Category Archives: Blog

Neither Black nor White nor Brown nor Red, only Evergreen

evergreen state

With my two girls in their first year of college this past year, I’ve been highly attuned to all the craziness that’s been going on at Berkeley, Notre Dame, Middlebury, and other colleges, and now Evergreen State College. Whoever heard of Evergreen State before this past week? I think they’re having their fifteen minutes of fame, and I hope they’re enjoying it, because I suspect the enrollment’s going to drop, at least among students who actually want an education and hope to get a job someday. I feel like a broken record on this topic in my house, ranting and raving about the continuous assaults on free speech and critical thinking at these institutions of supposedly higher learning.

The latest such disaster is occurring at Evergreen, a tiny liberal arts college in Washington state. If you haven’t heard about this one, the short version is, a bunch of whiny babies, er, students from this college threw a collective fit because one of their professors exercised his right to free speech in a polite, thoughtfully written letter objecting to a planned activity that banned white people (including professors and staff) from being on campus for a couple of days. He failed to see how such a racist policy was helpful in improving race relations, or, ya know, teaching college students the information they were there to learn. These students literally cornered their professor in a hallway and hurled curse words at him and refused to let him speak in defense of his not-unreasonable point of view. In other words, they weren’t the least bit interested in any “conversation”.

Following that episode, they assailed the president of the university with a further barrage of screaming foul language and a written list of demands, including pizzas, no homework, and a forced apology for all of the president’s personal short-comings, like not using gender-neutral pronouns. If you watch any of the video of this, your first thought, like mine, will probably be “Dog Day Afternoon”, and the second will be, “What the heck are these kids gonna do when they get out in the Real World?”

My words to these coddled, self-important young folks would be this. You’re so concerned about privilege. Lots of people have privilege in this life—some are super smart, some are really attractive, some are quite athletic, some are musically talented or great actors. And some people (even the same people sometimes) have significant disadvantages—maybe they were born into abject poverty, maybe they grew up with two alcoholic parents, maybe they have physical or mental disabilities you can’t see, maybe they were beaten or raped or robbed at gunpoint in their lives, or something else way worse than belonging to a particular ethnic, racial, or cultural group that some people treat unfairly. News flash, kiddos: We’re not all equal, and we never will be. And there’s nothing right or just about trying to make us so. Should we have cut off Michael Jordan’s feet so he wouldn’t be so darn tall? Would the world be a better place if we had taken away J.K. Rowling’s typewriter after the first Harry Potter book? ALS wasn’t enough to slow Steven Hawking down; maybe we should’ve given him another handicap. You don’t rise out of oppression by pushing other people down. So stop whining about what you ain’t got and how someone else needs to give it to you. You just might get your wish.

Kathy Griffin Learns a Lesson about Free Speech

kathy girffin

I haven’t blogged in a really long time, because I’ve been trying to keep my head down and get this darn fourth book in The Gifted Ones series finished, but shoot, I just can’t keep quiet about the Kathy Griffin thing. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you either live under a rock, or you only read books and don’t pay attention to TV or the Internet, which makes you awesome! Unusual, but awesome.

So for you awesome folks, here’s the deal. Kathy Griffin is a comedienne of great fame and wealth who thought it would be funny or cool or whatever to share photographs of herself holding up a fake, bloody, severed head of President Trump, ISIS-style. I don’t personally find that remotely amusing, but I am also a staunch supporter of the first amendment to the Constitution, which accords to all U.S. citizens the right to express themselves freely. Contrary to what the far left would have us believe, free speech does include horrible, hateful speech and speech you just don’t like, a fact which has been reaffirmed by the high courts multiple times.

IMHO, Ms. Griffin’s photographs fall into the category of horrible, hateful speech, and I do indeed defend her right to express herself thusly. What I find ridiculous, however, is her speech yesterday, wherein she attempted to turn the tables and somehow blame the Trump family for all the negative fallout she received as a result of her little stunt. Here’s what she had to say about their reaction:

“What’s happening to me has never happened in the history of this great country, which is a sitting president of the United States and his grown children and the First Lady are personally, I feel, personally trying to ruin my life forever.”

Uh, sorry, Kathy, you don’t get to play the victim card. The right to free speech is just that. It does not offer protection from the repercussions of the speech (short of physical assault). When I was a kid, the typical example was that of the KKK being protected by police as they marched down the street in their white hoods in a public parade; people might be screaming at them as they marched, but they were free to march. I rather liken Kathy Griffin’s ISIS photos to those marches. The Constitution protects her right to self-expresssion, and likewise protects the rights of everyone who responds to her with a little self-expression of their own. If you throw rotten tomatoes at someone, don’t be surprised if they scrape a little off and toss it back on you, and certainly don’t ask anyone to feel sorry for you as a result.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

baby its cold outside

Wow, I just couldn’t keep quiet on this one. I am soooo tired of living in this P.C. world where a bouquet of roses turns into a bundle of withering weeds with the snap of some do-gooder’s fingers. Just in case you haven’t heard, apparently, the cheery, romantic 1944 Christmas song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is really a song about date rape. Yeah.

If you’re not familiar with the song, it’s a cutesy duet where a couple volley back and forth about how it’s late and the lady has to get home (as a lady would in those days). The lyrics and tone make it clear that both the fella and his lady don’t want her to leave just yet and are making excuses for her to stay. It’s been a sweet, festive holiday favorite for over 70 years, but this year, in the age of everything-is-offensive, a couple of singer-songwriters (Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski, whoever they are) decided the song was “sexually agressive”, and felt compelled to compose new lyrics to clean it up. In their haste to label another innocent pleasure as something unseemly, the couple re-wrote the song in ultra-politically-correct “positive consent” terminology. For example, “I really can’t stay/But Baby, it’s cold out there” became “I really can’t stay/Baby, I’m fine with that.” Um, really? That’s what passes for romance nowadays?

Look, anyone who’s read Little Miss Straight Lace knows I’m no date rape apologist. I get it. Believe me, I get it. It’s a terrible thing for anyone to experience and have to live with and be haunted by for years, but that doesn’t mean we need to see it everywhere we look—especially in places it was never meant to be! The original song was written by a husband-wife singing team to entertain their guests at parties. It was intended to be a light-hearted Christmas ditty, not cynical social commentary. If you’re seeing anything more than that, try taking off your Grinchy glasses and look again. And if you’re still struggling to have a happy holiday with all these thought police around, try whipping up a bowl of eggnog and invite them inside for a drink. Better not spike it, though, or someone will start crooning, “Baby I’m fine with that…”

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Left

betsy ross

When I was ten years old, I got to dress up as Betsy Ross and ride on a big “Happy Birthday, America” float in our local community’s Bicentennial parade. I no longer remember the reason I was chosen for that honor—straight-A report card or Dork of the Week or whatever—but I remember the experience. I was proud, super proud, to represent all that was good and right about my homeland.

Growing up in these United States, I would often hear scary stories about Russia and China and Cuba, and how the governments in those countries suppressed truth and presented only twisted propaganda to their populace. I would shake my head and feel sorry for all the people not fortunate enough to be living in a great free country like I was. In school, I studied American history and felt reverence for our forefathers who laid down their lives for the right to speak their minds, even when their ideas weren’t popular. Today, my heart is aching for the world that was.

Whatever political affiliation you may have, whatever feelings you may harbor about our outgoing Commander-In-Chief Barak Obama, I doubt you were expecting his recent remarks at a conference in Pittsburgh:

“We are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to. There has to be, I think, some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests and those that we have to discard, because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world.”

In other words, let’s censor the Internet! No more debate about climate change or vaccine safety or Russian hackers. The official government-approved statement on all of these is out, and you will accept it. Then add to that, just last week, a Tweet by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo echoing a similar sentiment, as he informed us (incorrectly) that it would be illegal for any of us peons to read the Clinton/Podesta leaked emails, but it was just fine and dandy for our esteemed press corps to do it, and then pass their sanitized version of the truth on to us.

Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Independent, I hope you are as appalled by these attitudes as I am. The idea that citizens of the United States should not be free to express or consume any information we choose is as un-American as it gets. The words “unmitigated gall” come to mind, but for now, let’s just call it Orwellian.

My response to the would-be thought police is this:

Do I look like a three year old who just asked where babies come from? Sorry, my self-proclaimed intellectual leaders, but I am an adult, and a highly educated one at that. But in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, I don’t have to be, to be allowed to make my own decisions. Maybe I’m an idiot. Maybe I’ll make bad ones. Maybe my choices will turn out to be horrendous mistakes, but they’re my mistakes to make. I don’t need you or anyone else to “curate” my information sources, thank you. I’ll decide who to listen to and who to ignore…and that might be you!

The Wild, Wild West of the free and open Internet is the best thing that ever happened to this country and the whole world. We can read a thousand differing opinions on each of a million different topics. Is some of it wrong? Is some of it potentially hurtful? Is some of it downright comedic? You betcha. But I’ll figure that out myself and glad to do it. We understand why you want to quiet dissenters, bury unpleasant truths, and spin reality like a centrifuge; it’s not exactly a new tactic, guys (see earlier remarks about Russia and China). There’s a reason we’re all turning our backs on CNN and MSNBC and The New York Times. Shuck the agenda, stamp out the spin, and give us the facts, if you want a rat’s chance of survival.

And while I’m on my soapbox: Long live the America I grew up in, where liberty and individuality were celebrated, not squashed, and where we were reminded daily that while we might find others’ ideas offensive, our freedom to speak our minds depended on us tolerating the same from everyone else. Three cheers for the First Amendment!

Brains, Boobs, or Batons?

beauty queen

The term “trophy wife” harkens back to a time when wealthy, successful men would seek out mates who were lovely to look at, but weren’t necessarily Rhodes Scholars. Marrying the local beauty queen was a mark of station and affluence; her ability to answer those “world peace” questions was irrelevant. And no doubt, having an attractive spouse can confer a reasonable measure of happiness, at least while we’re young.

Whether physical beauty remains an important quality throughout the span of a marriage is, of course, less certain, but one thing we now know for sure is that another key quality—intelligence—passes primarily through the mother. Recent scientific research shows that intelligence-related genes reside largely on the X chromosome. This means girls, who inherit X chromosomes from both parents, are a mixture of their mother’s and father’s intelligence, but boys, who get a Y from dad and an X from mom, will have IQ genes almost entirely dependent on their mothers. In other words, smart wife means smart son, and brainless bimbo means brainless bozo!

So listen up, all you successful men out there: If you want children, particularly boy children, who won’t be living in your basement when they’re thirty, quit chasing cheerleaders and find yourself a nice brainy chick, much like any of the heroines in a Maria Romana mystery. She may not catch your eye initially, but if you let her, she’ll challenge you til the day you die, and you’ll never be bored!

Hitting From The Trees

hitting_from_trees

One of my kids is going through a particularly rough patch in life right now, which has led to a lot of long, tearful mother-daughter chats. After feeling woefully inadequate as a mom during one such recent conversation, I was giving some thought to the idea of mistakes and how we deal with them. My daughter was expressing regret over what she sees as a big mistake that she’s made. I don’t view the situation the same way, but that hardly matters; it’s how she sees herself that counts. With time to ruminate on the topic, I was reminded of a speech I heard long ago that might have offered the kid some comfort, had I thought of it in the moment, which of course I did not, but that’s how it always happens, right?

Several years ago, my family attended a charity golf tournament hosted by Bubba Watson. If you’re not a golf aficionado, you might not have heard of him, but if you are, you know that Bubba is a fantastically talented golfer who is known for his crazy shots and his crazy temper. He’s been working on the latter, though, and in this case, he was addressing a bunch of young people (it was a junior tournament), and he was nothing but sweet and funny and, to me, quite profound. The statement that really struck a chord was this (as best as my aging brain can recall): “It’s not about the great shots you hit—because there won’t be very many of those—but about what you do with the bad ones that matters.”

Of course, Bubba was talking about golf when he said that, but I was looking at the bigger picture. Couldn’t we say the same about life in general? We all make mistakes; we all dream of do-overs and take-backs for those moments we wish had never happened, but in real life, do-overs aren’t allowed. Make-ups are. We can carry on from where we went astray and try to fix the problem. We can view the mess we’re in as a challenge to be tackled. And we can use our knowledge of the past to avoid similar messes in the future. We can learn, and we can grow, and we can act as mentors to others who are digging their way out of the mire.

What the heck good would life be if every ball was lying dead-center in the middle of the fairway? Would anybody even bother to play? Would we even bother to get out of bed in the morning? Life is full of challenges, people. Every mistake is an opportunity to overcome. You say your ball is tucked fifty yards into the woods, around a blind curve, and covered with pine straw? Embrace it! Rise to the occasion. Do what Bubba did and hit it out with a crazy curve shot, straight onto the green, then make the putt to win the Masters.

Retirement? Hardly. Find Your “Icky Guy” and Do It Until You Die!

When should I retire? What will I do when I no longer have a job that requires me to get up, show up, and punch-in? This article from the Harvard Business Review questions whether we need or should want to retire at all. It goes on to present evidence that the happiest and longest-lived people are those who never really retire, and instead spend their later years pursuing their ikigai (pronounced “icky guy” and meaning, essentially, life dream or life purpose).

I’m not quite to retirement age yet, but I’m getting there faster than I care to admit. Fortunately, I have my retirement all planned out: quit the day job and spend all my time writing books, instead of just evenings and weekends. I started thinking this way a long time ago, because, as it happens, I have great role models for the second half of life in my mom and dad.

Upon retiring, Dad dove into his favorite pastime—wood-working. It’s something he’d done his whole life “on the side” of his engineering job. He didn’t do it for money; it was just a passion…and he’s good at it. He’s an incredibly talented craftsperson. He’s built custom-designed stage sets for my sister’s productions (she’s a drama queen and a drama teacher). He’s built several pieces of specialty furniture for my house and others, each with soft-close drawers and hidden storage and artful touches. And he even offered to build a fine outdoor home for my pampered pooch, but I declined this, as said pooch prefers the spot under my desk for her eighteen-hour days as personal foot-warmer.

My mother, on the other hand, has taken retirement to a whole new level. She learned two brand-new skills in her “dotage”: computer-aided embroidery and digital logo design, and combined them into a business she’s been successfully running for a couple decades now. Last Christmas, while we were trying to have a family holiday, she was constantly fielding phone calls from customers with last-minute embroidered gift requests. Thankfully, she told them all she was closed until New Year’s!

What can I tell you about my parents’ lives? Are they harried and hurried and worn out from their post-retirement-age activities? Heck no. Dad will be 83 this month, and Mom will kill me for telling you all that she’ll soon be 76. Both are happy, healthy, and energetic people, with all their wits about them. They travel, entertain, attend theater and concerts, and spend boatloads of time with the grandchildren. Rocking on the porch makes up a very small part of their daily routine. They are who I want to be when I grow up. Or grow old. Or whatever you want to call life past 65. But whatever you call it, don’t call it dull, boring, or RETIRED!

Straight Shot or On the Rocks

wedding proposalI spotted this little meme on the web, and it threw me back to my high school days. No, I was not a teenage alcoholic. I was a “smart girl”. A geek. A goober. One of those four-eyed nerds who actually liked math. As you can imagine, socially, that was the kiss of death. Boys weren’t exactly knocking each other out of the way to ask the straight-A chick out. Unless it was to get her help with the Calc homework.

Like most girls that age, I lacked the confidence and clarity to realize that that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, and consequently, I habitually played down my brains. I would purposely act a little ditzy around the cute boys in order not to intimidate them. In other words, I watered myself down, because they couldn’t handle the 100 proof. Eventually, I realized that there are men out there who dig smart chicks, and more importantly, even if there weren’t, you can’t spend the rest of your life pretending to be something you’re not—especially something less than what you are.

The bottom line? Be yourself. You are amazing just the way you are. If the people around you don’t like you at 100 proof, find new people.

Something Borrowed and Something New

wedding proposalWell, apparently, I’m really old now, because some of my children’s friends are starting to get married. Okay, their much older friends anyway. The four of us (hubby, two kids, and I) attended one such friend’s wedding this past weekend. Man, weddings have changed a lot since the old days of hand-written directions to the church. Did you know it was a thing now for the bride and groom to entertain their guests with a professionally choreographed dance? I have to say, I was most impressed with the happy couple’s groovy moves. Back in our day, the hubs and I just held onto each other, swayed to the music, and tried not to step on each other’s toes.

We also didn’t have our own wedding page on “TheKnot”. Frankly, I’m a bit jealous. It is indeed a cool use of technology. I particularly enjoyed TheKnot’s article on unique proposal ideas. There are some really clever approaches out there, although I personally would stay away from any proposal that involves a crowd. No matter how sure you may be of the answer, it’s supposed to be a question, not an announcement. Spare yourself and your intended the embarrassment of a hemming and hawing response. That possibility aside, it’s a really fun list. Check it out for a quick dose of romance.

Newsflash: Homework Improves Grades!

One of my daughters recently related a story to me wherein one of her high school classmates asked her why, when she already has straight-As, was she working so hard to finish all her homework and study for her tests? Uh, yeah, great question, kid. Not like there’s any potential correlation between those two things, huh?

Seriously, when did we lose sight of the importance of actually working through material in order to gain a better understanding of it? As if this had ever been a question, a couple of professors at one of North Carolina’s lesser-known public universities, East Carolina University, decided to settle this issue scientifically, once and for all. The professors designed a clever study of introductory economics courses at the university level, comparing courses where students were required or not required to do assigned homework sets (same course, professor, material, and students did not know ahead of time whether homework would be required).

Shockingly, the results proved what your mom always told you—doing your homework dramatically improves your likelihood of success in a difficult course. Yes, you heard it here first: requiring students to do homework results in “higher retention rates, higher test scores (5 to 6 percent), more good grades (Bs), and lower failure rates.” Am I the only one here with the cocked brow waiting for the punchline? I hope not. Thank you, ECU, for clearing that one up.

If you’d like to read more about it, the actual study can be found here, and a layperson’s summary is here.