Monday, December 29, 2008

Documentary Roundup

My BFF was in town last week and is currently infected with a fetus growing in her womb.  It's her first.  Because she and the Mr. have very demanding jobs, childcare is an issue and she'd optimally like to get a nanny.  Of course, as it would any new parent in her situation that wishes there were more hours in the day, this makes her feel guilty and she blindsided me.

"Don't you find that the time you have away from the kids when they're with their dad is good for your mental health?"

Had I known what she was really asking (Should I feel badly about bringing my first child into a world where I already have so little time?), I wouldn't have said, "NO!  I hate it when they're not home!"

That said,

I've turned to Netflix in my time of need.  Not only do I almost always have two DVDs at home (usually the kids pick those), but I can use the "Watch Instantly" feature whenever I'm too bummed to get out of bed.  This has led to an addiction to the documentary.  I've watched about six in the last two months and have decided to start reporting on them.

King Corn
Filmmakers Ian Cheney and Curtis Ellis head to Iowa to grow an acre of corn from genetically modified seeds and follow it all the way into the food chain to show us that corn is literally in almost everything we eat.  It was actually quite fun to watch.  I especially liked the part where they begin to harvest their corn and each take a big bite, spitting it out all over the place when they are reminded, through it's non-traditional taste, that the corn they've grown is not to be eaten, but used as an ingredient or to feed cattle.  Which leads to the part where they're shown that the cattle can't digest the corn and, if they weren't going to be slaughtered anyway, the cattle would die painful deaths.  Basically, even when we eat beef, we eat corn.  I know, I know.  It's only corn.

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride
In this documentary on Hunter S. Thompson, I took away less about his life and work and more about the reaction he elicited from the many A-list actors who worshipped him.  It focused more on his celebrity life and the movies made about him than his journalism.  As a gal who knew relatively little about Hunter S. Thompson going in, I'm left wondering why he was so important when this movie dwelled so much upon his life of hedonism.  That's all well and good, but where was the fiercely intelligent and political man who put some rather genius words together?  I suppose it's meant to be enough for me to know that celebrities worshipped him, partied with him constantly until they were all comatose, and that, even though he never allowed himself to be alone, he was lonely enough to kill himself.

Okay, that's enough for now.  I was going to include one about Darfur, but I don't want your eyes to glaze over anymore than they already have.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Filling the Silo, Part Three

Part Two
Part One

The first week of working with an oddity I could not understand came and went.  Each day, I became more perplexed by the existence of a creature who had no will.

To breathe.
To leave.
To see.

Each day of the week had gone exactly like the first.  My motions unchanged, the conviction and authenticity behind them unwavering.  I'd never felt so defeated leaving work, so scared to face the funnel in the morning. 

I found myself staring down the barrel of the weekend knowing I had to come up with something phenomenal for the next week. 

Routine ruled my weekends too and, while there wasn't anything to speak of, I was fretting over how damaging a disruption in my routine would be if I didn't solve my little problem.  It was, then, supremely satisfying to be me when I popped out of bed with a solution, brilliant as the sunshine, behind my eyes. 

An inspired vision.

I could hardly sleep that Sunday night and morning couldn't come soon enough.

When I got to work, I was first into the room and, instead of walking around the funnel to my side, I stopped on his side, closest to the door and directly beside the dull but magnificent mountain of rocks. 

My inspired vision played out perfectly:
He arrived on cue.
Not the least bit unsure of why I might be standing on his mark, he began to stroll around the funnel to my side.
I intervened by loudly and intentionally clearing my throat.
He stopped and looked at me and, unfazed by the eyes that didn't see me, I broke into a big, toothy grin and picked up a rock.
Instead of aiming for the hole in the floor, I tossed the rock, underhand, over to my coworker.
He caught it and I motioned with my head, indicating that he should throw it into the funnel.
He did.

We repeated this process, the interval of time between rocks leaving my fingertips to close the short distance between us lessened and my smiles grew wider.  We were dancing, even if his face didn't acknowledge it.

Everything went according to plan until, in spite of myself, I became aware of how quickly our waltz was turning the mountain into a hill.  I had unconsciously moved from goal two, stretching my band of determination, to goal one, filling the silo.

I was frenzied.  Things were changing, I knew it. 

Turns out, this time I was right.

End inspired vision.

In one movement, his hand, previously catching the rocks I threw, dropped and the rock hit his upper thigh, another on its way before I realized what was happening.  I looked up at his face and it had changed color.  It was red and, for the first time, his eyes were full of emotion and they were angry at me.  I tried to recover by smiling wider, if it was possible, and locking my knees and elbows in contrived cuteness. 

That was the wrong thing because he swiftly spun around, his hands flying up into the air as though he were surrendering and his body moved seamlessly toward the brick wall behind him.  I was sure he was going to use his palms as a weapon to explode through the wall but he stopped abruptly just before they hit.  He jerked his hands down to his sides and slowly turned back toward me, face expressionless once again.

In an unprecedented moment of exasperation, I flung the rock I had in my hand at him as hard as I could, overhand, and watched as he didn't notice it hitting his chest.

The next morning, I woke up late.

Things had changed.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Book Review: Seventh Son

In Seventh Son Orson Scott Card attempts to create a vision of an early America plagued by an extreme ethnocentricity that fueled a hatred toward those who owned the land before us while simultaneously caught up in the inner strife Americans fought with one another in trying to determine which recipe of religion and folklore would define them.

Alvin Miller, Jr. is born the seventh son of a seventh son, destined for power if you were a follower of folklore and tentative fear if you followed gospel. In Seventh Son, Card introduces his audience to what will ultimately become a series chronicling Al Jr.'s extraordinary life. In doing so, allusions to religion, founding fathers, and the social environment of frontier America are woven into the story as a vehicle to further emphasize the struggle Al will face in making his decisions in his fight against "The Unmaker." It's your classic good vs. evil (which I don't mention to defeat such a purpose as G v. E is likely my favorite theme in literature).

While all of that was very fascinating and made me feel sufficiently idiotic for not knowing my early U.S. history as well as that test I passed to prove I was smart enough to teach it seems to think I do, I would never have guessed that this book was written by the same author as Ender's Game. It just didn't have the same writing style and there wasn't a single chapter in the first two-thirds of the book that I was able to read without putting it down (oftentimes for days). While my attention span increasingly wanes as I age, I can still pick up Ender and have it finished in a day. In short, I was sufficiently taken aback that, aside from common thematic elements between Ender's Game and Seventh Son, the latter quite well could have been written by someone with infinitely more tiresome diction than Orson Scott Card.

Ultimately, there were several elements that I found intriguing:
*The attitude of Americans that the "Reds" were vicious and would kill a white-skinned person, man, woman, or child, in a heartbeat if ever a one-on-one situation were to occur. Still, the "Reds" were seen to have healing powers which furthered the telling of folklore and threatened religion.
*The place of superstition in a community and how it bound some together and kept others out was fascinating.
*The geography of early America was explored and assisted in providing an image of where America was going as it expanded.

The problem is, these intriguing elements were introduced but not developed in a way that I found meaningful to Al's life or his power. Perhaps it was intended as a foundation for the rest of the series but it felt so clumsy in this book that I have no need to read anymore of the series. Also, I wasn't sure until the last third of the book if Al was good or evil, I didn't care if he lived or died: the characterization was atrocious- not just of Al but of all of the characters excepting the Reverend which I suppose could show this book as less of a portrayal of how the soul perceives good and evil and more of a religious commentary.

Anyhow, to be clear, I wish I hadn't spent so much time getting through this book and had followed my two chapter rule.

My favorite sentence:

The truth when we see it is ridiculous, and if we wish to worship it, we must never allow ourselves to see it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Best Date I've had in a Long Time. And There was Cuddling.

I surprised my ten-year-old with a trip to Rochester Hills last night. We were supposed to stay in town for mommy-daughter night and watch the local production of The Nutcracker, but I needed to do better than that with the week I've had, so I took her to Meadow Brook Theatre's annual production of A Christmas Carol.

On the car ride there, the first thing she asked is if I had received any more bad news. I laughed and responded in the negative. She seemed fully aware that silence would be deadly and carried the conversation for the entire drive.

The play was magnificent, we were both pleasantly surprised. During the intermission, I talked to her about how important and enduring this piece of literature is. She saw evidence in this in her grandma's Tazmanian Devil holiday doormat that reads, "Bah Humbug!" I couldn't say it any better than the director of the play, Terry W. Carpenter, so I won't try:

"The aromas, songs, flavors and colors of the holidays along with the added excitement of family and friends cement those memories more firmly in the foundation of our subconscious. Unfortunately for all too many of us, our memories bring back feelings of regret or remind us of an unpleasantness. Then, like Scrooge, we try to hide that memory further back, cover it with something else or direct our passion elsewhere. May we all remember, if only one of the lessons Scrooge is taught by his ghostly visitors, that we are able to look back at all our past choices to decide which of them to repeat today and bring into our future. A happy New Year to all!"

That said, I'm going to try to consciously halt the voice that keeps reminding me that, last Christmas, I should have been driving away for good and then, maybe, this Christmas, I would already be repaired. However, I'm not and that's okay. I still have many years of good memories and what I choose to do with the good or bad right now will determine how I remember this year.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if what I envisioned for my future is not to be, it doesn't matter that I'm losing my job. What matters is a glimpse I had of my beautiful daughter in the car on the way home, contentment defining the corners of her lips.

Monday, December 1, 2008

World AIDS Day

Last Wednesday, I read the findings of a recent Harvard study in which it was concluded that, if not for the policies of South Africa's most recent president (who lost his position in Septemeber), 330,000 lives could have been saved between 2001 and 2005.  Instead of being provided with anti-retrovirals that have been proven effective in saving the lives of those affected with HIV, South Africans were encouraged to consume natural remedies, like garlic, to fight the disease that would kill them because their president and his government denied scientific evidence that HIV leads to AIDS and refused money from the Global Fund that would provide medication. 

In spite of our country's current economic woes, we continue to be a nation with wealth that gives us the luxury to forget that the fight against AIDS wages on.

Some statistics from 2007 (
*33 million people are living with HIV.
*370,000 children under 15 became infected with HIV and about 260,000 died AIDS related deaths.
*Globally, of young people (age 15-24), only 40% of males and 38% of females possess accurate knowledge of how to avoid transmission of the disease.
*In India, a poor family affected by HIV can expect 82% of their annual income to disappear if they are to pay for treatment.
*In Sub-Saharan Africa, 12 million children have lost at least one parent to AIDS and this number continues to rise.

*Funding in low and middle income countries has increased sixfold since 2001
*While the rate of new infections is increasing in some parts of the world, globally the percentage of people with the virus has stabilized since 2000.
*There has been a decline in the percentage of pregnant young women with HIV in 82% of African countries.

*Because of uneven funding and in spite of great progress over the past several years, what the future brings for the AIDS epidemic can't be predicted and without greater decreases than we've seen thus far in new infections, current progress can't be sustained.


Other blogs:

What World AIDS Day Means to Me
World AIDS Day 


Monday, November 24, 2008

Filling the Silo, Part Two

Part One

It was of supreme importance to my infectious band of determination that I elicit laughter from each new coworker on their first day of work.  This was accomplished one hundred percent of the time through my own brand of contrived cuteness.

Contrived cuteness ensured that any coworker of any age would laugh.  If they were older than me, they would laugh because I was like some innocent child or grandchild.  If they were my age, they would laugh either because I was making a fool of myself or because they understood.  If they were younger than me, they would laugh because they were embarrassed.

It didn't matter if they were laughing at me or if they genuinely found me adorable.  With laughter, it's all the same.  It is impossible to laugh from the belly and not feel good.  Try it.

Ensuring each coworker felt good was positively essential to stretching my band of determination.

When I walked in on the first day of the time period that would, indeed, change everything, panic flickered before my eyes in the form of an apathetic, unkempt man about my age.  His face was blank in a way I had never seen.  Most of my new coworkers possessed at least some level of artificial cordiality that made them amenable to cuteness.  This man stared at me with dark eyes that studied nothing and said less.

As I walked past him to my side of the room, opposite the funnel from him, I focused all the energy I had to putting a twinkle in my eye.  When I reached my destination, I spun around to face him with a closed-lipped grin of amusement and eyes that giggled.

With absolutely no acknowledgement, he walked to the rock pile and began rather slowly and softly tossing the rocks, one by one, into the hole in the floor.  In order to be cute, it was imperative that I keep my knees and elbows locked, like a robot.  I'm sure you understand.

That in mind, I shuffled, straight-legged to meet him by the pile of rocks gripping steadily the look of amusement I imagined he would see in my eyes, if only his eyes were the studying kind.  I took each rock in my hand and rolled it into the funnel with locked arms, just as if I were bowling.  Each time it disappeared down the center, I would nod my head enthusiastically. 

Repeat as necessary.

He looked at me plenty.  He saw nothing.  No appreciation for my attempts to make nice.  Instead, he did something no other coworker had ever done.

In a most unreserved, cold manner, he mocked me.

He copied my every movement, less the close-lipped grin and twinkling eyes.  Because my band of determination wouldn't allow me to back off, throughout the day, I made my movements more outlandish and intentional.

And he met me without fail 

When the closing bell rang, he abruptly turned and walked away, never cracking a smile.  Hoping the defeat wasn't apparent in my step, I followed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Filling the Silo, Part One

Here you have a piece of my lousy fiction.  Be kind, this is a big step for me.

I used to wake up each morning all on my own, I'd just pop right out of bed at the precise moment I needed to pop out of bed with no prompting from an outside force.  My body knew the exact timing on everything.

There was certainly a routine, be sure, but none to speak of.  I did what I did when my body popped out of bed and then I went to my job.

Said job consisted of picking up golf-ball sized rocks from a giant pile full of such rocks, all very similar in appearance, all very grey, and putting them, one by one, into a funnel-type thing on the floor next to the pile.  They'd fall into the middle and drop down to wherever it is that they dropped, for whatever purpose. 

The rocks were always piled high when I got to work, the pile never gone when I left.

I had been doing this for quite some time and there were two things that kept me going. 


Spending the day thinking of the infinite ways I could get the entire pile of rocks down the funnel before my shift ended so I could see, with my very own eyes, how the pile would be replenished.  Or, maybe it wouldn't.  Maybe I would get far enough down the pile that the rocks wouldn't go down the funnel anymore and they'd stop because what I imagined to be a silo beneath the funnel would fill up for once.  I suppose reason one could be seen as a two-parter: either I'd run out of rocks or the silo would fill.  Either/or.  If one of these two things happened, I was sure things were going to change for me in an unimaginable way.  Don't ask what things.  I didn't have it figured out yet.


How to describe it?  Think of a wide rubber band, the kind that's so wide, you can't stretch it as far as other, more normal rubber bands.  We'll call this my "band of determination."  I had a band of determination to infect others with my spirit.  In my job, two people worked in each room on their pile of rocks.  It was really loud in the room, like in any other factory, I suppose (not that I'd ever been in any other factory); yet, there were only two people, a pile of rocks, and the funnel.  To be quite clear and honest, I don't know how many other rooms there were or what the people in them were doing.  I imagine the same thing as I was only I'd never seen them so we're working off a picture I've created with my rather limited imagination.  Like I said, I've been at this awhile and I've worked with nearly a dozen different people in my room.  Not at the same time, of course, since there are only two per room (I imagine).  It seems that my job has high turnover.  Everyone I work with always starts off with a level of dissatisfaction that's probably normal for most but grows exponentially with each passing day until, eventually, I come in to a brand spankin' new coworker.  So, number two is to stretch my band of determination farther than before to infect each new coworker with my spirit until they're perfectly satisfied, like me.

The idea being that if either part of number one or all of number two occurs, things will change.

*if I am very brave, I will post part two

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Avocado and Sunshine

Up until that moment, I had been enjoying my omelette, the company, the day. There's something about avocado, no matter how bland it actually tastes, that is supremely satisfying to me.

Across the table, he had made another verbal gaffe. There had been a couple of others in recent weeks, but it was this third that made me freeze. Experiencing my own unique blend of instant anxiety and resentment, I fought the urge to shut down, and ignored the voice that told me that the only way I would know was to ask him.

I thought about how it felt to hug him from the passenger seat while he was driving, how comforting it was to wrap my arms around his male frame, and how my head always found his shoulder, as if it were home.

Scale. That's what it was all about, scale. Whenever we stand face to face and kiss or embrace, I've always felt so tiny. That feeling is incredible; I instantly attain a level of femininity I don't possess when he isn't near.

Something had to be ignored and, because something had to be ignored, I told myself I'd ask him to explain the verbal gaffe later. Later, he could tell me why he thought it was me he had related that story to. Later, he could tell me who, if not me, he's been having conversations with. For now, I would ignore it.

In favor of savoring the taste of avocado on my tongue.

In favor of playfully touching my feet against his under the table.

In favor of walking out of the restaurant and stretching my legs out in the passenger seat, the sun pouring in while we drive through the mountains.

In favor of feeling tiny in his shadow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Soupy, Soupy

I've taken to bringing frozen meals to work so as to avoid purchasing food while there.  We ran out of forks and I was forced to eat my Lean Cuisine with a spoon (too lazy to run to Target and get more forks), which was okay because the sauce made the "meal" soupy and a fork wouldn't have cut it. 

In any case, since I've not had time for reading or blogging, this is a soupy, nonsense blog.  You might want to blow on it so you don't burn your mouth.

1)  I know I'm a couple of days off schedule here, but I was very pleased by Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama as, I'm sure, were you.  I was pleased, too, with The Onion's man on the street:

2)  My elder child has been having some trouble with organization and has been turning in her work late.  In an effort to help her with this, I have been dedicating each day to sitting with her and developing a routine to get her shit together.  We're getting there.  Today, as one of the options she can choose from to complete her spelling work, she wrote a story using her spelling words.  I thought it was amusing.  If you're pretty sure you aren't going to think it's amusing, you don't have to read it.  Skip to number 3.

The librarian asked if I wanted a particular book.

"I like reading about ancient times," I said.

"We don't have any about that, but we have one about a man and his parachute."

"I saw an advertisement about that book," I said.

"How about one about a revolution?" she asked.  "It is about a young man's determination to make the US a free country."

"Are you mocking me?" came a voice from the distance.  Another kid plunged at him. 

I opened the book and read.  I screamed as I fell into a dark, steep ravine.  Then I stopped reading and heard a kid giving sincere apologies to the other kid.  The other kid had a tissue held over his bloody nose. 

I picked up another book about a resident of Brookstone Apartments.  He was a magician.  I heard the condolences of the kid without the bloody nose.  A kid nearby asked me two questions.  I gave her the best solutions I could.

I continued reading.  The magician was brainstorming what tricks to do at the show.  I came to the word "that's" and there was no apostrophe.  I went back to the book about revolution.  They won the war and now they have sovereignty.

3)  It's like something out of a storybook, ladies.  The man of your dreams takes you to one of your favorite hangouts where he prearranged to have the musician who is playing live sing a song for you.  You share a delicious expensive dinner at a restaurant lined with floor to ceiling windows that looks out over the city, all twinkling lights against a black, night sky.  He whisks you away for the night to the room he reserved, lit by dozens of little candles that illuminate the dozens of roses he bought for you and the scores of tiny pieces of paper documenting all of the reasons he loves you.

This may sound over the top, but it is the stuff of  storybooks for a reason.  If you ever find a man who does something like that for no reason, other than to show you how special he thinks you are, hold onto him with both hands, even if there are obstacles.  Remember, most problems (like tear ducts that never act the way you tell them to, an unfortunate lack of coordination that has a detrimental effect on your...rhythm, or an inexplicable reflex that tells you to jump off at the exact wrong moment) can be worked out with the right amount of determination.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ten Years

Nearly every Thursday night, I go to a local bar and have conversation over drinks with a couple of girlfriends from work.  Every few months, sometimes longer, I try to get together with a couple of girlfriends from school for conversation.  The last such meeting was slightly less fun than it has been in the past because there were a few more ladies there who aren't normally and the conversation steered toward that which we all have in common: children.

Poor Maranda, who does not, in fact, have children.

And poor me, for that matter, who does, in fact, have children, but looks forward to my adult time so I can remember that I'm a pretty fun person outside of my children.  That I have the occasional social need that cannot be met by taking my kids to the free weekend movie or Chuck E. Cheese.

Poor you, readers, who, if you are, in fact, still reading, just got sucked into a blog about my incredible daughter, whom I gave birth to ten years ago today.  Instead of telling you how beautiful, intelligent, funny, and intuitive Jenna is, I'll tell you all of the things I've come to appreciate about being the mother of such an amazing  human being.

*When we go to a museum, she  isn't happy  unless she can read every word on every sign explaining the things she's seeing.  In between signs, she wants to talk about them.
*Every night, I get to listen to her say "One more, PLEASE!" when we get to the end of the chapter of whichever book I'm reading to her, books that most kids her age wouldn't want to read.  Only, she does because it's special time with me.
*When we go on long car rides, she never loses fuel to talk about the environment.  In the strangest way, I feel so content when I can't answer her questions anymore because I just don't know the answers.  The fact that she's smarter than me is so calming.
*When she comes home from school and tells me that she sat next to the outcast at lunch because no one else would and they talked about his cat, I know she heard me when I told her that she'll have more friends if she's nice to everyone than if she's only friendly with certain kids.
*When she bursts downstairs with her five year old brother in tow and exclaims, "Mom, Alex can read this whole book by himself!" I pretend not to notice when she whispers words he forgot in his ear and smile widely as I tell her she's a better teacher than I am.
*When we go roller skating, she has a look on her face that she's the most important person in the world because she's holding my hand.

For all the mistakes I've made, I've spent the last ten years doing something right.

Happy Birthday, Jenna!

Here she is, helping me fill out postcards to send throughout Southeast Michigan, encouraging people to vote.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


In an effort to lovingly antagonize Dew(ed) and Cletus, this blog has been postdated by one hour.

If you are a citizen of the United States, no matter what color your skin is, you can vote.

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."  15th Amendment

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the last presidential election, of those eligible: 42% of U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent were NOT registered to vote, 48% of Asian, 31% of Black, and 26% of White.  If any of these groups were to take a test and receive scores based upon these percentages, we'd have one disgraceful classroom.
Of those registered, actual voter turnout was as follows:  23% of registered Hispanic voters did not vote, 10% of Asian, 14% of Black, and 13% of White.

If you are a citizen of the United States, man or woman, you can vote.

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."  19th Amendment
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the last presidential election, of those eligible: 26% of U.S. women were NOT registered to vote and 29% of men.
Of those registered, actual voter turnout was as follows:  11% of registered female voters did not vote and 12% of male.

If you are a citizen of the United States and at least 18 years old, you can vote.

"The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age."  26th Amendment
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the last presidential election, of those eligible: 55% of U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent and in the age demographic of 18-24 were NOT registered to vote, 57% of Asian, 43% of Black, and 41% of White.
Of those registered, actual voter turnout was as follows: 35% of registered Hispanic voters in the 18-24 demographic did not vote, 24% of Asian, 20% of Black, and 23% of White.

In the 2004 election, had John Kerry received 380,993 more votes in the states of Ohio and Virginia, he would have won.  If we were to take the number of U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent alone, who were not registered, add them to the registered voters, then assume that 23% of those newly registered voters would have (A) voted and (B) voted for John Kerry, he would have won by more than he needed.

This is a bad assumption to make for a number of reasons, it merely illustrates a point.  In the group of Hispanic Americans or Asian or Black or White who are not registered to vote/do not vote, a gigantic shift in results can occur by a significantly small percentage of the whole.

This means many things.  Mostly, it means that every vote does count.  Our president was elected by millions of single voters. 

I'm not here to say that our country wouldn't be in the mess it's in had John Kerry been elected, it's moot.  I am only here to say that it is astounding to me that voter registration and participation is not higher.

I promise you that among the 3.3 million women in this country not registered to vote, a big percentage of them have conversations, both informed and not, that involve their disagreement with some element of domestic or foreign policy.  The way I see it, that's okay as long as these individuals use it as a catalyst to make a different decision the next time, this time, to speak in a way that will give them the right to such conversations.

"This is the most important election in our history."  It's almost a cliche and maybe contributes to apathy.

So does this one: "I'm only one person."  If you aren't registered to vote, you are among nearly 55 million other such "one persons."  What a difference you would make.

Unless you're a white man, try and imagine what it was like those for who fought to enable you to vote at all and how good it must have felt when they won.

Please register to vote at and, if you are registered, please vote.      

State by State voter registration deadlines
Census Bureau statistics cited above are not complete in that I only grabbed the 4 broadest ethnic categories.  Visit the site using the link provided for the most complete statistics.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Creationism: My kid is awesome because I'm awesome. Or something.

My daughter is almost 10 and I try very hard to treat her like an intellectual equal to help her develop curiosity. I make a point to talk to her about what's going on in the world and always try to present a balanced, two sides to every story argument so she can pick them apart and decide on her own. I've managed to do a good job on this with religion where she, thus far, has a belief in God where I do not.

I can't seem to do it with politics, though! She laughs just as hard, if not harder, at our illiterate president as I do. And she's "developing" a strong disdain for John McCain. With the upcoming election, mom has been having some interesting dinner table conversation with the kid.

Last night, I brought up the Creationism controversy with her (since it's everywhere these days) and, try as I may, I found it impossible to represent the other side. There's just no logic to me. None! I don't know how to explain the Christian side so it looks like there's a point as strong as my side. I tried, I swear!

At the end, when I asked her what she thinks, she didn't cite any Separation of Church and State issues. She said she thought it was unfair to teach something that's true of one religion in a school that's supported by the tax dollars of people with all different kinds of religions or no religion at all.

I was so proud. I almost gave her $5. She is, after all, a little Capitalist.

P.S. The FSM fans out there have probably already read this, but it really makes a good point.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mother Trucker!

It's been a long time, if ever, since you've had the pleasure of reading one of my angry rants. The dry spell has ended.


For those of you who haven't picked up on it yet, ex-husband and I are not exactly friends anymore. When we stopped trying to at least pretend to be friends is beyond me. He moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana in April, a couple of months after his baby with the gf there was born. It's about a four hour trip, one way.

Early on, he implied that it would be expected for me to drive halfway to meet him with the kids every other weekend. I didn't have a problem with the driving so much as I did with the expectation. On the advice of my boyfriend, I confronted the issue head-on with ex-husband, which is sadly uncharacteristic of my communication style.

I told him that I would, for the benefit of my children, meet him halfway, when I could, but that he needed to recognize that this was a favor to him and it shouldn't be an expectation. Further, if I could make the drive as my work schedule allowed but was tight on money, he would have to chip in. I told him that I had been supportive of his move but that he needed to remember that he chose to go and it wasn't going to be easy.

I think I caught him on a good day because he was very agreeable with everything I said.

The last time he had the kids (Labor Day weekend), I was unable to meet him because I had to work, so he brought them all the way to Port Huron.

Today, I texted him that I would be unable to meet him halfway on Friday because I have to work from 2-10. He texted back to ask me if I could ask my mom to do it because he's celebrating Jenna's birthday on Saturday morning and doesn't want them to get home that late (he doesn't get out of work until 5:30).

I asked, she has other plans.

This made him very angry. With me.

After all, what do I expect him to do? I made a big deal about not always having extra money to pay for gas to meet him halfway every other weekend but I expect him to have gas to drive 16 hours total to see him for a weekend? He loves the way my convenience is all that matters! Wasn't there someone else who would bring them?

Since my sister is the only one I could think of who still likes him enough to make the drive, I told him "no" because I already know she works Friday afternoon/night. He can't even ask his mom because they've had a recent relationship breakdown and are not speaking.

He said he guessed he'd just have to leave work early so he could get them home by midnight. That statement was dripping in implied guilt.

I got a bit defensive and pulled the "I'm not the one who moved" card to which he blabbed the interrogatory, "So, that's how it's going to be now, huh?"

YES!!!! That's how it's been! Why should I feel bad if I can't meet him halfway?

I asked him why he was mad at me, I told him I couldn't see where I was at fault. I do what I can when I can, for the sake of the kids. I didn't have a dad, I want to help make sure they can see theirs.

He hung up on me.

For the love of all that is holy, someone tell me, PLEASE, if his expectations are reasonable and I just can't see it. Should I be requesting every other Friday/Sunday night off?


Monday, September 1, 2008

The Boer Wars, or: Thank Heavens for Any Literary Movement that Includes Samuel Beckett

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to have rewarding dialog about Samuel Beckett. It's always good when another human being understands the infinite amount of hope that comes from depressing literature. Beckett's wit doesn't resound with everyone but it sure makes my heart sing.

Once upon a time, one of my readers promised to buy me the (1977) DVD version of Waiting for Godot, starring Burgess Meredith, if I could find it. I never could.

During aforementioned rewarding dialog, my partner in conversation included Beckett in the post-modern period and I had to take exception.

People tend to think that works that came out of the modern period but aren't really of the same form as others in the canon are postmodern because they're more "intellectual".

Most artistic movements share some common thread with political movements. Other elements defining an artistic movement (philosophy, religion, etc.) usually are effects of something political. This is not true with postmodernism which I'd almost define as an artistic movement for the sake of having an artistic movement. I don't like it. That, and "postmodern" really does semantically refer to something that has yet to happen, does it not?

Samuel Beckett's life was no different than anyone else's (as far as events in his life; clearly he was more talented than your average Joe) during the time in which he lived and he responded artistically to these events. Even if his end product was different and he was "ahead of his time," he was still part of the modernist movement.

Of the things inciting the modernist movement, I always wish to further study imperialism. Around the inset of modernism, the Boer Wars are a good place to begin.

There were two wars under the same name that arose when African tribes resisted British imperial rule in Southern Africa. The second of those occurred between 1899 and 1902, the beginning(ish) of the Modern period.

The Boer War was the last fought under British imperial rule. This is significant because it tells us that people were beginning to get restless- on both sides. Artists of the time, particularly English artists, were using their craft to influence their countrymen in attempt to halt their perceived injustices. It is important to note that, at this time, when the English "commoners" were getting wide access to that which previously had been out of their reach and began seeing what their country was involved in, Britain was fighting the longest, most expensive war of its imperial rule.

It's no wonder conditions were ripe for a new artistic movement.

And it was all about gold.

In the regions in South Africa where the war was waged, gold had been discovered 13 years prior to the beginning of the war. Of course, the British were the kings of everything and wanted control of the area. Instead of being honest about it, they just started showing up and then complaining that the Africans weren't hospitable and tried to assert their rights as guests.

By the end of the war, thousands of Africans had died in concentration camps of disease and malnutrition. Some of the most disturbing information I found was on the Stanford site, on which a quote from the general of the U.S. Army leads off:

"The proper strategy consists in inflicting as telling blows as possible on the enemy's army, and then causing the inhabitants so much suffering that they must long for peace, and force the government to demand it. The people must be left with nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war."

While this was not said in relation to the Boers, it certainly sheds some light about how those in power, and seeking to expand their power, thought. The general knew his psychology, though. It was a demand by the Boers for peace that brought an end to the war.

Regardless of whether relfecting on imperialism saddens you, as it does me, it's hard to argue the impact such political events have on culture. It is simply remarkable. Look at the blogs you read.

I would never say that oppression or exploitation are good, but it can be truly difficult to reconcile something I appreciate, like Samuel Beckett's work, with the terrible things that were going on around him and to him that affected his writing.

Thankfully, we have artists whose work is accessible to teach us about what they saw. I never have to wonder what Beckett would say about imperialism. Or, more accurately, what he wouldn't say.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

55 Pieces

I posted this on Tuesday night in one of my groups. I'm not going to link as I don't want you to read any of the other garbage I've posted there! It's a short story group founded by the owner of one of my blog subs (who doesn't blog with anywhere near the frequency I'd wish for!) and is inspired by a book of such stories in which all entries are precisely 55 words.

Fresh off a break-up and among countless strangers, she’s alone in an airport, waiting to go home. The man who dropped her off is driving away; he’ll be home in two hours. Counting the hours, after time zones and connections, until she gets home, she closes her eyes, trying to remember what home feels like.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Keillor the Puritan

In the canon representative of America’s greatest contemporary literature, Garrison Keillor’s work is recognized at once for its witty depiction of issues related to religion, sexuality, and child-rearing. Most famous for his radio persona, Keillor’s appeal is great and has likely reached a gross majority of Americans, though many are unaware. Largely due to his puritanical upbringing, Keillor found himself completely fascinated by sexually-charged innuendo and reflects such in his writing (Sussman). In “Zeus the Lutheran,” Garrison Keillor draws on his own upbringing to inject satire into a classical myth and thus parallel a timeless tale with contemporary issues of religion and sexuality.

As a heterosexual male who has been characterized at times as a womanizer (“Garrison Keillor”), it is, of course, no stretch of the imagination for Keillor to become Zeus for the purpose of expressing his views on religion and sexuality. In the story, much emphasis is placed from the start on Zeus’ reputation as an amorous being with absolutely no desire to exercise control over his urges. He is positively shameless in taking any necessary measure to bed whichever current object of his affection happens upon his path and will strike down anyone who gets in his way. Typically, those who get in the way are lawyers acting on his wife’s behalf. Through the aloofness with which Zeus responds to his wife’s concerns and the beats he does not skip, Keillor is making a statement about the level of acceptability that infidelity rises to in today’s society.

In this capacity, Keillor is able to explore the role of the omniscient Zeus and through contemporary gender roles, depict exactly what Zeus would be up against were he to transport to the present time and become fixated on a woman in a stereotypical unhappy marriage. This marks his first exposure to women who are used to exerting control in their marriages (not to mention his first exposure to women who “mount” their men). It is no coincidence that Keillor chooses to “update” Hera as well, removing her from the patriarchal society in which she lived and giving her the emotional responses that would be expected of the contemporary jilted wife.

As Zeus endeavors to convince Diane to make love to him by inhabiting the body of her husband, chaos ensues all around. Not only has he become a man that Diane is disgusted by, but Hera has used her power to render him impotent. His predicament worsens as Diane grows affectionate toward him and he cannot perform, ultimately forcing him to sit back and observe the state of the world in which he finds himself. While Zeus becomes preoccupied with what he sees as a compromise of his manhood, critics note that this type of situation is recurring in Keillor’s work and, in response, Keillor himself notes that his aim is “not to imagine we are someone but to be content being who we are” (“Garrison Keillor”).

Not to be ignored is the fact that Zeus has traditionally had a veritable plethora of ruses and disguises at his disposal to seduce women. Yet, in Keillor’s story, Zeus chooses to inhabit the body of a Lutheran minister. As a member of a large family, Keillor was raised as member of the Plymouth Brethren, which was a group of small churches formed in the 1800s in England to oppose the established church. This resulted in a very strict upbringing for Keillor in which he was forbidden from dancing, drinking, smoking, watching movies or television, and even playing cards (“Garrison Keillor”). It has been observed through Keillor’s work that the two things he feels most strongly about in terms of their effects on man: religion and child-rearing (Frye). Keillor has felt traumatized by his childhood because of the damage his parent’s religion caused through the strict and repressive manner with which children are brought up (Frye). It was against this background that Keillor chose to become a writer. Of his work, he admits to rebelling against his puritanical background perhaps because of the excitement of the fear of getting caught (Sussman).

Hitherto having lived a life where he was the Supreme Being, Zeus finds himself in a world where he is an instrument society uses to connect with a different supreme being. Not only is he impotent, he has become a religious man. The combination of these two new experiences plunges Zeus into a prison of depression where he is sentenced to monogamy. Eventually, he must tend to his duties as a minister and go to church. Here, Zeus, in all his wisdom, is bored that the people do not see that religion is not a vehicle for change. Through Zeus, Keillor expresses that religion is primarily held together by loyalty and people mechanically do what their religion demands of them with little thought or emotion. Zeus proposes that the only way to affect change is through the heart. And to “hump like bunnies.”

Essentially, Keillor grew up in a very repressed environment. As such, he found a personal and appropriate way, through his work, to explore his curiosities. Through humor, he is able to mock the religious background that defines him while acknowledging a fascination with sexuality. Like Keillor’s other works, “Zeus the Lutheran” exists to draw out the conflicts he faced regarding discrepancies in the way he was raised held against the personal philosophy that somehow evolved nonetheless.

Works Cited
Frye, Bob J. "Garrison Keillor's Serious Humor: Satire in Lake Wobegon Days.(Review)." The
Midwest Quarterly 40.2 (Wntr 1999): 121. Academic OneFile. Thomson Gale. Library of
Michigan. 11 May. 2007

"Garrison Keillor." Contemporary Authors Online. 03 Mar 2006. Thompson Gale. 11 May 2007
Keillor, Garrison. “Zeus the Lutheran.” Literature: Reading and Writing with Critical Strategies.
New York: Pearson Education, 2004.

Sussman, Vic. "How guys live their lives: Lake Wobegon Garrison Keillor reflects on humor,
heroism and what it's like to be an aging male in today's America. (Interview)." U.S. News &
World Report 115.n19 (Nov 15, 1993): 77(1).

On Not Being a Writer

I've had two teachers, and only in my college career (and it has been a long one), who qualify for the "Best Teacher I've Ever Had" award. One taught my Econ I and II as well as my Business Law courses back in my Accounting Phase.

***Nothing to do with anything: Once, when my sister and I were en route in my car to somewhere, there was a woman in front of us who had a mini-abacus attached to her dashboard. We only noticed because, every time we hit a stop light, the woman would move the beads over in some sort of indeterminable, rhythmic fashion.***

The other has taught a couple of my Literature course since I switched to the Teacher Prep program. His passion for Literature astounds me and drives me to pull out all of the stops to impress the shit out of him. He's only 24 and his knowledge in the World of Literature leaves me speechless.

One time, I wrote a critical analysis for him. It was on Garrison Keillor's Zeus the Lutheran. The title of my paper was Keillor the Puritan. I know, I know. Genius.

The feedback I received on that paper almost brought tears to my eyes.

I'm not home right now, or I might be tempted to get it out of it's frame (Kidding. Maybe.) and quote the comments he made in big, beautiful red ink. I can still paraphrase, although I've read his high praise so often that my rewording is likely quite close to accurate: "Melissa, your writing is almost at a scholarly level. Should you decide to continue your education, you have a real shot at a career in critical writing."

God, that felt good.

I'm doing homework right now and, for extra points, I was looking up something I'd previously read by Matthew Arnold, "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time." In it, he quotes an unnamed reporter who interviewed William Wordsworth. I had flagged the reporter's words because I agreed so very much with them (still do):

"...he said today that if the quantity of time consumed in writing critiques on the works of others were given to original composition, of whatever kind it might be, it would be much better employed; it would make a man find out sooner his own level, and it would do infinitely less mischief."

Aha! If I agree with Mr. Wordsworth, why was I so flattered and affected by my teacher's comments on my Keillor paper? Why did I think, "I would love to write critical analyses for a living!"

I made a comment on Mozart's blog today about the "ego-feed" that blogging provides. I basically said that my feeling on the subject is that I don't have the "it" that it takes to become a paid writer, but, since I love to write, it feels good that I have a handful of people that regularly read what I write. I'm not sure that it's and ego thing, and if it is, oh well. After all, having said handful of readers doesn't give me some exaggerated sense of my importance.

What is critical writing, then? How often do you read a review of any kind and find that you have the same impressions of the subject as the author did? I always get so excited, bated breath and all, when I recommend a book to someone. More often than not, the work falls short for them and I'm left with an emotion somewhere between "bad" and "worse." If I were doing it for a living I'd probably be fired before I found the like soul who thought I was brilliant.

So, what is it about critical writing? Is it that the analysis itself is so well versed that the reader feels idiotic if they don't agree?

P.S. If you are interested in reading the Keillor paper (and there is one sentence within said paper that I'm so proud of it's hard to believe I wrote it), it's on my other blog, which I haven't updated in a very long time.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy Birthday

The night of his first call, the phone rang promptly just after 11 p.m. one Wednesday night, exactly like he said it would. Not being one to talk on the phone, I couldn't help but smile when I hung up at nearly 2 a.m. It felt good to have a conversation like that, with an intelligent adult where I had to process the things being said, I couldn't just smile and nod.

We covered a lot of ground that night. It was the beginning of a tumultuous friendship, the kind where no secrets were allowed to run through the trees, occasionally popping behind one before glancing back to see if it was noticed. Because there was no room for secrets, our friendship would be plagued with honesty in a way that I didn't understand, but knew was clean at the end of the day.

Sure, I wanted him to be more than my friend, as evidenced by the way my face morphed into the Cheshire Cat's when I heard his voice on my answering machine a few days after that first call, but I had a feeling I'd miss him if he weren't there, so just friends would do.

A few months later my friend was due for a birthday.

As we get older, birthdays truly are just another day. We make a big deal out of our children's birthdays because we want them to know how special they are but we don't make such a big deal for the adults in our lives. We make a phone call, buy a gift if we can afford it, do something because we're supposed to, but we rarely go out of our way to make someone feel special.

I wanted to get him something notable for his birthday. Something that said, "I listen to you and I think you're a big deal!" Ulterior motive? Naturally. We were still only just friends.

Filed away somewhere was that first conversation. I remembered him telling me about the record player he had in his living room that belonged to his grandfather before he passed away and how he'd like to start collecting old jazz albums.

Not knowing much about jazz, I looked around in cyberspace trying to find someone good, someone respected and loved in the jazz world. I found Charlie Parker and then I found a brand new Charlie Parker record (that's right, a new old jazz album) and had it shipped from England. In all, it cost $43 and, while it wasn't the most dazzling gift ever, I was darned proud of it.

I think it missed it's mark a bit.

When I gave it to him, he looked puzzled, truth be told. I patiently explained the rationale behind it and continued to feel good about my mad gift giving skillz.

It was the thought that counted, for me anyway. It had been a long time since I had such a strong inclination to make someone aside from my children feel special on their birthday, like someone listens to them and thinks they're a big deal. I was telling him that I was trying to build a foundation of valuing his friendship.

I very much liked the way that felt.


Friends first, true friends.

If you see my friend lurking around here today, tell him I fully appreciate all of our foundations: the truths, the airports, the smiles, the tears, the clouds, the dirt, the mountains, and the lakes.

You can also tell him Happy Birthday.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Please, say this instead.

Yesterday, Cletus Ain't Right posted a blog titled Yeah, I'm talking to you fatty... In it, he raises the never ending question of why women can't embrace themselves as they are (physically), imperfections and all. He basically tells us that there's nothing we can do at this exact second in time to change how we look and the best we can hope for is to enjoy this second by smiling and being who we are.

He's right, of course, and every woman who read his blog and suffers from insecurity regarding our self-image knows it. That doesn't mean it will stop.

Let me tell you where I think it starts.

For any of you who have a daughter or any of you who have gone to visit friends or family with a newborn daughter, the first thing you hear (or say) is something to the effect of, "Oh! She's so beautiful."

Henceforth, in this blog, I will refer to daughters, but, please, even if you don't have a daughter, think of the little girls you do know. It doesn't really matter how old they are, this is great for wives and girlfriends, too.

The skin-deep compliments continue from our daughters' first day of life on through their childhood.

"You look so pretty!"

Over and over and over we tell them how adorable they look. And they do. Every single one of them. Is it any wonder, though, that our daughters grow up thinking (however subconsciously) that physical beauty is a very important trait to possess? Is it any wonder that, as they grow and their physical "imperfections" develop, they look at who is being complimented like they once were and begin to create idealized versions of what beauty is, against which they will measure themselves?

I'm not saying it's wrong to tell our daughters that they're beautiful. Even at my age, when my boyfriend tells me I'm beautiful, it makes me glow. He may not even be having a "God, she's beautiful!" moment, but he cares enough about me to say something that will make me feel good. I don't think that we should never tell our girls that they're beautiful.

I only think there should be more of these, far more:

"Wow, you are incredibly clever!"

"What an intelligent girl you are!"

"Where does your creativity come from?"

"Your coordination is amazing!"

"That is the wisest thing I've heard someone say in a long time."

"You are so talented!"

"You always know how to make me smile."

"You just might be the funniest girl I know."

"How do you always know how to make me feel so happy?"

"I am so proud of you, every day."

"I have the most caring daughter on the planet."

I promise you, these things are more true and more important than telling your daughter she's beautiful will ever be. That's not to say she isn't beautiful, only that beauty is relative and, in hope that she never has to ask herself what her beauty is relative to, we, as parents, should help her focus on the infinite traits she possesses that make her truly beautiful. That beauty is the kind that radiates from within.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Topic of the Day: Scary Stuff

Doctor Jones has had a less than settling week and a half in his new place which has me thinking about scary stuff. Leslie also posted a bulletin about scary stuff so I thought I'd address my thoughts/questions here instead of in a blog comment.

While I have never had any alarming dreams (although falling down the stairs in my sleep blows) and rarely remember the ones I do have, I find them very interesting. I found my C&P with all of the post-its and want to explore the significance of dreams at some point but, for now, I'll only say that I love hearing about people's dreams and can't help but to believe that dreams mean something.

As far as strange feelings while awake, the only thing that's ever happened to me are inexplicable urges from nowhere to connect with a few people in my life the day before they died.

When I was in 8th grade a classmate I was lightly acquainted with died after an asthma attack while on a hunting trip with his dad. I had never hung out with this individual but, the day before he died, with no trigger, I began thinking of an interview assignment I had done with him for an English class. I remembered a lame answer I had given him to a question he asked and wished I could go back and say something else.

The day before my dad died, 8th grade still, I felt very strongly like I needed to call him or go to my grandma's house and tell him I loved him which was odd because my dad and I weren't close and I had never been compelled to call him like that before. Same exact thing happened with my grandma in the 10th grade. It wasn't as odd as with my dad because I was close to my grandma and did see her regularly. With her, the day before she died I was at my aunt's and she was there when I got the strong feeling to tell her I loved her. I did so and later that night experienced an odd feeling of peace and comfort because I felt like she knew she was loved.

That's it. It never happened again and I'm not saying it means something. I do think that there are people out there who experience things and find meaning that others don't and it can be unexplainable. I have a hard time reconciling that with my unwillingness to have faith in a god.

I wonder, though, if there truly are people who are more in tune with the supernatural and, therefore, experience things that others don't. For example, with the bad feeling that Doctor Jones had when in his son's new room last week likely would not have been felt by me or ten people just like me. Does that mean that he's paranoid (But, if so, for what reason given the excitement that preparing for a new chapter [of which the new home is a part] of his life has brought him?) or could it mean that he, who also has had some of the most vivid and strange dreams I've ever heard, is in tune with something most aren't? If the latter, is that a curse or a gift? Also, why are people in general more skeptical when something like this happens to someone they know but are willing to suspend disbelief for a TV program or a story someone tells about somene they know who knows someone else who had a strange experience?

We've all had bad feelings. Any stories you want to share about yours?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Because I’m a ginormous Harry Potter geek...

I'm tired and busy, but never too busy to post:

A) The trailer (movie out in Nov) my sister-in-law, Treasure, most kindly alerted me to via bulletin">" />


B) The new book to be released in December (a special thanks to B&N email alerts)">>

Friday, March 7, 2008

Why I have no further plans to investigate Nader

Last week, an old Kucinich compadre emailed me to ask me how I felt about Nader. I don't really feel much about him and I'll admit that, in the past, I'd fallen prey to the "Independents/Choose-your-own-parties only exist to take votes from Democrats." This way, I didn't have to spend time learning more about them.

Having been a big Kucinich supporter (and I still believe that the only way we have "hope" for real "change" is through a progressive candidate and none of the current frontrunners are progressive), I decided that it couldn't hurt to investigate Nader.

I really only did some light research before deciding that delving deeper would be a huge waste of time.

I was thoroughly impressed with Nader's record of public service and the sense of justice he seemed to have. Clearly, he has the average American at heart in the things he tries to accomplish, especially economically. I was happy to hear that he reports that, despite his worth, his cost of living is only about $25K annually and he doesn't own a car or real estate. He reminded me of my dear, sweet, long-lost Dennis.

Except there's more to being president than caring about doing justice by the American people. One needs to have policy proposals and plans! He doesn't really have any, at least not that I could find. I couldn't find any record of what his agenda is on social issues that matter to me, like abortion and gay marraige. I couldn't figure out what his policy would be for Iraq. He's certainly very critical of our homeland security and the money we waste, which is a step in the right direction, but what's he going to do about it? I certainly couldn't find any clear answers. If those answers aren't readily available on his website, why should I look any further?

The clincher for my distaste was in his "money situation." His job appears to be his involvement in his many non-profits and he lives off of his investments. While he doesn't own real estate, he lives in rather wealthy quarters deeded to his sister. If she purchased the home with her own money, the fact of the matter is that she doesn't live there. The investments he lives off of are stocks in companies like Halliburton and ExxonMobil (the very lecherous type of company he wants to protect American citizens from.

It just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


My mom lives in a condo across from the lighthouse. The complex consists of four buildings, each two stories. Hers is on the backside, second story and, therefore, the only view of the lake is from her deck (do we call it a deck when it's on a second story?), which is on the south side of the building.

In the spring or summer, the sun is eager to warm the southernmost portion of the deck and it is relaxing to sit there and occasionally catch a glimpse of the freighters through the one spot where trees don't obscure the view of the lake.

The property that is visible from my mom's deck is the Coast Guard's. On it sit the lighthouse, two houses (one of which is the old lighthouse keeper's residence, the other is the old Coast Guard station), a large garage (belonging to the old Coast Guard station), and the new Coast Guard station, completed four years ago. As the new Coast Guard stations is, well, new, it is a very attractive and capable building but does not have the historical appearance of the other buildings and stands out; it doesn't quite flow.

Neither does the fence surrounding the property.

I'm a bit of a nature freak. Just a bit. Nature is a powerful thing; it's the only thing that's ever made me stop and question if there just might be an higher power. The lake, the mountains (recently), etc. have incredible abilities. Still, there is nothing more amazing to me than observing the best of what man can create coupled with nature.

It's why walking down by the river and seeing the bridges above the border of where the river becomes the lake makes me smile. It's why I love to see a massive freighter floating beneath them. It's why I love the skyline of a big city.

Unfortunately, for every grand thing that can be accomplished by the best of man, a sin against it is committed by the worst.

That's why we need fences.

Homeowners put up privacy fences and then paint them or stain them to make them look more attractive. It's almost become a status symbol: a big privacy fence surrounding the backyard of a home situated on a well-manicured lawn. To me, the very act of making the privacy fence more attractive is a rarely pondered admission that the landscape it obscures is finer.

Along with our privacy fences are the unwritten rules of governance that imply who is allowed the privledge of viewing our landscape (which is interrupted by the even less attractive backside of the fence). There are very valid reasons to erect a privacy fence, of course. It's too bad we should have to.

Chain link fences, like the one protecting the Coast Guard property, are the worst. They can't be disguised as an effort to keep up with the Jones'. At least they're honest.

Every fence I've ever encountered has a gate. Unless it's chained and locked, like the one protecting the Coast Guard property, the fence isn't much of a deterrent. Small children can still be seduced to cross the boundary once they learn how to operate it and the worst of man can still be seduced in when the need arises.

Really, most fences do nothing but create the illusion of protection. We protect ourselves or set boundaries for our possessions.

And they fuck up the landscape.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"There's no simple explanation for anything important any of us do..."

"...and the human tragedy consists in the necessity of living with the consequences..."

(Title and opening line credit to "Courage" by The Tragically Hip)

Things I miss since owning the Gas Whore: Sunday afternoon drives.

Today was brilliant and blue. Barely above freezing, the sun was imperious enough to effect change. The blanket of snow was losing depth and the sounds of birds singing mixed with water running off made me think that the river must be breathtaking today. I gave up on my Sunday afternoon cleaning and headed down to the river to gaze and read and gaze some more.

I definitely did more gazing. Broken ice floated along downstream and I started to think of the freighters. Winter is hardly over but, before long, it will be shipping season again and the weather conditions that serve as a barrier to the freighters will bow out.

Gas prices be damned, I took my thoughts on a Sunday afternoon drive.

Mostly, I'm sure that aside from senior citizens, I'm the only non-tourist in my area that sees the freighters as grand. Their presence in the summer is strangely reassuring and, for some reason, it almost pains me to realize that something so simple with such an inexplicable power over me actually isn't all-powerful. Lakes bring on a whole new element to winter, an element powerful enough to end shipping season annually. It's sad. It's a test.

No matter how strong a man is, no matter what he creates, there's always something stronger that he can't control.

The test is in how he handles it and whether he's strong enough to let it pass and be content with the fact that, sometimes, there have to be rules (such as those that govern shipping season) set to provide guidance to his limits.

And I know that I am limited. That, sometimes, no matter how badly I want something or what I think I can accomplish, there are limits.

The trouble is in acknowledging them and responding by saying, "shipping season has come to an end this year, folks."

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I thought I had an online class start two days ago so I logged in today (as week 1 work is always due on Saturday night in online classes at my school) and discovered that my class actually started two days ago, plus one week. Now that everyone has done one week more work than I, it seemed logical that I should make all of my remarks as awesome as possible to "get in good." Here's my bio:

Sorry I'm late, people. I am easily confused due to a condition I like to call, "complete and utter lack of organizational skill." As such, I thought this class began on Thursday the 21st. I thought wrong.

I am an English major in the Secondary Education program where I am completing my last year of classes before I start my student teaching in the fall. I couldn't be more excited about my career choice to poison young minds and have found through various networking activities that many other teachers are afflicted with the condition I referred to above and are self-proclaimed experts at "winging it." I'm going to fit in wonderfully!

When I'm not completely disorganized and, quite frankly, even when I am, you can find me at my part-time job folding and refolding denim at the Gap and at my full time job perpetually doing the laundry of a beautiful 9-year-old girl and a bodacious 5-year-old boy (occasionally I do my own laundry as well). Sometimes I have time to read a book. Sometimes I don't.

Since this is a biography, it would be prudent to mention that in my former incarnations I was a professional wrestler, a stunt woman, and a line cook. So, yeah, you don't really want to mess with me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The One Where the Guy Goes to Colorado and Dies a Slow Undignified Death!

I was going through my computer today and housekeeping. I was amused to no end by some of the horrible, horrible things I have written. When I purchased my laptop a few years ago, I also went through the high-school/early-college papers I had written pre-internet. I typed a few of them up and saved them on my hard drive. In saving them, I knew just as well three years ago as I do now how horrible they are but I saved them anyway. Of course, I password-protected them to save myself any future embarrassment.

One of the stories was about a man who is only 25 when his 7-year-old son is hit by a car and dies. The ex-girlfriend who was only 16 when the baby was born had committed suicide only weeks after his birth after plummeting into a severe depression. Protagonist, having been thrown into adult life (at which he had never been successful) at an early age, decides to up and leave town for the winter. He tells a buddy (who is completely inattentive, having heard Protagonist's unrealized schemes before) that he's going to head to Colorado and live in some random cabin (having heard that cabins in the mountains are only inhabited in the summer) for the winter and play house all alone until he can think of what his next move in life will be.

He does so, hitchhiking along as a backpacker (a really dumb move on Protagonist's part, in retrospect- what better way to get caught at B&E?) until he reaches the mountains. After hiking his way up (and believe you me, I now know this would make his survival highly unlikely), he finds some cabins and picks one. He picks the wrong one.

After all, a crazy bitch lives there. She pretends that she's not home when she hears him knocking and prowling around under the pretense that he's actually in need of help. Determining that the cabin is, indeed, abandoned for the season, he breaks in. Crazy Bitch has been waiting for Protagonist, or someone just like him. Crazy Bitch has some crazy ideas about how to get her revenge (she slowly reveals to Protagonist why she seeks revenge/who she is, etc.). She figures that criminals will wind up in the mountains stealing from people's cabins, etc. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I am aware of how horrible this plot is.) Crazy Bitch hates criminals so she buys a cabin in an effort to rid the world of them. It's taken her 6 years but she's finally found her criminal.

Crazy Bitch proceeds to scare the living shit out of Protagonist for days (12, to be exact), finally eliminating him.

Again, this story is horrible. Horribly generic, horribly horrible.

Protagonist is, of course, me.

He's a good man, really. But he has always had a bad habit of shirking responsibility which results in serious anxiety issues. He can't just relax and enjoy himself because always, in the back of his mind, he's worried about what's going to happen when all of his mistakes catch up with him. Rather than facing said mistakes head-on, he pretends they never happened and creates impulsive, elaborate schemes to start over.

When his son dies, he's running away. But he tells himself it's the beginning of a new start.

Basically, I was acknowledging at such a young age (I was in high-school when I wrote it) that I could see these patterns in myself and that it wouldn't end well. It's kind of good to look back at now.

It's still my instinct to pretend that bad things (particularly those that I incite all by myself) aren't happening to me. But I've largely overcome it.

Otherwise, I wouldn't be in school right now- I'd have gone back to work full-time (again) at the first sign of failure (so it would look like I'd planned it all along) as opposed to owning my failures and correcting them.

Otherwise, Josh and I wouldn't be together. When I first started feeling anxious over the positions I've been put into, I would have quit altogether. I would ignore the voice that told me that it could be something very special and I would have quit. Ten years ago I would have stopped taking his calls, reading his email, etc. I would have just dropped off the face of the earth and ignored the subsequent tension that would fall upon me.

Otherwise, when I was low on extra money, I would have robbed my utility bill fund to make sure I had money to go see a movie.

It's been hard and it's still in process but I don't run away anymore.

Which is quite a relief as I certainly don't want to end up dead in some cabin in Colorado when Crazy Bitch thinks I'm a criminal.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jesus Christ.

I love when I'm reading a book (particularly by an author that I admire) and I hit a passage that I simply know is coming straight from the author's head. I acknowledge, of course, the entire book is coming straight from the author's head. It's when I can see that the author is their character and not that the character has been conjured for the purpose of the story that I get excited.

I re-read Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger a couple of months ago and was delighted upon this re-read to discover a bit of Mr. Salinger in Zooey.

In the book, Zooey's little sister, Franny, is going through a bit of a nervous breakdown at the age of 19 when she realizes that she's surrounded by paper dolls at college and that many of her professors are there only to cut out more.

She discovers a book that enlightens her and makes her believe that, in order to find clarity, it would be prudent for her to begin praying all of the time (consciously at first until the praying on a loop becomes unconscious) in order to, in a sense, be one with Christ.

Unfortunately, she's not getting what she expects out of picking up the habit and, despite the incessant praying, is making herself sick.

Her brother Zooey, having read the book and knowing what she's up to sets out to fix her. He points out her inconsistencies in such a logical manner that it really made me sit up straight and say to myself, "This is true."

So, here it is (so purely logical):

Zooey is referencing a time when Franny was a child and decided that she didn't like Jesus.

page 162-165
"...I don't think you understood Jesus when you were a child and I don't think you understand him now. I think you've got him confused in your mind with about five or ten other religious personages, and I don't see how you can go ahead with the Jesus Prayer till you know who's who and what's what. Do you remember at all what started off that little apostasy? ...Franny? Do you remember or don't you?"

He didn't get an answer. Only the sound of a nose being rather violently blown.

"Well, I do, it happens. Matthew, Chapter Six. I remember it very clearly, buddy. I even remember where I was. I was back in my room putting some friction tape on my goddam hockey stick, and you banged in- all in an uproar, with the Bible wide open. You didn't like Jesus any more, and you wanted to know if you could call Seymour at his Army camp and tell him all about it. And you know why you didn't like Jesus any more? I'll tell you. Because, one, you didn't approve of his going into the synagogue and throwing all the tables and idols all over the place. That was very rude, very Unnecessary. You were sure that Solomon or somebody wouldn't have done anything like that. And the other thing you disapproved of - the thing you had the Bible open to - was the lines 'Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.' That was all right. That was lovely. That you approved of. But, when Jesus says in the same breath, 'Are ye not much better than they?' - ah, that's where little Franny gets off. That's where little Franny quits the Bible cold and goes straight to Buddha, who doesn't discriminate against all those nice fowls of the air. All those sweet, lovely chickens and geese that we used to keep up at the Lake. And don't ell me again that you were ten years old. Your age has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. There are no big changes between ten and twenty - or ten and eighty, for that matter. You still can't love a Jesus as much as you'd like to who did and said a couple of things he was at least reported to have said or done - and you know it. You're constitutionally unable to love or understand any son of God who throws tables around. And you're constitutionally unable to love or understand any son of God who says a human being, any human being - even a Professor Tupper - is more valuable to God than any soft, helpless Easter chick.

Franny was now facing directly into the sound of Zooey's voice, sitting bolt upright, a wad of Kleenex clenched in one hand. Bloomberg was no longer in her lap. "I suppose you can," she said, shrilling.

"It's beside the point whether I can or not. But, yes, as a matter of fact, I can. I don't feel like going into it, but at least I've never tried, consciously or otherwise, to turn Jesus into St Francis of Assisi to make him more 'lovable' - which is exactly what ninety-eight per cent of the Christian world has always insisted on doing. Not that it's to my credit. I don't happen to be attracted to the St. Francis of Assisi type. But you are. And, in my opinion, that's one of the reasons why you're having this little nervous breakdown..."

Salinger, J.D. Franny and Zooey. Little, Brown, and Company: New York. 1989.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Fragile Little Girls

I was at work doing really fun things like folding clothes that evil customers were throwing all over the place for their amusement when something rather disturbed me. There was a girl about my daughter's age (9) who stomped past me, threw down a pair of jeans and, in a huff, told her slightly older sister, "God! I'm getting so fat!" to which her slightly older sister said with a sinister little laugh, "yeah, you are."

Their mother completely ignored the exchange and walked with them out the door.

I looked at the girl and she was perfectly normal, not overweight by any means (not that that's my point).

The jeans she unsuccessfully tried on were a 10 Slim.

I was enraged that this young girl should have these thoughts even enter her mind at such a young age or that they would be cultivated within her family. If her regular size didn't fit her, chances are that it's because she's not done growing yet.

Girls are so fragile and I can guarantee that the insecurities this girl was feeling about her body are only going to become worse. There is no defense at all for any woman to verbalize her body image issues in the presence of a young girl. Hey, I know! Let's make sure they look at themselves with the same critical eye that we do! Let's make sure that they hate their bodies for life!

It's so frustrating to try to raise a girl in the culture our society has created. A society where I can't take her into a drugstore without worrying about if she can see the blatantly visible covers of magazines like Cosmo offering to teach us "50 Sex Tricks Your Man Will Die For."

With everything that we know about self-esteem it sickens me that we still barely notice that we cultivate some idea in girls that they have to be skinny and good in bed to feel like they're special.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Mom Called Me a "Dildo" and Other Useless Facts

Thanks to Laura for tagging me because I felt like writing but didn't have a subject.

1)  As Lyn discovered in a recent blog comment exchange, my mom used to call us "dildos" when we were kids.  She would use it in place of words like "silly" or "goof."  She'd laugh and then say, "Don't be such a dildo!"  When I found out what a dildo actually was, I couldn't help but wonder how many times I had used it improperly and, thus, made a total dildo of myself.

2)  I take a shower every night.  I have a bathroom in my bedroom with a shower stall as opposed to a bathtub/shower combo and the stall is relatively small but it works for me.  When I've had a stressful day (I've had many in recent weeks), I get in the shower and sit down on the floor and just let the water run over me.  Yes, I could do that standing up but it's more relaxing for some reason to sit down. 

3)  Perhaps it's the tight space that calms me.  During the final 3 years of my marraige, I primarily slept on the couch.  I literally couldn't fall asleep in bed next to my husband.  But I slept like a baby (and often with my baby) on the couch. 

4)  If I hadn't stumbled upon Laura's tag, I was going to enter this short essay contest.  In 200 words or less, I was to address "Tom Cruise's Scrotum."  I actually did a bit of Scientology research for this.  This was to be my thesis statement:  "Naturally, because he is the highest-ranked Scientologist ever, Tom Cruise has a very real responsibility to his scrotum as well as to the scrotums of past, present, and future Scientologists."  I'm not really sure where I was going with that but I'm pretty sure it was going to be funny.

5)  My best friend and I used to steal hood ornaments off of cars.  It was the cool thing to do in seventh grade.  Her mom used to help us by dropping us off in parking lots and keeping watch.  I forget about this.  I often pride myself on the fact that I've never stolen anything.  As it happens, that's not really a fact at all.  We turned out okay, though.  After all, I'm a student on the 15 year plan and she's a vagina doctor (who text-messaged her hubby that she wanted and embryo for Christmas).  Well, she turned out okay, anyway.

6)  My oldest friend Abbey and I spent 11th grade American Literature passing notes back and forth consisting of song lyrics.  The object was to guess what song it was and then come up with one of your own.  I kept up pretty well even though her knowledge of music is way more extensive than mine.  She introduced me to Erasure, after all.

7)  I still played Barbies in sixth grade and Dew(ed) knows exactly what I mean by this.  I set up furniture, dressed and primped them, but never actually got around to playing with them.

8)  I had several different boyfriends in junior high (2 weeks here, 3 days there) but didn't actually have my first kiss until I was in high school.  And I'm sure it showed.

9)  My mom let me have a big 16th birthday party.  She bought tons of food, a cake, the whole nine yards (Beth even pulled me aside to ask if any of my friends would be smoking pot and, if so, could they please do it in the basement?) and left the house.  Then there was a big snowstorm and only 3 people came.  One of them lost control of his car in the driveway when he was leaving and ran over the mailbox.

10) When my brother and I would play with his He-Man toys, we'd have He-Man and She-Ra make out.  Even though they were brother and sister.

I can't in good conscience tag anyone as I did that 2 blogs ago.  If you decide to do this, link it in the comments.       

Monday, January 14, 2008

Because I'm Special!

received a gift card for Christmas and couldn't think of anything I needed so I contemplated the things I might want. I decided to browse stationery. I didn't find any I liked; thus, I still have to find something to spend that gift card on.

For fun (yes, FUN!) I browsed websites for stationery. I found bunches and bunches that fit my fancy but I did not buy as I am trying like mad to save me some money! Upon browsing, however, I did happen upon something that really made my pulse quicken.

I've always wanted a wax seal stamper for the letters I write. I didn't buy one, though. I'm trying to save money.

I like to write letters. No one does it anymore. They should.

Really, I just like how happy it makes people feel to actually open their mailboxes and receive something other than junk and bills. For forty-one cents, I can make someone feel special.

Currently, there are only two people I write letters to. One of them is my daughter. For the most part, I let checking the mail be her job. If you're going to send a letter to someone in your own household, it really needs to be the someone who gets the mail. Reading the letter is only half of the fun. Seeing the letter in the box with your name on it is the best part.

I don't speak from experience. I don't actually receive many letters. But I don't give with the expectation of receiving. That's the reason I (usually) still send Christmas cards. People like getting them, I don't care if they have time or energy to send one back. It's the same with letters. I write them solely to make someone's day. No other reason.

When I first started reading Brad Listi's blog, he was doing a letter writing project. He wasn't as big a blogger then as he is now. I hadn't read his book yet and hadn't read his blog long enough to feel good about requesting a personalized letter. I wish I had because then I could tuck it into his book (now read) and I'd have a personal letter from the author.

Today, I challenge every single person who reads this blog to take fifteen minutes of your time to make someone feel special and write them a letter. Tell me who you're going to send it to and what (if it's PG, of course) you're going to write about.

Need ideas? Tell them what you did today, no matter how dull. Tell them about what you were thinking the last time you thought of them. Tell them about the one quality they have that you wish everyone in the world had. Tell them about what you're going to do together the next time you see each other. Tell them what makes them special.

Write to your kids, your significant other, your mom, your best friend, a sibling, or your boss. If you're going to write to someone in your household, make sure they pick up the mail the next few days. If you're writing to your child that doesn't live with you, send it to their primary residence so they know that you think about them, even when you aren't together. If it's to your spouse, send it to them at work. You get the picture.

My intent is to see how many people I can get to write a letter to brighten someone's day. As an added bonus, I'll do a "Brad Listi" if you'd like but it would require you messaging me your address and that might be uncomfortable to some.

Letters are beautiful things. Truly a lost art. Mine don't look artful, poor handwriting, scribbles and such, but I'm pretty sure I make someone feel special when I write. That's all that matters.