Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fight the Hate

There have been many posts this week of personal lists of things to be thankful for.

Many people wrote about their thankfulness for their family, and sometimes for their spouses in particular.

I'd like to remind us all that those who are thankful for their spouses should be thankful that they're given the right to have those spouses.

Those who are thankful for their children, also need to be thankful for the fact that they are allowed to raise their children unencumbered and legally.

And in this day and age in the U.S., at a time when an African American has finally made it into the White House, we still have a large percentage of our population who do not share those basic human rights.

Our Declaration of Independence, the document on which our country was founded, puts things this way: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Shouldn't a loving relationship, a legally-sanctioned, I-love-you-forever kind of relationship count as part of that pursuit of happiness? Since when did the 14th Amendment guarantee rights to only part of our population?

In case you forgot about the 14th Amendment, let me just refresh your memory:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

There has been a great deal written about Proposition 8. The California dream that allowed couples to legally wed, was snatched away quickly in November. And no, don't even think that it was "the voice of the people" speaking - as with most major political campaigns, this was all about who had the most money and the most power. There was a concerted effort to remove this basic right from our LGBT citizens.

Along with Proposal 8, there was Florida Proposition 2, developed to amend that state's constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. There is already a state law on the books to this effect, but this wasn't enough for straight Floridians who apparently feel that the right to marriage should only be given to certain parts of the population, that apparently the "everyone is created equal" business doesn't apply to LGBT citizens.

Then there's Arizona's Proposition 102, similar to Florida's Proposition 2, which also passed. This was seen to have passed because it didn't forbid Civil Unions - I mean, that's fair, right? You can still have a "legal partnership".

What is fair about some of our citizens having certain rights and those rights being denied to other segments of our population?


It is NOT fair - but more about that later.

In some ways, to me personally, the most insidious of the laws passed in November was Arkansas's Act 1, which forbids foster parenting or adoptions by any unmarried couple. And, of course, if you're a LGBT couple in Arkansas, it's illegal for you to be married. So here, we're not only affecting the rights of our citizens to be married or to be parents, we're also affecting the rights of children to be placed in loving homes.

You've heard it before, but it bears repeating: our country has a large deficit of children, especially older children, who need loving homes. Who need stable families. We have parents waiting to adopt them. We have stable couples who have committed to each other for longer than the child's parents ever did, but um, hey - they're not allowed to be parents because they love someone who is the same sex?

Having been a teacher for 25+ years, I've seen parental rights terminated. Those few terminations have been for good reasons. We're talking crack or meth addicts who've failed every attempt at rehabilitation, six-year-olds living cold and hungry because Mama drank up every last penny of income, children coming into school with burn marks all over their bodies.

I've also sat across the table from Gay and Lesbian couples who are parents of children I've taught.

And they're the same as my other strong, loving parents. They may not be perfect, but are any of us as parents?

I've only seen one situation where children suffered due to having Lesbians as parents, and that was only due to the fact that this couple did not have equal rights under the law. When the couple split up, one woman left the other for a man and decided to rescind the rights of her partner. Despite the fact that her partner had shared in parenting these children up through age nine (when the split took place), this woman decided that she was now "straight" and didn't want the partner hanging around in any way. And she was able to do this because her name was the one on the adoption papers. Because she lives in a state where adoptions by Gay or Lesbian couples is illegal. Now before you argue that this wouldn't have happened if they hadn't been Lesbians because Lesbian couples are unstable, shame. on. you.

How many heterosexual couples do you know who have split up?

We're closing in on a 50% divorce rate in this country. Some couples make it; some don't, and whether you're straight or gay has no bearing on that. And shouldn't the children of gay couples receive the same rights as those of straight couples? It's about the children, people.

Now all of you who are fathers out there, how would it be if your wife left you and took the kids, and was allowed to do so because "the mother is the only one with legal rights".

You've been with those children every second of their lives, changed their diapers, gazed lovingly in their eyes, kissed their booboos, took them swimming, tucked them in at night, were role models in right and wrong.

But hey, your womb didn't carry them, so why should you have rights?

Okay, I've gone on way too long here. In fact, I waited way too long to write this post. I've actually started this post way too many times.

There's nothing that I can write here that will be good enough.

There's nothing that I can write here that can truly express how wrong this is to live in the United States of America, this supposed bastion of Democracy and equal rights, and not have full rights extend to ALL our citizens.

Those who believe they have moral arguments, against these marriages, fine - that's your belief system. But honestly, can you believe that it's right to deny rights to only one segment of our population?

As long as this situation exists, we've got a long, long way to go. As Obama said in his victory speech: "It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.".

But you know what? It's still not here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Tales

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate!

So I gotta tell ya this one.

This year, we're part of a poultry CSA. We have a local farm that's got some hoop houses up and is trying to provide eggs, chickens and a turkey per family over the winter months. It's a bit of an experiment; we'll see. Our farmer's a great guy, we're contributing to local, family farming. It's all good.

So our farmer asks me about chicken sizes; I tell him we don't really care - big is fine because we'll use all the parts.

Well, I think he transferred that to our turkey size.

We noticed, when he delivered the bird Tuesday night, that it seemed, well, large.

D wanted to sleep in today, and since there will only be us and my FIL for dinner today and I could do this menu in my sleep, I said that was fine.

He asked if there was anything I needed before this morning.

I said, "Yeah, please weigh the turkey."

So he did.

24 lbs. 24 unbelievable lbs. There are FOUR of us.

I looked up turkey charts.

Yep, this sucker was OFF the charts.

So... we did what anyone would do. (Cough, cough) or at least in my house. We cut the sucker in half. So I'm now roasting it inside-side-down. And I'm guessing it will cook pretty quick. My FIL, the retired neurosurgeon, supervised the hacking slicing of the turkey in half. BTW... if you ever have to do this, your fabulous herb shears, that you keep pristine are the perfect weapon tool.

So... any guesses how my turkey is going to turn out this year? We love an adventure.

Oh, and to top it all off, my farmer told us we need to keep the fridge REALLY cold since there's no preservatives or anything like that. So we did. And froze our greens and piggy greens.

We're just kitchen geniuses around here alright.

Here's to great turkey tales on your end!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday: Easiest (and BEST) Chicken-Noodle-Whatever Soup

Please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

It's that time of year.

We've had several snow falls this week - some of which have "stuck" (briefly), and some of which have just been a pretty pain.

It's also a time of major cooking, cleaning, guesting, hosting, preparing... well, you get it.

And it cries, no screams, for simple, filling recipes that keep us warm and happy and yes, relaxed, if at all possible.

One of my favorite "go-to" recipes for this is a very, very simple slow cooker chicken soup. There are many "maybes" with this one, and only a couple of "have-tos". It's a 10 - 15 minute prep in the morning, a 15-minute follow-up right before dinner, and a whole lot of happy faces. Enjoy!

Jen's Easiest (and BEST) Chicken-Noodle-Whatever Soup

Ingredients (varies):

A leftover chicken carcass with NO SKIN (from a roast chicken or a chicken you picked up roasted, etc.) (have-to)
the chicken neck (or whatever you didn't roast with your chicken if you, in fact, roasted the chicken yourself)
2 BIG soup carrots or the equiv., peeled, with the ends chopped off (have-to)
1 honking big onion, peeled and cut in half (have-to)
a couple of stalks of celery, leaves and all, washed well, with the bottom trimmed (nice - very good if you've got it - NOT a have to)
some sprigs of fresh rosemary or a TBS of dried rosemary (again, not a have-to, but very, very nice)
a couple of cloves of smashed garlic (same as with the rosemary)
a heaping TBS of Kosher salt (HAVE-TO - unless you have salt issues, then Mrs. Dash or something like that will do)
water (I'll explain below)
any other veggies you need to use up, cracked pepper, parmesan cheese, leftover sausage, or anything else that strikes your fancy. (not have-tos)


1. Prep veggies and throw in slow cooker.
2. Tear or cut carcass in the slow cooker.
3. JUST cover the veggies and carcass with water. Note: if you have very salty well water, you'll do much better to use spring water or equiv for this - or filtered or whatever, because salty well-water will really make this taste odd).
4. Sprinkle salt, garlic and rosemary over all.
5. IF you're going to be around, set cooker for high for 1 1/2 hours and then switch to low for 6 hours more. If you're not going to be around, just set it to low for 8 - 10 hours.
6. Go do other things. All day.

7. 15 minutes or so before serving: unplug cooker.
8. Make pasta of your choice in a separate pot (yes, you can do this in the broth, but the noodles absorb too much broth and the broth gets gummy).
9. Place a colander or strainer over a large bowl in the sink. Take the cooker and pour the broth through the colander. Reserve the veggies and chicken in the colander - remove and let broth cool somewhat (it's generally VERY hot)
10. Drain pasta.
11. Prep bowls - look in your fridge for leftover veggies, cut them up, and place in bowls. Strip chicken from carcass, divide between bowls. Cut up the carrots and celery, divide in bowls. Ladle pasta into bowls.
12. Ladle broth into bowls - it will heat everything (if it's cooled too much, heat it on the stove for a moment or three before adding it to the soup bowls).
13. Put lots of cracked pepper over all. Enjoy!

I don't have exact nutrition info on this, but it is lowfat and fairly low calorie - I believe it's about 150 - 200 calories per jam-packed bowl.

Here's the stages of prep with the bowls (we had peas to use up):

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wow! And thank yous...

I was overwhelmed with the well-wishes I received in terms of my mother's move. Thank you all so much for the kind words.

I truly appreciate each and every one of them.

Things are going relatively well, so far. After taking stock of my mother, how much help she has in NYC from friends, etc., and the sheer number of tasks that need to get done, I know I will be taking more trips there than I had anticipated, but fortunately, the airfares are actually amazingly cheap right now, and all of the other trips will be between semesters for me, so I'm delighted with that.

My mother's spirits are remarkable, all things considered. She's working hard to make tough decisions, and she's taking in her friends' sorrow without succumbing to feeling maudlin or depressed herself.

I'm sure she'll collapse once she hits Ann Arbor, but for now, she's been amazing. I'm truly in awe of her.

The bad news is that the computer situation in NYC is ... um... not good. Long story short, I can't really get internet on my laptop, and my mother's computer is such an antique that doing anything like reading blogs that have ANY load time whatsoever becomes a ridiculous task. Even bringing up my own blog is close to impossible.

So I'll be disappearing a bit from time to time, both as a writer and a reader.

I'm still working on my Proposal 8 post, and I hope to post that today or tomorrow.

In the meantime, I again want to extend my thanks to all the well wishes and especially to Amy of Write Brained and Nuria of Spanish Recipes. I was delighted to return and find this lovely award from Amy:

Here are the rules:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog.
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.

I've decided to nominate blogs who are trying to create positive change in this confused world of ours by making us consider:

Greg of Scribble in the Margins - Greg pushes us to think about government tactics and to go beyond simply accepting what the mainstream media might have to say on a specific issue.
April of It's All About Balance - April has many passions, all of which include fairness and the rights of all to receive decent treatment.
Jointly to Lilac Specs of Lilac Colored Glasses and Hotmamamia of The Pittsburgh Deli - in this mother/daughter team, despite having different blogs with different emphases, it's clear that Hotmama's care for others and general sense of justice and fairness has been passed on to Lilac - AND vice versa. ;-)
Chani of Finding My Way Home - Chani reminds us to slow down, think about what we're doing, and to search for compassion.
Jointly to Carol of Northwest Ladybug and Sarabeth of I Once Was HP - both Carol and Sarabeth were tireless in their reminders about the presidential campaign - Carol in terms of news items, etc., about Obama and Sarabeth in her reminders to vote. And yes, many, many others could be included in this category, but both of these bloggers caught my attention with their clear writing and tenacity.
Jointly to Jenn of Something To Say About Life in the Netherlands and Brillig of Twas Brillig - Both Jenn and Brillig have written touching and informative posts about autism and current autism treatment, programs, etc.
Jami of Not That Different - Jami reminds us to consider the rights of ALL U.S. citizens and to remember that different viewpoints or lifestyles are just that - different - not better or worse. An important reminder at all times.

And these lovely awards from Nuria:

She did not post rules with these, except to say that they needed to be given together. Okay... so I'm randomly choosing the number 7 again and I've chosen blogs that are causing my muse to sing these days:

Anno of Anno's Place - I believe Anno's taken some kind of writing pills lately - her poetry is magnificent, as well as inspiring.
Peter of Cookblog - Peter has a wicked sense of humor, as well as a superb eye and palate. His food concoctions are extraordinarily creative and often served on his pottery, which is truly organic and just fabulous. I have no more to say.
Sandy of Momisodes - Sandy inspires me with both her words and her photos every. single. day. She seems to have a bottomless well of creativity.
Diana of Diana:Muse - Diana's stunning images, along with her insights into both artists and politics leave me breathless.
Jointly to NYC/Caribbean Ragazza and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso - While there are several blogs that do this, the unique take that both Michelle and NYC have on their lives in Italy make me both yearn and dream.
Jointly to Jenn of The Leftover Queen and Ben of What's Cooking - Both Jenn and Ben use their love of food to build community - a talent that nourishes both my kitchen and my soul.
Becca of Becca's Byline - Becca not only provides her lovely observations through her "bylines", but she also runs a number of activities for writers, and it's for her inspiration to so many that I include her here.

Happy reading! I will slowly, but surely, be catching up in the next few days.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shot Girl Giveaway Winner and a bit of other business

Our Shot Girl giveaway winner is Dru of Notes from Me. Dru is a reader of epic proportions, and I know she was looking forward to the release of Shot Girl almost as much as I was, so I'm happy she won. (I would have been happy if anyone else had won, too, but obviously for different reasons). I've started Shot Girl and it's absolutely as wonderful as I expected it to be, so for those of you who didn't win - get thee to a (preferably independent) bookstore, or go here to buy it!

I want to apologize for my lack of comments on blogs recently. I will be even more scarce over the next week, as I am off to NYC to help my mother begin getting ready to move out of the building where she's lived for 47 years. The good news is that she's moving to be closer to us, and she's very excited about where she's moving to, but needless to say, it's hard to give up the city that's been her heart and soul for a total of 63 years now.

I'll be on and reading as I can. I'll also be posting some comments on Proposition 8 and other ballot measures later in the week. We still have a long, long way to go towards eradicating prejudice in this country.

No What's Cooking Wednesday this week, as I'll be happily experiencing NYC take-out.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fox News: What McCain's campaign staffers truly felt about Sarah Palin

Okay... I'm really going to lay off the political posts. Truly.

I had to post this, though.

Fox News is our most conservative mainstream media outlet. Here is discussion by the "inside" Fox reporter who worked most closely with the McCain campaign about what the McCain staffers thought about Sarah Palin and her competency/knowledgability:

There is no one I know who reads this blog who doesn't know that Africa is a continent.

Here, also, are highlights from the Newsweek "post-election" insiders article that looks at secrets behind the scenes in BOTH campaigns. There are some revelations about Palin's behavior here, as well. Again, Newsweek is hardly a bastion of the liberal news media:

Hackers and Spending Sprees: Highlights from Newsweek's Special Election Project

There is talk about a Sarah Palin run in 2012.

With so many qualified, decent people in the Republican party, shouldn't we, as a country, deserve better?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

November 4, 2008 11:01 PM


Monday, November 3, 2008

Shot Girl Blog Tour!

Karen E. Olson, author of the Annie Seymour mysteries and the upcoming, Vegas-based Ink series, is here to talk about her new release, Shot Girl.

I was so excited about Karen's visit, that I decided to have my first bloggy giveaway.

Yes, you can win your very own copy of Shot Girl just by leaving a comment below and I will enter your name to my random drawing (I'll announce the winner a week from today).

To whet your appetite, here's a teaser about Shot Girl from Karen's website

New Haven police reporter Annie Seymour has a talent for running into trouble. So it should come as no shock when her co-worker's bachelorette party at a local club turns into a crime scene. What is surprising is that the dead bar manager on the sidewalk outside happens to be Annie's ex-husband — and the bullet shells around his body match the gun she has in her car.

Coming face-to-face with her past, Annie delves into a conspiracy involving everyone from a male stripper to a shot girl. If she wants to get the story, she'll have to escape a killer . . . before she becomes the next headline.

You can also read the first chapter on Karen's website, and for those of you who know Annie, you'll be amazed to find her wearing stilettos. And that fact led to my first question:

Jen: So are the heels going to be a new look for Annie? I'm having a hard time with the chase/run thing. LOVED the first scene, though.

Karen: Annie is fashion challenged, but she does slip on another pair of high heeled sandals a little later in the book for what she hopes is a little dinner foreplay with Vinny.

Jen: Will Tom and Vinny ever kiss and make up, or are we going to see lots of testosterone swimming around in Annie's future?

Karen: Let's just say that everyone's taken care of at the end of SHOT GIRL.

Jen: What's up with Annie's fucking language? Did she ever serve as a Marine?

Karen: Annie works in a newsroom. I learned all that language myself as a young reporter. And when I worked as a copy editor at the paper in New Haven and we got a new computer system, a friend aptly said that its patron saint was St. Expletive. So anyone who says they've never heard such language in a newsroom is lying.

Jen: Okay, so you've been stuck with, er given the present of, Election Day as your release date, so I gotta ask - is Annie an Obama or McCain woman?

Karen: Annie is an objective newspaper reporter and would never divulge her personal political leanings in public. How's that for an evasive answer?

Jen: Will Annie ever learn that guns seem to get her in more trouble than they're worth?

Karen: If you haven't noticed, Annie doesn't actually ever shoot her gun in the first three books. I realized that myself and figured that in SHOT GIRL perhaps the gun should play a little bigger role. I mean, "shot" is in the title after all.

Jen: As a print journalist yourself for most of your career, do you advocate guns for all journalists? What about the society page writers? Maybe especially the society page writers?

Karen: No journalists should never carry a gun. It would be frightening. I did work at one point with a sports editor who kept a handgun in the glovebox of his car and we were terrified he'd go off the handle one night and go postal on us. He had a bit of a temper.

Jen: What's the one thing you most want my readers to know about SHOT GIRL, since I keep asking such inane questions?

Karen: Annie is an unreliable narrator in SHOT GIRL. Which means you shouldn't believe anything she says. And that's all I'll say.

Jen: I think it's safe to say you know New Haven pretty well. How is it writing a new series set in Vegas? Was this really a ploy to write off time at the craps tables?

Karen: I went to Vegas and didn't even gamble once. But I do get to write off my trip. Actually, writing about Vegas was incredibly freeing. I didn't have to worry about actual restaurants or intersections. I concentrated on the atmosphere, the heat, the glitz. Although I did manage to squeeze in my favorite fast food joint: In N Out Burgers, which we don't have here in Connecticut.

Jen: Can you tell us what will be coming up in the new series?

Karen: THE MISSING INK will be out in July. It features Brett Kavanaugh, a tattoo shop owner in Las Vegas, and her staff of tattooists. The plot centers around a missing woman. I've got a dwarf, guillotines, and a karaoke Elvis bar in it. It's great fun, but it's got an edge. It's not as chick-litty as I think it might look. The second, PRETTY IN INK, will be out sometime after that. It depends how fast I can write it before a pub date is tossed around. But that book will center on drag queens. I'm having a blast with these books.

Jen: Is this Annie's swansong, or will there be more Annie stories to look forward to? I must say, I'd miss Annie terribly.

Karen: Right now, SHOT GIRL is the last Annie book. Honestly, I'm not sure I could write another Annie book at the moment. I've got too many friends losing their jobs at newspapers, which are imploding. I think I'd have to either lay off Annie or have her take a buyout and it certainly wouldn't be funny anymore. Although someone suggested sending her to Vegas for a tattoo. So she might make a cameo at some point in the new series.

Jen: What are the First Offenders planning for THIS April Fools Day? You all really had me the last time. (They had a "break-up" post, which was hysterical, heartbreaking and... um... believable for certain gullible, types). Okay, so I'm just plain stupid, sometimes.

Karen: Do you really think we plan that far ahead? :)

Now run and get your own copy of Shot Girl by clicking this link or win your own copy by entering the drawing by leaving a comment below.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Seven Random Things about Me and Annie Seymour

I was tagged for the Seven Random Things meme, and I'm so rude I can't even remember who tagged me, but I know I've seen it on many of my friends' blogs, so I invite you to click on my blogroll for any random blog you've not yet read. They're all great blogs, so you'll have fun!

Tomorrow is going to be a big day around here because we have the lovely Karen E. Olson, author of the Annie Seymour mystery series, coming to open her blog tour for her latest Annie Seymour - Shot Girl. I wanted to remind you about our special event and giveaway(!!!), so I thought I'd combine the two.

Seven random facts about moi (and Annie... and Karen):

1. I received Karen's last book, Dead of the Day, because my son wanted to find a mystery book to get me for Christmas and it was the only cover he really liked. He picked it out randomly, I'm sorry to say.

2. When I opened it on Christmas morning, I was not enthusiastic, because I misread the back cover and I thought it was a "crime" novel. (I LOVE mysteries - crime novels, not so much).

3. I posted here about various books I'd gotten for Christmas and ones I'd read and loved. (Hadn't even thought to pick up Dead of the Day, but I mentioned it in case C saw my blog - I didn't want him to get his feelings hurt).

4. Karen showed up in my comments section! Yikes! THE author! I figured I'd better give the book a shot. I always love to support authors, and I was completely flabbergasted that she'd stopped by and... seemed so nice.

5. Once I started Dead of the Day, I couldn't put it down. I LOVED it. All the ingredients I adore were in one book: a. a powerful, but flawed, heroine, b. lots of local color (in this case, New Haven), c. humor, d. GOOD romance (nothing soppy) e. social causes (immigration issues were a key component of Dead of the Day). Wow! I immediately got Karen's first two books in the series, Sacred Cows and Second Hand Smoke.

6. I became an Annie fanatic and became a some time correspondent of Karen's. I also discovered several other authors of wonderful series through her group blog, First Offenders. (If you haven't checked it out and you love mysteries - go! Now!)

7. I'm totally jazzed about hosting Karen tomorrow. I'm totally jazzed about reading Shot Girl. And I'm totally jazzed about giving away a copy of Shot Girl so that others will become Annie Seymour fans, too. (And Karen E. Olson fans).

Don't forget to stop by and leave a comment!