Welcome to Prairie Country
"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
Monday, December 31, 2007
The media would have it that the current political season is some sort of Survivor: USA. A scramble, a horserace, a who's up who's down, who's naughty who's nice sort of game that we can all sit back and watch. Except we can't afford to sit back and watch. Not this time.
Because if there are to be survivors, hey, they be us.
You'll find Bests and Worsts of 2007 all over the Internet and the media. So we'll save you that here. Instead, this note of challenge: Beware the Falsies--the false p's: False Press, False Pundits, False Prophets and Preachers, False Propagandists, False Pollsters, False Politicians, False Presidents.
Seek out truth. Question. Educate yourself. End 2007 in the best way--with renewed resolve for 2008:
Demand better. Be better.
Oh, and as for cocktail wienies--anybody can make 'em. Just glop a cup of grape jelly and a jar of chili sauce in a pan, add Hillshire Farm L'il Smokies and heat thru. The Beltway crowd thinks they know-it-all about cocktail wienies...let's show 'em how wrong they are....
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Blogger Steve Gilliard was a stranger to me. I knew of him through the words of others. His story informs why so many of us blog, each with our disparate voices. His personal story we know in the narrowest of slices, and yet his words and his ideals will live on. As does his challenge for those who follow the blogging path.
Sunday morning update: Read Steve's words for yourself about the power of the Fighting Liberal.
We are growing libraries in Prairie Country these days. Elsewhere, there are conversations about closings and consolidations, but not here. Small town libraries are banding together to share books and husband wisely their resources. Park Rapids,
Downtown, the existing library has been demolished and a new two-story library is going up in its place. A stolid red brick building, with massive glass walls, overlooking the Red River of the North.
Some of us liked the first design better than the final one now under construction. Vivid, visionary, it would have exemplified the role of libraries in stretching minds, giving them room to imagine exciting things. But we are a pragmatic people in Prairie Country, and the money wasn’t there for visionary, so stolid will do.
Libraries are part of the fabric and foundation of cultures. The library at
We seem to value hockey arenas and football dorms more around here, but that’s a transitory thing. Next year, it’ll be soccer fields. Or some other controlled exercise in war-making. Which is not such a bad thing. Better to be fighting battles on ball fields than bloody fields. Seems a tad more civilized, most of the time. Until a player or parent reverts to barbarian rants.
Libraries are the great civilizers…and equalizers. Anyone can walk or wheel through the doors, pick up a book and sit down and read. No admission required. No gatekeepers. No uniforms to buy or restriction other than the desire to learn…or the grudging chore to fulfill a teacher’s assignment…which has the potential in the library to open the doors toward lifelong paths.
Libraries have been part of the fabric and foundation of my life. Yours, too? The first was an iconic Carnegie library on the shores of
I was in the magazine room of the school library, a student volunteer sorting and filing stacks when the announcement came over the p.a. system…President Kennedy has been shot.
The Carnegie Library in
Libraries are valued by people in every walk of life. Mausoleums called libraries are built for Presidents, where they can tell their story or keep it from being fully told. Private libraries are standard in law offices and hospitals and churches and even homes. Collections of all sizes, all topics. A repository of knowledge, and a stimulator of ideas.
Because of libraries, we have the opportunity to read the banned, the controversial, the disagreeable, the charming, the world-expanding, the latest, the oldest, the most sobering and the most frivolous.
Celebrate your local library, visit it often in the year to come and support it. Share books you no longer use. Contribute to a building fund. Make it a regular part of your life. And share your thoughts about libraries here if you like, or think about it on your way…and come back soon. Thanks for stopping by.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Merry Christmas from Prairie.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Years ago, the Sunshine household made a dramatic change in how we celebrate Christmas. Tradition was cast aside by loss, and we decided to create a new tradition. Some twenty-five years later, that tradition is still going strong.
We each pick a country at Thanksgiving time and then draw to select which one we’ll dish up on Christmas Eve. Year in, year out, through joyous times and turbulent ones, we’ve always gathered together on Christmas Eve to share an adventure.
In the process, we’ve learned more about our neighbors in the world, and are the richer for it in treasure money cannot buy.
Some dishes became family stand-bys…we still serve up Greek lemon chicken to welcome family home, as we did the first year that took us to Greece through food and study. Some things become stand-bys, too. The plastic penguin-embellished igloo that replaced the peace dove that was handmade with trellises and twinkle lights and hung high against the side of the house…until the war outlasted it. But the penguin soldiers on.
These days, our wanderlust is tempered by disability, and we travel more via the Internet than the Interstates. But the tradition continues. Burnished by the spirit of inclusiveness we brought to that first new style family dinner.
This year we’re “traveling” to
There’s been a lot of hunkering down these days, but there is, too, the promise of new days with fresh opportunities to live in deed the values we profess in words.
If I could reach out and put in your hands two gifts for these times, they would be the gift of thinking—not just hearing what you want to hear to re-affirm your status quos, of opening your heart to new voices and new births of opportunity. And the gift of peace—and quiet…so that you can ponder in your heart and make wise choices and act upon them to help make a better world. Mustard seeds, grains of sand, stars in the universe—each on its own is miniscule, but together we can move mountains and minds and hearts.
Don’t fear change, embrace it. Like that long ago young couple, set out on a new path. Who knows where it may lead….
Merry Christmas, from Prairie
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Christmas time brings an image of the iconic Mother. Mary the Virgin, great with child, betrothed, not yet wed, on a trek to be counted.
But another mother has long haunted me. To me, she is the face of the Great Depression, and the face of
Lange captured more than one image during the time she spent with Florence Owens Thompson and her seven children near Nipomo
Mothers struggle in all kinds of ways, and in this season of squander and spoils in some quarters, we must make an extra effort to reach out to and honor those struggles.
The mother who, having raised her children, now finds she is raising her grandchildren. The first time mother who worries over her newborn and the medical tests which have so much power to determine the course of future days.
The mothers buffeted by the wilderness winds of subprime mortgages and a vampire economy determined to suck the lifeblood from workers while dancin’ with pearls on and stuffing each other’s pockets with graft.
Mothers worrying about educating, feeding, housing, caregiving for the wee ones they have nurtured into the world.
Mothers who, having lived long and vibrant lives, begin the slow and slipping pathway into life’s next stage.
We live in Depression-era times, we live in Dickensian times. We give power to Gentlemanly C’s who have no command of history nor will to learn from it. Who never learned to value every mother as they would value their own.
A brooding note for this holiday time, perhaps. But before Ebenezer could shout “Merry Christmas” and bring a turkey to the table of Tiny Tim’s Mom, first he had to experience with his spirit guide the true mirror of the values of his life.
There’s still time. Time to make a difference, to reach out, to help. To live the best of the values Mothers instilled in childhood. Do unto others…. I’ll be taking blankets to a local homeless shelter this morning, because they gave blankets to the children and need blankets for the grown-ups, too. Because there’s still time before Christmas…and the need goes on.
Because 32-year-old Florence Owens Thompson’s family sold their tent to buy food. Because there was no room in the inn. Because a homeless man came to
Because they continue to come, in waves past the inn to the manger, past the memory of
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Heading down the Interstate this morning, meeting up with writing friends for a long overdue reunion lunch. There’ll be much talk of life and juicy womanhood for we are all of a seasoned number of years and we know each other long and well.
There’ll be talk of writing too. I’ve been thinking about that quite a lot lately. The WGA writers’ strike matters for every writer, not just WGA writers. Matters for readers and viewers, too. We note who supports it. And who scabs.
Books matter. Despite the latest electronic reader, or maybe because of it, I can think of few better moments than settling deep in a cushy chair, tucked under a lap quilt this time of year, a cup of chai nearby, and the spaniels curled at my feet. In my hands, a book.
I remember missing the school bus as a kid because my nose was buried deep in a Nancy Drew suspense.
Books I read as a student resonate anew for me living through these years of the 21st Century. The book that most profoundly affected me and stayed in my heart was To Kill a Mockingbird. If we thought we’d left those times behind, we have only to look at a headline like the story I read last night in the NYTimes: “With Regrets,
The writer I grew up with and visited
The pearls of value are not necklace strands, but the precious words of our youth, of our studies. Yet the times contextualize those words and lift them from the page to dance and haunt us. Just days ago, homeless man travels from
Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. Would they hold up in the re-reading?
Life’s too busy these days to know, but I have faith they would...too well. Meanwhile, there’s new stories to read. There’s a highway to travel. And if time permits, a slight detour into
For he wrote presciently in 1935 It Can’t Happen Here. And now we know It Can Happen Here. And yesterday, Senator Chris Dodd led the way and showed It Can Be Stopped.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Some are the times for kickin' back and taking life easy. Now is the time for joining the vital battle for rule of law, the Constitution, and restoring our rights. Please join in.
We have a few new neighbors of late...cardinals moved up from the Minneapolis area. They're welcome in our back yard. But their arrival signals the loss of neighbors we always treasured...the grosbeaks with their vivid yellow coats are rare sightings these years.
Here in Prairie Country, we watch time pass season by season. With that passage comes change, new neighbors, new immigrants to Prairie Country. We look forward to the best those changes have to offer. And on this snowy Sunday morning, we're making our own change...ta-da, we've added picture! Enjoy.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Whether you think professional athletes are role models or overpaid entertainers, whatever it takes to win is the name of the game. And that attitude seems to permeate every corner of our country these days.
The law requires truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But there are “technicalities.” Religion says we shouldn’t bear false witness…yet we’re told some say their followers are schooled that lying is okay to accomplish their ends. And p.r. has been swallowed up by self-serving, word-manipulating catapulted propaganda.
The media feed a steady win-at-all-costs diet of bread and circuses to their audiences. Build alliances, connive, compete with an edge…be a Survivor. Win the Great Race. Be an American Idol. Walk down the Runway without being tripped up by Auf Weidersehn.
The economy, too, has been living in the Steroid Era. Enronomics. Subprime mortgages. Rcord oil industry profits. 21st Century robber barons buying up mega media empires as Mitt Romney’s Bain Capitol is doing with Clear Channel. (And is that an oxymoron or what!)
In Prairie Country, a visionary local media family bought back the Dakota-region stations they’d sold to Clear Channel. They are champions of fair play these days, educating about community issues and global issues. Presenting spokespeople from both teams, but also callin’ hits and foul balls when spin leaves the facts behind. Salut today to the talkers at KFGO in
A baseball man himself, as he’s proud to say, George Bush has led his own Steroid Era in the White House: from the election of 2000 to the lies that led us into Iraq to the crony corrupt players on his team who are working to win at all costs while tearing down the stadium, this has been administration run amok in a ‘roid rage of tearing away civil liberties; running up debt; outsourcing and mortgaging America, the home team; shifting wealth from the middle class to the haves and have-mores; lying about everything from war to peace, and leaving US in pieces in the process.
Their team “kicks sand in the umpire’s eyes,” calls foul balls like No Child Left Behind as fair, puts their own umpires in the game and dares the Progressives and Democrats to compete. They cheat to win. They lie when the truth would serve them better. They sully the game.
Maybe there’s nothing to do but stay in play until they leave, gamely stepping up to the plate for every inning, even knowing they’ve brought steroids to the game and they own the umpires. Maybe we can’t win yet. But we’ve a responsibility to call ‘em as we sees ‘em. And demand the mess be cleaned up, the cheaters kicked out. And with their passing, put an askerisk after their names. All of ‘em. In a Hall of Shame of their own making. Like the Black Sox, back in the day. We won’t forget. And we’ll vow to play better.
Because it’s all about baseball…and it’s more, far more, than just a game.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Hollywood Fred Thompson? "Trophy wife."
We've always figured Hollywood Fred wasn't taking this campaign seriously, but we're still pretty much dumbstruck by that one at the Sunshine house.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about honor and dignity. A vow made to us the way a groom promises to his bride on their wedding day. And when the groom turns abusive and instead of honoring his bride and treating her with dignity, he leaves bruises and scars.
Maybe those bruises don’t show on the outside, but they’re there in the spirit and fiber…of a person, of a family, of a nation.
Honor, my dear ol’ dad taught me in childhood, is what you do, how you act, when nobody’s lookin’. These days, it seems honor is in such short supply in some quarters that the nobody’s lookin’ part doesn’t even slow them down.
Senator McConnell’s recent “Nobody is happy about losing lives but remember these are not draftees, these are full-time professional soldiers.” was not an honorable comment. Or attitude.
Down the road a ways here in
Veterans of World War II have been flying from Prairie Country to
WW II vets who did the same intelligence work as is being done today have spoken out against using torture like waterboarding’s controlled drowning as a method to gain information. They honorably serve us all still by speaking out.
Honor means admitting your mistakes, accepting your imperfections while always striving to do better. Senator Edwards says his
I have hope right now that the honor I see in talker Don Imus will overcome his mistakes and imperfections. His campaign support for the Boriken neighborhood health care center now exemplifies that honor.
Honor requires thinking. But it also requires an inner spirit of honesty and selflessness that is not valued enough these days. “Greed is good” rules, instead of One America. Changing that will take work. There is much tilling of the soil to be done…not just in Prairie Country, but in Washington and all of
We used to value work a lot more than we do now. These days, it’s all about the bravado and the big lie. Talking about the Greatest Generation without living up to it. Like showy annual flowers that wilt at the first drought and die away at the first deep frost.
It’s the deep roots that endure…the well-set roots of community and neighborhood over selfish individuals sucking up all the moisture.
Yesterday, when I drove to my disabled husband’s workplace, a Rochester Armoured Express van was blocking the graded sidewalk. When I waved our disability parking card at him, he ignored me. When my husband wheeled out of the building, and waved the driver forward, he inched ahead.
When I got out of the car and asked the driver to please move, he looked at me and said, “there’s handicapped parking…I’m not blocking that.”
“No, but you’re blocking the sidewalk so my husband can’t get around your van to get to the handicapped parking space.”
The driver stared straight ahead until the courier hopped in next to him, then the van sped away. Honor? None there.
But a man in a wheelchair, disabled and enduring serious diseases, waiting patiently because a driver saw the handicapped parking but didn’t see, didn’t want to see, that he blocked the way…that man in the wheelchair…he has dignity.
There are lots of people in wheelchairs, lots of soldiers with injuries, lots of good Americans treated with dishonor. They deserve better. They deserve our thoughts and our supportive actions. They deserve our honor. It’s not enough to talk about it. It’s time to roll up our shirtsleeves and get back to work.
And that will lead us all back to our own honor and dignity. And the whole country will be the better for it.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Welcome back to Prairie Country. The sun rises later than we do this time of year. And snow has arrived in waves, each leaving its heavy quilt behind, draping over branches and fences and across broad expanses of lawn and fields. So pure white this time of year you need to squint to look at it, waiting for trailblazers and the denizens of the neighborhood to start stirring.
We have good neighbors. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about neighbors of late. What makes ‘em good…or not.
We all live in a variety of neighborhoods. The city street or rural road or stretch of lakefront cabins. The community, the state, the country. Where neighbors can change in a moment from stranger to the person who saves your life.
When the first heavy band of snow dropped down on
We saw another community where good neighbors pulled together this week.
We’re missing too many of our National Guard neighbors this time of year. Oh, sure, the media will show welcome reunions, and big Christmas dinners with the troops, and those kinds of feel good stories. But it doesn’t feel good that our good neighbors are burdened with their third and fourth and more tours in a misbegotten war and occupation. Or that their country brings them home under stealth of night in flag-draped boxes. Or wounded to struggle for the rehabilitation they need…and deserve. Or some of our leaders brush aside their value with a callous, well after all, they volunteered.
Life here on the Internet is a collection of neighborhoods, too. Some you want to steer away from…and the best, that welcome you in. We’ll try to steer you their way from time to time.
All these neighborhoods are part of the American fabric. And that fabric’s stretched pretty thin these days. The quilt of who we are is looking shabby and threadbare. But there are good neighbors gathering to restore that quilt. You’ll find them if you find it in your heart to look around you.
We’re thinking about our good neighbors this morning. But also thinking about how to be a good neighbor.
It’s little things. Like taking an extra minute to pull out your own snow scraper and help when the old guy in the car next to yours at the grocery is trying to scrape off his windshield with a plastic card. Or taking a bag of toys and other gifts to the local women’s and children’s shelter for their Christmas shop.
Like writing a supportive note on behalf of your neighbors advocating for fair share in the WGA strike.
Like advocating for a political candidate in every neighborhood in which you live. Tell you what, it isn’t easy being the only house with a blue campaign sign in an all-red neighborhood. But keep it up and you just might discover in the fullness of time that other blue signs will appear like hellebores rising up through the snow.
So, too, it isn’t easy being the only non-white face in an all-white neighborhood. Or the only Muslim in a Christian neighborhood. Even the only Lutheran in an evangelical neighborhood. Or working woman amid the country club set.
I hope you’ll think about what it means to be a good neighbor. Which persons where you live just might be in need of a good neighbor. Maybe if enough of us spread that thought around,
Leave your thoughts if you care to, or carry along some mulling for your day. Thanks for stopping by and come back soon.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Mr. Sunshine and I each picked out our TOP THREE faves and we've sent this quick note:
"Our middle class Middle America household considers your show one of our TOP THREE faves. We support the WGA writers' effort and hope you will, too.
"Please tell the AMPTP to bargain fairly and in good faith and support fair share for all new media for your writers.
"Thank you for this opportunity to tell you we appreciate your show and hope you'll invest wisely for long term creativity, rather than short term corporate plundering."
Whether you compose your own note, or use the talking points suggested, it's easy to do, an opportunity to be a citizen activist. Give it a go.
And we'll see you here tomorrow with fresh produce/food for thought from Prairie. Have an activist day!
Monday, December 3, 2007
Lots of changes are going on these days in the blogworld. The beauteous ladies of Firedoglake are takin’ it up a notch. Skyscrapers and wide boulevards and streetlights for the sidewalks. They’ve already inspired some of the regular denizens to venture forth themselves. Egregious midwifed this scribe from the print world to the voice of blogging. Snarkassandra dove right into her own blog with the assuredness of a longtime pro. TRex has a brand new treehouse. FDL’s built bridges to Blue America and Emptywheel’s regular digs.
Out there beyond the blogworld, the seasons are changing as well. Imus is back on the radio-teevee-satellite world. [DirectTV 379, just sayin’]. Cafferty’s back in CNN’s Situation Room [what? He doesn’t have his own time slot yet?]…from vacation, or the booktour, or the best of both.
Politics are heating up. After complaining about John Edwards holding Hillary’s feet to the fire, Hillary’s now saying “it’s beginning to look a lot like”….not Christmas….
We’re missin’ Jon and Stephen and the rest of the late night guys…and hoping for strong positive results for our colleagues fighting the good fight for all writers via the WGA strike.
Think of Prairie Country as an oasis, a garden space, a rest stop amid all the hurly burly of the toobz. We’ll move at a slower pace here. Like the splashing water fountain you hear behind the walls, and maybe only have captured a small slice of view through a creaky old wooden gate. But this portal’s ready for you to slip through anytime.
The season changes are vivid here in Prairie Country. We’ve learned life can change in an instant in a delivery room [joy of all joys] or a doctor’s office. We’ve learned about survival. We’ve learned about traveling across the globe and sampling the best of Marrakesh and Rome and Granada and Mazatlan and…now we’re learning the best of life’s inner journeys.
Here in this oasis/cloister/way station we’ll take a more languid look at the world, but no less thoughtful than we are challenged by those who have already blazed trails before us.
Sit a spell. We plan to offer food for thought Tuesdays and Saturdays and when the mood strikes. The paths in this garden meander a bit amid the evergreens and understory greenery, perennials will thrive here, and occasional more planned annuals of theme and conversation. There may be hidden treasures amid comments to come, ideas that send our garden growing in new directions. I won’t promise it’ll always be sunny. Like life, gardens have their thorns and thunderstorms, too.
How can there be a cloistered garden amid the vast expanses of the Prairie? Well, I think it’s the shelters, the sanctuaries that feed our body and spirit to sustain us as we venture out under broad skies and down unfamiliar byways.
So seek out the hammock under the stand of red pines. Or down that path there’s a reflecting pool, long and broody shaded as evening in the Alhambra. But water lilies have found their way there and send up smiling white lotus faces. There are inglenooks and benches, and if you look closely, you’ll find the quiet inner spaces of your own heart, in sanctuary here for a brief time or a long stay. Do come back again and again.
We’ll offer up a little food for thought as you come through the gate and the topics will likely be eclectic as we all are; there are no harsh blacks and whites, good’n’bads to be found here. Rather, the misty drift of colors and spirit, hopefully softened a bit around the edges.
Prairie Country is a state of mind—but it’s also a state of heart. And the sure steady heartbeat is what carries us all along and informs us and colors our lives.
Welcome to Prairie Country—leave your thoughts, take along your dreams and inspirations and motivations to nurture the garden within your own heart. See you back again soon.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
But this morning's reserved for saluting Jane and Christy and Pach and all the hardworking team at FDL. Change always comes with some rough edges. We'll miss parts of what FDL has been, but the promise of what it will be is awesome. And the inspiration FDL always is for each one of us brings about changes that might not even have been imagined.
Like this one voice stepping forward to say, hey world. I'm here. Brace yourself....
So until we get really rolling, how about you? What's your song of change? What makes you look forward?