September 2008


Sometimes I can’t believe it when people don’t do things in the way that I think is so obvious.

One such thing: when our can’t-be-ex-soon-enough-president sent all of our bright and shiny young men to bomb the hearts and minds out of the Iraqi people, and left them all sitting on a big pile of rubble that used to be their infrastructure, and then told us that paying to rebuild it all was the right thing to do, well, who could say no to that? I mean, look at those poor broken people–we’re just going to leave them like that? So we said yes! Rebuild their infrastructure! It’s the least we can do!

So I thought, yes, we will send them the money to rebuild, and they will be busy for a while. They’ll be rebuilding their infrastructure, and they’ll all be working, taking home food for their children, rebuilding their roads and their electric companies and their waste treatment facilities, replacing their bomb-damaged public works, too busy and too happy with the nice new facilities they’ll be taking such pride in building to have time for anything other than work and home and family and buying food and stuff. Too busy to bother thinking about bombing some American hearts and minds in return.

So then I heard that the king of the cronies was giving all those jobs to his good ol’ boys, and paying them wayyy more than necessary to do them. And “losing” a bunch of money in the process. “Oops! $9 million? Umm, gee, I dunno what happened to it!” And when those good ol’ boys went to do all those jobs, and grab all that cash, well, those poor broken Iraqi people sitting on their pile of rubble with nothing better to do than watch the good ol’ boys must not have realized that the good ol’ boys were taking all the money “for the good of the Iraqi people.” Because then those poor broken people with no jobs and no electricity and no running water started grabbing their rubble and throwing it at the good ol’ boys. They started surging in. What else were they gonna do? Sit around and applaud?

So is it just that the repugnanticans didn’t know that the Iraqi people already knew how to rebuild their own infrastructure? Was it that they didn’t know that the Iraqi people didn’t have any jobs to go to because we bombed the shit out of everything in sight, and that they just might kind of like to have a say in the rebuilding? Were they really that stupid? Or was it that they were blinded by the shiny shiny money? Or were they just plain evil? Planning all along to line each other’s pockets with the guilt money of the American people?

And now the good ol’ boys lost a bunch of money gamblin. Who’s gonna bail em out? Ah, but of course! One last massive and sustained squeeze on the teat of the cash cow before the cronie king bows out. Jesus.

Wake me up when Obama’s president. He’s got a heart and a mind, and isn’t afraid to use either one. Bet he woulda done it my way. Too bad all he’ll have left to work with is a dried-out old husk of a cow and a whole lotta pissed-off Iraqis.

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This summer, two weeks before my daughter turned 9, I noticed that, in addition to the development in the upper regions that had been freaking us out for the entire year, some other, um, stuff seemed to be happening. I didn’t want to like, inspect anything, so I asked her if that was what I thought I saw. When she confirmed, I figured it was probably time for “The Talk.”

I think I actually handled it pretty well, so I thought I’d share in case anybody else was wondering how to handle this with such a young girl. (Apparently, it’s not considered abnormally early unless menarche, i.e. the first period, happens before the age of 8.)

To that point, all she knew was that sometimes Mommy didn’t want to go swimming, and when pressed about why, eventually mumbled something about a period. When pressed about what that was, I told them it was when you had blood “down there” for several days every four weeks.

So when I told her that what she had going on probably meant that she would be starting her period some time soon, so I wanted to talk to her about it so she wouldn’t freak out the first time it happened. Her reaction? “Nooooo!”

I told her it wasn’t so bad, and that in some cultures they celebrated and had special rituals. “Why would they do that??” she wondered, slightly horrified. I explained that when it happens for the first time, a girl becomes a woman, and can have babies. I quickly added that this was happening to her really early, and she’s still a kid and shouldn’t have babies until she’s much older. Much much older. Like finished with high school and college and everything. Prie Dieux.

I also told her that she wouldn’t actually be bleeding, even though it would look like blood. I said (moment of inspiration here):

You know how birds make a nest and line it with the softest stuff they can find to keep their eggs safe? Well, that’s what your body will do. It’ll make a nest inside your uterus every four weeks and put an egg in there in case you want to have a baby. When you don’t have a baby, it cleans it all out to start over again for the next time.

She looked intrigued, so I figured I was doing all right. I went on to explain about pads and stuff, and gave her some panty liners to keep in her bathroom where she’d know where to find them, and told her to let me know when she needed something a little more heavy duty. Whew.

I was totally gratified when she said “I don’t want to have a baby. How do I not have a baby?”

Gratified or not, my answer was pretty lame: “Just don’t let any boys anywhere near your pee-pee and you’ll be fine.”

That got an even more gratifying “EWWWWWWW!!!”

(I’m really going to have to update to something a little more mature than “pee-pee,” but I’m just not ready.)

Figuring that a lot of her friends probably wouldn’t be in need of “The Talk” for a long time yet, I asked her not to talk to them about it. “Why not?”

“Well, would you rather learn about this stuff from your mom or from your friends?” I asked, holding my breath, not really sure what her answer would be.

“My Mom!” (Yes!)

Then, thinking of some of the poor girls whose moms can never quite bring themselves to have “The Talk” in time, I told her that if a friend was freaking out about it, to just let her know that it was all right, she wasn’t dying or anything, and that she should talk to her mom about it.

So there you have it. The Talk for girls who are way too young to be having The Talk. I really hope this helps someone, because if my daughter ever knew I posted this she would probably kill me.

It gets so confusing when political machines start churning out facts and pseudo-facts. If you don’t want to read, here’s a video about some of the more flagrant lies: YouTube link (since it won’t let me embed the video).

Context: Sierra talked Cabana Boy into taking her “picture day shopping,” but Aja didn’t want to go because she already has enough clothes (of which she refuses to wear any but the most worn-out).

Aja: “This world was not built for shopping!”

We went to Sierra’s first soccer game yesterday. Her team is called the Wizards. Cabana Boy is the coach (and I must say he looked so cute in his soccer shorts and his finally-growing-out curls). Sierra looked like she’d been doing this forever. The wind was really kicking though, and blew away her shot at a goal early in the game. The wind kept increasing, and you could see the trees along the side of the fields bending further and further, dust was kicking up, Cabana Boy was holding onto his baseball cap. Hair–even ponytailed hair–was whipping faces, those canvas fold-up chairs in bags would blow over if there wasn’t a butt in them, and finally, when a trash can flew at a crowd of people about midway through the Wizards’ game, they called it and cleared the whole soccer park at 4 pm.

As we headed for our cars, a port-a-potty blew over onto its door, oozing blue liquid, and a little girl ran screaming that her little sister was in there. Luckily she wasn’t. As we were sitting in the traffic leaving the fields, we saw goal thingies blowing over (yeah, I’m a jock, hep to all the terminology). But those things are made of poles and loose-weave nets! How could those blow over? The few people still not in their cars were covering their faces when gusts pelted them with 50mph dust and debris missiles.

On the drive home, we saw traffic lights blowing completely horizontal, and noticed that fireponds had waves crashing on their shores. There were some power outages already, and we saw several trees down. The kids rode home with my parents, and said they saw a gas pump blown over, trailing wires. Of course, this didn’t make nearly the impression on them as the fact that their favorite place to stop for slushies, Thorntons, was not serving slushies due to a power outage.

Pulling into our neighborhood, we saw more trees down, having crashed through fences. Several neighbors’ houses had siding flying off, and our crabapple tree was making alarming noises as it thwacked the downspout. We ran around the back yard, gathering up pool floaties and stuff that were gathered in a drift by the fence, and shoving them in the shed. The tatami-ish rug Cabana Boy had put at the end of the pool was in the pool, along with a flotilla of green leaves whipped from the trees. The umbrella had been left open, so it had carried its table across the garden, and we fought the wind to close it. All secured, we joined the kids inside to watch as the wind kicked it up a few more notches, and we lost power at around 5 pm. “Say hello to Ike, kids!”

Our yard collected several pieces of somebody’s siding. We watched as more siding was whipped off our neighbors’ house and their flag pole bent and finally gave it up. We watched as the woman across the street, who has never walked her dog that we’ve ever seen in the past four years, proceeded to go outside and walk her dog, because, you know, it was such a lovely day for a stroll. The tree next door went down, narrowly missing the front corner of their garage, and they had to chop the rest of it down as it was splintered and threatening to fall on the house (or ours). Dad helped move it off their driveway.

My parents went home, across the street, and while Dad was out back looking at the damage to their fence from a Bradford pear, the other Bradford pear came crashing down, smashing the fence. Thank God he was standing on the other side of the first downed tree, or he would have been under it. We all hunkered down inside with candles, and realized that we don’t have a transistor radio with batteries. I went out to the car at around 7 pm and heard a radio announcer say that we had sustained winds of 40-50 mph with 70 mph gusts. The wind advisory was to last until 9 pm, but I don’t think it actually lasted that long.

This morning, all is mostly back to normal. I don’t think we personally sustained any damage other than some flapping shingles on our roofs, and Mom and Dad’s fence. The kids don’t have school today, because a lot of the schools in their district still don’t have power. Poor deprived children! Our power must’ve come back sometime last night, so I was happy to get my coffee fix this morning, and not to have the prospect of the “I’m bored!” litany all day.

Okay, workie workie time! With kids!

I’m not what you’d call a religious person, although I do believe in God. I don’t go talking about it all the time or trying to push my views because I think that’s something that we find inside, or in my case, outside. I don’t feel it in churches, although I’ve tried a number of them. I feel it under trees and where wild things are. So reading a book about God isn’t something I’m generally inclined to do. I’ve never actually made it even through the old testament of the bible (very dark and violent in my opinion). But four years ago, on the Daily Show with John Stewart, I saw Desmond Tutu promoting his book. He really made a profound impression on me, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. So I finally checked it out of the library.

Archbishop Tutu is such a sweet and good man that it’s almost heartbreaking. Although his book is all about God, it’s not at all preachy. It’s in his style: accessible, not very long, infused with charming touches of humor, and loving. I haven’t finished it yet, but I just read something in it that I had to share.

God Has a Dream
A Vision of Hope for Our Time, pp 25-26

None of us comes into the world fully formed. We would not know how to think, or walk, or speak, or behave as human beings unless we learned it from other human beings. We need other human beings in order to be human. I am because other people are. The “self-made” man or woman is really an impossibility. In Africa when you ask someone “How are you?” the reply you get is in the plural even when you are speaking to one person. A man would say “We are well” or “We are not well.” He himself may be quite well, but his grandmother is not well and so he is not well either. Our humanity we know is caught up in one another’s. The solitary, isolated human being is really a contradiction in terms. God is smart. God does not make us too self-sufficient. We have our own gifts and that makes us unique, but I have gifts that you do not have and you have gifts that I do not have. The totally self-sufficient person, if ever there could be one, is subhuman.

The first law of our being is that we are set in a delicate network of interdependence with our fellow human beings and with the rest of God’s creation. In Africa recognition of our interdependence is called ubuntu in Nguni languages, or botho in Sotho, which is difficult to translate into English. It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness; it speaks about compassion. A person with ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole. They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are. The quality of ubuntu gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.

You know when ubuntu is there, and it is obvious when it is absent. It has to do with what it means to be truly human, to know that you are bound up with others in the bundle of life. And so we must search for this ultimate attribute and reject ethnicity and other such qualities as irrelevancies. When we Africans want to give high praise to someone, we say, “Yu, u nobuntu“: “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.

Yes! What he said! I already highly recommend this book for everyone, even though I haven’t finished it yet. And I’m not a person who reads any non-fiction willingly, let alone religious works. Although he’s an archbishop, (which makes him what? Catholic?) Desmond Tutu writes to everyone, black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, of every religion or no religion, and says that whether or not we believe in God, God believes in us. No matter what we’ve done, God never writes us off as irredeemable. Jimmy Carter provided a quote for the inside cover that calls it “A spiritual message that if heeded can changes lives as well as history.” I think that probably is true, so I hope everyone in the world will read it.

Okay, so now I’m going to go back to reading it.

Upon seeing my exasperation at yet more clean clothes tried on and then tossed in a heap on the floor:

“Mommy, I don’t hang up my clothes because it takes up all my time and I’m just too lazy to do it.”

Yes Mom, here’s your poetic justice…

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