Thursday, July 29, 2004

Wading Through it All Again

I'm crashing toward one of those "low points" again.  Had a big old fight with one of my sisters this evening.  I was basically told that I was looking at every situation as if it was "about me" and that I needed to "get past my anger" and move on. 

The fight was about my mother's care.  My two oldest sisters have completely taken over this task.  It wasn't that I abandoned my responsibility here.   I was very roughly shouldered aside.  Eventually, I chose to bow out; in fact, I moved two hours away, because I could see that this was the only way that our family was going to achieve even a semblance of peace, after my dad passed away.  Now, when my sisters vent about how much time and effort they have to put into caring for my mom... I'm sorry, but I don't have even a molecule of sympathy for them.  They brought it on themselves.

Unfortunately, Mom suffers from many chronic illnesses, along with several "surprise" problems that most old people I have heard of don't even get.  When my dad was ill, she suffered for months with osteo-myelitis (a very serious staph infection of the bone) before she was finally accurately diagnosed and treated.  Over the past month or so, she has been exhibiting many of the same symptoms that she was back then.  When I pointed this out, and suggested to my sisters that they needed to rock the boat a bit to get her doctor to get on the stick and figure out what is going on, they pooh-poohed me and insisted that she has a great doctor who is doing a fine job. 

A few days later, I get an email telling me that Mom's doctor has finally agreed that there is something going on with her, and that they are going to start running further tests to see if the osteo-myelitis has re-occurred.  Well, duh! 

So  I fired off an email to my oldest sister,  saying that I was happy that the possibility of something serious was being investigated, but that I wished they could have at least acted like they were giving my idea serious consideration.  Instead of sitting on it for several days and then claiming it as their own....   I tried to explain to my sister at dinner that their attitudes towards me are largely dictated by our birth order.  I am the LITTLE sister, so, even though I am middle aged, for God's sake, I can't get credibility in my own family. 

So, yes...the important thing is that Mom's doctor has set in motion a course of treatment that should make her much better within a month's time.  I should be happy, and so I am...about that.  But it makes me just nuts that my sisters can't listen to me when I try to point them toward a better standard of care for Mom.  They act for all the world as if it's none of my business.

Sometimes, I wish I could just FIRE my sisters and hire someone to take their places. Someone who might actually cut me a break and listen to me.  Wouldn't that be novel ?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Hold Your Fire!

The Democratic National Convention is in full swing in Boston this week. I’ve been watching some of the speeches in prime time. I was surprised by Jimmy Carter’s scolding of the current administration, in awe once again of Bill Clinton and his incredible ability to address complex issues in a "down-home" way, and bowled over by the intelligence and poise of young Barack Obama of Illinois. The Democratic orators are taking such pains NOT to fire personal shots at the president, vice-president, and their gang. I respect them for it, but I truly think they’re going to get killed if they don’t step up to the plate and swing away when they need to. I suppose I will have to wait until the Republicans hold their convention, but I strongly suspect they are not going to refrain from trying to drag everything about John Kerry, his wife, his military record, his congressional record, what he ate for dinner last night…through the ugliest mud available. It’s who the Republicans are. It’s what they do.

For some reason, the GOP are holding their fire during the DNC…I’m not sure why. Are they just soaking up all the Democratic rhetoric, taking notes, trying to identify the location of the soft underbelly so that they can attack that much more fiercely when their time comes? I can’t believe it’s a courtesy offered in order to let "the other side" have their moment in the spotlight. If it IS, my apologies to the Republicans for not cutting them enough slack to believe them capable of decency and fair play.

The world of the internet, however, has not been notified of the "cease fire." Venomous emails containing perverted facts, put forth in the most slanted way possible, are zooming back and forth through cyber-space. I had a weird experience this week… My journal attracted the attention of a woman who, at first, emailed me a positive comment about one of my political rants. She said I had "a gift," and that I should try to get published. Of course, I was very flattered…and I should have known it was a snow job. I emailed her back, thanking her for the compliment, gushing about how much I appreciated that kind of feedback from a reader. We emailed back and forth a couple of times in the next few weeks. And THEN I started receiving all these right-wing forwards from her. Each time with the personal admonition to "consider this very carefully and think before you vote." I can only think that she believed my attempt at trying to tone down the viciousness of the political exchanges I take part in, meant that I was ripe for conversion. But, I read this treacle that "concerned people" zap all over the internet, and I think, "Where do they get this stuff? How do they have the nerve to write some of this? How much of this is based in actual fact?" I’ll share a couple of gems with you:

This forward was supposedly an open letter to John Kerry, written by a man whose father served in WWII, whose sons are serving/have served in Iraq/Afghanistan, and who himself is a "Proud Reservist" of some kind….

"In looking at your record I found myself comparing it not only to that of my father and my sons, but to the people they served with. My father served with the 87th Chemical Mortar Battalion in Europe. They landed on Utah Beach and fought for 317 straight days including the Cherbourg Peninsula, Aachen, the Hurtgen Forest, and the Battle of the Bulge. You earned a Silver Star in Vietnam for chasing down and finishing off a wounded and retreating enemy soldier. My father won a Bronze Star for single handedly charging and knocking out a German machine gun nest that had his men pinned down. You received three purple hearts for what appears to be three minor scratches. In fact you only missed a combined total of two days of duty for these wounds. The men of my father's unit, the 87th, had to be admonished by their commanding officer because: "It has been brought to our attention that some men are covering up wounds and refusing medical attention for fear of being evacuated and permanently separated from this organization..." It was also a common problem for seriously wounded soldiers to go AWOL from hospitals in order to rejoin their units. You used your three purple hearts to leave Vietnam early."

All I can say is, WTF? Let’s attack John Kerry’s combat record. Three Purple Hearts for scratches? Used them to leave Viet Nam early? Earned his Silver Star for committing a combat atrocity? How dare anyone make such a mockery of the service of a Viet Nam veteran…ANY veteran? ANYONE who has stared into the face of death on a battlefield earned any medal he got from doing so, in my opinion.To try to minimize his service and his sacrifice is so reprehensible, it boggles my mind. How can someone from the same side of the political spectrum that flies into a tizzy of hyper-outrage at even a slight hint of not "supporting" our troops, be responsible for writing this garbage? Can you say "hypocrite?"

This email attacked Mrs. Kerry:

If you thought John Kerry was scary, he doesn't hold a candle to his wife!…

If voters will open their eyes, educate themselves and see the real Teresa Heinz Kerry, they will not appreciate her position as ultra rich fairy godmother of the radical left. They will not want to imagine her laying her head on a pillow each night inches away from the President of the United States.

The main complaint in this forward was that Mrs. Heinz Kerry had inherited the ketchup fortune of her first husband, Republican Senator H. John Heinz III. Heinz died in a plane crash in 1991; Teresa married John Kerry in 1995, defected to the Democratic party, and is now squandering all that wonderful Republican money on, horror of horrors, liberal causes! And of course every fund or foundation she donates to supports Osama bin Laden, Sadam Hussein, the Taliban, the Communists, the Vikings, the Huns, Ghengis Khan, Hitler….

Then there was this one, that just goes to prove the old adage that an elephant never forgets:

Hello My name is Mary Jo Kopechne.

I would have been 65 years of age this year.

When Sen. Ted Kennedy was merely just another Democrat bloating on Capitol Hill on behalf of liberal causes, it was perhaps excusable to ignore his deplorable past. But now that he's become Sen. John Kerry's leading campaign attack dog, positioning himself as Washington's leading arbiter of truth and integrity, the days for such indulgence are now

It's time for the GOP to stand up and remind America why Sen. Kerry's chief spokesman had to abandon his own presidential bid in 1980 – time to say the words Mary Jo Kopechne out loud.

Seriously folks…this one is SO old, easily half the voting public have NO idea what you’re talking about here. If this is the best shot you can take at Kerry and the Democrats, you need to take your gun (which we will have to pry from your cold, dead hands) out to the firing range and practice up!

Of course, emails aren’t the only thing that exist to spew venom on the internet. I caught a comment in Cynthia’s journal from J-land’s pet "Rush-clone." So I thought I’d mosey on over there to check out his take on the Democratic Convention. I think Remo is an intelligent guy, and a great writer. But I wasn’t prepared for the stark ugliness of his language:

Isn't Jimmy "The Wabbit-Hunter" Carter dead yet? Displaying the symptoms of dementia (and bad set of choppers) President Peanut-Brain tried to remind us of how great things were when he was in charge. Sure. Hostages, gas shortages and high prices, interest rates near 20%, cutting our defense budgets. Have a seat, Jimmy. You had your chance and you screwed the pooch. Your Presidency was like a giant episiotomy on this nation, and it took almost two decades to heal the gaping wound of your incompetence.

Again, WTF? Slamming Jimmy Carter is like calling Mother Teresa a gutter-crawling whore. There are some things, some people that demand respect. President Carter is one of those people. It’s bad enough to use an awesome wit to concoct vicious, contentious, and downright slanderous prose about the current cast of characters on the scene…but there is a place to draw the line (and it really should have been drawn far on the other side of criticizing any opponent in such a way.) It’s people who write stuff like this, who say stuff like this, who believe that it’s way okay to stake out their political claims in such a patently disgusting manner, that are making this country the mess it is today. Sorry, Remo. I just think it’s gross.

America is facing challenges that are far too serious for us to let ourselves be caught up in this knife-twisting negativity. We don’t all think alike. We never will. But in order to get anything accomplished, we have to quit making a career of painting the side that doesn’t share our philosophy as the worst kind of idiots and/or monsters. What good does it do? Does it bring us together? Does it move us toward a common goal? Does it foster an atmosphere of mutual respect? Does it show the rest of the world what a truly great nation we are?

Let’s get a clue, people. Let’s earn respect for our views by showing respect for others’. Didn't they teach us that in, like, kindergarten?

Monday, July 26, 2004

Columbia County Fair

How glad am I that THAT is over? My ego is too fragile to deal with the feeling of total rejection that comes with a performance as bad as the one my business put on this past weekend. So far this year, we have been lucky enough to have played to appreciative crowds at several of the events we’ve done. Some, not so much. But THIS one…this one in my own back yard, absolutely SUCKED. Granted, the weather was arguably the worst we have experienced in the three years we’ve been doing this (with the possible exception of one event in April of last year, where we had rain, wind, thunder, lightning, hail…I was expecting snow at any time…)

We had 100 degree plus temperatures smack dab in the meat of this fair. The two days—Friday and Saturday—that were supposed to generate the most revenue, were too hot for people to even leave their homes safely, much less sally forth to enjoy an afternoon at the County Fair. I was seriously wondering if they would cancel the rodeo, out of concern for the health of the livestock…(of course, they didn’t. Duh!)

One benefit of our horrible failure was, I got a chance liberate myself from the chains that hold me in my trailer, and wander out and about. I experienced our little County Fair in a way I had not been able to in previous years, when I had actually been working.

I’ve loved county fairs since I was a kid. Being a born and bred suburbanite, county fairs have offered me an insight into an agricultural lifestyle that has always existed right in my back yard but might just as well have been on another planet, for as much as I ever knew about or interacted with it. Baking and canning the fruits of your labors, growing grand prize vegetables, lovingly bottle-feeding a calf or a kid…all these things fascinated me, though they were as foreign to me as life in a ghetto in the inner city was.

I wandered through the "creative" exhibits. Photography, art, quilting, table settings, furniture making… They even have entries of "Lego" art from kids. And then there is the floral building. I can just picture the county’s most talented horticulturists lovingly snipping the finest blooms from their highly pampered plants to enter into competition at the fair. Does anyone else remember the "Andy Griffith Show" episode where Aunt Bea has the prize rose growing in her backyard, but Opie mashes it with a football before it can be entered in the fair?

I walk around the fairgrounds, soaking in all the sights, and I feel somehow connected with a simpler time, a simpler lifestyle. One that would probably drive me crazy if I tried to live it. But I can never resist an opportunity to immerse myself in that kind of nostalgia. I guess the "Bad Business" at the Columbia County Fair might not have been so bad after all.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Still up at 3 am

Auuuggghh!!! It’s 3 am and I’m still awake. Had to "work" until midnight…Hours at the County Fair are 9 am ‘til midnight. And this has been a DISMAL event. Temperatures at 100+ for the last two days. The kiss of death for food concessions. When it’s that hot, nobody goes to the fair, and those who do, don’t eat. The only line has been at the Hawaiian Shave Ice booth. I’ve decided to look past this event to next weekend. ANOTHER county fair…oh boy! Hoping, at least, that the weather will not be quite this excruciating.

BTW, here is the answer to my little "quiz" of yesterday:




I’m still immersed in the Clinton book. I’ve had more time to read than I’ve really wanted the last few days. I’ve found myself doing something I NEVER do when I read…I’m marking and highlighting entire passages. More like I would do with a textbook than a pleasure read. But there’s so much of substance here…things I’d like to be able to go back and savor, to remember.

I particularly liked the "them’d to death" quote. This country is in such dire need of unity these days. We are TOO polarized. We actually hate each other, in the most strident of terms, because of our political opinions. There’s no such thing as agreeing to disagree. And compromise? Does anyone even know the meaning of the word anymore? How can we be surprised that our government never really accomplishes anything, when none of us, from the highest-ranking government officials, down to the most mundane "man-on-the-street," can refrain from demonizing political opinions that differ from our own?

"We need each other. All of us, we need each other. We don't have a person to waste."

NO ONE is garbage. We need to understand that, and work together to keep this country great. Hard to do when we’re not in the immediate aftermath of some horrible tragedy. But we CANNOT wait until another disaster befalls us before we to start to pull together.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Here's a Little Quiz

"Tonight, every one of you knows deep in your heart that we are too divided. It is time to heal America.

And so we must say to every American: Look beyond the stereotypes that blind us. We need each other. All of us, we need each other. We don't have a person to waste. And yet for too long politicians have told most of us that are doing all right, that what's really wrong with America is the rest of us. Them.

...We've gotten to where we've nearly them'd ourselves to death. Them and them and them.

But this is America. There is no them; there is only us. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

A challenge:  Who said this, and when?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

I Journal, Therefore I AM....? anyone else as tired of hearing about the "Journal Awards" and the "First Anniversary of AOL Journals" as I am?  I don't follow THAT many journals, but these seem to be everyone's main topics lately.  B-O-R-I-N-G!!!!  I'm sorry I said that...and I know you all hate me now.  But...well, whatever.  It's just the way I feel.

Lately, I've been questioning my attachment to the journal community.  I didn't expect to experience the extremely social aspect of writing here.  I have lived a very solitary existence for the last several years, especially since I moved away from the heart of my family three years ago.  When I first came to realize that writing this journal, and reading other journals, made me part of a community, I was intrigued.  It was the social contact for which I had been aching (though I didn't realize I needed it so badly.)  Unfortunately, the whole "Journal Awards/Journal Anniversary" extravaganza has shown me that  I am, as I always have been  in anything that  vaguely resembles a social situation, on the outside looking in.  So many journalers have written about being "square pegs" in high school, college, church--fill in the blank.  But, even among this "out" crowd, I am the "outest."  On the fringes, just involved enough to realize I'm not REALLY part of the group.  To paraphrase Yukon Cornelius (of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer fame):  Even among misfits, I'm a misfit!  There's nothing like a popularity contest to drive home the point to the un-popular.  I thought I had gotten over this when I was a school kid.  But I guess you never really do...

I've had to seriously re-examine the reasons I started writing this journal to begin with.  I's what I do.  It's a very essential part of who I am.  When I found out there was a place I could do what I do, and actually run the risk of having someone read what I've written, I jumped at the chance.  That was my original motivation.  Short of letter-writing and school compositions, I'd never in my life written anything for the consumption of the general public...or for any eyes other than my own, for that matter. Unfortunately, a few weeks down the road, I found myself getting all caught up in the "this journal has been read xxxx times"  thing, and in counting how many comments I got on my entries.  I had to physically drag myself away from that obsession.  But I keep falling back into the trap, and all that stuff spoils the experience for me.  When my competitve nature beats my creative side into submission, my whole outlook becomes skewed.  Right now, I'm having a hard time finding the right balance between my two selves--the creative me and the competitive me--here in AOL journal-land. 

Shortly after I started this journal, I wrote an entry expressing my opinion about making journals into a competition.  At that time, the competition was just background noise that I tuned out.  But the competitive aspect has become so pervasive now, it's hard to be here without being overwhelmed by it.  It's MY problem, I know.  It has to do with the war that the two sides of my personality have always waged against each other, and which one of them I ultimately will allow to win.  And I'm not sure if this is the venue I should choose to hold that battle.


Monday, July 19, 2004

*#&@ Birthday

I really had to weigh the merits of making a journal entry today. It’s my birthday. The first day of the last year of my life that I’ll be able to write my age as a two-digit number beginning with "4". Clinging by my toenails to the edge of the precipice, the one that you fall off of into "old-fartiness" when you turn 50. Who am I kidding? Judging by the reflection in the mirror this morning, I’ve already taken THAT plunge.

We were out of my favorite coffee creamer (fat-free hazelnut) this morning, and I decided I had to walk to Freddie’s (Fred Meyer…the grocery store two blocks from my house) to get some before I could enjoy my cup of morning half-caf. DID NOT want to do the whole shower, dress, makeup thing, which I usually will do before I’m seen anywhere in public. So, I tossed on some too-big shorts (ALL my shorts are too big now), my favorite over-sized sweater, covered up the haircut from hell with my trusty "Henry Blake-type" camo hat. Looked in the mirror. Ugh! Wish I hadn’t. Baggy shorts, baggy sweater, baggy face, sloppy hat, over-sized bifocals (which my husband recently informed me are "old-lady" glasses.) Definitely not a vision of dewy loveliness staring back at me. It was all I could do to steel myself to ignore it and walk out the door.

I don’t want to do a whole lot of introspection today. I’m in a crappy mood, and when I wax philosophical from that frame of mind, I always feel small and ungrateful if I go back later and read what I’ve written. But I don’t feel like writing a heart-warming tribute to the joys of achieving the wisdom and serenity of mature womanhood, either. I don’t feel mature. I feel OLD. If I had accumulated any wisdom at all, it has deserted me. And serene? No one even remotely acquainted with me would link my name with the concept of serenity.

I was thinking I might improve my mood if I was able to spend the day pampering and transforming myself into…well, something that would look halfway decent hanging from my husband’s arm at a nice restaurant. (That really IS getting to be an all-day chore!) But we have planned a really exciting evening…lugging "Big Red" the trailer out to the Columbia County Fairgrounds in preparation for the fair that starts on Wednesday.

Oh, cripe…I really need to quit writing. I’m wallowing now, and before long, I’ll be drowning. Poor me, poor me, poor me!

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Carrying the baggage...

There’s a booth down the way from us selling t-shirts. My sister suggested she saw one that she thought was appropriate for me. "Zero to bitch in 3.5 seconds." Nice! I was a trifle offended, but I have to admit, it’s probably right on. More so than ever, now, during that "special" time of life!

I have always been "temperamental," especially at work. This is probably why I have such a stellar employment history. I tend to be somewhat anti-social, which is not an asset in the workplace. And I set very high standards of performance, for myself and those around me. When I don’t meet my own standards, I get frustrated with myself…and frustration is not one of my more attractive emotions. When other people don’t meet my standards, I sort of dismiss them because they don’t measure up. Not a way to win friends and influence people!

It’s funny--- most people get burned out by the physical difficulty of restaurant work. The hardest part of the job for me was always the social aspect. I could sling two pallets of heavy boxes around the kitchen after a delivery, or be on my feet "speed-baking" for an entire twelve-hour shift, and still go to the pool and work out for an hour afterwards. But after six or eight hours working behind the counter on a busy Saturday —schmoozing customers and being cheer-leader for my staff---I’d drag myself home, physically and mentally exhausted. But I kept at it, and I eventually got the hang of it.

Those were wonderful days… For the first time in my adult life, I felt like I was learning and growing, really stretching myself. And making positive bonds with other human beings. I felt like I was on top of the world. Unfortunately, I only had that for a small portion of the time I was out there in the big, bad, workplace---the years that I managed my little shopping mall bakery. When I left that job, and couldn’t find another that would "measure up", all that learning and growth completely eroded away. In fact, I think I’ve ended up worse off than I started out. When it all falls apart like that, you sort of end up feeling like you can never make any permanent, positive changes in your life.

I thought all that stuff would be behind me, now that I've chucked the idea of working for someone else and started my own business.  But, you pay for your sins... In the last decade of my working life, I became a "bridge-burner." I would get jobs that I hated, work there as long as I could stand it--usually not more than a year and a half – get fed up and quit. And when I am done with a job, I am DONE. I just want to get away and never have to deal with those people (the bosses, the other employees, the customers) ever again. So I generally don’t part friends with my employers. Not enemies, exactly, but certainly not on warm terms.

This is starting to hurt me now, when I could really use some friendly contacts in the business. For example, for the last few weeks, I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how I can get adequate freezer space for all the product I’m going to need for our biggest event next month. How nice it would be if I was on friendly terms with two or three of my ex-employers. I could just make a few chatty, "By golly Fred, it’s good to talk to you again" phone calls, and ask for a tiny favor. But no…as a result of my own prickliness, I am completely on my own. And feeling a little regretful that I have been such a burr under people’s saddles for the last ten years...

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

"Gay Marriage Ban Expected to Die in Senate"

...there IS a God...!

All Aboard!

It’s interesting, where a train of thought will chug off to…

Did the "neighborhood circuit" with the dog this evening. I check out what other people have growing in their yards…what works, what doesn’t. Who just planted a new lawn…who needs to. I noticed that one of the neighbors down the block, who has made a scary attempt at a perennial garden on the parkway, had planted poplars along the street. Which in five years will be large and providing plenty of shade, which our neighborhood is direly lacking.

And the train pulled out of the station…

"What do I have planted that will totally change the look of our property and the neighborhood, in five years? There are my crab trees…they’ll be pretty substantial little trees in five years.

"Five years…used to be a long time. They’ll be gone in no time… I feel so old sometimes. Now the years go by so fast.

"Like the last five years. What was I doing five years ago today? Dad was still alive…oh, no he wasn’t. He passed away in February of ’99. Oh, god, that means five years ago today SUCKED. The sisters and I were at each other’s throats…it looked like we’d never be able to be a family again…

"But we’re better now. Having my business, and having them help me with it, has mended some fences. I wonder if they appreciate that…give me any credit…

"We couldn’t stay mad at each other forever. Couldn’t. I wonder how other people do that, get totally to the end of the rope with their families and just walk away…"

From planting trees to wrestling family demons in half a block…about fifty steps. Then I had to stop and try to figure out what the girl two doors down was trying to pick off a little bush by her front door. And the roller coaster  locomotive of my thoughts screamed on into the night without me….

Monday, July 12, 2004

"My Life"

I have been reading "My Life" (Bill Clinton’s book.) It is gigantic, but I don’t find it difficult reading. And I don’t usually stick with a book if it doesn’t hold my interest. I’m only about a third of the way through it, because I don’t spend a lot of time curled up with a book in summer. And since I’m going into a period where my business will be doing events for the next seven weekends in a row (whew!)…well, I probably won’t get to the end of the book until the end of the summer. 

Mr. Clinton's memoir is, so far, a book about a smart kid, from anything but an aristocratic background; who sought out and took advantage of opportunities available to him.  A kid who, from a very young age, wanted to be in politics.  When other kids were aspiring to be doctors, astronauts, scientists...Bill Clinton set his mind on the political path.  He got a great education, lived in Europe for two years, came back home and jumped into Arkansas politics.  And became governor of the state at the age of 31.  Can you imagine?

The book has taught me a lot of things I didn’t know about politics, and about the south—Arkansas, at least. I don’t know if the tradition continues to this day, but it seems that, back in the sixties, when Mr. Clinton got his start in the political arena, politics was a fact of everyday life for people in Arkansas. Political tradition ran back to the Civil War, and beyond. Even the tiniest backwoods hamlets in the Ozarks had regular political meetings in local diners, billiard halls, or feed stores. Politics was as important a part of life as religion. By contrast, in suburban Chicago, where I grew up in the sixties and seventies, the attitude toward politics was that Mayor Daley was doing a fine job running "the city that worked," (and arguably, the entire state of Illinois), and everyday citizens didn’t need to worry about it. At election time, you lined up, cast your vote for the incumbent, and then went about your business.

In rural Arkansas, being a candidate meant getting out to the farthest corners of your electorate, reaching out your hand, and personally asking people for their votes. Showing up at those little political meetings in the one-horse towns, and getting the tiny power-wielders of those districts to get their followers in line behind you. And when a voter told you that he "wouldn’t piss in your ear if your brain was on fire," you looked him in the eye and asked him why. Bill Clinton learned how to listen to the voters, and how to create a deep, far-reaching political organization, during a decade and a half of running for office in Arkansas. He put that knowledge to work to help propel him to the presidency in 1992.

He also learned about negative campaigning. I know this is something we all hate about politics today, and I won’t accuse either party of being the first to draw blood. Suffice it to say that Clinton learned that if your opponent was going to hit below the belt, the only response was to hit back…HARD. Democrats, like me, would like to think that our party is above that. But you CAN’T be. Not if you want to win the office. Clinton became convinced of that, early on. He never ran for an office he didn’t want to WIN. You can only be a force for change if you WIN the election. This is one way the book has changed my perspective on politics. I'm not for viciously slandering another candidate, or doing anything illegal in order to "dig up dirt" to throw. But I understand now that, though I would have it otherwise, negative campaigning is a fact of life in this country, and a game that BOTH parties have to play to win.  I only wish that they would stick to facts--exploiting a candidate's record or business associations.  It seems to me that you could dig up enough TRUE dirt in anyone's background, without having to resort to lies or name-calling. 

I’m probably showing my massive naivete by writing this. I haven’t spent a lot of my time studying, or being involved in, the political process. I’ll digest the rest of this book, and then perhaps I’ll try to find a book written from a more conservative perspective, to contrast and compare.  Not that it will cause me to switch parties...but I think it's healthy to at least attempt to get a balanced point of view. If anyone has any suggestions what my next read should be, let me know.

Friday, July 9, 2004


I love listening to Public Radio. I’m driving down the road on a quick run to the post office , and I’m hearing an interview with a historian who has written a book on the "lost" Gospels of Christianity. Here is a woman who did some fabulous research into the history and writings of the early Christian church, and has an astounding viewpoint on the evolution of the religion in its early years. She states that, basically, early leaders of the Christian Church, especially once Christianity was embraced by the Roman Empire, were the ones who made the decisions which "sacred" writings to keep, and which to discard, based on what was most beneficial to their roles in society at the time. Terry Gross asked this woman if she didn’t believe that most people in the church would consider her assertions sacrilege. And this quiet-spoken, scholarly woman admitted that, yes, she was sure some people might see it that way…

I found this interview absolutely fascinating. I just wanted to sit and listen and soak it up like a dry sponge. We are all sponges for knowledge, I think. What you immerse yourself in, is what you will be filled with. Unfortunately, millions of people, at least in this country, spend their time soaking up reality TV, violent movies, and contentious talk radio. We’re filling up our huge human capacity for retention of knowledge, given to us by our creator, with...crap.

I wish I could report that listening to Public Radio makes me feel smart. But it doesn’t…it makes me feel horribly stupid! It gives me a tiny smidgen of a taste of the kind of knowledge that is out there…knowledge that I just don’t have. Especially historical knowledge. The kind of thing that might make me understand mankind a little better. (And maybe a little more apt to give them a break!)

But I find that the average person is almost afraid of too much knowledge. As if, having the knowledge would then require something more of them. And perhaps it does… Could you loudly pontificate on the "sanctity of marriage" if you were familiar with all the different traditions, religious and secular, that have been followed by different groups over the centuries of written human history? Could you quote tiny little phrases from the bible, and manipulate them to justify whatever it is you want to justify, if you knew the WHOLE bible, including the books that had been left out, and all the history surrounding its compilation? Would you be able to muster the blood-lust to kill thousands of fellow human beings, for political reasons, if you understood the evolution of politics and warfare in civilized societies? People don?t want to know too much, because it makes the choices harder. The possession of knowledge necessitates the USE of it. If you don?t use it, your conscience suffers. And nobody wants to deal with that consequence. Much simpler to remain blissfully ignorant. I don?t know?I don?t feel too comfortable with taking the easy road.

Thursday, July 8, 2004

the fall

cradled in a safe chair
hi-fi stereo streaming
through giant earmuffs
     wandering the paths
          peering ahead, trembling
               struggling against the magnet of the past
easy to see the whole
two decades seemed a lifetime…
add a score plus ten
and now it is
---half a lifetime, anyway
     so many years
          so many burdens
               so many losses
I went somewhere…I did
but fell back
long fall, in slow motion
back to the chair, the stereo
and the paths
     and the wondering
          and the trembling
               and the struggling

Tuesday, July 6, 2004

We Is All Old...'ve seen Remo's...  You've seen Robbie's...  Now, here's mine:

Yes, it's my high school graduation picture.  I can't remember now whether they were actually taken late in junior year or early in senior year.  Let's say it was taken somewhere around 1973.  I was seventeen (I didn't turn 18 until after graduation...I'm a July baby!)

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about THIS picture is that it has been riding around in my husband's wallet since before we were married.  That would be about 28 years...  Boy, it don't look too bad, considering all the butt sweat it's come in contact with over the years!  In fact, the little sucker has worn like iron! 

I haven't really LOOKED at this picture in a long time.  When I picked it out of hubs' wallet to scan it, I was shocked by how much it looks like my eighth-grade graduation picture.  In fact, I didn't grow an inch or gain a pound the whole time I was in high school.  I wore the same gym suit as a senior that I had bought when I was thirteen.  I weighed 98 pounds on graduation day 1973.  (THOSE were the days!)  Do you know, I was carded for liquor until I was thirty?

Well, that picture is fun...yeah, I look like a little hippie, trying to look the part of the happy graduate (for the benefit of my parents, mostly...)  But I think I have one that is even more bizarre.  How about a wedding picture, vintage 1976?

Isn't this a hoot?  You spend months planning the wedding and making sure everything is just perfect...  Never realizing that thirty years down the road you'll look at the pictures and just howl!  I used to show this to the college kids that worked for me (and this was ten years ago, now) and they'd say---"Wow, look at all the hippiesin your wedding!"  It's SO funny. 

When other couples of the day were exchanging their vows in gardens, wearing nothing but flowers and smiles, we were strapping ourselves into the traditional wedding garb and trying to carry off this Polish/German wedding.  I'm sorry the picture didn't scan well...I took it out of my wedding album, and they're all those fancy textured pictures.  But I wish you could really SEE the tuxes!   Wide velvet lapels, ruffled shirts, "flared" pants, HUGE velvet bow ties...OMG are they funny!  And the girls' dresses...  What a time we had picking them out!  It was an October wedding, so I was trying for an autumn color scheme.  I was actually going for what I THOUGHT was a "cinnamon brown" (which probably would have been just as ugly thirty years later...)  Little did I know I was clothing my bridesmaids in "seventies orange!"  Why did I have them carry bouquets? What we really needed was ceramic owls and macrame plant hangers to complete the ensemble!

Monday, July 5, 2004

And a Happy Fourth It Was!


Just got back a couple of hours ago from doing a wonderful little event in a town called "Seaside" on the northern Oregon Coast.  Seaside is unabashedly a resort town, and has been for more than a century.  Sort of like the "Cape Cod" of Northern Oregon.  What I wouldn't give to own one of those cute little beachy-looking cottages that line the blocks along the shore!

Our event was billed as an "Old Fashioned Ice Cream Social."  It was held on the grounds of the Seaside Historical Museum.  Definitely an event for the locals.  And what fun it was!  Little attractions like bingo, "fishing," and face-painting going on under slightly shabby green-and-white striped canopies.  The Methodist Women had a Pie booth (of course I had to have a piece of the pecan new "cannot live without it" indugence) and the AARP had a half-dozen little crockpots on a card table, from which they were serving clam chowder.   A great Dixieland Jazz band was set up on the front porch of the historic "Butterfield Cottage,"  which was festooned with red, white, and blue bunting. (Gosh, we get to hear some great music at some of these little festivals!)  The only thing missing from a REAL old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration was the political speeches.  (Didn't miss 'em, though.  We get to see enough of that on TV every other day of the year...)

We kicked some butt, business-wise.  I'm starting to like these little events where we're the only, or almost the only, food available.  We did more volume at this tiny event with its thousand or so attendees than we've done at large events with tens of thousands of visitors (but LOTS more food.)  And the organizers of this social were absolutely wonderful.  They made us feel so welcome...gave us a place to park our trailer overnight, for FREE!!!  Kept hovering around and asking if everything was going well for us...Did we have enough power?  Were we doing enough business?  Did we need anything, anything at all?  We've done plenty of events where the vendors are treated like pond scum.  I'll take the folks at the Seaside Historical Museum any day!

Well, it's nearly midnight, and the neighborhood fireworks are still going strong.  And I am TIRED.  But not too tired to do a little best friend down south in Springfield (the one who was with me when we were busted by the "Conversation Police" a few weeks ago) has just started an AOL Journal.  I would appreciate it if y'all could stop by her journal and welcome her to the community.  She can be found at .  As the name implies, she's a gardener, has kitty-children, and a new digital camera...  She also has a prodigious background in history that gives her a unique outlook on things political, which I hope she will share with us on future "e-pages" of her journal.  Welcome to AOL J-land, Jackie!     

Saturday, July 3, 2004

Where's the NEWS?

There is a practice that has been gaining popularity in the media these days.  The networks spend a great deal of money, I would assume, sending reporters to the four corners of the world to cover the news.  Anything to get that "up close and personal" view of what's happening in the current events hotspots. Or not...

In the "olden days," the reporters were sent out to get the news.  They did the research, tracked down the principles involved, and asked the hard questions. Then they beamed those interviews, and shots of the news as it was happening, into our living rooms. 

Fast forward to the 21st century...  Now, when I turn on the radio or television to see what's going on in the world, I am treated to an anchor person conducting an interview...of the news reporter.  "What can you tell us about what's happening today in Bagdhad, Jack?  How are the people responding to the American forces?  What seems to be the thing that is bothering most Iraqis?  Do they feel as if they're better off now than before the American invasion?"  Um, excuse me...why are we not asking the Iraqi people these questions, and putting their answers on the air? 

The same thing happens with reporters in Washington.  Something large happens, and the network calls in their "political analyst" (a high-falutin' name for a reporter).  "Bob, what was the reaction on Capitol Hill to the passing of the so-and-so bill?  How is the Women's Movement going to deal with today's Supreme Court ruling?  What's the word from seniors on the new Medicare drug package?"  And Bob proceeds to answer all these questions as if he's the trusted authority on any imaginable political topic.  Who the hell is Bob, anyway?  Why are we not hearing from the folks?  Where's the interview with Senator So-and-So, Judge Thing-a-ma-bob, or even Lowly Clerk What's-her-Name?  

I'm sorry, but I don't feel like I'm getting the NEWS anymore. I'm hearing some reporter's view of a story.  I'm not getting the live images, and being allowed to make judgments for myself.  Basically, I'm being given an "ABC"  interpretation of the events.  ("ABC" as in Already Been Chewed...)  I'm sure this practice has been developed because the "powers that be" in media-land think that the majority of viewers want (and need) their news pre-digested.  They think that we're all out here clamoring like baby birds, flapping our wings, shouldering each other aside, and gaping for the networks to regurgitate the "news" for us.  I don't know about you, but I don't like to be puked on, and I'm surely not going to swallow it.

Unfortunately for us all, the news has become "entertainment."  It's the "entertainment" value of any broadcast that attracts the viewers, and therefore the sponsors, and therefore the bucks.  Who ever said news was entertaining?  It's often frightening, and bewildering, and sometimes downright ugly.  But it's the duty of the news media to communicate the news to us in all its disturbing clarity.  And it's our duty, as citizens, to watch it and digest it to the best of our abilities. Then, when it's time to exercise our most valuable of civil rights---our right to VOTE---we will have information that's complete, and real, upon which to base our decisions.  In a perfect world, maybe...