Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolutions

button for MU

Kristin at Motherhood Uncensored has challenged other mom bloggers to "write a post on your blog about how you're going to take better care of yourself in 2009" which she is officially calling 2009 - The Year of the Mom.

So I'm accepting the challenge.

In 2009, I'm going to try to:
  • write more, but spend less time on Facebook and on the Internet
  • enjoy my family more
  • spend more time with friends
  • actually hire a babysitter every now and then and go out with my husband
  • read more
  • complain less
  • exercise more often
  • bring lunch to work more often
  • be less stressed
  • see more movies
  • encourage (demand?) that my family help more with household chores
  • enjoy the moments
Wish me luck! And happy new year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The trauma of Christianity

I try my best to be open and honest with my son, age 9. I've told him all about sex, I'm honest with him about politics, and so on. When he asks questions about sensitive topics, I try to answer them. But today, I think I did the wrong thing.

I told him about Christianity.

We were making Chanukah cookies together, and somehow Christmas came up. I asked him, "do you know what Christmas is all about, anyway?"

"Santa Claus?" he replied.

"Well... that' s part of it." I continued, explaining about Jesus, Mary, the virgin birth (he didn't buy that one - remember, I'd already told him about sex), being the son of G-d, and so on. Then we got to the crucifixion.

"They did what to him?" he asked in horror. Uh, oh.

We actually looked it up on the internet, and he saw a picture of Jesus on the cross. I mean, kids see this all the time, right? But then we found a photo of a real person nailed to a cross. I mean, someone from right now. They were re-enacting the crucifixion for Easter, I guess.

Now I've traumatized him. You should have seen his face.

How do Christians explain this part of the story to kids? I should have asked our next door neighbor for advice first.

I tried to backpedal. "Well, think of all those bible stories, they're kind of gross, right? Like the Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea? Or Joseph being thrown into the pit by his brother?"

"Mom," he said, looking at me, disgusted. "They weren't putting nails through someone's hands."

True enough.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Can I interest you in Chanukah (so funny!)

Happy Chanukah from snowy Boston

Our flag tries to brave the ice and snow.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The search for a Wii

So we decided to get a Wii this year as our family Chanukah present, although we forgot to actually acquire one. My son (J) was starting to get upset, so my husband (A) started searching.

Turns out, EVERYONE wants a Wii this year, and they are hard to come by. Amazon didn't have any, Toys R Us didn't either, etc. etc. J was really starting to get frantic.

"You mean we won't have our Wii by Chanukah?" he cried. Really, he was screaming, not crying. The only good thing about it is that he pronounced "Cha-nu-kah" in a very authentic and Israeli way.

A is a big bargain hunter, so he had to scour the internet for deals, but this wasn't really working. So he started calling stores. Turns out, they get a shipment in, and then you can wait in line, in the cold, to get a ticket or a wristband, and then acquire a Wii. I never, ever thought we'd be doing this. I remember the years of Cabbage Patch Dolls and Tickle Me Elmo, when frantic parents waited for hours to get their children these extremely annoying toys... And now we were part of that tradition. Waiting in a line for a Wii.

So A discovered that a local store was getting a shipment in on Sunday morning, and he planned to go early on Sunday morning to get in line, and hopefully to snag us a Wii. It was a very cold night, so he set out flannel lined pants, a very warm sweater, his heaviest winter coat, etc. He was planned to wake up at 5:00 or 5:30 am.

At 5:30 am, he woke me. "I don't have to go to the store!" he announced. "I just got an email from Amazon. They have Wiis! I ordered one online!"

"You woke me up to tell me this?" I thought. I thought it, but I didn't say it. "That's great!" I said.

So... the Wii is on its way. We hope.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Annual Bah Humbug

It's time for my annual rant about the holidays. I am SO sick of being inundated with emails, telling me to BUY BUY BUY this or that amazing holiday deal! And buy quickly because the deal will be gone tomorrow!

We have decided (well, my son and I have decided, but that's another story) to get a Wii as our "family" Chanukah present this year, the assumption being that we won't be buying a lot of other presents (maybe just a few little ones). So I'm really not the market for gifts this year. And all these ads are just annoying. Plus, what is the deal with all these ridiculous items that come out in the stores JUST around Christmas? Things you would never want or need any other time of the year, but somehow around Christmas, they are things that people actually buy. Argh!

So, in actuality, we haven't purchased the Wii yet. I have a few small gifts, but still need to find some more for various people in my life. I have our holiday cards, but still need to work on the holiday letter, and then send out the cards. Chanukah is in less than 2 weeks, and I'm not ready. Winter Break is in 2 weeks and I'm not ready for that either. I'm just not ready for anything this year. Bah. Humbug.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The dark days

Been wondering why I've been feeling so tired and cold and out-of-sorts lately, and then I read an op-ed by James Carroll this morning, and it all makes sense. Carroll says:
NOW BEGIN the darkest days of the year. This phenomenon of the revolutions of the Earth has long defined one pole of the human psyche. For the next two weeks, the days shorten, the nights grow longer, and the eyes of all people lift to see what's coming. Now is when theaters should mount "Waiting for Godot," or "Waiting for Lefty," bringing alive the national melodrama, which could be called, "Waiting for Barack." In fact, it is appropriate to these weeks that America's election euphoria has given way to the low-key stasis of, as we say, an administration-in-waiting.

Of course, what the nation overwhelmingly awaits is the economy's recovery, a hope that has been magically tied to the coming inauguration. Waiting is normally the most passive of experiences, yet in these weeks ahead of the comeback of the sun, waiting is positively exhausting. The seasonal observances - whether religious feasts, the festivals of light, the parties, or only shopping - all give expression to a fundamental longing, which in turns reveals the built-in contradiction of awareness.
You can read the rest here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day.

During this past year, we've heard a lot more "media buzz" about teen pregnancy than about AIDS, but HIV and AIDS are still here. People are still being infected, though sexual activity, needle sharing, and through childbirth, and even though treatments are more effective than they were before, not all those who are infected are being treated. People still die of AIDS.

But there is hope. This is part of an email written by the President of the AIDS Action Committee here in Boston:
On this World AIDS Day, we are on the precipice of a huge opportunity to make history. President-elect Obama has committed to implement a National AIDS Strategy in his first year in office and demonstrate the leadership necessary to end the epidemic in America. NAS calls for measurable outcomes, coordination of federal programs and accountability.

While we are making progress, barriers remain. State, federal and foundation coffers shrink. Our clients, who live on less than $10,000 a year, struggle to meet their most basic needs. Together, we can overcome these obstacles and help those most in need.
Looking at the National AIDS Strategy document, I am pleased to see that it calls for coordination among agencies and researchers; and a focus on people of color, who are over-represented in proportion of HIV cases and whose outcomes are worse than those of whites. It calls for increased HIV testing, which comes with its own set of problems, yet since early treatment improves outcomes, now it makes more sense to push for early testing. I personally would like to see even more of an emphasis on prevention in the document, but hopefully that will come, as well.

Please, on this important day, consider donating to your local AIDS organization, or else to Boston's AIDS Action Committee. We have all been affected by HIV/AIDS. We must not forget.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks

The Obamas were interviewed on Barbara Walter's special last night. They were so comfortable, so sure of themselves, so happy. So geared up and ready to begin their work. And so adorable together as a couple.

I am truly thankful that we have, in some real way, perhaps not for everyone, but at least for the president(!), moved beyond the world described in this poem by Langston Hughes:

I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.
Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed -
I, too, am America.

- Langston Hughes, 1925

(Thanks to Girl With Pen for sharing this poem.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's time to talk

There is a blog rally going on today, trying to get families to talk about end-of-life issues while they are together during the Thanksgiving holidays. It's part of something called "Engage With Grace: The One Slide Project."

Here are the questions:


Working, as I do, on a project about end-of-life care with children, it seems to me like a no-brainer to have these conversations with adults. All adults.

Although, it will be interesting to see if I'm actually able to bring up this topic at the Thanksgiving table tomorrow. We'll see how it goes....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More on abortion

Since yesterday's post, I've been thinking more about what it takes to be an abortion provider, and how to get the proper training. It seems to me that it might make more sense for OB/GYNs or family practice docs to learn how to do abortions and then do them as part of their practice, instead of that being the only thing they do. It may well be that this is the case already. I'll bet that there are OB/GYNs out there and other docs who will perform abortions for their patients if they need them, but they don't advertise that fact.

And why would they? If you advertise that you provide abortions, then you put yourself at risk of the wrath (or worse) of the pro-life, anti-choice folks. In Boston, in the '90s, a mentally-ill pro-lifer went on a shooting spree at 2 abortion clinics on Beacon Street, killing several people in one day. It was really terrible.

I was also thinking that the typical abortion procedure, a vacuum aspiration or D&C (dilation and curettage), is something that most OB/GYNs are taught in their residencies. Vacuum aspirations and D&Cs are done for many reasons other than abortion; if a woman has a miscarriage, or has abnormal bleeding for some reason, they will scrape out the lining of the uterus using one of these procedures. So why is it that med students don't feel they have the proper training to provide abortions? I'm still trying to understand.

The bottom line is, you can have laws that allow abortion, but if no one will provide them, what good are the laws?

Monday, November 24, 2008

What it takes

Very interesting article about what it really takes for medical students to become abortion providers, and how complex and difficult it is to be an abortion provider. Here is a sample:
"The everyday pressure of being an abortion provider can be grating: the self-censorship, the disapproving stares of fellow doctors, the social repercussions in small communities. So perhaps it's not surprising that among doctors who said they wanted to provide abortions when they entered their residencies, only 52 percent did so once they were working, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology by Jody Steinauer, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and a co-founder of Medical Students for Choice. The young doctors' commitment to abortion rights, she said, may not run as deep as the doctors of Myron Rose's generation, who have vivid memories of women dying from botched, back-alley abortions before Roe v. Wade and who regularly recall the details for medical students."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I kissed a girl - part 2

Okay, now I'm obsessed. Son is still singing the song. Song is stuck in my head. It's a damn catchy song! It's just the words I'm having trouble with...

So I went looking online. Turns out the singer, Katy Perry, was brought up in a Christian household by 2 pastors (figures) and originally sang Christian gospel. She then shifted over to...well...popular music.

I guess one of the reasons I'm obsessed with this right now is that I just went to a lecture at J's school about keeping kids safe online. It was actually a good presentation, and I learned a lot. The question here is, will exposing J to songs like this be harmful to him? I feel like the YouTube video is pretty suggestive, as are the lyrics to the song. On the other hand, if I make a big deal out of it, he'll be even more interested in it. And on the other hand (yes, I have 3 hands), if he actually understands the song (which I don't think he does), maybe it's good for him to have a more flexible understanding of sexual orientation, since the inflexible one we currently have seems to be doing no good in our society.

Stay tuned for part 3.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I kissed a girl

Okay. My 9-year-old son has been running around the house recently singing "I kissed a girl and I liked it, the taste of cherry chapstick..." I had no idea that it wasn't a song about a boy kissing a girl. I'm a bad mom. I'm clueless.

Tonight, I found out. It's not about a boy. It's about a girl who "kissed a girl and liked it."

Great.

Just what my 9-year-old needs to hear.

Look, I used to be a sex ed teacher. I'm no prude. I'm all for gay marriage. I live in Massachusetts for G-d's sake.

But...my 9-year-old? What is he learning from this?

So, like any good sex educator, I tried to find out. "So, J, what does that mean?" "It's about a girl who is kissing a girl, Mom," he replied knowingly. "She's not a lesbian. It's just a song, Mom."

"But why is she kissing a girl?"

"I don't know."

Oh.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A strange space

Now that the election is over, and Obama won, I feel like I'm in a strange space. I'm not worrying about the election anymore, which frees up a lot of psychic energy, but Obama hasn't taken office yet, so there's a strange sense of waiting for something to happen. He is assembling his leadership team, and his choices sound good, but the news there hasn't been terribly exciting. The Republicans have all but admitted that their party is in deep #$%^, but even that, somehow, isn't that satisfying.

I hate to say it, but it feels like the span of time between a death and when the funeral takes place. There is often a day or two (in the Jewish tradition) after which the person has died, but the funeral hasn't happened yet and shiva (the 7 day period of mourning) hasn't begun. And you are just waiting, not really wanting it all to start, but not really wanting to stay in the waiting space either. Neither here nor there.

But this isn't about a death, it's about a victory. But somehow it doesn't feel that way entirely. There are still a lot of bitter feelings among those who lost, and deep divisions in the country. Half the country did NOT vote for Obama, and for whatever reason (political views, cultural issues, religious issues) that they did not vote for him, these reasons still remain. You could say: well, they just have to get over it. Tough luck. Their guy lost. But saying that isn't going to make people feel any differently. Obama is going to have a lot of convincing to do to get the WHOLE country on his side.

I heard some Catholic bishops quoted as saying that Obama is the most anti-life president on record. That hurts. Here is the official statement from the bishops. I just don't understand how these men can have such a narrow view. They clearly have no idea of the complexities of women's lives. It drives me batty.

So I'm living in this strange space. I can't wait for January 20th to get here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A historical look at abortion: "health of the mother"

There's a lot of rhetoric flying around these days about abortion. I've been trying to put my finger on what's bothering me about the tone of the conversation. Here are some thoughts:

It's important to remember that women throughout history have become pregnant when they didn't want to be pregnant, and tried to end the pregnancy through a variety of means. You can read about some of these techniques here.

More recently in the U.S., before Roe v. Wade and legalized abortion, women (or unlicensed abortionists) used coat hangers and other sharp instruments which were inserted into the cervix in an attempt to cause a miscarriage. Various poisons were ingested by women to cause the same thing. Needless to say, these procedures were very dangerous, and some women died due to infection. You can read more about this here.

What some people today forget is that legalizing abortion means that abortion takes place in a medical setting, where it is safe for women. That is the "health of the mother" that McCain puts air quotes around. Women (in the U.S.) used to die having abortions. Now they don't. Women in other countries around the world still die having abortions. They die having babies, too.

Now "pro-life" folks would say: well, we don't want women to have abortions, so why should we be happy that they are safe?

The answer is that some women will seek abortion if they are pregnant and don't want to be. It's that simple. It can be provided in a safe way, to protect the health of women, or in a dangerous way. That's the choice.

Pro-life folks might reply: but what of the health of the baby?

And therein lies the difference. This is the crux of the matter. What is more valuable? The life of a woman who is already here, or the potential life of a fetus?

You know, it's a difficult calculus. I like babies. But I also know that women's lives are complicated, and that every pregnancy is not wanted. And I feel that value should be placed on the person who is already here. Sorry, that's how I feel.

So yes, I feel the health of the mother should be protected first.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Victory and change

He won. Barack Obama is going to be our new president.

There was cheering on the streets, there is celebration here at the office, and the blogosphere is celebrating as well. On Facebook, friends are "joyful," "proud," "ecstatic," and "elated."

Here is a link to Obama's speech from last night. This is only the beginning.

P.S. Since I seem to be speechless, I will let others speak for me. Here is a wonderful (as always) poem and post from the Velveteen Rabbi.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

My 9-year-old son J is as excited as anyone about election day. His school has been doing a big school-wide unit on the election, complete with creating signs urging everyone to vote, lessons about the electoral college (which I hardly understand), and a mock election that will take place today. I'm proud to say he's a big Obama fan, and I've been trying to discuss some of the issues with him (the ones he can understand). I want him to understand how historic a day this will (hopefully) be.

This morning, I was about to step into the shower when J informed me that he and A were walking to the local elementary school to get in line to vote. The polls open at 7 am.

Makes this mother very proud.

Monday, November 03, 2008

It ain't over

'til it's over... but it's almost over...one more day to go.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Inspired

I was getting quite depressed this morning, listening to a piece on NPR in which a former Hilary Clinton supporter has gone over to the McCain camp. "Democrats for McCain." Ugh! She was describing how inspired she is by Sarah Palin. What?!?!?!? You know, I used to like John McCain. I used to respect him. But the things he has been saying recently... outright lies... I no longer respect the man.

But I just heard about something that improved my mood, on the Mojo Mom blog. Here it is:

Rosa sat so Martin could walk.
Martin walked so Obama could run.
Obama is running so our children can fly.


Awesome.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Abortion and the election

I've posted before about the misinformation on the Internet and elsewhere about supposed negative psychological after-effects of abortion. Now it's impacting the election.

Today, Feministing reports that National Review writer Kevin Burke stated that "some of the very personal and often uncharitable criticism of vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her family may have a relationship to the collective grief, shame, and guilt from personal involvement in the abortion of an unborn child."

Amazing. Abortion causes undue criticism of Palin?

Burke goes on to say: We know from our work with thousands of women who feel pressured to abort for various reasons that she (referring to Bristol Palin, if she had decided to have an abortion) would surely suffer many of the common post-abortion symptoms; depression, promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse, sleep disorders, and relational problems.

Feministing comments: Wow, given that one in three American women will have an abortion in her lifetime - there must be millions of tired, addicted, slutty, depressed, single women running around voting Democrat!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sobering links between the environment and cancer

There is an excellent op-ed in the Globe today about the connection between the environment and the increasing cancer rate. Sobering, but important.

The Manic Mommies tackled the issue of toxic cleaning products and cosmetics last week in their podcast and pointed to some important work of the Environmental Working Group.

My feeling, however, is that our exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals is much greater than cleaning products and cosmetics. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, even the grass we walk on, all are tainted with toxins. These, combined with our individual genetic predispositions, create cancers in some of us, not in others. It's a much larger problem that agencies and governments need to deal with, not individual families. Not that it doesn't make sense to do what we can (eat safer foods, use safer cleaning products and cosmetics) but ultimately, the bulk of the exposure is out of our control. Sorry to be a downer, but that's how I feel.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Simchat Torah and inequality

I was brought up in a Conservative* synagogue and community in the Boston suburbs, and a pretty radical one for the times (the late 1960s and 1970s). Unlike many other Conservative synagogues at that time, women were "allowed" to read Torah, have aliyot (say blessings on the Torah), lead services, and eventually, hold their Bat Mitzvahs on Saturdays, just the way the boys did. Music was allowed in the synagogue if it was Jewish or Israeli music, and some of my fondest memories are of doing circle dances with my friends at temple.

However, we were aware of "the others." The Jews who did not offer equal rights to women: Orthodox Jews.

One of the pivotal moments of my Jewish upbringing and of my feminist awakening was the Simchat Torah when some boys from my class - we were probably early teens at the time -- were trying to get permission from their father to go to "the Rebbe's," a black-hat Chassidic shul in nearby Brookline. I knew that women weren't allowed to participate there, and that they had to stand behind a mechitza (a divider). I was incensed at the thought.

Fast forward about, oh, 35 years, to today. I attended a Simchat Torah celebration back at my old shul this week with my son. There, we passed the Torah from person to person, we danced with the Torahs. Men and women participated equally and comfortably.

Yet, reading some blogs today, I read about the same thing that happened 35 years ago at the Rebbe's, still happening today in Orthodox shuls.

"The recent Simchat Torah holiday has brought out some long-simmering resentment about the unequal treatment of men and women in Orthodox synagogues" states SuperRaisy on her blog. "My younger daughter, who's nine years old, could not understand why she would not be allowed to hold a Torah just like her friend Zvi could. "Do the men think that I don't love the Torah the way that they do?" she asked me. So to the Orthodox men out there- Rabbis and shul machers alike- What's the deal, dude? There is no halachic reason that women have to just sit around in the shadows while the men spend hours celebrating."

Or A Mother In Israel states: "Simchat Torah is a difficult holiday for Orthodox women. It seems like the men are having the fun, while the women are sitting around waiting, watching, and mostly talking. I don't mind sitting separately the rest of the year, when I am actually praying. But an hour and a half is too long to watch dancing, if you can call it that."

Amazing. 35 years have passed, and nothing has changed.

*just to clarify, Conservative Judaism has to do with "conserving" Judaism, balancing it with modern life, as opposed to being politically conservative

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The neighbors are Republicans

What's really bothering me about this election isn't who will win -- I truly think Obama is going to -- but how the country is pretty evenly divided on the two candidates. Even if Obama wins, there will still be a huge number of people who actually believe the garbage that Palin and McCain (order intentional) are offering. I find this frightening.

Just to give you an example: my next-door neighbors just planted a rather large McCain/Palin sign in their front yard. Now, I know that they are pretty conservative Catholics. I'm not hugely surprised. But somehow, the sign... It rubs me the wrong way. If I plant an Obama sign in our yard, will it start a feud? That's not what I want. We've been neighbors for 10 years. Our kids play well together. Should our politics matter so much?

Thinking about these neighbors: all four of us are working parents (both moms and dads). We are all busy taking our kids to their activities (although they are even busier than we are with 3 kids' soccer schedules to contend with...). We go to synagogue regularly, they go to church. We mow our lawns and plant flowers. We have pumpkins on our doorsteps. Our kids go trick-or-treating together every Halloween. They have a large extended family, ours is smaller. They don't send their kids to summer camp, while we do. They did a big addition to their home a number of years back, we haven't. They recently took their kids out of Catholic school, our kid still goes to Jewish day school.

So in many ways, our lives are a lot alike. So how can it be that I look at McCain and Palin in absolute horror, and they put a sign up on their lawn promoting them? It just doesn't make any sense.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Finances for the masses

I'm not going to pretend that I understand the current financial crisis, but I'm always thankful when journalists try to explain it to us less-than-savvy folks. "This American Life" had 2 wonderful pieces trying to explain the crisis, which you can find here and here. And yesterday, the Sunday Globe Magazine had this insightful and humorous piece by Charles Pierce. I love how it starts out:

Money, he thought to himself, has moved into the third person.

What he thought of as My Money wasn't really his money. Not anymore. It was Their Money, moving around as digits and pixels into the various markets and funds that he couldn't begin to understand, lost in a great current of commerce moving at a distance from him so great that he felt like a Plains Indian contemplating what he'd heard about the size of the Great Lakes or the power of the Mississippi, a place where feckless and inscrutable gods worked in their feckless and inscrutable ways. That was where they'd taken what he used to think about as My Money and made it Their Money, a place where he did not know the language, was a stranger to the vocabulary, and was tangled and bound in the syntax they'd created to transform the money from the first person to the third person. He was lost, is where he was. He might as well read the entrails of a goat or burn incense as try to understand what had happened. What he knew was that what he had thought of as My Money wasn't anymore. It was Their Money. He was lost, is what he was.

And it wasn't Their Money in the comforting way that Jimmy Stewart explains it during the run on the bank in It's a Wonderful Life, where everybody's money is helping everybody else. "You're acting like I've got the money around here in a safe," Stewart pleads. "Why, your money's in Joe's house. That's right next to yours. And Mrs. Maitland's house." There, in the fictional Bedford Falls, the money stayed in the first person. It just pluralized itself. My money became Our Money. But, he thought, that was not the way it was working today.

You can read the rest here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Palin rap

It gave me the creeps to see the REAL Sarah Palin on SNL last night (and not just the Tina Fey version), but this was absolutely hysterical.

Friday, October 17, 2008

From your lips to G-d's ears...

They are predicting a short election night...

This is your nation on white priviledge

This is so good, and will really make you think.

This is Your Nation on White Privilege
By Tim Wise / September 13, 2008

For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a "fuckin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their fuckin' ass," and talk about how you like to "shoot shit" for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don't all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you're "untested."

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance because "if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it's good enough for me," and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the "under God" part wasn't added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was "Alaska first," and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she's being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you're being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you're somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a "second look."

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn't support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God's punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you're just a good church-going Christian, but if you're black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you're an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a "trick question," while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O'Reilly means you're dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a "light" burden.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren't sure about that whole "change" thing. Ya know, it's just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain

White privilege is, in short, the problem.

A take on the election



I love this give-and-take between John Stewart and Ari Fleischer. Stewart shows an amazing understanding of the nuances. And I love how they manage to agree to disagree. If you have 7 minutes, take a look!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Speechless

If often receive emails from marketing firms, trying to get me to write about their products on my blog. Things like baby blankets and BPA free bottles. Mostly, I ignore them. But this one takes the cake. Here's what the pitch says:

"Without a doubt with celebrities like Demi Moore and Brooke Burke leading the way for Mothers to look like super models. Mother all across the United States are ripping out pages of twenty something celebrities and asking their plastic surgeons if they can do anything to look a little younger. From botox to face lifts Mom’s are finding ways to look younger. This can be confusing to kids, especially young children, who don’t understand why or what Mom is doing.

Dr. Michael Salzhauer, a Miami board-certified plastic surgeon of Bal-Harbour Plastic Surgery and father of four, is helping parents explain cosmetic surgery to children in his ground breaking children’s book “My Beautiful Mommy.”

“From television to magazines, we are exposed to plastic surgery,” says Dr. Salzhauer, “it has become an everyday circumstance, especially for children. From their favorite movie star or singer who suddenly looks different to their own parents, plastic surgery is an issue that needs to be explained to kids in an educational
way.”

Dr. Salzhauer was inspired to write “My Beautiful Mommy” after his four-year-old daughter bombarded him with questions regarding his own nose job. He also noticed that many of his clients came into his office with inquisitive kids in tow – and mothers not knowing how to handle their questions appropriately. “I know how scary and intimidating a doctor’s office can be for most children,” says Dr. Salzhauer. “Kids tend to fill in the blanks in their imagination when they see mommy in bandages and they often feel sad, hurt and confused as to what happened. This book is meant to be a guide for parents who have already decided to undergo plastic surgery; and help explain to their children why mommy looks different.” Dr. Salzhauer recognizes the controversial element of his book. “This book is not promoting plastic surgery. As I have taught my own children, beauty has many definitions – it is not only a physical entity.”

I'm all for educating kids, but this.... I'm speechless.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sunday afternoon

One peck bag of 'pick your own' apples....................... $19

3 slices of cheese pizza and 2 sodas..............................$8.50

One Dragon Ninja Halloween costume from iParty.....$27.99

One matching Dragon Ninja sword..............................$5.99

One Sunday afternoon with a 9-year-old boy.............. fun, but expensive

Monday, October 13, 2008

12 years ago today

Time sure flies! We look so young and relaxed here.

It was a beautiful fall day, just like today. And it was a beautiful, joyful wedding. Lots of flowers, as you can see here - even on the cake! Happy Anniversary, A!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cancer and cranky

Still cranky. Not exactly sure why.

Some ideas: I have blue thread sticking out of my shoulder where I had the basal cell carcinoma removed. It doesn't hurt much anymore, but is feeling kind if itchy. And it's just weird to look over and see those blue threads. They won't be removed for over a week, still.

I think this whole episode is just making me feel vulnerable. I'm not dealing particularly well with this, how will I ever deal with breast cancer, if it happens to me?

Christina Applegate has been doing the rounds of talk shows to talk about her decision to have a double mastectomy once she discovered that she had breast cancer and had the BRCA1 gene. She makes it seems easy. I don't think it would be easy.

I'm tired of all the talk this month (breast cancer awareness month) about doing things to "beat" breast cancer. I don't think we can beat breast cancer until we can prevent breast cancer, and we won't be able to prevent it until we get the chemicals out of our environment. And that isn't going to happen soon.

Meanwhile...I'm still cranky.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A new low in the campaign

Apparently the McCain-Palin campaign realizes that the signs point against them winning, so they are stooping to a new low: making such negative and frightening comments about Obama that spectators are actually starting to think and say violent things during rallies. It has long been a fear of mine - and many others, I'm sure - that Obama won't live until the end of this campaign. If McCain and Palin continue to encourage this type of behavior, and Obama is killed... I can't even think about it. They have to realize that there are crazy people out there, and even regular people are feeling a bit crazy these days with all the financial stuff going on.. and that they need to be careful. Very careful. Remember the "bloodless transfer of power" that the U.S. is famous for?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

2 on Yom Kippur (not by me)

Yom Kippur starts tonight, and due to a variety of things that have been going on, I'm really not prepared, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise. But YK is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, so I should write something. Or at least post something.

So here are 2 things that other people have to say about YK:

--An interesting piece by Lisa Belkin from the NY Times entitled Faith and Family

--A beautiful poem by Rachel Barenblat, the Velveteen Rabbi, her wonderful take on a prayer that the cantor chants on behalf of the congregation during the high holidays:

HINENI

Here I stand
painfully aware of my flaws
quaking in my canvas shoes
and in my heart.

I'm here on behalf of this kahal
even though the part of me
that's quick to knock myself
says I'm not worthy to lead them.

All creation was nurtured
in Your compassionate womb!
God of our ancestors, help me
as I call upon your mercy.

Don't blame this community
for the places where I miss the mark
in my actions or my heart
in my thoughts or in our davening.

Each of us is responsible
for her own teshuvah.
Help us remember that
without recriminations.

Accept my prayer
as though I were exactly the leader
this community needs in this moment,
as though my voice never faltered.

Free me from my own baggage
that might get in the way.
See us through the rose-colored glasses
of Your mercy.

Transform our suffering into gladness.
Dear One, may my prayer reach You
wherever You are
for Your name’s sake.

All praise is due to You, Dear One
Who hears the prayers of our hearts.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The minyan puzzle

I have a love-hate relationship with minyan duty. (Minyan-duty, for the uninitiated, is the requirement that each family in the synagogue community attend a prayer service several times a year in order that there be a "Minyan" - a quorum of 10 Jewish adults - in order that certain prayers can be said. This is particularly important to mourners, who cannot say the Mourner's Kaddish - a special prayer for those in mourning - without a quorum of 10.) Evening minyan has to be the dryest, least-inspiring prayer service that there is. The leaders rush through it, barely announcing pages, barely reciting the prayers, mumbling, stumbling, rarely singing, making it one of the most unpleasant experiences imaginable. On the other hand, I'm happy to "do my duty" to make a minyan for those in mourning, especially since one day I will be in mourning and I will need a minyan to say Kaddish.

But there has to be a better way. Minyan services don't have to be as dry and lifeless as they are now.

This morning, for example, we had Sunday morning minyan duty, and I went since A & J had soccer. It was a longer service than the usual evening minyan, but even with all those opportunities to sing, to pray joyfully, to create meaning, it was as dry and as dull as always. The leaders rushed through, doing everything by rote. There was no explanation, no joyful prayer. Nothing.

I sat looking around at the others in the room. Did they feel the same? Or were they - unbelieveably - enjoying themselves somehow?

The leaders of the service, and those who seemed the most "into" the prayer, were older men who, presumably, are regulars to this service. This is the other piece to the minyan puzzle: it seems to be the territory of men. Judaism has done a pretty good job becoming more egalitarian these days, and women typically are included in most of the major roles in the synagogue. But somehow, minyan still seems to be mainly the purview of men. Maybe this is another reason why it doesn't speak to me.

I was having a little fantasy during the service this morning: what if the women take over minyan every now and then? Infuse some energy, some singing, some "ruach" (life) into the service? Wouldn't that be wonderful?

But then I thought: would women want to come? Would they care?

I don't know. But it's worth a try.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Calm is what we need

Today's Time Magazine had an article entitled Anger vs. Steadiness in the Crisis by Joe Klein.

I love this quote describing Obama:
There has been no grand cathartic moment for him in this campaign, but rather a steady accretion of trust, a growing public sense that he knows what he's talking about and isn't going to get crazy on us. His demeanor has rendered foolish all the rumors about his alleged radicalism. This guy is the furthest thing imaginable from an extremist; McCain, by his own admission, is the bomb-thrower in this race.
I'm starting to feel just a little bit better now.

Friday, October 03, 2008

After the debate

So she didn't completely suck. But she still said nothing impressive, intelligent, or insightful. You could definitely see her beauty pageant and newscaster roots. She looked lovingly into the camera, flashed that toothy smile, and sent those little digs Biden's way so sweetly that it was easy to forget her pit bull ways. I felt sorry for Biden, not because he didn't obviously have a much better grasp of the issues, but because he probably felt unable to attack her in the way he would have if she was a male opponent. He seemed extremely and unduly polite.

But just because she didn't fall completely on her face doesn't mean that she is ready to lead our country. I'm more afraid than ever.

P.S. This piece puts it much better than I ever could.
P.P.S. I heard Obama is up again in the polls, and McCain has pulled out of Michigan. Yes!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

TMI?*

(*too much information)

I observed a conversation recently between several parents of 14-year-olds, and the topic was keeping tabs on the kids and their friends. These parents regularly and without shame read their kids' IMs, Facebook pages, emails, etc. (Apparently the teens have given them permission to do so, as well.) They know in detail who is friendly with whom, who is on the outs with whom, who likes whom, etc. They feel it is in their rights to have this kind of knowledge about their children in this new electronic age, in order to best protect them from harm.

I was surprised, and frankly, somewhat appalled. Does this mean when J is a teen, I have to read all his IMs and emails, too, in order to be a "good parent"? It sounds exhausting.

The concept of privacy seems to have changed in our new, electronic world. Twenty years ago, a mom or dad would think hard before reading their child's diary or listening in on phone calls. But today, things seem to have changed.

I know that there is more opportunity for strangers to make contact with kids nowadays, via chatrooms, IM, Facebook, what have you. I realize that kids need to be protected from these kinds of intrusions. But the type of knowledge these parents had about their children's social lives: is this typical? Or were these parents outside the norm?

Tonight's VP debate is scaring me

I am strangely anxious about tonight's VP debate. I feel that after Palin's much-publicized gaffes, the bar has been set VERY low for her. If she is able to answer questions somewhat coherently and not sound like a complete jerk, she will have exceeded everyone's expectations for her. Sadly, this is all she needs to do, it seems, to regain her standing. I still think it's terrifying that someone with so little knowledge of world and national politics is even being considered for the VP role, but apparently lots of people feel she is somehow qualified. Or maybe they just don't care if she's qualified, they just like her for some reason. Anyway, my stomach is in knots.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

2 on the election

The Big Schlep
This is hysterical! A little blue, but hysterical.

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.

This one is very, very scary: Sarah Palin being incomprehensible.

Monday, September 29, 2008

To get you in the Hi-Ho mood

I just happened upon NPR's Speaking of Faith yesterday, a show I somehow never heard of, and was fortunately to hear a really interesting show about the high holidays. The rabbi that is featured is Sharon Brous from LA, and she sounds amazing and incredibly insightful. If you want to listen, you can pick up the podcast here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Age games

Watching a grandmother help her grandchild into the car last week at school pick-up, I started thinking about my own potential grandchildren. Will I be alive to see them? I'm not trying to be gruesome. I'm just doing the math.

Due to many circumstances beyond my control, I had J when I was 38. That doesn't seem so old, really, but when I project into the future, if J waits until he is 38 to have a child, I will be 76. Hard to contemplate.

When J has his Bar Mitzvah, I will be 51. When he goes to college, I will be 57. When he graduates college, I will be 61.

When he is the age I am now, I will be....85.

It boggles the mind.

In shul today, I saw what was left of a family -- a mom probably around my age, and her 3 children, the oldest probably 13 or 14 -- who had lost their husband/father a few weeks ago at the age of 46. They looked pretty good emotionally. I was a wreck. I'm sure when that couple decided to have 3 kids, the thought that the dad might die so young never entered their minds. So now she's a single mom with 3 kids and no one to help.

More than anything else, the biggest surprise of parenthood has been the realization of just how much J needs me. Sometimes he'll just lay his head on my shoulder and breathe into the place between my shoulder and my neck, and it's like he's breathing oxygen. He needs me. One of my greatest fears is not being there for him.

Hopefully, I will be able to be there for him for a long time. I have pretty good longevity in my genes. Maybe, if all goes well, I'll be able to pick up my grand kids from school sometimes after all.

Two for Rosh Hashanah

Both of these will get you in the mood for Rosh HaShanah. The first is just so adorable; the second... well, you'll see...



Thursday, September 25, 2008

Birth control titillates?

I'm kind of amazed by the kinds of articles I'm reading these days about teen pregnancy and teen pregnancy prevention. I could swear we settled all these things back in the '80s! I know, now I sound like an old geezer, but...jeez! Does every generation have to deal with this issue all by itself, without regard for all the work done in the past?

Here's an example. In today's Globe, there's an article about the Gloucester situation. You remember, a bunch of teens allegedly had a "pregnancy pact" there? Well, today's article states that "the mayor and school committee chairman are calling for contraception to be made available at Gloucester High School.

"I think the eyes are on Gloucester to see what we do, because a lot of communities are wrestling with it," said Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who along with other School Committee members will debate over the next two weeks whether to allow contraception at the school."

I just don't know what to say. Communities are STILL arguing about whether or not it makes sense to provide birth control to teens. To me the answer is obvious. Of course you want to provide birth control to teens! People feel that if it's available, it will somehow entice teens to use it. Trust me, our culture is so engulfed in sex that birth control is probably the least titillating sex-related thing they see. The bottom line is, if teens are interested in having sex, birth control should be available to them. If there isn't a local clinic that is accessible to teens, it makes sense to have a school clinic to fulfill that role.

But there is a larger issue, I feel. Parents want to control what their kids are doing. They want to prevent them from drinking, smoking, taking drugs, having sex. Unfortunately, those are exactly the things that teens want to be doing.

The article continues: On Tuesday, the School Committee released a set of options that it will use to help formulate its policy on contraception. The options include allowing contraception for any student without parental approval, permitting contraception for students with parental consent, or keeping the existing policy of no contraception in school.

I think it's a lot to ask for kids - who probably find this extremely embarrassing anyway - to have to "get permission" from their parents to get birth control. Who will do that?

So if this policy passes, with the parental approval clause, it will be essentially useless, in my opinion. Although I guess it's better than nothing.

Here's an interesting thought: how about if Sarah Palin, instead of holding her pregnant 17-year-old daughter up as some sort of pro-life example, talked about what actually happened. That her daughter came to her (right, I know, I'm dreaming) and said she was having sex, and that she wanted to use some sort of birth control. That they went to the doctor and got some birth control for her. That she used it, but somehow got pregnant anyway. And THEN she thought about her options, and after deliberation, decided to go ahead with the pregnancy. How about if we heard that kind of narrative? Wouldn't it produce a better national conversation than the one we are having now: pretending that teens don't have sex?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The little c

So the thing they biopsied from my shoulder is basal cell carcinoma, the most common, slowest growing and least lethal form of skin cancer, the nurse practitioner reassured me. It's still very weird to have the word "carcinoma" associated with myself.

Many people I know have cancer currently (breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer). I've lost several friends and relatives to breast cancer at young ages. My mom had breast cancer before she was 50, which puts me at a higher risk. In all honesty, I completely expect to get breast cancer at some point. I don't mean to be negative; I'm just being realistic. However, I don't want find out if I have the BRCA gene. I don't want to take the extraordinary step of having a bilateral mastectomy. I'll get my yearly mammograms, and wait and see.

Meanwhile, in 2 weeks, someone will cut a chunk out of my shoulder, and hopefully that will be that. I'm feeling somewhat numb about it. Hopefully my shoulder will feel the same.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You want me to do WHAT?

Sometimes, while on Facebook, I come across rather strange ads for products and services which I suppose are target to someone of my age, gender, and interests (over 40? need to lose weight? like to write? into progressive politics?), but this one takes the cake.

C'elle.

Yes, it sounds French. But it's not. What is it, you may ask? Well...
The innovative C'elle service provides women with the exclusive opportunity to build their own personal healthcare and wellness investment portfolio comprised of precious menstrual stem cells that are highly prolific and have demonstrated capability to differentiate into many other types of stem cells such as cardiac, neural, bone, fat and cartilage. Today, you now have the ability to preserve your very own priceless portfolio of stem cells that may serve as the basis for many different customized regenerative therapies that may emerge over time to treat yourself or possibly even a member of your own family for a potential host of life-affecting diseases. (from the C'elle website)
Yes, you, too, can collect stem cells from your menstrual blood. Yes, you heard me. Stem cells from your menstrual blood.

Apparently, similar to umbilical cord blood collection, now women are being targeted as the source of potentially life-saving cells through their monthly periods. Emphasis on potentially.

None of this life-saving work is really happening yet. It might work sometime in the future. But for right now, for only $499 (plus $99 storage fee per year), you can receive a "discreet collection kit" so you can FedEx your menstrual blood to the C'elle people in Florida where they will store your cells until such time as they become useful.

Oddly, I was hard-pressed to find too much critical comment about this on the internet. Only the BBC seems to have concerns.

But as I read through the site, I have concerns. The site, in it's own FAQs, states that there are no therapies using these cells right now, and that no one knows when and if these therapies will become available. Also, when you submit your sample, it will be tested for HIV and for Hepatitis B, so women are unwittingly being tested for these diseases by the C'elle company. Finally, the cells have been shown to last for 15 years when cryogenically stored. This research might take longer than that, and then what? You've wasted close to $2000.

So... how do I feel about C'elle?

Just remember their tagline: Every month holds a miracle.

You betcha.

Inadvertent sex ed

My 9-year-old son, like many kids his age, is into the Jonas Brothers. Backed by, and perhaps even created by Disney, they are generally not offensive, and occasionally, their songs are even somewhat catchy. I can remember being into the Partridge Family when I was his age, so I don't think the Jonas Brothers are really any different. Young, somewhat wholesome, non-offensive. Marketed to kids.

J has downloaded some of their songs onto his iPod, and while I don't think he really understands the words, he seems to enjoy the songs. When we were away in NH this summer with my family, my brother and his 2 boys and J were belting out Jonas Brothers songs together: it was pretty cute. So far, so good.

The other day, J was looking up some Jonas Brothers songs on YouTube. I was a little surprised, when I peered over he shoulder, to see how suggestive the videos were that went along with some of the songs. I thought these were for kids! But not wanting to pique J's interest even more, I didn't comment. If I had forbidden him to watch those videos, you can be sure he would want to even more.

Later on, however, he apparently had clicked on some of the "suggested videos" that ran alongside some of the songs, and in one, he was disgusted to see a couple "kissing and sticking their tongues into each others mouths." He was really grossed out - almost nauseous, in fact. He didn't want to see it anymore, didn't want to think about it. "How can people do that?" he demanded.

This is how my kid is learning about sex.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cranky and worried

So now J has a weird virus or something, and has been having on-and-0ff temperatures for the past few days. He was home on Friday, and is home again today.

I just received an email from J's school that one of his teachers has metastasized lung cancer, and will be leaving the classroom in order to pursue aggressive treatment. They are going to tell the kids this afternoon.

A few days ago, A heard from an old friend that his mother, who is almost 100, had a fall and a stroke, and is about to die. To further complicate things, A's relationship with the friend isn't good, and the friend doesn't want A to come to the funeral.

And to top it all off, A got sick last night, so now we are both worried about it turning into another bowel obstruction.

And I still don't have the results of my skin biopsy back yet.

I can't decide which thing to worry about first.

P.S. Update: J's fever has subsided and he is back at school. A's stomach is feeling better, and he is back at work. They told the kids about their teacher, and while it was very sad, it was handled very well and everyone seems to be doing okay. Now I just need to hear about the biopsy...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sarah Haskins

So funny, and right on target!

on birth control

on cleaning


You can find more of them here. We all need something to laugh about, these days, right?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Things are looking up

Obama just spoke to 900 Rabbis on the phone: read about it here and also take a look at this organization, Rabbis for Obama

and

Obama closes gap with McCain

Why experience matters

A must-read.

Cranky

Am feeling out of sorts. Went to the dermatologist yesterday to get "things" checked, and she took a biopsy from a strange patch on my right shoulder. No one used the word "cancer," but it's a possibility. I'm trying not to get freaked out about it. I will get the results in about a week. In the short term, my shoulder hurts, and the stitches look ugly. In the long term: who knows what will happen?

In other news, I/we still haven't fully planned J's 9th birthday party, and it's been almost a month since he turned 9. I agreed to be Room Parent for J's classroom, and I'm worried that it was a mistake to agree to do that. I don't really think I'm the Room Parent type. The High Holidays are rapidly approaching, and I don't feel ready. Am generally feeling cranky and out-of-sorts. Blah.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

In case you haven't see Tina do Palin yet

Just to give you an idea of what the rest of the world is thinking about us

or at least those in the U.K. ... read here.

Ironic

Just received this in an email. Makes perfect sense to me, but unfortunately, I'm afraid a lot of people in the U.S. won't understand the irony....

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....

* If you grow up in Hawaii , raised by your grandparents, you're
"exotic, different."
* Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers,a quintessential American story.

* If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.
* Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

* Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.
* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well
grounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become
the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter
registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12
years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State
Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city
council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000
people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000
people, then you're qualified to become the country's second
highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while
raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches,
you're not a real Christian.
* If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

* If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education,
including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the
fiber of society.
* If , while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant , you're very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position
in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner
city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's
values don't represent America 's.
* If you're husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one
DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to
vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated
the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely
admirable.


OK, much clearer now.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Still hopeful

It occurred to me recently that there is a chance -- probably about 50/50 -- that Obama might lose, and McCain and (ugh) Palin would be in power. True, Congress is Democratic right now, but it would mean that the leaders of our country would, once again, be Republican. As much as I'm not interested in McCain being president, at least he isn't as stupid as Bush. And I think he is a more reasonable man, a bit more thoughtful.

I'm still hopeful, though, about Obama. A few things are giving me hope.

Apparently, yesterday McCain appeared on The View, and the women there really gave him the business. You can read about it here and here, and see some of it on video. I loved when McCain said that Roe v. Wade was a mistake, and the audience booed him. I loved it when he said that the Constitution needs to be interpreted as the founders intended, and Whoopie Goldberg asked him if he wanted to return her to slavery. Wow. I haven't seen Charlie Gibson's interview of Sarah Palin, but apparently he wasn't tough enough with her. I am hopeful that, in spite of all the rhetoric, when people actually hear what McCain and Palin have to say, they will realize that Obama is the right choice. I hope.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11

It's hard to believe that 7 years have passed since that strange, strange day. My son was only two years old. It was a bright, beautiful day, a local election day. My husband and I walked over to the elementary school to cast our votes with J in the stroller, and then I took J to daycare. When I got home, I sat down at the computer, and was on the phone with a friend. I remember seeing the words "plane hits Twin Tower" on the news feed at Yahoo. It did not register.

When I hung up from the call with my friend, the phone rang immediately. It was my husband. "There's going to be a war," he said, his voice dark. "Have you heard the news?"

I spent the rest of the morning in front of the TV, watching the unbelievable images. Even the reporters didn't know what to say when the first tower fell.

Daycare called around noon: they wanted us to pick up the kids early. Everyone was fearful of another attack. Many offices in Boston had closed. My husband's work let him out early as well, although he later told me that he was too sad to come home right away. Finally, he arrived home, and we took a walk, pushing J in his stroller to our little downtown area. The day was still bright and warm and sunny. Many stores were closed, with small handwritten signs: closed due to national emergency. We didn't know what to do. We didn't know what to say. Everything had changed.

As the days passed, we learned that people we knew had died that day: a father of a child at J's daycare, the brother of a friend. A group of women who worked at a local company. But even not knowing those who died, we still felt grief. And disbelief. Who could hate us so much, that they would kill fathers, mothers, husbands, wives? We still don't understand the hate today. And we still remember.

Unfit to stand so close to the presidency

Yes. A must-read.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A connection

So suddenly, The Pig In Lipstick (or the Hockey Mom in Lipstick, depending on who you talk to) is all anyone is talking about. Apparently Obama has taken a big hit in the polls since the RNC. I keep reading commentators who say that Americans are looking for a connection with this year's candidates. Somehow, it doesn't matter what they are planning to do with our mess of a country: we want to feel connected to them. And suddenly, people are feeling more connected to Palin than to Obama.

Are people really that stupid?

Yes, she is a woman. Yes, she is a mom. But that is where the resemblance to any woman I know ends. She obviously has tons of help with her children and household (just to let you know, I just cleaned the bathroom floor - I'm the only one who does it in my family, and we don't have a cleaning service). She is extremely Conservative in her political views. She is anti-choice. Her experience in the political arena is limited at best. She worked in broadcast news. Am I supposed to feel connected to her?

She seems somewhat intelligent, but I don't see the depth of intelligence, nor the understanding of nuance and complexity that I see in Obama. I like the way Obama thinks. So I guess you could say I feel more connected to him. If that even matters.

There is a LOT out there on the 'net these days about Palin, and here are some of my favorites currently: I love what Mojo Mom has to say about Palin. And here's what some other women think. And Maureen Down has some interesting things to say. And here's a nice one. Enjoy!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Let's talk about sex (education)

Welcome, Manic Mommies listeners! For those of you who aren't Manic Mommies listeners, go listen to this week's podcast by clicking on the box to the right (click on MM 134) or by clicking on this link here. And then come back.

The Manic Mommies invited me to be a guest on their show to talk about sex education. There is so much about sex, teen pregnancy, sex education, etc. in the news these days (thanks to the new Republican VP candidate), that they thought this was a good time to broach the topic. As a former family planning counselor, health educator, and health curriculum developer, I was thrilled for the opportunity to talk with the Mommies about sex ed. Because I did most of this work before I was actually a parent, it is with new and more experienced eyes that I now think through how best to provide sex education to kids.

Actually, the principles that we used "back in the day" are basically the same today. Here are some general tips for parents who want to start the conversation with their kids:
  • You can do it! Have confidence. Or at least pretend to have confidence.
  • It’s okay to be embarrassed, but you have to do it anyway. You can say something like: you know, talking about this kind of makes me feel uncomfortable. But it's so important, I'm going to talk about it anyway.
  • It’s okay if you don’t know everything. Start the conversation. You can learn together by reading a book or looking things up on the internet.
  • Talking about sex is a process, like anything else- don't try to do it in one shot.
  • It's best to start when your kids are young, so it’s not a huge shock talking about it when they are older. But it's never too late to start.
  • Use correct terminology: practice when they are babies. This is your hand, this is your leg, this is your penis, this is your vulva.
  • Teachable Moments are when things come up naturally: you see a woman who is pregnant, you see a TV show with your child that mentions pregnancy or sex, etc. Use this opportunity to bring up the subject.
  • Being an Askable Parent: we all want our kids to come to us with their questions and problems. But if every time our child asks us something about sex and we steer them away from the conversation, they will learn that we aren't comfortable talking about it. They will go someplace else for the information they need. We must show that we are open to answering their questions and discussing difficult issues. Sex is just one of many tough issues that will come up during their lifetime. It's important to be approachable.
And just a few specific tips for talking with your kids about any difficult subject. When they ask a question:
  1. listen
  2. figure out: what do they really want to know?
  3. reflect back the question (so you want to know where babies come from? what do you mean by where babies come from?)
  4. what do you already know about where babies come from?
  5. okay, that's a good start, here’s what I think…
I'd love to hear what you thought of the podcast, if you have questions, comments, or anything else you'd like to add. Feel free to leave a comment here! And happy talking!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Something tasty and something sad

Something tasty: I've been enjoying the Moosewood version of Gazpacho for the past few weeks, what with all the ripe tomatoes and cukes coming both from the garden and from the CSA. So here's the recipe:

4 c Tomato juice
1/2 c Finely minced onion
1 md Clove garlic, minced
1 md Bell pepper, minced
1 t Honey
1 md Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and minced
2 Scallions, minced
1/2 Lemon, juice of
1 Lime, juice of
1/2 ts Cumin
1/4 c Freshly minced parsley
2 tb Olive oil
Salt
Black pepper
Cayenne (all above to taste)
2 c Freshly diced tomatoes

Combine, chill, enjoy! (don't leave out the lemon and lime juice, the honey, or the olive oil - they really make a difference!)

Something sad: I went to my favorite local fabric store today, Fabric Place, and discovered that they are closing! I'm very sad. There really isn't another store like it in the area. They have a great selection, and lots to look at and be inspired by. I wonder if all the online places selling fabric have hurt them. Anyway, I'm surprised at how sad I am about this. It seems like the end of an era. Sigh.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

My 15 minutes of fame

Welcome Boston Globe readers! I was surprised to wake up this morning to find a quote from my blog on the front page of the Globe. If you came here via the Globe, welcome.

I'd like to point you to some of my favorite posts about teen pregnancy and sex education, which include this one, this one, and this one. Of course, feel free to explore on your own, and to comment if you wish.

For the record, I'd like to say that it's not that I don't support the idea of woman being vice president. I just don't support the idea of THIS woman being vice president. First of all, I don't agree with her politics at all. Secondly, she has a lot of her personal plate: 5 kids, including a newborn with special needs AND a pregnant teen. Even with all the help in the world, how will she be available to those kids in the way that a mom needs to be, if she is both Governor of Alaska AND the Republican VP nominee? And if she is elected with McCain? Will the kids ever see her again? I don't mean to sound old-fashioned; I'm far from it. But as a mom, and a working mom at that, I know how hard it is to juggle everyone's needs. How can she juggle the needs of her family, the nation, and herself? Is it really possible? I know, people will say, if she was a man, no one would think twice about her family and who is taking care of them. But she isn't a man. She has the hardest job in the world. She is a woman. And a mom.

P.S. Also check out Erin's take on this issue over at Manic Mommies. She makes some excellent points about how an average working mom can't even dream of the kinds of help Palin has/will have.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Politics and Teen Pregnancy Combined

So the big news these days is the Republican ticket. McCain announced his choice a few days ago, and oddly, it was a practically unknown person, the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. Sure, it's great that it's a woman, but just because she's a woman, doesn't mean she's great. Turns out she is very conservative, evangelical Christian, pro-life, pro-gun, has zero foreign policy experience, and very little experience being a governor, either. However: that's who McCain picked, for some bizarre reason.

Palin (who is 44) has 5 kids (each of whom has a very strange name - see my last post), ranging from 18 to 4 or 5 MONTHS old (the baby happens to have Downs). I don't really understand how she can be GOVERNOR with all those kids to deal with, never mind Vice President of the COUNTRY! She must have help. Very good help.

I just found this interesting commentary on her Governor-of-Alaska web site:
“It is the honor of my life to represent you as your Governor, and over the next two months I will continue to do so. As the mother of five, I know how to multi-task, and I will continue to promote the path of reform that we set out on together in the state of Alaska.” (italics mine)
Multi-task indeed! I'm calling the Manic Mommies for advice!

So now it turns out that Palin's daughter who is only 17 is....ready?.... five months PREGNANT. Hmmm.... But, it's okay, because she is going to keep the baby, AND she's going to marry the baby's father. And they all lived happily ever after....

My thoughts?

Well, this doesn't really impact the election, per se, because really, it's a personal matter. It happens all the time. Teen girls get pregnant. They decide what they will do. They live with their decisions. That's life.

On the other hand.... is this a good role model for our nation? We already have an epidemic of teen pregnancy among Hollywood stars. Do we need it in politics as well? What kind of message is this sending our young people?

It will be VERY INTERESTING to see how this plays itself out. Stay tuned.