Saturday, October 20, 2007


They sprout up every October, but this was the first year Carter noticed the neat rows of metal barricades lining the streets near our house.

"Mom, what are the new gates for?" he asked when they caught his eye a few days ago. I explained that early on Saturday morning, lots and lots of people would turn the neighborhood into a temporary racetrack, and that the gates would help keep the runners and walkers safe from traffic.

A racetrack? The firstborn son of an F1 fan was instantly intrigued, so I promised that if the weather cooperated, we could walk down the block to catch some of the action.

And so it was that we strolled down the sidewalk in our jammies this morning, pointing out capped acorns and fire-ant mounds and autumnal leaves along the way.

Then we reached the end of the sidewalk... and looked up. All we could see was a river of humanity surging from the north horizon and streaming around the corner of our nearest intersection.

I'm sure we only saw a fraction of the 25,000 participants in this year's Race for the Cure, but the effect was impressive nonetheless. Runners and walkers moving as one, most of them wearing bright pink shirts or hats or both, united for one morning and for one cause.

Incredible. Just incredible.

We stood together in silence for a full minute, awed and agog. One of the police officers helping to direct cars around the human congestion waved to us and called out, "Y'all wanna cross the street?"

"Sure!" I said, as I hoisted a twin onto each hip and Carter grabbed the hem of my sweatshirt. After we'd safely crossed over, we staked out a small patch of grass on the corner, where we were treated to an even more impressive view of the participants heading into the last half-mile of the 5k course.

We smiled and waved at the blurry faces that raced past us, ooh-ing and aah-ing and wow-ing as I narrated over the lump in my throat.

"Whoa! Look how fast he's running! I'll bet he had a good breakfast this morning. See those women with the matching t-shirts? They're having fun! Do you think they know how close they are to the finish line? Let's cheer them on!"

And we did cheer them on, even as I realized that not one racer waved or smiled back. Some looked up at us and then glanced quickly away. Or shot us stony glares.

A woman race-walked 'round the corner, close to us. Her eyes averted, she muttered quietly but discernably, "There's a time and a place." I felt a pang... of what, I didn't quite know.

Did I look like a terrible mother for having the muppers so close to the street? Was it because we were clad in our pajamas? Oh, geez... did I forget to brush my teeth again?

Just then, a man ran by. He didn't mutter. He barked, "Self-righteous pigs!" and passed us in a blur. I sucked in my breath and looked around to see if anyone else had heard him.

And that's when I noticed that the ten or twelve bystanders sharing our corner were all holding signs. They weren't signs of encouragement or support; they were signs condemning Planned Parenthood.

YOUR TAX DOLLARS SUPPORTING ABORTIONS! screamed the sign closest to me.

The sign closest to me, the woman with three children in her arms. Me and my three children, waving at the men and women who were running to celebrate their own personal victories against breast cancer, to remember loved ones, to raise money and support the fight for a cure. Not to engage in this debate.

My cheeks flushed pink with humiliation and anger. I turned to the man next to me and cleared my throat before saying, "You know, I really wanted my children to see the race this morning. But I'm not willing to stand next to your sign."

He looked down at me and smiled. "We're opposing the abortionists at your Planned Parenthood." I said, struggling to keep my voice from breaking, "Yes, I see that now, but I'm proud to support Planned Parenthood."

Now he looked past me, at my children, then back at me with raised eyebrows.

"I am a mother," I said, "and I am pro-choice." He shrugged. I turned my back and, with muppers balanced once again on my hips, waited for the police officer to wave us back across the street.

Back on our block, with the race and the protest carrying on quietly behind us, we skipped and giggled the length of the sidewalk to our house. Up the steps, through the door, into the kitchen we tumbled, then made pancakes and plans for the day.

The kids seem blissfully unaware of any tension whatsoever; they didn't hear the brief verbal exchange. But my cheeks are still burning, bright pink.

I don't expect or demand that family members, friends, neighbors or readers share my opinions on matters of politics, religion or college football. Each one of us is, I firmly believe, entitled to our own thought, voice and vote.

But. But...

But the woman with the averted eyes was right: there is a time and a place. Perhaps I'm not the right person to suggest where such a protest should have been held, but I can surely state my opinion that this? Wasn't it. Not by a mile.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Because I have nothing better to do.

So maybe I'm just cranky because I awoke to the sound of chainsaws this morning. That's never a happy noise, especially when it's followed closely by the loud thump of my former neighbor's formerly gorgeous oak trees falling to the ground.

Wretched builders, ruining our neighborhood.

On the other hand, it's entirely possible (read: likely) that I'm just frittering time so I don't have to tackle the effing volunteer project that's been cluttering my effing desk for effing months, provoking me to routinely shake my fist at the sky with a vow to never volunteer for anything ever again.

Oh, please excuse me for just a moment while I take this call.

Hey, Jen. What? The preschool room mother gave birth over the weekend and can no longer fulfill her duties? Of course I'll step in!

I'm sorry. Where were we? Right, right: the reason for this post.

Maybe I'm sharing my grievances with the blogosphere because, like my own personal heroine, Lynne Truss, I'm routinely gobsmacked by the typos and grammatical errors and journalistic blunders I read. And I'm wondering: just when in the utter bloody hell are people going to start writing right?

PROPERLY! I meant to say "writing properly." You see: it's contagious, poor writing.

Allow me to present Exhibit A, a photograph I snapped yesterday of a seemingly innocuous strip of dedication bricks in a local park.

You may want to enlarge the picture to determine why I was sorely tempted to pry one particular block from the ground and run it to a nearby engraver for a quick fix, so egregious and absurd was the error.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: people, please don't underestimate the power of proofraeding.

Exhibit B in today's What Were They Thinking? rant is the following news item, virtually clipped and saved from the front page of this morning.

27 suspended for Clooney file peek

I worry that I might spontaneously combust if I don't itemize my gripes against the fine editors at today.

First: That this is considered newsworthy boggles my weary mind. Against the backdrop of really important stuff happening in the world, this was, as of eleven o'clock this morning, the second most viewed article on

Wait, wait... yes, it's now leading the pack. And somewhere in the world, minding his own business and enjoying a well-earned life of leisure, Walter Cronkite just felt an icy chill run down his spine.

Second: If I'd submitted this pablum, rife with errant punctuation and poor sentence structure, to my Journalism 312 professor at Mr. Cronkite's and my alma mater, it would have been rebuked, scorned and held up to my classmates as a bloodcurdling example of What Not to Do.

I am nearly overcome with the urge to print this page and take a bold red pen to it. You scoff, but my grandmother would be immeasurably proud.

Third: The world has so generously provided us with a dizzying array of stellar photographs of its two-time Sexiest Man Alive.

Yet this... THIS was the best you could do, editor?

Please help me, because I do so want to understand. Did he trip your grandmother once? Run over your dog? I'm listening.

Oh, please excuse me for just a moment while I take this call.

Hello, darling. Giggle.


Fourth, and finally: I'm a firm believer in the right to privacy. But c'mon, y'all: IT'S GEORGE CLOONEY. I'd have taken a little peek, too. And at more than just his medical records, if you know what I'm saying.

I'm pretty sure you do.

Yes, I'm happily married. Very! But I am, after all, a human being. A human being who runs afoul of Strunk and White on occasion, but who joyfully celebrates National Punctuation Day. Who enjoys a dish of celebrity gossip here and there, but also craves real news from real journalists.

I'm a human being who hugs trees and adores pavers, including those with typos. And I really do want to make the world a better place, even if I'm much too disorganized and disheveled to handle a garden-variety volunteer project.

So back to my effing desk I go.