Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Madame L wishes all her Dear and Gentle Readers a very happy, loving, and successful 2012.

Madame L is pretty sure the world isn't going to end in 2012, no in spite of what any Mayan calendar may say or any other kook may prophesy.

Madame L agrees with the lyrics of the U2 song "New Year's Day" in that Madame L doesn't think that one second at midnight really changes anything, but she does think it's a good time for reviewing the past year and setting goals for the new one. Here's the song.

Lyrics ---

All is quiet on New Year's Day
A world in white gets underway
I want to be with you
Be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year's Day
On New Year's Day

I will be with you again
I will be with you again

Under a blood red sky
A crowd has gathered in black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspapers says, says
Say it's true it's true...
And we can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one

I...I will begin again
I...I will begin again

Maybe the time is right
Oh...maybe tonight...

I will be with you again
I will be with you again

And so we're told this is the golden age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to be with you
Be with you night and day
Nothing changes
On New Year's Day

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boycott Lowe's

Dear Gentle Readers,

If you found out that some religious bigots, in the name of their own religion, had objected to a TV show that profiled some other people of a different faith, and that the bigots had succeeded in getting a national company to stop sponsoring that TV show in order to make the bigots stop bugging them, what would you do about it?

What if the religion the bigots objected to was your own religion? (The people being profiled were Muslims, American Muslims who have been living peacefully in the U.S. for generations.)

What if it was another religion? (If you're not a Muslim --- let's say you're a Christian or a Jew or a Hindu or a Buddhist or a Bahai or a Wiccan --- Madame L's understanding is that all these religions teach, as does Islam, love and tolerance for all.)

So, either way, would it matter to you?  (Madame L hopes not.)

The TV show is "All-American Muslim" on TLC.

If you care about religious bigotry prevailing against peaceful religious people exercising their constitutional rights as U.S. citizens to worship freely, here's something you can do about it: 

Boycott Lowe's, the national hardware chain that caved to the bigots.
Why not boycott the bigots? Sure, go ahead and do that, too, if you can figure out how. (Many individuals, celebrities, politicians, and organizations have objected, and the Florida Family Association eventually pulled down its website in response to normal Christians objecting to its bigotry, so responding to that association has helped.) 

But, meanwhile, since Lowe's was intimidated out of sponsoring the TV show for fear of losing a few dollars, Madame L hopes there are enough people in the U.S. who feel the other way, who by boycotting that store could make an even bigger difference in its bottom line. 

If you care about religious freedom and if your Christian (or Jewish, or ethical, or any other) beliefs teach you to care about others, please join Madame L in boycotting Lowe's.
Full disclosure: Madame L refuses to enter Lowe's anyway, so boycotting it will be easy for her. For those who like or need to buy the kinds of products available at Lowe's, though, Madame L suggests that you can find many other hardware stores in any town in America with the same products, better service, and a more pleasant atmosphere.

In addition to avoiding Lowe's, you can join the boycott officially:

And please don't feel sorry for Lowe's. They're a big corporation which shouldn't have caved in the first place, and the religious bigots who attempt this kind of political action should be laughed out of the political arena.


Madame L

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Book Review, Sunday, December 25, 2011: Luke 1:26 to 2:40

The best and truest and most life-changing story Madame L has ever read, from the New International translation: 


   In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."


    Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."


    "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"


    The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."


   "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.


   At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"


   And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me--holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."


   Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.


    In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.


   So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.


    And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."


    Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."


    When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."


    So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


    On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons."


    Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."


   The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."


    There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.


    When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.


Bonus: Here's the first part of Bach's "Magnificat," Mary's psalm praising God, set to music:


(The words of Mary's psalm again, in English: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me--holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.)


Merry Christmas to all, and may we continue in His praise forever,


Madame L

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What a Waste of Time!

Dear Madame L,

Well, I wrote to my Member of Congress, and got a boilerplate reply that she obviously sent to everyone who has contacted her this year. She didn't address my issues directly and failed to admit that she has followed the Tea Party line all along, while pretending to care about taxes and jobs for the 99 percent. In fact, she outright lies in how she represents her position and voting record.

I think this whole exercise is a waste of time. She obviously doesn't even read the messages people send her, and some staffer is just making up these standard replies for everyone to justify what she's doing, without any hint that she will ever actually respond to the actual desires of the voters in her district.

Here's the letter:

December 23, 2011

Dear (My Name Here),
Thank you for writing to me about H.R. 3765, a measure to extend the payroll tax holiday, unemployment compensation, Medicare physician payment, and the consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline.  It is an honor to represent the people of [Her District], and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me.

Despite a frustrating process, I am glad that hundreds of thousands of [Her District]  residents will not see their taxes go up on January 1.  I have consistently supported continuing the payroll tax cut, extending unemployment insurance and making sure Medicare patients have access to the medical care they need.

While I'm glad that Congress and the Senate reached an agreement to extend these programs for two months, this is only is a short term fix.  I know a longer term solution is needed.   This is why I voted for H.R. 3630, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act on December 13, 2011.  This bipartisan bill that was passed by the U.S. House would have extended these priorities for at least a year.  It would also ensure that the Social Security Trust Fund is fully funded by other budget savings.  Overall, this extension would not add to our nation's debt.
I was disappointed that the U.S. Senate blocked H.R. 3630, instead favoring a two month extension.  While I would have preferred to provide a year of tax certainty as soon as possible, I voted against a resolution to reject the Senate's two month version because I wanted to ensure that residents of [Her District] do not see their taxes go up on January 1.  Fortunately, the House and Senate have agreed to quickly pursue a longer-term solution.  The folks of [Her District] have asked for and deserve an agreement that gives them certainty beyond two months.
I know times are tough in [Her District].  Close family members of mine have been laid off and are looking for work.  Many of my neighbors, friends and folks I meet while traveling the district are struggling to pay their mortgages and provide for their families.  I will continue to work with Congressional leadership to secure a longer-term extension of these important priorities and give folks relief during these difficult times. 
Since I took office, I have successfully fought every effort to raise taxes on families and small businesses.   I have also been working on a long-term solution that will provide more stability on Medicare reimbursement issues that will affect care for our seniors.  Most importantly, my top priority has been getting [Her District] back to work.  I appreciate having the benefit of your input as I continue to work on these issues.
I invite you to visit my website at [her website here] for additional information or to sign up to be kept up to date on these issues.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of assistance.  
(Her Name Here)
Member of Congress

Madame L, Please stop advising people to write to their elected officials because it won't do any good.


Angry and Frustrated (Still!)

Dear Still Angry and Frustrated,

Madame L is going to continue to advise you and all her Dear and Gentle Readers to write to their elected officials because Madame L knows they're paying attention. Even if they have staffers who write boilerplate responses to your letters and messages, they keep track of what people are saying to them. 

Even that letter you received shows that your Member of Congress has realized the importance of at least responding to her constituents, at least pretending to understand and empathize with their troubles. And if you've been keeping track, you'll have noticed that her version of how she has voted has changed during her time in office to fit what she thinks her constituents want to hear --- which is progress,of a sort --- of the best sort you can hope for from a politician. And that's a big step in the right direction.

Please, keep writing! Keep letting these people know that YOU are holding THEM responsible for their work in Congress. 

Again, here are the links to elected officials' contact information: 

The White House (includes links to other offices in the executive branch)

Best wishes,

Madame L

Thursday, December 22, 2011

So Do You Support Ron Paul?

Dear Madame L,

Thanks for your post about the Republican candidates. It sounds like you watch MSNBC (the liberal answer to Fox News) but you also like libertarian ideas because you posted a link to Erin McBride's blog and mentioned that she has conservative libertarian views.

So, do you support Ron Paul?


Still Undecided

Dear Undecided,

Thanks for letting Madame L clarify her position on the Republican primary candidates and MSNBC.

First, Madame L watches MSNBC for the news, which is truly fair and balanced. It's not just for liberals, and the idea that Fox News lives up to its slogan in any way makes Madame L want to laugh or puke. 

In addition to the straight news shows, some of the MSNBC programs are political commentary with a liberal point of view, which Madame L likes because even then the commentators admit that they are espousing a certain point of view and also because even the most liberal among them often criticize Pres. Obama and other liberal and Democratic leaders.

By the way, here's Rachel Maddow, an MSNBC commentator, explaining why MSNBC is NOT just Fox News for liberals.

Secondly, Madame L thinks she might support a true libertarian someday. And Madame L fully supports Erin's right to explain her views in the blogosphere even though Madame L doesn't agree with Erin on politics. 

However, Ron Paul is not that. He is a racist misogynist hypocritical opportunistic lying politician. Strong words? True words. Here's why:

He wants the government to get out of people's lives, except for women, who he thinks need the government to tell them if they need medical help.  And that's not just be because he wants Iowa conservatives to vote for him. He's held this position for years.

Finally, why is Ron Paul even running for president? There's no chance he can even win the Republican nomination, because he's unelectable and everyone, including him, knows it; and if he goes with a third party, he'll completely mess up the Republicans' chances of electing anyone. 

So that's the real question: Why is Ron Paul running for president? Answering that question will explain a lot. Madame L will write about that sometime soon.

Take care, really, TAKE CARE, and pay attention, and thanks for asking,

Madame L 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Republican Primary Contestants and Debates

Dear Madame L,

I'm having such a hard time caring about the Republican presidential candidates and their shenanigans. I'm trying to be a good citizen and pay attention. I even tried to watch that debate last week, but I kept having to change the channel because it was so painful. I've gone back to getting my news from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

Do you have any suggestions for how to be an informed voter and responsible citizen, without having to watch people bash each other, tell lies, and pretend to be decent people when they've behaved despicably in the past?


Not Into the Fray

Dear Not Into It,

Madame L has several suggestions that might help you. First, though, she gives you props for getting your news from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. So, further suggestions and random thoughts:

---Saturday Night Live sketches often cut to the bone in the same way that Stewart and Colbert do.

---Madame L finds the standard network news broadcasts to be generally reliable, too. 

---Madame L likes to watch "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC for his generally reliable, and liberal, take on the political news. 

---Madame L used to watch and would like to continue to watch Rachel Maddow except that Madame L hates to be lectured and talked down to. 

---Madame L watches "Hardball" with Chris Matthews sometimes, but not as often as she used to, because Madame L hates to be shouted at and even to watch other people shouting at each other.

---Madame L never watches watch Fox News any more, because it affects her the same way the debates seem to affect you.

---If reading would be less emotionally troubling than watching the debates, Madame L suggests you try the network news stations' websites. For example, here's a full transcript from ABC News of tlast week's Iowa Republican candidate debates. 

---Other bloggers often post summaries and analyses. For example, Erin McBride's blog "Swing State Voter" provides information about the candidates and the debates; and Erin makes it clear what her own views are (conservative and libertarian), so you don't have to wonder where she stands or if she's trying to pull something on you.

---Online newspapers also have blogs about the caucuses and debates. Here's the NY Times political blog; here are the Washington Post's political columns and blogs; and here are links to the liberal Slate Magazine's news and political pages and's political pages. 

Other Dear Readers, please feel free to offer your suggestions.

Madame L

(Full disclosure: In case you haven't noticed, Madame L's politics run to the liberal side. While she welcomes civil and helpful suggestions from her Dear and Careful Readers on this topic, as she does on every topic, she doesn't want to have an argument or even a mild disagreement with anyone about politics. She's just answering this question, not trying to start a debate.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Letters to Congress

Dear Madame L,

Taking your advice, I wrote the following letter to my Member of Congress:

[Congressperson's Name Here]:

Please vote IN FAVOR OF the tax-relief bill the Senate has just passed.

Even though it's only for 2 months, it's better than nothing. I wish you and your party would stop trying to make life harder for people like me and my family.It may be just politics to you, a lot of game-playing, but to me it means money that my family needs.

I can't believe that House Leader Boehner thinks he can get away with this kind of maneuvering. The only reason it works is that people like you are willing to go along with it, instead of representing the people of your district.

PLEASE start representing ALL OF US in the Third District, and stop kowtowing to the rich people.

You were not elected in order to get Pres. Obama out of office (the stated goal of Republican leaders). You were elected to represent our needs at the national level. This includes SUPPORTING our PRESIDENT, who is doing an incredible job in the face of constant opposition from your party. Continuing to play this game makes our country no better than some third-world banana republic, with regular people getting poorer and poorer while people like you rake in the money from your rich contributors.


[My Name Here]

What do you think, Madame L? Do you think this kind of letter will help?


Angry and Frustrated

Dear Angry and Frustrated,

Madame L applauds your letter-writing and would not presume to criticize you for the anger you have expressed in your letter.

Madame L has found some good tips for writing letters to Senators and Representatives. Some examples:

From About.Com: This site suggests a straightforward three-paragraph structure and provides sample letters as well as contact information.

From CitizenRedress.Com: This site provides even more information on how to contact your Senators and Representative and how to track their voting and legislative records.

From Bread.Org: This site explains why hand-written letters are more effective than any other form of communication with Members of Congress, gives the important points to include in letters, and provides a sample letter addressing the issue of hunger in America.

There are many other informational sites, but Madame L thinks you can get the information you need from the ones she has listed here.

You seem to have followed most of the rules, including addressing one major issue, keeping your letter short and to the point.

Keep working at making our representative government work!


Madame L

Monday, December 19, 2011

House of Representatives?

Dear Madame L,

I just read an online article about the latest ploy by Republicans in the House of Representatives to slow down the economy and make poor people suffer even more as the holidays approach and the New Year waits to be rung in.

"(Reuters) - With a tax cut for 160 million U.S. workers set to expire in less than two weeks, Republicans and Democrats in Congress on Monday were mired in a last-ditch battle over extending it.

"In a surprise turnabout, Republicans in the House of Representatives are now pushing for a one-year extension of the payroll tax cut and have rejected a short-term compromise struck by Republicans and Democrats in the Senate during the weekend.

"House Republicans initially opposed renewing the tax break, which expires on December 31, after expressing skepticism that it would boost the economy as the White House claimed."

Madame L, I was surprised to read that anyone thought this was a "surprise turnabout." Why are we surprised any more when Rep. Boehner and his gang change their minds? They're just going back to their original position, of opposing the payroll tax cut. I'm guessing they were just disappointed that the Senate didn't make it easier for them.

What do you think, Madame L?


Not Surprised, But Still Puzzled, And Speechless

Dear Not Surprised,

Madame L is also not surprised, still puzzled, but not speechless, though close to it. You've summed up the situation very well, and Madame L can only add this:

Dear Gentle and Concerned Readers, Please write to your Members of Congress to urge them to stop playing political games with our lives and our economy.

Here's the contact information: 

If we want to be represented, we must make our views known. As always, Madame L urges all her Dear Readers to make their views known, even if their views are different from hers.

Best Wishes,

Madame L

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, December 18, 2011: The Juggler of Our Lady

Madame L is happy to have found a modern telling of a Christmas tale that doesn't clunk along through a bunch of formulaic plot points and stereotypical characters...and does fill the reader with the joy of Christmas.

This book is "The Juggler of Our Lady," by R.O. Blechman. Madame L found this gem in a bookstore's closing-out sale, but it's available at for prices ranging from $13.95 to $39.00. (You can also get from the last remaining 78 RPM vinyl recording of John Nesbitt telling this story; it's used, and it's only $9.00. Can you play 78 RPM vinyl records any more? Madame L cannot.)

This is apparently a medieval tale and there must be many versions of it available, besides those Madame L found at (though it's not available at

Imagine having only one skill, juggling; and living in a community of people who have many other skills to offer as their Christmas gifts to the Holy Mother of Christ.

Imagine being discouraged not only at the beautiful gifts the others give but also at the competitive nature of their gift-giving. 

Imagine giving your gift, the one you've spent your whole life learning and perfecting, worrying that it won't be good enough, and wearing yourself out by the time Christmas morning comes as you perform for the Holy Virgin. 

Imagine the others denigrating your gift and criticizing it as impious, sacrilegious, and so on. 

Finally, imagine the way the Virgin responds to this gift from the heart.

The version of the book Madame L has is illustrated by R.O. Blechman, and the preface is written by Maurice Sendak. It's beautiful. But don't worry if you can't buy it. 

Just imagine it, as the artist did, and then imagine what marvelous gift YOU can give to God this Christmas season.

Blessings to all,

Madame L

Saturday, December 17, 2011

G-Mail Password Problems

Dear Madame L,

I kept getting email messages from the people at G-mail saying I should change my password, so I finally did, and then immediately I started getting spam and junk in my inbox. I feel sconged!


What's Up?

Dear What's Up,

Madame L feels your pain, and wishes she could explain this problem and, better yet, do something about it.

All she can do for now, though, is suggest that you change your password again, and this time change it to one that's harder for hackers to figure out.  

Here's the Official Gmail Blog webpage, where you can supposedly get the help you need.

And here's another helpful page on how to keep those "phishers" from catching any information from you.

Best of luck,

Madame L 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Refusing to Give in to Greed

Dear Readers,

Madame L wants to share this story with you, a story of light and goodness for the Christmas season.

When police were told to evict 103-year-old Vita Lee from her home of 53 years, they refused.

The day after Atlanta station WSB-TV reported on this story, they were able to add the following note:

"Chase Bank, the servicer of the mortgage for Deutsche Bank, has notified Vita Lee that Chase and Deutsche will not take possession of the home."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Being a Southpaw

Dear Madame L,

I am left-handed and my husband is right-handed. Our son, who entered kindergarten this year, is left-handed like me, and our daughter, who's in the third grade at the same elementary school our son attends, is right-handed. 

Our son's kindergarten teacher just happens to be the same teacher our daughter had, and she adored our daughter. She told me once that my daughter was one of the brightest and overall best students she'd ever had in kindergarten and she expected great things from her. I agreed with her, of course (who doesn't think their children are wonderful and talented and have charmed lives ahead of them!), but I thought even at the time that was a weird thing to say to a parent.

Not as weird as what she said to me last month in a parent-teacher conference about my son, though. She said he's "disappointing in every way, but ... not to worry, because he can't help it. He's a boy, and he's left-handed, so he'll be lucky to have the same success your daughter will have."

I was stunned, and I just said, "Well, thanks for your feedback," and got out of there as fast as I could.  I've been thinking ever since then that I should have responded differently and maybe even should have reported this teacher to the principal.

What do you think, Madame L?


Not Disappointed In My Son

Dear Not Disappointed,

Kudos to you for recognizing that your son is just fine, and that his teacher may have a problem, for declining to engage her in an argument, and for not dragging the principal into the matter.

Madame L knows a lot of people still hold prejudices against left-handers; even recent "scientific" research into left-handedness seems to state the results in ways that denigrate this trait.

Madame L knows some elementary teachers still hold prejudices against boys, too, sometimes leading to faulty ADD diagnoses and treatments not in the child's best interest.

Madame L hopes you continue to give your son all the love and support he needs. His kindergarten teacher won't be the first adult in his life to treat him according to misunderstanding and prejudice. You can teach him now the self-confidence and positive responses that will help him deal with these people now and through the future.

This article may help you prepare your son for the daily kindergarten experience. 

If you're not already active in your PTA or PTO, please become active. Volunteer to go on field trips, bring treats, all the usual things, for both your son's and your daughter's class. Get to know the teachers by helping put up holiday bulletin boards and so on. 

You may also have an opportunity at some point to speak to your children's principal about how the school addresses the differences in behavior and learning styles between boys and girls. 

Dear Readers, do you have other helpful comments for this letter writer? Please share, and

Best of luck,

Madame L

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, December 11, 2011: The Spy Who Came for Christmas

Dear and Gentle Readers,

Madame L has decided that we need a new definition for the word "clunker." This book is not badly written, it isn't decrepit or broken down, it isn't a clunker like an old broken-down car; but it clunks along so predictably from one set scene to the next, from one stereotypical character to another, and from one stock Christmas truism to another that Madame L felt like she could have written it herself.

(See Madame L's comments on other books of the "Christmas Story by Famous Author Whose Publishers Want to Make a Quick Buck" genre. Also, by the way, Madame L withdraws her cynical [even though she said it wasn't cynical] proposal to write a stock Christmas story rip-off.)

First set of clunks: It's Christmas Eve.  And a rogue spy is in Santa Fe (which means "Holy Faith"), New Mexico. And he has just rescued an infant, a baby boy, a child of peace, from some terrorists who want to raise the boy to be a suicide bomber. And the streets are closed to vehicles, and it's snowing.

Second set of clunks: The spy stumbles on a white rose, a Christmas rose, in the snow, as he makes his way into a humble adobe home where a woman and boy are waiting fearfully for the return of their drunken and abusive husband/father. The woman and boy eventually come to trust the spy and help him care for the hungry baby.

Third set of clunks: The spy, one of a trio who have taken the ironic code names of Melchior, Caspar, and Belchior, tells the mom and son a spy's version of the Magi from the traditional Christmas story: The Magi are actually Persian spies, come to suss out Herod's intentions and spread disinformation; and Joseph, the earthly father of the Christ child, is involved in a rebellion against Herod's rule.

Fourth set of clunks: The father, after attending a Society of Friends meeting, returns to the house determined to beg his wife and son for forgiveness. The two bad-guy spies outside the house try to trick him into doing something that will end the lives of his wife and son and the newborn baby, but with the help of the rogue spy he figures it out and helps them instead. One of the bad-guy spies is turned to good, and ... But you can guess the rest, can't you, Dear Reader.

"The Spy Who Came for Christmas" was written by David Morrell, the author of the Rambo novel ("First Blood") that was made into such a famous and profitable movie. 

It's available from, used and new, hard-bound and paperback and in the Kindle edition, for prices starting at $0.01 for a used copy. But don't waste your money. It's as satisfying as any of the other clunkers Madame L has read, but the formula simply doesn't work as long as all the clunks keep drowning out the true Christmas spirit. 

If you want to feel that Christmas spirit, go back to the original story. Jesus is born through a miracle to Mary, both shepherds and wise men worship him, and even the evil conniving of the most wicked people on earth cannot kill him...until he has completed his divine mission and realizes that it's time to give up his own life, for all of us. 

That's the true story, and Madame L hopes we'll all stick to it this Christmas season.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How To Disagree Without Being Disagreeable?

Dear Madame L,

I'm thinking of quitting Facebook! I replied to a political rant on the page of an acquaintance, and he replied by accusing ME of ranting. 

This guy isn't even really a friend: He made a "friend request" a couple of months ago, and I didn't see any reason to block him, since I did know him slightly for a couple of years a long time ago, but his political views are really extreme, borderline racist, and offensive to me; and the way he states them is aggressive and mean at worst and patronizing at best.

I don't want to let him bully me into not expressing my own views, but I also don't want to get into an argument with him that will only cause me more distress.

Please help,

Just Want Everyone to Get Along

Dear Trying to Get Along,

Madame L feels your pain but she does not have an easy answer for this. Madame L knows that you know that some of these kinds of disagreements are caused simply by the fact that when we're not communicating face to face, the nuances, the smiles, the self-deprecating shoulder shrugs, the friendly hand reached out, are missing.

Madame L does think that because we all do know this, we need to try extra hard to tend to each others' feelings in the very words we use.

For example, Madame L recently had a similar experience with someone (in a non-Facebook and non-blog environment), and she replied with words something like this:

"I'm sorry if I've offended you. I hope you'll understand why I don't think what I wrote was a rant. I'd like to mention that the information you were unsure of is available at [and here Madame L added the URL of a website with that information]. I hope we can agree to disagree."

Madame L urges you to take a deep breath before replying to a disagreeable comment. Some people like to argue and don't see it as impeding a relationship, while others feel arguments are friendship breakers. Replying in anger or disgust may just feed the anger or insecurities of the other person, add to your own anger or hurt feelings, and certainly won't resolve any disagreements.

Madame L also suggests that you may want to block your Facebook page from receiving the Wall postings and news feeds from acquaintances whose ideas make you feel uncomfortable. You can do this without their being aware of it.

Madame L has found this interesting article about why some people get angry and hateful when commenting about others' online postings: "What's wrong with angry commenters?"

Another interesting article tells how a person raised in a liberal family came to love his Republican in-laws.

For future reference, here's a funny/sarcastic take on how to handle unwanted friend requests in the first place.

Finally, Madame L hopes to hear from her Dear Readers about how they have resolved these kinds of issues.


Madame L

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, December 4, 2011: The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog (and Other Christmas Carol Ripoffs)

Dear Gentle Readers,

Ever since unpacking her eight boxes of Christmas decorations and pillows and blankets and books and cards and such from the past eight years, which Madame L did a few days ago, she has been enjoying re-reading some of the Christmas books. Her favorite of all time is, of course, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." Even though she thinks "A Christmas Carol" should be her favorite.

What Madame L likes best about these Christmas books is how short they are, so she can read them quickly, have a couple of chuckles, wipe away a tear or two, and get on with Christmas.

One of her other favorites is Dave Barry's "The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog"  (available from for $11.20), a hilarious and sometimes heartwarming story in which:

---The narrator is a boy who is just figuring out that he likes girls and who lives in a town called Asquont, New York, the name of which he thinks the Indians gave the town just so they could chuckle when they heard the white townsfolk say the name "Asquont";
---The beloved family dog is dying, and eventually dies;
---The kids are in their church's Christmas pageant;
---There's a problem in the church (in this story, possibly because it's written by someone who actually has a child's sense of humor, the problem is bats in the belfry [literally] and a big pile of bat poop that falls on the kids during the Christmas pageant);;
---The dad and mom have some disagreements about how things should be done in life, with the kids, with their school projects, with the Christmas pageant, and pretty much everything else (in other words, they're a normal married couple);
---Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog jumps into the family car just in time to save the feelings of the little girl who especially loved the family dog who died; and
---Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog arrives at the church just in time to save the kids from the big pile of bat poop that falls on the kids (which however he has caused to fall at that particular moment).

Sound familiar? Oh yeah. And, as Madame L has already mentioned, it's cute and enjoyable holiday reading. Not bad at all. 

For instance, it's not as bad as turning on the TV as Madame L did the other night just in time to see Peter Falk dressed up as a saleswoman with a lopsided wig and even more lopsided lipstick giving advice to a young man looking for a Christmas present for some girl he'd just met (or something like that; Madame L confesses she changed the channel so fast she didn't see even the next two minutes of the show).***(See below)

So, what's Madame L's point?

It's this: Madame L and YOU, DEAR AND FAITHFUL READERS, could put our heads together and write a Christmas story just as lovable and humorous and heartwarming as most anything any of us has ever read since "The Christmas Carol" was published in 1843.

Here's what we need: 

---A narrator (first person is funniest, especially if it's a kid);
---The narrator's family and/or best friend and/or girlfriend and/or boyfriend;
---A lot of beliefs (including nostalgic nonsense and childish illusions) about the joy and harmony everyone supposedly experiences at Christmas time;
---At least one character (can be a pet) who is dying, sad, lonely, homeless, in need of help, etc;
---At least one character who doesn't believe in Christmas (who of course will get the Christmas spirit by the end of the story);
---A huge problem that engulfs the characters, shedding doubt on their Christmas beliefs;
---A semi-magical, maybe even a deux-ex-machina, solution to the problem (for example, bat poop falling on the Christmas pageant and an adorable dog saving the kids from being engulfed in it), resulting in:
---Everyone, even the grouchy Christmas-hater, feeling warm and loved, and therefore participating in the joy of the season.

Oh, never fear, Madame L is not being cynical in suggesting that we write such a story. She just thinks we could write a good story, have a fun time doing it, and get into the Christmas spirit.

Ready? Send suggestions to Madame L by commenting or by e-mailing her at [ellemadame {at}].

Madame L will be away from her desk for the next few days and won't be able to reply immediately, so she hopes you'll fill up her email and comment box with ideas for her to come home to.

Merry Christmas!

Madame L

***Madame L just looked online for that Peter Falk Christmas story. It's called "When Angels Come to Town." Peter Falk is an angel named Max

Madame L made a Mister Yuck face when she read the following quote from the TV movie's promotional materials: 

"As was the case in the earlier A Town Without Christmas and Finding John Christmas, the cagey Max adopts several disguises in the course of his assignment, at one point showing up in drag!"

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Herman Cain Drops Out

Dear Madame L,

I just read that Herman Cain has made his big announcement: He's "suspending" his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Since you seem to have an opinion about everything, what do you think about this?


Don't Really Care About Herman Cain

Dear Don't Really Care,

Thanks for making Madame L's day with that question! Madame L does indeed have an opinion about just about everything under the sun, including Herman Cain.

In Madame L's humble opinion (Madame L will abbreviate this "IMLHO" in future columns), Herman Cain wasn't and isn't actual presidential material. Sexual indiscretions aside, his memory lapses and ridiculous statements were almost in a class with those of Rick Perry. 

Madame L feels sorry for Mrs. Cain but even sorrier for the women who came forward with accusations of sexual improprieties. 

While Madame L doesn't care about, or care for, Herman Cain or any of the current Republican candidates, she does wish the Republican Party would come up with a candidate who is smart, educated, moral, stable, and believable. And not a clown.

Madame L hopes you'll keep praying for our democracy to work, to represent us, to give us good choices between viable candidates to lead our country, our states, and our local governments.

God Bless Us All,

Madame L