Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Garden Woes

For some reason, I have a brown thumb this summer. The only plants that are thriving in my yard are the weeds. I did all that planting during the month of May… I’ve given everything a month to dig in and GROW. Sadly, I have to admit that my success rate is unusually low this year. My geraniums look stunted, the slugs have attacked my planter boxes on my front porch, the shrub border is sporting a brand new crop of weeds, and one whole side of my "fountain garden" is dead or dying. (The same plants planted on the other side of the garden are thriving. And it’s just a small area…a circle about 12 feet in diameter. I don’t understand how one half of it can be fine and the other half look like it’s been hit with "Round-up…")



My wonderful "salad garden" outside my patio door is looking really puny. Now, I thought I gave those plants the best that could be had as far as soil. I went and bought some of that incredibly expensive "Miracle Grow" stuff, mixed it with regular cheapo potting soil and some compost. NOT having a lot of success, though. The squash keep putting out flowers, which drop off and don’t produce fruit. I know the plants are really too small yet to be producing fruit, but why do they keep making flowers? My peppers look like hell. I decided to buy some more "exotic" varieties this year…like jalapenos and some little things called "sweet cherry peppers." Some of them have not grown an inch since I put them in. Some of them have grown, but the old leaves keep yellowing and dropping …the plants just basically look BAD. The only ones that seem to be doing anything are the good old sweet green bell peppers.

I decided to harvest some of my lettucelast night for dinner. It’s actually looking very good, and is at the stage where it’s just past what you would call "mesclun…" Not little baby leaves anymore, but not big and tough, either. Makes your mouth water, doesn’t it? Mine too. I cut some yesterday afternoon, rinsed it, patted it dry on paper towels, and put it in the fridge to "crisp" for dinner. Dinner time comes, I proudly whip out my home-grown bounty, flip back the damp paper towel I had covering it… And am greeted by hundreds of little bugs. Cold, slow-moving, but still alive little bugs, wriggling around on the paper towels wrapping my lettuce. Ugh! What’s up with that? Apparently, aphids don’t "rinse off" so good. They hang on for dear life. Hmm...what to do?  I had read somewhere that you’re supposed to soak home-grown broccoli in salt water to get rid of the insect life before you eat it…so, I dumped my greenery into a salt-water bath, left it sit for awhile, then pulled each leaf out, rinsed it individually, and dropped it into my salad bowl.

What a pain in the butt! Makes you wonder what the allure is to growing your own if it's so much bother. I guess you have a choice between eating pesticides from the grocery store, or eating bugs on home-grown. I guess the bugs are better for you, but the idea of adding that kind of protein to my diet does NOT exactly make me want to turn cartwheels. I wonder if Weight Watchers has calculated the points in a tablespoon of aphids?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Surprise, Surprise!

Well, well, well!  Remember that journal installment I just made reference to in my last entry?  I THOUGHT it was odd that it was getting so much attention from people who were not members of the journal community.  I was getting these ungrammatical, misspelled, mean-spirited comments...and then when I would search for the journals of the folks who wrote them, I would find they HAD no journals.  Where were these folks getting the information about my journal entry, I wondered?  Just from punching some combination of words into an AOL search?  Did someone who regularly reads my journal post a link on a message board or something?

Mystery solved this morning.  A commenter mentioned that she had found her way to my journal via a link from an AOL site--one that dealt with Former President Clinton's new book.  What?  They provided a link to my journal without asking me for permission?  Or even warning me that they intended to do so?  I gotta say...this pissed me off.

I have consistently turned down requests to be featured by various "communities" on AOL.  The editor's top five picks, AOL's Small Business Community, AOL Local something-or-other, AOL's Women's interest pages, or whatever...  I just don't desire that kind of "recognition" of my journal.  But at least all these "interests" have had the decency to ASK me if I wanted to be featured, and I appreciate that.  But, damned if AOL didn't just go ahead and provide a link to my journal anyway...and in a place where I probably would have LEAST wanted to be featured.  For God's sake, I haven't even read the book!  (I bought it, I'm working on it...but, since it's over 900 pages, it will probably be awhile before I have finished with it and am prepared to make any judgment on it that I would want to share with ANYONE, much less people I didn't know...)

I know...I chose to put my journal on AOL, and I guess that meant I was giving up 99% of my rights to its content.  But there IS such a thing as common courtesy.  And it's obvious to ME that AOL chose to link to my entry because it would CAUSE controversy...just the kind of thing I was railing AGAINST in my last entry.  Like poking at a cobra to see if you can get it to strike.  Shame on AOL. 

Tell me, my friends in the journal community, am I being too sensitive?  Do I have a right to be pissed off about this?

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Time for a Change

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my theory that the end of the Cold War had left a huge void in America: Those who needed to hate no longer had an enemy of the state upon whom to unleash that most negative of human emotions. I wrote that I felt Americans had begun to revisit racism and civil rights as ways of venting their inner demons. Lately, I’ve been giving some further thought to this issue, and I’ve come up with another theory. I still believe that racism DID experience a renaissance during those years when America drifted in a more or less peaceful co-existence with her fellow nations. But besides that, we raised up two new sources of evil to fulfill our need to hate: The President of the United States….and each other.

President Clinton became one huge, unfortunate target for the bottled-up hatred in this country. His intelligence, personal charisma, and political savvy propelled him into the office, but they couldn’t save him once the tide of public opinion was turned against him. Eight years of a mostly decent presidency were turned to dross by the relentless forces directed at him. In the end, he was disgraced, an object of scorn, a target of some of the ugliest derision I have ever heard directed at a public figure. I wonder, where were all those folks who are now insisting that Americans need to have respect for the "office" of the Presidency? Why didn’t Mr. Clinton deserve that? Was it because he cheated on his wife and lied to Congress about it? I don’t know….it seems to me that if we had shown one tenth the "respect" for him and his office that people are now demanding for President Bush, the "Monica" incident would never have been uncovered, much less dragged in front of Congress.

But apparently, it didn’t appease us enough to hate and vilify our own president. We had to start turning on each other, too. We had to debase political discourse in this country to the level of radio talk shows that display a sickening degree of rudeness, closed-mindedness and complete disregard for the opinions of others that do not line up with our own. We cultivated radio personalities who embarrass, ridicule, patronize, and just verbally abuse callers with opposing viewpoints. Over the air, to millions of listeners every day. I don't know which part of that bothers me the most: the fact that the hosts actually treat people like that on the air, or that SO many people tune in? It has gotten beyond out of hand. People not only listen to this verbal abuse, they emulate it. To the point where, when a liberal group decided they needed "liberal" radio talk, they completely duplicated the format, down to the rudeness and verbal abuse to the callers. It has become what we do, daily, in all forms of media—television and print, as well as radio. It’s how we communicate with people who don’t believe as we do. How terrible is that? And how ugly, and wrong!

It hasn’t helped that we’ve since acquired a new "National Enemy." It is an amorphous, slippery group of international thugs that we haven’t had much success in identifying, finding, and attacking. We STILL don't have a solid, undeniable target for our all-too-human capacity for hatred. We’re all over the map, now...in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Saudi Arabia, in North Korea. Some of us even remain mired in Viet Nam. And unfortunately, we still haven’t softened our attitudes toward each other or our political leaders. If there are people out there who are genuinely worried about the future of our country, this is what they ought to be worried about. We are eating ourselves alive, from the inside out. If we can’t learn to get along with each other, if we can’t learn to treat other AMERICANS with respect, if we constantly feel the need to tear down our leaders and drag them in the muck, how are we going to make it in the world? How can we expect the rest of the world to look up to us, to admire us, to desire this "democracy" that we want them to believe is the highest form of human government?

Last week, I posted an entry about getting past trying to lay the blame for the 9/11 attacks. I tried to stake out a middle ground in that entry…to NOT blame either the Bush or the Clinton administrations. I got enraged comments from BOTH sides of the political spectrum. There are still people out there who can’t read a positive reference to Mr. Clinton without foaming at the mouth.  There are folks who have a zero-tolerance attitude toward the current administration. I’ll even admit to being one of those…but that journal entry and the reactions I received to it opened my eyes, at least a little. We are too polarized in this country…too unwilling to compromise, too unable to acknowledge that there are at least two sides to every issue. This situation must change, or our nation will not be able to move forward effectively in the 21st century. "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…" Henceforth, I am going to try to be more tolerant and open-minded in my own political viewpoint, and less vitriolic in my assessment of others’. It might not change a thing, probably won’t win any converts to my way of thinking. But, to me, it will be "walking the walk."

Thursday, June 24, 2004

A Little More Ranting

Can you tell I'm on a little hiatus with my business?  Don't have another event until the Fourth of July.  When I'm busy, it's like one or two journal entries a week.  Now that I'm home taking a breather for a few days, I'm on the computer for hours.  One or two entries a day.  All this stuff swimming around in my brain...why not spit it out here?  It's my journal, by golly.  Hope you all don't mind reading it...  :-]

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of political discourse in this country. I have to wonder if it’s more awful than it’s ever been, or if it has always been as it is. It’s been a long time since I sat in a US History class…but I remember reading about the "carpet-baggers" of the nineteenth century. A hundred and fifty years ago, without the technology we have at our fingertips today, should have been the political "dark ages." News traveled pretty slowly back then…neither candidates nor voters had access to up to the minute details of world or national events. That fact, I think, served political purposes better than having the information would have. They could just get up in front of a crowd of uninformed people and whip them into an emotional frenzy with meaningless, groundless political rhetoric. Wait…does that sound familiar?

So, what gives? Why is it that, with all the information we should have available to us, politicians still stand on the dais and spout meaningless strings of emotional buzz-words? And we in the audience hang on their every word, jump up and holler when cued, then run home and squander our votes on the basis of very few actual facts? We should be more advanced than that. Information is available to everyone in this country…or is it? Where does most of our information come from? From the news media. How responsible are they in reporting the facts? This question really frightens me. Because if you don’t look below the surface, you would take it for granted that the news media DOES report the facts. Really?

When I was in high school, I enrolled in a journalism class. We were told there were very strict rules as to what "news reporting" was. It was "who, what, when, where, and how." It was NOT "Why?" "Why" was editorialism. How much news do you see, hear, or read anymore that does not have a healthy dose of "why" mixed in with it? Dangerous, dangerous ground. It should not be up to the news media to draw conclusions about the motivations involved in a story, nor even to speculate about them. It’s their duty to give us the facts, and let us draw our own conclusions. Shame on them. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is going to change any time soon. Speculation creates sensation, sensation draws the audience, the audience pays the bills. We are being used, plain and simple. The public trust has been violated and shamefully taken advantage of.

Here is my question: Where do we go to get the unbiased facts? Is there an agency, newspaper, radio station, whatever, that will give us the news without any embellishment? In fact, I don’t think they know what "news" is anymore. "News" has come to be defined as anything that will draw an audience…like the stench of rotting flesh will draw flies. We NEED a source of unbiased, untainted information in this country. Unfortunately, I’m sure that only some of us will be interested in it, which is probably why it doesn’t exist. If anyone knows of such a source, I would appreciate hearing about it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Belated Father's Day Thoughts

Father’s Day has come and gone, without being made note of in my life. My husband is not a father, and both of our fathers are gone. I completely missed it this year. In a way, that’s a good thing. Because now, it just makes me sad. I don’t need a day that’s all about missing my dad. I miss him every day, anyway.

When I read other people’s accounts of their cuddly, huggy, smoochy dads, I have to smile a little. My dad was certainly none of these things. He just was not a physically demonstrative man. Nor an emotionally demonstrative one. He didn’t hold us in his lap, enfold us in big, fatherly bear-hugs. But we didn’t need those things from him to know that he loved us. We were a family of six women….and Dad. He was vastly outnumbered…I really don’t know how he put up with all that estrogen flying around. But he was always "The Dad." He was the provider. He was the teacher. He WAS Mr. "Know-it-All." An extremely intelligent and well-read man, somehow making do with being the patriarch of a family of daughters in Post-World-War-II suburbia.

One of my parents’ strictest rules when we were growing up was that we were all to be treated exactly alike. There was to be no favoritism at all; there were no dance lessons, or piano lessons, or sports teams, nothing that would pander to (or enhance) any of our individual talents. If an activity couldn’t be done by the entire family, it wasn’t done. To be fair, Dad was trying to put all of us through Catholic school on his salary alone…so there really wasn’t the money for any extra-curriculars. But I always got the impression that my parents were afraid that if they acknowledged that one daughter showed a talent for something, it would somehow be shortchanging the rest if they officially encouraged it.

Lately though, I’ve gradually become aware of an inkling…that I might have been my father’s favorite. I was the only one of us five girls who resembled HIS family, and not my mother’s. Pictures of Dad’s younger sister were VERY reminiscent of…me. (Or was I reminiscent of her…?) I was skinny as a rail, where the rest of my sisters tended to take after my mother’s plump, Hungarian heritage. AND, I had the same birthmark as my dad…a little fleshy bump on the top of my right ear that made me look like I was ¼ elf. Much was madeof that birthmark when I was a little girl, and the fact that I was probably the purest "Baldwin" among the bunch of us. When I was little, I thought that was only talk…

Now that I am older, and he is gone, I can see that maybe, just maybe, he had a softer spot in his heart for me than for the rest of the girls. I think he’d deny it to the death…but it may be true. There are some little clues… As we got older, the folks would just fork over checks on birthdays and anniversaries. They had no idea what we liked or needed as adults. But, I remember…I would get stuff like a set of knives and a knife block…or a chip and dip set…or a fishing pole.  And inevitably, I would hear, "Your dad picked that out for you…" And then there was our arrival in Oregon…when we moved out here because I couldn’t stand that my family had left me behind. We pulled into their driveway, after our long cross-country trip, with all our possessions and herd of animals in Little Pepe and a rented moving truck. My dad DID NOT cry. I can count on one hand the times in my life when I saw him fog up. But there were tears in his eyes and a catch in his voice when we jumped out of the car and went to hug him.

And, during his final illness, we all did our best to make him comfortable, to do the "nursing" things that none of us ever thought ourselves capable of doing. We had to set up his tube-feedings, make meals that we hoped he could/would eat, dress the infection that he had developed at the site of his feeding tube, deal with his bedsores… One day, my mom said to me, "He likes the way YOU do it" when we were talking about some aspect of his care. I was proud, humbled, devastated, and fiercely determined to do the best job I could…all at the same time. Which is actually a pretty good summation of my entire lifetime relationship with him.

Dad is buried on a little hillside, in a cemetery outside Eugene. If he was there, he could see the foothills and the mountains to the east, where he used to fight fire as a summer job during his college years. And he could watch the RVs leaving town on the most-traveled route between Eugene and the ocean he loved. But he’s not there. I don’t know where he is, but he’s not hanging around some marble orchard. I GO to the cemetery, I put flowers on his grave, but I don’t feel him there.

THIS is where I feel him:

Whenever I walk on the beach, there seems to be one seagull, all by itself, who will sit and watch me approach…stay for the longest time, and eventually fly when I get too close. And I say, "Hi, Dad!" Because I really think it IS him. Saying, "hi"…letting me know he’s okay, wherever he is.

Monday, June 21, 2004


Lately, I seem to be writing in a more political bent.  AND I'm starting to get comments from people with opposing viewpoints.  I think this is GREAT!

There are a lot of us here in AOL journal land.  From many walks of life.  From all areas of the country.  I have learned SO much by reading these journals.  Learned about the differences between us.  Learned about the similarities that exist, in spite of the differences.  I haven't had a lot of friends in my life...haven't really had contact with too many people outside my own little emotional bubble.  Being a part of the journal community has been a broadening and enriching experience for me.

One thing that has impressed me, is the capacity of most of us...well, at least the little group whose journals I read, and who read mine...to step outside ourselves. To make every attempt to understand and sympathize with what another "journalist" writes.  Whether it be a relationship issue, an emotional one, a practical one, or a political one.  We try to lift each other up, every day.  Try to impart positive energy through our computer keyboards, across the phone lines, and into the hearts of the people we read and write for. 

I think that, from time to time, we all feel we are "spending too much time online," and back off for a little while.  But the community is always there for us to come back to when we are ready.  And, I've got to ask...what's wrong with being involved in other people's lives?  What's bad about sharing with people, and having them share with you?  For the truly introverted among us, and we are legion, this is the deepest level of contact we have with other people.  Or am I wrong?  Am I the only person in the world who feels she really NEEDS the communtity of the other writers here? 

At any rate, I just want to say "Thank you."  This community is about sharing, and being THERE for one another.  And about ranting, and listening to someone else's rants, and understanding where they're coming from.  And for listening to the views of people you have become close to, in the unique way of the online relationship, and accepting those views as part of who they are, but not ALL of who they are.  So that there is a way to still be friends with someone who will not necessarily vote the way you will this November.  Can we keep this up?  Can we be polite and respectful of each other, even though we may not agree on everything?  This is what I value about the people I have met in this community.  And this is what I wish the rest of the world, or at the very least, the rest of our country, could be like. 

Get OVER it!

<Citizens United — a conservative lobbying group whose president, David Bossie, Mr. Clinton writes, helped to foment the Whitewater scandal — bought advertising time in several markets during Mr. Clinton's interview on "60 minutes" to argue that the former president was responsible for failing to prevent the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.>

This just makes me want to break something.  Politics are a hopeless string of lies in this country.  There are no such things as honor, accountability, telling any truth without spinning it to make one's own party look good, and the other party look responsible for ANYTHING bad.

What bothers me is, the Conservatives now want to blame Clinton.  And/or they declare that blaming the current president would not be showing the proper patriotism or "respect" for the office of the presidency.  I see...only Republican presidents are worthy of respect. 

I am of the opinion that NO president was responsible for what happened on 9/11.  Certainly not Bill Clinton, who had been out of office for nearly a year, and a lame duck long before that...unable to properly conduct the duties of his office because he was dealing with a constant stream of Republican attacks every time he made any move in any direction, personal or political. 

But neither is George W. Bush responsible for those attacks.  NO ONE, no matter what the 9/11 panel tries to dredge up, or whom they attempt to blame, had a clue that Al Quaeda would plan and be able to pull off such a spectacular example of modern urban terrorism.  Now we know.  Let's go forward.  Let's grow up and try not to pin the blame on anyone.  Let's let today be the first day of the rest of our lives.

I think Mr. Clinton might have made a big mistake releasing his book before the election.  I don't think he realized that he continues to be a lightning rod for Conservative slander.  He won't be doing the Democratic party any good by allowing the Right to dredge up all the old garbage about him and fling it in Kerry's way.  No amount of bad news coming out of Iraq, or stories of the Bush administration's collusion with the energy industry, or tax cuts for the wealthy, seem to be able to attract the attention of the American public away from the sensational roasting of Bill Clinton by the Conservative loudmouths in this country.  Yet another not very attractive example of human nature....  


Another Weekend...Another Event

We were back in Astoria this past weekend, doing an event called the "Scandinavian Midsummer Festival."  The weather was gorgeous...no rain.  In fact, it might have even been a little TOO nice.  When the weather is nice at the coast, people flock to the beach, and little local events like our festival suffer, attendance-wise.  But we did well in spite of the poor attendance numbers.  In fact, we may have been the only really palatable food at the event, so I think that helped.

Our booth was placed outside the exhibit hall, because we have to use propane for our cooking appliances (don't want to kill off the patrons with carbon monoxide...)  I love doing events at county fairgrounds.  So far, we've been to about a half dozen different ones.  They all seem to be in various states of slightly seedy disrepair, owing to the chronic lack of funds they have to deal with.  Most of the buildings are right out of the thirties or forties...  Anything built after the sixties is considered extravagantly updated.  Walking around the fairgrounds is like stepping back in time.  

Many of them have "Master Gardens," which are planted and maintained by the County Extension Services.  The picture above was taken in the Clatsop County Master Garden, which was a few steps away from where our booth was located.  It wasn't huge...maybe the size of a typical suburban back yard.  But the flowers were wonderful.  How great is it to be able to do the work you love in this kind of setting?  I haven't made any money yet, but this weekend was definitely an example of why I do what I do!    

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


All these questions and answers making the rounds in Journal Land… I’m going to answer one that nobody has asked: What song do you think best expresses your personal philosphy?

This song has been in the back of my mind for much of my adult life. Years ago, I was a starry-eyed, steadfast member of a Pentecostal church. As time went on, though, I became aware of the fact that the Christian right was NOT all about God. Much of its time and energy were invested in beating "the other side" over the head with their interpretation of religion. Not just the godless unsaved, but other brands of Christianity that they felt did not follow the correct path (theirs) to salvation. I wanted to love God, but ultimately, I knew I didn’t belong among a bunch of people who used what they felt was THEIR special relationship with the Almighty, to belittle, threaten, and sometimes take violent action (abortion clinic bombings) against those who did not believe as they did. And so, the words of Lennon’s song began to play in the back of my mind…increasingly loudly as the Christian right became more powerful, more vocal and more violent. Imagine there's no heaven...It's easy if you try; No hell below us, Above us only sky. Imagine all the people Living for today...

Recently, the tune has become even louder. What a mess the world is in now! The entire Middle East is an explosion waiting to happen. Half the African continent is involved in civil war or genocide. The Balkans crackle with barely concealed violence. India and Pakistan are constantly on the verge of coming to nuclear blows. North Korea is rattling its saber. Central America has roaming bands of rebels who annihilate entire villages full of peasants. Name a corner of the world, and there are people killing each other for political gain.

And the United States of America, arguably the most powerful nation in the world, which has the power to be a HUGE source of good, to promote peace and understanding (notice I didn’t say "democracy") in the world…chooses NOT to. Instead, reeling from an unprovoked attack on our own soil, we take up our guns and bombs and go wading into the general area of the world from which we believe our attackers sprang, and start killing people. In light of our complete inability to uncover the WMD we claimed we were going after, there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was purely an act of revenge (I won’t go into the other possible political rationale behind it…). "An eye for an eye." There are those who STILL argue that the attack was justified, if for no other reason than to demonstrate to the rest of the world that you’d better not even think of messing with the United States. Really? What does such an act of revenge produce? Does it produce peace? Or just a higher stack of dead bodies?

While everyone around me was donning their red, white and blue garb, waving the stars and stripes from every possible orifice, banning French fries, belting out "I’m Proud to be an American" at every public gathering of more that five people…Lennon’s song played a little louder in my head: Imagine there's no countries; It isn't hard to do…Nothing to kill or die for; And no religion too. Imagine all the people Living life in peace...

I love my country. I love the sheer, beautiful expanse of it. I love the history of our long and difficult climb toward guaranteeing freedom and dignity for EVERY citizen. I love it when we try to inspire the rest of the world to value human life. I love it when we open our doors and embrace "the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free…" I love the great men and women our country has produced. I love the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, crafted with such care and diligence by some of the greatest minds this world has ever known.

But I can’t condone using our flag as a weapon to bludgeon the rest of the world into compliance with our beliefs. I can’t rally behind it when it is used as a standard to lead our young men and women into a war tainted with race hatred and the lust for revenge. I don’t believe that is what "patriotism" is about; but if it IS, I want no part of it. In that case, the world would be a better place with NO countries. NO boundaries. NO flags. Imagine all the people Sharing all the world... You may say I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one… I hope someday you'll join us And the world will live as one.


Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Okay Now

I'm better now.  Thanks to all you who sympathized with my melt-down. 

I don't know whatever posessed me to watch those old videos on a day when I was already standing on the edge of the "bummer abyss."  It's the oddest thing; sometimes, when I get in those moods, I purposely do something to push myself over the edge.  I always feel physically like crap for a day or so after one of my "drowning" sessions...  But I also feel cleansed. In order to deal with the losses I have faced, I just push them to the corners of my mind, where they are not directly in the way of my everyday functioning.  But they tend to stagnate a bit, and the odor they emit begins to insidiously creep into my conscious mind.  Until it starts to taint everything.  From time to time, I just have to cry...turn the emotional power-washer loose on myself and blow it all out.  And then I'm fine for a few more months, when I have to do it again.

I should be okay for the rest of the summer, I think.  I needed to get this all out of the way before I got into the busiest part of my season, where I can't afford to let things get me down.  As if I can really control it (LOL).  It's nice to THINK I can...

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Emotional Overload

On the heels of a completely unsuccessful event for the business, I decided to write an entry about my late, sweet Andrew.  Then, for some ungodly reason, I decided that tonight would be a good night to watch some of our old videos.  Featuring many of the people I have loved in my life that are no longer with us.  My dad, my sister...  Old videos can be a peculiar kind of torture.  It's not like looking at still pictures.  It's live film that takes you right back to the moment.  And then you realize that those people, those times, are irretrievably GONE...  Forever.  No going back.

I can't stop crying.  It reminds me of something my sister Joyce used to say to me.  We had all moved to Oregon, left her behind in Illinois.  During the last few years of her life, I took it upon myself to make sure she was able to come out to us to visit every summer.  At the end of her visits, she used to forbid me to go to the airport to say goodbye.  She would tell me, "I'm afraid that if I start crying, I'll never stop." 

That's how I feel right now.  I'll be better in the morning, I'm sure. 

But right now, I'm drowning.

The Cat With Many Names

I've not done any of the Scalzi "Assignments..."  in fact, I only hear about them from the journals I read.  I don't actually go checking Scalzi's journal for the Assignment of the Week.  But I heard tell that he suggested writing about "old animals."  THAT was a subject I could warm to.

This boy came to live with us in July of 1978.  He was supposed to be a birthday gift for my husband...as much as you can make a "gift" of one life to another.  In one of those silly "what if" conversations we had as newlyweds, we decided we would name any male progeny we produced "Andrew Edward."  We must've known even then that we wouldn't be having kids, because the kitty got the name.
All kittens mew, and mew loudly, especially when they're fresh from the comfort of Mom and the rest of the litter.  Andy was no exception...he had a pretty impressive set of kitten pipes.  A couple of months down the road, when most kitties would have outgrown that kittenish yowling, we came to realize that Andrew would not only retain this characteristic, but his voice would mature and mellow into a cross between an air-raid siren and a foghorn.  In fact, there's no real way to describe the sound that came out of his face.  (We DO have one example of it captured on an old video...I would be tempted to make an audio entry of it, but the phone line would not do it justice.)  Mealtime--I call it feeding time at the zoo--was always something to hear.  The other cats (at one point, Andrew had seven "siblings") would put their two cents in...seven cats mewing politely for their dinner is noise enough.  But when number eight is bellowing like a young bull being castrated, you'd best jump up off that recliner and make with the cat food.  Now! 
Andy was the first cat I ever met who would "fetch."  We found this out quite by accident...we bought him some of those cute little foam "kitty toy" balls, thinking he would have fun batting them around.  Tossed one down the hall; Andy goes tearing after it, bats it around a bit, looks at it...you can see the wheels turning. And he picks it up in his mouth, trots back up the hall, and politely drops it at our feet.  "Throw it again.  It isn't any fun when I have to make it move!" He would "retrieve" that ball for as long as you wanted to throw it...until he was panting like a...well, I won't say it.  I don't want to insult his memory!  But he DID resemble a small, orange and white German shepard...  (Sorry, Roo!)
I could fill a book with Andrew stories.  No room, or time, for that here.  But here's something that anyone who knew Andrew knew about him.  He was the Cat of Many Names.  I've written this before---it's a tradition in our family that an animal never seems to retain its orignal name.  All of our cats have several, and they will answer to most of them.  Andy was the champ, however.  Of course, he was with us for many years, so there was plenty of time for him to rack up the names.  Here is the list of all I remember:
Andrew Edward:  Andrew, Andy, Roo, Rooter Roo, Two Roos, TwoRoos Lautrec, An-you (conferred on him by one of my nieces...we actually changed the spelling to "On-you," because that was where he always wanted to be...), Nyou-Nyou, Andy Eddy, Eddy Spaghetti (after his favorite food), Edvard Spagednadze (the Russian skater version); when he got old and FAT, we added Lucky Belly and King Ookie-Ookie (or just Ook) because he'd sit like Buddha, licking his oversized belly and making these little "ook" sounds.  And of course, there was "Andrew Goddammit," the name we hollered at him when he would chase his sister Percy around the house just to hear her scream. 
At the age of sixteen, Andy became deathly ill---at a time when we were, of course, totally broke. Even so, we spent an obscene amount of money getting him diagnosed and treated.  Never gave it a second thought, really, even when one particularly insensitive veterinarian suggested that we might want to put him to sleep rather than invest that kind of money into a sixteen-year-old cat.  It turned out he had developed diabetes...once we figured it out, it was a relatively simple and inexpensive fix to buy the insulin and shoot him up twice a day.  He was with us for two more years, living the quieter, gentler life of the "Old Gentleman Cat"...except for the voice...he never lost THAT.
Andy died in 1996 at the age of eighteen.  Long time ago...old cat.  But I can hardly see to type, thinking about it.  Ah, I still miss him!

Friday, June 11, 2004


I've got so much to do today, I've really got no business taking the time to write.  We're doing another event this weekend...only a one-dayer, so we'll be able to use Sunday for the pupose for which it was intended (a day of rest.)  We'll be in Sherwood--a town about 40 miles south of here--doing "Cruisin' Sherwood"--an annual antique car rally.  Never been there before, have no idea what to expect (the story of my life).  But I actually have managed to get myself well-prepared this time...  Spent the week doing procurement, production, and marketing work (buying stuff, making food, and creating signs.)  I feel so well-prepared that everything is bound to go wrong! 

I'm wondering if our weather-jinx will follow us to this event.  Going all the way back to last year, if there was some way the weather could screw us, it did.  This has held true so far THIS season as well.  It was hotter that hell for the Easter Egg Hunt.  Our newly-tuned-up (about $150 worth) espresso machine sat unused, and I had to throw away four gallons of milk I bought for the event.  Last week, after absolutely gorgeous weather all week long, it poured like a monsoon for the entire weekend.  I've have kept an eye on the weather report for tomorrow... First it said rain, then it said sun, now it says cold and cloudy.  Don't know what it's going to do in the end, but whatever it is, it will probably be whatever is most likely to discourage attendance at an antique car rally.  :-P 

Well, I'd better get to it! 

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Bumper Stickers

I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that I really appreciated.  It said:

"When Clinton lied, nobody died."

I just can't understand the people in this country...or maybe it's simply another of the unattractive aspects of human nature that I have been coming across lately.  Why did the American public take such vicious pleasure in peeking in the bedroom windows of the President of the United States, and then impose upon him the most severe punishment available (impeachment) for his victimless crimes?

And why does this same American public rally around behind our current President, whose lies, improprieties, and sinister dealings have cost thousands of lives?   Not to mention fattened the pocketbooks of his friends in the energy industry, created an astronomical budget deficit for our children to deal with, taken environmental legislation back at least fifty years, and seriously compromised our standing among the other nations of the world? 

Why did a sexual "sin" label our last president a moral reprobate unworthy of our respect, yet we turn a blind eye to the bold lies of the current administration, which we didn't have to name a special prosecutor to uncover, and which have much more serious consequences?  Is it because marital infidelity is a concept we can personally get our arms around, and political concepts are just so huge and removed from our personal reality that we don't care about them?  Is it because we've come to expect and accept really BIG lies from our leaders, about the really important things?

Alas, I'm no particular fan of John Kerry, either.  What is wrong with the Democratic party that they can't come up with a platform, or a leader, who seriously challenges the philosphy of the current administration?  They are taking a "wait and see" position.  Waiting for Bush to LOSE the adulation of the fickle American public.  They are doing nothing to swing the pendulum over to themselves.  I find that VERY disturbing.  It makes me angry. 

My vote for Kerry will actually be a vehement vote AGAINST Bush.  I hate that it has to be that way.  I wish the Democratic party would give me a good reason to rally behind it.  Here's the bumper-sticker I would like for the back of my car:



Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Trading Places...

I have so much to do today, I haven’t time to think up something to write about. I went to Robbie’s journal again this morning, and she had posted a new question from her "Game of Life and Love."

If you could adopt one personality trait from someone you know, what would you take, and from whom?

My first thought was, "Oh, this will be quick and easy to write…" But now, I’m not so sure.

The first thing that immediately popped into my mind, was a trait that my husband, my older sister, and my former best friend all have in common. I’m not sure how to put it into words, though. Any one of the three of them would rather walk barefoot through hot coals than have an emotional confrontation. In any emotionally-fraught situation, they will be the ones who appear cool, calm, and controlled.

This is the exact opposite of myself. I am a completely transparent person. If I am feeling something, at the very least, it is expressed plainly in my eyes and body language, if not verbally. There is nothing of guile or pretense about me…there never has been. When I was very young, I actually cherished this part of my personality. I thought of it as a deep-seated honesty, a natural gift of integrity.

As I grew older, I came to realize what a pain in the ass it is. Emotional transparency is NOT a blessing. For one thing, it makes one too vulnerable. I began to find out that there are people out there that get ahead in life by perceiving other people’s emotional flash-points, and exploiting them. In other words, they find out what your buttons are, and then they manipulate you by pushing them. I can’t begin to think how many times I’ve fallen into THAT trap.

And, I began to learn that it’s not always appropriate to express one’s feelings about every little thing. It gets you absolutely nowhere in the business world. But, when something is as natural to you as breathing, it’s very hard to keep it in check. I’ve never mastered the art of the poker face, and when I care deeply about something, I just CAN’T keep my mouth shut. It was when I began suffering for my "lack of guile" that I started coveting the "control" that my husband, friend and sister all shared.

Now, another twenty years or so down the road, I’ve come to realize that their inability to express themselves emotionally is as much a burden as my inability NOT to. All of them, now in middle age, have health problems, that I attribute directly to their "emotional reserve." Those feelings have to go somewhere, and when you "stuff" them, they will eat you up from the inside out. I firmly believe this.

AND, the three of them tend to be…well…doormats. In order to avoid confrontation, they’ll quietly go along with other people’s ideas, calmly cooperate with the status quo, bend to the will of the strongest individual on the team… NEVER speak up for themselves. I would HATE to be like that. I don’t think their emotional reserve has served them any better, in the long run, than my emotional transparency has served me.

So, I didn’t really answer the question, did I? Actually, maybe I did. At this stage in my life, I can see how adopting a personality trait from someone else would cause me to give up something of myself. And, while it would certainly solve some problems in my life, it would probably bring with it a whole set of new ones, with which I am ill-equipped to cope. For better or worse, I guess I’ll just have to live with what I have!

Monday, June 7, 2004

My Biggest Mistake

Robbie (Robbie's Ruminations...sorry I couldn't do a link, but AOL was freaking out again...) chose a question from her book on life and love last week...I wish I could go to Robbie's journal to get the exact wording, but AOL keeps closing down every time I go there (ok, Robbie, who did you piss off?) Anyway, it was something like, "What was the worst mistake you've ever made in your life?" Robbie wrote a serious answer about her involvement with a religious cult...something I understood and related to on a very deep level. It got me to thinking about the worst mistake I had ever made. Most people really have to do some thinking to answer this question. I had no problem at all coming up with my answer.

A little background is in order… I have spent more than half my life working in restaurants. It started when I was 18. I got my first real job working in a local pizza joint, and it just evolved from there. Sort of an odd occupational choice for a girl who was a National Merit Scholar in high school. But, obviously, there has been something about the work that has appealed to me...I've been doing it for thirty years, give or take.

Life in the food service industry, especially the level I was at, was not easy. The work was hard, the pay was poor. Back in the late seventies and early eighties, there was still plenty of gender bias in the industry, so I was not exactly encouraged to advance into management. But, being the person I am, management was really the only option for me. Believe me, it wasn't an easy road. I kept ending up in "middle management..." Shift supervisor, Kitchen Manager, Assistant Manager. The guy who had all the responsibility, but none of the authority. The one who inspired suspicion among the ordinary clock-punchers, but didn't get any of the management perks. Neither fish nor fowl.

In 1988, I somehow landed a job as a unit manager for a small chain of shopping mall store-front bakeries. I had already put 15 years of blood, sweat and tears into the food service industry...I had paid my dues. And I knew what a thankless, ungrateful, "sweat hog" industry I was working in. At the ripe old age of 33, my back was wrecked, my feet were toast (from working 10-hour-plus shifts on concrete floors.) My journals were full of diatribes abouthow hard I worked, how little I was appreciated, and how much I wanted my own business. Somehow, by the grace of God/dess (to borrow Cynthia's term), I fell into this bakery management position. And it became my dream job.

I was "Manager" for the first time in my life. In charge. The Big Cheese. The Buck Stops Here. And, wonder of wonders, I was good at it. I thrived in the position. Met the challenge, and grew a tremendous amount---not only as a manager, but as a person. I felt like I had finally arrived. Like all my years of sweating and grunting in the trenches had finally earned me something. AND, though I won’t go into the boring details, by some fluke of Ownership Whim, I was actually being well-compensated for it. To the tune of $35,000 per year. Which in that day and age, was nearly a fortune for restaurant management, at least at the level I had attained.

The problem with working in the food service industry is, it’s never a sure thing. Concepts come and go…chains are bought and sold. New blood is courted with new money and new ideas. I had experienced this before. So it was no surprise to me when, in 1992, our little bakery chain brought in a new president who had sunk a bunch of money into the business…basically bought himself the position. Little did I know, however, what an upheaval this was going to bring into my life.

Somehow or another, through attrition and my hard work, I had become the highest-paid manager in the chain. The word came down from Mr. New President that I was being asked to transfer to our Portland store…a store that did three times the volume of the one I was currently managing. I was told that I, and all the other "old" managers, were being groomed to be district managers or other high-ranking management in the new, improved and expanded company that was on the horizon. All I had to do was leave behind my family, my friends, the store I had worked so hard to turn into a money-maker, uproot my poor husband, and move 100 miles north to Portland. At that point in time, I was earning almost twice what my husband was…it made sense for us to move if it was to mean an advancement in my career. We agonized over the decision, but finally decided it was an offer I could not refuse.

Little did I know what the actual agenda was. Mr. New President had earmarked all of us old, "over-paid" managers for termination. In my case, they were presenting me with a challenge to which they were sure I was not equal. When it became apparent that I had the ability, and the WILL, to succeed at the Portland store, they put themselves to the task of setting me up to fail. I got absolutely no support from the main office. They vexed me and undermined me at every turn. Worked behind the scenes to set my employees against me. Any dirty, underhanded, dishonest tactic they could use to get rid of me…they used. Finally, within a little more than a year, I had had enough. After negotiating with my supervisor that the company would not stand in the way of my claiming unemployment, I gave my notice. (As a final act of hatefulness, they later contested my unemployment claim. Just a little reminder that they had the ability to make my life miserable far beyond the walls of the business itself…)

How does one recover from that kind of disaster? How do you go from being on top of the world, thinking you’ve finally made it, to being unemployed, broke, and completely disillusioned in a matter of months? I could never understand how a person who had absolutely no knowledge of me, either personally or professionally (Mr. New President) could arbitrarily hand down the decisions to so completely destroy my life. The whole affair was so malicious in its intent…it was beyond me how somebody I didn’t even know could HATE me enough to do that to me. Or be so careless as to be completely unconcerned about ruining my life. I lost not only my job, but whatever faith I had in human nature. I went from being basically convinced of the innate goodness of people, to understanding that the true nature of humanity is…well, it’s not very pretty. They say you can’t take this kind of thing personally. Well, I did. How else was I supposed to take it…not only did they contest my unemployment, but they took it upon themselves to give me a bad reference, so that I had a terrible time, for literally years, getting another job. My career with this company had gone from being my greatest success to my most magnificent crash and burn. It was too hard to take.

So, my biggest mistake? I left my family, friends, and everything I loved, dragging my husband with me, to follow a lie. But, do you know what’s the strangest thing about this? When we moved to Portland in 1993, I said (not really thinking this would happen), "Even if this doesn’t work out for ME, Portland is a better market for Matt to find a good job." And, damned if this didn’t happen. Over the last ten years, while I have been struggling with career changes, part-time jobs, and management positions that paid me half what I’m worth, my DH has found a place to work that, at the very least, compensates him for what he’s worth. He’s been there for ten years, and is making about three times his starting salary. (Which is a good thing, because his loony wife has finally resorted to owning a part-time business that doesn’t make any money, because she can’t find any success working for other people.) So, you could say that, in the long run, our original move to Portland was a blessing. Why is it that, sometimes, I don’t feel very blessed?

What I Did on my Weekend...

Did you miss me?  We did another event this weekend, and I spent most of the week fussing with preparations for it.  No great funny tales to share about THIS festival (thank God!), although we did have some "Kodak Moments" during set-up.  It's always amusing to see me and my sister (we weigh a total of about 235# together) horsing this huge equipment out of my van and trailer and getting it into position.  At this place, we had to roll it all up a handicapped ramp and twenty yards down a long concrete porch, at an Exhibition Pavillion at a county fairgrounds.  And then, we had to figure out HOW to arrange everything, since we couldn't use our canopy...which is also the framework for all our signage.  This was a BIG problem for my sister, since she designed the big sign (you can see it in the picture below) and is quite proud of it.  NOT using it was not an option for her, so we were by god going to figure out a way to hang it, AND to its best advantage.  She spent about two hours screwing with it, but it turned out beautifully, I think.  (That's the handsome husband behind the counter...)

I've spent the morning trying to catch up on all the journals I missed over the weekend.  I've seen so many great ideas for things I want to write about...I'd have to sit here and write all afternoon and into the evening.  I can't allow myself to do THAT, though I would dearly love to.  So I'll pick one and write about it later this evening after I get caught up on everything else I have to do around the house...including cooking my husband a magnificent Weight Watcher's friendly feast, in appreciation of his dedicating his entire weekend to helping me with this event.  My husband....I think I'll keep him!  (LOL!)

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Mortgage Wars

Okay, so now I'm having a battle with the mortgage company.

In early May, I spent several days tearing my house apart looking for my mortgage bill.  I knew I had to pay it (like death and taxes...) but I couldn't find the stupid bill.  Finally, I decided to just send the check, with a letter accompanying it, explaining what had happened...and including things like our names, property address, loan number, and all that jazz.  I have done this before, and had no problem with it, so I wasn't TOO worried the money would eventually end up where it was supposed to.

About a week later, I was balancing my checkbook online, and I noticed the payment had cleared the bank, so I thought, "Ah, good!  They figured it out!"

Last week, however, I get a voice mail  from Wells Fargo.  A little recorded message saying, "Please call Wells Fargo at ###-###-####." I had kind of a bad feeling about it, so I went ahead and called back. After going through phone system hell before I could even speak to a human being, I am connected to an Extremely Nasty Collections Woman who is asking me why I haven't paid my May mortgage bill.  I tell her, I did pay it, and the check cleared the bank like a week ago.  She starts insisting that I need to send them a copy of the cancelled check from my bank.  I tell her that it's obvious that THEY lost the money, so why in the world would I have to jump through any hoops for them?  We come to a stand-off...I tell her I want to speak to her supervisor, so she puts me on hold and leaves me in muzak limbo. 

I go online, call up my bank statement, and then call Wells Fargo back on my cel phone.  Go through phone system hell AGAIN.  Get connected to Extremely Nasty Collections Woman #2,who immediately starts telling me I need to send them a copy of the cancelled check.  I tell her I am, as I speak, LOOKING at my bank statement, and it's telling me that Wells Fargo put through the payment, it was received by my bank on 5/17, and I AM NOT going to order up a copy of the cancelled check because Wells Fargo LOST THE MONEY.  We go around and around about this again, and she finally slams me over to Customer Service, where I deal with a very nice man who apparently has the ability to look for my check, finds the check, and tells me he is going to "open up a case" on it to try to figure out where the funds went.  AND that he will suspend all late charges and collection attempts, and make sure that this doesn't end up on my credit record.  I hang up the phone, satisfied, smiling and thinking how good, competent, and wonderful "William" the Customer Service Boy is. 

Well, by golly, guess who I got a call from today?  Extremely Nasty Collections Woman #3.  She starts right out insisting that I send them a copy of the g*d-d****d check.  One thing I learned from Good, Competent (or not) William the Customer Service Boy, was that Wells Fargo puts mortgage checks through as debits, makes copies of the checks for their records, and then DESTROYS THE CHECKS.  So, I couldn't get a copy of the stupid check if I wanted to!  The only place where such a copy exists in the whole wide world is at ....WELLS FARGO!  I tell ENCW #3 this, and whoops! she immediately starts backpedaling.  Suddenly, the call has been terminated, and I am looking at the phone saying, "Well, I know it can't be THAT easy."  So, I call Customer Service, knowing that I will have to, yes, endure phone system hell before I will be able to speak to a human.  Sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do... 

I speak to two different Sweet, Sympathetic Customer Service Women.  One woman tells me one thing, the other tells me something completely different.  The case has been closed, the case is NOT closed; they found the money, they have NOT found the money.  You know what?  All I know is it's NOT my problem.  I sent the money.  You lost it.  Figure it out.

One of the SSCSW's tells me that she will make sure the collections calls are halted.  That's the most positive thing I've heard, so I say, "Thank you!" and hang up.  I'm fully expecting another collections call from Wells Fargo before the end of the week, and when it comes, they're going to get it with both barrels.  Something to the tune of, "I know there are plenty of mortgage companies out there who would be very happy to have my business, including my local credit union.  Where all I would have to do if a problem like this came up is walk down the street and talk to a live human being."   I'm sick to death of dealing with huge companies, and their phone representatives, who follow a tight script, and couldn't come up with an independent thought to save their miserable lives.  In a situation like this, I'm walking this fine line between Customer Service and Customer Harassment.  And I'm REALLY starting to resent it!   

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Further Background...

Reading the comments on my last entry (Conversation Police), I feel the need for a little further explanation.

1.)  It's not like my dining companions and I were sitting there swearing like truck drivers.  We were having an adult conversation, using uncensored adult language, which might have included terms like s**t, crap, and perhaps one or two instances of the f-word.  (As in, WTF is wrong with people...?) 

2.)  The tavern DOES allow, even welcomes, children with their parents, but it doesn't necessarily cater to them.  This is a chain of brew-pubs whose major claim to fame is that they brew/ferment/distill their own spirits.  So while families are welcome, it's also understood that people are going to go to this place to consume alcoholic beverages, which in MY mind isn't an ideal place to take children..

3.)  None of us at the table was blind, stinking drunk.  My husband doesn't drink, Jackie was drinking iced tea, and I had two glasses of chardonnay.  We did have to raise our voices a tad to be heard over the "background" music, but we weren't hooting, hollering, or otherwise calling the attention of the whole restaurant to ourselves.

4.)  This is a "seat yourself" place, and we were one of about three parties in the whole restaurant.  So, as I said, Perfect Family had the choice of just about the whole building, and CHOSE, for some reason, to sit right next to us.  AND they could have moved any time they wanted without summoning a waitress. 

5.)  I have no problem whatsoever with folks taking their children out to meals at "sit-down" restaurants.  As long as they can exhibit some semblance of  "polite company" manners.  (I guess, after this episode, this means the parents as well as the children.)  I DO have a problem with young, affluent couples who believe it's not only their right, but their DUTY to take their children with them anywhere, anytime, and expect everyone else to accomodate THEM.  When I see a cranky toddler disturbing an entire restaurant full of adults at 8 or 9 pm, when the poor kid should be at home in bed, I wonder if it's not really some form of child abuse.

Okay, I'm done obsessing about this particular episode.  Thank you all for your supportive comments!  I was hoping I wasn't really being an old cranky fart about this.