30 July 2008

Dr. Horrible

Another piece of smart and funny literature - yeah, that's right, I said "literature" - from Joss Whedon and company was released into the wild this month.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog is a first of it's kind, three-part, Internet video "movie".


Neil Patrick Harris was hilariously funny and emotionally engaging as the not-so-villainous villain; Nathan Fillion was spot-on and just-campy-enough as the not-so-heroic hero; and they both knocked my socks off with their singing!

The story and songs and dialogue were goofy and funny and compelling ... and deeper than you might expect - if you don't know Joss.

Yes, I gush.

I can't help it. I seriously adore everything Joss Whedon and it's been waaaaay to long since I had my last "fix".

So, I probably would have enjoyed "Dr. Horrible" even if it was just a campy, cheesy, fun little Internet romp.

But I should have known better. The man does not know how to create anything shallow. I have no idea how he manages to convey such depth of story and character and theme in just 42 minutes of storytelling, but I am SO glad he does it.

I was deliberate in my word choice when I called Dr. Horrible "literature". Like so much else that Joss has created, it is high-quality storytelling.

Other writers - and readers - tend to turn their noses up at television and scoff at the idea that TV can be "art". And with millions of Americans glued to "American Idol" and other such riff-raff every week, I can understand why.

But Joss is a master of the medium. He uses every aspect of it to enhance his stories. And they ARE quality literature in the true sense of the word. They just happen to be on video instead of on paper. But the elements of a great story are all there. And he weaves them together beautifully.

I joke that being a fan of Buffy and Firefly/Serenity and other Whedon creations is my dirty little pop-culture vice. Friends who are not fans tend to give me the raised-eyebrows look when I "confess" to it.

I get why. Because, on the surface, those shows - and Dr. Horrible - seem like just bubble-gum fare: Vampires and cheerleaders and space cowboys, oh my!

But, like I said, Joss doesn't do shallow. Nothing he creates is is just.

Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself: You can now watch Dr Horrible on MySpace.

Enjoy the ride. :)

28 July 2008

Dark and Orwellian possibilities

Warning: This is a rant.

I have climbed up on this particular soapbox before ... and I can almost guarantee that I will again. Because this keeps happening. And it's still so wrong.

I recently had some "debates" with people who scared me.

I lean to the left on most social issues. The ladies I was conversing with were card-carrying members of the religious right. But it was not just their uber-conservative views that bothered me - Hey, some of my favorite people are Republican.

No, it was their vehement assertions about the First Amendment that scared the hell out of me.

The conversation almost inevitably goes something like this:

First, they tell me that "separation of church and state" is not in the constitution.


Then they imply that the whole concept is some nasty little agenda "made up by the ACLU" and assert the "first amendment card is over-played".


Then they hit me with the topper: "The founding fathers wanted to keep the government out of religion, but they didn't mean to keep religion out of the government."

By the time they get to the "the U.S. Constitution is based on Christian values" rhetoric, I'm pretty much hyperventilating.

They are, of course, downplaying our freedom of speech and bastardizing our freedom of religion in order to argue their religious-based moral and legal superiority - to justify why one religious group should dictate the laws of the land.


Here's the thing: I don't much care what religion you are. As long as you are not hurting anyone, I support your right to think and do and say pretty much whatever you want.

THAT is the point of the First Amendment and all of the laws that spring from it.

The idea that people think their religious doctrine should trump the Constitutional rights of individuals is, well ... downright un-American!

And, to my way of thinking, kind of obscene.

For the record, this is the First Amendment to the US Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

*sigh* Isn't it beautiful?

Okay ... back to my rant:

No, the words "separation of church and state" are not actually in the First Amendment. That phrase was coined by Thomas Jefferson in an 1802 letter to a bunch of Baptist guys in Connecticut.

But the "separation" concept defined by the first amendment is the basis for all laws in this country pertaining to freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom to question our leaders.

These are arguably the most important words ever written pertaining to American government and freedom. How can any adult citizen NOT know them and understand them?!?

We need to teach our children better.

I am deeply saddened and concerned when people take these and other constitutional rights for granted.

But I am even more appalled that there are people who want to take away those rights from people who are different than they are. While they, of course, remain warmly ensconced in their protection.

You can almost see the irony dripping from the text when the religious right uses their Constitutionally guaranteed right to speech to argue that the rights of other people should be limited because of their religious beliefs.

The real irony, though, is that they are completely blind to their own hypocrisy.

The idea that these people vote scares the hell out of me.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" ~ Edmund Burke

24 July 2008

Strong Women Characters

Is it any wonder I love this guy?

[Text below transcribed directly from audio]
Meryl Streep: Mothers are often the vanguard of cultural institutions and transformation and tonight, as well as paying tribute to Joss Whedon and the wonderful female characters that he’s created, we'd like to pay special tribute to his mother, the late Lee Stearns.

It’s nice when children credit their mothers for their success. And, I've heard a lot about Lee, whose radical ideas about women’s strength and independence and passion and empathy inspired Joss to create not only
Buffy the Vampire Slayer but many other strong women characters in Firefly, in Serenity and his other work.

Lee Sterns also inspired the creation of this organization, Equality Now, which was co-founded by
Jessica Neuwirth, one of her -- one of Lee’s, favorite high school students. She would have been very proud of you, Jessica and Joss, for all you’ve done and continue to do, and, her spirit is here with us tonight.

Joss also has an extremely energetic and ubiquitous fan base that’s organized fundraisers across the country for
Equality Now, his super hero’s favorite charity. So it’s my great, great pleasure to introduce our special honoree, Joss Whedon, the wonderful man who's about to bring us Wonder Woman. We commend him for his outstanding contribution to equality in film and television. Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Joss Whedon.

Joss Whedon:

Thank you. I -- I didn’t know when I came here tonight that was going to happen. No, I knew I’d be here, the part about my mother, and -- and I just want to thank Meryl Streep and -- and everybody for -- for speaking so eloquently about her.

I -- I'm surrounded tonight by people of extraordinary courage, and I know a thing or two about courage myself because I read a book with some courage in it one time. And it sounds really like a lot of work so I’ll just keep writing.

I write. The most courageous thing I've ever done is something called a press junket, which is actually pretty courageous, believe me, because they ask you the same questions over and over and over and over and over and over. I've done as many as 48 in a day, these interviews, and they really -- they don’t come up with the fresh stuff.

So, there is one question that I've been asked almost every time I’ve been interviewed. So I thought tonight, briefly, I would share with you one question and a few of my responses. Because, when you're asked something 500 times, you really start to think about the answer. So now, I will become a reporter. It’s going to be amazing, the transformation.

So, Joss, I, a reporter, would like to know, why do you always write these strong women characters?

I think it’s because of my mother. She really was an extraordinary, inspirational, tough, cool, sexy, funny woman and that’s the kind of woman I've always surrounded myself with. It’s my friends, particularly my wife, who is not only smarter and stronger than I am but, occasionally taller too. But, only sometimes, taller. And, I think it -- it all goes back to my mother.

So, why do you write these strong women characters?

Because of my father. My father and my stepfather had a lot to do with it, because they prized whit and resolve in the women they were with above all things. And they were among the rare men who understood that recognizing somebody else’s power does not diminish your own.

When I created Buffy
, I wanted to create a female icon, but I also wanted to be very careful to surround her with men who not only had no problem with the idea of a female leader, but, were in fact, engaged and even attracted to the idea. That came from my father and stepfather -- the men who created this man, who created those men, if you can follow that.

So, why do you create these strong, how you say, the women -- I’m in Europe now, so, it’s very, it’s international -- these -- I don’t know where though -- these strong women characters?

Well, because these stories give people strength, and I've heard it from a number of people, and I've felt it myself, and its not just women, its men, and I think there is something particular about a female protagonist that allows a man to identify with her that opens up something, that he might -- an aspect of himself -- that he might be unable to express -- hopes and desires -- he might be uncomfortable expressing through a male identification figure. So it really crosses across both and I think it helps people, you know, in -- in that way.

So, why do you create these strong women characters?

Cause they’re hot.

But, these strong women characters…

Why are you even asking me this?! This is like interview number 50 in a row. How is it possible that this is even a question? Honestly, seriously, why are you -- why did you write that down? Why do you -- Why aren’t you asking a hundred other guys why they don’t write strong women characters?

I believe that what I am doing should not be remarked upon, let alone honored and there are other people doing it. But, seriously, this question is ridiculous and you just gotta stop.

So, why do you write these strong women characters?

Because equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity, we need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and women who’s confronted with it. We need equality, kinda now.

So, why do you write these strong female characters?

Because you’re still asking me that question.

Thank you very much for including me tonight.

Thank you all.

What I'm Reading

I have always been a voracious reader.

Maybe you can blame my grandmother, who gave me the Complete Works of William Shakespeare when I was just a few days old. :)

But, whatever the reason, it's been a lifelong habit: I have a free minute, you can find my nose buried in a book.

Of course, with two boys under 4, I don't have as much time - or energy! - to read as I used to. But, in addition to "Runaway Bunny" and "Where the Wild Things Are" and other assorted books that I read with the boys each week, I still try to sneak in at least a little bit of adult fare.

Though, I have to admit that lately my choices have been more of the "brain candy" variety than anything really deep and challenging. I just don't have the brain power left over at the end of the day. :)

Anyway, this year - for the first time, ever - I've been keeping a log of books as I finish them. It's been kind of fun.

Here is my list as of today:

Third Watch: Acorna's Children - Anne McCaffrey

Finders Keepers - Linnea Sinclair

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, Book 1) - Patricia Briggs

Plum Lucky (A Between-the-Numbers Novel) - Janet Evanovich

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, Book 1) - Kelley Armstrong

Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson, Book 2) - Patricia Briggs

Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson, Book 3) - Patricia Briggs

An Accidental Goddess - Linnea Sinclair

Gabriel's Ghost - Linnea Sinclair

Beneath the Skin (The Darkwing Chronicles, Book 3) - Savannah Russe

Simple Taoism : A Guide To Living In Balance - Simpkin

The Darkest Evening of the Year - Dean Koontz

Strangers in Death - J.D. Robb

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation - Lynne Truss

Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Kitty Norville, Book 1) - Carrie Vaughn

Kitty Goes to Washington (Kitty Norville, Book 2) - Carrie Vaughn

Hamlet - William Shakespeare

Games of Command - Linnea Sinclair

The Down Home Zombie Blues - Linnea Sinclair

The Outlaw Demon Wails (The Hollows, Book 6) - Kim Harrison

Dead of Night - J.D. Robb, et al

Odd Hours - Dean Koontz

Free Fall (Retrievers, Book 5 - Laura Anne Gilman

No Rest for the Witches - MaryJanice Davidson

Playing With Fire - Gena Showalter

Time And Again: Time Was\Times Change - Nora Roberts

The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of : How Science Fiction Conquered the World - Thomas M Disch

From Dead to Worse (Southern Vampire Mysteries, No. 8) - Charlaine Harris

The Lost Colony (Artemis Fowl, Book 5) - Eoin Colfer

Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie Plum, No. 14) - Janet Evanovich

Zen And the Art of Happiness - Chris Prentiss

Not too shabby, I guess. Though I suspect it is a much shorter list than in previous years. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the year shapes up, since I tend to have more time to read in July and August.

I guess I will post the whole list at the end of the year. :)

23 July 2008

Quote Junkie: Wisdom from the Dalai Lama

If you know me, you know I am a quote a junkie. I like that they make me think.

Today, I feel like thinking on this selection of wisdom from one of my favorite Nobel Peace Prize winners, H.H. The Dalai Lama:

If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis.

We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.

Human potential is the same for all. Your feeling, “I am of no value”, is wrong. Absolutely wrong. You are deceiving yourself. We all have the power of thought - so what are you lacking? If you have willpower, then you can change anything. It is usually said that you are your own master.

We must recognize that the suffering of one person or one nation is the suffering of humanity. That the happiness of one person or nation is the happiness of humanity.

Through violence, you may ’solve’ one problem, but you sow the seeds for another.

As people alive today, we must consider future generations: a clean environment is a human right like any other. It is therefore part of our responsibility toward others to ensure that the world we pass on is as healthy, if not healthier, than we found it.

There is a saying in Tibetan, “Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.”No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.

The creatures that inhabit this earth-be they human beings or animals-are here to contribute, each in its own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world.

In our struggle for freedom, truth is the only weapon we possess.

Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each one of us individually. Peace, for example, starts with each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighbouring communities, and so on. When we feel love and kindness towards others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace. And there are ways in which we can consciously work to develop feelings of love and kindness. For some of us, the most effective way to do so is through religious practice. For others it may be non-religious practices. What is important is that we each make a sincere effort to take our responsibility for each other and for the natural environment we live in seriously.

22 July 2008


I don't like labels.

Well, I like them on my cans and bottles and boxes.

But not on people.

For groceries, labels are great. They give me a lot of useful information and help me make decisions.

For people, they are mostly barriers. They get in between us and make it hard to see each other.
I understand why we use them. Labels can be useful. They can help us to quickly and efficiently communicate information about ourselves to each other. But no label is ever going to accurately and completely describe most people.

I think that - as a culture - we are much too quick to try to fit everyone into convenient little boxes of our own experience.

We label - she's a mom ... he's conservative ... she's Hispanic ... he's gay - and because we know that one thing about a person, we assume other things. And then all of our interactions are colored by those assumptions.

Most people don't fit neatly into the box of our preconceptions. And by slapping a label on someone and leaving it at that, you limit your ability to really get to know them.

You might be a Christian or a Buddhist or an atheist. You might be a teacher or a taxi driver or a Leo. You might be overweight or blond or deaf or vegan. You might have migraines or a tattoo or cancer. You might be a step-parent, a widow, a firefighter, a geek.

But those things are not who you ARE. Those are just bits and pieces of a much bigger picture. You are more than that. You are complex and mysterious and beautiful. Don't sell yourself - or others - short.

If we limit our identities to one - or even a combination - of our myriad labels, we only limit how well we can really know each other.

Before you decide you know who someone is because she is a christian, a southerner, a veteran, a democrat, a stay-at-home mom, etc. ... stop a minute. Peel up that label. Look underneath. Maybe there's someone under there worth knowing.

If you just read the dust jacket and think you know the whole story, you might just be missing out on something really interesting between the pages.

Real people are so much more complex. At least most of them are.

That guy over there might be just a Rosencrantz or a Guildenstern from your perspective. But he is the star of his own story. Maybe if you take a few minutes to learn more about him than just his label ... you might enrich your story.

21 July 2008


I have a fabulous marriage. But, like everybody else, I had "failed" relationships before I made the right match.

Except they weren't "failures". Not at all.

They all ended, yes. And some ended badly. But that doesn't mean they were failures. And it doesn't mean they were wastes of time. Just the opposite, in fact. If it were not for those early relationships, I would not be who I am or where I am today.

I learned a lot about life and love and ME from those "failures".

Some of those lessons were beautiful - like little whispers of happy wisdom laid gently into my psyche. And some tore my heart open, leaving scar tissue that changed my whole perception.

But I'm thankful for both kinds.

I'm thankful for the high school crush who was my first experience with that heart-racing rush of infatuation. He left me breathless and taught me that boys that age are fun, but irresponsible. And that girls that age are over-dramatic. And that love is not really about breathlessness and drama.

I'm so thankful for my first "real" love, who was - before, during and after our brief romance - a true friend. He taught me that love can be playful and tender. And that, when romantic loves ends, it is possible for it to evolve into something even better.

I'm thankful for the college lover who taught me so much about passion ... including the painful lesson that passion alone is not enough to sustain a relationship.

I'm thankful for the ones who showed me my own boundaries - the places I would and would not go for love.

I'm thankful for my platonic men friends. They taught me that not every relationship with the opposite sex has to be about sex or romance. I especially appreciate the few men friends I have with whom I can joke and flirt and be myself without worrying they might take things the wrong way.

I'm thankful for the ones who taught me that sometimes men can be sweet and charming and nice ... and still break your heart.

That's a tough lesson to learn: That not everyone who hurts you is evil. Sometimes there is no "bad guy" ... just very bad decisions.

I think I might be most thankful for the men who hurt me. Who used me. Who lied to me. Who cheated on me. Who betrayed my trust. They helped me realize some of the most valuable lessons of all.

Between them, all of these men taught me balance. The balance between protecting your heart and opening your heart to the possibilities of love. And they taught me to recognize what love IS and what love ISN'T.

And those lessons paid off for me: I am now married to the love of my life and I couldn't be happier.

I could have walked away from these "failed" relationships learning nothing ... or learning the wrong things. I could have become jaded. I could have fostered hatred in my heart. I could have given in to despair or anger. I could look back with regret.

But I chose - and continue to choose - to see the good. To be thankful.

Even for the scars.

18 July 2008

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

This is a public service announcement:

Just because you read it on the Internet doesn't mean it's true.

Just because your sister's husband's friend's cousin forwards an email doesn't mean it's accurate.

Just because someone wrote about it in their blog doesn't mean it's the whole story.

Seriously, people need to read more critically. Check your sources. Do a tiny bit of research. In most case, it only takes a few minutes to confirm the validity of that email from Aunt Martha.

Here, I'll help. This is one good online resource for debunking urban myths: http://www.snopes.com/

There are others.

As a former newspaper reporter, I find myself lamenting what I see as a sad decline in American journalism. In J-school, I was taught that it was the job of the reporter to be accurate, complete and unbiased. I don't see that much anymore.

I could write a whole dissertation on the cause and effect of the decline of those journalistic values. One of the key factors, though, is that the news is increasingly complex and people's attention spans are increasingly short.

And then there is the web. Today, anyone with a modem can publish "news". The end result is that the consumer needs to take more and more personal responsibility for being an informed citizen.

Which is bad. Because so many people are lazy. And it's easier to just take what we are being fed rather than go out and hunt down the truth for ourselves.

It's the web-news phenomenon that concerns me most, I think. All you have to do is Google a few keywords to pull up several "articles" on any hot topic.

The problem is that too many web-surfers just blindly accept the first "news" they find on a subject without even considering the source and it's possible biases. Or worse, they seek out their favorite "news" source - which is a group or organization that shares their own bias and agenda.

I know that it is getting harder and harder to find unbiased news sources. In fact, I find that the "truth" is usually to be found hiding somewhere between the rhetoric on each side.

But I wish more people would TRY to be informed consumers. Be a skeptical reader. Find independent confirmation. Look at more than one side of an issue. Take responsibility rather than just taking as gospel whatever the television - or computer - shows you.

I am so tired of the emails that further urban myths and political propaganda and intentional misinformation. It's sad how many things I've seen just THIS WEEK that were outright lies.

I'm appalled at how many sheeple out there don't even bother to THINK before they just blithely pass things along. If it matches their preconceptions and sounds even remotely plausible, they just hit "forward".

Criminitly, people. Have some pride. If you are going to put your name on something, make sure it's accurate and not just convenient.

17 July 2008

It's not easy being green

I sometimes think I must be the only person in my entire town who uses re-usable shopping bags, judging by the responses of local store clerks.

The other day, I stopped to pick up a few items at Wal-Mart. I gave the clerk my little shopping bag and asked her to please put my items in it. After she finished giving me the deer-in-headlights look that I've come to expect, she took the bag.

I busied myself with getting my wallet, giving the baby a snack cracker, keeping my toddler from running off, getting my wallet out of my purse, etc. while she was ringing up the items.

I paid for my purchases and reached for my bag ... to find that she had put my items into plastic bags and then out the plastic bags into my reusable shopping bag.


I was speechless. Really. It was my turn for the deer-in-headlights look. I didn't know whether to laugh or to be so, so, sad.

I know. Some people are going to say that's what I get for shopping at Wal-Mart. But - while this was an extreme example - I swear I get funny looks and responses all the time when I pull out my "green" bags.

This is what I get for living in uber-conservative-ville. I know Californians have a reputation for being liberal. But I think I live in the most "right"- socially and politically - area of the entire left coast.

When I am in San Francisco or Sacramento or even some areas in SoCal, nobody looks at me funny for trying to be a more "green" consumer. In fact, my favorite stores EXPECT me to bring my own bag. And they don't look at me funny when I ask whether a product is organic or was made in China or was grown locally.

But, around here, people look at you like you've just grown a second head if you do those things. And if you start talking about carbon footprints or environmental responsibility, they back away slowly ... like "crazy liberal hippie chick" is contagious. Sometimes, I wish it was.

I'm not the "greenest" person out there. But I try to do little things in my home and my life that are healthy for my family and our world. And around here that makes me a little green fish out of water.

And I swear sometimes I feel like I am being strangled by the uber-right mentality of my town. Politics, religion, the environment, civil rights ... I am usually the minority opinion on just about every social topic around here. It's usually just not even worth it to have the conversation.


There are a lot of great things about my town. But, somedays, I just ACHE to move somewhere where the people are just a little bit more ... like me.

15 July 2008

Five things

Five random things I've done that other people probably haven't:

1) Been on a game show.

I was a contestant on "Win Ben Stein's Money" on Comedy Central. It was a lot of fun. I beat the other contestants to earn the chance to go up against Ben "mano-a-mano" in the "Best of Ten Test of Knowledge". Ben - super smarty pants that he is - beat me by two questions. But I had a blast :)

2) Worked as a newspaper reporter

My degree is in journalism and I worked as a professional newspaper reporter for 5 years.

3) Participated in archery competitions.

My dad taught my brother and me how to shoot when we were kids. We competed in some tournaments and such when I was in junior high/high school.

4) Broke my leg running from a werewolf

My second date with a guy I knew in college: He surprised me by taking me to local "haunted forest" attraction where people in spooky costumes jump out at you randomly. Little did he know that having spooky things jump out at me is pretty high on my least-favorite-things list.

But I was a trooper. I got a death grip on his arm, pressed myself up against him so tight you couldn't see light between us (hmmm, that was probably part of his plan, eh?), clenched my teeth and braved the spooks.

About a 1/4 of the way through, a werewolf jumps out of a bush right next to me. I scream, jump backwards, trip over a root ... and hear an ominous snapping sound as I hit the ground.

They carried me out of the forest, whisked me off in an ambulance to the nearest emergency room, and declared that I had broken a bone in my ankle. Ouch. I never did see the rest of the haunted forest. But the werewolf came to visit me at the emergency room. :)

5) Been inside a burning building - on purpose

When I was a reporter, one of my favorite stories was one I did about the local fire academy. The Fire Captain heading the course let me spend a bit of time "shadowing" the fire cadets, including doing a "live burn" exercise with them.

I got all suited - turnouts, boots, helmet, mask, air tank, etc. - and "fought fire" alongside the cadets. Of course, being a "civilian", I had my own personal firefighter chaperone right next to me the whole time. But it was still a pretty amazing experience.

We were actually in the living room of the (abandoned) house when they set it on fire. We crouched down and breathed through our respirators as we observed how the fire traveled - fast! - through the house. Then, once the smoke filled the room so thick we could barely see each other, we all crawled out of the burning building. Outside, I got to help man a hose as we learned how and where to best attack the fire.

I was sweaty and dirty and I smelled like char and smoke for a week. But it was a really interesting and unique experience.

14 July 2008

A Good Day

Things I did NOT do today:
  • Go to work
  • Do laundry
  • Wash dishes
  • Pay bills
  • Vacuum
  • Mop
  • Make beds

Things I DID to today:

  • Put together a puzzle
  • Danced around the living room
  • Shared a fudgsicle
  • Built a block city
  • Knocked down a block city
  • Built another block city
  • Kissed an owie
  • Read a pirate book
  • Defended the living room from bad pirates
  • Attacked by an alligator
  • Rocked my baby to sleep
  • Kissed my toddler awake
  • Played peek-a-boo
  • And tickle monster
  • Swam in the pool
I think it was a pretty good day.

Yeah, there are still clothes to be washed and dishes to be done and rooms to be cleaned. But I seriously doubt that anyone lies on their deathbed and wishes they had spent more time with their dishes.

12 July 2008


I wasn't feeling very "zen" yesterday. In fact, I was pretty upset.

I can't remember the last time I was this upset. (If any male-type folks suggest that it was about 28 days ago - I WILL verbally emasculate you.)

Anyway, I was very grumpy last night. Why? Because I didn't get my way.

I know. Mature, huh?

The reader's digest version of events: I wanted something. I couldn't have it. It sucked.

Instead of taking it in stride, I got decided to get angry and feel sorry for myself. It wasn't a conscious decision. But it was a decision, nonetheless.

I don't want things for myself very often. I always put my kids and my family first - with no regrets. Because I am the Mommy. That is my job. And my joy.

I think what made me so frustrated about THIS instance was that I COULD have had what I wanted - if I was willing to be just a little bit selfish and irresponsible. But I don't do that. Because I am the Mommy.

So, I did what I always do ... the right thing. *sigh* Sometimes it's hard being a grown-up.

I feel better about it today. But I'm still a bit out of sorts. Still feeling that "life is not fair" vibe. Which is silly, I know. Because life is NOT "fair" ... Life just is.

The Buddha would say that my unhappiness is caused by my desires.

Lao Tzu would say my unhappiness is caused by struggling against the way things are.

Shakespeare (via Hamlet) would say that "nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

All true.

But what kept running through my head last night as I lay awake WAY past my normal bedtime were the words of author and mom Vivian Glyck: "Expectations are the enemy of happiness."

That was my problem. I was stuck in an unhappy loop caused by the disconnect between my expectations and my reality.

As much as I want to blame somebody else for my bad mood, I know it was really just me. I control my thoughts. And my thoughts control my life. Outside influences are irrelevant.

Happiness is a choice. I was making the wrong choice.

I had set up expectations for what "should" be. Then things didn't turn out the way I wanted them to be. Instead of accepting the reality and finding the good in it, I fought against it, making myself unhappy.

The universe does not make mistakes. If what I think "should be" does not match up with what IS ... well, the universe is not going to change. So I need to.

Because railing at the universe about things I cannot control is a not a good use of my time.

Open your hand. Look at your palm.

We can choose to spend our time thinking about all of the things we DON'T have to fill that hand ... or we can choose to be thankful for the strength and beauty and usefulness of that hand.

If you obsess about how things SHOULD be ... you miss out on the great happiness to be found in the way things ARE.

I KNOW this. But, some days it can be harder than others to LIVE it.

06 July 2008

Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson:

"My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence,empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

All These Things I've done

Got this from a friend. BOLD the things you've done. Try it. It's fun. :)

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you could afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and didn’t care who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a super-hero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Gone River Rafting
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Gotten flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children (in the process)
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Passed out cold
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Para-sailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

04 July 2008

Marriage in California

So, the California Supreme Court has ruled that denying gays the right to marry is unconstitutional.

I agree.

I don't get why some people get so upset about gay marriage. I'm still waiting for just ONE rational explanation, though I've heard a whole lot of irrational ones:

"It will damage the sanctity of marriage."

Um, how? My marriage is going great, thanks. If the gay couple down the street decides to tie the knot next month, my marriage will still be going great. Unless you or someone you love is gay, I can't see how this affects you at all.

I don't like liver and onions. I find it offensive in the extreme. But I have no problem with people eating it in their own home. Doesn't affect my dinner. Same concept.

"This will open the door to polygamy and the next thing you know people will want to marry their cats and their toasters."

Hmph. Aside from being REALLY insulting, this argument, too, is bunk. First, because this does not "open the door" to anything other than what it is: Ending the discrimination of gays when it comes to the legal contract of marriage. Unless cats and toasters are granted citizenship and the ability to offer legal consent, I don't think you have a lot to worry about.

As for polygamy - I actually feel the same legal standard should apply. I have no personal interest in polygamy, but if that is what works for some consenting adults, then the state really should stay out of it. But, the bottom line is that this is not about any of those things. It is only about gay marriage. One step at a time.

"God hates homosexuality." or "Homosexuality is a sin."

That's nice. So what? In this country we have a separation of church and state. If your religion wants to deny a religious ceremony to a gay couple, it has that right. But the STATE does NOT have the luxury of bigotry. Under the law, marriage is a contract. The state cannot stop a consenting adult from entering into a contract based solely on his or her sexual orientation.

"They can have a civil union, they don't need a marriage."

Oh, gee thanks. Shall we have separate drinking fountains and bathrooms and bus seats, too? Yeah, that separate but equal thing didn't work 60 years ago, it's not gonna fly now. And what a stupid argument. You can have everything but the name ... "marriage" is "our" word, you can't have it, neener, neener, neener. Pfft. Ridiculous. In that case, let's just change all "marriages" to a "civil unions", please. Oh, what's that? The legal rights aren't actually the same? Ah. Guess it's not all that separate but equal, after all.

"Biology indicates that unions between man and woman are the "natural" way of things."

Hmmmm. This one SOUNDS rational. But it's still bunk. Homosexuality IS. It exists. It has existed for a long time. It's going to keep on existing. If you think it's unnatural, you need to take it up with mother nature, because she keeps cranking it out.

And for those who throw out the "it's a choice, not biology" argument: First, you are wrong. And second, even if you were right - so what? Doesn't change the fact that people ARE gay. And it doesn't change the fact that they are being denied their civil rights based on that. Which is wrong. And, oh yeah, they tried THIS argument in the 60s, too.

"Marriage is for having children."

This is so stupid, I don't even want to address it. So infertile or childless-by-choice couple should just go jump, huh? Idiots.

Nope. Not one valid argument to justify this denial of civil liberties.

The only possible way I can see that homosexuality in the abstract could bother you is in your own mind: "I don't like it; don't make me acknowledge it; it makes me uncomfortable."

Get over it. It's not hurting you.

Seriously, how does it "hurt" you? How does it "threaten you" or "threaten America"? How does it even AFFECT you?

There are many SERIOUS problems in our society today that actually DO threaten our lives, our security, our collective future. Instead of focusing on what consenting adults do in their bedrooms or who someone else chooses to love, how about redirecting some of that energy where it can do some real good?

I support gay marriage because I support civil rights and I support the separation of church and state. And I support the idea of as little government intrusion as possible into it’s citizens lives - a value the Republican party USED to hold up as well. Irony, eh?

I do believe that, in the long run, we will outgrow this “separate but equal” mentality and learn to accept people who are different. I just hope it is sooner rather than later. I want my kids to grow up in a country that truly is about freedom for everyone.

"The delusion that one's sexual pattern is The Only Right Way To Be is probably the single most common sexual-psychosis syndrome of this era, and it is virtually almost always the victim's fault. You cannot acquire this delusion by observing reality."
~ Spider Robinson

The Emperor's Club

I saw a wonderful movie a while back: "The Emperor's Club" starring Kevin Kline, who I happen to think is a fabulous actor. I highly recommend that everyone watch this movie. It is based on the book "The Palace Thief" and it has a great message.

For those who have not seen it, it is the story of an ancient history teacher - Mr. Hundert - at a boy's school in the late 1960s. He believes that it is the teacher's job not just to inform his students, but to mold their character.

Here are a few of the ideas he tries to impart to his students:

"Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, drunkenness sobered, but STUPID lasts forever." ~ (attributed to Aristophanes)

"It is not living that is important, but living rightly" ~ (attributed to Socrates)

"Great ambition and conquest, without contribution, is without significance. What will be your contribution? How will history remember you?" ~ Mr. Hundert

"As I have grown older, I realized that I am certain of only two things: Any morning that begins rowing on the lake is better that one that doesn't, and, a man's character is his fate." ~ Mr. Hundert

"A worth of a life is not measured by a single success or a solitary failure." ~ Mr. Hundert

03 July 2008

People are stupid.

I had this epiphany one Wednesday: People are stupid.

Now, I know, you’re saying "But, zen, (you can call me zen, ‘cause we’re all friends here) this is not really an epiphany. You knew that all along."

But it WAS an epiphany. Because what I knew on Tuesday was "There are stupid people." What I realized on that Wednesday is "People are stupid." There’s a difference. And nothing has been the same since.

Before Wednesday, I met people who – as my grandma would say - “haven’t got the sense God gave little green apples”. But I thought they were a minority. Before Wednesday, I walked around with the bar set higher. I would meet someone and assume they were intelligent.

But after that Wednesday … I realize that it is much safer to assume someone is stupid until it is proven otherwise. After Wednesday, I understand “smart” is the exception, NOT the default. To be honest, that scares the hell out of me - especially when I think about the fact that I live in a country where “majority rules”.

While I do consider myself one of the “smart” ones, I want to head off at the pass one argument I can already see coming … This realization about the condition of mankind does not make me happy. This realization is not ego-boosting for me. I’m not saying, “I’m smarter than everybody else, nyah, nyah, nyah.”

Despite my recent realization about the breadth and depth of human stupidity, I also know that there are a heck of a lot of people out there who are a heck of a lot smarter than me. My disappointed realization, though, is that they are massively outnumbered by the woefully ignorant.

My sound-bite definition of smart: Someone who knows they are ignorant and wants to fix that. Smart is not necessarily “book learnin’” - the smartest person I know does not have a college degree. One of the dumbest people I know has a doctorate.

This is crucial, so pay attention: A lack of education does not necessarily make one stupid. But a lack of desire to improve your mind, does.

I should point out that I do know an awful lot of smart people. If you want to meet a few, check out my “Friends”. But the sad truth is, we are outnumbered.

But there was a second part to my realization: You can’t fix stupid.

Therein lies the upside! You can’t fix stupid. You can’t educate the willfully ignorant. You can’t enlighten the deliberately obtuse. And THAT realization is liberating.

I used to get frustrated – angry even – when I had to deal with exceptionally stupid people. I would try so hard to help them see what was so clear to me. I would use all of my passion and skill to try to educate them. I would beat my fists against the walls of their ignorance until I was too exhausted to go on. And then I would be upset that I couldn’t “fix” them.

Fast-forward to now. I have a much healthier outlook. You cannot change other people, you can only change yourself. The truth is that the ONLY things any of us can control are our own thoughts – “control” of anything else is just an illusion.

So I don’t try to “fix” people anymore. I don’t try to change the opinion of someone who doesn’t really want to open her mind to new ideas.

That's not to say that I don’t voice my opinion. I’m just as passionate in my beliefs as ever. I still love a good argument. I still thrill at an intelligent debate. I’ve even been known to romp gleefully through a stupid rant, just for fun. If you have an opinion that is different than mine and you want to bat it around for a while, bring it on!

The difference now, is that I don’t get angry. I don’t let people get to me. I don’t take their stupidity personally. My epiphany set me free of my frustration. I’m centered. I'm zen.

So, now I just ask myself: Is this fight worth my most valuable commodity - my time? We only have so many hours on this planet. Do I want to spend some of those precious minutes fighting this fight? Will it be productive? Will it be stimulating? Will I be exposed to new ideas? Will I get to explore and express my own ideas? Will it be fun?

If the answer is no, I move on. If the answer is yes, I dive in head first and indulge myself. Because now that I am not worried about “fixing” people, I agree with Robert Heinlein: “It's an indulgence to sit in a room and discuss your beliefs as if they were a juicy piece of gossip.”

*This random rambling was brought to you by a friend who inspired me with her “Picking your Battles” blog – and tooooo many cups of really good Kona coffee.*

02 July 2008

Library Day

Around here, "Saturday" has been replaced by "Library Day". :)

I enrolled Riley in the local library's Summer Reading Program and we've been having a blast. At the end of each week, he is so excited about "Library Day".

He and I go to the library together every Saturday and pick out three or four books for the week. Our goal is to read at least 5-7 books each week. Then, on the next Satruday, we write down the titles of all of the books we've read that week and we take the list back to the Library.

For meeting his weekly reading goal, he gets to pick a "prize" from the "treasure chest" at the library. They are just little plastic tinkets and doo-dads, but he gets so excited that he has "earned" a "prize" each week. He picks out something special and then can't wait to show Daddy when we get home.

Our visits to the library are a lot of fun. He loves picking out new books. He also likes to check on the fish in the tanks in the kids section - including "Nemo" and "Dory" in the big salt water tank.

I wish I had thought to keep a copy of our weekly reading lists for myself, but I haven't. Maybe I should start doing that this week. It might be fun to look back at what we've read.

So far, we've read about pirates, dragons, astronauts, Atlantis, bears, hens, rats, gators ... it's been terribly exciting.

Some books he wants to read over and over again. Others he's done with after one go-through. Sometimes I read them to him and then he "reads" them back to me.

Griffin doesn't usually have the patience to sit through a whole book - unless he gets to chew on it. But he's been getting better about sitting on Mommy's lap while I read to them.

We supplement the library books with the boy's personal library (which is quite well stocked, actually, thanks to their bibliophile mom.)

Some of Riley's current favorites from the home collection are "The Poky Little Puppy", "Runaway Bunny", "The Incredibles", "Whose Mouse are You?" and "Blues Sleepover". Griffin likes the animal-matching book "Who is My Mother?".

And, of course, Riley loves the "Prince Riley" stories that his dad and I take turns making up at bedtime. Griffin prefers a lullaby before bed.

Hopefully, we are starting good reading habits that will last them both a lifetime. But, in the meantime, we are having a lot of fun.

Now if only I could find the time to read some of MY books. My "to read" pile next to the bed is starting to get dangerously high. :)