Questions about the Gay Agenda

ejdavidagendaSo what exactly is this “gay agenda” I keep hearing about? Right wing groups claim that gays are trying to shove their gay agendas down straight people’s throats. (I thought gays preferred to shove something else down throats, but no matter.)

As a devout Christian, I have a few questions about this so-called gay agenda.

Is a gay agenda like a business plan that gays have to draft and get approved before they can “choose” a gay lifestyle?  Continue reading

Don’t Go Smelling My . . .

kiki dee

When you live with boys and men (larger boys, really), one thing is inevitable– farts.  For some reason, men love their farts.  The first time my husband told me that he and  best friend Steve used to light their farts when they were boys, I was appalled.  Continue reading

Jesus the Blogging Songwriter


We’re just freaks in love
Saints above
Shine on our sweet life
Happy is the union
Of fools and freaks alike

And fearless are the idiots
Among the hawks and doves
We’re on the outside looking in
A couple of freaks in love

Freaks in Love, lyrics by B. Taupin
© 2004 HST Management Ltd./Rouge Booze, Inc

Have you read something that makes you think: “how can anyone be that stupid?”  What am I saying?   Of course you have if you read stuff on the Internet!  The Internet allows anybody who is even mildly literate to post anything their dinosaur brain can formulate into letters and words.  Continue reading

Irish Setter Discovers Cure for Depression


Elton John and Arthur, one of his many dogs

Who’ll walk me down to church when I’m 60 years of age
When the ragged dog they gave me has been ten years in the grave?
Sixty Years On—Bernie Taupin © 1969 Dick James Music Ltd.

Easy answer– get a new dog.

And no, an Irish setter did not discover a cure for depression.  It was a golden retriever.  Goldens are a lot smarter than setters.  Everyone knows that.   Continue reading

I’m Thankful For All that I’m Allowed

And I’ve got all that I’m allowed
It’ll do for me, I’m thankful now
I see hope in every cloud
And I’m thankful, thankful
I’m thankful, So thankful
I’m thankful, I’ve got all that I’m allowed
All That I’m Allowed, lyrics by Bernie Taupin
© 2004 HST Management Ltd./Rouge Booze, Inc.
On Monday I whined about everything that’s going wrong in my life.  Today I focus on everything that’s going right.  And there’s plenty to be thankful for.

Continue reading

It’s Getting Dark in Here

It’s getting dark in here
Don’t want to leave
Shadow’s falling
And I believe
Wind’s picking up
Things so unclear
I’m afraid of my shadow
And it’s getting dark in here . . .
Don’t talk about angels
Or how I’ll be saved
I’m no coward
But I’m not that brave
Rags are blowing
Rain’s getting near
I’m done with running
And it’s getting dark in here
It’s Getting Dark in Here, lyrics by Bernie Taupin
© 2004 HST Management Ltd./Rouge Booze, Inc.
I’m at the point now where I’m just laughing as each new thing goes wrong.  There’s nothing I can do about any of them.  I can’t mention some of them, because they have to do with the house I’m trying to sell.  But suffice it to say, we will be pouring more money into the house before we can sell it.  We just replaced the kitchen appliances with stainless steel, because buyers want to see an “updated kitchen.”  And Billy, the ultimate handy man, is replacing the fixtures, lights and mirrors in the bathrooms, and painting the vanities.  The rooms look fantastic.  But so far, no dice.

Continue reading

Town Halls — I’ve Seen that Movie Too

I can see by your eyes you must be lying
 When you think I don’t have a clue
 Baby you’re crazy
 If you think that you can fool me
 Because I’ve seen that movie too . .
  Between forcing smiles, with the knives in their eyes
 Well their actions become so absurd
I’ve Seen that Movie Too, lyrics by Bernie Taupin
© 1973 Dick James Music Limited
Corporations have turned the concept of Town Halls on its head
    Town hall meetings began in small New England towns where members of the local community were invited to present their ideas, voice their opinions, and ask questions of their local public figures, elected officials, or political candidates.

    Corporate America has turned this idea on its head.  Continue reading

The Cork is Sinking

Like a cork bobbing in the sea

My emotions float with me
I’ve had a burden in my soul
Since I was young
It’s still with me as I grow old
And it doesn’t help to know
I have a long way to go
Before the burden is set free

It lies across my chest

A dense, disturbing mass
The doctor says it’s just stress
And the feeling won’t last
But I don’t know
I’ve had this burden in my soul
Since I was young
And it won’t let go
All around me others are jumping ship
Suicide notes are posted on the net
If they can do it, why can’t I
But I don’t want to say goodbye
Not yet
I want the burden to disappear
While I stay here
Because I know
It’s not my time to go

(c) 2014 Renata Manzo


Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

Being famous and gorgeous does not make a person immune to depression.  Just ask Jon Hamm or Ashley Judd.  They have both endured depression.

Mad Men star Jon Hamm guest-starred on a couple of episodes of 30 Rock.  The premise of these episodes was that good-looking people get special perks from society and can get away with more crap than the average person.   Yet in real life, being DDG (drop dead gorgeous) did not prevent Hamm from getting sick. According to Health magazine, when Hamm was 20, he experienced chronic depression after his father died.  He relied on the structured environment offered by college plus medication and therapy to pull him up out of the black hole.  Now, of course, he spends most of his time drinking bourbon for breakfast and chasing women on Mad Men.  Talk about eye candy.

Then there’s Ashley Judd.  I remember her as a teenager on the show Sisters.  She played Sela Ward’s daughter.  I thought she was so beautiful.  Later she played the young Vivi Abbott Walker in The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood.   Remember that awful scene when she lines up her children outside in the rain?  Chilling.

Apparently her childhood was no picnic.  While her mother and sister (Naomi and Wynona Judd) were out touring, she was mostly left alone to fend for herself.  She wrote a memoir in 2011 called All that is Bitter & Sweet in which she revealed that in 2006 she spent 42 days in a rehab center for depression.  Did you know that she recently earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Harvard?  Not only is she gorgeous, but she’s smart too.  And she likes to hike.

When I was a kid, I thought that if I was perfect, nothing bad would happen to me.  And the converse was true also — because I was bad, bad things happened to me. (You’ll never guess who helped to fuel that perception).   Then when I was 30 and went through my first big depression,  I read The Road Less Traveled  by M. Scott Peck.  The opening lines of the book were mind-blowing to me:

 “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Could this really be true?  It wasn’t me?  It wasn’t because I was not as obedient as I should have been?
It was an epiphany.  And just as Peck predicted, once I learned that simple fact of life, my life was no longer difficult for me inside my head.  I was finally able to stop those awful tapes that ran inside my head, tapes planted by a parent who wanted to control me no matter how old or independent I got.

And this truth also meant that it didn’t matter how good looking or accomplished a person was.  Life is difficult for all of us, even people as beautiful as Jon Hamm and Ashley Judd.

Until you’ve seen this trash can dream come true
You stand at the edge while people run you through
And I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you
I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you
 While Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky
But they can’t and that is why
They know not if it’s dark outside or light
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, lyrics by Bernie Taupin

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

The other day, the spring issue of Cooperative Living arrived in the mail.  It’s published by Southside Electric, which is a group of cooperatives that provide electricity to rural areas throughout Virginia.   
A little history lesson:  electric cooperatives came about because for-profit utilities did not want to run electricity to rural areas.  Rural houses were located so far apart that the cost of running the lines outweighed the potential revenue.  As of the mid 1930’s, nine out of ten rural homes still had no electricity.  In 1936, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act, which lent money to allow the creation of non-profit electric cooperatives.   These cooperatives continue to provide electricity to rural areas like Smith Mountain Lake, where we have a house, which will probably be up for sale soon if anyone is interested.  Because these cooperatives are non-profit entities, every year they return their excess earnings to the cooperative members such as myself.  I get a check for about $15 every December, which I usually forget to cash.  Last year’s check is still in my purse.
Anyway, as soon as the Cooperative Living arrives, I always flip to the last page to read a column called “Rural Living” by Margo Oxendine.  Great name, isn’t it?  Margo is a plump, red-headed woman who lives in Bath County in the western part of Virginia.  She writes about her dog Brownie, her neighbors, stuff like that.  Her column is always amusing so I read it first.
This month’s column was entitled “Paw-Paw, Brook and the Blue Pajamas.”  In it, Margo described an experience by a four-year old girl named Brook.  Brook went into anaphylactic shock and had to be transported to the hospital by helicopter with her mother.  When they arrived at the hospital, Brook’s mother asked her how she liked flying in a helicopter with her mother.
Brook replied that Paw-Paw was there too.  Paw-Paw was Brook’s grandfather and had died recently.   Brook and Paw-Paw had been the best of pals, according to Margo.

“Paw-Paw knew I was scared, so he came to sit beside me on the bed,” Brook explained.  “He was wearing blue pajamas.  He held my hand the whole way.”
Was Brook just dreaming?  Maybe, but the article reminded me of a similar experience that happened to me a few years ago . . .
The best job I ever had was working for Hunton and Williams, which is a large and venerable law firm in Richmond.  It is ironic that this was my best job, because Hunton has the nickname “Hunton and Gruntin” since the lawyers work so hard. 
I had a “sweetheart” deal, however.  I only had to bill 1800 hours per year, instead of the usual 2000.  This meant I worked 50 hours a week instead of 80.  Hunton considered this part time.
I was hired specifically to work for a partner named Jim, who was the head of the utilities team.  He also did commercial contract work for the company I eventually went to work for.  
Jim was a large, imposing and frankly scary-looking man.   He had dark hair and dark features.  When he wasn’t smiling, his forehead would furrow and he would look angry.   He was intimidating at first.  When I first met him, I was not at all sure I was going to like working for him. 
I found out he was from a small town in the Shenandoah Valley—a country boy who remained down to earth even after he became a partner and the head of a team at Hunton and Williams. 
One of his favorite jokes:  “A Virginia state trooper pulled over a pickup on I-81.  The trooper asked, “Got any ID?”  The driver replied, “Bout whut?”
He was a brilliant man—he had been a nuclear engineer before he went to law school– and an extraordinary lawyer.  Taylor Reveley, who used to be the managing partner of the firm and is now the president of the College of William and Mary, said it was because of his “giant throbbing brain.”  
I had never done commercial contracts before I worked for him.  In fact, contracts was my worst grade during my first year in law school!   I told him I had no experience with commercial contracts (I didn’t tell him about my contracts grade.)  He said, “don’t worry, I’ll teach you.”  And he did.
I learned more in the six years I worked for him than I had learned in the previous 15.  We would sit side by side in a conference room as he meticulously went over each contract I had written, pointing out where my language could be interpreted in a way other than I had intended.   He did this in such a kind way, however, that I never felt stupid.   He would critique my work, but he never criticized.  When I messed up with the clients (which I did), he never blamed me and never let me look bad in front of the clients.
He treated everyone with respect and courtesy—the other lawyers on our team, the admins, the clients, and opposing counsel.   He knew the meaning of collegiality because he lived it every day.   Every day at 10 minutes to 12, he would round up all the lawyers on our team, partners and associates, and we would go upstairs to the dining room to eat lunch together.  He knew how to build and sustain a team.  He was the glue that held our team together.
He was also generous.  For one thing, he was not afraid to give other people credit when they deserved it.  We found out later that he was a member of the Seven Society, which is an ultra-secret club at the University of Virginia.  The Seven Society gives large donations and gifts to the University.   I was not surprised to learn that he was a member, because he was a philanthropic man in many ways and yet quiet about it.
Taylor Reveley described him best:  “Jim was that rare human to whom others look for leadership during bad times as well as good.  People willingly followed him because he was so thoroughly decent.  Ever reasonable, ever balanced in his responses, never prone to carp or denigrate, Jim was a bastion of integrity and fairness. ”  
One day, I noticed that the whites of Jim’s eyes were yellow.  Jaundice.  I mentioned this to one of the admins.  It turns out everyone in the office had noticed, as well as his wife, but he refused to go to the doctor.
Jim was what we call a “man’s man.”  Every year he took off on the first day of deer hunting season.  He enjoyed deep sea fishing off the coast of North Carolina.  He often took groups of guys (guys only) on his boat, which was a large Grady White with twin diesel 250 hp engines.  I don’t know much about boats, but I understand this was a big-ass boat.  He was a big man who lived a big life.  He once drank two-thirds of a fifth of Wild Turkey at my house and didn’t appear the least bit impaired.  It was not surprising that he refused to go to the doctor.
Jim had twin daughters who reminded me of Jenna and Barbara Bush.  They were blonde and pretty, but rather flighty.  I think he had trouble relating to them, being as macho as he was.  He adored his son Wade, however.  Wade was a strapping young man, friendly and charming and very good-looking.  When Wade came into the office, all the women would swoon, including me.
Wade swept into the office one day, said a quick hello to Jim’s admin, went into Jim’s office and closed the door.  Twenty minutes later, Wade left.  Moments later, Jim emerged from his office and gave his admin a piece of paper.
“Make an appointment with this doctor,” he told her quietly.
Jim had pancreatic cancer.  According to the American Cancer Society, the five year survival rate for patients with pancreatic cancer ranges from 14% to 1%, depending on the cancer stage.  In short, it is a death sentence.
Jim lasted about 18 months. 
While he was dying in the hospital, I went to visit him once.  He was lying in bed, breathing slowly and deliberately.  He had lost a tremendous amount of weight.  The skin on his face sagged.   He barely moved when he said hello to me.  He couldn’t even turn his head.  I got very emotional.  The next day his wife called Jim’s admin and told her to tell me not to visit him again.   I can understand that, but it hurt.  I never got to say good-bye.
On the day Jim died, I was helping to negotiate a case settlement at the State Corporation Commission.  I received a call at about 4:30 from a colleague on our team, Eric.  Eric told me that this was probably the end.
That night, I took an Ambien and went to bed early.  It was just too sad to bear.  
While I was sleeping, I could feel something at my ear, saying something that I could not hear.  You know how your dog or cat will stare at you while you are sleeping until you wake up?  It felt like that.  I woke up, but there was no one there.  The dogs were fast asleep on the other side of the bed.
I looked at the clock.  The time was 9:23.
About twenty minutes later, Eric called to tell me Jim had died.  I asked Eric what time Jim had died.
He said it was about 9:20.
You can think what you want, but I think Jim was saying good-bye to me.