Tuesday, March 31

Gratitude and Art: Rantings of the Anti-Oprah

Today, I am a woman.

Oh. No. That's the other thing.

Today, I finished something I started. That's almost as big an accomplishment. Today is March 31st (Happy Birthday, Judy!), and it is the last day of the National Blog Posting Month challenge to post every day. I'm feelin' pretty good about it. (Yes, I re-upped for April. I'm that sort...I need a little nudge. I might be crazy for re-upping. I'll let you know. At least I get a new badge!).

But here's what I really want to say: Oprah* really ruined that whole gratitude thing for me, and I'm not afraid to say so.

Here's the thing. Some fine people in my life have suggested that I do just that--make some list, mental or otherwise--once a day, maybe before bed, of the things I am grateful for. It's a good idea. Maybe even a really good idea. It's even the kind of idea I might have suggested to people at one time. But then it was co-opted by Oprah and "keeping a gratitude journal". I don't know. It was a great idea when I wrote it down and stuck it in an envelope for future reference, but then when Oprah licked the envelope....eeuuugh. Somebody got a breath mint?

I say this with full awareness that there are some, maybe even many of you, who are somewhere on the like to love spectrum about Oprah. I may be cast out from the sisterhood, I know. I'll take that chance.

I used to like her, way back when. A little, sometimes more than a little. But that's when she was a talk show host. You know, before she was a prophet, before half of America read what she told them to read or thought what she told them to think or voted for who she told them to vote for or shushed people when she spoke or cried when her dog died or felt personally involved in her struggle with weight. Hey, I struggle with my weight. Does anybody care? No. Nor should you. Yeah, I get it that that's because I'm not a media celebrity, but as I said in a prior post, I do NOT get the cult of celebrity at all (with the possible exception of Joan Baez, since I once hyperventilated in her presence...I'm all into full disclosure here) Your neighbor struggles with her weight. Probably somebody you work with, or somebody you're related to struggles with their weight. Why is Oprah's fat so much more fascinating than anyone else's fat? You know, that's all it is, right? Fat.

I'm not even religious, but maybe it's that whole golden calf thing from way way back in my history somewhere--it just looks and smells and feels like idolatry to me (and you know what they say about ducks). My skin crawls when I see people go ga-ga over celebrities--what they say, what they do, what they buy. It nearly tops my list of things I don't get. At the risk of dating myself (hey, who else have I got to date?), I didn't even get the Bobby Sherman thing (who is a cop now, by the way). "Maybe that's because you were a lesbian," I can hear you saying. I wasn't one then. I don't think so.


There. I said it. A double whammy. Bobby Sherman AND Oprah. And just to show you how nice i am, here are some rocks to throw at me. I'm ready for ya.



But since we're on the topic anyway (not that you had a choice), people also talk about the "responsibility" that comes with fame. Giving back, building houses for people in New Orleans, giving money and name to worthy causes, donating a fabulous auction item for a certain Boston women's chorus who happens to be having a big fundraiser coming up in celebration of the 5th anniversary of equal marriage in Massachusetts.... Well, how about the responsibility of reminding your followers that celebrities are....well...people. Where is the celebrity who is promoting the Getting People-To-Think-For-Themselves Association? (If you ever hear of an episode of Oprah in which she tells everyone to stop listening to her so blindly, let me know. I'll tivo it for sure.)

Well, of course, you knew this was coming. It was in the cards. I hate to disappoint, so here it is:



So.... I don't keep a gratitude journal. I tried once. I tried to get over the Oprah-ness of it, and bought a special little notebook. I wrote in it once. Now I use it to make shopping lists. It just made me feel like I had to buy a snuggie, eat Hamburger Helper for dinner, and get my teeth whitened. Ya know?

Which is NOT to say that I'm not grateful. [Ah, she's finally getting to the point! Yeah, I hear the collective sigh of relief.]

Today was a very challenging day. Several bad things happened, any one of which had quite the potential to send me on the rapid downward spiral with which I am far too intimately acquainted. But I was saved.

Okay. Stop laughing. Right now. Stop laughing that I used those words "I was saved".

I was saved, as ever, by art (I have written every day for a month, and I have never written about art, which is incredible.) Not art in a museum. Everyday art. All kinds, including the kind that my new friend Kelly writes about in her blog. I don't know how art could be any more beautiful than that.

I am grateful to be a person who sees art (and an art project) in everything. So when I found myself needing to take a two-mile walk when I didn't expect it (don't ask), I noticed things. And I took pictures. They may not look like art to you. They look like art to me.







That last one, the now defunct and vacant Polaroid building, has hundreds of small glass windows, which made me obsess about doing a community art project where people bring their old square polaroid pictures and put one in the center of each of those glass blocks (each is probably about 5" x 5", just the right size to "frame" a photo) and take a Polaroid photo of it. You just can't get upset about the reason that you have to walk two miles when you're obsessing about an idea like that.

I came up with it. Don't be getting any ideas.

And the other thing I did (those of you who have germ issues, time to cover your eyes, plug your ears, and hum) is pick stuff up. This is an old habit. A very old habit. I pick stuff up, I make jewelry out of it. I name the jewelry (what? you didn't know jewelry had names?) after the event that resulted in my finding the stuff, or the street that it was found on. It's happened for years. Here's today's treasures:


I know, they don't look like much now. But they'll be great when they're done. I'll post a pic of the necklace when it's done. And yes, it has a name. Maybe by then, I'll be ready to post that, too.

And speaking of media celebrity, check THIS out!! Next thing you know, I'll be telling you what to read!!

*No, I didn't link to Oprah's website, even if it would bring me readers. Yeah, I'm a blogsnob. Why should this medium be different than any other medium? (See, there's that religion coming in again....must be the season) But Bobby Sherman, now THERE'S a different story.

Staying Afloat

...or is it Aloft?

Amazing how the metaphors sustain themselves.

I agreed to do this blog-every-day thing for the whole month. And here it is, March 30. Tomorrow it is over. Today I got the re-up notice from nablopomo, so I have to decide if I'm crazy enough to do it again. I probably am. But that's not really my point.

The thing is, for the first time, in a whole month of blogging every day, I have nothing to say. Plenty to write about, that's true. But nothing to say.

I'm thinking that it must because I'm coming in for a landing.

Maybe I'm going to have to do it for another month after all.

As one of my favorite bloggers says (in all her wisdom): They can't all be gems.


Monday, March 30

Unfailingly Human. Damn.

I had a hell of a conversation last night. I am still reeling.

The thing is, I wasn't always clear what we were talking about, but that was not only okay, it was intriguing. It called to mind another dear friend's comment, made many years ago, that she counted me as one of her artist friends because when were were talking, sometimes she wasn't at all sure what I was talking about and she felt like she didn't understand what I was saying, but then she just listened and responded, and stayed in the conversation, and so maybe she did know what I was talking about after all. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. The way I heard it, she got it in spite of herself and her perceived limitations. I don't know about you, but I think that's cool. In any case, that's how last night's conversation was for me.

There is absolutely no way to explain what the conversation was about, so it will have to suffice to say that I am aware (at least today, I am) that we were totally speaking in metaphor without necessarily having any idea we were speaking in metaphor (at least until the very end). We were just talking about stuff. Isn't that so cool?

She was talking about flying an airplane, about landing, about air currents, about flight simulators, about the relative cost of gas, of the angle at which an airplane can climb, how far it can go on a tank of gas, what happens if an airplane runs out of gas, how it's different (or not) to fly in the mountains or by the ocean.

I was talking about snorkeling and scuba diving, about currents, tides, reefs, and waves, about neutral buoyancy, about clearing your ears under water, about how long a tank of air lasts (versus how long I would like a tank of air to last), about how surfacing is the hardest part.

I'm not here to tell you that there was any grand conclusion. I'm mostly here to tell you that it made me think. This is why I love the theme of this blog, as hard as it might be sometimes to frame my writing to fit neatly within its confines. Because not getting things is, well....life. Sometimes not getting things is frustrating, or infuriating, or maddening, or another synonym that I won't dig for since you already have three. And sometimes not getting things is positively entrancing. There is so much I don't get about our conversation. There is so much I don't get about piloting a small place, especially since I've never done it. There is so much I don't get about diving, even though I have done it. There is so much I don't get about all the amazing things that shared experience holds.

So it turns out, at least for me, that we were talking about having to come to terms with the fact that we are human beings (well, most of us, anyway). That the oceans, which make up almost three-quarters of the surface of earth and hold half of the species that live on our planet, are a land that is not ours. Get this: more than 95% of the oceans have not been explored (not that I really understand what "explored" means...it conjures those darned Columbus images, which turns me off, but I'm mostly just trying to take in the vastness of it all and forget about semantics)! As much as we might feel at home there, as much as we might want to be fish (or whales, or dolphins, or for the couch potatoes among us, a sea anemone), as much as we can pretend to be a denizen of that world with the aid of shiny metal tanks or even robust lungs, it is not our place. And when we travel there, we know that it's not our place. We are limited there. It has its own weather, its only rules, its own landscape. We don't speak the language (not that it matters, since you can't speak anyway with a regulator in your mouth). We can't stay.

And we're not birds either, apparently. Ditto all of the above for the air, for the sky. Except that's not 3/4 of the earth, it's everywhere. And it's still not ours. Kinda gives that arrogance of being human a run for its money, doesn't it? That's what I love about talking (and now writing) about this. It's like one big nanny-nanny-boo-boo to people.

One of the thing she told me is that airplanes don't like to land. Now, I never thought about airplanes as having preferences before, but I get it. They want to be birds. We build them to be metal contraptions which actually float on air (which is kinda incredible, you gotta admit), and then we want them to stop floating on the air whenever we say stop. Sounds like a power play, doesn't it. Humans. Geez.

It is fascinating and compelling to me, the idea that it is not in the leaving our plane (no pun intended. Really.) that we are disturbed. No, we are eager to go. We love to explore, we love to go under the ocean, to go into the sky, to imagine that we are birds, or fish, or some creature that inhabits that place other than the ground. The take-off is easy. Exciting. The underwater descent is relaxing. It's the coming back to our place that's hard. I had thought it might be the opposite, but no. There is resistance--in the case of the subjects of our conversation, even physical resistance--in returning to the place that we are "supposed" to be, as humans.

Weird, huh?

I'm thinkin' that maybe it's like being born, about the biblical story (ha! me, referencing a biblical story!) that teaches us that birth will be painful, as punishment for sin. So maybe leaving the 10 vertical feet or so of airspace in which we live is sin, and we must pay for our return?

Nah.

Maybe I'll just have to leave it in there as one of the things I don't get. I sure do wonder a lot, though (as if you haven't noticed).

Tonight, I am just so grateful for friends who talk to me about this stuff. May you all have someone to call you up, or better yet, visit from a far distant place, with whom you can have a conversation that you don't quite understand. It's such a gift.

Saturday, March 28

Summing it Up

Sit down. Take a load off. Watch this. Now.

I couldn't possibly do a better job of summing up my feelings about education, public schools, my daughter's educational experience, my professional goals as an educator and child development consultant.

Thank you to my sister Judy for sending me the blog of this home-schooling/unschooling family that is traveling the globe with their daughter, where I found this video.


Friday, March 27

WAIT! COME BACK!

No, you're not in the wrong place. It's still me. Bees and all.

I just changed the format. The dots were making me dizzy, and a messy desk just seems more like my style.

There are still a few bugs (and grammatical issues--not mine!!) to work out, but be patient, all will be resolved in a day or two. And yeah, those little slips of paper with a number on them at the top right corner of each post are the way that you get to the comments. Because you know you want to leave comments.

Everything else is still the same.

Welcome back...and stick around!

Ground Bees

Digger bees. Mining bees.
http://www.honeybeelab.com/w/images/thumb/b/b8/Digger_bee.jpg/100px-Digger_bee.jpgHave you ever heard of such a thing?

All my life, I've never heard of such a thing.

But I've got 'em, by gum. The frozen-in-one-place child told me so: "Mommy! Come look at this! There are bees EVERYWHERE!"

Hundreds of 'em. Little low-flying hazards covering my entire front yard, flyin' around with all their buddies in little circles no more than about a foot off the ground. All over the front yard. Which is sizeable. Everywhere. It's kinda like ground fog. Except completely different.

I had 'em last year, too, but I was just moving into this house around then, so my time spent in their company was minimal. I remember them last year, and I remember when they disappeared (which I now understand that they didn't) and I just slid right into denial about them coming back the next year which is now this year, thinking maybe it was a little freak bee swarm that only happens once a century or something. Wrong-o.

So I did what I do. I looked 'em up.

And I found out that they might be bees...ground bees, digger bees, mining bees...or maybe they're wasps. Or possibly yellow jackets. And if they are one of those, they don't sting, and maybe if they are another one they sting like a son-of-a-gun, and maybe if they are another one they can sting but they rarely do, and if they are one of them, it's best to keep children and pets out of the area (for months? really?) I learned that they dig little holes in the hard sandy ground and make little nests in there, where they lay their little bee eggs and sleep down there for most of the year, and then TA-DA! they all fly out of their little holes in spring, as soon as the sun hits the yard. And they stick around for a month or two and then they go away (right).

And I learned that if they are one kind then beekeepers might want them (and exactly how would they collect them?) and if they are another kind, they probably don't want them, and even if they are that kind, beekeepers might not want them, and if they are wasps, then why would beekeepers be interested? I don't know any beekeepers, but I'm not so inclined to find some to convince them to come over here and see if the thousands (I know, I just said hundreds, but I'm bad at estimating, and there might be thousands, I didn't count) of little flying creatures are anything they might want, when the chances are slim.

And of course, I found out that all pest control strategies are bad (BAD) because well, they're poisonous and terrible for the environment and toxic to the aforementioned children and animals, and also because you'd have to treat hundreds of square feet because the bees (if that's what they are) nest in hundreds of little holes covering the whole front yard. This is no spray-in-one-hole-and-you're-done kinda thing. And more importantly, it's a bad idea because the bees (if that's what they are) are really good for the garden--they eat grubs, they aerate the lawn (or in my case, the scrubby stuff out between the patches of dirt in my front yard), and they pollinate the flowers and trees. And on top of that, as you may have heard, bees are dying all over the world, and it's really not a good idea to be trying to kill mass quantities of bees (if that's what they are) if we're trying to keep the planet in balance, which I'm pretty convinced that we are, at least in my neck of the woods. But if they're wasps, all bets are off. I'm not sure what the deal is if they're yellow jackets.

Isn't the internet great? I know so much more now than I did before, and at the same time, I know nothing! Why, in the old days, I had to go to the public library to find out that I don't know anything. Now I can find out in my own home! Progress. It's somethin' else.

And that, children, concludes our bee (if that's what they are) lesson for the day.

Ground bees? WTF?

Update: May 4, 2009. They're gone! Read about it here.

Thursday, March 26

Relativity

Life is weird. Really weird. I'm sure you know that. I know it myself--I'm not saying it like some kind of pronouncement or revelation or something. I'm just saying it.

Tonight entry might be blessedly short, as my right hand is bruised, a little swollen, and stiff.


Before you freak out, let me assure you that it's not as bad as it sounds. But it's enough so that typing is just not the most pleasant thing, and I'm not really one for hunt and peck. If I can't type as fast as I think (which I pretty much do), then I'm out. Or maybe I'll just soldier through, as is my wont. (I live for being able to use that word: wont)

So...late this afternoon, I decided (in cahoots with my daughter) that I was really up for some ecologically irresponsible food, so I traipsed out (I love traipsing) to the local farm stand which is anything but a farm stand--more like a mega-church that sells mesclun. Yeah, I've read Barbara Kingsolver's new book.

[abrupt left turn accompanied by screeching] I just wrote Susan Brownmiller instead of Barbara Kingsolver. Interesting. Kinda similar syllabically; that's my story and I'm sticking to it. It's a lot better than trying to draw a parallel between the effects on the environment that result from desire to eat watermelon in the off season and rape, if you get my drift. [squealing back on to the road again]

I like a blog post with sound effects. Don't you?

So I was on my way out to the farm stand, and I tripped on one of the stones in my front walkway on my way to the car.

Exhibit A: Evil Walkway. Please to glare appropriately, despite visible rays of sun from God.


It was quite a trip. It was almost one of those slow motion things--I could see myself in the air, see myself going down. I had enough time to think "Is there any way I can stop this? No. I can't". I could see that I was going to end up fully flat on the ground, which I did. My glasses flew off and landed about two feet away, so I count that as pretty spectacular. I must have pretty good reflexes or instincts or whatever, because I had four initial points of impact--my right hand, my left forearm, and both of my knees--before my entire body and head were prone on the front walk, that is.

Now, some of you don't know me very well. And some of you don't know me at all. And those of you who do know me already know what I'm going to say, which is that I'm a stoic. I prefer to think of myself as easy going, letting things slide off my back, but that might be rubbish. I think I'm probably a stoic. In any case, I got up, went back inside, checked my bumps and bruises, washed off all the aforementioned points of impact, and carried on, watermelon and all. It scared my kid, who, blessedly, did not see it happen, or she would never let me walk out the front door again. It scared me, too, but I'm not telling anyone. Oh. Oops. It mostly left me feeling like sometimes it stinks to have to be the grownup, to think more about reassuring your overly anxious kid than about being hurt or being scared or being embarrassed. So playing it down was the name of the game. Of course, that was then, and this is now. It hurts.

You might be wondering what this has got to do with relativity. Well, I'm gonna tell you.

This evening, I spent some time browsing around a few of my favorite blogs (they're there on the left side of the screen, check 'em out). One of the interesting gifts of this nablopomo challenge (also on left side of your screen) is that, in writing every day for a month, I have started to feel not so much like someone who has a blog, but like a blogger. It's different. There is a community of bloggers. There are differences in desire for readership, in how you respond to people who comment that you seem to have too much time on your hands, in whether, when people ask "what do you do?", you say you are a writer. There are probably--no, definitely--other differences too. For me, it's a feeling, a sensation. I am starting to feel in community with bloggers, especially women. It's kinda neat. A few weeks ago, I didn't even know that such a community really existed.

So in my browsing, I came across an intensely powerful blog entry. It's about perspective. Here it is, take a look. And from there, I followed the breadcrumbs. It's one of the most interesting and fun things about blogs and bloggers, following breadcrumbs. And I read the blog that this post referred to. If you want to see it, it's here. And I thought here I am, hurting from falling on my front walk, and feeling a little sorry for myself that I don't have someone to take care of me, to tell me that it's okay to be a little less than the stoic grownup for a few minutes, to have the space to whine a little bit....and really, I'm so lucky. I didn't hit my head. I didn't break anything. I didn't require medical attention. My daughter wasn't watching. I was able to get up by myself. I was able to carry on as planned. These are all good things. And this perspective arose, albeit indirectly, from agreeing to blog every day for a month. It just goes to show you, we never know what lies beneath.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I recognize that there's something to be learned here. I get that. I have to attend to and honor my own experience, my own physical pain or discomfort, not in comparison or competition with others, but in recognition that this is just how it is.

I also know that the first tiny step is admitting that I'm powerless over watermelon. I've done that, so I feel like I'm on my way. Although I'm not sure that's quite the point. That is, unless you are one of those people who believe that I was struck down by spirit of Al Gore as some sort of karma thing. It's possible. I wanna go on record as saying that if it's gonna happen, though, I'd rather be struck down by Barbara Kingsolver.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, March 25

The Unbearable Heaviness of Typing

I've decided there's just too much paradox to go around.

In the brief moments when I am able to step outside of myself, with a smidgen of hypothetical objectivity, what I mostly see is exhaustion. Mind-numbing, physically paralyzing exhaustion. And yes, the blog is just one more thing to do. But it is energizing, life-giving. To write is to exist. This is one of the few times when I don't feel tired.

When I was a child, and things weren't going so well, I went (or was sent) to my room. I closed and locked the door, with or without accompanying sound effects. And then, I wrote notes. I pushed them under the door of my room into the hallway, and waited for someone to find them. In that bedroom, behind a locked door, words on paper reminded me, and hopefully others, that I was still "in there", in more ways than one. So I guess what I'm saying is that I wouldn't call this a new realization.

I am not the sort who cuts myself slack when I am this tired (or any other time, for that matter). I analyze it, I diagnose it. I worry about it and think I should go to the doctor. I come up with a list of attributions (damn hormones), many of which are pretty self-deprecating. I start drinking strong coffee again, forgetting that coffee doesn't keep me awake at all and makes me feel crummy to boot. I tell myself that the fatigue is simply a state of being that arises directly from being "stuck" in one realm or another (and believe me, I've got no shortage of realms). And I strategize remedies. I should eat better (which is true), I should exercise more (which is true), I should get to that flotation place I've been trying to get to, I should make stuff, I should blah blah blah...which makes me think of a song (if you don't yet know this about me--that everything makes me think of a song--now you do.) If you haven't heard the Cheryl Wheeler song "Unworthy", check it out (or at least check out the lyrics, though you haven't heard it until you hear her sing it). You'll laugh till you cry. And you might recognize yourself. I sure do.

Maybe it's really not all that complicated. Maybe it really is true that energy is to be found in doing what you love, what feeds you, what you do to stay alive in your heart, not what you necessarily do to pay the bills. Maybe vitality is located in that which is vital. Go figure. Makes sense to me.

There's too much paradox to go around. I can barely lift my hands to type, and I think that, if I can keep my eyes open, I'll make this a night where I write one line, just to keep up my end of the nablopomo bargain. But once begun, I am alive in this space, this little box on a screen that holds more energy than many other spaces that might be considered more "real". I feel sluggish in my work (day job, paid work) but have at least 5 feasible and yet time- and energy-sucking ideas for revising that work life every day, any one of which fills me with energy and enthusiasm and makes me feel as if there are not enough hours in the day to do all of the things I want to and am ready to do. I sign-on to a definition of myself as simply low energy--probably from being overweight--while at the same time trying to find time to get back into long distance swimming, taking a rock climbing class, walking at the track now that the snow is gone, and always--but always--up for an adventure.

Blogging about blogging. Thinking about thinking. Understanding understanding. Being outside and inside things at the same time.

Meta-everything. That's my kind of deal.

Tuesday, March 24

Conspiracy 101 for Old Farts



Tonight, after 11 months of living in this house, my small dog (Puck) discovered that there is another dog that looks a great deal like him living in the dishwasher.  I was fortunate to be able to capture their first encounter with one another before the FBI swoops in to give some cockamamie explanation, like it's a reflection, or something paranoid like that.  When are they going to accept that it is, indeed possible, for there to be another small black dog living in my dishwasher and stop trying to pull one over on us?

Speaking of conspiracy theories (which I was, right there, in case you didn't know), I've got something to run by you, although I'm not usually one to subscribe to such stuff.  

Okay, so maybe I am.  What's it to you?

In any case, I've been having some thoughts about the new "upgrade" (now there's a case when it is entirely appropriate to use quotes, as opposed to the sign that says "lettuce" in the grocery store, which makes you wonder what it really is, or, at the very least, where the produce guy went to school) on Facebook.  As I posted there a couple of days ago, I don't get it.   I thought the word "upgrade" or "new format", when applied to a website, was supposed to imply improvement, debugging, new features, or helpful adaptations.  This was a full site overhaul, and none of those words seem to apply.  So I am confused (which is nothing new, but still).  And confusion sets me to pondering, which you pretty much know by now.

And in my pondering, I've come up with an answer.  You knew I would.  I knew I would too.

I don't think it was a system overhaul at all.   I don't think they meant to "improve".  Some people think the redesign was to accommodate more ads--that might be true, but I don't think that's it.  I think (ready? here it comes!) that its a conscious move on the part of the 20-something facebook developers to return facebook to its roots and thus to its rightful owners (and citizens).  

You see, over the past year or so, there has been article after article and commentary after commentary on the web, in newspapers, on the radio, on tv, about how the fastest growing demographic on facebook is the old folks.  Like me.  Yup, the old farts are taking over facebook, and using it to reconnect with friends from childhood, from college, from camp, from wherever. And the kids, as you might expect, are upset.  Some of their parents are now on facebook.  Ew. And since the owners and developers of facebook are, in fact, said kids, they probably feel the same way.  They've probably got thousands of emails from their peers and former loyal members saying "GET MY PARENTS OFF OF HERE!".  So they're doing their best.  They've changed their format so that all the parts that are most appealing and helpful to the older set are now gone or difficult to find, and the parts that the kids like (like knowing when their friends are sitting in class, or going to the bathroom, or seeing who was at the party last night, or seeing how stupidly one of their friends types when they're drunk) are more prominent. My guess is that they understand this tool and market better than we give them credit for.  

They're right. All of the old people hate the new format.  Many have stopped using facebook so much.  Most (that I know, anyway) are complaining.  When they get sick of the new format (just imagine if there are further "upgrades"??), they'll leave.  Facebook will be returned to its original glory, and the world will be safe for democracy (and teenagers).  

I'm telling you, this is what's going on.  

This is where we come in.

See, I'm the type who sees a hole and wants to fill it (who sees a wrong and wants to right it....er, "write" it?)  Like most other times, filling this particular hole would require me to possess or develop an entire set of skills that I do not currently have.  In this case, software development--more specifically, coding skills that would let me develop a social networking site.  But maybe somebody out there, reading this blog DOES have those skills, and if so, please feel free to steal my idea.  It's a good one.  

Let's call it a "spinoff".  It's been done in television for years.  Let's do it on the web.  Let's take all those facebook features that we like and start our own social networking site.  Let's make it just like facebook, but better.   For example, it could have a "help" button.  And lots of other things that we old farts like.  And let the kids go back to the equivalent of raising your hand to tell your teacher (and friends) that you have to go number two.  

Here.  I've made the new header. 



Take it.  Run with it.  I'll be your first customer.

Monday, March 23

Sex and the Single Eight Year Old GIrl

Uh-oh.  You've known that this one was coming.  Hey, give me credit.  I made it 23 days.  

This is where you find out that I'm old.   This is where you find out that, deep in my heart, I am a baffling combination of conservative old-fashioned mom and radical lesbian feminist. How's that for a combo (hold the pickles, hold the lettuce)?  

Here's what I REALLY don't get.

Bratz dolls.  Redeeming features?  Anyone?




Tight, revealing, suggestive, clothing for little girls.   Pants or shorts for young girls with writing on the butt (could someone please explain to me why ANYONE would want strangers focusing their gaze on their six--or eight--or ten year old's butt?).  Black lace and thong underwear for children.  The total absence of any adventure or science related imagery on girls clothing.   

Hannah Montana, High School Musical, the Cheetah Girls, Britney Spears as programming and role models for five, six, seven year old girls.

Beauty pageants for children.  (or for adults, for that matter, but I'm getting off topic)

The baffling inability of Disney to produce a movie that does not have compulsory heterosexuality as its primary theme.

Denial that any of this makes a difference, despite plentiful research and evidence.

What I don't get the most is the abdication of parents.  

"That's what she likes!" (That's nice, or better yet...of course) 
"What can I do?" (You can say no)  
"It's the only thing she'll wear!" (Do you really think she is going to go to school naked?)  
"Who am I to tell her she can't watch that?" (You're the parent).

What else can you do?  Tell your kids about the deception of advertising.   Tell them it's a business.  Explain why all the movies have accompanying toys distributed through fast food restaurants.  Tell your kids, as one of my friends did, that if Disney (or Nike, or Nickelodeon) wants usto advertise their products, they can pay us, just like they would anyone else.  Short of that, we're not going to be walking billboards.  

In our house, since our daughter was tiny, every time the ads came on (which we avoided for many years with the help of PBS), we would laugh and say "We don' t need that!".  In pretty short order, she started saying the same.  When she got a little older, we explained that commercials made things look or work differently than they really did.   She is a permanent skeptic of all commercials.  It's not that hard.

Tell your daughters that it's okay to shop in the boy's department, since that's the only place they can find the same jeans they got in the girls department when they were four, and the only place they can buy a t-shirt that won't cut off circulation in their upper arms.  If it was okay at four, it's okay at six.  

In the end, people are going to buy what they buy, whether I get it or not.  But I can dream.  I can dream of the day when we all think of the potential long-term messages and ramifications of the seemingly insignificant choices we make in early childhood, and examine whether those messages match our values and goals.   Sure.  Of coure.  You're right.  It might not make any difference--you had Barbies and you turned out fine (well, all things considered).  Or it might make a difference--in many cases it does.  The important thing, to me, is to be able to defend your decisions and accept responsibility for fallout, if and when it occurs.

But really, stay away from those Bratz dolls.  Yick.

Sunday, March 22

The United States of Reactivity

Just goes to show you how much I know about the country in which I was born and raised, and in which I have always lived (despite that stint in Hawaii, during which time visitors would always refer to their lives "back in the states"). I thought that the motto of the United States was E Pluribus Unum ("Out of many, one"). Silly me. I don't know what I was thinking. How could that be the motto of the United States if it doesn't have God in it? (smacking myself on the side of the head) No. The motto of the United States is--you guessed it--In God We Trust.

If there's one good thing that has come from doing this blog every day (and I'd like to think there is more than one), it has got to be that I've looked up a lot of things in the course of trying to write. In my research on this one, I discovered that I wasn't quite as stupid as I thought. The original motto of the United States, established in 1776, was E Pluribus Unum (ha!). It was changed in 1886, and wasn't on paper money until...get this...1957 (and on all denominations only since 1966). A lot of God got added to all kinds of stuff (like the pledge of allegiance) in the 50's. It was that kind of time.

You might say it's that kind of time again. But you'd be wrong. It's a different kind of time.

So with that in mind, I am proposing a new motto for the United States of America, one that more clearly illuminates the guiding principle that Americans live by and by which our government runs. Here's my idea. I'm thinking we should change it from

The United States of America: In God We Trust ..... to:
The United States of America: Closing the Barn Door after the Horse is Out.

Whaddya think? Good, huh?

I know. We're going to need new money that reflects our true values. Don't worry your pretty little head about it. I'm one step ahead of you. Just for you, a sneak preview (click on it and you'll see it closer up*):

Ya see, it has seemed to me, for years now (and if I pay attention, it seems to me pretty much every day) that that's really our belief, our modus operandi, our way of life.

Today, I heard on the radio that there has been a new law enacted in Massachusetts that requires drivers to slow down when there is an accident or a car that has been stopped by police (i.e. for speeding) in the breakdown lane. This is what our legislators have been working on. This law came about because, in the last year, three state troopers were killed when drivers plowed into them or their vehicles while they were in the breakdown lane. Of course, there is no denying that this is a terrible thing to have happened. But we need a new law to tell us to slow down? Who is the genius in the legislature that thinks that these three accidents would not have happened if only there had been a law on the books telling them to slow down when there was a State Trooper car pulled off to the side? Give me a break. Wouldn't it make more sense to put more energy into ticketing the hundreds (thousands?) of Massachusetts drivers who drive disrespectfully in general, who ignore basic existing traffic laws and speed limits, and who demonstrate on a daily basis that they feel that the laws don't apply to them? Every day, on the highway that I take to work, countless people drive in the breakdown lane, to try to get around the congested areas. This is clearly illegal, as when there is a police car nearby, some of them invariably get ticketed. If a much larger percentage of them got ticketed, that might help, no? Sure seems like it would help more than this law might--and this is the sort of place where such a tragic accident could easily occur.

Better yet, how about forgetting about ticketing altogether, and implement a curriculum and a parent education program that teaches children about being respectful of others and being aware of the people, space, and goings-on around them? The other night, I was at an event at my daughter's school, and there was a show in the gymnasium. All the kids were sitting on the floor to watch, and a group of us parents were also sitting on the floor behind the packed mass of children. Now Phoebe goes to a good school with patient teachers, attentiveness to social and emotional development, and with a reputation for kind students and more-aware-than-average parents. At the show in the gym, my hands were stepped on, my legs were kicked, I was bumped into, at least 20 times as kids maneuvered to get to where their friends were seated on the floor. And what I experienced wasn't an eighth of what I saw kids going through, being stepped on and pushed aside and having to adjust their personal space to accommodate a child who just decided that he or she had to sit in a particular spot (where there clearly was no available floor space). I didn't hear a single "Excuse me", even when parents were the ones being stepped on. In 5-7 years, all of these children will be driving. Isn't this where it starts? Teaching our children, at more impressionable ages, that being aware and considerate of those around you--including eye contact (heaven forbid) isn't only a "courtesy" but is a necessary part of civilized community? Isn't it possible that such an education program--or better yet, an increased parental commitment to demand such behavior out of our children--might have more of a long term effect on those state trooper accidents than passing a law that imposes a $100 fine? Oh. Right. I forgot. We don't do long term effects.

And it goes on.

There's a shoe bomber on an airplane. After that, we all have to take off our shoes when we go through security. Forgive me, but you'd think that we'd figure out that that trick has already been tried (and foiled, by the way), and that next time it might be something new that (gasp) we haven't thought of. But no. Take off your shoes.

There is some sort of incident with a liquid explosive on airplanes. After that, we can't take a bottle of water on a plane anymore, and we have to take only little tiny containers of toiletries, and not many of those at that (and did anyone else notice that they started charging for luggage at the same time, so it's not like you can put the other toiletries in your suitcase and just carry on a few things...everything's gotta fit in that ziploc bag....and did ziploc underwrite this effort? Hmm, I say. Hmm).

There's a huge government bailout of corporations and when huge bonuses are paid to employees of those corporations, we take up precious legislators time and energy crafting a bill to tax the recipients (as opposed to paying attention to restricting such things in the bailout process, that is).

And one of my favorites...the still ongoing security inspections of the trunks of every single car that enters Terminal B parking at Logan Airport in Boston, which is where the 9/11 hijackers' car was parked. Don't get me wrong. It could be a perfectly reasonable idea. But it's ONLY in Terminal B parking. Not in Central Parking. Not in Terminal E parking. Only in B. And the logic here is...?

We simply do not believe in preventive action. We do not believe in proactivity. We believe in waiting for things to happen and then changing what we do to try to make sure it doesn't happen again. And maybe it doesn't. But something ELSE does...why is that so hard to get? Then we can stop doing the something else, at least until a third thing happens.

I sound judgmental. Damn right. I don't get it.

*The latin inscriptions around the barn are: Pervenio Laxus, which means "React Later", and Parum Quoque Tardus, which means "Too Little Too Late".

Saturday, March 21

Harold Loves Maude....

...if you know the second half of that sentence, you get extra credit....and if you're the first to provide a written description of the visual associated with the sentence, you get extra extra credit....and if you still have, maybe from childhood, the small item that is easily associated with it, and you post what it says in the comment section, you get extra extra EXTRA credit!

Yes. There is a prize. (This offer nullified if any of your answers required even one iota of "research" rather than emanating solely from your memory stores. Yes, I'll know. I have ways.)

I bet you think now I'm going to write about love, about loss, about unlikely matches, about sappiness, about momentos, about a movie that I have seen more times than I like to admit.

Nope.

I'm writing because I have a secret desire (well, not anymore).  The persistent object of my lust (I know. It's sad).  A Harvard Metal-Typer.  Now you know.  

Metal Typer by gwen.

I have a tiny tiny house. But I would fit it in.

Did you use one of these machines as a child?  I sure did.  

So, if you're in a store and you see one of these languishing in a corner, call me right away. Have Subaru, will travel.


Friday, March 20

So late, so much, so soon


Sometimes, I wonder if anyone else in the world read Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories (1922) as a child (the photo above is the same version I have since childhood). I'm not sure I've ever met someone who has, for surely if they did, they would remember, and their eyes would light up when I asked them (or so I imagine). They might even find places to work some of those gorgeous phrases into their every day conversation, like the "long yellow leather slab ticket with the blue spanch across it". It is so rare that stories that are written for children roll off the tongue as phenomenal poetry, as this one does.

If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. It doesn't read easily, and requires a complete inattentiveness to the laws of physics--you will read the first few pages, and you will wonder how your children (or other people's children) will ever understand this. Don't worry about that. If you just remember it's poetry, and remember that for a short time they will get to look around and live in the world of the Rootabaga country, even if they don't understand all the words (much like visiting a foreign country, for it is, in fact, a foreign country), you'll be fine.

I bet you're wondering where this came from. Or maybe not. I'm gonna tell you anyway.

It came from feeling tired, feeling like there is so much to write and so much to say and so much to feel and so much that is not appropriate fodder for this blog, and trying to distill a day's experience down into something that I can write about here. In doing so, out of nowhere a passage from the Rootabaga stories filled my head (yes, I hear voices, what's it to you?). And then I knew that's what was supposed to go into this space tonight.

So here is the passage, from the first chapter:

"And they kept on living in the house where everything is the same as it always was. They learned to say just as their father said, "The chimney sits on top of the house and lets the smoke out, the doorknobs open the doors, the windows are always either open or shut, we are always either upstairs or downstairs--everything is the same as it always was.
After a while they began asking each other in the cool o fthe evening after they had eggs for breakfast in the morning 'Who's who? How much? And what's the answer?'
'It is too much to be too long anywhere,' said the tough old man, Gimme the Ax.
And Please Gimme and Ax Me No Questions, the tough son and the tough daughter of Gimme the Ax, answered their father, "It IS too much to be too long anywhere."

So they sold their belongings and went to the railroad station, and I'll pick it up from there...
(the interim stuff is also beautiful, but I can't write the whole book here)

"The ticket agent was sitting at the window selling railroad tickets the same as always.
'Do you wish a ticket to go away and come back or do you wish a ticket to go away and never come back?' the ticket agent asked wiping sleep out of his eyes.
'We wish a ticket to ride where the railroad tracks run off into the sky and never come back--send us far as the railroad rails go and then forty ways farther yet,' was the reply of Gimme the Ax.
'So far? So early? So soon?' asked the ticket agent wiping more sleep out his eyes."

And the best part of this is that I discovered, in searching for the image to post at the beginning, that this book is now in the public domain. You can download it for free, and listen to audio recordings of it, HERE. Amazing.

Of course, there are still a few of us out there who have an undying fondness for turning the thin half-century old pages and lingering on the pen and ink illustrations. If so, you can pick up a copy, old or reproduced, at any of your favorite book spots (sadly, unlikely to happen at your independent bookstore, but maybe they could order it for you....you really SHOULD buy your books there, ya know).

Let me know how it goes.

Thursday, March 19

The Little Things Add Up


Today was a weird day.  

Maybe it's just that blogging every day for nearly three weeks has had its own effect on my vision. It could very well be.  You know how that happens.  You're driving in your car, and hear some people on a talk show discussing a book--not a new book, like you might expect, but a book that has been around for years, and someone just happened to bring it up on the show.  Suddenly, the book is everywhere, and you notice it constantly, even though you never heard of it before.  Maybe you even stop in, pick it up and look at it when you pass the bookstore.  Then you go to a party, and a friend says "Have you ever read [the book]?" (and no, they didn't hear the radio show that you heard.)  You walk by another bookstore, and there it is, in their window display, a place normally reserved for new books.  You're listening to an interview with one of your favorite musicians, and they mention that when they wrote such-and-such seven years ago, they were inspired by this book.  You get the idea.  It's kinda twilight zone-ish (wasn't that a GREAT show?).

Well, blogging is kinda like that.  I'm almost sure of it.  At least the doo-doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo part.

So, I've been writing publicly for 18 days about things that I don't get.  And I gotta tell you, all of a sudden, I don't seem to get anything.  Or to be more accurate, I notice everything that is odd in the course of day, which I have to say can be taxing because there's a lot of odd stuff out there.  And when you're itching to figure out (preferably early in the day) what is sufficiently confusing to justify a blog post, it can get tiring.  Oh yeah...and stupid.

For example, this morning, I went to a coffee place to fill some time before I had to show up to put my John Hancock on a letter.  Yup, that's all I was there to do--I have an exciting life.  I went to pick up my food, and they had given me two knives.   (It was a breakfast sandwich.  I didn't even need one knife).   And I'm sitting there, sipping my coffee, looking at these two knives, noticing that they are lying so beautifully next to one another, facing opposite directions.  And I'm thinking that I don't get why they gave me two knives, and maybe that's what I can write about today (so I can stop thinking about what confuses me sufficiently to write about).  And then I'm thinking that this is the most boring thing to write about.  They gave me two knives because they made a mistake. Fascinating insight, Robin.  On the other hand, I did think that the curve of the knives rested so nicely into one another...you might even call it spooning, if they weren't...well...knives.  That cracked me up.

The day was full of 'em.  Completely uninteresting things that I don't get. 

I don't get how the toolbox section at Home Depot can sleep at night when it doesn't carry those little cases with all the tiny drawers.  Like this:

64-Drawer Storage Cabinet

I don't get why, when I open the envelope of watermelon seeds that Phoebe chose for our spring planting, I'm surprised that they look like (wow!) watermelon seeds.  Go figure.

I don't get why they "upgraded" the software on Facebook so that it doesn't work as well as it did before, and doesn't seem to do anything new.  Aren't upgrades supposed to be about improvements?  I'm really not being picky here...what was the purpose of the upgrade?  Maybe if I knew, I could get on board, but I don't get it.
 
I don't get the cult of celebrity, even as I sometimes have it myself (I don't get it then, either).  I don't get, for example, how people take Natasha Richardson's tragic death (I absolutely get how tragic and shocking it is) so personally, and I really don't get people leaving condolence messages about how they will miss her (even if they have never seen anything she was in, which was true for many people) because of [insert non-sequitur].  Like this one:

"...I remember her mostly becuase her mother was Vanessa Redgrave who I love. But I will miss her because she is such a fine actress and I will go out and rent Evening again and enjoy her and her mother together in film and share a tear. She will be missed and I am sorry for her family especially Vanessa."  (from CNN.com)

Yeah, I know.  Projection.  Unfinished Grief.  Coming to terms with mortality.  Blah blah blah.  Okay, I can be persuaded to get some of it.  Mostly, I still don't get it.

And just to reassure you (because I know you were worried)...I don't only ruminate (I prefer "ruminate" to "obsess"--just play along) on trivial things that I don't get.  I also occasionally delve into the bigger things.  There are plenty of them.  I did a lot of that today, too.  But I gave this post a title, and I kinda feel like I need to stick to it.  Besides, I might need some of those bigger things in the days remaining, if I am to have any hope at all of writing a post that's more interesting than this one.

Sheep, Art, Geekitude, Interior Decorating. Compare. Contrast.


It's so hard to really get where people get the ideas that they get without actually being them (the people, not the ideas).  I guess that's a good thing, because there's just not room up there for the sheer number and diversity of ideas in the world.  Now that you mention it--not that you did mention it--I don't really get where I get my ideas either.  But occasionally, I have some good ones.  Today was one of those days.

In the living room of my tiny little house I have a large "entertainment center" of sorts which is really an unorthodox conglomeration of Ikea bookcases with some extra parts thrown in for good measure.  There are things about it that don't work, but all in all, it's pretty good.  The thing is, when I bought it last year, I bought glass doors for the front--2 tall ones and 2 short ones.  I'm not naive enough to think that I could have one of those living rooms where clear glass serves to display the finest of wares.  I need to hide stuff, not display it.  So these glass doors have a white cardboard liner thingie that can be covered with any fabric or paper or pretty much anything.  It's a great idea--you can make the doors look any way that you want.

Anyway, when I bought them, Phoebe and I had these grand ideas about painting portraits of us (she'd paint one of me, and I'd paint one of her) and displaying them inside the cabinet doors.  I don't have to tell you what happened to that idea.   Life, that's what happened.  Oh, wait.  I guess I did have to tell you.

So the cabinets have remained white.  For almost a whole year.  Dark wood bookcases with blindingly white glass doors.  It looks stupid.  But try as I might, I haven't figured out what to do with them, mostly because I have a fierce internal battle between my geek-self, my artist-self, and my wish-I-had-even-one-decorating-gene-so-that-my-house-could-look-like-it-belongs-to-a-grownup-self.  Today--and I say this with great pride--I surrendered.  

I still don't have the slightest idea where the ideas came from, but suddenly they were there.  I was unwilling to give up the painting thing, so we're going to do that on the two smaller doors, a far more manageable task.  No great lightbulb moment there, I realize.  The two larger doors (which are about 15" wide by about 75" tall)?  Now those are a different story.

One of the large doors is now covered with green lego base surface.  Next to it is a basket filled with small flat lego pieces so that Phoebe and I, along with any visitor that joins us, can use color to make mosaic designs (or whatever) on that surface.  It's geeky--and artsy.  People are gonna assume it's for Phoebe.  They'll be wrong.  I love it. 

The other large door is similarly covered, but with a huge sheet magnet so that anything and everything can be stuck to it.  I don't know what is going to get stuck on there, but I can tell you right now that it's going to be good.  Maybe words.  Maybe paintings.  Maybe photographs. Maybe magnets.   Or maybe I'll just use it to erase people's credit cards when they come visit me, thereby doing my part to help them avoid debt in this time of financial crisis.  I'm helpful like that.

Cool.  Yeah, I'm a geek.  Yeah, I'm an artist.  Yeah, I'm no Martha Stewart.  Deal.  I like it.

But wait.  You want to know about the sheep.  And the art (not counting the cabinets).  Well, today, my friend Yvonne sent me a YouTube video that I'd never seen before.  The bad news was that, in the end, it became clear that it was essentially an advertising campaign.  The good news (which was much larger) is that it involved sheep.  And the most unusual set of human minds I may have ever witnessed. Who would think this up?  Who could think this up?    

Art is everywhere.  It's where you least expect it.  I love that.   

If you saw Lily Tomlin doing her one woman show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe", you'll remember her attempts to help an alien--who knows nothing of our ways--understand "what is art".  For those who missed this show (or were in second grade at the time), here's how she did it.   She held up the Andy Warhol painting of Campbell's soup.  Then she held up a can of Campbell's soup (which my daughter calls Cannibals soup, which I totally love).  Then she held up the painting again.  Then the soup again.  And as she did so, she explained what should be perfectly clear.  "This is art.  This is soup.  Art.  Soup.  Soup.  Art." Really, how much plainer can it get?  

And so, dear readers, I give you:  Sheep.  Art.  Art.  Sheep.   Try and ignore the corporate involvement if you can.  It's brilliant.



p.s. my favorite headline of the day:  "Counter-Terrorism Team Helps Deliver Baby at Penn Station."   I don't know, it just seems fitting.  Doesn't a birth sound like just about the best antidote to terrorism ever?   I know, depends if you're the one pushing the baby out, but still....


Tuesday, March 17

Ow!


First things first. I humbly beg your forgiveness. This is my first confession. Oh. Wait. Wrong religion. You get the idea, anyway.

Here's the thing. This week, I blogged about politics for three days out of seven, which is 43%. I have a 50% quota, so I hate to tell ya, but it's time to switch gears, mostly because I'm concerned that I'm in danger of giving you the impression that I'm that kind of a person. You know, one who cares deeply about important issues in our society and culture and who spends her days in critical policy analysis. Not so much. I'm more of a rant-for-a-while-and-then-go-back-to-people-magazine-and-musing-about-weird-things kind of a person.

So, without further ado, we now return to our regularly scheduled programming (I would tell you to get up and change the channel, but no one would know what I was talking about, since no one has gotten up to change a channel in, oh, a gazillion years. Is there even a way to change a channel anymore?).

Sorry. Ahem. Got a little off-track. Funny, that's never happened before.

Pinching. I want to talk about pinching.

What? Yes, of COURSE it's important as the state of our economy, ethics in capitalism (now there's a contradiction in terms) and civil rights. Are you kidding?

When I was little, I was pinched at school on St. Patrick's Day. A lot. It hurt. It was supposed to be in fun, but it sure didn't seem like it. It felt like a way to say "you're so stupid you can't even remember the RULES--any idiot knows you're supposed to wear green on March 17!" Oh. Okay.

Were you pinched? Do kids still do that? (I really hope not, but I'm not placing any wagers, especially here in Massachusetts)

Yeah, I know. I should have worn green, I was supposed to wear green, I wouldn't have gotten pinched if I had worn green. Yeah, right. Truth is, I never thought of it. I didn't think of it today, either, which is why I'm wearing jeans and a brown sweater, which reminds me that I'm supposed to be working on wearing brighter colors, which is hard because so many clothes in my size are dull colors, which is because people my size are supposed to either be "hidden" or be a slave to black which is "slimming", which would make you think I am huge, which I'm not, and even if I was, what does that have to do with my affinity for color, which reminds me of one of my favorite lines in one of my favorite movies:

"I'll never understand this mania for black. Nobody sends black flowers, do they? Black flowers are dead flowers. Who sends dead flowers to a funeral? It's absurd."

(Which has nothing to do with anything, except it makes me feel grounded, and I wanted to get it in one of these days.)

So here I am, 50 years old, and I have never known (nor for some reason been curious about until now, that's what a challenge to blog every day will do for you) the reason that people (is it just children?) are pinched on St. Patrick's Day. As shocking as it may seem, St. Patrick's Day is not really on my radar. You'd think the pain would have put it on my radar, but sadly, no. Any holiday that inspires tyranny in small children, I'm not so into that.

So today, I looked it up. Not for myself, mind you. For you. Because I bet some of you don't know either.

You're welcome.

Guess what I found out?

I found out that it has nothing to do with St.Patrick, and it has nothing to do with Ireland (they don't do it there). It's an American tradition, likely started by school children. Figures.

There are a few theories that seem to predominate:

Leprechauns pinch everyone they see, and green makes you invisible to leprechauns. (I'm not eating Lucky Charms ever again)

People are pinched to remind them to honor Ireland by wearing green. (Everyone? Should we all be wearing light blue on May 14?)

And my favorite one....because it was the one day in the year when you could get away with pinching someone in school without getting in trouble.

Ah. The joys of childhood.

That being said, I've got nothing against the holiday, the color, or the country....only the part that makes you say "ow". As in all things, I turn to the music, which is, of course, wonderful. So, if you're one who celebrates this day, please accept this as my St. Patricks Day offering (and somebody please leave me a comment and tell me who that big guy dancing in the background is!):

Monday, March 16

Well, whaddya know




(Click on the picture for the story)

So....just checking....this is a NEW idea? (well of course it is, it's in TIME magazine!) Of course, no mention in the least of federal implications. Hmmm.

If you think this idea will fly, raise your hand (can you imagine? And you think they came out--so to speak--to vote for Prop 8!!)

Don't mean to be such a cynic (well, I guess I kinda do), but this idea is as old as the hills, has been proposed by many of us for a long long time, and has always had a snowball's chance in hell.

Okay, mini-rant over. You got off easy this time.

Correction


It's not my fault.  Really.   I was quoting a CNN article.  But they had a misprint, and today, it's been corrected.   Oops.  I shoulda known better.  AIG's bailout was $170 BILLION and their bonuses were $165 MILLION.  A mere drop in the bucket (I still don't get it, though).  My apologies for my prior faux pas and the violence that I may have inadvertently incited.

All this talk of obscene amounts of money makes me feel as if I am channeling my dad, who was a prominent economist.  I'm remembering one time, some years back, when we were sitting in the family room at my parents house discussing the deficit (actually, he was trying to explain it to me), he was trying to explain the notion (since it is just a notion) of a trillion dollars.  I know that we're not talking about a trillion dollars in relation to AIG, but the national debt is 11 trillion, so it's worth understanding.   I remember he used an analogy of spending a dollar every second, 24 hours a day, since that's something we can all wrap our minds around (kinda).  $60 a minute.  $3600 every hour.  $86,400 every day (you could spend that, right?).  But I don't remember quite how it all worked out, so I found myself this nifty little video on YouTube.  It uses the same example my dad gave, which comforts me somehow, and the narrator talks about economics as if we're  3rd graders, which frankly, when we're talking about this amount of money, I really appreciate.

Talk about something that's hard to get...take a look see.



I know.  It hurts my brain, too.


Sunday, March 15

Troubled insurance giant AIG is under scrutiny after receiving at least $170 billion in federal bailout money.

Okay.  How could ANYONE get this?

Bailout:  $170 million.

Bonuses:  $165 million.

So THAT'S why my I'm behind in my bills and clipping coupons.  Glad to have that cleared up.


Heresy, Continued

It's a new day.  I bet you thought I'd think better of it.  Maybe I'd show up today and say "Eh, I was just tired and cranky....just kidding", or maybe I'd be cowed by the pressure of political correctness.  No such luck.

Of course, in the interim, I've been pleasantly reminded by my friend Pat that I am likely to get hoisted on my petard.  (Okay, I had to look up this reference, cuz using expressions I don't really get bothers me to no end.  You can read about it here.  You're welcome.)  I'll take my chances.  If I edit myself on my own blog, what's the point?

So...back to the subject at hand.  Here's what I was trying to say yesterday (If you didn't read yesterday's post, you can see it here.)  

The arguments that are most often heard--the ones about hospital visitation, about getting the house if your partner died, about benefits, about joint custody of children--are, of course, all real and valid.  But I still have two comments, because there's something (or somethings) that I don't get here.  First, as far as I know, there are legal ways to take care of some of those things, mechanisms that have been available to us for a long time.  So when people argue that we need to be married because they weren't "allowed to visit [their] partner in the hospital or make medical decisions", I find myself shouting at the television or computer screen, "That's called a power of attorney!"  I know, I sound critical.  I don't mean to be...really.  What I mean to say is that, if we are going to argue our right to civil rights, our argument ought to be firmly grounded in rights that are not possible to have without marriage.  It's more compelling.  

I know, that was only one question.  The second question is more basic to my stance.  It is this: Shouldn't everyone, no matter who they are, no matter what relationships they choose to have or not have, no matter their marital status or preference, have the right to designate the person or persons that they want to be able to visit them in the hospital and/or make medical decisions on their behalf?  Why should this be one of the rights of marriage?  I'm a terrific example.  If I never get married, shouldn't I be able to choose who I would like to be by my side in ICU and who will make decisions for me?  What's it got to do with marriage?   

And there are ways in which the centralization of the marriage paradigm work against us, let's remember that.  For example, my own experience of health insurance.  I get my health insurance through my employer (which I feel very lucky about, especially in the current climate).  There are multiple health insurance options, but as is often true, there is one that is really the obvious "best" choice--that's the one i have.  In that option, I have the choice of Individual, Couple, or Family, "Family" being the most expensive, obviously.  So I could cover myself.  For a bit more, I could cover myself and a spouse.  For more, I could cover my spouse and children.  Note:  The only one that includes children is "Family", and that insurance presumes coverage for three people at a minimum---you know, two adults and "x" children--that's a family, isn't it?  Since that is the presumption, that is the cost.  If I am a single parent, and I want coverage for me and my child, I have to effectively pay for three people, rather than two, which, as you can well imagine, is VERY expensive.  I know, I know...this is not the fault of my employer, and certainly not the fault of those working for GLBT marriage equality.  But, I would argue that such practices on the part of insurance companies are supported by our societal "agreement" that a "family" is a married couple, often with children (a model which largely presumes heterosexuality, by the way).  Why should this relationship model dictate our policy so broadly?  I don't get that.

The same two questions above go for most of the arguments in this case.  Right to inheritance of a house?  Co-ownership as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.  Benefits?  Same as what I said about hospital visitation.  Joint custody of children?  Yes--absolutely, I believe we should be fighting vigorously for second parent adoption and full parental rights for GLBT folks everywhere.  Social security and/or tax benefits?  AHA!!  Now there's a good point (that carries with it its own set of questions).  First of all, the legal marriage we have obtained does NOT carry with it any of those rights which, by the way, also makes divorce very difficult and different than for our heterosexual counterparts, even in states where marriage is legal, just in case you didn't know that.  So let's be clear and transparent about this--if the fight for marriage equality in individual states is, in reality, a stepping stone to full equal rights--not to marriage in particular, but to equal rights in every way for GLBT people-under the federal constitution (which for some people it is), let's move forward and keep our eyes on the prize. 

Wait, back to the hospital thing for a minute.  This is where the naivete (not mine this time) comes into play.   I have heard so many people say "Yes, I could [or did] fill out the paperwork and say that I want my partner allowed into ICU, but where I live, the hospital personnel just might not [or did not] abide by it--they just said no".  And these people think that having a marriage certificate instead of a power of attorney will magically repair that state of affairs? Homophobic hospital personnel--doctors and nurses and administrators that think they have the right to "just say no" to a power of attorney--are somehow going to do what they are supposed to just because you're married?  I don't think so (and you know as well as I do that plodding through the legal process to get them to do it is not exactly what you're thinking of when your loved one is hospitalized).  The problem here, the enemy here, is homophobia and individuals who think they do not have to follow the law if it conflicts with their personal or religious beliefs.  Let's fight THAT.  I know, you'll say we *are* fighting that, at the same time. In that case,  I recommend that you take a look at the relative percentage of GLBT fundraising dollars that are going to this sort of work.  

Of course there's also all the old, crunchy, anarchic, lesbian feminist stuff (just plug your ears and hum if you can't stand it).  You know, marriage as a patriarchal institution, the risk inherent in allowing government into our intimate relationships, why in the world do we want to be like straight people....the list goes on.   (check out this article on Marriage and the Patriarchy here---very interesting).

Lest you think I am hopelessly deluded, take a look at the statement and signers on Beyond Marriage, and read the position statement on marriage offered by the Audrey Lorde Project.   And if you don't know who Audre Lorde is, (tsk tsk) then you might get going on that too.  

And if you think heresy is bad....here's a chuckle for you.  I am the President of a chorus whose whole spring schedule is organized around performing works about marriage to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the first legal same-sex marriages in Massachusetts (accompanied by a high-profile fundraiser to benefit organizations working for equal marriage).   So what is my role in all of this? 

My role is that I'm president, I'm a singer, and I'm a supporter of the chorus in every way and form, which extends to every goal and cause we embrace as a collectively run organization.  So, what am I doing?  I'm pitching it. I'm talking it up.  I'm working my butt off to make it a success.  I'm memorizing music.  I'm promoting it.  I'm "in" one hundred percent.  

I'm hoping that it goes to prove my point.  I'm not AGAINST same sex marriage.  I'm thrilled and honored to live in the first state in the U.S. where it has been legal for five full years come May.  I'm just not an all-or-nothing type...in any way.  So I can be fully in favor of it--as I said, it's equality, how could that be bad--and critical of the way in which it has overshadowed every other GLBT rights issue at the same time.  

I guess, in my naivete, I'm imagining that my brothers and sisters are stepping away from the era of "you're with us or you're against us".  Nothing is that simple.

So, in response to my friends who are concerned (or giddy) for the "onslaught" or, even those who look at me askance when I say things like that which I've written here today,  and even for the part of myself that doesn't want to get yelled at, even virtually, I offer the words of the aforementioned Audre Lorde:

"When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."

Heresy

Every once in a while, someone just comes right out and asks me "So why aren't you in favor of same-sex marriage?"

Did I say that? Where did they get the idea that I was not in favor of same-sex marriage? Oh. Maybe from me. I mighta said something that they could have construed in that way. But that isn't quite what I meant.

Before you go and get your panties in a bunch (one way or the other), let me say, right here and right now, that I am in favor of marriage equality. No ifs, ands, or buts (what a strange expression). I am in favor of all types of equality, and that's one of 'em, so I'm all for it. What could be bad about equality?

Okay, here goes: I see no valid reason why gay and lesbian people should be excluded from civil marriage, which has nothing, and I repeat NOTHING, to do with religion (unless you want it to, which is your own business, not mine, and not anyone else's, which is kinda the whole point). And I can see lots of valid reasons why gay and lesbian people should have the right to marry. So now we're clear, right? No? Okay, okay. I'll explain.

I'm a big--and I mean BIG--believer in persuasive argument, in using all relevant facts to argue a point. Ask anyone who knows me. They'll tell you it's true. I'm also, by default, a big believer in the converse (not the sneakers, though I like those too), that being that argument based on faulty premise is faulty in itself. That's been my number one problem--I have found many of the arguments..well...let's just say, "not too compelling". They seem to me to have the same kind of "feeling" as the "we-can't-help-it-we-were-born-this-way" argument for gay and lesbian rights in general, as if the only reason we deserve equal rights is because we just "can't help it", poor us. I don't buy that one. But forget about me. It just doesn't make any sense at all to recognize and accept that religion is a protected class (when there is no doubt from anyone that religion is not heritable and is a matter of choice), while feeling the need to insist that homosexuality must be proven biological in order to merit similar status. That's one.

...to be continued