From today’s Washington Post

Eat, pray, love and other resolutions for 2011

By Kathleen Parker
Friday, December 31, 2010; 8:00 PM

It befalls the columnist this time of year to look back and recap; to assign blame and shame, while offering the obligatory mea culpa; and, of course, to resolve.

It befalls the mature columnist (23 years and counting) to sigh in protest: Oh, must we?

Wars, tax squabbles,gas hikes, Haley Barbour, Russia, nukes, China, jobs, yaddayaddayadda and Julia Roberts. Haven't we traveled these potholed roads before? And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow? Is there anything left for which to apologize and/or perchance to predict?

As the dastardly decade of our newest millennium settles into history's tidy dustbin, death and taxes remain our most reliable antagonists. Repeatedly, we have met the enemy, and he is still us. Inarguably, there is nothing new, not even in the downloads of a WikiLeaked cable. Humans remain human, and the more we know us, the less we like us. Familiarity, contempt and all that.

Nevertheless and ergo, to wit and harrumph-harrumph, herewith KP's un-jaded, un-cynical, appropriately abbreviated (you're welcome) list of resolutions for all times, but especially now.

Eat, Pray, Love. Sort of. Call it EPL 2.0: Eat less, pray in private, love because . . . what's the alternative? For those preferring a deeper, drill-down, policy-wonkish, name-your-cuts approach, EPL can be loosely extrapolated as: health-care reform, church-state separation and human rights imperatives in the Post-Goldman Sachs World.

Permit me to elaborate, beginning with our favorite topic: Eating. And of course "death panels." The thread is stronger than it might first appear.

Let's keep it simple: First, there are no death panels. There are (and should be) limits to what can be done in our futile efforts to forestall death, but medical torture in one's waning days shouldn't be among them. Given limited resources and exorbitant costs - and our apparent terror as (choose one) the Dark Abyss or heaven awaits - not everybody can have everything.

Them's the facts, and thus it is highly likely that health rationing, already practiced by insurance companies, is inevitable. You won't exactly see bureaucrats giving Caesar's thumbs-down to Granny's heart transplant, but the recently installed cap on Medicare costs will mean that certain treatments won't be reimbursed and, well, time's up.

So how does one emerge a winner in life's little lottery? Scam the system by eating less. It's that simple. By eating less, we are less likely to become fat, which leads to multiple health complications, most of which can be avoided. Shop the perimeters of the grocery store (i.e., whole foods) and eliminate sugar. Easy.

Pray there's a heaven but do pray quietly. It can't be a mystery any longer that the God urge has a disquieting effect on certain members of the human tribe. I share the urge but have found ways of communing that don't require converting others, invading countries or shedding infidels of their heads.

Fundamentalists, no matter what their path to glory, share a streak of intolerance that can't have much to do with any but a malevolent creator's design. Either such a creator is undeserving of worship, or the worshipers have misread their scripts. Whichever the case - and to each his own - what anyone prays is no one else's business. Let's leave it there.

Finally, the most sublime for last: Love.

We are mightily confused about this matter, but it, too, is a simple thing. You won't find it in a crotch-grabbing music video. It doesn't have much to do with downloaded porn or "friending," tweeting, Facebooking or, most certainly, sexting. (O' for the days when verbs were verbs and nouns were nouns.)

At the risk of sounding preachy, God forbid, it's about giving. Yet another simple concept, we see it relatively seldom. We have the "giving season," a largely tinseled affair of extravagance and delayed debt. We give "gifts," but they are mere things, easily discarded, rarely cherished and hardly sacrificial. A few bucks handed to a store clerk don't much get to the heart of matters.

Here is giving: Listening. Sparing time. Not interrupting. Holding that thought. Leaving the last drop. Staying home. Turning it off, whatever it is. Making eye contact. Picking it up. Taking the room's temperature. Paying attention. Waiting.

More Golden Rule than heavenly virtues, but you get the drift. Do unto others, and, who knows, maybe they'll make a movie starring Julia Roberts.

The alternative is surely hell.


Watch the full episode. See more Independent Lens.

Oh, wow, here’s something I don’t want to miss on public television next week. I just hope I can stay up late enough to watch it. The perfect way to begin a new year!

Independent Lens: Men Who Swim
Tuesday, January 4, 10-11pm

In the midst of a mid-life crisis, filmmaker Dylan Williams tries to cheer himself up by joining an all-male synchronized swim team. He discovers a dozen other men struggling with the indignities of age and the uncertainty of a life half-lived. “Men Who Swim” looks at an unlikely brotherhood of beer bellies, wet suits and occasional underwater grace.

Farewell to the view from my Vermont office window.
Over the past 7 ½ months, my husband and I have lived in our vacation cabin in southern Vermont, while our Massachusetts home has been reassembled and renewed. Unfortunately, we weren’t on vacation, so he had to commute long distances to work, and I had to work from a pretty primitive office set up in the corner of the main room, near the wood stove. 

It’s a long story but the short version is a contractor botched a what-we-thought-was-simple upgrade. Wrong! As a result, we gained a gorgeous ceramic floor but lost all mattresses, upholstered furniture, curtains, carpeting, most linens and many clothes. Plus, we had to travel back and between the two places about a zillion times to carefully clean everything we didn’t throw out, protected from the deadly residue by masks and gloves.  

Now, more than half a year and many dollars later, we’re just about ready to move back into our place, which -- I'm happy to say  -- is a lot prettier and emptier than we left it.

Hooray for change! Hooray for new or clean stuff! Hooray for time and distance, which eases the pain that comes with disposing of all that junk we should have thrown out years ago.

In keeping with this celebration of a return to normalcy-and-then-some, I will enter a hospital tonight to prepare for the first of two total hip replacements – one tomorrow morning and the other the first week of March. I’ll do rehab and pre-op prep between the two dates with the "bone carpenter" and, by late spring, should be able to do a mean tango! Watch out DWTS!

Those of you who knew me when I walked and ran at the beach every morning would be surprised by how little I can do today. I need help getting dressed and maneuvering stairs. Some nights I dream of hikes in the woods, but then I wake up. I can no longer get in or out of a bathtub, carry groceries, bowl, dance or run.

I've been felled by inflammatory arthritis in both feet, both knees, both hips and both hands, all fingers and probably in places yet to be discovered. Over the past decade, I’ve been treated for polymyalgia rheumatica, fibromyalgia and post-viral syndrome, an auto-immune condition that mimics Lyme disease. I spent almost a year experiencing the horrors of prednisone (never again!). Bone spurs have locked up most affected joints, which immobilize me even when the deteriorated bones don't. All in all, it’s been a stiff and painful period of my life, one I hope to outgrow. 

Some days, I hurt all over; other times, pain is just background noise. When it gets bad, I walk with a cane, but most days I waddle and get by. Like migraines, flare-ups can be set off by loud noises, chaotic situations, even bright or flashing lights. I avoid stressful situations and take the easy way out of problems when possible. Swimming, singing and laughing are my saviors, low pressure systems my enemy, but hot tubs and kayaks are the closest thing to heaven I can find. If it weren't for the Y, I'd probably be totally incapacitated, but physical trainers and an insistent husband have pushed me through Nautilus machines and swimming pools, keeping my muscles as strong as possible.

Starting right now, some of that will change. With the help of a talented surgeon and very savvy physical therapists, I’m going to use today and tomorrow to replace and remodel a few body parts. This time tomorrow, my old left hip will be history, and so will some of my pain. Next week or the week after that, I’ll take my remodeled self back to my remodeled home. Can’t wait!

FYI, I won’t be posting to the blog for a few weeks, but will really enjoy reading your comments on Birds as well as whatever you post on your own blogs. I can also get email on the Blackberry that will never leave my hands except when they are in the OR. Hope to hear from you.

Danish cartoonist Morten Ingemann certainly understands birdsonawire, doesn’t he? We may not know what we’re doing or why we’re doing it, but we’ll keep on keepin on, freaky or not. Thanks, Brad, for sending this along. And thanks, Morten!


Let’s get this straight: I have nothing against myths. We all love a good story, and many of us grew up (quite nicely) on tales of Robin Hood, Johnny Appleseed, Betsy Ross and Paul Bunyan. My hero(ine) was Sacajawea. I can even sympathize with fans of Johnny Reb. Who doesn't love an underdog! 

But myths are make believe, and reality is based on fact. 

For anyone (especially southerners) with even a touch of sympathy for the notion that secession is a good idea, please glance at the chart below, taken from research compiled by a nonpartisan tax research group based in Washington, DC. You’ll see the federal dollars received by each state, per dollar of federal taxes paid. In other words, you’ll see if your state is bringing in more than it pays, or vice versa. 

Most of the the big receiver states are geographically southern (MS, AL, LA, WV, KY, VA, SC, TN). Others are sparsely populated (SD, ND, NM). Since these states receive more from Washington than they send down, you might say they are little more than colonies, with the exception of North Carolina and Georgia, which pull their own weight. 

As you might expect, the big spenders -- i.e., the states putting the most money into the federal coffer and receiving the least in return -- are the most populated (CA, NY, IL, MA, TX) and the most developed. As far as I know, people in those states are not talking about seceding, although you almost couldn’t blame them if they did. 

Here’s the list of the top receivers of US taxpayer dollars (FY 2005*):

New Mexico               $2.03
Mississippi                $2.02
Alaska                        $1.84
Louisiana                   $1.78
West Virginia             $1.76
North Dakota             $1.68
Alabama                    $1.66
South Dakota            $1.53
Kentucky                    $1.51
Virginia                       $1.51
Montana                     $1.47
Hawaii                        $1.44
Maine                         $1.41
Arkansas                   $1.41
Oklahoma                  $1.36
South Carolina          $1.35
Missouri                     $1.32
Maryland                    $1.30
Tennessee                 $1.27
Idaho                           $1.21

And, here are their benefactors, a/k/a The Big Payers (FY 2005*):

New Jersey               $0.61
Nevada                      $0.65
Connecticut               $0.69
New Hampshire        $0.61
Minnesota                 $0.72
Illinois                         $0.75
Delaware                   $0.77
California                   $0.78
New York                   $0.79
Colorado                   $0.81
Massachusetts         $0.82
Wisconsin                 $0.86
Michigan                   $0.92
Oregon                      $0.93
Texas                        $0.94
Florida                      $0.97
Wake up, people. Keep Johnny Reb where he belongs, in the story books. Being part of a union isn't just good politics, it's a fiscal necessity for those living in the poorest regions of the country. 

But, if you insist, give up the billions in Social Security, Medicare, farm subsidies, federal highway money, support for military bases and other federal installations,  salaries for USPHS medical professionals and air traffic controllers, plus all the other federal funding that benefits your citizenry. Revel in your myths of being put upon by damn Yankees, or unappreciated and misunderstood by much of the country you're part of. (Need I say, the country you play a small part in, when it comes to making concrete contibutions to the general good?) You and Johnny Reb might prefer poverty to the benefits that come with working together with the rest of the nation.    

Still like secession? Bring it on! That means more money for those of us who live in deficit states. 

For another take on this subject, read Tea Partiers Prefer Secession at Two Seeds on a Blog,, written by two enlightened South Carolinians.