Friday, July 28, 2006

This blog's policy on anonymous comments

Someone's been leaving me anonymous comments that I have rejected. My doing this is driving him crazy, because he keeps leaving more, almost daily. I say "he" because I'm 99.9% sure I know who's leaving them. Based on the context of his comments, he knows journalism and he knows about my 3 years at the Trib...information only an insider would know (unless he's writing on hearsay, which he wouldn't dare, since he accused me of doing that). He also wants to know if I know what editors do (he helped me out there, just in case: They edit.), and in fact, I do! When I'm not writing for a living, I'm editing. Or indexing. Or doing taxonomy (not to be confused with taxidermy, which is just, well, yuck). See the pattern...words. I work with words.

This particular reader so very obviously doesn't like me, yet he's taking time out of his life to read my blog. Often. Only he doesn't seem to read anything except the very first column, waaaaaaaaaaay at the bottom of the blog...the one about why I left the Trib and the Beacon. And he's getting madder because I won't give him a voice here in my own personal space. So I figure it's time to let ya know where I stand on anonymous comments:

I've got no problem with them (there are many here on the blog already, and not all are positive) as long as they discuss issues and related topics and are not personal attacks. The guy who's leaving these snarky comments needs to get over whatever it is he's so angry about and stop visiting The Front Porch because it obviously raises his blood pressure. Life's too short to focus on all that negative energy.

Intelligent discussion of a topic is one thing; I welcome that with open arms or I'd never have started writing my column in 2003. I'd be an idiot to think everyone agrees with all the things I say...that's not the point (and where's the value in that?). The point is to find a maturity level where we can disagree, discuss, and agree to disagree if we must. When that happens, everyone, including myself, walks away having looked at something from a different perspective.

If you're not capable of doing that, don't leave a comment. I won't publish it. On the other hand, if what you're really after is just to be sure I know you don't like me without telling me who you are, then leave the comment with the understanding that I'll read it, but no one else will. However, keep this in mind:

In this lifetime, I've been married and divorced; made the horrible, unintended mistake of leaving my baby in a vehicle unattended (wrote about that one long ago); cremated my mother and a son; have been cheated on, lied to, beaten up, and sexually assaulted (haven't written about that one). I'm a liberal living in a religious-right society that cares more about keeping gays from marrying than it does starving children and underfunded schools. My president almost choked himself to death on a pretzel while his right-hand man so adeptly shot his hunting partner in the face, and these are the representatives of my country. There's a war in Iraq; the disastrous effects of Katrina; our CIA leaks information, and the federal deficit is bigger than ever. Global warming is a serious, threatening issue despite what our administration wants us to believe, and people actually want us to replace sex ed with abstinence-only misinformation, science with Intelligent Design. If I want to worry about something, it won't be whether or not someone likes me.

My life has graciously brought me enough experience to know that what truly matters in this world isn't so much what others may think of me, but what I know to be true of myself.

So anonymous comments? Keep 'em comin'...but if you're going to act hateful, go sit on your own Front Porch.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A shameless plug for a fantastic weekend getaway and an invitation for you

Wes, the kids, and I spent last weekend at a terrific place near Red Feather Lakes. We rented a beautiful cabin (it's quite a bit bigger than what I think of when I think of a "cabin") called Mountain Rose, and it exceeded our expectations in every way. Check it out by visiting Between the spectacular views from our location nestled among the mountains, the relaxing hours in the private hot tub, and the warm welcome we received from owners Maggie and Marge, we couldn't have asked for anything more. I highly recommend giving this place a try if you're in need of some R&R. Staying there gives you fishing and boating access to several private lakes as well as public lakes. We spent some time on Crystal Lake...breathtaking.

That said, I'd also like to invite anyone who's interested to join us in a fundraising BBQ for Democratic Congressional candidate Angie Paccione. The BBQ begins at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 19th, and will be held on the private, 5-acre lot on which Mountain Rose is situated. Guests will enjoy excellent food and drink as well as live music. Financial contributions to Angie's campaign are, of course, voluntary...maybe you'd just like to meet her or get to know her stance on the issues (that's the main reason I'm going--I know what I've read about her, but I want to meet her in person). This is a perfect opportunity to do so, and at the same time, you'll get a firsthand look at the property. If anyone wants to ride up with Wes, the girls, and me (the boys will be with their dad that weekend), we've got room in the van for 3 people. Or, if you want to travel there on your own, email me for directions. If you plan on going, please RSVP to the hosts at or by calling 1-800-477-7673.

If you've read my columns over the years, even only a couple, you can imagine how much I dislike Marilyn Musgrave. I respect that not everyone shares my opinion of her, and that's cool. But if you think it's time for a change, it would be great to see you at the BBQ. And I would love for you to get to see Mountain Rose.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

There's Peace In the Letting-Go
My grandma is 97 years old. She spent her life in a rural region of Pennsylvania, toiling on the farm and raising five children. Thanks to decades of hard physical labor, her body is tough. Her mind, on the other hand, is not. In fact, her mind has already left her behind, and I think she's on the brink of catching up to it.

Gram broke her hip a couple weeks ago. Surgery has repaired the bone, but the after-effects on her mind are troubling. I last saw her in June. She had no idea who I was, but she sure thought my kids were nice. She expressed a special appreciation of my daughter's beautiful hair. I didn't have the heart to tell her that hair was situated on the head of my youngest son, Tucker (and, to her credit, even people with full mental capacity often mistake Tuck for a girl; he could care less). All her life, Gram's wanted a head of thick, luxurious hair. The two strands remaining on her head are not exactly what she had in mind. I vividly remember her affinity for the country band Oak Ridge Boys, not because of their music, but because of their long, curly tresses.

Gram is just a little wee woman, never having been exactly Amazonian to begin with. She lies in her nursing home bed, refusing to eat. She chews on her bottom dentures like they're candy, and she keeps removing her own catheter tube, not without damaging her already-frail body. At night she calls out to her husband and son, both of whom left this world many years ago. And she reaches up for them in her sleep. Maybe she's seeing them. Maybe they're calling to her. She has missed them so profoundly these last decades. Imagine how angry and frustrated she must be when she awakes only to realize she's not only with them, but connected to machines via tubes and tape. The situation seems almost criminal to me.

Gram is my mom's mom. In the recent past, in her more lucid moments, she understood that her oldest daughter had died. Two minutes later, she'd ask again why Mom wasn't coming to see her, but clarity was hers, even if only fleetingly. Now...well, she doesn't remember anyone but Pap and Uncle Bob, and it's plain she wants to see them. She spends her days with a nasty disposition, being feisty with my aunt, her daughter, who spends hours with her everyday, trying to get her to eat and making sure she's bathed. Gram's never been big on the sponge bath thing, and it annoys her now more than ever. Yet my aunt continues to care for her mom in ways I mercifully never had to care for mine.

I know this is an instance when others in my position might drop to their knees in prayer, calling on God to help Gram recover. I'm not a prayerful person in the traditional sense of the word. I don't have daily conversations with God; I don't ask for much of anything except wisdom to guide my children so that they can learn to blossom in a world that sometimes seems hell-bent on kicking kids in the ass. Even when my own mom died, I didn't ask God "why?"; I didn't wonder what the bigger purpose of her death was. That grief, which many of you shared with me through this column, was so mind-numbing, I had trouble stringing together three-word sentences. No, I didn't pray in the way one thinks of prayer.

For me, every act of kindness is a prayer. A kissed owie, a door held open, a tearful farewell...each act is an appeal to the hopeful side of human nature. Turning on the bathroom nightlight each evening, I am aware of how thankful I am to have made it through another day, to have had yet one more chance to be a good mom, a supportive partner, a friend. Likewise, turning that same light off each morning gives me pause to take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and hope that I end the day having done something worthwhile. Awareness itself is prayer; acting in accordance with that awareness is nothing short of evangelizing.

So I can only hope my intent is understood when I say that I do not wish my gram's life to be prolonged. Her life is over; all that's left is her failing body. As my aunt struggles to see her mom like that each day and still keep her spirits uplifted, I have to admit to my belief that death is not the worst fate one can experience. Gram has had a full life. She gave birth six times and buried three of her children. With nothing more than an elementary-school education, she raised a family and kept a farm during some of the most trying times our country has ever known. She was active in her church and extended her loving kindness to anyone who needed it. This existence she's experiencing now is not life. She breathes, but she does not live.

If this is all she has to look forward to here on earth, I want Gram's body to let her go. I know it's not up to me, and I appreciate that. But a body without a mind that can recognize loved ones and familiar places is nothing but a shell. Just one month ago, Gram could smile. It was a vacant smile, backed up with empty eyes that could no longer see the world they loved. I knew then that she was on the final glidepath, as Mom used to call it. And her descent sure picked up speed.

We aren't supposed to wish death on people, I know that. Our society is messed up when it comes to death and dying. We're so afraid of it. I don't think Gram is afraid; I think it will bring her peace. And though I won't pretend to know what's going on in that head of hers, I definitely know what's not going on. And that's all I need to know.

I love my grandma fiercely. And I want her to go home.