Sunday, June 29, 2008

hangin my hat

Tomorrow I fly to Memphis to look for a place to live. I have some appointments lined up to look at some houses. All of them look good on paper, but you never know until you get there and see the neighborhood and the traffic and the proximity to things you know you will need. Also, Memphis is known for its high crime rate. I need to know a bit more before I decide where in the general vicinity I want to be parking my worldly goods!

I'll also be stopping by my new campus to meet the staff and take a look around. This is a great group of people and they deserve solid, brave leadership. Many of them have stuck it out through some difficult times. The students also are in need of solid leadership. They deserve to attend a school they can be proud of.

The movers are scheduled to pack my things on Saturday, July 12th. That is very close! There is so much to take care of before then and I am a world class procrastinator. I'm sure that I will get it all done, though. This is my fourth move in 5 1/2 years, so I should be a pro by now!!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Today I am focusing on the subject of "hope".

My brother is found, but there are problems that cause my heart to hurt for him. I will not go into detail here. Suffice it to say that I am holding on to hope that he will be okay.

Emily Dickinson wrote:

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune
Without the words,
and never stops at all."

My brother-in-law's cancer has metastasized to his bones and other organs via his lymph nodes. My sister is still in shock. We are all in shock.

But I am led here:

"Approach each new problem not with a view of finding what you hope will be there, but to get the truth, the realities that must be grappled with." (Bernard Baruch)

And here:

"It's being here now that's important. There's no past and there's no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can't relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don't know if there is one." (George Harrison)

From what my sister tells me, her husband was ready for the diagnosis. He is ready to face whatever he must face. But my sister is not there yet. She is frightened. My heart hurts for her too.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

out of sorts

I'm a little out of sorts this week as I try to deal with competing emotions. I'm trying to allow myself to feel all of them, but I am quite a champion at avoiding feeling emotions!

I am feeling fear and dread because I can't seem to locate my beloved brother. I've been trying for weeks but only became concerned on Monday when I called him at his work number. His home voicemail being full and his home email box being full just said "brother too lazy to deal with clearing out messages". But finding out that the business he worked for had been sold and that he no longer worked there scared me. If all of my avenues of communication are broken, that leaves my imagination to work overtime. I sent him a letter and will call the police if I do not hear from him by Tuesday. (My father also sent him a letter, registered, signature required.)

While I was trying to track down my brother, I found out that his former life partner had died several years ago. I don't know if my brother even knew this. It seems odd that he wouldn't have told us.

More bad news came with the diagnosis of prostate cancer for my brother-in-law. He is only 48, so this news is frightening. He had a bone scan on Friday, but we will not have the results for several days.

This week also brought a new job offer from my company. I've been named Campus President for our campus in Memphis, Tennessee. I will work in Phoenix for the next three weeks, then move to Memphis and begin work there on 7/21/08. This is extremely happy and exciting news! So I have been wanting to feel celebratory, but with the triple bad news, I am not up for it!

Leaving Phoenix also means leaving my sweetheart. This is probably also contributing to my inability to celebrate. He will have to make his own decision about whether to stay in Phoenix or go with me to Memphis. He has to weigh everything out. Knowing this does not make it easier to handle!

So much is out of my control, which is a hard thing for me to accept. I want to take action of some kind to resolve all of these unanswered questions! But there is really only waiting to be done here. Oh my, waiting is so hard for me!!!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

happy father's day

Every year when I go shopping for a Father's Day card, I am bombarded by all kinds of stereotypical images that do not represent the feelings I have about my father.

First there are all the cards showing men's ties. I suppose this is a popular image because lots of people buy their fathers ties when they don't know what else to get. My father certainly wore many ties in his lifetime, but he is retired now and only wears one if an event really calls for it. (And even then he might only wear a tie if my stepmother gently prods him to do so.) But I don't remember ever buying him a tie.

Then there are the cards with the nautical themes. Often these show a lighthouse or a ship at sea or a lifesaver. Some cards show a man with fishing gear, or out in a boat. We did go crabbing together once when I was 9 or 10. I remember him showing me how to hold a crab so it wouldn't pinch me. I didn't do it right and one pinched my thumb. I shook my hand so hard that the crab let go and sailed out over the water like a discus at the Olympics. We laugh every time we remember it. But I don't think a card about fishing really captures my father.

Some cards show race cars or a man mowing a lawn or working on a car engine. Some show a man teaching a boy to play a sport. But none of these really work for me. They are too mainstream.

Then there are the golf images. To be sure, my father loves to watch golf on television. And he used to enjoy playing golf. In fact golf was a pretty big deal in his family. Both of his parents and all of his siblings played recreational golf. I often watch a match on television out here in Arizona. I love being able to talk to my father about the golf match. But father's day cards about golf still don't work for what I want to say to my father.

I have a photo of him baking cookies with his two grandsons. I love that photo. I love it not just because it is a great picture. I love it because it shows him doing something he loves (baking) and modeling for his grandsons that cooking & baking are completely within the realm of what a man does. This is important to me because the images my son sees on television and movies commonly show cooking and cleaning to be female tasks. Baking cookies with Granddaddy says that cooking is normal for men and is actually quite fun! But are there cards about fathers baking cookies? No, there are only cards about Dad at the grill. I suppose that is more manly.

My father is honest and has integrity. How do you capture that in a card? He is my touchstone. He is the one person I can absolutely count on to be there for me, no matter what. He is the first person I call when something funny happens because laughing with my father is one of my greatest pleasures. I want to know what he is reading and what he is thinking about what he is reading. I want to hear about his experiences and what he thinks about them. No matter what is going on in my life, a return to my father's side - or just a telephone conversation with him - will ground me.

I call him "Papa" because his mother called her father that. None of my siblings calls him that. But when I say the word "Papa", I feel the presence of my grandmother and great-grandfather in the room and I feel the influence they had on my father and on me. He has the sweet and kind qualities of a gentleman from the South, as his family raised him. But he grew beyond that and also developed a fiery commitment to social justice issues that still shocks some members of his extended family. Where are the cards for a kind and gentle man who will stand his ground on important issues?

When I was born, I was a very sick baby. They called my father down to the hospital three times to take one last look at me before I died. He says each time he arrived, I would be kicking and screaming, insisting on staying alive. My determination has often been compared to that of my father's mother, for whom I was named. But maybe it was my Papa's love and strong will that I felt coursing through me. He had already lost one infant. Losing another would have been devastating, although I am sure he was trying his best to prepare for that possibility. But maybe our connection was already there and I felt him rooting for me then as I feel him rooting for me now.

Where are the cards for that?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

bookmark this

The words for this week are:

Word Beads Fiction # 1

She hums to herself as she pages through the new church cookbook. Why do these things always have the same recipes in them? She hasn't joined this new church yet and she is looking for a final sign that she belongs. What exactly would that be? A creative use of those pods of vanilla she brought back from Tahiti? A recipe with herbs she owns but rarely uses? Turmeric? Coriander? Cardamom? When did she buy those? Why? Well, the cardamom was purchased with the idea that she would make those cookies that her Mother used to make every Christmas. But she never did.

Page 12 of the church cookbook displays her recipe for an appetizer terrine featuring cream and goat cheese, olive tapanade, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto. Her attempt at sociability prompted her to submit a recipe. (This same reason was why she frequently sang with the choir - as often as her business travel would allow.) She can see now that her terrine does not fit in among the macaroni-n-cheese and swedish meatballs any better than she fits in with the congregation. Wanting to belong does not make it so and she mentally concludes that a total secession will be called for. Anything less final will cause various members to continue to reach out for months. No, it will be a final decision and she will start looking at other churches.

Now that she has made the decision, she feels herself relax just a little. She closes the cookbook and stands up. A bookmark falls from her lap to the floor. Was that in the cookbook? She reaches down and picks it up. Proverbs 14:22 "Do they not err that devise evil? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness." Hmmm - shouldn't a cookbook from a church contain a bookmark that talks about loaves and fishes or eating bread in remembrance of Jesus? Oh well. She sticks it back in the cookbook and leaves it on the kitchen counter.

Friday, June 13, 2008

veterans and beauty parlors

This morning I attended a workshop on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Combat Veterans. The room was filled to capacity. It was almost comical all the things that went wrong. First, we were told that the workshop was at a hotel right off of I-17 at Union Hills Rd. I drove past the address three times. I saw a hotel but it was a different name. Finally I called. The front desk clerk said, "Oh, we changed our name." Nice - very helpful - thanks. So we started late because so many people had the same problem - they kept driving back and forth thinking they must have missed the place.

Then the temperature in the meeting room fluctuated between "Freeze" and "Fry". The microphone the presenter was wearing died several times. The batteries in the presenter's mouse died. We ran out of chairs. There was no water. They didn't have enough books to fill the pre-orders.

Once we got started, however, the information was quite detailed and the presenter was very entertaining. He was a little edgy. There were a couple of times that he skated right up to the very edge of "inappropriate" or "unprofessional". But he was funny and he knew a lot.

It is a pity what our combat veterans have to go through to get treatment. We had a few guys in the room who were combat veterans. They related their own stories of trying to get treatment. A pattern emerged - the VA is full of folks who really care and really want to help and are even skilled caregivers. But the bureaucracy is enough to make veteran and caregiver want to go get a rifle. It is not uncommon for a combat veteran to wait 2-4 YEARS for treatment. In other parts of the country, services are readily available.

I was very impressed by the other workshop participants. They had such diverse backgrounds and came from a multitude of treatment types. Any time I am around a group like this, I become even more convinced that I will return to the field of counseling down the road a bit.

Then at 4 p.m., I went to the beauty parlor. I was there until 7 p.m. Apparently it takes a really long time to make me beautiful. I asked the stylist to take a picture of me once she got all the foils in my hair:

Yes, I know, not everyone can look as spectacular as I do. What can I say?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

thirsty thursday

Melissa wants to know about my worst culinary disaster. I'm stretching the category in order to tell this story. It does feature food, but not cooking.

When I was in high school, I worked for a friend of my mother. He owned an egg-processing plant and several thousand chickens. He also had some greenhouses, mostly with tomatos. I worked in the tomato greenhouses. I started at the beginning of the season, tilling the soil. Then my team used gigantic rolls of heavy plastic to wrap around the greenhouse frames. Then we planted thousands of tomato seedlings. Over the weeks we nurtured those seedlings, guiding them to grow up the wires to the ceiling, then suckering them (removing extra limbs that try to grow out of the joints), then fertilizing them by banging the guide wires, then removing the bottom leaves to allow the sun to get to the tomotos, then picking, grading, packing and shipping all the tomatos.

At the end of tomato season, my boss asked me if I would like to try something different. I needed the money so I said yes. He explained to me that one of the two ladies that he had candling eggs had varicose veins and needed to cut back on her work hours. If I could work 10 of her 40 hours, he could keep her on until he found someone to work the 10 hours permanently. My question was the same as yours - what the heck is candling eggs?

Candling eggs refers to holding an egg up in front of a candle flame to see the interior of the egg. You can see whether an embryo is growing inside. In an egg processing plant, the candling is done by having the eggs travel on a conveyer belt. In this case, two women stood, one on either side of the conveyer belt, and watched as a steady stream of eggs passed over a light that was shining up from underneath. There was a big black curtain that completely surrounded them to shut out all other light. As they spotted any eggs with any flaw (embryo, blood spot, crack, etc.), they removed them. These were the eggs that employees took home at the end of the shift.

I was instructed to stand next to one of the two ladies and observe. So I stepped up onto the platform and inside that black curtain and began to learn my new job. Those ladies were fast!!! The eggs traveled over the light at a pretty good clip. Each lady would remove the bad eggs as they traveled by and place them in a flat cardboard tray. Each tray held 24 eggs. When they had three full trays, they picked them up and set them on another conveyer belt, which whisked the trays away. After they felt I was trained, they gave me a tray and told me to start filling it.

I wasn't very fast, but soon I had my three trays full, which I told the ladies proudly. But I would have had to hand my three trays over the head of one lady, and there were too many bad eggs right then, so they told me to keep going. Soon I had four trays, which I told them. Keep going, they said. Then I had five trays stacked up, then six. Still they couldn't take them. As I turned back from adding a couple of eggs to my seventh tray, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw the stack of trays move away from me a little. I turned back towards the stack. I can still picture those eggs, leaning away in slow motion and my mouth making that "O" shape as I reach in frustrating slow-motion to try to save the eggs - a futile attempt. SPLAT went the eggs on to the floor of the factory.

The entire processing plant shut down and the employees gathered around to see the huge mess that I had made of their week's worth of breakfasts. And even though it wasn't entirely my fault, the two ladies did absolutely nothing to save me. I did not return for a second day of candling eggs. At the time it was not funny, but now I laugh hysterically when I tell the story. But I wouldn't have dared laugh then. Those women would have beat my butt.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

signs, signs, everywhere the signs

Today at work I opened the freezer in the employee breakroom and found a lovely surprise. There is no automatic ice maker, so there are four ice trays and a tub to dump the ice cubes in from those trays. Apparently, a few too many employees used all of the ice without refilling the ice cube trays, so an indignant employee decided to take action. This was the sign that was posted:

Upon seeing the spelling error, another employee (who is now my new hero at my place of work) taped a second sign under the first:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

the other side of the gate

there was air that smelled of rhododendron
and dirt
once upon a time
the other side of the gate
was just different

where water flowed
singing a melody as it moved
and knowing it was pretty
so sweet to drink
filling up those empty milk jugs

one cousin ran to catch his mother
wasn't her
looked like her from behind
we giggled and ran, he's
now gone, and his brother immured

another cousin kissed me
when noone was looking
he changes lives now
spirit pouring from his face
like his grandfather

what lessons
were mine to take with me
from those rooms, that high air
and all the stories & laughter
shaping who I am today

but that air
decades later, each time I return
smells different
on the other side of the gate

Sunday, June 8, 2008

lazy sunday

I have done absolutely nothing today other than read and surf the web and relax. What a luxury! I feel no compulsion to rush around and get things accomplished. In fact, I walk past things to do with nary an ounce of guilt. Six months worth of catalogs and junk mail piled high to the ceiling and crying out to be sorted and (mostly) trashed? Pish posh. Grocery list now approaching 30+ items? Ha! Boxes screaming to be unpacked from when I moved into this house in March 2006? Forget it. I couldn't be bothered. Let's talk about "lazy", shall we?

Remember the Lazy Susan? When I was a child - in the 60's and early 70's, one of these was on every family's kitchen table. Ours held the napkin holder, salt and pepper shakers, some toothpicks in a little jar, a couple of pens and pencils, dust and miscellaneous odds and ends. Wikipedia indicates that the term "Lazy Susan" made its earliest appearance in 1917 in an advertisement in Vanity Fair magazine.

"Up a Lazy River" is one of the most recorded songs ever. It was written by Hoagy Carmichael and Sidney Arodin and first published in 1930. The lyrics really make you relax. Check out Dean Martin singing with The Mills Brothers (on the right).

"La-Z-Boy" has been so successful that the brand name has become synonymous with the word "recliner". Of course they now have huge stores with all kinds of furniture. But in my childhood, everybody's Dad could be found sitting in his recliner watching football on Sunday afternoon. Or sleeping while the game played on the television.

My Mother was very careful to explain why a kid in my school had a "lazy eye" (Amblyopia). She wanted to be sure that I didn't join in if other kids teased him. They know a lot more about this condition these days. Lazy eye is when one eye has reduced vision which can't be corrected with eyeglasses. It is actually an easy condition to miss and if untreated can lead to permanent vision loss in that eye. Treatment ranges from specific exercises to surgery.

When I was seven years old, my brother left home for college. My Dad and I took him to catch the train from Boston down to Virginia. I was completely devastated. When he did not write home often enough to please me, I designed a "Lazy Man's Writing Kit". I wrote out letters with "circle your response" sentences. (Dear Dad, Mom, Caroline, Lenore, Cathy, Grandmother, Granddaddy - circle one.) I also addressed quite a few envelopes, mostly to myself, and actually affixed stamps to the envelopes. Then I boxed it all up and sent it off to my brother. I never got a single letter back. What a pal.

If you get a ticket in California, you can sometimes reduce the fine or completely rid yourself of the ticket by attending traffic school. (It's too bad they don't have this option in Pennsylvania where I recently got snared in a Memorial Day dragnet. $158.00.) Some people go to traffic school to reduce the cost of their car insurance. Too lazy to actually attend? No problem. You can go to

Well, I'm too lazy to think of any more. But I bet you did while you were reading this. Don't be too lazy to leave a comment.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


When is your birthday?

My birthday is October 23rd. This year, I will be 50!!! Woo hoo! I am very excited!

the alphabet meme

A is for your age: 49

B is for your burger of choice: Double Double with Cheese at In-N-Out - It is a greasy mess, but it is sooooo good.

C is for the car that you drive: Jeep Laredo

D is for dog's name: I don't have a dog. Why isn't C for cat's name? What is this - an anti-cat blog survey? On behalf of cat-lovers everywhere, I would like to file a formal protest. My cat thinks he is a dog - follows me from room to room and has a wet nose. My friend Holly even calls him a "puppy-cat". So my puppy-cat's name is Joe.

E is for an essential item you use each day: Secret Platinum Scent Expression Kuku Coco Butter - what a completely ridiculous name! But it smells like Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil. Yummy.

F is for your favorite television show: I am embarrassed to admit that I adore those stupid reality shows: Survivor, Amazing Race, American Idol, Big Brother, etc. The only ones I can not tolerate are the ones where a bunch of women are competing for the chance to marry some (supposedly) wonderful man. But I also love Law and Order, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Rescue Me, etc. And I used to love West Wing, Friends, Seinfeld, M*A*S*H, etc. But my all time favorite television show was Deadwood. I actually mourned when it stopped. I wish they would bring it back.

G is for favorite game: Cosmic Wimpout, of course!!!

H is for hometown: I don't really have one. I was born in Durham, NC. But before I was a year old, we were on board a ship sailing to Japan, where my parents were returning for a second five-year stint as Methodist missionaries. I attended kindergarten in Japan. Then it was back to the States - Wellesley, Massachusetts where we lived for four years. Then it was Gainesville, Georgia for 5th through 9th grades. Then Misenheimer, North Carolina for 10th - 12th grades and college. Since then I have lived in: Jersey City, New Jersey; Carrollton, Georgia; Statesboro, Georgia; Jonesboro, Georgia; Phoenix, Arizona, Morris Plains, New Jersey and now I am back in Phoenix again. I suppose I would identify Montreat, North Carolina as the closest to a hometown. My extended family has owned "summer homes" there since 1908. My memories of that place stretch throughout my entire life. And my height - from age 6 through adulthood - is marked on the wall of one of my cousin's house.

I is for instruments played: As a child, I played the clarinet. But as an adolescent, I picked up the acoustic guitar and have played it ever since.

J is for favorite juice: Ocean Spray Ruby Red Grapefruit

K is for what you'd like to kick: I actually left this letter for last because no matter how hard I think about it, I cannot think of a single thing that I would like to kick. Maybe I would like to kick Writer's Block, that hated symptom that arrives unannounced when I think I am actually on a roll. I would like to kick it - hard.

L is for last restaurant you dined at: Fast food - Wendy's. Fine Dining - The White Orchid (see previous blog entry)

M is for your favorite muppet: Miss Piggy, of course!!!

N is for number of piercings you have: Two - just my ears.

O is for overnight hospital stays: Well, let's see ... When I was born, I was an RH baby and had to stay in the hospital for a few days while the medical team tried desperately to save my life. I had ten complete blood exchanges and finally stopped trying to die. Then, I don't think I stayed overnight again until I birthed my son 21 years ago. He was a C-section, so I had to recover from that. Then I had an ectopic pregnancy in 1990 and stayed overnight for the removal, a heartbreaking experience because this was a baby that was very much wanted! And that is about it! I have been fairly fortunate when it comes to my health.

P is for people you were with today: It is only 10 a.m., but my good friend Jen brought me a McDonald's Sausage McMuffin. She had her young son, Caden with her. We ate, then I showed her some cool stuff I had found on the web. My son, Sam, is asleep in the other room. That is it so far!

Q is for what you do in quiet times: Read, play World of Warcraft, blog, play MSN GameSpring games, nap.

R is for regrets: Part of me regrets leaving the state of Georgia. Had I stayed, I would be almost 6 years closer to retirement. But I have learned so much - and grown so much - in the years I have been in Arizona, I am really glad that I made the decision to come here.

S is for status: What does this mean, I wonder? Marital status? Divorced. Dating status? Taken. Working status? Full-time. Citizenship status? U.S. Health status? Good, except for this pesky benign positional vertigo that plagues me from time to time.

T is for time you woke up today: Joe, my puppy-cat, decided I should be up and about at 6:52 a.m. Thanks, Joe.

U is for what you consider unique: People are endless varieties of unique!

V is for favorite vegetable: Brussel Sprouts, cut in half and pan-fried in a mixture of butter and olive oil until they fall apart and are almost blackened, then sprinkled with salt, pepper and real parmesan cheese. Divine.

W is for your worst habit: Eating at McDonald's.

X is for x-rays you have had: When I was 32, I was standing at the sink washing dishes. Like my Mother and both sisters, when I am standing, I stick my left foot out to the left and put my weight mostly on my right foot. My boyfriend walked in the kitchen to get a drink glass out of the cabinet and stepped on my left foot. At the time he weighed 200+ pounds. When my foot was x-rayed, they found I had a hairline fracture of the fourth metatarsal. I had to wear one of those stabilizing boots for a while. Reggie, to this day, claims that it never happened. His socialization against hurting women was so powerful (he was raised by a widowed mother and three older sisters) that he just can't face that he hurt me, even by accident.

Y is for yummy food you ate today: Sausage McMuffin.

Z is for zodiac sign: Libra, which explains why I am always trying to even things out, fix people who are unbalanced, or otherwise trying to work towards peaceful resolution to things. However, I am on the cusp of Scorpio, which explains why I am sometimes very difficult to be around!

Friday, June 6, 2008

'cause a man'll kill you

I recently had the opportunity to meet the feisty, fascinating great-great-aunt of a friend. She is a very gracious and very forthright 91 year-old African-American woman. She has never been married. As we talked, I was reminded of Cicely Tyson in "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman". Did you ever see that movie? (The picture at left shows my favorite scene in that movie.)

Anyway, I asked her why she had never married. She looked straight at me and said, "Cause a man'll kill you, honey."

Oh, there were so many questions that I wanted to ask!!! But I could tell that her family did not want me to probe. So I moved on to more innocuous topics.

But of course I could NOT stop thinking about what she said! Now my mind is whirling with all of the possible scenarios she might have witnessed or simply known about in her long life that led her to that moment when she said that to me. Because of course she is right. Men do kill women in outrageous numbers. 92% of all women who are murdered in America are murdered by someone they know. 33% of all women who are murdered in America are murdered by a husband or lover. Women are murdered by men 11 times as often as by another woman. In comparison, only 3% of men who are murdered in America are murdered by a wife or lover. So --- a man WILL kill you!

This event has got me in the frame of mind to interview people and find out their stories - kind of like Studs Terkel. Do you know that name? Studs Terkel was a very interesting character. He worked in radio, he acted, then he published several books in which he interviewed folks about a variety of topics. Reading his interviews - or oral histories, as he liked to call them -- you could really tell that people felt safe with him - that they WANTED to tell their stories. I think I will reflect on this for a while and see where it takes me.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

religion as a wedge, patriotism as a bludgeon

Last night I watched, amazed, as Barack Obama became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party for the office of President of the United States of America. From the moment he entered the race I have been impressed with him. At almost 50, I had never before provided direct financial support to a presidential candidate. But this time was different. I sent funds out of almost every paycheck I received since he entered the race. I spoke about him to everyone I knew. (Many members of my immediate family chose to support Hillary Clinton.) Last night, part of his speech really resonated for me:

"The other side will come here in September and offer a very different set of policies and positions, and that is a debate I look forward to. It is a debate the American people deserve. But what you don’t deserve is another election that’s governed by fear, and innuendo, and division. What you won’t hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon – that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to demonize. Because we may call ourselves Democrats and Republicans, but we are Americans first. We are always Americans first."

Religion as a wedge. Patriotism as a bludgeon. This is what has made me the angriest during the days of George W. Bush and Carl Rove. Their message always implied that to disagree with them meant I was not religious and not patriotic. I received countless emails from Republican members of my extended family that contained that general message. Each receipt made me furious.

(It also amazed me that so many people for whom I felt great love and admiration so easily took that message up rather than question the lack of logic. They knew me and other Democrats in the family. Why did they swallow that crap? Why didn't they say "No, I know many people who disagree with this war and these policies who are very religious and very patriotic.")

And how exactly did the Republican right subvert the "support our troops" message? Somehow it came to imply that folks who wanted to bring the troops home did NOT support them and those who wanted the troops to stay at war were supporting them. How did they do that? Why did we let them?

Enough about that. Today I am turning towards optimism. Barack's speech last night also contained these words:

"The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations."

Barack Obama has my prayers and good wishes. I will be watching the next few years with great excitement and anticipation!

Monday, June 2, 2008

fungus rock

I've been a member of since 2002. Members register books, then either trade the books (known as a "controlled release") or leave them somewhere random, like on a park bench (known as a "wild release"). As a result, I have over a hundred books traveling all over the world. At least once each week, I get an email from someone who has just received a book that began its journey in my hands. One of my books (Cats' Letters to Santa) started its travels as a trade for a book (Snow Queen) that my oldest sister was looking for. My book has changed hands 18 times. You can take a look at it here. That book has been to Georgia, Missouri, Wisconsin, Washington, Calgary (Canada), Edmonton (Canada), Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Maine.

Last month, I came across This is the same concept, except that members are sending each other postcards. So far I have received postcards from members in Germany, Finland, Italy, France and Malta. The Malta postcard arrived today, prompting this blog entry. The postcard photo was beautiful. I don't have a scanner, but the photo at right shows you the same location as the one shown in the postcard. This is Fungus Rock. Here is a little something about Fungus Rock, lifted entirely from Wikipedia:

"Fungus Rock, which also has the affectionate Maltese name 'Il-Ġebla tal-Ġeneral' (the General's Rock), is a small islet, 60 metres high massive lump of limestone in the entrance to an almost circular black lagoon in Dwejra, on the island of Gozo, Maltese archipelago.

"The General of the Knights Hospitaller apparently discovered a rare tuber plant Fucus coccineus melitensis known as the Malta Fungus, mistakenly called a fungus, which grew on the rock's flat top. This repulsive smelling plant was believed to have medicinal properties and the Knights used it as a styptic dressing for wounds and a cure for dysentery. It was so prized that it was often presented as a precious gift to distinguished noblemen and visitors to the Maltese islands. Grand Master Pinto (at left) decreed the Rock out of bounds in 1746 (trespassers were punished with a three-year spell in the galleys of the Knights Hospitaller), posted a permanent guard there and even built a precarious cable-car basket from the rock to the mainland 50 metres away. Later it was discovered that those efforts were for naught, as Fucus coccineus melitensis has no medicinal properties whatsoever. Nowadays, the Fungus Rock is a natural reserve but the shoreline near it is accessible to bathers and the sea provides perfect snorkelling."

Fungus Rock? Grand Master Pinto? You can't make this stuff up. This is when I feel the full joy of being a complete nerd!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

eat, pray, love

My father recommended this book to me while he was reading it. We always share with each other what we are reading, and we talk two or three times each week, so lots of titles are mentioned over the course of time. But he mentioned it twice more in later conversations. I figured if he mentioned it three times, it must be good! So when I got to the airport on Friday, I bought a copy. Here is the blurb on the back cover:

"In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want - husband, country home, successful career - but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence."

I am still in the first section - Italy. But I am hooked - completely and totally. So, I echo my father and tell you that you must find and read this book. It is a delightful read!