Finding My Dream Home

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For me writing about living spaces is my business. I write about choosing colors, determining the best use of square  footage, planning and designing so that everything fits and complements everything else. Of course I also write about the frustrations: budgets that just won’t stretch far enough, deliveries that are late or missing, damaged or simply wrong. Contractors and subcontractors who run late or just stop showing up one day with no explanation.

But the real bottom line for me and others in this business is that there is a pure pleasure in helping others with the challenge of making their homes just that much more beautiful, functional, thoughtfully-designed, or in one way or another, perfect for them. And I get to do it every day.

But even in this business, we only get to do it for ourselves a few times in our lives. And it’s easy to forget how exciting, how demanding, how challenging it is to choose the cabinets, flooring, countertops and all the other elements that will go into the home you will call your own.

When designers or bloggers work for other people, they finish a project, get kudos and cash, and move on. If I paint the right word picture of a lovely home, I can help people make better choices – choices they will be happy with long after the builders and designers and I are gone. But you know, it’s different when you shut the door and you’re still in the house.

Many of us have been in the business long enough to see trends come and go. So, when it’s my house, I have very different choices to make. Do I choose from the current trends that I am still in love with knowing that I are designing a home that may be out-of-date when I’m ready to move on?

The alternative is to put together a home that has resale in mind rather than one that I will happily live and work in in the meantime. Does that do justice to who I am? Am I willing to compromise my living space for the economics of a decision that may not be an issue for the next decade or more???

All of this has been running through my head lately because I just sold my condo and bought a new/old house. And I will be renovating it completely: from removing the popcorn ceiling to replacing all the flooring, including an entirely new kitchen – an essential decision when you consider the original 1983 kitchen still in the house!old kitchen in house

And I have wrestled with flooring, cabinet and countertop choices, the unexpected cost of a new air conditioner and fixing up an Arizona room to stabilize it and connect it properly to the house. And I have had to let go of my dream of fixing up the bathrooms right away, because I am two years away from needing a new roof, and attic insulation and replacing the windows that face west come first. And my budget that seemed too generous at first is more limited than I realized…

But I am in love with my new house. It is not big, or fancy. With the Arizona room and some other changes it will just reach 1,750 square feet. And I have to let go of the designer cabinetry and appliances I see at the design receptions and open houses. Home Depot has become my new best friend.

I am hoping to add some design splashes as time goes by. I am investing in good flooring by Shaw. That seems like the gift that keeps on giving to me. And my cabinetry is one of the better brands Home Depot offers, and my appliances are nice and classic stainless GE. I will see if I can go wild and spring for the slate… And when I can I will add some kind of gorgeous tile backsplash. But that can wait.

kitchen choicesI did make the design choices that make me happy. Fortunately many of them are also smart resale decisions. The flooring is one of Shaw’s better laminates – smart in this climate and it looks so much like wood that it really fools the eye. And I chose white cabinets in a shaker style. A classic, but also my favorite. And a lot of the design touches such as replacing the sliding closet doors with French doors will happen at a low cost thanks to a dream of a brother-in-law who has an extensive construction manager background and will serve as my project manager and has also offered to do all the things he can do himself.
And if I have to live with a guest bathroom with a vanity top that is plastic with pinky-
brown and cream swirls and a built-in sink to match for a while…well…sigh…I will.scale-NWF042

Because the popcorn will be gone and I have seven mature citrus trees in my extra-large cul-de-sac backyard and a nice covered porch in my front yard. And I have already chosen the porch swing that I plan to paint bright red to hang just to the right of my front door.

And you won’t believe the light that comes into the house from every room. My house may not be every designer’s dream, but it fits my dreams very well.

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I Know it Works, I Just Don’t Know Why

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Many years ago, in another lifetime, I worked for a public TV/Radio station in Toledo. It was a great job and my co-workers were terrific. But shortly after the first television fund raiser, I realized that the people running the place were under the mistaken impression that their taste and opinions were more important than the people whose contributions were paying our way.

I watched as, fundraiser after fundraiser, we would run “The Grand Ole Opry,” the best source for country music at that time, and our phones would light up with pledges. Seriously. That night was our biggest money-maker of the entire fund drive. Sooooo according to what everyone said during the drive, their contributions should tell us what kind of programming they would see in the coming months, right? Well…no.

opry-4We had the symphony, the Metropolitan opera and Masterpiece Theater. Nature programs and Nova. Sesame Street. Now these programs did well on our pledge drives, but nothing like the Opry. I was just a peon at the time, but I asked the programming people, “Why aren’t we running any country music shows for all of those people who keep donating every time we play the Opry during the fundraisers?” Their answer was that there just weren’t any available. I had to accept that since I didn’t have access to their information and didn’t know any better.

At least I didn’t until I moved to Phoenix and discovered “Austin City Limits” and other PBS programs devoted to Country music. I had been lied to, along with everyone in Toledo. The programs were there. But the people in charge didn’t like them and so decided against them.

Now here’s my puzzle. Why did these country music lovers keep donating to a station that never rewarded them? Why did they vote for a station that literally despised their taste in music and thought it beneath them? Why didn’t they see through the bullshit and move on to the people who really paid attention to who they were and what they wanted? I never did understand it, and when I left that station in Toledo and moved here, they were still throwing money at a PBS station that really didn’t care about them.

150821211117-donald-trump-alabama-rally-pointing-to-crowd-large-169Then I watched this Trump election. And I saw a billionaire who lives in a Penthouse apartment set so high in Manhattan that all he has ever had to breathe is rarefied air. His third wife is a model-thin overly-made-up woman who is clearly more comfortable in designer clothes than jeans. But he threw on a baseball cap, probably for the first time in his life, and talked to workers like he was one of them.

Now these are the same kind of workers that he regularly cheated out of paying by going bankrupt. He pretended to be the friend of the same kind of small businesses that went bust thanks to his unethical business practices. He convinced men that he was a good ol’ boy while speaking of women in a way that none of them would think of talking about in any locker room, ever. And they believed him. They accepted him as one of their own. And once again, I had to ask why?

09carolina-web-master768These are people who depend on the healthcare created by the democrats they voted against. Some of them benefited from the extended unemployment benefits Obama provided during the lean years after the last republican administration. Many also got jobs thanks to the 4.6% unemployment rate we are currently enjoying.

Anyone who pays any attention at all knows that the coal industry is dying, as it should be. Not because of liberal climate change legislation, but because it is too costly to maintain with other less expensive options available. And the fossil fuel industry is also shrinking as countries around the world figure out that renewable energy involves a one-time investment rather than a constant purchase and dependence on unstable international markets for a fuel that also compromises the future of the planet. But he promised those industries would come back, knowing they won’t, and they believed him.

Because, you see, the rest of the world doesn’t live in Toledo, Ohio. They don’t listen when someone says there are no country music programs available, or that climate change isn’t real. They aren’t limited in their thinking to what right-leaning politicians and news sources tell them. They look into it for themselves. And they understand something the republicans don’t want to acknowledge. You can’t legislate scientific reality. It happens no matter what laws you pass.

But in the meantime, those people in Toledo, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Florida still send money when the Opry plays even though they don’t get anything back from it. Nothing at all. And those republicans have taken their votes and at the same time are rubbing their little hands together,  with a plan to eliminate the healthcare that is keeping them safe, compromise the social security they’ve been paying into all their lives and destroy the Medicare that allows them and their parents and grandparents to not worry about their doctor and hospital bills. Because the republicans’ agenda is for their own benefit, not for the people who voted for them.

nixon-opryThey voted for a billionaire because he wore a baseball cap and they think that means that he understands them. Well, he does. Enough to sucker them into voting for him. He understands them alright. But here’s the biggest mistake they all made. Understanding isn’t the same as caring. He doesn’t give a shit. And the rest of the republicans with him. They’ll play their symphony’s and operas and Masterpiece Theater for their crowd, and use your money to do it. And feel justified. And the tools they used to win this time – working with Russia, using the head of the FBI to compromise the election, make Nixon and Watergate look like a dance party in comparison. And they fooled just enough people, under 100,000, to win.

 

But if you voted for them you’d better understand. They don’t dance with the ones that brung them. Never have, never will.

My Last Dog

gracie-croppedI know that time will blur the edges of my memories, just as I know that this huge hole in my heart will eventually heal again, at least somewhat. But I also know that for the rest of my life now, I will be more alone. Because no one is alone who has a dog. They are there to be a part of your life, ask for a bite of whatever good thing you happen to be eating, talk you into playing when you think you should still be working, and defend you with their little selves against all comers. They will love you and love you and love you with every thing they have and everything they are down to their last breath, because that’s what dogs do. That’s what my dog did. And I will miss her until the day I die.

Gracie came to us by accident. And God help me, at the time I didn’t want another dog. Our black lab, Omni, was not well and was taking all of my dog energy, and I thought I couldn’t spare the room for another. But after Gracie was rescued by some friends who had been hiking and found her in the desert, almost dead, I said we could take her for a few days, until the people who were on vacation that wanted her came home.

She came in with so much attitude. She saw my dog in the house and figured there must be room for only one dog and it better be her. She tried to throw her little weight around. She was a hard dog to love, so desperate to stay, so scared. But so easy to love. She moved so beautifully, like a little deer, I named her Gracie. One week became two, and the people who said they would take her changed their minds. My husband said, “Well, make an adoption flyer.” And I did, with tears streaming from my eyes. I sent the email, then I think even before it had time to hit his computer at work I was on the phone to him.

“If you didn’t want me to keep her, you shouldn’t have left her here with me for two weeks,” I said. “Gracie is staying.”

gracie-close-up-webLike a miracle, a dog miracle, once I decided she was going to stay, she settled down. She suddenly knew there was room in our home and hearts for two dogs. She and Omni got along just great. A retired seeing eye dog, Omni had to learn to how be a real dog once he came to us. Gracie taught him to play, and they had royal though gentle battles all through the house and our big back yard. They were pals. When we would leave them, they would look up and say, “Don’t let the screen door hit you on your way out.”

Now dogs come into this world with different kinds of jobs to do. Omni was a servant dog, like all service dogs are born to be. He didn’t learn to bark until he joined us. Gracie was a true watchdog. Our front window was just the right height for her to stand up on her hind legs and look out. That was her favorite spot and every day she took responsibility for all of the neighborhood that she could see. I knew everything that was happening outside because Gracie kept me informed.

She was a very vocal dog and she had different sounds and barks depending on what was going on out there. I knew when the mailman came, when someone was out for a walk and whether they had a dog with them. I could tell when one of the neighborhood cats was wandering through our  yard, taunting her. And our doorbell suddenly became totally redundant. Gracie let me know when someone was coming to visit long before they got to the front door.

Omni had no interest in protecting anything, but he was a social barker. So from my office or wherever I happened to be in the house I’d hear Gracie’s excited little bark bark bark announcing something interesting happening outside, followed by one deep bass woof from Omni, standing a few feet behind her, saying, “Gracie, whatever it is, I’ve got your back.” Oh, they were such buddies in every way. You know, the only thing better than one dog is two dogs.

Over time as Omni continued to lose ground. He began to have less interest in playing with Gracie. This was hard for her. She would tempt him with her toys and with tennis balls, his favorite. She could get him to play for a few minutes but then he would lay down. She would stop and lay down next to him. I remember the last time she tried to get him to play. She picked up a tennis ball, walked over and just dropped it right on his nose. When he didn’t move, she knew. After that she stayed close and settled for our games.

When we put him to sleep, afterwards she was standing at her window barking, and there was no answering deep “woof” behind her.She turned around, saw he was gone, and quietly got down and walked away. She didn’t look out the window again that day. We all mourned, but oh, I was so glad to have my Gracie to hold on to when I cried.

Shortly after that I gave up my office downtown and moved my work home full time. She had our half-acre back yard to entertain her, once she adjusted to her new doggy door. At first she saw no sense in it. As she explained, “Why do I need to go through this thing when I can just call you and you can open the big door for me whenever I want to go out or come in?” But my friend Pris came over one afternoon and we spent about an hour alternately calling and shoving her through first in one direction then another, finally leaving her outside and just waiting. Of course she wanted to be where we were and suddenly saw the brilliance of it – with the doggy door she was in charge. She fell in love. That doggy door was her ticket to outdoor freedom. Once she made that connection we had no more trouble with her over it. She was such a smart girl. She thought things through.

Gracie was good about letting me work during the day. I’d break for lunch, hers and mine, and we’d play a bit before I got back into whatever I was working on at the time. She could entertain herself. She was in and out, watching out the window or wandering through the back yard. Lots of interesting smells and things to investigate out there.

Along about four or four-thirty, she would show up at my office door, a squeaky toy in her mouth, and inform me that my work day was done. If I was wrapping something up and not quite ready to quit, I’d tell her and she’d leave for five or ten minutes, then show up squeaking a different and hopefully more tempting toy, sure that this one would get me up and playing. How could I resist? All her toys had to squeak. The first thing she did when you got her a new one was chew it all over until she found the squeaky place. Her favorite toys made lots of different sounds and she’d play them like some sort of doggy accordion.

1916922_1083933619559_1587654_nWith Omni gone, we thought we’d get another dog to keep Gracie company, but she had other ideas. She made it clear that she intended to be an only child. We tried to bring other dogs in but she would have none of it,  so we gave up. When we were gone for a while, we would find one of my then husband’s shoes somewhere in the house. She would carry it around with her for company and comfort but she never chewed on them. Unlike a lot of other dogs, she never chewed or damaged anything but her own toys. She knew what belonged to her and what didn’t. She was such a good girl.

There’s a basic difference between dogs that have been abandoned and those that haven’t. The ones that have always have an underlying fear that it could happen again. They know that being loved is no guarantee. She loved being on a leash because then she knew exactly where I was. Actually, I think she thought I was the one on the leash.

The only punishment I ever had to use was separating her from us. I would put her outside for about a minute and not let her come in. That’s all it took. I think I only had to do that about two or three times in her entire life. After that, all I had to do was say, “Gracie, do you want to go outside by yourself?” and she would stop whatever naughty behavior she was exhibiting – generally barking at someone at the door when I wanted to talk to them. This was a personal challenge for her, and she would end up keeping her mouth shut but making weird whiny noises in her attempts to stay quiet.

10649779_10202666364161261_6020167593871464401_nGracie would bark any time someone came to the door unless three or four people came. Then she would suddenly say to herself, “oh, it’s a party,” and stop barking and turn into a welcoming hostess. She loved a lot of people and totally enjoyed any gathering. I think her ideal world would have been to have all the people she loved in one room with her in the middle.

Gracie had no interest in running away. One time I had been gone for a good part of the day and when I came home I found her attached to her chain at the front of the house, which is not where I left her. It turned out that one of our neighbors had found her loose in our front yard, guarding it, and put her on the chain to keep her safe. I realized she must have found a way out of our back yard.

So the next day I let her out, then went inside and hovered out of sight at a nearby window. She looked around to make sure I wasn’t watching and immediately headed off for one spot at the back of our yard and disappeared into our oleanders. I ran to the gate to our back alley and opened it to find Gracie trotting down the block to get to the front of our yard. I called her name and she turned around with that doggie look that says, “busted.” I think she figured she could guard our home much more effectively from the front yard than by just looking through the window.

I never read dog biographies because we all know how they end. And the hardest part of having a dog is knowing that chances are good that you will outlive them. They are the most wonderful creatures and one of the best parts of our lives, until they aren’t. And I can’t imagine my life without a dog. But now I am learning how.

So these days no one gets me up at six in the morning to go outside. And when I fix bacon or shrimp or eat vanilla ice cream I don’t have to share. No one follows me to the bathroom and pushes open the door with her nose to see what I’m up to (nothing new Gracie, same as last time). No one interrupts my writing with a fussy noise that means stop that and pet me now, right this minute, now please, now. And somehow, her favorite stuffed bunny toy is sharing my bed, and I find myself petting it when I just can’t stand having nothing in my life that asks to be petted anymore.

I have no children and so have taught myself to make do with other people’s children. It’s not what I wanted, but in life when you have to, you find a way. Now I have to teach myself to make do with other people’s dogs. And I know my broken heart will mend. But oh, it’s hard.

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Jenny Wren

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For Gracie

Many and many years ago, too many to count if you counted a long, long time, there lived a family on a hilltop. This was where hills and woods made friends so that it was hard to tell where one started and the other ended.

This family grew things. They grew strong tall sons and daughters, with six daughters and seven sons, each son tall and strong, and each daughter buxom and beautiful. They all had hair the color of corn silk and eyes the blue of the summer sky. In the evening they would talk and laugh and the daughter’s eyes would flash like lightning in a summer storm and the son’s smiles would echo the feeling of peace they felt at the end of a long hard day of work.

The mother smiled as she looked on her family and said, “We have all the family we could ask for.”

And the father said, “Not yet.”

The land they owned was fertile and the family grew richer as the children grew older, and the father cut down more trees to add to their tilled fields and orchards. And his sons grew crops and his daughters picked fruit and the family became every year more prosperous.

And the mother said, “We have all the land we could ask for.”

And the father said, “Not yet.”

And, for a wonder, in the autumn of their days, they had a seventh daughter. She was not the bouncing big blonde baby of her siblings. She was small and wizened, with brown hair and brown eyes. And her mother called her Jenny Wren and she loved her.

Her father dismissed her as of no value. She didn’t grow things. She had no golden beauty like her sisters. But he was wrong. Hers was a hidden loveliness, like a tree in a woods, unseen until you come upon it. Her smile was like the sun on the leaves, shifting and light with the play of words in a conversation. Her voice was as gentle as the breeze, carrying you away with the pictures she painted of fox and otter, squirrel and chipmunk as they made their way through the underbrush.

woods

She knew the woods like her mother knew her sewing basket, like her father knew his property, like her brothers knew their fields and her sisters knew their orchards. For the woods were her world and the trees her friends.

And as the boys grew and wanted wives, the father looked for women with something more than sweetness to offer, and added gold to his coffers and land to his holdings.

And if their households weren’t peaceful, he still counted it a bargain worth making.

And as his daughters grew older and more beautiful, people said he sold them on the auction block the same as any slaves. And the sky-blue eyes of his girls that had flashed as bright as any summer storm turned cloudy and sad. But the father counted coins and was pleased.

And the mother said, “You have done enough.”

And the father said, “Not yet.”

treasure chest

Jenny grew up quick and quiet, and she listened to the quarrels of her brothers’ homes and saw the unhappiness in her sisters’ eyes. And she spent her time under the trees of the old woods. And her harvest was the nuts and berries and the herbs that grew wild, and her basket was always full when she came home in the evening. And her mother’s stews were more flavorful and and the family table had more variety thanks to the foraging of Jenny Wren. But when the mother said the same to the father, he had no praise for his youngest daughter.

Then the father craved more than money and land, so he leveraged his gold for power and influence until he was known far beyond the hills of the property. And when he raised his voice others listened, until others had to listen.

And the mother said, “You have said enough.”

And the father said, “Not yet.”

Then one summer the mother found it harder to cook and clean, so that Jenny Wren spent less time in the woods and more time at her mother’s side. And then the mother took to her bed and Jenny Wren stayed inside and nursed her. She tempted her with tidbits that she cooked and told her stories of the woods and the animals that lived there. And all her other children came and sat at her bedside and brought their children and told stories and laughed and talked until the old homestead rang like it had when they were young. And the mother smiled and was happy with the harvest of her life.

And while the father was away using his influence to get things done that he wanted done, the mother sighed and gently slipped away. And her children cried.

The more you love, the more you are loved.

The father came back for the funeral, which he made sure was held with all pomp and respect, for after all she was his wife, and he was an important man. Then he went back to using his power and his children went back to their households and managing the farm. And Jenny Wren went back to her woods and mourned the mother who loved her so and the father who never learned to know her. And so it went on for many years.

But nothing stays the same forever, as those who live a long time know, and one day the father was talking to those he perceived as important when he was stricken. And suddenly no words came out of his mouth and he had to stop where he stood. His body betrayed his will and all of his wishes were for naught. And so he came home again, a broken man, no voice and not much movement, except for his right hand.

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And it was winter at the farm and also in the father’s heart.

His children came to see him, duty calls with nothing for them to say except talk of the harvest and the farm. And the father turned his head away even then. And so one by one they stopped coming. And they hired a nurse and a man from the next town to care for him and went back to their own homes. And so it went all the winter long.

The less you have to give the less you get.

The father faced the wall and said nothing and barely moved, except to eat. And every day Jenny Wren came and sat by her father’s bed and watched him. She saw him turn his head away and she said not a word. But one day, near spring when the birds were returning, she laid a feather on his pillow where he would see it when he woke up. One feather.

featherIt was a simple white feather, no colors or special features, but for someone who had been staring at a bare wall all winter long…

The next day before he woke up, she added a few seeds from the big maple tree outside. Nothing unusual, just the little samaras that float down from the tree every spring trying to create new maple trees. But while the feather had just sat there, she noticed that her father was moving the winged seedlets around with his good right hand.

maple-seeds-feather

And Jenny Wren smiled.

The flowers were coming up in the yard, so the next day she brought a few daffodils and an iris in a glass and set them on the table by his bed. She clunked the glass hard enough for him to hear, then slipped out the door but lingered almost out of sight to see what he did. And he turned to look at the noise and stayed facing the flowers. And her smile came again and stayed.

And every day she brought in some of the outside to her father’s room. It might be a spreading branch of forsythia announcing spring in a large vase sitting on the floor or a bunch of pussy-willow opening their fuzzy blooms near his bed.

And she never said a word.

Until one day she walked in with her daily offering and he was waiting, watching for her. And he nodded to her and smiled. Just a bit. And it looked, just a bit, like the sun coming from behind the clouds after days and days of rain.

And Jenny Wren smiled back, and suddenly the father understood something of what the mother had always understood, and a tear rolled down his cheek. He couldn’t stop it. He didn’t try.

And so every morning before his nurse came she opened his bedroom curtains and cranked the casement all the way out and announced the day to him. She told him of the weather, clouds and the birds singing outside. She described the orchards and fields and what her brothers and sisters were doing.

And after the nurse fed him and the man dressed him and put him in his chair she came back. And she worked with him, helping him move his arms and legs. She talked to him of simple things and made him laugh and try to answer her, day after day. And the spring slowly moved onto the land. And his unyielding mind began to respond with movement and words. Slowly, oh so very slowly. And his heart started to remember what it had forgotten in what he had thought of as his prime.

And for the first time since she died he missed his wife.

The more you learn the more you can learn.

And one day Jenny Wren came in and said, “It is time.”

She had the man move her father in his wheeled chair out to the very heart of her woods and leave them there together in a clearing. Then she said, “Here your not moving is a good thing. You will be still because you must, and I because I have taught myself how.”

And as they sat quietly, all the stories she had told came to life before his eyes. Here a squirrel grabbed a last few nuts from a hole in a nearby tree, chattering at them as if unsure that its cache was safe. There a robin built the perfect nest for his lady love, choosing carefully from the collection of yarn and thread Jenny had scattered on a nearby branch. A shy baby rabbit peered around a tree before scampering up to grab a tender lettuce leaf, waiting until hunger tempted it beyond its fear of the new extra-large human. Jenny Wren they all knew from many past visits, but her father was an unknown.

bunny

At the end of the afternoon, she brought him back. When he protested she only said, “It is too early in the year to stay longer, but you can come back tomorrow if you like.”

That night he felt hungry for the first time since his illness, and the food had a flavor and freshness he hadn’t tasted in many years. And he fell asleep and slept well, looking forward to the next day.

And so Jenny Wren took her father through the woods, all the places his chair could go. They parked by the river and watched the otters play all day long. They hid along a pond and saw deer, does, fawns and twelve-pointed bucks come to drink, the parents watching for predators while the babies played. She showed him where to pick wild asparagus and how mulberries grew near the small streams and springs.

They visited with his sons in the fields and his daughters in the orchards, seeing the planting and the growing, watching and taking part. And what had started on his children’s part as wariness soon turned to welcome as the father gave praise and withheld judgment, so that their visits were greeted with pleasure.

And Jenny Wren made willow whistles while the bark was moist and flexible enough to slide right off the old willow tree’s branches– one for every grandchild the father had, and every whistle played a different trembling note. The children all came one night and the grandchildren gave a concert on their whistles with Jenny as conductor and the house rang with laughter again.willow cropped

And soon the father grew strong, and he left the chair at home and roamed on foot by Jenny Wren’s side. And he didn’t just listen to her stories, but told some of his own, and the conversations they had became rich with thought and a new appreciation on both sides.

And Jenny Wren said, “Will you go back to the city to wield your power again?”

And her father said, “Not yet.”

And throughout the summer Jenny Wren took the harvest of field and orchard and mixed it with her gleanings from the woods that she showed him how to gather, and created meals that made him say with a chuckle as he pushed away from the table, “Jenny girl, you want to make me grow fat.”

Then when the fall returned and winter started to show its hand again, Jenny Wren and her brothers and sisters sat down with their father, and Jenny Wren said to him, “This time last year you came home a broken man. Now you are well again. What are your plans? Have your ambitions returned with your health?”

And her father said, “Daughter, now I understand what my wife was always trying to help me understand, and what you have understood since the day you were born. I have family enough, land enough, riches enough and power enough. But then, I always did.” And he held his children close in his arms, in his eyes and with his heart.

The more you love, the more you are loved.

The less you want, the richer you are.

News from the We’re Going to Hell in a Handbasket Department

Covert-Affairs-817x404_cSo in these troubled times I am surviving by watching escapist fare and by that I mean Covert Affairs on Amazon Prime. It’s five seasons of CIA-focused madness at its best – a well-written, convoluted spy thriller of a soap opera starring a tall, blonde, athletic, painfully-thin young spy who is nothing at all like me except – wait for it – she drives my car.

Yes, in episode two or so, I saw her get out of a sporty vehicle in a flash of red and I thought, “It can’t be. I know I thought my car was cool, but could this essence of coolness actually be driving my car???” By episode three, I knew it was true. She really owned a red VW Golf. The greatest car on the planet, if I say so myself. So, she and I are obviously sisters under the skin although way under the skin… but I digress.

The reason I am enjoying the show, besides good writing, interesting characters and non-stop action is the increasingly insane plot lines. Oh, it started normally enough, with her picking up international information and acting all spy-like. But before you knew it we were dealing with double agents and Russian covert operators who were hacking our computers and compromising what should be safe areas in our democracy. But we have this amazing tall skinny blonde woman who drives a bright red Golf, for heavens sake, and she saves the day every time.

And I really need the escape, what with the election and all… until I started reading the actual  news and felt like I was previewing the next season of Covert Affairs. I mean, why would the Russians feel the need to hack the Democratic Party’s server? I can only think of one reason that makes sense from a plot standpoint, and that would be if the Russians were planning to insert a virtual Russian mole into American politics via the Trump campaign. Someone like, say, Republican Presidential Campaign Manager Paul Manafort.

Of course, if I had been thinking of this election the way I think about Covert Affairs, I would have seen it coming. There was plenty of foreshadowing, what with Trump speaking so highly of Putin, as if he had insider knowledge of the guy, and his remarks about Russia and the Ukraine. And it would work out so well for Russia if we too had a crazy-ass out-of-control demagogue running our country. Especially when he and Putin seem to have some sort of serious man-crush on each other.trump_Putin-shirtless-web

So… for the rest of the day I am going to ignore the election and wallow in Covert Affairs. Because if our country really is going to Hell in a Handbasket the way it seems… If we actually are at the point where one of our Presidential campaigns is being run by a Russian mole and the American people aren’t rising up as one to tear down the party and person that allowed this to happen, escaping sounds darn good to me at the moment.

Mike Pence and the Holier than Thou Brigade

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I like Jesus Christ. He’s one of my favorite historical figures. It seems like he was a nice guy, generally. Oh, he could get pissed off, like when he threw the Pharisees out of the temple and all. But you know, he had reason. Generally though, he was a straightforward person. Told a good story. But these days a whole lot of people are saying and doing a lot of hateful things in his name, and I for one don’t think it’s right. Oh, they call themselves Christians, but I just don’t see it. As a matter of fact, it seems to me that they’re giving Christians a bad name.

You know, one day Jesus was talking to some people and he said there were only two rules people needed to follow to join him: Love God, and Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. I like that. It’s simple and clear. How can you argue with that?

But I guess two rules aren’t enough for some people. So they had to go back into the Old Testament and pick and choose from parts of that book to find more rules they say are part of being a Christian. Now, if they want to choose rules and apply them to themselves, I have no problem with that. Some things done in the name of religion such as self-flagellation I think are a bit odd, but it makes me no nevermind if someone wants to hit themselves with a stick or a whip. I say, if it makes you happy or if in some way you think it brings you closer to your image of God, then go ahead.

But when you pick and choose rules from the Old Testament and try to force them on other people, that’s another story. And you have to go to the Old Testament, of course, because you can’t find the nasty bits in Jesus words – the mean stuff these so-called Christians like to glom on to, like homosexuality is a sin. And of course you shouldn’t eat pork or shellfish… Wait. They actually don’t follow those rules. They like their bacon. That’s why I call them Selective Christians. They select what rules they want from the Old Testament and ignore others. I didn’t know you were allowed to do that. Most religions I know take an all-or-nothing approach.

And these same Holier-than-thou Selective Christians are so caught up in telling other people what to do that they seem to have lost sight of some really important things Jesus told his followers to do. Such as, one of his best lines, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” That’s a good one. You don’t hear that one much around the Pence crowd though.

And here’s the really interesting thing. They’re also really selective about the United States constitution. I’m talking some of its really good lines, like the ones about the separation of church and state and the idea of religious freedom. They want the U.S. Government to pass laws making what they consider to be sins illegal. And at the same time they want their discriminatory behavior against those they consider to be sinners to be legal. Because they don’t really believe in the separation of their church and our state, and they’re all for religious freedom as long as it’s their definition of religion.

And I’m here to tell you that I think if we had Jesus Christ here today. If he walked into one of these churches and saw what these people are propagating in his name, he’d, well… You know all of those Rock & Roll musicians who aren’t letting the Republicans use their music at their events because they don’t want their music associated with them? Well, I think if Jesus came back today, he’d make them stop using his name and he’d take back those crosses too. And I don’t think he’d be polite about it either. After all, we know he could get pissed off, when he had reason.

 

 

I Don’t Need Steven King, I Have Trump

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I have a sister who is afraid of clowns – has been since she was a child. So, I have to admit, last Halloween I was mean enough to send her the photo of the scary clown on the right. I’m guilty of that kind of warped sense of humor. And when Trump started his run for the Presidency, that same warped humor enjoyed his run. After all, the Republican party had earned it with their decisions, hadn’t they? They could have made a real effort to change after the disaster for them that was the 2012 Presidential election, and it looked as though they were going to, but they didn’t. They chose to continue down the low road of hate and fear, obstructionism and attack rather than evolution. And after all, so many of their members don’t even believe in evolution…

And so there he was, the Trump-Meister. Fresh from his appearances on reality TV, practically joined at the hip with such valued citizens as Honey Boo Boo and the Duck guy, running for the highest office in the land. And actually saying out loud all of the things the Republicans had only insinuated before. Things like illegal immigrants are thugs and African Americans are dangerous gun-toting criminals – not like the safe gun-toting white Americans with the right to buy and carry those arsenals of automatic weapons. Me and my warped sense of humor actually said I hoped Trump got the nomination, because that would cinch the Democratic win this year. My actual quote was, “With Trump as the Republican nominee, any Democrat with $11 in donations could win.”

I am ashamed to admit it, but there you have it. I foolishly underestimated the willingness of too many voters to be fooled. Now I listen to the bombast, sounding not unlike the snake oil salesmen of years past. I hear a man who has declared bankruptcy more than once claiming to be a good businessman. I wonder how this person who regularly trades in wives for a newer model when the old one gets, well, too old, manages to appeal to people who have been happily married to the same model for a lifetime.

He turned the Grand Old Party into a Sad Old Party and their convention into a rant itself of fear and hate. There was no celebration there. It was an angry wake for a lost America that I don’t recognize or believe in.

I see members of Republican dynasties like the Bush family walk away from their party and just say no, we cannot stand by this man. He openly insults Americans who don’t fit his white-person mold and thinks that’s OK. He mocks the disabled, women or just anyone who doesn’t agree with his skewed vision of the world. He reacts to the attacks on his words and behavior by the Democrats – well-crafted responses to his ignorant rants – with the desire to hit them.

And he thinks he has somehow earned the right to be our President.

He has never held an elected office. He has never served this country a day in his life. Not in our military, not as a volunteer, not in any way, ever, ever. But he feels he should start at the top. And we have voters who agree with that.

I have a sister who is afraid of clowns. I always thought she was silly, but now I have to admit, I agree with her.