Friday, September 28, 2012

Stand By Your Man

I love my husband.  I think he is the best problem solver on the planet.  He's compassionate, brilliant, well-spoken, and handsome.  Irritating ice-chewing habit aside - he's a guy anyone could love.


I've talked to him many times about running for a national public office.  He always says no.  Apparently the $40-million fundraising task is a deal breaker for him.  (Yes, my Texas readers...that's what it costs to run for US Senate in our 8,500+ voting precinct state. $40,000,000.) 

So the fundraising is hair-raising. We are not millionaires. We do not know millionaires. We are pretty sure we do not want our political leanings to be owned by millionaires.   

Not so for Ann and Mitt Romney, though, right?  Their net worth is estimated at $250-million. Money, it seems, was not much of an issue for the Romneys in their deciding to make a $300-million run for President of the United States. 

(That dollar figure just took my breath away.) 

But it's not the absurdity of campaign spending I'm here to ponder's the likeability bankroll of  our candidates.  This seems to be the high price of campaigning that gnaws at the Romneys.  Have you noticed it? 

Did you want to cry for the GOP nominee this week when he compulsively redirected an audience gathered to support him in Ohio?  After opening remarks by VP candidate Paul Ryan, the crowd began to chant "Ryan! Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!"  Poor Mitt stopped them for a lesson in chanting: "It's Romney! Ryan! Romney! Ryan!" 


And then poor irritated last week with members of the GOP who continue to find ridiculous ways to undermine their own candidate that she said in a radio interview, "Stop it! This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring."

Oh. Ouch.

Which brings me back to the love I have for my husband.
Yes - I am angry when he is treated with disrespect, dishonor, or disregard.  In the kitchen, over granola and yogurt, I may stomp and rant and call names and threaten to send smelly cheese in the mail to people who treat my genius spouse in such ways. 

But for the love of propriety and good karma, I would not make a public statement that even hinted of my feelings. 

Ann - meet the wisdom of our mothers:  You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. 

We love our enemies. 
Do good to those who persecute us. 
Turn the other cheek. 
Fake it 'til we make it. 

Does it hurt your stomach?  Of course it does. 
Do you need to throw something at the end of the day?  Probably.
Is it therapeutic to take names and promise to kick butt someday?  Well, maybe. 

Does a public rant make you look like anything more than a whining, not-ready-for-Pennsylvania-Avenue, thin-skinned woman who's never been treated like much less than royalty in her life? 

No. It does not.

So...stand by your man, Ann.  I'm all for it. I get the indignity of the whole darned national popularity contest.
What I do not get is the PDO (public display of outrage).

Try some deep breathing.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Winners and Losers

They are back on the field tonight.
They have their pensions guaranteed. 
They have their salaries on an appropriate upward trajectory. 
They have the honor and adoration of America's teams and America's teams' fans.

Two arms up high for the refs...score!

I have chuckled for 48 hours over the hand-wringing and tears on behalf of these high-profile laborers who are represented by a unionOne questionable call on a football field Monday night, and an entire nation's outrage went viral. 

We get this one, don't we?  The NFL is a booming $9-billion a year business on a growth plan that projects almost triple that $9-billion annual income by 2027.  How on earth, we all wondered, could NFL owners put the game we love so very much in peril by nickel-and-diming the poor $180,000 (for 6 months of work) salaried referees? 

I ask you, where's the humanity

Was it evident a couple of weeks ago when Chicago's teachers were asking for fair compensation and reasonable expectations, and the city's mayor was threatening legal action against them?

Did you take to the streets in front of your local Apple store earlier this week to demand accountability and the whole truth about the plight of rioting workers in China who make your iPhone?


Have you urged your elected representatives on Capitol Hill to support passage of any version ever introduced of the Paycheck Fairness Act - legislation aimed at closing the gap between what women earn in the workplace in this country and what men earn? (Women in the US earn - on average - 77- cents for every dollar a man earns. True.) 

And what about that Nestle chocolate you pull off the pantry shelf and stir into cookie dough a couple of times a month? Does it bother you at all that 7-year old Ivory Coast children might be working 16-20 hour days to provide you with those chocolate chips?  When was the last time you demanded an update on that situation

The list of things gone wrong on behalf of workers in this country and around the world is long and overwhelming, I admit.  We have our own jobs to think about, our own struggles with unfair practices, our own tables to fill with daily bread.  Many of us fight these battles without organized labor unions to protect and promote our causes.  Who has time or energy to care?

But God help us if there's a bad call on the football field.  Everyone from the President to my 8-year old neighbor has had a passionate opinion about what needed to be done to get the refs back where they belong - calling games with a respected level of expertise.   

Do we really have to wonder why we look like soulless consumers and glassy-eyed entertainment junkies to so much of the world? 



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Our Modern Family

Every family has one. 

You know who I'm talking about - the one uncle or sister-in-law or cousin who might be genuine but who still manages to come across as goofy or over-the-top or...well...downright offensive.  It's that person you warn newcomers about.  The one who tests your limit for controlling a knee-jerk eye roll.

For the family of people who support the president for re-election this political season that person has just become Madonna. Oy vey. Does the phrase with friends like these...who needs enemies? come to mind? 

I am referring to her Verizon Center performance last night in Washington, DC.

We could forgive her for thinking it was a good idea to flash her political loyalties across her bare back.  We might even overlook the Madonnalogue that ended with, " for (expletive deleted) Obama, okay?" 

But saying, “For better or for worse, all right, we have a black Muslim in the White House, okay?” 
Not okay.

I have officially rolled my eyes and dropped my head and pounded it a few times on the desk.

How many ways does it need to be said or demonstrated that Barack Obama is not a Muslim? 

As soon as I type that sentence I wonder, just like I wonder when one of the relatives embarrasses me over Thanksgiving pie, "Why do I care?"

For the record, every Muslim I know is a good person.  A peace loving person.  A good neighbor.  A solid friend.  An earnest seeker of righteousness and authentic relationship with God.  Some of them would probably make a fine president. I have no more reason to believe every Muslim is a USA-hating terrorist than I think I should believe every Christian is a doctor murderer or a Qur'an burner or a distatesful movie maker.  Why should this comment from Madonna bother me any more or less than anything else she has ever said about anything

But Madonna made me cringe. She provided fodder to the people who want to make Barack Obama seem like a fringe-hanging political radical.  She introduced - yet again - the Muslim/Not A Muslim conversation that wastes so much time and energy.  She handed every broad-stroking painter of people the perfect brush for a uniform coloring of democrats as offensive. 

She just made the whole family look bad. 

And so I comforted myself for a moment this afternoon with the truth that the other Big Political Family has had some eye-rolling moments of its own this year. Ha! Todd Akin!  That's where I began.  But the ease was short-lived, as I started to check my own biases to make sure I hadn't picked up that broad bristled brush and colored every conservative stupid. 

Because in the grand scheme - we are ALL family, aren't we?  Which means we are all required to breathe through the trying moments with our embarrassing relatives. Then we go back to the melting pot from which we lovingly emerged with a new appreciation for the family members who move quietly through differences and preferences with grace and style and good manners. 

Which is not to say I'm not looking forward to seeing what Jon Stewart makes of our goofy Auntie Madonna...I promise to laugh with you. 


Friday, September 14, 2012

Stop and Sip the Coffee

I have made a 1-mile, 8-block walk every morning this week.  That's the distance from my hotel in Seattle to Pike Street, where the public market - which draws me like a bee to honey - is located.  There is just nothing quite as beautiful to me as buyers and sellers talking over fresh flowers and vegetables and fish in the middle of a bustling urban setting.  You step off a sidewalk lined with high rise buildings and neon signs and into a world of basic sensory awesomeness.  And, yes, that's the best this writer can do on the subject - awesomeness.

It is hard to imagine finding the beginnings of Starbucks in this place...but, this is exactly where Starbucks began - as a bean roaster at the public market in Seattle.  Since then (1971), Starbucks has changed everything about coffee drinking in the United States - including, apparently, the immediate access we think we need to a coffee shop.

On my 1-mile walk to the market, there are five Starbucks stores.  Five. Choose another 1-mile walk in Seattle, and it's the same thing.  A Starbucks on every other corner.   And Starbucks is not the only purveyor of the magical brew in this town, either.  Interspersed along the 8-block mile are at least a half dozen other espresso shops.  In fact, I can stand in one spot in front of my hotel and photograph three...THREE...such cafes without moving anything but my head. 

This town has some coffee options.  

But here's what I notice about Seattle coffee drinkers.  They are not so much savoring as swilling.  They are grabbing and going.  They are treating the elixir like it is medicine not magic.  It is caffeine craziness.  A quick fix...that is all.

And so, being the contrary person I am...I refused to participate.  I kept walking until I found a place that had a cache of sippers in comfy chairs.  A one-of-a-kind joint on my business focused mile, with four menu options called "Slow Brew"...I chose the Chemex method.  I was seated at a bar with my very own barista, who gleefully shared detailed descriptions of my bean choices - the brightnesses, the boldnesses, the lingering aftertastes.  She carefully primed the filter, ground the beans, wet the grounds, then patiently - oh so patiently - poured water, heated to the perfect 202 degrees, gently over the dampened grounds.  Ah.  It was like watching a dancer execute a perfect pirouette.  I could have left without even a taste of the brew and been quite satisfied.  

But, the brew.  Oh my.

What's the hurry, friends?  Walk past convenience once or twice today. Do something the slow way. There is a lot of peace in that.

Starbucks may not thank you...but your soul will. 


Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Great Unfolding

I stopped this morning to study this piece of life-sized sculpture on a sidewalk in Seattle.

It was as if it had been placed in my path to reflect exactly what was going on inside me...the mirror to my soul today, you might say.  I was walking around with an anger hangover - that sickening, lingering feeling of frustration and self-pity that often comes after a complete communications breakdown with someone I need, desperately, to understand me.

Look at the bronze image again.  Arms crossed, face pinched, eyes closed.  Oh man...if that's not me when I feel like the Great Disregarded in a dialogue about differences I don't know what is. When I feel unheard, I am suddenly made of metal, have almost no heartbeat, and cannot factor in budging even an inch from my solid stand of self-righteousness.

Nothing very life giving ever comes from that statue of me.

Which brings me to the front page of my newspaper today.

Below is a paragraph from the accompanying story about an Egyptian protester outside the US Embassy yesterday.  He was there, as were protesters in Libya whose uprising ended in the death of four Americans Tuesday night, because of the YouTube posting of a 12-minute trailer for a movie made by a California real estate broker that denigrated the prophet of Islam.  

I see the US government allowed the web to spread this link all over the world without limiting freedom, without banning it," said Mohammad Umma, who like many in the crowd believes that because America is a democratic nation it should censor media that insult any religion.  

"America tells us they are the country of freedom, democracy and tolerance," Umma said.  We considered America democratic, but now with what happened, we hate America."

I want to fly to Cairo and have coffee with Mr. Umma.  I want to tell him that Americans are, for the most part, quite tolerant, and believe in every person's right to express religious views openly and safely.  We have extremists just like Egypt-and Libya-does. That's what I want to say.    

Then, I want to explain the concept of freedom of speech to Mr. Umma and his friends, and assure them all that our constitutional right to such freedom has been used mostly for good, not bad.

And I want to say that democratic does not mean perfect.  It does not rid our country of kooks or haters of a bazillion kinds.  It does not even always mean every US citizen receives fair and equal treatment inside our own borders.

But here's what I'm thinking I'd be talking to.  That statue.  

His arms are crossed.
His face is pinched.
His eyes are closed.
I imagine he would not budge to have a cup of coffee with me.

And this, my the most basic how long days of silence and separation and loneliness and all out human misery begin.

It is also how war begins.

Chris Stevens was the US Ambassador to Libya who was killed Tuesday night at the US consulate in Behghazi...the building he opened with a ribbon cutting just three weeks ago. He said this about his work as a diplomat:

"Relationships between governments are important, but relationships between people are the real foundation of mutual understanding."

Put down the arms.
...the ones you have folded in front of you.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Many Are Called

Do you ever wonder if you completely missed your "calling" in life?  You know, the one thing you should be doing that would bring so much satisfaction and intrinsic reward that you would greet each day with eagerness and the thrill of doing that very thing?

While I'm not one to really fall for such "perfect match" thinking about life, I have to confess that I've been stirred several times this week to wonder - did I miss finding the real me?  

The first moment was over fish tacos at the public market on Pike Street here in Seattle.

Surely, I thought, as I realized freshly caught Pacific cod is the real deal maker when it comes to piling stuff into a corn tortilla and calling it a fish taco...surely I was meant to be a traveling food writer.  Oh, wouldn't that be the best job ever?  I'm pretty sure sampling a local chocolate shop's unique delicacies would be on a traveling food writer's list of culinary explores, too...right?
Yep. Chocolate covered Twinkies. 

And what about the sea of flowers, and the smiling faces of the people who spend the day bundling fragrance and color into water filled baggies for awestruck flower lovers to buy?  Wouldn't there be unmitigated joy in sitting with beautiful flowers all day every day? Maybe I should have been a florist.

And the fresh produce...could there be anything more gratifying than growing tasty and nutritious foods from seed and dirt, and then offering those treasures to a hungry and appreciative public? Maybe I should have been a farmer.

And the glass...oh the art of glass and it's many poetic properties.  Once designed and fired and shaped and engineered and lit - bathes the world in wonder and beauty and reflection, all the while screaming FRAGILE.  I almost forgot my brief plunge into the world of glass bead making, as I began to wonder - should I have been an artist?  

Not all professed callings in life are pretty, though, are they? Some are profound. Some are perverse.  

What if you are called to learn to speak two languages - let's say, French and Arabic - and are invited by the State Department to be US ambassador to - let's say, Libya?  What if you love the people of Libya and have come to be family with the other Americans who work alongside you?  What if you believe it is your calling to make a difference in a desperate situation on a terrifying day?  Should a real calling ever end this way?

What if you are an Israeli-American Jew who believes "Islam is a cancer, period," and you raise $5 million to make a movie that depicts the prophet of Islam - Muhammad - as a fool, philanderer, and religious fake?  Is that, too, a calling?  Does the calling feel more or less worthy if you have gone into hiding now, and fear for the safety of your family because your calling might have stirred this deadly attack at the US Consulate in Libya last night? 

Do you ever feel like you completely missed your calling in life?  

What about Chris Stevens?

Did they miss theirs?  


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Fear Factor

My life was not changed.

Unless you count the the absence of more than a few ounces of liquid in my luggage or my bare feet walking through the airport security check life was not changed.  

There wasn't a minute I couldn't get cash out of my ATM. 
Not a second I couldn't speak with someone I loved by phone. 
No shortage of resources, no reason to lie awake at night wondering if I was next, no need to gather my children and seek asylum in a place less chaotic.  

After the first few hours of horror and disbelief and rampant rumors - I had nothing to fear.  

My life was not changed.

We have been asked to remember the day... 
I was on the phone a lot.  
I found my husband, who was traveling. 
I found my children, who were in school. 
And I found out my two friends who lived in NYC were okay.  

My life was not changed.  

I did an internet search for information about Osama bin Laden, before he and al Qaeda were named as the criminal minds behind America's tragic day.  I knew he would be the prime suspect in something so dire, and I wanted to know exactly what made him hate my country so.  I found very little to substantiate such murderous intentions.  

And my life was not changed.  

I picked up a carload of high school freshman at the end of the school day, and listened to the stories they had heard passed from teenager to teenager all day:  "Someone hijacked another plane out of Austin and it still hasn't been found."  "The president has been flown out of the country to a secret White House - an exact replica of the one on Pennsylvania Avenue.  No one knows where it is except the pilot of Air Force 1."  "We have bombers flying to the Middle East. Everything there will be dust by tomorrow."  

Ah...their lives were changed.  Those children of ours - who are now adults - they were changed.  They have known nothing of us - in their most vivid memories - but a country at war.  A country that, in less than 24 hours on September 11, 2001, rallied around the red, white and blue and began beating drums and chests for justice.   And oh...we got our justice. This is what our children know... 

We captured one of the world's leaders in the "axis of evil" - Saddam Hussein.  We saw him executed and crippled his nation with a war that left its infrastructure in ruin and 120,000 of its people dead.  We barreled across Afghanistan with our fighting machinery - trickled into Pakistan - killed Osama bin Laden - and left 49,000 dead civilians in our wake.  And we are not finished yet.  We have stressed our allies, emboldened our enemies, and chalked up a $1.45 trillion dollar bill, payable in jobs by the way, for the War on Terror.  

It started on this day, eleven years ago.  And if I am reminded of anything today, it is this:  Nothing good comes from fear.  Any decision made in fear is a questionable one.

These men are the enemy, in case you're wondering...Taliban fighters.

Nothing good comes from fear.  

My life was not changed. 

But, oh, so many were.  So, so many.  


Monday, September 10, 2012


Oh, they are dancing in the streets here in Seattle this morning.  

If you make the same assumptions about Seattle that I do, you'll be pretty surprised to find out what has caused the celebration.  Rain.  

It seems Seattle has endured its longest dry spell in 50+ years this summer - 48 days without rain.  They call it a drought.  Where I come from, we call it summer.  Or fall.  Or sometimes spring.  But where I come from there are 300 days of sunshine a year.  Seattle boasts 71 sunny days annually.  

So, you can imagine the panic of Seattle's folks over 7 weeks of unrelenting sunshine. The petunias are drying up, the fish are gasping for a refresh, the birkenstocks are getting dusty. 

I am laughing this morning over the warnings about slippery roadways -you know, roads we always have in Texas when it rains...the ones suddenly coated with a nasty mix of water and the oil a rare rainfall will summon to the roads' surfaces. Apparently Seattle's roads stay generally clean and oil free.  

Unless it doesn't rain for 48 days.  

And so I am reminded this morning that it's all about perspective.  Where we live, what we read, who we hang out with, what we all shapes our versions of normal, our lists of wishes, our hopes for the future, and our warnings from the weatherman.  

I have not been without an annual income once my entire adult life.  I have never had to choose between having electricity or seeing a doctor.  I have not lost a child to disease, fire, or war.  I have not been in a courtroom or a jail cell or even a hospital.  You might say - especially if you have experienced one of these things - that I have lived in a bubble of protection from the struggles of everyday people.  And I would say that too.  

So I often wonder if I am feeling the right feelings or championing the best causes or casting the most profound vote when I am called upon to do such things.  What do I know about what people need?  Beyond that, I wonder, what do most of the people running for public office know?  After all, a man or woman working two jobs to put groceries in the pantry for a hungry family does not have time, opportunity, or financial resources to seek "decision maker" standing in this world of ours.    

I believe, then, the best I can to is care enough to listen.  And I look for people on ballots who I believe also care enough to listen - not to the playmakers and spinners and pundits - but to the people.  The real people.  The ones who experience rain and drought and sunshine and slippery roads inside their own bubbles of sometimes very harsh reality.  

We are looking at two men to lead our nation until 2016.  

Who is listening?  

Is anyone laughing?  


Saturday, September 8, 2012

60 Days

Wow.  There are so many things we people can accomplish in 60 days: 

Transform our bodies.
Eliminate our sicknesses.
Change our financial pictures.
Achieve enlightenment.
Be ready to beat the GMAT test.

Apparently we can even understand Israel in 60 days.

In 60 days we will elect a President to serve and lead this nation for four years.

I don't think I'd be setting my expectations too high to believe if we can go from fat to thin, unhealthy to well, soulless to enlightened, clueless to brilliant, and ready to take over future peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine in less than 9 weeks that we can certainly figure out who we believe the best of two candidates is for President. 

(Best of two.  Ron Paul is not on the ballot, young people. Don't boycott the polls because your guy didn't make the top is important to be a participant in our democracy. I think Ron Paul would tell you that.)

There are sermons everywhere on the Internet about the hard fought honor and unparalleled privilege Americans enjoy - the right to vote in peaceful elections.  I probably do not need to remind you that people participating in some other countries' "free elections" in the 21st century have lost their fingers and hands.

What I want to convey is this:  Now is not the time to ditch politics.  Now is THE time to embrace the falderal - regardless of how nonsensical you think the ongoing games of political chicken are. Turn off MSNBC and FOX.  Read.  If what you're reading sounds rabid, read something else.  Channel your high school civics teacher - who, if she was like mine, explained that her most important job was putting 16-year olds on paths to becoming an informed electorate. 

Or, if you prefer, embrace the genius of Thomas Jefferson

Convinced that the people are the only safe depositories of their own liberty, and that they are not safe unless enlightened to a certain degree, I have looked on our present state of liberty as a short-lived possession unless the mass of the people could be informed to a certain degree.

Don't tune out now.  It's really okay to find out something surprisingly nice about a candidate you think you don't like. In fact, it might make you generally happier and less fearful.
We can do this (Yes We Can!).
We have 60 days.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Gnat in My Water

I'm on hold with Anthem Blue Cross at the moment...a moment which, truthfully, has turned into a significant chunk of my afternoon.  I'd hang up - but I'm continually reminded by the even-toned voice that speaks in between the same repetitive measures of a Bach concerto that "your call will be answered in the order received."  I keep convincing myself that my investment is already paid to move ahead in the queue, and so I hold. 

I feel certain, though, that it will be a very long time before I feel the urge to put Bach on my Pandora playlist. 

I endure this high tech version of water torture on behalf of my almost 26-year old son, who is about to age-out of our ACA (Affordable Care Act - yes, you might know it as Obamacare) extension-of-benefits gift that allowed him to stay insured under our employer-assisted group insurance policy until now. 

Now we must investigate an "individual conversion" policy. 

I think I am about to find out exactly how affordable health care is for the college graduate who pursues his dreams via a path that does not include group medical insurance.  I know what it cost before ACA graced him back onto our group policy: $115 a month. 

Stay tuned for the answer to the big question:  How affordable is it? 

In the meantime, I am perusing news on the internet while I hold.  I keep running across this photo from last night.  The caption reads, "Michelle's biggest fans watching her speech from home last night."

I know a person of my political leaning should be thinking a number of warm, fuzzy thoughts at the sight of this loving father and his sweet daughters as they support, from afar, the woman who - let's admit it - rocked the house last night with her speech to delegates gathered in Charlotte and devotees sitting in front of their TVs. 

Instead of wanting to say awwww, though, I am completely distracted by the gold sofa.  Ew comes to mind.  Shouldn't the PR spinners have looked ahead on this photo op and put the first fam on something less, I don't know, ugly? 

I know this is a wholly subjective opinion and that many very qualified interior designers might take exception to my dedcidedly unqualified assessment.  I should do some more research on trends in upholstery fabrics before speaking.  I should check with folks on both sides of the interior design aisle to make sure I completely understand the subtle nuances between the presentation of a family on a gold sofa and a family on, say, a hunter green or federal blue one.  I'm guessing some social scientist should weigh in, as well, to tell me how stupid I am for not understanding the subliminal advantage a gold background provides for the President during a campaign season.

But I know what I like.  And it is not a gold sofa.  Perhaps I should reconsider my political allegiance.

Seriously.  This is how ridiculous it's become, isn't it?  Be honest.  Face the truth. We have become so saturated with partisan images and skewed soundbites and focus group approved advertising that we have lost sight of what's important in 2012. 

Can we sleep at night without worrying about bombers or snipers or kidnappers?
Do we attend our houses of worship without concern that someone will find out we are there?
Are our children in schools that - by some work of magic -  open on time every year/every day and teach every single child who shows up?
Are our widows and orphans cared for?
Do our aging parents have a safety net?
Can you walk down the street holding hands with anyone you choose?
Is there clean water in your neighborhood?

With some exceptions, I think the answers are yes to the questions above.

So let's move our political conversation into the realm of the "greater good" shall we?  Let's start talking about what makes us a nation united behind principles that make us all better human beings.  I'm not saying there aren't big issues to consider in this election, there are. I think I'm saying I don't believe most people are considering them. I was reminded recently, over a $12 glass of red wine, that the things we fret about in the name of freedom are - clearly - first world problems, aka a gnat we are trying to strain out of the drinking water (Biblical reference for you scholars). 

I mean really - a gold sofa?  Ew.

My time on hold with Anthem has ended now, at my insistence.  I have told the very nice person named Mia, who dutifully stayed on the line with me through FOUR internal  transfers and lengthy holds and way too much Bach, that I have other things to do today.  We have waited over an hour. 

I will try again tomorrow to find out how much "affordable health care" is going to cost my 26-year old son.  And until then...I'm sending in my complaints to about that sofa.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Can We Talk?

Someone said it this morning in a radio interview I heard while I walked my upper-middle-class backside around the neighborhood in search of my daily weigh-in redemption.  The man on the radio spoke with some genuine sadness when he said, "Our political system has become so toxic, people in congenial circles don't want to talk about politics anymore."  After thinking about it for the better part of the day, I am sure I agree. And I am also sad.

My walk is a grudgingly accepted daily ritual...a surrender to the truth that an aging body with unlimited access to food and other related comforts will turn to mush if it never quite makes it out the front door with the intention of moving beyond the car door.  Because I dislike the whole idea of this walk so much, I generally try to trick myself into believing there is a reason bigger than my behind for making the effort.  Perhaps a day's inspiration will appear on the walk - something sweet and soulful. In theory, I have the neighborhood for that.

Most of the lawns I trek past on my designated route are nicely landscaped, effectively watered and meticulously kept.  Most of the cars I dodge in the road are late model lovelies with tinted windows and well dressed occupants. I breathe no bus fumes.  I encounter no beggars.  I usually hear birds and frogs and cicadas, not sirens or 18-wheelers or cars with bad mufflers. I step around nothing more toxic than an un-scooped pile of dog poo.

But I do pass a lot of Republican candidate yard signs on my walk.  And, oh yes, they inspire me. To gag. Here's how the throat closing poison begins to seep in:

"Of course! It's the 'I-Got-Mine, Who-Cares-About-You?' Party."
That's one of my regular thoughts.

"How did a person without a brain get a house like that?" is another one.

"I'm coming back when it's dark, and filling this yard with peace signs." is another.
"Yeah...peace signs.  Because I'm sure if they like Candidate X, they hate peace."

By the time I get home, I can barely stand the street I live on, not to mention the people who live in the houses on the street.  They are all, to me, FOX-news-loving, narrow-minded ninnies.

That's not at all toxic.

Here's the undoctored, God's honest truth.  I have some very fine neighbors.  They are people who work hard and love their children and don't ask me what my politics are when I call on them to feed the dog or pick up the newspaper or water the begonias when I am away.  They just say yes.

One of them actually did tell me she'd have to get her husband's permission to feed my dog after the 2008 election. True. We had put lights and a motion detector around our YES WE CAN yard signs that election season to stem the tide of middle-of-the-night sign thievery.  I think the light bothered my neighbor's husband.  Or maybe it was the indignant, fiery letter to-the-editor...the one accusing all sign thieves of being freedom haters.  That letter was, of course, printed for all the city to see. With my name at the bottom of it.

Which brings me back to ninnies and toxicity. 

Why have we turned the most treasured and valuable of all freedoms in America - voting - into this gooey, sticky, bad smelling stream of slime that clings to us all like a Sci-Fi flesh-eating toxin?  Shouldn't we be able to disagree on a candidate for public office without the name calling and the intelligence threatening and the facebook de-friending?   Shouldn't it be okay to post a sign or fly a flag or wear a button without fearing vandalism, bullying, or the upturned nose of a neighbor? 

We should be able to disagree and still talk respectfully to one another.

If we don't talk, we're living with poorly informed assumptions at best, and flat out lies at worst. Both can make us fearful, unfriendly, bitter, and unkind.  I don't want to be that person, and I'm betting my generous/mother of five/fun-loving/hard-working/conservative-thinking neighbor doesn't want to be that person either.

I want to talk politics again.  Without the toxins.

The Democrats are gathering in Charlotte as I type.  This is my team, but I know without thinking very hard that the three-day campaign ad for the President will be full of stinging rhetoric and truth tweaking and grand, unfulfillable promises.  Just like last week's three-day campaign ad was for the GOP.

In a perfect world, we people in a free country with an established, peaceful system for choosing our leaders would sit together and sort through the nonsense together.  Instead we go to our corners and stir the fractious frenzy stew.

Really. What's to become of us? Is there anyone on the ballot who can wash this goo off?


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Don't Worry So Much

I am not a thrill seeker. 

I imagine my husband has just spit out a good swallow of bourbon at the reading of that sentence to allow an irrepressible guffaw to escape.  He would know better than to make a comment, but he's thinking gross understatement

Let me explain...

I don't like boats because they feel like the most insane test of speed-meets-surface-instability ever invented. 

I don't like taking corners in cars at more than 10 mph because fish-tailing freaks me out.

I'm not a fan of spelunking - what if something collapses or rolls onto my leg or rears its head in the dark slime of a cave and bites me?

No, I don't want to go rappelling - really, one knot is going to hold me while I bounce my way down solid rock? Does the combination of bounce and rock sound smart to anyone?

Cross anything off the list that involves swaying or bobbing, too - urp. Yes, I'm the woman who has to take a Dramamine to go for an afternoon drive through hilly Central Texas to look at bluebonnets.  No way I'm making it through snorkeling a reef in Hawaii or riding backwards on a steam train through a tiny rail pass in the clouds of Colorado.

In summary - a 3-week trip over winding back roads through the Rocky Mountains with a load of camping gear on the back of a motorcycle sounds to me like - well - something just this side of the most terrifying movie I can imagine - which is pretty hard to conjure up because the most terrifying movie I've ever seen all the way through is M. Night Shyamalan's Sixth Sense

So, the Excellent Northwest Motorcycle Adventure that my husband just left on this morning - 18 long, winding, mountainous days on his motorcycle that end in spots of hard, bear-infested ground for sleeping and pieces of beef jerky for dinner - that sounds about as fun to me as little boys seeing dead people all the time.  That's what I'm saying.

I try not to believe there is something seriously wrong with a man who finds a trip like this dreamy...and I fight an enormous inner voice that insists on telling me if I really loved the guy, I'd catch his enthusiasm and get over myself.  Those internal dialogues have had their way with my psyche for most of the three weeks he has been packing.  Today, as I stood in the dark of the morning waving goodbye to the man I love as much as I love breathing while he darted off into the great wide open under the setting blue moon, the voices said, "So now what? What exciting things do WE have planned - you dud?" 

I walked my usual two mile morning route.  I stopped in for a short visit with my 81-year old mother.  I had my every-single-day-of-the-week breakfast of yogurt and granola.  But then I got a little crazy...

I made myself a cup of espresso - espresso, not regular old coffee.  I put on a hat - a hat!?  Then I left the phone on the kitchen counter, the laptop on the desk, and went to the yard with a magazine - a travel magazine...the one that comes cheap with the Nat Geo subscription, but never manages to make it to the "read pile."   I stretched out under the trees and stayed still long enough to render myself harmless to the busy birds and squirrels who chattered and tweeted and scurried like they were all on their own marvelous adventures.  I spent two hours reading about the thrill of navigating rickety bridges across the Ganges River to practice yoga in India...about picking grapes and eating rabbit in an undiscovered corner of Italy...about a crushing 500-mile hike across the Iberian Peninsula...about toothless old men in Singapore, and days-long hammock-to-hammock riverboat trips down the Amazon River. 

I almost caught the fever.  I came inside and googled How to Speak Italian in 6 Weeks.  I found information on ashrams in India and calculated the travel hours from Texas to the Ganges River.  I Facebook friended the Great Sphinx of Giza. (who knew?)

Then I ate lunch, washed a load of towels, checked my email, and located my husband on his SPOT tracker.  I picked up a novel I've been trying to finish reading for three months, put it down, and picked up one I've been meaning to start reading for six months.  Fever over.

But all was not lost on me today.  My armchair travels gave me at least one lasting moment - a quote that stuck and became an adventure in soul searching that deserves some attention.  These are words from - interestingly enough - a motorcycle rental "businessman" in Rishikesh, India: 

"Don't worry so much.  Worry is praying for what you don't want."

Into the great wide open...


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