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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Maybe in time for the next election. . .

Voter ID, Wisconsin, Jennifer Lopez, Death of Bin Laden

My younger daughter does not have a driver's license. Why is the subject of various family legends. But if you asked me, I'd say it was because the kids split the cost of driver's education with me, and it wasn't a high enough priority for Liz. She's careful with her money.

But that's another story. A week before her 21st birthday and in preparation for the time-honored Wisconsin rite of passage, the first legal drink, she decided to get a bona fide Wisconsin ID card. And there the tale begins.

The first battle for a nondriver who lives on a college campus is getting to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Those of us who've been driving forever have sampled the locations and know which ones to avoid. But the vehicle-less aren't choosers in this world. A nondriver is stuck with the site closest to the bus line--in my daughter's case, the last one most of us would choose if we had to renew our licenses or take a test.

Accordingly, Liz waited a long time in a less than pleasant environment to show the clerk the identification she had brought: birth certificate, student ID, passport, and checkbook with her address.

Seems more than adequate? Does to me. But there's a Catch 22. In order to get an official state ID, some of the staff believe you need to have an official state ID. After a long debate, a supervisor finally agreed to accept her identification verification.

In 10 days or so, she might get the ID. Barring any further glitches. Not in time for the birthday--maybe in time for the next election.

Right now, there's a bill in the state legislature to require photo IDs for voting. Those who oppose it agree with Rep. Kelda Roys of Madison, who says that voter fraud is rare and that the bill "disenfranchises the poor, elderly, minorities, and students."

Liz's experience refutes the claims that it's no bother to get an ID. In fact, it's a significant undertaking.

As far as I know, the Constitution assures Liz the right to vote. It does not say she has the right to vote--as long as she has a driver's license.  Contrary to the claims of people like supporter Alberta Darling, this law effectively puts a damper on those would-be voters.

Meanwhile, I'll hope that if Liz decided to celebrate her birthday the way many do, with a drink in a bar with friends, she found one that accepted her passport and birth certificate.

It would have been a lot easier to get a fake ID. Perhaps the enterprising will begin selling them to the other disenfranchisees. I can't say I'd blame them for trying. But I do blame the legislators who pretend that this bill is not designed to keep people from voting legitimately. That will certainly be its effect.

Mom's the word

Mother's Day,

Mother's Day is about the mother you have, should you still have one, more than it is about the mother you are, should you be one. But maybe we should shift the emphasis.

Unless your mother was from the Mommie Dearest school of mental illness and depravity, chances are you are painting her in the light of near sainthood today. This is the day we pay homage to the best in our mothers, and with generosity forget about the rest. Since I no longer have a living mother, I've been ruminating about what it means to become a mother worthy of the real and ritual forgetting of the faults, heaping of the fond memories, putting aside of the wrongs done.

My mom was a wonderful woman, no doubt about it. Still, she had her quirks. Reverse snobbery was one. It came from protectiveness, but she was deeply distrusting of my friends who came from wealthy, highly educated families. She didn't want anybody to hurt or think they were better than her beloved cubs. I try to remember this when the Sarah Palins of the world sneer at the articulate and well-informed. Or when I fall into my own deep distrust of those who claim authority or superiority over me.

Mom was also a master of the freeze. She could go silent for weeks. Anyone who lives with a cold shoulderer knows how awful that can be.

Still, my own in-the-thick-of-it failings were much worse than Mom's. One bedroom door is tattered and warped from a crazy period when I couldn't handle stress, when I felt alone in the world, when I reacted with "wooden swearing:" the slamming of doors.

Since I am sometimes a little oblivious, the universe has taken to delivering messages in odd ways. Once a postcard fell from the sky into my hands. A house in the neighborhood had exploded, and I just happened to be walking by at the time. Today a book fell from the bookcase, knocking me ever so slightly upside the head.The title: How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too.

It was clear enough whose behavior is on the line here: Mom's. In this case, mine.

If I live to be as old as my parents, I've got nearly 30 years to get it right. Or at least more right. A few decades to deserve the title Mother and the flowers and brunches that go with it.

Thanks, Mom, for being flawed and wonderful, a whole person. For showing us how to love and how to keep growing for as long as we have in this beautiful, difficult, world. And for sending me messages now and then, in whatever ways they appear.

Cure for melancholy

I'm feeling a little wistful today, for reasons of interest only to myself. But I have discovered a sure cure: driving around with the car windows down and country music playing loud.

Not loud enough to make your car reverberate should you pull up next to me. Just loud enough to make you wonder whether I'm a little deaf.

Country is just the thing when your heart has been dented a bit. There's sassy revenge, beer-soaked longing, acute been-done-wrong sorrow, sweet hot country messes having fun until they get caught. A little anguish, a little prayer, a little car-keying. Or a lot of all that. In the spirit of joy in adversity, I'm declaring Cee Lo Green's "Forget" You a country song.
The driving around part is not for pleasure, not at $3.99 a gallon. And not when you drive all the time for your job. Which is what I'm doing.

Right now I'm recruiting health survey participants in a community very close to Tosa. I can pop back home for lunch, dog walking, and blog writing. What a rare pleasure that is.

And what a pleasure this almost spring day, 50 some days into official spring, is. The crabapples are in full pomegranate cotton candy fluff splendor and fragrant. There's enough leafage to make everywhere green, and the wind has settled down to playful.

The neighborhood I'm visiting is polka-dotted with For Sale signs. But most houses have tidy plantings around them and benches set out for enjoying the evenings, even if you have to wear a parka when you do it.

Pastel housecoats and elastic stockings dance on the lines set out in backyards and driveways. Wicker baskets await them. I half expect my grandmother, long gone, to emerge with a tray of molasses cookies. Then I remember: someday not too far off, it will be my turn to be the cookie-bearing grandma, though I will pass on the housecoats, thank-you-very-much.

On a day like this it's not hard to believe the lyrics Danny Gokey sings: "My best days are ahead of me."

Until next winter, anyway. We'll deal with that when we get there.

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