Are you ready for your close-up Mrs. Palin?

H.L. Mencken once said “A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in.”

This from a pundit and newspaperman whose been dead since 1956, but his words still hold true today – case in point, Sarah Palin, her weekend Tea Party convention and subsequent press coverage hinting at a run for the White House in 2012.  She’s got a spectacular three-ring act.

It seems when she isn’t making a horrific hypocrite of herself at the expense of her mentally disabled son, she’s reading crib notes from her hand. She got a lot of press coverage before her gathering of Tea Baggers (a happy coincidence it seems) after crucifying Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, for his use of the word “retard” when dogging liberal Democrats.  She even went so far as to call for his resignation. And why the outrage? She claimed in her Facebook rant it was about decency, not politics. She quoted a friend and fellow parent of a mentally disabled child,  who said he wanted his child to “grow up in a country free from mindless prejudice and discrimination, free from gratuitous insults of people who are ostensibly smart enough to know better…” I couldn’t agree more.

  But, while I will agree with the outrage, fast forward to her interview with Fox News Sunday where she defends Rush Limbaugh’s use of the very same hideous word used to criticize the same group of Democrats by saying Rush “was using satire.”

By way of clarifying, she explained the nuance the rest of us missed: “I didn’t hear Rush Limbaugh calling a group of people whom he did not agree with ‘f-ing retards,’ and we did know that Rahm Emanuel, as has been reported, did say that. There is a big difference there.”

Really? A big difference? Here’s more of Rush’s satire: 

“Our political correct society is acting like some giant insult has taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, ‘retards.” Limbaugh said this on his show. He continued, saying, “These liberal activists are kooks, they are looney tunes. I am not going to apologize for it, I am just quoting Emanuel…”

Sorry, I don’t see the difference. Rahm Emmanuel’s comment was made in a closed door meeting of White House aides and leaders of special interest groups and reported secondhand- not anywhere near as damning as Obama’s own gaffe last year during an interview on the nationally televised Tonight Show with Jay Leno, or Rush’s intentional use of the R-word on his nationally broadcast radio show.

But, as awful as I think it was, Emmanuel did apologize for his comments, as did the President last year. He even went so far as to meet with Tim Shriver, head of the Special Olympics and six other disability advocates. He has also promised to sign an online pledge to end the use of the word.
But Palin’s pal Rush, on the other hand, has said unequivocally that he will not APOLOGIZE. He speaks directly to a wide fan base of politically conservative listeners – most of them Palin’s hoped-for voters – Republicans. Hmmm?  And, upon explaining why he felt no need to apologize, he used the same offensive word THREE more times. But for Palin, a mother of child born with Downs Syndrome,  it’s okay as long as it’s satire. For Rush, he excuses himself because he was quoting someone else, but then clarifies it by attacking the people who find the word offensive by saying “Our political correct society is acting like some giant insult has taken place. . .

But the absolute cherry on top was when Rush finished his diatribe with this little jewel: “So now there is going to be a meeting, there is going to be a retard summit at the White House.”

 Among the members of the “retard summit” to which Rush refers were Special Olympics head Shriver, Andrew Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities; Ricardo Thornton, a Special Olympics athlete; and, Peter Berns of The Arc. These fine people, who do the hard work of advocating for our special children every day, met with Rahm Emmanuel last Wednesday. Does Palin take any offense to them being called the “retard summit”? Apparently not – her hypocrisy is boundless.

What saddens me most about this is Palin using her son to further her political aspirations – this is the center ring of her media circus and it makes my flesh crawl.

Despite my low opinion of her, I think of what someone with her newfound political clout could do for the very population of people she stands on the backs of to get attention for herself. I wonder why she doesn’t truly champion the causes of the mentally disabled, but instead, uses her son’s disability when it is politically advantageous, and leaves it behind when it is not.

When your ego can outpace and outweigh the responsibilities you have as a special needs parent, it’s time to step out of the spotlight. Face it Sarah, your mask is slipping.

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When life hands you a rusty-spoon day, call for help!

Simpler times - ah life!

Simpler times - ah life!

I have from time to time, rated particularly challenging days with my all-boy progeny as “rusty spoon” days.
These are the days when I report to my husband that if time travel were possible I would head back to the early 90s and tear out my ovaries with a rusty spoon.  I tend to dabble in metaphorical sadism when I am at my worst. And obviously, with time travel an impossibility, there is no need to worry that I will be castrating myself with rundown flatware any time soon. Also, this kind of hyperbole has great shock value – it gets my feelings across in a graphic, attention-grabbing way, that my husband can read as clearly as a red-flag at the beach when the currents are too high for one’s personal safety.
Obviously, it’s a cry for help.  I realize this kind of black humor is frowned upon by decent mothers and would-be mothers everywhere, but then they are not in my boat, nor am I in theirs so, I will leave them to come up with their own metaphors for crying “Uncle”.
These women would also find no solace or humor in the saying “mothers of teenagers know why animals eat their young.” But, yesterday, I considered this as a possible tattoo with only slightly less seriousness than my H.G. Wells-inspired spoon surgery.
It started when I went off my nut about the condition of the family room and began threatening removal of any and all fun possibilities in technicolor language until said mess was cleaned up.  It finished with my dear teen digging in his belligerent heels to the injustice of it all and flipping me a certain gesture that I can say with all honesty I never imagined in my wildest dreams would be intended for me. I’m not naive, I expected the gesture would be exercised at some point in his adolescence, like when the first mad driver cut him off in traffic. But, not when the first mad mother asks him to pick up a few dishes and socks. I was so shocked I actually called my husband at work – which is the equivalent of “Now you’ve done it” around here. He‘s like my fire extinguisher – “break glass only in an emergency“.  My husband is a passionate *cough* if not volatile devotee of RESPECT. Perhaps it’s the Navy man in him, but calling Dad, is not done lightly. I am a very independent person. I pride myself on managing home, hearth and unruly boy brood with a minimum of whining. Mostly because reaching the Navigator on an aircraft carrier is a lot like trying to order pizza online – it’s such a huge hassle you can’t even remember why you wanted to do it in the first place. Sometimes this is a good thing, I hang up out of frustration with something new to be pissed about.
Another first of my rusty spoon day- my dear teen got to hear me get in touch with a phrase I vowed never to say to my own kids, “Just wait ‘til your father gets home.” 
I guess it was a day of firsts for us. And, like all adventures in parenting, we both learned something.  I hope that my son learned there are some lines you shouldn’t cross, (that is a direct quote from his Dad) and that paying the piper is more expensive than listening to her pipe, and lastly, waiting until your father comes home is a long and uneasy wait.
I learned that my little boy is not such a little boy anymore, and that tirades aside, respect will have to be a two-way street if I want to get through these coming years.  I will have to take a page from my husband’s book as well – talk less and act more.
Also, I am going to try giving more responsibility to the irresponsible  and see how that goes.  My eldest has the “Tom Sawyer trick” to doing chores – if done badly enough perhaps someone else will step in and do them. And, I hate to say it, it has worked in the past.  I am also going to stick to my guns when it comes to the consequences. I have trouble staying the course when my children are unhappy, and unfortunately they know this. As my husband says, they play me.
 I have to remind myself that while I can’t always give them everything they want, I do give them everything they need. I have to remind myself that while my teen may hate me from time to time I can love him enough to make up the difference. And loving him doesn’t mean loving his behavior.  In a past argument he accused me of only caring about his future, and I am guilty as charged. I need to stay focused on what he can do today.  I’m sure I can step back a bit, but I will not step away.
While having two D’s on his report card “is still passing” and that’s hunky dory with him, the consequences that loom are summer school and 3 months of restriction. While he believes homework is just busy work and “beneath him” so too will be my extraneous housework, chores and chauffeur duties. While I may have to watch him flush away some opportunities and close some doors that could have been open to him, I will love him enough to let him make his own mistakes and be a soft place to land when he falls.
And should adolescence rear it’s ugly head again as it most likely will in the near future (my middle son turns 13 in two weeks!), I will try to remember that while standing knee-deep in the flow of life, sometimes all you can do is roll up your pants and call a plumber.

Tenderfoot Yogi Chronicles – It Ain’t Easy Being Mindful

prayerI’ve been practicing yoga for the last six months and while I would like to say I’ve gotten better at it I really can’t. What I can say is that I am finally getting “it.” That is to say, that there is no room for struggling, competing, hurrying, or worrying in yoga.

The goal, the prize is serenity – to unify your body, mind and spirit – to transform.  It makes me think of the chubby caterpillar, Heinrich,  in the children’s movie “Bugs Life” who knows that someday he will be a “beautiful butterfly.” But, like Heinrich, there are layers of conditioned thought I must shed if I am to experience a new dimension of self.  In a nutshell, it’s all about letting go.

Applying that while on the mat is where the “practicing” comes in.  I am able to let go for a few moments here and there, concentrate on my breath, be in the moment.  But, I still catch my mind wandering off to grocery lists during “downward facing dog”, or wondering if my “camel” looks as graceful as the woman’s on my left. I have wished for a fresh pedicure more than once while gandering at my hooves during “dolphin” pose, but I am finding that letting go of the image I have of my feet and my body is a challenge that gets easier the longer I practice.  Who cares what my butt looks like in forward fold? Everyone is facing their own knees anyhow! And when I fall out of a pose, which happens nearly every class, it is not as defeating as it used to be – I just try, try again.

As a tenderfoot entering into some of the more complex movements yoga has to offer I often think of my 3-year-old son, Colin, when he was learning to walk. He was quite determined, no matter how many times he landed on his bum, and every fall elicited a gleeful giggle. He approached walking with good humor and curiousity and was always forgiving of his own mistakes. So, I too am trying to approach yoga with the fresh eyes and passion of a child. I am letting my yoga experience free me, from, well, me.  And I am finding many of life’s stale platitudes echoing anew in my ears, like: “Attitude is everything,” “pride goeth before a fall,” “practice makes perfect,” “wherever you go there you are.” And strangely, “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

I say echo, because the lessons are learned over and over and over. Yoga for a novice can turn on a dime, from deep understanding to self-congratulation and right back to frustration. But, with gentle compassion, I nudge my little engine back on the track and think “I can.”

Why, just yesterday I managed to relax into a twist.  Accomplishing such contradictory movements is par for the mat – for instance,  staying grounded in your sitting bones  while lifting up toward the ceiling from the base of your skull actually is possible. Yoga is full of such opposing actions and when achieved – even for an “aha” moment it is a taste of bliss. So I press forward, while being patient – another contradiction conquered!

The awakening is slow, but it keeps me coming back to my mat.  I love the joy that comes after such demanding concentration, the layers of understanding that peel away with every session. I love the deep enigmatic metaphor that is yoga. I have come along enough with my practice to uncover the best kept secret of  yoga – that life is best lived slowly, mindfully, focused in the moment and unencumbered by the small stuff.  It will take many backbends, inversions and sun salutations for me to keep this lesson fresh in my mind, but a moment of unshakeable peace is worth the many moments of practice to get there.