Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Forward

It's the time of the year for ruminations and meditations and looking ahead. I htink most of us will agree that we are not sorry to see 2008 go. It was filled with highs and lows, for many of us more lows than highs.

It's the end of a error -- the Bush-Cheney Imperial Presidency. Good bye and good riddance.

Which lows were the most memorable?

First, it's the economy, stupid. That preyed on everyone's mind. My husband and I began thinking more about how we could help others than ourselves. True, our "portfolio" is thinner than it once was, but we thought about people who had no portfolio. We told our children that they could expect very nice cards, small gifts, and donations made in their names to food banks in their neighborhoods. It worked.

Then, it was political stupidity. It began with NY governor Elliot Spitzer getting caught transporting prostitutes across state lines. Hmm, we all knew what his wife thought as she stood behind/beside him as he resigned. It continued with John Edwards confessing that he had cheated on Elizabeth, "but her cancer was in remission." That made it all right. Then it was Sarah Palin, who now thinks she is the leading candidate for president in 2012. Keep thinking, Sarah. You might also consider returning to school to bone up on civics. Might help. And lastly, we have Rob Blagojevich apparently trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat. There were probably more examples, but you get the idea.

There was political history of the sort we couldn't have imagined when Dr. King gave his "I have a dream" speech in 1963. Not only did we have a credible woman running for president, we had an African-American, a Hispanic, and a wrinkly white guy. When all was said and done and when all the votes were counted, the iconic image of the campaign flashed across our television screens on November 4: Jesse Jackson with tears of joy pouring down his face. So much progress, so much more to go.

And of course, there were the inevitable drop-ins at Christmas. We had enjoyed guests throughout the year, but had planned on a quiet Christmas day a trois.
We woke up Christmas morning with ideas of a quiet breakfast, putting dinner in the oven, going for a walk, and opening our presents in peace and quiet. I hadn't counted on having two whipped houseguests collapsed in the dining room. What do you think? Did I do well in feeding them?

And now 2009 is on the doorstep. We have a new president coming in. He's inheriting a pile of problems, and we hope he'll live up to even half of our expectations.

2009 will bring more time to write. I want to continue writing 4-5 days a week. My first Mad Max novel, Unintended Consequences, is complete and out with an agent for review. Book two, working title Shades of Pale, is nearly done in draft. V-E-R-Y rough draft, but a draft nonetheless. I should finish the draft in the next month, take a cruise to clear my head and return to revies-revise-revise the draft. Book three is taking mental shape,, but I need to do a boatload of research before I begin writing.

To all of you who have stumbled upon this blog, thank you for reading my musings. Have a terrific 2009. See you next year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Recessive Genes

With the election behind us and the economy sucking all the energy out of the news, I woke up the morning after Thanksgiving with an uncontrollable urge to DECORATE. The recessive Martha Stewart gene was ascendant and nothing I did drove it back where it belonged.

I dragged down a dozen large plastic tubs of Christmas decorations, put them in order in the garage, drove up to the storage unit and fetched the tree. We went green years ago with an artifical tree and have never regretted it.

No longer do I tramp through parking lots shaking trees to see if even a single needle stayed on. No longer do I harbor fantasies about cutting down a tree in the woods, since I learned years ago that perfect trees do not grow in the woods. They grow in tree farms. No longer do I worry about how to get fresh sap off of the top of the car, my hands, my jacket, or out of my hair.

After much fussing, I got the big tree up in the great room, a smaller tabletop tree up in the office and two other indoor trees ready for decorating. Nothing was safe. Not even the cat.

Every tabletop was a target, even the double dresser in the bedroom. I hung stockings from the chimney with care, including the one my beloved grandmother knitted for me for my first Christmas. Terry and the cat both have stockings, which of course will be filled by Santa on Christmas Eve.

I don't know what got into me, but I was done with my shopping before Black Friday. I did peek into Cyber Monday and bought a couple of things on excellent sales -- with free shipping, of course. And I dropped my cards in the mail a week later.

For the first time, I can sit back and enjoy the season and the reason for the season. It's a good thing I don't bake. With the recessive gene, I would have baked a houseful of cookies that we don't eat!!

And now, recessive gene, go back where you came from and do NOT return until next year!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

On No! Not Another Language Mangler

I suffered through the Bush II presidency. Not because of his policies, because I agreed with some of them. I didn't agree with all of them. But it was his mangling of the English (or American) language that pained me. I read The Bush Dyslexicon and wept. And that was written before he was elected.

I alternately laughed and wept again listening to Sarah Palin adlib a response to anyone. Like many people, I tried to keep an open mind about her qualifications, and yet when she tried to speak off the stump speech, I saw the ramblings of a disjointed mind. The most highly quoted gaff went viral in print, in the blog-s-sphere and in cyberspace within minutes of Katie Couric's interview on 60 Minutes.

"My concern has been the atrocities there in Darfur and the relevance to me with that issue as we spoke about Africa and some of the countries there that were kind of the people succumbing to the dictators and the corruption of some collapsed governments on the continent, the relevance was Alaska’s investment in Darfur with some of our permanent fund dollars."

I lamented the fracturing of syntax to several of my favorite grammar police, all of whom returned my concern. However, only Becky Mushko outdid Sarah with her own spoof. Yes, this is an insider's joke, but I had to share the "sentence" with y'all.

"Well, yeah, but yanno that inspired me enough that I was like thinking kind of that maybe in the course of giving response critique-wise to certain folks who are not really seeking critiques that when they read, which is almost every meeting of a certain organization except, of course, when they're not there, which once in a while they are not, that we could maybe employ certain Palinistic rhetorical devices to maybe detrail the train of verbosity they exude or at least Palinetically hijack its caboose, ya think?"

Ya betcha! One seriously fractured sentence. Thanks to Becky for lifting my spirits and making me ROTFLOL.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m.

The day after the election, it took until three in the morning for my mind to calm down. The last of the cross-country phone calls ended by midnight. The last text message came in shortly before one. Some friends were elated at the results; others were in despair.

I kept thinking about what we had just done. We had elected a black man president. I didn't think I'd live to see that happen. We chose youth over age, black over white, and perhaps hope over more of the same.

I grew up in a multi-racial culture in Southern California. My classrooms were the epitome of the rainbow coalition long before the Reverend Jesse Jackson coined the phrase. A typical classroom could have had as many as twenty different ethnic minorities in twenty five seats. I watched the Civil Rights Movement play out on television without really being emotionally or physically involved. I was happy with the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in 1964, but I was more impacted by the war in Vietnam and the Women's Rights Movement.

Then, I went to the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta in 1988. I was in a private area when Jesse Jackson gave his stirring speech on education. I admit to having tears on my cheeks when he finished. I began to understand what he and the Reverend Martin Luther King had been fighting for.

And now we have a president who missed all of this, but in a different way. He's our first post-Boomer president. He grew up with all the rights we have come to expect. He grew up in a multi-racial culture in Hawaii. And he made his own way through university and law school without relying on affirmative action. He did it on the merits of his intellect, not on the color of his skin.

So we are faced with impossible challenges: the failing (or failed) economy, obscene bailouts, two wars, a war on terror, healthcare, education -- who the heck would want this job??? President-elect Obama asked for and got the job. As Confucius said, "Be careful what you ask for. You might get it."

Whether we supported or opposed him during the election, we must rally and support him as our president. We owe it to those who came before, to those alive today, and to our children and children's children who will be paying for our combined fiscal follies long after we are on the wrong side of the grass.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vox Populi

I promised myself when I began this blog that I would write about issues that concerned me. I promised myself I wouldn't turn this into a political blog. However, election day is tomorrow and this campaign season has been going on for 20 months.

We've been lucky to have several charismatic men and women running this year. Several good candidates dropped out before all the states had a chance to register their opinion. We lost Chris Dodd, Mitt Romney, Hillary and others. Each in his or her own way had a message. Some had more money than others and could afford to stay in the race until closer to the end.

We now have two different men on the ballot. Both are good, honorable, and committed to serving our country. Obama would be the first mixed race man to win. John would be the oldest and perhaps most experienced man to win. Either could do the job, or they wouldn't have gotten this far.

It's now up to us, the people, to make our voices heard. I haven't missed voting in a national election since I turned 21 and could vote for the first time. I even voted at the American Embassy in Tokyo and then watched on television as Reagan beat Carter. I wasn't happy because I had lived in California under Reagan as governor. When he promised to do to the country what he had done in California, I cringed. He did -- he left both deeply in debt. I cheered when we elected our first Boomer president, only to realize that like so many of us, Clinton wasn't all we thought he was. Or maybe he was and we got what we deserved.

I watched in shame in 2000 when the election outcome was overshadowed by hanging chads and the selection of a candidate by the Supremes. I only hope that we do not have a similar outcome tomorrow.

We have so many new voters on the rolls this year. We have young voters excited about going to the polls for the first time. I hope they all show up.

We have a new category this year: LIVs. Low informed voters. Vote the straight ticket. Listen to the slurs and spin without checking facts. Believe the scare tactics. Welcome all, even if I don't agree with you.

We are the people. We have a voice. Let's all go out tomorrow and make Washington hear what you have to say. Join me in line at oh-dark-hundred. I'll be there, reading the Wall Street Journal, holding a coffee in one hand, a cell in the other, and impatient because I can't wait to cast my vote.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

NPR and Me

I had been working on an essay about voting, spin, not believing what candidates say, and checking facts when one of my colleagues at Valley Writers suggested I send it in to our local NPR station, WVTF. At first, I was sceptical, but the more I thought about it, I decided I didn't have much to lose. After all, nothing ventured, nothing sprained.

The long and short of it is that I recorded the essay below, Listen Carefully, on Friday, Oct. 3. It aired on Monday, Oct. 6, the last day for voters to register in Virginia. To access the recorded essay, please go to WVTF.

I believe in the power of words, written, spoken, and thought. I believe that freedom of speech is inviolate. I believe words can be helpful or harmful, supportive or hurtful, constructive or destructive. I believe my beloved grandmother was wrong when she said “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me,” because sometimes words can be ugly, demeaning, and misleading.

Words bind communities together and the same words spoken derogatorily tear communities apart. I believe as a crafter of words I have an awesome responsibility to know the difference.

We receive much of our information today intangibly – on television and on the radio. Less often, we receive it in written format, reading yesterday’s news printed on a dead tree with ink that stains our hands, but leaves little impact on our minds.

A few decades ago we began receiving dumbed-down messages -- news stories became shorter, language became simplistic, reporting became entertainment. The “sound bite” has done more to damage our understanding than anything else. We rarely if ever hear the entire message.

It is difficult if not impossible to reach an informed decision from a sound bite. It is too easy to skew a message in less than fifteen seconds.

A dozen lake friends have met regularly this election season. We watched the early debates, the main convention speeches, and the most recent Presidential debate. We represent both major parties; several remain uncommitted. And we have been watching the political ads more closely this year than in elections past. I am horrified at the misrepresentations and outright lies fed to us as truth.

Last weekend, this group argued loudly after the final credits of the first Presidential debate faded from the screen. I was stunned at the number of my friends who still believed lies that had been debunked months earlier: the Obama Muslim hoax, the Palin “thanks but no thanks” misrepresentation, and McCain distancing himself from President Bush.

Suddenly, we became fixated on a political ad, a black and white picture of a bearded Tom Perriello, darkened and distorted with striations across his face. Each point the voice-over narrator made was accompanied by a crack like a gunshot. No mention was made of the fact that the photo was taken when Mr. Perriello was in Darfur working with refugees. And then came the tag line: “I’m Virgil Goode and I approved this message.”

The argument stopped. It didn’t matter whether we supported Mr. Goode or Mr. Perriello. We gaped in shock. We wondered if voters would check the facts or believe the fear factor clearly implied with this spot.

As sentient beings we have the onus to review and think carefully about the messages fed to us like so much mush. We have the responsibility to sound off, make our voices heard, and combat disinformation.

The Constitution provides us the right to freedom of speech. It does not provide us with the right to lie, misrepresent, or spin. It is up to us to listen carefully, check facts, and repeat what has been verified as truth.

I urge all of us to question the information we receive. When we embrace the truth, we can work as a group to regain the high ground we once held in the world. If we succumb to negativism and believe the lies, we belong in the mud. To prevent that from happening, I urge all citizens once again to exercise a sacred privilege and vote.

This I believe.

Update: On Oct. 9 I learned that this essay is being used in a Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University class on news reporting as an example of what everyone reporter should consider before putting fingers to keyboard. Thank you, Bill Loftus.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Truth, Justice and the American Way

Given the silliness that is going on in our political sphere, I had to use this space for a brief rant. No, this is not going to be a political blog, but the stakes are so high that I can't keep silent. Blame it on my youth as a near-professional protester (I have the bailbond receipts to prove it!). Blame it on a cloudy day. Blame it on waking up on the pessimistic side of the bed at oh-dark-hundred.

I keep waiting for our political leaders to show some degree of maturity. If you've raised children -- your own, others, as a teacher, or in some other capacity -- you know that one sign of maturity is accepting responsibility. When a glass lies broken on the kitchen floor, the immature child says, "it got broke." The more mature child tries to blame someone else, "not me. Sissy did it." And the mature child says, "I broke it."

We have a broken economy, a broken national budget, and the worst international image in history. So, as I watch our elected leaders squabble over how to save our way of life through saving the economy (and grabbing pork all over the place), I see more of "it got broke" and "they broke it," rather than "we all broke it and it's time to work together to fix it."

Or maybe we just need Superman to swoop down, blast the greedy guys, shore up the economy and set us all on the right path. Instead of truth and justice, we have greed and finger pointing. I hate to think that this has become the American way.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Introducing Me

Born in Washington, DC, I was raised in Southern California where I ran wild with coyotes in the hills above Malibu. Although I protested the war in Vietnam, burned my bra for feminism, and am a social liberal but a fiscal conservative, I ultimately realized I had to earn a living. After spending way too many years in college, in the process earning an undergraduate degree and three graduate degrees, I entered the military-industrial complex after an academic career as a student and teacher. I count myself a survivor of the corporate brainwashing, because I still have the ability to think. Not outside the box or any other cliche, but creatively and objectively. Married for nearly twenty-five years to the same man, I am a writer, a thinker, the mother of three grown stepchildren, companion and friend. I find time to work with young women, mentoring them to succeed in the workplace without losing their identity, write fiction, play golf, sail, hike and read. I write on ecological issues for two local newspapers and frequently publish essays in regional magazines. I love riding behind my husband on his motorcycle. You'll have to decide for yourself if and where I have a tattoo.