photo by Sheri Dixon

Thursday, March 31, 2011

"You Used to Be So Normal"

I have a confession.

I voted Republican pretty much exclusively till about ten years ago.

My family was working class middle class Lutheran class Midwesterners settled into a mid-sized town squished between Milwaukee and Chicago and perched precariously on the shores of Lake Michigan.

So here's what I was taught-

-Work hard and you'll be rewarded. At least well enough to keep your family fed and clothed and housed. Which is all you should expect- just that is enough to say daily prayers of thanksgiving for and anything more is frankly a burden most people can't handle.

-Pray sincerely and you'll be rewarded. There's a special place in Heaven for good people who attend church, tithe without fudging and kick a little something into the (socially approved) charity of your choice for extra bonus Angel Points.

-Listen to your teachers and get good grades in school, for therein lies the path to success, to contentment, to a life every bit as good as your parents' and grandparents' lives. A 9-2-5 taxable employment, a mortgage, a marriage, 2.5 perfect children.

Anyone not following the above rules and steps and who succeeded anyway was unusual, and anyone not following the above rules and steps and did not attain the (implied) promised rewards was doing it wrong. Hadn't tried hard enough. Needed to (cue music)...

... pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again.

It's what the Republicans believed, so I voted Republican, as did my parents and their parents before them.

Then things got sorta wonky.

Despite following all the rules (I had employment, church, a marriage, a mortgage, and the appropriate number of children) everything fell apart.

My marriage ended. My church looked at me sideways. I had a hard time on my own keeping the house...and the children.

What the hell?

Surely I had done something wrong so I...

...picked myself up, dusted myself off and started all over again. In Texas.

I worked damn hard- two full time jobs- one day job and one night job. I bought a house and found a (tremendously fabulous) husband. We had a baby.

I did not find a new church. Though I had no quarrel with God, I was kinda miffed at the church for abandoning me. That was the first paver on the path to being a non-conservative.

But still I voted Republican.

Then Ward got sick.

He had insurance through his job- a job he'd held for well over five years and had never missed a day of work. Ward's cancer took a fair amount of time to take care of- several surgeries and hospitalizations and all of it painful, awful, exhausting, disfiguring. The man never took a minute to recover. We drove to the cancer hospital the day before surgery (or 2 days before if pre-op appointments were needed), he had surgery, was discharged from the hospital, we'd drive home the next day and the day after THAT? Back at his desk at 8am.

He worked through six weeks of radiation.

He worked through it all not because he loved his job- frankly he didn't. He hated his job and it was killing his soul to be there. I'd watch him go off every day and my heart would break seeing his shoulders stoop a little bit each step he took to the car. He worked because it was the right thing to do...and he needed the insurance.

It ended up not mattering.

He got fired (sorry- "downsized") because the company was going in another direction and for losing a lot of work time "to this cancer-thing".

COBRA was hideously expensive- it would have taken his entire salary just to pay for it, except he didn't HAVE a salary anymore. The high-risk pool wouldn't take him till he was ineligible for COBRA and had used it. He was without insurance. And with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

The next scheduled scans we were told had to be paid for in advance, in cash, no exceptions. No matter that he'd had insurance up to that point. No matter that he'd been approved for Social Security Disability that would take effect a few months hence. No matter he was already a patient. We were told that if we couldn't afford the scans, we could wait till the SSD kicked in and that "He probably won't die before then".

Said the little girl in the business office with no medical experience.

I started looking hard at those around us. ALL those around us. Alot of them what I would've considered "slackers" in my younger years.

People losing their homes, their jobs, their everything due to illness, due to the economy, due to circumstance beyond control.

And it had nothing to do with how hard they worked, or how fervently they prayed.

Shit Just Happened.

The whole "work hard/pray harder/be rewarded" ideology turned out to be a house of cards, a smoke screen, fallacy and fairy tale.

I couldn't stomach the discourse anymore. Because I knew better. I had seen the Truth, and it was bitter.

Here's the thing.

You'd think it would be claw yer eyeballs out scary to know that all of the by-the-book-rules that form the foundation of conservative society are hogwash, but it's really not.

After the initial "HOLY SHIT WHAT DO WE HOLD ON TO NOW???" moment it's crystal clear.

We hold on to each other. Help each other. Care for each other. Respect each other.

Whether they "look" like they "deserve" helping or not.

Because the truth of the matter is it's not OUR place to judge. It's our place as card carrying members of the Human Race to care for each other.

Not tell each other what to do, how to live, what to think, how to vote, what can be done with your own personal body, how much care you or your loved ones have EARNED according to some bullshit manual or doctrine- part of being human is the acceptance and respect of the Free Will of others and compassion for their distress for Yea Verily all of us will at sometime or other be so distressed...or worse.

I stopped being a black/white right/wrong conservative not because I couldn't play by the rules I grew up with, but because I realized that the only way to "win" using those rules is to be lucky. Literal Dumb Luck. Merit had exactly zero to do with it.

I became a tree-hugging bleeding heart liberal not because I go through life wearing rose-colored glasses and wearing flowers in my hair, but because I don't. I see injustice and I hear intolerance and my hair is gray and my soul weeps.

Life is hard. Shit happens willy nilly and without warning or reason.

And though we may FEEL more secure holding onto false truths and bogus rules, we'll BE more secure once we realize that the only safety net consists of...each other.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Gizmos

I don't do product reviews.

Not for any altruistic or moral reason, mostly because I don't use a lot of gadgets, tools and whatnot.

We're ridiculously low-tech and I don't use any girlie-type items- no curling irons, hair dryers, or even makeup other than mascara and lip gloss.

In the kitchen I don't employ dishwasher, garbage disposal, automatic ice maker or blender, but I DO loves me my coffee pot, bread maker, electric knife (to slice aforementioned bread) and the little hand mixer my first husband's grandmother gave us for a wedding present...32 years ago.

I'm not allowed to use most power tools. An unfair but probably wise rule.

That's not exactly true. I'm not allowed to use ANY power tools. Or use a ladder with more than 2 steps without close adult supervision.

My POINT is that generally speaking, I don't have cause to rate most "As Seen On TV" type items...

...until now.

When we built this house we were undecided as to what to do about the floor. So we did what we generally do. We did nothing. The house is on a cement slab and we told the concrete guy that until we knew for sure how we were going to finish the floor we were leaving it nekkid, so he put a very nice finish on it. We then sealed it with low-gloss garage floor sealer.

It looks fabulous.

With all the different natural surfaces (all wood walls,ceilings and trim- aspen, pine, cedar) and the vibrant colors and patterns of the Stuff of Our Lives, the varying but muted shades and whorls of gray pull it together calmly and without fanfare.

So we love it.

But how to clean it? I hate hate HATE any of the floor cleaners- they all leave some sorta filmy-to-sticky layer and smell like hospitals. On the other hand, we need to keep it as clean as possible.

Enter the Shark.

You've seen 'em on TV. I know you have. Uses just tap water, super-heats the water and steams the dickens outta the germs on yer floors.

And I love it.

I read the reviews, good and bad, decided the good outweighed the bad but purchased it locally...just in case.

So here's the skinny on the Shark.

I sweep the floors to get all the big chunks, because unlike a mop, the Shark won't catch up stray stuff unless it's dust. I use a cup of water to do the entire 1,498 sq. ft. and it takes me less than 30 minutes.

It takes 30 seconds to heat up and start steaming. It's gloriously silent except for the gentle hiss of the steam hitting the floor.

It dries instantly, leaving the floor warm and shiny smoothy clean.

The re-usable pad gets tossed in the washer and cleans up fabulously.

So for the cost of the Shark you have the whole system- no special cleaners or disposable pads to re-stock. As long as you have access to a cup of water and a live plug, yer good to clean.

My personal rating of the Shark? Five Flippers Up. (Get it? Cuz it's named for a big fish...)

Still floating on the euphoric cloud of gizmo success, when I saw THIS at Home Depot, I had to have it-

Frog Tape.

Oh, sure it was roughly three times more expensive than the generic beige masking tape, but LOOKIT THIS STUFF!!!

I had 11 (eleven) doors to paint last week. 'Course they each have 2 sides, so that's...carry the 2, add a zero...a shitload of doors.

Took over 2 rolls of Frog Tape to secure the areas.

Read the directions. Taped, painted, waited and peeled.

A fair amount of the paint from the surface came up with the tape. A fair amount of the neighboring surface had bleed-through paint adhered to it.

So I thought "Hmmm...maybe I peeled too soon. I'll wait an additional 12 hours before taking the rest off".

(See two paragraphs up and add- a fair amount of the Frog Tape did not come off at all without extreme tenacity accompanied by liberal cussing.)

I was very disappointed in the Frog Tape. Very. Disappointed.

My personal rating for Frog Tape? Five flippers down. (Get it? Cuz it's named for an amphibian with little flipper-feet...)

So there you have it, fellow consumers- my completely politically and religiously benign opinion of infomercial household gizmos...

...As Seen On TV.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Place For News

The interwebs are a wonderful thing.

Anyone with access to them can find out everything, everywhere, anytime. Check, verify, double-check, cross-reference and pretty much wring the truth out of any fact thrown down, gauntlet-style in front of them with the admonishment of "There! What do you think of THAT? Do you believe that shit?"

Well, no. I don't. Not generally.

If something sounds too wrong, too unbelievable, too shocking for words, it generally is. Except when it isn't.

And the place to get "the Real Deal" in the world is not the news. Or at least not one place in the World of News.

Because here's the thing.

Anytime you hear the news, read the news, see the news, there are these snippets of stuff in the side columns, between the stories, bracketing the sound bytes.

It's called advertisements, and it's all extremely spendy. So spendy that only huge corporations and organizations can afford it. They get huge by promoting their own self-interests and the various media pays their bills by promoting the advertisers, who will not pay for advertisements in a venue that makes them look redundant, or evil, or stupid.

That venue would be called "reality".

Don't get me wrong- we do watch programs that either claim to be news, or seem to have people commenting on the news that sound...not insane.

But if I want to know more, the interwebs lets me.

What's REALLY going on in the Middle East? There are real people writing, photographing, journaling it- now.

IS the labor protest in Wisconsin violent and messy? Lets look at the photos and videos and listen to the real teachers who are right there. We actually had this discussion at the dinner table- the polar opposite media devoured by different people in our family were showing wildly differing reports, but I stand firm and will believe my friend of over 30 years who's a teacher in Wisconsin, and who is THERE.

What DOES "Socialized Health Care" perform like? There are real people (a huge shit-load of 'em, actually) who live with it and will be happy to tell you it's more than OK- it totally Rocks.

We learned to listen to the real people when stuff started happening to US in our health care system. It stunned me that folks I know and see every day looked at me like I was lying to them when I would say, fer instance "Ward doesn't have insurance right now and we have to come up with several thousand dollars for his next scans". They'd look at me like I'd sprouted tentacles and say "What are you talking about? This is America- just walk into the hospital and they will take care of you."

Well, ya. That's what the talking heads say. The same talking heads that tell us on Good Morning America that spending $500 for the Ultimate Little Black Dress is a steal.

I guess all the years of schooling and working for others has made us sponges. Oh, and also stupid. Any old shit can be spouted out there and believed if it's spouted with enough conviction and to a large enough audience- no matter what reality looks like.

How can the governor of Texas stand up and say "Texas is doing great! WE can't run a deficit budget, why should our US Government be allowed to?" and be met with cheers and within literal seconds appear on another channel saying that we need to tighten our belts here in Texas due to budget constraints and close over 1,000 schools and lay off over 50,000 educational employees and be met with nods and agreement?

How can people scream for less government intervention in their lives and then holler that "We need to make damn sure we can tell all women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies".

How can people be so against socialized medicine and then scream "No one better touch my medicare!"?

How can the Founding Fathers' insistence of "NO official religion- but freedom FROM religion" mean that the Ten Commandments be posted in government buildings and "In God We Trust" printed on our money?

How can all that not seem ridiculously non-linear to even the most bullheaded narrow-minded person?

The Place For News is not in a news studio, or "on assignment".

News, Corporations, Governments, Banks, Insurance Companies, Organized Religions- all made up. All pretend. Mostly bullshit.

The News is Us. Every one of us knows what's going on if we unstick our eyeballs from the TV screen and look around- see what's happening in OUR house to OUR finances and OUR health and OUR freedoms- then multiply that by a gabazillion other real people around the world- people who are all connected now by the interwebs.

Let's talk to each other. Not those pretend "grass roots patriots" meetings financed by the big businesses, or anything else with any type of Sponsor.

Yanno how when you see someone on the street, at work, in the store and the automatic greeting is "How are you?"

Steal 30 minutes every day away from the talking heads who are paid to say what they do and paid even more if they do it sincerely while shedding a few tears and gnashing a few teeth- and ask the ordinary small people around you "How are you?" and then listen to the answers. Five minutes at at time. Six people.

Be patient- most people will spout what they've been told to believe at first. Gently insist on "How are you...REALLY?"

I believe with all my heart that our collective ordinary small agendas are remarkably similar even though we're being told, warned, screamed at that they're not.

Because the only way for the Bullshit Pretend Monsters to stay in power is to keep us all afraid of each other.

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain"...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wow. Has It Only Been Six Months?

Today, March 21, 2011 marks six months from groundbreaking on our house.

The house that had been planned for years, literally drawn from scratch on graph paper and worked...and worked...and worked on till it was just right, just right for our favorite things and the space we all needed and dreamed of- not too big, in fact 1/3 smaller than our other house, but perfect for our uses, for our family. That house.

Considering how long we waited for it, the actual build went at lightening speed. Most "normal" houses take at least six months from start to moving in and we moved in on January 4th- just a tad over the three month mark.

And here we are.

The funny thing is I saw this place in my mind's eye for so long, and during such stressful times, that now when we're really here I have to pinch myself because I find myself thinking "Yes- this is just how the bathroom will look," and "Yes- this is the view I'll have out the window while I'm doing the dishes".

Because while I'm thinking those things I really AM in the bathroom and I really AM doing the dishes.

And as "at home" as we were in the old house- we loved the old house and had been there over 15 years- this house, this home, this place feels like we've always been here, our things have always been here in a fit that could only be possible by having been planned and built by us...for us.

Though we planned the house- didn't pick a plan, but specifically planned it just for us, we had it built. So all the hard stuff was done for us (with my supervision every. inch. of. the. way.) and we've been doing the finish work. All of the tile work, some of the staining and painting, sealing the floor, and the rock fireplace being the biggest of our far.

The tile was fun because it's all discontinued patterns and colors that have been collected over the course of about 3 years from the flooring place near where I work.

I'd never done rock work before, but I love rocks, and have a fair eye for balance and pattern. So I started with a big fireplace insert mounted on a platform and 4 yards of Oklahoma River Rock unceremoniously dumped outside the door.

Since I'm going for a free-form "Hey look- they they built the house around this rock pile, wait- it's a fireplace" sorta effect I figured the more random and haphazard (read: Natural looking) the better.

It didn't take me too long to learn the Number One rule about this type of endeavor.

The rock must choose where it wants to sit.

*I* may think I have chosen the perfect rock for a spot, but if I place the rock and it tips off, no amount of mortar will hold it there, and even if I manage to perch it there against its will, it won't look right, and will actually weaken the integrity of all the rocks above and around it.

So I learned that I need to have on hand a variety of rocks- ones I'm pretty sure will work, and ones that look only slightly acceptable. More often than not, it's the latter rock that sets perfectly.

As I worked today, two things went through my head.

"Damn. Rocks are heavy."


"Setting rocks is akin to what we endured on our voyage Home".

Because it was difficult, sweat-inducing and sometimes dropped on our toes and turned the toenails purple?

Well ya. There is THAT.

But more than that,once we found this land, we wanted to build our house. NOW. Time after time we were delayed- finances, illness, fate, everything conspired time after time against us- even though we thought the time was right (mainly because we wanted it to be).

Here's what the delays allowed us- they allowed us to experience this place, this sliver of Earth and learn where and when the sun shines throughout the year, where and when the breeze blows, and exactly how to site the house to take advantage of those very important things.

They allowed us to re-think our original plan- a slightly modified stock plan that was bigger and more than one story- and make it...smaller and better and ours alone.

And once everything was in order- not just when WE wanted everything to be in order- the rocks set themselves quietly and firmly and almost without fanfare...

And here we are.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Full Moon Resolution

Lately I've been seeing a person I really don't like.

An impatient, petty, suspicious person who thinks badly of others without reason, she taints everyone around her with her toxic attitude.

She's in my mirror, the Bitch.

I hate when that happens.

Right or wrong, the atmosphere of the entire household- mine, yours, everyone's- depends on how Mom is acting and reacting to life around her.

That old joke "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" isn't just good for yuks and giggles- it's true.

Tonight we have "SuperMoon" coming up over the trees. Right now, this very minute, and it's glorious.

Ward and Alec have gathered firewood around the fire pit and we put out the camp chairs.

I've got the Smores Staging Area all set to go, and Joe's waiting for the word and he'll hike the 50 ft from his house to ours to enjoy the SuperMoon Celebration.

I have so much to be thankful for. My family is healthy, and smart, and funny, and so very dear. We're Home, for real and for true.

I promise this night, the night of the SuperMoon, that I'll take care every day- take CARE every day to think before I speak, and to be kind and patient.

To hug more and frown less.

To honestly praise more and snark less.

To assume no ill intent from those around me, no matter what they do or say that inadvertently "hits me the wrong way".

To cherish more- not just when I wake up and before dozing off to sleep at night as I give thanks for another 24 hours with my amazing family in this amazing place, but

all day long.

To SHOW it and SAY it and LIVE it. All day long.

Because 150% of the time, those around me are doing their best to do their best.

Because 150% of the time, those around me love me no matter how damn unlovable I'm being.

And they deserve better.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sometimes, You Just Gotta Back Off and Bake Something...

The world is going straight to hell in a handbasket and there's no denying it.

I can't get my head around most of it for the threat of my head exploding and making a terrible mess.

So much horror. So much stupidity. So much...

And I can't even formulate a coherent article from the scattered shards of disjointed frustration in my brain, so here's what I needed to do.



It's currently 79 degrees and sunny here in East Texas.

Directly outside my window 3 chickadees are fluttering in the pines. I can't hear traffic. I can't see another house. I'm Home. My family is here, too- and safe.

Sometimes the act of doing something mundane, ordinary, and normal is an extreme act of defiance in the face of freakish abnormality.

So I bake.

And I share.

I share the baked goods with my family and the recipe with ya'll.

And yes, I cheat and use a bread maker. If that's the worst thing you can say about me, I'll wear that with pride.

Peace in your families and in your homes. Never take a minute for granted.

Sweet Potato Bread

1 cup milk
1 large egg plus enough water to make 2/3 cup
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
4 cups unbleached white flour
2/3 cup mashed cooked sweet potato
1 1/4 tsp yeast

add all ingredients to machine and set to "white bread" cycle.

Monday, March 14, 2011

His Brother's Keeper

I recently had lunch with my adopted son- two days before he left to take a job overseas for at least six months.

We were talking about Alec, and Jordan kiddingly said something along the lines of "That kid's gonna need a lot of therapy".

Since he was 2, Alec has seen his dad be rearranged and rebuilt from the cancer and graft replacements Ward's needed. We've spent obscene amounts of time in the bowels of the cancer hospital, which is not something most kids have to deal with.

We home school, not because we seek to shelter him from the evils of the world, but because there's no way the confines of a school can teach him all the world has to offer. I have two photographs from a few years ago- the first was taken in Audubon Park in New Orleans, reasonably close to the mouth of the Mississippi River. The second one was taken 6 weeks later in Minnesota where you can hop across a tiny creek- the beginning of the self-same river. Public school field trips to the fire station sort of pale in comparison...

He's been to 26 of the 50 far. One benefit of spending so much time in Houston (at the hospital) has been our proximity to many of the finest museums in the country.

Although we didn't plan on cancer, home schooling has meant that I don't have to choose between leaving Alec here with friends so he doesn't miss school, or dropping Ward on the curb of the hospital. We pack up school and just go.

We don't have blood relations close to us, so have knit together a family that's proven even stronger than blood, and outwardly even stranger than fiction.

Were he in school, he'd only associate with children his own age all day every day, but he's with all ages in tae kwon do and art class, and adults in the hospital and here at home. He's comfortable in every situation, from asking pertinent questions of a museum curator to ordering at a good (read "the food is not in styrofoam boxes") restaurant to finding his way through the miles and mazes of MD Anderson Cancer Hospital to maneuvering our farm in the dark by moonlight on his bike.

When asked about the all-important "socialization" that being in school would provide, the indignity of having to ask permission to pee, the indoctrination of conditioning to react to bells and alarms and not questioning authority, dealing with bullies on the playground, jockeying for position in the jungle of monocultural social clique bullshit I'd laugh, but it's not funny. All I can say is considering what he's faced with grace and bravery, and the maturity and compassion he possesses, I think he'll do roughly 700% better in life than any of the mean little bastards pushing smaller children around for fun when the teacher's back is turned.

Were we in church, we'd be surrounded by people fundamentally the same (pun intended). But we're not. He's been exposed to all types of religion and beliefs and is forming his own opinions on how the Universe works and his place in it.

Among our adopted family members are people of all races, political ideologies, ages, religions, sexual orientations and tax brackets.

And here's the thing.

They all share one very important trait.

Every last one of them cares. They care for their friends and they care for their family. At one time or another they've every one of them been there for us and cared for us, as we strive to do for them.

Every last one of them has shown our son what it is to be human, and good, and decent.

If our son has learned not to be part of his peer group, or part of his church group, or even part of his race or parents' political leanings group, but to look first to the inside of a person- the literal "content of their character", then my contention is not that he'll need therapy because of his raising

but he'll be one of the lucky few of us who doesn't.

Be safe, Jordan- we love you.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Can't Imagine

My life hasn't been exactly charmed. I've been through some shit, as has my family around me. A friend of mine told me once, "Yanno, I think your reason for being on earth is so the rest of us can point and say 'Hey, things may be pretty crappy in my life right now, but at least I'm not...HER'".

I've been treated badly, physically and mentally. I've been divorced...twice. I lost custody of my two older children and could actually feel my soul weeping from the grief of it. I wore that sadness like a shroud for years and will always mourn what I lost. What WE lost.

I've been poor and jobless and damn near homeless. I almost lost my GOOD husband to death last year and before and since have watched him battle with cancer, and heart disease, and surgery after surgery and pain. So much pain it breaks my heart.

But I've been so very lucky as well.

Though it took years to fruition, we're Home- at last. I've had dear friends who died before getting Home, who died seeing that dream fade away still just over the horizon.

I've never lost a child to death. Never had a house go up in flames around me. Never been in an earthquake, or tornado, or hurricane, or wildfire.

And I can't imagine what my counterparts in Japan are going through. Or New Zealand. Or Haiti. Or anywhere else Mother Nature seems to be doling out punishment with a vengeance.

What do you do when the very firmament becomes unfirm? The wind so relentless, the waves so endless, the fires so devouring that there's no beginning or end to it?

How to keep your family safe when everything is dangerous?

I've always been able to DO something, GO somewhere, take some sort of action to move myself and my family out of harms' way if only by an inch.

My heart goes out to them all, as if I can will them strength to clutch their families a little closer, keep strong just a little longer,

till the earth stops shaking and is quiet again, and though nothing will ever be the same as before, and though they may want to give up and give in to despair and anguish, I know they'll gather their families and their courage and start over again

because that's what Moms do.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Need Cocoa- Extra Marshmallows

Our Kites are back.

Mississippi Kites- a pair of medium sized raptors that generally don't nest in this area nest HERE, on our place, every year. I heard them first, calling to me as I crossed the bridge, then when I came out into the open they lazily soared above me, their shadows walking next to mine, till I entered the barn and they rode the wind currents to a big tree at the top of the hill. From there they supervised the feeding of the livestock- new to them, as they migrate South every winter.

They're curious, and bold, and tail us around the place conspicuously. When one is tending the eggs or babies, the other still dogs us and reports back to the nest vocally.

And I breathed deeply and thanked the Universe for the sight of them, pushing away the images on the television of people yelling, screaming, rioting not in Egypt or Libya, but in WISCONSIN for pity's sake. Revolting against bad judgment, bad choices, bad government, bad bad bad crazy bad things that are being done to FORCE the hand of the populous, in a show of might, and power, and callousness.

I fear for those people- all it will take is ONE hasty move, ONE gesture of frustration, and I'm so afraid it will turn into something that will never be able to be undone.

On my way to work- a commute that takes me literally over the river and through the woods- everywhere I look in all directions things are blooming. Wild daffodils, early coreopsis, fields of violas, redbud trees knitted together with wild pear trees blanket the entire landscape with a quilt of pink and white.

And I breathed deeply and thanked the Universe for the sight of them, pushing away the article read this morning telling of the horrible cruelty visited on a child in our area- a story not in the local news, but posted in the New York Times- my heart breaks for that little girl and hardens to a sharp brittle blade towards the perpetrators and neighbors and community- all guilty, and all remorseless.

Something is happening all around us, something evil- though the invoking of God's name is making things worse, more divisive- not better.

Prices go up, jobs go down. Politicians promise, then turn a deaf ear to those who elected them.

Instead of the worldwide web opening our minds, they are slamming shut at an amazing rate of speed. Polarization, not globalization. We're so afraid of losing what little we're in control of that our enemies must be small, and anonymous, and cartoonish in dimension.

Easy targets. No gray areas.

But here's the thing.

A discussion I just had the other day. Those who know us know exactly who I was talking to, and for those who don't, lets just say he's a beloved and respected and immediate family member...

"I see what you're saying, but those liberals are all anti-gun, and want us all disarmed. I'm a right-wing conservative for the most part because my 2nd Amendment rights are of great importance to me and our country. Frankly, I don't care who wants to marry who. If the gays at the Gay Pride Parade carried signs showing that they agree with 2nd Amendment rights, there's not a gun owner in the world that'd have a problem with them".

"So...even though the majority of right-wing politicians are violently anti-gay rights, the majority of right-wing voters don't care who you're in love with as long as their personal right to own firearms isn't infringed on?"


"So...why wouldn't it follow that just because the majority of left-wing politicians are anti-gun, doesn't mean that the majority of left-wing voters are? Even the ones who AREN'T gay".

"Goddamn it, I'm not talking politics with you anymore".

Terrify and plant hatred.

Arouse suspicion and point fingers.

Divide and conquer.

Mother Nature will go on. The Kites will migrate and nest. The trees and flowers will bloom in the spring, year after year quietly and without fanfare as they have for time immemorial. That's the anchor I hold onto. And I hold tight with all my strength to my family. Including the right-winger.

All this other mess? Scares the ever-lovin' shit outta me. Because it's a train wreck- it's been building for decades and years and now it's here.

Look around. We don't play well with others or each other, and we're terrible stewards of the planet.

We're parasites and we're fixin' to be shaken off like fleas off a dog.

Human beings share 99% of their DNA with chimps. Not gorillas. Chimps. And that's a shame. Gorillas are strong, peaceful, gentle souls.

Chimps eat their own young, fight each other viciously and spend alot of time throwing their own shit at each other and their neighbors.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dear Driver of the Dark Pickup Truck...

...let me begin by apologizing for not knowing your gender, age or the exact model and color of your vehicle. I'm generally much better about being specific when I address someone.

It happened so quickly, it was dark outside, and I just didn't have time to notice all the details.

At the time I was too busy contemplating (albeit very quickly) that you were going to kill my entire family.

We were on our way to our adopted son's birthday/bon voyage party- he's taken a job overseas and is leaving tomorrow for at least 6 months.

My 11 year old boy was sitting in the back seat, dressed in a carefully chosen dressy outfit- since he attends neither school nor church his wardrobe contains nothing but jeans, t-shirts and flip flops. This was his first schmancy event and he was dressed to the nines- dress pants, dress shirt, tie AND fedora. The kid was absolutely stunning.

My husband- my handsome beloved husband who has endured so much these last years up to and including almost dying about a year ago and the brave awful road back to health- the man who has one eye, is lacking muscles from having them "harvested" from different parts of his body and is still very much in recovery as opposed to fully recovered- he was driving.

I don't know your story.

Perhaps you were in some sort of emergency-mode and really couldn't wait for that left turn light that turned red well before you entered the intersection. I know it wasn't just lack of attention, because you sped up by a good bit as you were turning to try to beat the light.

You willfully entered an intersection on a red left turn signal and turned left- while speeding.

We weren't even the first car to go on green, so I can't even say we jumped the light...or you missed it by THAT much.

I'm also pretty sure you saw us- our car isn't black, we had our lights on and it's not tiny. Yet you never veered, never slowed. I'll forever see in my mind's eye your truck bearing down on us- straight on a literal collision course to hit us broadside.

What you did wasn't merely stupid. Or thoughtless. Or rude. You could have killed a family of 3. MY family of 3.

I know for a fact that if I had been driving I never would've reacted in time. I'dve not reacted in time and you would've hit us and we'd be...dead. Don't lose any sleep over it though, with the size of your truck, I'm sure you would've been fine.

Ward had to veer at lightning speed and wide- wide enough to allow you to pass, but not so wide as to hit the telephone pole that was in our path on that trajectory.

And he did. My husband, Alec's daddy, reacted and acted and we are safe. Because that's what he does- no matter what, no matter his limitations or pain, he protects his family. And he is our hero on so many levels.

I suspect you are young, probably male, and still immortal as most young people think they are.

I hope you were as shaken as we were by what you did.

I hope you didn't mutter "Get outta the way, asshole", or laugh at our frightened faces in your headlights, or worst of all, that you didn't even register that we were there, in your way, with our lives.

Sadly, I have no trace of hope that you'll read this and it doesn't matter because even if you did you'd brush it off dismissively and never give it another thought.

I'm just a naggy ol' bitch who doesn't want you to have fun, and you have things to do and people to see, and most likely you don't even remember today, less than 24 hours later, that if my ol' man husband at the wheel of the blue Mazda Tribute hadn't reacted the way he did at the corner of Paluxy and the Loop about 7pm last night

you were going to kill my entire family.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It Ain't As Easy As It Looks From the Pulpit

Since the Republicans who rode the "We hear you, America and will make jobs for the jobless our top priority" bandwagon back into office have decided that the best way to make jobs is to repeal healthcare, outlaw abortions and make damn sure Those Gays never get to marry, I have a few things I'd like to say on the subject of Planned Parenthood, since it seems that's front and foremost on the chopping block of moral vengeance.

Here's the thing.

Planned Parenthood does not = Abortions R Us.

I know, I know- that's not what FOX News says.

But I've been a patient at Planned Parenthood- from the ages of 15-20 and 35-45 during times I had no insurance to cover reproductive health. Fifteen years of Planned Parenthood and not ONCE was I offered an abortion. Not ONCE did the personnel say "Honey, here's a year's worth of pills- if they don't work you just come on back in and we'll fix you up good as new".

Because that's not mainly what they do.

Here's what happens at Planned Parenthood.

You call for an appointment. Just like the doctor.

The office is clean and professional. Just like the doctor.

They take your vitals, do a complete physical exam, pap smear, bloodwork and urinalysis. Just like the doctor.

They ask if you have any questions, concerns, need any counseling for anything or problems. Just like the doctor.

You're asked about your income and they use a sliding scale to figure out what you'll pay for your visit- my total cost for the above services plus a year's worth of birth control pills was about $50. Which is decidedly NOT like the doctor.

If there hadn't been Planned Parenthood available to me, I would not have received ANY routine health care during a large portion of my adult years, and a great many women use it as exactly that- the only health care they can afford. And until we here in the US of A have a single payer option for universal health care, that's not going to change

but that's a whole nuther kettle of worms.

My POINT is that to attack and de-fund Planned Parenthood does not simply mean an attack and de-funding on abortion. It means yanking the only available affordable SAFE care a lot of women have away from them.

Women like me.

I hate to muddy up the whole Right vs. Wrong Black vs. White waters, but here's what I want you to think about for just a minute.

Say you're a 15 year old girl. You go to church every Sunday and your parents raised you strictly but lovingly.

Although you are taught that compassion, forgiveness and love are the basis of your religion and family, you see the actions of your church differently- anyone not toeing the line of morality is not looked upon kindly and frankly not welcome anymore. And your parents agree with that. Because those who don't follow the Word of God when they know otherwise are willful sinners and should not be associated with.

You and your boyfriend get a little carried away, because yanno, you're HUMAN and all. He didn't have a condom and you weren't prepared because if you were so armed, you'd be PLANNING on sinning.

You miss your period. Then another one. Your body tells you things you don't want to hear.

You're scared stiff and when you're alone you spend a lot of time crying and throwing up.

Things your parents have said about other girls "who got into trouble" play over and over in your head- they were sinners, they're going to hell, how could they be so Godless and selfish? How could they bring such SHAME into their family?

You clearly can NOT go to your parents.

Things you've heard thundering out of the pulpit play over and over in your head- the wages of Sin are Death, only the Pure will enter the Kingdom of God, giving into the Pleasures of the Flesh is Evil.

You clearly can NOT go to your pastor.

Every vestige of a support system is unavailable to you when you most need it. You simply cannot endure the anger and disappointment that will show in your parents' eyes, the disapproval and judgment in the eyes of your pastor and the rest of the congregation.

You go to Planned Parenthood and tearfully tell them that no- you cannot have this baby- no one would understand. And you mourn that baby for your entire life.

The End.

What purpose does closing Planned Parenthood serve, what purpose the acres of little white crosses and picketing and harrassing patients and caregivers?

When what NEEDS to be changed is our society- until ALL women have options and support, until they KNOW they have options and support, until young girls grow up seeing those around them literally practicing what they preach and not saying one thing and doing another- not advocating love and submission to God's will and then judging others without knowing their hearts. These are the changes that need to be made, not closing clinics or vilifying women who are very very aware of what they are doing and whose hearts are breaking just fine without your help thank you very much.

The girl in the story- are you angry at her? At the clinic?

Then you don't get it.

And may your God have more mercy on your soul than you have for others.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Yanno what I hate?

I hate when I'm on Facebook and there's an invitation to join a page and I click on it and afterwards think "Was that such a good idea?"

Today, for example. I've been away from the computer except for "work stuff" all week and haven't had a chance to blog. So I've had all week to get good and worked up about so very many things

...and yet.

I clicked "I am attending" to this-!/event.php?eid=189170184442695&index=1

A day of Peace. Today. Because it sounded like a good idea and pretty innocuous.

*Then I read the rules*

I have to be nice. All day. To everyone. About Everything.

I'm not sure, but that may do permanent damage to the vengeful hateful little core that keeps me alive.

But I'll give it a shot. For the sake of Peace.

Because that's what my 11 year old boy wished for blowing out the candles of his birthday cake with the peace sign on it.

I'll give it a shot.

So for today there is no ranting, no spewing, no frustration- just some photos of early spring wild flowers here on the 'stead, all of them completely and obstinately non-carnivorous, which would've given me at least a tiny bit of satisfaction.

*Peace- and I'll see ya'll tomorrow...if I haven't spontaneously combusted.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'll Take a Handful Of the Little Yellow Ones, Please

So, we were watching our morning dose of "What the rest of the world thinks is normal and/or important" via Good Morning America. We like to do that right after viewing the morning traffic commute information for Dallas- the two together sorta act as our daily affirmation of how much we love our life, and a renewed certainty of what we endeavor to avoid at all costs.

Most days, there's at least one thing that makes us go "Huh. Weird". or "SERIOUSLY?" and every so often we can literally see the letters W T F flashing red inside our eyeballs at something especially insane.

The day in question was one of those days.

There was an expert (there's always an expert) who was also a psychiatrist talking about a NEW syndrome for people to be plagued with-


Huh. Weird. SERIOUSLY? WTF???

Apparently, because of our recent National Economic Downturn, people have had to (wait for it...) WATCH THEIR POCKETBOOKS.

And that has made them sad, nay more than sad- they're (insert whiny voice) TIRED OF PINCHING PENNIES.

Tired of Pinching Pennies= Frugal Fatigue.

The good doctor on the TV warned that if Frugal Fatigue is not addressed properly and with all due respect, the afflicted will be likely to fall off the bargain bin wagon and (wait for it...) GO ON A SPENDING BINGE.

Once I got over my shock and horror at this new malady gnawing at the very loins of our Great Nation, I was stricken with a vision, a clue, a prophesy if you will about how to cure Frugal Fatigue without the help of physicians or pharmaceuticals.

So here's the wickedly simple fix for Frugal Fatigue, America-


Yep- I've had to pinch pennies all my life and other than the times I've been caring for newborns or working 2 full time jobs to make ends meet, I've yet to be fatigued for even a second.

In fact, I'm generally tickled pink to find a deal- I consider it the height of the shopping experience to see something I like, then find it at a deep discount (or at Goodwill) before making an actual purchase. I love Goodwill. I get a very real and physical thrill at coming home with a huge bag of clothing- all name brands- and having spent under $50 for what would be $500 worth of stuff at the mall.

Shopping wisely and making every penny count two or three times isn't a burden- it's good budgeting and fiscal responsibility. To give it a medical name is the first step.

That's "Recognizing the problem".

The next step is to find a drug to fix it.


I can't stand all the advertisements- anti-depressants, anti-insomniacs, what the hell? "Do you find yourself sad and worried most of the time?" "Do you lie awake at night unable to sleep?"



I'd be horribly remiss if I didn't share the handy hints to stave off the dreaded "spending binge" Frugal Fatigue may trigger, so here they are-

-allow yourself a small luxury now and then- sort of a valve release so you don't just one day go ballistic in Dillards and need a UHaul to get yer stuff home.

-only carry cash- that way you have a very tactile sense of spending money- you aren't just slapping the plastic on the counter, you're counting out actual greenbacks.

-(this one's my favorite) only carry big bills, because you'll be less likely to want to break 'em into change. Notice it says "bills" plural. Like we've all got a mittful of Ben Franklins to walk around with.

That right there told me how very far removed the expert psychiatrist and the hosts of Good Morning America really are from the reality most of us move around in.

The heartbreaking thing is that people are sitting around watching this drivel and thinking "Hey- I'm pretty pissed off and tired of not having any money- I think I've got this here Frugal Fatigue" and simultaneously "Someday I'm gonna be just like those people on the TV- that's the "normal" we're all supposed to be shooting for".

No. It's not. None of the above. If you get up every day and work your ass off to keep your family fed and clothed and happy, and you do it by shopping the sales racks and discount stores and never having a slim dime to put in the "entertainment" column of a budget sheet, YOU ARE A WINNER AND A HERO.

And don't let any talking head or PHD or TV ad with a computer generated moth on it tell you otherwise.

Rock On.