Monday, September 29, 2008

Hard Questions

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.

After Yesterday's Stormy Weather

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Remembrance

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

Cue the "Twilight Zone" theme song.

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

Stream of Consciousness - Sunday

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

What is it in some humans that allows molestation and rape of babies and children?

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

My Day in Court

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

How reckless can Congress get?!

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

There IS a Difference!

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.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Friday, September 5, 2008

A 40-year old Guilt-Trip

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

Listening to 60s music on XM radio. . .

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.