- give us another chance".

And the American People did.

After another 4 years of the same dismal downward spiral, the American People got alarmed.

The Democrats said "Yanno- we could do better than THAT".

So the American People decided to give them a chance.

Here's where it gets weird.

Instead of saying "Well, the American People- those who actually, yanno, OWN the country and pay our salaries- have changed the balance of power in the Government. This happens all the time and is not, in the grand scheme of things, a Really Big Deal. We'll work with the new powers and get behind this administration because that's what we, as Americans, do", people everywhere, in Government and outside of it went

completely

batshit

insane.

The same people who said "Hey- nothing happens overnight" were the first to scream Foul and Ineptitude when the new administration couldn't deliver immediate and sweeping changes. Conversely, the same people were the first to scream Foul and Dictator-tude when the administration DID manage to make some of the changes they'd promised.

Instead of swatting the opposing party with a rolled up newspaper, once the Democrats got into power they acted like they didn't even HAVE a rolled up newspaper and did everything imaginable, including watering down important legislation to keep the opposing party from growling at them. And they did more than growl, they did more than whine- they screamed "HEY!- the Dems are being mean to us and steamrollering everything through without regard for our tender little feelers".

*what the Hell?*

People who know full well that they themselves couldn't pass a cursory background check are screaming that the President isn't a US Citizen. Really? Just how did THAT happen?

People are using the words Nazi, Communist, Socialist, and Marxist interchangeably. People who can't spell the word Muslim are being taken seriously, not because anyone in power really believes what they are screaming, but because it makes for good News/Entertainment and fosters the fear needed to get their Power back.

The pollsters are hollering that there's going to be a slaughter for the Dems and the Republicans are hooting and joyous- because that will mean less fear of unemployment...for THEM.

Here's the Thing.

America- this big chunk o' real estate that's inhabited by people, not constituents, not voters, not demographics- is scared shitless.

The economy is not getting better, but it's mentally safer to call bullshit on the President's citizenship.

We're bogged down in not one, but two wars overseas that have no sight in end, but it's mentally safer to focus on which political party has acted worse (trick question- they both completely suck eggs).

Here's what we need. We NEED the President of the United States to stop telling us how much better it's getting. Because it's not yet. Tell us it will- tell us how- be honest about how long it'll take even if it's not what we want to hear- and do it.

We need the Democrats, the ones in charge of the government right now, to do what they believe in to fix the problems- stop worrying about the barking Republicans and swat 'em away like they did to YOU.

The reason YOUR supporters (or former supporters) are angry and fixin' to send you packing is not because of what you've done so far, but because of what you HAVEN'T done- and that's to take charge and do what you told us you would.

Some Americans have said that the only reason we're in this fix is because last time around, the country was disenchanted and voted not for the Democrats, but against the Republicans, and we're fixin' to flip back come November.

If it does swing back, it will NOT be because the Republicans are so much better at running this country, because they're not- they got us into alot of this mess we're neck deep in while they were throwing their weight around, ignoring the Democrats and the actual people who live here and making sure their wealthy cronies were taken care of the last time they were in charge and there's no reason to believe they've learned anything.

And they all know that. They know full well they will be winning not on the power of their positions and stands and beliefs, but by the lack of confidence in the current way things stand. They know it because that's precisely why THEY lost last time.

And they don't care. They don't care about you. Or me. Most of 'em don't, on either side.

And at this juncture, America doesn't even need someone who cares. America needs someone who Gets the Shit Done that ordinary Americans (not the banks, not the corporations, not the War Machine) need.

Mr. President and the current pols in power- I hope like hell you get another chance to actually do what you said you were going to.

It'd be nice if you did it because you cared. But even if you only do it in fear of your own employment, that works too.

Because right now- here's what most Americans feel like-

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bargain Book Discovery- "Karma and Other Stories"

"Karma and Other Stories" by Rishi Reddi first caught my eye not because of the title, or the reviews on the back cover, but by the sheer simple elegant beauty of it.

It IS a beautiful elegant book- by all appearances it looks like a hard cover with a dust jacket, but it's a soft cover with enough overlap to fold inward- like the foldover end sleeves of a dust jacket, and I thought "How very cool is THAT?" because while I like using those dust jacket sleevy things in lieu of a bookmark, dust jackets generally end up disappointing me- they get torn easily and become ratty looking and I end up yanking them off and tossing them out, leaving a plain yakky cheap lookin' underbook that seems in turn embarrassed at being all nekkid and without its dust jacket's schmancy illustrations.

The artwork is lovely, with just enough foiled details to be classy.

The pages- oh my- the pages are linen-weight and color and it's a joy just to turn them.

I had to have this book merely for all the above reasons (inserting here that books like this one *which was on the bargain under $5 shelves* are the reason I will never, ever, EVER own a Kindle or a Nook or some other electronic screened bastardization of literature), and as I turned to the first story I fervently hoped the inside would be even half the delight of the outside.

And I'm happy to report that this is one case where you CAN completely judge the book by its cover.

There are seven short stories in Karma- not surprisingly stories about Indian people and families fitting into (or not fitting into) American society. Sort of all related, just enough to tie them together, but loosely enough for them each to be able to stand alone, the stories are carefully crafted with meticulous detail- the characters both believable and likable- even when acting badly.

And though there is conflict, and confusion, and stress and sometimes sadness in each of these families and in all of their hearts the overwhelming over-riding attitude shot through every story is dignity. And certain yet respectful pride of self and cultural history.

Struggling gracefully through non-cataclysmic yet intense turmoil from without and within, it was ever so easy to look on the characters of Karma with encouragement, and compassion, and admiration, but never ever with pity.

I loved reading this little book- it was very difficult to put it down once started- not for the normal "page-turner" reasons of mystery or thrill or excitement- but because in the middle of my own everyday annoyances and stresses taking a moment to open this book and absorb the words inside was akin to inhaling deeply of a gardenia.

"Karma and Other Stories" is a balm for the soul and a gentle smile for the heart.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Aroma of Safety

I was hanging laundry out yesterday. Yes- I'm one of those nut-case ol' hippiechicks who uses a clothesline to dry our laundry on all but rainy days- year round.

It's Hot right now in East Texas- Hot with a big red capital "H". It envelops everything in a cloak of "Wow. So this is what Hell is like. Lets not go THERE". The cicadas buzz, the grass crackles underfoot, the dogs dive into the relative cool under the house or porch, and the ducks can be found in any water- pond, puddle, trough or dish.

As I was pinning items to the line,thinking of many things as I do when hanging out the laundry- my To Do list for the day, the excitement of our impending building of our little cabin in our woods, how much I love and will miss THIS house, and up on the tail of that thought, the question of "Well then, why are you moving?", the wind shifted almost imperceptibly- languidly, with an effort.

And I caught The Scent.

The Scent of summers long gone, of summers in Wisconsin, the summers of Safety.

Oh, sure. Most people say "Eww. Smells like melting pine trees".

That sharp, sizzling aroma of melting pine trees as the sap softens in the oven-like sunshine reminds me of why this cabin is so important to me.

When I was four years old I became Cabin Aware.

My grandparents had friends with a summer cottage on a lake in central Wisconsin, and were allowed use of it every summer. Nothing fancy- in fact pretty primitive, the cottage had a name as alot of them do, snugged up to the waterfront- pier and boat on the lake side and pine-filled sandlot with hand-lettered signs on the road side announcing to friends and family that Here was Summer. Right here. Right now. You've been to work or school, packed your car, drove the interstate to the four lane to the two lane and then woven through the thickets of evergreen on the silent sand trails and you've made it- Tall Pines Cottage, Grandpa's New Office, Sleepin' Inn, Lazy Daze, sign after lovingly crafted sign until the one we were looking for- Sunny Side Up.

Sunny Side Up was on Pine Lake (one of hundreds of Pine Lakes in Wisconsin), just outside of Waupaca. There was no indoor plumbing. Water was coaxed from the hand pump outside the kitchen- old, rusted, hard to start, perfect. The water tasted of the earth, of iron ore, of living things. Once, filling a pot for cooking water, a little frog popped out mid-stream.

Toilet-related issues were taken care of in the "indoor outhouse"- a closet of sorts up the stairs onto the back porch, but not yet inside the house proper.

Baths were swimming in the lake with Ivory soap- because it floats.

There was rudimentary electricity and if you were an adult, you got a bed in the house. If you were a kid, you slept on the screened porch. I pitied the adults.

Sunny Side Up was surrounded by plantation planted pines- acres of monoculture that I now recognize as less-than-ideal, but as a child it was magical- dark rows of perfectly planted giants, several feet of fallen needles muffling any sound at all except for the wind through that dark living tunnel- an invisible ghost train.

One year I "tamed" a chipmunk to sit on my hand to eat crumbs. Day after day I put the crumbs closer and closer to my outstretched fingers- matching unblinking stare for unblinking stare with the striped fluffball seriously packing morsels into his cheeks until the day he hesitated for a moment, then stepped onto my small six year old palm, grabbed the bread crumb and sat right there- eating out of my hand.

And the air was thick with the Scent of Trust, and Patience and the Aroma of Safety.

When I was in junior high school, my grandfather retired and attained his greatest dream- a lake cottage of his own. It was on a much bigger lake (Silver Lake just outside Wautoma) and had the added novelty of being not only on Silver Lake's shore, but having Fish Lake directly across the street- there was not a window in the cabin that didn't have a lake view. Unfortunately, the "street" is Hwy 21- 2 lane but a main semi-truck route, and Silver Lake is a very popular ski-boat lake. The sign painted on the cement block retaining wall said simply "Norm and Ellen Albeck" and I loved this cabin for all different reasons.

Where Sunny Side Up had been a lake cottage made of wood, but not log, Norm & Ellen's was log-sided- painted barn red, and lined inside with 100% knotty pine. The windows opened inward, like in fairy tales. There was indoor plumbing, and ample electricity.

By that time I had become a young lady of great independence and surliness and summers were spent spending as little time with my boring family as possible (except my grandfather- he remained Cool forever). Every day I'd collect up my little sheltie, pack provisions and we'd go hiking. For hours. And miles. Before cell phones. Without a map.

It was glorious.

We'd circle Silver Lake, Fish Lake, little lakes that had no names, through plantation pines and wild birch groves, past farms and fields and once, by accident, into a gravel pit. And through it all, all the miles and right back into the "new" screened porch overlooking the lake at night, over the big breakfasts on the griddle and the bonfires on the beach and the popcorn while playing cards late into the night permeated the Scent.

The Scent of Confidence, and Family History, and New Independence, the Aroma of Safety.

As a girl scout, back when that still meant tying knots, laying a trail and primitive camping, I went to day camp every year to Trefoil Oaks, the very old girl scout camp just outside Racine. Getting to camp meant well over an hour each way every day on a stinky old school bus singing camp songs all the way. It had a huge old true log lodge, water that had to be pumped and outhouses with gallon buckets of water tied outside- paper towels and hole-punched soap tied next to them. I adored it.

I tried sleep-over camp one year at Singing Hills- which had platform tents, showers and was on a beautiful lake, and spent some time at the New camp- Dreamsend, which had flush toilets and a duplex-type lodge that was of a contemporary design. I hated them both.

When I was too old to be a day camper at Trefoil Oaks, I became a counselor.

When I was too old to be a counselor, I became the director.

The lodge was solid, and old, and permanently anchored to the earth by a huge lopsided rock fireplace. The windows opened inward...like in a fairy tale. I'd sit at the desk, or be making gallons of Bug Juice in the old galley type kitchen that was open to the rest of the lodge- only a tall bar designating where the kitchen stopped and the rest of the interior began- and the noises of Summer- of children singing or chattering, leaves and gravel crunching underfoot as they passed by, the squawking of the pump handle and the splashing water, sunlight dappling through the open windows flashed off the dust of thousands of campers- including my mother, myself, my daughter, and I'd breathe in the scent of mosquito repellent, and campfires, and marshmallows, and the ever-present scent of the pines.

The scent of the excitement of new discoveries, the security of permanence, the Aroma of Safety.

And I realized (more quickly than it's taking you to read this, and much more quickly than it's taken me to type it- we don't even own THAT much laundry) that that's it- not in a nutshell, but in a pine cone.

Though we love our old house and it's always taken care of us, and we've looked at all sorts of things to live in out yonder- from yurts to earthbag homes to finished-out storage buildings- what I want, no. What I NEED for my family is to be Safe.

My family has seen more than its share of uncertainty and fear and flat-out horror and more than anything else, *I* as The Mom, Need for my family to be surrounded, sheltered, cushioned by things I've truly only felt from inside the stout, wood-grained solid walls of a cabin-

Trust
Patience
Confidence
Family History
Independence
Discovery
Permanence

*Safety*

And I closed my eyes and inhaled the Blazing Aroma of Melting Pine- till I could taste it at the very bottom of my lungs, and it was Good.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Power of a Puppy


For 15 years I had a friend. A best friend.

She was long and low and wire-haired and black and white spotted with floppy ears, waggly eyebrows and whiskers. She was just a little dog of about 25 pounds- 5 pounds of attitude and 20 pounds of heart.

She'd had a hard start on life- I got her out of the pound when she was about a year old and she refused to leave my side from that very minute till almost the end of her life- to the point of destruction if she was left behind. But that was OK- I worked at vet clinics and could bring her with me and she loved to travel with us when we went on vacation. The few times we did need to leave her, she stayed at home with people she knew and trusted.

Spooj was with me before I married Ward and had Alec- but she graciously accepted them both.

After 15 years of devotion, liver disease finally claimed her life last November. The final few years she'd declined to go with me anymore, choosing instead to stay at home and nap, and the final year I'd had to "take away her car keys" and walk her on a leash- she'd become too slow and blind and deaf to allow her to roam the property untended- too many coyotes and reckless UPS drivers.

And she left a huge hole in my heart and in our family- Ward loved her as much as I did and Alec couldn't remember life without her- because she was here before he was.

And I swore I'd never love that way again.

But I believe that souls who love each other will find each other over and over again- being an ol' reincarnationist hippie chick.

So I kept an eye out...just in case.

We were a battered, shattered, damaged family when we came home in May- almost 6 weeks after a 1 week anticipated trip to the hospital- almost 6 weeks of not one, but 2 extensive surgeries, bad drug reactions, heart failure, pneumonia, weeks in intensive care. The very LAST thing we needed was a puppy.

I sell baby guinea pigs to the local pet store- a pet store that does not sell "puppy mill" puppies, but has a program to find homes for unwanted puppies and kittens. They'd just gotten a new litter of puppies in. Matters not- I have a heart of steel- puppies hold no appeal to me.

Except for one of these.

She was long and low and wire-haired and grizzle colored with floppy ears, waggly eyebrows and whiskers. She was just a little dog of about 5 pounds- 1 pound of attitude and 4 pounds of heart. We'd always said we'dve given anything to see Spooj as a puppy, and even though this one is a different color- there she was- Baby Spooj.

Her name is Fizzgig, after a character in The Dark Crystal.

While we never did know Spooj's heritage (closest guess was dachshund/spaniel/schnauzer) we know Fizzgig's- 1/2 wire haired dachshund, 1/4 maltese and 1/4 pom, so she'll be smaller than The Original, but Ward still calls her "Spooj- The Sequel".

We never forget that she's her own soul, and therefore very special in her own right, that she's NOT Spooj, and can never fill the Spooj-shaped hole in our hearts. But she's doing an excellent job of filling that hole with her own brand of love and devotion.

While Spooj had seen alot in her year-without-a-home,giving her a worldly outlook, Fizzgig's never been out on the mean streets, and she's kind of timid of big things (like horses) or loud things (like cars), and it's a challenge to teach her that bolting for the front door may NOT always be the best strategy- that she needs to trust that if she's with me, she's safe.

She's got just enough "tiny timid dog" in her to be fearful, and just enough "terrier" in her to think "Scary Thing- every man and dog for themselves- I don't have to out-run the scary thing- I just have to out-run YOU". No worries- she's smart as a whip and learning to be better about that every day.

And she does tricks. OK. One trick. She does a very good impression of a meerkat- sitting up on her little haunches with her front paws dangling pathetically, eyes riveted to whatever food I'm preparing- she loves any fruit, veggie, cheese or bread- just like Spooj with one difference- Spooj would NEVER have stooped to tricks- that was way beneath her.

But the greatest gift of Fizzgig is that she's the most snuggle-bunny dog I've ever met- she's totally soft, not just her fur (which is wiry anyway), but when you pick her up she's more like a cat than a dog- she's got those Slinky-bones and she just melts onto your lap.

She gives Alec a run for his money- he sleeps on the top bunk and after she's up in the mornings she jumps onto the bottom bunk and attacks anything dangling she can reach to rouse him- blanket, sheet, pillow, feet...and he's madly in love with her.

She snuggles into Ward's lap and gazes into his eyes while he pets her and talks to her...and he's madly in love with her.

And even though the LAST thing we needed was a puppy in this time of trial, I look at that whiskered face and those waggly eyebrows and know she was a Very Good Idea- that she's speeding Ward's healing, become a boon companion for Alec, and wormed her fuzzy, quirky way into that emptiness in my heart I thought would never be filled again.

Thank you, Fizzgig.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What the Hell's a "Snookie"? And Why On Earth Should It Matter?

So the president was on Good Morning America the other day, and Matt Lauer (my anti-favorite) mentioned Snookie in the conversation.

President Obama looked mildly confused and admitted he didn't know who Snookie was.

After the president left the studio, Matt and the other chipper crew members wondered aloud and amongst themselves why the president would say such a thing- that he didn't know who Snookie was- because clearly EVERYONE in America knows who Snookie is. Did Mr. Obama wish to seem "above" the rest of everyday ordinary Americans by denouncing all knowledge of Snookie? Would it take away from his serious, hardworking image to know who Snookie is? Surely there was some political slant to his avowed non-Snookiness.

But what would be the Big Deal if he was merely telling the truth? (Other than he'd be a politician...telling the truth).

The only reason *I* know who (or what) Snookie is is because of Saturday Night Live- where a male actor plays her.

From what I gather, Snookie is a character on some TV "reality show"- I think it's called Jersey Shore(?)

I watch limited television. If it were up to me alone, there would be NO television in our house, but I'm outvoted by 3 boys, so there ya go. I don't pay much attention to 99% of the stuff that spews out of it. I enjoy Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live. Also Southpark. But the rest is pretty much a waste of electricity, technology, and attention span as far as I'm concerned.

If it's true- if the president of the United States truly doesn't know who Snookie is (although I'm sure he's been briefed on it by now to fill in such a horrendous social void), I take that as a Very Good Sign.

It means he's paying attention to things like health care, Wall Street spending, the Gulf Oil Spill, unemployment at home and wars being fought abroad- yanno, those pesky little details that all go with the running of a nation that's currently as sedate and civilized as a five month old airedale terrier- huge, drooly, spastic, unhousebroken and kinda smelly- although the ones I'd like to go after with a rolled up newspaper are the Tea Baggers, the FAUX news crew, Rush Limbaugh and each and everyone who continues to forward completely fabricated hate mail via the interwebs in an effort to undermine any good this administration is doing for a country that's in real trouble- and has been for a good many years.

It means the president of the United States of America is paying attention to reality- not Reality TV.

I'da been more concerned if he HAD known who Snookie is.

But I'm weird that way.
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