Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Musings, 29 October 2011

Good morning,

If the success of an event is judged by the quantity of trash and the soreness of the co-hostess's feet, the inaugural Open House at Suite 100 passes muster. My suite-mates and I remain astonished at the strength of our collective friendships and the harmony with which the disparate groups mingled in the corridors and offices, among the striking, provocative and warm digital art of Jean Van Harlingen, whose works we have shown in our Suite for the last year. On Wednesday, this display courtesy of the VALA Gallery of Johnson County will come down from the walls of our suite, and the works of another VALA artist will be displayed. Fall fades, giving way to winter, and Thanksgiving dances just beyond our reach, on the next page of my calendar. Life continues.

My week held more than one astonishing, powerful moment. But among them, one rises in my mind as I sit here. I drove home by an unaccustomed route on Thursday, and as I made the long curve around a Kansas parkway towards State Line Road past the rich, green expanse of a golf course, a small fox stepped from the southern edge of the roadway and ventured into the throb of civilization's evening regimen. I drew my car to a halt, as did those to my left and in front of me. No one sounded a horn, or edged forward, as the critter softly, slowly traversed the span of asphalt and slipped into a small stand of trees on the northern side. I released the breath that I had held in apprehension for the little guy, and eased my foot back to the gas pedal. The world resumed its rush hour haste.

This is not my first encounter with the dizzy overlap of nature with modernity. I am taken back to a morning when I drove across the mountains between Fayetteville, Arkansas and Newton County to make an appearance in a case in which I served as appointed counsel for the mentally retarded mother of a young boy whom she sought to save from her predator parents. I drove too fast, distracted by my resentment at being drawn from the life I aimed to make in the tamed hills of Arkansas' college town back to the life at which I had failed in the sleepy town of Jasper.

I made a long curve too fast, skittering close to the edge which dropped beyond sight into a wooded expanse of Ozark beauty. I righted the vehicle, easing over to the brake, letting my heart pound itself to quiet in my chest. When the trembling had subsided, I resumed my journey, shaking my head, glancing at the rise of hill to my left and the depths of green to my right. No roses to stop and smell here, I thought, and laughed a little, out loud, in the empty car.

My self-congratulatory chuckle explains why I let the speed accumulate and gave no thought to my own invincibility. Around the next corner, I slammed the car to a sudden stop, and looked, without comprehension, at the mass in the roadway. My heart lurched as a pair of eyes returned my gaze from the near end of the brown bear otherwise comfortable in the lane that I meant to traverse. She must have found warmth on the pavement, or perhaps, like an old cat, she favored a smooth surface for napping. She appeared to have settled into a dip in the highway just large enough for her body.

We sat, the bear and I, for some moments. I rolled down the window for reasons I no longer recall, perhaps because it just seemed the thing to do. I have always been taught to crack the window while traversing bridges, and the movement must be instinctual for me. The cool fall air wafted into the cabin of my vehicle. Eventually, I became aware of sounds. Birds high in the trees; a distant drone; and a sound that I realized, after a few moments, came from the bear.

She was yawning.

The gape of her mouth startled me. Seeing the slight swing of her paw and the sharp edge of her teeth heightened my fear. The bear spanned one entire lane of the two-lane highway, and because of the curve of the road, I could not move to the left without the potential of calamity from unseen oncoming traffic. The road dropped sharply from the narrow shoulder with no guard rail. I assessed my options. I could risk a head-on collision, wait for the bear to move, or sit, in the last event possibly risking sudden death from the slam of a car into the back of my vehicle. Hobson only offered two choices, I reminded myself. But wasn't one of them arguably good?

The bear resolved my dilemma. For reasons of her own, at which I can only feebly guess, she rose, slowly, onto her back legs. Glancing at me with deliberation, she gazed behind her, into the descending depths of the wooded hillside. She considered her options: climbing up, or edging down. Without regard to my existence, she choose the latter. She swung her heavy body around, giving me a brief, awesome glimpse of her height, then heaved herself with something close to grace, and vanished, among the lower branches of the evergreens.

I did not move for a few long moments. I made the curve at a slow speed, and never reached the allowed limit for the rest of the trip. I fulfilled the day's obligation, and retook the road near dusk. I do not believe I drew a full breath until I pulled into my own parking space, on a small, tamed hillside in Fayetteville, where my old calico cat watched for me from one of the many windows of my house on Skyline Drive.

Tony Bennett sings on the radio. I stop to listen. From the interviewer's questions, I gather that Mr. Bennett has a new release. He speaks sentimentally of the past in a craggy voice, and the radio man lets him tell his stories. My coffee grows cold as I linger here, at my wobbly old writing desk, in Kansas City, where the only vestiges of nature are the likes of a small brown fox in the roadway, the occasional deer glimpsed at the edges of a city park, and the sad-eyed animals caged in our zoo.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday Musings, 22 October 2011

Good morning,

A helicopter hovered over my bedroom last night. The phone rang; a friend with a police radio advised that a robber had bailed from a moving vehicle two blocks from my house during a police chase. A dozen uniformed officers and numerous patrol cars had created a perimeter surrounding our block. Take cover, he said. Make sure your doors are locked.

My husband and I rose from near-sleep to call our youngest boy and ascertain his whereabouts. Near home, he advised. His father strode out onto the porch to stand watch, just yards from a searching officer, in tense darkness. By the time all settled around me, and the morning agenda had been planned, I could no longer sleep.

I am privileged to live without fear most of the time. I know that many cannot say as much. Around the world, children lie on thin pallets inches from their siblings and parents, the stench of poverty settling on their hungry bodies. I believe that countries still exist in which threat of reprisal inhibits the exercise of what I consider entitled speech. Travesties and terror exist. But they do not dwell in my home.

The sound of Morning Edition murmurs behind me. A grey sky rises over the neighbor's roof line, the color of putty, the color of their satellite dish. I live in mundane oblivion and complacency, bothered by nothing more aggravating than the occasional peak in an otherwise flat line of crime. I read the headlines and make a funny sound with my mouth that suggests arrogance. I do not think, there, but for the Grace of God, go I. Rather, I reject the notion that any of these sad stories could ever carry my name.

With my SmartPhone, I track the progress of my son's Fall Break odyssey. From West Virginia, where he saw mountains devastated by coal-mining; to Asheville, where he briefly rested among the majestic slopes of enduring hills; to Nashville, on a quest for music and good food. He sends me periodic messages to mark his journey, as we agreed. My motivation for our arrangement is to be assured that nothing has befallen him. He has a more basic desire: To keep his mother's calls at bay. I can't miss you if you won't stop calling me, he quips, with only half a laugh.

I cannot help but draw parallels from his youth to mine. I left home at 18 and returned only briefly, for a handful of months, a half a decade later. I called my mother one day to let her know that I was going to be home late. If you aren't home by 5, she snapped, don't bother coming home at all. I never did. A friend drove me out to the county to get my clothing; we were denied access by my father, and I started from scratch. Eventually, Mother relented and invited me to dinner. We spoke in colder tones than I had known possible. She told me that on the day of our break, she and my father had purchased an air conditioning unit for my bedroom. I gazed at her as she talked, unable to formulate a response. I could only shrug. I was glad to be out. With the clouded sight of youth, I evaded her questions but greedily snatched her Tupperware of leftovers, hauling it back to my temporary berth in the offices of a youth group of which I was a member.

The social worker who ran the group encouraged my rebellion. I won't name him: he still lives, as far as I know, with his wife in a western suburb of St. Louis. But at the time, probably estranged from his family, he had taken refuge in the same large, drafty apartment as I. I did not speak to him of myself. I listened to his stories and found them fascinating; eyed his lanky frame in jeans and work shirts, bending over an acoustic guitar, and thought him glamorous. I close my eyes and wonder what he could have been thinking, letting a young woman squat in an unfurnished bedroom at the back of an office rented with tax free dollars. I don't know, even now, if he thought about it at all. Perhaps he was just being kind.

I spent the next semester in a borrowed dormitory room courtesy of my employer, the Financial Aids Office. By June I had decamped to a sublet, and in the fall, I started my second year of college as one of three young women in a rented townhouse east of campus living with furniture bought at Vet's Village, walking to and from class, existing on precious little more than air-popped corn.

I spoke yesterday with my former receptionist, who has gone back to school. I inquired after her progress. It's okay, she said. I waited. She continued, I mean, it's school, it's not supposed to be fun, right? I laughed. Now she tells me. My ignorance of that concept might explain my stunning lack of progress in my middle years. I had too much of what passed for fun while I attended college. I never took anything seriously, not my studies, not my friends, not the haunted look of a boy that my cousin and I passed back and forth between us like a toy, who died too young of the cancer that plagued him at the time, the cancer of which he never once spoke to either of us.

As our youngest child searches for a good fit for his own post-secondary studies, I think about my miserable existence in that time of my life. I would have said I was happy; I thought I was smart. We drank in the pub, drove too fast, and snuck people in and out of the gender-segregated dorms. We had no political beliefs. We had no drive. Our aimlessness sent us into a wide orbit, nearly directionless, from which I was a long time returning.

I shake the past from my shoulders, and glance around the room. There is dust to be banished, laundry to be done, and plants on the porch that have not been watered for days. Whatever my life has or has not been, this is what it has become. A middle-class existence, in a cute house, in an old neighborhood uncomfortably close to one from which crime occasionally intrudes on my existence. The great American novel will have to be written by someone else. I no longer expect to have a poem published in the New Yorker. But a couple of states south of here, my legacy sleeps in a Nashville hotel room. He writes better than I ever thought of writing, and in the spring, his first play will find voice in a playwright's festival. And I will become immortal, if only by virtue of his DNA and the fierceness of his writer's passion.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday Musings, 15 October 2011

Good morning,

The brisk chill of the morning air shares its stunning impact on my senses with the headlines of today's Kansas City Star. I heard the news on my car radio coming home from work yesterday, but it still causes a small lurch in the pit of my stomach: Kansas City Diocese Bishop Indicted. One small step for the victims of abuse by clergy -- one giant leap for humankind. Perhaps it remains to be seen in which direction the leap propels us, but I am inclined to think that we will move forward.

When the story first came to me yesterday by way of our local public radio, I almost had to pull my car to the side of the road. Holy catnip, I thought to myself. You go girl, I silently crowed to the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney, Jean Peters-Baker. Later that evening, my husband and I debated the legitimacy of the mandatory reporting law, and the prudence of criminal remedies for noncompliance. He voiced opposition to both. I appreciate the dent in unreported child abuse made by the former, and feel that anyone who, in the course of their profession, learns of, but stands silent regarding, a specific act of child abuse, should be drawn and quartered. A misdemeanor indictment provides a small but thrilling start.

I do not know if Bishop Robert Finn has criminal culpability within the meaning of the statute under which Jackson County has charged him. The news regarding these events, which I have closely followed, suggests that he had knowledge of the allegations against a priest in his diocese, and that he did not make a report to state or local civil authorities. If the facts come into evidence as they have come into the press, he should be convicted. Whether the criminal charge should or should not be cognizable under our law might be fodder for deeper debate, but the duty to report exists as does the potential of criminal prosecution for the failure to do so. I leave it to better minds than mine to determine whether the statute should be repealed.

For myself, the move soothes wounds I thought had long since healed. More importantly, as a step in the fight against child abuse whether by clergy or otherwise, this criminal prosecution signals a public intolerance of the kind of thinking that perpetuates the shroud which once surrounded abuse victims. In early days of public debate about domestic violence, one of the more important works had this telling title: Scream Quietly or the Neighbors Will Hear. Indeed. And now, thirty years later, a gutsy prosecutor has hollered from the rooftops, and the neighbors around the world will hear: We will not tolerate abuse of our children, and we will not abide your silent absolution of the abuser.

I do not advocate a climate of victimhood for any person who suffers at the hands of another. I myself strive to shrug off the excuse of my violent childhood, just as I refuse to blame God or the Ages for the viral encephalitis that struck me in my tender years, and gave me these wobbly legs and this addled brain. But a child who has been abused needs two things to happen before that child can arise from the veil of victimhood to the dawn of rebirth: He needs the abuse to stop, and he needs the abuse to be acknowledged. Jean Peters-Baker has given us hope that society stands ready to facilitate both.

Sitting in my dining room, just a few feet from my kitchen, I see again the reddened face of an angry five-year-old foster child named Mikey who lived with my son and me for six difficult weeks along with Mikey's brother Jacob. Mikey had been savagely abused by his mother's flavor-of-the-week, both in the sense of being beaten and in the sense of being sexually tortured. He had not one -- not two -- but three recorded episodes of attempted suicide before the age of five, the last of which involved his opening a car door while traveling, unseatbelted, with his mother and his abuser on Interstate 70 and allowing himself to slip from the vehicle and tumble down the shoulder of the road. As the paramedics slid him onto a stretcher, he told one of them, I just wanted to die. Five years old. Five years old.

I had to request that Mikey and Jacob be removed from my home after Mikey pulled a knife from my kitchen drawer and charged at me screaming that he was going to kill me and then kill everyone. I had no training for dealing with the extreme behavior that this poor child exhibited on account of what had been done to him. I could not lie awake at night worrying that he would begin to perpetrate on his brother or my son. I could not endure the anguish that I felt each time I held him while he sobbed.

On one of Mikey's last days with us, he collapsed into my arms and whispered to me: I just want to be happy.

I have a friend who has made a career of serving foster children, along with her husband and their now-grown birth-children who have long supported her efforts. She has harbored the broken and the beaten, the bruised and the battered. She has sat calmly beside them while they told her, with equal quietude, about their father's friend, their mother's boyfriend, their uncle, and the things done to them in the night, or in the day, sometimes with their parent nearby and seemingly aware. She has taken their anguish into her five-foot frame and used it to toughen her resolve. She has endured knowledge of the brutality that sick minds can visit upon the weak and helpless. She has done more good in a single year than I have done in a lifetime, in the name of saving children from abuse.

I am not like my friend. I let my foster license lapse, ostensibly because of illness, then, when that illness no longer presented an impediment to service, because of a new marriage. A decade ago, those excuses seemed reasonable. Now, I recognize them as cowardice, though perhaps understandable.

But I have had my braver moments, and those have helped me to rise above adversity. As some might know, I made a claim against the Arch-Diocese of St.Louis arising out of things that I experienced in high school, and was one of the first to insist on both a written letter of apology from the priest in question, and a clause in the settlement agreement that allowed me to speak openly of the events including identifying the perpetrator. I have not felt the need to do so, but I can if I wish. And in a file, in a box, somewhere, is the letter that he wrote. He knows, and I know, and they know. It was enough for me. The priest in question knew that I came from a difficult family environment, and took advantage of me when I came to him for counsel. He deserved to be punished, and he was. It sufficed to trigger my healing.

But for others, public prosecution is needed. For the ones in charge of the abusers, open castigation might be necessary to stop their tolerance of the savagery of child abuse. Look: Child abuse does not exist only in the Catholic Church. But anyone who has unfettered access to children coupled with the kind of societal protection that we afford the clergy can take advantage of their captive audience and the aura of invincibility in which they matriculate. That recipe for disaster gave rise to the environment in which child after child has been subjected to the whims of abusers. This results in a special kind of insidiousness, because the victim has had trust in his abuser imprinted on his DNA.

So bravo, Jackson County. Bravo, Jean Peters-Baker. If Bishop Finn had reasonable suspicions of child abuse, as a mandatory reporter, he should have called the proper authorities and let the system work. If he did not follow the law, he deserves to do his penance. And I do not think five Our Father's and ten Hail Mary's will suffice. I want some quality time on his knees, and a whole lot of community service, and I do not want that obligation delegated to his underlings. Hand him a broom, and let him sweep the corridors of a home for troubled youth. Perhaps the sight of their accusing, haunted eyes will open his own.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saturday Musings, 08 October 2011

Good morning,

Our wind chimes softly sing above the distant, intrusive roar of Saturday traffic on Troost Blvd., the large, symbolic dividing line that runs north and south less than a quarter mile to my east. The breeze which caresses the chimes also stirs the fronds of mimosa, wafting their mild lingering scent across my deck. I think that I can detect the fragrance of hot asphalt from our new driveway, but I am probably mistaken. I've never had a keen sense of smell; but I am susceptible to suggestion, and I let the pungent odor claim the backnote in my morning survey of our space.

I worked at a fevered pitch this week, and the quiet of this uncluttered morning embraces me, easing my tension. I cannot overplay the pleasure that I take in these mornings on my porch, nor the reluctance with which I greet the approach of winter's chill. I am an autumn woman. I like the warm colors of fall, and the light jackets and woolly sweaters that suffice this time of year. I do not manage well in heavy coats, boots, and mufflers. I resent December.

When I raise my eyes to follow the line of the neighbor's sugar maple that stretches its crimson leaves high into the vivid blue sky, I could be seeing any tree in any town where I have lived. In Arkansas, the fall came later than it does in Missouri, but it burst upon our world with just as much panache. I sat on a screen porch in Jasper and listened to the rush of the Buffalo River as it flowed past the town, and the rustle of October winds in the tall trees of Newton County. I nestled in a metal lawn chair on my mother's porch in Jennings, closing my eyes, inhaling the clean scent of a fire burning leaves somewhere nearby, no doubt in the confines of a steel trash can, overlooked by a watchful husband.

I have never lived in a seasonless climate. I imagine that the passing months would resemble one another too closely for my liking. I do not see the sense of entering the year's fourth quarter without the gentle falling rain, the leaves swirling on the sidewalk, the changing colors. I've heard people make a case for year-round education by dismissing society's ties to an agrarian calendar as meaningless in our technological age. I raise my eyebrows and make no comment. Three rowdy months of summer followed by a sensible change of temperature and freshly sharpened pencils -- what could be more natural?

I feel a quickening of earnestness in everything around me. My clients push to have their cases tried before the end of the year, presumably to gain some tax advantage. We got the driveway done so the asphalt would set before the first frost, and as soon as we can drive on it, the tree guy is coming to take out the old cedar, lest it fall on our house with December's ice and snow. Fall break at our children's schools approaches, and we have already begun to ruminate on the location of our Thanksgiving gathering. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Stack the firewood and bring the snow shovel out of its cobweb-infested corner. Autumn surrounds us; winter cannot be far behind.

I have only to close my eyes to envision myself in a blue serge uniform and white shirt with Peter Pan collar, trudging through the piles of crunchy leaves. I had a plaid satchel that I wore slung across my body. It clunked against my hip as I walked, and bunched my navy blue cardigan, but I liked the feel of its weight. The mile between home and school, traversed slowly in the chilly autumn air, afforded me time to dream. I composed my first poems in my head, and struck silent bargains with the saints. On the way to school, I beseeched my guardian angel to keep the big boys from teasing me; on the way home, I pleaded with St. Anthony to keep my Daddy from yelling at my mom. My brothers ran ahead, dragging a long stick along the ground, swinging their books and hollering at me to walk faster. I did not care. I knew they would not leave me.

As this year draws to a close, I will grumble my customary lament. I don't like to drive in coats. I fall on the ice. The cats will want to stay inside at night, and my husband will sneeze more loudly and cast baleful glances in their direction. But for now we can leave our windows open even at night, and the sweet winds of autumn waft through the house as I go about my morning chores. Other people clean their homes with increased vigor in the spring; I prefer the ritual of autumn cleaning. Once the cold of winter settles around me, my joints will swell and I will inevitably catch a wicked cold. We will all feel better if the house sparkles and shines before the winter falls around us. I will banish the germs, sweep away the collected debris of summer, and wipe down the cupboards. Then, when the seasons turn again, we can all hibernate in comfort.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saturday Musings, 01 October 2011

Good morning,

In the silence of the sleeping house my mind has no choice but to reflect. My week bore marked lows. I met with a former client to discuss a new matter, and experienced the shock of seeing a once-robust man tamed by approaching blindness. I stood on the sidewalk in front of my office and felt the rising rage within me, held back by dint of age, as a vendor for a neighboring business refused yet again to refrain from parking in designated handicapped spaces. I suffered a small, aching sadness tinged with guilt at news of my aunt's passing. I battled frustration at my own growing realization that perhaps I have outlived the natural usefulness of my scarred body.

Last night I stood in a tent filled with celebrating lawyers, friends of lawyers, and spouses of lawyers at the American Royal BBQ. My husband and I had tickets courtesy of my neighbor's firm. I leaned against my husband and let the cool of our last September evening flow over me. I cannot believe the year is three-quarters past, and yet, the mornings foreshadow winter. Soon we shall see a thin layer of frost where dew once bravely sparkled. I closed my eyes and thought about family -- my family, my clients' families, the families of those around me.

My primary contact with my son these days consists of words exchanged in the virtual realm. Oh, we spoke by phone last weekend, I hanging on every word and tone; he distracted by passing students on the porch of his fraternity house in the late Indiana evening. But mostly, I learn about his doings in fractured sentences into which I am hard-pressed to read his mood with anything near accuracy. I think about a recent comment made by a family court judge in discussing the parenting plan that he intended to adopt: Each parent should be able to contact the child by phone or text. . . isn't that how we reach our children these days? I protested then, and I protest now: If we limit our guidance to the number of words allowed by our cellular carriers, what cost to this generation?

And yet, I wonder if I had more or less contact with my parents in my third year of college. I strain to recall. Sunday dinner once or twice a month; I might have borrowed my mother's car on occasion, prompting the need to deliver a censored report of my comings and goings. My husband swears he saw his parents only twice each year during college: Thanksgiving and Christmas. Perhaps, perhaps, I acknowledge, but the question remains: are we the better for it?

I only have to close my eyes to find myself back on my great-grandmother's porch, at age three or four. My great-grandfather, Dad Ulz, whittles as he perches on the step beside me. The autumn night sings around us, and the low, pleasant murmur of the women and children in the house cascades over my tiny frame. I lean against my great-grandfather's strong legs, and think my childish thoughts, the content of which has been lost in the intervening five decades. The warmth of his body seeps into my deliciously chilly legs. The occasional flash of the last lightning bugs of autumn thrills me, and the heady smell of freshly mown grass envelopes us both.

I have a picture, somewhere, in a box in the attic, of my great-grandmother feeding chickens. She stands in a plain stretch of yard, wearing a flowered dress and a white apron. Though the picture has no color, I know her hair is red and the dirt beneath her feet is black. She raised her eyes just at the moment that the anonymous photographer captured her, and did not smile. I have run my finger across the square of paper and wondered where in me her genes dwell.

In another photograph, my mother leans on a railing and points to a distant, unseen spectacle. I stand to her right and slightly above her, my long hair cascading in waves, hers done up in curlers. I no longer recall who captured this funny tableau, or why. I remember the smoothness of boards on my bare feet and the sharp snap of the autumn air. The porch adorns the Bissell House in north St. Louis County, and the occasion must have been a Sunday afternoon outing to view their waning, delicate gardens before the first frost.

On a sill in my breakfast nook stands a photograph of my son, age three, in a rocking chair flanked by two neighbor children. His earnest face meets the camera's eye. I keenly remember the day, and my photographer boyfriend who captured the scene. I stood behind him, gazing on my son's countenance, seeing in it the curve of his father's mouth, my father's button Irish nose, the shape of my mother's brow.

I saw a photograph of my son on Facebook this week, his arm around a beautiful young woman. The sudden shock of beholding his tall frame, the shadow of his beard, his broad shoulders in a suit jacket, rendered me breathless. I think about the narrowing of his generation from my great-grandmother's brood: thirteen children down to one. He's all that's left of me now. Is it any wonder that I am discontented with the brevity of our contact? Is it so wrong to wish that I had one more chance to get this right, one more autumn night to sit on a porch step and listen to the crickets sing?

But the nights have all been savored or squandered. Whatever I was going to give him, I have given. Whatever he will make of it, is his to be made. Whether our children have enough or too little, they take their little kerchief-clad bundles upon their crooked sticks, and march down the road set in front of them. We are left to our rocking chairs, to the smooth remembered feel of cold boards on our bare feet, earnest faces turned towards the weighty lined countenances of their elders, and the wild flash of the season's last lightning bugs captured in a Mason jar.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

The Missouri Mugwump™

My photo
I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.