Monday, July 27, 2009

Cautionary Tale

I have long been an advocate for adoption, but I have also long been a supporter of a woman's right to choose not to have a baby. This blog on Open Salon illustrates the pitfalls of adoption and one of the many possible outcomes.

It is an even stronger case for adequate access to birth control, especially for those women most vulnerable to unwanted pregnancy: the abused, the addicted, the mentally ill. 

Adoption is not always the best option for women who become pregnant. Even the most dedicated and courageous of adoptive families sometimes find themselves walking into the nightmare of raising children who are so damaged by the lack of healthcare for the birth mother that they will never be functional and may even be dangers to society. 

This is yet another reason that it is so important for healthcare reform. Access to adequate healthcare should be available for everyone, especially the most vulnerable women. 

Monday, June 29, 2009

Into Another Dimension

I feel like I just came back from another dimension. I traveled to France in the middle part of June to attend a workshop with poet Marilyn Kallet at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts satellite site in Auvillar, France. It was a surreal experience on several levels.

First, I traveled there alone. I've never traveled alone to a foreign country before. Flying 40,000 feet up over a big ocean without your spouse can give you the willies, especially in light of the last few weeks of plane crashes and pilot deaths. I kept thinking about what my husband would do if something happened to me and what he would do with my stuff. Visions of him sitting forlornly in the middle of my huge closet made me tear up at one point. Fortunately, the guy next to me was asleep. He was a really nice man traveling with his wife and daughter. They couldn't get seats together. Unfortunately, he worked for the airline industry and was glad to explain what he thought happened to Air France 447 over the Atlantic. Catastrophic failure. No time to signal distress. I was wide awake most of the crossing. 

When I got to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, I had to make my way by train to Orly airport on the other side of Paris for a connecting flight to Toulouse. It took a bit of tentative French to make all the right connections. I haven't spoken French in France for over 20 years. I reviewed for a couple of months before I left, but when a little stressed, my mind tends to hit the pause button too much. After a while, I got pretty good at it, though. Give me a month there, and I'd start thinking in French, which is what one really needs to do in order to function well. Yes, quite a few people speak English there, especially in the big cities, but when I travel, I like to not be such a tourist. It served me well one night at dinner when I was seated with a French couple. The wife did not speak much English, and she was gracious enough to speak French slowly. Another table mate had studied French intensively before he came, so listening to him converse with the husband in French meant that I was surrounded by this beautiful language. It tilts one's world a bit when this happens. 

I was really in rarified company during the workshop. I've been writing for a long time, and I was an English professor, but the talent pool was very deep, so I was a bit uneasy about being out of my comfortable depth. I needn't have worried. Everyone was supportive and encouraging. So not only were we surrounded by French, we were deep in our own language, our private language, our inner language. We were synchronous swimmers. That doesn't always happen in writing workshops. Sometimes there are sharks. I don't think that ever happens at VCCA.

The light is different in France. The air is so clear that everything is bathed in clarity. My photos don't quite get the light, but they come close. My picture of St. Catherine's Church near the river is exquisite, and it was the first thing I saw as I walked out the door of my little rental house, or "gite" as they are called in France. I think the reason the air is so clear is because the French have dedicated themselves to alternative power sources. I saw wind turbines everywhere. One of the strangest juxtapositions was when I was driving on the interstate to Carcassonne and saw several wind farms, but one was particularly striking. It was just behind a large cathedral on a hilltop so that this ancient structure's backdrop was this modern sculptural form. Another strange pairing was the Golfech nuclear plant just down the road from Auvillar as seen from the 13th Century walls of the town. It's disconcerting to be that close to something so potentially lethal, but the French seem to be very proficient at safety. They have to be. They derive nearly 90% of their electric power from nuclear and are Europe's leading exporter of electric power. 

While I was there, I did not have the allergy symptoms I have here in East Tennessee. I'm not allergic to pollen. I'm allergic to pollutants, small particulates, dust and mold, and  I take two strong allergy medicines for my allergies, but while I was in France, I felt healthier. I felt like I was in one of those Clariten commercials, the one where a film is peeled away, and the world is suddenly, well, clearer: "Clariten clear." Our coal fired power plants don't allow for that kind of clear. 

So I am back from my sojourn to France, back to my good and loving husband, suitcase unpacked, poems to be polished, needy cat in my lap, Kleenex box nearby. And Chilhowee Mountain stands shrouded in haze to the Southeast. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Alcohol Was Involved

I have a new post on Open Salon about our idiotic bill allowing handguns in bars. You can find it here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

New Post on Open Salon

I have a new post on Open Salon about my experience with a ghost. Here's the link:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I'm on

I am currently posting on's Open Salon. The link is

Monday, March 23, 2009

We lost a good man and a good friend last week. He was brilliant, funny, caring and loving and only 57 years old. One of the most painful parts of losing him was seeing the agony on the faces of everyone else who loved him and knowing that we'll never again see his sweet face or hear his rumbling laugh. He was a big man, and his passing leaves a big hole in our lives. The very worst part of his dying, however, was that it was so preventable. 

I said he was a big man. He was big physically as well as figuratively, and Type II diabetes had insinuated itself into his life and ultimately led to his death. It's the familiar  story of not enough exercise, too much food and loads of stress. Walking once a week is not enough. That's all he would attempt, and even that became difficult in the last couple of years. Ironically, he never did drugs, not even alcohol. He thought it made him lose control of his intellect. Food was always his comfort drug of choice, but food can be just as addictive and dangerous.

At first, when he found out he had diabetes, he lost weight and tried to exercise, but I think the stress of his job finally got to him. He didn't want to be where he was. He was a thinker, a philosopher. He wanted to teach, but his father's death threw him into a world of chaos: spreadsheets, employee relations, projections and the bottom line. So he gave up. He didn't watch what he ate and tested his blood sugar just enough to see if he could eat that piece of cake or ice cream sundae after all. He gained weight and began the slow spiral downward that led to kidney problems and finally congestive heart failure and cardiac arrest. Our big hearted friend's big heart stopped, and our hearts are broken. 

Our sweet philosopher became a statistic, a cautionary tale, one we see too often here in Tennessee. It didn't have to end like this. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Broken Arrows

I have just read a really disturbing article on about the Quiverfull movement in the evangelical community. The premise behind the movement is that good Christians need to have as many children as possible as weapons in the fight to make Christianity the world religion. The women in this movement are essentially thought of as baby makers and subservient to God and their husbands. It is anti-feminist, patriarchal, and just damn nuts. Here's the link: Please read it. It's an eye opener. The article illustrates my growing concern that the human race is going to birth its way right out of existence if we don't choose to limit population growth. I don't believe in government involvement in family planning. We're not China, but it may come to the point where someone needs to be sure the children in these families are well taken care of and take appropriate measures if they aren't. 

The gist of the article is this: the movement itself is growing exponentially, but the toll it is taking on women is growing as well. Many are opting out after realizing the hardship it drops on the older children when the mother either breaks down or suffers illness and injury from so much childbirth and caregiver stress. If they drop out, they are, of course, shunned, made to feel like failures and sinners against God, and many lose their children in custody battles with the fathers. The few who don't lose their children then have the hardship of bringing them up as single mothers. It's a no win situation unless they can get help. Let's hope they find it.