Friday, July 16, 2010

Brave Heart, Foolish Tongue

My Grandma always said "Don't let that little piece of flannel in your mouth get you in trouble".  Well, tell that to Mel Gibson.  He's at it again, this time being recorded by his ex-girlfriend and baby mama calling her everything but a child of God and, oh yeah, he just happened to use the N-word.

I think someone called Al Sharpton.  I think Al made a speech denouncing Mel.  I think no one is concerned but everyone paid attention.  We're not jumping to conclusions, and we're not ready to condemn Mel.  Let's look at this rationally.  Angry words alone do not a racist make, and certainly not words that are spewed venomously in private to a woman with whom he is passionately intertwined.  Any of us are capable of saying all sorts of things in a situation like that.  We shouldn't be defined by what we say at our worst moments and we shouldn't have to wear a label for them for the rest of our lives. 

Now having said that, why, in a moment when he was trying to hurt her most, did he choose that particular example?  What is it about being "raped by a pack of N-words" that would make it worse than being raped by any other pack of anything?  It isn't the USE of the word that I find most offensive, it is the CONTEXT that makes Mel's use of it repulsive and, quite frankly, indefensible.  And yes, he's done this before, spewing angry racial slurs at a cop who pulled him over. He likes racial slurs, that's for sure. When it comes to verbal tongue-lashings, racial slurs are his weapon of choice. 

We need the Al Sharpton's of this world to speak out against this behavior because it's the only way people will know when something is not acceptable.  Al is the "Grandma" of the black community.  Ok, Grandad.  You said it, Mel, now you gotta get a whippin.  And just as when we were children and someone in the neighborhood got a whippin, we didn't label them for it or put them in jail.  We didn't tease them or make them feel ashamed.  We did two things:  We learned from their mistake not to to do it ourselves.  And we left them alone until they were ready to come out and play. 

Seriously, I've said it before about John Mayer and now I'll say it about Mel:  There needs to be some kind of special therapy to help people uncover their hidden and not-so-hidden racism and help them learn how to see all people as simply human.  It is no longer acceptable for people to carry around the belief that some people are less human than others.  Is Mel a racist?  I don't know.  I don't think he does either.  And that's the problem.

Blogging for Real

Hello everyone.  I haven't blogged since March of 2010 and in the meantime I've joined a new organization called "Beer and Blog".  These are real live people with whom I will be interacting regularly who might also be reading my blog.  That's scary.  Sure, I've been blogging for years, and yes I have a few close friends who know me and occasionally peruse my blog.  And yes, I have posted a link on Facebook, but those are still mostly friends and family and people who've loved me for years and will love me no matter what.  For them, my blog is the equivalent of a child's refrigerator art.  They'll love me no matter the quality of my writing.  But this "Beer and Blog" thing is bigger than any of that.  These people know me BECAUSE I have a blog.  After six years of flirting, this relationship with blogging has suddenly and unexpectedly gotten serious.  This is the equivalent of the boyfriend moving in.  I have to care about what I look like in the morning.  I have to start, at the very least, correcting my typos.

So let me start by saying that several of the most recent posts below are actually old thrown away posts that I pulled out of my blogger wastebasket, uncrumpled the sheets, and posted for viewing.  They are not pretty.  I did not correct them.  Heck, I hardly even reviewed them.  They have gum stuck to them, are covered with crumbs and tea stains, and they are still very wrinkled.  But sometimes trash makes the best art and I've decided not to throw anything away.  I'm not doing this professionally.....yet.  This is not my day job.  So for the time being I will let them stay as they are, nasty and messy and poorly formed free-flowing thoughts.  Plus I think our mmistakes can be helpful to others.

I think it's interesting that on this, of all days, my Aunt Alice who has known me since I was a child but with whom I have rarely spoken as an adult, and who knows nothing about my blog just happened to ask me:  "Are you still shy?" 

Well, Aunt Alice, we shall see....

Saturday, March 13, 2010

(The below post was written 12/16/08)

Ok, it's been over a month since I posted anything.

I was going to write about the guys I met standing in line to vote on election day, one of whom remembered me and later sent me free symphony tickets. Or I could write about how my friendships seem to be coming under attack lately, one by one, like some force in the Universe is making me take a closer look at them, putting them on like last year's school clothes asking, "do these still fit?" Darned right they fit! I'm not throwing anyone away. I could write about how I've been told by my boss that his boss does not promote so even though I've replaced a guy with a higher title than mine and who made more money than me, and even though I'm doing an admittedly better job than him, for now I get no raise and no title - maybe in a few years after the guy retires. Or I could write about the recent trauma I experienced when, frustrated with my fluctuating pants sizes, I went to an alternative dcotor recommended to me by a friend and was sent home to collect my own stool samples. Eww.  And NO.

I'm not going to write about any of that. It's almost New Years. Time to do some housekeeping and wipe the slate clean. Time to set some new goals. I have always loved making New Year's resolutions. I am one of the few people who actually keeps them, or rather I was until I became more open.

I started this blog in 2004, a year after my sister's death. She had lived her life wide open and exposed for everyone to see. We were exact opposites. She had taken all the sunlight, all the air. I was happy to be the shade, the cloudy, rainy restful day. She was all poetry and I was all prose. It was not until she was gone that I started to realize why I had needed her. It's because some ideas, like plants, need exposure to air and sunlight, and to the thoughts of others in order to grow. If I was going to finish growing up I was going to have to do for myself what she had been doing for both of us - open myself up and expose myself to others. This blog was my attempt. It's been successful. After years of practice I now make friends with ease, real friendships not just superficial ones. When perfect strangers tell me they're going to call back or email me, they actually do. When they say they're going to send me symphony tickets, a few weeks later not one pair but two arive in the mail. (I still owe my new friend a "thank you" card.)

Now comes the second part of this lesson: keeping some things to myself. As I've let the world in I've experienced what I've always suspected (and I mean always - since infancy, it seems): a loss of resolve. Something about people knowing what we want, seeing us struggle in front of everyone, erodes our ability to do it. Is it that their disbelief and doubt act as an anti-creative force? How often are other people's beliefs an even greater influence than our desire for ourselves? If enough people believe something about us then whatever it is they are believing is as good as done.

Nevermind "The Secret". That's not what this is about. I don't know anything about that lady's book. I own it, but I can not bring myself to read it. I am just talking about relationships with other people and how they affect us. We need people. And I've learned to let myself do that. But we also need to keep a part of ourselves away from everyone - like seeds that need to be kept in dark, moist soil before the little shoots peek through the ground and expose themselves to sunlight. But what parts? When? And for how long?

I recently finished reading "The Shack" which was recommended to me by my friend, the mom of the Texas Trio. I started out thinking it was too simplistic, too juvenile. But out of respect for her I pressed on and by the time I was halfway through it I was hooked. The book is about relationships - God's relationship with us and our relationship with others. Turns out, according to this author that's all God really wants. When I lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee my Sunday school teacher said that the second of the two Greatest Commandments, "Love your neighbor as yourself" was about what he called "the Law of Hospitality". Take care of other people. Be in relationships with other people. Love one another. Making others feel truly welcome. It's all the same thing. There is no higher power.

It seems that all of my life, long before I moved to Chattanooga, long before reading "The Shack", back when I was still a small child, all I wanted was to achieve enough success to take care of my family and to welcome others into my home. Last year I was finally there. Seems to me there's nothing left to want.

Cool World

(The below post was written 12/29/09)

Mick's Music & Bar, one of my favorite spots in the whole world, is closing. Well, not closing, but being sold and changing to a different bar with no music - so the place as I know it will no longer exist.

There's nothing in the world better than sitting at the bar with the glow of the candlelight bouncing warmly off the red walls, my fingers wrapped caressingly around the stem of a glass, sipping my favorite wine of the moment and listening to some undiscovered indie/folk/pop/easy listening/classical genius. This is the way God intended us to listen to music.
No one looks at me as if to say "why is she here alone?" If they do I just give them a look that says "I'm not alone, you're here too". The next thing you know we're sitting together. Those are the kind of people who come to Mick's. It's the kind of experience you tried to have in college (or maybe paid for in therapy) only this time (a) you actually know what you're talking about (b) you're drinking something that actually tastes good and (c) the music is infinitely better. If it's Wednesday night, my favorite, Korey Anderson's smooth, silky, (why in the heck is he not famous? I don't know but lucky me) voice croons in the background and try as I might I can't keep my body from swaying and my voice from ever so quietly joining in.

Add to all of this a cast of characters who, like nuts, cherries, bananas, chocolate chips, and various colored sprinkles on a wierd banana split come in a variety of personalities, professions (or lack thereof), shapes, sizes and colors. Without realizing it you awake to find that you have entered into a live animated Omaha version of the "Cool-World" cartoon.

2009 - The Mother Code

(The post below was originally written 1/4/09)

I've spent the beginning of 2009 cleaning up the leftover mess from the end of 2008. I decided not to take before and after pictures, but just picture what four months of non-stop travel, packing and unpacking suitcases without putting anything away looks like. Add to that various party oufits, work clothes, my Halloween costume and Jane Austen outfit including the huge layered slip all strewn about my bedroom and spilling over into my living/dining room and well, you get the picture. It was quite a mess. Despite appearances I love order and I live to create organization out of chaos. I've finally gotten it all picked up, washed, organized, and put away.

I have way too many clothes but I know if I throw some things out I'll only end up buying a new version of the same old thing. Like my burgundy ribbed turtle neck - some days it's too tight but some days it's not. I haven't worn it this year but I know eventually I'll need it again. Then there are things I hang on to for sentimental reasons.  I don't wear them, but I just can't bring myself to get rid of them, like some of the stuff my mother gave me during Thanksgiving.  Ok, let's face my mother herself.

She and I had had a wonderful Thanksgiving cooking dinner together with her giving me advice on how to make various traditional family recipes, the two of us working in harmony in her cramped little kitchen. The next morning when I awoke she had made a big breakfast. I spent all morning in the bathroom, ate a little of the breakfast, and then dashed off to meet a friend I hadn't seen since high school. It was our best Thanksgiving ever, even she said so.

Hoping for a repeat I cheerfully went back for Christmas but this time things had changed. "Those are the same sheets you slept on" she said as I headed off to bed, "but if you want to change them you can". I froze. (If they're the same, why would I need to change them?)
"You can get the other sheets out of the closet if you want." I started to move towards the closet. "They're clean." (No they're not) I stopped again. If they were clean she would have already put them on the bed. There were no clean sheets. Leveling my gaze at her, I gave her a chance to come clean. (pun intended) "Do I need to change the sheets?", I asked, involuntarily raising my eyebrows. "No" she'd replied with a smirk. It won't make any difference.

Having already dropped breadcrumbs of truth for me to follow, her job was done. I spent a sleepless night itching, tossing and turning. I am allergic to the dander and dead skin cells of other people, dogs, cats, you name it. No matter what anyone says, my sensitive skin always knows the truth.

"I didn't make breakfast" she said the next morning. "If you want anything to eat you can go in the kitchen and cook it yourself. And whatever you want for dinner you're going to have to go to the store and buy it and cook it. I didn't know what you wanted." Translation: This is not going to be the same kind of visit you had over Thanksgiving. Don't expect me to lift a finger. Purposely letting me sleep on dirty sheets and then making me scrounge for breakfast and buy and cook my own meals? Not my idea of a Merry Christmas, plus if I was going to have any patience with her new attitude I would need a better night's rest than the one I'd just had. So I decided to check into a hotel. This made her furious. Apparently for her the only thing worse than having to make me comfortable was knowing I was even more comfortable in a hotel.

The grand finale was the day after Christmas. I went over to make dinner and she was wearing a watch, my watch, one that my uncle had given me for Christmas the day before. When I asked about it she insisted it was hers. But I'd been given other jewelry too and none of it was around.
"Where's my jewelry" I asked.
"I don't know" she said, "this watch is mine, all the jewelry is mine. If you want this watch so bad I'll take it off and give it to you, but he gave it to me."
There was a gleam in her eye that I hadn't seen in a long time, one that I remembered from childhood. It's a flash they make when she's lying.
Her unspoken message hung in the air: You can afford to buy your own jewelry, I'm keeping this.

It was surreal. Here I was standing in a condo I pay for her to live in, cooking her dinner. It was as if the guardian angel was finally meeting the serpent. I could not believe anyone could be so greedy, so ungrateul, so selfish, and so blatant. And then it dawned on me that this was the woman everyone else had been warning me about for years. I was finally "seeing her". The next morning I told her I wanted my watch back and all the rest of my jewelry, pointing out that my nephew had made a video of me receiving it and opening the box. Suddenly she remembered. "Oh yeah, that's right it is yours!!" she said. "I must have been mistaken". I don't think it was the video that scared her as much as the idea of her only grandson finding out. God bless my Grandma for not letting me be raised by that woman!

So which one is she? The woman I saw at Thanksgiving or the one I saw at Christmas? Actually she's the same person. Just before I left after Thanksgiving she'd asked for something she values more than me - and I gave her only what I could spare, and just like a sweater washed in hot water, things had changed. Some days she fits and other days she doesn't but I'm not throwing her out. I am an adult but there are still days when I need a mom - my mom. Not to worry though, I'll keep her where she is and wear her only when she fits.

Inauguration Day

(The below post was originally written on 1/27/09)

I just got back from Washington D.C. where I attended the inauguration of President Barrack Obama. Sorry, but I don't have any pictures of me at the inauguration. I don't have anyhing for other peole who weren't there to say "look, here is my friend, she was there". I was going throug a rough time with my new boyfriend, Ken, and honestly I looked and felt like hell. I didn't feel like having my picture taken. I was exhausted before I even made the trip.

I worked in Kansas City on Thursday night, all night from 7:00 pm till about 5:00am. I got back to the hotel and into bed at 6:00am, woke up about 4 hours later, checked out and drove home 3 and a half hours to Omaha. I had a 6:00 am flight out on Saturday morning but was just too tired to make it. Luckily there was a seat available on the Sunday flight the next day. When I arrived in D.C. I had to took the Metro out to Fairfax where a friend of a friend of a friend from church back home in Chattanooga had arranged to let me stay in her apartment for the week at a bargain basement price of $100 a night, a savings of about $300 per night over the best hotel rate I could find. The friend's Dad picked me up, gave me a tour of the apartment, showed me where the bus stopped and left me with a key. I was on my own with no rental car and two exits on the interstate away from the nearest Metro station. I wondered what I had gotten myself into and $1600 suddenly didn't seem like too much to spend after all. But it was too late to get a room now.

I went out to wait for the bus. Not being quite sure where to stand I tapped on the window of a man sitting in his car warming it up. He pointed out a bench across the street. I walked across and sat there waiting for a few minutes when suddenly he pulled up in front of me in his car. "The bus probably isn't coming this late on a Sunday and it's cold. Can I give you a ride somewhere?" he asked. Could he???!!! My knight in shining armor turned out to be an ex-marine turned cartogropher for Ratheon who was originally from Ecuador and had served two tours of duty in Iraq. He graciously became my transportation back and forth to the Metro station for the rest of my stay.

Once at the Metro station for the second time that day, I found my way downtown to Georgetown where I met a vice president from work and some of his family members for dinner. We had a good time but it would be the last time I would see a familiar face for the rest of my stay. At 10:00pm dinner was finally over and I walked a couple of blocks back to the Metro and caught it back to Faifax. Now how was I going to get back to the apartment? As a gay couple hopped into a cab, I tapped on the window and asked if they'd mind sharing. They didn't and I had a ride home, but I was already beginning to see how exhausting this was all going to be. I started to have sympathy for people who live in suburbs and have no car and have to rely on public tansportation for everything. No wonder they had no energy left to try to improve their lives.

The next morning was Monday and I optimistically went out to wait for the bus again, but it never came. I would have called a cab but like everyone else I know, the girl whose apartment I was borrowing did not have a phone and my own cell phone was dead.  I had packed my charger in my suitcase, I remembered, but unfortunately it was not the suitcase I had brought. Stranded with no transportation and no cell phone I fished in my purse for the Ecuadorian marine's card and went in search of someone from whom to borrow a phone. 

The marine kindly gave me a ride.   You know the rest of the story...

Happy Belated Birthday from My Sister

(Originally written 1/27/09, but never posted)

I have added the below post to "The Center of the Universe", my post from my birthday in July 2008. I have often felt the need to defend my going to the bar, I guess because it seems like something that is uncharacteristic of me.

My sister left this world in 2003 and she and I never understood each other. We approached life from completely opposite directions. For me the bar experience was my way of stepping out of my perfectly engineered life and getting a little messy, walking in her shoes and better understanding her choices, of finding the part of myself that I rejected because I didn't like the reflection that I saw in her - my gift of understanding to her and her gift of creativity and of open-mindedness (and open-heartedness to me). I think if she could have given me a birthday present this is exactly what it would have been.

A (very) Little Romance

(The post below was originally written 2/21/09 but never posted.)

A Second Opinion on "Nights in Rodanthe"

Above is a link to what another blogger had to say about "Nights in Rodanthe". It's worth reading and considering but I still say the movie was drivel. Plus now it is having the added bonus of not wanting to go away, kind of like Angelina Jolie. So I'll write about it again, because believe me, I have more to say....

An interesting thing about the post from the other blogger who is obviously a fan of the movie, is that she also believes the movie is implausble. But her problem is with the number of days it takes the couple to fall in love. Not so with me!! After all I can remember being in college and meeting a guy. After a night beside some fireplace in some lodge or maybe sitting in some library, or in a hotel hallway during sales school having some deep philosophical or religious discussion I would feel something akin to love. It can happen, a magic connection over a short meeting. I believe in love at first sight or first conversation or first weekend. My problem is with the fact that they have NO REASON to fall in love. No chemistry, no comfort, no deep conversation, not even a shared experience in their history. She cares about what he's struggling with, but that just makes her human. All they really have, admit it now, is alcohol and a storm.

My second problem is this....(spoiler alert, if you haven't seen the movie, stop now). As implausible as the romance is, the death of Richard Gere's character is even less plausible. He goes to a Central (or was it South?) American country and dies in a mudslide. A mudslide??? I'm naturally a very sympathetic and empathic person, I cry during Hallmark commercials, but I had to breathe deeply to avoid laughing, yes laughing, out loud during that scene. You're Richard Gere, you can't out run mud?? Now if you're from or have ever been to one of those countries where they have mudslides I apologize. I understand that natural disasters are serious things and that sometimes people get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. But seriously, at that point the movie crossed the line completely for me and became a comedy. My shoulders shook and I dabbed at my eyes but no one could guess why. What made it worse was that my dear friend, the married woman, was sitting beside me crying her eyes out. I think I reached inside my purse and passed her a kleenex. I think I managed to look plausibly sympathetic, but if she was buying what was on the screen my acting didn't have to be good to be convincing.

My last complaint is that there were too many shots of Diane Lane's rear end. Not that I have anything against Diane or her rear, but it has been my experience that the more a director has to rely on shots of a specific body part, the less there actually is to hold your attention in the movie. Maybe the rear-view shots were for the guys to look at while their wives and girlfriends dabbed at their tears. If that's the reason, then I forgive them.

Then, as if I hadn't been through enough already, during the drive home my friend the married woman wanted to re-hash the movie and talk about the scenes and how meaningful the movie was. I think I managed to nod and say "mm hmm" in the right places. My heart was in the right place and I truly felt a tug that she was relating somehow to the romance and sadness, while I on the other hand was thinking about the sadness of the romance. Before you judge me just remember that I've been watching Richard Gere since "Pretty Woman" and Diane Lane since "A Little Romance" so I know everyone will be ok. Personally I think the most convincing performance all night was my own.

Rants About Movies, TV and Stuff

Below is a very old post, written last year, Valentine's Day 2009.  I don't remember why I didn't publish it. 

So it's Valentine's Day. I'm in no mood. What I am in the mood to say is this...

I hated the movie Nights in Rodanthe. It was drivel. It had, among other things, a bad script and too many shots of Diane Lane's rear end, a cliche of a black character, absolutely no explanation for the main characters falling in love....

I loved The Notebook.

My LEAST favorite movie of all time is Message in a Bottle.

I am still boycotting Angelina Jolie's movies for breaking up Brad and Jenn.

Anne Hathaway was completely miscast as Jane Austen in Becoming Jane. Good actress, bad fit.

Don't even get me started on Keira Knightly. She's way too thin to be attractive.

I am living for the day when they re-make all the most recent Jane Austen movies with more suitable actresses.

I'm happy that Britney Spears is making a comeback. I'm proud of her for suffering through all that public humiliation and pulling herself out of it. Maybe it will make her a better mother.

The Rhianna and Chris Brown incident sounds like Rhianna had PMS and Chris had abusive tendencies and the combination was a chemical fire waiting to combust. Look for Rhiana to set someone's house on fire ala Left Eye from TLC.

Why do good shows like My Own Worst Enemy go off the air, while The Bachelor continues to thrive?

I don't watch The Office. Not that I don't chuckle when I watch it, it's just not the kind of humor I seek.

I also don't watch Lost. I travel too much to become addicted to one more show.

Dancing with the....Stars? Really? Stars? I'm gonna watch this season because I can't wait to see what Lil' Kim does.

My guilty pleasure is America's Next Top Model :-) It's what MTV's "The Real World" used to be.

Desperate Housewives is a bad influence, but I still watch it.

Grey's Anatomy is going down the toilet. The only person left with any sense is Dr. Shepherd.

The "romance" between Dr. Sloan and Little Grey is creepy bordering on criminal. She's way too young for him. Maybe they're trying to draw in the college crowd with that romance. If that's the reason for it, give Lexie and the interns a show of their own and leave the grown-ups alone.

Bringing Addison back is a good idea. Her show is awful. She should return with Taye Diggs and leave the rest of them behind. I think she could become the new Chief of Surgery but let the old Chief stay as her trainer or something. But seriously she and Derrick should no longer have any chemistry. That is so over, it's beginning to play like daytime soap.

Why does Grey's keep trying to make Callie into a lesbian? It isn't working!!!! The show doesn't need lesbians and it looks like it's trying to force the issue. It's distracting, not entertaining.

Now that I think about it, neither Callie nor Bailey seem to have chemistry with men. Here's a thought, why not just let them be good doctors and leave their love lives in the background?

Never ever show Bailey flirting, it doesn't work.

Sloan should have hooked up with the British chick. Then have her turn into his stalker. That could be hilarious...she could blackmail him for a while....etc. Sloan is funny...VERY funny, and having him running from a stalker chick would be soooo karmic.

Alex Karev is funny too. Grey's should use it more.

Christina needs a much, much bigger story line.

That new Dr. Owen is a disaster, there's no way Christina would fall for him. If he's supposed to be House-like I could see it, but he isn't. It's like the writers are too afraid of having him upstage Shepherd to make him as God-like as he needs to be to actually make sense for Christina.

How come when Bailey had all the interns it was like she was the only one who did, but now they all have interns? Focus on one person's interns - give them all to O'Malley- and get rid of the rest.

Magic - Colbie Caillat

Ahhhhh 2010.....Sweet Freedom!

It's 2010 and I haven't posted in quite a long time. Many funny and interesting things have happened, but because I don't take notes they have been lost to my memory forever. No matter. The universe is sure to supply new material for anecdotes.

First, a checklist of things that have happened in my life since September of 2009...

Since I last posted I have enrolled in graduate school and am now getting a masters degree in engineering management, which is a degree that combines a masters in industrial engineering with an MBA.

In graduate school we are doing a lot of group work. It's interesting to see how I interact with people. Because the degree is all online everything I "say", every interaction, is recorded in print. It turns out I'm not so bad. I could stand to be a little bit more agreeable, a little more flexible. But what suprises me most is how often I am RIGHT! It actually makes me feel a little bit more relaxed, a little more wise, to know that I don't have to prove my point. I can rest in the assurance that most of the time my assessments are correct and I can relax, stay open to learning another point of view, and let other people work their way to their own conclusions: right, wrong or indifferent.

I have broken free of people who mean me no good: the users, the people who demonstrate the attributes of friendship and affection up and until exactly the point where my happiness seems to exceed their own, wherein they proceed to demonstrate the unmistakeable signs of envy. It feels good to be honest and open with everyone about what my limitations are and what I will accept and what I can not accept. I feel centered. My relationships are true and genuine! My friendships, deeper.

Not only am I a member of the Jane Austen book club, but I have also helped form another book club with the ladies at my church. THAT'S interesting! Being in a book club with church ladies requires that you find books that are good literature but have no (or very little) offensive language. I recommended we read "Eat, Pray, Love" and was terrified of what the ladies might think of the "Love" part of the book. Luckily for me the book got a lot of press on shows like "Good Morning America" (or one of those shows) right at the time we started to read it. Somehow if it was good enough for wholesome morning TV talk shows, then it was good enough for us! To use language like Jane Austen might have used, the ladies surprised me most pleasantly.

Tiger Woods has been in the news with something like 18 mistresses! Poor man!! Not that I am excusing him, but when you have had to be THAT good and THAT well-behaved for THAT long, how could you not start to think you deserved a little bit bad? Granted, he was more than just a little bit, but you get my drift. We are not meant to be perfect. Someone wrote that now he can finally be more human and authentic because he has fallen off his pedastal. I couldn't agree more! He apologized most sincerely and is getting help! It's not how many times we fail that define our character, but how we are able to recover and help those around us recover. Quitting on people is a much greater sin than any other mistake we could make. When I wrote above about having genuine friendships, I didn't mean that I cut anyone out of my life. Quite the contrary, I became honest with people without cutting them out of my life. They accepted my boundaries and I accepted theirs and it made the air between us fresher to breathe.

I am noticing that every time I write something, I come to a new paragraph that seems to contradict what I have just written, almost as if I was writing the Bible! Case in point...

John Mayer has also been in the news, not for cavorting with strange women, but for expressing the fact that his, uhm, physical parts do not respond to black women. He expressed this in the most racist and offensive manner possible by calling his, uhm, physical part a "white supremacist". And the question he was asked wasn't even about whether or not he found black women attractive, it was whether or not THEY chased HIM. A simple "yes, but I haven't dated a woman of color" would have done. I don't think there is anything fundamentally wrong with finding certain features more attractive than others. As a celebrity he has to be aware that his opinion is going to influence public opinion. He has voiced an opinion that has been secretly held by a white segment of the population for centuries. Racial selection in dating ranges from "I don't find that race attractive" to "I find them attractive but wouldn't want to be seen withthem in public on a date" to " I believe there are attractive people of all races". The spectrum is broad and yet his preferences, if not his social views, fall in line with the most undesirable group on that spectrum. And so he has unconsciously validated their view. The damage is done. No take backsies, John.

Now can he grow and learn from the public outcry over his view? Will it bother him that so many people found offensive what he considered to be a matter of fact? His public apology seems to indicate so. If his mind opens up just a crack then maybe, just maybe, there is hope that he will begin to see past race which, after all, IS just a social construct. As I have said in a previous post, race is no more a valid way to separate people than hair or eye color. What we define as "race" is just a series of dominant genes overpowering recessive ones. We all originated from the same colony in East Africa. So if we are all one race, any race, then we are all black.

I don't know how white people originated but one theory is that two black people can get together and have an albino child, whereas two white people can only have a white child. The first albino child born amongst East African black people must have seemed like a strange anomaly, even a curse amongst the superstitious. It would have been likely for such a child to feel ostracized and eventually separate from the group. Whatever genes in his parents produced him would eventually produce others. The genes would be passed through generations and a colony of outcasts would have eventually formed, giving them enough people to migrate and create a colony of their own away from the scrutiny of "normal" black people. Environmental factors can attribute for the rest. It would make sense that eventually an appearance that once seemed strange and misplaced would gradually become exotic, then rare, then preferable.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Give 'em Hell Alabama!

As you can see I've dedicated my blog to University of Alabama football this season. It looks like Bama has a good chance of winning a national championship this year, the first time since 1992, which was my senior year. To say I was close to the team would be an understatement. They were like family. My roommate hung out with Kevin Lee and I briefly dated John Copeland. We hung out with all the players, not as groupies looking for husbands (because there were many of those) but as college students who enjoyed spending time together. I even went to church with the coach, Gene Stallings. For years I've been looking forward to seeing my Tide return to its former days of glory. And yes, I have been neglecting my blog duties, the main point of which is to make both you and me think.

For the past few months there have been lots of interesting things happening in the news. Outrage spread across the nation amongst conservatives when President Obama made a speech to school children and paranoid conservatives accused him of "indoctrination" without so much as even hearing his speech. Then when the Nobel Prize Committee awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize, even the faithful jumped ship to declare "the president hasn't done anything yet". Everyone fell in lock-step with the opinion that he had been given the prize not for what he has done, but for what he wants to accomplish. But I disagree. Even if that was their reason, I disagree with the concept that getting elected the first black president of the United States, a great nation with a history of slavery and discrimination, is "nothing".

For one day in November 2008 this country, and by consequence the entire world, faced the very real possibility of electing the wrong people to office, expanding the war in Iraq, and doing nothing to support the economy except wait for wealth to trickle down and for the economy to fix itself. But that didn't happen because the person with different ideas had the ability to make us see past his race and get himself elected. He took a nation, half of which would feel significantly more comfortable with someone who looks like their own fathers in office, and he did what no one else in history has been able to do: he changed their minds. And in doing so he created a paradigm shift for the human race. Now the leader of the free world finally, for the first time in history, actually looks like the rest of the world. Are you seriously telling me that this historical achievement isn't worth recognizing?

There is no such office as "President of the World" because if there was Obama would have won it. The Nobel Peace Prize is the next best thing and the closest the world can get to telling us they are, for the first time in eight years, willing to follow our leader. Is it about race? Yes and no. He didn't get elected because of his race, but he certainly could have lost the election and even world support because of it. Like it or not, he and his achievements are a symbol of our nation's progress and awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize was recognition for creating that progress. But, this blog is called "Mind Massage" so in the spirit of massaging your mind I'd like to offer a different view, one that one of my friends, Malika, offered me when I shared my opinion with her:

"Well, if that's the case then they needed to have created a new category".


Did I mention Malika used to be my boss?

Then last night the House of Representatives passed healthcare reform and now my conservative friends are livid. And what do I think about that? I think it's a step in the right direction and the main people who are opposing it will, just like the "Cash for Clunkers" program, be the main people who exploit it once it becomes law.

I think insurance companies need to be put in check and should be required to pay for care for "pre-existing conditions" if a person and their company have been paying their insurance premiums.

I think doctors and medical schools should put greater emphasis on identifying symptoms in their infancy and providing preventive care. And insurance benefits should pay for preventive care such as the use of vitamins and supplements to change what's going wrong inside a person's body, instead of waiting until an illness is chronic, a tumor has formed, a gland has stopped producing the right level of hormones, or an artery is clogged.

I think the FDA needs to stop allowing food sources, food processes and food additives to make us all sick, and pharmaceutical companies need to stop being allowed to sell us "cures" that cause even more and greater illnesses.

I think instead of rushing products to market both the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies need to do more research and take the time to create foods and cosmetics that are pure and healthy, and medicines that can actually make people better.

And finally, I think that if the blue dog Democrats didn't pass the bill that's a good sign there's something wrong with it. I heard Governor Haley Barber, a Mississippi Republican, say that both Democrats and Republicans could agree on 80% of the bill. So what if you think he's a redneck? It's their country too. And just because Republicans wouldn't work across party lines or even preserve basic constitutional rights when they were in power doesn't mean Democrats should continue the pattern now that they are in power. Democrats should take the high road. The Senate needs to do the work to trim away the 20% that the blue dogs were opposed to and make the bill a true bi-partisan effort. And if it doesn't fix the problems I listed above then it needs to be revamped until it does.

But enough about that. All of these things are going to have to continue to pass without any more commentary from me. For the time being my heart and my attention lie closer to home. In the coming weeks as we watch the Tide continue to roll, I'll be right here cheering "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, Give 'em Hell Alabama!"

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Serena William's 2009 US Open Foot Fault

This is, so far, the best story I've found on Serena William's US Open foot fault incident. The foot fault call had suspicious timing. I play tennis and we all pretty much do the same thing on every serve. If Serena did have a foot fault it is highly unlikely that the first one came at match point. So why call that foot fault on that particular serve? Serena's anger was justified but there is no way to excuse the way she expressed it. If the tournament officials had let her get away with that tantrum they would have been accused of showing favoritism to a celebrity.

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, let me catch you up. Serena Williams was playing Kim Clijsters in the 2009 US Open tournament in New York. Clijsters had won the first set 6-4 and was leading the second set 6-5 but Serena was serving at 15-30. Which means that Clijsters needed 2 ponts to win the match and Serena needed 4 points to stay in and go to a tie break. As Serena was serving, a line judge, a small asian woman, called a foot fault on Serena's second serve. This means that Serena Williams, a woman with 31 aces, more than any woman in the whole tournament, the next being her opponent Clijsters who had 14, had double-faulted due to a foot fault call. Serena lost her temper, walked towards the judge lifting a tennis ball in her fist and reportedly saying "I am going to shove this*** ball down your *** throat." I watched the match on TV and couldn't hear it. But whatever she said, she kept talking and lifted her racket club-like at the woman, using it to make her point.

Afterward Serena turned around to continue serving and the woman got up and walked over to the chair umpire's desk and told the chair umpire her version of what had just happened. The Chair umpire called out the tournament supervisor and the referee and they met with Serena at the side of the court. During that meeting you could hear Serena clearly say "Are you scared because I said I was going to hit you? I'm sorry." And later she said "I did not say I was going to kill her!" She was visibly shocked that the woman had felt threatened by her.

Should Serena apologize? The answer is clearly yes she should for making someone feel threatened. I am worried about Serena. I wonder if the whispers and questions about her size may actually be cause for concern. Does she want it bad enough to use performance enhancing drugs? I don't know. I saw her in an earlier inteview after a different match and I noticed that she was moving her facial muscles erratically. I remember thinking "Wow, that must be all that residual tension releasing. She must have been really holding herself in and controlling herself to now lose control and start making so many faces like that." It was really odd. But to see her come uncoiled on the court, I felt so badly for her because I knew that later when she calmed down she would regret those moments.
If I were Serena I would use this experience consructively to do for foot faults what John McEnroe and shot spot did for bad ball calls. We know they happen. Help implement a system to challenge them. She has the resources to obtain every tape and video camera footage of that moment that she can get her hands on and have it all reviewed. I don't know for sure what it would show but probably something along the lines of numerous foot faults happening on both sides of the court by both players. That could be a driving force to remove a bit more of the human bias out of the judging system. This issue has existed for a long time. It needs to be settled once and for all and Serena is just the woman to do it. Then she can go down in history not as the "angry black woman" stereotype who lost it in a major tournament, but as the woman who took control of a situation that has plagued too many for too long and she finally set it right.
***Originally I had the actual swear words in this post, but have removed them because they offended some people who are very important to me. As humans, we all sometimes say things we wish we hadn't and, if people are kind, they will forget those things and let us be judged by how we treat people the other 99.9% of our lives when we are kind and generous and humane. It's not fair to freeze our worst moments in time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What Happened at "The Shack"?

OK, I haven't blogged in a while. Actually I have but decided that I'd written things that didn't need to be posted. But today a friend of mine on Facebook asked me for my unbiased opinion about the bestselling book, "The Shack". A flood within me was unleashed and below is what came out. Enjoy...

I've read "The Shack". It took me a while to warm up to it because of the style of writing, but after I did I loved it! I think the concepts in the book reflect my essential truth, which is that we are all here for each other, to be in relationships with each other, to know each other and to love each other. And that judging and condemning each other for ANY thing under ANY circumstances is the worst possible thing we can do. Now here is my controversial opinion: I am glad that God is presented as female in several forms because that is a truth I've known and struggled with for a long time. Biblical written tradition would have us believe that all deity is male. That is a Middle Eastern social construct which snuck in and inserted itself into Biblical tradition because the authors were from the Middle East!. Hellooo....that's where women have to cover their faces! The Bible was oral to begin with - no writings. It was never meant to be frozen in time by words and stuck in the social customs of some other time and place.

Ok, now having said that, I don't mean to say that God is female. I mean to say that I believe The Bible when it says that God is neither male nor female, which means he loves us all equally.NOW as a good Christian girl I have to say that I still believe that women are the gentler, fairer sex. As such we have a calling, per se', not to declare ourselves stronger and rub it in men's faces. It is BECAUSE we are the gentler, fairer sex that we should introduce and wield the truth gently, lest we end up in the same place that the so-called feminist movement / equal rights left us which is having women to do ALL the work and ALL the decision-making. That's not how it was intended. Men are stronger in some things, women in others, but the differences cancel each other out. Women are not meant to be heads of the household, not any household, not God's nor Man's, but it is because we want men to be stronger :-) not because they actually are.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Inauguration Experience

I arrived in Washington D.C. on a Sunday afternoon and the father of a friend of a friend of a girl I'd never met before picked me up at the Metro station and drove me to the apartment I would be renting for the three nights visit. He was very kind and friendly and showed me around the place, then left me to get settled in with assurance that I was only a short walk from where the bus would pick me up to take me to the nearest Metro station. He drove away and I was left alone in Fairfax, Virginia thinking everything was settled. I was going to meet other travelers from Omaha that night in downtown D.C. for dinner.

I unpacked and then went outside and waited. The bus never came. Eventually I walked back towards the apartment building and tapped on the car window of a hispanic man, and asked him if I was waiting in the right place. He pointed at a bench and I walked back. A few minutes later he pulled up beside me in an old Ford mustang. "The bus probably isn't coming this late on a Sunday" he said "Can I give you a ride somewhere?" Don’t try this at home, but I scanned him quickly to see if I felt safe with him. I did, and I got into his car and thanked him. I would later learn that his name was Jorge, a 13-year veteran of the marine corps, an employee at a large engineering firm, and a gentleman. “I’m not doing anything the next few days” he said, “and I have the day off. Call me if you need anything.” And with that he had offered me his card.

Not wanting to impose on Jorge, I tried riding the bus again the next day, but it still didn’t come. After waiting for almost an hour in the cold I thought about calling a cab but my cell phone was dead and I had accidentally packed my charger in the wrong suitcase. I had to be at the Hart Senate office by 4:00pm to pick up my ticket. It was only about 9:00am but I knew that time moved fast and using the Metro and waiting in line I could run out of time quickly. I walked a little along the sidewalk in the suburbs looking for someone who I could ask to borrow their cell phone and fished in my purse for Jorge’s card. He came and offered me a ride to buy a new charger as well. I bought him lunch and he spent the day with me in D.C., waiting in line to pick up my ticket at the Hart Senate building and then patiently shopping with me at the mall at a place appropriately named “Friendship station”.

After the inauguration was over I had to make one last trip to the Metro to get to Reagan National airport. My landlady, the girl whose apartment I was borrowing but whom I had never met, came to pick me up early in the morning. Just like everyone else I’d met during my experience she was kind and sweet and very gracious.

People are asking me what feels like a million questions about my inauguration experience.
"Did it feel historic?" Yes, very. I got goose bumps and cried when Aretha Franklin sang. "Were there mostly black people?" I don't know but I don't think so. There was no race out there. Just people. "Did you go to an inaugural ball?" No, I had tickets to the Garden State (New Jersey) Ball but I was too exhausted to attend.

The one question that no one asks is "Did you meet any interesting people?” That’s the one I want to talk about most. Because, you see, I met and chatted with tons of people but the ones who were the kindest, the ones who I leaned on the most and who offered me hospitality throughout my visit: Jorge, the girl whose apartment I borrowed at the last minute who got up early Wednesday morning to drive me to the airport, her father who directed me through my first trip to the Metro, picked me up and showed me around.....they were all Republicans. None of them had anything at all to do with Democrats or the inauguration. They were just citizens of the city who wanted to reach out and be a part of this historical event in the best way they could.

Am I proud of Obama? Of course. Do I have high hopes for him? I think anyone who can do what he's done can do almost anything. But the person, or rather people, I am most proud of is us, the American people. Both the Democrats who saw past race and came together to elect Obama and now the Republicans who can see past politics to offer their support in a time when our nation is experiencing perhaps the greatest surge of unity since before the civil war - just when we need it most.

I just finished reading this and I thought how can we ever unite the rest of the world if we don't have unity ourselves? Perhaps the greatest threat to our nation is not anything outside of us, not the Taliban and not war in the Middle East. It is partisanship and the idea that our values have to keep us apart. The solution - get to know each other, call on your neighbors.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Update on the Conspiracy to Kidnap My Mail

For those of you who read "Christmas in the Modern Era" and were sad or upset when I said "no one will ever love me - ever", calm down, I was only kidding. People love me.

The cards came later. Some of them arrived on time and I just hadn't picked them up yet because I'd been out of town. It's mostly my own fault I'm not getting my mail. To fix the mail problem, I went online to the post office web site and temporarily changed my address so that everything will go to the PO Box. When I do the "permanent change" I will incorporate my street address into it even though they have different zip codes. Take that, post office!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas in the Modern Era

My internet is down and my mail isn't being delivered to my home. Between these two problems I have lost almost all contact with the outside world. I can't blog. (I am writing this from a hotel). I've gotten no Christmas cards this year. My boyfriend ordered and shipped me a Christmas present and I'm pretty sure it's already shipping swiftly back to it's manufacturer. You see I travel a lot for my job and I'm not the best about letting my postal carriers know when I'm going to be gone for days at a time, so they took it upon themselves to decide that if I was going to let my tiny little box get so crammed full of mail that there was no space left for all the junk and catalogs, then I didn't deserve to get any mail at all. Thank goodness I still get my J-Jill, Ann Taylor, and Talbots catalogs, my Lucky Magazine, my Bed Bath and Beyond coupon, and that little packet of coupons everyone gets, you know, the important stuff.

My credit card bill on the other hand never makes the cut. I tried to work around the problem by renting a post office box and informing my credit card companies, other creditors, mortgage bank, and utilities that my address had changed. But one company is still holding out, no doubt in an effort to give me as many chances as possible to pay 30 days late so they can jack up my interest rate to 25% and enslave me for the rest of my working life.

All of this bothered me, but it didn't really get to me until they started messing with my Christmas. Now it's gotten personal. Now it's part of a vast conspiracy to make me believe I will never have a normal life and that no one ever has - or ever will - love me. Aha! but what's a normal life, you ask? Well duh -don't you remember the sitcoms on TV in the 80's? I grew up in the Dynasty age, the Reagan era, when the worst thing that could possibly happen to you was something on an after school special. And I was finally "there". My house was clean, my job was great, my credit was good, and my love life was atrocious - just like on Sex and the City. I had it all.

Did someone find out about my wonderful birthday and all the birthday cards I got? Did they get wind that I was paying my bills on time? I can just imagine someone saying "This has GOT to stop! Great friends, Good credit, birthday cards, and an increasingly popular blog (ok, I can dream), plus a black president!!?? Who does she think she is? A Cosby kid?" (What's disturbing is when I conjure up those words in my head, my mother's image pulls up alongside it - like a Google search). Realistically what might have happened with my cable is that my neighbors moved out and when they did the cable company accidentally discontinued my internet service along with theirs...but then again, maybe that's just what "they" want me to think.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Can you feel it? There's a fresh breeze blowing across the country and rippling across the world. Complete strangers are smiling at each other and finding an excuse to talk, feeling an unspoken bond. That's called American spirit. That's called freedom.

The freedom of black people in this country began when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and ended on November 4, 2008 with the election of President Barack Obama. It has taken us 145 years to become free. Here's the thing that most people don't know, but rather they feel it in their spirit: as long as all Americans weren't free, none of us were free.

When I look into the eyes of the people who voted for Obama, whether they are black, white, Asian, Hispanic or Native American, I see freedom. I see release. I see equality. One step closer to freedom for one of us is one step closer for all of us. When I look into the eyes of the people who voted for John McCain, that is, when they will actually look me in the eye, I see disappointment, but I also see something else, something I never expected to see. I see relief. I see that they are relieved that a racial barrier has come down and they didn't have to compromise their religious principles and their values and vote for a Democrat in order to make that happen. For most of them, it isn't that they were racist (well, no more than most of us), it's just that their side didn't have a black man running. So they get to live in a country where a black man can become president without having to participate in the process of making it happen. Now THAT's Freedom!
President Barack Obama was right: He's YOUR president too. You're Welcome.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why Intellectual Women Don't Like Sarah Palin

Like the previous post, this post began as an email discussion with one of my friends, this time a female friend from Alabama. We are having a discussion about how intelligent, college-educated, otherwise articulate women descend into an inarticulate rage, eyes narrow into slits, breathing becomes ragged, and a dirge of insults begin to spew of which "moron" is the one most frequently used...all whenever the name Sarah Palin is mentioned. Allow me to explain why.

First, it's not just because she's not qualified. Palin initially declined the offer to be Vice President. Why? Because she didn't know what the job involved and hadn't been preparing for it. Most professional women and candidates for office, male or female, have been preparing since they were in college at the very least. You don't accept the job of running the country as an afterthought. But we don't hate her for that. After all who in their career hasn't done that? It is a commonly known fact that in order to be successful and climb the ladder you have to accept positions that (a) are slightly uncomfortable and feel perhaps a little over your head and (b) you know you were chosen because someone likes you (or your influential friend or relative) and (c) someone asked you out of the blue.

But what kind of woman shamelesly and scrupulously benefits from the hard work and long, long years of preparation of another woman and, more importantly, from her failure? It's as if Hillary Clinton was in a wedding and when the preacher asked if anyone had a reason this woman and man shouldn't be joined please speak now, and when the American people spoke and Hillary was out, Palin stepped up, linked arms with the groom and said "I'll marry ya!!" Palin doesn't seem to feel any remorse for hopping into a bed that Hillary Clinton spent years making. That brings me to the third point. She is allowing herself to be used as a political tool.

McCain picked her to create the illusion that the Republicans were having a historical election of their own. That reason alone makes her selection a slap in the face to every highly qualified woman in the country.

But someone's gotta be first and isn't it true that the best way to change an establishment is to first become part of it and then change it from the inside out? That brings me to my fourth point.

She's using her newfound celebrity status to promote the idea that Barack Obama is a terrorist, a muslim, dangerous to the country and all sorts of other negative and irresponsible claims. I'm surprised that so many people don't understand how she evokes such emotional responses. I understand it and so does every woman who's ever used her beauty, feminity and sunny, outgoing personality to win friends and influence people. In the south for centuries the surest way to get a black man in trouble was to have a white woman accuse him of something. But I'm sure she doesn't know anything about that. Which leads me to my fifth and final point.

She's out of touch and not just because Alaska is so far away it could be another country. She actually believes that America is full of "hockey moms" and "Joe sixpacks". She's running for the American people, not as the diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-talented, religiously tolerant melting pot that we are and that our founding fathers intended us to be, but as the American public that she'd like for us to be. As a consequence she's not going to be president of the people who live in the housing projects or of the people who live in upscale condos downtown in large cities because she's never done that and she doesn't know them. She will take an oath of office to serve only the kinds of people she's seen and lived with and whom she thinks represent the entire country.

Until this election she hasn't given a thought to anyone beyond Alaska and people like her. And who can blame her? She seems well prepared for the job she was aspiring to, governer of Alaska. She just wasn't preparing for this job.

Guest Blogger: Dave on "Media-logical Myths"

The post below was written to me in a note by my friend Dave. He read my blog post "Dear Media" and had some particularly interesting insights. I asked him for permission to post it and he said yes. I think you'll enjoy reading this as much as I did:

Dear L/L,

Sounds like you are almost as excited by the election hoo-ha as I am. I find myself unable to watch any of the debates or election coverage because it is all so trivialized with people yelling at each other and trying to make something meaningful out of things that are frankly insignificant, meanwhile ignoring the important elements. We did this twice when George Dubya ran and the mess today is our deserved reward. If we make a better choice this time it will be largely serendipitous since none of the main stream media seems willing to do good old-fashioned reporting. Worst of all, the media seems to have generated certain myths or plot lines, for example "John McCain is a maverick" , that they can't seem to rid themselves of despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary.

What I find absolutely most intriguing is how the media buys into republican representations of democrats for being "elitists", key evidence being that John Kerry drinks green tea and Barack Obama eats arugula although both of those are on the menu at most mainstream casual dining restaurants these days and are available at wal-mart and every other grocery store I've visited.

When I think of "elitists", I think of someone who went to an elite private high school and then got admitted to Yale despite his weak high school academic record , getting admitted only because he had a father and a grandfather who created a legacy for him at Yale, and then was admitted to Harvard Business School despite a weak academic record at Yale. He then used his family connections to get a variety of postions in the family businesses of oil and politics proving largely incompetent in most of those positions.

When I think of "elitists", I think of another someone who managed to be admitted to the Naval Academy, an elite publicly-funded academy, despite his own self-described "undistinguished" high school academic record, perhaps getting admitted only because he had a father and grandfather who were four-star admirals and who created a legacy for him at the Academy. He succeeded in compiling a dismal academic record in which he graduated 894th out of 899 in his class. (As an aside, do you suppose being the legacy of two four-star admirals might have been a factor in the Academy graduating him at all?).

He ultimately divorced his first wife to marry an exceptionally wealthy trophy second wife, hobnobbing with the rich and famous, even being reprimanded by the United States Senate for his inappropriate relationship with a central criminal from the savings & loan scandal. Yes, according to the media he was a "war hero" forty years ago, having achieved that status for being shot down over VietNam and abiding by (most) of the military code of conduct although he himself acknowledges that being shot down doesn't make one a "hero" . One might also question how many Naval pilots were allowed to continue flying after destroying four military jets in non-combat duty, perhaps raising the question as to how much influence his father and grandfather, the aforementioned four-star admirals, had to exert on his military career.

When I think of elitists, I don't think of someone who came from humble beginnings, growing up in a single parent household, living with his maternal grandparents for much of his life, starting his college career at lowly Occidental College, and EARNING his way into Columbia and Harvard. I don't think of someone achieving sufficient academic success to be selected as editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review and then going on to teach at the equally prestigious University of Chicago before launching a career in public service. Rather than "elitist", I would see this type of individual as the star of a Horatio Alger dime novel; a rags to riches achievement of the American Dream and someone who pulled himself up by his own bootstraps while gratefully acknowledging all the support and assistance he received from many people along the way.

Two men who largely squandered the special opportunities they were afforded by their respective powerful influential families and another man who earned his way from the bottom to the top. Which of these would you be most likely to describe as "elitist" ??

Ah, but when the facts don't fit with the preconceived story as told by the media elite then the facts must be ignored for mythology is more powerful than reality.

Yesterday, I Voted

Thursday morning I woke up mentally preparing to go to work. But before I could get out of bed something inside nudged me and reminded me that I had something important I needed to do today. I had been toying with the idea of voting early for weeks. With my job and the way I travel I never know what could happen on Nov. 4th and I didn't want to end up missing election day, and especially not such an important election. I knew today was going to be my best chance to vote hassle-free.

As I got dressed, something inside me said "Wear your best...for this is an important day, as important as a wedding". So I took extra care getting dressed. I wore nice (although still appropriate for work) clothes and I carefully applied my makeup and wore my pearl earrings and my diamond and pearl necklace. This was a special day. Today I was going to become "an equal". Maybe I have always been an equal on paper and legally but, for some reason that I had not yet worked out in my head, I felt more equal today than others.

I looked up the address for the election commission in my blackberry. I've only lived in Omaha for two years so I knew I'd have a little bit of a challenge finding it. As I drove down 120th and crossed Fort street, I thought of my home in Carbon Hill, Alabama and of my grandma voting. I remembered how she had taken me with her to vote, standing proudly in line and how, as a little girl, I had wondered what there was to be so proud about. I would often have moments like that, like when I was eight years-old and I finally got to walk to Dee Wright's Cafe by myself. I was surprised to see a sign in his window that read "We serve people of all races and colors". "How odd" I thought in my eight-year-old mind, "why would anyone need to say that?" He might as well have had a sign announcing that the sky was blue.

"Wow" I thought. I was about to participate in the election of Barack Obama. I was about to bring him one step closer to becoming the first black president of the United States. The magnitude of what I was about to do finally started to sink in. Images flashed in my head: images of people marching in Alabama, arms linked, signs waving, policemen with clubs. Images of people hanging from trees, some of their bodies badly burned. I thought of the people who had been intimidated into not voting and of how much courage it took for them to even walk into the offices. That's why my Grandma was so proud. THIS, I thought, THIS MOMENT is what she had worked for. It was what they had all worked for. It was for ME TO HAVE THIS MOMENT.

That's when I gasped, realizing that I had never voted for anyone who looked like me nor had it ever ocurred to me that I would ever have the hope of doing so. And I had accepted it as my reality. "We have never been free before" the realization crept over me slowly, "because we have never been able to do this. None of us have ever been truly free. The possibility of becoming president, this is the last thing, the last step towards equality. The last step to freedom."

"I will not cry, I will not cry" I thought. But the tears fell anyway. They ran down my face from beneath my dark sunglasses. I wiped them away with my hand and wondered if people driving by would look into my car and see the emotional black woman, and wonder why.

As I expected it took me several attempts before I finally found the election commission office. First I had turned around at 114th and Dodge, then I circled back through West Corporation's industrial park. I finally gave in and called the office to ask for directions. "Two blocks south of Dodge and one block West of 114th" the young man had answered me helpfully, almost as if he wanted me there. Perhaps he didn't know I was black. "Stop that" I thought. I finally found the office tucked away on a back street off 115th and Davenport. People were lined up out the door and around the parking lot. Clearly I had to turn my attention to figuring out where to park. I drove across the street where I had seen people walking. "You here to vote?" asked the man in the white utility truck who had waved me to a stop. "Yes" I said. "Well you can't park here" he announced proudly. I smiled at him and said "Ok, thank you" as brightly and cheerfully as I could. He obviously enjoyed being an obstacle. But something in the back of my mind reminded me that relative to the history, this little delay was less than a speck of dust. I think he knew it too. He just wanted to help put it off for as long as he could.

I decided to try my luck at getting a space in the actual parking lot of the election office. It looked like people were leaving fairly regularly. Sure enough I thought I saw a space near the door but dismissed it thinking it must be handicapped. As if reading my mind the people standing in line in front of the door began to wave at me and point to the space. "What? really?" I looked again. "Yes! Come on! Right here!" they waved and cheered. It seemed somehow appropriate, even metaphorical, that there was one little man who wanted to get in my way but many more people welcoming me in.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dear Media....Don't Take the Bait

Here it comes. The election and inaugeration of America's first black president. And along with it, here come the crazies who are going to try to get their five minutes of fame by doing something negative. Already stories are starting to pop up about dead bears with campaign posters and things hanging from trees. Folks in California put our future president's head on a food stamp surrounded by derogatory racial stereotypes like fried chicken and watermelon.

Autherine Lucy desegregated my alma mater, the University of Alabama. John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic president. George Washington was our nation's first president while were still a wobbly toddler and someone in the congress actually suggested making him King. Someone's gotta be first. It's YOUR responsibility, dear Media, not to encourage some basement-dwelling, mouth-breather longing for love and acceptance to decide that denigrating the first black president might be a quick way to get their own reality show called the Evening News. In fact, I can already imagine the reports, so popular that they become like a reality show called:
"Who Said (or Did) Something Racist Today?"

I'm not suggesting that if we ignore it, it will just go away. But most of these "pranks" are just angry expressions by people who are unhappy and feel powerless about a changing world. Last year when that kid shot up Von Maur in Omaha he did it because he was depressed and to get attention. Don't give that unhappiness, that depression, those cries for attention any more power than warranted. Because like Lee Harvey Oswald, it won't be the real culprits who will put their face on the crime. It will be the aforementioned mouth-breather, stirred to a frenzy by the insanity he sees on TV, and a little warm fuzzy encouragement by the wrong social club.

All those years of "liberal media" name-calling has got you on the defensive now, dear Media, and you're ready to show the world that you can be as tough on a Democrat president as you have these past eight years on the most incompetent world leader in history. They know you're afraid to be accused of sweeping things under the rug. They're gearing up for it and they're going to manipulate your good journalistic ethics for their own dark purposes to wage a campaign of fear and ensure that no other great men of color, like Colin Powell, will ever have the audacity to run for president again.
Don't...take... the bait.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Scariest Halloween Ever

Frankenstein is loose, just in time for Halloween...and no, I am not referring to McCain or Obama.

There's a story out about Senator McCain and how he was booed tonight at his own rally in Wisconsin for saying that Senator Barrack Obama is " a decent man". These are the same people who are supposed to be conservative Christians for family values. Amidst cries of "traitor", "treason" and "kill him" aimed at Senator Obama, Senator McCain tried to reason with what has become the Republican mob and they turned on him for being decent himself.

I have been mostly silent throughout this election cycle because I did not want to offend my Christian brothers and sisters. But the tme for silence is over. A man's life is being threatened.

Sarah Palin has been applying the principles she learned from the "Republican Campaign for Dummies" playbook, using scare tactics and emotion to win the loyalty of her supporters while ruthlessly tearing down the reputation of her opponent who in this case happens to be a good and decent man. What Governor Palin lacks is the sophistication, political savvy and, yes, downright evil genius of the men who wrote that playbook. What do you get when you give that kind of power and that sized audience to a political outsider with very little understanding of the issues defining her contest but with a talent for cheerleading? You get a mob of frightened, angry people roused into an emotional fervor, irrational, irresponsible, and downright dangerous.

If Obama does win the election, and it looks as if he will, the American people are going to need to unite behind the new leader. Obama is a good man, a decent man, a man who worked hard for everything he's ever gotten in life and left behind the potential wealth a Harvard education could provide in order to live a life of service and, for a time, poverty. He is an example of the best our country can produce. But instead of being proud of him as we should all be, the American people are being told to demonize him, and they are happily and willingly obeying. He is more Christ like I think, right now, with angry mobs yelling at an innocent and, yes, a good man who has dedicated his life to serving others, than at any other time. And the people who should recognize his story best are not even noticing because he once ate a meal with "the unclean". Like Christ, he is not being condemned for what he has done, for he has done nothing wrong, but rather he is being condemned for the people he has known.

The use of these hate-mongering tactics are blinding people to the goodness of both of these men. Right now McCain, bless his heart, is the only member of the Republican party I see who is trying to lead his supporters to behave honorably and to have respect for the political process. I respect him for it and history will remember him well for doing so. But he has lost control of his protege'. Palin, his female Frankenstein, has got control of the mob and someone could get hurt.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dear Media: Stop calling it news...

Have you no shame? Have you lost all ability to distinguish between real news, propaganda, and tabloid sensationalism? Don't they teach the difference at any of the universities any more?

Nothing Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt do is news, not which baby they adopt nor from which country they adopt it. They could adopt a whole country and it would still not be news.

Nothing Britney Spears does is news anymore for anyone. Even the 12 year-olds have moved on. There's no one left who cares except drag queens. The girl showed her hoo-hoo to tabloid photographers. All of those grown men who were drooling over her catholic school girl outfit for years finally got their coup de gras. There's nothing left to see here. That's one reason she's no longer news. Here's the other...

She didn't even have the sense to get paid for it. This indicates a serious deficit of intellect. No one is calling her retarded (excuse me, developmentally challenged or whatever they're calling it these days) but the child is clearly not right. Just because she can speak clearly, has the use of all of her limbs, and doesn't drool does not mean that her celebrity status should make her fair game. You wouldn't do this to anyone in the Special Olympics. Don't do it to her.

Barrack and Michelle's fist-bump was not news. It was a slow news day so you just picked something cute. I get it. But you shouldn't take for granted that the rest of the American public will get it. Look what happened with that New Yorker cover. From now on when you run stories like that you should start it with, "We know this is not news, but...." Or maybe "Here's something cute for you." I don't care how you do it, but please find a way to make it clear when you're using irony or showing something for human interest or "color commentary" (no pun intended).

John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate is not news. Ok it is news-worthy, but it is not news. She's not the first woman and in fact has no distinction whatsoever. If you haven't noticed, the rest of the country moved on years ago when Geraldine Ferarro was the Democratic nominee back in 1984. If anything this just shows that the Republicans are 24 years behind. Once you've had a female VP nominee 24 years in the past, and a female presidential nominee in the current year, a female vice presidential nominee, especially one with so little to recommend her, is not news, it's a publicity stunt.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Grandpa McCain is at it again...

The Republican strategists on the news are calling McCain's choice of Sarah Palin "vintage McCain" because it is shocking and unexpected. But it is also vintage McCain because it is short-sighted and naive. He has put politics and winning the election ahead of what is best for the country. To state the obvious, the woman has no experience and no qualifications to be President of the United States. But to McCain she is a "wise choice" because she doesn't fall in line with party politics. If you follow that line of logic doesn't that make Obama an even wiser choice? These are the kinds of shocking shenanigans Grandpa will pull when he is in office.

I love elderly people. I am the only person in our church "singles" group who is under the age of fourty. I call the ladies "the Golden Girls" and I love having lunch with them every week. I am also entertained by them. Some of them are still mentally sharp and quick. Others are a little fuzzy around the edges. By my estimate, based on McCain's inability to follow his own logic he's just a few short years away from needing a live-in nurse to watch him and make sure he doesn't try to wash his clothes in the oven. Seriously, are my Republican friends really going to elect this guy? Because if so I'm convinced they'd vote for Reagan if he were still alive, alzheimers or no alzheimers.

This is not a step forward for women, although in McCain's mind it probably seems like it is. In his world view choosing a woman whose only qualification is that she is argumentative just like him and a "chip off the old block" is perfectly acceptable. After all, for his generation it was perfectly ok to pass along a company to your son just because he was your son, whether he was capable of actually running the company or not. Folks, that's what he's doing with our country. He's chosen an heir for his company - us - the United States of America. Now Grandpa's standing back in the corner giggling because he thinks he's shocked us by doing something wild and crazy: he chose a girl!!

I'll bet his next trick will be the "watch me pull my finger apart" trick.

Remember that TV show where Geena Davis was president because she was chosen as the running mate of an aging candidate with a bad heart? Someone needs to tell Grandpa that Hollywood already has that script and his character dies and the show gets cancelled.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I've never written about a boyfriend before, but this one's different. This one's made of the real stuff. So enjoy.....

I have a new boyfriend. His name is Ken.

Ken lives in Hawaii and came to the "mainland" (which is what they call the continental U.S.) for a conference. He arranged to visit Omaha and me while he was here. I'm not good at planning visits. Ok I am good at it, but it's hard for me to combine planning with fun. My entire life I have either been in charge or I have had fun, but I've never done both in combination. So imagine my surprise when this weekend turned out not only well, but astoundingly so. It was like something out of a romantic movie. That's how I knew it couldn't have been me. It had to be this new combination called "us".

We've been planning this visit for months. I've been very excited and as the time drew closer I was imagining all sorts of romantic things we could do. Then out of nowhere, after calling me 2 or 3 times a week every week, Ken suddenly stopped calling the week before his visit. Actually I hadn't heard from him in almost 2 weeks because he'd been working in a remote location.
I knew he was at his conference.
I knew he was busy.
I was fine.
I was calm.
It was no big deal.
I knew Ken, and he had probably left his cell phone charger back in Hawaii and his conference was in Chicago. I've done the same thing myself.

By Tuesday night I was distraught. Where was he? Why hadn't he at least emailed? I was becoming frantic with worry. I consulted a friend. "No offense", she said, "but why is he coming all the way from Hawaii to see YOU?" (This is the same friend I wrote about in "Independence Day". ). That was her idea of "support".

Well I'd asked for it. It was either talk to her or stress out over not talking to him. Finally she had some good advice: "Just email him" she said, and I did. He emailed me back within minutes. First I was relieved and happy....then I was pissed! He was sitting right there in front of his computer and he hadn't even bothered to email???

On Wednesday night I replied back to his email with one word..."OK". I was trying not to seem upset, but he knew. He called the next morning and apologized. He understood and he didn't try to deflect the blame back onto me with a "you're overreacting" the way most guys would. He'd been busy just like I knew he had. Seas were calm again.

By then it was too late to do any of the stuff I'd been considering. There was no time to go to the grocery store to get the ingredients for a home-cooked meal perhaps by candle light. I had wanted to spend our first evening together on Friday night in the romantic, curtain-enclosed booth at "Spezia" but when I called the booth was already taken. The girl insisted I couldn't have it for the entire weekend. I kept insisting that she check again and finally she found a spot for us on Saturday night at 8:30. Not what I had in mind but that would have to do.

I waited for him at the airport, watching as people de-boarded, searching for his face in the crowd. Finally I spotted him. "Ken!" I yelped. He had the most elated look on his face when he hugged me. "Oh no" my mind panicked "he's going to kiss me". I looked away and held up a hand. "Sorry I can't do PDA" I said softly, trying in vain not to ruin the moment. He gave me a look of disappointment but understanding and he followed me down to baggage claim. I didn't know it but he had no idea what "PDA" meant. Hours later he was trying to figure out why I didn't want him to use a personal digital assistant.

First stop 7 Monkeys for dinner. It's a bar and grille, but the dinner menu is decent, and since I'd been too distraught to plan I figured I might as well show him my world. We couldn't get the little room where I'd had my birthday party. It was full of some other women. Ken pointed out to me that it was called "the Frolic Room". "Really?" I asked. It turns out there is a sign above the door of the room. I'd never noticed. We had a good time and the waitresses who knew me even stopped by to say hi.

Next we went to "Micks". I wasn't sure about taking him there. Not quite friends, not quite family, it's hard to understand or explain my relationships there. It's one thing to tell Ken about the place, but it's entirely another to take him there and expose him to it. Would he be jealous of the time I spend talking to other people? Would he feel left out? He was neither. He was cool and mature and took it all in stride. I hugged all the people I normally hug and hung out with all the people I normally hang out with and Ken slid into my world as if he'd been there for ages and his comfort and ease became mine. It was nice to have him there, a date I had neither to protect nor avoid, but instead expanded my world and enhanced my relationships with my friends.

The next morning, to my utter delight and amazement, Ken took my car and went to the grocery store to get food to make me breakfast. As he headed out with my car keys, I hopped into the shower to get ready for my tennis lesson. I had given him strict instructions: he had to be back by 10:15 am for me to get to my lesson at 10:30. Little did I know he was outside having a showdown with my car, Alexia, my white Land Rover, who refused to let a stranger mount her. The key wouldn't turn in the ignition and the car alarm went off. He struggled with her for a while pushing any combination of butons and finally got the car to start. How I never heard any of this I have no idea.

Next he tried following the directions I had given him for getting to the grocery store. He made a wrong turn right away. (It was my fault) Out here where I live you can go from civilization to farmland in a matter of minutes and have no idea how to find your way back. Somehow he found Mecca, aka Wal Mart, and got food and (here's the big miracle) found his way back again in time to make me breakfast and still get to the tennis lesson. When I came out of the shower, dressed in my tennis outfit, there he was frying eggs with not the tiniest look of distress on his face to let me know the ordeal he'd just been through.

He sat patiently in his jeans, T-shirt, and cowboy boots while we played tennis in the hot sun. Whenever I looked over at him to see if he was admiring my shots (or my shorts), he was doing neither. He was watching the instructor intently and I could see him mentally correcting and comparing his own game. I'd worried briefly about being self-concious or embarrassed. Normally I play pretty well but I haven't had a lesson in a month and here I was playing in front of my new boyfriend. I needn't have worried. After the lesson he met my friend and tennis partner, the married woman. "He's cute" she mouthed to me as we were leaving. She has no idea.

In the late afternoon, after lunch, we went to the Omaha zoo. I haven't been to the zoo since I was 8 years old and went to the Birmingham Zoo on a school field trip. I remembered it being hot and stinky and the monkeys wiping feces on the glass of their cage. Not my idea of a fun trip. I haven't been back since. But apparently Zoos have changed in the past 30 years. (Imagine that?) I've heard good things about the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha and I figured Ken would like it. Plus I've been dying to see the butterfly exhibit so we went straight there. We saw lots of butterflies but I admitted being dissppointed. "What's wrong?" Ken asked, "Were you expecting to be covered in a cloud of butterflies?" .................................................How did he know?

The place is really nice, covered in trees, like walking through a forest. We walked everywhere, to the giraffes and the big cats and bears, and there was a nice breeze throughout the place. The giraffes were tall, elegant and gorgeous, my favorite of all the animals. There were kids everywhere. I don't know why that surprised me but it did.

We went home happy and only a little tired and took a nap on my chaise. Then we got up and Ken went to his hotel room to dress for dinner and I went to shower and get ready. When he came back we only had a few minutes to get to Spezia and make our reservation in time. I was dressed in an elegant but simple little black dress with my hair up, and he was handsome in his navy sports jacket and slacks. He held the car door on the passenger side open for me and for an instant I thought "I should drive" but it was fleeting. If he wanted to be a gentleman and drive I shouldn't deter him. So I dutifully climbed into the passenger seat and he went around and got into the driver's seat of Alexia. As if it were scripted, the key wouldn't turn. "Ok," Ken said "This is what it did last time. Now what do I do?"

I had no idea.
It hasn't done that to me in years since the first months I owned it. "Just push the key in and turn" I said.
"I'm trying" he said, "it won't turn".
"Try pushing the unlock button" I offered.
Nothing he did worked. The car alarm went off and I pannicked a little.
"Oh my Gosh, We're not going to make it to our romantic dinner" I cried inside. I was beginning to get discouraged and impatient with the whole situation but Ken was being so good I tried not to show it. We switched places and I tried doing the same things I'd just watched him doing. Still nothing. "Hand me the manual" I said. He did and I read it frantically, finding nothing that would help. Back and forth we went, reading the manual, switching places trying to get the car to start. I was getting crankier and crankier and he was so calm it was calming me down, keeping me from melting down and giving up completely. Finally, a half hour later at 9:00pm I vaguely remembered something about turning the steering wheel to get the car to unlock. Sure enough it worked. Relieved we set out for the restaurant. "But they've probably canceled our reservation" I worried aloud. Ken, ever the gentleman and ever prepared to take care of things, offered to call them. He pulled out his cell, listened carefully while I spelled "Spezia" for him two or three times, and then called directory assistance for the number. I listened impressed as he carefully pronounced "Sss-Pee-zee-ahh" into the electronic voice system. Even he was surprised when the system understood his pronunciation and got the number right away. He contacted the restaurant. Our reservation was secure.

We had our romantic dinner, and afterward came back to my place and had a walk under the stars around the pond. "A starlight walk" he called it. The evening was cool. We walked slowly, me in my black dress and now wrapped in my shawl, and him in his navy jacket, looking up at the sky and straining so long my neck started to hurt. He pointed out the big and little dipper and I learned that what I had been calling the little dipper was really the throne of Cassiopeia.