Sunday, August 01, 2010

Elizabeth Warren - Obama's Test of Masculinity

Elizabeth Warren is really the only candidate to chair the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA). If Obama does not appoint her, it will prove he has no balls.

Warren is a professor of law at Harvard Law School. Her entire career has been devoted to studying middle class economics, and she is a recognized expert in the field. I first heard of her in 2004 when she testified before Congress about the Bankruptcy Reform legislation - a bill strongly supported by banks and credit card companies to correct bankruptcy abuse that was allegedly widespread. Warren testified about the study she had done on bankruptcies of middle class families, half of which were due to unexpected medical expenses - and 75% of those families had medical insurance. Of course, the Republican Congress ignored her and instead listened to the banks and passed the bill - which has had a devastating effect on middle class families but was very beneficial to banks. Some of the perks it gave banks contributed to the massive bank failure.

Warren was appointed to, and became Chair of, the Congressional Oversight Panel that was created to investigate the US big bank bailout. In that capacity, she represented the interests of the public - and not the banks - and insisted on transparency and accountability. Her position did not give her power to actually do anything, but her reporting what was happening and what should be happening was, needless to say, not very appreciated by Big Banks or by the U S Treasury Department.

Warren is the mother of the CFPA. She has been lobbying incessantly for its inclusion in the financial reform legislation recently signed into law. Every time the Big Banks and Secretary Geithner thought they had it killed, Warren came roaring back. Without her, it would not have survived.

Warren is so obviously the only candidate for CFPA Chair. Aside from having created the Agency, she has the necessary knowledge of the arcane American financial system. She also has the credibility to protect the American people, especially the middle class. Plus, she is blatantly independent and not beholden to anyone - except the public. So who would possibly oppose her? Easy answer - Big Banks - and they have a lot of influence. But also the Secretary of the Treasury, who doesn't want anyone overseeing what he's doing - especially some uppity woman he can't control.

If Obama does not appoint her, he will confirm his lack of balls. All those voters who were so hot for him when he ran for President are going to discover he really is impotent. This will be the kiss of death for the Democrats in the 2010 elections - not to mention the end of any meaningful financial reform.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hysterical Hypocrisy - Republican Style

Today Republican House Whip Eric Cantor introduced a program called YouCut. When I first heard of it, I thought it was very clever. It gives the public a chance to vote on what federal programs they want to see cut from the budget. However, when I went to the website, I discovered it wasn't clever at all - just the same ole crap we always see.

The website lists 5 programs for voters to choose. The choices are all typical programs that Republicans hate. So this is just a typical hypocritcal attempt to get email addresses - sort of like political phishing. It pretends to be seriously interested in your opinion, hoping to fool voters into providing personal information. It's the techy version of the old mailers that asked for your opinions on a survey. When you opened it, it asked typical partisan questions - and then said if you wanted anything to happen, you had to send money - right now.

The only question to be answered now is just how gullible are Republican voters? Will they fall for this scam? Probably.

If there was any integrity in Congress, someone could become an immediate hero to millions of voters by asking real questions. If we are going to really deal with a serious deficit, some very tough choices are going to have to be made. It's obvious no one in Congress has the courage to make these choices - they're too afraid of losing their next election. Wouldn't it be nice if one brave soul would step forward and present the public with the real choices and ask for their response?

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Carrying Papers

I was thinking about those poor souls in Arizona that will always have to be carrying papers to identify themselves as legal. Then I remembered living somewhere overseas as a child where I had to always have my papers. I wasn't sure where it was, but I assumed it was Spain, because I lived there when Franco was dictator - and he was a pretty scary character. All I remembered was that it was thoroughly drummed into my head that I was never to leave home without my papers. I could also remember exactly what it looked like, and how terribly awkward it was to carry. I had a vague memory that I had saved this thing. I'm a pretty organized person, and I knew where it would be if I had it. And I found it! To my surprise, this was for when I lived in France, of all places.

As you can see, it was very long. But it did fold into a more manageable size - 3.5" X 5". But I was always having trouble finding places to carry it, since it didn't fit into any of my pockets. You can also see that it got a lot of abuse - it's torn and full of water marks and spots.

Shortly after I found this, I ran across an article in The Atlantic about French ID cards, which they apparently still have, although they rarely ask for them. The only people who are asked to show them are youngish, African or Arabic looking males.
"As far as I understand, such identity checks have been a long staple of police work in France going back to the Revolutionary/Napoleonic era wherein the State underwent a reinforcement of its prerogatives over the citizenry."
Wait until the conservatives in Arizona hear about this. They'll be horrified to be compared to the French!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Vegetable Soup in Paris

After avoiding the flu all winter, I finally succumbed on Sunday night. Earlier in the day a scratchy throat I blew off as allergy related and I worked in my yard -- carrying two large bags of mulch from car to front, weeding, planting, and mulching. The harder I worked the more hopeful I was in beating back this menacing virus. It was not to be.

By Monday morning I didn't bother to make my pot of morning tea; I simply fed the two cats and the dog, and I shuffled back to bed. So overpowering was the pressure in my head, I had to squint my eyes -- too painful to open. Thankfully, I had soup on hand because I was in no shape to drive. One lentil (Wolfgang Puck brand) and a southwest black bean, the latter, not appealing when sick, but what lingered in my memory always, I ushered forward -- a simple, as simple can be, vegetable soup prepared for me in Paris by Madame DuBois when I was ill.

I was working as an au pair in Paris for M. and Mme. DuBois who had a three year old son, Fabrice. Well, this was not truly in Paris, I learned when I first made the trek from the left bank to a suburb called Courbevoie. The small apartment was in a modern high-rise and it was not how I envisioned my life in Paris, but the DuBois were a charming young family. Monsieur was a doctor and his wife, Catherine, a stay-at-home mom. She had a weaving loom in the living room where she weaved shawls, blankets, and such. Catherine wore long skirts, boots, and knitted shawls draped perfectly around her shoulders; she was full-figured, but healthy and so cheerful and lively. She wore her light brunette hair up, in a bun, nothing severe -- simple. Catherine always had a bar or two of Swiss chocolate sitting on the coffee table and she'd break off a piece every now and then. It was so tempting. The only chocolate I had eaten, in the US at this time, during the 70s, was Hershey's and Baker's.

After living with the DuBois family, for a month or so, I fell ill; it was similar to how I'm feeling now. Madame let me stay in bed, which was a true luxury. The French simply do not get sick. I think it's seen as a sign of weakness. I recall once my American friend, Joanne, told me her boyfriend, Dominique, who was sick with fever and chills, refused rest in bed allowing himself to be pampered, no, he took off in the elements to run in the park, until he could "sweat it out." I can't recall if his strategy worked, but it is the way of the French.

So, I was lucky to have one day in bed to rest. That day Madame prepared for me, a large bowl of vegetable soup which she brought to me in bed. She would never open a can; she simply roughly cut vegetables fresh from the outdoor market that morning: carrots, potatoes, parsnips, and leeks, and simmered in water. This was the most simple, the most pure, and the most comforting soup I'd ever eaten. I don't even think salt was added. We were still eating Campbell's with its over-salted mushy vegetables and creamed soups in the US. Oh, my mother did make vegetable soup and it was delicious, but it had so many ingredients including stew meat. This was different.

In honor of Madame DuBois, by the the third day of my illness, I bravely tackled a trip to Walmart. I picked over the sad limp vegetables choosing organic carrots, a large white onion, celery, and potatoes, along with a carton of organic vegetable stock; Catherine had only used water. I don't think it would've mattered. The soup was simply okay. It was soothing, nourishing -- I'm sure, but, not at all like the bowl of vegetable soup, made for me one fall morning in Courbevoie, -- thank goodness.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm Randy, let me in

I was finishing up a Natchez mystery last night, The Turning Angel by Greg Iles. In it, he mentions the Eola Hotel:

At seven stories, the Eola Hotel is the tallest building in Natchez. Built in 1927, the year of the great flood, the Eola has weathered booms and bust to find itself on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Eola has such a strong place in my childhood memories -- it was our grand hotel -- that when I got married, even though I was poor, I wanted to spend a couple of nights there with my new British husband, Mel.

I was telling him how gracious and refined the South was, and the Eola was a fine representation of that tradition. It had been totally refurbished when we got married in late 1985, so Mel was suitably impressed when he stepped into the grand lobby:

We were asleep that first night when we were disturbed by a man banging on the door next to ours and shouting:

"I'm Randy. Let me in!"

As the man continued to shout and pound on the door, Mel observed that the South didn't seem so refined if you could just shout out to someone in public that you were horny and wanted sex and then try to force your way into their room. (No one is named Randy in England. It's unheard of. Maybe someone is named Randolph, but it's never shortened to Randy. Randy means you want to have sex with someone -- it's an adjective describing your current state of mind.)

I laughed when I realized that Mel didn't understand that this man's name was Randy. The shouting and beating of the door continued, and we started to worry, so we called down to the lobby to get someone to intercede.

The next morning, we opened our door to find the door of the next room had been totally smashed in.

"So much for Southern politeness and refinement," Mel observed.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nancy Pelosi - A Heroine

Nancy Pelosi is the first female Speaker of the US House of Representatives. She is also second in line of presidential succession, after Vice President Biden. This makes her the highest ranking female politician in American History. She is also one of the most effective and powerful Speakers we've ever had, as she aptly showed last night. These are my favorite quotes from today's news - although there were many to choose from.
"Republicans enjoy making fun of Nancy Pelosi, but the House Speaker kicked their butts on health reform." -- Congressional Quarterly
"If there were a Mt Rushmore for House Speakers, her pleasant grin and steely eyes would be on it." -- Paul Begala

Nancy Pelosi was born and raised in Baltimore in a well known Catholic political family. Her father was a Congressman and Mayor, and her brother also served as Mayor. When she graduated with a degree in political science, she went to work for a US Senator from Maryland. But while she was in college she met and fell in love with Frank Pelosi. When they married, they moved to New York and then San Francisco.

Like a good Catholic wife, she stayed at home to raise her five children. But she was an active volunteer for the Democratic Party, working her way up with ladder. One of her mentors was Congressman Philip Burton who served for 20 years until his death. His wife was appointed to his seat, but she decided not to run for reelection and chose Pelosi to run for her seat. Since Pelosi's youngest child was a senior in high school, she felt like she could now run for office. It was an extremely close race, but she won - and has never had a serious challenger since.

When she announced her campaign for Congress in 1987, it made the news in Baltimore because of the prominence of her family. I was living in Annapolis at the time and heard the news. The more I learned about her, the more I liked her. I sent her a contribution and have been a fan ever since - closely following her career.

Like most women in a male dominated career, she worked harder and more professionally than most of her colleagues - and she gained a great deal of respect from her peers. She served on Committees usually reserved for men - Appropriations and Intelligence - and eventually became the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee.

In 2001, in a close race, she was elected House Minority Whip, the first woman to hold that position. In 2002, when the Minority Leader resigned to run for President, she was elected to that position - and became the first woman to lead a major party in the US House. After the Democrats gained control of the House, she became the first woman Speaker of the House. During her acceptance speech to Congress, she discussed the historical importance of being the first female to hold the position of Speaker:
"This is a historic moment — for the Congress, and for the women of this country. It is a moment for which we have waited more than 200 years. Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle to achieve our rights. But women weren't just waiting; women were working. Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal. For our daughters and granddaughters, today, we have broken the marble ceiling. For our daughters and our granddaughters, the sky is the limit, anything is possible for them".
Nancy, on behalf of all the women to whom you are a heroine, I want you to know we are extremely proud of you!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Financing for College to be Voted On Tomorrow

In addition to the Health Reform Bill, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) will also be part of the budget reconciliation bill to be voted on tomorrow.

SAFRA will increase the size of the Pell Grant that will amount to an investment of $488,354,485 in Mississippi over the next 10 years. It will increase funding for the College Access Challenge Grant program, and will also fund innovative programs at states and institutions that focus on increasing financial literacy and helping retain and graduate students - $9,254,555 in Mississippi over the next 5 years. It also invests $69,894,610 in Mississippi’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. A competitive grant program for community colleges will be established.

SAFRA will also total revamp the current student loan program. Right now these loans are through private banks but guaranteed by the federal government - and these has proven to be extremely expensive for students and for the federal government. Beginning July 1 this year, the loans will return to direct loans from the federal government, which have proven to be more stable, effective, and cost efficient. Payback schedules will be established based on the students' income. The loans will be serviced by private lenders, but unlike bank loans, these loans can only be serviced by US workers.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budge Office, returning to direct loans will save enough money to pay for this entire program - AND reducing the deficit by $10 billion over 10 years.

One more reason to hope that President Obama and Speaker Pelosi find 216 votes in the US House tomorrow.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Good News about Mississippi

According to Facing South, the blog from the Institute of Southern Studies, there is good news about Mississippi in a recently released Pew Center Report.

The US has about 5% of the world's population but 25% of the world's prisoners. Gee, sounds like we're a nation of outlaws! However, for the first time since 1972, 2009 showed a decrease in state prison populations. And Mississippi is leading the way.

Why is this happening? The Great Recession has forced states to try less costly, and often more effective, solutions to the previous "lock 'em up and throw away the key" attitude.

Two years ago, Mississippi was facing a prison population that had almost doubled since 1972 - and serious budget shortfalls at the same time. So they revisited their "truth in sentencing" laws, allowing nonviolent offenders to be released earlier under certain conditions. The Legislature also made some other thoughtful changes. All these efforts paid off, with the state showing one of the sharpest declines in prison populations in the country. Plus, there was no accompanying increase in crime, as feared by some.

According to a 50 state survey released Wednesday (March 17) by the Pew Center on the States:
"The move put Mississippi at the leading edge of a major national change, one that appears to be the result of teeming prisons, a deep recession, and changing attitudes toward corrections. For the first time in 38 years, state prison populations declined in 2009."
It's not often that you hear the words "Mississippi" and "leading edge" in the same sentence. So let's celebrate.

Disappointing Rosalie

I had the most beautiful time in Natchez the other week, and top of my list of things to do was to visit my favorite antebellum home there, Rosalie. I saw it so many times as a child then in my adulthood -- everytime I went to Natchez after I moved away -- I would go see Rosalie.

Here's a pic of my favorite room:

I also liked this shot I got of a Southern Belle doing a little accounting at the house:

But our visit there was disappointing. I knew something had changed when we went to go into the house and the door was locked. When we knocked, a woman in a shiny fuschia Civil War dress (did they wear that color in those days?) opened the door and said (just like they did to Dorothy in the Emerald City):

"Go away now and come back later." Then she shut the door in our faces.

I said to my husband, "I can't believe it! This is just like the Wizard of Oz." He agreed. But we had to see Rosalie so we waited until she finally opened the door again.

The tour was so bad. One woman didn't know the house and kept looking at notes to see what to say in each room, then finally said, "I usually do Auburn -- I don't know Rosalie."

The tours in that house used to be so special, warm and welcoming. I was really not happy about the experience, and when I compared notes with other tourists at other homes, they said they'd had similar experiences and found the tour guides rude and unknowledgeable.

I'm putting this post in here in case someone reads it and can do something to better the Rosalie Experience. It's such a beautiful place, and I want people to love it as I do, not think of it with distaste.

(PS: The woman in the gift shop is lovely but then she lives in Natchez and knows everyone.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spoiled by Natchez

When I was staying at the Elms antebellum home in Natchez last week, my morning breakfasts looked like this:

This sure wasn't like Shoney's Breakfast Bar!

I was so spoiled by the owner Esther Carpenter's cooking (she was a gourmet chef in LA) that the breakfasts I ate after I left her house were sad tasteless affairs.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Elizabeth of London Graces Natchez

The Queen of England is not the only Elizabeth in London. Far more important to me is Elizabeth Scanlon Thomas. Why is she more important? First of all, she was reared in Natchez until the age of 12, so she is full of Southern charm and grace - she even still has her Natchez accent with a little touch of British. She is a blogger par excellance - both at her own blog and this one. She is entertaining, thoughtful, brilliant, and gracious. I know this sounds like a bit much, but she truly lives up to the hype.

I first "met" Elizabeth online. I have a Google Alert for Natchez that lets me know whenever the word Natchez appears online. Since Elizabeth sometimes writes about her life in Natchez, I received an alert one day for her blog and checked it out. I wondered what in the world a Natchez girl was doing in England, so I emailed her. Since then I religiously read her blog every day. She writes several times a day, so I feel like I know her fairly well. I asked her if she would share some of her Natchez stories on The Natchez Blog, and she agreed. Over the years, we had gotten to be good friends - even though we had never laid eyes on each over or heard each other's voice.

A few months ago, Elizabeth told me that she and her husband Mel were coming to Natchez for a couple of days. I was so excited and wanted to make sure their visit was wonderful. First, I wanted them to stay at the perfect Natchez place. So of course, I recommended that they stay at The Elms Bed and Breakfast. The over 200 year old home has been owned by the same family for 130 years, so it's filled with antiques and history. Owner Esther Carpenter is both a professional chef and a well known artist, so the interior design and the food are unbelievable. Yes, this will do for Elizabeth of London!

Next we arranged a luncheon with the other Natchez Bloggers. Elizabeth requested that it be held at The Carriage House on the grounds of Stanton Hall, of which she had the fondest memories. She brought us all gifts from England (see picture) which included a bag with the British flag, a tea towel with a picture of Sherlock Holmes, a tin of biscuits (British for cookies), a gin and tonic cocktail in a can (!), a tea selection (of course), and a replica of the famous London phone booth.

The rest of their brief visit was crammed with perfect Natchez experiences: a trip to the Natchez Visitors Center for souvenirs and an overall view, a driving tour of the downtown area including the magnificent Mississippi River, the historial Natchez photograph collection housed at the First Presbyterian Church (click to see the pictures), cocktails at the Admiral Merrill House, the hilarious production of Southern Exposure by the Natchez Little Theater, the Pilgrimage Tours of antebellum homes, and of course the Pageant, produced by the Natchez Garden Clubs and in which Elizabeth participated as a young girl. I think Elizabeth and Mel thoroughly enjoyed their visit and will come back whenever they can - and send all their friends.

Everyone who met Elizabeth and Mel were immediately charmed. (Did I mention that Mel is not only cute but has this to die for British accent?) I don't think the Queen and her Prince could have made a better impression. Natchez was truly graced by their visit.

Ex-Natchez-Pat Returns to Natchez

On Tuesday several bloggers of The Natchez Blog, gathered for lunch at the Carriage House Restaurant, in Natchez, eager to meet Elizabeth Scanlon Thomas who had arrived in town, from her London, England home, the night before.

Casey, Gwen, Elodie, Marsha, and myself had never met Elizabeth, but we felt as if we knew her, from reading her comments on Casey's Natchez Blog, as well as postings on her own blog.

Elizabeth found our blog through a mutual connection -- Natchez. She and her family lived in Natchez where her father was a pathologist. Unfortunately, her idillic life in Natchez ended when at 12 years old her family moved to Kansas. A drastic change, as Elizabeth describes it -- from foliage and flowers to stark and sterile.

We also had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth's husband, Mel, who accompanied her on her return trip to Natchez. Elizabeth told us over lunch she and Mel met when she was on a study abroad program in London; they stayed in touch, and several years later were married. They lived in the US for a few years -- Boston and later in St. Louis, but returned to London.

Since Elizabeth found us on Casey's Natchez blog and later on Facebook, we have all shared photos of friends, family, and special moments in our lives and it has been such a treat to learn more about Elizabeth's life in England -- so different, yet so similar. So to finally meet was such a delight for us all.

Elizabeth came with gifts in hand: a red satchel bearing the UK's Union Flag, with many goodies inside. She retains a southern accent along with a dry wit that only a southerner can possess. Her husband, Mel, was lovely and charming, and he managed quite well being outnumbered by women all day.

I look forward to reading Elizabeth's blog recounting her return trip to Natchez; it sounds like they had the full experience: Southern Exposure, The Natchez Pageant, and antebellum home tours. They stayed at the bed and breakfast, The Elms, owned by Esther Carpenter, while in Natchez.

Whether in the states, across the pond, or simply on The Natchez Blog or Facebook, we look forward to many more sojourns with our friend and fellow Natchezian, Elizabeth.

You can follow Elizabeth on her blog and read more about her visit to Natchez at: It looks like Elizabeth is already posting and beat us to it, but can't wait to read it!

Miss Betty gives me a gift

My mother's dearest friend was Betty McGehee of Natchez. Miss Betty (we children were allowed to call her that after years of knowing her) lives on a big farm with horses, cows and chickens. We always loved going out to the McGehee's and riding their horses and getting a taste of the country life.

Here's me and Miss Betty earlier this week:

We saw Miss Betty twice during our few days in Natchez. She let me pick fragrant daffodils from her garden and put them in a can with some water, and we drove around Natchez with those flowers in the cup holder of the car for the next couple of days and I was constantly reminded of her.

When I was young and living in Natchez, Miss Betty had an idea to pick daffodils from her vast acres of them and put in decorated cans to give to shut-ins -- elderly people who couldn't get out of the house -- to cheer them. But I was so intimidated by them when I tried to take them flowers that I forgot to put water in the can so the flowers would have been dead quickly. I finally confessed this to Miss Betty, and she laughed and we re-created the daffodils in the can, only this time I put water in them.

On our second visit yesterday, we sat on the rocking swing on her front porch and talked about my mother and the guilt I had over her life (she was in a home with Multiple Sclerosis while I was living in England raising kids so I wasn't there for her except for yearly visits). Miss Betty tried to help me by telling about some of her private guilt that she was dealing with, then we both started crying, and it was cathartic.

Then she loaded us down with pecans from her trees, homemade lemonade and more daffodils in cans, and basically we agreed that she was my mother now that my own mother is dead, and the whole visit was a beautiful experience.

I have to show you this photo Mel took of me getting ready to go out at the antebellum home we were staying in. I was sooo nervous, not knowing what to expect from Natchez -- would it deny me its magic or open its arms to me? And it came through for me. Thank you Natchez.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Barbour Fiddles While Mississippi Burns

The federal government today released its states based unemployment figures for January. As reported by Chris Kromm in Facing South - a blog from the Institute for Southern Studies - the South is suffering. Eight out of 13 Southern states, including Mississippi, have unemployment figures below the national average. A year ago, Mississippi had 8.2% unemployment. Now it's 10.9%. The national average was 7.7% and 9.7 %. Our neighboring state of Louisiana is doing better with 5.7% and 7.4%. The only southern state doing better than Louisiana is Virginia.

Most people know what the President is doing to bring down unemployment - and we undoubtedly have differing opinions about his approach. But how many of you are aware of what our Mississippi representatives are doing?

Right now there's a pissing match going on in the State House. It's so bad it made CBS news. At stake is $52 million dollars in federal money for unemployment. Governor Barbour refuses to accept this money to help out the unemployed in Mississippi. After all, there are rumors he's running for President (what a joke!) and he has to polish his teabagger credentials. What does he care about the poor and the unemployed? Absolutely nothing, as he has shown time and time again.

What's his excuse? He doesn't want to pay unemployment for part time workers which is required in the federal program. Hello, Haley - come down to earth where the rest of us live. Why do you think people work part time jobs? Because they're lazy? No, these people are, by definition, workers - not bums. They may work part time because that's the only work they can find. Or because they're mothers with small children who can't work full time. Or maybe they put several part time jobs together to make ends meet. If any of these people lose their jobs, their families are destitute. And part time jobs are the most unstable of jobs and rarely offer any benefits. People are hurting, Haley - and they need help to get through these hard times.

This time, the Democrats in the State House of Representatives are playing tough. They aren't approving the authorization for the State Department of Employment Security, which administers the unemployment program, unless the Governor agrees to accept the federal assistance. If the agency is not authorized, the federal government will take over. I know you'll love that, Haley!

Guess we'll see who wins this game of chicken. While thousands of Mississippians are suffering big time, our Emperor is fiddling.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Barbour Embarasses Mississippi

Today our esteemed Governor wrote an op ed piece in the Washington Post in support of Toyota - and then went on CNN to do the same thing. Haley seems to have forgotten that he is a Governor now - not a lobbyist for big corporations. I know, I know. We have lots of jobs in Mississippi dependent on Toyota. But Haley seems to have also forgotten that people were killed due to Toyota's greed and negligence. Toyota's arrogant behavior was wide spread and reprehensible - and Haley looked to be defending that behavior.

And then he makes matters worse by making it look like the Department of Transportation was just picking on poor little Toyota in order to increase the market share of GM, of which US taxpayers now own a large chunk.
"That's why I hope Congress will resist the temptation to attack Toyota simply to advance the interests of its American competitors." -- Haley Barbour
Let's remind Haley that not everyone has his sick, paranoid mind. Other members of Congress, of both parties, were furious with Toyota. They were certainly not thinking of GM stock - they were concerned for the dead and injured Americans that were Toyota's victims - some of whom testified today.

And let's also remind Haley that the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, who was almost apoplectic over Toyota's behavior, is a Republican.

Haley, Congress is trying to increase accountability and resources to monitor and regulate all car companies - not just Toyota -  in order to protect American and to prevent this from occuring again . You, on the other hand, were only concerned with money.

You shamed us, Haley. Mississippians are not like that.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Rubin turned seven years old a few days before he and I flew to Los Angeles to visit Rachel. She and I had talked briefly about him staying on with her when I returned home. I think neither of us knew how that decision would turn. She knew I would miss him; she would have to make arrangements for his day care. On the other hand she is the alpha female in his life. I've been his bud for a while now so of course he cares for me but the minute he sees Rachel it becomes obvious that she is the love of his life.

A few years ago, while Rachel was still living in Natchez, Rubin became critically ill with Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA). I was running for city council and the afternoon of the political candidates forum Rachel became aware of his illness. She noticed he had hematuria while walking him. I was busy getting ready for the forum when she raced back to the house and said she had to get him to the Vet, that he had blood in his urine, and they were off. I had my mind on the forum and wasn't alarmed; thank goodness she was!

That night he was up and down, restless and uncomfortable. Later it was clear that he wasn't getting enough oxygen. The next morning we returned with him to the Vet and he kept him, gave him a blood transfusion. We still had no diagnosis. That afternoon we visited the clinic and determined he needed to get to LSU School of Vet Medicine. We finally convinced the Vet to make the arrangements for transfer after I suggested he type and cross match him and order in blood for another transfusion. Impossible! The Vet made arrangements for transfer.

We drove to Baton Rouge that evening in heavy rain and presented Rubin to the clinic staff. They immediately diagnosed him with IMHA and told us the prognosis was extremely poor. We left him with heavy hearts and lots of tears.

For an entire month Rachel and I left Natchez every morning to see Rubin. After most of those visits we left anguished and fearful of the call we didn't want to receive. He was so sick and weak he couldn't lift his head to greet us. He wouldn't eat, not even the tasty wet food. We brought his favorite "babies", a familiar blanket. He had an IV but they kindly moved him into a room so we could be close to him. Rubin needed our love and encouragement and the will to survive.

Back home we researched the disease. We know about IMHA. Rachel joined an online support group, which provided answers and solutions, stories of success and loss. Fortunately, we were able to provide for Rubin every possible treatment available: numerous blood transfusions, Immunoglobulin, cancer drugs.

He eventually started eating and was strong enough to take short walks in the grassy area in front of the hospital. We sat with him on a blanket in the sun enjoying his wet kisses. He was eating; he was better. His blood levels were improved. We took him home and after a week he relapsed so it was back to ICU.

With a change in staff rotations, good fortune brought us a tiny young girl in a white coat who happened to be very, very good at being a doctor. Dr. Ashley Martin, formerly a resident at Tufts in Boston, was now back at LSU for her fellowship in Internal Medicine. We were committed to his survival regardless of the odds. Dr. Martin hung in there with us, cried with us, and gave us hope...within reason. Finally, after lots of ups and downs, erratic blood counts, we'd exhausted all known possibilities, except one. They removed his spleen, that organ which was manufacturing those overly-industrious white blood cells hell-bent on consuming his oxygen-carrying red blood cells. His spleen was huge, she said after surgery, and he would eventually loose his "Buddha Belly"...which he did. Rubin is one of the lucky few to survive IMHA. We've been home free for almost two years now and Rubin no longer shows any signs of illness.

I've had Rubin with me for the past six months while Rachel transitioned to a new apartment in L.A. and the consensus among her roommates was that Rubin should return to live with her. He was free to go now that his newly fenced yard in Natchez was tested, tried and true; I needed confirmation that all that construction trauma was worth the effort, among other considerations. On the day of my return the decision was made. He stayed and I flew home, alone.

Once in my car I found myself turning to the seat beside me. Empty! I had the compulsion to look before closing the car door to make sure he was safely inside the car. When I arrived home it was worse. As I unpacked I thought I heard his little feet padding toward my room. I got up the next morning feeling his absence with great sadness and a few tears. Who is this creature so engrained in our hearts?

Rubin is very unusual in the world of canines. (Nothing subjective here.) He's compassionate, kind and he's sensitive. Being keenly perceptive he knows when he's not well-received among a few two-legged types. He barks, knowingly, at some of my friends who've teasingly hasseled him. He doesn't forget those previous slights.

His eyes speak for him with a look reflective of his attitude and mood. And, yes, he actually tries to talk to us using tonal inflections, varying according to his state of mind and requests. When he was a baby I felt badly for him because I knew he actually thought he could talk to us. He often intoned his wishes seeming to expect a response in like manner. We could sense his frustration and as he grew older those prolonged exhortations diminished. He finally learned there was, indeed, a language barrier.

He's happy with Rachel. He now goes to daycare while she's at work and he's adjusting nicely to life in L.A. I, too, am adjusting to his absence...sort of. I no longer hear his barking in anticipation of my arrival as I approach the house. He's not here to let me know that cars are lining up outside for church services. I now walk to the river without stopping at every blade of grass, twig, light pole, fire hydrant. I miss him!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Why Is Being Elite Bad?

Elite used to be a compliment. It basically referred to the best of anything. For example, Drew Brees is now considered one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. However, nowadays that might be considered an insult instead of a compliment - at least in political circles. The worst insult you can hurl at a politician is to call him or her a member of the "Washington elite". What??? It's an insult to be called one of the best? Count me as someone who doesn't get it.

Why do we no longer want the best? We talk about how education is the answer to practically everything - and then we turn around and bash our most educated citizens. Elite conservative columnist David Brooks, who writes for the elite New York Times, recently discussed the bias against the educated members of our society. 
"Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular. . . The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting. . . The educated class is internationalist, so isolationist sentiment is now at an all-time high. . . The educated class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should “go our own way” has risen sharply."
Why is this happening? Why do we not want our leaders to be educated and the best? This is a very dangerous trend. Think what could happen if our governmental leadership is mediocre and uneducated. Do we really want a average somebody with a high school education testing drugs for safety, constructing bridges on our interstate highways, leading our troops into battle, deciding when to use nuclear weapons, etc.?

We don't have this attitude in decisions we make for ourselves and our families. We want the very best doctors for our loved ones, educated teachers for our children, trained electricians to work on our houses, etc. Why do we want mediocre, uneducated people running our country? I can assure you that no other major country is like that. How can America remain the leader of the world if we're the only one with undereducated leaders? The answer of course is that we won't.

Stand up and demand that our elected officials be elite.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pass The Damn Bill.

So what is to be done with health care reform?

Nothing could be done. Health care costs will continue to escalate, more and more Americans will become uninsured, thousands more will die for lack of insurance, the federal deficit will spiral upward. It will soon get so bad, that citizens may revolt and demand the government take over health care. Oh yeah, this is a great idea. The Republicans like it, because it increases their chances in this year's elections - which is far more important to them than the American people. They think correctly that voters will blame the Democrats because they were in control but did nothing.

Democrats and Republicans could work together to craft a bipartisan bill. This is what the American people want us to do. This is NOT going to happen. The wimpy Democrats wasted months trying to work with Republicans - they really wanted a bipartisan bill. However, as has been shown over and over again, the Republican political strategy was always to kill health care reform so as to defeat Obama. Now that they can smell Obama's defeat, do you really think they are going to play nice? No way in hell! If you still believe in Santa Clause and the tooth fairy, then you can think the Republicans are going to work with Democrats on health care reform. Everyone else knows better.

We can pass a bill with the parts everyone agrees on. The only people who say that simply don't understand health care. To make any changes at all, health care reform must be broad and comprehensive. For example, suppose the bill just eliminates all discrimination against pre existing conditions - everyone agrees on that. Know what would happen? Healthy people wouldn't buy insurance - they would wait until they got sick and then buy it. So the only people with insurance would be the sick - which would drive up the cost of insurance so astronomically that no one could afford it. Not only that but insurance companies probably would just get out of the individual market - as they say "we don't insure burning buildings" - and we can't make them sell it. The only way that we can eliminate pre existing conditions is if we require everyone to get insurance - healthy and sick. Then you've got to add subsidies for people who can't afford it. Then you have to pay for the subsidies. Then, guess what - you've got the bill passed by the Senate. No significant change can be passed all by itself. All the easy changes have already been made and haven't really changed anything.

Pass the damn Senate bill. This is the only viable option. There are definitely some bad parts to that bill - probably the worst of which is the sweetheart deal Senator Nelson was able to extort out of the Senate in return for his vote. After the vote in Massachusetts, it is abundantly clear that the Senate is not going to vote for a health reform bill of any sort. The House already passed a health care bill - which in many ways is better than the Senate bill. Those same House members are just going to have to hold their noses and vote for the Senate bill as it is and send it to the President. It is the ONLY option that doesn't go back to the Senate to be killed. It will then be much easier to pass legislation to clean up the bad parts.

What has to happen to accomplish this? Obama has to look through those boxes he brought to the White House and find his balls. It will require his very strong leadership and courage. I'm not worried about the Speaker of the House. Pelosi has shown she has plenty of guts and leadership (which is why the Republicans hate her so much). But she can't do it alone. Everything depends on the President. If he can't pull this off, then I guess he'll be a one term President - and deservedly so.

The only thing that can save Obama and the Democrats is to pass the damn bill. Even though voters are ambiguous about it now, they will love it when it happens. How do I know that? Simple. Massachusetts already has a system almost identical to the one in the Senate Bill - and it's wildly popular. In fact, the new Senator from Massachusetts who is coming to Washington to kill national health care, is a big supporter of the Massachusetts plan. (Republicans aren't known for their consistency.) Plus, if you read the bill, you'll see that it is basically a very good plan. Here is an article listing the individual components of the bill, showing each component's favorability ratings (high) and awareness ratings (low).

Most Americans have not read the bill nor have they tried to learn what's really in it. They just listen to what someone else tells them. Unfortunately, that person may also be ignorant - or even a liar. But once they experience it, then they'll know for themselves how good it is. I keep seeing claims that members of Congress have not read the bill because it's so long. Most Republicans probably have not, because if you know you're going to vote against it, you don't have to understand it. But I guarantee you that most Democrats who are voting for it have read it. Their careers are on the line, and they want to make absolutely certain what is really in it. There are parts in it that they hate, but they've decided the overall good of the bill is worth putting up with the bad.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Why I Wear Black and White

People who know me will notice that I wear only black and some white - and they eventually ask me why. From experience, I have developed several quick answers - but the truth is a little longer.

Like most women, I wore colors that I liked the look of and that I thought looked good on me - and over the years developed some favorites that would vary over time. However, black and white were always there.

Almost 30 years ago, it was all the rage to "get your colors done" - using a program that was called Color Me Beautiful. What this meant was that you went to someone supposedly trained to do this - usually found in a beauty salon. This consultant spent about an hour or more testing and analyzing - and then gave you a final written report. You also received a book of fabric color swatches that you were to carry with you at all times, since you were never to buy any clothing not in your color scheme. You also had to wear certain colors of makeup - of which your consultant usually just happened to have a supply. If you followed all the suggestions, you would be beautiful.

I am a very compulsive person, so I followed this program religiously. What I found out was that it actually worked. Not that it made everyone "beautiful" but anyone who followed it would definitely look their best. But there was an unexpected bonus - it made shopping and dressing easier. Looking at a selection of new dresses, for example, I could immediately eliminate about three quarters because they were the wrong color. I didn't need nearly as many different colored shoes/purses/scarfs/etc. I immediately started wearing only one color lipstick, nail polish, eyeshadow - because they went with all my colors. I gave all my yellow gold jewelry to my daughter, since I was to wear only silver and white gold. The only fur coat I ever owned also went to my daughter because it was the wrong color. (My daughter really liked this new regime!)

After I moved to Mississippi and began to dress more casually and as I got older, I found the convenience of this system far more attractive than its appearance benefits. But from the time of my consultation to this day, I have never deviated from the premises of the system.

So how did I get from there to just black and white? I love to read history and biographies - especially about women - and I am always on the lookout for them. About ten years ago, I read a biography of Georgia O'Keeffe, the undisputed doyenne of American painting in her time and who raised the awareness of the American public to the fact that a woman could be the equal of any man in her field. I found her fascinating.

Somewhere in that biography, I read where O'Keeffe decided to only wear black and white. (I forget why she decided that, and I'm going to read the book again to find out.) That got me thinking about how cool this would be. This is the ultimate in simplifying dressing and shopping for clothes. No matter what clothes I pull out of my closet, they will go together. Only having one color of shoes would save a fortune all by itself. I decided to give it a try. Fortunately, I had enough black clothes for a trial run. Well, I loved it. It saves a whole lot of time and a ton of money. It took me a while to change over my entire wardrobe, but it's been complete for quite a while.

I will never go back to multicolors - even though my fashion conscious eldest granddaughter is always trying to sweet talk me into wearing colors. If I can resist her, I can resist anyone.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sarah Weddington - A Heroine

On the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade, I wanted to give honor to the 26 year old attorney who argued the case and won - Sarah Weddington.

She was born in Abilene TX after the end of World War II. Her father was a chaplain and religion professor. Her mother was a teacher and basketball coach. Due to the example set by her parents, she grew to love reading and studying, which allowed her to graduate from high school at 16, college at 19, and law school at 21. There were very few female lawyers in those days, but one of them in her class at the University of Texas was current US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Sarah learned communication through plays, speech events, and choral groups. She learned leadership through involvement in various organizations. She was elected secretary of the student body at college and secretary of her class in law school. (By the way, being secretary was one of the few leadership roles available to women in those days.)

Sarah stayed in Austin after law school and practiced law. In 1970 in US District Court, she represented a woman known by the alias of Jane Roe, who wanted the right to have a legal abortion. The Court ruled in her favor. But the decision was appealed and ended up in the US Supreme Court.

In early 1972 at the age of 26, Sarah Weddington argued Roe v Wade before the Supreme Court, with yours truly in the audience. She was incredible! However, by the time the Supreme Court got around to deciding the case, the Court had two new members, so the Chief Judge decided it should be argued again during the Court's next term.

So on October 11, 1972 at the age of 27, she argued the case again before the Supreme Court, but I was not able to be there. As we all know, on January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court announced that Sarah had won one of the most famous court cases in history. The Court sent her a collect telegram announcing the decision!

The press totally ignored her - probably thinking she was too young to possibly win the case. So the only picture she has was taken by the staff of her Congressman.The photo shows her with her husband, her Congressman, and her proud mother.

While all this was going on, Sarah was also running for the State Legislature - Primary in May 1972, Runoff in July 1972, and General in November 1972. Talk about multitasking!  Her campaign was run by a bunch of women volunteers who knew nothing about campaigning. One of her volunteers was future Texas Governor Ann Richards.The story of that campaign is hilarious, but it worked. She was elected and took Richards with her as her Administrative Assistant. She was reelected twice before resigning to go to work for President Jimmy Carter. While there, she was instrumental in getting Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appointed to a federal judgeship.

After leaving Washington, she founded the Weddington Center, which focuses on developing leadership skills and civic involvement, especially with women. Surviving cancer led her to add resiliance and renewal training to the Center. She is a speaker and writer and teaches at the University of Texas.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

RIP: Health Care Reform

I am grieving tonight, because something near and dear to my heart is terminally ill. The Republican just elected in Massachusetts vowed to be the Senate's 41st vote to kill my loved one, and I'm sure he will succeed. It will be an ugly death, and I will not want to watch. There is one treatment that could save that life. The US House of Representatives could vote to accept the Senate's version of the bill, but they will not have the courage to do this - because it might kill them (or their careers). Courage is a medicine in very short supply in the Capitol Building. The inhabitants are mostly concerned with protecting themselves, and they do not seem to care that more citizens of this country are dying every day because they do not act.

Some of my friends try to comfort me. "Don't worry, dear. That treatment was really terrible, and we're going to come back and treat your friend the right way." But they don't know my friend like I do. When the treatment fails, my friend goes into a coma that lasts for decades. Truman tried to do it and failed. Thirty years later, even Nixon tried and failed. More than twenty years later, Clinton tried and failed. And now almost twenty years later, Obama tried. He came very close, but he also failed. I doubt I'll be around in twenty years to see the next attempt, especially without my friend to help me.

There are a lot of people to blame for the death. I'll start with the Republicans. They could have negotiated in good faith with the President and the Democrats, but they decided instead that the health care of Americans was not important. Much more important was destroying Obama. No Republican voted for my friend to live. (When the Republicans controlled Congress, there were always Democrats who voted with them.) But I also blame the Democrats. Some of them were so concerned with "winning" some issue that they were willing to let my friend die. Some of them sold out for money, not for themselves, but for their states. I give credit to Pelosi and Reid for doing what had to be done despite the incredible abuse they endured - especially Reid, because he probably killed his career in the process.

But most of all, I blame the American people. They say we get the representation we deserve. So my friend will die, and Americans will continue to die in greater and greater numbers. Eventually, when enough people have no health insurance, the American voters will wake up and demand a change - but by then it will be too late.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What the Hell Is Going On?

Tomorrow, Tuesday, the most liberal state in the union is going to elect to the US Senate a teabagger created empty suit, Scott Brown, whose only claim to fame is posing nude for Cosmopolitan several years ago. Why is this happening?

People will try to blame the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley. Don't you believe it! Women always get blamed when men make a mess. But we're not going to let them get away with it this time. She is the State's Attorney General, for goodness sake. She's smart, credible, and experienced. What more could you want? She's not perfect, but she's pretty damned close. And a hell of a lot more perfect than her opponent!

Something is happening in this country, and it is not pretty. I don't blame the teabaggers. They're ignorant and illiterate - you can tell by reading their signs. They believe every thing Rush Limbaugh tells them. I can even understand the Wall Street Republicans. They just want their money and the hell with the rest of us.

No, the real problem is with the moderates/liberals - be they Democrats or independents - and MA is full of them. They're mad at Obama and the Democrats they elected to Congress. They've been there a year. Why haven't they gotten out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Why haven't they passed a perfect health care bill?  Why haven't they punished/tortured Wall Street? Why haven't they cured the economy?  And on and on, ad nauseum.

So what are they going to do about this? They're so brilliant. They're going to send the Republicans their 41st vote, so that Obama and the Democratic Congress will not be able to do anything at all. That'll teach them!

I would say that MA deserves everything that will happen to them after their vote - except for the fact that they've screwed the rest of us, too. They're going to regret what they've done - just like Connecticut regrets voting for Joe Lieberman. But in the meantime, they may have succeeded in destroying the country. Fortunately, I have an up to date passport.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Freeze of 2010 - Part II

On Sunday morning, I woke up and headed straight for the coffee pot. Oops! Nothing is coming out of the faucet. As I wander around caffeine deprived, I spot my neighbor Marc outside. I ask if he has water, and he says he does. He runs home and brings me a big container of water - it never occurred to me to save water. He is inquiring about my water problems and discovered that I haven't checked all my faucets. I find out all my other faucets are working - and I even have hot water. I give Marc his water back and thank him profusely for thinking for me. How could I not have thought to try all faucets? Maybe it's lack of caffeine.

I'm able to make coffee and brush my teeth, so I'm fine. I haven't had a bath since Friday morning and don't plan another one until Monday morning, when I have to go to work. Of course, without a bath I can't go anywhere else over the weekend, but no one is going anywhere in this weather anyway.

My other neighbor Bob, who is always taking care of things for me, comes to check on me. He instructs me to put a space heater under my sink to help defrost those pipes. He checks my outside faucets and wraps them all and puts some towels in a gaping hole leading to my cellar where the pipes are.

I did decide that the dirty dishes in my kitchen are just too disgusting, and I must wash them - but I keep putting it off. At some point in the afternoon, while the sun is still shining in my bathroom, I rig up this system to wash my dishes in my bathtub. I have a dishpan full of hot soapy water and dirty dishes. I've left the water running to rinse off the dishes - and a dish drain is sitting on my bathroom rug. I am kneeling on another rug, and it's not too bad. Then I notice my rinse water is getting cold and the gushing water is slowing to a trickle. I finish the dishes - even though the rinse water is cold - just to get them out of my tub.

After I have dried the dishes and put them away, hoping no diseases are lingering on them, I decide to call my neighbor Bob, aka Mr Fixit, to see if he knows what's wrong with my hot water. When I describe the symptoms, he says he's coming over right away. I know by the tone of his voice that this is not good.

He sends me in search of old towels, while's he's running all around my house. Then he calls to me to come right away. He's standing next to my washing machine, which is in the kitchen and had no water. He tells me to listen. Suddenly I hear gushing water. He runs outside and then calls me again. I look under my back porch and see water gushing out of a busted pipe. He runs home to get tools and a flashlight - because by now, it's dark. I show him the hole in the ground where my water meter is, and after digging in the dirt, he miraculously finds the turn off valve.

Well, I can't stay home now. I call my friend Gwen who has offered several times for me to come stay with her. She was about to call and invite me to dinner - and others are coming. OMG! When are the others coming? I must get there first and bath. So I throw stuff together and take off.

While luxurating in the best bath I have ever had - and in a toasty warm bathroom - I hear the other guests arrive. As I start to dress, I realize I only brought one set of clothes - to wear to work the next day. So I put on my pajamas, and with my wet hair, go out to the dinner party. Fortunately, I know the guests well and they just laugh at me. They do, however, appreciate that I am clean.

I call my neighbor Sissy, because I know her husband Marc is out of town, to let her know where I am in case she needs me. She says she knows a plumber, if I need one. Sissy knows everyone!

The next day I go to work at the Library, and call the person I thought would know a good plumber, but he's out of town. So I call Sissy and get the name of her plumber. Unfortunately, I am in the midst of a crisis at the Library and don't have a chance to call him. Right around noon, they call me from downstairs and tell me my plumber is here. My plumber? I don't have one - I haven't called anyone. I go down having no idea who it was. It turns out that Sissy had to call him to do some work in her store. She asked if he had heard from me, and he said no. She told him that I worked in the Library and why didn't he just go see me. And he did! Can you believe that?

However, I'm still in the midst of the Library crisis and cannot possibly leave to go with him to my house - even though it's half a block away. I quickly think of Bob and call and ask him if he could meet my plumber. Of couse he says yes - even though, as I found out later, he had just sat down to lunch. I told the plumber just to do whatever he needed to do and spend whatever was necessary - that he didn't need to ask my approval. Just fix it, I tell him. I give him my house key and off he goes.

About three hours later, he comes back. In great detail, he tells me what he has done and what I need to do when I get home. I ask if he'll take a check or if he prefers cash. Of course, he prefers cash. I still cannot leave the Library and I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to get cash. I'm thinking maybe I can scrounge up enough from my coworkers. Then I ask how much I owed him. He told me $43.50! I made him repeat it because I thought I had missed how many hundreds were in front of it. I actually asked him if he was kidding me, and he said no. I almost kissed and hugged him right there, but I restrained myself. I told him to have a seat, and I would be right back with his money. I had exactly $43 plus change in my wallet, so I was able to pay him. At that point, I got his name and number for future reference. Later, Bob told me the plumber was unbelievably good. He tightened up some faucets that were loose, and he went and got a bunch of cardboard to put all around my back porch to protect my pipes from the wind.

When I was finally able to leave the Library, I went straight to Bob's house. I told him that I was taking all my friends who helped me out to dinner, starting with Bob and his wife Sherri. They, of course, objected, but I told them I saved a lot of money today, and I was sharing my savings with them. Then I went to Gwen's to pick up my suitcase and invite her to dinner. Then I called Sissy to invite her. Bob and Sherri and I got in their car and began a search for a restaurant that was open - many were closed because of broken pipes. I forget how many we drove to before we finally found one - and it was only two blocks from our houses. Then we called the others and told them where we were.

It was a great dinner. We told all the stories of my saga, and talked about the painter we had all used, and laughed so hard. We saw lots of friends at the restaurant - since it was probably the only one open.

There is one final event in this saga. The next morning, I turned on my hot water in my tub and proceed to brush my teeth, wash my face, etc that I always do while I wait for the tub to fill. Then I turn around - and the water is brown - not unusual when your water has been off for a while. My hot water heater holds enough for one bathtub and then you have to wait awhile. I couldn't wait for the hot water to heat up, since I was already running late waiting for my clothes to dry. (Remember I hadn't been able to wash clothes.) So I had three choices: 1. Not take a bath. 2. Bathe in the brown water. or 3. Take a cold bath. Which would you choose? Most people I asked chose number 1, and nobody chose number 3. I chose number 2 and was quick about it.

The moral of this story is that it's great to have friends - and it's great to live in a small town like Natchez where everyone is friendly and everyone knows everyone else.

PS - Here's a picture of my house that someone asked for yesterday, but you can't see the side of the house where all the storm windows are missing. I'll try to remember to take one tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Freeze of 2010 - Part I

My sad tale of the freeze starts with my painter. Being financially challenged, I paint one side of my house at a time. For the front I hired an excellent painter, and he did a fantastic job. However, he was expensive. I was having trouble saving up for the second side, which is almost totally windows - my house is brick. I finally talked myself into hiring a cheap painter - figuring he can surely do windows.

There is a cheap painter who has been used by several of my neighbors. Anyone who has used him always recommends against him. What wrong with him? He is sloppy and careless. He is really stupid and can't understand what you tell him. He is stubborn and does what he wants to. He comes and goes as he pleases and leaves his equipment scattered all over your yard. So why did they hire him? He's honest and he works hard when he's there - but mostly because he's cheap. So I hired him.

One day, I come home from work, and all my storm windows have been removed, and all my crepe myrtles have been trimmed totally back - on the sidewalk side only - apparently they got in the way of his ladders. But no sign of the painter. Two months later, my storm windows are still down, my trees are still lopsided, and the painting still isn't finished.

More on the painter in another post. The important thing is I have no storm windows on one side of my house. This house was built over 100 years ago, and the windows allow major drafts to come in. I was doing okay by basically closing off the cold side and living on the warm side.

Then came the Freeze of 2010. I don't know the statistics, but we have had temperatures below freezing for days on end. This is Mississippi, and we don't do freezes. We (and our houses) are totally unprepared. There is only one warm room in my house - the bedroom - but I can only stay there so long. The worse part is my bathroom. It's on the cold side of the house. I have a little heater in there - but it can't begin to fight the freeze. I can run in for quick trips, but going in for a bath takes major courage. Bourbon helps - but not before work in the morning. Washing my hair is like impossible.

I am getting more and more miserable in my little cold piece of hell - but I keep thinking it will be better the next day. This is Mississippi, after all, and freezes don't happen here. But it goes on and on and on. I keep checking my location on Google Earth to see if we've been moved north.

Then the worse happens. It gets even colder. We all think we are prepared: we opened our faucets and covered up our plants. But pipes freeze and then break all over town. I'm quite sure that won't happen to me. After all, when we first moved into this house, my Yankee ex husband went under our house and wrapped all of our pipes and put insulation all over the place, while I laughed at him. (I'm not laughing now.) But it was not enough.

This is getting too long. I'll have to finish this tale in another post.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Internet Makes This a Small World

This is a followup of sorts to my post about being an online ambassador for Natchez. Today I ran across an alert for someone visiting Natchez. When I clicked on it, I was taken to Southern Lagniappe - a blog by an unbelievable photographer from Vicksburg. She also has another site with nothing but photographs, which are the most beautiful photographs of Mississippi I have ever seen. I emailed her to tell her how impressed I was. I also posted a link to her photographs on my facebook page. They were a big hit - several of my friends posted them to their pages. Interestingly, while I was singing her praises, she was here in Natchez visiting for the day.

While I was checking out her blog, I noticed that one of her favorite blogs was Merisi's Vienna for Beginners. Those who know me know that my daughter and her family live in Vienna. I have visited that city a few times, and now I love all things Vienna. So of course, I had to go to this blog. More awesome photographs - with poetic snippets of text. They've been appropriately described as "virtual postcards from Vienna". The text for this picture is
Falling in Love
with lavender
in the midst
of a winter storm

In the gardens of
Palais Liechtenstein
8 January 2010
I've emailed and "talked" with this artist as well. Of course, I'm putting my family in touch with her, since she's obviously a fascinating person.

The photographs for both of these sites are copyrighted, and I have copied them with the artists' permissions.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Christmas Angel by Gwen

Once again I put that Angel on my tree, sweetly out of character, on my rather formal-looking tree which is easy, simple and quick to put up, easy to dismantle. And as each year passes I opt for easy: a smaller tree, fewer ornaments and lights. This year I ignored the slight tilt of the top ornament while in years past I have climbed the ladder again and again until it was perfect. However, I will forever insist on a fresh tree!

The Angel is a small bear dressed in remnants of fabric, which my mother used to make a dress for me for a school Valentine's banquet. My mother often sewed for us but when we needed something for a really special occasion we drove for hours to Amarillo, Texas. I hope that when she dressed that bear she knew how special the memory of the red dress was and would become.

So yesterday as I deconstructed Christmas I thought of my mom and how much she loved everything Christmas. I thought about her sweet spirit and her appreciation for the little things in life. Near the end of her life she once told me that she needed nothing more that what she had. I suppose I wanted buy something for her. New towels and bed linens sat on a shelf in the linen closet unused. She was a collector of Depression glass and anything that reminded her of her childhood on the Kansas prairie.

She grew up on the plains of Kansas during the Great Depression of the 1930's in the middle of the Dust Bowl. She was the fourth of five children. Her father was a handsome man whose pride was diminished when welfare workers drove out into the countryside to check on isolated farm families. On one occasion, on a rare visit to town, each of the children were given a small piece of candy and as they walked down the street Mom dropped her candy. My grandfather would not allow her to stoop to pick it up. Sanitation issues were not at the forefront of concern when one has little to eat; she knew it was his pride that kept her from retrieving that prized candy.

The Bear Angel is tucked away in the box with the rest of Christmas's past and I'll get up from here and go to the piano and play Silent Night, Away in a Manger for my mom.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Mississippi Woman Makes the Big Time!

Brandon Mississippi native Sarah Thomas just became the first woman to referee a college bowl game. (See ESPN story.) There are five other female referees in major college football, but Sarah Thomas was the first to draw a post season assignment. That might be because she has the most experience - she became the first woman to officiate at a major college game in 2007. She is also on the NFL's list of  officiating prospects - she's already worked the Saints training camps.

PREDICTION: Sarah Thomas will be the first female NFL official!

Sarah has always loved sports. She was the first athlete (not just female athlete) at Pascagoula High School to earn a letter five times in a sport - softball (first sport). She earned a basketball (second sport) scholarship to the University of Mobile, where she was an Academic All American. She accompanied her older brother to a meeting of football (third sport) referees on the Gulf Coast and decided that's what she wanted to do.

She started in youth leagues and studied and took tests and worked her way up through middle school, junior varsity, and finally high school. In the meantime, she gave birth to two boys. She said she worked the time clock when she was pregnant. In a New York Times article about her,
“The spouses of my crew made me a maternity referee shirt,” Sarah Thomas said, blushing. “Standing out there, big and in stripes has been the only time I’ve ever felt out of place.”
Just when she was about to give it up to work on her career (pharmaceutical sales rep), she was invited to a college officials camp, where she was immediately hired  - because of her excellent skills and performance.

After two years of training and being eased into the rotation, 2009 was her first year of officiating a full schedule of games. And the season was capped off with a bowl game.

Other officials and players have nothing but great things to say about her work. She has a bright and exciting future ahead of her. And she got her start in little ole Mississippi. Time for her to be added to the ads for Mississippi Believe It!

Check out this interview with her and see if you don't agree that she's terrific.