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Rumilluminations X
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Wed, December 19 2007 - 12:42 pm

January 31, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

Do you ever have the funny feeling that you maybe met someone you know now a long time ago?

I, of course (of course??!?) have had those almost primal images (stoned, I had an image of me as dancing girl of the young man I married a year or so later. (True confessions!))

But I am talking about memories of this earth, now. One man I was seeing years ago, said, "I'm having an image of a hippy chick with braids and bells."

At the time it rang no bells other than yes, as a young woman I did sometimes wear my long hair with braids and bells!  It was only years after I stopped seeing him that I was stopped in my tracks by a memory: going to a hot springs in San Ysidro in a VW bus with my hippy boyfriend's friends. We picked up a couple of native American men who sang chants as we rode. We dropped them off in the middle of nowhere, it seemed, which was the closest point to where they lived, and went to the hot springs.

The springs used to be a resort, and it had seen better days. I may have written about it before. It was on Reservation lands, and was leased by a young hippy or two, I think.

The point of this story, though, was a sudden memory I had of meeting two young men near the desk of the spring's lobby. One of them was much younger than me (still underage, I felt) but the energy-packed smile he gave me was so sexually charged I felt uncomfortable.

Now I think it was the same man, thirty years later! Probably not totally my fantasy, since his remark triggered the memory.

I have several of these possible previous encounters. Maybe since Valentine's Day is approaching, it is a good time to review the past and tell you the others. Another day.

I would love to hear if any of you have tales like this!

January 30, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

This one is mostly for young people. Do you ever have a job on your hands! Sorting through all the sometimes crappy advice and education handed down to you from the older (yes, my! generation!)

Young people, it seems to me have (at least!) three choices when it comes to what they are told: acceptance, rejection and TA-DA evaluation!

You will be told all kinds of stuff. We were told that getting a college degree would open doors. Getting my college degree didn't open the kind of doors I had hoped it might. Really, it only unlocked them. And "they" didn't tell us that people in special positions have special doors with an usher to escort them in.

On TV and newsreels we were always hearing talk of "the last frontier" (being space) and the exploration of the globe as being a done deal. Sure, there were scientists studying nature still. But I had no idea of how much real frontier is still out there to be explored, with some courage! Well, maybe you young ones already know that because of nature shows on TV. We had "Wild Kingdom," but I remember that as a macho hunter-type guy. Am I wrong, or was black-and-white just not as compelling?

Maybe a general rule is that when adults tell you not to do all sorts of stuff that you want to do, they are probably right. But be guided by the law. Simply because your family is too timid to do or uninterested in what you enjoy is no reason for you not to pursue a certain activity.

If they absolutely put their feet down, don't get mad, get out! Get a job and start saving your money for when you will be free to do it! Or, if time is of the essence and you are still a minor, get a teacher or other adult to advocate for you with your parents! If they are worried about danger, try to get school or group support to make it a group activity. I don't recommend running away. (Not that I ever tried that. I belonged to the accepting category.)

Until I pushed too far. Then I raun away. But even as an adult I don't recommend that you wait until you are desperate and your problems are threatening to destroy you.

Duty and commitment are nice ideals, but they serve no one if they incapacitate you.

Everybody is always afraid of the dangers that are "out there." But often they are not as bad as where you are right now. The least you can do (eighteen years and older) is find out. If you can believe that there is something good out there for you, you are more likely to find it! (With or without support from family and societal institutions!)

(Gee, and I thought this was going to be a short little piece....)

January 29, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

Don't ask me how I got onto the subject I am going to broach now. I don't know! But here are some ruminations about relations between the sexes.

One thing that happens as we introspective types get older is that we look at the farther past in the light of more recent events. A very young woman I knew a few years ago, a very attractive intelligent young woman of exotic (to a Mormon!) appearance, got involved with a very young man from Utah.

Over the course of the relationship, from what she said, I got the feeling he had left his cosy Mormon environment partly to act out. "Sow his wild oats" is an old expression for it. I got the feeling that he wasn't really serious about her - in fact, that he was basically using her.

It made me wonder about my Jewish college beau, who wanted to sleep with me but said he would pick his wife the way he would pick a horse, and she would have to be Jewish.

At the time I thought it was too bad (I was not his college sexual experience so though I was heartbroken I wasn't too angry). Now, in retrospect, it makes me more angry. If you would only marry a Jewish (or Mormon) girl, why not restrict your lovemaking flings to them also?

The only answer I can reasonably come up with (tell me if I'm wrong!) is that you don't have as much respect for women of a different culture - that they are somehow "fair game" and it doesn't matter if they get hurt.

It makes me understand a little better the extremely protective attitude Muslim men have towards their women. Or any father, for that matter.

But wait! It smacks too much of possession! Why else are not women equally protective of their sons. They, after all, are vulnerable to being "used" by women.

People with different genes are more sexually attractive to each other. Nature loves to mix things up. So then, young people, why not go with nature and produce the combinations that she is encouraging? Marry, live together and nurture your offspring!

And if you can't follow your instincts and set culture and doctrine aside enough to love someone from the "outside" well, "Stick to your own kind!" in the words of the West Side Story tragedy.

And stick it to them, as well.

Am I still being naive? Are users of both sexes just basically equal opportunity users?

January 28, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

From my point of view, the economy stimulus package forged by the House and the White House is much ado about nothing. (And not only because I would get nothing!)

If they give the money to people who are already working, the smart ones won't spend it. They will use almost all of it to reduce their credit card debt. That makes for even more money in their pockets in the long run. (The looooong run.) That isn't what this stimulus package is supposed to do. It is supposed to effect the economy the way a defibrillator jump-starts the heart.

Broadening out the range to give the money to the officially unemployed and people living on social security (I bet the older folks have less credit card debt!) might actually result in more spending.

But I saw someone on a PBS program (Lehrer, I think) who said that historically these tax rebates don't really affect the economy much anyway. So it is probably much ado about nothing.

I'm an objective observer for this one, because I won't get any money unless the government decides to give it to everybody! If they did give me some I would probably spend it, though.

January 27, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

Ever since taking Latin, perhaps, I have enjoyed knowing where words come from.

Today I got curious about the word yuck. Where did it come from? Everybody knows that word and how it's spelled, right? And what it means, too! So I looked it up in the 1965 unabridged edition of the the Merriam-Webster Dictionary downstairs (don't tell anyone, but I live in a library! ha)

There was no entry for "yuck!" There was an entry for "yuk." It talked about a meaningless syllable used repetitively to express pleasure or displeasure with something being done, said, etc.

In other words, the meaning for "yuck" was subsumed under "yuk!"

Well, I'm not going to swear that I knew the spelling of the word "yuck" back in 1965. I think I only began believing it was a real word after I had children. (I take that back if it is in Jack Keroac's On the Road. I guess I'll have to read it again to find out!)

So I looked up "yuck" in the Merriam-Webster computer dictionary and found it with its "proper" (ha ha) meaning. But for neither "yuk" nor "yuck" did I find a derivation.

This made me sad. What, just because a word is considered "slang" we don't feel it deserves a pedigree?

I bet "yuk" has a very fine pedigree, by contemporary cultural standards. I bet a cartoon character first said it. Some famous voice probably made it a household word! But I don't know!

Does anybody know? Get "yuk's" history and origins in the dictionary before it is too late!

Same goes for "yuck!" Where does it come from? "Eeuw, muck! Yuck!" Or "You muck!" contracted to "Yuck!" Something like that? Somebody may know! Quick, tell the rest of us before it is too late and its etymology is lost forever!

January 26, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

This morning some mystery man shoveled my walks. The neighbors', too.

That was a good thing, because I wasn't even aware the walks needed it! When I got the paper at 7:30 (late, I admit!) it didn't look like anything needed shoveling. He must already have come by.

I still got to exercise a few muscles shoveling the driveway and the last bit of back walk.

It was really sweet of this person to be so neighborly. I saw him shoveling the neighbor's walk this morning (easier to see the helper in the neighbor's yard, I guess!) and he was fast!

Last week I saw another neighbor shoveling his walk, and he was also quick! I swear he shoveled his walk in ten minutes! Inspired by him, I tried to go faster, and did mine in about twenty minutes. Not much snow, obviously.

It is amazing to me how few people even shovel their walks any more. I guess they figure nobody walks anyway.

Walking through four or five inches of snow is significantly more difficult than walking on an inch of snow. The harder it is to walk, the fewer people walk. It is downright dangerous for the elderly. I even noticed unshoveled walks all around the corner site of a downtown restaurant! What are they thinking?

Well, with the vicious cycle of unshoveled walks taking hold, it is nice to encounter the virtuous cycle of un-asked-for help! We have a secret Lone Ranger in our midst!

Today my daughter was supposed to go snowshoeing in New Mexico. I've always been intrigued by snowshoes! Maybe it's time to implement them to negotiate the sidewalks of Valparaiso, Indiana!

January 25, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

I have not heard much back from people about my idea to throw open our borders and quotas be damned, but I was surprised to find out that both my daughters liked the idea. The response of one was, "Think how much more interesting it would be!" The other agreed wholeheartedly and somewhat heatedly talked about the expense of the stupid wall between here and Mexico. (At least as I recall - she also said don't blame the Mexicans for coming over, blame the corporations who hire them!)

I have imagined people just thinking I am being ridiculously Utopian, if not irresponsible. My response to the first of these (possible) criticisms is that our present way of life here in the States is what is ridiculously Utopian. (As often noted (but evidently not much believed!) our materialism is a false goal if the desire is for happiness, thus making our America as "Utopia" a ridiculous one.) But also our relentless and stupid pursuit of physical possessions is just not realistic on this planet Earth.

My response to the (possible) charge of irresponsibility is that responsibility is in the eye of the enabler. (Ha, ha!) But I'm only partly joking. Which is more irresponsible, throwing our doors open to the possibly troublemaking strangers, or trying to maintain our whole country as a "gated community" that even our own residents can't invite family to?

Really, if you look at it that way, quotas are ridiculous. Come on, America, get responsible! It's time to rejoin the human race!

January 24, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

A friend once said I use my horoscope as a springboard for introspection. I liked that rationalization for one of my possibly bad habits - reading the horoscope, that is.

Today's newspaper horoscope was the kind that is a springboard for immobilization. (If that is possible!) It said, "try relaxing." It said, "Just stop." Just stop what? I read it too late to keep me from shoveling the walk, which I only mind in advance. I read it to late to keep me from brushing my teeth or washing my face.

It certainly is not going to stop me from spending too much time playing computer games or eating too much dark chocolate.

How do you "just relax?" I can't fathom it! Yet I believe I have often been criticized for being "too laid back" as well as "too up tight." Sitting staring out the window is not my idea of fun, except as a break from something else.

Not go on a walk and enjoy the sunshine, no matter how cold it is? (12 degrees!) Stop writing in my website? Stop thinking? I don't wanna!

I know! Stop reading stupid horoscopes and using them as a way to confuse the day and make it more soul-challenging than it already is.

Nah, I don't wanna do that either. I think that horoscope meant stop doubting and second-guessing myself.

Guess I'll just go on a walk, in defiance of the advice to JUST STOP! If you don't hear from me tomorrow, something horrible happened! Ha, ha!

Oh, stop giving me a hard time for reading the horoscope! Almost everybody does it, you hypocrites!

January 23, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

Today I saw an article in Yahoo News that projected our national deficit as soon being up to 250 billion dollars, up from 193 billion a year ago.

I thought, okay, what does that make my share, as an average citizen? Maybe we could all just pay (hypothetically, of course, a few bucks and voila! We would be in the black!)

So I thought, how many of us are there? So I looked at a site called the U.S. National Debt Clock that estimated the population, and lo and behold, we are about 304,157,658 in number. So far, so good.

So after stumbling over the math for a while and rounding out numbers (millions I can pretend to conceive of, billions - no let's be honest. I really cannot conceive of millions, let alone billions. I'm just getting more used to hearing the words!) I figured (probably inaccurately) that we would each owe about $833.

Oh. I mean, OWE! That doesn't sound like so much. Except, guess what, I don't have it! Even without credit card debt, I don't have it. Do you?

But according to the U.S. National Debt Clock, the situation is even worse than the national deficit would lead us to believe. The national debt (what we owe) is a couple of hundred billion over 9 trillion dollars! The national deficit is merely what we cannot pay.

To help us put that into perspective, the U.S. National Debt Clock has done the math for us. We, as a national government "for the people" (ha, ha!) owe an average of $30,232.43!

Just out of curiosity, I called one of my credit card companies (that I needed to talk with anyway (because my bill got lost in the mail and I sent out a payment in an ordinary envelope and have no record on my balance that the payment has been recieved and it is due in TWO DAYS)) and the automated service hung up on me before I could talk to anyone. So I called another one and asked what my minimum payment would be if I owed them thirty thousand dollars. At my present rate, they said, I would owe $300 a month. That is, if my credit limit were $30,000 which it isn't!

I don't presently have $833, let alone thirty thou. ($300 represents the better part of my discretionary income!) But the Congressional Budget Office tells (at you how to help reduce the National Debt, if you so desire. If you can't find their website, email me and I will send you the info you need to write a check and mail it in.

I wrote it down so that I can send them a check - just in case I win the Powerball Lottery tonight!

January 22, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

During the first week or two of repeats of the Jay Leno show (because of the writers' strike) I kept watching, never knowing when the contemporary ones would come back. (I didn't watch it when I lived in Oregon, it was too late at night for me! So even though some of them were reruns, they were new to me.)

One night I was amused to see one of my hibiscus blooms apparently staring at the TV set, watching Jay Leno. I thought that was really funny and took some pictures.

In a while it became even funnier, because a guest (the one who is always impersonating some dissipated other character so I don't know his name) being interviewed was sitting in front of a poster depicting hibiscus flowers!

I guess my hibiscus was tipped off that its relatives were going to be on TV!

January 21, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

Watching the comments and perceptions people have of age is amusing.

Barack Obama has been called "young" by so many commentators that, judging from his looks, I would have put him in his thirties. His early thirties.

Just yesterday I read in an AARP publication that he is forty-seven! Forty-seven! (Hey, he is black and he is a man! That's genetics!)

Now I am a woman, and I started calling myself middle-aged (albeit reluctantly) at age 35. I figured that would be the beginning of my middle years if I get lucky (or whatever!) and live to be 105.

But Obama is "young." Okay. Well, maybe for a Presidential candidate! But not very!

Hillary Clinton is younger than I am, by a few months. She is 60, so she checks in at about 13 years older than Obama. So does that make her "old?" Well, no, I should take off the quote marks. I haven't heard people call her "old." People merely imply it by talking about Obama's "youth" as such a selling-point. From my point of view, that is not a significant age difference when it comes to holding public office!

At sixty, I do expect twenty-year-olds to consider me "old." So if people want to call John McCain "old" that's okay with me, since he's sixteen years older than I am! Only sixteen years older than I! Hey, he's a viable candidate for President, for sure!

Further ruminations on age - that old man with the greying beard that I would have guessed would be around my age give or take a few years (quite a few! He's no hippy peace love dover!) Osama bin Laden is fifty.

His son, who (thankyou thankyou thankyou Omar!) deplores his father's behavior in sponsoring the killing of civilians, is 26 and married to a fifty-two-year-old.

His dad probably has a twenty-six-year-old wife (or two!)

Ain't life grand?

(Hey, how many apostrophes should "ain't" have, anyway....)

January 20, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

The weather has certainly been interesting around here lately. Yesterday when I walked to our monthly contradance it was 2 degrees. Coming home it seemed warmer, maybe because I had been exercising, maybe because it was absolutely still out. Lovely at 0 degrees F.

I woke up during the night, not exactly cold but evidently not warm enough either. I heard cracking sounds and wondered if my flowerpots were breaking, or if the windows were in danger of cracking. Maybe not; the cracks weren't loud and deep enough for flowerpots or brittle and tuneful enough for glass. This morning I saw a dead branch cradled by the other branches of the pine outside my window and wondered if that was what I had heard.

Today I went on a walk with a friend, then read a book at Espress Yourself on Lincolnway (open on Sundays!) over a decaf latte and quiche. Heaven.

As I was walking (quickly!) home, I heard a nuthatch noisy and insistent enough that I stopped to look for him. Normally I don't - they are such teases! - and when the trees are leafy they can be really hard to spot.

But this time he was easy to see. His movements were so fast and frenetic I actually was a little worried for him. Was he behaving that way just to keep warm? Was he having trouble finding something to eat?

The cold jogged me back into action, and I came home.

January 19, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

Chris Matthews talking about the "spirit" you feel in the room with Barack Obama makes me feel uneasy. Not about Obama at all, because he certainly seems like a decent sort and says alot of the right things (although I think his campaign made a big mistake in trying to fault Hillary Clinton's comments about the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. One person does not have the power to effect something like that in this country, thank the Constitution. Stating a fact about one person does not imply the taking away of the achievements of another person.) Bill Maher was right on on that one (as always when I have heard him. I'll have to listen to him more often!))

I don't want my political leaders too spiritual. Spirituality, "charisma", gee - Jim Jones, David Koresh, that new Jesus who gambles, and I guess Hitler since he inspired so many people - oh, yes, and Charles Manson all had some kind of "spirit" or "charisma" that people responded emotionally to.

Go to services, if you want. Get sucked into the cults of spiritual leaders, if you want. It's a free country, after all.

But please, PLEASE, don't mix your spirituality with our government. Render unto Caesar and all that.

In fact, maybe religious leaders should not be eligible for the position of President of the United States. Not all conflicts of interest are financial!

January 18, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

You know what's underappreciated (besides me?) Shadows! How often do you hear people talk about shadows?

But shadows are often beautiful. They are also ephemeral. There is going to to be no way anyone is ever going to tell you, "I saw the greatest shadow last night! You are going to have to go see it!" (Well, of course, as soon as I say that I begin to think of all kinds of instances in which that could happen, but you get my point...what is my point?....?)

I have wanted to take photographs of beautiful shadows, but been unable to because the dim light would require a flash, and a flash would obliterate the subject. Time lapse? Hah! Ditto. I have on occasion made drawings of shadows. These can be cool. I used pencil but I bet charcoal would be good.

Shadows protect us from harsh sun and predators and sometimes from unseen predators (who - you got it! - can't control the shadows they cast. (Use this metaphor to contemplate your internal life! Oooooo!))

Shadows indicate a lack of something that we normally take for granted, at the same time acknowledging not only its existence, but its presence.

Shadows! Such enigmas! Such mysteries! Such blessings!

And so free!

January 17, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

I love my "Transitions" lenses. When I go outside I don't have to think about or carry sunglasses. I love that I feel relatively protected against macular degeneration. At least for the last ten years or so, my eyes have been routinely protected from UV rays.

But lately, having just spent a wonderful few days in southern New Mexico, I am wondering about the efficacy of Transitions lenses in the gray Midwest. I come in from a really rather dreary walk, all dirty snow and gray clouds, and my lenses are dark!

I appreciate the protection my lenses give my eyes, but what about my mood? What is going to protect it as long as I reside here? Is there any way to protect my eyes from the UV rays without cutting out so much light overall? On the other hand, is it better not to have too much light coming in for other reasons, like that if it is too bright you are inclined to squint, thus causing (shudder) wrinkles?

It doesn't matter. I love my transitions lenses. I would rather have them than a dishwasher! (Of course, that may be because I am washing dishes for one. Come to think of it a male dishwasher might be nice.... Do dishwashers come in male and female models?)

January 16, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

I think it is funny the way everyone is so surprised that the economy is in trouble. I think I already wrote about it months ago, and it has only gotten worse since. Let's see, tens of thousands more people are losing jobs than are getting them, the average credit card debt of a US citizen is $8,000 (the last I heard - is that any better now?) oh, and don't forget, we measure unemployment by who is getting compensation from the government for not being employed.

That compensation does not run out only when you get a job. It runs out after a certain amount of time whether you are working or not. Our "unemployment rate" is a fiction. I wish someone would publish a real unemployment rate study!

I won't start listing anecdotal evidence of the unemployed (including me) in my life. I'm sure people who are employed know more employed people, and people who are unemployed know more unemployed people. But, hey, duh, Mr. Bush and others - people who don't have jobs tend not to spend much money. People who have credit card debt have to curtail their spending. We as a people, unrealistic as we may be, realize that if we have debt that nearly equals our just-a-little-more-(or less!)-than-we-need-to-get-by yearly income something has got to give!

And it most probably won't be the U.S. government, which is too busy wasting (our) money in Iraq to give a shit about its own citizens. (You know, I really tried not to use that word, but nothing else sounded emphatic enough. Apologies!)

January 15, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

In our society, being pretty well off, we have the luxury of feeling bad when other people seem to criticize is for being too talkative, too quiet, too fat, too thin (as opposed to having to think all the time about where we are going to get our next meals or where we are going to lay our heads tonight.)

One of my sensitive points is neatness. I'm not.

My brother-in-law says failing to be neat and organized is either a random nature which you cannot help, or rebellion.

I accepted that analysis for a while but I do no longer. I can help being messy. In my longest-lasting full-time job I was in medical records, and was criticized for having it too organized. I laughed it off, except when I couldn't get cooperation from coworkers. That organizational "anal retentive" behavior was to me a matter of survival in that job.

Here at home, I don't have to spend my whole day keeping tabs on everything with an "a place for everything and everything in its place" attitude to survive. So I don't tidy unless I pretty well feel like it. Ditto cleaning. I don't think I am rebelling. When I live with people I am much more considerate about trying to maintain order.

So it is not rebellion.

But honestly, I am sick of the TV shows and movies that show interiors that look either as if the owners are ready for a real estate open house, or as if the owners are filthy, drug-using slobs.

No, if you took away all the photos I got out thinking I would scan them into my website; all my fabrics, sewing machine, and quilting tools; and all my books, papers, and computer stuff - then my place would like as if it is inhabited by a filthy, drug-using slob!

January 14, 2009 Valparaiso, IN

More about at least one candidate here - Huckabee. He wants to abolish income tax and collect all our taxes through sales taxes. Through a sales tax!

If you don't see what is wrong with this, I'll tell you what a liberal doctor in Santa Fe, NM named Matt Kelly (Hi, Matt!) once taught me. He said that sales taxes are regressive. When I asked what he meant, he said that they weigh more heavily on the poor than on the rich.

The argument is that everybody has to buy certain basic things - food, clothing, etc. Everybody HAS to (except the few live-off-the-land types who are completely self-sufficient. I have never met such a person but I have to accept the possibility that they do exist.)

The rich have to buy staples of life, also. But a good deal of their income is discretionary. They can spend it or not. They don't have to buy a yacht in order to survive. If taxes get too high, they simply can refuse to spend (as I am told often happens when luxury taxes are levied.)

If Huckabee thinks that the sales tax is fairer than the income tax, Matt Kelly and I believe he is wrong. What his rationale for abolishing the income tax is, I don't know. I guess we didn't have it in the U.S. at the beginning of our history. Maybe we only had property taxes. Property taxes are fairer than sales taxes. At least those people have enough money to own property!

Oh, and Matt? You might want to try moving to Oregon. No sales tax!

January 13, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

Some thoughts on some of the candidates:

Does John McCain really want to be considered the underdog? Then he really doesn't want to be President of the USA. Maybe he only means up to the moment he is elected!

Does Hillary Clinton really think that this election isn't about race or gender? She can't be serious. I agree with her, though, that the fact that she and Obama are the front-runners in the Democratic primaries says a lot about how far we as a country have come. We have a lot farther to go before we get rid of prejudice against people who are not the person we see when we look in the mirror, give or take breasts and penis. But look how far we have come! I hope she's right. Let's look at the individual's record only. Ha ha ha. And I want "to be loved for myself alone and not my golden braids."

Does Obama expect to be taken seriously when he says he does not make decisions based on politics? Please, if that were really true, he wouldn't have a job, let alone be a Presidential candidate.

Do we really want a fundamentalist (Oh, am I wrong? Sorry - educate me!) Christian man of the cloth named Huckabee for President? What a slap in the face that would be to all the Middle Easterners who don't want to separate church and state - either! Actually, I feel pretty strongly about this even if he's not a fundamentalist. We have enough trouble separating church and state in this country as it is. Ha ha! Now let's see if we can manage to separate the Siamese twins (is there a new politically correct term?) of government and business! Ha ha! Maybe a man of any cloth would be preferable to what we've lived under for the last eight years!

(FYI I am a registered Democrat.)

January 12, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

I remember the first time I was walking in the city that was my home for almost three decades, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and first saw a gated community. I didn't know what I was looking at. About all I could see was the gate and part of a road tucked into a small area near Canyon Road. I thought some family wanted its privacy pretty badly!

When I found out it was a whole little community that wanted to even keep me from walking by their houses, I was shocked and resentful. I couldn't keep them from walking by my house. What right did they have keeping me out of their neighborhood? Did taxpayers pay for their roads? (At this point, I assume not.)

Now, of course, I realize that our whole country is a gated community. I only learned as an adult that quotas for immigration were not around since the our nation's beginning. Now that I know they were not, I say, get rid of them!

Think of all the money our government spends on regulating and trying to control immigration! In the case of Mexicans coming across the border, it isn't working! It also isn't fair. Why shouldn't the Asians and Europeans and Africans have equal access to the U.S.?

At the rate we are going, we are already being overrun. Why not have Equal Overrun Opportunity? What are we so afraid of?

For the United States to shut its borders against newcomers undermines our own position as immigrants here. It is like people in a certain occupation closing ranks against newcomers, requiring them to get ever more education to attain the same position in life they got through experience.

And, oh, yeah, at the same time, let them all open their doors to us. No more visas! Let the boy who was brought up in the Philippines go live there if he wants, even if his parents weren't citizens.

It might be kind of an exciting experience! What are we so afraid of?

The Japanese have a much more crowded country than ours, and they don't seem to be doing so badly!

Or else - maybe we should take down the Statue of Liberty!

January 11, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

Why are practical jokes called practical jokes? I cannot imagine anything more impractical than a practical joke. They are not money-earning (unless you are a comedian telling how you pulled one, maybe). They take way more time on the part of the perpetrator (yes, I guess I'm using that word intentionally!) and the one the joke is on than your average verbal joke does. They often involve a good deal of clean-up and/or restoring-to-rights. Ha ha. "Rights" also used intentionally.

Practical jokes are funny, I guess. Sometimes. If you aren't the one they are happening to. Maybe the word "practical" refers to the fact that this kind of joke is a joke put into actual practice. Say - like one that would not be funny if it was just words!

Or is the "practical" part of a practical joke irony?

Can anyone enlighten me? Why is a practical joke called a practical joke?

January 10, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

My mother often gave us the old line, "Do as I say, not as I do."

Well, I say the opposite. Do as I do, not as I say! (when it comes to my evil little stories!)

Frustrated? Unhappy? Don't like the way things are? Then find a positive way to make your life better! There are myriads of potential ways and even little ones help!

Don't feel you have the power to change your life? Change your attitude! Humble yourself before God's will (or the Universe's way!)

Don't want to change your attitude? (I can't blame you for that!) Then write! Create a world of your own where You are God and You say what will be! (He/It won't feel threatened, I promise you!) Kill off all your enemies with a pen! Or make movies - or paint!

Then put down your artistic weapons and do the dishes. Or wash the dirty laundry. Or walk the dog.

You'll feel better! I promise you!

No, I take that back. I'm projecting. I would feel better. But I have been working on this kind of stuff for thirty years or so, without (admittedly) any diagnosed major depression.

Tell you what, if my recipe doesn't help, try as hard as you can to get professional help.

But when I got professional help thirty-five years ago, much of the advice I got was advice I felt I could have gotten from friends. It is not Pollyanna-ish to try to stay basically positive in attitude. It is survival. Look at it as just good mental hygiene, like spending the time and energy to brush your teeth is good dental hygiene. You do it because you want to keep your teeth.

Go ahead and feel as good as possible! Nobody in China is going to go into a major depression because you are feeling good!

(Oh, dang, I just remembered I have to take the blanketty-blank clothes out of the blanking washer! Ha, ha!)


January 9, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

This afternoon I was walking along our quiet small town streets when - BANG - there was an automobile accident less than a quarter block behind me.

One of the drivers was very angry, but at himself it seems, because he took responsibility, admitting he had failed to yield.

Judging from my experience, I would have thought that something completely different had happened than what the participants reported.

I didn't see the accident, and my perceptions were obviously not relevant to what happened. Makes me glad that I just approached them to offer assistance and kind of keep the concerned parties company until the police came.

They say eyewitnesses are not very reliable. I guess earwitnesses might be even less reliable!

A humbling experience, and rather scary. I was telling a friend one reason I drive as little as possible is that I am much less likely to have an accident that is my fault.

He responded that I spend so much time walking I am more likely to get hit.

Thanks. But I'm going to keep on walking - as far from traffic as possible! The more I hurry, the more aerobic my exercise! Not the more likely I am to get into an expensive accident!

January 8, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

Auto tips from a talkative blonde:

When you have to put down something in order to unlock your car door, PUT IT ON THE HOOD RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE DRIVER'S SEAT! (I learned this from experience, mine and others'.)

If you have trouble with your engine dying at awkward moments (like when you are trying to turn left at the busiest intersection in town), get into the habit of keeping your gas tank mostly full when you put it down for the night. (Less surface area inside the gas tank = less condensation of water vapor = less water collecting in your gas tank.) It makes a big difference! (I learned that from a Dick Francis book.)

I had another one, but this talkative blonde has forgotten it since noontime when I decided to put my automotive tips here. Later!

Next day - I just remembered what my tip was, but it is for people with very old cars. If you tend to forget to turn off your lights, park in front of a wall so you see the lights' reflection. That will remind you to turn off your lights.

January 7, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

When I was in Las Cruces with my kids, we watched "Borat." I had been a little disapprovingly ambivalent about seeing it, but decided to suspend judgment and go with the flow. ("Judgement" for my UK readers - just trying to avoid it ha ha.)

I laughed harder that I have ever laughed in my life. (Well, maybe only since I was twenty, forty years ago.) I laughed so hard that I began to wonder if I would have to pass out in order to start breathing again.

It made me think about the wonderful advantages of suspending judgment. Just think, we could all go around laughing like idiots at all the stupid things people do! Laughter is supposed to be a good thing, right?

Hmm. But if all of us went around laughing, fewer people would be doing stupid things (out of anger, greed, and such, I'm thinking) and that would make for fewer laughs for the rest of us!

Well, I'm laughing a lot more than I used to, and I think that is a good thing! I wish it for you in the New Year!

(I felt sorry for Pamela Anderson, though. Scary. He could have left that not-so-funny stunt out and the film still would have been hysterical. She took it in good part, supposedly. I know I would not have! Good job at suspending judgment, Pamela! I'm tempted to hold you up as a spiritual example! Has that ever happened to you before?)

January 6, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

Interesting to hear so many candidates talking about change. Bill Clinton did that decades ago, and it helped him win the election. I'm inclined to go with experience, myself, and vote for people with that. They know how to change, and maybe they are better at getting other people to.

Well, maybe I'm just optimistic because the light is coming back! It is the Twelfth Day of Christmas! Yay! We can all lighten up!

Change is difficult, but once you have been willing to change a little and realize that the world has not come to an end, you can take a chance on changing a little more!

Not to mention the minor detail that if you don't change, the world might just come to an end!

Get out and vote! I always vote, because I always want to maintain my right to complain!

January 5, 2008

I knew Jay Leno could do it. When the writers' strike first happened, I kind of wondered if he would just go ahead and do his own monologue. When they started doing reruns of the Tonight Show, I thought it wouldn't last for long.

Good grief. The writers' strike is still going on. I wondered about the timing of it. When you have less work because of reality TV, is that really time to strike? But I, of course, think that they should get royalties for the use of their intellectual property on the internet. Yay, writers! Just because I write for nothing doesn't mean anybody should! And I have my sources of support.

Yay, writers! I hope your talent is acknowledged! Some of the recent Boston Legal stuff is great! (You know, the episode in which the James Spader character lists all the stuff we could be doing here at home for the money that is being thrown into war in Iraq!)

But meanwhile, I have to say, I knew Leno could do it. I hope it is not creating too much tension and nail-biting for him behind the scenes!

January 4, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

In Nebraska yesterday morning we ran into a man eating the free continental breakfast at our hotel who warned us about the caucuses in the state we would be driving through. He was from Iowa and he had decided views about "Hillary."

"Watch out", he said. "You'll see her on the highway in her swimsuit, saying, 'I've got lots of experience!' The only experience she has is trying to keep track of her husband!"

I told him I might vote for her, which is all the answer I made, being afraid of just setting him more in his ways. (If you don't argue too much with someone, I have read, he'll argue from your point of view in his own mind. If you argue too much, he'll just become more entrenched.)

But he was from Iowa, and echoed what you hear all the time about Hillary Clinton: she is disliked.

I do not believe this is personal. Perhaps the dislike she arouses in men is due to their guilt with relation to their own wives. Maybe women don't like her because her marital experience embodies their own fears.

I know many people disagree with me. They think they don't like "Hillary." (Case in point - what other presidential candidate is called by his first name?)

Me, I think the United States hates women. Really. Men here think they have the right to dictate to, abuse, and kill women if they want to. Don't console me by telling me that women have it worse in other parts of the world!

Women don't want to vote for women for some reason - some kind of personal repulsion as a result of the usual combo of power and sex? Having a powerful woman around confuses them sexually?

Well, these are just ruminations.

I'm not anti-Obama at all. I heard his speech after the caucuses and I thought it was fine. I probably will vote for whatever Democratic candidate the party comes up with, and would happily vote for him.

But I think Bill Clinton was a fine President, and I think Hillary Clinton could, if nothing else, maybe get us some national health insurance and help get the country out of debt again. I confess I would like to see a woman finally get to be President.

Maybe Hillary Clinton is not the right woman.

But pardon me, I don't think any woman in the USA today could be the right woman, if Clinton isn't. I really don't think it's personal. It's sexism.

January 1, 2008 Denver, CO

Over the holidays there has been a lot of family rumination about Asperger's syndrome, its widely varied "symptoms" and whether or not/to what degree we might have it.

One thing that occurred to me long before I ever heard of Asperger's is possible reasons my family seems to have so many foreign connections. (My father was born in Panama because his dad was a missionary (and would-be businessman) there, and his father was born in Chile for the same reasons. My father's sister spent a good portion of her adult life in Guatelmala. My older sister's first husband was Greek, and my husband was born and raised in the Philippines (admittedly of United States citizens, but I have had several foreign-born friends. Etc. etc.)

There is a facility for language in my family and obviously adventurous streak (my people have been on this continent for a relatively long time), but what about the attraction (perhaps for the exotic?) and comfort level with people from other countries?

Knowing my own difficulty in recognizing people after only one or two (or three! or more!) meetings, I wonder how much of the basis for friendship initially is recognition. Maybe I simply recognize someone from a foreign country more easily because of appearance and accent.

People of my own race who look similar and wear their hair the same are hard for me to tell apart for a while. (One good way to test your aptitude for this is to ask yourself how long it takes you to tell twins apart! It takes me quite a while!)

Another thought is that we who are not so terribly astute when it comes to social cues from our own culture do not put off people from other cultures, whose knowledge of our own culture's cues are not so refined, either.

Just some thoughts. Any responses?

Happy New Year! Hope you have a good one!

December 27, 2007 Albuquerque, NM

Almost a week off from writing here! We have been to Las Cruces and back, and it is a very attractive place at this time of year! Blue sky, sunshine, dry! The mountains ranging around Las Cruces offer a beautiful variety of form, from the Organ Mountains looking like a scrappy pointy pipe organ to the long low sloping Robledo (I think) mountains, to a cliquish group called the Dona Anas. I would be tempted never to leave, but it is very hot in the summer. Actually, I think I still would be tempted not to leave!

One day we drove from Las Cruces to El Paso and walked across the border into Mexico. I had not been in Mexico for fifteen years. The El Paso side seemed more crowded with shoppers than the Mexican side, which surprised me! We walked to the mercado which we had seen fifteen years before, and I was surprised at how few people were shopping there. We were there on the 23rd, so maybe most people were done with their shopping. It certainly seemed less prosperous, as did, quite frankly, the El Paso side.

Handicrafts are still to be found, and charming people. We had a bite to eat at an outdoor restaurant outside the market, and were serenaded by mariachis. I still love Mexico, even though we only were there for a few hours!

Anything serious is beyond me this evening - just getting back in the habit of sitting here blahging!

December 21, 2007 Santa Fe, NM

I thought I might be a brat today (almost typed in "prat"! (I'm always that!)) The brattiest thing I have thought of lately is:

Penises are long on foresight but a little short on memory.

Ha, ha! Always fun to get the men's rightists going a little.

But on the whole I'm not feeling very bratty today. I have had too much good luck.

A "brake" light intermittently flashing made me stop at Quickline, a place near St. Francis on W. Alameda here in Santa Fe to get it checked out. It just happened to be a block or so from a Thai restaurant in Casa Solana where my daughter and I were going to meet for lunch, so I walked on over. Got lunch (good lunch!) and after lunch, got my car! How could it be any better?

Well, they didn't charge me, lacking the paperwork. Gee, I should have told them "Merry Christmas!" too.

Oh, I'll probably go back and try again to pay them when I get back to town. See if the paperwork appeared. But that was pretty lucky!

Can you be a brat when you feel blessed? I mean, YOU!

Well, I can.

Remember how George Bernard Shaw, in one of his plays, wrote about heaven being boring?

Well, a little brattiness is just the ticket to prevent that! C'mon, say something bratty to me! I dare ya!

Oh, something about does it snow in heaven? I bet not, because we might have to drive out of this saintly town in the snow, and that is anything but boring!

A heaven without snow. Sounds pretty boring to me!

Oh, I thought of something bratty to say to Andy Rooney, who was whining about having to come up with something to say every week for a minute on 60 minutes!

Now I'm sure there is much more to those pieces than it seems. But one minute a week! I hereby apply for your job, Andy, since they didn't give me one on The View! I'd rather be uninterrupted in my rants anyway!

December 20, 2007 Santa Fe, NM

As I was driving down the highway to come to Santa Fe from Denver today, I was kind of feeling sorry for myself that I so often cover the same ground.

Then I realized how lucky I am that I have three places I have lived in for years that are so wildly different as Valparaiso IN, Santa Fe NM, and Corvallis OR from each other! (Not to mention three years in Stanford Village, CA in my childhood!) Such wonderful ground to cover!

The weather forecasts were accurate and I had an incredibly quick and easy drive. Colorado is a gloriously dramatic state and the sun rose on snow-capped mountains and narrow slices of dawn-lit clouds etched into the sky.

As I saw the Welcome to New Mexico sign I found myself spontaneously grinning from ear to ear.

Blue sky! Sunshine! No-heavy-jacket weather!

And I'm heading even farther south, where there most likely won't be a white Christmas, and I don't care! Whee!

Brings out the brat in me! But I'll be good now - maybe tomorrow I'll be a brat!

Let me know who/what/where exercises your cheek muscles!

December 19, 2007 Denver, CO

How much is the internal world like the external world? There are those who believe it is essentially the same thing - that we create our external reality by our internal one.

I have a little problem with that if it implies that we have control, because we don't exactly have (or know that we have!) a magic wand at our instant disposal!

Our internal and external worlds interact all the time, though, and every little second provides an opportunity to WIELD THE WAND!

(Sometimes wielding the wand effectively means not touching it at all, that is, not doing anything. There can be a kind of power in inaction! And I'm not talking about a nasty passive-aggressive attempt to control others! I'm talking about our own internal stuff, here, folks.)

Sometimes it seems to me that the best way to improve my situation is to act as a facilitator or mediator between the external and the internal. Adopting the habit of dimple-o-mat (ha, ha, at first I meant to type diplomat!) may not come easy to us (especially not us Northern girls!)

But flexibility and fluidity might just mean survival, even from the harshest judgments of our internal censors.

I have read (heard?) that the part of a poem that the poet is most attached to is the part of the poem that needs to go - even if that part was the original inspiration for the poem! (The poetic message would still be more subtly the same.)

Another way of saying it is in interior design terms, perhaps. Anything in a room that demands exclusive attention, no matter how beautiful, stunning, and/or creative, should be removed. That doesn't mean it has to be thrown out! It has a place in another setting, say outdoors or in a room where it doesn't stand out so much or in Paris, France!

What are our needs? What are the needs of those around us? What are the needs of those far from us?

Doesn't the best magic wand administer not just to the needs of the individual who wields it, but to everybody else also?

The new proclamation of Esther the Queen of Introspection: WIELD THE WAND! (In my case, of course, it is a sceptre! Ha ha!)

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