Thursday, June 3, 2010


Until I read former First Lady Laura Bush’s book, Spoken From the Heart (current #1 best seller, non-fiction), I would have never thought, nor wanted to admit frankly, that she and I share a bond. We’re both West Texas gals. I’d also like to believe that we have that West Texas gal quality of a simple façade, obscuring a solid core of wisdom, presence, and quiet fortitude, honed on the trials of isolation and survival, passed down by our pioneer mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers. Perhaps I flatter us both, but I’ve seen it in others, and although it seems odd to say (considering that I’ve been pissed off at her husband for eight years), I saw it in Laura Bush.

I’m glad I listened to her read her book, rather than reading it myself, because her voice (sound and style) made me feel like I was sitting on the porch at the 3rd generation ranch home of my friend Linda Sue, drinking iced tea, reflecting on life. As I listened to the book, several other things jumped out at me: Click on Read More Below...

1. When Laura Bush talks about herself and her family it feels real, warm and engrossing. The most obvious story, and that which has been talked about a lot, is about her accidently killing one of her best friends in a car accident when she was 17. When she starts talking about her life as First Lady, the more intimate reflections are interesting, i.e., her work with inner-city schools, gangs, Afghan women, and her feelings about George. But when she talks about her official functioning, you want to skip past it. Believe it or not, those sections were literally interchangeable with the same sections in Hillary Clinton’s book, Living History – we went here, we did that, la-de-da de-da. Only when First Ladies’ speak of their feelings, relationships, passions, is it interesting. A lesson for me as a writer!

2. The “stand by your man” theme that rippled throughout Laura and Hillary’s books (it feels weird to call them by their first names!), made me a little crazy, but then how many wonderful, amazing women/people do you know that are married to “lesser” souls, and stick by them? I used to consider this a weakness, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to think of it rather as a strength. Besides, we don’t know about people’s relationships, their intimacy, their bond.

3. Although I’m an occasional participant in personalizing my anger at world leaders, this book made me look at that from a slightly different perspective. Regardless of whether world leaders make good decisions or not, nor whether those decisions come from an honest place, when we personalize our anger and spew vitriol at the people who make those decisions, people get hurt, and it poisons our spirit. If you don’t like someone’s decisions you vote them out. You work on the oppositions campaign. You write checks. You voice your opposition, but you don’t call names and hit. I think I learned that on the playground, 1st grade.

Laura Bush talks about the hurtful things people said and did, not just policy or decision criticism, but imagine reading on the front page of the paper that your husband is an idiot and your daughters are sluts. She may think her husband’s an idiot sometimes too, who doesn’t, but reading it in the paper would dang sure raise my hackles! The old saying comes to mind, I can criticize my relatives but you can’t!

Even in critiques of this book I saw nasty comments, like, “Laura Bush is just another sick liberal with no heart. This lady (pro baby killer) is a disgrace to the country,” and “Go ahead, buy this book, make her feel like she has accomplished anything more in her life besides killing her friend, marrying an idiot, raising two worthless daughters, and keeping silent while her husband murdered hundreds of thousands of people for his own greed.”

4. George. What can I say about George? I think he left Texas with yet another black eye, but then he should have never been president. He probably just a “good ole boy” who got swallowed by a family of career politicians and a series of horrible situations – 9/11, Katrina, Iraq. I’m not excusing him, because we all have to take responsibility, but I think that there’s a side of him that we’ll never know. I vividly remember a close friend (whose opinion I respect), telling me how, of all the highfalutin catering gigs she’s done over many years, George was the only bigwig that ever came into the kitchen to shoot the breeze with the hired hands. Laura too recalls unprecedented occasions when they invited the lowliest Whitehouse staff to parties. I think Laura loves that man, and is happy to have him back, out of DC, out of the spotlight.

In closing, I would like to relate a lesson I learned about loving people, in spite of their shortcomings. At one point in my personal career I was faced with a horrible professional situation. I made some bad decisions and I let some people down. I persecuted myself endlessly, and even ended up in therapy. My therapist said, “Think of someone you really admire, who made a big professional mistake.” I thought for a minute and recalled a friend who I respected completely, but who got into trouble because of one mishandled situation. The therapist then said, “How do you feel about that person now?” I said, “I adore her! That was just one mistake. She’s a good person.” To which my therapist said, “OK. Why can’t you forgive yourself? You’re not that one mistake. You’re many good things, and a few bad.”

I also recall something that Ronya Kozmetsky said to me, many years ago when she and I were honorary co-host of a fundraiser for the YWCA. She said that the biggest difference between the way men do business and the way women do business is that when men trip, they jump right back up and forge ahead. When women trip, they agonize, analyze, and sometimes quit.

So - I think Laura Bush is many good things, but probably not perfect, which gives us something else in common. I learned some good things from her book, was reminded of some good life-lessons, and am proud to call her a West Texas Gal-Friend.



  1. Nice! We are not the sum total of our mistakes...You gotta have tough skin sometimes. Thanks for sharing this! I have a blogger account too. Love what you did with yours!

  2. SueAnn, I've been waiting for comments from someone I feel is of a like mind. Yours are very insightful.

  3. Thanks Sarah - coming from you, I am honored.

  4. Ok SueAnn....I finally read your blog and it was a doozie....and I love you inspite of your mistakes....because I have made more than you....
    love you, darlin'

  5. More mistakes than me! Yikes! Are you sure about that Nancy?

  6. Dear friends love us in spite of ourselves. Isn't that called "Agape
    love?" People who risk being who they are and being loved in
    spite of ourselves should consider that a compliment. Seems to
    me that is what we all strive for. O'h and don't forget to add the song,

    I have truly enjoyed your Blog. I relate to so many things you and your
    Mom have to say.

  7. I liked your comments very much--and you know we are usually opposite in our views. I have a friend with the FBI and he said that Laura and George were just plain nice to the folks that worked for them.
    If you liked Jeannette Walls and The Glass Castle you need to read her book Half-Broke Horses it is even better.
    Isn't it about time that you showed up at the ranch and we can sit and drink some of that ice tea!Linda Sue

  8. OK that does it. I'm going to read Half-Broke Horses. I've been eye-ing that one for a while. Thanks for making up my mind! I loved The Glass Castle.

    I do think it is past time that I showed up at the ranch for some ice tea!

    Love you friend...

  9. The piece is put together well enough. This publisher really farms these though, so you really do expect this quality. Nothing too interesting here. It's about as boring as she seems to be on TV. Again, I really can't believe details are narrated so emotionally, with such certainty. But who's to say things didn't happen exactly this way? Who knows, right? Whatever the case, it's moving paper. It's been on the NYT Bestsellers list for a while now. You might have even seen a copy at your local Costco, and been curious enough to buy yourself a copy.