Wednesday, December 31, 2008
As this year's last Alberta Clipper thrashes through town today, it seems to be blowing stale, bad vibes out with it. Where I grew up in Northern Illinois, it would have brought stinging snow/ice and bitterly cold temps, but it's not that cold here today. The clouds are blowing through so quickly, the sun has no trouble warming things up. Every year is filled with beginnings and endings -- 2008 was no exception. We mourned the loss of family members and friends. And we celebrated the births of new lives. On the other hand, the wars continue; leaving all of us to question why so many lives -- on all sides -- are being sacrificed and for what. The world economy took a scarey nose-dive leaving everyone wondering how and when it will recover. On January 20th a job that I cannot imagine anyone with half a brain would choose will be turned over to a man who is making history. A man who must feel compelled to serve; who is willing to put himself out there because he believes in his mission and his ability to fulfill it. He and the team with whom he is surrounding himself will be under a critical microscope as never before. However, their success does not rest solely in their own hands. Every American has a stake and role in re-constituting our caring, principled society. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights have been battered and our business practices are disgraceful. Naivete and apathy are no longer excuses. We, The People are accountable for the state of the Union. We, The People must be able to trust the leaders we choose. We, The People need to unite behind new leadership and get our shit together, dammit!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
On Christmas Day, the Washington Post published an AP photo taken at a Christmas party in Port-au-Prince, Haiti at the Presidential Palace. The two young girls pictured were dressed in Santa-themed hats and pinafores over what were likely their Sunday best dresses. Neither child smiled. Both seemed wary and anxious. Their shoulders were hunched. One of them had raised eyebrows as if she was hopeful, but her arms were crossed defensively across her chest. The other girl, lips slightly parted, looked as if she was ready to turn and run at the slighest provocation. merry christmas. . .
Monday, December 29, 2008
A magazine ad caught my eye. It pictures a pretty woman in a sexy black bra over which, in white type, appears the words "President-elect Barak Obama. . ." This seemed a bit odd, so I read the entire block of black-bra-verbage to learn that it was an advertisement for a plastic surgery outfit. The essence of the ad is that Barack Obama is bringing needed change to America so, even though the economy is in shambles, Americans still can enjoy amazing plastic surgery transformations -- financing available. Monthly payments might be a good idea. If, once the swelling goes down and the bruises fade, one is not satisfied with one's transformation, just quit paying for it! What are they gonna do -- stuff the fat back in or undo the tuck?
Friday, December 26, 2008
Spouse helped with laundry today, so it's not totally my fault, right?
We always wash new clothes before wearing them. I received a cozy, wine plaid flannel nightgown for Christmas, so in with the darks it went.
Unnoticed by me, all of spouse's light gray sweats, a favorite knit shirt and a pair of his tighty-whities went in as well. I thought he'd be howling angry at pink sweats, bright pink undies and pink strips on his formerly blue and white striped shirt, but no! We both guffawed about it and hope a color safe bleach will reverse our mistake.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
When school let out for the Christmas break [we were allowed to call it that back then] we kids rolled into our house eagerly anticipating what was to come in the following days and weeks. We usually started our Christmas shopping then, walking into town with allowances and a little extra provided by Mom and Dad to buy gifts for everyone. Baking and decorating cookies of several sorts then began in earnest. If time allowed, we'd make ornaments for the tree and to give to friends. Being naturally greedy kids, waiting for Christmas morning was nearly unbearable. Some of our friends' families opened gifts Christmas Eve -- but not ours! Sleep came only after hours of fidgeting and restless minds spinning with imagination. Often before the crack of dawn, I'd hear one of my two brothers tip-toe down the stairs from their bedrooms in the attic to retrieve their stockings. "Santa" left them outside our bedroom doors in hopes of having a little more time in the morning to drink the first of several cups of coffee and prepare a special breakfast. Patty and I shared a bedroom and squabbled about how long one was allowed to stand on the register on a cold winter's morning. Flannel nightgowns billowed with warm air as we took turns. Of course we'd have already dragged in our stockings, stifling their bells so that Mom and Dad wouldn't hear. Usually, each contained a Chapstick, orange, apple, candy cane, mini packet of Kleenex, a pad of paper, pencils, a magazine and other, age-appropriate trinkets. The aroma of frying bacon and coffee wafted up to our bedrooms and we knew it was almost time to go downstairs. It also meant that it was time to get dressed. No one was allowed to eat breakfast in night clothes, even on Christmas morning. Hungry as we were, it was hard to focus on breakfast knowing there were wrapped treasures within mere yards. But Mom insisted that we clean our plates. She knew we would have no interest in lunch after opening our presents. I still don't like scrambled eggs, but managed to choke them down with the help of a homemade sweet roll, bacon, juice and hot chocolate. Keeping us waiting for what seemed like days while Mom put the breakfast dishes in the sink, Dad lined us up by age, then slowly and ceremoniously lead us into the living room. In addition to dozens of candy canes, the tree seemed to have taken on extra sparkle. He didn't wear a costume, but Dad became Santa, doling out gifts -- one at a time -- to each family member. Only when all had opened, admired and thanked for their gifts did another round get distributed. TORTURE!!! When this ritual was finished, all gift wrap worth re-using (recycling wasn't a common habit back then) was carefully folded, along with gift boxes, some of which showed up year after year. Ribbons and bows that were not being worn on various body parts were trashed. Then and only then, it was time for serious play. Exhausted parents hugged on the sofa and drank another cup of coffee while we kids played with our new treasures. Looking back on many Christmas mornings, I remember the tired yet contented looks on Mom's and Dad's faces. Some years were lean, but they always managed to get each of us the one, special gift that we just had to have! They went without so their kids could feel special. Just over a week ago, I drove Mom to the airport to begin three weeks visiting three of my sibs in the Midwest. Driving through the parking garage at National, I realized that this year, for the first time in my life, Mom would not be celebrating with me. I'm happy for her and my sibs that they "get her" for Christmas for the first time in years, but I'm feeling a little lonely at the idea of Christmas without her. Have to remember that she'll be back in January. Tomorrow, spouse and I will spend time and enjoy supper with Janet and her clan in Southern Maryland. Eight-year-old Alex decorated the tree and is exceedingly proud of it. Must remember to stifle any giggles when I see it. Ben, Julia and nearly 0ne-year-old Lily are driving down from New York to join us, so it will be a special day. Hope you create and enjoy sweet memories with your own families and friends. Merry Christmas y'all!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is either delusional or incredibly canny. Either way, in my opinion, he's a total screw-up and major-league schmuck. It hurts me to have to say that because I was born and raised in Illinois. At a relatively early age, I knew that the first Mayor Richard Daly was a manipulative, cantankerous boss of Chicago who used any means necessary to get what he wanted. An incredibly brave journalist by the name of Mike Royko was probably on the top of Daly's hit list for reporting on his "under-the-table" dealings. Nevertheless, the city seemed to "work" under Daly's iron-fisted, convoluted, political machine. Rod Blagojevich ran for governor -- I believe -- not to lead and build on the state's strengths, but to fill his pockets and those of his family and friends. Of course this is nothing new in politics. Power often corrupts even the most well-intended people. It would have been one thing if Blagojevich had started out honest. He didn't. His bold, continuing deceit and conceit are beyond explanation. His own, taped conversations trying to sell President-elect Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder seem not to matter to Blagojevich. Is it possible that, given Illinois' embarrassing gubernatorial history, he still thinks he can get away with this?
Monday, December 22, 2008
Making a last minute, quick stop at Staples, I nearly ran into a new display. It was DVD movies selling for $4.99. Now we all know, you can't buy a DVD for that little, so I had to ask about them. Turns out they are disposable! Once the seal is broken, the active side turns black within 48 hours making the disc unusable. Cue the theme from "Mission Impossible." Remember how the instruction audio tapes self-destructed (smoke and all) once it was played by the secret agent? I'm assuming there's no smoke when these things self-destruct. Isn't our society disposable-crazy enough? What is the logic behind yet one more throw-away?!
Friday, December 19, 2008
I wonder how many of us take advantage of the free concerts every evening at the Kennedy Center. I hope it's not just tourists. The Millennium Stage hosts a wide variety of performances every evening that are also broadcast live on the internet at 6 p.m. EST. So . . . if you cannot get there in person, log on to www.kennedy-center.org/millennium and enjoy some good music during supper. It's way better than listening to disheartening news on the boob-tube and, with performances ranging from Bluegrass to hand bell choirs, so there's something to please every taste. Disclaimer: No, I do not work for the KenCen. I just like what it offers to D.C.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Since last Thursday, I have been without email, blogging, word processing -- the whole shebang! My computer had two nasty viruses that necessitated professional help. I just brought "Dell-a" home today! She has a new hard drive, so I have to reinstall everything. Thankfully, the guys at Staples were able to save all my data and pictures, so if and when I figure out how to put them onto the new hard drive, I'll be back in business. It was shocking how out-of-the-loop I felt. As with a microwave oven, I had put off buying a home computer believing I could live quite nicely without one. HA!! I admit to needing a P.C. fix almost every day! Nevertheless, I'm still fighting the inevitability of owning a cell-phone. After Mom's "nightmare before Christmas" flight to Chicago yesterday -- without her cell-phone -- it looks like my time to buy one may come sooner rather than later. I so look forward to checking up on my blog buddies but felt it was important to let you all know where I've been. I've missed you!
Monday, December 8, 2008
This is the second in an unknown number of rememberances from my nephew's stints at Children's Hospital. It's been eight years since his last surgery but to me it still seems like yesterday. Having no children myself, I never dreamed I would be spending so much time at CNMC. The nurses there will always have a special spot in my heart. No one in our family expected the newest son/brother/grandson/nephew to have any problems. Every baby born in our extended family had been fine. The shock upon learning of his numerous problems started us all on rounds of fervent prayers. Friends who belong to prayer chains also joined the vigil to support Alex, his family and doctors. Within days of her release from the hospital, Mom drove Janet to Children's Hospital. I met them there. Janet was bent forward in an effort to accommodate the staples in her tender belly. Riding the moving ramp up to the main floor from the garage, Mom and I worried about her being able to walk the distance to the NICU. She clearly was sore, but nothing was going to stop her from getting to her baby. The first few times I saw Alex in the NICU, I hadn't really noticed so many tiny and very sick babies in their own isolettes. This time, I felt like an intruder walking past family members in various stages of worry and hope. Janet was single-minded and shed just a few tears upon seeing and touching her cherished little boy. The sympathetic nurse who was caring for Alex soon had Janet seated in a comfy rocker and Alex in her arms. Mothers must have instincts beyond common knowledge -- she knew right away how to handle him and all his attachments! Also, for the first time, Alex opened his eyes. He recognized his mother's scent, voice or just her being there. That's when I lost it. It was also the first time I really felt hopeful that he would come through this terrible time. Observing my sister's extraordinary strength for the next three months and how Alex reacted to it is something I will never forget. I could fill an entire gratitude journal with the people and events surrounding Alex's recovery! CNMC nurses became part of our family during his two stays in the hospital. Their practical, professional approach to caring for sick babies gave me hope that Alex's situation wasn't as dire as I feared. The value of their gentle yet strong support of babies and families cannot be overstated. Doctors and other professionals came in and out of the scene and, of course, played important roles in his healing. Still, it was the nurses who helped to sustain hope. Perhaps their most valuable contribution is in encouraging and guiding parents to care for their own babies. For example: having a father change his preemie's diaper makes him feel less helpless and more pro-active. I do believe babies sense and benefit from a positive atmosphere. CNMC is simply filled with loving, skilled professionals who care for the most vulnerable among us. It truly is a gift to our region.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Being a long-time member of DINK (double income no kids) society, I never gave much thought to Children's Hospital. We had no kids and siblings who did lived miles away. HA! I hope that my family's story will inspire more DINKs to donate to this extraordinary institution. You just never know. . . .
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In May of 2000, my youngest sister, Janet who lives 60+ miles from D.C., gave birth to her second son. It was immediately apparent that he had serious, life-threatening problems. His esophagus was attached by a fistula to his windpipe, making swallowing and breathing extremely difficult. In every other way, Alex looked like a healthy infant.
Minutes after his birth, he was ambulanced to Children's, leaving his mother, father and big brother miles behind. Janet told me later that she hadn't even had a chance to touch him. As she recovered from a C-section and Dad took care of big brother and the home-front, Auntie Peg (me) was designated Alex's official visitor.As thrilled as I was about my new godson's birth, I wasn't sure I was ready to see him in the hospital. Eager anticipation turned to anxiety as I entered the hospital's garage. Clearing security, now wearing a fluorescent green badge bearing the iconic CNMC Teddy bear, I headed for the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). It took a few minutes to get clearance into the NICU inasmuch as I was not a parent. The first thing every visitor had to do was roll up her sleeves, remove jewelry and scrub her hands and forearms. I almost felt like a surgeon wielding the brush I'd always seen TV docs use. Having accomplished the several-minutes-washing-ritual, I pushed the button to open the door into the NICU proper. I was soon greeted by a smiling nurse who led me to Alex. The only way to describe his accommodation is as a clear plastic tub, lined with a thin mattress and cozy blankets. Above is a unit that contains a heating element and lights. Behind the baby's head are all the nozzles and apparatus one sees in an adult patient's hospital room. Wearing a receiving gown, his knees supported by a folded towel lay Alex. A huge tube ran out of his nose and he was out cold. Wires came out of his gown, but I really didn't want to know what they were. I stood and stared at his expressionless face and small body for quite a while. Some of his blonde hair had been shaved for a now removed I.V. line. A nurse caught me weeping and walked over to reassure me that Alex was doing fine. Ya, right! She said it was OK to touch him, but I was afraid to. After she left, I saw that his hands and feet were blue with cold. Aha -- my mission became clear!! The whole time I quietly sang to Alex and warmed his feet and hands, I don't think he was aware of anything around him. He never opened his eyes, moved or made a sound. Monitors assured me that his heart was beating and that he was breathing, but that was it. When I left after what seemed like only minutes, Alex's tiny hands and feet were pink and warm. I was comforted to know that I was able of help him at all. I reported this feat to Janet after I got home. She seemed pleased but I could hear her longing to get to her baby as soon as possible. Next episode: Janet's first visit with her new son. Please read more about Children's by clicking on this link Children's National Medical Center - Washington, DC . Feel free to make a donation, too. They never turn away a sick child for lack of insurance thanks to donations like ours.
Monday, December 1, 2008
. . . a cold beer on a hot evening . . . thousands of cicadas looking for love . . . the gentle tickle of a bee's wings flying near my leg . . . Cubs baseball . . . damp nighttime aromas of boxwood and distant flowers . . . salty-sweet smell of spouse's head . . . impromptu picnics at Hains Point . . . going outside to warm up when the AC is too much . . . silent, flickering lightning bugs . . . more daylight!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
As I was putting together a second family-tradition-Jello-mold -- because I left out a key ingredient in the first -- I caught sight of this sunset. It's a little blurry, but then so am I after a day of cooking and preparations.
To my loyal readers, I humbly request your prayers and good thoughts for a blog buddy of mine. She has struggled for years to hang onto a pregnancy. Today, she is in the hospital because of pre-term labor. Her little bundle of female joy is a tender 23.5 weeks along. Megan and Steve are a loving, deserving young couple and will make wonderful parents. As Thanksgiving inspires us to ponder what we are grateful for, please add Megan and Steve to your prayers so that they can enjoy next Thanksgiving with a beloved little girl.
Friday, November 21, 2008
For the one or two of you who sometimes read my ramblings, you may recall that last February I was involved with a fender bender in Washington Circle. I had no witnesses to attest to the fact that I was sitting still when a Metrobus clipped me, so I was found at fault. (The bus driver had a most energized witness.) The officer who issued my citation did not mark the amount of the penalty on the ticket, so I dutifully mailed in a minimum payment of $15.00. Shortly thereafter, I received a warning threatening all kinds of bad stuff if I didn't pay the full amount --$55 --within a few days. Not wishing horrible things to befall me or my car, I sent in a check in that amount, hoping everything would now be hunky-dory. Two months ago I received a letter from the D.C. Treasurer's office saying that they had discovered that the DMV owed me $15.00. WOW!! The check arrived today! If Adrian Fenty continues to reinvigorate and reinvent our government into an efficient, viable entity, I hereby promise to campaign for him when he runs for re-election. He has restored my faith in the D.C. Government!
Monday, November 17, 2008
Dear Sir: Your situation grieves me and I send you herewith a banknote for ten louis d'or. I do not pretend to give such a sum; I only lend it to you. When you shall return to your country, you cannot fail of getting into some business that will in time enable you to pay all your debts. In that case, when you meet with another honest man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending the sum to him, enjoining him to discharge the debt by a like operation when he shall be able and shall meet with such another opportunity. I hope it may thus go through many hands before it meets with a knave that will stop its progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money. I am not rich enough to afford much in good works, and so am obliged to be cunning and make the most of a little. With best wishes for your future prosperity, I am, dear sir, your most obedient servant. B. Franklin 
Sunday, November 16, 2008
This date fell on a Friday last year. The day before I had driven down to Mom and Dad's to spend some time with them. Dad was bed-ridden by then and no longer wore the eyeglasses that had been a permanent fixture on this face. He was staring out their bedroom windows. What he saw, I'm not sure. I commented on the high winds that day and said it would be a heckuva day to go sailing. He responded by nodding his head. He loved white-knuckle sailing. The next day I picked-up Patty from the airport and drove us down to Solomons for what would be our last day with Dad. The sun shimmered off the colorful leaves and we talked about everything but what we were facing. Coming from the Midwest, the leaves had already blown off the trees where Patty lived, but they were still brilliantly colored and attached here. That day in Mom and Dad's cottage in Solomons seems so short now. Pete and Janet were already there with Mom when Patty and I arrived. Mom was nervously fluttering around. That evening, Janet was the first to notice that Dad was close to the end of his struggle. Mom and Pete joined her, then Patty and I went in, holding our breath. When Dad was alive, I would never have dreamed of lying on their bed with him. As he gasped his last breaths, I crawled across the bed to hold his hand and once more stroke his crewcut head. We all voiced our love for him and our permission to let go. Tears were freely flowing and tissues were held to noses like dams. Mom gently closed Dad's eyes and Pete listened for a heartbeat. All the dams burst at that point and we let out all the fear and sorrow we had held in for weeks. As I held one of his big hands I thought about all the times they had comforted and constructed strong family bonds. At 6:15 this evening, I'll think about that day last year. The tears eventually will stop, but it's only been 365 days . . .
Monday, November 10, 2008
You know you're over the hill when you . . . . . . have to change your hair color on your driver's permit; . . . start looking for foods with high fiber content; . . . notice weird hairs growing out of your chin; . . . keep the thermostat set at 80 year-round; . . . no longer care about being called Ma'am; . . . appreciate and seek-out "senior discounts"; . . . shudder at the sight of the first snowflake; . . . select shoes for their comfort rather than style; . . . are offered a seat on Metro by a middle-aged woman; . . . cherish your thermal underwear over Victoria's scanties. Note: I am not yet over the hill, but some of these ring true already! ;o/
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
When one works for a nonprofit that is known for feeding survivors of a variety of disasters, one's humor becomes slightly warped due to the massive quantities of supplies required to shelter and feed hundreds, sometimes millions of people. The following recipe is evidence of this. It came from a friend/coworker who had just returned from several weeks working on famine relief in Mali. She lost lots of weight because their rations were fish, water and more fish. During one of those long evenings after an even longer work day, someone came up with this recipe. (No elephants were harmed!) * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * The following will provide enough food for a mass-care facility when long-term feedings will be needed. The main problem will, of course, be the availability of the ingredients and the cooking time. 1 elephant, med. to large 300 Lbs. potatoes 200 gallons water 150 Lbs. carrots 50 Lbs. onions 35 stalks celery, leaves included 5 Lbs. parsley 10 Lbs. flour to thicken 1 rabbit* salt, pepper and other seasons to taste In large pots, bring water to boil. Use this time to start cutting up elephant into two inch cubes. Divide equally and add to pots. Boil for 2-3 days, until tender then add the vegetables, flour and seasonings. Cook for 3-4 hours more until vegetables are crisp/tender. Serve while hot. *Note: If this looks like it will not serve all the people in your shelter, you may add the rabbit. Be particularly careful however, because some people object quite strongly to finding a hare in their stew!
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The sun may be struggling to break through thick clouds, but there is sunshine in my heart this morning. A majority of Americans proved their hearts are in the right place during yesterday's election. The jubilant celebrations of fellow Washingtonians at 14th and U Streets triggered tears and laughter at the same time. The tragedy that literally ignited that neighborhood 40 years ago was equal in magnitude to the thrill of electing of our first African-American President. I also watched the throngs in Chicago's Grant Park. During the summer of 1968, it was a place we were drawn to then from which we had to escape when the tear gas and batons came out. What a difference . . . May God continue to bless America and her new leadership. We are a special People and yesterday's election proved that we are capable of re-embracing our best values and qualities.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
On Tuesday I drove down to Solomons to spend some time with Mom. She took us out for a lovely lunch, then we drove around and headed toward a nearby marina. She and Dad were serious sailors, so she didn't mind. It was incredibly windy and chilly, especially near the water.
Two, very tall masts came into view before we reached the marina. We drove down to the water's edge to check it out. Mom wasn't dressed for the blustery weather so she stayed in the car. I wasn't going to let a bit of a breeze stop me from taking some pictures!
A Baltimore Clipper out of New Haven, Connecticut was tied-up along the warf. Her name was Amistad. A chill ran up my spine remembering the story of the slave ship of the same name.I chatted briefly with a female crew member who was reading a book. Then the skipper came up on deck. This Amistad was on her way to an event on the Eastern Shore, but ran into such strong head winds, they decided to wait out the wild weather. You don't often see white caps in a harbor! Yeah, it was one of those days when the Bay and Patuxent were practically whipped into froth. This Amistad is an 8 year old replica of the original. I probably would have chatted longer with her amiable skipper had I not feared blowing off the narrow walkway into the drink! Before I made my way back to my warm car, I snapped a few pictures of this truly gorgeous specimin. The raked/slanted masts are characteristic of boats on the Chesapeake. I particularly like the wooden rings that carry the sails up the masts. Classic Skipjacks have the same kind of rigging. If you're ever down that way (it's a straight shot down Route 4), you must stop in at the Calvert Marine Museum and just wander around the tiny little town. Solomons Island is a spit of land between the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay, so the views are spectacular -- AND -- it's usually windy for all you fellow kite-flying-types.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
We were born following the end of World War II and a few years following the end of the Korean Conflict. When married and unmarried couples were finally reunited after months or years of separation nature took its course. BOY! did the "Greatest Generation" procreate!! None of us Boomers could have stopped this, so that's why there are so many of us. Life was simpler and full of promise in those years, so our parents kept on making little tax-deductions. As for our generation's procreation, it was effectively curtailed by two, major paradigm shifts. One was the Women's Movement which insisted that no woman needed to marry and have babies to be complete. She could find fulfillment in the corporate world, once she had battled and over-come sexual stereo-types. We started wearing pants suits and stopped wearing bras. The struggle for equal pay for equal work is not over yet, but we opened peoples' eyes to the injustice. At the same time, women fought against women in ideology wars. We lost the middle-ground. The second shift was more pandemic. Child-bearing became anti-social because of a world-wide population crisis. We took to heart the constantly repeated message that the Earth could not continue to sustain us if population growth didn't slow down. Birth control became a responsible choice to save the world. Others of us were unable to make babies because of medications given to our mothers that, much later, proved to be harmful to fetuses and genetics. Also, there was no thought given to the idea that alcohol, tobacco and caffeine consumption might harm a fetus, or anyone else for that matter. Health studies were aimed at men. Scientists didn't consider whether or not the results also applied to women, which we now know they don't. The associations between genders and generations was quite different when we were kids and young adults. Rebellion against the status quo took on new sincerity as we realized the Earth was a small, fragile planet and that our way of life was damaging it, perhaps irreparably. Forty years later, the situation is worse, but a certain amount of complacency seems to be hindering effective action. There have never been simple answers, but there ARE answers. I'm proud to say that a fellow Boomer, Al Gore, has almost single-handedly broken the back of complacency; forcing world leaders to reexamine their interests and roles in preserving our planet. I'm not looking for a pity party. Rather, I want to point out to our detractors that there are many things for which we are blamed that were/are out of our control. Baby Boomers are no better nor worse than any other generation. There are just more of us.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Another family member left this life today. She was surrounded by her family in her own home, thanks to hospice care. For the past two years, Betty made an extraordinary effort to live with AND fight the cancer that overwhelmed her today. Experimental treatments were worse than the cancer, yet she was willing to try them. I think she knew fate had already decided the outcome, but she bravely did what she could to give everyone else hope. That's quite a sacrifice. Betty's husband, my cousin David, truly adored his wife and had utmost respect for and faith in her. He once told me that she had saved his life. He had a very rough childhood. I will always be grateful that he found not only the love of his life, but a family that warmly embraced him and helped him to become the loving, caring man he is. Their daughter, Nikki, brought more richness into their lives and has a tight-knit family of her own. I'm so glad Betty got to experience the joys of grandparenting. I know she was an exceptional grandmother and leaves a marvelous legacy of love and happy memories. Betty's numerous friendships thrived for years and have been bolstering her and her family throughout her long battle. We are all left with a huge hole in our lives, but certain that we knew a genuine earth-angel.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
This time last year, emails and phonecalls were flying between my siblings, Mom and me. We went from high hopes one day to deep despair days later. Dad had been diagnosed with cancer. No one wanted to hear the word terminal, but that was the end result within mere weeks. Every day it seemed that one of us found new research that might held Dad. Little did we know that his cancer was too far advanced to benefit from any treatment. I believe he knew for a long time that something was horribly wrong. Being the ever stoic-Norwegian-type, he kept his worries to himself. He declared pride in getting his weight down to what it had been during his Navy days sixty years ago. But, he had also shrunk several inches and his shoulders were no longer level with the horizon -- something in which he took pride and encouraged in his children. Some of us had been questioning his health for years but it wasn't our place to mention it to his face. It's one thing to live with cancer and another to deny it. Somehow Dad did both. His father died following several, debilitating strokes that left him in a dreadful nursing home -- his eyes his only means of communication. We had all watched his mother die a slow, excruciating death from metastatic breast cancer. These tragic ends must have haunted him. Wondering if the outcome could have been different had Dad sought medical attention earlier just prolongs the pain of our loss. He chose the way he would die and thought he was sparing us from witnessing the slow decline of a proud, strong man. To a degree he succeeded. A year later, I'm better able to understand and accept his decision, but I still miss him horribly.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Sound like an oxymoron? I'll explain. A polished redneck is one who usually dresses and acts like a professional -- white collared vs. blue-collared. They fit in with non-redneck society until they are amongst their own. Then its a matter of anything goes. Sarah Palin seems to have unleashed the polished rednecks in American society and they are aspiring to new lows. No longer are they afraid to express outright disdain for those not like themselves. Whether it's the rifle-toting-Cheney-types or David-Duke-racist-types, they're pouring out of the woodwork to voice themselves during Palin's campaign stop. Their rancid rhetoric is broadcast far and wide because of the media's infatuation with Palin. She is a conundrum. On the one hand, McCain is desperate for the women's vote and Palin seems to appeal to the distaff side of the polished rednecks. On the other hand, her maverick talk is turning off many who understand that trying to do business that way in Washington simply won't work. The federal government is a sometimes puzzling, interdependent, and convoluted machine. Three, distinct branches make it impossible for a maverick to take the reigns in his hands alone. Of course Dick Cheney made an impressive attempt at this, but that's another story. A maverick mentality may appeal to the masses, but it won't cut cheese on Capitol Hill. I'm not saying that the status quo couldn't use some tweeking. But our government has worked well for a very long time. Politicians all too often forget that it's the bureaucrats who keep our system running. It's the department heads, managers, and secretaries who turn up day after day, year after year, administration after administration who keep the machine of government oiled and running. It's easy for someone like Governor Palin to bad-mouth Washington. I shudder to think of the fallout if she and Senator McCain make it to the White House. Not only will our financial system remain in chaos, but our already tarnished reputation in the world will plummet even further. Even worse, our integrity as a fair and caring nation will suffer. We cannot afford to have polished rednecks as ambassadors, cabinet secretaries and more. Congress would have a hell-of-a-time trying to vet them and any goodwill other nations feel for the U.S. could become unsustainable.
Spouse's and my retirement savings have been pummeled in recent weeks. We've lost tens of thousands yet I remain optimistic that THIS calamity will turn around. In any case, I just don't want to think about it 24/7. Fruit flies, on the other hand, are proving to be an everlasting pain in the butt! I'm not sure just which piece of fruit we brought home spawned an over-population of the little, black buggers. I've tried Heloise's suggestion of putting out bowls of apple cider vinegar mixed with dish liquid. A single fruit fly, probably the village idiot, drowned. The others continue to sweep back and forth and around my head. Dad used to be good at catching flying insects in his big hands, but I am not as gifted. I've had a little success with wet hands, but the availability of water and the over-splash don't always coincide in a convenient fashion. Rinsing out my oatmeal bowl in the kitchen sink yesterday, a fly buzzed me and landed on a cabinet next to the sink. Good source of water and no problem with over-splash! Got the cabinet, but not the fly. Then it dawned on my -- maybe they know when I'm coming because I look directly at them. This morning -- same routine, but no eye contact. GOT the little bugger! Seems they don't notice peripheral vision. Chalk one up for a not-so-dumb-blonde!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
How does a man who claims to be the right person for the job of POTUS remain any one's choice when he continues to demonstrate his inability to be civil or even polite?! John McCain is NOT "my friend." I cringed every time he used that term and the people to whom he addressed it seemed equally uncomfortable. His snideness, impatience and inconsistencies are not qualities I want to see in a president. His open disdain for Senator Obama -- at one point calling him "that one" -- was beyond ugly. I have to wonder what would have happened had Tom Brokaw allowed any back and forth between the two candidates. He was a disaster as a moderator, cutting off discussion when it might have provided just the information voters are seeking. Or -- did he see signs that a discussion might trigger out and out war between the participants? I don't know what to make of his behavior. Senator Obama did an admirable job trying to fend-off Brokaw's interruptions, but it wasn't enough. Neither candidate made use of the opportunity to truly discuss their policy ideas. Perhaps it was the way the debate was organized, but the rhetoric sounded too familiar and not at all ground-breaking. Very frustrating for everyone. When I tuned-out at 10:30, I was disappointed to say the least, and more convinced than ever that John McCain would make a dreadful POTUS!
Saturday, October 4, 2008
The past several months have been rough for my extended family. Numerous parents of inlaws have died and we're starting to feel overwhelmed by grief. In the last two weeks alone, there have been two memorial services for loved ones.As if by design, my piece of my late grandfather's oxalis plant suddenly bloomed in white profusion. It's delicate flowers don't last long and I've never seen so many bloom at one time before. I'd like to think it's a signal from Poppy that the family will weather these sad events together.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
This first, crisp autumn day reminded me of a similar day while visiting Patty back in Illinois. Some years ago, she took me to visit a friend's newest litter of puppies. When we arrived, Sue asked if we could help during "poop duty". Well, uh, sure. . . The puppies were old enough to take care of business outdoors and needed to be watched. Once they did the deed, she would check their "deposits" then place them in a fenced enclosure. Twelve, half yellow and half black Labradors stumbled and staggered around the yard, exploring and sniffing at everything. They loved to have their little pink bellies scratched and rubbed, but didn't stay still for long. The yellow puppy had found a branch of leaves with a red flower still attached. He carried it around for quite a while then settled in to gnaw on it. The black puppy was content gnawing on my nephews baby shoe. Mike was quite perplexed by that though unhurt. Climbing stairs on such short legs required a rigidly held tail, reassurance from humans and extreme energy and determination. By the time each had pooped and climbed the stairs, they were ready for a nap. That's when we took our leave.
It didn't take me long to decide that I'll vote for Barak Obama. As a compassionate intellectual there IS no other way to go. The debate between McCain and Obama locked-in my choice. A man who refuses to make eye contact is a man I cannot trust. McCain's disdain for his opponent was evident throughout the debate. Not once did he look at Mr. Obama except for a few, brief smirking glances. Not only that, but his arguments were weak and condescending. Now for the "two-fer". . . Cindy McCain is an attractive woman who makes a nice backdrop for her dour husband. She is, of course, not running for elective office, but she seems unable to contribute more than a supportive smile and a nod of her head. A woman's perspective can be useful, but I wonder if Mrs. McCain has any. Even if she did, I'm not sure Mr. McCain would consider them. Michelle Obama is also an attractive woman, but she is no backdrop. Her enthusiastic support for her husband's campaign while trying to keep their two young daughters from falling for the hype and adulation are admirable. She is intelligent and involved and will be a real asset should her husband be elected the next POTUS. I will watch the Biden/Palin debate tonight. I'm actually looking forward to it. Each seems to provide the yin to their running mates' yang and both of them are a little off the straight and narrow, so it should be interesting.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Do we really want two more self-proclaimed mavericks running the nation in our names? Can good sense trump experience when nothing has been learned from history? Where has all the cash been hiding while Americans go hungry and homeless? Should failed C.E.O.s of failed companies give some back? Should people with a history of "working" all the loop-holes be appointed to the SEC and IRS to help sort out and eliminate the loop-holes? Should there be a limit on Social Security benefits for the wealthiest of the wealthy? Should those who lacked opportunity, education and/or popularity receive larger benefits to help compensate for disparities in their earning power? Will the U.S.A. continue on it's path of eliminating the middle class while increasing the number of poor and consolidating the control of wealth among the few? I admit I don't know the answers. I do hope, however, that greater minds are considering these issues. They are but a few that are crucial to our return to a nation of thriving, fair, and caring people. Our reputation in the world may depend on the answers.
Friday, September 26, 2008
The first time I met Loretta Hefter was at my family's dining table. My Mom's brother, whom we know as Uncle Bud, brought her to meet some of his family members. She was a petite, delicate-looking, well dressed lady with a nervous smile planted firmly on her face. She seemed timid around our rowdy bunch, so she remained close to my uncle's side. It was apparent even then that they were forming a tight bond that would sustain and nourish them through the rest of their lives together. Theirs was the first wedding I had ever attended. Aunt Loretta looked like a demur, beautifully gowned, porcelain doll. It may have been the formal pageantry in the church and the pomp associated with weddings, that put me in awe of her. Their beaming faces as they walked back down the aisle as husband and wife were unforgettable! Over the years, Aunt Loretta developed a penchant for aqua everything. That color seemed to suit her and certainly was her favorite. It appeared in her art work, everyday china, walls and anywhere else she saw fit. It was a good thing fire engine red wasn't her favorite color! Aunt Loretta and Uncle Bud were active in their church and community - always together. Her absence will be felt by many. To her devoted, loving spouse and children I would remind them of how proud she was of them and that her spirit remains with them because the bonds of love cannot be broken.
Monday, September 22, 2008
On my way to get an estimate on a repair for our car, I caught a red light on route 50 at Pershing Drive. Glancing across the road at Fort Myer I was surprised to see six soldiers, in khakis, walking in what looked like curlicues -- carrying a casket. I figured they were new members of the Old Guard practicing for one of the way too may funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. I bit my lip and moved on once the light changed. Driving back home, same route, reverse direction, there was a long line of flag bearers with perhaps 25 different flags, lined up along a road inside the Fort fence. Then I spotted uniformed soldiers and realized they might be preparing for the funeral of some V.I.P. I said a short prayer and continued home. I had a quick bite to eat then checked my email. One from Mom had just arrived and the subject line read Sad News. My Aunt Loretta died of a massive stroke this morning. Saturday night, an inlaw's mother died, months after his father died, weeks after another inlaw's mother died and mere months after my Dad died! I could almost say they're dropping like flies, but it's just too sad to joke about. Some say that bad news comes in threes. I think we've had enough bad news for a very long time! Godspeed to each of them . . .
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I'm glad Bounty paper towels come in half-sheets. I wish Dad could have seen the clouds this morning. Why do the Cubs have to play the Cardinals again after winning their division title? Redskins lost -- big whooping deal. I do like the new coach, though. Need someone to rescue my dying African violet. Must write condolence note to Phil. Heard a Cardinal (the red, feathered kind) for the first time this season. Some kind of bug has burrowed into a piece of my drift wood. Trees look much less stressed after all the rain we've had lately. I hate having to rely on reading glasses! Cicadas are still at it, this first day of Autumn. Damn - the days are getting shorter. . .
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I very seldom turn on the TV during the day but yesterday was different for some reason. When I heard Oprah introduce the topic of her show I knew I had to watch. Being one of many grown women I know who were molested as children, I hoped to hear and learn something positive. A law enforcement officer who specializes in tracking down on-line pedophiles revealed that daily, thousands of men [and maybe some women] provide live, on-demand footage of themselves raping babies and children, replete with the baby's screams. If that wasn't repulsive enough, her studio audience was shown a pedophile-produced video on how to train little girls to perform oral sex. Choking back outrage-induced bile I had to wonder whether or not this behavior, deemed despicable and illegal by modern society, was ever acceptable. If it is as wide-spread a problem as we see with more and more victims coming forward, was there ever a time when humankind accepted this behavior as normal? Is there some crazy gene that prevents predators from discerning right from wrong? Scientific research indicates that once a pedophile/always a pedophile. But why is it so prevalent? I don't for a minute believe pedophilia is a modern phenomenon. It IS, however, no longer a topic spoken of in hushed tones and never around children. It's always been there and it makes me wonder HOW it came to be. The advent of home video cameras and the internet can't explain it all. Traditions can exert considerable control over otherwise smart people. For examples: so-called honor killings; female genital mutilation; forced marriages of young girls to older men. The victims are females, yet other females often support and take part in these traditions. Is it a case of "I had to go through it, so you will too!"? Are we becoming aware of ancient, sexual rites because they've moved outside of darkened rooms and onto our computer monitors? Oprah pleaded with her viewers to write to their members of Congress to support a bill to increase funding for law enforcement against pedophiles. I applaud that plan. BUT, what are we going to do with all the captured creeps? There are not nearly enough prison cells to hold all of them. Also, since some deem child molesters less dangerous than murderers, will they be paroled back into our communities? Remember: they are able to carry out their nefarious activities because they are such good manipulators. Will it take genetic re-engineering to curb this crime?
Thursday, September 11, 2008
As anxious as I was about going out today, I got myself in gear and headed to the District Court for jury duty. My last experience, less than a year ago was a disappointment. After two days of deliberations one juror refused to listen to reason, so we could not render a verdict the rest of us felt was so genuinely deserved. When I arrived on the 3rd floor, the line into the jury office was about 200 people long. A couple of us speculated that since jury-scofflaws were now being hunted down and fined, more were showing up. A handsome, distinguished man was in line in front of me. All of us were sweating in the over-crowded hallway and jurors' lounge. This gentleman, dressed in a beautifully taylored suit had just a slight dampness showing on his forehead. Behind me were two women about my age, both fanning themselves as I was also. I quietly kvetched about 8 years of hot-flashes and they nodded knowingly. Next thing I knew, this gentleman discretely said his wife was going through it, too and why didn't I sit down; he would save my place in line. I gratefully took his advice. We had brief conversations throughout the hours-long voir dire process and were excused at the same time. Walking back to the jury office, several more people greeted him as had during the morning. I asked him if he worked there and he said he worked across the street. As we walked past a handsome bronze bust of the late Judge Carl Moultrie I mentioned my fondness for him. I was priviledged to have knows him during a previous job. It turned out that Moultrie had been my walking companion's mentor for the 13 years he served in the District Court. By that time, we were making our way outdoors. As I turned to say how much I had enjoyed his company he asked my name. I told him and then he told me his -- Ric Urbina. I stopped in my tracks and stammered that I was honored to meet him and to have almost served on a jury with him. He seemed genuinely surprised that I knew who he was. I was still bug-eyed when he warmly shook my hand and repeated my name as if he really wanted to remember it! The Honorable Ricardo M. Urbina is a highly respected U.S. District Court judge and a gracious, gentle man.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
There are too many on Capitol Hill who want D.C. residents to own unregistered guns -- of ANY sort. > handguns -- so useful for robberies and other, sneak attacks; > semi-automatic handguns and rifles -- the drug-dealer's weapon of choice for street to street combat and for taking out innocent children in the crossfire; > high powered rifles -- the best way to take out that neighbor you hate because he doesn't mow his lawn often enough. Congress also wants to allow guns to be carried openly. Yeah, right -- can you picture people walking down Connecticut Avenue then hopping onto the Metro with an AK47 slung over a shoulder? Don't laugh -- if Congress has it's way, it's possible. As the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. hosts numerous parades, conventions,demonstrations and special events on the Mall and elsewhere in town (e.g. Folklife Festival, Independence Day fireworks, Black Family Reunion, etc). How is our Metropolitan Police Department to protect non-gun carrying types? Some of us are afraid of fire arms and have no desire to even touch one. Sling-shots are no match for an Uzi. And let's not forget all the V.I.P. visitors and their motorcades screaming through town. I've always thought it was idiotic to haul foreign leaders with flashing lights and sirens blaring. It's announcing their presence to every lunatic out there. Come on, people -- we are not talking about the backcountry of Montana or Wyoming or the backwoods of Michigan or West Virginia! D.C. is a tiny, densely populated, heavily visited city. We don't have to defend our homes from bears or wolves. Even if one did happen to wander into town, collateral damage would make it too dangerous to take a shot at it. Besides, it would probably be hit by one of those speeding, crazed-driver commuter vans before anyone could take aim. Come on Congress -- stop tinkering with our self-imposed laws and self-determination. You've got enough on your legislative plates without trying to micro-manage a city. We have an elected city administration to handle local affairs and we don't need nor do we want your meddling! In other words: BUTT-OUT CONGRESS!!
Monday, September 8, 2008
More than just a peeve, the way people misuse the words eager and anxious is annoying. To be eager is to look forward to something good or to be happily willing. Anxious is based on the word anxiety. Happy anticipation and worry are in no way the same. September 11th is a day that conjures anxiety and painful memories for many of us. Since that day in 2001, I have managed to stay home to focus on spouse's and my good fortune and to remember those who perished and were so horribly injured - physically and mentally. This September 11th I will be on jury duty. I am not eager to be in a public arena on that day because I don't know how I'll react. The memories of the horror in New York then hearing and feeling the impact of the plane when it hit the Pentagon are still disconcertingly fresh. The anticipation of another hijacked jet heading toward D.C. prolonged and heightened the terror. If those brave souls on Flight 93 had not made the sacrifice they did . . . Resilience is not a given. It has to be cultivated and maintained. Americans have uncanny resilience and hope for the future. I pray that our naivete and hope don't overshadow wisdom gained from experience. Our national leadership needs refresher courses in history and psychology.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Maybe I need to stop listening to the 60s station on XM radio. I was just reminded of a painful experience during my first year in college. The trigger was hearing Cherish by The Association. By some miracle, I blossomed out of my shyness and became attractive to boys/men that year! Of course we freshmen girls were "fresh meat" to the upperclassmen, but it was still cool to date senior men! Ha! Just remembered we had to wear freshmen beanies -- purple and white -- goofy lookin' things. Anyway, after several weeks, I guy asked me out. He was also a freshman but I didn't know him. At least he was taller than me. He walked me to a movie in town. Coming out, it was pouring rain, but he'd brought an umbrella. Until we started walking together under his umbrella, I hadn't really noticed his bouncing walk. Each step ended on his toes, then the umbrella would hit me in the head when his heel came down. Not fun . . . Every Friday night there was a dance at the student union. We danced together a couple of time but I didn't feel an attraction. Then he started dedicating a song to me on the tiny campus radio station. Yup -- Cherish. Dorm-mates came giggling down the hall to my room every time he did this. It was sorta sweet, but ultimately embarrassing. Then I made the mistake of accepting his invitation to go to home-coming. Just our luck -- an ice storm hit two days before and it remained frigid during the game. We had to sit on bleachers covered with ice! He was miserable watching me shiver through most of the game. After several hot chocolates, I finally suggested we go back to my dorm. Of course he readily agreed. Now don't go getting any funny ideas. Males were not permitted anywhere beyond the lobby and the "dorm mother" made sure everyone was within eyeshot. There would be no hanky panky in her dorm! Before the dance that night, I told "Rick" we needed to talk. When I met him on the second floor in the student union his expression told me that he already knew what was coming. Mind you --I was no beauty nor a sparkling conversationalist, but for some reason, he thought he was in love with me. Stifling a groan, I told him that was impossible because we hardly knew each other. No good; he knew better. All I could do was apologize for not feeling the same way and for hurting him. My roommate and another friend were waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. As we walked back to our dorm, they looked back and saw him standing in a window crying. He dropped out within days. Being an empathetic type, I cried for hours that night. That was only the beginning of many more heartbreaks -- mine and others'. SO GLAD I'm not young anymore. Don't think my heart could take it!
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
They're playing the Credence Clearwater's version of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." Out of the blue, I was reminded of a party during the late summer of '69 at a house in Northeast. It was rented by several Catholic University students and was surprisingly nice. I was a little younger than most everyone there and fresh out of the Midwest. Entering this groovin' group was intimidating, but they were kind to me because I'd come with a cool grad student. [Thanks again, Tony!] The CCR song brought back memories of that party because we totally exhausted ourselves dancing to their version. It was considerably longer than the Motown original. On that sultry, late summer night in a house filled with hip college students spilling out onto the front porch and yard I started to think living in DC might be OK afterall.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
I'm still shaking with anger and spluttering in outrage after reading a story in today's Washington Post. It was all of about 4 column inches and might have been overlooked except for its headline: Honor Killings Defended. Five women, three of them teenagers, were shot and buried alive with rocks and mud because they wanted to choose their own husbands. Splutter, Splutter, AAAGH!!!!!!!! The act is shocking and despicable enough in itself. But then, defending the act carried out by southwestern tribesMEN, a member of Pakistan's parliament, Israr Ullah Zehri stated:
"These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them.
Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."Is it any wonder that Pakistan can't get it's shit together? How can this country engage in international trade, communication or anything else when so many of it's leaders are still thinking in 4th century terms?! Social evolution must become a priority for Pakistan's leadership if they want to overcome brutal, ancient, tribal ways that do not belong in the 21st century. They are so out of sync with the rest of humanity! If people like Mr. Zehri are being elected to parliament perhaps a benevolent dictator would be better than an elected government. . . Democracy cannot and will not work just anywhere unless those living in it have attained a basic level of education and understanding of their role in a democracy. Too many cultures have been force-fed the benefits of democracy without understanding that it is a participatory form of goverment. Representatives can no longer wear the blinders their cultural history provides to keep them from seeing that society has evolved past and beyond them and will not be going backwards!
Friday, August 29, 2008
As much as we need the rain, I don't enjoy rainy days. Now rainy nights are another thing, but during the day I want to see sunshine or at least have some lightning and thunder with the rain.
To comfort myself, I sometimes heat up a bowl of tomato soup and bake some cheese biscuits to go with it. It's a simple, satisfying meal and seems to perk up my spirits.
This is what the biscuits look like -- after they've been baked, split in half horizontally and put under the broiler for a few minutes. The cheese melts and browns a bit and the biscuit crisps-up. It would just be too cruel to show you them spread with melting butter.
My biscuit cutter is an heirloom from an old friend. It's probably 80 years old, but still cuts a good biscuit. Years ago, no woman's kitchen would be without a biscuit cutter!
Saturday, August 23, 2008
This August feels like a non-month. Every previous August I spent trying to find just the right birthday gift for my Dad. For a few years, my sibs and I got lucky and were able to chip-in on a group gift such as an engine for his dinghy or some other, quirky boat gadget. Most years, however, we all struggled trying to decide what to give to a man who had everything. Today marks another first since Dad's death last November. Spouse and I will not be: -- driving 110 miles round-trip to spend three hours with him. -- enjoying his favorite dinner and choking down his favorite cake; yellow with peanut butter icing. -- desperately hoping he'll like what we gave him. -- leaving with big hugs all around, hoping he enjoys another good year. Joni Mitchell said it so well -- "You don't know what you've lost til it's gone".
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I have made it a daily habit to click on a breast cancer fund-raising site (breast cancer site) partly because I'm a survivor and partly because it runs in my family. The site hosts several others including one for a literacy campaign. Today, it asked which book first turned me on to reading. I was soon transported back to my first school-sponsored book fair. I think I was eleven at the time and it made a huge impression on me. In the lobby one morning, there were several, large tables stacked with new books from which each of us were allowed to select two. All of them had colorful covers and each seemed to hold great promise. Learning was most likely one of the goals of the fair, but imagination played a huge role in my selections. When I finally settled on my choices, I reverently carried them back to my classroom, then home. Danny Kaye was a huge star in those days. He was also famous for story-telling. One of my books was a collection of folktales he had collected during his travels. It was beautifully illustrated -- always a selling point with a kid. Danny Kaye had portrayed Hans Christian Andersen in a movie, so I could imagine him reciting these stories to me. I have no memory of the other book I selected -- it was probably something practical like a dictionary. Years later, I gave the book to my younger sister who had small children by then. Much to my surprise, she confessed that one illustration in the book had always creeped her out since she was little. It was a picture of a devil-like character. It had never made much of an impression on me, but it sure had on her! I think she put the book way in the back of a closet. I'm now reading Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. It is possibly the most bizarre book I've ever read. I bought it out of curiosity to see what all the uproar had been about. I have found it very hard to follow yet am determined to finish it. It seems to require a somewhat more worldly sophistication and knowledge than I possess, but it's still compelling. I'm only up to page 355 of this 561 page novel, so perhaps it will come together at the end. . . .? I'd love to know what other regular people, like me, thought of it.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Our balcony window boxes continue to provide colorful, fragrant respite from the summer heat. The first photo appears to show a white petunia providing shade for some little red flowers. The second I like for the dappled sunlight. Hope you enjoy them, too.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
John Edwards has been probed and pilloried to the point of exhaustion -- mine, that is. I don't think there's a man out there who doesn't sympathize with or at least understand his "moral mistake." It's what guys do, for pete's sake!! Some question why his wife hasn't dumped him. Hillary Clinton faced the same questioning after Bill's imprudence. A wise woman understands the "guy thing" and that male genetics dictate their behavior. It doesn't, however, make the humiliation, anger and hurt any easier to take. A marriage certificate may say your man belongs to you, but his brains are still in his pants. The whole idea of marriage came long after men and women were "genetically wired." I believe it was an attempt, for whatever reason, to put the brakes on natural, human behavior. We were puritanized and made to believe sex is dirty and reserved only for procreation. The male of our species still has a genetic make-up that requires him to procreate as much as possible. Maybe it's an evolutionary thing, but smart women recognize it and deal with it. So to John Edwards and all the other philandering guys out there: shame on you for hurting your wife's feelings and breaking her trusting heart. If you were lucky enough to have married the right woman, you'll accept her punishment gladly and do your best to resist the impulse to jump any woman but her from here on out.
Friday, August 8, 2008
That seems to continue to be the M.O. for the Prince Georges County (MD) Police. Even in the home of a current mayor! On top of that, they didn't even bother to notify the town police about their operation. Despicable as it was, P.G. police commanders continue to justify shooting two family pets because the officers who forcefully broke-into the mayor's home "were afraid of them." Anyone who knows anything about black labs knows they are sweet-natured and gentle. The two family dogs were in the house when the S.W.A.T. broke in looking for a box of marijuana they had placed on the mayor's front porch. It had been addressed to the mayor's wife and sent from Arizona. Apparently, a drug-sniffing dog out there alerted to the scent and started a horrifying chain of events. Can't blame the dog, however. When the mayor arrived home he saw the box addressed to his wife and, naturally, carried it into the house and went about his business. When the police crashed in moments later it was still unopened on the front hall table. Neither the mayor nor his wife have any connection to drugs and, obviously, were not expecting the delivery. There was no reason to suspect them of dealing, either. As dogs are apt to do, both came to the door to see what was going on. The 7-year old dog was immediately shot and the younger dog was shot three times in the back as he tried to escape to another part of the house. Two little girls, their parents and grandmother were subjected to violence and a bloody scene -- equal to or worse than a horror movie -- in their own home! Their community is outraged as is everyone else who has heard the news. Apparently, drug smugglers have developed a new trick to distribute their contraband. Someone scopes out houses that are empty during the day. A drop is made and the dealer picks it up before the home owners return. It has happened to less prominent P.G. County residents and law enforcement handled it without drawn guns. NICE GOING P.G. POLICE!!! Are you all incapable of learning ANYTHING from your mistakes??!!!
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Many cheered upon hearing the news of a covert operation in Colombia to free hostages who had been held for years. I was among those cheering until I read that the undercover operation made use of the Red Cross emblem. This is a dangerous thing to do. The Geneva Conventions protect and proscribe the use of the Red Cross, Red Crescent, Magen David Adom and the Red Lion and Sun (don't ask, it's a long story). None of these emblems is ever to be used to disguise activities such as this operation. There must have been other ways to conduct the rescue without sullying a respected organization's reputation. These emblems have been recognized and respected for more than 100 years as identifying safe haven and humanitarian aid. Once the integrity of the emblem is weakened, distrust and ambivalence set in and its protective identity is damaged. I'm thrilled for those who were freed - AND - I'm horrified by the subterfuge and misrepresentation. It's a dangerous precedent. FYI: The Geneva Conventions, of which there are four, are agreements passed during international conferences. The first was in 1864 and the latest was in 1949 which adopted protections for P.O.W.s and civilians. The United States is a signatory to the Conventions, a fact blithely ignored by the current administration.
Friday, August 1, 2008
I'll get to the bullfighting question in a moment, but first. . . Have you ever felt uncomfortable or embarrassed while visiting the Great Ape House at the National Zoo? I don't go there anymore or spend time around their outside cages, either. Making eye-contact with a Beluga Whale at the Chicago Aquarium a few years ago reinforced a gut feeling. Standing on a platform over the water, I made and locked eye-contact with a sleek, beautiful, ghostly white mammal. She seemed to be looking into my very soul and I felt an overwhelming desire to set her free in the open ocean. I'll never forget her. Even before that, I avoided making eye-contact with primates at zoos. Just the thought of them having to live out their lives behind bars or Plexiglas made me feel ashamed. Worse, children and some adults would mimic their movements, sounds and expressions, thinking it was fun for everyone. I don't think so. Humiliation is not just a human response. Anthropomorphism has nothing to do with my feelings. It is well-proven that sentient beings -- mammals in particular -- have emotions and suffer pain as humans do. If more of us got beyond the novelty of the appearance of an elephant, chimpanzee or dolphin, perhaps we would treat them more humanely. Spain seems to be the first and, I hope, not the last to officially recognize the rights of sentient beings beyond humans. This is not a frivolous stand. Jokes are made about non-humans now being allowed the same rights as humans. It is not funny when primates are subjected to experiments, albeit in the name of science, that inflict preventable pain and suffering. Bullfighting in Spain is an honored, longstanding ritual with religious content. Now that science has shown the existence of pain and emotion in other mammals, I sincerely hope that Spaniards will rethink this sport. I don't know how anyone can justify breeding these magnificent animals to be tortured and killed.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
. . . that's how Mom would describe how I've been feeling lately. The intense heat, humidity and dirty air make me feel trapped indoors. Since nearly having heatstroke during a trip to the Middle East years ago, I can no longer tolerate the heat. Thank God for air conditioning! D.C. has experienced an abrupt increase in violent crime this month. I theorize that our dreadful summer weather is a factor. Too many folks don't have air conditioning. Is it possible that frustration over being unable to find comfort causes over-reactions and modifies behavior of people who usually would not think of harming another? To make my point, I offer the following. For several years, spouse and I lived on the top floor of a very old D.C. apartment building. The air conditioning was cooled air sent throughout the building through ancient duct work. Baffles to direct it to all parts of the building had long ago broken or stopped functioning. Some tenants had to wear sweaters all summer and others, like us, had to cover our windows with those Mylar thermal blankets and sit in front of electric fans. On top of that, some fool had stated that insects don't fly above 60 feet, so screens were unnecessary. Yeah, right! Across the alley and across the street were flat rooves. [I know that spelling looks funny, but that's what I was taught in 4th grade.] These rooves held standing water. You know where I'm going with this. . . . Imagine going to bed each night, windows open in hopes of a nighttime cool-down, covered in insect repellent, a sheet and a fan blowing across your prostrate body. The mosquitoes seemed to love buzzing around our ears looking for that one spot free of repellent. We put up with those conditions for seven years because the rent was low and the location was within walking distance to both of our jobs. The first summer in our current digs was like heaven! No open windows or streetlight glare, noise, or bugs. We both marvelled at what a difference a cool, quiet, dark room made in our sleep habits. We no longer woke up ornery and still tired! So . . . is there any wonder that crime increases in the summer? I wish I could buy air conditioners for everyone who doesn't have one. Maybe then we could all be more civil and sane.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Checking out DCBlogs.com recently, I read a rant from someone who witnessed an intoxicated man bathing in a trash can of water in an alley. She found it disgusting and thought the bather should have found a more private spot. Well yeah, but. . . Have the decency to look away when you spot someone who doesn't have the luxury of a bathroom, much less a home. Then make a donation to a human services charity. Think how fortunate you are to be able to take a hot or cold shower whenever you wish and in private. Others are not so lucky. Allow me to illustrate. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) headquarters is at the corner of 18th and N Streets, NW. In the front courtyard is a funky fountain that I believe is part of the building's cooling system. During the 70s I walked by there daily on my way to work on N Street. Frequently a man would be bathing and washing his clothing on the rough surface of the fountain. People stopped and stared but he seemed oblivious to his audience. As I kept walking, I realized that he was psychologically impaired as well as homeless. He DID, however care about his appearance and used what was available. I also suspected that he might have been one of hundreds of patients released from St. Elizabeth's Hospital during that period of heightened awareness of civil liberties. The ACLU had a huge role in psychiatric hospitals freeing their occupants to live as they wished. Many former patients failed horribly. Without their meds and a supportive, controlled environment, they could not function well enough to be responsible for themselves. Many ended up on the streets, psychotic and miserable. Shelters were opened, but avoided because they didn't feel safe there. Vietnam vets soon started pouring into D.C. to seek recourse from the government. Unfortunately, it's not simply a matter of showing up. Complicated paperwork and delays may have contributed further damages to their already fragile psyches. Many of them also ended up on the streets. To that young blogger: try to make allowances for those less fortunate than yourself. Bathing and urinating in public are unpleasant to witness but, apparently, essential for those who do it. Perhaps if we had more public toilets they, cabbies and bus drivers and many others would not have to relieve themselves against walls or behind bushes. Everyone could be spared the public display of bodily functions.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Summer, 1969 -- Potomac, Maryland -- well after midnight. A lone whippoorwill sings in the distance. It is haunting and annoying at the same time. Can't he change his tune a little? Why doesn't he stop, at least for a few minutes? Why is his the only bird song I hear? During the day there is a chorus of mocking birds, cat birds, robins, finches and others that have their own seasons to visit this part of the world. It's amusing to watch the mocking birds in their routine. Males find a high spot, often on the top of a chimney, strut around a bit then fly straight up several feet, fluttering and singing before landing again. They also like to gang-up and harass the occasional visiting crow or buzzard. When the silence of the night gives way to this lone singer, I can't help but feel sad that he's not getting a response. Where have all the whippoorwills gone? Was he a fledgling who fell from his nest, got left behind and had to grow up on his own? I don't know anything about birds, but the thought bothers me. That summer was the first our family and four others occupied newly built houses in a comfy-sounding development called Country Place. As construction finished on other houses, more families moved in. We had mud lawns and no trees. But, there were also woods to explore and a creek in which to catch slimy blobs of tadpoles. In another direction was a farm with pet peacocks and llamas where we learned the hard way that llamas spit. And close, to the south, was the old farm house of the family that had owned and worked the land our houses now occupied. They kept a large garden of vegetables and flowers and were generous with their new neighbors. That summer, the air conditioning in our new house crashed for several weeks. It was hard on our 15 year old dog who died within days, on July 18th -- the night before the first Moon mission. It was also hard on his human family. We had come from the shores of Lake Michigan with it's cooling breezes to the tropics of a D.C. summer. Stifling air pollution was also something new. Weather inversions that held pollutants close to the ground often turned the sky a sickening brown. Lying in bed, windows wide open, no cooling breezes, I listened to that Whippoorwill sing night after night. I identified with that bird. I missed my hometown and our dog. Decades have passed and nearly every square inch of Potomac is now covered with conspicuous, ostentatious houses. The village's serenity and natural beauty were pillaged by those with more dollars than sense. One positive note is that the numerous trees Dad planted in our formerly barren yard have flourished and provide comforting shade for the family that now occupies the house on Hayfield Court.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Ann Marie Lipinski, who has been editor of the Chicago Tribune since 2001, is leaving the venerated rag in two days. Reading about her departure following several staff and production cuts and before another 14% cut, I couldn't help but think of my own "downsizing" experiences in the 1990s. When I first went to work for a local chapter of a world-renowned humanitarian organization in 1982, there was a staff of more than 300 with four satellite offices in under-served neighborhoods. Volunteer leadership wielded considerable authority over paid staff and it actually worked. We were all in it "for the cause." As older staff retired and younger, more highly paid staff came on board, the ethos of service to humanity became secondary. The bottom line took priority as the C.E.O. now was being paid a six-figure salary, several times more than department managers. Programs and services that spent money to aid the community were cut because they didn't make money for the chapter. Being a survivor of downsizing is often worse than being a victim. We missed our former colleagues and worried about how they would make ends meet. The psychological battering lasts well beyond the financial sting.
Ms. Lipinski has my condolences and best wishes. She says she is not quitting in protest. I believe that and think she is leaving to preserve her physical and mental health. Wise choice. Godspeed to everyone at the Trib! It would be tragic to see another newspaper bite the dust.
With each rumored downsizing, there seemed to be a synchronous twisting of stomachs among the staff. We never knew who would be next. I survived four downsizings before my time came. Eight of us were called into a meeting with the C.E.O. who announced what was happening. Oddly, everyone else remained clench-jawed and shed no tears. I found out later that their manager had told them in advance what was coming. Mine didn't have the courage to do that, so I embarrassed myself and nearly stroked-out in front of everyone. Personally, it hurt knowing that I'd given my all for 14 years to guide hundreds of volunteers in helping thousands. Suddenly, all of that meant nothing. On my way out that evening, the C.E.O. had the temerity to slap me on the arm and, grinning, say "it wasn't personal."
Monday, July 14, 2008
What's with folks in Northern Ireland?! Every July 12th members of the conservative, anti-Catholic Protestant Orange Order march to stoke memories of a nearly 500 year old Protestant victory over Catholics in the Battle of the Boyne. This, naturally, stirs up anger and resentment resulting in injuries on both sides. It only serves to keep the animosity between these two groups alive. Now as far as I know, Protestants and Catholics are Christians, right? I am, too and I was always taught that a key Christian tenet is that revenge is in God's hands -- "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord." I don't recall anything about it not applying to the Irish!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Not long after I was born, my Dad clipped this from a newspaper. It rings so true in my family! The first born got Mom's gorgeous dark, curly hair which he has battled all his life. I, on the other hand, got Dad's stick-straight, dirty blond hair. Now that we're older, we're starting to look more and more alike -- SCARY!! Girth and gray hair tend to do that. . . .*sigh*
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Seems like the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has just figure this out. It took only about half a century but I applaud this development and hope that it might enlighten other researchers. Specifically, the NHTSA has decided to use female mannequins in their crash tests. All these years, they seem to have concluded that injuries would be about the same in men and women in vehicle crashes. Uh huh. . . . I wonder what lead to their breakthrough. Perhaps someone showed them the chair lifting test. Put a chair such as a bentwood or other, not too heavy chair sideways against a wall. Bending from the waist, put your forehead on the wall above the chair. In that position, grasp the seat and back of the chair, lift it then stand up straight. Most women can do it while most men cannot because they tend to have longer torsos. Of course, another consideration in safety tests must address the different plumbing in each gender. A woman's reproductive organs are far more vulnerable to damage from a seatbelt or unanticipated, abrupt contact with a dashboard or airbag. I'm intrigued by how the dummy will be wired to test for those damages. While I'm on the subject of male/female differences -- how come women's hats don't come in sizes like men's do? We're lucky if we can find socks in different sizes, too. I do hope we will, sooner rather than later, overcome the one-size-fits-all mentality of manufacturers and researchers. The latter are still taking baby steps in recognizing that women's health issues are quite different from men's, but at least they're learning to walk!
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Kelley's Law -- Nothing is ever as simple as it first seems. Wilson's Law of Commercial Marketing Strategy -- As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it. Law of Biomechanics -- The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach. Blake's Law -- If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will go wrong is the one that will do the most damage. Treeman's Law -- Every activity takes more time than you have. Watson's Law -- Nature always sides with the hidden flaw. Law of Random Numbers -- If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal and someone always answers. Brown's Law of Physical Appearance -- If the shoe fits, it's ugly. Doctor's Law -- If you don't feel well and make an appointment to go to the doctor, by the time you get there you'll feel better. Don't make an appointment and you'll stay sick. Oliver's Law of Public Speaking -- A closed mouth gathers no feet. Law of Probability -- The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.
Friday, July 4, 2008
The concert on the Capitol grounds was better this year than it has been in a long time. The music was upbeat and sounded marvelous and Jerry Lee Lewis -- well, what can one say? Brian Stokes Mitchell was elegant and in fine voice. Jimmy Smits was the most comfortable, natural M.C. yet! All the others have been so awkward, obviously reading from a monitor and worrying if everything would come off as planned. All in all, the music was well done and the crowd was really having fun! Fireworks are what I most look forward to and this year's were superb. There were new copper-colored, mustard-colored and pink bursts that I wish I could have captured on film. I hope, if you weren't there yourself, you'll get the idea through the following. I took over 100 shots and even these aren't so good, but here goes:In popular culture, July 4th seems to have taken the place the true name for this holiday. Hope you had a sparkling Independence Day!