Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Remember When Freedom Wasn’t Free?

I read last week that Dan Rather is suing CBS news for $70 million, seeking retribution for the debacle following his story on Bush's military record that cost him his job just before election 2004.

You remember that story, right? The one where Rather's team acquired documents that indicated that our illustrious War President had received preferential treatment to avoid serving in Viet Nam during the war, and in fact had been allowed to duck out of the military without fulfilling all his obligations? The story that resulted in Rather's "Swift-boating" by nefarious factions of the Right Wing Media Noise Machine?

I was fascinated to discover, in reading about Rather's current lawsuit, that those documents that were deafeningly decried as forgeries by conservative bloggers (they claimed to have evidence that the type faces and fonts used on the documents did not exist in the military in the 1960's) were never actually proven to be anything but authentic. And that neither Bush nor his team ever denied the contents of the records.

More than anything, this story brought back memories of the Bad Old Days: those months in the wake of 9/11 when George W. Bush was allowed—no, not merely allowed…begged—to ride rough-shod over the American public's freedoms in the name of gathering us all, trembling and wetting ourselves—under his great, fearless, protective wings. Those were dark days, indeed; days when an ambiguous administration, and a man who struggled to attain mediocrity on his best days, were elevated to Knights of the Right and Protectors of All Things Sacred. Days when we traded our rights to privacy, due process, dissent and a free press for a security to which citizens of a free nation should never condescend to aspire.

But that was years ago, wasn't it? The Bush Administration is gasping its last breath, and Barack Obama is waiting in the wings to take over and initiate course corrections to our ship of state. Right? So why is Dan Rather suing now? Why keep beating a dead horse? Why not just…get over it?

I don't know. Bleeding-heart liberal that I am, I was never a Dan Rather fan. Sure, we share many of the same political opinions…but that's the point. Opinions do not have a place behind the anchor desk. At least, they didn't twenty-five years ago. I was never comfortable with the in-your-face liberal slant with which Rather branded his "news" broadcasts. Invariably, I could watch him for about five minutes before I would tune him out in disgust. He always came off as way too "holier than thou." "Just report the news, Dan," I would chide him in my mind. "Don't tell me how to think about it."

Little did I know then that Rather was blazing the trail of the future of journalism. The future where the boundaries between news and editorialism completely evaporated; the future where the public would be bombarded with so much skewed and often contradicting "information," put out there by factions with varying agendas, that they would ultimately be forced to choose a reality.

That future that is NOW.

So, it is true that, in some respects, Rather was hoist on his own petard. He was one of the original polluters of the information stream; eventually, he was forced to drink his own poison. I feel bad for him; I think he got a raw deal. And I think he wants vindication. And if he can get it, though it's too late for it to free us from one more minute of Bush Administration bungling, I think he deserves it.

But more importantly, we as a nation need to watch Dan Rather reopen this can of worms. We need to be reminded of where we were four short years ago. Remember when the president was so revered, almost sanctified, that any whisper of negative press about him was called un-American and punished as severely as law—or society outside the law—would tolerate? Remember when you refrained from voicing political opinions at your local watering hole, lest you meet with some embarrassing or violent incident? Remember when you were afraid that a petty fight with a neighbor might result in him imagining a terrorist plot and ratting you out to the FBI? Remember when one of the nation's pre-eminent journalists was discredited, disgraced, and ridden out of town on a rail on the basis of a story that was, in all likelihood, true?

Remember not feeling very free in the land of the free and home of the brave?

We absolutely need to remember these things. Because we absolutely need to make sure they never happen again.



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

White-out Christmas

I posted my "Bleak Midwinter" entry both here and at "Coming to Terms."

It seems that those few who read it thought I was creating a quaint little card celebrating the winter wonder of the first White Christmas we've experienced in the twenty-five years we've called Oregon home.

Ummmm…not so much.

A White Christmas is something to love in a place like Chicago, where there are snow plows, road salt, snow blowers, and platoons of technicians trained in the art of confining the sparkly white stuff to front yards and toboggan hills.

But here in the valleys of western Oregon, snow is a freakish meteorological hiccup. We have no more capacity to deal with it than we would a biblical plague. Two inches of snow is a monstrous inconvenience that paralyzes entire towns, cancels school, and causes a noticeable blip on the insurance rate scale, as clueless drivers skid and crash into one another with wild abandon.

Two feet of snow is a bona fide disaster.

Christmas 2008 will go down in history as the Christmas that was literally canceled by snow.

It made its first appearance on December 14th. We should have been warned of its malicious intent by the fact that, rather than turning to rain and dutifully washing away almost immediately—as is the usual habit of snow in these parts—the weather instead turned icy cold and froze us below this first six inches of snow. Four days later, we were still slipping, sliding and crunching around on the stuff when another storm blew in and it snowed some more.

And again the next day. And the next. In fact, it snowed every day for an entire week. Up to and including an additional two inches—adding insult to injury—on Christmas Day.

By the time all was said and done, I had easily twenty inches of white Christmas piled in my front yard. And that same twenty inches had fallen on every street in town—this town which does not own a snow plow.

In 1984, the young hubs and I emigrated to Oregon. Hard as it is to believe now, I worried that I would miss the four distinct seasons we experienced in Illinois. I was sure I would miss snow. But I consoled myself with the knowledge that all we would have to do was drive a couple of hours to the mountains whenever we suffered from acute snow deprivation.

Can I now confess that, in all these 24 ½ years, we have never got so homesick for snow that we jumped in the car and drove up to the mountains to visit it? Especially since it has adopted the habit of blowing down out of the mountains to visit us every couple of years?

Turns out I don't miss snow too much after all. But I would love to be given the opportunity to try…


 


 

 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

MERRY CHRISTMAS


Have a save and warm Christmas. And hug those close to you. Even if it's in your dreams.

Holiday Greeting

To the ladies of "Women On..."
From My House to Yours:



Merry Christmas?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Can Our Government Shine?

The weather has gone abominable in the Pacific Northwest, and, since people are staying home in droves—which means they are not darkening the doors of the café—I have found myself with considerable amounts of time on my hands. My first instinct is to wring those very hands in worry and frustration with the evil-looking numbers we are putting up for this week (and probably for the rest of the month, considering that the weather is not slated to improve much between now and New Years'…) Instead, I've decided to pick up the book I've been trying to read for the last month, and see if I can't get through to the end. Yes…I'm still reading Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope.

When I first cracked open the book several weeks ago, I found myself often reading through tears. I was still in the "relief bordering on disbelief" stage of post-election euphoria. I could hardly read a well-formed, comprehensible sentence crafted by the man slated to become our next president without experiencing an almost overwhelming feeling of awe, gratitude and victory. It felt for all the world like a religious conversion experience. (And I know from where I speak on such things, believe me…)

As time has passed, the euphoria has given way to practicality. I'm starting to wonder how many wheels our broken economy has to lose, as one seems to go spinning off into the gutter every few hours. If the wails of woe issuing from the Senate, the auto industry, the energy and oil industries, China, real estate and construction concerns, and just about every other contributor to our nation's financial stability don't snap one's attention back to dire reality, nothing will. So I have continued my reading in a more subdued state of mind.

And, here's the thing. It's not that Mr. Obama isn't intelligent, well-read, even-tempered and introspective…all traits that will indeed be pleasant to attribute to an American president. It's just that he is very much a regular guy. The things he writes are refreshing and reasonable, but they are not revolutionary. What makes him look like the second coming is the backdrop of the last eight miserable years of intellectual and moral retreat through which this nation has suffered under the Bush Administration. It would be hard for anyone not to look like a knight in shining armor coming out of that cistern of muck. What I fear now is that the media, the government, and the American people are going to expect way more from Barack Obama than any human being could possibly deliver. And then turn on him like a pack of wolves…

The nation is watching closely as Mr. Obama selects his cabinet and top advisors. Everyone is still gun-shy of the cronyism that was the hallmark of Bush Administration appointments. We ooh and aaah over Obama's thoughtful selection process as he calls upon experts and scholars, people who might actually have credentials, some of the best credentials, in fact, to fill key roles in his government. Once again, why do we find this so fascinating? Isn't this how the process should look?

Yes, there will be quite a contrast between the government assembled by a privileged, ne'er-do-well scion of a Texas oil baron-turned-politician, and the one brought together by a middle-class Constitutional scholar who came to politics via the route of public service. Bush's philosophy of government is that it act only in ways that will enhance the power of the powerful…thereby keeping our nation strong and, through trickle-down, improving the lives of those without power. And all that power must intersect in the person of one central figure: the President. The guy who at least appears to hold all the cards and make all the rules.

Mr. Obama's philosophy is that government is a coalition of the best minds and practitioners, even those with opposing viewpoints, working together for the greater good of society. The president is the guy whose responsibility it is to call all these various factions together and facilitate their cooperation. I think we can expect Mr. Obama's to be a government of conviction rather than agenda. It is one thing to have solid beliefs and to live by them; it is quite another to have an agenda to force everyone else in the country to live according to your convictions. In Mr. Obama's mind, the way to govern—indeed, the very foundation of our government—is to bring the best, most capable minds together and allow them to have at it. Here are his words on the subject:

"Whether we are for or against affirmative action, for or against prayer in schools, we must test out our ideals, vision, and values against the realities of a common life, so that over time they may be refined, discarded, or replaced by new ideals, sharper visions, deeper values. Indeed, it is that process, according to Madison, that brought about the Constitution itself, through a convention in which 'no man felt himself obliged to retain his opinions any longer than he was satisfied of their propriety and truth, and was open to the force of argument.'"

Imagine that. A government that would be all about encouraging people to open their minds, or even change their minds; as opposed to a goose-stepping regime that adheres to a strict list of written-in-stone commandments, crying "flip-flop!" at the slightest prospect of an enlightened recalculation.

I don't know about you, but I personally am very eager to see Mr. Obama's—and the Founders'—theories of government get a chance to shine. No matter what happens, we will no doubt be living in a very different country than we have been of late. And it is SO about time!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Craving the Magic

It seems to be a point of honor for bloggers to showcase how well-read they are. We have gadgets like "Shelfari" available to us, where we can show off all the wonderful books with which we are currently enchanted. Me? I'm still wading through The Audacity of Hope (I've committed myself to reading at least a few pages every night until I'm finished…I may be done by the Inauguration…) So, yeah…I guess, in the end, I'm not much of a reader.

Series novels have always been big. Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, and now the "Twilight" series. Okay. I can play that game, too. I have a favorite series. The one I have read over and over and over and never tire of. I love it as much today as I did when I first checked the books out of the grade school library a lifetime ago. I can nearly recite the best parts by heart. (And, do you know, I still do not own my own copies of these books?)

My favorites? Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books.

Christmas time always brings Wilder's stories to mind. Especially this Christmas—as we watch our consumer economy undergo the trial by fire that will distill it to the essence of necessity. I consider all the things we think of as part and parcel of Christmas… The standing in line outside of whichever store commands the largest supply and lowest price on the latest electronic toy or game without which our child cannot live. The ubiquitous animated reindeer and giant inflatable snowmen appearing on every other lawn the day after Thanksgiving. Twenty-dollar-a-pound chocolates and forty-dollar bottles of champagne; crown rib roasts, caviar, chanterelles, artisan breads and parmegiano reggiano.

And then there are the Little House stories. Stories of a family, one hundred twenty years ago, drawn by the pioneer spirit of its young patriarch out of the Big Woods of Wisconsin, to Indian Territory in Kansas, back to the creeks of Minnesota and then to the Dakota Prairie.

How I love the stories of the Christmas magic in each of those places. Young women crimping their hair and starching their finest lace collars for a holiday dance in Wisconsin. Three little girls heading to bed on a Christmas Eve out on a lonely claim, miles from anyone; thrilled upon discovering one candy stick and a small cake made with real white flour nestled in the toes of their stockings on Christmas morning. Or the year of the Long Winter of blizzards and near-starvation, when Christmas—in the form of barrels of clothing, food, books and newspapers—arrives in April, on the first train able to get through since before Thanksgiving.

Can you imagine? Can you for one moment imagine being twelve years old, enchanted to speechlessness by the sight of the first Christmas tree you had ever seen? To us, that sounds like something from some emerging nation, maybe in Africa or the Far East. But it was here, on our continent, in our own country…not so very long ago.

That wide-eyed wonder…that child-like naiveté.

Magic.

What has happened to the magic of Christmas? Is it me? Am I just too old, too tired? Have I seen too much, yet not enough?

Have I had too much? Yet…not enough?

No, please don't lecture me about "the Reason for the Season."

And don't point me back to the simpler times of MY life—fir trees, tinsel and big, hot lights; marshmallow Santas, jello, onion dip and cans of whipped cream; vinyl dolls, wooden sleds, Monopoly and Candyland… Yes, those were less complicated times, but they still foreshadowed our great monster of a consumer society.

I crave the truly simple days I never knew. The life that was anything but simple, but which thrilled to plain and humble pleasures.

I am so very aware that my life is not nearly hard enough. So simple pleasures could never be enough to satisfy my craving for the magic.

And that is not a good thing.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

WISHFUL THINKING

After watching the posturing on the Senate floor last week and the total meltdown in Illinois I have a suggestion. I know it will never happen, but it gives me some small satisfaction to imagine it. How about this amendment to the constitution? No person can run for any political office until they fulfill this requirement. They have to spend at least five years working for a living. And I don’t mean sales or moving numbers around. I mean the getting out and getting your hands dirty kind of work. Logging, farming, fishing, mining or carpentry; the kind of work that gets you tired down to the bone.

Then after we’ve checked the quality of their calluses, we’ll consider letting them run for dog catcher. After that? We’ll think about it. But, no access to power over the likes of me until you have some idea what life is like for me and those like me.

Planned Obsolescence

This weekend, I read a good op-ed piece in the New York Times regarding another drain on the American wallet. It's all about planned obsolescence and our throw away society. This is something I feel like we've been living since we moved into this house. In the first year we were here we have replaced the washer, dryer and dishwasher. We've had to have a major repairs on the air conditioning and the water heaters. The refridgerater also has an issue. It isn't critical, but it would cost $800 to repair. This house is only 6 years old...as are the appliances.

In this piece, Gerri Hirshey opens talking about her stove, which happened to be engineered to be non-repairable.

Do you remember when we were kids? Our parents bought a refridegerater or a new furnace, or a washer....and they were done. If there was a problem, a repair guy could make it right in a matter of a couple of hours. Why have we come to accept that when something breaks, it should be replaced...whether it cost us $10 or $1000?

I have this strong feeling of guilt when I throw out an iron, or a hairdryer, or A COMPUTER because it makes more sense to replace it than repair it. I remember going in to the repair shop with my dad with a tv or a radio...of COURSE those things could be fixed. No more.

Today, our dryer (less than 6 months old) stopped working. It has all kinds of fancy indicator lights and it "said" that the air flow was restricted. That puzzled me because I do clean out the lint trap every single time. We got into cleaning out the vents anyway, but while we were doing that...something started beeping from somewhere else in the house. We thought it was a smoke detector needing a battery. Aaron climbed up to change it but it didn't take a battery...it was hard wired into the house. He disconnected the unit, but the beeping continued. In the meantime I was reassembling the dryer venting but I still got the "restricted flow" readout and no heat.

We finally came to realize that the beeping was coming NOT from the smoke detectors but from the carbon monoxide detectors. We looked them up online and determined that it was signaling a malfunction, not a life threatening situation. These were hardwired into the house as well and Aaron ended up disconnecting them too.

On Friday, our phones stopped working. We have no dial tone. We have a phone/cable/internet package from the cable company and our tv and computers are still working. So, it seems to me that it's something in the phone lines in the house.

Consequently, this week will most likely be spent waiting for repairmen. How's that for a complete pain in the ass. I don't even know who to call about the CO monitors.

It's corporate America's dirty little secret to keep us on the consumer hook on a regular basis. What a stroke of marketing brilliance, manufacture items engineered to irreparably fail. It's exacerbated by the fact that everything is made overseas and the order goes to the lowest bidder. We no longer expect quality in anything.

On top of that...now they can actually convince us that the extended warranty is a good idea. They continue to rake in the dough and we pay betting that the new appliance, tv or computer is barely going to outlast the factory warranty period. What's wrong with THAT picture?

We could get into how women are sucked into another form of planned obsolescence...it's called fashion. That's a discussion for another day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Presidential Reality

I didn't actually hear the entire speech. In fact, I didn't even know Mr. Bush had spoken at a commencement on Friday (or that there was a self-respecting school on the planet that would want him) until I found this little quote on a friend's blog.

And I immediately thought, "This explains a lot." And it is more than a little disturbing, coming out of the mouth of the man who has been the Leader of the Free World for the past eight years:

"Remember that popularity is as fleeting as the Texas wind. Character and conscience are as sturdy as the oaks on this campus. If you go home at night, look in the mirror and be satisfied that you have done what is right, you will pass the only test that matters."
-- President George W. Bush, from his commencement address Friday at Texas A&M

Isn't this just a fancy and inspiring way of saying, "Choose your own reality?" To hell with truth, justice, and everyone else in the world. As long as YOU can live with what you've done, that's all that matters.

Evidently, Mr. Bush wants everyone to rest assured that he will be able to sleep like a baby every night in his approaching retirement. I'm SO reassured…aren't you?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bursting the Handbag Bubble

As is typical of the season, I receive about ninety-five ads, catalogs and solicitations in the mail every day. My kitchen counters are awash in shiny, full color spreads from Home Decorators', Walmart, Kohl's, Touch of Class, Fred Meyer. All clamoring for their share of the general population's fast-disappearing discretionary dollar. Some retailers are even trying to adopt the, "Our loss is your gain" tactic. Kind of like, "We're sinking fast but you can get some real good deals before we go under…"

And then…and then, there's Nordstrom. Steadfast in its appeal to the "Haves." As opposed to the "Have Nots." Or the "Did Have but Won't For Longs."

Nordstrom with its hand-picked selection of $250 costume jewelry watches, with which one can adorn one's wrist while toting a $600 designer handbag. Nordstrom…in all its unerring allegiance to pricey, unnecessary affectation.

Nordstrom stands alone here in the Pacific Northwest as a testament to the excesses endemic to the lifestyle of riding the economic bubble. That bubble which burst…sometime in the relatively recent past. (The Bush Administration is allowing now that it actually burst sometime last December…?)

But burst it has; causing those of us who might once have foolishly considered the purchase of a $600 purse to pull the strings on our shabby little $25 tote bag as tight as we can, the better to hold in the funds we need to merely survive.

Not that I ever entertained the notion of owning a multi-hundred dollar handbag. But it makes you wonder…who would? What in god's name would make a stupid purse worth what many people pay in monthly rent?

What were we thinking?

Makes one realize that this country was badly in need of an…economic correction, doesn't it?


 

 

Countdown...

So I went out to run a couple of errands tonight and as is my habit at this time of year, I stopped in at Crate & Barrel. It was about 6:30 in the evening, and Christmas Day is exactly two weeks from today, so imagine my surprise to see that except for holiday staff, Crate & Barrel at the Galleria was practically deserted. I have never seen it so empty in the evening, so close to Christmas. Out of curiosity, I stopped in at Pier I, a little over a block away. Same story there. On the way, I passed the brightly lit Container Store, and that, too, was strangely empty of shoppers. I also passed Restoration Hardware, but I didn't have to look inside to know RH is in major trouble. They've been holding their annual linen sale monthly, and I've stopped counting the number of emails I've received from them, imploring me to shop there. To be fair, these stores are across the street from the actual mall, and I didn't go into the mall, so I have no idea how crowded or not that was, but the absence of shoppers in these four stores, in this neighborhood, with less than 14 shopping days until Christmas, is depressing and ominous.

Not that I was about to spend lavishly myself. There's apparently some sort of weird inverse relationship between home values, homeowner's insurance, and real estate taxes that I wasn't aware of until now. Although my house is worth less than ever, my real estate taxes and homeowner's insurance have increased dramatically this year, a fact reflected grimly on my latest mortgage statement, which shows the increased payment that I'll need to make into the escrow account. And don't get me started on energy costs. I love my house, but for the first time in a very long time, I am seriously considering whether or not it's worth it to me to stay here. On the other hand, I would hardly make money selling it in this market, and I don't know where I'd move.

I'm not writing about this to elicit sympathy; I'm writing about it because this is happening all over America. I'm luckier than many people in that I have a job, and that job provides me with a good salary and decent, affordable health insurance for Mike and me...at least it does for now. But what about all the people who don't have that? To turn this economy, and this country, around is going to take time and work. I spent childhood Decembers impatiently waiting for Christmas, but this December all I can think is that January 20th can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Day The World Changed

It was the first day of summer vacation, 1983. Two little girls, aged 12, rode their bikes to a mall in one of the suburbs in Louisville called Bashford Manor. What happened to one of them after that has remained a mystery for the 25 years. The image of a bike, leaned up against the entrance to the Mall has been burned into the minds of every single person who lived here during that time. The face of a beautiful red haired little girl, with blue eyes and freckles was on television for an eternity. Her parents, with their halting Russian accents, begged for her safe return.

That face eventually was featured on milk cartons so that her features were known to many more outside of the Louisville area. The search turned cold, the face began to appear less often. In time only on the anniversary of her disappearance the story was resurrected and speculation once again was the subject of conversations.

I was stunned along with the rest of our community. My daughter was only two years old the beginning of that summer. I would look at her and understand the horror that the Gotlib family was feeling for their lost daughter, Ann. Abductions and kidnapping happened SOMEWHERE ELSE. Not here, not to us. Not to one of our children!

Could it be that abductions and murder of random children was not reported to us? Or was the plight of Ann Gotlieb the first national "mystery" that gripped our nation?

Because they had no leads, there was no ransom note, there was nothing...nothing! that it was thought she had run away. Her parents vehemently refused to believe that their 12 year old child had left her beloved bike behind. They refused to give up.

Last week, 25 years later, the police broke the news that they had a suspect. And that the suspect had died in 2002 after being released from prison on a medical release. His crime had been assault against a 13 year old girl, also in the Louisville area. They were confident now, with the addition of some new information. Actually some very old information that had never delivered to them but held in the silence for 25 years.

Finally the missing piece of the puzzle. Finally the missing girl, which had gripped Louisville for so long, was explained, if not found.

I double they will ever find her tiny 12 year old body after all these years. The monster that killed her has left this world to meet his fate with God. Maybe all his victims will be standing along side as his eternal judgement is handed down to him.

As for Ann Gotlib's parents? They were offered an apology from the police force and the detecives that were working on the case. Maybe if they had tried harder.....

When I heard the news Thursday night I cried for Ann Gotlib. I cried for her family and I cried for the world that had changed so quickly and without warning that first summer night in 1983.

Monday, December 8, 2008

THE EDIBLE SCHOOLYARD

School gardens aren’t a new idea. Upscale Montessori and Waldorf classrooms have incorporated hands on learning for decades. But, until recently, you didn’t find very many school gardens in big city schools.

The path to this edible schoolyard starts in Berkley’s Chez Panisse restaurant. Co-founder Alice Waters is one of the pioneers in the use of fresh, local, in season ingredients. The restaurant models its offerings around the small French eateries with menus that reflect what was available in the local markets that morning.

Add a local middle school principal less than happy about a story in the local paper that quoted Ms Winter’s remarks about the appearance of grounds around his school and you get……fresh veggies. In 1993 Martin Luther King Middle School had nearly one thousand students from widely divergent economic and ethnic backgrounds. The school cafeteria was closed; it was too small. Students could buy microwaved or package items at a location in the parking lot. The school was nearly surrounded by blacktop.

The principal wrote Alice a note. She asked him to lunch. When the idea for the school garden was broached “she was already at step ten.” It took nearly two years but part of the black top has been replaced by a one acre organic garden. The students incorporate what they learn in the garden with their science, math and language classes.

The cafeteria has been renovated and is also a class room. The kids learn how to prepare what they’ve grown, cook it and serve it. Approximately one third of the schools students prepare and share what they’ve grown each week. They sit down at tables with tablecloths and flowers and share what they’ve prepared.

Along the way the students learn where their food comes from. Their garden is a little oasis in the city. They learn there is a cycle from worm to soil to food to the kitchen and back again.The kids even build simple fences and arbor type structures with their teachers. Each ninety minute garden class is followed the next day with journal entries. Many of the class room lessons are ecology based and may include studying the effects of pesticides, composting, or growing earthworms.

Link to Edible Schoolyard website. It includes information about the garden, lesson plans, and some recipes.

Cross posted in Walking With Hope.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

HOPE

Cottage has a new name, and I hope a new purpose. The reading I've been doing has introduced me to determined creative people who are working to save their little corners of the world one garden, one plant, one market, one craft at a time. They've given me a little hope and with luck maybe I can tell some of their stories. So I'm going to take a little walk with Hope.

Pixels will still be around as the general journal it started out to be.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Fox Suggests How to Protect the Chickens…

So, on the front page of today's Oregonian was a little story about how the insurance industry wants to weigh in on the health-care crisis.

Their solution? Mandatory health insurance. Pass a law that every man, woman and family in America be required to purchase health insurance.

WTF???!?!?

I can just picture the gaggle of avaricious brain trusts sitting around a conference table racking their brains for this one… "Hey! WE can help! All we have to do is make it so that everyone in the country HAS to buy our product!"

And what does the public get in return? A promise of equal access to decent health care? A promise that costs will be cut so that we can actually afford to purchase this mandatory health insurance?

Ummm….no. But hey…they DO promise to stop denying insurance coverage to folks with pre-existing conditions. With…uhhh… no guarantees that those folks will not have to pay MORE for their coverage because they might actually have to use it…

Somebody please tell me the Obama Administration will give this plan all the consideration it deserves…


 

 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

INVITATION

So it’s official. The economy has been in a recession since last December. And the soon to be Former Occupant is “sorry” that things have come to such a ………..frankly words fail me. Actually they don’t fail me; but I’d have to make up cuss words to fit the occasion.

That said it’s a bloody miracle that I didn’t get laid off long before the Friday before Thanksgiving. You see the dealership where I hung my hat for nearly ten years not only sells cars but trailers and RV’s. The RV side has been slow since the fuel prices spiked but September was good for cars and then things basically stopped. I actually made to about the fourth round. At this point they’re just trying to survive until things turn around. The family owned Ford dealership just up the street closed a month ago. Luckily I’m among the forty odd percent of American eligible for unemployment.

My reading these past few weeks has included books like Stolen Harvest by Vandana Shiva and Hope’s Edge by Frances Lappe author of Diet for a Small Planet. Anyway I have this cockeyed idea. I’m not sure I’d call it a newsletter; collection might be a better word. I’d like to explore what’s happening with small scale local produce, sustainable farming, preservation of local crafts, herbs, plants, whatever. Do it in Word and pass it around on the net.

And since there’s a whole world of information I haven’t even heard of, would anyone else like to join me? I’d love to share this. We’ve got followers from all over the country. What’s happening with craft fairs, spinning, weaving, community gardens, the list is endless. You see I believe that what the nearly Former Occupant calls Democracy isn’t and what small groups around the world who are working to preserve their land, seeds and livelihoods is.

It’s said that it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. There are little candles being lit in the most unlikely places. I want to search for them, and I’d love some company.

On Our Black Magic Economy

Here is the opening paragraph in Wikipedia's entry under "Economics:"

"Current economic models developed out of the broader field of political economy in the late 19th century, owing to a desire to use an empirical approach more akin to the physical sciences.[2] A definition that captures much of modern economics is that of Lionel Robbins in a 1932 essay: "the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses."[3] Scarcity means that available resources are insufficient to satisfy all wants and needs. Absent scarcity and alternative uses of available resources, there is no economic problem. The subject thus defined involves the study of choices as they are affected by incentives and resources."

Okay…I am not a stupid woman. Perhaps I'm less educated than I would like to be, but I think my intelligence level is right up there. And I have no idea what any of that means. A couple of weeks ago, my landlord rather sheepishly confessed that he has a degree in Economics. "Geez, Brian," I groaned, "That's like having a degree in witchcraft."

From all that I can gather, I've come to the conclusion that economics is an infuriating concept which no one really understands, and upon which no two people seem to agree, yet it governs the relative ease or challenge of my daily existence. It can dictate whether I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and decent medical care when I need it, yet it is so ethereal that I have as much personal control over it as I do over spirits on The Other Side. There are words, like incantations, that only a privileged few are allowed to speak, and even those chosen few are loathe to utter them. Words like "recession," "slow-down," "correction," and the most powerful of all—the "Beetlejuice" of the economic lexicon—"depression."

Somewhere along the line, the decision was made that the best way to rebuild the economy after the September 11th terrorist attacks was to hand the whole smoking mess to the richest of the rich, promise a stream of unlimited profits pouring into their treasure chests, turn the other way and let them have at it. It was so vital that the United States be able to stand up, dust itself off and say to the world, "Ha-ha, didn't hurt!" that we sold our souls to the devil. And the economic witch doctors to whom we turned have conjured and chanted and eye-of-newt-ed us to the top-heavy, over-inflated monster that is even now falling down around our heads.

"Black Friday" is the aptly named holiday upon which we celebrate the apex of our greed-based economy. The traditional game of this holiday involves retailers dangling irresistibly priced carrots in front of frenzied customers, who must then jump through demoralizing hoops—like lining up in the middle of the night in the rain outside the local Wal-Mart. This is the reward we get for carrying the nation's economy on our backs, year-round, by dutifully streaming to the stores and trading a hefty portion of our income for the latest technology, newest toy, or flashiest bling. What is wrong with this picture?

In the past weeks, the demise of our black magic economic model has been the star of the global stage. The entire world has watched as our booming gaseous blimp of an economy has lumbered toward the same end as the Hindenberg. And it is to be hoped that any country in its right mind, rather than queuing up behind us to subscribe to the same system (and help bail our burning butts out of our flaming ship), will run screaming in the opposite direction. I have no idea what healthy national economies are supposed be based upon. But it's pretty obvious, for a whole host of reasons, that rampant consumerism isn't it. For the past seven years, we've built an economy based largely on lending large amounts of money that did not really exist to people and entities that were not likely to be able to pay it back. How can that not fail, in the end?

It seems to me that a healthy economy must first and foremost be a moral economy. There needs to be equal opportunity for all members of society regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, religion; fair wages for fair labor; an equal chance for any business—large or small—to succeed. There needs to be access to superior education, and the best health care must be considered an inalienable right. There needs to be a sense that enough is enough, and too much is never a good thing. There needs to be a sense of stewardship, of protection of the earth and its resources. There needs to be a spirit of service, of the necessity of doing things that help other people, and not just looking out for number one. In short, there needs to be a means to responsible sustainable growth, rather than rampant irresponsible expansion.

Change is always difficult. It is too easy to get into the middle of something that you come to realize is wrong, but you don't know how to get yourself out of it. Perhaps the Universe is doing us a favor with this economic crisis. It is giving us the opportunity to start over. Let us hope it isn't too late. Let us hope that the people taking over the reins now will be bright enough and far-sighted enough to build something meaningful and substantial that will carry us well into this century, and beyond.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

BLACK FRIDAY

Black Friday took on a whole new meaning at a Long Island Wal Mart early Friday morning when a crowd of nearly two thousand shoppers stampeded into the store. A maintainence worker employed by an outside contractor was knocked down, trampled and died of his injuries. Four others including a pregnant woman were sent to the hospital with minor injuries.

Shoppers stepped over the man and continued into the store. The store was closed for several hours while police started an investigation and the injured were dealt with. Many of the shoppers were angry that the store was being closed before they could finish their "shopping." The usual reason was "I've been waiting in line for hours."

Was getting to that Samsung TV so damned important? Spokesmen for the store said that there were barricades outside and extra personnel on duty; obviously it wasn't enough. I truly believe that the retailers want the crowds hyped up and on the verge of stampeding. The more focused the shoppers are on their bargain hunting goals the better. Don't ask any questions. The people in line with you aren't fellow shoppers; the're potential obstacles to your bargain hunting success. They might get to your shopping goal before you do; whether it's that vacuum cleaner, DVD or digital camera. You have to get there first, no matter the cost. Well, the price was pretty damned high on Long Island on an early Friday morning.

You know what's really tragic? The man worked for an outside contractor. I doubt if his benefits included life insurance. Goddess, his poor family.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Disturbing Thoughts

Chills ran up my spine and my hair stood a little bit on end while I was scanning news headlines and perusing articles about President-elect Obama's plans to deal with the economic crisis.

The concept of an elective war sapping billions from the treasury, an economic crisis of historic proportions, and increasing political polarity combining to topple a giant on the world stage appears eerily familiar. Where have I heard/seen this before?

Oh yes…perhaps the Soviet Union of the early '90's?

I wonder…is there some foreign Reagan-esque figure lining up to take credit for the "fall of the United States?"

No, I can't quite believe that we are falling… Perhaps this 2008 election happened just in time to pull us back from the edge. But we were leaning.

Definitely leaning.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jack In The Pulpit

Watching Spring unfurl is preferable to this cold!




It being Sunday and all ... a little Jack-In-The-Pulpit from earlier this year seems perfect for today. Plus, it's reminding me just how beautiful spring, summer and fall weather is here in New England. 'Cause DARN, it's cold out today! No snow -- but coming soon I'm sure.

When the snow arrives, you can be sure, I'll be here writing about how great it is. Snow is the only thing that gets me through the cold, dark, winter months. (and maybe a snuggle or two)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pass It On

A couple of weeks ago, I was at Costco doing a product run for the restaurant. Usually these shopping excursions are a matter of running to the store, racing around grabbing everything we need and high-tailing it back to the restaurant double-time, because there is some vital ingredient—like toilet paper or tuna—that we needed yesterday.

But on this occasion, it was a Saturday, the café would be closed way before we got back with the goods, and I had a few moments to "shop." For me, this meant a leisurely inspection of the two huge tables of brand new, shiny, never-owned-by-another-human-being books. Costco is just about the only place that I can afford to buy NEW books, and they always have an enticing selection of the hottest—novels, non-fiction, cookbooks, gardening books…anything that might catch the eye of the upper-middle-income suburban buying public.

I don't keep a list in my mind of what books it might be good to look for at Costco. I've only recently rejoined the human race when it comes to current literature. I just amble around the counter, recognize a few titles that have penetrated the fog of entrepreneurship, and pick up one or two that look promising. On that particular day, I was scanning the cookbooks when I came upon a smallish paperback that was evidently out of place. Someone had picked it up, carried it around, and decided they didn't want it after all. So of course it was just tossed wherever, rather than returned to its proper stack.

I glanced at the book, then grabbed it. Obviously, it had been put there just for me, and who was I to refuse such an obvious knock in the head by the Universe. "Here. Read this."

It was Barack Obama's Audacity of Hope.

Mind you, I don't have a whole lot of time or brainpower these days to invest in reading for pleasure. I don't think I've read an entire book in twenty-eight months. But I was determined to crack this one open. It seemed….important. The book has 362 pages, and in two weeks, I've made it to page 24. Not because it's a bad book, or because it's hard to read. Just because that's the best I can do with the time I have.

The book is, in fact, a treasure. I've already got several pages folded at the corners, marking passages I need to go back and savor. Exactly things I have been thinking. Things I might have written. Things I did write, though not so eloquently and thoughtfully as Mr. Obama.

Like this:

“With the rest of the public, I had watched campaign culture metastasize throughout the body politic, as an entire industry of insult—both perpetual and somehow profitable—emerged to dominate cable television, talk radio, and the New York Times best-seller list…”

And this:

“…what’s troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics—the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem.”

This is a wonderful book. An energizing book. As I read, I smile and nod so much that my face and neck are getting an aerobic workout. Now and then, a quiet, "Yessss!" escapes from my lips. (It's a good thing I'm reading in the safety and seclusion of my own bedroom.) Because I can hardly contain my excitement, that a man who writes these things, who understands these things, who believes these things, is going to be the next President of the United States.

So I'm going to take it upon myself to pass on the Universe's message to me.

"Here. Read this."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I KNOW

My cranky genes are in full cry today.

I know that any aid to the ailing auto industry has to be well thought out and done with extremely strict guidelines. But, I didn't know whether to laugh or scream when the White House press secretary claimed that we had to be sure that American people got their money's worth on any bail out.

This from the administration that's poured over six hundred BILLION and counting down the rat hole of the Iraq war and no bid contracts to the likes of Halliburton and Blackwater.

There was a time when it took weeks to get election totals from all over the country and get people in place. But, we have cars, airplanes and the internet now. I see very little reason to diddle around for two months while the soon to be Former Occupant extracts his last pound of flesh from those he believes didn't support him. Keep it up guys and the by elections will see an even smaller Republican showing in both houses.

Hell, swear the new guys in next Monday, get this show on the road and deal with the problems. At least we'll know what's going to happen and can take the measures we need to get through it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Terrible Place to Live ;)

How much does it suck to live in Oregon?

The view west from Elk Cove Vineyard, Carlton, OR. About a forty-minute drive from my front door…



hills

Sunday, November 16, 2008

An Evening Back In Time

I figured this post would be more appreciated here than in my personal journal.

Last night, I revisited my youth. I saw Judy Collins in concert.

Do you know that she will be 70 years old next year? She talked about being inspired to turn to folk music (over classical...as she'd been trained) in 1954 by the song Barbara Allen. I don't know why that surprised me. I guess that I thought she was maybe ten years older than me...not twenty.

I hope that I am doing as well at seventy. Judy's voice has not lost anything. She can still hit those high notes effortlessly (or so it appears). She performed on that hot stage for an hour and a half, much of it standing in three inch heels. She's definatly still got it going on and it's obvious she still enjoys performing. I would have LOVED to have photographed her during the show.

She played a lot of the old best loved favorites and she did some new songs as well. She talked about how important the STORY of the song is to her and that was apparent in the songs she chose to include in the set. I couldn't help but notice a thematic thread though those songs. Love found and lost, the quick passage of time and a sense of knowing who you are by appreciating where you've come from and your experiences. For me, the last one was particularly powerful. It resonated the loss I'm feeling in needing to know that somewhere is the place I call home.


I saw Judy once before, during my college years. I'm so happy that I've had that opportunity again. What memories were dredged up with her music. I realized I learned some of her songs as a kid at girl scout camp long before I ever heard them on an album. I could certainly picture the campfires at a tearful Scouts Own down by the lake.

She included two songs from a recently released album, Judy Collins Sings Lennon & McCartney. When she first mentioned it, I thought it was a little corny. But think of it...Norwegian Wood and Blackbird as sung by Judy. It was as spectacular as you imagine. I think both John would be, and Paul is, very pleased.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Blessing

I found this prayer over at Search the Sea. It immediately struck me as exactly how we must beseech God, or in my case, The Universe, for the tools needed to undo the damage that has been done in our country and to the world in the past eight years.

For our new president, and for ourselves:

FRANCISCAN BENEDICTION

May God bless you with discomfort
at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in the world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
Amen
.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Friday" Photo ~ Peak

Seeing as how I've been away for a few days...my Friday photo is late.

It Isn’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

Over at "Better Terms," a couple of my long-time journal friends wondered jokingly what I was going to find to write about, since very, very soon (thank god) I will not have Mr. Bush to kick around anymore.


Let's face it. The Obama election is merely one victory—albeit a large and important victory—in the battle to rebuild the America razed by the Bush Administration.


Bush's "Politics of Fear" have nourished the beast of hatred in our land. It is strong and fierce and is not going to go down quietly.


The religious right wing, given not just any seat at the table by the Bush Administration, but the seat at the head of the table, is not going to surrender that seat without a vicious fight.


Big Business, upon which the Bush Administration bestowed the Absolute Power which corrupts absolutely, will not be easily wrestled back into Pandora's box.


Last Tuesday night, even as Barack Obama claimed the victory that was not the landslide it should have been, the voters of California chose to insinuate themselves once again into the bedrooms of their neighbors and deny them civil rights based on the common gender of the two sharing the bed.


General Motors—that good old boy network of unimaginative American industry determined to ride every wave of consumer frenzy until it crashes on the shore, rather than look ahead to catch the next wave—is standing in line with the failed banks, hand outstretched to grasp its share of the government bailout.


And even here in little Columbia County, Oregon, the voters took it in their heads to pass a measure inspired by the xenophobia stirred up by the Bush Administration—an unfunded mandate that the county (one of the smallest and poorest in the state) now by law must police every business within its borders to enforce federal immigration laws.


So, ladies, there is a lot of work to do; plenty of potential for scolding and ranting still inspires these old hands.


And maybe we'll even get to write about something positive for a change.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I HOPE

By cartoonist Mike Lukovich, downloaded from the net. It was in both local papers this morning.

Here are some things about the last eight years I won’t miss. All of this material was taken from You Have No Rights by Matthew Rothschild.

Abusing the statute concerning material witnesses. The original 1984 statute was designed to prevent mob suspects from fleeing. It was used in the months after 9/11 to hold approximately four dozen suspects that were considered suspects but there wasn’t enough evidence to place them under arrest.

“Jailing people who are simply under investigation is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime. If the government has probable cause to believe a person has committed a crime, it may arrest that person, but misusing the material witness statute poses the threat of making detention the norm and liberty the exception. District judge Shira Sheindlin.


Claiming that since this is a special war and the enemy not covered by Geneva convention protections for prisoners of war; that “enemy combatants” can be held indefinitely. Detainees have been held for years not only at Guantanamo Bay, but alleged secret CIA prisons or shipped to third party countries notorious for torturing prisoners. Essentially the Bush administration claimed the right to seize anyone, anywhere and hold them indefinitely. In a hearing before the Supreme Court it was argued that the Commander in Chief powers under Article II of the Constitution give the president the right to seize anyone, including citizens, even if the nation is not at war.

“At stake…..is nothing less than the essence of a free society……unconstrained executive detention for the purpose of investigating and preventing subversive activity is the hallmark of the Star Chamber.” Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

On October 31, 2001 Attorney General Ashcroft issued a regulation that allows the Justice department at its discretion to listen in on lawyer-client conversations if, in the opinion of the Attorney General, there is reasonable suspicion that the conversations may further or facilitate acts of terrorism. Before this, prosecutors had to go before a judge and convince that judge that there was probable cause that the prisoner was using these conversations to plan or commit further crimes. It’s kind of hard to plan your defense if the prosecutor knows what you’re going to do before you even go to court.

Using signing statements to get around laws passed by Congress. The soon to be Former Occupant set a record in issuing these. Over seven hundred were issued. Basically the president says he’s free to ignore any portion of a law that that he believes conflicts with his powers as commander in chief. This includes a law passed in December of 2006 that protected first class mail from being opened without a warrant unless there was suspicion that the letter contained a bomb.

Allowing the National Security Agency to attempt to monitor our phone calls without a warrant. Even though there is a law in place that allows such surveillance as long as a warrant was obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Security Act. The ultimate goal was to build a record of every phone call made in the United States.

And finally, in September of 2006, congress passed and the president signed the Military Commissions Act. This act basically blasts laws and protections going back to Magna Charta right out of the water. This allows anyone, anyone including U S citizens to seized as “enemy combatants” and tried before a military tribunal. Detainees are deprived of the right of Habeus Corpus guaranteed in Article I section 9 of the Constitution. In January of 2007 former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez claimed in a congressional hearing that while the Constitution prohibited the taking away of Habeus Corpus there was no express guarantee that any individual or citizen was guaranteed the right to Habeus Corpus.

We started watching “Band of Brothers” again tonight. Those men didn’t jump into Hell to see us come to this. Those men didn’t jump into Hell to see us come to this. The justification for these actions is that we need to be "protected" from further terrorist assaults. Democracy is not safe and it's not for wimps.

Cross posted in Pixels.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Is It Enough?

Here at Women On … we write about the things that are in some cases interesting and in all cases, dear to our hearts. My personality is such that I tend to be less a writer, more a reader. Typically you will find me hiding in the closet when it comes to controversial subject matter. I don’t like to be too active or open a participant in subject matter that makes me uncomfortable. What I am trying to say, I think, is that I don’t care to be openly dumb on a subject. I will ask questions and learn about something, but I will do it quietly and in my own time.

I make no excuses or apologies for who I am. We all come from different places and spaces and adventures and that’s what makes this group interesting. When I think about our founder, Lisa, inviting me in to the group I think about how astonished I was that an intelligent, articulate woman found my private journal of enough interest to stop by and visit. And comment. And still invite me to write and post to Women On … and in the process become an on-line friend.

There is a little bit of nonthreatening pressure involved in the acceptance of the invitation. It comes from within me and is much like a challenge to live up to. Right now, I am going to try.

Have you ever sat and observed a roomful of Special Olympians?

Colin approaches me as I enter wearing a generous smile and with a solid thud on my shoulder (meant to be a pat), “Hello Mum!” Of course, Colin is not my son, I am not his mother, but I am there with Emily, my daughter.

We are at the Fall Dinner Dance for Special Olympians sponsored by the same charitable group that sponsors all the sports for the athletes in this area.

The music is loud and dance-y. Some sway to the music on the dance floor. Others sit and mark the beat. All are smiling.

Pockets of conversation surround me: hushed, heads together in order to be heard, loud, above the noise voices, in order to be heard. “Are you playing basketball this season?” “My mother dropped me off.” “I’m hungry! When are we eating?”

Their physical ages do not matter because they are all eighteen to twenty-four or so socially. It’s a good group in size, more men than women -- the primary reason I sit in the back of the hall, notebook and pen in hand, reading book at the ready -- boundaries are not always known or remembered.

The sheer joy of life in the room keeps me from my book, but does help me to make a few notations.

Mike doesn’t like to dance, but he enjoys showing others how to use his I-phone. James likes Gabby and wants to dance with her, but he is too shy to ask. A little help from a parent gets the two onto the dance floor. Scott and Lauren sit with each other holding hands under the table in order that no one sees. Greg and Will sit with their backs to the dance floor, playing a finger game on the table. Corey, Albert, Dennis, three men with a purpose dance together. There are no rules of social graces in this hall. You dance with who likes to dance. Or you don’t.

Emily sits quietly, a serious expression on her face. There are interesting exclusions and cliques in the group and she is trying to discern which group she belongs with. Jen and Olivia are good buddies and hang out together. Abby and Emily C are best friends and they are together. Kristen and Marcia. Matthew and Everyone. Taylor and Himself. Mark and His Caregiver. Harry sits with Tim. Susan is with Janice. Mae is with Her Housemates. Emily’s best friend was unable to attend this evening and she is a bit lost.

I walk past Harry who looks up at me and asks, “Is something wrong with Princess?” I stop and respond, “She’s waiting to dance. Maybe you could ask Princess to dance?”

Harry is up and out of his seat and asking Emily for a dance before I can count to ten. She accepts, which is what got Corey and Albert up and out of their seats! She officially has a full dance card. They wait patiently and then begin the process of cutting in and it’s all very cute and funny from where I am sitting, way back in the room.

I am amazed at Harry. He is new to this group and already he is as entrenched in the social scene as any of the others. He is observant and thoughtful -- a welcome new addition to my way of thinking.

As I sit and watch my mind wanders to what my dreams were when I was young and carrying Emily within me. I thought of how she would look, who she would become as an adult. Isn’t that what pregnant mothers do? My mind goes over, once again, the surprise and shock after her birth, of this disability and how many times I’ve asked myself the same question. Again and again and again:

If I could change Emily, would I?

The answer is as complex as the life we have lived if I think about it too long. There is a little bit of leftover grief for the baby I was expecting who did not arrive. But there is far more joy in my life over the baby who was delivered instead and who has enriched my life more than I could have thought possible.

I feel honored and privileged to be the mother of this woman-child. I am blessed beyond anything I have ever deserved and I am sure that I am, like other mothers, doing the best I can, but wondering always, is it enough? Have I given her everything I can to ensure her life is full and meaningful and joyous?

I stop making my notes and I look up to the front of the room where they all are donning red and green tee shirts and Santa hats. It’s time for the annual Christmas card photo. They are not that much different than others their age group ... well, yes, they are. But they aren't.

And surer than shoot, I see the look on my daughter’s face and I know that all is at it should be. That her life will be full and rich and interesting and that yes, it is enough.

cross posted on http://flamingofeathers-kathy.blogspot.com

Friday Photo


Leaves have fallen leaving behind the glorious orange and red of bittersweet.

All too soon ....




Arriving at a mountain near you! Brrrr. It's fast approaching here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The New "Great Communicator"?

One of the things that absolutely thrills me about President-elect Obama is that he can speak. English. Like someone who has adequate command of the language. Won't it be grand not to hear the word "nuke-you-ler" from the mouth of the man who has the power to call forth that weapon of ultimate destruction?



Tears streamed down my face as I listened to Barack Obama's speech Tuesday night, not because it was all that brilliant a speech, but because it poured out so effortlesly. Like the words he was saying were actually connected to what was going on inside his head. Here was our future president, speaking in public and NOT sounding like an eight-year-old standing in front of the class attempting to recite The Charge of the Light Brigade.



And apparently, Mr. Obama has command of other languages besides English. One of my regular customers is a young woman who owns a nearby dairy farm. Sandra is deaf. She came in for breakfast this morning, all excited about the Obama victory. She pointed to a picture on her phone or PDA or whatever it was... A picture of Barack Obama flashing a hand signal that I did not recognize.




"What is that??" I asked.


"It's 'I love you,'" she grinned. "Obama is saying 'I love you' to deaf people!" She was so enchanted by the gesture.


Thank you, Mr. Obama. Thank you for knowing what to say and how to say it. Or sign it...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

WISHFUL THINKING

I have this little dream. I would love to see Obama and McCain check out what's left in their campaign chests and announce that they're taking a little road trip-together. Start on one side of the country and spend the next two months working their way to the other side.

No speeches, asking questions and listening to the answers. No press train, no entourage. Not gonna happen, the secret service would have a collective heart attack. But, a girl can dream.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tears for the Victor

Did anyone else watch an eloquent, intelligent young man humbly accept the gift of the presidency of the United States from the hands of the American people—a people burdened and burned by eight dark, oppressive years of an administration devoid of hope, empty of compassion, bankrupt of honor—with tears welling up and spilling into your lap?

I couldn’t help it. There stood a man, a bright articulate man, speaking of change and hard work, healing and unification… instead of mouthing platitudes, whipping up blind nationalism, reminding us of our fears and encouraging our craven trembling in the face of all manner of threats and dangers. And this man…this well-spoken, inspirational man… was designated our next president. Representing the absolute antithesis of the buffoon we have borne in that capacity for way …too…long.

It hardly bears believing.

As I watched Barack Obama address his people, I literally felt as if a great heavy cloud was lifting from our nation. A cloud that no matter how hard we’d struggled or how loudly we’d shouted at it, would not budge, but rather settled more and more heavily upon us until we were utterly immobilized by its weight, a weight more analagous to the granite of a tombstone than the insubstantial mist of cloud.

Oh my god, it’s been a long time coming. I can believe in this country again. I can hope for this country again. I can look forward to seeing her regain her proud place among the nations of the world.

I emphatically wish we hadn’t had to endure the past eight hideous years in order to see this day. And I suppose it is likely that if the past eight years had been any less hideous, we would not be seeing this day. We have seen the worst. Dare we hope that, now, we may see the best?

All I know is..for the first time in a really long time, I can say with some conviction…

I’m proud to be an American.

WE DAMN WELL DID IT!

Yeeeeeee haaaaaaaw!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Am I happy? Damn straight.

History Begins Now...

******



Election 2008


NATION ELECTS FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT

******

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Madness

Nowadays, it’s all about shock. Radio personalities do it. Comedians do it. Television shows do it.

Say or do the thing that no one else has had the brass cajones to say or do in public or on the air—the thing that until now, common decency, courtesy or decorum has kept sane people from saying or doing—and you will grab the world by the throat and keep them coming back for more.

Okay…I can play that game. I want to play that game. Just this once.

Here is what I wish I could scream from the rooftops tonight:

If you have not bothered to educate yourself on at least some of the vital issues of the 2008 presidential campaign;

if you only come out of the political woodwork every four years to cast your vote for whomever your pastor or your boss or your neighbors dictate;

if you’re going to cast your vote for leader of the free world based on which candidate you would feel most comfortable drinking a beer with;

if your vote is even slightly influenced by whom the media have transformed into a pop icon;

if your vote is cast as a tribute to and continued glorification of ignorance and racism…

Do the world a favor and

Just...

****DON’T****

................do it.

Now you can all put your eyes back in your heads and go on with your day…

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Heading Picture?

LADIES----

If you hate the picture, I can make it go away...

And anyone who wants to make up a new heading/picture thing is welcome to do so and email it to me. They are easy enough to change and there is no reason in the world why we can't change them out whenever we want...

:-]

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A DAY LATE AS USUAL

I guess I need to take pictures on the weekend and then post on Friday. Of course if I'd done that I wouldn't have had these pictures to post because it hadn't rained yet, because, oh well.

We used to have an Austrian pine in the southeast corner of the yard. It was supposed to be the shrub version of the plant, but oh well. It finally got so tall that it was growing into the lines going into the neighbors' house. After the ice/snow storm in January of 04 the utility guys came around to top it. Mom asked if they'd just cut it down. Goodby tree.

So we're the proud owners of the stump of a pine tree. But, the pine tree isn't alone this fall. We had rain yesterday morning and then some sun and up sprang dozens of little tiny toadstools making their home in the bark of the old tree.

None of them are any bigger than a dime. We don't miss the tree. The needles basically killed out anything underneath it, so there was this big tree with a dead zone underneath.
We'll probably have the stump ground down this spring to add to the garden space. But those little guys were quite a sight when I got home last night.

Questions for The Women...

Does anyone mind if I change the template of this thing? This template is beyond my ability to tweak the way I want it: RE: I'd like to widen it so that we can post big pictures. Any suggestions for colors, gadgets, etc. are welcome...

Also, I suppose you noticed that I added a blog list to the sidebar. I should have asked your permission on this. My idea was to show activity on each of our personal blogs, in case any "Women On..." readers would also like to visit our personal blogs. But it occurs to me that perhaps you might not want your personal blogs tied to this forum? Let me know, and I can change this if need be.

Here's another question: Cynthia, I have not figured out how to "follow" your blog. If there is a "follow this blog" somewhere on your page, I can't find it. But I noticed that Kat has figured it out... What's the story?

Lastly, has anyone happened upon someone they would like to be a contibutor to "Women On..."?

Let me know...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Photo Friday.....

Two hours and twenty-eight minutes left of Halloween... (on the west coast)

07 punkins

We don't carve pumpkins anymore... We glitter 'em.

Friday Photos -- The Grapes Of Maine

Concord grapes left behind for the wintering birds.















Thursday, October 30, 2008

Meeting Your Meat

The dialogue I incited about hunting (my cross-post of the essay on “Better Terms” drew comment from a real live professional hunting blogger…) has had some surprising consequences. It’s a topic that has, like religion and politics, a lot of passionate feelings on both sides of the issue. Who knew the right to kill would be so fiercely defended by its adherents? And who knew I would be branded some kind of heretic for hinting condemnation of the practice?

Yes…passions ran high. Vehement, valid points were made by both sides. And I think perhaps part of the answer is that when the passion—or the compassion—goes away, as Silverdoe pointed out, it’s time to hang up the gun.

As well, I think there needs to be more passion, even compassion, associated with going to the store and buying a piece of pre-butchered, plastic-wrapped meat. Forget intending to make some kind of connection to the animal we’re about to eat; we have a hard enough time connecting to a human being in the meat department. As Cynthia pointed out, where we used to at least have skilled, knowledgeable tradesman standing behind the meat counters at our grocery stores, we now have glorified stock boys. Where we used to be able to ask the in-store butcher to cut and wrap a specific size or piece meat for us, we now have the choice of picking some “mystery cut” off the counter and hoping it will suit our needs, or just skipping it altogether. We invariably end up buying more than we need, just in order to make sure we have enough. (I’m sure that is no accident on the grocer’s part…)

I challenge anyone to walk into a Wal-Mart, Safeway, Albertson’s, or whatever the Huge Grocery Chain is in your area, and pick up off the shelves the exact cut of meat called for in any higher-end cookbook. And if you want to buy a small amount of something, like two chicken breasts or a four-ounce steak, you are going to pay through the nose. Again, it’s no accident that the bigger the package, the cheaper the meat. They tout it as a money-saving package for large families…but it really is a ploy to boost the ticket totals. They’re probably even hoping the remaining meat will sit in your freezer until it gets so old you’ll throw it out. Or they’ll really hit the jackpot if you use what you need out of a large package and forget to deal with the rest before it goes bad. How many times has this happened to you?

We have become a nation of mindless consumers, of meat as well as just about every other commodity in existence. We don’t know or care where it comes from, we just have to have it. We don’t think twice when a retailer forces us to buy more than we need in order to make us think we’re actually saving money. We don’t miss the image of half a cow or plucked chickens hanging from the ceiling at the butcher shop. It’s so much easier, much less “gross,” to pay $14 a pound for a little blob of red stuff tightly wrapped in neat, sterile-looking plastic. With the paper towels and hand sanitizer located conveniently above the rows of shiny packages of mystery meat.

When we first moved to Oregon, we scoffed at what we considered the out-dated, latent “hippie” culture in Eugene. We roared with laughter when a teacher at the community college told her class (of which hubs was a member) that her Thanksgiving meal was going to include a turkey, but it was going to be locally, organically grown, and butchered “with full respect for the animal.” After the self- examination I’ve experienced since posting my anti-hunting essay, I don’t find that funny at all anymore.

It’s only taken twenty-five years to finally get that message…

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

According to George Will's column this morning, Americans spend more on potato chips in one year than the combined spending of all the candidates running for president and the congress in the last two years. I wonder if that's just potato chips or all chippy type snacks? Still boggles the mind though.

Just to put things in perspective when folks complain about how much money the Obama campaign has raised (and spent). And what the McCain campaign probably wished they had to spend.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Making the Right Choices for Kids...Or Not

There are parents out there who think they are responding to a real threat to their children’s health by NOT having them immunized, citing incidents of children becoming ill and even dying after getting their shots.

Mothers have hissy-fits about inappropriate books in school libraries, but let their kids sit for hours playing violent video games…

We have experts writing books about the dangers of allowing gay individuals to adopt children or teach in public schools…

And then there’s the guy who thought it would be wise to give his eight-year-old son a crack at handling that Uzi at the gun club…

Parents are called upon to make vitally important choices on behalf of their children. Always with that paralyzing thought echoing in the back of their heads… "What happens if I f*** this up?"

In this country, though, we seem to have a talent for screwing things up. We really hurt our kids with the poorly informed choices we make.

Sometimes, the result is that children die of diseases that were "eradicated" in the 1950’s.

Or that bigotry is passed from generation to generation.

Or that we make such urgently, tragically stupid choices that our kids don’t get a chance to grow up.

Get your kids immunized. Monitor what they read and play. Let them interact with people different from themselves.

And don’t let them play with guns.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Food ethics

Lisa's wonderful post on sport hunting, and the dialogue in the comments has really had me thinking. It doesn't help that I recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. (I highly recommend the book to any nonfiction reader, any foodie, any gardener or any environmentalist. Everyone in Kingsolver's immediate family contributed in some way to the book, and as a family tale, it's interesting in that aspect as well.)

What are my food ethics? One of the oldest cliches that I can think of is "You are what you eat." Follow the implications of my food choices, and what does that really mean. Every woman who's ever put dinner on the table for more than herself knows that food choices can be complicated, but it also speaks reams about how we are as citizens and stewards of the world.

There is more than one ignored elephant in every dining room, but the biggest issue of all is that for anything to become food for our bodies, it has to die. Vegetarians, that applies to your food too. That bowl of rice is no longer absorbing sunlight and water in a field or paddy. That organic tomato isn't sucking down nutrients while someone carefully picks aphids of its vine. When I told this to my vegetarian daughter, she said, "...but plants don't have feelings." My response was that we really don't know now, do we. It's still a life, and it's still ended. I know that argument slides way out onto the ridiculous fringe. I'm not going to worry about cutting short the cozily nestled underground life of my carrots and not allowing them to fulfill their true carrothood.

Here is where the other elephants start trumpeting though. I will be concerned about the chemicals they've absorbed meant to kill weeds and insects, the genetic alterations used to make them more marketable, not necessarily more nutritious or tasteful, the fairness of the treatment the labor involved received, the cleanliness of the plant used to process them, and how much energy was consumed to get those carrots from the field to my home. I'll wonder about how the companies stand on Fair Trade. All that happens before I dig the glasses out of my purse to read the label and see just how many preservatives, and how much high fructose corn syrup and sodium have been added to the can in my hand. That's a whole lot of concern over a can of sliced carrots, and it all has to happen in the rush hour between leaving work and someone asks, "What's for dinner?"

It's even harder for carnivores. We ignore our big dead elephant in the room even harder, carefully and literally washing the blood from our hands. This is our choice. I love meat and won't give it up as a part of my diet. I once had the opportunity to professionally visit a meat processing plant. I was given an extremely limited tour of the facility, and it wasn't one of the nightmares described in Fast Food Nation, another gripping read about the food industry (that is definitely not for the weak stomached). I know there was a lot that I didn't see, and quite frankly, I saw enough to be grateful that I didn't see more. I do know that I want the meat I consume to have died a humane death. I want it to have lived as an animal should, not in a contained environment that does not allow for movement, fed an unnatural diet (cows are not cannibals and other than the occasional bug or worm, aren't even carnivores), and essentially trapped in its own excrement. The deer killed on some hunter's fun, mindless weekend excursion led a better life than that poor trapped cow.

After reading Kingsolver's book, I did ask the butchers at three of the grocery stores I use what they could tell me about the meat. At one, it just came from the warehouse. The butcher was essentially a very polite and wanting to be helpful stock person, not a true butcher. He didn't know if any of the meat was free range or not. It just came in on the truck. At the next, the answer was basically, our company does its best to purchase from the safest and cleanest suppliers. They couldn't tell me if the hamburger originated in a feedlot cage or every body's mental image of a farm. It was only at the truly local store that the butcher who cut his own chops and steaks and made his own sausage could tell me the source of most of the meat he sold. Some of it was truly locally raised by people he knew. Some came from CAFO (contained area feeding operations) meat suppliers. It was only by consuming on the most local level that I even had the choice to try to eat with respect for my ethics and principles. It's also important to note that organic or free range meat is also more expensive. For some people, a cruelty free meal isn't a realistic financial option.

I've made conscious choices to shop my ethics on other things. It's not easy. I quit a gym I really liked because their corporate parent is heavily committed to funding anti-choice groups. I look for union labels in clothing, but almost everything I see comes from a country where sweat shop labor is the norm. I refuse to use a certain delivery pizza chain. I do feel guilty every time I walk into Wal-Mart. Some people say I'm oversensitive. I think I'm just trying to be responsible and make my dollars count. If everyone refused to eat CAFO raised meat, it would fade from the marketplace.

Sometimes I just want to eat without thinking about it. I don't want to always take the time to express my gratitude, figure out how many miles were driven to get the hot dog and bun together and determine how deep my carbon footstep is for each meal. I just want to eat. I'm getting to the point where I just can't ignore the elephants anymore.