Thursday, December 29, 2011

Nudity in the Nation's Capitol

A couple of years ago a brand new Congressman came to town with his family to assume his seat in the House of Representatives. Not long after arriving, he stated how horrified he was by all the naked statuary in the city. He was appalled that his young children and those of other, God-fearing Americans were exposed to such indecency. Christmas day, driving home from my mother's in Southern Maryland, we got caught up in heavy traffic on Constitution Avenue. Glancing up through our sunroof, this is what I beheld. Shocking!!

(click on the picture to get a better view)

Nude men -- and -- women -- together -- with -- their -- privates -- exposed!! Not only that, but they were carved in stone -- on the front of -- a government building!!! Thank goodness they are high enough off the ground that innocent children's eyes cannot behold such subversive matter. Why, there is not even one fig leaf to provide a modicum of modesty! Whatever shall we do?! This sort of thing is to be expected in Rome or Athens, but in Washington, D.C. . . .?!!! ;-}

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Something Special

Last evening I finished reading a book that struck every emotional chord I have and even some I didn't know I had. The Old Mermaid's Tale, by Kathleen Valentine will join my collection of books I know I will reread more than once.

Clair Wagner is the central character in this early 1960s story that plays out into the 1980s. She is a product of her Ohio farm upbringing: sweet, innocent yet outrageously curious and fearless. She can hardly wait to leave her boring, land-locked home for college on the shore of Lake Erie.

The Great Lakes hold many mysteries and inspire superstitions that started with the earliest inhabitants: Native Americans. Many hundreds of ships have gone down in The Lakes leaving haunting, painful legacies. The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was supposedly strong enough to withstand anything the lakes could throw at it, but it, too ended up on the bottom of Lake Superior.

With Lake Erie a firmly, and strongly established part of the story, the author takes her reader into the world of fisherman, sailors and those who love and worry about them. With the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, ships from around the world now had access to ports in the Great Lakes. Clair is swept into this world not kicking and screaming but with her eyes and arms wide open to whatever adventures it might offer.

Ms Valentine does such a beautiful job of character and situation development that the novel seems more like a biography. It flows naturally and yet still surprises and enlightens. In truth, I am still moved to the point that I need time to process this story; something I haven't felt since reading Cutting for Stone.

Having grown up on the shores of one of Erie's sisters, Lake Michigan, I GET the fascination with and craving to live on the water. I've never sailed on any of the lakes though I have enjoyed day sails on the Chesapeake Bay. I confess that I feel a little intimidated at the idea of going out in anything smaller than an air craft carrier on one of the Great Lakes. Come to think of it, that could be scary, too.

Summers of my youth were spent hanging out at the beach. I remember looking out across the water and watching a training ship from Great Lakes Naval Station, just north of us, being engulfed by black, lightning-streaked storm clouds. My friends and I watched for what seemed a very long time until it reappeared on the other side. Then, the rains started pelting us and lightning strikes became a little too close, so we headed for home.

I do believe that my fascination with this book is not just because of my love for The Lakes. It is a beautifully written love story set in a dangerously beautiful setting during a tumultuous time in American history. It won't surprise me a bit if The Old Mermaid's Tale soon tops best seller lists. It really IS that special!

Monday, December 26, 2011

"Saliva Salutes"

The day after Christmas can be a letdown, but while reading a piece in yesterday's "Washington Post" I no longer have post-Christmas Blues. Maura Judkis wrote a hilarious account of stage actors and their problems making themselves heard in the back rows while controlling slobber. Apparently, it is quite an honor for a lesser actor to be spat upon by a more famous actor. Some of the stories had me choking with laughter. Hope you will enjoy the story, too! Actors drooling over each other’s parts - The Washington Post

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Surprise

This tender, young thing was blossoming outside Mom's cottage today. Several more pretty pink roses seemed determined to survive indefinitely. They were a lovely surprise on Christmas morning.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Fantasy

When I was in grade school, music was an integral part of our curriculum. Come Christmas season, we started rehearsing carols and making decorations for our classrooms, hallways and to take home. Construction paper knew no religion and "Merry Christmas" had not yet been politically corrected to "Happy Holidays."

The first time I saw the cover of a songbook our music teacher handed out, I was smitten with the idea of "the good ole days" and the ways Christmas once was celebrated. The jolly smiles on every face, elegant looking Victorian clothing [despite the 1940s hairstyles] and snow blanketed village made me long to live there and then. There was not one sign of slush, dirty chimney smoke, no broken tree limbs lying across sparking wires or cars waiting to be freed from their driveways. The rosy cheeks, colorful hats, scarves and mittens of carolers made the scene feel altogether cozy.

Homeowners, standing on their the cold front porch with their front door wide open, are clearly hosting a party. The grinning carolers sing out while, from within, the warm light from candles and a fire place beckons. As the family welcomes guests into their home, a horse-drawn carriage delivers another. Of course, the horse wears a collar of silvery, jingling bells.

For years that songbook was a fixture on my family's piano. I noted autoharp and guitar chords in it as I took up each instrument. When I finally bought a keyboard after moving out on my own, that book immediately came out of the guitar case and has resided on the keyboard ever since. Having been handled by younger siblings and me, it had taken quite a beating. The cover had come off, but somehow remained with the rest of the book.

Years later and to my great joy, I was loaned a copy of the same book during an event of a women's group I belonged to. The school music teacher who had brought them, gave me information so that I could order a new copy. I ordered enough to give copies to my siblings and Mom, since we had all enjoyed it. The cover and contents were exactly the same as I remembered, but the price had more than doubled in 50 years.

For many years I worked for an organization that "got into my blood." It was known for its impartiality and humanitarian efforts. Embracing the principle of neutrality as I worked with people from around the world and of numerous religious and cultural backgrounds, I neglected Christmas.

Growing older and not having children also influenced my lack of enthusiasm for the old traditions. Digging out this songbook and playing familiar songs is causing me to lose my neutral feelings about the holiday and inspiring a refreshed Christmas Spirit. I've decided not to hold back, so:

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Oh, to be a fly on the wall!

Christopher Hitchens died just in time to cross other-worldly paths with the secretive, odd North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Il. I'd love to witness the fireworks!! Maybe they're sharing a bottle of Kim's favorite cognac -- they both loved booze.

In addition to having a quick, brilliant mind and sharp tongue, Hitchens made as many enemies as he did friends. He used words like boxing gloves. I didn't always agree with his opinions, but he certainly put great effort and thought into expressing them.

He was a devout agnostic, passionate about his beliefs and not the least bit shy about taking on equally rigid religious fanatics. I admired his fighting spirit against huge odds.

Numerous tributes to Christopher Hitchens prove that he had a heart as well as a poison pen. I'm thinking that, privately, his enemies will miss him as much as his friends.

Bottoms Up, Hitch -- wherever you are!

P.S. I just discovered that I was born on the same day as Hitch, but I haven't decided whether or not I'm proud of that coincidence.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

An Evening Stroll

Last evening I took a short, solitary stroll to get some fresh air and fresh perspective. Spouse was still at work, but it would be well past dark before he came home.
Of a dozen pictures I took at the FDR Memorial, this is the only one that came out clearly. It's a bronze version of FDR's pet Fala.
The numerous, artfully designed waterfalls have always been a favorite for many. It reached the point where busloads of daycare kiddies had to be banned from wading in them. Adults (me included) have been known to wade in them on a hot summer's night.
Braille and three dimensional carvings fascinate. The lighting at night brings out peculiar effects in many of them. Some concave carvings appear to be convex and vice versa. Millions of hands have left evidence of touching. My last stop was Capitol Hill. I've always thought Congress's Christmas Tree was prettier than the National Tree on the Ellipse. Drivers are not allowed anywhere near The Hill so I shot this from a block away while freezing off my buttons. I kinda like the squiggly effect. Or maybe that's just an excuse for a poor picture. . . . ;-)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Different Christmas

This season normally is filled with joyful anticipation, meaningful rituals and heart-warming traditions, not pain and sorrow.

For those who loved, admired, and worried about Michael Kentes, 63, the season will forevermore be tarnished by memories of his death.

Michael was one of thousands of American boys drafted into the military to fight the most unpopular war in our history. By a quirk of fate, he even made the cover of National Geographic Magazine. Wearing camo and a black beret, the former Ranger was searching The Wall for the names of buddies who didn't make it back alive.

Thrilled as I am that the war in Iraq is being put to an end, I cannot help but think about all the volunteers in our military now. Unlike draftees sent to Southeast Asia, they made a choice. They are no more or less brave than our guys who were drafted. What sets them apart is their conscious choice to take on America's enemies.

Many will be coming home this month and next. Their families and friends will welcome them with open arms and festive parties. I hope those families and friends will remember that their military "heroes" don't necessarily feel like heroes for simply surviving combat.

The buddies with whom they bonded during the most traumatic experiences will be on their minds. Thoughts of those who were horribly injured or died will come when least expected. Guilt over killing and surviving will also take tolls on their hearts and minds.

As you might imagine, living in Washington, D.C., we are surrounded by military installations, monuments and memorials. They serve as constant reminders of how fortunate we are to live in a free country, protected by devoted, well-trained men and women.

As we enjoy and celebrate the holidays, let's remember our protectors. In my mind, they are members of the "intelligence community," police and fire-fighters as well as members of the military; past and present. Our ability to relax and enjoy depends on their diligence.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Getting Ridiculous

Almost every day a Republican hopeful is quoted saying something completely off the wall. As much as I regret having to name names, Newt Gingrich's antics are getting more absurd and insulting as his popularity grows. Calling Palestinians an "invented people" may be popular among some far-right types, but it is ignorant and insensitive. If he wants to call Palestinians "invented people" he needs to take a closer look at his own homeland. The United States of America is an "invented nation" filled with an "invented people." With the exception of a very few appallingly treated natives, Americans all come from immigrant ancestors. Some of mine came from the British Isles in the 17th and 18th centuries and others arrived in the late 19th century from Norway. Colonists were forced to defend their declaration of independence from Great Britain in both the 18th and 19th centuries. Next year will be the bicentennial of the War of 1812! If a hurricane had not hit the Eastern Seaboard during the burning of Washington, we might still be under British rule. I also believe that the hundreds of thousands of Africans who were dragged away from their families and homelands to be enslaved by the newly invented Americans deserve credit for building our early economy. Their forced sacrifice made the new Americans wealthy enough to think about expanding into the west and north of their newly invented country. Immigrants from Europe and Asia helped build the railroads, highways and other infrastructures most of us now take for granted. Truthfully, it seems to always be the recent immigrants who do the dirty work and hard lifting that keep the rest of us comfortable and well-fed. Still, they dream of joining American Society. Changing the subject slightly, there is often talk about creating new museums in D.C. to honor the contributions made by immigrant groups. I shudder to think how the Mall would look with massive buildings, each dedicated to displaying and explaining the contributions made by Italian-Americans, German-Americans, Lithuanian-Americans, Chilean-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Turkish-Americans, French-Americans, Swedish-Americans, and on and on. The U.S. is filled with proud Americans who embrace and remember their ancestral heritages. Whether religious or cultural, all of us are rightly proud of those wo came before us. Americans are an invented people. Palestinians may also be an invented people, and they have more right to claim their identity than we do because they have existed in Palestine far longer than America has been a nation. So. . . think again, Newt.

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Caballo Au Vin"

Such a delicacy has absolutely no appeal for me, but I understand that the USDA is close to hiring inspectors for horse slaughtering plants. In truth, it has never actually banned the consumption of horse meat in this country, but eeuuuw. . .

While it is a well-documented fact that peoples around the world will eat anything from insects to rats and dogs, I was stunned to learn that horse meat is a staple in many countries; China and Mexico among the top consumers.

For others, eating primates is a delicacy, even if it is illegal. In my mind, that somehow equates to eating one of my distant cousins! No can do.

Horses are intelligent animals, sensitive to human needs and moods. Think of all the therapy horses that have enriched and empowered persons with mental and physical challenges. Thank goodness someone thought to try such therapy. Hundreds of thousands have benefited from riding and/or caring for horses.

Dogs and cats are also in-tune with humans. Hospitals and nursing homes have long taken advantage of this priceless ability to help brighten and stabilize patients. Our own troops have been well served by stray dogs and cats they've found amongst the wreckage in the Middle East. Cuddling and caring for a dog or cat that awards such behavior with unconditional love has enabled many to deal with the horrors they've seen without losing their minds. I must admit that I do wear leather shoes and occasionally eat meat. I also take neither for granted. I know what it takes to produce leather and tidy packages of chicken legs and I'm grateful to those who do the dirty work.

It seems to me that fellow mammals like dolphins, elephants and horses that have the capacity to show humans better ways to live our lives should not be eaten by us.

[The picture shows my sister Patty and her family's newest member, Tucker, on perhaps the most traumatic day of his life: when he left his littermates to head to his new home. He seems to have sensed that everything would be OK and that he would be cared for and loved as any member of the family. He was so right!]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jamestown Memory

Flipping through old photos I came across this one that I took on a visit to Williamsburg a few years ago. My niece, Carolyn, was about to graduate from The College of William and Mary. I hadn't been to the picturesque city in many years and was surpised by how much the surrounding area has changed. With Thanksgiving two days away my imagination kicked in. I wondered how the "newbies" to the Jamestown Settlement might have felt upon first arriving there. The island has been preserved as close to it's original state as possible. It has marshes, loads of trees, shrubs, wild flowers and, naturally, poison ivy and slithering critters. Summers would have been hellish with swarms of mosquitos compounding the misery of the heat and humidity. I've read about baskets being made from the 8" needles of these evergreen trees. Weavers' fingers must have been bloody and sore. I know this because, like an idiot, I had to play around with some myself. [No, I didn't rip any off the tree, just tried to bend three into a braid. Ouch!] Getting back to Thanksgiving -- I wish I could say my entire family will "gather together to ask the Lord's blessings." Alas, we're spread out in the Midwest and East coast and as far away as Alaska. But we'll be together in spirit and via Skype. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. Keep in mind that, despite mainstream news, we do have much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Scent of a Man

To my sometimes great embarrassment, I've always had a sharp sense of smell. It is sometimes pleasurable and other times, a curse.

I've read that scent-memory is one of our strongest. For example, the aroma of a peach pie fresh from the oven conjures lovely memories of dessert on my family's screened porch during the hottest days of summer. Freshly cut grass reminds me of struggling to mow the lawn with an old, rusty, push mower. It can also trigger earlier thoughts of lazing on our lawn under a magnificent Elm tree with a brand new sibling sleeping in a baby carriage closeby.

When I first met Spouse, he wore some hideously odiferous yet popular cologne. I didn't feel I could say anything about it for the first few months we were together. As soon as I felt our relationship was on solid ground, I talked him into dumping it. His own clean fragrance is so much more appealing.

The fact that I loved the smell of the mosquito fog sprayed regularly on neighborhood trees when I was a kid may explain some of my quirks. ;-} Nevertheless, I hope to God I never lose my sense of smell.

A drive in the country would be almost pointless without being able to smell the clover, hay, honeysuckle and, yes, cow manure. Keep those car windows open so you can enjoy all that nature has to offer!

During a trip to the Caribbean years ago, I bought my Dad a bottle of Royall Spyce cologne. He had always worn Old Spice, a familiar, comforting scent, so I thought he might like something similar. He did! From then on, it was on the top of his Christmas wish list.

Four years ago, today, my Dad died. His scent, however, still can trigger bittersweet memories. Every year about this time, I get an email from an online vendor reminding me to reorder Royall Spyce. Gee thanks. . .

Monday, November 14, 2011

. . . and they begin

We are blessed with beautiful sunsets during the autumn and winter. This one is crisscrossed with jet vapor-trails. The building in the lower righthand corner is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Peforming Arts. I think it is one of the loveliest landmarks in our neighborhood.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Helluva Gift

Every month, The Washington Post prints pictures of America's war dead. I am always staggered by the two, full pages of pictures. Each young face represents a child whose parents joyfully anticipated his birth and carefully chose his or her name. This child was a beloved family member and, no doubt, someone's BFF. We will never know if one might have become a brilliant scientist who discovered a cure for some dread disease.

When a young person dies it is so unnatural and unexpected. A child is not supposed to die before his or her parents do. As one mother said in another Post article, she never expected to see her baby's name on a headstone. That did it -- I lost it. How do soldiers' parents and friends cope with such a huge loss!

No words, medals or certificates can provide comfort for such a loss. The rawness of losing a child in such a violent way -- well, I don't have words to describe it.

Deaths caused by warfare have happened for centuries; eons, really. How have we not concluded that this is wrong?

Modern warfare is deadlier and less selective than ancient methods of killing one's enemies. A sword, arrows and spears could not compete with guns, bombs, land mines, poison gas and nuclear weapons. Still, countries find reasons to build and maintain arsenals of ever more deadly weaponry. Land mines left over from long finished wars kill and maim thousands of civilians in several countries every year. Many of them were made in the good ole U.S. of A.

Is the industrial-military-complex too big to fail? Just think if some of the billions of dollars and thousands of man-hours spent developing new weaponry were redirected to medical research, caring for those who cannot care for themselves and improving the miserable standards of living for people around the world. Peace might just happen!

Thousands of refugees from manmade and natural disasters are still caught in an unending cycle of loss and lack of real recovery perpetuated by half-measures of aid. But then, some of those refugees may actually be better off than "America's invisible poor."

Homelessness and hunger are not exclusive to dirty, bearded men who hang out on heating grates. Too many of those dirty, bearded men are veterans who, for whatever reasons, were unable to assimilate back into society. Others could not find employment which further broke their spirits after sacrificing so much for their homeland. Many did not agree with U.S. military stands, but served anyway because it was the right thing to do. Each and every one of us owes a significant debt to our military -- past and present.

It's all fine and good thanking service members for their service. What they need is not a handshake but a hand-up into a job that will help restore their self-reliance and facilitate a more normal life out of the military. It can be a huge adjustment, but with understanding and patience from employers and co-workers, it would be one helluva great home-coming gift!

Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11

"Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me."

Monday, November 7, 2011

5 days

Five days from today is Veterans' Day. All the ads in the Sunday newspapers made me think about how veterans themselves might view what has happened to this day of remembrance and thanksgiving.

Yes, I know the official Thanksgiving is the last Thursday in November. The sale ads for the day after -- "Black Friday" -- are already being hinted at. That holiday is observed for a completely different reason and has evolved far away from it's original intent.

Even now with so many American military members overseas, we are encouraged to focus on buying stuff on the one day intended to honor our veterans.

Veterans' Day isn't even observed by many employers. It has become a regular work day so that employees can be off to spend bundles on "Black Friday"! For the folks who remember their family members and friends who served their country, this may be a painful reminded of how their sacrifices are ignored.

For a high school classmate of mine, Veterans' Day and Christmas Eve are two difficult days. Nancy's older brother John was sent to Vietnam in 1968, within days of completing basic training. Five days later, he stepped into a rice paddy and was shot dead.

Five days after completing grueling training which was rushed because so many young men were dying in Southeast Asia and needed to be replaced, John was no more. Five days wasn't even enough time to grow a decent mustache . . .

His family was at the airport when his remains were brought back to the States for burial -- on Christmas Eve. As sometimes happens, a SNAFU on the identities of several other caskets caused even more agony for the families.

Losing a family member messes up family dynamics. It certainly did in Nancy's family. Her younger brother was so traumatized by his brother's death that he ran away. All these years later, he has very little contact with his parents and siblings.

Military service is honorable and noble -- no doubt about it. It can also throw families into turmoil and cause unimaginable pain. With both men and women being deployed thousands of miles away for incredibly long periods, it's a wonder families can survive. Children can feel abandoned. They cannot understand why Mom or Dad's job sends them so far away from home for so long. Sometimes they blame themselves.

I don't care about missing "fantastic sales" this Friday. I'll sacrifice the sales to remember family and friends who sacrificed their time, health and often their sanity to protect me and our country.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Friday Chuckle

Dad took this picture of my younger brother, Peter and our younger sister, Patty a long time ago. Pete has always been a bit of a teaser . . . maybe I should leave it at that. Our youngest sibling would probably have a different take on Pete's humor. Anyway, they were both adorable babies and I was enough older that I could enjoy them. Hope you have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

WTF 2

What I dreaded most about a recent, horrendous crime was confirmed by a Washington Post columnist today. I had so hoped that I was wrong.

The gist: two females at a high-end suburban store got into a fight that ended in murder. One was the manager and the other was an employee who had been caught stealing. It was a very noisy, bloody fight that lasted for quite a while and only ended with the manager's gruesome death.

This high-end store is in a shopping mall and shares a wall with another store whose employees were also working late. They heard everything, including screams for help and did a b s o l u t e l y n o t h i n g.

I cannot imagine what was going through their heads as they listened to terrified screams and pleas for help through the wall. It's not as if their lives were in danger. So why didn't they call 911? Not one of them has offered an answer to that question.

It's been about 50 years since Kitty Genovese was repeatedly stabbed outside of her apartment complex in NY. People watched and listened to her screams from their windows yet did nothing to help her.

If we all maintain an attitude of not wanting to get involved what is to stop criminals or sociopaths from harming others? With the 911 system, it's so easy to simply pick up a phone, dial the number and report anything suspicious. It's easy and necessary and can be anonymous!

I still live with my shame of several years ago. We had a neighbor who had recently separated from his wife. They had two sons, one of whom was 3 or 4 years old. We often heard shouted telephone conversations between our neighbor and his estranged wife through our bedroom wall.

When the younger boy came to visit his father for a weekend, the parents got into a tug-of-war over him on the side walk. The father had the boys torso and the mother was pulling on his legs. Both were shouting at each other and the boy was hysterical.

Having heard this man berate and curse his wife, I was afraid of him, so I tortured myself hoping that they would realize what they were doing and stop. After several minutes of their ugly scene, I looked up the number for Child Protective Services and called them. The man who answered advised me to call the police, but by then the parents had left the scene.

Helping someone in trouble doesn't always require endangering your own life. Police are trained to handle all sorts of gnarly situations, but they have to be alerted to them to do anything.

I would hope that if I were in a scary situation someone would come to my rescue or, at least notify the police. I have to live with my slow actions but I won't repeat them. If I see or hear something untoward, I won't hesitate to notify authorities. We are, after all, our brother's keeper.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The "S-word"

Yes, it is snowing in Washington, D.C. as I type this. On the news last evening, they showed a line-up of plow trucks ready to hit the roads. Can't see that happening anytime soon. Outside the city could be a different story, however. During our visit to the grocery this morning, we drove through sleet and had an accumulation of it on the windshield when we came back out again. The pretty little flurries have now changed back into rain. So much for snow. I just hope everyone doesn't panic and close the schools on Monday. . . . *sigh*

Friday, October 28, 2011

A "Catch 22"

Since late September, a ten-year-old boy has been held in a psychiatric ward of a D.C. hospital. He was admitted because he had stabbed another child in the eye with a pencil and had threatened to kill himself. He has quite a history. His mother and stepfather don't want him home, I suspect because they cannot cope with him. His father has no visitation rights following a bitter divorce. The Maryland county he lives in can't do anything without parental consent and the hospital needs the bed for other patients. His doctors know that he needs to be in a more open facility. Right now he feels abandoned and unwanted. Our local newspaper has been following the court case over this boy's legal conundrum. The hospital feels like it's being forced to "warehouse" the boy and cannot provide him with the services he needs. The boy's father has said he is willing to take in his son to join him and his second wife and their young daughter. I wonder if he realizes what this could mean for all of them. The real tragedy is that this child, who clearly seems to have serious mental problems, is caught in a situation wherein no one wants to deal with him. His fate is being left up to a judge who sounds equally frustrated and perhaps disgusted with the whole situation. When people decide to make a baby -- and let's face it, few actually conscientiously decide on such a major move -- they have to know there are no guarantees. You may end up with a perfect angel of a child or you could produce one with mental or physical problems. Trying to ignore a child with problems, as this mother seems to be doing, is against human nature. So I have to believe she is at the end of her maternal rope. Still, she owes it to her son and society to do what is necessary to provide the best possible life for him. This may require placing him in an institutional home or letting his biological father try to help his son. Either way, he is losing whatever ground he gained in treatment by being left in limbo. What do you think?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What a Pity

Only a handful of Libyans witnessed and participated in the downfall and death of Moamar Gaddafi. If I had been in charge, he would have been arrested, jailed, then put on public trial for his countless crimes. He deserved to have his nose rubbed in to the truly evil things he did to Libya. His trial should have been broadcast to the entire world. His humiliation might even have caused tears and begging, something he and his sons ignored time and time again from people who disagreed with them. Competitors and dissenters were tortured or simply dispatched. Imprisonment would have been a problem because enough people would remain on his payroll, paid from secret accounts and therefore, would remain loyal. Now, they have a chance to escape back into anonymity or to another country. I hope people remember their faces and names so that they, too, can be pursued and punished. Now that the monster is dead the tribes he controlled with iron fists will start battling each other for supremacy. Tribal loyalties outweigh national loyalty in most Middle Eastern countries. I just hope the "New Libya" can weather the fractious next few years. Perhaps the smartest thing for the U.S. to do is to demonstrate how the somewhat democratic process in individual tribes could work on a national level. Tribal leaders will need to meet and hash-out how they can work together for the welfare of each tribe without destroying each other or their country. National identity must become their goal.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Where's the Respect?

I am so fed-up with the bickering and back-biting among political candidates and political types in general. What role does religion play in federal government anyway? I thought we'd gotten over that when John Kennedy a (gasp!) Roman Catholic, was elected president. I remember the hand-wringing and panic during his campaign and after he was elected. The United States did not become a Papist outpost as so many had loudly feared.

Now it's "Mormonists" who threaten the American Way of Life. The Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints has been labeled a "false religion" and "cult." It is supposedly not even Christian. So . . . . . . .?

When Barack Obama was campaigning for the top job, and even after he was elected, he was falsely labeled a Muslim. Again I asked, so . . . . ..?

The religion or lack of religion of a candidate running for President of the United States has no place in the discussion of his or her qualifications for the job. If people insist on thinking that way, perhaps they should consider the following:

If a Christian Scientist was elected POTUS, would we lose Medicare and Medicaid and be encouraged to give up professional medical care all together?

If a Druid ran for POTUS, would we all start worshipping rocks?

If a Zoroastrian ran for POTUS, would we celebrate the New Year on the Vernal Equinox? [Not a bad idea: the first day of Spring makes for sense than a day in the middle of winter!]

If a member of the Society of Friends (aka Quaker) ran for POTUS, would the Defense Department be eliminated?

How 'bout an atheist? Would that mean the demise of every religion in America?

The answer to all of the above is, of course, NO. So why are the media giving so much credence and attention to a few radical, close-minded vocal types? They do it because it sells not because it is necessary.

Freedom of speech allows for questioning other religions. ["sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"] And, it's fine that someone feels guided and comforted by his/her religion. That does not, however, give them the right to chide members other faiths for their equally sincere beliefs.

The Bible, Koran, Torah, and every other "holy book" was written and interpreted by humans exercising free will. A quick, even cursory study of the history and principles of different religions quickly proves how much they all actually have in common.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Choking

Yes, I'm gagging about a photo that appeared in today's Washington Post. I honestly cannot say whether its more in outrage or sadness. Both feelings keep hitting me in the gut each time I look at the pic. John Moore of Getty Images captured a scene that every damn banker in this country should have to take a good long look at. A one year old, standing in his frilly little playpen watched as a sheriff's deputy shoved some of his toys as well as other household items into a giant plastic bag during an eviction. The little guy had a smile across his face because he clearly had no idea what was going on. I would hate to have been that deputy, standing inches away from the baby, hauling away his toys, knowing he would not have a home at the end of the day. We've all read about "sweat shops" where people sign thousands of foreclosure notices as quickly as they can, falsely claiming to be a bank vice president or someone else in authority. Perhaps they bury their shame about doing it because they are among the long term unemployed and need to feed and shelter themselves. We've also read that the majority of these foreclosures are unnecessary at best and illegal at worst. However, people who are living on the edge have very little recourse. What has happened to American Society that this sort of thing is happening? Innocent people trying to hold themselves and their families together during very hard times are being attacked by voracious gluttons who seem to have insatiable appetites for wealth. Several times in the past few days, I've heard a statement, backed by research, that 25% of America's wealth is controlled by 1% of it's citizens. Seems obvious that they're sitting on it rather than spending some to give people jobs. Noblesse oblige is an archaic mindset, but seems to be something the wealthiest among us should consider. There is nothing noble about watching one's neighbors struggle and then lose everything when one has so much more than necessary. Socialist? Perhaps. Humane? Definitely.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Brain Spit

My mind wanted to vomit something I read in the newspaper today. Like tasting something rancid I wanted it out of my body!

I've mentioned Rick Perry once before in this blog. I hope this will be my last mention of him. I don't want to draw any attention to a guy who panders to the lowest of the low. I am an independent, but I have to believe he's an embarrassment to his own party.

Reading a story about his family's hunting camp reinforced my low opinion of the guy. Granted said camp was named before he was born, but he's been a regular, proud host of visitors there.

Forgive my naivete, but by now I thought that even West Texans had learned what was, at the very least, polite language when referring to persons of color. Apparently not all of them have. The name of the camp is painted on a big, black boulder at the front gate: N-ggerhead.

That there are still such conspicuously displayed, insulting epithets reminiscent of one of America's most shameful periods is sickening. If this guy keeps spouting his racist, fundamentalist, backwards thinking he's going to dig himself into an even bigger ditch. Hmm -- maybe that's a good thing. Out of sight, out of mind . . .

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I wish . . .!

I was in the six items express lane at the store, quietly fuming.
Completely ignoring the sign, the man ahead of me
had slipped into the check-out line pushing a cart piled high with groceries.
Imagine my delight when the cashier beckoned
the man to come forward looking into the cart and asked sweetly,
"So which six items would you like to buy?"
I have no idea who wrote the above. It came in an email from my uncle and struck such a familiar, annoying chord that I had to share it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sticks and stones . . .

Since when did it become illegal for students, or anyone in the U.S. for that matter, to voice their disagreement/disapproval/displeasure with anyone else whether it be a private or public forum? Ten students from the University of Southern California are on trial for expressing themselves during a speech made on campus. Because of that, they are facing possible jail time, probation and more. This is far from news for that university and many, many others. University students were among the loudest protestors during the Vietnam era. Students around the country invaded and camped out in administrative buildings to protest the war, the draft and military recruiting on campus. In other words, student protests are nothing new. I suspect the difference in this case is that the students are Muslims and spoke out during a university-sponsored speech by Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Yes, it was rude to interrupt a guest speaker; but unlawful? No! Besides, I'm sure Ambassador Oren expected and was prepared for some "feedback" from his audience. Yes, the university was embarrassed by the unsolicited input from the students. I hardly think that punishing the Muslim Student Union is an appropriate reaction. Would the results have been the same had a member of an Evangelical Christian organization spoken up? Allowing free speech means accepting that speakers may pipe up in situations that might be embarrassing. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed that it is lawful for hate-filled, so-called Christians to picket military funerals causing extreme anguish for families and friends of the fallen. By comparison uttering "It's a shame this university has sponsored a mass murderer like yourself" to an Israeli official is pretty tame.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dad would have loved it. . .

This morning I heard what sounded like some sort of road paving machine. But then I realized it had a great rythm going and went to check it out. Above was about all I could see from our balcony, but the intricate drumming patterns were clear and got me thinking about my late Dad. In high school, he was a state drumming champion (Iowa) and always had great rythm. Far too infrequently, he would round up a brass incense burner, a porcelain lamp, the piano bench and any other handy hard surface and give a drumming concert. For an uptight, sober Norwegian, he had a drummer's soul. The event for which the red-coated drummers came, along with the rest of the band is going on right now. Don't know if I should stand for the National Anthem because of I'm not there, but. . . . . . . I'm back. Just couldn't sit through such a moving rendition! Now they're playing a fast, Spanish sounding piece. They're also competing with jets from National airport flying directly overhead -- those an ambulance siren and a cursed leaf blower. Anyway, hope everyone is having a nice Monday! I'm going back out to the freeby concert! Update: I should have known from the bright red blouses and white trousers that these guys were the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps. They put on a great, jazzy concert!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Love That Nitrous Oxide!

Went in for a two hour dental appointment this morning from which I exited in a righteously mellow mood. So what if the right side of my face has fallen and not gotten up -- yet. And so what if my lips are rubber and I can't drink liquids without them dribbling out of my mouth. I wasn't a basket case in the dentist's chair! Since childhood, I've been neurotic about dentists. [Long, ugly story I'll leave to your fertile imagination]. Even though I went through eight -- count 'em EIGHT years of orthodontia, I'm still terrified of needles and drills doing anything anywhere near my mouth. Until I found a dentist who uses numbing gel before she stabs me with the humongous Novocain needle, I avoided it. When I could no longer "gut-out" dental work, I basically stopped going. I'm paying for it now. I'm sure "laughing gas" has been around longer than I've been seeing dentists so the question begs: why the hell didn't I get any before now?! Knowing that I have several more appointments, I no longer have to suffer sleepless nights and shear terror upon entering the dentist's office. Good ole N.O. will be there for me! Happy weekend, y'all!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Magnificent Cold Front

For the first time in what seems like years, it's actually chilly outside. I'm lovin' it!! When the cold front came through, it brought brief showers and lots of wind.
To the west was a spectacular sunset and to the east,
what looked like a pink rainbow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Go, Betsy, GO!!

The above came to mind the moment I heard that Elizabeth Warren is running for the Democratic Nomination in the Massachusetts senatorial race. With absolutely no insult or disrespect intended, I'll repeat myself -- GO BETSY, GO!

Not only is she incredibly intelligent, competent and qualified for a senate seat and just about any other high-level leadership position -- she's a WOMAN -- my age!

Unlike Sara and Michele, Elizabeth doesn't blurt-out nonsense whenever given the chance. She knows what she's talking about. She'll fight tooth and nail for what's right and just and she can easily argue-down anyone who tries to distort her meaning. I LIKE that!

Realistically, she might go mad trying to deal with the foot-dragging, double-speaking members of Congress. Nevertheless, she is precisely what the Senate needs to goose some activity out of the good ole boys.

Yes, I acknowledge that there are already some outstanding female Senators, but Elizabeth carries a whip! [No, not literally, but she knows how to hold her own in debates without losing her footing or dignity.] One more woman in the Senate can only improve the odds that something good will get done.

As much as I love D.C., I might be tempted to move to Massachusetts so that I could vote for Elizabeth Warren.

Can you tell I'm a fan?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Untold Stories

My first instinct when the 9/11 commemoration hype became more and more pervasive was to try to avoid the whole thing. On that day ten years ago, I was three weeks out from a radical hysterectomy that wasn't healing right and three months out from the first of two breast cancer surgeries that year. I was already pretty much a basket case when Spouse broke the news that a plane had hit one of the Towers in NYC.

But then today, reading a story in the Washington Post Style section (of all places) forced me to change my mind. It was about two Air Force pilots stationed at Andrews AFB, just outside of the District. For ten years they kept their incredible mission from the general public. Steve Hendrix wrote their story.

-----------

Within minutes of the hit on the Pentagon, then Lt. Heather "Lucky" Penney and her commander, Col. George Degnon, received orders to stop Flight 93 before it could get to D.C.

Taking off they were sure they would not be returning. There wasn't time to arm their F16s. They would have to crash their planes into a commercial jet, filled with innocent passengers. They would not have come home if the passengers on 93 hadn't taken the situation into their own hands.

Learning about this started me thinking about the thousands of untold/unheard stories of survivors and rescuers. Some may never become public because the participants cannot bring themselves to remember. Others died before they could to tell their stories.

Sunday is a significant anniversary for every American and many more around the world. The terrorists won nothing. Just as the perpetrators of other attacks on American, they simply earned our disdain and awakened our patriotism.

Rather than relive my and others' terrifying experiences of ten years ago, I'll take time on Sunday to think about all those who couldn't tell their stories. I will also remember the comforting sound of our own fighter jets flying high over the city -- day and night for months -- protecting us.

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Living in Washington, D.C. is sometimes like living in a giant bullseye. Having said that, I feel safer today than I did ten years ago. It's my home and where I belong.

Note: I changed the title of this post because I thought it was too glib. I offer apologies to anyone I might have offended.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Very, very lucky

Spouse and I count ourselves extremely lucky. Irene breezed through D.C. and didn't leave a mark on us. I know several thousands more will be without power for a few more days and they have my sympathy. My youngest sister and her family live in Lusby, Maryland, on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay. Irene left many scars in that area. Schools are closed and it will take several more days before power and phone service are restored. Three trees came down on their property. One was a "gift" from a neighbors yard -- a big oak that crushed my nephew's truck. Two more narrowly missed hitting their house and several more, broken and leaning trees will have to be removed. My Mom stayed with my sister and her family through the hurricane because several of her Midwestern kids were concerned her little cottage, close to the Patuxent River would be in danger. As it turned out, she lost a few roofing shingles, but nothing else. Her retirement community lost power briefly during the night, so Mom's feeling very lucky, too. It was an exciting night at my sister's house. Mom/Grammy was glad to be there to help comfort 11 year old Alex who was still unsettled following the earthquake last Tuesday. The two of them decided they were having quite an adventure. As soon after the power went off, they all headed to bed. Alex slept between his mother and grandmother while his Dad and big brother made do in the living room. Several years ago, bro-in-law, Bill, installed a generator, so their refrigerator is still running along with a couple of lights and their neighbor is grateful for a long extension cord running between their houses, providng them with some power. I'm afraid the sound of chain saws and generators will outplay the cicadas for several more days. This hurricane could have been so much worse. Perhaps Mother Nature took pity on us because as Irene made landfall in several places, she weakened. I hope New Yorkers realize how lucky they are to have dodged a bullet this time. Towns and cities farther inland and on up into Maine and Canada were inundated and some may never recover. I thank God for sparing Spouse and me and pray that those who lost loved ones can find peace. Many, many more lost homes and personal belongings that cannot be replaced. I'm taking a lesson from that and gathering photos, letters and other irreplacable possessions into one package that I can grab and run with if necessary. It took an earthquake and hurricane all in one week to finally convince me that life is too precious to waste on stupid stuff like envy, regret, jealousy or pride. It won't be easy, but I'm going to try my best to remember that.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What's it all about, Alfie?

These peaceful, flag-waving, chanting marchers came by a few minutes ago. That's the State Department building in the background, so I figure they were trying to send a message there.
It took maybe twenty minutes for several hundred people to pass by, some banging drums and shouting.
I couldn't make out what they were chanting and it looked like their yellow flags had De-List Mex written on them. Guess I'll have to wait until CNN picks-up on them to figure out what they are trying to get across. Glad they came out before Irene visits this weekend. Her anticipated wrath was enough to postpone the dedication of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial scheduled for Sunday morning.
To my cherished, few, readers who live in Irene's path: Batten down the hatches!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Yesterday I asked What Gives? . . . today I found out.

The ground gave during a 5.9 earthquake centered 80 miles southwest of the District. I had just returned home from taking an elderly friend to the grocery store. What, at first felt like a very heavy truck driving by quickly became intense shaking.

My first thought was that some terrible structural problem was going to bring down our high rise apartment building. I heard things falling but didn't bother looking for them and went to the metal door frame of our bathroom.

Having never experienced an actual earthquake I started quaking. Grabbing my purse, I headed down the hall to collect a neighbor and took the stairs to get outside. Stuttering and knees quaking, I asked some college students with cellphones what they were hearing. That's when I heard it was an actual earthquake in Virginia.

It's been about one and a half hours since we rumbled and I'm somewhat anxious about after shocks, but since there's nothing I can do about it, I'm ready to evacuate again, if need be.

However, I can't get a troubling memory out of my mind. When the plane hit the Pentagon a few miles from us on September 11 the sensation felt very similar.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What Gives?

For the past month or so guys have been cutting and digging trenches down each side of our street. During the really hot weather, they worked at night. I could appreciate the need to wait til it was cooler, but the huge grinding blade they used to cut the pavement was really off-putting. It also caught people who normally park on the street by surprise.

Being a curious type, I have checked on their progress from time to time and am still puzzled as to what their mission was/is.

After cutting through the pavement, the debris was removed, leaving a neatly cut foot-wide trench. What looked like reinforcing bars were installed then dirt was packed in to street level. [I've never saw any pipes, cables or anything else installed.] Not long after, the crew returned, dug-up the compacted dirt and poured in paving material. The same is being repeated on the opposite side of the street right now.

Our street isn't what I'd call heavily-travelled and there are usually few potholes at the end of winter, so why all the digging and filling? Surely D.C. isn't into "make-work" projects for contractors . . . Anybody know what's going on?

Friday, August 19, 2011

My Turn to Gripe

GIVE THE MAN A BREAK! President Obama deserves a vacation and where he chooses to take it is his business [OK, and the Secret Service's,too]. He needs to get out the demented atmosphere of political Washington. I'm glad he's out there riding his bike with his family, breathing air untainted by politics.

GIVE KATE A BREAK! Where do fashionistas get off scolding Princess Kate for wearing the same outfit twice? I admire her practicality. She's sending a good message of making do with what she has. Besides, some outfits just make a woman feel good, so why not wear it often. As for those who criticize her make-up -- Oh, please! She's clearly lovely and loved by her husband.

SEPTEMBER 11 -- As the infamous anniversary date approaches please, let's remember it's nine/eleven, not nine/one/one. Even network talking heads get it wrong. Remembering the day is cringe-inducing enough without corrupting the date.

PLEASE. In the name of all that is good why can't television muckety-mucks put an end to reality shows? For the life of me, I cannot figure out why young women, who clearly have personality problems, would invite a camera to follow them through hissy-fits and childish though profane tirades while planning their special day. How could any male with even half a brain want to marry such a creature?! That's just one type of reality show. I admit I've watched very few. It's too embarrassing to watch people in what should be private situations.

DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT believe everything campaigning politicians tell you. August 17th was not Elvis Presley's birthday and, no she won't be able to swish her magic wand to bring gas prices down to $2.00 a gallon if elected president. As for Rick Perry: OMG!! Yes, he's good lookin' but man, oh, man he's dense! Grippin' and Grinnin' ain't gonna win no races. Griping about the status quo won't win friends or influence voters, either. Pull out before you make a total ass of yourself.

FRACKING may sound like something frat-boys do to new pledges, but it's far scarier. Oil companies are proudly announcing the promise of huge supplies of natural gas and oil just waiting to be tapped thousands of feet deep in the Earth. They add that we'll have many more years of fossil fuel to fill our gas tanks, warm our homes and keep America competitive with other oil producing nations. You betcha! What about the dangers of fracking? Fracking accidents have already contaminated ground water and released toxic gases. Injecting massive amounts of water and chemicals under high pressure into the material containing all the oil makes me wonder about geophysical damages, too. If you want to know more, check this out: Fracking - SourceWatch.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stevie T.

He could have been the inspiration for Charlie Brown: guileless innocence and earnest curiosity.

Stevie, his younger sister and parents lived in a garage apartment behind us when I was very young. Another young family occupied the upstairs apartment and all of us kids were of similar ages.

Stevie's father was a massive guy and in the Coast Guard. He was the only person who could approach his scary German Shepherd who, it seemed, spent his entire life chained to a post on their back porch. Mr. T. was domineering and not particularly fond of his only son. Mrs. T. was a tiny little woman, intimidated by her husband.

Stevie was a little awkward and shy, but he worked hard at trying to insert himself into others' lives. He might have been a little slow mentally but I never saw him get angry. We went through school together then lost track of each other after graduating from high school. I went off to college and Stevie went off to work.

He died about this time last year. The cause was not mentioned but the abundant appreciation and love of his many friends was staggering. I felt ashamed for not making more of an effort to befriend him when I had the chance.

The moral of this story is that each of us has the potential to be a significant force for good in others' lives. Stevie's legacy is one worth remembering. His kindness and acceptance of others' faults and failings earned him respect and love.I wish I'd been smart enough to recognize and appreciate those qualities when I was four.

[left to right: Stevie, me, my big brother]

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What the &%#*?!

Decorum is a useful tool in just about any given situation. It helps to maintain the dignity of all parties as well as discouraging bad or dangerous behavior.

The Congress of the United States of America used to be a bastion of decorum.

It has been infuriating as well as hideously embarrassing to watch the country's elected representatives bicker, name-call and generally grouse about not getting their way on various issues. They exhibited more slapstick than a serious debate on the future financial and social standing of our beloved country.

I can't help but attribute this to the so-called Tea Party. They were elected because of their hyperbole and ranting about issues near and dear to every American. They told "the people" what they wanted to hear though not the full story. Reality never entered their minds.

Sure; taxes are a bane to everyone, but they quite literally keep many of us alive and sheltered. Think about people you know who are just barely hanging on trying to live on Social Security or other federal benefits. Then think about many other Americans living high off the hog from wealth they earned AND collecting Social Security. That monthly government check probably amounts to a drop in the bucket in their overall income. Is that fair?!

Also, is anyone thinking about the fact that, even after all the years you paid into the Social Security pot you draw all of it within the first two or three years you start collecting benefits?

Of course there are flaws in all federal programs, some of them so heavily entrenched that it will take years to put them on a more practical footing. It has to start somewhere and Congress seems determined not to touch any entitlements or tax measures. Both houses are deadlocked and pretty useless. President Obama must be frustrated out of his mind by their game-playing. I know I am.

Playing "Chicken" with people's lives and finances is not the answer. And the stock market is the biggest bunch of chickens yet! Now is the time to invest in our country, not hold back.

Remember: you can't take it with you!

Monday, July 25, 2011

For No Particular Reason

Flowers from my sister's back deck.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Wedding

Spouse and I flew out to northern Illinois to attend my niece's wedding, held on July 2nd. Bethany and Steve have been together for seven years but neither Spouse nor I had met the groom. Not only is he a really nice guy who clearly adores my niece but he's not at all hard to look at! The wedding was simple and lovely and, even trying hard not to, I cried. When my sister was escorted to her seat at the front, I flashed back to her wedding day 30+ years ago. She and her Tom were so ready for marriage and so obviously in love that I couldn't help but shed happy tears.

When Bethany and Steve exited from the service, I bubbled-over again, so the picture is blurry but the memory is crystal clear.

The reception at a resort in a more rural setting was a fabulous party. It was so fun to see my sister finally let loose and enjoy herself after months of planning and preparations. Tom's words for the newlyweds were tender and hope-filled. Both the bride and her sister/maid of honor shed tears when he mentioned times he'd enjoyed with both of his girls camping and cooking out when they were members of Indian Princesses.

To make the evening even more special, the two families had selected pictures of parents, grandparents and the bride and groom when they were babies and young children. A professional then assembled them into a video with appropriate music. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when it finished. It was nice to be reminded of family members who were no longer with us at such a heartwarming event.

Before a delicious dinner and exceptionally good wines were served, the cake ritual took place. No one wanted to see this couple cram cake up eachother's noses as seems to have become SOP at some weddings. Everyone, including the few who tried to encourage such bad behavior cheered after they lovingly (and neatly) fed eachother a bit of cake.

The dance floor was filled with joyous, gyrating youngsters and not-so-youngsters for several hours. Everyone enjoyed letting off steam after the seriousness of the ceremony. And, thankfully, the bouquet and garter tosses were more or less dignified but fun.

Weddings are especially meaningful for people who have been married for a lot of years. We've been there/done that and know how hard it can be. We also know, having hung-in through the rough times, that it is totally worth the effort. Seeing how Bethany and Steve handled the pressures of their wedding and still maintained a confident, loving connection with each other while enjoying time with all their guests was impressive. I have a very good feeling about their future.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is she pregnant?!

Sunday evening I heard what I thought was a fussy child out in our hallway. Didn't think much about it because there is a fussy child living down the hall from us. When it didn't stop, I listened more closely. It was a cat! I've been a life-long dog person but hearing a cat where one doesn't expect to hear one got my attention. Before I could open our door to see what was what, two young women knocked on it to ask if we were missing a cat. No, sorry, not ours. Of course curiosity grabbed Spouse and me and we went down the hall to check it out. This is what we saw. She was very calm and didn't mind being petted and handled but she was determined to get into the apartment door she stayed close to. The young man who lives there had brought out a carton in case she decided to pop kittens. Spouse ran back to get a beach towel to pad the box. When I laid it on its side, she willingly walked into it and laid down. Good. At least she would have a soft, private spot in which to deliver her babies. By now there was a small group of us wondering what to do about this lovely creature. I had called the complex front office and they eventually sent a plastic-badge-security-guard who joined us staring at the cat. A neighbor who owns a cat then joined our little group and suggested we call the Washington Humane Society. I had walked out of our apartment with our cordless phone and one of the girls used her Blackberry to look up the number. Being a Sunday night, the recorded message recommended calling another number, which I did and got another recorded message. [At that point I became aware that I was standing in a group, in the hall with messy hair, no make-up, wearing a scant sundress and nothing else. Too late -- my shame was there for the world to see.] Anyway -- getting back to pretty kitty -- the long and short of it is when I finally reached animal control I had to give my name and number. The woman I spoke with said someone would come to fetch the cat, however, she wasn't "allowed to tell" me when that might be. The young man and two girls mentioned earlier, were on their way to a late dinner date and the crowd in the hall had dispersed, so I felt pressured to "handle the situation til they came back." Now, remember, people thought this cat was about to give birth and I know nothing about cats; neither does Spouse. We tried putting the towel-lined box in front of our apartment door where we could keep an eye on her without having to bring her in (I've got allergies). She had other ideas. She immediately left the relative comfort of the box to return to the floor in front of the door she thought was her home at the end of the hall. S'OK -- animal control would be coming for her, so we moved the box back to the end of the hall and she walked back into it. With heavy hearts Spouse and I returned to our own apartment, closed and locked the door and thought we were finished with the situation. I sat up until 1 a.m. waiting for animal control to call saying they were on their way. Never happened and I've never heard anything back from them. It's been almost two days and I can't get pretty kitty out of my mind. Someone in our impromptu group speculated that a building resident had dumped her on our floor when they realized she was pregnant. The way she stayed so close to the door of the 01 apartment on our floor leads me to believe she lived in another apartment in that tier. I hope someone -- not ME -- investigates that. I also hope she is just a plump kitty and wasn't pregnant. I cannot imagine how someone could so cruelly abandon a vulnerable animal. There was no way she could have entered our floor without human intervention. I hope animal control catches the perp!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Same Sex Marriage

New York's adoption of laws allowing two people of the same gender to marry each other is a positive move. However, it reminds me of a lingering question: where does the separation of church and state come down on this issue? Before any couple can be married, in either a civil or religious union, they are required to purchase a license from the jurisdiction in which they plan to marry. If there really is a separation between church and state why would a government object to a couple of men or a couple of women marrying each other? Marriage is sanctioned, if you will, by either the state and church or just the state. I cannot argue with religious institutions determining who may be married in their denomination. But by what right do states get to choose who can marry whom? Yes, I know most states don't approve of first cousins marrying first cousins or siblings marrying each other. And, of course, there are age restrictions. These are reasonable because of genetic and other health concerns. Most states have already backed out of adults' bedrooms, recognizing they have no business dictating sexual behavior between consenting adults. Besides, we all know that marriage isn't all about the sex anymore! Anyone who still believes that is living in the dark ages. Of course, I support laws to protect children from incest, pedophiles and other inappropriate behavior. Children have no way of understanding or agreeing to sexual behavior. But I'm talking about the institution of marriage here. Why should two people who are prepared to devote their lives to each other, with all the legal ramifications and responsibilities, be denied that right based solely on their sexual orientation? For many these days, marriage is taken lightly and treated like a big party wherein a bride gets to boss everyone else around and have everything she wants for "her day." A splashy wedding doesn't guarantee a stable marriage. Others, mostly those who cannot legally (yet!) marry the person of their choice desire it to the point of pain. How can it be fair to exclude these people, for no other reason than their sexual orientation, from taking a life altering step that is legal for most everyone else? Is there a secret legion of Puritans running government? I cannot see any other reason to deny legal, civil marriages to gay and lesbian couples. Am I missing something?

Friday, June 24, 2011

He's Movin' On

There's a big, white moving truck across the street, emptying a lovely, old house on the grounds of the first naval observatory in D.C. Yes, there was another before the more famous one on Massachusetts Ave. Spouse and I are lucky to have a view of the far, prettier, older one across from the State Department and behind the U.S. Institute for Peace building.

Former Secretary of Defense Gates and his wife are leaving the spin-cycle-life of D.C. to return to civilian life, presumably away from Washington.

His years serving in the federal government have been jam-packed. I've noticed him coming home at all hours and on any day. His travel schedule would have been enough to exhaust much younger people yet he always carried on and through.

Maintaining professional decorum, he was still able to display honest affection and admiration for our Americans in uniform. Foreign leaders also respected him for his personal integrity, strategic intelligence and diplomatic skills.

Washington needs more men and women of Robert M. Gate's calibre. Self-aggrandizement never occurred to him and duty to his president and country always came first.

Having served two presidents -- from different parties, no less -- with extraordinary grace, intelligence and endless patience, he deserves a peaceful, private, and long vacation. Godspeed, Dr. and Mrs. Gates.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"Popping the Question"

That term bugs me whenever I read or hear it. What is it with young couples these days? Since when did it become de rigueur for the guy to "pop the question" -- a.k.a. asking for someone's hand in matrimony. Frankly, I think I'd prefer the full body . . . I enjoy reading DCBlogs.com even though it has a definite slant towards young, single people. No problem there. I was once young and single and remember the joys and sorrows of dating. What makes me shudder is the desperation that comes through in so many posts. I thought the women's movement had freed young women and girls from the stigma of singlehood. I was an early victim of this "new thinking." When I went away to college in 1967, I fully expected to graduate, teach school for a couple of years, get married and start a family. That was the well-established formula for all "girls" at the time. The women's movement condemned all that, something that was difficult for many of us to accept. Slowly we came to realize that we COULD have fulfilling careers; we COULD excel in sports and mathematics; we COULD live happily without a husband and/or children; etc., etc. Many men wanted nothing to do with the new woman. They didn't want to accept that women had equal intelligence and didn't like being treated like girls. I used to get so angry during group conversations when I'd ask a question or make a comment only to have someone respond to the nearest male instead of to me! That and being regarded simply as a pair of boobs was beyond insulting. The flip side of the women's lib coin was an increase in sexual freedom which the guys really didn't seem to mind. Thankfully, some men eventually "got the message" and started treating us more or less as equals -- salary inequities aside. Why then do so many of today's young women seem so meek and needy? Granted, we're still not fairly paid, but in nearly every other way, we're competing on a far more level playing field than we had in the 60s and 70s. Why can't a woman phone last evening's date to say she had a good time and enjoyed his company? Why can't a woman and man simply decide to marry each other and do it without investing tens of thousands of dollars in a one-day event which often causes arguments over silly things like color schemes, venues, and other unnecessary accoutrements? Why must there be candles, flowers, an outrageously unaffordable ring in a fancy little box presented from a debased position at a specially chosen location?? I thought this sort of thing went out with powdered wigs! Ladies: I'm here to tell you that you are allowed to act like a human and not just a silly, jabbering goofy-gal. My generation made that possible. AND, you don't need a mate to complete you. I am an example of that. After I broke my third engagement at the age of 28 I started enjoying my independence and the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted. I bought a car and discovered new places while getting lost (no sense of direction . .. *sigh*). Sure, I dated, but it wasn't something I needed. Four years later, after I'd stopped being concerned about finding a mate, he showed up! After almost two years of co-habitation, spouse and I decided consciously and together to marry each other. There was no bent knee and no"popping" (no pun intended). We had talked about it and just realized that it was time to legalize things. Since then it has been 28 years of love and war* and totally worth it. *Personal evolutions aren't always compatible, but we've accepted them because we love each other. I think an inability to handle that causes many of today's divorces. No one is perfect and the sooner I realized that applies to me, too, the easier it was to accept Spouse's faults and foibles. After all, he accepts mine and is still here!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Therapy/Schmerapy

What philandering, stupid male humans need is not therapy, but to grow up. I won't call them men because that implies a certain level of maturity. Guys like Anthony, Arnold, John and way too many more are simply hormonal boys in grown-up bodies.

I'm so tired of people "taking full responsibility" and "seeking therapy" when what they need is a swift kick in the butt and training on what it means to be an adult.

If people aren't smart enough to recognize their own shameful and/or stupid behavior, they should not be in positions of responsibility or leadership. Sadly, it seems that the more powerful and/or wealthy some become, the less maturity they exhibit.

Anthony Weiner needs to kiss his wife's feet everyday for the rest of his life -- if she's willing to stay with him. Before that, he needs to conserve the miniscule bit of dignity he has left and resign from Congress. Enough already!

Friday, June 10, 2011

I quit

After nearly 16 years of struggle, frustration and sinking hopes, I am giving up a battle. I still believe it is worth the fight, but I'm too tired and frustrated to carry on.

There are many advantages to living in a city. However, it's one of the disadvantages that I have lost the will to fight even though it affects far more people than me.

I'm speaking of commuter buses that, on a daily basis, park on city streets (in my case on the shoulder across the street from our apartment complex) and idle for several hours, killing time waiting to retrieve their passengers from jobs in D.C. to return them to their suburban homes.

Like many longtime residents, I remember days, especially during the hot months, when skies were brown with inversions: a combination of heat and air pollutants. Breathing was painful and eyes watered. Thankfully, we've come a long way from those days.

Laws were passed to prevent the kind of behavior I've tried to tackle all these years. Busses have even been granted special parking areas while they wait to collect passengers. Tour buses are a serious problems for other parts of D.C., but I'm specifically addressing commuter bus companies -- Ehre, Maryland Transit Authority, Loudoun Country Transit and others.

I have phoned their dispatchers to remind them of the law and the fact that their drivers are also wasting a lot of fuel idling for hours on end. By nature, I'm not a combative person, so responses have ranged from "sorry, there's nothing we can do about it" to "thank you for calling - click."

Calling the non-emergency number for D.C. police is pretty useless because our cops have far more important problems to deal with. I finally found the right office to handle this problem the Public Works. Last year they even sent out an inspector - at my invitation - to sit on our balcony so he could witness the situation first hand. He and his supervisor were most helpful and sympathetic but eventually had to move on to other problems.

I started logging bus arrival and departure times to send in, but the weather turned cold and wet and I gave up.

Somewhere in all D.C.'s bureaucracy, there must be a fair solution to this issue. Commuter bus drivers don't return to their terminals because they might be late picking up their afternoon passengers. They need a place to park their buses, find shelter, a bathroom and maybe a place to eat and dump trash from their buses other than in our gutters.

Just caught these two, with a third I couldn't get into the picture, a few minutes ago. The other I took last week. Both days were unhealthy for young, elderly and people with breathing problems. We've also had record heat, so I can kinda underdstand the drivers wanting to sit in their air cooled buses -- but all three? Why couldn't they get friendly and all gather in just one bus to stay cool, killing time for their scheduled pick-ups? I've asked that question before, but get silence. I hope there is someone out there who is willing to pick up where I'm leaving off. Almost two decades of beating my head against a wall is all I can give.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Flutterby

It might be a moth, but what do I care? It's Thursday!

Friday, June 3, 2011

T.J. and me

Tom Jefferson, the guy who built Monticello and UVA, and I share a birthday -- April 13 -- give or take a couple hundred years. I've always admired his free spirit and savoir-faire. Nevertheless, dancing around his memorial statue just seems wrong. So to the group that plans a second dance tomorrow evening: CUT IT OUT!! Now Tom might be the first to say "let's dance" but I very much doubt he would be comfortable doing a jig inside Lincoln's Memorial or any other dedicated to a former national leader. Can anyone even imagine dancing around the soon to be opened Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial? These memorials are not what I'd call sacred, but they hold special meaning for many of us. Every time I drive by the mammoth statue of Dr. King, I feel a chill. I cannot forget where I was and what I was doing when I heard he had been assassinated. It was the same lost, breathless feeling we all had when JFK was killed. Granted, T.J. lived a good long life and died in bed. Still, we owe it to the millions of visitors, Americans and foreigners alike, to show respect for our heroes. It would be totally crass to dance at the Vietnam Wall or the WWII Memorial or any other reminders of American sacrifices. Thomas Jefferson devoted his life to seeing that a brand new nation survived it's birth and would flourish. [Yeah, we all know about his personal life -- so what's new?!] He earned our respect. Those who plan to again "dance on his grave" have not. You're free to dance on the stairs or the terrace, but leave the inner sanctum in peace, OK?!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On my soap box, again . . .

Wealth can turn otherwise reasonably intelligent people - men in this case - into blathering, blustering idiots. I've nicknamed the two gents of whom I speak The Dumpling and IMFunky.

At the very least, The Dumpling recognizes when he's gone overboard on his self-aggrandizing ego trips. IMFunky may never wise-up. Both are accustomed to being admired, feared, envied, and responsible for embarrassing and disgusting those around them. Being able to buy their way out of trouble requires lawyers on retainers; probably considered a legitimate business expense.

Wisdom doesn't come easily and must be sought. IMFunky seems not at all interested in wisdom, even as he considered running for president of his home country. Claiming to be a socialist, his latest escapade found him in a $3000 per night NYC hotel suite. Then, moments before his flight was to take-off, police removed him from a first class airline seat, hand-cuffed and hauled him off to court.

He had to have been one pissed-off guy at that point. Not only had the hotel maid he tried to seduce not cooperated, he left his cellphone in the suite and had to hightail it to the airport to ditch the U.S. when he realized he might be in trouble.

I can just picture him buckled into his leather, first class seat, smugly breathing a sigh of relief, perhaps sipping a glass of wine. I'd give two bucks to have seen his face when the cops boarded and arrested him!

The Dumpling has every right to spend his money however he pleases -- it's his. On the other hand, IMFunky is a disgrace to the organization he lead whose mission is to aid developing countries. Granted, his NYC stay was personal, but I would wager that official, business travel is no less luxurious. I think about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be better spent on digging wells so poor villagers could have a source of clean water or providing mosquito netting to slow down the spread of malaria.

Shame is a useful deterrent parents use to try to keep their kids on the straight and narrow. I feel that it has become so politically incorrect and "damaging to the psyche" that many no longer recognize behavior that would earn shame. Anything goes.

I'm glad The Dumpling has dropped out of a race he never intended trying to win. I hope not to see his hair face again for a long time.

As for IMFunky, I will try to avoid seeing his dour face though it will be everywhere for the foreseeable future. It's his anger at getting caught with someone he probably considered just another female body that really sets me off. I hope he fries!

I will be cheering on his victim who, by the way, has more courage than both these guys combined!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Civility Is Not Dead

The other day I followed a man, probably not much older than me, into an office supply store. He was terrible bent over and walked leaning heavily on a cane. It didn't bother me that he was slowing me down getting into the store. I was more concerned by the pain he appeared to be in.

We both found what we needed and stood in adjacent lines to pay. My old empathetic Peg-person came out and I had to speak to him. The cashiers were having some trouble with their machines, so we had to wait anyway.

When I made a comment about how beautiful the day was, he quickly turned toward me. When he raised his head there was a glow in his whole-face smile. I was completely taken aback by his obvious joy at making even a simple connection with someone else. My smile widened in response and we chatted amiably for several minutes.

I mention this because I've talked to strangers all my life. Growing up in the Midwest, it came naturally. When I moved to D.C. forty odd years ago it was a habit I couldn't break, no matter how many odd looks I got. In the late 1960s it was unseemly for a young white woman to speak to a young black man in passing on the street. However, my friendly "good morning" or "hello" nearly always was met with an equally friendly, if surprised, response.

In the grocery store, I sometimes regret my openness. Ever now and again I'll greet someone who desperately needs or wants a conversation. Spouse frequently gets bent out of shape because I cannot be rude, even to people who won't stop bending my ear. An appropriate opportunity will eventually present itself for me to escape.

Christmas Eve day two years ago is an example. As I was perusing cheeses, a young black man approached me and wished me a Merry Christmas. I returned the greeting which opened the verbal floodgates for him. He then proudly confessed that he hadn't taken a drink in 7 months and so many days. I enthusiastically congratulated him and wished him continued success. He then went on to detail how he had done it and even though people started to watch and listen us, I just smiled and nodded.

In the end, I offered him a handshake which he turned into a hug and we parted ways.

I believe that every human being has a personal story that they need to share. Now, I'm not sure I would share such a personal journey as this young man did with a total stranger, but it pleased me deeply to know he felt he could confide in me. Our conversation may not have changed his life, but it did mine. It reconfirmed my trust in people and the fact that civility is not dead.

Friday, May 6, 2011

I call it "Scarface"

I snapped this a few years ago in old Jamestown, Virginia. To me it's a metaphor for the will of the American People. This old tree survived a catastrophe and Americans will too. Now that a huge source of evil has been eliminated, our healing can continue, perhaps with renewed hope and less anguish. Amen.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

They're Teenagers

I'm talking about the Decorah Three: three baby eaglets born to a long time mating pair. What used to be gray blobs of fluff with sharp beaks are now awkward, bigger blobs of fluff interspersed with more mature feathers. Their feet are huge and as they stumble around the nest, they remind me of my younger sibs when they were teens, first waking up in the morning, not entirely sure of where they were. So much is going on in teens' bodies during those weeks (for eagles) and years (for humans). Sleep happens far more frequently than being awake. In this particular eagles' nest, finding a comfortable position seems to be no problem. The nest is huge, but those birds are growing fast. Spouse and I have always enjoyed watching the baby ducks and geese in D.C.'s Constitution Garden and the reflecting pool off the Lincoln Memorial. Even with all the crowds, the ducks nest in bushes and seem unafraid of taking their chicks out to feed. Truthfully, none of the birds around here are afraid of anything! Rather than migrating, they hang around all year. This time of year, there are always stories and photos in the newspapers about a mama duck and her ducklings striding right out into the middle of Constitution or Independence Avenues. Kind hearted drivers stop and occasionally, one will get out to hold back the rest of the cars. The really awkward situations are when mating ducks decide to nest in potted trees on the terraces of fancy office buildings or under cooling towers. There's no way to feed the babies because they can't fly down to a pond. Many building managers are frustrated by these feathered families because tenants get seriously goofy about those critters. "Oh, you can't let them starve!" or "Let's put out some water and bird seed for them." Of course that guarantees they will return year after year. . . The eagles are nesting in a perfectly reasonable place and I admire the guy who climbed high enough to install a camera so the rest of the world could watch them. P.S. I wonder how painful it is when those adult feathers start breaking through their skin. I suppose it might be like a human baby cutting teeth -- ouch!