Sunday, July 31

GEKKO . . .

Is it strange that I love the Geico ("but I have good news: I just saved a bunch of money on car insurance by switching to Geico!") commercials and think they are hilarious?

Saturday, July 30


It will always be Friday in my head ...

What is your favorite odd...

1. ...Sandwich combination?
I don't know that it's really all that odd, but I like to put bacon and jalapenos on everything, though not always together. Normally, it's: chicken salad, lettuce, red onion, bacon and honey mustard. OR, it's provolone, lettuce, tomato, sweet peppers, extra jalapeno peppers and mustard. See. Not that weird.

2. ...Snack combination? Matzoh crackers with vegetable cream cheese.

3. ...Joke? The one about the new pirate movie. YEAH, YOU KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.

4. ...Game you play inside your head? When driving: wondering about the lives of the drivers around me, and being awed by the fact that so many of them are SO ANGRY so early in the morning. When being out and about: seeing if I can predict the words that will come out of the mouths of the friends with whom I'm conversing. The ones I know (or think I know) pretty well, I'm at about a 40% accuracy rate.

5. ...Thing you hum to yourself? Either the song du month (currently Jason Mraz's "Sleeping to Dream"), or a seriously catchy tune like "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" or the beginning musical interlude to Mariah Carey's "Always Be (My Baby)". Doo doo doo, DUM. Doo doo doo doo-doo doo-DUM.



You Are an Espresso

At your best, you are: straight shooting, ambitious, and energetic

At your worst, you are: anxious and high strung

You drink coffee when: anytime you're not sleeping

Your caffeine addiction level: high

Tuesday, July 26


I don't normally read her columns because she's a little too off-the-cuff and reactionary (like me) for me to take seriously. Hmmm. I hate to think what this means for me. But this little tidbit she wrote in tribute to her mother: wonderful.

A Woman Who Found a Way to Write
Published: July 24, 2005

My mom always wanted to be a writer. In 1926, when she was 18, she applied for a job at The Washington Post. An editor there told her that the characters she'd meet as a reporter were far too shady for a nice young lady.

But someone who wants to write will find a way to write. And someone who wants to change the world can do it without a big platform or high-profile byline.

Besides raising five kids in high heels, my mom wrote with a prolific verve that would have impressed one of her idols, Abigail Adams.

In her distinct looping penmanship, learned from the nuns at Holy Cross Academy in Washington, she regularly dashed off missives to politicians. I'd often see form-letter responses on her table from the White House or Congress.

She loved Ronald Reagan and when he landed in a firestorm, she'd write to tell him to buck up. She also appreciated Bill Clinton - his sunny style, his self-wounding insecurity and his work on the Ireland peace process - and would write to compliment him as well. (Literally catholic, she liked both Monica and Hillary.)

She wrote to any member of Congress who made what she considered the cardinal sin of referring to Edmund Burke as a British, rather than Irish, statesman.

In 1995, after reading a newspaper analysis suggesting that Al Gore was not sexy enough to run for president, Mom swiftly dashed off a note reassuring the vice president that he was sexy and that he'd done a great job as host of Pope John Paul II's visit to Baltimore.

She carefully addressed it, "The Honorable Albert Gore Jr., Home of the Vice President, Observatory Circle; 37th Street and Massachusetts Avenue, Northwest, Washington, D.C." The letter was returned a few days later, stamped "Addressee Unknown."

It was an omen.

She wrote her last name in black marker on the bottom of the Tupperware she used to bring food to anyone in her building or sodality or family who was under the weather or having a party. On holidays, plates of food were always handed out to those in the building who had to work or might be lonely before she served her family.

When her dinner rolls stuffed with turkey and ham were snapped up at my first cocktail party, as the expensive catered cheese wheel and goose pâtés went untouched, she told me with a smug smile: "Simplicity pays."

Mom - a woman who always carried a small bottle of Tabasco in her purse - wrote out hundreds of recipes, adding notations of her own, including Mamie Eisenhower's Million Dollar Fudge (1955), which she deemed "Rich as Croesus, but oh so good," Mrs. Nixon's Hot Chicken Salad and Barbara Bush's High Fiber Bran Muffins.

In the middle of her recipe cards, she wrote down a quote that appealed to her: "The Talmud says, If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?"

When my mom still hoped I would transcend takeout, she'd write away for booklets for me: "150 Favorite Pickle Recipes From Iowa," "Confessions of a Kraut Lover" from Empire State Pickling and "How to Cook With Budweiser," including a chocolate beer cake.

Without ever mentioning it to anyone, she constantly wrote out a stream of very small checks from her police widow's pension for children who were sick and poor.

She didn't limit her charity to poor kids. When 6-year-old Al Gore III was struck by a car in 1989, she sent him a get-well card and a crisp dollar bill. "Children like getting a little treat when they're not feeling well," she explained.

She had a column, "Under the Capitol Dome," in the National Hibernian Digest. In 1972, she chronicled her debut, at 63, as a protester.

After Bloody Sunday, when British soldiers fired on a Catholic demonstration in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, killing 13 people, Mom went to the Kennedy Center in Washington to picket the British ambassador, who was going to a performance of the Royal Scots Guards. She proudly wore her green Irish tweed cape and waved a placard reading, "Stop killing innocent civilians."

"The triumph of the evening," she wrote in her column, "was when the British ambassador had to be taken in through a basement door."

She wrote me relentlessly when I moved to New York in 1981 with everything from fashion tips ("Hang your necklaces inside your blouse so your bra will catch them if the clasp breaks") to strategy on breakups ("Put all his pictures in a place you won't see them, preferably the trash") to health tips ("I hope you will never take a drink when you are unhappy. It would break my heart to think you had become a jobless derelict, an easy prey for unscrupulous men, me dead, and a family who held you in contempt because you had tossed aside your beauty, youth and talent.").

Mom was not famous, but she was remarkable. Her library included Oscar Wilde, Civil War chronicles, Irish history and poetry books, as well as "Writing to the Point: Six Basic Steps," and the 1979 "Ever Since Adam and Eve: The Satisfactions of Housewifery and Motherhood in the Age of Do-Your-Own-Thing.'"

As her friend Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, eulogized her last week: "She was venerable without any of the fuss of venerability; worldly, but thoroughly incorruptible; hilarious, but ruthlessly in earnest; unexpected, but magnificently consistent; wicked, but good. She could be skeptical and sentimental in the very same moment. She set things right just by being in the midst of them."

When I told her I was thinking of writing a memoir, she dryly remarked, "Of whom?" And when reporters just starting out asked her for advice about journalism, she replied sagely: "Get on the front page a lot and use the word 'allegedly' a lot." The daughter of a manager of an Irish bar named Meenehan's, with a side entrance marked Ladies' Only, she grew up in a Washington that was still a small Southern village with horses and carriages. As a child she saw the last of the Civil War veterans marching in Memorial Day parades, and as the wife of a D.C. police inspector she made friends with her neighbor, Pop Seymour, the last person alive who saw Lincoln shot at Ford's Theater. (He was 5 and saw the president slump in his box.)

Intensely patriotic, a politics and history buff, in her life she spanned the crash of the Titanic to the crash of the twin towers, Teddy Roosevelt to W. One of her big thrills came in 1990 when she went to the White House Christmas party with me and President Bush gave her a kiss. On the way home, she said to me in a steely voice, "I don't ever want you to be mean to that man again."

As my mom lay in pain, at 97 her organs finally shutting down, my sister asked her if she would like a highball. Over the last six years, Mom had managed to get through going into a wheelchair and losing her sight, all without painkillers or antidepressants - just her usual evening glass of bourbon and soda.

Her sense of taste was gone, and she could no longer speak, but she nodded, game as ever, just to show us you can have life even in death. We flavored her spoonful of ice chips with bourbon, soon followed by a morphine chaser.

Peggy Dowd died last Sunday at 6:30 a.m. I'm not sure if she was trying to keep breathing until the 8:30 a.m. Mass for shut-ins or Tim Russert's "Meet the Press."

I just know that I will follow the advice she gave me in a letter while I was in college, after I didn't get asked to a Valentine's Day dance. She sent me a check for $15 and told me to always buy something red if you're blue - a lipstick, a dress.

"It will be your 'Red Badge of Courage,'" she wrote. And courage was a subject the lady knew something about.

Friday, July 22


I had half of a half of a Subway sandwich for lunch today -- turkey breast with everything except olives and roasted peppers. Yeah, I'm talking spinach, lettuce, tomato, red onions, cucumbers, sweet peppers, pickles and extra jalapenos, topped with a tiny bit of mayo on honey oat bread. It was so delicious. I haven't washed my hands yet, and I get a whiff of pickle scent from myself now and then.

And then -- for reasons still unknown to me -- I smelled my computer mouse. It, too, smells like pickles.

I gotta go wash my hands now.

I've been so out of it the past few days, I haven't been keeping up even with my beloved news. Supreme Court what? Civil liberties what? London what? Exactly. But whether it's due to a renewed perspective or just particularly eye-catching headlines, it seems to be a good news day to get back into the mix of things.

Bits that caught my eye this morning:

1. The responses of civil libertarians in response to the new policy of checking passengers' bags on subways in New York City ...

2. The published-opinion history of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts. He seems like a witty guy ... but is there craziness under the surface that's just waiting to get out? Because you know, as Hooch likes to say, the crazy's gotta come out sometime ...

3. London cops shooting and killing a man in the Underground, suspecting him of being a bomber or terrorist or something like that. That's just ... scary.

4. China's new policy about its yuan and how its value will no longer be tied to the American dollar. Instead, apparently, there is a "secret mechanism" in place to reset the yuan's value every night. Now, I publicly proclaim that I know absolutely nothing about anything related to the economy or the dollar or economic interdependence or the workings of the world market. However, this was on the front page, and for some reason, it seemed more important and spicy than other economic news (which normally wouldn't even register in my brain as news), so I read it anyway. And now I must go and read it again because I didn't really understand it the first time through.

5. My wanderlust called me to this article about Martha's Vineyard ... but I still like Block Island better.

6. It's been a long time since I've been down to visit The Asia Society, but I might just have to swing through it to check out "Images of the Divine," an exhibit of Hindu and Buddhist religious art. Called "spiritually activist art" by the New York Times reviewer, these icons were made to "wake you up, point you in a moral direction, make you look at the greed, hatred and delusions that sit like sharp rocks in the soul. Once you see the truth about yourself, the idea is, you can change yourself. And when you change yourself, you change the world." Interesting thesis, must investigate.

7. I am unashamed to admit that I want to see "Hustle and Flow". The gangsta in me cries out for it.

8. Daylight Savings Time confuses the heck out of me. How do you save daylight? And why? I understand the need for conserving energy and resources -- Lord knows we're doing a heck of a job caring for creation -- but the fact of the matter is, states -- even PARTS of states -- choose whether or not to participate in DSL. It's so strange to me. You can be driving through Indiana where it will be 2:00 p.m. in one city, then 3:00 p.m. in the next city over. Bizarro! Besides, all that clock-flipping messes me up. I'm sensitive like that.

9. Alright, there was no article about it that I read yet, but I want to see the new Diane Lane/John Cusack movie "Must Love Dogs." Never mind that I'll see anything -- ANYTHING -- with John Cusack in it, but Stockard Channing? Christopher Plummer? What little girl did NOT swoon for him in "The Sound of Music"?! Elizabeth Perkins? It's a must-see movie, folks. MUST-SEE.



There's no Friday Five, and not even Daily Dirt has anything remotely entertaining. So I too shall answer Mabel's question: if you could change your voice to that of any individual, whose voice would you pick?

Hands down, I would want a singing voice like Alicia Keys. She's got it all: the huskiness, the tone, the power, the sultriness, the emotion, the ear, the breath, the ... I don't know. She's got it all and I want it too.

As for speaking voice ... that's funny that this topic even arose, albeit third-hand. I had just recently asked Miss Connecticut if she thought my voice was squeaky and annoying and totally high-pitched. She was shocked that I would even think so, and we had a good laugh about the warped nature of self-perception. But now that the thought occurs to me ... I think I would like a speaking voice like Miss Connecticut -- low on the decibel level, lilting, good cadence, hearer-friendly speed. Or Julia Roberts. There something about her voice, which while on the loud and abrasive side (not that I am ever loud and abrasive), that is so friendly and open. Maybe it's the way her vowels open up when she speaks, or maybe it's that she always seems to speak with a smile and look you (or the camera) right in the eye, or maybe it's just because she seems like a friendly gal you could kick back and have a beer with.

BUT, this is the voice God gave me, so it MUST be good for something ...


B-DOING! . . .

So, Ab's birthday is next week and I wanted to send her some edjumacational books from Barnes & Noble. Three days ago, I purchased them online, paid for them, looked over the order, and hit "SUBMIT."

Yesterday, I arrived home to see a Barnes & Noble box at my door. Thinking that something I had previously purchased for myself was back-ordered, I became very excited and ran upstairs to see what literary delights lay within.

I opened the box and saw ... two children's edjumacational books. For Ab. Who lives on the Other Coast. Whose birthday is in four days. Who was supposed to get this box instead of me.

What a dumbo. I forgot to put HER as the ship-to address. B-DOING!

Tuesday, July 19


It's always interesting to me that boys will be boys and men will be boys, no matter how old they are, no matter the life experiences they've had. The two best examples I can think of are as follows (and yes, yes, these are mean, broad generalizations, but they remain generalizations because they are generally true!):

First: when men get sick, they moan and groan like the world is ending. They could wake up in the morning with a little tickle in their throat, and all of a sudden they have laryngitis. A bit of post-nasal drip indicates malaria. A stomachache signals dysentery. And all of these symptoms and illnesses are magnified when their mother, wife, sister, girlfriend enters the room, for lo! Entereth someone who shall take CARE of them! It's sort of endearing ... isn't it?

Second: when men offend someone, namely a female friend, they hardly ever apologize straight-up. Nay ... this is when they bring out the (1) conciliatory innocuous conversation starter; or (2) the kindler, gentler tone of voice that speaks of everything other than apology; or (3) the sweet puppy-dog eyes and cozy grin that bespeak intimacy and anticipated forgiveness. This is not endearing for there's nothing more pathetic than an emotionally manipulative man-boy.

I'm just sayin' ...



An occasion has arisen for which I must return to the new A&P Fresh Supermarket in a couple of days. I couldn't be more excited.



Waiting for an interview result ... preparing for another interview ... hearing "truth" from someone who keeps on giving it unsolicited and with questionable motives ... waiting to hear back from someone I miss very much ... conjuring up a fresh new idea for a child's birthday present ... coordinating yet another farewell get-together (would people stop leaving already?!) ... balancing my finances to account for much-needed new window treatments ... balancing my finances, period ... wondering when I'm going to send that letter I promised to send ... wondering when I'd see my LOLs again ... wondering if my upcoming week off would really be a week off from anything ... wondering when and if to forgive the man-boy ...

When it's all too much, I do what I do best: clean my office.
Dang, it's spic-n-span today.



I went to bed last night at 10:00 p.m. This occurred after an earlier-than-usual dinner, a piece of fruit for dessert, the reading of four chapters from two books and one chapter of the Scriptures, and a leisurely face-steam over my bathroom sink.

I am going to recreate this tonight (although I added one more book and three more chapters to the mix -- one can imagine my state of literary confusion tonight). I don't know whether to feel extraordinarily proud of myself ... or extremely aged.

Monday, July 18


I have the sheep bloat again. Baaaaa.



Alright, I know I often wax poetic about the wonders of Whole Foods Market. And rightly so -- WFM is indeed magnificent. But today, I discovered a place even more so: the A&P Fresh Supermarket two towns up.

I understand that it's new -- it only opened about seven months ago. I understand that in about five years, it will be run-down, messy, dusty, unorganized, dulled, just like every other supermarket out there. I understand that the Artisan bread might not be so fresh, the meat not so pink, the fish not so supple, the vegetables not so crisp, the prepared foods so crust-free. But for now, it's grocery heaven on earth, and were it not for two things, I would have lingered there all evening.



1. I peed every thirty minutes today -- full-on, full-force, full-length pees -- all day long. And the day's not over.

2. It rained a lot today. Which means I was stuck in traffic a lot. Which means I was stuck in traffic holding my pee. Which means that I peed in Target. AND in the new A&P Fresh Supermarket. AND as soon as I arrived home from the new A&P Fresh Supermarket. AND after I prepared dinner but before I sat down to eat. I just don't know what it is. Twenty minutes have passed ... stay tuned ....



I have this thing about food in the bathroom: one shouldn't have any of the former in the latter.

In our private bathroom at work, we have a can of air freshener called "Vanilla Indulgence." (WHY they couldn't just call it "vanilla" is beyond me, but the "indulgence" sure is a nice touch.) It freaks me out just to smell it -- why in the world would there be a vanilla scent near the toilet? It just makes no logical sense to me, and my brain stops functioning properly when the food scent collides with ... the bathroom scent.

Sometimes I'll walk into a bathroom -- at church, at a friend's house, even at my own house during a gathering -- and there will be food-related items in the garbage can. A cup that formerly held soda. A plate that formerly carried crudites. A wooden stick that formerly held together an ice cream popsicle. A foil bag that formerly held potato chips. A fork, a pair of chopsticks, a used napkin.

Why? When I think about food and the bathroom, all I can think is, "and never the twain shall meet." Why in the world would you bring your soda to the toilet? Why would anyone finish up their appetizer while sitting on the can? Why would you poo and suck on an ice cream pop at the same time? Oy, I gag at the very imagined thought.

Now, I'm no germ-o-phobe. I sit on the toilet seat, almost no matter what, in almost any locale. I don't use my paper towel to open the bathroom door before throwing it out behind me as I leave. But there's something about knowing that the same air that touched my you-know-what is touching my food. Ew, ew and ew.

And so it is that I use the Vanilla Indulgence reluctantly, gagging all the way ...

Friday, July 15


What a topsy-turvy day and evening. Never have I been and felt so encouraged by loved ones, those unafraid to speak truth to me, willing to love me regardless of myself, and generous with themselves unto me ... and never have I been so insulted by loved ones, whose words and actions shake my faith in their affection for me, and arouse such righteous anger in my heart of hearts. Two sets of tears today, for very different reasons ...



Not the most exciting line of questioning ever to have existed on a Friday, but it spends a few minutes not dedicated to other more worthy pursuits ...

What is your favorite...

1. ...mode of transportation (plane, train or automobile)?
Good Girl.

2. ...airline? JetBlue, for the unlimited tasty treats and the bizarrely cheerful and kind staff. Really, what are they on?

3. ...rental car company? Errrr ... this question is too weird to answer.

4. ...hotel chain? The W Hotels. Yes, they're pretentious beyond belief and the BPs in every lobby creep me out, but the Aveda toiletries and cozy decor make me happy every time.

5. ...destination? I'm not a big fan of the beach for purposes of lying on it and having its sand and saltiness get all up in my business, but I do enjoy being in places where I can gaze upon the infinity of the ocean, ponder my smallness, and be thankful for His providence in giving me life on this vast planet. Cannon Beach in Oregon and Block Island, RI spring instantly to mind ...

Thursday, July 14


Sometimes, when people come together like this, it's easy to forget there is evil in the world ...


LONDON, England -- Millions of people around the world have joined a two-minute silence to pay tribute to the victims of the London bombings one week earlier.

In the British capital Thursday workers left their offices to stand in the street, taxis and buses pulled over and financial markets paused to remember the 52 people who are so far confirmed dead.

Tributes were also paid in the Spanish capital Madrid and the Indonesian island of Bali -- both targeted by bombers from the Islamist al Qaeda network in the past -- and in cities across Europe.

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI, on holiday in the Italian Alps, prayed for peace.

In America, the three locations struck on September 11, 2001 -- New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania -- also joined together to observe the silence.

New York Governor George Pataki said the London attacks were a reminder of the "very real and serious threat" that terrorism posed around the world.

"The people of Great Britain were there for New Yorkers and Americans in the days and weeks after September 11 and we proudly come together with our friends and neighbours in Virginia and Pennsylvania in this show of support of our friends in Great Britain," he said.

"Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones last week."

In Trafalgar Square in central London, London Mayor Ken Livingstone told CNN : "In Madrid, Bali and New York people have stood in silence with us, and in cities which have yet to be touched by terror."

In Downing Street, Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared in the garden of his official residence, where he was presenting bravery awards to police officers.

Queen Elizabeth II stood in silence on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace as Big Ben struck 12.

Play even stopped on the first round of the 134th British Open so players and fans could pay tribute to the victims.

A klaxon sounded at midday, Reuters reported. Leading player Tiger Woods stood with head bowed as the flag over the clubhouse at St. Andrews flew at half-staff.

"It's good that they're doing this," world number two Vijay Singh from Fiji, told the news agency.

"It has happened before. We had stoppages during a few tournaments after 9/11 (the 2001 attacks in the U.S.) and also as a tribute to Payne Stewart."

In Paris, as sirens wailed across the city, French President Jacques Chirac stood with visiting Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula de Silva on the steps of the Elysee Palace after delaying his annual Bastille Day television address.

Government offices, railway stations and airports paused in Italy, as did buses, trams and underground trains in the German capital Berlin, Reuters reported.

And in Brussels, hundreds of European Union officials gathered outside the 25-nation bloc's headquarters as blue-and-gold EU flags flew at half-staff, The Associated Press reported.

In predominantly Muslim Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other ministers interrupting a meeting to join the silence.

In Stockholm, Sweden's Prime Minister Goran Persson joined other senior politicians for a brief ceremony at government offices.

"We have gathered here today to express our solidarity, our sympathy with the victims and their families and show our support for the open society," Persson told AP.

The ceremony ended with two minutes of silence.

Tuesday, July 12

ARE YOU? . . .

Are you afraid?

I'm not afraid ... or at least I'm trying not to be.
Let's keep trying, together, to be fearless.

Show them that we're not afraid.


YUCKO . . .

Oh, the irony.
It slays me.


American Cities That Best Fit You:

60% Boston

60% San Francisco

60% Washington, DC

55% Austin

55% Denver

Friday, July 8


It's a blessing and a curse, methinks, that time keeps moving forward, and thus, it is once again, Friday ...

What is your favorite:

1. …romantic novel?
Alright, I'm going to admit it: I have a very soft spot in my heart, still, for the very first Danielle Steele novel I ever read: Remembrance. I can barely remember the plot now, but it had something to do with true loves being torn apart at every turn, a Nazi who was actually a good man on the inside, a woman forced to follow her head instead of her heart, and an ultimate reunion of two people who were always meant to be together. Before I realized that Danielle Steele can't write to save her life, this book tugged every single string in my young teenage heart, and made me hope in true love.

2. …romantic movie? It's a total tie between "Pride and Prejudice" (the 6-hour BBC version starring dreamy Colin Firth) and "The Sound of Music." I love surly angry men who are overcome by love in the end.

3. …romantic dinner? The prix fixe at One if By Land, Two if By Sea. Perhaps it's a bit overdone. Perhaps the rose at every table is a bit cliche. Perhaps the attentive service is a bit too attentive. Perhaps it's hyped up by too many people too often. But it still rocks my world.

4. …romantic date? Hand in hand, walking anywhere, everywhere, discovering new things, peering in at shop windows, giggling at the petite dog walking by wearing a dog sweater, learning new things about each other, gazing at artwork, sharing a dirty water dog, sitting in companionable silence next to each other whilst people watching and just being happy.

5. …romantic vacation? I haven't gone on a truly romantic vacation yet, but of the places I'd been to, I'd most love to take my love to a weekend on Block Island or Bar Harbor.

Thursday, July 7

REDUX . . .

My heart is most aggrieved this morning.

I recall, sfter 9/11 and as the United States was commencing its war in Iraq, people saying to me, "if other countries had suffered what we have suffered, then they wouldn't be so against joining in this war." And I remember thinking, "what kind of animal ARE you that you would wish this kind of suffering upon ANYone, just so they can join us in our war-mongering sentiment? How could you wish 9/11 upon any country, any citizenry, any human?" I remember feeling that I would be glad to take one for the team, to have my country be the only one to hurt, if it meant that such pain would never again be inflicted upon or experienced by anyone else.

Unfortunately, my invisible desire to bite the bullet wasn't conveyed to The Bad Guys. They strike again, and again, and again. And today, London reels as America reeled. London weeps as America wept. London got the same sucker-punch whose bruises still linger on America's thick skin. London starts its own trek down the rocky path to normalcy; do we tell them that there is no such end?

Most shocking is the universality of the images. The dirty and bloody survivors being led away, the stretchers being rushed to waiting ambulances, the yellow police tape, the convergence of law enforcement personnel. So familiar to one's eyes and visual memory.

There is no satisfaction in knowing that the United States is no longer alone in its standing as victim. None. What alleviation is to be gained knowing that now there's someone else who will understand what 9/11 was to us, what devastation terrorism wreaked upon our nation? None. What comfort do we glean from the agony of others? None.

Sorrow is the only appropriate way to express oneself today.



The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,

He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.

Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

-- Psalm 23

I know these two really, really great guys, Jims and SpiderBat. Why are they so great? Because every time they come over for a social event, and every time garbage piles up in my garbage can as a result, they, without asking, remove the garbage at the end of the evening and take it out to the Dumpster with them when they leave.

Such a small act, but so huge. It's more than just relieving me of the mess and stank and nominal labor of taking out the trash myself. It's making my life just a tiny bit easier, giving me one less miniscule thing to dwell my tired mind upon, offering one not insignificant way to share a burden.

Minor kindness, multiplied several times over, equals major heart.

Tuesday, July 5


Or so say the wise people of the Motherland.

This past holiday weekend, instead of sleeping in for an obscene number of hours, I've had need every morning to wake up at an early hour and prepare myself for the day. Knowing this, I moved my coffeemaker out from its customary place in a lower cabinet under my countertop, the coffee filters out from their customary place in an upper cabinet above the mugs, and the airtight container holding the regular coffee closer to the plug into which I would plug the coffeemaker every morning. I set out a mug, a spoon and a packet of Splenda; I filled a coffee filter with a few tablespoons of coffee and poured water into the basin of the coffeemaker. Everything was set for the next morning's cup o' joe.

This morning, as I was pouring myself a scrumptious cup of sludge, it occurred to me that I don't make my own coffee enough, even on weekends that I have all the time in the world to chill out over a cup. And that is largely because of two reasons: first, I don't take the time to prepare for the next morning, or second, I don't set out everything in plain sight so that it's easy and natural for me to make coffee. And it got me thinking ... how many other things am I not doing because I either don't prepare for it or because it's not in plain sight and thus easy for me to do?

NHF's praise team spent an intense thirty-six hours at a training retreat on Friday night and Saturday. Non-stop lectures, practicums, Bible studies, prayer time. A meager forty minutes for meals three times on Saturday, one ten-minute break to pee (or not poo, in my case). And the result of our learning, the result of God teaching us new things, was clearly evident -- at least to us and a few other people -- during Sunday's service. The songs were better organized, the transitions were spotless, we had freedom to experiment with dynamics and personality instead of staring at our songsheets wondering what the heck to do next. And most importantly, we were free to have fun, to enjoy the words we were lifting up to God, to take a chill pill about the music and the "performance" aspects so that we could amp up our feelings and our love for the Lord.

So why didn't we think of this before? Why didn't we struggle through such preparation before, so that the end result would be better, more inviting, more meaningful? And so easy? It makes sense that we didn't know the techniques before we learned them; it does not make sense that we were never moved to make ready.

Even the most mundane things in my life ... sometimes I don't make myself a full dinner meal -- starch, meat, vegetable -- even though I'm really craving a hearty dinner, simply because I (a) didn't go grocery shopping to stock up on supplies; (2) didn't set out the meat to defrost in the refrigerator; or (3) didn't get home with enough time and energy to create such a meal. Why? Why is it so difficult to prepare, to make ready, even for the little things that I do as I live my life?

I forget to do laundry, unless I take the laundry basket out of the closet and set it in the hallway right in front of the washing machine. I forget to send out that important letter or that timely bill, unless I seal it right up and lean it against my front door, so that I have to pick it up in order to leave for work in the morning. I don't go to the gym to exercise in the morning unless I go to sleep the night before wearing my workout clothes, and it's just too pathetic to not go work out. I don't take initiative with church activities for which I am responsible unless it's staring me in the face, offering me an easy way to pick up the task and follow through. Heck, I've had photographs sitting in piles for months, waiting for me to clip that Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon that has been sitting on my desk so that I can go there and buy a photo album.

And the stupidest thing really is this: much like making the coffee, the prep work is really easy. I just don't do it. It doesn't occur to me, even type-A me, to do it. But the beginning is half of the ending, it really is ...



There's this game on Yahoo! Games called Alchemy, where you have to arrange different colored and/or shaped icons in a line, either horizontally or vertically, to eliminate the row or column. When all of the rows or columns are eliminated, you move on to the next stage, and each stage introduces new colors and shapes so that the game becomes more random and difficult. When I play Alchemy, I almost always eliminate columns -- I arrange the icons vertically. Once in a while, I'll try to play horizontally, but I get all confused and my brain simply cannot process what is happening on the computer screen. After passing up to five or six vertical screens on the highest level, I can barely get through two horizontal screens. I just can't do it.

I was reminded of this over the weekend, when our praise team was learning how to chart our songsheets so that we can arrange our songs more coherently. I was writing my charts vertically, down the left-hand margin of the songsheet. Our trainer, noticing someone else doing the same thing, instructed that person to write the charts horizontally, so as to leave more room underneath for notes and such. I moved slightly away from the trainer so that he could not see my songsheet, for there was no way on God's green earth that I was going to horizontally chart my sheet; it just wasn't going to happen, I just couldn't do it.

It made me think of all the other ways I take in, process, learn and regurgitate information.

I am not an auditory learner, although I wish I was because it seems so efficient. No, if I'm going to learn something or even appreciate a simple story, it has to be written down, available for me to set my eyes upon. Otherwise, I'll remember it for barely a day. This proves especially difficult at work, where our team tends to talk through issues on our way to resolving them. When Hooch or the Chief talk to me or explain a concept of law to me, I have such a hard time following their speech; sometimes I have to close my eyes or look away into a far corner so that I can zone out and turn their spoken words into pictured words inside my head. Only when their words are "written out " in my brain can I understand what they are saying to me.

I can't write horizontally for very long; I'm a list-maker. When I take notes, I use bullet points or slashes for every little point made; I simply cannot write on and on in one continuous phrase. My notes end up being, on average, about eleven pages longer than everyone else's, simply because I write in list-form, rather than straight-up prose. When I journal, I turn the book on its side so that the spiral ring is at the top. Then I write down one half of the page before moving on to the next half; I just cannot write ALL the way across that long page -- I need to break it up vertically.

I don't communicate very well or clearly in speech. Sure, I can joke around and answer questions and convey concepts accurately enough when totally necessary. But I'm far more comfortable and coherent in writing -- or, in this day and age, email. Writing allows me to choose my words more carefully, to say exactly what I mean and want to say, to view the structure of my thoughts and to ascertain that I'm conveying them accurately, in the order that I want to convey them, with the proper tone and emotion. My spoken words, I can't control -- they're out most of the time before I can catch them and look over them. But my letters or emails, I can always edit, I can always re-read to make sure I'm saying exactly what I mean to say and nothing else. In the same way that I lose focus when I listen, I lose focus when I speak. This could bode very ill for my litigation career, but we'll see what a little more training can do ...

The thing that most fascinates me about myself is not myself; it's the fact that there are people out there who are NOT like me. Those who learn by hearing and get confused by looking at something. Those who can't make lists, but must write everything out lengthwise across that long page of paper. Those who can't write a lick of anything worth reading, but can think on their feet and communicate orally, accurately, coherently, amazingly thoughtfully when they want, how they want. And then there are those who are just a mix of everything. Those who do this one way and that another way. Those who do EVERYTHING and are great at it. It's so interesting how we are made, how our synapses fire off, how our brains light up over here and not over there, how certain different types of people can work together for an incredibly common good, and other different types of people can't even breathe the same air as each other ...

Sunday, July 3


Happy Independence Day, y'all.

The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.