Monday, October 31, 2005

I Heart Jethrine

If I were going to dress up for Halloween this year, I think I would be Jethrine from the Beverly Hillbilles.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Glenda the Good

Welcome to my first audio post, a little tribute to my friend Glenda. She is a techie/artie (tartie?) friend of mine who was here this week to inspire the Indianapolis Museum of Art to do creative things with the Web. She stopped by the house for dinner on Wednesday night for a visit. I have no idea how I'll use this feature in the future. If you do, let me know.

this is an audio post - click to play

Glenda rides every Web wave in sight on her blog. Check it out here.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Hard Candy Halloween

I love fall and I think good Halloween decorations are underrated. I tend to go for fun rather than scary ones even though I enjoyed being scared when I was a kid.

It's hard for me to believe now, but back in the 70s and 80s our church, which was about 150 years old then, used to let our singles group turn the whole place into a haunted house! Three floors worth of scary--there was a vampire in the youth room and a mad scientist hatcheting brains and stuff out in fellowship hall. A big ghost would fly down the center of the sanctuary while our organist dressed like the Phantom of the Opera played Bach's Tocatta and Fugue. Classy!

Once the haunted house was in the Sunday School annex, a really old house next to the church. One of the guys in the singles class dressed up like Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He chased people through the house with an actual chain saw (might be one reason he was single). I assume the chain was removed, but with that gasoline-powered motor blaring six inches from my ear it didn't seem to make a difference in how scared I was.

Good times. Now we're afraid of Harry Potter.

Do you like my apples? I thought about giving them out for Halloween. When trick-or-treaters come I have two bowls of candy. If the kids have bothered to dress up at all I pick up the bowl with the really good candy--candy bars, suckers, etc. If the kid at the door is 17 years old with no costume and an open pillow case, I fight the impulse to hide my wallet and reach for the bowl of loser candy--like those orange or black wax-wrapped taffy things that I took one chew on as a child and spewed from my mouth like God spitting out a lukewarm Christian. Or I could give the un-costumed near-adults apples. Aren't we past all that razor-in-the-fruit nonsense? Do you know ANYONE who ever actually found a razor in their fruit? I'm pretty sure some kid started that rumor precisely to keep adults from handing out anything but candy at Halloween.

Try not to judge me harshly. I don't expect great costumes. Mine were certainly nothing special when I was young. I saw a picture of me from a Halloween when I was about four. I was wearing Tweetie Bird footie pajamas, a monkey mask and a witch's hat. My sister was in the picture, too. She had on what looked like a brand new store-bought princess outfit. Don't feel sorry for me. I appeared to be quite happy. I was too naive to be jealous or to notice my family laughing hysterically behind my back.

In retrospect, I think trick-or-treating was typically an after thought for my family (my sister's superior princess costume was an anomoly). In addition to never having great costumes, I remember at least one time when Halloween fell on a church night, which is the worst thing that can happen to a Southern Baptist kid. In this case, it was a Wednesday. I think my parents thought they were going to get out of having to take me trick-or-treating, but I must have pitched a big fit. We had potluck supper at church each Wednesday at 6:00. My mom and sister were already there, so I think my dad took me to the five houses of people we knew on the way to church and that was it. I was dressed in my school clothes, a Batman mask, and a navy blue windbreaker snapped at the neck with the arms thrown over my shoulder for a cape--it was no tweetie-bird-monkey-witch, but it got the job done!

Back to the two candy bowls. I don't tell the trick-or-treaters that I have two forms of reward. My intent isn't to hurt their feelings, but I do feel that even the least amount of effort ought to be worth a little to those kids who bothered to change something about their everyday appearance. I'm sure I'll reconsider apples as an option for the loser bowl. I don't want our house to get egged.

Maybe I'm looking at this all wrong. I always enjoy giving out candy, even to the jaded adolescents with no costumes. They are still having a good time and most are actually pretty polite. I have even been known to change bowls when I open the door and find out the teenagers are super friendly. Maybe what I'm witnessing when a 17 year old with no costume comes trick-or-treating is a young person who just isn't quite ready to grow up yet, but who also felt too silly to put on a costume. Can I fault them for not being ready to take that first step into adulthood? One only gets so many chances to trick-or-treat during a lifetime. I guess I can respect the undisguised reluctance of youth. And then there is the possibility that they might just have a wicked sugar addiction. Either way, I can relate.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Trip to Taos, NM

Just returned from one of my favorite places on the planet. I've been going to Taos, NM whenever I get the chance for about nine years. I go with my friend Ellen from Dallas. I've been trying to get John out there. He was supposed to go this time, but he had to stay home because of work. Another Dallas friend of ours, Mary Ann and her husband Newell live there most of the year so they hang out with us when we come.

Ellen and I try to stay at the Mabel Dodge-Luhan House when we can. Mabel Dodge was a New York socialite who back in the early 20th century left her third husband and moved to what must have seemed like the moon to her metropolitan circle of friends.

Upon arrival she quickly married Tony Luhan, a Taos Pueblo Indian. During their remaining 40 years, Mabel and Tony's ridge-perched home became a remote salon that drew some of the most brilliant artistic and literary talent of the time--including Georgia O'Keeffe, Ansel Adams, D. H. Lawrence and Edward Weston.

After Mabel and Tony passed in the 1960s, Dennis Hopper owned the house. He shot out the ceramic roosters you see on the roof of the loggia (they've been glued back together).

Now it is a guest house and retreat center. It is a great place to go if you need some creative inspiration.

This is the gate to Mabel and Tony's house. On the right, you can see one of the six large dovecoates that housed Mabel's slew of birds, most of them pigeons. At one time she had a sign outside the wall that said, "Do not honk at the gate. The pigeons don't like it." An art dealer from Chicago stole it back in the 1930s.

We stay in the Gate House if it is available. You can see part of it through the gate and between the gate and the dovecoate. It looks like a hobbit's home from the outside, but it has a kitchen, two living rooms, two bedrooms, two baths, a fenced in patio and two fireplaces. I love building fires in the morning when I am there. The air is so dry that one day I was able to light the fire with a match, half of a grocery sack, and a mid-sized log (we were short on kindlng).

Mabel and Tony planted Cottonwoods all along the water ditch that runs past their house. The water from the ditch has helped these trees grow into giants.

The ditch, which is about 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep looks more like a stream and is actually a tightly regulated irrigation system that flows from the mountain down to the farmers in the valley. There are strict rules that govern who can take water from it, how much and when.

Mary Ann knows a woman from New York who built a house in Taos along a water ditch in an area where she was the only Anglo. She also dug a well at the same time. Soon after the woman dug her well, many of her Hispanic neighbors began to bring her flowers and plants, which they planted in the yard for her. She discovered later what the locals knew all along but were too polite to tell her--if you have a well you can only have ditch rights if you also have a garden, and thanks to her new neighbors, she now had all three.

I couldn't keep my eyes off of this mountain. It is called Taos Mountain by most Anglos. The Taos Indians simply refer to it as "Sacred Mountain", a.k.a. El Monte Sagrado in Spanish. It is big time holy. Because El Monte is on the Taos Peublo reservation, developers cannot touch it, so there is not a single building on it. The mountain towers over Taos valley, and at night when the lights of the village and the stars fill the landscape, there is an enormous mountain-shaped black hole on the horizon.

This is not the biggest mountain I've seen, (it looks even smaller in the photo because we were pretty far away), but it is the only one that has ever felt soulful to me. The atmosphere seems downright deferential to it. Like animals in the Garden of Eden coming to Adam for their names, clouds sidle up to the peak throughout the day. As the wind pushes them along they grab at the hillside. Soon the clouds are stretched, thin and gauzy like little piles of picked through cotton. They settle into their new forms with a pokey amnesia and then just glide blithely away.

One morning we went to a hot air balloon rally. We were going to take a ride, but we didn't want to miss breakfast at Mabel's, which is a BIG selling point for the place by the way. There were about 50 balloons launched. I have photos of them filling the sky, but there was something l liked about this picture of one by itself.

Here are Ellen and Mary Ann with Kathleen Brennan, a Taos photographer. Kathleen is holding her dog, Sarafina. Mary Ann is friends with a lot of Taos artists. She is forever having us drop by their studios unannounced (not much announcing happens in Taos). Artists, like everyone else, love Mary Ann and are always happy to visit. I bought John's Christmas present from her and one of a series of photographs she took of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Gates in New York.

Just one more shot of the landscape. You drive the rim of Valdez to get to Taos ski basin where we hiked on this particular day. Little homes dot the slopes and valley of Valdez like cloves on a country ham. All kinds of folks live here, including Julia Roberts, who Mary Ann says is treated by the locals pretty much the same as anyone else.

If you ever get the chance, take the trek to Taos. Call me and I might just go with you. It is about an hour north of Santa Fe and for my money a lot more intersting and less expensive. I'll get you set up with places to stay and eat as well as things to do. Like a lot of places, its greatest treasures are not to be found in guidebooks. I'm anxious for John to get out there. It is definately one of the few places I could live if we ever had to move.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Batesville High School Class of '85 Reunion

Had a great time at my 20th high school class reunion. People were just as fun as I remember. Started the trip at J. Crew the week before with my friend Dave who helped me pick out some reunion duds--"okay, these look successful without being pretentious," "that sweater is not you," "don't roll your sleeves up. You'll ruin the look." Unfortunately I don't have pictures of the outfits because I was behind the camera. But both sets of clothes were fun.

My favorite was for the Friday night football game, where the Pioneers actually WON (rarely happened when I was in school). I wore a watermelon pink shirt under a chocolate brown v-neck sweater with bootcut jeans and some brown split toe lace-up shoes. We went to my friend Rob's house before the game. His 8 year-old son, Hunter said he liked pink shirts, and that it "takes a brave man to wear pink." Something like that, Hunter.

We were late to the game. It was so fun and kind of shocking to walk up into the stands and see a bunch of people you grew up with all sitting in one place. After the game most of us went to Josie's at the Lockhouse, a local restaurant that overlooks the White River. Josie's is at the center of a huge town controversy because they sell beer and wine with their food (Independence is a dry county, but the ABC board approved their license). My former brother-in-law, a local attorney, is working to shut them down. We all did our part Friday night to keep them open.

Lindy Treat-Hopper is in the middle with her husband (also named Troy). She and Kim Gold (on the right) helped organize the reunion. Pat Malone is on the left with his mouth wide open. Behind him is Donna Butler. Donna and I talked about when we both went to Southside's prom our senior year (Southside was the town, you guessed it, just south of Batesville). A sweet Southside girl, named Kim had died a month before in a tragic car accident. At her memorial service they played "We Are the World," which became a kind of bizarre theme song. When a DJ at the prom played it, everybody in Southside's cafeteria formed a big circle, joined hands, raised them above their heads and swayed until the song was over, which believe me, was a long time from when the song began. I know it sounds mean, but I felt ridiculous. Was the Gen-X cynicism divide really just 7 miles north of Southside? Donna and I agreed that you would never have seen this same sight in Batesville.


This is Rex Knight and his wife, whose name I cannot remember (but she was very nice). Rex was my earliest best friend. He reminded me that we used to send each other presents in the mail back when we were in first grade--I remember gluing my "R", "E" and "X" wooden letter blocks together, wrapping them up and having my mom help me mail them to him. I think I tried taping the money for postage to the package until my mom saw it and gave me a stamp.

Rex was always very sciencey. As you probably know I've always had a soft spot for nice science people who have a little naughty side (see John). When we got to high school Rex and I were a part of a gang called the Grits. Our sole purpose was to drop any extracurricular activity that might be considered stereotypically cool. Instead, we decided to "add our spice" to the clubs that usually kept a lower profile. Kind of pompous now that I think about it. The Grits' finest moment was when Rex and a few others broke into the homecoming parade in his very large, very old, olive-drab colored Buick--Rex was so proud driving down Main Street in his non-descript float while everyone in the car waved like they were part of the homecoming court. They even threw candy. We thought we were the original iconoclasts. In high school you believe you are the first to do everything.


This is Rob Grace, Hunter's dad, Jennifer Watson, and Kim Goff. Kim looked great. She reminded me that I had written in her yearbook that I wanted to marry her. I said, "Aren't you glad that didn't happen?" She said, "Aren't YOU glad that didn't happen?" Oh, and Rob was fascinated by the red Mustang rental car I was driving. It was a concept car. He asked if he could drive it to the dinner Saturday night. I was happy to play "Make A Wish" but nearly wet my pants three or four times by the time we got there. At one point I glanced over at the speedometer and we were doing 85 mph through Batesville.


Vonda Kay Harper and I went to school together from first grade until we graduated high school. Look at her fabulous backless outfit! She told me she didn't have babies because she wanted to keep her girlish figure and didn't have a man because there wasn't room for his stuff in her closet. If she ever married she said he would have to rent his own storage. Vonda lives in St. Louis and said she comes to Indianapolis for Black Expo, so we are going to try to get together next year when she is here.

This is Amy Davis-Brown (left) and Stephanie Purnell-Klaypass (right). We had lunch at my mom and dad's house on Saturday in honor of all of the lunches we had there during high school. My friend Georgette drove in from Little Rock to join us. During high school we had an open campus, but only 45 minutes for lunch. So at 11:45 cars would roar off the hill racing to fast food places. Amy, Stephanie and I and a few other friends who didn't make the reunion, would usually run to J. C.'s Eastside Grocery, a tiny corner market that made really good sandwiches. J. C.'s wife also had a few racks of women's clothes you could browse through while you were there if you had time. We would take our food back to our house to eat and catch part of All My Children.


This is Elke Strecker-Vickers with Pat and Kim. Elke has a 19 year-old son and an 18 year-old daughter. She and Mike got married right out of high school and have been together ever since. Elke has always bragged about how her kids would be raised while she still had energy to do it. Then she and Mike had another kid two years ago. "I thought I was shooting blanks" Mike told me. He credits zinc pills with "reloading the gun."

Mike got me in trouble Saturday night. He was sitting by me when I was downloading the first set of pictures I took onto my computer. When one of the reunion organizers who is a little uptight came over to ask what we were doing he said we were looking at porn. To which she just said "Oh" and walked away.

Even with two nights of events there were people I didn't feel like I spent enought time with. Since some of you asked, people were very welcoming to John, which is a good thing (I would have hated to throw down in the Ramada parking lot). How could someone not be sweet to John anyway? Actually, most everyone had mellowed out. As Lindy's husband Troy put it, "If you aren't comfortable with who you are by now, you have a problem." I agree. I also believe that whether or not you are comfortable with yourself has a lot to do with how you treat other people. Fortunately, I think my classmates are pretty far down the road of self-acceptance, which sure made things a lot more fun for us all. We're looking forward to our 25th reunion which we hope to have with the class of 86 and the class of 84.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Holocaust Museum Redux

John Avarosis, online journalist at Americablog visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C. and reflected on his dissappointing visit in an item titled "My Holocaust Museum Let Down".

Evidently he was bombarded with criticism for his views and responded wtih another post, which I REALLY enjoyed . As a museum educator I get pretty geeked up when non-museum workers bother to think about their relationship with museums. After all, these places are expensive and are agents for the common good. As such, museums should, and sometimes do, strive to offer high quality public interaction with their collections.

Even though John is likely never to read this, I thought I would carry this conversation one step further by adding a (not "the") museum voice to the mix. Below is the text from his critics' comments post "Since So Many of You Were Rude You Get My Response" post. John quotes his critic's view and then adds his own response. I add to these my own thoughts in parentheses. I hope he will forgive me for tampering with his format.

Since so many of you felt the need to be gratuitously rude in response to me having simply critiqued a museum, I get to respond because, honestly, I'm not afraid of you people. I'm glad some of you think the Holocaust museum is a well-designed museum. But I don't. And last time I checked it was still okay in America to criticize the layout of a museum, even if the museum is about - heaven forbid - the Holocaust.

So without further ado, your comments, my responses:

1. "The print is small because they don't care if people really read it."

That's absurd. Then don't print anything at all on the walls of the exhibit, but don't tell me its intentional that they post print that's nearly illegible because the font is too small and the lights too low.

(The critic's comment is indeed absurd but not entirely untrue. In some museums explanatory text is often seen as a necessary evil that potentially distracts viewers from the primary object. Illegible text is indicative of the love/hate relationship museums have with written explanations. So why do they use it if they can't make it legible? 1. Text is cheap and easy to launch when compared to other perhaps more appropriate means of communication--technology based delivery systems for example. 2. Most museums don't bother to test whether or not people can use their galleries. In a museum's system of priorities, the visitor may indeed appear farther down the list than would seem logical to some people--like the visitor!)

2. "The museum is way too information heavy because the Holocaust is a big topic."

As a writer, and former student, I've heard that canard far too many times. I can't write a one-page briefing paper, Senator/professor, because the topic is too complicated, too important, etc. Yes, you can. And if you don't, you lose your audience, so why exist at all?

(John is right, and museums frequently lose their audiences-or fail to gain them-because of their lack of gallery editing skills. Museums could learn a lot from professional writers, specifically journalists. And because the Holocaust Memorial Museum is arranged in a narrative sequence the writing metaphor is even more apt. According to museum learning specialists Falk and Dierking in their book The Museum Experience, museum fatigue typically begins to set in after about 45 minutes of intense looking. After this point, many people tend to do what John did, which was skim the rest of what they are seeing. In a museum the size of the HMM, one would need to take this into account.)

3. "The museum is not about you and whether you had a good time."

Oh, that's a cute cheap shot. And yes, I have stopped beating my wife.
Well, in fact the museum is all about me. The museum is about its visitors. It's about spreading a message, about informing the masses, and the vehicle is it's visitors. If the information is literally illegible to many of its visitors, how does the museum spread its message? If the information is simply on overload, so people can't even read it all, how does that spread the message? It's cute to say "this is about more than you," but I come from a world where I actually care about my message getting out there. If this is all about making YOU feel good that you have a museum, even if it doesn't get its message across as well as it can, well, then who's the one who really has a problem and a narcissism complex?

(Right again John, and I couldn't have said it better myself. Museums are comprised of people who agree with you and others who are more focused on the preservation mission of the museum. And many museum professionals keep both purposes in mind, but still there are daily battles within museums between the purposes of preservation and message communication, with little effective conversation happening about how these can overlap productively. Traditionally, the preservation oriented museum positions have the balance of power.)

4. "Good Lord, John, more than 6,000,000 died at the hands of the Nazis in the the death camps, and YOU have the temerity to complain that you had a bad day?"

Good Lord, Mary, get that chip off your shoulder and drop the drama by about 50 decibels. A poorly written essay doesn't get an "A+" simply because the student chose to write about the Holocaust. Though I guess you could certainly put the deaths of 6 million Jews on the teacher who doesn't give you an A and see how they react.

(I agree with John's logic here.)

5. "You want fun, go to DisneyWorld."

First, who was talking about "fun"? Do you always criticize people for things they didn't even say? And again, same answer as to #4. You don't get an A simply because you chose to write about the Holocaust. And I'd throw it back in your face. If you're going to screw up and do create a work that doesn't deserve an A, you better not have the hubris and the temerity to choose the Holocaust as your subject, because then YOU, if anyone, do the dead a disservice.

(Discussing learning as a binary phenomenon-either fun/silly or serious/valuable-is a false but very common assumption trotted out by museum professionals who fear losing control of how content is delivered in museums. If I had a dime for every time I've heard that line quoted almost verbatum in exhibition staff meetings I could build my own Holocaust Memorial Museum. I can't decided if your commentor is someone who works in museums or someone who just believes one must suffer to be educated. Could be both.

For most visitors an "A" experience at the HMM doesn't connote fun, but thoughtful engagement that helps them make sense of the complex and emotional subject matter. )

6. "I don't think that the decimation of a people group, in any setting, is meant to be fun, exciting or any other opposite of boring."

Yes, I've stopped beating my wife. Who said the museum was supposed to be fun? Having said that, no museum should be boring. This reminds me of a woman who wrote a horrible poem in a poetry class in my college and the class thought the poem was great. Why? Because the poem was really boring and the topic she was writing about was her boredom, so she evoked the topic perfectly by writing a really boring poem. Uh huh...

(The statement in quotes is confusing. It seems to postulate that unless information regarding the holocaust is boring it is wrongly presented. I believe one can be solemn without being boring.)

7. "'Homosexual' is akin to 'colored' or 'oriental.' Would you grow up? A museum dedicated to events in the 1940s needs to be on the cutting edge of 21st century slang?"

Ah, so you think museums about WWII should call blacks "niggers," or is that "negroes"? And I'm not talking the official documents from the era, I'm talking the museum's own literature.

(It is sad how low people's expectations are for a 21st century museum in the U.S. capitol about an internationally devastating event.)

8. "Also, why the need to specify Africa to give an example of animistic beliefs?"

Ah, now we get into far-left PC reverse bigotry. Uh, how about because African tribes are the only people I've ever heard of who believe that a picture steals their souls. I had no idea referring to factual things about Africa was now bigoted. Thanks for that clarification.

(Not sure if I follow John's logic here (do African tribes really believe that a picture steals their souls?), but this PC nomenclature business is difficult. The danger here probably is speaking about African tribes as if they are all the same. Since Africa is a continent, like other continents it has a very diverse population with many different belief systems, some of which are animist. Oh, and not to be outlandishly pc, but last I heard, "people groups" was less of a colonial term than "tribes.")

9. "...and calling the Roma 'gypsies' is just as bad cuz to them it's an insult."

See answer to question 8. And, the Holocaust Museum itself uses Roma and "gypsies." And finally, I could have just called them "Roma" and left 98% of the people here in the dark as to what the hell I was even talking about. But at least you'd be happy. Because, the lesson I've learned from some of you today is that getting your message across isn't important at all, it's simply having an important message that matters - regardless of whether anyone hears it, or how good a job you do of explaining it. And we wonder why we don't win elections.

( I personally believe that many of us agree that we need to get our message across. What is frightening to me is the underlying and wrong assumption that we currently are doing all that is needed in order for people to understand our message. Some of us may believe this because we already understand the message. This is the classic museum error--"well, I get it, so of couse everyone else does. Therefore, I will expend minimal effort to communicate the message effectively."

Museums forget that visitors don't live and breathe their contents. Visitors come to museums with different needs, agendas, and questions, but with an equally valid right to access the collections if the museum is public (nowadays most are). Museums, like political progressives, are the losers if they don't take time to learn about and address visitor needs, agendas, and questions.)

Yeah, I think that just about does it. I'm glad many of you enjoyed the museum. I think it's not very well done. And since George Bush still hasn't accomplished everything he wants, I can still say that in America.

(Speak while you may!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Arkansas Woman Gives Birth to 16th Child

Hey! My homestate made the news:


"We both just love children and we consider each a blessing from the Lord. I have asked Michelle if she wants more and she said yes, if the Lord wants to give us some she will accept them," he said.

The Discovery Health Channel filmed Johannah's birth and plans to air a show about the family of 18 next May.

The Learning Channel is doing another show about the family's construction project, a 7,000-square foot house that should be finished before Christmas. The home, which the family has been building for two years, will have nine bathrooms, dormitory-style bedrooms for the girls and boys, a commercial kitchen, four washing machines and four dryers.

This couple sho' nuff has the "go forth and multiply" thing down, maybe less of a grasp on "all things in moderation." So where do The Waltons end and a commune begin? 7th child? Number 9? Oh, and all 16 children have names that begin with the letter "J." Why does that bug me? None of this is any of my business really. I mean I'm not going to question their abilities as parents or crowd control experts or anything.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Halle-freakin-lujah! The new bathroom lights are up and the new shower curtain is done. This bathroom is finally finished.

And just so you know, HGTV is a network of LIES! All of those weekend warrior and makeover shows make each project look as if it took about 30 minutes to complete--a few days at most. I'm here to tell you, this bathroom is a prime example of how things really happen.

Flashback to January of this year. I ordered the wallpaper and finished the design on the shower curtains with Susan, the designer I used to work for. Took me over a month to schedule someone to hang the wallpaper. They had to come back again because the print register was off on some of the rolls and she put them up anyway (an understandable mistake since the pattern is kind of busy and the repeats are big.)

Ordered the new light fixtures (took me forever to make a decision). Lighting is a mystery to me, so I was kind of nervous. The back plates on the replacement fixtures turned out to be smaller than those on the original ones, so gaping socket box holes stared smugly from behind when the newbies were installed--potentially dangerous, definitely ugly. Called in some local design friends who all weighed in on a solution. We decided that mirrors cut to size and placed behind the fixtures would be best. Easier said than done.

I went to a glass and mirror company with my problem, but they weren't that interested in such a small job. Jim at Renditions Framing (best frame shop in Indianapolis) took it on. Jim and Linda, John's mom, had already created the sink mirror and its frame. Jim not only ordered the little mirrors cut to size for me, he cut the holes by hand--twice (we ended up needing two sets of holes). John installed them for me (thank you God for letting me marry an engineer!). A few minor adjustments on the shades and the lights were done.

With the shower drapery we tried to do a French tieback (string is hidden in the fabric of the drape) for the outer curtain. Unfortunately, the fabric turned out not to be suited for this treatment--the stiff material doesn't gather in a flat fold very well. I must admit that we kind of wondered from the beginning if a French tieback would fly. It didn't, but even this was no real problem. The workroom wonders just ripped the seams out (since the workroom was really backed up this took a few more weeks). Eventually I'll do a more traditional tieback, but the curtain is fine hanging straight for now.

So this one little bathroom took about nine months. I'm no professional, so maybe the pace is not too surprising. But I've seen Susan end up in similar situations with clients screaming at her the entire time about things over which she has no control.

I'm really happy with the results though. And as I watered the garden today I ran across this perfect Dahlia flower. The plant (a birthday gift for John from his aunt) has been blooming in the garden all summer, despite the fact that I hardly ever water it. The colors were always pretty, but something about the cooler fall days have given it a rich sunsety color (the photo makes it look less subtle than it is). I decided that since it is a survivor it deserved a spot in the most challenging place in the house.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Ozark Hill People

Visited my people in Arkansas last week--old homesteads and cemetaries. I feel such a connection to these hills. A big chunk of my family came up the Mississipppi to the White River, then the Red River to the area around Pangburn to settle. The mosuitoes in the river bottoms were too much for them so they moved to the uplands that were more like where they came from in TN. We've been hill people ever since. In the picture you can barely see Greer's Ferry Lake. It was named after a relative of mine. Aunt Rhoda Greer sat on the podium with John F. Kennedy when he dedicated the dam that formed the lake.

This is my Mamaw, Louise Butler. I adore her. She is sweet, always looks great and is very sassy. She and my Aunt Judy drove around with me to visit our sleeping folks and old places. In this picture she is standing by her grandmother (Maggie Manervia Greer) and grandfather's (William McLester) grave at Sidon. The McLesters formed a settlement near Pangburn, AR called McJester. It was pretty much just my great-great grandparents and some of their kin. One of my aunts ran the post office and when she sent off an application for McLester to be a federal post the government misread her handwriting and called the place McJester, which has been its name ever since. We can trace the McLester family back to Virginia in 1695.

Here Mamaw is ignoring my request to take her picture by the Henderson family monument (we did get one on the other side). One of my other great-grandmothers was a Henderson. These are the folks who couldn't handle the mosquitoes. A bunch of them came to Arkansas together and donated the land for this cemetary. If you go there you'll see a group of about of 40(?) white rocks marking their graves. The graves probably would have had wooden markers which have long since disentegrated. Imaging equipment let us know where there were bodies and the stones were placed to mark them. The big monument gives the name of the original settlers. The Hendersons are one of the uber-clans in Scotland. We can trace them back to 1650. The Hendersons were descended from Vikings, which might help explain my temper. John Henderson in Gent, Fifeshire, Scotland was my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather (I've always wanted to write that). I've never been a huge fan of plaid, but my aunt assures me that ours is one of the more attractive ones. I wonder if I'm related to Florence Henderson who played Carol Brady on the Brady Bunch.

We had so much fun on our trip. All of the cemetaries are within about 20 miles of each other. Mamaw knew right where to go in each one.There were a couple of family cemetaries back in the hills that only my Uncle Larry can find. There aren't any roads to them and it is way too snakey this time of year to walk there, so we are supposed to go back this winter. My Aunt Judy spent two more days going over all that we know about who was who, where and when. I'm amazed at how much work she and my cousin Kara have done. Aunt Judy has found amazing photographs. I'll try to post a few here sometime and some information about the other side of the family--the Butlers. They have interesting Civil War connections.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Illegal Motherhood and Unauthorized Reproduction

Today I received the article below. It is written by a reporter with NUVO, a local opinion paper here in Indy. It appears that the Republican members of the Indiana state legislature are trying to make it illegal for unmarried women to give birth to children. Read it and weep. Hopefully this will get laughed out of the Capitol building, but I doubt it will.

The Crime of "Unauthorized Reproduction"
New law will require marriage as a legal condition of motherhood

By Laura McPhee

Republican lawmakers are drafting new legislation that will make
marriage a requirement for motherhood in the state of Indiana, including specific
criminal penalties for unmarried women who do become pregnant "by means
other than sexual intercourse."

According to a draft of the recommended change in state law, every woman
in Indiana seeking to become a mother through assisted reproduction
therapy such as in vitro fertilization, sperm donation, and egg
donation, must first file for a "petition for parentage" in their local county
probate court.

Only women who are married will be considered for the "gestational
certificate" that must be presented to any doctor who facilitates the
pregnancy. Further, the "gestational certificate" will only be given to
married couples that successfully complete the same screening process
currently required by law of adoptive parents.

As it the draft of the new law reads now, an intended parent "who
knowingly or willingly participates in an artificial reproduction
procedure" without court approval, "commits unauthorized reproduction, a
Class B misdemeanor." The criminal charges will be the same for
physicians who commit "unauthorized practice of artificial

The change in Indiana law to require marriage as a condition for
motherhood and criminalizing "unauthorized reproduction" was introduced
at a summer meeting of the Indiana General Assembly's Health Finance
Commission on September 29 and a final version of the bill will come up
for a vote at the next meeting at the end of this month.

Republican Senator Patricia Miller is both the Health Finance Commission
Chair and the sponsor of the bill. She believes the new law will protect
children in the state of Indiana and make parenting laws more explicit.

According to Sen. Miller, the laws prohibiting surrogacy in the state of
Indiana are currently too vague and unenforceable, and that is the
purpose of the new legislation.

"But it's not just surrogacy," Miller told NUVO. " The law is vague on
all types of extraordinary types of infertility treatment, and we wanted
to address that as well."

"Ordinary treatment would be the mother's egg and the father's sperm.
But now there are a lot of extraordinary thin! gs that raise issues of who
has legal rights as parents," she explained when asked what she considers
"extraordinary" infertility treatment.

Sen. Miller believes the requirement of marriage for parenting is for
the benefit of the children that result from infertility treatments.

"We did want to address the issue of whether or not the law should allow
single people to be parents. Studies have shown that a child raised by
both parents - a mother and a father - do better. So, we do want to have
laws that protect the children," she explained.

When asked specifically if she believes marriage should be a requirement
for motherhood, and if that is part of the bill's intention, Sen. Miller
responded, "Yes. Yes, I do."

"Petition for parentage", "gestational certificate"--these phrases send chills down my spine, and I'm not even a woman. I thought Republicans were supposed to be the small government people! Does this mean we will be fining Susie Suburban when she gets in a little trouble? Or are we going to build in a tax break for Susie's dad as part of the bill? One friend of mine reminded me that to access contraceptives in Indiana in the 1930's one had to be married, have the approval of an MD, and already have 2 kids. It won't be long before this will actually start to sound a little progressive.

Oh, and by the way, regarding this line: " Studies have shown that a child raised by both parents - a mother and a father - do better. " I hear that phrase all the time and always ask the speaker to please provide me with the studies they reference. I HAVE YET TO HAVE ANYONE BE ABLE TO PRODUCE THEM. I've gone looking for them online. I even e-mailed "family expert" Maggie Gallager for them when she mentioned this "study", and heard NOTHING!

Update: Miller decided not to pursue this legislation. Mary Beth Schneider from the Indianapolis Star reports:

...State Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, issued a one-sentence statement this afternoon saying: “The issue has become more complex than anticipated and will be withdrawn from consideration by the Health Finance Commission.”

I hope to post more on Senator Miller later. She is a powerhouse idealogue.

Monday, October 03, 2005

My Friend's Son and the Boy Scouts

I've been gone for a week with no internet access (20th high school reunion-will post about it later). This Indianapolis Star newspaper story about some friends of ours from church who were trying to enroll one of their kids in Boy Scouts was waiting for me when I got back. (Duane, thanks for giving me the heads up.)

Ruth Holladay

Boy Scouts Shut Dad Out of Events at Public School

When Dave Wendling's 6-year-old son expressed an interest in joining the Boy Scouts of America's Tiger Cubs at his Lawrence Township school, dad was front and center at the organizational meeting. But was he straight? As in "morally straight"?

Wendling, 47, a 15-year regional manager with the mortgage lender Freddie Mac, is a partner, son, brother, good neighbor, hard worker and involved dad, he said. But he is not, by the Boy Scouts' definition, morally straight. He's gay.
He is also the father who stepped up to the plate at the meeting. When nobody in his small group volunteered to be a leader, Wendling did. "It is a very positive program," said Wendling, who was in Boy Scouts himself. "The kids get immediate rewards by following certain guidelines. They make friends and they get good messages."

But how good a message is discrimination? Or using public property as a haven for bias? Those are questions Wendling is raising following his experience. They've been asked elsewhere in the nation, where lawsuits have challenged taxpayer sponsorship of Boy Scout troops. Chicago schools have cut all ties with Boy Scouts. So have military bases. This may be the first time the issue has gone public in Indiana.

Wendling came home from the meeting and told his partner, Rog Hayes, that he had volunteered as a leader. Hayes immediately "raised red flags," reminding Wendling of the BSA's refusal to allow gays. The next day, Wendling called Mike Cimarossa, the dad in charge of the recruitment meeting, and told him he was gay. Cimarossa called Scout officials. Although personally supportive, Cimarossa said, he had to give Wendling the word: He could not lead the troop. He could not even attend an upcoming overnight event at school with his son.

A reasonable man, Wendling said he understands the BSA position. "Part of me says I don't like it, but I get it -- private organizations can exclude." But how can the Scouts tell him he's not welcome at Scout events at school, he asks? Why should a private group be allowed to use a public facility to exclude him?

The questions are familiar to Gina Farrar, director of public and corporate relations for the local Crossroads of America Council of BSA. "Dave is correct that there are a lot of issues coming up here," she said. "We as a council adhere to the national policy, but we don't seek trouble. He could chaperone, but not in a leadership capacity."

Lawrence Schools Assistant Superintendent Duane Hodgin set the stage for more dialogue. The district, he said, has a firm human dignity policy. "He can come to anything at school that has to do with Scouts." But Wendling isn't sure if it's worth it. He's signed his son up for gymnastics and is checking out Camp Fire USA.

Dave and Roger are not attention-grabbing politcos. They are loving and intelligent parents who are raising two loving and intelligent kids. Part of parenting involves doing what is right in the face of difficulty. I know they thought long and hard about bringing this kind of attention to their family, since in this part of the world it can be accompanied by harrassment and threats of violence. I applaud them for being honest with their school district and the city about the problems that arise when tax-funded sites exclude law-abiding citizens.

Dave and Roger are not the only gay parents out there facing this kind of problem. I recently learned of another same-sex couple who were told that their daughter might attend a particular academy as long as no more than one of the parents attended school functions. Is that kind of decision in the best interest of the child?

There are many other similar stories, but I bet you've never heard them. Keep in mind that many of these problems are not told in public. Rather than raise trouble for their family, many parents quietly adjust their lives and whisper their struggles only to other parents in the same boat. Consequently, the public rarely has a chance to make good decisions about what is right and wrong with these situations. In the meantime, prejudices as well as family-corrosive legislation persist.

I want to honor Dave and Roger for breaking what might easily have been their silence. You set a good example for many other parents, gay and straight, who, while committed to American values may be hesitant to speak up. I'm also grateful that Ruth Holladay picked up their story. I may have to drop her a line, too.