Friday, July 31, 2009

Somewhere Else

Today is Friday, the last day of July 2009 and I'm thinking of snow -- lots of snow. I'm not a big fan of summer heat though I do confess to loving summer thunder storms and the funky fragrance of a hot summer night. You know what I mean, the faint scent of far-off boxwood, along with honeysuckle, clover and fresh cut grass. I would feel differently about summer if I still lived on the shores of Lake Michigan with its cooling breezes and welcoming though frigid, fresh water. Nevertheless, right now I'd much rather be sitting next to Tucker on this mound of snow. I'd have chapped, red cheeks, nose and lips, a woolen hat pulled tight over my ears, covered with the still-falling snow. The only sounds would be our breathing and a far away snow plow. Clumps of snow would occasionally drop off over-loaded tree branches and silently plop onto the ground. I'd be wearing so many layers it would be hard to move. The genuine galoshes I bought in a fit of hope several years ago would be serving their purpose. [Never have been able to wear them. Daggum D.C. weather is so unaccommodating for us winter-lovers!] Closing my eyes, I can smell Tuckers damp fur and doggy breath as he offers me a face lick. His tongue is rough, warm and wet. His eyes are brimming with innocence and pure joy at being out in the snow. My own eyes brim with nostalgic tears.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thank God For My Mom, Sisters and Friends!

I was recently diagnosed with Barrett's Esophagus. Being that Spouse is the world's worst worrier, I decided to wait to tell him about it until my doctor and I finished the tests to determine a prognosis. This past Monday I saw my gastroenterologist to follow-up on my first endoscopy at the end of May. He'd provided me with interesting photos of my innards at the time. I brought them along so that he could explain them in more detail and layman's English. He then told me he needed to do another endoscopy to get deeper tissue biopsies. The unnerving thing is that he suggested doing it the next morning. Being one who likes to get things over-with, I agreed. Only after I got home did I start wondering why the rush. Spouse freaked when I told him about it. His first reaction was that the doctor wanted to make money. [Gee, thanks for your concern, honey!] Part of the blame for his reaction is mine because I'd kept him in the dark about the previous endoscopy results. As the volume and pitch in his voice rose I confessed that my diagnosis was troubling, but treatable. [Didn't lower the volume much.] To add to Spouse's consternation, he would have to drive me home following the procedure. He hates to drive which usually is fine because I love to drive. Concerns about my low blood pressure in recovery surely were eliminated on that ride home! He was so anxious, he forgot to take his foot off the brake pulling up the incline from the GWU Hospital entrance. Couldn't figure out why the car wasn't moving . . . Laughter is said to be the best medicine. I agree with that. However, trying to force laughter from someone who is beside himself with worry is really tiring. I knew I was marrying a pessimist all those years ago and thought my optimism would help balance the relationship. It has -- to a degree. Being perky and pretending that everything will be OK eventually takes a toll. If it wasn't for the support of my sisters, Mom and friends I might consider taking a leap off of Key Bridge!! [No, please don't call the suicide hot-line! I'm probably the last person who'd actually go through with it! Just venting . . .]

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Walk a Mile in His Shoes

Skip Gates, a.k.a. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a distinguished professor and historian who happens to be African-American. When I first read about his arrest on his own front porch I was outraged as most everyone else was. How could this happen to a respected, famous man even when he showed TWO forms of identification to the police?! But then I started considering the police officer's position. An adrenaline-surge is one effect experienced by a cop when he receives a radio call about a crime in progress. Doesn't matter whether it's day or night -- something bad is going down and he/she needs to gear-up for whatever they are about to face. Whether the suspected perp is male or female, or of a race different from the cop's isn't the first thing they think about. Their first reaction is that someone is doing something illegal or dangerous and the cop must stop it. Now being confronted by several uniformed police officers in one's own home when one has done nothing wrong is disconcerting to say the least. It happened to me a couple of years ago when I was falsely accused of vandalism. Police are not stupid, so it wasn't hard to convince them they were barking up the wrong tree. The fact that Dr. Gates is a middle-aged black man plays a huge role in this incident. He grew up choking on the bile of segregation and had to fight mightily to move beyond that. His ability to carve out a spot at the highest levels of academia deserves to be admired and respected, as I'm sure it usually is. In the end we have two men, both adrenaline-driven, trying to justify their positions to each other -- neither one of them hearing the other. They both feel indignant and insulted so it becomes a stand-off. The wiser choices for both men would have been for Dr. Gates to show the police his identification, recognizing that the cop was responding to what he was told was a break-in. At that point the cop could have apologized for upsetting Dr. Gates and wished him a good evening -- the end. Not that simple, however. I wasn't there, but I do believe the situation exploded due to fatigue, confusion and the influence of personal history. Neither is to blame -- both are.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Patty!

Today is my younger sister's birthday. I took this pic about 15 years ago when her youngest, Mike, was just a little guy. It is one of my favorites. We had gone to visit her friend's litter of puppies -- 12! -- and spent part of the afternoon on "poop duty". Sue wanted to be sure each one had taken care of business before she let them back in the house.
Patty has a natural gift with children and animals. She has raised four remarkable young adults and one very gregarious, totally lovable labradoodle. The really special thing about Patty is that her kids all know how lucky they are! [I have to give her spouse, Tom, credit too. They're both phenomenal parents.]
Happy Birthday, Girl!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gators in D.C.

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the abundance of cars in our region with Florida tags? And it's not during one part of the year rather than another -- it's all the time. Now I know some folks, particularly wealthy, older-types, winter in Florida and return to the D.C. area the rest of the year. I should think those who do have the bucks to fly back and forth rather than driving all that way. Has there been a mass migration North from Florida? Did they finally get tired of the constant and extreme heat and humidity, not to mention hurricanes? If so, they're living here now, but still maintain Florida tags. I believe that's against the law. Now I have nothing against Floridians, but what gives? Can they somehow maintain legal residence in Florida so that they have voting representation in Congress? If that's the case, I'd sure like to know how I can get in on it!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

No one really wants to discuss death and dying, but sometimes it needs to be. The utterly disgraceful actions of a few at the Burr Oak cemetery in Illinois forced the subject. They also reinforced my opinion on cremation. I've never doubted my choice, but many, including some family members, don't agree with me. While I understand the need for closure, I'm grossed-out by the whole mortuary thing. Recent horror stories about negligence and mishandling of human remains by a Virginia embalmer chill my blood (no pun intended). Hospice services are helping to humanize the dying process. Nevertheless, once someone has died, the really macabre and over-the-top stuff begins. The pressure on families to spend thousands of dollars to honor their dead can be crushing, especially when they're in the throes of a loss. Simplicity is far more compassionate, not to mention less costly. [Besides, who wants to come back in their old body? I sure-as-hell don't!] Hundreds of thousands of acres are dedicated to the burials of dead humans. I think that is a huge waste. It also facilitates atrocities such as happened in Illinois and Virginia. Also, I don't believe that departed souls hang around cemeteries waiting for their loved ones to come visit them. I would much rather have a thing, like a favorite hat or chair to remind me of someone. So here's my take on the whole dying thing as it relates to me, personally: >harvest any usable organs and tissues; >cremate the rest and dump the ashes into a cardboard box; >throw the box and ashes into Lake Michigan; >come ashore and drink a few beers in my honor; >put a short obit in The Washington Post; >get on with life.
AMEN

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Congress: How dare you?!

What on earth makes Congress believe it has the right to tell a local government how to spend tax dollars raised from its own, local residents? It happens every year right here in the nation's capital city. A fundamental right of U.S. citizenship is petitioning one's government to redress wrongs. Residents of the District of Columbia are the only U.S. citizens who are actually denied this right -- by Congress! We pay annual federal and local taxes like anyone else because it is our duty and the law. Federal tax income is logically federally controlled. On the other hand, Congress, whose members do not pay taxes here, insists on controlling how our local government allocates local tax dollars. This would be intolerable and likely impossible anywhere else. Taxation without representation is flat-out Unamerican. Congressional control over how a locality uses it's residents' tax dollars is against the most basic democratic principles. D.C. residents alone cannot fix this problem. Every American needs to step up and inform their representatives in both the House and Senate to do the right thing and allow us -- at the very least -- a voice and vote in the House of Representatives. Convincing them to stop micromanaging the city's budget may not affect anyone but D.C. residents, but it needs to be said. No American can afford to disengage from watching and reacting to the activities of their elected leadership. There will come a time when those who have will regret allowing their representatives to be lead by lobbyists and special interests groups.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

About Last Night. . .

I continue trying to capture fireworks on film. Below are a few attempts from last night's show. It was a really good display and followed a better than usual Capitol Fourth Concert.
The event this year held appeal for all sorts of people: from Gershwin lovers like me to five year olds stuck on Sesame Street. The one sour note was dear Aretha Franklin's attempt at the National Anthem -- not good.
Anyway, it seemed like everyone had a great time on a gorgeous, unusually cool Independence Day in D.C.!
I love the squiggly smoke lines in this one.
Sadly, we can't celebrate a holiday without some jerks. . .

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Cutting the Apron Strings

It required two wars, but we finally accomplished it!
Happy Independence Day 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I've been thinking. . .

. . . I know -- that's a dangerous thing, but hear me out. The issue of gays in the military has been bugging me. [I will use "gay" to refer to homosexuals, lesbians, transgendered and bisexual persons.] When it was first proposed, Don't Ask, Don't Tell seemed like a good compromise, but it still leaves gays feeling unwanted and endangered. I should think they would also feel insulted. Sexual orientation does not dictate a lack of personal responsibility or self-control. Whether one believes in evolution or creationism, gays have always been part of the human population. Contrary to what some would have us believe, being gay is not a choice. Sexual orientation is determined before birth. Besides, why would someone choose to be a social outcast? So the question seems to beg: How did American troops deal with gays during the American Revolution? or the Civil War? or any other conflicts we've engaged in? We've all read stories about women who dressed like men so they could fight their country's enemies. Seems to me the issue is of personal integrity and respect for other persons, not whether someone is gay or straight. Passion to protect one's country is not limited to straight people, so I think gays should be welcomed into our military as they are in most other nations.