Friday, December 23, 2011

The 2011 Gay Picture of the Year

Congratulations to Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta, serving on the USS Oak Hill, and her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell. The ship has just returned to Virginia following an 80-day deployment, and Gaeta won the raffle to give the first homecoming kiss. Snell is stationed on the USS Bainbridge. They met shortly after boot camp, and they've been together for two years. This is the first time a same-sex couple has had the honor of the first kiss.

Bilerico has named this image its 2011 Gay Picture of the Year.

I love, love, love this picture! 

In search of "Reel Injun"

So anyway, I was looking for something to pass some time, and while I was nosing around Netflix I happened upon "Reel Injun," a documentary exploring the depiction of Native Americans in film. The movie is the work of Neil Diamond (no, not that Neil Diamond), a Canadian member of the Cree Nation.

Right off the bat, Diamond won me over when he said he would need a "rez car" for his cross-country quest in search of Indians on film. I couldn't help but remember my time working on the Navajo Nation where many houses, cars, fences, and pretty much everything else were held together with baling wire and duct tape. You make do with what you've got.

(The mother in me does say, though, that it's damn crazy to trust a rez car to take you thousands of miles. We had a rez car for short time, and ours couldn't even get us from Window Rock to Gallup. Just saying.)
Filmmaker Neil Diamond and his rez car

At any rate, Reel Injun is a study of Native Americans on film, beginning at the turn of the 20th century when movie technology was brand new.  Diamond weaves a rich tapestry through liberal use of movie clips and interviews with prominent actors, writers, and activists.

Although the film is thick with dialogue, Diamond does occasionally use silence (or, more accurately, the strategic lack of narration) to make a point. For instance, one scene involves a boys' summer camp that claims to be based on Native American culture. Once the context is explained, Diamond turns the camera on the boys for several minutes but provides no commentary, so we're left to reach our own conclusions. Here's mine: the boys and the staff did an excellent job mimicking obnoxious, unruly football fans, and I felt like I should be doing something about it.

Diamond's strategic silence, however, almost lost me in one particularly disturbing scene. He visits a rez classroom of second or third graders and has the teacher show them a massacre scene from either Dances with Wolves. or Little Big Man (sorry, I don't remember which). His point: many Indian kids nowadays have never been exposed to these brutal images. As we hear the audio from the scene in the background, Diamond focuses, without commentary, on close-ups of the children's faces as they watch. While none of the kids seemed visibly shocked, all looked troubled and transfixed. I understand what Diamond was after, but the idea of purposely traumatizing small children is nearly as horrifying as the footage they were watching. I sure hope those kids got some help processing what they saw.

Other than that, the film's flaws are minor. For example, he could have made clearer the route he took on his cross-country journey. In addition, I would have liked to hear more about his story, rather than the heavy emphasis on the interviewees. That, of course, is simply a matter of personal taste, but a greater blending of his quest with the subject matter might have provided more depth and color.

Since I love a happy ending, I was gratified that Diamond showcased films made by indigenous people for indigenous people. Diamond focused on two films: Smoke Signals and Fast Runner.  I've seen the former and enjoyed it; I look forward to seeing the latter.
Oh, but above all, there was that golden moment when I just about melted: For a couple seconds, a little house appeared onscreen accompanied by the caption, "Navajo, New Mexico." Navajo is a town of less than 3,000 people, close to where we lived. My kid attend daycare in Navajo for about three years, beginning when she was just a year old. We still treasure the Pendleton blankets the staff gave us when we moved away -- one for me, one for her dad, and one kid-sized blanket for my daughter. Fond memories, indeed.

Anyway, I recommend Reel Injun, which you can view via Netflix's instant queue. In the meantime, I will contemplate the exquisite landscape of the Navajo Nation, which tugs at me still.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Sweet dreams, Harry Morgan.

The venerable Harry Morgan, 96, passed away at his home yesterday morning. If you watched television any time between 1960 and 1983 ever, you saw his work. He was best known for his parts in Dragnet and M*A*S*H, but he was pretty much everywhere. This clip from The Jack Benny Show demonstrates his ability to make any line funny.

Lucky us, that he was in our midst for nearly a century.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

I want Hillary Clinton for Chanukah.

If you haven't heard Hillary Clinton's historic United Nations speech on LGBT rights, I hope you'll take the time to listen. I felt moved and empowered as I watched Clinton speak out for equal rights in her official capacity as Secretary of State. Thirty minutes, very well spent.

It's

Oh, yes. Time marches forward.

I'm very pleased to report that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled unanimously in favor of Vandy Beth Glenn, the woman who was fired from the Georgia legislature after she announced her intention to transition from male to female. Here's the opinion.

Ms. Glenn worked as an attorney/editor for the Georgia General Assembly's Office of Legal Counsel ("OLC").When she was hired in 2005, she still lived as a man, but that year she began transitioning; and she began living as a woman outside of work. In 2006, she informed her supervisor of her intention to transition fully, and in 2007, she informed her supervisor that she would now be living full time as a woman.

Sewell Brumby, head of the OLC, was not pleased by this news, and he fired Ms. Glenn, stating that
her "intended gender transition was inappropriate, that it would be disruptive, that some people would view it as a moral issue, and that it would make Glenn’s coworkers uncomfortable." (slip op. at 4).

Ms. Glenn sued in federal court, alleging that Brumby discriminated against her because of her sex (specifically, for her failure to conform to male stereotypes concerning clothing) in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The district (trial) court granted Ms. Glenn summary judgment on the sex-discrimination cause of action (Ms. Glenn had also alleged she was denied equal protection because of her medical diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder, but the court ruled against her with regard to that issue).

On appeal, the circuit court found that "discrimination against a transgender individual because of her gender non-conformity is sex discrimination," noting a split among circuits. (id. at 9). The court went on:
discrimination on this basis is a form of sex-based discrimination that is subject to heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause. Ever since the Supreme Court began to apply heightened scrutiny to sex-based classifications, its consistent purpose has been to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender stereotypes.
And then, just in case there is still any doubt:  "We conclude that a government agent violates the Equal Protection Clause’s prohibition of sex-based discrimination when he or she fires a transgender or transsexual employee because of his or her gender non-conformity." (slip op. at 16).

Applying the "heightened scrutiny" standard for determining liability for such discrimination,  the court then concluded that Brumby's termination of Ms. Glenn was not substantially related to any sufficiently important governmental interest. On the contrary, her termination was based on Brumby's assertion that transitioning was "unnatural" and "unsettling." In the end, then, the court found that Ms. Glenn was entitled to "all the relief that she seeks."

So kudos to Ms. Glenn, and the other folks on the front lines. It's because of her courageous actions, and the actions of others like her, that the LGBTQ community is making steady legal headway, one small step -- and one precedent -- at a time

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Confession time: My Favorite Deadly Sin

So when my kid was around four or five, one of our favorite games was "Zoo." Each of us would pretend to be a different animal, providing appropriate actions and habits and sound effects. As I recall, plastic food was often involved. Or maybe I'm thinking of a different game.

Anyway, my kid often chose to be either a wolf or an owl, since those were her two favorite animals. I started out being an otter, because I love otters. But being an otter was a lot of work because, you know, they're pretty much always moving. Swim, play, swim, play. And I was pretty much always tired.

So somewhere along the line I took the low road. It's a road I'm not very proud of taking.

I became the sloth.

Because, you see, pretending to be a sloth (complete with appropriate actions and habits and sound effects) meant, well, it meant lying on the couch. On my back, doing nothing except maybe curling my fingers like sloth toes. And I think plastic food may have been involved. Or maybe that was a different game.

So that's my favorite deadly sin: sloth. And should you doubt the absolute coolfulness of the sloth, then I dare you to watch this, forwarded to me today by my fabulous, talented, and incredibly forgiving daughter.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the sloth:


Meet the sloths from Lucy Cooke on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This is not a test.

Excuse me for a little bit while I try to manage the unmanageable. I'll be back momentarily.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wow. What a feeling.

Oh. My. God.
 
Ohmygod!  I just made the last tuition payment on my kid's fall semester! My share: a little over five grand, which I rustled up over a period of four months. A year ago I wasn't sure I could even keep the lights on. 

Okay, so I'm still digging change out of the bottom of my purse. But talk about progress!

Yeah. This feels good. Damn good.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Lazy-Ass Librarian Saturday: Herman Cain on Foreign Policy. Epic Fail.

I've got a lot going on today, but I did want to pass on this must-read article about Herman Cain's "seven biggest foreign policy blunders," compliments of PBS's Need to Know.

This guy makes W. and Palin sound like foreign policy brainiacs. Even if you give him a pass on the sexual harrassment thing (which I most definitely do not), the idea of Cain being our head honcho is, well, a really bad one.

Here is the list itself, but be sure to read the details, too.

1. Cain worries that China is developing nuclear weapons – 40 years after China’s first nuclear test

2. Cain says he would negotiate with terrorists (then immediately takes it back)

3. Cain says a missile defense system would have stopped Iranian assassination plot

4. Cain questions the existence of the Palestinian people

5. Cain doesn’t know what the Palestinian “right of return” is

6. Cain doesn’t know that the government targeted a U.S. citizen for assassination (then flip flops on whether it’s okay)

7. Cain doesn’t care who the president of Uzbekistan is.

And this guy wants to be our president.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

UPDATED: Occupy Wall Street Library. Wow!

Oops! I totally screwed up the last post about Occupy Wall Street Library. So, let's try this again.

Just in case you were wondering why we should care about public libraries, visit Occupy Wall Street Library here. And watch YouTube clip from the library at Occupy Portland, below.

Gosh, it makes me proud to be a subversive librarian. Librarians really are seriously cool, if I do say so myself..

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Today happens to be day two of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. The basic idea is this: a whole bunch of crazy masochists create an online community and spend the whole month of November slaving over individual manuscripts with the goal of writing 50,000 words by the end of the month. It's all about quantity, not quality, which can be pretty liberating.

I actually gave this a shot a few years ago. It probably wasn't the best timing, considering I had a full-time job that required a four-hour daily commute, and I came home each night to a pack of five dogs, five cats, six horses, and a shitload of chaos. Still, I did whip out 11,500 words, which gave me a respectable start on a young-adult novel. Several years later, my little manuscript is now at... uhh... about 11,525 words. Which goes to show you the advantage of doing the whole frantic NaNoWriMo thing.

Anyway, the nonprofit parent company of NaNoWriMo also does some other cool projects.  Most notably for my purposes, they have a Script Frenzy event every April. The goal there: write 100 pages of script in 30 days.

I mention all of this because I get to write a show -- a script -- for our local 2012 LGBT recovery roundup. Since I can't affrord to wait until April to pound out a first draft, I'm cheating. For me, November will be Script Frenzy.  My goal is to write a draft script of 45-60 pages, plus three original songs.

In any event, my posts in November might be a little spotty. Which is to say, it'll be just like always, but with a few more Lazy-Ass Librarian posts to keep things moving along. Meanwhile,I'll do my best to keep watching your blogs, though, and interact with some of my readers there.

Let the frenzy begin!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lazy-Ass Librarian Saturday: Beware the homosexual agenda!

Wow! God is so pissed off at us over the marriage thing that He smote this nice couple's wedding. Very impressive! I can't wait until the annual World Homosexual Agendakeepers Awards to see who will receive the prestigious Platinum Toasteroven for this epic feat.

I went through a couple of storms like this when I was growing up in Phoenix. Watching the coming dust storm approach is an awesome sight indeed. Now, alas, these storms come way more often.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Equal marriage rights? Special rights? How about NO rights?

A few days ago over at Bilerico, Alex Blaze reported on three Marines who received bad-conduct discharges for committing fraud against the United States.

Here are the facts according to the LA Times, which first reported this development: Corporal Ashley Vice, Cpl. Jeremiah Griffin and Cpl. Joseph Garner served at Camp Pendleton, California in the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Corporal Vice is a lesbian; her partner, Jaime Murphy, is a civilian.

Unmarried couples, whether gay or straight, are not allowed to live together on base. Married couples can live on or off the base. If they elect to live off the base, they are eligible for a $1,200 housing allowance.

Naturally, Vice and Murphy wanted to live together, and they needed the married-housing allowance to make it happen. But the federal Defense of Marriage Act limits marriage -- and its accompanying benefits -- to heterosexual couples only. Therefore, even after the demise of don't ask/don't tell, Vice and Murphy could not claim the housing allowance.

Knowing this, Vice and Murphy found two male Marines -- Corporals Griffin and Garner -- who were willing to marry them. The women would then both be in opposite-sex marriages and could receive the married-housing allowance.

The military determined that the three Marines had committed fraud by representing themselves as married to get the housing benefit, and all three were discharged for bad conduct. In addition, the men were fined $5,000 apiece and got three to six months in the slammer. Murphy, a civilian, was not subject to military authority and was not sanctioned.

Now, here's a bit of a twist: The Associated Press version of the story, which is being used by just about everybody, contains a critical ambiguity: 
Three San Diego Marine corporals have been discharged for bad conduct after admitting they faked their marriages to receive housing allowances. . . . Vice has previously said in media coverage that she and her partner were forced to enter sham marriages because they couldn't afford to live off base without the extra money. (emphasis provided)
So which is it? Did the Marines actually get married, or did they just say they did?  Did they forge documents and lie under oath in order to get the allowance? Or did they enter into legal marriages for reasons of convenience? The distinction matters. People who lie about whether they're married should get penalized, even if the law they are trying to circumvent is unjust.

(By the way, I also have a problem with AP's headline, duplicated over and over again by news outlets::  "Three California Marines discharged after faking marriages." Assuming that the Marines did legally marry, they didn't fake anything.  Indeed, the marriages are probably still valid, even if they were a sham.* Saying the marriages were "faked" strikes me as unfairly biased. And unfortunately, even HuffPo repeated the language.)

Assuming the couples actually married -- and that seems to be true here -- the case has intriguing implications for gay-marriage jurisprudence if a similar fact pattern lands in an appellate court.

Think, for a minute, about the oft-heard, right-wing sound bite: "Gays can already marry. They just have to marry a person of the opposite sex. Gays shouldn't ask for special rights."  (I know, I know, I don't buy it either.)

But do we have the right to marry someone of the opposite sex? For those of us in the military, maybe not. An "out" lesbian or gay man who weds someone of the opposite sex would be in a sham marriage, almost by definition. Such a marriage subjects the participants to bad-conduct discharge, fines, and even jail.

So if you're gay and you're in the military, here is your full panoply of marriage options:
(a) Don't get married, or
(b) Marry someone of the opposite sex and land in the pokey.

Some choice, huh?

----------------------------------
*Wikipedia says so. Wikipedia is not worthy of citation if you're writing a brief. But it's okie dokey on this blog.

Friday, October 21, 2011

It's not always about the politics.

Okay, so I was reading a discussion thread on Townhall.com about the "war on Christianity." (yes, it's just about that time of year again). But that's not the subject of my post today. Within the thread I was delighted to find this little bit of dialog. By the way, I am not questioning the sincerity of any of the participants, or their good intentions. 
 ROBERT:  What non-evangelical Christians disapprove of is the appalling ignorance,narrow-mindedness,intolerance and self-righteousness of so many Christians. Their terrible hostility to gay people and blindly irrational fear of the entirely imaginary "sinister gay agenda" to "recruit" children in schools and "corrupt their morality and morality in general.
And the appalling hypocrisy of the anti-choice movement ,which is determined to force poor women to give birth to children they would never be able to support or give birth even if a pregnancy would kill them or ruin their health, or a pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. And the movement's total lack of concern for children who HAVE been born.
ANN: I feel sorry for you with the fullness of my Christian heart. You live in the narrow confines of your groins and see me through the filth, stench and darkness of your groins.
Believe me I could never hate you but pray for you to come out of the hell you insist to dwell in, breathe in some fresh air; see the glory of God's light He created for you too to enjoy. Give yourself the chance to be healthy and joyous as God intended you to be.
DEAN: I'm pretty sure Robert only has one groin.
I've been debating whether to post this -- I try not to make fun of anyone except myself, but this is so sweetly funny in its own twisted way that I couldn't resist. If you think I'm over the line, I hope you'll tell me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Time to get your purple on!

Tomorrow is Spirit Day --  a spin-off of the It Gets Better Project in support of LGBT youth who are being bullied because of their sexual orientation or identity. The Project, as I'm sure readers know, started in response to a tragic series of suicides by LGBT kids after being tormented at school.


Naive as I am, I hoped the bullying and the suicides would stop once the Project gained legs and took off. Alas, I was wrong. It's still happening.

Someday, maybe Spirit Day will just be a fun, gay day to wear purple. For now, though, I pray that when our kids leave the house for school tomorrow, they look around and see support wherever they turn.

Wear purple. Please.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Death, Relapse and Triggers.

I paced slowly behind my students, all focused on the computer screens in front of them, intent on the legal research problems I had assigned. One of my students -- I wasn't sure of her name -- was unusually quiet. "Are you okay?" I asked.

"I'm just not feeling well," she said quietly. I told her to take care of herself and I think I touched her shoulder before I moved on to the next student.

That night, Melissa -- it turns out her name was Melissa -- committed suicide. I went to the funeral, partly out of duty and partly out of grief because I should have at least known her name. As I settled into the pew, I heard the first notes of the song her family had chosen -- "Angel," by Sarah McLachlan -- and I lost it. 

Several family members and close friends spoke; every word was steeped in grief and anger and frustration. It was clear that Melissa was surrounded by good people who loved her, and that she had reached out many times before. This time around, though, she had reached out to no one, to ensure her success. I cried through the entire service, so sorry that I hadn't known her better and so moved by her community. Yet in the following days, I discovered that I wanted to join Melissa, and that feeling lasted for months.

Sometime after that -- I really don't know how long -- I left my partner, and we moved into a place of our own. My sponsor, a brilliant physician, soon joined me in the condo; he had very little money after suffering through some tough medical issues. He was great with my kid and my dog, and it felt good to have recovery in the house. I was glad he was there, because at the time I was crippled by depression and dark thoughts.

One night I heard a crash in the living room. I found my dear sponsor naked, on the floor and unable to speak or walk. It looked like a stroke and I called 911.

Only, it wasn't a stroke. It was a hydrocodone overdose.

Of course, I had to ask him to leave.  For months afterwards, just like with Melissa, I wanted to climb into the abyss with him, to follow him to this liberating place of no accountability. And I was angry. Why the hell should he get to take this irresponsible, selfish path while I was stuck, sober, with the misery of the present?

A few weeks later, he texted me a suicide note. I did what I could, which wasn't much, and fortunately he didn't act on it. As far as I know, he's still out there somewhere, using, and there's nothing I can do now except await the final phone call.

I do miss my sponsor something fierce. I still rely heavily on the last suggestion he gave me when he saw how I interacted with my partner: He said, "Lynne, save yourself."

In the years since then, I've seen other deaths and other relapses. They've brought me sadness and gratitude and a myriad of other emotions, but none has affected me viscerally like Melissa's death, or my sponsor's relapse.

None, that is, until yesterday when I heard about Gary. Gary chose Melissa's path. It's the fourth pointless death in as many weeks in my little recovery community. I knew Gary, although we weren't close. I had watched him grow in sobriety over the years. I was angry and sad and confused, and again, part of me wanted to join him. Not like before, thank goodness. But it was there.

Ironic, isn't it? Just yesterday I blogged about the jagged beauty of watching someone move through hard times in sobriety, and how I add their experience to my store of faith for when I'm in trouble. But I was in trouble now, and I never gave that store of faith a single thought. To tell you the truth, not much crossed my mind at all. I was just pissed off, and terribly sad.

But I took action by rote. I went to a meeting and shared. I answered my phone when it rang. And I made a phone call of my own. although it probably wasn't the one I really needed to make.

I did the next right thing, and now I have another day.

Gary, you had a smile that could light up Yankee Stadium. I love you, my friend, and I'm going to miss you.

I know only one way to do your life justice. So in your memory, and Melissa's and Kevin's and Tom's and Dowman's, I'm going to save myself.

The Subversive Librarian, Whining.

Now, leaving a comment is easier than ever!


Here's the thing: I know you're out there, I can hear you breathing. I know you're reading my modest little blog and I adore you for it!

But gosh, it would be nice to get more comments. Without them, I get all insecure, and it's not pretty. Not pretty at all.

So, I tried to leave myself a comment the other day and guess what I discovered: it was a big pain in the ass. Maybe that's why, I thought to myself. So I've changed the settings to make things easier. Hopefully that was problem, and hopefully I've fixed it.

Of course, it could also be because I don't leave many comments for other bloggers, either. Like, you know, karma, man.

If that's not it, well, I'll just cry. Just cry, and cry, and cry.

So please, think about just leaving a little comment now and then, so I don't cry myself to sleep every night and end up with gooey snot all over my pillow and stuck in my hair.

Oh. And God bless us, everyone.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Faith that works in every situation.

It's a bittersweet truth of sobriety: When the worst happens, and I can no longer turn to my drug of choice, I must find some other way to survive the relentless pain. At those times when the darkness has threatened to consume me, I have relied, clung to, the experience of others who have gone through similar situations and somehow stayed clean.

The thing is, there is divine artistry in a person's ability to endure with gratitude and grace. It teaches me how to survive, yes; but it's more than that. To watch someone transcend tragedy and disappointment is to see god at work.

Once again, my good friend Mark King:


Playing the Last Scene of a Marriage

Monday, October 10, 2011

Say it Ain't So! The Subversive Librarian Becomes a Corporate Shill

Okay, so I've made it a practice to avoid product endorsement in my blog, especially when I'm not getting paid to do it. But here I am, endorsing an online app for personal finance.

Let me give you some background. In the past, I have had a little trouble managing my money. Okay, fine. I've had a lot of trouble.

Now, I'm not talking about problems like this: 
"Oh, Clark Howard, I love your show! Here's my question: I've saved up $250,000 over eight years while I worked my way through Harvard Medical School doing double shifts at McDonald's and cleaning houses on the side. Now that I've graduated, should I put that money into a self-directed individual retirement account or put it into a charitable split-interest trust?"
That there is what you call a Cadillac problem.

No, I'm afraid my money problems (all of my own making) are more of the Yugo variety. In other words, more like this:
"Hello, Georgia Power? Yeah, I just found this disconnect notice in my backpack from two weeks ago, and the deadline for payment was yesterday. I don't get paid for a week and a half. I have $16 in checking and there's probably a couple dollars of change in the car.... No, I really don't have $325. I get paid in a week and a half.... A check by phone? Now? Ummm..... Sure, okay." [Sigh. It may bounce, but at least it will buy me some time and keep the fridge running.]
I wish I was exaggerating. I just fished out my bank statements and tallied up all my overdraft charges for last year. It was bad, really bad. Someday I might tell you just how bad, but not today.

Anyway, I've been trying to get a handle on my finances for, well, pretty much forever. It's been an integral part of my struggle to recover from depression and the "ism" of addiction, and I haven't had much success.

After years of trying to wrap my head around the financial stuff, I heard about Mint.com, which is basically a budgeting app that you can hook up to your bank account. It's free, and has great reviews. But it's not the product I'm endorsing. Mint.com is a terrific product, but it doesn't partner with my bank. So the hell with them.

But I had to find a solution. My kid had gotten accepted into a really good, and really expensive, private college and I wasn't in a position to be much help. As has happened so often, I found strength to do things for her that I couldn't seem to do for myself. So I got rid of my car, pared down my expenses, and looked for a way to manage this monster.

In some moment of clarity (which, at the time, just seemed like pointless footwork), I found EEBA, which stands for Easy Envelope Budgeting Aid. Which, by the way, it isn't. Easy, I mean. But then, I'm pretty much on the short bus when it comes to money management.

EEBA is an online version of a low-tech gimmick: cashing your paycheck and putting all your money into budget envelopes. In EEBA, every time money comes in, the user allocates each dollar to a particular envelope: Housing, food, electric, entertainment, or whatever. This must be done in order to add money, so each paycheck is allocated immediately. Then, every time the user spends money,  she records it, thus taking it out of the appropriate envelope. When that envelope is empty, the amount budgeted for that item is gone.

The basic version of EEBA is free, but with only ten envelopes, I found it pretty useless. For five bucks a month, though, I get all the bells and whistles I need..

EEBA is a pain in the ass to learn, and it's probably pretty clunky as these things go. It took me hours and hours to set up, and at first every transaction took forever. Now, it hums along pretty good, although I do still lose track of cash if I'm not careful about entering transactions.

The results have been beyond dramatic. For one thing, I haven't had a single overdraft charges since I started using EEBA in May. That alone is amazing, for me. But there's more: Before I started using this system, I was hundreds of dollars in the hole every time I got paid. Now, I can comfortably pay my share of college costs each month -- $1,300 -- and tackle small unexpected expenses. And as I slowly clean up my financial wreckage of the past, I even have an occasional latte, guilt free.

That, my friends, is a miracle.

So call me a capitalist tool if you like. Perhaps I am. But I'm also within sighting distance of solvency for the first time in, well, ever.

First. Time  Ever.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Oh, God, I can't resist: Lily's Disneyland Surprise!

All right, I know I shouldn't do a Lazy Ass Librarian post so soon -- especially since I've been pretty unproductive lately, blog-wise. And -- as much as I love kids -- some cute-kid videos make me sort of queasy. But this one... honestly, this one is really quite special.

Please watch it all the way through. Seriously.



Enjoy!

Monday, October 03, 2011

The topic is fear.

I do wish this was a post on right-wing extremism. Heaven knows, the title would fit.

But no; today the fear is of the personal, non-political variety. Fear, in dribs and drabs and occasional dollops, has returned to my life.

When I was drinking, fear enveloped me like a thick fog, or sometimes -- when nothing else seemed familiar -- like a warm, comfortable old blanket. I wrapped my days, my nights, my existence in it. At the end of my drinking fear became a straitjacket, and I was in solitary confinement.

Nothing in my life was exempt: Fear of driving. Fear of tornadoes. Fear of disease. Of nightmares, and of intruders. Fear of ghosts and nuclear war. Fear of fetal alcohol syndrome. Fear of dying. Fear of being frightened to death. Fear that I was insane. Fear of god and of satan, even though I didn't really believe in either one. And most of all, fear of being alone if any of these horrors came to pass.

When I heard thunder in the distance, I'd wonder if this was the storm that would finally bury me in rubble.  When I tried to drive, I knew any car on the road might be aiming for me. When I heard a jet engine overhead, I'd hold my breath until I was sure it wasn't a Soviet fighter plane. Sometimes I slept with lights or music on. Anything, anything to subdue all the terrifying thoughts that came with the darkness.

Just a few months before I quit drinking, my mother came to visit us in Schoolcraft, Michigan and she gave me a driving lesson on the surrounding rural roads. There was almost no traffic, but I was pretty sure that each car we encountered was a threat. Slightly exasperated, my mom finally said to me, "Lynne, honey, you've got to have a little faith!"

Back then it never occurred to me that my fear was connected to drinking, but when I began to work the steps, the fear began to dissipate. Somewhere along the way, I stopped being afraid of the things that used to immobilize me. Not only can I drive, I can drive on the expressway, during rush hour, in Atlanta. That really, truly is a miracle.

Lately, though, fear has returned with surprising strength. This time, it's fear of the consequences of my actions, of the wreckage of my past and what that wreckage might do to my daughter.

I've just been sued for twelve grand.

The details are still fuzzy, but it appears to be from an old debt. I've got an attorney and I'm gathering information. Whether or not it's legitimate,I don't know, but it escalated to a lawsuit because I didn't do some pretty damn simple things. Added to that are some soft rumblings that my new and perfect apartment may not be as permanent as I'd hoped. When blended with a healthy shot of self-loathing for every mistake I've ever made, the brew packs quite a punch.

At a conscious level, I know it'll all be fine, but that hasn't kept my mind from meandering down the path of disaster. The consequences are serious: Inability to pay my kid's tuition. Homelessness. Unemployment. Starvation. Whichever route the fear takes, its destination is the same: I'm never going to be a competent adult, not ever. I am failing Life.

Except now there's a difference: I've got a little of that faith my mother wanted for me. Whatever disasters befall me, I'll be all right, and so will my kid.. And as long as I do the next right thing now, that's true even if I did everything wrong yesterday. 

Today, I can sleep with the lights and the radio off. When life gets scary, like now, I don't have to run or hide from reality. I can pause and listen long enough to uncover the next right thing, and then take action. I have learned there is great power even in the tiniest of steps. And for that, I am very grateful.

But still kinda scared.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DADT and other good news...

No doubt you've heard about the end of DADT, the military's policy on LGBTs in the service. You can read about its demise here and here. That's one campaign promise kept. Huzzah!

But with all the celebratory hoopla about DADT, you might have missed another gem -- this one dealing with property tax exemptions for married couples in Alaska.

Alaskan seniors above age 65 are allowed to exclude the value of their homes, up to $150,000, from property tax liability. However, the provision provides that the benefit is calculated more generously for married couples. For other co-residents --  brothers, sisters, cohabiting couples, and same-sex couples, to name a few -- are not eligible for this more generous calculation. The result is that same-sex couples pay hundreds of dollars a year more in property taxes than married couples with similar holdings.

The ACLU brought suit against the state of Alaska on behalf of three gay couples who would have been eligible for the tax break if they could marry.

On Friday, an Alaska trial court granted the couples summary judgment, finding that the tax provision violated the state's equal protection clause. The case is Schmidt v. State of Alaska, and you can read the opinion here. The court found that the tax code "violates Alaska's equal protection clause because it disparately burdens similarly situated taxpayers."

The court based its ruling on Alaska Supreme Court's holding in ACLU v. State, 122 P.3d 781 (Alaska 2005) (read the opinion here), in which the Court found that benefits reserved only for married state employees violated the state's equal protection clause. 

What makes this interesting (at least to me) is that the court found in favor of the same-sex couples even though Alaska has a constitutional provision that defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. And it did so even though Alaska also has a statute that prohibits gay couples from reaping the benefits of marriage. "[T]he Marriage Amendment speaks only to the definition of marriage and does not mention the associated benefits of marriage." Schmidt, Slip op at 10 (emphasis in original). 

In other words, the statute's anti-benefit provision cannot "trump" a constitutional amendment that has no such prohibition. To put it bluntly: "In Alaska, a marital classification facially discriminates based on an individual's sexual orientation." Id. at 15.
A couple of caveats. First, this was just a trial court ruling, and it may or may not survive an appeal. As the court noted, the ACLU case dealt with state employee benefits and not property taxes.

Second, the court specifically acknowledged that Alaska's equal protection clause provides broader safeguards than the federal version. This case has no applicability to the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution.

Third, the analysis will be different in states where a constitutional provision not only defines marriage in heterosexual terms, but specifically limits marital benefits to those couples. 

Still, it's an awfully good sign: Judges are evolving on the issue of equal marriage rights along with the rest of us.

Even state constitutional amendments may not be enough to stop the momentum.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You mean it really is hip to be square?

Okay, so once upon a time, about a hundred years ago, I wanted to be cool. And I tried. I really did, but it just wasn't me. In kindergarten I ate the paste. In the fourth grade, I somehow managed to staple myself. In junior high, my dog really did eat my homework. I failed driver's ed, for god's sake.

But there was this lovely two-year period where cool didn't matter. Those were the years I spent as a freshman and sophomore at New Trier West High School in Northfield, Illinois.

Now, New Trier is a seriously cool placeFerris Bueller's Day Off was filmed there. Ann-Margret went there. And Rock Hudson. And Christie Hefner. And Father Mulcahy from M*A*S*H.  As a matter of fact, there's a whole Wikipedia page devoted to cool people who went to New Trier.**


New Trier High School, west campus
New Trier was a great place for me. I tested into the highest academic level and I was surrounded by smart, interesting kids. My best friend and I translated Latin story books into English, just for fun.  I totally coveted her short-wave radio. Nobody ever went to the pep rallies, and everyone went to the musicals. It was heaven.

My best friend also turned me on to Chicago's folk music scene. Most notably, I heard Bryan Bowers play the autoharp at the Old Town School of Folk Music. I fell in love with the sound, managed to get a used autoharp of my own, and learned to play. I got to be pretty good at it, too.

Then we moved to the Detroit area, where I  continued to play and sing. My first public appearance there was also the first night I ever got drunk. God, between the rush of the applause and the warmth of the wine, I existed!

Anyway, from there I built a little following by doing open mics and such. But as my alcoholism progressed, my singing regressed. I couldn't remember lyrics and my voice was soon shot from smoking.

I stopped playing sometime around 1977. Well, no. I didn't just quit; I disassociated from the autoharp completely. The fact that I could play became a guarded secret, a source of embarrassment. The autoharp was not the stuff of serious music. It was a lame, stupid novelty that revealed my failure as a musician. From 1977 on, I can probably count on my fingers and toes the number of times I played. Occasionally, it was for my kid.

Here's the thing:  Recently my kid -- the very coolest person I know -- said she wishes I still played the autoharp. I didn't think she even remembered.

It seemed prudent to listen to her. So this past month, I played autoharp and sang before sizable audiences at two recovery-related events. I was terrified. I was embarrassed, too. But through all the white noise I could hear that long-ago voice I thought was gone for good. And I liked it.

It was pretty damn cool.
___________________________________________________________________________

** Charlton Heston and Donald Rumsfeld went to New Trier, too, but they're even less cool than I am.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We Must Never Forget

This is a republication of my blog post from September 11, 2009.

Today on Facebook, many of my friends wrote: “Never forget.” They were, of course, referring to the devastating attacks we all experienced eight years ago. Flags flew at half mast today. Memorial candles burned in churches, office lobbies, and even hotels. Lists of the victims’ names -- so many of them! – re-revealed the tragedy’s scope not only through statistics (3,000+ deaths and 6,200+ injuries), but by reminding us of each individual light that was extinguished on that day.

Once again, we are in mourning. That is just as it should be.

However, along with these gentle and somber reminders, I have also received more than the usual amount of anti-Muslim propaganda: an expose of how Muslim law treats women… the old (and false) story about how Budweiser refused to sell to a convenience store after the owner cheered the victory of Al-Qaeda. The emails I have received tend to color all Muslims in the same shade of hatred, as if this diverse group is significantly more homogenous than Christians or Jews or Buddhists or women or homosexuals or African Americans.

The fact is, hate and bigotry can be found on the fringes of every religion, ethnicity, and cultural identity. Orthodox Jewish services separate men from women. Fundamentalist Christians believe non-Christians (as they define that term) are doomed to suffer an eternity in hell. If you think that Muslims have a monopoly on radicalism and hatred, you might want to check out the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate group site. Or, if you have a really strong stomach, you can look here or here. or here I could go on, but you get the idea.

That’s why I, too, will never forget. Not just about the plane crashes and the burning Twin Towers. Those images aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be with me forever.

But there are other things – very important things – I’m all too likely to forget when I wrap myself in the comforting cloak of our collective grief and anger. These are the things I must fight to remember:

I must never forget that in our fear and anger, we allowed our President and Vice President to highjack our national principles, freedoms, and rights.

I must never forget that our leaders took the unprecedented step of invading a foreign country that was not an immediate threat.

I must never forget that our creation of an immoral war has led to the deaths of over 4,300 American soldiers and more than 100,000 civilians so far (with credible estimates well in excess of 655,000 as of 2006), as well as scores of people from other nations.

I must never forget that 9/11 led to the remarkable conclusion, at the highest levels of government, that torture is a valid investigative strategy.

Finally, I must never forget that we have lived this nightmare before, in a thousand different forms both large and small: in the near-complete genocide of indigenous peoples around the world; in the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II; in the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge; in the Holocaust; in attempts to “cure” homosexuals; in our ostracizing people with HIV/AIDS… I must never forget that our species has an almost pathological need to destroy those who frighten or anger us.

Most importantly, I must never forget that I am just as prone to this pathology as everyone else on the planet. For that reason, I must be forever vigilant, and I must be willing to protect our principles even when my own judgment lapses. In short, I must remain teachable.

Please, God, let me never forget. Please, let me remain teachable.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Babar, now 80, shows no remorse for causing global warming.

Hooray, hooray!! King Babar is 80 years old!

Babar, of course, is the star of the classic series of children's books. But Babar, who is really just a colonial imperialist dictator, has a darker side...

The rainforest, before.




The rainforest, after King Babar got done with it
Babar, of course, is now a vocal a climate-change denier. During my investigation, a member of Babar's cabinet (who wishes to remain anonymous, surprise, surprise), confirmed that the dictator's financial portfolio is closely linked to entities owned by the Koch brothers.

Shame, shame, bad elephant!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A room with a view.

Oh. My. Fucking.God. Where to begin?

We're in Chicago, having delivered our kid to college yesterday. College.  We left first thing Friday morning, driving north with my kid's dad -- my ex of 24 years -- and arrived about 12 hours later.

That would be a lot right there. But there's so much more.

I was lucky enough to get into an incredible law school, and while I knew it wouldn't be cost-efficient from a monetary standpoint, the experience of being a part of that community -- the professors, the resources, the students themselves -- was worth more than money could buy. That's why, when my kid got into the Harvard of art schools, affiliated with the second largest museum in the nation, I was loathe to say no despite the truly frightening financial commitment it will require.

The school did not disappoint. 

Okay. I am trying to draw out the drama here, using my fabulously fantabulous surgical-precision skills as a wordsmith to create a scene, to paint a mood, before I pop out with just how freaking cool this is.

Well, fuck it. So: here is the view from my daughter's dorm room:


 Yep. The Chicago Theatre, the famous one, built in 1921. And do you see the gray building to the right of it? That, dear readers, is the Joffrey Ballet. With huge windows. So she can watch them dance. 

I mean, is that oh-my-fucking-god cool, or what?

And so far, every bit of this experience has been similarly amazing. Including Chicago itself, which is even more wonderful than I remembered.

My kid is in seventh heaven, and so am I. If ever I doubted whether this was the right decision -- you know, sending her to a private-and-incredibly expensive school of choice rather than the practical-but-pedestrian state college -- it is gone, gone, gone. Sure, she'd survive Kennesaw State or GSU. But here in Chicago, she will soar.

Today we're going to parent orientation, held in the modern wing of the school's museum. If it's anything like yesterday, I imagine I will be positively breathless by the end of the day.

Tonight, we will say goodbye. In the meantime, I am reveling in the now, watching my kid spread her wings for the first time  -- so engaged, so joyous!  I am too excited for her to feel sadness. At least, not yet.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

One day at a time.

So a couple weeks ago, I celebrated thirty (count 'em!) years of sobriety.

I sobered up the year Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President. The year IBM rolled out its first personal computer with a price tag of $5,000. The year MTV debuted as the first around-the-clock music video station.

I took my last drink just 32 days after the New York Times reported on a rare cancer that had been diagnosed in 41 gay men.

In short, it was lifetimes ago.

I drank for just seven years, but I drank daily from the beginning. Mostly, I drank wine. Lots and lots and lots of it, mostly Gallo and Carlo Rossi, my subsistence ration for the times when I was broke, which - surprise! - was most of the time. But when I could, I liked the harder stuff. Serially monogamous, I would order the same thing night after night until I was seduced by some new concoction. Stingers. Kahlua and cream. 151 Rum and Tab.

I can still feel the warmth of the first drink, that delicious bloom, that surge through my arms and down into my fingers as the alcohol hits. I can still taste the stuff, still feel what it did for me.

Throughout my sobriety, I have struggled with the first step -- accepting that I'm powerless over alcohol. Some people say it's the one step you have to work perfectly. Not me! Truth is, part of me still doesn't believe I'm an alcoholic. It's one of the hazards of having a "high bottom." It's also one more thing I don't need to drink over today. And I'm guessing that social drinkers don't wax all nostalgic about the buzz they copped 30 years ago.


Besides, there are those other memories: Pawning the ten-dollar gold coin my mom gave me so I could buy alcohol. Getting drunk nearly every day, even while I was trying to get pregnant; and then spending interminable nights anguishing about fetal alcohol syndrome. Pulling the covers over my face at night, leaving just one small breathing hole, so I wouldn't see or feel something in the dark that shouldn't be there. Sleeping countless nights with one foot on the floor in a vain attempt to make the room stop spinning. My last drunk, throwing up in front of a bowling alley and riding home miserable, my long hair wet and still dripping with vomit.

I quit drinking about the time I started getting the shakes in the morning. I've had them, occasionally, ever since.

It's small stuff compared to what others went through. I know this. But I hold fast to one of the first things I heard in the rooms: "I'd rather spend the rest of my life sober, thinking I'm an alcoholic, than to spend the rest of my life drunk, thinking I'm not."

Which seems like reason enough to stay away from the first drink for another day. At least until I get this all figured out.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Semi-final Post-Game Parenting Wrap-Up,

Oh, boy! I've been dying to do this for eighteen years. No, no, even longer than that!

See, there are two things that most people think they do really well: Driving and parenting. (For the child-free, substitute dog training for either one).

Even with all my self-doubt, I've got some pretty definite ideas on parenting. So ever since I first wanted to be a mom, which was a hell of a long time ago, I've been reading and forming my own ideas about the whole thing. I learned to value, if not always agree with, some wonderful experts like William Sears, Penelope Leach, and T. Berry Brazelton.

But other "experts" struck me as mean-spirited and narrow. Take John Rosemond, for example:  He tells people to forget all this crap about self-esteem. No coddling allowed, for God's sake! Spare the rod and spoil the child! Yeah!! Yeah!!

I decided a long time ago that John Rosemond is an asshole a douchebag a major dickhead woefully misguided. Until now, I've kept my mouth shut. I mean, I'd feel a little silly if I made a big fuss and then my kid's portrait wound up in the U.S. Post Office for all to see.

Well, so far, my kid is doing just fine, thank you very much. Now that she's all grown up and hasn't murdered anybody yet, I'm feeling somewhat vindicated. So behold, for whatever it's worth, here's my take on being a mom:

Her dad and I decided before she was born that our job as her parents was simple:  love her, let her be who she is, and enjoy her. That was our mantra, our anchor throughout her childhood, and it proved to be steadfast indeed.

We purposely had just one kid. You see, my mom once told me that the only good reason to have a kid is because you believe you have something special to offer her. For us, that meant having just one. Which, as it turned out, suited her just fine.

We practiced "attachment parenting." We didn't let our kid "cry it out," and in fact, she slept with us part-time for the first year or so.

I decided from the first that I would never, ever spank or slap my kid, and I never did -- not even if she did something dangerous. I just took it out of my toolbox. I also was pretty successful at avoiding verbal abuse.  I never called my kid a spoiled brat, or dummy, or a little monster, or fat, or skinny, or any other potentially hurtful name. And I never threatened to leave her behind if she didn't hurry up. Not even kiddingly. Because, you know, to a three-year-old, that's just not terribly funny.

I avoided ever saying to my daughter, "What will people think?"  Any worries I had about other people's opinions were my problem, not hers. Hence, creatively mismatched clothing.

I learned to distinguish between her stuff and my stuff. Making sure she buckles up? My stuff. Cleaning her plate? Her stuff. Making her go to her room and stay there after at 9 p.m.? My stuff. But actually falling asleep before midnight?  Her stuff. Making sure she pees before we get on the road? Ha! I thought that was my stuff but I was wrong!

Oh, and while we're on the subject of toilet training, I didn't sweat it. I figured she was bound to be toilet trained by the time she left for college.

And so she is.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Jesus Christ, will somebody please LEAD, already?

It's been a while since I wrote about politics. I mean, you know, it's depressing. Plus I've been moving and stuff. Besides, I am steeped in politics all day at work, and some nights I just don't want to think about it anymore.

But friends, I am becoming alarmed about the debt-ceiling crisis. It's sheer insanity for Congress to hold hostage the economy of the United States for political purposes, just as it is for Obama to let conservatives get away with it. Yes, the deficit has to be dealt with. But the deficit and the debt ceiling are not directly related, so we can take care of the deficit later. Right now we need to raise the damn debt ceiling already, just like we've done routinely throughout both Republican and Democratic administrations. Failing to do so may well be catastrophic, posing an immediate, tangible threat to the United States. Think I'm being dramatic? Well, I do have that tendency, but no, this is the real deal.

Economic theory is complicated, sometimes dull and mostly horseshit. I can say that because I was an econ major. Still, economics can provide limited information about how the world works . I used to understand all those fancy charts, but I let most of that know-how drain out of my brain post-college. So these days, a lot of economic discussions just go right over my head.  And since I don't have the patience to re-learn all that crap, I find other economists who make sense to me -- and let them explain what the hell is going on in the world.

Paul Krugman is my favorite economist. Yep, he's a liberal. But what do you know: a study found him to be the most accurate prognosticator of the whole slew of political pundits reviewed. So I'm pretty sure my trust in his analyses is well-founded.

Well, Krugman is worried about the debt ceiling thing. Consequently, so am I.

And it appears that there is more at stake than just dollars. In a grim post on Balkinization, Frank Pasquale -- a law professor at Seton Hall -- compellingly makes the point:
Herd behavior in markets ... creates chaotic and unpredictable outcomes. Suspicions of a government’s insolvency can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Indebted and politically gridlocked, the US is increasingly vulnerable to speculative attacks on the value of its currency, debt, and manufacturing and service sectors. Once these attacks reach a certain level, they threaten to disrupt supplies of basic resources, and the nation’s ability to support (and thus maintain the loyalty of) its own military and law enforcement personnel. (links in original).
Moreover, America's current fetish for Privatization of All Things Government adds an unnerving dimension:
[T]he "revolution in military affairs" in the US has featured increasing "contracting out" of core military capacities. ... Blackwater recently was in the news for "creat[ing] a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq." The trend toward "private security" ultimately portends a market-based outsourcing of sovereignty. If a foreign government (or even coalition of very wealthy persons) were to outbid the increasingly strapped US government for the best technology, its military advantages could fade.(links and citations in original)
I don't know about you, but I've got all kinds of seriously creepy post-apocalyptic bad-corporation visions dancing through my head these days in place of fairies and sugarplums. 

This could end badly. Very badly, indeed.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lazy-Ass Librarian Saturday: Cars are still easy.

I'm in the middle of moving. I'm worn out, excited, overwhelmed, scared, and relieved. Mostly, right now, worn out. So I'm re-posting an excerpt from a post I did waaaay back in 2005. You read. I'll pack. Later we'll talk.

*******************.
Cars are easy.

 I’ve been noticing lately how rarely I get to share my wisdom with others, and I do have so much to share. Since I could get hit by a truck tomorrow, I think I had better gift it to you here and now. I’ll begin with cars, since – as you will see – I have a lot of experience, strength and hope on the subject.

1. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to put diesel gas in a regular-gas automobile. You just have to try inserting the nozzle from a few different angles, and push and push on it until it finally goes in. Then, you have to hang on tight so it doesn't pop itself back out.

Huh... Sounds a lot like my first marriage.

2. If you suddenly pull the gas nozzle out of your car (say, because you realize you shouldn't be putting diesel in your tank), it’s really best to shut the nozzle off first.

3. It’s important to maintain your car on a regular basis, but for God's sake, don't go to extremes. Take brakes, for example: The dealership would like you to think the brakes should be replaced as soon as they start to squeal. Cow muffins! Here's what you do instead: Wait for the brakes to make a horrible grinding noise. That's when you're getting close. Now, start watching for a big round hunk of metal to fall off of your car. That’s when you’ll know it’s time to replace the brakes.*

Oh, there are plenty more tips I could give you, but sharing these pearls has left me drained. I must rest now while I await further inspiration.

----------------------
* Uh, don't try this at home.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The universe, conspiring...

So I was having a conversation with myself a couple of weeks ago about my living situation. “Lynne,” I said -- that’s what I call myself -- “This neighborhood sucks. We need to get out of here.” 

I hedged defensively. “Whatever do you mean?” 

I gave myself a blank stare. “Seriously? All right. For starters, your house was robbed in October. They got two TVs, a computer, a camera...” 

“Oh, pshaw,” I said. “That could've happened anywhere.” 

“Yeah,” I countered, “anywhere in this neighborhood. Need I remind you that the house across the street has been hit three times so far this year?”

“Hey! Times are tough. People need stuff.”

“All right, then, how about when your car was stolen?” I demanded.

I shifted uncomfortably. “Cars get stolen all the time.”

I took a deep, slow breath to diffuse my irritation. “True. But how often do cars just appear out of thin air?“ 

“That was a little strange,” I admitted, puzzling once more over the wrecked  minivan somebody abandoned in my carport for no apparent reason. "Still and all…”

“And then there was the shooting in the park around the corner,” I recalled. “Remember? One of the bullets ricocheted off the house next door? Oh, and don’t forget about the sinkhole in front of your house. And the fact that your daughter won’t go outside because of the catcalls.”

Well, I had me there.  “Fine. Fine! But please tell me: Where in the hell am I going to find a place in a decent neighborhood, close to town, and as cheap as this place? One that'll let me have the animals and has no credit check or deposit?" I saw myself blink, and I knew I'd won. "Yeah! Good luck conjuring up one of those, missy!”

I dropped the subject. 

About a week later I got a voicemail from my good friend, Jim: “Hey, I’ve got a friend who has a basement apartment for rent. Sounds like the price is right, and he's fine with the animals.” 

Now, I've gotten friendly leads before, about a lot of things. They never, ever, ever work out. But I do like to follow up anyway, because I’m an old-timer and I know how important it is to lead by example...

Oh, all right. The truth is, my friends won't let me complain about stuff until I've at least tried doing the footwork.

Whatever. I did the footwork. I called the landlord who, as it turns out, is an acquaintance.

So, welcome to my new home. It’s a basement apartment, a cozy girl-cave in a great area. Two blocks away from my home group, and just two miles from work. The rent is a little less than I’m paying now. 

Pets are fine. No deposit, no credit check. 

No kidding. 


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

FOUND: One poor, lost, pitiful minivan.

Dark green. With a seriously shredded right rear tire. Oh, and impaled by a fire hydrant -- a hunk of which is still stuck in it.

In. My. CARPORT.

The police won't remove it because it's on private property and it hasn't been reported stolen.

God. What a weird neighborhood.




 Sheesh.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Okay,so, about this hundred-day "Message" project thing...

By the time I got sober, I was pretty convinced I couldn't finish a single thing I started. Ironically, that's one of the things that helped me get, and stay, clean: At my first meeting someone said, "We're three-inning people." It was the first time I had considered that my lack of follow-through might be alcohol-related. That's when I knew that the people around that table were like me.

Since I came into the rooms, I've finished a lot of things I've started, and I've not finished a lot of others. This is one of the things I'm not going to finish. My life is a little crazy right now. My daughter is leaving for college, I'm moving, and gosh darn it, I've got other things I'd rather write about.

But I do like taking pictures of signs, so I'll keep posting them from time to time.

So there. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Messages, Day 32: The Sock Man Cometh


Best sight of the day! The Sock Man generously allowed me to photograph him, as well as his truck. If you see him, stop. There's no better place to buy this stuff.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

in the end, forgiveness

My wonderful kid graduates from high school on Friday. That's in less than a week! I'm excited for her and for me, and I'm completely wrapped up in the flashy, full-time extravaganza that is Commencement. But I've also had deep feelings of sadness, apprehension, and loneliness.

I've dreaded my kid's high school graduation for at least a year, and maybe ever since she was born. For one thing, I'm going to lose the best roommate I could ever hope to have.

But mostly I've dreaded graduation because this is it.

This. Is. It.

No more time to get it right, to correct mistakes, to make amends. All the angst in the world won't make any difference now. My kid is permanently branded with all my parental screw-ups and misadventures. There's no more time for me to get more involved in the PTA, to check her homework, to chaparone field trips, to teach her about God. Sure, I did some of this, but not enough, and especially not lately. I've been too busy trying to dig my way out of some serious wreckage, both past and present. I've been horribly distracted, and now it's too late.

The bottom line is this: I was not the parent I wanted to be, and I can never, ever change that fact.

Except that I can. I can, and I have.

It happened last Wednesday night in the school's west hallway. Traditionally, the seniors' parents decorate their kids' lockers in secret, just as graduation activities are heating up. I knew about this in advance, but felt dejected and uninspired. Last week I carelessly bought a couple crafty supplies that I saw on clearance; I figured I'd come up with something. Whatever.

On Wednesday, though, I forgot to bring the supplies. So I spent about two hours shopping. And thinking. And then shopping and thinking some more. I went back and forth between the party and school-supply aisles at least half a dozen times, and in the end I found inspiration.  By the time I arrived at school, I knew just what I wanted to do, and I spent the next two hours lost in decorating that 12 x 36 blue steel canvas. In the end, it was bliss, just diving head-first into that simple, joyful act of little-kid parenting.

But that was later. First, it was pretty miserable.

The hallway was packed with parents -- people I didn't know very well. If I had volunteered as much as I was supposed to, I'd know most of these people by name. I felt alone, realizing that I had squandered this incredible opportunity to be 100% engaged for my daughter during her five years at this amazing performing-arts school. And now, it was too late. God, what a terrible waste!

But somewhere in there as I was sinking into the quicksand of regret -- somewhere between cutting out bubble wrap, and trying to work with impossible blueberry-flavored edible basket-grass, and wrestling with a fat yellow balloon -- a long-buried and important truth finally broke through my misery into the moonlight:

It really doesn't matter whether I had the experience I wanted or not. What matters is that my kid got the experience she needed.

Well, damn. That's really what mattered all along.

And with that epiphany came the recognition that I'm largely responsible for making sure it happened that way. For all my false starts and blatant idiocies, for all the broken boulevards I tried to pave over with great intentions, I kept my eyes on the road. I did it despite considerable pressure from others to take a shorter, grassier route. When others were saying, "she'll do fine wherever she is," I knew place mattered. The school, the teachers, the surroundings, the curriculum, it all mattered. And because I stuck to my guns on this, she had what she needed when her family fell apart. She landed in a sturdy safety net woven by gifted, loving teachers, dedicated, empathic advisers, and stalwart friends. They pointed her toward her art, which led her, finally, out of harm's way.

As I came to this realization -- sitting on the floor surrounded by bubble wrap and balloons and scotch tape and candy -- I experienced overwhelming relief. Then immediately, pride and delight: Delight in the amazing person my daughter has become, and pride in knowing I had a part.

And now, at long last, I feel joy in a job sloppily executed, but very well done.

Reward: Eternal gratitude for the return of my brain matter.

Okay, let me just say this: I sure as hell wish there was a book called What to expect when your kid graduates from high school. You know, like What to expect when you're expecting. I haven't lost this many brain cells since my daughter was born. The other day I spent about 20 minutes in the Family Dollar and then discovered I had accidentally left the car running (yes, that car, the one that barely runs and shouldn't be driven at all, much less left running in a hot parking lot.). And then yesterday, I couldn't figure out why my photo of the dog hadn't come out until my level-headed daughter gently pointed out ("Uh, mom...") that I had been aiming the camera at myself. And then, there are the missed appointments.

Well, Mommy isn't making any more plans or commitments until all the confetti is cleaned up and the grads have gone home.

Derf.

Messages, Day 31. Hard years.