Saturday, November 29, 2008

The aging process

George W. Bush has aged A LOT over the past eight years. I mean, going from this: this:
I mean, I know the presidency is a stressful job and that a person AGES A LOT during the 4-to-8-year term, but really... is it just me, or does he look like he's drinking again??

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thinking about India

I've been doing a lot of thinking about India over the past few days. If you watch the news, you know what's been happening in Mumbai. I can't imagine how frantic and chaotic the scene is. Even on a good day, Mumbai is chaotic! I can't even fathom how rescue crews are getting through the streets, as the one rule of the road is that there are no rules! Apparently the hotel that Dad and I stayed at, the Palm Grove, was used as a "jumping off point" for the terrorists. Renu, one of the family members with whom we traveled, is in Mumbai right now, visiting her brother and his family (the Gandhi's). All of them were present for W's baptism; they are like family. I am hoping that they all piled in the car and headed to Umbergoah, about 100 miles to the north of Mumbai, where their family roots are.
In other family-related news, Mike's grandfather, Pater, is in the hospital. He's 94 years old. He has something seriously wrong going on in his abdomen. The doctors think it's due to a blood clot that killed part of his intestines. He's been in relatively-good health up until this point, living independently in an assisted-living home for the past few years in the Little Rock area. I think the only medication that he's been prescribed is Flomax, so that's pretty awesome for someone his age. He loves the Arkansas Razorbacks, and as much as I hate that LSU lost to them today, I'm happy that Pater's team won.
W and I spent yesterday afternoon at our church. Mike had to work (he has the day BEFORE the holiday off, but has to work the actual holiday), so it was really nice that our pastor and his family hosted an "open Thanksgiving" in the church's fellowship hall. There were about 40 people there, and TONS of food. W had a great time running around with the other kids and even played a little football with them. I had fun playing dominoes and meeting some new folks.
My parents were here last week, so we did Thanksgiving dinner with them on Sunday night. Mike roasted a chicken and made his mom's cornbread dressing, and I made mashed potatoes and green beans. We bought a carrot cake and Key Lime pie at Wegman's, both of which were delish.
We all have so much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gimme a break!

W has a favorite candy. He LOVES Kit-Kats. He just found a tiny piece of a wrapper somewhere that was leftover from Halloween and brought it to me and said, "Kit Kat, Kit Kat" (or something close to that).
Good lord, what have I done to this child?! Mike and I don't even really LIKE Kit-Kats!! I don't know where he gets it from....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Toilet paper woes

Amazingly enough, our supermarket has fantastic store-brand toilet paper. I never would have thought that generic TP would be the way to go, but seriously, Wegman's TP is great. I did something dumb last week, though. We were nearing the end of our stash and were in desperate need for more. I was at Wal-Mart (ugh) and figured I'd just buy some there. I got a 24 pack of the White Cloud (WM brand) kind. I mean, toilet paper's toilet paper, right? WRONG. This is, as Mike calls it, John Wayne toilet paper-- "Rough, tough, and don't take sh*t off no one." It is only ONE PLY. And, it doesn't feel very good. So now I'm stuck with 24 rolls of crappy (I couldn't resist!) toilet paper. I have definitely learned my lesson.
Oh, and today, when we went to Wegman's, I got a big pack of their TP. So we have enough to last us the rest of 2008.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Identifying with India

Here's an article written by a woman who was in India on election day. I love all things Indian (except perhaps the food), so I couldn't resist posting this (she refers to some of the cities Dad and I visited when we were there in 2004). I highlighted the parts that really spoke to me. You may or may not agree with what she says or thinks politically, but I think this piece is really important because it helps show how people of other nations see our nation. It's an interesting perspective, to be sure.

Through Indian Eyes
Lynda Resnick Posted November 9, 2008 | 02:27 PM

My husband and I were in India during the U.S. election. Of course we cast (so to speak) our Obama votes before traveling to India during the last three weeks of the campaign -- an insightful experience. We followed CNN throughout our journey, but we were more drawn to news from the BBC and local Indian channels.

Everywhere we went, from Mumbai to Jodhpur to Delhi, people were curious and engaged in our election, and everyone knew the players. They were all rooting for Obama. We met some corporate leaders who were concerned that Obama might cave to the unions and tighten up foreign trade, and some royals who were negative about anyone darker than they are, but men and women in the streets, no matter how humble, were rooting for Obama.

It was the first time in a long time that "I felt proud to be an American," to borrow words from our soon-to-be First Lady. The last time people abroad felt that kind of affinity with an American political figure was when John Kennedy was in office. I don't believe their support for Obama was just because his skin is brown like theirs. It is a combination of gravitas and spiritual calm that attracted the limpid brown eyes of a magical country. Ganesha is the charming elephant god that most Hindus hold sacred... as I visited shops to find the perfect one to bring home, one shopkeeper after another confided that our candidate Obama also has a Ganesha in his home.

As the results came in on election night, and tears of joy and hope streamed down my face, I realized that America had finally grown up. The polls didn't lie; we were actually achieving the divine state of color blindness. The window is open and we can grab opportunity, we can make changes, we can mature and we will be able to manage the crises of our modern society. The "me generation" doesn't work anymore. The new calling is for the collective consciousness. If one doesn't care about the common good and only focuses on their own greed, they will be hard-pressed to find comfort in this new era.

How perfectly curious it was to be in India during this historical moment. The myth about traveling there is that you will shocked by the poverty, but I'd traveled to Cambodia when Pol Pot was still lurking in the jungle and saw a civilization returned to the Stone Age by endless war. What shocked me in India was how joyful the citizens are. Their lives are tough, even for the rich ones. I felt an almost equal empathy for the Maharani I visited who lived in a gargantuan place crumbling around her, as I did for street people who pedaled our rickshaw. The spirit of the place is life-changing -- it gives you hope for all mankind.

When we landed at LAX after 26 hours of flying, L.A. looked sparklingly clean (I didn't know a Santa Ana wind had just come through). I practically kissed the customs officer and couldn't get a smile off my face. I remember when I was a child and my parents would travel abroad, they would tell me, "I kissed the ground when I came home." It has been a long time since I felt like that, but I do now. Our troubles are grave, but they are nothing when you look at the emerging nations of the world; it is a mind change that we need. We still have clean water and can breathe most of the air without fear of lung problems, and while our society tends to make wrong food choices, safe food is there for the buying. Unless you have traveled to India or China you have no idea how compromised these basics of life can be.

Everyone is asking, "What can I do as a citizen?" We are ready like we were for that one moment after 9/11 -- ready to follow a bold leader. At last we have one, and I believe that our collective consciousness will push us toward the sacrifices we must make to cure our ills. A beautiful man of color will lead us. My hand is raised, "call on me."

A fine dining experience

Since the weather was so gross yesterday afternoon, we did one of our favorite rainy-day activities--went to Ikea! The nearest Ikea for us is in Elizabeth, near Newark and right across the river from NYC. You can even see the Newark airport from the Ikea restaurant. Traffic was horrible all the way there, so by the time we got there, we were all hungry. You gotta love a furniture store with a restaurant. And I'm not talkin' Miskelly's. This place has everything--Swedish meatballs, pasta, salad bar, wraps... So the three of us ate dinner for less than $10, AND got a table overlooking the airport, which W really liked. Our mission was to find a child-size dining set for W. Our kitchen table/chairs are counter-height, which means that W cannot sit there easily. The Montessorian in me wanted him to have something on his own level. So this is what we wound up getting:
Mike and I just put it together. It was surprisingly easy. Since the wood is unfinished, we can either paint it or stain it. I'm inclined to stain it the same color as our kitchen table/chairs, which is a dark, dark brown. While I'd like to paint it in fun colors, that would sort of detract from the rest of the kitchen/dining room palate of red and brown. I'm open to suggestions, though.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tiger bait!

Today is the big day: Bama at LSU. Get ready. This game is big, not only because Bama is ranked #1 by the BCS, but also because it's Nick Saban's first trip back to Baton Rouge as a coach since doing the unthinkable... Here's a piece from ESPN the Magazine.

Gimme an F... !

When Alabama rolls into Baton Rouge, LSU fans will have a hard time deciding which is more fun: showering the Tigers with love - or raining hate on Nick Saban.

by Wright Thompson

There is strange music coming from apartment 315: a mix of zydeco and swamp pop, as unquestionably Louisiana as getting a go-cup from a bar. Inside is a raucous group of LSU fans. The Big Ragoo and the Evil Twins are surrounded by their crew, which includes a nuclear chemist, two women kissing, another drinking straight from a bottle of Stoli, an ex-fighter pilot and the guy who played keyboards—and organ—for song 11 on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. They all have at least one thing in common.

They hate Nick Saban.

Now, lots of people dislike coaches. Michigan fans loathe Jim Tressel. Buckeyes can't stand Joe Paterno. Nittany Lions detest Bobby Bowden. Those are normal, acceptable levels of hate. But LSU fans hate Saban more than store-bought jambalaya, more than FEMA, more than Yankees who confuse Creole with Cajun. The man loved 'em and left 'em. This is personal. This is cultural. This hatred is…intergalactic. "You could draw the analogy to Star Wars," says Indiana professor Ed Hirt, an expert in fan behavior and why sports turn ordinary grown-ups into psychopaths. "It is going to the dark side."

The LSU fans will tell Saban just how much they hate him in person on Nov. 8, when the Alabama coach brings his top-ranked Tide to Baton Rouge. As a rule, LSU opponents must park their buses and walk into the stadium in open air, protected, sort of, by police barricades. LSU fans chant "Tiger bait" over and over. But when Saban and his team come to town, that walk will be more than scary, presuming local authorities allow it to happen at all. LSU police say they will have extra security at the stadium and along the Bama bus route. "It's gonna take the 82nd Airborne to get him into Tiger Stadium," the Big Ragoo says.

Just five years ago, Saban was every LSU fan's hero, leading the Tigers to their first national title in 45 seasons. But on Christmas Day, 2004, he broke their hearts, bailing on Baton Rouge for Miami and NFL money. Two years later he stabbed their hearts by taking the Bama job. Since then, Ragoo and the Evil Twins have counted the days to Saban's return, passing time with another national title and many Alabama jokes. (Such as: How are Bama fans and maggots the same? Both can live off a dead bear.) Now their day of blessed redemption is upon them, and folks down here are some kind of pissed.

The roiling emotions across the Pelican State have to do with insecurity, fear, ethnic slurs, off-color jokes and grandmothers who speak Cajun French. For those who don't know what any of that means, don't worry. We'll translate.

First, there's the Big Ragoo. He's the greatest LSU fan alive. Ragoo is short and bald, sort of what you'd get if you crossed Winston Churchill with John Belushi. He acts like that too: half eloquent statesman, half wild man. He's given away untold amounts of food and drink to strangers. Show him respect, he will move heaven and earth for you. Cross him, he will feed you to the crabs. He is 59. He is a district manager for an oil company. His real name is Marvin Dugas. The 'S' is silent.

Then there are the Evil Twins. God, where to begin? They are actually twins and possibly evil. They are 46 and unmarried. Evil Twin Two, whose name is Scott DeJean, is a veterinarian. He's the older one, but he's the sidekick, and mans the stereo at the party. Evil Twin One is named Kent. He does the talking. This is his condo. His fridge holds only beer, soda, cream puffs and Slim-Fast. He has framed pictures of the 2003 and 2007 national championship games in his bedroom, the first images he sees in the morning. Evil Twin One warms up the crowd at Les Miles' weekly radio show and does skits at tailgates. In real life, he is a lawyer.

Besides being unhinged LSU fans, the Twins and Ragoo are Cajun, born and raised in southern Louisiana parishes. Their parents grew up speaking Cajun French at home but didn't teach it to them, not wanting to pass along what they saw as a stigma. Their folks were belittled, spanked for not speaking English in school. Years ago, when chef Justin Wilson brought his Louisiana recipes and swampy accent to national TV, Evil Twin One asked his grandmother if she was proud. No, she told him. They weren't laughing with Wilson and his catchphrase "I ga-ron-tee." They were laughing at him.

That brings us to Saban.

He has several problems down here. First, LSU fans can be insecure. Maybe it's because LSU sits smack on the border of Acadiana—the 22 parishes that make up Cajun country—and the locals' antennae remain out after years of ridicule. Maybe they are scarred from years of losing before Saban, and, somewhere deep inside, maybe they're afraid all this success will go away. Secondly, he went to Alabama. Tiger fans won't admit this, but they have a complex about Alabama, so a loved one leaving for Tuscaloosa subtly reinforces the fear that they are inferior.

Finally, there is the quote.

The slur for Cajuns is coonass. Some say it comes from a gamey delicacy or a ringtailed hat, others say the word is derived from the French put-down conasse, meaning cheap whore. Younger Cajuns will sometimes say it with pride, displaying stickers on cars around Louisiana that read "RCA," for registered coonass. For older people, it is incredibly offensive. OK, stage set.


Saban took the Bama job the day LSU played in the 2007 Sugar Bowl, and signs such as "Saban is a D-Bag" popped up in the French Quarter. Back in Miami, the coach was speaking to reporters off the record. He repeated a story a friend, who Saban said happened to be on LSU's board of trustees, told him—a story that ended up taped and played on the radio a few weeks later. Here it is: "He was walking down the street yesterday before the Sugar Bowl. He calls me. There was a guy working in the ditch, one of those coonass guys that talk funny. I can't talk like them, but he can. Most people in Louisiana can. He says, 'Hey, you see where Coach Saban signed up with Alabama?' You know, however they talk. And the board of trustees guy says, 'Yeah I saw that,' and he says, 'That son of a b—, I feel like he's f— my wife.'"

It didn't matter that Saban was trying to be funny, or that a lot of people use the word coonass. A segment of LSU fans heard ditch-digging coonass and saw red. "Cajun people are proud," Ragoo explains. "When they perceive that you're putting them down and making fun of them, they become focused and galvanized about kicking your ass."

The quote hurt, and Saban quickly released an apologetic statement. He is responsible for the return of LSU football glory and doesn't really deserve to be hated. But you can understand, right? Those who hate Saban do so because they cared for him so much. "I was jilted," says Alie Gremillion, Ragoo's fiancée. "Nick was like your first love." Here's a story: The first Saints game in Louisiana after Katrina was against the Dolphins at Tiger Stadium. When Saban came out, he got an unforgettable ovation. They loved him. And now this? Same conference? Alabama? Ditch-digging coonasses?

Two years later, at the party, Ragoo and the Evil Twins still aren't over it. They refer to Saban as Lil' Nicky, or Tricky Nick. "He's like Satan," Evil Twin One says. "He's gone from king of the world to Judas."

As the drinks start to flow, so does the level of anger. There are jokes, both innocuous and disturbing (like Ragoo opining about what some of his less-civilized brethren might do with a 12-gauge should they spy Saban in the Bayou). "If I were him I'd be very discreet," Ragoo cracks. "He might not make it back."

He is, of course, kidding. Around him, in apartment 315, the party continues. It is the night before LSU will lose to Georgia, 52-38. Dozens crowd into the kitchen, taking turns spinning the Wheel of Death: a carousel of scotch, vodka, tequila and rum. Wherever it stops, that's your poison. They spin it for hours. After Ragoo takes a turn on the Wheel—"Oh, no, tequila," Alie says quietly—he lies on the floor and lets the Twins spin him like a top. At the end of the party, they play "Rocky Top" to honor Tennessee, Alabama's opponent. Of course they change the chorus a bit.

Rocky Top, you'll always be,
Second in the SEC.
Good ol' Rocky Top.

Second in the SEC!
Second in the SEC!

The next day, the party continues at 6 a.m. with Budweiser, biscuits and boudin. It moves toward the stadium with chicken spaghetti at Ragoo's tent; a neighboring tailgate has a keg on a giant stand, rigged with rubber tubes. All the while they jam to music coming out of twin six-foot stacks, like The Allman Brothers have set up in the parking lot. The party survives the game and beyond the entire sad afternoon. LSU fans even congratulate passing Georgia fans on their W, which will not happen against Bama. Afterward, Ragoo heads to the Pastime Restaurant & Lounge to watch Saban's Crimson Tide. They're crushing the Vols, playing with a confidence Ragoo recognizes. When Alabama scores, he stares at the television. He is quiet. He mumbles to himself, his face twitching a little. "You want an Excedrin?" Alie asks.

He declines. But the long day, and the combination of LSU losing and Saban winning have left Ragoo worn out. Is it possible that giving up 52 points to Georgia is worse than being called a ditch-digging coonass? Not a chance. "I'm gonna sharpen my shovel," he says.

"We're ditch-digging coonasses," Alie says.

"That's me," Ragoo says.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Really sad

When people find out I'm from the South, they often ask if racism is alive and well. This question, while expected, always rattles me a bit. I say that the racism isn't necessarily blatant, and then explain that racism exists everywhere, in various forms and degrees. Here is living proof that it doesn't matter where you live--ignorance is everywhere.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The map

This is huge. This is huger than huge. No Republican presidential candidate has ever won without Ohio, and it was just called for Obama.
The northeast is solid blue. Huge shock. The south is solid red (except for MS, which they haven't called yet, but HELLO!!). Huge shock. There are some pleasant (and fortunate) quasi-surprises (PA and OH).
Overall, huge voter turnout. For both Democrats and Republicans, this is a fantastic day for America. More people than ever have stepped up to cast their ballot and show their patriotism. Hooray for representative democracy!On a night like tonight, I sure miss Tim Russert and his white-boards.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Don't even go there...

Sadly, but not unexpectedly, Barack Obama's grandma died this morning. Rotten timing, huh? Maybe I'm a cynic, but I'm just waiting for one of the McCain-ninites to say "oh, what perfect timing... they've probably had her on ice for the past few weeks and wanted to wait and spread the news the day before the election!"
Yeah, I am so sure.
Let's all say a little prayer for tomorrow... That every voter is treated with dignity and respect and that every ballot cast by a legitimate/registered voter is counted. For info about where to cast your ballot, what to bring to the polling place, etc, check out the League of Women Voters website--it has a wealth of (nonpartisan!) information.
Hey, don't think your vote doesn't count. It does-- as long as every vote is counted.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Boo to you!

W had a great Halloween. I made his costume; he was The Cat in the Hat. I used a pair of black sweatpants and black t-shirt and safety-pinned the white fur and red bow on the shirt. I pinned a long black tail made of felt and stuffed with batting on the back of the pants. I made the hat, which turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated. But in the end, it turned out pretty cute--don't you think??
The whiskers/nose didn't stay on very well...Ta-da!!Here's one side of Maggie's costume......and here's the other side! There's a glare--it says "I'm really a Chihuahua"Here are some of our pumpkins. Mike said that our front yard looked like a pumpkin patch because we had five carved pumpkins and two that weren't carved. I got a little crazy with pumpkins this year because I really like roasting the seeds...
Today we drove to the Howell Living History Farm, which is about 20 minutes north of us. It's run by the county and has lots of animals. Today included a demonstration of how bacon, sausage, and scrapple are made. We saw the initial preparation for all that, but didn't stick around for the full demo. W enjoyed seeing the animals. I think the chickens were his favorite, though I don't really know why...
He laughed and "talked" with the chickens...
He thought the sheep were okay...
Here's Jesse the Horse taking a sniff of W and his daddy... They only have male horses right now, and they are all serious work horses. They are incredibly large and powerful-looking animals--one can see where the term "horsepower" comes from! The farm also has some incredible oxen, but they weren't there this weekend--they were at a conference. No kidding.When we got to the pig pen, the pigs were all the way on the other end. I called, "Here, pig pig pig!" and they all came running over. There were four piglets. They were stinky, but pretty cute. Here they are nosing around in their slop trough. W thought they were pretty funny and wanted to reach in and touch him, but Mike and I vetoed that idea. Can you blame us??