The left doesn’t know what the right is doing


It happened again. In a blatant act of partisanship, my right hand conspired against my left, made a wild grab for power, momentarily grasped it, and blocked my left hand from taking any action.


I was almost ten the first time. John F. Kennedy, winner of the Democratic nomination for president, chose LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson) as his running mate. Kennedy would have preferred someone else, but Johnson, a homegrown Texan, guaranteed the southern voters that Kennedy needed. The two men came to El Paso in September 1960 to campaign. I stood among the crowd lining the streets. (I have no idea who I was with, and my fact checker (AKA older sister ) doesn’t remember it at all.)


As Johnson’s motorcade drove by, he stuck out his hand. I rushed forward, thrust my right hand through the crowd and grabbed hold for two seconds. I don’t know what thrilled me more, that I had touched a famous person, or that I had discovered that fame resided in a hand just like my own, five-fingered with an opposable thumb. Like all famous hands, it  had a much wider span than mine, but it was attached to a man who could have been my neighbor or my teacher.


The second time happened last Friday, September 28. Earlier in the week I gave up all of my personal information for a free ticket to attend a speech by Michelle Obama at nearby Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. I arrived later than I had planned because I had morning classes. About 400 other people were late as well. Most of them stood in front of me, waiting to get through security and into the auditorium. About one hundred stood behind me. By the time I got out of the security area, a young volunteer directed me away from the auditorium toward a small tent next to the building, saying, “The fire marshal won’t allow any more people into the building. You can hear the speech from inside the tent.”


Was I unhappy? Yes. If I had wanted long lines, endless waits, and annoying security, only to be turned away at the gate, I would have booked a flight.  No one seemed happy, but we remained civil (this is the Midwest) and followed directions, mooing and lowing as we crowded into the fenced area beneath the tent. I amused myself by exchanging complaints with the others and by watching the well-dressed Secret Service men walk back and forth talking to their wrists. Forty-five minutes past the scheduled time for the speech, a group of grim wrist talkers guided Mrs. Obama around the perimeter of the holding pen. When she got close to me, I whipped out my phone, took some quick videos, shoved the phone into my left hand to distract it, and grabbed her outstretched hand with my right. Her hand felt just like mine, only more famous, and attached to a woman much taller in person than on TV.


Still picture from my iPhone video.

After the gripping event, I left, as did almost everyone in the tent. Watching the speech online appealed to me more than standing in a covered corral listening.


Later that day my husband asked if I planned to wash my hand. “Better yet,” I said, “I plan to sell it on eBay.”


Let me know if you’re interested.




I am yearstricken’s right hand, and I approve this message.


I am yearstricken’s left hand, and I don’t.




Wisconsin accused of vowel play in Senate race!



Accusations are flying right and left about the upcoming Senate race here in Wisconsin. Of course, most, if not all, of the alleged accusations about vowel play originated on my computer because I needed a catchy headline for this post.


But I didn’t make up the part about the vowels. Wisconsin’s fate hinges on vowels – those joiners of consonants, the chatty members of the alphabet who always make their voices heard. They are the ones who mingle at the word parties and call out, “Group hug!” Vowels pull in the recalcitrant consonants who would just stand there speechless otherwise.


So on November 6, Wisconsinites will play political Wheel of Fortune and pick a vowel – an “a” or an “o.” Our next Senator will be a Tammy or a Tommy, that is, a Tam or a Tom.


The Tam, Ms. Baldwin (whose last name may already predict the outcome), threw her hat into the ring one year ago. I like to envision her throwing a tam into the ring (one of those woolen bonnets with a pom-pom on top, worn by the Scots and called a Tam o’Shanter.) Sadly, for no one else but me, Ms. Baldwin was not born into the O’Shanter family. By winning the election, Ms. Baldwin hopes to put a feather in her tam. The feather, of course, would be one plucked from the Tom she is running against.


The Tom, Mr. Thompson, hopes to defeat Ms. Baldwin and change that “a” in her last name to his favorite vowel, the “o.” It’s easy to snicker at the fact that tom is short for turkey, but remember, Benjamin Franklin, famous for ousting other presidents off the one hundred dollar bill since 1928, wanted the turkey to be our national symbol instead of the eagle.


As you know if you read this blog (and if you do, you have my sympathy), I have chosen to keep my thoughts on the best choice to myself. I plan to choose a vowel on November 6, but that’s between me and Alex Trebek.



The road to riches


Imagine that 100 people live in America. Ninety-nine of them are not millionaires. Just one is, and it’s not me.


Now, imagine that 535 members of Congress spend time in Washington failing to enact legislation to balance the budget. What percentage do you think are millionaires? Since one American in a hundred is a millionaire, you might guess that 5.3 of them have at least seven digits of net worth. (I know you’re troubled by the thought of  the .3 member: he’s been divorced twice and is paying alimony.)


Bipartisanship at its finest: everyone working together to create wealth for people that are themselves (See more information at:


But really, you don’t have to worry about the divorced guy because if you go to, you find that 40-50% of those who speak in sound bites are millionaires. Many, it’s true, are what we would call “poor” millionaires; they have assets worth less than $10 million. Not because they aren’t trying, but because so many congressional shoppers are out there looking for deals. Every day is Black Friday for Congress, and the mall is always crowded. Of course the assets listed on the website don’t necessarily reflect their spouse’s income, their congressional income, or the true value of their assets, so maybe some of them are just being modest.


I am upset.


I, too, can sit in chairs and fail to come to a consensus. I have had years of bitterness training, so I could add a lot to bitter partisanship. I get cold easily and would not mind cozying up to rich corporations with a few hot deals to share. I like to fly around in private jets and bring my family. I can talk for hours without saying anything of substance, and I love flip-flops. Why am I not in Congress getting rich off of the 99%!


If we want to get out of this economic slump and create wealth in this country, we need to enact mandatory Congress duty. It would be just like jury duty; all eligible Americans would serve one to two terms, enough time to double or triple their wealth. And I think that whoever she is in northeastern Wisconsin but originally from Texas that thought of this should serve first.

Lovesome words and politics


Why, why, why didn't I download that dictionary app when I had the chance?

Defenestration is my new best word friend forever (BWFF) or until a smarter looking one comes along.


First, it has five syllables, which makes it what is known in etymological circles as a “big” word. Big words are not only a sign of intelligence but can also be used to flummox your friends. Because no one wants to admit that they don’t know the meaning of a big word. Like, really.


Here’s how flummoxing works:


You: I’m so tired!


Your friend: Why? What did you do on the weekend?


You: I was reading a book without a proper ending and I got so riled up, I defenestrated it. It felt so good that I went through the house and defenestrated things for hours. How about you? Did you do any defenestrating over the weekend?


Your friend: Uh…well…yeah, actually…oh, I think I have a message on my phone. Excuse me for a minute.


At this point, your friend will pretend to be checking his or her phone for messages but actually will be looking the word up. But only if the now former friend remembered to download the dictionary app. (Did I mention that flummox is French for “confuse and lose friends”?)


Flummoxing aside, I love the word for the story behind it. The Thirty Years’ War in Europe started in 1618 when some Bohemian nobles threw two government officials and their secretary out of a window to protest the violation of their religious rights. Throwing people out of windows was apparently a common pastime of Bohemians of that day, but up until then, no one knew quite the right word to express it.  The three human projectiles that set off the war landed on a pile of rubbish, and so escaped, bruised and smelling of rotten cabbage, but alive. Thankfully, video cameras had not been invented back then; otherwise, defenestration would become a meme like planking, and people who don’t know big words would be defenestrating all over the place.

Elections: windows of opportunity to practice defenestration

This pane-ful act gave birth to the word we now know as defenestration, which means “to throw out of a window.”  It combines the prefix de-, which gives the meaning of something removed or put away, with the Latin word for window, fenestra.


You see how lovesome the word is. Its story reminds me that there are a number of government officials that I would like to defenestrate, particularly those who have failed to compromise and do what’s right for the country, instead of licking the boots of lobbyists and big money contributors. Election time is our window of opportunity, people. Rise up and defenestrate.