Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Can We Please Cut China Loose?

    He made an appeal for his life, a long, rambling one as people suffering from bipolar disorder are prone to do.
     The judge laughed, and the execution went ahead.
     No, this is not from some ancient tale. It happened yesterday in China, per BBC News. Akmal Shaikh, a UK citizen, was put to death for smuggling heroin. Dealers in Poland took advantage of his vulnerability, telling him they'd make him a pop star in China if he would just...
    The UK government, his family, forensic psychiatrists all offered strong evidence that Mr. Shaikh had no way of really knowing what he was doing. The Chinese government told the UK, in essence, to grow up or else.
    Yeah, manufacturing is dirt cheap over there. The burgeoning middle class makes China a desirable trade partner. But at what cost? The US has entered into a state of economic codependency with them, making trade decisions based on placating them rather than taking into account the true cost of business on their terms:

  • How many children worldwide have suffered from the effects of cheap toys manufactured there?
  • How many of their children were hurt when melamine was added to milk to artificially bulk up protein levels?
  • How many pets have died, both in 2007 and this year's cat food recall, again because of melamine?
  • How many more human rights violations must we sponsor before we say enough?
      I know it's hard to do, and I'm doing my best not to myself. But can we include buying as little as possible manufactured in China this year, and perhaps drop President Obama a line at to let him know what's on your mind?

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Sound of Hot Air Leaving a Republican Balloon

   One of the Republican candidates (Candidate A) for US senate is trying to block an opponent's (Candidate B) ads.
   Candidate A has caused no end of grief for many people in the state because of his archaic family values/pro-corporate taxes/no public health care/anti-choice stand. He has gone to court to block ads by Candidate B.
   Candidate B, as reported by a reputable news station, has an ad outing Candidate A. A's manager denies the allegations by B. After all, A just can't be one of those, can he?
   While the vast majority of Democrats and not a few Republicans couldn't care less about sexual orientation as long as someone does a decent job, there's a sizable faction that believes that denying basic human rights to the LGBT population will somehow keep the sun shining on America. It won't.
    It only makes them look more hypocritical and suspect. Mark Sanford and his trip to see his mistress in South America; the string of evangelical preachers who have had spectacular falls from grace involving sex scandals; preaching love with one hand while slapping down the different with the other. On goes the list
     I really wish that I could stop giggling about this. Honestly. The decision to come out of the closet is a serious one due to the potential upheaval, and one that is that individual's choice alone. It should not be done by another party for gain of any kind.
    Still, there's no sweeter sound than air leaking from a hypocrite's balloon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Freakin' Christmas

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Somehow, there just doesn't seem to be much else to say.
Whatever and however you celebrate it, hope it's a good one.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Holiday I Can Live With

       This morning, Orion walked me in the fresh snow. It clings to the long-leaf pines at the forest preserve where we walk on days after storms due to less than optimal roads to our usual park. A silence gently embraced the silvered woods.   

    Solstice doesn't carry the emotional baggage that Christmas does. It's not been exploited commercially, and the weight of being expected to play nice with people who believe that DNA connection is an excuse to behave badly. It's a time in the quiet to think about winter aspirations, and to get busy working on them.
The extra seconds of light at the end of today remind us that it gets better from here. We certainly have storms to weather, but we are compensated by day digging in its toes just a little longer.
    Blessed Solstice, everyone.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Swan and Iris: The Second Coming

Welcome to the world of e-publishing.
I had published Swan and Iris as a traditional hardcopy type of publication, but now with technological advances, it's back in a PDF format. The mission statement: "supporting our readers in living authentic lives of spirit, substance, and serenity."
The debut issue has articles on time banks, how Europeans stay thinner than people in the US, acupressure for dogs, an interview with Joan Norton, author of 14 Steps to Awaken the Sacred Feminine, media reviews, and a journaling exercise.
If you buy your clothes on the basis of what fits you instead of making yourself fit someone else's vision; if you believe that working for social change is a spiritual practice; if you prefer independent artists; if you honestly don't give a crap which celebrity buys what; and if you believe there's more than one way to have a relationship with That Which Is Out There, Swan and Iris might be for you. 

Interested in a sample? Email me at 
the journal coach (one word)

(Take that, spammers!) 

Thanks for reading my blog and thanks for your interest!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Working Out, Python Style

Monday: cloudy, and it started raining.
Tuesday: rain, snow, rain, sleet. Monty Python fans, please feel free to hum "Spam."
Wednesday: wind whipped snow and temperatures dropping like rocks down a well.
Thursday, today: Humans live in this? The flawless aquamarine sky belies barely above zero temps. It's about 4 above. Tomorrow will be a near tropical 20-something. 
The two big challenges: not succumbing to boredom-fueled snacking (much easier now that I don't bring stuff into the house) and keeping Orion entertained. We just can't walk as we usually do. The frigid weather limits our time outside, so we must take measures. 
Just now in the yard, Orion tended to his personal business. 
I jogged in place and did jumping jacks to keep warm.
Orion started to paw in the snow, as if wanting to play with it. Then he began tracking one of the critters who runs through the yard.
I, clad in a purple down coat, kept jogging and doing jumping jacks. I started singing "The Lumberjack Song."
Orion gave me a horrified look and ran for the back door.  

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Truth Shall Set You Free, But at What Cost?

   I'm still giggling and grateful. This lunch break's whoop of joy came in the form of Charlie Rose's interview with Robin Williams. They talked of Robin's current tour and two current movies, heavily sprinkled with references to George W. Bush, Lindsay Lohan and other topics of interest.
   In the middle of all of this, Robin spoke of Richard Pryor's  influence on him. The late great Mr. Pryor always told the truth, his truth of a childhood in a brothel and of his problems with drugs, through his jokes. The humor provided a catharsis for him, and Robin said that he noticed a difference after he had performed.  
    Once I heard a literature professor say that since the the advent of psychotherapy, there had been no great novels. I wouldn't go so far as to say that. It can be incredibly freeing to write about one's demons, to speak of their signatures upon one's soul. I would add the caveat that it matters not that you do it; simply pick your venues carefully.
   We can't all, nor should we, make our confession or plead our case to Mother Oprah in front of a live studio audience. Not everyone wants to hear a story, and not everyone involved needs to have their lives disrupted because of someone else's sins.Even if deserved revenge is a factor, or the hope that others who have suffered the same plight will take courage, and even if it will, one thinks, be part of the healing process, it's best to be discreet.
   Write in a journal. Write not just what happened, but consequences for the wrongdoing. Put it into a work of fiction. I once met a mystery writer who taught high school English. He was union steward for his school. After meetings where someone had annoyed him to no end, he would write a scene where the colleague would perish in a most foul and untoward manner. If it still worked the next day, he would write it into his current book. 
    Use your truth as a starting point for a project, and let it take its course from there. Do it for yourself, and other on the path will find you.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Luncheon with Miss Austen

I am Marianne Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

Some years ago, I worked as an addictions counselor at a community based counseling center. Some of my clients chose to change. The court system forced others, many of whom could not wrap their brains around why everyone was so upset that they'd had a couple too many beers and tried to drive, or thrown a plate or two during an argument, or perhaps that maybe staying with someone using them to transport contraband wasn't a good idea.
I lasted for eighteen months.
I lasted that long because of my lunch ritual. Get lunch from lounge fridge. Brew tea. Close office door, and opened the portal of the pages take me back in time to Regency England. Manners, respect, even from the darkest of scoundrels.
So we flash forward to tonight. Tiger Woods' alleged indiscretions almost one-upped President Obama's speech about sending another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, a/k/a the graveyard of empires. I Bing'd in Jane Austen, and through the magic of links, found this quiz. And my alter ego.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Double Standard is Alive and Well

    Rewind to a week ago Sunday. On one of the music award shows celebrating artists not aimed at my demographics, one Adam Lambert kissed his keyboard player on the lips. The furor took days to die down. Contrast that with the open-mouthed kiss Britney Spears exchanged with Madonna some years ago. Controversial, yes, but neither were bumped from later TV appearances because of it.  Maybe I'm a bit prudish underneath it all, but I find public kissing like that, whether same sex, different sex, or interspecies in bad taste.
    Move onto this last Friday. Golf pro Tiger Woods went flying out of his driveway at 2:30 a.m. and backed into a tree and a fire hydrant. Paramedics took him to the hospital. His wife was seen breaking windows out of his SUV, ostensibly to help him escape. He hasn't given a statement to the police. Word came down the TMZ pike today that investigators want to obtain records of his ER treatment to see if his injuries were consistent with physical assault or with an accident. A 30 mph jaunt down a driveway shouldn't have done that much damage. Rumors of an alleged fling and alleged confrontation by his wife have sparked a lot of speculation that the ensuing argument became physical. 
   Compare that with the case of Chris Brown and Rhianna from earlier this year.  Mr. Brown has been rightly vilified for his assault on Rhianna. Even though the Woods case is embryonic, the reaction over the possible assault on Tiger by his wife Elin has been more like a reaction to joke on the old "Tonight" show.
    Only it's not funny. 
    Violence has no place in a home, especially with small children, and no place in our hearts, whoever the perpetrator may be. 
     Allowing loveless expressions of sex, regardless of orientation, to be portrayed as the norm, should have no place in our media rooms, either.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Turkey Run

    T-day minus 72 hours and counting.
    This cool, foggy morning, Orion navigated to the farm where we get our turkey every year. He hops into the passenger seat, eyes peeled for law enforcement personnel lurking along the side of the road. I don't know what he'd do if he made the connection between one of the cars with lights and big antennas and Mommy getting into trouble, but it gives him a job. 
    Without incident, we pulled into the parking lot outside their store. The family also sells chickens and pork products, but today's focus is on the turkey. Good to get there so early today, since the craziness grows as the day draws closer. Only one person ahead of me, a good thing. I pushed it to the last minute once and a drenching in a cold rain as I waited in the interminable line taught me my lesson, and taught it well.
   Worth it, though. They grow a very fine turkey, indeed. Treated better than the factory farmed ones, too. These turkeys are free range and have only one bad day.   
   My next job will be getting it into the oven. On his way home tonight, The Spouse will make a stop at our favorite store for the random items that round out the holiday dinner. The stuffing, potatoes for mashing, and a green vegetable as well as some kind of dessert will round things out.
   Over our meal, we speak of things we are grateful for as Orion stares at the turkey: our health, that his job with the steady income has held on for another year, that we've not suffered any major losses. With the way that development threatens to encroach on our area, we give thanks that we've been able to celebrate with another local turkey, too.  

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Why We Still Need "Star Trek" and Its Offspring

   The Spouse and I rented the new "Star Trek" movie this week.  We're hanging on to it for one more screening this Saturday night.
     Even if someone hadn't watched much of the original series, it made sense as a stand-alone story. Some bits might twist the underpants of purists into a knot, such as the romance between Spock and Uhura (huh?), but those aside, fans and non-fans should find the back story of how they ended up on the Enterprise quite enjoyable.  While spectacular, J.J. Abrams, the director and producer, never allowed the special effects to override the human aspects of the story.
   Despite creator Gene Roddenberry's self-deprecating description of "ST" as "space opera," it could be argued that the show offered  (and still does) a vision for an evolving society. The original series debuted in 1966, a time eerily like this one. We're engaged in not one but two useless wars. We have another round of civil rights issues to contend with, both ethnically and with gay rights. We still fight to take back control of government from special interest groups and labor pains birthing the vision of a just and green society still reverberate.  
    Social change never happens overnight. It's been said that it takes a generation for an idea to be seen as acceptable. We've had two generations since the original series. Some of the changes, such as women's equality and peace between races have taken hold, but still have a long way to go before truly becoming a part of who we are.  We need the visions to keep the dreams alive.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Lit a Candle Today

    I lit a candle today. 
    Before I struck the match in the darkness, I paused and thought about the places that need light. May its glow extend to nations where the violation of basic human rights is a way of life. May all people be fed; may all know freedom.
     For a few moments, I thought of three women whose lives have been touched by cancer. One holds her own in the face of an inoperable pancreatic tumor. The second lives with the knowledge of the inevitable on the horizon, and with fatigue as her companion, wraps up her business on this side of the veil. The third will be starting radiation treatments as soon as the incisions to remove her lesions have healed. I have only crossed paths with one of these ladies in this realm, yet my heart is with them all. May their healing bring them to a place of peace, a place of knowing their wholeness. 
    Wouldn't it be wonderful, I asked myself, if those who observe the holidays that are stacked on top of each other at this time of year, if they could remember that it's not about competition for spending the most or throwing the biggest party, but celebration? That families make an effort to behave for the sake of the children involved?  Maybe it's a lot to ask, but even petty squabbles need a break in the name of peace. May we regain our perspective, gifting one another with memories of our best sides.
    That's why I lit a candle today.     

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stretch, Iburoprofin, Heat, Repeat

     I don't know how they started. All I know was that last Thursday, I stood up, only to have my back muscles contract into a macrame wall hanging. 
     My first instinct was to hit the ground writhing and screaming. Not very effective, since Orion was the only one home at the time. He would just stared at me, then hopped up on the sofa for a nap, unimpressed.
    I chose instead to gently stretch and grit my teeth, then start popping iburoprofin. 
    When the first wave of pain subsided, I entered "back spasms" into my favorite search engine to see if there was anything else I should be doing. Back spasms: Stretch, iburoprofin, heat. Done that. But what's this? I clicked on several other links about back pain. Blown discs; fractured vertebrae; kidney disease; heart attack; a large tumor, malignant and inoperable, might be pressing against my spinal column.
    Tumor? Malignant? My God, the links were worse than "Readers' Digest" articles that I amused myself with on pilgrimages to the ancestors' homes.  Before I began to write my last will and testament in my journal, I logged off and took calcium and magnesium, then called a friend who'd trained as an EMT. Her response: stretch, iburoprofin, heat.
   After a few days of rest, all but a few twinges under and between my shoulder blades have subsided. I used an herbal heating pad, one filled with grains and peppermint and lavender. Two minutes in the microwave equals two hours of relief. Two hours of relief escorts me into a good night's sleep, and after a solid seven or eight hours, I can handle just about anything.
    The whole incident left me with two questions: why the need for drama, and if I do my spiritual practice, and get enough exercise, why, then, does my body react to the daily stresses in such a violent manner?  Is there something that I'm not dealing with that needs my attention? 
    Or, could it just be a glitch in this imperfectly formed world, and perhaps I should just take a square of Trader Joe's 72% and lie on my heating pad until it goes away? Yeah, sounds like a plan to me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Can We Bring Them Home, Please?

    Let me just start by saying this: in no way do I support any military action taken by the US since World War II.  We were on the receiving end of an attack by a specific nation, not bullies with superior organizational skills who could have been stopped by security agencies. McCarthy-era fear fueled entry into Korea and Vietnam. Human rights for Iraq Part I? For Kuwait, a country that doesn't allow women to drive? Please. Iraq Part II did nothing but destablize a country in the name of nonexistant weapons so George the Second could wreak revenge on Saddam Hussein.
    That being said, we have so many troops coming home from doing dirty, thankless, and unending jobs with the invisible scars seared into their souls and minds.  We need to get them home, and to get them proper mental health care so their healing can begin.
    Even if a soldier doesn't see any action, justified or not, it can still take a toll. Over half a life ago, I was engaged to an enlisted man (it was the Reagan era; convinced that I wasn't going to live to see age 22 because of the posturing with the then Soviet Union and wanting something to show for my life, I accepted his proposal despite his pressuring me to get married right after graduation despite plans made for a little down the road). He worked on electrical systems for fighter jets, and never left the states to the best of my knowledge. He served his country, but did his country serve him by getting him the help that he needed to prevent him from becoming another statistic? I don't know.
   I do know, however, that the night Timothy Mc Veigh was arrested for bombing the Murragh Federal Building in Oklahoma City, I had my glasses off when the footage of him being taken into custody rolled on TV. For one heart-stopping moment, I thought it was the ex-fiance--both blond, blue-eyed, all-American type boys. Putting my glasses on, I saw that it wasn't. 
   I still wouldn't put it past the ex to pull something like that. Charming one moment, manipulative the next, no impulse control or anger management skills to speak of, I would not be surprised if he pulled some comparable stunt. Shocked, yes. But not surprised.
   We don't need any more war, especially not for oil. The cost is just too high, not just in terms of lives, but in terms if lives that could have been.   

Monday, November 9, 2009

True Confession

I despise holidays. There. I said it, and it felt so good I'll say it again:
Thank you; I feel better now.
It's not just despair over the material exploitation of the season. I just never have had good ones.
Well, not quite that long. Since I was ten. 
The previous summer, my mother unexpectedly passed away.  Christmas had been her show. She loved the decorating, the music, the hiding of gifts, rising above the running battles between other family members to bring a better than Disney holiday to fruition. Now we reeled and staggered in a pale imitation of her effortless dance to pull the thousand tasks off by December 24. My father (posthumously diagnosed with Aspberger's syndrome) unsuccessfully cauterized his wounds with Scotch. A question about Santa lead to being dragged out to the kitchen by my forearms and reprimanded in a cloud of fumes. I stuck close to my sister the rest of the night.
As the youngest child and the last one at home, more and more of the responsibilities were dumped on me along with admonishments that Grandma would be so hurt and disappointed in me if I didn't have the decorations up and so on.  Couple that with ongoing quibbling between siblings and father, and the season lost any meaning or spark beyond a huge stress trigger.
So for years, I took on the task of dinner and gatherings. I tried to hold it together, I tried nontraditional menus and unconventional celebrations. I struggled to be a good hostess even though I lost too many Januarys to emotional exhaustion. I tried to keep going with it despite the siblings having the same fights they've had since my brother was conceived. I struggled to be a good hostess despite feeling as if our hospitality was never quite enough, despite the old friend of a feeling of not really being a part of things.
The breaking point came when my niece and nephew reached the same age I was when the holidays had been jettisoned into my lap. The usual round of never resolved fights and explosions swirled around our heads. They had fun, still. I watched and wondered why they didn't have to do what I'd had to do, and then I was jealous, and then I wanted to stand up and yell, "WAIT A GOD-BLESSED MINUTE! ENOUGH!" 
The Spouse and I went for a quiet trip the next year. Not perfect, but walking and watching movies does have therapeutic value. Another year I took Orion to visit at a nursing home where we volunteered, garnering a big hug and a "God bless you, honey," from one of the cleaning ladies on duty.  
Since relinquishing Christmas, I haven't lost days crying after New Year's. The sky didn't fall down; in fact, only one relative acknowledged my absence. When it's just me and The Spouse, we go shopping on Amazon for each others' gifts (we've been married long enough to have no secrets),we eat a simple but festive dinner, and watch movies quietly. I go out in the yard with Orion at dusk as daylight starts to dig in its toes, providing a couple of more minutes of sun. 
As the shadows grow across the yard, if  I can still my heart and mind enough, I can hear my mother whispering across the veil, "Good job, honey; good job."

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's Not a Moslem Thing, Darling

    I'm not watching the news today. 
    The story about the Army psychiatrist shooting up the graduation ceremony at Fort Hood yesterday hurts on so many levels. We have the families of the ones who lost their lives.  It's heartbreaking to see the footage of the spouses unable to reach their loved ones on the base because of the lockdown. The images will spill before our eyes repeatedly until the story loses its luster of newness.
     It hurts that the good people of Fort Hood face deployment to one of two wars the US had no business starting in the first place. They're mostly kids, aren't they? Just kids lured by promises of financial aid and adventure and job skills that don't translate that well to the civilian world. 
    Once again, we have the unbalanced person expressing his pain through an incomprehensible act of violence. How did he fall through the cracks, especially when the signals (giving away most of his possessions, and comments made during a presentation that had nothing to do with the assigned topic, for example) were as loud and clear as the sirens and PA announcements of his actions rang through the base? 
    Making matters worse, the alleged gunman is Moslem. The communities prepare for the backlash. He did no one any favors by choosing this method to protest his upcoming deployment, least of all his brothers and sisters around the world.
    "Islamic terrorist." "Moslem terrorist." To some, the modifier and the object are melded into  one longer word. Luckily, others realize that the violence has nothing to do with the religion. The conflicts and customs in the Middle East have much more to do with tribal politics than with the actual religion, not unlike how verses from the Bible were and in some instances still are to justify subjugation of women, slavery, and child abuse.
   Terrorism's logic dictates that the perceived enemy can be coerced into accepting their viewpoint by inciting fear of the consequences. Why, then, have those who have harassed women seeking health care services at Planned Parenthood clinics or shooting doctors who believe in the basic right to choose not been called "right-wing fundamentalist terrorists?" What about participants in the Spanish Inquisition? How about Adolf Hitler and his buddies? Or the kids who, like yesterday's alleged shooter, have some switch break in their brains and make them think it's fine and dandy to shoot up an entire school because of popular cronies snubbing them.
   Let's not forget Timothy McVeigh, a disgruntled Gulf War veteran who somehow thought the government was the cause  of all his troubles? Some fifteen years ago, he parked a literal truckload of explosives in front of a federal office building. When it exploded, it took out the intended target and a day care center. I don't recall him being called a "terrorist"
with any modifiers attached.    
     If we step back an objectively look at world history, every culture is guilty of violence against another, or within its own boundaries. Every culture also has members who are disturbed enough to think it's a viable solution. We may not be able to stop things on a global scale, but could we individually take stands by being part of the solution?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Questions for the Manifestation Movement

It doesn't work. Sorry, darlings, it just doesn't work. Putting vast amounts of mental energy into creating one's desires doesn't work. Spending a little time mentally rehearsing is good, but the vision needs to be backed up with some work on this plane.
The theory is that your thoughts create your reality, so one must keep eternal vigil over them to avoid drawing negativity into your life. You must think clear and positive thoughts all the time, and think about yourself as nothing less that worthy and deserving of the very best. My experience is that if this worked in real life, the Cubs would've won the World Series and Sting should be calling to beg me to do a duet version of "We'll Be Together."
Does this mean that someone who follows this philosophy gets punished if they're having PMS or some other physiological problem that might life seem a little less than rosy? Does this mean that the people of Darfur and the women of Afghanistan brought their misery on themselves? It's hard to be positive on a chronically empty stomach with gunfire going off in the background or when you can't leave your home unescorted for fear of beatings.
I'm sure they don't sit around questioning what they are doing wrong to block their highest good. No one has that kind of power, darlings.  
We can delude ourselves to an extent, and we can choose to see the glass as half-full or half-empty. But when all is said and done, isn't this just another expression of fear? Fear that we won't have our needs met (needs, for wants are not necessarily in one's best interest), fear of relinquishing perceived control over the flow of life. 
A workshop that I heard of taught participants that using words such as "can't" or "don't" as in "I don't know" would block their good from coming to them.  I tried crafting spoken sentences using the guidelines. That lasted about two minutes. I didn't like feeling as if I were damming and stilting the flow of my life in the name of something that will never be.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

You Can Only Speak For Yourself

The faint scent of ginger still hangs in the air. I made a quasi-Asian soup with shrimp, cabbage, carrot and ginger for dinner tonight. The Spouse watches a dark mystery from Sweden.
My own mind mulls over tonight's "60 Minutes" interview with Tyler Perry, my newest creative hero. His independent studio near Atlanta brings his TV shows and movies to the world. He's written several plays as well as helping his alter ego Madea hit the best seller list. Instead of the extremes of the socioeconomic spectrum, Tyler's vision was to bring the stories of working class African Americans to the screen and stage. After being rejected by Hollywood and lambasted by some as setting the stereotypes back to the Amos and Andy era, he financed his projects with his own money and the rest is history.
Granted, I'm Caucasian, and I don't tote a gun as does Madea in the clips that I've seen. But there are times when faith and your own inner strength are about all you have to go on. That I can relate to. Caregiving for crazy relatives? Been there, done that, have the T-shirt in several colors. 
I thought tonight of the times when I sat through movies or abandoned books that were "should" reads because of telling women's stories, and feeling an utter lack of resonance with them, such as the movie version of "Under the Tuscan Sun," which had been dumbed down into a syrupy mess bearing little resemblance to the book whatsoever. "Sex and the City?" I am not into shoes; I have been married to The Spouse for over 20 years. It had nothing to do with my life. Well, the episode where a boyfriend's Brittany demolished a $300 shoe, I found that entertaining. And the movie "American Psycho" being described as "feminist?" No, I don't think describing a serial killer's mental processes has anything to do with the reality of a woman's life.  I think it's called male bashing, which is divisive and not very helpful.
The more personal a writer or an artist gets, the more he or she touches on the heart of human experience. The more a writer or artist acts as if they give voice to other members of their demographic group, the more his or her arrogance separates them.
Gloria Steinem once said that the personal is political. Maybe if we spoke for ourselves, spoke out about our own stories without presuming to tell someone else's story, the voices would blend into the soundtrack for the revolution.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why Are We Giving Balloon Dad What He Wants?

Unless you've been in a cave the last week, you, too have been bombarded with the over coverage of the Balloon Family. You know, the family who wants to have a reality show so badly that they are willing to risk their kids' lives? The father who cooked up a stunt that culminated in launching several aircraft and damaging a farmer's wheat crop? Yeah, them.
As speculation and conjecture flew about like the extraterrestrials Mr. Heene believes in flew about, the question of what constitutes justice in this case came up. A fellow dog walker I chat with at our park probably came up with the best idea yet: slap a lien on the house for the cost of the air search and rescue, have him pay restitution to the farmer for damage done to the wheat,  
and move on.
He's right. Not just because of his background in aviation, but because it's just common sense. No one would concoct something like this unless they wanted the publicity. That's exactly what Balloon Dad's received: attention. Ignoring him would be a greater punishment than the six years in prison and half-million dollar fines he's facing right now. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pick Myself Up, Dust Myself Off, And Start All Over Again

What is my purpose? What gives my life meaning? What gets me up in the morning, other than Orion banging his head on my side of the bed to tell me he wants breakfast? Those questions rooted in existential angst found their way into many morning walks this summer. 
The answer, for now, is resurrecting a newsletter that I used to do called Swan and Iris. Its mission: to support readers in creating authentic lives of spirit, substance and serenity. We'll be looking at topics from a spiritually progressive, solution-oriented, tolerant point of view.
It won't be all serious, though. We'll be celebrating alternative and indie arts, pets, encouraging creativity, and cooking. 
Now, Gentle Readers, if you'll excuse me, I have to climb back on the horse.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Who Cares?

Yesterday, the Huffington Post reported that Joy Behar had asked a guest on her show if she thought Secretary of Health and Human Services Janet Napoliano was gay. Even after Ms. Napoliano has repeatedly denied it, the stories and whispers still circulate.

My questions are: 1. Regardless of her orientation, Ms. N. has done a pretty good job so far. Who cares about her orientation or preferences? She's a compassionate woman who will continue to bring favor to this administration.
2. Why would Joy Behar even bring this up? So what? 

I'd like to believe that speculation about someone's intimate preferences would be left in the halls of junior high. I guess not.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The News Cruise for the Morning

Two stories popped out at me. The first was the ongoing saga  of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews.  Should you have been hiding under a rock the last few weeks, she was taped in the nude through a hotel room door's peephole. The police have a suspect in custody. Said suspect not only allegedly taped Ms. Andrews, but 30 other women as well according to "Today."
Contrast that with the Huffington Post ( 
One of this morning's bloggers wrote a post about an American woman of South American descent whose mutilated nude body was found a mile from her relatives' home in a small village. She had apparantly been stalked.  Local law enforcement not only dropped the case, but told her grieving parents that they would have to pay for the investigation. No help from the Secretary of State's office, either.
Not to take away from Ms. Andrews' trauma, but why is it that stories involving the blond and the glamourous trump the stories about the commonplace? The victim in the latter had returned to her family's village to work with economically disadvantaged children.
Someone please explain. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hey, ABC--This Is Insulting to Women and Wrong on So Many Levels

I saw a promo for a new comedy on ABC. Courtney Cox plays a real estate agent re-entering the dating market and somehow ends up dating younger men. The name of the show: "Cougar Town."
Now, keep in mind that throughout recorded history, it's been seen as perfectly acceptable for younger women to couple up with mature men. No one's said boo about it, whether it's Hugh Hefner munching Viagra for his twin girlfriends or Donald Trump tossing out wives like dated donations to Goodwill. Recently, relationships between mature women and younger men (i.e. Demi Moore and Ashton Kucher) have grown more prevelent. However, the woman is likely to be labled a "cougar."
I don't know the etymology of the term, but it comes across as derogatory and demeaning.
There's no male correlate for it. Tina Turner, Carol Burnett, Raquel Welch...hello, ABC, see who you just insulted?
The clip that I saw featured another character in her late 50's still trying to act like a college age party girl who encouraged Ms. Cox's charater to use her sexuality to get business. Embracing youth is one thing, but engaging in behavior like that is unattractive at any age.
The always beautiful Angela Lansbury observed that what makes a mature woman sexy is that which makes her alluring. She's right. It's something more timeless, and has to do with her essential character and ability to accept herself rather than gatting sliced, diced and Botoxed or slathering on potions made from fetal sheep cells or exercising to the point where her relationships are impacted. It has to do with realizing that it's ok to change as the seasons do, and that you can still be youthful and sexy, but find more subtle ways to express it. It's good to see that there are men out there brave enough to realize it, and they deserve nothing but laurels for doing so.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Actually, It's Pretty Dumb

Did you know that Froot Loops are a health food? Really, according to the good (said with dripping sarcasm) people of the Smart Choices council. Its members are several of the major food processor revamping the labling to tout non-existant health benefits.
What they did was to take nutritional info such as calories and move it to the front of the box rather than the side. Sure, you can have a serving of that for only 120 calories. What they leave on the side is the outrageous amount of sugar and the artificial colors and flavors.
While it may smack of the scene in "Sleeper" where Woody Allen wakes up in the future to find out that cigarettes and fried food are good for you, it's not funny in this case. Please pay Jenny at a visit to find out what you can do.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Escapes, Passions, Obsessions

Call her Annie. She's been a breath of fresh air with her bright smile and enthusiasm for life, stretched out as she is from her four jobs and babysitting to finance her college education.
Today as she made her rounds picking up after errant park visitors, she stoppped to chat. The gist of this morning's conversation: the latest gossip on a singer in a South Korean band, an American citizen who'd had to leave Seoul due to some disparaging remarks he's made on his social networking page shortly after moving there. As of five this morning on his social networking page, over 67,000 former fans had signed a petition requesting that he commit suicide. Annie had been monitoring the page all night until she had to leave for work.
I just listened. I prefer historical novels myself, but whatever...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Fox Valley Folk Festival

For the last 33 Labor Days, the Fox Valley Folklore Society and Geneva, Illinois Park District have transformed Island Park, a real island in the Fox River connected to the mainland by bridges into a micro-nation celebrating all thing folk. Performers and artists with their creations share their lives' works in the shade of trees that have been on the island for as long as there was enough soil to hold their roots.
Our favorite local act? Small Potatoes (, a duo who do a little of everything, including the gently witty "Waltz of the Wallflowers," a song about two shy people meeting at a party. I've seen them in concert several times and they improve upon perfection with each show.
This year also included a songwriting workshop lead by Peggy Seeger, sing alongs, and other workshops.
Be there for the 34th annual Fox Valley Folk Festival, Labor Day weekend 2010, or be square. And bring your dog, too.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ellen, Teddy, and Me

We've been having rain the last two days, the type of slow, soaking fall that usually comes after Labor Day, the unmistakeable signal that the weather has turned over.
I turned on the tube to check the weather yesterday morning. Instead of psychedelic radar returns, pictures of Senator Ted Kennedy, (D-MA) spilled across the screen. The reporters spoke of his legacy. That meant only one thing confirmed by the recap at the bottom of the hour: the stalemate between him and the brain cancer he'd lived with for fifteen months had been broken, and he had passed on shortly before midnight Tuesday. The list of legislation making life better for the compromised and marginalized ran fifty pages; the only one missing was universal health care.
Oddly, almost a year ago on another day of protracted rain, and also of brain cancer, Ellen Weissbrot, a name everyone should know, passed into the next world. Ellen who? Well, she would have modestly protested over the attention (if by some odd chance you are reading over my shoulder, sweetie, you are worthy of it, so don't argue with me, ok?) I had the privilege of volunteering with her for an environmental group. While I didn't know her well, I feel the better person for having witnessed her being the change the world needed in action.
Ellen sought no fame or glory; she did what she did as the standup woman that she was. She worked with at-risk kids in a conservative enclave of the Chicago suburbs, supporting them and their parents as they made adjustments to their new homes. Ellen developed and implemented a lot of creative programs to teach children about the planet and its care and feeding. All this while raising three sons with her husband John.
I wish I could remember how the quote from another Kennedy went, about some people see things and ask why, I see things and ask why not? Both Ellen and Teddy lived in the realm of the why-not, doing what they both could to bring about a peaceful, multicultural, green society. My prayer is that I do something today to honor both of them. Won't you join me?

Monday, August 24, 2009


Ever have one of those weeks where it feels as if no matter how careful you try to be with your words, you still find yourself having to extract toes from teeth? I'm having one of them.
First of all, I apologize to Perez Hilton, whose names were transposed in my last posting about his guilty pleasure book, Red Carpet Suicide. Sorry about that.
I apologized this morning to the gang at Palin's Travels--I had not taken the time to research a sensitive subject before shooting off my cyber face about it.
Over the weekend, I sent an email with an apology to a friend pertaining to a very snarky e-tome I'd sent earlier.
And now, dear ones, I am so sorry about this, but I am NOT apologizing any more.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Parade Continues

I was at a resale shop on Monday when curiosity knocked me off my moral high horse. I walked out with Red Carpet Suicide, Hilton Perez's guide to what it takes to be a celebrity. Using research as a justification (yeah, right, even if I am really working on a novel about a band) as well as that the money was going to a good cause (helping people in marginalized positions develop job skills), I purchased it.
Very interesting, indeed. Heaven help me, I could not put this book down. Say what you will about the ethics involved, but Mr. Perez is a good writer. I don't like to admit it, but I enjoyed the book. Anyone interested in the entertainment industry needs to read it.
Still, despite having laughed out loud more than once, a little sad tinge crept in. Some of it was for the celebrities who feel that they have to crucify any sense of self respect or esteem to stay in the spotlight; the leaks and tossed tidbits of this escapade and that dysfunction keep them in the spotlight. Most of it was for humanity in general and our collective inability to grow up about others' issues.
Back in the Middle Ages, a common form of entertainment at court events was the dwarf (old fashioned and I apologize for using it) parade. Little people and differently abled people would march around the room for the amusement of the so-called nobles.
Except for much better clothing, is there really any difference between then and now?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Questions for a New Economy

Could we finally be on the other side of this recession? Like the first blades of grass bravely peeking through the last vestages of snow, some indicators say yes.
The lingering questions that I have are...
1. How did we the people get sucker-punched into an economic system based on credit and interest rather than on the reality of money? Convenience, yes, and that there are times when it's good to have when you just don't have the cash. But pay it back promptly.
2. Saving may involve a delay of gratification, but not necessarily deprivation. It just means that you wait until the pair of jeans or the freezer or the three-handled family credenza goes on sale.
3. How in the name of humanity did we start thinking we needed labels over quality? Over the winter, I saw an interview with the author of a book on finances for young women just getting out of college. "Now, why get the $200 pair of jeans when the $100 pair will do as well?" she asked for the sake of argument. Birkenstock babe that I am, I thought my head would explode. I personally would like to know what the heck kind of job one could get to afford those.
4. Why aren't schools teaching consumer education? Why aren't parents setting a sane example?
5. What about a return to barter? Some communities have set up time banks where participants swap skills for skills ("Here, Evelyn, I'll do the catering for your party if you pet sit for me on the 15th.")
6. How about tax credits for companies keeping jobs here rather than shipping them to China?
7. What if we here in the US remembered that by the standards of many countries we're already rich?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The House Smells Good Right Now

I returned to making soup earlier this year. I just can't bring myself to spend upwards of $3 on a can of the natural/organic ones, and the commonplace ones are chock-full of ingriedients wholesome only to relatives of the chemical company founders.
We were not designed to ingest much of what the FDA deems edible. We were designed to run on what I have in the pot: celery, onion, garlic, carrot, and the chicken that came off the bones. Pepper, a bit of salt, bay leaves, thyme, and a stiff shot of cider vinegar to pull out the minerals are all the seasonings that go in. No MSG (you do not want to know), no colorings (puffy face), no artificial flavors or preservatives. Just simple, honest, and practically free ingredients.
After our morning run to the park, I put all of the above into the pot, covered it with filtered water, and let it go. I'll be taking off the lid and letting it cook down soon. There's enough in there for a batch of minestrone and a bowl of chilled curried cauliflower soup.
The possibilities with broth, as Red Green once said, are limited only by your imagination and the laws in your area.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Good Summer

The geese woke me with their bittersweet song yesterday morning. You know, the one that reminds you that while there's still some good weather and growing days left, the deadline of shortening days and cooler temperatures loom large.
It's been a good summer. Last year's high 80's and perpetual humidity hung too heavily in the air for me. This year has been freaky cool with daytime highs some ten degrees below all that.
The Spouse was swamped with several projects. The busyness subsided to a pleasant buzz this year, with several day hikes and picnics. We've had our first cup of coffee in our lawn chairs several mornings, watching Orion as he runs about the yard on search and destroy missions against rodents.
Orion's allergies have calmed under the soothing of an herbal remedy and more frequent baths. He deals with the dousings of the hose in stride, dries himself on the sofa and settles in for a nap in his nice clean coat.
The garden did better than what I'd hoped. I harvested another zucchini, and feel fortunate to have done so. We wait for the tomatoes.
We wait in the cradle of the moment, aware of its impermanence, and knowing the next has potential to be even better.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Farm Report

Well, looky here! I have four zucchini peeking out from among the leaves. I havested the fifth over the weekend. I had to, or register it with the sheriff's department as a dangerous weapon.
The three tomato plants have done well, too. Most of the globes still shine green as stoplights, but two of them blush red. Tiny green beans unfurl from their stems, and the leeks? I don't know what they're doing. I think they're ok. Perhaps some research is needed as to when we harvest them. Basil and sage have been quite cooperative.
I don't know what alchemy of organic fertilizer, cooler temperatures and benevolent forces have created this harvest, but I hope they know I'm grateful.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Hmm. The blank screen stares back at me. What do I want to write about today?

Some days, the idea for a blog or for an article is as single pointed as a newly sharpened pencil. Others, the thoughts vie for my attention like a classroom full of sugar-buzzed children with ADHD.

This morning's menu features honoring the late great CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite; the circular nature of life as inspired by getting back in touch with a few friends through the magic of the internet; more notes on the garden; another of Governor Blagojevich's detrimental deals; and bartering. Perhaps a tribute to Mr. Cronkite as he would have reported Gov. B's doings and my garden?

Or perhaps try again after a second cup of coffee and the news. I like that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Confessions of an Inept Gardener

Just three steps from my back door lies a 4x8 patch where lettuce, leeks, green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, and some herbs grow. I also sowed seeds for spinach and kale, now obscured by grass. Despite my best efforts, the grass laughs at the eviction notices and keeps coming back. Through some gift of grace, the intended vegetables still bear resemblance to the thumbnail photos on stakes that provide information on thier cultivation.

No, I'm not a gardener. My grandma, however, was. In her 97 years, I had the distinction of being the only person she'd ever known who'd killed an aloe plant. I did not get her green thumb. Her cooking ability, yes. But not the gardening skills.

But, at the urgings of The Spouse, I tried again. This past cold, windy Memorial Day, he tilled the patch. I dug small holes and inserted seedlings, careful to make sure that the green side was up. I held up my hands, blessed them with a wish to grow, and watered well. So far, we've enjoyed a few salads, have a green pepper for posterity, and wait for the tomatoes to ripen to the colors of a summer sunset.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday Morning at the Park

It bodes unwell to pull into the parking lot of a usually peaceful park and find a sherrif's cruiser on a Sunday morning. Not again, I thought as I glanced toward the concession stand.
Yep, again. Last year, unenlightened souls broke in. Based on kicked door and the plunder of sodas and Hershey bars, the perps were likely in their early teens.
This year, though, the culprits had cut padlocks and pulled one of the windows out by its frame to enter the stand. Their booty included fishing gear, money from the vending machines, and other oddments. Several pieces of equipment had been moved, as if attempts to drag them in tow had been aborted due to their weight.
No one had been physically hurt, thank heavens. Still, the invasive, intrusive act left lash marks on on everyone who frequents the park as well as the proprieters. The damage will be fixed. The window will be reinstalled.
How, then, will we feel as safe there again?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Michael Jackson's Final Bow: Was This Really Necessary?

Two weeks ago, the news didn't just break; it exploded. Michael Jackson died. As I would have at the news of the passage of a classmate I'd been on good terms with, but not close to, a small wave of sadness passed over me.
The first question in an unexpected demise: what happened? Cardiac arrest, yes, but what mechanisim triggered it? Evidence suggests the involvement of prescription drugs, with sources making reference to needlemarked arms and authorities in California invesitgating five doctors. We wait for the results of the autopsy, not expected for another two to four weeks.
In the meantime, we have otherwise credible news sources prying details from the woodwork along with the ubiquitous hanger-oners with forks in hand ready to get their perceived share of the pie. Do we really need to know on a nightly basis how much the casket cost, or other trivial information for the obsessed? No. I questioned the need, except for the obvious chase for the almighty dollar at Michael's expense, to have the funeral televised? But for the last two weeks, specials and tributes have aired, and aspects of the saga have hijacked network news. I don't think so.
What seems to be lost in all of this is that another artist became enslaved by the system that is the mainstream music business, and the twin jailers of isolation and loneliness that no one talks about took his life. Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and on goes the list of performers who found out through bitter exerience that the top is a lonely place, indeed, even though a luxurious one.
Michael was, like the rest of us, a survivor of a tough childhood, and more than anything wanted to love and be loved for who he was as a person, and not for the glitter illuminated by the light of his talent. The glow of his being--a caring father, someone who treated a group of homeless people to pizza one rainy night in London--was unfairly overshadowed by the focus on his controversial behavior and bad choices. He leaves behind a legacy of songs that bring smiles to many faces.
Godspeed, Michael, Godspeed.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Two Thoughts: Michael Jackson and Indie Artists

Well, do I want to write two blogs about what's on my mind today, or just one? The sun and modest temperatures beckon while the dog paces, so I shall content myself with one.

The first mind is that of the b.s. surrounding Michael Jackson's death:

  • Reports from an hour ago say that Diprovan, an anesthetic, was found in his home.
  • The funeral's been scheduled for Tuesday at the Staples Center in L.A. Perfect setting for an intimate farewell from family, friends, and anyone who scores tickets (yes, they are passing out tickets). Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are reported to be conflicted over who will do which part of the service.
  • God, my immediate circle, and I are among the few entities who have not filed suits against the Jackson estate.
  • Note to self: pledge to public broadcasting next drive. They, too, have covered the story, but with the class and dignity they're known for.

The second is that in praise and support of independent artists:

  • While they do much of their own marketing, the music always comes first.
  • We need diverse voices, not just the flavor of the month in the too frequently vapid top-40 stars. No disrespect intended, but I honestly can't tell Kelly Clarkson from anyone else out there. Again, not to be mean, but no contestant on "American Idol" has ever made me want to part with $14.99.
  • There's so much talent out there that deserves support. Much of what goes on "American Idol" has more to do with marketability than actual talent.

Let me get some more info together and we'll see you next time.

Monday, June 29, 2009

They Drop Like Flies

Attention, all famous people: knock it off with the dying, why don't you?
Last week began with the transition of Ed McMahon. I'd hoped that a special, or even a few more clips of his work with and without Johnny Carson of the "Tonight Show" would have been shown. If thirty years as sidekick doesn't make you an icon, please tell me what does. He was in his eighties and his health had been failing for some time. No real surprise, just a little sadness.
Tuesday, John Callaway, founder and former host of WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" and current host of "Friday Night Show," died suddenly of a heart attack at 72. He had the gift of being confrontive about tough issues without being combative and putting guests at ease to the point where it felt as if they'd invited the viewers to join them for cappuccinos.
We had a break on Wednesday, and the breathing space was good. Thursday? Not so much. First around lunchtime in my area came the news that Farrah Fawcett had quietly slipped off to where she needed to be, seen off by her longtime love Ryan O'Neil and best friend Alanna Stewart. Bittersweet, but expected.
Late that afternoon came the bombshell: Michael Jackson had died, no, he was in a coma, no, oops, he's really dead from an appearant heart attack. The intrigue and updates continue.
Yesterday came word that Billy May, a high octaine spokesperson for Oxi-Clean crossed the void. Now we open this Monday with the news that Las Vegas comic and frequent gameshow guest Fred Travelena has passed on due to cancer.
And, oh yeah, in case you're interested, Bernie Madoff got 150 years for his Ponzi scheme, the government in Iran has offered a partial recount to placte the populace, the US is set to launch a test missle from someplace on the Pacific coast, the US will start standing down in Iraq tomorrow, and I'm going to go plug in a Loreena McKennett CD and make tea before my head explodes

Thursday, June 25, 2009


In this corner, we have the current Iranian regime against the voters who have had enough and are saying so in no uncertain terms. In the other corner, we have the dictator of North Korea threatening the US with actions allegedly planned for the Fourth of July.
Please direct your attention to the middle. We have disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), just back from a visit to his mistress in Buenos Ares, Argentina. So much more colorful than taking off on the Appalacian Trail, where he told staffers he'd be hiking for a few days to clear his head.
We have annoyed staffers who threw him to the journalistic lions in the hall of the capitol building, much to the amusement of the tourists.
I wish that I could be grown up about this. I wish that I could take a stance of compassion. Poor guy. Here he is, no time to prepare a statement. His wife bucked the tradition of the long-suffering political spouse standing by his side at the confessional press conference.
But I can't. Between him yelling loudly for Clinton's resignation during the Lewinsky scandal and the violation of trust of the voters, I just can't.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Whole World Is Watching: A Note to the Demonstrators in Iran

Dear Ones,

Images pouring out of Tehran have held our attention for the last ten or so days since the election. We see parallells with the the social changes brought about during the 1960's. The ones in the southern US grew ugly and violent, too. Women standing up to be counted as full persons in their own right were arrested. Students demonstrated outside the 1968 Democratic Convention, and when the police began the crackdown on a peaceful demonstration, they began to chant, "The whole world is watching!"

We are watching. We will not forget. Be assured of that, and we are praying to the One Who Is for your safety and strength.

Mas saalam, Fran

Friday, June 19, 2009

We Have Met the Enemy and She is Us

Walt Kelly's "Pogo" originally said something to the the title's effect. As I did my share of damage to the remote in search of weather this morning, "Good Morning America" caught my eye.
The reporter who filed the feature is tall, slender, elegant. She crafted a story on the allure of stilleto heels and a workshop offered in New York about how to walk in them. Like any mortal, she caught her heels on sidewalk cracks, in sewer grates, throwing herself off balance here and there, but continuing to wear them anyway.
I conceed that they do enhance the look of one's legs, but at what cost? At thirteen, I wore my first pair with any height at all. A month in a cast put me off anything higher than, oh, let's say my Birkenstocks. Some of the women in the feature sported bunions, a common result of wearing the shoe equivilant of skyscrapers. No.
Why do we forget the law of supply and demand? If we keep buying them, and try to convince each other we can't be cool without them, they'll just keep making them. We also need to remember that the men who are truly worth our time would never ask us to potentially harm ourselves in the name of vanity, and we should not ask that of ourselves, either.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Let Only Good Come Of This

I wish I didn't remember the scenes of Tianamen Square so vivdly. We were returning from vacation, and the first tv news we saw covered the military crackdown on the protesters who'd taken up camp there.
I wish I could watch the scenes from Tehran without that floating to my memory's surface. Last week, they had what passed for a presidential election. The incumbant, Mamood Ahdminijad(sp?) had been declared winner despite exit polls to the contrary. Since this weekend, daily footage of protests, peaceful and otherwise, have had their thirty to sixty seconds on US network news outlets. International coverage from the BBC and France 24 has been more in-depth.
I wish that only good comes of this situation. Truth always comes out; it just sometimes takes longer than on would want. The good may have to come in the form of external pressure, or it may have to come in the form of internal reforms. So far, there have been reports of eight deaths in skirmishes with police. May only good come of them.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Unconscious Consumer

I watched about five minutes of "Oprah" this morning. That was all I could take before whacking the tube with a pillow or worse.
Her guests, a family of five, habitually kept the heat at 82 degrees, spent $200 a crack on groceries mostly consisting of junk food and threw half of it out, left the computer and tv on whether anyone was watching it or not. More disturbing was the daughter who deliberately damaged the tv in her room because she wanted a new one and Daddy wouldn't buy it for her. Mom spent a lot of time on line shopping. The kids refused to eat her cooking, prefering fast food.
The family had conscented to participate in an experiment: for one week, with cameras going, they would keep the heat at 70, not eat out, and limit tv to an hour a day and computer use to schoolwork. Mom was browsing on line, the heat was repetedly reset to 82, and the tv was left on when one of the daughters nodded off.
That prompted me to turn off the show. Now, don't get me wrong. I hope that someday the parties in the financial industry who contributed to creating an economy that supports their draconian treatment of consumers (we've all had the switch-a-roo on payment dates and subsequent late fees) get brought to justice someday, whether in the legal system of getting reincarnated as roaches (apologies for insulting roaches). We also need to look at this economic climate as a springboard for making new, or in some cases, returning to older, choices. We need to do this not just for ourselves, but for the future.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


It's the last day of a veg and protein detox for me.
Simply, it was time. A family crisis brought on stress that triggered off a flairup of a couple of chronic issues and stress eating. I made some questionable choices when it came to food. Last week the time came to recalibrate my tastebuds. Soon I'll be able to enjoy my daily square of dark chocolate without a coating of nut butter.
I do not look for airhorns, or confetti, or some parade to congratulate me. The ability to taste the subtleties of healthy foods again is celebration enough.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

This TIme It's Personal: AF 447

How does an Airbus 330 disappear? It sounds like a Vegas magic act.
Unfortuantely, it wasn't. Yesterday, Paris-bound Air France flight 447 went down in the Atlantic Ocean not long after its departure from Rio, taking out over 200 passengers and crew. This morning, flaming fuel and debris mark the spot where it likely fell into the water.
I knew no one personally on the plane. The airline, however, I knew.
Three years ago, I made my first overseas trip to France. The weekend I flew back coincided with the last big terrorist scare at Heathrow. Amid the tangle of flight delays and security back ups, the Air France agents checked tickets and moved people with called flights to the head of lines. Once boarded, the flight crew went the extra mile to salve the aggrevations of the day with extra courtesy and kindness.
Were any of them on yesterday's flight? I'll never know. I hope not. But I know that they handled the last moments with as much class as could be mustered.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Things That Bug Me: The Friday Edition

It's ok for two drunks in Las Vegas to get married and then likely spilt up when the hangover wears off. No one is raising havoc over "Hitched or Ditched," a show on one of the fringe networks that involves a long-term couple getting a free wedding if the would-be bride forces a reluctant groom to the altar. But two people who love, honor, and cherish each other and want to make the formal commitment can't just because they're the same sex and that's a mockery of marriage? Me get it no.
Supermodels. Beauty pageant contestants. Media personalitites. Other parties who show up on talk shows despite being vapid and vaucous. What happened to interviews with artists about their latest project and not their most recent arrest, and why do they frequently get an hour of air time to defend themselves when no one really cares that much. "TMZ" is an awful show, too. It's like junior high, only worse.
People who don't comply with leash or cleanup regulations at the park where I walk my dog. There's a $75 fine for either offence.
I don't get paid $75 a crack for keeping my dog leashed and cleaning up after him.
People who use their issues as an excuse for bad behavior instead of learning how to behave in less detrimental ways.
PBS pledge drive breaks. How long can you listen to babble and watch people answer phones, anyway?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Grateful to be Me

I'd had no intention of watching "Dateline," a news show, this past Friday night. I just couldn't turn away from the shots of a gaunt, pale woman preparing to shave her head. The voiceover explained that she'd been fighting cancer for several years, and this round of chemotherapy had caused her hair to fall out. Determined to stay in control of what she could, she defiantly turned on the clippers and removed the last few locks clinging to her head like cobwebs in a corner.
At first I didn't recognize her, thinking it was just another unfortunate saga of life threatening illness. Then the announcer said her name: Farrah Fawcett. I froze. This is the actress I was so jealous of when I was a pudgy, socially awkward ninth grader with bad skin? At the time, she'd starred in "Charlie's Angels." I had tried really hard to get my nondescript brown hair to look like hers, tried to starve myself down to her size so that I, too, could wear a red bathing suit as she had in the iconic poster. Boys would fight for the privilige of my company, and so on with the fantasies of a fourteen year old.
It took time, but my skin calmed down, my weight stablized at a healthy if non-Hollywood level for myself, and I started getting my hair cut by professionals rather than trying to do it myself in a bathroom mirror with less than optimal scissors. The guys showed up, too, poets and techies rather than the lowest all-too-common denominator that she appealed to.
I don't recall anything that she'd been in after "Charlie's Angels," save a disasterous appearnce on David Letterman, until now. She'd been a fixture in the tabloids, though, and done a video for "Playboy" for her fiftieth birthday.
I sincerely doubt I will do the same when my fifthieth rolls around. But I am pretty confident that I won't be allowing filming of my final days.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Gentle Readers, forgive my absence the last four weeks--YIKES.
We have been embroiled in battles against the forces of evil playing out in our sinuses and on my laptop. The Spouse succumbed first; no knight had ever fought so valiently to keep his lady from such dragons. Despite his best efforts, I, too, was smote fore and aft by saidsame enity.
In the middle of all this, I amused myself by researching topics on line. As I visited an organic dairy farm's website, the Adobe logo popped up unbidden. I tried to escape, but couldn't. My laptop suddenly became sluggish and the screen started to melt.
The Spouse, the technical half of our team, swooped in. After twelve hours of downloading, deleting, debugging and cursing, he had it back up and running better than new. A hassle, yes. But nothing to him as a person of technology.
For me, I wondered if that was was getting mugged felt like. The virus encamped in my upper respiritory tract had drained me enough. That one had just evolved on its own as its nature dictated. The one on my computer had been deliberately created for the sake of meanness. I couldn't hate the one triggering off the endless bouts of coughing and sneezing. I hope to forgive the creator of the one that nailed my laptop someday.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Now What? Or, Is There An Answer to the Pirate Problem

Nope, not the Johnny Depp type.
Yesterday, Richard Philips, captain of the Maersk Alabama, was rescued from Somalian pirates by US Navy Seals. After five days of negotiations and an escape attempt by Captain Philips, President Obama authorized deadly force if Philip's life was believed in danger. The Seal sharpshooters saw that he'd been bound with an AK-47 aimed at his back. The order was given, and they dispached three of the four pirates. The fourth was taken into custody by the Navy.
Desparation has contaminated the Gulf of Aiden, rendering it unsafe for travel. Somailia has plummeted into an anarchist mess, no government, no justice system, no way to care for their own amid the grinding poverty. Driven by desparation, pirates have acheived the status held by rock stars in the rest of the world. Did the pirates know or care that the Alabama was bringing humanitarian aid to Mogadishu? We'll never know.
The desparate circumstances did not grant the privilige of their actions and opens the question of what justice is in these affairs. There is no just cause to march in and impose a US-style democracy, just as there never was in Iraq. Maybe someday, enough brave souls will be able to reform a government and make Somalia into a country again. Until then, perhaps the question becomes one of security and sanctions.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Practicing Acceptance

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change; courage to change the things that I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
I'm not going slaughter the name of the good and wise theologian who crafted that prayer. I am not the best speller in the world. Clicking on SpellCheck ever few words is just a way of life for me, another quirk I've quit struggling to overcome.
I still wrestle with parts of myself: my weight, despite my best efforts, will not relinquish its grip on a number save to climb back towards unhealthy heights. Very well, then. Guide me in making the best choices that I can so I look and feel fantastic. Success and fame have eluded me despite my best efforts at marketing my writing. So be it. I have the respect of other writers and actually wrote the novel. My skills have helped with publicity and fundraising for several NFP's. Several issues with relatives will likely never be resolved, hanging like threads off a sweater. Bless them in their cluelessness, clip, and go on in peace.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Dostoevsky Conundrum

Any idiot can survive a crisis. It's the day-to-day living that grinds one down...

Beep, beep, went the camera capturing images of my teeth. On the monitor in full living color, cracks and chips encircled the filling at the center of the molar. We'd been keeping watch on it for a while, and finally the time for a crown had arrived. Feh.
I drove home in the rain and a cloud of self-pity. Double feh. Tried to use rational-emotive therapy on myself, reminding myself that it's an inconvenience, not a tragedy. It would be better if I didn't need this done, but that's the way it is. Triple feh.
After self medicating with chocolate, I checked my email. A message from a friend whose mother has inoperable pancreatic cancer acted as God's foot in my butt. Crowns are no one's idea of a good time, but compared to concurrent courses of radiation and chemotherapy, hey, I'll take it.
I'm looking at two hours to get the tooth prepped and the temporary crown popped into place, then a followup for molar 3.0 to be installed. I can load my iPod with soothing music and take it with. I'll be able to enjoy a bowl of soup or some pasta when the Novocaine runs its course. My friend's mom? I'll live, but will she?
What is it in the human psyche that enables us to endure the toughest stuff life deals out with grace and dignity, yet we--I, anyway--hit the ground and roll behind the love seat in the fetal position over minor speed bumps? The good and wise Mr. D. had it right. The crises, and that which we perceive as such, activate our inner troops. The daily routine lulls them into a nap. Maybe we need to find other ways to keep them alert than tragedy.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Soundtrack

The first spring Saturday took me and my tea mug into the yard. I settled into the dusty green lawn chair, grateful for the sky, happy for the warmth. Orion dragged his tie-out line through the still-brown grass, making it rustle as the wind will when it gets some length.
Robins sang an anthem to the sun. It sounded like the avian equivalent "Ode to Joy."
The Spouse brought one of the tractors to life with a sputter, a welcome sound after its winter nap inside a tarp den. Its engine settled into its customary growl as he rode it around the yard in a victory lap over the interminable cold.

Friday Journal Class, Either a Bit Late or a Bit Early

I was teaching a live class to the most dangerous demographic group of all: seniors. Why? In many cases, they have no reasons to keep secrets, and have nothing left to lose.
Your assignment: go write something with that much abandon in your own journal.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Journal Class for 3/13

Maybe you've been envious of a famous person who seems to have it all.
Maybe not.
Members of the latter group are few and far between. The rest of us have all wished for the apparently fabulous wealth or clothes or to have a body that vaguely resembles some entertainer's.
But let's turn the question around. Pick a celebrity you've gazed at with green eyes. Why should he or she be jealous of you? Think about it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


They've been showing up pretty frequently in my dreams, these ships of the desert. Pretty nice, a little stubborn, but not prone to outrageous behavior unless mistreated. Did you know that camels
  • can drink up to 30 gallons of water in ten minutes?
  • were introduced to western Australia in the 1800's by the British army and that many of their descendants run wild there today?
  • are considered a health food because their meat has no fat and no cholesterol, and that they are kept as dairy animals in some parts of the world? Acquired taste aside?
  • there are 160 words for "camel" in Arabic?
  • an adventure company in California uses them as pack animals on camping trips?
You can find some of the most interesting things on line. For a fun quiz and more about camels than you thought there was to know, please go to
for more information.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Journal Class: Dreams 101

Today, let us speak of dreams. Some feel that they are random electrical glitches shot through the brain during sleep. Others, present company included, believe that they are messages from the soul/unconscious/subconscious making themselves known to the conscious mind. When decoded, they provide rich soil for personal growth.
New to this? No problem. Start by setting the intention to remember your dreams. As you go to bed, just say to yourself, "I will sleep deeply and well tonight and remember my dreams in the morning." Then when you wake up, write down everything that you can recall.
Now, to decode the dream, either free associate about the symbols, or use dialoging to find out what they mean. Dialoging is where you have a conversation of paper with the symbol. Ask it what you need to know. When you feel ready, write the response. Go back and forth until you feel finished.
Next, if possible, engage in some activity to acknowledge the message. Even something as simple as plugging in a destination in a travel dream will let your unconscious know that you've received the message. Be creative, but honor the dream.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Need to Act in Your Own Best Interest

About two weeks ago, I quit a women's health issue forum. The site advocates completely a completely natural approach to issues peculiar to ladies at the Certain Age mark. While I applaud and respect the good and wise women who run it, I didn't appreciate being told to try a combination of herbs for my own particular set of issues that had stopped working a long time ago. I weighed the risks of doing nothing, working with the herbs again, of using bioidentical hormones derived from yams and soy. I chose the third option. My posting of my decision in the forum drew accusations of trying to postpone the inevitable, of preventing myself from growing into wholeness, and a report detailing risks and questioning the efficacy of the treatment.
Hmm. With the creme, slight risk of intensified issues when I go off it; slight risk of reproductive cancers. Without it, losing whole days weeping uncontrolably; feeling spacy to the point where I was a danger to myself and others while driving. It's kind of hard to let your growth processes do what they must if you're dead or in jail.
I glanced at the report. I thought of a friend who'd passed on last fall. I don't know what, if anything, she'd used during her menopausal transition. Her choice didn't prevent the cancer from rooting in her uterus and eventually going into her brain.
I thought of another friend who'd hit the wall with herbs, experiencing hot flashes that parlayed into panic attacks. She went on very low doses and now gets through her days without haveing to change clothes several times because she's sweat through them. No sign of anything except vibrant health from her.
Holding those thought in mind, I deleted the report and kept going forward.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Slightly Late Friday Journal Class, Saturday Edition

I love making lists. I may never get organized, but I have the illusion of it when I write out what needs to be done or bought. Or you can just have fun with here are some ideas:
1. Make two grocery lists, one reflecting what would've been on your childhood table and one from your adulthood. What have you learned?
2. You get to throw a dinner party for 8-12 guests. Whom would you invite, living, dead, historical or fictitious, and what do you serve?
3. Make a list of words that you like. Forget the meanings; just make a list of words that, as a writer friend of mine put it, taste good in your mouth.
4.What ten historical events in your lifetime have influenced/impacted you the most?
Have fun, most of all.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Choosing Gratitude

The day just has to unfold on its own terms. It's not a bad day in and of itself. In my own world, things are peaceful. We are inside and safe from the thunderstorms shattering the warmth into raindrops and tossing them against the windows like so many pebbles. Orion naps in the arm chair, dreaming of dry, sunny times to come. I have the computer on my lap, and have made the rounds of my favorite websites for the day.
Still, the flash and rattle of bombs dropping into the lives of loved ones reaches me in my cozy vantage point. Two cancer diagnoses for people connected with friends; another round of eldercare follies for a relative; a hospitalized grandchild.
Prayers have been said for all concerned. We, too, have had our share of challenges. Family issues; the epidemic uncertainty around the economy; questions about how stable The Spouse's company is. Yet, we have so much and our shared life flows serenely like a river negotiating a boulder filled bed. The three of us are healthy. We'll have a lentil concoction or a variation on the leftover chicken theme for dinner. We have music, books, and plans for the future.
Complaining is the easy way. Gratitude takes patience and vision.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Like Junior High, Only More So

I didn't bother with the Oscars this last Sunday night.
OK, you caught me. I watched a little of the entrance on the red carpet in the event of a fashion disaster, but nothing stood out. One bit of trivia from the commontators caught my attention: there are two lanes for traffic on the red carpet. One is for the writers, directors, composers and so on not considered A-list. They get trundled into the theater at a quick pace. That way, the A-listers get their photos snapped without the risk of commoners contaminating the glamor.
Why do we support these people? I wondered to myself. As much as I would love to say that I have disengaged the buttons about popularity and prettiness installed during my overweight (thanks to much later diagnosed adrenal and thyroid issues), awkward adolescense, my inner thirteen year old cringed. Why do we give money to an industry that has developed ridiculous standards of beauty and wealth? It would be cheaper to hire a dominatrix to abuse us for an hour or so at a time rather than deal with the in your faceness of it all in mainstream media.
Some years ago, I found out that I wasn't the only one who felt this way. In a writer's group that I used to belong to, I met a survivor of the Hollywood scene. Over post-meeting coffee one night, he was asked what working out there was like. "Oh, my god; it's like junior high, only more so," he said, rolling his eyes.
Aha. It wasn't just me. I mulled this as The Spouse and I spent the evening watching a detective film from Sweden.
In the morning, we flipped on the news to see the results. "Slumdog Millionaire's" welcomed but anticlimactic victory for best picture warmed my heart, as did "Juno" winning best screenplay last year. Maybe the Academy will take the hint and start making pictures that will help us all grow up.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Journal Class and an Update

Let's start with the update. The reporter who had to deal with the "nutritionist" that I wrote about this week sent me a personal email. Ends up that the "nutritionist's" PR person had misrepresented her to the party in charge of booking guests. The reporter was even more dismayed than I was, and forwarded my email to several producers as well as informing the guest in question that she'd never be on the show again. We send virtual roses to her for fighting on the side of good nutrition.

Journal class? Get your journals, pens and tea. Is your music on? Let's get started, then. We're going to use a prompt today, a word that helps you stay focused. Today's word: Journey. Keep your pen moving. What comes to mind? Just keep writing. If you get stuck, just write "journey" until the flow returns.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Search for Nourishment in These Times

Earlier this week, my favorite source for midday news had a guest described as a "renowned" nutritionist. Under the skeptical gaze of the health reporter, the guest proceeded to show how products from her company (a major multinational target of several boycotts) could feed a family on a budget. Well, the food may have been inexpensive, but is giving a child what amounts to a milkshake for breakfast (an instant mix with milk product loaded with sugar) and a banana (one of the higher glycemic fruits) really going to be that much cheaper than a slice or two of toast with a tablespoon of nut butter (almond or cashew, natural)? How sound is it to let a kid drink a lot of juice (high in sugar) while munching on trail mix made from marshmallows and chocolate covered raisins?
It bugged me to no end. I sent an email to the station, and received a standard auto-response.
It bugs me to no end, too, that so much of what passes for food has heavily subsidized ingredients with no redeeming nutritive value or potential for creating allergetic responses. Corn syrup, sugar and its cousins, various forms of gluten, oy. Many times they find their way into processed foods just because they're there.
It is hard to cook, even though for some freaks like me, it is a great source of pleasure. I have days when it's challenging to get dinner on the table for my little family (me, spouse and dog on homemade food due to age-related digestive issues). I don't even want to think about the lives of other women with children and out-of-the-home jobs.
What helps? I plan leftovers. We have an electric indoor rotisserie/grill, and once the chicken gets trussed and spinning, I'm free for a couple of hours. I do a legume dish at least once a week. All three of us munch veggies. We do the bulk of our shopping on a ten day to two week cycle at an employee owned regional chain.
What we don't do: coupons. I've started to look on line for those lovely little nuggets from healthy food manufacturers. I'm open to suggestions on where you get them.
Some people feel eating healthy is too expensive. With some careful planning, it can be pulled off economically. Consider this: how much does bypass surgery run in your area? And what is the look on the vet's face worth when you tell her that your dog's favorite treat is cauliflower?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why Is This News? The Tuesday Edition

Oh, what must I wade through to check weather? This morning's non-event on "Today" and "Good Morning America" involved Travis, a trained chimp who had appeared in several commercials. For reasons known only to him and St. Francis, he attacked several people and was eventually shot by local police.

Tragic? Yes. Do people need to understand that primates do not make the best companion animals? Yes. Could one plead minor celebrity status? Yes.

But why is this story receiving more air play than the economic stimulus package and two of the Big Three laying out their plans before Congress for how federal loans will be used? What makes it override the real possibility that Illinois will have to go through another political battering thanks in part to its former governor?

Intellectually, I know why. There's nothing like sensationalism to stimulate ad revenue. There's nothing like morning network news shows for blurring the line between real news and non-news.

It will be interesting to see where Katie, Brian, and Charlie place the news about Madonna and her new boy toy, the 22 year old Brazilian model, tonight.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Illinois Politics: Here We Go Again

OK, Mr. Burris, what's all this, then? A revised affidavit? Something about a $15K contribution to former Gov. B's campaign fund and a chat with his brother about the senate seat? Hmm?

Mr. Burris held a press conference over the weekend. So did a couple of the Republican legislators. The impeachment committee will be reviewing his testimony this week. Where this will go, I can't tell you, but I have my suspicions. Winter's not over, is it?

Friday Journal Class: Monday Edition

Due to technical difficulties, I wasn't able to get on line Friday to post this. Thanks for your understanding.

Let's play with listmaking.
1. Make a list of things that you'd like to accomplish before your next birthday ending in a 5 or a 0. Now, pick one item and develop a plan to bring it to fruition.
2. Pretend you're in elementary school. You're going to the grocery store with whoever was in charge of food shopping. What was on the list? How does that compare with what you buy now?
3. Valentine's Day fell this last weekend. What are your five favorite romantic songs, and why? Conversely, what's on your list of anti-Valentine's songs? Why?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Depraved Indifference as a Springboard for Change

And now The Great Whatever be thanked.
I post over at Palin's Travels (as in Michael, not Sarah). Two of our members live near Melbourne, Australia, where wildfires have raged for the better part of the last week. Both of them are fine, physically. For that I am truly grateful.
Thanks to its hot, dry climate, Australia is no stranger to wildfires. Usually, an act of nature sparks them. That's bad enough. However, this round looks like an act of arson. Law enforcement officials found evidence that several fires had been restarted, and have declared impacted communities crime scenes.
Despite an MS in psych and experience at a social service agency, I will never understand what could damage someone's soul and psyche so deeply that one could find satisfaction in the destruction of that many acres of nature and a death toll closing in on 200 last night. According to Kazzzz's post this morning, every burn unit in the area is filled to capacity. There's a legal term here in the states: depraved indifference. It doesn't get more depraved then this.
One of our other members brought up a good question: what is justice in this situation? Is there any? What punishment, as Gilbert and Sullivan put it, would fit the crime?
Obviously, get them off the streets. Then we as the global community need to ask ourselves two questions:
1. What wounds to our collective psyche need to be healed? What circumstances gave permission to treat the planet and their fellows like this? When I wonder what happened to hurt them, I ask not to let them off the hook, but for clarification so that this doesn't happen to anyone else. (Please keep in mind that some of the alternatives I've mulled over for punishment would get me banned from Amnesty International for life.)
2. The state of Victoria has had an unusually dry, hot summer even by their standards. That exacerbated the spread of the fires. Can you think of one small thing you can do in your life today that can help curb global warming?
Whatever else you do today, please keep the people of Victoria in your spiritual practice. And please hold an image of the day when we grow up enough as a species that stunts like this are a long past chapter in human history.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Journal Class

Go get your writing implements, your journals, your candles, tea, chocolate. Turn on some music if you'd like. I'll wait.
OK, ready? Let's try a couple of short exercises.
1. Take a couple of deep breaths. We're going to work with the prompt, "Here and now, I am..." Complete the sentence and continue writing. If you get stuck, start over again with the prompt. You'll know when you're done.
2.Set a timer for ten minutes. Write as fast as you can until it dings. You may do this on a selected topic, or you may simply let the pen rip until time's up.
My experience with these exercises? I've had nothing, or apparently nothing happen. I've also had ideas for projects begin to crystallize on the page, like maple syrup on snow. Most importantly, they've both given me insight into where I've been on a given day and direction on where I need to go from there.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Illinois Politics and Other Train Wrecks

The first order of post-holiday business dealt with by the Illinois House was drafting the articles of impeachment for Rod Blagojevich, former governor turned professional talk show guest.
The morning that the House reconvened, there was an incident on a commuter train bound for the city. Reports of a man with a gun lead to an unscheduled stop highlighted by a visit from the SWAT team. Passengers returning home that night on the same line encountered delays thanks to derailment of an Amtrak train.
Freud once observed, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Let's hope that this isn't an omen for Governor Quinn.