Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Getting Dressed

What with the U.S. House of Representatives dithering over the Violence Against Women Act, I thought it would be a good time to post the second of the two pieces of writing I got paid for. Speaker Boehner and the gang seem to be resigned to the fact that they will have to pass some sort of act to protect women, as much as it pains them to do so, but they are still hoping that they can find a few here and there to exclude. ETA: The House passed the Senate version of the VAWA today, February 28. My representative, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, voted against it.

Here, with a Trigger Warning for domestic violence, is the account whose publication in The Denver Post was one of the ways in which I was once the most dangerous person on earth. Maybe I can find a way to summon up those powers again and use them for good this time.

Getting Dressed*

It doesn’t help that my mornings are usually punctuated by the “What am I going to wear?” question anyway. What fits is in the wash or needs ironing or has a button missing.  As I stand in front of my closet, it occurs to me that it didn’t take me this much time to get dressed on my wedding day.  On the other hand, on my wedding day I didn’t stand in front of my closet thinking, “Now what am I going to wear?”

Now what am I going to . . .

Do?  Not think for a start, or at least not think about why getting dressed presents more than its usual puzzle .  What I want to wear is my teal skirt and its matching teal, purple, royal and gold striped T-shirt, a Mother’s Day present and the most expensive daytime outfit I have ever owned.  It’s attractive and comfortable, and the colors are perfect for me.

The sleeves, however, stop an inch or so short of covering the large purple bruises (finger marks, really, although that is not immediately apparent) on my left arm.

My pink cotton shirt covers the bruises, but I can’t wear it with my teal skirt.  There is a cream skirt that goes with it, but it won’t cover the bruises on both knees. I have a white cotton overshirt that goes with the teal skirt, but it needs a belt, which chafes my sore and, for all I know, broken, rib. 

I cannot cover my arms and my knees and wear clothes appropriate to the weather which on June 14, 1983 is hot. June 14 is one day past my 36th birthday. My coworkers will want to know what my husband gave me for my birthday.

Don’t laugh. My rib hurts when I laugh. Don’t cry for the same reason. In fact, I won’t cry for another 18 months, until my cat dies. Then for three days I won’t be able to stop.

I shouldn’t be going to work in my condition, but I can’t stay home either. I find myself pacing in tight, precise circles, while my thoughts follow tight, precise circles of their own.

Why am I covering up – for him? But why should I expose myself to questions, comments, possibly criticism? What the hell am I going wear?

The striped T-shirt, I decide grimly, matches the bruises on my arm.

For the next several weeks, while the bruises heal, I present a most ladylike appearance to the world, even while taking out the trash. For the next two years, I cope with the housekeeping of a marital breakup: seeing an attorney, finding an additional part-time job, putting up my house for sale, taking my son to a counselor.

And shopping. Suddenly I, who had worn the same out-of-style outfits until they fell apart, am interested in clothes.  I study fashion magazines, note hemlines and styles, make a new suit and two dresses, buy sweaters, a coat, hats, scarves. My friends tease me about dressing for my new single life style. Since my new single lifestyle resembles my old married lifestyle, except with half the income and twice the workload, I think they are missing the point, although I am not sure myself what the point is.

Then one night in front of a group of women like myself, I tell my story of standing in front of my closet wondering what to wear. Suddenly every woman in the room has a story of getting dressed: of sunglasses worn indoors, sweaters on hot days, hats, layers of makeup, bruises visible under long sheer sleeves.

When we finish, the group facilitator says softly, “And wasn’t it sad, after everything you had been through, that getting dressed had to be such a struggle, too?”

A few weeks later, preparing to go out to dinner with a (male, platonic) friend, I find that I enjoy getting dressed. I debate between two skirts, try on several blouses and sweaters, switch belts, only to settle on the original outfit. I even slip on pantyhose, which I normally do not wear.

At dinner, I describe the whole process to my friend, precipitating a silence so profound that I wonder if he thinks, and dreads, that all this primping is for him.  A month later, when I have not heard from him, I wonder if he has misunderstood. There can be other explanations for his silence. Perhaps he has out-of-town guests, or has been hit by a bus. If he has fled from my presumed ardor, it will just have to stay that way. How can I explain to him what getting dressed means to me?

He’s never had the experience of carrying around someone’s guilty secret on his skin and not knowing what to do about it. It’s not an experience one can imagine without having experienced it, and even then  . . .

I find that I cannot imagine, make an image of it. For when the  group facilitator asked, “And wasn’t it sad, after everything you had been through, that getting dressed had to be such a struggle, too?” the only answer I could think of was, “Yeah.  I guess so.”

*When this piece was published in the Denver Post, they gave it the title Abuse So Slow to Wear Off  instead of my title, Getting Dressed.  I was not happy about the title, but forgave them when I saw Cindy Enright’s perfect illustration. I can’t post that here, for copyright reasons, so I made my own illustration using Polyvore.

Monday, February 25, 2013

That's the Way You Do It

So you’re hosting the Oscars, and you want to get away with singing an opening number called We Saw Your Boobs addressed to a number of women in the audience. Well, one way to do that is to embed it in a sequence in which Captain James Kirk comes back from the future to tell you how badly your hosting performance was received, in part because of that song. It’s a rhetorical technique called apophasis, from the Greek for “I’m not saying”. (Okay, actually, from the Greek for “to say no”, if you want to be so everlastingly picky.)

That works to an extent, but you don’t want to have to embed every tasteless joke, like the one about John Wilkes Booth, in that one opening sequence, and William Shatner is demanding some outrageous coin to stick around for the whole show for the has-been actor he is.

So what do you do? You have a surprise presenter give out the final award, the one for Best Picture. Somebody well-known to the public, but not associated with the movie industry. Somebody attractive and articulate, but at the same time controversial. Someone who is all dressed up anyway, in a Naeem Khan creation, because she and her husband are hosting a black-tie dinner for 100 or so people at the White House.

Who do we know who fits that description? Yes, it’s first lady Michelle Obama.

And the trick works. The outrage over Mrs. Obama’s appearance is instantaneous and, to me at least, hilarious. Never mind that she is not the only first lady to make an appearance at the Oscar ceremony. Laura Bush appeared at the 74th Academy Award show in a short film showing 100 people discussing movies. Of course, Mrs. Bush’s appearance could easily be overlooked in the controversy over whether it was too soon after the attacks on the WTC to hold a big Oscar extravaganza at all, not to mention she was one of 100 people shown in 3 minutes of film. Michelle Obama got a whole three minutes or so all to herself, live.

It’s amazing how many of her critics managed to overlook the fact that Mrs. Obama was not physically present at the ceremony, just shown on a screen from the White House. 

Some typical comments from Facebook:

I'm more concerned about the taxpayer money used to get her there and back. I'm tired if them spending my money to party.

That one drew a reaction:

On the other hand,[name], it's nice to know that transporter technology is working so well. Just think of all the military applications it will have.

which apparently went over more than a few subsequent commenter’s heads, because then we got:

The First Lady should not be at the oscars! She should be out trying to help make a difference in the world!



The funny thing is, the article these people were responding to made it clear that the FLOTUS was in Washington, hosting the governors' dinner.

That fact also did not stop at least one person from believing that Mrs. Obama got dressed up and summoned up a military guard purely for her three minutes of fame on TV:

We were all waiting to see who was going to win for Best Picture and then all of a sudden, cut to Michele Obama from Jack Nicholson? She's wearing a gown at the White House for the Oscars with military guard? What is the purpose of this?? Why didn't she just go to L.A. and present then? None of this makes sense, because it's totally contrived and self serving.

So why didn’t she just go to LA, so that people could criticize her for not staying home? By now I’m seeing boobs, but not the kind Seth MacFarlane sang about. (See, I bet you forgot about that already.)

I also loved this comment:

She's definitely no Hillary, that's for sure...

Yes, because when Hillary was first lady, everybody loved her and no one ever criticized her.

The after several people made the predictable accusation that Mrs. Obama is a communist, there were these comments:

She had NO business there!!!

I thought Michele Obama had no right being on The Oscars,

She had no.business there

Because if there is one thing the free enterprise system means, it’s that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can’t invite just anyone they want to be a presenter. We the people will decide who they can ask, through our special Who Can Be a Presenter Commissar. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Well I Thought It Was Funny

I find humor in strange places. Looking at the week’s statistics for my most read posts, I find these four in this order:

Friday, February 22, 2013

It's [Not Really] a Miracle!

Occasionally, I go to the AOL website to check on news. Today I found a link to a story on Huffpo, Tim Tebow Officially Puts Evangelical Right on the Sideline.” 

Tebow apparently threw the yellow flag at a Baptist church where he had previously agreed to speak:

In an astonishing turn of events, Tim Tebow has now cancelled his appearance at First Baptist Dallas; and in doing so he has officially placed the political religious right to the far margins of society.Tebow's appearance was meant to be a pretty routine, if flashy event. First Baptist Church invited the football star, more famous for his prayerful pose than his forward passes,

Okay, now that’s just plain mean.

to be part of the reveal of their new church campus, which a press release calls "the largest church building project in modern history."

I’m not sure why a church would want to brag about that, seeing how badly that whole Tower of Babel thing turned out.

Just to be clear, First Baptist Dallas is not an outlier church. It is headed by Pastor Robert Jeffress, a very influential conservative Christian voice, who leads an 11,000 strong congregation connected to the Southern Baptist Convention. The theology and the constituency is squarely within the mainstream of contemporary right-wing Christian thought.But what has changed is that the views of the right-wing Christians are now officially out of step with the growing majority of Americans -- including, apparently, Tim Tebow.

Now out of step?

Dr. Jeffress has never been shy about his opinions

That's a kind way of putting it. Kinder than Jeffress puts his own opinions.

and he offered up some great soundbites in the last election. First he called Mormonism a cult, then changed his mind when Governor Romney (Mormon) was the Republican nominee, and topped it all off on the Sunday before the election by saying that President Obama's reelection would lead to the rise of the anti-Christ.

Exactly when was the last time the idea of a sitting president being the literal anti-Christ was mainstream?

Jeffress has also had a few choice words to say about the gays, namely that "homosexuality is perverse, it represents a degradation of a person's mind;" and Muslims who are following a religion that is a "heresy from the pit of hell."

That’s funny, too, because apparently at least some of those Muslims would agree with him about gays.

So, while it was not surprising that First Baptist Dallas would want one of America's most beloved and celebrated evangelicals to be part of their church opening, it was surprising that a petition began to circulate through Change.org urging Tebow to cancel -- and it is positively a miracle that Tebow decided to cancel.

Okay, so Tebow canceled his speaking engagement. I’m not sure it is worth all the hyperbole: “placed the political religious right to the far margins of society”, “positively a miracle that Tebow decided to cancel”, but I can understand that the people who hoped to hear him speak are disappointed. Still, the main focus of the event is surely on the wonderful things God is doing through First Baptist Dallas, what with blessing them with the largest church building project in modern history, so everyone accepted their disappointment with grace, right?

Fast food Christian CEO bullied. Pastor bullied out of praying publicly. Today, athlete bullied out of speaking AT A CHURCH! - Rick Warren

I know it’s just me, but I think “Fast food Christian CEO” sounds hilarious.

It very very sad that Tim Tebow is bowing to the pressure of political correctness and cultural decay in canceling First Baptist Dallas. - Jack Graham

@TimTebow We are very disappointed in your decision to cave to liberal pressure and spurn Christians. - AFA (American Family Association - a lobbying group. Which means they are in the business of applying pressure.)

I think Tim Tebow just damaged his brand by appeasing those who oppose traditional values. - Rick Moore (His “brand”. Well, let’s not worry about anything silly, like his soul.)

I hope Tim Tebow hasn’t been bullied into changing his mind, as opposed to reasoned into changing his mind. I find it interesting that those who think poor Tim has been bullied out of taking the speaking engagement aren’t above trying to bully him back into it.

What do they really expect to happen now? Okay, I think it would be fun if Tebow said, “You know, you guys are right. I would like to speak after all if you still will let me,” and then went on to give a speech about how Jesus sided with the outcasts and not with the church establishment. 

I don’t think it really is going to happen that way. But I think it would serve them right.

Small Green Widgets

Since I have a few weeks before I get my new computer, I am sorting through files on my old computer to get rid of the ones I don’t really need. Naturally, I have run into the same problems decluttering my computer as I have decluttering my house: I’m afraid I’ll toss something out only to find myself wanting or needing it someday. Those pdf’s from 2007 showing I did in fact pay my Visa bills? How do I know for sure that Visa can’t come after me claiming I never paid for those shoes? I bet they have giant servers tracking my every purchase back to 1970, or whenever it was I got my first card.

And that folder full of quotations that I forgot I had and never read? Some of them are really, really good. Like this one: “We shouldn't fear reality. We should fear the illusions we try to maintain in the face of reality.” Or this one: “I am the product of millions of generations of individuals who each fought against a hostile universe and won, and I aim to maintain the tradition.” No, I don’t know who said them, but they sound wise. How can I consign wisdom to the trash can?

Then there’s the news article from 2006 about my niece’s debut on the swim team her freshman year. What kind of aunt would throw that one out? Or the pictures from an online friend’s daughter’s wedding. What kind of friend would throw those out?

I decided to create a folder for files to move to a USB drive: the ones I can’t quite make myself part with but know I have no immediate use for, seeing as how I have  forgotten I even had them for  years at a time, and would probably have had a hard time finding them if I did need them. I have tried to sort out my chaotic Documents folder by creating subfolders, but then I forget that I have the subfolders and create new ones. That, too, is exactly how my organization problems work out in the 3D world: I designate what I think is the perfect place to store small green widgets, but by time I need to find a small green widget I have forgotten what that place is, or I don’t start by looking there because I figure the small green widgets are not likely to be there, so I search for an hour everywhere else until finally in desperation I look in the small green widget drawer and find - small green widgets! (Well, actually, usually my car keys or jewelry, but you get the point.)

So I have been trying, first of all, to make myself throw away old files before resorting to the “Move to storage” folder, and second, to round up all the stray files that belong in subfolders and put them there. It has not been easy. 

I’m not being helped along by the fact that I keep running into situations in which I wish I had kept something I have tossed out. Years ago, my father, in one of his letters to me, remarked that it was his mother’s birthday, and she would have been 93 years old if she had been alive. My son is now trying to track down some information about my dad’s parents, and if I were the kind of daughter who had sentimentally kept every one of her dad’s letters, I could have used that one to figure out Grandma F’s birth date. Of course, Dad being the prolific writer that he was, if I had sentimentally kept every one of his letters, I wouldn’t be able to find the one I wanted, but that doesn’t keep me from feeling guilty about not having kept it. Although I found in the course of looking for the letter that I do have most of the Valentine’s Day cards my son ever sent me, a receipt for a purchase made in 2003, a payroll check stub from the same year, and a pair of spare shoelaces for a pair of shoes I no longer wear and meant to throw out. 

And I think that is the root of my trouble with just throwing things out. It is fear that I might fail somebody, including myself, someday by not having just the right piece of documentation (or small green widget) when I need it. Hanging on to all the odds and ends is a way to guard against failure: failure to be a loving wife/mother/friend who cherishes every gift, card and  letter, failure to protect the earth by not adding to its landfills, failure to have the imagination to know just what small green widget I really will need, and when. Failure to keep a neat house, or laptop, just isn’t as scary.

You would think at 65 years of age I would have come to grips with the fact that yes, I will screw up. All the outdated, useless, and otherwise unsatisfactory stuff I hang onto out of fear isn’t going to protect me from that, and may even make it more likely.

I might even have a saying to that effect on my computer, in the documents folder, somewhere.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013


I have been saving for most of the past year to replace my aging MacBook with a new one. I had pretty much made up my mind what I wanted: a 13” MacBook Pro with Retina display and 512 gigabytes of flash drive space. I had an appointment to go walking with D at the mall today, and the plan was that afterward, I would go buy the new computer at the Apple store. In the meantime, I looked online at my choices to decide whether I needed to buy a CD/DVD drive to go with it, whether I should replace my old wireless mouse, and what software I might want to get.

In the process, I found myself looking at the iMacs and thinking. Since I bought my iPad, I haven’t really traveled with my laptop. It sits on a desk in my house anyway. I could get more speed, a larger screen, and more hard drive space (one terabyte) for less money if I bought a desktop.

On the other hand, I like the flexibility of a laptop. The iPad is useful for travel, but I find it hard to blog with it from the road. Of course, I don’t blog while I’m on the road because I prefer for strangers not to know that I’m on the road, so there is that.

A helpful clerk at the Apple store, David, gave me the specs on several models and left me alone to play for a while. While I was surfing the net on the iMac, it occurred to me, if I bought it, I would still have my MacBook. No one was going to take it away from me, and while it is slow by modern standards and stuffed to within 3 gigs of its maximum storage capacity, it does work. Once I have a new desktop computer, I can move all the files I truly need to it, and then reformat the MacBook, upgrade to the newest Mac OS and add back only the items I truly need. Doing so might even speed it up a little.

David made the same point when he came by to check on me. I decided to come home and think about it a little more.

Actually, what I came home to think about is going online to buy a refurbished iMac of the model I had been looking at from the Apple online store.  I can get one for $263 less than a brand new model, which means I can buy the extended warranty and still have a little cash left over. That’s how I bought my MacBook, in fact, and it’s still perking along 5 or so years later.

That would mean no commission for David, but a little research reveals Apple’s sales staff doesn’t work on commission. They do get points for selling add-ons, however, which would explain why he was pushing their One to One subscription for another $99. It has to be bought when you buy the computer, he explained to me. I hate having to make snap decisions like that.

I went online and used Apple’s Chat Now feature to talk with Jeffrey, who answered all my questions about buying the refurbished iMac (which is only 4 months old) and informed me that I could still buy One to One by telling them at the store I had bought a refurbished Mac. Since I won’t have my new Mac for another 3 weeks or so, that gives me time to think it over.

I'm still not entirely sure whether Jeffrey was a real person or some very sophisticated software. He answered all my questions appropriately, but then I wasn't asking things like, "Are you as excited as I am about March Madness coming up next month?" I wouldn't have had any suspicions about Jeffrey if it weren't for his frequent interjections of "Right on!" into the conversation. I'm from the generation that used that phrase, and even I don't say it any more, although I will let slip an occasional "Far out!" Although I usually phrase it, "Far out, as we used to say in my younger days."

Just after I ordered the Mac, my husband offered me his Best Buy gift card, which he got by returning the Christmas gift his sister gave him, a video camera which he didn't think he would ever use. There are some accessories and software I still want to get that Best Buy carries, and the gift card should just cover them. 

Far out, as we used to say in my younger days.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Apparently, I am not the only one having a hard time making up her mind in the Louisiana House District 65 special election. Another flyer from Candidate Sumac brags that he has pulled into the lead over Candidate Woodrow. The numbers he gave showed around a third, plus or minus, for each of the candidates, with Sumac leading, and over 30% still undecided. In addition, LABI (The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry) has declined to endorse either candidate through its PAC. Whether that means it finds them both equally satisfactory or equally unsatisfactory it is hard to say. 

Other interesting news: Sumac raised no money this month, but is paying his campaign expenses from the $50,000 of his own money he has donated to his campaign. I guess that is a good sign that he will not be beholden to special interests. On the other hand, if nobody is willing to donate to his campaign, that says something about how his fellow Republicans and business owners see him as a potential legislator.

Woodrow has raised “$30,400 in donations from 43 contributions, with an average donation of about $700. Among his largest donors are the Louisiana Realtors PAC and Louisiana Restaurant Association, which each gave more than $1,000 to his campaign.” I’m not sure what the significance of his popularity among realtors and restaurant owners is. It doesn’t sound like a bad thing.

This morning there was a special city council meeting to discuss whether our police chief  should be dismissed, as the mayor wants. I had hoped to go attend the meeting to see Woodrow in action. Unfortunately, I had a dentist appointment to fill a small cavity before it became a large cavity, right at the same time as the meeting.

As much as I hate to break my record of voting in all local elections, I may sit this one out. It sounds like a lot of other folks may, too.

Friday, February 15, 2013


I seem to have developed an unexpected streak of energy in recent weeks. It’s been a little over two years since I retired, and I never followed through on my initial plans for what I was going to do in retirement. Oh, I did start an exercise program, which led to my broken foot. Having a broken foot sidetracked other plans, and then I managed to re-injure it last summer. Still, there are tasks like sorting through old photographs that can easily be done sitting down, so that is hardly an excuse.

Even though I didn’t make any resolutions this new year, however, I have been tackling tasks that I had previously declared a vague intention to do whenever I felt guilty about being a lazy slob. I have a housework schedule that I have been following weekly (although I have had a cooking and laundry schedule that I have followed for years, so it hasn’t been all sitting around eating bonbons.) I’ve also been tackling one big cleaning project a week. This week it was clearing off the kitchen counters and giving them a good scrubbing, and then putting back only the most necessary items.

I have joined a group from church in volunteering at a food pantry we support.

And then I have been doing odds and ends just for the fun of it, like baking. I used to love to bake, when I was younger and more energetic. Mostly I made bread, but I did make cakes and pies, too. I didn’t often make cookies, but while going through the pantry last week, I discovered some Ghirardelli white baking chips (the kind they used to call white chocolate chips), some chopped pecans, and brown sugar, and they just seemed to scream “cookies!” There was even a recipe on the back of the baking chips bag for white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies. I only had pecans, but what were the Ghirardelli folks going to do if I made a substitution, sue me?

Somewhere along the way I recalled why I rarely make cookies. (Christmas wasn’t that long ago. You would think I’d remember.) Mixing up cookie dough is easy, especially with my trusty stand mixer. Baking the stupid things is what takes forever. I had cut the recipe in half and still had to shuffle four baking pans in and out of my oven, since I wasn’t sure how far the dough was going to spread and I don’t trust the bottom rack of my oven not to burn anything. Even if I had a wider oven with better heat distribution, I hate repetitive tasks like dropping batter from a spoon. I’d much rather bake a pie. For instance, that night for dinner I made chicken pot pies with leftover roast chicken, but even easier is pecan pie.

Pecan pie is the easiest because you can buy the pecans already shelled and halved. Canned apples don’t have the same just-as-good-as fresh flavor as shelled pecans do. Pie dough takes a little more effort to whip up than batter, but not much, and all you need to do once it’s mixed is roll it out and fit it to the pan. The custard for the pie only takes measuring and stirring, except that you do have to melt butter, which is hardly a chore. Every time I bake pecan pie for my husband, whose favorite it is, I feel like the wife in the old Rice Krispies commercial who used to pretend it took hours to make her Rice Krispies Treats and then got taken out for dinner. I use a traditional old recipe followed by generations of southern women. It’s on the back of the Karo syrup bottle.

Since yesterday was Valentine’s Day and we had decided to put off dining out until next week, when the restaurants are less crowded, I decided to make us a special dinner, including the pecan pie. I actually got up early to bake the pie, making it seem extra virtuous. 

One thing I discovered a year ago that makes pie baking even easier is Crisco baking sticks. It’s the familiar shortening packaged in sticks, like butter but larger, with convenient measuring lines marked along the sides of the packaging. I first bought them when I found a recipe for Logan’s Roadhouse style rolls and it called for a small amount of butter flavored shortening. Not wanting to buy a large can for a few tablespoons, I bought the sticks instead.

And never made the rolls. The Crisco sticks sat until I needed some for baking and what was left in the old can we had smelled suspiciously rancid. Now I don’t think I will buy anything else. The sticks stay wrapped and away from the air, unlike a small amount of Crisco sitting in a can, and opened ones can be refrigerated, so they don’t go bad nearly as quickly. Even after making the pot pies and the pecan pie, I still have some left.

Enough left to maybe, finally, make the rolls. Since I'm on one, anyway.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Side Effects

If it weren’t for my husband, I would hardly ever see a movie. Today I was planning to clear off and clean the kitchen counters, when my husband asked, “Do you want to go see a movie?” Let’s see, housework or movie. Such a tough choice.

The movie he had in mind was Side Effects, billed as a psychological thriller. It is probably just as well  that I did not know that Channing Tatum was in it, given that I was not terribly impressed by the last movie I saw him in.

Side Effects is a much better product. It turns out Tatum can act after all, when he has a decent script to work with. 

Tatum plays Martin Taylor, a man who is about to get out of prison where he has served four years for insider trading. We first meet his wife Emily (Rooney Mara) when she goes to visit him in prison and they discuss impending release. Emily seems happy that he is getting out, but once he comes home, it becomes apparent that she is struggling. One day she rams her car into the wall of a parking garage. 

She survives the wreck, but because the police suspect a suicide attempt, she is seen by a psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks, played by Jude Law. He wants to admit her to the hospital for a few days, but she convinces him her husband needs her at home and that she will see Dr. Banks as an outpatient. In the course of the conversation, she reveals that she has been treated for depression in the past, after her husband’s crime and conviction led to legal, financial, social and medical consequences for Emily. Once home, Martin tries to convince her that he will get them back to where they were, but his new business plans involve a move to Houston rather than back to Connecticut as she had hoped.

Dr. Banks tries Emily on conventional drug treatments for depression, but she finds the side effects too disagreeable. When Emily comes too close to the edge of a subway platform, she runs to Dr. Banks in a panic, interrupting his conversation with his wife, who herself is facing a difficult job interview and needs his support. 

In consultation with her former therapist (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones), Banks prescribes a new drug. Emily is pleased by the results, but Martin notices that she is sleep walking and becomes concerned. Emily resists the suggestion that she change medications again, so Dr. Banks prescribes some other medications to help control the sleep walking.

Shortly thereafter, Emily commits a crime and claims she has no memory of it. With support from Dr. Banks, she is declared not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a forensic hospital until she is deemed fit for release.

While this seems like the best possible outcome for Emily, for Dr. Banks, things take a downward turn. His handling of Emily’s case is investigated. When reporters begin following him to work, his partners ask him to take his practice elsewhere. He is fired from his role as a consultant in a study for an anti-anxiety drug. Allegations about a past patient surface, making his wife wonder if there were aspects of his treatment of Emily that were less than professional. His reaction to these events lead his family and friends to wonder about his own mental stability.

After seeing a series of movies that had what I considered an excess of story telling gimmicks, I found Side Effects a refreshing change. While it was hard to see where the movie was going at first, in the end there wasn’t anything that I felt could have been left out. 

I read on IMDB that Lindsay Lohan had been considered for the role of Emily. Despite all of the turmoil of her recent life, I still see Lohan as the twins of Parent Trap, and can’t imagine her giving the performance that Rooney Mara does. Catherine Zeta-Jones is her competent self in the role of Dr. Victoria Siebert. Even Ann Dowd in a small but significant role as Martin’s mother is memorable.

I count Side Effects as one of my husband’s better choices. Much better than cleaning the kitchen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rained Out

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras. It is early this year, like Easter, not surprisingly since the date for Mardi Gras is tied to Easter.

For the past two years we have gone to New Orleans for Mardi Gras with the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, but this year we decided to drive ourselves, and my friend D, to Lafayette instead. Mardi Gras in Lafayette is less fancy than in New Orleans, but it is also less crowded, so you can park closer to the action.

Now it is raining. The rains are moving in from the west, which means that it will still be raining in Lafayette tomorrow morning, with the possibility of thunderstorms. We have decided to call the trip off. Given that we aren’t buried in three feet of snow, like my poor beleaguered family up north, I shouldn’t complain. (At least they have power this time.) We did go to the Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade Saturday, so we caught beads (and Moon Pies) and had fun.

Wednesday starts Lent. When I first started attending a Methodist church at the age of 8, Methodists didn’t give things up for Lent. You could, if you wanted to, but it wasn’t a requirement and I got the impression it was kind of frowned on, smacking as it did of “justification by works”, which ranks somewhere just south of serial murder in Methodist land.* Now Methodists not only give things up for Lent, but do the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. I am not sure how this fits with Matthew 6:16, but I am sure they have found some way to tippy tap dance around that verse. Even some Baptists (okay, one) are suggesting giving up something for Lent.

I’m thinking of giving up soft drinks, though, since they are bad for me anyway, and Lent is a perfect time for breaking bad habits, since most folks I know are giving things up and I’ll have company. Forty days of iced tea is hardly a big sacrifice. If I really wanted to mortify the flesh I’d give up shrimp, which is on the Lenten menu of every restaurant in a hundred mile radius of here, at least. I could have a lot of fun with that, too. When the waiter starts reading off the Lenten specials, I could say, “Oh, that sounds so good, but I gave up shrimp for Lent. Just bring me the steak instead.”

It might almost make up for getting rained out.

*Yes, I’m joking.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Pantry

It has been two years since I retired, and I am finally getting myself a schedule. Okay, it is true, I have been on an exercise schedule of sorts, one day at the Y and one day walking, but I have been meaning to develop a housework schedule so my poor husband doesn’t wind up doing most of it, and to find some volunteer work to do.

So for the past several weeks I have used Wednesday (which has long been my laundry day) for dusting, cleaning mirrors, and cleaning the bathrooms. Alternate Fridays continue to be used for changing and laundering the bedding, and Thursdays are now special projects day. Special projects so far have included dusting all the ceiling fans, decluttering (for the 95th time) my office space, and just this past week, cleaning and reorganizing my pantry.

The pantry is actually the half of the laundry room opposite the washer and dryer. When I bought the house, half of that wall contained a closet and next to it was a niche that I suspect was meant for an upright freezer. I find closets inconvenient as pantries because the space to the sides of the door is hard to reach. So when we remodeled the kitchen, John tore out the closet and refinished the wall and ceiling. We had a base cabinet made to match the new kitchen cabinets, and topped it with a stock formica counter from the Home Depot. Above the base cabinet, which has two cabinets with pull-out trays and four drawers, are three stainless steel restaurant style shelves. Hanging from some sections of shelving are three wire baskets. 

My husband and I have different ideas about organization. My ideal pantry (freezer, refrigerator, desk drawer) contains enough empty space to allow me to see what I’m looking for and reach for it without knocking 6 other cans or jars to the floor. My husband sees empty space as a sign that something is missing. A large chunk of the history of our married life consists of my donating old books, knickknacks and clutter, admiring the now decluttered and decorative looking shelves for about ten minutes, and then finding my husband unpacking a box of books he had somewhere onto the newly freed up space. What can I say? He lives here, too.

Besides, it’s not as if I am a naturally neat person. While I can arrange my pantry or bookcase or desk to conform somewhat with my ideal, I have a bad habit of putting things down rather than away “until I get around to it”, and then having to do another major decluttering down the road. So it would be hypocritical of me to treat my husband as if he is the one responsible for all the clutter in our lives.

At any rate, since last Thursday was taken up with some other appointments, I tackled the pantry on Friday. I expected it to take me an hour. It took two and a half. On the other hand, I made more of an impact than I expected. For one thing, I went through the old cooking equipment and other unused cookware (like a fish mold I had been given for a gift) that had lived unmolested on the top shelf for a decade and either found new locations for it or put it in a donate pile. That freed up space for things we are willing to climb on the stepladder (conveniently located next to the dryer) to get: my Cephalon Dutch oven which I mostly use for soups and spaghetti sauce, large unopened jars of things like mayonnaise and ketchup, and extra cans of whatever we bought packed 12 cans at a time at Sam’s Club. I also put an unopened bottle of fish sauce and some cans of coconut milk, remnants of John’s days of Thai cooking, up there as well.

So now the countertop, which had been completely covered with bags, boxes, and my Dutch oven, is maybe only half covered. The cans of food are organized like with like. The pasta is all in one wire basket and the tea and Jello in another. I spent a lot of Friday afternoon standing in there, gazing.

My much used Dutch oven is the paprika colored thing at the top. Next to it is a spare box of coffee K-cups. On the second shelf down, the pancake syrups are on a large plate to catch drips.

Small jars go in the basket on the left, so they don't get lost behind large jars.

The wire basket holds snacks. The covered plastic containers hold crackers (top) and  the remaining Christmas snack items a nephew sent us (bottom). To the right of them, the bottles of oil and corn syrup are now on a tray to catch drips.

I'd be happier if that whole counter was clear, but at least there is now some space to drop groceries needing unpacking, to pack goods to donate, or to use that knife sharpener.

Yesterday I woke up with DOMS. The first time I saw that term I googled it and finally figured out that Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness was the meaning I wanted, but I learned a lot about . . . other things. I expected all the climbing up and down the step ladder to empty, scrub, and restock the shelves to make my legs sore, but I didn’t expect the scrubbing to leave me with a dull pain between my shoulder blades, which is still there today.

This is how you know you are out of shape: when less than three hours of housework leaves you feeling like you have done extended sets of overhead presses.
I think next week I’m just going to quietly sort through the linens. Sitting down.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tweedledum and Tweedledummer

It’s been two weeks since I sent my email to “Dred Woodrow” and I haven’t received an answer, so I don’t think I ever will. Not that I expected the candidate himself to respond, but I did suspect a volunteer minion had been tasked with responding to questions by matching up the appropriate campaign boilerplate to each question in a way that might pass a Turing test.

This is the email I sent:

Dear Mr. Woodrow,
I have recently received some of your literature regarding your campaign for state representative, district 65.  I have some questions regarding issues and positions that I hope you can answer.
First of all, I see you voted against the new CATS bus tax. I understand that you want to prevent public money from being wasted, and I certainly respect that position. On the other hand, I worry about the ability of people who do not have their own transportation to be able to access jobs and medical care. I know you will not be facing this issue in the state legislature, since you probably agree with me that public transportation is best addressed at the municipal level, but can you explain why you voted against the tax, and what strategies you had for getting people without transportation to jobs and health care (or perhaps getting jobs and health care to those people?) Knowing your thinking on this matter will help me assess you as a candidate.
Secondly, I see you are pro-life. As you are probably aware, Louisiana has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. Those are 2006 numbers, but the numbers haven’t changed much. I think this is a problem that can and should be addressed at the state level, and would like to know how you see yourself doing so.
Thank you for your time.
Perhaps my attempt to be polite and fair minded didn’t come across that way, I don’t know. I’m not impressed by not having received any kind of response.

The other candidate, as I mentioned in my last post, doesn’t even have an email address for his campaign. He has, however, reached out in his own way, with a newsletter styled mail-out with a big headline stating Conservative Choice. The newsletter is 8 pages long with nine articles about the campaign, his family and marriage, his business experience, plans, and why he is running. There are even mock ads, which are more statements from “Hussein Sumac” and his wife. It’s a slick idea, and it gives a lot of information.

All of it dreadful. Okay, most of it dreadful. For one thing, one headline reads “[Hussein Sumac]to Lead Big Fight Against Gun Control in State Legislature”. Of course, there is no gun control legislation being proposed in our state legislature. The legislation he is talking about is proposed Federal legislation, and he can’t do anything about that. He’s just grandstanding. At least, I hope he’s just grandstanding, because I’d hate to think he doesn’t really know the difference between the state and Federal government.

Another article is headlined, How My Experience as a Job-Creator Will Pay Off.  Here I have to say something good about Mr. Sumac. He has built a business that employs 200 employees and he is only in his early 30’s*. That is a decent accomplishment. I do take issue with his statement, “I have learned to create jobs - real, high-paying jobs in the private sector - not government jobs.” First of all, that job he is trying to get himself elected to, I don’t know how to break it to him, is a government job! It’s not a good idea to be condescending about a job you are applying for in what amounts to a job interview. It’s especially puzzling to see him dismiss government jobs as not real jobs and then turn around and say that he is running for office because “life is partly about giving back to the community.” (That was actually another headline.) Yes, we know, all those people holding government jobs feel like they are serving the community, too.

But our Mr. Sumac has some positive proposals to make. One of them is extending Hooper Road “across [the] Amite River to  Watson without imposition of tolls”.  Hooper Road is in the northern portion of East Baton Rouge Parish. Watson is in nearby Livingston Parish. (Parishes are our equivalent of counties.) The only ways to extend the road across parish lines is to 1) convince Livingston Parish to extend the road on their dime or 2) make it a state road. The state highway department is limited by law to the number of miles of road it can hold in each district. In order to add a state road, they have to demote an equivalent amount of roadway to a parish road or even private road. It can be done, but getting it done requires a lot of pull in the legislature, according to my source, who worked for DOTD for 30 years and loves to lecture me on obscure laws, usually when I’m trying to read. But maybe our boy has connections. Nope, here’s another headline: “Not Part of Good Ole Boy Network”. Good luck with that road.

What’s even more puzzling is his insistence on not using a toll to pay for the road. Supposedly Mr. Sumac is for balanced budgets and no new taxes. The state is already facing a shortfall. How do we pay for this new road? No headlines there.

And of course you have no doubt thought of my last point by now: building roads is a [dreaded] government job. Even though private contractors will be employed, government at either the state or parish level will be responsible for obtaining the land, awarding the contracts, inspecting the work and oh, yeah, paying for it.

I still don’t know who to vote for. I just wish I had a better choice than Tweedledum or Tweedledummer.

*His business has been described as supplying janitorial services to nuclear power plants. I suspect “janitorial services” in this context does not mean dusting and mopping. The picture he uses to illustrate his business article is a picture of a nuclear power plant. I can’t resist. “You didn’t build that!”

Is There a Word for That?

One Day More is a stirring song from Les Miserables. The student revolutionaries of the Friends of the ABC are looking forward to their uprising the next day, confident that the oppressed people of Paris will rise and fight with them. 

At the barricades of Freedom! 
When our ranks begin to form, 
Will you take your place with me? 

You can understand why people are inclined to sing, hum or whistle parts of this song when inspired. 

Yet when one more day dawns, the people of Paris do not rise up, the revolution is quelled, Gavroche is dead, Jean Valjean is barely able to save Marius, and a chain of events is set in motion that leads to the suicide of Javert.

So as a harbinger of  a triumphant outcome, this song fails. Like The Skye Boat Song  and The Bonnie Blue Flag it represents good music paired with disappointing outcomes.

Which means you might not want to sing, hum or whistle any of them to indicate you expect a big win.  

So what does this have to do with the title of the post, you are no doubt wondering? Well, last week I posted about a commenter misusing a reference to Cassandra to indicate he thought some election predictions were wrong, only it turned out in the long run, the predictions were right, just as Cassandra always was. 

And on the same blog, different (pre-election) thread, several posters made reference to the song One Day More in predicting a Romney victory. Like the friends of the ABC, they found their confidence was a bit misplaced. At least nobody died (some political careers, maybe), but the song reference, like the Cassandra reference, turned out to be eerily prescient. 

If I had done something like that, I would assume it was my unconscious trying to get my attention. I have occasionally found my unconscious trying to send me a message in the form of a trivial comment I made about a minor situation having a larger application to a big problem. For instance, when my son was younger and I was trying to decide what to do about my increasingly more abusive first husband, we had a video game called Ladybug. There were some spots in Ladybug’s maze that were less accessible to predators than others. My son needed me to do something for him one day as I was playing, and asked me “Can you put the ladybug in a safe spot and come help me?” I went to help him, but pointed out as I did so, “There really is no safe spot.”

Then I listened to what I had just said and realized as hard as it was, I had to get out of my marriage.

So I suppose it was possible that the writers of the posts I am referring to had little voices in their own minds saying, “You know it’s really not going to turn out the way you want, don’t you”, but without knowing them I can’t say so for sure. I think it’s more likely that they just weren’t thinking about Cassandra or the song in their respective original contexts.

So is there a word for that?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Where Do You Leave Tracts?

As I have written before, I frequently find myself being targeted with tracts. With Carnival upon us and Mardi Gras only one week away, I expect to be the recipient of a few more. So I was intrigued to run across a thread entitled, Where do you leave Tracts?  I can always use suggestions for how to avoid them.

The thread began with this post:
I want your creative ideas on where to leave tracts.
Thanks to my new job (Christian bookstore) I have access to a wide variety of tracts! Of course I still have to buy them, but at least I've now got a ready supplier!
So, I keep a package in my purse.... but now I'm wondering where would be good places to leave one, besides a doctor's office, waiting room, etc. etc.
Where do YOU leave tracts?
Me? In the recycling bin.
If I get any of the tracts about islam[sic] I put them in Korans in the library and bookstores.By about islam[sic] I mean Christian tracts exposing islam[sic] for what it is. 
I used to leave tracts at a public "share" table in the library but I did that one day, went back a few hours later, and they were in the trash. I don't think the librarians did that, more likely one of the library patrons from a college atheist society. 
Maybe it was a librarian who was tired of patrons complaining about the tracts in the Korans.
1st off make sure they have a local church name on them,so in case whoever reads it is interested they have a place to go.

To complain?

Phone booths are good,as are bulletin boards at colleges and supermarkets.I help deliver food to people so sometimes I can leave a tract in a hallway.And if you are ever stopped by the police for a traffic error,be courageous and give the policeman a tract too.

Oh, I so want to be there when you do.
Where DON'T I leave tracts? LOL, I leave them everywhere. I keep a supply in my car and everytime I get outta the car, I stuff a few in my pockets to leave around. 
ANYWHERE is game!! I've put them inside library books...phone booths...benches at the mall...rest rooms...even lay one on top of the gas pump thingie while I'm gassing up. Everytime I grocery shop, I leave a few in carts, LOL, or even on the store shelves.
The possibilities are simply ENDLESS!!!
The fine for littering is $250.

I leave them inside the handle of the gas pump when I fuel up so the next person has to grab the tract as they grab the pump to fill up their car. I also just went to disneyworld[sic] last summer and I left them all over that place. People from all over the world are there.
People from all over the world, learning what litterbugs we are in the US.

I've left tracts on a coffee shop table, inside a magazine at the salon, on a park bench on a windless day, or in the grocery cart. If you're worried that your tract might be ignored, you could hand one to someone outside the library, at a park, downtown, on a college campus, or at the cashier's stand as you're checking out.
Okay, seriously, these guys have no idea that litter laws apply to them, too, do they?

Another place is on top of newspaper machines, or inside of them if you buy a paper.
Also, many Catholic churches have a Mass on late Saturday afternoon. they are open a half hour or so before the Mass for confession. 
In the back of their churches they usually have some type of literature table. 
I leave those "Do You Know You're Going To Heaven" type tracts there.
Leaving tracts in rival churches. [jihad envy] I bet you wouldn't dare put them in a mosque. [/jihad envy]

Putting them in someone's hand is always the best. If one is not comfortable doing that, leaving them in nice, public places is great (with permission). I am not comfortable at all leaving tracts in public restrooms...just seems inappropriate.
But leaving them on gas pump handles, where they will be in the way of the next customer, does not.
I leave them at store counters, tables,plant them in pockets ,open purses, in arcades, waiting rooms,books,under doors, in drawers, mail boxes, ect.[sic]
That one drew a prompt response:
Leaving tracts in mailboxes is against the law. As is placing them in people's open things. One could get into big trouble if caught doing that. I used to leave tracts on store merchandise, but I quit doing that after I heard that doing so is a poor testimony. Imagine being a store clerk on duty, straightening up a rumpled stack of jeans and finding a 4 Things God wants you to Know tract in the middle of the blue jeans. It's going to get tossed and will be looked upon as littering. As Christians we need to make sure that in our witnessing, we aren't breaking the law by littering, or other things like that. It's a poor testimony to a watching world. 
Our lives are walking gospels. This is what the world sees on a daily basis and reads. In James, James says to "Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only deceiving your own selves." Don't get me wrong, I think handing out tracts is a wonderful ministry. But too often I see people who claim to be Christians. They are all crabby and cross with store employees, or aren't polite to them, and then expect the store employees to take a tract and read it. That person's life speaks louder to the store employee than that paper does. 
Brethren we need to make sure we not only know God's word and share it with others, it needs to get down into our hearts and change our lives as well.
You know, that post makes a lot of sense.

It also got a response:
Really I didn't know any of that was against the law? [sic]Thank you for telling me.
Really? You had no idea that leaving pieces of paper strewn around is what people mean by littering? You had no suspicion that putting something into another person’s open purse might be frowned on by the legal authorities? Not to mention scary to the owner of the purse?
I deliver to people,s [sic] houses and was already warned about witnessing by my boss..I leave what you could call time release tracts.Tracts that will not be found for a long time due to where you put them.Say on top of a tall cabinet,behind a desk,things like that.This way God in his providence can still reveal the tract to the occupant whenever He chooses simply by moving some furniture or cleaning on top of a cabinet.
You know what else has a time release system? Jail.

Throwing one in a car window is fine but please DON'T put one under the windshield wiper, folks!!! I dunno about YOUR states, but it is illegal in mine. It's called "tampering", just by TOUCHING another person's automobile, and you can get a fine.
One time I left flyers on a parking lot FULL of cars, putting them under the windshield wipers. A cop just happened to see me and them (lol) and HE MADE ME REMOVE EVERY ONE OF THEM!!! It was summertime and hot as blazes out. I just about had a heat stroke going back through that large parking lot, lolol. He actually STOOD there and watched me, to make sure I removed every single one, believe it or not.
NEVER AGAIN!!! So please don't do that. There are soooo many other good ideas!
A police officer enforcing the law. Just one more sign of a fallen world.

I tend to stick with my tract-in-a-bag-of-candy. Living in Houston, I have 2 languages, and 2 types of candy. The Spanish types like a hot, salty fruit candy. UGH. They sure get excited when I hand THAT over.
Spanish types? And I know the “UGH” is directed at the candy, not the Spanish trick-or-treaters, but “UGH” is right. Can’t you feel the love? 

There was one house in my neighborhood that I discouraged my son from going to on Halloween because they handed out those scary you’re-going-to-hell Jack Chick tracts.
I try to go wherever God leads me. Today he had me hand out a New Testament to an obviously Muslim guy running the Dollar store. He was surprisingly open to receiving it.
What would make him “obviously Muslim”, anyway? Was he praying toward Mecca when the writer walked into the store? Did his T-shirt show a picture of Salman Rushdie with a target over it?

One of the other posts referred to an evangelist as having been “saved from a tract.” I wish I knew how he did that. I’d sure like to be saved from a tract, a lot of them, in fact.