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The Grace Of A Good Marriage

The Obamas

Looking in from the outside, one’s view is often distorted, by distance, or perspective, by one’s own personal filter, through which all information must pass, and so it can never provide a perfect image. Nevertheless, even seen through the fishbowl perspective the media provides, with their relentless coverage of every possible moment, the marriage of the Obamas would seem to be, as the song is so famously misquoted as saying, “solid as Barack”! The pictures I have chosen speak to a union based on love, respect and trust.

The President and his First Lady make a beautiful couple. Their children are darling girls, and the President’s mother-in-law is a welcome addition to the White House and its First Family. Even Beau, the First Dog, is friendly and well-behaved. The President’s brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, is a famous basketball coach with Oregon State (gosh I didn’t realize that and I live here; I am so not a jock). Go Oregon State!

Both the Obamas are intelligent, well-educated, charming, charismatic characters. Witness the way the international community has fallen for the pair of them. Even types who you’d think would be prickly and resistant, seem to have no defenses against this fascinating, powerful and handsome couple, with their elegant carriage and beautiful smiles.

Looks of Love
Looks of Love

But it is the smiles they reserve for one another which I think tell the tale. It’s the looks and the touches, the courteous and unconsciously protective air he has with her.  It’s the way she looks at him. You just know that, were danger suddenly to arise, they would meet it back-to-back, each one fighting to protect the other.

Even if this is the veriest fantasy on my part, still I think I’m more right on than not, and it makes me feel more secure. Our President is a brave, strong, man of high moral fiber, who loves and protects his family. Just so I feel that he is doing his best to love and protect his country. I am simply glad that he is so fortunate in his choice of a life mate. May they live long and prosper, and may we all be the better for having them as our representatives to the world. They exemplify all that is the best America can be.

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From Today’s MSNBC.MSN.COM

“BP Was Warned Of Gas Danger, Contractor Says. He incriminates engineers, including one who refuses to testify at presidential inquiry.”

Four months ago, who would have thought that we would still be as far away from the truth as we are. The contractor referenced above, Jesse Gagliano, who works for Halliburton, testified that two days prior to the April 20th explosion, he warned BP in an email that they were risking an explosion if they proceeded with fewer than seven stabilizers, a warning which obviously BP chose to ignore. I could go on in this vein for days and hardly repeat myself. The documentation of this terrible tragedy could probably fill warehouses, but out of all of this whirlwind of facts and figures, accusation and counter accusation, finger pointing and avoidance of responsibility, one thing stands out clearly.

The people, the wildlife, the economy and the environment of the Gulf Coastal region will never be the same. For the many also affected by Hurricane Katrina, just five short years ago, it must seem as if they are living under a curse, some spell contrived by an evil wizard. Two catastrophic events in such a short time might appear to be the work of a wicked genie. But mundanely enough, aside from an act of Nature like this huge storm, most of our current woes could have been avoided by the use of better planning, better management, strict attention to safety procedures and constant monitoring of equipment by BP.

With total assets of $248,620,000,000, BP has, in the last three years, spent Zero Dollars on research into disaster cleanup. From day one they have lied about the massive amounts of oil fouling the waters of the Gulf and spreading outward. Now they are fighting as hard as they can to deny the claims of those whose entire lives have been destroyed by the greed of BP and those who have conspired with them against the American people.

We the people must keep these facts front and center on the world stage, and we must be vigilant in helping to bring those responsible to justice. We must do this for our brothers and sisters still suffering at the hands of corporate greed, lies and injustice. This is not simply about money, it’s about a whole way of life, gone forever. It’s about families who lived on or near the water and led peaceful, productive lives as generations before them had. It is for them, and for their children, that we must continue the battle.

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My Romance With Romance

About halfway through “Savor the Moment”, by Nora Roberts, I put down the book and gave some thought to the reasons I so enjoy reading romance fiction. This is the third in a series of four “Bride Quartet” novels, with the release of the last, entitled “Happy Ever After”, scheduled for this November. These are the stories of four friends, who have married their skills with their lifelong love of weddings and in partnership have created “Vows”, one of the premier wedding planning companies in Connecticut.

So far the author has paired off Mac, the photographer, and Emma, the floral designer, and Laurel, the pastry chef, will soon find happiness in the arms of her lover. It’s safe to assume that Parker, the planner, sooner to be found naked than without her Blackberry, will succumb in her turn to true love. We even know the name of the lucky man, Mal Cavanaugh, with whom she has already struck sparks several times.

So, if we already know all of this, why would we go on and read the book anyway? It’s not as if there’s any suspense as to the outcome, but it’s the way the writer gets you from here to there that makes the difference. Nora Roberts is the #1 NYT bestselling author of over 190 novels, 124 of which made the bestseller list, with over 300 Million of her books sold worldwide. She has also written 36 futuristic novels under the pseudonym J. D. Robb, and was the first author inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Time chose Roberts as one of their 100 Most Influential People in 2007, saying she “…has inspected, dissected, deconstructed, explored, explained and extolled the passions of the human heart.” Is there a writer, alive or dead, who wouldn’t kill to have that kind of endorsement? Feeling a bit more respect for the romance novel yet?

Nora Roberts brought new life to the genre when she began her career as a published author in 1981. Her accomplishments are legion in the writing world, and it is obvious that in addition to being a popular writer, she has achieved the respect of her peers by continuing to produce, with almost metronomic regularity, books both intelligently and humorously written, populated by characters who engage our interest and our emotions. If Nora has done her usual skillful job, at the end of the current book, Laurel and Del (her best friend, Parker’s, brother) will find happiness and fulfillment, and I’ll be so happy for them.

I like feisty heroines and heroes who have more to offer than six-pack abs and well-filled jeans (desirable as those attributes might be). Roberts’ dialogue is sharp, funny, intelligent and her characters seem real and very human. When I close the cover on a Nora Roberts novel, it is always with pleasure, satisfaction and a little regret that it’s over. I feel, as the author says in her own words, “When I read for pleasure, give me a story.” I would amend that to, “…give me a Nora Roberts.”


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Another Day In The Pristine Pacific Northwest

I
Fierce and Beautiful

Fierce and Beautiful

Last week four friends and I went on an expedition to the Maryhill Winery in Goldendale, Washington. The trip takes about two hours, and Fran, who was driving, had printed out directions from their site. The five of us jammed into her little Toyota, with me in the navigator’s seat and Donna and Susan in the back, Monika perched in the middle.

Half a block later I discovered I’d left my sunscreen behind, which was a deal breaker for me on this gloriously sunny Portland day. While I ran back to get it, Fran, who is one of the most generous people I know, took the opportunity to call a 92-year old friend and ask if she’d like to join us, too. Luckily she wasn’t able to go because, as we all asked Fran, where would we put her? Her little Corolla already resembled a clown car, and although I had offered to switch seats and let long-legged Susan sit in the front, everyone assured me I was fine where I was. Innocent that I am, even I should have smelled a rat at that point.

We set off through local streets to the highway north, across the river and into Washington State. Soon we exited onto Route 14 East, which runs alongside the majestic Columbia Gorge. Rather than attempt to describe its beauty, I’ll include a link to Oregonscenics that will have you drooling, as you pack your suitcases and make your reservations. Only 10 or 15 minutes out of the city, and you’re in Forest Primeval, seeing what the explorers Lewis and Clark must have seen and marveled at two centuries ago.

For sightseeing purposes, we were a bit far from the Gorge, but that mattered less and less to me as the minutes went by and Fran’s Grand Prix personality emerged. If the sign said 35 MPH as we approached the curve, we were going 45 MPH. I tried joking which is my first response to most unsettling situations. After that, in my mind it all blends into a mixture of pleas, threats, prayers, nervous giggles, shrill-voiced exclamations and futile attempts to apply the brakes from the passenger side, where I clutched the “grab bar” above my head. I braced myself against the dashboard and the threat of imminent collision. No wonder my “friends” were happy to have me in the front seat, no doubt to take the worst of the impact should “Sterling Mess” accomplish her apparent kamikaze mission. Now I understood the unrelenting hilarity that had been emanating from the back seat as we drove along. Adrenaline junkies, all of them! I may never be the same. The spookiest part of it all is that Fran seemed not to notice my hunched posture and nervous babble, or the smell of fear emanating from my side of the car.

Finally we came to more or less level ground and the road straightened out a bit. We passed through the small town of Stevenson, leaving about 60 miles to go. Shortly thereafter our car, and our plans, were brought to a halt by a man in a hard hat, waving an orange flag. The State of Washington was using part of their stimulus funds to do some much-needed rock management. Police cars were blocking the road ahead. We would have to turn back, unless we wanted to park and wait two hours in the heat before proceeding.

We decided to return to Stevenson, where we had a delicious late lunch at the Big River Grill, followed by ice cream cones for Monika and me from Granny’s Gedunk Ice Cream Parlor next door. We piled back in the car, with me in the back this time, headed a short distance down the road and made the turn for the beautiful Skamania Lodge. We had come for wine and wine we would have!

We went inside, and then walked straight through to the back terrace. It overlooked a green lawn that sloped down toward the Gorge, before giving way to forest. We noticed as we were seated and gave our drink orders, that there was a demonstration going on nearby. A man and a woman, a couple I’d guess from their banter, had brought three falcons and an owl, and we got to see them fly. The handlers shared some fascinating details about their beautiful birds and mentioned that each time they fly, there’s always the possibility they won’t come back.  These birds actually have jobs. They are raised and trained to frighten away other birds from airports, office buildings and hotels. It was just our good luck getting to see the “air show”. It added a lovely and unexpected touch to our day.

On the way back, we crossed from Washington back into Oregon on the Bridge of the Gods, which cost us a buck, but it was so worth it! I ended up in the front seat again, but the highway on this side is much wider and straighter, and the speed limits are higher. I prefer the Oregon side of the Gorge, because you’re closer to the water, and the views have to be seen to be believed. We passed right by Multnomah Falls, the second tallest waterfall in the United States and a sight that always brings a lump to my throat. We saw an eagle perched on its nest, and all day long we breathed in that wonderful clean, fresh air. We laughed ourselves silly, we saw beauty everywhere we looked, we ate, we drank and we laughed some more. Although we never made it to Maryhill Winery, it was a happy day with good friends that I will not soon forget. And as Scarlett O’Hara was fond of saying, “Tomorrow is another day.”

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The Animal Rescue Site

Thank you for taking the time to read this brief appeal to your better nature. It is totally free and takes a moment only of your time.

I ran across The Animal Rescue Site, several years ago, where I found that I could donate .6 cans of pet food per day, simply by visiting the site and clicking a button. At the rate of one click per day, that amounts to 219 cans of food a year. Since I always click twice, once in memory of my mom, the annual total grows to 438 cans, which is more than my two cats eat in a year.

There is also a tab on this page, headed “Rainforest”.  Each click there helps protect 11.4 square feet of rainforest habitat for wildlife. Since, again, I click twice each day, this amounts to 8,322 square feet in a year’s time, or almost exactly one-fifth of an acre.

Taken on their own .6 and 11.4 seem painfully small portions, perhaps not worth your time, but 438 cans and a fifth of an acre are much more impressive. Add in four more people, clicking twice on each site each day, and in a year that grows to 2,190 cans of food and an acre of rainforest. By standing together, pooling our efforts, we can make a change. We can make a difference by doing our small part, and by adding it to the small changes  others are making. I’ll probably never see my face added to Mount Rushmore, or stand in the spotlight to accept an award, but I’m perfectly happy to make a small effort every day to help those who need our protection and our friendship.

I have included separate links to each location which I hope you will bookmark and visit faithfully. You have my thanks and appreciation in advance, and I thank you for those who cannot speak for themselves.

The Animal Rescue Site
The Rainforest Site

** Note ** Please grab these buttons for your own web site, by clicking the widget and getting the code. Thanks.

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Review: Memphis Beat

The other evening I was talking with several friends and asked them if they had seen    “Memphis Beat”, a new show on TNT. They said they found it a bit too folksy and cutsey, but they’re originally from Connecticut/New York, and the Montana/California area. I spent my formative years in the South, grew up in Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee, before our family moved north to New York, to join my dad, who was working there. So even though I could never see myself living in the South again, some of the rhythms in the blood will always be there. I can still speak the language, and my small stature does indeed sheathe the blade of a Steel Magnolia.

Speaking of those hardy flowers reminds me of a scene from this week’s episode of the show. It takes place in a bar, a loud, smoky, bluesy Memphis bar, where Dwight goes to sing at night. A racially-mixed, perfectly amicable crowd enjoy themselves in the background. Jason Lee’s Detective Dwight Hendricks is at the bar, when his new boss, Lt. Tanya Rice, played by the wonderful Alfre Woodard, approaches and orders another drink.

Dwight is working on a difficult investigation, he’s concerned about a friend’s financial straits, and he and Lt. Rice are still in getting-acquainted mode. Pitching his voice to be heard above the noise, Dwight poses a question to Lt. Rice concerning the victim’s finances, to which she replies. “Money! It warps family. Too much of it or not enough of it. You know, I do believe, Dwight, that more than personal chemistry, more than sexual chemistry, a couple needs financial chemistry, or else bad choices will be made. The way a person spends, that’s…that’s their most secret self and you can’t touch that.” Alfre Woodard is an enormously talented actor and a very beautiful, strong woman. Her character and Jason Lee’s play off of each other very well, after their initial clash in styles. But there was something so compelling about her delivery in this scene, such a mix of smoky, earthy, almost absent-minded sensuality, driven by the power of her intellect and fueled by her years of experience, that I rewound and rewatched it four or five times. It was worth it for her delivery and her expressions alone.

The show has the usual lovable mix of ensemble characters, including D. J. Qualls, Officer Davey Sutton, who I remembered from an episode of “Lost”. His rather offbeat appearance and endearing personality add a lot to the show for me. Celia Weston plays Paula Ann Hendricks, and I love the scenes between her and her son, Dwight. This show gets the Southern vibe right for a change, and I love Dwight’s reverence for his mother, his city, his people and the music that is woven into every frame of the show. If you enjoy actual people more than heavy weapons fire and car chases, this quirky, charming show just might strike the right note for you.

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