I had intended for my next article to be about the recent shift in my position on healthcare. I know you'll be stunned to know (not really) that after careful and thoughtful analysis, I've moved further to the left on this issue.
But that article will have to follow this one.
Because things have changed.
Wednesday morning, at 5:30 AM Central Standard Time, I awoke to the news that Senator Edward Kennedy had died. And since that moment, I've been distracted by the enormity of that loss and the tragedy that he did not live to see the culmination of his life's work.
Senator Kennedy's death has also helped me clarify something I've had a hard time explaining my entire life. His death has brought into focus exactly how it is that I came about my particular political philosophy. My reflections upon his life have helped me to explain how my politics have become the lens through which I judge just about everything.
And all vast amounts of grey in between.
Senator Kennedy's words are more eloquent than any I could ever write.
"My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.
Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.
As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:
'Some men see things as they are and say why.
I dream things that never were and say why not.'
Teddy Kennedy's ideals, articulated with a laser's precision, inspired a generation and some, like me, who followed.
"The poor may be out of political fashion, but they are not without human needs."
"And to all those overburdened by an unfair tax structure, let us provide new hope for real tax reform. Instead of shutting down classrooms, let us shut off tax shelters. Instead of cutting out school lunches, let us cut off tax subsidies for expensive business lunches that are nothing more than food stamps for the rich."
"Finally, we cannot have a fair prosperity in isolation from a fair society. So I will continue to stand for a national health insurance. We must -- We must not surrender -- We must not surrender to the relentless medical inflation that can bankrupt almost anyone and that may soon break the budgets of government at every level. Let us insist on real controls over what doctors and hospitals can charge, and let us resolve that the state of a family's health shall never depend on the size of a family's wealth."
My twelve year old son asked me about Ted Kennedy as I watched his internment at Arlington's National Cemetery. He wanted to know if he knew him. I said, "I don't think you do. I would like you know this about him. He was never apologetic about what he believed was right for our country and he never wavered in his ideals."
I was about to continue when he interrupted me with one of the sweetest things he has ever said to me. "He sounds kind of like you, Mom."
Then, I cried.
These words, spoken by Teddy Kennedy in 1980 when I was but thirteen years old, ring ever truer today.
"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."
Saturday, August 29, 2009
I had intended for my next article to be about the recent shift in my position on healthcare. I know you'll be stunned to know (not really) that after careful and thoughtful analysis, I've moved further to the left on this issue.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
For all of you out there without tween girls, you don't know what you're missing on the fashion front. The cleverly named Justice for Girls is all the rage. Stepford has not one, but two, Justice for Girls locations. And any tween in Stepford who is anyone has a closet that looks like this store has vomited within it.
I have previously dodged this shopping bullet by convincing my daughter that this was the "Grandma Store". Meaning that this was the special place that only she and her Grandma shopped and that if I took her there, I would be infringing upon this special Grandma experience. However, Grandma is currently living out of state and my daughter having an outfit from this store for the first day of third grade is apparently a matter of importance that rivals the moon landing.
So it was that I found myself, for the very first time, inside this store last night. Armed with a forty percent off coupon, I was fairly certain this experience would not be too terribly painful.
Justice for Girls did a serious injustice to my pocketbook. This wasn't enirely my daughter's fault. It was just that as she came out of the dressing room in cute outfit after cute outfit, the bill quickly escalated - even with the coupon.
First there was this lovely three piece ensemble."Mom, this cami is SO comfortable. It even has a built in bra!" "And this rhinestone jacket will keep my shoulders from getting cold in class." "And these matching leggings are SOOO cool! Now, I just need some sneakers!"
Which we, of course, we had no trouble finding.
I know, right? They're uber hightops. I couldn't believe it either.
"Mom, I totally need a new swimsuit for the lake. My one from this summer is way worn out and this is even on SALE!"
I know, but I'm kind of big on peace signs (which is what is covering this tankini).
Even though we went to the store with the intention of buying one outfit for the first day of third grade, I did have in the back of my mind that we should probably go ahead and pick up one of Justice's signature sweat suits for when the weather turns cooler. Which is how we ended up with this.
And just tell me you're not a sucker for paint splattered denim? C'mon try.
And well, I wanted this outfit for myself, but it only came in her size so at least one of us is getting a sequined skirt and suede boots this fall.
I do have some self-control. I drew the line at this. The gloves are entirely over the top. So we left this at the store (along with all my money - Grandma, please come home.)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Here's a confession.
I like to think there is no one funnier than me in the blogosphere. I know it's not true, but I do pretend - a lot - that I am the funniest thing since Cheney shot his friend in the face with buckshot.
However, I'm coming clean today. There is for sure someone, right here in Dallas, that is funnier than I. I must thank my sister for turning me on to him. If you need a laugh, Geoff Johnston and his blog the.hanging.brain can take care of you.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I emailed this letter to Congressman Weiner this morning. I'll let you know if I receive a response. If anyone has the video from the interview Congressman Weiner did on MSNBC's Morning Joe this morning, please send it to me. In case you're wondering, yes I have moved my position from supporting a "public option" to supporting either a single-payer system (Medicare for all) or a system run entirely by the Federal government (VA for all). Thanks.
Dear Congressman Weiner,
Although I live a very long way from your District, I wanted to write to let you know that I saw your entire interview this morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe. I had wanted to post that interview on my personal blogsite (http://stepford-stories.blogspot.com). However, much to my surprise the video is not available on the MSNBC website.
Your interview was the most inspiring, articulate, and easy to understand argument for why we need either a single-payer healthcare plan or a government run healthcare plan and we need it now.
Please know that there are many average Americans that support your efforts and while we may not be yelling at town hall meetings we are equally as distressed that healthcare reform seems to be slipping through our fingers.
I am but one small voice in an obscure part of the Internet. However, I want desperately to do something to help get accurate and much needed information to everyone who this debate affects - which is all of us. Please keep your much needed efforts and focus going. And please let us know what we can do to help you. We absolutely must win this fight.
You are correct. Healthcare is not a commodity. It is a human right. It should no longer be a privilege of only the wealthy or the employed. Please let us know how we can help. There are many like myself who stand ready if only a clear voice will lead us.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Stop freaking out about the "drop the public option" talk. It's not going to happen. Sometimes you just have to know how the play the political game. President Obama is smart enough to know that the Senate's healthcare bill won't make it out of committee with a public option (can you hear me booing from here?). However, all we need to do is get a bill out of committee and onto the floor. We can take care of the rest when we reconcile the Senate Bill and the House Bill.
Howard Dean explains this beautifully. The Republicans have played us against each other too long. Hang in there, Left. Keep the faith. We're almost there.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Today, I have no funny stories. No satire. No irony. Today, my muse has abandoned me. Today, you'll not hear complaints about where I live or even a reference to the nickname I use for my real-life suburb. Today, the wind has been taken from my sails. My heart is heavy, my faith evaporated, my joy missing. I've lived enough, grieved enough, experienced enough to know this is most likely not a permanent state and that if I embrace this moment in which I find myself, lessons will be gleaned from the floor of the desert that is currently my soul.
This post will be long, likely cumbersome, and raw. You need to know that today I write solely for myself. My writing will be purposely self-indulgent with no care taken to the structure or final product. It is simply a baring of myself. Honesty put into written form, that I hope will lift the melancholy that has descended upon me.
I've had a rough year in the area of loss. It was just this time last year that I found out that my friend, Janet's breast cancer had returned. This time there was to be no more remissions, no more second chances. She would die. And so she did on a beautiful late October day. She left behind a husband and twenty-one year old triplets, two boys, one girl. She was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time when her children were eleven. She told me once her goal was to live until they finished college. She didn't make it.
At Janet's memorial service I was acutely aware as I hugged her children that I was experiencing a privilege that Janet would never again know. When I arrived home, I hugged my own children very tightly. Janet's children will live the rest of their lives without their mom. The mom who fought so long and so hard just so she could live to deliver them safely into adulthood. The injustice of her death still weighs on me.
In March, I lost my beloved uncle and seventeen year old cousin in a boating accident. A one in a million kind of accident. A bizarre and unusual series of events that stole two lives. It took days to find their bodies. All the while the family waited on the lake shore. A wife, a mother, a father, a brother, a son, a daughter - their hearts breaking and horrified all at the same time. Shock can only protect you so much. I waited at home for the call with Seven Spanish Angels playing on my iPod. It came. I went. We grieved.
Life has somehow moved on. I've searched for meaning in their deaths. I've found none. Bad things. Good People. It weighs on me.
Last week, my son entered the youth program at our church. He's ready. He's cool. He fits with the group of teenagers he has waited so long to join. Wednesday night they made gutter sundaes and tie dyed t-shirts that read "Tried Died Risen". Just as I arrived to pick up my son, my beloved minister and friend asked if he could speak with me in his office. This is not unusual and I assumed we had church business to discuss or that, possibly, my son had misbehaved in some way. It was neither. His words went something like this, "Boyd died of a massive coronary an hour and a half ago. He was home with Leslie and the boys when it happened. They took him to the hospital, but there was really never a chance that he would survive."
And I did what I do when news like this is delivered to me. I was silent. No tears. No questions. Just a million thoughts processing through my head.
I've known Boyd since 2003 when he joined our church. He was a forty-one year old, very eligible, bachelor then. A doctor, a kind and gentle soul. We were never close on a personal level, I can probably count on one hand the number of conversations we had. However, what I knew about Boyd was this - whenever there was a need in our church, he was there. I cannot count how many obituaries I've read where the family specifically thanked Boyd for his kindness during their loved ones' final days. He was there for my friend Janet and her family.
Boyd married last year. He married a woman with two young children who is also a member of our church. Her boys are just a bit younger than my own children. Boyd had finally found his someone. Boyd and his new wife are expecting a baby boy in October. The boy will be named Jack, after Boyd's father who Boyd never knew because he died when Boyd was three.
So it was that I found myself yesterday at yet another funeral - my fourth in ten months. The enormity of Boyd's loss slammed me right in the gut when is wife entered the sanctuary. Pregnant women should not bury their husbands. Babies should not be born without a father.
Wednesday night at the conclusion of my conversation with my minister I said, "I have no idea what to do." He said, "Neither do I." In an odd way this was comforting. If he didn't know what to do how in the world could I? And yesterday at the funeral I watched as the three strongest people I know - my minister, his wife who is the associate minister, and the music minister - wept openly from the altar. I watched their grief and felt even more helpless myself.
I listened to those closest to Boyd talk about the kind of person he was. He was a rare man who valued people over things, conversation over wealth, and compassion over judgement.
One cannot compare their life to a life such as Boyd's and not come away feeling like a fraud and wondering how it is that such a man, forty-seven years old, never having seen his only child, is now gone. And I, am still here.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Okay, if you read this post then you might be a little confused about what exactly it is that I'm doing with a Facebook badge like this
Create Your Badge
on the sidebar of my blog. Well, here is the deal. My objections to Facebook were mainly centered around having all of Stepford as Facebook friends - and therefore, all up in my writing business. It has occurred to me, however, that I'm missing out on what some of my best online friends are doing if I ban Facebook from my life entirely. And even more deviously, it occured to me that if I left my Stepford Facebook profile up and continued to accept friends over there, I could create a fan page for my online friends about which no one in Stepford need know anything. And, if Stepford thinks they've already found me over there, they are much less likely to come looking for me over here.
I know, right?
I'm too clever for even me sometimes.
So, friend me, fan me, meme me, whatever it is that you Facebook people do. Let's rock.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Jack and Jill stepped on the field to play a game of soccer.
Jack did fall.
Jill stole the ball.
There's just no way to stop her.
I'm breaking two of my own loosely held blogging rules today. 1) No pictures of my kids and 2) no facebragging.
My son took this picture of my daughter and me at the conclusion of a game that qualified her team for the national tournament. (Please notice and be impressed that I am holding The Husband's I Pod and that in the excitement I caused no damage to it.) Ultimately (and two losses later), her team placed fourth for the state of Texas. I don't think I could be prouder of her than at the moment pictured here. And not because they won, but because they left everything they had on that field and that is hard to do.
So now? We're going to Disney World. No shit. The national championships are held at Disney.
Okay - facebrag off. On a less personal note. I came away from this tournament (our first that included travel) with a greater appreciation for the coaches in my children's lives. I saw a lot of bad coaching behavior. Unfortunately, the worst I saw was from a Stepford Husband, known to me, who has a son the same age as my daughter. My heart broke for the boys on his squad whose parents apparently do not have the sense God gave a goat. If they did, their boys wouldn't be allowed play for a man (and I use that term loosely) who degrades his players like he does. My son said, "Mom, you've GOT to get a video camera. I could get like a million hits on YouTube by filming that jerk." Sadly, he's right.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I'd like to give a big shout out to my late-night visitor from Wasilla, Alaska! Whoo Hooo! I don't really think it was Sarah, but with Wasilla's population being around 7,500 it's not like the chance is zero. Ya know?
Welcome Wasilla. I hope you'll visit again soon.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
I am the Susan Lucci of Jury Duty. Really. One day I’m going to open my mailbox and see a summons to come to the Stepford County Courthouse to pick up my lifetime achievement award—which we all know is code for you’re-never-really-going-to-win-but-your-repeated-attempts-are-getting-awkward.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve received a jury summons from Stepford County. And not once, have I been seated as a juror (I know, I can’t believe it either). I’m always very excited when I open the mailbox and see a summons addressed to me. (Shut up. I know it’s a little weird.)
I always diligently respond to the questionnaire. I never claim an exemption. Even when I was a stay-at-home mom, I would hire a baby sitter so that I might be given the chance to perform my civic duty. I’m always hopeful that by being eager, prompt, and thorough, I’ll receive some sort of favor from the karma that governs jury duty and this time, finally, I’ll be seated as juror number whatever.
Truth be told, the reason I have not so far and most likely will never be seated as a juror is because ... wait for it, wait for it ... I’m too smart (and I have big mouth). Really. Attorneys do not want jurors who are extremely bright. Bright people think for themselves. Bright people have well formed and thought out opinions. Bright people are not easily manipulated by emotionally charged arguments delivered upon silver tongues. Because of this blatant discrimination against the intellectually superior, someone always has a problem with me. Okay, okay ... the prosecutor always has a problem with me. And so it was for the billionth time last week. I had promised myself I would be as silent as a Republican at a Fourth Amendment Convention (which I’ve determined is the easiest way to get on a jury short of being stupid). And perhaps, just this once, I would slide under the radar and into the jury box.
The morning started out well. The case I was assigned to would have six jurors. I was number seven out of a twenty member pool. This meant that as long as I could keep my mouth shut, I just needed someone numbered one through six to say something that would get their ejector chair to fire. I was hopeful.
Number six, who was sitting to my right, pulled out some reading material while we waited to be called into the courtroom. Being curious (okay, nosey) I couldn’t help but notice when he cracked open Glenn Beck’s Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government, Inspired by Thomas Paine. (I suddenly felt a need to bathe, vomit, bolt from the room, whack Number six about the head and shoulders— you get the idea). Unfortunately, Number six took my discomfort as interest and spoke to me. (Damn. It. To. Hell.)
Number six, “Ya read Mr. Beck?”
Me (stifling an eye roll), “Oh, um, no.”
Number six, “This book here, Common Sense, is really a good ’un.”
I just gave a thin lipped smile in response. There was no way I was getting booted from this jury pool by getting into an argument over Glenn-the crazy train-Beck.
Number six, “Ya know who Glenn Beck is?”
(Good God. Why does this ALWAYS happen to me?)
Me (deciding that just this once honesty was not the best policy), “No.”
Number six, “Not much on politics, eh? A lot of women ain’t. That’s why I thought Sarah Palin would a been good for the country. Ya know, would a given you ladies a gurl to look up to an all.”
(Father in Heaven ...)
Before I can appropriately respond to Number six (because I was going to respond), we were called into the courtroom and Number six’s life was spared and I still had a chance to be seated on the jury.
The judge addressed the jury pool, telling us that the charge in the case was driving while intoxicated and that he expected a verdict to be rendered by the end of the next day. At that moment, I’m sure if I could have seen myself in a mirror, my face would have been red. I felt a physical rush of heat that began in my toes and eventually landed on the crown of my head. I looked at the defendant. Latino. I looked at the defense attorney. Latina. I looked at the prosecutor. Caucasian Stepford Wife. Shit.
Here’s the problem. I have a big issue with how drunk driving cases are handled in the state of Texas. Before you start hate mailing me, let me clarify. I absolutely, one hundred percent understand the devastation drunk driving causes in this nation each year. I’ve been personally touched by it more than once. I do not support drunk driving. I also don’t support most other things that are against the law. That does not mean, however, that I think it is okay for the civil rights of drunk driving suspects to be violated. And I believe that this happens routinely in Texas.
The questioning of the jury pool began.
Prosecutor, “Mr. One, I’d like to pose a hypothetical question to you. Let’s say you attend a happy hour after work with some friends. Let’s say you’ve had two drinks and you are now happy-hour happy.”
Mr. One (interrupting a little too loudly), “I’m a complete teetotaler. Don’t touch the stuff. Would never happen. Well, used to happen. I’m a recovering alcoholic. I’ve been sober since 2001. I guess if you said the happy hour happened in 2000 I might could play along. But I wouldn’t have stopped at happy hour happy. I would have been more like happy hour GONE.”
(At this point my heart starts to beat a little faster. I am so on this jury as long as I can be quiet. And that’s a BIG if.)
The questioning continued. Mostly lame stuff for prospective jurors Two through Ten. The Prosecutor was now ignoring Mr. One, a sure sign she had decided he was a little too risky and had put him down as the first of her three free strikes. The Prosecutor was getting close to hitting her time limit and I was feeling a little giddy that I had made it this far. Then it happened.
Prosecutor, “Mrs. Stevens, do you know what a blood warrant is.”
(Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. I may as well just leave now.)
Me (trying not to look like the paralegal that I am), “Yes.”
Judge, “Mrs. Stevens, you’ll have to speak up. No one can hear you.”
Me (louder), “Yes.”
Prosecutor, “And what is your opinion of blood warrants?”
(Do I have bleeding heart liberal tattooed on a part of my body that everyone can see but me?)
Me (hedging), “I understand that certain police departments in the area use them and that they are issued by a judge over the phone.”
Prosecutor, “Yes, yes ... that is the procedure. Do you know what a blood warrant allows the police officer to do?”
Prosecutor (clearly a little frustrated that I’m eating up her last five minutes), “And what is your understanding of that?”
Me, “It is my understanding that once a blood warrant is issued by a judge, the suspect must submit to having their blood drawn.”
Prosecutor, “Do you have a problem with that?”
(And ... she’s outta here.)
Prosecutor: “Why is that?”
(Screw it ... maybe I’m not cut out for jury duty anyway ... I think I’ll get a pedicure this afternoon ... at the spa that serves WINE.)
Me, “Because I’m fairly certain that as soon as someone challenges having forcibly had their blood drawn, by a non-medical professional, on the side of the road, in the middle of the night, on the basis of a warrant issued over a telephone, in Federal court rather than a Texas court, this practice will be deemed unconstitutional.”
(And there was stunned silence in the courtroom. My very own Perry Mason moment.)
And with that, I made eye contact with the defense attorney. She gave an almost imperceptible shake of her head. I apologized to her with a slight bow of my head and she forgave me with a sigh. And I was off to spend the afternoon not performing my civic duty, but having my toes painted lavender while sipping on a nice Riesling. Perhaps my destiny really is to be just another Stepford Wife in a pedicure chair. But you can bet your ass I was the only one there thinking about the constitution.