First, I want to say that there are few things I want to hear endlessly on 24/7 news than this trial.  Except perhaps the other things they cover endlessly, especially about the Kardashians and Beyonce and their babies.  So when I refer to this as a trial, I'm not just speaking about the legal proceedings.

This morning on Fox I stumbled over another completely useless discussion about whether it's "fair" to call the law enforcement calls for "no violence" racist or not.  Consider for a moment a trial in which the crowd outside were White Floridians, and the defendant was a black self-appointed neighborhood watcher who had done exactly what Zimmerman did, but to a white teenager.  Do you think the law enforcement officials would be pleading with that crowd not to become violent?

I doubt they would.  The presumption that a crowd of blacks might well turn violent is, yes, racist.  Even the arguments that it has happened in the past  are hollow.  I do not recall hearing law enforcement pleading with white Alabamans not to be violent during the Civil Rights marches.  In fact, I find the entire presumption that there will an acquittal racist.  The law enforcement office seems to be presuming Zimmerman will get off.  If they weren't there would certainly be no call for no violence.  

While I have my mind made up, and so do most folks I think, I think the jury will indeed try to follow the law and reach an honorable verdict.  I do not see any reason for Zimmerman to be acquitted.

I know that if I were walking through my neighborhood, and a man in a pickup was following me, I would have been exceedingly eager to get home and safe behind a locked a door.  But, then I'm a woman, and at any age, a man following me is a threat.  I might also have been wise enough at 17, had cell phones existed and I had one, to have terminated my chat with a friend and called 911.  However, I'm white, not a black kid in Florida.  I also might have hung up on the girl and called my father.  Perhaps Tracy Martin was not home.

However, there is one indisputable fact.  If Zimmerman had followed the dispatcher's instructions and STAYED IN HIS VEHICLE, Trayvon Martin would be alive today.  Zimmerman had no authority to provoke a confrontation.  He did not identify himself as a neighborhood watch.  He followed a young man he thought was suspicious and under the influence.  We have no witnesses claiming that any sort of conversation between the men occurred. A conversation in which Zimmerman could have said to Martin "I'm with the neighborhood watch.  We've had some breakins.  Where are you going?" To which Martin could have replied, "To my father's house, Tracy Martin, Unit nnn."   Had Zimmerman remained in his vehicle, there would have been no physical confrontation.  The duration of time between the end of the call Zimmerman made to the police in which he was told not to follow Martin until the gunshot is three minutes and 14 seconds.  The following things had to occur in those 194 seconds.  The two men had to close the distance between themselves, the pummelling had to occur, the gun had to be drawn and the shot had to be fired.  The first patrol car arrived 5 seconds later. FIVE seconds.

First, I have to ask whether Martin should be given the same Stand your Ground defense Zimmerman is claiming.  If someone is following you, do you have the right to defend yourself with knuckles if you feel threatened?  Second, if you are carrying a gun, would you REALLY feel in fear of your life from someone hitting you?  I think I'd holler, really loudly "Stop or I'll shoot." If you know the police are on the way, as Zimmerman did, why don't you holler "The police are coming.  You better stop."   Are we to believe Zimmerman was so inept that he didn't get in a single punch?  Or do we believe that rather than use his words or his hands -- and surely if Martin attacked him with punches, wasn't it clear that Martin had no weapon?

I think Zimmerman behaved irresponsibly, prejudicially, and irrationally.  I think he was mad that the situation turned on him, pulled his gun and shot out of cowardice. I think any rational jury will see it the same way.  Zimmerman provoked the incident by not staying in his vehicle.  Trayvon Martin felt threatened, and indeed he was.  By a man who lacked good judgement, which is probably why he didn't make the police force.  Trayvon is dead.  Zimmerman showed a callous disregard for the life of this young man, and of the law.  He is just as guilty of manslatu
 
 
One of the things I do to try to get a little more out of our spending money is answer surveys.  Now I have a little background in this area.  First, although most business school graduates fail to realize this, sociology and psychology require courses in research design and methodology and statistical analysis.  It really doesn't matter whether you are studying attitudes toward gender or towards dish washing liquids or soda pop.  The principles of designing a survey are the same.


I have to say that other than political surveys, which are generally, and in some cases abominably, biased in the way the questions are written, marketing tends to adhere to the rules of writing questions free of manipulative language or inherent bias.  The problem I think marketing people fall into is thinking that consumers think the same way they do, and obsess about the products the same way they do.


A couple of days ago, I took a survey that made me pause mid-survey and ask "Are you people CRAZY?"  I signed a confidentiality agreement, but I think if I build this gripe session around a totally fictitious product, and complain only about the FORM of the questions,  I can get around that.  


So let's imagine that there is a product called a figglefaggle and almost every human being in these United States uses it, and there are several manufacturers and brands.   Also  each brand has various flavors and forms (similar to oh say ice cream in various side packages, sorbet, novelty pops, etc or sandwiches in a variety of meats and cheeses, a huge assortment of possible condiments and vegetables).  Now one of these manufacturers wants to find out how it stands against the competition, and it commissions a survey from a firm that specializes in such.  I end qualifying for the study, and I go through the usual demographic and qualifying questions and arrive at the "meat" of the study.


As the respondent, I am confronted by 4 columns .
BRAND           w/n last 12 mo        w/n the last 6 mo     w/n last mo
Ackadack


When you click on the figglefaggle brand, the column explodes into on listing all the varieties of figglefaggle that manufacturer makes, like this
Ackadack  Vanilla 6 oz
                     Vanilla 12 oz
                     Vanilla w/ mint bits 8 oz
                                 etc.


At the top of the page, I am asked "Which of the following have you purchased within the period specified?"


THIS is when I blurted out loud "Have these people lost their frigging fragging minds?"  Then I realized they are interested in their most brand loyal customers.  The rest of us don't really matter.  Still I did my best.  Imagine such a questionnaire covering hamburgers and other fast food sandwiches. Well within the last 12 months, I've had burgers and sandwiches from Whataburger, Tornado Burger, Sonic, Wendy's, Red Robin, Steak N' Shake, Dairy Queen, Quizno's, Subway, Firehouse subs, and probably several other places I don't recall.  Now, I've probably had one of every kind of sandwich each of them offers because I like variety. Which were w/n 12 mo and which w/n 6 mo?  Hell if I know.  Which have I eaten in the last month? Since I don't post all my meals on FB, I have not a single solitary clue! Do YOU keep a diary?


A similar situation holds with the figglefaggles, because I am extremely price sensitive, and inordinately fond of clearance sections and sales when combined with a coupon..  Since I'm not particular about my figglefaggle, If I find a Brand A 64 oz reduced for clearance at $3.79, and I have a $0.75 off coupon, making it $3.04,  half of the usual price, I buy it.  Same if Brand C, D, etc.  So 12 months later, I am going to be able to regurgitate the details of that particular figglefaggle purchase, even if it is the brand that commissioned the study.  Still I did my best to provide as accurate information as I could.  For the rest of the survey, there were periodically similar questions that only an OCD of the most compulsive variety could possibly answer correctly.  Me?  I can barely remember what I had for lunch, much less what varieties of figgle faggle I bought within the last 12 months.  


Am I that unusual? You're better?  Ok tell me all the fruits you have eaten in the last 12 months-- on their own, in a salad, on a sandwich, in a pie, in bread.....::evil laughter::   
 
 
Everybody who reads my blog, my Facebook postings, or lots of posts I make on the web knows by now that I have SLE (lupus).  Some of you know lupus patients, and you know that the disease can range from pretty mild to a day in hell.  Others might get tired of hearing about it.  You can check out now, or you can keep reading and learn something.


Lupus patients show courage every day they are alive.  If they can get their children off to school on time, despite aching joints, exhaustion at a level that it is difficult to convey, or whatever other symptoms the particular patient is coping with, it is the equivalent of lifting a car off someone trapped under it.  For some patients, just the fact of waking up is a victory over the disease that is trying to kill them.  We become masters and mistresses of everyday joy.


So I want to share with you a few of my everyday joys from recent days.  When I was a younger woman, and healthier, these events would not have given me  a tiny scintilla of joy.


I have been painting the interior of a medicine chest in my new bathroom.  We accidentally picked up one that was fake wood interior instead of white.  Can't take it back.  So I decided to paint it with one of the little cans of paint I picked up for $0.50 at Home Depot.  I can only stand up to paint to for 2-3 minutes.  Some days I could not paint.  Every day that I could stand up long enough to paint.  I put a brush-load or two in that cabinet.  It has taken my about two weeks to get almost finished painting that cabinet with that little pint of paint.  Every time I put another brush-load on, joy surged through my body.  I could not be happier if I won a major marathon.  

I feel the same joy when I can mop the bathroom floor, fold a pile of laundry, or work outside in my yard.  Everything I CAN do is a joy to me.  Because I am still here.  I can make stupid jokes with my husband.  Tell my brother I love him.  Talk to my cousins on the phone.  Smell the sweet olive tree in my backyard and remember walking along the street with my mother in Opelousas when I was two.

Take the time to feel the joy inherent in little things.  Whether you are well, young, old, disabled -- the secret to real joy is the little things.  There was a beautiful sunset the other night.  Did you see it?
 
 
There are so many reasons I have movies on my mind today.  The first one is that a group of folks on Facebook that grew up in my neighborhood started reminiscing about what was our neighborhood theater as kids.  When my family moved out to this house in 1957, the nearest theaters were drive-ins on N. Post Oak and Hempstead Highway.  Both gone now.  "Dress up" movies meant going in to Houston proper to the theater on Shepherd (now a Trader Joe's) or the one in Rice Village or in River Oaks.  So we were excited when we got an indoor theater within walking distance (1.2 miles).  Walk is what we kids did too -- on Saturday mornings, and Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas afternoons, when the adults wanted to talk uninterrupted by kids.  Occasionally on weekday afternoons if our homework was done and something good was playing.


The second reason is that World Market is having a Movie Night Giveaway Sweepstakes, featuring Outdoor/Backyard Movie Parties.  I have been having a grand time thinking about how much fun our Fourth of July parties would have been if we could have closed them out with one of these.  


What's a movie without food, right?  Juicy grilled burgers at the drive-in, and of course popcorn and candy at the indoor theaters.  In my pursuit of the perfect Movie Night popcorn, I came to tears when I discovered PopFamily, a Beaumont, Tx company run by a veteran and his wife with a flavor to make everyone happy.  Even at 7:15 am on a Sunday morning, I am drooling over the idea of Chocolate Coconut Almond Supreme, cause my favorite thing at the Oak Village 52 years ago was to take a bite of my Almond Joy and then cram as much hot, buttered popcorn as possible into my mouth and let all the flavors swirl together. My second favorite was those flat round caramel marshmallow candies -- Bullseyes!  Third was Rolos.


The third reason is that movies, like books, have shaped my world views and perspectives. sparked my imagination, explained human emotions,  and modeled behaviors.  I remember when a neighbor was scandalized that my mother had taken us at our tender ages (I think I was 10 or 11) to see Cleopatra with its daring midriff costumes and infidelity and use of sexuality to manipulate the powerful.  Oh please!  I'd been running around in little crop top and short sets for years, and so had most of the little girls in the neighborhood.  What I learned from that movie?  Using your sexuality to get favors and power is an asp that will bite you in the end.  Then there was Pollyanna, which taught me to look at the bright side of life, even when most of it was dark. Surprisingly to perhaps many adults of the time, what I learned from The Yellow Submarine & the other Beatles movies was not that drugs were ok to do, but that they made you lose touch with reality.   I could go on and on.  The point is that kids don't always learn the things you fear they will, especially if they have learned good values at home.


So if Win the Movie Night Giveaway, what movies would top my list?  Now there's a question I need to ponder with a giant Cherry Coke and a sleeve of Jalapeno Cheese popcorn!
 
 
Love is the joy  of  knowing you exist.  Being loving is the  response to you as who you are, even when you surprise the one who loves you. The latter is often difficult for many of us. We have our unmet needs, our fears, our blindnesses, our priorities.  Sometimes, when it comes to loving our self, we surprise our self 
 
 
I have been living on borrowed time for a long time.  Every day since that man in the pickup crossed into my lane and smashed head on into my MG Midget convertible at about 45 mph.  Yes, the top was down. When I saw that even my evasion efforts of pulling off into the breakdown lane were not going to prevent the accident, that having slowed my vehicle to almost 0 and pulled the emergency break.  I threw my upper body sideways into the other seat, took my feet off the pedals, and thanked God for the many opportunities I had had in life and the many good people I had met.


The MG did not survive.  Nor did my pantyhose.  When I sat up in the driver's seat, after hearing the truck door slam and the man yelling "I've killed her.  I've killed her, OMG  I've killed her," I thought he was going to have a heart attack.  I had a small cut and bruise on my left knee where it banged against the knob that rolled the window up and down.    Even the police officer could not believe I wasn't dead, much less barely scratched.  That is the moment I knew God had some purpose in life for me.  I had no idea then what that purpose was.  I still do not.
Even that day, unbeknownst to me, lupus had begun to destroy my body.  That was almost thirty years ago.  Lately, I have begun to think my borrowed time is running out.  That whatever task God had in mind for me has been accomplished, even though I lack the foggiest.


Most days I feel too tired to go outside to my garden, or even to sit at this keyboard and write.   I'm weaning off prednisone, because it will take 5 years off my life if I don't, and it's not controlling the lupus.  I see my doctor in a few days, and I am expecting bad news on my test results.  Inside, I just know something is not right.  


I will not subject you to a litany of the pain that is now with me day in and day out.  I will only say that most days, at some point in the day, I end up crying from it.  I lay in bed and moan, because I cannot make it go away  without taking prescription pain killers, and I do not want to die an addict, even though I know that eventually, I probably will.


There are still so many things I want to do, to see, and I know I never will.  Some of them are big things, like seeing Sweden before I die.  Some are tiny, like cleaning out a drawer, but I am too exhausted even for that.


Mostly I read and watch movies or British TV shows.  People exhaust me, even those I love the most. Putting on that stoic face to keep from crying, or moaning, or screaming has become enervating.  Putting up with those that irritate me has become impossible.


The real problem is that I do not know how this stage will take.  Will it drag out several years, with my family and friends growing more and more agonized by my pain?  Months?  Weeks?  


Or is this not what I believe it to be, but just lupus playing with my body chemistry?  Having been clinically depressed, I know this is not depression.  I can feel joy in simply touching my husband's cheek, or petting my stubborn, narcissistic cat, and laughing at her narcissism.  


No, this is something else.  It feels like goodbye, like my body telling my spirit "I want a divorce."  I don't think my spirit was expecting it.
 
 
This post is long overdue.  I have to plead for forgiveness due to a couple of crises around the house, and a bad patch of my SLE.  A couple of weeks ago, we made a humongous bowl of guacamole and ripped open the Chocolate flavor of Food Should Taste Good chips.

I have to say that as a stand-alone chip, the salt ruins it for me, personally.  I have a very low tolerance for salt, however, so others might not feel the same.  Once the salt was gone (yeah, I licked it off!)  I thought the chips were pretty good.  With guacamole on them, they were delicious, by far the best pairing with guacamole I have tried!  I also tried them with my Wensleydale and Apricot cheese.  The chocolate flavor was overwhelmed.  What I'd like to try is Philly cheese with black cherries mashed into it.  How could chocolate and cherries and cheese NOT be good? Hmm  I should try PB and Nutella on them.

We also tried the Olive chips.  Predictably, my husband really liked them, and I didn't.  I don't care for olives, as a rule, so that was no surprise.  Neither of us cared for this flavor with guacamole, which is probably not surprising.  My husband said he thought it might be good with chili con queso, which he hasn't tried yet, and hummus.  I might try them again when we do that.  One of the few places I like plives is in Middle Eastern cuisine.  People who like Olives, my husband assures me, will love these chips.

We still have a number of flavors to try -- Hatch Chili Pepper at the top of my list, Cheddar Cheese next, and of course the regular old Corn.  I also still have a bag of the Multigrain to test,.but I want to try these with a variety of cheeses and meat salads.  Perhaps my signature Pimiento 
 
 
God gives us life, and He takes it away.  What those who have never been in the position this woman is, or many others with debilitating diseases, do not realize is that sometimes our lives are taken from us bit by bit.  It is that particular situation, not young people in good health with lives ahead of them going through a rough spot, that I address.


We disabled watch those who love us working to take care of us until they are exhausted. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  We watch their financial sacrifices, and watch their enjoyment of life drain from their tired eyes.  The more and more dependent we get on them, the more we think "they could have a better life without me."  We love them and want that for them, especially if they are also getting older, feeling arthritis, experiencing heart disease, depression or other health concerns of their own.  


Ever thought God also gives us the will to continue or the courage to die?  The choice to keep fighting beyond physical, mental, spiritual exhaustion, or the courage to free one's loved one's from debt, struggle and the same kind of exhaustion? It just might be cruel to deny this woman the peace she seeks for herself. 


I speak as one whose life has eroded from beneath her feet for decades. My career.  My dreams of motherhood.  The respect of people who knew me but not my disease.  Suffered the contempt of people who do not know me and do not know my disease; managing to find the love within myself that made it impossible to wish they suffer this one day.


I still fight to make the most of every day, , to find, create, as much joy and laughter to buoy my own heart and those of others,  to do as much as I can for myself, for others, for the world, for love.  I admit that I am growing increasingly less willing to fight as my abilities continue to erode, as  it becomes increasingly difficult to make even the tiniest of dreams come true, and most of all, as I see the stress my beloved husband undergoes every day.  I die by breaths, but the amount of time I can hang on, long after I can do nothing for myself or others, stupefies me.   


I am not there yet.  Yet I see my future, with all its pain, and I do not wish that on my husband.  Some day I will be where Marie is, and anyone who stands in my way does not know the first thing about loving others as we love ourselves.  


My prayer is that Marie and the Irish courts find the wisdom to break free of medieval views on death and suicide.  I'm amazed that any Christian who looks to heaven can willingly insist that someone with no will to live any longer MUST suffer and make suffering for the ones they love until some "critical" body part wears out. 


I could not say I love anyone that  I made endure suffering: physical, emotional, mental.  If you think you can confront God and say "I kept her from killing herself so you could decide when," don't be surprised if He says "I loved her enough to let her decide when she could stand no more, and you didn't love her enough to let her go."  Cause the God I believe in would say just that.  I hope the Irish courts know that God.
 
 
A few days ago, we watched Les Miserables.  As I had both times I saw the stage production, I cried from almost the opening scene.  I had heard from people I knew that the movie did not compare to the stage production. I have other friends who swear both betray the book  Perhaps the fact I saw the stage play nearly 25 years ago, and read the book about 45 years ago left me free to appreciate the simple reality that each medium -- print, stage, and film -- offers its own opportunities to shine and to make a lasting impression.  


To me the book and stage play emphasized the themes of freedom and justice more than any other theme.  The film, to me focused more on redemption, forgiveness, change versus stasis, and love, with freedom and justice in the background.


One of the things that struck me as particularly poignant was Javert's stubborn persistence that "a man such as you does not change," despite being confronted repeatedly by the evidence that Valjean's new persona was a different man than the hardened con Javert insists upon seeing. In the end, Javert opts for suicide rather than change his opinion or methods.  Ironically, while I think most Americans would have applauded the French Revolution and the move to freedom, and while Javert represents the repressive, unjust Monarchy, he reminded me of many conservatives I know who simply seem unable to accept change or to reach out to someone they see as inferior or lost, as the Bishop did to Valjean in the beginning of the movie.

I have also watched a couple of other movies lately, which I recommend with the caveat that if you hate subtitles and don't understand French or Spanish, you may find these films tedious.  


The first of these is "De rouille et d'os" a French film with the English title of  "Rust and Bone.."   This film explores the relationships between a man, his son, his sister's family, and a woman the man meets.  There are some powerful lessons regarding the distinction between chronological and emotional maturity, about perseverance, and about the impact of kindness and of thoughtlessness.  We ran it in Spanish with 


The second was a movie I have seen before Sea Inside ("Mar Adentro").  Somehow, watching it closely after the first two I have discussed, I saw things I missed the first time around.  As a disabled person, though not now nearly as severely, I found myself relating to some of the main character's attitudes and positions to a greater degree than I did the first time I saw it.


Seen in close proximity, these three films set me to ruminating on what love really is and is not, from the love of God, to parental love, to romantic love, to platonic love.  That love can grow from platonic love, that tragedy or a glimpse inside someone's mind can spark it, as well as a glance,.  I was also confronted by the concept of self-love and forgiveness, shame and se;f-protection.  


I recommend them all.  I'd like to own them all.  I would also recommend, although it was not conscious this time, that when dealing with drama films, it's worth viewing several with the same issues in succession.  Some how the themes just get amplified.
 
 
When life boots me out of this world, and my life flashes before me on my way out the door, which days, which moments will be highlighted?  I'm pretty sure that yesterday afternoon will be one of them.


My brother usually comes by our house every other Saturday to pick up the bills, whatever items we have picked up on sale for him (diet sodas, energy bars, cereal, etc), pet the kitties he left with us, dig through his files that are still here, and see how we're doing.  On Wednesday, he emailed me that he was leaving for Austin and would be there the rest of the week, mentioning that his knees were hurting unusually badly.  So Saturday, my very considerate husband suggested that he drop everything off because my brother was probably wanting to stay home after being out of town.  So I called and made the offer.  "ACCEPTED" J. said joyously. Then I decided I'd go along, because I wanted to see my brother's face and get my hug.  I also wanted to wish my sister-in-law Happy Birthday and give her the chocolate bar we bought her at ALDI.  No matter that her birthday is Monday the 15th.


When we arrived, my amazing sister-in-law was crouched in her front bed weeding.  When we arrived, she went to the door to call to my brother, who came out and sat on the stoop with me. The four of us talked about quotidian stuff.  How the acorns that fall on the lawn never seem to sprout, but every one that falls in our flower beds sprouts.  Somehow we started doing little things in the yard.  The guys raked the rest of the lawn.  I pulled some oaks out of the bed nearest me while my sister in law worked on the other side of the porch.  Then my husband and SIL were bagging the leaves while my brother and I talked about his trip to Austin, where he stayed and reminisced about my first apartment there.  Then while we all talked about my step nephew's little fender bender -- as my brother put it, it would really have been minor except for what he hit, a brand new Lamborghini-- my husband started pulling baby oaks to my left, my SIL on my brother's right, while my brother kept calling the two of them "baby oak killers."


Yesterday was the first truly casual visit to their house.  No holiday dinner, no birthday celebration, just Saturday chores.  We spent a couple of hours there, just being family together.  Then we left, stopping at the local Trader Joe's to see what they have and the prices. Way too crowded at that hour, but we did pick up a candy mint and a pineapple mint we didn't have.  I think I'll call and find out when they have the least traffic before I go back.


All in all, it was for me a wonderful, casual, relaxed day that I will put in my memory box with the childhood family beach days, and family road trips, summer evenings with family while the adults talked, and we kids ran about chasing fireflies and tossing stones in the air to see the bats swoop in after what they thought were big juicy bugs. Days spent surrounded by those we love, doing nothing but being together.