Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dog Blogging

Guarding the Presents!

Little Dog loves to burrow down in pillows.

The Funniest News Article of the Year

This is such a hoot, I can't stand it.

For one thing, I don't believe our (current) president is such a bookworm.

For another thing, you'd think the "Leader of the Free World" wouldn't have quite so much time on his hands! 

Here's a Tip for the Husbands

If you plan to toss your wife overboard from a cruise ship, don't walk around with a bag of quarters advertising you're going to the casino to change your luck.

People notice crap like that.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Coming Up for Air

Sigh.  Christmas is over.  [NIW does a sprightly Happy Dance!!!] 

Daughter Dear is off on a fabulous vacation with Wonderful Boyfriend's family. This is a very good for her.  She will have fun and have lots of fabulous new experiences. On the other hand, it will give her a whole year's worth of ammunition regarding why our family is not as cool as WBF's.  What DD doesn't know is that I am totally okay with the fact that our family is, as a matter of fact,not as cool as WBF's.  I have no desire whatsoever to be as cool as his family. They are very nice people. I like them.  I love the fact that they are so wonderful to her.  They are cool and fun and social. I am none of those things and I aspire to none of those things. I have no desire to compete with them.  Someday I would like for DD to understand that.  Failing that, I would settle for her getting off my ass about it.   

Dear Husband is in the throes of Football Playoff frenzy, which means that (even more than usual) he is oblivious to everything but what is important to him, which, at this time of year, involves certain teams winning their "big games." I'm not sure which teams are important other than all teams from Florida. I really don't give a damn, but I don't dare say that out loud. (I am so unspeakably thrilled that I will be on a business trip the night of the BCS Championship game, I can't tell you. If I watch the game at all -- which I do not plan to do -- it will be with a group of people who don't care about the outcome.)  

I am presently on the brink of my annual post-Christmas, pre-New Year psycho-spiritual spasm, experiencing the pain of the disconnect between the life I actually live and the life I think I ought to be living.  On or about New Year's Day,  I conduct my annual general examination of conscience. 

I know. I know. Good Catholic girls make an examination of conscience more than once a year.  Well, this Good Little Catholic Girl discovered a while back that too much religion is TOXIC.  These days, if I can't avoid it altogether, I take my religion in very, very small doses.  I ditched most religious practice several years ago, but I decided to keep the Examination of Conscience. Instead of doing it daily, however, (which I think only causes wallowing in guilt and unhealthy self-criticism) I do it once a year, around the New Year.  

About a decade ago, I developed a reflection format for my annual psycho-spiritual self-exam which has been very helpful in many respects. Someday, I hope when I'm dead and gone, my daughter or somebody who gives a damn will read it and understand that I'm not quite as crazy as I may seem.  There is some internal consistency and logic in my behavior. It just isn't always apparent from the outside. Frequently, it isn't really apparent from my perspective until I ponder it contemplatively for a while.  This year has been such a hell of a year, I'm actually very nervous about the results of that little exercise! (Which makes it all the more important to actually DO the exercise!)

And so, the wheel of time turns again. I used to look forward to the New Year with either a sense of hope and excitement for what is to come next or, occasionally (after really bad years), a prayerful aspiration that the New Year will be at least better than the previous one.  This year, I'm thinking that about the best I can hope for is the will to keep on keepin' on.  

Then again.... who knows. Maybe I'll discover that pony in the pile of shit I've been digging in.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I'm Feeling Much Better Now

I think I am about finished with my pre-Christmas melt-down. At least I hope so.

The Anniversary and DH's birthday are over, and Christmas is almost upon us.  My shopping is done, that is, unless I take a notion to stop and buy some more stuff tomorrow on my way home from work, which I typically do. Shopping on Christmas Ever is a tradition with me, since I was a kid and I used to go with my Dad to do his Christmas shopping for Mom on Christmas Eve.  

My biggest "issue" with Christmas is the disconnect between what I believe to be my blessed good fortune at having a roof over my head, food on my table and a job that pays a living wage -- as opposed to the millions of people who are out of work and wondering what they will do next. I would like to give all the money I would ordinarily spend on Christmas gifts to charity. 

Unfortunately, my family wants to give (and receive) gifts, which causes me to have to buy gifts. 


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Two Celebrations Down ....

Our anniversary (which was a bust) and DH's birthday (which was also something of a bust) are (mercifully) over.  DH was sick. We skipped the anniversary party altogether on Wednesday.  He slept; I pouted. We had a combined anniversary and birthday party on Thursday, which neither of us really enjoyed, but I had purchased all the food and I had to cook it sometime.  

He couldn't help being sick.  I couldn't help being disappointed.  We didn't stick it out for 25 years by holding grudges when we get pissed off.  One of the things you learn in a long-term marriage is how to suck it up and move on.  Maybe the fact that I spent an hour on our anniversary, walking the beach in the rain, crying out of sheer frustration, and then turned around and made the party for him the next day says more about why we've been married so long than anything. I'm not sure if it says I'm a patsy who lets myself be taken advantage of (DD's opinion) or I'm a mature person who understands about owning one's own issues and not taking them out on others (what I hope is the case).  The truth is probably some combination of both.  

I'm still mad that he was such an ass about our anniversary party when he should have understood it was a big deal to me. I'm mad because: (a) women can be sick and still attend parties with good grace. (What the hell: women can be sick and PUT ON PARTIES with good grace. I've done it on more than one occasion.) and (b) he probably did not really comprehend that it was such a big deal to me, because I did not write it out in red crayon on a big piece of paper: THIS IS A BIG DEAL TO ME AND I WOULD REALLY, REALLY, REALLY APPRECIATE IT IF YOU WOULD COOPERATE.  He might have understood that. Maybe. Possibly.  Probably not. Because I'm pretty low key most of the time and the fact that I've been talking about our anniversary for about two years would never have tipped him off to the fact that I thought it was important.

Oh, well.  I won't hold a grudge.  Really.  I made the party on Thursday, and then tonight I fed him the last of the leftovers he was too sick to eat on Thursday. I offered to roast a chicken and put the (spicy) ribs aside for another time. He chose the ribs. I'm guessing if he's up all night again tonight, it'll be my fault. Sigh.
I took advantage of my days off to just about finish my Christmas shopping. At least I got my Mom's gifts in the mail.  I know she wouldn't care if I didn't get them in the mail promptly, but that's another big deal to me.   This year I made her some picture collages I think she will enjoy, and I bought her a book I know she will love.  I love giving presents to my mother because she loves anything I give her, even the stuff she never uses.  Anyway, it's a pleasure getting and making gifts for her because she's so appreciative.  She's the only person in my world who seems to love my gifts, no matter what they are.

DH does not want anything or like anything.  This year, for the first time in living memory, he specifically asked for something: he said he wanted slippers .  I gave them to him for his birthday instead of waiting until Christmas because he was sick and I thought he would like to snuggle up in them.  He opened the box, put the shoes on for a few minutes and then left them in the middle of the floor.  I put them on the couch when I ran the vacuum.  Little Dog decided they were the coolest pillow ever. They are still on the couch, and Little Dog seems to think they belong to her. DH said he liked them; I see no evidence of that.  That was how he handled a present he actually asked for! I wonder what he'll do with the other odds and ends I picked up for him.

DD will love everything I got for her, but it won't be enough. An argument will ensue.  She will say I'm cheap. I will say she's ungrateful. We will both be 100% correct.

One of these years I'm going to implemente a new Christmas gift rule: if you are over 16 or under 80, you don't get a present from me.  I will make a donation to the Red Cross in your name.  I know. I know. I say that every year. One of these days I'm going to actually do it.

Actually, I did make a Christmas donation to the Red Cross this year.  It just wasn't as big as I would have preferred because I still had to buy presents for a few people who are over 16 and under 80 because I'm too big a wuss to put my foot down and risk hurting someone's feelings. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Quarter of a Century!

Twenty five years ago today, my (now) Dear Husband and I were married. It was a Saturday. He worked nights at the time, and Friday was a work night, so he slept most of the day. I putzed around the apartment trying to be quiet. Stupidly, I did my hair way too early, so I spent the rest of the day trying not to mess it up. I put on a robe over my slip and didn't put on my wedding dress until it was almost time to leave for the church.

It was cold: very, very cold. I don't think it got above zero all day. There was snow on the ground, but the roads were (mercifully) clear. I was bored, but too keyed up to read or watch TV or do anything but pace the floor and watch the clock.

I had decided not to let my the groom see my wedding dress until we were ready to walk down the aisle. That was a bit problematic since we lived together. Once I put my dress on, I put on my coat as well. How stupid!

DH's brother drove us to the church, with their mother. He had the radio on; the weather report said it was 13-degrees below zero. I was okay until a few minutes before we were scheduled to begin the ceremony. At that point, I started to freak out. I went outside and lit a cigarette. I couldn't taste the smoke for the cold. I contemplated for a moment whether I needed the cigarette badly enough to risk frost-bite, and decided that -- fiend though I was -- I didn't. I tossed the almost whole ciggie into the ash bucket and went back inside.

My soon-to-be-brother-in-law was fussing about having to roll out the aisle runner. The minister was very kindly trying to explain it to him. Everybody else had already taken their places in the chapel. My sister, who was the matron of honor, and DH's brother, who was the best man, walked down the aisle first. DH's son was the ring-bearer. He led us down the aisle. We walked in together. The minister followed us.

A guy I worked with and a woman he knew provided the music. I can't remember the other songs, but the song DH requested was Here, There, and Everywhere. I think they sang another Beatles' song as well, but I can't remember what it was. I requested some Christian folk song; I can't remember what it was. It seemed so important at the time; I remember agonizing for hours over the selection of music. Odd that I can't remember what I ended up with. That goes to show how important it really was.

Another person I worked with took the pictures. She took photos at the church and at the reception, and gave me the film to develop. I was cheap even then. I would not have considered paying for a professional photographer. The pictures turned out really nice, I think.

The church was a lovely little chapel. The carpet was red. The poinsettias were white and red. All we contributed toward the church decoration was one large red poinsettia for the top of their "poinsettia tree". [For several years we donated a poinsettia to the church every year for Christmas in celebration of our anniversary. Somewhere along the way, I quit doing that, largely because the church turned out to be so derned dysfunctional I couldn't bring myself to give them a dime.]

My soon-to-be-step-son, who was then four years old, behaved. My husband's nephew who was about the same age, and something of a monster at the time, behaved as well. That was a relief.

The ceremony went smoothly. It was the first Protestant wedding I had ever attended. The whole thing took less than ten minutes. It seemed hardly worth all the fuss and bother. I wasn't really clear as to what could be the point of a church service without Communion and lots and lots of music. [I still don't understand that, to be honest.]

We held the reception at our townhouse. There were thirteen members of our immediate families at the church. Another dozen or so friends and extended family joined us for the party. My mother and some other relatives served the food. DH and I cut the cake. We opened our presents.

DH had spent hours and hours making a tape of all of our favorite songs to play in the background during the party. It was the greatest "mix" tape of all time. [I bet we still have it somewhere among all our hundreds of cassette tapes.] Everybody danced. Our "first dance" was to John Lennon's Imagine. To this day, I think that's one of the greatest songs ever written, although it totally escapes me why I thought it might have been remotely appropriate for a wedding dance.

Just about the time I started relaxing and enjoying myself, everybody left. I was ready to party, but there was nobody there but the two of us. I think we watched TV for a while. We were such romantics even then. [NOT!]

The next day, we went out for brunch, which was nice. I remember that the center of my bouquet came out and made a corsage which I wore to brunch. I must have looked like a complete idiot. Who wears a corsage to anything but a prom?

The following Monday was DH's birthday. I went to work, but came home sick in the middle of the day. By then the reality of what I had done had begun to set in and I had my first panic attack. It was the first of many such attacks that would afflict me for several years. DH and I ended up spending most of the day sitting in the doctor's office waiting for me to be worked in. When I finally got in to see the doctor, he prescribed medicine and told me he wished brides would come to see him before the wedding instead of waiting until they melted down afterwards.

At one point DH commented, "When I promised to be there for you 'in sickness' I didn't really mean this soon." Such a wonderful way for him to celebrate his first birthday of wedded bliss with me!

In the intervening quarter of a century we've had very little of "sickness", a whole lot of "health"; we have had a lot of "better", a little of "worse", not too much "richer" but not too much "poorer" either. We're still alive and still together, albeit somewhat bruised and battered from occasional marital storms. We are certainly a lot older and, perhaps, marginally wiser.

Tonight we planned to sip cheap champagne and share a home cooked meal -- because we're too cheap to spring for going out to a nice place, but I am not willing to go to one of our usual joints for such a significant occasion.

DH got up this morning sick with the flu. He went to work anyway. I spent hours buying groceries and, even -- I don't know what got into me -- decorations for our celebration dinner. He called me mid-afternoon to tell me he was too sick to eat dinner and told me not to cook anything.

I put everything on hold and went to the beach, where it was foggy, misty and nasty,
for a walk. I got soaked but at least I calmed down before he got home. By the time I got home, DH was lying on the couch, moaning and bitching about how miserable he felt. All he wanted for dinner was canned soup. So much for the multi-course dinner I had planned.

We will have our anniversary celebration tomorrow night ... and he had better damned well feel better!

I Can't Resist Sharing This

The B&W photo is me when I was three years old; I was a flower girl in the wedding of some relative of my dad's. The color photo is my daughter when she was four. She wore the same dress for a Halloween costume; I think she was Cinderella, or maybe a fairy, what with the magic wand.

It rained and snowed that Halloween, and the dress was pretty much destroyed, but not before I got the photo. I wanted to combine these photos for years, but didn't have the appropriate scanning equipment or software. Now I do.

Monday, December 15, 2008

San Antonio, Texas

I recently visited San Antonio, Texas. I had been there once when I was a child, but that was -- um -- a while back. My memories of Texas were dim and generally unpleasant, primarily because, as I recalled, driving across Texas in a car with no A/C in August was kind of miserable.

In recent years people who have visited San Antonio have waxed rhapsodic about the beauty of the city. It has been on my list of places I wanted to visit for some time. I was definitely not disappointed. It helped that the day I was there, the weather was absolutely fabulous: clear and crisp, but not cold. There was not a cloud in the sky. I arrived around mid-day, and had the afternoon free before an evening business function.

I took advantage of the opportunity to go sight-seeing. I am an unrepentant tourist at heart, and I'm not even embarrassed to say that. A person can learn a lot about a place (and yourself) if you grab your camera, a map and put on some comfy shoes.

San Antonio is every bit as beautiful as it had been described to me. I only had a few hours, so I started at the Alamo, then I worked my way out from there, wandering around the downtown both at the street level and along the River Walk to the Market Square area.

I detoured off the main drag to make a pilgrimage to the house/office of the writer, O. Henry, who ran a newspaper in San Antonio for a couple of years. I even violated my "no shopping on pleasure trips" rule to do a little Christmas shopping at the River Center Mall. After dinner, our host invited us to walk along the River Walk to see it lit up for Christmas. While we were out and about, he asked if we wanted to see the Alamo at night. We said we did, and it was amazing.

San Antonio knows a thing or two about how to treat visitors. There are chamber of commerce folks standing around on the sidewalks in the heart of the tourist area, offering information or directions and, if you don't need either, they simply welcome you to their city and invite you to enjoy your stay.
Even most of the people in the shops were friendly. They actually made me think they were glad I was there. How cool is that? [Living in a tourist area, where our merchants specialize in being as rude as humanly possible to tourists and locals alike, it came as almost a shock to be treated so graciously.]

Perhaps I should rethink my generally negative attitude about the Lone Star state. ... or, then again, maybe, I'll just make an exception for San Antonio.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More Dog Blogging

Our Little Dog loves Santa Claus.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Little Girl Soldier

I saw the soldier walking down the concourse in front of me, wearing the gray and white BDU's that appear to have replaced the old green on green. (I'm guessing green uniforms would stand out in the desert). There was a ratty old and obviously very "loved" stuffed animal of some sort strapped to the top of the soldier's pack. It was very obviously not a new gift for a child. It struck me as odd. The soldier was very small. The pack was so large I could only see the top of the soldier's head.

I saw the same soldier later in the gate area and understood the stuffed animal: the soldier was a freckle faced girl, who could not have been more than nineteen. She was returning on leave from a tour of duty in Iraq.

When our plane landed, the stewardess asked the passengers to welcome her home. As cranky and surly as we all were after our delayed flight, every person on the plane applauded.

The last time I saw her she was lifted off the ground in the arms of her boyfriend and surrounded by her joyfully tearful family.

I respect the kids who are willing to serve their country, and honor the sacrifices they and their families make on our behalf. I sincerely hope there is a special place in hell for political leaders who send teenagers (female or male) to wars half way around the world for no good reason.

Random Thoughts Whilst Sitting in Airports

I spent more than nine hours in the last two days sitting in airports (in between six hours actually in the air). I guess it was still faster than driving..., but surely air travel should not have to be that unpleasant.

First of all, I am old enough to remember when people used to dress up to go to the airport. Whether they were flying or meeting someone, they dressed nicely because when someone flew it was usually due to some kind of special "occasion". I'm not suggesting we go all the way back to that, but I think people should at least dress with a minimum of decency when they travel.

Granted, you do see a lot of business travelers in suits, poor beleaguered folks schlepping laptops, briefcases, black roll-on luggage and looking like they don't have any clue what city they are in. (I'll rant about corporate business travel another time.) Most business travelers have adopted the "business casual" look, which is certainly more practical then having men sitting in airports for hours upon hours in suits and ties. Women business travelers have more options in suit material, but even they do okay with business casual.

Business travelers aside, the rest of the traveling public in America seems to have decided that there is no need to dress up, or even get dressed at all. It's appalling how many people I saw in various airports wearing pajamas! I understand bringing toddlers in pajamas so they will be comfortable, but anybody over the age of four should be wearing street clothes! Puleeeeze.

Common courtesy and civility are (with rare and notable exceptions) virtually absent in America today , and I think that Americans' sloppiness is an indication of our general disregard for others. I'm not asking for people to wear their Sunday-go-to- meetin' best (not that Americans dress up for church much anymore either)! If I could write a dress code for the American traveling public it would be simple: wear reasonably clean clothes that are not sleep wear (that prohibition on sleepwear extends to bedroom slippers); cover all private body parts; no obscene words on T-shirts. Personally, I think the bar should actually be higher than that, but I'd be happy if we could start there.

To avoid this turning into more of a tirade than a mere rant, I'll refrain from discussing: cell-phone etiquette; arguing with spouses in public; and, eating smelly sandwiches on planes. In short: Please stop and consider the impact your behavior may have on the people around you. I fully understand that is totally unreasonable, which is why I'm not going to waste my time spelling it out in any more detail.

I remember when Delta flight attendants (fka stewardesses) were young, big-haired GRITS (girls raised in the south) who smiled their big ol' Southern smiles and called everyone 'honey' and 'sugah'. It made me feel at home just walkin' on the plane! They acted as though they were glad you were there (Southern gals make good flight attendants because they learn early how to smile and make you believe they give a rat's ass whether or not they actually do). When they counted the passengers, they made eye contact and smiled. Honest! It used to be like that. Really!

In the past two days, on four flights, I saw two flight attendants actually smile at a passenger. One smiled at a really cute baby (well, I thought she was really cute until we took off and she started screaming). I'm not sure that smile really counts.

The other one deserves special recognition. She was the poor heroic gal who was the flight attendant on a plane full of irate passengers. We had been delayed for more than three hours at which point the airline switched us to a plane that held twenty fewer people than the originally scheduled airliner (which had been booked solid). We knew when we checked in that twenty people were gonna get screwed. (How's that for stellar customer service? Thank you, Delta Airlines, for a really creative solution to a problem.)

Anyway, by the time we got on the plane after having been jerked around by Delta for hours, we were tired, hungry, and plenty pissed off. Nevertheless, this little gal, who must have graduated from the Southwest Airlines flight attendant school, tried to cheer us up. She was funny, perky, quirky and seemed to like interacting with the passengers. I think her efforts at both humor and interaction were mostly lost on us cranky passengers, but I stopped on my way out the door and thanked her for trying anyway.

That one pleasant airline employee aside, it is no wonder the airlines have financial difficulties. They treat their customers with something like contempt. Once I enter the lines for security, I feel as though I have been transformed from a human being into a sheep in a pen, being controlled, manipulated and moved around by unseen "others". It is a totally unpleasant experience.

The airlines apparently don't treat their employees any better than they treat their customers, because from the the minute you enter the terminal most of the employees appear to miserable, unhappy and surly.

I found myself actually pitying the poor schmucks at the gate check in counters who have be the face of the airlines for the passengers. Their job involves dealing daily (and sometimes many times a day) with angry passengers who know the airline is jerking them around. I watched the gate attendants carefully
for hours yesterday, trying to get some signal from facial expressions or inflection of their voices that something might be happening to get us moving. I came to the conclusion that the airlines keep the gate attendants as much in the dark as possible. Perhaps they don't want them to know too much so they don't have to actually lie to the customers. In any case, there is no doubt those people have a miserable job. That does not keep me from feeling irritated when they are rude to me. I am a Customer not a Sheep!

It is no wonder the employees are unhappy. They come to work every day knowing they're going to get yelled at by dozens if not hundreds of customers every day because of the ineptitude of their employer. Now that'll get you up for work every morning!

There is NO reason for it. We have a lot of smart, creative people in this country. The airlines are serving more and more customers every year and, because we have no other alternative if we want to get around, that trend is likely to continue. They are still doing business the same way they did thirty years ago. They need to figure something out ... soon.

Our obsession with security (important as it is) has crippled our ability to move people quickly from one point to another, and I don't know what the hell it is that causes one flight delay due to a raindrop or two in Manchester, New Hampshire, to cause hundreds of people to be sent scurrying around from one gate to another while the airlines shuffle them from plane to plane I know people could figure out a better way.

Here's one example: Why can I print my boarding pass 24 hours in advance with a gate assignment on it? Gate assignments should not be made until the plane is on its final approach to land (after the airlines have dealt with other planes coming in late or early). I don't need a GATE assignment until it's time to board. I want a seat assignment as far in advance as I can get it, realizing that there may be reshuffling (and I may need to check in again) if they have to switch out planes to avoid delays. I'd be happy to wait in a common lounge until they call the flight and announce the gate assignment prior to boarding. The at-gate seating is too small for the size of most of the planes anyway, and when you get three and four planeloads of people waiting in one gate area because the planes are backed up, it's a recipe for disaster. It's also undignified for an entire planeload of people to be sent running down the concourse for a last-minute gate change. From a customer service standpoint, that is utter madness!

One more thing: baggage. The airlines have started charging for checked bags, which means that more people are carrying on more and more luggage. That slows down both boarding and exiting processes. It is also miserable to schlep stuff around airports all day long. Here's my suggestion: Raise ticket prices and go back to two free checked bags (maybe even three). At the same time limit carry on luggage to one carry on bag that would have to go under the seat, plus a personal item, that would also have to go under the seat. Overhead bins would be reserved for coats and other "soft" items. That would speed things up a lot, avoid injuries from passengers whacking each other in the head with suitcases, avoid hard feelings because some passengers obey the baggage size rules and others don't... etc. etc.

Transportation is a critical component of a healthy country. Our roads, bridges, rail transport and our air transport are all woefully in need of a major overhaul. Smart creative minds need to work on thinking big ideas for how we can do things better. Right now, it seems as though corporate America keeps trying to put old-worn out band aids on new problems. Then when the business borders on bankruptcy, they look to Uncle Sam for financial assistance.

Here's a novel idea: fix your own house, folks. And do it fast because it's having a bad effect on the neighborhood.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On The Road Again

I'm off for another short business trip for a couple of days. Hopefully I will come back with a better attitude.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dogs and Football

As I have mentioned before, we have two dogs. One of them was abused when she was a puppy, and she is terrified of everything. The other one has always had a good home, but he is very protective of the little dog, and since she's lived with us, he's turned into a Nervous Nellie. They are afraid of loud noises, storms, rain, and a lot of other things. They most especially hate it when people yell. After the Fourth of July (with all those fireworks), the dogs hate football season the most.

My Dear Husband has a lot of good qualities. I love him. He is, however, a football maniac. I fail to understand how something that makes you so mad could be enjoyable, but he says he loves football. He will watch almost any game, and he loves all Florida teams, but more than anything, he loves the Florida Gators. When the Gators are winning, all is wonderful in our house. When the Gators are not winning, things are not so good.

Earlier this year, the Gators lost unexpectedly to Old Miss. I cannot begin to describe the yelling, screaming and cursing that went on in our house that afternoon. The dogs were totally freaked out. I would have left, but I was afraid to leave them alone with a crazy person.

Ever since then, every time my husband turns on a football game, the dogs get nervous. They seem to understand the noises. When they hear the drums, music and unmistakable noises of a football game, they freak out. The little dog hides. The other one sits by me and shakes.

Right now we are watching the SEC championship game between Florida and Alabama. On Florida's first possession, the Gators moved all the way down the field in a long drive. At the end the announcer yelled, "TOUCHDOWN!" The dog sat up, reached out his paw to touch my leg, and stared intently at my husband, evidently waiting to see if he was going to throw a fit or not. I immediately understood that he knew the word "touchdown". What he didn't know was whether it was a good thing or a bad thing.

That was sort of the last good moment we've had this afternoon. I think DH thought 'Bama was going to lay down before the mighty Gators. It's not working out that way.

I gotta say that I'm almost as nervous as the dogs. If Bama scores again, I'm going to join the dogs on the couch, shaking and quaking and praying for it to be over.

PS: Florida won the game. The dogs are happy. Everything is peaceful and calm in our house, for now. Next stop BCS championship in January. Football season does go on and on and on. Does it not?

I guess I should add here: Go Gators!

Now That We Have THAT Out of the Way...

Well, our new credit cards came yesterday. I tried mine out by renewing the car registrations for DH's two vehicles. (One of the many bad things about having a birthday near Christmas is that, on top of the holidays, the person has to do things like renew auto tags, driver's licence and other similar things that are irritating expenses at best, but are particularly difficult to fit into the December budget.) It worked, so I guess I'm back in business now.

My next hurdle is to resign myself to the fact that I live in a family that really enjoys the Holidays, and it is unfair and mean of me to be such a party pooper. Therefore, I need to commit myself to ginning up a little enthusiasm of my own. I don't give a rat's ass for the Holidays, but I do like to see DH and DD happy. All this merriment makes them happy. The least I can do is to focus on how much I enjoy seeing them happy, and try to let that show.

That's the theory. The hard part is that DH is making himself crazy over the Christmas decorations. He's about to have a nervous breakdown over lights that don't work. I want to ask him how this can be fun and enjoyable.

[Aside: Early in our marriage -- back in the days when I was still trying to be the perfect wife-mother-hausfrau-etc. -- DH sat me down after Christmas one year and told me that I was ruining Christmas for him with my stressing out so over meals, parties, gifts, entertaining, etc., etc. He told me to lighten up. Christmas does not have to be an endless round of entertaining and cooking. He wanted it to be a simple family affair. That was a total revelation to me. I learned how to "do" Christmas from my mother, who started shopping for Christmas on January 1 and started cooking for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. December was a relentless round of cooking, entertaining, cleaning up and then more cooking for more parties. After I got married, that's what I did, because I didn't know any better. I hated it, but I thought everyone expected it. I spent every Christmas of my life cooking and entertaining. The cooking I didn't mind too much. The entertaining was always a strain on my Introvert. I was thrilled to know I didn't have to do all of that. .... BACK TO TODAY'S STORY]

I'm tempted to sit him down and give him a dose of his own medicine on the subject of stressing himself out over his decorations.

DD on the other hand is totally into the material aspects of the holiday. She's in it for the presents. To her credit, she's a generous and thoughtful gift-giver. She spends more than she should. What is more (here's the part where I get in trouble), she has expectations that others will spend lavishly on her as well. Unfortunately, her family (both her immediate family and our extended family) does not do that. Fortunately Wonderful Boyfriend's family makes up for our deficiences, which only underscores our deficiencies .... do you see where this is headed?

Anyway, DD and I end up clashing over gifts. I know that her expectations are way beyond what I could fulfill. I end up stressing over giving her gifts that I believe are appropriate and yet measure up to her standards. This year, I'm worried because in the past three years, I've already given her all of my most prized jewelry. I don't have any treasures left to give her. (Yikes!) I'll figure something out.... (I hope).

So, it's time for me to start getting in the mood.... er, I mean, the Holiday Spirit. (Ho. Ho. Ho. ???)

Step One: pretend. I learned a long time ago when I was dealing with panic disorder that acting as though I was okay often eventually resulted in feeling okay. That can sometimes work for enthusiasm too. Acting as though I'm happy sometimes results in my feeling happy. Then again, sometimes it results in feeling resentment for the people and circumstances that make me have to fake it, but -- hey -- it's usually worth a shot.

We'll see how this pans out.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Three Weeks Before Christmas

Yesterday morning I walked out the front door and headed for work. Before I had driven two blocks, the gas light came on. Someone had used my car the night before and brought it back with an empty gas tank. I muttered and swore all the way to the gas station.

I pulled into the nearest gas station and put my credit card in the slot. The machine rejected my card, indicating I should present the card to the attendant. Ordinarily, I'd have left. I have had gas pumps refuse my card before; I usually just go to another station. I usually have enough gas to get to another gas station. I didn't have that luxury this time. I took my card inside. The attendant ran it through twice and said it was rejected. She looked at me like I was some kind of low-life. I mumbled something about how there must be some kind of mistake.

Of course, I had no cash on me. I only have one credit card. I didn't have enough gas to get to work. I tried (not entirely successfully) to hold my temper.

I was already irritated with my Dear Husband for bringing my car home with no gas. I knew he was still in bed, but I called him and asked him to come to the gas station right away with cash or a working credit card. He didn't even give me any lip. He was there in less than fifteen minutes. He put gas in my car and I headed for work.

A little while later, he called to let me know that the problem occurred because he had ordered a replacement for his worn credit card. The bank canceled the entire account. The bank indicated they are mailing us new cards, which should arrive within a week to ten days.

I have to go on a business trip next week. My boss has agreed to pay for my room if my card hasn't come yet.

I have not purchased one single Christmas present yet. I guess I will be reduced to using
-- GASP -- cash.

The holidays are off to a great start!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Like many others in the blogosphere, I am utterly smitten by Margaret and Helen, the elderly ladies from Texas whose blog was created as a way for them to keep in touch when one of them moved far away. Largely due to the outrageously funny and flamboyantly liberal posts from Margaret during the presidential campaign, the old gals have become something of a cyber-phenomenon. I gotta tell you Margaret is about to bump the cartoon character, Maxine, from her place as the embodiment of "who I wanna be when I get old."

Margaret is not exactly Sarah Palin's biggest fan [cough, cough]. Margaret actually loathes and despises Sarah Palin. She seems to have the same general level of disdain for Governor Palin that I always reserved for Phyllis Schafly, and for almost all the same reasons. Granted, Margaret gets carried away with her prose from time to time, but to be honest I could come uncorked thinking too much about Schafly or Gov. Palin, too.

The calculated use of hyperbole and satire are almost sacred obligations for any writer who wants to lampoon politicians. What Margaret may lack in the area of satire she more than makes up for in the area of hyperbole. She does get nasty sometimes, but her writing is so crisp and funny, I forgive her when she gets carried away. That's a large part of her charm.

The other day she wrote a post about Gov. Palin's trip to Georgia to campaign for Senator Chambliss. To summarize: Margaret was not pleased with Gov. Palin for making the trip and she is not a fan of Senator Chambliss. Margaret's post generally seemed to be along the lines that the Guv needs to go back to Alaska where she can screw up the lives of only a few people, and the people of the state of Georgia need to get real ... and get rid of Chambliss. Both of those things seemed like perfectly reasonable suggestions to me, although even I will acknowledge that Margaret was in something of a fine fettle when she wrote the post.

I usually don't read the comments on that blog, mainly because there are too damned many of them. For some reason, I scanned the comments to that post and came across some horrible evangelical screed. I haven't seen anything that nasty since I quit reading Episcopal Church-related blogs.

It would appear that, even though the election is over, the crazies are still lathered up. I would love to think that the Obama Administration will have support from a wide spectrum of America. I would like to see us join together to make the changes that are necessary in order to restore America's soul, repair our damaged relations with the rest of the world, and move toward a new future together. My fear is that the far right wing racists and Christianists will not let that happen.

I appreciate Margaret's humor, just as I appreciate the humor of Al Franken, and other liberal humorists. I see it as HUMOR. It makes me sad (and frightened) to think that so many people in our country are so narrow-minded, short-sighted and bigoted that they (a) cannot acknowledge that someone might have another point of view and (b) they get pissed off when somebody pulls their leg.

Come on, people: LIGHTEN UP!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Evening

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving! In recent years (because I'm a fanatic about my weight), I over-eat only about once a year, and that day is almost always on Thanksgiving. I hate the feeling of being so full, but I love all traditional Thanksgiving foods so much, I just can't help myself. I love cooking them (and tasting along the way), and I love eating them. I especially love watching my family enjoying the food I so lovingly prepared for them.

Daughter Dear elected not to help cook the meal. For one thing, I started my preparations at the ungodly early hour of 10:30 a. m. Heaven forbid that she should get up at such an hour. Moreover, she's reading a good book, which is why she stayed up way too late last night. She slept late today and then spent most of the day sprawled across her bed reading. I would have been inclined to throw a hissy fit because she didn't help with Thanksgiving dinner as she had promised, but I just don't have it in me to interrupt a kid who's actually reading a book. [She did notice the "timetable" hanging on the refrigerator door and remarked, "You write out a schedule?" That gave me the opportunity to explain the theory of the timetable. As a "teaching moment," that was better than nothing.]

The upshot was that I made the entire dinner all by myself, except for carving the turkey, which is DH's job. [Well, to be honest what DH does to a turkey can't exactly be called "carving." I've watched Julia Child and Emeril Lagasse and Food Channel chefs actually "carve" a turkey. What DH does to it is more like a massacre. But, it gets the meat off the bones, and I sure as heck could not stomach getting my hands in all that grease, so I would never never complain about how he goes about it.] Quite honestly I enjoyed the whole process.

I did all the prep work for the side dishes while the pie baked (thanks be to Mrs. Smith's). After I put the turkey in the oven, I had a few hours of downtime, so DH and I went to the beach for an hour or so. When we returned I had just enough time for a shower before the turkey was done. While the turkey was setting and then being "carved" [ahem] by DH, I baked the side dishes, finished setting the table, and made the gravy. Dinner was finished and ready for the table exactly 20 minutes ahead of schedule, which gave me a chance to sit down and have a glass of wine before putting the food on the table.

We ate and ate and talked and talked. It was wonderful. There was not one argument or cross word. I am very, very thankful for that.

Now the carcass is simmering away on the stove, rendering a stock that I will use for for soups, gravies and sauces in coming weeks.

My favorite Thanksgiving side dish is Corn Pudding. My mom gave me the recipe years ago, and I've made it every Thanksgiving since. It's one of those Methodist Church-lady recipes that could not possibly be easier, but it soooooooooo good. I would skip the turkey on Thanksgiving, but not the corn pudding!

I share it with y'all:

1 package Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
1 can creamed corn
1 can corn (drained)
8 oz sour cream (I use a little more sour cream and less butter)
1 stick margarine (I usually use 1/2 stick of butter)

Melt the margarine/butter in a glass baking pan while preheating the oven. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Bake, uncovered, at 350-degrees for 30-45 minutes.

This stuff is absolutely fabulous warm. It's almost better cold the next day. It pairs perfectly with fresh cranberry sauce.

Thanksgiving Morning

I am enjoying the calm before the storm. Everybody but me is still in bed (a common occurrence). The house is absolutely silent but for the clacking of my fingernails on the computer keys. (That is also a common occurrence in our house.)

I just mapped out the cooking schedule for today. I grew up in a household where cooking and entertaining were almost the raison d'etre for my mother. She's a great cook and until recently she loved to entertain. She is also a great home economist: organized and amazingly frugal.

Thanksgiving in our house usually involved days of advanced preparation. There was not just one Mrs. Smith's frozen pie from Target. No. There were homemade pies: pumpkin, mince meat, apple (from our tree), and, usually, pecan (if we received the box of pecans from the Southern relatives in time). Depending on the size of the crowd and how many of the Southern relatives were coming, there might be several pumpkin pies or maybe some sweet potato pies as well.

Bread was my department. I baked homemade rolls and breads on Wednesday evening.

Mom always had snacks galore so people could load up all day. She worked on snacks and hors d'oeuvres for days.

Thanksgiving day was a frenzy in the kitchen. She normally cooked at least one very large turkey, plus a ham. There were always mashed potatoes (real ones not the boxed ones from WalMart that my family thinks is the only way you can get mashed potatoes) and sweet potato casserole. Due to a diversity of family tastes there were always three bowls of dressing: one with giblets (yuck!), one without giblets and not cooked inside the bird (that was my dish), and one cooked inside the bird (I don't know if that one had giblets or not; I never ate it). Sides included three different kinds of cranberries: smooth, chunky and a cranberry salad with nuts and citrus, plus an ambrosia salad to die for. Vegetables? You name it, she cooked it. Mostly I remember there were always Lima beans because they are my favorite vegetable. Other than that, I don't remember. Who eats the veggies on Thanksgiving anyway? She made gravy both with and without giblets. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but it was always an amazing feast.

We also used the good dishes for Thanksgiving, whether it was just the family (which happened rarely) or whether we were feeding the masses. We did not have a dishwasher and I wasn't much help in the kitchen, so doing the dishes was my job. Mom was one of those wash-as-you-go cooks. Therefore, I was usually washing pots and pans and mixing bowls pretty soon after I dragged my ass out of bed. (Which tended to be hours after she had started cooking).

The kitchen looked like the aftermath of a hurricane all day long until about five minutes before we sat down at the table. At that point, it all came together like a magic spell in a movie. There were a few minutes of total chaos while we tried to get all the dishes on the table while they were still hot, then peace reigned by the time we said Grace.

It never ceased to amaze me, but it happened every year. She never forgot anything, and everything came out done at the same time. Her secret was not magic. It was hard work, done according to a rigid timetable. A week or so before Thanksgiving she would sit down and work her way backwards from the Zero Hour, scheduling every single task she had to do to make it come out. Making that schedule took a long time, but she always said if she stuck to the schedule, she knew she could pull it off. She stuck it to a cabinet door with a magnet, and it was her Bible and road map from the moment she hung it up until she sat down to eat.

The "timetable" was one of the many wonderful valuable lessons I have learned from my mother. I use it for every large meal I ever make (even though the largest and most elaborate meal I make today barely rises to the level of Mom's normal Sunday dinner). I use a "timetable" for packing for trips, and anything else where I have a deadline to finish multiple tasks.

This week I had conversations with two different people who said they would have absolutely no idea how to go about preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. I find that sad. I have eaten out for Thanksgiving and I have been a guest in other peoples' homes, and it's just not as good.... because you don't have the best part of the Thanksgiving dinner: THE LEFTOVERS.

So, I'm cooking this year, just as I have every year since we moved to Florida. My meal is much simpler than my mother's and I have done absolutely no advance preparation ... other than to make my timetable. I used my menu to generate the shopping list and also to generate my timetable. My Zero Hour is 5:00 p. m. According to my timetable, have until 10:30 a. m. to mess around, and get in a good long walk.

This year, Daughter Dear said she wants to help make the meal. I am not very good at sharing my kitchen, but I'm going to try to make the effort so she can learn how to manage the process. I don't want to think that someday she might stand around at work lamenting that her mother never taught her how to organize and cook a Thanksgiving meal.

Happy Thanksgiving! (I gotta go... I have two hours for a walk before I have to organize my ingredients and get out the pans...)

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Mother Letter Project

I mentioned this in my last post, but decided to bump it up in the chain to emphasize it.

I thought I had a wonderful husband (and I do). This guy may be the grand pooh-bah of great husbands. He's putting together a Christmas gift for his wife made up from letters to a mother from other mothers. See the mother letter project.

What a kind and wonderful idea. I'm in!

So Very Thankful

I am back from my Continuing Education seminar. I think I passed my test, which will give me a professional designation, complete with a bunch of random alphabet soup letters behind my name. Aren't you impressed? I thought so. To be honest, I didn't do it for the letters behind my name, I did it for the money I was promised by way of additional compensation if I completed the program. To put it bluntly: I did it for the money.

It will be several weeks before my grades are posted and my completion of the program is official. We'll party then, but for now the important news is that I survived 100 hours of continuing education without murdering anybody or standing up in the middle of a lecture, tearing at my clothes and screaming obscenities. Not that I didn't consider it. Numerous times.

Anyway, one of the most important things I am thankful for this year is that I am FINISHED with this ordeal. Thanks be to God!

I just got off a two hour phone conversation with my mother. I usually talk to her over the weekend, but we missed connections this weekend and we apparently needed to catch up. Tonight, we mainly talked about politics. We agreed on some stuff. In fifty-four years that has never happened before!! At a very minimum, my mother and I haven't agreed on any thing political since before the Vietnam War ended. Turns out that, amazingly, these days my mother and I agree about a lot of things.

The number one thing we agree on is that we are willing embrace a president who seems to have a clue (and care about) civil liberties. We got there by seriously different routes. My mother is basically a Dixiecrat who could probably do a pretty good five minutes on the subject of States Rights, which is something I don't much give a hoot about. I, on the other hand, am a borderline socialist at least in the eyes of most of the people I know. We got there by different routes, but we agree that protecting and defending the Constitution and, in particular, the Bill of Rights is perhaps the most important issue facing our country today. All that other economic, environmental and military stuff is subordinate to the protection of the very most fundamental principals on which our nation was founded.

We had a wonderful conversation that lasted more than two hours. It only occurred to me AFTER we hung up that I didn't wait until after 9:00 p.m. (when our cell plan switched over to 'unlimited calling') to call her. I reckon I'll catch hell about that from DH when we get the next bill. Oh, well....

I tend to write blog posts and read blogs from other people at the same time, so while I was writing this I came across the Mother Letter Project. I am definitely in for that. I'll be working on that in a little while.

I gotta go. I have a letter to write to my mother......

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bitching and Moaning (cont'd)

Okay, so I can't wait until next week to get this off my chest. I am not a happy camper. I hate professional seminars!

They make me stay in a hotel away from my family, which I do not like.

They put me in a classroom that is approximately the same temperature as a gynecologist's examining room. I had on three shirts today. I guess I'll go for four tomorrow.

One of the instructors insisted on standing in the BACK of the room. I always sit in the fucking front of any classroom so I can see and hear. I do not appreciate the instructor wandering to the back of the room where I can't see or hear him! It really drives me crazy when he has side conversations with people in the back.

The instructors tend to be
pompous windbags standing up in front of the group showing off about how smart they are and expecting us to be impressed by their knowledge and tickled by their lame attempts at humor. I work for some really, really smart people. They make these guys look like a bunch of yokels.

To make matters worse, there are too many pompous asses among the students who just must keep interrupting the proceedings to ask questions or make comments designed to demonstrate to the pompous windbag teaching the class and the rest of the participants how unbelievably smart they are... Half the time they just look stupid because of the inane crap that comes out of their mouths.

All I want to do is get through the curriculum and end the class on time so I have plenty of time in the evenings to study. Students who ask lengthy questions during class or who buttonhole pompous windbags during breaks, thereby causing breaks to run long, and class to run over.... well, they just piss me off.

I do not like being cooped up in hotels under the best of circumstances, but this hotel has very uncomfortable desk chairs and too little lighting, which makes it tough on an old bag like me to study.....

... so I gave up and decided to blog. At least my computer is self-lit and I can hold it in my lap.

I feel better now. At least until tomorrow when I get to do it all over again.

I'll try to leave this subject for now. I promise.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bitching and Moaning

We are in the run-up to my least favorite time of the year.

I hate cold weather. I know that it doesn't get as cold in Florida as it does in other parts of the country, but it feels cold to me. And I hate being cold.

Worse than the coldness of winter is the darkness. It is dark in the morning when I go to work, dark at night when I come home. Too dark to take a walk in the evening.

I need light and heat and outdoor exercise in order to be happy. Wintertime is clearly a problem for me. It is better in Florida than it was in Ohio, because I can at least get outside some on the weekends and the sun shines in the daytime (as opposed to Ohio where in the wintertime the sun can hide for days and days on end). Even so, winter is a huge problem for me! I think the name for the condition is appropriate: SADD.

So, usually from about mid-November until the middle of March, I am depressed. Sad. Grumpy. Miserable to be around (for myself and anyone who is unlucky enough to have to deal with me).

Worst of all, my "SADD" period coincides with the season cheerfully referred to by many as "The Holidays." Over the years, the period made up by "The Holidays" has changed. It used to run from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. That was bad enough. Now it appears to start with Halloween and end with the Super Bowl. It seems as though everybody I know is excited about "The Holidays." There is endless chatter about meals, parties, gifts and (shudder, cringe, tremble) decorations. Yikes!

The next time somebody asks me if I have started my Christmas shopping, I'm gonna deck them. I refuse to even think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving. And I don't mean the day after Thanksgiving. I mean sometime in the middle of December!

In almost every other aspect of my life, in particular my professional life, I work far ahead and plan, plan, plan. In my personal life, I take each day as it comes and try not to think ahead. That goes double at this time of the year when it is all I can do to get through the day at hand. If I think too much about the upcoming string of Thanksgiving, Football playoffs, Birthdays, Anniversary, Christmas, New Years, Football playoffs, etc., it makes me want to run away and hide until it is all over and all that cheerfulness dissipates.

So, I am in denial. I'm pretending that The Holidays are far away and I don't have to worry about any of it.

In the meantime, I am off today for a four day continuing education seminar. Yuck. I have to leave in three hours and I haven't even pulled my suitcase down from the closet. I guess I've sorta been in denial about going to this seminar, too.

I'll be back to bitch some more next week.

Novel Update - 3

Naturally, I couldn't resist working on the book some more, filling in some detail, but now I am finished! Well, sort of. At least the first draft is done. I'm going to put it away for a while and let it rest. Then I'll take it out again and work it over some more before deciding whether or not to submit it to any prospective literary agents. What a dreadful ending to the magnificent process of writing!

I stuck to my outline and discovered that writing to a plot was a lot easier than just letting the story meander along at the characters' whims. That did not mean the characters didn't throw me curves. The ending turned out to be very different from what I originally expected. I started out with three possible endings. Naturally, the actual ending was none of those, and it all happened because I could not convince the male protagonist to put down the phone!

Anyway, it was a totally fun way to spend a couple of weeks, and I think I really did learn some valuable lessons about "loosening up" a bit.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Novel Update - 2

I have written over 60,000 words and already have a more-or-less complete first draft. And it's only half-way through the month! I guess I accomplished the goal of writing a complete novel of 50,000 words in a month. It is time to put it away for a while, let it settle down and then start the editing process after a few weeks.

Frankly, I knew I wouldn't have any trouble getting to 50,000 words in a month. I wrote more than 20,000 words the first weekend. I probably crank out up to 50,000 words-a-month on various projects on a fairly regular basis.

In this exercise, I focused on letting my imagination go nuts and not worrying about sticking with only "what I know" -- as in what I have more or less experienced first hand or can at least extrapolate from first hand-experience. That is very limiting and keeps the stories small and, perhaps, very narrow in their appeal.

For the purposes of this story, I concentrated instead on "what I can imagine." That was a huge breakthrough for me. I have a wild imagination that can spin off all kinds of wild tales. I've never really let it loose in a novel before, preferring simple stories about "real" people. Wildish characters are a lot more fun to read about. It turns out they are also a lot more fun to write about.

The other "breakthrough" was that this was the first time I have started out with a plot. Usually I start with characters and let the plot come out of their interaction. This time I started with the idea for a plot and let the characters emerge to fill the roles necessary to further the plot. It was totally amazing how easy the story was to write. Quite honestly, it wrote itself. All I had to do was to transcribe it. Some days the characters raced ahead in their adventures so fast, it was all I could do to keep up.

I can't wait to try using that technique for my next story, just to see if I can do it again.

A Thought Provoking Bumper Sticker

It read simply:


I had to think about it a minute. I like it!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Novel Update

After a marathon writing session beginning last night, I hit 50,000 words (50,146 to be exact) in one week!!!

And that includes working a full 50-hour work week at my day job as well as sort of, attending to my family.

I am not finished with my story, but I'm coming down the home stretch on the first draft. I have to say this blitzkrieg writing stuff is loads of fun.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Novel Update

SP asked for an update on the novel. I'm about 2/3 to the 50,000 word mark and the story has taken on a life of its own. The event that I thought was the ending turned out to be the final scene of the first half. An entire second story emerged that wasn't part of the original outline.

Too much commotion chez nous tonight for me to write more than a couple of hundred words, partly because I wanted to debrief the election a bit.

I have planned a big weekend writing blitz.

I'll make an effort to check in with updates periodically.

Thanks for asking!

Tears, Fears and Hope

I really did not believe Barack Obama had a chance to win the election. Not because he wasn't qualified. I think he may be the best qualified president we have had since Franklin Roosevelt (and a good thing too because our country is in the ditch almost as deep as it was in 1932, in different ways).

I thought he didn't have a chance because, somewhere along the way from the Nixon administration to now, I stopped believing that America could really be "united." I hoped for it; wished for it; prayed for it. I lamented the absence of unity and a sense of common purpose. I talked a lot and wrote a lot about the need to find a common purpose, the need for We The People to take back out country. That has been a mantra for me for at least the last eight years.

The problem was (and I only realized this when the election was over) that the insidious messages of fear and hate with which we have been bombarded from our government officials for years had seeped in. I had stopped believing it was possible.

In the final days running up to the election, my heart began to pitter with the smallest stirrings of hope. My mind kept talking it all away. As late as Election Day, I still could not believe he would win.

I didn't believe it until he walked out on that podium and gave one of the most wonderful political speeches I have ever heard. It was the first time I actually listened to him speak. (I typically read the transcripts of the speeches.) It was wonderful. I stood up in front of my TV and applauded when he referred to We The People. I stood up and wept.

But I did not dance around in joy. There is too much at stake. Too much to do. To much danger still out there.

I was gratified to know that our next president, too, is steadying his nerves and steeling his will for a time of intense work.

We are far from out of the woods, but at least now I think we have a leader who owns a Compass, and knows how to read it.

This is a wonderful week in America.

Hell, it's a wonderful week on Planet Earth.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Taking Another Break

Starting now, I am going to take a break from blogging for the month of November in order to focus on my National Novel Writing Month project (unless I freak out over the election and have to break in and say something).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Think About This!

Nicholas Kristof published this the other day in the NY Times. I have been avoiding the symbolic aspect of an Obama victory partly because I don't like the idea of voting for a candidate because of the symbolism or historical importance of his (or her) "difference." I want to vote for a candidate because he (or she) merits my vote.

Having concluded that Senator Obama merited my vote and cast my (early) ballot for him, now I can look at the other part of this election: the symbolism and the historical import of what We The People of the United States of America may be doing in this election.

Part of my reluctance to think about that aspect of this particular election is that it still stings that America is willing to elect a black man before a woman. [Call me a racist or a female chauvinist and you'd probably be right on both couts, but that's how I feel. And I didn't even much care for Senator Clinton.] Now that I'm over that little hissy fit, I have to admit that it was cool to cast my vote for Obama partly for the reason that this IS a historic vote. My assistant has been making that point for months, but I was not ready to have that discussion. My assistant is a minority. I am white. That makes a difference. She was willing to call it what it was long before I could bring myself to do so.

So, America may (please God!) elect a black man as its next president.... perhaps better, we may be about to elect a person of mixed race, mixed nationality, mixed religious backgrounds. He is virtually a mongrel, to be honest. Barack Obama is exactly the kind of person you would expect a "Melting Pot" country to produce. I have been denying for years that America really is a Melting Pot. I think I may have been wrong. How cool is that?!

What is more, he is the living embodiment of the American Dream (the one that a lot of people don't even believe is possible any more): from humble roots, he was educated at America's finest institutions, he was a grass roots activist who got elected to the United States Senate. The symbolic import of his election is mind-blowing: Barack Hussein Obama, president of the United States of America.

How many American parents have told their kids, "You can be anything and do anything you set your mind to do and work hard for"? How many black (or poor or brown) kids looked around at their world and replied, "Yeah, right!" If Obama wins, the parents of America can point to the man in the White House and say, "See!" The hopelessness that seems to pervade our inner cities might be alleviated if children could look up at the picture of the president in their class rooms and see someone who is not a rich white guy with family connections, but someone who got ahead by being smart and working really hard.

How many times has American thumbed its nose at the rest of the world in recent years (er, decades ... er, centuries)? The post-modern world is a world where all nations have to cooperate. George Bush pissed away the good-will the rest of the world was prepared to grant us following 9/11. Clinton and his predecessors didn't do a lot to make the world love us, but Bush seems to have been hell-bent on making everybody in the world hate our guts. Bush has been Al-Quaeda's best suicide bomber recruiting tool. If Mr. Kristof is right, President Obama, sitting in the White House doing absolutely positively NOTHING will go a long way toward regaining a lot of the world's good will. That is worth considering.

The symbolic and historical import of this election is huge. We can't say that too loud because, um, ... why is that??

Oh, I know: because a lot of Americans don't give a damn about symbolism or history, or the rest of the world for that matter. I hope those folks stay home, complacently believing that McCain will win by a landslide.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another Early Voting Story

This article from a reporter who voted early in Palm Beach County scares the bejesus out of me.

What is it about South Florida? And why don't we all use the same kind of ballot? Ours in Volusia County were the "fill-in-the-bubble" ballot that reminded me of the SAT test. It was simple and easy.

I do understand about that ballot box thing. I had to try three times to get my ballot to pass through the scanner and into the ballot box, but that only took a second. I didn't have any problem with taking it out of the sleeve before I tried to put it in the scanner.

The lady in front of me tried to put her ballot in without removing it from the sleeve. That didn't work.

I didn't think much of it because, quite honestly, I don't really care that much if people know about who I voted for. People who want to keep their ballots secret may have a problem.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why This Is Important (or, What America Means To Me)

I never intended to post any of my fiction here, but while I'm in the patriotic mood, I decided to share the following excerpt from a novel I wrote in 2004. The reason I wrote this story was to reassure myself that America was not going to hell in a hand basket, or -- if it was -- that it would not happen without a fight from the True Believers from Middle America. After the results of the 2004 election, I have never been totally convinced that my vision of America is not utter fantasy, but it's my story and I'm sticking to it!

By way of background, the working title of the novel is "Always Faithful." (That's an intentional reference to "Semper Fidelis" because all of the key male characters are current or former U. S. Marines.) The characters in this excerpt are Connie Rydell, an attorney from Indianapolis, and her daughter, Jessica, also an attorney. Jessica is contemplating marriage to a very damaged Marine who is recently returned from Iraq. She has not yet broken that news to her parents. She is also dissatisfied with her job as a lawyer in a big Chicago firm. She has not told her mother about that, either.

Early in the morning on Thanksgiving Day, Jessica asks her mother why she became a lawyer and how she feels about her profession. At the end of the conversation, the subject broadens from Connie's opinion about the legal profession, specifically, to her thoughts on America in general.

“Mom, before we stop this awfully-deep-shit-for-so-early-in-the-morning, I have one more question?”

What is that?”

How did you handle it when you figured out that so much of what your teachers and your parents told you was untrue?”

Connie looked at her daughter for a long time. She wanted desperately to ask a few probing questions of her own about why Jess wanted this information, but decided to just answer the question that was asked, “I was very angry for a long time until I came to understand and accept that they told me what they believed. I believe that neither my parents nor my teachers intentionally lied to me. They were simply mistaken. They told me what they had been taught. That helped assuage the anger a bit. It didn't help with the sadness and disillusionment that came with learning that the world was not as nice as they told me it was and as I still think it should be. I guess I have still not completely gotten over that. I suppose I am sort of a Pollyanna. I have decided that I don't think that is a bad thing, by the way.”

How did you feel when you learned the government was lying?”

Which time?”

Any time.”

Every time, I feel personally betrayed. I hate our so-called leaders for using the government system that I love and respect in ways that are contrary to the good of all the people. I hate them. This is our country. It doesn't belong to the people whom we entrust to run it. It belongs to us. When our leaders lie to us and violate the trust we have placed in them, it makes me angry.

And since you opened that door, I will add this before I go drag your father's ass out of bed in time for lunch: My parents were part of a generation in which the overwhelming event was a popular war. Our country sent its young men overseas to fight a very real enemy who had actually threatened us. They came back and were treated like heroes.

A generation later our government sent another generation to fight in another war, one that proved unpopular. They lied to us to get us into it; they lied to us about what was happening and what it meant the whole time. We should not have been involved in the war in Viet Nam. Unfortunately, too many people in our country blamed the soldiers who fought in that war both for being involved in the first place (which wasn't their decision) and also for losing the war (which wasn't their fault). The fact is our government officials went into that war without understanding what they were up against and they had absolutely no plans to win the war. Consequently, the entire effort was doomed to failure. The soldiers on the ground in Viet Nam didn't lose the war, but they took the blame. Too many of them internalized that guilt. Many of them have never totally gotten over that.

Those are two radically different experiences. Maybe it is because I love Rick so much and I have known many other good and wonderful Viet Nam Vets who have been as wounded as he is, but I feel that our country failed the Viet Nam veterans in ways that can never be redeemed. On their behalf, I hate and resent that.

Our system provides for dissent. Dissent is important. Hell, I wish there were some dissent going on now! It is important to protest government policies by calling the government officials accountable, not by blaming the soldiers who are just doing their jobs!

I bring this up now because I look at what is happening in our country with the war in Iraq, and I am once again feeling betrayed, angry and terrified. Our leaders have lied us into another war. I see them trying to cloak themselves in the flag and convince America that we must support the war in Iraq in order to support the troops. Nixon used that tactic in the 1970's and it was bullshit then. It is still such unadulterated bullshit, I can't believe anybody buys it! They are sending hundreds of thousands of men, and now women, into combat with no clear enemy and no clear purpose. When the body count builds and the country turns on the war, these same leaders will very likely stand aside and attempt to let the soldiers take the blame once again.

What galls me most is that some of the people who have supported this war are Viet Nam veterans who, by God, ought to know better!

They are flouting the laws, they are lying to us and -- call me paranoid -- but I fear they are setting the soldiers up once again.

As a lawyer I am appalled at the way our leaders are treating the Constitution. As a citizen, I haven't felt this raped since the 1970's when I watched the implosion in South Viet Nam, after all those years and thousands of American and Vietnamese lives lost or, at least, scarred for life. As a mother, I thank God, you're a lawyer and not a soldier. I sent Rick to Viet Nam and saw him come back permanently damaged physically and emotionally. I don't think I could send a child into harm's way, at least not to a war I believe is wrong.”

She started to cry. “That may be off topic, but I'll end up on the same corny note on which you started: the whole reason I became interested in the law in the first place was because I was raised to love and honor my country. I became a lawyer in order to somehow do 'what I can do for my country.' I love the law and I am proud of the job I have done and what I believe to be my contribution to my community and, thereby, my country. However, I feel that the leaders of our country have let us all down. That makes me angry sometimes. It makes me afraid sometimes. But, mostly it just makes me sad.”

She brushed the tears from her face and tried to laugh. “I used to get so mad at my mom when she would go all patriotic on me and cry about how America was going down the tubes in the 1960's. Dad was the decorated Marine in the family, but Mom was the Über-patriot. She was the one who bled red, white and blue. I used to think she was just silly. You may feel the same about me right now.

Maybe you just have to have a real stake in the country to feel that deeply about it. Maybe you have to have sent the man you love off to war to feel that passionately. In addition to that, I have a home and a business and a child, I guess I've built up enough of a stake that the welfare of this country matters to me. It matters very deeply. Very personally.”

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's Getting Nasty Out There, Part 2

Fred Clark posted an interesting article here on the brouhaha over ACORN's voter registration. First of all, to those of us who are old enough to remember it, this sounds a lot like the backlash to widespread voter registration drives in the 1960's. The white folks were just apoplectic about all those black folks registering to vote.

It also reminds me of Nixon's attempts to have the FBI use its muscle against the people on his "Enemies List".

God, I hate politics.