And The White Lion Roars

This WordPress.com site is for those who refuse to accept mythology as literal truth, and instead question everything!

Month: March, 2014

Sometimes She Roars With Laughter!

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My friends, who make up most of the folks who read my blogs, know the story of how we were rescued by our dog, Abigail, in 2009. We had lost our very old, precious black Lab, Maddie, at the age of 12. We responded, as so many people do when they lose a beloved pet, “No more dogs. This hurts too much.” But my husband and I were working different shifts, and I was alone most evenings. It didn’t take long for me to know that it isn’t really a home without a dog. So we decided to go again. So, early on a Saturday morning, before they even opened, I went to the local shelter. I walked into the first row of kennels, and started looking at all the dogs there. I knew that I could choose any of these sweet creatures and we-well, more me, would love them forever. And then, about 2/3 of the way down the first row, I saw this schnauzer-ish looking girl, who crept on her belly, one paw forward at a time, to the front of her cage. We locked eyes, and I pulled the card out of her slot. One of the shelter workers said, “Ma’am, there are two more buildings of kennels. I said, “No. This is the one.” He just smiled knowingly, “Yeah, sometimes you just know.”

It was my husband’s turn to name the dog, so we had already decided that if I picked a female her name would be “Abigail,” after his favorite character on “NCIS.” So I started calling her Abigail from the moment the office staff brought her to me, once the paperwork was signed and an appointment was made for her spaying. Since she was a mixed breed I got to take her home and bring her back for surgery. Those who picked purebreds had to wait to take their baby home until after altering. I found out that Abigail had been brought in as a stray, and the morning I showed up was the first day she became available for adoption. It was so clearly kismet that she went home with me,. and it has been a choice that we have never once regretted. She was house broken within a few weeks, she took to training easily, she rarely barks; she is pretty much the perfect dog for a middle aged couple. What I didn’t really expect was that a dog who had been stray, and was newly available for adoption, was not bathed or brushed; she was a mess! So, on our very first day together I had to give her a bath, which she immediately hated, and has ever since. When she is given a bath, she trembles as if she’s being tortured, she doesn’t want to move around, and fights me when I try to turn her around so that I can change sides. She will be six in June, and she still hates brushing and baths. Once I was taking a bath in some wonderful lavender bubble bath, and being as obedient as she is, I called her into the bathroom, and brought her into the water. Wouldn’t how much I loved that luxurious bath be passed on to her, and she would finally see that this is something to enjoy. Ummmmm, no. It wouldn’t. Now I can’t even call her in when I’m in there.

So over the last five years I felt many times that Abigail would be much happier if she had a playmate. My husband, who isn’t really a dog lover like me, always nixed the idea. And he was kind of right…we lived in an apartment, and having two dogs in an apartment would be expecting too much of the space. Our bedroom furniture barely fit into the bedroom as it was. Yes, we are those silly people who sleep with the dog, and the room was very tight already. So I kept giving in to his dictum that we didn’t need another dog until we moved into a house with a yard. There were other times that I felt that Abigail might not handle another dog in the house very well. When our grandson, Miles, came along, and got big enough to spend the night with Granny and Grandpa, she was very jealous! We had dog sat with my best friend’s dog a few times, but when Enzo came over, she always knew he wasn’t staying forever. When Miles came along, she didn’t know what to think. We snuggled with him, just like we did with her, he got lots of attention from us. She was very upset when he was there, to the point of wetting in the room where he slept-as if to let him know this was not his house. She had rarely ever had accidents in the house-this was not an accident! This was a message. But Miles moved to Illinois, and doesn’t get to spend weekends with us anymore.

And then, in October of last year, we decided, on a lark, to check into buying a house…and it worked!!! We moved Thanksgiving weekend into our first house. There is nothing but sand and rocks in our backyard, and the walls are still white and bear. But we moved into a  house with three bedrooms and two baths. I hadn’t even thought about the dog thing for sometime because a friend whose marriage just ended moved in with us in November, and Abigail was no longer alone during the days when we were at work. But Christmas day, my sister texted me a picture of a puppy that her daughter in law found abandoned on the way to Sister’s house for their family Christmas, and my sister was thinking that I would be the perfect choice for a forever family for my niece’s foster dog. So I asked, knowing the answer before I asked. So I told my sister that the answer was no, regretfully, but I put the picture out there for my friends, just in case anyone might know someone who could give this adorable baby a forever home. I didn’t mention it again, but a couple of weeks later, my sister posted the picture on Facebook, still looking for a forever home. At that time I went into full gear. I reminded him of his promise to get a second dog when we moved into a house. He said that we don’t have a yard yet, and they would make a terrible mess when the weather was bad during the winter. (This is Texas-what bad winter weather?) That one was easy to knock down. Needless to say…I prevailed, once I reminded him that our anniversary was coming up in January, and the puppy could be my gift, and besides…”you did promise.” “Fine. Get the damned dog, but when these are gone, no more animals!” Yah, sure. “Okay. I’ll agree to that.” (Wink, wink.)

So, on Friday after the new year, we got Leo. My sister’s family was calling him Teddy because he was so sweet, like a teddy bear. But he does have a look similar to a lion, and he was coming to live with me, who is a Leo, and has white hair, hence “The White Lion.” Leo was just too perfect a name for him. He may be a golden retriever/basset mix, according to our vet. He’s too cute for words…very goofy, and sweet, and I told my sister the only thing that would be a deal breaker would be if Abigail was too jealous and didn’t accept him. Well, there have, of course, been some competitions for our attention, but all in all, Abigail adores him, and he her. The play tug, chase, chase, tug, all day long. They nap together after long, hard bouts of playing, and they are a happy pair. Leo has brought even more joy into our house. He still sleeps in a crate, while she sleeps in the bed, because he still has not mastered going outside every time.

About 3 weeks ago it was time for poor Abigail to have a bath. I didn’t know what to expect with Leo being new to the family, but it was just as usual. Abigail trembled the whole time at this terrible ordeal I was putting her through. Leo came into the bathroom while we were at work, and was very curious what was happening to his sister. So, when I was done with Abigail I gave Leo a quick going over, which she had already signaled him in whatever language dogs use to communicate with each other was horrible. So, of course, he hated it almost as much as she does.

Today is Friday. On Wednesday I woke up feeling very cruddy, with a sore throat and no energy. I went to work, and told a coworker that if I felt as bad on Thursday I would stop at an Urgent Care clinic on the way home. But I didn’t feel as bad on Thursday-I felt way worse. I called in to work, planning to go to the clinic in case I had strep throat. It wasn’t strep, but I was told not to work on Friday either. Well, I had scheduled an eye appointment back in January, and I wasn’t going to miss that, and I was feeling somewhat better. So I got myself together and decided to take a nice bubble bath. No lavender today; didn’t want to get that relaxed. I picked a wonderful burnt sugar/vanilla bubble bath, and it was luxuriant! The bubbles lasted forever, and smelled so sensual! It really added to my feeling better. While I was in there, Leo pushed his nose into the bathroom door, sheepishly, and went away as quickly.  I chuckled to myself, remembering Abigail’s disdain for baths. Figuring she was out there telling him in Doglish, “Don’t let her pull you in there!” I called out to him and he stuck his head in, but wouldn’t come inside. So I took a handful of bubbles and blew them at him, he recoiled. The bubbles landed on the floor, and held up quite well. He sidled in and sniffed the bubbles warily, jerking his head back, sniffing again, and running out of the bathroom. I blew another handful of bubbles, which landed next to the first and also stayed. He came back in and sniffed again, the same way…backing out as quickly once he’d taken that whiff.

And I laughed out loud at his trepidation, knowing that bubble baths, or baths in general, were going to continue to be a chore and a torture.

An Uncommon Security Guard: Dave Eshelman, AKA ‘John Wayne’

Interesting take on something presented quite differently in my college classroom.

northierthanthou

IMG You’ve probably encountered the Stanford Prison Experiment in your psychology textbook, or perhaps heard about it in some other conversation. Ostensibly a study of the influence of power and authority on human behavior, the experiment (so the story goes) had to be closed down because it was all too successful. Dr. Philip Zimbardo set up a faux-prison in the psychology building at Stanford University and began recruiting test subjects. Having divided his subjects randomly into a pool of guards and another pool of prisoners, Zimbardo soon found the conflict between the guards and the prisoners had escalated beyond control. Zimbardo has spent his career describing the study as proof that good people will become monsters under the right circumstances.

Such circumstances would appear to include a badge and a uniform. …or perhaps a tenure-track professorship.

What fascinates me most about this story is the role of one guard, Dave Eshelman…

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An Uncommon Physics Lesson!

Love this one! I’m saving the link to share on my Facebook page for Pi Day Friday.

northierthanthou

I need some help waking up today, so I’m gonna turn to my favorite lyrical terrorist, M. C. Hawking. I hear he has a side-line as a theoretical physicist or something, which helps to explain the content of some of his tunes. You gotta love the Hawk-man! Seriously, you have to man. Cause he’ll fuck your shit up.

Yes, he will!

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Some Friend’s Favorites, and (I promise) The Last Reposts!

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Grub Song and September Honeysuckle

 
It’s been an eventful month for us, so it’s been awhile since I’ve done a questions and observations post. There have been crises within my family, health wise and otherwise, the deaths of beloved animal companions, a wedding speeding to fruition that has been in the works for three years, and on and on. Sort of like life, I suppose. And life is good. I’ve written in the past about honeysuckle and the languid, sensual feelings in brings in me in summer. But Texas gets hot in summer, and often dry. We’ve had a bit of rain this summer, which ended today, thankfully, and the heat, though some records were broken here,  not nearly as record breaking as last summer. And last week I was walking with Abigail in back of our property, and I noticed the heavy sensuality of that smell. I looked to the fences, and here, mid-September, the honeysuckle bushes had developed a new set of blooms. Yes, September has been a hard month in many ways, but seeing and inhaling those lusty blossoms made it seem as if the good parts of summer would go on-even as the weather moderates.

I do have some questions, however, as is always my way here at questionevrthing.blogspot.com:
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1. In the washroom at my office there is a cabinet where tissue is kept. There is a lone roll with a sticky note on it that says, “Do Not Use This Roll In Case We Ever Run Out.” What does that mean, exactly, for the day we really do run out? Are we allowed to then use that one roll-and then what would we do the next time, since the saved roll would then be gone.

2. In recent early mornings, Abigail has left the apartment in full prey mode. She barely takes the time to do her business, she goes straight to one corner of the yard and starts digging up grub worms and eating them. As disgusting as that may be to us humans (or at least this human) she seems to enjoy it, and I would bother about it if I weren’t out in the wee hours in my jammies with my dog. But she doesn’t do that any other time of day. So I’m wondering if grub worms are nocturnal and only come near the surface at that time of day, or is there some kind of sonar-like whale-song, that Abigail hears that draws her to that one spot?

3. Here is one for any friends who are into physics. I am a science groupie more than a scientist, and physics has more math involved than I could grasp. But it occurred to me the other day that the famous equation devised by Einstein (E = MC2.) (Sorry, I’m not sure how to do hyper-script here.) The speed of light in this equation is said to be, if I recall, the “universal constant.” Nothing can ever go as fast as the speed of light. So, if this question seems pedestrian, I apologize, but how then, can it be squared? I understand that numbers are infinite, but a ‘universal constant’ should be constant, No?

4. I got an iPhone 4S for my birthday. The “S” in that name stands for “Siri,” the personal assistant included with the program who can remember notes, start internet searches, dial numbers, and any number of fancy things. My question is, why can’t I name my own assistant? I asked Siri where she got her name, and her reply was, “That is a good question.” This phone was not cheap, and I do believe I should be able to pick the name of the person who has done an internet search for me on where to dump a body, and fussed at me for cursing at her.

5. Someone I know is having an affair. Thinking about this person’s behavior made me wonder something about the way society looks at people who cheat. How many stories have we all heard about the lonely, bored man who feels his wife doesn’t understand him, and he uses that line to get another woman to sleep with him. She then becomes the “other woman,” and in her eyes the wife is evil and wrong for not understanding and appreciating that man who is so good to the mistress, etc. Why doesn’t that same approach work for a woman who is looking-or maybe not looking, to cheat? I believe I know the answer-when a woman feels she is not understood or appreciated, she tends to turn to girlfriends for a place to blow off steam and get advice about how to make the marriage better. If women used that “My husband doesn’t understand me” line to catch a fling, she would still be considered wanton (not that anyone in the 21st century uses that term.) But it seems to me that there is a double standard, even with all the freedoms that the “sexual revolution” gave women when it comes to seeking comfort in an outside relationship. I don’t know if that’s as much a question as an observation. Feedback appreciated.

6. I do talk frequently about dogs, and cruelty to animals here. I guess it would be no surprise that I find bullfighting, dogfighting and cockfighting about as loathsome as any activities humans could devise. But I was recently reading an article about the 100th anniversary of the actor James Cagney’s birth. I have loved Cagney for many years, and read his autobiography back in high school. The writer of this article quoted something that Cagney said in that book that hit me hard. Cagney was born and raised in abject poverty and violence in New York City. Some of his friends became gangsters, some died, and some went to prison. He said that when you grow up in circumstances like that and you see an opportunity to make a buck, you take it. You don’t ask questions, you don’t think about wrong or right. I thought of this in relation to dogfighting. It seems to me that every time I’ve seen people being arrested for dogfighting, or watched an Animal Police program in which dogfighting rings, or homes with dogfighting paraphernalia were found, it was in the dankest underbelly of the inner cities in places like Detroit or Houston…places so poor that the people who live in them have no hope of ever having anything better in their lives. Life is pretty cheap in those places, and while I still can’t stomach the notion of fighting dogs, I believe it is because I have never experienced the lives these people live. I once read a book called “Random Family” by Andrea Nicole LeBlanc in which poverty was so ingrained in this ghetto family that they believed they actually had no choice but to become criminals, drop outs and teen aged mothers. No politician goes to those places, and neither do most of the people I know. That’s why I can say I’ve never met a mean pit bull. I don’t travel in the circles where people believe they may not feed their family if they don’t make some money somehow, and therefore if their dogs aren’t mean enough to win a fight, they might not eat. There are so may things about the culture of poverty that must change before anything can get better for the people or the other animals who live in those places.

7. Is education really the key? I recently saw former Florida governor Jeb Bush on a morning talk show discussing education. He talked about how to better teach the poor so that they can pull themselves out of poverty. And then he proceeded to spout all the simplistic answers that get no one anywhere toward improving the system. His blame landed squarely on teachers, and tenure and teacher’s unions. I could tell by listening to him, and so many others like him, that he has no idea how to teach people out of poverty. He’s probably never been to what used to be Cabrini Green in the slums of Chicago, or the 9th Ward in Houston to see just how deeply the culture of poverty goes, and how hopeless the children there become. I’m reminded of a line in a movie by Lawrence Kasdan from 1991 called Grand Canyon.  In one scene Danny Glover, one of the stars, is talking to his nephew who has been falling into gang activities. He asks the young man, “Do you want to be doing this when you’re 25?” The boy says, “I ain’t gon’ make 25.” That line was so deeply profound for me-and comes back to me when I see things like this interview with Jeb Bush…you can’t just walk in and perkily tell some kids that if they get an education everythi

 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

No Bliss Here

 
I ride the city bus to work. On Friday’s we start work early and so I take a bus that comes an hour earlier. Once in awhile there is a man who walks his dog past the bus stop. The first few times I saw them, she had one of those cones around her head. Considering that I wear my love for dogs plainly on my sleeve, anyone I see walking a dog who will allow me, I pet them. This gentleman is no different-his dog is named Chili, and she is so gregariously friendly that the first time I met her she left some scratches on my wrist because she was so eager for pets. Chili is a pit bull. It turns out that Chili and her dad live in the same apartment complex that I do. Sometimes when I take Abigail out very early, I don’t bother with a leash because I know there won’t be anyone around. Last week I was mistaken-Chili and her dad were also out. Chili didn’t have her cone on, but she was wearing a t-shirt. I wanted to ask my neighbor how she was doing, but I was a little concerned about Abigail, who doesn’t mind playing with other dogs, but like to assert her dominance first. I wasn’t worried about Chili, just that Abigail’s barking might wake someone up early. I was right-Chili was on leash, and Abigail did a little sniffing, and then started barking, teeth bared. I had her sit, and Chili just started wagging. Abigail barked some more, and Chili just continued to wag, let me pet her, and look confused that Abigail was being mean. If any stereotype of pit bulls was true, Abigail should have been breakfast for Chili.

Another neighbor of ours has a beautiful mixed breed dog named Shingu. I’m not sure if I’m spelling that correctly; it is Korean for “friend.” Shingu’s mom worked in Korea for awhile as a teacher. All they really know about her is that she is part Lab. She is a beautiful rust and black brindle, with a long muzzle, sort of like a German Shepard Dog. Shingu does not live up to her name-she is very aggressive, especially with other female dogs like Abigail. Not long ago the couple that owns Shingu had a stray adopt them. They named him “Chance.” Chance is a beautiful white pit bull, and he and Shingu seem to play very well together. Our complex has a dog run, and one night recently they were in the run when Abigail and I were having our evening walk. I took her into the run to play some, and Shingu immediately began to make her unwelcome. Shingu’s mom put the leash on her, and Chance and Abigail just sniffed and ran around like normal dogs. Shingu kept barking her disapproval of Abigail’s presence, even while being held back with the leash by her mom. Abigail didn’t have a problem at all until I reached down to pet Chance, who just looked at me sweetly and wagged his tail.

The truth is, I’ve never, ever met a mean pit bull. I’ve seen them at the local dog park, I’ve seen them out walking in the neighborhoods and park trails. I’ve heard the lies about them being “time bombs,” “unpredictable,” and “dangerous.” I’ve also watched some of the “dog police” programs on Animal Planet, and seen the type of places that those type pit bulls are raised, and I don’t go to those places, nor, and this is the most important part, do I travel in circles with people who mistreat dogs to make them mean enough for dog fighting. I have been horrified when I see how the females are bred, how the dogs are treated and then disposed of like so much trash. I’ve seen the bodies of pit bulls that have been tortured and burned and shot, and it breaks my heart because I have personally observed that a pit bull, like any other dog, raised in a loving environment, becomes a loving dog. I’ve also heard many, many stories recently about pits being shot by police, or imprisoned and euthanized simply because they are pit bulls-with the explanation that they were not a clear and present danger, but because of the “potential” risk they posed. On July 19, Bradley Ralko wrote in The Daily Beast about police raids in which dogs are killed. He wrote of a raid on a wrong house that turned out to be the house of the town mayor, and the mayor’s two Labs were both shot, one as he ran away from the chaos of the police kicking in the door. There are also daily stories posted on Facebook of police shooting the pit bull pets of neighbors of the homes the police are going to. The article in Daily Beast told of other breeds that have been shot-all the way down to a Chihuahua who weighed only five pounds. Please remember two things-these are police officers who are armed to the teeth, wearing vests and long sleeves and boots. The idea that the family pet posed any real threat other than a possible distraction from the job at hand, is a tad unbelievable. But also remember that humans domesticated the wolf that became the dog we now know in part because they could “guard the camp.” In return, the dogs got fed, and had a safer place to raise their young-it was an evolutionary win-win. They have been our ‘best friends’ ever since-until now. We have made them in the image we wished, and then turned and blamed them for being so compliant. The media bear some blame in all of this-and hyper-reactive people and local legislators who freak out when a story is presented of a dog that hurts someone. The fact is that it is rare for a dog to bite for no reason, and it is also true that pit bulls are not the number one in dog bite statistics in this country. Yes, when they do attack, they can do great harm. But those attacks are almost never the dog’s fault, they are typically caused by something that is done by the human who is bitten. I’m sorry-I am broken hearted when a child is harmed by a dog, but I can almost always see where the parent of the child or the owner of the dog was really at fault, not the dog. Children can be taught how to approach a dog without making the dog feel threatened.  If a child is not taught properly, then the child is in danger when in the company of ANY DOG. Any dog will bite if it feels threatened, particularly in it’s own territory-WHICH HUMANS BRED THEM TO DO. And it is small dogs that are more likely to bite. Remember, every bite is potentially a crime, or a threat, but not every bite is reported, nor does every bite require medical treatment. When a Chihuahua bites, people are more likely to blow it off and put a band aid on it. People may think it is “cute” and say that “he thinks he’s a Rottweiler.” Whenever a patient comes to a medical professional with a dog bite, just like a gun shot wound, it must be reported. And that is where the statistics come from. According to the article in the Daily Beast, there are a couple of thousand dogs killed by police every year. This is not near as many as die from being raised in horrible conditions in puppy mills and dog fighting rings, but all are the result of either ignorance or a deep lack of respect and understanding of the special relationship that humans and dogs have had for thousands of years. Not to mention the human misunderstanding of what our place atop the evolutionary food chain really means. It doesn’t mean we count more than other animals-it means we have a greater responsibility to respect and care for animals which may lack our ability to self-actualize, and approach life in a rational, honest way. If we were honest about dogs, and what we have done to them, how we have harmed them, and what they have given us, then the bliss-less ignorance that leads to the cruelty I would love to eradicate might disappear from human behavior. Because, always remember, ignorance is a choice. Parents, remember that children are born ignorant and it is your job to teach them about life. How to be safe and unafraid is a huge part of that teaching. Do your job, and your child can avoid being bitten by a strange dog. Teach them when young never to try to pet a dog without asking the owner if it is okay. Teach them not to come at a dog too fast, and not to come at a dog’s face when attempting to pet them. These two actions alone will help prevent a child being growled at, nipped at, and potentially bitten. I wish I could run a training class for law enforcement that would stop the unnecessary killing of dogs that do not present a threat. I can’t help wondering when the rule that allows killing a living creature for the potential threat it poses moves up to humans. We could all be killed under such a rule, because any one of us could be pushed to kill if we felt threatened enough.

1. Dogs in a Deadly Crossfire, The Daily Beast.com Bradley Ralko, July 19, 2012
2.

Best Answer – Chosen by Voters

the top three breeds known to bite are dachshunds, chihuahuas and jack russell terriers …

“Seems the smallest dogs ranked the highest when it came to human aggression. The top three biters, in order, were the Dachshund, the Chihuahua, and the Jack Russell Terrier.

This is the findings recently published by the journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science from a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania.”

 

3. Victoria Stilwell Shares Tips to Stop Dogs From Biting

This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, hosted by the AVMA to help stop the nearly 5 million dog bites that happen every year in the United States. Last week we spoke about dog bite prevention with former AVMA president Dr. Bonnie Beaver, focusing more on the human behaviors that might trigger, or prevent, dog bites. This week, we want to focus on canine behavior, and what dog owners can do to prevent their dogs from biting. In this podcast, Victoria Stilwell, dog trainer and host of Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog,” shares training tips to help prevent dog bites.
 
 
 
 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Road Not Taken

 
I had a birthday week-before-last. I turned the big double nickel. Fifty-five. A number that makes me cringe as none ever has. Not thirty, forty or fifty made me feel so odd. Not old, but odd. As if it is time for me to stop thinking I’m a young person trapped in a middle-aged body, and just deal with the fact that I’m middle aged now. Whatever that means. It’s just a number, right? I’m still the same person-the girl who gets the dirty jokes, and loves to take long walks on tough paths. Literally and figuratively. One of the gifts that I got was a pair of walking shoes, for rocky paths. They are by a company called “Keen,” whose name may mean “keen,” or I guess it could be the founder’s last name, but they really are keen! They are also waterproof, and anti-microbial, and I’m not supposed to wear socks with them. So yesterday I decided it was time to use these new rock/trail walking shoes for something other than walking the concrete paths that our beloved city has created for us.

We live in Fort Worth, TX, and have a trail system that goes all around the city based on the Trinity River. It is called, for obvious reasons, The Trinity Trails, and several smaller trails that Abigail, my beloved dog (whom I sometimes refer to as my copilot here in Zeus’ Chariot) have narrowed it down to two that we like to use the most. Each of them have some feature that we really like-one has creeks easily available for her to drink from when she gets hot toward the end of our walks. This one has more walkers and dogs, and fewer bike riders; as I’ve said in other posts, when one is walking, the bikers are the least friendly and most selfish users of the trails. The other one has many, many more bikers, fewer walkers, and even fewer dogs. But it has great canopies of trees that cover the trail with shade, so it is usually much cooler, even in the heat of a North Central Texas summer. This is the one we use the most. It is a bit longer, 4.36 miles vs 3 miles. So we get a better workout. It is also closer to where we live, so we don’t have to drive as far to get there.

When we walk either trail, Abigail is wont to come home covered with burrs. I mean COVERED. The time-before-last that we walked the favored trail, she had burrs so heavily in her coat that I could not brush them all out. She had tried to use her paws to remove some of the ones around her face, and it only served to mat her hair over her eyes, and I butchered her poor hair by cutting them out, but there was no other way. I was clearly not a professional groomer, which was commented on by some of our neighbors the next time we saw them. So last week I went to the groomer and had her buzzed, 1/4 inch all over, leaving only her Schnauzer-like eyebrows. It changed her look so completely; I never knew she had a white, spotted Ermine-like “stole” around her shoulders. She also has a very rounded muzzle, which, without her beard, when she smiles or yawns, she has a gaping, toothy smile, a bit like a pit-bull (a breed I love.)

Abigail’s Ermine Stole

So, the no-longer-a-burr-magnet, Abigail and I took off the concrete path (hereon I will call it the path, and the rocky trail we were on, the trail.) It was kind of fun; more hilly, so we were burning more calories. (I’m sure only I think of that. But there were also NO trees to speak of, only bushes. And brambles. And twisted limbs that had fallen from trees and been moved toward the trail by floods or the people who cut the trees to make the paths. I noticed after awhile that there was not much actual “trail” at all, just indentations where a few people had pressed down the grasses. We would find rock croppings that we climbed up; her much faster than me, since I had my fanny pack, her leash, and my iPod playing a shuffle of all the songs I have recorded there. I pushed through some briers and brambles, and noticed a burning sensation on my ankles. I looked down and there was a series of long scratches on the bottom of my legs.

My shorts-yes, my shorts, were COVERED with burrs. These aren’t the kind of burrs that stick you like a needle and burn when you pull them out…these are the kind that stick to you like some super-velcro, and do not want to come out. Ever. How they jumped up on my shorts, I don’t know, but when I saw them all the way up there, I thought perhaps they were not plant matter at all, but some alien life form that could actually jump. I’ve also been sneezing ever since I got home, so maybe these alien life forms can also blow some kind of allergen into our faces by which they will one day control all of mankind. The thing about my keen shoes is that, without socks, they stuck to the insides and outsides of the shoes, and made the red ring around  my ankles by rubbing into my skin with every step. But I traversed on, poor Abigail being almost invisible in the thickets, and panting from heat and exertion. The one thing about this trail is that civilization is never far from view. When we got to the top, there were rooftops of fine homes clearly nearby. When the trail started to run out, we were right next to a golf course on one side, and the Trinity on the other. There were several beautiful homes, with excellent fences and pools just after the golf course. But there was no path left to take. There was one part of the water that was full enough of rock for us to climb down and over the other side. Abigail, of course, climbed right down, but the downward slope was pretty much only peat-layers and layers of leaves from years of blowing and dampness. Quite slippery for a large human, so I had to sit down and do a crab walk down. If Abigail were human I’m sure she would have found it quite amusing. I was only a tad worried about awaking a sleeping snake or giant spider. I’m afraid of neither, but if they are threatened, they will protect themselves, as would any living thing. I’m sure they would see me as a threat. We’ve had what is now being called an “epidemic” of West Nile Virus in our area, and several deaths, so when I caught a mosquito on my arm I quickly flicked it away, being certain that near a heavily shaded river would be the one place that a mosquito might carry the virus. There was no blood when I got him, so I figured I was safe, but when I got home there were other bites on me. So now we get to see if I have, as I’ve always insisted, a super immune system. I’m absolutely sure that I’m not allergic to poison oak or ivy because there were so many vines twisted into the vegetation on the ground, that there had to be something there that could cause a rash! But no spiders or snakes woke up, and my Keen, waterproof shoes got me across the rocks, while Abigail drank up in the creek water. This was my first chance to look at her, and she was covered, literally covered, with the same burrs that I was covered with. So much for helping her with burrs by cutting her hair. I suddenly realized that I had removed her protection. She kept trying to get them off her face, and they were only going into her eyes. I took some time to get them off the area around her eyes, and some had gone into her eyes, which couldn’t have felt good!!! We got to the other side, only to learn that there was no other side that led back to the trail itself. The only choice we had was to turn around and go back the exact same way. It was hot-leaving the path meant leaving the canopy, and the sun was burning down pretty hard by now. The funny thing is that when we left home the temperature was below 80. We’d had a fairly cool start to the day for midsummer, but now the sun was winning that battle. Sweat, scratches and burrs make for a great burn on one’s skin. One thing I had figured out is that in order for Abigail not to be strangled by the leash was to take it off. Brambles, briers, branches and burrs do conspire to hold the leash and confuse a dog so that they only become more entangled as they try to get around the thatch that holds them. So I had taken the leash off, and was carrying it. When we got back to the creek, Abigail scampered right over to wait for me. The trouble was that getting down the creek was much easier than getting back up. I finally had to throw off the leash, and taken out my earbuds, which had been yanked out of my ears several times already by these conspiratorial alien life forms. Or vegetation, as the case may be. It was okay though, because Leon Russell and Bob Dylan were starting to wear on my nerves and disrupt my problem solving skills, much as I love them both. I sat down again, and had to hold the bars of one of those fine fences in one hand, and a tree root in the other to jump back and climb up the creek side. Abigail waiting patiently by, probably wondering why it takes us humans so long to go such a short distance.

Interestingly, once we got back to the trail it seemed  much easier and shorter. But I couldn’t have felt sorrier for Abigail. I’ve never seen a dog covered head-to-toe with so many burrs. Normally when we do a trail walk, she is so happy just going for a ride that on the way she hangs her head out the window, like any normal dog would. Then on the way home she is so tired, that she gets a drink and lies down all the way home. Today, she couldn’t lie down because of the burrs all over her little body. I had them too, but I felt more sorry for her because I chose that route, she didn’t. But she never left my side, and when I was struggling to get up a rocky slope, or down one, she just waited for me. That is why she is my copilot ;I couldn’t ask for better. So I got home and took my clothes off, and started trying to get the burrs out of her. I’m almost done, nearly 24 hours later. She still has a few left on her face, and one bunch left in her right ear.

My husbands rather sarcastic comment when he saw us was, “I bet you’ll never do that again.” My response back was, “Hell, yes I will.”  But I might wait til after a freeze takes care of the burrs. Or maybe I’ll find some rocky trail that doesn’t have living, breathing burrs on it. I wonder where that is? Yellowstone? The Yukon Territories? Wherever it is, I know that no matter how hard the trail, my copilot will hang in with me to the end.

But I also have to say, that taking the road less traveled by, does make a big difference; sometimes it hurts. But sometimes it’s keen.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Impromptu

 
 What a week it has been. The great struggles of the people who want to believe themselves to be active in the political sphere has been reduced to chicken sandwiches. We’ve been at war in this country for nearly twelve years, and the poverty and jobless numbers have increased exponentially over the last twenty years. But what we want to protest is a chicken mogul who gives his money to anti-gay groups? I am pro-marriage equality. I am a firm believer in the Declaration of Independence, which says that “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal.” Oh, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees all people of “equal protection under the law.” This alone should be enough to hold S. Truett Cathy (the founder of Chick Fil A, which is now embroiled in this protest) to not allowing his restaurants to become the segregated lunch counters keeping gays out of their restaurants. As a wealthy man, he is certainly allowed to give his money to whatever cause he chooses. But those who are gay and those who support the Fourteenth Amendment and know and love, as I do, many people who are gay, not to spend money there. Mr. Cathy says that all people are treated with dignity and respect in his stores, which is amusing-he is certainly happy to take money from gays, while his money goes to a group, the Family Research Council, which has been certified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC.) The SPLC is the group that used law suits to essentially break the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980’s. They have monitored hate groups ever since, and their word is highly respected among those who believe that not all terrorists are Islamic.

I have struggled mightily with how to feel about this one. I have never liked the food at Chick Fil A. It is overcooked, too fatty, too expensive, and not really worth the price in poor health for me. Now I know I would not eat there ever again because I don’t want my money going into profits that go to hate groups.  And the screeching on both sides is verging on ridiculous considering the problems this country faces right now. I don’t believe that any mayors need to try and stop Chick Fil A’s from being built in their cities, which would be a violation of the owner’s First Amendment right to free speech. For those who don’t follow this blog, and haven’t read the constitution, the First Amendment says that THE GOVERNMENT can’t tell Americans what we can and can’t say. On the other hand, those on the right who claim that being against marriage equality is to be for “traditional marriage as discussed in the bible.” When I was in the church, we were told repeatedly that the bible teaches “one man for one woman for life.” I’m sorry, but I’ve read the bible cover-to-cover several times, and nowhere does it say that. The truth is that from earliest civilization, marriage has been a financial transaction between two fathers in which one father gave a piece of property-land, livestock, children, for some piece of property from the other father. That’s it. The white dresses and rings and fortunes wasted on weddings that we celebrate in this country were an invention of European culture. It has nothing whatsoever to do with anything that is said in the bible.

On June 4th of 2011 did my first photo installment for this blog regarding how it bothers me that we haven’t protested this intractable period of war that we have been in for the last decade plus. The right screams about government spending and deficits, but they want to keep bombing every country in the Middle East except Israel. Many people who scream and scream about all government help to the disadvantaged, never say a word about the corporate welfare that goes to billionaire corporations such as Monsanto, Exxon-Mobile, the Koch Brothers and Massey Energy (coal.)

We should be protesting the movement to create a military award for drone controllers-the military pilots who use remote controls to bomb locations with drones, when these strikes kill indiscriminately, and often include children and wedding celebrations. Many have said that the only reason we aren’t protesting our wars in the Middle East is because we don’t have the draft, as we did in previous wars. But since we can bomb without leaving the video arcade, we don’t need to risk the actual lives of our soldiers. These wars are much more expensive, but fewer American military boots are on the ground. That does not mean, as we know, that fewer lives are threatened, because this sort of warfare has created a larger anti-American sentiment among the people whose families and neighborhoods have been the targets of those anonymous bombs.

I’m not actually digressing from my original point regarding the protests, both pro and con, of Chick Fil A, but there was a photo going around Facebook this week that showed Chick Fil A protesters juxtaposed with civil rights protesters from the 1960s, and the caption said, “In Forty Years, You Are Going to Feel Really Silly.” And I daresay that it would be true, if the people who are protesting for Chick Fil A had the capacity to see themselves as being silly in their choices. The number of Americans now in favor of marriage equality is rising, not falling. Since Harvey Milk called gays to come out before his murder in 1978, and more have, more and more people know that they know people who are gay, and they have come to realize that gay doesn’t mean “child molester,” it doesn’t mean freak, killer, deranged or damaged; it doesn’t mean proselytizer. This is why we haven’t heard crazy stories from military personnel about gays trying to recruit them since they can now serve openly in the military. I once knew a young man who was known by all of those around him to be gay, and he finally came out. I asked him, “When did you know you were gay?” He told me that he knew when he was seven years old and developed a crush on Leif Garrett. This was one of many times that my understanding of homosexuality not being a choice, but one is born that way, was reinforced. What seven year old has any concept of that man’s answer to my question? And if it were a choice, who would choose to live with so much derision and hatred from so many who are in charge of public legislation and perceptions? Who would choose to feel as if there is something “wrong” with the way one’s sexual desires are expressed? I never asked, at nine years old, to suddenly develop fantasies about Sean Connery. But it happened, all by itself. I didn’t choose it.

I must, however, take a moment to offer a kudo to Mr. Cathy. In this day of super pacs and “secret” fortunes being spent by anonymous donors in order to achieve certain political ends, with the full blessing of the Supreme Court of the United States and their 2010 Citizens United decision, at least Mr. Cathy said out loud and publicly what he believes and why his money is going where it goes. I’m sure he may regret it now, considering the media frenzy it has garnered. But this will balance out in the end. Those who don’t wish to support hate groups and anti-equality legislation in a country in which equality is constitutionally guaranteed can stop eating at his restaurants. Those who think they are showing the world what it means to live the fantasy of the biblical view of marriage can go eat all the deep-fat fried chicken and deep-fat fried waffle cut potatoes they want. I choose to believe that equality will win out in the end.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Racing the Train

 
I’ve heard alot this week about how seriously threatened the US corn crop is by the current drought. I know that farmers can have some bad years at the hands of Mother Nature. That is why they have crop insurance. I am deeply, and passionately against farm subsidies, and corn is one of the biggest beneficiaries of government welfare, which means that what I am about to suggest will probably be anathema to most American corn farmers-this would be a really good time to stop putting high fructose corn syrup in everything we buy. It is not necessary, it is unhealthy, it is making us fat and diabetic (not alone, but it is a real contributor.) Rather than just raising prices on the corn we buy in the store remove this devilish secret ingredient in so many of our food, all the way from the bread, ketchup and barbecue sauce we eat, along with hundreds of other foods. I would honestly be unsurprised to pick up a bottle of vinegar or a jar of pickles and find this poison ingredient on the list.  That will help us all in both the long and short term.

There has also been a huge kerfuffle about when exactly Mitt Romney left Bain Capital. Now, I know that not everyone is a political junkie like me. And many are asking if this even really matters at all. Here is one example that I can give of why it should matter. Romney is saying that after 1999 he was no longer involved with Bain or any of the businesses in the US where the American workers lost their jobs and the jobs were sent overseas. But I caught a stickler in this argument today: Romney has frequently used the name Staples (office supply store chain) as an example when he is defending his chops as a job creator in this country. But Staples was purchased by Bain Capital, it was after 1999, when Romney claims he was no longer involved with the company. He only took a leave of absence when he left Bain to run the Olympics. There is evidence that he was involved-attending board meetings and signing off on documents. I am watching his interview with NBC right now, and he seems nothing but sleazy. And he also claimed that he should be allowed to have it both ways-he said he should get credit for creating jobs with Bain even after he “left” there in 1999 because he helped start the company and get it going. Grrrrrrrrrrrr. Is he running for “Sleazeball in Chief.” He also seems to want to have it both ways on his visit to the NAACP convention this week; “I’m a great white guy for deigning to attend this black meeting,” but then when he visits his wealthy white donors later ON THE SAME DAY, he accuses the black folks of only wanting free stuff from the government. The man needs to decide who he is, and be that.

There is a commercial gnawing at me. It is a commercial for Men’s Wearhouse about donating an old suit, get 50% off your next purchase and the old suit will be donated to a man trying to get back into the workforce-a noble effort in this time when so many are out of work. I’ve been hearing the commercial all week but didn’t actually stop to “see” it until today. At the beginning it shows a group of buffed up, shirtless white guys on a corner with placards advertising…something (the writings on the placards are not shown.) These fashionistas are wearing ties over their muscled chests-nice touch. But the commercial ends with someone fitting two “out of work” guys. One is black and one is Hispanic. Does anyone but me see the message here?

Sorry folks. Nothing has been funny to me this week. But much has been absurd.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

It’s a Conspiracy, And I Can Prove It!

 
Back to my questions format. It’s been awhile, but there are so many things to question right now. What an eventful week-President Obama’s health care bill was declared constitutional by a conservative chief justice. And I’ve waited til now to comment on this. I’ve actually tried to give myself a bit of a political news hiatus, but like any addict-it keeps DRAGGING ME BACK IN!!!*** I’m almost amused by the people who keep insisting that they don’t want to see their hard earned money paying for people who are out of work or otherwise can’t afford insurance. Some of these people who can’t buy their own insurance may work for a small business that can’t afford to provide insurance for all its workers. I ride the bus in the morning with a woman who works for a doctor’s office; she gets no healthcare, no sick days, no vacation time-no benefits of any kind. This is quite a dilemma for very small businesses and their employees. If she or one of her children get sick, they would have no choice but to go to an emergency room, where they cannot be legally turned away. But the people who must use the emergency room as a primary care physician do not always get the best of care. They are sometimes given something for pain and told to go see a specialist. And the truth is, we are already paying for those people in higher medical care costs, and higher insurance and drug costs. I do compare it to government mandates to buy auto insurance. Someone challenged the validity of this position in a conversation on the day of the Supreme Court ruling by saying that driving is a choice, and therefore the auto insurance mandate does not apply to everyone. But someone who chooses not to drive can still be walking down the street and be hit by an uninsured motorist, and have to pay their own medical expenses. The thing I’m not sure that people think about is that everyone knows someone who has been hit by an uninsured motorist, has had to file on their own insurance, and then the victim of the uninsured motorist saw his/her premiums rise, or their policy get cancelled because of an accident that was not even their fault. We all pay higher premiums for drivers who do not buy auto insurance, but that same link between the cost we pay for healthcare and insurance, etc, is rather abstract and intangible. My question is, what was Chief Justice Roberts thinking when he wrote his opinion in a way that allowed it to be called a “tax?” Was he throwing the right a bone for their campaigns-a booby trap for Obama: “See, the democrats will raise your taxes!!!”

And by the way, why can’t the Obama campaign make the distinction between Mitt Romney as a “job creator” and a “wealth creator?” There is nothing wrong with the latter-it plays within a system that we have created, it makes lots of money for himself, and his investors, but it frequently does not create jobs. In fact, it frequently eliminates jobs by downsizing or sending them overseas. That is what the president needs to capitalize on (excuse the pun.) We need a job creator to create jobs in America. Not Singapore.

Next question: Once again, the people telling women what to do with their uteruses, whether before, during or after conception are still middle aged white men. Consider the law about to be passed in Mississippi this weekend, unless it is stopped by a federal judge, that will make it impossible to get an abortion in that state by forcing the only remaining abortion clinic to close, has been touted all over the media by these same kind of white men. On May 10th, Time Magazine published an article entitled “Are You Mom Enough?” The guy whose work informed the article is Dr. Bill Sears, who advocates breastfeeding a baby until the age of two, sleeping with your children, and wearing them in slings around your body wherever you go. Some of this, I have no problem with. Entire clans traditionally slept together in one room-but do working mothers need anything else to feel guilty about?

When hominids first dropped out of trees and began to walk upright across the African savannas, did they worry much about how many ounces of water they drank a day? Or did they drink when they could find it, and be very grateful for every sip before being chased away by a predator looking to feast on their meat?

Speaking of eating, I am very concerned about the unnatural foods we put into our bodies. I am a firm believer that the closer your food is to where and how it originally looked is, the better it is for you. So imagine my shock when we recently had a breakfast at work for someone who was leaving, and the breakfast included biscuits and gravy from a large fast food chain. There was provided something to put on the biscuits called “honey sauce.” I wondered what that could be, so I looked at the ingredients: honey, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, water, natural and artificial flavor.Are you kidding me??? Why not just honey? More proof of just how powerful the farm lobby is in this country, and the power of farm subsidies for corn farmers. I promise you, though I won’t share the name of the business with you here, I will never eat anything from there again.

And again-I heard that some group that calls themselves something like “A Bunch of Mothers” is boycotting Oreo because they put out a rainbow filling in honor of gay pride month. To them I say, good. Your kids don’t need to eat Oreos anyway-they are already overfed, under-active, and malnourished. Do they really need to eat chocolate cookies full of something called “edible oil” and sugar—or is it HFCS (high fructose corn syrup?)

I recently saw a commercial for a mechanic’s technical school called Universal Technical Institute. I couldn’t help thinking that I would never want to have a degree from a place whose initials are an abbreviation for “Urinary Tract Infection.” Can you imagine the conversation? “I graduated from UTI.” “Really? Graduated from what to what?” On that same note, not long ago I saw an ad in a magazine for tampons that come in a resealable package. I get it, I really do. But I shuddered at the thought of putting one away for future reuse. That will definitely get you a degree from UTI, won’t it?

Lastly, a couple more political comments/questions. We’ve been hearing alot lately about the so called “Fast and Furious” program devised by the ATF to track the movements of guns sold in the US. Now the republicans in congress who wear aluminum foil on their heads to keep the aliens from exercising mind control have devised a conspiracy in which the Obama administration planned the whole botched program in order to prove that the ready availability of guns cause mayhem and murder in order to take away the Second Amendment right of American citizens to bear arms. Really? Sigh…..Really? On January 8, 2011 Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, along with nineteen other people at a grocery store in Tuscon, AZ. She survived, but four others did not, including a child who was born on 9-11. There was some talk that after an event like that, perhaps the government should look into banning the 34 bullet clip that the gunman was able to buy (NO ONE EVER, EVEN AFTER THAT, MENTIONED ELIMINATING GUN RIGHTS, JUST CERTAIN TYPES OF AMMUNITION) in order to mow down that many people that quickly. No legislation was ever introduced-it was just the media talking. So now the Justice Department and the ATF are colluding to take away our guns based on the fact that 200 Mexicans have died from our weapons being bought in the US, transported to Mexico and used in their drug wars? Congressman Issa, I really thought you were smarter than that.

I can think of several times historically that the press has been used by the government or a corporation in order to further a program that they wish to pursue. The most recent was the use of Judith Miller of the New York Times to push the notion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The press was also used to discredit Jane Fonda, Ralph Nader and Rachel Carson. But now, in 2012, when we know what a terrible waste of time, treasure and human capital the war on drugs has been, when we have now had at least three presidents who admit to having used drugs in their youth, suddenly the press is telling tales of young men being made violent by pot!!! They are suggesting that Trayvon Martin, the seventeen year old who was shot by a neighborhood watchman, had pot in his system when he allegedly ‘attacked’ the man who shot him. When the Florida cannibal incident occurred they said at first it was the fake THC in the new drug called “bath salts,” but this week they said it was not bath salts but marijuana in his system when he attacked a homeless man and chewed off the man’s face, and was ultimately shot by police. Speaking as a child of the seventies (wink, wink) either they are buying pot that is dusted with something else, or this is one of those planted stories to justify the continuing drug war and the president’s breaking of his promise to stop prosecuting people for possessing small amounts of pot, but in experience, and that of most people I know who have ever tried pot, it makes one mellow, not violent. Maybe hungry. Maybe a little horny. But not violent. So my last question for the day is: Is the press colluding with the government again on this one? Why?
***Al Pacino in the movie “Godfather Part III,” 1990

Sunday, June 17, 2012

But I Was So Much Older Then…***

 
When I was a pre-adolescent, and member of a large Baptist church, my sisters and I would talk amongst ourselves about the conversations we constantly heard around us with elderly members, and how we would never allow ourselves to become the kind of old people who sat around and talked about our aches and pains and medications, and how much it can hurt to get older. And when I started this blog in 2009, I intended it to be about politics and religion-not about life in general, not about dogs and music, and not about getting older. But sometimes life gets in the way, and plans change. This year I will turn 55. That number sounds daunting to me-more than 50 did! It struck me this week that people who were born in the same decade I was are now turning 60. I just got a new knee in March. Now, I can say that my surgeon told me was not used to saying to a person “as young as you,” that I needed a new knee. That helped some, but there is still the looming prospect of 55 and then 60 that take my breath away. 
 
I talk to alot of people on the phone in my work. Sometimes I hear a woman’s voice, and think she must be rather “old,” and then I find out that she was born around the same time I was. At what point do our voices begin to sound “old?” But I also spoke to a woman the other day who was born the same year as my mother, and she sounded considerably older than my mother. Is that perhaps because this woman had health issues that aged her, or do I not see my mother as old as she is? Her voice is my mother’s voice, no matter what? It’s hard to say. Now when my girlfriends and I get together, there is always some time spent talking about our medications, our pain, the slowing of the motility of our guts and the vaporous indignities that creates. 
 
Not many of my high school classmates have died, but a few have. But many have had some terrible health problems-diabetes, heart and lung problems, others have had joint replacements or have arthritis and need new joints. Most have silver hair, or much less hair than we remember. Someone recently posted photos from a class get-together, and one of my good friends asked us when these other people got so old. I felt differently-I still see the people as I remember them from “then.” I still feel as I did “then,” except better in some ways. Yes, I inherited my dad’s jowls, which make my mouth look thin and frowny. I have some turkey neck. My hair too, is salt and pepper and the hairline keeps moving backward. I didn’t know that was supposed to happen to girls. My lashes and brows are getting thinner. Of course, my hair has been graying since my 30s, but I covered it up for years. Yes,  I have joint problems, but on the one hand, I have also reached a point where I don’t much care what other people think about what I do or say. I once weighed 300 pounds, and was always a chubby teen, and as a result of having lost over 100 pounds, and the ever present pull down of gravity, I have ugly thighs and bat wing arms. But I wear shorts, and sleeveless tops, and if someone has a problem with that, it is their problem. There was a time that I would never, ever go without sleeves because I knew people would be looking at my arms. Now would be a good time for me to go and try to make it on Broadway or in Hollywood, as I always dreamed of doing when I was younger, because I have lost the self-consciousness that made me too afraid to take that plunge when I was young enough to be (maybe) successful. Thank you, Kathy Bates and Roseann for showing me that heavy women could be successful in performing arts!*** I wish your fame had come in the mid-1970’s.
 
This is the hard part of reaching “a certain age.” It is the time that we spend too much time looking back rather than ahead. We think of the love we rejected, the job we turned down, the comments we made and the fights we never apologized for, and there is regret. My first marriage broke up in 1995, and it took many years for me to stop feeling like a failure. Having been raised in the church, I’d been taught, “In order to get a divorce, you must consider divorce an option.” So for 11 years, my first husband and I did not consider it an option, and we believed we had chosen rather to work through our problems. I didn’t consider him leaving me for another woman an option either, but that was something I was not in charge of, and  another story altogether. Back then, I used to say that the only thing I feared was dying with regrets. But now regrets are ever-present. I regret that I was too afraid of failing to go after what I believed my career would be. I regret that I didn’t have children, though I adore my stepsons, and their children. But if for some reason my husband and I were  no longer be married, I would be the one left alone because there is no blood between us. My husband’s side of the family would be afraid that keeping a relationship with me would be uncomfortable for my husband-I get that. I regret the cost to my health of having grown so large when I was young enough to make my middle years super healthy. I regret many times that I’ve said something hurtful or angry. Words cannot be taken back, and sometimes in the things I’ve allowed to make me say ugly things, I turned out to be in the wrong.  I regret that I haven’t been more active in fighting either for or against the things that are important to me. I’ve signed lots of petitions, I’ve given money when I’ve had it. But there are so many things I could have done that I didn’t-I’ve never got involved in politics at the precinct level, which could have led  to a greater ability to make a real difference. 
 
More than personal regrets, I look at the aged among us, and wonder if our wonderful, amazing advances in medicine are doing people any great favors by keeping people alive so much longer. Yes, some of the people being kept alive have the will and resources to make their “golden” years truly golden; they are the exception, not the rule. But there are aspects of aging that are beyond our ability to control. My father will turn 73 this year, and is in intractable, unfixable pain. The drugs they give him to control the pain have terrible side effects, and make him not want to take them. This is true of many drugs that allow our lives to be lengthened-it is not the job of medicine to address quality of life issues. The elderly miss their friends who have died, and when they outlive their children they never recover-even if the children were elderly when they died. We now have new guidelines about preventive health measures for the elderly-no colonoscopies without cause for people over 80, limiting pelvic exams for women over 50, etc. My mother finds this appalling. And while I see the point of looking at numbers and reducing the number of tests run brings the cost of medicine down, I also see her point-preventive care catches cancers earlier and saves money too. But which is the right answer? I’m guessing that the people who write these guidelines didn’t ask anyone over 80 how they felt about them. Many of them tell me that they would not object to not being kept alive simply for the sake of being kept alive. Before my father’s health began to decline, my mother used to visit  nursing homes with her friend every Monday, and she told me over and over that many of the residents felt that they didn’t see any real reason to be alive anymore. Sadly, sometimes it hurts to be old. 
 
In the past the word “crone” was not a pejorative. But now it is. We don’t value the old for their wisdom, and the lessons they learned in their younger years. I look at my stepsons, nieces and nephews (who are all just about grown now, and some have children of their own) and wonder why they don’t see how similar my life was  to what they are going through-I could save them so much pain. But I am old enough to know the truth-my mother felt the same way about her 5 children, and could not keep us from the necessity of learning the lessons on our own. My friends and I have been where the kids are now, and can look back and see where we screwed up, but we don’t get do-overs, and the kids don’t want to believe that choices and mistakes are repeated generation to generation. That may be the cruelest cut of all. 
 

***Song “My Back Pages,” Bob Dylan, 1964
Kathy Bates, actor from such movies as “Fried Green Tomatoes,” and the recently cancelled TV series, “Harry’s Law”
Roseann (Barr) comedian, actor, political activist

Friday, April 13, 2012

Incense and Peppermints*

 
Last year I remember a post in which I talked about how early the honeysuckle bloomed in the field behind our apartment complex, and how languid the smell made me feel. This year we had almost no winter, and the weather has been very warm, we’ve also had enough rain that our region of Texas has been lifted officially out of its drought. The honeysuckle is particularly thick this year-more so than last. When Abigail and I walk back there in the evening, the fragrance makes me wish I were a better poet. There is something about the words of a poet that do more justice to that perfume than a blogger or essayist. Although I think I agree with C.S. Lewis when he said, “I am so coarse, the things the poets see are obstinately invisible to me. For twenty years I’ve stared my level best to see if evening, any evening, would suggest a patient etherized upon a table. In vain. I’m just not able.” I’ve thought the smell could be described as something like wine, but it is really heavier-more like a liqueur. When the creek behind all that vegetation is full, and humidity and gnats are abundant, it sometimes reminds me of a languid, Gothic movie set in the bayous of Louisiana, where there is almost always Voodoo afoot, and willows and cypress knees give a foreboding look to set the mood of the story! But I can’t even take that idea and make it into a poem.

I’ve considered going out and taking pictures of these bushes, heavy with flowers, they are certainly beautiful, but that would not be my words expressing their beauty. In viewing, they speak for themselves, only without the incense, which makes the sensuality of the experience possible. This afternoon as we walked, the bushes were covered with a plethora of black and orange butterflies. They weren’t monarchs, but they had the same coloring. Butterflies on a bush would hint that the perfume attracted them, wouldn’t they? But I didn’t have my camera, and still would not feel I had the power or skill to convey what that vision made me feel. On the walk back, instead of the numerous black and orange butterflies, I saw one very large, solid black one that really caught my eye. He (or she) was alone. It made me sad about the stories I’ve read, more than once, including once this very week, about how black dogs and cats living at shelters have a harder time getting adopted. I thought of Ralph Ellison’s metaphor in “The Invisible Man” in which the character Kimbro teaches the narrator that in order to make white paint really bright, add a drop of black paint.  How is it that great writers are able to explain the connectedness of all things in ways that can  stay with us in such powerful ways? It was probably thirty years ago when I took American Literature classes in college, and that one point from that book still resonates with me. I have at least three teachers, one high school and two college, to whom I am more grateful for the reactions I have to great writing than I could ever express.  Just thinking about them on this warm humid evening, when my walk takes me back to that place of the liqueur perfume, and it makes me want to run to the local animal shelter and adopt all the black dogs.

*Song title by band Strawberry Alarm Clock1966 
Collected Poems of C.S. Lewis, “A Confession”
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot, 1920
“The Invisible Man,” novel, Ralph Ellison 1952

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I’ve Been Proven Right

 
My blog posts frequently try to use humor to make some points, and I often use lists of things that amuse, bemuse or befuddle me. There have been lots of those things since my lasts posts, but they all seem so shallow compared to the absolutely disgusting nature of the battle for the republican party nomination this year. I mean, what does it matter, in the big picture, that I was saddened to realize that I have a GPS that I never need? I go so few places that I seldom go anywhere that I don’t know how to get to.

I was planning to ask why we in the United States need all those British chefs coming over here and cursing at us in order to make our restaurants successful? We are a nation of cookie cutter chain restaurants-we don’t, as a rule, give a shit what food tastes like-we just want it to be cheap and plentiful. Are the “Brits Behaving Badly” in our restaurants simply getting us back for winning the revolution and overthrowing their monarchy here?

I was also taken aback when I noticed on the wrapper of a Hershey bar that I bought-it was made in Mexico! What about Hershey, Pennsylvania-the city of chocolate streets and chocolate sauna treatments? I couldn’t finish the bar once I saw that. Is there no job in this country that is too sacred to outsource to another country?

But all that has come crashing down as I’ve watched the republicans desperately claw for a party nomination that will not matter to them one whit come November 6 or January 20 of 2013. President Obama gets mixed marks from me, but all-in-all, I think he’s done a good job, especially considering what he’s been up against.

What frightens me is that there are about ten or twelve million people who will vote for one of these three men, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney. I have never in my life seen such a rag-tag collection of liars and scoundrels-but they are exactly what the right has been asking for. Not in the sense of, “Please sir, I want some more,” but in the sense of “Aright, you, you asked for it, now you’re gonna get it!” In 2009 and 2010, I watched many stories about tea party gatherings across the country. My mother participated in some where she lives.They were mostly women, bad spellers, upper middle-aged, fat and white. I said “mostly,” not all, so please don’t say that I’m painting them all with a broad brush and saying that all tea party activists are one way or another. I’m a firm believer that an engaged, informed electorate is crucial to having a country governed by people who are worthy of their titles. But these folks were not informed; they watch only Fox News, which does not inform as much as it inflames. Fox is known for telling its viewers not to watch any other channels because “they won’t tell you the truth like we do.” Which is a crock-dictated by Fox’s fear that their viewers will become informed and abandon them for their lack of truth or balance. No one channel tells the whole truth, and one MUST get one’s news from more than one source, then sift through the blather to find the truth for ones self. This is why Fox viewers consistently demonstrate in studies that they are dramatically more uninformed about the real news of the world than viewers of any other news service.

All that aside, and what may appear to be an ADD rabbit chase, I have said for years, even when I was a practicing, though doubting Christian, that the bible (and pretty much all other holy books) were written by men in an effort to keep women in “our places.” Ever since the republican victories in 2010, I have been proven right. Homosexuals are also among those whom religion has been meant to keep under control, and I’ve written about gay rights before; this is about a war on women. Since 2010, an election that was purportedly about the economy and what a bad job President Obama has done in restoring jobs to this country, all these newly empowered republicans have done is intensify its war on women and gays. Utterly dishonest attacks on Planned Parenthood, designed to offer low cost health services to low income women, has been under increasing attack,and is being portrayed in the media as a giant abortion machine, though abortion is only about 3% of Planned Parenthood’s activities, and it gets very little funding from the federal government. Publicly funded media is also under attack and threat of defunding, though the truth, once again, is that NPR and other such organizations get very little money from the federal government. It is being attacked because it is “liberal.” I know this because my mother says so-though I have personally invited her to watch any program or news show on PBS and point out anything they say that is “liberal.” She refuses-back to the Fox dictum not to watch any other channels because they don’t tell the truth as Fox does.

Now we have a big argument going on about whether or not insurance companies, not churches, should provide coverage for contraception to women who work for, again, not churches, but institutions owned by churches, such as universities and hospitals. I would venture to say that not every secretary at Notre Dame University is Catholic, and insurance companies should not be denying health care of any kind to women of any kind. This is not a First Amendment argument, though it is being promoted as such by the white men who wish to force their beliefs on every woman. Whatever happened to your god being a personal god who wants a personal relationship with believers? Whatever happened to human free will to choose to follow the dictates of your faith or not? Whatever happened to the belief that morality can’t be legislated at all, particularly to unbelievers. Child birth is a health care decision, the United States in 2010 ranked fortieth in the world in maternal death rates (women who die within 42 days after giving birth.) So deciding to have a baby can be a life and death decision. We also have an economy in which having two parents working is no longer a “choice,” it has now become a necessity in many cases to have two incomes. Birth control is a health care choice, and not simply a narcissistic way for a woman to have time to “find herself,” through a career. It has been nearly fifty years since the advent of the pill, and people have used some kind of prophylactic or another for hundreds of years. But suddenly, in this war on women, birth control, and forty years after Roe vs. Wade, a woman’s right to choose are in the forefront again. AGAIN!!! Get used to it, conservatives, this has already been decided-women can choose to prevent pregnancy, and if she chooses to, can end a pregnancy.

I would like to note that the very definition of conservative means keeping things as they have always been, and this is a highly unrealistic way of looking at the world. A conservative friend of mine once said to me, with great angst, the Obama wanted to “change America!!!” I’m fairly sure I know what this fundamentalist, tea party, deep South conservative really meant, and the advance of the rights of women is included in my assumption. I remember another conversation with her in which she vehemently criticized a woman who had dropped off her baby at a “Safe Baby” site. She said, “If you can’t take care of a child, you shouldn’t bring a child into the world.” Really? This was a child that was not aborted. Parents were probably not using birth control, which now social conservatives are saying is a bad thing. So when the child is born in these cases, who takes care of it? There was, as is so often the case with these conservative positions, no logic to the argument whatsoever. But the greater point is that there is nothing in the world that doesn’t change. I must add, that I was in a conversation with a conservative friend who is a woman last night, and she said that she disagrees with her party on these issues, so, again, I can’t paint all conservative women with a broad brush. There was also the news story of the wife of a conservative legislator in Virginia, where a law was passed through their legislature and then pulled, forcing any woman who wanted an abortion to undergo a vaginal probe, who denied her husband sex because of his involvement in this legislation. Go Lysistrata!**

Women, I must add, have become quite angry in the last couple of weeks, about just how far these overwhelmingly white, middle aged males are willing to go to put the proverbial thumbscrews to women’s rights. Even conservative women, by and large, have benefited from the advances produced by the women’s movement from the 1960’s and 70’s. And over, and over and over again, studies prove that when women can plan the timing of their pregnancies and the size of their families, the children they have, the women, and the whole world benefits from it. Education and birth control have made, at least in part, the world a better place. But for at least one of the men currently running for president, that is the problem. He calls our president a “snob,” because he wants every American to have the opportunity to go to college, and when people go to college they come out liberal. There is no way to type how funny I find that whole line of thought, especially when this man has three degrees, including an MBA and a law degree. So I guess higher education doesn’t always turn one liberal. Or even smart.

The last point I’d like to make here is that the very use of social issues, whether it is gay rights or women’s rights, or the liberality of Hollywood-whichever old red-herring  is used to stir up the social conservative base, this is always an act of desperation from the right. It has worked for them in the past, but maybe the anger among conservative women will break that cycle this time. I don’t care to hear one more word about what Mitt Romney thinks about the federal bailout of the auto industry in 2008. I would like to know what he thinks of the bailout of Chrysler in 1980, under a republican president. The result is the same-Chrysler came through its crisis, became profitable again (for a time) and paid back the money to the government, with interest. But why doesn’t anyone ask Romney about this? There seems to be no one who is willing to call them on this hypocrisy. But the desperation in the move away from talking about the economy and focusing on the “culture wars” is obvious: they can’t get Obama on national security issues-he has won that battle, often using the same methods that liberals hated in President Bush. The economy is getting better, in part because of decisions made by Obama, and in part because these cycles occur naturally and economies routinely move up and down. The right has nothing on which to win against Obama, and so they convince the base that he is a foreign born Muslim socialist, who will force all white people to abort their babies, and will take all the surviving children and send them to re-education camps to turn them into gay socialist Muslim terrorists.

***Lysistrata is an ancient Greek play, written by Aristophanes, in which the women of Athens deny sex to their husbands until they cease fighting a war.  This same tactic was recently used by women in Liberia successfully. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Where Does All the Poo Go?

 
As a dog lover, and dog owner, I am trapped in a huge conundrum regarding picking up after Abigail when she “does her business.” I have the plastic bags, and I usually do pick up after her. Sometimes she goes into places that make it impossible for me to “do the responsible thing.” There are many dogs in our apartment complex, and some do and some don’t. We have a couple of neighbors who behave like Rumpelstiltskin when they see dog droppings on the ground. One threatens to call the police every time, and blames every illness on dog droppings left to collect bacteria, which then becomes airborne and flies into the noses of every old person and small child to make them sick. I do realize that solid waste can be full of bacteria, and there are times that exposure could make one sick. I’m not sure if poo in the grass can produce flying spores to infect people walking on the sidewalk, but I try to be responsible, and I try to smile and nod just enough to keep these two neighbors from ripping themselves in half. I did recently have the experience of going out to a big hill on our property with my 5-year old granddaughter. She wanted to roll down the hill, and me to roll with her. It was loads of fun-making me feel dizzy, just like spinning when I was her age. Then she moved over to another section, and laid down to roll, and I noticed that if she had rolled there, we would have had an unhappy walk back home. Game over-I don’t want to play in poo. So I started picking up at least one other pile each time I picked up one of Abigail’s. But I also thought about all the animals and humans who have lived since the beginning of life on earth. There were no water treatment plants, there were no toilets or landfills for the kitty litter. We simply expelled our liquid and solid waste, and let nature take it’s course. Bacteria are part of that process. So are snails, which I’ve observed making use of many of those piles of poo, especially after a heavy rain. It doesn’t just sit there making people sick, it gets broken down and reused by “Mother Earth,” and when she takes care of things, she makes it useful again. We spend all of our days walking on reclaimed poo and evaporated urine. Every living thing, including microscopic organisms produce waste after they take in nutrition. It isn’t something to be afraid of, or to snicker at. It is part of life. I still don’t want to play in it, or have my grandchildren play wear it home on their clothes.

There is a great deal of road construction going on in my neighborhood. I’ve commented on this before, but as I pass by the construction areas I notice giant tanks of something called “non-potable water.” I looked this up, though I had an idea what it was before I Googled it. It is water from the water treatment plant (read: sewage) that is not considered drinkable, but can be sprayed onto construction areas as needed. Now-a quick lesson what is known as “the hydrologic cycle.” That undrinkable sewer water gets sprayed on work areas, it evaporates, goes through the cycle, falls as rain into our water sources, gets used again by the people who provide our drinking water. It’s all the same water. And it’s still the same struggle for me about whether to be a zealous poo picker-upper.

I do think the sheer numbers of living creatures converting energy  and eliminating its waste is the crux of the problem. I think about our local dog park and all the dogs running and playing-and urinating there. If owners weren’t picking  up after their dogs, it would become a giant sewage swamp. I read an article by a scientist recently that suggested earth needs to lose at least one third of its population in order to be sustainable. I’m sure that number involved waste products in its equation. So, I’ll keep picking up when I can-and when she goes where I can’t get it, well, no one will step on it there either. But the bigger question still remains. Sigh. Sometimes all we get are questions. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

YeeeeeeHaaaawwwwww!!! Chicken Feet!

 
This weekend marks the beginning of the one-hundred-sixteenth Fort Worth Live Stock Show and Rodeo. For people from Fort Worth, that’s a big deal. It’s a fair in the middle of winter, with rides and horribly unhealthy, delicious food like funnel cakes. We get to walk through hundreds of pens and look at animals that will be auctioned at the end of the two week show. There is a rodeo, for those who enjoy such things. It brings lots of money into our local economy, and it’s a throw back to when the country, and largely, states such as Texas, were driven by an agricultural economy. When I was a teenager, it was a much cheaper date than going to the theme park, and it was fun. I was very different as a teenager than I am now. Not only in that gravity has pulled all my body parts downward, but in the way I look at the world. I was a fundamentalist, anti-evolution believer who has since majored in science in college, and left those religious roots behind. It hasn’t been too many years since evolutionary biology found that the birds we know are the descendants of some of the more fearsome dinosaur/raptors. My mother, one sister and Mom’s brother used to take her mother to the Stock Show Rodeo every year until she died in 1998, and they have continued to go to the rodeo every year until this one-2012. I lived in Illinois from 2000-2008, and Mom took us to the rodeo with her in 2009. My husband had never seen a rodeo, so she thought he would enjoy it. We did enjoy it, though neither of us could see ourselves going every year. But I was struck by something very interesting, the feet of all the varieties of chickens and roosters. They did exactly look like the feet of dinosaurs. It was truly amazing to me how we could see the history of these birds in how they look today.

I also had another of those “Aha!” moments while listening to the news recently, the conversation being about jobs and our economy. It was brought up how many jobs are being replaced by technology. This is a fear that I remember hearing all the time when I was growing up, and it is apparently true. And becoming truer. And completely out of left field, I was tackled by and unexpected thought-this is another reason to reduce our population. My argument for having fewer children usually has to do with depletion of resources. But I also think it is fair to consider that the children we are bringing into the world may not be able to support themselves because too many jobs are being replaced by either computers or robots, which are cheaper and don’t require health insurance, vacation pay, or retirement pensions. No one wants to bring a child into the world only to starve, and the more people on earth, the greater stress on natural resources. And now, the fewer jobs available to support themselves and their families.

I try to be aware of manners. I used to love reading books by “Miss Manners,” and one of her repeated premises in her books was that the most important thing about manners isn’t knowing which fork to use (furthest to the left goes first) but being aware of how my behavior makes other people feel. Once we are comfortable enough with each other, and have a feeling of trust, I can drop that wall and talk about things on which I know we disagree…politics, religion, what season is best, sports teams, music, whatever. But when two people meet for the first time, the old saw “Never discuss politics or religion with coworkers or people you don’t know well.” The importance of these admonitions came full blown to me on New Year’s Day, when we were unexpectedly sharing a gathering with a couple we had only met once before. Before the day was over, the female half of that other couple had offended us on breaking these all important rules of etiquette. First, when the black coach of a certain football team was shown on screen, her male friend commented that he didn’t think this man was a good coach. “She” said, “Oh, I guess they were just filling their black ratio.” Now why would any reasonably intelligent person believe that remark was okay? Ever?! Then, in a discussion about a job her son had lost due to a freeze on federal hiring. Both of them said together, “We can blame Obama for that.” Now, they said it as if they assumed that everyone in the room agreed, which they could not possibly have known. And for that reason alone, such a comment should never have been made. But since if anyone reads this post, I’m assuming we have a level of trust and I can feel free to speak-the right has spent 2011 accusing government workers of being the giant leaches that have pushed out economy to the brink of the great abyss, why would they complain? Oh yeahhhhhhh, because trimming the size of government in this case affected one of theemmmmmmmm. Lets just leave politics and religion out of the conversation when with people we don’t know well. But in the meantime, your hangnail is not Obama’s fault.

Every now and then I have to chew some tablets created to help with heartburn. Now it almost nauseates me to use the brand that makes those awful commercials with people being slapped in the face by their food. I’m amazed that the FCC hasn’t shut those commercials down for their very phallic nature; there is one with a woman eating a corn dog that suddenly starts slapping her in the face-the message seems very clear. One is ribs-come on-am I the only one who’s noticed this? ?e’s not being slapped by a whole rack of ribs; just one rib. Again with the phallic symbol. Uh-oh-what if it is just in my head.

The other day I was buying some groceries, and I found myself inexplicably drawn to the cosmetics section. I picked up a lip gloss named “Forbidden.” The rebel voice in my head said, “Sez who?” I was determined to buy that lip gloss just to show whoever put it there that I was not to be forbidden. But in the end, I couldn’t.

 
 
 

A Personal Favorite-I Never Stop Missing Them!

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In Memoriam: February 26, 2009

 
Not long ago I commented to my sister that if there was one thing spiritual I could believe in, I would want it to be reincarnation. Wouldn’t it be great do have “do-overs?” She replied, profoundly I thought, with the first law of thermodynamics: Matter cannot be created or destroyed. I was surprised, but this comforted me. We may not know exactly what happens when we die, but we do go on, albeit in another form.

I was also recently looking at a picture of my two beloved dogs, Maddie the labrador and Nestor the border collie who died in 2007, and it struck me how much Maddie had aged in the last two years. There was so much more white on her muzzle and tummy, and she was definitely slowing down and having a harder time recovering after a walk. I remembered the times that the three of us used to take walks in the woods down by the Sangamon River. I would let them off the leashes, and they would both run straight for the water. Nestor was a wader, so he wouldn’t stay in the water long before he would come back to me and try to start a game of chase through the woods. Maddie loved swimming, and would stay in the water for a long time. Then she would get out and start on a solitary exploration, taking in every smell from every creature who had walked those woods before us. She would wander through the tall grass so that I would only be able to see the ridge of her back above it. She was untiring, and I would usually have to go track her down when it was time to go. She would resist, but she knew there were treats awaiting when we got home. Besides, riding in the car was another of her favorite things.

Lately those car rides seemed to be the only pleasure she had left. This past Saturday I got a bit of a shock when I stroked her back and could feel her spine. Her hip bones were becoming very visible as her appetite was declining recently. I’d had her at the vet a month or so ago, and he said she was anemic. He gave me some medicine, but said that labs her age often simply lost the ability to make red blood cells. He told me to let her eat anything at all she wanted-anyhing. I bought some liver and boiled it, then boiled rice in the same water. She loved it, but that didn’t last long and her fatigue and lack of appetite came back. 

Last Sunday I took her on a walk down some local trails, and before we hit the two mile mark she was panting and several feet behind me. She had never been behind me before. When we got home she sprawled in the floor and slept the rest of the day. After that I tried for the next two days to get her to eat something…anything. Monday and Tuesday the only thing I could get her to eat was treats. She turned her nose up at bacon and extra sharp cheddar. Things I never knew a dog would ever refuse. I worried that I would come home from work and find her dead, but I didn’t. But Wednesday when I got home she could barely lift her head, and all she would do is take small sips of water. I knew that it was time to let her go. I called the people I knew would understand how this moment feels, and we cried together. I took my pillow and blanket and got in the floor with her overnight. She could still occasionally manage a thump of her tail on the floor.

She could barely get into the car for that ride this morning, and didn’t lift her head to smell the air. The vet said very little. He knew I knew it was time to let her go. It took only seconds for her to go to sleep. Now I am home. My husband is at work, and there is no one at my feet, looking longingly at me to request a pet. Her bowls have been picked up. The house feels very empty. But I am glad her suffering is over. I don’t know if I waited longer than I should have, but whatever form her matter has now become, I hope it involves rivers and woods.

Several In One Bite (No, I’m not going to repost 5 years of blog posts!)

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Good Movement Gone Bad

 
Vonnie Shallenberger/ 14 November 2009

I hope none of my liberal friends read this. Many years ago I was working third shift, and occasionally would turn on the TV overnight and watch Rush Limbaugh. I was taught that it helps to fight an enemy if you know his position, so I gave him a shot. One night he got it right. Of course he ruined it later on in the same show, and he hasn’t come close since, but that night in 1993, he said something that I agreed with, and have come to agree with more and more since.

The self esteem movement started out with great intentions. Most social movements do. But then they go too far and lose the truth of the initial premise. I was on the side of the attempt to make children, especially minority and poor children, feel better about themselves. I still am. But the movement lost its soul when it went from trying to help children feel as if they are as good as other people, to being a way of giving children the notion that they are awesome and that the rules set by our civil society do not apply to them. Whether it is simply because children aren’t able to process the information fed to them, or if parents haven’t been taught where the boundaries lie in this message, I don’t know. But it seems to have led to a generation of spoiled, narcissistic young people bent on ruling the world on their terms.

A couple of examples I have personally experienced:

1. A former teacher who is a friend of my family told the story of having corrected a young student in his classroom. This story would not have meant much to me except that the student involved grew up to become Miss America after she graduated. The mother of this student came to visit him, and scolded him for “damaging her self-esteem.” This man responded with, “Madam, nothing could damage your daughter’s self-esteem.” He was not teaching in that school for long after that.

2. I was supervising a third shift call center. I was over three males and one female. The female tended to order everyone around. So one night she gave me an order, and I said, “Please and thank you!” She proclaimed that she did not say please. Please is a begging word and she does not beg. I said, “No, please is a polite word.” She said, “I asked nicely-I don’t need to say please.”

I think where the movement went wrong is in allowing “as good as” to be interpreted as ‘better than,’ which has lead to the crass notion that everything one feels should be aired because every feeling is valid. This has led to a loss of concern for how others feel, a loss of manners, empathy and decorum, and a belief in one’s self that just may not be supportable by the facts. Limbaugh’s remark was that, “Self esteem should be based on something.” I agree-children need to be taught that they are just as good as anyone else. They are neither inferior nor superior to anyone else. Everyone deserves respect-rich, poor, black white, EVERYONE. Every person has a gift. That gift should be encouraged, and children should also be encouraged to explore their interests and discover that gift. But no one can pick a gift-Dad can’t expect Junior to be great baseball player just because Dad was at that age. But the idea that every child should consider him or herself King or Queen of the World is false and dangerous. I recently heard a psychologist talking about self esteem when he was presented with the idea that perhaps serial killers have low self esteem. He said that most serial killers are just the opposite- they tend to be narcissists who believe that the world is not treating them as they deserve. So these people have obviously not been taught that other people deserve respect, have they?

So while Rush Limbaugh may not have learned the lesson he was preaching on that fateful night in 1993, his premise was actually correct.

 

Marry Me?

 
I grew up in the south. After I was grown it became known as more “southwest,” but a local humor writer proposes the theory that the “south” is any state that seceded during the war of northern aggression, so Texas counts as the south. My mama is Baptist, and came from rural Arkansas to west Texas, then Fort Worth, where she married very young and raised her five children, four girls and then a boy. I am the oldest of those five. And a dreamer. Always a dreamer. I was going to be an actress. But I am a dreamer. I lived my life in books and movies and dreamed. I emphasize this point because being that much of a dreamer can lead to being that instead of a doer. And those dreams not coming true can lead to great disappointment in later life.

So, besides being a famous actress or writer (or a great writer who gets to star in the movie of her ‘great American novel?”) what do girls growing up in the south in the late 1960s dream of? Marriage. Being a housewife-having a husband who will take care of her financial security, while she takes care of his more personal needs- freshly pressed shirts, happy babies that know how to behave well when Daddy comes home to a delicious meal and lovely dessert. Of course, this family is the pillar of the community and active in the church. This was what every girl dreamed of and planned for. The big wedding with lots of flowers and bridesmaids and the perfect, happy life after. The girls who didn’t dream of this perfect family life got ‘talked about.’ No one wanted to undress next to them in P.E. The ones who didn’t turn out to be gay were simply thought to have something wrong with them that prevented them from meeting that expectation that everyone held to be the natural progression of our lives. I can remember once going to a movie alone; something I still don’t mind doing, and my maternal grandmother saying, “Why, don’t you have a boyfriend to take you to the movie?”

In this day of ‘social networking sites,’ I have been privileged to discover that this dream happened for some of the girls I dreamed with through our high school graduation in 1975. For many of us, though, it didn’t happen quite that way. For me it certainly didn’t. Many of us, including me, greater happiness came the second time around. Some have had to try more than that-some have not found that ‘soul mate’ who can provide the realization of all those dreams.

Now many of us have daughters, and some have granddaughters. What will they dream about? I hope that we are a little further removed from the ancient writings that have led so many of us to that grave disappointment in life that the young girls growing up now will not believe themselves to be lacking in any way if they simply decide that they do not wish to follow that same path. Patterning ones’ life after the expectations of others can only lead to disappointment and disillusionment.

I had a conversation with my nephew a couple of years ago. He will be 29 in 2010, and is a very highly “evolved” young man. He has never been a serial dater, but tends to have one long, serious relationship at a time, and they typically last about 3 or 4 years. The relationship he and I were discussing ended a few weeks ago, but on this particular evening I asked him if he thought that it would end in marriage. His parents were divorced, and his response was, “You know, everyone tells me what hard work marriage is, but no one has come up with a reason that it is worth doing.” We talked about the usual reasons (apart from the moral teachings of the church, which we have both left behind) such as children that marriage is worth doing-besides being partnered with someone you love for a lifetime. He said he believed he could do that without the ceremony…the same answer applied to having children.

Nieces from another sister feel the opposite; they want to get married and have babies. So while there is hope that this won’t continue to be what defines women, it still haunts the edges of our consciousness.

When I began to question the faith I was raised with, one of the things that I noticed about the writings in the bible on wifely behavior didn’t sit well with me. Then I realized that all of them were written by men. I also noticed that men seem to get more out of marriage. I read that women are more likely to describe the relationship is unhappy, and women are more likely to file for divorce. “Of course,” I thought. Marriage was designed by men, and benefits them more-why should they want to end it? Those men spent over 6000 years telling women that they were property, and that they must submit to the authority of their husbands. Why didn’t god tell women that? It just seems suspicious to me for someone to say, “Hey, God told me you have to submit to me or else.” Had I not figured it out on my own, and someone actually told me that, I probably would have to respond with, “Yeah? He’s got my number-tell him to call me himself!”

Women live longer, and work harder to take care of themselves. Women work full time jobs and still wind up with more responsibility for taking care of the house, the kids and elderly relatives. Women have been going to college and graduate school more than men for the last several years. Women have come up with life changing inventions and scientific, mathematical advances, and have worked harder to prove that they are just as smart in math and science as their male counterparts. And yet, women earn .73 to each dollar a man makes, and women still feel inferior if they can’t find someone to marry them? It is time for this paradigm to change. I know that at least one generation after mine still has the notion that traditional marriage and family is the best life path for a woman to take. So my generation may not have been the last to hold this notion, but I do hope it is being chipped away at, and before long, we will not be defined by our ability to find a man to marry.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Post Traumatic Stress

 
 I am one of maybe three liberals in my family, so I am used to having a different view than the majority, and mostly to keeping my opinions to myself. The tyranny of the majoirty rules.

The problem that I have is when the people on that other side cite the worst and most hateful anti-Obama garbage. There is not one shred of evidence, not one, that the election was stolen. ACORN doesn’t even have that kind of power and influence-they would have had to produce 9.5 million votes in order to do that. The only reason that ACORN has become such an easy target, in my opinion, is that they are run by black people, and try to help the poor.  The whole story is just the next salvo of a group that was upset because the lies of the birther movement didn’t get rid of someone they don’t like, so that had to come up with a new lie. It disturbs me beyond comprehension or words that anyone buys it. It is the most hateful and dishonest of the Beckian-Dobbsian dystopian fantasy of diseased hordes of non-white people rushing over our borders to take our jobs and services and give nothing in return for it. I have watched and listened to both of them, and they don’t even bother to support their fearful rhetoric with facts or documentation of any sort. When Dobbs was confronted on 60 Minutes with facts about his story of Mexican illegals coming here and spreading leprosy being wrong, he just said, “If we reported it, then it’s true.” Not, “But here is the documentation we used to support the story.”  The fact of the matter is that if Americans were getting nothing from illegal immigrant labor, they would stop hiring them. But it saves these businesses money and the trouble of having to follow labor laws. An illegal who complains of illegal treatment will be at risk of being deported or arrested. And isn’t the right usually in favor of whatever helps business? The free, unregulated market?
It doesn’t bother me that to be on different sides politically from any one person or idea. But hate and irrationality are things that don’t allow a conversation to go on. There have been times that a rational presentation of ideas and facts have swayed me-I am willing to listen. It doesn’t even bother me that some are against health care reform, which seems to be a huge focus of the whole anti-Obama/Tea Party movement. And the red-herring being used by the talking heads against, not just health care, but any and everything that President Obama is for, is money to take care of illegal immigrants and provide abortions. But the argument that health care reform will provide money for illegals and abortions is moot-they have has already been clearly prohibited in the bills. So it is just more fear and smear tactics that keep those stories coming. I do wish that those who are against reform would understand, even if they don’t change their minds or positions, that there are all kinds of reasons why people may not have health care. There are humans behind those stories.

I remember a favorite professor of mine in college talking about what has to be taught to soldiers at war in order to allow them to kill is that the other side is not human. That is why there are always other names for the enemy-gook, chink, sand-nigger, towel head, etc. It dehumanizes them and helps the conscience not kick in and prevent a soldier from doing his job. But there is a huge cost-it also dehumanizes the soldier-hence the reintegration problems on returning. But the enemy at war, and those without health insurance,  are people. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, and they deserve to be respected as people.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How to be a good conversationalist

 
I am a dog person. Not one of those kinds of dog people who believe that you can’t be a dog person and like other animals. I have known a few (mostly cat people) who think you must choose one or the other. I used to have cats, and remember those days fondly-I still pet and cuddle the cats of my friends and family when I see them. But when I started being owned by dogs, it was all over. On Sunday, the New York Times Week in Review published an article called “Good Dog, Smart Dog” by Sarah Kershaw. She talked about how much we’re beginning to understand about how much dogs can learn, and just how much smarter dogs are than we ever gave them credit for. At the end, Ms. Kershaw cited a Dr. Clive D.L. Wynn, psychologist of the University of Florida who said that we should be careful about comparing dog intelligence to human intelligence; dogs can learn quite alot, but have a different way of thinking than we do.

My husband and I have had four dogs in our ten year marriage. The first was a border collie mix who was a 9-11 rescue. From the moment he and I locked eyes I became his human. His name was Nestor, and he was brilliant and intuitive, but he also had severe separation issues, presumably from his time as an orphan of the 9-11 attacks, and he became increasingly aggressive and after several biting incidents had to be put down in April of 2007. I was devastated, and still get misty eyed when I think about him.

The second dog we got was intended as a companion for Nestor. She was a lab who was already six years old when she came to live with us. She was a gentle though dominant soul, and lived to be twelve. We lost her this past February. After we lost Nestor I thought we would be a one-dog home. I was so lost without Nestor, with whom I had been attached at the hip for more than five years-I just wasn’t ready to bring another dog into the house yet. What I had not bargained for was how much Maddie grieved for him. She had been so dominant, I thought she would be happy to be an only dog. But she broke my heart-lingering to sniff at the places he marked (and yes, I do observe their behavior enogh to notice a difference.) I finally convinced my husband that we should get another dog to be a companion for Maddie. He wanted something smaller, so we agreed on a beagle. I watched a beagle rescue in Illinois, and we settled on a beagle-mix, named him Darwin. Darwin was a sweet dog, but so completely out of control that we still haven’t been able to tally the stuff he destroyed-shoes, hats, electronics, anything he could reach. And whatever he was mixed with made him bigger than a regular beagle, so he could reach quite alot. He was also a master escape artist. Once I got our backyard fence secure enough that he couldn’t go under it anymore, he started going over. But one he did that and his collar got caught on the fence, I was afraid for his safety and decided to surrender him to the rescue. I still wrestle with guilt over that, and feel like a terrible “dog mom” for giving up on him. I truly hope he found the right family that could channel his energy and keep him safe.

After Maddie died we weren’t going to get another dog. We agreed to get a cat-less labor intensive, easier to leave alone, etc. But shortly after Maddie was gone I told my husband that I just didn’t want to be a home without a dog. So I went to the local shelter, got there before they opened, and started walking through the kennels in the first building, thinking to myself, “It has to be a small dog, it has to be a small dog, but I could love any one of these guys.” I think it was around the seventh kennel that I saw this scruffy little terrier pull herself to the door and look at me as if to say, “I think you’re my mom.” I said, “Yeah, I think so too.” I later found out that Abigail had been brought into the shelter as a stray, and that the day I found her was the first day she was available for adoption. When I got her home, I couldn’t believe anyone would not try to find this baby-she had obviously been worked with. She was already nearly housebroken, she knew a few basic commands, and she was a quick study on others. Even though they hadn’t even bathed her or brushed all the burrs out of her coat, she was the perfect dog for our family.

I could describe the intelligence of our dogs in this way: When I am cooking, all the dogs like(d) to lie in the floor near the stove, in case anything accidentally dropped to the floor, and I would carry on conversations with them. Maddie, the lab, would like it me as if to say, “Ok, Mom, but could you pet me now?” Abigail, the terrier mix, will look at me as if to say, “Yeah, Mom, could you hurry up? I’m bored, and I want to chase squirrels and grasshoppers.” Darwin, the beagle would look at me as if to say, “Whatever. Can I have some food?” But Nestor, the border collie would look intently at me as if to say, “I understand completely.”

One thing that was suggested in Sunday’s New York Times article was that what dog intelligence has given them is not a capacity to think and learn like a human, but perhaps the intuition to understand our signals and what it takes to please us. That sort of empathy is a great gift. I don’t think any of my dogs would ever have given me a frying pan for Mother’s Day as my husband did-they care too much about my feelings, and whether it is intuition or abstract thought that gives them this ability, it is extremely important. It has always been important to humans to feel understood.

So discussions about what dog intelligence really is may be irrelevant. Dogs and humans are irrevocably bonded-in the past, the survival of each species was dependent upon the other. I say, let’s stop using human yardsticks to measure them against us, and just keep throwing new things to them and see if they learn. I’m almost certain we will continue to be surprised and gratified by the result.s

Friday, October 30, 2009

How Deep Does Ignorance Go?

 
After my divorce in 1995 I moved in with my parents. Though I was working, I was; left with some bills from the marriage, and a little extra money could come in handy. So Mom suggested that her neighbor across the street could use a little help watching his son in the afternoon. I told her I would talk to him about it, and I made an appointment to do that. In the middle of our conversation about what he needed for his son, seemingly out of nowhere, he made a disparaging remark about black people. I did not take the job, and have referred to that man as “The Grand Dragon” ever since. Yesterday afternoon I took my dog out for a short walk around our apartment complex. Usually I use her leash, but not always, this afternoon being one of the latter trips. The head of our maintenance department, a very pleasant fellow, saw us, and said that he knew I didn’t let my dog run wild, and that I carry puppy-poopy-pouches,  but many don’t, so the complex is planning to start reinforcing the rules about keeping dogs on leash, etc. Again, out of nowhere, came a completely bizarre negative remark about minorities. I was completely perplexed-on top of my moral offense at racial bigotry. I realize that racism is based on ignorance, but are the people who hold those ignorant views so out of touch that they really assume that all white people share their view, and therefore they can just casually drop these remarks? I don’t get it. And I don’t know how to respond.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What’s Up With Earthworms?

 
We are having heavy rains today. I mean really heavy. So I just took my dog outside in the rain because she just couldn’t wait anymore…this rain has been falling for hours and hours. Coming back in I saw a familiar site; hundreds of earthworms driven onto the sidewalk by all the water. That is my question…why do they do that? Don’t they “understand” on some wormy level that they need to be in the dirt, so once they get out and see that they aren’t in dirt anymore, why don’t they just go back and go in a little deeper? When I can, I do pick up living ones from the sidewalk and put them back on the grass. They always seem to wriggle happily when I do that, so why do they put themselves in that position?

I’m just asking.

Notice Anything Familiar?

 
I said last year this would happen, and I was right. A little more than a year ago we were paying $4.50 for a gallon of fuel. Then, in large part because of the age old law of supply and demand. We couldn’t afford to pay that, so we cut back. The price of oil fell. Now the rise is more subtle. But what I predicted then was that once the price dropped people would quicly become complacent and start driving again, and buying big fuel suckers. Sure enough, today oil topped $79. per barrel, and the cost of a gallon of gas has jumped about .20 in the last two weeks. It will shortly be $3.00 again, and if we don’t wise up, it will keep going up. We don’t need to do this to ourselves, and it gives away our power as consumers to allow oil companies, whose obscene profits are not being talked about right now because of all the chatter regarding banker bonuses. Ok-don’t talk about it, but don’t let it slip your mind either. Consumers have the power to see to it that we are able to continue to pay an affordable price for our petrol.

How Serious is This Really?

 
Ok. I’m human. Sometimes my body eliminates waste regularly, and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve never discussed this with a doctor. I never thought it was that big of a deal. So when I see commercials about people who can’t play with their grandchildren or go swimming because they have “occasional irregularity” I am confused. Is it just for dramatic effect that these commercials make it sound like a crippling disease that leaves sufferers bedridden and sick? I don’t know how serious this really is, so I hope the people who are suffering from this condition aren’t offended by my ignorant notion that if we eat some veggies and yogurt it should help us feel better.

This is not a question…I’m upset!!!

 

I was at a class yesterday on how to punch up my resume. The group was small and personable, and we spent some time off topic, usually for jokes. But one of the things we got off task for was a discussion of whether or not to shake hands at the end of an interview. The consensus was no, unless the interviewer extended his hand first, do not offer yours because of the fear of flu. One gentleman had to leave before we were finished, and the teacher extended his hand. The man, who I must add looked remarkably like John Ritter, with perfect comic timing shrunk back in horror that the hand was extended. We all laughed.

Secretly though, I was really bothered by the whole notion that we can never touch each other because of fear of disease. Now, this is not a scientific statistic I’m sharing, but in my experience, the people I have known in my life who feared germs the most have been sick more often than “regular folks.” But I’ve read scientific articles that the fear of germs has led to people being sicker because their immune systems are not faced with disease, and therefore they have no defenses when diseases strike. Our immune systems must be challenged in order to work. That’s why injecting a small amount of disease can give us immunity to certain microbes. In my life, I have never had a flu shot, and have had the actual flu only one time. One time. I know people who get flu shots every year, and still sometimes get sick because the inoculation was not for the correct strain. We evolved immune systems that help us fight disease. According to the most basic evolutionary principle, the ones who are not protected have some other weakness that makes them more vulnerable to illness, and they get sick and do not survive. But I am not an epidemiologist, so I won’t spend anymore time on the science of germ warfare.

The thing that bothered me about the whole conversation yesterday was the idea that we as humans should not touch each other. Women of my age (early 50s) and had or ever hoped to have children were taught that babies can literally die if they are not touched enough. We not only evolved immune systems, we survived as a species because of our sense of community. We need each other-and the simple act of shaking hands is the minimum demonstration of our attachment as a species. If we touch someone who has been exposed to a virus but isn’t sick we might actually get a bit of immunization. (That’s just an unprovable theory of mine.) But we connect with each other by touching. I like the comfort of the touch of a hand on my shoulder, a firm handshake, or having someone pat me on the back. It makes me feel less alone, and during the last couple of months my need for that has been powerfully illuminated.

In conlusion, as I said in the beginning, in my tiny piece of the world, anecdotally, the people I’ve known who fear germs the most get sick more often. Therefore, I believe that fear is a dangerous disease that leads to our bodies not being able to fight disease. Statistically, people die from the flu every year. Every year, 34,000 people die of the flu. But people with a healthy immune response are the ones who will survive. The only thing we have to fear is fear. So lets all come together for a big group hug.

Some Old Favorites From the Old Place

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December is About Music

 

Music is number two on my list of the five best things in life. Number one is love. That includes both friends, family and lovers. But music is number two. I love jazz, rock, some country, folk and blues. I love hearing new stuff. I’m not a fan of hip-hop, but I could be. I love learning-I just need someone to help me select the good stuff—whatever does not include cocky people rapping about how much money they have, or bitches and hos etc. But I digress. Having grown up in the late 60s/early 70s, I guess the classic rock genre defines me the most. Early in December I watched the HBO special “Rock and Roll Anniversary Hall of Fame Concert.” Mostly I watched it because of the presence of my musical hero, Stephen Stills. But several more of my lesser heros also showed up, and it affected me to the soul. Their faces are weatherworn, and their voices are careworn., but the music….ah, yes; the music. If I had to pick some songs that defined me, they are probably all by Jackson Browne. I remember in 1972, when “Doctor My Eyes” came out, it made me stop and sigh. I know that adolescent teens are pretty impressionable, but that song hit me hard. It made me a rather unlikable person in some ways because it gave me permission to stop thinking about issues and decide where I stood. I was very sure when I got to that point. Very unshakably sure. Since then I’ve realized that some of those things I was so sure about were wrong, and some just evolved over time. And it has led to me wondering at times which comes first, the teen angst, or the songs about it? By the time he got to “Running on Empty” and “The Pretender,” I was done for. After Jackson Browne played came Simon and Garfunkel. Their songs have also stirred me. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Sounds of Silence” were the songs that all the guitar playing girls in my high school performed for the talent shows…and all the other high school girls in the audience sang along. But “The Boxer” made us weep. All those feelings came rushing back through the three hours of the concert. Bruce Springsteen came along at the end of my teen years. I was never a fan…”stadium rock” was not at all for me. As you can probably guess, the 80s were not good musical years for me. But I have a great deal of respect for Bruce when I hear him perform his blues/folk style. I’m became convinced that he simply followed the wrong muse, though with all his fame and money, why he or anyone would care about my opinion is beyond me.

Of course, it could be that my lack of gainful employment, the holiday season, the short days simply made me nostalgic for a time when my life was in front of me and regret was something I couldn’t imagine. But it could also be that the television is on too much, and the concert provided a much needed “sanity break” from the free credit report and Overstock.com commercials. When I see that beautiful woman in the white coat singing, “O, o, o, the big, big O” to the tune of Jingle Bells, I wonder what my husband would think if I gave him a gift in a box with a “big O” on it. Would he think, “Cool, I’m off the hook,” or “What is she complaining about?” “Where the ads take aim, and lay their claim on the heart and the soul of the spender.” These rabbit chases aside, the song that has haunted me ever since that evening is “The Pretender.” Yes, I’ve reached an age when looking back and seeing both what was and what wasn’t is a frequent activity. And like the pretender, I had some big dreams that never happened. In all honesty, each one of these failures is ultimately because of one decision or another that I made, so this is not a whine about how life has let me down. This is about how a few great artists have captured the feelings of regret and disappointment that come at times with looking back. “I want to know what became of the changes we waited for life to bring. Were they only the fitful dreams of some greater awakening. I’m aware of the time going by. They say in the end, it’s the blink of an eye. And when the morning light comes streaming in, we get up and do it again.” It circles in my mind when I walk my dog, and when I look for a job or cook or put laundry away. “I’m gonna rent myself a house in the shade of the freeway. Gonna pack my lunch in the morning, and go to work each day. And when the evening rolls around, I’ll go home and lay my body down. And when the morning light comes streaming in, I’ll get up and do it again.” I was going to be an actor. A writer. I was going to study environmental science and public policy and work to make the US greener. But I’m looking for jobs as a secretary. Or in a retail store. Or a call center. Anything, because I’m “caught between the longing for love and the struggle for the legal tender.” Ever the egalitarian, I’ve always held that there is nothing to look down on about honest work of any kind. So why do I feel that I should have done something “bigger?” Is it because of the self-esteem movement? Because I’m a Leo? Because I spent so much time reading books and seeing movies about people who achieved huge dreams through sheer luck. It doesn’t really matter why, “where the sirens sing and the churchbells ring and the junkman pounds his fender. And the veterans dream of the fight, fast asleep at the traffic light…” How long does that veteran dream of the fight once the war is over? Is he able to find another way to define his life?

I’ve been writing this posting in my head for a month. I began putting it down earlier this week, but tellingly, I’m finishing it on New Year’s Day 2010. I’ve been unemployed for four months, and had only one interview in that time. I try to stay optimistic about finding a new job, but that is tough sometimes. Like so many others in this country today, it just seems that I’m spinning my wheels and my unemployment is about to be cut by twenty percent.”They strike at the world with all their might, as the ship bearing their dreams sails out of sight.”  But this is not only the first day of a new year, it is the first day of a new decade. There are so many reasons to feel hopeful, and not to feel hopeful. On Monday I am very sure that my phone will begin to ring, and some of these applications will begin to play out. I wonder where the “Pretender” is, thirty years on? Could Jackson Browne give me any words of hope? Or does he know someone who is hiring? Because “out into the cool of the evening strolls the pretender. She knows that all her hopes and dreams begin and end there.”

Reducing Chemical Use – Make Your Own DIY Deodorant Spray Recipe

Ooohhhhh, I like this recipe! Thanks for the follow, and I’m reblogging! But your profile made me think of two things:
1. “In an upstairs room in Blackpool, by the side of the Northern Sea…”
2. Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun!”

Sunny Sleevez

DIY DEODORANT RECIPE I haven’t been overly concerned about the safety of store bought deodorant, but knowing that skin is highly porous and what goes on it, goes through it, I’d rather not add more chemicals to my system.

Add to that the number of plastic casings consigned to the recycle bin I have wondered about an alternative but never put a whole lot of research into it.

Yesterday, I was stopped in my tracks by the dreaded “End of the deodorant” panic.

Not usually a big deal but I was running late for a meeting, no time to drive to Trader Joes for the one brand of deodorant that both works and doesn’t irritate my skin, and I really didn’t want to risk spending the next 2 hours in a stuffy office smelling like a dead ferret!

A quick search turned up lots of recipes here is the recipe that I used…

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The Road To The Road To Ironman Lanzarote 2015

I hope you all find this interesting!

Hemingway Run

In Which I… Oh Dear.

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What: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run.
Where: Puerto Del Carmen, Lanzarote
When: May 2015
Why: I’m wondering that myself…

In the 18 months since I started running, I’ve completed 7 x 10k runs, one 1/2 marathon and 2 full 26.2 mile marathons. I don’t think that that’s too bad for someone who struggled to run to the end of the road a year and a half back!

Not to take anything away from marathons (or any other distance for that matter!) but I’ve done a couple now and wanted to go bigger and go further (literally, it seems) so I decided it was officially time to get another challenge under way.

Ironman.

An Ironman triathlon has been in the back of my mind since I first saw Ironman Tony and Rob finish Ironman Lanzarote in 2012 (which inspired me to…

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8 Amazing Architectural Creations to See Before You Die

Some breathtaking photos from around the world!

Globe Drifting

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‘We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.’– Winston Churchill

The industrious swallow delicately collects branches from nearby greenery to build her homely nest, the weary beaver juggles logs for his unassuming riverside den while the rabbit burrows deep into the ground to create his secret earthy haven. They live side by side amongst one another, yet rare is the rabbit with a nest or the beaver with a burrow, each loyally upholds the architectural tradition of his kind to conjure up a new home for the winter with the woodland that surrounds him.

For humankind, it is much the same; we further the traditions of our culture or nation and however sparse the resources, we mould our environment to make it our own. We however, go yet one step further than the animal kingdom; whether it be a mud hut or a mansion, we draw on cultural customs whilst…

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