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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Death of an Icon: Michael Jackson

It's been a crazy week. I had this long to do list on Monday but then life happened. Earlier this week my neighbor committed suicide and that sort of tripped me out. Then Farrah died. Although that was expected, it was still so sad; I'd felt like I'd gotten to know her a little through her documentary chronicling her battle with cancer. Her death was expected, so it wasn't exactly shocking, just sad.

But then of course later in the day Michael Jackson died. Not so much expected. More than a little shocking. So, like millions of other people, I spent the rest of my free time this week reading articles and watching television specials, remembering times gone by. It's hard to believe that someone as iconic as Michael Jackson can be gone. His music and just his presence in the world have been a constant throughout my life. And now he's gone. Just like that. It's disturbing.

And just how did Michael Jackson get to be 50 years old? Seriously?!!! That's gotten me thinking about my own mortality. Time has a way of creeping up on you, my parents warned me, but I never listened. I was too busy working and raising my son to notice just how quickly time was passing. I'm 47 now. 47!!! How can this be? I still feel the same inside and I really don't think I look that different. OK, if I take an honest look in the mirror I maybe see a couple wrinkles here and there, a bit of gray hair. But I'm still the same person inside. Still think I'm cool. Still like the same types of music, wear the same clothes, watch all the new movies. (Still can't moonwalk.)

Today I'm feeling old and a little lost. People my age are dying. Dropping dead like flies. Is this going to happen to me? Will I go to bed one night and just not wake up? Do I even have enough time left to finish all I have started? Probably not. Nobody does. And that's a little disconcerting. We all have a limited amount of time on this planet. We don't know when ours will run out.

I read a quote today from Reinhold Neibuhr: "Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime." That was strangely comforting to me. Rather than fearing there's not enough time to complete what I've begun I will just continue to do. If I drop dead tomorrow, someone else will pick up the torch and carry it on a little farther. All I can hope is to make some small contribution to the world. And I will. Because we all do in one way or another. Most not on such a grand scale as Michael Jackson or Farrah Fawcett, but we all make an impact on the world, touch lives. We all make a difference.

Rest in peace, Michael and Farrah. Thanks for rocking our world and entertaining us. You will be missed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


My neighbor was found dead this afternoon. Suicide. I found out about it from another neighbor's boyfriend, Richard, who had knocked on my door to pass along the information. Bad news travels fast.

I put on my sandals (the dangerous ones) and walked down to the mailbox so I could retrieve my mail first, figuring I'd look less conspicuous and nosy if I had something to carry in my hand as I wandered over to where all the cop cars were, like I had just stumbled upon the scene on my way back from checking the mail.

There was a fire truck and three cop cars. Lots of neighbors milling around. I picked out a guy walking a beagle and asked him what had happened. Apparently the poor man had just gotten out of the psych ward the day before and he came home and killed himself. Maybe he had been suicidal before and that's why he had been in the hospital. Maybe while he was there they put him on one of those wonderful antidepressants that have "thoughts of suicide" as one of the side effects. Who knows?

What I do know is that I'd see him every day when I'd go for my walk, sitting on the steps, smoking a cigarette. Sometimes we'd make eye contact and I'd smile or say hi. He never said anything back to me, he just sat there looking kind of depressed. Maybe he needed a friend.

I hope there was someone out there that cared about him. He must have had someone, right? A friend or family member? God, I sure hope so. Everyone needs a friend. This world's too hard to go it alone.

He was the kind of guy that you probably don't usually take notice of. Reddish hair, big build. I can't really picture his face. But still. He was a human being. With thoughts and feelings and hopes and aspirations. The world is diminished because of his death.

I didn't even know his name. And that makes me sad.


Here's a good article from the Mayo Clinic about what to do if a friend or loved one is suicidal.

Here are some suicide and crisis hotlines you can call if you are depressed or suicidal.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Global Warming: Do You Believe?

Global Warming Earth Burning
Global Warming.... do you believe?

Are you one of the "liberal left" who believe that the sky is falling, or perhaps one of the far right, one of the "global warming deniers" or greenhouse doubters, as they prefer being called?

According to a Newsweek article, "just last year, polls found that 64 percent of Americans thought there was "a lot" of scientific disagreement on climate change; only one third thought planetary warming was "mainly caused by things people do." In contrast, majorities in Europe and Japan recognize a broad consensus among climate experts that greenhouse gases—mostly from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas to power the world's economies—are altering climate."

How many polar bears must drown before we wise up, jump off the political bandwagons, and START TAKING CARE OF OUR PLANET?

A new Newsweek Poll finds that the influence of the denial machine is running at full throttle—and continuing to shape both government policy and public opinion. Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless. "They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry," says former senator Tim Wirth, who spearheaded environmental issues as an under secretary of State in the Clinton administration. "Both figured, sow enough doubt, call the science uncertain and in dispute. That's had a huge impact on both the public and Congress."

And who is funding this campaign? Can you say ExxonMobile? (And why have conservative talk-show hosts jumped on this denial bandwagon? Is caring for the earth a socialist thing? Will destroying our plant ensure a fast forward trip to the End of Times?)

This undermining of science is nothing new. Polls taken in the late 1400s, for example, would have found that 99% of the population believed the earth to be flat. And polls taken today at the Wasilla Assembly of God Church in Alaska would likely find near 100% to believe the earth to be only 8000 years old.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, global warming is one of the most serious challenges facing us today. To protect the health and economic well-being of current and future generations, we must reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases by using the technology, know-how, and practical solutions already at our disposal.

How hard is that?

For a list of 51 things you can do to save the environment, click here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Feeling Californication...

The State of California is trying to kill me. At least that's what it felt like this morning as my alarm went off and COUNTRY music -what's up with that, I had it on B93!!! - started wailing at me at the ungodly hour of 8:00 a.m. (Now, those of you with DAY jobs may groan, but just think of going to bed at 11:00 and then getting up at 2:00 a.m. and you'll see the picture.)

Last week our truck failed a smog check, so we had an appointment this morning to take it down to have some work done so we would no longer be in violation of California State Smog Rules and Regulations and The State would allow us to register our car for the mere cost of More Than Its Worth, I mean $340.00.

God forbid that our truck should be emitting any noxious fumes, I mused as I drove by the Local Smoke Factory (I mean the Foster Farms plant) on my way to Speedy Lube & Oil Change.

What really gets me is that our truck tests fine, I mean, it's not polluting or anything. Catalytic Converter - PASS; Thermostatic Air Cleaner - AOK; Fuel Cap Functional - CHECK, Fill Pipe Restrictor - PASS. Everything seems fine. Idle Emission Test Result numbers are within the low to normal range. But apparently that is not the important part. The Important Part is that our "Check Engine" light is on.


I care more about what that foamy stuff is floating on top of my cup of tea than I do about those stupid test result numbers.

So anyway, we dropped the truck off and then walked home. One and 64/100ths of a mile, according to MapQuest. I was tired. And hungry. And then my husband told me I looked sexy. So I punched him.

The Governator can add my name to his list of IOUs...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cat Burglar

I was walking back from the laundry room late last Saturday when our new security guard approached me. He started a conversation, telling me that "we've had some troubles at our complex lately" and that "I should try to be aware of my surroundings". I assumed (who wouldn't?) he was trying to hit on me, because I'm THAT hot, but just to humor him I asked him what kind of trouble we'd been having. He says that there have been some break-ins. Nothing of value stolen. Just a few things out of place.

Crap. I thanked him and scurried away, hoping 1) that he couldn't see how cold I was and that my ass didn't look fat in the jeans I was wearing, and 2) that he didn't notice that my jaw dropped about a mile when he told me about the break-ins. You see, I think I may know who the culprit is....

It's my CAT, Buddy...

He's taken lately to breaking and entering. My husband caught him just last week, in fact, sliding open our neighbor's screen door and entering their apartment. I'm not sure what he does in there, but I do know that he brings us chicken bones, half eaten pieces of very high quality steak, pizza, you name it. Why just last week he even brought me an ice cream cone. Seriously. The ice cream was gone by the time he got it through the door, but the cone was intact. More or less. My Buddy knows how to take care of me!

We've even thought about teaching him to steal jewelry or to extract dollar bills from our neighbor's wallets. Hey, we wouldn't have thought of this before the past year, but we are living in some seriously difficult times here in California, you know?! But really, I shouldn't make light of this at all. Buddy, My Poor Buddy, is on the Wanted List, for goodness' sake! There is a poster up in the Laundry Room offering a $100 reward for information about the break-ins. He could be locked up -or worse! And (because it's always about me....) I realize that I truly have only myself to blame.

You see, I shouldn't have ignored him when he started bringing me bugs. I should have praised him when he made piles of mosquito hawks out on the porch, four piles of three bugs each, one pile for me, one for my husband, and one each for my son and his girlfriend who were up visiting. And I should have sensed that things were escalating in his creepy little mind when he started bringing home the larger prey, giant moths and butterflies and the occasional dragonfly.

I should have praised him when he brought us two baby birds in the same day and dropped them at our feet. (Except that one was not dead and started flying around the house and running into the walls.) All the Pet Psychology books say you must praise your cat when they exhibit this sort of behavior, that they are doing this because they love you and are trying to provide for you or to gain your love and approval. It would have been so simple for me just to reach down, pet him, and say "Good Boy!" But I was too busy, too self-absorbed in my own internal drama at the time to notice his.

Now it's too late. He's a crook and a criminal. A Cat Burglar. I don't know what to do. Buddy's now so deep into his Life of Crime, I feel we are living on borrowed time here at Lost Lake Apts. All I can think of is to pack up and move, to try to make a start in a new town, far, far away. Someplace where nobody knows our name.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Things We Do For Cheese...

Why would an agoraphobic woman attempt a grocery shopping excursion during the middle of the "Pick Up Some Milk/Diapers On Your Way Home Shopping Rush Hour"? On a FRIDAY???? I know, I know... it seems foolhardy, daredevil even. But there was something inexplicably drawing me, causing me to forget the memories and past traumas of long lines and crowds, racing heart and sweaty palms. Under normal circumstances I never would have attempted such a feat. But circumstances were not normal. Not in the least.

You see, I was out of CHEESE.

I love cheese. No, that's not quite right. I adore cheese. Worship cheese. Parmesan, Monterrey Jack, American, Swiss, Blue, Asiago, Cheddar, Feta, Fontina. Oh, precious manna from Heaven. Yummmm........

Tonight I was after a simple block of Colby-Jack to add to my potato soup, already simmering on the stove, which I planned on eating with my freshly baked Country White Bread while I watched my One Dollar Red Box movie, New In Town.

My husband drove me over to Save-Mart (he's a Saint!) and waited in the car while I went inside the building. I entered in the door near the produce section, thinking I could grab a bunch of bananas and a sprig of parsley (simple!) and then hit the cheese row (easy!) and be out in a jiffy. But nothing on this shopping trip was to be simple or easy.

A little man had parked his cart right in front of the bananas and was staring down at a plastic produce baggy, trying to get the darned thing to open. I waited for him to finish. Patiently waited. And waited. He just kept staring down at that bag, wiggling his finely manicured fingernails together, trying to get that baggy to open. It didn't. That song from Jeopardy (you know, the one they play while waiting for the contestants to write out their answers for the Daily Double) played in my mind. I cleared my throat. The stupid little man in the button-up sweater did not notice. He was in some sort of trance. I waited. And waited. Finally, I just said, "is this your cart? I'm gonna move it just a little...." I grabbed a bunch of bananas and dashed away, leaving little Mr. Serial Killer Man with his Beady Little Eyes staring after me.

I started feeling anxious and I was nowhere near the cheese row yet. I tried to make my way through the maze of shoppers: a woman on her cell phone, standing on the right of the aisle, her cart on the left, and her little 3 year old junior shopper running circles with his miniature shopping cart down the center of the aisle. An elderly couple comparing bean prices. A lady with a teacup poodle wearing some pink Tu-Tu (the dog, not the lady). I was halfway to the end of the aisle, ready to turn toward the cheese row, when a coughing, sneezing man (probably sick with The Swine Flu!) thwarted my attempts and made me turn my cart around mid-aisle and find another route. Finally, after a few more false starts, I made it down to the end of the long row where my prize awaited. Cheese!!! I grabbed a loaf of Tillamok, and high-tailed it to the checkout stand.

Apparently, I was high-tailing it too fast. I felt a pain in my ankle and then my foot turned to the left and my sandal flew off my foot. Damn it! How freakin' embarrassing is that? I looked around to see if anybody was looking. A woman with gray hair, glasses and Birkenstocks grinned at me, then quickly turned away. I replaced my sandal and quickly limped to the checkout stand where there was a long line. I began scanning the tabloids to try to distract myself from what was building into a full blown panic attack. Miracle Healing Performed By A Turtle. Hubby Sues Ex: "Give Me Back My Kidney!". Lovesick Emu Traps Man In House. Presdient Obama Is Gay.

I'm moving my way up and there is now just one customer standing between me and the front of the line. A woman with a little baby in her cart and (of course!) an envelope full of food stamps. Rats!!! Separate WIC coupons for milk. And Diapers. And then Peanut Butter. Then came the food stamps. Approval Needed. Light Goes On. Waiting For The Manager. I don't really remember much after this point, it's all a blur. But somehow I came out of the store with a blue plastic grocery bag of bananas, batteries, a small vial of extra strength Tylenol, a variety of candy bars and mints, an issue of Betty Crocker Recipe Magazine on CrockPot Recipes, and CHEESE!

Did I tell you how much I love CHEESE?

I sat down on the couch later that evening, feet up on the coffee table, soup in hand, and watched my movie. Life is good.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

God and Guns

Just a few days after Dr. George Tiller was gunned down while worshipping at church last Sunday, Ken Pagano, the pastor of New Bethel Church in Louisville, Kentucky, has invited his flock of 150 to celebrate the upcoming 4th of July holiday by having a "bring your handgun to church day". A flyer promoting the event says there will be patriotic music and even a gun raffle. Wow... cool!

Pagano, an ex-Marine and handgun instructor, says his point was not to mix worship with guns but to promote "responsible gun ownership" to his congregation who fear that President Obama is going to take away all their weapons. He plans on making reference to some scriptures from the Bible. Can't wait to hear what those are. Whatever happened to "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek"?

At least one other person in the world besides me thinks this is just plain wrong. Arkansas pastor John Phillips, who was shot in 1986 while leading a service at his church and still has a bullet lodged in his spine, agrees that a church is just not the place to be packing your weapon. "A church is designated as a safe haven, it's a place of worship," said Phillips. "It is unconscionable to me to think that a church would be a place that you would even want to bring a weapon."

Pagano disagrees. "We're just going to celebrate the upcoming theme of the birth of our nation," said pastor Ken Pagano. "And we're not ashamed to say that there was a strong belief in God and firearms — without that this country wouldn't be here."

But the Indians still would.

New Bethel Church (Bethel, meaning a sacred area or sanctuary, from the Hebrew word for House of God) will host this event on June 27th. If you are planning on attending, you are encouraged to bring a canned food item and a friend. Proceeds will go to The National Association for Gun Rights, I mean charity.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Squirrels: Patriotic? Or something more sinister...

Every Memorial Day, volunteers at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Michigan, place tiny American flags near the graves of the nearly 1,000 veterans who make their final resting place in the Port Huron cemetery, 55 miles northeast of Detroit.

This year, puzzled workers at the cemetery noticed that a few of the little flags had been torn off their wooden staffs, which stood empty on the ground. One day Ron Ceglarek, superintendent of the cemetery, noticed a furry-tailed intruder scurrying away with a piece of a flag. He followed the culprit to its lair, 45 feet up in a large spruce tree, and had to laugh when he saw the squirrels pad, all decked out in red, white and blue.

"He plucks them right off," said Ceglarek. "If I didn't see it, and I didn't follow the squirrel, I never would have believed it."

While some people are calling the squirrel "patriotic" and others are making disparaging remarks by saying "he probably just wanted to have something to wipe his butt on", others, myself included, feel that this incident of grave robbing is just another example of the fact that

Squirrels are Violent Cannabilistic Criminals.

Case (or cases) in point:

A fierce squirrel attacked a boy in a park in Mountain View, CA simply to take away the little 4-year old's muffin. The poor little boy, bitten and scratched, had to undergo a painful series of rabies vaccinations. Several babies were also attacked at this same park, when squirrels jumped into their strollers and began scratching and biting at them.

A grown man, riding his motorcycle down a residential street, was attacked by what authorities are calling a "Demon Squirrel". Read story here.

And last, but not least, while on a camping trip near Graeagle, CA my family and I witnessed a squirrel steal a nut from a chipmunk by biting it's face off and stealing the nut inside it's mouth. We spoke to the park ranger about the incident, and he told us that he had heard reports of cannabilism in squirrels but had never seen it first hand. He seemed genuinely disappointed that he had not been around to experience the vicious act. Creepy. He'd make a good character for a Stephen King novel, I think.

Monday, June 1, 2009

George Tiller Murdered....

Unless you've been in bed recovering from Swine Flu all weekend, it would be difficult not to have heard about the murder of abortion clinic doctor, George Tiller, at a church service on Sunday. Dr. Tiller's death brings the total number of abortion providers murdered in this country since 1977 to eight, with 17 other murders having been attempted but unsuccessful. And let's not forget the numerous abortion clinic bombings.

Killing people to show that killing is wrong does not make sense.....

Now, is it just me or does this seem a bit CRAZY to you? The words FANATICAL, RADICAL, EXTREME, NUTCASE and others come to mind.

Dr. Tiller's "suspected" murderer, Scott Roeder, has been taken into custody. Predictably, his relatives describe him as "kind and loving" and his brother, David Roeder, states that "None of us ever saw Scott as a person capable of or willing to take another person's life." Scott did, however, have a history of mental illness.

So he was nuts. Not completely responsible for his actions. Perhaps he'll get off on an insanity plea... who knows? But then, who will pay for the death of this poor man?

How about Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, a militant anti-abortion organization with a website to which Scott Roeder had oftentimes read and occasionally posted comments.

Randall Terry was quoted as saying that "George Tiller was a mass-murderer. He was an evil man - his hands were covered with blood. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God, but I am more concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions."

Murdering a doctor in his place of worship and threatening to kill people are your most effective forms of rhetoric and actions? Seriously?!!!! Terry grieves for Tiller that he did not have time to prepare his soul to face God.... Excuse me?!!! How presumptuous and judgemental is that?!!!The poor man was at a church service with his family! An article on RenewAmerica, a conservative blog, goes so far as to label Tiller's Lutheran church a "so-called Christian church"!

Maybe the blame lies on folks like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, or the idiot talk show host, Bill O'Reilly. According to American Chronicle, in an article entitled Vigilantism and Randall Terry's Law of God, "Bill O'Reilly, one-time high-school teacher and now an obnoxious big-shot for a major entertainment center, may be indirectly responsible for Tiller´s death when he attacked and put the focus on "Tiller the baby killer" on his show 23 times. Since our country is full of nuts this was sure to get results sooner or later. The blood could be on his hands even though he didn´t actually do anything violent. "

Now I know that there are many Christians who think that what happened to Dr. Tiller was horrible, regardless of their own personal distaste for abortion. There are also a good number of Christians who support a woman's right to choose what to do with her own body. But alarmingly there is a growing number of whack jobs out there who seem to be hell bent on "taking this country for God", who believe in overcoming abortion and all other forms of "evil" on this 8000 year old planet....and frankly, these people scare Jesus right out of my heart!