Thursday, November 30, 2006

a sobering statistic

Yesterday I read a most sobering statistic. We have now been at war in Iraq longer than we fought WWII. And it looks like we will be there much longer. A bi-partisan report issued today urged us to conduct massive troop withdrawals, but gave no timetable for this. And Bush remains resolute -- we are not looking for a graceful withdrawal, we are not leaving until we have accomplished our mission. Whatever that is. I keep getting confused by which rational we are believing this week.

I know we started with the idea that there were WMD to eliminate, and then we were bringing democracy to the Iraqi people. I have heard the phrase "free and independent Iraq" a lot.

To me it looks like we took a country with a government we didn't like and broke it. Before the war, Iraq was at least functional. Now it is a destroyed thing. No major infrastructure remains, and the burdens of repairing what this war has done will last decades. I don't see how we can make a "graceful exit". I think we will have to cut and run, mumble a quick "sorry for the mess" , and hightail it out of there.

Maybe next time, we will be less quick to act. Maybe we should really really think about it before we send in the troops. Or just stay home.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

character and denial

Two recent incidents have brought home to me how confused we are about character. Michael Vick was fined by the NFL for making an obscene hand gesture at fans after a football game. He admits what he did was wrong (good!), but then messes up by going farther and saying it is not in his character to do something like that. Obviously it was in his character, since he did it. I think he meant that he feels bad about it, and he will work on not doing it again, but he could just mean he gets a pass because he doesn't do this kind of thing all the time.

Michael Richards, from Seinfeld, was caught on film unleashing some ugly and racist talk at two audience members from his stand-up comedy show. He says that he is sorry (good), but then explains how he is not a racist, so he doesn't know where all the invective came from. Um, Michael -- you are a racist. The fact that you were made uncomfortable, and were heckled is unfortunate. But when you lost it, you went straight for racist remarks. That makes you a racist, just not habitual about expressing it.

Both men should have just said that they were sorry, and that they regretted their actions. Period, end of statement. To make an excuse that you really aren't the way you behaved is ridiculous and makes any apology seem insincere. How you behave under duress is part of your character. Deal with it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

biology sucks

Normally, I'm a big fan of biology. After all, it did give us all kinds of nice body parts, and it did give us sex. We could reproduce like flatworms or something...

But lately, biology has not been my friend. I suddenly need reading glasses, you know, the old lady kind you wear on a chain around your neck. My sleep is constantly disrupted. I have night sweats. And I have to get up and pee more often than I used to. I had my first hot flash the other day, and it wasn't a good time. It takes much less time to gain weight, and much longer to lose it.

I thought biology was unkind when I was an anxiety-riddled pre-teen, praying for boobs and my period. And I didn't much like the combination of raging hormones and zits [kind of cruel, I think]. But now, I think that was not all that bad. Because I knew it was a short time kind of thing, and that better things were on their way. Now every change is a diminishment - of time, of capacity, of quality.

So this week, at least, biology sucks!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Give a little, get a lot

Today, I am pushing my favorite charity - Modest Needs Foundation. I found it when searching for a charity where my son's small contributions could have a real impact. In the process, I discovered a lot -- how close we all are to the edge, how a small kindness can be large in someone else's life, gratitude for what I have, gratitude for the good people out there, and YES, there are a lot of them....

For an article on the charity, go to

A small contribution every month, less than you would spend on coffee or chocolate, can make a huge difference for a lot of people.

Monday, November 20, 2006

almost thanksgiving!!

It is almost Thanksgiving! This is my absolute favorite holiday. An entire day reserved for good food, resting, relaxing, company. No guilt. No gift-giving, family politics, gift-receiving. Just a day to enjoy.

I love the idea of the holiday as well. A day to think about the good things in your life. A day set aside for appreciation. We should really find a way to be thankful every day -- but hell, this is a good start. I need to be reminded from time to time that I really do have it good. It is too easy to lapse into a mindset where you see your troubles writ large, and your blessings writ small. Instead of bitching about my job, I should be happy -- I have a good job, with interesting work, decent pay, great benefits. It's not my dream job, but I don't really know what that would be anyway. I can complain about my aching knees, or be glad that they hold me up and take me where I need to go. I can't take that trip to Australia just yet, but I have a nice roof over my head, plenty of food, I'm generally comfortable and safe. Maybe my kid plays too many video games, and watches too much TV. But he's home every day, safe and sound. I'm always short of money, but that doesn't mean what it used to -- I'm not being hounded by bill collectors, and I'm not going to get evicted, and I don't have to eat oodles of noodles for the rest of the month.

I have enough, and sometimes that's plenty!

Friday, November 17, 2006

lower than dirt

O.J. Simpson is lower than dirt. He has written a book on how he would have committed the murders if he had done them. How much pain does he want the victims families to go through? How much suffering is he willing to put his children through?

I have rarely been so completely outraged by one individual's behaviour. I know we are talking about a murderer here. I know that. And yet, to me this seems even lower. It is horrible that he killed his wife and an innocent bystander. But to get away with the crime, and then write a book about it, as if he hadn't done it, but knew how it was done makes it that much more horrific.

I hope no one buys the book. I hope he betrays himself in some way that leads to another lawsuit. I hope they find some other crime they can charge him with. I wished I believed in hell, because it would be satisfying to imagine him burning there for an eternity.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I should focus on the big things, but

I should focus on the larger issues, but I just can't help myself. Heath Shuler, former quarterback for the Redskins, won his seat in North Carolina. He's part of the Democratic freshman class.

For those who don't remember his brief tenure with the Redskins, it was characterized by his being too damn dumb to learn the plays. I met a painter who worked on his house -- Shuler had actually written all the plays on the walls of his house to help him try to learn the playbook.

I admire his persistence. But -- a) football is not usually played by rocket scientists, but somehow they all learn the plays, b) the playbook is SECRET and is supposed to be carefully guarded and c) wouldn't it have been easier to carry a notebook or something?

I can't wait to see how he does in Congress!

Monday, November 13, 2006

a good thing

No political rant today. Just a good thing. I went to a parent teacher conference on Friday, to get my son's grades. He is in 7th grade, at a school for bright kids with severe to moderate learning disabilities.7th grade marks the first year that he is graded for his work. He got 5 As and 3 Bs. I was very happy, but that is not the good thing. The good thing is that his English teacher described him as definitely college-bound!!!

This is something most middle-classed parents take for granted. But we had been told it would be remarkable for our son to graduate high school. Getting him through 12th grade has been our focus for the last 4 years or so, ever since his learning difficulties were first diagnosed. To hear someone, anyone, discuss seriously his college potential was just amazing. I felt like a hundred pounds were lifted from me, weight I hadn't even known I was carrying.

To be clear -- I don't care if he doesn't want to go to college. That is fine with me. What I want is for him to have the option to choose. I don't believe there is only one path to happiness or success in life. He can choose whatever he wants, whatever fulfills him, and I will truly be happy with that. But I feel great relief that his options are open.

Friday, November 10, 2006

my best decisions

I went to dinner tonight with my two best decisions. Decision #1 is my husband, whom I married over 20 years ago, and still adore. Decision #2 is my son. My life is infinitely richer for the two of them. I try to make sure they know this, but day-to-day stuff often gets in the way.

I think it's amazing that both my best decisions involved very little rational thought. I was too young, too impulsive, too out of control to get married. I was too into my career, too self-absorbed, too confused to have a child. Yet, through sheer dumb luck, it has worked better than I could possibly have imagined.

Sometimes, impulse works.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

the difference between a reason and an excuse

I've been mulling over something the last few days -- the difference between a reason and an excuse. It seems we have become a culture of victims. We are "adult children of alcoholics", "incest survivors", "abused children" etc. While I think the desire to figure out why we do what we do is wonderful -- I am concerned as to where it has led us.

Understanding that the abuse you suffered as a child affects your behaviour today is important. You have the reason for your behaviour. What you don't have is an excuse for future behaviour. When Mark Foley was accused of inappropriate emails to underage boys -- he said he had been fondled by a priest when he was a child. The fondling may be the reason, but it doesn't mean he gets to fondle kids now. It doesn't provide an excuse.

It's like we got the first part of the puzzle -- trying to figure ourselves out, by looking at our past. But we missed the second part, where you take that understanding and self-knowledge and use it as an impetus for change. At some point, you stop being the child of your parents, and you start being the adult in your own life. If you were a victim, you aren't any more. You can deal with your past, you can acknowledge what was done, you can hurt and grieve but you have to take the steps to heal. That is your true responsiblity, beyond self-awareness, beyond understanding, comes the difficult action to overcome and heal.

Otherwise you give the past complete power over yourself, and you truly are a victim.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

okay, we won -- now what?

I swear I held my breath for hours last night, glued to CNN for election results. Things pretty much went my way. So I should be elated, yes? Well, I am, in a way. I do feel like taking a victory lap, or uttering a polite nyah-nyah, nyah-nyah. But now, now we have to do something with all this momentum.

Can the people we've put in office make a difference? Will they? Can we truly have the most ethical, decent Congress ever (Nancy Pelosi says we will)? Can we sort out the muddled issues in the middle east? calm both Iran and North Korea? restore civil liberties? just f*ing talk to each other civilly after a nasty election?

I guess now the real work begins.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006


We spent a portion of today at the cardiologist. No, not for my husband or for me. For the dog. Our puppy, Largo, has a heart defect. Today we looked at his heart with ultrasound, watched the blood flow (in color). He has VSD; it is a genetic defect. We will have to visit the cardiologist once a year, to monitor it. But we don't have to restrict his activities, it shouldn't affect his life-span or his health. He can even, thank god, be neutered.

I cannot tell you how relieved I feel. We have fallen for this dog, and it is wonderful to know he will be part of our lives for a good long time.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

it's fall, it's sunday, it's FOOTBALL

For those who know me, it is no surprise that I spent today watching NFL football. For those who know me only slightly, it always seems to come as a large surprise. I am a geek, a secular humanist with intellectual leanings. I am supposed to like chess. I might be a "george will" intellectual, and be forgiven a passion for baseball. But I am not fond of either game. I LOVE football. I really care if the Ravens or the Redskins win. I yell at the TV. I eat salty snacks and drink beer. I read the sports pages. I have been known to bet on games, or get in on a football pool when I can.

There is nothing deep about football. It's all right there on the surface. There are no sabremetrics in football. Nobody pretends it's a mental game. It's honest. I love the competition, the athleticism, the sheer brute masculinity of it all -- large sweaty men pounding at each other. I love the emotion on the sidelines, the prayers, the crying, the yelling. I like the mud, the snow, the rain, the steam rising from the heads of the players.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

odd perspective

Evangelist Ted Haggard was forced to resign his position this week. According to a male prostitute, Haggard has paid him for monthly sex for 3 years, and used methamphetamine in his presence frequently.

Haggard vehemently denied the sex. He admitted to the methamphetamine buys, though he says he never used the drug. He also admitted to paying the male prostitute for massages, but not for sex.

I find it hard to believe that Haggard's perspective is so skewed that he thought it was far better to admit to illegal drugs, than to admit to gay sex. I guess he feels his congregation can understand a little partying, but not HOMO-SEXshewal RE-Lations.

I also thought it was interesting that the male prostitute felt he had to come forward before the elections. Haggard was violently opposed to gay marriage, and apparently the issue is on the ballot in their state. The prositute thought Haggard was being hypocritical, having gay sex while opposing marriage for gays.

The prostitute is on much higher moral ground than the evangelist.

Friday, November 03, 2006

introducing the finger of shame award

Okay, I am formally introducing a new "award" -- the FINGER OF SHAME. I will periodically award one to someone I feel has embarassed himself, his country, his planet.

Today, I am playing catch-up, so I will be awarding several FOS (fossies???)

to Michael Steele, for campaigning not on his record, or his position on issues, but on puppies!

to George Bush, for, well pick a reason, they're all good

to Kanye West for putting the ugly in ugly american with his antics at the foreign grammies

to Paris Hilton, for being a waste of space, despite being born with every possible advantage

If you think of someone who really deserves a FOS, just shoot me an email. I'll try to put 'em up as I get 'em.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

meditation on unbelief

I have been reading today about religion and faith. We have a philosophy professor coming to lecture our class tonight, and he gave us a selection of readings (Clifford, Kierkagaard, James) that argue for or against the logic of religious belief.

This puts me in an odd position. I do not believe, and am not a member of any organized faith. I don't believe in the concept of worshipping a deity. So am I bristling at the arguments propounding faith as a logical choice because I don't have any? or because the argument is unsound?

The truth is that I would LOVE to believe, to have faith. It must be comforting to relax and trust in a higher power. It must be soothing in the dark night of the soul to think there is a guiding hand in all things. I seem constitutionally incapable of religious faith. I have read the Old Testament, the New Testament, most of the Koran, parts of the Book of Mormon, a whole slew of excerpts from most major religions. I have been to Sunday School, gone through Catholic Catechism classes, been baptized, confirmed, gone to confession, meditated, visited mosques and cathedrals and temples. And my unbelief stands, unshakeable.

What is it in other people that I don't have? what makes it so easy for some to connect with religious faith, and so impossible for me?

I do feel a strong spiritual tug, when I am out in the woods, when I walk the beach, when I hear certain music. But this is not the same sort of thing at all; this is more a connection that I feel with other living things, a centering with place and time.

food for thought.