Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gift in smack

Readers, I apologize for petering out on the 12 days of Christmas theme. Everything is so hectic, and for some reason, I CAN’T STOP WRITING. I hope you’ll accept my apologies for biting off a bit more than I could chew.

So, these are the last minutes of holiday shopping, all – are you ready?

I’m not; and though I love a white Christmas, it’s not always such a great thing when you don’t have a car. Due to all of the bus system cuts, I have to walk half a mile to reach the closest stop…I’m not sure they even run at night anymore...guess I should follow up and find out. Riding the bus and bicycle, trudging through snow carrying bags of stuff at night can be a little tricky. I suppose when all else fails, I can call for a cab – and spend $20 just to go five miles distance.


Forgive my grumbling…but one thing I’ll never understand is why, when it comes to cutting budgets, it’s always the poor who get the short end of the stick. Actually, I do understand it: the poor are expendable – flotsam and jetsam – let ‘em walk to and from work and our store in the dark and snowy cold of winter nights. After all, what doesn’t kill ‘em will make ‘em stronger…so be sure to kill ‘em.


Listen: though we'd probably spend it differently, my sawbuck is identical to Jan Tanner's sawbuck; when our kid gets hurt, we both worry; and to the best of my knowledge, we both bleed the same color blood….that is, unless hers is green.

I was going to write a Christmas Carol, starring some of my favorite district VIPs – guess who slated to play Scrooge – but that story only has one wicked rich person, and lacks a Wicked Witch entirely. Besides, things happen – and after praying about those things, I was guided into taking a different direction.

Counting blessings simply must be more enjoyable than counting money, right? Am I right??  Or am I wrong?  I mean, I guess I could be swayed into loving money more than people - that's just my orientation, and by now, we all know how flexible that can be.  But I'm an open-minded girl...I can be friendly...I like to see it first, though, and imagine you'd have to start by showing me - so show me the money!  Instead of rose petals this time, cover the bed in $100's; heck, somebody run me a great, big, hot money bubble bath...that way we can launder it at the same time...

Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?

One of my many blessings is my way with words. There are subsets to this blessing, one being my gift in smack talk; another being my love letters; and please, don’t even ask me to talk dirty to you unless you've first cleared it with your physician.

Long ago, when I was a kid, there was a fashion trend of slogan T-shirts: two that took me a long time to grasp were “I’m with Stupid” and “When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m just awful!” But I get it now.

I hope that, through reading my pages and pages of smacking about this one and that, you come to count being on this spider’s good side as a blessing of your own.

And without further ado, please allow me to commence with laying down the smack.

Thanks, Coffee Lady!

Season’s greetings to one and all!

Here’s a December story I’m amazed I left out --

This may be hard to believe, but my time as a 7-Eleven “sales associate” was one of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had. Each transaction was a 3-5 minute encounter with persons from all walks of life, and I made it a point to learn to communicate with them all, and practice my best customer service skills…just because.

To make it personal, I liked to strike a quick conversation with the customer at the counter. At first it was hard, since I can be a little shy; also, there’s a tendency to look at the customer’s hands – for the items they’re buying and the money they’re holding. I found it helped to look them in the eye, smile, and find something innocuous to say: “Red is your color!” “Aren’t these dark chocolate Frappucinos delish?” “Howzabout them Broncos?”

When the overachiever in me was in full effect, I’d sometimes even try to count back the customer’s change…but didn’t always do so well – thank goodness for honest customers! But whether I did it right or wrong, the customers always appreciated that effort more than just being handed their change.

(I’m certain that, had my own District 11 teachers put more of an emphasis on helping me master this basic skill, I wouldn’t be such a math dunce today.)

Anyway, it was some time within the twelve days of Christmas that this woman walked in and headed straight for the coffee bar. The pots had been sitting a while, and she asked if I’d please start a fresh one for her. “Sure,” I said, though I had a short line; I smiled at the customer in front of me and excused myself to start the coffee.

It’s weird how quickly a 7-Eleven line can grow long – especially near the end of December; and though it took but a moment, by the time I'd finished, the line reached all the way to the Slurpee machine. Taking my place once again behind the register, I apologized and thanked the customers for waiting...then carried on, aiming for grace under pressure.

Eventually, the coffee lady was next up. She looked at me a little guiltily and said, “I’m sorry if I caused that line to form.”

I smiled. “Line? What line? It ain’t nothin’ but a thang.  Ooh, by the way - love the bracelet.  You have a Merry Christmas!”

I arrived to work Christmas day sporting red tights and reindeer antlers. Business was brisk, and at the end of each sale I'd chime, “Merry Christmas!”

The next customer was up.  I looked first at her hand and recognized the bangle. The coffee lady and I shared a look and a smile.

“How are you,” I asked, ringing up her purchase, “I see you’re still wearing my bracelet.”

“Yes,” she said, taking back her change.

“Well, give it back already! Just kidding… Thank you, ma’am, and have a Merry Christmas!”

“You too,” she said, handing me a Christmas card envelope; and with that, she was gone.

It would be hours before I had an opportunity to open it.

When you work at a neighborhood convenience store, you get what are called “regulars.” These are the people you see every day – because they live around the corner, or pass by in the morning on the way to work. These are the people from whom a scratch ticket, Christmas card, or jar of jelly does not come as a huge surprise.

But this woman was no regular; I'd seen her only twice, and not before nor since. But I will never forget her, and can still see her face.

Because when I pulled out the card (adorned by the three wise men) – and read it – “God asked me to bless you and your family this Christmas,” it said in her thin handwritten twenty dollar bills fell out.  I was stunned - tears of joy filled my eyes - then I whooped, and ran to tell my family.

The Bible says a good worker is worth his wage; but really, how often do we take the time to show our appreciation for a job well done, a cheery smile, an honest hard worker who'll go the extra mile?

I’d already resolved that this year, simply nothing would cause me to stand shivering out in the cold with my kids in some obscenely long line for any amount of free Christmas gifts.

To those who have shown me your appreciation: I am able to buy presents this year only because of your generosity. Cut from the same Coffee Lady cloth…you know who you are – and I thank you.

Monday, December 21, 2009


- 40 -
That Christmas morning, my mother dressed me in a sharp Chanel-style suit, white tights and black patent-leather mary-janes…my ponytails perfectly curled.

34 - 
My sister was born five days after Christmas, on my mother’s birthday.

25 - 
In my senior year, I started working at Record Bar at the Chapel Hills Mall. This was when they still made vinyl, and CDs were cutting edge. I loved that exposure to such a diversity of music. One album I came to know there and will always cherish is the hauntingly beautiful December, by the barefooted pianist George Winston.

24 - 
To this day, I don’t know which was worse – what I could remember, or what I couldn’t. The morning after would find me too hung over to even move; or with a twisted ankle; or with broken windows; or in jail. One Christmas Eve – which is when we usually open our presents – I was thoroughly blitzed, though I still remember the frowns of familial disapproval as I accidentally opened everyone else’s gifts and excitedly exclaimed things like “How did you know I wanted an Epilady?!” I laughed like hell at each blunder…but it was hardly funny.

22 - 
For a moment in time, I was flat-lined. They had to jump-start my heart, resuscitate me, pump my stomach…I’ll never forget the many mouthfuls of black carbon I spat out for several days afterward. It was a miracle when again my eyes opened and I rejoined the living. The first face I saw was my mother’s…my high school sweetheart/future husband standing behind her – both of them crying tears of sorrowful gladness and telling me how much they loved me.

19 - 
It was December when we brought our first born to the little house that was our home, the only year we had a “real” Christmas tree. When I close my eyes and think back, I can still smell the pine, and see the lights reflected in his eyes as I held him near, murmuring lullabies into the shell of his ear.

14 -
We set out for New York late that clear, cold December day. What started as flurries near Falcon was a whiteout blizzard just past Yoder; it was about then when the U-Haul’s governor gave out, and the truck would go no faster than 15 MPH. We crawled slowly through the middle of nowhere for hours that snowy night; and when FINALLY we reached the closest civilization of Goodland, Kansas…well yea, friend, and verily – that was good land, indeed.

11 -
Back in our old house and old jobs: my husband quickly secured employment with Compaq at the old Digital building, and I also returned to the giant building of my former employer, MCI. At one point, we were pulling in more than $100,000 annually; I had weekly manicures, bi-weekly pedicures, and my hair done every month.

8 -
Around this time, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the same week, I dreamed three amazing dreams; one day, I’ll tell you about them. For now, suffice it to say that thirty-plus years of staunch agnosticism came to a swift and certain end, and I found God.

7 -
Christmas that December was sparse. We applied and were approved for food stamps and TANF, but continued to struggle, falling behind on our bills and mortgage. I did everything I could to hold on to or sell the house, but to no avail; it was foreclosed. So, we put everything we owned into storage…and a week after the birth of our son, said goodbye to the house that had been our home for a decade.

6 -
I grew more desperate with each passing night – worried of quietly freezing to death; I’ve never felt quite so alone. The wood-burning stove was my only means of heat – to cook, to clean, to live. And so, I’d dress in black and wait until dusk; then, with bag in hand and knife in pocket, quickly skirt the streets of the Valley in search of fuel. I’d pick up twigs, sticks, boards – anything wood. There were times when I’d furtively slip a log from a neighbor’s stack, or walk up, knock and ask plaintively; if all else failed, I’d go outside and select a piece of our furniture to break: all, to feed that rapacious potbelly. Though I tried always to keep at least some embers burning, there were times when the fire simply died out; and when that happened in that darkest night, and I couldn’t find a lighter or a match, I’d cry and cry! in anguish and fear. I fell asleep that way once, in my shivering lament; and in the morning when I awoke, the tear drops were frozen on my cheeks.

4 -
I was staggered to discover I was pregnant at the age of 37; adoption and abortion were both out of the question, so we prayed it was some kind of blessing in disguise…which, of course, it was.

now -
After so long, renaissance and renewal…and the miracle is that every moment before this led me to this moment now. This is a solstice wish for the time of the cold moon, and a prayer for those who find themselves suffering the dark night of the soul: endure, have hope, and believe that you are never truly alone.

in memoriam
and to all of those overtaken
your Creator now comforts you
and us

Friday, December 18, 2009


(from an adoption reunification site I joined in hopes of finding my birth family)

A 19, 2008 2:24 pm (PDT)

I suddenly felt moved to write...

I turned 41 on the 22nd, and it was a day of dandelion bouquets gripped in muddy hands, my children's faces beaming as they wished me a happy birthday.

It was pretty much just another day, and to be true, I hadn't really thought about much other than my sprinkler system, over which I had spent the past three days toiling. Truly, there were plenty of moments for quiet introspection as I worked in the front yard, sweating under the hot sun beating down upon me as I struggled with too many female connectors and not enough males.

I looked up at the sky and noticed that dark clouds had suddenly formed overhead; I heard the far-off rumbling of thunder. A breeze began to blow all about me. A train passing in the distance sounded its mournful call; seconds later a church bell began to toll, and I briefly pondered the sad wordless duet before returning to the task at hand.

It was then that I felt a touch upon my shoulder: it was distinct; I shall remember that moment for always. Something deep within me stopped me from quickly turning to look behind me - instinctively, I knew that I was alone.

And then this song popped in my head and stayed until a few days later, although I hadn't heard it played in some time. Something led me to look up the lyrics of the song, which I have attached.

Anyway, after reading the lyrics, I became convinced that my birth mother is dead - that I won't ever be able to find her in my lifetime because she's already gone. And I feel certain that she somehow touched me on my left shoulder on my birthday.


One would have thought I did have a hole in the roof of my mouth, or a hollow leg, or some unique, bovine stomach antechamber…the way I was able to put away alcohol at one point in my life.

How I loathe a drunk; how I love the same person when they’re sober. We’ve all seen a bad drunk; to be true, can there be a good one? I dunno. All I know for certain is that from the first time, to the last time, and so many, many times in between, I have been one lousy drunk.

I consider myself to be a very shy person, believe it or not. Up through high school, I tended to hide my introversion behind a book; once I turned 18, however, it was whole ‘nother story; I was funny, fearless and ferocious – so long as I had a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I worked for the weekend, and come Friday, loved nothing more than to dance the night away. Somehow, I’d make it home and sleep it off; and despite memory loss and crazy behavior, I’d do it all over again the following week.

I remember watching Animal House a zillion times before I ever even thought about college; I suppose I reached the conclusion that drinking was expected, and getting wasted was a requirement if you ever had hopes of fitting in, or being cool, or having fun. So, I fell for this lie – hook, line and sinker. Looking back, I have to wonder why we, as a society, have been and continue to be so forgiving and tolerant of alcohol.

If the signs of problem drinking in me were pronounced before I left for college, things went from bad to worse once I actually arrived. I knew no one at CSU – least of all, myself – and students were institutionally encouraged to drink. In spite of my intention to major in journalism and minor in classical voice, my focus quickly became the club scene – where I’d sing or dance or flirt…or at least think that I was…

Drinking got me into a lot of trouble.

There was a club in Fort Collins called Fort Ram, and as long as you showed your student i.d., you could drink gigantic long island iced teas for a buck apiece – which I did. Since I couldn’t remember the details my own damn self, I’d have a hard time believing people the next day when they related to me the things I’d done the night before…I figured they had to be exaggerating. But they weren’t – and if I’d understood that then, I’d likely be in a much different place now.

To this day, I don’t know which was worse – what I could remember, or what I couldn’t. The morning after would find me too hung over to even move; or with a twisted ankle; or with broken windows; or in jail. One Christmas Eve – which is when my family usually opens presents – I was thoroughly blitzed, though I still remember the frowns of familial disapproval as I accidentally opened everyone else’s gifts and excitedly exclaimed things like “How did you know I wanted an Epilady?!” I laughed like hell at each blunder…but it was hardly funny.

Not knowing what more she could do, my mother started saving the drunken messages I’d leave on her answering machine and later play them for me when I was sober. It was effectively torture to hear my own voice piercing through the pitch darkness of my blackout binge drinking, exposing the truth of my inner firewater monster.

(here’s a YouTube link of a stranger: it is chilling to hear her channel the same voice of the same drunk demonic hag who once inhabited me)

A screaming, angry, ranting and raving drunk…filled with hatred for and violence toward everyone and everything…and not until the room was spinning and I’d completely exhausted myself would I finally pass out. Upon waking to see whatever damage I’d done, I would become so sad – sad isn’t nearly an accurate enough word to describe how abject my desolation – and the same crazy drunk, hung over from the night before, would become positively suicidal.

I returned home from CSU in disgrace, and with considerably more baggage than with which I’d left.

After one particularly bad night – during which I cussed out my mother and hurled every one of my many belongings down the stairs and into the front room before passing out in a heap – I awoke with head throbbing, and the realization of what I’d done, and of what a total loser and utter failure I’d become. Combined with my complete absence of faith, it suddenly all became too much for me to bear; and at the tender age of 22, I downed about 90 of my mother’s amitryptiline tablets.

For a moment in time, I was flat-lined. They had to jump-start my heart, put me on a rescusitator, pump my stomach…I’ll never forget the many mouthfuls of black charcoal I spat out for several days afterward. It was a miracle when again my eyes opened and I rejoined the living. The first face I saw was my mother’s…my high school sweetheart/future husband standing behind her – both of them crying tears of sorrowful gladness and telling me how much they loved me.

I will always remember that dark moment 20 years ago…a lifetime ago; for that which we fail to remember, we are doomed to repeat.

Today, I’m able to take an occasional drink; but for the most part, God simply took the taste for alcohol right out of my mouth: for that, and so much more, I thank and praise Him. Hopefully, I won’t ever falter again, but I’ve also learned never to say never: several Thanksgivings ago, I found myself barefoot and bleeding at night on a snowy sidewalk, lost and unsure of which direction to take in order to find my way back home – this, after having gone a decade without the temptation for even so much as a sip of alcohol.

I’ve been very plain with my children about how alcohol can and has affected their mother; and warned them that they’re genetically predisposed to experiencing similar problems with alcohol, should they ever take it up. So far, they’ve shown no inclination for either drinking or smoking, which is a relief – but I am ever watchful.

Making whoopie with a stranger and dancing around with a lampshade on your head might be thrilling at that moment, but what comes next?  A moment is all that’s needed to make an irreversible misstep that could bring regret, heartbreak and pain to your family, your friends, and yourself for years and years to come.

Never underestimate how swift and deadly alcohol can be; it is the reason we still refer to it as spirits. Further, alcohol has a whole gang of lowlife friends in tow – anger, doubt, fear, low self-esteem, depression, aggression, hopelessness, et. al., – and together, they pick us apart, seeking out our human flaws and frailties for maximum exploit. What Satan has done and would do to destroy me – to destroy us all – if only we give him the chance!

By chance did I stand up my date with death; by choice have I come to accept and appreciate the loving grace of God.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fifth day of Christmas

Trying to buy some time...writing something else in the meantime.

Here are a few older pictures of an equally striking mountain.

Have you ever been inside?

I have - when I was five - and it was an experience I'll never forget...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fourth day of Christmas

...and these vintage peak pics.

Third day of Christmas

A day late and a dollar short friends - 'tis the story of my life, I'm afraid. But what I lack in punctuality, I make up in taste...?

I hope you'll enjoy these color pics of the peak...

Monday, December 14, 2009

A hole in the roof

My father was born in Savannah, Georgia…the youngest of 13 children. They lived on a farm, and were dirt poor. After his graduation from high school, my dad joined the military and was promptly stationed in Germany.

On St. Patrick’s Day, he and his friends decided to go to club hopping in Amsterdam. My mother was there, dressed entirely in green – a coincidence, since St. Patrick’s day isn’t celebrated in Holland. My dad says he fell in love with her the instant he laid his eyes upon her. After dancing the night away, he offered to take her home, and she accepted. Nevertheless, she had him take the extra-long way home, hoping to confuse him worried that this black soldier might show up on her doorstep and cause a commotion.

However, he had paid attention; and soon thereafter, he took the extra-long way back to her home, and did precisely what she’d feared. I imagine the stern faces of her family – my mother herself the second to the youngest of 10 very white, very Dutch children.

A commotion, indeed; but he was polite, and kind and respectful, and began to win over his future in-laws as he wooed my mother.

My dad boxed for sport, and one day his opponent broke his jaw. As he lay in a Stuttgart hospital with his jaw wired shut, he worried that the little Dutch girl he’d fallen in love with would think he’d stopped calling and forget all about him. But she didn’t; he awoke from a drug-induced sleep to see her face hovering over his…and the rest is history.

Mom and Dad, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g…first comes love, then comes marriage, then here they come with a baby carriage.

But the carriage never came. Stationed first in California, then at Peterson Field in Colorado Springs, my mother never became pregnant; after five years of marriage and still no baby, they decided to adopt. Baby Jane Doe no longer, I had a new mom, a new dad, a new name, and a new life.

I was the miracle of their lives for the next five years - which is when my mother finally became pregnant. I remember my mother calling me, rousing me from my sleep...and going to her, finding her in a pool of blood. This was before push-button wireless phones, and I trembled, following the instructions she panted out on how to call for emergency. After giving traumatic birth to my sister, the doctors told my mother she could never again have children.

How do you tell a young child that you’re not really her parents? I’ve no doubt they told me as gently as possible, and that they loved my sister and I just the same. But can you love your adopted child as much as your only biological child? And if so, can you convince the adopted child that it’s true?

The lies that we tell others aren’t nearly as bad as the lies that we tell ourselves.

I grew up, quiet and intelligent. At some point, I know we’d decided to keep the truth from my sister until she was older. And it wasn’t as though they treated us differently; they didn’t.

It was the little things that killed me inside…overhearing the laughter about my sister having my dad’s big ears, and my mother’s pointy chin. When I was about 13, we were all astonished upon discovering, through a strange fluke, that both my mother and my sister had a small hole in the roof of their mouths. My dad didn’t. I didn’t.

And at that moment...and for many, many years afterward...the only thing I ever really wanted was a hole in the roof of my mouth.

The Ballad of Baby Jane Doe

My name was Jane, on the day I was born - Baby Jane Doe, to be exact - born on the 22nd day of that month in that year. I know I’ve joked about it before, but it’s true.

When I was born in the latter part of the 1960’s, good boys and girls dated only within their race, and saved themselves for marriage; unwed motherhood was like a scarlet letter, and abortion was a crime reserved for the rich and the desperate.

I picture the mother I’ll never know: a hippie-chick flower child, with hazel-green eyes and marijuana-opened mind…tuned in and turned on, unlike some people, thank you very much! “Living my life on my own terms for a change – so refreshing after all those years spent suffering under the unreasonable edicts of the parental proletariat! Really, mom and pop are such squares; what do they know of our modern world – indeed, what ever could they know!? Think of how long they duped us – never so much as blinkinganeye as they lied to us, year after year, about that fascist Santa Claus!! Ha ha ha! What else were they lying to us about, hmmm? Negroes, probably, and how perfectly awful they are. I’ve found them to be not nearly so frightening as they’d led me to believe; indeed, they’re not frightening at all… rather groovy, actually…”

One such groovy lad had her particularly enchanted. On summer evenings, in the moments that followed the spending of their passion, she’d gaze in awe upon his dark, drowsy beauty and nearly begin to cry. She believed that he and she might become a civil rights power couple, and in the end, make her bigoted mother proud.

But boys often lie and leave…and mothers are so often hard to please…

There is no magic rewind button or be-gone-baby spell to make a pregnancy vanish – and so, a woman faces one eternal truth upon finding herself with child: that child will emerge from her womb either dead or alive. Either way, the road to getting unpregnant isn’t nearly as pleasant as the path to getting pregnant may have been.

I imagine my mother’s face – increasingly pinched and drawn as she missed one period, then another; suddenly unable to make contact with her baby’s daddy; and the shocked, pained expressions that swept across her parents’ faces upon learning that their daughter was pregnant with some Negro’s bastard – right around Christmas time.

How perfectly dreadful! People talk, after all – even in progressive college towns – and next steps needed to be determined quickly to prevent the entire family from becoming the local laughingstock. Out of necessity, a life-long lie was spawned for the safekeeping of the family secret. I can hear my grandmother practicing her lines in the mirror, rehearsing before her Wednesday night bowling league recital. “Oh, yes, she’s off studying at Lyons this semester, and having a simply marvelous time!”

Meanwhile, my mother languished at a home for wayward girls, waiting out the remainder of her pregnancy in anonymous exile, reading teach-yourself-French books and playing solitaire. As her due date approached, she would sleep fitfully…dreaming vividly of the brown baby that moved within her womb, and having nightmares of running after the lover who’d forsaken her.

After laboring to bring me into this world, my mother cradled me in her arms. For a few fleeting moments, she studied my face for traces of him and traces of her…laughing at the shock of black unruly hair on my head. My newborn fingers unfurled and took hold of her finger, and her eyes stung hot with sudden tears. For an awful moment that she’d forever remember, my mother doubted the choices she’d made for us.

But it was too late; the deed was done.

Glimpsing a dangerous bond in the very process of forming, the nice lady from the orphanage came walking up briskly from across the room; and in one fluid, practiced motion, lifted my swaddled form up and out of my mother’s arms and reach. “Wait!” my mother sobbed, but for naught. The nice lady never slowed down or missed a beat…and as she walked away holding me, sang out with a false note of cheer, “Don’t worry, dear…everything will be just fine…!”

And just like that, my mother was my mother no more…and I, instantly orphaned.

The once-wayward girl found her way back home again, to the open arms of her parents. Only once did anyone ever speak again of the situation.

My grandmother came walking up to see my mother quietly weeping. “Why, dear, whatever is the matter?”

“Oh, I guess I’m just a little blue, mom,” said my mother, weakly.

Mother looked daughter squarely in the face. “Now you listen here, girl, and you listen good! It will hurt for a while, baby, but not forever! Best to forget all about that Negro boy and his child, just like he forgot all about you; put them both far from your mind, like an uneasy dream. If you don’t, no decent White boy will ever want you.”

And for one rare, wounded moment, they embraced.

But my mother never stopped wondering, whatever happened to Baby Jane?


The above is almost entirely fiction – a make-believe story that’s easier on my soul than the other two possibilities; that my illegitimate creation was the result of either my mother’s easy behavior or forcible rape.

My original birth certificate lists me as Baby Jane Doe, my mother as “Caucasian Female”, and my father as “Negro Male.” I was brought from Alamosa to the El Paso County Orphanage that was filled, presumably, with other babies named either John or Jane Doe. Jane Doe I’d remain until my adoption 11 months later…

…actually, deep down inside, Jane Doe I’d remain for the rest of my life.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Second day of Christmas

You know how a song can sometimes get stuck in your head and you can’t get it out? Over and over and over…

Right now, a song called “Baby Come Back” by a band called Player is stuck there – Big Time – and it’s stupid and out of the blue. For my husband, it’s “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus* – which he’s described as reason to have her court-martialed. Why is it always a song that drives you crazy?

Anyway, that’s sorta how the things I research and/or write about are inspired; something gets lodged in my brain.

Something Tami Hasling and John Gudvangen used to say again and again is “Policy Governance®" – and so it’s their fault it got stuck in my head. I’ve previously mentioned this annoying bit of jargon, but didn’t learn more about what the heck it meant until the 69th Annual CASB convention at the BroAdmoor two weeks ago.

In case you didn’t know, CASB is the Colorado Association of School Boards; Jan Tanner sits on their 22-member board. There was some controversy as to why, with all of the steep budget cutting and program slashing going on, this two-day convention was held at the BroAdmoor** – which ain’t exactly Motel 8. The excuse – er, explanation – was the discounted rates afforded by CASB’s 40-year relationship with the BroAdmoor.

CASB was formed 21 years ago in 1988 – 48 years after their supposed 1st Annual convention, and 21 years after the start of their alleged 40-year relationship with the BroAdmoor (hey – I’m just working with CASB’s numbers; my teenagers helped me do the math).

When these numbers didn’t add up, I had to ask: what exactly does CASB do, especially in light of the nearly $18,000 in dues District 11 paid them last year? Inspired to visit their website, I learned that CASB provides:
Sounds like an expensive load of reindeer poop to me.

I have a couple of parting comments:
  1. Unless it’s due to overplay, the reason a song gets stuck in your head is often because there’s an important personal message for you in the words.
  2. I worried that perhaps I came across as somewhat snarky when I made that comment about Tami Hasling coming across like a Chatty Cathy bodybuilding cheerleader doll parroting pre-recorded statements – but that worry has been lifted. There was every reason why the “Policy Governance®” song she kept chirping got stuck in my head.
In conclusion, here is a wonderful gift-giving idea for the season; if Santa brings me one, I’ll program mine to say things like “Even non-Spartans benefit from swimming” and “Keep city schools and pools open!”

Now, pardon me while I consult Player for their personal message for me.

* I love Miley.
** Jan cannot claim ignorance of the law (which is an impermissible defense anyway) in light of her own expertise in Policy Governance®; she knew good and well that her failure to properly disclose her own interest in Domino's and their lucrative pizza contract with the District was legally unethical.

First day of Christmas

Hello Readers, and here's hoping that the First Day of Christmas finds you well.

That's not at all to discount anyone who doesn't celebrate Christmas; Happy Chanukah, Merry Kwanzaa, Wonderful Winter Solstice, Awesome Atheist Day, Festive Fill-in-the-Blank Day!

I'll be using the Twelve days of Christmas for some semblance of structure for the remainder of the month; each will have a humorous gift-giving idea, suggestion for Santa, and/or outright gift for anyone with a crush on the city of Colorado Springs.

Interspersed throughout will be a series of intensely personal discourses that I feel moved to write for this winter season - for you, for me, and for God.

Today's offering comes under the "I LOVE COLORADO SPRINGS" category. It's a photograph of Monument Valley Park in taken in 1898. When my husband and I met at Palmer High School 26 years ago, we would steal away for quiet walks together at the same place depicted in the photograph; its beauty has moved me to tears.



Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Delayed gratitude

An off-topic conversation between the Independent's Rich Tosches, and the independent Ms. Spydra, about the importance of having a spirit of gratitude, and the difference between sophisticated and sophomoric.

Colorado Springs Independent
Ranger Rich
November 25, 2009
Bless this brood
by Rich Tosches

Today is a special day in America, a celebration descended from that brisk autumn of 1621 when the pilgrims of Plymouth sat around a big table with the Wampanoag Indians and hammered out plans to build a casino. They received a lot of helpful and friendly revenue-sharing advice from the Teamsters, who sat at the end of the table cracking their knuckles.

And so on this day, as we pause to remember that first autumn feast, we look toward the azure sky and we say thanks and then we are hit right in the face by giant blocks of ice and snow that are sliding off the steep and magnificent Teflon-coated roof of the new U.S. Olympic Committee building.

And we give thanks.

We are thankful that Ted Haggard is back in town and is about to start a new church in our village because, as you know, we could sure use a few more churches around here.

We are also thankful that Haggard has asked us to submit possible names for his new church and, as we understand it, has narrowed the list to three finalists, including one named after his wife: Our Lady of Total Denial. Also among the finalists is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Erection and, of course, St. Peter. (Newly hired altar boy Mike Jones will be at each service, burning a funny-smelling incense as outside the church a pack of DEA meth-sniffing dogs howl and try to chew through the heavy wooden door.)

We are thankful for the long service of soon-to-be retired Focus on the Family boss James Dobson, who is experiencing health problems stemming in part from his advanced age but mostly from the whiplash he suffered when he violently turned away and ran from old buddy Haggard. (Dobson's neck injury worsened last year when he performed an abrupt about-face on the presidential candidacy of John McCain.)

I'm also thankful that even as Dobson departs, Focus' executive search committee is interviewing Haggard as a possible replacement. Insiders say Pastor Ted's first big change would be to reclaim the recently jettisoned "Love Won Out" gay conversion program and to put it firmly back into Focus' closet.

Seriously, I'm thankful today for the continued presence in our village of Focus on the Profit, I mean Family, which treats each employee like a cherished member of that family. Unless donations from all the nuts, I mean devoted followers, taper off. Then, to protect the all-important executive bonuses, many members of the "family" are fired — just as Jesus himself canceled vacations and overtime and reduced dental benefits for the disciples during the Big Recession of 0022.

I am thankful also that as our village shuts down its parks, pools, museums and senior centers, our firefighters will still be able to extinguish fires the old-fashioned way — by smothering them with their gigantic paychecks.

And I am thankful for our police officers, who, despite the big changes to the village swirling all about them, will continue to boast about skyrocketing mutual fund returns and gold investments as they Taser a madman who was going 36 in a 35-mph zone.

I am thankful, too, that on Dec. 8 Sarah Palin will appear at our Chapel Hills Mall to sign her book and will unveil her new theory that two weeks ago we not only discovered water on the moon but also found the home where President Barack Obama was born — a crater she claims is now guarded by lunar government death squads.

As a writer skilled in the use of sarrcas ... sarrkas ... sahrcazm ... making fun of things, I am thankful for the Mensa Club that is our City Council, which recently appointed to an empty Council seat former Gazette editorial writer Sean Paige (aka Douglas Bruce Jr.), who initially said his candidacy was "a joke." Apparently on us.

And as Thanksgiving ends and we move into winter, I'm thankful we won't have cracked windshields, because the city and county are so broke they can't afford their traditional winter road maintenance blend of sand, magnesium chloride and medium-sized landscape boulders.

Finally, I'd also be thankful if good Christian Ted Haggard would pull me out of my upside-down, burning vehicle whenever I slide off an icy road and into a ditch this winter. I'd be even more thankful if he pulled me by my arms.




The short-sightedness of your Thanksgiving article has me puzzled; how can you overlook the bounty of good fortune in your life? More importantly, why do you choose to? Because offhand, I can think of plenteous blessings for which your heart should be thankful and gladdened.

For instance, you should be thankful for your fellow former Gazette columnist Milo F. Bryant, whose habit of starting each of his articles with a single-sentence paragraph was like a cavity – tolerable for a while, then grating…and over time, downright unbearable. Evenso, week after stupid week, bicep-brain was paid to keep up his brutal assault on the English language. Each time I came face-to-face with Blockhead Bryant and his blasted paragraph, I would seethe. So, give thanks for Sir Milo of Meathead; next to him, your own weak writing skills seem like the work of sheer genius.

But be not mistaken that yours is a progressive wit, shaken and stirred with a shot of biting satire; it isn’t. Your own style is a mishmash of Barry Noreen’s petulance, Mark Barna’s disbelief, Sue McMillin’s nonchalance, and Matthew Schniper’s ain’t-I-great-ism...all of which amount to tepid. Even the Independent’s myopic lens can do nothing to clarify your consistently ambiguous message: is your intent to shine meaningful light upon your subject, or is writing merely your virtual middle school boys' bathroom wall?

This loose grouping of mild talent, diverse faults and multifaceted mediocrity combine to make one gigantic, haphazard crap quilt. Honestly, in two decades, you’ve succeeded in making me laugh only once. And though I’ve long since forgotten how it was that you came to tickle my funny bone, I remember taking particular note of that singular occasion due to its sheer novelty.

And talk about irrational thinking: that solitary chortle was sufficient cause for me to hope that, beneath the blustery bravado and layers of failed attempts at funny, there might actually dwell a nimble-thinking wise guy who could make me laugh on special occasions. But time has shown you to be a played-out pinhead who, without discernable provocation, does everything he can to insult Christians. Believe it or not, we are not your mortal enemies.

But you have successfully communicated the gist of your message long, long ago…so it’s unnecessary for you to keep repeating yourself like a broken record. Trust me, Rich – we get it already: YOU HATE CHRISTIANS. Roger that. Do you feel better now? Is it safe to move on and possibly cover new ground?

I am curious to learn, for instance:

• if there are any other religions you disparage and rail against; if so, what are they, and why?
• Do you reject God entirely, or just the concepts that strike you as unreasonable, distasteful, at odds with your own personal system, or simply uncool?
• Do you harbor equal disdain for Judaism as you do Christianity? Raelianism? Unitarianism? Wiccanism? Shintoism? Santerianism? How ‘bout Voodun?
• If Atheism is an absence of belief or faith, do you derive comfort from your faithlessness, and if so, how?
• Have you ever met a Christian you didn’t instantly hate?
• To what do you attribute your rejection of the notion of God?
• How will you benefit if it turns out that Christians were wrong all along, and when we die we’re all just dead?
• Why aren’t you satisfied to agree to disagree; what drives you to spread your unbelief and prod everyone into reluctantly agreeing that down is up?
• Is there ever a time when disclosing one’s sexual orientation is inappropriate?
• Is there in the GLBT world different sub-groups, like there often are among races? For instance, a black person is “all black”, as opposed to “mixed” or “light-skinned”; is there a parallel in the GLBT world, i.e., a man could be “pure gay”, or if he’s bi-sexual he could be “mixed gay”?
• Are there possibly some liberals who might benefit from a good old-fashioned public scorning, or is that just reserved for conservatives…or Republicans…or only Sean Paige and Doug Bruce?

I mean, I don’t know - do you? Actually, I’d not even think about the details of someone else’s sexuality or faith under usual conditions – I’ve always been taught that it’s impolite to casually share that sort of intimate information. But since the topic keeps coming up, those are some of the questions I’d like to see answered…and it just seems as though your column could be so much more than just a childish name-calling contest targeting Christians.

I’m sure that it must be the hypocrisy you perceive that’s inherent in religion, but that hypocrisy exists in every one of us. Further, while yours is not an article on religion, like the Gazette’s “The Pulpit,” you do tend to discuss religious issues with such frequency that it’s hard to tell what the true purpose of your column is all about. A little variety, Rick, can spice up even your most bland of pabulum…or is it that you’re fully committed to the confinement of the I-HATE-JESUS box that you can’t seem to think your way outside of?

That your Independent soulmate gives herself away for free and yet keeps cranking out your regular paycheck is a miracle. To pose as and pass for a ginuwine writer for as long as you have – again, a miracle. That you get to do the work that you were born for – that is, perpetuate faith-hatred and heterophobia, all for a good laugh and a sneer – clearly is a miracle. That you get paid money for being so damn unfunny…well, nice work if you can get it, fella – just ask Andrew Dice Clay.

I would think you'd start every morning on your knees thanking God for each and every stroke of dumb luck that you’ve been blessed with. So to read in your own words your irreverence toward your own undeserved success and accolades…I’m sorry, but for me that’s simply the last straw. There is a part inside of us all that longs to believe we are each one of us decent deep down inside, and possess some sort of redeeming quality that makes us uniquely individual and worthwhile. But I’m afraid my hopes that there might ever be a meeting of the minds between the crazy Christian in me, and the Godless freethinker in you are fading fast.

Here’s Gospel: in this day and age, if you rolled your car, and ANYONE had the wherewithal to stop rubber-neck staring at you, and the good conscience to inconvenience themselves by stopping to help…well, that again, my friend, would be a miracle. And when that person asked if you were ok, and called 911, and stayed with you until the ambulance came…well, you wouldn’t give a hot damn if your Good Samaritan was an evangelical priest in civilian clothes, James Dobson dressed in leather, or even a laughable little Christian spider like me.

You’d simply be repeating the same two words over and over: “Thank God.”

Sir Rick of Toe Cheese, I’ve stoically suffered your nanny-nanny-boo-boo balderdash for years…rolling my eyes at your yellow-bellied sucker punches, and tsk-ing disapprovingly at your penchant for going straight for the throat. Have you no finesse? Are you a stranger to subtlety? Like that garish Adam Lambert spectacle that’s already old news, why are you always so eager to explore the very depths of how low you can go?

The unapologetic irreverence of your Thanksgiving 2009 post was a new low, even for you…and the oily catalyst that loosed the sword from the stone. I am not rubber, you are not glue; sticks and stones can break our bones; and most of the times, your words deeply offend me. If you wrote the things you do about Christians about the GLBT community instead, you’d be charged with crimes of hate speech. So, either you’re live and let live, or you’re an extremist determined to force your world view down all our throats.

I’ve enjoyed this opportunity to be frank with you; indeed, judging from your fixation with Ted Haggard, I quite imagine you prefer it. You talk about him so much - alternating between scathing hate and homoerotica - that you’re either sweet on him, or have already run out of things to say. But really, it’s not fair to punish and malign all Christians for your own inability to keep from popping a chubby each time you think of Pastor Ted. I rather think that your juvenile pre-occupation with toilet humor, and proclivity to daydream about snorting speed off of Ted Haggard’s round buttock inside Our Lady of the Immaculate Erection might be cause for your further introspection.

I conclude with the observation that it must be difficult for you to be serious even for a few minutes…and that of course you don’t recognize the blessings that are upon you; how can you count your blessings when you yourself are blind to them?

I already know that you will read and re-read this ireful composition that’s been years in the making; and each time that you do, I pray that you’re stung afresh by the words on this page.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The snowy day

I always loved that book by Ezra Jack Keats - so much; that and "John Henry", by the same author.

But while this is no sweet picture of innocents making snow could call me "Mrs. Henry."  Mrs. Spydra Jane Doe-Henry.  Kinda has a nice ring to it, actually, if you're the hyphenated-likin' sort.

It's (blessedly) short, friends...and again, I apologize for the "Blair Witch Project" quality of my product.  But though I found that film wanting, it was still strangely powerful, no?

Sunday, December 6, 2009


I thought this footage lost…then found it again. Oh, the happiness!

But because of a flawed DVD, all I could do was replay it again and again for myself on the camera; I was unable to download or upload or anything else with the footage. Oh, the sorrow!

I was vexed for several days; then, Eureka!

The only way I could share this with you was to play it on the camera while recording it from my laptop – something unwieldy to do, at best. I was terrified I’d break an LCD screen in one place or the other…or both. At times, I lay as though kissing the Blarney Stone; at others, I was in such a state that indeed, I doubted my own countenance to survive it all.

Truly, I laboured, but in the end, how sweet the fruit!  And I prayed a prayer of thanks that it was over at last.

I’ll be the first to admit that a goodly portion of this footage is reminiscent of Bigfoot or the Monster of Loch Ness; please, excuse everything that’s wrong with it, the novice camera work foremost.

Evenso, I hope you will deem it acceptable, and certainly do trust that you’ll find a thing or two of value to glean from its viewing.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Even the suit

When I was first alerted to the sudden activity at Adams, there were:
  • three white-paneled moving vans in the parking lot;
  • an SUV pulling an open trailer, backed up to the school’s entrance;
  • a large pick-up truck pulling a closed trailer;
  • John Griego’s vehicle.
At the front door of the school, a cluster of workers stood talking with a man in a suit; near them were a large round table and two audio/visual carts. I could see into the cargo of one of the vans, which was about a quarter full (though of what I couldn’t tell).

They saw me, struggling with tripod and increasingly tremor-plagued hand, and immediately dispersed. The SUV drove off, pulling a trailer that held four to six A/V carts; and after securing his cargo and pulling closed the door, the driver of the van I could see into soon followed.

I glimpsed a bustle of movement at the school’s entrance; the A/V carts were gone – presumably inside what was like a horse trailer – and I watched as two of the men tried in vain to fit in the round table.

I looked back - Griego’s car and the other van had vanished; the final van then drove off. I turned back just in time to see the two men give up on fitting the table into the trailer; together, they hoisted it up into the bed of the truck - and just like that, they too were gone.

I tipped them off with my “Co-InkyDink” post, curious of how quickly the alarm might sound. Apparently, it cried a lot like “SPIDER!!!!!!!!” because they were all gone within fifteen minutes of sighting me.

Which I did not quite anticipate (…but which pleases me greatly).

People are always more candid when they don’t know the camera is rolling – and sadly, in this day and age, when isn’t it? But how they react when they do know the camera’s rolling is telling as well. And so even though I wasn’t ready, I pointed the camera at them anyway.

My apologies, readers, but regrettably, I did not win my race against time, and the fragments of footage I obtained were unusable.

But if my hobby in districthology has shown me anything, it’s that the suited variety of the species are frequently the alpha-males, asserting their dominance by pointing this way and that while others do their bidding. So for me, it was especially remarkable that one of the two men hoisting and heaving was the man in the suit.

Because you know you might be getting warmer when even the suit begins to sweat.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Whadda Co-inkydink!


Whadda co-inkydink:  right after my "Through the Looking Glass" post two days ago,  WOW, is there a WHOLE LOTTA activity at the Adams building today!

Medium-sized moving vans, filling up to capacity - this, after several months of relatively benign activity and private vehicles filling up with this and that.

And in case you're wondering, I've seen several SUV's pulling trailers filled with - oh, you guessed it already - AUDIO/VISUAL CARTS!

I will provide footage of today's sudden flurry of activity across the street - along with videos of the movers earlier this summer - later today.