Sunday, December 17, 2006

Yay! The CSAP scores were published last week and we the public are able to assess how our educators are doing. I am exceedingly glad that we have a single test that tells us everything we need to know about our children. Really takes the monkey off my back.

In my district, every one of our elementary schools achieved one of the top two marks: (1) Excellent or (2) High. This should be a cause for celebration. But it isn't. My children are at a school achieving the embarrassing High mark. This has happened for the past few years and has caused a mass exodus from our school to the Excellent schools. Children are receiving a much better education there, no doubt. In return, we receive many out-of-district children which, like it or not, causes a further slide in our scores.

The funny thing is that my children were in the Excellent school for 8 years and I felt that they were receiving an inferior education there. Lots of control. No enrichment. No affirmation or fun or freedom. I forget. Where on the CSAPs do they measure musical talent? Artistic genius? Creativity? Vision? A high EQ, Emotional Quotient, which psychologists recognize as the true measure of future success? Oh, that's right. Nowhere. Monkeys, take your number 2 pencils and fill in the circles.

The CSAPs remind me of Newly divorced, my friends convinced me that was a great way to meet cool guys. Reluctantly I put together a rather sarcastic profile, no picture because I felt that a response would indicate a certain level of bravery, and waited for my dream guy to find me. After a few weeks, I started corresponding with someone who seemed super groovy on paper. Athletic, outdoorsy, humorous, intelligent, financially secure. Eureka!

Against my better judgment I agreed to meet for dinner. Oh boy. I could tell within 2 minutes of walking in the door that a paper representation of this man had given me an incomplete picture of his true personality, to say the least. By the end of the night, I was holding his head in my lap, stroking his hair as he sobbed his way through stories of his schizophrenic sister and his abusive father. With my free hand I searched my purse for a razor blade or a hallucinogenic mushroom or a flask of Jack Daniels or anything else that might comfort me, but to no avail. I am happy to report, however, that he finished up the date not with a kiss, thank God in heaven, but by giving me a Scottish tam with fake fur hair attached. A downpayment on a future date he said.

Do I have a point here? I think I do. It's that nothing real or complicated or meaningful can be reduced to paper. To a score. CSAPs don't measure true genius, family relationships, athletic ability, talent, the condition of the mind or heart. They don't measure the capacity to learn. They don't measure the involvement or compassion of the teacher. They measure nothing except a child's ability to regurgitate a head stuffed full of useless information. They tell us nothing more than a rat walking through a maze tells us. Nothing more than a carefully-worded profile tells us. Both should be taken with a very large grain of salt.

In case you were wondering, I still have the tam.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Super Duper Heroes

Let's grieve for Ken Jordan. Let's grieve for him as a beloved son, a cherished brother, a loving boyfriend. But must we grieve for him as a slain police officer, one who died to protect us? He didn't give his life. His life was taken from him by a drunken asshole. Just as the lives of the teachers at Columbine were taken, the lives of relief workers and journalists in Iraq and elsewhere are taken, the lives of nuns caring for the downtrodden in dangerous countries are taken.

Since 9-11 we've been conditioned to worship the "public servants" who fight our kitchen fires and bust our teenagers for tinted windows. Does anyone really believe these guys chose such a career because they care about us? The same can be said about our soldiers. With rare exception, men who choose a career in police/fire/military do so because it works for them. They don't want to work at Wal-Mart, can't work at Apple. The idea of carrying a gun appeals mightily to the kid whose head was bashed into the gymnasium locker by the big jock with the cute cheerleader on his arm. The idea of dressing up in a dapper uniform and becoming part of a powerful club resonates with the guy who has a lot of testosterone, quite a bit of adrenaline, but little else to distinguish him. They love their institutional authority. They enjoy pulling over the red BMW and watching the rich guy quake in his Bruno Maglis. They relish wiping the tears of the pretty girl who didn't give them the time of day in Junior High.

I saw the procession for Officer Jordan yesterday. And, yes, it brought a tear to my eye. But not because he was a cop.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Handle with care

The snake charmer is dead. Tragically, Ali Khan Samsuddin, a fifth generation snake charmer, died last week in Kuala Lumpur after being bitten by a cobra. He had been bitten many times before and always managed to survive. Not so this time. Though originally tied to religion, in modern times, snake handling is a trade without much religious significance. The religious practice of handling snakes does still exist, believe it or not, in the American South.

In 1992, a man named Glen Summerford stood accused of attempted murder after forcing his wife to put her hand into a cage full of snakes. He was the pastor of the Church of Jesus with Signs Following. Services at this tiny church, located in the Northern Alabama town of Scottsboro, include speaking in tongues, handling fire and drinking strychnine from mason jars. But even more exciting is their practice of handling poisonous snakes as the Spirit moves them.

The faithful at the Church of Jesus with Signs Following interpret literally a passage in the Book of Acts: And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. When the Spirit moves 'em in Scottsboro, they get out the snakes.

Dennis Covington was a freelance journalist covering Summerford's trial for the New York Times. After the trial was over, Covington was befriended by some of the snake handlers and other members of the church. He began to attend services at the church out of curiosity and, over the course of a few months, was pulled into a bizarre world of fundamentalist Christianity where "believers" base their entire Christian identity on one or two Bible passages. Apparent lunacy is generally the result of such limited Biblical interpretation.

While mainstream Christian fundamentalism is not quite as zany, nor as interesting, as it is in Appalachia, the practice of carving the Bible up into little passages and verses that serve particular agendas is just as common. Leviticus does say that for a man to lie with another man is an abomination. It also says that shellfish are an abomination. It says don't cut your hair, don't wear clothing made with two different materials. It's okay to own slaves. Just don't disrespect your father or you'll be put to death. Take one verse, take all. Or else step back and open up to a larger perspective, one that doesn't diminish God or re-create him in our own limited image.

Fortunately, Dennis Covington escaped the cult and made it back to New York. He wrote about his experience in an amazing book called Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia. In the book Covington says that the snake-handling experience confirmed his long-held suspicion that madness and religion are a hair's breadth apart. That feeling after God is dangerous business. That Christianity without passion, danger, and mystery may not really be Christianity at all. I'm with Dennis on this. Let us not reduce faith in God to a small-minded, verse-picking, powerless and fearful way of life.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Kumbaya, My Lord, Kumbaya

I wept this morning. Wept like I haven't in, well, hours (my resident bachelor and I are breaking up so I've been emotionally overwrought for a couple of days). Kumbaya, according to the Gazette, has evolved from a symbol of peace to an international joke, an idiom for idiocy. Kumbaya has become the symbol of insincere bonhomie. Oh, dear Lord.

I am, at heart, a Catholic girl. Yes, I've had my way with a few altar boys, smoked a couple of Lemon Twist cigarettes, but mostly I love Jesus and I want to make him happy. So Kumbaya I sing. Often. Loudly and with gusto.

What has happened to our cherished Catholic anthem? According to wise people, Kumbaya is a pidgin English version of "Come by here." The word represents a plea to our mighty God and runs throughout the song. "Someone's prayin' Lord, Come by here."

How did such a beautiful prayer become a joke? The Gazette puts forth a few theories. It is a one-word title that rolls easily off the tongue. It sounds foreign, thus funny. It's African-American, so racists deride it, can't wait to suck the soul from it. Mainly, it's a song that summer campers and folk mass celebrants have been forced to sing for years, and they're tired of it.

Well, I used to love those Catholic folk masses. Almost as much as the Mariachi masses. I loved singing Kumbaya and all the other classics that were sung to maniacal guitar playing.

So, when I'm in bed tonight, lonely, tear-stained and sick at heart, I'll be singing to myself "Someone's cryin' Lord, come by here."

I hope he listens. I hope he puts his arms around me and comforts me. Even if the song has become a joke.

A puppeteer

I wanted to study dance in college. I wanted to perform on Broadway. I wanted to walk through campus, and life, with "jazz hands."

As a freshman, I was at CU-Boulder, living the life of a lab rat as a Molecular/Cellular/Developmental Biology major. My older brother was a year ahead of me, also an MCDB major, brilliant beyond belief. He seemed to understand the "cell" with all of its asinine complexity at an intuitive level. He understood physics, chemistry, had memorized the Periodic Table and was even capable of making hilarious jokes about it. I, meanwhile, stumbled around campus humiliated by the forehead crease left by my lab goggles, wondering what geek could help me figure out the molarity of my latest unknown.

I eventually changed my major to business, accounting more specifically. It wasn't so much that I was wildly excited by debits and credits, I'm still not, but I didn't come from a particularly wealthy family and I needed a career, not just an education. Becoming a CPA seemed a safe bet.

Because of my college experience, and maybe my perceived lack of personal creative freedom, I always find it interesting to hear what young people are studying these days. I wonder how the parents feel, especially the fathers, when they hear that their young son is going to be, say, a puppeteer. Does this revelation cause Dad to puff out his chest and smoke a stogie on the back deck? Does Mom call over her coffee klatch girlfriends to boast about her son's incredible prowess with a hand puppet?

When my son (now 21) was little he had a puppet as his constant companion. We got it at Poor Richard's and it was, sad to say, a beaver. Furry brown with lewd teeth and a hopeful demeanor. Bren wanted to take it everywhere. Unfortunately, after about five minutes, he wanted me to hold it. He was a very engaging child and whenever he found a new grownup friend on the street or in a coffee shop he would shout, in a loud Mickey Mouse voice, "Look at my mom's beaver!" This, of course, had an EFHutton effect. Everything would slow to a crawl, people would turn their heads deliberately toward me to see how I would respond.

I learned quickly to deal with this recurrent nightmare. I worked up a little beaver dance and performed it on the person nearest to me who appeared somewhat sympathetic. I would take "Beav" and bite the person's forearm and say "Come help me build my dam!"

I don't want to malign puppeteers. In fact, I want to laud puppeteers. In my immediate family, we have three CPAs, a pathologist, an attorney, a pharmaceutical drug rep. Our parents are proud of us. We all have careers and children, big houses and big mortgages, lots of demands for our money and our time. We're living the American dream!

I can't help but wonder, though, if any of my siblings ever feel like I do while I'm scurrying through the office clutching my mechanical pencil and my laptop, wearing the latest Ann Taylor fashions, picturing myself instead in fishnet hose and a bustier, standing under the bright theater lights, bowing demurely to thunderous applause. When my older brother holds his stethoscope does he secretly wish it were a paintbrush? When my sister makes her closing arguments in front of the judge and jury, would she rather be doing improvisational comedy in a little club somewhere? I don't have any idea.

I know one thing. I hope my children will pursue their passions. It may be an uphill battle. Already their Dad and I have college funds set up for each of them. We have firm ideas about which elite schools they should attend and what careers might hold promise. I imagine we'll have a doctor or two, maybe a physicist, probably a computer whiz. The IQ tests have been administered and we know where their strengths lie. But not where their dreams lie.

I have secret wish. I want a puppeteer.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Bozo the Clown

I don't know what it is. I truly don't. I've been asked many times and I am unable to give a proper defense.

There is something about Bozo the Clown that makes me scream "TAKE ME!"

Ladies who lunch: a rebuttal

I am writing this in response to the Sorority Girls post below which was written by a close friend of mine on his blog.

I hardly know where to begin. I guess I will leave the analysis of sorority girls alone as I was never one of them, neither were any of my sisters, I’m guessing neither were yours. I’m sure I have a few friends who were but I couldn’t tell you who.

I do know many society gals, however. And, yes, we threw a big party this month to raise funds for Newborn Hope. We also educated the 1600 people in the room about prematurity and gave them further opportunity to get involved with the cause.

Because we fed our fat faces, migrant workers on the Western Slope will have access to prenatal care; Peak Vista will have money to see high-risk indigent pregnant women; McKee Medical Center will have a bi-lingual social worker on staff, Penrose Community will hold smoking cessation classes for pregnant teens, etc.

In August we threw a big party called Pasta in the Park to raise funds for TESSA. We challenged each other to make the tastiest pasta sauce, dressed up as though we were heading off to Ascot, and made a bunch of money so that abused women and their children have a safe place to go. Ask Cari Davis what she thinks of the work we sorority gals do, and what she would do without us.

I think in December, it’s S-CAP. The Red Ribbon Ball. Yet another garish event designed to raise funds to help those suffering with AIDS.

In February, it’ll be the Heart Ball. We’ll raise more than $100,000 in a single night. The men will dress in tuxes and we girls will get to wear our ball gowns, maybe even our furs. We’ll once again eat delicious fattening food and dance to the mellow sounds of Moments Notice, or some other local boring band.

I was part of the organization that started the Children’s Literacy Center. Remember, we used to hold the Celebrity Dinner at Jose Muldoon’s? “Important” people served us tacos and margaritas and we made enough money to kick off our fledgling project. If you don’t know what a difference the Children’s Literacy Center has made in Colorado Springs, you should really check out their website. Or talk to any educator in town.

Guess what? The same 100 or so society women hold every one of these fundraising events. EVERY ONE. We also do the Festival of World Theater, the Dance Theater’s wine tasting weekend, the Fine Arts Center’s annual gala--all kinds of arts and culture undertakings that benefit our community mightily.

I took a graduate course on Nonprofit Management a few years ago at UCCS. It was taught by Cathy Robbins who heads up the El Pomar Foundation. She taught us that the role played by society women, the fund raisers, in the world of philanthropy is immeasurable and critically important.

The thing about your post that is the most upsetting to me is the accusation that Newborn Hope has played into the hands of the anti-abortion activists. As the person who was recently in charge of granting the nearly $300,000 we raised last year, all I can say is NOT ON MY WATCH. The ironic thing about society gals is that we are smart. Really smart. Maybe we gave up careers to marry the big guys and raise families, but we were chosen by those big boys because of our DNA. Because of our charisma. Because of our mental acuity. We were chosen by them because of our genes. Not because of our jeans.

My Advisory Council co-chair, former Kappa Kappa Gamma turned attorney who has recently published her fourth book, and I understood very well how the issue of prematurity might be linked to the issue of abortion. She and I are actually on opposite sides of the abortion issue. Be we are most definitely on the same side when it comes to prematurity prevention and the work done by Newborn Hope.

I’ll give you a little education. We give a lot of money for pregnancy tests. This has never felt to me like a great use of our funds. However, because we have several physicians, neonatal nurses and social workers on our committee (we’ll only accept them if they have a least one strand of genuine pearls and understand that Birkenstocks with knee socks are not allowed in any circumstance), the pregnancy test is a very important first step. It is imperative if (1) a provider wants to enter the woman into the healthcare system (2) the provider wants to enroll the woman in the Medicaid system (3) the provider wants to take control of the woman (usually a young girl) to prevent her from obtaining an abortion.

Those in category 3 usually are also interested in funds for “early ultrasound.” From a medical standpoint, there is almost no reason to do an ultrasound at six weeks except to show a young girl that this is in fact a “baby” living within her womb that should not be aborted.

My co-chair and I, despite the fact that we are society gals, are not idiots. Nor are any gals on our committee. We understand very well the dynamic. As a result, we changed the way Newborn Hope grants funds. We now have a rubric that we use to evaluate grant proposals. If the pregnancy test is a first step in getting the patient into Medicaid, or if it is a first step in referring the woman to a doctor who will provide “continuity of care” all the way until birth, we’ll pay for the pregnancy tests. If not, we won't. On our watch, a local medical care organization, which is actually closely aligned with the anti-abortion movement, got nothing. NOT ONE DIME. For the first time in years. Check out our website at to see who gets our money. Our evaluation rubric is posted there as well.

So make fun if you must. But this town would be a much different place without the ladies who lunch. People in the non-profit world know it. They would never belittle our efforts, because we help them achieve their ends in a way they couldn’t without our support.

If you’d like me to throw a little soiree to raise funds for one of your pet projects, maybe the PPJPC, my sorority friends and I could have about a hundred grand in your pocket by the end of next week. So let us know. Even with the holidays fast approaching, lots of shopping to do for our little silver spooners, we’d still love an opportunity to feed our fat faces! And shop for new outfits from our fine local merchants! You don’t have to ask twice!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sorority Girls

This post was made by a friend of mine on his blog,

I have nothing, nothing, nothing against sorority girls, nor society girls, they’re just fine.

I remember sororities at college. They provided camaraderie and support for women in educational institutions that had only comparatively recently become co-ed. And sororities prepped girls for the veneer surface of — I don’t know — a life of little academic enterprise after college?

Sororities taught girls social skills and cemented a community fashion. Not fashion in the creative sense but rather a pageant of the accepted norm. Beauty as a dress code that everyone could feel excited about despite it being ludicrously conformist. Sororities also reinforced the preening considered necessary to attract the ambitious corporate male who sought a domestic arrangement in much the same way that he courted a career. For girls who were neither creative, independent, nor perhaps all that complicated, sororities extended the home economics lessons to the prospect of hiring maids.

What do sorority girls do after college when their only idea of extra-curricular means to hold an ice cream social? I don’t want to demean what they do, they have children of course, and run communities. And when there is time, they do lunch. And when there’s charity afoot, these girls do as their sororities did and conduct a benefit.

I saw such a benefit recently, an enormous social function, an annual society event, the cumulative product of countless sub-subcommittee meetings. I could say that the beneficiaries of the charity could have mattered not the least, but that would in this case be most inaccurate. Two factors:

At Newborn Hope the fuzzy bunny factor is in overdrive. Money raised is “for the babies!!!” Specifically babies born prematurely in rural areas without access to urban hospital programs. The money goes for brochures and nurse training programs which teach, basically: Get that baby to the city stat!

So it’s not just that the NBH charity is for a demonstrably compelling, in-your-arms-tangible cause, but the chief beneficiaries, as with traditional sororities, are the sorority girls themselves. Making a rough estimate of the figures, I can approximate that well over half of the resources generated by NBH go to feeding itself. Throwing the big party, holding all the planning meetings, that’s the primary function. The money these women spend goes to pay for the luncheons and the overhead. It’s a great boondoggle for The Broadmoor and the shops which get to advertise through the annual function, the NBH fashion show.

The time which the girls expend toward putting it all together is also a large resource redirected. The girls are not driving the taxis nor holding any babies. These philanthropists are holding lunches, paying for the lunches themselves, eating the lunches themselves, and planning for themselves the next one. While it might be uncharitable to ask these ladies to give directly, albeit unselfishly to a good cause? Do premature babies have to settle for only a fraction of their self-serving dollar? Such sorority-style events are very similar to a retail store charity model where an advertized small percentage of sales, nothing extra from the customer’s pocket, is promised to go to a charity.

And what about the charity of premature babies? Wouldn’t a public health matter be best addressed by a public health program? Here you have rich Libertarians who would rather contribute their table scraps to the cause, rather than support taxes to improve the health system thereby resolving many health problems, among them premature births.

And in Colorado Springs there is the Christian Anti-abortion element. NBH plays straight into the hands of the Respect Life crowd. Anything that forces a pregnant woman to commit to her pregnancy, prematurely.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Giving thanks

My third grade twins were asked in school last week to write down three things they were thankful for. Both wrote that they were thankful for family, friends, the earth. Under each category they were asked to elaborate a bit. Under family, my little girl wrote that she was thankful for Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters.

My little boy, however, had a different take on the assignment. He wrote that he was thankful that his family was supportive, funny, and "willing." Willing. How cute. Willing to do what? He didn't really say.

Upon reflection, I know that I too am thankful for the people in my world who are willing. Willing to let me be myself. Willing to forgive my indiscretions. Willing to hike with me on a snowy morning. Willing to be spontaneous and funny and interesting. Willing to offer words of encouragement or words of advice. Willing to confront me when necessary. Willing to love me, come what may.

I want to learn a lesson from my son, accidentally wise beyond his years, and be more willing.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Crying while eating

You've done it. I've certainly done it. Sitting down for a bite to eat, suddenly overcome by emotion. "My GOD. What has my life become?" Or "Why, oh why, are we fighting WARS when we should be MAKING LOVE?" Or, in my most recent case, "Why the HELL do I spend half my life doing things I HATE?"

Perhaps you were already crying but, through your tears, saw last night's leftover lemon chicken and just could not resist.

Do not despair. We are not alone. Plenty of good people, people just like us, cry while they eat. The difference is that they have the presence of mind to capture it on video.

Privacy freak

A couple of years ago I took my son to a local college to register for a class. I filled out the required paperwork and when I handed it back to the clerk she said, "Oh, you forgot to fill in his Social Security number." I replied that no, indeed, I had not forgotten but that Social Security had nothing to do with studying Plant Biology and therefore I was unwilling to give his SSN to them. "But we need it because it will be his student ID number." I disagreed and informed her that she could simply assign him a student ID number like 999-99-9999. I am sure I've never seen anyone look quite as perplexed as the clerk did at that moment. It took over an hour and several different administrators "reasoning" with me before my son got his random student ID number and off we went to the bookstore.

First mini-moral of the story. You people are giving out your Social Security numbers way too readily. This is obvious because with thousands of students registering every year I was apparently the only privacy nut in the history of the college unwilling to cooperate. Your SSN should never be given to anyone except a company/individual who is required to report your earnings or wages to the IRS. Period. Period. Period.

Next, remember in the not-too-distant past when brilliant geeks in labs participating the the Human Genome Project discovered that the presence of certain genes could predict possible future diseases or health problems. What an amazing discovery, one that could benefit mankind mightily. Enter bastard medical insurance companies. "Oh, we'd sure like to get our hands on that kind of information so we can deny coverage." Enter corporate assholes. "Oh, we'd sure like to get our hands on that kind of information so we can deny employment."

Second mini-moral of the story. Guard your medical information in every way that you can. Start by refusing to give doctor's offices and insurance companies your SSN which is, as we've learned, a number you must only give to an employer, possibly a bank or a broker. If you are insured under a group plan, talk to your employer about keeping those numbers private. There is absolutely no reason that Kaiser Permanente needs your fucking Social Security number. Make some noise about it.

And if you ever need to seek treatment for substance abuse or mental health problems, do not do it with the knowledge or assistance of any insurance company. Pay cash, use a fake name. I know this sounds like paranoia (oops! a mental health problem) but this is a monkey that will hang onto your back forever. Once again, denial of employment, medical coverage. Don't even think of running for public office or being a teacher or a policeman or a firefighter. Medical care providers pretend that our privacy is protected. It's not protected. Talk to Bill O'Reilly.

The Patriot Act gives the government the right to mine the entire spectrum of public and private sector information. Any walls of privacy that may have formerly existed, shaky as they were, have come crashing down.

Third mini-moral of the story. Teach your children to protect their privacy. I'm not advocating that we make them hate or fear the government, or insurance companies, or school counselors, or Kaiser Permanente (actually I am). But young people should be made aware that personal information in the wrong hands can make life a nightmare.

I saw my son this morning and he showed me his new cell phone. "Guess what?" he said. "I got it at Wal-Mart. Sixteen cents per minute prepaid, no contract, I gave 'em a fake name. Kubla Khan."

Mission accomplished.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Newborn Hope and Faded Beauty

On Thursday and Friday I, along with 1600 of my closest friends, dolled up and went to the Broadmoor International Center to attend the annual Newborn Hope luncheon and fashion show. This is a spectacular event, something that we look forward to all year. Filet mignon, chocolate mousse and champagne are culinary staples. Beautiful models from Denver, both male and female, entertain us. We have a silent auction (Botox, rounds of golf, ski jackets, jewelry), we sell table decorations and Christmas ornaments, we have a balloon raffle. We have fun. We raise money.

I have been involved with Newborn Hope for more than a decade. I have co-chaired the event, co-chaired the Advisory Council, been a member of the Corporate Board. Newborn Hope is about prematurity prevention and maternal/neonatal healthcare. I could go on and on about my passion for our mission and for the organization, but I think I'll save that for another time.

What I want to talk about are the women who are Newborn Hope. Shortly after I became involved with the organization, I discovered that I was pregnant with twins. I had had 4 easy pregnancies in the past so this discovery did not deter me from my normal behavior in the slightest. At 26 weeks (normal gestation is 40 weeks) I went to my doctor for a routine check up. Ironically, she informed me that I was in pre-term labor and that I needed to walk across the parking lot and check myself into the hospital.

The long and short of it is that I ended up enduring 10 weeks of strict bedrest. I had 4 young children at home but was told that I was allowed to get up only once every 2 hours to go to the bathroom. Yeah, right. Puh-lease.

My Newborn Hope friends, none of whom I knew well at the time, heard of my plight and knew how important, and how impossible, compliance was. In order to help me and my little preborns, they arranged for a different committee member to deliver a meal to my home, enough to feed the 6 of us, every night for 10 weeks. A woman I hardly knew called me and said, politely but firmly, "I will be in your driveway every morning at 7:45 to take your kids to school. Please have them watch for me." Another woman drove my little David to preschool three times per week, a thirty minute round trip.

Twice during my confinement, 20 women or so brought me a moveable feast. They showed up on my doorstep with egg dishes and waffles and bacon and sweet rolls, flowers even. They arranged chairs around me, hugged me, talked to me, made me laugh. Two hours later they gathered everything up, washed and put away every dish, left me with a few good books, and out they went. It was a bit surreal. Kind of like Cat in the Hat.

My new friends came and took my little ones to Happy Apple Farm to get Halloween pumpkins. They showed up every day at 3:30 to lift my little Lara out of her crib after her afternoon nap. They heard that I was having a hard time reading so they blazed in, taught me to cross stitch, brought me everything I needed to complete a project, and raced back out to their own lives.

A severely premature infant is the most expensive medical patient there is. Much more expensive than a cancer patient, a transplant patient, an accident victim. More importantly, premature babies can have developmental delays, vision problems, physical difficulties that last a lifetime. My twins, had they been born at 26 weeks, might be very different children today. I am grateful for their good health. I'll be forever thankful for the women who helped me carry to term.

I took a friend of mine, a guy, to the luncheon this year. I wanted to share with him an important part of my life, to show him what I've done for 10 years, to introduce him to the people who've made a huge difference to me and to Devon and Ryan. He was one of only a few men among 800 women. I thought that it would be fun. Educational. Inspiring perhaps. Sadly, he saw a bunch of middle-aged women, shoved into leather pants and halter tops, flaunting back fat and delightful but embarrassing fake boobs, hoping to regain lost youth. How sad and how jaded. I'm really sorry that that is all he saw.

I saw my angels. I saw my friends. I saw love in action. I saw gorgeous women who've made a difference to me and to the community.

Relax, guy friend. You don't need to tell us about our faded beauty. We already know. Many of us who are involved with Newborn Hope have had heartbreaking experience with prematurity. We've also dealt with breast cancer, aging parents, learning name it. As a result, we don't worry too much about our saddlebags. Our chin hairs. Our wrinkled foreheads. Our sagging boobs. We'd rather revel in the potential and perfection of our children. And in the beauty and kindness of our aging friends.

So go screw yourself. You'll never again be invited to hang out with the ladies who lunch.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dolls and Trolls

After reviewing my slightly mean-spirited post about average guys sporting babes (remember Sybil and feel for her) I am compelled, as Marie, in the interest of fairness and full disclosure, to discuss the other side.

We've established that it is terrific for a man's ego to be sporting a gorgeous blonde on each arm. But what, what in the hell, would motivate a woman to go along with the plan?

It could be that the man is well endowed (a type of good news that travels very quickly, trust me). This is my theory behind David Spade's incredible success with Hollywood hotties. Why in the world would he, of all people, land Heather Locklear, among many sexy others? He is only 5'5" but it is my guess that he is hiding bigger and better things and every girl in the vicinity knows it.

It could also be money. Brandon Davis, Stavros Niarchos, Randy Spelling...the Hollywood trust funders always have cute girlfriends and seem to have plenty of fun. However, I dated a trust funder all through college and beyond. At some point, the aimlessness and sheer pointlessness of a self-centered easy existence began to wear on my psyche. I had to move on to greener (ha) pastures because, like Solomon, it felt like all was vanity.....nothing under the sun mattered.

No, power is the true aphrodisiac. There is nothing sexier or more alluring to me than a man who has power and influence. A man who knows what he wants and can easily get it. A man who exudes confidence and is surrounded by people willing and able to do his bidding. This, more than anything, has been my undoing. I love arrogant men. I love the big boys. And they love me.

This flaw of mine explains why I've spent most of my adult life somewhat alone....physically, emotionally, spiritually. Powerful men rarely have anything else to offer. They are not accessible. They are edgy. They are hostile. They are controlling. Conversations consist of carefully chosen phrases. Sex is a zero sum game. There are always conditions, clauses, opt outs.

I think I've learned a thing or two in the past few years. Real power is not tied to money or political/business influence. True authority lies in the power of one's convictions. A person who is passionate about something, anything really, has power. A person who is clear headed, rational, relational, loving and committed is a change agent. Someone I want to know. Someone I want to be around.

I won't be arm candy (I'm getting too old anyway). I don't give a whit about money or power. I want to associate with real people who have passion. People who are selfless, brilliant, committed, creative. This, more than anything, will bring me to my knees.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Trolls and Dolls

We've all seen it. The beautiful girl on the arm of a troll. A troglodyte. At best, a man who is physically average. We never see the opposite, do we? A gorgeous man paired up with a fat ugly girl. Sometimes there is still a first wife in the picture, pretty average by today's media standards...the high school sweetheart, the smart one, probably athletic, the one with the good DNA. The child-bearing thing can complicate the beauty pursuit significantly. Every man knows that he wants brilliant and competent children. Even his daughters. But once that goal is met, all bets are off. Enter the trophy wife. Arm candy for the insecure man.

Why is this? Let me enlighten you (and I claim expert status here for a variety of reasons). My favorite book (and all-time bestseller) says that man is the glory of God, meaning that man is God's highest achievement, a source of honor and great praise. Well guess what? The Bible also says that woman is the glory of man. Woman, more than anything else, can bring happiness and respectability to a man. That is why the experts say that the happiest people on the planet are married men.

Hooters girls, models, women who are defined by beauty and little else, and whose personalities reflect that, don't make great mates for intelligent evolved men. Besides, outward beauty will undoubtedly fade. Real beauty will not.

I think most men figure this out because statistics show that 80% of second marriages to Marla Maples ultimately fail.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I was holding my little boy (at almost 9, not so little anymore) on my lap the other day and I was looking at his hand. His long fingers, still slightly pudgy, tapering to perfect little fingernails. I took off his sock and looked at his little foot, again with clear beautiful skin and perfect tiny toenails. He, of course, thought I was weird for doing this but my thoughts were, “What if I never got to see this again? What if I could never hold this warm little hand, or look into these lovely clear green eyes? Or touch these sweet adorable freckles?” I’m not sure how I’d ever get my head off the pillow.

I once knew a woman who lost a young child to an accident. She held the toddler in her arms for hours after his death and when the nurses finally insisted that she give up the body she asked if she could undress him so she could look at him one last time. She said she wanted to memorize every inch of him so she’d never forget. Especially his little fingers and toes.

The mothers and fathers in war-torn countries encounter this nightmare every day. They’re forced to live with the horror and the guilt of not having protected their babies from harm. Their children become statistics that are reported to us daily, but, believe me, as a parent I can tell you that a child is not a statistic. Even a grown up child.

Oppose war…any day, any place, any time….It’s not worth it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Confession

Okay, I'm finally ready to admit it. I have penis envy.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Dear Principal

Dear Principal,
I attended the Halloween festivities at school this week and was left afterward with a feeling of sadness because it seemed that the school has lost some of its spirit, maybe a little of its heart. The children were quiet, especially during the classroom parties. The parents and teachers seemed reserved.

It is my impression that you do not respect the fact that our school has long-held traditions. Because it is your first year, you believe that you have a clean slate and will create your own traditions. I completely agree that you should leave your mark on our school. But that will, and should, take a number of years to accomplish. Mrs. Principal, do you know us? Do you know who I am or who my children are? I have had kids in the district for 16 years. My father-in-law was a former superintendent. My mother-in-law a teacher and principal for years. All three of their children were valedictorians! My mother taught for 30 years in our parochial school system. Maybe you should learn our names, even a little more about what we value, before you tell our children that they need to walk with their hands behind their backs and stay quiet in the lunch room. Had there been a problem with lunchroom chaos? With dangerous hands? If so, I had never heard about it.

I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says "Rules without Relationship Lead to Rebellion." I put it there so I would remember that arbitrary rules, rules that don't allow opinions to be respected and honored, even with my own 6 children, will lead to insurrection. It may be subtle or it may be overt, but damage will be done. Respect for authority will be compromised. Institutional authority is generally obeyed, rarely respected.

You have come into our midst and enacted many new laws. You've erased our artwork. You've discontinued our weekly school assembly, changed the recess schedule, altered things in the cafeteria. You've changed our long-held Halloween traditions. My children, in the past, have never expressed a hint of reticence at my directive to load into the car and head off to school. On Tuesday, a parent ran up to me and grabbed my arm. "Is it true you're pulling your kids out of the school? My daughter is so upset." "No," I replied. "Not true at all. I guess it's just wishful thinking." To know that my children are unhappy with their school and are longing for change is upsetting to me. That's why I'm speaking up.

Mrs. Principal, I know feel you were brought in to accomplish a task. I understand that there was a vocal contingent of parents worried about CSAP scores. But let's be brutally honest. Our CSAP scores will not improve until we stop accepting so many out-of-district students. I know this. I spent 8 years at another D-12 school. I know that there is no difference in curriculum. I know that there is no difference in teacher quality or parental involvement. There are, however, fewer kids from other districts. Fewer kids from lower socio-economic classes. I am not advocating that we do this. I like the fact that our school has more diversity than many others in the district. I think it enhances my children's education.

Besides, can you show me a connection between no Halloween masks/no AARFF/no BRAG/no recess/safe hands/quiet lunchrooms/orderly parking and higher test scores? I rather doubt it. Eliminating fun and freedom is not going to solve the "problem." There is, however, a direct connection between socio-economic status and test scores. Truth needs to be on the table before our CSAP scores will increase.

I understand that every authority figure has her detractors. I have found, in my roles as parent, boss, committee chairman, that respect and openness to tradition and to differences of opinion, make an effective leader--a leader who can and will shape the future and, at the same time, preserve the morale and the joy that should be inherent in every elementary school.

I, and certainly other parents, would be happy to meet with you and discuss how we can work together to preserve what we've built over the years and still allow you to accomplish your goals. Please call me if you'd like to set up a time to get together.

Thank you,

Marie Walden

Pot smokers rejoice!

Colorado Amendment 44 would legalize possession of an ounce of marijuana by individuals 21 or older. If it passes, it could be a first step in a long journey toward a rational and effective federal drug policy. It could generate a national debate about drugs, about civil liberties, about lots of important things.

A few days ago, I said to myself, "Oh, Marie. Don't get your hopes up about 44. This is Colorado. This is the land of the God Squad. The permanent homeland for a buttload of Jesus freaks (not the cute hippie-types). The promised land for tens of thousands of self-righteous nimrods (a biblical place, by the way). There is no way in hell that this will pass."

Then, in what can only be defined as an act of divine radicalism, or perhaps it was cosmic libertarianism, Mike Jones happened. And everything changed.

Perhaps this coming Tuesday, as thousands and thousands of the Colorado flock are still wringing their hands and lamenting Chief Ted's vision quest along the straight and narrow path (wink, wink), they'll feel too sheepish (ha! I'm slayin' myself) to pull the little "no" lever. Perhaps at the Holy Spirit's prompting they'll experience a new sense of tolerance, of empathy. The scales will fall from their eyes as they wrestle with the complexity and difficulty and joy and pain and duplicity and faithfulness of fallen humanity. Maybe an ounce of pot won't seem like such a big deal.

Party at my house.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Ted Haggard crucified

If today's bombshell doesn't prove the existence of God, nothing will. Perhaps Pastor Ted should have listened to God's inerrant words a tad more closely. Maybe he should've spent some time memorizing the verse clearly stating that "pride goeth before a fall." Biblically, pride is considered arrogance. And I'd say there is something inherently arrogant about a man who claims to speak for God on a daily basis, to millions of people. Yet this same man can very conveniently ignore many of Jesus' words, you know those that are written in red, like "blessed are the peacemakers..."

Now we find that there may be a whole slew of God's inerrant words that Pastor Ted conveniently ignored. For shame.

I expect to see all of you heathens in church on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

For You

Some days as fierce as a tiger.
Others as fragile as spun sugar.
Some days as close as skin.
Others as distant as Polaris.
Some days an easy stroll down a shaded path.
Others scree and crampons and dangerous crevasses.
You never know.
I never know.
Don't give up on me.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Let the dead bury their dead

I know it's Monday and I should be toiling away at my job, thinking about bringing home a large rasher of bacon, double-checking the kids' Halloween costumes, deciding what to do about the brand new fake fingernails I bit off in a weekend fit of pique.

For some reason I am perseverating on the subject of death, especially the death of a child. I watched an interesting film last year about how Americans handle the dead bodies of their loved ones. I, of course, had never questioned how we do things until I saw this film and realized that we are one of the only cultures that whisks away our corpses, tags 'em, drains 'em, pumps 'em full of some other liquid, gives 'em a bad hairdo, an even worse makeup job, dresses them in their least favorite outfit, sticks them in an incredibly expensive and garish casket and dumps 'em in the ground really really quickly. In short, we turn our dead over to complete strangers, nearly instantaneously, and by the time we lay them to rest, still firmly in the denial phase, they bear no resemblance to the one we've known and loved. We give ourselves no real opportunity to grieve, to come to terms, to "give up" the body and take hold of the spirit.

Other cultures allow the deceased to take up residence in the living room. Propped up, perhaps, in their favorite chair, dressed in their normal clothes. Friends, colleagues, family are able to hang around, to view the body, to hold the hand, stroke the hair, feel the pain and the loss. I understand that after a few days, as the cheeks and eyes have become sunken and there is no sense of life whatsoever, those of us left behind are able to make peace with the fact that this body IS NOT our little boy or girl or father or mother or sister or brother. This is, in fact, a shell. An earthly vessel. We have time to grieve the loss, to let go of the body and embrace the spirit.

Of course, the funeral business, just like the wedding business or any of the other "ritual" businesses that are so ingrained in American culture, doesn't want us to consider anything besides the norm. Five thousand dollar caskets are expected because, after all, we loved Uncle Joe and want only the best for him. What a fucking scam.

Note to anyone who knows and loves me......When I die, please choose a very simple pine casket, perhaps lightly distressed just for effect, dress me in my flannel pajamas, put my hair in pigtails. Give people a few days to come by to look at me, hold my hand, tell me how they've loved me, how they've hated me, whatever they'd like to say.

When everyone has had enough time to comprehend that the body is not me, that I'm waltzing with Jesus, or dirty dancing with Satan, or whatever people do in the afterlife, dump me in a hole that you've all dug together in the back yard. That would make me happy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My Fellow Tribesmen

KILL BUSH? Worry about Karl Rove? Fix Afghanistan? Remove the homeless from public libraries? Wow, you guys have a lot of mental energy! I am starting to feel like maybe I'm not part of the tribe. I'll agree that the world has a few issues, but nothing like the nightmare occurring at Chez Walden right now.

My resident bachelor and I decided recently to spice up our lives by adding some color to the house. We planned to paint three archways in the living and dining rooms in bold colors. After much cajoling by him (I tend to like beiges and grays) and many hours spent at Sherwin-Williams, we settled on Martha Stewart's Old Copper Kettle (kind of a turquoisey thing) and Russet Rose. [A little background info....ever since I explained to the bachelor the ins and outs of "insider trading" and how rich people do it all the time and how retarded it is that it's illegal, he's been slightly obsessed with Martha. He understands the steep price she's paid to appease the common man and is grateful for her selflessness.]

So, we got our supplies and taped everything off and yesterday was paint day. Here's where it starts to get ugly. I was happily painting away, picturing myself in Morocco riding a big sexy camel, when not one but two of my children, at separate times, came up to say, "Cool, Mom. Looks like La Casita." Eeeeeek! Not at all the look I'm going for! Talk about pinking shears through the heart!

So during my day today, instead of traveling to Washington to kill Dubya as I'd planned, I've had to call in my faux finish people, wait for them to arrive and fix the mess that I've created. I'm sorry that I'm letting everyone down. I promise, if George W. shows up at my door I'll give him a good slap, I'll pull his hair. If I'm feeling really plucky, I'll give him an Indian burn. But right now I have to call and cancel the rainbow awning. Mea culpa.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


I sometimes read what I've written the night before and wonder why I have any friends at all. What a bloviator I am. I think that I have Multiple Personality Disorder (which is nothing to be ashamed of, Sybil). I feel like I'm writing from the heart and the next day I wake up, full of hope and good cheer, and I think "Who is this weird, arrogant, angry person who's taken possession of my body and mind?"

The truth is that I have small boobs and a big butt; I'm way too old to be a MILF; I barely make ends meet every month; my hair looks terrible every other day; I love my kids' cute little school and all the lovely and caring teachers that adore my children and tell me as much every chance they get. I'm not overly fond of government control and I don't like the war but, if the truth be known, I don't even hate Dubya nearly as much as I should. I think he's sort of sweet and boyish and he's married to a very nice woman which elevates him in my eyes. He loves his cute daughters and gets along with mom and dad and cares about his siblings....all the things that I strive to engender in my children.

The truth of the matter is that my life is a daily grind, just as yours is. My lofty goal each day is to stay on track, to keep a whole lot of people sane and healthy, to counsel them and love them and instruct them and pray for them. To cook and clean and do laundry and pay bills--to try to work in a little exercise, a little charity work, an occasional shower. My nights are filled with homework and sporting events and bathing, toothbrushing, Halloween never ends. Nor do I want it to.

I am my best self when I am giving to my family, my community, loving my people and my God. It's hard for me to care that much about the war, about poverty, about abortion. I don't have a lot of spare time to think, less even to act. So, late at night, I let my alter ego come out and say whatever she'd like. I get up early to make breakfast and send the kids off to school and when I read what she's written I think to myself, "Please shut up and make me some coffee."

Friday, October 20, 2006

MILFs and the state of public education

Yes, I know. I'm lucky. I was born under a lucky star. I have my health and my wealth. I have a big house, two fantabulous cars, and six exceptional children. I recently won the Filling the Deep End of the Gene Pool award. "Oh my goodness. I am so honored. I'd like to thank the Catholic Church, especially Father Foxhoven for his guidance during my difficult teenage years." I have big boobs, a small butt (think upside down pear), and I'm generally considered a MILF, my daily affirmation. If you don't know what a MILF is then (A) You don't know any high school boys or (B) You don't watch WEEDS.

My point? I am supposedly part of the elite....the people who have NO WORRIES....NO HEARTACHE....GOOD HAIR EVERY DAY. We wake up each morning and weep tears of joy at our good fortune. We drink mimosas before school and feel compassion for those who have less. "God, why? Why, oh why, isn't everyone as blessed as I?"

Speaking of school. I am in a district with an incredible curriculum. We have a college prep program, Gifted and Talented programs, Science and Math Olympiad programs, Music programs, Advanced Placement programs that can get our kids into Stanford quicker than you can say "Will that be MasterCard or Visa?"

So what is my gripe? Well, the Ninth Court of Appeals recently ruled that when we turn our children over to the public school system, we check them at the door. THEY are in charge of MY children. My dynasty. They determine what my children learn, both in and out of the classroom. THEY? Who are they? Do THEY live on my street? Play golf at my country club? WHO THE FUCK ARE THEY?

Here's who they are. THEY are the administrators who allowed a troubled little girl, out-of-district-but-we-do-like-to-be-inclusive, push my perfect baby boy off the top of the slide and break his arm with absolutely no punishment. THEY are the principal who suspended my perfect baby girl for writing a clever cartoon about how girlz can deal with pesky boyz by spraying them with freeze spray and framing and hanging them in the hallway--something about a specific threat against a named individual. THEY are the government fuckheads who make my perfect darlings walk through the halls with "safe hands" clasped behind their backs so they can't threaten anyone. THEY are the counselors who called my children in during my very amicable divorce without my permission to tell them about how uncertain their futures are now that their parents have split up.

I am one of the fortunate individuals who has options. I can move my children to another school within the district. I can change districts. I can move to a private school. I can home school. Actually, I've opted to do several of these over the years. But since I pay my property taxes and abide by the Constitution, I would rather bitch. Bitch about government overstepping its bounds. Bitch about social engineering. Bitch about the NEA. Bitch about revisionist history. Mostly I want to bitch about people--people who control people. The unluckiest people in the world.

Monday, October 16, 2006


Do you remember the good ol' days when we were reckless and free? Unencumbered by good sense and family responsibilities? When we were able to get together with friends on a sunny day, have some hot wings and cold beer, and play a dangerous little game called Jarts? Yard darts, lawn darts, whatever you recall, were steel-tipped weighted mega-darts that one hurled gleefully into the air toward a yellow plastic circle across the yard. It was truly a "team" sport because everyone at the party had to pay close attention to the action to avoid being impaled in the temple. The wayward dart was most likely tossed by the belle de jour in a polka dot sundress (oh! how we laughed!)...the "new girl" once again brought by Ashton Chase, our friend with connections to Chase-Manhattan. Dammit, Ashton. Stop it. Think about us for a change.

We were the only people with a kid at the time...a preschool-aged boy. I know for a fact that one of his fondest childhood memories (oddly, he remembers this in slo-mo) is of 6 adults dropping full beers in unison and racing across the yard to body check him into a fence to save his life. Kind of a boozed up backyard version of Swan Lake. Without the tutus. Well, except for Ashton.

Sadly, they have made the game of Jarts ILLEGAL. I don't know who "they" are. Whose job is it to troll back alleys, looking for young people having fun, and then steal our toys and jump up and down on them in black Gestapo boots while we hold our blankies and our beers and sob aloud at the spectacle? Yes, them. They took our darts and our plastic rings and left us with no way to amuse ourselves.

That's when we starting smoking pot. Dang it! They've got us here too. Not only have they made our harmless little substance illegal, they've made pretty little glass sculptures with rubber hoses and small pieces of very thin paper off limits as well. What a bunch of fuddy duddies. Puh-lease. Let us have our fuuuuunnnnnn! We are functioning members of society, doctors and lawyers and brokers and developers and financial analysts, all of us. Now we can't smoke pot and play jarts in the privacy of our own yards? Well, then we quit. We are all going to go on welfare and stop paying our mortgages and and mowing our useless lawns and wasting our time volunteering with the PTA.

Actually, I have a better idea. I was on eBay this morning trying to buy a set of illegal lawn darts and I noticed that, instead of the $14.99 I remember, a used (vintage) set of crappy darts is going for more than $200 (and are to be used for nostalgic display purposes only). And, pot. Well, we all know what a nice sticky bud of Wowie Maui is going for these days (okay, I've dated myself and revealed that I don't actually smoke pot but I still like it conceptually). Perhaps we should walk away from the rat race and make our fortunes selling reasonably harmless illegal things! Yes! We could each play a role in the family business. I, the CPA, could count the beans and file the tax returns (oh, wait, tax free! ha!). Tad, the broker, could invest the profits and set up retirement accounts for each of us. Ashton, the banker, could fund our start up costs. Betsy, the attorney, could get us out of trouble and Dave and Tim, the doctors, could act as money launderers. Chris, the developer, could find us a place to grow our inventory. The only thing we need is a horticulturalist to help us with the hydroponics. Horticulturalists? Any takers? Why don't we know any horticulturalists? Dang.

Come to think of it, I think we'll start manufacturing and selling yard darts as well. At $200 a pop, it won't take long until we we're ready to retire en masse and move to gentler climes. Sipping mai tais, swimming with dolphins, playing limbo. Just like the good ol' days.

I hope they outlaw beer pong as well. Bora Bora, here we come.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

A rational assessment

A guy friend of mine said to me not long ago, "Even when I'm falling in love I'm still aware of the rational assessment I am making." Really? I'm sure I'm wrong but it seems to me that rational thought and love are polar opposites...unable to understand each other...mortal enemies even. Isn't love supposed to be an affaire de coeur? Isn't the rational mind supposed to be balancing the checkbook in the next room while the heart pursues its passion?

I picture my friend in a hip martini bar clutching a clipboard. He carefully approaches each possible "love recipient" with his Rational Assessment Rubric. On a scale of 1 to 10...Physically fit? 8. Clear skin and decent teeth? 7. Reasonably fashionable? 8. Correct eye color? 9.

Next, the home visit. Good floor plan? 8. Interesting decorative touches and finishes? 6. Acceptable lighting? 9. View? 9.

If the assessment is going well, a document inspection follows. Please provide bank and mutual fund statements for the past three years and any other relevant financial information that might help me make my decision. Hmmm, looks quite good. Yes! I'm in love!

After the initial test is passed, I wonder if the score is adjusted periodically. Uh oh, a little thickening at the waistline. Minus 2. Small inheritance from Aunt Edna. Plus 1. How low do the numbers have to fall before it becomes a rational imperative to fall out of love?

I may be mistaken but I thought love was supposed to be unconditional. I thought that to be loved was to be known and accepted, supported, trusted. I believed that it was as much about giving as receiving. Isn't love supposed to be a sanctuary...a safe haven? This "rational" love feels about as safe as the time I walked on a tightrope drunk in the dark over molten lava (CU-Boulder, 1982 Spring Break). It's something that I might be able to pull off for a minute or two...certainly not for a life time.

I wonder where my concept of love became so twisted. I think it may be traced back to my days spent in parochial school, memorizing Bible passages, learning that a function of the Holy Ghost is to remind us of what we've learned in case we should need it at some point. Maybe that's why I keep waking up with 1 Corinthians 13 on my mind. Love is patient, love is kind....Love does not brag and is not arrogant....does not seek its not provoked...does not take into account a wrong suffered. Love bears all things. Love believes all things. Love endures all things. Love never fails.

I imagine that many, if not most, relationships are based on mutual self-interest. I know that I've been a party to many such relationships myself. Indeed, a very rational assessment is made at the outset. Perhaps all along the way. Maybe every single day. And there's nothing wrong with that if it works for both participants. I think we should call these relationships what they are ... friendships, partnerships, pacts, contracts, arrangements. But I hope you'll agree with me--we should reserve the word love for something more sublime.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


I once had to break up with a perfectly good boyfriend. He was 6'5", 240 pounds, Denver Broncos tight end, straight-A student, fast car, cool apartment....blah, blah. We had dated for two years, discussed marriage and children, a serious deal. But I knew that it was time for me to pull the plug. Why, you ask? Here's the honest truth. He thought the Three Stooges were HILARIOUS.

This may seem a ridiculous reason but, really, when your man is curled up in a fetal position night after night, laughing convulsively at Larry, Curly and Moe, a feeling of separateness, a moat that no drawbridge can span, envelops you and leaves you completely alone, bereft, devoid of vision and hope.

I've often said that my sense of humor has saved me as I've weathered the storms of life. Don't laugh. I'm very serious about this. I think the ability to see irony or absurdity, the ability to be self-effacing, has enabled me to cope with all that has come my way. A sense of humor is more therapeutic to me than Prozac or Valium or crack cocaine (it was only that one time, I swear).

This past weekend I stumbled across VH1's 100 Best Saturday Night Live skits. I think I may be one of the only people on the planet who has watched SNL religiously, season after season, since its inception in 1975. I was in the 8th grade when SNL began. I'm 44 now. In a good year perhaps 30% of the skits could qualify as funny. But those that are change our perspective, change our lives really. Do you remember when the old George Bush overcame the wimp factor to become our 41st president? Do you remember when he drew a line in the sand...daring the Iraqis to mess with the US of A? His approval rating was higher at that time than almost any president in history. Enter Dana Carvey. His affectionate, yet biting, parody of George Bush allowed us all to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Yes, we elected him, we like him....but we have reservations. Na Ga Da...what the hell does that mean?

Now we have president number 43, Dubya. Shit, hell, fuck. Please give us something to laugh about because he's letting us down big time. This war sucks. At least let us mock his laugh. Hehehehe. My goodness, can't we make fun of his fraternity boy demeanor....his inability to speak in complete sentences? If not, how about those daughters of his? Texas girls...tequila-swilling, blow-job-giving hose bags. Well...nothing that I wasn't but who cares? I wasn't in the public eye so too bad presidential daughters!

And Hillary. You went to Wellesley like all smart lesbians do. You could be our next president if only you didn't have cankles! Look it up in the dictionary you'll see a picture of Hillary Clinton's lower leg. Hahahahahahaha! No credibility with me because no differentiation between your calves and ankles! Universal health care?! SHUT THE HELL UP, FATTO!!!

Thank you, Lorne Michaels, for sticking with SNL. Thank you for being politically incorrect (a phrase that didn't even exist back then). You've given wings to a whole new generation of political satirists.....Dennis Miller, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert. We hunger for someone to interpret our global reality. It sucks. But it's funny. Yes, there's terror in the world but there is also laughter, my friends. Tell me that there isn't something humorous about tall skinny Osama hiding in a cave needing dialysis. Poor Osama. Just the name Osama doubles me over. O-S-A-M-A.

Back to you, my Stooge-loving former sweetie pie, I know you married not too long after we parted. I imagine that your wife is beautiful, your children perfect. I picture their prowess on the field, their superiority in the classroom. But mostly I picture grubby hands, erect across the bridges of freckled noses....avoiding the inevitable double eye poke. It's a life that I could never be a part of. Nyuk, nyuk! Woo, woo!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Personality types

You've known me for 25 years and still I am a complete enigma to you? I've slept in your bed, given birth to your children, spent countless evenings watching the Cubs lose, folding laundry, tending house with you. You've known me since I was driving a (very cool I must say) green Camaro in high school. For crying out loud, we've grown up together! We've shared a life that no one else will ever be part of.

You tell me that you loved me, that you poured yourself out for me, bled for me even, and all I see is an aloof and unreasonable dickhead. I'll tell you that I tried to be pretty and intelligent and in control, perfect and accomplished in every way, but you see a tragically flawed and irrational human being. I'm all about a lively battle between the sexes, but this is ridiculous! There must be something else afoot.

Well, here is our long-awaited chance to thank the Junior League. Well-groomed women wearing pearls have taught me something that I will forever remember and appreciate always. It's not about the externals, the things that make us look like a great pair. It's not about how smart we are, or how funny, or how attractive or talented. It's about the inner sanctum...the sacred and holy place that makes us US. It's how we perceive the world, how we process information, what we value.

You are an extrovert. You get energy and inspiration in the presence of other people. I am highly introverted. I may look like the life of the party but I spend three days alone in a closet after a backyard barbeque to re-energize myself.

You are sensory. You feel fantastic after an intense game of yard darts, the sun overhead, the wind at your back...You hike mountains, you pay attention to the outside world. I am intuitive....I live inside my head. I can easily content myself on a blanket alone watching, feeling elated and peaceful...knowing that everyone is having a great time and that this is a lovely slice of life. I'd be the happiest quadriplegic on the unimportant is the sensory to me.

You are a thinker, you follow your head, you're comfortable with the impersonal, the exacting. I am a feeler...I follow my heart, I'm in touch with the personal and the emotional. I cannot divorce myself from the inner life....matters of the heart...the divine. You easily can. Here's the solution, you say. TaDa!

You rely on knowledge and information to make a judgment. You feel a sense of urgency until a decision is made, you like to tie up loose ends. My reality is based on perception, facts be damned! I keep my eyes open and look for alternatives...I am spontaneous and in no hurry to resolve things.

No wonder we can't work it out. We live in the same world, yet it is a world completely apart. We love the same children but view them in very divergent ways. We encounter the same problems yet our solutions are diametrically opposed. On many days, we don't speak the same language at all.

I am an idealist....I'm enthusiastic, loving, giving, spiritual, nurturing, focused on personal journeys and human potential. I have a deep commitment to the positive. You are a are self-controlled, logical, have incredible strength of character and are decisive and autonomous.

Here is the funny part. You need me. You need me to give you vision, to give you wings, to keep you human and relational. And I need keep me grounded, to keep me sane, to appeal to reason and make me strong.

I think we did our best to work things out. We didn't understand each other....we still don't. I've now chosen a new mate. Guess what? He's a lot like you. He's rational and logical but softer and more accessible than you were. At least I hope so. And you've chosen a new mate. She's pretty and kind but more rational and exacting than I am.

So maybe we're wiser. Time will tell, I guess. But I know one thing.....there is no one that I would rather have been linked to for the past 25 years than you. No one that I would rather share parenting duties with than you. My love and respect for you is undiminished. I am incomplete without your guidance and strength. You are still my better half.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gay marriage

Who says gays and lesbians can't marry? Of course they can marry. They absolutely can. They simply have to marry EACH OTHER! C'mon gay men, admit it, a large athletic woman around the house would come in DAMN HANDY! Lawn mowing, house painting, lightbulb changing...not to mention protection from would-be muggers. And you dykes. Fashion advice? Culinary prowess? Feng Shui? Sounds brilliant to me!

Things in the boudoir won't be that thrilling you say? Oh, grow UP! Even straight couples get bored after a year or two. Is sexual incompatibility enough reason to deep six an otherwise beautiful union? I think not.

Surely I jest. Take heart! You've made some headway here. A majority of the American public supports the idea of legal civil unions for gay and lesbian pairs. Civil unions would give you many of the rights and responsibilities associated with traditional marriage. The sticking point seems to be the idea of full-fledged "marriage."

Once again, falling back on my handy Catholic upbringing, I'll shed a bit of light on this. Marriage is considered by many to have spiritual significance in addition to its legal ramifications. To most it is a sacrament which, in Latin, means "something holy." It is a visible sign, in the form of a religious ceremony, of invisible grace--God's protection and favor. Christians, most notably Roman Catholics, believe that all seven sacraments were instituted by Jesus in the New Testament.

True or not, this explains why, according to a recent poll, 54% of Americans favor gay civil unions while only 35% support gay marriage. Most Christians, and fully 84% of Americans identify themselves as Christian while 60% identify as "committed Christian" (the scarier ones) are not going to be easily convinced, if they can EVER be convinced, that God is prepared to confer his special favor on a homosexual union. They are okay if the state confers a little of ITS protection and favor...but God Almighty? NO WAY.

So I'm sorry, gays and lesbians, I know that you would love to feel that God approves of your lifestyle...but asking me to give you a legal/spiritual rite of passage is actually asking for MY approval. There are quite a few who, like me, don't feel comfortable speaking for God. So please don't ask us what he thinks. Take it up with him privately. If he's the God that I think he is, you've got nothing to worry about.

Now, in the spirit of cooperation, I have something to ask of you too. Would you please STOP TALKING about gay marriage already! Especially in an election year. You are scaring people right into the big flabby bosom of the GOP by allowing them to portray the Democratic party as the gay marriage party! The anti-family values party! You're taking the focus off of the war in Iraq, off poverty, off education, race relations, welfare reform, healthcare, global warming...the crazy cowboy in the White House. Let me tell you, the Republicans are lovin' you for it! So please please please take civil unions for the time being and shut the hell up.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Where's Osama?

Shhhh...OMG...You're not gonna BELIEVE this but I think I just found Osama. He or his identical twin, I KID YOU NOT, is sitting on the couch in my basement, eating Cheerios, watching our new plasma TV. My kids have been telling me for the past few weeks that there's a "foreigner" down there but I thought they were talking about mice. We've had a rodent problem as of late and my kids, you know, have a pretty good sense of humor. But holy shit!
EVERYONE STAY CALM. I alerted the authorities over an hour ago. I'm sure they'll be here very soon.
I'm actually pretty excited about this! The $25 million reward is going to come in QUITE HANDY. Especially because the basement smells like a cave now and will certainly need to be fumigated!
Well, okay, I'm starting to worry. I hope the law enforcement officials didn't get into a fender bender or something on the way here. Oh, hello Osama. OSAMA? Where are you going? Osama! No, don't leave yet! How 'bout a waffle or something?
Osaaaaammmmmaaaaa. SHIT.

I feel REALLY sorry for the men at the Department of Home Security, or whatever it's called. This guy is like a modern-day frickin' Houdini. Maybe they should call Dog Chapman. He's probably pretty expensive, what with his own cable TV show and all, but I bet he could get the JOB DONE.

For Osama, we need to bring out the BIG GUNS, you know what I mean?

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11th

You can't find Osama bin Laden? Oh, really? You can't? I'm sorry...I don't mean to come across as skeptical, or pissy, or even downright hostile. But are you sure you're really looking?

According to the ABC docudrama that aired last night, you've had Osama in your grasp several times recently. But suddenly he's become elusive, uncatchable, a superhero the likes of which we've not seen before! He's rich and tall and somewhat fetching really. Wow. How cool. Maybe, just maybe, it might be better for you to keep him "out there"...keep us off balance, frightened.

Why would you do that? Well, let's think. This wouldn't be a power grab, would it? You're infamous for exploiting the American public's fear...expanding the power of the government to save us from casually-defined "enemies." Government entities leap from the tops of tall buildings to protect us. The IRS, one of the most tyrannical organizations on the face of the planet, the bottom quarter of the graduating class clad in red-white-and-blue spandex, has unilateral power to come after anyone, to freeze our assets, to torture us until we bleed...without mercy, without oversight. The Department of Social Services watches over us..."Doc, please, let us know about any broken bones, about any bruises, uncombed hair, cavities."

Now you want to monitor our phone calls, our friendships, our opinions. WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU? I know who you are. You're the frat boy who walked me home from the college party to "protect" me...didn't have anything to do with your agenda, did it? You're the C-average Ivy League fuckers, legacies all! You've used 9/11 to gleefully expand the power of the increase your own personal power. You, of course, know what's right. For you. Bastards! People are slowly, very slowly, figuring you out.

I live a stone's throw from NORAD, the North American Air Defense Command. On 9/11/2001, I had F-16s flying overhead all day long. You know what I feared most? Not Osama and his band of thugs, or wayward planes or nuclear bombs, but George W. hanging out in my back yard "protecting" me. Fuck you, frat rat, swaggering drugstore cowboy, and all of your slight-of-penis asshole friends. Unfortunately for you, I know your kind.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Government surveillance

Last night I was, as I'm sure many of you were, privileged to watch an ABC docudrama about 9/11. We were invited by the ACLU to ponder how we should we respond to such an attack on our precious soil. Let's look in a mirror..let us be reminded of who we are as a nation. Yes, let's! Who are we as a nation? Are we all in agreement here? Were Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson on the same page 'lo those many years ago? Most definitely not!

Jefferson, radical that he was, believed in personal autonomy. He advocated a decentralized government with the majority of power and authority residing with the states and, ultimately, with the individual. Jefferson was fearful of tyranny and was a proponent of personal freedom. Hamilton, on the other hand, favored a strong central that acted in accordance with the interests of the "people" and needed the full faith and support of the American public to thrive. He said that a vast body of powers were to be implied and authorized Congress to "make all laws that shall be necessary and proper" to carry out powers specifically "national security."
Can you guess who prevailed? It's obvious that we live in a Hamiltonian society, rife with rhetoric and hyperbole, where the government "protects" us and is willing and able to trample individual freedoms on a daily basis. Why? Because they can! Because we let them! We've asked them to!

The frat boys in Washington are drawing upon Hamiltonian principles in the wake of the attacks of 9/11...they watch us, they engage in racial and political profiling...they imprison American citizens without due process...they make new laws every day that restrict our civil liberties. Why? Because they are fighting the "war on terror" and what they are doing is, of course, both necessary and proper.

Well, thank you very little. Don't forget that every new law designed to "protect" us, every new rule enacted by our chums in D.C., comes with a price...our personal freedom. Are we safer now? I don't feel it at all.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Our prison system

Returning home from Aspen recently, I drove by the state correctional facility in Buena Vista. My blood sugar was a bit low at the time and I had an epiphany of epic proportions. The individuals incarcerated in those ugly buildings aren't criminals. No, not at all. They are simply victims of POOR NUTRITION! Show me a man who ate lots of Wonder Bread as a kid and I'll show you a serial killer. Too much soda pop and Mike and Ike's? A bank robber. Not enough cruciferous vegetables? Most likely a white collar criminal. Show me a young girl who doesn't get her full complement of leafy greens and I'll show you a young girl who has a lot of speeding tickets. And cake eaters? Well, I haven't been able to discover a direct crime link but I think we all agree that they are, by and large, angry and annoying people.

WHAT? Yes! Trust me on this. It's all about brain chemistry. It's about neurotransmitters, chemical substances that cause our brains and our bodies to feel good and function normally. It's about serotonin and epinephrine and dopamine and adrenaline. They regulate our moods, our thoughts, our sleep, our impulses. When certain substances are in short supply or are overabundant, it is IMPOSSIBLE to be a decent human being. Frequently, those that we lock up are drug addicts and alcoholics. Why? They are self-medicating! They know that they don't feel quite right, and they are trying to fix the problem. But it's not the right solution.

So how DO we stay healthy and happy? PROPER NUTRITION AND EXERCISE! This leads me to my proposal. Instead of incarcerating individuals who perpetuate wrongs on the American public, let's send them to nutritional camps. They can eat the proper foods, get moderate cardiovascular exercise, lots of quality sleep. . .maybe we'll even throw in a couple days of weight training. As a special treat, probably on Sundays, we'll bring in a cute Pilates instructor so they can work on their core strength and develop flexibility.

Of course, the retards at the FDA can't be in charge of my revolutionary program. They, after all, are the douche bags that gave us the food pyramid. Nor can any nutritionist who graduated from the General Mills College of Bullshit (it's everyone's alma mater. . .ask 'em). No. I'm going to call my friends, Dr. Julian Whitaker and Dr. David Williams, the most awesome health gurus in the country. They can come up with a diet that includes freshly-milled whole grain products, raw organic produce, hormone-free lean proteins, and lots of distilled water. I'll call Kathy Smith to put together an exercise program. THE FIRM can be in charge of the weight training. We'll get these "criminals" put back together in no time flat! We'll educate the heck out of them and when they've completed the program we'll drop them off at the local Whole Foods market with a couple of crisp $20s. The 400 employees of the prison (a career choice, by the way, which is also closely related to a paucity of necessary neurotransmitters) can run the program, under close supervision.

If you really think about it, you know I'm right. You know that certain foods make you feel great, others not so much. You know that a lack of sleep can leave you unable to cope with the stresses of the day. A nice hike on a beautiful afternoon is a fantastic tension buster. Shouldn't we give these people a chance to experience all that life has to offer? Is it really their fault that no one taught them how to stay sane and healthy? I think not. I think they are victims.

Most days I'm just one Hostess HoHo away from committing an unthinkable act. There, but by the grace of God, and the power of sensible nutrition and moderate exercise, go I.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Private philanthropy

I was recently introduced to a young couple, both 21 years old, proud parents of a month-old baby. They live in low-income housing, dad works a joe job. . .mom stays home, no friends or family nearby, to take care of baby.

Is this an untenable situation? YOU BET IT IS! American society requires that we become rugged individualists. . .nuclear families reign supreme and exist in a vacuum of our own making. In the days of yore, mother/grandmother/sister were omnipresent. . .helping with practical matters but, more importantly, providing guidance and wisdom and support in navigating life's tricky waters. WHERE IS MY RED TENT?

Wanna make a difference? We have lots of opportunities. We can bankroll large ventures that help people help themselves. We can write and protest and travel the world looking for the downtrodden. . .hoping to shine some light on injustice.

But another option is to look a bit closer to home. Speak some kind words, bring a dinner, offer to babysit, share your experiences, your wealth, your time. I BELIEVE in private philanthropy. I believe that anyone who comes across my path presents a challenge to me, an opportunity for me. Maybe it's all my years spent in uniform as a Catholic girl but an old song keeps playing in my head. "All that I am. All that I do. All that I'll ever have I offer now to you."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Have you ever noticed how easy it is to be a wise parent--as long as you don't actually have kids?