Monday, December 31, 2007

My big fat Brazilian resolution

I try every year to make meaningful New Year resolutions. Eat better. Exercise more. Be more pleasant. This year I decided to, in the soon-to-be-immortal words of Dr. Phil, get real. The truth is that none of those things matter that much. At least not if you possess a working... hmmm...which word to choose...there are so many...okay, I've decided. Snatch.

First a detour to explain the word choice. I think I gravitate to this particular word because of its versatility. It is, unlike most other terms for the female naughty bits, both a noun and a verb. We don't hear our children yell, "Mom! Sister beavered the remote right out of my hand!" or our friends say, "And that dang bear twatted our steaks right off the picnic table!" No, snatch has complexity and a variety of uses, just like its namesake.

Okay...back to the resolutions. I am sort of a pop culture fanatic. Especially when it comes to current fashion trends. Since I live in Colorado Springs, not known for its edgy style, I rely on the likes of Britney and Paris to inform me about bikini haute couture. Based on the limited exposure they kindly provided, I resolved that 2008 would be the year to go bare bare bare.

After several weeks of research, I took the necessary steps and attained quite a stellar result. But I discovered, with great dismay, that after a couple of days my prize-winning pet had developed what felt like a trucker's three-day stubble. Instead of languishing under my silky sheets as I'd been doing, I now lay awake at night anticipating with trepidation the moment my sweetheart, in a half-conscious state, reaches for me, startles awake and leaps from the bed in horror. Or worse, contentedly murmurs "Ohhhh, Uncle Eddddd."

My new resolutions for 2008 are to eat better, exercise more, and be more pleasant. But mostly I resolve to leave well enough alone.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wanderlust and Lipstick

Today I began to write for Wanderlust and Lipstick. It's a site geared toward solo female travelers, which I hope to be when I grow up. As long as Eric can come along.

My blog there is called Culture Chakra.

Check it out if you're so inclined!


Saturday, December 29, 2007

I had a blue Christmas without you

I felt more than a bit empty around Christmas this year. For the first time it seemed completely devoid of meaning. No one believes in God. No one believes in Santa. There's nothing particularly thrilling to give or get. There's just an obligation to pour money into the pockets of corporate pricks and fill our houses with crap none of us needs, or even really wants.

I remember Christmas as magical. But, as I reflect on my childhood, the magic of the holiday was closely tied to religious ritual. Coming into church on a Sunday soon after Thanksgiving, back when Christmas lights didn't begin showing up by Halloween and could still be cause for celebration, we'd find the Advent wreath suspended from the rafters. Oh, yes! Christmas is coming! The three purple candles, a pink one for the third Sunday of Advent, a white candle for Christmas Eve. Each candle with its own story and symbolic meaning.

The beautiful haunting Christmas carols. O Come O Come, Emmanuel was my favorite. It still gives me goosebumps. The nativity display. The Christmas story with its shepherds and wise men and camels and bright stars and inns and stables and mangers and gold, frankincense and myrrh. Oh my! I just loved it all.

My poor darling children have none of this, thanks to me. I, like many of my generation, have largely rejected organized religion. Unfortunately, I now understand hypocrisy and oppression and believe that the church is guilty of all the sins it forbids. But what do we do about our spiritual longings? How do we find meaning and impart that meaning to our children who are daily bombarded with despicable messages from our commercialized world? For meaning surely does exist.

I am at a loss when it comes to recreating Christmas magic without a little baby Jesus to help me. And I can't just pull him out of a box in the attic and blow the dust off of him so he can lay in his manger Christmas morning. My parents did this, and it was okay, because we knew all about him, every day of every year, so it didn't smack of phoniness like it does when I try to bring him into the Christmas mix.

I have no answers. My children sense my sadness around Christmas, and they know it has something to do with religion. But it doesn't really. It has to do with meaning, significance, all things lofty and sublime. It has to do with my remembered feelings of joy and sheer awe at the birth of the Savior. It's the Christmas spirit that, without a miracle, my children will never know.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Getting high with Darwin and Keynes

The war on drugs. Oh yes, it's a nasty endless little war, one that's filling our prisons with small-time users/entrepreneurs and costing the taxpayers billions. It's a war that hasn't helped our poor addicted countrymen one iota, and it's a war for which win-happy Bush has not yet declared victory. But neither has he hung his head in defeat, which he certainly should.

The DEA bigwigs ought to be lamenting the indisputable fact that its decades-long fight against drugs is not working. In fact, it's making things worse. After spending more than six billion dollars to cripple the Medellin and Cali cartels, the IBM and General Motors of the drug industry, cocaine production and trafficking in Colombia has actually increased. Hundreds of smaller and more efficient cartels have filled the void left by the blue chip cartels, kind of like the explosion, except the brilliant, creative, innovators happen to run drugs. And the DEA hasn't a clue who they are or how to stop them.

The war on drugs has penalized and incarcerated thousands of small-time drug dealers/users, the weak and dumb, the poor souls who would never be counted among the fittest in a Darwinian assessment. Years of artificial selection have given rise to the super drug-dealer, the one who, like the virulent bacteria that have arisen from overuse of antibiotics, is more efficient, more cunning, more innovative and much more difficult to eradicate. How can politicians hope to win a war with a strategy that ensures that only the most efficient and creative drug traffickers survive?

The relentless persecution of small-time drug dealers has decreased the supply of drugs on our streets. I suppose this can be seen as a good thing. However, the demand remains. Thus, according to accepted economic theory, interdiction has supported higher prices for the super dealers and provided incentive for more traffickers to enter the drug economy.

Alas, the war on drugs has been a complete waste of time and money. It's time for the DEA to huddle in the war room and come up with a new strategic plan. They should bring in some new generals, hopefully with public health backgrounds. They might even want to get off their moral steeds and decriminalize recreational drug use, thereby decreasing the demand for illegal drugs. They might decide to throw their allotted resources at dangerous criminals and our underlying social problems and let the small-time stoners be. That is if success is truly their goal.

After all, wouldn't it make sense to address the underlying demand for drugs? Shouldn't the DEA stop focusing on supply and address the unchanged demand for illicit drugs? Of course, this would mean funding public health initiatives and educational programs which are not nearly as fun as fighting a war against cagey dark-skinned enemies in exotic foreign locales. No, the men in suits aren't really interested in giving up their fat federal budgets in order to win the struggle against drug abuse. The war is too much fun.

So we will keep building expensive prisons and filling them disproportionately with people of color, too poor to make waves. We'll keep propping up the super-drug dealers we've created. We'll ask Congress for $1.4 billion to fight the drug-crazed Mexicans from Merida, the enemy du jour. And we'll rejoice that, as is true for all of our wars, there is no end in sight.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir's murder, a matter of when

It's tragic that Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today. There is rampant speculation about who did it and why. But largely missing from the analyses I've read is the possibility that the nation of Pakistan, the Islamic nation of Pakistan, a nation that recently gave Osama bin Laden a 46% approval rating, simply didn't want a high-born, Western-educated, secularist woman in a position of power in their country. A woman who has twice been removed from office on corruption charges and whose father was branded an enemy of Islam and executed in 1979.

We can pretend that it's an oppressive regime we oppose and that the Pakistani people are longing for freedom and equality as we've defined it. In actuality, our quarrel is with the Pakistanis themselves, at least half of whom would institutionalize Islamic fundamentalism and call it freedom. Pakistanis who would love to be free of Western influence, be it cultural or political. Pakistanis who want to practice their religion and define their values without interference from outsiders.

The world does not want our electronics, nor our cars, nor much of anything we have to offer. Why do we insist that the world want our democracy? Clearly it doesn't.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The war on war

This is your president.

This is your president on drugs.

Any questions?

Brought to you by the Partnership for a War-free America


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Make orgasm, not wargasm

Orgasm and the sense of well-being it brings - how would the planet be if it felt that good? Couldn't that be one definition of Peace? Practice visualizing the planet experiencing the afterglow of a rousing orgasm and taking a break from the violence and despair that infects our daily existence.

What if this group effort was timed perfectly with the solstice and the funky energy surge it brings? Could that help move humankind off its sure path to self-destruction?

According to researchers at Princeton University working on the Global Consciousness Project, nearly ten years of data collected from random event generators indicate that "when millions of us share intentions and emotions the network shows correlations." Recent studies have shown that there is indeed power in prayer. It would make sense that there would be similar power that could be released through collective orgasm.

I invite you to join me in a Global Orgasm for Peace. Hopefully worldwide orgiastic energy combined with a mindful intention for peace (no dreaming of scantily-clad nymphets or bruiser beefcake---peace, not piece, should be the focus) could reduce global levels of violence, hatred and fear. We, for a brief spell, could join in a vast post-orgasm group spoon and change the course of human history.

Saturday, December 22 at 06:08 GMT is the appointed time for the Global OooooAaahhhOh. That's FRIDAY the 21st at 11:08 p.m. for those of us in Colorado. Women, you may want to practice a little beforehand to get the timing down. Men, I'm sure you've got a handle on it already. And remember, the intention is peace. Think peace. Wish for peace. Come for peace.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Blog advertising

Recently I put an AdSense widget on my blog so that I could possibly hook into an audience of readers. Don't get me wrong. I love the dear-diary-for-my-eyes-only nature of this blog. I can write anything I want to without fear of offending anyone, which is nice.

I've had plenty of fun looking at the ads that appear after I make a new post. After posting The Tao of Marie, ads promoting cutting-edge nutrition appeared. I'm guessing that the word tryptophan put me into the "appeals to health nuts" category.

I noticed another change after posting I'll keep my Old Life, thanks, which was a scathing indictment of the rigid evangelical Christianity that would lead a young man to embark on a murderous spree. Suddenly I had ads promoting GodTube and beautiful young Christian singles networks.

Next I posted She's a real doll. Sure enough. Ads for mail order brides and sex toys appeared. After pulling the blog for some re-vamping, I am back to the Christian ads.

Gentle readers (hi mom! hi Sue! hi Martina!), if you see strange words that don't seem to fit in future posts, know that it's just me amusing myself at AdSense' expense.

varicose veins

Sunday, December 16, 2007

She's a real doll

Realdolls come ready to step out of their steamer trunk
Over the weekend I saw Lars and the Real Girl, a strange but funny movie about a mentally-ill introvert who, much to his concerned family's delight, finds a "girlfriend" on the internet . The girlfriend, Bianca, it turns out, is actually a Real Doll, a life-sized anatomically correct silicone woman, created by Abyss Creations in California and sold for upwards of $10,000. The entire community sweetly honors the "relationship" while Lars works through deep psychological issues resulting from his mother's death at his birth.

The brilliance of the movie is that it causes us to gain an uneasy acceptance of something that would otherwise seem perverse and completely laughable. Yet Lars is not, by any stretch, a normal guy, so our acceptance is tenuous. What type of real man is satisfied substituting a silicone representation of a woman for an actual relationship? Abyss Creations has sold thousands of Real Dolls and has an order backlog even as we speak. So who is purchasing these things? Maybe the same man who leaves his wife sleeping upstairs while spending hours looking at internet pornography? The guy who can't handle the complexities of a real relationship with a flesh and blood female?

At the core, Real Dolls and pornography appeal to the same man. Both give the illusion of love--a travesty of love--created for poorly mothered or often-rejected men. For once these men have control over the omnipotent feminine. The unattainable girl. The instrument of rejection. That intense and infantile vulnerability to the female is turned on its head. The female is now submissive, expendable, interchangeable. Performing for you! Wanting only you! Loving only you!

Ryan Gosling, Lars from the movie, is quite charitable in his assessment of the men who own Real Dolls. "There's a whole culture of guys out there who have these dolls, and they have very intimate relationships with them. Part of it is sexual, but a lot of it is emotional. One guy goes hang gliding, and he takes his doll to watch, so that he has someone to support him in the things that he likes to do. Some guys cook with them and have dinners; they're part of the fabric of their life. So, all of this is possible. … I think it's a romantic idea, that love's not a transaction. It's something you have to give, and you give it freely to whoever and whatever you want."

Okay, I can't disagree. It's plenty romantic. Objectification of women is the epitome of romance. In fact, it's the definition of artistic work that deals with sexual love, especially in an idealized idealized form like a silicone doll or a stylized airbrushed photograph.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Oh hell, now they want a picture of him

The family of Matthew Murray released this picture, taken in 1998, today.

It's about time really. Am I the only one who found it odd that after five days there was only one crappy photo of him circulating? And now the only picture the family can find is nearly ten years old?

Such a well-loved son.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Matthew Murray: ABOUT ME

Abused and tormented by christians for many years growing up in christianity.

Christians, if you want to preach/witness to me, please keep in mind: I know all the apologetics stuff, all the evangelism and pentecostal stuff. I was forced to memorize bible verses 5 days a week growing up 11 years in christian homeschool.

I was involved with and taught the ideas of C. Peter Wagner, Mike Bickle, Bill Gothard, and many others. I went to all kinds of fundamentalist/pentecostal/evangelical bible studies, conferences, prayer meetings, and even a missionary school/ministry called Youth With A Mission Denver. Of course, LOTS of hypocrisy and NO REAL love to be found at YWAM Denver.

I know the bible better than most christian pastors. Oh, and I've already been baptized, received "the baptism of the holy spirit," spoken in tongues and all those other games christians love to play. I've lived the christian life, did all the faith stuff, confessions of faith, the baptism stuff, the prayer stuff, and all the rule stuff. If I'm not changed, well, it ain't my fault. I did my part of the deal.

Christians thought they could get away with abusing me and others, they thought the Truth and Light would never be found out. They were wrong. Even though many christians have tried to oppress and control the lives of many, even though many christians serving darkness have tried to carry on their fascist agenda of bigotry, intolerance, tyranny, and hatred, the Light ever shines, even in the darkness though the darkness comprehendeth it not.

The Light is available for all who have eyes to see.

I'll keep my Old Life, thanks

Another tragedy has befallen New Life Church. This time the perpetrator is not a gay male prostitute. No, Matthew Murray is one of their own. The son of devout Christians and a former member of Youth with a Mission.

As is the norm for evangelicals, the story is being presented in the limited language of Christian-ese. "Ms. Assam, as you were advancing toward the gunman firing repeatedly, what was going through your mind?" "I was thinking how awesome and powerful God is, and how happy I am that I was his chosen instrument." Okaaay.

Let's try again. "Why would a young man raised by devoted Christian parents feel such hatred toward fellow believers?" Permit me to improvise here. Matthew Murray hated Christians because sin had gained a foothold in his life. Or because he didn't have Jesus in his heart. Maybe he didn't actually have a personal relationship with the Lord. Perhaps he was being assailed by Satan and his minions, caught in his own private Armageddon.

I have a thought. Maybe Matthew Murray despised Christians because he'd been isolated from his peers and home schooled (brainwashed) by them. Obviously he was experiencing some emotional turmoil, a common thing really, but instead of being heard, or being helped, he was expected to trust in the Lord because, after all, His ways are higher than our ways. As a young man, when his God-given inclination was to find his separate identity and partake in some earthly delights, he was expected to be a youth with a mission. Go to the ends of the earth and spread the good news of our Lord!

One spin I'm sure we won't hear coming out of Christian mouths in the coming days is the possibility that, like Hurricane Katrina and the AIDS epidemic, the shootings represented God's wrath being poured out on people who claim to know him, to speak for him; people who oppress and repress and judge in his name. There will be no one uttering what many of us in Colorado Springs are thinking. Perhaps Matthew Murray was God's chosen instrument.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday gift ideas for the Mango

I suppose this wouldn't
do much good
for a stomach
sleeper like me.

At least I wouldn't leave it on the airplane.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Adventure travel for the rational soul

Once my husband asked me, out of the wild blue, "You've never fallen have you?" I could honestly reply, "Not that I remember." He howled with laughter at this admission, and somehow I felt offended.

The implied message was that I was not adventurous. Not true! I crave adventure. Especially when it involves travel. I love to stray from the beaten path. A hike in the backcountry, a night under the vibrant desert sky, an unparalled vista from a craggy mountaintop. But, I will admit, I’d rather experience nature’s bounty without danger, or pain, or extreme discomfort. My conscious mind wants to push the limits, to know the unknowable, to live the life of a trailblazer. But at some limbic level I am deeply concerned with survival, and with the avoidance of abrasions, lacerations and fractures. And, yes, I fear falling.

Over the years I’ve accepted this inner paradox. I may not possess the athletic ability and irrational courage of a true adrenaline junkie, but I can certainly pretend that I do. I can go where the fearless go. I can dress as the fearless dress. I can be an adventure poseur!

My debut was in the jock nirvana that is Utah. First stop, Moab. My friends and I checked into the gecko-bedecked Gonzo Inn. While the clerk chirped happily about the wonders of the area, I managed to throw a weary "I can't wait to pop a cold one after that!" look at the sweaty spandex-clad cadre of males peppering the lobby. I basked in the sunshine of their rueful empathic grins.

After a quick glass of wine, the girls and I headed out to find dinner. We sat on the patio of a well-populated Italian restaurant outfitted, of course, in proper adventure girl attire. We wore headbands to indicate that some serious sweating may have recently taken place.

The next morning we made our way to Slickrock at high noon which, we later read in our guidebook, was ill-advised. I viewed this tactical error as impressive evidence that we, unlike the many who had already left the parking lot, were impervious to nature’s arrows.

I was prepared to tackle the twenty-mile practice loop. I had not anticipated, however, that one tire or another would be off the ground much of the time. Within a hundred yards of our starting point, I could feel tears threatening to spatter my new Oakleys. My already-perspiring chums noticed my angst, my crumbling countenance, and suggested that we bail. I may have heard something akin to relief in their voices, but I was still grateful for the rescue. After videotaping one another cycling over the hill on the final stretch, we headed unscathed on to Bryce.

I have played the adventure poseur many times since Moab. Havasu Falls, the Inca Trail, Waimea Canyon, Iguazu, Yosemite. Mules have come in handy more times than I care to admit. Helicopters only rarely. But after each heady experience, I am a little less an actress and a bit more an authentic adventurer.

Perhaps I am not the most intrepid soul. Still, I have seen the sights. I have taken the pictures. My memories are golden and precious. And I can proudly admit that no, I've never fallen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Affair

My lover is having an affair. In our own house. Night after night I am alone in bed, hugging a tear-stained pillow, wanting to talk, longing to be held. As I head upstairs I look over at him, hunched over his paramour, enraptured, and I say, "I'm going to bed now."
"Yuh," he grunts.
"I hope you'll join me soon," I beseech him, casting away any remaining pride.
"Yuh," he responds without looking up.

When it's nearly dawn I hear him slink into our bedroom, like a cur, head down, ears back, a little foam around the mouth. Of course he showers before getting into bed, erasing any lingering scent of Lulu. French whore! Does he think I don't know? What exactly is the lure? I don't get it.

We were at a mall recently and I noticed that he was shopping for her, right in front of me. "This red one would look beautiful on her, wouldn't it?" he asked me. He tenderly fingered the quilted material, wishing to dress, and then undress her. I recall the last article of clothing he bought her, a little black dress. He put it on her and the two of them existed only for one another, impervious even to the sun, cooing and touching and laughing.

I suppose I deserve this. I remember not long ago when I was the intruder, the muse. Day and night my lover and I sat together, holding hands, besotted. He listened to my every word, looked deeply into my eyes, hoping to win me, to possess me, to touch me. I remember Lulu sitting there on the desk. Dust-covered, pathetic, lonely. I think I even wrote my name across her screen in a brazen act of superiority. Maybe it was insecurity. Maybe I knew even then that it couldn't last.

How happy you must be, Lulu, to have him back. He never leaves home without taking you. His thoughts are never far from you. How adored you must feel. Oh, I am envious of your position.

I'll bet you're smarter now. Maybe even a little jaded. You'll never feel entirely secure again, will you, Lulu? You'll always hold back a little, protect yourself just a bit. You know how it feels to be cast aside, if only for a moment.

I think it's time for me to understand and accept my fate. I've lost my sweetheart to an enticing French pomme. But I shan't linger in my misery! I shall grieve my loss and look to the future. I will head to a nearby computer store and buy the biggest, blackest, most rigid tower I can find....I will install it in my bedroom and I will name it Pierre. He will have eyes for me alone.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Transformative Power of Gaming

It's a family tradition to find the best new board game each Christmas. I'm not talking about inexpensive games that can be found at Target. No, these games usually come from a specialty game store, the type of place that regular people either don't know about or don't make a priority to visit.

This tradition was not actually my idea. In keeping with my family's quiet nature, I grew up playing genteel games that required the quiet participation of only one or two others. Scrabble, checkers and chess, backgammon. Yahtzee was about as wild as my family got. Crossword puzzles are to this day my preferred method of keeping my neural pathways open.

No, the love of gaming came from Dave's side of the family. One cannot walk into Walden-ville without being invited to play at something. Bocce ball, croquet, volleyball, badminton, yard darts, and horseshoes are de rigueur every summer. One chilly day, itching to game but hindered by the inclement weather, the Walden men built a custom cornhole platform, while we girls spent the afternoon filling hand-sewn beanbags with corn kernels.

In winter months we play Monopoly, Skittles, Scattergories...board games too numerous to mention really. And cards. Oh do we play cards. Once I asked my kids if Grandpa had introduced them to poker yet. 5-year-old Devon said, in her delicate voice, "Only Seven Card Stud and Texas Hold 'em." You get the picture.

Every now and then we stumble upon a game that even I enjoy, like Guesstures. Guesstures is a timed charades game, and I like it because it leads usually dignified people to do things that you have never, no matter how long you have known them, my entire life in the case of my dad, seen them do before.

When Dave and I split up he took most of the games, without a peep of objection from me. He furnished his basement with only tables. Pool, ping pong, foosball, air hockey. He called this newly acquired freedom "the silver lining of divorce."

At least once a week Dave holds game night for the kids. Attendance is not optional. Initially I thought forced gaming to be a bit heavy handed. Recently, weary from battling daily pleas for video gaming, iPod listening, online chatting and other isolating electronic pursuits, I've revised my opinion. It is time for me to jump aboard the train. I've informed the kids that Santa will not be bringing anything electronic this year. And I've borrowed Guesstures from Dave's treasure trove of fun and frivolity.

Devon, Lara, Eric and I played last night, until the wee hours. And today we tired girls are smiling at the recently-created memory of Eric, 6'4" newbie gamer Eric, doing things we have NEVER seen, or even imagined, him doing.

Friday night we play for keeps.

Friday, November 30, 2007

It can't have been a decade already

November 30, 1997

The Denver Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers 38-28 on the way to Elway's first
Superbowl victory.

I looked like this, packing 11 pounds of baby, and gamely waited until victory was in hand to utter, with a crampy grimace, "I think we should go."

At 12:25 and 12:27 a.m. on December 1st, Devon and Ryan were born, making the family Christmas card with only days to spare.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Devon!

Happy Birthday, Sweet Ryan!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Suddenly I love geometry...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Life is an epiphany

Once when I was twelve or so, my sisters and I bought my mother a birthday present. We found it at Spencer's, a store full of black lights and glow-in-the-dark posters, lava lamps, hanging beads. To our young minds Spencer's held every groovy thing the 70s had to offer and we could not wait to present our gift to Mom.

I remember with crystal clarity the look on her face when she opened the box. The sidelong glance that she gave my father, who turned away at that moment, the apparent victim of a coughing fit. I knew there was something that I didn't understand and I thought about it for a long time after.

I remember another adult joke from my wonder years. People would see my siblings and me with our parents and would exclaim various things about us. Suzy's red hair and fair complexion! Jim's bright blue eyes and olive skin! My blond curls and, well, just that usually. They would follow up these spirited observations with the same question, "Are they all YOURS?" To which my dad would reply, while pointing at us, "The postman, the milkman..." My bubushka-clad mom would then hit him on the arm with her leather gloves and say "Milty!" which was his name. Everyone would laugh and we would continue on our way.

I never understood why my father pointed at me and said "the milkman" so often. What did that even mean? What was a milkman? Shouldn't I be a milkgirl?

Yesterday my brother sent me some old family photos that he had digitized. And I finally understood.

By the way, the gift for Mother was an adorable grinning egg in a nest. The sign underneath said "You'd smile too if you'd just been laid!"

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Tao of Marie

I read yesterday's post and decided that I'd had too much turkey, too much tryptophan actually, to have sufficient mental clarity to properly opine on the divine. Today I possess mental acuity thanks, in part, to the fact I have yet to break my overnight fast. The turkey omelet must wait while I wax philosophic about health and wellness for a spell.

Scientists search, a bit like pigs after truffles, for cures to heal us. Doctors prescribe drugs to relieve us. Cosmetic manufacturers create creams and gels and shampoos to give us a healthy glow. Dieticians create programs to slim us down, bulk us up, bolster our energy, keep us young. Mostly they make us poor and depress us. The diet industry alone took in more than $50 billion last year but has, get this, a 95% failure rate! What the hell? Why aren't these people in jail?

If the divine can be bothered to dwell within us, doesn't it make sense that all we seek might possibly reside there too? Why do we allow lesser mortals to define our highest and best? If the path to enlightenment is one we walk alone, the road to self-actualization is simply the other lane. The time spent hunting for essential oils would be better spent looking for the essential self.

I cannot, for a minute, separate my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves and still feel a sense of well-being and balance. Perhaps I am particularly sensitive in this area. Perhaps the essential "I" is a tightly-woven braid that feels mussed at the slightest breeze. Actually, I think the popularity of Bo Derek's terrible movie 10 was a collective recognition of our inner corn rows. Perhaps you are pig tails or a pony tail or a big tangled mane. Perhaps you can stand in the midst of a cyclone and feel unruffled and focused. Maybe you even enjoy the wind in your hair because, after all, it is still hair no matter the form. But a braid does not have this luxury.

I am not mentally healthy when I am not physically sound. My thoughts scatter, if I can be bothered to think at all. To me, a rational and precise thinker, this does not feel right, or safe. I am emotionally fragile when I don't have the support of my other strands. When I can't think clearly, or I don't feel physically healthy, I am a mess. Once, only once, I had what, in retrospect, was a migraine headache. I laid face down on the couch and sobbed, aloud, until it went away.

I am a hairy wisp of a girl in every way. Only when I am integrated can I feel the power of my inner braid. As if this necessary tidiness wasn't difficult enough to maintain, there seems to be a power struggle within my strands. The physical strand determines the hairstyle. This is not a rational choice that I have made. It seems to have little to do with my conscious self. But from experience I know that if the physical strand feels powerful and centered, I am free to play with the other strands.

Psychologists have affirmed that this is the case for many. The physical is the lowest rung on Maslow's ladder. It is primitive. A beast that must be pacified. Woe to the other strands if the physical isn't happy. Only when I am pregnant can I let my hair down, let the strands commingle, and still feel whole. Maybe it is because I am sharing my body with another human being in an vital way, maintaining health my highest purpose, that the physical knows its importance and loosens its grip on the other strands. Or maybe it's hormones or other biochemicals manifesting their influence. They are, after all, the scrunchie of the essential I. Without their cooperation, there is no braid. And they know it.

Human beings are unique. We each have different power structures, styles, desires, needs. We've encountered different weather conditions and live in different climates. If we want to know what our particular hairstyle is, and how it's faring these days, we don't need to look at a magazine or a television or even at our friends and family. No, to ascertain the condition of the hairstyle, the true self, the essential I, we need only natural light and a hand-held mirror.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ghosts of Thanksgiving Past

I was obsessed with Bernadette Soubirous when I was a Catholic schoolgirl. You'll recall, or perhaps you won't, that the Mother of God appeared to Bernadette at Lourdes in 1858. Or so Bernadette claimed.

Filled with unbelief and not wishing to delude the gullible faithful, the church hierarchy convened a Council of Enquiry to check out Bern's story. Oh how the Bishop wrestled with his monumental burden!
"But if Bernadette does not want to deceive, was she not deceived herself? How could she believe to see and hear what she did not see and hear? Was she not the victim of hallucinations? How could we believe her? The wisdom of her answers reveals in this child a spirit of goodness, a quiet imagination, good sense beyond her years. Religious feelings never showed in her a spirit of exhalation; nobody could prove in the young girl neither intellectual disorder, nor change of mind nor unusual personality nor morbid feelings which would allow her to give way to a creative imagination."

The Bishop of Tarbus, after only four years' deliberation, decided that Bernadette was worthy and the people were given permission to believe her. The divine presence revealed, because of the moral purity of one young girl. Hmmmmm.

Upon hearing this story as a ten-year-old I determined to be the next Bernadette. I was certain I could be as holy and pious as she was. I secreted myself in my room at night and quietly recited the rosary, lingering over the Hail Marys. Surely the Blessed Virgin would take notice of my glow-in-the-dark rosary beads and appear to me as I lay in my little bed. I worried about my response. Should I feign surprise? Perhaps a sense of peaceful recognition? What if she expected tears of joy? Would I be able to produce them without delay? What if she appeared and my acting was deemed inferior? What would happen to poor Mary?

I enrolled in a Creative Dramatics class to ensure my success.

Despite years of piety, countless novenas (guaranteed to work! follow instructions exactly or no money back!), mental sojourns along the Via Dolorosa, Easter vigils, midnight masses, prayer flags, candles, medals--still no Mary. After learning that Marie was synonymous with Mary in the eyes of linguists everywhere, my final act of radical devotion saw me refuse to take a confirmation name. There could be no saint that I hoped to emulate more than the Mother of God. Mary, are you listening?

I finally gave up hope the summer after my sophomore year. I burned my uniforms and transferred to a public school. I decided that if Mary was too good for me, I'd find another other-worldly persona that liked my obviously flawed self. Who could be bad enough for me? Perhaps SATAN?

After a short stint as a bad girl I found Jesus and stopped grieving my fractured relationship with Mary. I was drawn to the fundamental purity and wisdom of that most-revered and infallible document, the Holy Bible. In my youth, the Bible was clad in white leatherette with garish gold writing and a big picture of Jesus. It was placed in a prominent place in every Catholic home. But read? I was sure the Pope would not approve. Popes are popes and they have need to pontificate. This requires a certain degree of cooperative ignorance on the part of the pontificatees, does it not? Feeling like a teenage boy with his daddy's Playboy magazine, I sat in my room and studied the Bible. I could not believe how deceived I had been! Satan himself had been standing between me and the Holy Spirit, the only true path to peace and enlightenment. Jesus had been there all along, quietly knocking on the door to my heart, and I had been so caught up in my works-based salvation, my meager attempts to be holy, that I missed his call. Fuck.

Thus began a twenty-year stint as a religious fundamentalist. I will spare you most details of my quest to reconcile my inherently sinful nature with my holy and perfect god. I will say that I had a team of prayer warriors beseeching god to reveal himself to Dave, my militant atheist husband. I begged the Lord to allow the scales to fall from Dave's eyes so he, too, could see as clearly as I did. It turns out that it wasn't only Dave who was in grave danger. It was pretty much everyone I knew. And every unreached person in the four corners of the earth. It was up to me personally to pray without ceasing for each and every one of these lost souls. Their eternal destiny depended entirely on me. Holy fuck. I had wasted a lot of time on Mary.

Try as I might I could not suppress my rational nor my spiritual side forever. An academic approach feels safe when treading in parts unknown, so I embarked on a study of comparative religion. Surely most of the world could not be held accountable for truths that God in his infinite wisdom had not chosen to reveal to them. And surely it could not possibly fall on me and a handful of the idiotic chosen to make certain that the world had a chance to hear the good news. While I was sporting my hard-won Mind of Christ, my mind developed a mind of its own. What a crock of shit! was the refrain that replaced the time-honored Praise the Lord!

I'll cut to the end. I believe that there is something more knowing, more powerful, more permanent, more loving than me. But to attach a personality, a gender, a shape, even a part of speech, to a universal force is not only foolish, it's often tragic. If you want to see human frailty in action look no further than organized religion.

Spiritual reality has been a part of mankind since the beginning. We do our best to give our ephemeral understanding structure. We fashion an idol that resonates within us. Where food is scarce and money more so, perhaps god resembles a golden calf, the highest and best we know. Where women suffer together and depend upon the earth's bounty to bear daily burdens, perhaps she is a goddess who permeates the natural world. Men stripped of their voices and forced to serve a capricious master create a suffering servant who will rule heaven and earth one day. When our basic needs are met and we are perched on the top of Maslow's ladder, we have nowhere to go but inward. Divinity resides within.

At the deepest place we are the same. We are one tribe. We are protected and loved by a universal force that knows no bounds. We are free to define it as we will. Our understanding of it may change over time, a reflection of our growth. We must give others the same freedom to be, to know, to discover, to change. I am thankful that I have had that chance. That I still have that chance.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Activism home grown

My siblings and I frequently talk about our “activist” upbringing. We grew up with parents who walked their talk. Our mom hung out with the radical nuns protesting around Rocky Flats. And I can’t remember a single Thanksgiving where we didn’t have a couple of homeless men sitting at our dinner table. Our parents introduced them by name and we were expected to be gracious and make interesting conversation.

Then there was Robin, a retarded young man who was obsessed with a pair of moccasins that we had in our front closet. My mom made a rule that the front door be always open so that Robin could come in for his moccasins any time he wanted. As a mother, I question the wisdom of this now but, at the time, we just accepted that at any time Robin might walk in and open our front closet. It wasn’t anything we worried about….just another one of mom's people.

At the 1975 fall of Saigon, Divine Redeemer, our home church with hundreds of families, decided to sponsor a family fleeing Communist oppression. They asked that someone step forward to host a family of 8 people for several months. Guess who stepped forward? Much to our horror, my mom and dad did. We had 6 of our own children, aged 6 to 15, living in a small house and suddenly we had 16 people living under the same roof. They didn’t speak a word of English. We certainly didn’t speak Vietnamese. Our mom and their dad were able to communicate in broken French.

We reminisce about how our mom used to read little kid books to them, VERY LOUDLY, as though she could make them understand English if only she shouted. They used to stare at us and we back at them while she did this...all of us trying hard not to laugh.

Because my dad had been a part of the war in Viet Nam and a number of families we knew had been widowed during that war, we lost friends because of the choice we made to support this family. I didn't understand this at all at the time. It's taken many years for me to understand that to stand for something, anything, is to risk the wrath of those who don't agree.

As kids, we remember it as crazy fun. We made Chef Boyardee pizzas and they chopped off the heads of weird little fish and made carrots look like flowers. We were all about the same age, they dressed weird, we dressed weird….we laughed and figured out how to communicate even without words. They showed us martial arts. We taught them to hula hoop. We laughed our asses off day after day.

Once, the 10-year-old girl, incredibly beautiful, her name was Ngoc (pronounced Nop), and I sat on the swing in the front yard. She placed her hand in front of my face, put up her index finger and said “Mot.” “Mo,” I said, knowing that she was counting. “Hai.” “Hi.” “Bah. Bon. Nam. Sau.” After she taught me to count to ten she grabbed my hand and rushed me into the living room where 15-20 people sat, always at the ready, listening to the Vietnamese singing American anthems, which was both lovely and hilarious since they didn’t really understand the words. “Ma cunry tis a vee. Swe lan a liverty.” Ngoc got everyone’s attention and suddenly 20 people were staring at me, a 14-year-old, not exactly at the age where I wanted a lot of scrutiny, and she said, encouragingly, “Mot.” I felt like throwing up but I understood that the stakes were high so with red cheeks I recited what I just learned. When I finished a loud roar went up….I swear there were even a few tears from the Vietnamese parents.

This family went on to become a success story. Ultimately, the boys, Phat, Dat and Loi, became Tony and Billy and Joey. They went to DU, studied engineering. Mom and Dad opened a successful restaurant on Federal Boulevard in Denver. The girls married Vietnamese men and carried on Vietnamese tradition on their new soil. Oddly, my two brothers married Asian women, one Vietnamese, one Thai.

This family had another baby after they came to the United States. They wanted to choose an American name to honor the country that had given them a second chance. They chose Helen. My mother’s name.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two decades “wasting” my time doing things that may or may not ever register on anyone’s radar. One of my inspirations has been Margaret Mead who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” That’s what my family taught me….and what I’d like to teach my own.


I am in Chicago nestled in a guest bed, pajama clad, laptop ever near. It is sleeting outside. I can see the trains rumble by every few minutes. Eric pops in occasionally to bring me slices of warm banana bread so I don't succumb to starvation. I alternate between Connie Francis and Rufus Wainwright, the same two songs over and over. I sip cold Starbucks from a mug on the table beside me. I am conversing with a girl in Germany whom I've never met. After six weeks of listening to her relationship woes, I break down and call her boyfriend a fruitcake. She contacts me about an hour later. She'd "looked after" the word in her dictionary and thought it was an hilarious description of him. She heads off to the Christmas market in Nuremberg. I look at Google images of Nuremberg for a bit. I feel dangerously happy.

Today I am grateful for warmth and freedom and people who love me and leave me alone without making me feel guilty. I am grateful for people who make me laugh though I've never seen their faces. I am thankful for flannel and fleece and lovely smells wafting up from the kitchen, created entirely by someone who is not me.

I am grateful for intelligent people who take the time to write down their thoughts, even if they are unsure that they will be properly cherished by the reader. Or if they will be read at all.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

In defense of Ralphie

I agree that Ralph Routon's diatribe about the impending departure of Michael DeMarsche was lame.  But you have to understand.  Having Ralph write about the arts is akin to having John Waters write about the Superbowl.  You can only imagine how funny that would be.  To us.  But not to sports fans.  You might as well call Jesus a homo or spit on an Indian before you sully such sacred land.

People.  Look at the picture of Ralph.  Then consider that no one chooses their worst picture to present to the world.  This is likely as good as it gets.  Which means that he is a beer-swilling bratwurst-gobbling sports-worshiping manly man.  He spits.  He scratches.  He has issues with dingleberries.  But he LOVES sports.  And by sports, I don't mean fencing or horse racing or curling.  Sport involves a BALL of some sort.  And a distinctively American connection (which rules out rugby and soccer, although rugby is the ultimate masculine sport...even basketball doesn't totally qualify for reasons I can't quite figure out, but I think it's because there are so few good white players).

One of the most memorable arguments that Dave and I ever had involved music.  We were in our late twenties; we lived in downtown Denver and we were cool.  He was a surgical resident at the U and I was a financial guru for a hip software company.  As such, we were invited to many cool events. When these invitations came in through medical channels everything was great.  Orthopedic surgeons are always jocks who were inspired to become surgeons while recovering from their own sports-related injuries.  But when the invitations came from my side of the channel, things were unpredictable.

We were invited to Josephina's on Larimer, to drink wine and listen to some groovy jazz with fellow yuppies, a term Dave hated.  We got there.  We drank Coors Light while they drank "whine."  They listened to the "music."  In a very unfortunate turn of events, the girl that Dave took to junior prom, Alison, the fantastic skier, the one that paid only friendly attention to him due to family connections, walked in with her new husband, Clark.  Clark was an attorney who was, tragically, wearing a knee-length fur coat.  Dave was wearing Levis, tennis shoes and a yellow t-shirt (with red letters, like a hot dog) that said "NO LIGHTS AT WRIGLEY FIELD!" (which is now framed in the basement, I kid you not).  Things went rapidly downhill from there.  'When's the music gonna start?  I could probably fix that pinkie for a fee.  Let's go to the sym-PHONY next week."

Dave is the guy who slept through the birth of most of his children.  Our 10-year-old had the lead role in Oliver! at the FAC and I had to beg Dave to watch a single performance.  Brendan was in A Colorado Christmas at the Broadmoor, performing for 1,000 people every night, and Dave came to watch only once and rolled his eyes at all the "religious" bullshit (he doesn't know any Christmas carols).  Brendan was hand-picked by Debbie Allen to be in Pepito's Story at the Pikes Peak Center and Dave was sort of embarrassed and wondered if Brendan might be gay. 

This same guy sobbed like an 8-year-old girl when Brent Musburger retired from sportscasting.  I've been to two Broncos Superbowls, Northwestern's first Rose Bowl in 80 years, several Olympic games, the Citrus Bowl when Peyton Manning was senior quarterback and headed for greatness.  Weeping and gnashing of teeth all around.  My children paint, and play music, and sing, and dance.  None of it matters.  But Dave is elated for days if 6-year-old Devon, the only girl on the team, makes a double play to win the game.  Booyah!  Fuck yeah!

My point in all this is that Ralph Routon DOES NOT and CAN NOT care about the arts.  We will have to leave it to the psychiatrists to figure out why. Ralph Routon does not care who or what is playing at the Black Sheep, Theaterworks, the BAC.  He won't attend Pridefest, nor the Diversity Fair.  Not even Springspree.  But he will agonize over the legal troubles of Michael Vick and any injury sustained by LaDanian Tomlinson.  He did, after all, draft them to his fantasy football team and he's got 50 bucks hanging in the balance.

John Weiss, not exactly a manly man and therefore less than qualified to diagnose the problem, better figure it out soon and bring in some new blood.  Or the Indy will become the Indy 500 and he'll have to find a whole new group of advertisers and readers.  Of course I'm kidding.  Car racing is most definitely not a SPORT.  Duh.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

I am my own muse

Opposites attract? Maybe if one feels a lack.

When my husband and I were in our mid-twenties, we worked out at a hip club in Denver. We did aerobics for cardiovascular health and lifted weights to stave off osteoporosis. We had a group of friends, like-minded couples, who were our workout buddies. We went to the club several times a week for years. We were an integral square on the yuppie quilt.

Once Dave and I had an unexpected encounter at the water fountain. Maybe it was my long wavy 80s hair, or my leg warmers and matching scrunchie, but Dave was overcome by passion and gave me a big smooch. I returned to my class and he to his weights. One of our friends said to him, "Did I just see you kiss your sister?" Dave, horrified, said, "That isn't my sister, that's my wife!"

Hmmmm. Rather telling. Why did I choose Dave as a mate? Well, because he grew up here in Colorado Springs; we shared a common history. He was smart and funny, edgy and difficult, driven, athletic, competitive, decisive. He loved George Jones and Hank Williams, not Flock of Seagulls or Tears for Fears. He followed sports with a passion that defied rationality. He wanted a big family and a successful career.

Or was that me?

After many years of marriage, we divorced. We'd grown apart. We had irreconcilable differences. Simply put, he no longer resembled the me that I love.

Now I have another. He is a writer, a musician, introspective, analytical, sensual, a world traveler. Intelligent, strong-willed. He has an outward focus and a knowledge of history and the arts. He has no interest in sports or money, but has an affinity for children and cares about the planet. He has sophisticated taste, and a distaste for the inequities between earth's inhabitants.

Or is that me?

Opposites don't attract. Like attracts like. I'd marry myself if I could.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Four years in the same costumes...

We're bored. We want to be geishas.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The g-factor

My "courtship" with Dave went something like this. "Hi." "Hi." "What did you get on the SAT?" "XXX on math. XXX on verbal. You?" "800 on both." "Combined?" "Ha."

That conversation, which occurred at Bennigan's on North Academy in 1984, as I sat at a table holding hands with my cute-but-inferior tennis pro boyfriend, sealed our fate. Dave and I were less than crazy about each other. Our DNA, on the other hand, fell fast and hard. Over the moon in fact. Our double-stranded helices playfully batted amino acids at each other, wanting to intertwine forever in a heart-shaped petri dish. Messenger RNA played Yenta. We were both far more concerned about the g-factor, inherent ability to learn, IQ for you old schoolers, than the g-spot, which I still don't understand well or care much about. Really.

Our top colleges had traditionally drawn from the spawn of the affluent. Students from northeastern prep schools such as Exeter and Andover were the incoming freshman class. Higher education was not for the many, but for the privileged few. Thank goodness that a rebel Rockefeller or Carnegie daughter defied her parents and married a cowboy from Wyoming. The rich began to question the system. "How can I get my dung-covered grandson into Princeton? I know he is far more brilliant than some of these Vermont yahoos. I know! Let's create a test that shows off the Mayflower genome. Diamonds in the American rough." Thus the SAT was born.

For many years the SAT served a noble purpose. Intelligent hardworking children from mediocre schools, from up-and-coming western states, from blue collar families, could distinguish themselves as better than their circumstances would normally allow. Stanford, the "Harvard of the West," helped America meet her Manifest Destiny.

But the rich are not comfortable with a level playing field. Perhaps they fear that too many trophy wives have diluted their genetic purity. I don't know. But, predictably, they began to climb back up Mount Superior. What was designed to be a test taken after a good night's sleep, by anyone, became a game to be won. Expensive review courses and other manipulations once again favored the privileged few. Not about to give up flagship universities to the underclass, they changed the rules of engagement.

Educators say that the SAT tells us nothing much. Yes, a certain segment of society has an inherent superior ability to learn, to achieve what they've been asked to achieve. No surprise there. But it is a limited quest. A limited vision. And a poor indicator of future success. Superiority for its own sake is a dead end. Our kids can walk around now with pride but not purpose. They can achieve but not accomplish. The SAT has become the measure of a person. Works aside. That's sad. I feel for my children, being raised in this environment. They want to do well, and achievement is what it takes. I rue the pressure they feel, but I am unable to remove them from the competition.

Abolish the SAT. Abolish the ACT. Abolish the CSAP. Let the measure of a person be what they DO. If they work hard to attain good grades, let us honor that. I made a mistake when I thought that good genes were the loftiest goal. Not so.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.
I want to fill it with color and ducks,
The zoo of the new

Whose names you meditate ---
April snowdrop, Indian pipe,

Stalk without wrinkle,
Pool in which images
Should be grand and classical

Not this troublous
Wringing of hands, this dark
Ceiling without a star.
Sylvia Plath

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Anticipating future nostalgia

My little Devon, age 9, took this picture of us yesterday at Elitch Gardens. She looked like a tiny ant on the ground, positioning herself to capture the shot she wanted.
I love having a nascent historian in the family. Years from now we'll look at her photos and relive the moments that passed so quickly as to escape our notice. Like this one.

Columbia Savings Revisited

Several memorable things in my life were tied to Columbia Savings. The first was the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. I was a recent college graduate working for a large international accounting firm, KPMG Peat Marwick. I remember sitting in a conference room, clad in a conservative business suit, already on hour 5 of an 18-hour workday. These were the days before the Internet; we still relied on the Big 3 to provide us with news. One of the higher ups came into the room, solemn look on his face, and turned on the television. The ten of us sat there and watched hope gone lives gone due to an improperly sealed O-ring.

A few years later, the "Feds" came in and took the CEO, the CFO, and several others out of the building in handcuffs. It was a scary sight. These were our friends...our role models. What the hell? What was going on?

The S&L crisis changed the American way of life. Without an extensive legal or financial background, you may not understand how. But, trust me, rules were changed. I worked for the next several years with the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC), the branch of the government created to ensure that we would all enjoy a safe financial future. They were a bunch of dumbshits who had absolutely no chance of being hired by Peat Marwick, or any other reputable company. Like so many, the government is a safe haven for idiots who crave authority.

Moving on. Despite the noble efforts of the RTC, the country is facing another financial crisis. As interest rates have gone down over the past several years, a new brand of leech has been unleashed on the unsuspecting public. The mortgage broker. We are in a housing crisis due to the prevalence of SUBPRIME loans. Let me explain. In the past, a family had to meet certain requirements in order to obtain a mortgage. They had to earn enough income, own assets, show that they would be able to meet ongoing financial obligations. Banks and S&Ls had strict underwriting requirements. They extended credit and collected interest in return. Borrowers had to be a PRIME candidates to qualify for a mortgage loan.

Today, the mortgage industry has gone wild. There are zillions of mortgage brokers who can find ANYONE a loan. They shop around for a third tier underwriter who is willing to lend the money. The broker receives a large commission. The underwriter receives an origination fee and various other payments. Neither care if you are in over your head. They will offer you an initial rate of 2 or 3% with adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), and convince you that rates won't go up much. You can afford it. Buy that bigger house. Once the deal is inked, the lender simply takes the cruddy mortgage portfolio and sells it to the next prick in line, greedy for the soon-to-be usurious interest payments.

For the past two years, mortgage rates have increased. Over a trillion dollars of ARM loans are due to reset in the next 18 months. Homeowners' adjustable payments have gone from $400/month to $600 to $1500. With no end in sight. Foreclosures are at an all time high. Too bad for the idiots, you say? Well, I would normally agree with you. But let's hope that you don't have a house to sell. As the banks divest themselves of the properties they've foreclosed on, real estate prices will be driven into the ground. The lenders will have to write off trillions of dollars of bad loans, likely rendering many of them insolvent. Huge investment funds tied to subprime loans will become worthless. Many Americans will lose their homes, their market investments, and their ability to obtain future credit. I'm predicting another bail out that will cost the taxpayers billions.

Meanwhile, my best friend saw the potential in the industry, despite the fact that she knew nothing about mortgage banking, and earned $18,000. Last month.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Stealing daddy's spotlight...and mommy's pills

This morning, catching up on the goings-on after a week in blazing hot and muggy Mexico, I read on that Al Gore III was arrested recently on charges of possessing -- in addition to marijuana -- Vicodin, Xanax, Valium and Adderall. Oh my! The article pointed out that prescription drug use is becoming more prevalent among the young than even good ol' pot.

Prescription drug abuse is particularly common among upper middle class students, according to Lisa Jack, a clinical psychologist at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "It just goes to show that where you're from doesn't matter," Jack said. (I hope she isn't speaking geographically).

The article goes on to admonish parents to lock our medicine chests so that vulnerable offspring will be adequately protected from evil.

Okay, done. But it seems to me that the head doctors should be asking, "Why are upper middle class bathrooms filled with an array of pretty-colored mood-altering pills in the first place?"

Welcome to the world of the upper middle class housewife. We take our children's ADHD medication Adderall (basically speed) to get through the morning rush and the long list of daily chores. Valium (a tranquilizer) around 3 p.m. to take off the remaining Adderall edge and get through the afternoon kid activities with a smile. Xanax before stressed-out husband walks through the door assessing performance and demanding moral support and a lovely dinner.

After the kids are safely tucked in, Vicodin (an opioid) gives the same buzz as the 2 or 3 glasses of wine that we used to be able to handle easily, but which now lead to belly fat which, face it, is not only unsightly but downright unhealthy.

What the young ones apparently haven't discovered yet is that Ambien at bedtime puts one into a nice dreamless coma that lasts until the alarm bell goes off and the cycle begins again.

I bet that you wish you could be-e-e half as lucky as me-e-e.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Liberty hung out to dry

Freedom to express oneself, to think independently, was the lure that led the masses to our shores. Safety from abusive and intrusive government is the dream that continues to draw people to our borders. Our military men and women are in Iraq and elsewhere fighting for these same principles on behalf of those who cannot battle tyranny alone. Yet here in Colorado Springs, where so many are at great personal risk because of American ideology, we do not recognize the basic Constitutional freedoms of our own citizens.

It was a private parade, you say. The police were just following the orders of John O'Donnell, the parade organizer. Those people had no right to be there. What a load of garbage. The city was a partner in the St. Patrick's Day parade. They blocked off public streets and used public resources too numerous to mention. For the city and the CSPD to hide behind another organization's insurance policy is not only cowardly, it is un-Constitutional. The ACLU won a recent case in Hawaii, wherein a "private" parade sought to exclude a particular group from marching. The conclusion: government entities can not shield themselves, nor take directives, from private citizens using public resources. The rest of the country seems to understand this.

In any case, the excessive force used by several of the policemen called to the scene, is absolutely indefensible. Miscommunication, fear for the public safety, parade crashing. None excuse what ensued. Not for a minute. Today it was peace activists; tomorrow it will be someone else. Unchecked abuse of power is a terrifying thing to witness. The lack of accountability by the CSPD illustrates that this thug behavior is tolerated, perhaps encouraged. If they are willing to behave that way in the presence of hundreds of spectators, can you imagine the treatment of those less visible? Are they taught that they are to leave their humanity at the door when they don their uniforms and guns?

While I appreciate the attempts made by John Weiss to reconcile the community, his call to the activists to drop the threat of a civil suit is wrong. Where the people have no voice the court system is the next step. A hung jury in so simple a case shows that we are a town that is not as freedom-loving as our local daily newspaper professes. Perhaps, as in Hawaii, a higher court will possess greater wisdom. It is the next peaceful step in our cherished democratic process. The checks and balances built into the Constitution provide a measure of hope.

If there is no relief to be found by those who have sworn to defend freedom, then we will have to take to the streets. Systemic change is always resisted by those in power. If the populace had not banded together in the past to demand its rights, women would not vote, blacks and whites would be segregated, workers would toil in dangerous conditions, children would be chattel.

We should not live in fear of our local government, they should fear and respect us. They are public servants. We are a country of the people, by the people, for the people. We will not rest until our government, including those on Capitol Hill, abides by the Bill of Rights. Don't mistake quiet acquiescence for peace. It is a reaction to oppression.

What the peace marchers need is not a call to lay down, but the rising up of their fellow citizens. They call for peace. Let the rest of us support them with a call for justice. As Thoreau said in Civil Disobedience, "Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence." It is time for every concerned citizen to help stop the rampant abuse of power in our city and beyond. Without liberty and justice, there will never be peace. Here, there or anywhere.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Are we not men?

Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.
A common and natural result of an undue respect for the law is that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder- monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined.

Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? Visit the Navy Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an American government can make, or such as it can make a man with its black arts--a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity...

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies....In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens.

Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mr. Big Happy Head

My darling David has finally grown into his head.

Happy 14th Birthday, Sweets!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rufus Wainwright sings Hallelujah

Saturday, September 15, 2007

USAFA, I'm glad I knew ya!

Ahhh, it's September favorite time of the year. Lazy Saturday mornings spent in oversized sweatshirts and fluffy slippers, drinking coffee, aspen trees on Cheyenne Mountain clad in autumnal glory, jets practicing for afternoon Air Force football games.

I've attended many such games. When the jets fly overhead without warning I feel an incredible patriotic stirring in my loins. The poor unwitting soul seated next to me invariably must endure my tongue in his or her ear and my breathy rendition of Lee Greenwood's neo-national anthem, Proud to Be An American. Tears stream down my face as I stand up and shout PENIS! PENIS! PENIS! (I think I remember a similarly-named Japanese film from my youth). Could there be anything sexier or more masculine than an F-16 suddenly overtaking me from behind? A Blackhawk helicopter hovering over me quivering, gyrating, rotoring away? A sleek submarine slipping into the murky depths? MY GOD, I don't even need to sit on the washing machine anymore. The military presence in our town leaves me FULLY SATISFIED.

Unfortunately, I was raised Catholic and was compelled by nuns and priests of dubious character to consider always the plight of my fellow man. Okay....sigh....I'll give it a shot. I wonder what it costs the taxpayers to bring out the heavy artillery in the name of athletic superiority? How much jet fuel do we have to buy so that the flyboys can do their thing? Is this truly the most expensive pre-game show in the history of college athletics? Shit. At the bottom of my hill are countless families biding their time at Fort Carson while fathers are in Iraq fighting terrorists on behalf of the good ol' US of A. Families are living paycheck to paycheck....moms are alone making breakfast, lunch, and dinner....helping with homework....singing lullabies....fixing broken cars, peeling paint, fractured bones.

Oh, well. That's what they signed up for, isn't it? If it wasn't military service it would be incarceration. Really. They should just shut their fat yaps and be grateful that Uncle Sam has given them a job at all. Meanwhile I'm going to sit on my deck and watch my protectors doin' their thing....for you, for me, for the team. Ohhhhh. Mmmmmmm. Ahh, baby....Yes. Yeeessss. TORA! TORA! TORA!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

We've fallen! And we won't get up!

There's been much hand-wringing over the news that the United States lags behind 41 other nations with regard to life expectancy. Oh my, they say. How could the richest nation in the world be surpassed by lesser mortals? We're #1! We're #1!

We're #1 alright. Thanks to our gluttony and laziness (with kudos to the food industry and the government), we have the highest rate of obesity on the planet. A third of adults over 20 are considered obese. Two thirds are overweight. We gorge ourselves on fast food. Know nothing about nutrition. Refuse to exercise. So, duh, we've got heart disease. High cholesterol. High stress. Depression. Anxiety. Addiction.

Thanks to our avarice, we also have record foreclosure rates. A negative savings rate. High expectations for our personal prosperity but an unwillingness to work for its attainment. Or, conversely, we are workaholics who spend our lives like rodents in a wheel, running to pointless exhaustion. The rest of the time we sit, slack-jawed in front of the TV or the computer, passively enjoying life from our Lay-Z-Boy deluxe armchairs. Not exactly Heidi in the Alps.

Many of the nation's problems are tied to our lack of self-care and low standards for our own health and well-being. Quick to place blame, we are rarely the culprit. We rely heavily on others to slap expensive Band-Aids on the woes we've created for ourselves. We are Americans. We are entitled. To whatever we want. From whatever pocket.

It's a twisted existence we're living. We are ruining ourselves. We are ruining the rest of the world. I'm overjoyed that our life expectancy isn't the highest. I've already had enough and I'm only halfway there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Twin Towers given Second Life

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tea Room Etiquette

Don't get me wrong. I am as happy as anyone to see Larry Craig unveiled as the hypocrite jerk that he is. I'll be thrilled to see him lose his place in Congress. I only wish he'd been voted out of office for his twisted ideology. Or been hit by a bus.

Am I the only one bothered by the fact that a lone punk cop, sitting in a bathroom stall, can take down Larry Craig? Or any man? No witnesses. No evidence. Just some gay-hating cop sitting in a stall watching him tap his feet and peer through a crack in the door. Such horrors! The officer's dead-on description of cruising behavior seems to be evidence of Craig's guilt. Am I alone in thinking that it smacks of police training? And since when has a subtle sexual overture, if that is in fact what Larry Craig made, been a crime? If you listen to the interrogation, Craig says that the cop made an overture to him as well, which the officer now denies. So it is a case of he said/he said. Since when has the burden of proof not been on the shoulders of the accuser? No proof, no case.

If Larry Craig stuck his penis under the divider, that would be considered indecent exposure. If he pinned the officer against the wall and groped him, that would be assault. What exactly was his crime? Our glee that it was a bigoted ass like Craig who was caught in this sting allows us to ignore the amazing erosion of civil liberties at the hands of the state underlying the case. Who cares about the rights of bathroom-lurking gays? They aren't us. We're still safe.

If I were you men, I would start to go to the bathroom in pairs like we women have always done. We do it for social reasons. You should do it to protect yourself from your, uh, protectors.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Counting sheep

See ya in the clink...

Quietly, with little mention in the press, the National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive was signed in May 2007. This directive places all governmental power in the hands of the President in the case of a catastrophic emergency (as defined by him alone). It also allows him to take control of the private and nonprofit sectors. It effectively abolishes the checks and balances built into the Constitution and demolishes the Bill of Rights. This is, of course, necessary to keep us safe in case of a national disaster. The "Unitary Executive" would be able to act quickly and decisively, without any interference from those other two annoying branches of government, slow-moving and contentious as they are.

Our Constitution has never been about efficiency. The checks and balances built into it were created to keep any one individual or branch of government from having unilateral power. It lays the groundwork for a democracy, not for a well-oiled machine.

George Bush has shown extreme disdain for the Constitution, the very document he swore to uphold. He has vetoed only a handful of bills while in office, but he has attached signing statements to more than a thousand, clearly indicating scorn for Congress and his commitment to enforce only the laws he chooses. He has taken bills designed to protect the American public and has amended them to be used against us. Congress recently handed Zippy even more power by passing the Police America Act 2007. He has stripped us of our right to privacy, our right against unreasonable search and seizure, our right to due process. All in the name of the fighting terror.

We already know that President "Hyperbole" Bush is a master of exaggeration, if not outright prevarication. He and his oil buddy, Cheney, lied to get us into Iraq. They've lied to keep us in Iraq. Long ago they planned to get their hands on all of that beautiful unctuous black gold under the desert. They are not about to cede power to a successor until they've gotten the goods. What terrible national catastrophe is up his sleeve that will enable him to retain power?

I won't speculate about what the catastrophe will be, but reported yesterday that the administration has been authorized to set up civilian prisons at military installations, something that has not been done in our country since the WWII Japanese internment camps. Under international law, internment camps are used in times of war to incarcerate large groups of people deemed to be enemies or "belligerents," indefinitely and without trial, of course. Hasn't Bush already warned us that if we are not with him, then we are with the terrorists? Read the handwriting on the wall.

When the occupant of the highest office in the land decides what the law is, singlehandedly, we no longer live in a democratic society. We live under a dictator, the Unitary Executive. While we were sleeping, Zippy the Monkey's big dream of being THE Decider has been realized. We are basically living in an autocracy. The Founding Fathers are turning over and over in their graves. But few of the living seem to care.

Prepare yourself for the war with Iran. Prepare yourself for the impending terrorist attack. Prepare for the national catastrophe that will allow the Unitary Executive to suspend the 2008 election and stay in power indefinitely.

Just watch. He'll do it. He's the DECIDER. We gave him that power. And he's willing and able to use it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Black Bush for Prez