Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hillary and RFK

No one seems to be considering the context in which Hillary made her now infamous comment. We both were raised in the privileged suburbs of Chicago by conservative parents. She was a college student, as I was, when Robert Kennedy was assassinated. Still reeling from Dr. King's murder just months earlier, Bobby's death was another painful, bewildering blow. The year was 1968 and all hell was breaking loose. The "conflict" in Viet Nam was clearly a mistake and universally unpopular. The civil rights movement had become more militant after Dr. King's murder. Our classmates were being drafted into the military, forced to fight and die for something many didn't support. In this context, a political battle was playing out to widespread media coverage. To see, in real time, a favorite son dying on the floor of a hotel kitchen, surrounded by panic and pain, left an indelible mark on our still young minds. In 2008 the significance of that year has been extensively reported and editorialized. Senator Clinton is not stupid, nor is she a racist. She is a product of her times, moved by horrifying events 40 years ago that were recently rehashed (no pun intended) in the news. She has no death-wishes for her competition. Her comment about Bobby Kennedy, I believe, was a reference to the fact that the campaign is not over now as it wasn't in June 1968. It was awkward maybe, but not malevolent.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Unisex

Just seeing that word makes me long for the days before this idea was thrust upon us. Ladies' hairdressing shops were a female bastion where we could discuss ANYTHING with our primarily female hairdressers and sister clientele. If our mascara ran during the shampoo, no prob -- we'd fix it before we left. The first time I went to have my hair cut with a guy sitting in the next chair was horrible! I was SO self-concious! I chanced getting my clothes wet rather than wearing a robe that might accidentally gap open at some point. The feminist movement really screwed us! Now, I don't argue that it helped us, marginally, in the work world and forced schools to provide equal opportunities for boys and girls to participate in team sports. Those were GOOD things. However -- we women lost more than we gained. Specifically: I appreciate it when a gentleman opens a door for me; I open doors for others, too. Some women were very defensive about that, loudly proclaiming that women were strong enough to open doors for themselves! Guys got the message and stopped. We lost the right to be squeamish in biology lab classes. I'll always be grateful I got through high school before that happened -- I HATED dissecting things! Thanks to my male lab partner, I never had to actually touch anything. College dorms became coed -- major disaster! What self-respecting woman wants to share a bathroom with guys?! We hung out and studied in work shirts and panties in my dorm. Girls may still do that, but I doubt that they get much studying done with all the guys panting over them. We lost the right to expect a gentleman to give up a seat on the bus or train for a lady. Now, it's often a woman who gives up her seat for an elder or pregnant lady. Early, militant feminists made men fear being polite to a lady. Oh, and that reminds me: we were now all WOMEN -- the distinction between ladies and women was abandoned. After 40 years, women still don't rate the same pay as men; we have to share hairdressers with men; we still have to stand in buses and trains in ridiculously uncomfortable shoes; and our feminine mystique is out the window. Unisex appears to indicate a single, combined sex. I think today's young women and men struggle to figure out how feminine and masculine they are supposed to be. Is it possible that in this first generation of daycare graduates we'll have a new meeting of the minds? The women's movement tried to accomplish it -- accepting each other as persons first; male or female second. Maybe . . . but do we really want that?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Do you hear what I hear?"


When I first spotted these flowers, they reminded me of that song. Now I'm hearing Rolling Thunder cruising past outside our windows -- quite a sight AND sound!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Three Generations"


Hot Stock Tip

All those kids stumbling around in flip-flops are going to need serious foot therapy/repair by the time they're 30. They may look cool and in style now but there will be a price to pay -- orthotics ain't cheap. Buy stocks in podiatric suppliers. I speak from experience. I just HAD to have penny loafers when I was in the third grade. By fourth grade, I had to wear dorky, brown and white orthopedic shoes! I think that's where all these flip-flop-wearin' 20-somethings are headed. Of course stiletto heels are also to blame for feminine foot problems and those godawfull platform shoes seem to be coming back. Word of warning: if you're not careful, you can tip over and sprain an ankle -- again, speaking from experience. [No, I'm not a total klutz!] I can vividly remember my first pair of high heels -- they were about 2 inches high, purchased for my junior high graduation. During gym classes, we learned to walk and climb stairs in them. Good thing, too. After living most of our lives barefooted or in sneakers, narrow little heels tripped up more than a few of us. Historically women's shoes have been an abomination to the human foot. Chinese women were forced to bind their feet so that they would remain tiny. A more modern incarnation is those extremely pointy-toed shoes. The points must end about 4 inches beyond the toes. THIS is attractive?! Anyway, there is a hard lesson coming to a whole generation of people and it's gonna cost big bucks, pain and a lot of pride. Sorry y'all!! :-\

Friday, May 23, 2008

Henry Waxman: King of Checks and Balances

Rep. Waxman might be the first to guffaw at this description because he is a professional, no nonsense kinda guy. He may be short in physical stature, but when it comes to safeguarding tax-payer money, he's head and shoulders above some of his colleagues. As Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform he's been tackling the outrageous spending and accounting habits of the Pentagon. How on earth can an agency lose track of $15,000,000,000?! Billions have been spent here and abroad on materials and services for which the Pentagon cannot account. We all want to support our troops and understand that paperwork on the front lines may be a low priority. That means a new system is needed to track our money wherever and however it is spent in our national interests. Money paid to contractors right here, in the U.S., should be much easier to track. Yet, there are no paper trails for several, contracted products or services -- sometimes the Pentagon doesn't even know which it bought! As a D.C. resident, I have no voice in how my tax dollars are spent, so it is up to the rest of America to get on top of and stay on top of what their government is doing. I sure as heck would not be happy to learn that the managers of my 403B (nonprofit version of a 401K) had lost track of my funds! That's essentially what the Pentagon has done.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pink, paper lanterns . . .


. . . at least that's what these flowers and their buds looked like. My trip to Johnson's Flower Center up Wisconsin Ave. provided numerous opportunities to photograph beauty.


This flower was so simple and pure in itself, it stood out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Little Bit of Bliss

This flower [I think it's a zinnia, but don't quote me] looks prim and proper.
The way it slowly reveals it's beauty,
unfurling one petal at a time,
seems almost modest.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Some Stuff I Know

Do NOT get between a woman and her chocolate. If you can't open a screw-top jar, use an old-fashioned bottle opener to gently pry the edge of the lid to release the vacuum seal. Prayer works but you don't always get what you want -- rather, what you need. Remember that loving someone doesn't preclude disliking their behavior. It takes practice to do anything well, including golf and sex. If impulse urges you to do something, check-in with your instincts first. You're more likely to get a bad sunburn on a hazy day than on a sunny, clear day. That first sip of cold beer on a hot day tastes better than anything else. Listening for life's/God's messages is hard yet worth the silence.

. . . before I tweaked it. . .


Friday, May 16, 2008

Ruminations on 2001 and Beyond

On September 11th of 2001, all Americans were turned upside down and inside out. We grieved, feared, raged, hunkered-down and resolved. Little did the terrorists know that they were, in such a horribly twisted way, doing us a favor. The dreadful losses of life and property brought us all closer together as one people, determined to defeat those who would destroy us. Those terrorists read Americans wrong in a huge way! Unlike some cultures, Americans act rather than fold-up when tragedy strikes. Of course, there was grieving, but this reaction soon turned to action as the Pentagon was rebuilt, remains were respectfully extricated from the ruins and buried with dignity. We learned to embrace a "new normal". I disagreed with the president's move to shutdown every airport in the U.S. for such a long time. We are still reeling from that. Our airline industry and all the other industries that support it were irreparably damaged. Even big companies could not weather the standstill and the effects have been worldwide. Millions of people were harmed by this one decision. Really poor judgement seems to be rampant in our current administration. Thinking that American troops could free Iraq from its tyrannical leader and step back to watch a new democracy bloom was foolhardy, dare I say STUPID. People who have been subjugated for generations and lack knowledge of the rest of the world, much less anything other than dictatorial leadership, are not prepared to lead themselves. These underprivileged Iraqis may have felt like they were lost at sea when their leadership was removed. And now they are occupied by foreigners. Rule of law makes our system work. This is a foreign concept to people who have lived under oppression. How can they now believe that corrupt leadership will be held accountable and that they, the people, will guide their own future? It must be frightening when one has no example to follow. Tragically, America is no longer a shining example of the rule of law. There is the matter of the U.S. deliberately excusing itself from adherence to the Geneva Conventions. Abu Ghraib, Gauntanamo, and numerous other, secret facilities are shameful reminders of this. And now harrowing stories are being told about how immigration detainees are being abused. As long as there are good minds willing to validate these actions, we are no longer the good guys. America used to represent fairness, opportunity and compassion for fellow humans. Our children still receive a free education, a rare opportunity elsewhere. Charitable organizations struggle to care for those who need help and the wealthy keep getting wealthier. The middle class is the heart of our culture and their generosity and means are being stretched way too thin because of our government's lack of compassion and intelligence. If compassion doesn't sway thinking, then intelligence should. It is not intelligent to allow the wealthy to keep more and more of their money at the expense of basic human services, such as health care, housing and education. It is not intelligent to allow corruption to flourish. Government regulation is an unfortunate necessity to curb corruption. What message do we send when failed business leaders receive huge severance packages after accepting absurdly high compensation? It is not intelligent for the so-called leader of the western world to hand-off responsibility for bad decisions to those around him. Truman knew -- "the buck stops here." It was not intelligent to select members of the administration who never seem able to say "no" to the president. I want to believe that the president is basically a decent man, but he is too easily manipulated by those who are not. It is not intelligent to attempt to cover White House tracks in hopes of denying wrong-doing or mistakes. The Freedom Of Information act will eventually reveal the truth. Please -- someone tell me we will recover from this!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dear Dad,

Last Sunday was Mothers' Day and we spent it with Mom. Janet and her clan were all there as were Patty and Tom. They came East to watch Carolyn's crew in a regatta up in Philadelphia and drove back down to Solomons on Saturday after the races. Sunday evening Tom drove down to Williamsburg to pick up Carolyn and her stuff then they drove back to Illinois. Patty stayed with Mom until Tuesday. You KNOW how much they enjoyed each other's company! Dad, I still find myself weeping and wishing that you were still here. I know you would poo-poo that, but I did get my sentimental gene from you! I'm OK though. You pop into my mind, sometimes at odd moments, but usually when I'm experiencing something good I wish I could share with you. You would be so proud of Zach joining his high school's sailing club. You had a lot to do with developing his love of sailing and he's quickly becoming an excellent skipper. He's building a nice tan and muscle, too. He was already a handsome young man -- now he's becoming a real hunk! Mom was able to arrange a spot on the dingy rack so Zach can sail your dingy on the river whenever he has the time. As you can imagine, he's really eager to get out there! Alex remains his exuberant self. Much to my surprise and delight, on Sunday he gave me a hug without me having to ask for it or steal one from him! He is such a blessing. I can't help but remember the very rough start in life he had. It was so scary for a while, but I swear Janet willed him to stay alive and thrive. The doctors at Children's did their part, but it was all those prayers coming from everywhere that bolstered Janet and Bill. Zach is a marvelous big brother and hasn't subjected his little brother to the kind of harassment that my own, big brother did to me. You must have dreaded coming home to children who'd been told -- Just wait until your father gets homes! I just remembered that crazy TV commercial that had you and me into stitches. Don't even remember what it was advertising, but it had a crazily long golf club, outrageously short fishing rod and more. Hearing us, Mom came in from the kitchen to see what was so funny and neither one of us could talk, we were laughing so hard. It was one of those goofy funny-bone-moments. Can you tell I miss you, Paw? Mom does, too. She seems to be doing a little better as time goes by and she keeps busy with her volunteer work and P.E.O. You know your kids are there for her always and in all ways, so try not to worry. I miss you, Big Daddy! You'll always be in my heart and mind. May God continue to bless you . . . Luvya! your "Little Girl"

Happiness is . . . PartIV

Fragrance of freshly cut grass; Sun-dappled shadows; Teetering toddlers chasing waddling ducks; A 5-year-old enjoying watermelon juice running down his arms; Picking berries still warm from the sun; The riot of brightly colored flowers on a vendor's cart; A little boy's face after winning a game; Shade and a breeze on a hot day; Watching two mocking birds harass a turkey buzzard; Catching grinning spouse watching me cut my hair.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A More Humane Mortgage?

There are many things about Islamic law (Sharia) with which I disagree. In fact, I think much of it is archaic and downright unfair and abusive to females. Nevertheless, I came across something that slightly alters my opinion. There is a growing number of Islamic companies, in the U.S., making mortgage arrangements with Muslims that require no interest payments. I gasped when I first read that, but soon learned that it does work and makes a profit for the mortgagors. Sharia states that it is unlawful to profit by renting money -- charging interest -- as is taking advantage of someone's financial misfortunes. In simple terms, Islamic lenders buy a property then sell it at a higher price to a purchaser. The purchaser's payments never increase and the lenders make a reasonable profit. The lenders also say they are willing to work with their borrowers during financial crises. Considering the dire straights many lenders and home-buyers/sellers are experiencing, maybe this type of arrangement should be considered by all lenders. Can the American mindset, accustomed to big profits, accept taking a smaller piece of the pie to allow more to share in it? I'm not sure the culture of today's C.E.O.s and top management allows them to accept smaller shares of the profits. Has benevolence become passé or has prudence flown the coop?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Random Act of Kindness in Foggy Bottom

Hit the Foggy Bottom Farmer's Market this evening and bought a spectacular, hydroponic butter leaf lettuce and a scrumptious baguette. I was glad I had limited cash because I could have gone wild buying flowers -- they were spectacular!

On my way back home the sight of huge, white peonies stopped me in my tracks. They and deep red roses gave the historic house they surrounded a welcoming glow. A charming older lady was seated on a bench in the yard, so I asked her if I could come closer to take a sniff of the peonies. We chatted briefly about flowers and their different blooming seasons where I grew up in the North and here, in the Mid-Atlantic.

When she asked if I would like some, I was dumbfounded and insisted I couldn't, but she went ahead and clipped one for me. Just smelling it took me back to years and years of fragrant peony bouquets in our house.

I don't suppose this kind lady will see my blog, but I had to show-off a gift that made my month and express my sincere thanks!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Uh Oh. . . .!!

Mid-morning today, I took our car in for an oil change. Of course it ended up needing more than that. Who was I to argue about belts? Being told they were eight years old didn't seem like a problem to me; I have dresses older than that. But the guy who broke this news to me said if any of the belts broke the results would be dire. $Kaching$ and there went the rest of my day.

Whilst I waited on an incredibly uncomfortable chair outside where the air smelled considerably better than inside, a tow truck lumbered into the service area. On it's bed was a big SUV -- nice looking and not too old. Intrigued by how these trucks work, I put down my novel and watched as the driver tipped and lowered the truck bed and eased the vehicle onto the ground. He then started it up and backed it a few feet into a line for service.

Nothing extraordinary there. But when a mechanic tried to start it so he could drive it into the service bay -- nothin'. He put up the hood and diddled around and tried again. After perhaps 25 minutes of this, another guy came out, opened the gas tank cover and took a sniff. Much to everyone's astonishment, the owner had loaded the tank with diesel instead of gasoline! Serious head-shaking ensued as more guys appeared and tried to figure out how to get it into the service bay. Eventually, one of the guys got it started and it sputtered a huge cloud of surprisingly nice smelling white smoke. That was it. Brute manpower was then applied.

As a discombobulated mechanic walked past me, I just had to ask how they would fix it. He told me I didn't want to know. I then went in to my service agent to ask if the owner was a man or woman. He started making excuses right after he said it was a man. Oh, they do look out for each other! Being that it was a man, he must be "a truck driver used to going to the diesel pump" or some other lame excuse.

Now we all know that if a woman had done that, she would be the butt of jokes from here to kingdom come. Then, again, it's kinda cute to know that guys can screw-up bigtime and fellow guys will cover for them come hell or high water!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Oh, COME ON!!

Why do we, Americans cling so tenaciously to racial distinctions? By that I mean we're still stuck using the ambiguous definition of "one drop of African blood makes you Black." Thank goodness we've dropped the labels of quadroon, mulatto and perhaps more of which I am blissfully unaware. How should Tiger Woods identify himself? How should Barak Obama identify himself? How should so many offspring of mixed parentage define themselves? WHY must they choose one race over another?! History and medical science prove that nearly every American whose family has lived here for many generations has genetic components from another race. Frankly, I think old Southerners are more likely to accept that fact than are Northerners. Strom Thurmond has a mixed race daughter whom he publicly acknowledged. Granted, it was decades after her birth. . . And what is it with people who ask if someone is Black enough?! What does that mean?! The Nazis might have defined Aryan enough by the color and texture of some one's hair or the color of their eyes. In this case, it's not a matter of bloodlines, but rather a matter of attitude, beliefs, and lets admit it, prejudices. In the 4th grade, our teacher asked us to write down our nationality. We wrote down Norwegian, Hungarian, Scottish, German, Romanian or whatever else was in their lineage. Everyone got it wrong. The answer was, of course, American. Our family names were diverse and a few were first generation Americans but, in fact, we were all Americans. Now John McCain is confronting what some perceive as a problem. That he is not a "natural born [American] citizen" as the U.S. Constitution requires of our presidents. He was born in the Panama Canal Zone, an American Territory at the time. Being a military brat, he could just as easily have been born in a U.S. Military hospital anywhere in the world. Uh, does that make anyone else wonder why our presidents have not all been Native Americans or American Indians? Think about that. Historically, native peoples everywhere have been far better stewards of the bit of Earth they occupied than those who conquered them. This whole racial/nationality thing may become moot in a few more generations. Maybe Dr. King's plea to judge people by their characters rather than the color of their skin will become reality. I can dream, too, can't I?