Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Swearing On Saturday Night

Funny church sign

I just re-read a post I wrote a while back about my waning Catholicism, despite the lifetime of church and a true appreciation of the beautiful traditions, art and literature that lie at the base of the Catholic faith. It was called "Dwindling" and I realized tonight as I read it, that the dwindling has increased. I haven't taken my sons to church at our parish in almost a year and when Sunday rolls around, I still feel a twinge of guilt. Nonetheless, my boys are deeply spiritual, and I talk about spirituality warmly with them all the time. Today, in response to some of the news about the enormous earthquake in Chile, Oliver said I hate that God makes earthquakes. I told him that God didn't do any such thing, that earthquakes were a natural, albeit terrible process and that surely God and good were found even in the middle of it. Oliver then said what about seizures?

What about seizures? is what I am thinking right this moment. As I typed those words, I heard the lonely cry come from Sophie's room which means she is seizing, a deep cry that is primal and makes the hairs on my arms rise and my heart beat fast, no matter how many times I've heard it. I admit to wearily getting up and going to her bedroom, only five steps away. I sat down next to her, realizing that the seizure is happening in her sleep and it is over. I smooth the hair away from her face and place a dry cloth under her head where she has drooled. She is already back asleep and I sit there for a moment and wonder what the hell? I wonder what the point of taking two powerful antiepileptic medicines is if she continues to seize erratically, usually several times a day? I wonder whether the little white pill that I have to pay a lot of money for and get from a pharmacy in Canada is making her worse, putting her into a sort of trance during sleep that seizures love. I wonder whether this type of seizure might happen silently and kill her. I stop wondering that, say a few words of peace and leave her room. I come back here.

What about seizures? Now I am spiritual enough to feel the presence of God, of something ineffable in just about every waking moment, but I'm not religious enough to believe that god's hand is in this, somehow. The only faith I have in science, probably, is in defining that seizure as an electrical disturbance in a wildly dysfunctional brain.

I am bone tired -- and not in a physical way if you know what I mean.

When I pray now, I pray for mercy, believing that mercy is random.

I began this post with the intent of telling the story of Oliver getting into the car when I picked him up at school on Friday afternoon. As soon as he was sitting down, buckled up, he said, Mom, is fuck a bad word? Henry, in the front seat, gasped and looked at me.

Yes, it's a very ugly word, Oliver. You should never use it is what I said and then he told me that he saw it written on a wall and his teacher put tape over it (I wondered whether he had sounded it out and thought given his reading difficulties, it was pretty darn good). A few minutes later he said So how come fuck is such a bad word? And this time, it was just so obvious that he wanted to say it, to feel the thrill of the verboten, so I just said what I've probably said at least a million times in his almost nine years of life: OL-LI-VER!

When I began writing this post I debated whether or not to write out the word because I do feel a certain frisson when I see the word, hear it or say it. I was going to use all those little symbols after the letter f. 

But you know what?

What about fucking seizures?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

99 Things

99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall -- pop art print Astoria

It's a rainy Saturday in Los Angeles, and Gretchen at SecondBlooming posted this meme. I thought it would be fun and it was. You're supposed to bold the things that you've done and add some commentary. Here goes:

  1. Slept under the stars
  2. Started your own blog. 
  3. Played in a band. (I attempted to sing with an old boyfriend's band, but that's a scary memory I won't give details about and for a brief, utterly nerdy time, I played the flute in the school band)
  4. Watched a meteor shower. 
  5. Given more than you can afford to charity.
  6. Visited Hawaii (for two nights when I turned forty, thanks to The Husband)
  7. Been to Disneyland. (more times than I'd like to have gone -- I'm an amusement park grinch)
  8. Climbed a mountain (I went on a kick-ass camping trip in the Adirondacks when I was in college and climbed a bunch of peaks)
  9. Held a praying mantis
  10. Sang a solo  (in fourth grade I played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow in a tiny, cracked voice and I used to sing my babies to sleep every single night, if that counts)
  11. Bungee jumped (no way, ever)
  12. Visited Paris
  13. Watched a thunder and lightning storm (I grew up in the South where the greatest storms, I do believe, happen)
  14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (is knitting an art?)
  15. Adopted a child
  16. Had food poisoning (my main memory is lying on the bathroom floor with my cheek pressed into the floor, wishing that someone would come in and just shoot me, my children be damned)
  17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
  18. Grown your own vegetables (I actually attempted this in Croton on the Hudson, NY, but the deer ate everything)
  19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France (over-rated experience given its size, the fact that it's behind glass and there are hordes of people standing around it)
  20. Slept on an overnight train (the trip to Europe after college with friends and backpacks, chocolate and bread)
  21. Had a pillow fight
  22. Hitchhiked
  23. Taken a sick day when you're not really ill.
  24. Built a snow fort
  25. Held a lamb
  26. Visited Africa
  27. Gone skinny dipping
  28. Run a marathon (and I have absolutely no desire to)
  29. Ridden a gondola in Venice
  30. Seen a total eclipse (with my little shoebox)
  31. Watched a sunrise/sunset
  32. Hit a home run (this one makes me laugh, such is my athletic prowess)
  33. Been on a cruise (I'm only 46)
  34. Seen Niagara Falls (after a cross-country bus-ride with a bunch of very high fellow students)
  35. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (the ones from southern Italy -- not the ones from Syria or Scotland)
  36. Seen an Amish community
  37. Taught yourself a new language (sadly, I majored in French in college and remember virtually nothing and my husband is Swiss and is multi-lingual -- I can't speak one word to him, either, in his native language)
  38. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (a year or so back, someone very generous gave me enough money for full-time help for my daughter and that was perfect. Sadly, I don't get it anymore, though...)
  39. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
  40. Gone rock climbing.
  41. Seen Michelangelo's David (and was forever changed, I might add!)
  42. Sung karaoke (Que Sera, Sera is my go-to song)
  43. Seen Old Faithful erupt
  44. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant (it's been done for me, though!)
  45. Visited Africa (wasn't this already mentioned?)
  46. Walked on a beach by moonlight
  47. Been transported by an ambulance (the first time when I was in a bad car accident in high school and all the other times with Sophie but I must add the cute EMTs are almost, almost worth it)
  48. Had your portrait painted 
  49. Gone deep sea fishing
  50. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
  51. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower
  52. Gone scuba-diving or snorkeling (Cancun and Hawaii)
  53. Kissed in the rain (after the movie Diva in Newport, RI)
  54. Played in the mud
  55. Gone to a drive-in theater (somewhere in the middle of Lake Placid, NY and got eaten alive by mosquitoes)
  56. Been in  a movie
  57. Visited the Great Wall of China
  58. Started a business (not for the faint of heart)
  59. Taken a martial arts class
  60. Visited Russia (I just have no desire to, either)
  61. Served at a soup kitchen
  62. Sold Girl Scout cookies (hundreds of boxes as a child)
  63. Gone whale-watching
  64. Got flowers for no reason (most recently from someone mysterious -- anyone?)
  65. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
  66. Gone sky-diving (and hopefully, never will)
  67. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
  68. Bounced a check 
  69. Flown in a helicopter
  70. Saved a favorite childhood toy (do books count?)
  71. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
  72. Eaten caviar
  73. Pieced a quilt
  74. Stood in Times Square (and preached on top of a telephone book -- just kidding!)
  75. Toured the Everglades
  76. Been fired from a job (only once and the boss stole my recipes)
  77. Broken a bone (only a finger while playing volleyball -- remember I'm not much of an athlete)
  78. Been a passenger on a motorcycle (with a crazy Englishman in college)
  79. Seen the Grand Canyon
  80. Published a book (I have had quite a few essays published in books, though!)
  81. Visited the Vatican
  82. Bought a brand-new car (I'm a leasor)
  83. Walked in Jerusalem
  84. Had your picture in the newspaper
  85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year's Eve
  86. Visited the White House
  87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
  88. Had chicken pox
  89. Saved someone's life 
  90. Sat on a jury (an abysmal assault case in NYC that ruined my view of the justice system)
  91. Met someone famous (I live in Los Angeles)
  92. Joined a book club
  93. Got a tattoo
  94. Had a baby (three, actually)
  95. Seen the Alamo in person
  96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
  97. Been involved in a law suit
  98. Owned a cell phone
  99. Been stung by a bee

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Winner Is...


You have been chosen by in my Friday giveaway and will be awarded 500 business cards of your own design, courtesy of UPrinting.

Congratulations! Please send me your email and/or snail mail address!

The Twelfth Verse of the Poem

Tonight, despite a raging cold, I dragged myself out and into the Los Angeles night with a friend and her mother to go eat dinner and hear Mary Oliver, one of the great American living poets. It is on nights like these that I am grateful to live in such a vast city, one that many deride but one that I have found beautiful, both naturally and culturally. I ate fire-roasted mussels and clams with a tinge of saffron and two crisp pieces of toast and sipped a mug of Blue Moon with a slice of orange floating in it. I ate bits of chopped lettuce and candied nuts with a sprinkle of blue cheese and tiny cubes of beets, dressed in lemon and salt and something herbal that I couldn't quite figure out. I drank a cup of strong coffee with a bit of milk and no sugar to brace myself for the poetry and we headed out to the UCLA campus with the almost-full moon in the city-lit sky.

And Mary Oliver? Mary Oliver is small and thin and from my third row seat, I saw the top of her silvery head and the flash of her smile. She has a wicked sense of humor and a clear, strong and mesmerizing voice. She read poems for an hour, both old and new, and the giant hall's silence was broken several times only by applause and the sound of smiles. It was brilliant and beautiful and soulful.

She read the entire twelve verses of a poem that I had never heard before, Flare. I thought of several of my friends as the words floated about and around. I thought of Ms. Moon and I thought of Maggie May and I thought of their childhood sorrow and wondered if they had ever heard this poem. The twelfth and last verse could almost stand alone, so here it is:


When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
    like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn't long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

This is the dark bread of the poem.
This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

It Might Be Your Lucky Day

Don't forget that tomorrow is the 500 Business Card Giveaway. Go HERE and leave a comment if you want to be entered.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quote of the Day

Edmund du Lac - The Emperor's New Clothes

Our healthcare system could be fixed by smart public-spirited people in a weekend, but in our current democracy it is very hard to budge the blockade, and things may need to get much worse and Republicans be boosted back into power and they can propose the very same legislation they are adamantly opposed to now and the system will change a little bit.
Unreality remains pretty much the same, and its appeal in politics is as strong as ever. Look at the recent powwow of the conservative choir in Washington. Their goal is to reduce government to where it was in Coolidge's time. They are sticking to this, though their presidents, Reagan and Bush II, only succeeded in enlarging government. As for their foreign policy, it's the old Flag In Your Face, Nuke The Whales, Talk Loud, Walk Tall, Proud To Be Dumb; Who Gives A Rip Anyway, Republican bravado that's all for domestic consumption and makes perfect sense if you're a shut-in and your TV is locked on Fox News but not if you are ambulatory and able to read English.
Meanwhile, our president, who is more or less forced to live in the real world, has seen his numbers drop alarmingly because unreality is so beautiful to so many people, such as the tea baggers. The conservatives should, in all decency, lie low for a few years. When you've driven the car into the swamp -- up to our eyeballs in debt, fighting two wars on behalf of shaky regimes, trying to keep a lid on Iran, Congress in a frozen stupor -- and then you throw mudballs at the tow-truck driver, you are betting on the electorate having the memory of a guppy. You can parade up and down stark naked and pretend it's very fine silk and fool a lot of people, but eventually word will get around.

Garrison Keillor 

Read the full text HERE.

Corner View - Street Scenes

I haven't done Corner View in a while and had a hankering to post these photos when I heard that this week's theme is Street Scenes.  See Jane at Spaindaily for more Corner Views around the world.

Olvera Street, Downtown Los Angeles, April 2007

Immigration March, Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 2006

It's a big country.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Really? Really?

Just for fun, I think I'm going to inaugurate a "Smells Like Bullshit" post every couple of weeks or so.

From the mouth of Virginia Representative Bob Marshall, at a rally opposing Planned Parenthood funding:
"The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children," said Marshall, a Republican who then added: "In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There's a special punishment Christians would suggest."
Here’s the link:

I wonder what the Big SP has to say about this? Or those of us who have never had to make the decision to have or not have an abortion. And why, why are these sorts of people working in government, not to mention speaking in "God's" name?

Magpie Tales 2 ***


Orhan struck the match and it burnt quickly, to his finger before he had the chance to light the cigarette dangling from his mouth. The wind had been growing steadily in intensity, and he stood outside the hotel, the rain pelting his face, dribbling down his neck. He had stormed out when she threw the ashtray at him inside. He hadn't grabbed his coat.

Goddammit, he repeated and threw the used match to the ground. He shoved the still unlit cigarette into his pocket, hunched his shoulders against the rain and pushed through the door of the hotel. The bellman, just inside the door, looked up in surprise as Orhan's burly, soaked frame pushed through and he stood, the water  puddling at his feet on the white marble floor.

Orhan pulled the cigarette out of his pocket and put it into his mouth. He struck the match and it lit and flickered as he bent toward it with his mouth.

There's no smoking inside the hotel, sir, the bellman offered.

Goddammit, Orhan threw the burnt match onto the floor where it sizzled for a moment in the pool of water but left the cigarette burning in his mouth as he moved toward the elevator. The bellman leaned down to pick up the match and made an ineffectual protest at Orhan's back but when the elevator doors closed and the man and his wispy trail of acrid smoke disappeared, he shrugged and stood near the door, watching the rain.

***Willow of Life at Willow Manor has begun a community creative writing blog called Magpie Tales and is giving a photographic prompt each Thursday. Each writer will use the prompt to create a piece of fiction or poem and post the following Tuesday. Read more about it HERE.  

Monday, February 22, 2010

Another Beach Post (from today's Writer's Almanac)

Beach Attitudes

Blessed is the beach, survivor of tides.

And blessed the litter of crown conchs and pen shells, the dead
blue crab in all its electric raiment.

Blessed the nunneries of skimmers,
scuttering and rising, wheeling and falling and settling, ruffling
their red and black-and-white habits.

And blessed be the pacemakers and the peacemakers,

the slow striders, the arthritic joggers, scarred and bent under
their histories, for they're here at last by the sunlit sea.

Blessed Peoria and Manhattan, Ottowa and Green Bay, Pittsburgh,

And blessed their children.

And blessed the lovers for they shall have one perfect day.

Blessed be the dolphin out beyond the furthest buoy,
slaughtering the bright leapers,
for they shall have full bellies.

Blessed, too, the cormorant and the osprey and the pelican
for they are the cherubim and seraphim and archangel.

And blessed be the gull, open throated, screeching, scolding
me to my face,

for he shall have his own place returned to him.
And the glossy lip of the long wave shall have the last kiss.

by Richard Dana 

*****Don't forget about this week's giveaway! Go HERE if you want to try for a 500 business card win!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hopeful Parents

I'm over at Hopeful Parents today, writing my monthly gig. If you'd like to read it, click HERE.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pray for Renee

Tonight I pray for Renee and for her to find some peace and relief from her pain. Many of you know of Renee through her blog Circling My Head -- I know her, too, through her blog and a bit outside of that world and can only say that this is a woman who has graced the world with her presence. Renee has been struggling with cancer for many years, and her beautiful daughter Angelique has let us know that she has worsened and that there is little the doctors can do for her. The tribulations that this family has endured over the past year are many, too numerous to count and astonishing in their relentlessness. Throughout all of this, Renee has continued to not just shine but to glow, steadily and brilliantly from within to without.

I am praying, tonight, for peace for her, for the release of her pain, for communion with all that is eternal and good and graceful. I hope you'll join me.

About a year ago, Renee sent me a beautiful little children's book with a note on the flyleaf to me, someone whom she had never met. The following is from the little book called MAYFLY DAY by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross.

Here is Mayfly,
It is her first day on earth.
It is also her last.

Mayflies only live for one day.
But is she sad? Not at all.
She is happy to be alive!

This isn't any old day.
This is the best of days.
She lives for each moment.

She sees the world begin,
She hears the crack of dawn.
And bathes in its golden glow.

A billion buds burst open.
All for her!
She tastes her honey.

Mayfly sees eggs hatch.
Babies born.
Lambs learning to stand.

The business of ants.
The dizziness of children...
The loveliness of things.

She feels the sun's warm hug.
The kiss of summer rain.
The magic of the rainbow.

It is her wedding day.
Trees throw confetti.
There are games on the lawn.

Breezes blow, bells chime.
Birds sing! She dances
to the music of the universe.

Mayfly lays her eggs.
It is a peaceful night.
The best of nights.

She makes one last wish:
'Little ones, may all your tomorrows
be as perfect as my yesterday!'

Mayfly watches the moon come up
and the stars go out.
And is thankful for her wonderful life.

Friday Giveaway

I've always wanted to make up some business cards with my blog name on it -- something that I can then hand out and give to the people who ask what I "do" (because let's face it, it's really all I do, right?).

If you are in need of new business cards, this is the giveaway for you! UPrinting is giving away 500 Business Cards Online. Whether you're a writer, a blogger, a new parent at a school or self-employed, the options are many. The steps to create business cards are easy to figure out, and you can follow a few easy steps to Print Online products from their website.

Here's the Offer:

500 Business Cards for One Winner
Sizes: 2x3.5", 2x3", 2x2" (square card) or 1.5x3.5" (skinny card)
Paper: 14pt gloss cardstock, 14 pt matte cardstock or 13 pt recycled uncoated cardstock
Specifications: Full Color Both Sides; Offset Press; 3 Business Day Printing
Shipping: FREE UPS Ground Shipping
Eligibility: Limited to US Residents only

Here are the Rules:

1. Leave a comment letting me know how you would be using these business cards. Be creative!
2. Get another entry by posting about it on your own blog.

That's it! The giveaway ends next Friday, February 26th at 12:00 noon Pacific Coast Time. I will use and announce the winner that afternoon.

Good luck! (Disclosure: I will also be given 500 Business Cards by Uprinting!)

A Still Life, a Life Still

That is the title of a gorgeous blog written by an old friend of mine, Stephanie. Stephanie and her close friend, Susan, learned in the same week that her mother and Susan's father had both been diagnosed with ALS. They call their blog A Still Life, a Life Still, an ALS journal, but it is something far more. It is filled with their intense humanity and spirituality, their joy for their lives and for their families. Their writing is clear and honest and heart-breaking. I urge you to go HERE and be filled with goodness.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday Humor

-- from Suture Self -- A Book of Medical Cartoons by New Yorker Cartoonist Leo Cullum

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Greetings from Another Planet

It was well over seventy degrees yesterday, in southern California, and I managed to convince The Husband to tear himself away from his mistress and escort us to the beach. The children had the day off, and Sophie, being Sophie, woke up mysteriously better after four days of seizures and sweating and drooling and me on my knees beside her bed crying for mercy. We packed up the car and headed over.

The water was very, very cold and very, very greenish-blue, and there were just a handful of people hanging out. Women were still in bikinis, though, and some children even braved the water. My boys immediately began digging in the sand. The Husband and Sophie went walking.

I stared at the surfers who stared out at the waves.

Have I ever told you how much I love surfers? It's definitely what I'm going to be in my next life -- that's what karma is for, right?

The Big O insisted on setting up the umbrella even though it's missing a crucial line of tube.

Henry is starting to look a little glamorous of late, no?

He's still mine, though. Thank goodness.

The Mermaid was, once again, intent on walking into the ocean.

The beach is one of the few places where Sophie is somewhat independent (meaning I don't hold on to her for dear life). She'll wander off but at least if she falls, the sand is soft and cushioned. Nonetheless, Henry was very protective.

Man? Woman? I told you we live on another planet.

This guy and his tattooed girlfriend and their muscled buddy looked threatening, but when I eavesdropped on their conversation, this is what I heard: Man, this big hole right here is dangerous. We need to mark it so those little kids don't fall in. Appearances are deceptive.

She's elusive and deceptive, that girl in the pink hat. We never, never know what's next.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Not the Last Word

I read this op-ed piece with increasing horror and while I admit to being a bit on the laissez-faire side regarding the word "retard," I found Michael Gerson's argument below very persuasive. I still maintain that a little less emphasis on the word and  a lot more emphasis on action is in order (see HERE). By the sound of it, though, life for the tens of thousands of people affected by disabilities in our country isn't going to get any easier any time soon. I believe the more debate on these subjects, the better. Let's continue to discuss, all right? To start, read below and then over at the ever-brilliant Jeneva's website Busily Seeking...Continual Change.

Defending the word 'retard' is not heroic

The media is least attractive when it offers the pretense of fairness to cover a desire for self-serving controversy. “Tonight, the issue is cannibalism. Taking the pro-cannibalism side is Dr. Littleknown Academic, professor of cultural and culinary studies at Unjustifiably Prominent University….” As G.K. Chesterton said, some viewpoints are not just minorities but monstrosities. Giving them equal time accords a legitimacy they entirely lack.
In this spirit, Professor Christopher Fairman of the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University takes to The Post today to defend the word “retard” against taboo, censorship and other forms of social repression. He argues that the r-word must be rescued from the terrible fate of the f-word. Even the n-word has “varied and evolving uses.”

There are many intentionally offensive elements of this case. But the most disturbing is a dismissive attitude toward the struggles of the disabled. The comparison between the r-word and the n-word, according to Fairman, is “overblown.” “’Retard,’ however harsh, pales in comparison.”

I’d recommend that Fairman and others who hold this view take a look at
War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, by Edwin Black -- one of the most disturbing books about America ever written. It recounts efforts by distinguished scientists, academics, industrialists, health officials and jurists through much of the 20th century to “direct human evolution” by waging war against people with developmental and physical disabilities.

Black points out that early last century, the American Breeders Association -- supported by generous grants from Andrew Carnegie -- created a committee to study “the best practical means for cutting off the defective germ-plasm of the American population.” The panel included doctors, economists and attorneys from Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the University of Chicago.

Black continues: “During a number of subsequent conferences, they carefully debated the ‘problem of cutting off the supply of defectives,’ and systemically plotted a bold campaign of ‘purging the blood of the American people of the handicapping and deteriorating influences of these anti-social classes.’ Ten groups were eventually identified as ‘socially unfit’ and targeted for ‘elimination.’” Among those groups, according to Black, were the “feebleminded,” epileptics, the “insane,” the “deformed” and the “deaf.”

Eugenic sterilizations did not end in the United States until the 1970s, endorsed by a decision of the Supreme Court. Citizens with Down syndrome and other genetic challenges are increasingly rare in America, because of prenatal testing and abortion. And as such genetic perfection is pursued, those who lack it are subjected to increased prejudice.

Given this history, the r-word does not seem so innocuous. And defending it does not seem so heroic. Fairman can have his cherished f-word, which merely soils and trivializes the sex act. But defending the r-word is not the protection of free expression; it is the defense of bullies.

There is a long tradition of religious and moral reflection on the words we choose to speak. According to the Hebrew scriptures, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Jesus of Nazareth argued, “It is not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

There is not an exact correlation between vileness of speech and vileness of character, but there is a rough correlation. Words such as the r-word and the n-word often reveal aggression, contempt and hatred. They are a form of verbal violence. In these cases, what Fairman calls “self-censorship” is really kindness and moral judgment. And what he regards as free expression is just rude, abusive and cruel.

Yes, the meanings of words change over time. Epithets gain and lose currency. Which means that standards of morality, respect and tact must be constantly reapplied in new circumstances -- not that standards should be abandoned entirely.

Yes, government involvement in the censorship of words is dangerous. But what the Special Olympics is proposing – encouraging people to take a personal pledge against the derogatory use of the r-word – is not government censorship, it is social stigma. In this case, such stigma is a sign of moral maturity.

I have signed the pledge at I hope you do as well.
By Michael Gerson  |  February 14, 2010; 11:03 AM ET

Actions...Louder Than Words

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

William Butler Yeats and Maud Gonne

Adam's Curse
We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, 'A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.'

...........And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There's many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, 'To be born woman is to know -
Although they do not talk of it at school -
That we must labor to be beautiful.'

I said, 'It's certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.'

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

--William Butler Yeats

Saturday, February 13, 2010

For all those buried in snow

Not to rub it in, but the weather today in Los Angeles was 75 degrees and crystal clear.

Why don't Los Angelenos dub their weather






We just have to contend with fires, slides and the Big One, after all.

On another note, I read the obituary of Felice Quinto, the celebrity photographer who was the inspiration for the character Paparazzo in Fellini's La Dolce Vita, one of my favorite movies. Ironically, I couldn't manage to make a copy of the photo of Felice to post, but here's a scene from the movie:

Now, doesn't Marcello take your mind off that snow?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Guilt and Blessings

The Confession - Pietro Longhi

I confess tonight that I perhaps portrayed the person who came to visit us and assess Sophie's needs in a not-so-good light. I won't even go into the actual meeting because it was really out of this world, a scene worthy of Terry Gilliam's Brazil  -- and I actually so desperately want the services that I don't want to do anything to offend the persons in power. My main aim in jotting down my thoughts is to illustrate the ironies of this strange life we lead -- those of us who have children with special needs.

Sitting at a table with a stack of forms to sign, all of which attest to the fact that your child has received a category of "institutional deeming" or speaking on the telephone to a stranger about checking a box that signifies the potential death of one's child, all while beating up the eggs and grating the cheese for the Friday night omelette is what  I feel compelled to write about because it is not only what I observe, what jumps out at me as it is happening but what I must do. What I must do is write about it. Must write. Write.

I might add that there are many who battle disease in general or poverty or discrimination. My modus operandi is to speak or write the way I see it. Sometimes I sound bitter and sometimes filled with gratitude. Both of these are true. Having a tongue as sharp as a scythe has its benefits when used to break through to the other side. But it can also cause harm.

Above all, I want to impress upon anyone reading this that I am very aware of and grateful for the services that are offered to families with children like Sophie. Not a day goes by that I don't feel a gasp, an intake of breath, for those other mothers of Sophies who have none of the resources I have.

Speaking the Worst

another vintage ad

The social worker from the other day called today. Let's call her Z.

Z: Hello, this is Z. I have couple of questions for you.
Me: Sure, what do you need to know?
Z: How does girl communicate with her brothers?
Me: She doesn't speak at all.
Z: Does she use words?
Me: She's non-verbal. She can't talk.
Z: Does she use sign language?
Me: No. She uses augmentative speech devices but in a very simple way.
Z: How do you know what she need?
Me: I just do, I guess.

We hang up the phone. It rings a couple of seconds later.

Z: This is Z, again. I have another question.
Me: No problem.
Z: The box checked on application says that the girl need 24-hour monitoring. Why?
Me: Oh. I guess I checked that because either her father or I have to sleep with her because of seizures.
Z: Oh. She hurt herself in night then?
Me: Well, no. But we want to be near her if she has a seizure.
Z: Well, usually this box checked if girl might kill herself in the night.
Me: Oh, no, no, no! Her seizures make it necessary that we sleep with her so that we can hear her.

When I checked the box, I just figured that yes, Sophie basically needs 24-hour monitoring. The Husband and I resigned ourselves long ago to the fact that one of us has to sleep with her. We know many, many parents who sleep with their children who have epilepsy. There is the natural fear that she will be alone, seizing, while we sleep and perhaps frightened. There is the fear that she will get out of bed before a seizure and fall down and hurt herself. Above all, there is the fear of SUDEP (sudden unexplained death in epilepsy patients) -- a terrifying possibility that is, sadly, little talked about in the epilepsy world.

There, I talked about it.


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