Monday, June 30, 2008

Price of gas

What is the deal with all the complaining about gas prices? I know, I know. I shouldn't touch this topic with a 10 foot pole (or gas hose...). But I've been thinking about this, and I can't figure out why Americans are so freaked out about a dollar increase in gas prices.

These are my calculations:

If you fill up a car, 15 gallons of gas per week, that would have been $45 a year ago (at $3/gal) and it's now $60 a tank (at $4/gal). If you fill up once per week, that would be an increase of $780 per year.

Now I know that lots of people have tanks larger than 15 gallons. And I know that lots of people have to fill up more than once a week. But let's just say on average, you have to pay $1000 more per year for gas.

Is that so terrible?

I keep reading about people giving up vacations, buying smaller cars, not using their cars as much... all because of $1000 a year?

I think something else is going on. I just haven't figured out what it is yet.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

View from the garden

hostas ready to flower
Hostas, ready to flower

tiger lilies
Tiger Lilies

a single rose
A single rose blooms

GOOD kid films

We saw Wall-e last night with J and a friend of his, and I was pleasantly surprised (and moved) by the film. The way the robots were anthropomorphized (not sure if that's a word) was amazing, and the film worked on several levels. It was a love story, a story about the environment, and also a story about obesity. And now I've got songs from "Hello Dolly" stuck in my head (you have to see the film to understand...)

I loved how Wall-e would fold into himself, turtle-like, when he was afraid, and I loved how Eve's (the female robot) eyes would reveal her emotions. It was really quite adorable.

Here is a review from USA Today that captures it nicely.

We saw Kung Fu Panda last week (it IS summer vacation, after all) in IMAX, and I really enjoyed that one, as well. Funny, no potty humor, and with a nice message. I recommend both!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Teen pregnancy is news?

So now the teen moms in Gloucester say there WASN'T a pact to get pregnant and then raise their children together. Instead, they say that some of them were ALREADY pregnant at the same time, and they just decided to help and support each other. Which is very nice.

Either way, the larger issues are being ignored. These are:

1. Teen pregnancy isn't new, nor is it NEWS. It's been around for a while. And it's not going away any time soon. So why the sudden interest in it?

2. Question: Why all the focus on on a sudden increase in teen pregnancy in a small community on the North Shore of Boston? Answer: because most of these kids are white. Believe me, increases in teen pregnancy among young women of color in the City of Boston cause no such media frenzy. But 17 white girls in a Boston suburb get pregnant? It's national news.

For example, according to State public health statistics, in 2005, there were 566 births to teen moms in the City of Boston, and 435 in Springfield. I would bet that a high percentage of these were to young women of color. But no one is saying anything in the news about that.

There are 3 articles in today's Globe alone about this issue.
The real 'mommy pact' outrage by Ellen Goodman
A Globe editorial
and a news article

Ellen Goodman does a great job of laying out all the issues. How everyone is pointing their finger at everyone else, and no one is talking to the teens about the facts. Which leads us to issue #3:

3. If teen pregnancy was a problem easily solved, it would have been solved years ago. It's not. Getting people to change behavior is DIFFICULT. This is what I do in my work, and even the people who know what they are doing, often don't know what they are doing. Behaviors like eating, exercising (or not) and sex are almost impossible to impact unless the individual is very motivated, or if the environment REALLY supports the change.

I guess this is an important conversation to have, so we might as well have it now. But I can't help but think that somehow, right now, this has to do more with fashion than with reality.

Monday, June 23, 2008

You can't go back

So we found the picnic basket and the little fold-up table and bought lots of picnic-type food and packed it up and drove to the trolley station and took the trolley into Boston and walked from the trolley to the Esplanade and put down our blanket and set up our table and ate our food and waited for the concert to begin.

It was a beautiful summer evening, warm but with a breeze. The crowd was pretty mellow, as you would expect an oldies crowd to be. Cigarette smoke wafted by (a bit too much for my taste). Kids threw Frisbees and balls. We ate and chatted, and waited.

The concert began.

First up was the 5th Dimension. They started, oddly, with 2 songs that weren't even theirs. Eventually, they did get to some of their classics, like Up, Up and Away, The Age of Aquarius, and One Less Bell to Answer. I think only one member of the touring group was an original member. They were fine...enjoyable...

Then came David Cassidy.

His body looks the same: slim. His hair isn't the same, sadly. And his voice... definitely not the same.

The oddest thing about him was the strange ramblings. He kept going on and on about this and that, people he knew, how he loved the Celtics, loved Boston, even though he was from New York, then California... How he hung out with John Lennon (really?). He started a song, forgot the words.

He sang a few Partridge Family favorites, most notably Point Me In the Direction of Albuquerque which J and I both love. So that was nice. But he also sang some rock n roll stuff that we didn't know, and he really wasn't very good. It was like anyone getting up and prancing around the stage and singing, not someone famous. And it made me sad, how he kept referring to the Partridge Family, thinking that it was 40 years ago and that was the best (or at least, most accomplished) part of his life?

So we left around 9 pm, to walk to the trolley to take us to the car to drive back home. And I was a little sad. Because, in the end, you really can't go back.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Up, Up and Away

Tonight, we are venturing out to Boston, to the Hatch Shell to see -- are you ready -- David Cassidy (of Partridge Family fame) and The Fifth Dimension. Yes, courtesy of Oldies 103.3 FM, we and other "oldies" are going to hear the music of almost 40 years ago. Will it sound the same? I doubt it. Will the performers look the same? How can they...? Will it be fun? I hope so...

What's really freaking me out is that I was all gaga about David Cassidy when I was about the same age that my son is now.... And I still remember... Does that mean he'll still be gaga over Hannah Montana in 40 years? Scary.

Here's a video of the Fifth Dimension singing Up, Up and Away circa 1973:

And here is David Cassidy then

and now

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pregnant on purpose

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a strange string of articles in the Boston Globe: first, a news piece about an unusual up-tick in teenage pregnancies in Gloucester, MA, and then, some interesting letters to the editor about that article.

Today, I discovered that Time Magazine (!) has picked up on this story, and there's even more intrigue. This was no accident. The teens made a PACT to get pregnant together and have their babies at the same time.


But there's more..

But by May, after nurse practitioner Kim Daly had administered some 150 pregnancy tests at Gloucester High's student clinic, she and the clinic's medical director, Dr. Brian Orr, a local pediatrician, began to advocate prescribing contraceptives regardless of parental consent, a practice at about 15 public high schools in Massachusetts... But the notion of a school handing out birth control pills has met with hostility. Says Mayor Carolyn Kirk: "Dr. Orr and Ms. Daly have no right to decide this for our children." The pair resigned in protest on May 30. (italics mine)
So the clinic personnel decided to do an intelligent thing, and offer the teens birth control (although with a pregnancy pact, I doubt they would have any takers). But the townspeople will have none of that. "We want our children pregnant!" say the parents of Gloucester.


To be fair, the high school principal and others interviewed in the article seem to understand that this isn't really about sex, but about lack of opportunity and a vision for the future. If these young women can't see a future for themselves, why not get pregnant?

Maybe one solution is something akin to the new TV show Baby Borrowers, which starts next week. This show gives teen couples a REAL baby to take care of for three days. Maybe something like that would help these Gloucester teens see what parenthood is REALLY like...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The love of a son

An old Italian man lived alone in the country. He wanted to dig his tomato garden, but it was very hard work as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament.
Dear Vincent,
I am feeling pretty badly because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me.
Love, Dad
A week later he received a letter from his son:
Dear Dad ,
Don't dig up that garden. That's where I buried the bodies.
At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.

That same day the old man received another letter from his son:
Dear Dad,
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances.
P.S. I didn't make this up, but I couldn't resist posting it anyway!

Monday, June 16, 2008

School's (almost) out for summer

My son was asked to write something for his teachers as a parting gift from his second grade class. Here is what he wrote. I am so proud! I may be biased, but I think he's a damn good writer!

What I’ll Miss About Second Grade

I will miss Kabbalat Shabbat in D’s room. I will miss Writer’s Workshop in Mrs. D’s room. I really miss how nice D and Mrs. D and Y and Ms. Y are. Y was really nice to me and the kids. When I’m having trouble with something Y always helps me. Ms. Y helps me a lot with almost everything. I like to talk sports with her. And all the other teachers were nice, too. So I’d like to thank all the teachers for teaching me so many new things.

from, J

FYI: Kabbalat Shabbat is the weekly pre-Sabbath classroom celebration (which includes special snacks as well as prayers); D is his Hebrew teacher and Mrs. D his English subjects teacher, Y and Ms. Y are assistant teachers.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

How big a house do you need?

This house issue is a touchy subject. I don't want to insult folks who have a large house, but sometimes I wonder about peoples' choices. For example, quite often people do a renovation, building a large kitchen and family room/great room, and then they no longer use the dining room and living room, or maybe just rarely, for special occasions. Does this make sense?

Don't get me wrong -- I'd love have more space -- but we pretty much use every inch of our little house. The dining room is where we eat, where we read, where homework gets done, bills get paid, things get discussed, etc. The living room used to be J's playroom when he was little -- now it's A's "office" and he works on his computer there, and we often sit there to read or play a game. The TV "room," if you can call it a room, is used quite a bit. Upstairs, there are 3 bedrooms. We use 2 of them as bedrooms, and then the third is a) the guest room b) the computer room, and c) the sewing room.

I was recently at a get-together at one of the largest houses I've ever been in. Really. I'm not exaggerating. I think the kitchen was as long as the length of my entire house. I just looked up the house stats on Zillow and the house is indeed over 4000 square feet. For 4 people. We live in a 1700 or 1800 square foot house for the 3 of us. Yes, I'd like a bit more room, but not 2000 square feet more. Am I crazy, or is this just a bit excessive? It is a beautiful house, though.

In reality, I feel quite torn. I wish we had the gumption/inclination/patience to do a renovation, and to re-do the kitchen and add on a larger family room. I'd love to have a jacuzzi and a larger bedroom. On the other hand, do we really need these things? And could we survive a renovation? I really don't know.

So for right now, I'm focusing on the a/c. And then, maybe, fixing up the kitchen. And then...

Some interesting links on this subject
Size Matters: living large in a smaller home
The Not-S0-Big House

Thursday, June 12, 2008


It's been hot. Really, really hot.
Now it's not.
But the memory of the heat
is in my bones.
That "can't stand to be in my skin"
kind of heat.
Can't eat, can't cook, can't read
Can't type, can't walk, can't do anything
But complain
Kind of heat.

After 10 years of living in our little colonial house, we (or should I say, I) am thinking about getting central air conditioning. Yes, it will cost a lot. Yes, we will only use it for a few months each year. But man, do we need it. I need it. I. Need. It.

My DH says, "you look into it! you call the contractors!" knowing full well that I HATE doing that kind of thing. But I surprised him (and myself) and I did call someone, and they are coming out next week to do an estimate. So now my DH is running scared. Now suddenly he wants to know what I'm thinking. About ways to cut costs. About different ways to do it. I knew this would happen: once I started the process, he would get involved. I knew he couldn't stay out of it.

So maybe we will have a/c sometime soon. Hopefully by the next big heatwave.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Teen pregnancy and sex ed in the news

There were 3 wonderful letters to the editor today in the Globe responding to a disturbing article last week about a rise in teen pregnancy in Gloucester, a town on the North Shore of Boston. I didn't realize what was disturbing about the article until I read today's letters. Here's part of the article:
Kim Daly sensed something was amiss in this seaside community during the first month of school last fall after several girls came to the school health clinic she runs at Gloucester High School asking for pregnancy tests.

Each time, Daly stood in her lab with her eyes closed, little white wand in hand waiting for the results to appear. When they were negative, she breathed a sigh of relief. When they were positive, she braced herself for the unpredictable emotional response that comes with telling a teenager she's going to be a mother. Some girls broke down in tears. Others broke into smiles. One exclaimed, "Sweet!"

Um...wait a minute...tell her she's going to be a mother? What gives? I worked in family planning for years, and the cardinal rule is you tell a woman that she is pregnant and that she has 3 options: maintaining the pregnancy and parenting, maintaining the pregnancy and adoption, or abortion. She's going to be a mother? What kind of health center is this?

The writer of the first letter to the editor puts it even more eloquently:

I WAS struck, in reading "Gloucester stymied by rise in teen pregnancy" (Page A1, June 6) by the lack of consideration of the options open to these teenagers. In particular, it was appalling to describe a healthcare provider's delivering a positive pregnancy test as "telling a teenager she's going to be a mother." As with any woman, a positive pregnancy test does not necessarily mean she is going to be a mother. It means she is pregnant, and has options including abortion and adoption. Even providers who are not allowed or are unable to counsel on these sensitive topics must, at a minimum, refer a patient to other resources.

In addition, and especially in a geographic area where healthcare access is limited, any pregnancy test should be a chance for education. A negative test is an opportunity. Obviously the abstinence approach, if it's being employed, has already failed.

And here are the other 2 letters to the editor: here, and here.

Also in last week's paper, an interesting article about how rates of teen pregnancy are rising nationally. Could it be fallout due to all that abstinence-only education?

If we aren't careful, teen pregnancy will rise once again, as it did in the '80s, not to mention STDs. All this conservatism, all this talk of abstinence pledges... to what end?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Summer arrives

After a spring that was very reluctant to arrive this year, today the temperature here in Boston is 90 degrees. Feast or famine...

Also, today was the first chance I had to plant my garden, so plant I did... in 90 degree weather. (Suffice to say I've taken 2 showers today, and I may not be done.) I planted 2 types of cukes (pickling and regular) , 2 types of tomatoes (Best Boy and cherry), some zucchini, some beans (seeds, so we'll see...) and one sunflower plant. I also have a raspberry bush that is taking over half of the garden. I'm hoping for the best... watching the little plants sitting there in the hot sun, it's hard to believe they'll ever grow! But that's how I feel every year.

So in the end, I decided not to go to the funeral of my former co-worker. I probably should have gone: it was probably the right thing to do. These are my reasons for not going: a) I don't know any of her family b) I would probably feel uncomfortable in a black church c) it would probably be extremely sad d) I'm angry at M for not taking care of her health problem before it became a real problem, and it was too late...

Not sure if those are good reasons, but those are the ones I came up with. So I'm going to remember M in my own way, without the benefit of community. Or perhaps just with the community of other former co-workers, if that is something that happens.

I was thinking that I know 3 women who died in their early or mid-forties, 2 from breast cancer, and now M. It just seems like such a waste, to end a life in the middle.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A life ended too soon

I just learned that a former co-worker, someone I used to supervise, has died. She was 44. She died due to complications from a fibroid tumor. She was a nurse, a nurse practitioner, and she treated lots of other people's diseases, but she wouldn't treat her own. She adopted a baby from someone in her family who couldn't take care of him. That baby is probably about 3 years old now. Now he's lost his mom, too.

I'm feeling very sad.

M was a quiet, but strong-willed person. I met her the first time when I worked in family planning. I met her again when I started working at BMC, only this time she was once of the research assistants I was assigned to supervise.

M was single, and didn't talk much about men, but she wanted very much to be a mom, and when the opportunity arose, she grabbed it. Pretty quickly, her son was born, and she acclimated to the role of mother very fast. She didn't complain much, even though she was tired and working a full time job and a part time job.

M was a very religious person, very G-d fearing. She was a straight-forward person. She once told me, "I love my parents - I don't understand why people complain about their parents."

I remember very clearly having a conversation with M and another co-worker about her fibroids. M's doctor wanted her to have surgery, but M didn't want to. "I don't want someone cutting me," she said. This is so foreign to the way I was raised, the way I believe -- to do anything to cure a disease -- but there wasn't really anything I could say to convince her. The surgery was scheduled, then canceled. She didn't talk about it much after that. Was she just willing the fibroids away?

Since I left that job, about a year and a half ago, I haven't heard from from M or about M. I just assumed she was going on with her life, her work, her child. But today: it's all gone.

And I'm sad.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Monday, June 02, 2008

Blog statistics and Google searches

An interesting feature of having a blog is being able to look (obsessively) at your blog's statistics. (I use something called Google Analytics, but I'm sure there are other providers out there.) You can see how many people read a particularly page on your blog, what state or country they came from, and so on.

One thing I enjoy discovering is how people found my blog in the first place. Sometimes, people do a Google search and end up on my blog. Occasionally they actually read it!

But what's REALLY interesting is the kind of things people type into Google. You would not believe it. Here are a few examples of things that people searched on that then sent them to my blog:
  • "i ate non kosher chicken and i feel guilty" - was this person actually hoping to reduce their guilt by reading the internet? amazing!
  • "breastfeed baby only gained a few ounces in a month" - this type of thing breaks my heart, as I had a similar experience. I hope they found the help they needed on the internet.
  • "breastfeeding and fenway park" - were they wondering if they can breastfeed a baby at the ballgame, or did they have something more sordid in mind???
  • "do children make you happy?" - a question I have asked myself...
  • "do jewish mothers breastfeed?" - now that's an interesting twist
  • "im not stupid but why is israel only 60" - another interesting question, but why did they have to add the part about not being stupid to their Google search? Did they really think that would affect the outcome of their search? Or do they think that Google is reading and understanding their search? Mystifying...