Saturday, September 27, 2008

Two beauties!

Laurie and Lila

Way to go, Ilia!

Meet the 2008 ASPCA Dog of the Year
Ten-year-old Cole Massie of Los Angeles, CA, may live with cerebral palsy, but he has all the support a kid could want, thanks to a very special black Lab/golden retriever mix named Ilia.

Recently crowned ASPCA Dog of the Year as part of the 2008 Humane Awards program, Ilia performs service duties like bringing items to Cole in his wheelchair and opening and closing doors. But the pooch also has that special healing touch that can’t be taught. “He provides amazing incentive to Cole during therapies, doctor’s appointments and procedures,” says Cole’s mom, Michelle Massie. “He calms, inspires and motivates my son far better than anyone ever has."

Or, as Cole sums it up: "I like when he lies next to me in bed at night and we listen to Harry Potter on CD, and that he helps to clean me when I'm in the bath by licking my face and arms. He's my furry brother and best friend—and a serious bed hog!

This past July, three years after boy and dog were paired by the nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence, Cole was faced with a difficult, but life-changing surgery. “He had walked on his toes, and his feet were totally rolled in,” says Massie. “The operation would allow him to use his feet and free him of the wheelchair.”

“Cole was frightened by the idea of surgery at first,” remembers Massie. “We explained how much more independent he’d be afterward, but he wasn’t buying it. Finally, we told him that if he had this procedure, there was a very good chance he’d be able to walk Ilia on his own—with no parents and no walker." After that, says Massie, "Cole would stroke the dog’s head in bed each night and whisper, 'I will walk you, Ilia. I will walk you.'"

After much coaxing, Cole underwent the surgery in Summit, NJ, and Ilia traveled more than 7,000 miles to be by the boy's side. The ten-year-old is now on his way to becoming an independent walker—and his dedicated service dog will be with him every step.

The entire family will attend the ASPCA Humane Awards Luncheon in New York City this October 30, where Ilia will be honored along with seven other extraordinary animals and people.

P.S. We'd like to remind you, pet lovers, that even heroes have their quirks. As Massie reveals, “Ilia knows 46 commands, but he won’t fetch!”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Writing Class

Just finished this book by local author, Jincy Willett.

Entertaining, but not enthralling, however, this quote could be mine, run on sentence and all, if I read more classics...

"Feeling an existential moment coming on, Amy got a Heath bar out of the glove compartment, switched on the interior light, and got out Carla's mysterious letter. Amy ate too much and probably drank more than she should, but her only true addiction was reading. The Lawrence Durrell quartet, which she hadn't even enjoyed, had gotten her through the protracted, awful death of Max, and Charles Dickens had seen her through the loss of each parent, and one rainy afternoon, on board a Boeing 727 with faulty landing gear bound for a dubious touchdown in Pensacola, Florida she had refused to assume the crash position without her open paperback copy of Revolutionary Road. Nothing was truly unbearable if you had something to read."

Amy, the central character, puts lists on her blogs. One list is Funny Looking Words, which contain disembosomee, phlebotomist,
loblolly. Another is Novel Hybrids, such as, Old Man Riverdance, Gone with the Window for Dummies.
Certainly elicited a chuckle, if not a true outloud laugh.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Story of Edgar SAwtelle

I've spent days and nights enthralled with this book, certain that I'd recommend it to everyone I could think of, then I got to the end. I felt so cheated! 99% of the book was compelling and inspiring, but that last 1% makes me warn - there's a BIG letdown at the end.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Prayer for today and tomorrow and...

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

—A prayer/poem by Archbishop Oscar Romero

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A good work out at the gym!

Thanks, Joanne!

Web wonders

Every once in a while I would lose (or think I lost) pictures on my point and shoot camera. It was totally evident this morning when I went to download pictures and the ones that came up were ones I had take three weeks ago that I thought I had lost. I knew I had just taken several different pictures yesterday that were nowhere to be found.
I got brave and looked for a solution and found FIXYA.
I got a quick response that solved my dilemma. I now have both sets of pictures! I'm not sure what makes it happen, but, at least, I think I can find any future lost ones. Yea!

Grace overflowing

The title of the the retreat, sponsored by St. James Women Together, and led so beautifully by Katie and Peter Hodsdon.
Here a few pictures from the many meditative places Marilyn's garden calls you to. As you can see in one photo, even the birds came. Their songs filled the spaces.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

hmmm - keep or toss???

but I could use it for rubber stamps or sewing supplies.

help me, someone, please!

an addendum - Michael, minimalist Michael. stepped up and said I couldn't possibly get rid of it. We threw some other stuff out and put it right back.
I'm doomed !

Food for thought for educators and parents

Verizon's recently hosted a special Spotlight Session at the National Educational Computing Conference in San Antonio to focus on the needs of the 21st Century Learner. Thinkfinity Champions author Peter H. Reynolds fablevisionand actor Eric Close led participants through the session to describe the characteristics of a 21st Century learner. The images below are graphical representations of that discussion illustrated and created by Peter H. Reynolds. The first is from the brainstorming, the second is the finished product.

Hope these brighten your day!

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It's what sunflowers do. - Helen Keller

I feel validated!

I've always felt kids just come the way they are and while you do everything in your power to help them grow into God-loving, kind, intelligent, compassionate, responsible people, sometimes it just doesn't work.
Here's an article I found in Newsweek that gives an explanation.
The title is, "But I did Everything Right!"
If there is one thing experts on child development agree on, it is that kids learn best when they are allowed to make mistakes and feel the consequences. So Mom and Dad hold back as their toddler tries again and again to cram a round peg into a square hole. They feel her pain as playmates shun her for being pushy, hoping she'll learn to back off. They let their teen stay up too late before a test, hoping a dismal grade will teach her to get a good night's sleep but believing that ordering her to get to bed right now will not: kids who experience setbacks rather than having them short-circuited by a controlling parent learn not to repeat the dumb behavior.

But not, it seems, all kids. In about 30 percent, the coils of their DNA carry a glitch, one that leaves their brains with few dopamine receptors, molecules that act as docking ports for one of the neurochemicals that carry our thoughts and emotions. A paucity of dopamine receptors is linked to an inability to avoid self-destructive behavior such as illicit drug use. But the effects spill beyond such extremes. Children with the genetic variant are unable to learn from mistakes. No matter how many tests they blow by partying the night before, the lesson just doesn't sink in.

The discovery, reported last December, is part of what is fast becoming the newest frontier in studies of why children turn out as they do. Since the first advice book for American parents appeared in 1811, the child-rearing industry, as well as researchers who have made child development a science, have assumed that, although every child is an individual, there are certain universals. If parents are too take-charge about homework, the child becomes disengaged and eventually gives up; if they are warm and affectionate, kids don't act out. But while most children do respond the way research shows, there have always been "outliers," kids who don't turn out the way experts promise.

After years of ignoring those children, a few scientists now realize that they are telling us something that promises to revolutionize our understanding of child development. In an echo of "personalized medicine" (matching drugs to people's DNA), scientists are finding that how parents treat their children is filtered through the prism of DNA. Parents may intuit that, as they notice that what worked with one child is failing abysmally with another, but now science is pinpointing exactly what combinations of nature and nurture spell gridlock. It is finally dawning on experts that "individual genetic differences are the 800-pound gorilla of child development," says Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. "The promise of genomics is that you will be able to tailor experiences as we tailor drugs."

Research showing that the most scientifically rigorous child-rearing advice can blow up on you couldn't come at a worse time for the millions of American parents who are desperate for direction. They are gobbling up how-to books and DVDs, even hiring coaches and consultants. They are tearing their hair out over conflicting advice on even such basics as sleep—let baby cry herself to sleep? Co-sleep? (As it turns out, the conflicting advice may reflect the fact that the "experts' " experience happens to have been with children whose genetic disposition is amenable to their way of doing things.) More than earlier generations, new parents are panicked that they're going to screw up. That feeling is fed by posts on Web sites such as UrbanBaby, in which someone, somewhere, can be counted on to flame your every parenting decision. But for parents who look back in sadness—perplexed that although they did everything "right," their child is not as kind, or intelligent, or self-confident, or well adjusted as the recipes promised—the emerging science offers an explanation, and perhaps an out: with the DNA stacked against you, it wasn't your fault.

One of the strongest and most counterintuitive findings in this nascent field is that children with a sweet temperament, which is under strong genetic control, are the least likely to emulate their parents and absorb the lessons they teach, while fussy kids are the most likely to do so. Fussy children have a hypersensitive nervous system that is keenly attuned to its surroundings—including what Mom and Dad do and say. In studies that are shaking up textbook dogmas, Jay Belsky of Birkbeck University of London has shown that fussy babies are therefore wired to be more strongly shaped by their parents than mellower children are. It is the fussy baby who, read to night after dutiful night, is likely to develop a love of books; the mellow baby, given the same literary diet, might just as easily grow into a teen who has no interest in reading anything longer than a text message. The mellow baby, immune to your charms, is more likely to show signs of road rage from the day she first takes her tricycle out for a spin, even though she grew up watching your saintly temper control. Children who go with the flow of new people and new situations are like Teflon: good parenting doesn't stick to them—but neither, necessarily, does bad parenting. They're the young adults who can't form close, meaningful relationships despite the unconditional love you showed them. "Kids with difficult temperaments are more sensitive to the effects of parenting," says Belsky. "You can get by with sloppier parenting if you have a 'good temperament' kid." Even children who fall between the extremes are generally closer to one than the other.

Although whether you have an easy or a fussy child is obvious, other innate differences that shape whether and how a child will respond to how parents raise them are less apparent. But since they reflect the presence of a DNA variant, they are all candidates for being pinpointed with a genetic test that will help parents know what to expect:If there is one thing experts on child development agree on, it is that kids learn best when they are allowed to make mistakes and feel the consequences. So Mom and Dad hold back as their toddler tries again and again to cram a round peg into a square hole. They feel her pain as playmates shun her for being pushy, hoping she'll learn to back off. They let their teen stay up too late before a test, hoping a dismal grade will teach her to get a good night's sleep but believing that ordering her to get to bed right now will not: kids who experience setbacks rather than having them short-circuited by a controlling parent learn not to repeat the dumb behavior.

But not, it seems, all kids. In about 30 percent, the coils of their DNA carry a glitch, one that leaves their brains with few dopamine receptors, molecules that act as docking ports for one of the neurochemicals that carry our thoughts and emotions. A paucity of dopamine receptors is linked to an inability to avoid self-destructive behavior such as illicit drug use. But the effects spill beyond such extremes. Children with the genetic variant are unable to learn from mistakes. No matter how many tests they blow by partying the night before, the lesson just doesn't sink in.

The discovery, reported last December, is part of what is fast becoming the newest frontier in studies of why children turn out as they do. Since the first advice book for American parents appeared in 1811, the child-rearing industry, as well as researchers who have made child development a science, have assumed that, although every child is an individual, there are certain universals. If parents are too take-charge about homework, the child becomes disengaged and eventually gives up; if they are warm and affectionate, kids don't act out. But while most children do respond the way research shows, there have always been "outliers," kids who don't turn out the way experts promise.

• The gene variant that influences whether children learn from their mistakes. With the misspelled gene, brains have about 30 percent fewer dopamine receptors and less activity in the brain's frontal cortex (the site of higher-order thinking, including monitoring negative feedback) and hippocampus (memory) than do people with the more common form of the gene. In an experiment at the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research in Germany, people with the misspelling weren't able to avoid choices that they were told over and over were incorrect. Numerous other studies have linked this gene variant to addiction, obesity and compulsive gambling, suggesting that the underlying problem is trouble learning the negative consequences of your actions.

• The DNA variant that affects whether a baby's brain development will be spurred by breast-feeding, which has been reported to confer an extra half-dozen or so IQ points by kindergarten. But not all breast-fed babies are little Einsteins, making their mothers wonder why all the milk-stained blouses didn't seem to boost cognitive development. The reason seems to be that there are two forms of a gene called FADS2. In the 90 percent of babies who carry the "C" form, breast-feeding raises intelligence by an average of nearly seven IQ points, scientists led by Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi of Duke University reported last year. This version of FADS2 produces an enzyme that helps convert the fatty acids in breast milk into compounds that help signals zip along brain neurons and spur neurons to sprout connections, which underlie intelligence, memory and creativity. The 10 percent of babies who carry the other form of the gene lack the enzyme and therefore derive no cognitive benefit from breast-feeding (though they still get an immune-system boost from it).

• DNA variants can protect children from bad parenting. For instance, most girls who are sexually abused are at higher risk for becoming alcoholics, as well as for developing other mental-health problems. But girls who have a "sluggish" version of the gene called MAOA seem to be vaccinated against this effect, reported scientists led by neurogeneticist David Goldman of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism last year. With the active version of MAOA, the brain's hippocampus—which processes emotional experiences and memories—becomes hyperactivated when it remembers something upsetting, such as abuse, and the woman turns to alcohol for solace. With the sluggish version, those memories lose their awful power. Another protective gene insulates children from the effects of an emotionally distant mother, one who is cold and uncaring, who turns away when her child feels the pain of a skinned knee no less than from a crushed dream. That is supposed to make a child more likely to develop "externalizing behavior," acting out in a bid for attention. But children with a certain form of a gene called DRD4, which stands for dopamine-receptor D4, are Teflon-coated, at little to no risk of becoming emotionally insecure as a result of mothers who are emotionally distant, found a 2007 study.

The discoveries questioning the connection between what parents do and how children turn out has not exactly taken the science of child development by storm. That seems to reflect a culture clash within the field. Most researchers who study child development were trained as psychologists, and—to overgeneralize, but only a little—are uncomfortable with or even suspicious of genetics. Geneticists tend to see behavioral research as squishy, not hard science. That produces a body of scientific literature that is remarkably ignorant of genetics. As we reported in this story, we were struck by how clueless so many "experts" in child development were about the new genetics—and how resistant they were to it. Almost all were unaware of the studies showing that genetics acts as a filter between environment and child, letting some influences in and keeping others out. "Even the stuff published in the best journals ignores the underlying genetics," says one leader in the field.

Since companies already offer storefront DNA tests, the day is not far off when parents can determine their child's MAOA or DRD4 status, or the presence of any other variant that influences the effect of parenting. But perhaps it is time to acknowledge that there is only so much influence parents can have. In her best-selling book "I Feel Bad About My Neck," Nora Ephron laments how American society "came to believe in the perfectibility of the child just as it also came to believe in the conflicting theory that virtually everything in human nature was genetic." Both views—that everything is genetic and that parents can transform a child like a lump of clay—are as wrong as wrong can be.

With Jeneen Interlandi and Anna Kuchment in New York and Karen Springen in Chicago

© 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Breezey's nieces and nephews

CCI breeder, Buley, (Breezey's sister, Wyanne's aunt) whelped 13 pups last night in just under 8 hours! What a good girl! 6 girls 7 boys, all doing well!

Handsome Wooten

Won't Wyanne be surprised when she comes home (after a LONG 5 weeks) to find that all her toys have been moved, sniffed, chewed, some actually destroyed, thereby absent? Wooten certainly liked to give each one his attention.
Ben was kind enough to lend him to me so that I would have a dog at the CCI booth at challengeair. What a worthwhile experience to see so many children and their friends and families enjoy the joy of a plane ride.

Wooten was an excellent ambassador for CCI.

Mail Art

I have so much fun making these. Anyone interested in commissioning a piece for a special occasion?

Congratulations, Peg

Peg Trout has just published an inspiring book. I'm fascinated by World War II and particularly the role women played.

In this book Peg has interviewed women who both lived during and made significant contributions to the war effort.
I can't wait for it to arrive from Amazon.

Some interesting thoughts

Not sure why these popped out at me this morning, actually I'm feeling a bit smug, that these don't really apply to me, but we know that can change in an instant! Hope this has something in it for you and you'll remind me to reread it when I do need it!

Sophie Keller’s column on How Happy is your

This article is about letting go of habits and behaviors that cause us to waste a lot of precious energy. You might recognize that you have a habit of doing one of these things or all five, but all of them subtly drain our internal resources. My intention in giving you these tips this week is to help you release that self imposed, extra weight that we carry around on our shoulders.

TIP 1: Stop being so hard on yourself to be so many things, to so many people, so much of the time, especially to yourself. A driving need to prove your special ness can be very tiring. If you start from the place of being ordinary and use your natural gifts and abilities to express yourself in your unique fashion and make a difference in the world it will take so much less effort. If you let go of the need to be special, you will probably achieve way more by being a bit more relaxed with yourself.

TIP 2: We connect with others through our vulnerability, rather than putting on an armored front of being able to cope with anything. So if you need help, advice or support, ask for it. Many of us really feel happy and fulfilled if we have the ability to help someone else out. We like to feel useful and needed and tend to get a lot of joy from giving to others. So by asking for help, you are also giving to the other person who you are asking for it from.

TIP3: Strip the word 'failure' from your vocabulary and replace it with feedback. The idea that we have failed at something is so emotionally tiring and debilitating, it leaves us feeling inadequate and not good enough. But if we replace the word 'failure' with 'feedback' there is a sense that we are flexible enough to take what we are aiming to achieve and if our approach hasn't worked, to try approaching it from another perspective, without beating ourselves up that the last way didn't work.

TIP 4: Accept that you have a dark side and embrace it. So maybe you have times when you feel envious, that you are being selfish or insensitive. So what! Put your hand in the air and cop to it. These feelings come and go and they are not who you are. There's something so self-accepting in recognizing that we can be dark and have negative emotions. Stuffing these negative feelings down is so draining as it takes so much effort to pretend that they don't exist. Instead, look at what the negative emotion is about, as it gives us an indication where we need to heal. E.g. If it's jealousy, maybe you have a fear that there isn't enough to go round. But when you really look in to it, it's obvious that there is. By the way, fear is usually at the bottom of it.

TIP 5: Stop judging others and being critical. Decide not to say a bad word about anybody. It will really help raise your vibration, help you store energy and make you more pleasant to be around. When you talk badly of others, usually the person listening will see it more of a reflection of who you are, than the person you are discussing. It always bothers me when someone does this, as I know that they could just as easily talk badly about me. For many, this can be a tough one, but taking a judgmental position is really non-conducive for retaining energy. It also doesn't help build trust in relationships and isn't too good for your karma either!_


The Joy Of Following A Turquoise Brick Road

Some of the roads we take in life are far more problematic -- have many more lions and tigers and bears, oh my. In fact, if I'd been with Dorothy on her journey, at a certain point I'd have suggested she consider trying a less troublesome path than her Yellow Brick Road.
Same goes for you and your road of life.
If lately you feel like wicked people are forever blocking your way -- and houses of trouble are falling from the sky -- now is the time to reassess your path.
In "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" there is a small but mighty poem called "Autobiography in Five Chapters" which wisely describes the need to change those more treacherous tracks in swap for more peaceful paths.

"Autobiography in Five Chapters"
1) I walk down the street._There is a deep hole in the sidewalk._I fall in._I am lost . . .I am hopeless._It isn't my fault._It takes forever to find a way out.

2) I walk down the same street._There is a deep hole in the sidewalk._I pretend I don't see it._I fall in again._I can't believe I am in the same place._But it isn't my fault._It still takes a long time to get out.

3) I walk down the same street._There is a deep hole in the sidewalk._I see it is there._I still fall's a habit._My eyes are open_I know where I am_It is my fault_I get out immediately.

4) I walk down the same street._There's a hole in the sidewalk._I walk around it.

5) I walk down another street.

My question to you: Are you staying on your troublesome path because it's familiar? If you took the time, and faced up to your fear of the unknown, don't you think you could find a more trouble-free path - one in which you could better ease on down the road and still reach your goals - maybe even finding a pothole-free shorter cut?
Your Assignment:
Rebegin your life journey with your ends in mind. Where do you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, 50 years? Be honest with yourself. Are you on the least-bumpy, least-circuitous road to take you there? How have other people gotten to where you'd like to be? Ask them to share their maps!
Remember, the best paths and things in life are not always the most difficult paths and things in life!
Going through a bumpy time right now? THE BOUNCE BACK BOOK offers all kinds of tips on how to thrive in the face of adversity - from_psychology, philosophy, nutrition, etc. For more info about resiliency and happiness, visit:

Saturday, September 6, 2008

From someone I highly regard

As important as art and drawing are to me, I have also always been deeply interested and involved with the politics of this country, ever since I was at Princeton, majoring in political science, working for my congressman, and as a White House intern.
I have been thoroughly absorbed in the current Presidential election, the most important of my lifetime. The twists and turns of the primaries were history in the making and the general election has engaged Americans and the world like never before.
However, despite the strategies and theatrics of the campaigns, which have been as entertaining as any sporting event, I have the increasing concern that I could lose sight of the true nature of the issues at stake. All too often the media, the pundits, and the political operatives tempt me to lose perspective on what all of this drama means … to us and to me.

When I was studying political history, my thesis advisor, Robert Tucker, gave me a concise definition of successful leadership. A leader does three things. First they provide a definition of the situation facing the community. Secondly, the leader charts a course to deal with the situation. And, thirdly, they mobilize the people to move in that direction. In other words 1.”Here’s what’s going on” 2. “Here’s what we need to do about it” and 3. “Here’s what we can all do to solve the problem.”
While reading political theorists like Locke, Hume, Mill,and Hobbes, I also came to understand the proper purpose and function of a successful government. It’s to organize the people, to share their resources, and to guide them in collectively solving their problems. You can’t build your own roads, educate your children, defend your borders, and improve your community alone. So we set up governments to help us figure out how to do it together, preserving our own self-interests but also encouraging us to make some sacrifices for the greater good. Those people who have the ability and inclination to help us coordinate in this way become the community leaders while the rest of us agree to support their decisions made on our behalf. If we come to feel that they are not doing the job well, we replace them.
On September 12th, 2001, I suggested to the group of people I worked with, that in response to the events we’d witnessed through our office windows the day before, we all go and donate blood and our time and effort to help our fellow New Yorkers. We walked over to the Javits Center on the Hudson River and joined thousands of our neighbors who also wanted to help. After hours of standing around, we realized that nobody had anything for us to do. We, white collar workers, were useless in this situation. The firefighters and ambulance drivers who showed up from around the country soon discovered that their skills in dealing with emergencies wouldn’t be needed either. The next day, President Bush told us that there was nothing we could do but go shopping. We all felt scared and impotent.
Months later, the war on Afghanistan began but we weren’t asked to make any sacrifices or offer any help. All we could do was to pay taxes and stand by whatever the government thought was best. That extended to the following year when the President told us we needed to support his decision to invade Iraq. Most Americans agreed to do so. But some of us marched through town, waving banners that expressed our concern. We were a small and ignored group but we did feel we’d done something, finally. (Now, I know that war is an inevitable part of history, that all societies must define themselves and protect their interests through calls to arms. But I also know that this is an incredibly high price to pay and that we should all question ourselves deeply before we make any sort of commitment to violence and destruction; in the last few years, we have utterly failed to have the sort of open national discussion that such a commitment requires.)
We had a sense of purpose when we participated in the 2004 Presidential election, but were frustrated and disappointed when the discussion veered off the real topic at hand, the issues facing the country, and into a destructive and hostile creed against the personalities of the candidates. Again, citizens were infantilized and distracted by pundits rather than engaged in a productive forum on the true matters at hand.
Three years ago, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, we tried to help again. But no one was there to coordinate us, to lead us, to harness our desire to make a difference. I felt even more worried that not only could we do nothing to deal with the situation but that the government was failing to protect us too. They did nothing and we couldn’t help.

Communities are defined by who’s in them and who isn’t, us vs. them. It could be Americans vs. Foreigners, Citizens vs. Immigrants, Men vs. Women, Gays vs. Straights, Believers vs. Non-Believers, Democrats vs. Republicans… people are galvanized by being presented with an opponent. (As a sidebar, when Al Gore established his leadership by defining a situation that impacts us all, by asserting that for once there was no Them, just Us, all of Us, and that we could all make a contribution to fix the problem, I was very inspired. I was also flabbergasted by how many people, those in power and those with no apparent axe to grind, were skeptical and even openly hostile against the effort to reduce global warming. I just don’t get it but can only assume that the agendas are hidden but there, and that the power of denial is incredibly strong. )

This election is hard fought and as always has a lot of Us and Them in it. And, as has been the case so often before, people are diverted into a certain group or another, even though they may well end up working against their own better interests. Religion is often used to distract people from larger agendas or self interest. Whether Al Quaeda convinces young people to kill themselves for the cause, or the Religious Right convinces working class people to support corporate interests on the off chance that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, people with a range of interests are edged into one suffocatingly narrow view of the world, one slim issue that overshadows all others.
I have feelings about a lot of the emotional issues being discussed but if I look at them really hard, I can see that many or most issues have nothing really to do with me.
For instance, I don’t understand why people feel so strongly about owning guns; they seem dangerous things to have around the house. But I really don’t care if people insist on bearing arms. Just keep them locked up and don’t let your kids bring them to my kid’s school.
I also don’t care much about whether or not people want to pray in school. On an academic level, I think the Constitution is pretty clear about the separation of Church and State but if you want to say a prayer or even carve it into the wall, and it really means a huge amount to you, then go ahead. As a boy, I went to a Protestant school in Australia that had mandatory chapel and I found it boring and irrelevant but I lived through it, reason intact. I think my son would be more annoyed by such a mandate than I was but I don’t think it would stunt him horribly to be exposed to it. I also lived in Israel for three years of my boyhood, an ostensibly single religion country and Judaism was taken for granted and part of most things we did but it didn’t have much impact on me either way except to leave with a distaste for the tedium of religious ritual. So believe what you will, pray where you want, but don’t deny my boy the chance to learn about evolution and have a proper education. If you choose not to do the same in your community that is a shame and will diminish the intellectual power of our country but it’s not a life or death matter for me.
(It’s odd how hard religions work to foist their notions on others. Maybe I should go around lobbying for mandatory contour drawing or stop people in the airport and make them do watercolors.)

As for abortion, I am pretty clear that it should be a choice left up to the people involved rather than imposed by the government, I think that we all agree together how to behave towards each other and that behind closed doors we should be left to do what we want as long as it doesn’t hurt others. I realize some people think that abortion does hurt people, namely fetuses, but this still strikes me as something that should be decided by families or maybe by communities but not by the federal government. It doesn’t seem to be a clear absolute as far as everyone is concerned and the idea that a 14-year-old girl who is raped should be forced to bring her baby to term feels like something that should not be decided by strangers hundreds of miles away. I think this country and the women who live in it are better off since it was agreed that they were capable of making their own decisions about such things. I also can’t understand why people don’t want their teenagers to get proper, coherent, fact-based sex education, to protect them from disease and unwanted pregnancies, regardless of what their religion decided thousand of years before AIDS and condoms were around. Any belief system that promotes ignorance and denial over health and long lives warrants a question or two and probably won’t prevail in the long run.
It also goes without saying, in my mind, that the people who deny any rights and privileges to people based on sexual orientation or race are either biased, ignorant with regard to 'the melting pot' of diversity, or acting out of some selfish economic interest.
In any case, whether you agree with me or not on these topics, I am fairly certain that this is not the most important issue that government can help me with right now.
I also don’t have the huge problems some people seem to have with paying taxes. I’ve given a lot of money to the government over the past twenty-five years, and despite the fact that there are potholes on my street and idiots in Washington and often on T.V.and the media, I consider the money reasonably well spent. I figure it’s just the cost of living in a big society, and that because I have a good job and a lot of opportunities, I should do my bit to help those who are worse off. I hope my money is going to help the poor and the elderly and the disabled, to make schools better and water cleaner, parks greener and food safer but I also know that bureaucracies and corruption siphon off a fair amount and I wish it was less. I don’t resent paying that money any more than I resent paying for a carton of milk or a movie ticket and there’s a limit to how agitated I am willing to get over the efficiency of the system (I really can’t understand people who devote their lives to working for the government in order to dismantle the government).
So does that make me a ‘tax and spend liberal’? I guess so but I’m not sure what’s quite so awful about that. Maybe the benefits of community are less obvious to people who don’t live in a huge diverse city like I do but I sure wouldn’t want to have to sweep my own street or drive my own bus.
So, instead of worrying about a lot of the topics that are brought up in presidential elections, I am much more concerned about the state of our economy and whether it drives my clients to cut back their budgets to the point that it forces me to lay people off or even get fired myself, about the amount of freedom from regulation that banks should have to not screw up my mortgage, about whether the stock market goes down so far that all my investment banker neighbors get such small bonuses that New York’s tax revenues sink too far and cut back on Jack’s school budget. There’s a limit to what the government can do to guide the economy but it should be as honest as humanly possible and impose some discipline to keep special interests that are contrary to the greater good at bay. Maybe government officials should be better paid so they aren’t tempted by corrupting influence quite so much. I’d probably help pay for that.
I would love it if our community supported artists more than it does but I can't stand the idea that books are pulled from libraries or exhibits are canceled in museums or shows are censored on TV because a small and vocal minority can’t deal with their content. That seems like sheer idiocy and actually does inhibit my life. It seems a simple matter to avoid stuff you find offensive and to adequately educate your own children so they aren’t led astray by stuff you think is unwholesome.
As the husband of a disabled person, I am very sensitive to how inaccessible large parts of this country remain. There are many street corners without curbcuts, places without ramps, taxis that are too high for a wheelchair, and so on. This may not be an issue that touches your life (I hope not) but with a small effort, you and your community can make an enormous difference to people who have trouble getting around.
Thanks to Patti’s disability, I am also very aware of how Byzantine and Kafakesque our health care and insurance systems are and do not understand why this isn’t a major priority of everyone in this country. We may not all be disabled but we're all getting older and inevitably will have to rely on our healthcare system to help us out. And before we need wheelchairs and bypasses, our parents will and we’ll be saddled with the bill and the stress. This is hardly a partisan issue but exactly the sort of thing that we formed into communities to help each other with.

I wish we could be nicer and calmer too. It’s sad that in the current political debate so many people seem more interested in diminishing the ideas of others than in providing solutions of their own. The politics of division are an enormous drag on our progress and eat up resources and energy that could be so much better used.

And finally, I wish, more than ever, that I could do more to help. I yearn for a call to action, to join with my neighbor in solving our current woes, to give of myself. I am so put off by the derision leveled at ‘community organizers’ that I heard on TV a couple of nights ago. How low to put down people who work in soup kitchens or churches or libraries or schools, who volunteer to help their neighbors, people who are filling in the gaps left by reduced government programs unfunded because of the trillions spent on defense. It just seems like mean spirited knavery looking to grasp at any straw to pull down the opposition. I hope we end up with a leader who will truly lead, lead like Lincoln, like Churchill, like Jesus, like FDR, like Gandhi, like JFK, like Buddha, like the Dalai Lama, who will say, “Look here’s what’s going on (don’t you agree?), and here’s how you can join us to help fix it, not just with donations or prayers or mute acquiescence, but by rolling up your sleeves, grabbing an oar and getting to work to right the ship and get us back on course. I know there’s a will out there, all we need is someone who will lead the way. I'm pretty sure Barack Obama has the answer, have been since the beginning of last year.

If you agree with me, I hope you'll spread the thought. If you passionately disagree and have something constructive to say, I'd love to know where I might be going wrong.
A few readers seem to think that I shouldn't talk about how I feel about politics and my view of American society here. I rarely do, in spite of the importance such issues have for me. I believe, however, that my art is an extension of my life, and a record of how I see the world, warts and all. If you don't like everything about me and how I think, I'm cool with that. And if my views as stated above are utterly repugnant you, either skip such posts or ignore me all together. That's cool (though a little sad) too.