No More Empty Fortune Cookies!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goodbye 2009

This year has been a true adventure. I lost a job, I started a small business, I was on the news and two new nephews were born.
I've built several web sites, learned a bit of JavaScript, designed my own logo and sold a few paintings. Hell, we've even adopted a puppy!
All in all it's been a fun learning experience, trying but fun.
I never really know what each new year will hold, but I always have expectations of a better year than the one prior. This year that certainly holds true. In the past, I've withheld from verbalizing any New Year's resolutions out of a sense that somehow that is setting myself up for a failure, or setting an unobtainable goal or otherwise self sabotaging. This year I am going to break tradition and prescribe some clear and concise plans for 2010. My primary goal for the new year is to improve my income and establish myself and my business in a substantially more profitable manner and to continue to move toward a more healthy and active lifestyle.
I want to find more time to paint, although I am hesitant to say that because last year I promised to find more time to blog, yet I actually blogged less than the year prior. I want to spend more time with watercolor and work on my blending technique with oils. I want to be able to paint more abstractly and let go of that need for control of every single detail. Yes, I know I tend to be a control freak. I'm working on that too.
I want to see my marriage continue to flourish in the new year, and that means a dedication to it and a commitment to nurturing that relationship between the Wifester and I. I never want to take for granted the love and adoration that we share.
I want to make sure that I continue to cultivate other relationships in my life, too. Like with my nieces, for example. I am committed to spending more time getting to know them better as people, and not just as those two kids that I sometimes see.
I miss knowing my cousins, too. I alienated myself from everyone for so long that I hardly know them anymore, not that I knew them all that well to begin with.
I am committed to maintaining a fully organic diet both for the Wifester and I and for our pups.
And again, I am determined to spend more time with my blog, and even have plans to revamp it and redesign it.
I know you've heard that before, and I can certainly understand any skepticism, but I feel that after I've completed school this year, I'll have much more time to commit to these things.
So, that's about it, in a nutshell.
What are your plans for the new year?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Chaos

My head is spinning. It's that pre-Christmas, final exams, too many papers to write, baking holiday goodies and preparing-for-a-trip mania that just creates havoc and chaos in my life.
I don't like havoc and chaos.
I tried to leave them behind years ago, but sometimes they creep back into my life like a nasty mold creeps into the crevasses of an untidy bathroom.
Speaking of untidy bathrooms...there's another thing on my list that has yet to get checked off.
The arrival of our new puppy, Sally Sue, joyous and beautiful as it may be is also a very strenuous and anxiety inducing event that quite frankly, has been more stress than I anticipated.
The Wifester pointed out that as much as the Sunny Dog is her four-legged twinkie-twin, so is Sally-Sue a K9 version of me.
Case in point: Sunny Dog doesn't get too excited about much of anything. Except food. And naps. And she's really just content to be in the house, resting comfortably atop a pile of pillows, preferably on the bed.
Now, substitute "Sunny Dog" with "Wifester" and it all still holds true.
Likewise, Sally Sue is quite boisterous and easily excitable. She's a little loud, definitely an attention seeker, and curious about every little thing. She has to investigate every nook and cranny, sniffing, licking, pawing and biting at any and everything she can get her snout or paws on.
Just like me.
She really is my dog.
I fully believe it is precisely this similarity to my own self in her that drives me absolutely nuts.
Now don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade her for anything in the world, except maybe a fully trained and no longer teething/chewing version of the very same puppy. Since that is simply impossible, I'll take her as is.
I will also take a Valium with her, please. Thank you.

Today I have an especially complex dilemma. I have 10 pages of a 12 page paper remaining as of yet, unwritten. I have an entire 8 page paper that has not a single word. And I have over 40 dozen Sunny Dog Snacks to bake in order to fill the open orders pending for my shop.
I don't know where to begin. I suppose the dog treats need to receive priority, since those are paying customers, but at the same time, I feel this sinking feeling that I am falling further and further behind every minute I don't devote to school.

Oh well, blogging about my woes and stresses isn't going to solve anything, nor is it going to get me any closer to completion of any one of these tasks on my list, other than "catch up on blog."
I guess I better fire up that oven and get to baking.
If anyone feels like swinging by and rolling out some dough with me, gimme a shout.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Grandma Appropriate Art

The Wifester told me her Grandma requested a painting for Christmas.
That's sweet that she wants one, but I'm thinking how do I make sure to get something of quality done and dried before CHRISTMAS? I do my best with oils, but there's no way that'll dry in time...
Before the thought can even finish crossing my mind, The Wifester chimes in with,
"No naked mermaids with big, buxom breasts hanging out OK? It's for Grandma, so think flowers, not Jesus hanging from hypodermic syringes, you got that?!"
Really? Does my darling Wifester really not trust that I know how to make a Grandma appropriate painting? Hurumph.

I guess I better get off of here and into that studio room...Where's my acrylics?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Old Dogs

Long lost BFF:"Do you remember that dog we used to visit, Geppetto, we knew his owner...some guy..."
me: " I remember Geppetto!! Yeah, we used to go over to that guy's house to see Geppetto. What was that guy's name?"
LLBFF: " I don't remember. But I remember Geppetto."
me: "Yeah, me too. ..And I remember that one dog we used to know named D-O-G."
LLBFF: "Oh yeah! I remember D-O-G! But I don't remember who owned him either."

What stuck out about Geppetto and D-O-G for LLBFF and I? We both remembered that both of those dogs were always outside all alone, and we felt sorry for them. Whenever we went to visit we always played with those dogs, and they were always so happy for the attention. It was like it was the best day of that dog's week when we went over and played with him.

I guess I've always been like that. I've always thought quite a bit more of the animals in my life than I have of the people around me. Maybe it's because they offer such unconditional, unconstrained love. Maybe it's because they don't know political lines, religious affiliations, social status or ethnic prejudice. All they see is another creature who lives and breathes.

I think we could all learn a little bit about life, love, and acceptance from the Geppettos and D-O-Gs around us.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Send a card!

I saw this on Facebook. It could be a hoax, but so what. What if it's not. What harm would it do to send a card anyway?

5yr old Noah is in the last stages Neuroblastoma Cancer. Family's celebrating Xmas nxt week & Noah's request is 2 get lots of Xmas cards! Plz send cards 2 Noah Biorkman 1141 Fountian View Circle South Lyon,Mi 48178. Let's C how many cards we cn get 2 ths Little guy. Thanks! (from Ernie Halter)

Veteran's Day vs. Memorial Day

Do you know the difference between Veteran's Day and Memorial Day?
We always stop to honor all of our service men and women on both days, but why are there two different days, and what is the difference between them?

According to the US Department of Veteran's Affairs, a lot of us confuse the two. They say:

Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served – not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty.

A complete history of Veterans Day, and why it is observed on November 11, can be found on the Veterans Day History Web page.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Abortion, Pell Grants, and Capital Punishment

Let's see if we can get this correct...
God says "Thou shall not kill," therefore abortion is murder. That is why you can not under the current health care reform bill, receive federal money for any insurance company that covers abortions for any circumstances except rape or incest.
If you will need an abortion, you must buy private insurance that does cover abortion, without using your government provided tax credit, and you must pay for that out of pocket.
Now, since you typically don't know that you are going to have an abortion until it is time to have an abortion, I suppose just to be safe, all females, upon the onset of menstruation, should go ahead and prophylactically purchase abortion insurance, you know, just in case. Besides, you never know when you won't be able to prove that you were a rape victim.
I can't even prove to St. Edward School that I attended their institution for 5 years. They still say they have no record of me - even though I have yearbooks and class photos and report cards signed by teachers... I'm just saying, sometimes proof is harder to obtain than it sounds.

So what it boils down to is that the wealthy women, the ones who plan ahead of time and know they will one day need an abortion so they do go ahead and purchase the separate insurance with their money that was not provided by the government tax credit will be allowed to kill their babies, but the poor women, the ones who can't afford the separate, private insurance will just have to keep on trying to make ends meet, only with yet another mouth to feed.

OK, I get it, the rich reap the benefits and the poor get it in the can. That's nothing new.

Now, next up: God sent the guy to kill the abortion doctor in order to protect all the innocent babies. But I thought murder was wrong. Right? No?
And while we're at it, you know the DC Sniper guy is due to be executed tomorrow. I wonder if all the Republican, anti-choice, God- said -don't- kill -so- abortion- is -wrong! people will show up to protest his execution? Oh no, wait, they are the same ones that are pro- capital punishment. But murder is murder and God said "thou shall not kill," right? No?
Oy vey! I'm so confused already!

Moving right along: I've decided that I don't want any of my tax dollars to be used to pay for some college student who is getting a degree in theology. It goes against the principals of separation of church and state, I don't believe in funding a religious education with federal tax dollars, and this is my personal belief. So from now on, my taxes can not fund any Pell grants that have been awarded to theology or other religious studies majors.
I also don't agree with the murder of innocent lives, so I would like to stipulate that none of my tax dollars be used to fund any war effort, in any manner. Got it? Thanks.
Huh? What's that? I don't get to say where my tax dollars get spent? What? You gotta be kidding me? But what's all this about not wanting tax dollars to be spend on abortions being a legitimate complaint? How come they got to stipulate how their tax dollars will, or in this case will not be spent, but I don't?
Is anyone else as confused as I am?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Give Peace A Chance

As I sit at my computer to write this, I'm thinking about the recent events in my country and around the globe and how those events will impact peace for generations to come. I think that quite possibly, therein could be the key to finding and maintaining a lasting peace for mankind. We all too often act, speak, react without thinking first of the overall impact of those actions, words or reactions. Deeper than that though, is the inclination to expect everyone else to subscribe to our own personal set of morals, philosophies, and expectations. It won't happen. The thing is, this world is made up of so many different philosophies, different opinions, varying morals and expectations. That's what makes it interesting. You know that already.
I've been thinking about how to bring the changes that I want to see into fruition. Sometimes I get really overwhelmed and feel like I'm all alone in the epic battle to give peace a chance.
photo by Debbi Tannock

But I persist. Why? Because I envision a world in which by and large we can all be ourselves without fear of persecution. I envision a world that has learned from it's history and healed from it's wars. I dream of an earth with people of all ethnicities, all creeds, and all sexual orientations coming together to understand and accept each other, unconditionally - out of love. We're capable of it, in that I have no doubt. Sure, it won't be easy, but the path to improvement never is.
I believe that education is the true path to peace. We as humans fear that which is unknown. Because we are uncomfortable with fear, we subconsciously turn fear into anger, it's a natural reaction. The fight or flight kicks into action and poof, goodbye scared, hello mad. It's a primitive, innate form of self protection. Probably left over from when we had to escape those pesky saber toothed tigers.
As Dorothy Thompson said,
"Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict -- alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence."
And as The Dalai Lama said,
"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for oneself, one's own family or nation, but for the benefit of all humankind. Universal responsibility is the key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace."

How, though, do we instill this sense of universal responsibility? Teach creative alternatives to violence to an entire globe? How do we even create an atmosphere of receptiveness to these foreign ideas?

I can't bring peace to the world all by myself. I know that today. But I can change the world, one person at a time. One rally at a time, one blog post at a time.

If only one who person reads this, later reflects upon it before casting judgment upon someone else simply for being different, and decides to embrace that person for their difference and take a bit of time to learn more about them, averting conflict and building a new bridge...well, then it's been worth-while.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not perfect. I don't even pretend to be. I can cast judgment, I can be critical, and I too can sometimes be intolerant. I'm human. I try though, to step back and look at what it is that has triggered such a response from me, and then I try to make amends.
Introspection, empathy, education, and an instillation of universal responsibility. Those sound like tall orders, I know, but I also know that we are up to the challenge.

I'm not sure if this post is too convoluted, too rambling to make any sense. I apologize if it is.
I'll leave you with a poem I found from waaaaaaaaay back. I wrote this 20 years ago, when I was only 16. I don't remember what I called it. I share it, not for its strength in prose, for it is definitely the work of a 16 year old, but I share it for it's vision of hope for peace in the presence of overwhelming apathy.

People just don't care anymore,
They don't even seem to try.
I think about this everyday
And everyday I cry.
You see, life is very beautiful to me,
It's a wonderful thing to find.
I guess nobody understands-
That, or they're just blind.
Blind to this and so much more;
Like Peace, and Hope, and Love...
I hope one day the blind will see,
So we can be free,
Just like the dove.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dear "Anonymous",

Dear "Anonymous",
I will not publish your comments that are nothing more than links to porn. If you have something articulate or even not so articulate to say, say it. However, your links to porn will get no attention here from this point forward. Please stop leaving them.
Thank you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I get really frustrated with the ignorance I encounter almost daily. Not stupidity, like the jackasses who approach the traffic circle's YIELD sign and stop, that's a whole different issue. I mean ignorance in the truest sense of the word.
For example, when a certain acquaintance of mine continuously comments negatively about "them Mexicans" or "those illegals" or "Mexican immigrants" and completely demoralizes Mexicans as a whole, even though I've told her time and again that I am in fact Mexican.
That's ignorance.
I recently read the comments section following an article in a online science journal about how 32 new planets have been identified, outside of our galaxy, in which someone went on a tangent about how these "stupid scientist expect us to believe that they've actually found planets so that we'll sink more money into their research projects, when most of us are smart enough to know that if there were more planets, we'd of found them by now."
Again, I cite ignorance.
Not to mention the Medicare recipients who showed up at Town Hall meetings all up in arms, shouting "The government needs to keep their hands off my health care!"
I mean, wow, really? I hate to be Mrs. Obvious, but hello?!

Beyond all of that ignorance, and believe me, I know that is a mountain already, lies something even more troubling to me; The ignorance exhibited by the children coming out of the school system here in my home state of Tennessee.
Looking at my state's report card, I see that the graduation rate is below 90% for the last 5 years. It has actually hovered just barely above 80%.
That is truly sad. I wonder why people here are so quick to drop out of school while other states have maintained a 96 -98% graduation rate? Have we made it too easy for kids to give up on education? There should definitely be stiffer repercussions for dropping out of school early.
Even if they don't drop out, the education that they do receive while in the school systems here is definitely lacking.
The Wifester and I were playing Taboo with some people one night, the other couple drew the card with Anne Frank. The one person went through everything one could possibly imagine to use to describe Anne Frank, without using the forbidden words. The buzzer finally rang and I stole the point. After the round was finished, the person who couldn't guess Ann Frank looked to her partner and said, "Oh my god! Did all that stuff really happen to that woman?"
I was flabbergasted. I could not imagine that a grown adult could have made it through the school system without knowing who Anne Frank was. It wasn't even a matter of having blanked out for a moment, she had no clue. She said over and over agian, "I've NEVER heard of her, I'm sorry." And she did graduate...and even attended college for a period of time.
I got a phone call from a business acquaintance the other day. She was aghast over some comments she had received on a discussion thread on Facebook because she had made a comment in support of President Obama. Someone hand called her a communist bitch and told her that she needed to leave the country. My only consolation for her was to again cite ignorance. It seems that the offending party was of the mindset that anyone who was not in agreement with his train of thought was not deserving of living in America.
"Get out of my country!" Ignorance.
The thing is, if we are graduating people who don't know about Anne Frank, and if those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, what then is in store for us in the coming years?
If we are so intolerant of other cultures who are different from our own, and if we've forgotten that the only true Americans were all but totally annihilated by most of our ancestors, and to this day still live in the ghettos we call reservations, what then will happen in the coming years to other races... To our own, which ever it may be?
It seems even those of us who have read Anne Frank's diary and seen the play and studied the history of Germany and the Nazis and Hitler...even those among us have exhibited true ignorance when it comes to the cumulative, adverse effects of intolerance and bigotry.
Why else would we be fighting for equal rights still today? Why else would the false, but ever present idea that Barack Obama was a Muslim have been such an issue? Why else would my own marriage be denied?

When, I wonder, will it stop?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Do You Know About Helium?

I've been writing articles for and they've been paying me! Wow, I get to do something I like, research and write about various topics, and they provide me with much needed cash. I like it. If you like to write, and have a little something to say, you may want to check them out too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's about Civil Rights, not just Gay Rights

The Wifester and I had a long, serious conversation last night. We talked in depth about my need to take action, and how I feel that I have to shout louder because so many feel no need to speak up at all.
Ani said it well in her poem My IQ when she said "If more people were screaming then I could relax..."

That's exactly how I feel, and I feel passionately about this partly because it is so personal to me, but also just because any infringement on human rights is wrong, and I will always stand passionately, adamantly, and vocally against it.
I asked the Wifester how anyone could differentiate the civil rights movement of the 60's from our plight now.
Easily, she says, apples to oranges. This lands in the bedroom and touches on the fundamental religious beliefs of the majority of the country's population. Beliefs, she says, that had not been threatened by blacks gaining equality with whites.
I disagreed. The backlash to the civil rights movement cited the Bible as the foundation of their argument with such declarations as "God created separate tribes and placed them on separate lands and gave them different languages so that the races wouldn't mix. This is proof that God does not want the races to mix."
Of course, anyone who had read and studied the Bible knows that virtually anyone could construe whatever message they wanted to from it. It is written much like a horoscope or a good fortune cookie: broad generalized tales that can be interpreted in a variety of manners and can apply to an array of scenarios, if you look at it from just the right angle.
I know I'll get some backlash for that, but hey, that's how I roll. Call it as I see it, see it for what it is.
Anyways, as I was saying, The Wifester says no way are we ever going to gather the kind of support and mobilization that created the civil rights movement. First, she says, people today are much more narcissistic and self absorbed than they were in the socially conscious times of the civil rights movement. They just don't care about anything beyond their own noses. Second, she says, is the issue of gay rights rubbing that religious nerve that she feels wasn't rubbed during the days of the race riots and the marches on Washington led by MLK.

Wifester and I both agreed that the general population does not see our plight as being a fight for basic human rights, and that our right to marry really is the same as the right of a black person to marry a white person, or an Asian to marry a white... But we disagreed when it comes to whether or not that will ever change.

The Wifester says no.
She says that because our country is run by Christian fundamentalism and that Christian Supremacy is so prevalent we will never gain true equality in this country.

I don't hold the same grim outlook.
I believe that the majority of my Christian neighbors and friends are not fundamentalists and ideologues. I believe that most of them realize that love between two consenting adults is never wrong. I believe that as we grow and mature, as we learn and expand our knowledge base we begin see that some beliefs we once held may be wrong, some things we once thought have changed, and not everything our parents taught us is the truth.

I believe in the basic goodness in humanity, and that given the chance, most people will ultimately do the right thing- more often than not, and that in the end we will prevail.
I believe that it is the squeaky wheel that gets oiled, and I take it upon myself to squeak as much as I can, until that much needed oil has been received.

What do you think? Are the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement parallel or are they apples to oranges, as The Wifester put it?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My mind is a dangerous playground

Hello bloggoverse!

It's been a while hasn't it? I promised at the beginning of this year to spend more time with you and it seems that I did quite the opposite. I know, I suck. You can beat me with an anvil later. On the bright side, I know now to make my 2010 resolution to spend less time here, and if history holds true to form, I should end up spending an extraordinary amount of time writing and posting here regularly.

We'll see how that works out.

So what's happened in my world since we last talked? Gosh, a lot. I've taken and passed some really tough classes. I *tried to* organize a marriage equality rally, and was the one lone demonstrator in said rally. I reunited and reminisced with some old friends, and I've baked a LOT of Sunny Dog Snacks. I've been a very busy Cookie!

One thing that has really had me contemplating my relationships and how I communicate to those closest to me has been the untimely and truly unfair passing of one of the youngest family members on the Wifester's side. Tragedy strikes without warning and is often a prelude to this type of introversion and retrospect.
How can a child be taken away from a family before she even has a chance to live her life? How is that fair? How do her parents and brothers go on after that? Her grandparents? What good reason could all of that pain and tragedy possibly serve? And who am I to question these things? Who am I not to?
I can't answer any of it. I don't know that I want to. But I hate the not knowing.
Could it have been averted? Why wasn't it detected before? How did this go undiagnosed? And then, the worst part; the selfish part... because she suffered a seizure... is my nagging, incessant thought, "Will that happen to me one day?"

She never had a seizure disorder before.
Neither did I, and then one day I did.

I try not to think too much about those things, and just live my life like I always have, but its there always, lingering in the back of my mind; What if...

What if's could easily land me in a cave, surrounded by padding, helmet secured in place- if I let them, so I try not to let them.

I hope to see more light shed on epilepsy and seizure disorders and the people who have them in the future. So often, people think, upon finding out I have epilepsy, that they will inevitably see me shaking and convulsing and foaming at the mouth. Sure, that's happened. But more often than not, it presents as a strange, repetitive movement of an arm or leg. Or it presents as a distant, vacant stare followed by blinking and lip smacking. Sometimes, Wifester says, I look like I'm picking invisible somethings off my shirt, over and over again.
Yep. I'm a regular amusement park. Wifester even makes a game of it. She likes to confuse me by speaking in Spanish or saying nonsensical phrases to me, just to illicit my postictal response. She always has a good laugh telling me about it later.

At least I can serve to aid in comic relief.

I don't like feeling bogged down with the why's and what if's and how's...

I prefer to live freely and openly and not be bothered with such questions, but they persist. My mind never rests until it feels secure in the answers that it seeks, and those answers become more and more elusive the older and more inquisitive I get.

What reality do you question or life circumstance do you investigate with the microscopic lens of a research analyst on the cusp of a major breakthrough?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

BlogBlast for Peace

November 5, 2009
BlogBlast For Peace is an online community of international bloggers who "blog for peace" twice a year. We believe that if words are powerful, then this matters. The peace globe posts spread from blog to blog and has become an online movement with thousands participating. There are currently 1476 bloggers involved in the project from 46 countries! Our next event is November 5, 2009. BlogBlast For Peace is a way to get involved, a way to have a voice. If you would like to share our vision for global peace, please join us as we make this a priority. Fly a peace globe, write a post, learn about your neighbor across the continent, on the other side of the world, or even next door. Around a global table of peacemakers....anything is possible.



  1. Promote global peace through activism
  2. Global awareness of the suffering in our world
  3. Respect for diversity and cultural differences
  4. Visit OR
  5. RIGHT CLICK and SAVE the badge to promote on your blog or Facebook page
The Peace Globe Gallery

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day? Think Again

I'm reosting this again this year, because once again, Thom Hartman says it so much more eloquently than I can.

By Thom Hartmann

If you fly over the country of Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, the island on which Columbus landed, it looks like somebody took a blowtorch and burned away anything green. Even the ocean around the port capital of Port au Prince is choked for miles with the brown of human sewage and eroded topsoil. From the air, it looks like a lava flow spilling out into the sea.
The history of this small island is, in many ways, a microcosm for what's happening in the whole world.

When Columbus first landed on Hispaniola in 1492, virtually the entire island was covered by lush forest. The Taino "Indians" who loved there had an apparently idyllic life prior to Columbus, from the reports left to us by literate members of Columbus's crew such as Miguel Cuneo.

When Columbus and his crew arrived on their second visit to Hispaniola, however, they took captive about two thousand local villagers who had come out to greet them. Cuneo wrote: "When our caravels… where to leave for Spain, we gathered…one thousand six hundred male and female persons of those Indians, and these we embarked in our caravels on February 17, 1495…For those who remained, we let it be known (to the Spaniards who manned the island's fort) in the vicinity that anyone who wanted to take some of them could do so, to the amount desired, which was done."

Cuneo further notes that he himself took a beautiful teenage Carib girl as his personal slave, a gift from Columbus himself, but that when he attempted to have sex with her, she "resisted with all her strength." So, in his own words, he "thrashed her mercilessly and raped her."

While Columbus once referred to the Taino Indians as cannibals, a story made up by Columbus - which is to this day still taught in some US schools - to help justify his slaughter and enslavement of these people. He wrote to the Spanish monarchs in 1493: "It is possible, with the name of the Holy Trinity, to sell all the slaves which it is possible to sell…Here there are so many of these slaves, and also brazilwood, that although they are living things they are as good as gold…"

Columbus and his men also used the Taino as sex slaves: it was a common reward for Columbus' men for him to present them with local women to rape. As he began exporting Taino as slaves to other parts of the world, the sex-slave trade became an important part of the business, as Columbus wrote to a friend in 1500: "A hundred castellanoes (a Spanish coin) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten (years old) are now in demand."

However, the Taino turned out not to be particularly good workers in the plantations that the Spaniards and later the French established on Hispaniola: they resented their lands and children being taken, and attempted to fight back against the invaders. Since the Taino where obviously standing in the way of Spain's progress, Columbus sought to impose discipline on them. For even a minor offense, an Indian's nose or ear was cut off, se he could go back to his village to impress the people with the brutality the Spanish were capable of. Columbus attacked them with dogs, skewered them with pikes, and shot them.

Eventually, life for the Taino became so unbearable that, as Pedro de Cordoba wrote to King Ferdinand in a 1517 letter, "As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth… Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery."

Eventually, Columbus and later his brother Bartholomew Columbus who he left in charge of the island, simply resorted to wiping out the Taino altogether. Prior to Columbus' arrival, some scholars place the population of Haiti/Hispaniola (now at 16 million) at around 1.5 to 3 million people. By 1496, it was down to 1.1 million, according to a census done by Bartholomew Columbus. By 1516, the indigenous population was 12,000, and according to Las Casas (who were there) by 1542 fewer than 200 natives were alive. By 1555, every single one was dead.
This wasn't just the story of Hispaniola; the same has been done to indigenous peoples worldwide. Slavery, apartheid, and the entire concept of conservative Darwinian Economics, have been used to justify continued suffering by masses of human beings.

Dr. Jack Forbes, Professor of Native American Studies at the University of California at Davis and author of the brilliant book "Columbus and Other Cannibals," uses the Native American word wétiko (pronounced WET-ee-ko) to describe the collection of beliefs that would produce behavior like that of Columbus. Wétiko literally means "cannibal," and Forbes uses it quite intentionally to describe these standards of culture: we "eat" (consume) other humans by destroying them, destroying their lands, taking their natural resources, and consuming their life-force by enslaving them either physically or economically. The story of Columbus and the Taino is just one example.

We live in a culture that includes the principle that if somebody else has something we need, and they won't give it to us, and we have the means to kill them to get it, it's not unreasonable to go get it, using whatever force we need to.

In the United States, the first "Indian war" in New England was the "Pequot War of 1636," in which colonists surrounded the largest of the Pequot villages, set it afire as the sun began to rise, and then performed their duty: they shot everybody-men, women, children, and the elderly-who tried to escape. As Puritan colonist William Bradford described the scene: "It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they [the colonists] gave praise therof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully..."

The Narragansetts, up to that point "friends" of the colonists, were so shocked by this example of European-style warfare that they refused further alliances with the whites. Captain John Underhill ridiculed the Narragansetts for their unwillingness to engage in genocide, saying Narragansett wars with other tribes were "more for pastime, than to conquer and subdue enemies."

In that, Underhill was correct: the Narragansett form of war, like that of most indigenous Older Culture peoples, and almost all Native American tribes, does not have extermination of the opponent as a goal. After all, neighbors are necessary to trade with, to maintain a strong gene pool through intermarriage, and to insure cultural diversity. Most tribes wouldn't even want the lands of others, because they would have concerns about violating or entering the sacred or spirit-filled areas of the other tribes. Even the killing of "enemies" is not most often the goal of tribal "wars": It's most often to fight to some pre-determined measure of "victory" such as seizing a staff, crossing a particular line, or the first wounding or surrender of the opponent.

This wétiko type of theft and warfare is practiced daily by farmers and ranchers worldwide against wolves, coyotes, insects, animals and trees of the rainforest; and against indigenous tribes living in the jungles and rainforests. It is our way of life. It comes out of our foundational cultural notions. So it should not surprise us that with the doubling of the world's population over the past 37 years has come an explosion of violence and brutality, and as the United States runs low on oil, we are now fighting wars in oil-rich parts of the world.

That is, after all, our history, which we celebrate on Columbus Day. It need not be our future.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Marriage is a Civil Right

"We cannot accept the view that Amendment 2's prohibition on specific legal protections does no more than deprive homosexuals of special rights. To the contrary, the amendment imposes a special disability on those persons alone. Homosexuals are forbidden the safeguards that others enjoy or may seek without constraint"
        -Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court in the decision overturning Colorado's Amendment 2 referendum

I wanted to let you know about a Marriage Equality Rally that will be happening this Sunday, 10/11/09, in front of the Capital Building, downtown Nashville, on the front steps, at 12:00 noon.

I am hoping to gather up some more support and some more bodies to stand in solidarity with us to tell our government that marriage is a right, and to prevent people who love each other that right is standing in the way of their pursuit of happiness.

The Arguments:

Marriage is an institution between one man and one woman.
UGH! This is the most often heard argument, and the one that is getting the states' constitutions re-written to re-define marriage as one man, one woman. But as I am exploring in my research paper, Who says what marriage is and by whom it is to be defined? The married? The marriable? Webster's Dictionary? As one essay I recently read on gay marriage said, " Isn't that kind of like allowing a banker to decide who is going to own the money stored in his vaults? It seems to me that justice demands that if the straight community cannot show a compelling reason to deny the institution of marriage to gay people, it shouldn't be denied. And such simple, nebulous declarations, with no real moral argument behind them, are hardly compelling reasons. They're really more like an expression of prejudice than any kind of a real argument. The concept of not denying people their rights unless you can show a compelling reason to deny them is the very basis of the American ideal of human rights."

Gay relationships are immoral.
Again, we need to ask, " Says who?" The Bible? Well, this is precisely the reason that our founding fathers included that pesky little clause, you know the one, tacked in the First Amendment, it discusses freedom of religion. That doesn't just mean you can practice whatever religion you wish, it also means you have the right to freedom from religion as well. The Bible has absolutely no standing in American law, as was made clear by the intent of the First Amendment (and as was very explicitly stated by the founding fathers in their first treaty, the Treaty of Tripoli, in 1791) and because it doesn't, no one has the right to impose rules anyone else simply because of something they percieve to be a moral injunction mandated by the Bible. Not all world religions have a problem with homosexuality; many sects of Buddhism, for example, celebrate gay relationships freely and would like to have the authority to make them legal marriages. In that sense, their religious freedom is being infringed. If one believes in religious freedom, the recognition that opposition to gay marriage is based on religious arguments is reason enough to discount this argument.

Same-sex marriage would threaten the institution of marriage.
I've got 5 words for you: Cher, Larry King, and Brittney Spears.
Threaten marriage? By allowing people to marry? This one is laughable. If it is the stability of the institution of heterosexual marriage that worries you, then consider that no one would ever require you or anyone else to participate in a gay marriage. You would still have freedom of choice, of choosing which kind of marriage to participate in -- something more than what you have now. And speaking of divorce -- imagine how the divorce rate could drop if gay people stopped trying heteresexual marriage because that's what's expected of them, only to end in divorce because they have to be true to themselves and their sexuality. To argue that the institution of marriage is worth preserving at the cost of requiring involuntary participants to remain in it is a better argument for reforming divorce laws than proscribing gay marriage.

And the one that got Prop. 8 passed in California:

Gay marriage would force churches to marry gay couples when they have a moral objection to doing so.

Just like in CA, this argument is usually advanced by churches that oppose gay marriage. To be blunt, it is a big fat lie. There is nothing in any marriage law, existing or proposed, anywhere in the United States, that does or would have the effect of requiring any church to marry any couple they do not wish to marry. Churches already have the right to refuse any couple they wish, and for any reason that suits them. Many often do. Some churches continue to refuse to marry interracial couples, others inter-religious couples, and a few refuse couples with large age disparities and for numerous other reasons. Gay marriage would not change any church's right to refuse to sanctify any marriage entirely as they wish - it would simply offer churches the opportunity to legally marry gay couples if they wish, as some have expressed the desire to do - the freedom of religion would actually be expanded, not contracted.

Soap box removed, Fortune Cookies climbing down.
I hope to see you Sunday, in front of the Metro Courthouse.
I'll be holding this poster, look for me!

Click on map to enlarge

National Equality March™ « Equality Across America

National Equality March™ « Equality Across America

Posted using ShareThis

If you can't get to Washington, organize locally.
Are you located in the Middle Tennessee area? Meet us on the steps of the state capital at noon, October 11th. Be sure to bring your signs and your thirst for EQUALITY!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The True Story of My Long-Lost BFF

Facebook has been such a phenomenal tool in reacquainting me with old friends who I otherwise, probably never would have heard from again.
I suppose that can be good or bad. In this situation, it has been very, very good.
Sometimes, when a person lives the kind of life that leads them into rehab not once, not twice, but three times... a life that creates a rift between themselves and their family in which there is no contact for years on end, and a parting of ways with many, many friends; some through death, some by choice, and others through incarceration...well, that type of life often means you've left a path of destruction in your wake, harming friendships along the way with illogical thought processes and random, irrational actions.

That defines a good 15 year segment of my life.

There was one friend who I parted ways with about 15 or 16 years ago. We had gone through Jr. high and high school together. We room-mated after high school. We were BFF's. We were inseparable. We went through some of life's most tumultuous trials and tribulations together, the teenage years. We also celebrated some of life's most triumphant and exhilarating times together, moving out on our own for the first time, getting our first cars, first love...
I never thought that anything could hinder the bond that we shared back then, but as is so often the case, young emotions and immature actions created a situation in which we stopped being friends for a long time. It pained me. For years I hurt over the fact that I had hurt my BFF and that she had hurt me. What I hurt over the most was that we were not ever able to talk and get past it. It was trivial, after all, what had hurt our friendship, in the grand scheme of things.
Then one day I was at work, outside on a smoke break and I saw her step-dad and her mom coming into the store...they were so excited, she had just had her first child and they were there to buy a card and a gift on their way back to the hospital to see her. I've always remembered her step-dad saying to me "You two have been too close for too long to let anything get in the way of your friendship. You really should talk."
It wasn't too long later that she did visit me at work, and we spoke a bit. It was awkward, but I was happy for her and she seemed to be in a much better place, as was I. That was 10, almost 11 years ago. I didn't see or hear from her again. But I moved, and she moved, and you know, people move on with their lives.
And then Facebook came along.
I searched her out when I first found my way to MySpace and Facebook, to no avail. Then, a few weeks ago, I had a friend request from long lost BFF. I was ecstatic! We emailed, we exchanged numbers, we talked, and talked and caught up. We made amends. This past Saturday, long-lost BFF came to visit the Wifester and I with her two children. It was so wonderful to see her again, and to meet her beautiful kids. We visited and laughed and cried and picked up right where I wish we had left off. Only this time, it's so much better. We've both grown and matured and have better perspective today, and we've done so in similar ways. It's wonderful to see how well long-lost BFF is, and how wonderful her children are, because that really is a testament to the job she has done, which is a testament to her character, which I never doubted about her.
Our lives didn't turn out the way we thought they would when we were 13 years old and hanging our heads out her grandparent's window to sneak a smoke, or when we were 18 and in our apartment and living off of Ramen noodles and saltine crackers.
Our families may be a bit different than what we had mapped out for ourselves back then, but they are perfect for us, and we are perfect for them.
Sometimes paths never again cross, and you are left with an empty spot where a true, honest, and sincere friendship used to be, never getting a chance to make amends.
I'm glad that's not how this story ended.
Long-lost BFF and I promised to keep in touch from now on and never-ever let anything stand in the way again.
LLBFF's daughter was amazing. She is a budding artist, and was just so excited to receive some of my excess art supplies.
Her son was a charming and handsome young man, and he went home with a new Airzooka, which I know he'll enjoy. I can't believe Wifester gave up her beloved Airzooka, but she said she wanted it to go to a good home, and to someone who will enjoy it. I think she chose the right kid!
A few hours after LLBFF left our house, she called to tell me to say that artist-daughter was already practicing some of the techniques I had taught her during her visit, and had announced that I was her new role model. "How's that one feel?" she asked.
"Oh, honey, I should be no one's role model, ever!"
I replied between laughter.
I'm happy to have reunited with my LLBFF. It really was a wonderful reunion.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"One more card in that deck against prejudice and discrimination"

It has been an extremely long, uphill battle for gays and lesbian workers in Tennessee, but finally this past Tuesday, city council passed a sexual orientation anti-discrimination bill.

Sure, it does nothing to help people like me with who've experienced situations like that annoying firing by that employer who told me "We're a Christian organization, we just can't have a lesbian working here", because this bill only applies to Metro employees. It prohibits discrimination of Metro employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Bill proponent Holly Spann said it well when she said "This is one more card in that deck against prejudice and discrimination."

Still, in my opinion, this bill falls short: It does not provide medical or pension benefits for same-sex partners. But we're making baby steps here. And I aim to celebrate all baby steps.

I know I should just be happy for these baby steps that Tennessee is making, and leave it at that, but I'm also concerned for the amount of time it is taking her to learn to take those steps.

Progress rather than perfection...I'm trying to keep that in mind.

RIP Mary Travers

according to the NY Times:

Update | 10:15 p.m. Mary Travers, whose ringing, earnest vocals with the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary made songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” enduring anthems of the 1960s protest movement, died Wednesday night in Danbury Hospital in Connecticut. She was 72 and had lived in Redding, Conn.

The cause was cancer, said her spokeswoman, Heather Lylis.

Ms. Travers brought a powerful voice and an unfeigned urgency to music that resonated with mainstream listeners. With her straight blond hair and willowy figure and two bearded guitar players by her side, she looked exactly like what she was, a Greenwich Villager straight from the clubs and the coffee houses that nourished the folk-music revival.

“She was obviously the sex appeal of that group, and that group was the sex appeal of the movement,” said Elijah Wald, a folk-blues musician and a historian of popular music.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lookin' and Leapin'

We're working like a well oiled machine around our house, I must say. We have our tasks, and each of us do them independently, contributing to the overall success of a peaceful and harmonious home life.
I cook, Wifester does dishes.
She carries in the groceries, I put them away.
I load the dishwasher, she unloads it.
Our system works well for us, and we like it.
That is, our system worked well for us until yesterday. Normally, Wifester takes the trash out, and I bring the can back to the house after the people come and haul away our garbage.
I had been cleaning out a closet yesterday, and ended up with a garbage bag full. So as I rushed out to place it in the can before the men came, I realized I was too late. Oh well, I thought, I can go ahead and bring the can back to the house. As I flipped the lid, I noticed a piece of paper stuck to the lid with a sticker or something, and a hand written note of some sort, but disregarded it and chucked in my trash bags. When I pulled the lid back down and retrieved the note, I was mortified to find what it read:

You know my theory on spiders, right? They are all waiting in hiding to kill humankind. They are. Don't laugh. THEY ARE.
I'm quite grateful to the kind men who left me the note, let me tell you that!
So my next dilemma was whether or not to move the trash can back to it's spot by my house, bringing the little killers closer to me and my family, or leave it out by the curb, not fulfilling my end of the trash duties. I moved the can. With knees buckling and fight or flight reaction in full force, I moved the damned can.

When the Wifester got home from work, I told her my story.
Her: "I'll have to spray the can out with that spider spray. There's nothing in there, right?"
Me: "Yeah, I threw in the trash bag."
Her: "What'd you do that for? Are you gonna reach in and pull that bag out?"
Me: "Hell NO! I had already thrown the bag in before I read the note."
Her: "And that's a perfect analogy for the difference between you and I. You leap. I look. What if that note had said that there was a bomb in the trash can?"
Me: "I guess I'd be all over the driveway, along with the spiders."

I guess the Wifester is right, that is a pretty good analogy for the two of us. She looks, I leap.
What are you? A looker or a leaper?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shopping Saved My Life

Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while, and those who know me in real life know that I usually boycott, or at least call myself boycotting that one certain big box retail store. You know the one, blue and white with all the smiley faces. Among many reasons I don't like to support them, some of the top reasons are:
  • the huge disparity between their male and female workers' wages (for same position, same qualifications) as evidenced by law suits and settlements.
  • while they are the largest profiting retailer, they are also the corporation with the largest percentage of employees who require public assistance for housing, food, and other basic needs. They make the most, but pay the least, making you and I support their employees with our taxes.
  • there is never an employee who can answer a question when you need one. even if you seek one out.
  • that creepy smile has to be covering up something!
I could keep going, but you get the idea.
Well, Sunday morning the Wifester and I decided to do a little shopping. Since we needed some hardware to split off the cable line and run it into a newly redone room in the house, and we also needed some groceries and a shower curtain liner as well, we decided that the Super Wal Mart would be the best get in, get out option. I concede from time to time and end up at the retail monster every 6 or 8 months or so with the Wifester, fussing and complaining, kicking and screaming, and constantly placing item after low-cost item in my shopping cart all the while...

On this occasion, we arrived, did our shopping which included grocery shopping, and left just as the after church crowd was invading. If you've ever been to Super Wal Mart, in the South, after church lets out... you know what I mean. If you haven't, do it just once, it's a real carnival! The trick is to get there before church lets out, though, so you can secure your shopping cart. Otherwise, you'll be S.O.L. and left to carry your foreign made, low cost, sweat shop treasures in your arms.
Anywhoodle, we loaded up our car with our loot and started to pull out of the parking lot when Wifester threw the car into park and proclaimed "Holy Shit! I have no brakes!" I heard the omnious sound of the pedal thudding the floorboard without any resistance and still felt the need to ask, "Are you sure?"
"Um, YEAH! Look" thump, thump, thump...
Ut oh. It was apparent that there were absolutely no brakes what-so-ever on this 2000 lb death trap.

We ended up having to call our neighbors to come pick us up so we could bring the groceries home before they spoiled. Thank goodness for good neighbors! We called AAA to tow the car...thank goodness for AAA!!!

"You see! That's just another reason to hate Wal-Mart!" I told Wifester.
But the Wifester was right, in retrospect Wal-Mart may very well have saved our lives!

It seems, according to the mechanic, that Wifester's breakline busted. I'm just relieved that it didn't happen while we were on the highway headed to or from the store. More so that it didn't happen while Wifester was on the Interstate, in rush hour traffic, headed to or from work.

And that, my friends, is how shopping saved my life.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Those were some big ole breasts!

The Wifester and I had dinner guests last night. I know, I know...we're becoming regular socialites. Now that I've moved my easel and paint supplies out of the dining room and into the back bedroom/makeshift "studio", we have a full dining room to enjoy again. So I called up my friend, Mountain Girl and invited her and her hubby, California Boy to join us for the first dinner in our new dining room.
I know the Wifester's answer any time I ask "So what should I make for dinner?" is always going to be "ENCHILADAS!" So I don't even bother asking her anymore, unless I happen to be in the mood for enchiladas as well. Since we recently had enchiladas when our soon-to-be married friends came over *waves at robin_nash and her boo * so this time, I wanted something different. I also wanted to make something that I haven't made before. I poked around on the and about a thousand recipe sites, but didn't really see anything that tickled my fancy. I knew I wanted to make something with the nice plump chicken breasts I had just bought, and remembered that I had some goat cheese...
I marinated my breasts, well, not my breasts, but the chicken's breasts in olive oil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, marjoram, and sage for a few hours in the fridge. Then I took them out, covered them with a sheet of saran wrap and beat the hell out of them with a meat tenderizer until they were flat like pancakes, maybe 1 1/2" thick...I donno. At that point, I placed them back in the marinade and made my stuffing.
For the stuffing, I cooked 5 slices of bacon, and set them aside to cool, then I chopped them up to tiny bits in my handy food chopper. I love that damned little gadget. Then, I took my little package of goat cheese, which had been sitting on the counter while the bacon cooked to let the cheese soften a bit, a couple handfuls of Italian bread crumbs, some minced garlic, some more oregano, thyme, marjoram, sage, and some salt and pepper and a little steamed, chopped spinach. I mixed this all up until it was completely incorporated together, then covered and placed it back in the fridge to let all the flavors come out. I let that set in the fridge for about two hours. I kept my bacon grease in the skillet. I'll tell you why in a few.
After the stuffing set and the flavors were peaking, I took the chicken breasts, laid them out flat, and spooned the stuffing mixture into them, then rolled them up and dipped them in Italian bread crumbs. Once all the breasts were dipped I pan seared them in that bacon grease, then set them in a glass casserole dish and baked at 350 for about 20 min. I checked the temp and my thermometer read 180 so I felt safe that we would not be suffering salmonella poisoning with this meal, and at that, I covered the dish and let the breasts rest for about 10 min while my brussel sprouts cooked. For them, I did a twist on Guy Fieri's "Bumped up Brussel Sprouts." I didn't have all the ingredients, but I worked with what I did have, and they came out great. I cut the sprouts in half, used some of those bacon pieces from earlier, some minced garlic, a few spoons of capers and some of the bacon drippings. When the sprouts were tender, I splashed some balsamic vinaigrette and viola, yummy, yummy sprouts!
The chicken, though... the chicken was so good! I've never made it before, but I guarantee, I'll be making it again! And if you like Italian spices and chicken that is tender and juicy and stuffed with yummy, yummy goodness, then I encourage you to try it too! One day, when I win the lottery and open my own restaurant...this chicken dish will definitely be on the menu!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Life Changed That Day

"You'd better come see the TV."
"One of the Twin Towers just got hit by a plane or better come down here and look at this."
I pulled the covers away from my face and wiped the sleep from my eyes, letting the information marinate a bit. I was stunned and I think in shock a little.
"What do you mean a plane hit the Twin Towers? That can't even happ..."
"It did, or something did. Come see!"
I rolled out of bed and descended the stairs to find Liliana and her youngest son huddled around the television, with a look of shock and terror on their faces. I knew instantly why she was more mortified than anyone else, her oldest son was out of the country, visiting their family in Italy, and at a time like this, you just want your family by your side, and she certainly wanted her son to be safely home, with her.
My own family was 3000 miles away, and on rocky ground with me, and I wanted nothing more than to run to their side and hug them.

As I poured my coffee and staggered my way toward the TV, I heard Liliana saying "Oh! My GOD, look at..."
That's when I saw it. The second plane hit. My knees buckled and my head spun. Did I just see what I think I just saw?
I did. I had to set my coffee down and wipe my eyes, trying to discern if I was dreaming or hallucinating or, if this was in fact actually happening.
From that moment on, my life has forever been changed.
There's a pre 9/11 America, and a post 9/11 America. That's a given, but what isn't often talked about is how our individual lives changed on that day.
I know mine did. My outlook, my thought process, my appreciation for those I love and for those who I don't even know has grown more than I can possibly measure or express with mere words.
Before September 11, 2001, I never thought that I would live to see an attack of that magnitude on our own soil, with our own machinery even.
Before September 11, 2001, I never thought that my country would return to such paranoia, discrimination, and prejudice as that which we fought so hard to overcome in the 60's.
I saw people mistaking Hispanics for Arabs and yelling foul, disgusting and obscene things at them. I saw some of the worst behavior I've ever witnessed in my lifetime.
I also saw some of the most beautiful displays of humanity. The pendulum swung fully both ways in the days following the attacks.
On the day after, September 12, 2001, my then girlfriend, the Wanderer and I rode around Sacramento and saw people standing on every corner holding candlelight vigils. Strangers holding hands and holding candles and waving flags and blotting tears.

I saw children collect water, canned goods, supplies of all sorts to send to the rescue crews.

This was indeed, a day that will stay in my memory and always illicit those thick, rigid goosebumps when ever mentioned. It is a single day, a horrific event that has helped to shape who I am and who I will be for the rest of my life.

How did September 11th change you?

self evident
~Ani Difranco

us people are just poems
we're 90% metaphor
with a leanness of meaning
approaching hyper-distillation
and once upon a time
we were moonshine
rushing down the throat of a giraffe
yes, rushing down the long hallway
despite what the p.a. announcement says
yes, rushing down the long stairs
with the whiskey of eternity
fermented and distilled
to eighteen minutes
burning down our throats
down the hall
down the stairs
in a building so tall
that it will always be there
yes, it's part of a pair
there on the bow of noah's ark
the most prestigious couple
just kickin back parked
against a perfectly blue sky
on a morning beatific
in its indian summer breeze
on the day that america
fell to its knees
after strutting around for a century
without saying thank you
or please

and the shock was subsonic
and the smoke was deafening
between the setup and the punch line
cuz we were all on time for work that day
we all boarded that plane for to fly
and then while the fires were raging
we all climbed up on the windowsill
and then we all held hands
and jumped into the sky

and every borough looked up when it heard the first blast
and then every dumb action movie was summarily surpassed
and the exodus uptown by foot and motorcar
looked more like war than anything i've seen so far
so far
so far
so fierce and ingenious
a poetic specter so far gone
that every jackass newscaster was struck dumb and stumbling
over 'oh my god' and 'this is unbelievable' and on and on
and i'll tell you what, while we're at it
you can keep the pentagon
keep the propaganda
keep each and every tv
that's been trying to convince me
to participate
in some prep school punk's plan to perpetuate retribution
perpetuate retribution
even as the blue toxic smoke of our lesson in retribution
is still hanging in the air
and there's ash on our shoes
and there's ash in our hair
and there's a fine silt on every mantle
from hell's kitchen to brooklyn
and the streets are full of stories
sudden twists and near misses
and soon every open bar is crammed to the rafters
with tales of narrowly averted disasters
and the whiskey is flowin
like never before
as all over the country
folks just shake their heads
and pour

so here's a toast to all the folks who live in palestine

el salvador

here's a toast to the folks living on the pine ridge reservation
under the stone cold gaze of mt. rushmore

here's a toast to all those nurses and doctors
who daily provide women with a choice
who stand down a threat the size of oklahoma city
just to listen to a young woman's voice

here's a toast to all the folks on death row right now
awaiting the executioner's guillotine
who are shackled there with dread and can only escape into their heads
to find peace in the form of a dream

cuz take away our playstations
and we are a third world nation
under the thumb of some blue blood royal son
who stole the oval office and that phony election
i mean
it don't take a weatherman
to look around and see the weather
jeb said he'd deliver florida, folks
and boy did he ever

and we hold these truths to be self evident:
#1 george w. bush is not president
#2 america is not a true democracy
#3 the media is not fooling me
cuz i am a poem heeding hyper-distillation
i've got no room for a lie so verbose
i'm looking out over my whole human family
and i'm raising my glass in a toast

here's to our last drink of fossil fuels
let us vow to get off of this sauce
shoo away the swarms of commuter planes
and find that train ticket we lost
cuz once upon a time the line followed the river
and peeked into all the backyards
and the laundry was waving
the graffiti was teasing us
from brick walls and bridges
we were rolling over ridges
through valleys
under stars
i dream of touring like duke ellington
in my own railroad car
i dream of waiting on the tall blonde wooden benches
in a grand station aglow with grace
and then standing out on the platform
and feeling the air on my face

give back the night its distant whistle
give the darkness back its soul
give the big oil companies the finger finally
and relearn how to rock-n-roll
yes, the lessons are all around us and a change is waiting there
so it's time to pick through the rubble, clean the streets
and clear the air
get our government to pull its big dick out of the sand
of someone else's desert
put it back in its pants
and quit the hypocritical chants of
freedom forever

cuz when one lone phone rang
in two thousand and one
at ten after nine
on nine one one
which is the number we all called
when that lone phone rang right off the wall
right off our desk and down the long hall
down the long stairs
in a building so tall
that the whole world turned
just to watch it fall

and while we're at it
remember the first time around?
the bomb?
the ryder truck?
the parking garage?
the princess that didn't even feel the pea?
remember joking around in our apartment on avenue D?

can you imagine how many paper coffee cups would have to change their design
following a fantastical reversal of the new york skyline?!

it was a joke, of course
it was a joke
at the time
and that was just a few years ago
so let the record show
that the FBI was all over that case
that the plot was obvious and in everybody's face
and scoping that scene
the CIA
or is it KGB?
committing countless crimes against humanity
with this kind of eventuality
as its excuse
for abuse after expensive abuse
and it didn't have a clue
look, another window to see through
way up here
on the 104th floor
another key
another door
10% literal
90% metaphor
3000 some poems disguised as people
on an almost too perfect day
should be more than pawns
in some asshole's passion play
so now it's your job
and it's my job
to make it that way
to make sure they didn't die in vain
baby listen
hear the train?

© 2001 ani difranco / righteous babe music

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Remembering Chopper

Amy slunk into homeroom late that morning after missing first period altogether. Her usually perfectly tousled and teased hair was disheveled and matted from the pillow's friction and I was pretty sure she still had on yesterday's clothes. Her eyes were red and puffy and she looked completely lost.
"Chopper's dead."
The words rolled off her tongue so softly that it took a moment to sink in.
I turned my full attention to her, noticing that her shoulders were slumped and face was solemn.
"What? How? Oh my god, Amy, OH MY GOD!"
The finality of what she had just told me was sinking in, and I wanted no part of this knowledge.
Instantly, flashes of Chopper ran through my mind. Chopper and Amy and I were a threesome during summer school. We stuck tight, hiding in Amy's car to smoke our parent's cigarettes and make fun of the kids who were there not because they skipped too much school, but because they just couldn't pass. The three of us were alike. We showed up on test day and aced it. Why bother showing up the rest of the week? And that's the attitude that landed us together that summer with all the kids who hated us for who we were. The outcasts. The strangely dressed, strange acting and hard to understand Others. That was us. We had each other's backs in that crowd of football players and cheerleaders, basketball stars and future wrestling coaches.
We had to, kids like us were open targets.

"Shot himself. This morning. His mom called me. He gave me this last night..."
She shoved her hand my way, which cradled a pewter dragon and wizard, Chopper's favorites.
"He told me he wanted me to have them. But I didn't know...I didn't know..."

The rest of that day was a blur. More information came in about how Chopper died. He picked a beautiful spot by the pond in the park and then blew his brains out, leaving his mutilated corpse there for some poor lady to find on her early morning jog.
I wonder if she still jogs.

I was perpetually grounded in those days, for one thing or another, and never allowed to use the phone, leave my room, have company, or do anything. I left a note on the kitchen table for my parents, asking for permission to go to the funeral, and was surprised that permission was granted.

I'd been to many funerals in my too short life already. Family and friends alike had died in my 16 years, enough that I had a couple of outfits designated for funerals already.
I picked one out and headed off with Amy to say goodbye to a bright, intelligent, and extremely humorous young man.

The funeral was surreal. There was a giant photo of Chopper, propped up in the middle of the funeral home, no one needed to see what was left of our friend, no one. We stared at the larger than life photo and reminisced about the events leading up to this. Chopper's mom was distraught beyond belief and I could hardly bare to look her way. After losing her daughter in a car accident the year before, I couldn't imagine what she must have been going through now. When the minister took the podium to conduct the services, I was relieved, hoping for some words of comfort.
As I pulled myself out of oblivion and focused in on what he was saying, I was mortified.
He told us that our dear friend, her son, would never see the fruits of heaven, and would be eternally burning in hell because he had committed the worst sin of all, suicide. To this, Chopper's mom began to sob hysterically. Someone placed their arms around her to comfort her, but I don't think it was much relief at that moment.
I turned back to the minister, who was by now in full exaltation, speaking with a zealotry I'd never before witnessed. He scared me. He told us that we were all sinners and would suffer the same torturous fate as Chopper if we didn't turn our lives over right this very moment to his Christ and if we didn't go out and save others from burning and suffering like Chopper.
I couldn't get the image of my friend, a good soul, a sweet, kind, loving person being chained in a lava filled, fire engulfed pit and screaming for help.
He was just sad. He was just a sad boy who didn't see any way out. He made a mistake. A very big and final mistake. How can this man stand here and tell us all how horrible and grotesque Chopper was? Did he even know him? Did he know the boy that would stand up for anyone who was being bullied, even if it got his own ass kicked? Did he know the boy who would give his lunch money to homeless guys? Did he know the guy who looked out for everyone else's best interest before his own? I didn't think so. Because if he had known that guy, he would never be able to stand in front of all of us and say these horrible things about our friend, her son, their cousin.

After the thing that they called a service, we got together and took Chopper's ashes to the pond at the park where he ended his life. A fitting place to sprinkle Chopper and set him free. We talked about the good times and remembered Chopper the way he should be remembered and did our very best to eulogize him in a more appropriate way than that which we had just witnessed.

I went home that day angry. Angry at Chopper for dying, angry at god for letting him, angry at that minister for all the things he'd said, angry at everyone who ever made Chopper sad...angry.
I'll never forget Chopper's funeral. I try to remember Chopper's smile and quick wit, but following that always comes the memories of Chopper's funeral. I've stopped being mad at Chopper and all the assholes that gave him a hard time. But I must admit, I'm still a little bit teed-off at that insensitive, arrogant minister who made Chopper's funeral one of the most traumatic parts of Chopper's entire, grotesque and sudden death.
I hope Chopper found some peace in death that he couldn't find in life. I hope Chopper's mom found some peace and comfort somewhere other than that awful man that presided over his funeral, and I hope that man isn't doing funerals for teens who've committed suicide anymore.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Clarity is often occluded by searching eyes

Navigating the labyrinthine entrapment that is Face Book, I've found myself reunited with so many people from my past that I never thought I'd ever see or hear from again.
It has been wonderful, scary, exciting and a bit melancholy to walk down those roads and remember these names and faces from what seems to be a lifetime ago.
It's a bit funny how time and distance grants a new perspective to everything. I've always heard and said "Hindsight is 20/20" but am now seeing a whole new perspective on what that saying actually means.
I wonder about the other friends and classmates of mine who left they look back at our hometown with the same scrutiny that I do? Do they hold a nostalgia for a home that probably never really was quite what they remember?

I found that most people, when asking about my family, are never at all surprised to hear that I only recently regained communication with them. The most common response being " I remember it was always very strained..."
Yeah, to say the least.

I think it was a recipe for a perfect storm of familial dysfunction. I was the artistic, agnostic, free spirit, liberal, budding lesbian being raised in an uber-Christian, bordering on fundamentalism, Southern -Republican, sports-centered home. Water and oil.

The Wifester and I watched a documentary last night about Cults in America. They said the number 1 misconception about cults is that people who belong to them always live in compounds. They went on to show many churches, most of which were identical to that of my parents'. They showed families who had left these churches, and entered a rehab for cult survivors. (Which, by the way, did you know that the U.S. has the highest number of religious cults of any country in the world? Many of which call themselves Christian fellowships. These are the "Religious Right" who influence lawmakers in our country and bully our Senate to vote as they deem appropriately. That's a scary prospect. )
As we watched this Sundance Chanel documentary, I was struck by the similarities between the way many of the children were raised, and my upbringing.
Finally, I looked to my Wifester and said, half jokingly " Honey, I had those same rules. I had those same punishments. I'm starting to think I may have been raised in a cult!" To which she casually replied, " Duh! I thought that was self evident."
"No," I insisted. " Sure, the church they belong to now I do believe is a cult, but I was raised in a Catholic church and Catholic school. I never thought of anything that we were taught or the ways we were punished as being in any way related to cult-like behavior."
"But the predisposition was already there, and you experienced it first hand. Later, they simply found a church in which their twisted beliefs were considered to be normal and they felt like they fit in there, that's all. But everything about your upbringing says you were subject to the same things as some of these kids that are in this movie."


It was hard for me to reconcile. I remember my parents being fun loving, joking, partying people. But I also remember the strict discipline, the religion and fire and brimstone, the constant reminders of what would send me to hell if I continued to think, act, or say...

I look at Wifester's family. They are Christians. They practice love, tolerance, and patience. They attend church. They work with the poor. But you know what they don't do? They don't abhor Wifester and I for being gay. They don't discount me as some evil demon who's corrupted their daughter, sister, granddaughter. They all welcome and embrace me into the family.
That's what Christianity is about, I believe.
Not this stuff we hear today from these fundamentalist extremist who preach to kill sinners, to hate those who disagree with them, who teach hatred and intolerance. It makes me sad that there are so many people out there looking for something to hold on to, and instead of finding something good and enlightening, something that fosters real introspection and growth, they find this virulent filth that masks itself as gospel and decays their ability to decipher logic from insanity.

I don't know how I escaped, without becoming a mind-numb lemming, I'm just glad I did.
I wish I could save them all, and show them how much happier, truly happier they could be without that fear, hate, and judgment constantly in their hearts.
Today, that is my wish to all those people who don't think they are in a cult, only because it is so hard to accept and admit that such a thing could happen to you.
I wish you a moment of clarity and an opportunity to heal.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Coincidence or Just Bad Juju

It's so hard to say goodbye to a good neighbor. They are sadly, all too often hard to come by. We've been lucky to have some good neighbors directly on either side of us for about a year now. Then suddenly, we noticed one neighbor packing up and moving out the other day.
It makes me sad for many reasons, only one of which is that there are already two houses on the street for sale, one of them abandoned and empty. The little cul-de-sac that is my home is changing. The scary thing is, who knows what kind of neighbor we'll get next. As a couple of gay women living in the South, that is a multifaceted hypothetical that I could work myself up into a panic pondering...

I noticed the fleeing neighbor in the front yard yesterday, and stepped out to talk, say goodbye, and tell him that we've enjoyed living next door to them.

That's when he tells me, "So, did you hear what happened?"
Loving to be in on the word, I pounced on that! "NO! What?"
"Well, "he says, "We've been renting that house, and we wanted to buy it. "
"Oh," I said, "We thought you had bought it." Remembering that it had hosted a sign that said Rent or Sale before he and his wife moved in last year.
"Yeah, so did we." he says.
What? My confusion surely showed on my face so he elaborated.
It seems that when he inquired about the house, the company told him that it was for sale, but he was required to rent it for 6 months, then he could begin the process of buying it. He was cool with that, and signed up. After his 6 months, he went to the company and said he was ready to start the buying process and they told him, Oh, well, actually, at this time that specific house is not for sale, but it will be in 6 months. If you want to continue renting for 6 months, at the end of that time you can buy it. So he went along.
Well, this was the end of that 6 months, and guess what? They told him the same story again, except this time, they told him that he'd have to wait a year, and on top of that, his rent was going to increase!
He and his wife decided to get a real realtor and are now buying another house. Actually buying it. But they were sad because they liked this house.
I was sad because we liked these neighbors.

When The Wifester arrived home from work and I told her the story, she said, "Wow, that's exactly what happened to the last couple that lived there."

Now, I don't know if it was the same realty company renting to that couple as was to this couple. That's asking for memory to go back further than mine is capable of. But for two different families to have the same wool pulled over their eyes in regards to the prospect of buying the same house and to both end up in an endless rental cycle? That seems to be a bit too much of a coincidence to me. Sounds like someone's rental company is practicing some bad Juju!

That's why god made Deep Woods Off

The Wifester never knew what a chigger was, that is until last weekend when we spent our wonderful weekend getaway in the cabin in the woods.

She's from Ohio where there's simply no such thing as a chigger. Queen Ann's lace grows rampant up there, and no one gets the joke about it being a "Chigger hotel."
When I asked all the Ohio relatives about chiggers, I got the deer-in-headlights stare, usually followed by "Chigger?" with a head tilt.
Finally, one aunt said "Oh, yeah, I heard a hunter talk about running into chiggers out on a hunt once, but I think he was in Kentucky..."
Yeah, I think the cold, cold winter prevents chiggers from making Ohio a home. Lucky them.
Wifester got her first, up close and personal meet and greet with the lovely mites, and is none too happy for it, I must say.
She's covered in red, itchy bumps and has a scowell across her face that would tarnish a cherub's mood.
"I HATE it here!" she protested last night, while scratching every inch of skin she could reach and simultaneously rubbing her back against the chair she was sitting in.
Poor Wifester. I've had my share of chigger bites. I grew up here, with a wooded back yard and camping and hiking my entire life.
That's why on our way to the cabin, I bought a can of Deep Woods Off, and I used it before we left the cabin, religiously.
Wifester opted not to use it, unsure of its effectiveness, or unagreeable with its odor, or just plain stubborn, I'm not sure which. Either way, she's the one covered in chigger bites, while I'm clean as a whistle. And that is why I say to my darling Wifester, "That's why god made Deep Woods Off"

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cosmos is opposite of Chaos

I awoke Saturday morning in blissful solitude, nestled in the Tennessee wilderness with the Wifester's arm draped across my back and the Sunny-Dog's chin draped across my heel. The early morning sun & birdsong were this day's wake up call.
Our original plan was to be in Gatlinburg, but plans change, as they are sometimes want to, especially when the Wifester and I try to be spur-of-the-moment...No problem, we readjusted. And when plans changed again, we took the opportunity and found this beautiful place in The Cedars of Lebanon State Park at the last minute, who were also accommodating of the Sunny Dog. All things work out as they should.

I challenge you to find a more centering, grounding action, than removing yourself from the chaos that can sometimes envelop life around you, for a period of meditation and reflection. With solitude comes a serenity that allows for introspection and peaceful, honest personal inventory that I believe is essential for a healthy, well balanced life. Through this process, we become more comfortable with ourselves and the world around us. We become more comfortable in our own skins and where we exist in this world. The Wifester and I have really learned to embrace that and utilize it in our lives, both individually and together.
I like that about us. I wish it for more people.

I like the cosmos, the peace and serenity that naturally coincides with the processes of soul searching and honest self assessment. The road leading here from chaos may be long and uphill, but I will always testify that it is ever so worthy of the journey.

I spent the weekend hiking trails and painting with a new set of watercolors. Toasting marshmallows and snapping photos of giant insects in the act of making little giant insects. I won and lost some Scrabble. I won and lost some Rummy.
And I gained a stronger, more solid and beautiful connection to my soul mate.

The only question I have now is, when do we do it again??

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"It's Different for a Man to Show Himself Than for a Woman"

Let me back up a bit.
We're getting a new adult entertainment club. I know, I know, just what our city needs: One more place with poles, mirrors, and greased up, mostly naked bodies shaking it for your dollars.
But wait. This one features men.
That's right. Now, women or men will finally have a regular place to go watch men degrade themselves for quick cash. The owner says that they do not want it to be a Chippendale's type place. Don't call it a Burlesque. They want an open, anyone who wants to watch men dance naked is welcome type of atmosphere.
And you know what? Big surprise, there's opposition to this establishment. Metro Councilman Michael Craddock said
"I'm sick to my stomach - I'm just absolutely sick. It's different for a man to show himself than a woman. It's another step in the wrong direction."

Oh, really, Mr. Craddock? So, it's OK for women to degrade themselves for your entertainment, but for a man to do it...well, that's just sickening huh?

I'm not planning on visiting this wonderfully delightful place. I mean, I just don't see that there's anything really there that would interest me, but I think it's about time that the tables shift a bit in the direction of balance. If it's good enough for the goose, surely it's good for the gander too.