Friday, October 30, 2009

My name should be ... WTF??

Here's a fun, fast thing to do when you've had enough of, well, whatever you've had enough of. It's the Betty Brown Name Generator. See, if you've got a name that's ... you know, foreign ... and no one can pronounce it, this will give you a real American name.

And you know, now that I've done it, I do feel just like a real American. Quick! Get me my Kate Smith CD! Oh, gosh, I think I just might cry.

My Betty Brown Approved Name is LaVerne "Cracker Barrel" Brown.
Take Betty Brown Name Generator today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

Hat tip to Ramona Creel, who has a truly amazing website.

And by the way, I really do have a Kate Smith CD. You wanna make something of it?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How do you do this parenting thing again?

So, I'm just wondering... purely hypothetically, of course... Where, exactly, is the line between "strict-but-fair mom" and "overbearing-and-codependent bitch"?

And no, she hasn't called me either one.

I have a feeling that parenting a teenager is a lot like parenting a toddler: by the time you figure out what works, it doesn't work anymore.


Monday, October 26, 2009

What We Were Like: The Food Edition

I am one very lucky alcoholic. No relapses (yet). No DUIs, no loss of family (at least, not due to drinking), no jail, no institutions… I mean, I have really been blessed so far. And it's not because I've worked an amazing program, because I haven't.

Food, on the other hand… Well, I haven’t been so fortunate there. In recovery lingo, I’m a chronic relapser. At 5’0”, my adult weight has ranged from under 100 pounds (for about 30 seconds) to a very spherical 245. I may be a high-bottom drunk, but I’m a skid row food addict.

Lately, I’ve been able to manage the addiction with some success. I lost 55 pounds from my high of 245. But in just the past month, I’ve regained almost 8 pounds. Left to my own devices, I will gain it all back and then some.

There’s a lot I don’t know about dealing with food addiction – I mean, it’s not like alcohol, where you can just quit. But I do know one thing: I need to remember just what full-blown binging will do to me, just like I need to remember my last drunk.

So that’s what this post is about: what my life was like at my highest weight, which is where I lived until about two years ago.

I’ve discovered that being overweight has a lot in common with quantum physics. Let me explain. You know how physical matter starts to behave weirdly as the temperature approaches absolute zero? Fine, so maybe you didn’t. Take my word for it: strange quantum-mechanic stuff happens at super-low temperatures.

Well, weight gain is like that. Up to a certain point, being fat is mostly about tight clothes, some shortness of breath, and not being able to cross your legs. But at a certain threshold weight, the rules change, and it becomes something completely different in scope and effect.

I’m not sure what my threshold weight is, but I was above it at 245 and I'm below it now.

At 245, my weight affected every aspect of my life. A trip to the grocery store required a careful calculation: How far away could I park and still make it all the way to the back of the store without having to sit down?

My feet and ankles were permanently swollen, and the skin felt so tight I sometimes worried that it would split right open. I had constant pain in my feet and my back. I wore a size 3X when I could find it. I stopped buying shoes with laces, because I couldn’t reach to tie them. I fell more easily and more often, and getting up was difficult and humiliating. I snored. All the time. Really, really loudly.

I discovered that stepstools and ladders and chairs had weight limits, so I had to start reading labels to make sure stuff wouldn’t collapse under me. At recovery meetings, I had to be careful when I stood up, to make sure the plastic armchair didn’t come up with me. I could just barely fit into a standard restaurant booth; anything even slightly smaller and I found myself smashed in – that is, if I could get in at all. Getting in the car was a challenge, too. Oh, and riding on airplanes was fun; did you know they have seatbelt extensions for fat people? That was embarrassing enough, but it was even worse knowing I was crowding the other people on my row.

I couldn’t get life insurance. I couldn’t get a job. Dating – once I became single again – was out of the question.

One of the worst quantum weight effects had to do with personal hygiene. To put it bluntly, I couldn’t reach my own ass. So I had to use a long back-brush when I showered. There was no way to wipe after going to the bathroom, so I just hoped for the best. That worked, sort of (well, not really), while I was reasonably healthy. But when I wasn't so healthy, I had to ask my soon-to-be ex-wife for help whenever I went to the bathroom. Talk about your good times!

(I'm sorry. I know that's really disgusting. But it's part of what waits for me if I go too far off the beam.)

Even all of that – as truly awful as it was – wasn’t as bad as what it did to my soul. Quantum weight obliterated it. I don't suppose someone so heavy can be described as a "shell," but whatever was on the outside was impenetrable armor for, well, less and less. What was left of me emotionally was distorted beyond all recognition. It was like a flashlight with an old battery; I could get a little light out of it every now and then, but each time I tried, the light grew dimmer. I really don't know how much longer that light would have come on at all. And I was fully aware that this was happening -- that it was only a matter of time before I drank or killed myself or had a heart attack; and so every morning brought more hopelessness and more destructive eating. I became increasingly isolated as the shame became more unrelenting. That was one reason (read: excuse) I didn’t want to go to meetings anymore.

Quantum weight took a toll on my daughter, too. We both realized that I might well have a stroke or heart attack before she finished growing up. But even for her, I couldn’t seem to stop.

So that’s what life was like at 245. Incomprehensible demoralization. In a word, hellish.

And that life is still out there waiting for me. Statistically speaking, that’s what my future holds – and then some. The question is, how do I beat the odds?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Brief Sojourn into Sarah Palin’s Swampland

I’m brave. I’m very, very brave, and adventurous, too, and I’m not afraid to get dirty in the Quest For Truth. You see, I just ventured onto Sarah Palin’s Facebook page to confirm a quote. And now my hiking boots are covered with slimy, icky goo.

I know, I know. I’m being mean and snarky. But at least I’m not playing that idiotic word game that’s so popular these days, where I call her Sarah Pablum or say she’s a member of the Repubozo party. That stupid trick is an instant credibility-killer.

Anyway… Here’s the quote I was after – you can read it while I hose off my boots:
[Some guy she’s endorsing for Congress] stands for the principles that all Republicans should share: smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense, and a commitment to individual liberty.
The guy she’s endorsing – one Doug Hoffman – happens to be a member of the Conservative Party. As in, he’s not a Republican. But all that is irrelevant to this post. As a matter of fact, I really don’t give a crap who he is.

No, the part that interests me is Palin’s representation of Republican core values. Especially that thing about individual liberty. I mean, just whose liberty is she talking about? Certainly not mine. If Palin had her way, I couldn’t get married anywhere on the planet. I probably couldn’t adopt, teach, or work near children, either -- nor could most of my friends. Of course, abortion would be out of the question. And no learning about safe sex; just abstinence. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Individual liberty? Sure! For everyone who thinks, looks, and believes exactly like Palin. And that's an exclusive group that probably doesn't even include her own children.

Oh, my. I’m getting all icky again just thinking about it. Bring me back the hose!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good News At Last!

I am delighted to report that the Senate and House have passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which expands the federal hate crime laws to cover violence based on disability, sexual orientation, and (hallelujah!) gender identity. Now it just awaits the President's signature, and all indications are that he will sign. Now THAT'S change we can believe in!

Here's the link:;jsessionid=7957B8747B6A517D0EA38031B64D0D97.live7ib

Regrets 'R' Us

My, I’m full of angsty goodness today. My wonderful kid just turned seventeen. Seventeen! Let me say it a few more times so I can get used to it: Seventeen. Seventeen. Seh… ven… teen. One-Seven. Seven-freaking-teen. Seventeen-seventeen-seventeen-seventeen.

Nope. Soooo not feeling it.

I want it on record that I expressly forbade her from doing it. Even threatened to ground her for the rest of her life. But that headstrong kid of mine completely ignored me and turned seventeen anyway.

So…about my kid. She’s a shining, ancient soul; visionary and full of talent, which she doesn’t like for me to notice. And while her vision is a great gift, I think it is sometimes a heavy burden as well. Being seventeen doesn’t make that any easier. As a result, sometimes she suffers. And I suffer for her, alternately blaming God and myself (well, mostly myself) for her dysphoria.

As we approach the day when she leaves home (she wants to move to the West coast the second she’s done with high school), I find myself increasingly frustrated by the many mistakes – some very serious – that I made as a parent.

Yet I know that regretting the past – and dreading the future, with its bleak empty-nestedness – accomplishes only one thing: it pulls me away from my amazing kid, who is still at home and who resides only in the here and now.

Seventeen. Maybe there’s some parallel universe where I got it right. Where she got to be her age every single day and lived in a reasonably clean house. Where she didn’t have to compete for attention with a chaotic mélange of animals and filth and cold water. Where I only made promises I could keep. Where I baked pies and cakes, and cooked real meals in a real oven.

As I sit in this place full of regrets, though, it’s only fair that I credit myself for three things I’ve done right, at least most of the time: I’ve loved her, I’ve let her be who she is, and I’ve enjoyed her. Those were the three things I set out to do when I became a mother. I still think those things are important.

And one more thing that probably matters: My kid has never seen me drunk. Whatever else I screwed up, I got that much right. I’m hoping that counts for something in the grand scheme of things.

Still… Sometimes wish I could go back and do it right.

Oh, all right. Seventeen… Seventeen. I’ll get used to it, eventually. Yeah… Probably about the time she turns eighteen.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I've been had! Hats off to the Yes Men.

As part of my regular job, I report on current newsy developments. For example, I've been following the corporate fallout resulting from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's opposition to a climate bill. Specifically, Nike and other companies are bailing out of the US COC in protest of its position. As well they should.

So you can imagine how pleased I was to see a story today about the US COC's reversal of its position.. Titled "A Survival Strategy for Free Enterprise Over the Long Term," the article contained this language:
Climatologists tell us that if we don't enact dramatic reductions in carbon emissions today, within 5 years we could begin facing the propagating feedback loops of runaway climate change. That would mean a disruption of food and water supplies worldwide, with the result of mass migrations, famines, and death on a scale never witnessed before.

Needless to say, that would be bad for business.
Yeah. I guess it would.

Sadly, the Chamber has not come to its senses after all.

Nope. It was a hoax, brought to you by the Yes Men. And who are they, you may ask. These are folks who impersonate representatives of bad-guy corporations. The idea is to bring public attention to bad policy through a twisted approach that combines Candid Camera, Truth or Consequences (I'm really dating myself here) and good old-fashioned civil disobedience.

I like it and I'm gonna keep my eyes on these guys. But I wish I'd thought of it first.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Your bathroom too? My goodness, you ARE progressive!

Anybody who thinks racism is a thing of the past isn’t paying attention. Or maybe I’m just in a time warp and it’s not really 2009. (It is 2009, isn’t it?)

Meet Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell from Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. He kinda has an itty bitty little problem with marrying interracial couples. Just doesn’t do it. He has turned down four couples in the last three years. This time, it looks like Mr. Bardwell said no to the wrong couple. They’re going to the Justice Department, and I’m looking forward to a happy ending.

But back to Judge Bardwell. He swears he’s not a racist. No, really. He’s not! Here, let him explain: “’I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way,’ Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. ‘I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.’”

Oh, okay, I get it now. If you let them use the same bathroom, it’s not racism. Well, thank you for clearing that up. I guess it’s just never been explained to me that way before.


Then, a few days ago, I came across this other charming little item about a restaurant in Paulding County, Georgia. On its website, this place bills itself as the “original Klan, klam, and oyster bar.” No, I’m not kidding. And by the way, I’m not posting this guy’s website link because I don’t want to give him any more traffic that he’s already getting. If you want it, you’ll have to find it yourself. But I already looked, and trust me: it’s as bad as it sounds. Maybe even worse.

You know, I’ve seen more of this stuff in the past few weeks than I think I’ve seen in the past five years. Earlier this week, Hatewatch posted another one – this one about “filthy Jews,” brought to you by everybody’s favorite civil rights promoter, the Westboro Baptist Church.

We are not in a time warp. It really is 2009. But don't kid yourself: Jimmy Carter is absolutely right.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dancing with the President

Our new President has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – much to the surprise of, well, pretty much everybody. And Fidel Castro, bless his heart, told us how happy he is about it.

(Note to Castro: Thanks, big fella, really! But, um, please stop helping us. Seriously. We’re having enough trouble convincing people that Obama isn’t a communist.)

Anyway, I’m glad the President won. It’s a good indication of how quickly the world’s perception of the United States has changed since he took office. Pretty amazing, considering that our last administration pretty much trashed the global economy and turned us into barbaric conquistadores (among many, many other dastardly deeds).

But, I digress.

What I really want to talk about is President Obama’s speech Friday night at the Human Rights Campaign dinner. I watched it after the fact, with mixed feelings.

Obama gave a great speech, as usual. In fact, it was his usual speech.

Many in the LGBT community are frustrated that he’s not doing more, faster. I have to admit, I’m frustrated myself. How hard can it be for the Commander in Chief to order the military to stop prosecuting DADT cases?

Still, I am not ready to oppose an administration that is doing more for the LGBT community – and doing it publicly – than any previous administration.

So how, then, should we react to Obama’s support? Should we be pissed off and protest that he’s not doing more? Or should we lay off for a while so the man can do his job?

The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” We should let the man do his job. And we should continue to protest, because we’re unsatisfied with the progress we’re making.

And wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly what Obama is telling us to do:

[I]t's so important that you continue to speak out, that you continue to set an example, that you continue to pressure leaders -- including me -- and to make the case all across America.

See, here’s the thing. Some people think Obama wants us to tap dance for him, showering him with continued support and praise even as he does nothing.

But I think Obama is asking us to dance with him, not for him: He is not asking us to be satisfied. He’s pretending to ask that we be satisfied, with the understanding (wink, wink, nod, nod) that we will refuse to wait. That allows our struggle to stay in the spotlight while Obama tries to save the world. (thanks a lot, Dubbya)

Let me say that again: Obama is pretending to ask that we be satisfied. He is asking us to dance with him, not for him. And he is asking us to lead.

Obama’s speech demonstrated that he gets our issues. He is with us. I absolutely believe that. But he’s one guy trying to reconstruct a badly damaged nation in the face of unprecedented political, economic, and physical challenges. Make no mistake about it: there really is a “vast rightwing conspiracy,” and the other side is perfectly content using every tool at his disposal -- including racism and homophobia. The vitriol against this administration is unlike any I have ever seen before.

So under the circumstances, what would we have Obama do? Well, what would you do, if you believed in LGBT equality but also believed – with good reason – that taking action now would trigger a powerful backlash and actually delay equality while undermining work on other important issues?

I’d do exactly what Obama is doing. I would pledge my support publicly; I would do my best to lay the groundwork, building public support while working behind the scenes. And I would trust the community to keep the issue alive and up front.

That’s not nothing. Consider his language:

…it's not for me to tell you to be patient, any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African Americans petitioning for equal rights half a century ago…You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman.

Now, even if you believe that this is just so much empty rhetoric, one thing is undeniably true: no U.S. president has ever before expressed such clear support for LGBT rights.

Don’t ever doubt the power of the spoken word, especially when it’s repeated over and over again. Few things are more powerful. Just look at Anita Bryant’s success in the 1970s. There, words worked against us. But words can work for us, too.

I mean, come on: every time Obama talks about gay rights, I can hear angry, fragile little wingnut brains exploding all around me. Pop! Pop-pop! Pop! Squeeeeeeeeee! What fun!

Remember, too, the important lessons of Brown v. Board of Education. In that case, the Supreme Court struck down Plessy v. Ferguson, finding that the concept of “separate but equal” is unconstitutional, thus outlawing segregation. Brown came about because the NAACP Legal Defense Fund developed and implemented a methodical, long-term strategy. They brought carefully selected cases before the courts, adding one small handful of precedential sand at a time. By the time Thurgood Marshall argued Brown before the Supreme Court, the NAACP had made it next to impossible for the Court to rule any other way – hence, its unanimous decision.

So, we will continue fighting for equal rights. We will protest. We will be loud and we won’t take no for an answer. Public opinion will continue to turn in our favor, unless we do something stupid.

In other words, we will continue to dance with the President. We will lead, and he will follow and support us. It is, after all, our fight.

That said...

Mr. President, I’ve looked at the statute and I believe you can reverse DADT without authorization from Congress. Right now, today. I can show you how, but then I’m sure you already know.

Please issue an executive order immediately. And I’m not winking.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Who cares about the Nobel Peace Prize when there's Craigslist?

It's the beginning of a three-day weekend and I don't feel like thinking too hard. So, I'll punt to Best-of-Craigslist. At least I might be punting. To be honest, I don't know what punting is. Sports term = eyes glazing over.

Anyway.... I hereby punt-or-something to Best-of-Craigslist. Lots of fun stuff. Here's a sampling:

26 Feb 2009 - wdc - You worthless bag of filth. Okay, I'm filled with self-loathing (ask anybody!), but even I don't hate me this much. This just might be my favorite Craigslist ad EVER.

25 May 2009 - den - Free couch, if you can bend time and/or space

11 Jul 2009 - srq - How NOT to annoy your tourist area store employee

There's lots more where that came from. Enjoy.

Oh, wait, I almost forgot: Congrats, Mr. Prez!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Mr. SponsorPants versus Dr. Seuss

Ya know, I've been surfing the web for hours (really, hours!)trying to find something to write about that (a) pisses me off enough to write about it, but (b) doesn't piss me off so much it makes my head explode, and (c) can be adequately addressed within about five minutes to accommodate my very short attention span.

No luck, I'm afraid. So instead, enjoy a simple little poetry slam from Mr. SponsorPants.

I would have enjoyed his post even he didn't have the best blog name ever.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

For Peter and James on their Wedding Day …

Tomorrow, James and Peter are getting married. Legally. In Massachusetts. Congratulations!!

I love weddings. I’ve been a bride four times with two different partners. In 1977, I married my (male) high school sweetheart. We renewed our vows 10 years later in a small church ceremony. Eventually – sadly – we went our separate ways.

Then, at the beginning of the new millennium my partner M and I were joined in a lovely church wedding. A few months later, we went to Vermont to make it legal – well, at least as legal as it could be for lesbians back then: we had a civil union ceremony before a Vermont justice of the peace.

I have lots of wonderful memories of all four ceremonies: Having long conversations full of imagination and promise. Picking out the music. Choosing the wedding party. Selecting the guests. Registering for gifts. Ordering the food and the flowers. Worrying about the outcome. As each ceremony grew closer, we watched time speed up exponentially as we realized how much was left to do. And then, on the big day, we finally relaxed and enjoyed ourselves; we knew we had done all we could.

But of all these cherished experiences, none is more important to me than our Vermont ceremony. I will never forget the chill I got when our judge said, “By the power vested in me by the state of Vermont…” As our little party stood in the drawing room of that old bed and breakfast – just the judge, my aunt and uncle, and my partner and I – the authority and weightiness of that phrase – “the power vested in me by the state of Vermont” – was palpable.

At the time, we were considered pioneers for getting joined in a civil union. Not many people had gone to Vermont. I was surprised and touched by the interest others took in our ceremony. (You were one of them, James.)

Now I understand better why our friends felt so invested in what we did. With every civil union, the LGBT community became just a little bit more equal; and at the same time, Americans became just a little less afraid. The smallest incremental steps taken by individual couples, when added together, became the journey of an entire community.

Fast forward to 2009. Gay marriage is now legal in Vermont, Massachusetts, and a few other states. Public opinion has shifted significantly. Even some conservatives are willing to consider civil unions. But we are no longer satisfied with second best. Many of us now see civil unions as a quaint “separate but equal” artifact whose time has passed.

So now, James and Peter, you are getting married. Now, you are the pioneers. We know that our tomorrows will improve just a little bit the minute you say “I do.” You are clearing a path ahead for the rest of us, and for that we are all indebted to you.

Thank you for your bravery and determination. May you live happily ever after!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Scary Political Jihadism

Today in the LA Times, Neal Gabler provides a thoughtful - and grim - prognosis for American political discourse. It's worth your time. Don't forget to read the comments, which illustrate Gabler's thesis with disturbing eloquence. Here's the link:,0,7817347.story

Bill Moyers does it again

Thanks to Church of the Bad News (and youtube, of course) for this excellent commentary by Bill Moyers on health care.

Church of the Bad News