Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivans

Columnist Molly Ivans died a week ago at age 62. I cannot imagine going through what will no doubt be a fascinating presidential campaign and election without her voice. She was funny, witty and insightful all at once - no easy feat.

Her last published column about the proposed troop surge appeared in mid January and was titled, "Stand Up Against the Surge." You can read the entire column at

She wrote, "A surge is not acceptable to the people in this country — we have voted overwhelmingly against this war in polls ... and at the polls. We know this is wrong. The people understand, the people have the right to make this decision, and the people have the obligation to make sure our will is implemented."

That's what I always loved about Molly Ivans. She could cut to the chase and in a quick turn of phrase lay the responsibility right where it belonged - in this case with us, the people.

She continued: We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"

Molly Ivans left us with an important charge. I hope we heed it.

It's easy to get caught up in the daily bits of news that is little more than psuedo-news, but easier for us to digest. Women astronauts in diapers driving across country over a man is something that's so alien to us that we don't have to think about it in terms of our own lives. It's easy to make jokes and dismiss it because it's not reality for very many people.

But we know that war is real. Real people are dying and that's much harder to deal with. But we must.


I have been having continual difficulty with the blog lately - tech stuff. Hopefully all will be resolved soon. But if things have seemed sporadic, that's why.


I had a speech very early this morning in Buhler. Nothing like leaving your house when it's still dark outside. But the speech went well. By the time I left to come back to Hutch a bit after 8, the beautiful day was developing nicely. It got up to 63 today this afternoon with lots of sunshine.

On my way back to town today I drove by a farmer's field where he had parked a number of his formerly used machinery. If you want to see a bigger photo of it, just click on the picture and it will take you to a bigger version.

I spent the day working on computer stuff mostly. I was relieved to discover I had not made an Id10t error on a database I need, so that was a relief. Otherwise, I got to have a quick lunch with Trish to talk about her campaign stuff and late in the day I took a walk at Dillon Nature Center. I was fascinated with the shadows on the still frozen pond.

The news has certainly been interesting today - from astronauts in wigs and diapers spraying mace, to evangelical Christian leaders who like to perform oral sex on men claiming they're "completely heterosexual." While I, as you can well imagine, have much to say on both topics, it will have to wait for another day. I have been up about 20 hours and even I need *some* sleep.

Third Places

I've been thinking a lot these days about "third places," the term coined by Ray Oldenburg. His concept is that home is the first place, and work is the second, and the "third place" is the community gathering location - whatever that might be.

He says these are essential to a democracy, a community, because they give people from different walks of life a place to gather where they're all on a level playing field. I see some beauty in this concept. And I do believe it to be true in some ways, but I fear in our modern society we no longer know how to make the actual contact once we're in this place.

I was thinking about third places with regard to my own life and contemplating which ones I have. I do have some.

I go to certain restaurants often enough that there are other regulars there now that I say hello to, even though we've never had a real conversation. It's friendly and it gives you a feeling of community. However, I've never even had a real conversation with them, much less anything more meaningful. We have no real relationship and to pretend otherwise is foolish.

This is where I think the concept of third places falls apart in our modern world where, as best I can tell, we grow socially more inept by the moment. I agree they're part of what forms a community and they offer a place for people to exchange ideas. But people have to actually do that. Exchanging pleasantries is not the same as exchanging ideas.

The Dancing Grouse, Diana's store, is a definite third place for me and for others here. And I have made some friends there. And it is certainly a place where people talk - the atmosphere is conducive to that and that's because Diana has made a real effort to create it.

I think the trick is how you move beyond that casual hello to each other in a coffee shop to something resembling a relationship. At one time people knew how to do that. I'm not sure we do anymore. We are a nation afraid of everything - including our fellow humans. Statistically the number of friends we have continues to decrease, as it has for the past few decades. We seem far too afraid of the risk to take a chance in most cases.

However, the idea of not having any gathering places seems awful. That, in a nutshell, is what suburbia is. People go to work, commute home, drive into their houses through the garage door, close them and don't venture out until the next morning when they go to work. In smaller communities people gather at the local restaurant where there's a group of elderly men "having coffee." In bigger cities, people have many choices of places to drop into. In suburbia there's no where to go.

I have read that planners have started to take these things into consideration when planning communities. I think that's healthy. We have to at least give people an opportunity to relearn the skills we've lost.

I've been mulling over this idea for the past few weeks. The conclusion I've come to is that "third places" offer the opportunity but it is still incumbent on the individual to go beyond the casual into the meaningful.

The Weekend

I have had an incredibly productive weekend. But, good grief, I'm exhausted. Saturday I cleaned most of the day. Not the "cleaning" I usually do, which is moving the clutter from one place to another, but cleaning as in moving furniture and cleaning beneath it and actually dealing with the clutter. This should not imply, however, that I am done. With even one room. But I did make a lot of progress.

Saturday night Greg, Teresa and I went to see Hubbard Street 2 at the Fox. It was a modern dance performance and I enjoyed it. I don't know squat about dance, but I was happy to get to go. Going to the Fox is always a treat - just to be in the theatre is cool - and there are always tons of people there I know so it's fun to get to visit.

I also made time to go to the monthly flea market where I purchased this beautiful pin and earring set from a lovely lady named Lillian Smith from Dodge City. We had a nice chat while I was making my purchase.

She had another really nice pin/earring set, but I couldn't splurge on both. This one set was all that was in my costume jewelry pin budget for today. (Doesn't everyone have a pin budget?) But I have never seen a one like this and I had nothing this deep green color.

I will probably never wear the earrings, even though they're very cool. How women ever stood clip-on earrings pinching their lobes I don't know. I put one on for about 20 seconds and that was all I could take, but it looked very nice.

Admittedly, poking a hole in one's ear does involve a tiny bit of pain, but it's a one-time thing, and it is minor - much more minor than having it in a vise grip on the back of some pretty sparkly things.

After the flea market I went and washed the car. Of course, it desperately needed it after driving in snow for a few days. But, the car washing was also designed to trick myself into thinking that I was doing something productive with the trip to that part of town, which also just happened to be where the flea market was. Never mind the car wash I generally use that's only a few blocks from my home is much better. There was no one selling old costume jewelry pins near it.

Later this afternoon we were treated to a decent sunset. I was in the car and started hunting for a foreground to snap a photo. I was near the Cosmosphere and realized I wasn't going to have time to get anywhere else in time to catch it. Unfortunately, it wasn't the best angle, but I got a bit of it.

We may not have a lot of skyscrapers in our little burg, but we have our own "skyline" - rockets, grain elevators, etc.

Pumpkin Bread

It is cold here and will stay that way all weekend. I think I'm going to cook. I love the smell of baked goods on a wintery day. OK, truth be told, I like the smell of baked goods pretty much anytime.

I think this is a perfect day for making some pumpkin bread. My mom always made pumpkin bread and it is my brother, Jim's, favorite. Whenever he would come to visit her she would bake him loaves to take with him. I think there might have been occasions when he didn't necessarily want to share it when he got back home.

When I was in college, I wanted to make some one time and didn't have my mom's recipe. For some reason I couldn't reach her so I started going through cookbooks until I found one. (Yes, even then I had a predilection for cookbooks.) I mixed it up and it was pretty darned good.

When I was next home I took some and my mom decided it was better than the recipe she had been using. I knew I had "arrived" as a cook when my mom started using my pumpkin bread recipe and relegated her old one to the trash bin.

I often make it without nuts if I'm making it for a group of people because so many people don't like nuts. Mama, however, saw no point in making any baked good without a healthy addition of pecans. So, do as you will, it's good either way.

Pumpkin Bread

3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
pecans (optional)

Mix dry ingredients. Then add other ingredients and mix well. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. Makes 2 loaves. This bread can be frozen after baking with no ill effects.

I like it plain, but also serve it with honey butter sometimes. I do swear by tea as the perfect accompaniment.


I had an 8 a.m. meeting today. It was 7 degrees when I left the house. Delightful! Fortunately, it was not windy so that made it much better. When I was done with that I came back to the computer at home to work all day, and have not left my house again.

I am meeting Greg and Terry, and maybe Teresa, for dinner so I'll need to start the bundling process again, although it's a toasty 21 at the moment. I am just about to get officially tired of winter. And, frankly, if we're going to have cold, I'd like to have snow. We need the moisture. We still have some on the ground, but we are so low on water here that we need every bit we can get. I'd much prefer it coming in the form of snow than ice, but I'll take it however we can get it.

I have been working on getting the Christmas stuff put away. I have made more trips up and down the basement stairs than I can count. And I have the "wall o' plastic tubs" down there, full of xmas goodies. The "wall" has become more a "cube" of tubs, really. I am happy to say that this year I added only ONE small tub of stuff to my stash of Christmas goodies. ("Small" being defined as a 20 gallon tub, but compared to the 45 gallon ones that is small.)

This year I also bought some laundry bags to contain the smaller trees and be able to hang them up. So far this seems like a much better system than them being piled a corner of the basement, which was my previous "system."

I should be embarrassed to show that corner of the basement, but there you are. There's another row of plastic tubs you can't see in this photo, plus a couple of huge ones that hold bigger Santas and other misc. things. I guess everyone has their things, and Christmas is one of mine.

I finished taking down the tree last weekend - it took three weekends to get it done. I have all the boxes of ornaments stored, the tree out in the shed, and the lights packaged ready to take to the basement so I'm making progress. I think I have everything off the shelves around the house now. I just need to finish packing it away and get it back down to the basement. I'm hoping by the end of this weekend that's all done.

Sometimes I think I'm a little nuts for doing all this, but it's so pretty and sparkly when it's done. In case you've forgotten, the tree is pictured here.

After I get all this done I will need to clean up all the broken bits from where the tree was. There is some attrition every year. When I'm buying "special" ornaments I try to get them in the "less breakable" variety. I have some glass things that are really special to me, but I try to get less fragile items.

I am, however, ready for Christmas to be packed away for a few months. By fall I'll be eager to do it all again.

In the meantime I've been working on the MHA Garden Tour. It's set for June 24 this year and it's our 10th anniversary so I want it to be extra special.

Afraid of Cartoons

When did we become a nation that can be traumatized by cartoons?

Boston was shut down today while they located a dozen circuit boards designed to promote Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Admittedly, some judgement was lacking - they put these things around the city without getting the appropriate permits. However, lets get a grip on reality - they were little circuit boards running on batteries, with cartoon characters on them - not exactly a major threat.

These were placed in nine other cities too, but none of them reported any difficulties. But in Boston it became a major problem - because they chose to make it one. Otherwise reasonable people become concerned when they see officials and others getting freaked out.

This is a prime example of mass hysteria. Someone starts it and it just grows and grows and grows. Pretty soon roads are shut down, talk radio has no other topic to discuss, and a major city is at a standstill. They're cartoons, for heaven's sake.

When did we become a nation of scaredy cats? We're now afraid of cartoons? Good grief. We've already proven we're afraid of the dark by fleeing NY when the power went off for six hours. Is there anything we're not afraid of? What happened to the boogey man? He apparently has lost all the power he once had. He needs a better PR person.

When a friend was telling me about this tonight I said I figured it was a planned advertising stunt. At this point, it appears that might well be the case. And you know what? They got more than their money's worth because I'm watching it on the evening news and reading about it online - you can't buy this kind of publicity. To top it off, even if they have to pay for the city's expenses they'll still come out on top.

However, I have to say, I doubt anyone would have imagined a cartoon character would cause this sort of mass hysteria. I can't imagine how the company could have foreseen this reaction. It's so extreme it defies explanation, other than the above mentioned group think.

Turner Broadcasting said the devices had been in place for two to three weeks in Boston; New York; Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; San Francisco, California; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Only in Boston did people get freaked out and that just built on itself. Boston officials are all up in arms, demanding apologies - more than they've already gotten, and threatening lawsuits.

This entire country needs to get a grip. We seem to be afraid of everything these days. Our reactions are so extreme, although I guess Boston officials got some good training today. "The terrorists" - whoever they are that we're supposedly fighting - can threaten us so much more easily than they ever imagined. That is the whole purpose of terrorism - to instill terror. Who needs bombs? All it takes to terrify us is a cartoon.

Virtual March

March on WashingtonMove On is working on a virtual march to discourage escalation of the war in Iraq. Click on the photo to sign up.

I'm not sure what needs to be said about escalation of the war in Iraq. It is one of the most foolhardy ideas I've ever heard. We're failing miserably, so we should - obviously - pour a ton more resources into it. Yeah, there's some good thinking. Oh, and in this case, "resources" means lives. Lives of young men and women.

Only Bush and McCain seem to think escalation is a good idea. They have largely been deserted by the rest of their own party, much less the public. So, this is a great way you can make sure your representative knows how you feel, just in case they're weakening.

It's set for Thursday, Feb. 1. You can sign up to call your representatives. Their hope is to have a steady stream of calls all day long.

Move On uses technology in a fabulous way. I'm always impressed whenever I do something with them.

Take a few minutes and support the military by saving their lives.


I have been hunched over the computer most of the day working on MHA projects. This is a very busy time of year for me with work so I don't get a lot of down time. In fact, at 1:17 a.m. I'm still working.

I did take time to have lunch with Trish. She is someone I never see enough of. I'm honored to have such great friends and she is one of them. We have been friends a long time now and have grown closer over the years.

We talked about her campaign for city council and what needs to be done. I know she will do a great job.

This afternoon I redesigned the MHA stationery. We're changing our name to be in line with national and so I have to redo everything. I need to print new business cards for myself, too. It's time to send membership letters and so there's motivation to get the letterhead done now.

This time of year I always feel like there's more for me to do than I have time/energy to get done.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No More Self-Pity

I am feeling much more normal today. Yesterday I had a bit of a melt-down. It doesn't happen very often, but once every year or two it seems to come on like a ton of bricks and yesterday was the day.

But, I don't allow myself to wallow in self-pity for more than 24 hours so when I woke up this morning I decided to get on with life as we know it. Self-pity is such a debilitating, unpleasant place to be in. It's fine to visit there briefly, but no point in making it a permanent address. And Mama was right - nobody's pretty when they cry.

Besides, self-pity conflicts with five of my ten rules for living - particularly Rule #4, which is "Be Happy. You have no right to be anything else. You are Blessed. Appreciate it." If something conflicts with half of your basic life principles, it's something to be avoided.

On the upside, crying nonstop for many hours tends to exhaust a person so I slept very well last night - very soundly.

Fortunately, even Mother Nature cooperated with my mood today by delivering sunny skies, although it is chilly. However, another walk will no doubt do me some good. It didn't stave off the inevitable yesterday, but I'm sure it didn't hurt either.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Jeanette Walls

This morning I went to see Jeanette Walls, a nationally known gossip columnist for MSNBC who published her memoir in "The Glass Castle."

Her childhood was one of tremendous poverty, with parents who were eccentric on a variety of levels. There were times she and her three siblings were hungry, with no indoor plumbing, while her brilliant alcoholic father dreamed and her mother painted and ate chocolate.

She summed up her childhood by saying, "When we weren't running from something, we were chasing something."

She writes candidly about her childhood, without blaming her parents, and merely seeing them as they were - flawed but loving. She said of her parents, "Despite what they didn't give us, they gave us a good measure of self-respect."

She is not bitter about her childhood. She said, "I'm a pragmatist. I don't believe there's much to be gained from anger and bitterness."

She also said there are some positives to the lifestyle she had. "The upside to having a life like mine is that you learn you can survive."

At the luncheon afterwards, she talked about a school that had a lot of poor students using her book in class. She said the teacher told her that they message they went away with was, "Take responsibility for yourself at the earliest possible age and you'll be OK."

Walls moved to New York at 17 and finished high school while working. She and her sister had an apartment in the Bronx. When her brother joined them a year later they could split the rent three ways instead of two. She said it was a revelation to her and her sister - you paid the bills and the water stayed on - it seemed amazing.

She got a job at a local paper in Brooklyn and it was the editor there who encouraged her to get a college education. At the luncheon she explained that she was very naive and just asked what the best college in NY was. Someone said Columbia so she called them and said she wanted to register. They didn't take women at the time, so suggested she call Barnard. She said she had no concept of ACTs or SATs but just went and took the test and got in to Barnard.

No doubt the years of reading nonstop served her well in that regard. She said her mother used to go the library with a pillowcase and come home with it full of books for all of them. In the lecture she mentioned teachers and librarians as those who can make a tremendous difference in a child's life.

Walls went through college with scholarships, grants, loans and her own savings. She needed $2,000 in her senior year and only had $1,000. Her father gave her the other $1,000. Her parents were living on the street at the time and she said she couldn't take it. His response was that he wasn't going to see his daughter not graduate from college.

Walls was burned when she was three years old. She was cooking a hotdog and her dress caught fire. She was in the hospital for six weeks, where nurses asked why a three year old was cooking for herself. Walls didn't think it odd, of course. It was just her life as she knew it.

When she started dating her husband, she was telling him that her body was scarred from that event and apologizing for it. His response was, "Don't ever apologize for your scars. Your scars show that you've survived. Scars give you texture. Smooth is boring."

She said after telling that story at a lecture at a very upscale gathering after the book came out that someone came up afterwards and said, "There's no such thing as smooth. You look closely, even silk has some texture."

At lunch today she said that she used to think every child needed one parent to take an interest in them but she has now decided just any adult can do that. She said if a child has one adult that believes in them, the child will cling to that, and they can make it.

She told this story about reading a comment made by a former teacher, Mrs. Owens. The teacher was asked if she knew the conditions and she recounted a story of helping Walls with something and she noticed that Walls' arms were dirty under her sleeves and she suddenly thought, "oh my, Jeanette's family doesn't have running water." But her next thought was, "but she'll be OK."

Walls said whenever she walked into that teacher's room, the teacher's eyes lit up and all she ever felt from her was admiration and respect. And she said that's what she needed most at that point - dignity. She did not want anyone to know they were poor and would even wash her face in the snow to avoid anyone knowing they didn't have water.

Walls said she will always be thankful for her teachers. "Education is the great equalizer."

She encouraged people to realize, "When you pull up other people, you're not pulling yourself down."

In her job, Walls covers celebrities. She said one thing she has learned is that, "Deprivation comes in all forms." She said when she went to New York she was shocked at how unhappy people who seemingly had everything could be.

She realized that she and others like her are blessed in some ways. "We have certain advantages. We understand the difference between need and want."

She mentioned going to a brother's friend's house as a kid and thinking, "wow - there's heat and his mother is cooking breakfast - this would be wonderful." Then his father came downstairs and hit the kid who was sitting at the table drawing a picture of a horse and told him not to be putting on airs. She said she suddenly felt like she was living the good life, even though there wasn't heat or food at her house. "Us poor folks have to understand we're not the only ones who suffer," she said.

Her life is so different now. She joked at the lecture that she now has a "big yellow house - yellow on all sides - with four flushing toilets in it." She said everytime one flushes she's grateful.

Her husband, also a writer, really helped motivate her to write her story. She expected people might shun her and she was worried about being disloyal to her family. Before she wrote the book, she asked her mother what she should tell people about their lives and her mother said simply, "Tell the truth."

So that's what Walls has done - the truth, unvarnished and un-interpreted. Of course, that isn't always easy.

She did distill the lessons she learned from her childhood.
1. Don't underestimate people.
2. Don't be afraid to do the "skedaddle" - but go toward something instead of running away from something because that will catch up with you.
3. Face your demons.
4. Accept your own past.

The thing she said that really struck a cord with me was, "Kids like us, we're fighters. One of things we don't know is when to stop fighting - when to take off the armour." I can relate to that so incredibly well.

The other thing that really resonated with me was that she said she never takes anything for granted.

I know just what she means.


The following was written later that evening, in reaction to the speech. It was originally a "friends only" post on livejournal but I decided to amend it to this post as well.

7:21pm: My Reaction to Walls

It has been a difficult day. Hearing Jeanette Walls talk about her childhood pretty much incapacitated me for the whole day. It hit very close to home.

I went up to her after the luncheon and said, "I, too, know what it's like to live without indoor plumbing." She was shaking my hand and squeezed it a little harder and said, "There are a lot of us, honey. There are a lot of us." I didn't take time to explain it was much different circumstances - but I suppose it didn't matter.

That hand squeeze was like the secret handshake. I wanted to ask her if there weren't times when she wasn't so upbeat. I'm sure there are. There certainly are for me, even though in general I'm very happy go lucky. And I'm thankful for my life - so thankful. I would not want to be without the knowledge I gained "the hard way."

I was never hungry growing up and I had a mother who would have done anything for me and certainly would never have eaten without me having something first. But I know the shame of hiding who you really are. I've been doing it my whole life. I still am to a degree.

When you're different than others, and your family is different, you learn to keep it under wraps. My family was terrific in many ways - and I'm thankful for so much of my childhood - but it was definitely different. And no matter how much people tried to minimize it, it was always there.

I know the trauma of a father who drinks and all that goes along with that. Walls said in an interview that if she could change one thing about childhood that would have been it - that her father didn't drink. If you haven't lived it, it can't really be explained, but it's a daily trauma/stress no child should have to live with. It was many years after his death that I accepted this about my father and grew to appreciate him on other levels.

I know what it's like to realize you better get wise and you better make it fast. Some of us don't have the luxury of waiting for wisdom to come with age. We have to ferret it out through trial and error when we're young if we're going to make it to old age - or even to adulthood - with anything resembling sanity. I often say that my sanity has been hard-fought-for and I won't give it up casually, and it's true.

I know what it's like to have an old man touching your 12 year old body. That uncle's transgression made something in my psyche snap. I had already been down that road with another relative a few years my senior when I was a pre-schooler, and I wasn't going back. I realized there were things far worse than death and, although I thought he might kill me if I resisted, I made the split second decision it was worth the risk.

Janis Joplin was on the radio singing "Me and Bobby McGee." That line, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose," has always had real meaning for me. Truer words were never spoken and I got some freedom that day. I didn't exercise it in a healthy way, but what can you expect from a pre-teen? But knowing from the time you're 12 that there are things far worse than death, and being able to live your life without that fear, is freedom.

Of course, you also have to live with the knowledge that others suffered because you didn't handle your freedom well. More than 20 years after that I learned what should have been obvious, that I wasn't his only target. Others went through hell because I didn't do the right thing. That's my burden to bear and it's heavy sometimes.

Someone asked Walls today if she had children and she said that no, neither she nor either of her sisters have children, and it wasn't an accident. I could relate to that, too. I had a great mother, but I knew from the time I was three that there are things a mother can't protect you from - regardless of how wonderful they are. I never wanted that responsibility.

I knew I would never be able to bear the horror if I had been unable to protect my child, when I knew all too well what older boys did to little girls in dark places. It's different if you don't know to expect it, but I knew. I knew what it was like to be three years old, crouching in the dark, holding your breath, hoping you're not found.

And I knew if I had a child and it happened to her that that would finally do me in. Some things cannot be survived. So the solution was to never take that chance and have that child. Even those of us who are risk-takers draw the line somewhere.

I remember thinking as a kid that I couldn't wait until I was an adult so I could make my own choices. God knows some of them have been horrible ones. Lets just say I've "had issues" with things I now keep "under control" and have for a long time. Of course, the food addiction is all too obvious. Oddly enough, it would be more acceptable if I were a cocaine addict, but I'm not.

I know what it's like to have to tell someone you think you might love that they are getting "damaged goods." Some scars are outward and some are inward. You always expect the man to walk - and some do - and all you can do is say goodbye. It hurts. And it just confirms your worst fears, making it all the more difficult to try again.

Some men can't bear it. They can't handle it. They just can't. They can't imagine touching you knowing what they know. You can be disappointed, but you can't be angry. You are who you are and they are who they are, and the two just can't mesh.

So, you learn to hide your damaged parts as best you can. You only tell people when it's essential to be honorable and truthful - that it would be deceitful to take a relationship any further without telling them. You learn from experience that you can't hide it forever anyway - not at night when the subconscious takes over. They'll know one way or the other. At least if you tell it you can put it in "nice" terms.

So, you tell the story, hitting the highlights, and waiting for the reaction. You want to do it in the dark so they can't see you flinching. But you know to do it in the daylight so you can see them flinching. That way you know when you can stop, that there's no point in baring your soul anymore because this man is gone. As soon as he can get away from you, he's going to, and you're never going to see him again. That line about, "You can't handle the truth," is appropos. And, yes, they'll always think of you differently. It can't be helped.

I never share anyone I'm seeing with friends until we're past that point. I don't want to have to explain "what happened" if he's suddenly gone.

Sometimes people amaze you and sometimes people disappoint you. Sometimes the same can be said for yourself.

Even some of the men who stay for awhile still think of you as "molested by your uncle crazy," and are always looking for confirmation. They'll tease you about the nightmares, not out of cruelty, but out of discomfort because they don't know what to do. They complain about the startle reflex that is so finely honed your heart pounds and your breath stops just at having your name called unexpectedly. They dismiss your problems with authority figures and just can't understand how a seemingly capable woman has so many abandonment issues. I've become convinced that we never "move past our raisin'." We may well learn to cope - and do so very well - but it's always with us.

But, like Walls said, people who grow up with some difficulties learn to survive. Another part of that is that we learn we can take risks - we'll make it. People often say to me, "you're just not afraid of anything." In reality I'm afraid of everything. But I don't see any choice but to move on anyway, so I do. I assume it will all work out.

Walls said today that she asked her mother about something and her mother said, "Oh Jeanette, things generally work out in the end." She said, "but what if they don't work out, mom?" Her mom said, "Well, then it's not the end."

Kids who grow up with some challenges learn to not be bitter - that there's no point. We learn choices have consequences at an early age. We want to grow up so we can be in charge of our own lives as soon as possible. We tend to not have much drama in our lives later - we've had enough already. We learn to run to something because you can't run from anything - it will catch up to you. We learn to accept and forgive. We learn education is the key, and desperately try to get it, because we know that's the way to a different life.

We grow up to have compassion for those less fortunate, who find themselves in need of some help like we once were. We take nothing for granted. We know how tenuous our "success" in life is. We know that but for the Grace of God and a kind word and deed here and there, our lives would be very different. We know.

We are happy, because we know how life can be, compared to how it is today. We want everyone else to have a chance at happiness, success, a decent life. And we are grateful - oh so very grateful - that we got a chance to make a life.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

My Sweet Brat

I have, again today, had the misfortune to catch a bit of "My Super Sweet Sixteen" on Mtv. I'll be the first to admit, I could turn the channel, but it's like a bad car accident on the highway - you don't want to be one of those people who looks, but you can't help yourself. The gore in this case is excess.

Just in case you haven't caught the show, they follow these guys/girls turning 16 and the preparations for their elaborate parties and then the gathering itself. These parties involve rock stars and party planners and more time, energy and money than most over-the-top weddings.

All these parties seem to culminate in the 16 year old getting a car - and it's not the Ford Granada passed on from Aunt Mertie that you were thrilled to have - these are very high end vehicles that most hope to drive at some point in their lives, not necessarily to own.

Today's episode was different - there was no car, or at least I didn't see that part - her parents are sending her to school in France. She seemed thrilled to be leaving these 800 "friends" who were close enough to be invited to her party.

I've seen this show, at least parts of it, maybe ten times. I haven't yet seen one where the 16 year old to be is not at some point talking to mommy or daddy about how everything is going to be ruined if the center pieces aren't right or the rock star doesn't show up or the dress isn't pink. Nor have I seen one that at some point they don't say "daddy/mommy gets me everything I want."

Parents - what in the hell is wrong with you? Getting your child everything they want is OK as long as what they want is reasonable. A $500,000 party for their 16 year old birthday is not reasonable. A $50,000 party is not reasonable. A $5,000 party is reasonable only if you are a multi-millionaire. Grow some balls and say "no."

When I think about the good could be done with that money, it's staggering. Maybe some life training for your child would be a good way to spend some of it. You're definitely headed for some therapy bills so you might want to put some aside.

I'm all for having a good time, but if it takes a half million for your little darling to have a good time at only 16, she hasn't been raised right. You've got two years to fix that before she's officially an adult. Get started. You have f'ed up big time as a parent - try to minimize the damage.

Yeah, I know, I don't have kids - yadda, yadda, yadda. That makes me all the better of an outside observer. I'm not colored by that feeling of how it is when they beg. I can just see the long term effect of this "anything goes" mentality.

This is ridiculous. And, while I can understand the entertainment value of a show devoted to the ridiculous - it's a standard - unfortunately they seem to have an endless supply of these extravaganzas to feature.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Tell me who admires you and loves you, and I will tell you who you are."

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve
(French literary Historian and Critic, 1804-1869)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Blue Skies and Thin Ice

I'm spending my Friday night writing grants. Yes, I know, I lead an exciting life. But, I'm working tonight because I took some time this afternoon to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather. It got up into the 50s and I didn't want to miss out.

Greg and I went to Carey Park to feed the ducks and geese, and then out to Dillon Nature Center to walk around and be in the sun.

I was amazed at the number of geese at Dillon Nature Center. The pond was frozen over and they were all sitting there. We must be on a migratory route.

Dillon Nature Center is home to many, many birds. We noticed a number of nests.

We also spotted a cicada's leavings on a tree trunk and lots of unusual trees. It is a research facility and quite well respected. There are tons of varieties out there so it's always worth a walk around.

We cut the walk short today because my Croc shoes were getting full of ice and snow and that was uncomfortable. I thought - hey - plastic shoes - good for wet weather. Not so much in this case.

There were the usual guys out fishing, including this one who was standing on the frozen pond.

This was despite the sign that said not to get on the ice. The sign he had to walk by to get to the fishing dock. Don't you love how we humans are so confident?

Also, see those rough places in front of him and all around him? Some of those are holes in the ice. Yes, holes.

And see what happens when there are holes in the ice? Thin Ice. Yes, cracks. Big cracks.

I believe all of this relates to the sign to not get on the ice.

There is another small pond that is more shallow that you were allowed to ice skate on - at your own risk.

It was so nice to be outside and in the sun. Teresa and I had lunch today and we were talking about how we all need to go outside more.

We were even greeted with beautiful blue skies and a moon rise. How can you beat that?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

State of the Union

CNN has encouraged people to write their own State of the Union addresses. This is mine. I encourage you to write your own. It's good to crystalize how you think things are going.


The State of our Union is troubled.

We are a nation at war, with a president who wants to escalate this doomed endeavor. There is no good solution, and there is not going to be. We must remove ourselves from what is a civil matter. This was never about terrorism and it was never our place to be there. We must leave.

We are a nation in debt. Just six years ago, we were a prosperous nation at peace. We now owe more than 8 trillion dollars. Your personal share of that is about $30,000. So is your child's and your spouse's, so your household's responsibility may well be more than you make in a year.

We are a nation in decline. We have children living in poverty. We have schools that teach only based on test scores. We have thousands of citizens who have no health insurance and no access to care. We have prisons that are overflowing, many with convictions that can be traced back to poverty. We have elderly who can't afford their medication and their food. This is a disgrace.

We are a nation contributing to the decline of our planet at a tremendous rate. We have been in an "energy crisis" for more than 30 years and have done very little to address it. We have breached the understood contract we have with our military by asking them to fight for unjust causes, namely so we can have cheap gasoline.

We are a nation of apathy. The citizens of this country must elect people who will lead us into an honorable existence - without war, without poverty, without debt. When you do not vote, or vote for leaders who have no compassion, you get a country that has no compassion. We are living in a country that allows its citizens to die in the streets after a national disaster. We know it's true. We all saw it. Those horrible images remind us of what we have wrought with our votes and our lack of them. If you do not vote, you are voting for "the winner," whoever that may be. You are not absolved of your responsibility. In fact, you must take more responsibility because you could have made a difference and chose not to.

Our nation has always been one of hope and with the recent changes in congress I believe we have turned a corner from despair and are looking to a brighter future. The state of our union is troubled, but we can change it with our votes and our involvement. We must insist that our nation do better for its people and the world.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Babies and Birds

This evening I went to go see Diana's new grandson, Drew Emerson. He was born Sunday morning at 2:08. Diana called me about 15 minutes later to tell me the news. I am so excited for Taylor, Tom and big sister, Lily - not to mention grandma Diana. Drew was 7 lbs. 3 oz. and 19 1/2 inches long.

I called Sunday afternoon to find out what his name was. The middle name, Emerson, is after Ralph Waldo Emerson. They decided that was a better choice than Ralph or Waldo. I think Drew Waldo does have a certain ring to it, but I've always heard you should name your child something you want to be screaming for the next couple of decades. As in, "Drew Emerson, you get in here this minute..."

I was dying to go see him, but figured there would be a ton of people at the hospital. Come to find out, there was NO ONE there all afternoon. I could have been holding that baby for hours!!! I do so love little tiny babies. Oh well. But, I got to hold him for a bit this evening - fun, fun, fun.

This day didn't go the way I had planned it. What is it they say about the best laid plans? Yadda, yadda, yadda. But, it was a good day - just not the day I had planned.

Trish and I had planned to have lunch today, and then it was going to be Trish, Teresa and I. But, Susan called and was just passing through town and wanted to know about lunch. Well, I don't get to see Susan very often so let Trish and Teresa lunch together and I went to see Susan. Hopefully I'll get to see both Trish and Teresa yet this week.

It was nice to see Susan. I sure miss her being in town. But she likes her life in Valley Falls, so you can't argue with happiness.

I had a long list of MHA things to do today and got through at least part of it. Shortly after work, I met Greg at Carey Park where he was shooting some Lope pix. Blogging The Lope requires constant attention.

Ace Jackalope is decked out here in his red suit, and feeding the ducks and geese bits of bread. Greg, of course, has the job of capturing it all.

We stayed until the setting sun told us it was about to get very chilly out in the snow.

Looking Back

"It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months." Rumsfeld talking about the war in Feb. of 2003.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Lope is Famous!
The Lope is getting more famous by the day!

Monday, January 22, 2007

If Everyone Cared by Nickelback

Lately I've been really impressed with Nickelback's "If Everyone Cared." Maybe it's because I want to live in that fantasy world, and maybe it's because I love the fact that younger people appreciate this sentiment.

I came of age in the early 80s. It was a horribly embarrassing time as far as music goes - hair bands and Madonna - long before she became anything resembling socially responsible. We all have to grow.

I'm encouraged that a song about peace and caring can rise on the charts.

If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
We�d see the day when nobody died

What a simple message. I hope the upcoming generation "gets it" because my generation certainly didn't. Some of us did, but enough of us didn't that we're at war again. Maybe "getting it" on a large scale requires growing up in a time of war. How unfortunate.

I was too young when Vietnam ended to really comprehend politics and by the time the first Gulf War started I was plenty old enough to know it was about oil and too young to understand how to do much about it. I guess age doesn't matter because I couldn't figure out how to stop "oil war #2" either.

Ultimately, enough people in any generation have to "get it" to elect people who won't start wars. We're not there yet. Maybe the next generation will be.

I don't meet many 20 somethings who are gung ho on war. Maybe when you're the age group dying you feel a little differently about it. I know there are some, but they seem to be in fewer numbers.

At some point we're not going to have enough people to fight wars without a draft. Frankly, I'm eager for that day. If we had a draft, and *anyone's* kid could end up being killed in Iraq (or fill in country of your choice), we'd be out of the war business in the blink of an eye. There wouldn't be any discussion about the best way to get out of Iraq, we'd just be out. And we'd be a lot less cavalier about starting more wars.

Back to the song... If you haven't seen the video, it's well worth catching it. I'm sure you can find it online.

Nickelback lyrics

If Everyone Cared

From underneath the trees, we watch the sky
Confusing stars for satellites
I never dreamed that you'd be mine
But here we are, we're here tonight

Singing Amen, I'm alive
Singing Amen, I'm alive

If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
We'd see the day when nobody died
And I'm singing

Amen I, I'm alive
Amen I, I'm alive

And in the air the fireflies
Our only light in paradise
We�ll show the world they were wrong
And teach them all to sing along

Singing Amen I'm alive
Singing Amen I'm alive

If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
We'd see the day when nobody died
If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
We'd see the day when nobody died

And as we lie beneath the stars
We realize how small we are
If they could love like you and me
Imagine what the world could be

If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
We'd see the day when nobody died

We'd see the day, we'd see the day
When nobody died
We'd see the day, we'd see the day
When nobody died
We'd see the day when nobody died


Greg and I had a long talk tonight about people who are "broken." We both know some of them, although few who are up close and personal in either of our lives.

Greg is more accepting of such things than I am. Maybe because Greg is a stronger person. I know I cannot have that influence in my life. I am barely holding my own broken self together most days, I can't take any responsibility for anyone else. And I can't risk any unravelling.

While we were talking I looked down at my middle finger on my right hand. Although it's not something most would notice, it is crooked, and it's a continual reminder to me of how broken I am.

I fell when I was in 5th grade and broke my right wrist. Unfortunately, I also dislocated a number of the bones in my fingers. In one of those amazing by-the-grace-of-God coincidences, the ER doctor happened to be a specialist in setting bones. They worked for some hours to get all my finger bones back in the right places, and they did an amazing job, although they don't all bend and line up perfectly.

The family doctor, where we'd gone first, had told us my hand might never grow again. At that point I started to wail. I was young, but I knew that would be a bad thing. My mother told me later that while standing behind me the doctor mouthed, "it won't."

So, during that 45 minute drive to the hospital my parents were assuming my hand would never grow again. It must have seemed incredibly tragic to them, to have their child hurt and perhaps permanently damaged. I think one of the things that has always struck me about that trip is that it was the only time my father was ever involved in my medical care.

But, in one of the many ways in which I've always led a charmed life, my hand did grow to an adult size. My slightly twisted middle finger - the tip leans to the right and the lower half to the left while the middle knuckle is enlarged, and my fourth finger that overlaps that one slightly at the tip - remind me of being broken. Some kinds of broken are things you can see and some are things that are invisible. At least we try to keep them invisible.

When I catch one of those talk shows were the seeming dregs of humanity air their dirty laundry, all I can think about is the ways in which those people are broken. They don't live their lives that way because it's what they want, it's because it's the only way they know. They are broken. They are broken in ways we don't have a clue how to fix.

The really frightening part of it is that it's not just TV. We walk amongst people every day who are broken. We may not notice. And if we do we may not do anything more than note it and move on. What can we do, after all? And, ultimately, we're afraid it's catching. Most of us have spent the last few decades patching our own broken selves together and some of those patches are holding better than others and we're not risking anything tearing them off.

People get broken in lots of ways, but much of it happens in childhood and it's with us always. You never do get "past your raisin'." I think it's one reason I never wanted to be a parent. It scared me to death to think I had to try and get another human through the trauma filled time of childhood and adolescence - and that's before you even get to the daily pressures of being an adult.

Kids are physically knocked around by adults, and their fragile egos are damaged with words and actions - from adults and peers. They are sexually abused and emotionally abused. They are left out and left alone and left behind. And we chalk it all up to "growing up" and "kids will be kids" and "kids are resilient." We give a lot of lip service to protecting our children, but we do very little real about it. Of course parents try, but some things are beyond our control. Lots of things.

When I see a woman who's hopping from one bed to another I know it's not because she loves sex so much. It's because sex is her currency. When I see a young girl who wants desperately to have a baby I know it's because she wants to know what love feels like. She thinks that maternal instinct will kick in and carry her through and she's finally finding the love she's been longing for her entire life.

When I see people who thrive on crisis I know it's because it's what they know or it's because they know it will make someone rush in to "save them" and they want to feel worthy of being saved. We've all been there and done that. Some of us do it occasionally in weak moments, and some of us do it because we truly have troubles over which we have no control, and some of us make it a lifestyle.

I have always known how fragile a "stable" life is. We all work hard to build them and don't acknowledge how little we really have to do with it. All around us others have lives that aren't so stable, because they had different parents, or different friends or different thoughts.

One crisis leads to another and lives spiral out of control. People grow up seeing no way to lead any other kind of life. People make bad, or mediocre, choices because they don't even understand there are other ones from which to choose. People want to be loved and don't know how to be loveable. People have accidents, they have illnesses, they have misfortunes.

We're all walking around broken. It's just a question of if they're things we can see, like long ago fused finger bones that aren't quite right, or things we keep hidden. We can't keep the symptoms hidden, however, and they manifest in dozens of different ways. We make bad choices in men, in colleges and in jobs. We don't know how to negotiate the politics of the workplace, or the delicacy of a relationship.

But, most of us learn to function. We figure out how to work around our broken parts. Even if we can't heal them, we apply a permanent ace bandage and only fall apart when it's necessary to change it. We do whatever is necessary to keep ourselves together. And we keep quiet about it.

A few years ago, very late at night after a bottle of wine, lying in our Paris hotel room, my friend Matthew turned to me and said, "You know, you seem to be keeping a lot of things 'under control' all the time." It was one of those things people only notice when you're far from home and away from what's familiar, or maybe it's only when you've had a bottle of wine. Or maybe it's because you only share your broken parts with someone you'd also share a Parisian hotel room with.

Whatever the reason, it's always frightening to know that others can spot your broken parts. You just hope they're impressed by how well you've patched them up instead of horrified by what they've made you do. I didn't ask Matthew which category mine fell into.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Roys on a Snowy Day

Yes, it's true, after getting groceries I met Greg at Roy's Barbecue. He snapped a pic of me making my way in through the snow. We're either devoted or stupid. It was good, as always.

Clueless Weather Forecasters

A snow plow is a welcome sight in Hutchinson today. We are getting snow - big, wet, fluffy snow. It's actually quite pretty.

Originally it was going to be at 6 p.m. today that it started. Then it was the afternoon. Last night at 10 p.m. on the news it was going to be at noon today. Well, sometime between 7 and 8 a.m. it started pouring out of the sky. It has not slowed all day.

At first we were getting 2-4 inches, then it was 4-6, then 6-8, now it's 8-12 inches.

I wish they would either learn to actually forecast the weather or stop pretending they know how. My plan was to go out this morning and grocery shop. I did, but my footsies got very wet because the snow was going over the top of my shoes. You know, that snow that wasn't starting until noon. Yeah, that snow.

Greg has arrived back in Hutchinson and I'm so very glad he's safe and sound. He, believing the forecast, left this morning, only to have to drive in snow and ice a large part of the way.

As I said to Mark one time. Weather forecasters have viper and doppler and 3d radar. They only thing they don't have is a clue.

I'm settling in for a weekend of relaxing at home. Thankfully I have everything I need to be comfy, as long as the power holds out.

Hillary is In

Hillary Clinton has made it official - she's in the race for President. I was hoping for a Hillary-Barack ticket - maybe it can still happen.

She is an early favorite for the nomination, with a substantial lead over the others who have announced their intentions. She, of course, is also an exceptional fundraiser, which is an essential.

She is favored by 49% of democratic women and 29% of men. I think women are ready for a woman in the white house. Women make less war - it's a huge incentive right now.

Not surprisingly, the people who make babies are less eager to kill them.

An Inconvenient Truth

This weekend is Global Warming Awareness Weekend in Hutchinson, Kansas. Officially Global Warming Awareness Weekend - city proclamation and all.

One of the central parts of the weekend is three showings of "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's documentary. It's free all weekend, showing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Sunday afternoon they're having some additional programs, including a lecture.

Tonight Teresa, Diana, Brad and I went to see it. We were supposed to meet Cleta there, but I never found her. We ran in to lots of people we knew, of course.

Brad had seen it, but the rest of us had not. It was interesting, but also terrifying. Good grief, what a mess we've made.

I emailed about 60 people about the movie. About a dozen had plans at one time or another this weekend to go see it so hopefully they'll have a good turnout each time. There were plenty of people there tonight.

James and Betty Taylor have been instrumental in making this happen. They are so devoted to the projects they're interested in. I'm very impressed with what they've done in this case.

Teresa and I went to get a bite to eat afterwards and we were both in shock from all we had learned. Although I knew the basics, there was plenty of new information for me there.

What can you do?
1. Replace all your regular lightbulbs with energy efficient ones - if we all did that one thing we'd make a huge difference.
2. Recycle as much as you can.
3. Get others to see this documentary.

Well, I'm going to go turn my thermostat down and go to bed.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Creative Projects and Creative Sisterhood

Last night I went to Diana's store to make vision collages. It's something we have heard about from multiple sources, but haven't done.

Debbie, Diana, Austin and Amy and I were there. I didn't get one made, but I found some photos I liked.

What I really want my collage to be is about making a living being me. I'm just not sure exactly what that looks like, yet, which is probably why I couldn't illustrate it with a collage yet.

Making a living being me is my number one priority. I want to get up every day and do the things I am prone to do anyway, and have that be my living. I need time to devote to my creative pursuits.

Tonight was Creative Sisterhood and it was a really great evening. Julie wasn't here but everyone else made it.

My topics were my recent job evaluation and also my trip to Texas, and how both of those have affected me and what my next step in life should be.

It was a wonderful gathering. In January we always go through our jar. Each month we write, if we want, a thought on a slip of paper and leave it in the jar. January is our time to go through it.

I was surprised tonight that it has been less than a year since some really major things happened in my life. Time seems to be moving more slowly, and I like that. I like to savor life.

Being Fat Could be Contagious

Lately there is more and more research about obesity being tied to a virus. It's mentioned in the Oprah magazine this month, and this is an article from Scientific American online. I provided a link below, but in case they take it down, I'm copying it over.

Some of the people who have been found to have antibodies to these viruses also happen to have low cholesterol and triglyceride readings.

We also know that if you take a person who is thin and a person who is heavy and monitor their food intake and exercise that the thin one will gain less weight than the heavy one. We don't know why, we just know it's true.

The idea that people could "catch" being fat is no doubt terrifying to many.

From Scientific American:

New study results bolster the controversial hypothesis that certain cases of obesity are contagious.

Over the last 20 years, some research has suggested that certain strains of human and avian adenoviruses--responsible for ailments ranging from the chest colds to pink eye--actually make individuals build up more fat cells. Having antibodies to one strain in particular, so-called Ad-36, proved to correlate with the heaviest obese people, and in one study, pairs of twins differed in heft depending on exposure to that virus. Now researchers have identified another strain of adenovirus that makes chickens plump.

Physiologist Leah Whigham of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her colleagues inoculated young male chickens with three strains of adenovirus--Ad-2, Ad-31 and Ad-37. She and her team then monitored the chickens for three and a half weeks, recording their food intake throughout. Though the infected chickens and noninfected controls consumed the same amount of food and were exposed to the same conditions, chickens carrying Ad-37 were found to have nearly three times as much fat in their guts and more than two times as much fat over their entire body at the end of the three-and-a-half week period. The other two virus strains appeared to have little effect on weight.

"Ad-37 is the third human adenovirus to increase adiposity in animals, but not all adenoviruses produce obesity," Whigham and her fellow authors write in their report presenting the findings in the current issue of the American Journal of Physiology. Although it remains unclear exactly how Ad-37 adds fat, it joins a growing list of such viruses, including canine distemper, Ad-5 and Ad-36.

Ad-36 has been shown in an in vitro study by researcher Nikhil Dhurandhar of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center to help human cells go from having the potential to store fat to actually storing it. "I am not saying that all obesity is caused by viruses," Dhurandhar notes. "Obesity has multiple causes and viruses may be one of those causes."

Next up for study, Dhurandhar says, is the exact mechanism by which a virus could lead to obesity. This, in turn, might lead to a vaccine that could prevent Ad-36 infections. "We hope to identify the gene or genes that could be responsible for its adiposic effect," he explains. "The long-term goal is to see if we can prevent adenovirus-induced obesity."

Whether or not hand-washing will help with weight management remains to be determined. But two researchers shared a Nobel Prize this past year for their work in uncovering the bacterial root of some ulcers after years of consensus that stress caused the uncomfortable stomach affliction. "It makes people feel more comfortable to think that obesity stems from lack of control," Whigham adds. "It's a big mental leap to think you can catch obesity."

Thursday, January 18, 2007


You can sign a petition to support Ted Kennedy's legislation regarding escalation in Iraq. It states that any substantial new commitment in Iraq requires a plan from the administration and explicit authorization from Congress.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


I am in a clearing out mood - a major mood. Tonight I've discarded clothes, furniture, momentos from old boyfriends, magazines, bed linens and a few other things.

I want my home clear of all negative energy. I am making room for new, positive things to come into my life.

I always know when I'm really ready for this sort of thing - I feel no pain over tossing things I once treasured into the trash. Such is the case tonight with things I once loved from people I once loved. C'est la vie.

It will not be much longer until I start clearing out people. That's always the final part of one of these moods.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Patsy's Studio

Well, I just ran across this an art community online and decided to join. The first task is to get your studio ready, and to post some pix of it. Everyone is talking about how messy theirs are. Having no shame, I posted the following:

I am not posting pix of my studio yet because I can't even get in there to take one. How's that for messy? I have been trying to motivate myself to work on it so this is a good push to do that. I will post pix as soon as I - and a camera - can get in there. At the moment it just looks like a storage facility, which is what it basically is.

I had my hardwood floors refinished and used the studio to store furniture and such because I wasn't having those floors done - too much fun to slop paint all over the ugly tile in there.

OK, so that sounds like such a reasonable, logical excuse for a messy studio, Right? Well, here's the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say - I had the floors done in August. Of 2005. Now that it's 2007, that sounds like a very, very, very long time ago.

I have been thinking for a couple of weeks that not using the studio has been making me cranky. So, all the more reason to get it useable. No one likes me cranky - esp. not me.

Perhaps my role here is to make everyone else feel better about themselves.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Phone Shopping

Although it was officially a holiday today I did work, including a speech this evening. But, I also got out and did some phone shopping.

I have to replace my cell phone. Yet again. I am so weary of the yearly cycle of choosing a new phone. They're all crap. I take pretty good care of my phones and at about a year old they start to lose signal more and more, and it just keeps going downhill from there.

Of course, they say the phone is fine and they say their signal is fine. Then, just about the time the phone is out of warranty, the phone suddenly has a problem that didn't exist the week before. Magic how that happens. Repeatedly.

I want a phone that places and receives calls - and does those two functions incredibly well. I don't need my phone to take photos, read email, surf the internet, play games or listen to music - I just want it to place and receive calls reliably. Unfortunately, those seem to be little more than ancillary functions anymore.

As if phone shopping were not annoying enough, today I had to deal with Jessie. The girl was totally clueless. All of that gum smacking must have killed some brain cells and this chick didn't have any to waste.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Capitol Steps

Saturday evening I got to see the Capitol Steps at the Fox Theatre. I had seen them before when they performed as part of the Dillon Lecture Series a few years ago, but of course their material is always different because their focus is political satire.

Teresa had extra tickets and offered one to me. I hadn't thought I'd be here this weekend so hadn't thought much about the performance. Anyway, I eagerly accepted.

Teresa actually had six tickets so we invited Terry to join us. I called Andrea to see if she wanted to go and she was planning to buy a ticket so it worked out great. We were also able to give one to Dotty, so only one ticket went to waste. I called Jocelyn but she was snowed in in Wichita. I called Diana but she didn't respond. Julie had other plans and Cleta was babysitting. Debbie and Kathie already had tickets. Needless to say, we saw a ton of people we knew.

They didn't allow photos so I don't have any pix to share. They were funny, as always. We all loved their Supreme Court Justice take off of "Staying Alive."

After the performance, Terry, Teresa and I went to see Andrea's new place. Martha and Jim were there, too. We had some tea and some wonderful conversation. Then Terry and Teresa came back to my house and we made more tea and had more conversation.

It turned out to be a lovely evening. It is cold here - I'm not sure it has gotten up to 20 all day - but it was worth getting out in. We all had fun.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mission Accomplished

I realize you're not used to seeing the National Review mentioned here, so I apologize for the shock. But, I must point you toward the following link for their wrap up of an assessment of Bush's latest insane idea of sending yet more troops to Iraq.

Their own opinion includes the following: "Frankly, as he has over the past few weeks, Bush looked like a man who is in way over his head, which he is. The man who got the country into this hole, and whose neglect and incompetence dug us deeper into into it, looks like a man who would like nothing more than to get back to Crawford. We'd all be better off if he would."

I will copy it over at the end of this post in case it's taken down at their site, but it will lose some formatting that's important and the clickable links so I encourage you to view it at their site. It's fascinating.

I had lunch with my friend, Teresa, today. She said she is starting to think Bush needs an exam to make sure he's mentally competent. I have been on vacation and not keeping up on all the details of the news, although I got the highlights, if you can call them that. However, after reading more today, I have to say I agree with her. This man is showing signs of making unsound judgements - and I don't mean in a political sense - I mean in a mentally unstable sense. He has become obsessed with this one thing and cannot see anything beyond it.

When you hold a position that almost everyone thinks is wrong you do have to consider your position. You may come to the conclusion that they just haven't caught on yet, but that examination is an important part of the process.

When you've been fighting a war for almost four years, and have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, and you've made no real progress - in fact it could be argued things are worse now than before you started, and most others "in the know" think your plan is not wise, you really need to consider the facts.

It is hard to believe we are only six years into the Bush presidency. It seems like it was 20 years ago that Clinton was in the White House, and we were at peace, with a surplus in the budget, prosperous, with no deficit. He was the last president before Bush. I have to keep reminding myself it was only six years ago. It seems like we've been at war forever, pouring money down the drain, killing people, increasing our debt exponentially by the hour.

In case you've lost track of what the war is costing you, you can check out

You can compare the costs of the war to that of public education, housing, etc. You can also see what it's costing your town. In my community of about 40,000, our cost tonight is over $34,000,000. I have not contributed a million dollars to the war effort, and yet that is quickly what my share is mounting toward. It's over that already, of course, since not everyone in my community is old enough to be paying taxes.


From Reconcilable Differences - Two Conways, Two Takes

George's Take
"Too Little, Too Late -- Way Too Late"
01/11 09:59 AM

An analysis by Thomas Ricks in today's Washington Post raises serious questions as to whether the "surge" will make any lasting difference at all:

An Army officer who recently commanded a battalion in Baghdad predicted last night that the plan would fail because Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government "will do things to maintain protection" of Sadr's forces. He also dismissed as "happy talk" the president's notion that the predominantly Shiite Iraqi army and police could reassure pro-insurgent Sunni neighborhoods by conducting foot patrols through them.

Bush said it is now clear that there have not been sufficient troops in Baghdad, and that part of the difference in this approach is that the plan will be adequately resourced. Yet the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq after the planned increase will be about 153,000, less than the peak of about 165,000 in December 2005. Military experts last night wondered, as one said, how a "thin green line" of 17,500 additional soldiers in Baghdad could affect the security situation in a city where many of the 5 million residents are hostile to the U.S. presence. "Too little, too late � way too late," said retired Col. Jerry Durrant, who has worked as a trainer of Iraqi forces.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have resisted Bush's push for more troops, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations, but recently gave in to the president's wishes. Bush said last night that top commanders reviewed the new plans to add a total of 21,500 Army and Marine forces in Baghdad and Anbar province and approved of them.

"The 'surge' is actually quite small," said retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, who compared it with the 206,000 additional troops that Gen. William Westmoreland requested in Vietnam in 1968. "In effect, Bush is counting on the Iraqis to pull our bacon out of the fire," Bacevich said, adding that there is no evidence that the Iraqi military and government are capable of doing so.

And over at the Corner, John Derbyshire succinctly points out the complete illogic in Bush's latest version of his strategy:

Sorry, but it struck me as a snow job, from an administration that�pretty much like the rest of us�has no clue where to go from here.

The central and most glaring contradiction is the implied threat to walk away... Yoked to the ringing declaration that, of course, we can't walk away. We seem to be saying to the Maliki govt.: "Hey, you guys better step up to your responsibilites, or else we're outa here." This, a few sentences after saying that we can't leave the place without a victory. So-o-o-o:

�-We can't leave Iraq without a victory.

�-Unless Maliki & Co. get their act together, we can't achieve victory.

�-If Maliki & Co. don't get their act together, we'll leave.

It's been a while since I studied classical logic, but it seems to me that this syllogism leaks like a sieve.

Derb also rightly points that it's hard to take seriously the implied threats Bush seems to be making to Iran and Syria:

The President: "Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria." We haven't been doing this? We haven't been doing this? How many of the the 21,500 troops of the "surge" will be assigned to these operations? Leaving how many for Baghdad and Anbar? Shall we have a "hot pursuit" policy?

And, returning to the issue of sticks: What, exactly, do Iran and Syria have to fear from us, whatever they do?

Andy McCarthy pretty much makes the same point:

In any event, most telling was one administration official�s sense that our forces in Iraq had �sure sent a signal to the Iranians� by detaining the Iranian military officials who were captured in raids in mid-December. Yet, even as the president was preparing his new strategy, even as he was readying the words of warning he uttered so forcefully last night, those Iranians were released by the Maliki government and sent back to Iran after about a week in custody.

What signal can this have sent? This one: If you�re an Iranian in Iraq helping to kill American troops, the comeuppance is that we�ll hold you for a few days and then send you back home.

Actions, the old saw tells us, speak louder than words. Given our actions, and what they imply about our sentiments, it�s going to take a lot more than last night�s rhetoric to make an impression on Iran and Syria.

Indeed, Ahmadinejad and Assad should be thrilled that Bush is tying up more assets in Baghdad and Anbar. They've got us right where they want us.

So much for substance. On style, Tom Shales correctly remarks {in the Washington Post] how tense, anxious and rigid Bush looked last night. Frankly, as he has over the past few weeks, Bush looked like a man who is in way over his head, which he is. The man who got the country into this hole, and whose neglect and incompetence dug us deeper into into it, looks like a man who would like nothing more than to get back to Crawford. We'd all be better off if he would.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Candy Darling

Wednesday afternoon I went to the Austin Museum of Art to see the exhibit, "Radical NY." It was about the era when avant garde art really came into its own in the 70s. Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe and many others were represented.

One of the most striking pieces was Peter Hujar's photograph, "Candy Darling on her Deathbed." Seeing an image online or in print is never the same as seeing it in person. I found it online in numerous places, and put one here to illustrate, but seeing the actual print gives tone and color you just can't replicate.

Candy Darling, born James Lawrence Slattery, was a transsexual actress who appeared in Warhol films, as well as others. Candy died of leukemia in 1974, at only 29, apparently a side effect of the hormones.

Candy's funeral was attended by Julie Newmar, Gloria Swanson, and a host of other celebrities of the day.

This photograph was taken, literally, on her death bed. Apparently she maintained her look, with complete makeup, until the end.

Candy was the inspiration for Lou Reed's song, "Walk on the Wild Side." I went and looked up the lyrics since it had been awhile since I had heard it. Candy is the one associated with the most famous line of the song. Most guys who loved that line probably had no idea that "Candy" was a pre-op transsexual. I wish I could see the face of Doug, this guy I knew in college, who loved this tune, when he got that bit of news. Candy apparently referred to the penis as "my flaw."

In the process of finding those lyrics, I found information saying Candy also inspired Reed's song, "Candy Says," recorded on the Velvet Underground's third album. This is not a tune I know, but I listened to a bit of it online and it is haunting.

This image was used in the last couple of years as cover art for "I Am a Bird Now" by Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons fame. In a "full circle" way, it was Lou Reed who garnered more attention for Antony after hearing an early recording.

Reed, and Boy George, are guest vocalists on "I Am a Bird Now." Reed also made an appearance on the earlier "The Lake." Antony has quite a following, including Kate Bush, Bjork, Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson, who was also represented in the Radical NY exhibit I went to see. Connections are amazing, aren't they?

Antony and the Johnsons consider many aspects of the transgender life in their music. Antony is transgender and sings songs like "For Today I am a Boy," which chronicles a boy's dream of growing up to be a woman.

OK, so it's not a dream every young boy has, but not everyone can grow up to be a fireman.

Walk On The Wild Side Lyrics

Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the USA
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She says, Hey babe
Take a walk on the wild side
Hey honey
Take a walk on the wild side

Candy came from out on the Island
In the backroom she was everybody's darlin'
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She says, Hey babe
Take a walk on the wild side
I Said, Hey baby
Take a walk on the wild side
And the coloured girls go
doo do doo do doo do do doo..

Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City's the place where they say,
Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
I said, Hey Joe
Take a walk on the wild side

Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets
Lookin' for soul food and a place to eat
Went to the Apollo
You should've seen em go go go
They said, Hey shuga Take a walk on the wild side
I Said, Hey babe
Take a walk on the wild side
All right, huh

Jackie is just speeding away
Thought she was James Dean for a day
Then I guess she had to crash
Valium would have helped that bash
Said, Hey babe,
Take a walk on the wild side
I said, Hey honey,
Take a walk on the wild side
and the coloured girls say,
doo do doo do doo do do doo

Candy Says Lyrics

Candy says, I've come to hate my body
And all that it requires in this world

Candy says, I'd like to know completely
What all they discretely talk about

I'm gonna watch the blue birds fly
over my shoulder
I'm gonna watch them pass me by
maybe when I'm older

What do you think I'd see
if I could walk away from me

Candy says, I hate the quiet places
That cause the smallest taste of what will be

Candy says, I hate the big decisions
That cause endless revisions in my mind

I'm gonna watch the bluebirds fly
over my shoulder
I'm gonna watch them pass me by
maybe when I'm older

What do you think I'd see
if I could walk away from me

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Home Sooner Than Expected

I am back in Hutchinson, although I had not planned to return until Sunday.

This morning I woke up in Austin where I had a full day of tourist activities planned. However, after CNN described the ice storm headed for Oklahoma as "devastating," I decided I would have to forgo my plans.

I didn't even get to eat the Magnolia Cafe, which was high on my list. The plan was for breakfast there this morning but I was busy throwing my things in my bag and hitting the road instead.

We are supposed to get some ice here, but it sounds like Oklahoma is going to get it much worse. I just happened to be where I needed to drive all the way across Oklahoma, north to south.While I had planned to do that Saturday/Sunday it seems unlikely anyone will want to by then.

So, I'm home.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Saturday I went to see "Collecting the Impressionists," a special exhibit at the San Antonio Museum of Art, which consisted of 12 paintings from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute of Williamstown, Massachusetts.

While 12 paintings may not seem like much of an exhibit, in this case it wsa extraordinary. Included were the following:

Renoir - "Onions" - 1881
Renoir - "At the Concert" - 1880
Renoir - "A Girl with a Fan" - 1879-80?
Pissaro - "Piette's House at Montfoucault" - 1874
Manet - "Moss Roses in Vase" - 1882
Renoir - "A Girl Crocheting" - c. 1875
Pissaro - "The River Oise near Pontoise" - c. 1873
Renoir - "Self Portrait" - c. 1875
Monet - "The Duck Pond" - 1874
Degas - "The Dancing Lesson" - 1880
Morisot - "The Bath (Girl Arranging her Hair)" - 1885-86
Monet - "Spring in Giverny" - 1890

Robert Sterling Clark was the grandson of one of the founders of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. He began collecting art, but it was his French wife, Francine, who directed him toward the impressionists.

Renoir's "A Girl Crocheting" was the first impressionist painting they purchased and Renoir was to remain a favorite. They owned 39 paintings by Renoir, more than any other artist in their collection. By comparison, they owned seven works by Pissaro and the same number by Monet.

One of the highlights of this exhibit is "Onions," the atypical Renoir painting included. The vibrant colors and the vigorous brushstrokes are quintessential Renoir, but applied to a different subject. Clark said it was one of his favorites, and one that was always noticed by a dealer who visited their home where it was hung.

The Renoir self-portrait was done when he was 34 and shows the artist with a penetrating gaze. Renoir referred to it as a "paltry sketch" but did exhibit it in the 1876 impressionist exhibit. He did not apply the same delicate touch to his own skin tone that he gave to the women and girls he painted regularly.

The other three Renoir works are more typical - all include young women in various settings with the beautiful skin he is known for. The painting of girls at a concert is also a minor art lesson with all the triangular shapes present from the neckline to the position of bent arms and the paper around the roses, not to mention the central rose on the woman's dress.

The Degas is his traditional subject of ballet dancers, but its composition is unusual. It's painted on a diagonal and a splash of color on the costume of the central dancer draws your eye.

The two Monet works are both plein air. The Duck Pond is a study in color, with all the oranges and blues present. "Spring in Giverny" combines the beautiful, ethereal landscapes he is known for, but you can also glimpse what is to come in his later years in the building that is thought to be the rail station. It's as if the future is there in the distance. Unlike the trees, which are soft and delicate, the building has the broader brush strokes and thicker paint seen more often in his later works, particularly the final works he gave to the French state, his waterlillies series that hangs in Paris.

The two Pissaro paintings in this exhibit are both from the first years of the impressionist movement. Pissaro was the only artist to show in all eight of the original exhibits between 1874-1886.

The Morisot painting included is one that Monet owned the last 30 years of his life. The Clarks bought it in 1949 from his heirs. It's always curious to me to see what other artists value.

The Manet painting shown here expresses his unique place in the story of the impressionists. He was always rooted in the more traditional art world, but willing to experiment too. This painting is a perfect synthesis of the two things - a traditional subject of flowers in a vase - given an impressionist treatment.

This exhibit has left San Antonio now and will open at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida on Jan. 20. It will run until March 11, 2007.

After that it will go to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. It will be there from March 24 t0 May 13, 2007.

My hope is to see it again in Nebraska. The Joslyn is a good museum. They have one of the Degas sculptures of the dancer with the fabric tutu. There are only 14 of them. The Clark exhibit will probably get me up there for another visit.

I have been at an MHA conference that ends today. I'm packing up my stuff during a break so I can check out of this nice hotel. I so love nice hotels, but I digress.

As always, this has been an interesting conference. Mental Health is a fascinating field to be in and the people working in it are highly intelligent and incredibly passionate. One of them summed it up by saying she got into the field because it was a civil rights issue that people with mental illness were not treated well and she wanted to change that. I think she summed up what many who work in the field feel.

I've been doing this almost five years so I've heard some of it before, but there is always something new. We talk more and more about total wellness these days, which I think is positive. Why we think what happens above the neck is not important as opposed to below the neck, I'm not sure. But that is changing. Thankfully.

I will leave with piles of information and tons of new information to share in the coming months. I enjoy public speaking and part of the reason is that it's great to be able to get the information out that's important to all of us.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

OK, so I'm not given to beauty tips generally, but I have two for you today - both hair related.

1. Nizoral shampoo
The other day I'm in a museum and suddenly I feel the hair being lifted from where it's hanging down my back and this man exclaiming, "Oh, Honey! You have the most beautiful hair. Yummy! ..." The conversation went on in this fashion with me saying "Thank you" periodically. I was flattered, if a bit taken aback.

Then I got the question I always get from hairdressers, "What do you do to your hair? It's so healthy!"

The answer is always the same. "Nothing special. Shampoo, conditioner, comb when wet, brush when dry. No processes, chemicals, colors, gels, mousses, sprays, perms, hair dryers, curling irons, etc."

I then told him my biggest problem was that it felt like residue built up on it sometimes and I had a hard time getting it really clean. My mom used to rinse it with vinegar water occasionally but I hate the smell. That's when he suggested Nizoral shampoo. (You knew I'd get to it eventually, right?)

Nizoral is a dandruff shampoo that used to be prescription but can now be bought off the shelf. He swore it would strip off any residue with no damage. He was so convincing that I stopped by Walgreens that night and bought some. You know what? He's right. I can now say with authority that it works. I will keep a bottle on the shelf and use it every once in awhile - at $9.99 a small bottle it's not going to be a daily shampoo for me.

So, there's my beauty tip of the day.

I have one additional tip for men who wear hairpieces. This was prompted by a guy I saw walking on the street the other day. If you wear a hairpiece, you need to get it checked periodically. Just as hair continues to grow, hair continues to fall out.

This incredibly well-dressed man had the gray hairpiece perched on top of his head. Then there was an inch wide space of bare skin between it and the tuft of hair growing at the base of his neck.

This is NOT a good look. NOT a good look.

Guys - bald is sexy. It's much sexier when it's not marred by a hair piece covering up part of it, but not all of it. Partially bald is far sexier than that. Just go for it. Trust me. No woman would disagree with me about the bare-skin-band look.

Monday, January 08, 2007

This afternoon I heard a gentleman here from the CDC talking about the ACE study. This is a very large, ongoing study, with fascinating outcomes.

ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences - it's another way of saying emotional, physical or sexual abuse; neglect; substance abuse by parents; violence toward mother; divorce or separation of parents; incarceration of parent, etc. etc. etc. The list of adverse childhood experiences is so long it's hard to quantify.

What we know is that there is a relationship between the number of these a child has and their later health - physical and mental.

Adverse Childhood Experiences lead to social, emotional and cognitive impairment, which leads to high risk behaviors that gives us disease, disapbility and social problems and ultimately lead to an early death. The trick is to figure out how those experiences lead to the impairment which leads to the risky behavior - we know it does, we just don't know why. Yet. We will. Then the question will become what to do about it.

Interestingly enough, most of us have one or more ACEs - about 34 percent of women and 38% of men report none. The rest of us fall into the scale somewhere else. But, it's cumulative - if you have one you're at less risk than if you have three. By the time you have four there doesn't seem to be much distinction above that - i.e. having four is about the same risk as having seven.

When you look at the population as a whole, you find that behaviors such as smoking, risky sexual behavior, alcohol abuse, etc. do not fall randomly into the population. They cluster, and people who have one risk factor tend to have others. That's what prompted the research. The common factor is ACEs and how many of them we have.

This is important stuff - there is a correlation between these and everything from obesity to STDs to diabetes to heart disease.

This is not new research, but it is onoing. You can read more about it at It's exciting, but also painful. This is just one more example of how our mental health affects our physical health. There are new ones every single day, it seems, but still in most places insurance companies are not required to cover your mental health the same way they are to cover your physical health.

Did you know that people who are depressed are four times more likely to have a heart attack? But, we'd rather treat the damage to the heart muscle instead of treating the depression. By the way, the success rate with treating heart disease is about 45%, while the success rate with treating mental illness is about 85%. So, we'd rather wait until the person has a greater chance of dying before we do anything. There's some good thinking. Newt Gingrich is right when he says the health care system in the US is so broken it just needs to be thrown out and we need to start over.

What can you do? Bug your representatives. There's a good chance the Wellstone bill will pass in this session of congress with democrats in control and insurance companies will have to cover mental health sufficiently. The votes have been there to pass it, but republicans would not bring it to a vote. With democrats in control, mental health advocates think it will be brought to a vote and pass.

Oh, and when the lobbyists tell you how expensive it's going to be to cover everyone, they're lying. In Vermont, the only state that has true parity (equal coverage for mental and physical health), it did not cause a dramatic increase in premiums - it just meant that people got care and insurance companies made a tiny bit less money. How often do you hear of them going out of business? Exactly.

Many health insurance plans cover mental health at only $10,000 for a lifetime. Guess how long that takes to use up? It would be like saying heart disease is only covered for the first $10,000. Families mortgage everything they own to get care for their children. People go bankrupt. People lose their homes. Surely we can put an end to such foolishness. Surely.