Sunday, December 31, 2006

3,000 DEAD SOLDIERS: Happy New Year!

I was going to write something hopeful and poignant to reflect my thoughts on closing out 2006 and beginning anew tomorrow in 2007.

All I can think of is that 3,000 brave soldiers sacrificed their lives in Iraq as of this last day of 2006.

Someone, please tell me for what? We have destroyed a country, possibly created the most violent "religious" clash known in the history of the world, and for what? Why?

Little did I know when I posted about the below three recent deaths that this entry would be the fourth. God, please let it end.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

R.I.P.: Musician James Brown

There must be something in the air. Three "legends" of varying fame or infamy have passed in the last couple of days. Let's hope that this is the end of it. Today is the formal service of soul legend, musician and singer James Brown.

I will be updating this post to reflect some thoughts on the "Godfather of Soul's" passing.

I've been reading about James life. Did you know he was raised from the age of 5 in his aunt's brothel?


R.I.P: President Gerald R. Ford

I will be posting comments related to former President Ford's passing. Virtually every news station has continuous coverage. It appears that Bob Woodward (of Watergate expose' fame) interviewed President Ford recently.

Ford, having secured agreement that the interview would not be revealed until after his death, spoke at detail on the mistake of the US having started a war of aggression against Iraq.

Let's just say Ford disapproved. Too bad he didn't speak up before the 2004 election when it would have made a difference. The press would have been compelled to report on such a prominent Republican, a former President also had concerns. I shudder to think of the thousands and thousands of Americans and Iraqis who've since died or become disabled since 2004.

Instead, Ford's silence allowed the press to continue to characterize democrats and other Americans seeing the truth about Bush's failed Iraq policies as cowards, stupid, and capable only of cutting and running. I wonder what God thinks about people who put party before the best interests of people?

I wonder God said to Ford about his silence when he found himself at the pearly gates.

I wonder what Ford said to God when giving his final accounting of his actions on earth and their impact.

I wonder if Ford is in heaven. Food for thought.


Friday, December 29, 2006

Saddam Hussein: Executed

I thought it prudent to document in Shella Uncut that US news is reporting that Saddam Hussein has been executed. Hanged for crimes against humanity.

I feel conflicted. Do you ever wonder whether Saddam made Iraq, or Iraq made Saddam? Do you ever wonder whether he received a fair trial? I do.


UPDATE: A dear friend and colleague of mine, Jacques (who is too shy to make a comment on my blog - yet), has forwarded a link that we think readers will want to know about. I've included below Jacques' email to me which includes the link.

Subject: Baghdad Burning
Date: Mon, 1 Jan 2007 12:07 AM

If you haven’t read Baghdad Burning, you should – and maybe add it to your blogroll.

Riverbend doesn’t write often – two posts over the course of a couple of days is not her usual level of written production – but she’s incensed over the way the Butcher was tried and executed.

She’s an Iraqi woman, writing from inside Baghdad, and gives an “inside” view of life in that city, outside the Green Zone. I first read one of her posts through a link on Emptywheel. But these posts came to my attention through Juan Cole’s blog.

It’s as close to an Al Jazeera account that we can get.

Wherein Shella Gets Derailed

Well, today was the last business day of 2006. I had intended to work. Really. This is the post wherein I describe the demise of my best laid plans.

Last night I decided to cook the prime rib roast, which had been marinating since Christmas day (ginger, garlic, rosemary, dijon, balsamic vinegar, soy and teriyaki.) This blog started on 12/26 - so you haven't heard just why it was the prime rib roast didn't actually get cooked and consumed on Christmas day as had been planned. It's a post for another day.

Anyway, other menu items were a great salad (herb and baby greens, tomato, bamboo shoots, perlini mozzarella, avocado with balsamic dressing) french bread, and steamed fingerling potatoes. Desert was carrot cake (the weak link as it turns out.)

We were having an awesome time. Dinner was fab, the roast was cooked to perfection, and my shiraz buzz was light and enjoyable. Simone slipped off to her room to call Juan, her friend from school who also has downs syndrome. I will digress for one moment to let you know that I will soon be incorporating posts about how my Remarkable Simone has Downs - and what's up with that. As this is "Uncut" expect to hear the good, the bad, the unexpected, all of it.

About 9:30 Remarkable Simone went to bed. About 10:00 I hear a very strange noise -- I recall thinking that my neighbor must be coughing loudly. Then I hear a very thin, tremulous voice calling "mommy... mommy....".

So, I open the door turn on the light... and Remarkable Simone has become ill (if you know what I mean) in a pile next to her bed. Oh. Oh shit this has to be cleaned up thoroughly. And now. How gross.

It must say something about my parenting skills that the first thing I thought was not about comforting my Remarkable Simone in her moment of distress. It was about how much I DID NOT want to clean up the mess now soaking into the mid-shag carpeting and padding.

The important thing to remember in a situation like this is that you've got to get all the solid stuff (if it dries and hardens into the carpet fuzz it'll never come out). The second thing to remember is where you put the rubber gloves and liquid disinfectant (this is where the gas mask from 9/11 comes in handy). The third thing is to understand you will, absolutely, HAVE to rent a carpet cleaner/extractor (if you don't own one already).

I did my best. I ended up covering the spot with three folded bath towels and turned my eye toward how to make the Remarkable Simone feel better.

About every 15 - 25 minutes from 10 pm until about 3 am Simone was ill. We bathed at midnight to ease discomfort. I climbed in bed next to my sick little sweetie crooning, soothing, rubbing her back. Toward morning, things settled down and Remarkable Simone fell asleep. I repaired to the sofa. I fitfully dreamt of germs and carpet cleaners.

Let's just say that instead of working on the last business day of 2006, I became unintentionally derailed and spent the day cleaning carpets, disinfecting laundry, de-germing every surface in the bathroom and bedroom, and hoping against hope that I don't get what ever it is that Remarkable Simone has.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Altered Oceans: Ah Oh...

My son Nicholas just graduated a university with a BS in Aquatic Biology. So naturally, I read with interest emerging research that I run across about the health of our oceans.

("Rosey Lipped Bat Fish" - cute isn't it?)

We live in a coastal California town and both of my children's lives revolve around the ocean. Nick surfs, fishes, skin dives and SCUBA dives and the remarkable Simone is a fishing fiend (her dad has a boat).

Some of our most cherished family stories revolve around ocean-related events, and the majority of our family photos involve the water either surfing, fishing, sun-bathing, diving, boating, or what have you.

Today I stumbled on the
five part LA Times series "Altered Oceans" that I'd like to share with you. Below is an excerpt that I hope inspires you to check out the series.

MORETON BAY, AUSTRALIA -- The fireweed began each spring as tufts of hairy growth and spread across the seafloor fast enough to cover a football field in an hour.

When fishermen touched it, their skin broke out in searing welts. Their lips blistered and peeled. Their eyes burned and swelled shut. Water that splashed from their nets spread the inflammation to their legs and torsos.

"It comes up like little boils," said Randolph Van Dyk, a fisherman whose powerful legs are pocked with scars. "At nighttime, you can feel them burning. I tried everything to get rid of them. Nothing worked."

As the weed blanketed miles of the bay over the last decade, it stained fishing nets a dark purple and left them coated with a powdery residue. When fishermen tried to shake it off the webbing, their throats constricted and they gasped for air.

After one man bit a fishing line in two, his mouth and tongue swelled so badly that he couldn't eat solid food for a week.

Others made an even more painful mistake, neglecting to wash the residue from their hands before relieving themselves over the sides of their boats.

For a time, embarrassment kept them from talking publicly about their condition. When they finally did speak up, authorities dismissed their complaints — until a bucket of the hairy weed made it to the University of Queensland's marine botany lab.

Samples placed in a drying oven gave off fumes so strong that professors and students ran out of the building and into the street, choking and coughing.

I don't know what so say about this. My constant education about the deteriorating state of our earth disturbs me. And don't EVEN get me started on global warming. Feel free to post a link to your favorite environmental stories, articles, YouTube or whatever.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Timothy Shriver: "No Room at the Inn"

I am pasting below an essay by Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics and brother-in-law to California Governor Schwarzenegger.

No Room At the Inn
By Timothy Shriver
Monday, December 25, 2006

I believe in the principle of last-first: The last thing you think will be valuable is likely to be the first and most important. This Christmas, the lesson came to me in a particularly powerful story: the scandal of Misty Cargill.

Driving home from Christmas shopping, I couldn't believe what I heard on NPR. Misty Cargill is a woman with a mild intellectual disability living in a group home in Oklahoma. She and her boyfriend go to movies regularly and play in a weekly bowling league with friends. She works full time at a nearby factory. Her life is normal in almost every respect except one: Misty Cargill needs a kidney transplant.

I'm no expert on the gut-wrenching ethics of transplant decisions, nor am I a doctor. But when I heard that Cargill was told that she was not a candidate for transplant because of her lack of mental competence, I was outraged. The University of Oklahoma Medical Center decision makers claimed that she was unable to give informed consent and turned her away.

They did this despite her own physician saying that she is perfectly competent. The hospital then suggested she get a medical guardian, but state officials refused to play the role, because they rightfully determined that she was already fully competent. Most recently, the hospital has offered to conduct its own assessment of her competence, and that's due next month.

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised. In one survey quoted by reporter Joseph Shapiro, 60 percent of transplant centers reported that they'd have serious concerns about giving a kidney to someone with mild to moderate intellectual disability apparently based on fears that these patients can't handle the complex post-transplant care. The facts are exactly the opposite: People with intellectual disabilities who have been lucky enough to get a transplant do as well if not better than non-disabled people, probably because of their fidelity to instructions and their network of caregivers and supporters.

Lurking below the surface is the more likely reason for denial: Someone determines that people with intellectual disabilities are inferior, human beings of lesser value, the last priority. They're put last in line because they're thought not to matter quite as much as other people. For Misty Cargill, like another vulnerable person who is being celebrated today all over the world, there is no bed available. And for Cargill, being turned away may well cost her life.

But the transplant physicians' attitude is common. According to a Special Olympics Gallup survey in 2003, a strikingly similar number of Americans, 62 percent, don't even want a child with intellectual disabilities in their child's school. In studies of health care providers, Special Olympics has found rampant negligence in the care of people with intellectual disabilities. Some doctors even report that they don't want people with intellectual disabilities sitting in their waiting rooms. One confided that when care is given, it's usually "quick and dirty."

All of which brings us to the real question that Christmas invites: Who matters? A child in a malaria-infested zone? A transplant surgeon? Misty Cargill?

During this season when we're confronted with the world's injustices, we're challenged to muster the willpower to make a difference for those who suffer from inequalities.

But what about when the problem is not an absence of willpower but the presence of won't power? What about when we are the innkeepers -- confronted by too little space and finding ourselves uttering the terrifying words to those who we decide matter less: "There is no room for you." What about when we ourselves construct the edifice on which the shocking and outrageous devaluing of human dignity rests?

We search for a way out. The Americans With Disabilities Act forbids such discrimination by public entities such as the hospital that turned Misty down, does it not? The recently adopted United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities forbids such discrimination, does it not? Medical ethics would disallow such behavior, would it not? Political leaders committed to protecting human life will act, will they not?

Maybe. But on Christmas, we might remember that no matter how many restrictions and rules we create, the enigma of humanity remains our inability to follow the mystery of love all the way to its awe-filled conclusion: Every human life matters. There are no exceptions. There is no hierarchy. The presence of the divine can be seen in the tiniest and most vulnerable just as it can be seen in the strong and powerful.

But it can be seen especially among those who are demeaned, reduced to a stable, having no room at the inn.

The most celebrated character in literature with a disability, Tiny Tim, famously proclaimed, "God bless you, one and all." He was an agent of change -- the cause of poor Scrooge's transformation from misery to joy.

Perhaps Misty Cargill is today's protagonist of change inviting us to a deep and terrifying view of the world we have created. She is the embodiment of the last-first principle: She may be last on the transplant list, but she may be first in her power to invite a rethinking.

I pray that she will inspire us to feel differently about human life, both hers and our own.

Your thoughts?


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

An Unusual New Years Resolution... Crazy or What?

Considering that former President Gerald Ford has passed away and I should probably be blogging something profound about it, the following could be construed as... well... trivial.

However, if you are a woman (or know a woman) who is all wrapped up in her hair (and I do not mean Lady Godiva or Rapunzel), gives a shit about how she looks, and has contemplated what hair represents about self-image, sexuality, society, convention, etc. - you'll know that this topic is not trivial by a long shot.

The new year is almost here. I've been thinking quite a lot about what I'd like to accomplish. For most of my adult life I did not bother making new years resolutions. Why? I don't know.

But now, I am experimenting with ways that I can use the new year's resolution process to my advantage. To do things I should be doing otherwise but have been to.... lazy or preoccupied to get a handle on.

I've written this great long list of resolutions - 10 in all - that run the gammut of exercising frequently again to well... never mind. From what I understand, most people only make one big resolution. However, if you knew me you'd know that one is rarely enough.

I've gotten creative in my resolution-making. The craziest resolution involves my hair. And it's a year-long project.

You can see my picture below. I look normal, no crazy hair style or color. Unfortunately, that's always been the case for me and it's really starting to bug me. I've just started getting grey hairs, and I unless I take drastic action, I may be the only woman in the world who goes from cradle to grave never having done something extreme with her hair. And I can't have that.

So, my crazy hair resolution is this: Spend one year doing wacky hair experimentation.

Below is what I envision:

1. I will find a color specialist to make me a redhead! Woo hoo! I will let my personality be fiery! (I've never been compelled by red hair so I reserve the right to skip straight to #2 - I just picked red as the first step since it's "on the way" to blond.)

2. Then I will go blond. I want my hair to look like my parents are swedish, or finnish, or danish, or icelandic, or norweigan, or.... okay, let's just say scandinavian. I should then be able to speak with some authority about whether blonds actually do have more fun.

3. After that, I am quite sure my abused locks will be completely ruined, straw-like and maybe even breaking off in clumps, so I will begin cut my hair into a series of progressively shorter hair styles. I imagine that with shorter hair, I will be able to finally begin using potentially fun hair products - like pomades, hair glues, straighteners, gels, mousse, spritzers, sprayers, lotions, creams, foams, etc.

4. As I go shorter I will experiment with extreme color. I'll start out with hot pink and when that washes out I will dye my hair candy apple red, then purple, then electric blue, then raven black. You know the colors I am talking about - you've seen them in the comics. (check out this website I found if you're wondering what the hell I am talking about: CrazyHair)

5. Also, I'll be free to try two-tone dyed hair.

6. Finally, after I have done every crazy hair experiment I have ever heard of, I will cut my hair into a pixie cut, removing all the dead hair and color and allow my natural hair (and grey) to re-emerge and get long again.

On the one year anniversary of this blog I will be able to say that I was once a blond, redhead, blackhead, pinkhead, bluehead, purplehead, etc. I think that's pretty cool, and who knows? Perhaps I will find a new self-identity along the way. I might just LOVE being a purplehead. (it could happen - let's just hope I don't end up looking too freakish)

At dinner last night my son Nicholas mentioned that crazy hair might negatively impact my professional life. Business in other words. I will be considering his concerns and will make a final decision about my year-long crazy hair experiment resolution some time soon. Rest assured that should I decide to do this thing I will generate photographic proof blog about it.

I realize this is a very unusual new years resolution - but is it crazy or what? And, do you think that it will negatively impact my credibility and/or business?


Okay, okay, I'll give this thing a try!

Hello everyone:

This is me, and I've decided to give this blogging thing a try. It feels risky, so naturally I wanted to really go out on a limb and share the good, the bad and the ugly. Hence the title, "Shella Uncut".

I will post on a variety of topics. You'll get politics, state and federal budget stuff, disability-related posts, affordable housing information, and since I am a gadget geek, you get a lot of that also. Be prepared to read posts that reflect my raw, gut reaction. Some of will be politically incorrect. I will probably curse relatively frequently.

I also read some amazing blogs, and I hope to share some of that with you as well -- both by quote and by link.

In the blog set up, I've allowed anyone to post comments on this blog with me moderating it. I sincerely hope my skin is thick enough. I reserve the right to change this setting if it proves to have been ill-considered.

I have some interesting friends and I hope to get them to contribute and post as well. We'll see how it goes.

I have a lot to share, so I expect after a time you'll see a ton of links on the side bar.

I think that I am about done with my first blog post folks, so let's get this party started!