Sunday, November 19, 2006

More Nuggets of Wisdom: Life Lessons 6-10

Please see August 12, 2006 for Life Lessons 1-5.


If you remember when a fashion wasn’t retro, don’t wear it.

What looks fabulously cutting edge on someone who didn’t see the style the first time around merely looks sadly out-of-date on YOU. Don’t try to relive your youth. For gawd’s sake, find something new to do.


A guy who cheats on his wife will cheat on you.

There is absolutely no excuse for a woman over the age of 40 to believe a man’s lies. Don’t cry to your friends when he won’t leave his wife or, after leaving her, up and leaves you. If he says his wife doesn't understand him, laugh in his face. You don't really believe that, do you? At your age? Grow up.


Don’t marry a back-door man.

Pussy hounds are not marriage material. If you want a life of great sex, betrayal and tears, go for it. If you don’t, find for someone nice and learn to appreciate him. He will mow the lawn, take out the garbage, balance the checkbook, and love you even when you look your worst. He deserves a good woman. Give him one – you.


Always buy title insurance.

Title insurance is a policy offered at the time you close on any real estate sale. Even though you had a title search, sometimes a problem arises. For example, a former owner’s ex-husband who was missing dries out, returns, and announces he never signed off on the sale and, thus, has a right to an interest in your property.

In some states, including Florida, title insurance is required. In Florida, it’s customary for the seller to pay for it but not required. In Georgia, title insurance was completely optional was not required. As it turned out, the county appraiser’s office had wrongly recorded a power company easement as 50 feet when it was 100 feet. The only thing a person could do with the land was mow it; planting or building was not allowed. It cut the land I thought I’d purchased in half. I dried the tears of my disappointment with a check from the title insurance company when I discovered the error. My neighbors, who did not have title insurance, were so irritated they sold their home and left the neighborhood.


No one can teach you how to write, but a good writing coach may help you to write better, and a good MFA writing program may help you make contacts that lead to publication.

I found it interesting to see a number of books to help writers generate ideas on the remainder tables at two large chain bookstores I visited today. I confess that I’ve used several of these books to generate fiction writing exercises for myself, especially early in the morning. But, I’m a lousy fiction writer.

As a journalist and essayist, I have more ideas than I’m ever going to need. If you need a book to generate ideas, perhaps writing is not the mode of self-expression that’s right for you. I recommend silly crafts projects as an alternative. (See my hand-crafted bricolage thank-you bookmark card with my Life Lessons post of Aug. 12, 2006.)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Katie Couric: Must all news be fun?

Waiting for a prescription at the drugstore, I flipped through the latest copy of Good Housekeeping, where there was a story about ABC’s new anchor, Katie Couric, erstwhile of NBC’s morning smorgasboard of features articles. Couric says one of her job demands was that the job had to be fun. Couric was mocked on The Daily Show when host Jon Stewart ran on clip of her saying that her favorite story from the recent, heated elections was about one Congressman missing three fingers from an accident.

Ye gods and little kittens, as a favorite femme coworker used to say back in my youth. Is this the fruit of the women’s movement? A woman attains one of the three coveted news anchor spots in the U.S., and she turns it into gossip? Fun, my dear, is on MTV, HGTV, Food and Travel Channel. Cheerleaders,rock stars, and Paris Hilton make fun the bottom line.

Fun is diversion. Passion is intense feeling. Joy may well up from passion; it is a feeling of oneness, flow, completion. Happiness, on the other hand, is like fun – dependent on happenstance and diversion, fleeting, and without internal ballast.

I want my news anchors to be thoughtful, insightful, well read, immensely knowledgeable about world and national affairs. I want them to see past surfaces (such as missing fingers) to what’s missing from the facts, from the inner guts of the story or the person. This requires passion for the work, not a desire to slip away into the empty diversions of fun.

When I was a young reporter, I used to tell colleagues who grumbled, “They call it work because it isn’t play. If it was fun, they wouldn’t have to pay us to do it.” I had and still have a passion for good reporting and good writing. I am passionate about being an effective teacher of communication now. Sometimes, I have fun, but I do not seek it as what I’m looking for in life. Passion and joy come from fulfilling one’s inner purpose, not seeking after mindless diversions.

Lately, I often look at news anchors and think that Ken and Barbie are bringing me the news with mindless happy talk, chronic substitution of the word irony for circumstances that are coincidence, misuse of plural pronouns for singular referents, and a general dumbing down of information. Katie Couric appears to be a nice gal who was excellent at the providing light features for the morning program. As a new anchor, she embodies the Barbie image of the news anchor, at least for me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Do you like your doctors?

I don’t think much of doctors anymore. I’m pretty sure that each one will suggest doing things to me that I don’t want to do.

I had a doctor in Baltimore that I liked quite a bit. He dressed like Marcus Welby, a popular TV physician of the time, with wool jackets with patches on his sleeves. He was tall and good-looking like Robert Young, the actor who morphed from the reassuring dad on Father Knows Best into the reassuring dispenser of health. Dr. Feelgood wasn’t much good at diagnosing my back pain, but he was generous with the Librium scrips.

Today's television doctor du jour is House -- brilliant, unorthodox, arrogant, cranky, unshaven, and popping pills with the abandon of a hippie on the Haight. What does that say about the social condition of doctors today?

I took to spending increasing amount of time in bed due to excruciating back pain. One day my husband tossed a slip of paper across the quilt. “You’re not the same woman I married. This is my mother’s orthopedist. Call him.” My X did not think as much of Marcus Welby as I did. The orthopedist turned out to be a pretty good guy and hooked me up with an excellent surgeon.

I’m turning into my mother when it comes to doctors. I’ve laughed off my GP who is continually suggesting that he perform a breast exam, even though I have assured him that I consult a gynecologist once a year. She is female, she understands how the equipment works, and she is the first GYN I’ve had who can take a pap smear without turning it into small torture.

My GP suggested I have a nebulizer to disperse medicine like a vaporizer during a recent lengthy bout with bronchitis, but I wouldn’t hear of it. Maybe I wouldn’t have an ear infection now if I had taken his advice.

I spent a year seeing various doctor mengeles to find out that I might have lupus. Then again, I might not, according to a rheumatologist in New Orleans who said he’d run some more sophisticated blood tests. No one has been able to get those records since hurricane Katrina flooded that city.

I don’t want radioactive dyes shot through my body and to be plunged through a CatScan on a cold slab of steel. I don’t want ultrasounds, x-rays, blood tests, and I definitely don’t want to have my ear drained, one of the most painful procedures I have ever undergone. Ear docs tell you that it will pinch a little, but they are lying.

Occasionally my students want me to verify that they are really sick. One even asked me if I would tell her employer that she was ill on a certain day because she had not come to class. But I tell them I’m not that kind of doctor.

So, how's your experience with doctors?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Perfect Mornings, Thoroughbreds, and Students

It is a perfect winter morning in south Florida, with sky as blue as turquoise, the deep green fronds palm trees fluttering in balmy breezes. It is the kind of morning that makes one say – I will endure the heat of summer that makes me feel like my head is going to explode; I will endure hurricane season, the crowded highways, the high taxes and home insurance; I will put up with all of this so that I do not have to face the freezing cold and gray skies of winter.

It made me think of other perfect mornings, reporting to Pimlico Race Course on perfect spring days in Baltimore, Maryland, skies and breezes and temperatures much like these. Noted handicapper Clem Florio once said – you’d have to be crazy not to love this life. As I drove into the race course gate, thoroughbreds would race past the fences on their morning work outs. In some ways, I suppose, the students are like the young thoroughbreds – athletically and sexually frisky, ready to run into a bright future of endless victories – how could it not be a bright future of achievements? This is a good life, too.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Prez Gets the People's Message

President George Bush the younger led the Republican Party to defeat in yesterday’s midterm elections, as he led the country to defeat in Iraq. Citizens, apparently in trauma since the terrorists’ toppling of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and fueled by the continual fear-mongering of this administration, at last emerged from political catatonia to vote in a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and maybe even in the Senate.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, one of the neo-Conservative architects of the pre-emptive military strike on Iraq that has turned into a bloody mess over the last three years, resigned. Or he was booted, but at any rate, the Prez announced Rumsfeld’s departure at a news conference this morning.

It’s not as if happy times are here, but at least we can look forward to getting our young people out of Iraq and a lessening of the constant fear-mongering that has been in play for the past five years

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rain like steam

A big truck laden with lumber
Spewing clouds of misty rain
Like an old-fashioned
Steam engine.

It is dark since the time change
When I leave campus
A long day
Busy bee Mondays.

Home I have two hours or so
To eat, shower, watch TV.
Then back to do it all again

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Karmic Symmetry

Karmic Symmetry

So here I am, fretting about how I miss Miss M., who stopped responding to phone calls, emails, cards, and even flowers. She represents a part of my youth, and that’s a lot of water under the bridge.

And while I am fretting, Miss N. sends me a note, through my mother, even though I cut off contact with her two years ago. Now I have to decide – what does one say when one has outgrown a relationship? Perhaps I am still angry. Stating my authentic reasons for not wanting to renew old lang syne does not seem helpful; it will only perpetuate a cycle I prefer to end. Not acknowledging the note seems the kind of passive-aggressive behavior of Miss M. So I have written a note thanking her for thinking of me and philosophizing that all things have a season, including relationships.

I recently heard a radio interview with Joanna Carson, who was a great friend of Truman Capote. She was asked if Capote has an eccentric way of being very enthusiastic about a new friend for a while, then creating a scene and ending it. Carson said that wasn’t true. She observed that some friendships last a while and then pass from our lives. They don’t all last forever. Perhaps the 30-year curve with M and the 20-year curve with N are all they were meant to last. Even long-lived trees and tortoises eventually die.