Sturm und drang. So throw me a donut.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Unconscious Mutterings Week 500...I've ignored you!

I started doing this exercise several years ago, but I haven't posted on for a long, long time. I think I'll start again. Each week, ten words are posted and it's a free association exercise. That's it.

You can play this word game here:

I say ... and you think ... ?
  1. Call :: Home
  2. Instinct :: Mindless
  3. Toffee :: Coffee
  4. Cleaner :: Maid
  5. Gut :: Anxiety
  6. Leveled :: Storms
  7. Discover :: Learn
  8. Together :: Family
  9. Attack :: Idiocy
  10. String :: Sheldon Cooper

And then, if you like the words that bubbled up to the surface, make a poem out of them. I'll try this later...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

TILT for August 30th

Things I Love Thursday - A chance to list and talk about all the good things from the past week.

Is there anything I love today? Or yesterday? Or the day before?

I love that I have a job, a place to live and paychecks starting at the end of  September. I love that we are all together and the stress of wondering what next is over; or almost over. I love that the Big Bang Theory is on all the time because that show makes me happy. I love the feeling of making the right decision after I met the therapist today. I love washing and drying my clothes in my own apartment rather than dragging all of it to a tiny laundry room where something is always broken or being used by someone else. I love seeing clouds in the sky, although it never rains. I love that my older son had a great job interview today and was elated that it went well and he is recommended for the job. I love that my husband is home at a decent hour every evening to help mitigate the stress of dealing with an unhappy younger child. And I really love not having that feeling of doom hanging over us anymore.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What do you do when your kid wants out of the relationship?

Since 2000, we (as in the family) have been chasing this dream of a great career with steady work and decent pay. It didn't happen. Ten years of hoping and working hard, and it all went down the toilet with one phrase: I don't think this is working out. Seriously. That's the phrase that ended it all, ended the career, and ended any hope of ever finding a place in that career again. And in the middle of the recession we thanked our lucky stars for unemployment and four retirement funds.

So, we switched careers. Two years of me in college to finish my degree, jobs to pay the bills, and now FINALLY we are back on track with new jobs - a Career that will last. Just as we (as a family) are getting back on our feet and making a new life, our younger son has decided that he is leaving.

Realistically, he can't leave if I say no. But then he'll make all of us pay. It's like I don't know him anymore. He tells me it's about finishing high school with his friends in our former town, that it's about school and finishing that program and being part of that class. But I feel completely betrayed. We have no extra money, no way to insure him properly if he's not living with us, and no money for him to travel more than once a year. Putting the whole family in financial jeopardy seems to be the last thing on his mind.

So I told him no. I told him he has to stay in school here. I told him he has to see a psychologist to work on the anger. And he has to treat the rest of us with respect. Or it will always be no. Right now, I wouldn't send him off to live with anyone because I don't trust him. I don't think he's mature enough to be in charge of his own life. And how do you ask people who are virtual strangers to be his parents until next June?

So then he said he wanted to get his GED so he could finish school and leave as soon as possible. A GED is not the same as a diploma. He's far too smart to wear that millstone around his neck for the rest of his life. But here's what I can't answer: How he feels betrayed by us for moving every few years. How he feels like he has no control over his life because we took that away. How he feels like he doesn't belong anywhere - except for that one school and that one class of kids. And how he spent months planning this and never said a word.

I told him he has to earn this one. He has to earn his way out of this family, because that's what he seems to want right now: To get out of this family so he can get away from the pain. How am I supposed to respect that decision?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Washers and Dryers and Bears, Oh My!

My brand new washer and dryer were just delivered and installed by two very nice gentlemen from Sears. Here’s a plug for Sears (this is NOT a sponsored post…although I’m totally open to YOU, SEARS, helping out a loyal customer!): I got a fantastic deal and my machines delivered inside of three days.  They run like a dream, too.

Good thing the men installing the machines were thin...

Aren’t they lovely? All wedged into the "laundry area" that is really nothing more than a closet?  I think I’ll call them – oh, I don’t know, what in the heck do you call a washer and dryer? Thelma and Louise? Bob and Midge? Kitty and Red? Maybe Kitty and Red. I’ll see how they like it. My son is grateful for the new washer and dryer because now he doesn’t have to schlep the laundry to and from the laundry room in our apartment complex. There are only four washers and four dryers in that laundry room, so it is a challenge to get more than one load of wash done in a reasonable amount of time.
The dryer was the most photogenic.
Where we used to live, there were 25 washers and 25 dryers, plus a massive commercial dryer that was big enough for five loads of laundry, or two or three toddlers; if toddlers were allowed in the commercial dryer. They’re not. I read the sign above the dryer: Children NOT ALLOWED to play in dryer.

When it comes to using a public laundry room, the rules of communal living can go right out the window. Most people do what is necessary to get along with fellow neighbors, but every so often someone shows up and turns a morning doing laundry into a blood sport. And then the apartment manager hangs up signs in the laundry room spelling out exactly how we are all supposed to behave. This laundry etiquette poster, heavily edited over the year to reflect current complaints, graced the wall of the laundry room of my former abode. I think the rules were overly optimistic.

Rule number one: Do not use all the machines at once.

This was the result of one really cranky man who got ticked off at the mom who had 20 loads of laundry stuffed into plastic bags and a toddler trying to “help” by dragging his snotty nose all over the fronts of the washing machines. I was using the other five washing machines, only because I had seen the mom loading up her van to drive her laundry across the street to the laundry room, so I sprinted back into my apartment, screamed at my kids to GET OUT OF BED and rushed the rest of our dirty clothes out the back door to the laundry room just in the nick of time. You snooze, you lose, buster!

Rule number two: Beware of bleach.

Why? Is a bottle of bleach lurking behind the washers, waiting to leap out and mug me for my quarters? Maybe someone spilled bleach, didn’t clean it up, and another person got it on his or her clothes. Or maybe, after closing down a local bar late one night, one of the younger, single students decided to do laundry and mistook an orphaned bottle of bleach for detergent, ruining a washer full of clothes. It could happen. One Sunday morning, at 5 a.m., I rolled my bin of dirty clothes over to the laundry room and found some dude passed out on the folding table, clutching a box of dryer sheets. I opened the windows over his head so that the noxious fumes emanating from his body would not spontaneously combust should I accidentally throw a spark as I took my static-charged clothes out of the dryer.

Rule number three: Keep children out of, and off of, the machines.

Yes, I’d hate to come back to get my towels out of the wash and discover a shredded toddler in there. That would be much worse than the shredded facial tissue I usually find stuck to my towels.

Rule number four: Don’t ogle the underwear. Maintain a respectful distance from people who are folding underwear.

Since I am basically antisocial and try to do my laundry when no one is around, I never experienced this problem. I have no idea what constitutes a respectful distance. Five feet? Fifteen feet? Stand in the parking lot? And what happens to underwear oglers? Maybe the bleach is on duty and takes care of them. There’s one reason why I don’t want people looking at my underwear: Old lady underwear. I’m ashamed, but I get twice the yardage for half the price of fancier underwear.

Rule number five: Don’t remove other people’s laundry.

I will break this rule if the laundry inhabits a washing machine for so long that the stench leaking out from under the lid indicates that a healthy crop of mold is ready for harvest. I will bag up the accidental science experiment and throw it into the dumpster. And then douse the inside of the washer with that orphaned bottle of bleach. You’re welcome.

Rule number six and seven: Don’t let friends use the facilities AND empty the dryer lint traps after each use.

I don’t have any friends, so this one is easy. But I regularly peel thick sheets of rainbow-colored lint off the lint traps and think of Slater Barron, aka The Lint Lady. Barron is an internationally known lint artist who recreates great works of art entirely out of dryer lint. If ever there was an artistic pursuit suitable to living in an apartment complex, this is it. I wonder if Barron would agree to do my laundry in return for harvesting sheets of lint out of the dryer traps? Barron isn’t my friend, so I wouldn’t be breaking any rules.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

TILT for August 23rd

Things I Love Thursday...just a list today:

Air conditioning

Blue sky

Grackles under the trees

Good restaurants close by

My new job

New shoes

That corner in JCPenney where they sell clothes for short people

No telemarketers calling my phone

My own bathroom

Three different kinds of salsa in my fridge

The swimming pool

Phyllis Diller

I am very sad that Phyllis Diller passed away on Monday. She was one of my favorite comedians. I remember reading this book for the first time after my family moved from the Midwest to Washington State. We moved at the end of second grade, so I had a whole summer to friends yet and a lot of time on my hands.

Phyllis Diller's Housekeeping Hints

I had no idea that it was comedy. I really thought that she didn't clean her house and her husband was named Fang. It was completely out of my realm of experience to read about a woman who accidentally locked herself out of the house so she could lounge in the yard and drink all day; especially when my own mother was a neat freak and couldn't tolerate even a crumb on the floor in the kitchen. When I saw my mom vacuuming the back of the couch (again) and raking the shag carpet in the living room with a leaf rake, I went into my bedroom, closed the door, and read this book again. And again.

Eventually, I understood that it was comedy. Along with Carol Burnett, Vicky Lawrence and Lucille Ball, Phyllis Diller taught me to look at the world from a different angle. It was okay to be funny, outlandish, creative and different. I realized that there was a whole world contained within a woman's point of view. With the passing of Phyllis Diller, there is also the passing of an era. I hope other female comedians are ready and willing to take up where Phyillis left off and keep exploring the far reaches of being a woman in a man's society.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Top Ten: Winter

It's 95 degrees outside...and probably 100 degrees on my just looking at this little guy makes me nostalgic for winter. Why? Because THERE WILL BE NO WINTER for me this year. Or for as long as I live in the southwest. Oh, sure, I can take weekend trips to the mountains and see the snow, but it won't be the same as snow in my backyard.

The Top Ten things I love about winter are:

1. Snow. Of course. Lots and lots of snow. I've been snowed in by heavy snow and/or blizzards and I love it!

2. The cold. Really, I love cold temperatures.

3. The clouds. There's nothing like winter clouds, full of snow, and creeping across the sky and dragging the long, dark tendrils of falling snow behind them.

4. The sky. There is a special blue that takes over the sky on winter day when the sun is shining, the snow is sparkling, and there's not a breath of air moving. It's a deep, dark blue that seems to extend a million miles into space.

5. Ice skating. I love to skate, but I've had very few chances to ice skate these last 10 years. We once had an outdoor rink at the end of our block and it was fabulous. One Saturday night, I took the kids to skate after dark and we ended up skating under the stars and the aurora borealis.

6. Animal tracks. A fresh snowfall plus nocturnal animals equals a fascinating array of tracks through the yard.

7. Snowmen. It would be winter without making at least one snowman!

8. The wind. Is there anything that sounds colder or more mournful that a winter wind whistling under the eaves in the middle of the night?

9. No school. I still get excited when the school closures are announced every five minutes on the early morning news!

10. Long walks, through the snow, for no particular reason at all.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The mess that keeps on giving

Dear Mitt and Paul,

I am not voting for you. And because of the faked crisis of voter fraud and increased faux vigilance for these mainly imaginary criminals, it took me a grand total of 10 hours and five pieces of paper to get a new driver's license, so I can vote, after I moved to a different state. Oh yes, I got my license because I have the TIME, MONEY, TRANSPORTATION, SUPPORT, and VERIFYING PAPERWORK to get one. And both of you think this is okay. I don't. I now understand, in a very visceral way, how it feels to face the assumption that I am being less than honest. I've lived a pretty sheltered and privileged life, and last week I had a glimpse of what goes on just beyond that bubble I've lived in for over four decades.

I am not voting for you because you think my uterus SHOULD be a clown car; or whatever my husband decides is best for me. Or my doctor. Or my priest or pastor. Do you see the pattern here? I find it terrifically pathetic that two white men are sharing a national stage and advocating for the return of this nation to a period of time that is highly romanticized and sanitized for your audience. If either one of you truly thinks that backpedaling to, say, the 1950's in order to set this nation on a more moral and righteous path is going to fix all of our problems, get thee to a clinic and start on some meds immediately. I am very happy with many of the things going on in this country right now and I'm going to continue to support and vote for these changes; things like health care for everyone, freedom to choose what health care procedures suit me, more funding for public education, clean air and water, limits on what banks and corporations can do, and more money - yes I said MORE MONEY - for social services. I see the government as We the People and I want to keep paying people to distribute my tax money to those in need. I want to pay for other people's college education, welfare, food stamps, health care...and I'm not going to insist that I know every detail of how that money is spent or insist that I must agree with every aspect of what it is spent on. That's why I vote for people on the state and federal level to hammer out all those details for me.

I am not voting for you because you hate government. Government is not a dirty word. Government is what gives this country a structure in which to grow and prosper. Sure, we have problems and the structure is not perfect, but the idea that Government should be strangled and drowned in the bathtub, or that it should be induced to fail so that it can be rebuilt from the ashes, is fantastical and irresponsible. And misleading. You both are lying when you say that you want to make this nation great again through destroying the Government. A completely free market and unbridled capitalism is a recipe for turning this nation into a giant fiefdom serving the lords of the corporations. We are a nation of people, not a nation of wealth producers. PEOPLE with hopes and dreams that can't be quantified with dollar bills. Shame on both of you for trying to reduce over 300 million people to little piles of paper and coin. Is that all we are to you?

I am not voting for you because I think you hate me. Or at least, you think so little of me that I am not part of your campaign. I guess I should say, I am beneath your notice and count for next-to-nothing in your grand plan to take over this nation. Mitt, I am poor and relatively powerless. How much time would you spend talking to me to convince me to vote for you because it's in my best interest? And Paul, how much time would you spend trying to make me change my mind about you? All I see in campaign ads, op-eds, interviews and speeches is an attempt to scare me into voting for the two of you. FEAR. That's all you have to offer. Fear of invading illegal immigrants. Fear of taxation destroying my livelihood. Fear of government telling me what to do. Fear of foreign countries. Fear of foreign leaders. Fear of socialism, freedom of thought and speech, and fear of just about anything that might tear the blinders off and show people who you really are. You are both fear mongers and snake oil salesmen.

I am not voting for you because both of you pervert and distort the Bible. You pervert and distort history to suit your opinions. And neither one of you seems to care that you have abandoned the discipline of fact and replaced it with relative truth; or should I say, the truth as you see it through highly conservative and fundamentalist glasses? But here's one thing I have to give the two of you: The abandonment of the discipline of facts and the rise of moral and factual relativism  can be blamed on the Left, too. I guess I expect people who wish to serve the nation to be smart enough to recognize this and at least try to rise above it.

I am not voting for you because I think, beyond political parties and all the issues trotted out by both sides over the past few years, there really is a grand plan that will not be good for me or my family. It's all about money, who has it, and who controls it. I'm not talking about pay checks, I'm talking about the ability to control wealth. As I see the middle class disappear and wages shrink to pitiful levels, all in the name of profit, I practically weep with anger. You do not care about me, you do not care about my family, and you do not care how or where I live my life as long as the profits keep flowing upward to you and your kind.

What I see are two white, privileged men who care about two things: Money and power. I can't vote for that. I won't vote for that. But the truth is, I'll vote for the least objectionable person because that's all the power I possess. And the only reason why I have the power to cast a vote is because I was able to provide the proof that I'm a resident of this state and that I rightfully exist, however minimally...

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Change is hard. Changing the little things can seem like a big deal, until the big things change. It's the big things that cause me to reevaluate my life. As hard as changing the big things can be, these are the changes that have given me the opportunity to redefine my dreams and make them reality. Big changes allow me to winnow out the unnecessary and remove the weight of the needless baggage I've accumulated through inattention.

I choose how I define passage from one life to the next.

"...I shall go with the changes,
I shall look far out over golden grasses
And blue waters.

There are no farewells."

-May Sarton Gestalt at Sixty

Monday, August 6, 2012

Christmas Ham in August

Getting a new driver's license is not supposed to be a big deal. A little paperwork, an eye test, some money and it's all done, right? RIGHT?

I was warned that the office we were going to this morning is always crazy busy. We arrived an hour before the office opened and the parking lot was full of cars. There were at least 150 people in a line snaking out from the front door, down the sidewalk and into the parking lot. The people in line were already bunched up, tired and hot. I think it was 80 degrees by 7 a.m. I got in line and hoped for the best. The shade in front of the building was only 50 or 60 people away. I'd be there in no time flat.

Two hours later, the sun was creeping ever higher in the sky and the shade next to the building was disappearing at an alarming rate. I was nowhere near the shade. But I had all my paperwork, a bottle of water, a vat of sunscreen smeared on my face and I was ready to stand there all day. Melting. Burning. Blistering. Dying. Drying up and blowing away in the wind like dust. If this is what it takes to get my Texas driver's license, so be it. An elderly couple pulled into the parking lot, parked in the handicap space, and slowly got out of their car. Together, they weighed maybe 80 pounds and I'm pretty sure 10 minutes in the hot sun would kill them. No one made eye contact as the octogenarian couple in their matching his-and-hers orthopedic shoes shuffled across the parking lot to the end of the line.

And then the state trooper came out of the building and walked up and down the line checking on everyone. He was concerned about people passing out from the heat. So I waved my hand in the air to get his attention and told him to please please please take that elderly couple into the building and put them at the front of the line. He did. And I felt a little better as I reached a new level of hot. Hell has nothing on the Texas sun in August. If I don't have sunscreen on, within five minutes my skin stings like I'm being stabbed with a thousand little needles. If there's even one skin cell on my face or arms that has even the tiniest niggling of an idea to turn into cancer, I'm dead. I am now on a mission to find a new sun hat because otherwise I will probably end up bald after my hair bursts into flames and  consumes itself.

Another hour went by and finally I was at the front door, sandwiched between huge, sweaty, angry men, and we all shoved our way into the waiting room. The waiting room was full of at least another hundred people being served by eight state employees. Not one employee made eye contact with anyone until that person had his or her number called and walked (or I should say stumbled since we were all so tired and dehydrated) up to one of the clerks at the long counter. But there was air conditioning! And ceiling fans! And a water fountain! And a restroom! And chairs! Normally, I'd say Hell is any government waiting room, but in this case it was so cool, dim and wonderful that I didn't care if I had to sit there all day. Just as I was fantasizing about getting in the water fountain and taking a cool bath, I hear a raised voice at the "Welcome" desk.

Before anyone saw the clerks in back, they had to see the "Welcome" lady first to determine if they were worthy of seeing a clerk at the back counter.

"I'm sorry, Ma'am, but your driver's license expired last week so you must show a birth certificate to get a photo ID card," the Welcome Lady was saying. "It's to prevent identity theft."

The lady protesting Welcome Lady's assessment of her paperwork was at least 100 years old, and all she wanted was a photo ID card so she could, oh, I don't know, have proof of identity on her body in case she died in some out of the way place and no one found her until she was so decomposed that her family wouldn't recognize her?

The old lady shook with rage. She clutched the handles of her walker and leaned over the desk as far as the hump on her back would let her and said, "I was sick for a month. I couldn't get out of bed. And then it took me two weeks to arrange for my daughter to bring me down here to get my ID. All I want is a picture on a card with my name on it! How hard is that?"

And then the old lady grabbed her papers, stuffed them in her purse which hung on the arm of the walker, and rolled out of the office at the speed of molasses on a cold day.

"They didn't even HAVE birth certificates in my day!" she yelled over her shoulder. "I've had a driver's license since I was 18 years old and NO ONE HAD A PROBLEM WITH IT!"

The Welcome Lady punched at some keys on her computer keyboard and pretended to not hear a thing. The clerks were perched on their chairs in a line behind the long, dark counter. Each one used towelettes to carefully wipe down anything that had been touched after each customer left lest someone spread some dreadful disease. All of them began to look like trolls just waiting to deny a poor soul their driver's license. One troll, with upper arms the size of Christmas hams, sat in her chair and stared at a spot on the far wall, avoiding anyone who tried to get her attention to ask her a question.

"Miss?" one young man said, grinning and bobbing his head to try and get Christmas Ham Arms' attention. "Miss? I have a quick question..."

Miss Christmas Ham Arms stared blankly over his head and ignored him, clutching a pen in one hand and tapping her first finger of the other hand on the counter. The man looked a little confused, and then he gave Miss Christmas Ham Arms a dirty look and slouched back to his chair to sit and wait with the rest of us.

And then, finally, it was my turn at the Welcome Desk.

"Ma'am, what can I help you with today?" Welcome Lady asked me.

"I need to surrender my Washington license and get a Texas license today," I said, smiling and putting my stack of papers down on the Welcome counter.

The Welcome Lady laid all of my papers out in a neat row, frowning and shaking her head. "You will need at least one more piece of paper that proves your place of residence."

"But I have everything on the list," I said, smiling wider.

The Welcome Lady pulled a brochure off a stack of papers to her right and held it up in front of my eyes. "Did you consult this before you came down here?"

It wasn't the brochure I'd downloaded from the department website. "Is that new?" I asked.

"As of May 7th, these are the rules. I'm surprised you didn't see this if you were on our website," Welcome Lady said without smiling.

I wasn't smiling, either. 

I left before I said anything unfortunate. The state trooper was still in the building. Four hours of misery and I still have my old driver's license. What the hell. It doesn't expire until 2016. I might not even be living here by 2016 so I'll just keep it for a while.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The thing about moving

Last sunrise over Ellensburg...

Moving seems to be something I'm well-suited much as I'd like to stay in one place for a long time, there are circumstances beyond our control that nudge us back into a UHaul and yet another trip across state lines every few years. 

I think part of it is my refusal to stand for taking what I am handed and saying Please, may I have some more? I am so disgusted and demoralized by the downward spiral of so many things...

Public discourse
The middle class
The value and dignity of human beings
The strength of unions
Intellectual curiosity
and I could go on and on and on...

I didn't send enough stuff ahead in the UHaul. It was a long process to get every box and bag in the right place, and then I still had to stuff the extra things into every crack and crevice. I left behind a box of hangers (no great loss), a cheap TV stand (well, we really could have used it), a craptastic vacuum cleaner that I hated, odds and ends like a dish drainer and all sorts of cleaning supplies that would probably boil and explode on my trip through the southwest, and things that really had no purpose. It's always good to cleanse yourself of things you really don't need.

Even the back seat was full. We had to be careful of sudden one likes getting beaned in the back of the head with a bottle of shampoo.

I've seen Mt. Shasta from the other side, and it was equally as beautiful from this side, from a rest stop on I-5. My son loved driving and wanted to drive all the time. I was happy to let him take charge. Driving is boring and it's hard to sightsee.

Despite all the negative press from some sources about the viability of wind-generated electricity, there are a lot of wind farms up and down the west coast. Someone thinks wind farms are a good idea. I think they are a fantastic idea. I don't think wind turbines are a blight, rather I think they are beautiful in their simplicity and beautiful in what they provide us. We passed a coal-burning power plant in Arizona (I didn't get a picture because the camera had fallen through a crack in the space-time continuum and was being held hostage by the mountain of junk in the back seat) and it was a frightening sight. Compared to a wind farm, the power plant was a hulking, spewing behemoth next to a mountain of coal fed by a dedicated line of rail cars full of more coal. But we all want our electricity for lights, computers, cameras, air conditioning, hospitals, schools...I believe that we are smart enough to figure out how to use alternative energy sources to transition ourselves to less dependence on coal and gas power plants.

This is what I'd like to leave my children...

And this...

Did you notice the oil being pumped in the corner of the photo? Oil will be with us for a long time. This was a wind farm south of Lubbock, Texas. There were thousands of wind turbines stretching to the horizon. And farmers were still farming around the base of the turbines. And around the oil wells. It seems like a good lesson in co-existence.

As much as I love trees, I love seeing rocks. Big rocks, little rocks, cliffs, name it, I like seeing it. New Mexico was lovely.

The moonrise over the plains was breathtaking...this is just outside of Lubbock. The moon always looks like a blob with my camera, but in black and white it looks okay. In color, it was amazing.

The sunset was equally as amazing. I didn't want to roll down my window because it was still 97 degree outside. The toughest thing will be not having a cool breeze.

And one last shot of New Mexico. I'd love to wake up every morning and see this in my living room window. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Distracted by the Olympics...and sleep

San Antonio is hotter, hillier, and greener than I imagined it would be. It will take me a loooong time to get used to the ground radiating massive amounts of heat all night instead of cooling down at sunset and - dare I say - get chilly. There will be "chilly" for maybe six weeks over the "winter." I promise to keep my mouth shut and not make disparaging comments about "winter" down here. After slogging through 8-10 inches of snow to AND from school for weeks at a time last winter in Ellensburg, let's just say that I have a different definition of the season. I kept two sweaters, only because I love them and I couldn't send them to Goodwill. Plus, I still have my wool coat and my shearling coat. What can I say? I have a coat fetish. Every once in a while, I'll have to stand under the a/c vent and wear my coats for a few minutes just to let them know I still love them. It's nothing personal, coats, but it will never be cold enough to wear either one of you outside...unless I win the lottery and take both of you on a ski trip to Colorado.

I've been watching the Olympics and the one thing that really strikes me is the spirit of the games versus real life. The Olympics celebrate the mastery of skills that, while pretty darn cool, are not exactly practical in real life. But that's not the point. The point is the single-minded pursuit of perfection and the strength to compete against other people. Receiving medals, standing on the podium and listening to a nation's anthem is the reward for being the best at that point in time. And it's healthy competition. The athletes look like they are having fun, they congratulate each other, and it seems like everyone is a winner just for being at the games. Right now, I'm watching Ledecky - who is 15 years old -  swim for a gold medal and an American record in the 800 meter freestyle. How cool is that?!

I wish we could all revel in this spirit of competition and support, the pursuit of perfection for the sake of perfection, and an appreciation for just doing something because it's hard and fulfilling. Real life, that life we all live despite having hopes and dreams that may not have anything to do with our regular jobs and day-to-day worries and fears, is such a bummer sometimes. It's all about money, why Mitt Romney won't release additional tax returns, Chick-fil-A and that slippery thing called free speech and opinion, and this national mania to cut taxes, cut services, cut spending and cut people off from anything that pisses off someone else. Imagine if Chick-fil-A stood for truth, honesty and doing the right thing by the employees and customers. That would mean saying "I have an opinion, it's different from your opinion, but let's just agree to disagree and move on." Or am I wrong? Is there a middle ground? Mitt is definitely hiding things. He refused to release tax returns when he ran for governor of Massachusetts...and still won. He's playing this like if he has to fess up and show more tax returns, his privacy will be destroyed and HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR PRIVACY INVADED LIKE THIS? Or at least that's how some people are spinning it.

I'd like to see the presidential candidates compete in physical competitions instead of the endless political ads and infuriating debates. If the candidates - and I mean all the candidates that run, not just the two main parties - had to train for a 5K, a 100-meter freestyle dip in the pool, skeet shooting, and a floor exercise showcasing strength and flexibility there would be a lot less hot air and a lot more perfection of physical strength and mental stamina. And maybe this kind of humbling, difficult training and competition would translate into a president with the mental flexibility and stamina to get things done. And I'd like to see the senate and house engage in a massive cage fight; just to clear the air. The vice president could officiate the match. Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready to ruuuuummmmmmbbbbble?! It seems like there's enough hate and angst to put on a really good show. After all, members of congress are perfectly willing to let regular Americans fight to the death over minimum wage jobs with no benefits, and all the while telling us that we're lucky to have jobs that pay anything at all.

On commercial breaks, we keep flipping the channel to watch a bit more of Mississippi Burning. Here's the story of people fighting for the right to be treated like everyone else.

Gabby Douglas is the first woman of color to win a gold medal in the individual all-around gymnastics.

And people here in town are lined up out the doors of Chick-fil-A to show support for a cause I'm not sure they really understand.

Which one of these things is not like the other?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Final Exit

Last night, Lubbock, Texas looked really good under a full moon as the city twinkled at us on the plains. At 9 p.m., it was still 97 degrees (and everyone else was driving around with their car windows rolled down) but traffic was light and we found our hotel. And no hookers.

It's now 6:45 a.m. and the sun hasn't risen. WHAT? Has the curvature of the Earth changed THIS MUCH by driving 2,000+ miles south?! Apparently so. And it's hot already with 90% humidity. Life is going to look a little different from now on.

So, it's breakfast, pack the truck, and drive another 8 hours SOUTH to San Antonio. I shall slather on the sunscreen and stay in the shade from now on. And/or only come out at night.