Sunday, August 30, 2009

if there is a woman in your life, you need to read this


Thanks to Paul for pointing this out. Read the full article here. Caveat emptor: It will probably turn your stomach.

A few significant quotes:

"In India, a 'bride burning' takes place approximately once every two hours, to punish a woman for an inadequate dowry or to eliminate her so a man can remarry — but these rarely constitute news. When a prominent dissident was arrested in China, we would write a front-page article; when 100,000 girls were kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, we didn’t even consider it news."

"The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls and women are now missing from the planet, precisely because they are female, than men were killed on the battlefield in all the wars of the 20th century. The number of victims of this routine 'gendercide' far exceeds the number of people who were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century."

"Our interviews and perusal of the data available suggest that the poorest families in the world spend approximately 10 times as much (20 percent of their incomes on average) on a combination of alcohol, prostitution, candy, sugary drinks and lavish feasts as they do on educating their children (2 percent). If poor families spent only as much on educating their children as they do on beer and prostitutes, there would be a breakthrough in the prospects of poor countries. Girls, since they are the ones kept home from school now, would be the biggest beneficiaries."

"Yet another reason to educate and empower women is that greater female involvement in society and the economy appears to undermine extremism and terrorism. ...Indeed, some scholars say they believe the reason Muslim countries have been disproportionately afflicted by terrorism is not Islamic teachings about infidels or violence but rather the low levels of female education and participation in the labor force."

--Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
"The Women's Crusade"
N.Y. Times
August 17, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

on my way to bed, i read something that irks me

I haven't looked into this any further, but the headline caught my eye.

"Brazilian researchers: Tick saliva may contain cure for cancer."

Of course. It would.


Yes, I'll be thrilled if it's true.

But have I mentioned how much I LOATHE ticks?


two items of interest (maybe)

First, if you have any interest in language, linguistics, humor, or speaking, you need to read this. Thanks goes to Nate for pointing it out to me and making this linguistics-obsessed cousin's day. ;oD This poem makes me so happy, I could just do the potato wave.

Second, early Thursday afternoon, a cop pulled me over while I was driving north on Penn between Britton and Hefner. My first thought was that I must have been speeding--though I was pretty sure I couldn't have been going more than 36 or 37 in a 35mph zone.

I pulled off at a gas station, and even though I knew I hadn't done anything spectacularly terrible, my heartrate started going up. It only got worse as the officer came to my open car window and asked for my license and registration. As I handed him my license, I realized that my hands were shaking.

Great. I hope he doesn't notice.

That's stupid. He's a cop. Of course he's going to notice.

The trembling only increased when I pulled out the flimsy registration paper, which betrayed me by fluttering madly as I handed it to the cop. It was all I could do not to roll my eyes at myself. *That*, I figured, would not go over well if he misunderstood the gesture.

"Well, Courtney," he said--

--and inwardly, I did a double-take at being addressed by my first name by a Person Of Authority, which would never occur in the formal society I grew up in--

"Well, Courtney, you're not in big trouble today. Just a little trouble."

Oh good. I guess. That's good, right? Does that mean I'm not getting a ticket, I hope?

"You changed lanes kinda fast back there--"

I know. I did it on purpose. I wanted to get in that space before the motorcycle got too close.

"--without signaling--"

I did, too, signal! I just maybe flipped the switch off again before the light actually started blinking. ;o)

"--and in front of that motorcycle."

I knew the bike was there. I was watching him the whole time. I was always aware of exactly where the front and back ends of my car were in relation to the pickup in front of me and the bike behind me.

As the officer spoke, I nodded in what I hoped were the right places and gave him what probably looked like a sheepish smile.***

"I'm sorry," I said. "I thought I signaled..."

Fortunately, his smile and understanding nod saved me from having to elaborate on what I thought I'd done. I trailed off as he handed back my license and registration.

"Just pay better attention, Courtney. And behave yourself."

*gasp* And egad! You know me!!!

"Okay," I said with a laugh that wasn't at all fake in its shakiness.

Zounds! I'm not getting a ticket! How disgawestomely cramazing** is this?!

"Thank you," said I.

"Have a good day," said he, walking back to his cruiser.

He got in and drove away. I grinned like a loon to myself, ignored the residual adrenaline rush, and continued on my merry way to Walmart.

The End.

**Okay, so those weren't my exact words, since those terms had yet to be invented by Your Truly, but I like to think the sentiment was the same.

***For those of you who suspect I might be tempted: No eyelash-batting took place during the course of this incident.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

truth, beauty, and goodness

I'd love to post the whole from which I'm borrowing the following quote, but I'd like to avoid the specter of plagiarism. If you'd like to read the whole post (which is short and very worth the read), you can find it here.

"What if we were nice to each other? What if we put cynicism and snideness aside and saw beauty and possibility in everything?

"What if we all treated each other as we wanted to be treated? What if we loved our neighbors and acted toward them with affection and understanding?

"...What if we aspired to promoting the values of Truth, Beauty and Goodness? What if we saw Truth as Love, Beauty as Mercy, and Goodness as Ministry? What if we made those acts of Love, Mercy, and Ministry, the cornerstones of our lives?"

--Liz Cratty

As I've recently discussed with several of you, I see myriads of possibilities. All the time. In every situation, in every conversation, I see multiple possible outcomes--and, sometimes, outcomes of the outcomes. Sometimes, this can become paralyzing...because I see both good and bad possible outcomes, and it's hard to know which decision to make in order to maximize the possibility of a positive end result.

I'm probably not saying this clearly enough. For a writer, I have an awfully hard time expressing myself sometimes.

Anyway...please to be trying to get what I'm saying. ;o)

The point is this: I read that quote up there, and my imagination takes over, unfolding all the myriad possibilities of the what-ifs Cratty poses. And you know what? Every single one of those outcomes is positive. Every one of them is Good. And every one of them leads, in turn, only to further Goodness--maximized and exponentially multiplied.

There is no paralysis here. There is no fear. There is no looming darkness. There is only truth and beauty and goodness, world without end, amen. In the fulfillment of this set of what-ifs, there is relief, release--and maybe, if we give ourselves permission to hope--redemption.

I'm trying to hope.

I'm trying to let myself move, realizing that movement will not engage the attention of the monsters under the bed.

I am trying to see.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

the day my home country started getting bigger again

Hungary remembers picnic that cracked Iron Curtain

SOPRONPUSZTA, Hungary – It was a picnic that changed the course of history.

Twenty years ago Wednesday, members of Hungary's budding opposition organized a picnic at the border with Austria to press for greater political freedom and promote friendship with their Western neighbors.

Some 600 East Germans got word of the event and turned up among the estimated 10,000 participants. They had a plan: to take advantage of an excursion across the border to escape to Austria.

Hungarian President Laszelo Solyom and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were taking part Wednesday in festivities Wednesday marking the 20th anniversary of the "Pan-European Picnic," which helped precipitate the fall nearly three months later of the Berlin Wall.

One of the key factors allowing the Germans to escape: the decision by a Hungarian border guard commander not to stop them as they pushed through to freedom.

Lt. Col. Arpad Bella and five of his men had been expecting a Hungarian delegation to cross the border at Sopronpuszta by bus, visit a nearby Austrian town as a symbol of the new era of glasnost — or openness — under reformist Soviet leader Mikail Gorbachev, and return to Hungary.

Instead, at the planned time of 3 p.m., Bella suddenly found himself face to face with 150 East Germans marching up the road to the border gate, which had been closed since 1948.

"I had about 20 seconds to think about it until they got here," said Bella, 63, during an interview where the gate once stood.

"Had the five of us confronted the Germans, they would have (overwhelmed us)."

Once the initial group got through hundreds more East Germans joined them. Still vivid in Bella's mind was the reactions of the Germans, including many young people and families with small children, once they were on the other side.

"They embraced, they kissed, they cried and laughed in their joy. Some sat down right across the border, others had to be stopped by the Austrian guards because they kept running and didn't believe they were in Austria," Bella said. "It was in incredible experience for them."

Laszlo Nagy, one of the organizers of the picnic, was startled by the East Germans' actions, who left behind hundreds of cars and other possessions near the border for the chance to make the short walk to a new life in the West.

"Some of them were waiting for this moment for 20 or 30 years," Nagy said. "They left behind everything ... because freedom has the greatest value."

Dirk Mennenga was one the "Ossies," a nickname for East Germans, who made it to Austria on that day. He had come to Hungary from Dresden.

"We had planned beforehand that we would try to cross the border through Hungary," Mennenga said. "We didn't know how easy or difficult it would be."

After seeing flyers promoting the picnic, Mennenga thought the event could provide an opportunity to escape West.

"It was a very emotional situation," Mennenga said. "There was a sole border guard. A young Hungarian man kept pointing the way and before we knew it we were in Austria."

While Bella was unaware of the East Germans' intentions, behind the scenes the Hungarian government had already decided that it would somehow let them go West.

Miklos Nemeth, Hungary's last prime minister of the communist era, said the picnic and the East Germans' breakthrough on that day was one in a series of steps that brought democracy to most of the Soviet bloc within a year.

"It was a planned process on behalf of the government, but it was a transition where everyone was also seeking to secure their own future," Nemeth said.

With 80,000 Soviet troops stationed in Hungary, Nemeth said it was difficult to know how Moscow would react to the unprecedented events.

"In my mind this was an important event, a test," Nemeth said. "And fortunately, Arpad Bella ... although he did not get any information, he decided in the right way."

Tens of thousands of East Germans had traveled to Hungary as expectations mounted that the more moderate Communist country might open its borders to the West.

They lived in makeshift shelters in Budapest on the grounds of the West German Embassy and at a tent city set up by a Catholic parish.

In the weeks after the picnic, East Germans continued to make attempts to cross the border, although many were still turned back. Then, on Sept. 11, Hungary began allowing all East Germans to travel West.

Bella continued his career as a border guard for several more years before retiring in 1996, later even working as a consultant on developing aspects of the Schengen agreement, which now allows for borderless travel within 25 European countries.

"I didn't think of myself as a hero. How could I? I wasn't even sure I'd be around for another week," Bella said. "If the Russians had wanted to come, they would have swept us aside like nothing."

For Nagy, the significance of the events of Aug. 19 has grown over the past 20 years.

"At the time, we didn't feel like we were making history," Nagy said. "It was the world's greatest garden party."

Friday, August 14, 2009


In case I've never posted this here before....this is what it's like to be a TCK:

"If you came back, you wanted to leave again. If you went away, you longed to come back. Wherever you were, you could hear the call of the homeland, like the note of a herdsman's horn far away in the hills. You had one home out there and one over here, and yet you were an alien in both places. Your true abiding place was the vision of something very far off, and your soul like the waves, always restless and forever in motion."

--Johan Bojer
"The Immigrants"

The good news: I know what my true abiding place is. It's more than a vision. It is a reality. It is The Reality. And someday, I will go there, and no longer live restless in the Shadowlands.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

here's what i really think...

...and I'm not saying it because I'm fishing for someone to contradict me. I honestly believe this is the truth.

I have enough natural talent to be above average. But the remainder--if there is a remainder--is blood, sweat, tears, and God.

And I'm okay with that.

I'm sorry if this comes across as arrogant. But maybe you'll understand what I'm trying to say.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

snippet of writing life

I don't know about everybody else, but for me it works like this:

I work at home, and I write. Sometimes, as I'm writing, I have ideas that I can't figure out within my story text. So I pop over to Facebook (or other sites) for a few minutes and let my subconscious ruminate on the ideas without me. When I go back to my story, the problems are worked out, and I can get back to writing. Facebook et al. distract my conscious mind so my subconscious can do what needs to be done.

That's my life. ;o)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

because i feel like i should

Dear Readers,

I haven't forgotten you. I promise. I don't know why I haven't felt very bloggy of late. Well, that's a lie. I do know. There are several reasons. One, I've been working on Deren's Story, which has passed the 15k mark, gasp and egad. Two, I've just been really, really busy. With many a good thing. But all of this has left me with little brain power for blogging.

Not that blogging requires anything like 1.21 gigawatts of brain power or anything. I'm just sayin'.

Maybe you want to know some of the things I've been busy with.

And maybe you don't.

But guess what.

I'm going to tell you.

I don't know why I seem to have fallen in love with shorter sentences today.

There. That one wasn't short. But this one is.

But I digress.

So here's a run-down:

I've been out to my parents' new place to help out with whatever needed helping out. Last Saturday, that included mopping all but two rooms of this humongous new abode and wiping down all the shelves that go in the kitchen cabinets and built-in book cases. Someday, when I have time [ ;o) ], I'll set up a Facebook photo album of their house from start to present. Present includes tiled floors; paint on the walls, ceilings, doors, and baseboards; aforementioned cabinetry and shelving in place; cemented porch and driveway; and a lot of little details I can't remember right now. The front door is supposed to be being delivered (yes, I did that on purpose) TODAY. There will be much rejoicing.

What else? I've been down to Lawton to see my aunt who was in from Utah, as well as to honor my grandparents, who celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary this past Monday. I am in awe of them.

As I said before, I've been working on Deren's Story. But not this week, because I've been otherwise occupied. I don't know yet if I can say Deren's Story is going well or not. I've certainly had moments where The Words Have Suddenly Been There, which are the moments we writers live for. (You know who you are, and you know what I'm talking about.) But still, I'm feeling a little bit stuck, and I know it's because my main character is male, and he's surrounded by a group of men and only one woman. I'm going to have to get the writers group to give me some fairly detailed, possibly embarrassing info on dynamics within groups of guys, especially as to how a single female presence affects that dynamic. The whole Story so far is requiring me to go to a place I don't often delve into, because most of the characters so far are blatantly immoral people. So I'm hoping that talking things out with my fellow writers will give me some insights and get me where I need to be.

Speaking of fellow writers, I've now had the honor and joy of reading and giving feedback on the first two novels in Aaron's Ghost Targets series. I'll write more on this later, when I do my next book comments--but for now, suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed both novels; I am thrilled (for multiple reasons) to be friends with such a talented fellow word-smith (who also gives incredible feedback); and the movies are going to be awesome.

One more thing I am particularly pleased about, and then you, Gentle Readers, can get back to your lives. ;o) This week, my friend Bryan is in from Pittsburgh, visiting various and sundry folk. What's way cool about this is that I got to see him for the first time on Monday. The first time in over 20 years. How amazingspiffalicious is that?!? We were kids together in the Frankfurt church, back when the American congregation still existed. Neither of us can remember when he and his family left--such is military life--but I'm thinking it was 1986 or '87. Anyway, I found Bryan on Facebook last year (through the Gambill boys, much to our collective amusement), and now we've met again for real this week.

Ed and I got together with Bryan at Ted's on Monday, and though it wasn't really awkward, the first few moments were definitely a bit surreal. I could see him now, but I could also see him as a kid, as I remembered him, so it was weird trying to make those two pictures match up in my head. The only thing I could say was, "You're a lot taller than I remember," which was so obvious, it just sounded silly. ;o) We've played catch-up all week and keep discovering all these random things we have in common--such as a favorite pickle brand and the color red. Ed and I are going out with him for German food tonight (Royal Bavaria. OH YEAH.), and I probably don't have to spell out for you how all sorts of excited I am about this. It definitely swings my verge (click tag below for explanation). Sha-boom. ;oD

And that's all the run-down you get. ;o)