Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Facing the Book

I did something wild and rash yesterday. I joined Facebook. I know. Everybody is on Facebook. Even my daughter, which I didn't know till I joined. She refuses to be one of my friends. How mean! But hey ho, I've got five friends now. I might just come out of my cloak of anonymity here to reveal my real self so I can get more friends.

Because Facebook makes you want to have as many friends as possible, I've discovered. Just as having a blog can lead you to wanting to have lots of blog buddies who read your blog and leave comments and whose blogs you read and leave comments. (I don't think that's a complete sentence but oh well.)

I've already gotten in touch with one old friend (thanks to laurie), and who knows, there might be even more out there.

That is the bright spot of the week. Here's what else is going on with my friends: one's daughter has a rapidly growing fibroadenoma that is being removed Tuesday, one's husband just lost his job, one's father is on the brink of death.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in America, where we Americans traditionally pig out, watch football, sleep and have arguments with our families. Perhaps this year we can be thankful for each other. It's a very cruel world these days and we need as many friends as we can get.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Uncomfortably Numb

I won DJ Kirby's Wordless Wednesday competition this week. I'm still in shock. The judge, Trousers, is far too kind, but thank you anyway.

On to an update: I've been to see a specialist about my shoulder, which has been in pain since February. I had an MRI, which showed fluid in the tendon. He offered to give me a cortisone injection tonight. I took him up on the offer. He must have put some Lidocaine in there because the arm is pretty numb and he didn't tell me there would be Lidocaine. And I had to drive home on the motorway for half an hour in the dark. I damn near cried but was too worried I would crash. Should I go on about how thoughtless orthopedic surgeons are? Or do you all already know about that?

Hubby still doesn't have a job. It's beyond a joke. It's downright scary, though I try not to think too hard about it. And when I do I focus on the positive (he and I are getting along better; he and the kids are getting along better).

Jake continues to improve. He is 99 percent great dog. The one percent bites sometimes -- hard. He doesn't bite me. He wouldn't dare. But he's bitten hubby four times and daughter once and the vet surgeon once. I happened to be at the vet's today with one of the cats and mentioned the biting. She gave me the number of a behavioural specialist. I just have to get hubby to agree to phone them. I don't know how many bites that will take. The biting seems to happen when someone seems to approach his rear quarters so I think it's associated with the surgeries. I'm scared he might bite someone outside the family one day so we really need to get this sorted.

Here in the UK we have lots of bad news about the economy: deflation, credit crunch, layoffs, etc. But what has been the big news this past week? John Sergeant, a former political correspondent for the BBC, resigned from Strictly Come Dancing because of so much flak from the judges and other dancers because he's got two left feet and really should have been voted out ages ago but the public like him too much. Now for all you who don't live in the UK I will describe John Sergeant's looks. In the U.S., he'd have a marvelous career in radio. Seriously, when I first moved to this country, I couldn't believe he was allowed to be on TV. In America we only have blowdried Kens and Barbies on TV news (not counting PBS, the "educational channel" as my stepmother calls it). So it was a shock to see a droll troll, intelligent as he is, actually reporting the news. Here's what he looks like. He's kind of cute in a teddy bear troll sort of way.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

And Why Would I Believe That?

There's an email circulating out there saying British schools no longer teach pupils about the Holocaust because of Muslim opposition. My sister sent it to me. I immediately sent her the link to that debunks this urban legend. Also, why she thought I, with two children in the British school system, wouldn't have something to say on this subject is beyond me. But that's my family.

But I decided this opened up an opportunity for me to talk to my son (my daughter was out) about the Holocaust. Hubby and I told him what we knew about it, starting with Kristallnacht. I explained to him about how Austrians broke into Jewish-owned businesses that night and ransacked them. It was called Kristallnacht because of all the broken glass on the ground. Then Jews were forced to wear badges on their sleeves and only live in areas called ghettoes. The homes and property of many were taken by the Nazis. Then, the Final Solution was devised in which they were herded onto trains and taken to concentration camps. Their heads were shaved, their clothing replaced by "striped pajamas," they were all but starved. And then they were gassed and either buried in mass graves or incinerated.

I told him the plot of "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas." Have you read the book or seen the movie? It's hard not to be deeply moved by the ending. I told him that not all Germans colluded in this Final Solution, notably Schindler in "Schindler's List." I also told him that in the USA during WWII there were concentration camps for Japanese-American citizens, one not far from my mother in Wyoming. Hubby told him that the British first came up with the idea of concentration camps during the Boer War.

I also told him how Israel came to be a nation in 1948, thus setting the scene for the conflicts that continue to this day between Jews and Palestinians. We touched on other holocausts as well, discussing Stalin's murder of millions of his own people. Most recently, in Bosnia, Muslims were rounded up and murdered en masse. We should not forget the Holocaust of WWII. We should not forget any Holocaust.

This was a lot of information for a 12-year-old boy, but I think he took most of it in. I suppose my first exposure to the Holocaust was reading "The Diary of Anne Frank." From there I read other books about the Holocaust. Some of it was school work, most of it was on my own volition.

I can't change the narrow-mindedness of my family, but I can have some influence still over my children and try to teach them that hating people because of their religion, race, or creed is wrong.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

And Then I Fell to Earth

Hard to imagine as it is, there are a few Americans very disappointed in last Tuesday's election results.

My father is one of them. And do you know why? Not because of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not because of the economy. Because, he said, Obama said eight months ago that the first thing he's going to do when he gets into office is legalise late-term abortion (or third-semester as my father called it).

I missed that news item, my father said, because I don't live in the U.S. and I don't have access to the same information he does. I reminded him that there's an internet now that allows me access to all sorts of information.

I didn't call my father to gloat or to argue. I called to wish him a happy birthday. I then made the mistake of asking him what he thought of the election. I had little doubt in my mind that he had voted for McCain. My father is a Committed Christian who is going to Heaven because he has been forgiven by God for his sins. Pity his children haven't forgiven him yet, nor has he asked their forgiveness.

Like most people, I think, I try to avoid the emotional subject of abortion. I've never had one. I've never had to have one. I have had two pregnancies that ended in the births of my children. I know what it feels like to feel life growing inside me, and I could never have a late-term abortion myself unless there were strong medical grounds. Many babies born at 28 weeks survive.

For the record, I googled Obama's stand on abortion. He is in favour of abortion rights, but waffles a bit, like most politicians. McCain doesn't: he says life begins at conception. So if you take the morning-after pill within 72 hours of sexual intercourse (which is how long it takes for a fertilized egg to embed itself in the womb, I believe) then you are having an abortion, according to that famous biologist John McCain.

But back to my father. Abortion wasn't and isn't the most important issue facing Barack Obama today, as I told my father. I'm sure he's got a lot of other issues on his mind and will push abortion onto the proverbial back burner.

What I find most alarming about my father is not his stance on abortion or his support of McCain. It's his lack of respect for my opinion and feelings or indeed those of anyone else who doesn't agree with his narrow-minded, judgmental, moralistic point of view, and this is something that has not and will not change no matter who is in office. It's a shame that he is this way. Last night I hung the phone up and uttered not a few expletives under my breath and over my breath and into hubby's ears. I vowed not to phone my father again. I said he's treating me the same way he used to treat me when I was in my teens and 20s. Only I'm almost 50. But today I feel differently. I resolved to get on with my life, rejoice once more that Barack Obama is president-elect, and perhaps do something (though I don't know what) to help women so they don't have to be in the position of having to make what must be a very difficult decision.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

It's A New Dawn, It's A New Day

And I'm feeling good. God BLESS America. I am so proud of my country today, so proud that in my own lifetime we have gone from separate public restrooms, water fountains, entrances for blacks and whites to having a mixed-race president-elect whose middle name is Hussein. Obama faces more challenges than perhaps any president-elect. I am confident he will meet those challenges.

I stayed up last night as late as I could. When Pennsylvania results came in for Obama, I went to bed. This morning I jumped out to see the results. And then I cried. I watched Obama's speech on the internet, tears streaming down my face. All I can say now is I'm proud to be an American.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

I'm Holding My Breath

How about you? Did you remember to vote today if you're a US citizen and over 18?

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Get This Party Started

Halloween came and went this year without my celebrating it with our usual party. I have hosted or attended Halloween parties since I don't know when. I hit a dry patch for a while, but really wanted my kids to know the fun of Halloween and wanted to introduce my British friends to the American version of Halloween.

So I would cook and come up with games for the kids and dress up and have an exhausting but good time. Even when Frenemy hid baked potatoes in an unknown (to me anyway) shelf of my dining table and didn't tell me till the next year when she presented me with these shrivelled brown things. I asked her if they were her husband's balls.

Last year my kids were starting to hit the "My parents are so EMBARRASSING" age but could just about allow me to enjoy myself as long as I didn't dress up and they didn't either. This year I asked if they wanted a party. They said they did as long as they could invite ALL their friends. Well, that didn't suit me or hubby. We have these parties as much for ourselves as them. So this year we didn't have one. Not a single friend asked me if I was having the Halloween party this year. Guess they were embarrassed or didn't care.

We ate Chinese food in front of the TV. I watched one of my favourite films, "To Kill a Mockingbird," and kept texting my kids all night to check they were OK trick-or-treating since it's a different kind of experience in the UK. Something was missing, I felt. Maybe next year.

Speaking of parties, my daughter went to a boy's 14th birthday party the other night. She'd been looking forward to it, had bought a new top to wear, and had her two best friends round to get ready. My husband dropped them off and another parent was due to pick them up. Before 10, I heard the front door slam. My daughter had come home early. Why? Because once again, foolish parents had gone out and left 13- and 14-year-olds on their own. Once again, some of them sneaked alcohol in. Once again, the parents came home, got angry at the state of their house, and tipped everyone out. My daughter and her two friends were wandering the streets in the dark and the rain on their own. A policeman stopped them and asked where they were going. They said they'd left a party and were heading for the main street to wait for a parent to pick them up. My daughter, who didn't drink the alcohol, said she and her friends sat in the front room watching all the drunk teen-agers lurch about. They didn't dare go upstairs because some bright sparks thought it was a fun game to chuck people down the stairs. Others, she said, were having sex. The boy whose party it was seemed powerless to do anything about the drunken ones. His party was ruined, his parents' house was ruined. And do you know who I blame? The stupid, naive parents who thought they could go out and leave those kids on their own.

I've told my daughter she's not allowed to go to parties if the parents aren't there. If hubby or I drop her off, she's to call us when she gets inside to tell us if parents are there or not. We'll wait outside for the call. If we don't get one, we will go to the door and find out for ourselves. She's not entirely happy with this rule, but I don't think she particularly enjoyed herself and wouldn't want to repeat the experience.

And on to other matters. Please tell me what's wrong with this statement: "He wants to take people's money and give it to others." McCain has said that about Obama. As I read it, I shouted to my husband, "I really must be a socialist after all." He said he'd suspected I was all along. But isn't that what we all do anyway? Isn't that called taxation? McCain just wants to make sure his fat-cat buddies keep their money and avoid paying taxes. I am really, really scared about this election. I've sent off my vote, and it was for -- well, who do you think? Not Old-Age Ken and Moose-hunter Barbie. Please, please, please, any Democrats out there reading this or even Republicans or socialists or whatever. Please vote on Tuesday. Please DON'T vote for McCain and the Palinator. Please. For the sake of our country. For the sake of the world.