Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Anthem for 2008

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word.
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own.
I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemies' eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the King!"
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand.
I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field.
For some reason I can't explain
Once you'd gone, there was never, never an honest word
That was when I ruled the world.
It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become.
Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be King?
I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing.
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world.
(Ohhhh Ohhh Ohhh)
Hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name.
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world.
--"Viva La Vida", Coldplay (2008)

Forever, I believe, I will think of 2008 when I hear Coldplay's "Viva La Vida." It's not only that I heard it in so many places at so many memorable times after it was released this year, it's also that to me the lyrics say so much about the will-o'-the-wisp, fleeting nature of success, which seemed to me to be a theme for the past twelve months, although really for longer. Honestly, I saw it coming when the equities entertainment sector was a leading success in early 2007. I suspicioned then that there were too many people playing and too few working, that a lot of the wealth we enjoyed was in our heads, that the U.S. might not be invincible. But I didn't envision the global wreckage. My worst case scenario was that the U.S. dollar would end up like early 2000's Argentinian scrip, and I soothed myself by saying "Well, smarter and richer people than I will never let that happen." Well, we came way too close! And we're not anywhere near home-free yet. In the end, what's true is that nothing is guaranteed, that the mighty fall, that anything can happen, that no one is so smart or so rich that they can outrun "death and all his friends."

So yesterday while I was in the frozen food aisle at Publix I found myself tearing up when "Viva La Vida" came on. I weep for my country and for how far we've fallen and for fear that we may not make the climb back up, that my grandchildren and their children might not know what we were for a while. While most of us never even dreamed of ruling the world, we enjoyed shouting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" and being seen around the world as winners. But things change. And they have always changed. Some around the world are desperately praying for change that rescues them. May what is needed to benefit them, benefit us too.

For some people, the reference to a leader's downfall is all about George W. Bush and his cronies, but for me it's bigger and smaller too. Big fish in the biggest pond and little fish in a bowl have all felt the shift underfoot, some proportionate to the risks they took and some not. I think that's the point. Life comes with no guarantees. May we recover and be a more hopeful, grateful people, less identified with our stuff and our power, and more concerned with our effects on the world.

"Just because [we're] losing, doesn't mean [we're] lost". More lyrics from Coldplay. Maybe an anthem for 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Good morning, Joe!

"You know, you have such a stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on that it's almost embarrassing to listen to you." Another Morning Joe moment where I sit straight up. This time it's Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski giving Joe Scarborough an assessment of his analysis about what is happening today in Gaza and what preceded it. While I am interested in the discussion because I myself have only superficial knowledge of this subject, I am distracted by the interpersonal stuff that I imagine is fueling the smoking moment and by what seems to me to be an unusual skirmish between unequals. Sitting beside Scarborough and across from her father was Mika Brzezinski, who frequently is talked over and interrupted by Scarborough. Was this really about Israel and Hamas, or was it about a father who knew he had the power to deliver a small but very public comeuppance to someone who regularly disses his daughter and anyone else he feels like dissing? Who knows.

It would be nice to think that all in powerful positions, regardless of the situation, would be big enough to avoid putting others down on purpose. When pigs apply their own lipstick! Personally, I was happy to see someone, anyone, call Scarborough on the dearth of actual information that is hidden behind what I see as his big-mouth dominance. On the other hand, I think that Mika Brzezkinski was a bit diminished by her father's interventon in her conflict with Morning Joe, if that is what in fact was going on. Whatever was really happening, I wasn't at all surprised to see Scarborough change Dr Zbig's statement to a more personal assessment, along the lines of "you are superficial" rather than "your knowledge is superficial" as he reacted (and did so more than once). When Dr. Zbig said later that Scarborough should not be so thin-skinned, perhaps he was telling us something about why Scarborough left his politician position and became a sideline commentator.

Anyway, it was a moment and to me it was more significant than whatever the interpersonal dynamics might have been. It was a bigger statement about the level of information that is available on cable news, whether it favors the left or the right. "Superficial" describes the snapshot sound-bite reporting and ensuing analysis which many of us consume far too regularly and which I have already spent far to much time bemoaning on this and other blogs.

I do like "Morning Joe" though, and it woke me up today.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Made it!

So now it's Saturday morning, two days after Christmas 2008, and I am thanking God that He answered my prayer to help me remain sane throughout the festivities. I did really well, if I do say so myself. And I enjoyed a lovely Christmas Day at home as well as some time beforehand in Atlanta, with my little Czar Nicholas aka Saint Nicholas aka my treasured grandson, who turned four on December 21. The older I grow, the more I have in common with him. There are times when in each of our cases a nap is clearly needed. I find too that my feelings are more transparent than they used to be, and of course his have always been right out there. We are both easily distracted, although I may be regressing at a pace incompatible with his development, because this year one of my favorite gifts was some handpainted wrapping paper by Artist Nicholas, where he now appreciates more what's inside the wrapping. I, however, do not run around the house, crashing and banging, and I am never threatened with a time-out. And I am allowed to drink alcohol.

To all who didn't quite make it through without making a scene or witnessing one, may I say "turn the page, fuhgeddaboudit, and you're only human." Also "to forgive is divine."

To all who tried really hard to make a contribution to a wonderful Christmas, whether they were successful or not, may I offer appreciation and gratitude. The world needs you, at least you showed up, and I cherish every person who makes an effort.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

For each new morning with its light, ...

The USA holiday where we gather together to eat turkey is uniquely American, although Canada and other countries have thanksgiving holidays too. In the USA we celebrate the very beginning of the community of our nation, although of course the official documents didn't come until much later. Along the way came contention about exactly where the first thanksgiving feast was held and considerable mythology about what happened where and why. The people who attended the first Thanksgiving in Massachusetts, Pilgrims and Wampanoag, celebrated a harvest and survival. They joined as a community of human beings with different ethnicities and different beliefs and different values to acknowledge their dependence and their interdependence. Independence wasn't really an issue then.

The act of expressing thanks, of acknowledging gifts, however, is not unique to any country or people. Sometimes I like to think about the lives of people who are very different from me, and often the Tarahumara of Mexico come to mind. There was a day in November, only a few years ago and just a few days before El Dia de Dar Gracias in los Estados Unidos, when a friend and I had taken the train on a spectacular trip through the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains to see the Copper Canyons. Near the end of our journey, we could see colorfully dressed, dark-skinned women and children selling their handmade crafts at some of the stations. A walk through a market set up by some others like them took us from the train to a lodge that was perched on the very edge of the canyons. Not only were we within walking distance of the market, but also we were within walking distance of the homes of some of the Tarahumara. Many of them live at the bottom of the canyons, but some also live in cliffside dugouts and in primitive wood cabins. One family, whose business included making violins, and whose home had animal pelts hanging from the low ceiling, invited us into the dirt-floored one-room main cabin of their home.

Among my fellow travelers there were varying reactions to what we saw. Some I felt were insulting in their judgement but in the time since I've often thought about that day and about my own reactions. Sometimes I find it difficult to choose the best lens for the perspective I need on a situation that seems so different from what I'm used to and yet so right for the ones who are in it and who may actually have chosen it. What seems clear though is that the indigenous people of the Copper Canyons are grateful for their homes and families, for food and for tourist dollars. Their gratitude may be mixed with misgivings about the introduction of new ideas and new values into a way of living that goes back for centuries, but they accept what they think will work for them and are friendly as they do so. I wonder how different they are at heart from the native Americans of the 16th and 17th centuries who must also have had misgivings about the people with whom they broke bread.

People ARE different. We are different within families, within neighborhoods, within countries. We value different things and therefore are grateful for different gifts, but the one thing we all share is that we are alive at this very time. May we all, Americans and Tarahumara and so many others, be grateful for life, the lives we have and the lives we've shared. We don't have to agree about what life is or what it should be or when it starts, but we can agree that we're glad to have it. Not ALL of us WILL agree about that of course, but the rest of us can make our gratitude and love present to those who dissent, and that will be a better grace than any we can say at a bountiful table.


For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Christmas Cookies, a Tradition!

Christmas Cookies! That's a tradition from my childhood until now. When my baby brother Sammy and I were still very small, our mother started us off as holiday bakers. Sometimes the sugar cookie dough we rolled and formed got a little grey as we overworked it and maybe weren't too concerned about hygiene, but it didn't seem to matter to any of us. Oh, how we loved the cookie press! My mother did amazing things from a completely inefficient kitchen, where there was so little room that Sammy and I were set up in the adjacent dining room, which was also tiny. And my mother also did amazing things with her WWII sugar ration and the oleo packet dye. Counter space? It was the sink draining board in my childhood kitchen, but to have a proper baking set-up was so important that when my late lovey and I bought the house I now live in, I thought, "Ah, yards of space to make and cool cookies."

Through most of the Christmases of my life, I have done some baking, but as a young wife nearly fifty years ago, I went at it with enthusiasm that could perhaps be called frenzy. First I considered my mother's recipes, but soon I found some to try on my own, and I actually still use a couple of the favorites from a very early Pillsbury Bake-off leaflet that was in the flour package. We had very little money then, so I chose carefully among recipes that called for expensive ingredients, like pecans and apricots. This was New Jersey, remember, and there were lots of maple trees and oaks, but no pecan trees. Going through every magazine and cookbook I could find, I made lists of possibilities, trying to balance cost and variety and color and flavor.

And at this time of year, I still get that urge. How can one help it? Every magazine at every grocer's check-out has cookies on the cover. So I'm already working on this year's list. The number one favorite cookie in my family, and the one that everybody expects at Christmas, is a sort of bar called "Chocolate Flip Strips." I've been asked for the recipe dozens of times, by family and by friends and by people I don't even know who claimed to love them at holiday cookie exchanges. The thing is that even though the cookies themselves are easy to make, the recipe looks long. I would imagine that only a very few people ever actually made the recipe after they looked at it. First you make a butterscotch dough and then you make a chocolate and nut filling and then you form them together into a long turnover and bake. Then you ice them, cool them, and slice them. Easy, but not a last-minute project, what with the chilling and the melting and the cooling and the firming up.

Other favorites are two-tone molasses cookies, peppermint candycane cookies, lemon squares, gingerbread men and whatever I didn't make for whatever year it is. There are so, so many I've tried over the so, so many holidays. And there will be so, so many that I consider for this year. I already bought some dates. And some chocolate chips. And some pecans from BUMMs because now I can afford what I like and anyway, they benefit a local cause and are fairly cheap, considering. I'm checking my flavorings and my decorating stuff. And I'm checking my cookie cutters too. Some of them were my mother's.

So please don't bother me while I leaf through the years of clippings and stained cards and then through magazines old and new, and then of course the basic cookbooks I learned from. I am planning for these 2008 holidays, but I'm also remembering those long past, when babies cried and pandemonium reigned. This is a quieter time in my life and that's a good thing because I am no longer used to chaos.

My mother is gone, my brother is gone, my oldest daughter and helper is gone, my late lovey and taster is gone, but I still have a grandson who loves to bake with me and an ex-husband for whom my cookies will be a welcome surprise. What the heck! It's Christmas!

And I'm doing candy this year too. Maybe even my mother's stollen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc"

"Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc" happens to be the title of the second episode of the first season of "West Wing," one of my all-time favorite TV shows. No surprise there, I bet. Translated into English, the Latin phrase means "after this, therefore because of this", and so is a rather inaccurate way of explaining the relationship between two events. Cause and effect taken to a fanciful level.

Thinking about that today, my wandering mind fell on "prayer." I believe in answered prayers, and I believe that the answer is sometimes along the lines of "what you want is not in my plan". But there are those times when I pray for something and I see what I think are results. I've had a few of those lately. I try not to pray for specific outcomes, mostly sticking to the 12-Step qualification of "seeking only to know His will." My spiritual thinking, though, is that it is always within God's will for someone to relate to Him, and so I feel comfortable asking for the sick or the scared or the despairing or the bereaved to feel the companionship of a Supreme Being, especially through dark times, but really always. And since I believe that prayer is positive energy, I always pray for people while I'm in the shower because I seem to have a lot of it then. After I give thanks for an abundance of hot water and for sweet-smelling soap, I ask that someone somewhere be refreshed in the same way, and that's about sending my positive energy to wherever there's a lack. We don't know how energy travels from spirit to spirit, and whether God is directing that traffic or not, I'm sending energy. I send it at various times during the day and night, but most often when water is around me. I can't explain that, except that to me water is life-giving and life-affirming.

Today in the shower I thought of the people in Haiti who are digging, with their bare hands, for bodies. And then I thought of the people who are living under bridges in the U.S., or walking the interstates, something I've seen more of this year. And THEN, my mind went to the people whom I know are disappointed with the results of last week's election, and it focused on a particular person, whose name is Bruce. As I thought about the disappointed people, Bruce's being occurred to me because, and I have heard this only second-hand, he is beside himself with fear about what he thinks may happen to the USA with Democrats in charge.

I have met Bruce only a few times, and he doesn't live in the Lowcountry. I know him because he is engaged in a years-long affair with a young woman whom I also know. He is a physician, married, with three teen-age children, and he has many problems. That he has sought to relieve those problems in the ways he has does not endear him to me, but as I have said before, it's not my place to judge anyone. What occurred to me in the shower is that I have fallen short by only deciding not to judge him. I should also have been praying for him all this time. So I am adding his name to my prayer list here as a reminder, but when I pray for him I will also be praying for many others who are fearful or angry or whatever because that is a group that I think has grown in the past week. "Bruce" will be their proxy.

Will my prayers for anyone or anything cause an effect? I will never know for sure, but in recent times I've seen and felt some changes in some situations where I've prayed, so I'm encouraged. I know that when I joined my prayers with many others in a sort of "from our keyboards to God's ears" kind of way, there was an outcome I hoped for. But did the outcome have anything to do with the prayer, which was "Thy will be done"? It would be more arrogant even than I am to claim that. And anyway, many people were praying for something else at the same time.

But in the end, whether we know that "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" applies, "oremus". ("Let us pray" to you non-Latinists.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hope? Fear?

NBC pollster Peter Hart, said last night that voters chose hope over fear in their election of Barack Obama to be the President of the United States. I agree. I have been saying to myself for days that whether or not John McCain won, part of his service to the country should be a sustained effort to erase the fear that his campaign wrote on the souls of those vulnerable to it. That's what a true hero would do.

To me, one of the major differences between Republicans and Democrats in this just-ended campaign, but also very noticeably since September 11,2001 is the use of fear to win elections. There have been strategic releases of intelligence, there have been unexplained color code alerts, there have been insinuations about people's background, associations and motives.

So when Joe Scarborough in the 6 a.m. hour of his show today says he was "offended" by suggestions such as Hart's, my posture on the couch gets a little stiffer. Also, I take note of the expressions on the other faces around the table. I saw discomfort. Then, in the 7 a.m. hour, Tom Brokaw comes along and positively quotes Hart. So there you have it. Media bias meets media bias. Or maybe personal bias meets corporate bias.

Scarborough's original point was about tolerance for views other than one's own, and to that point he just happens to have written an op-ed in the Pensacola News Journal on that very topic. He pontificates that people who hold one opinion discount the merits of other opinions and are often unfair in their characterizations of opponents. Everyone but him. In his lecture this morning, he compares the passion and commitment seen in this election, especially by African-Americans, to what he saw when evangelicals were similarly committed in an earlier election.

What I think is different is that this years crop of zealots is committed to a positive concept, that of hope. What I have seen of evangelicals is that in their politics they are committed to something less positive. The word "God-fearing" carries some revealing truth, and the politics of this group, an important part of the Republican base if you will, is very much about emphasizing fear of others. Love them, of course, but fear them. Love their sins, but fear what those sins mean for the American way of life. Love them to death if necessary, especially if they wear burkas or have a name like "Hussein." Standing on line to vote for the hope of a change that invites everyone's participation is a far cry from standing on line to vote for change that casts out imaginary demons.

So, Joe, I know that your mother in Pensacola is terrified of what is in store, but you and Senator McCain and all the other fearmongers can help her with that. Do it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

We the people.

What a great day I had yesterday! I started out early in the morning with an errand and then got to Hilton Head's Town Hall around 9:30 a.m., hoping to vote and not have to wait too long. Well, I did get to vote, but the whole process took about two hours. I am not complaining though. It was all very well organized and there were even cookies and discount coupons for a Wexford restaurant. There were chairs too. But for me the best part was the sight and company of so many people of different ages and heritages and economic classes waiting to cast their votes. I don't think it was what the Founders feared when they constructed a system that would prevent "mob rule."

Two hours is a long time, and for some it really amounts to a poll tax, as they give up time from a job, or pay a baby-sitter. However, I saw only one instance of impatience, a cranky older person who looked to me like the type of person who complains about every situation. Maybe his back was hurting, or his feet, or something. I saw children behaving well, and I saw an infant sleeping, while his/her mother schlepped the carrier and the diaper bag and whatever else. I wanted to give her my take-a-number, because I had plenty of time and I'm quite sure she didn't, but that wasn't really allowed. I saw pride in the faces of some African-Americans, and while it's a mistake to assume anything about any voter, I can imagine why they might be proud.

It might very well be true that I wouldn't have had to wait long at my usual polling place come Tuesday. However, watching orderly, well-heeled voters, overwhelmingly white, isn't usually all that interesting, and I'm glad I spent the time, and I'm grateful for the conversation I had with the white woman who waited next to me, and for the one she had with the black younger woman on her other side, which I overheard. Both confided their support for Senator Obama and talked about others they knew who felt the same. This isn't the same South Carolina it once was. That much I know for sure.

So, buoyed by my voting experience, I made some phone calls to senior voters in Western Pennsylvania, and was further uplifted. Only one person refused the call, saying "We don't need anything." Not that terrible a rejection. One woman told me about the prayer service her church is holding on election evening, before the returns come in, just thanking God for the fact that an African-American has gotten as far as Senator Obama has. Another woman told me that she didn't intend to vote at all, because of her disgust with all politicians and the state of the country and the world. So we talked a little, and I told her that I am more optimistic and that I believe that if the country pulls together we can go forward on a much more constructive path than the one we have lately followed. We ended up talking about our grandchildren and our hopes for their futures and we remembered earlier times when things have looked bleak and Americans have come through. I hope she votes, no matter for whom she votes.

And then in the evening, I was talking with my Ohio daughter and she said her neighbor was upset with her mother in Tiffin (OH) because she had decided to vote for Senator McCain on the basis of a phone call from Pat Boone. You can laugh or cry. Or you can head down to Jacksonville to help get out the vote there.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"If mommy is a commie...."

"If mommy is a commie, then you gotta turn her in."

Maybe it's just my brain defragging and bringing bits and pieces of old files together, but lately I find myself remembering "The John Birch Society." Not only the1962 Chad Mitchell Trio song, but also the extremist idea that there is an enemy, a socialist, Marxist, communist enemy, lying in wait to take over the country. Could be anybody. Could even be your mommy.

"He keeps on preaching brotherhood, but we know what he means." ;>)

The irony of course is that in an attempt to free a nation from subversive radicals, we turn that very nation into what we fear. A visit to Cuba would show you that. Oh wait! I forgot that the US government doesn't permit the liberty of travel to Cuba. We are punishing them for being communist. That may be an oversimplification, but the end result is that we help to perpetuate a system where there are informers and the kind of suspicion that John Birchers think is prudent. The circle of life.

I visited Cuba in 2000, when Elian Gonzalez was in Miami, and couldn't help but feel for the sad, decaying beauty of the country. As I walked through crumbling Havana, I was several times taken for French because few Americans were seen on those streets even then. Havana, remember, is as close to our shores as Charleston is to Hilton Head. To have children there approach me and rub their forearms with their hands, a sort of sign language request for soap, and to have them also make a scribbling gesture request for pencils is unforgettable.

The point is that we should be careful about throwing around words like "radical", because certainly our Founders were radical, and "communist", because we often don't know what we are talking about. Life for some in Cuba was no picnic before their revolution or there wouldn't have been one. Life in Cuba after the fall of the USSR has been no picnic either. The danger, in my opinion, is ideology taken to an extreme in either direction. Social justice is not a leftist value. It's a human value. And it was a mainstream value in 1962.

Monday, October 27, 2008

This is why:

"We can do this. Americans have done this before. Some of us had grandparents or parents who said maybe I can't go to college but my child can; maybe I can't have my own business but my child can. I may have to rent, but maybe my children will have a home they can call their own. I may not have a lot of money but maybe my child will run for Senate. I might live in a small village but maybe someday my son can be president of the United States of America.

Now it falls to us. Together, we cannot fail. And I need you to make it happen. If you want the next four years looking like the last eight, then I am not your candidate. But if you want real change – if you want an economy that rewards work, and that works for Main Street and Wall Street; if you want tax relief for the middle class and millions of new jobs; if you want health care you can afford and education that helps your kids compete; then I ask you to knock on some doors, make some calls, talk to your neighbors, and give me your vote. In Colorado, you can vote early right here, and right now. To find out how, just go to And if you stand with me in nine days, I promise you – we will win Colorado, we will win this election, and then you and I – together – will change this country and change this world."
-- Senator Barack Obama, Denver, Colorado October 26, 2008

That's what Barack Obama said to 100,000 people who went to listen to him yesterday. If only a fraction left that rally feeling called to working toward a better America, then no one's time was wasted. There are so many reasons why not, but this is why: Because it's absolutely true that we are all Americans and that we rise and fall together. The politics of division, "us" versus "them", have not served us well. It's way past the time to try something else.

And it's why I'm making phone calls to seniors today and probably will every day for the next week. I have a LOT of cell phone roll-overs.


Added October 28...From now on comments will not be shown. I repeat: I am not interested in arguing on this blog. Nor am I interested in being lectured. If you don't like what I say, make a mental note not to read what I write, imagine an "L" on my forehead and move on.

Friday, October 24, 2008

It's over.

It’s over.

Yesterday was the last time this year or ever that the Bluffton Farmers Market will happen in the “park” next to the Old Oyster Factory. I went there about an hour early, taking as I often do a mini-vacation to scenic Bluffton. It was such a nice afternoon, coolish early fall temps with only a few high clouds. If you saw me there, you may also have seen me parked by the Church of the Cross, drinking a Coke and reading the local papers.

The Church has become quite an attraction, and this week has offered tours with box lunches. In the time I sat there, I saw license plates from probably a dozen different states. I like the Church too, but, honestly, in accordance with my frequent signature line, “I liked it better the way it was.” It’s very nicely manicured these days, with what looks like a carefully chosen and applied paint job. I guess that’s a good thing, as Calhoun Street properties like Seven Oaks set a higher tone. But one of the things that attracts me to old Bluffton streets is its random and sometimes ramshackle sights. Many of the newer, and more carefully assembled neighborhoods just don’t do it for me. And, then, of course there are the trees and Spanish Moss and overgrown plantings that I love. No accounting for taste.

My plan was to go to the market and maybe buy an Arts and Seafood Festival tee-shirt. I’m pretty well stocked on the other things that might be for sale in late October. And I’d already had lunch so the wonderful prepared food didn’t have its usual appeal. But for whatever emotional reason (now there’s a contradiction in terms), I just didn’t feel like hanging there, even as I enjoyed the smells and the sights and the people setting up. It has been a wonderful season at the Market, even when for a few weeks, it seemed to start showering every Thursday afternoon around three o’clock. I may never forget the welcome offered on one of those rainy days by a group of women in bright orange hats who seemed to be directing the parking. And I hope I never forget the lovely public thank you letter that was written just a few weeks ago by a young people’s group for the way they had been treated as volunteers at the Market.

I understand the reasons why the Bluffton Farmers Market has to find another location: the unprecedented numbers who came, the parking, etc. But it will be hard to replicate the charm that is part of the draw, along with the wares. I’ll be back next year though, and I will wish the effort success. I will hope for those moments when I bump into someone I haven’t seen in a while, and when I spot a must-have plant or cookbook or whatever among the local produce that originally brought me there. Thank you to everyone who gave me those moments this summer.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Years ago I worked for Professor Albert Shapero, who occupied an endowed chair in the School of Business at The Ohio State University. He taught and researched small business, and his position was unique in that he didn't have a PhD in a business-related discipline. His degree was actually a Master's in Mechanical Engineering. He didn't have a PhD, but he did have a corner office overlooking the oval and his own assistant (me). That would be a feature of academia: "professors" who bring in money get perks.

Anyway, one day Professor Shapero said something to me that has resonated and has never seemed more true than it does today. He said that MBAs would ruin the world. Keep in mind that he saw aspiring MBAs every day. This was back around 1980, when a business education was what many students wanted, and an MBA seemed to be a guarantee of future success. To this day, liberal arts undergraduate degrees and the breadth of their scope are often denigrated.

Why what Professor Shapero said that day resonates, and I honestly am not sure if he meant it the way I am now understanding it, is that as I look around at the wreckage of a world economy, I see nothing more than an over-emphasis on narrow expertise that fails to see the bigger picture. And then there is also the emphasis on profits, paper profits. Whatever widget is being made, its quality and reason for existence are less important than what profit can be squeezed from it. Whatever the facts of a balance sheet, accounting machinations become more important than what the numbers truly reveal. From the early 1980s we easily move through two decades of mathematical models and paradigms so that in the end what is being sold doesn't even exist: credit default swaps among other derivatives of mortgage-backed securities and God knows what else that hasn't yet been discovered.

Two years ago another professor, Nouriel Roubini, was dismissed by his peers as too pessimistic when he predicted the economic collapse to which we all are witness:

"On Sept. 7, 2006, Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, stood before an audience of economists at the International Monetary Fund and announced that a crisis was brewing. In the coming months and years, he warned, the United States was likely to face a once-in-a-lifetime housing bust, an oil shock, sharply declining consumer confidence and, ultimately, a deep recession. He laid out a bleak sequence of events: homeowners defaulting on mortgages, trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities unraveling worldwide and the global financial system shuddering to a halt. These developments, he went on, could cripple or destroy hedge funds, investment banks and other major financial institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

What Professors Shapero and Roubini have in common is that both were basically outsiders. (I'm using the present tense here, but Professor Shapero died some time ago.) Shapero earned his position by doing innovative against-the-grain research that demonstrated the importance of small enterprise to capitalism. Roubini had a peripatetic youth and therefore brought an outsider perspective to his studies at Harvard and later to his research. What else they share is the use of subjective, non-technical ideas as they reach whatever conclusions they do. In other words, along with their understanding of innovative data-based ways of seeing the world, they also trust their gut. I bet that's characteristic of prophets.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Us" and "Them"

Us and Them

So, analyzing the way I think, which is based on what I believe I see, sometimes from this couch, sometimes out in the world, I notice that one big thing that gets to me is intentional, self-protective division, not "dissent", "division." It seems to me quite primitive to lump people into categories based on what we think we know of them. For some people, fear of others reaches such a level that anyone who does not fit into a very narrow definition of "us" is relegated to the category of "them," and is therefore suspect.

Long ago I realized that the concept of "judgment" as in judging other people and their choices and their lives doesn't work for me. It follows then that neither does the concept of "blame." My contention about both of those is that we can never know enough or go back far enough to establish cause to be absolutely sure that we are right. Oh, we may THINK we are right, and I have certainly been there, but years of looking back at situations with new information have shown me that I didn't know what I didn't know. Try doing a jigsaw puzzle that has no shape and no picture so you really don't know what pieces are missing.

If I'm not going to judge people and/or blame them, how am I going to get through a day that cries out for both of those just to make me feel comfortable? I can judge a situation, maybe, and I can hold people responsible, maybe, but even those are flawed endeavors. Sometimes, though, common sense demands that you judge risk and the likelihood that someone might put you at risk. However, I can live with those compromises for safety's sake.

I can't live with putting people in categories because they look a certain way or because some spinmeister makes a case or even because I see someone doing something I wouldn't. I don't know these people's hearts. I leave that to God. I don't know at all where they fit into His plan. One example that comes to mind is the hated atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, whom I know only from her writing and tv appearances, many times on Phil Donahue's show. (OMG, I still have the couch from those days too. Please don't judge me for having old stuff.) Anyway, I often thought that there was a possibility that O'Hair was walking a path that God had chosen for her, despite her rejection of Him and anyone's ideas about Him. He's a pretty clever deity. I wouldn't put it past Him to set up a sort of Devil's Advocate, love her cooperation in His set-up, and welcome her to heaven at the end. Who's to say? And that's my point. Who's to say?. But in certain circles, she definitely fell into the "them" category. I didn't like her personality, but so what?

As to blame, well, for some people there is no difference between guilt and responsibility. To me, the differences include intention and mental ability and physical condition and some others that we don't yet have the science to know. Do I think George W Bush and his administration are responsible for a lot of what the USA looks like now? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean I blame him. "We're tired of the blame game." blaming, but what about responsibility? He didn't have the capacity to do a good job, maybe, but he chose to do it. In my mind he's not blameworthy for not knowing what he didn't know, but he is responsible for whatever conscious decisions he made. Had it all turned out better, the concept under discussion would be "praise" rather than "blame", but in either case he would be responsible.

Someone I know very well is serving time. He probably doesn't care whether he is blamed, and I think he probably wouldn't argue with those who call him whatever "them" name, but he does care about taking responsibility for what he did and trying to redeem himself. It's part of his faith walk. I get that. It's also part of his humanity.

If we are going to get along with each other in a world where many different interests must be served, we really need to figure out what concepts help us be our best selves, when someone is watching and when no one is. I vote we abandon judgment and blame and don't argue with the people who say we are practicing those. Lots of people don't think. "We" and "they" are easier for them. Maybe that's part of the plan for them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I'm thinking of going negative.

I'm thinking of going negative. Reading all this stuff about McCain's negative advertising, which is now 100% of his advertising, compared to Obama's maybe 35%, I see that the mistake I have made on the BT blogs is to not call attention to the facelifts and weight problems of many of my opponents there. It doesn't matter that I don't really know what they look like. What matters is that I knock them off message.

I heard Gov Sarah Palin, say "It's not negativity. It's truthfulness. And American voters deserve to know." She didn't say what it is that American voters need to know, just kind of left it open to question, planted that seed of doubt so to speak.

However, I'm not concerned with what American voters need to know anyway. I am not involved in a high-stakes political campaign. I live in a "red" state, which will pretty much give its electoral votes to John McCain no matter what I say. What I am concerned about is shaking people up so that they question their own sanity and hate my guts.

I know I swore off blogging at BT, but things change. "Big" people start pickin' on "little" people, and I can't take it. I think I've seen a couple of other sworn-offers there too. If that's the case, and if I offend you with my aggression, well, please understand: It's not negativity. It's truthfulness.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I feel like a ghost.

I feel like a ghost. Maybe it's because of the fact that I was listening to "The Lovely Bones" through thirteen states, and so I've had the afterlife on my mind. But more likely it's because in all those places I have a history as a different person in a different body. I guess that's true of everybody every day, but somehow when you flit around and are in the early autumn Berkshires in the morning and at the still summer Jersey Shore by nightfall, the memories and sensations are not all in sync. So I feel a little off balance and out of my body. I feel as though I'm watching myself from somewhere not here.

Reunions, like the one that brought me North, bring up a lot of things. One of the nicest things that was said to me is also one of the things that has not meshed. Phil D remembered that when we walked down the aisle at our ninth grade graduation, I wore flats because I was a lot taller than he was, although he remembered it as his being a lot shorter than I was. I guess whoever is doing the remembering gets to make it about himself or herself. He remembered me as being kind for choosing the flats. Maybe. But knowing myself as I do, I'm thinking that at fifteen I was more concerned with not looking like a stringbean geek. The thing is that he's now taller than I am, and is in fact one of the best looking 68-year-olds I've seen. What's weird, though, is that in my mind he's still short. We get these ideas in our heads and they don't always go quietly.

And then there's me sitting at The Fireplace, so happy that it's still there and that the burgers are as good as they always were and that the music is familiar, and I am completely forgetting that I did not drive there in my father's 1950 Chrysler. I am oblivious of the fact that I am not wearing 22" waist Bermuda shorts and that the old lady hands that are playing with my soda straw are wrinkled.

And along the way there was me driving past the apartment I brought my firstborn home to and me taking the same route I took with my late lovey and people asking me about my brother and my parents and all these loved ones are gone. Except that they're really not gone because I remember them and they're with me as I travel around. So with their spirits close by and my sense of a self that doesn't really fit this time and place, I feel as though I am every age and free to roam the world untethered to it. It's not a bad feeling, being a ghost.

Friday, September 19, 2008

50 years later

Today my "couch" has been the leather seat of my car as I traveled to Round One of a three-day 50th high school reunion. Since I am skipping Rounds Two, Three, Four, and Five, which involve two different country clubs and a football game and some formalities at the school, tonight will have to do it for me. And it was just enough. I left happy for the chance to make contact, probably for the last time, with people who really knew me when. I got to tell a few people I loved them then and still do.

What I had not expected was the almost masquerade quality of the beginning interactions. "Who are you?" isn't far from the "Who are you supposed to be?" we asked at annual Hallowe'en parades during our school years. It's probably better not to get too far into the weeds about existential identities or costumed identities, but when you know what people looked like at five and twelve and fifteen and eighteen, their seventh decade appearance seems like a disguise. In some you see something familiar in the eyes, or in a particular facial expression, but in others there's just nothing recognizable.

The name tags help, but the reality is that most of us need big print at this age, so now we're leaning toward someone's chest to read the name rather than ask it. And of course there are the ringers, the ones who never were in our class but who married into it or are just dating it (yes, even at nearly 70).

For me, the evening started when I hit the Garden State Parkway around the Oranges and caught that chemical whiff that I remembered from many trips home from the Jersey Shore. A few minutes later, and I was no longer driving. When I saw the Bloomfield-Belleville Exit (150?) in my mind I gave the wheel to my 1958 model boyfriend, Eddie B. I met Eddie at the shore the week after graduation and we raced up and down the GSP for most of the summer until he left for Great Lakes Naval Base and eventually Viet Nam. If my parents knew.... But Eddie had a '54 Ford convertible with a '57 TBird engine and it was made to race.

Later I checked into my hotel, which happens to be a very short distance from the memorial park where my parents and grandparents are buried. A good thing, because if I get creamed on Butcher Boulevard Route 17 (called that even in the 1950s and much more exciting today), they can just toss my remains over the fence. Seriously, if people think that 278 has its moments and that Atlanta's Spaghetti Junction is a challenge, they need to try getting to something necessary, like their hotel, by crossing a lane of cars streaming off the GSP at some ridiculous speed and 2 feet apart. I am too old for this. The nerves may not be the first to go, but they're high on the list.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A View

Okay...this blog is A view not The View, so what I say represents MY view of the world, mostly from my beloved couch. I don't answer to Disney or anybody. I don't have to say anything to keep my job. What I say is what I think.

But I am not an oracle. I don't know everything, and most importantly I DON'T KNOW WHAT I DON'T KNOW. Too bad The View-er so many love to hate, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, hasn't learned that yet. Too bad she will have to live with an archive of know-it-all remarks that remind me of myself in my twenties. It's immaturity aka lack of experience talking. Not that every young person is immature. Not at all. But there are some who have no idea that they are looking at the big, wide world through a pinhole and making judgments accordingly. What's that old adage, something like "better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and relieve all doubt"?

Hasselbeck is a beautiful fresh-faced young woman and she has parlayed that into a career that encourages her to speak when she would be better served to just sit and smile and wear the clothes. Instead, she takes firm positions on complicated social and political issues and gets all knitty-browed and fast-talking if, say, logic or facts are introduced. What usually gets to me is the attitude rather than the statement. I want to tell her to go to her room. If an aggressive attitude doesn't work to win the skirmish, then next comes the victim role, and we have poor widdle Bessy whining that others get more time to speak. Hello! There are often four people in opposition to what she's trying to sell. For good reason.

Furthermore, I don't accept the maternal authority of a woman who has been in that role for less than four years. You are not an authority on mothering until you have gone through more stages than colic and potty-training. If you're going to start a sentence with the phrase "as a mother," please make clear that you are speaking for yourself and not necessarily for all mothers.

There is no maternal global view. There are successful mothers and unsuccessful ones. There are involved mothers and uninvolved ones. There are sick mothers and healthy ones. There are rich mothers and poor ones. It goes on and on. I would say the same about fathers. Love your family, do the best you can to be a good parent, live and let live.

'Twas ever thus

Long before my bottom wore this couch threadbare, it sat at a desk every day. One of those days began with a sobbing phone call from my third daughter: “Mooooooooooooooooommmy! I only got three raisins in my cereal!” Recognizing that the immediate problem was with the raisin bran people, the mommy part of me knew that there was a child at home who needed not an explanation of how products shift in boxes but reassurance of how much her mother cared about her even though she wasn’t there that very minute. And that’s a snapshot of the life of a working mother in a job where maybe there’s not much flexibility. Working on an assembly line, say, or in a retail job wouldn’t have allowed even the kind of response I gave. Now, for good or ill, we see clerks and bus drivers handling family stuff on their cell phones, but in 1974 only the bigwigs had mobile phones.

There was another memorable moment at that same job. It was when a man wearing gore-stained overalls entered my fancy office to collect the $5 he grudgingly agreed to accept for the removal of the carcass of a horse that was dear to my family. The backstory is that my young teen second daughter was given a horse by her father, my ex, and she stabled it a couple of miles from our suburban house. One of her friends took the horse for a ride, without permission or notice, and rode it where she shouldn’t have and they were struck by a car. The friend suffered an ankle injury, but the horse was done-for. Called to the scene, we watched Dusty die where he fell. One, but only one, of the horrors of this event was that his remains were visible from the road and the schoolbus passed them the next morning. Determined to rectify that situation before the afternoon trip of the schoolbus, I sat at my desk making phone calls and finally got this guy from a rendering company to agree to remove poor Dusty that day. “I reckon it’s gonna cost you an extra $5,” he said. Relieved, I said, “Fine.” “Leave it on the horse,” he said. And then I begged. So that’s why he brought his own carcass into my office for the $5.

This was me running my family from my desk. Four kids in three different schools, one only half-day. It was an intricate schedule, but I had been a stay-at-home mom for thirteen years, and I could type only 43 words a minute, and I was lucky to be hired at all. Thank God they thought a "housewife" might be able to keep the coffee pot clean and filled as needed. Thank God they thought I had receptionist looks.

So I can see the problems of having a job and a family but ‘twas ever thus. Not long ago I read a journal of a midwife, Martha Ballard, who battled life and institutionalized sexism in 18th century Maine. She herself gave birth to nine children and buried three of them. She coped with aging and loneliness and deteriorating family relationships as her husband was imprisoned for not being able to collect local taxes.

We should not underestimate nor especially applaud the capabilities of women. Without its women, this country would likely not have been settled as it was. And yet discrimination against women still exists. I may not like Governor Sarah Palin or her politics or her mouth, but I say to her, “You go, girl. You have every right to fulfill any dream you’re willing to work toward.” If it takes having a running mate hide behind your skirts, well it’s nothing new for a man to do that.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


This is a day for remembering. Of course, when you get near seventy like me, your calendar has many dates that are for remembering. But this is one of the ones that people talk about. Where were you? How did you feel?

I watched a lot of September 11, 2001 on tv, from this very couch. I remember walking over to the beach and on the way talking with one of the golf rangers whom I already knew and who is now gone himself. He had not yet heard the news. I remember my concern for my Atlanta daughter, Valerie, who had been at the Jersey shore and whose schedule I didn't know. Would she have been flying out of Newark that day? In those first hours, there was so much confusion about missing planes and where they were from and where they had been headed. And videos of the towers kept playing and replaying all day.

It turned out that my child and her sister, whom I knew would not be flying, were watching the Manhattan smoke from a New Jersey beach. Valerie started doing interviews via her cell phone from there, and later was sent into the city to cover whatever Atlanta connections there might be. She stayed there for over a week, and I am still concerned about what she might have breathed in during that time, although no symptoms have appeared.

I remember the steady stream of names and obituaries, some from the town where I grew up, in the NYTimes and the Record during the weeks and months that followed, and my own trip to Manhattan to do the only thing I could do other than pray: spend money in NYC. There were impromptu memorials everywhere. From my hotel room, I could see one at the Engine Company near Madison Square Garden.

Watching a replay of 9/11 videos today, I was even more horrified than I was the first time I saw them, less shocked but more horrified. Seeing how the events of that day have been used to justify yet more killing, I say, "Dear God, forgive us our unwillingness to love each other." And I say, "Rest in peace and freedom all of you who died as a result of such irrational and godless willfulness. All of you."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lizards of Satan

Along with several other partisans, Karen Hughes, former Bushie spokesperson (as opposed to spokesmodel...meeeow!) is valiantly trying to defend Governor Sarah Palin’s experience as a small-town mayor. Now really! If we were talking about a Democrat would Hughes be so enthusiastic about the myriad duties involved in holding that office? I don’t think so. I can hear it now. She would find some way to disparage, denigrate, diminish the very thing that she is now veeeerrrrry seriously calling “the most demanding job there is.” How many of those are there, I wonder. Most demanding jobs, I mean. Naturally motherhood is one of them, when a politician is appealing to mothers. Likewise schoolteaching, when a politician is appealing to education enthusiasts.

Spokespersons are often rewarded for speaking. Consequently they will say ANYthing.
Experience matters except when it doesn’t. Personal attacks are off-limits except when they aren’t. Principled stands are important except when they’re not. It’s a bi-partisan game. Guns for hire.

What really gets to me is the sanctimony that goes with some of the positive spin. There’s often a hint of “eeeeeeew” at people like me who might be open to ideas like gay marriage or abortion rights or any of a panoply of notions that do not fit “the cultural conservative agenda.” The sanctimonious types are always dressed very carefully, with hair and concealer and bright smiles in place. They say things like “I’m troubled” to indicate something negative about an opponent. They wouldn’t say shit if they had a mouthful of it. And yet these people are willing to send our best and bravest off to hell-holes of prisons and battlefields, where there is plenty of shit and blood and really “eeeeeeew-y” matter. These are the same people who want someone ELSE to watch over a family member on a ventilator for decades if need be. Will these morality types be changing any of the associated dirty linen? Of course not. Eeeeeeew!

How much does it pay to be one of these career spokespersons, I wonder. I heard the other day that a good speechwriter can make about $175,000 a year, so I’m thinking that a good talker could probably do pretty well too.

No way to tell what a blogger like TUBOB can make inventing “facts” like his “Lizards of Satan” spoof, but I’m guessing it’s less. I don't see a big difference between his contribution and Hughes' though.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Stop me before I blog again! Somebody! Please!

Hi, my name is Pea B. and I'm a blogaholic. This past week I've had a major slip, followed by a minor one this morning.

I've been working on a project that involves a bunch of spreadsheets and other docs and I found myself taking breaks by visiting the BT website. Last Friday, the day just got out of control, and late in the day I found myself in the bathing suit I had put on in the morning, long before my 8:55 a.m. post here, never having swum or eaten, surrounded by paper and other litter. Something about the party conventions and the nomination of Sarah Palin unleashed an interest in arguing that I haven't felt for a while, and at this moment I remember hardly any of it. I can't say what exactly got to me. Coulda been the moon phase or anxiety about weather uncertainty. In my rational moments I see the futility of these back-and-forths. Maybe it was different in the early days of BT when many more people seemed to be reading, but now it's like howling at the wind. And no one hears the howls because they're howling themselves. It's a complete waste of time. I see that.

So yesterday I took the results of my spreadsheet project to a meeting and of course discovered a rather embarrassing and obvious error AT THE MEETING. Chastening myself for mindlessly ordering my priorities, I vowed to get a grip. Maybe I could just lurk. But I didn't even plug in the computer yesterday just to be safe. After my meeting I went shopping and to the library. Got the car washed. Took the recyling. Acted normal.

This morning, however, I'm reading and recognizing the virtue of my decision not to log in, when up pops a post from JoePofKP from India, and I couldn't ignore it because after all he was agreeing with me and that doesn't happen too often (on the BT boards anyway). My response to him was the minor slip after an entire week of major slippage. Please, please, please if anyone reads this and happens to spot me or one of my sockpuppets on the BT site, please, please, please embarrass me publicly by calling me on it. Unless of course you don't dare log in either.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


I really have to do something about my hearing. I’ve always thought it was great but lately there have been signs of trouble. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I saw a tv commercial and I could have sworn they said the bagged product was an “incredible nut sack.” I couldn’t believe it. And I shouldn’t have, because shortly thereafter I saw the same product advertised in a magazine and I very clearly read the words “incredible nut snack.” Oops. Thank You Lord for the gift of patience with the world so that I didn’t get too undone with the degradation of society and the media and standards and everything.

And now, I’m innocently listening to NPR, and I hear a caller-in introduced as Anal Stopper. What? Were his parents intentionally abusive? Oops, again. His name is Emil Stopper.

Apparently aging attacks not only one’s physical senses, but it messes with your mind so that you’re hearing things at about 4th grade amusement level. Lettuce, turnip and pea.

Did I tell ya to stay tuned?

Did I tell ya to stay tuned. Geez. I had no idea what I was saying. As my mother often predicted, I am laughing on the other side of my face. Talk about shaking things up. I have so many thoughts about the Sarah Palin nomination for VP that I don't know where to start, and I don't think I can articulate them anyway.

Obviously, she is an attractive candidate. She looks good. Her life looks good. She handles adversity and opposition. She may turn out to be a superstar in an Annie Oakley cum Phyllis Schlafly kind of way. But what a shocker!

We have this huge country, home to 300 million people of all persuasions, ethnicities and situations, and we choose a leader whose experience and education are very narrow at best? It could work if she keeps things simple, which is the only way it WILL work if she ultimately becomes President. Reduce problems to the shortest statement, reduce government to bare bones, entertain no fancy innovation or strategy or goal. Just say "yes" or "no" and that will be that. It could work. It's just not what we were thinking.

There is still some hilarity though. Watching the tv talkers actually have to deal with a different scenario than the ones they have been debating is fun, although I do feel for their discomfort. Well, not ALL of their discomfort. Some discomfort I am enjoying.

I'm gonna have to let this play out a little before I decide what I really think. I had sworn off the Sunday talk shows, but you know I will be on the couch tomorrow for most of the day. Don't call me.

Friday, August 29, 2008

O, the hilarity!

So it’s 8:55 a.m. and I’m thinking “I have to get off this couch and get busy,” and anyway next up on MSNBC is Peggy Noonan, a speechwriter and commentator of whom I am not fond. Among those who waste as much time as I do paying attention to the political scene, she is often remembered as the author of the George H.W. Bush line: “Read my lips: No new taxes.” God, she’s looking old, and we know the makeup people worked on her because the unkind floor director gave us a shot of her in the beauty chair.

Noonan goes into her predictable but not wrong IMO critique of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech last night, and then Andrea Mitchell (everyone knows she’s married to Alan Greenspan, right?) disagrees a little. So Noonan backs off a little but then she describes her notion of what the speech was not. She says it was not the usual litany of woes of a person who was not born with a silver spoon (or foot, if we want to recall old convention speeches) in his mouth. Her description is along the lines of “He was born with two heads and one of them was used for bowling......” and then something about a mother whose foot exploded and so on. And I'm thinking, Damn, she’s good when she’s unleashed and not trying to play some role and not simpering and flirting. But both Mika (Brzezinski) and Joe (Scarborough) are by this time face down on the table and laughing uproariously. They, like me, are probably sleep deprived and, worse for them, they are still in Denver, broadcasting from a train station and they started two hours before I even woke up.

It was a great break from the endless speculation about who will be the Republican pick for Vice President. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Who's In, Who's Out

Who eats, who starves.

One of the metamessages of the coverage of the Democratic National Convention is the rearranging of the pecking order among politicians and those who make money off them. Of course, the media campaigns about blame and power have raged for months in both parties, but this week a lot has been made of the passing of the torch, the changing of the guard, the transfer of the gavel from Clinton people to Obama people. There are some generational and racial aspects to all of this, but in the main it's just what happens in politics.

Among the visible journalists there have been some handoffs and some fading stars too. Oblivion awaits some, and not a moment too soon in my opinion. I will not miss Tucker Carlson, the rich kid know-it-all magpie who was told, accurately in my opinion, by Jon Stewart that he and other Crossfire-ites were hurting the country. On Fox, new old names, fading names it appears, are Karl Rove, Lanny Davis and Howard Wolfson. None of them has a reason to advocate for better governance. As losers in the game of politics, they mostly have reasons to advocate for anything that will put food on their own tables. Rising stars are beautiful young black women, especially those with unpredictable political opinions. The media's idea of diversity and a nod to change.

We should not be confused by the talking points and the ideology. The drama is not about making a better country or about democracy or liberty. As often as “the American people” are referenced in political discourse, they really are an afterthought. They are extras in the drama that is about who decides what. Did we not see that play out in the tragedy of Katrina?

Partisan politics involves picking a side and staying with it and lying your ass off if necessary to make sure your side isn’t blamed or bested in the public square. Participants may start with ideals and scruples, but few maintain them in the rough and tumble of back-scratching and deal-making. That’s why “values politics” so often goes awry. The very idea of trying to adhere to any religious ideal while dealing for the power to promote those ideals is unworkable. The result is some deliberate obfuscation where even negative things are framed in positive terms. The term “pro-life” signifies no reverence for any life except the unborn. There is nothing wrong with that position, but the naming is untruthful and there goes the idealism. Much more accurate would be to call a position that is obviously against abortion while it may be in favor of killing enemies and criminals “anti-abortion”, but that wouldn’t sell.

And it’s all about sell. If nothing is sold, no one eats.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Maybe it's not that bad

I think it was Monday when a bag of DOVE® Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate Promises (with almonds) got into my house. Now it's Wednesday morning, and I'm looking at the Nutrition Facts label on the empty bag. It says that a serving size is 5 pieces and that there are 6 servings per container for a total of 210 calories per serving. Well, I'm already a bit relieved. I thought there were way more than 30 pieces in the bag. Already I'm seeing the benefits of inflation as all good things are coming in smaller and smaller packages. It's not particularly good news that 120 calories of the 210 are fat calories, but then again my post-menopausal experience is that they ALL end up as fat anyway.

So I guess the fact to be faced is that within maybe 36 hours I have consumed an extra 1260 calories, which means about 15 extra miles of walking, ideally not up and down the aisles of a supermarket, where I got into trouble in the first place. "Buy one, get one free" is not always your friend.

But maybe it's not so bad. After all, the chocolate was the dark kind, full of heart healthy nutrients, and it contained almonds, a bonus in the health department. And because every piece was wrapped in lovely foil with an inspirational message on the inside, I have the start of a nostalgic tin-foil ball.

In random order (because I ate them in random order) for anyone who wants guilt-free and pleasure-free inspiration, here are the messages:

*Enjoy every day as though it was a spa day. (two of these)
*Take an extra deep breath whenever you need it. (two of these)
*Share a chocolate moment with a friend.
*Let your mind wander and dream. (four of these)
*Be a dark chocolate diva just for a moment.
*Take a moment just for yourself today. (two of these)
*Start a good habit today.
*Share our similarities, celebrate our differences. (three of these)
*A family that laughs together stays together. (three of these)
*Be good to yourself today.
*Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can. (three of these)
*Love is not getting but giving.
*Believe the best in others.
*Think of something that makes you laugh.
*Find little ways to make part of your day like a day off. (two of these)
*Love is the master key which opens the gates of happiness. (two of these)
*Share your DOVE® Dark with someone you love.
(Really, that was the last one I randomly flattened and typed. I know. It seems like a cheesey product placement ad kind of thing, but maybe it's a message from the Universe.)

Oh dear! I got chocolate on my keyboard.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

In Memory of Susan B

The glass ceiling has another tiny ding in it. A week or so ago, my daughter was the only female to drive in a figure-eight schoolbus race at Columbus Motor Speedway in Ohio. Honestly, I didn't know about the figure-eight part, which of course means collisions, but I wasn't crazy about the whole idea anyway. However, when our "children" reach forty, I think it's time to let them make their own decisions. She wasn't the first one eliminated from the race and lasted a decent (I guess it's decent...what do I know about these things?) two minutes and came home unburned and unbloodied having had more fun than she has had in a while. And oh, yeah, it turns out that she is the first female EVER to have driven in those races, at least if we can trust the memories of those who frequent such events. I doubt she has set a trend though. The whole thing does raise a question in my mind about why there have been so few female race car drivers and why my child's desire to participate in last Saturday's event was so unusual.

Most people know I'm a feminist, and I define feminism as the belief that females experience the world differently than males and that their experiences and views are worth noting, not as "other" but as "equal." Today, August 26, some will celebrate Women's Equality Day. Fine. But there's still a ways to go.

In a local newspaper, "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" was recently reviewed thusly: "I've sat through plenty of chick flicks and I have actually liked some of them. But this movie, my friends, is poorly constructed and beyond any positive comments. It's an estrogen fest, which made it painful for me to watch. Only a female could appreciate this movie. Let's just leave it at that." Please know that I have no opinion about this movie or the original "Pants" movie, but I do find these remarks to be condescending toward chicks, estrogen producers, and females, especially considering the preponderance of testosterone-oriented entertainment that saturates the culture.

It’s a downhill and progressively dirty slide from the place where we find "the little woman" on her pedestal to the dark place where human female parts are used for whatever purpose or gratification is desired. Decried by President Bush, sex tourism in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, is still attracting males from all over the world, including the USA, and still involves children, many of whom come from desperately poor families. Rape as a weapon of intimidation is still common in war. Penises and other objects are currently being used to intimidate, degrade, and violate females of all ages, in the Congolese battle for power and natural resources.

Along the way there are attitudes like the one expressed in the movie review, that somehow women have different (and less worthy) standards than men. The less malign of attitudes and behaviors tend to be found in Western societies, but by no means is the United States of America a leader among Western countries. The USA was later than many countries in allowing women the vote, which of course means that all decisions made before that time, including those that claimed "states rights" did not necessarily represent the views of at least half the population. Eight-eight years after women gained suffrage, we still are outnumbered by men at all levels of government. At the present time, the right of a woman to make medical and ethical decisions about her body is in question.

It is a sad fact that no limitation on women's ability to fully express their gifts and desires could happen without the cooperation of other women. When we derive our power from males, when we judge each other, when we sell each other out, we are part of the problem, not part of the solution that our daughters and sisters are seeking and that the whole world needs.


Susan B. Anthony was born February 15, 1820 in Adams Massachusetts. She was brought up in a Quaker family with long activist traditions. Early in her life she developed a sense of justice and moral zeal.

In 1869, the National Woman Suffrage Association, led by Anthony, was formed to agitate for an amendment to the Constitution. This amendment was presented by Anthony and her successors to forty consecutive sessions of Congress. It repeatedly failed to pass. National attention and support came to the movement when Anthony was arrested and tried for voting in the 1872 Presidential election.

After Anthony's death in 1906, a phrase from her last suffrage speech, "Failure is Impossible," became the motto of young suffragists. Fourteen years later, in 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified. Women had won the right to vote.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It was nice

It was nice while it lasted.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I am on vacation!

I am on vacation! It's August, and I am on vacation. Of course, that statement made out loud invites the question "How could anyone tell? You're retired." OK, that's fair. But here's the thing: The United States Congress is on vacation, so there's less coverage of its shenanigans. The View is on vacation, so there are obviously no "hot topics" for me to consider. No sensible people are playing golf, so any guarding of my territory would involve confrontation with a crazy person, which I try to avoid. My job of keeping up with things from my couch is therefore less demanding. Ergo, I am on vacation.

What that means is that I wear bathing suits instead of underwear and read books instead of newsletters, junk mail and anything that really has no appeal. Because I haven't bothered to replace my dead answering machine, I will respond only to urgent family messages left on my cell phone and may or may not answer my land line. I will avoid anything that smacks of "getting things done," including making appointments or dealing with maintenance issues...unless the A/C or fridge breaks down.

I may thumb through magazines, but I won't read diet articles or celebrity nonsense. I have no need to "keep up" this month. I may not even do my daily Sudoku. I will swim and ride my bike, but to heck with the weeding and cleaning. I will eat out. I like the new Panera's, and I may go there every day for lunch, unless I eat at the Beach Club or don't bother to eat at all. My MP3 will provide a nicely portable soundtrack for my vacation. If I need to slow the pace, I may zone out with Turner Movie Channel, which I did last August, when it was added to our cable line-up. Last night they featured Marie Dressler, and I really got into the simple cinema of the 1930's.

I am on vacation.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Curb? What curb?

Can we talk? I have noticed a delicacy in some people's speech that I think really needs to be addressed. You hear a lot of this caution about offensive speech on call-in information-type shows on NPR, particularly if the shows concern animals or gardens. We're not talking Howard Stern here. You get the sense that some people don't want to admit the existence of bodily waste, not only with respect to animals, but definitely with respect to human life. I'm thinking that in some segments of society there's a real reluctance to admit how bodies work, even with the constant reminders we all naturally receive. Maybe this is why prunes are now known as "dried plums."

And yet a significant amount of attention and speculation was given the recent problem with "the facilities" on the Space Shuttle, not to mention the many ads on tv and elsewhere about bathroom emergencies and how to prevent them. There's definitely societal ambivalence around this topic. Some people are very concerned with being judged "not nice" if they speak even appropriate truths, while at the other end of the continuum are those who seize on the possible shock value of anything to do with excrement. And I just suddenly remembered an internal cleansing infomercial that was shown on WTOC the other day. Those men had no compunctions about going all the way there in description and discussion. I was horribly fascinated by their daring until I found the remote.

But the following is mostly for the NPR-info-call-in-type people: It is very, very rare for dogs and cats to "use the rest room". They take care of their needs in places that they choose, and few are instinctively drawn to tile and chrome. Many just relieve themselves out in the open in front of God and everybody. We all know what is being discussed, and in this age of graphic sex tapes and all kinds of out-there description, why can't we just admit that our pets need to urinate or defecate? Or take the "nice" way and say they need to relieve themselves? Curbing one's dog means guiding Rover to the edge of the street so he can do what he's called to do and one can clean up after him and no hallowed grass or tree is threatened. If we are talking about doggy relief, the curbing part doesn't work in a sentence like, "Please don't curb your dog on the beach" for the simple reason that streets and curbs aren't typical beach features. In fact, if you consider that the verb "to curb" by itself is synonymous with "to limit", there is every reason to curb one's dog on the beach.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Rumble, rumble, toil and trouble

The neighborhood I live was "settled" in the early 1970's. I think it's going to be really nice if we ever get it finished. Once again I'm feeling the much-too-familiar rumble and vibration of heavy equipment. There is the sound of big stuff happening. I have no idea what is left to re-do, except my house of course and a few others that are too far away to be a disturbance. I am an update hold-out, as are only a few other people farther down the street who have also lived in the neighborhood for a long time. Yesterday, I spoke briefly with one, and I saw my future. She was in her robe at 2:00 p.m., and getting her mail with difficulty and a cane. When I asked her how she was, she said, "I'm ninety, you know."

For over four years, during boom times, my front view was of pickup trucks and dumpsters and, naturally, port-a-pottys. The lot across the street from me, which had always been a buffer in that it was intended to screen a large house on an adjoining lot, now has been developed. Oh, well. Divorce happens. Property is sold. Mcmansions are built (and abandoned as the bubble starts losing air). No one did anything that isn't within their rights. I'm clear on that. But updated codes being what they are, this large and elevated new house and its construction constituted a daily infringement on my right to privacy and peaceable enjoyment. Of course, one house didn't take four-years-plus to build. There was also the renovation, once, of the house next door to me, and before that there was the renovation, twice, of the house next door to that. There were others. And at least two swimming pools were dug. So we had dirt and dust and crashing and vibration. And, oh yes, the sound of AM talk radio against the rhythms of Latino dance music.

During much of this time I have been plotting my own revenge renovation. It started with a much-needed redesign of my "master suite." That design has taken a while, and as I contemplate the possibilities, the scope has grown. My house is one of those older, low-to-the-ground slab sprawlers. Why not go up, I say? Don't I need more storage? Why not a loft in the living room, just for books? In fact, why not use that loft as access to an expanded attic over the bedrooms. So now I'm drawing a new facade, which then takes me to the design of a breezeway to my new two-car-plus garage. The old enclosed carport would make a great poolhouse with a workout room and bath. Who will disagree? Did I mention the outdoor kitchen, where I probably won't cook any more than I do in the indoor one, but while we're making noise and raising dust, let's go for it.

Considering the pace at which I accomplish anything to do with home improvement, unless I can do it myself with simple tools, this is a pretty ambitious revenge plan, but it makes me feel good for a while. So humor me. And I might get it done. I'm quite a ways from ninety.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

We all scream

Amazon Valley Chocolate.....Fleur De Sel Caramel.....Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle.....Brazilian Acai Berry Sorbet.....Hawaiian Lehua Honey & Sweet Cream.....Pomegranate Chip.....Pomegranate & Dark Chocolate Bars (3 count).

We're talking ice cream of course. This morning's Harris-Teeter ad features a full page of pictures and description of Häagen-Dazs pints. "Explore the World One Pint At A Time." I'm not a particular fan of Häagen-Dazs. It's a made-up name, it's a little too rich for my taste, it's a little too pricey to be worth the cost to me when there are others I enjoy just as much. If I'm going for "super premium," I'm probably going for Ben & Jerry or Dove. But even with all that, I wouldn't bet that I won't find some in my grocery cart tomorrow.

Thursday, after all, IS Senior Discount Day at H-T, so that means that the advertised price of $3.99 a pint, which they say will save me "at least 70 cents", will be discounted another 5 per cent.

But it's not only about the money. The sugar, the fat, the calories! I could pass on my nightly glass of wine in favor of a light beer and save about 70 calories or I could go for a vodka and soda and save even a few more. Probably, though, I'd have to go on the wagon for at least a week before those sacrificed calories would equate the ones in the pint of ice cream. But pomegranate chip! Maybe I'll just do the bars.

How come the berries that are a much better deal just don't speak to me the way ice cream in July does?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


On Sunday night, CBS reran a Cold Case episode that was set in 1919 and involved women who were struggling to change their lives by meeting and organizing. Since by that year, the USA was well into the battle for women's suffrage, the emphasis on that part of the story seemed a little fanciful, but then Cold Case has never impressed me with its writing. There's something about the mood that I like though.

Anyway, my mind was kind of wandering, and as the episode unfolded and the characters of a maid and her daughter emerged, I started to think about my mother, who was born in 1913 and her mother, who was born about twenty years earlier in Germany. I don't remember ever having spoken with either of them about the right to vote and what it meant to them. My mother was very political, and so I guess I just took her voting for granted. My grandmother, though, wasn't like that. As I think about it, I realize that she may never have become a citizen. My Scottish father was naturalized and voted, but I can imagine that for my grandma citizenship and voting might not have happened.

Whatever her political situation and views, in 1919 my grandma had other problems. She was divorced with a child to support. To hear my mother tell it, the two of them bounced around living with other family members and somehow managing. That can be daunting in these more modern times, but nearly a hundred years ago, and in a world torn by war, it really must have taken some guts. At least my grandma had a trade. She was a weaver, and at that time textile factories were big in NJ, which hasn't been true for decades.

So she was a young mother facing all kinds of challenges, and I'm thinking that marching for suffrage wasn't a priority. I'm hoping she at least approved of the women who made it a priority, but maybe not. I wish, wish, wish that I could sit down with my grandma and her six sisters and talk it all out. The lone male sibling, Uncle Augie, wouldn't need to be there, but likely his domineering wife, Emma, would have something to say. I thought I knew them all so well, but as time passes, the pieces of their lives fit together differently. In fact, somewhere in the recent past it came to me that Aunt Gert probably had more than a platonic friendship with her friend Margie. It's obvious now, but for all those years, nothing was ever said.

In the end, my grandma and mother were rescued by a kind man I always knew as my grandfather. What's interesting to me is that all throughout my mother's family, women were strong and did things. And that was true even after being "rescued." There was no sitting around and being pampered. Maybe that's a hallmark and a benefit of being working class. Yes, there are tough times and challenges, but few hot house flowers emerge. Nothing builds self-esteem like overcoming adversity.

In an attempt to fight the anti-suffragists with humor, in 1915 Alice Duer Miller, writer, poet and suffragette wrote Why We Don't Want Men to Vote.
* Because man's place is in the army.
* Because no really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it.
* Because if men should adopt peaceable methods women will no longer look up to them.
* Because men will lose their charm if they step out of their natural sphere and interest themselves in other matters than feats of arms, uniforms, and drums.
* Because men are too emotional to vote. Their conduct at baseball games and political conventions shows this, while their innate tendency to appeal to force renders them unfit for government.

On August 26, 1920, American women joined many female voters around the world when a constitutional amendment was adopted upon ratification by state of Tennessee, granting full woman suffrage in all states of the United States.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Sometimes I have company on my couch, and my favorite companion is my grandson, Nicholas, who sits beside me, sucking his thumb, all entangled with his "Puppy", a sort of stuffed animal security blanket. If Nicholas is wearing his Bob the Builder toolbelt, a little padding makes things more comfy. He hardly ever gets to watch tv, so sitting next to his Mama-aw and watching Noggin is a treat for him, but it's an even bigger treat for me, especially now that we're well past The Wiggles. We might discuss what we see, but we might just sit there quietly and enjoy the relaxation of it.

Nicholas is my third grandson, but the only one I've gotten to spend time with. My first one was placed for adoption, which was a right and courageous decision for his mother, my youngest daughter, to make. My second grandson died at twenty-nine days, and I will never, ever forget what it felt like to have his tiny lifeless body placed in my arms by his mother, my eldest daughter. I said to her then, "Nothing worse will ever happen to you," and I found out the truth of that when she herself died the next year. So sitting quietly and enjoying the precious gift of three-and-a-half-year-old Nicholas is indescribable pleasure for me. I had all but given up the possibility and then there was his perfect miracle birth to my forty-two-year-old second daughter and her husband of less than a year.

And he is funny, as most kids are. His view of the world is quirky. A couple of days ago, after taking a twenty-minute nap, he decided that he had rested enough. My daughter said to him, "Well, Nicholas, that nap wasn't long enough," to which he replied, "But I started it yesterday, so it's really very long." How do you argue with that? But then again, I don't have to argue with him or discipline him or do anything but sit beside him and love him while he sucks his thumb.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Oy, gevald!

It's a bad sign when I start cursing in Yiddish. I'm not even Jewish. I've worked for a lot of Jews though, everything from a Presbyterian minister to a Seventh Avenue schmate (rag, meaning fashion in this case) company with a nuclear physicist and a business professor in between. I don't remember where I learned the word "facocta", and I don't know whether that's the way it's supposed to be spelled. I just know that I heard myself muttering last night and going on and on in pseudo-Yiddish with a "schmietnik" thrown in from time to time. I just learned that last one from an ESL student. It's Polish for "garbage."

This tsuris (trouble, pain) is all about the state of the financial system in this country and actually in the world. I am grateful, however, for the nick-of-time reminder that indeed one has to look out for one's self; that no one, even if they're paid to do it, is as good at looking out for me as I am. That is scary because I'm not that smart and I am having more and more trouble keeping up with the increasing complications of daily life. But I didn't lose $8.9 Billion... Billion!... as Wachovia just reported they did. So take that, you facocta idiots! I can learn to understand the TEDspread global credit risk indicators. True, I'd rather be thinking about a new BEDspread, but I'm a grown up, and so I'll work with what we have, which is a facocta globalized credit mess, which affects everyone, young and old, rich and poor, interested or bored.

Unfortunately, the financial advice that's out there for the average DIY person isn't that great. It's all "Keep a three-month stash (of money) handy for emergencies;" "Try to negotiate better terms with your lenders;" "Cut up your credit cards," etc. Now they're adding some boilerplate commentary about the FDIC to quell the panicky feelings some have and to avoid any more IndyBank runs, but the utility of the advice for people who have enough money to be concerned with the FDIC limits isn't impressive.

If you are looking at foreclosure and bankruptcy, that three-month rainy day fund is probably gone or at least not happening now. Since it took me four transfers with lovely classical music on Hold to DEPOSIT money in a bank yesterday, I wonder how much patience it takes to find the one person who has not been layed off at Wachovia who might help you with your credit issue. And at a certain point, cutting up the cards is a meaningless gesture, because these days even American Express is imposing limits and lowering them if they feel the need.

I DID hear some useful advice this morning. Useful because it was direct and clear, not because I can use it. When Jean Chatzky, the financial guru who is cute but who has never told me anything I didn't already know, was pressed on "Morning Joe," she said that people should NOT deplete their 401Ks to forestall foreclosure or bankruptcy. Walk away from the house. And if you need to go bankrupt, at least know that retirement accounts, like IRAs and 401Ks, are exempt from bankruptcy claims.

That it's come to this. Facocta!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Of talking couches

Oh, if this couch could talk. Let the word go forth that I will no longer be accepting phone calls late at night. "Yeah, right", sayeth the couch eyeing its dented cushion with the cordless next to it. The couch taketh this attitude because it knoweth that I am a total pushover, and some people would translate that word to mean "codependent." The fact that I am aware doesn't always keep me from indulging in habitual behavior. I like the feeling of being needed. That's the honest truth, and sometimes I go there when I shouldn't.

At one time in my life I knew so many alcoholics that I was sure I must be a carrier. And anyway it's only by God's grace that I am not one myself. I just don't have whatever the thing is that makes people crave a drink or forget how many they've had. I like a drink or two, but then I get sleepy. However, there is alcoholism in my birth family and my poor kids have it on both sides. Imagine Scottish, German and French forebears joined to Irish and Russians. The offspring should have been enrolled in some program at birth.

But if we're going wth the disease concept, and not everybody does, I do have the companion-to disease known as condependency. Not counting my first marriage, it started with my friend Sylvia, back in the late 70s. We had been friends for years and it took me a while to notice that the discussion of life issues, which we both had, was getting later and later at night, taking longer and longer, and becoming less and less comprehensible. I never wanted to hang up because it just seemed so cold to cut off the conversation. And after Sylvia there was Shirley, whose alcoholism was obvious to me almost from the beginning, but who had some life-threatening stuff going on. What it took me a while to "get" is that neither of these women, and they're only two of the ones who have had my ear, remembered much of what we had talked about anyway and that I was the one sitting at my desk at work emotionally and physically exhausted.

And now I'm doing it again. Geez, it's depressing to be this old and still doing the same unproductive stuff.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fantasy Cooking

Today on the couch I'm reading recipes, which I find is sometimes a good substitute for actually cooking. I used to be a decent cook, and I enjoy it, and I'm very pleased that all my kids are foodies. But I don't cook a lot any more because mostly I just don't feel like it and I don't have to. I don't consider grilling a piece of fish and making a salad to be "cooking." And I eat pretty well, considering. Right now, though, all I feel like eating is nachos made with Target's organic blue corn tortilla chips, the ones with flax seed, and some Paul Newman's peach salsa and some shredded cheese. Oh, yes, I indulge myself with the fatty cheese because the no-fat ones turn into a repulsive gum when they melt. See, I care. Add some nice fresh grapes or berries, and I consider myself fed.

The problem I have is that I am still clipping recipes. There is a kind of disconnect here because I know that the number of meals in my future isn't infinite and is probably less than 20,000, and it's obvious to me that almost none of the clipped recipes will ever be used. After all I have dozens of cookbooks, and unless I am baking I seldom follow a recipe anyway even when I do cook. I like the ideas, and the new ways of using ingredients and seasonings.

The other day in Harris-Teeter I heard a woman ask for Waverly crackers, saying that her recipe called for them specifically and wondering why that would be. Possibly because the Waverly people sponsored the recipe? I have never really been that kind of cook. I am horrified to hear that there are people who try to use olive oil with a boxed brownie mix, but I often get creative with appropriate substitutions, my idea of "appropriate" anyway. For me, it's never been worth a separate trip to the store to get that certain thing. Yes, there's a difference between bread crumbs and panko, but I can work with it.

Whatever is the reality, I still have to have a kitchen to house my cooking equipment and all its good karma. There is my lucky brownie pan, that is aluminum and that I have been using since it was my mother's and I was a teenager. Now it has a couple of pin holes in it, but, again, I can work with it. There is also my original newlywed (the first time) Tupperware measure and mix pitcher bowl. It too leaks, but it's good for dry ingredients. Et cetera, except that one newer thing, from a Pampered Chef party, where I just felt pressured to buy SOMEthing, has become essential. It's a 1-quart plastic pan with a handle and a vented lid and it's great for heating a meal for one person. That's what the reality of cooking is for me these days, but I'm never giving up on fantasy cooking.