photo by Sheri Dixon

Monday, December 22, 2014

Not All...

"Not all" is a 'reversible' phrase. It's a close relation to "Not everything", "Not everyone" and "Not every".

Here's how they work. You can use them at the beginning of any sentence, and they render the sentence completely different from how you meant it. In fact, they're almost magical.

Just like the old saying about dogs- tell a dog

Don't eat that

Don't pee there

Don't chew this

And what they hear is

Eat that

Pee there

Chew this

They focus only on the words they want to focus on.

Anyway, here goes, and every single phrase below is 100% how I feel. Notice the inclination to exclude the first word from the thought process in order to fit me into some preconceived notion of who you think I am.

Not all cops are assholes.

Not all young black men are thugs.

See that? I can be against policemen who abuse the power of their position and not be a cop-hater. I can abhor those who misuse that power and still be outraged and horrified when two get murdered by a psychopath.

I can acknowledge that there are segments of young male society (any color) who live in and thrive on violence and not giving a shit while knowing full well that that's not all of them (or even most of them).

Those are true statements no matter who you are.

But here's what people hear-

All cops are assholes.

All young black men are thugs.

Those are false statements no matter who you are and only serve to divide us more than we already are.

Not everything a Republican says is a lie.

Not everything a Democrat says is the truth.

Again- all politicians are individuals with their own agendas and favors to repay. Some conservatives have good ideas and some liberals have bad ideas.

But what do we hear?

Everything a Republican says is a lie.

Everything a Democrat says is the truth.

Bad. Very bad.

Once more!

Not everyone who goes to church is a good person.

Not everyone who is an atheist is a bad person.

I've known some folks who have a path flat worn down from their house to the church and yet I wouldn't trust them as far as I can throw them. Ever. With anything or anyone.

I personally am an atheist, and I'd like to think I'm a pretty decent human being.

And yet, what do we hear?

Everyone who goes to church is a good person.

Everyone who is an atheist is a bad person.

Dangerous. Dividing. Deadly.

Here's what happens with statements like this. The first sets are open, accessible, discussion-inducing. They proclaim a non-concrete opinion that is inherently open-minded. Read 'em again and you'll hear it.

The second sets- the ones people's brains hear and then repeat as quotes- are absolutes that are not up for debate or discussion- those minds are closed tighter than a baby's mouth when there's strained broccoli coming at it.

In the end

Not every conservative is a racist bastard and

Not every liberal is a bleeding heart imbecile

but it's going to take careful and deliberate re-training on our own parts to fix this unconscious mental habit.

The politicians encourage it for their own ends.

The media encourage it for their ratings.

Every faction, race, religion, and group encourages it because there MUST be an 'us against them' mentality- otherwise how do we know who are the good guys (like us) and who are the bad guys (who we don't want to be like)?

If that automatic suspicion is gone, that instantaneous revulsion removed, where does that leave us as a people?

It leaves us with the truth.

Most cops are doing a difficult job bravely and unflinchingly and when even one of those dies in the line of duty it's one too many. It's especially heartbreaking when it's senseless, and random, and unexplainable.

Some cops are assholes who thrive on power and feed off hatred because cops are human and there are those types of humans everywhere, but it's more dangerous when it's a cop and those need to be ferreted out- even one is too many.

Most young men are just trying to find their way- in their peer groups, the world at large, in life. They make stupid mistakes because we all do. Most of those mistakes aren't fatal but even one is too many.

Some have been caught up in a destructive life and they are a danger to themselves and others and even one is too many.

Most Christians are good people who are trying to live life according to their Christ, who was a good example. Those are the ones quietly helping the poor, feeding the hungry, championing the downtrodden. These need to be spotlighted and emulated even though the 'humility' part of Christianity forbids them of doing so themselves.

Some Christians wield their Faith as a weapon and bludgeon the rest of us with it, whether we believe or not. They are intent on making our nation a theocracy...for our own good, of course. These people are dangerous, and self-serving, and definitely NOT Christians as Christ intended.

Here's the thing about Conservatives and Liberals. We're all American citizens with equal rights and equal freedoms. For the most part, we all love our country and want what's best for ourselves, our families, our communities and the nation as a whole. Most of us are aware that this requires compromise because we're all different and even though the Ends are very similar, the Means and Path to get there varies between ideologies.

Most of us are intelligent, thinking, caring people.

Some of us are assholes. Both sides.

Somewhere, somehow, we need to find the strength and patience and backbone to protect and celebrate those who are doing their best every single day no matter if they're in 'our group' or not. Across the board.

And we need to call out the violence and hatred and destruction mental and physical; haul it into the light of day and expose it for the evil it is and the evil it represents and be done with it. Do not accept it no matter where and who it comes from.

Do not.

America is a great idea. I think we should try it out sometime.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Holiday Letter 2014

I'm having a hard time getting ready for Christmas this year. Too busy, too stressed, too depressed by what's going on in the world at large. I'm stuck here at work awaiting delivery of a chest freezer so I typed up my annual holiday letter and that's when it happened, as it always happens every year. We're OK. The world at large may seem totally fucked up, but my little family is OK.

That sounds like a complete pile of ass-wipery because it sounds selfish and uncaring, but it's really not.

We're OK. Sometimes that's where you need to start from to even be able to move out of your mental hole and make a difference. Find the (sometimes tiny and seemingly insignificant) things that are OK in your life, hold tight to those as life preservers and go on and dive out into the rest of the mess.

People who have nothing to lose do desperate and sometimes foolish things. People who have everything to gain change the world.

It's almost 2015. Lets change the world.

Happy Holidays From the Dixons!

I can’t think of a way to open this without sounding trite or silly. Everyone has had a busy year. No one can believe 2014 is almost over. So, whatever. Here’s our ‘bringing ya’ll up to date holiday letter’. Ho ho ho.

Our big ‘thing’ this year was our annual road trip- and it was a doozy. Just shy of 7,400 miles north to Montana, west to Washington, south to Arizona and home. We saw everything on the way- everything. Three weeks of everything and it was glorious if exhausting. Pretty sure Alec took almost 2,000 photographs.

I passed my exam to be a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager- there are only about 400 CVPM’s and it’s kind of a big deal- I’m getting head-hunted from all over the country, which is very flattering for a chick who barely finished high school and is only 7 years away from retirement. I’m loathe to leave a job that allows for me to take three week vacations, though- even for more money.

Ward’s doing great- all his exams and scans continue to show ‘nothing of note in his head’. We love that result. He’s assumed most of the house and farm management since I’ve been taking college courses and studying for my exam.

Alec is finishing up 9th grade and is a solid A’s and a few B’s kinda student. His group of friends in Denton are again competing in the Future Problem Solvers program and they just took a three day field trip to participate in a workshop at Heifer International in Arkansas. He and his dog Bonnie have gone to some obedience and pre-agility classes and he still takes art and guitar lessons. Through the magic of layaway, he’s purchased a new steel string acoustic guitar and keyboard and now has his eyes set on an amp and electric guitar. Yay!

We lost Joe’s mom Edna in August. She was almost 95 and I miss her every day.

Joe continues to be one of the most popular authors in ‘mens adventure’ books on Amazon Kindle and he has a huge following of devoted fans.

We are still surrounded by fur and feathers- I finally got myself another ‘co-pilot sidekick’ dog- it’s been five years since I lost Spooj. Her name is Sorcha. She’s a uniquely beautiful blue-eyed red and white Border Aussie and she’s perfect.

Horse, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, various dogs, cats and of course the guinea pigs all present and accounted for. This year my pigs have won multiple best in show awards and did very well at Nationals. Yep, ridiculous.

Wishing only good adventures and the best of everything for all of you in 2015!

-the Dixons

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fun With E Mails

Ahhh...the chain e-mail. Such a great way to get a lot of people harumphing in agreement and indignation! Behold the following, which is usually accompanied by a photo of a hungry homeless white child- you know, an AMERICAN child.

In America - The Homeless go without eating.
In America - The Elderly go without needed medicines.
In America - The Mentally ill go without treatment.
In America - Our Troops go without proper equipment.
In America - Our Veterans go without benefits they were promised.
Yet we donate billions to other countries before helping our own first.

Of course, the problem with this is what happens when you fill out the outrageous soundbites with facts.

In America- The homeless go without eating because time and again we vote against helping them; calling those who are homeless 'unmotivated' and 'just needing some gumption' and 'if we feed them they become dependent- we don't want to ENABLE them, do we?'

In America- The Elderly go without needed medicines because we have the most profit-motivated and unregulated pharmaceutical and insurance industries in the world

In America- The mentally ill go without treatment because St. Ronnie cut them all loose and "taking care of those folks would be nice, Sugar- but how will we PAY for it?" Also, see above re: enabling and motivation. If we just give the mentally ill a good kick in the drawers and a cheerful "Get over it!" they'll be FINE

In America- Our troops go without proper equipment because there is no fiscal oversight of the bloated military industrial complex that lines the pockets of Halliburton and Raytheon. Send one of Cheney's grandkids over yonder to the sandbox as a regular enlisted grunt and see how fast the troops get equipment

In America- Our Veterans go without benefits they were promised because we KEEP GOING TO WAR and make more and more broken men and women

Maybe, just maybe, 'Rose-colored Glasses Lefties' want fiscal responsibility even more than the Right- we want the money we have put where it's needed most and not GIVEN to those who already make more apiece than the average small town in America.

You can call that Socialism and rail against it. But the entire text in that 'patriotic' chain email reeks of socialism- garnering support for GOVERNMENT to help our own people.

Because in a perfect Conservative World, all those people mentioned? Should just get off their asses and fix their own lives instead of waiting for the NANNY STATE to take care of them.

Or is it only a Nanny State when it cares for people we don't think deserve it?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

When It's Not Fiction Anymore

There's this book that was written.

It's was written as one of those end-of-the-world, everything's-bad, we-need-a-hero sorta deals that also includes some paranormal activity and some pretty graphic scenes of physically intimate relations.

Except the end of the world wasn't brought about by foreign terrorists, or any sort of Liberal Gun Grab, or Literally Hitler come to life in the form of a brown guy who took all the money from rich people and gave it to unworthy (brown) poor people.

The end of the world was caused by an excess of the wrong kind of faith in the wrong kinds of things.

And by 'end of the world', I mean a slow, painfully avoidable rotting of the system from the top down and a society who has been taught that the best way to cure it is to cut out the healthy parts and throw them away.

Doubling down on ideology that will hurt them personally because they have been duped into believing the suffering of their fellow citizens is the unfortunate yet justified 'gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet' that will bring the country back from the brink, it all makes sense. Having faith in a God who celebrates those who suffer makes it easier to bear when it astonishingly becomes them personally facing a grim new reality of their own making. It's a perfect recipe for total dysfunction.

So everything is bad in the story, and it's because the wrong people are not only IN power, but get even more powerful when that element has the majority in all our top slots of government. Hey, look! We're almost there!

As of Tuesday...we're almost there.

So here's what I recommend.

I recommend reading this book. It's only 99 cents and a pretty quick read.

There's action, and guns, and a sexy chick who happens to also have some nifty witchy gifts and uses them to help other people. And give a few what they deserve.

Also zombies.

And a duck.

You know you need this after Tuesday.

Read it quick before it goes from being fiction to non-fiction.

And then lets get back to work. 2016 is right around the corner.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Three Little Words

There are three words that rule the universe, have the power to heal, to mend, to open doors and minds, that empower both the person uttering them as well as those within earshot.

Three little words.

"I was wrong."

"I was wrong" signals both an ending and a beginning. The end of stubbornness, selfishness, ego. The beginning of listening, empathy, growth.

"I was wrong" tells your partner you don't NEED to win every disagreement- you are a partnership and are vested in fairness, equality and love above any petty desire to be 'the one who knows better than'.

"I was wrong- please forgive me."

"I was wrong- lets do it your way."

"I was wrong- I love you."

"I was wrong tells your children that you are, in fact, only human and that they are, in fact truly human.

"I was wrong- please forgive me."

"I was wrong- lets do it your way."

"I was wrong- I love you."

"I was wrong" tells your co-workers or employees or boss that you're not perfect. And yanno what? No one really expects you to be.

"I was wrong- lets do it your way."

"I was wrong- help me figure out a better way to do this."

"I was wrong- and here's how I'm going to fix it."

"I was wrong" is the hardest (for me, anyway) when I'm faced with someone I don't usually agree with, maybe don't like very much, and who pretty much stands for everything I hate ideologically. But no ideology or practitioner of same is infallible. Not all my staunch beliefs can stand up under scrutiny. Because that's life. Things we are 'sure' we know turn upside down all the time.

When my first child was born, I was admonished to put her on her tummy to sleep- if she was on her back and she urped up, she'd drown in her urp and die.

When my second child was born, I was told to put him on his back to sleep- if he was on his tummy and got jammed into excess blankets in his crib he'd suffocate and die.

When my third child was born, I just laid him on his side and told him 'good luck'.

So stuff changes. Absolutes we take for granted turn out to be more opinion than fact. And even though it's safe and warm and fuzzy inside groups who only think like we do...isn't that the same thing we chide the 'other side' for? Staying cloistered and cozy in their own little echo chambers?

So I step out. It's pretty easy because in our immediate family we have wildly varying political viewpoints so 'stepping out' means walking 50 feet to Joe's house and having a cuppa coffee. And that's made a difference- for both of us.

When you're face to face with someone, it's harder to defend your superiority.

When you can see a reaction in their face, their body posture, their eyes, it's harder to spit venom with impunity.

If it's someone you care about and respect in other aspects of your life, it's easier to listen and open that hard little center of bullheaded belief just a bit to let the light of another angle shine in.

The interwebs are a wondrous place- you can find anything to support any viewpoint you want to have, groups who think just like you do no matter what you think, and you can be anyone you want to be and as snarky and ugly as your little heart desires- pretty much without repercussions. Therefore it's really hard to have discussions of much worth that don't quickly degrade into name-calling and catch-phrase wars.

That's not helping anyone, and it's hurting us. It's hurting us to become so callous and petty and small, vicious and cold. With every angry sarcastic remark, we lose just a bit of our humanity and every chance we'd have to actually connect with the other person.

We should never look only for flaws and mistakes on 'the other side' and crow about it.

We should look twice as hard for flaws and mistakes on 'our side' and expose them, confront them, fix them. Because they're there. They're always there.

"I was wrong- lets talk about this."

"I was wrong- I'm sorry I snapped at you."

"I was wrong- lets start over."

"I was wrong..."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Got That Croatian Feeling Going On

Sometimes thing just stick in my craw.

Sometimes it's one of those little sourdough pretzel bites that I eat on my way to work but then I reach for my coffee and DAMMIT I've forgotten it on the kitchen table...again.

Sometimes it's something like this-

This is a thing. It's a thing that's outside of McKinney TX, so we drive right close to it. There are a few 'communities' in between McKinney and Denton; the most notable (until now) being Savannah (complete with lots of imported palm trees and magnolia trees) and Providence (which is just sort of Stepford-ish).

These are not exactly gated, but they are extremely clannish in that they are fully self-contained subdivisions. You gotcher big schmancy houses- the ones surrounding the fountained pond at the lavish entrance, you gotcher more affordable homes all lining quaint little tiny-tree-lined avenues and all juuuuust different enough to not look totally creepy, you gotcher section just for "Over 55 Active Adults" far enough away from the affordable housing children so they don't have to worry about YOU KIDS WALKING ON MY GRASS!!!, you gotcher elementary school and yer private club and exclusive gym and all that mess. Circling the whole shebang is a single layer of strip malls that offer everything from dry cleaning to burgers to hair stylists to emergency rooms.

Providence alone has a population of over 5,000. That's five times the size of my little town. That's quite a subdivision.

But this...this Adriatica is something else.

First off, just by looking at it, you know there is no 'affordable housing'. It's Schmancypants City from the tippy top of the Bell Tower to the 'quaint cobblestone streets'.

Which is cool. If you have a buttload of money and want to pretend you live in Europe, that's great.

This is the part that is craw-stickingly jarring to me.

"The goal is to create community that in a relatively short period of time replicates villages that have taken centuries to develop. The project involves not only proper architecture and visual design, but also expertise in culture and social interaction. Not just how to build, but how to arrange the pieces of daily life, from where we live and work, to where we shop and play. It all comes together to form a balanced way of life."

Which is utter bullshit.

There are no Croatian fishermen here. No hard winters survived and generations of families and their various love/hate relationships intertwining the fabric of every person's history and future simultaneously, no hunger faced or natural disasters survived.

Be honest. Say "The goal is to create community that in a relatively short period of time replicates villages that have taken centuries to develop. The project involves not only proper architecture and visual design, and can do all this effortlessly because we have a metric fuck-ton of money at our disposal. We've studied the wants and needs of today's urban wealthy, and we know just what to build to enhance your life and fill it with truly comforting social interaction. We've artfully arranged the pieces of daily life so that once you enter these locked gates, your every whim will be fulfilled- food, drink, entertainment, all comes together to form a life balanced with you in the center of it; as it should be."

Seriously. This is a single family house. They must catch A LOT of fish.

And what Croatian fisherman family wouldn't require the following stores in their village to make their life complete?

Cavallis Wood-Fired Pizzaria
Keller Williams Real Estate
The Guitar Sanctuary
The Sanctuary Music & Events
Independent Bank
UPS Store
The Bella Donna Chapel
Silk Road Thai Cuisine
Zin Zen Wine Bistro
Fleurs & Events
Harry’s at the Harbor

I'm not jealous and I don't care where people choose to live if it makes them happy. But don't say you're something you're not.

It's not a Croatian fishing village. It's a Disney-ish fancied-up version of a postcard of a Croatian fishing village.

It's a Croatian Norman Rockwell; the Face the real villages put on for tourists.

While it IS "a true community perfectly balancing the needs and wants of its inhabitants", there's no getting around that the inhabitants are extremely wealthy, and that piles of money are the very real dues to get here and stay here.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe when one of the residents loses his high-paying job they'll all rally around and take in him and his family, sharing their home and money and food until he finds another job.

I'd like to see that.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Toad Lickin' News

You know that thing where you can hear stuff even though you're really sleeping? It's that thing that causes you to have really strange dreams until you wake up and realize you've been watching the infomercial channel all night. Which explains your dreams of women who have successfully lost 258 pounds who are wearing the world's most comfortable bra, cleaning their houses with a Shark while clutching Ginsu knives in their teeth.

At least that's what I tell myself.

So this morning, before I was fully awake, I could hear the news. And the news was all about Ebola, or as it's referred to here in East Texas- Eboli. As in, "I sure hope I don't catch me any of that there Eboli that African feller brought into Dallas! Stuff'll kill ya quick as a possum slidin' off a melted trailer roof in July, it will!"

And that's pretty dang quick.

Back to the news. It sounded serious. "More breaking news about the Ebola patient currently quarantined in a Dallas hospital!" The perky reporter was on the scene, in front of Presby Hospital in Dallas. Her tone was serious, somber, her voice filled with foreboding. I opened one eye and gazed across the room to the TV- yep; she was pretty somber lookin'. Across the bottom of the screen the ticker was retelling the whole history of Ebola's attack on the US of A right here in TEX of AS. She continued...

"All forty five people who have been in contact with this man..." (pause for effect) "...are still symptom-free!"

Now both eyes were open, and I was sitting up. "Oh, for the love of..." But there was more!

"The homeless man who rode in the ambulance right after the patient with Ebola has been found!" (another pause) "And he is not showing any signs of illness!"

It hurts to roll your eyeballs too soon after waking up.

Back in the studio, the anchorman announced, "Yes, as ____________ told us, none of the people who were in direct physical contact with the patient are showing any signs of illness, including his girlfriend- who we have on the phone in an exclusive interview!"

"Hello? Are you there?"

"Ummm...yes I am."

"Great! And how are you feeling?"

"I'm fine, thanks. I'm OK."

"There you have it and you heard it here! Stay tuned to this channel for any other breaking coverage regarding the ongoing threat of the looming Ebola crisis here in Dallas!"

Someone once told me that if you lick a toad first thing in the morning, the rest of the day will be uphill. Far as I can tell, this was just as good. Bad. Whatever.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Things That Make My Head Explode


You hear that a lot from the Right. Like, every time something comes up that doesn't color exactly within the lines of what they consider 'the right way of thinking about shit'.

Lets take abortion. People like me think that it's a personal decision between a woman and whoever SHE wants involved in making it- family, doctor, God, no one...HER choice. Beyond that, it's a legal medical procedure so no matter what we personally think about's none of our damn business. If somehow pro-choice were really pro-abortion and being 'shoved down the throats' of those opposed to it, we pro-choicers would be pushing for every pregnancy to end in abortion. Every one.

But we're not. Because we're pro-CHOICE.

How about gay marriage? If you are in a committed relationship with someone and desire to have the legal and social benefits that marriage provides, that's your choice and none of our damn business. If somehow pro-gay marriage people were really into 'shoving that gay agenda down everyone's throats' we would insist that everyone marry someone of their own sex. Everyone.

But we don't. Because we want marriage equality,not something narrowly defined by a twisted interpretation of the Christian bible...since there are many definitions of marriage in that self-same bible including how many concubines you can have and the forced marriage of a widow to her brother-in-law. Also some neat ways you can marry slaves and the women you rape.

And about that Bible.

Until the Commie Scare of the '50's, there was no "In God We Trust" anywhere and "Under God" wasn't in our pledge. Before that the money said "E Pluribus Unum" and the pledge went "One nation indivisible". So we went from "Out of many, one" to "One True God" and from "we may be many different people but we are united" to "the Christian God rules this joint!"

Freedom of religion also means freedom FROM religion if you so choose, because we are not a theocracy and there's NO WAY any god of any religion should figure prominently because we do not have a National Religion. Let that sink in for a sec and then segway to the many fundamentals on the Right who are screaming for America to 'turn back to God' and the insistence that we twist our laws around their bible. Exactly who is destroying the Constitution?

So lets think about this for just a second.

Exactly which 'side' is shoving their agenda on everyone else while hollering about PERSECUTION and the KILLING OF AMERICA?

Which 'side' is clamping down on the freedoms of others in order to force them to conform to their narrow view of right/wrong?

Hint. It ain't the Left.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Guess It's My Fault For Breathing

And in the latest of a never-ending series of a game I call 'Lets Blame the Victim!' something happened a week or so ago that struck very close to home.

One of my long-time employees was riding her bike and got hit by a car.

She's in her 40's, so not a kid out weaving in the middle of the road.

She rides seriously and competitively, so there was a blinky light on the back of her bike (with brand new batteries, so nice and bright) and she was wearing a helmet and high-visibility clothing.

SHE WAS IN A GROUP OF BIKERS, so it's not like someone was just driving along and..."WHOA, HEY! THERE'S A BIKE THERE!"

Nope. The guy who hit her was driving along CHECKING HIS PHONE, looked up and 'didn't have time to swerve'.

She is in the hospital and just had her 4th surgery to try to repair her broken pelvis and spinal damage.

Here's where it gets really awful.

The news station ran a story on it, which portrayed the facts as stated above. There were many reader comments. I should not have read the reader comments.

"When are these idiots going to realize that cars and bicycles don't mix, our roads are for cars, trucks and motorcycles only, not bicycles, 4 wheelers, horses, golf carts, etc. Use some common sense people."

"Ride bicycles on the road at your own risk then if you want to be that dumb. Drivers have enough things to look out for as it is without adding bicycles to the list, and yes people using phones are a big problem to. All the more reason not to ride on the road."

And on and on it goes. That road is too busy. That road is too narrow (it's a FOUR lane road with a paved shoulder and center turn lane). They shouldn't have been there.

What the ever-lovin' fuck?

Back a few years ago my daughter got bumped and rolled while riding her bike- he never even looked for her...and no one stopped to see if she was OK. Her husband got hit by a car while riding and ended up in the hospital. Both adult competitive riders.

Are we that selfish and heartless? What about, "Hey Asshole- get off your damn phone while DRIVING A CAR!"?

Yanno what he was charged with? Failure to control speed. A damn speeding ticket. Not reckless use of a vehicle, not assault with a vehicle, not anything that says, "Oh, by the way- I hope that chain email you just HAD to check was really important because you've totally and completely fucked up someone's life for it".

Add this to the daily assault of rape victim-blaming, poor people-blaming,sick people-blaming, sneering at those in abusive situations and saying, "Well? Why don't they just leave?" and holy shit are we a messed up society.

Are we that selfish and heartless? Or are we that afraid that if we stand up and say, "NO- IT'S NOT THE VICTIMS' FAULT- IT'S THE FAULT OF THE BULLIES AND CHEATERS AND TAKERS IN THIS WORLD AND WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH" that we'll be the next victims?

So we give the bullies our lunch money and turn our heads when they beat up those who have no lunch money to give them.

We turn our heads so we don't have to think about the fact that in a heartbeat, the victim could be our mother, daughter, brother,

Putting a stop to the slut-shaming, bully-worshiping, gay-bashing, poor-hating mindset in our society is the first step to healing and actually 'taking back America'.

I'm not sure we can do it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I Know Just How You Feel

How many times have I heard that?

A hundred? A thousand? No matter- it's always untrue.

Because here's the thing. Although we're all human and may share a bunch of similar experiences, no one on earth has the exact same chemistry, personality and history as you do. No one.

I see many discussions (that devolve into name-calling arguments) that involve both black and white people and invariably some white dude says, "Hey- MY people were also oppressed- I know just how you feel." Because...really?

There was a thread on Facebook recently that started out innocently. Someone (female) posted a photo of herself and some friends out to dinner and captioned it "Good dinner with good company" or something along those lines. Several of us other gals agreed that we need to all go out soon.

Then some guy chimed in that he was down for that.

One of the women said that sometimes women just need to be around other offense.


At first he was just insistently annoying, arguing that of COURSE he knows just how women feel in our society and that we were being unjustly bitchy to think otherwise.

So we tried to explain.

That no matter how much of a champion you are for women's rights and no matter how 'in touch with your feminine side' you are, if you are a don't know how women feel.

After a while we gave up because he just kept on about how we couldn't tell him why he can't know how we feel when we used up a million pixels typing it all out for him and we just decided he's really just an asshole, but that thread has stayed with me.

Because there's no way in hell someone of one race knows how someone of another race feels.

No way someone of one gender knows how someone of another gender feels.

No way anyone but your own head and heart know exactly how you feel.

Ward and I are as close as two people can be without actually sharing organs.

A little over a decade ago we became a cancer family.

We have walked that jagged path and clawed our way back up that slippery slope more times than can be imagined a human can do so. Together. Always together.

And yet...when he's being wheeled back for yet another surgery, waking up, recovering and experiencing the pain and the fear and the whole, "Jesus I'm so fucking tired of this crap"-edness there's no way I know how he's feeling. None.

And when I watch him being wheeled away from me and spend the four, six, eight, ten hours in the waiting room hoping for good news and dreading bad news, and then at his side as he's waking up and the days, weeks, months while he's healing there's no way he knows how *I* feel. None.

In addition, neither one of us can know how our son feels; never knowing anything BUT his dad going into surgery and recovering, over and over again for his entire lifetime. We can't know how he feels.

So when you talk about Ferguson and say, "I know just how you must feel" to someone of color when you're white, just stop it. You don't.

When you see that Robin Williams committed suicide after years of depression and alcohol and health issues and you say, "Well, I've been through tough times but that's a coward's way out- I know just how he feels and I got over it", just stop it. You don't.

If women want to go out to dinner to be just among other women because being female IS different than being male- not in a Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus sort of way, but like this-
A man sees a woman walking past a construction site and the guys are all catcalling and wolf whistling and making less-than-polite requests of her and the man thinks, "Geez, what a buncha assholes" and walks on.
That woman thinks, "Geez, what a buncha assholes" and walks on with a tiny but never-vanishing pit of fear in her gut. So no- you don't know 'just how we feel'. You don't.

We can sympathize. We can empathize, commiserate, project, speculate, role-play and make assumptions based on our own reality. But it's not anyone else's reality.

So what do you say?

In the case of Ferguson you say, "I'm so sorry- what can we do to help?" It's not an admission of guilt- it's acknowledging that a young man is dead and we SHOULD be sorry.

Robin Williams? "How awful for him to have been in such torment."

If that dude in the women's thread had REALLY been a true advocate? "OK- ya'll have fun!"

See? Short, sincere, and doesn't turn the conversation around to make it all about you.

Because that's what 'I know just how you feel' really does. So just...don't.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Looking Back Over the Decades

When I was five
I had my first crush.
His name was Mike Tatum
And he was in his fifties.
I made him promise me
That he'd wait till I was twenty five
And then he'd marry me.
Of course he didn't.
But I forgave him...

When I was fifteen
I was assaulted
And shamed
By a church deacon.
Took me thirty five years
Before I had the courage
To tell anyone.
My mother chalked up my
Rebellious teenage years
To rock and roll music.

When I was twenty five
And married for the first time
I had just had my second baby
And thought my life was perfect
Ignoring the gaping holes
In my heart and soul.
If I could just be a
Better wife
Better lover
Better mother
Better housekeeper
Everything would be

When I was thirty five
I met my Knight in Shining Armor
After shedding my second
Alcoholic abusive husband
Like a virus
Or a diseased cocoon.
A flaming, carnivorous, strangulating
Panic attack inducing

When I was forty five
I held tight to my husband
(the Good One)
And my small son
As we bobbed and spun
And were dunked and dragged
Under the waters of cancer
Over and over again
Feathers without anchors
Fireflies without lights
But refusing to let go
Of each other.

And now I'm fifty five
And all I can say is
"Gimme my senior discount, dammit.
I'm old and by god,
I've earned it."
IHOP, here I come.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

No Promises

Sometimes people keep going on out of sheer cussedness. No matter what seems to be the limits a body and mind can take, they just keep going...because they have to.

My friend Edna was like that.

When she was 13 her mother died and she was left to pretty much raise her younger siblings (and herself) alone. This was in 1932. She got through it out of sheer cussedness.

When she was a reasonably new bride with a reasonably new baby, her husband was killed in WWII and she bucked all tradition and did NOT find another man to marry who could support herself and her baby- she'd seen too many stepkids being treated as literal 'red-headed stepchildren' and wasn't about to have that happen to her son. This was in 1943. She got through it out of sheer cussedness.

It wasn't easy. It was never easy. The worry of being sure there was a roof overhead and food on the table was deeply ingrained in her and in the last year of her life, when there was so much information and memories stuffed into her brain that it all started getting muddled she'd fret and become vexed and outright agitated. She was filled with a roiling core of sheer cussedness.

"We need to be looking for another house."

"Why, Edna? This IS your house."

"Oh, it is not!"

"Yes, it is- they built it to your specifications and we wrote a check for it and decided where on the farm it would set. I was there. This is your house."

"Well...if you say so it must be true."

"I promise you. It's true."

At 94, she was very slow getting around, but she got up every day these last few months getting ready to go to work.

"Where are you going, Edna?"

"I'm going to work, of course."

"You don't have to do that- you're retired."

"I am??? Thank goodness. I'm too tired to go to work."

Edna kept her own house, cleaned, cooked, did laundry, tended her garden and her dog, till about six months ago. It became too much for her physically and she was starting to forget the order things were done, coffee making, laundry.

I said, "As long as she doesn't wander away and set shit on fire, she's OK."

One day, she did both in the matter of four hours.

A daily living service started coming for six hours a day. Then eight. Then twelve. In between and around, Joe and I took turns checking on her, sitting with her, tucking her in at night.

I had a baby monitor set up with one end on her refrigerator and the other on my headboard.

I slept with 'mom ears' for almost three years.

Twelve days ago at 2am, she got up for a drink of water and fell...hard.

In a matter of minutes, we were at her side and in another thirty minutes she was in the emergency room.

Fractured hip- three breaks. Cracked elbow. The X-Ray showed not only the fractures on her right hip, but a crack in her left hip. ICU. Surgery. More surgery when the elbow became infected. Home.

This was her third stay in our local hospital. The other two were for bladder infections. Every time she's rallied and come home, but just a bit weaker than before; starting out a bit lower on the strong scale. But rally she did...including checking herself out AMA, then sitting at her kitchen table eating pizza and drinking beer three days later. Cussedness, thy name is Edna.

They transported her home via ambulance, because of the two broken hips and all. We had a hospital bed installed in her living room to be her command station.

Something about the transport scared and disoriented her and she fought the EMT's, wearing herself out and hurting...something. Somewhere.

The assigned nurse came out, assessed her pain level and noted her failing circulation and accumulating fluid in her limbs and tummy and said, "You don't need me. You need hospice."

The hospice nurse came out, assessed her falling blood pressure and oxygen saturation even with constant oxygen and said, "It won't be long. She's just plumb wore out. Our goal now is to keep her comfortable."

When Edna and I took our epic road trips back and forth to Oklahoma, and even our run of the mill weekly trips to have her hair done and out to lunch, the boys would say, "Ya'll don't get into trouble now- no bar hopping and dancing on tables." We'd grin and say

"No promises."

Some days when I'd visit her on my way to work she'd say, "Don't work too hard and don't hurt anyone." I'd grin and say

"No promises."

Some days I'd be leaving her house and say, "So and so will be here in a minute to stay with you for a while- don't give her any trouble or try to run away." and she'd grin and say

"No promises."

By yesterday morning she was very weak and sleeping most of the time. When she'd wake up she was in pain so sharp it brought tears to all of our eyes. Before her next dose of morphine set in I kissed her and said, "I'll see you later." She looked up at me, smiled and said

"No promises."

Those were the last words she spoke to me.

The boys tell me that bringing her here after she got pneumonia and decided she couldn't live alone in Oklahoma anymore gave her the best three years of her life.

Having Edna for my friend was an honor, and an inspiration, and a joy, and a daily lesson in tenacity and cussedness, and I'll miss her every single day of my life.

Edna Hoskins, born at home in Oklahoma 9/15/1919

Died at home in Texas 8/8/2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Just...What?

Sometimes when I drive, I like to listen to talk radio to stay awake. And since we don't have any new-fangled gizmo like 'Sirius satellite radio', that means Right Wing Yell Radio.

Because that's the whole show on the public airwaves. You know...the Liberal Media.

It sort of drifted in and out, but I finally found one that lasted for a good ten minutes before statticking away...The Michael Savage Show.

In ten minutes, I learned a few things.

At least I'm pretty sure I was learning, because every other sentence he said one of two things-

"You don't know this."

"This is something you don't understand."

So the first thing I learned was that Michael Savage is psychic and knows what I know and understand. Awesome.

And it must be true. He sounded very sure of himself.

I don't want to withhold this valuable information from you, so here it is, pretty much in the order presented, as I remembered to dictate it into my phone after manually closing my mouth that was hanging open in amazement.

-Atheists only believe in power. Atheists don't believe in tomorrow or an afterlife, so they feel they are free to do anything they want to without repercussion. Which is so weird, because *I'M* an Atheist and I do believe in tomorrow. Also, myself and all the other Atheists I know tend to treat this one life we have with MORE care and concern for others and tend to be MORE moral than someone who believes that they can do pretty much anything (no, wait- absolutely anything) and as long as they say, "I'm sorry" and give puppydog eyes to the Man in the Sky, they're totally cool. We have no 'spiritual loophole'- we're either good people or assholes and most of us choose to be good people...because it's the right thing to do- not to avoid burning in imaginary hell.

-This current administration is Atheist. That's why it's overstepped its power over and over again. Ahhh...cleverly disguised as a Christian family and cleverly using Executive Orders less than any other president in the history of Executive Orders. Nefarious.

-Israel is fighting for its life against Gaza, who keeps viciously attacking unprovoked. It's more than a regional war, tho- Israel as God's Chosen People are literally fighting for the future of the ENTIRE WORLD in a Judeo-Christian(?) vs. ISLAM battle and the ATHEISTS in the US who are pushing the LIBERAL One-World Order are sending poor little Israel to the Slaughter. I just...I can't. It's too insane. Gaza has NOTHING. They are trapped there and being decimated by an Israel that is armed to the teeth. I just...too much propaganda horror.

-The LIBERAL ATHEIST US government and its bastard media is 'DEMONIZING Vladimir Putin, who is our NATURAL ALLY in the war for a moral world'. Read that again. It's actually verbatim what he said. Again, slowly.

Ten minutes.

What if this sort of stuff was all I was exposed to? What if this, and Hannity, and Rush, and WorldNet Daily were my only sources of news? I'm surrounded by people like this and I can't get over it. They aren't bad people. But they swallow this shit hook, line, sinker, pole, fisherman AND BOAT. And if you try to put anything else in front of them that doesn't square with what they 'know', it just doesn't compute. Best case scenario is they look at you like you're an imbecile. Worst case is they'll tell you you're unAmerican and maybe need to move somewhere else.

Like where? America, land of the Free where everyone's voice and opinion counts? I'm already a citizen of that nation, thank you very much. Although more and more, 'living Blue in a Red State' is an exercise in courage/stupidity/futility.

This morning while drinking coffee, I had a brief online discussion regarding Robert Reich's latest column- should the US break up into different countries? Are we too far gone off either side to ever come back together?

All the vile bullshit Michael Savage vomited out onto the airwaves and I just typed out? That's 'truth' to a great many people. They hear it from their trusted sources and it's parroted from their pulpits and gets cemented in their heads that way and to question it gets tangled up in questioning God and lord knows we can't do THAT.

Lets talk for a moment about the refugees down on the border.

Here's what I read about that from the Right Wing just in the last hour and from just one thread-

"My sister said it takes $15,000 just to feed one of those kids till they get deported."

"I read that only 2% of the illegals are children, the others are gang members and adults who are just being released into our country."

Please note that this was in a conversation where the participants were actually grappling with the Christian humanitarian aspect of the refugees (although they can't bring themselves to refer to them as anything but 'illegals'), not your usual run of the mill Hate Crowd.

And they STILL couldn't do it- they still couldn't make the insurmountable leap from what they're being fed and what the real needs and issues are. They still spew out, "We need to take care of our own people first!" when...NO SHIT. Why are the two things mutually exclusive? They all need attending- the refugees, our homeless, our veterans, our children. All of it. None of it is right and we COULD afford it all if only we stopped being so damn afraid because we are being told to be afraid.

The very size and depth of their fear makes me afraid for our future as a nation indivisible.

I'm afraid.

I'm afraid that the internet made things worse instead of better. That instead of broadening people's horizons with learning different viewpoints and cultures, it gave the perfect platform to circle the wagons of isolationism- to burrow down in pockets of familiarity and stay there...vindicated by being surrounded only by those who think the same, look the same, hate the same.

I'm afraid that there is a huge population in the middle who have no clue. They don't want to think about things that are far away because it doesn't affect them, don't vote for anything other than president (if then) because they don't think it'll change anything anyway and it's SO HARRRRRRD to like, read up on issues and shit. So they coast, and ride the tide, and don't look up unless something finally directly affects them and it'll be too late. It'll be too fucking late.

I'm afraid that it's already too late.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Seriously Jacked Up

There are people on the borders crossing into America- the dream that is America.

Who are they? Central Americans, mostly, meaning that according to a law signed by GW Bush (one of his good ones) they cannot just be summarily re-deposited on the other side since their home country doesn't share a border with the US. Note the spelling of the word 'border'. It's not 'boarder' like 80% of the right-wing blogosphere is stating. Spellcheck won't catch that one, Bubba- some you gotta know on your own.

Why are they coming all at once? Must be
-Obama importing them to turn 'Merika brown
-Muslims sending 'em over (with MUSLIM PRAYER BLANKETS DISGUISED AS SOCCER JERSEYS) to bring 'Merika to her knees DEATH TO AMERICA
-George Soros bringing 'em in so they vote Democrat
-Vladimir Putin sprinkling them all with lethal germs and sending them amorphous Trojan Horse of disease that will destroy the Devil America once and for alllllllll....!!!!

Actually, the truth (as it ususally is) is probably a lot more tame and boring. Oh, the circumstances aren't. Those are vile and horrifying. The countries these people (and they are 'people', they're not 'illegal aliens' like Mork or that thing who terrorized Sigourney Weaver)are coming from are, in fact, crumbling under the weight of crime and drugs and all sorts of things that just happened to be set in motion or abated by our self-same government here in the US of A. Weird, huh? Weird that when it becomes so onerous and dangerous to be there, those people should choose HERE to come. Huh.

No, the most likely scenario that I've heard is the one about the lawyer. Or group of lawyers. Somewhere in one of these dangerous places some lawyer(s) looked around and thought, "Damn. This sucks. If only there were a way to send people where it's safe(r) than here. Some way for them to not be considered illegal aliens, but asylum-seeking refugees because this place has become a shit-hole and these people WILL die if they stay here and that's sorta kinda the very definition of 'asylum-seeking refugee'."

And that would explain the border patrol agents being inundated with peaceful people presenting them with papers asking for help- asylum, if you will, instead of running like hell and going to ground to be part of America's Undocumented Alien population.

But it doesn't matter, really. Not to me, anyway because I'm a squishy goddamn liberal hippiechick socialist and I think crazy thoughts like
-Hey, look. People who need help. Lets help them.
-Lets help them now with their immediate needs and THEN proceed from there because
-Hey, look. PEOPLE who need help.


Not if they're applying for asylum, they're not. Just like that ridiculous German family who's been here for almost a decade saying, "We're being persecuted in Germany because we home school and they want to MAKE OUR CHILDREN ATTEND SCHOOL." Wow. Heinous. So, if they're homeschooling, why hasn't one of the subjects been PASSING THE US CITIZENSHIP TEST? And yet, people are fighting tooth and nail to keep this poor, oppressed family in the US.

We can't take everyone? Then we damn-well better sand blast that shit off of the Statue of Liberty.

We can pay for this AND take care of our own people by doing what we need to do anyway to remain solvent and civil-
-repeal Corporate Personhood and require them to pay their fair share instead of giving them loopholes and bailouts and tax advantages for screwing us over and taking their banking and jobs overseas.
-Bring our troops home, stop our AGGRESSIVE invasion of the entire rest of the world that has shit we might want someday and dismantle the standing army. That's what the whole first part of the 2nd Amendment is really about- having a core of citizens who are TRAINED and can be called up to protect our borders. Period. Not letting anyone own and carry anything they want to. Not roving bands of assholes gathering on the border threatening to shoot children or abetting crusty old ranchers who want to graze public land for free because they've always done it (they've always broken the law, therefore...?) Trained to work together Switzerland.

To the people screaming at these human beings who have risked everything to come here- shame on you. That is seriously jacked up.

To the people insisting that children be sent back into horrific places because "It's not our problem"- shame on you. That is seriously jacked up.

To anyone anywhere in America who's not 100% Native American and who is screaming for these people to be deported (and I'm looking straight at you, Ted Cruz- 'born in Canada to a Cuban' Ted Cruz) your ancestors came immigrants, as refugees, as non-Americans. You think you just sprouted here from God's Own Seeds planted in this Fertile Soil of the Land He Made for You Because AMERICA? Shame on you. You are ignorant, and forgetful, and seriously jacked up.

To the people who say it's A-OK to keep a thumb on what American women do as far as personal health choices because 'abortion stops a beating heart', I say there are 55,000 beating hearts down on the border right now- and I'd reckon most of them are CHRISTIAN; you'd damn well better take a moment to think about what your Jesus would REALLY do. That guy who said, "Suffer the little children to come to me" and "Whenever you did for the least of these, you also did for me" and "Judge not lest you be judged" and all that stuff. If you can do that and STILL scream at these people, shame on you. Oh, and fuck you.

To everyone else, who wants to be human, and civil, and compassionate, I recommend Operation Matthew 25- started by the Dallas Catholic Diocese and being helped by other groups including one I'm in called What Happens In Texas- dedicated to turning Texas Blue and not especially faith-based but we all...every one of us see the absolute human NEED here and aim to fill it.

Because, my friends, THAT is what America used to be about.

My family and some of our friends will be helping organize the literal truckloads of donated items this Saturday in Dallas, but the San Antonio group needs some help so here's the link for that one-

See? You can be human and not even leave your chair. The Perfect American Charity.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

I Do Not Think This Means What You Think It Means

It's a fact that not all gun nuts are also religious nuts, but it is also a fact that a lot of religious nuts are also gun nuts. You see 'em posing with their guns in one hand and a bible in the other all the damn time with big, shit-eating patriotic grins on their faces.

So here's why I'm laying this out here in words and everything. It's because the 'only-gun' crowd aren't paying attention to a damn thing except their 'news' sources and forums and all the places that keep them focused ONLY on guns and have a (gasp) tendency to blow everything up to way bigger than life-size for the benefit of the gun manufacturers so their readers/viewers will run right out and buy up MORE gun shit. Because they're coming to take it all. Any minute now.

Those who are busy squirreling away literal tons of ammo have no clue about anything else. Because nothing else matters. True answer when I asked my personal gun nut what he thought of the Hobby Lobby ruling. "Ummm...I don't know much about it. They said it was women bitching about not being able to get free condoms or some shit, right?"


Took a gander over at the Hobby Lobby fan page on Facebook. Surreal. For every question regarding the declarations by the owners of Hobby Lobby of this being 'totally about religious freedom' there is the same cut/paste stock answer from Hobby Lobby.

"Why does Hobby Lobby include stocks for the manufacturers of the Evil Four 'abortifactant' types of contraception in their 401K and other retirement plans?"

The Greens have no desire to deny access to contraceptives or interfere with the personal reproductive choices of Hobby Lobby employees. They object to being forced to violate their moral conscience by paying for a small subset of contraceptives that the FDA states may terminate life. They still offer 16 of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives covered under ACA as part of Hobby Lobby's comprehensive employee health plan. The remaining four, which the Green family objects to, are still readily available and employees are free to obtain and use them at their discretion.

"Why does 95% of the crap sold at Hobby Lobby come from China, a country well-known for its VIGOROUS, government-enforced family planning policies?"

The Greens have no desire to deny access to contraceptives or interfere with the personal reproductive choices of Hobby Lobby employees. They object to being forced to violate their moral conscience by paying for a small subset of contraceptives that the FDA states may terminate life. They still offer 16 of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives covered under ACA as part of Hobby Lobby's comprehensive employee health plan. The remaining four, which the Green family objects to, are still readily available and employees are free to obtain and use them at their discretion.

"Why did Hobby Lobby not have a problem with providing contraceptive care until the ACA was enacted?"

The Greens have no desire to deny access to contraceptives or interfere with the personal reproductive choices of Hobby Lobby employees. They object to being forced to violate their moral conscience by paying for a small subset of contraceptives that the FDA states may terminate life. They still offer 16 of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives covered under ACA as part of Hobby Lobby's comprehensive employee health plan. The remaining four, which the Green family objects to, are still readily available and employees are free to obtain and use them at their discretion.

Here's where the gun nuts smile and say, "See? Silly wimmen- they don't want to take ALL your contraceptives, only a few of the ones they think are really bad."

Does that not sound familiar to ANY GUN NUT AT ALL??? ANY OF THEM??? Here. Lemme simple it up for ya-

"See? Silly gun nuts- they don't want to take ALL your guns, only a few of the ones they think are really bad."

Now how does it sit?

Wait. Where did they all go? They all hollered, "SLIPPERY SLOPE!!!" grabbed their precious armaments and went to ground like gophers when a big bird-shaped shadow cruises across the meadow.

Because that's the thing, here (as I patiently explained to my own gun nut).

Yes, this is about the fact that your employer has no right to tell you what you do on your off-time or how to make your personal decisions, unless your personal decisions include taking drugs while working or being an embezzler. If it doesn't affect your WORK, it doesn't affect THEIR BUSINESS. Period.

Because especially in a company the size of Hobby Lobby, the personal philosophy of the owners is completely separate from the business entity. The owner isn't traded on the stock exchange; the business is. The owner isn't handing out contraceptives; that is included in the health insurance the company provides to its employees as a benefit PAID FOR AT LEAST PARTIALLY BY THE EMPLOYEES THEMSELVES. "Here- I will allow you to have this tray of cookies, I will allow you to PAY for this tray of cookies, but you may not eat any of the chocolate chip ones, because I think the Devil invented chocolate chips therefore you, my employee, may not eat any of the chocolate chip cookies that you have paid for."

But lets not even consider the FACT that Hobby Lobby did in fact cover ALL the forms of contraceptives until the ACA came along, or the FACT that their retirement funds do include stock in the very companies that manufacture said evil devices and drugs, and that they for SURE get most of the shit sold in their stores from the very large country that says a family may only have one matter how that's accomplished- in effect Hobby Lobby and their customers are funding the largest number of abortions on the planet.

Lets look at the bigger picture- one that was only hypothetical for about 27 minutes after the ruling.

The MEN who voted in Hobby Lobby's favor in this piece of shit decision said, "It's OK- don't worry- it's very limited. We made sure of that."

Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped at LEAST half a dozen companies from immediately before the ink was dry jumping on the "I think this is icky, so I'm not paying for it" bandwagon.

Surprise. Surprise. Surprise.

The power of the corporation has been increased exponentially. All those previous 'may not discriminate on the grounds of...' laws and whatnot? Now moot. All someone has to say is, "I think this is icky and my religion doesn't believe it" and it's HANDS OFF for trying to enforce anything.

Gay people? Icky.

Women? Icky. (because we bleed every month and are unclean and shit)

Minorities? Icky.

And just in health care- vaccinations? Blood transfusions? All VERY icky according to some religion or other.

I do not think it was a coincidence that just prior to the Hobby Lobby ruling, the SCOTUS decided that making protesters stay 35 feet away from the entrance to women's clinics was unconstitutional on the grounds that the sidewalks are public property. So now ANY woman going to say Planned Parenthood for say AN ANNUAL CHECKUP AND PAP SMEAR can be screamed at, bullied, and have photographs of dead babies shoved in their faces because...freedom.

***Just a little aside to mention that the Occupy movement also used public spaces, and were met with pepper spray, beatings and jail time. Just sayin'...

I think it was an ice-breaker. It emboldened the Religious Right *(far Right) so that they'd be good and jubilant for the Hobby Lobby decision- a little snack before the main course if you will. With such stars in their eyes they had no holding back to think this through...all they can see is "GOD wins AGAIN! America is being TAKEN BACK- PRAISE JESUS!!!"

But it's a precedent now.

Religious belief now trumps the Constitution (where it says there is to be NO state religion) and the God of the Christian bible can override anything anywhere for any reason.

But several states have enacted laws (?) saying that Sharia Law can never be the Law of our Land.

Doesn't matter now. The SCOTUS has just ensured that a holy book is not only above the Law, it IS the Law.

And the Law is to be applied equally in every case and every situation.

Chocolate chip cookie, anyone?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Weird. I Thought I Already Had a Home

Dear Oregon,

It's not you. It's me.

I admit, we were swept away and delayed for hours by the Magic that is NW Washington state. We didn't plan it. It wasn't intentional. We were going to dabble our toes in Seattle and just to the north and west of there and head your way- spending a leisurely day enjoying your pleasures from North to South before checking into our hotel at a reasonable hour.

But Washington whispered, "Just one more ferry- look! If you take the Edmonds/Kingston at 12:20 I can show you things. I can show you Port Gamble with its historic buildings and cemetery on the hill, I can show you the glittering blue diamond water of the Hood Canal where eagles soar in front of the backdrop of Mt. Ranier rising seemingly out of the depths of the water. That will be out your left window while the huge pines and giant fronds of ferns brush up against your right. For miles and miles and miles. Here-take a right in Hoodsport clinging tight to the water and drive up this mountain- skirt Lake Cushman and take the two lane to the one lane to the dirt road. Right here, at the Staircase Ranger Station which IS the end of the road, get out and start walking."

"The ferns are waist-deep while tiny little flowers blanket fallen logs in shades of pink and white and yellow- rhinestones grown into the pattern of green mosses. Now look up. Can you see the tops of these trees? At their very narrowest top they are as big around as the biggest oak in Texas. There is no hugging these trees- arms spread wide barely make the slightest arc around the base of the trunks."

"Listen- nothing but the sound of the wind, the cacophony of water roiling over and around massive boulders in the river- watch the Canada gees teach their offspring to navigate this highway, patiently and over and over again the parents take them through the smaller milder sections till their charges can stay upright instead of going toes-up for a second and then bob rightside up; blinking the river out of their eyes and sneezing it out of their nose...and then they move to ones a little bigger and faster and repeat."

"Can you imagine dinosaurs living here?"

"Can you imagine bigfoot living here?"

"Can you imagine yourself living here?"

Yes. Yes. Yes.

So I'm sorry, Oregon- all we managed to see of you was black highway and a truck stop for gas. We did drive through Portland at night and it was beautiful. Alec said that a friend of his 'warned' him about Portland- said it's nothing but homeless people and hippies. We made a wrong turn and ended up down inside for a few minutes and that was a pretty accurate description. Alec's comment- "Ah. So it's Big Denton. Cool."

I'm sure today will show us that you are every bit as beautiful as Washington. And I know that you managed to charm me with your mandatory full-service gas station attendants.

Me- "What? Really? I haven't seen full-service in over 30 years. Are you SURE?"

Attendant- "Yes, ma'am. And thank you for not threatening to shoot me like the last Texan who pulled in here."

But Washington laughs at your attempt to woo us away from there.

Washington whispers, "You have good friends here, the social climate is as appealing as the actual climate, the part of me you fell in love with is driving distance to...everything while being remote and magical- you know you've found perfection."

And then Washington smiles and adds, "And as of July 1- recreational weed is legal here."

Damn you, Washington. You know you had me at Temperate Rainforest...

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Trip of a Lifetime

Yes kids, it's that time of year again. Time for the Dixon Family Walkabout.

And lemme tell you- the level of fear in the boys' eyes as I fanned the 25 pages of Mapquest routes and 50 pages of printed out info concerning our hotel reservations, park information and other assorted places we're going to stop has never before been seen.

I believe I may have outdone myself.

And that's saying a lot.

I came to my roadtrip-planning mania genetically, through my mom. I didn't get her perky little nose with freckles sprinkled across it, but I did get this.

As kids, we took road trips to wherever the NPPA's convention was being held- National Press Photographers' Association, my dad was on their board for a time. As a board member's family, we got breaks and freebies once we got there as far as hotel and whatnot, but we just had to get there. Press photographers don't make a whole lot of money.

So we'd roadtrip. We roadtripped to Pittsburgh and we roadtripped to Florida. We trained to LA, losing a/c just as we got to Arizona on our way back. We took a cooler of food and ate lunches at rest-stops and roadside parks. We traveled on the dust of a shoestring budget, but we went EVERYWHERE.

My first husband didn't understand this. His family was much more well-off than mine, but they went to the same cabin on the same lake the same week of every summer. He declined to do the Yearly Road Trip.

We don't speak of my second husband.

Ward has always been into road-tripping. At 16, his parents let him drive, alone, to Cape Canaveral to see the liftoff of the first manned spaceship. From Texas.

At 19, he took his baby brother (aged 13) to Yellowstone.

His first wife was not into road-tripping.

We're a match made in Heaven, ya'll.

We've been all over, several times. Alec has been road-tripping since before birth. After one trip to Wisconsin we found out when we got home that we'd had a stowaway. He's got 34 states on his list of 'States Visited', and this year, we're fixin' to add another 8, leaving only Alaska, Hawaii, the far Northest tiny states, Florida and Michigan.

You know- those states that aren't really 'on the way' to anywhere.

We all three of us have the desire to 'go', even though I'm mightily terrified of flying and I know that I'm going to have to get over that soon- there are too many places we want to see that require it...we're running out of contiguous states.

People ask me, "So where are you going?" and I say, "Everywhere".

They sigh and try again. "What is your destination?" I answer, "We don't have a destination- we have a turn-around point."

Because that's the great thing about driving. You can see a ton of stuff on the way there and home. A ton.

Check out for just how much there is to see. I've found things within 20 miles of our house I never knew existed. I figure out where 'lunchtime' will be on our route and key in that city's name. It's awesome. We've lunched at the World's Largest Ball of Twine (Cawker City KS- and Alec got to add to it), the Sock Monkey Museum (just west of Chicago) and in front of Santa Anna's leg (Springfield IL).

Because that's the sort of fabric America is made of, ya'll.

A few years ago I figured out that for LESS than the cost of a Days Inn or Econolodge, there are places to stay the night that add to the trip instead of merely being a place to crash and shower. Look up hotels in your desired area and then scroll way, way, way down past the chain hotels and motels and you'll find the independent mom and pop lodgings- there's even a website for that- . I generally check the reviews at Travelocity to make sure they're not 'rent by the hour', but so far we've been nothing but thrilled with the places we've stayed.

We've stayed in a yurt in Arkansas, a llama farm in Wisconsin, and this year we'll be staying at 2 pheasant hunting's off-season. Although we had to really think twice about what would be better- a Days Inn right on the interstate or a cabin in the middle of the Kansas rolling hill is chock full of tough choices...

We stay in a lot of historic hotels. They're generally located conveniently and the staff usually consists of people who know the history of the place and love it. We'll be returning to one this year- the Kalispell Grand in Montana. It costs less than the Kalispell Motel 6 and is just a few blocks away from it. Motel 6? Or...this? From the Canadian border to New Orleans, so far none of them have let us down.

While most of the time the Travelocity reviews are spot on (and brutally honest) I have to laugh at some of the reviews regarding historic hotels; a lot of them on the National Historic Registrty. 'Everything very out-dated', 'In desperate need of updating', 'Small rooms', 'Shabby'...Apparently some people are unaware of what 'historic' means.

We travel instead of. Instead of going to the movies or going shopping. Instead of paying for haircuts and manicures. Instead of participating in almost any other hobby other than Alec's guitar and art lessons and my going to guinea pig shows. We do without so we can do this, and we have the blessing of having Joe to care for the farm while we're gone and who very generously adds to the travel fund because he knows how important it is.

Even on a shoestring, it ain't cheap. But it's important.

It's important because it gives perspective. Humans get entrenched in their little worlds and come to believe that how it is within their field of vision is how it is everywhere. Oh, sure you see all sorts of stuff on TV and the internet from all over the world but it's not real. It's on the TV or internet like soap operas and 'reality' shows.

You have to Be There.

You have to Be There to get a feel for a place; feel the weather, hear the sounds, smell the smells and eat the food served by the very real people who live there- people who are different from the people at home while being the same as all humans are the same- to feel the connections and differences all at once.

It's important to realize that all the above cannot be achieved by staying in chain motels and eating at chain restaurants and only seeing the 'touristy stuff'. Oh, sure the accents of the clerks will be 'funny' and there will be minor regional differences on menus, but other than's as enriching as just watching it on TV.

Empty brain calories, ya'll.

And time is short. Our family knows that time is short at all times and in the best situations. I'm typing this as Ward gets his yearly 'noes to tose' PET scan, lab work, and chest X-ray to be sure he's still OK, that he's not harboring a stowaway of his own in there...a very unwelcome one.

Even without that spectre, just the normal stuff of living- will I always have the ability to take off a few weeks in a row to do this? Will we have the money to do so? Alec is 14- he may have a summer job starting next year and not WANT to go...

Life is change. For good or bad, life is change and it changes in a literal heartbeat; a fact that's been pounded into us over and over and over again.

So look out, America- the Dixons are hitting the road again next week for over 6,000 miles. Seeing friends along the way, stopping at five National Parks and at least as many obscure attractions, eating out of our cooler or at locally owned places and staying in historical hotels and motels along the way- places that are literally one of a kind in all the history of everywhere.

The Trip of a Lifetime...but we know they all are.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Texas- Red...With Embarrassment

I woke up this morning to the Dallas news station blaring about the 'huge Tea Party victory' here in Texas yesterday.

Of course they also pointed out that Texas was virtually the only state that had a Tea Party victory, so at least the rest of the country seems to be getting over their childish infatuation with The Drunk Uncle of the political spectrum.

Everyone has one of those. When you're a kid, you love Drunk Uncle because he acts just like you...only he's big. When you're a teenager, you are skeptical of all adults, but still sorta dig Drunk Uncle because he makes all the other adults so damn uncomfortable. Once you're grown? If he weren't related to you, he wouldn't be at your dinner table, near your family or on your property.

You know...This guy-

Ain't no amount of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls gonna make that dinner better. Anyhoo.

Yanno what the newspeople didn't mention this morning?

How disgustingly dismal the voter turn out was. Less than 5% of registered Texas voters showed up to vote.

Yanno why that's not news? Because unless it's a presidential election, less than 5% of Texas voters always show up. That's because for all its snort N blow about Texas being so great, so wonderful, Number One in everything all the time everywhere, Texas ranks dead last in voter turnout. Last. Out of all the states. Last.


So the only people who even cared enough to show up yesterday were those who
a) give a crap about elections and why they're important
b) the Lunatic Fringe.

Now, I need to do some Tex-splaining here. Because groups a and b above are totally different here in Texas than the rest of the world lately...for say the last two decades. That's the amount of time we've been officially insane here, ya'll.

In modern day Texas, group a consists of Tea Party fanatics. While middle of the road conservatives didn't show up yesterday... because remember- unless it's a presidential election, they don't show up- the Tea Party was out in force. Flexing their muscles, ya'll. Takin' a break from parading around Sonic and Chili's with their AR's slung across their patriotic backs and slapping up against their patriotic fannies in an ammo-erotic display, they braved going somewhere unarmed to go vote. What a sacrifice. Those brave, brave dears.

Group b is, of course, Democrats, other assorted liberals, commies and middle of the road conservatives (aka RINO's).

And here's the other thing that did not get mentioned on this morning's news.

We had a little run-off between David Alameel and Kesha Rogers. Both running as Democrats; a Lebanese male dentist and a black female who touts a meager background and young life as a political activist. So on the face of it, if you aren't paying very much attention to what they're saying, the tendency would be to vote Kesha.

Here's the thing- and it's a very heartening thing if you are a Texas non-Republican.

She lost. She lost big because Texas non-Republicans are paying attention and were sufficiently (and correctly) alarmed at her actual words coming out of her actual mouth. See, she's a Lyndon LaRouche Democrat and has paraded around with posters showing Obama with the little Hitler mustache that the Tea Party loves calling for his impeachment.

Now, ya'll know I'm not in love with everything Obama has done or is doing. In fact, I flat despise a good number of his policies and appointments. But I'm not going to parade around comparing him to Hitler. Because, he's not- and only deluded alarmists think he is. You know...the Tea Party, KKK, Fundamental Right, NRA - all those folks. That's who Kesha is aligned with.

So there are two very good results about yesterday's run offs.

1) Non-Republicans here in Texas are paying attention and can get out the word and get out the vote when push comes to shove.

2) The Tea Party had a wonderful victory.

Why is #2 a good thing?

Because come November, Texas moderate conservatives will arrive at the polls and be faced with either voting for a batshit crazy guy in their camp at both the governor and lt. governor levels...or Wendy and Letitia.

I'm guessing they'll either be too horrified to vote, or hold their noses and vote D.

Either way...Texas wins.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Because That's What Friends Are For

I very rarely plug other people's books, but in this case I'm making an exception. The author and I go way back. WAY back.

'Wyrd Justice- Weekends in Dystopia' is a compilation of six separate stories told consecutively; each encompassing a matter of just a few days spanning an undetermined time frame.

Fate Devine is the heroine who finds herself in the middle of the meltdown of America at the hands of (we know who- and it ain't the Liberals or the poor people or the sinners). She's strong, beautiful, sexy and powerful.

This ain't a G rated book, ya'll. Not by a long shot.

There's detailed sex scenes, some violence, mainly 'adult situations', and also humor, witches, guns, and zombies.

Talk about a 'total package'.

Here's an excerpt-

The woman tapped politely on the door, and waited patiently till the Sheriff looked up from his newspaper.

His practiced look of pained courtesy was usually enough to send most people apologizing and beating a hasty retreat, but he froze mid-look when he saw how damn attractive this visitor was.

Backlit in the doorway, her hair seemed to move on its own in shades of silver, gold and copper; waves of softness framing her serious face and contained only by the black-framed reading glasses perched atop her head.

Wearing a simple matching skirt and jacket in a light spring tweed, the skirt ending just at her knees and the jacket open to reveal the raw silk blouse underneath- the first three buttons undone.

The scent of Black Orchid preceded her into the office and she sat down smoothly and silently across from him, catlike.
She lowered her glasses and read from a small notebook in her hand. “Sheriff Thomas?” she glanced up at him, her brown eyes flecked with green magnified in her lenses. He nodded.

“May I ask you a few questions?” and she pushed the glasses back onto her head, smiled, and sat back in the chair, clearly going nowhere no matter what his answer was going to be.

As she sat back, her blouse opened up just a bit, revealing a glance of cleavage.

Sheriff Smith Thomas was a quick thinker- that’s what’d kept him alive all these years in law enforcement, in life and in his decades-long marriage to Ginny.

He and Ginny had grown up together and their families were best friends together. Any other ending other than being married to one another had never crossed the minds of anyone in either family, including themselves.

Sheriff Thomas cleared his throat, and answered gruffly, “Well, maybe just a few…as you can see, I’m a very busy man. What is this for, Mrs….?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. It’s Miss. Miss Fate Devine, and I’m writing a book on lawmen of the South- such a noble and disappearing breed.” She flushed at the thought, and his predatory instincts took over.

“Miss Devine. I do have just a short spell here where I can talk with you. What would you like to know?”

She asked him about his motives for becoming a law enforcement officer, how long he’d been Sheriff, and for a few anecdotal stories from his days on patrol. The answers rolled off of his tongue effortlessly- he’d been asked the same thing by everyone from news reporters to 3rd graders and it took no thought at all, which gave him ample time to admire her as she wrote- head bowed, glasses on again, hair shielding her face and framing her long slender neck. He watched the steady rise and fall of her bosom and knew right then where this interview was going to end up.

Here's the link for the Kindle version, ya'll. It'll be up soon in paperback as well.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I Always Thought Wisdom Would Come With Less Tylenol

"That's quite an accomplishment for someone of your age".

On the other side of the looking glass, that would've been a bigger compliment- back when I was a child and had done something considered beyond my years. But this was recently, when I passed my certification test to become a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager- a pretty grueling task.

"That's quite an accomplishment for someone of your age", said a former employer who had been one of my four required references to even apply to sit for the exam.

Because I'm all old now.

At 54, I'm all old now and had never been to college and one of the requirements had also been 18 college hours of business courses. So I signed up for the courses at the community college in the next town over. Five of them were online, but one was in person.

The first night of class I texted Ward. "If I add up the ages of all the other students here, it'll still be less than my age."

I was older than the teacher. Not by much, but still.

I will admit that having gray hair and bifocals has its advantages.

Young men will reach up and get something from a top shelf at the store or offer to lift heavy sacks out of my cart at the car and it's a lot less stressful to know it's not because they are looking for an opening to ask me out but because I remind them of their mom (or grandmother).

When dealing with difficult people at work, it's much less intimidating and confrontational that I look pretty harmless; like I should have fresh-baked still-warm cookies in my pocket.

And I can generally out-maneuver most anyone in any sort of debate- auto repair, work meeting, political discussion...because yanno. I'm old and stuff and they never expect any opposition, much less expertise out of me.

I am a little disappointed in gravity.

I would think that here in the 'non-science-believing' zone of the US, gravity would've been kinder to me just because I accept its existence. Why is everything on me pointed down now? And I swear I'm shorter than I used to be.

I used to worry about appearance. I know it didn't show, but I did to a certain extent.

I polished my nails and wore makeup and pantyhose- even shoes with heels on occasion.

At some point in the last few years, though, I've stopped worrying about how my parts look and just became grateful that they still work.

I've become accustomed to aching most everywhere most every day and weather the days mostly without the aid of Tylenol. At night I sleep with Ward up against my back, Fizzgig up against my tummy, and a heating pad on my side to warm all the aches. I don't sleep very well for some reason- keep dreaming I'm wedged somewhere and can't get out. Then I wake up needing to pee and realize that I really can't get out, and when you need to pee is NOT the time to have to PUSH against a 15 pound dog who weighs roughly 75 pounds when unconscious.

My hair is graying, my parts are all sagging and squishy, my eyes need bifocals, my hip hurts constantly and clicks when I walk, and my ankle that got caught up in a dog chain 11 years ago will never ever be strong again, but yanno what?

I'm OK with all of it.

So I don't look 25 anymore. I'm NOT 25 anymore and wouldn't be 25 again for anything- that was a horrible time in my life filled with instability, lack of self-confidence and angst.

Don't like how I look? Don't look.

Don't like what I have to say? Tough.

Ward's first wife 'had a lot of work done' in an attempt to look young(er). When he and I became a couple 20 years ago, I told him, "I'm going to get old. I will do my best not to get fat or smell bad, but other than that there WILL be gray hair and wrinkles, so if that's not OK, you just need to know that now."

I'm 20 pounds overweight, but not fat (by East Texas standards, anyway), my hair is gray and I've got wrinkles. My one expensive indulgence is French perfume so I'm pretty sure I don't smell bad and Ward is still here.

That's all that matters.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Head vs. Heart

I always feel so much better when I'm not here.

Whenever we're in Denton, or Austin, or Houston, or pretty much anywhere not East Texas, mentally I'm so much more relaxed and happy. Anywhere I don't feel like I have to don mental armor just to leave my yard to survive the almost constant onslaught of FOX News in every waiting room and restaurant, the never-ending parade of bumper stickers proudly proclaiming ignorant and outright hateful statements about pretty much every single social issue out there, having to walk into a board meeting at work and having financial decisions weighed not by how much money there is in the bank and the profit/loss trends of our business but by, "Lets wait and see what Obama is going to do to the economy", walking into a room full of people and having someone say, "Well, we all gotta watch what we say now...the LIBERAL is here" and they're not poking fun- everyone looks at you like you're the Enemy.

It just gets freaking old.

Even up on Oklahoma City, surrounded by old Baptist ladies, when one of them asked me sweetly if I knew Jesus, she was A-OK with my answer that I was raised Lutheran. When I moved down here I was flat-out told that "Lutheran is a cult." Nothing but Baptist counts, and all those old ladies in OKC would be labeled BINO's. (Baptist in Name Only)

We drive three hours one-way every single week to be in a home school group that believes in EVILution and who doesn't think gay people are going to hell.

"Why don't you move if you're so unhappy?"

Because I always feel so much better when I'm here.

Whenever we're in Denton, or Austin, or Houston, or pretty much anywhere not East Texas,I can't seem to physically 'settle'. Our friends and like-minded people are in all those other places, and when I'm away (and a lot of the time when I'm home) I look at real estate and take in the scenery and try to settle myself there. I can see the beauty in pretty much any environment and have always been able to- the harsh but resilient desert, gently rolling plains that accentuate the sky, any coastline or water anywhere, even the terrifying mountains are beautiful...from really far away.

And I think, "If I just look hard enough, I'll find enough to love about this place and be able to call it home."

And then we come back to East Texas- the gigantic trees, hills, water, so much like my childhood and young adult home of Wisconsin, but without the death-dealing bone-cracking snotcicle-inducing winters. And I know I'm home here; have been home here since I got here almost 20 years ago. We are fortunate to have brief stewardship of a tiny chunk of this place and I walk over our meager 12 acres of woodland and wetland, creekbank and hillside and know I'm Home.

As soon as we cross into this particular mix of pines and oaks, water and hills, I actually physically relax and sigh deeply.

So I've been stuck between my head and my heart.

Lately, with the push to Turn Texas Blue and the wonders of the interwebs, we've been in contact with like-minded people crouched in fear hiding out who also live in really Red and regressive areas of Texas- been to dinner with some in Denton, had coffee with one here in Tyler, was looked at at the Henderson County Democrats meeting like I was an Ivory-billed Woodpecker when I said I live in Brownsboro and I'm a democrat because 'there ARE no Democrats in Brownsboro!' and last night had dinner with almost two dozen of 'em...right here in Tyler!

Just to spend an evening talking to people and sharing our stories which are way more than about 'living Blue in a Red state'- this Shiny Buckle of the Bible Belt is notorious for being as close-minded and unforgiving as any Taliban- and still be right here, well lemme tell you- was some sort of special.

Oh, don't get me wrong- I was highly skeptical when the organizer told me, "And they said they'd give us the room for groups for FREE!" That smelled like either a trap (and yes- I did check for an alternative exit other than the main door to the room), or proof that they wanted us all where we couldn't 'infect or offend' the other diners. Yes. It's that bad here.

But to be around people who are aware that Texas hasn't always been Red (a common refrain here, uttered loud and proud is "You'll NEVER turn Texas Blue!" Baby- I moved here only 2 decades ago and the first election here voted for Ann Richards. Gimme a break. Mass amnesia?)

Fun fact- from 1848 till 1980, Texas voted strongly Democrat in all but four Presidential elections. "Turn" Texas Blue? It's been Blue up till the last two decades.

So, last night was more than just dinner for us.

It was a beacon of hope.

I now know that there are others out there within reach. And that I just need to look hard enough to find them.

Texas WILL return Blue. That's a given. No matter how much they gerrymander and bully and thump us all on the heads with Bibles, the demographics are changing and that's not going to stop anytime soon.

And no matter how much they try to stop it, the Far Right will be left behind. The very people who embrace and say they live by 'survival of the fittest' haven't looked in the mirror lately.

It's called evolution, baby.