Fighting the Redneck Jihad: Vocabulary

There’s nothing I detest more than when a person uses/mispronounces/misspells a word in a public forum. At least at home, your family can correct you. But shows like Honey Boo Boo, Storage Wars (Darryl who wears the wife beater shirts) and well, honestly, most all Reality Shows seem to glorify the butchering of the English language. It’s as if there’s a redneck Jihad against grammar! Maybe I’m sensitive about it because I’m a blonde, and well, to fend off the “dumb blonde” jokes throughout my life, I didn’t develop bigger breasts, I developed my vocabulary. I’m now passing on that neuroticism (but a healthy one!) to my daughter. (she’s blonde too!)

Having a great vocabulary makes it easier to communicate, gives you self-esteem and frankly, can be a bit of a relationship ‘gatekeeper’. If the guy you’re dating can’t understand what you’re talking about because you have an extensive vocabulary, maybe you should leave him to the dance club girls.

Here’s a great article from College Resources on making yourself sound better.

College Resources

Resource Center → Getting in & Applying to College → Standardized Tests → Improving Your Vocabulary

(Reasonably) Pain-Free Ways to Improve Your Vocabulary

Sure, a great vocabulary is bound to enhance your already sparkling conversation skills. Of course, even better than acquiring some witty bon mots, a strong vocabulary will help expand your reading comprehension skills in general and your standardized test scores in particular. And, fortunately, acquiring a vocabulary doesn’t have to be a painful process, especially if you employ a variety of methods.

Here are few ideas for how to build a robust vocabulary:

Read a lot. Seriously, replace an hour of TV with an hour of reading every day (outside of school assignments) and you’ll make a lot of progress toward building an amazing vocabulary.

Remember, quality writing over fluff. We’re sorry to report that People magazine, US Weekly, and USA Today do not count. You can read them, but don’t expect them to enhance your reading comprehension or vocabulary or improve your performance on the SAT/ACT.

Read a variety of literature on a variety of topics. Magazines, daily newspapers, online blogs and books cover all sorts of issues. While you can start with your favorite subjects (say the arts, currents events or maybe science), be sure to expand your horizons and catch up on a myriad of other areas.

Read actively. It won’t help if you just pull a random book off the shelf and passively begin to skim through it. Make sure you understand what it is that you are reading. Try to figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words through their context and use a dictionary when you need assistance. Then, try to incorporate new vocabulary into your own!

Don’t just read, listen. Modify your TV habits and start incorporating an occasional episode of PBS News Hour or a nature documentary. TED Talks are another great (and fascinating!) option. We also recommend listening to NPR every once in a while on the radio. Remember – every tip above can be applied to listening as well!

Make it fun. Building your vocabulary doesn’t have to be boring. Try to stump your parents by using new words at the dinner table. Or, see who amongst your friends can “collect” more unusual words each week. Activities like this provide more effective ways to build your vocabulary than if you just memorized lists of words and their definitions.

To help you begin, we’ve compiled a list of great resources. However, this is just a start. We encourage you to cultivate your own list as well.
•Newspapers: The New York Times; The Washington Post; The Wall Street Journal
•Magazines: The New Yorker; Foreign Affairs; Time; National Geographic
•Online Magazines/Blogs: Huffington Post; Salon
•Books: There are simply too many great authors and books to list here, but check out “best” lists such as the Modern Library’s “Top 100 Novels” and “Top 100 Nonfiction Books” as well as anthologies such as the annual “Best American Short Stories” and the “Best American Essays.”
•Radio/TV: PBS (Frontline, Newshour, NOVA); NPR (On Point, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, Fresh Air, Radiolab, Planet Money)


50 Shades of Things On My Mind

Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey


The last romance  man in my life used to accuse me of seeing everything black and white Another reason we aren’t together, he didn’t understand my mind at all.   In his defense though, I DO see things black and white when it comes to my worldview.  My principals are black and white.  My love is black and white. Only to me though, many people don’t understand why I allow people in my life that they consider “lesser”…see?  That’s their black and white.  Understanding is the key!   I always see the grey in things I don’t understand.  Why?  Because the blacks and whites are what makes the grey….both literally and figuratively.  I sort things problems into blacks and whites to better understand…to make my world more orderly. OMG that sounds so OCD!  Anyway, here are the greys I’m trying to sort out right now.

  • The big Abortion brouhaha that is currently taking our collective minds off of rising inflation, the madness of the IRS and double talk from our current administration.  Why are we arguing about this?  I’m a feminist.  I believe in both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice.  As a Mother who was told for 12 years of marriage I could never have kids and went through the  $$$ testing, in vitro , foster child, adoptive child processes I just don’t understand.   Why would any woman get an abortion after the second trimester?  Why?  Do you pro-life feminists not realize you are setting feminism back by hundreds of years by exploiting our “right to change our minds” scenario?  During the second trimester you can feel the baby moving inside you.  You may even get an ultra-sound that shows your baby sucking his/her thumb in utero.  By 20 weeks most Mothers have bonded with the baby they are carrying. One of my friends couldn’t carry her baby full term and the baby was born at 23 weeks.  This child is a beautiful blessing for my friend and is part of society.   If you were raped, then by all means you shouldn’t have to feel shame for getting an abortion, but that’s usually done right away.  If your religion says “no” then “so”?  Your relationship with God is one on one and He knows what’s in your heart.  Now, on the Pro-Choice side,  if a woman truly wants to have an abortion due to health, finances, ignorance, genetic counseling, then she’s going to have one.  That’s that!  Why put women through the horror most women in third world countries and some 1st world countries must endure due to sloppy “doing it for the money” Doctors, or self-inflicted coat hanger abortions?  Legal abortions protect women.  Why would our government see this as bad?  Our government is not our moral compass, we the people are. We haven’t illegalized guns, why should we illegalize abortion?  And another thing, if the fetus isn’t a “living being” then why when someone kills a pregnant woman they are charged with TWO deaths?  Why so much hypocrisy in our government?  Why?  If we do this to women are we going to tell men they can only be a “baby Daddy” a limited amount of times and then he must be snipped?    Here’s an idea….why don’t we just expect people to take responsibility for their actions and not let the government tell us how to run our lives?  What a novel idea!
  • Okay, now for some fun pop-culture greys.  Sharknado.  A social media phenomenon and one of the worst movies ever made.  What does this say about us as a society?  I truly can’t find the black and white in this one.
  • And to end these ramblings, the book that spawned see what I did there? this blog post:  Fifty Shades of Grey.  After reading snippets of it in 2011, I swore I wouldn’t read it.  But a newlywed friend from my high school days begged me to read it.  BEGGED ME!  She says she values my opinion. So for you Claudia?  The book did not turn me on.  The characters were two-dimensional.  And after reading it, I didn’t want to lay Christian Grey, I wanted to psycho-analyze him.  It was at once repelling and degrading.  It was like bullet points 1 and 2 above.   In my summary, here’s an intelligent, newly graduated from college protagonist who is still a virgin falling for a handsome man with money, power and HUGE issues.  Why is this story such a sensation?  You remember the love of my life John?  Remember how handsome, sexy, electric we were together?  Remember how his family owned hotels on the Greek Islands?  Remember how I couldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him?  Why do we celebrate dysfunction?  Why?  The best thing about the book is that the protagonist, Anastasia, listened to her inner voice and did what was right for her as well as for him.   She left him.  Still my friend Claudia?  smile

The Borgias and Rhetoric and Catholicism: Truth or Drama?

The Borgias:  A Showtime Series

The Borgias: A Showtime Series


Let’s face it.  Drama is interesting.  It is!  Think of what our lives would be like without it?  With whom would we compare our lives?  How would the more insecure of us find substance in our little lives without having a lessor one with which to compare?  Drama makes us feel better about ourselves.  Drama adds excitement to the mundane.  Drama makes us feel alive.

I was watching The Borgias last night yes, I’m admitting to it and reveled at how truly enticing this series is to me.  It’s not just that The Borgias were the first Mafia family.  It’s not just that the characters are so beautiful well most of them.  It’s not just the time in which it is set.  (one of my favorite historical times)  But what TRULY makes it worth watching is how the writers blur the lines between true history and “drama”.  In grad school I had an advisor that loved to debate the merits of what makes a perfect story (i.e. book or movie or play) I loved hanging out with him when I was writing a paper (Big props to you Dr. Litton)  He and I would debate every Rhetorician/Philosopher’s idea from Aristotle to Freud from  E.M. Forster to Nietzsche as to what made the perfect story.  We both had big dreams of being writers. What we both agreed upon, and what I have always kept is that Rhetoric is not just style over substance.  It is not just drama over reality.  Rhetoric is not just, as Plato so ridiculously stated, “mere flattery”.  No, Rhetoric is the blending of the black and white.  Rhetoric has a substantive as well as stylistic genome….and a good story, like good bone structure is a gift.

For the sake of today’s argument, and to keep you reading, I won’t dissect or re-educate you on the five canons of Rhetoric.  What I will do is explain why I think drama is necessary in our lives using rhetoric as my argument and the Showtime Series The Borgias as my subject.  Using some of the rhetorical and philosophical thoughts of greater thinkers than me, I will try to convince you of my argument:  Drama is a necessary evil.   Yeah okay, I may just be showing off my grad degree in Rhetoric, but shouldn’t I? Sheesh, I’m still paying for it!  Since literary devices are so akin to rhetorical devices, those of you who are purists may want to argue later….to that I say, “Bring it” with a smile.


Let’s start with Kenneth Burke who stated:

The most characteristic concern of rhetoric [is] the manipulation of men’s beliefs for political ends….the basic function of rhetoric [is] the use of words by human agents to form attitudes or to induce actions in other human agents.

I don’t know much about the writers of The Borgias.  Are they Catholic?  Are they Jewish?  Are they Atheistic?  Or are they just hacks getting paid to write an almost semi-porn series with historical overtones?  In other words, what is their will for writing this series?  In watching it, and because I tend to be optimistic, I think they are truly attempting to appeal to the more educated viewer while also appealing to the “voyeur” viewer who really is just watching it for entertainment.  For instance, the Pope Rodrigo (Alexander VI) quotes Socrates while his son Cesare lustfully beds his daughter Lucrezia.  In skillfully blending the two appeals, the writers attract a larger audience through drama.  Personally, the show has made me want to know more about The House of Borgia in order to delineate between dramatic truth and manufactured drama.  Which leads me to the next definition of Rhetoric by Francis Bacon who wrote in (1561-1626): Advancement of Learning:

  The duty and office of rhetoric is to apply reason to imagination for the better moving of the will.

Using Bacon’s definition, this would mean the writers of The Borgias are forcing us, the viewers, to use our imagination to make willfull observations, right?  But are they for the better?  I am not Catholic, but I empathize with those who are in regards to this series.  Has the Catholic Church become the media darling of all things wrong with religion?  Is this series just another testament to the abuses of the Catholic Church?  As a Protestant, I have suffered and witnessed  the hypocrisy of those who feel their religious worldview is better than others. It just seems that the Catholic Church has a history of drama; from the Borgias to medieval relics to modern day pedophilic priests.   Has the Catholic Church publically asked for an apology from the writers for making their religion look like a God-ordained form of organized crime?  And would other religions react the same?  Or do the writers have a more noble, daresay, religious agenda by athey showing that though religious, we are all still sinners….and there is no sin greater than another? nota bene:  the Catholic Church DOES believe that some sins are greater than others and they are divided into mortal and venial sins. Just knowing that makes a difference in applying reason to imagination. So what indeed are the writers’ trying to persuade their audience to see or believe?  Which leads me to….Sappho who was far from being religious:

Persuasion is Aphrodite’s daughter: it is she who beguiles our mortal hearts (frg 90).

Good rhetoric, communication, poetry,  writing, film, and speech are designed to persuade someone to see the artist’s point of view.  I’m not always the most fun person to watch a movie with, and definitely not commercials.  I immediately try to pinpoint the persuasive element behind the words, images, sounds and actions of others.  This could also be a reason I have difficult times in relationships!  ssshh!!  What I do know, is that if you can beguile my mortal heart, you have my attention.  The writers of The Borgias have done that for me.  Though I don’t condone nudity and violence for the sake of shocking the viewer into watching more, I do appreciate the artful mixing of history and fantasy to tell a good story. And I also appreciate drama that has intellect.  And maybe that’s where I should end this, because in the end, The Borgias is just a dramatic television series meant to entertain.  Don’t you think?









Sharing My Novel: Portion of Chapter Five


Here’s another part of a chapter from my novel. The first one is here if you want to read it. I will be finished with this in the next 90 days. ( I hope and my agent insists!)  It’s set in East Texas.  It’s about women finding themselves through their daughters, through their regrets, through sex.   I hope to capture the ambiance, the hypocrisy, the love and the jealousy….I want your emotions as you read to feel as if they’ve eaten at a Fusion restaurant and tingled all their taste buds.  Constructive criticism invited.  Hatefulness denied 🙂


Chloe Walker

Chloe stared out the window of her rural home wondering how her life had come to this point. The garden that had once made her so happy was viral with skunkweed. She had not even taken cuttings of her prize winning black iris and their withered stalks reminded her of shrunken voodoo heads; the once lush, velvet petals were now prunish and dank. She caught a glimpse of herself staring out the window and her face morphed with the view of the forgotten flowers….her now noticeable spider veins mimicked the spider webs around her roses. Her one-time firm Audrey Hepburn-like neck looked more like the folds that jiggled each time the former Texas Governor, Anne Richards spoke or moved her head and at once, Chloe realized she shouldn’t be talking badly about the dead, especially the sacred Anne Richards. It was Texas blasphemy to speak ill of the dead, especially the hallowed second woman governor of Texas, Anne Richards. Anne Richards has posed on the cover of Texas Monthly with a Harley. Anne Richards gave the opening speech for that sexy president Bill Clinton.  Chloe’s mother, the one-time Democratic Party chair for East Texas would roll over in her grave if she had heard Chloe’s thoughts, even though she too knew Anne Richards’ neck jiggled like a turkey wattle.

“Oh what the hell,” she murmured out loud, “if Vernard finds out about the phone bank in the utility room, it’ll be my soul that should be prayed for, and Mama could just get in line behind him.”

Her husband Vernard never darkened the doorway of the utility room, as that was “the wifely domain” as he told his fishing buddies.  He had no idea that she was paying for their daughter Lilly’s pageant career with her “side” business: 1-866-HOT MAMA. He thought she was working in the computer/utility room every night on the “at home business” she had found on one of those late night TV programs that promised you could work at home and make big money. She was making big money alright, but Vernard didn’t know she was making it by talking about things with strange men that she would NEVER say to Vernard for $3.99 a minute, much less do. God, how had her life come to this?

She had never asked herself that question before now.  All she knew is that she wanted more for her daughter, more than her parents had ever afforded her. More than Vernard could give her.   Hell, her Democratic, Baptist Mother wouldn’t even let her try out for high school cheerleader because “the skirts were too short” and it “wasn’t becoming to an upstanding young lady.”

“What would the neighbors say Chloe?” her mother said to her.  “They would talk every Sunday morning at church about how those Friday night cheerleaders do nothing but stir a boy’s filthy thoughts and I won’t have you being the swizzle stick in a boy’s poisonous mind.”

Chloe knew that arguing with her Mama was a moot point and since she had no brothers or sisters, not even a Dad, there was no one to take her side.  Lilly wouldn’t grow up that way.  Never.  Chloe would always be there to take Lilly’s side, even if Vernard disagreed, like he had with the pageants.

“We can not afford those damned pageants Chloe and besides, I don’t need a table of 5 old women and gay men telling me my daughter is beautiful, she don’t need some damned crown for me to know that” Vernard had ranted.

“Besides, them pageants costs more than a month’s worth of fishing bait and tackle, think of all the fish fry’s we won’t be having because you’re putting Lilly in them pageants… foolishness I tell ya”.  His thin lips pursed into a straight line and Chloe knew that was the sign he was not going to listen to more.

Chloe had decided right then that she would pay for Lilly’s pageant career come hell or high water.  Nine year old Lilly wanted to be the queen of Texas.  By God, Chloe would find her a way to do it.  “So it’s the money you’re worried about Vernard? Then fine, I’ll get a job, and I’ll pay for her lessons and clothes and entry fees.  It won’t cost you one stupid cent of your minnow bait.”  And that was that.

Before Lilly was born, Chloe had been happy to be living in a doublewide mobile home on the outskirts of Elysian Fields.   She tended her garden and was even awarded garden of the month by the Cowboy Creek Church of Christ.  She and Vernard fished, drank beer with their friends at the lake on the weekends and went about life like she had always known it in Elysian Fields.  But times were changing.  Lilly needed more, and Chloe wanted Lilly to have more.  More than Chloe was ever given.  Chloe knew that she couldn’t afford one of those houses in the “new folk” development of Elysian Fields, but she COULD afford for Lilly to participate in the pageants that all her friends were entering.  Lilly’s dance teacher, that strange Pansy Moss, had grabbed Chloe on a Tuesday night after Lilly’s dance lesson and gone on and on about how well Lilly was doing in ballet.

“Mizz Walker, Lilly has a God-given talent for grace,” Pansy had gushed to Chloe.  There is a preliminary pageant coming up next month in Elysian Fields and I think you should enter Lilly.  She is beautiful and she could do her new ballet for talent.  Here’s the entry information, and be sure to write that she takes lessons at Elysian Fields Elite Studio, okay?”

Chloe was stunned.  She never knew there were pageants in East Texas.  She had only seen Miss America on television.  “I guess this is how they start,” she mumbled to herself on the drive home.

“Mama, can I be a beauty queen too?” Lilly had asked her.  “Millay and Echo and Violet are all going to do it, and I want to too,” she had exclaimed on the way home.  Millay and Echo had moved here from Dallas and were well-liked by Lilly and her friends, though they were younger than the Dallas girls.  Millay’s mother and father lived in the home the people of Elysian Fields had nicknamed “the castle” and those that didn’t know how kind the Costas’s were, called Millay, “that little Dallas princess”.  Chloe had become friends with Iris Costas and adored the family.  Echo, on the other hand, was the daughter of the hoity-toity Cassandra Cushing, a woman Chloe did not like at all.  Echo was nothing like her mother and Chloe believed the Salon gossip that it was because there was a rumor that Echo was adopted.    She didn’t word her thoughts to Lilly, as Lilly wanted to be just like Millay and Echo.  There were worse people she could idolize, Chloe thought to herself.

“Can I Mama, can I be a beauty queen?” Lilly begged.

“Well Lilly honey, we’ll ask your Daddy and see what he says,” Chloe soothed her daughter’s pleas.  “I’m sure he will be fine with it.”  Chloe sheltered Lilly from the truth about Vernard.  If this was something Lilly wanted, then Lilly would have it.  Besides, Chloe had once wanted to be Miss America….if she couldn’t, maybe Lilly could.

The day she bought 1-866-HOT MAMA she got 10 phone calls.  One even lasted 10 minutes.  The first few calls she felt badly about, because the guys hung up after a minute, even though they contractually paid for three.   She had stuttered and answered the phone on the first ring with, “Th-this is your h-hot mama, what can I do for you h-honey?” When the heavy breathing teen with the crackling pubescent voice said, “I don’t want to fuck my Mama” and hung up, she realized she needed to think of a better way to answer the phone.  It wasn’t as if she had ever looked for DIY books or websites on phone sex, so Chloe set about educating herself.

She was shocked to realize she had not categorized her phone sex business as a non-taboo business.  When a smarmy sounding man called asking if she got off on dead bodies, she immediately hung up.  A few days later, another heavily accented man called asking her to sound like she was twelve.  A picture of Lilly immediately entered her head, and again she pushed the “off” button on her phone.  She couldn’t imagine letting Vernard seeing her naked before she got in bed, much less talking about sex with dead bodies and little kids.  Damn!  She immediately changed her website information to say “non-taboo” and started reading articles on the Internet on marketing her business.  She learned she needed to start frequenting rooms and forums on AOL and Yahoo.  She joined Twitter and discreetly tweeted about her website the start-up company had made for her.  There was so much to learn: how men liked blow jobs, what words really turned them on, fantasies about their school or college teachers.  In learning about her business, Chloe realized that it was much like raising prize Iris…the more stately and plush the flower, the better specimen you had.

She began reading Cosmopolitan every other week at the Beauty Salon to get tips on how to make a man happy because she knew she couldn’t talk about fishing for $3.99 a minute.  She listened to the women talk and began to imitate their cadences and voice inflections that sounded sexy to her.  No man had ever talked to her about her voice, especially Vernard, so when one of her clients had commented that her voice wasn’t that sexy, Chloe realized that she could make it better.  Cassandra Cushing had been at the Salon a few times when she was there, and her voice was the one Chloe tried the hardest to imitate.  Cassandra’s voice reminded Chloe of Kathleen Turner’s voice in Body Heat; in fact, Cassandra even looked like the movie star except she had Marilyn Monroe blonde hair.  Still, Chloe wasn’t fond of Cassandra Cushing, though she knew she was the best pageant consultant to hit Elysian Fields in many years she had heard.  Chloe’s friend Iris Costas introduced them and it was hard to believe that Iris could be such good friends with Cassandra—they were so different!  Iris was different from most women of Elysian Fields.  She had only lived there for a few years, but in that time, she had become one of the town’s leading women: always willing to help, never said a rude thing about anyone and each time her daughter Millay won a pageant title, no one ever complained, because Iris and Millay were so sweet. Cassandra, on the other hand, never looked at you in the eye when she spoke and paid more attention to the men of the town than the women.   Chloe wished she could be more like Iris, and reveled in their friendship.  She had thought about telling Iris about her business, as she knew Iris would not be judgmental, but decided against it.  She was embarrassed of her newfound endeavor, but at the same time loved the way it made her feel—so liberated!  She didn’t have to rely on Vernard financially anymore and even though it was phone sex, there was something secretly stimulating about it all.

Things were changing in Chloe’s life.   She began having sex with Vernard on days other than Friday, convincing herself that it was good for the business. Vernard was happily pleased and told her she should have started her own business long ago.

“This home business thing is good for ya honey,” he murmured after one surprisingly sexual Tuesday night. Chloe smiled secretly as she rolled over to pretend sleep.  Late night was her busiest time and she was beginning to enjoy her late night phone calls.

The first few times she said the ‘F-word’ in telephonic hushed tones she blushed, but after the third day, it began peppering each of her sentences like a repressed prude with a can of mace.  She was even getting repeat callers.  One, a man who would never give his name, was especially enticing to Chloe. He only wanted to talk about her and what made her feel sexy.  It was easy talking to him, and she had even begun to use “naughty” words when describing what she liked.  She told him after their last conversation that she felt badly for charging him but he convinced her that he didn’t mind at all.   He also told her that one day she could return the favor.  She began to look forward to his nightly calls.

After the first month, Chloe had enough money to hire a designer seamstress to make Lilly’s pageant dress.  She was going to go all glitz and glamour.  She pored over the Swarovski Crystal catalogues daily to choose just the right stones for Lilly’s dress.   Chloe had always wanted a crystal chandelier for her mobile home, but she would settle for one on Lilly’s dress.  Her next step would be to schedule an appointment with Cassandra Cushing.  Only the best for Lilly.

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Bible, Matthew (ch. VII, v. 28-29)

©Gayle N. Jackson all rights reserved.

Sharing a bit of my novel. You be the judge.



Many of you who know me personally know I’m a writer.  Many of you do not.  I have been unable to sleep the past few days and have had a huge writer’s block in regards to the novel I’ve been working on for several years.  Once I finally slept night before last, I awoke to words spinning in my head.  I quickly got up and jotted them down then realized they would help me finish my novel of 18 Chapters that soon shall have 19.  You know how you know something isn’t quite right, but you can’t figure out what it is?  I was never keen on the opening of my book (not keen on the opening of Stieg Larsson’s books either)  It seemed…blah.  The words that were spinning were the opening to my novel, but with a huge addition.  The book is about women living vicariously through their children….about their knowlege of or lack thereof in regards to sex….about the intricacies, humor and emotion of women and their relationships with others.  The past week has once again hardened my heart to many things, so I can take the criticism or rejection if you care to comment.  Just comment okay?  I even added pictures to some of the paragraphs to make your online reading experience a more fulfilling one. 🙂  And Pete?  This is for you!

I have always prided myself on not buying into stereotypes.  Living in Texas, it’s a hard thing to do.  The KKK is alive and well in East Texas and since Mexico is as close to Texas as Connecticut is to New York, derogatory labels like “strawberry pickers” and “beaners” are normal parts of the Texas jargon.   The term MILF could have been derived by observing the antics of the East Texas Moms who had their first kids at 15 or 16 and sit in the high school bleachers flipping their dyed blonde hair while watching their daughters cheer or their sons play football.  It’s easy to spot them.  They’re the ones wearing low cut tops and short shorts who always climb to the top of the bleachers so everyone can see their assets.  They’re still too young to have “lifestyle lifts” or Botox injections, and honestly, if they did, it would probably be administerd by the neighborhood meth cooker.



  In East Texas, the meth cook is much like the Native American Medicine Man and it seems every county has one.  He’s wise because he knows the law….both physically and figuratively.  He’s trustworthy because if you know him, you can be trusted.  He’s successful because he has more money, land, property and power than the county Sheriff and everyone knows only smart people get to that level of prosperity unless you marry into it, sue it or mistress it.  Since so few kids graduate from this small town high school, being a meth dealer isn’t as bad as society would have you believe.  The parents of meth dealers live in luxury, not trailer homes.  They shop at JC Penney, not Wal-Mart.  Of course, East Texas meth dealers don’t become famous rap singers after their drug dealing days are over; this is Texas you know, not New York.  Toby Keith and Randy Travis still have their grip on the musical pulse of the Lone Star State.   It doesn’t matter that Randy Travis gets pulled over every few months in North Texas for driving drunk or sitting in the church parking lot naked, he can “sang”.  

randy travis

It’s sometimes hard to determine when cultural stereotypes become truisms, especially when you’re thrust from one culture into another. 

We moved to East Texas and bought what the realtor called, “A country gentleman’s estate”: 21 acres, one 3,400 square foot main house, one pool with a pool house, one mother-in-law’s house and another 2,300 square foot house that needed to be finished out.  It’s not as if we were a cult or Catholic family with several kids and family members.  No, we were a small group.  My husband and I had been married for over 16 years and had a 3 year old daughter and I was pregnant with our soon to be born son.  My parents were tired of the Dallas rat-race and yearned to retire to a peaceful place, but they wanted to be near their youngest grandchildren.  I had no desire to move to East Texas.  I never liked camping.  I was deathly scared of ticks


and honestly, I liked having Chinese food delivered whenever I had the craving.  There were no Chinese restaurants in the small town of Brownsboro.  There was a feed store, a Zip-Stop gas station, a Shell station, a Fix your Tire place, a hair salon and several churches.   There wasn’t even a Dairy Queen or Taco Bell.  I felt like I was moving to a third world country. 

But I did it.  I weighed the options.  I would have to give up my College teaching career, give up nearby shopping, and give up museums, concerts and Shakespeare in the Park.  But my children would have an Emersonian education with nature.  They would be with their loving grandparents.  I could get some baby goats.  My St. Bernard could have plenty of space to run.  I could sunbathe naked since there was no neighbor around for miles.  And since I was not getting any younger at 41, I would have help from my Mom and Dad when it came to healing after my second C-section.   Besides, the place was too big for my parents to manage.  My husband and I could help and live there the rest of our lives.  How bad could it be?

 To be continued…..


Another Night with Glen…Livet




Those of you who read this blog know that I have sporadic dates with Glen:  Glenlivet.   I have teens at home, so I don’t indulge in other recreational calmers at home, but Glen, well, he usually has the same effect on me.  One of the fun things about dating Glen is that he likes to get into deep conversations with me (Okay, he really doesn’t, but it makes me feel like I’m not just a drunk dating a bottle of Scotch) I usually share my thoughts the next day.  Here’s today’s synopsis of our date night:

  • Viagra.  Male Enhancement.  Cialis.  Okay guys, I want you to be really, really truthful.  You don’t have to answer in a public forum, but be honest with yourselves.  Promise?  How many of you who have taken the magic purple pill have secretly wished YOU were the one who had to go the Dr. after 4 hours of a sustained erection?  Come on, admit it!  Wouldn’t it make you feel virile?  Think of all the people that would look at you…not your fault, it’s the purple pill’s fault.  Right?  I know not of any other drug that would make someone secretly wish they suffered from the side effects except this one.
  • Male characters in modern movies that appeal to the sapiosexual.  I’ve noticed that the movies I like the most have intellectually gifted leading characters with emotional issues.  Mel Gibson in Braveheart.  James Spader in Sex, Lies and Videotapes.  Daniel Craig in Skyfall (okay, not just for his intellect).  John Wayne in the Searchers.  Al Pacino in The Godfather. Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.  Guy Pierce in Memento. Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.  Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception.  I could go on and on.    All of these men are the kind I’m attracted to:  they’re intelligent, they have principles and they’re flawed.  They don’t wallow in self-absorption, they fight against their weaknesses.   They have skeletons in their closets that they embrace, but don’t use as crutches.   All of them are attracted to emotionally strong women who can help them.   My kind of men!
  • Baseball Spring Training in 4 more sleeps!  So what if the baseball pundits say the Rangers are not going to make the playoffs?  I so love a challenge!
  • “we accept the love we think we deserve.”
    ―    Stephen Chbosky,    The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”
    ―    Stephen Chbosky,    The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • “So, I guess we are who we are for alot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”
    ―    Stephen Chbosky,    The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • “It’s just that I don’t want to be somebody’s crush. If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I don’t want them to carry it around inside. I want them to show me, so I can feel it too.”
    ―    Stephen Chbosky,    The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • “And all the books you’ve read have been read by other people. And all the songs you’ve loved have been heard by other people. And that girl that’s pretty to you is pretty to other people. and that if you looked at these facts when you were happy, you would feel great because you are describing ‘unity.”
    ―    Stephen Chbosky,    The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • As you can see from above, I watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I read the book a while ago.  I forgot how much I loved it.  I love the movie too.  So did Glen.




The Psychology of Attraction

Geraldo Rivera--Exposing Myself, 1991

Geraldo Rivera–Exposing Myself, 1991

I can’t help being a romantic. I just can’t. I’ve been through a torrid marriage. I’ve had 2 online relationships; one was “bleh” the other was “OMG!!!!” Neither worked. So I’ve had plenty of time to analyze and dissect and take stock of myself and what I deem important in a relationship. Since Valentine’s Day is less than two weeks away, I thought you, my loyal reader, would be interested in having this conversation with me. Why are we attracted to certain people?

From Pyschology Today (my go to magazine/website for all things Psych)

The Charm Offensive

When two hearts beat as one.

Charisma is charm in neon lights, a social gift we can’t help but respond to when we see it. A person with charisma—think: Oprah—may bend the light waves in a room, oozing confidence and self-esteem, and we move closer because confidence makes others feel good. A person’s self-esteem guides our instant evaluations: “Hmm, if she likes herself, there must be something there for me to like, too.”

The deep secret of charismatic people, however, may be their ability to create synchrony, to induce you to adjust your bearing, speech rate, even heart rate—through locking eyes, through touch, or simply because you feel a strong rapport. Researchers believe our strongest perceptions of mutual attraction develop in those first encounters where two people have a measurable physiological reaction to one another. It’s not exactly chemistry—it’s more like electricity.

—Hara Estroff Marano

This is so very true!  I like to think I have a bit of charisma (Yeah, I could be delusional) but my experiences with charismatic people is extensive.  Back in the 90’s when Geraldo Rivera had his own show, I was invited to be a guest.  I happily flew to New York and felt all important that I was going to meet “THE GERALDO” (this was before his Capone debacle)  The hotel was nice, the limo driver sweet and then it was time to meet Geraldo.  While sitting in the green room enjoying coffee and the company of the other authors (I had met before)  I analyzed how so many people become so full of themselves for so little reason. (yeah Mark, that last remark was aimed at you, remember our discussion that day?) Anyway, Geraldo came in to introduce himself to us all before taping.  I promise….as soon as he walked into the room it felt like light angles changed.  It felt like there was a totally different atmosphere.  It felt….ELECTRIC!  Okay, okay, I know you’re reading this thinking I’m one of those “celebrity worshipers” but if you know me well, you know I’m not.  I was astounded!  He truly had charisma and it was a palpable feeling.  I had to catch my breath!  For a quick second, I hesitated as if I had nothing to say (see?  I told you I was astounded) then I regained my composure and talked to him about his book.  He graciously chatted and then offered to sign it.  Of course, he made a sexual innuendo in the signature, but I promise, this man is charismatic! I had never thought of Geraldo as attractive physically, though I always respected his penchant for investigative reporting.  (and his hair!!!)  But after meeting him, it was evident to me why he was so successful.

I had this same experience with a man I dated for several years before getting married.  I think I’ve talked about it before, but won’t bore you now.  I’ll save it for later.  The point is, he and I had a palpable attraction….one that other people could feel when they were with us.

Have you ever had this kind of experience?  And if so, did you marry them?  Did it last?  Did you just walk away?

I want synchrony in my next relationship, if I have one.  I never realized how exciting and important it is!