Thursday, December 13, 2012

How to Enjoy the Holidays (and save your sanity)

I know, that sounds contrary to what most of us anticipate about Christmas and celebrating a new year, but I have my reasons. There is far too much stress around most holidays.

For those who have recently had their hearts broken, lost someone dear to them, lost a job, seen a financial decline or anything else that puts a damper on their mood, listen-up. You are hardly alone and you can get through this.

Every one of us has certain expectations about what should happen during the coming weeks. Traditions must be adhered to, and should not be altered in any way. Forget the nutmeg in the eggnog always consumed after church on Christmas Eve -- blasphemy!

Menus for certain meals are written in stone and heaven forbid the cook forgets to serve Grandma’s rutabaga casserole even though everyone hates it! And cookies . . .? Well, lets just say there can never be too many varieties. Even if she/he who must mix, roll-out, cut, bake and decorate stopped enjoying that activity years ago, the cookie jar (if not several) must be filled to brimming with beautifully decorated, delicious cookies in several varieties -- it’s tradition!

Timing is also crucial to the success of the Christmas celebration. If someone wants to sleep in on Christmas morning; forget it, especially if there are children in the house. If they sleep at all, they’re always up before the sun chomping at the bit to dive into all their gifts. [When I was little “Santa” would leave our stockings outside our bedroom doors in hopes of occupying us until breakfast hours later. While grabbing them from the hall floor, we tried to stifle the stupid bells on them, but usually gave ourselves away to a light-sleeping parent.]

The person who is probably the most stressed during Christmas is the one who does most of the cooking. I, for one, never have been good at timing dishes to be done at the same time. It also seems that meat and poultry have a mysterious and arbitrary way of deciding when they will reach the correct serving temperature. Can’t tell you how many times everyone has been seated at the festively decorated table, candles lit, hungry as bears waiting for the main course to reach serving temperature. Other carefully prepared dishes sit cooling or warming (remember, there’s always a Jell-O mold) until they lose some of their appeal.

I won’t even touch on the fact that children are seldom satisfied with the gifts others have so thoughtfully made or purchased for them. That and the fact that during the course of the day, often the boxes gifts came in become more interesting than what they contained.

No, the way to survive and perhaps enjoy the holidays is to go into them with absolutely no expectations.

Being pleasantly surprised when things go well is so much better for one’s soul than being disappointed or frustrated when inevitable glitches happen.

If the top layer of the Jell-O mold slides off when being removed from its mold onto it’s special platter, so what -- it will still taste good. Dump it into a bowl and add a spoon.

If the old family dog loses control while everyone is opening their gifts on the family room floor, turn your grimace into a patient smile, grab the paper towels and mop it up, knowing that s/he is excited, too.

If you aren’t gifted with that special something, get over it and keep your disappointment to yourself. Buy it for yourself if it’s that important to you.

If someone has too much to drink at dinner and turns rude or lewd, in advance, ask someone to gently escort the offender into another room to keep watch over a special candle set out just for that purpose. It becomes his/her responsibility to make sure it doesn’t burn down to low. [I’m sure you can come up with something better to handle these difficult situations.]

Last, but not least, ask the cook/host specifically what you can do to ease their burden during the day. Don’t push if you’re told everything is in hand, but look for opportunities to help like picking up discarded paper napkins, empty glasses/punch cups.

Distracting tired, bored, hungry, angry, whiny children can be a huge gift to everyone. If you know there will be children where you’re spending Christmas day, try to think of simple activities to do with them. Even loops of string can keep them busy if you know how to teach them to make a cat’s cradle and all those other funky shapes with string.

Gratitude for others’ efforts to please you are always best expressed at the time, followed up in writing -- on actual paper in your handwriting. Getting a piece of mail other than a bill or advertisement is special. It doesn’t cost more than a couple of dollars and a couple of minutes to make a lasting impression.

Holidays are about family ties which can be mixed blessings. Relatives may not be your favorite people but we make the effort because we share history and roots. And, thankfully, we gather for just a few hours, right?

So . . . . Relax. Don’t worry if you cannot get everything done that you think you “should” do. Do what you can, get enough sleep and remember that no one is perfect, including you.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

Christmas this year will be unlike any I've every had.  Only for the second time, Mom is traveling to the Midwest to spend the holiday with my three sibs out there.  Because of my recalcitrant back, Spouse and I will not be driving to Solomons to enjoy the day with my sister and her clan.

I used to go all out for Christmas.  Buying and decorating a live Christmas tree, stringing lights along our balcony railing, baking way too many cookies and, my favorite task: wrapping gifts.  This year, I've done all my shopping online and can still enjoy wrapping gifts, but the rest has gone by the wayside.

Growing up in northern Illinois, we were pretty sure we'd have snow on Christmas Day.  Sometimes it would start falling on the drive home from the midnight church service.  A very nice touch.  Here, in D.C. today, it's 60 degrees with no snow in sight for the foreseeable future.  Sooooo, I'm posting  pics from Snowmageddon a few years ago.  Of course, it didn't happen during Christmas, but it was beautiful just the same.


For those of you who love snow as much as I do, I hope you have some for Christmas and someone else to shovel/plow it.  For those of you who do not like snow, move to Central America!

Happy Winter, Y'all!!
 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Still alive but slow to recover

For my enormous cadre of devoted fans, I wanted to let you know I'm still alive and will return to my blog as soon as I can.

Went into the hospital October 3rd for a pretty straightforward surgical procedure to end my sciatica pain.  Should have been there 2 or 3 nights.  My body had other ideas.  Pneumonia was a better diagnosis than the suspected pulmonary embolisms that made me short of breath following surgery.  Still, I wouldn't wish it on anyone.  And, as everyone knows, there is no sleeping while in the hospital.  Between breathing treatments, blood checks and your standard vital signs checks, there simply isn't time for anything but occasional cat naps.

Eight days later with technicolored arms and hands from numerous "pokes" (most unsuccessfull) I'm back home.  There is always a price to pay for getting one's wish.  Mine was to leave the hospital a few days early.  My payment is having legs and feet that look like they belong to the Pillsbury Dough Boy.  Having had back surgery, I can't very well hoist them above my heart to bring down the swelling.

But. . . . .

The good news is that Spouse just came home from a run to Trader Joe's to pick up two of my favorite things:  Morello Cherries and Petite Palmieres.   Feast Time!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Has CNN abandoned its moral compass?

It seems now, more than ever, CNN is all about getting the scoop without regard for possible consequences.  The network certainly is not unique in how it goes after the big news.  Still, I had believed CNN was somehow a little more professional and even-handed than other networks.

I was so wrong.

Within hours of the cold-blooded murders of four American embassy personnel in Libya, CNN managed to find a personal journal belonging to Ambassador Chris Stevens.  I'm sure CNN staff were not the only ones rooting through the rubble for whatever they could turn into news.  Right away they knew they had fodder for several day's worth of sensational stories.  [I can picture the guy who found it stuffing it under his shirt to prevent anyone else from seeing it.]

Would it have been appropriate to turn the journal over to authorities or immediately arrange to have it returned to Stevens' family?  Of course.  Instead, they copied it and shared it with their CNN colleagues.  Several hours later, it occurred to someone that perhaps the ambassador's family might want to know what had been found.

Scruples and ethics are too often ignored these days.  Because of the ability to spread news within seconds of an event, considering the consequences of such precipitate action is left until it is too late to discern a mistake or a reason it would have been better to withhold certain information.

It's bad enough when reporters stick cameras and microphones in survivors' faces to ask how they felt following a tragedy or terrifying event.  Using the personal musings and observations of another without permission is just plain depraved and unforgivable.  The ambassador no doubt intended to keep his journal private.  Being that he couldn't speak for himself, CNN's trespass is even worse.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hard Questions redux


After listening to and reading the politcal banter going on, I went back to a post I wrote during the previous presidential campaigns.  As much as I admire President Obama, I can't say I'm pleased with where we, as a nation, are right now.  I blame it on the concerted obstinancy of both political parties to avoid agreeing on anything.  They can't even agree on tit-for-tat! 

Sadly, the standstill isn't quite that easy to explain because it's not all about politics.  Racism and a class system that should have died when our Constitutiuon and Bill of Rights were written still strongly influence too many Americans.  Social, racial and economic differences are more pronounced, causing bigger and bigger rifts among us.  We seem to be devising our own "divide and conquer" process.

I'm afraid not much as changed since I wrote the following in September 2008.

Do we really want two more self-proclaimed mavericks running the nation in our names? Can good sense trump experience when nothing has been learned from history? Where has all the cash been hiding while Americans go hungry and homeless? Should failed C.E.O.s of failed companies give some back? Should people with a history of "working" all the loop-holes be appointed to the SEC and IRS to help sort out and eliminate the loop-holes? Should there be a limit on Social Security benefits for the wealthiest of the wealthy? Should those who lacked opportunity, education and/or popularity receive larger benefits to help compensate for disparities in their earning power? Will the U.S.A. continue on it's path of eliminating the middle class while increasing the number of poor and consolidating the control of wealth among the few? I admit I don't know the answers. I do hope, however, that greater minds are considering these issues. They are but a few that are crucial to our return to a nation of thriving, fair, and caring people. Our reputation in the world may depend on the answers.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Random Act of Kindness


Friday appeared to be developing into one of the worst days of my life. Thanks to the kindness of a stranger and, perhaps dumb luck, it turned out to be a blessed day.

For several months, I’ve been suffering with Sciatica .  High doses of meds made only a small dent in the pain. After two steroid injections into my spine, the pain kept getting worse.

Out of desperation I scheduled an urgent appointment with my orthopedist last Friday. New x-rays revealed that my hip is badly damaged and has been the source of new, excruciating pain. Seeing my pain-twisted face, my busy doctor went above and beyond, phoning his friend, my spine and pain specialist to see if he could give me a steroid injection before the long, holiday weekend.

Barely holding back tears, I headed to the parking garage thinking I’d take a chance that the specialist, who hadn’t called back and whose office was just a few blocks away, would see me.

Trying to wield a brand new cane, I stepped into the garage and promptly was hit with another fierce surge of pain that caught me up short. It hurt so much that I started crying in earnest, feeling hopeless.

I would have understood anyone wanting to avoid my “scene”. However, one caring lady heading into the building stopped to offer help. I don’t know about you, but that kind of loving concern, makes me even more emotional. She gently offered me words of comfort and encouragement.

This dear lady, who surely had health concerns of her own, took the time and effort to help me walk to my car and get into it. I was so pained, self-centered and anxious to get to my doctor’s office before he left that I did a shamefully poor job of thanking her. She gave me the strength to get myself to the specialist who, miraculously, was able to treat me when his office staff told me it would be impossible. [I think my mascara-streaked face might have hinted at how desperate I was.]

I will look for opportunities to “pay it forward.” It’s the least I can do. Oh, and the steroid injection hurt like hell but has relieved about 60% of my pain.  I think I’ll live . . . . 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is it something in the water?

Tom Head is a county judge in Lubbock, Texas.  One might assume that in order to be a judge he must be intelligent, unbiased and fair.  Apparently these characteristics are not required in Lubbock.

Judge Head has announced that, if President Obama is  re-elected that the U.S. will be plunged into another civil war.  The man is convinced that the President is about to sign away American sovereignty to the United Nations.  [Huh?]

He's envisioning a second American revolution although he refers to it as another civil war.  He's preparing for when the U.N. blue helmets invade.  He also claims that he has recruited the local sheriff to back him up when he takes up arms to fight against such a catastrophe.

I find it fascinating that a man in his position could come up with such a hypothesis.  Any American fifth-grader knows that there are three distinct branches in our government, one of which is the legislative branch.  None can unilaterally decide on anything big or small without input from the other two.

Considering that so many of the current members of the United States Congress seem hell-bent on preventing President Obama from accomplishing anything at all [regardless of the consequences for the American people] Tom Head should be able to see that his fears are completely unfounded.  In fact, he needs to step down from the bench and go quietly with the men in white coats.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bug Juice


I know -- it sounds disgusting -- like what can happen when one rides a motorcycle without a helmet, while grinning. Not lovely.

Nevertheless, bug juice was what my grandmother called a concoction she kept in her frig at all times. Having been born in 1893, she was raised to waste nothing. She wasn’t a terribly enthusiastic or creative cook, but she did her best.

Getting back to the aforementioned beverage -- essentially, Grammy made a pot of tea, chilled it in a covered pitcher then added whatever fruit juice was on hand. Sometimes it would be the syrup from a can of peaches and/or fruit cocktail. Other times she might add leftover lemonade or orange juice not enough to make a proper serving.

As did and still do many in the Midwest, Grammy favored a Jell-o side dish for lunch or supper. These often included tiny marshmallows and always, some sort of canned fruit and maybe a banana. Mandarin orange juice was a frequent addition to the bug juice pitcher as the fruit went well in lime Jell-o.

During rough economic times, it wouldn‘t hurt to take a few lessons from our foremothers. For them, being frugal was not at all the same as being cheap or chintzy. It was being smart.

Come to think of it, embracing that idea of "waste not want not"would be good for Mother Earth as well as our wallets. Besides, making use of things we’d otherwise just throw away can be satisfying and rewarding. That is, if you can avoid becoming a hoarder. Oy! Now there’s another story . . ..!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Nap Time and Polio


These lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer bring back many personal memories. One involves the overwhelming fear of polio during my early childhood. It would be several more years before the first successful vaccine was developed and distributed.

During the winter of 1952-53, my older brother and I developed mumps. We looked like chipmunks preparing for winter. As goofy as that was, fever and pain made it no fun. Parents viewed it as one more childhood disease to get out of the way while we were still young. If a kid had measles or chickenpox, kids who hadn’t come down with it yet were sent to play with the sick kid in hopes that they, too would catch it and get it over with.

Yeah, I know, intentionally exposing children to diseases sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. In those days, the theory was that children could weather them far better than adults could. Adults sometimes become sterile or died from so-called childhood diseases.

For whatever reason, I developed a case of meningitis along with the mumps. The symptoms were scarily similar to those of infantile paralysis, a.k.a. polio. Being only four at the time, I don’t remember all that much except how worried my parents were and not feeling at all well.

Polio terrorized everybody in those days. President Roosevelt had struggled for years and eventually died from polio. There was no cure or vaccine. Pictures of hospital wards populated by children of all ages confined in bulky iron lungs that forced their paralyzed bodies to breathe were used as threats if children were reluctant to take an afternoon nap. Rest and good nutrition were considered preventive measures. Plenty of sunshine and fresh air were what Dad believed in so I spent many summer afternoons napping on a blanket in the back yard.

We lived outside Chicago with all it’s big city attractions. One particularly enticing destination for every kid was Riverview. It was an enormous amusement park, built in the early 1900s with games and rides that appealed to everyone. Some parents, including mine, saw it as a place seething with unsavory characters and germs, particularly the polio virus. Children everywhere whined and connived in utter frustration only to have their parents stand their ground against visiting this spectacular, maybe naughty place. I will always regret that. It closed the month I went away to college.

I cannot remember how old I was when I was no longer forced to take an afternoon nap. It seemed like forever.  When I complained, Mom would always say I didn’t have to sleep, but I did have to rest so that I wouldn’t catch polio.

While I languished in angry frustration in my room, I could hear the other neighborhood kids continuing to play outside. I always lost the argument that THEY didn’t have to take naps and THEY never got polio! I felt utterly and completely deprived!

I’m pretty sure that, at the time, it never crossed my mind that my parents loved me and were constantly concerned for my welfare. Being reasonable was not part of my character back then. All I saw was the injustice of being forced to abandon my playmates in order to take a stupid nap that I didn’t even need.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Shame on you, CNN

As hard as I try, there is no avoiding televised news reports on the slaughter in Wisconsin. Spouse was glued to the television on Sunday waiting to see how it would end.

The local police chief asked the media not to broadcast what they were seeing from their helicopters. Any fool could have figured out that they feared it might reveal police tactics to the murderer. So what do you think CNN did immediately following the live comments from a visibly troubled police chief? Yup, they went right back to broadcasting live from their helicopter flying overhead!

Gee, CNN -- whose side are you on?

If that wasn't bad enough, CNN reporters cornered family members of victims and survivors to ask them "how did you feel . . . ?" Did they expect to hear: "well, gosh and golly, it was pretty cool hearing gunshots and watching people scramble for safety, just like my favorite video game."

I know this is a huge story and of interest and concern to millions of people. Tragedy sells papers and airtime. CNN's tactics in following and reporting on this horrific crime are probably not much different from other news outlets, but theirs are more likely what the rest of the world sees. This sort of fascinated sensationalism makes Americans look stupid and completely tactless.

When tragedy strikes again, I do hope CNN will be more sensitive to human sensibilities and just plain smarter in their methods. Perpetrators often are looking for notariety for themselves and/or their "causes." News media need to consider whether they are aiding and abetting the bad guys before they devote so much time and effort reporting on senseless, brutal crimes.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Honor, honesty, humanity -- where are they?


> The reputations of several have been ruined by the actions of one among them. They closed their, eyes, minds and hearts to his victims in the name of competition, winning and the almighty dollar. The costs will be borne by many, many others who had no hand in the tragic scandal. The ugly stigma is effecting generations.

> Deliberately, systematically and diabolically ignoring the criminal acts of fellow priests against congregants caused years or trauma for scores of victim, many of whom may never fully recover. In a culture that insists sins are forgiven simply by confessing them to another human and reciting scripted words, what else are we to expect?

> Like Pontius Pilot, a Middle Eastern despot symbolically washes his hands of responsibility. Blaming the military for the outright slaughter of civilians -- his own people -- seems to free him from any sense of regret or guilt. His pretty wife enjoys a life of travel, designer clothing, and the best of everything. Meanwhile, women and children all around her are forced from their homes by government terrorists, in the process losing what meager possessions they had and work that barely supported their needs. Constant fear takes a heavy toll on their physical and mental health. Education becomes an afterthought, way behind shelter, sustenance and medical care.

> A mentally unstable young man easily accumulates thousands of rounds of ammunition for several assault rifles in preparation for warfare against innocent, anonymous victims. Not even legitimate hunters need assault rifles to kill deer or birds, or whatever they’re after. So why are they so readily available? Ownership and use of these weapons should be limited to the military.
------------------
The opening ceremony for the Olympics last night was beautiful and exciting. Watching all the athletes wearing broad smiles on healthy bodies gathering in the stadium was inspiring and uplifting. They are there for friendly competitions with fellow athletes from around the world. Somehow, long standing animosities are set aside for the sake of sport.

If only this kind of integrity and sportsmanship was common in daily life.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

D.C. Taxicab Drivers


Before you go getting all huffy or think that I believe all D.C. cabbies are crazy and rude -- STOP. That ain’t where I’m comin’ from.

Since 1971 I’ve taken quite a few cab rides in D.C.. Some were less than pleasant. Not that long ago cabs were often really old, rundown cars with sunken back seats, windows that didn’t work, too many air fresheners . . . you get the idea. However, never did I feel unsafe or disrespected. I just figured the drivers couldn’t afford to drive spiffy, newer cars. There were, of course, exceptions.

Even with the old zone system, I never felt I was being ripped-off on a fare. I didn’t necessarily like the amount I had to pay for a short ride that went through two or three zones. [No surprise that Congress set up the zones to suit themselves.]

A Local Living article by Chris Lyford in today’s Washington Post triggered a warm personal memory. Chris wrote about the D.C. Professional Taxicab Drivers Association and in particular, driver John Bugg, a native Washingtonian who has driven a cab here for 55 years. Mr. Bugg easily could have been the driver who transported me on one of the most horrendous days of my life.

It started on a frigid February morning when I was very ill with fever and bronchitis and should have been in bed, not slogging through empty, snow-covered, early-morning streets looking for an ATM. Someone near and dear to me had been falsely arrested and jailed overnight and I needed cash to bail him out.

Having cried through the night, waiting until I could get to him at 7 a.m., I was a haggard mess. The cold air made my eyes water, nose run and made me cough so hard that it nearly took my breath away walking eight blocks to the nearest ATM.

Turning away from the ATM, there were few cars on the street and not one taxi in sight. Minutes went by and hopelessness set in. I just wanted to find a warm hole to crawl into. God must have taken pity on me because about then a taxi stopped near the curb. I crawled over the plowed snow drift and pretty much fell into the front seat, there being another passenger in the back. I was so grateful I wanted to grab and hug the gentle black man at the wheel.

As soon as I’d gotten into the front seat, the driver cranked up the heat to high. He must have felt suffocated from the hot air blowing on him, but he was clearly concerned about me. The passenger in the back didn’t say anything and soon reached his destination. I started weeping in relief and because I felt so lousy. That gentle man did his best to soothe me with kind words and encouragement.

Thirty years ago, there was still stupid awkwardness when it came to the sight of a young white woman alone in a car with an older black man. As far as I was concerned, he had saved my life and sanity. He acted like and even resembled my own grandfather. To this day, I wish I had been better able to express my appreciation.

As if his loving concern hadn’t been enough, he refused payment when he safely delivered me to my destination.

I hope his life has been especially blessed. I know he’s not the only good Samaritan out there, but he’s mine. I’m grateful to Chris Lyford for reminding me about this caring man.

- - - - - -

With so much famine, conflict and turmoil in the world, many more immigrants now drive cabs in D.C.. Striking up conversations with drivers isn’t always easy, but I’ve learned that many have advanced degrees and held important positions in their homelands. Unfortunately, degrees from overseas don’t always translate well for American jobs.

Some are less patient and more anxious about their futures than others which sometimes comes off as rudeness. And, let’s face it, discrimination still distresses many newcomers, especially if they don’t dress Western style or speak with heavy accents.

I wish that judgmental types would remember that many of them left everything and loved ones behind to escape untenable conditions, much as many of my own ancestors did.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I found my "Highlander"!

Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been enjoying medieval Celtic and Scandinavian romance novels. I can’t figure out why it took me so long to “discover” these distracting, lustful fantasies.

Some may consider bodice-rippers lightweight literature. Some are pretty lightweight, focusing way too much on the sexual exploits of their characters. Others, like Laiden’s Daughter provide insights into the history and lifestyles of those ancient times, before the Puritans twisted peoples’ minds.

In my oh so fertile imagination, I conjured up a Highlander that makes reading these stories even more fun. Recently, I saw him -- in the flesh!!! It’s a good thing I didn’t have to talk or walk at that moment -- both would have been impossible after he grinned at me.

Now that my heart has stopped skipping beats and I can breathe normally again I can chuckle over my reaction. Actually, now I’m a little depressed . . . because I do love my husband. Still, I appreciate a gorgeous man when I see one -- especially hot and sweaty from running shirtless on a 100 degree afternoon.

. . . . the dark, curly hair on his perfectly chiseled chest gleamed with moisture trickling toward exotic, forbidden places as his full lips spread into a sensual smile over dangerously straight, white teeth. . . ..
Oh lordy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

This from a self-proclaimed Libertarian?!


“I think a lot of things could be handled locally . . . the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions.”

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) during his 2010 campaign for the Senate.

There were many in D.C. who, when he won election, viewed him as a friend to District residents. Considering what he espoused above, it was natural. Little did we know he would soon employ the same kind of tricks senior members of Congress have to squelch legislation they don’t like.
Just last week he proved he lied in 2010.

By attaching completely unrelated, emotion-charged amendments to a bill that would have allowed the D.C. government to allocate locally collected taxes without Congressional approval, he went along with fellow Republicans to maintain it’s strangle hold on D.C. Of course the bill failed.

Soon afterwards, Rand Paul was interviewed by The Washington Post’s Ben Pershing and said “I think it’s a good way to call attention to some issues that have national implications. We don’t have [control] over the states, but we do over D.C. I am doing this because I can.”

I have to wonder what it is about D.C. residents and our elected leadership that encourages such two-faced behavior. The District has a population of highly educated, astute residents. Two hundred years ago when D.C. was designated a federal district, the same was not true.

Why is that the U.S. Congress is afraid to give D.C. residents the rights enjoyed by every other American? Our government preaches democracy and freedom around the world yet denies it to its own people.

Our Constitution was not written in stone. It’s time it was updated to recognize and accommodate reality. There are ways of doing that without diluting the original intent of our most sacred document. Why is it so damn hard to do?

Utter and Inescapable Temptation


To my mind, nothing conjures the sensuous sweetness of summer like red raspberries.  If I had my druthers, I would live on them and nothing else.  Really!  Not even chocolate satisfies like these luscious, juicy berries.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Looks like a blizzard

As I write this, we are experiencing a thunder storm the likes of which I haven't seen in several years.  The rain is coming down so hard that it looks like a blizzard rather than just rain.  Our lights are flickering, something that rarely happens in our neighborhood because our electric lines are under the ground.

Here's how it looks on the weather map.  We are directly under the red portion near the center of the map.

The street lights, themselves seem to be raining and nothing but a few lights are visable across the street.

I love this kind of weather and spent quite a bit of time enjoying it on our balcony.  I was sitting in a chair six feet from the railing and got throroughly soaked in a matter of a couple of minutes.  Wild and wonderful!  Now if we could just send some of this to the fires out west. . . ..

My forehead is falling . . . .


. . . and it’s taking my eye lids with it!

What’s with the loose, wrinkled skin that now resides where my eye lids used to be? I want too believe it’s temporary from rubbing my “allergy eyes”. But it now appears that I must face the fact that it is yet another cruel trick of aging.

Not only are my eye lids drooping, but they seem to be gobbling-up my eye lashes. How sick is that?! Not that I ever had lush lashes. Mine have always been stick-straight like my hair and pointed downward. Nevertheless, I’d torture myself daily gathering the few I could grasp with an eyelash curler trying to make them more perky. They ended up more bent than curled. Eye lashes with square corners -- not attractive.

Now there aren’t enough lashes left to hold mascara, much less be caught and curled. What’s a woman to do?

A couple of weeks ago, a beautiful woman of color stood behind me in a grocery checkout line. After several stealthy glances, I simply had to ask her if her gorgeous, lush lashes were all her own. Now she had every right to say they were and she would have fooled me, but I think I caught her off-guard.

Now I’ve got the urge to invest in some drugstore lashes myself. Hers looked absolutely real and not at all over the top like some Hollywood bimbo’s. However, reexamining my face this morning, I realize that glued-on lashes wouldn't stand a chance and would soon be pushed off by my now aggressive, creeping eyelids! . . .sigh.

Happy Weekend, Y’All!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

So delusional

Jerry Sandusky must live in his own fantasy world to believe that his repugnant behavior, year after year, was OK. Photographs of him before and after he was caught reveal a man who seems to have no idea that he was torturing boys. He enjoyed himself and, I do think, believed his victims were enjoying his attentions.

In no way am I trying to excuse him. Being a survivor of molestation, I have little sympathy for him.

As with many of child victims, confusion, shame and disbelief kept my lips sealed until I got home and screamed into my pillow until I was hoarse. I had no idea how to act or what to say to the man who molested me.

To this day, I don’t know how or if my abuser was dealt with. He was an old, respected, up-standing member of the community. Mom was a young mother of three. I don’t think she told my Dad about it because his reaction would have been loud and clear.

When I experienced a sickening flash-back years ago, I was stunned to learn from so many women friends that they, too had been victimized as children and more as teens and adults. These are smart, capable women of a wide range of ages, some raising families of their own. This lead me to wonder how a parent can prepare a child to handle difficult situations.

As an 11-year old, I knew nothing about men and women, much less sexual behavior. I had been taught to respect and obey my elders; a perfect target for a pedophile.

If I had been told it was OK to refuse -- even coming from an adult --anything that turned my stomach or made me feel weird, would I have reacted differently? Maybe. Adults are physically bigger than children and perceived to have priority and authority. I believed that ninety-nine percent of the adults in my life at that time were worthy of respect. It was the evil one percent I knew nothing about.

Instincts in children tend to encompass simple things like not liking the smell of spinach or fearing water. Their instincts about people are pretty rudimentary, too. Early on, they fear strangers but, with age, they become more gregarious and socially aware.

Is there a way to develop and hone instincts in children so that they can better protect themselves without making them paranoid? I hope so.  Being a woman who enjoys babies and children, I would be heart-broken if children were taught to fear anyone but members of their immediate families. I love to chat-up babies and their parents in the grocery store.

The sad truth is that child abusers have been around for thousands of years and they aren’t going away. It’s about time this crime was recognized and dealt with as a crime, rather than being hidden away in shame. It’s time we Americans shed our Puritanical imprinting.

The courageous victims who have spoken up against their abusers deserve our respect and attention. They also need help to overcome their shame, hatred, and every other emotion that sexual abuse provokes. I read somewhere that some abusers were themselves abused -- a vicious cycle hard to be break.

Perhaps psychologists need to re-examine the minds of pedophiles. Mental illnesses are most often the result of a brain chemistry imbalance. Jerry Sandusky seems a prime example of someone whose mind is polluted with delusion.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a pill he and his kind could take that would correct that imbalance? Maybe medicine needs a Super Fund like the petroleum industry has.

Dream on. . . . …..

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Weather Can Kill


Stories about the deaths of children and pets being forgotten or deliberately left in parked cars during extreme weather are starting to surface.

How many babies must suffer horrible deaths before people wake up to the fact that they are far too distracted? And what would make anyone believe that leaving his or her pet in a parked car while they work, shop or play is a good idea? I dare anyone thinking that way to sit in a parked car, even with the windows cracked but not enough to allow a pet to escape. They won’t last long.

The legal system is in a quandary over whether and how to punish those, most often parents, responsible for such tragedies. Accidents happen. BUT, how should grieving parents be adjudicated for bad judgment because they over-extended themselves to the point of neglect.

I still see people texting and driving. For some, talking on a cell phone seems to go hand-in-hand with driving. I have to wonder what they did before electronics drew their attention away from the task of maneuvering and controlling a ton of metal and glass.

Eating, smoking and applying make-up are still popular diversions. It’s facetiously called multi-tasking.

I wish that people who are addicted to their electronics would turn them off and set them aside even if it’s only for a day. So much of what goes on around us is not contained on a tiny, electronic screen. The old proverb “stop and smell the roses” is just as timely today as it ever was.

Busy parents need to ask themselves why they created a child in the first place. I refuse to believe it was simply to make a fashion statement “baby bump”.

Newborns and infants may seem like crying/pooping/barfing/wobbly lumps, but they are absorbing information at an extraordinary rate. They are sensitive to the moods of people around them. Too much stimulation is as bad as none at all.

I’m grateful that I was a child before electronics took over our lives. I happily live without TV, preferring reading. I don’t own a cell phone although with my total lack of navigational skills, perhaps I should.

Electronics ideally make our lives simpler, chores easier and quicker, provide information and entertainment and keep us in touch with each other.

Electronics cannot smile and laugh at a joke, give a hug, cry with us, tie a shoe, change a diaper, sooth a scared child, kiss a boo-boo and make it all better. Have we forgotten how important eye and skin contact are to humans?

Maybe some smart techie will invent a phone “app” to remind drivers of the sleeping child belted into the safety seat behind them or the beloved, hard-of- hearing old dog asleep on the back seat. It might prevent future tragedies. But then again, there’s nothing better than simply being aware of what is around us.

P.S. The surest way to be robbed, mugged or run-over is to drive or walk around listening to whatever on ear buds and/or your attention glued to some gadget. Those toys are expensive and not everyone has the bread to buy their own! At least look up every now and again.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dad

Little did he know this was only the first of his five children.

I wonder if he was surprised that his namesake looked so much more like his mother than he did his father.  He had his father's build and big feet, but his mother's dark, curly hair and eventually, her beautiful teeth.

Looking at this picture reminds me of the wonder and probably a little fear that accompanied the births of all of his children.

Dad was a fierce protector and teacher.  We often resented his strict "teaching" methods, but his heart was in the right place.

Equally important for a man who fathered five children is the fact that, for the rest of his life, he remained a devoted husband and lover to the most important person in his life; our Mom.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Anticipation

We haven't planted our window boxes yet, but this weekend appears to be the right time to do that.  Today is exactly a week from the Summer Solstice so we need to get it in gear.


It's always hard figuring out what, how many and where to plant our mini-garden. We have window boxes and big pots that sit on the balcony deck.  Spouse prefers the latter, but I like the idea of sharing lovely flowers with the world as it passes by below.  Maybe we should plant all our containers.  Of course that would seriously cramp anyone who might want to sit on the balcony.

Friday, June 8, 2012

No More for This Champ

It broke my heart to learn that I'll Have Another will not be running in the Belmont Stakes or ever again.  At the same time, I'm greatly relieved that his owner and trainer withdrew him from the race because of a tendon injury.

It would have been a tremendous honor if he had won the Triple Crown, not to mention making plenty more bucks for his owners.  This is a fine example of integrity winning over wealth.

Ill Have Another Belmont

This horse has the heart of a champion and I hope he will sire many more during his retirement from racing.  He will live on through his offspring. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Weeping

Rolling Thunder has cruised through the city since late last week.  I cheered them on and mentally thanked them for their resounding acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform.

Moments ago, President Obama finished speaking at the Vietnam Memorial, aka, The Wall.  As I've never heard expressed so eloquently before, he spoke about all the things that should have been said and done when our troops came home from Southeast Asia.

This year is the 50th anniverary of the beginning of American military involvement in Vietnam.  It was stunning to realize that it's been that long.  For many of my generation, it seems like just yesterday our classmates and friends were learning they were being drafted to serve in a war that had not yet been declared.  Between 1962 and 1975, the pain of loss and agony over the missing was a daily burden broadcast on television.

Our returning Vietnam vets were treated like they shamed the country.  Many were ignored or -- worse -- castigated for participating, many of them not voluntarily.  Today the President aknowledged this fact and reminded everyone that we still owed them our gratitude and support for their efforts.

The tears started flowing at that point remembering friends whose lives were stolen from them before they had a chance to even live them.  So many good men and women gave their all for a cause that was lost almost before it started.  I don't think a single group has suffered more than our Vietnam Vets.  Physically, mentally and financially they have struggled against a tide of unprecedented negativity and neglect.

As the President revealed, it's been these guys who are working so hard to assure that vets coming after then will not suffer the same way they did.

I don't mean to ignore veterans of other wars.  Their sacrifices were equally heinous, but they were welcomed home and given advantages unavailable to Vietnam vets.  The Vietnam vets are MY vets and it moved me to hear them honored as they always should have been.

Following the President's speech, eight more names added to the wall were read out.  When a piper played "Amazing Grace" my tears flowed in earnest.  I totally lost it when a bugler soulfully played Taps.

Crying on Memorial Day is fitting and, I think, necessary.  Hating war won't make it go away, so shedding tears is a healthier way to relieve the sadness of loss.  I no longer visit The Wall because it is too painful.  It is a comfort to know that thousands visit it every week, assuring that my friends and all the others whose names are on the wall will never be forgotten.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Not a Sincere Bone in His Body

Once again Marion Barry has embarrassed D.C. with his careless, racist attitude.  While expressing apologies for recently insulting Korean Americans, he managed to do the same to just about every other immigrant group.

I used to be able to give him a little slack because I believe his brain is addled from (past?) drug use.  No more.  He has yet to give up his Black Panther/ black-supremist leanings which will keep him on the outside looking in.

The man isn't stupid.  Somehow, he maintains a loyal following of voters.  I fear that he and they all refuse to recognize that the world is moving on and that the 1960s are long over.

African-Americans have suffered horrifically and too many still do.  Nevertheless, many others do not consider themselves victims of racism and have overcome obstacles to earn both personal and financial success.

Sadly, people like Marion Barry play the victim card because it's an easy excuse for their own personal faults and failings.  He needs to move on.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Another Slap in D.C.'s Face

Suburban Phoenix, Arizona is light years apart from the District of Columbia socially, economically, politically and just about any other “lly” way one can think of. Republican Trent Frank represents such an Arizona district in the U.S. House. Yesterday he also chaired a committee hearing on a very sensitive issue for District residents: funding abortions for low-income D.C. women.

A majority of District residents have voted in favor of using some of our tax dollars to help these women. Certain members of Congress are utterly and completely determined to prevent that from happening.

Ignoring legitimate local legislative decisions is onerous enough. To treat our one and only, duly-elected, NON-VOTING representative to Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton with the same contempt is inexcusable. She had a front row seat (where she belonged) for the hearing and was not even allowed to speak on this important issue, much less cast a committee vote on it.

More than half a million U.S. citizens who happen to live in Washington, D.C. have consistently been treated like chattel and poker chips by Congress. Speaker Boehner coerced the President into agreeing to eliminate D.C. funding for abortions in hopes that Congress would cede control of the District’s budget back to the District. In order for the city to control its own budget, we must impose a permanent ban on abortions for our residents, something we, the people, have voted down.  In other words, to hell with what the tax-payers want.

Confession time: I am firmly on the fence about abortion. I do, however, believe that a woman has the right to make her own health decisions. I don’t wish to debate the sentient or non-sentient nature of a fetus. That and the debate about being compelled to raise a child with severe disabilities is none of my business. These must to be addressed by and lived with by the parent/s, not the public at large.

I’m grateful that I have never been faced with having to make such a monumental decision. I honestly cannot tell you how it might have come down. What I can tell you, is that certain members of Congress and their supporters need to get off their high horses and recognize the basic political and human rights that they are denying to a population they do not represent.

They also need to apologize to The Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton for the disrespectful and undignified way she was treated yesterday and many more times that go unreported.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Just what we don't need. . . .

. . . a reconstituted Three Stooges.

Yes, it would appear that someone thought it would be brilliant to bring back those three abusers. I know, guys get a big kick out of watching the Stooges beating up on each other, but the other, more enlightened half of the population can’t stand them.

Bullying is the basis of their comedy. I see nothing humorous in bullying. To make matters worse, Moe is unmercifully cruel to Curly who seems to be a bit lacking of intelligence and is rather childlike. Larry, on the other hand seems timid and completely overwhelmed by Moe, unable to fend-off his abuse. These traits often serve as excuses for bullies to do their worst. [if I’ve confused these guys, forgive me; I never spent more than a few minutes watching the original trio.]

Do we really need more lessons in violence? Aren’t some of the video games and movies enough to misguide our young into thinking that bashing, beating, shooting, knifing, bombing and mauling are the norm? Why, the evening news often provides enough gory detail about real events to make me cringe.

Equally troubling for me is that the Three Stooges don’t need sophisticated, cool weapons to inflict pain and suffering. Using only words, hands, heads and feet might make kids think that they, too, can overpower and intimidate their peers with ease.

Bullying is a national shame and crime. Too often it goes unreported because victims fear retaliation or have been convinced that snitching isn’t cool. Our kids need more examples of appropriate behavior, not how to hurt one another. I hope the Stooges bomb and never make it to DVD.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fighter Jets over Foggy Bottom, again

By the time we hear their great roaring, they're long gone.

Minutes ago what sounded like an entire squadron of military jets flew over us, rattling pictures and nerves alike.  We immediately went out on our balcony and encountered our wide-eyed neighbor on his.  He travels alot for work and, I guess has not been here during previous flyovers.

As we told him, most likely someone in a private plane mistakenly entered restricted airspace.  A wide swath of the skies miles and miles out from the District have been restricted since 9/11.

Commercial planes with transponders have no problems because they are automatically identifiable by air traffic control.  Every now and again, someone piloting a private plane slips into the controlled area and is pretty much instantly surrounded by scary, armed fighter jets which then escort the plane to the closest airport where the plane is inspected and the pilot questioned.

As unnerving as these powerful planes are, they are also reassuring as they protect Washington from another attact.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Go Caps!!

The red and blue splotch on the roof is an inflatable Caps player.
It's OK if your not a Washington Capitals fan, but for those of you who are, a pilgrimage to this holy site might be worth your while.

I captured this the moment the light from the Whitehurst onto Canal Road changed and some guy in a big ole SUV honked impatiently at me.  I wish I could have included "The Exorcist" stairs, but I was lucky to get this much.

Our hockey team is driving me to distraction.  Spouse gets so completely into their games that I could set his hair on fire and he wouldn't notice!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Teachable Moment

I'm not sure who took the above picture, but is struck me as a reminder of how blind persons are "mishandled".

I'm not talking politics here -- that situation is bad enough.  Rather, I'd like to suggest that if a sighted person wants to offer assistance to a blind person to first ask if help is wanted.  If it is not, back-off.  If assistance is accepted, offer an arm for the blind person to hold onto -- don't grab a hand or shoulder in an attempt to steer him.

Note to the wise:  blindness is a physical challenge that many handle with ease and grace.  Insisting on helping someone bruises their pride and may actually piss them off. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Body Language

A recent experience reminded me that I have to control my tendency to be open and friendly with everyone, including strangers. Even though I’ve lived in the “big city” of D.C. for 40-odd years, my innocently friendly Midwestern roots sometimes trip me up.

Doing laundry in our complex’s laundry room, I sat down to wait for the machines to fill and start chugging away, before returning to our apartment. In walked a worker who helps keep our building clean. I smiled and he smiled back. I turned my attention back to the washing machines. Then . . . .

With a bright smile on his face, he started chatting in Spanish. I admitted I had studied it in school but remembered very little anymore. Since he spoke no English I thought that would be the end of it. Then, chatting away, he propped himself onto a table next to me, putting his crotch at eye level. I had to suppress a snicker.

I don’t think men are always aware of it, but this position reminds me of dogs who present their backsides to each other in greeting. If you watch any of the YouTube welcome home dog videos, the dogs nearly always turn their backs to their owners to “prove their identity.”

Women have an equally unsubtle way of attracting attention to themselves. Lowering her eyes to peer up at a man through her eyelashes, she draws attention to what I call her “chestal area.” She unconsciously props her boobs up a little higher and squeezes them slightly with her arms to accentuate her cleavage. She KNOWS how much males love mammary glands.

It’s really a matter of spreading one’s pheromones; those subtle, powerful fragrances our hormones produce to attract the opposite sex. If you ever people-watch, see if you don’t notice these subtle shifts in behavior, particularly among the younger, unmarried set. We humans really haven’t evolved all that much.

Happy Weekend, Y’all!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Boys will be boys . . ....

Will men ever really, truly grow into adults? Recent behavior of men hired, vetted and trained by the U.S. Secret Service and some of their military colleagues make it appear unlikely.

Thank goodness there are far more exceptions to these guys. Otherwise the lives of our national leadership would be even more endangered than they already are by cranks and crazies.

It’s quite warm in D.C. today. I’m guessing that some of the heat is emanating from red-faced, angry, humiliated officers and agents who actually take their work seriously. Even though I am in no way affiliated with the federal government, I was terribly embarrassed when President Obama had to oh-so-publicly address the shameful behavior of some members of his advance security detail to Colombia.

Perhaps more women need to be hired for these important security jobs. Maternal instincts fit in quite nicely with a job that requires thinking of others’ safety before one’s own. That, and I cannot imagine women agents putting themselves into compromising positions like drinking and partying with sex workers.

“Mama Grizzlies” has been overworked, but it is an apt description of the ferocity a woman (whether or not a mother) feels when confronting anyone harming a child or weak adult. What we might lack in brute strength we more than make up for in intelligence, intuition and integrity. Am I wrong?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"The Dressmaker"

Everyone knows the story of the sinking of the Titanic, 100 years ago this week. What I didn't fully grasp was the shocking, scandalous aftermath. The blame game, and recriminations started even before the survivors made it to shore.

In "The Dressmaker", by Kate Alcott, some of the characters are real and others are incorporated to add interest to an already compelling story.

A central character is one, Lady Lucille Duf Gordon. Her mannerisms, attitudes and actions could make one believe she was a fictional character. As it turns out, she was notorious before boarding the Titanic and even more so after surviving it's sinking.

Lady Lucy was a famous designer of women's clothing, funded in large part by her second, aristocratic husband, Lord Duf Gordon. Tess, a created character, manages to get herself hired as a maid to serve Lady Lucy during the crossing. Only later does she reveal her real aspirations: to become a fashion designer to rival Lady Lucy.

Love interests develop between Tess and a wealthy Chicago businessman AND a crew member who later implicates the Duf Gordons of disgraceful behavior in what would be dubbed "the millionaire's lifeboat".

Class distinctions and name recognition saved the lives of many of the wealthiest passengers at the expense of the poorer passengers in steerage. Add that to the fact that there were not enough lifeboats and the newly hired crew members had no training or plan for evacuating the ship and disaster was inevitable.

It is sometimes hard to discern fact from fiction, but considering how botched-up the Titanic's maiden voyage was, anything could be true. The documented actions of particular passengers, such as Margaret (Unsinkable Molly) Brown are fascinating and enrich the story. Also, the self-aggrandizing efforts on the part of U.S. government types to put blame for the sinking where it belonged reads like current events.

"The Dressmaker" helped to fill-in the gaps in my knowledge of that momentous event. Ms. Alcott writes a good story that is enhanced by carefully researched facts from an actual event.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter on the Chesapeake

Enjoyed a lovely Easter dinner, prepared by Mom down in Solomons, Maryland.  She wisely has used our get togethers on Easter to also celebrate my youngest sister's birthday, April 6th and mine which will be this Friday, the 13th.  [yeah, yeah, yeah I know all about friggatriskaidekaphobia a.k.a. paraskevidkatriaphobia: irrational fear of the number 13.  I survived having my 13th birthday being announced to my entire middle school on Friday the 13th years ago.  I like to believe that it gave me certain super powers.]

Anyway, after dinner a three-car caravan set out to visit a worksite my brother in law and his two sons have been working on.  We couldn't have asked for a nicer day to visit the Cove Point Lighthouse.  Strong winds off the water provided a refreshing, slightly fishy aroma to go along with the sweet fragrance of wisteria which is wildly in bloom right now.
This bell was rung on foggy days to warn mariners away from shallow waters.
The stairs to the top are solid wood,anchored to the brick wall and a wooden column which has a steel core.  Veeeeery narrow steps and steep.


I've tried valiently to get this pic upright but blogger simply will not cooperate! Sorry.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Something Worth Considering


“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us
the universe,
a part limited in time and space.

He experiences himself,
his thoughts and feelings, as something
separate from the rest -- a kind of
optical delusion
of his consciousness.

This delusion is a kind of prison for us,
restricting us to our personal desires and to affection
for a few persons nearest to us.

Our task must be to
free ourselves from this prison by
widening our circle of compassion to
embrace all living creatures and the
whole of nature in its beauty.

Nobody is able to achieve this completely,
but this striving for such achievement
is in itself a part of the
liberation and a foundation for
inner security.”

Albert Einstein

Friday, March 23, 2012

Overwhelmed

In recent months, far too many of my days have been starting off with bad news. I choose to get my news from our local newspaper. That way, I can pick and choose what I want more details about, rather than having news thrown at me by talking heads.

OK, so I may not have the very latest, up to the second news like those who regularly check for it on their electronic gadgets. Frankly, I don’t think I could handle that.

Globally, the future looks dim for both humans and animals.

Global warming is causing Polar Bears to drown because their ice flows are melting. Other animals are still being slaughtered for body parts that are believed to have curative or magical powers. Little boys are forced to take up arms while their little sisters are made sexual slaves by criminals calling themselves freedom fighters.

Speaking of little boys, a vigilante identifying himself a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, shoots dead a young Black boy because he doesn’t like the looks of him. To make matters worse, the cops, so far, have failed to take even the most basic steps to investigate what appears to the rest of us to be cold-blooded murder.

Then some idiot decides to burn old holy books forgetting or ignoring the grave crime this is considered. Not long ago, some Christian zealot got himself plenty of publicity threatening to do that very same thing. Are we all losing our short-term memory?

Women have been targeted like never before. Some legislative types want to eliminate nearly all of our personal choices and subject us to humiliating, sometimes painful and unnecessary medical procedures. I’m not talking about female genital mutilation here. That’s another despicable kind of torture in the name of tradition.

No, I’m talking about further limitations and constraints put upon women seeking abortion. I cannot think of a more difficult or personal decision that should be left up to a woman and her doctor.

Some men seem bent on turning women back into chattel. One legislator, a man, thinks that rape victims should be asked if the resulting pregnancy could have resulted from regular marital activity. He doesn’t want women “cheating the system” by claiming rape just to have an abortion. It seems a lot of men still don’t GET IT! Rape is not a sexual act. It is a criminal act to dominate and damage.

Coptic Christians in Egypt are being slaughtered by their Muslim neighbors. It now appears that Muslims and non-Muslims no longer can live side-by-side as they had for generations. Why is this?

Jewish, Christian and Muslim children are targeted. Most are too young to have any sort of role in politics. Yet they are victimized because their injuries or deaths inflict far more pain on their communities.

And too many children have known only hatred and war their entire lives. How are they going to view the world if they survive to adulthood? Will they remain isolated from the rest of the world, living out their lives in guarded enclaves of their own kind?

Censorship and absolute control of incoming and outgoing information further alienate humans from each other. There are hundreds of thousands of visible and invisible walls dividing people and they seem to grow higher every day. I’m not sure how long the human race can survive these false barriers.

Truth hurts. Starving North Koreans, child soldiers in Africa, so-called customs that dictate supremacy of one gender or race over another, religious zealotry based on flawed beliefs, homelessness, mental illness – avoiding these ills will not make them go away. Contrary to appearances, no human is disposable. Lack of wealth, opportunity and/or social status requires those who have them to share them.

Give a woman a loaf of bread and you feed her for a day. Teach a woman to make bread and she will feed herself. Then she will start a bakery, hire and train her neighbors to make more bread. Before you know it, the local economy has grown and thrived and education becomes a right rather than a privilege only for those who can afford for it.

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating -- a little. Diversity and equality are powerful partners. When every mind is given free reign, ideas can be shaped into action to benefit mankind. The first and hardest step is listening and truly hearing what others are saying and feeling. The second step is admitting that there is more than one way to view a situation or problem and many, many ways to address each. Stubborn adherence to beliefs will only separate mankind further. Tolerance and sincere consideration for the thoughts and beliefs of others is one step in the right direction.

[Can you tell I’ve been bottling-up a lot of stuff? If you’ve been kind enough to read this far, I sincerely thank you and apologize for such a big dump.]

Peace Be With You

 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Last Evening


You may have heard that D.C.'s famous Cherry Blossoms are a tad early this year.

Actually, they're incredibly early this year, but maybe that's because this is the 100th anniversary of their planting.

Most of the original trees died out years ago and were replaced, but there are still a few originals near the bridge over the Tidal basin.  They're pretty gnarly and truly look their age.

When the Japanese people gifted the trees to Washington, they were first planted in West Potomac Park, well away from other trees.  This was a precaution in case some had brought unwanted insects or diseases with them.  Some are still there, along with many younger ones planted along the drive that leads to and around Hains Point.

The picture above seemed to beg to be shot last evening.  I wish my camera could have captured how lovely the waning sunlight was, glowing through the white blossoms.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Water Color Sunset

I took this shot last Saturday evening but never got around to posting it.

Remember to set your clocks forward one hour Saturday night.  Daylight Savings Time seems very early this year, but to have more daylight, it's worth it.

Happy Weekend!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Almost There

Today is my 29th wedding anniversary. Not exactly a milestone -- those come in five and ten year increments. Still, it is significant because it denotes the day we legally and formally recognized what we’d known all along -- that we were made for each other.

We still marvel at how we came to each other. I moved to D.C. the summer of 1971, fresh out of college and a Chicago suburb. Spouse arrived during the summer of 1973, fresh out of the western oil fields of his native Iran. For a few years, he tended bar four blocks from where I lived, at the time and I worked about the same distance from where he lived, at the time. Both of us have tried to remember whether or not we ran into each other back then. Various dates took me to both of the places he worked, but I don’t remember ever seeing him and vice versa.

It wasn’t until he was between jobs and accepted a part-time gig where I was working that we met face to face. In truth, he was getting fed-up with life here. He missed his extensive family back in Iran and needed airfare to return home. Fate intervened in the nick of time.

When he first walked in to the elegant old mansion that housed the headquarters of the organization I worked for, he was wearing a plaid shirt, brown cords, acid green sneakers and a big grin. Though his hair was thinning, it was dark and framed his face rather nicely. My goose was cooked.

What had been a dumb waiter across from my office door had been converted into a small elevator years before. It was the type that had a normal door which opened to a brass gate, thus requiring two hands to use it. Spouse-to-be was tasked with moving file cabinets and boxes from an upper floor in the main building to an annex next door. Naturally, I helped with the elevator doors whenever the occasion/opportunity arose.

That man had and still has so much energy and drive! He isn’t a big, hunky guy. He is lithe and muscular like an athlete. Later I learned that he had been a provincial and national soccer champion in Iran. In D.C., he enjoyed occasional pick-up games with other immigrants in various parks around town.  The following was taken on stunningly perfect early Spring day on the Ellipse during such a game.   [Yes, that's the White House in the background.]


After so many years together, we sometimes ask each other where we might be if we had never met. Neither one of us can imagine such a scenario. During particularly trying times, I would imagine one or both of us thought we could do without the other. Heaven knows we’ve had to make huge adjustments and real sacrifices to accommodate each other over the years. Nevertheless, we’re in it for life.

Happy Anniversary, my love. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worth it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Isolation

Until my ears went wonky from an infection 12 days ago, I didn’t give much thought to my hearing. Having always had tinnitus, I’d learned to block it out. Other than that, I have excellent hearing. Now, however, the lack of it has become hugely significant.

I haven’t ventured out of our apartment since Spouse took me to the E.R. last Sunday. Vertigo makes me stagger like a drunken sailor and I still have no strength from two weeks of low-grade fever and virtual fasting. Of course, it would be nice if I’ve lost weight, but I’d gladly give that up to get my hearing back to normal.

A positive development I discovered last evening is that I can croak out a few words. At least now, if someone phones, they won’t think I’m rude or playing games by not talking. The cicadas and locusts are still playing their Rhapsody in A Sharp Major, so I’m not too worried that eventually my hearing will return.

The isolation of low hearing is worse than I ever imagined. I miss being able to hear the kettle when it boils, Spouse’s key in the lock when he comes home, kids chatting in the hallway and all the other little sounds of life.

Closed-captioning on TV is helpful, but often confusing and frustrating because speakers talk too fast for the captioning to keep up with them. Everything about life is so much faster now. If a person doesn’t have all her senses up and running, she’ll miss out.

I don’t mean to complain. My problems are miniscule in comparison to what’s going on in the rest of the world. Being somewhat confined by this temporary health dilemma has given me more (too much?) time to think.

My beloved nephew/godson Alex is hearing impaired. Thanks to state of the art hearing aids, he lives a pretty normal life. Of course, his awesome family deserves more credit than they’ll ever get.

The medical community at Children’s Hospital, here in D.C. kept him alive and supplied the platform on which he could build a life. His family and therapists took it from there. His ingrained exuberance for life keeps him going and his intellect is truly amazing.

Having said all that I wonder if, when he takes out his hearing aids to go to bed, does the silence bother or comfort him. Being impaired really bothers me, but I suspect Alex just goes with the flow. He’s such a cool little dude.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Inspiration from cough drops.

Thanks to a previously mentioned sinus CATASTROPHE, I've been consuming large quantities of cough drops, trying to tame a strident, decidedly unladylike hack!


Usually, I go for the big bag of blue, individually wrapped drops near the drugstore cash registers. Having run out, I asked Spouse to pick me up a bag. He was happy to especially considering that he hasn't been getting much sleep lately. [When I figure he's been tortured long enough, I leave our cozy bed and take up the recliner in the living room. I'm sure the neighbors on that side really appreciate this. Not.]

During long hours trying to snatch a little sleep, I frequently reach for my Kindle. A wrapper from the previous night's attempt at rest was lying on top of the Kindle. Only then I did I notice that Spouse had gone all out and invested in Hall's Cough Drops. Wow - he really does love me!

Noticing some sort of printing I hadn't seen before, I unscrunched the wrapper.

People: Hall's cares about us!!

Like pats on my back, I was told to "Go get it" -- "You got it in you"-- "get back in the game" and "keep your chin up." Under the Kindle lay yet another paper pep-talk which I eagerly unscrunched to glean it's inspirations. Here's what I read: "Let's hear your battle cry" -- "bet on yourself" -- "the show must go on. Or work." -- "put a little strut in it."

How very thoughtful that Hall's thinks enough of it's coughing, sore-throated, customers to offer even more help to get us back on our feet! Just as soon as I can make a sound other than (       ) I'll give out with a big ole YEE-HAA and strut m'self raght back into the game!!  Yep!  feelin' like Dolly Parton!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Crickets and Cicadas in February

Ever since the advent of a nasty sinus infection last week that's pretty much all I can hear -- inside my head. Flocks of sparrows make themselves known from time to time, chirping to the rhythm of my pulse.

I have never known life without tinnitus which started before I was old enough to remember ear aches. For a normally carefree little girl, who lived and breathed the outdoors, the intrusion of ear infections were cruel and extremely painful. Mom tried every known treatment at the time, including dropping warm ear oil into the affected ear. Eventually, the accumulated oil temporarily robbed me of hearing. Considering how I loved to compose music on my Mom's piano, this wouldn't do.

I remember climbing onboard a train with Mom to go into Chicago to see a specialist. It was such a shock and kinda embarrassing when he syringed out clump after clump of groadies. I had become used to the muffled sounds around me, so everything suddenly became too loud.

My early middle ear infections were supposedly due to short eustachian tubes. At the time, I must have been thinking, well, dummy doctor, why don't you just stretch them! Apparently, that was an idea whose time would never come.

So, here I am decades and decades later feeling and hearing like my head is in a bucket, filled with billions of trapped crickets, cicadas and sparrows. Thank goodness for good novels to distract me from those overbearing, rude critters!

Oh, and happy St. Valentine's Day. If you could see and hear me right now, you'd understand how very much I appreciate Spouse's unfailing love. It ain't been pretty 'round this neck o'the woods!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to Get Rich Quick

People have been trying to come up with schemes to make money easily and quickly for generations. Many have failed or didn't pan out, e.g. Ponzi schemes. A heretofore private group strategy recently has been revealed and is causing quite a stir. This select group has a membership just over 500 men and women and is headquartered right here in the Nation's Capitol!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen you, too can take advantage of this legitimate stream of income, funded by American taxpayers. Simply get yourself, a family member or best buddy elected to Congress. Yes, indeedy, this method works like a charm and has brought previously unthinkable wealth for those smart enough to take advantage of it.

Earmarks are a key element in this scheme. Yeah, I know that sounds like some sort of birth defect, but it is actually a very effective and proven way of steering millions of tax- payer dollars to benefit friends and family and even yourself.

Historically, earmarks have enabled average Americans to improve their standards of living, property values, personal incomes and so much more. All it takes to benefit from this scheme is to have a member of Congress tag on to a piece of legislation your desired earmark. This might cost you a campaign contribution but if you want to have the river next to your waterfront cottage cleaned and protected without having to shell out huge amounts of your own wealth, it's worth it. Why, you could even get a bridge or airport built for your own convenience even if no one else thinks it's needed. Seriously! It's been done!

Another sure bet is getting to know as many lobbyists you can. They represent every imaginable business and pleasure industry as well as foreign countries and have bottomless pockets of cash. They are very discreet when distributing baksheesh. It's all done under the table at a fine, Washington restaurant, watering hole, golf club, or an exclusive resort is some exotic locale. It's all about using your new-found influence in the most lucrative way.

Another advantage of befriending lobbyists is that they will actually help you and your staff write legislation. Yeah -- free editorial help! I think this is part of what has riled- up the Occupy people. They'd like a piece of the action: maybe working in the legislative or investment industries which sometimes are confused because of their similar ethical standards. Sadly, these protesters weren't savvy or loose enough to play by the rules necessary to get those jobs. [Personal ethics can ruin employment opportunities.]

So . . . what are you waiting for?! There are billions out there just waiting to be earmarked and it's so simple! Oh, and don't worry about actually having to work hard. That's what Congressional staff are for. All you have to do is vote when it's time and applaud or scowl with fellow party members during Presidential addresses.

Count yourself lucky that there are only a few, diligent, caring and conscientious members of the Senate and House who might try to get in your way. They're out- numbered considering the complete Capitol Hill Package. Lobbyists, special interests groups, wealthy contributors, and so on have become indispensable to members of Congress. Whatever a member needs, they can get at cost or with a nice discount! It's as easy as scratching your own back ;-).


[Drat -- my tongue is stuck in my cheek!]

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dumb Luck

I have no idea how I accidentally got my old blog page back, YIPPY!!

I was having so much trouble getting it fixed on my own p.c. that I tried Spouse's laptop and voila -- I hit something right!

The new blogger format still baffles me to a degree, but now I think I'll be able to figure it out and work with it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

D.C.'s World War I Memorial

Many D.C. government types are up in arms about Congress's desire to turn our recently restored World War I Memorial into a national one. Outcries to leave it alone -- it belongs to D.C. are misguided.

This could be a huge opportunity. Instead of another trouncing on our rights by members of Congress, this could be the stimulus we need to enlighten the average American to the fact that we have no voice in Congress. Think about it:

D.C. residents, who couldn't even vote for a local government, much less a national government, volunteered to serve that very same government. So many had their lives taken by disease and bullets in foreign lands. To have willingly sacrificed for a government that didn't recognize their citizenship as equal to every other American's smells of racism. I would go so far as to say it is like southern history textbooks claiming that slaves willingly served in the Confederate army!

Our elegant, dignified, tasteful little monument could be a centerpiece for an enlarged memorial. Stories about D.C. residents who fought, suffered and died for a government that did not fully recognize them (and still doesn't) could open eyes to a shameful truth.

It still shocks me when I hear how many people outside of this region don't know about the way D.C. residents are treated and mistreated by Congress. Some think that, living here, we have an unfair advantage. HA! They think every American can gripe to their senators and representatives to complain about anything and everything. More than half a million American citizens have one, non-voting delegate in Congress. Period.

Having said all that, I do not think D.C. should become a state. I know: that's heresy for some, but hear me out.

The District of Columbia is a unique territory. I believe that when founding fathers suggested designating it that way that they thought it would encompass nothing more than the federal enclave. Actual residents, other than slaves, and not associated with running the government, didn't enter their thinking. After all, members of Congress came to town infrequently and brought their own retinues of servants and slaves.

It is taking far too long to make needed changes in the governing dynamics of the District of Columbia. The U.S. Constitution needs to be amended, as it has been several times, to reflect new realities. One U.S. Senator and House representation according to the population formula is fair and way past due. Anything that can enlighten others about this injustice can only help. So. . .

Bring on the World War I Memorial additions AND be sure to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about D.C. residents' peculiar standing and the extraordinary sacrifices of our forefathers.