Saturday, September 30, 2006

Montgomery Police Office Keith Houts Clings to Life

A Montgomery police officer, Keith E. Houts, was shot in the head Thursday afternoon during a routine traffic stop near my son’s school. If the suspect, Mario Woodward, is the right guy, Officer Houts probably didn’t realize he was pulling over one bad-ass thug. According to court records, Woodward served six years for the manslaughter of his girlfriend in Prattville, got probation for a couple of drug charges and was believed to be the driver in a drive-by-shooting but only got a year in prison for parole violation. I know we can jump to conclusions and speculate and whip ourselves into a frenzy. So, I’m going to hold off on convicting Woodward and let justice take its course. I hope the cops got their man.

Houts is clinging to life. His spinal cord was severed. He and the alleged shooter are about the same age, early 30s. Not much else is similar though. Houts, who served in Kuwait, was making something of his life. Woodward was only making trouble. If you are the praying sort, say one for Officer Houts and his family. And while you are at it, say one for all of the brave officers who serve and protect.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Can Comedy Go Too Far? Daring to Offend

UPDATE: I read the Washington Post story Borat, Kazakhstan's Mighty Faux this afternoon. Just as the president of Kazakhstan was in Washington yesterday, Borat was holding a guerrilla news conference outside the Kazakh embassy. From the Post: "He called out Kazakh Embassy spokesman Roman Vassilenko as "an Uzbek impostor" ("pliz do not listen to him") and threatened to attack Uzbekistan "with our catapults." Anyone, he added, "who claims we do not drink fermented horse's urine, do not have death penalty for baking bagels," is lying."

I planned to write about Borat after reading yesterday’s New York Times article, but I opened the Montgomery Advertiser’s on-line edition to see the story SPLC: Cross-dressing, Blackface Comedian No Laughing Matter and changed my focus. I’ll get back to Borat. There’s a connection.

Based in Montgomery, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is recognized internationally for its advocacy of justice and equality issues and for its Teaching Tolerance programs for schools—my Scottie’s school, Booker T. Washington Magnet High School, for one participates. SPLC co-founder Morris Dees took on the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and pretty much wiped them out financially at least. Supporters of these to the right of Right-Wingers hate his guts, and there’re all sorts of ugly Internet sites devoted to Dees bashing—another story, another day. Anyway, the SPLC has fought many battles that needed to be fought (Roy Moore), and I have respect for their work on justice issues.

Nobles Bar here in Montgomery scheduled a comedian, Chuck Knipp, to perform Saturday night. Richard Cohen, the SPLC executive director, sent the owners a letter saying the SPLC was pulling their business from the bar because they found Knipp’s act and characters “grotesque and demeaning stereotypes of black people.” Cohen is quoted in the Advertiser as saying, “The owners have been great supporters of progressive causes in this community and that’s what makes me particularly dismayed about them having this act this weekend.”

Both the owner and the comedian deny it’s racist although Knipp performs in blackface and has apparently had a performance cancelled before. “Every time you are going to do something besides just stand up and tell knock-knock jokes you are going to take a risk,” he said to the Advertiser. Keith Boykin’s Web site has a few more details about the act with the Shirley Q. Liquor character and recounts Knipp’s trouble with New York activists. The comedian’s Web site has plenty if you want to judge for yourself. I watched a YouTube Church Slave and listened to Go Greyhound where Shirley (a.k.a. Knipp) calls Greyhound to find out about tickets for her and her 19 children.

Switching gears and getting back to Borat. As I mentioned many words earlier, Bill was reading me Steven Lee Myers New York Times article entitled “Kazakhs Shrug at ‘Borat’ While the State Fumes” about British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (I don't think he's related to the SPLC's Cohen) and his character Borat, a “bumbling, boorish, anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynistic Kazakh television reporter.”

Kazakhstan, a real country and one without much of a sense of humor, has tried to set the record straight that it is not anything like Borat’s version. I think they should also talk to the Lonely Planet folks who describe the country as "bleak, but those who enjoy remoteness, wide open spaces, lunar landscapes, long hypnotic train rides and horse sausage will definitely be in their element." Strangely, last night during Wolf Blitzer’s CNN show, up pops a real ad for Kazakhstan showing lovely vistas and charming sites. You are going to be hearing a lot more about Cohen’s Borat and Kazakhstan because he has a movie coming out November 3, called “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” If you go to Cohen’s Web site, you can see his response to Kazakhstan’s concern wherein he “fully supported my government’s decision to sue this Jew.”

And from Europe comes the news via the Times on Line that an opera by Mozart has been cancelled for fear of upsetting Muslims. “The bloodstained King of Crete stumbles onstage and holds aloft the decapitated heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and the Prophet Muhammad. “The gods are dead!” he calls out to the audience,” thus begins the lead. Continuing, “For fear of Muslim anger, the bosses of the world-renowned Deutsche Oper in Berlin have cancelled performances of Mozart’s Idomeneo. The decision has unleashed a storm of disapproval from politicians and writers, who claim that Germany has fatally compromised the freedom of expression.”

So, I ask you dear gentle readers, can those who create comedy, drama, opera, music, books, paintings, or other methods of expression go too far? Who will decide what is offensive? Will you for me? Or me for you? Just my thoughts.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Faith and Politics and Taking A Stand

John Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, has written a book called “Faith and Politics.”

In an article entitled Danforth Warns of Christian Right but Says Tide Will Turn, Peter Slevin of the Washington Post writes that the book “describes religion as a divisive force in the United States today and accuses the religious right and its political supporters of creating a sectarian party.”

From the story:
“The problem with many conservative Christians is that they claim that God’s truth is knowable, that they know it, and that they are able to reduce it to legislative form,” Danforth writes. “The popular question, ‘What would Jesus do?’ can be difficult enough to contemplate with respect to everyday interpersonal relations. It is mind boggling when applied to the complex world of politics.”

Slevin is right about one thing when he writes, “His book emerged by design in a political season in which the organizing strength of conservative Christians is expected to be tested by motivated Democrats and moderates dismayed by the country’s direction.”

After laying low for most of the present administration’s tenure, I have decided that every opportunity I can find, I will work to change this direction. The Right-Wingers and their toadies can ridicule former President Bill Clinton all they want, but his interview with Fox News is only the tip of the iceberg. Democrats and some Republicans are finally saying ENOUGH.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Saving Graces and October is Pink

You will see much of Elizabeth Edwards in the coming days promoting her new book, Saving Graces. She's on Oprah today.I just read an excerpt about the day she discovered the lump. No woman who has had breast cancer forgets that day. The details are seared into your psyche like a brand on a steer’s butt. It becomes a part of you for the rest of your life.

I identify with Elizabeth Edwards in many ways. I supported her husband John Edwards and wished he’d been the presidential candidate instead of John Kerry. I, too, like Mrs. Edwards had let too many years pass between mammograms. And my treatment paralleled hers, as least as far as public details indicate.

But no woman journeys this road without war stories and wounds. At some point you might see me write more about the topic, but for today I’d rather not other than to show you some new designs from a cafepress shop I call hanging in there. One design is my own personal mantra, “believe” with the pink ribbon for the “l.” Never a fan of the pink ribbon, I have nonetheless come to the conclusion that many people do appreciate its symbolism and meaning. Me, I’d rather not advertise the fact that I’m half chested.

And if you are so inclined to donate to a good breast cancer organization since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let me tell you about my favorite, The site, founded by Marisa Weiss, an oncologist specializing in breast cancer, saved my sanity. Here you’ll fine extensive information on all aspects of breast cancer, expert on line conferences, links, the latest research news and an active discussion board. At times during my treatment I would spend many middle-of-the-night hours here. It was my support group.

Elizabeth Edwards is back. So am I!

Banned Books Week

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. Voltaire

While I was thinking about the books that influenced me as a kid, I came across mention that this is Banned Books Week. The American Library Association sponsors this every September and it’s worth going to their Web site to see some of the books that have been challenged. For the first time in a long time, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain is missing. I didn’t see any of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books on the top ten either. But “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger is there. Several challenged books deal with sex in some fashion or the other. Now, sex, that is the one subject sure to get the banners on their horses and ready for a crusade.

Go forth and read!

About the illustration: this digital collage was a class project when I was a student at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois in 2002. I created it using PhotoShop.

My Favorite Childhood Books

I noticed someone over at had compiled a list of nostalgic books from her childhood, and it prompted me to think back to a time uninterrupted by television, video games, cell phones or responsibilities.

My mom read to me from a book about dolls that would come to life after everyone had gone to bed, but I’ve long forgotten the name of the book. She read me Peter Pan, Treasure Island and poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson. We had a set of grocery-store encyclopedias. And she joined some kind of club where I got a series of books about history, world events, nature and science.

However, in Miss Sanford’s second grade class I struggled with reading. I hated my teacher. I hated school. If it weren’t for my mother taking time off from her job and coming to school to meet with the teacher, I don’t imagine I’d be writing this today. Whatever, my mom did and I think it was reading to me, it worked. By third grade, I was back on track with a love for my teacher again. Every elementary age kid needs to love her teacher. Mrs. Cox had taught my uncles and aunts and even my daddy. We had history as they say, and she still liked me. Mrs. Powell, Mrs. Stewart and Mrs. Kirkpatrick (for the second of three times) followed and all fostered my love of reading.

By now, I was ordering from the Scholastic book club every chance I got and reading for myself, often against orders to “Turn out the light and go to bed!” Seventh grade brought a teacher who read to the class everyday. She introduced us to The Boxcar Children and though I was a little old for that book, it somehow captured my imagination. We did book reports and made fancy construction paper covers for illustrations.

High school rolled around and found me at the little library in Prattville every chance I got, helping the two old librarians shelve books while sampling the contents along the way. I read Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, Main Street, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, A Member of the Wedding, The Jungle, Seven Days in May, Rosemary’s Baby, To Kill a Mockingbird, and for a time silly books like The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and Maxwell “Get” Smart books. I always wondered why my mom grabbed up a copy of Tobacco Road and said I shouldn’t read it. Instead, I found Valley of the Dolls.

At the University of Alabama, I spent more time on required course reading. Still, I never lost my love of books, and when Jeff came along, Bill and I dove into children’s literature with a passion. Bill was working on his Master’s degree in education at the time. We both instinctively knew how important reading would be. Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Mercer Meyer books like There’s a Nightmare in my Closet, Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, Peter Pan, Old Yeller, Huck Finn, the Narnia series, The Boxcar Children, all of Chris Van Allsburg’s wonderfully illustrated books, Judy Blume, S. E. Hinton—too many to name here, but these are the books Jeff and Scott will remember. Bill and I will also remember the closeness we felt each night as we closed the day reading to our sons.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Please Don't Sit on the Pumpkins: Why I Love the Fair

I read a story not long ago about the drop in fair attendance in general. Seems not as many 4-Hers are interested in raising and showing animals for one thing.

However, I love fairs and the Alabama National Fair comes to Montgomery October 6 at Garrett Coliseum. As the wife of a Kiwanian (the sponsors), I'm required to work a couple of shifts. But, here’s the good part, I get a pass good for free admission. Say the word FREE and I’m there.

While some gravitate to the midway with its scruffy-looking ride operators and cholesterol-clogging fried food, I’d rather be over in the barns dodging cow pies and taking photos of the beautiful dairy cows. I never can figure out why except that I grew up in the country, and my Granddaddy Parsons once had a cow named Bessy. He didn’t have many farm animals with the exception of an old worn out mule, Lightning, and some hogs that were only around long enough to be slaughtered and not named. My only attempt as a member of the 4-H Club was a sadly and badly constructed apron. I remember feeling like a domestic failure.

Last year, my normally non-artistic son Scott decided to enter the photography competition with some photos he had taken on our trip to Italy the previous fall. This is a kid who goes to an arts magnet high school; however, he’s in the law magnet and has an internship at the Alabama Supreme Court. It came as a great and pleasant surprise that he won four ribbons and plaques from the Montgomery Professional Photographers Association––one for each of the photos he entered. And he’s at it again this year. Last night he found out that he’d won second place and third place in the unclassified student category, losing out on the first place to a photo of a butterfly.

We only need a little encouragement to try new things, a push to unveil our creative side. We all have it despite what we might have been told in school.

See you at the fair!

top: first place, 2005 Montgomery Professional Photographers Association (MPPA) student competition. Florence, Italy. Shot of the Arno River, Thanksgiving 2004. Available for purchase. ©2006 Scott Noblitt
second: second place, 2006 MPPA student competition, unclassified division. Wall Street, New York City, USA. Shot during a Law Magnet trip to New York, Spring 2006. Available for purchase. ©2006 Scott Noblitt
third: third place, 2006 MPPA student competition, unclassified division. Windy City Bean, Chicago, USA. Shot of the Millennium Park "Bean" which was created by British artist, Anish Kapoor. The real name of the bean is Cloud Gate. Available for purchase. ©2006 Scott Noblitt

President Bill Calls Out Fox News

Naomi over at Diary from England had a question about my reference to Dr. Andrew Weil in one of my replies. I mentioned that in one of his books, “8 Weeks to Optimum Health,” he suggested taking a news holiday where you turn off the television and get away from the woes of the world for a bit.

Had I listened to Dr. Weil’s advice, last night I wouldn’t have seen the clip that CBS Evening News showed of Bill Clinton taking Fox TV’s Chris Wallace to task or read Michael Grunwald's story, A Combative Clinton Defends Record on Fighting Terrorism, in the Washington Post this morning. My blood pressure rose ever as I watched that loaded finger of our former president punctuate his message with anger.

‘Fox News Sunday’ Interview transcript
WALLACE: Do you think you did enough, sir?
CLINTON: No, because I didn’t get him.
CLINTON: But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried.
So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke, who got demoted.
So you did Fox’s bidding on this show. You did your nice little conservative hit job on me. What I want to know is ...
WALLACE: Well, wait a minute, sir.
CLINTON: No, wait. No, no ...
WALLACE: I want to ask a question. You don’t think that’s a legitimate question?
CLINTON: It was a perfectly legitimate question, but I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked this question of.
I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked, “Why didn’t you do anything about the Cole?”
I want to know how many you asked, “Why did you fire Dick Clarke?”
I want to know how many people you asked ...

Finally, a Democrat was laying it on the line and telling it like it is. Finally, a Democrat with some balls. Well, everyone already knew President Bill had them.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Saying Goodbye: A Dog Day Sunday

I started Sunday by reading how a wonderful Weimeraner named Max had left his people after many happy years. And then I came across Becky's Carolina Journal with a cute YouTube video of her daschund playing ball.

I thought about my own dear Samantha. She's been gone since February, but it seems so fresh in my mind. I had written about what happened when I said goodbye, and what follows is that recollection.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006
All day Sam followed me around. She didn’t sleep soundly if at all, almost afraid to shut her eyes for fear that I would be gone. I looked at her hoping to get a sign that what I contemplated would be the right thing. She only continued the labored breathing, panting loudly.

Back in August when we returned from our trip to the mountains and found her at death’s door, I was sure it was her time. I had talked with the vet about putting her down and had even planned to take her in. Yet, with a little pampering and human food, she perked up and almost overnight, she was nearly as she had been before our trip.

I concluded that she had gotten a double dose of heartworm medicine by mistake—with us before the trip and at the vet’s while we were gone. I never talked with the vet. That was my own conjecture.

But she grew progressively more annoying and aggressive when it came to food. Human food that is. She could never get enough of it. She whined when we were eating and demanded some of our food. Years of lax discipline we figured. Once, she even grabbed a take-out salad from my hands.

By January she was struggling more. I began to think that the climb up the stairs was too hard. Yet she continued to follow me about from room to room, searching almost frantically when I left while she dozed.

As Bill prepared for a trip to Nashville, I told him I was going to take her to the vet and that I might put her down.

Monday came and went. On Tuesday I stood with the phone in my hand while Sam looked at me. I felt disloyal and full of guilt. And yet I knew she was having a hard time breathing. I knew it wasn’t going to get better. We finished off the Christmas dog cookies Jeff and Natalie had given her. I fixed her a bowl of oatmeal. Gave her a carrot—her favorite treat. She still had an appetite. I almost wish she hadn’t for then it would have been easier.

On the second attempt to call, I did it, leaving a message that I wanted to talk with the vet about Sam. He called back in about an hour and told me that it sounded like either the Cushing’s or the tumor was causing her distress. We talked about what to do with her remains, and I opted for an individual cremation although I could have gone the cheaper route. I felt wrong to do it that way. After all, we had been together over 13 years and I she deserved better. The time was set. I called Bill to let him know. Scott had stayed late at school but made it home to stay goodbye before we left for the vet. Sam eagerly took the doggie treats Scott offered.

She climbed a little reluctantly into the red car. She never liked going in the car since it usually meant a trip to the groomer’s or the vet’s. Today, she didn’t quiver as usual.

I settled the bill as soon as we walked in while the receptionist showed me how the remains would be returned. Just a tiny little tin. All that love and devotion reduced to that.

We went into the exam room and the vet came in and talked with me. He kneeled down and gently ran his hands over Sam’s bony back. He said, “I’m sorry.” I knew he hated what he was about to do. We talked briefly about how she’d been and what the process would be like. The assistant lifted Sam quickly onto the table and put a towel under her. I held her as the vet shaved a place on her back leg. They helped her to lie down as I held her and rubbed her head. He injected her and after a few seconds she slowly relaxed, and it was like she was asleep. All very peaceful. After checking for a heartbeat, he said, “She’s gone.” I mumbled, “It’s hard.” And he said, “I know.”

The vet’s final words were, “You did the right thing. The mass was huge.”
While I could have stayed longer, I left immediately.

And today, I still find myself in tears. Last night there was the empty spot where she slept. Today I will move the comforter and dishes, toys and other reminders of my dear friend. The sweet dog who would come put her head on my knee when my tears overtook me. All though my illness she was with me. I never felt alone with Sam by my side. Today, I do.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

WooHoo!! It’s National Food Safety Education Month

Al Meyerhoff and William B. Schultz wrote a good piece in the Washington Post entitled “Something’s Rotten in Food Oversight.” Read it. I don’t think you will be comfortable eating much on your plate—a sure way to help that diet along.

They write, “With the federal food safety system so inadequate, it’s particularly troubling that earlier this year the House of Representatives passed legislation to override state laws establishing food quality requirements that are more stringent than the federal standards.” I guess you Republican types will say we can’t or shouldn’t depend on the GOVERNMENT to protect us. Would you bring out your tired old mantra, “You have to rely on yourselves”? Or how about that backup one, “The industry is policing itself”?

I’d rather see more inspectors in the fields and processing plants, tougher regulations monitored by one federal agency over all food production facilities and someone to step up to the plate (pardon the pun). Now, this is a real issue that we should be concerned about.

While the government and agribusiness searches for the source of the E. coli, Nina Planck, author of “Real Food: What to Eat and Why” writes in the New York Times, “It’s the infected manure from these grain-fed cattle that contaminates the groundwater and spreads the bacteria to produce, like spinach, growing on neighboring farms.” Planck is an advocate for farmers’ markets and local food. She maintains that this particular strain of E. coli can be eliminated when cattle eat hay instead of the typical grain.

Mom or Dad may need to sanitize the cutting board, but Uncle Sam needs to ensure a safer food supply first.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I’m Bored With CBS’s Survivor

Scott and husband wanted me to watch “Survivor” with them last night. I did, but I’m bored with the show. Tribes divided along racial lines didn’t work for me. In case you are not a big television viewer and missed all the hoopla, the show divides contestants into black, white, Asian and Hispanic groups. I liked it when there were only two tribes where you could see the group dynamics at work better. Now, the show jumps around so much from tribe to tribe it’s like a bad case of ADHD.

E. coli Spinach Lawsuits Filed

Although I sat in a products liability law class over 25 years ago, I continue to be interested in the subject. We better all be interested too judging from recent E. coli in bagged spinach cases.

From FindLaw: “To date, 131 cases of illness due to E. coli infection have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including 20 cases of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), 66 hospitalizations, and one death. Illnesses continue to be reported to CDC.”

Lawsuits have been filed in at least three states: Wisconsin, Oregon and Utah. Plaintiffs are suing Natural Selection Foods and one includes Dole. At least two cases involved hospitalization. In one case, parents ended up with two seriously ill children in the hospital. Strict liability, breach of warranty and negligence are the causes of action.

It’s something to ponder this weekend as you do your grocery shopping. Just how safe is our food supply and why are we seeing more of these “outbreaks?” Annys Shin writes in this morning's Washington Post about the food safety gap. We have a lot more USDA inspectors working the meat and poultry industries, but the FDA is woefully shorthanded on inspectors for the rest of our food. It's been a largely voluntary arrangement for quite some time. Forgive me for being so mistrustful, but anything we consume should be more closely inspected. Find out what caused the E. coli outbreak, set some new regulations and hire more inspectors to monitor the industry.

One more thing. Parents may never tell their kids to “eat your spinach” again.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hugo Chavez’s Book of the Month Club

Just when you thought the news was too serious with E. coli in our spinach and Iraqi civilian deaths at an all time high, in steps that wacky dictator who jazzes it up a bit. You probably heard what he said about President Bush. Colum Lynch’s (what a perfect name for a newspaper reporter) story in the Washington Post is a good wrap-up. Now, I don’t like Bush either, but come on, he’s not the “devil.” Anyway, Chavez is now responsible for increasing sales of Noam Chomsky’s book, “Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Domination.” About all I remember Chomsky for was transformational grammar. Now he tops Chavez’s Book of the Month Club.


Creepy new CBS show. There’s a bomb blast. Mushroom cloud. Small Kansas town is thrown into chaos. Wayward son does an emergency tracheotomy on a little girl and drives a school bus full of kids safely back to town. Mayor “Major Dad” gives sappy patriotic speech about how we are all in this together and we’ll fight if we have to. Yada, yada, yada. I might watch it one more time but thinking about a nuclear holocaust is not something I want to do on Wednesday nights. 1983’s Testament with Jane Alexander was the quintessential television show on the topic, and the 1959 movie, On the Beach with Gregory Peck was best serious movie made on the subject.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Puzzling Question Wednesday

Can someone please tell me how the iPod earphones cord gets so tangled while in my pocket? It must have a life of its own because I straighten it out and by the time I get to the YMCA, it’s looped and tied up like the first rope a cub scout ever tried to tie.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

On the Road Again—Willie Nelson Busted for Pot

Bill and I went to the Willie Nelson concert Sunday. We endured several bands and a miserably hot afternoon before he took the stage. Montgomery’s Riverwalk Amphitheater is, however, a pleasant venue overlooking the Alabama River. Sitting outside in our folding lawn chairs and watching the crowd was amusing. Bill said, “There’re so many old guys with beards that I feel like I’m at a Civil War reenactment.”

The concert itself was a “birthday concert” for Hank Williams who was from Montgomery. Okay, I do have a problem with singing Happy Birthday to a dead guy, but otherwise that part of the concert was tolerable for a non-country-music-loving person. Ray Price, who’s 81, delivered a good performance for his fans, and there was one singer who looked and sounded an awfully lot like Hank himself—even had the yodeling down. A couple of old guys had played for Hank, and I must admit to tapping my bare feet a few times.

By the time Willie came on though, the heavily gray crowd was more than ready. He sang fan favorites like Georgia, Always on my Mind and showed that he still knows how to play the guitar.

Well, apparently ole Willie was having way too good of a time on the bus back to Texas. The bus got pulled over in Louisiana for a traffic violation, and Willie and company were cited for possession of pot and mushrooms.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Halloween Treats Tote Bag

As anyone knows from past posts or my introduction, I have a cafepress shop where I sell my designs called Sheila For Kids. Once in a while I’ll post something here about what’s happening there. However, most of the time I’m on my soapbox or just reflecting on life and culture.

Today, I was thinking ahead a few days to October, and I designed a Halloween Treats Tote Bag for all those goodies that kids are destined to bring home. With this sturdy bag, which will last for years, the kids can bring home enough treats to share with Mom and Pop. My two sons, Jeff and Scott, always had a hard time finding a bag they thought was large enough for their booty without resorting to the definitely unstylish pillowcase. Poor little plastic Jack o’ Lanterns are fine for toddlers, but bigger kids love to think volume.

Stop by my shop if you’d like to order one or to see what else is new.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

That’s What Friends Are For & Christmas in September

The brown envelop jingled as I took it inside to see what Molly and Frank had sent us. A note explained the contents. “Dear Bill & Sheila, I was put in charge of mailing you these Xmas stockings. Molly and I went to an estate sale and the peoples’ names happened to be Bill and Sheila so we couldn’t resist getting the stockings. Sorry they aren’t filled with gifts. Love, Frank & Molly”

These two long time friends live so far away, and yet they remain so dear to my heart. Can’t you see why?

When I was in treatment for breast cancer a couple of years ago, they drove several hundred miles to see us. Molly came bearing a huge white bunny and lots of funny stories about her life and children. Frank came with tools to do some neglected repairs around the house. “Give me a list,” he ordered. We caught up on our lives and for a brief time my life felt back on track. Molly loved to shop for antiques, and we just dropped her off one day for a couple of hours at an antique mall. They brought me hope and cheer. I knew I'd make it.

And Frank, those stockings are filled. With love, that is.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Willie Nelson in Montgomery, Alabama

Tomorrow I can cross off one of “my things to do before I die.”

Willie Nelson, that old pot smoking, IRS evading cowboy I love so much, is coming to Montgomery. Earlier this summer I searched to see where he might be performing nearby and found nothing. Then, last month I read in the Montgomery Advertiser that he was set to perform at a Hank Williams birthday concert right here. I’m a big procrastinator and only got around to buying tickets for myself and “you know who” yesterday. “You know who” isn’t quite the Willie fan that I am, but he will tolerate a lot on my behalf.

Willie, who is now 73 years old, will be performing with 81-year-old Ray Price. In general, I’m not a country music fan. My daddy listened to the Porter Wagoner Show back when a young Dolly Parton was the girl singer. I’ll say it politely; I failed to appreciate the music, rhinestones, twangy fiddles and such.

Willie’s a different case. Not only does he write great and enduring songs like Crazy, but he sings them in his own unique style. I love his classics like Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys as well as jazzy standards like Stardust. Plus, He’s an outspoken man of action. Unlike some aging singers (Kenny Rodgers for one), he isn’t afraid of the wrinkles age brings with it. Neither I am.

Friday, September 15, 2006

What’s For Dinner? E. Coli and Spinach

The Washington Post and a gazillon other media sources reported the latest threat to a safe American food supply: bagged spinach. Throw it out as I did or cook the hell out of it if you are a risk taker.

It’s unsettling to me since so many time-strapped grocery shoppers are turning to these pre-washed and pre-cut bagged veggies to save time in the kitchen. But, just how safe are they? Should we wash their contents or not? Is the Food and Drug Administration doing its job?

Strength, Faith & A Beautiful Day

When you face adversity, what gives you strength to go on? Is it your religion? Maybe it’s the thought that you have too many people depending on or loving you. Whatever it is, you can count on having to use it from time to time.

As I worked out at the YMCA today, I cranked up the volume and listened to my workout buddy, Chris Isaak, on the iPod. Soon, the world’s woes and my own were gone for a few minutes. The CD Forever Blue has more of my favorites including what has become my mantra, “I Believe.” “I believe the stars keep shining all though the night. I believe if we just keep trying it will be all right. I believe that someday we’re gonna find our way. And I believe in a beautiful day,” he sings. The lyrics take a darker turn with Isaak singing, “But not for me and not for you.” Then, “I believe, I believe, I believe,” repeated three times.

Despite that one troubling part which I insist on ignoring, I love Isaak’s music, and it helps me face my problems and know that things will work out in the end. I have faith.

P.S. For any readers wondering how the South Beach Diet is going. I’m down below 170 pounds for the first time in over a year. WooHoo! Also, Dr. Mac, I’m now up to two miles on the treadmill. It’s getting easier.

New ABC Show “Men in Trees” Premiere’s Tonight

Flipping around the tube, I stumbled across “Men in Trees” the other night and got hooked into it mainly because of the lovely scenery since I’m not a fan of that crazy lady, Anne Heche. ABC is showing the pilot again and the first episode tonight at 7 p.m.

Heche, a hot-shot relationship coach with a failed engagement, ends up in an isolated town in Alaska so obviously patterned after “Northern Exposure” it isn’t funny. Scheduled to give one of her seminars, she shows up drunk after discovering her fiancĂ© is cheating on her. After making a fool of herself to the nearly all of the town’s men, she decides that maybe this is the place to really find out about men.

Tom Shale of the Washington Post pretty much had nothing nice to say about the show, which really is okay. This is a CHICK show. Tom, I’d be worried about you a bit if you did like it. And the question you had about why Marin (Heche) would have brought her wedding dress with her to Alaska can be answered: she didn’t. The designer sent it to her with a bill for $10,000. Least I think this is what happened. I’ll watch the pilot again to get my facts straight.

If you loved “Northern Exposure” and are tired of “Sex in the City” reruns (one of the writers for SITC works on this show), give this show a look.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The NCAA & College Mascots: R.I.P Chief Illiniwek

Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) has a dilemma, and I do not mean why is a university called Indiana University in Pennsylvania? Since the 1930s the school’s nickname has been “Indians.” At one time the mascot was an Indian. The dilemma comes because the National Collegiate Athletic Association is on a mission to wipe away Native American references which “create hostile or abusive environments inconsistent with the NCAA constitution and inconsistent with the Association’s commitment to diversity, respect and sportsmanship.”

A IUP task force recommended changing the nickname and mascot. The president at the time chose Bears but left “Indians” as the nickname. The NCAA is threatening sanctions if IUP continues to use the name “Indians,” and the school has lost their NCAA appeal. IUP really has no choice but change.

IUP is not alone in its challenge to update what has been deemed politically incorrect, potentially offensive or insensitive mascots.
The University of Louisiana at Monroe
just this summer switched to “Warhawks” from Indians.

Northeastern Oklahoma State
wants to change from “Redmen.” They figure the process will take about a year.

Southeastern Oklahoma State changed from the “Savages” to “Savage Storm.”

University of North Dakota (UND) President Charles Kupchella was mad because
the NCAA has allowed some colleges to keep their nicknames and mascots if supported by local Native American tribes. Thus, the Florida State Seminoles, University of Utah Utes, Catawba College Indians and several others have managed to keep their mascots or names. Dr. Kupchella, who is ironically a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, wrote a passionate letter to the NCAA detailing his university’s unhappiness with the NCAA decision that UND is in violation of the policy and stated that UND is considering a lawsuit. The UND Website posts a link to the NCAA Litigation Fund. Guess they are serious.

The letter the NCAA sent to Catawba clarifies the organization’s position.
“Therefore, inasmuch, as Catawba College’s use of the name “Catawba Indians” and associated imagery has received the approval of the Catawba Indian Nation; the institution will not be subject to the terms of the policy. It is important to note that the staff review committee has approved the use of the name “Catawba Indians” and not the use of the generic term “Indians.” The staff review committee believes that the use of a generic Native American reference like “Indians” or “Braves” cannot be mitigated by the concurrence of any Native American tribe. No Native American tribe “owns” the word “Indians” in the same way it owns the tribal name and, therefore, cannot overcome the presumption position taken by the Executive Committee that the use of such names leads to a hostile or abusive environment.”

Chief Illiniwek
Carol Spindel presents the case for removing Native American mascots and names. “The mascot debate is actually the latest in a long series of battles over who controls American Indian culture,” according to Ms. Spindel who has written a book on sports mascots called Dancing at Halftime. She works at the University of Illinois where folks have been arguing for years over Chief Illiniwek. There’re even several Web sites devoted to the issue ranging from Honor the Chief to Retire the Chief. A former Chief commented to the student newspaper, “I have seen the Chief's obituary written many times before, but so far I’ve never attended the funeral.”

The Sun Times reported that plans were in the works for a group of boosters to take over the Chief’s management. However, the University says this isn’t true. Meanwhile, Chief Illiniwek continues to dance at football games and the University is under NCAA sanctions which prohibit it from hosting postseason tournaments.

This whole issue may seem trivial but time and money are involved in changing a logo and rebranding. Signage, uniforms for teams and bands, flags, licensing agreements and publications must all be changed. But I think back to a quote attributed to former Illinois Senator Paul Simon regarding Ms. Spindel’s book, “Yesterday’s racism we recognize and we are embarrassed by it. Today’s racism we often do not recognize until we read something like Carol Spindel’s clear and fascinating message in Dancing at Halftime.”

Just a question for the NCAA: can Notre Dame keep its “Fighting Irish?”

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Where Were You on 9/11?

I suppose this will be the defining question for Gen-X and the Millennials much as “Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated?” was for us Baby Boomers.

I was in my sixth grade junior high school class when Mrs. Kirkpatrick turned on the television and we heard the news on that November day back in 1963. I was shocked. How could this be? A classmate began weeping and we tried to console her. We were confused, curious and sad. And surprisingly, I saw smugness and stifled glee among some young Southerners who reflected their parents’ distain of the slain President because of his civil rights stance.

Five years ago on September 11, I was on my job at DuPage County Human Services. When we heard the news, again I asked, “How can this be?” We were near enough to Chicago to immediately worry about whether Chicago would be attacked. Our government building was closed and we were sent home to follow the news.

When we returned the next day, we began to see the fallout. Many callers I spoke with only wanted someone to talk to them. One woman was nearly hysterical. In the following weeks I talked to the wife of a Chicago cab driver looking for somewhere to get food. No one would get into her husband’s cab because he “looked like a terrorist.” I tried to advise a United Airlines executive. He’d gone to New York after the attacks to help, and when he returned home, his job was gone. The economy took a big hit and I was called upon to help the wounded with food, housing, medical resources or shoes for their kids. It was depressing, and I decided to go back to school to study graphic design. I gave up trying to save the world. It was too sad.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sheila Joan Noblitt Is Still Missing

I wrote about Googling my name a while back and how Sheila Joan Noblitt came up (not me). Sheila Joan Noblitt went missing in North Carolina five years ago. Her family is still looking for her. I heard from a relative that the case is still unresolved. How does one so easily disappear? They are still hoping to find out what happened. Surely someone must know something. Sheila Joan, they need to know about you.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Baby Killed in Montgomery Gas Station Toilet

The young woman walked into the Gas Depot around 1 p.m. last Friday. Approximately 40 minutes later she left. In between, she apparently gave birth to a six-pound baby girl, placed the baby in the toilet tank and let her newborn child die. The preliminary autopsy indicates the baby was alive. We don’t know if the woman was mentally incompetent. Maybe she was distraught and desperate. Perhaps she didn’t know that under Alabama law she could have gone to any emergency medical services provider or fire station, and it would have taken the baby. Perhaps she didn’t care. Now she is a wanted woman, and all we know about her is what witnesses recall and what the surveillance video shows: a black woman, around 120 pounds, with a ponytail, wearing a red shirt and black pants.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Facing Down the Fear

I saw my doctor today. Nothing out of the ordinary happened.
I am not scheduled to see him for another six months. That’s reason to celebrate. No bone scans, Mugas, CTs, x-rays and best of all, no pokes in the arm. WooHoo!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Roll Tide, Hotel Talisi & Monte

Natalie and Jeff drove down from Chicago and spent Labor Day weekend with us. Monte, a 10-week-old liver and white English Springer Spaniel, came with them. Our first granddog is a ton of fun. Husband nicknamed him “Montail.” We all took turns watching him race around our yard picking up sticks, pine cones and pecans, most of which we had to sweep out of his mouth. Monte swam for the first time, got bitten by fire ants, sort of chased a dove and generally enjoyed himself. Oh, I hope his mom and dad did too, because we certainly enjoyed their company. I hate that they live so far away.

Roll Tide!
The Tide rolled and husband and Jeff relished their chance to see the Alabama-Hawaii game in the 92,138 seat stadium. They were amused that Jim Nabors (a.k.a. Gomer Pyle) sang the national anthem. I reminded Jeff that "Gomer" is one of Alabama's alums and lives in Hawaii. Jeff spent the first two years of his life in Tuscaloosa while I was in law school, but he’d never been to a game. Husbandand I went to games when the stadium held 60,000. While the guys were gone, Natalie and I dog sat and went to a movie, “Little Miss Sunshine.” (Liked it. Go see it. Funny and somewhat dark.)

On Sunday, we drove over to Tallassee to have lunch at the Hotel Talisi. This is a tradition in our family going back to when my mom lived in Montgomery. When we came back to visit her, we'd take the 30 minute drive over for a wonderful lunch. It's still the same traditional Southern fare—fried chicken, potato salad, sweet potatoes, green beans, squash casserole, Waldorf salad, field peas, macaroni and cheese, my favorite turnip greens casserole and a selection of classic desserts like pecan pie, coconut pie and banana pudding. While the old hotel shows its age, the place is always crowded with folks returning from the lake or a football game at Auburn. It’s worth checking out if you’re ever down this way. Off I-85 between Auburn and Montgomery.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I’m Tired of Politics and Gamesmanship

In the coming days I’ll probably post one more time about the Carlinda Purcell mess in Montgomery. I want to collect my thoughts and see the dust settle a bit. I wish some investigative reporting would be done into how power and influence dominate this city’s institutions (and I’m not just talking about the Montgomery County Board of Education), but I doubt that anyone outside of Alabama would care. Maybe Alabama is like other cities or areas when it comes to this kind of politics and power in public policy. I thank all of the interested stoppers-by at the Alabama Kitchen Sink. People from Wisconsin to Virginia and beyond wanted to see what happened to Dr. Purcell. When she spoke to the media after the settlement was announced, she conducted herself with grace and dignity. She lost her job but she gave it her best shot, and this is coming from a person who felt she had no choice but to leave.

On a happy note, we are expecting our new granddog Monte. If anyone went all the way back though my musings, you would see a picture of little Sienna who turned out to have health issues. Monte is her brother. I’ll post a picture later. Oh, Monte’s mom and dad will be along too. They are cute too, but puppies always win in the cuteness category.