Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Satire; It's Not Just For Ph.D.s Any More

In keeping with the title of this blog, I have been searching for any proof to the contrary of my assertion. Happily, I have found many blogs of uncommon uniqueness, urbanity and poignancy (High fiving those who have proven me know who you are. Bravo!). I am, though not convinced that these are representative of any real majority, encouraged.

What I wish to discuss today is my discovery of a distressing trend within a trend.

Seriously folks, Satire is an art form. Not every blockhead who fancies himself the next Juvenal can master it. And bad satire is not like bad sex, which, even at its most disappointing, cannot help but excite and gratify. An orgasm is an orgasm after all, no matter how objectionable or regrettable the means of achieving it. Not so, Satire. Bad Satire inspires only ignominy and embarassment on behalf of both author and reader. Like a grievous human tragedy, the horror is so great, the calamity so profound, that one cannot help but read on in abject slack-jawed disbelief, if only to convince oneself that a literary perversion of such magnitude is actually possible.

Some believe the ability to satirize is a gift, bestowed by the Cosmos upon only a few privileged and worthy souls, the likes of which dot our history with tomes of such wit, sophistication and insight as to have altered the fabric of human consciousness. Some believe it can be cultivated, with careful attention to form and function, and studious instruction in affecting the delicate balance between humor, irony and rancor. I do not know which is true; though it could well be both, existing in a wholesale heirarchy of competency, signifigance, and worth.

What I do know is that bad Satire is to be avoided at all costs. Its damages the psyche of the reader and impugns the intelligence of the writer. It is ignoble, depressing and sad. Since the dawn of time man has sought to give meaning to his existence through artistic expression, so I do understand the all consuming need to create through a medium for which one feels an affinity. If the medium of choice is anything bearing the Crayola logo, the repercussions stemming from gross ineptitude are negligible. But Satire is a literary vehicle of singular complexity and beauty. It should not be bastardized by those without the skill or intelligence to do it justice. If that applies to you, please, for the sake of all that is good and right with this world....


Failing that, at least take the time to educate yourself upon the finer points of composition and execution. Here are a few suggestions:

Satire in Narrative: Petronius, Swift, Gibbon, Melville, and Pynchon
by Frank Palmieri

Satire; A Critical Reintroduction
by Dustin Griffin

The Malcontents: The Best Bitter, Cynical, and Satirical Writing in the World
by Joe Queenan

Now, I go in search of the literary Holy Grail...really good Satire. I'll let you know what I find. Or more likely, what I don't.

(Dedicated to those who are fundamentally unable to distinguish satire from schtick or create either of any quality. May they see the error of their ways and repent.)

Monday, May 29, 2006

Gratuitous Book Blather

If you look at my sidebar, you'll see that I've finally moved on to some new reading material. You can click each book for a link to their respective reviews at Amazon.

As previously mentioned, Little Children just sucked. Uncle Tom's Cabin was very good, but it aroused some conflicted feelings in me, and provoked some thoughts that it will take a while to sort through. The Agony and the Ecstacy is excellent, but it is taking me a while to read. There is a startling amount of historical, philosophical and theological information to process. It's not light reading, and so, I've been reading it in fits and starts when I feel the need to feed my brain something substantial.

My new reads...

Peace Like A River is a re-read. It is one of my favorite books in the whole wide world. I've read it three times and I love it just as much every single time. It is smart, and whimsical, and moving, and completely engrossing in a way that is difficult to describe. I will write a "formal" review eventually, but for now, I will just say, if you haven't read I mean it. This is a must read.

I'm also re-reading Dracula because I love a good vampire novel. It's one of my guilty book pleasures. I recently read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, and I enjoyed it so much that I was compelled to return to the origin from which all contemporary vampire lore has evolved. I read in the forward that it was considered trash fiction in it's heyday due to it's heavy sexual overtones. So effectively euphemized are these sexual elements that I probably would have missed them on my own. However, thus informed, I find them unmistakeable and delicious. I am enjoying the book a great deal more than I remember enjoying the first time I read it as a teenager.

I actually finished The Wall already. I loved Jeff Long's previous novels, The Descent and Year Zero. Both were a very strange and unlikely combination of sci-fi, historical fiction, anthropology and theology; but it was one that worked. They were completely engrossing. Unfortunately, The Wall did not live up to the expectations I had formed based on those novels. Normally, formulaic literature bugs me, but when it works, I tend to form a strong attachment to it, and any departure on the part of the author sends me into a disappointed funk. The Wall is more of an "old guy on an adventure trying to reclaim his lost youth" kind of story. Not a complete waste of time, because Mr. Long is a good writer. But it is not the kind of well-woven and detail laden epic that I have been jonesing for. The ending, I am sorry to say, was a complete disappointment.

Being the bibliophile that I am, I am always interested in what other people love. I'm going to list my top ten favorite books of all time. If you are so inclined, leave yours in my comments.

Happy reading fellow bibliophiles.

(This list is subject to change without notice)

1. The Stand, by Stephen King
2. Peace Like A River, by Leif Enger
3. Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
5. The Sunne in Splendour, By Sharon Kay Penman
6. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamont
7. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
8. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova
9. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
10. How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn
11. The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown (I liked it. Shoot Me.)

Yes, there are eleven books on my top ten. I could not eliminate a single one.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Reclaiming Laziness

It's a slow weekend in the ole blogosphere, eh?

Believe it or not, we have nothing to do. We planned nothing because my oldest son has been selected to play Allstar baseball this summer and traditionally, there is a huge tournament on Memorial Day weekend. We expected to spend every waking hour at the ballpark. But, due to a few snafus (we didn't actually have a complete team until last week, uniforms didn't get ordered, we have no money in our team fund yet for tournament fees) the boys are not playing this weekend. So, we found ourselves with no plans. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Right now, husband is sitting in one lazy boy and I am sitting in the other with an obese orange feline draped accross my lower extremities. He (the husband, not the feline) is watching "Supergroup". Apparently watching aging has been rock stars stroke their own egos and make asses of themselves is must see tv. Who knew? I, of course, am blogging. Laptops and Wireless are gifts from God.

It is 12:52 on the East Coast, and neither of us is dressed. I have on my baggy gray knit pajama pants and one of husband's geek t-shirts. Husband is attired much the same. I combed my hair and brushed my teeth, but I have not put on any make-up, and no extra effort has been expended on hair. The cute little graduated bob that I just got, and that looks so awesome when I apply product and torture it with various hot implements, sort of resembles one of those interchangeable lego hair helmets that litter the floor of Diminutive One's room.

Diminutive One is at the kitchen table in his underwear, writing a story (that's my boy!). Pre-pubescent one is upstairs glued to a game called "Runescape", also in his underwear. I have not prepared an actual meal today. The boys have grazed on granola bars, cold cereal, fruit (hey, fruit roll-ups count), gold fish, that odd rubbery cheese facsimile that Kraft makes and children of all ages seem to adore, and deli meat sans bread. It is the kind of day that we have not enjoyed in a very, very long time. Neither one has mentioned going anywhere except for one half-hearted suggestion by Diminutive One that we go to the pool. We might. Or not.

We used to have these days pretty regularly. At least one day of each weekend was dedicated to sheer unadulterated laziness. They were much the same as I just described, except that we had naptime to look forward to. Sometimes we napped too. Sometimes, we did...other things. I didn't cook or clean. We ordered out and let chaos reign. We elevated laziness to an art form. It was indulgent and delicious and revitalizing. We looked forward to our lazy days with almost fanatical zeal. One reason (among many) that we never made churchgoing a habit, is that it would interfere with our lazy days. I know, it's shameful.

But as the boys got older, our lives got increasingly hectic. Our lazy days declined in frequency, and then, without really realizing that it had happened, they were gone altogether in the whirlwind of activities, engagements and responsibilities.

Now to be honest, we love the busyness. And we would rather the kids be out on a ballfield, playing at a friend's house, or rollerskating than parked in front of the tv or the computer or the gamecube. We enjoy participating in a lot of those activities with them and we feel that it's beneficial to all of us to be out doing, and seeing, and experiencing. We've been a part of the sports scene for so long now that we know everyone, and we look forward to the mostly mindless but nevertheless enjoyable chatter that parents indulge in when their kids are playing. We aren't solving the world's problems on the bleachers, but, we do sometimes solve each others'.

Busyness has become such a way of life, that when a lazy day is providentially dropped in our laps, we sort of flounder. The fine art of laziness has become obsolete in our lives and the skills we acquired have atrophied in the face of relentless activity and productivity.

Last night, on the way home form visiting my in-laws, we were struck with the realization that we had an entire day of nothing before us.

Husband: "What should we do tomorrow?"

BA: "I don't know. Should we do something?"

Husband: "We could do something."

BA: "Yeah. We could."

Husband: "So..what should we do?"

BA: "I don't know. What do you think we should do?"

Husband: "I don't know."

And so, through sheer apathy and indecisiveness, we reclaimed our laziness.

A few moments ago, husband yawned, stretched and said,

"Well, it's 2:00. Should we do something?"

I responded with an unequivocal,


Behold the laziness and rejoice, for it is good.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Copping Out

Today was the last day of school. This week has been ridiculously busy as I may have mentioned a time or two. I don't know why teachers and room moms feel the need to cram as much activity as humanly possible into those last seven days. It's stupid and stressful. So anyway, my brain is fried and my heart has been wrung a thousand different ways. As a result, I got nothing more to offer that is of any consequence.

So I'm going to cop out by posting a picture that I ran accross yesterday. But it's not just gratuitous cuteness. There is a message, I think. Maybe some of you have seen it. If not, let me tell you the story behind it.

At a zoo in California, a mother tiger gave birth to a rare set of triplet tiger cubs. Unfortunately, due to complications in the pregnancy, the cubs were born prematurely and died shortly after birth. They were simply too tiny to survive.

After delivery, the mother tiger started to decline, though she was physically healthy and fully recovered from giving birth. The veterinarians felt that the loss of her litter had caused the tigress to fall into a depression. The doctors thought that she might improve if they could find a surrogate for her lost babies.

After checking with many other zoos across the country, the depressing news was that there were no tiger cubs of the right age to introduce to the mourning mother. The veterinarians decided to try something that had never been tried in a zoo environment.

Sometimes a mother of one species will take on the care of a different species. The only "orphans" that could be found quickly, were a litter of wiener pigs. The zoo keepers and vets wrapped the piglets in tiger skin and placed the babies around the mother tiger.

It worked.

The message?

I bet this tiger knew that these babies were different. But she didn't care. She needed babies and they needed a mom, and that's all that mattered. I wonder if the other mother tigers stopped and stared at them, or if they made catty remarks behind her back about the babies' father. Somehow, I doubt it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Cat's in the Cradle

In Georgia, kids go to Middle School in 6th grade, rather than Junior High in 7th grade. Today was my oldest son's 5th grade graduation. It was over three hours ago and I am still fighting random bouts of weepiness.

This hit me hard. Harder than that day so long ago when he jumped out of the Van with his little yellow bag swinging on his arm, landed with satisfying smack, and then bounded into school without a backward glance. I thought he would be afraid. I thought he would cling to me and beg me not to make him go to school. I thought I would have to carry him in, and then sneak out the door while he was mesmerized by the puppet theatre. But no. He went willingly and eagerly. It broke my heart. It made me proud. It was my first real glimmer of understanding that this momentous day was just one event in a long, bittersweet series leading to the ultimate heartbreak of autonomy.

For those of you whose babies are still sweet and small, I won't sugar coat it. 11 year olds are a pain in the ass. They are children on the brink of adulthood, which causes a lot of conflict, both internal, and external. Sometimes, they want the security, familiarity and lightheartedness that comes with being a child. Others, they demand the respect, independance and responsibility that one would afford an adult. We poor befoozled parents never know from day to day whether we will be dealing with an innocent affable child or an irascible budding adult. And unfortunately, there is nothing to tip us off until the wrong choice on our part has ignited a powder keg of belligerance or the slow burn of simmering sullenness.

But they are also beautiful and hopeful and full of life. They are looking forward with the eagerness of youthful, innocent eyes. They are poised to spread their wings and fly; not yet weighed down by the burden of making their own way in the world. They still have the potential that most of us have already left behind and the unquestioning confidence that they will realize it. They still believe they can do anything. And they can.

Watching them take the next big step in their life journey touched me in a way I find hard to put into words.

I'm not a weepy person by nature. Honestly. I'm just not a big cryer. But as the entire 5th grade filed in, dressed so painstakingly, with solemn faces intended to look mature and poised, I felt the tears welling. I blinked furiously and managed to keep them from spilling over, determined not to bawl my way through the entire two hour ceremony. Thankfully, I was not alone. Nearly every Mom sniffled and snuffled at one point or another, and I saw a few Dads covertly dabbing as well, including the one who accompanied me.

There was one point in the ceremony that will always stand out in my mind; more even than watching my own child receive his awards. Our school district is wonderfully adaptive and accomodating of students with special needs. Mainstreaming is encouraged and facilitated whenever possible. As a result, there are several special needs children that my son has known throughout his school years, and whom we have all watched grow and thrive in such a nurturing environment.

R. is one such child. I first met R. and his mother when he was placed in my son's 3rd grade class. He has Asperger's syndrome, which, for those of you who don't know, shares some characteristics of Autism, but in general, allows a higher level of functionality. Children with Asperger's syndrome face a variety of social and academic challenges. Everyday is a struggle in a world that does not understand them and that doesn't quite "fit". But R. has overcome in numerous ways and in so doing, taught the so-called "normal" kids a whole lot about acceptance, the importance of educating others about special needs, and what a person can accomplish with enough determination.

The awards were handed out by class. After requesting that parents hold their applause until all the awards were handed out, each teacher presented the awards to his or her students. For the most part, parents complied with applause protocol. But when R. was awared an Academic Achievement award, the entire auditorium erupted into thunderous applause. At first, R. was startled and disconcerted. But then realization lit up his face, and slowly, shyly, he raised his thin arms above his head in a gesture of simple but transcendant triumph.

Devastation ensued.

Every single parent in the room was bawling unabashedly. His mother, who was seated in the row ahead of me, was beaming and bawling. It was the kind of moment that makes a person feel good about life.

We scarcely had a chance to wipe the mascara from our cheeks when the finale began. It was a slideshow set to "Forever Young". Once again, I was overcome with emotion. And once again, I was not alone. Because that's what we all want so goddamned bad. For our kids to stay forever young. And because they all want so badly to grow up. From here on out, we are working at cross purposes. I have to smother the urge to protect him from everything bad, to keep him from making his own mistakes, and allow him to make decisions I know will end in heartbreak, humiliation, and possibly, jail time. I don't like it.

I'm trying to convince myself that if my children want to strike out on their own, It's because I've managed to give them what they need to become strong and independant. If I've done my job right, my children will leave me. It's one of life's greatest ironies.

I remember a tiny premature baby at my breast and it seems impossible that he is the gangling youth who now looks me in the eye. He knows I am struggling today. Normally, I am not allowed to touch, caress, or otherwise initiate physical contact with him in public. But today he allowed me to hug him in full view of his friends. And he whispered "I love you Mom" while I clung to him. I know he does. And I know he always will. And I will hold onto that when he takes his next big step away from me.

Good bye my baby. I will miss you. Hello confident adult. I look forward to getting to know you. I'm sure you are everything I always knew you would be, and more.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Shocking Confessions of a Free Thinker

I like the Dixie Chicks.

There. I said it.

But wait. I have an even more shocking confession. I don't like them because of what they said about Bush. I don't like them in spite of it, either. I like them because...wait for it...

Their music is good.

See, I don't get my political views from entertainers for the same reason I don't get my prescription drugs from the bakery. It may be convenient, but it just doesn't make any sense.

Like most of us, they have opinions, and the right to express them. But unlike most of us, they happen to have an effective platform and a captive audience for expressing their views. That doesn't make them more perceptive, astute or unimpeachable. It just makes them louder.

If constructing a values system with as little effort as possible is one's goal, then I suppose being spoon fed ideals holds a certain appeal. It does eliminate the need to think, afterall. In which case, I guess a person could conceivably do worse than to adopt the views of someone who gets paid truckloads of money to parrot the words of others. I'm not exactly sure how, but I have no doubt it will become apparent with the advent of the next election.

I love the Chicks one and all, but I could not possibly care less about their thoughts on politics. Or abortion. Or the death penalty. Or foreign trade. Or immigration. Or religion. Or parenting. I won't stop listening to them unless they start making crappy music. I wouldn't have started unless I enjoyed it in the first place.

So I'll get my views the old fashioned way, thank you. Because there is something to be said for thinking. It pretty much eliminates the need for righteous indignation and abject disillusionment when a much loved performer expresses an opinion not in keeping with one's own views. And, it keeps one from making a complete ass of themselves by passing judgement on others by virtue of a single belief.

More people should really try it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pay it Forward

We are old married people. My husband leaves for work at 5:30 a.m. so he can beat traffic. My kids have to be at the bus stop no later than 7:03 a.m or I have to fight the morning suburb exodus to schlep them to school myself. Both of our boys play baseball, so we often have games or practice, one of each, or two of one on any given evening. Most people we know are on the same crazy rollercoaster ride that we are.

By 9:00 pm one or both of us are usually unconscious, as is most everyone we know. Therefore, when the phone rings at 9:37 on a Thursday evening, it means either ((FAMILY CRISIS)) or...telemarketer. I had left the cordless caller ID phone in the kitchen, so I had no idea which it was going to be when, heart racing, I picked up the crappy slimline plug in that we keep in the den.

"Can I please speak to John Doe?" (husband).

Since my husband is allergic to shopping of any kind, it is my name that has found it's way onto every junk mail, credit card solicitation and cold call list in the free world. I am so well known that even Mr. Salim Abrahim, the Secretary General of Auditing and Monetary Recovery for the Nigerian Consulate has procured my email address, presumably from consumer list sharing with Harriet Carter and Yankee Candle.

Having once been a telemarketer, I know that is far kinder to stop them before they have gone through their entire spiel, which wastes precious minutes that could be spent dialing another, perhaps more receptive sucker, and which also gives false hope to people who are often paid a miserly wage with "incentive" pay based on sales volume. So normally I stop them right after they mangle my last name with a polite but firm "Not interested." Sometimes, if it's inexcusably late, I will suggest that they rethink their calling hours. It's unusual for a telemarketer to ask for him, so I wasn't entirely certain that it was a sales call. Warily, I asked,

"May I say who is calling, please?"

"Yes, ummmm, I'm sorry to call so late, and I hesitated to call at this hour...."

"Is there something I can help you with?" I asked impatiently.

"I know you probably think I'm a telemarketer, that would be my first thought...but I found your batting stick at the ballpark...and I understand they're fairly expensive."

Oh. My. God.

That stupid thing cost more than every item of clothing I had on put together, including my nice-ish bra and non Payless shoes. When we went to Sports Conglomerate to buy one, I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the price. Husband would never entrust such a costly piece of equipment to anyone else unless he had no other choice, especially since I threatened to make him brown bag it for the next 6 months to make up for the expenditure. But I had taken Diminutive One to practice that night because husband was down with a nasty cold. Before I left he implored me not to lose the batting stick.

I lost the batting stick.

Luckily, I had no idea I had lost the batting stick or I would have been in a panic.

"It was leaning against the dugout when I went out for my walk, and I didn't pick it up because I thought surely someone would be back for it. But it was still there on the way home, so I thought I would just check and see if it had a name on it."

Oh, it had a name on it alright. First and last, our snail mail address, his email address, our home phone number, husband's work and cell phone numbers, PLUS the name of our home field, just in case he was in a coma and couldn't be reached by any of those means. As if someone would wander aimlessly around the ballpark with a six foot long yellow and black stick with bulbous ends that make it look suspiciously like some kind of freakadelic sex toy if you really think about it, casually inquiring after it's owner.

"So anyway, like I said, I hesitated to call this late, but I thought you might want to know that someone had found it."

I thanked her profusely for her trouble and hung up.

When I got off the phone, it occurred to me that I was inordinately surprised and touched by a simple act of good will. If I had realized it was missing, I would have assumed it was never to be seen again, and that someone had themselves a nice, fairly new batting stick. The fact that I expect dishonesty suddenly made me feel very jaded and disconsolate and I was once again reminded how much big city living has changed my outlook on things.

BUT...despite all that, I had a nice little warm fuzzy from being on the recieving end of some good old fashioned nice and that reminded me how much even a small kindness can make a difference to someone.

Since I live on the other side of town, a friend of mine who lives in her neighborhood picked it up and brought it to the game Friday night. I never got to thank her in person. So today I sent her one of my prettiest and most elegant thank you cards. My sister gave them to me for Christmas one year when she worked at a pretentious little stationary "boutique". I dole them out very sparingly. But I was happy to send her one. I hope it makes her feel warm and fuzzy too.

So thank you stranger who went out of her way to save me some money and a great big headache (the one I would have gotten listening to husband harangue me about losing it).

I resolve to pay it forward at my next opportunity.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Potty Mouth

My mother, who was, in many ways, amazingly open minded for her day, was amazingly puritanical in others. For most of my growing up years, she was a hairdresser. Those otherwise firmly in the closet, were respected and accepted in this industry. As a result, my mother accepted even the most flamboyant queen with forward thinking affability.

Though we lived in the land of Catholicism, my parents were Baptist. While shacking up was not really encouraged, nor was it touted as the surest and fastest route to hellfire and damnation. She certainly wouldn't have wanted her daughters to enter into such an arrangement, but I think the resigned herself to the fact that it was the logical result of a society too long held captive by anitquated and oppressive ideals.

So the long and short of it is, that sinners and queers didn't phase her a bit, but she simply could not abide a potty mouth.

As children, we were forbidden from using even marginally disagreeable language. "Fart" for example. An alternative was never discussed, and farting was the ever present elephant in the room at our house. Piss, crap, pissed off, idiot, moron, retard, buttmunch...any anatomical and/or scatalogical slang deemed unacceptably crude...all of these were prohibited. Real swear words were of course, absolutely verbotten. My Dad occasionally managed to slip one of the lesser profanities past her, although he paid for it with reproving glances and stony silence until he had demonstrated his abundant contrition. We all wondered what would happen if the grand daddy of all swear words was ever uttered in her presence. The prospect, though vague, was horrifying enough to prevent us from ever taking steps to find out.

We didn't understand all the fuss over mere words. When asked my Mom would say "I'm not interested in raising trash." or "Smart people use smart words." Likewise, we were not allowed to use any of the many widely accepted bastardizations of the English Language, which we found equally archaic and eye-rollingly uncool. But my Mom, who posessed neither a fancy wardrobe, an expensively appointed home, or a prestigious pedigree, was nonetheless described as having "class". She understood that how one is perceived by the world is a matter of choice. And though we were undeniably poor, she would not allow her offspring to be further disadvantaged by the stigma of ignorance or apathy.

Now, that is not to suggest that my mother herself never uttered a swear word. She was human, and of course, lost her temper and her cool on occasion. But those instances were so rare, as to carry a strange kind of power. When my Mom swore, we knew she had been pushed to her limit.

I was 23 years old before I ever heard my Mom use the F word. On my wedding day, mere moments before walking down the aisle, it was discovered that the seamstress had delivered the wrong dress to the church, and then promptly left the country for a visit to her family in El Salvador. Being a size 22 and still held together with straight pins, the dress would not suffice. My mother, in her typical take charge fashion, got on the phone with the dress shop and let loose a stream of invective the likes of which I had never heard pass her lips; including, yes...the f bomb. The store delivered a dress, spot cleaned and pressed, within thirty minutes. It was the demo model of my own dress, and was somewhat ill-fitting, but the wedding went on as planned.

Afterwards, my Mother professed shame at her use of such language, but she didn't look ashamed. She looked satisfied. I was shocked. I was amazed. I was impressed as hell.

So what exactly is my point? Simply this: There is a shocking amount of gratuitous vulgarity, sophomoric sexual banter, and hackneyed, ill-conceived slang being bandied about by those who have the nerve to proclaim themselves "writers" by virtue of some half-literate commentary on the world wide web. To what end, I simply can't imagine, as I doubt anybody wants to be perceived as the boorish simpleton that such language would suggest. I suspect one of two possibilities. Either they are completely oblivious to how they are being perceived, or they take some kind of perverse pride in their half-baked buffoonery.

And though I do employ and enjoy a well timed epithet now and then, and I can certainly appreciate that sometimes profanity provides the extra emphasis to make a point or inject humor, I am utterly comtemptuous of those who habitually choose such an inelegant and apathetic manner of expressing themselves when there are so many resplendant words at their disposal. Language is a vehicle of singular beauty and complexity. The written word is a medium that allows us to express all the beauty, frailty, wonder and wisdom of the human condition. To call one's self a wordsmith, one must be able to bend words to one's purpose with intelligence and dignity, as well as respect for, and a love of the craft.

Failing that, one should consider taking up something more suited to one's talents, such as garbage collector, pugilist, or pornographer. I mean it. Don't make me tell your Mom. Or mine.

This is another post resurrected from the very early days of my blog when nobody was reading it. I apologize for the blatant post recycling, but it's the last week of school, and between the two boys, I am having a heck of a time keeping up with award ceremonies, class parties, field days, game days, etc., not to mention baseball playoffs and team parties. But I'm lucky, right now they are both at one school. I can't imagine what I will do next year when they aren't. Hope and pray that someone invents teleportation, I suppose.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Diplomacy of Bubbles

The moment they met, my son dubbed Zach E. the "meanest kid in my class". Never, and I mean never, did he refer to this child without that qualifier. Sometimes, just to mix things up a little, I would interrupt him before he got to the "meanest kid in my class part". He would say, "Zach E." and I would quickly interject "You mean, the meanest kid in your class?", to which he would invariably reply in the affirmative.

Not surprisingly, Zach E. felt exactly the same about Diminutive One. When they were near one another the air between them crackled and sizzled with the electricity of inexplicable irritation; antipathy hanging dark and heavy like storm clouds pregnant with rain. They had to be separated in the classroom...not because they were brawling, but because their dislike of one another made the other children uneasy. They would glance furtively back and forth between the two as if expecting a violent outburst any moment. But they never did fight. They would simply glare malevolenty at one another, silently but effectively telegraphing their shared loathing.

Nobody really knew why they hated each other so. The teacher found them both pleasant enough, and though both strong-willed, neither was ever considered a troublemaker. I spent a lot of time in the classroom as a volunteer, and I never saw Zach E. do anything to justify the moniker my son had bestowed upon him. I often wondered if he had a similar name for my son. It seemed that they pissed each other off just by their very existence.

I have certainly encountered people in my life that I experienced a profound and immediate aversion to. I think we all have, right? But five year olds don't make any pretenses when it comes to social niceties the way adults do. An adult might smile woodenly and feign civility in such a situation, but a 5 year old will glower and opine with unrestrained candor.

Once Diminutive One told me that Zach E. "Has a fat head. It's too round." Apparently he finds fat heads incredibly irksome. Zach E. confided to the teacher that Diminutive One is "too bouncy." To be fair, he is bouncy, and, it can be quite bothersome. Likewise, Zach E. does have a noggin to rival that of Charlie Brown. And it is a little...unsettling.

But I think what it really boiled down to was a case of two Alpha Males trying to reign over the same territory. That's always a recipe for disaster.

So given all that, you can imagine my astonishment when I came upon the scene in this picture:

On the very last day of school, amid the chaos of the Kindergarten picnic, they stole away to a leafy little glen and settled themselves on a small outcropping of earth, where they sat and blew bubbles in congenial, if somewhat tenuous, harmony.

For whatever reason, they had decided to put their differences aside and enjoy the most excellent combination of sunshine, bubbles, and freedom.

Wouldn't it be fantastic if all conflicts could be so easily resolved? What if GeeDubya and Osama could crack open a bottle of bubbles and effect world peace? In my imagination, it goes something like this.....

GWB: Osama, I have here in my posession, a bottle of, uhhhh, Bubble Light soap solution, the purpose of which, is for uhhh...blowing bubbles. Would you care to join me?

Osama: Well, George, I would be delighted, but as you know I am sworn to kill you along with all the sinners and infidels in your country.

GWB: I understand that, uhhh...Osama. I can empathize with this whole, uhhh...Jihad business. But the way I look at it, we can always get back to that tomorrow. Today, let's smoke a peace pipe together...metaphysically speaking of course.

Osama: I suppose I could take a break from international terrorism for just one day. The little Zan is always trying to get me to slow down anyway. Pass that bottle of bubbles this way.

GBW: Excellent. Here ya're...but go easy, there. Them are Texas bubbles, heh.

Osama: Oh George, you are a card. Texas bubbles indeed!

Osama and George sit quietly blowing bubbles, contemplative and companionable. Osama strokes his beard absently, while George squints thoughtfully. Occasionally, one remarks upon the bubble blowing prowess of the other. Their animosity is suspended like the perfect prismatic orbs that shimmer in the air around them. Finally, they speak...

George: Uhhhh, hey there Osama...what exactly are we fighting about anyway? Say, you're uhhh...dragging your beard in the bubbles there.

Osama: Why so I am, thank you. Actually, I'll be darned if I know. We do not believe the same things, but I cannot recall why this is a problem for either one of us. What's in these bubbles anyway George?

George: Truth my dear Osama. Truth.

Osama (nodding thoughtfully): Yes. I think your Texas Bubbles do hold some truth. The bubbles do not quarrel. They exist side by side in harmony. Let us follow the example of the bubbles, and put aside our differences in the name of peace.

George: Now that is the best idea I have heard in a long time. I think Achmed would be proud of us.

Osama: You mean Allah.

George: Yeah, that's what I said.

Osama: George, could I use that one that looks like a kazoo?

George: Absolutely Osama. What's mine is yours. Exept, you know...the Presidency, heh.

Osama (laughing): Ah George! Always with a joke. You are a joking jokester.

And so, the War Against Terror and the Jihad came to an end. The two great nations lived in peace for many decades and Osama and George remained lifelong bubble buddies....

If only it could be that simple. Maybe it is. Maybe age and conviction sometimes bring blindness instead of wisdom. Maybe we complicate things ourselves, and maybe, just maybe, something as simple and silly as bubbles actually could lend some clarity and perspective to those issues. Kids are a lot smarter than we supposedly enlightened adults give them credit for. Pity we don't follow their example more often.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Flaming June

I am simply too weary to be witty, scathing or sardonic today.

Instead, I am going to post a picture that makes me happy. I don't know why. This painting is called "Flaming June" and even the name makes me feel light-hearted. June...I feel like she could be my friend. I think we would talk about books and babies, life and lovers, poetry and politics.

The color of her gown is vibrant and liquid; juicky like overripe Mediterranean fruit. I can feel the gossamer folds running like water between her thighs; cool and silky on her fevered skin. The ocean breeze caresses her, whispering accross her skin and coaxing the aroma of jonquils and baking bread from her hair. It carries the faint, delicious promise of summer rain. I wonder if it is the sun that has warmed her, or a lovers touch. I wonder if its the exhaustion of ardor that tranquilizes her or just the limpid peace of a perfect day.

I am brimming with contemporary disquiet, loaded with cares and concerns that June would find bewildering. I long for her contenment and langour. Sometimes I think that if I lie as still as she and imagine the tang of salt on my lips...I can steal her serenity for just a moment. Its a thought that cheers me. I find solace in her.

Lord Leighton would be pleased, I think.

My beautiful friend, Flaming June

(click for larger's worth it.)

The Art of Lord Frederic Leighton

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Jodi Picoult Can Keep My $13.95

I recently Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult. First let me say that I have read five or six of Ms. Picoult's books and enjoyed every single one of them. I was not disappointed with this latest read. Ms. Picoult's books offer a little bit of everything, which is why their appeal is so expansive. There is romance, without any mention of loins, heaving bosoms or laving. There is mystery, without the requisite tough as nails on the outside, but surprsingly sensual and vulnerable on the inside female lead detective, who is stunningly beautiful but emotionally distant. There is drama without melodrama, and exploration of the human condition without a lot of maudlin introspection and/or false pathos.

This, again, is not "great literature", but it is engaging, compelling and well-written. I would characterize this as light reading, but don't mistake it for fluff. When I say light reading, I mean that it is the kind of book in which you can become so fully immersed that you fail to hear the screams of your children, the wailing of a siren, and the crackling of flames. Don't ask me how I know. Its the kind of book one has to read twice, because the first time through, one reads so fast and feverishly; concerned only with fate of the characters within, that one fails to absorb certain details.

This subject of this book is one of my pet issues...theology, and in particular, faith. It explores the difficult dichotomy that occurs when events challenge beliefs, and the only way to reconcile them are to rely on that which many of us find elusive, frightening and If you an agnostic or atheist, don't let that turn you off. The main character is an atheist, so the theological elements are presented largely from her point of view. I think its an interesting juxtaposition of skepticism and needing/longing to believe. There are many relationships in this book, and Ms. Picoult expolores the complexities and difficulties encompassed within those relationships with an acuity and sensitivity that makes them utterly believable and wholly germane to anyone who has ever struggled to accept and understand someone they love.

Here is a summary from Publisher's Weekly:

Fans of Picoult's fluent and absorbing storytelling will welcome her new novel, which, like Harvesting the Heart, explores family dynamics and the intricacies of motherhood, and concludes, as did The Pact, with tense courtroom drama. In the small town of New Canaan, N.H., 33-year-old Mariah discovers that her husband, Colin, is having an affair. Years ago, his cheating drove Mariah to attempt suicide and Colin had her briefly committed to an institution. Now Mariah is facing divorce and again fighting depression, when her eight-year-old daughter, Faith, suddenly acquires an imaginary friend. Soon this friend is telling the girl how to bring her grandmother back from the dead and how to cure a baby dying of AIDS. As Faith manifests stigmata, doctors are astounded, and religious controversy ensues, in part because Faith insists that God is a woman. An alarmed Colin sues for custody of Faith, and the fear of losing her daughter dramatically changes meek, diffident Mariah into a strong, protective and brave womanAone who fights for her daughter, holds her own against doctors and lawyers and finds the confidence to pursue a surprising new romance with TV atheist Ian Fletcher, cynical "Spokesman of the Millennium Generation."

Amazon gives this 4.5 stars. I found it to be thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile read and would argue vehemently in favor of that last half a star.

Read it and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Please Don't Piss on the Rug

I am reposting this for two reasons. First, my wonderful husband kids bought me an iPod and an iTunes gift certificate for Mother's Day and I am consumed with uploading my music library and creating playlists. Second, with all the blogtards lurking about the blogosphere and all the drive-by sniping that seems to be going on, I thought it was relevant. And really, when is the issue of free speech not worth examining? I hope you enjoy. I'll be back when I have all 433 CDs uploaded. I've realized I have extremely eclectic and sometimes puzzling taste in music. Ingwie Malmstein?? I don't even know where that came from.

Does it occur to anyone else that the most rabid champions of free speech are also the most grievous abusers of that privilege? It's as if they believe that freedom of speech exists for the sole purpose of allowing them to engage in the most offensive behavior possible, while protecting them from the logical and just consequences of that behavior. Nowhere is this more in evidence than the world wide web, where, thanks to relative anonymity, people are already less inclined to follow otherwise ingrained social conventions.

You may be wondering what has prompted me to address such a complex and hotly contested issue as freedom of speech. I wonder at the folly of it myself. But some recent experiences have made it somewhat of a thorn in my side, and coincidentally, today I ran accross a Blog entitled "Censorship by Blogger". I won't link it, because I refuse to be the vehicle through which he recieves the attention he so obviously craves, but you can find it easily enough if you are so inclined. His claim is that blogger de-indexed his blog because it was (ostensibly) politically offensive.

He opines that Blogger Administrators and Staff members are too slow-sitted to identify any but the most clearly profane or offensive blogs, and too obtuse to distinguish the many shades of gray that arise with with such subjective issues. Likewise, blog readers. He strenuously objects to the presence of the flag button on that premise. I find it puzzling that someone so vehemently opposed to bureaucratic aegis, also opposes self-policing. I would be curious to know how he proposes that an entity such as Blogger insure the integrity of its domain? Or does he think that they should simply let their investment of time and money be defiled by people who can't be bothered to behave themselves in someone else's house?

And that's how I see it, frankly. If someone invites you into their home, and you promptly piss on the rug, then they are quite justified in asking you to clean it up. They are equally justified in asking you to leave and never come back. Unless you have paid for the privilege of pissing on the rug, (I understand some folks enjoy that sort of thing) your rights have not been infringed upon.

It's surprising that someone so well acquainted with and fiercely protective of the tenets of the first amendment, does not understand that with freedom, comes responsiblity. If we cannot exercise our freedoms wisely, then we are bound to lose them, one by one, through nobody's fault but our own. Who after all, wishes to live in a society with no standards of behavior or decorum? Nobody. Not even those who demonstrate contempt for them. In fact, they eagerly exploit them without demur when it serves their purpose. I'd be willing to bet that Mr. Blogger Censorship's comments are moderated.

To be fair, he is not the only one guilty of this. You can find people just like him on every web community, blogsite, and gaming venue that's out there. They move in, readily accepting the privileges and hospitality extended to them, often free of charge. Like bad houseguests, they make themselves comfortable, put their feet up on the furniture, eat the food in the refrigerator, neglect to replace the toilet paper, leave a ring in the bathtub, and yes...piss on the rug.

When asked to amend their behavior, they become outraged, indignant, insulting. They claim their rights have been denied them. They claim that since there was no rule against pissing on the rug when they got there, they have been unfairly admonished. In retaliation, they escalate their boorish behavior, and when, quite naturally they are then asked to leave, they declare that they were the life of the party. To prove this point, they endeavor to lure other guests away with any means necessary, including tactics like shouting "FIRE!" or circulating a rumor that the rumaki is teeming with botulism. So wrapped up are they in the drama and their starring role in it, that they fail to hear the collective sigh of relief when at last they are gone and the door barred behind them. The rest of party goers quietly clean up the mess on the rug, and resume merrymaking.

Freedom is truly a wonderful thing. Mr. Blogger Censorship has the freedom to leave if he is unhappy with the service, the rules, or the format here at Blogger. He can find another place where pissing on the rug isn't against the rules. And yet, he remains here, which probably means that pissing on the rug is a privilege that doesn't come cheap. As we all know, there is no publicity like bad publicity and I have to wonder if perhaps that is why, despite his tantrum, they haven't kicked his contentious butt to the curb. I find the irony of that quite delicious...don't you Mr. Blogger Censorship?

I have no answers as to how we should define free speech. But I do know its absolutely worth defending. I also know that those who invoke it most, usually deserve it least. There are places in this world where political dissidents are still put to death. Perhaps a trip to one of those far flung places would put things into proper perspective for Mr. Blogger Censorship and all those of his ilk.

So, please take note of the large neon lettered sign at the door to this blog. It says...

(or at least heckled mercilessly)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Why Blogs and Bloggers are Not Stupid

You probably clicked on my link because of the title of my blog, right? If you read my inaugural post, you were probably pretty steamed. Who the hell does she think she is? you thought to yourself and then you clicked to find out, fully intending to give me a generous and emphatic piece of your mind for mocking the sanctity of blogging. I don't blame you. But you know what? I just didn't get it.

Because you have all been so incredibly kind, supportive, encouraging, complimentary and accepting of a stranger who basically just insinuated herself into your midst without really being invited, I want to offer an explanation.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I took on a project that resulted in two years of pure hell. I won't go into details, because it doesn't matter anymore. We've put it behind us. We chose to take with us all the good; to keep in touch with the multitude of truly kind, generous and supportive people we encountered and to leave all the hurt and negativity in the past. That proved to be easier said than done, particularly since certain individuals persisted in following me around for no other reason than the for the sheer amusement of harassing me. I found that I had some residual hurt and bitterness that I needed to exorcise before I could move on.

Some of these individuals had been blogging, and suddenly I had a target for all the anger and frustration that had been building. Because of the nature of the situation, I had been largely unable to defend myself, or my husband, or even my children (who were not, as one would think, off limits) from them. Many times I had no choice but to sit in mute astonishment as they told outrageous lies and assassinated my character and that of my husband.

To assuage the feelings that naturally arise when one is made to stand under a metaphorical tree with an apple on their head, I did what I do best...I used my words. And I won't lie, it felt good. Many of the early pieces I wrote were directed at specific individuals, and not truly representative of my thoughts about blogging in general. Truly, I did not mean for them to ever be viewed by anyone else but me, my husband and a handful of loyal and supportive friends who had stood by me through the entire ordeal.

But you know what? It worked. As my fingers flew over the keys and the words poured forth in a torrent, I began to feel better. It was the catharsis I needed to move on. And I did. I rediscoverd my voice, and my joy of writing, which I had all but abandoned during that period of struggle. My writing, though still occasionally irreverent, stopped being so cynical and sardonic and began to focus on the good things in my life. It was then that I knew the tide had turned, and that I was really going to be okay.

It all sounds very dramatic, doesn't it?? It was. Drama. The internet is built on drama.

Realization was dawning, and I began to understand the appeal of blogging. But though the old me was slowly emerging and I had let go of the acrimony, I still held a largely dim view of my own sex because of the experience.

But you all changed that. How?

It started with a post by Reluctant Housewife whom I did not know, linking to and expressing her enjoyment of a post I had made. I was stunned. I was touched. I read her blog and it was not stupid. I read some of the links on her blog roll. They weren't stupid either. They were funny, and intelligent, and genuine. And wonder of wonders, they were not sniping at each other. They were writing about stuff that we could all relate to, and they were supporting one another. Laughing and crying and commiserating and rejoicing with one another. I was encouraged, but not entirely converted.

Then, out of the blue, Mom101, whom I also did not know, nominated me for a Perfect Post Award, which was something Lucinda and Mommak put together to honor fellow bloggers. Not only did she nominate me, but she emailed me to tell me how much she enjoyed my writing. My astonishment was threefold. First, that a woman who was a stranger to me had reached out in kindness. Second, that other women were doing something positive to bring women together. And third, that even when we disagreed, it was done (mostly) with respect and maturity.

After that, I found myself being welcomed into a group of women who were so smart, so funny, so talented, original, unique and genuine that I could simply could not hold onto my enmity and disappointment. I felt that my faith in womankind had finally been restored.

When Her Bad Mother was recently made the target of a vicious attack at the hands of someone who fancies themselves very clever, (I won't link it, because I refuse to pander to such a shameless and pathetic bid for attention)I felt her pain, and I felt that faith being shaken again. But the response to her dilemma was so overwhelmingly supportive, that instead of crumbling into a pile of disenchanted and disconsolate rubble, it was reinforced with the steely strength of sisterhood. Bu yah, baby.

So now you know my story of how I found myself again, how I found all of you, and how in so doing, I found out that Blogs and Bloggers are most definintely...not stupid.

Thank you all.

(Oh, can be sure this will garner some interesting comments, undoubtedly anonymous. Feel free to sit back and watch. It's sure to be good entertainment. Kind of like Jerry Springer.)

Thank You

Dear Mom,

You used to say, "One of these days, you will thank me."

I'm sorry I made you wait 30 years.

I get it now.

Thank You.

For reading books to me twenty times in a row. For driving by Jamie Tookshur's house every day on the way home when I had a crush on him in first grade. For yelling at the teacher that time she wouldn't let me go to the bathroom and I wet my pants. For letting us keep Sunshine because Alan Head's mom was going to flush him down the toilet. For letting me run away to Grandma's when I was 9. For not letting me watch stuff that would rot my brain. For letting me read everything I could get my hands on. For sending me upstairs to wash that crap off my face. For sending me back upstairs to put on something decent. For fixing my hair that time I tried to bleach it by myself after you said I was not meant to be blonde. For letting me pierce my ears three times. For telling me over and over how smart I was. For believing me that time you left me home alone for the weekend that I didn't mean to have a party, and it wasn't my underwear you found in your bed. For buying me a stereo that year you said there wouldn't be much for Christmas. For not trying to stop me when I left home. For not saying I told you so when he left me for another woman. For saving my wedding day when I found someone worth ten of him. For crying the first time you laid eyes on my newborn son. For not crying when I told you I lost the baby. For loving my husband and my kids.

And so much more I can't even put into words.



Saturday, May 13, 2006

Content Removed

Due to copyright concerns. Thank you to all who read and commented.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Future Disguised As Shameless Bragging...

This is my Spirited Child
The Diminutive One
My Lastborn

This image was captured on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, while he was doing what he loves most. It's a rare thing, because at about two years of age, he decided that having his picture taken was simply unacceptable. I cherish pictures like these, where his unique and indomitable spirit shines through.

Though it looks as if he was posing, he was actually completely unaware of the photographer. That look is pure unmanufactured happiness. The love of the game. The anticipation of victory. The resolve to smack the dickens out of the ball. The confidence that he would. That look was to say..."Don't you worry Coach, this one is outta here."

There's a reason he was blessed with such a winsome little face. It's nature's way of ensuring that he makes it to adulthood. It's very hard to stay angry at a face like that. That face is why I walked away 1000 times. When telling stories of his exploits, I have often been met with exclamations of disbelief..."Not him! Look at that FACE!" Yes. That face. That blue-eyed, rosy lipped, freckled little face. It has stayed my hand and my tongue far too many times to count. Thank God.

This is my spirited child. He drives me crazy. I fear for what the future holds for him. It could well be incarceration. But it could just as easily be the Presidency. The only thing I am sure of is that whether he pursues a life of crime or a career in politics, he will do it with drive, enthusiasm and sheer unadulterated determination. He will be the best if it kills him and it just might.

God I love that kid.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Politics of Love

(Grab a cuppa something. I completely blew the boundaries of verbosity with this one.)

I don't write about my political beliefs much. I've debated them before and frankly, I'm sick of the mentality that allows people to judge my morality based on my acceptance or rejection of a given political doctrine. Also, I tend to be very apathetic about politics in general and my views are not cohesive enough to allow me to claim membership to either major political party...not that I'd want to. That said, there are several issues that I feel very strongly about and will openly opine upon, flames be damned. One of those issues is gay marriage.

My whole life I have been around gay people. My mother was a hairdresser for most of my growing up years, and gay people were able to find a measure of respect and acceptance in that industry. They were abundant at the trade shows and conferences that my mother often brought me to, and though it was never remarked upon, I understood that in the context of their profession at least, they were considered the same as everybody else. They were accepted.

My mother had a gay cousin, who was whispered about at family gatherings. When his partner stole all his money and ran off with another man, there wasn't much sympathy. Though I don't think it was ever said aloud, the general family consensus seemed to be that he got what he deserved. I was pretty young, but kids have a funny kind of perception that allows them to understand the emotional nuances of a situation even if they don't know all the facts. I remember thinking that they weren't very nice to him, except when they wanted his advice about covering that stubborn gray, or whether that fabulous piece they got for a steal at a garage sale was an authentic antique. When he could do something for them they were willing to overlook his sexuality. Otherwise, he was not openly persecuted, but subtly ignored. I felt sorry for the handsome, smiling man who had sadness behind his eyes, though I didn't really know why.

I also had a Lesbian cousin, though nobody knew she was a lesbian until she gave birth to a baby girl out of wedlock. On purpose. You would have thought she robbed the collection basket at St. Francis Xavier. The fact was, she realized she would never have a family through traditional means, and so, when she was financially stable and in optimal health, she and a gay friend decided to have a child together. The illegitimacy of the baby alone nearly gave my Catholic grandmother and all eleven of her siblings a collective stroke. When it was revealed several years later that my cousin was a Lesbian, there erupted a flurry of familial consternation and many assemblages were held with various and sundry religious leaders to decide what to do about it. Do about it? Twenty years later is still rankles me that anyone presumed they had the right to "do" anything about her sexuality or the choices she made as an independant adult.

Her mother, also a hairdresser, was largely nonplussed, but her father and step-mother were convinced she could be "normal" if only she would try. They constantly implored her to attend a series of religious seminars gauranteed to result in heterosexuality. My Dad, a lapsed Catholic, and somewhat of a black sheep, patiently tried to explain to my uncle that she was not broken, and did not need to be fixed. He tried to explain that her sexuality was not a choice, and therefore, beyond her control, or that of Jesus. "Who do you think made her that way?" my dad would ask, but my uncle would hear none of it. I haven't seen my uncle or my cousin in many years, but I would bet that he still hasn't made his peace with her "choice"; not if Catholicism has anything to say about it anyway.

In high school, my very best friend was a gay man. I didn't know he was gay, but I knew he was different. He spent a lot of time at our home, and it was my mother who gently pointed out to me that he was probably homosexual, and that he would really need a good friend to support him in the difficult times he would surely encounter in his life. I didn't let on that I knew his secret. One night, while walking aimlessly through the neighborhood together, he haltingly told me he was gay. My response was..."So?" He looked at me askance, as if he couldn't quite believe that his sexuality made no difference to me. I told him he was one of the best friends I ever had (it was and still is true) and that nothing would change how I felt about him.

Time and circumstance have separated us for quite some time, but I will always remember the relief in his face and the desperate strength of our shared embrace when at last he decided to share his burden with me. I will always remember how he struggled for acceptance in our small midwestern town. I will always remember the shame and fear in his eyes when he was assaulted with words like "queer" and "faggot" and "homo". And I will always remember the way he shrank into his own body as he tried to protect himself from the indignity of the taunts. A teenage boy should not have to be that strong.

In my early twenties, I had a boss who was a Lesbian. She was not a very pleasant person, which was of course, attributed to her sexuality. Sexual frustration was surely to blame for her irrascibility, and all she really needed was a hot beef injection, yuk, yuk. It certainly wasn't due to the fact that she was surrounded by ignorant intolerant good old boys who snickered about carpet munching and comfortable shoes in the break room. It couldn't have had anything to do with the fact that her enduring, monogamous relationship would never be viewed with the same respect as those of her heterosexual peers. I doubt it ever occurred to that retinue of rednecks (genteel, well educated rednecks, but rednecks nonetheless) that perhaps she wore her surliness as armour against the crushing disappointment of not being allowed to live and love with dignity.

I hadn't thought about any of these people for many years.

I have been a stay at home Mom for 11 years now, and though the issue of gay acceptance is still very close to my heart, the places that I frequent in my day to day life are not exactly havens of diversity. Oh...I'm sure there are gay parents on the PTA. I'm sure there are gay coaches and teachers. But they know better than to advertise their sexuality in a state that is as red as the blood of those who died building and then rebuilding the crown jewel of the South. Atlanta likes to think itself very progressive, but the truth is, it is just as mired in the prejudicial mud of the past as any of the tiny torpid little towns beyond its borders.

So why, after all these years, am I being deluged with memories of people and struggles long forgotten?

I watched Brokeback Mountain this weekend.

Yes, I've heard all the jokes. I've watched the shockingly irreverent but undeniably funny bunny parody. I've listened to more people parrot the "Quit you" line than I care to remember, in accents too horrible to recall.

Nothing prepared me for the stunning depth and beauty and sadness of this movie.

I was moved to tears, not just for Jack and Ennis, but for all the people who have not been allowed to love; all the people who have been hurt because they loved someone who was trying to love the "right" way, knowing deep in their heart that it was wrong for them; all those who hadn't the strength to face a life spent being reviled, and so, lived alone, unloved and unloving; wasting their lives trying to live up to some puritanical and bigoted ideal.

So many people have been hurt by the denial of one simple and harmless little privilege; one that doesn't violate anybody else's rights, or diminish anybody else's humanity. It's a privilege that doesn't start wars or end lives. It is a precious commodity, and yet it costs nothing. And still there are those who would begrudge others this right. They would rather condemn fellow human beings to lives of loneliness and sadness, than face having their beliefs challenged, their moral foundations shaken. Which leads me to ask...what can possibly be amoral about love?

If someone can explain this to me, without relying on some pat theistic postulation, I would very much like to hear it. Because L. Ron Hubbard says the Human Race is descended from Aliens. He also says that people with physical and mental disabilities are degraded beings. He has written a very widely circulated book about it and he has gained a very large following of devoted believers. He has disciples and he has centers around the world devoted to this "religion". He has everything that Jesus had, except, arguably, divinity. That doesn't make what he says true or right. So I want an explanation other than "Because Jesus said so."

Since I don't think any such explanation will be forthcoming, I will say this: We should be ashamed. We sanction abortion, war, torture, misogyny, and genocide. We watch other nations savage one another and our own people die of starvation and neglect. But we deny the right to love.

Could anything make less sense?

We've come a long way, it's true. But until the day that gay couples can stand up and say "I do" and be afforded all the same rights and privileges and protection as heterosexual couples, there is still grave injustice being done everyday. I can make a difference, you can make a difference. All we have to do is believe in the sanctity, the value and the goodness of love...any love.

I think we have it in us.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


My children are as different as night and day, in looks, and in temperment. I have been asked if they have different fathers. They don't, but honestly, I can understand the suspicion.

My oldest child is mild-mannered, sensitive, and cautious. His caution sometimes escalates to the point of anxiety. When he was in second grade, he suffered a very mysterious bout of extreme stomach trouble, which completely baffled his pediatrician. After a battery of tests, he was pronounced completely healthy, and it was clear that his stomach problems were being caused by some kind of anxiety. But to my knowledge, nothing had been bothering him. I tried to gently coax from him the reason behind his worries. He steadfastly assured me that all was well.

I was called to the school for the third day in a row to pick him up, and arrived to find him writhing in agony. I was alarmed, but having already taken him to the doctor, I knew there was nothing physically wrong. What in the world could be troubling him so??? Was some little miscreant bullying him? Had somebody molested him? Had he done something to someone else that was causing him guilt and remorse? As we drove home, I tried once again to discern the cause of his distress, but my gentle prying only caused him more anxiety and he tearfully accused me of not believing that his tummy hurt.

As we neared an intersection, he screamed that he was going to throw up. Luckily, there was a gas station on the corner nearest us. We screeched in, left the car running, and made to the restroom in the nick of time. I watched as goldfish and kool-aid cascaded from his mouth in an abundant torrent. When he was done, he drew his the back of his little hand shakily accross his mouth. He looked up at me with huge hazel eyes and asked,

" pencil lead poisonous?"

Sweet Jesus. There it is.

"Um, lead is poisonous honey, but pencils aren't made out of lead, they're made out of graphite."

My words were like magic and before my eyes the worry and tension and fear bled away leaving his little face wan, but hopeful.

"Really? Are you sure?"

"YES, honey, I'm sure. They found out a long time ago that lead was harmful and they stopped making ANYTHING with it."

"Like, how long ago?"

"Before I was even born."

I wasn't sure if that was exactly true, but I figured in this instance, my little white lie would was justified, and would be forgiven.

"Taylor Martin is SUCH a liar!"

He said this with uncharacteristic vehemence. I waited for him to spill the rest of the story, certain that Taylor Martin was at the bottom of our stomach problems.

"I chew on my pencil a lot, you know."

"Really?" I said, feiging nonchalance.

"Yeah. And Taylor MARTIN said that you can DIE from eating lead."

"Well you can get very sick from eating lead. But like I said, pencils are made out of graphite."

"I bet Taylor Martin knew that too." he said bitterly.

I bet he did too, the little fucker.

So, the stomach mystery was solved, and he had a miraculous recovery. From then on, he has been pretty judicious about what he exposes himself to, and I have learned to respect that. As he gets older, we are relaxing the rules a bit in terms of media, for which he is grateful. But occasionally, he will decline the offer of a movie, or a television show, knowing full well it's beyond his capability to be objective. Sometimes, his choices are puzzling, but I generally do not comment on them. I have learned to appreciate and trust his self awareness. He will never be a risk taker or an adrenaline junkie, and that is a-okay with me.

My younger child is another story altogether.

He loves a good thrill, whether it comes from breaking the rules, or pushing the boundaries of gravity and good sense. He likes speed, he likes danger, he likes adventure. He is the one who will try marijuana (and worse) on a dare. He is the one who will be caught breaking into the school after hours to plant cherry bombs. He is the one who will never, ever get a driver's license if I have anything to say about it, because he is the one, who, like his father, will likely have to have a serious brush with death before he realizes that he is not invinceable, and that what goes up, cresting a hill and becoming airborne at 120 miles per hour, must come down...hard.

But he too possesses a type of self-awareness.

Today he let slip that he has been working on a flower pot Mother's Day surprise for me at school. If you know anything about second graders, you know they love a good guessing game. So I was compelled to guess what it was he would be giving me on that special day.

"A Diamond Necklace."

"No, but close."

He was completely serious.

"Ummmm, a picture of you in a hand decorated frame."

He rolled his eyes and said impatiently.

"Guess again Mom."

"Okay...ummm, a new car! Oh honey, a new car! You shouldn't have!!"

He rolled his eyes again.

"You know I can't afford a new car Mom. Besides, Lamborghini's are illegal."

I hadn't said anything about a Lamborghini, but in his 8 year old mind, it is the epitome of automotive excellence and beauty. So naturally, I would want one.

"I don't think they're illegal Diminutive One."

"Yes they are." he insisted. "A Lamborghini Murcielago can pretty much only go something like 100 miles an hour, so you can't drive them on the regular road. It's against the law."

He said this with great authority, and I had to stifle the urge to giggle, as is often the case. But Diminutive One takes great offense if he feels that he is being laughed at, and so I did my very best to keep a straight face as I said,

"Lamborghini's DO go less than 100 miles per hour. People just like to drive them fast because they can. You can drive it on the regular road, you just have to exercise some self control."

He looked at me thoughtfully for a moment, and I wondered what was going on in that head of his. With Diminutive One, there's no telling. Finally he said,

"I don't think I'll get a Lamborghini."

Self Awareness. Maybe it won't keep him alive, but a Mom can hope. In the meantime, I'm going to check into getting some kind of injunction or writ of habeas maternus that will prevent him from driving...ever.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Tom Perrotta owes me $13.95

I once said that I take it very personally when a book fails to live up to my expectations, which, of course, are usually a result of media "buzz". In this case, I hadn't heard much about Little Children, except several vague assertions that it was "good". I had seen it on the TBR lists of some people with whom I share similar tastes in literature, and I had seen it on the bestseller list. I picked it up on impulse, and while I wasn't expecting Pride and Prejudice, I was hoping for something a little more substantial than your average bodice ripper.

The comments on the book jacket were promising:

"Poignantly funny...Little Children will be Mr. Perrotta's breakthrough popular hit"

-New York Times

"A virtuoso set of overlapping character studies...a greatly auspicious and instructive encounter with the dreaded world of maturity."

-The Washington Post

"Little children made me laught so hard I had to put it down...a precise and witty evocation of the sweet, mind-numbing routines and everyday marital effevescent new work."

-Entertainment Weekly

"Engrossing, compassionate"


Clearly, there was some sort of publishing snafu, as the book I read could not possibly be the same about which these remarks were made. Somehow, the reviews for some really good book; one that I would dearly love to read, have made it onto Mr. Perrotta's dust jacket.

I'm trying to be kind, because I hope one day to be an author myself, and I know that I will take any negative reviews straight to heart. But to be quite honest, this book is really just tripe from beginning to end.

The charachters are pallid, self absorbed and whiny. Neither they, nor their their "problems" are interesting enough to warrant an entire volume filled with their pseudo-introspective mewling.

The main charachter, Sarah, is supposed to inspire empathy and a feeling of kinship, I think, but what she inspired in me was the urge to bitchslap her. She made foolish choices which resulted in a bad marriage. She then tries to excuse her infidelity with piteous lamentations about her loveless existence. She is either unwilling or unable to recognize that her circumstances are directly related to her own momumental imprudence. Rather than seeking any real awareness of what brought her to such a place, she seeks to salve her self-inflicted wounds by embarking on an affair with an eye-pleasing paramour; the beautiful but equally eqocentric Todd. Their love affair is neither interesting nor arousing because the reader is painfully aware that it is not driven by passion, but by self-pity.

There is the requisite villain in this story, in this case, the child molester Ron McGorvey. Strangely enough, he is one of the more complex and interesting individuals in the book; possibly because Mr. Perrotta attempts to humanize a person that others see as inhuman by creating a dichotomy between his acts and his character. While this does make him slightly more interesting and genuine, it doesn't really make him any more sympathetic. Instead of creating a tragic figure for which the reader feels a sort of charitable pity, it only serves to make him more ignominious. He is a monster in spite of himself and we don't want to help him, we just want him to go away.

The other characters are so insubstantial as to be insigificant. (With the exception of Sarah's husband, Richard the underwear fetishist, who doesn't figure nearly as prominently as he and Slutty Kay should.) They are bit players in a comedic tragedy that falls markedly short of that designation. Mr. Perrotta writes well enough. He has a decent command of the English Language, and his prose is neither hopelessly hackeneyed nor uncommonly flamboyant. But his character development is decidedly weak, and his story line, for me, was somewhat puzzling.

I suppose he was trying to tap into the cares and concerns of the average housewife, in which case....he should have asked a housewife. Because I'm really more concerned with getting the bills paid on time, juggling four hectic schedules, and keeping my kids physically and emotionally healthy while still maintaining a tenuous grasp on my sense of self and finding some smidgen of personal fulfillment outside the parameters of wife, mother and jack of all trades. I really don't have a lot of time for self-pity, I sure don't have the energy for an affair, and I can't imagine that I'd ever have to resort to husband stealing to convince myself of my own worth. Then again, most women I know are pretty self-assured, so perhaps my view is colored in that regard. Regardless, Macrame might have been a better alternative to adultery for Sarah.

In no way did I find this book representative of "everyday marital conflicts". I don't know about you, but in my life, everyday marital conflicts consist of issues such as leaving the toilet seat up, (him) not gassing up the car until it is on dead empty, prompting a very tense trip to the gas station (me) and finding the time and energy for sex with each other. I don't spend a disproportionate amount of time (we all have those fleeting moments of course) reflecting on how pointless and meaningless my life is. Nor am I, or any women that I know, deluded enough to believe that sleeping with that delectable guy down the street (we all have one of those too) would result in the sudden materialization of an identity or a sense of purpose. It's really sort of insulting when you think about it.

Books are getting mighty expensive these days. $13.95 for a paperback?? For that price, it had better be well worth it. Little Children was not. I want a refund. And since Barnes&Noble isn't particularly inclined to hand out refunds based on "This books sucked rocks", I'm appealing directly the author. Mr. Perrotta, you owe me $13.95. Please have your people get in touch with my people, MMmmkay? Thanks.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Perforation Generation

I don't know what moniker the media Gods have chosen to bestow upon the latest crop of twenty something up and comers, but I have a few suggestions I'd like to throw out there.

Tat-us Quo
Perforated Youth
The Perforation Generation
The Tat Pack
BodMod Squad

So, anyway. Far be if from me to criticize the pursuit of a trend. My teenage years were spent right smack dab in the middle of the 80's, and I doubt there has been any era before or since with such abundant opportunity for embarassing ourselves. And since my interest in trends waned significantly when keeping a distressingly diminutive human being from consuming the contents of a diaper or toddling into a well became the focus of my days, its no surprise that I am woefully unhip.

But never have I seen such a collection of inked and skewered flesh as I have encountered in the stylized and largely uncapitalized blogs of these young whippersnappers. They lead me to wonder when being trendy become so painful. And dangerous. As far as I know, fashion trends in the 80's were non-lethal, unless you count the risk of asphyxiation from aerosol fumes. And though we often let our common sense be overruled by our desire to be Like A Virgin, I don't think anybody ever contracted Hepatitis C or a raging bacterial infection from parachute pants, though I suppose a yeast infection or two could be blamed on that unfortunate fashion choice.

At the risk of sounding squarer than a saltine cracker...I simply don't get this trend. Primarily because it has got to hurt like hell. I'd say pushing pointy objects through my nipples would rank right up there with pube waxing, natural childbirth, and colorectal anything on my list of things to avoid.

I nursed my children, and I nursed them long enough to demonstrate my somewhat militant opposition to outmoded and puritanical childrearing practices. The unfortunate result of this was that my nurslings sprouted teeth. As newly betoothed babies are wont to do, they would periodically bite down with force roughly equal to that of a steel bear trap and steadfastly refuse to let go, fascinated and delighted by the inhuman shrieks of agony from the Mommy person.

The degree of pain was such that I fully expected to look down and see my nipple completely severed and nestled between the lips of my bloodthirsty cherub like a grisly pacifier. Surprisingly, both nipples are still intact, and in fact, never sustained any serious injury. But the memory of that pain haunts me, and I can't for the life of me understand why someone would choose to inflict such torturous pain upon such a lovely and obliging part of the female anatomy.

As for the defilement of the little man in the boat...I simply refuse to acknowledge that such a travesty would take place, as the mere thought of such makes me want to put my thumb in my mouth and go to my happy place for a very long time.

But even that pales in comparison to some of the body modifications found here. Be forewarned, these images are extreme and disturbing. Among the most shocking is something called a "genital bisection".

Nature, in her infinite wisdom, has broken copulation down into a process so simplistic that pretty much any man or beast can manage to reproduce. Its beautifully basic...insert tab A into slot B. It works every time. And yet, someone, somewhere, ostensibly under the influence of massive quantities of alchohol or mind altering drugs, decided that perhaps they could improve upon nature's delivery system by splitting it in two.

Yes. I'm serious.

Aside from the disturbing implications regarding the mental health of someone who would mutilate themselves in such a way, and the obvious procedural difficulties that might ensue, I surmise that the result of this would be much like placing one's thumb over the end of a garden hose, and I am hard pressed to see the appeal of going through life having to hold one's wee willie winkie together to avoid spraying bodily fluids hither and yon. Truly and profoundly perplexing.

Tattoos, though markedly less shocking, are for me, equally confusing. Perhaps because I find that the human body is already a thing of singular beauty, grace and artistry. In my opinion, marking the human flesh with ink is akin to spray painting graffiti on all the trees in Walden's Woods. Some would argue that tattooing and graffiti alike are valid contemporary art forms. That's highly debateable, but both, even when beautifully rendered, obscure and cheapen the natural beauty of what lies beneath. At a time in my life when I am struggling to maintain epidermal integrity, and still deluding myself about the efficacy of the alphahydroxyretinoidsalycilicsoyextractmicropeelabrasion compounds that I slather on it daily...I am mystified by the apparent dissatisfaction with the dewy splendour of young unsullied skin.

Well, perhaps it is just as well. Stretchmarks and varicose veins do not an ideal canvas make. And at this point, piercing anything that dangles or protrudes will only hasten its inevitable southward progress.

One encounters strange, strange things on the internet, and some of them can make a person feel like a piece of their innocence has been taken away. I think I'll go unearth my peg leg jeans and my Howard Jones cassette. I might even tease my bangs just a little. I need to think happy thoughts for a while.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Validation Education

The Players: BA and Husband

The Stage: Our living room, Thursday night, in the viewing waste land that is the time slot preceding E.R. during which we catch up on all our other weekly favorites.

The Scene: BA and Husband discuss the issue of validating one another's petty annoyances. Let's watch...

BA: Dammit Allison! You know Manny is going to call you in the middle of the night! Just move the goddamned phone already!!!

Husband (bewildered): Why does that bother you so much?

BA: Because it's stupid. Nobody would let their wife climb over them night after night to answer the phone. They would move it to her side of the bed.

Husband: It's a television show.

BA: Yes, I know, and it's supposed to be REALISTIC. That is not realistic. It pisses me off the way it pisses you off when they get technology stuff wrong.

Husband: Okay. Whatever, but I don't let it ruin the show for me.

BA: It's not ruining the show for me.

Husband: Well obviously it's bothering you.

BA: It's not BOTHERING me. It annoys me, that's all.

Husband: Whatever you say, hon.

Moments later, Husband attempts to execute a command to the DVR program, whereupon the parental control password prompt is activated for no apparent reason. Husband enters password, but not fast enough for the 4 second timer. It scolds husband for entering the wrong password. Husband, muttering to himself, re-enters password. When at last the password is accepted, the recording has been interrupted, and we are shown the program currently being aired instead.

Husband (strenuously pushing buttons): GODAMMIT! This is THE worst program ever. What kind of moron wrote this?? Haven't they ever heard of beta testing? Idiots.

BA: I know. Its unbelievable.

Husband (shooting wife a look): I'm serious! This program is not user friendly at all, and it is riddled with bugs.

BA: I know! I'm agreeing with you. It's maddening.

Husband: Don't patronize me.

BA: I'm not patronizing you. I'm validating you.

Husband: Why?

BA: Because that's what you do when someone expresses annoyance. I thought you might like a demonstration since you failed to live up to your contractual obligation to validate me. It's in the wedding vows. I could divorce you right now.

Husband: Shut up.

BA: I'm just saying.

There is a brief pause while husband re-starts the recording. We watch in silence for a few moments.

Husband: That is pretty stupid about the phone though.

BA: You're not getting sex tonight.

Husband: But...I validated you.

BA: Too little too late dude.

Husband: Damn. Story of my life.

BA and husband grin at one another. Husband hands BA the popcorn. BA feeds husband a piece. The curtain falls.

(Apologies to Lucinda for ripping off her format.)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Rethinking the Right to Die

I have been trying, without success, to write a piece called "The Right to Die". The piece was going to be about how science and medicine have blurred the lines that nature has drawn between life and death. I was going to opine upon how man, with vainglorious certainty, has circumvented the safety measures nature put into place to ensure the integrity and longevity of our species.

I was going to cite cases like that of Terry Schiavo, Juliana Wetmore, and Johnny Kennedy, and how these cases clearly illustrate that just because we can save or prolong a life does not mean that we should. I was going to denounce the selfishness and cruelty of condemning a person to life of pain and suffering, or vegetative nothingness.

But I'm not going to do that. There are two reasons.

First, my children are happy, healthy and whole. The most pressing medical issue we have had to face is whether or not to have tonsils removed. My husband has never been seriously ill or injured. My parents are still with me, and although my mother has a chronic illness that will eventually take her life, she is not in immediate danger. I have never had to decide whether someone I love should live or die. I have never had to wrestle with the decision to extinguish the life growing within me because it is flawed in some way. I have never faced the prospect of living my own life with a big, aching, empty hole in it.

I like to think I would be strong enough to let them go if their quality of life was so seriously diminished as to be devoid of all dignity and humanity. I like to think that my need to have them with me would not infringe upon my ability to make a sound decision. I like to think I would have the courage to grant them the peace that death would bring.

But if I am completely honest, I have to admit that I, like most of us, would give and do anything for just a little more time with someone I love. I would beg and plead. I would sell everything I own. I would offer my own life, surrender my own dignity. I would prevail upon every medical miracle available. I would even pray. I would promise a God I have doubted and ignored my undying loyalty and devotion if only he would let them live. So I can't, in all good conscience, criticize someone for a choice I would likely make myself, despite the knowledge that it might be the wrong one.

The second reason is a little more difficult to explain.

In gathering my thoughts about this piece, I solicited the opinions of some friends. These friends are mothers, and they have among them, an Autistic child, a premature child, and a child who was born with Spina Bifida. They helped me to see that "Quality of Life" is so highly subjective that it defies measurement and therefore, we cannot simply create a list of qualifications by which we determine the validity of existence. We cannot assign a standard by which to assess its value. And we cannot deny the fact that worth lies in perception, which is as widely varied as human beings themselves.

Who can say why a person is put here and what purpose has been set forth for them? Who gets to say that a life is sufficiently devoid of merit as to justify its termination? Who defines the terms by which we would govern those decisions? Me? You? Doctors, Lawyers? God?

In thinking about all this, I was taken back to my oldest child's infancy. There were several of us in the neighborhood with new babies. All of them looked and acted like any healthy infant should; all except Zach. His hair was flaxen blonde and his eyes were the purest cornflower blue. From the eyebrows down he was the most beautiful child I've ever laid eyes on, and when he had a hat on (which was most of the time) he looked like any other baby. But if one looked a little closer, they would see that his beautiful blue eyes were curiously vacant and that his hat seemed unusually large upon such a tiny little body. But sadly the hat was filled with his head, which was terribly misshapen by Hydrocephalus.

Zach, like my son, was born when prenatal diagnostics were becoming widely used and available. But somehow his condition was not detected until birth and the damage to his poor little brain was catastrophic. It was difficult at such a young age to determine how much awareness he really had, but the doctors felt that beyond feeling basic physical sensations such as cold, wet, hunger, and pain, he had very little sentience. He was completely blind, and would never walk or talk or have control of his bladder and bowels. I felt tremendously sad looking at him, as I contemplated the hopelessness and pointlessness of his existence.

His mother would bring him to our little gal pal group and set his seat among the rest of the babies. As they grew and became mobile they struck out eagerly to explore their surroundings while Zach remained confined to his seat. But curiously, they would return every now and then to bring him a toy, offer him a little pat, and inquire in sweet nonsensical baby babble, if he needed anything. They were taking care of him. They were learning compassion and empathy and acceptance from a child who was scarcely conscious. And I realized then that his existence was not as pointless as I had naively supposed. So he had taught me something as well, and I suspected that he would teach a great deal more before his time on this earth came to an end.

So...I won't talk about the Right to Die. I won't attempt to define Quality of Life. I won't pretend to have the solution to an issue that is largely philosophical. Instead I will simply try to recognize the inherent worth of all who share this plane of existence with us. And if the time ever comes that I need to make a life or death decision, I will try to be strong, but I will forgive myself for being weak.

In the absence of any clear cut answers, I think it's all that we can do.