Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Good Sport

Sport is showing his age.

Don't get me wrong, he still plays a mean game of fetch. But as he approaches his ninth year, he's getting the first signs of entering his doggie golden years. His eyes aren't quite as sharp, and in the mornings after I let him out he's back at the door within ten minutes, barking to come back inside.

Used to be, he'd stay out and tool around on his little corgi legs, getting into trouble. These days the cool linoleum of the bathroom floor is more inviting than doggie adventures.

This afternoon I took him for a walk. I was going to shoot pictures of the Jacks-in-the-Pulpit I'd seen blooming by a bog bordering the back field. As I was getting my camera, he came up to me and started wriggling in expectation. The last time I took my camera out to the field, he went along. Camera equals walk.

Smart dog.

I grabbed the leash. As much as I'd like to just let him run loose; there are coyotes about and I can't have him running off willy-nilly. But he didn't mind. Leash means walk, and being on a tether is being better than being left behind.

Good dog.

The Jacks-in-the-Pulpit weren't in bloom anymore. I looked and looked, and Sport helped but there just weren't any to be found. But it was no big deal. The day was beautiful and the pace was leisurely. Sport stopped to sniff a couple of monster-sized deer tracks and was in raptures over some relatively fresh fox scat that contained bits of fur. He was so disappointed when I wouldn't let him roll in it.

Crazy dog.

When we got back, I decided to introduce him to his latest batch of grandchildren, which turn a month old today. There are three puppies, two tri-colored and one red-and-white.

We're keeping the tri-colored male, which we've tentatively dubbed Finn. Even though he's a different color than Sport, there's something in him that reminds me of Sport - something about the way he looks up at me in anticipation.

One day Sport will be gone. It's just one of the sad facts of life that we usually outlive our pets. It's nice to know that something of Sport will live on in his grandchildren, and when I look down at them I'll see the legacy of my pal, my walking companion, my very first corgi.

My dog.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Empty Nest

Somewhere in the vicinty of the Lady Banks rose lies a snake with three distinctive, egg-shaped lumps in its midsection.

It was in the middle of the night, I suppose, when it crawled up through the network of branches and flushed the mother bird from her nest. This morning the nest was empty - no eggs, no Mama Cardinal.

Such developments are disappointing. I'd prayed the clutch would hatch safely but there are other creatures with needs. The snake needed the meal as much or more than I needed to see baby cardinals outside my window.

Mama Cardinal will build another nest, hopefully in a spot that's not so snake-accessible, and raise a clutch further from prying eyes. And I shall reflect on the impermanece of things, and just be grateful that - for a few days at least - I had a cardinal nesting outside my window.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Peep Show

I am so psyched. I knew that a pair of cardinals was building a nest somewhere in my Lady Banks rose. I had no idea they'd build it right outside my bedroom window.

Mama Cardinal is huddled in there now, and the little peeps should be out in less than two weeks. I keep my viewing to a minimum. Too much human movement past the window makes Mama Cardinal nervous, but she doesn't seem bothered by Basil the Cockatiel or Peach the Lovebird, whose cages hang in the alcove above the window seat. They spend a great deal of time watching her, and are completely fascinated.

The nesting cardinal is now their preferred form of entertainment. Prior to her building outside the window, Basil and Peach preferred their daily viewing of Winged Migration, which I highly recommend for both winged and wingless creatures.

Barring high winds, marauding neighborhood cats or other dangers I'll hopefully have more pictures to bring you after the hatch. But nesting so low to the ground is a dicey endeavor, and so we shall just have to see, won't we? In the meantime, say a little prayer that all turns out well for this growing family. I already have.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Even the sunset was perfect

If you're weary of reading about my family outings, then just scroll down to the riveting discussion of ghosts.

If you're remotely interested in what I did this weekend, here are some photos. I regret that they don't include what would have been the best shot: an alligator snoozing beside an empty beer bottle. Alex and I came across that humorous scene while paddleboating at the lake on Saturday. I've never been more miffed at myself for being without my camera.

Jessica and Wesley showed up late Saturday night with significant others in tow, so it was a full house. We stayed up way, way too late watching movies but managed to drag ourselves out of bed at a reasonable hour to strap the canoe on the car and head to the creek. I rented two more canoes when we got there and off we went.

Of course the kids hammed it up the entire time. Wesley decided he'd wear my hat after I assured him that it didn't look gay, merely homoerotic. Lucas wore a safari hat - the perfect androgenous headware for a little boy frequently mistaken for a little girl.

Wes and Courtney, ever spontaneous, pulled the boat on shore and climbed out onto a fallen tree for a picture.

I spotted a brown water snake in a dead Christmas tree floating near the shore. I took a shot of him and then grabbed him so the kids could pet him.

It's not a good idea to grab snakes if you don't know what kind they are, but living with a reptile expert like Larry, I've learned to identify them at a glance. Of course, the kids all thought it was great and everyone took turns petting the snake which, fortunately, was more interested in escaping than biting.

Courtney and Brandon's mothers are apparently afraid of snakes. I'm sure they'll be thrilled when they see pictures from the canoe trip. If it makes them feel any better, their children appear to be phobia-free and show potential to be really good snake handlers.

Even Jessica petted the snake, and was such a good sport all the way around, risking additional sunburn to the dose she received yesterday at the beach. Here's a picture of her paddling the canoe. I really love this shot of her.

The kids decided to race their canoes back on the last leg of the journey. Larry and I considered joining the competition, but were quickly reminded of how decrepit we are and adopted a more leisurely pace as Lucas, sitting between us, cheered for both teams.

It was such a nice weekend, and although I've said it here many times before it's the simple things in life that bring us the most joy. I can't think of any material thing, any professional accomplishment that brings me as much pure joy as an afternoon with my family.

Now that my two oldest children have such wonderful companions the happiness of being with them has only increased. I am so extremely grateful.

It was just the most wonderful day and then, when I went outside after it was nearly over I saw this.

Like I said, even the sunset was perfect.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ghost stories

During our ongoing discussion on God, faith, spirituality and Jack Russell Terriers, newcomer Mogryph arrived to help stir the pot. He has a lot of interesting stuff to stay, and needs to stop apologizing for saying it. I'm enjoying his fresh ideas, and was particularly struck by this one:

"One of my plethora of extreme interests is the Supernatural. Ghosts, spirits,
whatever you want to call it, it's something that's been close to me all my
life, because it's been close to my family. Although I haven't had any of the
"close-encounters" that others in my family have had, I believe, like to
research the topic, and I've actually joined a paranormal research group. Now, I
can almost see some of your heads shake like "okay, this guy's.... a looney!"
This is something I just can't understand. There are so many who have no problem
with faith in an omnipotent being that created and watches over us, but yet the
same people think that those who believe in earth-bound souls, or telepathy, or
other such paranormal subjects, are just plain nuts."

No, Mo, I don't think you're nuts. I might, had I not grown up on a haunted farm. My family moved there when I was about eight and we left six years later.

I have no explanation for the things that happened there. I can't explain the mysterious lantern light that would come down the path and disappear, the male voices outside our door, the feeling of "others" in the house and surrounding property. Sometimes these unseen presences seemed benign, sometimes sad, sometimes downright menacing.

Our animals were good barometers. I can remember the cats standing - backs arched and tails like bottle-brushes - in the center of the room, circling and hissing at something our senses couldn't detect. I can remember our otherwise unflappable trail horses stopping for something invisible as we rode, their eyes rolling in panic at something on the path when there was nothing there.

My aunt also lived on the property, across a narrow road from her mother. One night she awoke to see the figure of a young, sad-looking woman in 19th centry dress pointing out the window in direction of her mother's place. The next morning her mother came over to say she'd heard some "kids" behind her house. One was a girl, sobbing hysterically. The other a young man very earnestly saying, "No matter what happens, you must never tell." When she looked out, there was no one to be seen.

We knew a family had lived and died on the land, a family by the name of Ennis. We knew because they were all buried there in a graveyard that held all the family headstones but also contained an unmarked plot. There patriarch of the family had survived his first wife and had remarried. They were all there in the ground, along wtih their children. The relative of a local historian said she thought they'd died of some sort of fever. She also claimed the land was the site of some sort of Coharie Indian massacre, although I've never found anything to back either story up.

So what happened on the land? Something apparently did, and something remained. Is it spirits? Demons? Psychic energy played back like a reel that rewinds itself over and over?

I have my own thoughts on this, but would be intersted to hear what you think of ghosts and things ghostly, and particularly where you think this plays into your own personal theology and views of the afterlife.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Death (Penalty) Be Not Proud

I have to hand it to Shrub, he knows how to pick his topics and thus continues to challenge me and Billy D.

This week's Roundtable Wednesday tackles the death penalty. And with it comes the Seventh Sign. It appeareth that The Boys and I actually agree.

First, here's my take:

My husband and I were watching the news the night last year when it was announced that the body of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford was found buried within sight of the Florida home from which she’d been abducted.

A month later her killer, John Evander Couey, would admit to burying Jessica alive as she clutched a stuffed animal to her chest. It was one of those stories so horrible - so incomprehensible - that it sears itself into your memory and sickens you every time it’s recalled.
As the details came out, I remember my husband saying, “If someone hurt you or the kids I don’t even want to think of where I’d go, it would be such a dark place.”

I understood. Part of me was already there. In Jessica Lunsford I could see my own children. In Couey, I saw a man who deserved not just death, but a horrible one. If such a man broke into my home with the intention of harming my family, I can assure you he would not walk out alive.

I am in favor of killing in self-defense, and I could hardly blame a person whose rage led them to take the life of their child’s murderer. If Jessica Lunsford’s father had gotten hold of Couey before the police did and ripped the man limb from limb, the actions of such grief and rage would be fully understandable. What parent wouldn’t want to avenge the death of a beloved child? I know I would.

The concept of revenge satisfies some hunger in us. Movies are full of it and we cheer when the bad guy finally gets his. Revenge supposed to bring “closure,” a relatively new and ridiculous concept that somehow implies getting even sets everything to rights.

But real life is different. The victim won’t be brought back to life when the killer takes his last breath. The victim’s family may feel a moment’s satisfaction as the man on the gurney draws his last breath, but such should hardly be the basis for public policy.

That’s just one of the reasons I oppose the death penalty.

As much as some people deserve it, the prison system’s job is to keep bad people off the streets. It has no business killing people on behalf of crime victims.

This stance makes people indignant. “If the murderer is put to death he won’t do it again,” they say. But the same thing can be achieved by keeping him behind bars. If Couey, a career criminal with a 30-year record, hadn’t been turned back out, Jessica Lunsford would still be alive.

And let’s not forget that while Couey admitted his guilt, some death row inmates maintain their innocence.

“Oh, they all do,” you may say. But some are, indeed, wrongly convicted. Here in North Carolina, death row inmate Alan Gell was released in 2004 after it was revealed that prosecutors withheld key evidence at his trial, including an audiotape of one of the witnesses saying she’d “made everything up.”

Gell is far from alone. I won’t bore you with statistics, but go here for an eye-opening look at just how flawed the system is.

It seems especially egregious to put people to death when exoneration is so readily available to those who can afford it. Look at O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake. Both men are likely guilty, but were lawyered up enough to walk away with their freedom. Escaping the ultimate penalty shouldn’t depend on one’s wealth or celebrity.

A system that can’t adequately dispense justice has no place putting people to death. The system should work to determine guilt or innocence. If true guilt is found, the killer should be put away to await the Hand of God.

The death penalty involves years of expensive appeals followed by a death far more gentle that monsters like Couey deserve. This is a man who raped a little girl and buried her alive. The hard part of me objects to his slipping off into a state-ordered permanent sleep. The hard part of me wants to think of this man as an 80-year-old, staring at the walls of his prison cell, choking on his own phlegm or wracked by the slow, painful spread of a cancer. Perhaps as he lies there, he tries to recall the feeling of the sun on his face. It's been so long, after all.... But each time he tries the fleeting memory is replaced by the cold hopelessness that has haunted him throughout his lengthy confinement.

There are some penalties worse, and more fitting, than an easy death.

Behold, the Wisdom of Shrub:

As the years have passed my political ideology has morphed and evolved. My penance in law school was invaluable as I came to recognize the ominous specter of big and intrusive government. In a word my personal political philosophy is becoming decidedly more myopic, and dare say, more protectionist. But my views on what will ultimately serve these United States and protect her from harm is also nearly the polar opposite of my beliefs circa 1990-’95.

Thus, my stance on the death penalty has done a 180. I was once a “kill ‘em all” zealot. No punishment was too harsh for those who chose to snuff out the life of another or serially molest, rape, and torture. These individuals were pond scum and deserving of the most finite and dastardly punishment available and I would’ve been more than happy to flip the switch.

Times will change as do perspectives. No longer do I view the death penalty as the ultimate panacea that will cure all murder and heinous crime. Let me tell you why…

The government should in no way, shape, or form be given even the slightest discretion to kill its own citizens. It is the height of folly to assume the government will act with restraint when they’re given the opportunity to execute their citizenry.

In every state that employs the death penalty it costs nearly twice as much to execute the average death row inmate than keeping them behind bars for life. Why? Because death penalty cases are 3-5 times longer than other murder trials, the appeals process is lengthy and expensive, and court costs abound throughout the process. The only way to reduce these hidden costs is to limit the appeals process.

But this rationale is a double-edged sword. The appellate mechanism was devised as a measure to police the government’s actions in its prosecution of crime & punishment. When doling out the most severe punishment imaginable the public must be assured that the government acted properly and within the scope of its legislative mandate. And the police and prosecutors are nothing more than arms of the government bestowed with nearly limitless resources all in the name of upholding and enforcing the laws. As such they must abide by and follow the exact letter of the law or our criminal justice system looses all credibility and legitimacy. After all, if the government actors don’t follow the law why should the general public.

If the appeals process is limited you remove any meaningful impediment to rampant illegal criminal prosecutions, an especially foolish move when the punishment is death.

When the government is trying to execute one of its own citizens they should have to jump through an infinite series of litigious hoops. The one sure way to reduce the enormous cost of the average execution is to abolish the death penalty. It’s sure, cost effective, and removes the ability of our states to kill their people.

Currently in the U.S. 38 states sanction capital punishment. Since 1976, 1,023 inmates have been executed in the U.S., and 3,373 currently sit on death row. The U.S. executes on a greater scale than every nation on earth, save Russia and China. A 2005 Gallup poll revealed that 56% of the American public favored the death penalty while 36% favored life imprisonment. Nearly every year between 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court, and 1995 the murder rate went up. Since ’95 the rates have declined a bit; in fact since ’99 the per capita murder rate dipped to 5.5, the lowest such level since 1965.

These numbers suggest a couple things. First, the government, when given the opportunity, will kill its citizens with fervent zeal. Second, the death penalty seems to have little to no relation to overall murder rates. Lastly, the American public has actually been duped into believing that the death penalty works.

Does capital punishment serve as an effective deterrent? According the most studies and statistical analysis the answer is a resounding no. Is the death penalty cost effective? Hell no. Is it moral for our government to divvy out death sentences at its whim? Once again, no. You must be able to answer yes to all these questions if you feel the death penalty is a legitimate governmental exercise.

Now the government would be all too happy to keep this train of death rolling. They’re in the game to expand power and placate the masses. Their very DNA dictates a willingness to throw John Q Public under the proverbial bus. The death penalty is a tool and serves a fickle and amoral master.

Since attending law school I’ve become genuinely fearful of expansive government. The thought that my country and state can execute me and have the majority of Americans condone such practices doubly scares me.

And finally, everyone's favorite guy in a bunny suit, Billy D.

Ah…the death penalty. The sound of "Old Sparky" as a few thousand watts course through it’s metal veins. The smell of crispy-fried man-flesh wafting through the air.

Kidding. It may surprise some of you to know, I am not a proponent of the death penalty, with very, very few exceptions.

See, first of all, to put one to death for some heinous crime, is to give them an easy out, and sometimes, exactly what they want. No, we can do much, much better.

For starters, even though many states still carry that penalty on their books, they’ve not used it in decades, and won’t for many more. So what’s the point? As a deterrent? No, it’s entirely useless for that. It stops no-one from carrying out whatever madness it is they seek.

Let’s say, for capital crimes, instead of placing an inmate on death-row for the next thirty years while appeal after appeal moves through the system until said inmate dies in prison, we get a bit creative with the punishments.

First, we set up a few special facilities made just for these folks. Super-prisons like the one in Colorado. Say a few in Northern Alaska, and maybe two or three in Death Valley. So if one were to escape, it’s a slow suicide at the hands of the sun or a polar bear.

Now, 23.5 hours a day you sit in your cell. You get fifteen minutes a day for recreation, which takes place in a concrete room, maybe ten feet by ten feet. The other fifteen minutes out of the cell is for a shower.

The only item allowed to you in your cell is a Bible or Koran, or whichever Holy book you choose. But that’s it. No TV, no radio, magazines, whatever. Nothing.

Oh, and no phone calls, letters, no type of communication with the outside world whatsoever. For all intents and purposes, you are dead to the outside world.

Cruel and unusual? You’re there for a reason. Not for robbing a bank or for rape or embezzlement (As an aside, for those type of sexual crimes, either life in prison with no parole, or 25 years and physical castration should do the trick) but because you committed a capital offense.

Then again, instead of wasting all that free labor, maybe we start work farms where these type of lowlifes work day in and day out for the rest of their natural lives doing some horribly repetitive and useless task like breaking rocks with a hammer or whatever.

See, I don’t think there’s anything to be gained from the application of the death penalty except vengeance for vengeance’s sake. While I do understand that, as if it were me who had lost someone to a heinous act I’d want my revenge too, but the state has to be the overseer in it all, and at times the voice of reason.

Now, I did say "with a few exceptions". Any offense involving children in any way, including murder and/or sexual violation automatically warrants the death penalty, which is then carried out swiftly. The defendant is limited to one appeal, which is reviewed by a three judge panel within thirty days. If it’s turned down, on day thirty one the offender is publicly executed by being drawn and quartered. This, I think, actually would be a deterrent to some. But it would have to be public, maybe pay per view or something. Whatever it took to get the word out.
But as far as killers go, half the time they’re ready and wanting to die anyway, they’re just begging for someone to do it for them, so why reward them with a granted wish. Make the punishment last a lifetime, and make it harsh.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Yappy little bastard

It takes nerve to chase a neighbor's terrified cat up a tree, watch him retrieve it at great personal risk and then lunge for it after he brings it down the ladder.

But that's Rocky.

Rocky is our neighbor's Jack Russell Terrier. As dogs go, he's cute, but if I could get him alone I'd shake him until his doggie brains rattle. He is so annoying. Usually he annoys me by standing at my back gate and barking his high-pitched little Jack Russell bark and then skulking away when I find the perfect thing to throw at him.

Today he annoyed our neighbors by chasing their cat, Ellie Mae, up a tree. It at least made for some good photos. I recommend enlarging the second one. The cat looks kind of funny being hauled off the branch.

I don't know why my next door neighbors even let Rocky hang out at their place. He belongs to the guy next door, and has already eaten several of their cats. They just keep replacing them with bigger cats. I guess Rocky will learn when they bring home a mountain lion.

Of course, that's if the coyotes don't get him first. They've been moving into the area pretty steadily and two nights ago three of them drug a deer carcass into our other neighbor's yard and got into a horrific fight over it.

Now there's buzz about forming a Coyote Hunting Party, given the imminent threat the wild canines represent to smaller animals, such as their cats and Rocky.

Personally, I think the hunting party should use Rocky as bait, but they probably won't go for it. Even if they did, he'd probably survive. Little, annoying dogs are remarkably resilient, especially shifty-eyed cat-killing little bastards like Rocky.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A poem that came to me

Advice along The Way
by Morgan

Said the Lord, “There you are
I’ve been looking for you.
Why’d you stop on the path?”

“Cause I’ve rocks in my shoe.”

I held up my soul, feeling quite blue
“They’re making me stumble. What can I do?”

“Take them out,” said the Lord.

“I did! But then
the next thing I know
they’re back in again.”

I emptied my shoe of vice, greed and pride
“How can I keep going when they keep getting inside?”
I said as I sat and continued to grumble.
“These rocks in my shoe are making me stumble.”

He laughed. “There’s no use sitting and balking
When the point of the journey is for you to keep walking.”

“I know.” I replied. But I feel like a wimp
When the other travelers point out my limp.”

“Ignore them,” said he. “They’re limping too.
They just don’t notice because they’re staring at you.”

“Now get up, my child, and keep moving forward
And stay focused on what you’re heading toward
Your soul’s a bit bruised
But the rocks cannot break it
A soul needn’t be perfect for me to still take it.”

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Women's rights or societal blight?

It's Roundtable Wednesday, my wee minions, the day of the week that The Boys and I set aside to debate burning social issues. This week, the topic is feminism and already I feel the need to wonder aloud how Billy D and Shrub were able to type their views, given that their knuckles were all sore and bloody from dragging the floor. That's dedication, my friends.

So here you go.

Feminism: Good or bad. First, my view:

My 9-year-old daughter has a dilemma. She isn’t sure what she wants to be when she grows up. Lately she’s talked about being a biologist - a biologist who studies foxes. But she also likes to write, so she thinks she may be an author. Or possibly do both.

I can’t imagine looking down at those hopeful eyes and saying, “Darling, what are you talking about? Sure, you’re bright. But you’re a girl, and girls were meant to make and raise babies. That is all you should be thinking about. Now go pick up after your brothers. It’s good practice for how you’ll be spending the rest of your life.”

Not so many generations ago that was the message that many young girls got. If it wasn’t conveyed directly, it was conveyed through societal expectations, media and families that automatically funneled females towards a life of domesticity. Women who did pursue higher educations were directed towards traditionally female careers - secretaries, teachers or librarians. The common joke was that a woman women to college to pursue her MRS. Degree.

“Go through the motions of pursuing a career if you must,” society said. “But don’t forget your place.”

Then in 1963, a little book called The Feminine Mystique was published - a book that dared to utter the unspoken question in the back of so many homemaker’s minds: “Is this all?”

For a public raised on Donna Reed and Leave it to Beaver, the question bordered on the heretical.

But then, women began to respond and soon it was clear that the answer to the question "Is this all?," was a thunderous "It can't be. It won't be. We won't let it."

That acknowledgement of that collective unrest spawned the feminist movement that subsequently threw open doors for future generations of women to choose paths beyond hearth and home. But like any dramatic social change, it also inspired debate.

So has feminism been good for America?

If you’re a member of the Religious Right, the answer is a resounding, “No,” yelled as you thump a Bible conveniently opened to the passage where it says women should be “keepers at home,” and conveniently not open to Proverbs 31, which describes what sounds a lot like many of today’s working mothers.

The right winger has one image of the feminist: a hairy, man-hating lesbian who ends each praying that the Goddess grant her another pregnancy to abort.

But that's only because conservaties are bitter by nature. They like for people to know their place, especially if those people stand to challenge them for a piece of the pie they consider theirs by God-given right. Just when they thought they had it all wrapped up, here come the women and the black folk, mucking it all up.

Let's face it. No one likes to lose their bitch. It's even worse when your bitch becomes your equal. It's twice as bad when your bitch beats you out for that promotion and becomes your boss. Can you say, "Ouch!"

Personally, I don't think they'll ever get over it.

But ironically, the same right-wingers who rage against the “scourge” of feminism hypocritically enjoy its benefits every day. The stay-at-home mother who looks down her nose at her employed counterparts has nothing but praise for her child’s female pediatrician, and the conservative businessman who decries what feminism has done to society is all too happy when working women spend their money on his goods. And I doubt few churches who preach “traditional values” turn down the faithful tithes of its working, female members.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. Don’t rail against what feminism has done to society and then turn around and enjoy its benefits. If you’re opposed to women working, then the only right thing to do is completely boycott women in the workplace. That means if you get T-boned at the intersection by an SUV, you should refuse aid if a female paramedic that shows up. If you’ve got a medical condition, make sure the drug you need to save your life wasn’t produced by a company that employs women. Don’t wear clothes designed by women. Don’t read books written by women. Don’t go to movies that feature female actors. Clean your own offices at work. Don’t eat at restaurants or shop at stores that hire women. The list goes on.

The primary argument against feminism is that it hurts children by robbing them of an at-home mother. But feminism didn’t pull unwilling mothers out of the home. The women’s rights movement simply opened opportunities beyond the home. This has led to varying dynamics. Some mothers went to work, either full or part time. Others stayed home. In some families, mom goes to work and dad stays home. In other cases, like mine, mom stays home but works.
The important thing to remember - the thing that critics of feminism would like you to forget - is this: The career opportunities women enjoy may mean more choices, but they are choices couples make together. And there are more than a few men who enjoy the higher standard of living that second income affords.

Do some women regret the choices they've made in the wake of feminism? Critics of feminism point at the angst of unmarried, childless women as evidence of feminism’s downside. There’s something to that. Indeed, some women, having put off childbearing to develop their careers, find themselves losing the race against the biological clock.

But is their fate any worse than the 50 percent of women whose “traditional” path to marriage and family ended up in divorce? I’d wager the childless, 45 year-old woman with a good career but who can't find a man to father her children is still better off than the single 45-year old single mother surrounded by guys who won't date women with children. And let’s not forget that life isn’t always rosy for men, either. There are plenty of middle-aged guys saddled with regret.

Regret often accompanies choices, but that doesn’t that everyone - male or female - should be denied choices.

Which brings me back to my daughter, the fledgling writer/ biologist. A career isn’t all she wants. She also wants to be a Mommy, and she’s never asked me if she'll have to choose. Why? Because she’s grown up with a mother who fully enjoys balancing the rewarding demands of a family with the rewarding demands of a career. She's seen how both my work and my family make me happy. And how they make me whole.

As a woman, a mother and a feminist, I want nothing less for her.

Here's Billy D's perspective. (Billy, Billy, Billy... I'm not saying a word. Yet.) :

Feminism. I hardly know where to begin. While I do think it probably had a useful purpose at some point, somewhere between the beginning and the pot of gold they originally sought, that whole scene kind of got turned into something resembling militant lesbianism 101.

I know many of you will vehemently disagree with what I’m writing, but, in my opinion, feminism has done far more harm for our society than good.

Yes, I know. Women can vote now, they’re in the workplace, they’re captains of industry… whatever. Look, let me try to explain myself.

Women should be home, procreating and raising children. Now, before anyone reads anything into that statement, let me explain. I do NOT mean barefoot and pregnant. What I do mean is, when the man is out at work, the woman runs the home. And I mean runs the home, not just vacuuming and baking cookies. I mean, schooling the kids, setting and maintaining a household budget, keeping the house clean, doing all those errands that need to get done during the day, while the man goes out and makes a living to pay for everything.

Now, before the rise of the wicked institution of feminism, this is pretty much how things were. But now, women need that extra-curricular "fulfillment". Why the quotes? Look, if your job gives you the fulfillment you don’t get from raising your children to be everything they could be, then it’s not fulfillment you’re seeking. It’s approval from someone outside your family circle.
A pat on the head from a snotty neighbor, or a nod of approval from your withered and dried nasty sister. Something.

Look, I’m not discounting the role females play in making the world go ‘round at all. But the ERA thing turned into a screw men thing quite some time ago. At this time, I know many, many more women who will tell you that the leaders of the feminist movement today do not speak for them, than those who say they do. Why do you suppose that is?

Because they don’t hate men. They’re told they’re supposed to, but they can’t seem to actually do it. They’re told they’re less of a human if they have children, and downright garbage if they decide they wish to stay home and raise them like they were born to. Yes, BORN TO. Men hunt and gather, women nurture. Sorry ladies, that’s just how it is.

Now, because a woman chooses to define herself, and her own role she’ll play in the world, her sisters will become angry and attempt to chastise and discredit her. Shout her down, shame her, and with any luck, get her to change her mind and abandon those kids to a day care to opt for the mediocre job where she will spend her days hating every minute and watching a clock, instead of laughing and loving her children, and enjoying and loving her husband. Makes no sense.

Is that new car or bigger house worth it? In a few short years when the children are gone and you’re left all alone, except for your job that you hate doing, will you still feel "fulfilled" and satisfied? I doubt it. Do you suppose your children will call you on Mother’s day and thank you for doing such a great job at "XYZ" company, and tell you it’s OK that you missed the plays and the ins and outs and ups and downs of their lives, because they understand children are a burden best left to day cares and extended relatives to raise?

No, in all likelihood, they’re going to act out and attempt to gain mommies favor and attention any way they can. Don’t worry though, eventually they’ll figure out that’s not going to happen, and find someone or something else to fill that void. Indiscriminate sex, drugs, booze… whatever.
Look, women are not equal to men. They’re not. And men aren’t equal to women in certain areas either. They’re not supposed to be. Each was designed for a specific purpose, and to complete certain tasks. That’s the nature of it, the way it was designed. When feminism fights this, we, and our children lose every single time.

Here's Shrub's take:

I love feminists, they’re such easy fodder. So, in order to further the debate regarding the unending virtues of the great unwashed I give you my comprehensive list of the different types of feminism and the basic tenets of each individual school of feminism. As a side note, I got the list straight from Wikipedia, lest you doubt my accuracy. So I did my normal three and a half minutes of research and discovered there are actually different branches of feminism…and there’s a lot…twenty five recognized disciplines within one movement.

Amazon Feminism-six foot tall blondes with big boobs standing around quoting Margaret Sanger.

Anarcha- Feminism-screw the rules and give me what I want…I’m PMSing so don’t mess with me boy!

Anti Racist Feminism-even the spicks, slopes, sand-niggers, jigaboos, whaps, and other ethnically diverse women are all equal.

Cultural Feminism-bitching about men with Mozart playing in the background.

Eco Feminism-let’s hug a tree, rub our crystals, and bitch about men. Equity Feminism-gimme my shit monkey boy!

Existential Feminism-huh?

French Feminism-can the French get any more feminine?

Gender Feminism-seems a bit redundant if you ask me.

Individualist Feminism-I am woman, hear me roar, or screech, or whine, or complain, you get the picture.

Lesbian Feminism-once again, redundant.

Liberal Feminism-we’ll elect the most hideously deformed troglodyte we can find.

Male Feminism-the Tony Awards!

Marxist Feminism-your vagina is now property of the state.

Material Feminism-I want nice stuff for all women.

Pop Feminism-Madonna is the Godess!

Post colonial Feminism-ah those kooky French & British. Those lovable little scamps just occupied half the globe’s surface, enslaving millions. Who cares when we can watch Desperate Housewives.

Post modern Feminism-now lesbian porn in one window and Gloria Steinem’s Revolution Within in another. The Internet’s a beautiful thing.

Pro sex Feminism-hey, I’m pro sex too. Bring all them ho’s on! Psychoanalytical Feminism-lie down on this comfy couch and we’ll tell you how perky your breasts are and how you’re a wonderful person.

Radical Feminism-bitches all!

Separatist Feminism-give us our own island…it’ll be call Titty Tonka.

Socialist Feminism-healthcare for all women…the men can go screw themselves.

Spiritual Feminism-my soul is mine…piss off!

Standpoint Feminism-I have no opinion on this one.

Third-world Feminism-bitch about men while sweeping my dirt floor, because, after all, my hut must be as tidy as my vagina.

Transnational Feminism-we can cuss men out in multiple languages and dialects.

Trans Feminism-is this the same as trans fatty acids, I hear they’re really unhealthy.

As you can see I find feminism fodder for my satirical energy. Now, I’m not advocating abolishing feminism, just retooling it a skoch.

First of all, in order to regain any semblance of credibility feminism may have once had a changing of the old guard and their philosophies is in order. The Naomi Watts, Gloria Stienem, Margaret Sanger cabal who would denigrate and vilify stay-at-home moms need a refresher course in tolerance 101. The theory forwarded by these so-called leaders of the “movement” that women who choose to forgo work and raise their children are intellectually inferior is reason one why mainstream feminism will be demonized as an intolerant and not worthy of anything other than disdain. Their shrill harpyesque whining serves only to alienate those they hope to gain allegiance.

Secondly, there tent is most decidedly small and not inclusive. Differing opinions than the deities of feminism are roundly dismissed as being, once again, intellectually inferior. Those who disagree in the slightest are labeled as misogynist and oppressors of the already down trodden. By employing such rhetoric they are, once again, doing a disservice to their own cause. Tone down the harshness and shut up and listen for a change.

Lastly, all things male are under continual assault by feminism. The Duke Lacrosse story is a prime example. There have been two separate rounds of DNA testing performed that have yielded not a single genetic match to the accused or any of the team mates. Yet the feminists insist the allegations are valid and that the accused players should be tarred & feathered. Here’s my point, if your contention is proven false, fall back and re-evaluate. Don’t hold to your position just because you want to fry a couple idiot macho jerks. And all this negativity towards predominantly male institutions is just so much conjecture. Take a breath ladies, acknowledge the male logistical superiority.

All feminism has to do is tweek its philosophy a bit and they might find acceptance where there was once blood hatred. Because, have no doubt you feminists out there, many out there hate you and all you stand for. But you’re reaping what you’ve sewn.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mitzibel wins

In the comment section of my chicken sex post, I wrote a tawdry little story that contained a reference to my favorite movie. I promised a prize to anyone who could guess what it was.

That talented tart Mitzibel guessed correctly. The first line of my little story comes from the very clever opening of Quills.

Mitzibel's prize is a nearly-at-the-top position in my blogroll. Yes, my pets, I know it's presumptuous of me to assume she'd even accept such a prize. She's free to decline, so long as she understands that the only other thing I'd have to offer would be an autographed picture of Mr. Randy Cock.

I hope she'll accept the link instead. Her blog rocks. It takes Skills to incorporate one's breast size and Laurie Berkner music into a Mother's Day post. Color me impressed. Besides, linking to Entropic Doom makes me look good, which is what all of this is about anyway.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mrs. Hensley Gets Laid

I'm generally four square against the debauching of reluctant virgins, but in the case of Mrs. Hensley, it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Those of you following the unfortunate barnyard saga of our broody hen will recall Mrs. Hensey as the Pinnacle of Avian Morality. She's nothing like her slutty sister, Bedelia.

Bedelia is like a doorknob; she gives everyone a turn, and can regularly be seen giving it up to multiple roosters in the dust wallow behind the thornless blackberries. Mrs. Hensley has steadfastly refused the roosters' attention and - despite their ardent pursuit - has always managed to elude them long enough to maintain her virtue.

But alas, her chastity has not brought her any closer to getting what she really wants - a brood of chicks. Infertile eggs don't hatch, they just go bad. This past Saturday, Mrs. Hensley finally abandoned her second rotting clutch, flying off the nest with a squawk of sheer despair.

But, as fate would have it, her descent brought her right in the path of the Worst Sort of Rooster, a swaggering brute named Randall Cock - Randy for short. I won't go into the unseemly details; I'll only tell you Randy Cock nailed Mrs. Hensley with such masterful efficiency that I was forced to shield the goslings' eyes from the spectacle.

I expected Mrs. Hensley to be traumatized, especially given her vocal protestations. So imagine my surprise when later that same afternoon I found her not ruffled and dazed, but flouncing around the same brutal cad and clucking flirtatiously. It seems even in the animal kingdom females are drawn to the Bad Boys.

So there you go.

OK, so Mrs. Hensley can forget being inducted into the National Organization for Feminist Hens, but at least she can finally look for some fertile eggs as a result from an activity that was obviously a lot more enjoyable than she ever anticipated. And she may find that a little hen can be a wanton while still being a virtuous mother.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Do as we say, not as we do

I don't mean to upset people, I really don't. And I'd never intentionally upset a guy like Eaglewood, who seems like an extraordinarily nice man, a loving husband and a good father.

But today, he holy-rolled his way off my blog in a righteous snit, claiming that I was attempting to portray him as a hypocrite.

For the record, I did not call Eaglewood a hypocrite and never would. I simply asked him a question:

If Christians are going to use a law from Leviticus to show that homosexuals are living in a state of sin inconsistent with a repentant Christian, how can they claim to be any different when Leviticus contains many other laws they admit to ignoring themselves?

Homosexuality is quite clearly forbidden under Levitical law. Here is the verse that Erik, another contributor, posted as proof that homosexuality is a sin:

"Lev 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination.Lev 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination"

You can't argue with that. Under Levitical law, two guys doing it is wrong as wrong can be.

But curiously enough, there are other laws in Leviticus, laws Christians never mention and certainly don't follow. Here are a few:

In the 12th chapter of Leviticus, a woman is considered unclean seven days after having a boy child, and fourteen days after having a girl child. (As an aside, I'd love it if one of you folks who so revere Leviticus can tell me why a woman is twice as "unclean" after bearing a daughter than a son, especially given that the process for birthing either is identical.)

In Leviticus 20, it say if a married couple has sex while a woman is menstruating, they must both be banished from the community. Leviticus 20 also calls for both parties in adultery to be executed.

I was surprised to learn that not only is homosexuality an abomonation, but so is the consumption of shellfish:

Leviticus 11:10 - 12 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you. They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination. Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

Oh yes, my dumplings, it appears that there are enough Levitical laws to go around.

So I asked Eaglewood - since Christians often cite Levitical law to prove that homosexuality is a sin - whether he himself followed Levitical law. He said he doesn't on the grounds that it was "impossible." Besides, he said, as a born-again Christian, he's exempt from Levitical law.

That's where I get confused. Christians use the Levitical reference time and time again to back up the claim that gays are living in state of sin and are, therefore, not True Christians. But ask them if they follow Levitical laws themselves and - even as they admit they don't - they get offended if you ask them how this makes them any more Christian than the gays. After all, if the Christian takes his church group to the Red Lobster for the shrimp special, that's the Levitical equivelant of going in a bathhouse.

So really, unless True Christians are going to follow Levitical law themselves, they need to stop using Leviticus as an example when condemning homosexuality.

Now, the New Testament does address homosexuality. In Romans, Paul rebuked the practice of same sex activity. But there's some controversy about whether Paul was talking about homosexuality or binging Pagan temple sex rituals into God's house. I guess it depends on what you believe - or what you want to believe.

But the New Testament also contains a lot of obscure rules that Christians don't seem to talk about, and certainly don't seem interested in following.

First Corinthians 11 says if a woman enters church with her head uncovered, it must be shaved. First Corinthians 14 commands women to be silent in the church.

First Corinthians 7 says that if a man is single, he should stay single. If he's "loosed" from his wife, he shouldn't seek another.

These are inconvenient requirements, especially if you're a talkative woman who likes to show off her hair, or if you're divorced. Of course, Christians dodge these rules with the convenient cry of "They weren't meant for us! These rules are out of context!"

Others will say that since they live by grace, they laws aren't so important any more. But if grace covers a woman who continually refuses to cover her head, or a man who remarries after un-Biblically divorcing his wife for someone else, wouldn't it also cover two gay guys living together? Under that definition of grace, you can't say they are any less Christian, can you?

Wouldn't it be nice if , rather than applying Biblical rules to others while weaseling out of the ones we don't like, we could just try and love one another? That's the one commandment that everyone can understand. I can see studying the Bible and trying to live within the law yourself, but given that some of it is so open to inerpretation, it seems a fool's errand to rush to apply it to others.

I'm light years away from being as good as I'd like to be. But I'm working on it. I admire people who think they've spirutally arrived at a superior place from which they can coach others. I admit to not being there yet. I'm merely a traveler. But I rather like the view from my simple path. I feel far closer to God when listening for His voice than I ever could if I spent my time screaming in someone else's ear.

If I'm off base on this, and I may be, I'd love to hear your perspectives...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Big Gay Marriage Debate

It's Wednesday, my pets. And that means it's time for the resumption of the weekly roundtable discussion between me, Shrub and Billy D.

This week's topic: Should gay marriages be legalized so that homosexuals can enjoy the marital bliss along with the 50 percent of heterosexuals who actually stay married?

Now look at that. I just gave you a spoiler. Naughty me.

Oh well. I might as well give you the rest. Here's my take on it:

With this ring, Fred weds Ted. And I couldn’t care less.

Oh, I know. For one person like me who doesn’t care, there are any number of rabid fundamentalist types opposed to the idea of two men or women bonding through matrimony. Or any other way, for that matter. But for now, we’ll stick to their objection to matrimony.

The most common argument I hear is that if we let homosexuals marry, it will destroy the “sanctity” of marriage. Maybe they're right. Why should we heterosexuals let anyone else help us destroy the sanctity of marriage when we’re already doing so well by ourselves?

The U.S. divorce rate stands at about 50 percent. A 1999 poll conducted by the Barna Research Group found that that number of divorces is higher for conservative Christians than it is for atheists and agnostics. About 29 percent of Baptists, for instance, have at least one divorce in their past.

Of American couples who remain wedded, there seems to be a shortage of bliss. Twenty-four percent of married men and 14 percent of married women admit to having extramarital affairs. One-third of divorce litigation involves Internet affairs. Internet discussion groups play to this nation's burgeoning marital satisfaction. Forums with names like “Married But Flirting” or “Married But Looking” are quite popular.

So thanks but no thanks, gay couples. We’re doing just find making a mockery of what that which we claim to revere.

If the Christian leaders were serious about preserving marriages, they’d lobby their representatives to tighten the laws that make divorce so easy. No more of this no-fault nonsense.

Yeah, like that'll ever happen. Getting conservative leaders to go for tighter divorce laws would be about as successful as launching online Braille lessons.

Tighter divorce laws would be extremely unpopular with opponents of gay marriage. Tighter divore laws may have kept Rush Limbaugh from discarding his wives like so many empty Oxycontin bottles. Tighter restrictions may have kept Newt Gingrich from serving his last wife with divorce papers while she was in the hospital being treated for cancer. Stricter divorce laws may have kept Operation Rescue’s most wild-eyed zealot Randall Terry from dumping his wife in favor of a twenty-something. Nothing says "sanctity of marriage" like a new piece of ass.

"But marriage is meant to produce children!" the conservatives cry. Hey, that's a great idea. Let's make the ability to procreate a prerequisite to marraige. Gays will be excluded on those grounds, but so will elderly and the infertile. How do you like your restrictions now?

You know what I think? I don’t think government should be in the business of deciding the definition of marriage, or of sanctioning it. Nor should the government be in the business of issuing tax breaks as a reward for people who marry or have kids. My single, childless sister works just as hard as I do. Why should I get tax breaks for marrying and having kids that are only going to demand more resources while she pays through the nose?

It’s all about political pandering. And money. Politicians like Gingrich, while touting “traditional values”, throw a bone to heterosexual couples by promising to “protect” marital sanctity - and its monetary perks - from the gays. Religious leaders send out fliers and the money pours in from the terrified followers who find it easier to pull out the wallet than to actually think things through.

But these religious types forget a fundamental truth - that marriage is a personal, spiritual union. If a Joe wants to marry Beth, or if Joe wants to marry Ted, or if Joe wants to marry Beth and Ted, I'll throw the rice as they run from whatever church gives its blessing. Even if it’s just the gay atheists in a field, making their vows to each other, who’s to say they shouldn’t be allowed to wed. The only restriction should be age, for obvious reasons. But beyond that, there should be no barriers to marriage.

Should that day ever come, only the weak will worry. And I will not be among them. There are only two people who can make a mockery of my marriage - my husband and I. We made the vows, and only we can break them. If a couple wants to honor the sanctity of marriage, they have but to stay together with honor, love and respect.

Billy D.'s take is way different that mine:

Before we even get started here, let me say up front, that without having read Shrub’s or Morgan’s POV on this, I’m thinking I’m going to be on my own on this one.

Homosexual marriage. Where do I begin in explaining why this is so absolutely wrong for this or any other country? Marriage used to be between a man and a woman, and usually it was a precursor to having children. Now, I understand that this sounds old fashioned, and it is, really. Say, pre 1960-ish.

Homosexuals stayed in the closets, where they belonged. They weren’t "gay and proud" they were rightfully ashamed of the choices they were making. Sodomy (defined here as homosexual intercourse) was wrong, and they knew it. They still do know it, deep down inside, which I suspect is why there’s such a high number of gay suicides.

Now, I won’t go into any scripture here, it’s been done to death. Obviously homosexuality is very, very wrong in God’s eyes, at least in the Christian sense. But let’s focus on the marriage part of it.

First, the homosexuals claimed they want legal marriage for the benefits; partners rights after their deaths, insurance benefits (As an aside here, if gay marriage were to be legalized nationwide, your insurance rates would go through the friggin roof. Why? You would lose a portion of the pool paying in, as many would jump on their partners plans, and once the insurance companies have to start paying out for the ills that go along with a lifestyle making the average lifespan 42 years someone’s going to have to make up that difference) Civil unions were offered as a means to this end, and were flatly rejected by the gay community.

No, they want normalization. And legal equality is not nearly enough. See, homosexuality has already permeated most segments of our society. Obviously movies and music, television, even some of the various religions are now embracing homosexuality. So, marriage would be a logical next step, wouldn’t it? See, this has nothing to do with wanting legal rights. It has everything to do with forcing the other 98% of the country to not only accept homosexuals, but embrace them. An exaggeration? What’s happening in California right now with the textbooks? Mom and dad are being wiped from the pages, and replaced by mom and mom, or dad and dad.

I’ll not argue the repercussions gay marriage would have on the institution of marriage as a whole, as I don’t think there would be any. Marriage today is a government run thing, with not much at all to do with God anymore. And ever since the government took over the business of marriage, it’s been downhill since. Adding homosexuals to that group would hardly make it much worse, aside from driving the standing 50% divorce rate up even higher. And with a very large percentage of homosexual men claiming to have had between 100 and 1,000 different lovers in their past, with that amount of promiscuity the divorce rate would obviously be impacted.
Finally, take a quick look at the "slippery slope" factor. (I’m a big fan of the slippery slope) I know, it gets laughed off. "Where does it end?" people ask. Man and goat? Man and wife and wife? Man and Uncle? In each different scenario, the very arguments used to legally alter the state of marriage right now, can also, and would also, be applied to admit all the other perversions into the tent. You can’t legally have one without the other, at least not when someone starts screaming "It’s not fair".

I know this is going to be an unpopular POV with many, and I understand that. But I don’t think the institution of marriage should just go quietly into that goodnight. It will eventually, but until then, it should be fought for and defended against those set to destroy it.

And last but not least comes Shrub's analysis:

I have no opening statement so instead I’ll tell a joke…

How do you know if you’re at a gay wedding? Only half the guests are kneeling.

Now that that’s out of the way we can address the topic at hand…gay marriage.

The institution of marriage has existed in one form or another for eons. No societal tradition is as celebrated or sacred. Marriage and family have formed the foundation of society since the dawn of history. And truth be told, no commitment that one can enter into is as profound or life-altering.

So it’s amusing when some rail against gay marriage as if it’s the death knell for the very practice of pledging one’s fidelity to one another in the face of God and His church. Nuptials have been performed for as long as we’ve been walking upright and a few homosexual unions are going to undo in a few years what humans have been practicing since the Stone Age? Puh-leez.

All this hyper ventilating only serves two purposes; to raise the blood pressure and make one’s faith of choice look intolerant. Now if you want to deny the right for homosexuals to receive the holy sacrament of marriage, then by all means, as a private institution, do so to your little heart’s content. But to advocate a Constitutional Amendment barring homosexual unions under the guise of “defining” what marriage is is both unnecessary and foolish.

A federal government mandate to define what is and has always been a private arrangement is akin to handing the feds the keys to one’s house and saying “Stop by any time”. We as a populace would not dream of giving government such authority…but that’s precisely what you do if you favor a law that defines marriage.

Now there are those on the religious right who will make the stunning leap of logic that condoning gay unions will lead us down a slippery slope wherein polygamy, pedophilia, and a host of other taboo practices will be inexorably legitimized. Bah, nonsense. Polygamy and pedophilia are, by definition, illegal.

The same cannot be said of homosexuality. The only way to make homosexuality illegal is to strengthen sodomy laws and give the government sweeping police powers to burst into bedrooms at will and arrest adults for consensual sexual conduct. This is truly a Pandora’s Box that should be left closed, tightly.

Gay marriage may be an affront to God but isn’t that between the person and their church/deity. I really tire of hearing the self righteous crying from their ivory towers of indignation that gays are an abomination and should be ruthlessly persecuted and denied that which is maybe the most fundamental right we enjoy as humans, the right to cohabitate with whomever thou chooseth.

My mother has friends who are gay, one of my fraternity brothers is gay, and I’m certain 90% of the people out there know someone who’s gay. Now imagine walking up to them, looking them dead in the eye, and saying you will see to it that they never have the right to marry their mate. The gays I know are fiercely devoted to one another, and in the case of my mother’s friends, have been together for 20+ plus years. Like it or not you can’t deny the adoration they feel towards their partners, a love that is transcendent and beautiful. We should all be so lucky to wake up next to the person we envision spending eternity with.

All this consternation could have been avoided had we as a people told the government long ago to butt out of our marriages. Some will say that a certain amount of oversight is necessary for delineating inheritances, tax liability, and protecting the public health. These things were accomplished long before the proliferation of litigious legal systems and will sort themselves out if given due time and space. The legal fictions written and the unwieldy system that was created have served one primary purpose, to exponentially expand government power. And we are precariously close to handing over further power, on a silver platter, all in the name of preventing a few million gays from getting married.

So in my eminent way I’ve established that supporting gay marriage is a fairly foolproof way of strengthening the institution as a whole. Gays bring honor to marriage, their efforts to stay together and private makes your and my ability to keep the bedroom free from prying eyes all the more secure, and God will separate the worthy from the chaff when the time comes. Besides, at a gay wedding, you know the decorations will be elegant and tasteful.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Indoor Spring

No matter how humble the abode - and if ever a house deserved the distinction it's ours - nothing transforms it like a hand-picked bouquet.

Everything is in bloom now, so today the children and I pulled some honeysuckle from the the fence, stuffed it into a tall metal pail and inserted Gerber daisies, passion flowers, columbine and petunias.

I cleared our antique pine farm table - weathered and pitted from generations of use - of my sewing machines and placed the bouquet in the middle. They flowers look even brighter indoors, and ironically even more alive even as they begin to die. We stood back, silent, and admired the view of steadfast pine topped with the temporary spring crown.

A fleeting moment in time. But perfect. Just perfect.


It turns out that some of us are more reverent than others. Tonight, while waiting for dinner, Lucas decided that the honeysuckles contained real honey, so he raided the bouquet and ate a few.

I found him intently picking through the honeysuckle blossoms - biting them in half and discarding the remains on the table.

Little boys. Gotta love 'em.

Crafting traditions

People shouldn't tell me to take my time. The customer who ordered this skirt set did just that, and I took her literally. Thank goodness she was so patient. The Sewing Gods toyed with me on this one. My applique foot broke, necessitating a trip to get a new one. My bobbin wound unevenly, causing me to skip stitches. During final construction, my serger made funny noises. I fretted, and worked on developing worry lines around my eyes.

But despite these little mishaps, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. But then I always enjoy sewing and with the completion of each project wonder why I don't do it more. So I've decided to start making more time to make some of the Things on my growing list of Things To Make.

Doing so could save a life; stacks of fabric sit at odd angles on my sewing shelves, threatening to engulf a passerby in a colorful avalanche. I know I should use what I have before buying more, but Joann's keeps sending me these coupons. I'm weak. I cannot resist.

I can find any number of excuses to buy fabric, and can justify it to some extent by selling handbags and skirt sets at prices that more than pay for labor and materials.

I don't use patterns. Patterns are boring, and what's the point of sewing something that looks like what everyone else is wearing. I was really psyched to discover a whole niche for handmade, Bohemian clothing a couple of years ago. I especially enjoy doing appliques, which are time consuming but certainly an art form in their own way. This owl above was one of my favorites. I'm planning a wall hanging for my sewing area with about four panels, each depicting a different owl.

My friend Barbara spins and weaves, which I'm studying right now. Barbara is amazing because she taught herself everything she knows from books. She didn't even start spinning and weaving until after retirement and now sells her handiwork. Isn't that awesome? I love her.

Barbara uses the fiber and wool from her sheep, goats and llamas. I love to watch her work; it's so hypnotic to see the ropes of carded wool leave her hands and wind themselves onto yarn on her spindle. She also has two looms, and makes all kinds of things from vests to rugs. The last time I was there, she pulled a throw from the back of her couch and pointed out the different strands of wool and fiber she'd woven it from. She could identify each animal that had contributed to it, just by pointing out the texture and color of the strands.

That's how I met Barbara - by looking for help for my sick llama. That's him at the right. His name was Kusco and he was an impulse buy. But he had a lot of health issues and I spent far more money keeping him alive than I did buying him. Barbara helped me get him on a llama-appropriate worming schedule and dietary supplement and showed us how to set up a misting system so he'd stop getting heatstroke. But he was still a bit too high maintenance. I eventually got him healthy enough to resell, and to give him a better chance for survival, selected a couple of veterinarians as his new owners.

I hated getting rid of Kusco; he was really neat and unlike any livestock we've ever had. He was aloof, and had beautiful long eyelashes. If he got agitated, he would hum. He never spit at us, only at the horses. I'd love to have another llama. But I probably won't get one. If I need a llama fix, I'll just go visit Barbara's. She's got loads of llamas.

Maybe I'll get some sheep. The corgis would love that. We used to have goats, but had to get rid of them because they got out and ate all of Larry's ornamental plants. Sheep are easier to keep, and probably as easy to herd, which would make the corgis happy. It wasn't hard to get rid of the goats; we only had them so the corgis would have something to herd. We're probably one of the few families that buy pets for our pets. And the corgis did love them, and miss them still. Sheep would do just as well, are less mischevious and I could shear them.

Yes, I'll definitely have to get some sheep.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Forget counselors and prescriptions for anxiety reducing medication if you're looking for a way to unwind. If you want to reduce stress go buy a canoe.

We considered ours for about a day and a half before buying it. It seemed like such a splurge but after just one glorious, four hour trip we've decided it wasn't a luxury after all.

This is good for us. It's so good, this is essential.

Our outing was made better by the company of good friends visiting from New Jersey - Janice, Bob and their daughter Beth. Their trip down has been in the works for months, and eagerly awaited by all of us.

Alex and Beth are like peas in a pod so they insisted on riding together in the canoe we rented for Bob and Janice.

That left me and Larry and Lucas to enjoy the maiden voyage of our new canoe.

John didn't go on this trip because John loves water but hates boats. We're hoping to work on that this summer with small trips to help overcome his skittishness.

The weather was perfect. A breeze was blowing. The light danced across the surface of the winding creek. The mosquitos took the day off.

A brown water snake allowed us to get close enough so I could photograph her. She was one of three snakes we saw.

On the way back Larry spied this bullfrog in the hollow of a cypress knee.

At the end of the trip we hauled the canoes out of the water and had dinner at the creekside fishcamp where I used to work years ago. As we ate, we relived the trip. "Did you see that fish jump out of the water? Can you believe how huge those cypress trees get? Don't you think it was nice the way the other boaters slowed down so their wakes wouldn't rock our canoe? Wasn't that fun?"

I came home feeling a little tired by relaxed and happy. The relaxed feeling lingers. When I close my eyes, I can see the mirror-smooth surface of the water reflecting the trees, smell the wisteria and hear the songs of the birds.

And I feel....wonderful.

Friday, May 05, 2006

You oughta be in pictures

A compliment from a mother-in-law is a rare and wonderful thing, especially from my mother-in-law. She loves me, but even though I've been married to her son for years she still hasn't quite figured me out. She's a liberal, and was quite disappointed to learn I was moderate to conservative in some areas, and repeatedly reminds me of how highly she regards my liberal sister-in-law, the one who summers at Cape Cod.

But still she tests the waters ever so often, to see if I've made the conversion. Recently, she asked me if I'd support Hillary Clinton. I told her I thought as much of Hillary Clinton as I did Bush. Not knowing what to say, she gave me the Disapproving Look.

Larry gets the Disapproving Look, too, when he talks about his support for gun ownership. Or his guns. His mother probably blames me, even though he had the guns long before we met. In fact, I fell for him completely after watching him load his own bullets. I never knew people could load their own bullets. How sexy.

But I digress. As I said, my mother-in-law paid me a compliment. After I sent these photographs of the kids, she called and said, "Those pictures are exquisite. You have a good eye. You should consider doing this for money."

My own mother, an artist, told me the same thing last week, when I gave her a picture I'd taken of a bee. "Do you mind if I send this to a magazine?" she asked.

"Knock yourself out," I said.

"No, really," she replied. "Your pictures are really good. You should sell them."

I've had other similar suggestions since I posted other photos on my blog, from people I don't even know. Perhaps I should consider it. I do have a habit of turning my hobbies into income. I started writing as a hobby, now I'm a writer. I started sewing as a hobby several years ago, now I have a sideline sewing business. My interest in Pembroke Welsh Corgis turned into a small hobby kennel that is self-supporting.

But photography? I don't know. Photography is a Zen activity for me. I just kind of sit there with my camera and observe, capturing a perfect moment as I see it. Sometimes I'll look up and see my kids sitting there and the light will be just right and I'll grab my camera and get the shot.

But to go out and try to get candid moments of other people's kids, as my mother-in-law thinks I should? That would feel too much like work. Maybe I'll just make a few prints of my better insect and animal photos and see if they sell at the farmer's market. If they do, I'll phone my mother-in-law and tell her she might be on to something.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Jesus is watching you have sex.... you'd better be doing it the True Christian ™ way.

OK, so I really don't believe that Jesus is watching me have sex, but apparently
True Christians ™ believe there's a holy presence in the bedroom with a video camera in one hand and a notepad in the other, gauging every thought and position and recording whether it is Biblically sanctioned.

For some of us, that creates a quandary. After all, what is the Biblically sanctioned way to have sex? I'm not sure I know. Do you? But Gene, who's a True Christian ™ assures us that the Bible holds everything you'd want to know to have great sex.

Here's what she said in our last discussion:

"Who should one take lessons from on how to conduct ones sexual activities; from culture, from publishers who make money from erotica, or from the Bible?"

Now I've read the Bible, and there is nothing in there that I can find which even remotely addresses sexual technique. There's not a word about whether I can go down on my guy, or whether introducing whipped cream, leather or feathers into the marital bed is wrong. It doesn't specifically ban positions. There's nothing in there about lingering between 68 to 70, if you catch my meaning.

It makes no more sense to say we should look to the Bible for how to have sex than it would to say we should look to the Bible for cooking lessons.

After all, there's more than one way to satisfy a man's appetite. If a woman is wrong to glean a sex tip or two from a tale penned by those evil erotica writers, is she equally wrong to wrong to turn to use a recipe penned by some evil cookbook author? Should we shield ourselves from the likes of The Iron Chef? Should we turn away from cooking segments on the Today show? When our man walks in the door should we only greet him with a hot plate of loaves and fishes? The Bible has as many baking instructions as it has sex instructions. What Would Jesus Cook?

Don't get me wrong - my version of the Bible is chock full of sex: there's Tamar, who got raped by her brother. There's that David and Bethsheba adultery thing. There's some incest. And of course there was King Soloman who wrote fine erotica, some of it in praise of his wife's obviously impressive rack.

Here's a nice excerpt from Chapter 7, verses 6 - 9 of Songs of Solomon. It's quite descriptive. Can't you just picture him with her?

How fair and pleasant you are, O loved one, delectable maiden! You are stately as a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its branches. O may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, and your kisses like the best wine that goes down smoothly, gliding over lips and teeth.

Nice, huh? You can almost feel his attraction to her. But that's the effect of well-written erotica. I know I'm impressed.

But while the Bible has plenty of spice and even some hot erotica, it doesn't specifically address whether we can bring a certain triple speed sex toy with vibrating attachments into the marriage bed, or giggle over the tale of depraved female wantonness - read aloud - before acting it out with gleeful abandon.

It does make me a tad jealous that Gene got the unabridged Bible - the one with the chapter covering what married couples can and can't do in the sack. So, my dears, if one of you has that missing chapter, could you send it to me ASAP? I have a hot date and need the answer before bedtime.