Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve Ruminations

The year started with such promise: A new president and one I worked hard to elect, and a new majority in Congress, sadly none of them from Utah.  Yes, there was all the horrendous economic news, but we knew that at the very tail end of the eight horrible Bush years.  So, no matter how bad the job market is, you only have GWBush to blame for that.  It will be a slow slog to get out of that one, espeicially if the Republicans stonewall repowering the country with new Green jobs.  The party of NO seems to want us all to suffer a few years longer so they can blame the suffering on President Obama. I hope we're not so stupid as to let them get away with that one.

Sadly for me this year will be defined by the loss of my friend, Zelita.  Everything about her illness and death was shocking.  So I remain in a state of sad shock. I'm not the sort of woman to have scads of friends and losing my closest friend leaves a hole in my life that will leave the grament of my dialy life in tatters.  Her death has left me feeling old and frail, as if at any moment, I could be the next to go.  I've always assumed I'd die young.  But now I'm old.  How did that happen?

But on the good news side, my only male friend, Nick is taking me to see the new Clooney move next week, and my friend Tracy, who lives three houses up the street, is taking me to lunch at one of our favorite Mexican Diners next week.  I am not without friends.  And then there are those of you who've been stopping by for the past couple of years and though I may never see you in real life, I count you as my friends.

We've had a gawd awful month of sub-freezing temperatures and inversions creating dangerous air quality in Salt Lake, but today is gorgeous.  It snowed all night and all day yesterday, but this morning is sunny and air is clear again.

But the best news of all for me is that I've finished writing the novel, which I've re-titled The Narcissist.  I did a major rewrite.  Now I just need to do a readthrough to see if it's clean and free of typos or odd tense changes.  Then it's on to writing a query letter.  So, all in all, I'm starting the new year hopeful, and that's amazing in itself.


Happy New Year to all of you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Snarly Marly Taking the Morning Sun


This is where Marly hangs out right after having her breakfast. Every morning that's sunny this is where you'll find Miss Marly

Dog Love


Roscoe loves groming Cyrus.  Cyrus rarely leaves his bed so Roscoe leans over my bed and gives the top of Cyrus' head a good lick.  Cyrus seems to greatly enjoy these sessions.  Who am I to judge?  Love knows no gender.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Wrapping Up the Holidays

It's been a very trying holiday season.  My best friend died just before Thanksgiving.  It was very hard to find anything to be thankful for.

I lost a tenant the last day of November, so December has been a month of scarcity. If I'm going to be able to finish paying property taxes and utilities this next month, I'm going to have to get a loan.  And the weather has been dreadful.  The temperatures have remained below 25 degrees for our highs most of the past month.  We are sitting in a bowl of worsening air quality each day the temperatures stay that low.  We are close to 0 degrees every night.  It's too cold to walk dogs and the air is dangerous to breathe.  The elderly (that would be me) and those with chronic conditions (that would also be me) are warned to stay indoors.  The dogs and I are getting cabin fever. 

Today I have to make a grocery run or the dogs will be out of food.  So like it or not, I have to scrape ice off my car and hope to hell it starts, and like it or not, I have to scrape up some money for dog food.  Fortunately when times were not quite so dire I put some things in the freezer.  I'm slowly emptying it out.  I qualify for food stamps, but haven't the energy or gumption to jump through the hoops necessary to actually get them.  Maybe I can talk someone into helping me navagate the food stamp paperwork, the standing in line, the having to tell my hard luck story.  It's awful being down and out.  Well, maybe not "out" quite yet.  I'm pissed off about so many things I can do nothing about, but I have been able to use this time to write.

I have visited a few of you over the last few days and found that most of you are making the best of difficult times.  Maybe I'll learn something new this year that will make coping one of the tools in my skill set. 

And Cyrus is just maintaining.  He keeps getting abscesses but I'm just keeping him on antibiotics so they don't get quite so horrifying.  Aside from the abscesses he still has a good apatite and still manages to haul himself out of bed to go outside at least three times a day.  But Cyrus's days are numbered.  I see that.  I just don't want to think about it.

The one bright sopt in this bleak picture is the novel.  I have embarked on rewriting the novel in a whole new way and it's working.  I can see the finish line and I think I'll be ready to begin grappling with a query letter sometime in January.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Suzanne Horne, Bipolar Artist, Killed Herself Last Christmas Eve, 12/24/08


This is Suzanne Horne
I did not know Suzanne, but she gave me two awards. I didn't deserve them. She was so beautiful. Her site, Liquid Illusion, was stunningly gorgeous. It was sumptuous. Languid. Lovely. I could have been kinder, more generous, encouraging, but I did not know... And I think I should have.

I have been visiting her vacant, abandoned site obsessively this evening. I go back to look at her loveliness over and over. She was a poet, but I didn't comment often. I admired her, but I did not tell her enough. I know I couldn't have saved her, but I could have been kinder. I could have been generous with my words. She was a very talented photographer. She deserved more of life than this. She killed herself on Christmas Eve. A woman in her prime. Only forty two.

These are her words

Because:
If I have been a bad girl..........
It may well have depended on the situation at hand.
If I have acted out in a bad way......
I'm sure you know the conditions I was forced to act under.
If I was sneaky........
You'll know I had no choice in the matter.
(No rules in love and war, right?)
If I had bad thoughts dancing in my head.........
like really bad thoughts.....
you'll notice I didn't act upon those.
I just allowed them to dance for awhile.
If I was naughty.............
I was good at it.
No complaints.
Just requests for more.
If I seemed cruel and heartless...........
I just evened the score!
If you see me dressed somewhat like you on Christmas Eve.......
Please take no personal offense.
Consider it a "treat" for someone who has been REALLY good.
Oh, and if you saw me dip the cat's feet in red paint and toss her onto the trampoline.....
Well, you've got me there!
Love,
Liquid

These are the words of Suzanne Horne, Liquid Illusion

In Memory of Suzanne Horn, Liquid Illusion

Suzanne was a blogger who wrote lovely poetry and was a photographer with an incredible eye.  She was beautiful.  She had children.  She was bipolar, and like so many of us, had a hard time dealing with Christmas.  She killed herself Christmas Eve last year.  It was about this time last year I found out about Suzanne's death, so it's now I think about her, like a lovely melody I can't quite name, or a line of poetry I can't quite place.  I will always think of her during the holidays, and like many of you, I'll always wonder if there was something I could have said or done that could have kept her with us.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Thrill Is Gone, But I'm Still Editing



One of these days I'll be through with this god damned book. But until that time, unless I really need to get something off my chest, I'll be back at Word trying to put this book to bed. I lost one chapter writing on blogger so, for now, I'm elsewhere. Then I'll be agonizing about a query letter or a cover letter or a bit of biographical information. That's when it will really get hard.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Xmas Depression

I'm sleeping twelve hours a night, if you call the hours between 8:00 and noon part of the night. I hate Xmas and more so this year than most. I lost my best friend November 18th. I have another friend who has MS and needs help with errands. My old dog Cyrus has had a series of abscesses on his muzzle that scare me and make me think he isn't long for this world. Now he's on a mega dose of antibiotics that might keep the next abscess at bay as it heals the last one. I'm typing with my fingers crossed.

I've lost a tenant and Ms M and I are having a hard time finding a replacement. This has cut my income in half for December, but nobody told my creditors my income isn't what it used to be. I'm living $500 dollars beneath the poverty level. I qualify for food stamps but I'm too depressed to make the effort to jump through the bureaucratic hoops to get them. Filling out forms seems to be one of the things my brain is no longer able to do without a helper. Waiting in line with other depressed and poor people is more than I can handle right now. I'm old in a way that shocks me. My body tells me so every early AM when I have to get out of bed and hobble to the bathroom. I walk like the very old, shuffling along with every joint aching.

I've always hated Xmas. It was the one holiday my atheist parents seemed to take special pleasure in fucking up for me. I always think of the Charlie Brown cartoons where Lucy holds the football for Charlie to kick and then pulls the football away at the last second when I think of the way my mother dealt with Xmas wishes. She would insist on my naming the thing I wanted. Early on it required dictating a letter to Santa, and I would wake to find that Santa felt the thing I wanted wasn't possible that year. No tricycle this year. No doll, no Teddy bear, no, no, no. There was always a reason Santa wouldn't make my wish come true, and it had nothing to do with my being bad. Santa had philosophical reasons for denying my wishes. By the time I was six I found out there was no Santa, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy, and it was my mother who wanted to make sure I got the point that my dreams would never come true as long as she was in charge of fulfilling wishes. But for god's sake do not neglect thanking her profusely and with convincing sincerity for the new underwear or the new winter coat, whatever it was I needed. This was where I got my acting chops. I learned to fake gratitude. I learned to fake a lot of things. And I began to dread all events that required gift giving and I never trusted hope.

This kind of conditioning lasts. It sets up a biochemical event in the brain. All relationships become substitutes for the one who made it a tradition to hurt, disappoint, and require fake gratitude. Now receiving gifts just makes me feel unworthy and guilty or sad. I have, over the years, begged friends to please, please, please not give me Xmas gifts. Perhaps I am depriving them of an opportunity to express their joy in the season, but I feel nothing but guilt that I haven't matched or surpassed their impulse to give. And frankly, Xmas the retail holiday, just makes me tired. I've worked in retail sales. Believe me, there is no other holiday that's harder on sales people who are trying to help you desperate hordes shopping at the last minute to find one perfect gift for Xmas. It's not their fault you waited until all the good stuff is gone.

We were a middle class family. Poverty wasn't ever the reason wishes weren't granted. It was my mother's own brand of tough love. It was her belief that granting wishes spoiled the child. In reality it was the perfect way to make every celebratory event something to dread. So here we are sixty years later and this well-learned dread still grips me. Merry Xmas. Just don't expect a gift.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bad Mothers

I saw the movie Precious this past Thursday with Nick. I came out of the theatre sobbing and when I calmed down enough to tell Nick that yes, the performances were stunning and powerful, but it was my resemblance to Precious, the wounded child, that made me so sad, my experience of childhood in an upper middle class white family of extremely attractive people, where I was a sexual object at six for my mother's husband, my adoptive father, son of a well known surgeon, member of the Country Club, where no one saw the pain, the isolation, the destruction going on in full view of everyone. Nothing ever disturbed my families picture perfect outward appearance, but my parents pathology certainly did create madness in me. They did pass it on. I was not impregnated by my father, but if I had been, my grandfather would have quietly made that little problem go away. It was an educational opportunity that got me out of my family home when I was seventeen, a bit like Precious, only I got to skip my senior year of high school and go to the University of Utah and live in the dorms. Otherwise I'd have probably been a run-away living on the streets of San Francisco.

A lot of men think the stories of my childhood are hyperbolic and too lurid to be believable. I promise you that when I was in group therapy in Santa Barbara in a group of fifteen women who all had been sexually abused as children, some of us had children who had also been sexually abused, we were all white. Some of us were the well educated progeny of well off parents, but the cost to each of us had been sanity, safety, any sence of security, a profound saddness, and a series of suicide attempts. Many of these women had lives far more brutal than mine, yet we all felt worthless.

I'm writing a novel about the life of one such woman. You know what they say: write about what you know. So that's what I'm doing. If writing my story makes only one woman feel less alone, I'll feel like a success.

A woman I greatly admire, Melissa Harris Lacewell, has written an article for The Nation called Bad Black Mothers. I think it's important to our understanding of each other that we pay close attention to all these stories. The one thing they all have in common is the bad or absent father who is never mentioned, never blamed for the aftermath, never suffers the real consequences for the destruction he causes. No, we as a society blame the mother and/or the child. More of our famous Family Values.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Family Values

Every time I hear someone on the Right claim that their political party is all about “Family Values,” I want to scream, “Whose Family?” Certainly not mine. Family Values is “Christian” code for “Exclusion.” Like “Pro-Life” is code for “Anti-Choice.” Embedded in the code of “Family Values” is the idea that there is only one “right” kind of family.

Since the 1950’s the family has undergone radical change. We are mobile and very often live far from extended families. There are now blended families, which have evolved over the past fifty some years, and now children may have more than one “mother” or “father.” Children today may have more than two sets of grandparents. They may have aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews from marriages that ended in divorce and began anew with new marriages to people who already had children from their past marriages. It is a little like the polygamist marriages so common in Mormonism. After awhile it becomes difficult to sort out who is a cousin or an aunt or a niece to whom. And so it seems to me that “Family Values” is a meaningless term, merely code for “no marriage benefits for gay couples.” I don’t know a single family today, with it’s multiple marriages, and all the children raised in these temporary marriages, that does not have at least one gay child within it. This fact implies that we don’t love all our children equally. That some of our children do not deserve the legal rights and privileges that our other children deserve. And this is a Christian value? If it is, then Christianity has undergone the same kind of radical shift in “values” that is apparent in all families.

Fundamentalist Christians believe the word of God, as set down in the Bible, is absolutely the “Truth.” If this line of thinking is taken to it’s logical conclusion, we would be stoning adulterers, we would be literally taking an eye for an eye. I would be able to say to any “Christian” who complains about the content of our mass media, “If thine eyes offend thee, pluck them out,” and would have a reasonable expectation that there would be a lot of one eyed “Christians” walking around out there. Women are exhorted from almost every pulpit in the land to “obey” their husbands, who are the moral authority, the rulers of their families. They seem to believe that it is their right (these old white men) to take away my rights as well a the legal rights of every female and gay person. They are about to strip our reproductive rights in the guise of Healthcare Reform. The Stupak Amendment and the Nelson Amendment are designed to make it impossible for women to make the choice to terminate a pregnancy. This has been a legal right since Roe versus Wade. If they succeed in taking away my rights as a woman, then they can take away your rights as an African American, and your rights as a Latin American, and your rights as a………. Where will this end? It will end in fascism. We will have no rights at all.

Al Frankin Schools Senator Thune on Healthcare Reform

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Who Are We

Identity is a complex process of often painful evolution. But we have developed over the short span of eight years an identity, as a nation in a world of other nations, as bullies and thugs. That is a big part of the Bush Legacy. Thank you Carl Rove, thank you Vice President Chenney, thank you Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Condoleezza Rice, and Alberto Gonzales. I could go on and on with the kudos, but if you’d been paying the slightest attention over the eight long Bush years, you know the cast of characters. Second raters, one and all. Mean and greedy. It’s hard for me to believe that these people all had reasonable credentials—good schools, a history of public service, business, law. What happened along the way that made them all so cynical and mean and greedy? What was in it for them besides wealth? Is wealth enough of an incentive to work so hard to wreck a country? Did they plan the economic collapse when it seemed a woman or a black man would be taking over to lead the sinking ship of state? Was the banking collapse a well improvised explosive devise planted to sabotage and guarantee failure for their successor? And did Dick Chenney always plan to stick around and needle the next administration?

We are learning things about ourselves and our government that are horrifying to me. That C Street has been doing its subversive secret work since the 1930s directing the legislative agenda of Congressmen, both Democrat and Republican, is only now becoming widely known. That we became torturers and that conservatives (both Republican and Democrat) believe this is a good thing is profoundly depressing. That lobbyists for corporate America are driving the agenda and funding the conservatives of both parties to stop reform of our Healthcare and Financial Industries and just might well succeed, and indeed have succeeded in keeping reform from happening at all, makes me want to leave this country and live in a country less enamored of greed and repression, less invested in fundamentalist religious doctrines, less willing to strip women of rights long ago fought for and won.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Christmas Nazi

Mom met Andrew in 1981 when he came to pick me up for our blind date. Her pronouncement on him later that night, after he'd delivered me to my door was, "What an arrogant son-of-a-bitch."

The first time he came to pick me up, when his kids were visiting for that first summer, she made a point of saying, "Good thing you've got girls. I can't stand little boys." Thank God, he'd left the girls in the car. We were utterly speechless, and simply left. The girls liked me, and after dinner and the movie, the girls invited me to come home with them and sleep over. I accepted. When I called Mom from Andrew's to tell her not to worry, I was sleeping over, she said, "I thought you were both very rude to me when you left. You didn't even say goodbye."
"I guess we didn't know what to say to your comment about little boys. Andrew does have a son. He lives with his mother, Andrew's first wife."
"That doesn't explain anything."
"Sorry. I'll see you sometime tomorrow."
"What time?"
"Don't worry about it. I have a key."

She complained as time went on and I spent more and more time living with Andrew and the girls, about our never giving her an invitation--like his family got. So next time we had a family get together she was included. She walked up to Andrew's youngest brother Curt and asked, "Have you ever had sex with an animal? I'm taking an informal survey, and want to know if it feels any different than sex with a human." Curt, who was an investment banker, newly married with a pregnant wife, stared expressionlessly at her face and then said, perfectly deadpan, "No, have you?" When Mom was out on the deck, feeding peanuts to the squirrels with the grandparents and the girls, Curt looked at Andrew and cocked one eyebrow. Then he raised his glass to Andrew and said, "Good luck. You're going to need it."

When I was invited to my first family Christmas Eve celebration hosted by Curt and his wife Amy, I was conflicted. It was my mother's family's tradition to celebrate Christmas very late on Christmas Eve. Sleeping in on Christmas day was the motivation for that ritual I'm sure. But I felt guilty about telling my mother I was choosing to spend the night with Andrew's family. I asked him if he thought Curt would mind inviting her.

"Do you think she can behave herself? There might be little boys there."
"I'll ask her to be nice."
"Won't that be like waving a cape in front of a bull? My father's a Republican and I'll bet she knows it."
"I'll tell her she can't talk politics."
"In your dreams."
"It's Christmas for Christ's sake. How can I abandon her? Please."
"Merry Christmas."

The Hoffman Christmas tradition was a crab-leg feast. The house was beautifully decorated. There was a big traditional tree, a fire in the fireplace, and one of the grandchildren (a boy) was banging out Silent Night on the piano. Andrew's older sister and her husband were there with their teenaged son. Helen, Curt's pregnant wife's family was in attendance. It was a big party. Their large dining room table was close quarters.

There were lots of plates and hot pots of melted butter, many wine glasses. Baskets of bread at both ends of the table, red sauce here and there, a huge salad bowl. But the thing that dominated the table were the two huge platters heaping with big steaming crab legs. I had never seen so many at one time. Chairs were crammed so tight around the table there would be no elbowroom.

Mom was seated between Andrew's mother, Marta, and his sister-in-law, Helen. We were across the table. Andrew's father was at one end and his brother, Curt, the host of the party, was at the other. Right there we had the possibility that Mom would start some sort of patriarchal diatribe concerning the archaic seating that placed men in those arbitrary positions. But Mom looked innocent and was behaving herself, so far. I began to breath again.

There was a lot of chatter as people began to pass platters and baskets. Wine bottles went the rounds and toasts were made. My mother raised her glass (I held my breath) but she only thanked everyone for inviting her. Again I could breathe. I was beginning to shiver and tried to concentrate on eating. I love sweet crabmeat dipped in melted butter.

Things went along pretty well and the meal was almost over. There was still dessert and coffee, but I was beginning to relax. I even left the room to help the older children clear dinner dishes from the table in preparation for dessert and exchange dirty wine glasses for coffee cups and brandy snifters. But by the time I got back to the table, Andrew's mother was leaning away from my mother and saying to Henry, her husband , "What is she talking about? Is this all right for the children to hear? I mean, isn't she talking about artificial insemination?" The last sentence is delivered in a loud stage whisper but I was just setting Harvey's coffee cup in front of him and I couldn't help overhearing. Oh shit. I'm in trouble now. She's off and running and there will be no stopping her.

I look down the table scanning for damage. Mom has her arm around Helen's brother's chair, leaning in front of Andrew's youngest daughter who is six. Mom is tugging on the sleeve of the the other brother-in-law sitting next to Andrew's oldest daughter who is nine. Helen's brother looks puzzled, but not horrified. But the man next to him is getting red in the face. I can hear Mom when she leans in front of Helen's brother to continue her conversation with the red-faced man. "You're a lawyer, you must at least have a legal opinion if you can't form an ethical or political opinion." Wap! The sound of the gauntlet being thrown.

"Mother, what are you talking about?"
"Artificial insemination. There was a very interesting article in Ms. Magazine this month. It's about the moral question concerning the rights of the children of sperm donors to know their genetic heritage versus the right to privacy of the donor."
"It's Christmas, and there are children at the table. Could we talk about something else, please?" "No one else is complaining. Who are you, the Christmas Nazi?" As I was about to respond, she turned back to the red-faced man and said, "Well?!"

Andrew's father, Harvey, stood and called for less conversation and said, "Could we please sing some carols? How about Deck the Halls?" Mom rolled her eyes and then pinned me with a withering look. I had spoiled her fun.

She never got another invitation to Curt's Christmas party.

When it came up the next year I told her why she hadn't been included. "You insisted on discussing a controversial topic that's inappropriate for children. We were eating dinner and artificial insemination seemed tasteless. Nobody wanted to talk about it. You were trying to start an argument. I don't understand why you'd want to do that, but it was embarrassing to me."

"Oh, so now I embarrass you. That's rich. They were so boring, so stuffy and dull. I was just trying to keep from dying of boredom. Well, if that's where you want to spend Christmas Eve, go. I'll have more fun alone. I won't have to spend the evening with the Christmas Nazi"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Few Words In Defense of Our Country



January 2007 performance. Features full lyrics. Abridged lyrics ran as a New York Times Op-Ed piece on 1/24/07

I Got Nothin', But Bob Cesca's Got Awesome

Bob Cesca's Awesome Blog is awesome and this post is called "Guns, Butter, and Suck."
Do yourself a favor and go read it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's Prostate, Not Prostrate

Men have quite complicated plumbing. Some men get breast cancer. Yes, I know. It seems so unfair that your flabby little man boobs can have all the same bad things happen to them as your wife/girlfriend's lovely plump breasts, but bad things can happen to man boobs too. Then think of all the complicated parts of a penis. What about your prostate? Ignore your throbbing prostate and you may end up prostrate. How are your Seminal Vesicles? I capitalize that because if those puppies go south you'll be in a world of hurt. I know. I was married to a man who had seminal vesicle problems. He was constantly in the hospital in agonizing pain. Men have a trickier relationship with their colons than women, statistically speaking, and they tend to wait longer than women to go to a doctor when they do have problems. Men are touchy about their nether-regions and not in a good way. I've known a lot of men and they all had a horror of having their bummy holes looked at. Just saying.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cyrus Has a Big Problem


This is the second of these sores. The first one was almost this big and you can now see it closer to his nose, as a small red spot. It's opening up a bit with the constant licking and rubbing. I started treating this one earlier than the first and had made progress, ran out of antibiotics as the holiday happened. Started this round the day after Thanksgiving, only now it's a bigger dose. There is no way to keep a dog from licking his lips, so it's impossible to keep this sore clean and dry. So far neither of these sores has dulled his apatite. His bowel seems normal. I'm about at my wit's end.

He does not want to let me clean it or take its picture. So, this is a blurry and badly lit picture, but you can see how deep it is and how big in diameter--bigger than a quarter for sure.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Things I Should Be Doing

I have put so much on hold I now have a to-do list almost as long as the book I'm taking forever to edit/rewrite/re-edit/submit. This list is so overwhelming I just glance at it now and then, feel guilty, and then go back to bed to watch an old movie or read a few pages of the Ann Tyler novel I've been reading for a month now. I know. A month? What happened to me as the woman who gobbled books? I got an Imac and stopped reading. What's up with that? Has twitter stolen my brain? Is a piddling blog post all I can accomplish in a day?

I used to spend at least a couple of hours a day visiting other bloggers. But when my to-do list grew to epic length, I gave up going anywhere but twitter and the grocery store. And like all bloggers, once I stopped visiting blogger friends, they stopped visiting me. You have to give a little to get a little. It is a two way street.

So, this morning I did a couple of things on this long overdue list. After checking in on twitter (not on the list) I gave myself a haircut. The hair that fell on the bathroom floor made me get the vacuum out and actually turn it on. I've had the vacuum out as a symbol of my need to use it, but it just sat there until I eventually got sick of looking at it and put it away. So now I have one cleanish floor which now needs to be scrubbed.

I could just print the damn to-do list here and check things off as I get them done, but more than likely, I'd write a new blog post and never look back, never check anything off the list. I have excuses for this neglect of domesticity. We know what they are. But maybe I'd actually feel better, more optimistic, more likely to edit a new chapter every day if I got the damned to-do list done.

I do change my bedding every week. I'm obsessive about clean bed linens, for me and for the dogs. Especially now, since Cyrus has developed this plague of flesh eating abscesses around his mouth. Clean beds and clean bowels. So today I will change our beds. I do clean up my kitchen area everyday. I cook; I clean up after cooking. But the dusting and such is just not a big priority these last weeks, months. I don't really know how long I've been letting things slide.

Even without extenuating circumstances I have a tendency to grow depressed during the holidays and it only turns around when the days begin to grow longer. This year there are extenuating circumstances. My best friend died six months after her diagnosis of small cell squamous lung cancer. She was a non-smoker. I'm sure not going to quit smoking now. So that's not on my to-do list.

Maybe today is the day I can get one more thing checked off that list. Maybe I'll vacuum the whole 500 square feet of floor space. It would be nice to check that one off my to-do list.

And for those of you with suggestions about ointments for Cyrus's lip... Dr Bodely and I have discussed this. On the first sore, the one that was closest to his nose, higher on his upper lip, I tried cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide and coating it with antibacterial ointment, but this only seemed to make it worse. It was obviously painful and irritating to Cyrus and resulted in a more vigorous attempt on his part to lick and rub the stinky ointment off. It sure did not seem to help.

When the first sore erupted like an outerspace alien life force that started as a sore and then became a hard swelling along with the otherworldly sore turning into an exotic cauliflower looking thing in shades of red from pale pink to deep burgundy right beside his nose, Dr Bodley thought it might be a cancer tumor that would signal the beginning of a sudden end to Cyrus's life since is was in a position that would make surgery impossible. I took comfort when the antibiotics started to work and the swelling went down. It took three rounds of antibiotics to cure that first sore. We had a couple weeks of relatively good health but then the next sore began it's eruption. It's like a pox, a plague, an invasion of something like nothing Dr. Bodley's ever seen.

I know that there are no new plants in the area of the yard Cyrus visits three times a day for his brief sojourns outside. I've wondered if he was being bitten by a brown recluse spider. But if so, why only Cyrus, and why only on that one side of his muzzle? It's a mystery that might be solved if I had unlimited resources and Cyrus didn't outweigh me by forty or fifty pounds. He will not leave the yard to venture beyond the fence. He will only go out into the yard first thing in the morning, late afternoon, and just before we go to sleep. I have tried many times to force the issue, to attempt to drag him off his bed and out of the house, but he will trample me to get back onto his bed if he has to. So, like a good caretaker of an invalid of any sort, I do my best to keep him well and comfortable. He's a good dog, and I love him. Like the rest of you, I'm just doing the best I can.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Dog's Got A Problem

Big Cyrus has an abscess. This is the second one. The first was just below his right nostril. The first time it started as a hard swelling that I didn't notice until it opened into a big round red sore. It opened with a round red sore the size of a nickle. The minute I noticed it I called The House Call Vet. He called my pharmacy with a Rx for antibiotics, so I got Cyrus treated before Dr Bodley could free up his schedule to see Cyrus. It took three rounds of antibiotics to cure the first absess. Now there is another one. This one is on his upper lip, same side as the first, just a slightly different position. I got him started right away on antibiotics, since Dr. Bodley's given me a refill for just this kind of recurrence. It looked like it was getting better and when Dr Bodley saw him just before he left town for the holiday, it looked like Cyrus was going to heal. But the day after his last pill three days ago, it started to swell and the sore has grown to quarter size at an alarming rate. I called Dr. Bodley and left a message that Cyrus was in need of more antibiotics and he called me back this morning early. So I just got back from the pharmacy with a second round of antibiotics and now instead of two pills twice a day, he's on two pills three times a day.

Dr Bodely has been my pet's Vet for 15 years or more. I think I was the last client he took, and I'm so grateful for him. He's seen me through the death of two dogs and one cat.

Now I have crazy old Cyrus, my 170 pound Rottie/Mastif mix with agoraphobia and blown knees, and a tendancy to get abscesses. Cyrus was shell shocked when I got him two and a half years ago. He'd spent nine years in the hands of a animal hoarder who called herself a shelter. She was alone with her 180+ animals in the desert outside of Tuscon, with no help and then she died. No one knows how long her animals went unattended, but by the time someone found her, the animals were in extreme distress. Cyrus appeared to have never seen a Vet. Best Friends took all the animals they could save, got them medical care and then started trying to find homes for them.

Cyrus has a double layered dog bed beside my bed. He never moves from there except to be coaxed out three times a day to pee and poo. Loud noises terrify him, so during those times of the year idiots are setting off fireworks, I can only get him out only once a day. The guy has great bladder/bowel control. He's a sweet soul and I love him madly, but getting him to a Vet Hospital is impossible. He out-weighs me by thirty pounds and if he doesn't want to go out, he won't budge. So whatever medical care Cyrus gets, he gets at home. When we can no longer treat him at home, it will be time to euthanize him. So I worry that these recurring abscesses are the beginning of the end. I'm praying to the God I don't believe in that Cryus survives the holidays.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Antonio Vivaldi, Winter



Happy Thanksgiving my darlings.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blame It On Santa

When I was a kid I looked forward to the holidays, ever hopeful that this year it would be different. I was at least twelve before I realized that it was never going to be anything but a disappointment.

My parents would ask me what I wanted to eat on Thanksgiving and I'd say I wanted the traditional turkey, stuffing, candied yams, mashed potatoes, gravy, Brussels sprouts, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, Waldorf salad, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. My mother always ended up doing something wildly hinky like trying to make oyster stuffing or Cornish game hens. She didn't approve of mashed potatoes and couldn't/wouldn't make gravy. She refused to do anything fancier to a yam than bake it.

When we had Thanksgiving with my dad's parents his mother always came close to the perfect meal, but his dad seemed intent on putting us all on a diet right as he was carving the turkey, dishing out the stuffing. His slices of turkey were paper thin and the thimbleful of stuffing was just a tease of a taste. I could have eaten fifty of those servings but never was allowed to ask for more than three. My grandmother's pumpkin pie and whipped cream was perfection but the pie, once sliced into slivers, could have served at least twenty~there were only five of us. I gave up caring, hoping. I gave up falling for the promise the questions implied. "What do you want?" implied someone cared.

The first Christmas I remember, I was maybe three. Most people can't remember that far back. I can't remember yesterday, but I can remember my third year in shockingly vivid detail. I remember being coaxed and helped to write a letter to Santa. I wanted a tricycle. Just that one thing. Santa came and left me a letter telling why I couldn't have a tricycle. Santa always seemed to think I'd asked for the wrong thing. I gave up on Santa. When I was six I discovered that Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy were a fiction adults told children. I figured they did that so they didn't have to tell you that they weren't going to get you what you'd asked for. Blame it on Santa.

Now that I'm old and bipolar, I'm aware of all the reasons the holidays are hard. I, like so many, have SAD, so as the days get shorter I get sad. I wouldn't mind winter so much if it weren't for short days and snow. If I had the money and liked people better I'd head toward the equator in the winter. Instead I just hibernate. The only problem with being a sort of semi-shut-in, is that well meaning people invite me to spend those two days, Thanksgiving and Christmas, with them and their crazyass friends and family. Really, I was sure my very small extended family (I'm the only child of my mother's family, and my father's family wants nothing to do with me since I refuse to keep the family secrets secret) was the worse family on earth. But now, I realize everybody has a crazy relative, there is at least one alcoholic in every family, and you all have one sister-in-law you loathe, so the stress level at the dinner table will be guaranteed to give everyone indigestion, if not a full blown screaming food fight. Sibling rivalry seems to revive at the holiday table. It now amazes me that there aren't more stabbings at holiday dinners.

Now if you ask me what I want to do on Thanksgiving, I'll tell you I want to stay home, read, nap, and when I get really hungry I want a neighbor to send one of the kids with a plate piled high with turkey and all the fixins.

Happy Thanksgiving darlings! Don't stab your alcoholic brother at the table. I'd hate to see you miss Christmas because you were in the pokey.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

For My Friend Zelita

Zelita Ann Biesele
11/06/1943 ~ 11/18/2009

Zelita was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, November 6th 1944, into a family whose love always sustained her. She died of cancer November 18th, 2009, in San Diego, California, at her oldest son's home surrounded by her children and grandchildren. Prior to her death, she made arrangements to have her body donated to the U.C.S.D. Medical School, setting a wonderful example for her friends and family.

Zelita was a lovely, kind, generous woman who made friends easily and kept them a lifetime. She was gifted in many ways, but friendship was an art at which she excelled; it was perhaps her greatest talent. We, who were lucky enough to say she was our friend, will never know another like her.

She was an early admissions student at the University of Utah where she was a Ballet Major. She had been a dancer in the Virginia Tanner Children's Theatre, with the University of Utah's famed Ballet School under the direction of W.F. Christensen, and then on to dance with the San Francisco Ballet Company. Zelita always retained that luminous grace, that lovely good posture, and the elegant willowy movement of a born dancer.

Zelita was also a visual artist who worked in oil paint, batik, silkscreen. She was a fashion and textile designer, a pianist. She could make anything including sails, she could reupholster a chair or build a deck. She could design as well as create. She was brave enough to tackle any job, hands on.

Zelita went to India in 1968 on a spiritual quest where she found her Guru, Master Maraji Charan Singh. She was a member of the spiritual community known as Science of the Soul. She spoke fondly its members and will be missed by this community.

She lived in New York for a time and then Hawaii and California for much of her adult life. She was a lifelong vegetarian, born into interesting times and she lived an interesting life always filled with love for her family and friends.

She is preceded in death by her parents, Mildred and Ferdinand C Biesele. She is survived by her Brothers Charles and William, her daughter, Aviva, her sons, Gabe, Angelo and Tobey, and seven grandchildren.

It was the love and support of her children and grandchildren which most enriched her life. She will be greatly missed by her lifelong friends, Martha and James Wolfe.

For Zelita

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thought's On My Own Obituary

Let it be said of me, "she...

Never skimped on Mayo,

Seldom suffered fools,

Loved a good book and devoured them with passion,

Moaned when she ate good food,

Didn't offer unsolicited advise or ask prying questions, unless the barn door had already been kicked down, and the livestock had fled,

Thought physical beauty was over valued and a bit of a burden,

Could grudgingly take no for an answer,

For a misanthrope, she was a bit of a push-over,

Kept a well stocked bar for her friends and mixed a lovely cocktail. Bipolar drugs kept her off the sauce, but she did keep a bottle of Madeira and sherry glasses in the cupboard for those times that called for a ladylike toast

Loved her dogs better than her men (not more, just better)

Cocksucker was her favorite swear word and she used it much like the fictional character, Swearengen, played by Ian McShane, in the HBO series, Deadwood.

She had trust issues..

Wrestled with life's contradictions.

And to the bitter end believed everything is political, especially sex and death."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hard Times, Come Again No More


In memory of my friend Zelita who died this morning. And for Esther, who taught me this song. We're having some hard times, aren't we?

It's In the Bible

This is one of the smartest letters to the editor I've ever read and that includes my own. It was in last Saturdays Salt Lake Tribune. The letter speaks very eloquently for itself:

I appreciate those who quote the Bible to stave off same-sex marriage, such as Leviticus 18:22, which states it is an "abomination" to "lie with a man as one lies with a woman." I now need advice on how to follow some other Bible laws.

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. What would be a fair price?

My neighbor insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

Leviticus 25:44 states that I may own slaves, male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend claims that this applies to Mexicans but not to Canadians. Why can't I own Canadians?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?

I have so many more things I'm unclear on. I'm thankful, though, that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Lynn Johnson

Salt Lake City


Monday, November 16, 2009

In the Era Post Stupak

People tell me they see my writing about the child abuse in my life, plus the grisly aftermath as "courageous" but I think of it as therapy. Once told, the story is no longer inside, it's out there, and some of the pain gets exorcised in the telling. They can post with a pseudonym or as anonymous. But telling is powerful for the teller and the reader.

I'd like to ask women to delve into their most painful past and share that story with all of us. This is no small job. But from the comments on my posts about abortion so far, that's where the real story is, it's there in the reaction to another woman's story. No one ever makes the decision to abort easily or without compelling reasons. Out of maybe forty comments I've had only one person call me a woman who would choose to murder another person for my convenience. Only one person talked to me about my committing the "ultimate sin." Only one person equated the fetus with the adult woman and said the fetus had the same right to life as I, but thought that the doctors who authorized and performed the procedure should have been jailed. That was one comment out of forty or more. So, how courageous is it to talk about the intensely personal? Is talking honestly with a therapist courageous? No one sits across my desk as I talk here and asks me questions.

If someone comes to my blog to insult and harass me, my first impulse is to try to reason with them or suggest I might not be their cup of tea. And in the end, I can shitcan their comments, or on twitter I can block their access to me. This is my free speech zone and I choose to express myself in this way. If I'm enraged by the Stupak Amendment, this is why. I can't say what it means to you, but I can warn you as one who lived my reproductive years in the era of the Comstock Laws, in the time before Roe v. Wade, what it will be like in the era post Stupak.

Statistics bore most of us, but if you want to know what it was like for women who lived in the era pre Roe v. Wade, you'll get an inkling when you read the comments from my three pieces on the subject.

Happy 45th Birthday Diana!

Diana, you fly me to the moon every time I listen to you. I type to the beat and rhythm of your exquisite phrasing. Happy Birthday! Keep doing the soulful swinging. Love You!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Gutting

I disembowel myself and splash
My innards across the clean white page
This is where I read my past for clues.

Will I marry well, win the lottery
Write a book that sees the light of day?
Will I ever stop slashing my veins this way?

I watch the news for hope and end up
In a wail of anguished, never ending cry
How could we wish to keep the power with the few?

Will the poor just vanish, will we disappear
Could we find a way to to make a space for fair?
Must those who have so little lose all but filthy air?

Would we the richest people on the earth allow it all
To vanish on a dare?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm the Monster Here

I wrote about my abortion because I needed to tell that story and the timing seemed right. Some of you will see me as the murderer of a person. You might think I have committed the ultimate sin. I'm sure I have, and have been sinned against. There are many details I left out of it, but in so many ways, I was a monster. I was crazy. I have always been crazy. It was a crazy time, the mid-sixties. May I remind you all that there are details in that story that might have alerted you to my carelessness and reckless behavior without apology or judgement. And yet there have been so many times and ways I tried to imagine a better ending.

By the time I was twenty-three I was clearly nuts. I was a magnet for the wrong men, every bit as damaged as I, men who wanted to manipulate and own me. I had not been loved as a child and had no idea how to love. Almost every man in my family had sexually abused me as a child. I trusted no one. I looked picture perfect but I was batshit crazy, coiled too tightly, barely able to breath. It was said of me I was high strung. That was an understatement. I worked every second to hold myself together, to appear calm and in control of myself, but I was an anxious mess. I was a monster. I aborted my only pregnancy. I knew I'd be a terrible mother. I had never been around a good mother.

I hated myself so profoundly I knew I carried a monster just like me, just like my mother, or worse, just like my father. I did not want to spend the rest of my life continuing that tradition or connected in any way to the man who impregnated me. He was delighted when I told him I was pregnant. But I was so furious at that moment because I also had to tell him he needed to get tested for a sexually transmitted disease. And in the end when we both knew that he hadn't given me syphilis, I still didn't want to have that profound connection with him.

One of the Indian women who worked in the sewing room at Satpurush asked me one day as we were all having lunch together, "Why don't you do what you're supposed to do? You're swimming against the current of your life." I was stunned by the question. I've been pondering that one all my life.

This isn't an excuse for my careless desperate foolish life, but I was emotionally damaged by it all. I was depressed and reclusive, living in a life that always seemed to put me in intimate contact with people I'd rather not have known. Nothing was planned or thought out. I was also bipolar. But if you believe in God then God has been testing me. Have I failed the test?

I don't believe in God. This in and of itself does not make me a monster. But it does let me see that the agenda of all Abrahamic religions is the subjugation of women. So this makes religious strictures completely political to me. And I set my jaw against it. I will not be chattel. I will not be dominated.

And in the end I might be liked; I do have friends. But it will be hard for a man to love me. I'll always need to live alone.

In many ways I am still my dreadful mother. I look like her, I sound like her, I have her taste in so many things and a such a bad track record with men. You probably wouldn't like me. I barely like myself.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sexual Politics and The Republican Agenda for Your Reproductive Freedom

I've been avoiding writing this because it's painful. I'm old and my reproductive capacity is long past done. I have my public option. I have plain old Medicare. No Advantage Plan needed, thank you. But you have a shaky economy, a ruinous mortgage, a job that might be downsized, the fear of losing your crappy health insurance, rising interest rates on your credit cards and the knowledge that you are living beyond your means. What would an unplanned pregnancy do to your life, male or female? I don't think it's dawned on many of you that you're losing your rights day by day. And last Saturday, while many of you were given a glimmer of hope that you might someday be able to chose a public option like Medicare, your reproductive freedom was stripped from you in the Stupak Amendment. Why did it happen? Why are you silent?

I hear people claim that they are pro-life who see no cognitive dissonance in their passionate support for the death penalty. These people sound batshit crazy to me yet they claim to be Christians of one sort or another and always patriarchal and authoritarian. I'm an atheist and I care more about the poor and the homeless, the mentally ill, the hungry and often neglected children living in single parent households with incomes below the poverty line, and desperate mothers with two minimum wage jobs than most of these "Christian" people who want to force you or your sister or girlfriend or wife to carry to term an unplanned or medically disastrous pregnancy.

Republicans claim to be all about small government, yet they want to legislate and restrict your access to reproductive health care other than the birth of a child should you get pregnant. They don't want any health insurance plan to cover women's pelvic exams, or birth control, yet Viagra is all good and a birthright for all men. Oh yes, the penis is that important, but the uterus's only politically important function is housing and feeding a fetus that must be born no matter what. The Christian Right Wing of the Republican party's agenda is to control women's bodies. To think otherwise is naive and uninformed.

My mother was a pioneering second wave feminist. I paid attention to the lessons she was passing on to other women. And one of the most important lessons of that feminist generation was that you have control of your own body and that includes your uterus. Those women insisted that words are important and white men in positions of power, in the guise of religion and knowing better than you, "little lady," what's best for you, work very hard to keep you down. They use words to marginalize and ignore you. My mother's generation of feminists fought hard for the change in abortion laws that Row v Wade brought to all of us. One of the battles they fought was for equal rights in the work place. They fought for an end to sexual harassment and sexual discrimination. And all along the way white men like Rush Limbaugh called them names like Feminazis. And conservatives pushed back at every point until our progress stalled and then began to move backwards. We still only make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work.

And slowly over time I heard younger women say, "I'm all for equality for women, but I'm not a feminist." That's when you began to give away your power. You allowed feminism to become a dirty word. Well, your power's gone now. Good luck getting it back. But I have a clue for you when looking for your lost human rights. Look at the roster of old white men who make the laws that govern us all. Look at the frat house that calls itself a church. Look at the members of the Family, the C Street old boys club of powerful and rich men who think the rules don't apply to them, but only to you. That's where you'll find your lost freedom. Now do something about it. Organize, mobilize, become activists. Take your power back. Become your own community organizer, network, be proud to be called feminists.

My Abortion in 1968: Pre Roe V Wade

I got pregnant in 1968. I'd left the man I'd been living with in Kauai and returned to Los Angles to stay in Z's apartment. She and her mate were house-sitting and their apartment was empty. They had a shop not far from the apartment in Westwood, called Satpurush where they sold handmade beautiful Indian clothes so popular with the Rockers coming back from their visit to an Ashram and their brush with mysticism and spirituality. All the seamstresses were Indian and everyone who worked at Satpurush was a vegetarian. I became their cook.

You might think cooking vegetarian would be quite simple, but it isn't. I got up early every morning and walked to a market in the neighborhood to buy fresh produce. When I got back to the apartment I perused the cookbooks for a tasty meal to make from my fresh supplies. It took the rest of the morning to make lunch. I got better and better at this important task and liked my job, liked the little apartment a block from Westwood Blvd.

Then the man I'd left in Kuaui found me and wouldn't leave me alone. He said he was in love with me, but he scared me. I'd seen him have episodes of disassociation when I felt he was a danger to me. This isn't a story about him, so I won't elaborate on that, but here he is in my life again and I don't want to have to run away again, so I make a deal with him. His terms, my conditions. We would take one last LSD trip. And if, after that trip, I still wanted him to leave me alone, he would.

I remember bits and pieces of the trip. I didn't fear him, but I knew I wanted him to stay out of my life. I had sex with him as a way to prove that even after having sex with him I still wanted him to go. It was coerced sex but not forced. And when the acid wore off I stated my desire to continue to live alone. I wanted him to move on, find someone else. And for the most part, he did move on.

A few weeks went by and I became ill. I was so fatigued I could barely move. I was constantly nauseated. Z suggested I go to the UCLA Med Center which was walking distance from the apartment. They were very nice at the Med Center. They did a couple of tests and sent me home to await the results. I got a call the following week to come in for my test results.

It was a very nice young man in a white lab coat who I met with that day. He sat almost knee to knee with me in a small exam room. He said, "I have good news, and I have bad news. Which would you prefer first?" "I'll take the good news first." "The good news is that you're pregnant." I felt as if I'd been kicked in the gut.

"THIS IS YOUR IDEA OF GOOD NEWS??!! WHAT'S THE BAD NEWS???"
"You have a positive VDRL." I had no idea what that meant. I just looked at him, waiting for some elaboration. "A VDRL is a broad spectrum test for venereal diseases."

"So, I'm pregnant AND I HAVE A VENEREAL DISEASE?!?!! What's the good news in any of this???"

"We'll do a more specific test so we know how to treat it. In the meantime you need to be on prenatal vitamins. I'll give you a prescription for those now." He started writing on a prescription pad and I stood up. When I stood up my vision narrowed down to tiny points of light off in the distance. It was much like looking through the wrong end of binoculars only more extreme. I had no peripheral vision at all. I saw only the tiny vista off in the distance with no sense of anything on either side of me from here to there. It was all just darkness and then that bit of far off light where meaningless movement happened.

I was taken by the hand and let to the psych department. I had tunnel vision. I was seated beside the desk of an overweight middle aged woman with short hair. She said, "What seems to be the problem?" And I have never heard those words since that I don't get angry. I screamed, "I took acid with a man I'm trying to get rid of, I'm now pregnant and I have a venereal disease and tunnel vision you stupid cow! What seems to be the problem? I'm talking to a person who has no idea of anything that matters. Why the fuck did they put me here? You can't possibly understand anything! You think you have answers? THERE ARE NO ANSWERS! I WILL KILL MYSELF. I WILL NOT GIVE BIRTH TO THIS MONSTER!"

I really did feel as if my body had been invaded by a creature intent on killing me. And they did find a psychiatrist I could talk to. I told him I'd kill myself if I were forced to carry this pregnancy to term. I told him about my childhood sexual abuse and fear that no one could protect a child from either being a victim of sexual abuse or keep a child from growing up to be an abuser. I told him there was no way to find a nice man who wouldn't turn into a monster. And he believed me.

But abortion was not legal in 1968. Only in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother, would the State allow a woman to get a safe legal abortion. Three doctors had to examine me and agree that I was serious about my intention to kill myself. I had to find the man who impregnated me to inform him he needed to get tested for venereal disease. Then the medical board of examiners would rule on my case and get back to me. Three wise men would decide my fate.

The impregnator did not have VD. I am one of a miniscule number of women who has a false positive on a VDRL, the broad spectrum test given routinely to women suspected of being pregnant. I was tested more specifically and tested clean. However none of this made the slightest difference to me. I felt like I had an invader growing inside of me and the violent morning sickness only further confirmed my feelings. I hated myself and the little monster growing inside of me.

If the three wise men did not make their decision before the end of my first trimester I would be forced to carry to term or kill myself. I would not carry anything inside my body to term. I was making plans to kill myself. Let me count the ways, there are so many possibilities.

In the end, at the last possible moment, they let me have my legal abortion. It took place in the University Hospital. I was admitted the day before the procedure. My roommate was a woman in her forties who was having a biopsy of a tumor on her clitoris. We spent a lot of time talking. I was reading J. Krishnamurti's Commentaries on Living. She was reading Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. We had a lot to talk about.

The next day she and I went to our respective surgeries: she early in the morning on the second day, I later in the afternoon. We both came out of our anesthesia sobbing. I with relief, she with fear as she waited for the biopsy results. By the time I was getting ready to leave the hospital the next day she got her results. No cancer. And we both sobbed again our relief. We hugged each other, and then I left. I've never forgotten her. Women understand these things. Men it seems, do not.

So now we have the Stupak Amendment. And now we are back where we were pre Roe V Wade. It is men who want this kind of control over women's bodies, women's choices. It is men who want to prohibit women the freedom men enjoy. We can't get our birth-control pills covered by insurance, but they get their viagra covered. It's very important to men that they can have a hard penis so they can impregnate if they want. But our ability to prevent pregnancy, or terminate pregnancy is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord and a challenge to male authority and domination. So according to these Christian men, these powerful law making men, women should not have reproductive freedom of choice, the choice to prevent pregnancy or the choice to abort an unintended pregnancy should one occur. I'm starting to hate most men again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why So Secretive C Street?

The Family has long been a secretive organization.[22][23] It maintains no public website and conducts no public fundraising activities.

Prominent political figures have insisted that secrecy and/or privacy are essential to the Family's operation. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan said about the Family, "I wish I could say more about it, but it's working precisely because it is private."[24]

At the 1990 National Prayer Breakfast, President George H.W. Bush praised Doug Coe for what he described as “quiet diplomacy, I wouldn’t say secret diplomacy.”[4]

In 2009, Chris Halverson, son of Fellowship co-founder Richard C. Halverson, said that a culture of secrecy is essential to their mission: "If you talked about it, you would destroy that fellowship."[1]

From the 1930s to the 1960s it was organized as a more traditional religious association. In 1966, Fellowship founder Abraham Vereide became concerned about his organization's growing publicity and declared in a letter that it was time to “submerge the institutional image of [the Family].”[25] Author Jeff Sharlet describes this shift in operation:

Thereafter, the Fellowship would avoid at all costs any appearance of an organization... Business would be conducted on the letterhead of public men, who would testify that Fellowship initiatives were their own. Finances would be more ‘man-to-man,’ which is to say, off the books.[26]

In 1975, a member of the Family's inner circle wrote to the group's chief South African member, that their political initiatives

...have always been misunderstood by 'outsiders.' As a result of very bitter experiences, therefore, we have learned never to commit to paper any discussions or negotiations that are taking place. There is no such thing as a 'confidential' memorandum, and leakage always seems to occur. Thus, I would urge you not to put on paper anything relating to any of the work that you are doing...[unless] you know the recipient well enough to put at the top of the page 'PLEASE DESTROY AFTER READING.'

The recipient made copies of this memo for other Family members in Africa, one of which survives.[27][28]

In 1974, after several Watergate conspirators had joined the Family, an LA Times columnist discouraged further inquiries into Washington's "underground prayer movement", i.e. the Fellowship: “They genuinely avoid publicity...they shun it.”[29]

In 2002, Doug Coe denied that the Fellowship sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast, and a Fellowship employeed said, "there is no such thing as the Fellowship."[14]

Former Republican Senator William Armstrong said the group has “made a fetish of being invisible.”[30]

In the 1960s, when the organization first went "underground," the Fellowship began distributing, to involved members of Congress, confidential memos which stressed that “the group, as such, never takes any formal action, but individuals who participate in the group through their initiative have made possible the activities mentioned.”[31]

Family Member and Senator Sam Brownback describes Family members' method of operation: “Typically, one person grows desirous of pursuing an action”—-a piece of legislation, a diplomatic strategy—-“and the others pull in behind.” [32] Indeed, Brownback has often joined with fellow Family members in pursuing legislation. For example, in 1999 he joined together with fellow Family members, Senators Strom Thurmond and Don Nickles to demand a criminal investigation of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and in 2005 Brownback joined with Family member Sen. Tom Coburn to promote the Houses of Worship Act.[33]

C Street "Family"

Rachel Maddow runs down the list for us of C-Street family members who also voted for Bart Stupak’s anti-abortion amendment yesterday. Nothing like having what amounts to a secretive religious cult making health care policy for women in the United States.

Now I want to know. Who are these men who plan to run the world and where are they planted in the government? I think this is one of the most disturbing things I've ever heard. A right wing religious and misogynistic cult is pulling the strings of governmental power. This amounts to a shadow government. And they don't have my interests in mind.

Name Position Notoriety
Sam Brownback[1][80] Sen. (R-KS) Chair of Senate Values Action Team
James Inhofe[1][80] Sen. (R-OK)
Jim DeMint[1][80] Sen. (R-SC) Chairman of Steering Committee
Chuck Grassley[80] Sen. (R-IA) Former Chairman of Finance Committee
Richard Lugar[4] Sen. (R-IN) Former Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee
John Ensign[1][80] Sen. (R-NV) Involved in sex scandal
Tom Coburn[1][80] Sen. (R-OK)
Mark Pryor[1][80] Sen. (D-AR)
Bill Nelson[1][80] Sen. (D-FL)
John Thune[80] Sen. (R-SD)
Mike Enzi[80] Sen. (R-WY)
Joe Pitts[1][80] Rep. (R-PA) Chair of House Values Action Team; Member Committees on Energy & Commerce, Sec. & Coop in Europe
Todd Tiahrt[81] Rep. (R-KS)
Frank Wolf[24] Rep. (R-VA) Member of House Appropriations Panel[1]
Zach Wamp[1][24] Rep. (R-TN)
Mike McIntyre[24] Rep.(D-NC)
Bart Stupak[1] Rep. (D-MI) Author of the Stupak Amendment for the "Affordable Health Care for America Act" that would ban federal funding for abortions.
Michael F. Doyle[1] Rep. (D-PA)
Heath Shuler[1] Rep.(D-NC)
Jerry Moran[1] Rep. (R-KA)

[edit] Members currently serving as state governors

Name Position Notoriety
Mark Sanford[68] Gov. (R-SC) Involved in sex scandal

[edit] Current Family members formerly serving in the executive branch

Name Position Notoriety
John Ashcroft[82] Attorney General AG under G.W. Bush; Also Sen. (R-MO), Member CNP
Dan Quayle[83] Vice President Also former Sen. (R-IN)
James Baker[4] Secretary of State Served under G.H.W. Bush
Robert "Bud" McFarlane[84] National Security Adviser Iran-Contra conspirator; served under Reagan
Ed Meese[85] Attorney General Served under Reagan; also Member CNP
Charles Colson[86] Special Counsel Watergate conspirator; served under Nixon
Melvin Laird[24] Secretary of Defense Persuaded Ford to Pardon Nixon[24]

[edit] Current Family members formerly in the US Congress

Name Position Notoriety
Don Nickles[33] Sen. (R-OK) Also Member Council for National Policy
Mark Hatfield[4] Sen. (R-OR) Chairman of Appropriations Committee
Pete Domenici[80] Sen. (R-NM)
Dan Coats[82] Sen. (R-IN) Promoted Faith-Based Initiatives
Chip Pickering[68] Rep. (R-MS) Involved in sex scandal
Tony P. Hall[87] Rep. (D-OH) Also UN ambassador for hunger issues under G.W. Bush

[edit] Current Family members formerly in the US military

Name Rank Notoriety
John W. Vessey[4] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
David C. Jones[88] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Also member Council on Foreign Relations

[edit] Historical members

The following Family members are all deceased.

Name Position Notoriety
Richard C. Halverson[1] US Senate chaplain "[O]ne of the first to join the Fellowship under found Abraham Vereide in the 1950s."[1]
Richard Nixon[84] US President Joined Family after presidency[84]
Gerald R. Ford[89] US President Pardoned Richard Nixon; also Member CFR
Strom Thurmond[24] Sen. (R-SC) opponent of civil rights
Herman Talmadge[24] Sen. (D-GA) opponent of civil rights
John C. Stennis[4] Sen. (D-MS) opponent of civil rights
Absalom Willis Robertson[24] Sen. (D-VA) Father of Pat Robertson
Arthur F. Burns[89] Chief of Federal Reserve Served under Nixon
Frank Carlson[90] Sen. (R-KS) Kingmaker for Eisenhower
Harold K. Johnson[91] Gen., Chief of Staff of the Army

[edit] Property holdings

The Family owns many properties.

[edit] Fellowship House

(133 C Street SE, Washington, DC. Three-story brick 7,914-square-foot (735.2 m2) rowhouse.)

Known as the "C Street Center" or "Fellowship House," this 1890 townhouse, located behind the Madison Annex of the Library of Congress and near the United States Capitol, has 12 bedrooms, nine bathrooms, five living rooms, four dining rooms, three offices, a kitchen, and a small "chapel".[14]

Rooms are rented to United States Senators and members of Congress who stay there as resident members of the Fellowship, reportedly paying $600 a month in room and board.[14][61]

The house is also the locale for:

  • The Family's Wednesday prayer breakfasts for United States Senators, which has been attended by Senators Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn, James Inhofe, John Ensign and Susan Collins
  • A Tuesday night dinner for members of Congress and other Fellowship associates.
  • An annual Ambassador Luncheon.[92] The 2006 event was attended by ambassadors from Turkey, Macedonia, Pakistan, Jordan, Algeria, Armenia, Egypt, Belarus, Mongolia, Latvia, and Moldova.

The property is exempt from real property taxes because it is classified as a "special purpose" use. District of Columbia law exempts from taxation "buildings belonging to religious corporations or societies primarily and regularly used for religious worship, study, training, and missionary activities" and "buildings belonging to organizations which are charged with the administration, coordination, or unification of activities, locally or otherwise, of institutions or organizations entitled to exemption."

Formerly used as a convent for nearby St. Peter's Catholic Church, 133 C Street was the headquarters of Ralph Nader's Congress Watch in the 1970s.[93] In 1980, the building was purchased by Youth with a Mission, Washington, D.C., Inc. (also known as Youth with a Mission National Christian Center, Inc.) YWAM took a note from Alexandro Palau in the principal amount of $448,873.33 to purchase the property. A 1981 modification of the note was signed by Fellowship member Ron Boehme in his capacity as President of YWAM, Washington, D.C. and witnessed by Michael Davidson as its secretary.

Asked about YWAM in 2009, Richard Carver, a retired Air Force general and the President of the Fellowship Foundation, told the Washington Post that his Fellowship group is affiliated with the house, but that he has never heard of Youth With a Mission of Washington, DC, and that he did not have a phone number for it. Carver later said that he had spoken with someone who "at one time was involved with the house" and had "heard secondhand" that the organization that runs the house is "subscribing to the no-comment."[61]

[edit] The Woodmont enclave

The Fellowship owns a number of properties, including the estate known as the Cedars (Doubleday Mansion) located at 2301 North Uhle Street (2145 24th Street North) in the Woodmont neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia. This property, which was purchased by the Fellowship in 1978, includes two additional residences known as the "well house" and "carriage house," the latter of which is used by Doug Coe. The Cedars was determined to be a "place of worship" by the Zoning Administrator in 1976.[94]

Coe has described Cedars as a place "committed to the care of the underprivileged, even though it looks very wealthy." He noted that people might say, "Why don't you sell a chandelier and help poor people?" Answering his own question, Coe said, "The people who come here have tremendous influence over kids." Private Fellowship documents indicate that Cedars was purchased so that "people throughout the world who carry heavy responsibilities could meet in Washington to think together, plan together and pray together about personal and public problems and opportunities."[14] The Cedars hosts a prayer breakfast for foreign ambassadors on Tuesday morning.

In March 1990, YWAM (which also owns the C Street Center) purchased a nearby property located at 2200 24th Street North for $580,000.[95] The property, now known as Potomac Point, is used as a women's dormitory. Ownership of Potomac Point was transferred to the C Street Center on May 6, 1992, and again to the Fellowship Foundation on October 25, 2002. Potomac Point had been owned by Doug Coe's son, Timothy, who sold the property to his parents on November 30, 1989, for $580,000.

A second property, known as Ivanwald, located at 2224 24th Street North and assessed at $916,000, is used as a men's dormitory by the Fellowship. This property was purchased by Jerome A. Lewis and Co. in 1986, and sold to the Wilberforce Foundation in 1987. In 2007, the Wilberforce Foundation transferred Ivanwald to the Fellowship Foundation for $1 million. Jerome A. Lewis is a trustee emeritus of the Trinity Forum and the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Petro-Lewis Corporation.[96]

At one time, Doug Coe and his wife, Janice, owned nearby 2560 North 23rd Road, which they sold to Congressman Tony P. Hall (D-OH) and his wife on September 22, 1987, for $100,000.[97] Hall donated $20,000 to the Fellowship Foundation on September 4, 2002,[98], $1,500 to the Wilberforce Foundation,[99] and $1,000 to the Jonathan Coe Memorial of Annapolis, Maryland during the 2001 campaign cycle.[100]

The residence located at 2244 24th Street North, and assessed at $1,458,800, is owned by Merle Morgan, whose wife, Edita, is a director of the Fellowship.[101] It also is identified as the offices of the Fellowship Foundation and Morgan Bros. Corp. (d/b/a Capitol Publishing). Fellow Fellowship director and member Fred Heyn and his wife own 2206 24th Street North.

LeRoy Rooker, the one-time treasurer of the Fellowship and former Director of the Family Policy Compliance Office at the U.S. Department of Education, and his wife own 2222 24th Street North.[102]

Arthur Lindsley, a Senior Fellow at the C.S. Lewis Institute owns 2226 24th Street North.[103]

[edit] Cedar Point Farm

According to White House records dating from 1978, President Jimmy Carter traveled to Cedar Point Farm by Marine helicopter on November 12, 1978, to attend a Fellowship prayer and discussion group.[48] President Carter placed a call to Menachim Begin while at Cedar Point Farm.[48] The White House records reflect that Cedar Point Farm was owned by Harold Hughes, a former Senator from Iowa and the President of the Fellowship Foundation.[48] Cedar Point Farm was later used by the Wilberforce Foundation.

[edit] Other Family properties

  • "Southeast White House", located at 2909 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, which is used by various community-based organizations.[104] This property is assessed at $736,310 for 2009 tax year.[105]
  • "19th Street House," a two-story, brick apartment building located at 859 19th Street NE,[1] in the Trinidad neighborhood of northeast Washington, D.C., which is assessed at $358,250 for the 2009 tax year.[106] The 19th Street Center is used for afterschool activities.
  • Mount Oak Estates, Annapolis, Maryland. One residential property, formerly owned by Timothy Coe, was sold to Wilberforce Foundation, Inc. for $1.1 million. A second residence is owned by David and Alden Coe and a third is owned by Fellowship associate Marty Sherman. Another nearby property, 1701 Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard, is owned by the Fellowship Foundation.
  • Until 1994, the Fellowship operated from the "Fellowship House", a large estate located at 2817 Woodland Drive in Washington, D.C., which was sold to the Ourisman family for more than $2.5 million.