When life and comedy and scripture collide

Morgan Freeman GodThe last couple of weeks have felt kind of like a test. So many things have gone awry, so many little and medium-sized challenges and annoyances and unexpected expenses and repairs and things not working as they should.  I have taken some of them in stride, and others, not so much.

By coincidence, the movie that made its way to the top of my Netflix queue recently was Bruce Almighty, in which I watched Jim Carrey make an ungrateful ass of himself railing at God about all the things that were going wrong in his life before the predictable, but still moving, character arc.

The other day, as I dealt calmly with yet another medium-sized domestic dysfunction, the connection between the movie and my life came to me in an epiphany of sorts, and I could almost see Morgan Freeman smiling benevolently at me.  As I was congratulating myself for keeping it together during all this, and wondering if locusts were next, but if they were, I was ready, bring it on, it occurred to me that I was turning forbearance and patience into yet another perfectionistic quest, feeling a little too proud of my conquest of the drama queen within.

The point of the Book of Job, which I hated and didn’t understand for decades, was submission. As long as Job kept fighting, and thinking he was in control, God kept messing with him, in order to show him he wasn’t. I am never going to be in control, no matter hard I try. God or the Furies or the random accidents of life are going to keep on messing with me, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it except try to deal with things as best I can.

If I work at it, I will take most of them in stride, but I won’t always. There will be times when those locusts catch me in moments of weakness and I will melt down, though I hope I don’t act like quite as big a jackass as Bruce screaming at God in a lunatic meltdown of self-pity and rage.  The real test is not dealing with the crisis of the moment, but after I’ve dealt with a problem less than calmly, it is in avoiding the futile and destructive emotional self-flagellation we perfectionists seem to get off on.  It is in showing self-compassion once the frustration has passed, accepting that we all act like jackasses sometimes, and moving on.

Happy New Year

New Years Eve 2013

Two years ago, on New Year’s Day 2012, I wrote this post.  The photo on the post was of a woman’s hand holding a champagne glass.  It wasn’t my hand, just some random picture I had found on the internet.  The woman’s hands were lovely, as hand models’ hands are, and her long nails were painted dark red.  At the time, my nails were short and unpainted.  Now, after more than a decade of being too serious and practical for such things, I’m back to the long painted nails of my youth, today even adorned with flowers.

In the two years since writing that post, I’ve learned a few lessons, among them that we need to enjoy life more.  We need to have fun with our kids.  We need to spend time with our friends.  We need to watch movies that make us laugh.  We need to get hot pink manicures.  We need to drink the champagne.

The champagne to which I refer is a bottle of Dom Perignon that a friend of mine has kept in the refrigerator for something like 15 years, waiting for the right occasion to drink it.  The champagne glass in the picture reminded me of it, and it struck me as a fitting metaphor for the way we so often live our lives. We don’t drink that champagne or use that gift certificate or wear that dress because we’re saving it for a special occasion…until the champagne goes bad, the gift certificate expires, and the dress doesn’t fit or goes out of style.

On New Year’s we make resolutions, mainly of the variety that require a great deal of self-discipline and bring us little enjoyment.  I used to make them, too, but not anymore.  Not this year, not last year.  The year before, I made two, about which I wrote on this blog:

For 2012, I have only two resolutions.  The first is to try to respond to the failings of others – my children, family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and strangers – with empathy rather than anger…. My second resolution is to respond to my own failings in the same way.  This one will be harder to keep, because I have always been a perfectionist, demanding of myself standards that no one could meet, and which I would never dream of demanding of others.

I was right; the second one was harder.   I have made progress on both of these, and continue to work on them.   They were, upon reflection, the best resolutions I ever made, and the only ones that ever made a real difference in my life.

So I offer a toast to freedom from gratuitous, oppressive New Year’s resolutions.  The dawn of a new year is a time to celebrate what we have achieved (including the lessons learned from what we have failed to achieve) and look forward to that which we hope to achieve.

 

Back when I used to be a blogger

Hyperbole and a HalfBack when I used to be a blogger — a real blogger, who posted at least 3 or 4 times a week, sometimes more — there is no way on earth I would have not heard of a blog that had 395,975 likes on Facebook, a blog that was turned into a book that, only 18 days after being published, is #8 on Amazon, with 316 reviews already and an average of 5 stars.  No way.  No.  [Unladylike expletive deleted].  Way.

But here I sit, procrastinating from doing the things on my To Do List by browsing Amazon’s biographies and memoirs category, and I see this crudely drawn, brightly colored cover of the #2 selection.  In part because hyperbole is one of my favorite words and you don’t often see it printed in childlike all caps above a cartoon drawing of a dog and a….human (?) with a yellow cone on its head, but mostly because I wasn’t ready to stop procrastinating, I clicked on the book, and then visited the blog. internet forever

The newest post was about a four-year-old (presumably the author, Allie Bosh, at four?) and a dinosaur costume that caused untold mayhem when worn.  It was entertaining.  Not enough to get me to buy the book, but enough to check out the favorite posts links on the sidebar, where I found This isWhy I’ll Never be an Adult, to which I could relate all too well.  Imagine:  stumbling onto a blog post about cyber-procrastination while you are cyber-procrastinating.  Oh, the exquisite irony!

In the post, Ms. Bosh (or should I say Allie, since she will never be an adult?) describes how she periodically decides she is going to be mature and efficient and starts doing everything she is supposed to do, but then gets burned out and ends up melting down and then back on the internet wasting time again, all illustrated with her crudely (intentionally crudely, and skillfully) drawn illustrations.  I particularly liked the chart showing the interrelationship of productivity and responsibility:

responsibility1

Yeah.  I totally get that.  I know that when I try to do too many things, I don’t do any of them well.  I know I need to prioritize,  fight the tendency to perfectionism, stop trying to be Supermom.  Maybe making that chart my desktop background will help.

I’m starting to get those Amazon numbers now.  Some of her posts are cute and un-serious, like the dinosaur costume one, some are funny but also perceptive and insightful, like the procrastination one, while others really cut to the bone, like Adventures in Depression, in which she writes:

Slowly, my feelings started to shrivel up. The few that managed to survive the constant beatings staggered around like wounded baby deer, just biding their time until they could die and join all the other carcasses strewn across the wasteland of my soul.

The effect of such lyrical prose, juxtaposed with the childlike cartoon images, is powerful.  Her succinct analogy of the impotence of shame as a motivating force, or force of will in the face of something stronger than will, is apt:

But trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back.

I have never suffered clinical depression myself, but someone close to me has, and this analogy seemed to capture the powerlessness of it pretty well.  The “Come on, suck it up” approach isn’t really effective with genuine depression, as opposed to garden variety sadness or self-pity, but most of us who have not suffered it or watched someone else suffer it do not fully comprehend the difference, and it doesn’t help that we overuse the term, saying “I’m so depressed” when we mean “I am sad,” just as we overuse the term addiction.  The post ends rather abruptly, not with therapy or medication, but with the implication that she was suddenly okay again.

Only she wasn’t, as a post from more than six months later makes manifest.  This one describes her struggle with suicidal thoughts, the difficulty of trying to make a terrible situation less terrible for those who loved her, how she finally went to a doctor and got on medication, and the light at the end of the tunnel.

I think I’ll buy the book.

 

 

The Test of Time

Daisies

You never know how long things will last.  These four daisies, for instance.  They were part of an arrangement I got more than a month ago, and as I picked the others out one by one as they withered and died, these somehow kept their youthful vigor – if youthful vigor is the appropriate term for plants.

The longevity of flowers led me to ponder the longevity of relationships.  I think about the friends to whom I was closest when I was 19, 29, 39, and now 49.   I think of how bleak my life would have been without the close friendships I have enjoyed over the years, how bleak it would be now.  I would have my children, yes, and they are more precious to me than any other person could ever be, and yet there is a lack of reciprocity in the parent-child relationship.  The parent always loves more, and the child always moves on, grows up, stakes out an independent place in the world of adults.

Friends stay with us.  Not all of them, and not always.  But the ones who do are pearls without price, and we ought never to take them for granted, whether they are with us only a short time, like the hibiscus, for longer, like the daisies, or for a lifetime, like the redwoods of the California coast.  For all of the varieties of friends I have had in this very rich life of mine, I am grateful.

Maskbook

Carnival MaskThe other day, I was talking on the phone with a friend I hadn’t spoken to for a while and she said, you are always so positive on Facebook. She meant it as a compliment, because she was telling me about another of her friends is  negative on Facebook and she finds it demoralizing. I told her that my Facebook persona is not an accurate reflection of my life. I share the positive things because I realize that people don’t go on Facebook to hear other people complain.  On Facebook or in the rest of life, people don’t generally like to hear other people complain.

But that is only part of it. The other part is that I don’t want to show people the negative parts of my life because, well, don’t we all want to appear better than we are to others? Don’t we all want to put on a good show? Don’t we all want to appear that we have it all together?

Over the past month, three of my friends told me about terrible problems they are enduring. To look at their Facebook pages or their Twitter feeds, you would never know their lives were not perfect. They all seem to have things together.  All happily married, apparently.  All with successful and impressive careers. All with beautiful, intelligent and talented children. And all living with pain I can only imagine.

The problems these three friends are dealing with are all different.  They are male and female, different ages, living in different regions of the country.  But they are alike in that they keep their struggles private. Keep the circle of those who know small. I do the same thing with my problems.

I did the same thing during the final months of my marriage. I never mentioned anything about my impending divorce to most of the people I knew, and certainly never mentioned it on Facebook. After the divorce was final, I did not change my relationship status on Facebook; I just removed that section from my page entirely. Because I did not change my name back to my maiden name, a lot of people didn’t know for months that I had gotten divorced. I remember the first time one of my status posts contained something that people could read between the lines and figure it out; I got emails and texts from old friends I had not spoken with in a while who had seen it and realized only then.

Maskbook.  That is what Facebook is. You read about your friends’ exotic vacations and gourmet meals and the cute things their kids do. You think their lives are wonderful. Maybe they are and maybe they aren’t.  I do not write this to hint that there is some great tragedy in my life. I have problems, but they are not fodder for Greek tragedy.  I write it because I do not want those of you do have some terrible tragedy in your life, one that you are hiding from the rest of the world, to feel as though you are the only one. To feel as though everyone else has it together and you’re the only one doesn’t.

They don’t. We don’t. I don’t.

We put on our masks update our status posts to suggest that we do. We tell ourselves that we do it because we want to be upbeat and positive and not bum our friends and family out by complaining on Facebook. And that’s true. But we also don’t want to show people what lies behind our masks.

Recently, a friend send me a link to a blog post about the masks we wear, and seeing behind them.  The blogger shares my first  name, but with the D everyone keeps putting in mine despite the fact it doesn’t belong there.   I’ve read a number of her other posts, and I admire her for being able to be real and honest about her feelings in a way I can’t.  Reading her blog reminded me how much I miss reading blogs, how I used to follow links from one to another, discovering hidden treasures and random pearls of wisdom.  I miss reading other people’s blogs, and miss writing my own.  So here’s my first post in 10 months.

 

The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: A Comedy in Three Acts

Setting:  The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, in the City of the Holy Faith.

Act I

Portia, Cordelia and Tess and Mom wait for mass to begin.  Tess sits with arms crossed in stone-faced silence as her ploy to skip mass by faking sick has failed.  Elizabeth is in the ladies room to minimize the time she will have to sit at the far end of the pew pretending she’s never seen these people before.

Portia (loud):  I want to go to the restaurant!

Cordelia:  [giggles]

Mom:  Ssshhh.

Portia (whispers):  I want to go to the restaurant.

Cordelia (whispers):  I want to go to the restaurant, too.

Tess:  [silence, still mad]

Mom (under breath):  I want to go to the bar.

Portia (loud):  I want to go to the bar, too!

Cordelia:  [giggles]

People in nearby pews:  [some stone-faced stares and some smiles]

Entrance procession starts.

Tess (no longer mad):  How long till it’s over?

Mom:  [sighs]

Act II

The reading, gratias deo, is about blind Bartimeus being restored to sight rather than “wives be submissive” or “if a woman divorces her husband and takes another, she commits adultery” or others of that ilk that have been featured lately.  Portia has stopped asking to go to the restaurant but is pretending to poke Tess in the eye.

Mom (whispers):  Please don’t blind Tess.  Jesus used to restore people’s sight in the old days, but lately, not so much.

Cordelia:  [rolls eyes and giggles]

Tess:  [giggles uncontrollably]

Elizabeth:  [moves even farther toward the end of the pew in vain attempt to appear never to have laid eyes on any of these people]

Priest:  What did Jesus do for Bartimaeus?

Mom (whispers to Cordelia):  Restored his sight so he could find the restaurant.

Cordelia:  [smiles]

Act III

Light at the end of the tunnel.  Mass is almost over, and Portia appears to have forgotten about both the restaurant and blinding Tess, but is fidgeting.  Mom has not forgotten about the bar.

Mom (whispers):  You’re being really good, Portia.  It’s almost over.

Deacon:  The mass is ended.  Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

Congregation:  Thanks be to God.

Mom:  Thanks be to God indeed!  Portia, you did it!  You made it all the way through a whole mass!

Sisters:  Good job, Portia!

Mom (awestruck):  She actually sat through A WHOLE MASS!  Not one trip to the bathroom.  Not one excursion to the maze.  She sat through the whole hour and fifteen minutes.

Cordelia:  I did that when I was two.

Elizabeth and Tess (long since weary of tales of Cordelia’s precocity):  [roll eyes]

Mom:  Better late than never, baby.  Better late than never.

Angels play harps and trumpets and sing alleluia.

Finis

New Years Resolutions

I’ve always been ambivalent about New Year’s resolutions.  Some years I’ve made them, some years not.  Rarely do people keep them.  In tongue in cheek recognition of this, my friend Bob Cornelius wrote on Facebook last night:

1st Resolution: Go to the gym every day. 2nd: Feel guilty for not going. 3rd: Pie & ice cream!

Denial of food and imposition of exercise are probably the most commonly made – and broken – resolutions in our society, given that two thirds of Americans are overweight, and half of those are morbidly obese.  I used to make those diet and exercise resolutions when I was young and vain.  Now that I’m middle aged and vain, I no longer do, because I already eat well, exercise often, and wear the size I want to wear.

For 2012, I have only two resolutions.  The first is to try to respond to the failings of others – my children, family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and strangers – with empathy rather than anger.  When I snap at my daughters, they’re not the only ones who feel bad; it makes me feel terrible afterward.  When, on the other hand, I handle a difficult situation with patience, common sense and compassion, the feeling of satisfaction and well-being persists long after.  It is easy to be annoyed at people when they cause us inconvenience or embarrassment or pain, but we all fail, again and again, as we  stumble through the obstacle course that is life.

Recently, I tripped over one of those obstacles and took a pretty bad fall, one that pulled a friend down with me.  Instead of being angry and making me feel worse than I already did (which was really, really awful) she responded with compassion and forgiveness – not the “Oh, it’s all right, forget it,” said with a martyred sigh and rolled eyes kind of feigned forgiveness we see so often, but the real deal.  That is how I want to treat others – the way my friend treated me, the way we all want to be treated, the way that would make the world a better place if more of us did it more often.

My second resolution  is to respond to my own failings in the same way.  This one will be harder to keep, because I have always been a perfectionist, demanding of myself standards that no one could meet, and which I would never dream of demanding of others.  Since earliest childhood, whenever I did something wrong, I would relive the moment again and again, mortified, thinking of all the ways I could have avoided doing it, what I should have done instead, demanding of myself how I could have possibly done such a stupid thing, and vowing never to make a mistake like that again.

None of this ever helped me to avoid making more mistakes, of course.  I will go on making them, just as we all do.  We usually think of vanity in relation to physical attractiveness, but thinking that one can live an error-free life is the ultimate vanity.  And just as people who make unrealistic resolutions about eating 800 calories a day and going to the gym 7 days a week set themselves up for failure, so do people who demand perfection of themselves.  It amazes me that it took until this late in life for me to realize that.  I learned to put aside perfectionism and unrealistic demands about food and exercise many years ago, which is probably why I’m not part of the overweight two thirds who make and break diet resolutions every January 1, then make a bee-line for the pie and ice cream on January 15.

If I can make progress – not triumph, not resounding success, but real progress – this year toward putting aside perfectionism and unrealistic demands about myself and others, then it will be a year well spent.

Pain

Today I read a New York Times column that made my blood run cold. It was from two days ago, written by Emily Rapp, a woman who happens to live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as I do. A woman who is a mother, as I am. A woman who has faced pain I cannot even begin to imagine.

She writes:

MY son, Ronan, looks at me and raises one eyebrow. His eyes are bright and focused. Ronan means “little seal” in Irish and it suits him.

I want to stop here, before the dreadful hitch: my son is 18 months old and will likely die before his third birthday. Ronan was born with Tay-Sachs, a rare genetic disorder. He is slowly regressing into a vegetative state. He’ll become paralyzed, experience seizures, lose all of his senses before he dies. There is no treatment and no cure.

How do you parent without a net, without a future, knowing that you will lose your child, bit by torturous bit?

I stopped cold when I read those words. I have four healthy daughters, and I can still find things in my life to complain about? I have four daughters who are beautiful, intelligent and above all alive, and I, ungrateful wretch that I am, can still think that any of the petty troubles of my life can be called pain?

When my eldest daughter was an infant, I used to have nightmares that she was dying or had died, and I would wake, gasping for breath, choked with tears, and rush to her bassinet to make sure she was still alive.  Having my first child at an age where I had given up hope of having one, having miscarried two, I never took Elizabeth for granted, and counted my blessings every day.   As time passed, and despite my age I had three more children, I stopped being so fearful, so grateful, and began to take my blessings for granted, as human beings are wont to do.

Even if Emily Rapp has three more children, she will never take them quite as much for granted as I take mine.   When I Googled Emily Rapp, I learned on her website that her life of pain did not begin with her son’s fatal illness.  Kirkus Reviews writes of Rapp’s book, Poster Child:

Born with a congenital bone and tissue disorder, the author had her left foot amputated when she was four and was fitted with an expensive, ugly prosthesis; at eight, after several operations, her entire left leg was removed. Rapp devoted her childhood to excelling, to being brave and smart…She loved being told that she was an “inspiration.” But as she entered adolescence, Rapp became more self-conscious. In particular, she worried that she would never catch a man. (She writes with elegance of losing her virginity.) Granted, she had good material to work with. Most people just have to grapple with getting the condom packet open; she had to decide whether or not to remove her leg. During college, her stoicism began to fray, and she wavered under the burden of her own attempts at perfection.

My attempts at perfection involve petty things things like trying to regain six-pack abs after four c-sections. I am humbled and ashamed by my own shallowness as I contemplate what Rapp has endured. And yet, despite the knowledge that others have suffered so much more than I, that I ought to be grateful for my two legs and four children, I am still capable of feeling my own insignificant troubles as tragedies.

For that is the way of mankind. We can tell ourselves that we are fortunate, that we ought to be grateful not to be amputees or terminally ill with cancer or political prisoners tortured by third-world tyrants. We can tell ourselves that our problems are small ones, that we should be grateful not to have real problems like Emily Rapp and the soldiers getting body parts blown off in Iraq and Afghanistan, but somehow those traffic jams and home repairs and bratty kids annoy us anyway. Even with the thought of Emily Rapp fresh in my mind, I could still get irritated today when my daughter Tess threw her ponytail holder out the car window and her ballet teacher wouldn’t let her come to lesson with hair down. My wasted money on Tessie’s ballet lesson was so trivial, in the larger scheme of things, and yet it still rankled.

Pain is integral to the human condition, and when we don’t have the real deal, we manufacture it, from the Penitentes of northern New Mexico to young people covering their bodies in tattoos to women who love the wrong kind of man, time after time.

Love and pain walk hand in hand, for Emily Rapp would feel no pain over her son if she did not love him.  Without the risk of pain, there can be no love.  If I had not loved Elizabeth, I would not have wept at the thought of losing her.  Whether a parent’s or a lover’s, there is no love without risk of pain.

For a mother, is it better to have felt the suffocating, all-consuming love for a child that I felt for my infant daughters and Emily Rapp feels for her infant son, and then to suffer the heart-wrenching loss I have known only in nightmares, than to have never known the joy of motherhood?  For a lover, is it, as Alfred Lord Tennyson said, better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?  Or is it better never to have felt that exquisite ecstasy than to have felt and then lost it, feeling as though your heart has been torn out of your chest still beating?

It has been more than half a year since I’ve written a blog post, for both professional and personal reasons.  Professionally and politically, I cannot imagine that anyone could object to this one.  Personally, I have been reluctant to write anything at all since my divorce earlier this year.   When you’re a church-going, Roman Catholic, conservative Republican, you’re expected to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.  I have felt as though my divorce made me a hypocrite, unworthy of talking the talk, or blogging the blog.

Emily Rapp gave me the courage to break my silence.  If she can bear the pain of losing a leg and losing her son, surely I can bear the shame of failing to live up to my ideals.

Of cakes and congressmen

I spent the morning baking a cake (two cakes, actually) for my daughter’s 6th birthday, and honest to goodness I wish I could bake one for Paul Ryan, too.  Watch the video of him explaining his budget plan, or if you’re feeling wonkish, read the whole 73-page plan and see why.

A massive budget crisis looms over our nation’s financial future, and everybody knows it.  It’s not a left-right issue, not just fiscal conservatives saying it.  My left-leaning fellow columnist at Capitol Report, former Democratic NM State Senator John Grubesic, knows it, and praises Ryan for his courage in offering his plan.

Not all New Mexico Democrats are as willing to face facts honestly as Grubesic.  Aspiring demagogue Ben Ray Luján, who represents my district in the U.S. House, made a speech on the House floor decrying Ryan’s plan.  Watch it in all its breathtaking vapidity on Rob Nikolewski’s Capitol Report story, also linked above.  There are no specifics in the speech, just a lot of Ben Ray’s usual talk about working families.  During his campaign against Tom Mullins last year, Luján made essentially the same speech in every debate or campaign appearance, an emotional plea to save the working families of New Mexico from the depredations of heartless Republicans.

Not that there’s anything wrong or indeed unusual about politicians repeating the same hackneyed clichés over and over throughout a campaign.  As I acknowledged in my most recent Capitol Report column, I did the same thing myself last year.   Worn out cliché or not, I believed what I kept saying, and I’m sure Ben Ray Luján believes his careworn platitudes about working families as well.

The difference is, I could and did discuss issues substantively when it was appropriate.  Preach-to-the-choir platitudes are fine for campaign rallies, but when a Congressman critiques a substantive, 73-page policy proposal, that proposal deserves a serious and substantive response, not tug-at-your-heartstrings campaign sloganeering.

At some point, I will write my own serious and substantive response to the Ryan budget plan, and to the accusation that it embodies a “let them eat cake” callousness toward working families,  but right now I have to go decorate cakes, so that dozens of little girls who have never heard of Paul Ryan or Ben Ray Luján (except my girls, who have) can eat them.

New Mexico in Focus

I’ll be a panelist on The Line this afternoon, the talking heads portion of New Mexico in Focus, a public television show taped at KNME in Albuquerque.    The show airs on Channel 5 (if you have Comcast) Friday at 7:00 pm and Sunday at 6:30 a.m., but if you’re like me and watch pretty much everything at your convenience on the computer, you can see it here.

Among the topics to be discussed is how legislative efforts to streamline our state government have failed. Capitol Report New Mexico ran a story last year featuring the organizational chart that shows the structure of NM state government.  As the story indicates, Capitol Report managing editor Rob Nikolewski originally found the chart on my Facebook page when I was running for state representative.  The original source is at the NM Legislature’s website.

While I was working at the legislature this past session, I used to stop and look at the wall chart version (3 feet high and nearly 7 feet long) that hung in the House Minority office, and never ceased to be amazed at it.  I actually thought about getting a copy for myself from Legislative Council Services, but decided not to since a) that’s pretty geeky, and b) it might be outdated after the Legislature followed all those Government Restructuring Task Force recommendations and streamlined it.

I should have known better.

Life after the legislative session

At long last, I’m writing again.

Not that I haven’t been writing, of course. For the past two months, as an analyst at the New Mexico House of Representatives, I did a great deal of writing, but writing analysis of proposed legislation is a very different business from blogging.   At least it was until the final week of session, when I was tired and occasionally let a little editorializing creep in.

Falling somewhere in between the highly structured and disciplined practice of bill analysis and the stream-of-consciousness anything-goes-ness of blogging is political punditry, and I’m back at that as well.  My first two post-legislative session columns at Capitol Report New Mexico are up:  What’s wrong with the New Mexico Legislature, Part I, and a new one today about Susana Martinez’s planned veto of a tax increase.

I meant to write the first one the day after the session ended, but I couldn’t seem to get enough sleep those first few days after all that I’d missed.  The daylight hours were devoted first to the girls in attempted expiation for having been an absentee mother, and second to exercise, since working 14 hour days was inducing endorphin withdrawal and incipient obesity (I may never again think of the Roundhouse without a double-entendre).

The picture is apropos of nothing.  I just like the New Mexico sky when it looks like this, and for too many weeks I was indoors during the daylight hours and missed seeing it.

Going offline for a while

For reasons I am not at liberty to discuss, I will be unable to write again here until March 19. My column at Capitol Report and my appearances on KSNM News New Mexico will resume after that date as well.

On liberty, civility, and the lessons of history

My latest column at Capitol Report New Mexico is up.

I’ll be on the radio on KSNM at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow (Wed., Jan. 26).  My regular time will be Tuesdays at 7:00, but this week had to reschedule to Wednesday.  Schedule of the show’s other interesting New Mexico guests is in the right column here.

Youngest blogger in Santa Fe?

My 7-year-old daughter wants to start a blog. Yes, really.  She writes long stories for her sisters and friends already (she’s the one who started reading when she was 3) so I know she’s serious.

She’s has had a g-mail account for a long time, so setting up a blog for her on Blogger will be easy. I’m just not sure about safety issues. I think they have a feature where the blog can be kept private, so friends and family can read it but not the entire population of the World Wide Web, but I’ll have to check.

I knew I wouldn’t be the only writer and blogger in the family forever.  I just didn’t think it would happen so soon.

The earnestness of being important

My fellow Capitol Report New Mexico columnist, former State Sen. John Grubesic, observes in today’s column:

Ninety-five percent of the people in that building think that they are the most important people in New Mexico (myself included).

Ninety-six percent of the people outside of that building would have a tough time naming who represents them in Santa Fe and 97 percent don’t care.

As a citizen and political activist, that depresses me, but as a brand new (temporary) state employee spending more waking hours at the Roundhouse than at my house, I am most amused.

News New Mexico

I was on News New Mexico with Jim Spence and Dr. Michael Swickard on KSNM 570 this morning, and am going to be a weekly contributor to the show.  Once we pick a regular time, I’ll post it.

The show airs from Las Cruces, NM, but they have a very user-friendly podcast. There is also a blog that goes along with the show. This morning I was on for the last fifteen minutes of Hour 1.

My new jobs

This is my new office.  Yes, it’s the Roundhouse, home of the New Mexico State Legislature.  No, they didn’t do a recount and discover I’d won the election after all.  I’m working as a bill analyst, poring over every piece of proposed education legislation proposed in the House and producing analyses for the Republican members.

The Democrats have their own analysts – yes, that’s analysts plural.  Because they’re in the majority, they get two analysts to go over education bills, while the minority Republicans get no one but me. Just in case you were worried that enough of your tax dollars weren’t being spent on this, rest assured that there are also analysts that work for the House committee as a whole as well (hired by the Democratic majority, naturally).   Now multiply this by every committee in the House (you can see the committees here once the assignments are published to the website, probably tomorrow).  And then — what, you thought I was finished? — there’s the same exact set-up over on the senate side.

A hundred years ago, the men who wrote the Constitution of the State of New Mexico set up a part-time, unpaid citizen legislature.  They figured the lawmakers would come to Santa Fe for a month or two, pass a budget, introduce and vote on a couple of laws most of them agreed were necessary, and then go back to their farms and ranches and mines and shops.  They figured the lawmakers would write their own bills and read each others’ bills without the assistance of an army of analysts.

The more things change, the more they…change, in this case.  Life has gotten complicated over the past century, and government even more so.  It’s something our Founding Fathers saw coming more than two centuries ago.  As James Madison wrote in Federalist 62,

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws be made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.

If I sound as though I’m biting that hand that feeds me, albeit temporarily (my position is only for the 60 days of the legislative session), I’m only trying to be honest.  The fact is, the NM legislative machinery has become so cumbersome that the legislators can’t get along without analysts, secretaries and all manner of other support staff.

Without this army of state employees, they’d have to stop passing so many laws, and such complicated laws.  That would mean drastically streamlining the state government, since the bureaucratic behemoth with which we are presently saddled could not function without those laws.  This is all completely hypothetical, of course, since we all know something like that is even more unlikely than getting a new Speaker of the House.

I briefly discussed the explosion of legislation this week in the course of my other new endeavor, writing a weekly column for Capitol Report New Mexico.

Reflections on the campaign

The election is over, at long last.  I didn’t win, but with only 16% of the voters in the district being Republican, that wasn’t entirely a surprise.  I hope to be blogging regularly again as soon as the dust settles.  In the meantime, here’s a piece I wrote for Capitol Report New Mexico, one of my favorite NM political news sites — and not just because they invited me to share with their readers what I learned on the campaign trail.

I miss my blog

Several people have told me over the last few months that they miss my blog. I miss it, too. I knew it had been a long time since I’d written, but when I looked today and saw that my last post was in May, I was stunned. I hadn’t realized it had been that long.

Part of why I haven’t posted lately is simply that I’m too busy because of my campaign.  But part of it is that, as a candidate, I can’t seem to write as freely as I used to.  It’s made me more reticent on Facebook as well.  I used to have just 75 or so close personal friends and relatives on Facebook, but now my friends list contains all sorts of people I know through politics — including journalists.

I’m not the only candidate who feels constrained by the perception of living in a glass house.  Bob Cornelius, who lost the Republican primary to Matt Rush in the race for New Mexico Land Commissioner this past June, was nothing short of hilarious on Facebook in the weeks after the primary, at last able to cut loose from his political straitjacket and be the really funny guy he is.

Adam Kokesh, who lost the New Mexico 3rd Congressional primary to Tom Mullins, has been far more outspoken since the end of his candidacy.   You can hear some of Adam’s irreverance on his radio show, Adam vs. the Man, which I actually co-hosted (but was quite the restrained and proper candidate) last week.   The You Tube videos of my stint on the show are here, They’ll be up on my campaign website in the next couple of days, along with my appearance on a local TV show, Living Santa Fe.

I can’t promise many more posts before the election, but I’ll try.

Rally at the Roundhouse

Tomorrow morning  I’ll be at a rally for Republican Candidate for Governor, Susana Martinez

Friday, May 28, 2010 at 10:00 am
At the Front of the State Capitol Building
490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico

If you’re there, please introduce yourself. I’ll be the one with all the kids.

My daughters’ political ad debut

The Russell girls, in a tiny but spectacular portion Adam Kokesh’s ad:

Kokesh for Congress Ad

Projections…and projection

Joe Monahan writes about the New Mexico governor’s race,

[S]ome of our analysts see a developing problem for Susana [Martinez] — the strength of GOP lieutenant governor candidate John Sanchez. He is spending heavily on TV and is the favorite to take the prize over Brian Moore and Kent Cravens. But will many GOP voters want to balance their ticket by voting for an Anglo governor candidate and therefore shy away from Martinez? It’s a possibility, but there’s little she can do about it.

I don’t know any Republicans who would have a problem with a Martinez-Sanchez ticket on ethnic grounds.  The people I know who are supporting Weh, Turner, Arnold-Jones, Domenici, Cravens or Moore are not doing so out of the desire for some sort of ethnically balanced ticket.

The idea that any of my fellow Republicans would decide not to vote for a ticket that contained two candidates committed to reining in the out-of-control growth of government that is crippling our state, just because both of those candidates happened to have Spanish surnames, is absurd.

If Democrats really think Republicans are such bigots that we’d rather have more of the Richardson-Denish politics as usual than have a Republican governor and lieutenant governor who share our values and our priorities, then they are simply projecting their own race-obsessed political sensibilities onto us.

Federal health care law hurts New Mexicans

According to the New Mexico Independent, a “quirk” in the Federal Health Care Monstrosity of 2010 will mean higher premiums for thousands of New Mexicans.

Why? It’s complicated. My eyes started to glaze over the first time I read the story and I had to backtrack several times to figure out exactly what was going on.

Why am I not surprised? Because when hundreds of Congressmen pass a multi-thousand-page behemoth of a bill that none of them have read and few of them even begin to understand, bad things happen.  Truly, this is not something it takes an advanced degree to understand.

This is why Republicans are against government takeovers of huge swaths of the economy.  Big Government = you lose.

And don’t think you’ve seen the end of the bad things happening. Not by a long shot. That monster bill is going to be a long time unveiling all its “quirks,” as NMI’s Trip Jennings kindly calls the legislative land mines on which we will all be stepping for years to come.

Stop the carnage

The drunk driver who killed an 18-year-old woman last month had a blood alcohol level five times the legal limit.   When I saw the photos of the twisted wreckage and read that Cecilio Jaramillo had been driving in the wrong direction when he crashed head-on into Mariah Arguello, I would have bet that his BAC was at least three times the legal limit, since as I wrote in this column for the New Mexico Independent, it isn’t people who have one or two drinks before driving who generally commit vehicular homicide.

Whenever I read one of these tragic stories in the paper, I wait for the follow-up story in which it is almost inevitably reported that the killer, often driving the wrong way, had a BAC twice, three times, four times or more than the legal limit, and that he (occasionally she, but more often he) had multiple previous convictions for DWI.  The New Mexican reported that Jaramillo had been arrested twice for DWI; it was not clear whether he had ever been convicted.

I have often heard it claimed, as in this page at DrugLibrary.org, an organization dedicated to the legalization of drugs, that most DWI fatalities are caused by people without previous convictions.  DrugLibrary claims that

FARS data indicate that 2,252 drivers with at least one prior DWI were involved in fatal crashes in 1992 while 47,880 other drivers involved in fatal crashes did not have a prior DWI on their record.

I would be willing to bet that this is simply not true, and I have been trying to get in touch with someone at FARS (the Fatal Accident Reporting System) to verify it.   The figures are partially broken down by state, and (surprise) New Mexico has the highest percent (47%) of fatal crash drivers with previous DWI convictions.  I still think this figure is low, because just about every fatal crash I read about involves a driver with multiple previous DWI convictions.

The most egregious case I  have encountered is that of Apolonio Lopez, who was just arrested for the 18th time for DWI.   In less than 30 years of driving, the 44-year-old Lopez has managed to get arrested for drunk driving 18 times.  Imagine how many times he’s endangered innocent motorists without being caught.  Court records show that he has been convicted of DWI at least nine times.

I would like to know why we New Mexicans stand for someone who presents such a clear and present danger to innocent motorists and pedestrians — and who has demonstrated such obvious contempt for the law — to remain at liberty.   He was driving with a revoked license when he was arrested for the 18th time.

As I wrote in the New Mexico Independent last year,

When I looked up the sentencing minimums and maximums on the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s Web site, I was stunned almost speechless by how light the sentences were:

A first offense carries a minimum sentence of 48 hours and a maximum of 90 days. For a second offense, 96 hours to 364 days. The third time gets you 30 to 364 days, the fourth 6 to 18 months, the fifth 1 to 2 years, the sixth 18 to 30 months, and the seventh 2 to 3 years.

Are they kidding?

Someone convicted of driving drunk seven times can be incarcerated for a maximum of three years? Anyone who is caught and convicted of endangering the lives and limbs of his fellow New Mexicans seven times ought to be locked up and have the key thrown away.

I’d be in favor of a life sentence for the fifth conviction, maybe even the fourth. And the third certainly ought to get you a lot more than a single year minus a day — especially if you’re at double or triple the legal limit.

Those sentencing guidelines need to be revised, and revised immediately. Repeat drunk drivers, the kind who routinely drive with blood alcohol levels well above the legal limit, need to be taken off the streets, and kept off.

Take a look at those sentencing guidelines.   Do you want your spouse, your parents, your children, your grandchildren driving on streets where people with contempt for the law and a complete disregard for the lives of their fellow man are free to drink, drive and kill because the lawmakers of New Mexico don’t have the backbone to pass the kind of sentencing guidelines that will keep these people off the public streets and highways?

This is one of the many reasons that I am running for State Legislature, District 47.

Michelle Malkin vs. Adam Kokesh

Adam Kokesh is a candidate in the Republican primary for a New Mexico Congressional seat that Republicans virtually never win.  Third District GOP candidates rarely make it onto the radar screens of the Big Guns of the national political scene.  To be sure, Michelle Malkin is one of those Big Guns, and the day before yesterday, she fixed her cross-hairs on Adam Kokesh.

Congratulations, Adam.  When Michelle Malkin picks on you, you’ve hit big time.

Malkin calls Kokesh “an anti-war smear merchant in GOP clothing” and urges her readers who have friends and family in New Mexico to “make sure they know who the real Adam Kokesh is.”

Does Ms. Malkin, I wonder, know who “the real Adam Kokesh” is?  I’m  not sure, but I’d guess she doesn’t know Mr. Kokesh personally.  When I see Adam at the New Mexico State GOP Convention tomorrow, I’ll ask him.  Because, you see, I do know Adam Kokesh.

Michelle Malkin has no doubt read the anti-Kokesh smears circulating on Free Republic, and has seen photos of him at anti-war protests, and believes that he dishonors the U.S. Marine Corps uniform he once wore by his anti-war activism.  I believe, on the other hand, that when Adam Kokesh volunteered as a Marine and then risked life and limb serving in Iraq, he earned the right to say whatever he damn well pleases about that war.  I may disagree with him about whether the U.S. should immediately pull all of our troops out of Iraq, but I would never presume to call a man who fought in that war unpatriotic.

What Michelle Malkin has not seen is Adam Kokesh driving up and down the highways of New Mexico building a grassroots campaign organization that is stronger than that any other Republican has built in our 3rd district in recent memory.  She has not seen him at high schools and colleges and Indian reservations and VFW meetings and Republican county meetings and candidate forums and Tea Parties and just about anyplace else New Mexicans gather.  I have seen Adam at more Santa Fe political events than any other candidate who is running for state or national office this year.  I can’t imagine how he keeps up the pace, but keep it up he does.

New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District is generally considered a lost cause for Republicans, and it is difficult to get good candidates to spend their time and money running for a seat that they have historically had little hope of winning.  Bill  Redmond did it in the special election of 1997 due to a lucky confluence of circumstances, but he was promptly ousted the next year by Democrat Tom Udall.  When Udall left the seat to run successfully for the U.S. Senate, Democrat Ben Ray Luján, who had little to recommend him as a candidate, beat Republican Dan East handily, even with liberal independent candidate Carol Miller siphoning off some of his votes.

Perhaps Michelle Malkin doesn’t mind if Ben Ray Luján, who has voted in perfect lock-step with President Obama’s leftist agenda,  is re-elected to the seat this November.  But I’m a New Mexican, and I do mind.  For the first time since 1997, this district actually has a viable Republican candidate, a candidate who works like I’ve never seen a candidate work, and has built one of the best campaign organizations I’ve ever seen.

Malkin calls his anti-war activism unpatriotic, but it is precisely his anti-war credentials that just may win over enough liberals in this district to elect him.   Northern New Mexico is dominated by Santa Fe, “the City Different,” which is as left-wing as Berkeley or Santa Monica, California.  A Congressional candidate who echoes Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh on every issue doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected here.  Adam Kokesh does.

Why I don’t blog much these days (part 3)

This is Cordelia at the ice rink, where the three big girls and I have been spending quite a bit of our time lately. Skating is great exercise, and great fun, but it eats into my writing time.

As if I didn’t have time management problems enough, my husband and I are going to take up racquetball again, which we haven’t played since the dark ages before we were married.

Being physically fit feels wonderful, but it was a heck of a lot easier when I was younger and had fewer responsibilities.

Why I don’t blog much these days (part 2)

At the moment, I can be thin or I can be interesting, but I cannot possibly be both.

Why I don’t blog much these days (part 1)

This is Portia’s new hobby.

It’s only fun if she has on her clothes and, ideally, her shoes as well.

Therefore, anytime I fill or drain the bathtub, I need to stay in the room, or post a guard.

Regrettably, the guards (the older girls) are the sort that would get themselves and their fellow soldiers killed if they were on real guard duty in a real army.

Did the Iranians hack Facebook this time?

I was just wondering, because I’ve been having a world of trouble with it the past few days.

Were I superstitious, I might suspect it was a sign I should be doing something more productive with my time. Mercifully, I am not.

Is he or isn’t he? Only his bartender knows for sure.

I just discovered another very cool thing WordPress 2.9 lets you do — embed video right into your blog just by pasting the You Tuble URL. You don’t have to use the “insert video” icon, or even paste in the embed code. Just the URL text, right into the post.

I know, I know. It’s absurd that I didn’t know this before, but I am not great with the technical side of things. I’m learning, but I’m not there yet. Not by a long shot.

So anyway, I thought this speech by Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) would be suitable for Moralia’s maiden voyage into the world of video — a voyage now christened with champagne, or Scotch, or whatever it is the good Senator’s poison might be.

Just because I can

I have nothing in particular to say about Raphael’s School of Athens, but uploaded it just because I like it, and just because I can.

If I was going to write something interesting, it would be about my insane fellow countrymen who think we should all have to take our shoes off to get on planes, and be told we can’t use the bathroom or read books for the last hour of our flights, because we don’t want to allow airport screeners to use full body scanners or to engage in profiling of potentially dangerous passengers, and don’t want to stop letting people who want to kill us come and live in our country.

But I don’t have time, so here’s one of my favorite pictures instead.  Not only is it beautiful, but it features one of my favorite philosophers of all time, who, if he were alive today and living in the U.S., I am quite certain would agree with me about the TSA lunacy.

Why I am so clever

The post title is pinched from a chapter title in one of Friedrich Nietzsche’s books.  I cannot remember which one, because I had time either to look it up or pinch and upload a picture of philosophy’s bad boy, but not both, so I chose the latter.

And yes, that means that I can now insert photos into my blog whenever and wherever I want, thanks to a very nice and very competent web designer named Canton Becker, whose services I cannot recommend highly enough if you happen to live in or around Santa Fe and need a website built or repaired.

Thanks to Mr. Becker, I am now also happily upgraded to WordPress 2.9, the brand new version, which is better than the old in myriad ways.

Life is good, even if the country is going to hell in a handbasket.

So you think I’m too young to use a knife?

Go ahead and try to take it…out of my cold, dead hands.

Obviously, I figured out how to get a new photo onto the blog, since Portia was a little bitty baby when my technical difficulties began.  I still can’t upload pictures to the blog, but I can upload them to Flickr or Picasa and then paste the photo URL into the post.

Well, I could when I put this picture in, but I can’t anymore.   I did that with a couple of test photos, and then that application (is that what you call it?) started to malfunction as well, and now I can’t even get pictures in that way anymore.  I am really at a loss to explain this.

But there is light at the end of the Technical Difficulties Tunnel.  I have found a consultant in Santa Fe who knows far more about WordPress than I do, and we have an appointment for the Monday after Christmas.  So get ready to go back to the good old days of Blogging with Pictures.  I can’t promise to produce photo essay after photo essay like my friend MIT Mommy, but at least Moralia will not be a monochrome world anymore…except of course when the right picture is black and white.

Am I blue

You’ve seen this picture before.  You’re not seeing a new one because I have been unable to upload new images to my blog for many, many months now, and it’s really got me, well, blue.

It used to be so easy.  I’d press the “insert an image” icon, and then click the “Choose files to upload” button and choose whichever of my many JPEGs struck my fancy.  Now, I click the “Choose files to upload” button and nothing happens.  Nothing at all.

Obviously, I can still use previously uploaded photos, and since the monochromatic monotony of my blog was starting to get to me, I thought I’d re-use a couple of my favorites while I try to figure out how to upload some new ones.

For you young folks, the post title is the name of a very old song.  Please excuse the poor sound quality — not to mention the politically incorrect costuming and props — but Ethel Waters sure can sing.

How the other half lives

Not the rich other half, or the poor other half, but the other half that has two children.  What’s the average for American couples now?  2.1 children?  1.9?  Something like that.  This week, I have 2.0 because 2.0 of my 4.0 are in California with my husband.  The house is quieter.  The laundry doesn’t pile up as fast.  Meal planning is easier.  But I sure do miss them.

My 8-year-old and 4-year-old are the ones on holiday, getting to eat a dazzling array of sweets and watch appalling amounts of telly at their grandmother’s house, and my 6-year-old and 1-year-old are home with me.

Here on the home front, baby Portia is on a campaign of devastation that reminds me of the credit card commercial where the Vikings (or was it the Mongols?) are trashing a department store (or was it some other kind of store?).  The commercial is a few (or was it many?) years old, but you get the idea.  That’s Portia, battle-axe in hand, making like a Valkyrie and my house is an Irish monastery.

Cordelia, my 6-year-old, is wonderfully helpful, as she always has been, but she’s also been expecting to be treated like a pampered only child in her sisters’ absence, so yesterday after I took her and Portia to the top of the Sandia Mountains on the tram, then to lunch at the restaurant of her choice, then to the public indoor pool (Portia was with the babysitter for that) where she went down the amazingly awesome water slide about a hundred times and played “Drown Mommy” to her heart’s content, she wanted to know, “Okay, where are we going now?”

I guess maybe the other half works hard, too.

Take two aspirin and call me when you’re terminal

First we heard that 40-something women like myself no longer need to have mammograms, and women over 50 don’t need them annually.  Now we get to cut back on Pap smears to test for cervical cancer as well.

Over the next week or so, presumably, we can expect to hear that prostate screenings can be pushed back to every 5 years over age 70, and colonoscopies…well, why not just get rid of those nasty things altogether?

Well baby visits for infants will be scaled back to a newborn check in the hospital (an outpatient stay, if possible) and a check-up on the first birthday.  After that, it’s see you when you need to get birth control pills or have an abortion if you’re a girl and, I guess, see you whenever if you’re a boy.  What about vaccinations, you’re thinking.  Well, since all the Lola Granola moms insist they have so much mercury in them that they do more harm than good, why not just dispense with them altogether?

Maybe if we get rid of all that costly, unnecessary diagnostic testing and preventative medicine, we’ll be able to afford nationalized health care after all.  I mean, if we’re all dead before we’re old enough to need nursing home care, paying for it will be a breeze.  Besides, think of the savings to Social Security.  Too bad W. didn’t think of something as beautifully simple as killing off all the old people when he tried so hard to reform Social Security.  Who needs death panels when we can just let everybody die of benign neglect?

Or maybe you think I’m being paranoid?  The New York Times does:

Arriving on the heels of hotly disputed guidelines calling for less use of mammography, the new recommendations might seem like part of a larger plan to slash cancer screening for women. But the timing was coincidental, said Dr. Cheryl B. Iglesia, the chairwoman of a panel in the obstetricians’ group that developed the Pap smear guidelines. The group updates its advice regularly based on new medical information, and Dr. Iglesia said the latest recommendations had been in the works for several years, “long before the Obama health plan came into existence.”

She called the timing crazy, uncanny and “an unfortunate perfect storm,” adding, “There’s no political agenda with regard to these recommendations.”

Thank God.  It’s all just a big, incredible coincidence.  Don’t I feel silly.

Transparency in action: your tax dollars into the abyss

Jim Scarantino of the New Mexico Watchdog reports that $6.4 billion in federal stimulus dollars has gone to non-existent congressional districts.  Yes, you read that right:  non-existent districts.

Ed Pound at the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, blamed the apparent disbursement of your tax dollars into non-existent congressional districts

on the recipients not knowing in which congressional districts they live. He said recovery.gov did nothing wrong, because it reported incorrect information correctly. “Our job is data integrity, not data quality,” he said.

Data integrity, not data quality.  Ah, I see.  The quality of data is irrelevant to the guys at the Accountability and Transparency board.  Well, that’s some transparency and accountabilty, all right.  I wonder what the IRS would say if I showed up at an audit with a bunch of receipts from non-existent businesses, and told them I had reported incorrect information correctly.

I’m getting to this story a bit late, as Jim writes on his Facebook page that Drudge, Limbaugh and even the Washington Post have already picked up the story.  I just checked Drudge, and sure enough, the story is the top headline, though it links the ABC story rather than the NM Watchdog’s.

I have an idea the New Mexico Watchdog is going to become one those websites that well informed people cannot afford to miss reading.  Maybe you didn’t hear it here first, because I’m sure a lot of other people are saying the same thing, but you did hear it here.

A post, finally, amid snow flurries, typing lessons and sneaky back-door tax increase elections

Just a quick note to let my readers know I haven’t taken leave of the land of the living.  It’s been a very busy couple of weeks.  I’ve done some reassessment of priorities, and have really focused on getting our schooing routine in order and, to a lesser extent, getting my exercise regimen going again.  Just keeping up with the everyday things has left me with less computer time than usual, and when I’m here, I’m usually getting caught up on the news rather than commenting on it.  I don’t have time for both, and one can’t do the latter without first doing the former.

It snowed last night and this morning, the second or maybe the third time this fall.  Or is it winter now?  With snow on the ground, it’s sort of hard to think of it as autumn still, but I suppose it is.  This will be my fourth winter in Santa Fe, and snow is finally starting to seem like a normal part of life.

Today was a busy day.  Religious ed for the girls in the morning, and for me one of those parent classes Catholic churches make us take when our kids are preparing for sacraments (Elizabeth will make her first confession and first communion this year).  Keeping Portia relatively calm while being taught things I already know left me tired.

Then it was off to lunch (the pizza place which Portia trashed by throwing all her food on the floor) and then the babysitter’s to leave the kids while I went to the GOP phone bank and made a lot of calls about the election this Tuesday to increase the Santa Fe County sales tax.  I convinced two people who were planning to vote yes to vote no instead, and informed quite a few people who hadn’t heard there was even going to be an election (it’s a single-issue ballot and the sneaky bastards know people don’t pay attention when it’s not a presidential or gubernatorial election) when and where they should vote.  That was tiring, too, but worth doing.

The little girls are in bed but the big girls are up way past their bedtime, transfixed by Typing Instructor for Kids, which my friend and fellow homeshooling mom Lisa recommended, and for which I thank her profusely.  I’ve been wanting to teach them to type properly, using the correct fingers, for ages, but just couldn’t seem to get around to finding the right program.  Thanks to Lisa, we found it, and the girls love it and are really doing well.  We’ve only just started using it, but so far I’m very impressed.

Meanwhile, around the blogosphere, my friend MIT Mommy is having fun and being very silly in Japan.  Anne, the Palm Tree Pundit, gave me a quote of the day post, an honor which I share with Mark Steyn.  It’s not every day I’m placed in such august company.  Mahalo, Anne.  Pauline is writing her post titles in Polish again.  Patrick is reading his fellow Hawaiian (that’s the President for the non-birthers among us) the riot act again.

What’s new

My posts have been few and far between lately, compared to my output a few months ago, say.  This business of educating one’s own children is a responsibility that’s been weighing heavily upon me of late.  When you homeschool, and your kids turn out to be ignorami, there’s nobody else to blame.  That’s some pressure, I tell you what.

In case you’re wondering about the recent lack of “It’s Tuesday, so here’s the link to my new NMI column” posts, it’s because I’m no longer writing for the New Mexico Independent.  NMI has decided to focus more on reporting and less on commentary — or less on conservative commentary, anyway, which at that illustrious publication consisted of me, myself and I.  Their three remaining columnists, Arthur Alpert, Tracy Dingman and V. B. Price, are all good, solid liberals.  Long live diversity.

In many ways, it was a relief to give up the column.  I had really been feeling the time pressure intensely, trying to juggle too many things in too few hours, and another project (besides the homeschooling and childcare and running a household and all that stuff that really ought to take care of itself but somehow doesn’t) has pushed its way to the front of the list, and I really need to get to work on it.  It’s not something I want to discuss on the blog yet, but hopefully I will be able to before long.

What’s new politically is far more interesting than what’s new personally — a resounding Republican victory in Virginia, and what’s looking like one in New Jersey, too.  Two states Obama won easily, now swinging red.  How sweet it is.  This time, anyway, since the swing voters are swinging my way.  When His Own Fine Self is not on the ticket, the Democrat brand doesn’t shine quite as radiantly.  The sad thing is, they’ll swing back again as soon as they get bored or some other sweet young thing comes along and talks pretty.

But at Scarlett O’Hara used to say, I’ll think about that tomorrow.  Tonight I’ll savor the sweet taste of victory.

The personal and the political

The personal — On the bright side, no one in my house has swine flu yet.  On the not quite so bright side, my washing machine died with a load full of sopping wet, not-yet-clean clothes inside.

The political — I’d say Chris Christie is going to win a big, fat gubernatorial victory, wouldn’t you?

Ricardo Leon Sánchez de Reinaldo, aka Rick Sanchez, fails to toe the CNN party line in the great Taos hotel name Anglicization debate.  This isn’t new, but it’s interesting since Taos is nearby, and it’s been relatively big news here in New Mexico.  Facebook even has a Create an Anglicized Name for Rick Sanchez page, which, as you may well imagine, has quite a few less than flattering suggestions, some of which, predictably, involve a nickname for Richard that rhymes with Rick.  Santa Fe New Mexican columnist Inez Russell (no relation) is a fan, and contributes to the merriment.

Pelosi and company have delivered a 1990 page health care monstrosity. War and Peace is only about a thousand pages.  So is Gone With the Wind.  So if you were going to read the whole health care bill, it would be like sitting down and reading War and Peace from cover to cover, then immediately picking up Gone With the Wind and reading that cover to cover too — except that both of those books have interesting plots that hold your attention, and aren’t written in dense and dreary legelese.  That’s not new news either, but it’s been a busy week, non-politically speaking.  As usual.

So, off to the laundromat, I guess, kids in tow.  Dragging wet and dirty laundry across town is enough to take most busy moms’ minds off politics — and that’s exactly what Nancy Pelosi et al. are counting on.  We’re all too busy with our own lives and our own problems to pay attention to politics.  Well, not this mom.

Not this one either.   Thanks, Pauline.   Thanks for staying in the game.

Surrender Dede

That’s the headline emblazoned across the sky in this brilliant bit of photoshoppery.  It’s done in the style of the “Surrender Dorothy” the Wicked Witch of the West wrote in the sky with her broomstick.  I can’t insert it here, because of technical difficulties, but the picture is at Nice Deb and Frugal Cafe).  Nice Deb cites Hot Air and Club for Growth, but I don’t see the photo at either of those places, so I’m not sure where it originates.  As usual, I don’t have the time to spend online digging around to find out.

I cannot tell you how much Doug Hoffman‘s surge in the polls encourages me.  If angry conservatives can bring down a RINO annointed by the GOP and actually elect a third party conservative candidate, it will deal a significant blow to my longstanding cynicism.   If they bag their RINO in elephant’s clothing but end up just splitting the Republican vote so as to elect a Democrat, that will only reinforce the perception that you can’t fight the Demopublicans, and any third party effort is doomed to failure.  I hope and pray that Doug Hoffman’s supporters in New York prove that longstanding assumption wrong.  Dead wrong.  Deader than the political future of Dede Scozzafava unless she stops pretending to be a Republican and follows in Arlen Specter’s footsteps.

Perhaps the best thing about a Hoffman victory would be another nail in the coffin of Newt Gingrich’s presidential prospects.  Newt’s following the “in for a penny, in for a pound” approach on NY23, but it’s beginning to look like that pound is going to come out of his own political flesh.

Update:  I was really tired when I wrote this last night (what else is new?).  Nice Deb is the creator of the image. The New York Post has endorsed Hoffman (hat tip to McCain).

Big name Republicans like Rick Santorum, Fred Thompson, Dick Armey and Sarah Palin have broken with the Party establishment to endorse him.  I wonder who will be next?  If Mitt Romney really wants to be president — and is as smart as people say he is — it ought to be he.

The baby is teething and had me up twice last night, and once happened to be when Fox was replaying Glenn Beck’s interview with Hoffman.  I haven’t been watching much TV lately, getting all my news from the paper and the internet, so I’ve read a lot about Hoffman and seen his photo, but had never seen him on video.   He isn’t a particularly impressive speaker, not at all smooth and eloquent like Obama.  He isn’t handsome or telegenic.  He isn’t any of the things that candidates in the age of imagery usually are.  And yet he is beating both major party candidates.  He’s not doing it by good looks, snappy rhetoric or political connections.  He’s doing it by sticking to conservative principles when others will not.   This is the most important factor in the Hoffman phenomenon — and the most inspiring.

Look who’s shaving her head

My friend Tanya Van Dyke, that’s who.  She’s doing it through St. Baldrick’s, an organization that raises money for childhood cancer research.  It works like this:  someone, like Tanya, agrees to shave her head in order to get her friends and family to donate money to St. Baldrick’s for cancer research.

Personally, you couldn’t pay me (or my favorite charity) enough to shave my head, but Tanya’s less vain than I, and she’s going to — unless she chickens out (she’s pretty fearless) or her husband manages to talk her out of it (he may, but I doubt it).  I won’t shave my head, but I will donate on Tanya’s behalf, since it would be a crying shame if she shaved her lovely hair for nothing.

Sarah Palin endorses Doug Hoffman

I cannot tell you the joy with which I read that headline, via Memeorandum. Newt, digging himself in ever deeper with the party’s conservative base, reiterates his support for Dede Scozzafava.

If Doug Hoffman does defeat the GOP’s appalling nominee in the NY23 race, it just may be the wake-up call the party needs.  Or maybe I’m being unduly optimistic.  Maybe guys like Gingrich who just don’t get it are too deeply entrenched and the party will go on making gargantuan blunders and supporting candidates like Scozzafava.

We shall see.

More on NY23 from Malkin, McCain, Hot Air, Caffeinated Thoughts, Manly’s Republic, Jawa Report and Joshua Pundit.

Pearls before swine

Via Memeorandum, I read TV Newser’s report that President Obama spent two and a half hours giving an off-the-record briefing to a small coterie of left-wing media luminaries including Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC (which, unlike Fox News, actually is a news organization), Maureen Dowd, best known for overuse of sexy double-entendres in her New York Times columns,  and Gwen Ifill, author of The Breakthrough:  Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.

It’s still a relatively free country, so Mr. Obama can spend 150 minutes of his time with anyone he likes, but I find it ironic than one of his guests, Mr. Olbermann, complained on his show back in the bad old Bush days of 2006:

The President takes 90 minutes worth of your taxpayer dollars to entertain right-wing radio yackers in the Oval Office…

H/T to Allahpundit at Hot Air for that priceless little gem.

I wonder if the esteemed Mr. Olbermann — a genuine journalist if ever there was one, unlike non-journalists such as Bret Baier, Chris Wallace or Brit Hume at Fox — recalled the remark during the 150 minutes he spent hanging out with the commander in chief and  absorbing his pearls of wisdom?

Now you can stop wondering about the title.

Absentee blogger

That’s me this week, still trying to get our school routine back on track after the vacation.  There just isn’t a lot of creative energy left over for writing.  Oh, and you didn’t miss the NMI link; I took this week off, the first time I’ve done so since I began writing the column.

I’m not taking a complete media holiday, however, as I will be down in Albuquerque tomorrow to tape an episode of New Mexico in Focus on KNME.  I’ll be one of the panelists in a segment called “The Line.”  It’s the first time that I’ll have appeared on television as a political pundit.

The end of the vacation and the Nobel Peace Prize

Today I woke up in my own bed again after ten nights in various hotel beds, couches and air mattresses on the floor.  My back will take a few days to recover, both from that and from far too many hours in the car.  I’d give just about anything to spend the morning at home, doing piles of laundry and sorting through all the junk mail to find the bills, but the girls have religious ed at the Cathedral, then mass, so off I go again.

The penultimate day of our trip began for me at 5:30 a.m., and for my poor husband half an hour earlier, when he awoke in the dark, turned on the laptop and read that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize.  He read it on Free Republic, so he assumed that some Freeper had read a satire in The Onion and made a fool of himself posting it as a genuine story.  A little web surfing disabused him of this very natural assumption.

I write “poor husband” because the man had to sit there for half an hour with no one to whom to express his utter incredulity.  When I woke up and he told me, I said, “Very funny,” and went to the computer.  “No, I’m serious,” he said.  But I wasn’t falling for it.  The guy’s an inveterate joker, and likes nothing better than to telll some outrageous lie and get you to believe it, so he can then laugh at your gullibility.

My first source for news is usually Memeorandum, and sure enough, there it was:  Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize.  I laughed till I cried, literally.  My husband and I laughed so hard together we were both too breathless to explain to Elizabeth, who is a light sleeper and awoke at the sound of so much mirth, what was funny.

After incredulity and hilarity came compassion.  Poor, poor President Obama, I thought.  He must be mortified.  He thinks a lot of himself, but I was sure he would see the absurdity of the award, and could not help but be embarrassed by it.  I have little doubt that Mr. Obama has fantasized about winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but winning it in the eighth and last year of a staggeringly successful two-term presidency over the course of which he’d brought peace and joy to the world.  Nuclear weapons would be a distant memory, Ahmadinejad would bestow the kiss of peace upon Netanyahu, and the lion would lie down with the lamb.

But now those fawning jackasses in Oslo have ruined the fantasy.  They gave him the prize for doing nothing at all, and now even if he does become the greatest peacemaker in the long, bloody history of humankind, there won’t be any meaningful way of recognizing him for it.

The Wall Street Journal editorial says everything I’ve been thinking.  I have no idea what the columnists and bloggers I usually read are saying, because I’ve been too busy traveling and recovering from traveling to read them.  Maybe I’ll update later with some links, but maybe I’ll just do laundry instead.

Update:  laundry.

My mom went to Nordstrom and all I got was this lousy blog post

In the information age, having too few computers with online connections is an even greater hardship than having too few bathrooms.  Here, belatedly, is the link to my column at NMI this week.  It’s about Obama and the Olympics (and old story by now) and my take on it may surprise you.

There were so many blog posts I mentally composed while driving my tribe of children around the freeways of this accursed city, but since the sci-fi geeks of my youth were wrong and they haven’t invented USB jacks that go straight from your brain to your laptop, I was prevented from casting my pearls of wisdom before your eager eyes.  Oh well.

Tonight I’ll be at a hotel with wi-fi, so you might have an actual post to read instead of a disjointed pastiche of a tired mother’s thoughts.  Or not.

Because bloggers are supposed to post every day

Or at least every weekday.  That’s what they say.  They.  You know they, right?  I’m not sure exactly who they are, but they probably have fewer children than I do.  Or they might have more, but they are guys, and have wives to go along with all those kids.

This week, my four children and I are staying with a friend who has one child, along with another friend who brought her two children.  For those of you who went to school after they started that “new math” thing, that makes three moms and seven kids.  And, I might add, only two bathrooms.

I keep telling myself, the Von Trapps had seven children all by their own selves, so it’s really not that many, right?  Well, sort of.  The Von Trapp children were used to being one of seven (not to mention their parents being used to a houseful of servants) and it’s a little different when the children are accustomed to different sizes of households and different styles of parenting.

But my friends and I knew it would be a circus (those were our exact words) before we planned this crazy trip, and we’re still glad we came.  My back will recover from the air mattress, and we and our children will have the memories.  The good memories will remain, and the not so good ones will go the way of the backaches.

Throw enough money at Johnny and surely he’ll read

This is the title of my NMI column that ran yesterday.  Normally it runs on Tuesdays, but they ran it early.  I wanted to leave the Allen Weh interview as the top story on Monday, so I did not link to the column until today.

Coincidentally, a commenter on the Weh interview linked to his blog post casting doubt on the standard Republican platform of lower taxes and smaller government:

Look, if you want less government and lower taxes, it means you’re not going to work at solving the DWI problem and the low academic achievement in the public schools. And all the other problems that people expect government to solve.

For my rebuttal regarding education, please read my new NMI column.  For my thoughts on DWI, see an NMI column I wrote a couple of months ago.

Later this week, I’m packing up all the kids and heading for a short vacation with two of my best girlfriends and their children, so you may be reading less politics and more posts like this and this.  Or you may not be reading anything at all, if I can’t get the wireless internet to work or if I spend too much time playing Risk with the kids.

Allen Weh, candidate for governor of New Mexico

The first time I saw Allen Weh was when he addressed a meeting of the Santa Fe County GOP a little over a year ago. Weh was then chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, and as he spoke, my husband leaned over and whispered, “I’ll bet that guy’s a Marine.”

Indeed he is.  Not just a Marine, but a decorated combat veteran who served two terms in Vietnam and was recalled to active duty in the Gulf War, in Somalia, and most recently in Iraq in 2003-04.  He joined the Marines as an enlisted man, attended OCS and later UNM, and retired with the rank of Colonel.

Here in New Mexico there are no beaches, but Col. Weh hopes to storm the Capitol here in Santa Fe, first in the primary against Doug Turner, Janice Arnold-Jones and Susana Martinez, and then in November against presumed Democratic nominee Diane Denish.

I’ve always been very open about the fact that I am an active, involved Republican. I do not claim impartiality in the governor’s race. I will support whichever Republican is nominated.  Thus far I have not publicly endorsed any of the four declared candidates for the Republican nomination, since I have met only three of them personally, and would like to meet the fourth before I make my final decision.  Now that I have had the opportunity to speak with Allen Weh at some length, however, I have to say that I am impressed.

Col. Weh graciously gave me almost half an hour of his time on Saturday as he was driving down to Ruidoso, putting in one of many full days spent crisscrossing the state in his truck.  He told me that it is not unusual for him to drive 450 miles in a day, meeting with voters from Farmington to Hobbs in hopes of winning their votes in the Republican primary next spring.  I was not particularly surprised to hear it, since I myself have run into Weh at Santa Fe events no less than three times since June.  This is a man on a mission, clearly.

But what is his mission?  The issues page of his comprehensive and well-organized website highlights a number of areas in which he hopes to make an impact as New Mexico’s next governor.   The first of these is, perhaps not surprisingly, government corruption.  Weh announces on his website that

New Mexicans will see an end to special contracts for big campaign donors and personal friends.

He reiterated this promise during our interview, affirming that businesspeople who contribute to his campaign can expect only one thing from a Governor Weh:

I’m going to create a better business climate, and that’s all.

That better business climate can be created, he believes, by a fiscally responsible budget.  This means, Weh believes,

Three simple things:  keep taxes in line with the states around us, make our state government lean and efficient, and reduce unnecessary regulations.

Could he give an example, I asked, of unnecessary regulations?  He replied that the dairy, agriculture, oil, gas and mining industries were all over-regulated, and that when he meets with businesspeople in these industries throughout New Mexico, they complain about being harassed by regulations that exceed the national standards.  Weh believes this places an unfair burden on New Mexico businesses, affirming:

If it’s good enough for the EPA, it ought to be good enough for New Mexico.

This sounds more like the pronouncement of a businessman than a politician.  Then again, Allen Weh is not a politician.  He is a businessman, the founder and CEO of CSI Aviation Services.  He has never held elective office, but did serve as chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party from 2004 until January 2009.

Because 2006 and 2008 were hardly stellar years for Republicans in New Mexico, there are some who hold Weh responsible for the party’s lackluster performance.  When I asked Weh how he would respond to such criticisms, he replied:

Most people realize that a state party chairman has no control over national political headwinds, and the headwinds that compelled Republican defeats in 2006 and 2008 were the result of dissatisfaction with the disgraceful behavior of some Republican congressmen, with the failure of some Republicans in office to live up to their principles.  It was the result of dissatisfaction with President Bush’s war policies.  If someone things I’m powerful enough to compel all the changes in the national political headwinds…

Clearly, this is a man who holds no illusions about being able to “transform” New Mexico.  He is not promising Hope and Change, just a government free from corruption and over-regulation.

Education is another area which Col. Weh intends to make a priority if elected.  His website affirms that he will expand charter schools and give parents real educational choice.  When I asked if this included vouchers, he replied that he thinks vouchers would be a good thing for education in New Mexico, but acknowledged that they will be a hard sell in the legislature, and that charter schools may be the only thing he can realistically hope for.  Obviously this is one candidate who understands Harry Callahan’s sage advice:  a man’s got to know his limitations.

The last policy area we discussed was public safety.  Weh writes on his website that he plans to strengthen state police, which he says in under strength and lacks the resources it needs to protect New Mexico’s rural communities.

I asked him if prison reform would play any role in his public safety policy, and his response was immediate and emphatic:

Absolutely! We need to have a total review of our policy of incarceration, figure out who really needs to be in prison.  I want to make sure that the bad people who hurt people, people who are doing violent crimes, are put in prison and kept there.  That includes serial burglers.

For non-violent crimes, I’d emphasize some sort of non-incarceration alternative.  Weed out less violent offenders.  We need to hold them accountable, certainly, but that may not mean sleeping in a bed in a prison cell at night.

A law and order Republican who is passionate about prison reform?  A tough, no-nonsense Marine combat veteran who thinks we need a sensitive, nuanced way of dealing with crime rather than just calling for more prisons?  Then again, this is a Marine who posts on his Facebook page recipes of meals he enjoys cooking for his wife and family.

Today, Allen Weh stands out among political candidates because of his military background.  When I was young, almost every politician was a veteran.  Not always a combat veteran, but a veteran who had done military service of one kind or another.  This, of course, is no longer the case.

I asked Col. Weh how he thought his military experience had prepared him for the governorship:

There is no question that that experience has given me certain abilities to do things that no one else can unless they’ve had those experiences.  If you’ve been shot at, it builds a little character.  If you can handle that pressure, you can handle just about anything.  The experience of combat enables me to see things differently than a lot of politicians, who see crises everywhere.  They get upset and emotional about things that don’t upset me at all.  There isn’t anybody I’m afraid of.  Nobody.  Legislators on the other side of the aisle…I’ll reach out my hand to them, but I’m certainly not afraid of them.

Whether they end up being afraid of him we’ll have to wait and see.