Where the hampster wheel always turns

About Me

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Middle aged underweight high school graduate
"It is not advisable James to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener." - Francisco d'Anconia, Atlas Shrugged
"The soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut taxes now." - John F. Kennedy

Why Can't Women Do Stuff?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Coming home from California I was confronted with a terrible reality. There are a large number of women who shouldn’t be let out in public. Ever. I’m the first to extol the need for society to reward excellence, even competence, but sisters, some of you are giving the rest of us a bad name.

Going through airport security I, along with everyone else, gawked at the woman stuffed into her black spandex pants being “wanded.” Now some of you will applaud because she was fashion savvy enough not to have a panty line, but she was holding up security because her thong, visible above her waistband, was studded with metal. When your backside looks like a couple of spit stained old pillows from your great aunt Sally’s house stuffed into a hefty garbage sack there should be a rule that you are not allowed to buy spandex - or thongs.

Then there was the woman across the security table from me. We smiled at each other as we waited for our purses, shoes and laptops to come through x-ray. I was worried what was taking so long was the box of foil wrapped Ding Dongs in my satchel being mistaken for an explosive device. I have to hand it to the highly trained security folk because they didn’t even stop me and I’m sure the filling in a Ding Dong is explosive under the right circumstances, especially after it's been x-rayed.

No, what was taking so long is the woman across from me had put her purse in the plastic bin in such a way that the straps caught as it went through the x-ray machine, dumping the contents on the floor, the machine and jamming in between the rollers. She asked me if I thought it was safe for her to reach inside the end of the x-ray machine to collect the feminine hygiene products rolling futilely at the end of the conveyor. I shrugged and pretended I had never made eye contact with the woman.

Let’s pull it together ladies. Now, I have to go pick up my van from the body shop. The large rock I backed over must have been put there by a man.


One Man's Cyclone

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I spent my day cleaning out a pantry and setting up a nursery in preparation for the homecoming of a newborn. Thankfully, not mine. This joyful event was long in the coming, yet like most of us the new mother finds herself unprepared. When I arrived at the home to help I was given a tour by the proud papa who had completely re-tiled the bottom floor of the home. It was a lovely job, but the residue of ripping out the old tile had completely taken over the rest of the house. All of their belongings, and I do mean all, were blanketed with a heavy coat of tile dust.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of enduring a remodeling project then you know of what I speak. Remodel dirt invades like the evil fog in a horror movie. As I surveyed the scene I was dumbfounded and certainly rethinking the “help” I had so freely offered. What’s funny is how the papa seemed quite oblivious that this may not be the best environment in which to bring a new baby. We humans are funny creatures. One person’s cyclone is another person’s normal.

The couple also has dogs. Three dogs. As I begin this musing I had to blow dog hair off my laptop keyboard. You’re not livin’ until you’re covered in tile dust and dog hair.

It’s amazing how we all have a disaster somewhere in our lives we are quite comfortable with. I have lots of them. I am amazingly adept at stepping over them, or completely pretending they’re not there. Some of them are physical, like my laundry room that goes from OCD order to Katrina disaster and back faster than lickety split. (I don’t know what lickety split is, but I understand it’s really, really fast). Some of them are emotional. Old wounds that have scarred but not healed and rear their ugly heads at seemingly incongruent moments.

I think we all put blinders on to our disasters so we can get through the day, forge ahead, and carry on. I have great admiration for the souls among us who are actually brave enough to clean up, and rebuild after their disasters. Looking around at all the tile dust makes me want to get back home to try and clean up all my own crap everyone else can see so clearly, but the truth is I’m not sure I’ll ever have my blinders completely off.

Parenting Via Ikea

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Having moved from our home in Scottsdale where our three children had to endure the inconceivable injustice of sharing two bedrooms they acted thrilled at the selection of the new home with three separate bedrooms right in a row. It’s not that we didn’t have extra bedrooms before; they were just located on what we called ominously “The Other Side,” far from earshot of the rest of the family. Those who visited enjoyed the privacy; those who lived there feared it. So, in celebration of her new personal space Darby was allowed to accompany Scott and me to Ikea where she selected her own bedroom set. It was all I could do not to have a seizure right there in the “bedrooms” section of Ikea as I did everything in my power to subliminally influence her toward a “better” selection.

Undaunted she chose a modern white styling accented with bold red and black accessories. Having to wait half the day in line in order to check-out allowed me time to reason with myself about the fantastic parenting I was doing by allowing her this generous opportunity for self expression. This self-lecture continued through the days of furniture assembly, and the purging of her rodent-esque collection of water park bracelets, three-year old school assignments, unrecognizable food, and clothing stuffed in every nook and cranny imaginable. As I deep-breathed my slightly OCD self through this joyous set-up process I could hear Dr. Benjamin Spock echoing through the recesses of my mind as he commended my expert building of her self-esteem.

The final project took all five of us Maloneys to complete. (How many Maloneys does it take to assemble Ikea furniture?) I must say, I quite liked the finished ensemble. Here we are five months after turning over the keys to our little Extreme Makeover selectee and she has spent fewer nights in the room than I have fingers. (For those of you who are aware of my hillbilly heritage I was one the family members lucky enough to receive all 10 fingers). Nightly I go to kiss my children after they have nodded off, only to have to search for Darby who is usually found crammed in a twin bed with one of her siblings. For all that yammering about “becoming a teenager and needing her own space” she certainly prefers sharing other’s. It is cute, except when Scott starts to lecture about how we don’t need all this space and we should just move to a trailer in Idaho.

What I love about Darby is that despite her teenage need to grow up, she is grown up enough to still need her family. Wisdom does not always come with age, sometimes it comes before.

Reading People

Monday, January 26, 2009

This summer I was able to attend my 20th High School reunion. Unfortunately, few of the players had changed much. While it was finally legal for everyone to drink, few of them were tempered by this news.

Upon seeing me, our illustrious student body president asked me to be his Designated Driver. I’ve been the Designated Driver for years. It’s allowed me to assume a false sense of popularity. I get invited to attend way more things that I would if I were a drinker and apparently I become much more interesting the more drinks others have. Just ask my parents.

My former President definitely needed a Designated Driver, and it was quite responsible of him to arrange for one. While driving the Former President to an after party he slobbered that I was “good people.” “Well, thank you” I replied wincing from his 90 proof breath. Then he began to ask about a series of other classmates: “Do you think Fred is good people?” “Do you think Sally is good people?”

As I tried to answer each inebriated question, I was affirmed “You’re right!” and chastised “You don’t know anything!” Mr. President is absolutely correct. I’m a terrible judge of people, I always take them at face value. I don’t have the initiative to figure out agendas, intents, ulterior motives. I have been known to miss things the savvier among us pick up with ease.

Right now I am reading Obama’s “favorite” book Team of Rivals which covers the “political genius of Abraham Lincoln.” The back cover lauds that this “biography is centered on Lincoln’s mastery of men...” I’m about a third of the way into it and he does seem to be a ‘managerial genius.’

Reading this book has made me consider that I really don’t have any outstanding political capital. I don’t have any favors I can call in. No one owes me. I often do stuff for free, for no apparent reason. I’ve helped people pack, move, taken care of pets, watched kids. I’ve given speeches, cleaned garages, organized offices, input data, driven drunks...I really have a tremendous skill set if you want the work for free. By some standards it would seem I’ve been abused.

The funny thing is I don’t remotely feel taken advantage of. I find great peace in not keeping score. I find greater peace in the fact that tomorrow is another day, and if you weren’t ‘good people’ today I have great hope for your tomorrow.

Crazy Like a Fox

Friday, January 23, 2009

Shortly after embracing my paranoid delusion that the Secret Service was stalking my dog on behalf of the Obama family I came to the realization that there may be more to this story.

As I previously stated, Obama is a ‘man of the streets’. Being a man of the streets I expected him to know there was no way he would find the designer dog he was looking for in a DC animal shelter. I ruminated for a while and something didn’t quite sit right with me about the whole picture, until I thought about pets and my own children. The light went on; this man is crazy like a fox.

Obama doesn’t want a dog. He got on the internet one night and googled “dogs you will never find at a shelter.” Two options came up Portuguese Water Dog and Labradoodle. He then made one of his persuasive speeches to the family about how there would be Change in the Obama family. How the dawning of a new day would bring hope to the canine world. Michelle and the girls were holding lighters swaying back and forth. The housekeeper fainted. He ended with the charge that each one of them would do their duty, their patriotic duty and there would be change. They would search high and low for the pet destined to usher in a new generation of hope...and change.

He’s doubly brilliant because while he is busy running the country, his mother-in-law now has to schlep the girls from shelter to shelter in search of their dog. All kinds of things are accomplished in this fell swoop. Mother-in-law, busy. Girls, busy. White House Presidential Suite, married adults only. It’s brilliant.

Now if he can only manage the economy, world affairs and the terrorism threat with the same efficiency we’re in business!

So for now, I believe my dog is safe. Besides, he’s a goldendoodle anyway.

I Should Have Been a Fashion Designer

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I’ve never been known for my fashion sense. In fourth grade I wore a mini skirt on the first day of my new school, only to have to sit on the floor for the most of the day. Most fourth graders don’t have the social skills to physically navigate such a challenge. I was a gangly disaster. Kids mercilessly commented on my choice of underwear. I deserved it, but I haven’t recovered. It was my last mini skirt.

In junior high I begged for the uber stylish leg warmers we wore over our jeans, since it was arctic cold in Southern California. An hallelujah chorus swelled on Christmas morning I opened the blessed pair. They were booger green. Apparently my parents hated me. I was faced with the dilemma of being the only girl at Matilija Junior High not wearing leg warmers or being the only girl who looked like she waded through a puddle left by an elephant with a sinus infection. Trust me, it was a lose-lose situation.

In high school I didn’t have the budget or skill to be in fashion. The cool kids, well, actually everyone, was wearing polo shirts and button fly Levis. There was a definite preppy uniform. I was still wearing the leg warmers. I did wear a skirt once, only to kick at an errant soccer ball rolling my way and rip the seam up to my navel. Leg warmers don’t help in that situation, and again I had come full circle as kids were again commenting on my underwear. No, I was not on the Homecoming Queen ticket.

I’m a huge fan of Garanimals - the children’s label where you match the tiger tag to the tiger tag and voila! Your shirt and pants match. They should be made for adults. It would help both of the grown-up Maloney’s immensely.

That being said, I’m completely inspired by our new first lady. As I watched her and her husband sparkle from ball to ball I realized, I may actually have fashion sense. Her gown appeared to me a knock-off of a gown I crafted a few years ago at a bridal shower using toilet paper. Tomorrow may be the dawn of a new fashion day for me as I’ve gathered duct tape, a collection of re-use gift tissue paper and macaroni.

I’m trying to get the dog to stay still since I can’t find a mannequin...

After the MIracle

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I was so inspired by the bravery and ability of the US Airways pilot this week as he averted tragedy for his entire passenger list. It was nothing short of fantastic watching person after person disembark their respective ferries having been rescued from the floating plane. No one that I saw was carried off, and by all reports everyone is doing physically well. What a fantastic end to a terrible event. Well, unless you’re a migratory bird. But since I regularly eat birds I won’t dwell on that loss.

Most of the passengers whisked past the cameras with a look of shock. I admit I smiled at the men in dress clothes trying to navigate their path while being strangled by their inflated life vests. I’ve always wondered what those things looked like all blown up. There was one jovial man skipping up the gangway, fist pumping the air with a Christmas morning grin on his face. I imagine the adrenaline was flowing freely among these blessed people.

The whole event was aptly named by the media “Miracle on the Hudson.” It truly was a miracle. So... now what? Oddly, I have researched guidance on the subject. There are books and even a TV movie “After the Miracle,” but their subject matter is Helen Keller and the ’69 Mets. Surely important, but not the life and death stuff of plane crashes. Except for Jesus himself, scripture doesn’t cover the subject either. Lazarus went into hiding, the blind, lame and afflicted were told to go their way and sin no more. Interestingly many were told not to tell anyone.

Listening to a post-accident interview of a couple who’s husband was on the plane I began to understand why. The man had texted his wife that his plane was on fire, he loved her and their two daughters. As he put it he said his “goodbye.” His wife was playing in the yard with their children and received the text after the crash and was unable to contact him - which sent her into a complete panic. The interviewer asked what it was like when she discovered her husband had survived the crash.

I can actually go two ways here...a diatribe about how texting is depersonalizing society, or a more thoughtful reflection. How does one capture in words what a miracle really means. How do you capture the breadth of divine providence in the moment you discover your husband is coming home after the crash? How do you express what it means to walk again? See again? No wonder the woman had no answer to the question.

Today, January 20th, the whole day was a miracle. The miracle of liberty. The miracle of unity. The miracle of national growth. The miracle of hope. Our challenge is to acknowledge the more humble miracles in our lives, and pray they don’t involve airplanes or geese.

We Get to Complain

Monday, January 19, 2009

As I watched President and Mrs. Bush board Marine One, leaving the White House for the last time I was touched by the understatement of the moment. The genial couple departing without significant fanfare. Waving to a few onlookers as they departed for Camp David.

I can only imagine what those first few moments in the helicopter must have been like. The sighs of relief and maybe regret. I can’t fathom what it feels like to have the last 8 years be almost over. As I reflect on what this controversial President has meant to all of us, I get teary eyed grateful over something that gets overlooked: we get to complain.

Unfortunately we can all remember that September 2001 day when our whole perspective of American life was shattered from Manhattan through Topeka to Los Angeles. To this day I can’t imagine the kind of person who perpetrates such evil, it’s completely outside my mental and emotional capability.

Yet, as we all can quickly conjure up the images we have also had the luxury of not having to. There were many moments that day and in the following weeks that I was confident we had moved into another phase of American life. Where terror attacks would become part of our shopping mall, supermarket and school days. Where the talking heads would nightly be recounting the casualties on our own soil.

Instead we get to complain about other things. Things that matter much less, have less permanence. We get to complain about the housing market, and the Poulson bailout, the auto industry. We get to criticize the methods he has used, and the people who helped. We get to cast dispersion on his ideas, his intentions and his intimates.

I am so profoundly grateful that from the safety of our soil we get to complain. Thank you Mr. President.

Words Worth the Paper They're Printed on

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Today I received some feedback that my writing style was not that entertaining and it was hard to figure out my point. Interesting. The assumption that I have a point is where this reader went wrong. It’s fair criticism since virtually all of my writing is really a conversation with myself and I know what I mean. I know how witty, pithy and deep what I want to say is... the problem is I have to use words.

Words certainly get in the way of all the important things in life. The reality is we have to use words to communicate. We have entered into a social agreement to what the connotation of different letter groupings mean, but the rules can be elusive. How the living language we call English is explained in the dictionary changes from minute to minute. Who knew that one day it would be a compliment to be told your outfit is ‘sick’ or your performance was ‘bad’. To be honest, I’m not hip enough for this slanguage.

The fact is that there are some situations for which words are wholly inadequate. There just aren’t words for the first time I held my newborn baby, the moment I fell in love, the last time I touched the hand of my grandmother before they closed her casket, or the day I saw our neighbor take the trash out in his tightie-whities. Word’s just don’t capture the emotional depth of these moments or the indelible marks they leave.

Words being completely inadequate for their primary function is a tremendous irony. Who among us hasn’t tried to apologize, explain or justify only to have the listener disregard our intent. Having children opens up a whole new facet to the use of language. There is nothing quite as horrible as hearing your children talk like you. Hearing my bossy tone echoed in my firstborn has been a continuing humiliation. Having my sweet little middle child yell at other drivers from his car seat and having my husband ask me where they would learn stuff like that, well it’s hard to feign innocence.

I have a friend who brought her toe-headed toddler to an exclusive pre-school entrance interview, only to have the little darling swear like a sailor. I think everyone is born with a sort of inappropriate radar. Even the tiniest of humans picks up on the naughty words and then blurts them out in places like church. Kids don’t sneak around on the playground saying “ninny” and then giggling uncontrollably. My kids don’t ask me what “fusion” or “genetic splicing” means. They ask me about the words I try not to say.

Recently we had an ‘incident.’ Having three kids pretty close together means two things: At any given time I have two informants for the third kid AND that at any moment they can turn on me like a pack of rabid wolves. Luckily they have not done the math and figured out that they outnumber their parents. Sitting at dinner unnamed child #1 said “Mom, unnamed child #2 said the “S” word today!” Scott immediately gave me the stink eye which I tried to avoid. Yes, they learned the “S” word from me... He launched in to a passionate discourse of why we shouldn’t say that word, how it demeans us as individuals and is disrespectful to those around us. His presentation was punctuated by weighted pauses giving him time to glare at me.

The offending child was appropriately remorseful, weepy and contrite. After apologizing and begging our forgiveness unnamed child #2 promised they would never, ever, ever say the word “stupid” again.


There Should Always be a Goat

Friday, January 16, 2009

“Miss Spellman, please report to the office, your sheep are grazing on the infield.” There was no other “Miss Spellman” at Matilija Junior High, and no one else in middle school raised sheep. Like the socially retarded specimen I was (am) I took this one head on, and didn't live it down. Ever. Someone asked me about it at my recent high school reunion. It was all the goat’s fault. The goat could lift the fence with its horns, coax the entire flock through the gap and lead them on local escapades.

I spent most of my adolescence wondering what was wrong with my family. Normal people adopt rescue animals like dogs and cats. My parents adopted a pygmy goat from a family threatening to kill it, literally. This should have been a clue. “Annie” arrived in her pert little package of a body and shortly took over the barnyard like the seed of Chucky. Goats have a special kind of intelligence that borders on stupid. They will eat anything, climb anything and have little natural self preservation. Their mental operations parallel the intelligence of pubescent boys. And somehow, as a junior high girl I liked both of them.

But both were also completely indifferent to my feelings. The principal watched in annoyance as I phoned home telling my mom I needed permission to leave campus to walk the flock back home. Listening to this humiliating exchange were two boys waiting to be dealt with. I don’t remember their names, I just remember the hot sting of humiliation of being noticed in a way I didn’t want to be noticed. They snickered like Bevis and Butthead, and I remember it to this day.

Why is adolescence universally spent trying to mold ourselves into a mold that doesn’t actually exist? I wanted so badly to be accepted, to be normal, even popular. The reality was, popular girls had regal equine livestock that didn’t escape and drop poo pellets on the soccer field. This undoubtedly is why they were ‘popular’.

Now, in my middle age I realize it’s always better to have some form of goat around. The confident leadership with which Annie commanded our little flock of sheep took them on adventures they never would have had left to their own devices. They tasted a variety of foliage unavailable to them in the confines of their field. They broke into the house, completely decimated the neighbor’s garden, ate a sack of unidentified garden chemicals from the garage, these are the things goat dreams are made of. I suppose that’s a gift: be brave enough to try anything and, when necessary, use your horns.

Fried French

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The French have long prided themselves on their cultural superiority to, well, in their opinion, everyone. As a descendent of Napoleon Asseline the little French genes in me curdle at French mandatory disdain for all things American. In a society where arrogance is an art form, the French have obliterated the reality that were it not for those pesky Americans, they would all be speaking German.

Yet we are still seemingly influenced from this land of enlightenment. It’s fascinating that most of the suggested solutions for our current economic dilemma parallel the French post WWII reconstruction plan Dirigisme, elements of which still exist today with high levels of government stock ownership in banking, energy, telecommunications, transportation and automotive industries. Government in action. It seems to be going so well. Unemployment is at 8%, and France endures labor strikes every five minutes, postal, transport, oil, illegals, students...everyone in France apparently is required to strike at least once a year.

It was with delicious irony that I discovered this week that the French are oo-la-la hand wringing that the racist barbarians known as Americans actually elected a Black president before they did. Sacre Bleu! Zey are more evolved zan vee are!!!

President Sarkozy has rushed to appoint a new diversity minister and enact affirmative action programs throughout his government. Scores of interviews from the “French on the Street” gush with the hope this election gives all of Europe’s minorities. French rappers are hitting the pavement decrying the oppression they endure in France. Does anyone not notice how completely absurd all of this is? Does anyone else really want to avoid listening to a French rapper?

The reality is the world is smaller than we think it is and hope comes from many sources. It is right that Obama’s election would give hope to people. There is nothing more American than working hard and achieving success. It should inspire all of us and crush small minded notions of unearned superiority.

As we are days away from the landmark inauguration I feel great hope. I hope for all of us, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and yes even the French that a death knell has been struck for racism and victim excuses. I hope we all work harder to be better at who and what we are. I hope that we see that better things are possible and should be expected from all of us. I hope we recognize that as Americans influence the world. The reality is, right now they want to emulate our rappers AND our rulers.


Backwash and Rodent Hygiene

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

We recently attended the Phoenix Science Center as a family. I love that place, and was thoroughly enjoying a tutorial in behavioral science when a giant mouth breather of a woman came and stood right behind me. Literally. She was looking over my shoulder, breathing on my neck, slurping some sort of beverage. I tried to squirm, and writhe away but she actually leaned in, pressing her unwieldy breasts against my back. I thought it was some sort of science center candid camera demonstration. There was plenty of other space, open chairs, but she wanted to be near me. I felt as though I couldn’t breathe, and while the interchange lasted about 4 seconds, I am scarred for life.

I love my personal space, I don’t understand why others don’t cherish and protect theirs as well. The reality is, I don’t much like you if you want to be too near me. If you’re too close I can’t think. You take necessary oxygen away from me, and my brain starts to shut down. I think some of my propensity comes from being raised in the American West. While I have not actually lived on the open range, it was taught so much in schools that I thought everyone from Southern California was a cowhand of sorts. Forget that my family raised sheep, and you can’t ride a sheep, I still believed it qualified me as a rancher. Don’t mention that we were actually rednecks that kept sheep because we were too lazy to mow and fertilize the lawn.

Prior to our current dog we got a starter pet - the ones you can get for $10 at Petsmart and have a lifespan slightly longer than my attention span. One day my daughter had a friend over who talked her into believing that the new hamster would love a bath. The nitwit first graders took the plastic habitrail to the bathtub and turned on the shower. I can’t imagine the sound the hammering spray of water deafened the poor rodent with, but I heard its screams from down the hall. Who knew a hamster could scream? But I knew that sound. I make it when people want to hug me.

I understand this hugging thing is a show of affection, but for the record I really would prefer cookies or movie tickets.

I have a friend who lets anyone who wants to share her drinks. She even lets my children drink from her cup. My children are disgusting. I have seen the floaters in their respective cups and water bottles. I know how little gusto they put into their weekly tooth brushing session. For me, this sharing of beverages is a whole new level of violating personal space. My children know, even if it is 145 degrees, they officially have been diagnosed with heat stroke and dehydration and I have the only glass of water within 58 miles, they may not drink from my cup. I love them and all, but eeew. In my defense, I have given my cup to them on condition they not even try to return it, which is why none of them are dead and CPS hasn’t been called in.

Trying to evolve I have admitted it is better to hug you people than try and give a hamster a bath. Just know, they both induce similar sounds.


Obama Wants My Dog

Monday, January 12, 2009

You all saw it. The scintillating press conference given by President Elect Obama contained powerful insight about the direction our country is about to take. Now I understand, he must answer the inane questions posed with a straight face and an air of authority, but this last announcement has made me cower in fear.

Sure he has a huge list of national challenges like dealing with the continuing credit crisis, managing the outlandishly irresponsible press publishing the nuts and bolts of covert operations, tempering the Israeli/Hamas conflict, the list is large. As we turn over the keys to our landmark electee one can't but question his ability to lead as he announced he was searching for a Portugese Water Dog or a Labradoodle in the local shelters.

Obama has carefully crafted his image as a man of the streets having pounded the common pavement as a community organizer but this recent revelation should make us all shudder because it illuminates the cunnundrum so clearly. Obama so far doesn't have a clue.

In all fairness, neither do I, but what has bothered me about this candidate from the very beginning is his disconnect with reality. Unfortunately sitting down and 'talking things out' will not end the War on Terror. Raising taxes will not stimulate the economy. Increasing the Deficit will not provide for our future. Universal Healthcare will not increase the standard of care and fix our medical system. And you will never find a Portugese Water Dog, or a Labradoodle at your local shelter, no matter how hard you look.

Wal Mart has captured an amazing market segment. It's the kind of stuff evolving capitalism is made of, there is much to be lauded in their success, and a bit to be feared. Not being a small business owner myself, I quite like the local WalMart - s. What I can't quite wrap my brain around is how WalMart seems to bring out a whole new segment of the population from which I was hitherto isolated.

Standing in line #7 of twenty six check out lanes, I was mentally engaged in calculating how long it will take my chosen checker Velma to check out the four items presented by the tattooed, tube-topped woman in front of me. Eyeing this unique specimen ahead of me I became a bit of a spectacle myself in my white T shirt and keds as I squinted and strained trying discreetly to discern if the tattooed boa constrictor inked around her arm did indeed dive down her cleavage as it seemed from my position.  

Leaning too precariously toward the rack of Soap Opera Digest I lost my balance as a strapping young man came to join boa girl.  He slid his arm around her waist and looked me straight in the eye.  I quickly averted my gaze, having been caught in my lechery.  He then said to Velma, "Can you hang on a second" and dropped to the floor.  I was sure he was picking something up, and it took a few seconds for my brain to catch up to the action.  He was down on one knee!  In line number 7 at the Wal Mart.  Boa girl gasped, Velma gaped, I gawked.  Looking around at those who had paused to stare, strapping boy proposed to boa girl.  He announced to everyone it was a remarriage for the couple, as they had split a few years before and it was the biggest mistake of his life.   He missed boa girl and their two children so badly it hurt.

Suddenly this little family was less of a spectacle to me.  I felt the warmth of humanity wash over everyone in line #7, the happy couple, Velma, me, the woman behind me buying cat food and Depends.  I still think of them when I'm in the Wal Mart, and realize that sometimes I need better light.  Even florescent light reflected off a steel girder in a warehouse of a building can do just fine.

Well, what do you know. Really. At the urging of prospective senator Caroline Kennedy, apparently I know a lot. I listened to a series of dismal interviews lacking in substance but chock full of assertions - ya know. While we have not enjoyed a strong oratorial administration these past eight years, one would expect those seeking to represent us to have a minimum of verbal command.

What is intensely disappointing is how clearly the love-fest surrounding Kennedy reveals the current hypocracy of the media climate. While Sarah Palin was excoriated for her “lack” of credentials and comparably minor verbal gaffes, the heir of Camelot is lifted high upon media shoulders as she demonstrates a sucking vacuum of substance.

I know, ya know, we Americans love our celebrities. We hold them high under an diffusive light worshiping their images like the golden calves they are. Don’t some of us have enough substance to vote for leaders rather than politicians? Don’t we get how serious all of this politics is? Aren’t we more concerned about the content of someone’s character than say, who their parents were. To assert that Kennedy has special credentials because she moved into the White House when she was three is ludicrous.

Politics brings about strange bedfellows. Power is a heady elixir. I understand the enticement for Kennedy not to have to endure an actual election rather to assume power by appointment, but real power rarely comes from the title. As Caroline seeks to enter the rough an tumble world of the Senetorial jungle she might take a few lessons from the hockey mom of the north. And after a few tutorials together, who knows, ya know, this pair might actually stick. What would the media and N.O.W. do with a Kennedy/Palin ticket? I don’t really know, ya know.

I no less care someone’s chromosomal configuration than I do their hair color. What matters is the kind of person they are and how they wield the power they have. Feminists have long confused power with title. Real power does not come from a cabinet appointment, name on the door, fancy business cards - these are opportunities. Real power, as Ronald Reagan showed us, comes from the ability to influence, communicate and bring about good in the world. We don’t talk adoringly about Reagan today simply because of his list of accomplishments. We miss him because he made his ideas plain, tangible and powerful. We miss him because he articulated his ideas in such a way they easily became our ideas.

The feminist movement has done much to harm and obfuscate women’s real power. It has disoriented a generation of capable, wise women into putting on their snappy pantsuits and defining themselves by how much they resemble their tie-wearing counterparts. They have torn a great divide between the sexes, seeing the XY’s as the enemy, the oppressor and the paycheck as the end goal. Rather than choosing to influence the world for good, the feminist movement has chosen to influence the world for itself.

When I wake up in the morning, I don’t reflect on who else I want to be like, who I want to be better than, or who I want to be the boss of. I am the boss of me. As my boss, I wield my power to become wiser, increase clarity in my life, lift those around me, become sufficient. I want to be fighting the right war. It is not against the men around me. I need them as my ally. The war I fight is against the destruction of the family. The putrification of society. The premature end of childhood and the rotting of our national soul. Anyone who joins me in this war is my ally, regardless of how they put on their pants.

Tis not in mortals to command success, but we’ll do more, Sempronius, we’ll deserve it. - Cato, Joseph Addison

I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I possess in their service and for the support of the glorious cause. - George Washington