Friday, December 28, 2007

A love note from my son

"You are sometimes a stupid iteit but I love you."

I guess that says it all....

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2 more on diet and cancer

I'm putting up links to 2 more articles on the topic of cancer and diet as I try to figure this whole thing out myself.

What Causes Cancer? Probably Not You by Barbara Ehrenreich

and

Diet and Breast Cancer: Conclusions Are Hard to Swallow by Jan Kirsch, M.D., M.P.H.

Still thinking this through, but I really think the environment is the cause, and no one wants to deal with it. By the way, I currently know 3 women dealing with breast cancer and one with lung cancer, all around my age. So this is becoming very personal.

Sex ed redux

There's an excellent op-ed in today's Boston Globe about the Spears-teen pregnancy issue. Take a look. It kind of amazes me that I started working in family planning here in Boston in 1986 (!) and the same issues still remain...we're still fighting about comprehensive sexuality education and its absolute necessity. Will we ever learn?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Diet and infertility: is there a link?

Oh, Walter. Say it isn't so!

I first became aware of Walter Willett when I worked at Harvard School of Public Health a few years ago. He is the chair of the Nutrition Dept. there, and in addition to doing research, wrote a number of books on diet that I found really useful. The first is Eat, Drink and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating, and the second is Eat, Drink, and Weigh Less: A Flexible and Delicious Way to Shrink Your Waist Without Going Hungry which he co-wrote with Mollie Katzen of Moosewood fame. Willett promotes a very healthy diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat proteins, low fat dairy, and even a little chocolate and wine for good measure.

On the other hand, there are a few things that Willett is doing that I don't agree with. One, that I mentioned in a previous post, is research that has to do with the connection between diet and cancer. While I believe that there is some connection, I don't think the risk is as high as Willett professes.

And now Willett has come out with a book professing that improved diet will improve your fertility. Judy Foreman takes a look at this book in today's Globe. Her critique, which I agree with, is as follows:

Observational studies like the Nurses' Health Study do not prove that a behavior causes or prevents a health problem, only that it might do so. To prove that diet affects fertility, researchers would have to take a group of women with diagnosed infertility and randomly put half on a special diet and half on a regular diet and compare conception rates.

This would be an interventional study, which would have come closer to the "gold standard" of medical research and would have provided the solid ground to offer advice. Such a study could also show how long a woman would need to eat this way to affect her fertility.

So what she's saying is that you can't take data like the Nurses' Health Study, which asks a huge group of nurses to fill out questionnaires about health issues over their lifetime, and then analyze that data and go back and say that because this group of nurses has a healthier diet, they had better fertility. This type of study only shows correlation, not causation. In other words, there seems to be a link between this type of diet and fertility, but we can't say definitively that the diet improves fertility. For example, it could be that women who are more fertile and who have more kids, eat a healthier diet because they are feeding their kids a healthier diet. So it could be that their diet had nothing to do with their fertility.

In the end, there is nothing wrong with eating the diet that Willett promotes. It's a great, healthy diet. The problem is that he's saying that it will increase your fertility. I wish he would just stick to promoting a healthy diet, and stop claiming that it will reduce your chances of cancer and increase your fertility. These things are sexy and sell books, but it isn't good practice or good science to promote statements like these that haven't been proven.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Teen pregnancy... again...

I'm typically not interested in pop culture, per se, but the interest in Britney Spears' sister's pregnancy has caught my eye this week. Yes, Jamie Lynn Spears, at the tender age of 16, star of the hit TV show "Zoey 101" on Nick, is pregnant. And unmarried. And continuing the pregnancy and keeping the child, I assume. What will everyone involved do?

This interests me for a number of reasons. First, I worked in family planning for many years. Back in the '80s, teen pregnancy was a hot topic. It seems to have died down over the years, but every now and then, it rears its ugly head (excuse the mixed metaphors).

Secondly, my son, who is 8, watches this show. I think I've glanced at it, and it's really quite a silly show, with a bunch of young teens living at a "boarding school" which seems more like college (nary an adult in sight), having fun, and rarely doing any school work.

Third, the political climate right now is very conservative, so it should be interesting to see if presidential candidates, for example, start weighing in on what Ms. Spears should do about her unintended pregnancy. She shouldn't have been having sex in the first place, right? But since she did, and since she got pregnant, she definitely has to have the baby. But maybe the right thing to do is to place the baby for adoption. What kind of mother would she be, being a star with a busy career, and a with a sister who can't parent her own kids? (I'm just imagining what, say, Romney or Huckabee might be thinking...)

And fourth, and perhaps most interesting, is that Nick has to save it's behind, so what is Nick going to publicly say? After all, kids in the pre-teen age bracket watch this show, and idolize Spears, and what kind of role model is she providing? So that should be very interesting, to see how they spin this pregnancy.

My thoughts on the matter? Well, my question is, why wasn't she (and her supposed 'long-time boyfriend') using any birth control? So that would be the first thing. They should have known that having sex unprotected would lead to pregnancy. (I'm assuming they weren't using birth control: maybe they were and it failed?) And by announcing her pregnancy to the world, she is effectively eliminating any chance of making a private decision, i.e. if she even thought about abortion, now that's out of the question. Because if she has an abortion and states it publicly, she is effectively ruining her career (see conservative political climate, above). So now, she really only has two choices: continue the pregnancy and parent the child, or continue the pregnancy and place it for adoption. Somehow I doubt she will be placing it for adoption. So now she really has only one choice.

So my thoughts would be, what do we learn from this? 1) use birth control if you decide to have sex. 2) if the birth control fails and you get pregnant, don't tell everyone until you have decided what you want to do 3) if you are a rich and famous TV star, you can probably have a baby and continue your career anyway, so maybe it doesn't really matter after all....

I'm so cynical.

In the best of all possible worlds, Nick would use this as a teachable moment, and would educate its young viewers about teen sex, teen pregnancy, and everything that goes along with it. But that's not going to happen, is it?

P.S. a few interesting links on this topic
Explain that to your kids
Nick mulling post-Spears pregnancy show

Friday, December 21, 2007

3 snowstorms so far....


Trees are outlined with snow...or snow is outlining the trees...not sure which!



I guess grilling is out for tonight?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More Bah Humbug

I cannot WAIT for Christmas to be over. I'm so sick of the ads, and the songs, and the constant discussion on the radio and the TV and the internet and the newspaper of what to buy and what to eat and what to do.... argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What is the big deal about Christmas, anyway? It's just a holiday!

And what is the big deal about Santa Claus? Why is it that folks feel that lying to their children about a fictional character who brings them toys is a good thing? Can someone please explain this to me? Why is making a list of toys that you want and then thinking that Santa brings them to you a good thing? Why is buying your family an over-abundance of presents a good thing?

And what is the deal about all the presents???? Why is it necessary to give your kids 5 or 7 or 10 presents all at once? What does this have to do with Christ's birth?

I'm very confused, and cranky (as if you haven't noticed). Can someone please explain to a Jewish girl what is going on? Thanks.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Recent Photos








Winter wonderland #1








Winter wonderland #2













Kippot I've been sewing

Tradition, tradition

Tradition, tradition
Tradition
Tradition, tradition
Tradition....
I've been thinking a lot about tradition lately. On every radio show, every podcast, every blog, everyone is talking about their Christmas traditions, and how it wouldn't feel like Christmas without x, y, or z.

So I've been wondering: how does a tradition become a tradition? How often, or for how long, do you need to do something before it takes on the label "tradition"?

A long time ago, I was visiting a friend who has a daughter around the same age as my son. She was marveling at how quickly something became a "tradition" with her 3-year-old. Sometimes, she marveled, all you had to do was do something once, and it was a tradition!

I see this happening now with my 8-year-old son, as well. Sometimes we will do something once or twice, and suddenly -- he wants to do that thing exactly that same way over and over again. For example, he started asking me to tickle him while he was lying on the couch in the TV room, and he would say a certain phrase. Pretty soon, he only wanted me to tickle him while he lay on the couch saying that exact phrase. Now it's practically become a tradition.

Or when he comes home from school -- starving -- he always asks for the same foods, in the same order. Ice cream. Then hot dogs. Then something to drink. I guess you could say it's become a habit. Or a tradition.

What I'm trying to say is: traditions are just things we are used to doing in a certain way. They are really habits that have taken on a life of their own, so to speak.

So when people talk about their traditions - I know, this sounds really cynical! - I think they are simply talking about the way they are used to doing something. It may not be something that has to be a certain way: they just are used to it that way, and it feels good and familiar to do it that way over and over again.

On the other hand, there are religious traditions that are supposed to come from someplace (i.e. G-d?) or at least from people of your faith from a long time ago. Now, again, my thought is that the same rule applies: someone starting doing something a certain way, others picked up on it, and pretty soon it was a full-fledged "tradition"! But does that mean it's the best way? The right way? The way we should do it today?

One thing I like about Conservative Judaism (in this case Conservative means "conserve" as in conserving the past, not conservative politically...) is that it is willing to change as the world changes. For example, just this past year, Conservative Judaism's ruling body decided to allow gays and lesbians to be married and included in their religious communities. This is actually a really big deal for Conservative Judaism, and a pretty brave stance for them to take.

As I sat in shul (synagogue) yesterday, singing the prayers that sometimes mean something, sometimes don't, but which are mostly familiar to me, I was thinking about this tradition thing. Someone a long time ago, some rabbis, decided to put this prayer and that prayer together, and make them part of the Shabbat service, and now we do it that way because... that's how it's been done for a long time!

I guess my point is: many traditions are nice, and they make you feel good, and secure, and they can be comforting. But they don't have to continue if they no longer make sense to you. Unfortunately, in Judaism, we are asked to keep some traditions that I don't feel comfortable with, and this causes a lot of angst for me. I have decided not to keep Kosher, for example, and I still feel pangs of guilt about this pretty frequently.

I think a big issue in our post-modern age (!) is how to create traditions that are meaningful to us, that make us feel connected with the past, but also make sense in the present. This is the challenge.

Chanukah Rap

This is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time -- enjoy!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

First snowstorm of the season

Okay, they predicted it, we knew it was coming. Schools let out early. Everyone stocked up on groceries. But now traffic is at a STANDSTILL. It usually takes me about 7 minutes to get home from picking up my son, and today it took.... are you ready.... almost 2 hours. What is going on? My husband is at work, and he can't even get out of the parking lot, things are backed up so badly. He may have to spend the night at work, which would be a first.

I forgot to mention that we live on a hill, and when my son and I arrived home from school, the hill wasn't plowed yet. I couldn't get UP the hill. The car kept sliding. In the end, after trying several alternate ways, I managed to get up a different side of the hill, and then down the hill to our house. Sheesh!

And it's not even a PRETTY snow. It's kind of granular, not flaky.

Bah humbug!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thank you, Jane Swift

I'm not the only one annoyed by Mitt Romney's flip-flopping ways. Thanks, Jane.

More misinformation on the internet

GA few months ago, a listener of Pediacast (a wonderful podcast on pediatrics) asked a question about Gardasil, the new HPV vaccine. Gardisil prevents cervical cancer, and in my mind, from a public health perspective, should be a no-brainer. Who doesn't want to prevent cancer? This is one of the truly easiest cancers to prevent! A young woman gets 3 shots, and she is prevented from cervical cancer. Why do you think women get pap smears? To detect cervical cancer!

So back to my story... So the listener said that she'd heard about some negative side-effects to the vaccine, and did Dr. Mike know anything about this? Dr. Mike said he hadn't heard anything like this, and that he was providing Gardasil to his patients. But my interested was piqued.

So I looked on the internet (back to Google) under Gardasil and side-effects, and low and behold -- I shouldn't be surprised by now -- tons of misleading information about Gardasil and a whole variety of side effects! Sound familiar?

If you look closely at the sites, you will find pro-life (anit-abortion) sites with misleading information about Gardasil; sites by lawyers who claim to have documentation from individual women about side effects; and so on. Ad nauseum.

I took a look at the medical literature, and this is what I found. Gardasil was tested on 12,000 women, half who received it, and half who received an injection with a placebo. Of those women, .7% (less than 1%) of the women who received the Gardasil injection had a serious side effect, and .9 (less than 1%) of the women who received the placebo injection had a serious side effect.

That means, first of all, that less than 1% of 6000 women (that's less than 60 women) who received Gardasil had a serious side effect. It also means that less than 60 women who received the placebo injection had a serious side effect. That means that statistically, women who received the Gardasil injection were no more likely to have a serious side effect than women who received the placebo injection. (As a matter of fact, more women receiving the placebo injection had serious side effects!) This data reassures me that Gardasil is in fact safe.

I'm starting to feel angry at Google. I'm sure they don't have a way (or a desire) to check every site that they post, but the amount of inaccurate health information they are showing is starting to alarm me. I wonder if there is anything I can do about this.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Religion, Romney, and Privacy

I'm not in love with Mitt Romney, as should be clear after this post and this one. As far as I'm concerned, he's a smooth talking, handsome, rich politician who pretends to believe in causes, and then later "changes his mind" when the political winds shift in a different direction. He did this with the issues of gay marriage and abortion (choice), among other issues. First -- when he wanted to be Governor of Massachusetts -- he was for them, now that he wants to be President -- he is against them.

I can't stand him so much, I'd almost forgotten that he is a Mormon, not that that makes me like him any more or less (because I highly doubt his family is anything like Big Love). But apparently, his Mormonism is a rather large issue in the presidential campaign -- at least to Conservative Christian Republicans -- so yesterday Romney gave a speech about it. Or rather, gave a speech called "Faith in America.

There has been quite a bit of commentary about his speech in the media: here's an article from the Globe and here's the Globe's editorial.

Here is a sample, as quoted from the Globe editorial:
"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom," he (Romney) said. And just to make sure they grasped which religion he was espousing, he added: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind."

Romney got applause when he criticized those who would supplant a faith-centered nation with "the religion of secularism." But given the amount of violence and intolerance that various religions have generated throughout history, it is unwise to insist that religious belief is a prerequisite for freedom.

Someone with ambitions to lead all the people in a pluralistic society should not identity so closely with any religion or religious figure, even one as revered as Jesus.
So where do I begin? "Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom." Well...no...if you live in a free society, you are free to practice your religion, but it is not required. You are also free NOT to practice religion. What is he trying to say? That those who don't practice religion aren't free? Or shouldn't be allowed to live in a free society?

Romney was critical of those who would replace a faith-centered nation with "the religion of secularism." But, as the Globe commented in its editorial, religion doesn't guarantee a just society - quite the opposite is possible. Look what is going on in the world today in the name of religion! And what is this "religion of secularism" to which he is referring?

I agree with the Globe's comment that "someone with ambitions to lead all the people in a pluralistic society should not identity so closely with any religion or religious figure, even one as revered as Jesus." Why is it that politicians now-a-days have to profess their belief in Jesus every 5 minutes? This drives me crazy. First of all, I'm not really interested in their religious beliefs. Second of all, I don't really want to know who or what they believe in. It all seems too personal to me. But maybe that's the problem. Politics is becoming too personal. Hell, it seems like all we're interested in these days is politician's religious views and their sex lives!

So... I'm not sure where this leaves me. I still dislike Romney, and I don't like the way religion is becoming such a topic of public discourse in the U.S. I realize that most of the population of the U.S. identifies as being Christian (see yesterday's post), but I'm not sure that that justifies such a public display of religious zeal. I'm sure that many Christians in American would rather have their religious views and feelings kept private. And they probably would like the same from their politicians.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Happy Chanukah!

Religion in America

I've been working on something about Mitt Romney's speech about religion, and I just can't seem to get it right. So that piece will have to wait. But I was doing some research today, and this is what I came up with about religion in America.

In 2001, a survey was done that represents the religious identification 207 million Americans. You can find it here. They found that of 207 million Americans, there are:

159 million Christians 77%
of these
Evangelical 28%
Catholic 25%
Mainline Protestant 16%

7.7 million all other religions combined 4%

29 million no religion 14 %

11 million refused the survey 5%

(Just to give you an interesting comparison, there were 2.8 million Jews. Wow. No wonder it feels like everyone else is celebrating Christmas... they are!)

So if you look at this, 3/4 of America is Christian, and the last 25% is made up of a small (4%) minority of other religions, plus 14% with no religion and 5% refused. WOW!

Now I really feel like a minority. These numbers are amazing! I guess I'm starting to understand why the Christian Conservatives have such a big say in this upcoming election...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Red meat = bad

I try to feed my family (and myself) a healthy diet, and I think I do a pretty good job. We (well, my husband and I) eat lots of vegetables, beans, grains (not always whole grain, but sometimes) and I try to have meat/chicken/fish be just a part of the meal. I try.

But today, this article in the Globe gave me pause. Is eating processed or red meat linked to a higher risk of cancer? posits the article. The answer?
Yes, according to a new report from the American Institute for Cancer Research, a nonprofit based in Washington that studies links between diet and cancer.
Furthermore...

The group recommended limiting consumption of red meat to 18 ounces (cooked) per week. "It's eating more than 18 ounces a week that increases risk substantially, said Karen Collins, nutrition adviser to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

The evidence against processed meat such as bacon, ham, sausage, and lunchmeat is "even more rigorous," the group said, adding that it could find no level at which consumption of these products was safe. While that is a clear warning, it doesn't mean you should never eat processed meat, just that you should eat it sparingly, Collins said.

I've been aware of this agency for some time now, and I think their message is a good one. I just don't know how I'm going to implement it, realistically, in my home.

Here is more info about red and processed meat
and here's what they have to say about drinking alcohol

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm torn, because I believe this research to a certain extent, but I also believe that cancer is caused by environmental exposures, which are studied by agencies like the Silent Spring Institute. So reality is probably that there is a combination of factors: genetics, diet, environmental exposures, and probably other factors, all contributing to cancer risk.

So what is a person to do?

I'm not sure... but I need to give our diet some more thought. Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A little public health - part 2

In my last public health post, I talked about the fallacy that abortion increases a woman's chance of getting breast cancer. This time, I want to talk about the fallacy that all women, or most women, who have an abortion, later regret their decision.

Now, I'm sure that some women who have abortions do regret their decision. (I'm also sure that some women who have kids regret their decision, but that's a post for another day....)

But if you look on the Internet, searching Google on, say "abortion + regret", you will see a LOT of misinformation on this topic. This
enrages me. The Internet is a great place, but for certain topics, it's much easier to find misinformation than correct information. And abortion is one of these topics.

So let's take a look at what the Internet has to say about abortion and regret, shall we? Here are the Google search results:

1.
Takes us to Abortion and the Regrets: It reads: "This page contains stories from women who have had an abortion, regretted the decision, and requested that their story be posted on this web site. The purpose of this page is to show that women are not always informed properly and that abortion is not necessarily the best the solution. "

2.
Takes us to The Silent No More Awareness Campaign. It reads:

Welcome to the Silent No More Awareness Campaign website...Silent No More Awareness is a Campaign whereby Christians make the public aware of the devastation abortion brings to women and men. The campaign seeks to expose and heal the secrecy and silence surrounding the emotional and physical pain of abortion.

3. Takes us to After Abortion.com

So you've had an abortion... Think you're alone? Think again. By age 45, 1 out of every 2.5 women in the United States has had at least one abortion!Who are these women? They are single women, married women and divorced women. They are your sisters, your cousins, your aunts, your mothers, your neighbors, your co-workers, your schoolmates, they are women you see every day when you go out into the world...So with all these women undergoing this common medical procedure, why isn't there more support for women after an abortion, to discuss their experience? Why so few support groups to talk about your physical and emotional issues afterwards? The fear of political or religious backlash, and the fear of negative reactions from friends or family keeps most women from discussing anything they feel after their abortion. This website provides a neutral, non-political, non-religion based, non-judgmental place for women to communicate with each other after an abortion.

4. Takes us to "HolyWeb.com" which gives us some information on the stages of grief as well as some
religious advice

5. Takes us to SteadyHealth.com which informs us that "research" shows that abortion regrets last for years

This is just a sample of what you find on the Internet. Of the 5 sites that I found chronologically on Google, only one of them (#3) is anywhere near useful. I find this not only infuriating, but scary. People rely on the Internet for information, and on this topic (and many others, I imagine), real information is scarce.

After taking a look in PubMed, which, as I explained before, is a place to find peer-reviewed research, I was surprised to find research articles about both miscarriage and abortion when I did a search of "abortion." In PubMed, miscarriage is "spontaneous abortion" and abortion is "induced abortion." (As a side comment, there are quite a number of studies showing the adverse psychological effects of miscarriages, which are far more common than abortion... but that is also a topic for another day.)

In any event, I found an article that seemed useful. It is from the Journal of Advanced Nursing from 2000. This article is entitled "Psychological responses of women after first-trimester abortion." Here is the abstract:

BACKGROUND: Controversy exists over psychological risks associated with abortion. The objectives of this study were to examine women's emotions, evaluations, and mental health after an abortion, as well as changes over time in these responses and their predictors. METHODS: Women arriving at 1 of 3 sites for an abortion of a first-trimester unintended pregnancy were randomly approached to participate in a longitudinal study with 4 assessments-1 hour before the abortion, and 1 hour, 1 month, and 2 years after the abortion. Eight hundred eighty-two (85%) of 1043 eligible women approached agreed; 442 (50%) of 882 were followed for 2 years. Preabortion and postabortion depression and self-esteem, postabortion emotions, decision satisfaction, perceived harm and benefit, and posttraumatic stress disorder were assessed. Demographic variables and prior mental health were examined as predictors of postabortion psychological responses. RESULTS: Two years postabortion, 301 (72%) of 418 women were satisfied with their decision; 306 (69%) of 441 said they would have the abortion again; 315 (72%) of 440 reported more benefit than harm from their abortion; and 308 (80%) of 386 were not depressed. Six (1%) of 442 reported posttraumatic stress disorder. Depression decreased and self-esteem increased from preabortion to postabortion, but negative emotions increased and decision satisfaction decreased over time. Prepregnancy history of depression was a risk factor for depression, lower self-esteem, and more negative abortion-specific outcomes 2 years postabortion. Younger age and having more children preabortion also predicted more negative abortion evaluations. CONCLUSIONS: Most women do not experience psychological problems or regret their abortion 2 years postabortion, but some do. Those who do tend to be women with a prior history of depression.

So these researchers followed a fairly large group of women from the time before they had an abortion to 2 years after the abortion. What they found is that MOST of the women were satisfied with their decision, and MOST of them said that they would have the abortion again (I assume this means that they don't regret their decision). Most of them felt that there was more benefit than harm from their abortion, and most were not depressed.

The researchers did find that some women did experience depression, and a small number had posttraumatic stress disorder, which is not unreasonable. They conclude that most women do not have psychological problems, but some women, especially those with a prior history of depression, do have some problems.

These findings make sense to me. The bottom line is: some women do regret their abortion decision; most women don't. Some women do experience depression and other psychological impacts after their abortion; most women don't. What drives me crazy is all the misinformation on the Internet that says that MOST women have regrets, MOST women have psychological problems, etc. I'm not sure what the solution is, but I certainly hope that women looking for good advice in this area don't turn to the Internet for it.

A late addition to this post: some interesting info on this topic from ReligiousTolerance.org

Friday, November 30, 2007

I did it!

Well...it's November 30th, and unbelievably, I've managed to post every day. I did NaBloPoMo! Yay!

It's been an interesting exercise, posting to my blog every day. Some days, I really didn't feel like it. Some days, I really enjoyed it. I feel that the quantity of my writing went up (obviously) but not always the quality. Oh, well. I'm still proud that I did it: writing each day.

I made a few new friends via NaBloPoMo, and I'd like to shout out to these women whose blogs I've been following this month:
SarcasticMom
Coasting Richly
Jennifer
Nachtwache
Kate
BipolarLawyerCook
Mr. Lady
Margalit
Omly
Thanks for opening your lives to others so we can take a peek. Thanks also to all who looked at my blog and commented.

I hope to continue on, but probably not every day. I still need to finish the sports quilt for my son. And Chanukah starts in less than a week! Argh!

P.S. Special thanks to Eden who started NaBlo! Wow! Over 6000 people participated this year! Quite an accomplishment!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Memory lane

I was in the car, going to Trader Joe's to grab something for lunch, when this song came on the radio (I just discovered today that people steal songs and then put them up on YouTube - who knew?)

I started having one of those - I know this song! this song reminds me of something! - moments.

Maybe you should listen to the song first, before you go on...listen here

Okay, if you decided not to listen, here are some of the lyrics:

Same Old Lang Syne

Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve

She didn't recognize the face at first
But then her eyes flew open wide
She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried

We took her groceries to the checkout stand
The food was totaled up and bagged
We stood there lost in our embarrassment
As the conversation dragged

We went to have ourselves a drink or two
But couldn't find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at the liquor store
And we drank it in her car

We drank a toast to innocence, we drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness but neither one knew how...

--by Dan Fogelberg

Okay, I grew up in the '70s and the '80s, and this song is something I fondly remember. I know it's lame, but it's from 1981, damn it! Everything was lame in 1981!

So...Dan Fogelberg. It's all starting to come back to me. Loggins and Messina - remember the House at Pooh Corner? (gotta love YouTube!)
So help me if you can
I've got to get back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one
You'd be surprised
There's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh
Maybe you don't remember that one. But really, you've gotta listen to it. They also did Danny's Song. You've got to know that one...
People smile and tell me I'm the lucky one
And we've just begun, think I'm gonna have a son
He will be like she and me, as free as a dove
Conceived in love, sun is gonna shine above
And even though we ain't got money
I'm so in love with ya, honey
And everything will bring a chain of love
And in the mornin' when I rise
You bring a tear of joy to my eyes
And tell me, everything is gonna be alright
Well, have you enjoyed this walk down Adena's memory lane? No? I can't imagine why not. I think my parents' visit launched me back a few years into my past...I'll get better soon, I promise.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Food

I love salad, and I'm currently in love with a dressing from Everyday Food. I used to be in love with Everyday Food (a small, pared-down magazine that is mostly very simple recipes), but over time, it started getting repetitive, and I just let my subscription lapse. Alas.

Anyway, this dressing: put 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a jar with a lid. Add 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a little salt and pepper, and one pressed clove of garlic. Then...shake. Absolutely divine! I could live on it!

My culinary hero is Rachael Ray. I know that not everyone loves her, but I love her show 30 Minute Meals. She is so practical and down-to-earth, and she gives great cooking tips and tricks on her show. Also, you can go to the show website and download the recipes that you see on the show! It's fantastic! One of my favorites is Super Sloppy Joes with Deviled Potato Salad. Easy and delicious!

I just discovered a fun website called Start Cooking. It shows you exactly how to prepare different dishes using little videos. The recipes are simple, and it's really clear for the novice cook.

So that's all I have to say about food tonight...now I need to go find a snack...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Charlie Brown

I have fond memories of watching Charlie Brown's Christmas on T.V. as a child. "Christmas time is here..." Even though we are Jewish and (obviously) don't celebrate Christmas, the kids of Charlie Brown have a certain sweetness and innocence about them. At least, that's how I remembered them.

So I invited my son, age 8, to watch Charlie Brown's Christmas with me tonight. He agreed, although he really wanted to watch the Celtics and the Cavaliers play basketball. But at 8 pm, he conceded, and we watched Charlie Brown.

Very different from what I remembered!

First of all: it's not really for kids! The language, the jokes: all very adult! I don't think my son understood half of it. And there were lots of references to things that he couldn't possibly understand.

"Why do they call him 'Charlie Brown' and not just 'Charlie'?" he wanted to know.

So he watched the show, but really didn't enjoy it. Didn't understand it, I'm sure. Was much happier watching the basketball game.

I just checked, and Charlie Brown's Christmas was created in 1965! Yikes! Over 40 years ago! Amazing how the theme of the commercialization of Christmas holds true today...

But I still enjoy it. And it still reminds me of childhood, and of some of the magic of this time of year.

Monday, November 26, 2007

It's a guy thing

Every now and then, my 8-year-old son will come home from school in a different pair of pants than the ones he went to school wearing. I will ask him about this, and he usually replies: "While I was peeing, I got some pee on my pants. So I changed them." I never really thought too much about this. We've had a lot of soiling issues with my son (encopresis) which is a much longer post for another time, so a little pee on the pants is nothing in our family.

This morning, I was driving him to school, and somehow, this issue came up again. "Why," I asked, "do you keep getting your pants wet when you pee? I just don't understand."

My son looked at me with annoyance. "When I pee at the urinal, I don't want to pull my pants down, because everyone will see my butt. So I try to pee using the hole in my underwear, and my pants get all wet!"

Oh. Now I see what the problem is. We've -- let me rephrase that, my husband -- has never taught my son how to "pee using the hole in the underwear." Up until now, he has just "dropped trou" when he needed to pee, and this hasn't been a problem. But now that he is 8, and has more awareness of himself and how others see him, this is no longer acceptable - at school, anyway.

How do men pee out of the little hole in their underwear, anyway? I never really understood it.

I informed my husband that he has to give my son a lesson on this topic: TONIGHT.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A little public health

My professional interest is in public health, and one of the things I enjoy the most is trying to understand research and figuring out what it really means. There is a lot of research being bandied about in the news, etc., and often it is misinterpreted and used to prove someone's point.

One recent example that comes to mind is a discussion I've been having online with a fellow NaBloPoMo-er about breast cancer and abortion. There is a myth being perpetuated among the anti-abortion folks that having an abortion causes breast cancer. This myth is used -- obviously -- to convince women not to have abortions. While breast cancer is unfortunately very common, abortion does not cause breast cancer.

I looked in PubMed, which is an index of research articles published in reputable journals, and found a study done by a journal called the Lancet in 2004 that looked at data from53 studies and 83,000 women: a very large study (large is good for a study, small isn't always good)! What the researchers found is:
"Pregnancies that end as a spontaneous (meaning a miscarriage) or induced abortion do not increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. "
The researchers also found that:
"Collectively, the studies of breast cancer with retrospective recording of induced abortion yielded misleading results, possibly because women who had developed breast cancer were, on average, more likely than other women to disclose previous induced abortions."
There are 2 types of studies: prospective and retrospective. Prospective is when you take a group of people and follow them over time to see what happens. Retrospective is when you take a group of people who already have a disease, and ask them to look back at what happened to them in the past. The problem with the 2nd type of study is that when people have a disease and are asked to look back, they may not remember things correctly or accurately. Everyone forgets things, right?

For the purposes of this study, what this means is that that women who already had breast cancer who were asked to think back about whether they had an abortion or not, among other things. You can imagine that a woman who is seeing many doctors for breast cancer treatment is very likely to give her medical history over and over, and probably mentions things that she might not otherwise mention, like an abortion. If you had a group of women without breast cancer, and you asked them about their medical history, they might hide the fact that they had an abortion. So the breast cancer group may be more likely to disclose their abortion history than a non-breast cancer group. And this would affect the results of studies that ask women about their abortion history retrospectively.

So...if you've followed me this far... what the researchers are saying is that some studies that asked women with breast cancer to look back and reveal if they had abortions, initially showed results that indicated that abortion may lead to an increase in breast cancer... but after looking at these studies, researchers concluded that these retrospective studies were flawed (because the breast cancer patients were more likely to reveal their abortion history than women without breast cancer). Hopefully, this makes sense. If not, it's easy to see why there is so much confusion out there in the world about research!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lars and the Real Girl

I get to see movies (first run movies, in actual movie theaters) about 3 times a year (not including kids' movies, which don't count), and today I got to see one!

It was really quirky and good!

It's called Lars and the Real Girl, and basically it's the story of a very socially awkward and isolated man, who buys an inflatable "girl" and makes up an entire relationship with her. Not only that, he involves him family and his whole town in the relationship. It's funny, and sad, and quirky, and unbelievable, and good, all at the same time. I really really enjoyed it, and my husband did, too. I highly recommend it!

And I recommend movies in theaters, and eating out afterwards! So nice! (clearly written by a person who doesn't get out nearly enough...)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A thanksgiving recipe

Instead of complaining about Thanksgiving, and how can a holiday be all about food?, which is what I planned to do, I'm going to pass along a recipe I tried this year called Ginger-cranberry sauce. It has a really interesting zing and is quite different from regular cranberry sauce. Also, I think the recipe would work out fine halved, if you don't want so much. This is for 8 people. Enjoy!

Ingredients
Canola oil (for the pan)
2-inch piece fresh ginger, very finely chopped
4 medium red onions, finely chopped
2 bags (12 ounces each) fresh cranberries
Grated rind and juice of 4 oranges
2 cups packed brown sugar, or more to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

1.
Coat a large saucepan lightly with oil and set it over high heat. Add the ginger and onions and cook, stirring often, for 4 minutes or until beginning to soften. 2. Add the cranberries, orange rind and juice, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Lower the heat to medium. Continue cooking for 10 minutes or until the cranberries soften and some have broken up. Taste for seasoning and add more brown sugar or salt, if you like.

- Adapted from Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

a good death?

in my new job, I’m working on a project that has to do with end-of-life issues, and in particular, improving the quality of dying and death. this may sound strange – how can dying and death be improved? but put children in the mix and it becomes even stranger. the question we are trying to answer is: what would a “good death” look like for a child?

this question, on the surface, seems like an oxymoron. a good death for a child? it is never good that a child dies. it cannot be good. so how can there possibly be such a thing as a good death for a child?

as I start to research this issue, it appears that there can be a “good death” for an adult. it’s easy to imagine a person, at the end of a long, fulfilling life, surrounded by family and friends, proud of his or her accomplishments, spending his/her last few days, without pain, quietly reflecting, saying goodbye, and so forth. as deaths go, this could be a “good death.”

but for a child? again, it seems like an oxymoron. a child, by the mere fact of being a child, hasn’t had a long and fulfilling life. they may have friends and family, but they haven’t had time to accumulate the accomplishments of a lifetime. they haven’t been able to reproduce. they haven’t been able to marry. so the looking back that takes place, if it does at all, is over a much shorter span of time. and the child might not even have the capacity to look back over his/her life.

looking at the more clinical literature, features of a good death start to appear. some examples are, focus on the dying patient’s needs and respect for his/her preferences regarding treatment, etc., giving the dying patient as much control as possible over decision making, sharing information as openly as possible, and so forth.

so again, the question arises: what would a good death look like for a child?

many of these activities simply cannot be done with a child, for example, what is a child’s preference in terms of treatment? how would one give a child as much control as possible? how about sharing information? these goals can happen with a child, but more thought needs to be given as how to achieve these goals with a child, especially with a very young child.

because, when dealing with a young child, you are actually dealing much more with the family, the family as a unit becomes more central in the care. this is not just a child that is dying – it is a child and a family that is experiencing the dying. so what can be done to best support the family, as well as the child, at this time?

if there are choices, even simple ones to make about treatment, let the child have a say; give the child control over things he/she can control; be honest, since children know anyway and would rather know the truth than be told lies.

(this is something I wrote last February, just a month after I started my new position.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Why I don't miss my depression

Where would I be without the Boston Globe for fodder for my blog? Yet another completely idiotic and annoying article in today's op-eds. This one is entitled I Miss My Depression.

It's hard to know where to begin with this one.

Here's a sample from the article:
Amidst the crushing poignancy, I was also more creative, more perceptive, more in tune with the world. I can remember entire weeks when I was depressed more clearly than I can remember the particulars of any one day last week. Although days were interminable back then, they were also alive and palpable, bursting with beautiful futility.

Basically, the author, Tim Bugansky says that when he was depressed, he felt things more intensely. And now that he is not depressed, he misses those intense feelings of sadness.

Too bad for him.

My depression probably started around age 11 or 12, and continued until my early 30s when my then-boyfriend-now-husband suggested that I seek therapy because I was sad all the time. It took several years of therapy until my therapist suggested medication, and once I started taking it, my life changed. For the better. Believe me, I don't miss my depression in the least.

Now, I take my little pills each day, and I can enjoy life. I can walk outside and see the trees changing color and feel joy instead of emptiness. I don't feel a strange sense of feeling empty and alone when the rest of the world seems joyful and part of something larger.

To be fair, I know that some people on medication for depression complain that they feel that their feelings are a bit too smoothed out, that they miss the highs and lows. This hasn't been my experience, so maybe I'm not too empathic about this situation. For me, I know that anything is better than the depression was. If I have to miss a few highs and lows, so be it.

But to romanticize depression the way this author does... shame on him.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Do holiday origins matter?

Fascinating article in Sunday's Globe about the origins of Thanksgiving.

...this modern version of Thanksgiving would horrify the devout Pilgrims and Puritans who sailed to America in the 17th century. The holiday that gave rise to Thanksgiving - a "public day" that they observed regularly - was almost the precise opposite of today's celebration. It was not secular, but deeply religious. At its center was not an extravagant meal, but a long fast. And its chief concern was not bounty but redemption: to examine the faults in oneself - and one's community - with an eye toward spiritual improvement.

A thanksgiving day, as actually celebrated by 17th-century Americans, was a communal day of fasting, meditation, and supplication to God. Both thanksgiving and fast days - jointly referred to as "public days" - served as replacements for Roman Catholic holidays (from "holydays") such as Christmas, Easter, and saints' days, which the Puritans rejected along with stained glass and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. This was part of their goal of simplifying and purifying the rituals of the Christian Church, which explains the term "Puritan." When they emigrated they brought the public-day tradition from Calvinist Europe.

Who knew that Thanksgiving was originally a day of repentance? Who knew that eating turkey and watching football wasn't the original intent of the holiday? Who knew that the holiday originally was a Puritan religious holiday??? Only don't tell my son's school, because then they won't allow the kids to celebrate it anymore.

You may be wondering what I'm talking about.

Well...my son goes to a Jewish day school, which means that he is learning about the Jewish religion, culture, and language (Hebrew) on a daily basis. He spends half the day learning subjects like reading (in English), writing (in English), and arithmetic, and then half the day on Hebrew, bible, and Jewish holidays. And he has art and gym and all that other stuff, as well. It's really a great school.

Except for one teeny, tiny thing. They don't allow the kids to celebrate Halloween or Valentine's Day.

Each year, during the week prior to Halloween and the week prior to Valentine's Day, the school sends out a notice that says something like this: because Halloween/Valentine's Day has its origins in the Christian and/or Pagan religion, we do not celebrate this holiday with the children. If you choose to celebrate Halloween/Valentine's Day on your own with your children, that is your choice: but Halloween/Valentine's Day is not a Jewish holiday, and therefore we will not be celebrating it at school.

It's really not such a great loss. I have some good memories of celebrating Halloween and Valentine's Day at school, and a few bad memories as well. But each year, the note they send home irks me. Not a Jewish holiday, I buy that. Christian or Pagan origins: well, that may be true, but no one in the U.S. bothers thinking about the origins of these 2 holidays. They are completely Americanized and commercialized. And never mind that many Jewish holidays have roots in agrarian harvest festivals and possibly even festivals of other (gasp!) cultures.

So all of this begs the question: what is more important: the origins of a holiday, or how it is currently celebrated? So now we know the true origins of Thanksgiving: the Puritans were trying to simplify the rituals of the Christian Church through fasting and redemption. Sounds more like Yom Kippur than Thanksgiving! But don't tell my son's school... G-d only know what they'll do next...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm on a podcast!

For some reason, I neglected to put out the word that I'm on a podcast! Yes, only for 5 minutes, and yes, I talk endlessly about my blog, but anyway...

If you are interested in listening, go to
http://manicmommies.com/podcast/
and go to the episode called "Escape 2007"

Then you have 3 options:

1. You can listen to it right at your computer by going to the box on the upper left and click on the green letters that say "use our player" - that will allow you to listen to the podcast, but unfortunately I'm not until 27 minutes into it. Although you might want to listen to all of it, because it's very entertaining!

2. You can also go down the page where it says Download the MP3 and that will download the file onto your computer - that way, you can listen to it and fast forward to the 27 minute mark.

3. Or you can download it to your iPod via iTunes if you have an iPod and use iTunes.

If you don't know about Manic Mommies, it's a wonderful podcast by 2 moms who live right here in the suburbs of Boston, who talk about working full-time while raising kids, life, and everything else in between. It's a great show - they have fascinating interviews, and are usually just hysterical to listen to! Also, I've met them both, and they are sweethearts.

So if you have a chance, listen to my first "gig" on a podcast!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Tips for power chicks: don't have kids

Another exciting entry from the Boston Globe... today it's an article called "How to get ahead in Boston...without being male."

Turns out being a "power chick" - a woman with clout - takes more than just hard work and talent, says Geri Denterlein, who is one.

It takes smarts, strategy, and tunnel vision. It takes perfectly manicured nails, a BlackBerry, and a closetful of sleek business suits. It takes the right "power tools," which include - but are not limited to - languages, sports savvy, and an eagerness to talk about your work even when you’re not working.

I found this article is moderately interesting, somewhat annoying, and a tiny bit useful, but most of it doesn't apply to 95% of the women I know.

Anyway... A sidebar to the article is something called "Tips from power chicks, or those who want to be one."

Let's take a look, shall we?

1. Be visible and prominent at annual social events, but don't limit yourself to charity balls. Attend smaller "in honor of" fund-raisers, too, because they're likely to have VIPs or sponsors worth meeting. Okay, this sounds like a nice idea, although this requires a) babysitters b) nice clothes c) lots of money as fundraisers usually cost at least $150 per ticket. But I'm sure these sorts of events are a lot of fun and a great way to make connections. If you have the babysitters, clothes, and money.

2. Follow up on introductions with personal notes, sending relevant newspaper articles or links to websites of interest. Okay, that sounds fine to me.

3. Read the newspapers every day, including the sports pages, and always follow the NCAA college basketball tournament. (It's a great icebreaker.) I do read the paper every day, but not the sports page because my husband won't relinquish it. Actually I no longer need to read about sports because my son will tell me everything that happens since all he does is watch ESPN and NESN. But that aside...what is the point here? That the only thing people (read: men)can talk about is sports?

4. If you don't have access to a personal fashion consultant, seek out a personal shopper at a department store. Fashion consultant?

5. In business situations, it's better not to greet someone with a kiss on the cheek. Okay, I'll buy that.

6. If you're a guest at a business lunch, don't over-order. I can count on one hand the times I've been taken out to lunch for business...and believe me, I don't over-order.

7. Be wary of talking about kids on work time. Now this is the one that really gets my goat, pardon the expression. Why the hell not? Does it imply that you have a life outside of work? That work associates (read: men) aren't interested in your family life? Does it make you look less powerful?

8. When your boss bestows a compliment, accept it graciously. Well, of course!

So I guess I'm not going to be a "power chick" anytime soon. I guess that's good, because I like to talk about my son at work, I don't have the time or the wardrobe to go to all those fund raisers, and no one ever invites me out to business lunches... But in case I'm ever interested in becoming one, I'll know what to do.


Friday, November 16, 2007

A pass

Been home for two days with a semi-sick child, and I am bushed. We had some good times...some difficult times... some fun times... some boring times... The virus he has has given him a low-grade fever that comes and goes. Hopefully he is on the mend as my folks are coming in tomorrow for an early beginning to Thanksgiving. So this is, unfortunately, a very short and uninspiring post.

but wait....

I just stole a post from BiPolarLawyerCook and it's called favorite junk foods. I can do that! Even in my current state!

I love:
  • anything with avocado, especially guacamole
  • potato chips with onion dip
  • plain potato chips
  • sour cream and onion potato chips
  • barbecue-flavored potato chips (there is a definite theme here...)
  • Doritos
  • tortilla chips and salsa
  • chocolate of almost any sort, including chocolate chips, Hersey's bars, fancy dark chocolate bars...
  • hot fudge, especially on a hot fudge sundae
  • chocolate mousse
Now I want some junk food... oh, well....

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My first meme!

I've been tagged by Writing in Wax with a meme! First time ever!

7 things about me you might not know

1. I've lived in the Boston area for all but 5 years of my life. I lived for 2 years in Florida, 2 years in Ohio, and 1 year in Pennsylvania. Other than that... it's been Massachusetts.

2. I love to cook. Chopping vegetables makes me strangely happy.

3. I cannot drink a glass of milk. Can't do it.

4. I'm pretty sure that I'm allergic to scallops. When I eat them, I usually get pretty sick to my stomach. I'm not going to try them again to test this hypothesis.

5. I love taking hot baths at night before bed. Helps me to relax.

6. I have been to France, Portugal, Israel, and Mexico, but no other foreign travel. I'd like to see more of the world.

7. I love, love, love my son, and at the same time, he drives me crazy. Go figure.

I guess now I have to tag some other people. Okay, I figured out how to do it. I'm going to tag:

nachtwache http://naechstenliebe.blogspot.com/

sarcastic mom http://sarcasticmom.blogspot.com/

jennifer http://jentucker.blogspot.com/

and jennifer http://nyjlm.blogspot.com/

good luck, everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Babies at work? Please!

Okay, this is just annoying.

I opened up today's Boston Globe to read these scintillating few paragraphs:

SOMERVILLE - One recent morning at the offices of Farm Aid, as managers sat around a long table and talked business, Shailagh Heneghan got cranky.

She squirmed. She grumbled. She made sure everyone knew her displeasure. And so the staff did what they often do at Wednesday meetings: The associate director of the 22-year-old organization held Shailagh. Then the campaign director tucked her under his arm in the football hold. Finally, the operations director lifted Shailagh into her arms.
Can you tell what they are describing? It's a baby at a staff meeting.

This article, strangely entitled Child care bridges two worlds: Employers open the door to on-the-job parenting, describes how some "lucky" moms get to bring their babies to work with them, and try to work with the baby there!

Here's more:
When Matusovich returned to Farm Aid's Somerville headquarters from her maternity leave earlier this year, she did not return alone. With the blessing of her bosses and the agreement of her 11 co-workers, she brought Shailagh, now 6 months old, to share her office. While the baby slept in her car seat or gazed at a black-and-white dangling mobile, Matusovich did her work, sending e-mails, talking on the phone, attending meetings.
This, to me, sounds like hell on earth. I'm all for family-friendly policies, but bringing your baby to work for an extended period of time and trying to work with the baby there? Obviously, this mom has a very different baby from my son. He would stay quiet and happily playing for about...oh... 3 seconds at a time. How on earth would I have been able to work with him at my feet?
Farm Aid, the nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting family farmers, is joining a wave of employers experimenting with "parenting at work" policies that allow workers to bring their children, including infants, into the office. The practice blurs the line between office and home life, and is designed to help parents balance the delicate juggle of those two worlds.
Now, to be fair, the article goes on to describe that this -- the baby in the office scenario -- is a very rare situation, and that most companies allow parents to bring their children in if they are ill, or if childcare falls through.

David Yas, publisher of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and a new legal magazine, Exhibit A, was skeptical about parenting during work hours. Yas, a father of two sons, occasionally works from home but gets less done than at the office.

"The kid needs to eat. The kid needs to poop," he said. "It's a distraction. You won't be doing as much work as you normally do. There's a reason why there are day-care centers. There's a reason there are nannies."

I agree with David Yas. Yes to David Yas!

It may be that some parents are able to work (at home) with kids at home, and some parents may be able to work (at the office) with kids at work. But in my mind, the whole reason I go to work is to get away from home, and to get away from my kid! A change of scenery! A place where I'm not just a food source or a plaything! A place where I'm respected as a thoughtful, intelligent human being!

Bringing baby to work may work for some, but for this mom: no way.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Chanukah, everywhere you go...Bet you thought I was going to say Christmas, huh? Well, it's true, Christmas is definitely out there. Starbucks is already decorated in full holiday regalia. And a local oldies station, 103.3, has starting playing it's 24/7 Christmas music... a bit early this year, isn't it? I see Christmas trees for sale in the store circulars. But if I check my calendar, it's still over a week until Thanksgiving...

But what's really strange about this year is that Chanukah starts on December 5th. That means that the first night of Chanukah is 3 weeks from tonight. Ack!

Every now and then, due to the strange intersection of the secular and Jewish calendars, Chanukah ends up really early (it has to do with the lunar calendar). This is one of those years. So we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with my folks, and probably we'll have some early Chanukah gifts before they leave, and by the time Christmas comes, all those presents will be long forgotten.

Anyway, I guess it's time for the singing Chanukah candles!

Monday, November 12, 2007

For every woman, there is a path

Today I ran into a woman from my very first play group, from the time when Jordan was about 4 months old. At that time, she had her first child, as well. I remember her because at the time, she was very, very young. I was 38 when I had Jordan, and I think she was 29 -- definitely under 30. I remember her talking about how she wanted to have lots and lots of kids. I've run into her occasionally over the years, and she had one, then two, and then three children.

Well, apparently she has met her goal ("lots and lots"). Today she was holding her fourth baby. Yes, folks, that's right, in the time that I managed to raise one child and complain about it a hell of a lot, she has managed to raise four. And she's not yet 40.

I'm.... speechless. Clearly, not my path, but also, clearly, it's hers.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Toxic Products

It's hard to miss all the toy recalls these days due to lead paint and other unsafe chemicals being used in the manufacturing of toys, mainly from China. This is obviously disturbing, especially for the parents of young children who are at the sucking-on-everything age. But another aspect of this issue is the pressure that these Chinese companies feel to reduce costs, and so they substitute lower-cost and less safe materials in their processing. We, as Americans, demand lower and lower costs (i.e. Walmart, Target, etc. etc.). In order to create goods at less cost, something eventually has to give. Already much of the manufacturing no longer takes place in the U.S. because of higher costs, and goods are made overseas at lower cost. But now we are paying the price.

I was walking around the Christmas Tree Shops today, and while I often find it an odd experience ("don't you just love a bargain?") looking at all the cheap merchandise, today I actually felt fear. As I looked at the brightly colored items for sale (dishes, toys, decorative items), I couldn't help thinking: some of these items are made from toxic chemicals, and we're being sold them cheaply with no thought of our health. It wasn't a very fun trip shopping today.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Post-Escape

Just got back from the Manic Mommies Escape in Newport, RI. I am so proud of Kristin and Erin! They pulled it off, and got 100 women to do it with them! The hotel was beautiful, the people friendly, the comedian hysterical, the food delicious, the gift bags plentiful (or should I say, plenti-full?) and the speakers were both entertaining and full of great ideas. My only complaint is that Newport was both cold and windy, and it made window shopping a bit less than ideal. Can't you control the weather, too, Manic Mommies?

I got home, and my son and husband survived 24 hours together. They even -- apparently -- had some fun :-) They did decide to re-arrange some furniture, which has me a little pissed off...even though my husband says it is only temporary...we'll see...

Anyway, I'm bushed, so that's it for today...

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Quilt for My Son, the Sports Fan

So I'm working on a quilt for my sports-loving son... this is what I have so far....

Clearly, we are Boston sports fans...

So now my dilemma is how to pull the thing together. What would go with all those colors? I was thinking of blue denim in between the blocks. What do folks think???

I should give some of the back-story of this quilt. My son's room is still decorated in "baby" and he is 8! So as part of the idea of re-doing his room, I thought I'd make a quilt. And perhaps some curtains. So I started looking for material from each of the Boston teams... who knew it would be such a problem? Turns out that much of the cotton fabric for the teams has been discontinued because people were buying the fabric and then (gasp!) making things and re-selling them, which I guess you aren't supposed to do with licensed fabrics. Well...

So I had to go on eBay and pay pretty exorbitant prices for these fabrics, some of which aren't even made anymore! Don't even ask how much the Red Sox material cost. You wouldn't believe it!

So that's the story of the quilt. I'd love some feedback on what folks think I should do next.

In other news, soon I'm off to Newport for the Manic Mommies Escape! I'm very excited! More tomorrow.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

An Update on the Bad Guy in Town

An update on last Friday's "episode" in Needham: (click here for a reminder of what happened. It turns out that the town did a good job responding to a really difficult situation, but a visitor to Needham got "caught in the crossfire" (literally) and some restaurant employees thought he was the suspect in the killing (he wasn't). They over-reacted, and the poor guy didn't even realize that the police were outside, guns cocked, and pointed at HIM! There was an interested editorial in the Globe today, and I found this line ironic:
Neuer (the visitor/suspect), 37, "was acting very weird," an employee said on the 911 tape. Apparently, there's a low bar for weirdness in Needham: Neuer repeatedly asked for a cab, changed into a suit in the restroom, and went to a CVS store next door without finishing his pizza. He also talked a lot into his cellphone.
Well...yes, and no. There probably is a low bar for weird in Needham. But, on the other hand, folks were very afraid with a killer on the lose. Was he acting like a killer trying to escape town? Possibly. Did they over-react? Probably. And should the police have kept him in jail, in the cell next to the real suspect (as was also reported in the paper? Definitely not.

I still think the town acted prudently, and tried to keep folks as safe as possible. What else could they do?

Another interesting point from the editorial:

Of course, Needham police had to pursue every lead to find Moore's attacker. But was live television coverage of the manhunt necessary? If it is legitimate, should Boston residents expect the same when a homicide takes place on their city streets?
I was thinking this myself. Why the live coverage for an hour and a half? Stuff like this happens EVERY DAY in inner-city Boston, and there isn't any live coverage. Unfortunately, there is a double standard. A white suburban town has a murder, and it's news. Inner-city Boston, whose residents are mostly of color, experience murder, and it's same old-same old. This is very sad.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

24 hours away

It's late and I'm tired, but post I will! I'm excited that I'm going to the Manic Mommies first-ever Escape in Newport Rhode Island this weekend! Yes, I'll only be away for about 24 hours, but I'll be in a hotel room ALL BY MYSELF; I'll be with lots of other women who are moms who work and who are probably really fun and interesting; and did I mention a room ALL BY MYSELF? And I can sleep late, and eat some good food, and shop a bit, and walk around Newport, and meet some nice people...And stay in a room BY MYSELF! (have I mentioned that yet?)! So I'm really looking forward to it.

I promise a better post tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Flat Tire

Less than a mile into my drive home from work today, I took a corner a bit too sharply and hit the curb with my tire. I heard a loud "bump" and I almost thought that my car had been hit from behind. I was going to pull over to look at the damage, but then I decided I'd better just go home. I have a tendency to avoid dealing with things, and this is a good example.

So I drove home, trying to tell if the car felt different ("no it doesn't," I kept telling myself -- "maybe it does!") until finally, about a mile from home, a man in a truck actually pulled up next to me and gestured that I should roll my window down. "Your rear tire is almost flat!" he said. That's when I really started to feel it, and by the time I pulled into the driveway, my right rear tire was absolutely flat, and the rim bent. And the hubcap was missing. Damn.

After some calls to my husband, AAA, my son's afterschool program, and a friend who handily lives near the site of my little escapade, I had everything pretty much covered: my husband left work early to pick up my son, AAA was coming to change my tire, my son's afterschool knew that his dad might be late picking him up, and my friend was going to try to find my hubcap. So it all worked out fine in the end, but I still feel kind of stupid. Why did I take that corner so sharply? And why didn't I stop to assess the damage after it happened? If I had, I could have found the hubcap myself, and if I realized that the tire was going flat, I might have not driven on it and ruined the rim. Oh, could-have, should-have. I need to just drop it. But it was kind of a lousy way to end the day.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Child-free weekends?

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Manic Mommies, this morning on my way into work. The topic of discussion was divorce, and the guest, who was describing her experience of deciding to get a divorce, going through the process, etc. was describing her custody sharing arrangement with her ex-husband. She gets the kids on this day and that day, he gets the kids on that day and this day, and then each gets the kids on alternate weekends. Suddenly, Kristin and Erin, the hosts, were quiet as this idea sunk in.

"You mean: you get to be without the kids every other weekend?"

"Yup."

"No kids, every other weekend."

"Wow. Kind of sounds good, doesn't it?" commented one of the Mommies. And they all laughed about the "perks" of divorce.

Well, I'm not considering divorce, but I really like the idea of a weekend off every now and then. Why can't non-divorced parents arrange for something like this? Why is it that only the divorced that get to experience some alone time?

I know a few people who are divorced, and I have considered this issue before. In spite of all the tsores (that's "trouble" in Yiddish) and all the heartache, there is something to be said for some separation. I've heard of a couple that got divorced, and now the husband comes over for dinner every night to spend time with the kids, and they get along better than ever, but what they have now is: space. I've heard of a couple who got married, hated it, got divorced, one of them moved out into the house next door, and now they are happy as clams. Maybe marriage isn't all it's cracked up to be. Maybe the idea of having some space, some alone time, isn't so bad.

And the idea of a kid-free weekend is: heavenly.

The problem with weekends in my house is that we are both jockeying for alone time. My husband has errands he wants to do; I have things I want to do. It seems that all we do is fight about who gets to do what he/she WANTS to do and who gets time with the kid. If one of us was alone with Jordan, it would be clear whose responsibility he was. But with both of us at home, neither of us is satisfied.

There has got to be a solution that doesn't include divorce. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I Think I Did The Right Thing -- For Once

The afternoon just before Halloween, my 8 year old and I made a quick trip to the local party store to try to find some last minute accessories for his costume. We were looking for a hair covering to make your head look bald, and for a reddish-orangish beard. We didn't find exactly what we were looking for (they were fresh out of bald heads...) but I picked up some different colors of face make-up and I was sure I could make something beard-like. At the check out counter, some candy was at child height (of course) and my son asked for some. "No, you'll be having lots of candy at Halloween!" I replied. I bought the supplies and we left.

Once in the car, I noticed Jordan hiding something. He had a candy, similar to the one in the store. "Did you steal that?" I asked. "No, I found it on the ground!" he replied. I should have known right there what was going on, but he's good. He'll be acting in Hollywood or on Broadway some day. Somehow, he convinced me that he had found the candy on the ground, and that he wouldn't think of stealing.

We drove home. I fixed him a snack.

In a few minutes, he came back. He informed me that he thought about it, and he wanted to tell the truth, and that he had taken the candy.

Great.

I stayed very very calm. "We have to go back to the store, and give the cashier the money for the candy." I knew this was the right thing to do. "Natural consequences," I could hear my friend Debbie's voice saying in my head.

Jordan tried to get out of it several different ways. Bargaining: can't we just buy another candy and sneak it back into the store? Fear: the cashier will be angry at me! They'll call the police! They'll arrest me! More bargaining: can we tell them that someone else took the candy and give them the money? That way I won't be embarrassed.

I stood firm. I stayed calm. I held my ground.

I was going to wait until the next day (it was already almost time for trick or treating) but Jordan didn't want to wait. He wanted to get it over with. I made him get some money from his wallet, and we headed back to the party store.

As we walked toward the store, he kept stopping. "I need a minute!" he said. He was really tormented. It was working great.

We walked into the store. The same clerk was at the cash register, a young guy, maybe 15 or 16. We walked up to him, and all I said was: "my son took a candy without paying for it, and we'd like to pay for it now." The clerk looked a little surprised but not terribly excited by the whole thing. He rang the candy up at the register. Turns out this whole thing was for 25 cents. After he took the money, he rallied, and said: "Thanks for being honest. Most people wouldn't come back and pay." We left the store.

Jordan was surprised that he hadn't been more angry. I was relieved that the whole thing was over. I'm fairly certain he won't be stealing again any time soon. I'm pretty proud of myself for how I handled the situation, but overall, I wish it hadn't happened at all.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

TGI....M

Weekends are very difficult at my house. I know this sounds strange. Most people long for the weekends. Relaxation! Time with family! Time to relax, reflect, rejuvenate! Well, at my home, weekends are difficult. Why? My 8-year-old.

Don't get me wrong. I love love love my 8-year-old son. He is a great kid. The problem is, he has a LOT of energy. During the week, this is channelled into school and after-school activities. But on the weekends, my husband and I bear the brunt of his never-ending energy.

For example: this morning, he awoke before 5 am. He usually rises at 6, but today it was 5. And he is not one to go back to sleep, or one to awake quietly. So my husband decided to take him downstairs (and let me sleep: thank you!), and my husband has been in a REALLY bad mood all day because he is lacking sleep....Jordan watched TV, ate, played, and by 8 am, was ready to go outside. It's raining, mind you. He played basketball. Ate some more. Watched some more TV. I tickled him for a while. We sang a song. The morning wore on....And so the day went by. Slowly. Painfully.

There are 2 problems with the weekend, as I see it. One, we don't usually have enough plans. And two, Jordan is not very good at entertaining himself. These 2 facts collide, and we have a real problem on our hands.

By the time Monday rolls around, I am SO glad to send Jordan off to school and to go to work myself. He does much better with structure in his day (and so do I). So I guess the moral of this post is: try to have a self-entertaining child. Plan lots of fun things to do on the weekend. And there is nothing like a weekend to make you appreciate work...

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Bad Guy in Town

My son has recently become obsessed with bad guys. Sometimes he'll hear a noise and say: "it's a bad guy!" Or at night, he'll have trouble falling asleep, and he'll say that he's thinking about a bad guy breaking into our house. We live in a quiet suburban town a bit southwest of Boston. There is not a lot of excitement in this town: not a lot of positive excitement, and not a lot of negative excitement. Like I said, it's pretty quiet.

But today, it became exciting. The not-so-good kind.

It all started this afternoon. I was pitching balls to my son in the backyard, and there was all this helicopter noise overhead. It was really starting to bug me, and I went into the house.

There was a message on the phone. It was from the Needham Police. There had been a homicide in town, and the suspect was at large, and the schools were in lock-down. Keep your doors locked, they suggested, and call 911 if you see anything suspicious.

!!!!

I called my son inside, and we turned on the TV. It was like the OJ Simpson car chase, only it was happening in OUR town! Take a look at this photo. That yellow sign is the pizza place we go to all the time. On the right is the CVS.

We were glued to the TV. My son was scared. It felt surreal to me. Apparently an elderly man had been killed in his home, and the police were searching for the killer. They decided to keep all the kids inside the schools for safety's sake.

So we watched all this being played out on TV. The helicopters were projecting images of the police searching for the killer. Police were in the woods, on the streets, guns drawn. Around 4 pm, they arrested a suspect, and the kids were allowed out of school.

And life went back to normal. Kind of.

I still feel safe here. I think of families living in inner-city Boston and other large cities that face violence like this every day, and I am grateful that I live in a relatively safe place. Violence like this is rare in our town, and even though things here aren't very exciting, we live in a safe place. It's ironic how my son worries about bad guys, because today, there was a REAL bad guy in our town. I hope it doesn't happen again for a long while.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

NaNo....What????

Well, here it is, November 1st already (and 60+ degrees, but that's another story...). This month is also known as NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month to those of the writing persuasion. I thought that maybe I'd give it a try, even if I can't (realistically) write 1600+ words per day (the goal is 50,000 by the end of the month).

But today, as luck would have it, I read on another blog about something called NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). In this one, you only have to post every day to your blog...no word goal necessary! So maybe I'll try that instead...What I mean is, I'm trying that instead! Blogging every day for a month! Yes!