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.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fruit Zen As Spiritual Lipstick

Quite a while ago, I wrote a piece called Spiritual Lipstick.

Basically, it's about finding your joy in simple things; finding things that brighten your outlook the way lipstick brightens your face.

I try really hard to find something small every day to feed my spirit. Sometimes that's easy, but sometimes it's not. Sometimes those things place themselves right in my path, and sometimes, I have to really look for them. But it's always worth it.

Yesterday, I was grocery shopping, which is one of my most hated chores. So there I was in the produce section, feeling sorry for myself.

Damned kids....eating me out of house and, eat, eat, that's all they ever do....sick of cooking ....sick of complaints...sick of thinking about what to eat, what to eat, what to eat....

I was really working myself into an indignant, woebegone lather.

And then I spied a display of fat Chilean blackberries.

They were beautiful; deep blackpurple, plump, juicy and ripe. They looked sun warm and wild, though they were nestled in a chilled plastic carton. Next to them, sat cartons of furry raspberries.

I felt that odd little electric tingle in the back of my cheeks and my mouth flooded with saliva.

They were ridiculously expensive. Normally, I would pass them by and wait until they were in season locally. But I needed those berries in a bad way. So I carefully selected one carton each of blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.

Cheered, I finished my shopping with markedly less grumbling and headed home.

After I had put everything away, cleaned out the fridge and cupboards, and disposed of all the elderly leftovers, I washed my berries. I liked the way the reds contrasted with the dusky color of the blackberries in the white colander.

I have, on occasion, been moved to photograph fruit. The vibrant colors stir me, somehow.

I spooned a generous portion of berries into a cereal bowl and drizzled cream over them. I admired the way the it curled around the tender fruit, and how the juice made ribbons of color in the pale fluid.

I sprinkled some sugar on top and watched it slowly absorb the cream, turning milky and translucent.

I spooned up a single blackberry, popped it in and crushed it against the roof of my mouth. The skin plit with a satisfying gush, sluicing juice over my tongue. Cool cream, tart berry and sweet sugar mingled together, sending my tastebuds into paroxyms of confused delight.

I ate the rest like cereal, cream dripping from my chin now and then. Like a cat or maybe a small child, I wiped it away and then licked my paw, er, hand clean.

When the berries were gone, I tipped the bowl and drizzled the cream, laced with berry juice and sugar, onto my tongue.

I had satisfied my own hunger and it felt good.

Hunger for what? Hunger for something out of the ordinary. Something sweet and satisfying and a little bit decadent. Something I didn't have to share. Something that tasted of sunshine and fresh air. Something that filled me.

And do you know...those silly berries made me happy the rest of the day.

Fruit Zen.

I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Loves Me Some Poetic Justice

One of the hardest things about parenting a teen is knowing when to assert your authority, and when to let them learn from their own mistakes.

It's really hard to find that balance. And even when I'm fairly certain that I've made the right choice, I find myself second guessing my decisions.

But sometimes, life takes the matter out of our hands and makes the point far more effectively than we ever could.

Those are the moments we parents live for.

One of Pubescent One's household chores is litter box maintenance; scooping and changing. Despite being told numerous times that if the litter box is not clean, the cats will find other places to do their business and then being made to clean up said business when one of them does, in fact, do their business elsewhere...he procrastinates as long as he possibly can.

This evening, after hounding Pubescent One for three days to change the litter boxes, I found a pile of wayward business on the laundry room floor.

Angry, I roused him from the couch and demanded that he do the job NOW.

He stayed home from school today with a cough and fever. He made much of this, of course, asserting that he was far too ill to do any kind of domestic labor. Further, I must be the most cruel, heartless mother on the face of the planet to make a sick child work.

He gave a dramatic KAWF. KAWF. and a hearty Sccchhhhhnerrrrrrk to illustrate his point.

Oh. The Drama.

He reluctantly set about cleaning the litter boxes. After he had emptied and scrubbed them, he was plum wore out. He decided that in his weakened condition, it would be a good idea to take a "break" before finishing the Herculean task of putting in the liners and dumping litter into them.

Three hours later, I realized he was still on the couch.

I sent him back into the laundry room grumbling and complaining. Seconds later I heard an audible gasp followed by a muffled curse.

He reappeared in the living room, red faced and huffing with indignation.

"MOM! The cat PEED on my ABERCROMBIE jacket!!"

His voice was faintly tinged with hysteria, the coat being one of his most prized posessions.

I realized I had been handed a gift; a twofold lesson for my attitudinous adolescent, the indignation of which would stay with him far longer than any harping, carping or lecturing from me.

Lesson #1. Don't discombobulate the pee pee receptacle for extended periods of time.

Lesson #2. Hang up your coat.

I couldn't hide the small smile that stole to my lips. Pubescent One was outraged.

"You think this is FUNNY!" he accused.

"No...I don't think it's funny. I think it's poetic justice."

"What's that supposed to mean?" he growled.

"It means you learned your lesson without me having to pee on your coat myself."

"Gross, Mom."

"But effective, Dude. I'll have to remember that pee really makes an impression on you."


He rolled his eyes heavenward and retreated back into the kitchen. I heard him scolding the cat, who then stalked through the living room with head and tail held high, clearly unrepentant. The unruffled feline looked at me with a most human expression upon his whiskered face. It was bored indifference. If he had posessed shoulders, he would have shrugged.

"What did he expect?" the expression said.

What indeed, cat, what indeed.

I patted him on the head and watched his eyes slit with pleasure. A low rumble started deep in his chest. He flopped onto the floor and waited imperiously for more rubbing to commence.

He seemed to know he had done something useful. Perhaps, he even appreciated the irony of his retribution.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Recipe For Hope

I'm in love with a little old lady.

Or rather, her stories. I've just discovered that she has a series of clips on YouTube, and I've watched them all.

Maybe watching her satisfies some kind of need in me. I never really had a grandmother. And she seems like the kind of grandmother my own grandmother would have been, had she lived through my childhood.

I have an aunt who filled my grandmother's shoes when she passed away. And she became the keeper of our family's stories. These stories didn't mean much to me when I was a child. Now, they are my touchstone; my link with people long dead, but no less a part of me for never having known them.

Miss Clara reminds me a bit of her as well.

It's funny how the food that our mothers and grandmothers prepared hold so many memories. And how we keep them alive by feeding our own families the food that has warmed body and soul for generations.

Clara's grandchildren like her "Poorman's meal."

My husband fondly remembers his Nanny's fried apple pies and cathead biscuits.

When I think of my grandmother, I think of soup. There is the "Dane" soup that has become a staple in my own kitchen, but also, creamy, buttery potato soup. And rich, hearty beef and barley soup.

When I was a child, my mouth would water as I watched my mother ladling soup into squat bowls. I enjoyed inhaling the fragrant steam and cupping my hands around the piping hot ceramic. I loved the soup for the flavor that so pleased my tongue and the warmth that spread through my belly as I ate it. But also, I loved the soup because it always came with a story about my grandmother. I needed those stories to satisfy a different kind of hunger.

It wasn't until I was grown up that I realized these recipes were born of want. They had so little then. My grandmother wrote letters to my uncles in Korea, expressing her worry. It was only to them, thousands of miles away, that she felt safe pouring out her fears. Nobody else would ever know that she sometimes had no idea where the next meal was coming from.

When things were really bad she would take some milk, or cream if they had it, some butter, potato, a bit of onion, some salt and pepper, and fashion into a delicious and satisying meal. Sometimes, if there was some ham or bacon, she added that as well. But usually, it was just the basics.

For my grandmother, the potato soup was a measure of desperation; a barometer of need. The potato soup was a last resort.

And now I was for us too.

My childhood was not privileged, and I know there were times that my parents struggled to feed us.

There are meals that I recall less fondly, that I now realize were meant to stretch resources until payday. Goulash. Tuna casserole. Shepherd's Pie. Chicken a la King (made, I'm sure, with canned chicken). I loathed them, and proclaimed my distaste loudly.

One very vivid memory from childhood, is that of my Dad completely blowing his top because my sisters and I were complaining about the Goulash my Mom had left for us to eat while she worked.

My Dad very rarely lost his cool. So that alone left us slack-jawed with astonishment. But when the F word was said, we knew that we had done something very, very bad indeed. I had never heard that word from my Father before. It was shocking. But even more shocking was the fact that instead of comforting us as he would have done any other time, my Dad stalked from the kitchen without taking his glasses, which had been knocked from his face when, swearing, he had flung his hands violently into the air.

We cried as we cleaned up, looking at his glasses sitting there, crooked and splattered with milk.

I realize now that things things must have been very grim at that point in our lives. No food, no money, and three little girls to feed and keep warm through the brutal Wisconsin winter.

We complained about Goulash when we should have been grateful to have anyting at all to eat. Looking back, I want to slap those whiny ungrateful little girls. It's a wonder he didn't. But as a mother I understand...we were just kids. We didn't know anything. And my parents tried hard to keep it that way.

And that...that is why Potato soup was special. It was a myth my mother created, the way her mother had created it for her. We didn't eat it because we had nothing else. Certainly not! We ate it because it was so delicious that it was reserved for very special occasions, which my mother would also invent.

I imagine Clara's folks made Poorman's meal seem like a feast as well. And now her grandson thinks it a special treat when she prepares it for him.

We're not so different, yannow? Not so different from people back then. Not so different from one another.

We all need. And we all perservere.

The human spirit is a truly amazing thing. And it whether it is 1929 or 2009, we will go on.

Thanks to soup. And stories. And mothers.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Question Of Potential

I've been having a rather heated, but still, I think, constructive discussion with another blogger about marketing. I won't link to her because it's not my intent to villify her or call her out.

But she made a point that was interesting and I wanted to publicly address it.

Suffice it to say that our views on the issue of marketing in the blogosphere are vastly divergent. And I think we have to just agree to disagree in that respect.

We do agree on one point; the vast potential inherent to his medium.

For her, it is about making money. For me, it is about sharing and establishing a connection with other people through something I love; the written word. She finds my contempt for marketing closeminded. I find her exploitation of the blogosphere to be mercenary.

But she asserted that whether I liked it or not, I myself was guilty of "marketing" because I market myself and my views here. She also asserted that marketing isn't about money, it's about creating a product and putting it out there for public use or consumption.

As I said, it's an interesting point, and I had to really think about it.

Am I guilty of that which I have loudly and emphatically denounced?


And here's why:

First, I do think financial gain is key component of "marketing". If that were not so, the word would not have evolved from a simple verb, into a multi billion dollar commercial industry and catchphrase. There would not be degrees, and seminars, and any number of do-it yourself guides to marketing.

In short, if "marketing" wasn't profitable, nobody would be doing it.

I don't make a dime off of this blog. I'm not complaining, because that was my choice. I've been solicited for marketing "opportunities" numerous times. I've been offered money and merchandise to hawk products or post links or even just embed text.

But I have always declined. Why? Not out of any kind of misplaced philanthropism, I assure you. But allowing someone else to exploit me, my words, my thoughts and my feelings, which I have put down for you here with the intent to facilitate a FREE exchange of thoughts and ideas, is something that I find very distasteful.

Because the FREE exchange of thoughts and ideas is what attracted me to the blogosphere in the first place. Lots of great stuff to read about, lots of great people to interact with, lots of inspiration, celebration, elucidation...all at my fingertips and yours, all free and easily accessible because people were willing to share themselves.

By selling that to the highest bidder and allowing someone not invested in this medium except as a means to fatten their wallet to exploit me and my readers...I cheapen it; make it less than it is. I choose not to allow that.

Secondly, the word "marketing" itself implies disingenuousness to me. Not lying. Not outright dishonesty. But definitely a cunning. A manipulation. A strategem. Taking something and making it more appealing by wrapping it up into a shiny package with mass appeal.

Come hither readers, and see. Blog Antagonist solves all your problems, soothes all your woes, answers all the toughest age old questions, and also, shares her tips for taking ten years off your age.

I don't try to make myself more appealing so that you will read me. I am me, here. Sometimes, I am more me here, than I am out in the real world. You get me and all the unvarnished truths that come with me. Do you get all of me? No. But what you do get is honest and forthright, insomuch as it can be, and still protect my privacy and that of those whom I discuss here.

I am sitting here quietly, in my little corner of the blogosphere, where people can find me if they wish, or ignore me if it is their wont. I took myself off of all the lists and directories long ago, or at least, those for which I could remember signing up.

If you come here, it's because you intended to land here. And when you get here, you find what you expected to find; an anecdote, a story, an experience, a lament...a human presence in a digital medium, trying to say something that matters.

One of my readers, who is a fellow blogger and a fantastically intelligent woman, commented not long ago that a lot of bloggers have now realized that fame and fortune from blogging would only become a reality for a very select few.

That's very true. And it's a freeing thing, because once that expectation is gone, there is no more pressure to create a product out of the persona and tailor writing to fit a demographic.

Thus, I must respectfully refute the claim that I am "marketing" myself here at Blogs Are Stupid. What you find here is not a product. Not a concept. Not a gimmick.

It's just me.

Please understand that if you have ads on your blog, I am not condmening you. Indeed, many of my most beloved bloggers have ads. I can separate the person from the action and the idealogy. I may disagree with your decision to put ads on your blog, and you may think me foolish for not capitilizing on my own. If you are a terrific writer, I'm going to read you regardless and chalk the ad thing up to simple, but surmountable disagreement.

But those who prowl the blogopshere seeking only to plunder and exploit, make a fast buck, squander the opportunity to connect with people on a meaningful level...

I'm afraid I can feel nothing but antipathy for you.

But don't take it personally. I disdain marketing in all mediums equally.

I'm a realist. I know that marketing makes the world go 'round. But I don't have to like it. Not one bit.

And I don't have to allow it to happen here.

I'm removing the MyBloglog widget. Because once again, people have found a way to exploit something that was meant to be fun for financial gain. Marketers(though NOT the one with whom I was having the discussion; though we disagree, I think her presence here is honest and without intent to exploit) are joining my community just to get their face on my page, hoping people will be compelled to click on theirs. Free advertising, with my words and my reputation as inducement.

That infuriates me.

It's my personal crusade, I guess. One of my pet causes. One about which I am passionate.

If I want to make money from my words, I'll write a novel. Sumbit articles to a magazine. Write for a web publication. And when I do that, I will be subject to all the pitfalls of a commercial writing endeavor. My thoughts and ideas will be tempered by someone else's vision. And I will accept that, because that's the price that has to be paid when one is being paid.

But this blog is for you and for me it will always be a labor of love rather than an excersise in free enterprise.

You can count on that.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Flaming Perfect

Have you met my friend June?

I first introduced her to my readers in this post.

And last Valentine's Day, husband gave me a beautifully framed reproduction to hang in our home.

Since then, my relationship with June has deepened into a curious kind of intimacy; one that is strangely satisfying. I don't think there's ever been a woman in my life with whom I've felt so perfectly at ease. I don't think there's ever been a woman in my life that I've trusted more. I don't think there's ever been a woman in my life who has accepted me more completely and with less expectation.

June is the perfect friend.


June doesn't betray my confidences, twist my words, or exploit my weaknesses.

June doesn't take from me just because she can.

June doesn't misake my happiness as disregard for her sadness.

June doesn't play guessing games.

June doesn't hold me to a higher standard of behavior than she holds herself.

June doesn't pretend everything is perfectly fine while secretly harboring anger and resentment.

June doesn't expect me to just know why.

June doesn't judge or dismiss me simply because some of our views differ.

June doesn't doesn't expect me to listen without giving me an opportunity to be heard.

June doesn't make me her whipping boy.

June doesn't find our friendship dispensable or disposable.

June doesn't hurt me.

June offers me comfort, never asking anything for herself. She willingly shares her tranquility; selflessly telegraphing warm solace through the very canvas of her presence.

June is constant. June is dependable. June is steadfast.

My June asks for nothing, expects nothing, and offers everything.

Sometimes, I don't care that June is silent, because she can soothe me without a word. Sometimes, I don't care that I will never feel the warmth of her cheek against mine. Her value is no less for the lack of arms to wrap around my shoulders.

But sometimes...

Sometimes I think that it would be good to hear her laugh. It would be good to see the light in her eyes. It would be good to feel the warmth of her grasp and the silk of her hair in my mouth when the wind blows.

Sometimes I wonder if the risk of heartbreak is the price of a warm embrace, and if, ultimately, it's worth the cost.

I risk nothing loving June. Her friendship is not prefaced by a dollar sign. She does not demand a pound of flesh as collateral.

For all those reasons and more...she is Flaming Perfect.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Long, Sad Farewell?

Do you remember this post?

It was my very first one, and it was meant to be tongue in cheek, if you didn't gather.

But some of it, though written with a fair amount of sarcasm, wasn't necessarily untrue.

I said:

In short, the conclusion that I have reached is this: Blogs are stupid. As a trend, I predict they will go the way of leg warmers, parachute pants, and high waisted jeans. In other words, they will not be a treasured account of one's cerebral self in days gone by, but rather, a source of profound chagrin and endless harassment, much like the visual snapshots that preserve our dubious taste and unfortunate fashion choices for all eternity.

I have, over the course of the last three years, had reason to revise my opinion. Blogs aren't stupid. Well, some blogs are stupid. Maybe this is one of them. I suppose it depends upon perspective. Stupid or not, it has served it's purpose, which was, to help me find my voice after a long period of quiet disuse.

But I think my prediction that the fad would die out quickly is coming to fruition.

It's not just about comments. Everybody's comments are down it seems, except for a select few, whose appeal, I confess, still escapes me. That's not sour grapes, that's just personal taste.

But people aren't writing either.

It used to be that each morning my feed reader would greet me with a nicely ordered list of promise; alphabetized, categorized and waiting to be clicked.

It used to be that I simply could not read all the posts. I tried to keep my list confined only to bloggers that I found savvy, smart, well spoken and truly entertaining. The mediocre and the mundane I ruthlessly bypassed.

Still, my list was lengthy. I had to pick and choose, and it was an agonizing process. I mourned every post that had to be overlooked, wondering what I had missed.

Finally, reluctantly, I had to pare down. But I always had more than enough fare to satisfy me.

Lately? Days can go by without any new posts appearing in my feed reader.

What is happening?

During the last three years or so, blogging experienced a huge surge in popularity and blogs have become a huge cog in the wheel of social media.

But somewhere along the way, the real appeal and value of blogging got lost amid a glut of commericialism, elitism, and competition.

It became more about being important and less about being good. It became more about belonging to the right group, than writing the right things. It became more about making a buck than making a point.

I've always enjoyed the give and take of blogging. The interaction is satisfying and I don't think anybody would deny that. If getting comments wasn't part of the allure, we would all still be scribbling in journals and notebooks and hiding them under our mattresses.

But there has always been a lack of equilibrium that is puzzling and for some, demoralizing. I always thought that would be the downfall of blogging.

That may or may not prove to be the case.

But now, there are even more social media platforms. More ways for some to soar to the heights of popularity while others who are equally wonderful languish in anonymity.

It's mind boggling.

I really don't understand how people keep up with all them, or the obligations that come with them. It takes a lot of time and effort to cultivate a following on any single one. I can't see how anyone could keep up with so many unless they were spending every waking moment online, and making serious sacrifices in their personal lives.

I have always taught my kids to find a thing they love, do it, and do it the best they can do it. Be really great at one thing, not sorta good at a lot of things.

I think a lot of people will disagree with that.

I believe in being well rounded, but I don't believe in compromising something really special for something that only satisifies on a superficial level. There has to be a deeper sense fulfillment.

Blogging is it for me. Because it satisfies my need to write while working through the many issues that arise in the life of a wife and mother. It gives me the opportunity to interact on a meaningful level with people that I might not ever meet otherwise. And it enables me to continue honing my skills for the day that I finally have the courage to write that novel.

I realized early on that I don't have to buy into the aspects of blogging that I find distasteful. And I haven't. For me, it always been about the written word, nothing more. I've made a concerted effort to keep it that way.

Blogging in it's purest sense, the way it was in the beginning, is what I love.

The rest of it? Twitter...Plurk...Stumbleupon...Digg. Nah. Not interested.

They seems less, somehow, in a multitude of ways. There's no nobility in them. No deeper purpose.

God, I sound like an oldster bemoaning the loss of the local soda fountain, don't I? I guess it's an apt comparison. In the digital age, the Blogosphere became the biggest, most diverse soda fountain ever known. All the coolest kids hung out there and the flavors were endless.

Sigh. Those were the days. Some day, you kids will understand.

In the meantime, I have my memories...


The point is,

Blogs aren't stupid. But maybe, they are becoming passe. And if that's the case, I'll be passe as well. Because I won't be moving on to any of the other so called "social media" sites. (except Facebook, where I have all of 28 friends).

So if you're quitting the blogosphere, I guess this is good-bye.

It was nice knowin ya. Fer reals.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Adam Who?

I'm not a numbers person. They just don't make sense to me. This amuses my very mathematically inclined and analytically minded husband.

"Numbers are just logic." he says. "They never lie, and they never change. They are constant."

Clearly, we are a case study in right brain/left brain disparity. Opposites really do attract, I guess.

I can add and subtract well enough. I can do simple percentages in my head when I need to figure out how much to tip or how much off on a sale item. I can balance a checkbook (although I prefer not to) and I can read a balance sheet.

But anything more complicated than that makes me weak with anxiety. Thankfully, I am not often called upon to perform more complicated feats of numeric dexterity.

Remember how they told us that we'd need Algebra someday?

Scurrilous lies.

At least, to those of us not destined for economics or astrophysics.

I think it's clear pretty early on, how a child is inclined in terms of aptitude. Why oh why do they have to make kids who are right brainers suffer through the torture that is mathematics? Why?

Well perhaps so we can understand it when the foundation of our economic structure crumbles beneath our feet.

I'm not a financeer and don't pretend to be. I don't really understand things like hedge funds, credit default swaps, Ponzi schemes, subprime mortgage securities, and collateralized debt obligations.

But when mortgage companies began offering "non traditional" loans to people who wouldn't otherwise qualify, and carrying a substantial amount of debt became the norm, and suddenly, everybody could afford was not hard to extrapolate that we Americans were building a house of cards that would, eventually be toppled by the shiny dangling charm (oblique Brady Bunch reference for those under forty) of false prosperity.

Economist or not, it's not hard to understand the basic principle behind the economic crisis; greed.

I've been doing a little bit of reading, trying to understand the financial crisis on a deeper level, make sense of the stimulus package, and comprehend the long term implications of a decade or two of greed, excess and entitlement.

I ran across this article.

25 People To Blame For The Financial Crisis.

When I was done reading, I was both elucidated and further confused.

But regardless of the dichotomy, one thing that struck me was the fact that aside from the most high profile names; Alan Greenspan, Bernie Madoff, Dick Fuld, Angelo Mozillo, Hank Paulsen, and a handful of others...I recognized very few of them.

I found it extremely disconcerting, not to mention ironic, that people who have shaped our lives and our futures so profoundly are veritable strangers to us. I say "us", because I'm going to assume I'm not the only one who had no idea who Kathleen Corbett and Phil Gramm are.

As I said, I'm not a financeer or an economist. Not by a long shot.

But I am a common sensiteer. And a plain as the nose on your faceicist.

I think a few general principles need to be put into place if we are ever going to regain our economic equilibrium: Transparency. Accountability. Regulation. Moderation.

The main charge being levelled against Greenspan is his disdain for government involvement in economic matters and the deeply held belief that the key players in the game of craps that is our country's economic structure, as well as the fiscal processes that drive it, can self-regulate.

It has now been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that nothing could be further from the truth.

Deregulation is bad...mmmmkay? SOMEBODY has to be maintaining a system of checks and balances. Otherwise, no name individuals with too much power will continue to screw the people over for personal gain.

I knew greed and rampant self-interest were to blame for our current situation. But until I began really educating myself, I was ignorant of just how profoundly those factor figured into this whole mess.

But you know...I think this had to happen in order for us to wake-up from our collective stupor. This had to happen for a shift in priorities to take place. This had to happen in order for the sense of entitlement that has gripped us to loosen it's hold. And yhis had to happen in order for a public outcry to be made and heard.

Recession is an ugly word. Depression is even uglier.

But I choose to think that in the end, the results will be positive and we will see a return to the fiscal conservatism and personal responsibility that were the hallmarks of more circumspect eras.

I always have been a bit of a Pollyanna, I guess. Maybe that goes hand in hand with sucking at math.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Well, almost. It would be a true marvel indeed if I were actually rendered incapable of speech, or, as the case may be, type.

People...THIS is why I talk to my kids about sex. THIS is why I didn't run screaming in horror when my then 12 year old son asked me if you could get pregnant from anal sex. THIS is why, when the time comes, I will provide him with as many condoms as he needs, though inside I may be riven with sadness the thought of my baby having sex.

THIS is why I have to do better than my parents did. They were wonderful, my parents. But when it came to sex, their way of dealing with it was to not deal with it.

I think the only reason I didn't get knocked up is because I waited until I was quite old by today's standards to surrender my womanly gift (said with tongue firmly planted in cheek) and as a result, had enough common sense to get myself down to Planned Parenthood and get on the pill.

I was nearly 18 and a senior in high school. It was a rather business like endeavor. I had decided that it was time to get it over and done with. So I selected a likely candidate, and pretended to be seduced.

It was a disappointing and somewhat empty experience, naturally.

So I've talked to my boys about that. That it can be a wonderful thing, but also a sad and confusing and embarassing thing.

As a young adult I had encounters that filled me with shame and regret. I coped by resolving firmly to put it behind me and not repeat the mistake.

But LOOK at this child. Dear God, he's just a baby.

How in the WORLD is he supposed to cope with all the emotions that are tied up with sexuality?

How in the WORLD is he supposed to cope with the responsibility that has just been placed, clad in pink and smelling sweetly of milk and powder, in his chubby arms?

It's unthinkable, really.

And yet, There it is

What in the world will become of them? I shudder to think.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Making Lemonade.

Diminutive One has a spectacular knack for embarassing me.

Usually, it's because he has failed to engage the filter between his brain and his mouth. He's very blunt. He's very no nonsense. He doesn't sugar coat and he doesn't prevaricate.

These are not necessarily bad qualities to have, but they need to be tempered by diplomacy and tact, neither of which he currently posesses. Whether this is something that will come to him with maturity is anybody's guess.

In the meantime, I've become accustomed to awkward silences and accusatory glares.

Once, Pubescent One was invited to spend the night with a friend who lives across the street. Husband and I denied the request because we did not feel that the child's parents showed good judgement on previous occasions.

We were truthful with Pubescent One about the reason for our decision, but explained that it might make his friend feel bad to know how we felt. So we decided on a plausible excuse which Pubescent One delivered politely and convincingly to the child when he came to the door.

No sooner had the lie died on Pubescent One's lips than Diminutive One piped in.

"Our Mom and Dad don't think your Mom and Dad are very responsible." he said, matter of factly.

The poor child turned eight shades of red, mumbled incoherently, and removed himself posthaste from our front porch.

So now you understand what I deal with.

Despite many lengthy explanations both with us and his therapist, he just doesn't understand why honesty isn't always the best policy. He just doesn't understand the greater implications of speaking his mind without regard to social niceties.

Thus, the problem is ongoing.

I do have to say, however, that sometimes, this little...quirk, of his works to my benefit.

Recently, on a visit to RidiculouslySmallSouthernTown, an old friend stopped by the in-laws' house to see Husband. He and Husband had once been the very best of friends, but hadn't seen each other since high school nearly 25 years ago.

I took an instant and intense dislike to him.

The man talked for 40 minutes without pause. About himself. Everyone in the room was held captive by courtesy as he droned on and on about his exploits in the Army and his prowess as a drill instructor and how all his men hated him for his toughness but by God it got them all out of Iraq alive.

Gag. Me.

I pegged him for an arrogant braggart and sat silently seething about the fact that he couldn't stop listening to his own voice long enough to ask Husband one single thing about what had been going on in his life for the past twenty five years. Not one.

When Husband introduced me and the boys, he scarcely acknowledged us. His eyes flicked over us with disinterest, he mutted a hasty "how're ya'all doin'?" and continued talking.

Eventually, people began to get up and leave; ostensibly to use the bathroom or refresh a drink, but none of them ever made it back to the living room. I stayed, just because I was interested to see if he was ever going to stop.

So did Diminutive One. He was and is enamored of all things military, and so, he was riveted by the man and his stories.

I've told Diminutive One many times that he would never cut it in the military. The child is simply but profoundly incapable of obeying a command without question or debate. He can't do it. Can. Not. Cannot.

If, for example, he was told to make his bed in such a way that a quarter would bounce off the topmost blanket, (a common military requirement if we are to believe the movies) he would inquire as to the relevance of that request. He would also suggest several ways to achieve the same effect with less effort, or, failing that, an alternative for measuring the tidiness and precision of military bedmaking technique.

I am quite certain that Diminutive One would drive even the most seasoned and stalwart drill sergreant into a fit of womanly hysterics.

So anyway...

At one point, the man paused for breath long enough for Diminutive One to interject a comment.

"My Mom says I'd never make it in the military." he declared.

"Oh really..." inquired the friend, "Why is that?"

I expected him to say something about not being able to do as he's told. But instead he said, with great pride....

"Becuase I'm a LEADER, not a FOLLOWER."

Thus ensued dead silence for the first time since the man walked into the room.

He looked at me and I looked at him and we both saw the distaste in the other's eyes. I think he thought he was going to stare me down, but I have children. I have perfected the gimlet eye. No mere drill sergeant can out glare a MOM.

Tearing his gaze away from mine, he coughed and said to Diminutive One,

"Well, uh, son, the military isn't for followers, you know. We need strong men with leadership qualities."

At which point Husband, who had read my body language like a neon sign within the first five minutes of the man's monologue, broke in to ease the tension.

"Well you know, M, I think he'd do fine if he could go in as a 5 Star General. But barring that, I'm pretty sure he'd be court martialed for insubordination before boot camp was even done."

The man laughed politely, but the wind had been taken out of his narcisstic sails.

Diminutive One was oblivious to what he had done of course. He always is. But I caught Husband's eye over his head and observed the tiniest hint of his trademark smirk, a trait that he shares with Diminutive One. I rolled my eyes ever so slightly and Husband stifled a snort of amusement.

Later on the drive home, Husband said..."So, didn't care much for M, huh?"

"No..." I admitted, "but lucky for us, Diminutive One took a real shine to him!"

He smirked again.

"Yeah. We should get those two together again soon."

"I wouldn't hold my breath dude. I don't think he's a fan."

And so, I am forced to admit that sometimes having a child who is egregiously lacking in social skills can be a boon in certain situations.

Funny how you can make lemonade...innit?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Public Apology

I would like to tender an apology.

I honestly don't have a problem doing so when warranted. But I won't tender an insincere apology. Nor do I care to receive one. They are as disengenuousness as they are pointless.

There are times that an apology on my part would have solved some problems. But only in the short term. An apology offered only for the sake of peace does nothing to address the hurt feelings at the core of the issue.

I find that people are often far more interested in smoothing things over than they are in getting to heart of the matter. I don't work that way, and never really have.

That has, at times, resulted in some degree of personal difficulty.

There are several situations, one of which resulted in the implosion on an entire community, where a well intended but nonetheless insincere apology on my part would have stopped the shitstorm of invective, but not solved any real problems.

But it's my thing. I can't and won't issue an apology unless I truly mean it.

When I started the blogging thing, I had really had my fill of negativity on the net, my own included.

When I realized that there was a give and take required and that getting comments was dependant upon also giving comments, I resolved to be polite, positive, and even...nice. I resolved not to comment unless I had something positive to add. And for the most part, I have stuck to that resolve.

Not that I never express disagreement, you understand. But I try to do it in a respectful, constructive way. And I don't usually do it unless I'm confident that the poster is someone who can accept it with equanimity.

In other words, I'm not in the habit of shooting off my mouth on blogs not otherwise frequented by me.

But the other day, that is exactly what I did.

As snark goes, I've seen worse. But still I feel that my comment was unwarranted and not given with the best intentions.

So I would like to offer an apology to I Agree With Me.

I'm sorry that I made a rude comment on your blog. There was no reason for it, other than the fact that your stance on the issue of Michael Phelps is opposite of mine.

Although it appears that our views diverge on quite a few issues, you seem like a perfectly nice person and you didn't deserve my snarky comment.

I sincerely hope you'll accept my apology.

Meaningless Jocularity

We need to lighten things up around here. The topics have a been a little heavy of late. I like some meat with my potatoes, but too much gives me indigestion, yannow what I mean?

So I was thinking, last night, as I snipped the stitches from my eldest son's scalp, that things sure have changed from those days fraught with worry when I questioned everything I did as a parent.

I considered myself a pretty confident parent; not at all a nervous nellie. And yet, I found myself agonizing over things that now seem pretty silly.

I still question, of course. But now those questions are more abstract, and tend to deal with issues of a more philosophical, rather than procedural nature. I've been thinking a lot about how my parenting has changed now that my boys are older.

I guess the biggest change in my parenting is that I've relaxed a lot. I can cut myself some slack now and then without feeling as though I've compromised my worth as a mother. I understand that good enough is still good. know you've been in the trenches a long time when:

  • 1. You are willing to perform simple medical procedures on your child to save a copay. Who really needs all the sterile draping anyway?

  • 2. Booger art no longer surprises nor disgusts you.

  • 3.Turning underwear inside out is a perfectly acceptable solution to a laundry crisis.

  • 4. Speaking of which, the word "skidmark" takes on an entirely different meaning.

  • 5. "Matching" takes second place to "whole" when it comes to your children's clothing.

  • 6. You no longer feel compelled to ask "What's that smell?". Ever. For any reason.

  • 7. You no longer feel that your fitness as a mother is in question if you just don't feel like cutting the damn crusts off.

  • 8. Television is no longer a philosophical sticking point.

  • 9. You can't remember the last time you checked the status of the earwax situation.

  • 10. You are perfectly at ease with a "don't ask, don't tell" policy in regard to mysterious stains on bedclothing.

  • 11. You have to issue a "no bodily expulsions at the dinner table" edict.

  • 12. This does not surprise you even a little bit.

  • 13. You accept that there is no such thing as the obvious, and nothing goes without saying, ever.

  • 14. You discover that diplomacy is overrated and that "Because I said so." really is the only reason they need.

  • 15. You expect the unexpected. And you expect it to occur in public.

  • 16. As a result, you find that a human being's capacity for embarassment is a finite thing.

  • 17. You start to wonder if the evils of video media aren't highly overstated.

  • 18. You realize that you are okay with the odds of disaster striking should you choose to lock the bathroom door.

  • 19. You start giving serious consideration to just when the little freeloaders are old enough to start pulling their weight without violating any child labor laws.

  • 20. You become blase about the fact that every time you open your mouth, your mother's voice issues forth.

I'm sure there are more and I'm sure all those of you in the trenches with me have one or two to add as well.

Share with me, make me laugh.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Clearing The Air

One of my commenters expressed a sense of confusion about the way that I "scoff" at Christians.

With respect to that commenter, because I don't want to discourage people from expressing their views in response to something that I've posted...I don't believe that I scoff at Christians.

I hope that those of you who have been reading Blogs Are Stupid for any period of time have realized that I don't paint all Christians with the same brush.

Indeed, I know some Christians who are truly amazing people that I admire and even envy. Why do I admire them? Because they live as they believe with grace and kindness. Why do I envy them? I envy them because they have the solace of a convicted heart.

What I scoff at, is intolerance. And forgive me for saying so, but a large number of Christians that I have encountered are terribly intolerant, hypocritical, and judgemental.

One of my most important and far reaching goals as a mother, is to foster tolerance and even love, for all people. I want to teach my children that a person's heart is their beauty; not their skin, not who or how they love, and not who or how they worship.

As a result of that, I've had to open my own mind. It hasn't always been easy. And because I am and imperfect person, I don't always succeed.

When Diminutive One told me that children in his class were calling him "stupid" for believing in Evolution, I had to bite back a most uncharitable retort about the intelligence of those who place blind faith in fairy tales.

(Not trying to be offensive here, just honest about the fact that I struggle with my own prejudices)

But that would not have been constructive, or honestly, fair. So with Herculean effort, I held my tongue and tried to take a more diplomatic tack.

So I try. And we take the teachable moments as they come.

A while back, when the story first hit the airwaves, Diminutive One came home one day and posed a question.

"Mom....I heard that there's a man who's going to have a baby. Is that true?"

I explained the circumstances of the case as matter of factly as I could and he seemed to accept what I told him without much question.

Tonight on TLC, a program about the "pregnant man" aired, and I thought that it would be a good way to satisfy his curiosity and also let him see that there is nothing freakish about Thomas Beatie.

There was some frank discussion about sexual issues. I know that some people might find the content of the program wholly inappropriate for an 11 year old boy. It's true that these issues are sensitive. But I think that just means we have to handle them conscientiously rather than sweeping them under the rug.

I believe strongly that by hiding things which are awkward to deal with, we confer upon them a sense taboo. I learned that first hand from my own conservative upbringing. There was nothing I longed to know about more than the things of which my mother refused to speak; those that caused her to purse her lips and flush uncomfortably before turning away in stiff shouldered embarassment.

At one point, as I said, the discussion turned to the mechanics of their intimacy. Diminutive One wondered aloud why anyone would tell those kinds of personal private things to the whole world. I explained that they just wanted everyone to see that they are normal people who just want a baby to love.

"Does he seem like a freak to you?" I asked.

"No. He seems pretty nice." answered Diminutive One earnestly.

Later on in the program, Mr. Beatie played a recording of a message he and his wife had recieved. The caller's voice was shaking with rage and his voice had a sharp, clipped sound; as if they were being spoken from behind tightly clenched teeth.

He told Mr. Beatie to ask God's forgiveness for the "slap in God's face". He said he hoped he would get "right with God, or else leave this earth." He called it a sin, with a capital S. Then he expressed that if he did not repent, he would burn in hell for all eterntiy. The caller finished up by telling Mr. Beatie that he was disgusting and had almost caused him, the caller, to lose his lunch.


A kind, gentle, person in a committed relationship; a business owner and productive member of society; a person who desires to have a child and raise it in a stable, loving home...

THAT is grounds for burning in hell?


It is THAT, people, at which I scoff. Scoff loudly.

If there is a God up there, and in my reality, that issue is still open to debate...

I have a hard time accepting that he would consign a person who is essentially good and kind to the fires of hell.

If I am going to believe in a God, it's a kind and loving God. Not a vengeful, jealous God who uses his omnipotence to punish and torment. It's a God who espouses love of all people, not just those who fall in line behind the shining beacon of Christianity.

I can't and won't honor or worship a God who teaches that hatred is ever justified, or one who would sanction the kind of behavior to which Mr. Beatie and his family have been subjected.

Diminutive One asked, "Why is that guy so angry, Mom?"

I wish I had had an answer for him. But I didn't and I don't. I just don't understand that kind of loathing from people who have placed themselves above others because of their religious idealogy; people who use their beliefs to justify the persecution of others.

Nor can I accept their judgement of me or anyone else.

I hope that clears things up a little.

I don't hate Christians simply because they are Christians.

And I'd like the favor returned, please.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Doin' Our Part to Stimulate

Husband and I feel that we are in a pretty good position to weather a recession.

We live on one income, so we're used to pinching pennies and making do. We have our indulgences of course; high speed internet, lawn service, expensive Espresso Roast Coffee, dinner out now and then.

But we sacrifice to have those things.

In addition, about ten years ago, Husband I realized we were carrying way too much debt. We weren't at the point that we were delinquent, or using one card to pay another, but it was getting close. So we decided to undergo debt managment. We knew we needed to a third party to hold us accountable until we could develop the self discipline we needed to curb our spending.

After a lot of research, we decided on this company. I can't recommend them highly enough.

Other comapnies wanted to control every single penny that we earned. They wanted to create a budget for us, which I would normally consider a very constructive thing to do.

But the numbers were ridiculously prohibitive for a family of four. They were rigid and unyielding and in some cases, unreasonable. In particular, I remember they wanted us to pare down our grocery spending to $50 week. Not realistic, especially considering that I still had one child in diapers.

Whatever was left over once monthly expenses were covered, was to go to them for disbursement to the credit card companies. But we discovered that they took a very large percentage of our money for themselves. It struck me as a gross conflict of interest.

We were supposed to starve so they could get their cut? No thank you.

Auriton worked with us to come up with a payment that was doable. As long as they got their money, they didn't care what we did with the rest of our income. It was up to us to manage things so that we could make the payment each month. And we did. They took what we felt was a very reasonable percentage for their part in managing our debt problem.

This isn't meant to be a commerical for Auriton, or a commentary on the evils of debt. But debt can sometimes seem like an insurmountable problem, even if you don't have the amount we had. It can be stressful and overwhelming. But there is a solution, and this worked for us.

It took five long years, but we paid off all of our unsecured debt. Now, we don't use credit cards at all. If we don't have the cash, we don't buy it. Which really sucks sometimes, if you want the honest truth.

At our house, if something is still serviceable, it does not get replaced until necessary.

For example, my living room furniture is fifteen years old, and the most god-awful shade of teal green you've ever seen. But it is still in good condition (or was, until one of the cats suddenly and inexplicably decided to use it as a scratching post) so it stays.

This goes for cars as well. We buy used and drive them until they just won't go any further.

Such was the case recently with husband's trusty Jeep.

It was five years old when he bought it, but in good condition, with low mileage. Eleven years later, it is a sad, crumpled, oil guzzling heap with a faulty horn that goes off randomly, and a driver's seat that tilts precariously to one side due to a broken spring. The blinkers work only intermittently and the radio gave up the ghost about a month ago.

Husband has been waiting patiently, patching up the Jeep as best he could to keep it running until my van was paid off. In order to live on one income, we have to have limit ourselves to one car payment at a time.

Recently, the day finally came that the big blue cliche was paid off, and Husband could get himself something safe and reliable, which he really needs, since he commutes 40 miles each way to work. I've been worried about him in that jalopy.

Husband is very analytical and methodical. He chose a number for our monthly payment that was comfortable for us. Then he set about researching just what that would get us. The bottom line? Not very much. Certainly nothing sexy or sophisticated. But it would get him a solid, dependable vehicle that would last for a number of years.

Now you have to understand, husband is a car guy. His first car was a 70 something Camaro, blue with white racing stripes. His Dad helped him put in a gargantuan engine. It was, by every definition, a muscle car.

(I have been instructed to edit this post to specify that the car was a 1973 Camaro Z28, with a 350 4 barrell engine and that it was candy apple red with black racing stripes. I don't know why I thought it was blue.)

What happened to that car? It ended up wrapped around a tree, where it lodged after cresting a hill at a speed in excess of 100 miles per hour. Husband did not walk away from that accident, and for a while, it looked as if he might not walk at all.

But that did not end his love affair with cars or speed. It has tempered a bit over the years; age and common sense having crept up on him. But it's still an integral part of his male make-up. Cars are a guy thing, the way shoes are a woman thing, I guess.

For the last few years, husband has been drooling over the new Dodge Chargers and Challengers. Last Christmas, as a joke, we bought him a fairly large remote control model and parked it in the driveway. He knew that was likely the closest he'd ever get to having a Dodge Charger in the driveway.

He's a practical guy. And since our debt issues have resolved, a frugal one.

But astonishingly, during his search for a new vehicle, the Charger came up several times as a match within our search criteria. Not daring to believe, Husband decided to investigate further, certain he was going to find that it was a mistake.

But sure enough, the silly things have been so deeply discounted in this age of economic topsy-turvy-ness, that they really are well within our budget.

Still, Husband wrestled with himself. How silly is it for a 42 year old man to buy himself a muscle car? He should be more practical. He should get something more fuel efficient. He should get something that a self-respecting family man would drive. He should act his age.

But I knew the seed of hope had been planted. Never before had he allowed it to germinate, take root, and grow. But this time, he just couldn't help it.

Yesterday afternoon, husband called me from the dealership.

"White, black, red or silver?" he asked, breathlessly.

"What?" I had no idea he was going shopping.

"The car. White, black, red or silver?"

"Oh, uh, I don't know. Not white."

"No, not white." he agreed.

"What car are we talking about?"

There was a moment of silence.

"Um. The Charger."

I grinned.

"Is the red a cherry red, or that deep burgundy-ish red?"

"Cherry Red."

"Not that then."


"You like black."

"Yeah. Black is tough."

"Hot though."


"Are you really gonna buy that thing?"

"Why? You think I shouldn't?"

"No, I think you should."

"If you think I shouldn't, just say so, I won't be mad."

"No. I think you should. You never buy yourself anything and who knows when you'll be able to buy another new vehicle. You'll kick yourself if you don't."

"So you really think I should?"

"Yes. Definitely."

"If they can meet my terms, I will. But if they can't, I'm going to have to walk away."

"Okay. Let me know."

They could meet his terms. They fell all over themselves trying to meet his terms. When all was said and done, he got such a good deal on the car that I fail to see how they could have made any money on the sale. We got a very good percentage rate, a rebate, AND they gave him a ridiculous amount of trade in on his rattletrap old Jeep.

So now, my husband is the proud owner of one of these:

(Note the big blue cliche in the background)

I have to admit, it's pretty slick. And my fourteen year old son is already picturing himself behind the wheel.

When husband pulled into the drive, the boys, who knew nothing of the afternoon's goings on, raced downstairs and burst out the front door. They were BESIDE themselves when he finally convinced him that he had, indeed, bought it.

Husband loaded the very eager boys plus one friend into the car for a congratulatory spin. As they rode off into the sunset, windows down despite the winter chill, music blaring, I could smell the testosterone on the wind.

I sure hope that thing doesn't end up wrapped around a tree.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


This is going to be a brief, disjointed, mental disgorgement kind of post, just because I feel compelled to comment on the what is apparently A VERY BIG DEAL in the grand scheme of things.

Michael Phelps smokes dope.

Holy Moly, the whole country is going to go to hell in a hand basket. Because clearly, that means he is not the demi-God we made him out to be.

I get that he is a role model. That's why Nike and Speedo and countless other corporations are willing to pay him big money to say he uses their product(s). And I get that because of his status as an Olympic champion and record breaking athlete, the eyes of the world are upon him.

But you know what?

This guy is TWENTY THREE years old.

Do you remember twenty three year old guys? They aren't much more mature than 16 year old guys.

I will go even further and say that men don't reach full emotional maturity until about 30. There are exceptions, of course.

But you know, my husband is exceptional. Ask anybody who knows him. People (women, mostly) are always telling me how lucky I am to have him, which can really be fucking annoying if you want to know the truth.

Because then he's all like..."But I'm superhusband!" when I bitch at him for leaving his dirty socks in front of the recliner every. single. night.

Uhh, what was I saying? I guess we can forget the "brief" part...

Oh yes....

My husband is exceptional. We've established that. I wouldn't trade him for anything.

But when we married, he, at 26, was not fully mature. It took us a couple of very long years to get to the point where he thought of us as a unit, and himself in terms of one half of a partnership.

The self intruded.

Not because he's a bad guy. He wasn't. He was a great guy. Basically, he was a kind, considerate, hard working, honest and loyal person.

But he hadn't matured to the point that he thought like a grown up; at least not all the time. He still did some things that an adolescent would do; and thought like an adolescent would think.

Once, on an episode of Roseanne, someone complimented her on what a wonderful husband Dan was. Her retort was, "Well yeah, but do you think he came out of the box like that?"

Amen Sister. Even diamonds need cutting and buffing. Raw materials, regardless of their value, still need molding and shaping to shine their brightest.

The point is....

Twenty three year old guys are not the epitome of selflessness or good judgement, gold medals and million dollar endorsement deals notwithstanding. Being a champion does not automatically confer upon one the mantle of perfection.

Not to mention that this kid has been training HARD for years. How many things did he deprive himself of; things every normal young guy does without even thinking about it?

He sacrificed all those things to hone his body into a lean, mean record breaking machine. He pushed himself beyond his limits. He was disciplined, dedicated and focused.

He's done what he set out to do, he made us look good, AND he still has the rest of his life ahead of him.

So if the kid wants to cut loose a little bit, smoke a doobie or two, bang a poptart or three, and otherwise sow all the oats he didn't sow while he was busy being an Olympic Champion...

I have no problem with that.

He's not hurting me. He's not hurting you. He's just making the mistakes that we all have to make to learn and grow.

And I certainly don't think it's going to bring about the moral decay of our youth. I don't think the Dow will fall any further, I don't think the recession will recede any further, I don't think the fat cats on Wall Street will grow any richer or Joe Q. Public any poorer, I don't think Osama will decide to launch another attack and this time make it count...

In other words, nothing much is going to happen at all, EXCEPT that one poor disgraced little merman will be forced to apologize in a very public way for doing something just about every red blooded American kid does, at some point.

The difference being that most kids get a lecture, maybe lose their driving privileges, perhaps even do a little community service, while he will lose millions of dollars. He will be humiliated, humbled and possibly dethroned.

We will make him PAY for his evil deeds.

Because everyone knows that once a person becomes famous, they are no longer allowed any human frailties. They must be perfect! Beyond reproach! Flawless!

Because we won't tolerate anything less, and because, if they are not perfect, we will find and exploit any weakness or imperfection. We will try and punish them in the media and hound them into stoop shouldered submission. Then we will leave them to pick up the pieces of their broken lives and move onto the next celebrity who has the misfortune to publicly misstep.

I feel sorry for him, to tell the truth.

We Americans sure are fair weather friends when it comes to our heroes.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

With Ears Wide Open

Because my spiritual beliefs are somewhat ambiguous and convoluted, I really have no strong convictions about what happens to us after we die.

I would like to believe very much that we live on, somehow. It would certainly calm some of my fears.

I have a death phobia, to be perfectly honest. I am both repelled by it and oddly attracted to it. I find it seductive, though I am a reluctant paramour.

I look at those disgusting autopsy photos on the internet. They are horrifying. And mesmerizing. They scare me. Because it could be me lying there cold and waxen. And they comfort me. Because it's not me lying on that table, with my breasts hanging slack and empty at my sides and all my battle wounds on display.

I look at crime scene photos, accident photos, forensic photos. I am held in thrall, though my palms sweat and my stomach heaves. I just can't help it, though sometimes, I am regret having looked.

Would I have the same fascination with death and death culture if I had some sort of faith regarding life after death?

I don't know.

My friend, the one who died recently, was convinced that people could reach out from beyond the grave. She was a huge fan of John Edwards, and attended no less than five tapings of his show. I think she even got to ask him a question on camera once.

During our 2007 trip to Chicago, Terri, the owner of the guesthouse, came to hang out with us one night. We drank wine and chit chatted about all kinds of things; some meaningless, some deep and profound.

At one point, the conversation turned to "ghosts" and "spirits". The majestic townhouse in which we were staying was very old and naturally, my friend wondered if anyone had ever seen or felt any "presences."

Terri told us that many guests had seen or felt such presences. She told us about the history of the building and the neighborhood, and it didn't seem unreasonable that there would be some echoes of Chicago's tumultuous past lingering there.

My friend was terribly excited by the prospect that we might encounter one of these presences.

I teased her good naturedly, and later pooh-pooh'd her assertion, as well as that of several of the other girls, that they had indeed seen and felt something. I told them it was the power of suggestion that haunted them, and not a ghost.

Blogger, thy name is skeptic. And I'm a seeing is believing kind of gal.

Would you be surprised to learn then, that recently, my friend spoke to me?

I didn't listen at first. I dismissed it as a coincidence. A pretty amazing one to be sure, but a coincidence nonetheless.

But something about it must have gotten a hold on me, because I was compelled to share it with another friend of ours, who shared it with a family member of my dead friend, who then told her something, which, when she relayed it back to me....made my flesh break out in goosebumps and the tiny hairs at the nape of my neck stand at attention.

Still, I tried to talk myself out of it.

It's just wishful thinking, I reasoned. My grief is making me vulnerable to all kinds of things I wouldn't normally fall prey to. I'm grabbing at straws. I'm making something out of nothing.

But I couldn't get it out of my mind.

And then it occurred to me that she would certainly believe she could reach out to someone after she had passed on. If she had something to say, she would believe absolutely that we would hear her.

I realized I had let go of my doubts and hear her.

I know, you all think I'm nuts. And maybe I am. But practical to a fault though I may be, even I have to sit up and take notice when something like this thwaps me on the forehead.

I guess I'd rather be crazy than close minded.

So...I heard you, L. Loud and clear.

And don't you worry, hon.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Diminutive One is disgruntled.

Several of his classmates have engaged in an ongoing debate with him about the origins of man. I suspect this is more to have something to argue about than any real committment to the beliefs they parrot.

At their age, it's more about being right than being convicted.

He is grossly outnumbered.

Most of the children in his class have been marinated from birth in the belief that God created man in his own image and that Eve was molded from Adam's rib. Evolution is blasphemy. This is the only thing they know. This is the only thing they are allowed to know.

They tell him he's stupid to believe that man came from Apes. This, understandably, aggravates him.

"Mom...HOW can they think that human beings just POOFED into existence when we have PROOF that they evolved from apes? I mean, HELLO...we have fossils and stuff. All they have is some dumb book. THEY'RE the stupid ones."

Biting back a retort, I try to remain neutral.

I explain to him that here in the South, most people believe what the Bible says. And that's okay. But he has the right to disagree with him. AND, he has a right not to have to defend his own beliefs in a secular environment.

"Secular?" he says, blushing.

He has mistaken the word for something unsavory.

"That just means 'not religious', dude. Your school is a public school. That means that it's for all people, not just Christians. Or Muslims. Or Jews. And nobody has the right to promote their own religious beliefs there. That's what church is for."

He looks intrigued now. Immersed as we have been in the hyper reiligious climate that dominates here in the South, I doubt it has has occurred to him that he might not have to listen to it. I doubt it has occurred to him that he has any rights at all when it comes to that sort of thing.

But it has occurred to me. Plenty.

"In fact..." I continued, really working up a good head of irrevent steam, "it's against the law to talk about religion in your school. It's called 'separation of church and state', and it's in the Constitution."

he says, earnestly.

He's a BIG believer in the Constitution.

"Yes, really." I say triumphantly.

Then I realize that I might be coming off a little too contentious and smug. I really do try to teach him that he can believe whatever he wants, and that people who believe differently are not our enemies. That's one reason I killed myself putting on Cultural Arts Night.

So I decide to change my tack a little bit.

"Look, honey, it's okay that some people believe in Creationsim. It's what they've been taught to believe from the time they were just little children, just like you've been taught about Evolution. Neither of you should be calling the other stupid because of it."

"Yeah, I know."
he says morosely.

They shouldn't, but they do. And he is powerless to stop it.

"Religious beliefs are a very personal thing and you don't have to discuss it with anybody you don't want to discuss it with. So the next time someone tries to start a debate with you, you tell them that. You tell them 'that's my own personal business'. And if they won't stop, then you tell them that they are breaking the law. Because they are."

"But what if it's someone I like and they just really want to know what I think?"

"Well then that's fine, if it's okay with you. Because someone who is truly your friend won't stop being your friend because you believe something different. And you can actually learn from each other."

He is silent now, processing what has been said.

"Is it really breaking the law?" he asks.

"Yes, it is."

He smiles then. Not a malicious smile, but one of relief. He has a weapson now, to brandish against the onslaught of intolerance that he faces every day. Something to balance the scales a little bit, if not tip them in his favor.

With that he disappears to do kid things.

And I am left to wonder...

Could our forefathers; those men that so bravely put their names on a document that could have seen them swinging on the end of a rope for the crime of high treason...could they have possibly foreseen that their radical ideals and commitment to freedom would calm the fears of a 10 year old boy 250 years in the future?

Don't you think they would find that pretty goddamned awesome?

If something I did in my lifetime could carry that kind of impact across centuries...I would be a fulfilled woman indeed.

And then I think...maybe it just did.


Thanks for all who commented about the legality issue. I actually do know the specifics of the law, but most 5th graders won't. I'm hoping "againist the law" will put an effective end to the bullying re: religion, and it won't come into question. If it does, I'm prepared to handle that. In fact, I welcome the opportunity to express to any parent who might take issue with that, my feelings about the way their children are behaving.