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Shocked about Schock? Read between the writers’ lines

21 Mar

Aaron Schock, former congressmanIf you haven’t read former Congressman Barney Frank’s comments about now former Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL), or if you don’t have gay male friends on Facebook, you might not know or care about the rumors that Schock is in the closet.

Schock, 33, announced his resignation last week, following inquiries about his spending habits and ethics.

As NPR and other outlets have reported, the controversy surrounding his finances was sparked by a Washington Post story last month that his office had been decorated in a manner resembling scenes from “Downton Abbey.”

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Strong female characters, swimmers: Olivia Pope, Stella Gibson and (well) me

19 Nov

Kerry Washington swims in Scandal

I got into “Scandal” earlier this year. I’d held off … most likely because I find smart and even sometimes soap opera-y TV shows to be quite addictive, and I was trying to limit my viewing.

With Netflix streaming and other online services, it is easy enough to burn through a short season in a long weekend, too. So after burning through “House of Cards” and reading articles about the trend to cover D.C., I started watching “Scandal,” catching up on the first two seasons shortly before the third season kicked off. I was intrigued by the detail that Olivia, played by Kerry Washington, is a swimmer.  She swims laps on occasion to blow off steam and stress, while retaining her stylish ways.

I am no Olivia Pope, but I grew up swimming, was a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons while in high school and part of college. I recently got back into swimming more seriously for two long-distance events, Park to Park, and Swim Across America, a two mile swim, which was a new record and challenge for me. I was part of Team Ben Towne Foundation, raising money for pediatric cancer research.

I really love to swim, even when doing the crawl for two miles in a lake feels like it takes three hours and my arms feel like lead weights. In reality, it took one hour, 21 minutes. And I think it will feel even better next year.

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Claire, the refrigerator and the heat

12 May

Robin Wright as Claire Underwood

I started watching “House of Cards” recently, after hearing a lot of positive comments on it and watching a bit of the White House correspondents’ dinner (which included a video with Kevin Spacey, one of the show’s main characters, Congressman Francis Underwood).

Robin Wright plays his wife. She’s so beautiful and a great actress. Like many, I’ve loved watching her since she appeared in “Princess Bride.” Her character in this show is not exactly a princess. That can be a little shocking.

In one of the episodes that I watched, Claire retreats to the kitchen to get more chardonnay for friends who are over for dinner. The female friend follows her into the kitchen, and sees her lean in to absorb the cool air. When I was watching, I thought that she was exhausted because the dinner was work-related and she was hitting this couple up for money to support her company. And they live in D.C., so who doesn’t want some additional cool air, especially if it’s summer time?

But the female friend initiates a conversation about hot flashes, and asks Claire if she is also getting night sweats. Claire changes the subject.

A few episodes later, husband Francis mentions that he has seen her lingering at the fridge. “Does it hurt?” he asks. “It’s not pleasant,” Claire says. He asks her if there’s anything that he can do and she says, “no.” I was intrigued by these exchanges because, as a blogger for Slate penned earlier in the year, you don’t often see scenes about menopause on TV.

I haven’t been lingering at the fridge but I am experiencing those same hot flashes and night sweats. I’m a few years older than my mother was when she went through menopause (which is how clinicians gauge timing) but even that small triumph is not a big consolation.

One of the worst parts of it for me, really over the last year, is interrupted sleep. I had been waking up really early for awhile, couldn’t go back to sleep and wasn’t sure why. I joked with friends about having Bill Clinton eyes. (Thanks for that, Clara S.) Initially, I thought that my bedroom might be too warm. That could have been part of it. But thinking back now, something similar was happening last fall when I spent the night at a friend’s house … kicking off the covers for a bit, and then diving back under the blankets.

The night sweats aren’t horrible. I feel a wave of heat come over my face, really, so I’m a little prepared. And there is just a small amount of moisture that I can easily wipe away. There is often a few drops in the crooks of my arms, too. Earlier this week, when I wasn’t feeling well (summer cold), it was also damp behind my knees.

I started acupuncture a few weeks ago and it slowly seems to be helping. I am now able to go back to sleep when I’m so rudely woken up, and that is a relief. It also seems to help when I don’t drink regularly (and that’s a good thing for me, too, I know). I slept in last weekend one day for the first time … in forever.

The last period that I had was in January of this year, and my nurse practitioner said I’m not officially in menopause until I haven’t had a period in a year. I can still get pregnant until that time, she said. It’s a lot to deal with – being single, not having any kids and now being pushed beyond that point. I know that I could always adopt if I really wanted to have kids, and it’s not like I have ever given up the chance to have children. It just didn’t happen for me.

So there’s all that behind this change I’ve moved into. I had dinner with a friend, Piper, recently and she said another friend of hers was going through the same thing. As she talked about grieving the loss and moving forward, I immediately burst into tears, and she hugged me tightly. “No one has ever talked with me about this,” I said.

I know, he’s got cancer … and I used to be a fan

11 Oct

“Christopher is on ‘Meet the Press,'” was a phrase I traded back and forth excitedly with my friend, Karen, when we lived in Washington, D.C.  Christopher, as in Hitchens.

Christopher Hitchens

by Christian Oth

We were both huge fans. He was a columnist for The Nation, and was frequently on the Sunday morning political news shows. I thought he was the smartest. political. writer. ever. He was not only insightful but he also had great little quips and slightly mean descriptions of famous politicians and the generally famous. See … the mean girl in me was emerging even then.

Christopher was once on a panel at one of the smaller Smithsonian buildings off the mall. He was talking about the Queen/ monarchy in the U.K., and he’s British. He was not a fan of the monarchy. Karen and I bought tickets and I was shocked to see a relatively small crowd.  We were both enthralled and introduced ourselves to C.H. after the talk. We approached him, said hello and probably started fawning over his work. He asked us to come outside with him, since he wanted to have a smoke.

After we parted ways, I began kicking myself … why hadn’t I told him that I was a writer, and asked him for some advice?  Gosh, darn it.

Thinking like a reporter, I thought I would try to track him down. I knew he lived in the Kalorama neighborhood, near the Hinckley Hilton and back in the day when we actually used to use phone books, he was listed. Success!  I crafted my message, called and left something along these lines on his answering machine (again, back in the day):  Hi, my name is Mary Guiden. I hope this isn’t too random or strange, but I met you after your talk the other night at the Smithsonian and I forgot to share that I am also a writer. I wanted to see if you might be available to meet and talk about my writing, and perhaps give me some advice.

He called back within a day or two, and actually apologized for any delay in returning my call.  Seriously?  🙂  He said he wasn’t sure when I called, and he chuckled after saying that I should be quite assured that my call wasn’t too random. He meeting up the next day, or quite soon, because of his schedule and upcoming travel. I still have the cassette/recording of that message because it amused me and also amazed me. A voicemail message from my then-idol, seriously?

I met him the next day after work. We’d planned to meet at a local pub he frequented on Connecticut Ave., but then ended up meeting at his condo. (I know, it sounds potentially creepy, but it was totally innocent.)  I brought a gift, a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, since I had read somewhere about his drink of choice. I brought a few articles I’d written (incl. one that ran in The Nation) and he read them. His place was somewhat stark, with loads of books all over the place.

When I shared a story about the fact that I’d worked at Planned Parenthood, he chuckled that my mom had suggested I not share that information with my grandmother (a staunch Catholic woman who late in life went to church twice a day). I remember he called her “my gran.”

C.H. offered to put me in touch w/ some writer pals at publications like the Washington Monthly. The advice he offered about my writing, quite honestly, underscored that I was doing all of the right things. But it felt incredibly nice to get that validation from him and to meet a writing idol.  That doesn’t always happen in life. C.H. never did follow up with me about the writer friends, but that’s OK.  Meeting him was more important than additional introductions in the D.C. literary world.

During the Clinton White House years, Hitch went from a liberal contrarian to a raving GOP backer. I was quite sad. There may be some hidden back story that is eventually shared. I was shocked when he testified before Congress about the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal and seemingly turned on his former friend, Sidney Blumenthal.

We all change our views and opinions as we get older but the Hitch switch never did make any sense to me at all.  It was more than a flip-flop and after recently seeing the movie Ghost Writer, it makes me wonder what really happened in D.C. during the Clinton years.  I do love a good conspiracy theory, after all.