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.


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


Obama closes gap with McCain

Why experience matters

A must-read.


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.


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

* 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

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


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
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.

The Name Game

Quick: what do these words have in common?
  • Track
  • Trig
  • Bristol
  • Willow
  • Piper
  • Beau
  • Hunter
Any guesses?

These, my friends, are the names that our vice presidential candidates (see here and here) have lovingly bestowed upon their children. Pretty weird, huh? Makes Moon Unit Zappa seem tame...

I know, I'm biased. In my world, we have the Biblical names: Jacob, David, Jonathan, Sarah, Rebbecca, and Rachel. These seem normal to me. And then we have the Hebrew names: Yael, Noam, Shai, Inbar. Maybe, in someone's world, Trig and Hunter are typical names. But Track? Piper? Willow?

Beats me, what their parents were thinking. When I was a kid, I would have given my eye teeth to have a name like Debbie or Susan.

Oh, well...