Friday, April 28, 2006

This is porn

This is porn. To some people, anyway. To me it's just a tasteful nude. In fact, that's how I found it, by doing a Google search for "tasteful nude." But to some people it's still porn. Because the subject's naked. But I don't think so.

Now this picture is a bit more pornographic, which is why I'm linking to it rather than actually showing it. It's not really nasty porn. It's more soft porn. But most people would define it as mildly pornographic, because it's more gratuitous than artsy.

This picture...well, I think most people would define this as porn owing to the full frontal nudity.

This one is questionable. It's a beaver shot - and a big nasty one. But still, it really depends on what turns you on.

This one is way pornographic. Don't click on it.

But it's amazing what some people consider pornographic, especially the True Christians ™ posting over at Vox Popoli. Most of Vox's readers come to him via a right wing site popular with True Christians ™.

Gene is a True Christian ™. Gene worries about my soul because I write erotica. She's vexed by it. Gene hates pornography, but she loves to talk about it, and brings it up even when I don't. Gene apparently thinks about pornography. A lot. Gene thinks this is an example of pornography:




Gene also likes to quote people who tell her how she should think about things. Here's what she says another True Christian ™ told her to think about the Michelangelo's David and other Evil Art Forms:

Ravi Zacharias said that he reconsidered the role of nudity in art when he heard the story of student Michelangelo being asked why he painted nudes. “Michelangelo replied that he wanted to see people as God sees them. His instructor then said, ‘But you are not God.’Zacharias is a great speaker if you ever get the chance to hear him. ...With desensitizing people with porn or violence through media and the arts, one can mistakenly underestimate the tragedy of the loss of wonder. "

Bone Head (yes, that's what he calls himself) is also a True Christian ™. Here's what he thinks this is an example of pornography:



Yes, that's right. You're looking at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But when Bone Head looks at it, he doesn't just see porn, but gay porn. That's because he read somewhere that Michelangelo liked naked men.

So to True Christians ™ like Gene and Bone Head, taking your kids to the Sistine Chapel or to an art museum is the same thing as taking them to a peep show.

Gene and Bone Head think David and the Sistine Chapel are pornography. Smut. Filth.

Gene and I have had some interesting exchanges on race that I won't rehash. Let's just say that Gene had some unpleasant experiences in her childhood that have left her with a bit of a mistrust for people who don't look like her.

Gene's like a lot of True Christians ™ in that regard. They long for the good old days, when it was acceptable for True Christians ™ to Do Their Thing, which was often lynching people who didn't look like them or running about condemning people in God's name.

Sexual images don't excite True Christians ™, at least not in any way that they will admit. But I'd be willing to be that pictures of lynchings or people carrying sings proclaiming God's hate makes their hearts beat faster and sends the blood rushing to their naughty parts.

It doesn't do it for me, though. Sanctimonious hate is a turnoff to me. I just can't get into that kind of filth. But then again, I guess that's because I'm not a True Christian ™.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The PETA-ful notion of animal rights



My dear friend Southside Rabbitslayer is a fan of PETA. For some reason, he assumes I share his appreciation of a group that touts animal rights.

I can see why he would think so, given that I frequently wax sentimental about animals and have worked for over a decade with wildlife rescue.

But supporting PETA? Sorry. That's where I draw the line.

"Why?" you may ask. "Don't you love animals? How could you be against putting the rights of non-humans on par with those of humans? "

"Well," say I. "Because no one does it. And no one does it because it can't be done."

"Hold on!" you persist. "There are groups that believe in animal rights. Groups like PETA and the Humane Society of the United States."

To which I reply, "Bullshit."

The overriding message of groups like PETA and HSUS is to spay and neuter your pet. Would someone tell me how that is consistent with animal rights?

We have a ten-week old kitten, Piper. Right now, she's all about chasing her tail and playing with string. But give her six months and she'll go in heat. Then she'll only want to do one thing: fuck. Through the magic of hormones, my cute little Piper will turn into a lust-crazed sex kitten, yowling for release.

Now, if I saw this cat as an equal, I wouldn't stand in the way of her reproductive freedom. It's her body, so who am I to tell her what to do with it? But I don't see her as an equal, and neither do the good speciests at PETA and HSUS, who recommend that I box her up, haul her to the vet, where she will cry in fear as she's sedated and prepped for her forced hysterectomy. Which is exactly what I intend to do.

It'll be a lot like when I took my corgi, Sport, to the vet and had him neutered. I didn't ask his permission and that night he just sat there, looking puzzled and forlorn as he pondered the scar where his balls used to be.

Animal rights? Please. Fleas are animals, but even the most ardent animal rights person will kill them if they infest their home. It doesn't matter that the flea has a right to eat. Same thing with tapeworms. No rights for them, either. If you're truly for animal rights you don't interfere with the dynamic. True, fleas and tapeworms are parasites, but as humans who are we to place the value of the cat above the value of the worms in its belly?

Humans are, without argument, the most destructive creatures on the planet. But it's because we have the power. If cats had the power and intelligence to do so, they'd be the ones driving around in Hummers and we'd be the ones getting neutered. Hopefully the cats would have enough sense not to start wars , destroy the environment and overpopulate. But then, given the behaviour of the hard-fighting, bird-killing sex-crazed feral cats around here there probably wouldn't be much of a difference.

Hopefully the cats would treat us well, which is really all that can be practically required of a dominant species. Animals will never have rights because as the dominant species, humans will have to consider their welfare, and balance it with our own. Sometimes that consideration means doing things animals would never consent to if given the choice, like being spayed and microchipped and vaccinated. The downside is that we also eat them, manage their herds or kill them if they threaten us. It isn't pretty, it's just reality.

PETA knows this, and so does the Human Society. But no one thinks it through, and as long as they don't, "animal rights" groups will always have donations to advance the notion of their impossible goal.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Guest Meteorologist

It's going to rain today.

I didn't need a forecaster to tell me. I didn't need to see the thick gray clouds rolling across the sky. Even before they moved in a Little Frog told me so.

Little Frog - a green tree frog, to be precise - has taken up residence in my garden room, where he spends his days hidden in one of the orchid pots. At night he comes out and calls - quank, quank, quank.

I've made a game of looking for him, but whenever I get close he goes silent.

But last night I got lucky when I found Little Frog out, in all his glory, on a dendrobium leaf. I kept the lights dim to keep from scaring him away, and snuck up on him to snap this picture. He stayed there for some time and throughout the night I could hear him calling the rain in, or calling because it was coming in. To a frog, rain in the spring means puddles and puddles mean places to mate.

So he called and called and called until just before dawn. I could hear him in my sleep and dreamed of frogs, and woke up to a beautiful cloudy morning.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Charming snakes

In our neck of the woods, the normal reaction of a motorist who sees a snake in the road is to run it over, even if this means driving into a ditch.

If Larry or I see a snake, our reaction is different. Provided no one is bearing down on us, we slam on the brakes, put the car in park and run the thing down - on foot. If it's a boring sort of snake, like a greenish rat or a racer, we just usher it off the road. If it's something we'd like to study or have on our property, we catch it.

This week, we scored a herpetocultural double. Yesterday, I nabbed this lovely male Eastern kingsnake. I saw him on my way back from town, headed across the road in the direction of a farm that is home to some Avowed Snakekillers. Not wanting him to end up dead, I abandoned my car and chased him down.

He wasn't a happy snake. He musked me and tried to bite me in the face. I held him at arms length and was almost back to my car when I heard someone say, "You do know you're crazy, don't you?"

It's the sort of question you don't try to tackle when you're holding an angry snake, so I just waved at the car pulling out of the farm gate across the road.

"Just taking this snake home," I said. The driver said nothing. She just looked at me. I held the snake up. "Do you want to pet it?"

"Hell no," she said, and sped off. Go figure.

I didn't have anything to put the snake in, so I had to drive the rest of the way home with my right hand while clutching my new pet in my left.

I couldn't wait to show him to Larry. I was especially proud of this catch, for this snake has the loveliest head I've ever seen and looks marvelous for just having come out of hibernation.

But today Larry trumped me by catching this fine mole king. Mole kingsnakes are smaller, and more scarce. They are one of Larry's favorite snakes. This one has a nice head on it, too. I got a great shot of it flicking it's tongue. Cool, huh?

Lucas and Alex wanted to have their pictures taken with the snakes and their enthusiasm only grew when I happened upon this very obliging toad, who agreed to join the photo shoot.

I really like toads. They look old, even when they are young. And they are libertines at heart. They eat until they are so stuffed they can't hop and accidentally drown themselves in mass toad orgies.

Here's the toad sitting on Lucas' knee. Note how much more impressed the child is with the toad than the toad is with the child.

Of course, Alex and Lucas decided that it wouldn't do to have a herpetocultural photo shoot with Live Snakes that did not include them. So here's Lucas holding a little Eastern kingsnake - one with a better temperament.


And not to be outdone by her brother, here is Alex holding both the little Eastern kingsnake and the toad.

My kids are so weird. Thank goodness!

And if you're wondering what we did with the toad, we apologized for troubling him and released him in the garden, where he immediately began to stuff himself with crickets.

So this is what passes for fun with us.

My favorite snake catching story: About nine years ago my neighbor, Ande, and I used to walk for miles each afternoon. One day we came up on a pickup truck parked in the middle of the road. A man was kneeling down, snapping at something against the wheel with a length of rope. The door was open and behind it stood a cute little blonde girl, who would squeal with excitement everytime he snapped the rope.

As Ande and I got closer, we realized he was snapping at a cornsnake which was curled up against the wheel.

"Watcha got there?" I asked.

"Snake," he said.

"Are you trying to catch it?" I asked

"Nah," he said. "I'm just showing my girl here how dangerous these things are." He snapped the rope again and the cornsnake, threatened, struck back defensively. The blonde squealed in glee, impressed. The guy looked at her and grinned.

"Well," I said. "If you're not going to catch it do you mind if I take it?"

He looked at me. "Yeah, right," he said, and snapped the rope.

I walked over and picked up the snake. It was pissed, and bit me twice. But cornsnake bites don't do more than leave tiny skin pricks. But like any snake bite, it looks more dramatic than it is.

The guy and his girl looked at me, shocked. I smiled sweetly as the snake continued to chew on my hand. "Thanks!" I said, and turned and walked away.

Behind us, Ande and I could hear the blonde saying, "Did you see that girl just pick that snake up?"

"Just get in the damn truck," he said.

We waited until they were out of the way to laugh. "That was mean," Ande giggled.

"I know," I said. I know my hand healed sooner than that guy's ego. But he learned a good lesson and I got a really nice corn snake that I kept for seven years.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Working Weekend

Work, I long ago realized, should be something you love. Otherwise what's the point?

I feel extremely fortunate to love what I do for a living. I feel even more fortunate to face regular chores that don't feel like chores, but more like play.

This weekend, we spent a great deal of time working in the little greenhouse off the master bedroom. I've had visions of turning into my own little private garden room, but had to wait until the weather was warm enough to pull out all the over-wintering plants out. Today, that's just what we did. I found that our staghorn fern has doubled in size. Larry took this shot of me holding it. Is this not the most awesome plant?

By late afternoon, Larry and I had finished and had even hauled a bench in soI can sit and enjoy the remaining plants. My little garden room is reserved for ferns, hoyas, orchids and a few tropical vines.

It rained Friday and Saturday night and our gardens went ballistic. I was glad to get some more color before my Lady Banks rose dropped all her blooms, which she's starting to do. Lucas and Alex stand under her and shake the boughs, raining petals down on their heads.

Late last week we acquired five goslings. I had planned to only get four and selected the largest and strongest ones, but then I spied a fifth gosling that looked a bit puny and confused. So I bought it as well, hoping that her stronger siblings will inspire her to better herself.

We're enjoying the young geese, which are comical and clumsy. I don't know yet which ones are male or female. They're White Chinese and as they mature, will develop large knots on the tops of their beaks. The males will have larger knots than the females, allowing us to differentiate between goose and gander.

Not knowing yet makes naming them tricky. I know I shall have to call one of the ganders "Conrad." I've already dubbed the runt "Merribelle." I don't know why, I just have. I'm sure she's a girl because she's very delicate. And besides, she looks like a Merribelle.

If it sounds like I had the perfect weekend, I'll have to confide that while it was close to perfect, I did have one moment that marred it a bit. Last night when I was coming in from doing my stint at he newspaper, two of my dogs got in a fight in the driveway. I don't know why, it's just one of those things that happens from time to time when you have multiple dogs. In breaking up the fight, I dropped my cell phone in a mud puddle. So now I have to go into town tomorrow morning and get another one. But I need to get a new foot for my sewing machine anyway, so it's really no big deal.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Weeding my garden


One of the downsides of having flower beds is that you have to weed them. Each year, in early spring, I set out with my trowel to do battle with The Invaders.

But it's a good exercise - weeding - and this year its taken on an even greater significance because it's become an analogy for my life.

The thing about weeds is that they are tricky. Take wild strawberries for instance. Last, I discovered one sprouting in the flower patch beneath the front bedroom window. It was pretty, with delicate little flowers and tiny, perfect fruit. Against my better judgement, I let it stay. This year I discovered strawberries sprouting all over, growing from runners that had surreptitiously twined themselves through the warming soil.

Their beauty had seduced me into thinking they were a harmless and friendly complement to my flowers. But as I ratcheted them from the dirt with the tip of my trowel, I realized the strawberries had twined themselves around the base of everything surrounding them, choking the other plants and leeching nutrients my tended garden needed to grow.

Their spread had been slow, insidious. Strawberries are like the bad habits I've developed, particularly the habit of investing time and energy in foolish pursuits, or in people who reveal themselves to be parasitic before I realize it. Now, as I pull up the runners I see not green strands between my muddy fingers, but tendrils of time wasted where it should not have been.

Clusters of crabgrass in my herb bed are a particularly nasty opponent. Tugging them is useless, and if I forget my gloves I end up with tiny sharp fibers embedded in my skin. Force is useless with such weeds. The only way to eradicate them is to kill them at the root. To do that, you have to first find the root and apply a herbicide.

Crabgrass is my pride. The root of that pride is my fear - the fear of losing, of being wrong when I so desperately want to be right. When the root is weakened enough for the grass to release its hold, I can pull it out and consider the genesis of my fear. The withered root reminds me of my childhood, of being told I was unworthy and believing it - and how I still believe it sometimes- and how I fight to prove to myself and others that I am worthy. And then, in that push to prove myself, how I take it a step further and tell myself that I'm not only worthy, but better and smarter. It's a particularly nasty root, it is. I shall have to continue to spray it.

Dog fennel is easy to pull up, but it reseeds itself with abandon. It's impossible to get rid of dog fennel, I've decided. I just keep an eye out for it and cull it as it sprouts. The pile of dog fennel in my wheelbarrow represents my small, ever-present foibles - the stray profanity when my computer crashes at work, the little joke made at someone else's expense, my tendency to procrastinate, my inability to say "no."

It occurred to me yesterday, as I dumped yet another load of weeds onto the compost heap, that it would be less trouble to just mulch over the Invaders. Out of sight out of mind. But that would never work. Covering weeds with a blanket of mulch would be like covering faults with a blanket of denial. The weeds would just continue to grow and take over, choking out what I'd promised to lovingly tend.

Sometimes it's good to get your hands dirty, to clear the soil of your garden. And of your heart.

Immigrant Nation

Today marks the second Roundtable Wednesday in which BillyD, Shrub and I lend our views on the burning issues of the day. Today's topic: Immigration. The burning question: Should we reward the contributions of today's immigrants who flee poverty and come to the U.S. for a better life by easing their path to citizenship? Or should we crack down on immigrants and balance what they provide our country with what they cost by burdening our schools, social programs and security efforts.

First, my view:

I’ve mixed feelings on the immigration issue. I turn on CNN and see crowds of angry illegal immigrants marching in the streets and demanding that we let them stay. I see them taking the American flag down the pole and running the Mexican flag up in it place, a gesture that many Americans consider a slap in the face at best and a threat at worst. One has to wonder why a group that says it wants to be accepted is going out of its way to alienate us. Is it because they know our leaders better than we do?

I see self-serving politicians straddling both side of the fence, acknowledging the need to curb illegal immigration while seeking a way to relax immigration policies. They hope that by the time these immigrants are eligible to vote, they will remember and reward those who let them in. On the other hand, these same politicians are counting on the American voters’ short memory. They’re savvy like that, the politicians, and are betting that by the time the immigrants are eligible to vote, a forgetful American public will have moved on to the next Losing Cause.
Now let me digress here for a minute, though, and admit that I straddle the fence myself on the immigration issue. When I see people screaming about “our” borders and “our” culture, I think back to what this country was like Once Upon A Time, when native Americans watched a more ruthless immigration take over what they considered theirs.

Some chiefs trusted the white-skinned visitors and allowed themselves to be sold out for baubles. They didn’t realize their mistake until they looked at just who they were dealing with and saw the awful results: all the bison killed, children dead after being wrapped in smallpox-infected blankets, their language and culture supplanted, their territories limited to reservations.

Will our leaders be like those sell-out chiefs? Will they likewise fail to also not acknowledge the results until it is too late, when brown faces become the majority? When English language and culture is supplanted?

Could it be that what’s happening now is just a sort of karma?

I don’t know. But I do know that anyone who values the nation needs to do what the Native Americans did not do, and that is greet the newcomers with more skepticism and common sense.

There was a lot of attention given to “No Mexicans” day, when Mexicans stayed home from work or didn’t shop. They said they wanted to show the impact of their contribution to the economy. But for a completely accurate picture, they should have gone further. They should have kept their children out of the public school system, stayed out of American public hospitals or health departments, not applied for WIC or food stamps. They should have committed no crimes, borne no babies who became automatic citizens. A truly accurate picture would have included not just what they give, but what they take.

Back in the day, immigrants came through Ellis Island. They were only allowed in if they were able to work and free of diseases. They considered citizenship an honor, not an entitlement. And while they valued their heritage, when they became citizens, those immigrants vowed loyalty to the United States, and they meant it. They entered this country as gracious would-be citizens, not a conquering horde.

We can’t go back and talk to our ancestors, but we should heed their lessons. We should remember how our ancestors were able to so easily conquer the Native Americans and take their land. We should also learn from the later ones who came to Ellis Island, and what the system of that day required. Having conquered and claimed a land, our ancestors sought to protect it by not letting just anyone in.

The question is, do we have the current national leadership and the will to protect ourselves? Only time will tell.

Now a word from BillyD:

Immigration. It used to be a good thing. Now, not so much. See, it used to be, that the majority of folks came here looking for a chance. A chance to prove themselves, a chance to make their way, to live the "American dream" of owning that house in the suburbs, of driving that big Cadillac, having the picket fence; all that.

Now, it seems the majority are only interested in the handouts. No, not the day laborers and the like. They’re only interested in feeding their families, and as long as they exist, there’ll always be cheap, almost slave-like labor for the farmers and contractors of this country.

No, I’m talking about the immigrants who have absolutely NO interest in the American dream, no inclination for doing their part, to contributing to society, only taking, always taking. Free healthcare that the hospitals they are bankrupting. Free education at the schools that are bankrupting the folks paying the bills to keep them open. Free handout from a government with a rapidly rising welfare roll built upon anchor babies.

"They’re only doing the jobs Americans won’t do", I’m told. Well, they’re also apparently committing the crimes Americans can’t be bothered to commit. In Massachusetts the rate of illegals getting into car accidents is almost epidemic now, with no downturn in sight. Of course, since they’re illegal, they have no insurance either, meaning the victim also gets to pay for their own hospital and repair bills.

And now our "leadership" in D.C. is working on a way to legalize eleven million of them. Of course, eleven million actually means closer to sixteen or seventeen million, once you add on mom and dad, the kids, cousin Carlos and Uncle Freddy.

I listened to Ted Kennedy talk about the illegals, and the fact that they’re "folks who play by the rules, work hard and pay their taxes". I’m going to call bullshit on that right now.

By definition, illegals are illegal. Therefore, they don’t play by the rules. And they don’t pay taxes. No way am I buying that. They skirt the rules, or just thumb their noses at them, whichever suits the individual. They don’t give a fat shit about this country, or the people of this country.

I’m tired of the politicians pandering to these crimaliens on my dime. Did you know the last immigration reform bill also contained a provision to allow them to have in state tuition in whichever state they decide to go on the lam in? Meanwhile, in my state of NH we’re trying to get a bill passed that would make it mandatory for someone to show identification when attempting to vote, and it’s hitting a wall of opposition. Why? For the same reason this immigration reform act is getting pushed so hard. The left needs voters. Whether they’re actually Americans or not makes no difference, as it’s not Americans the filthy bastards represent anyway, but the rest of the globe.

No, instead of legalization, we need to clamp down hard on this now. Not only build a wall, but build a fifty foot tall wall, then another one maybe fifty feet behind that one. Then fill that gap with water flowing in from the ocean and stock it with plenty of sharks and salt water crocs. Chum it daily and just wait. I think you’d see a pretty steep decline in illegal entry into the country.

Folks, I’m not against immigration at all. If people want to come to this country and work hard, play by the rules, and try to grab the American dream for themselves, I’ve no problem with that and welcome them with open arms. But there are laws, and they’re there for a reason. Follow them, wait your turn, and be ready to contribute, and we’ll get along just fine.

Here's Shrub's take on the issue:

John Milton wrote, “Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks. Methinks I see her as an eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam.”

That’s the vision our Founding Fathers had, a great and glorious experiment in republicanism not seen since ancient Rome, born of defiance and high treason. And it worked; the blood of thousands of British ex-patriots washed away years of oppression and this country, the United States of America, drew its first breath. A bunch of unwashed immigrants built the most impossible and visionary nation the world had ever seen.

And, poetically, it's immigration that now threatens the very fabric of our country. On one side you have those that would welcome 12 million illegals with open arms. On the other side stands the advocates of tighter immigration laws and would have the 12 million undocumented aliens summarily deported. Until recently I was an open-arms kinda guy. But no longer, and let me tell you why.

I had a revealing conversation with my best friend from law school and it was his contention that to not support Bush’s proposed immigration reform is steeped in racism. This is the tenuous logic forwarded by the pro-reform wing, and a convenient leveling of the race card. Not to mention the specious contention that portends the collapse of our economy should illegal immigrants be forced to abide by the law. Neither of these positions holds up under examination. ‘Tis not racist to expect enforcement of our laws. And, depending on which numbers you choose to believe, there are anywhere from 7 million to 35 million jobless Americans who could readily absorb the initial shock of more expensive produce and textiles.

Since Mexicans make up the vast majority of illegals the onus of the attention, both supportive and negative, is directed at them. And to the dismay of precious few there exists within the Hispanic community a hue & cry to retake the Southwestern U.S., including California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado. The claim is this region was stolen from Mexico. What a bunch of crap! There is not a nation on this planet that wasn’t stolen from native populations at some point. And the same goes for Latin America. The Spanish and Portuguese were hardly accommodating to the native South and Central American inhabitants. The U.S. hardly has a monopoly on Manifest Destiny via the barrel of a gun.

As a nation we are only as strong as our populace, our laws, and our borders. Save only plucky British, we have the most resilient citizenry on Earth, so the strength of the people is a given. However, the same cannot be said of our laws and our borders. To take a piece meal approach to law enforcement is suicidal and hypercritical. The most basic cannon of our system of jurisprudence is the ability to predict and anticipate that which is deemed illegal and the potential consequences. If we observe our immigration laws with a surreptitious wink & nudge we strip away the notice that ALL law should provide. This is patently unconstitutional. If our borders become ceremonial then another basic tenet of nationhood is obliterated. Thus our sovereignty is in danger. A nation without borders, by definition, is no longer a nation, and a shadow of our Founding Fathers’ vision.

This is what I propose…

The President’s job is to protect our Constitution and our sovereignty. On the subject of immigration he is doing neither. His proposed reform is essentially an amnesty for those here illegally longer than two years. This in no way enforces current law and is a slap in the face to those who’ve chosen the legal route. It also conveys the message that it is OK to break our laws, so long as you do it effectively and for a sustained period of time. This is a clear violation of his Presidential Oath, an impeachable offense. For the above reasons I move that immigration laws be tighter and that Jr be brought up on articles of impeachment.

Yes we are a nation born of immigrants. Yes it seems hypocritical to effectively turn our back to that heritage. And yes, we should be a country that welcomes others with open arms. But we cannot due so at the sake of that which makes us a sovereign land. To do so would be a perversion of the original intent of our founding.We need to take back our borders, a reclamation project, if you will. Retake them and enforce them. Only then will we be able to call ourselves a sovereign nation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Tale of Two Kitties

This is Jingles.

Jingles is my beloved cat, acquired nine years ago while I was working part time at a riverside fish camp. It was good supplemental work and menial as it was, it was one of the best jobs I ever had. My primary task was to set up the kitchen for the day and to sell coffee to the early-risng locals, mostly hunters and guys coming off the night shift.

Jingles - who didn't have a name when I met her - was one of the many strays that hung around outside begging scraps. She was my favorite of them all, a little bobtailed Siamese mutant of a thing that would weave herself around my ankles each morning as I unlocked the doors.

On the December morning she was run over, I wasn't even aware it had happened until a lady who'd witnessed the whole thing came running in with a box, to tell me how the driver ahead of her had intentionally swerved to hit a poor little cat just as it was clearning the pavement's edge. When I looked in the box and saw it was my favorite stray, my heart sunk like a stone.

The impact had left my furry friend in shock, and with a badly broken leg. My distress was obvious, but I was exceedingly fortunate that the restaurant owner, a gentle giant of a man, held me in such high esteem. Noting my distress, he offered to take the cat to his veterinarian and have her mended - as a gift to me. Normally I'm loathe to accept this sort of generosity, but in this case I didn't even think twice.

Jingles - named by the veterinarian because her misfortune ocurred right before Christmas - came home with me two days later. Now out of shock, she proceeded to thump around our little house in a purple cast as if she owned the place. When Larry told me I'd have to find a home for her, one look from me said what I didn't have to: Jingles was home.

It didn't take us long to realize this was no ordinary cat. For one thing, she's not at all afraid of dogs. In fact, when Frodo the High Maintenance Dachshund came to live with us about three years ago, Jingles wasted no time in schooling him in the Way of the Cat.

The Way of the Cat is simple. The Cat eats when its hungry. The Cat plays when it feels like it. The Cat sleeps when it's tired. The Cat will - on ocassion - honor you with its presence. Should you seek to impose your version of How Things Should Be on The Cat, or otherwise interfere with The Way, you will suffer the consequences.

The Way of the Cat is not ours to question. For instance, if you come home to find two beheaded parakeets buried in the litter box, and are in shock because for two years The Cat never gave them a passing glance, it's best not ask, "Why?" for the Way of the Cat surpasses all understanding. We are no more supposed to understand the slaughter of parakeets than we were to question great House Mouse Massacre of 1998, when Jingles caught mouse after mouse and stole away with them into the bathroom, where she did such Unspeakable Things to her captives, that today we still ocassionaly refer to that room as "Mousewitz" and her as "Dr. Jingela"

But such blood sacrifices are to be accepted in exchange for what The Cat bestows. Jingles is like having two cats in one. Yes, she has her dark side, but she also has her warm and wonderful alter-ego. Jingles is photogenic, and highly entertaining. This past Halloween she was a vampire, with Frodo playing the part of the hapless victim.

She's great with children and has yet to suck the breath out of an infant, although I can't say for sure the thought didn't cross her mind when their crying woke her up.

She's fond of sleeping our laps or our bed pillows or tucked against the small of our backs, which is heaven for someone who likes that sort of thing. We term this special closeness a "cat moment."

John, who is autistic, loves Jingles and would probably marry her if such unions were legal. So smitten is he, and such a follower of the Way of the Cat that sometimes, when I say, "I love you, John," he looks at me, smiles broadly and responds, "I love you, Jingles."

Not everyone likes or appreciates cats, but not everyone is worthy, or ready to comprehend The Way of the Cat. But take heed, - when you are, The Cat will find you and - beheaded parakeets aside - bestow upon you great joy, when it feels like it.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Nobunny's fool

So we're boiling a huge pot of eggs for dyeing when Alex begins to wonder aloud what the Easter Bunny looks like. So I showed her Billy D's avatar.

"No," she said emphatically. "You're kidding me. If Daddy saw that in our yard he'd shoot it."

Friday, April 14, 2006

Ordering salvation, with sin on the side


I enjoyed a rousing debate over on Vox Popoli the other day that began when the host took issue with even the notion of a tolerant, loving Christ. That image won't do. The Jesus Vox Day follows is no peace-loving hippie. Vox and those who breathlessly parrot him would like you to overlook Christ's commandment to love one another and see Him for what he really was and is: An anti-government, kick-ass hater.

As discussions do, this one became tangential and turned to sin and repentance. Like an increasing number of Christians, Vox Day subscribes to "drive-thru Christianity" in which a person pulls up to Jesus and says, “Hey, dude, I accept you as my personal Savior” and drive off, with a lifetime supply of holier-than-though.

It’s especially convenient, because drive-Thru Christians are the first to tell you, if you call their un-Christlike behavior into question - that the Bible assures an endlessly refillable Big Gulp of forgiveness for the redeemed. It doesn’t matter how much you sin or what you do, just as long at the end of the day you say you’re sorry.

"Shall we sin, that grace might abound, etc etc." Vox reminded me. "…apparently you missed the bit about 70 times 7. Whether you like the answer or not, it is still "yes".

It’s a good thing that Christ preached turning the other cheek, given the slap in the face such an interpretation returns for the gift of grace.

If acceptance of Christ is necessary to become a Christian, a sincere attitude of repentance is the fruit that proves that you are.

Consider repentance. If you've wronged me in the most horrible way and you come to me and say, "I'm sorry. Forgive me," and after a few days you continue to wrong me as you always did, then you were not truly repentant, were you?If you accept Christ, the virtue of him within you leads to true repentance and change. Professed Christians who continue to happily commit the same sins they did before being "saved," - neither showing the Spirit, or feeling no conviction from It - throws the sincerity of the Christian claim in doubt. A person filled with the Spirit of Christ, which come in after you accept him, can't help but strive for a higher character. The spirit compels. They seek to overcome sin, not condone it.

What Vox and others like him fail to understand is that their brand of drive-thru Christianity is so appealing because it advocates an "acceptance" of Christ in name only. The spirit is missing and not wanted, because it complicates the fun of ongoing sin.Is this judgmental? The Bible says, “By your fruits you shall know them,” and “Faith without works is dead.”

The Bible also says, “Straight is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, few they be that go thereby.”

Perhaps that is because the drive-thru lane is so wide.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

How can you tell when a Catholic is driving too fast?


Twitching with indignation


Tiger Woods is in trouble.

When asked about his poor performance on the last day at Augusta, Woods replied: "I putted atrociously today. Once I got on the greens, I was a spaz."

This cause those afflicted with a certain form of cerebral palsy - spastic paralysis - to twitch in utter indignation.

Poor Tiger, completely unaware that "spaz" was politically incorrect, issued an apology.

Too bad. In a country where people are lining up to be offended, this sort of complaint should be met with not an apology, but a shocked silence followed by a derisive, "You can't be serious."

But Tiger apologized, giving yet another subset of a subset of whiners a victory.

And that's just retarded.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Porn, Counterporn


The following is the first in what will hopefully be an ongoing roundtable discussion of social issues between me, and two gentlemen I hold in high regard - Shrub and Billy D. We've all agreed to give each other equal time on our respective blogs, so that our readers can extol the brilliance of our viewpoints, or tell us how we're going straight to Hell.

This week's topic is porn, and whether its hot, sticky sweetness should be regulated. What follows are our varying opinions.

Ladies first. Here's my view:

Some people download porn. Others view it surreptitiously before clearing their history, lest their spouse find out what they're doing. Still others crusade against it as part of what is Wrong With Society.

I produce it.

I write erotica, which some people consider pornography. The difference is that I don't deal in dirty pictures; I just help people create them in their heads. It started during a work lull several years ago when - after reading the "Sleeping Beauty" series I cast it aside in disgust. How many times can you read about some breathless masochist getting spanked and then sexually subjugated before the tiillating kinkiness of it becomes downright ridiculous?

"I can do better than this," I thought.

And so I did.

My little sideline occupation may take some by surprise, but it wouldn't if you knew how well it pays. With kids in college and other equally pressing expenses, I can't be too picky, and writing dirty stories has become a growing part of my income. Respected co-workers who know I pen tawdry fare under a variety of pseudonyms are sympathetic when I'm forced to turn down assignments because of my "other work." I've been frank enough to tell them that I'll write more when they can afford to pay enough to make a completely honest woman of me.

So that's my dirty little secret. You may wonder if after a few hours of churing out stories of strapping dominant men and wantonly submissive women whether I run to the showers in an attempt to wash away the taint of my profession. Perhaps I would, if I considered what I'm doing to be wrong. I personally do not. You know the old saying, "If it turns you on, it's pornography; if it turns me on, it's erotic."

And therein lies the dilemma. Pornography can be hard to define. To a religous zealot looking to save people from themselves, that art book of tasteful nudes at the local library is considered pornography. To the deviant sex addict, the same art book would have to contain a shot of a transsexual doing it with two midgets and a Great Dane to deserve the word.

Before you can restrict pornography, you must first define what it is. Who's going to do that? Jerry Falwell? Larry Flynt? To be fair, you'd have to have both opinions represented. If you got such polar opposites together, do you think they could ever agree? Hell would freeze over, thaw out and freeze over again before that would happen.

Then there's the issue of the Internet. Even if laws were passed in the U.S., it would be impossible to regulate sites from other countries. Already, many skittish U.S. pornographers - worried about the influence of the religious right here - are moving their base of operations to other countries for that very reason.

Dirty pictures and stories depicting nudity and sex acts between consenting adults should be left alone. Pornographic pictures and stories involving children should - of course - be illegal and anyone trafficking or viewing them should be prosecuted. Same goes for pornographic images depicting people who've been coerced or otherwise forced into compromising positions against their will.

Pornography is a voluntary pursuit. Do people get addicted? Yes. Can people with pornographic obsessions be dangerous? Yes. But so can people addicted to alcohol. And just as we don't restrict alcohol because there are alcoholics, we shouldn't restrict access to pornography because there are dangerous sex addicts. Like social drinkers, purveyors of porn aren't generally dangerous. They're just horny.

If you're against pornography, don't view it. If you're worried about the influence of pornography on your children, install filtering software. Better yet, keep the computer in the family room and watch what your kids are viewing. They're likely to see as much skin on their friends My Space page as they are on any porn site. But don't try to regulate it. If the wrong - or extreme right - people start calling the shots, you might end up getting excited by the shot of a bare ankle. And that's no fun for anyone, except maybe those guys with a foot fetish.

Here are Billy D's thoughts on the subject:

So what’s wrong with a little porn? Well, quite a bit, in my opinion. Maybe it’s because I have two daughters who I would rather didn’t grace the pages of Playboy, or some seedy internet site.

Optical prostitution is the reality of it. Paying a woman (or a man) to take their clothes off is akin to any other sexual favor for money. This is just without physical contact between the two entities. You’re just using the other person involved for a different means of sexual gratification for money.

Now, before we get too far into this, let me say up front, I’m not a prude in any sort of way. And as far as this conversation goes, let me say this now: I fully support the right of two consenting adults to make their own decisions as to their level, if any, of involvement in pornography. It’s not going away, is a multi-billion dollar business, and I’d much rather have the vast majority be willing participants in it than non. Having said that, that also doesn’t make it right.

It is legal, provided everyone involved is over eighteen, and prohibition hasn’t worked for any other vice it’s ever been tried on, this would be no different. Any attempt to de-legitimize the profession now would only force it underground, where what little control we have left (not much!) over content would be lost.

Now, when I say the word pornography, what comes to mind? A naked woman? Maybe a couple in a film? How about two women totally out of their heads on drugs having anal intercourse with a pair of horses? It’s all porn, it’s all the same, and it’s all available at the tip of your fingers.
How about the negative consequences pornography? What about the effects of it on society as a whole? Many of you reading this right now have children. Do you want your daughters seen as just something to insert a penis into, or an entity only present to satisfy unquestioningly a man’s physical desire no questions asked, regardless of what that may be?

What about those of you with sons? Is this how you want them to view women? Cause, don’t forget, that’ll include their sisters and their mother. (All of these women are someone’s sister or daughter or mother, etc.) Do you want your children growing up with the notion that the things they see in porn films are normal everyday occurrences? I doubt it. Homosexuality, bestiality, multiple partners of both sexes… I won’t even get into the fecapheliacs and the "pee people".
With but a passing mention of it destroying marriages, or even pre-marriage relationships, think about what it does to a person’s brain. Eventually, they become so desensitized to it, it becomes the norm to them. People become adjusted to the perversion, and eventually their reality becomes that perversion. The "everybody does it" sense kicks in.

Now, all of these reasons listed should be enough to persuade the average person of the "perils of porn" but as a Christian, let me just ask this:

Do you really think this kind of stuff is "OK" with the Lord? I mean really? Committing adultery in your heart on a daily basis is not a good way to show God just how committed you are to your marriage, is it? Is this how you plan to show him how you loved your sisters here in this life? Instead of doing what you could to save one of His daughters from throwing her self-esteem and dignity down a toilet, you paid her to do it? Good luck with that.


Finally, the Shrub Speaks:

As a died-in-the-wool purveyor of porn I get rather incensed at the anti-smut crowd and their clarion call for tighter restrictions on so-called obscenity.

The root of my problem with these fanatics is their definition of pornography and obscenity. New York City Police Detective Raymond Pierce (Ret.) penned a controversial book examining the link between porn and violent crime. In an interview he proffered the following definition for pornography, "For me it's anything written, spoken, printed, photographed or videotaped to elicit a sexual response from an individual." This definition is at best nebulous; at worst it is vague and indecipherable.

In fact, Pierce states there is no need to differentiate between soft-core and hard-core porn. He sees no difference between Phoebe Cates dropping her top in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Jenna Jameson showing her private parts in a manner that would make a gynecological exam superfluous.

The Supreme Court has defined obscenity as: 1) That the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; AND 2) That the work depicts or describes in a patently offensive way, as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable law; AND 3) That a reasonable person would find that the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political and scientific value.

Therein lies the problem. In order to effectuate a coherent debate one must settle on a tangible set of parameters as a framework. Pierce, et al. aren’t concerned with such niceties, they just want action. Other anti-porn zealots; Steven Baldwin, President Bush, John Ashcroft, Dr. James Dobson, Andrea Dworkin, and Jerry Falwell have led an assault on pornography since the 70’s. Many of these activists display little knowledge of the First Amendment and its protections and fail to forward a coherent standard by which to judge so-called obscene material.

Now, there’s no disputing the fact that obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment’s free speech provisions. Certain types of pornography are, by definition, illegal. Child porn and snuff porn are illegal per se as the act depicted is otherwise illegal. Other forms of porn are highly restricted in a number of states. Beastiality, sexual torture, and depictions of rape are restricted and form the grey area of illegal pornography. Quite literally all other types of smut are OK. The anti-porn cabal would expand the definition of obscenity to include nearly all types of porn. Pierce would advocate for a nearly limitless prohibition on ANY depiction of a sexual act, be it written, photography, or otherwise.

The porn industry in the U.S. generates more revenue than the four major professional sports leagues COMBINED and more than ABC, CBS, and NBC put together, an annual profit of $12 billion, $54 billion world wide. There are currently 4.2 million pornographic web sites, 68 million porn searches, and over 2.5 billion pornographic emails sent every day, 8% of all email traffic. Twenty percent of all males admit to looking at internet porn whilst at work. Fully 40 million adults admit to looking at smut on a regular basis in America. Click here to read more.
Given the pervasive nature of pornography and the fact that tens of millions access porn each day, saying that porn definitively causes violent behavior is akin to claiming ingestion of Ramen inexorably leads to the same behavior. Pierce and his anti-porn brethren, however, would have you believe that systematic perusal of smut will lead one to commit heinous crimes. This connection is tenuous at best.

Which brings me to my point…if you don’t like porn avert your eyes. Don’t use your bully pulpit to squelch free expression, especially when if one asked 100 different people for a definition of what porn and obscenity is one would get 100 different answers. Barring a definitive proof that smut causes violent and lawless behavior, which as yet is impossible to prove, pornography is and should be protected speech. If you want to see porn related violence, try taking porn away, now were talking violent uprisings. As Charlton Hesston put it, "From my cold dead hands", just substitute me for Moses and Playboy for the rifle and you’ve got our poster.

So, in this humble blogger’s opinion, to quote a rather famous scene from a famous movie starring Michael Douglass, "Porn is good, porn works."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Walter the Farting Dog

My little Lucas is like any other three-year-old boy. He loves trucks, cars and trains. He has no qualms about getting dirty, even if that means making "mud angels" because we don't get snow.
And he thinks flatulence is really, really funny.

I've been around enough kids to know this is just a phase, but because I've never planned to encourage or prolong Lucas' fascination with bodily functions, I've carefully avoided the shelves on the bookstore containing a certain book called "Walter the Farting Dog." Apparently, most parents do not. It's a best seller, as are the sequels, Walter the Farting Dog: Trouble at the Yard Sale," and "Rough Weather Ahead for Walter the Farting Dog."

So you can only imagine how thrilled I was when - on our last trip to the bookstore - Lucas discovered a stuffed Walter the Farting Dog that makes realistic farting noise when you squeeze it. He's seen fireworks and airplanes and elaborate model trains at the railroad museum. But never had anything put Lucas in such a sheer state of bliss as a dog that makes farting noises when you squeeze it. He was in love, and it soon became clear that he could not bear separation from his new farting friend.

That was on Friday and all the next day, we endured a cycle of farting noises and hysterical giggles as Lucas' aimed Walter's flatulent behind at the cat, the dog, his sister, the horses. Walter farted in Lucas' glass of juice, into the telephone when grandma called and into a microphone, to amplify the glorious effect.

I won't even attempt to convey the depths of Lucas' sadness when, on Sunday, Walter inexplicably lost his ability to fart.

Now, the only thing more embarrassing than buying a farting dog is returning it because it won’t fart. But that became my appointed task early Monday, when I drove the bookstore and explained the situation to the clerk. Because it’s a good bookstore, and because I’m probably their best customer, I was apologetically directed to the children’s section and told to select another farting dog.

They were on the bottom shelf. There were four Walters left and I wanted to make sure I selected the one that would best meet Lucas' high emission standards. So, bending over, I began to test them. They were loud, so loud in fact that I almost missed the snickers and whispers coming from the aisle behind me. I turned to see a group of shoppers, gaping in amused shock at a woman who appeared to be bent over and farting with abandon.

Grabbing my chosen dog, I stood, marched over to them, held it aloft and squeezed as the toy emitted an especially dramatic fart. “It wasn’t me,” I icily declared and walked away, enjoying their stunned silence almost as much as my 3-year-old later enjoyed the sounds emitted by his new Walter.

I've heard of people blaming it on the dog but, damnit, I had proof.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Stan

One of my husband’s co-workers died today. I didn’t know much about Stan other than what Larry has told me. But his passing left me as rattled as if he’d been a member of my own family.

I was on the way back from town when Larry called me, his voice shaking, to tell me he'd been performing CPR on Stan for the last 20 minutes. The paramedics had finally arrived, and as my husband poured out what had happened, I could hear shouts of "Clear!" in the background.

Larry said when Stan arrived for work, they had spoken briefly about their respective weekends. Then Larry had walked away. When he looked back a little later and didn't see Stan, he walked over and found him lying on his back, his eyes wide open. At first he thought it some sort of prank, but when Larry knelt and found Stan wasn't breathing and didn't have a pulse, he knew it wasn't a joke.

Larry was trying to be optimistic as we talked. The paramedics told him he'd done everything right; they praised him for performing CPR so diligently. They said if he pulled through that would have made the difference. But despite everyone's best efforts, Stan wouldn't be revived.

The ambulances were just sitting there when I pulled up. No flashing lights, no activity. The stretcher sat idle in the back of one and Stan still lay under a sheet where he’d fallen, the toes of his tan work boots poking out at the end. His left arm, with a silver watch on the wrist, stuck out at the side. Larry was talking to a deputy, giving him what information he could. The deputy said he’d personally go and deliver the bad news to Stan’s wife.

I knew about as much about Stan’s wife as I knew about Stan. I knew she was a younger woman, a mail-order bride from the Philippines. I knew he was proud of her. Larry said he talked about her all the time. She'd just learned to drive and he was pleased about that. They had two little children.

I turned away and walked over to the group of paramedics. I yelled at my dad’s border collie, Reuben, who had gone over to nudge Stan’s hand. As Reuben slunk away, the paramedics agreed they should go ahead and bag the body, even though they couldn't move until it the coroner gave the O.K.

Stan didn’t look dead when they pulled the sheet off. He looked like a neglected patient. An intubation tube was still in his mouth, electrodes were still stuck to his chest. He wore khaki pants, a checkered shirt and a white T-shirt pushed up to his neck.

Having just gotten to work, Stan hadn’t had time to get dirty. His clothes were still clean and I imagined his wife washing that outfit a day or two before, carefully putting it away, so he could select it to wear this very morning. Neither of them knew as they touched those clothes that they’d be the last thing he’d ever put on.

It’s the seeming randomness of death of it that unnerves me so. Some people get advance notice. Others are just plucked from mortal existence. One minute you’re here, the next minute you’re laying dead. Just like that.

On the way back to the car, Larry turned and hugged me - hard. I returned the hug, and while we didn’t say anything, we were thinking the same things. First, “Poor Stan, poor family” and second, that it could have just as easily been him in that body bag. Or me. It could have been our ordinary day interrupted by a county deputy come to give us the news that our loved one was lost forever.

I confided in a dear friend this morning how quickly death can upend one’s comfort zone. For some reason, I can’t stop thinking about Stan’s clothes. Donning them was part of a routine he had no idea was about to end. It made me acutely aware of my ordinary routines, and now I find myself eyeing my coffee cup with a certain unease; will this be my last morning coffee? Outside my window the rooster crows. Will I hear it again tomorrow?I have no way of knowing. I’m as clueless as Stan was this morning when he put on his checkered shirt.

But for now, I’m still alive. For now. And the death of a man I barely knew has thrown my life into sharper focus, making feel silly when I consider how I sometimes fritter portions of it away on petty distractions.

“I’ll do it tomorrow” is something I need to stop saying, because tomorrow might not come. I shouldn’t put off living and loving more deeply - and that includes finding in my heart a way to love people I don’t even like or hardly even know. For we all impact each other - we all teach - whether it’s by through word, gesture or - in the case of Stan - our last dying breath.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Isn't she lovely?


My Lady Banks Rose is blooming. I love my Lady Banks Rose, even though she's become an undisciplined wild tangle of a thing whose tendrils reach across the doorway, and over and down the trellis on the other side.

Larry says she needs a severe pruning but - mercifully - has agreed to put it off until after she's finished blooming.

When crowned with her glorious sprays of tiny yellow blossoms, my Lady Banks is the Queen of the Front Flower Bed, despite her humble beginnings. Years ago I discovered her wilted, listing and tiny on the discount rack at - of all places - Wal-Mart. Despite her bedraggled state, I immediately recognized Lady Banks' regal bearing and saved her. But we won't talk about her unlikely beginnings, especially now when she is nearing the peak of her glory. Beneath her branches a court of hostas and coneflowers rise in awe of her majesty.

In our back yard, blooming things continue to erupt under Elmira the Elm Tree. Today it was a beautiful pink tulip. I love tulips. I love the way the blooms start out all tight and reserved before slowly opening, once they acclimate. Tulips are very ladylike flowers.

It's raining a bit today, which is good. We need some showers to coax some of the more reticent plants out of their soily bed. The hibiscus are among the plants that have overslept.

In another week, when all threat of frost has passed, Larry will allow me take some of the more delicate plants out of the greenhouse. I'm counting the days, especially since I'm looking forward to bringing out the odd but eye-catching African mask. Everyone who sees it stops and says, "What is that?" If I'm forced to entertain visitors who aren't talktive, I just show them the plants. It opens them up, like a tulip.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ashamed

I hate it when Larry is angry with me. I hate it because Larry is slow to anger, so if he gets angry with me I know I’ve really crossed the line.

Today, I clearly did. There were, of course, mitigating factors - not enough sleep, the stress of facing a deadline on project I never wanted to start in the first place, and a myriad other building irritations. So I was already stretched pretty thin when - before I’d even had my coffee - Larry peevishly reminded me that I’d not done something he’d specifically asked me to do the day before.

I could just as easily said, “Oh, sorry, I’ll get to it today.” But, no. Instead I got irate and pissy with him, ignoring his cloudy look as I slammed the cupboard door, which in turn caused him to raise his voice and warn me that Enough was Enough, that he’d had every right to be irritated and that I had no right to start in with what he calls “the attitude.”

I hate being talked to like I’m five, even when I act like it. When I announced I was going for a walk, he didn’t try to stop me and I was so angry I didn’t bother to change out of my nightgown. Instead, I just put on my slippers and grabbed my wrap - the soft green one I knit last winter - and stormed out.

Nikki, who usually follows me everywhere, slunk away as I went past. You know you’re putting out some seriously bad vibes when your own dog doesn’t want to follow you.

The field behind our house was still soggy with dew. The hem of my gown was soon soaked with it and snagged on the stubble of cornstalks left over from the last harvest. A black snake and I startled each other. It zipped off and I slowed down, deciding to watch my step or risk stepping on something more dangerous.

My eyes scanned the edge of the field, assessing the trees until I found the friendliest looking one. Sitting underneath it, I wrapped my shawl around my shoulders, hugged my knees to my chest and cried.

I don’t mind crying in front of my husband if I’m sad over something like a movie or a disappointment. I hate crying in front of him if I’m angry. Larry’s unmoved by angry tears and the only thing worse than crying is crying and being denied comfort. Or being told outright that you have no one to blame for your tears but your own foolishness.

It’s also a matter of pride, which is something I need to get past. But old habits die hard and my residual pride still clings to me, like chips of paint on a refinished cabinet. I can live with the pride, though, having been cleanly stripped of much worse vices. When I met Larry I was as mercurial a young woman as you’d ever want to meet - rash, conflicted and hell-bent on my own destruction.

It’s amazing what habits you can shed when you are in the company of someone who refuses to tolerate them. Larry has always been able to settle me when no one else could; if we were a chemical compound, he’d be the stabilizer. I’d be the element that - if left by itself - would have exploded and taken out a whole city block. Over our years together his presence has tamed the wilder part of me and made me less afraid, less defensive, more grounded.

When I look back on who I was when we met, I often wonder what Larry saw in me. I asked him once and the answer he gave moved me to my very core. He said, “I saw incredible potential.”

That’s why I was sitting under the tree crying. Because as tough and independent as I like to think I am, I still value my husband’s approval. And it hurts when I lose it, even temporarily, for I know he expects more of me. Larry gave me my first lesson in redemption; together we’ve built a life to be proud of. For that I am grateful, even if I’m not always gracious.

When I walked back to the house, Larry was about to leave. He didn’t say anything, didn’t kiss me goodbye. He told me he’d be home for lunch and trusted I would be calmer by then. I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down to think, separating the knotted up threads of stress that made up my tangled ball of anger, laying them out, and deciding more constructive ways to deal with them.

I don’t know how long Larry will be angry with me, but I’ll know how it will end. It will end later today as it always does, when - deciding that I’ve Gotten The Message - he’ll casually asks me what came in the mail, or recount some funny anecdote from work. I’ll respond just as casually, mindful not to betray my relief at the subtle signs of being welcomed back into his good graces. He won’t ask for an apology but he won’t have to. A little later, I’ll gladly give it.

But for now, I wait. And feel rather foolish. Don’t get me wrong; my husband - while a good man - is no saint. There are times when the shoe’s on the other foot and he’s wrong. But today it’s me so I don’t mind admitting it. Sometimes a little painful self-analysis is part of the lesson.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Die, monkey, die!

So last night we watched the newest remake of King Kong. I have to say it was very well done. The ape's facial expressions were so realistic that you keep forgetting it's not a real live animal. So when, at the end, poor Kong fell to his death from atop the Empire State Building, I wasn't surprised to look around and see my husband and children looking forlorn.

Do you know how hard it is not to laugh at a time like that? For unlike my misty-eyed family, I loathe monkeys. I loathe them so much that even their big screen death makes me want to do a happy dance.

Given my reputation as an earth-hugging hippie, such hatred may surprise you. And I wasn't always like this. I never had any problem with lower primates until The Terrible Incident With The Monkey, which I seldom talk about owing to the sheer humiliation of what I experienced.

It happened about ten years ago, when Larry and I and another couple visited an exotic animal compound. We'd gone to see the Bengal tigers, and they were magnificent. But while I was watching them I noticed two of the tigers were tormenting at something at the back of their chain-link enclosure.

I walked around and discovered they were swiping at a chainlink dog kennel. Inside the dog kennel was a dog house and atop the doghouse sat a little rhesus monkey, between one and two feet tall.

I've never been a huge fan of monkeys, but I felt sorry for this little cringing primate. So I walked over to comfort him and when I did, he reached out to me so desperately that I instantly took his little monkey hand in my own. I looked at that little hand and thought, "Oh, this is so cool. His little hand looks so human." Human-monkey bonding commenced and intensified when he locked eyes with mine and began stroking my hair. I was in love.

And then he ripped off my earring.

Now, this irritated me because these were my new dangly frog earrings, which I'd been given as a gift. I was quite fond of my dangly frog earrings, so I politely asked the monkey to give them back. Instead, he ignored me and sat there examining the earring.

So I got an idea. Taking my other earring off, I dangled it in front of him. "Give me that one back and you can hold this one," I said softly. All the while I was planning to keep both of them, so naturally I was really miffed when he grabbed the other earring.

Now the monkey had both of my earrings and I was getting mad, so I used my mommy voice on him.

"Give me back my earrings!" I ordered. The monkey's response was to turn his back on me, pop both earrings in his mouth, chew for a few minutes, take a piece of one out and whirl around to show it to me.

I couldn't believe it. I'd trusted this monkey. I'd given him comfort. And how does he repay me? He mugs me. I was beyond mad now; I was furious. I was a woman betrayed - a woman betrayed by by a two-foot high, thieving monkey.

I felt I had nothing left to lose by telling him what I thought, so crouching down to his level, I scowled angrily and called him every name I could think of. My husband, Larry - who's wonderful for giving me useful information after the fact - later told me that you don't ever grimace at or challenge a monkey. It apparently violates the rules of simian etiquette. Of course, I didn't know this so it came as a complete shock when the monkey hit me. And when I say it hit me, it really hit me. I didn't even see it coming, but that little monkey balled up its little monkey fist and hit me right in the eye.

I was in tears. Oh, the humiliation of it. I looked to Larry for support, but all he could do was laugh hysterically and babble about how he wished he'd brought his video camera.

On the way home my eye socket began to swell. By the next day I had a terrible shiner. When I went to work and my female co-workers asked me what happened, I told them the truth: A monkey had stolen my earrings and punched me in the face." Of course, they didn't believe me. "Really, honey," they pressed. "What happened? Did Larry hit you?" It left me wishing he had. Women hit by their husbands get sympathy. Women punched out by two-foot-high monkeys get laughed at. Again.

So there you go. That's why I hate monkeys. That's why I only use products tested on them (I ask first) and that's why I laughed when King Kong fell off that building. I hope he hit the pavement so hard all those stolen earrings went flying out of his mouth.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Happy

I got a gifts today, wonderful gifts.

Three-year-old Lucas made me smile this morning when he crawled in bed with Wesley and laid patiently waiting for his big brother to wake up and play with him.


I got to spend time with all of my children, including Jessica, whose schedule makes it difficult for her to come up on the weekends.

My new kitten purred itself to sleep in my lap.

My Lady Banks rose started blooming.

I found the perfect tulip.

I looked at my husband and remembered why I married him, and realized I'd do it all over again.

I read three chapters of a very good book.

I watched Alex blow dandelion seeds.

Daylight savings time began. I love daylight savings time.


All days are not good days, and there will be days that my feelings of sadness will as strong as today's feelings of happiness were.

When that happens, if I start to feel sorry for myself or feel ungrateful or beyond God's grace, I only will need to think back on today and realize I've had more joy in my life than I probably ever deserved. And I will be reminded that I am perfectly loved.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

News from the sale

While it seems difficult to comprehend, it appears that the primrose garden of the local plant market scene has been infiltrated by the ugly crabgrass of petty politics. At the sale today - our first of the year - Larry and I learned from several grumbling vendors that bad feelings between the head of the local master gardener's club and the organizers of today's event resulted in garden sale gutter tactics. In a mean-spirited move, the master gardeners moved their three-day sale up to compete with ours. A three-day-sale in town is nothing to sneeze at and hard to compete with. So while we got good crowds they weren't nearly what we'd expected.

Long story short, while we did well we came home with more plants and less cash than we'd anticipated.

But don't feel sorry for us. Our family is not the type to let a bunch of Evil Master Gardeners ruin our day. Far from it. The first plant sale is always fun regardless of conditions, and when the weather is perfect and you get to catch up with people you haven't seen since last summer you can only stay grumpy for so long. All of our old friends were there, and we made some new ones.

The plants were just beautiful and fragrant - the breeze blowing past the herb vendors carried the scent of lavendar and rosemary past our booth all afternoon. And there were so many fabulous crafts - mosaics, elaborate birdhouses, stained glass - I was in awe.

The sale is held annually on the grounds of a historic antebellum homestead complete with a big southern mansion. Our booth was on the front lawn, facing the front of the house. The back of the house is equally magnificent and the property holds perfectly restored buildings including a barn full of old-fashioned farming equipment, a smokehouse and a coop containing some of the quaintest looking chickens I've ever seen. Lucas and John enjoyed feeding them, and I fell in love with one little bantam rooster that was so spoiled by visitors he ate bread right out of our hands. The chickens were just part of the fun for John, who enjoyed walking around the grounds and helping out at the table. He was in a great mood today and it was nice to see him so content despite being around so many people. Crowds usually make him nervous.

Alex and Lucas were thrilled to see the kids of our gardening friends. Like the plants, they'd shot up since last year. Conner was there, and Lilly. We were especially delighted when Kai, who is in Alex's reading group, arrived unannounced. And a new vendor brought her daughter, an delightfully precocious 8-year-old actress named Katie who could cry on cue. Alex was enchanted by her and soon she and Katie had convinced the other children they needed to make their own movie. It started out as a love story until the boys changed the plot and it turned into a horror sci-fi film, with Kai as the mad scientist and Conner as Spiderman. When they grew bored with that they ran around in the field behind the house, which delighted Lucas who followed as fast as his little legs could carry him. I was able to get them together in the swing for a group shot. It'll be nice to look back at it next year and see how much they've all changed.

Now that we're packed up and back home, the kickoff to market season has us high-spirited and optimistic, even though we didn't bring home copious amounts of cash. Plant people are fun to be around and even if you aren't guaranteed lots of sales, you're always guaranteed lots of pleasant company. Excluding, of course, Evil Master Gardeners.