Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Toast, My Friends...

So many have touched my life

So many lives I have touched

Courtesy of the magic of this ethereal gathering place…

Friends, acquaintances, hit-and-runs…

 

I’m thinking of you all tonight

And wishing you

Smiles

Tears

Love

Growth

Connection

and above all

Peace

In this coming New Year.

 

Lisa :-]

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Into The Archives...

I’ve spent many hours the last several days, copying off my old AOL journal entries and saving them to "Word." If I could simply go through and "copy…paste…save…next" like a little assembly line, the job would be much less time-consuming. But, you know, you have to read them…the good ones, anyway. It has been an interesting and telling journey, this little reliving of my cyber life from genesis to present. My sojourn in Journal-land started out as a few little shots in the dark, then grew into a real give-and-take membership in a community. For a few months there, we really seemed to connect. And then, it all started to fade. Long before AOL triggered the Great Exodus with the silly ads, people were beginning to trickle, and then to stream, away from j-land. After awhile, hardly a week went by that didn’t see someone either pack up and leave amid great ballyhoo, or just disappear quietly, never to be heard from again. I’m looking at the names on the comments in my entries from a year ago, and saying, "Oh, yeah…whatever happened to her?" So odd, to have people with whom you shared nearly every day, just go "poof!"

That has been the aspect of this "community" that has been the most difficult for me. The fact that the "relationships" are so disposable. Is it strange to get attached to people you’ve never even met? I don’t know why it should be strange… I have poured out my soul here on the virtual pages of my journals. Why is it such a stretch to believe that people who read these things, and comment, and comment repeatedly, are not my friends? Or at least…something more than strangers? Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe there are rules to this game that I have never known.

Still, I know I’m not the only one who has been mystified by the mercurial dynamics of these journal relationships. Most of the people I’ve been closest to here, have expressed bewilderment at one time or another with the weird ebb and flow of energy in journal-land. I challenge even the most rhinoceros-hided among us not to feel at least a tiny pang of rejection when a frequent reader/commentor/"friend" ups and leaves with no forwarding address; or goes private and does not invite you to the party. And then, you’re left feeling a little sheepish when you DO feel slighted. You feel like, "After all, it’s not like I really ever knew that person…" It’s a strange roller-coaster ride, this online journal thing. I think a lot of people were realizing it wasn’t for them long before AOL threw its monkey wrench into the works.

Reading over all my old entries, I can see that blogging, for me, will be taking a different direction in the future. I feel like I need to start writing. Essays. Poetry. Political commentary. Good stuff. It’s time to take the next step. But I also know this: The heyday of AOL-j was a great ride, and I am going to miss it.

 

Monday, December 26, 2005

Saturday, December 24, 2005

From my house to yours

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter Solstice

hand raised in shield and salute
I’ve watched my retreating love
disappear southward
          his warmth a mockery
          his smile weak and distant
          the cold of his absence
          claims my world

each day sees a larger plot
of my heart in shadow and frost
as he grows smaller
          and now the rain
          has washed away
          the consoling memory
          of his wink and grin

someone tells me
he has turned
reconsidered his leaving…
          tomorrow and tomorrow
          will he be nearer?
          will his closeness thaw my heart?
          when will I know?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

For The Children of Iraq

Years ago, Judy Collins wrote a song for the children of the beleaguered city of Sarajevo. On a television special she did a few years back, she told the story of the song, and how she had planned to include it on every album she recorded until the children of Sarajevo lived in peace once again. The tune, "Song for Sarajevo," is on her Christmas CD, "Come, Rejoice," recorded in 1994. So, I run into it once again every year when I pull out my long parade of holiday CD's. It is a haunting song; I cannot hear it or sing it without my eyes filling with tears. It speaks of the most tragic victims of our human penchant for blowing each other to smithereens when we disagree.

This year, I cannot help but think the name could be changed to "Song for Baghdad..."

                  

Blood in all the streets
Running like a flood
There's nowhere to hide, nowhere I can go
I reach out my hand
touching death itself
Just another holy day in Sarajevo

I can hear my heart
pounding like a clock
Hiding from the planes and from the bombing
Fire from the sky
burning down my life
There is no more love, no more longing

But when I close my eyes
I dream of peace
I dream of flowers on the hill
I dream I see my mother smiling
When I close my eyes I dream of peace

Once I had a home
Once my life was good
Once my mother sang to me and held me
Then the fire came
falling from the sky
There is no one left who can protect me

War's a wicked bird that never comes to rest
Feeding on the dreams of all the children
War's an evil bird flying in the dark
Every holy promise has been broken

But when I close my eyes
I dream of peace
I dream of flowers on the hill
I dream I see my mother smiling
When I close my eyes I dream of peace

Can't you stop the war
Bring it to a close
You are tall and strong and I am just a child.
Can't we live in peace
Stop the flowing blood
Make a blessed world where I can be a child...

When you close your eyes
Do you dream of peace?
Do you dream of flowers on the hill?
Do you dream you see your mother smiling?
When you close your eyes do you dream of peace?

 

Song for Sarajevo (Revised 9/97)Words by Judy CollinsMusic by Judy Collins
Universal Music Corp. (ASCAP)/ The Wildflowers Company (ASCAP)
(Administered by Universal Music Corp.)

Photo by embedded freelance writer Michael Yon

Friday, December 9, 2005

Christmas Play

shed of their kleenex robes

ornaments smile

bow and curtsy

in their four-week spotlight

they dance little scenes

of seasons past

and memorize

this year's lines

for next year

and the next and the next

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

The Last Word on The Subject

Yes, I will be leaving AOL. Mr. Boss’s Boss’s Boss, and the flying scooter, pushed me to the edge of the precipice. But TIME made me jump.

I am on dial-up. At first, because it was the only internet access available out here in the boonies. And then because the new technology (DSL, cable) was too expensive. And, eventually, because I was too lazy to deal with it, and slightly slower internet access didn’t bother me (though it drove my husband crazy…)

Unfortunately, with all the fancy animated ads, I can now walk around the block and have a cup of coffee waiting for internet pages to load. Mail, journals, news sites…I spend more time sitting twiddling my thumbs than actually experiencing the internet. And that is what tipped the scales. I called my local phone company, and found out that I could have "9x faster than dial-up" DSL for $24.95 a month. I pay $23.50 for AOL. Kind of a no-brainer, eh?

I’m not exiting AOL as a "Spit in your eye" gesture to the company. Why waste a perfectly good tantrum on a brick wall? It’s strictly a business decision, and I’m not ashamed of that. ;-)

So I’ve set up shop over at "blogspot." And a crazy-making two days it has been. You’ve probably heard others lament that blogspot is not nearly as user-friendly, or just plain easy, as AOL Journals. They are right on the money about that one. But I’m challenged now, by golly. And I’m gonna conquer it if it’s the last thing I do.

I posted a link to "Better Terms"—my new chapter—in my last entry. By the response I got, I have to believe people are just so tired of this whole exodus that they don’t want to deal with yet another exile. I understand. I was in that same place less than a week ago. But I think what follows, which is a slightly edited copy of my official "introductory" post at "Better Terms," is something I would like everyone here in J-land (who is interested) to read. And this is the last thing I’m going to say about the whole affair.

I plan to continue posting here until the deed (switching to DSL) is done, but from this entry forth, I promise only to post things of a more creative nature…pictures, poetry, essays. No more beating the "AOL Sucks" dead horse. AOL gave methe great gifts of "Coming to Terms" and "Brainsurfing" for these many months. And for that, I cannot help but be eternally grateful.

The Latest Chapter

“Better Terms.” The name itself signifies its connection to “Coming to Terms…” That place where I was literally reborn. Pulled out of the womb of my own head. Through a tiny keyhole, brought forth into a larger world. Waiting for me in that world was a family that welcomed me, nurtured me, encouraged me, admonished me. I was never an outgoing, exuberant child; didn’t throw my arms around every family member, close or distant, I came into contact with. I had my favorites, and I stuck with them. Maybe a little too closely for anyone’s ultimate comfort…

But now we have been graduated from that place. Not an event we foresaw or desired, but it happened nevertheless. Our “parents” redecorated our rooms, perhaps a trifle prematurely? to encourage us to get out there and try our wings… So, we flew. Though some of us had to get kicked several times before we finally fell out of the nest.

Graduations…rites of passage. We sally forth with the best intentions of keeping in touch with our “bosom-buddies;” our soul-mates. The special circle of friends whose love and support seem as essential to our lives as breathing. But after a season or two of new directions, new people, different dreams…those bonds dry up and crumble away. It happens in the “real world.” Why should the virtual world be any different? What does it take to create a truly life-long bond? Hard enough to find in the realm of flesh and blood. Maybe impossible in the ether. For me, anyway. Come so late to this world, perhaps I crave something that it cannot give. But I can’t seem to stop looking…

So, “Better Terms” is the next step. How will it differ from “Coming to Terms…?” I don’t know. I’m fresh off the bus there. Haven’t even decided which way to walk yet. The only decision I have made is that it will not be “Coming to Terms…” I will not carry the baggage of every moment of my previous virtual life with me on the next leg of the journey. I will keep the words, of course. Mostof my posts started life as “Word” documents, copied and pasted into my journal, so I don’t face the horrendous job of downloading and saving them. I already have them. “Coming to Terms” is the story of a finite time and place, and will be “put to bed” with my other journals—like the story of my sister’s final illness and death, and the journal I kept when Dad left us, and the explosion of our family that followed. Life’s lessons on paper. Saved…for what? I don’t know. Just to let someone know I was here, when I am no longer?

Ultimately, I don’t know if this new chapter will be short, long, the beginning, middle, or end. I have no idea where it is going, or where I am going. I hope for a next next chapter…a place where my writing will really come into its own. Ideally, that would make “Better Terms” a very short transition point. Then again, writing in a larger, harsher, more anonymous world may just discourage me to the point of stuffing me back inside my own head, never to be publicly heard from again. That, too, would make “Better Terms” a short chapter…a swan song. Whatever direction it takes me, it doesn’t feel like somewhere I’m going to be for a long time.

Then again, I just got there. I may find something totally unexpected, something that keeps me there, thriving and growing, for a long time. (Historically, that has not been how my life has unfolded; but, what the hell, there’s always a first time…) I thought I had found that something special at “Coming to Terms….” But it ended. And not because I was done with it.

Que sera sera. The world will have its way. What’s the use, in the end, of making plans at all?

Sunday, December 4, 2005

AOL Sticks Their Foot In It...


...and wipes it all over Journal-Land.


Two years and some months ago, several of us loyal (and, as it turns out, endangered) long-time AOL users set up shop in a new community offered by the service: AOL Journals. Unfortunately, as we were developing our journals and our community, AOL itself was transforming. With dependency upon the dues of subscribers no longer keeping it competitive in the 21st century ISP marketplace (read: it was no longer raking in obscene amounts of money), AOL shifted its focus to selling advertising space to bulk up its anemic coffers. And went at it with a vengeance. Each successive version of AOL—7.0, 8.0, 9.0—while purporting to include more and better features for subscribers (tell it Julia!) has been, in reality, primarily a vehicle for squeezing more advertising into every corner of the AOL experience: on news pages, into email, on message boards, in chat rooms.


Had we j-landers thought about it, we probably could have predicted that it was only a matter of time before the advertising plague spread to our little corner of AOL. But we were so comfy in our creative cocoon, we weren’t really paying all that much attention to the encroaching fungus. And AOL chose to allow us to remain blissfully ignorant, focused as we were on our own artistic endeavors. Until, seventeen days ago, they splattered the ad spores across the width and breadth of Journal Land. Forget about asking for our input, or—even further beyond the scope of believability—our permission. In the profit-driven corporate mind, we didn’t even rate a warning. It was just, one morning, bam! there they were. The ad banners, PLUS the horrendous technical hiccup that accompanied them.


We all know what happened next. The anger. The outcry. The Exodus. The shell-shock of those who remained.


After a few days of feeling utterly lost and uprooted, I came to a curious peace with the whole affair. The ad invasion was a completely impersonal, corporate decision, made by the powers that be at AOL. The concept of seeking subscribers’ input was so far off their radar screen that it was nigh unto extra-terrestrial. The course of action had been determined by the financial "need" of the company. There were no subscribers to consider. There was only the bottom line. I understood that; and, for some perverse reason, I was okay with it. It wasn’t personal. It wasn’t about me, or journal land, or AOL members as a whole. It was about making money. Just like everything else in the world. Rather than feeling betrayal, outrage, or disgust, I experienced a great swelling of loyalty. The kind of loyalty a tick feels for its host. As long as I was getting what I wanted, I could put up with the crap. Do whatever you think you need to, you idiots. I’m staying in spite of you..


As time passed, the shock and hurt waned. The dust came filtering back down to earth; people left, people stayed, people (like me) came crawling out of their foxholes waving white flags. True to character, AOL stayed mum. Not a word did we hear to signify that they heard the outcry, witnessed the exodus, gave a flying fig whether we were out here or not. Curiously, that was somehow comforting to me. It made me feel like my assessment of the situation was right on the money (pun intended…)


Apparently, the noise we made was more than just a tiny squeak easily stifled by the giant paw of dollar signs. Obviously, enough of a stink had been generated that it leaked outside the confines of AOL and into the world at large. Just in time to plunge a knife into the barely healed wound, AOL decides that maybe they are taking a public-relations hit with this whole affair. Too dismally tardy to have any positive effect, AOL authorizes some senior vice-president twice-removed to break the corporate silence and post a communiqué to us peons on an "editor’s" journal.


And what a post it is! It starts out with a really endearing salutation ("Folks:" Not, "To Our Valued Members" or "Hello Friends" or even "Dear Folks." Just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it?) It immediately makes it clear that this communication is anything but an apology ("I'm not here to report that we're changing our strategy on the ads. The ads are staying for the foreseeable future. Advertising is an important part of how we make money, and we're not ashamed of that.") Goes on to explain that the community experience is still being enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of happy AOLers, in spite of the outcry by the disaffected few ("Some of you are convinced that the addition of ads destroys that experience. I am less certain of that. I can't reconcile it with the fact that we have wonderful, passionate communities thriving in ad-supported pages…" ) If that’s true, why come down off your mountaintop and speak to the lowly peasants at all?


The post continues to pretty much say don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out if you have chosen to leave. ("Some of you have moved on because of this and that's understandable too. We're sorry this change has affected the way you feel about us." Reads a little like a pink slip, doesn’t it?) Then presumes to state that those of us who have stayed have done so out of loyalty to AOL. ("You are important to this community and to us, and we appreciate the understanding and support that you've shown.") Yeah, we understand it’s all about the money. But our decisions to stay stem from a variety of personal reasons, not for the purpose of offering even one splintered toothpick to support YOU.


Having lamely breezed through the inconvenient task of the non-apology, Mr. Vice-President What’s-his-name takes the opportunity to pimp all the great new features they’re working on, for which we have supposedly been clamoring. Enhanced buddy lists? Partner Ping? What??? Not one remaining member of AOL j-land could read of impending new features without a cold dread settling upon them. Mr. "Boss’s Boss’s Boss’s" post was significantly silent about the technical disaster surrounding the last round of "improvements." Hmmmm… S’posing you just get the spell-check to work? Or the alerts? Or fix it so that I can copy and paste my entries out of my word processing program without having to go back and correct all the punctuation that posts as garbled code? Which I wouldn’t have to do in the first place, if I hadn’t early on realized that one could spend hours composing an entry in the "Add Entry" space, only to have it disappear into the ozone at the click of the "Save" button...


Let’s face it, my remaining Journal-land stalwarts. We have been dissed. Again. Just when we were beginning to wade through the debris and start rebuilding, this idiot comes along to remind us just exactly how much we don’t mean to AOL, and how out of touch AOL is with the journal community; in fact, that AOL has no concept at all of the definition of the word "community." To AOL, the community is just a bunch of houses they erected…to slap billboards on.


If AOL thinks they’ve stopped the bleeding, or possibly repaired one sliver of damage with this insulting communication, they are wrong. In fact, they’ve delivered a stinging slap to those of us who have stayed. I don’t know who comes up with your community relations strategy, AOL, but take my advice: Either get a new spin-doctor, or go back to being the impersonal financial juggernaut. Those of us who are still kicking around were much more comfortable with the "You ignore us, and we’ll ignore you" policy. Now, we’ll have to go somewhere else to be left alone.

Friday, December 2, 2005

They say Christmas is for children...

Personally, I think it's for cats...

Now, I invite you to visit my friend Carol's journal to learn about her feline philosophy:

Life's Lessons As Taught By Cats

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Please Read

I suspect my previous entry is going to be one of those that gets few comments. Or none. Readers will receive the alert, click on the link. When they discover what it is that awaits them, they'll sigh, "Nothing good here; just a political post." And lightning quick mouse-clicking will take them back into cyber-space in pursuit of juicier game.

I understand. And 75% of the time, I'm right there with you. We're constantly bombarded by the hype that emanates from every media orifice. It's ugly. It's depressing. It's contentious. And most of the time, we can't make head nor tails of it. The political rhetoric in America has risen to such a fever pitch, that to expose yourself to it for any protracted period of time is to risk serious brain damage. Little real information can be found in the screaming, sniping, and name-calling in which our leaders are now engaged, and that our media have deemed constitute all the news we need or want to hear.

To those of us who still feel an obligation to know what's going on, the horrendous noise serves as an effective deterrent to sticking around long enough to dig deeper. I turn on the television or the radio, and within less than three minutes, I'm either hollering back at it, turning it off, or throwing it out a window. Print media are somewhat less offensive. I find that my brain's natural "loud/soft" mechanism sets the emotional volume at a level I can bear for long enough to read an article or two. Still, our city newspaper reads more like "People" magazine every day; magazines are so full of ads that it's almost impossible to find the articles, much less follow all the threads interwoven around and between pimpings for little purple pills.

Besides, reading is work. Unlike audio or video, you need to set your whole mind to reading an article. You can't have it playing in the background while you accomplish five or six other things on your "to do" list. Wouldn't it be nice if we actually could absorb the information we need to understand our complex world that way? Would we tune in if we could? The powers that be in American media apparently think not.

No, we will not be offered the opportunity to be educated in spite of ourselves. Like anything else that is worthwhile, the good information, the whole stories, the truths hidden under the lies, can only be had with the investment of some kind of effort. You gotta want it; and you gotta go looking for it. And let me tell you, folks, we direly need to want it.

When we cruise up to the cashier at WalMart and dole out our $1.88 for the "Support our Troops" magnet for the bumper of our SUV, we have to know what that means. ALL that it means. When the President stands in front of his carefully chosen military audiences and talks about our troops returning victorious when we can "safely" hand Iraq back to the Iraqis, we have to have some idea of the likelihood of that happening. And what the Iraqis will probably do with their country once they have it back. When the commander-in-chief of a military responsible for the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib, stands before the world and declares, "We do not torture," we have to be able snap to attention and cry, "Foul!" When it's time to go to the voting booth, we need to make informed decisions between "Pull out now," "Stay the course," or something in between.

We need to know whether our prayer should be "God bless America," or "God forgive America."

 

Digging For The Dirt

Go here:

UP IN THE AIR

Where is the Iraq war headed next?

Read this article. From start to finish. It does get a little dry... I had to start over in a couple of places where the technical jargon got a little overwhelming. Then ask yourself this question: Why do we get no inkling of any of this stuff from the visual media that bombard us with "news" 24 hours a day?

I got this link from a Tankwoman post at The Blue Voice. While you're at it, it wouldn't hurt to read her latest post--The War Crime We Elected. I've known since the start of the war that we are not getting anywhere close to the whole story about this conflict piped into our living rooms. In fact, we're not getting ANY of the story. But it's so easy to accept the insulation from unfolding history that is the pap that the Bush Administration spoon-feeds us. My morning's reading splashed the cold water of reality in my face.

The information is out there, folks. But you have to dig for it. Go. Read. Then come back and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Merry Kokopelli


In my house, everyone gets decked out for Christmas...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Families...Friendships

And a Happy Thanksgiving it was.

For the first time since Dad passed away, we celebrated Thanksgiving ALL together, at one table, the four sisters, their (available) husbands, my niece and nephew, and my mother. How much it warmed my heart to look around my dining table and see all those faces smiling, really enjoying each other. We so rarely do that anymore.

Friday, we made our annual foray to the "World's Largest Christmas Bazaar" at the Portland Expo Center. Saturday, the sun made an appearance, so my sister D and her husband, my niece, my hubs and I took a long walk down along the dike next to the Channel. We saw cranes, and cormorants, geese, hawks, and a "possible" eagle. Then we stopped at the little houseboat restaurant on the channel for a bite before heading back to the house; where the "left behind" contingent were about to revolt. They were swiftly appeased with a quick trip to Dollar Tree. Battle averted.

Which is not to say that the visit didn't go on for, oh, about twelve hours too long. By Sunday morning, the guests were fairly fleeing the confines. I told my sister, "Everybody's leaving...  I'm so conflicted. I don't know whether to be sad or have a party!" I did manage a quick, two-step happy dance as the little carpool rounded the corner at the end of our street.

Now, I'm on strike, for at least the next twelve hours. I'm playing with the 'puter, half-watching CSI reruns on Spike TV, munching on leftover pretzels, and downing mass quantities of water in an attempt to cleanse the sugar and alcohol out of my system so I can climb back on the diet wagon tomorrow.

I was just visiting some AOL journals (the few, the proud...) and I experienced an interesting phenomenon. SOME of the journals I visited were missing something. Something at the top of the page. Something involving little yellow moving trucks, cel phones, drugs, love match, AOL 9.0. Probably nothing more than yet another wrinkle in the technological fabric of America Online Reinvented. (The incarnation of AOL that worships at the altar of advertising revenue, rather than subscriber dues.) Hmmm... Ads sporadically disappearing. On a few journals. Sometimes. It bears watching, anyway.

And can I just add this thought?

I am here in AOL J-land, and I plan on staying for the foreseeable future. I've stated many times: I write because I can't not write. And I write here because there's no reason not to, though the streets of the community are mighty quiet these days. In the early days of J-land, we put our messages in bottles, floated them out into the ether, waited to see what would happen. And readers happened. And then friends. Then the purge of the unwanted ad banners happened, and Journal-land is back to feeling like those early days. But different...a little sadder. A little bit like we were expected to choose sides, and no matter what side we chose, we were going to alienate someone. I have tried to keep track of my friends who have streamed away from AOL. I added their new journals to my bloglines feeds.  I visit and comment, to let them know I want to keep the lines open. Unfortunately, many of my friends, for whatever reason, have not reciprocated. So I can't help but feel that I have committed some unpardonable faux pas by choosing not to leave AOL.

What I would like to ask everyone is this: Visit your friends, wherever they went. It is simple, and free, to set up a "Bloglines" account. I set up mine a long time ago, when the AOL alerts started getting so "iffy." You CAN follow those who are writing elsewhere now. And leave them a little note to let them know you've stopped by.

And, those of you who left AOL, please come back and see us. Perhaps you have come by, but have not commented. For awhile--until we can sort out these weird aftershocks that everyone is experiencing--why not leave a quick note? Just say, "Hi! I'm still reading!" It would mean a lot to us. The internet is a vast, free, sometimes lonely space. We don't have to let our "community" be defined by which blog site we subscribe to... Do we?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Giving Thanks

I call myself "sadly agnostic." Sadly? How can one be "sadly" agnostic?

Because, at one time, I believed. At the breast of my Catholic mother, in the hands of the teaching Sisters of St. Casmir, I was brought up believing. A tiny, skinny stripling soul, too small to see over the back of the next pew without standing on the kneeler. I believed in an immense, overwhelming, more terrible than lovable heavenly "Father." And a human spawn of that Parent, come to earth to suffer worse pain and degradation than I would ever fear to endure; that I might, upon drawing my last earthly breath, be allowed the slimmest of opportunities to float into that Heavenly Presence. And be reunited with all of my dear departed family members. And perhaps my late cat, though the jury was still out as to whether Rusty would be permitted at that big reunion in the sky.

Catholic dogma sat heavily on the shoulders of an anti-establishment high school hippie. The rituals became meaningless, the words, rote...like incantations; mystical chants. Say these words, go through these motions, and you will be saved. From what? To what? I walked away. But I never stopped believing, In the Big Guy in the sky who was ready with the carrot if you were good, and the thunderbolt if you stepped seriously out of line.

Then, there was the "born again" experience in the eighties. When, by God, if words were going to come out of my mouth, they were going to really mean something. If I was going to go through motions, they would come from the heart. God became my Dad, and Jesus my brother, and all my fellow pew warmers were my litter-mates in the Lord. Until, deeper into that life, I realized that these folks, with their direct line to the Almighty, were as wicked as the raw unwashed. Only they were "forgiven." There was no evil they couldn't at least give a trial run. Just to make sure the Lord was as good as his Word.

And, thus, agnostic. But why "sadly?" Because it is sad to realize that what I had once embraced as the greatest truth might turn out to be the greatest fiction. To suspect that perhaps mankind created God in its own image and likeness, rather than the other way around. To perceive that God could be the code that society long ago dreamed up to keep itself from descending into utter self-serving chaos; and yet be, at the same time, the great club by which we enforce the rule of the dominant. My consuming dilemma over the last ten years has been how to discern between the spirituality of a Creator, and the manufacture of spirituality. I've seen plenty of the latter...cannot be absolutely certain I have ever experienced the former. Sad. I feel like I've lost an innocence that so many people blissfully retain. Like I've learned a secret that I would have been much happier not knowing.

So, what can "Thanksgiving" mean to an agnostic? If you don't believe in God, to whom do you give thanks? It's funny. Some things are so indelibly written on the heart, a lifetime of experience cannot erase them. There are times when little prayers still spring to my mind, unbidden. I've learned to bat away the "help me" pleas.  I figure if there is a God, it certainly wouldn't do for me to turn to Him only in desperation. I know I don't like hearing from relatives who only call when they need something...

But, I do not stifle spontaneous offerings of thanks. Overflows of gratitude due the Creator; the Universe; that Force inconceivably greater than myself from which beauty, balance, harmony and goodness flow. Music, the night sky, laughter, a mate's embrace...things so transcendent they simply cannot be cosmic accidents, deserve acknowledgment and celebration. It's such a natural thing...a silent "Thank you" formed in an awestruck, humble heart. It doesn't seem to matter that my head is not entirely convinced there is a "you" to thank. My heart is pretty sure there is.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Holidays Inspire...



                                                       1960


                                                            1990

                                                         2005

Up in the attic,
Down on my knees.
Lifetimes of boxes,
Timeless to me.
Letters and photographs,
Yellowed with years,
Some bringing laughter,
Some bringing tears.

Time never changes,
The memories, the faces
Of loved ones, who bring to me,
All that i come from,
And all that i live for,
And all that i'm going to be.
My precious family
Is more than an heirloom to me.

Heirlooms
Amy Grant
1983

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What Have You Done, John Murtha?

Mr. Murtha really put his foot in it, I'm afraid. I would like to be elated that a Democrat finally stood up and took a very public stand against the Iraq War. Unfortunately, John Murtha went about it in probably the worst possible way. I cringed as I saw the clips of him having a nearly incomprehensible conniption into a microphone somewhere on The Hill... Rolling cameras caught every nuance of his ungrammatical, uninspired, raw emotional tirade. Later, on the PBS Evening News, he ranted, raved, interrupted and talked over reporter Margaret Warner as she attempted to steer the interview down some logical path.

And look what he started. Congress has once again erupted into one big screaming match. Adolescent name calling, cries of cowardice, finger-pointing, accusations of dishonesty are whizzing about, so thick that you need to belly-crawl through the hallowed halls to avoid being shredded by the shrapnel. There's not a pellet of merit to any of this folderol. It's not meaningful debate, it's not "working out the bugs" on the way to a compromise; it's not accomplishing anything for the war effort, the peace effort, our men and women in the line of fire in Iraq, or the American people at large. It's an emotionally charged tug of war, waged for the ultimate prize of...poll numbers. The President's are slipping, and the Democrats' aren't rising apace. So, let's start a war of words. Let's drag the American people around by their emotional hair and see which side's following can scream the loudest.

Mr. Murtha's passionate anti-war tirade gave the Republicans just the opening they have been looking for. They know what the Democrats have yet to figure out: that pure, raw emotion plays into the Republican battle plan every time. These are the people who were able to advance their war agenda and silence any meaningful objections, by digging an American flag out of the rubble of the Twin Towers, waving it like crazy, shaking their fists and roaring that anyone who wasn't with them was against them.

They've kept that tattered pennant in their back pocket; all they've needed to do is craftily caress it with the barest of touches, and chant the magic words--"terrorists...our shores...nine-eleven" to tap into all the fear, hatred, and other roiling emotions hidden just below the surface of the American psyche. It has worked like a charm for over four years. We've handed them everything they wanted, as long as they've pledged to lead us to glory, and keep those bad men from coming over here and blowing up any more buildings.

Over the last few months, the administration's struggle to competently address fresh problems--disaster relief, Supreme Court appointments, Plamegate--provided a small space of time for the public to pause, shake the hyper-patriotic fog from their minds, and take a hard look at what the Texas Cartel is actually doing for this country. The administration failed miserably to deal with natural disasters for which there was at least some warning. How, then, could we believe that they had the ability to protect us from the unpredictable catastrophe of a major terrorist attack? Then the President puts forth the name of his own woefully unqualified Texas lawyer for a seat on the Supreme Court. The entire nation--right, left and in between--scratched their heads at that one. Next, a White House staff member is indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. A little more of the Bush Administration's teflon coating flakes off and floats away on the breeze. Gasoline prices soar through the roof (because the Bush League can't resist milking every dollar of profit from yet another disaster), and families face the prospect of choosing between eating and heating this winter. Slowly, painfully, the American people begin to snap out of the emotional hypnosis under which the Republican administration had so easily manipulated them.

And then, along comes John Murtha. At a time when Republicans were sinking lower and lower in the polls, and were casting about for any handhold to stop the skid and reverse direction, Murtha plays right into their hand. He goes where the administration's detractors should by now fear to tread--the hooting, hollering, fuming, ranting world of tangled passions attached to the Iraq War. Surely the Democrats must realize that, in this arena, they are rank amateurs compared to the GOP. For some inexplicable reason, Murtha just couldn't leave well enough alone; he couldn't allow the government's recent obvious failures to continue to pour acid on the emotional chain that has bound the American people to the Bush Administration.

The distinguished Representative from Ohio's 12th Congressional District got the screaming started again. And the name calling. And the finger pointing. And the McCarthy-istic challenges to the "loyalty" and "patriotism" of the opposition. Back to that vicious war of words where the Republicans--by virtue of their fearlessness to create their own truth--have already demonstrated their superiority. John Murtha got us right back to square one. Bad show, Mr. Murtha.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I'm Finished...

....freaking out now.  Is it safe to come back?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Goodbye...

An open letter to my cherished journal friends:

Hello, my friends:

The events of the last two days that have blown journal land to smithereens have just...I don't know. Spoiled the whole experience for me, I guess. I was never really a big mover and shaker in journal land, but even the few friends I have are now all over the place. I can't find you, and if I do, my damn new laptop with its "cookies" issues will not let me comment on your journals. I would like to continue to read, to keep up with all of you, but it's just becoming too frustrating. And it's no fun really, without the "give and take" of commenting.

Tonight, I'm going to take "Coming to Terms" private...with no readers. Then, I think I'm just going to sit on it for awhile. At some point, I'll either download my entries and delete the journal entirely, or re-open it after all the fuss has died down and/or some resolution has been reached with all the "AOL Betrayal" issues. Or I might start a journal somewhere else, but I doubt it. All good things come to an end, and maybe this one has. Rather rudely and abruptly, I'd say. I'm kind of upset right now, and it's been my experience that when I make decisions when I'm in this state, they rarely come to any good.

Lisa :-]

 

 

 

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Journal Land Gets Hit by a Virtual Tsunami....

Here is the comment I left at Scalzi's.  He is inviting everyone who has an opinion about the new ad banners to vent their spleens. 

Chalk one more in the column of "hate the ad banners."  This is just AOL reminding us, as they feel compelled to do from time to time, that our journals are NOT ours, that they can and will do anything they want with them, and we have absolutely no recourse, except to leave AOL.  And so, many of us shall. 

I have been an AOL customer since 1997.  My husband has been bugging me for years to change ISP's, mostly because AOL is the most expensive service out there.  But I have insisted we not drop AOL...$300 a year for the privelege of belonging to and writing for the journal community has been worth it for me.  The addition of these hideous and unwanted ad banners has greatly devalued the service.  In fact, I don't see why I should pay that kind of money to help line the pockets of AOL advertisers.   Wouldn't it be more traditional for THEM to pay US?

Not to mention the fact that this little "upgrade" had completely screwed up the technical aspect of journal land.  Maybe we would not be QUITE as angry about the ads if we were not locked out of our journals, unable to post, unable to comment, unable to properly copy and paste out of our word processing programs.  Let's face it, AOL.  You monumentally screwed up on this one.  Lisa  :-[   http://journals.aol.com/mlraminiak/ComingtotermswithMiddleAge/

Mine was the 86th comment on the thread, though some people have commented and re-commented several times.  Please, everyone, go...  http://journals.aol.com/johnmscalzi/bytheway/entries/5067  Leave a comment.  Let's see that count go up into the multiple hundreds.  I can't see AOL paying any attention to less than a hundred mal-contents.  There have GOT to be more of us out there who think these ad banners are a BAD THING.  Let's show them our numbers.   

Friday, November 11, 2005

...On The Radio

I have spent the last few weeks in a flurry of domestic activity. As the picture outside my windows gets darker, soggier, and more somber, the inside of my house is going bright, clean and sparkling. Junk drawers that have collected another year’s worth of clutter, carpeting that will need daily vacuuming for six months to catch up with what nine pets have shed during the summer months, furniture that is looking tired and dull in its same old places…all these things have been getting the hyper-Suzy-Homemaker treatment. I have loaded up every cd player in the house with my early-seasonal-that-is-not-really-Christmas music (I have so many Christmas cd’s that if I don’t start listening to them in October, I don’t get to hear all of them!)

But lately my music, which I dearly love, has left me with a vague feeling of dissatisfaction. Often, I just turn it off, and toil alone in silence. And not a comfortable silence. Something is missing. In the past, I’ve not had trouble keeping myself happy and occupied when I’m alone. I don’t usually have to fight off feelings of isolation and loneliness. Yesterday, it finally dawned on me what is missing. Radio.

I became a radio junkie very early in life. I was ten years old when the "British Invasion" made radio the essential accessory for any boomer child in or approaching adolescence. I was still playing with Barbies, but I knew the Billboard Top Ten of any given week. We listened to top 40 radio as close to 24 hours a day as we possibly could. I can still name the line-up of WLS (Chicago) disc jockeys of the mid-sixties: Clark Weber, Bernie Allen, Dex Card, Ron Riley, Art Roberts. Wholesome, teeny-bopper silliness and numerous commercial breaks…and they actually got around to playing five or six records an hour, too. Remember the wondrous AM-radio concept of the "Twin Spin?" Those highly touted times when they would play two records back-to-back without a commercial in between? That was exciting, ground-breaking stuff.

In the seventies, we "matured" as an audience; we demanded more music, less talk. Once again, the boomers snapped their fingers, and the world jumped. FM radio stations, with their formats of more music, better music, the music that didn’t get air time on AM radio, rose to prominence and flourished. Remember how AM radio stationsused to edit every song to three minutes or less? Unedited airings of records like The Doors’ Light My Fire got to be known as "the FM Version."

The AM stations, having lost their musical audience to the FM band, began to embrace the "Talk Radio" format. Not, thank God, talk radio as we know it today. It was a format that offered interesting, informative presentations on a variety of subjects…home shows, shows about Hollywood and the entertainment scene, garden shows, travel shows, sports shows. One of my favorites was a program that aired on WGN radio late on Saturday afternoons. It was called "The Sportswriters." It featured a panel of sports reporters and columnists from the Chicago newspapers, engaging in that time-honored male pass-time that has since been labeled "arm-chair quarterbacking." In your mind’s eye you could see this circle of somewhat disheveled looking characters, cigar smoke circling their heads, pencils behind ears, beer or scotch in smudgy glasses…pontificating upon the finer points of the Chicago sports scene. We used to call them "The Rude Guys;" they argued, talked over each other, and made veiled, AM radio-friendly allusions to each others’ heritage. The Rude Guys. Today, they’d look more like Wally and Beaver’s older cousins.

Those were the days. You could set yourself a project, like painting the house or laying a new floor. Turn on the radio and just let it play, hour after hour, and never get bored, or angry, or tempted to grab the thing and throw it out the window. You’d laugh. You’d take a trip to somewhere you’d never been; hear a review of a new restaurant you’d like to try; learn more about some local character. You might pick up a handy tip or two. Toiling away, all by yourself, you’d almost feel like you had spent the day surrounded by friends at a really good party.

You’d even keep up with local and international news; it was reported at the top of every hour. Or, if something earth-shattering were going on, like an assassination or a natural disaster, you’d get the "We interrupt this program…" spiel. But, by and large, the news was confined to ten-minute slots at the top of every hour—five minutes for national news, five for local. And it was enough. Five minutes was plenty of time to relay the important stuff, no embellishments, no analysis, no twist or spin. Just the facts, ma’am. If only…

Ah, yes, here’s the antique fuss-budget waxing nostalgic about the good old days. Pretty pathetic. But, you know what? There are some things that HAVE gone completely to the dogs, and radio is one of them. I cannot listen to more than ten minutes of today’s "talk radio" without being induced to scream, "Oh, shut up!" and reach one hand out to slam the thing off before my other hand makes it to my head to commence tearing my hair out. If the Lord sent an angel to search for one iota of good to redeem today’s talk radio scene, He’d end up blasting it to cosmic dust before you could say "Sodom and Gomorrah." It is a showcase of pure smarm, ugliness, contentiousness, greed, rudeness…teeming with every negative aspect of the human character. Is it a true reflection of our society? I don’t know. I’m not interested in analyzing it that minutely. I only know that radio used to be one of my closest friends. And I miss it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Fairy Tales

Sunday night, The West Wing aired what they touted as a "great live television event." Great, it wasn’t.  Much as I once loved that show, it is definitely a few years past its prime, to put it kindly. But the writers’ take on a "gloves off, no rules" debate between presidential candidates did contain some food for thought.

The buzz (what buzz there was) seems to be mostly about our make-believe opponents’ views on health care. Jimmy Smits’ "Congressman Matt Santos (D-TX)" character shoots us some interesting facts on how efficient Medicare is, in terms of how much it spends on administrative costs, compared to private insurance companies and HMO’s. And, to give him his due, "Senator Vinnick (R-CA)" (Alan Alda) gets in some good licks about how to bail Third World countries out of their crushing debt load. The dumbest point either character made was when the mythical Republican candidate tried to explain that it was permissible to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because nobody ever goes there. (It’s a Wildlife refuge, stupid!)

My favorite soliloquy of the program, bar none, was Matt Santos’ response to the demonization of the word "liberal." When he asserts that a "liberal" was responsible for ending slavery in this country, Senator Vinnick retorts, "A REPUBLICAN ended slavery in this country." To which Santos replies, "Yes Senator…a LIBERAL Republican. Whatever happened to those?" What, indeed? And then Matt Santos goes on to tick off a laundry list of milestones of social progress—from abolishing slavery to women’s suffrage to civil rights to Social Security—that have been advanced by liberal factions in this country over the decades. I have been googling all over the internet trying to get the exact text of this speech and haven’t been able to find it…and I didn’t tape the show, so I can’t go that route. I’d like to spray paint the words on every building, billboard, and railroad car in America; publish them in 100-point font in every newspaper in the county; tattoo them up the sleeves of every liberal candidate who stands irresolute behind a podium because (s)he has let the right-wing’s twisting of that word silence the message. Like the fictional Congressman Santos, we need to remember why we are what we are, and be proud of it.

Oh, yes, the Democrats have completely mislaid their message. Is it any wonder that John Kerry lost the 2004 election? When allhe could do was say, "I’ll do exactly the same things that this oil-baron war-hawk religious right-wing nutcase that you seem to like so much has been doing. But I’ll do them better, because I’m a Democrat. God bless America!" Faced with that choice, perhaps Americans could be forgiven for sticking with the devil they knew.

Still, it was glaringly obvious that Sunday’s West Wing debate was a fairy tale. I watched last year’s real debates, painful as they were, for as long as I could stomach the idiocy. One would think the truth-in-advertising police would bar them from even calling these stump speech marathons "debates." The candidates don’t debate anything. Ninety percent of the time, they don’t even answer the questions. If a question comes within twenty miles of one of the candidate’s talking points, the candidate just rolls out the talking point. No need to make the "answer" sound thoughtful or spontaneous. By the time I shut off the television, too embarrassed by the proceedings to watch any more, I could only think…are there REALLY people out in TV-Land who honestly believe that these phony contests have any merit whatsoever? How can the polls ask who won? How can there be a winner when there is no debate?

Yet I can’t imagine that taking away the "rules" would make a difference. Politics is not about debating the issues anymore. One of the risks of true debate is compromise…and, by all means, we can’t have THAT! Twenty-first century politics in America is about awarding the office to the last man left standing at the end of the bloody, slime-launching, teeth-gnashing, flesh-ripping battle. Egged on by throngs of wild-eyed voters screaming for blood. Imagine what might happen if real ideas were allowed to take center stage. On second thought, don’t bother. It’ll never happen.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Hobbies

My previous entry seems to have struck a chord. A sweet, strong, harmonic chord with some. A clunker with others.

Just goes to show you what the misuse of one tiny word can do. "Mere." That was the word. "Mere hobbyists." After all, journaling IS a hobby. A hobby to which many of us are passionately dedicated. That little adjective—"mere"—dismissed a whole segment of the journaling community. Myself included, actually. Often, when I start to accuse myself of spending too much time writing journal entries, I think, "Other people knit, or scrapbook, or put together hot rods in their garage in their spare time. I write. It’s a perfectly legitimate thing to do."

But I look at it this way. I love music...have always loved music. I sing all the time. I even played the guitar in my younger days, sang in the church choir for awhile. But I was not given the talent, the zeal, the passion for music that a true musician must possess. I will sing, and I will play guitar, if I darn well want to. It makes me happy. But it doesn’t make me a musician.

Writing, however, is something that bubbles up from a well in the depths of my soul. Something I have to do, as much as eating, sleeping, or going to the bathroom. It’s part of who I am, and who I will always be. There have been times in my life when I didn’t write; crazy, busy times when I did not use my God-given talent for anything more than love letters and birthday cards. In retrospect, those turned out to be the times when I was simply playing at being someone, something, that I am not. I may have even thought I was happy, that I had "made it." But I was not being true to myself. I ignored my talent because it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t always fun. And it didn't put food on the table. Truthfully, if I was still working full-time, I probably would not yet have "rediscovered" myself.

But you can write, and not be a writer. You can write perfectly legitimate, wonderful, worthy things. You can even do it for a living. Many people do, I suspect. I don’t mean to disrespect people who want to use this forum, or any forum, in any way they choose. And I don’t mean to say that the product they produce is somehow inferior because it doesn’t come from the pen of a "writer." If I was sitting on a street corner, playing my guitar and singing my heart out, and someone came up to me and said, "You can’t perform here because you are not a musician," I’d spit in their eye. Please, my j-land "hobbyist" friends, feel free to spit in mine if I ever again dismiss you with a single, poorly chosen word.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

The Keepers of the Land of Blog

These days, when husband and I talk, we most often debate the madness going on at his job. He comes home from work looking like a flat tire, and the venting seems to pump some air back into him. I don’t feel obligated to listen in silence. I’m sure that’s probably what I should do, what he would prefer I do… But that’s just not the woman he married.

Last Sunday, on yet another long ride home from Eugene, the conversation turned to my world instead of his. Actually, he asked me if there was anything exciting going on among my journal friends; I wonder whether he is really interested, or if asking after my gig is simply a way to avoid talking about his. My life in journal land is so much an extension of my life inside my head, that sometimes it’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins. Husband has never been much interested in the "life inside my head" part; but even he is keen enough to realize that, absent a job or other socially acceptable distraction, my blog is a big part of my life…and I think he feels a little left out. So he acts interested; and, to his credit, remembers enough about the "characters" involved to be able to make the right noises during my monologues.

This time, though, the conversation turned philosophical. Partly because there seems to be another "disturbance in the Force" of journal land going on right now. All the writers I read are wallowing through major life issues, which are manifesting themselves in different ways in the virtual pages of their blogs. It got me to thinking: perhaps this is what separates the true writers from the mere hobbyists among us. There are those who quit writing altogether, leaving us with a swan song entry explaining that they’ve written all that’s worth writing, and they’re off to spend their time on more worthwhile pursuits. ( The inference being that all these however many months of blogging have been nothing but a waste of time.) These people, in my mind, are not writers. They may be intelligent, interesting and articulate, and write very well when they choose to do so, but they have not the passion of true writers.

We’ve seen those, too, who disappear for a few days or a week or a month, then return to the ether "all better." They’ve dealt with whatever trauma needed to be resolved, and are now "over it" enough to resume writing. Their journals are kind of like crocheted afghans…very pretty showpieces, never intended for any practical use. Never-ending projects only picked up when nothing more pressing or stimulating is happening. More often than not, these people eventually lay us aside and don’t return. No warning, no goodbye...they just disappear.

From time to time, journal land is jolted by the seismic rattle of those who explode onto the blog scene, write fifteen entries a day for two weeks, then evaporate into the ozone. On to next season’s "happening" hobby… "Backwards Tibetan Barefoot Rock-Climbing"…or whatever.

And then there are the rest of us. The ones who are neither wholly satisfied with this place of literary masturbation, nor even remotely capable of walking away from it. In the midst of dealing with life issues, we don’t quit writing. Our prose might gain a new dimension from our trials. It might reveal a glimpse of a heart in mourning, or become strident as we rail against challenges to our souls. Or we may murmur peace and understanding as we gain some insight on our journey. But always, the words come. We could no more stop writing than we could stop breathing. The concept of being too busy to write is beyond our ken. Writing is what we DO. Have always done. "Journal land" is a special and unique place to cache that writing. In some ways, it may even be the perfect place. Readership and feedback—the perks of blogging that take your writing out of your head and into reality. How important is that? That incredible sense of validation can be a springboard to "bigger and better…" Or it can be all some of the more humble among us will ever need.

And we do need it, as much as any junkie ever needed any fix. Others come and go. We make friends. They go away. We stay. We write. As long as we exist, the Land of Blog—that land that straddles the border between reality and fantasy—will also exist. For us, through us, and by us.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Tick, tick, tick...

So, Scooter Libby will be the one doing the frog march. The Bush administration’s Teflon coating didn’t extend quite far enough down the food chain to protect his lying derriere

Two years of heightened anticipation from the left, and well-orchestrated non-comment by the right, have come down to the indictment of a relatively minor administration official; someone safely distant from the President himself. Talk about an anti-climax. It seems to have worked out perfectly for the Texas Cartel. A sacrificial lamb has been offered up. For all that some pundits dismally drone that a cloud still hangs over the president’s own staff, I fully expect Mr. Bush to act as if the matter, which barely blipped onto his radar screen to begin with, was closed. He’ll allow his deputy chief of staff the appearance of re-admittance to the inner circle (as if he had ever really been expelled...) Any day now, he’ll throw his arm around Rove and crow, "Karl, you’re doin’ a heck of a job!" Indeed.

The most serious onus hanging over the President’s head right now is that he should "apologize" to the American people. Excuse me, but, what exactly is he expected to apologize for? Nothing has been proven here except that Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff may have been caught lying to the Grand Jury, presumably to save his boss’s bacon. In any other administration in recent memory, the vice president might as well have been on Pluto, as have an office in the same building as the president. Surely the Bush Administration will be happy to perpetuate that fantasy in regard to the relationship between our current president and his second banana. The American people have been conditioned by decades of weak-to-invisible vice presidents; it should be simple enough for the Republican spin machine to convince us that rot in the office of the Vice President has no connection to or bearing upon the Chief Executive. An indication of corruption at higher levels? Nonsense! The President should be able to toss this bit of distracting lint away with a flick of his valet's miracle brush, wait for the ADD-afflicted American media to chase after the scent of some other non-story, and then go on with business as usual. The business of ruining our good name abroad, destabilizing the Middle East, sending down more unfunded decrees to follow "No Child Left Behind," ensuring another quarter of record profits for the oil industry… And the strongest rebuke the opposition can muster is that the president needs to "take responsibility." Say sorry. Woo hoo. That will not heat the homes of the people who will have to choose between freezing and starving this winter.

On the release of the news of Libby’s indictment, Mr. Bush donned his "solemn leader" façade for the cameras, pushed the whole affair to arms length, and made sure he threw in a pointed comment about "getting back to the business of protecting the American people." Proving that this president will eternally poke the stick into that hornet’s nest, resurrecting and relying upon the fear of the quaking masses who rewarded him with a second term in office. Will that be enough, anymore? Have the American people received just enough of a glimpse at the intricate web of deceit woven by this administration, to make them squirm? Possibly fall out of lock-step and start peeking under desks and into file cabinets and computer hard drives in the West Wing to uncover what other lies, great and small, have been perpetrated while we have been in "duck and cover" mode? Time—that slippery commodity which, at this point, appears to be on the Bush Administration payroll—will tell.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Wrong Stuff

Hmmm…so Harriet Miers has withdrawn. Undoubtedly a blow to President Bush, and I will gladly accept any development that troubles him and undermines his cartel’s stranglehold on Washington. But this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a victory for "our side." If anything, it is a demonstration of the frightening proportions to which the power of the religious right has grown. They served notice that they were the elephant upon whose back Bush rode to victory in 2004, and that they were going to accept nothing less than his complete capitulation to their "litmus test" for what constitutes an acceptable Supreme Court nominee.  Which, I suspect, will be at its most stringent for any female candidate, simply by virtue of the fact that, as a woman, she might harbor a secret sympathy for women's issues.

Yes Harriet Miers was a pitiful choice. An example of Bush’s policy of bullheaded, inappropriate cronyism at its worst. She was unqualified, undignified, and unprepared. Unfortunately, these are not the reasons she withdrew in disgrace. She withdrew because this choice of our most conservative president in recent memory could not prove herself conservative enough. Anyone in this country who leans even slightly left of center, indeed, even slightly left of extreme right, should be afraid—be very afraid—of the next candidate the President is prompted to put forth…

Sidenote:  Interesting, too, how Miers' announcement was timed to put a little blood in the water to decoy whatever media frenzy was preparing to attack the possible Fitzgerald indictments. The Bush Media Machine spins on...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Goodbye, Bunny




We lived in Eugene then. I was the high-powered manager of the "Little Bakery On The Mall." Our mortgage payments were low, my salary was high, and I was feeling rich and magnanimous. My sister Joyce, on the other hand, lived back "home" in Illinois, with a husband and three kids, trying to make ends meet on one income. Their mortgage payments were high, because they took out another loan on the house about every two or three years. And she was struggling to deal with her chronic illness—rheumatoid arthritis.


My family shook their heads and "tsk-tsk’d" Joyce, because she couldn’t hold on to a buck if her life depended on it. "Champagne taste and beer pocketbook," and all that. But she was ill, failing even, and she desperately wanted to be with the family; and I missed her, and wanted her to be with the family. I made it my job to make sure she came out for a visit once a year. Bought her ticket. Lodged her in my home. One month every summer.


We had an extra bedroom. I went into a total decorating frenzy. I don’t know what got into me, really. I hate pink. But it had to be roses. Stenciled furniture. Rose-bedecked bed linens. Throws and pillows and pictures and rugs, all rose-colored or rose splattered. I wanted the room to call to mind the best, fussiest, most over-decorated Victorian Bed and Breakfast I could imagine. In a gift shop one day, "Bouffant Bunny" wiggled her little pom-pom nose at me and whispered that she would fit perfectly in the center of the bed, among the pink and flowered pillows. Home she came. To Joyce’s Room.


And Joyce loved that room. Each year, a couple of weeks before her trip, I’d get notice to get "her room" ready for her.


That was fifteen years and two houses ago. We took Joyce’s Room to Portland with us when we moved north in 1993…unpacked "Bouffant Bunny" and her pals (by now she was flanked by a bear and two kitties, all formally pinafored in rose and green…) Patiently, they sat on the bed, waiting for the once-a-year appearance of their distant mistress. They saw her just one more time, before she got too ill to visit and then passed away, all in the space of a year. She was gone before we moved to Springfield. But I packed Joyce’s Room and took it with us. Assembled everything---Bunny, Bear, Kitties, and roses---in a corner bedroom that no one ever slept in. But it didn’t matter. It was Joyce’s stuff. I couldn’t even think of letting go of it.


Again when we turned tail and headed back north after Dad passed away, I lovingly packed the "Rose Room." That’s what I called it now. Unpacked it all again into an extra bedroom. Sisters, cousins, in-laws have tucked themselves under the rose comforter, laid their heads on the rose linens, tossed Bunny and her friends in a corner to make room for the humans to sleep. Finally, Bouffant Bunny and her pals were relegated to a closet shelf. They didn’t seem to fit anymore, into this room that had slowly morphed from Joyce’s Room, to the Rose Room, to the Guest Room. Last summer, when Joyce’s husband came out for a visit, I suspected it was time to retire the roses, the pictures…the memories might have been too hard on him. The "Rose Room" became the "Wine Room," with a new grape and vineyard motif, calling to mind the wine tours in which most of our guests like to indulge while visiting Oregon. Rose accoutrements were packed off the Goodwill by the boxful. Bunny, Bear and Kitties…stayed on the closet shelf. I couldn’t. Not yet.


Today, I found myself in the midst of a house-wide "pitch it" frenzy. Old bedspreads and linens that had filled an entire closet—out! Picture frames that had been in the same box since we moved in four years ago—out! Pre-school toys I had bought for my now middle-school-aged niece and nephew—out! I opened the door of the Guest Room closet, patting myself on the back that it could now glide smoothly without anything falling out. And there they were. Bouffant Bunny and her entourage, tangled and squashed and upended on that closet shelf.


All at once, I knew their time had come. There was no more life for them in this house. I’d kept them because I couldn’t let go of that shred of my sister. But, every time I looked at them, my eyes would fill with tears. Was this the way to remember Joyce, with sadness, even ten years after she’d gone? Suddenly, it didn’t make sense anymore. It was time to lay Bunny gently in the Goodwill box, and say goodbye. Let some other person, even a child, love her. Let her go some new place, where she could entice a smile instead of a tear.


I put her in the box. Still, it was like snipping out a tiny sliver of my heart, closing the lid on it and sending it away.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind....

The last few weeks, I have been loath to step into the political comment arena. Things have just looked too dark and hopeless. The Republican Party continues to advance its agenda in the face of growing public discontent with both their direction and their methods. Truly, I think they’ve accelerated their timetable, hurrying to reap every benefit of being in control of the reins of government before the disenchanted public snatches them out of their hands. (Three-dollar-a-gallon gas, anyone?) Speaking of hands, the Democrats continue to sit on theirs…

The loud-mouthed right-wing pundits and talk show hosts screech that the GOP’s problems are all the result of political attacks by their left-wing enemies. And because we have so encouraged the development of a "when you do bad, you suck; when I do bad, you suck" electorate, there are still crowds of brainwashed (brain-dead?) mortals lining up behind the media mouthpieces, raising their fists and shouting in agreement. It’s enough to make any sane person crawl under a rock and stay there until January of 2009. And then maybe crawl right back under if the political winds are still blowing ill…

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on how today’s political climate is at polar opposites to what it was when I was in high school. Ah the seventies! When we reaped the harvest sown by our older siblings in the sixties. Television shows like M*A*S*H, shoving the futility of war into our faces every Tuesday night. And "All in the Family" poking rapier-sharp fun at centuries-old prejudices and social hypocrisy, urging us, at knife-point, to open our minds and change our ways. It didn’t matter who was in the White House…Nixon? Ford? Carter? The country had definitely swung left of center. Who swung it? We did. The young people. The massive horde of baby boomers who embraced ideas like social conscience, ecology, civil rights, PEACE…and we rioted in the streets, shook everything up, banged our fists and shouted, until the world paid attention.

What happened? We had won…we had the country going on a reasonably moral track, heading into the twenty-first century. Perhaps our victory had been TOO complete…perhaps we just couldn’t face our global responsibilities as the world’s Goliath. When Al Qaida’s David flung its rock, it hit us hard, snapped our heads back, and missed being a fatal blow by inches. And now, we were old. Looking forward to nothing morechallenging than that quiet, secure retirement billowing toward us from the horizon.

So we ran. Backwards. Back to those old attitudes of fear (ragheads and Muslims and terrorists, oh my!); selfishness (I got mine, go get your own); contentiousness (I win, you lose!); nationalism (Yew don’t lak it heah? Go live in Eye-Rack!) and mindless consumerism (Global warming? Let’s study that for awhile…) Because the conservative mob that happened to be in power at the time told us that if we did that, if we got in line and did not stray from their narrow path, they would keep us safe. We lost our nerve. We handed them the keys. We sold out.

Lately, I’ve been wondering…where are today’s young people? Why are they not picking up the old banner of peace, tolerance, and global responsibility that we left lying in the dust? And what would we do if they did? Think about it…what would be our reaction to an avenging army of college students and young workers, the likes of our young selves in the sixties and seventies? What would we think, how would we react, those of us who are now as old and set in our ways as our parents were thirty-five years ago? Fortunately or un-, our children don’t seem so inclined. They have chosen "I, me, mine" as their banner, and so try their best to ignore all things political, or concepts even slightly larger than themselves, in their steadfast quest for their first plasma TV or Humvee. We cannot expect them to save us…from ourselves.

To whom can we turn, then, to guide us out of this quagmire into which we’ve followed our opportunistic leaders? I think I got my answer yesterday. On the side of the highway leading into our small town, three gray-haired ladies, my age or a few years older, brandished home-made, pink poster board placards held aloft on fresh, unpainted 1 x 2’s from the Home Depot, which read "Peace" "Honk if You" "Want Out." It crossed my mind that, a year ago, those ladies might have been harassed, spat on, or even arrested. But…wonder of wonders. The vehicles on that busy highway were slowing down. And honking.

Yes, old friends, it may very well be up to us once again. And I think we just might be up to it.

Friday, October 21, 2005

This Means a Lot To Me...

THE OFFICIAL NOMINEES -- PART ONE


Here are the official nominees for the 2005 Vivi Awards, as certified from general submission votes by the Vivi Awards Executive Committee.

BEST POLITICAL JOURNAL:
Coming to Terms... mlraminiak
De Profundis - musenla
Perish the Thought - gullspirit
Republican Jen - republicanjen
Un-Common Sense - armandt
the wizard of ahs - anarchitek

Thank you.  I am honored.  Surprised.  Humbled.  Lisa  :-]

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Monday (Tuesday?) Photo Shoot


Autumn leaves~~a subject I could definitely warm up to... 

Monday, October 17, 2005

God Only Knows...



I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I’ll make you so sure about it

If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on, believe me
The world would show nothing to me
So what good would living do me?

God only knows what I’d be without you…
(Sometimes, someone else's words say it best.  Thank you, Brian Wilson...)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Fiftyish Philosophy

Forty is not scary…in fact, it’s nearly the perfect age. You’ve survived childhood, navigated the pitfalls of young adulthood, and arrived at an age where you can claim a certain amount of wisdom, of savoir faire; yet you are not old. Not young anymore, but not old. Mature, like a fine wine or a piquant cheese. You can confidently assert that your page is merely half-written. After all, look at all the eighty-year-olds who are still vital and active; traveling the world, dancing ‘til dawn, towing the grandkids and great-grandkids off to Disneyland.

After forty, however, you realize that something bizarre has happened to the passage of time. You have not gone over a hill, you have stepped off the edge of a cliff, and are now hurtling toward fifty. Forty-two, forty-five, forty-eight, pass in a blur. Fifty roars up from the horizon and is upon you before you can blink. All at once, you bump up against the realization that you do not know too many 100-year-olds who are enjoying anything you would recognize as a quality of life. Okay…none. You don’t personally know, or know of, any centenarians who are so blessed. You’ve finally reached the age when you must reluctantly concede that you are well into the second half of your life.

And so, as your half-century mark approaches, arrives, and recedes fleetly into the past, you find yourself prone to looking backward with more regularity, and much more fondness, than you anticipate the future. The trick is to find the balance between paying short, happy visits to the past, and putting down permanent roots there. The temptation to pick a decade, go back to it and just take up residence is strong. Sometimes, it’s hard to resist the weight of all those years pulling you back to happier times, easier times, reckless times; when the laughter and love seemed to come without a cost. When you didn’t know enough to really savor every moment, because it never occurred to you that those moments might be finite.

But what could be sadder, and more wasteful, than retreating into the past to escape the future? The appeal is undeniable. There is too much of the Great Unknown, almost close enough to touch, in the future when you’re fifty. The past seems infinitely safer. There is no challenge, and a great deal of comfort, in turning around and walking back to where you’ve been. But is that really how you are meant to spend the last priceless decades you are allotted in this life? Shouldn’t you keep going forward, fully inhaling every precious breath, reaching out, yanking the moments and wringing every drop of adventure from them? Or do you spit in the Creator’s eye, slink backward, plop yourself down and say, "I’m done. Come and get me when it’s time."

As for me, I can neither completely commit to grabbing the gusto, nor retreat to a place of comfort to wait it out. I wander back, sit and rest for a time; but just long enough to build strength for continuing the journey. Because deep in my soul, I know that ahead, into the future, is the only direction to take. I simply will not give back those years that are held in store just for me. That would be the ultimate sin, for which there cannot be, should not be, any forgiveness in the heart of the Universe. Live what is given you…die with one arm hugging every precious moment you've been granted, and the other outstretched, reaching for more.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Yet Another Winning Pick

Up until now, I have thought of the Supreme Court nominations as an annoying non-issue. Anyone who thought Bush was going to get through two terms without having the opportunity to fill at least one vacancy on the court was dreaming (or thinking wishfully….) Reagan’s two terms allowed him to place two justices, and elevate a Chief Justice. Bill Clinton’s eight years in office netted him two nominees for the bench. Even George H.W. Bush got to place two justices during his single term in office.

My only opinion on the issue was that it would go a long way toward healing the cavernous rift between the right and the left for the opposition to just suck it up and let Mr. Bush have his crack at it. And, darned if he didn’t make me look good with his first nominee. Judge Roberts is a bright, respected jurist, who has demonstrated a clear love for and understanding of the law. His ties to the Bush dynasty, in the form of his White House service during the Bush 1 Administration, faded in the bright light of his obvious intelligence and competence (perhaps we were dazzled to insensibility that a Bush nominee should possess either of these qualities…)

The Democrats must have shared some of my personal philosophy. They allowed Judge Roberts to glide through the confirmation process with only the meekest of token objections. Perhaps they even patted themselves on the back for their wise application of the "pick your battles" adage. I’ll confess I had my hand right in there thumping with the rest of them.

Apparently, Mr. Bush was much heartened by his victory in the Senate. He must have figured he was on a roll. He fired up that same smoke screen that worked the first time—the one that had him closeting himself with Congressional leaders of both parties in an earnest quest for the perfect candidate. He carried Judge O’Connor’s glass slipper far and wide, searching for the one individual who could fill it perfectly. And, lo and behold, that one ideal candidate was right under his nose all along. Harriet Mier, his own Texas lawyer!

It amazes me that Bush actually had the cajones to put forth Mier’s name, after the recent firestorm surrounding another of his cronies—FEMA’s woefully incompetent Michael Brown. But our Texas good ole boy president understands the concept of "staying the course;" he doggedly defends every poor choice he’s made, and turns a blank stare to any criticism thereof.

So, Mr. Bush searches the world, and ends up pulling another unqualified sycophant out of his drawers. This one, unfortunately, has the potential to leave a remnant of the Bush Administration stink in Washington for at least another two decades.  Not an attractive thought to those of us who are wearily counting the days to the end of this disastrous administration. If I were a senator, I’d have to give this one a long, hard look. I have a feeling deep in my gut that there is way more danger here than initially meets the eye.