05 December 2013

Thankfully, the bust of Limbaugh cannot speak

Once again, Rush makes Missourians proud! Maybe the taxpayers should NOT have to pay for the tightened security around the Rush bust in Jefferson City. We could spend it on duct tape for the bewildered Rush's mouth.

Really Rush? Pope Francis a Marxist?

30 September 2013

Beyond Boundaries

I hadn’t gotten very far into Rebecca Solnit’s essay in Orion magazine (courtesy of Longform) when I read and re-read this sentence that had sent a jolt of reason through my mind:
Truth for me has always come in tints and shades and spectrums and never in black and white, and America is a category so big as to be useless, unless you’re talking about the government.

Far more often than finding reason at the center of someone’s clumsy argument, I find more frequently a direct bias for black and white reasoning, the worst reasoning of all. Solnit presents her case for the trouble with categories by blurring the boundaries that often limit, well, categorizing people, places, and things. I have never been fond of boundaries myself. And I am in favor of softening the edges whenever possible.

Take for instance one category Solnit touches upon: prisoners. We can point to any number of “prisoner-types” like prison inmates, prisoners of poverty, prisoners of war, people imprisoned by their own limited imaginations, those wealthy individuals whose freedom has been squelched at least as much as lack of wealth ever has, and gender, intelligence, size, race, religion, and culture may imprison any one of us if we choose to be a victim, rather than tearing down the boundaries others build around us. Our victim-minded reaction, though, causes us to draw boundaries right back at them. Instead of seeing them as just like me, I can only envision them as "one of those."

At the center of Solnit’s essay sits Henry David Thoreau, a particular favorite of mine in the “literary category.” I have always thought Thoreau wanted to defy all boundaries, which makes sense given his reputation at civil disobedience. He wasn’t perfect at being disobedient, as it turns out. Critics, who usually argue over his philosophy, also argue over how true he was to his cause as expounded upon in Walden. And if he could not be bothered to wash his own clothes, to defy the gender boundary of his day limiting laundry to the category of “women’s work,” then maybe we cannot hold him up as an iconic boundary bender for today.

Maybe no one can be a perfect boundary bender, but I like to think it’s possible to come close. The more we try, the better at blurring the lines we become. Not that I am attempting to build boundaries around a category of “boundary benders.” The world could be a better place with more porous edges of human categories. If we cannot eliminate categorical boundaries altogether when building personal, local, national, and global relationships, let us at least live with flexible boundaries.

16 June 2013

Papa's Papa and his Papa

In the last few months, since my mother's death, we have been sorting through the flotsam and jetsam left in her house. Every now and then we discover something notable, usually because we can't believe anyone would have saved it for so long. Last week, we discovered a piece of family history, a real treasure, just in time for Father's Day.

My father's mother, Bernadette, hand-wrote a brief autobiography on the back of a photocopied article by John Risser. Neither the print source or date of the published article are visible on the copy. The article tells the story of John Augustus Sutter, and bears the title: Gold Found in California. His story has been told and retold over the years; you can find one version of Wikipedia.

This article begins, “John Augustus Sutter, who, for a while, was one of the richest men in the world, was not born to wealth.” And continues with the saga of how John Sutter discovered gold in California and died in Washington, D.C., with nothing but his reputation.

Above the photo of John A. Sutter "as a young man," Bernadette has written, “He looks just like my father.” The story she has written on the reverse side, begins with her family of origin, all the way back to John Augustus Sutter's brother, who never came close to being the richest man anywhere. I have preserved her handwritten story in a Word document, without changing her spellings and lack of punctuation--not an easy task for and English teacher.

An abridged version of the story appears below. Suffice to say it's filled with my grandmother's wit and knack for storytelling. Her story and the details of the article itself fill in some of the family names and dates, so useful in filling out the family tree. It also fills in the gaps of her life, the childhood that often was unhappy and accounts for the strong willed, often cantankerous grandmother I knew. My maternal great-grandparents died before I was born, and I don't recall ever hearing anything about my great grandfather.

This, in part, is Bernadette's story:
This is my great grand fathers brother. [John Augustus Sutter]

My grand fathers name was George Sutter and he was born in Switzerland and when he came to the U.S.A. settled in Mexico Missouri.

He made hand made cigars for a living.

All the Sutters had a son named John. After there grand father. My grand parents George and Caroline are buried in Mexico Missouri. Her maiden name was Brown. I have a picture of there tomb stone its five ft high.

My father had a brother Charles and three sisters Elizabeth and Katie and Caroline my father was the youngest. He was two ½ years old when his mother died and three ½ when his father killed his self went out to the Cemetary leaving five little orphans.

He was a Mason and lodge brothers the children in there homes. Captain John Sutter was my grand fathers great Uncle.

A family named Ed Hilderbrandt raised my father on there cattle farm. And Pa Pa was raised as Edward Hilderbrant they never adopted him.

When he was sixteen he ran away came up to St. Louis to look for his brother Charlie and three sisters. Lupton the undertaker raised Charlie and he had been Mayor of Mexico and owned a General store and undertaking Parlor. His first name was Clayton. And there family still own Luptons on Delmar.

Charlie was married when Pa Pa found him and so Lizzie and Caroline. Katie never married and was the only aunt I knew never met Caroline or Lizzie.

I worked one summer for my Uncle Charlie and lived with him and his wife Kate.

Thats how I found out so much about what happen. His Mother was 28 when she died and his father 20. Charlie was eight and Lizzie 10 Caroline 6 Kate 4. So Charlie told Pa Pa they had an Uncle Otto in Chicago and he went up there and Otto and his wife Mary took him in. But he visited the others often and one June he met mama at a Garden party. And they started writing. She was daperate girl trying to get away from her domineering father and so she gave him her address.

She would have given Jack the ripper her address.
...And so Christmas came and there windows were so dirty and mama said John will you wash the windows for me. And so he got some rags and newspapers and coal oil and he wiped the windows down on the outside with a rag dip in coal oil to cut the grime and soot off and then wash them with water and vinegar in it dryed them and shined them with newspapers. Mama said it was a work of art. So clean and clear they were.

And so she said John you have found your calling you were born to be a window cleaner.

Thus was born the St. Louis House and Window Cleaners.

...He got so many Jobs word of mouth he had to hire a crew. And so he hired green horns from other countries. Had a Swede and couple Germans Pa Pa spoke fluent German. His brother Charlie owned the Sutter Shade Co. and he threw Pa Pa a lot of work and Vice Versa.

...His favorite past time was drinking and his favorite sport was drinking and his hobby was drinking get the Picture. He was a Drunk.

He hardly ever came home only long enough to get mama pregnant he had a room in a hotel down town. And it was his office too.

If mama needed money she went to his banker the Barender where he spent a lot of time and money and she would get fifty dollars and tell him put it on Johns Tab. Tell him I was here and if he ever gets in our neighborhood to stop in Wed like to see him....

07 June 2013

Ester Williams

Pulling from a past post on Ester Williams. This wonderful actress and athlete died this week. What happiness she brought to so many. May she rest in peace.

From a conversation I had with my mother in 2006 (my mom died 3 months ago):

Well, the first question might be who the hell is Esther Williams? She's a movie star that swam in all of her films. Glitzy, splashy Hollywood style movies (couldn't resist the pun).

Muzzy (nearly 80) saw a commercial with a young, really young, mom cooing to her adorable, chubby baby. "That's Esther Williams' baby. Isn't it cute?"

"Nah, nah, that's not Esther Williams. THE Esther Williams, you mean?"

"YE-E-E-S," she said sarcastically, "Esther Williams. You know Esther Williams?"

"The swimmer."

"Yes. She's wonderful in all her movies."

"That's not Esther Williams. She's like 80."

"What? Oh, stop. That was her right there."

"Mom, she's older than you. That woman was in her twenties."

"Esther Williams is maybe 40 at the most."


Then, she used my full name, middle name and all! "Yes, she's young. That's her baby."

"Her daughter's baby, maybe, or her granddaughter's baby. But Esther is OLD. Too old for babies."

"She is not. Don't be ridiculous." Now she's angry.

"Ok, I'll go google her." And I left the room knowing that no matter what I found out she wouldn't believe me.

When I returned, I said, "She was a member of the 1940's Olympic Team and her first movie was with Mickey Rooney. And I think he's dead. She's old."

"Now I know you are making things up. He is not dead, he's about 50."

I'm thinking I should just give up about now. Obviously, she wants Esther to be young, eternally, as she is in all the films. But something drives me to pursue this ludicrous venture. "When did you see her movies?"

"I don't know. They're on from time to time."

"No, I mean first see her in the movies." Then, I jump to the chase. "She was born in 1922. You were born in 1927. It be--like you having a baby."

"Well,............................ she's just 40. You're wrong. Not 1922, that must be someone else."

Here we go, I pushed her wheelchair through the house to the computer and showed her the Wikepedia on Esther Williams which was showing a photo of Esther at about 20.

"Yes, that's her. Look, see, she's still young."

"IN THE PHOTO, mom. Not today. Read this--born in 1922."

"Oh. I can't believe that."

So, we go back to the kitchen and she says, "I bet no one knows that."

"Everyone knows she's 80 something. I'll call someone and ask. I bet your sister knows." She scowlls at me as I pick up the phone and dial. "Hi, hey, do you by chance know how old Esther Williams is?"

"I guess she's about 40. Why?"

I am shocked and appauled. Has the world gone mad? Is this a dream? "When did you first see her movies?"

"I guess when I was young."

"How old?"

"When we were in school we used to go watch her in the movies."

"It's 2006. How old is Esther Williams."

Gasp! "She must be in her 80's."

"I am handing the phone to my mother. Tell her how old Esther Williams is."

My mother's face says it all. Esther, we now all agree, is 85.

Why do I feel NO relief, no sense of having won the battle. I feel guilty. I've taken away their false reality. What difference does it make if Esther Williams is 25, 40, or dead? I really did think she was dead actually. So, I guess I'm happy to find out she isn't. We should all be happy she's alive and well and recuperating from an infection for which she was hospitalized in sunny California.

Moral of the story: We are only as old as we feel until someone comes along and throws cold water with an old swimmer in it right in our lap.

26 May 2013

Celebrating 10 Blogging Years!

Happy Anniversary Blog O'Mine. To honor this occasion  I am posting the first post from May 16, 2003.

Joy Blogging
How can sitting all day with your eyes on the screen
make you think of new things and say what you mean?
The keys are alive with the power of words
though the thought of it all is something absurd.
In Bloggsville they type and they type and they scroll.
They read and they search trying to make themselves whole.
But all that arrives on the screen are the bits,
the tids and the flotsom and whatever fits.
The blogging goes on, day in, and day out,
as they wonder out loud and shift with each doubt.
It's a Zeuslike land all the words that they blog.
Yet, the bloggers blog on, blog, blog, blog-blog, blog.

originally published online May 16, 2003 FIRST POST - title has been updated

Since then, I've met some famous authors and asked them what they would blog about today if they could. Here are two of them:

The tenth years begins with postings from Eastern Europe. I stowed away on one of my husband's business trips, discovered Moscow's treasures, archeological wonders of Ostrava (Czech Republic), and perfect parks in Pszczyna (Poland; pronounced CHINya). Here's a photo preview.

23 April 2013

Legally Happy

Get it while you can. Tylenol not only dulls physical pain, but takes the stings out of social rejection, too. Study results indicate acetaminophen goes straight to the neural center controlling physical pain and emotional distress. If you find yourself feeling those existential blues, take two Tylenol.

Drinking and acetaminophen don't mix. Too much even without alcohol can lead to an overdose.  Hundreds die each year from too much acetaminophen. If two tablets don't  perk you up and the existential downer lingers, you may have to make a change in the people with whom you associate.

Depression can "rub off" on others. Recent studies show that cognitive vulnerability is contagious. If your friends respond with pessimism, angst, and a mood slump to less than perfect situations, you may find yourself needing to take two Tylenol to lift your spirits.

20 April 2013

Life With a View

In the fictionalized account of JFK's assassination, one of Stephen King's characters says, "Life turns on a dime. Sometimes towards us, but more often it spins away, flirting and flashing as it goes: so long, honey, it was good while it lasted, wasn’t it?" Not many people embrace the kind of change described in that line. Some people avoid change at any cost. I live somewhere in between the two, ordinarily waiting for change to come to me, which happens more often than not. This time I chose change on my own. One week later, I have no regrets.

My reasons for leaving (what to some would appear) a good job made sense to me, though articulating the rationale for others has not been easy. Maybe the main motivation came from my gut--an intuitive knowing that life needed to turn. So I tossed the coin and let it turn.

Several articles written about knowing when to change jobs helped me discern whether my gut reaction had value. The best one lists six reasons to quit a job, all of which were a near perfect fit:

  • You dread going to work in the morning.
  • You truly dislike the type of work you're doing.
  • You can't shake the feeling that you just don't fit in at the company.
  • You are getting passed over for promotions.
  • The work has become so routine you could do it in your sleep.
  • You have serious concerns about the financial stability of your organization.
Two other articles had more than a few statements that rang true for my experience. Every friend I have knew I wanted to leave and probably wondered when I would stop complaining and jump. They all seemed to know better than I knew what a poor fit the job had become.

I have the dime in hand and have taken a good long look at the other side of change. Not bad. The journey of life often goes uphill, requiring more than a dime's worth of effort and risk. At the top of the hill I don't expect to see anything except a new view, another hill, maybe a ravine to cross or a steep cliff, and many more hills to climb. The last hill was good while it lasted. And the view from the top? It's worth a million!

[Photos: Vancouver] 


19 April 2013

If It Feels Good, Must Be Dopamine

Did they spend a lot of money on this study to find this out?
And who gets to participate in these studies?

"If you take just a sip of beer, and moments later—before you’ve had close to enough alcohol to get intoxicated, perhaps even before the beer has hit your stomach—feel a distinctly pleasurable sensation, it might not be strictly due to subtle aromas that result from the beverage’s blend of malt, hops and yeast. The cause of your pleasure might be due to tangible changes in your brain chemistry—specifically, a surge in levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine."

Do they know about other things leading to surges in dopamine? Will there be more studies? They could just pay me to tell them how to increase the dopamine and pleasure in life.

Or they could just guess, like this: "The researchers believe this could be a clue as to why some people are predisposed towards alcoholism—and why it’s more difficult for them stay on the wagon if they’re trying to quit." Yes, a clue!

14 April 2013


the journey has begun
it's the first weekend
of the rest of my life
and all the people who want to tell me
who i'm supposed to be
have been left behind

a new dawn
a new day

and i'm feelin' good

do you know how i feel?
 sing along

I've always liked the time before dawn because...

On the First Day

on the first day
of the rest of my life
i did not take out the trash

i had a second latte

the first day 12 April 13

09 April 2013

Do you have a doppleganger? I met mine when we lived in Indiana. People stopped me in stores to talk about upcoming dinners, meetings, our children. Except.... I had no idea who they were. Soon I learned that they had  mistaken me for Gayle, a woman who looked enough like me to confuse just about everyone. Since I was new in town, I suppose it is more correct to say that I looked like her. We moved from Indiana in 1996 and I have not seen Gayle since then. I wonder if, as we've aged, we still look alike.

Mirror Art

Self-portrait on bathroom mirror

Self-portrait on mirror
Watercolor markers make great art on bathroom mirrors. And as long as the art holds up (steamy showers don't help) the mirror doesn't have to be cleaned.

13 February 2013

Photo is care of urbanfig.com --where you can find out more than enough about organic food

I first heard about Bento lunches on NPR. That's where I hear about everything because I'm a faithful (addicted) listener. Japanese children enjoy lunch at school because their mothers make itzy-cute lunches with creativity only surpassed by the nutritional value. When my children were little--and the Rolling Stones were young--we made banana faces on pancakes with strawberry red hair and raisin noses. We decorated bologna with shredded cheese for hair and olives for a nose. We had books on "Feed Your Kids Right" that told us kids will eat things that are cute. In my house, that worked for awhile. Eventually, cute wore off and the oldest daughter regressed into a picky eater snubbing her 8-yr-old nose at vegetables, which lasted until she was in high school and became a dedicated vegetarian, dedicated to saving cows, pigs, and chickens. Urbanfig's photo of uber-cute food design tells me that I didn't try hard enough. Now that I have grandsons, I have another chance. I'm going for the pirate ship!

13 January 2013

Lessons from the Lounge Lizard

Drama in nature can be shocking. Life moves from one day to the next, daring us to rest in complacency. We presume to plan our hours, manage and control our time, weighing our options. Even when we swim upstream overcoming obstacles at every turn, we rarely notice the signs that could tell us of a far greater power at work in the world. In one split second, life changes. 

Nature teaches us about natural consequences. I shot this accidental video in Sanur, Bali (Indonesia). The sound track came later, back home. This hungry  poolside lounge "lizard" has an attitude about life. Some days I'm the fish, some days I'm the lizard. It's all about attitude. In this case, BALI-tude!