The MAD Goddess writes out loud with candor and humor about the changing landscape of life for women with retired husbands,
adult children, and grandchildren. It's not always a pretty story,
but it's usually pretty funny.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008


The other night I was surfing the channels hoping to catch the latest, relevant, political news. (An aside here, CNN’s Keeping Them Honest is a ray of sunshine in this hurricane season of misinformation.) Indulging in a bit of nostalgic gratification (oh, for the days when the choices seemed as black and white as our television screens), I lingered on Nick at Nite. There was the lovely Elizabeth Montgomery, twitching her little, upturned nose and creating chaos in Darren’s life.

I’ve always liked Elizabeth Montgomery or more accurately, Samantha Stevens. I like what Sam stood for in the midst of fast changing social values. Okay, so the writers had to employ devices like witchcraft and a “twin” cousin to reflect the burgeoning independence of the American woman. And her mother, Endora – a divorced, independent woman, not on the prowl for a replacement hubby? Pure progressive genius.

Over the years, I’ve held Elizabeth /Samantha up as an example of a healthy, mature woman with a normal body weight. In her stylishly simple “house dresses” one could easily see that below her waist were curving hips and extending from her sleeveless bodices, shapely upper arms. And yet, in the animated credit roll for Bewitched, Samantha was drawn in the exact proportions of a Barbie doll.

Fast forward to 2007 when AMC debuted it’s critically acclaimed hit Mad Men, giving us the real skinny on what Darren was doing at the ad agency office in the 60’s. The little woman at home might have had some healthy meat on her, but the men of Madison Avenue were all agog at the perfect doll image. And thus began the quest to remake ourselves in the image of a man’s fantasy.

Bringing us to 2008 where the ugly beast (man’s fantasy) rears its head and roars, “She is WOMAN!” If you haven’t seen the picture of Sarah Palin’s head photo-shopped onto a 20-something, stars-and-stripes-bikini clad body toting a rifle . . . you haven’t missed much. Puhleese! Every woman in America knew that photo was a phony. No mother of five has an abdomen like that.

A male coworker, who at best is very discriminating in his political opinions and at worst is down right cynical, responded to my inquiry as to his thoughts about Palin as VP, “Sticks and stones might break my bones but a woman with a gun excites me.” I have no doubt. But what about her qualifications, experience, ethical action in the face of opposition?

In her biography, now running on the aforementioned CNN, Sarah poses for a model’s shot, completely wrapped in the American flag. Truly offensive. Does its hoped for effectiveness lie in the anticipated certainty that men will be captivated by the thought of what she is wearing (or not wearing) beneath the flag? So captivated that they will be oblivious to her lack of qualifications? Forget about Sarah P capturing the women’s vote. She has men across America fawning over her they way they secretly fondled their sister’s Barbie dolls. They want to keep her image in their minds; they want to see more of her when they turn on the nightly news. If that means voting her into national public office, so be it.

Yes, Governor Sarah Palin is the dream girl of the Mad Men, and we all know sex sells. She might stop long enough in her whirlwind photo op tour (her appearances on the campaign trail can be considered little more than that in light of her refusal to take questions) to ponder this. If her running mate can laugh at an accomplished, powerful woman being called the B-word, what might be the so-called locker room exchanges directed at her?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


The Republican Party plucked Sarah Palin from obscurity and served her up on a platter as super woman-mom-politico. Her meteoric rise over the national landscape is far less due to any political acumen than it is to her own blind ambition.

Her supporters like to say that she is “Every Woman”, meaning (I think) that she represents the common every day mother and working woman. I am a mother, grandmother and working woman. Sarah Palin does not represent me in any of those aspects. She does not represent my best interests in areas of the economy, education or family values.

Really? What kind of values is a mother teaching when she delivers almost her entire acceptance speech, in front of her children, from a bully – or lipsticked pit bull’s pulpit? Our schools are enacting zero tolerance on bullying – why isn’t Sarah Palin demonstrating that family value?

She certainly does not represent the advancement of women’s concerns in America. I fear that what she does represent for women is the worst of gender-biased, stereotypical character traits that have kept women from breaking that glass ceiling for so long. Sarah Palin is not every woman, but every woman has known someone like her. If you are her friend, you are golden. Just don’t oppose her or stand in the way of her ambition unless you want to feel that proverbial knife in your back

It seems an astute blogger has discovered the facts in the book banning, librarian firing myth. “Turns out Sarah requested the librarians -- who was a big supporter of Sarah's political opponent -- resignation before she ever broached the subject of a potential book boycott.”

I have two thoughts about that. First, as an elected government official, Palin is sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America – including all amendments in place. A move on her part to ban or otherwise remove books from a public library is a direct freedom of speech violation. Private citizens can question and take proper channels to remove materials that may be deemed objectionable – but Sarah Palin is no longer a private citizen.

Second, her effort to fire the librarian who didn’t support her during her campaign and/or in areas of ethics (and when she became Governor – a cop who wouldn’t cooperate with her very private, family agenda), is abuse of power. If that's not bad enough, it is divisive and reminiscent of the high-school-girl-drama antics most adult women have long since abandoned.

Sarah Palin has used her power to repeatedly advance her own agendas, often times in opposition to her ticket’s slogan – County (substitute neighborhood, town or state) First. She won her mayoral election with the promise to rebuild her town’s crumbling infrastructure. Instead, the self described “hockey mom” pushed through the building of a multi-use sports complex (big ice arena) that one citizen describes as a “huge money pit”. When she took office in Wasilla, Alaska “she inherited a city with zero debt.” Despite raising the amount of city collected taxes by 38%, “she left it with an indebtedness of over $22 million.”

Her new battle cry is for drilling in the Alaskan Wilderness. Whether this is a wise move or not, remains to be determined. It has the potential to provide short-term relief from the burden of rising energy costs in America. It also carries the threat of allowing us to become overly complacent in our continuing dependence of oil, thus pushing the advancement of new energy technologies to the back burner once again. It also contributes to the growing concern of greenhouse gasses and global warming, all of which is not the future I want for my grandchildren – even if it would make my tank of gas more affordable now.

Also, consider her motives for drilling in light of the fact that their family income has never come from her husband’s commercial fishing business. He works a high-paying union job on the North Slope for BP which allows him the flexibility to take a few months each summer for fishing.

In a move straight out of Pygmalion, Sarah Palin is being packaged as something she is not, nor ever has been – a common woman driven to public service. She might know how to talk the talk, but it seems she is barely beyond baby steps in learning to walk the walk.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


My friend says that (so far) what she hates most about middle age (she barely qualifies) is watching her boobs go south. Honey, mine have gone so far south they must be in Florida because they look like two Valencia’s hanging in the bottom of a pair of tube sox. Figures my “girls” would make it to Florida for retirement before me.

The older I get, the colder I get. This doesn’t bode well for somebody living in the northern tundra of Wisconsin. Today dawned with an absolutely gorgeous autumn sunrise. I haven’t checked the thermometer, but I’d guess we’re right around 73-degrees. I know because that is my comfort zone. I can tolerate much higher temps. In fact, you didn’t hear me complaining the two previous summers when global warming spiked our July and August index to the high nineties. But 73 or 74-degrees is just right for me.

I work in a Victorian House Museum with no air conditioning. Well, that’s not exactly true. My office is on the third floor. We all know heat rises, especially in those old homes, so mine is the only office graced with a window air conditioner. Most days I don’t even turn it on until one of my co-workers wanders up to the third floor and asks me why it’s so hot.

Now, my husband is exactly the opposite. He is his own personal furnace and is always too hot. His comfort level is about 67-degrees. Since retiring (failing health/disability), he’s talking a lot about putting air conditioning in our home. My mind flashes to the two annual trips when I’d accompany him in the 18-wheeler. For six days, I’d sit in the passenger seat wearing my sweat pants and a hoodie with a blanket wrapped around me because he had the air conditioning set to about 64. When we stopped to eat, I’d open the door to be blasted by temperatures well above 80. This is how I’m spending my vacation time? I wondered. I wanted to order my meal to go and sit on the blacktop in the parking lot to eat it – just so I could warm up.

Would that I could afford to heat my house to 73 – or even 70, when it’s 20-below zero outside. To save on winter heating bills, I set our thermostat to 67-degrees. I’m cold all winter long. Over my dead body will I be cursed to live in a house that is air conditioned down to the same frigid temperature during the measly three-months of summer that we get in this otherwise frozen zone.

Since he's been home all summer, in the evenings we sit in our double recliner (aren’t we cute!) with the fan blowing directly on us. I have (you guessed it) a blanket wrapped around me. He is more of a night owl than I am so I retire early, leaving him and his fan-cooled space for the bedroom. In my nocturnal sanctuary, the breeze billowing the curtains away from the window is appropriately moisture laden and warm – as it should be.

“We need a ceiling fan in this room,” he grumbles when he later joins me.

He pushes the light, summer coverlet down and I tug it back up on my side, clutching the fabric beneath my chin with a death grip. I fall asleep with nightmares of the evil, propeller-like blades spinning at super-duper high speed, churning out a layer of frost to coat everything in the bedroom, including me.

I keep talking about moving south for retirement. He keeps ignoring me. I think a compromise is in order. For the worst of the winter months I think the "girls” and I should both head in the same direction - South. He can join us or not, but I hope he remembers that a day without “orange juice” is like a day without sunshine.

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