Sunday, March 30, 2008
So this is the story of The Basketball Man, aka my 8-year-old son J. He woke up this morning to watch the recording of the end of the NCAA Sweet Sixteen game that he couldn't stay up to finish last night. He worked for quite a while, making his own version of a basketball card, for one of his favorite North Carolina players. At 9 am (which is the earliest we'll let him outside on weekends), he played basketball outside for quite a while.
After lunch, he played basketball some more. We went to local sporting goods store to buy baseball pants for Little League (which starts this Thursday -- if it doesn't snow) and while we were there we just happened to buy him a North Carolina basketball jersey that was on sale. And a basketball headband, which he's been wanting.
Upon returning home, he donned the headband, and played basketball some more, first with my husband and then with the kids next door. Then he watch more of the NCAA games.
After dinner, we finished up the NCAA game (Kansas beat Davidson, unfortunately) and then watched a bit of the Celtics, who were creaming the Heat. After a bath, we read some of his current book, which is about, you guessed it, basketball. He put on his basketball headband, and went to sleep, and is probably dreaming of basketball.
Boys are so funny. My little Basketball Man.
Friday, March 28, 2008
I really don't like matzo, and don't eat it except during Passover, so I can't see why everyone else is so excited about its arrival. And I hate the crumbs.
Happy Passover! And bring on the Dustbuster.
Andrew Young, who I realize is a controversial figure, none-the-less is saying some important things. The notion that you really need to listen to other people and understand their experience in order to even start a conversation about making change, is so important. He gives many examples of times that he has done this in the African American community. And this is what Obama is talking about. You have to listen.
It's useless to just have 2 people with 2 different points of view screaming at each other. All you do is get more and more entrenched in your position. In order from them hear each other, you have to create an environment that allows them to listen.
Call it mediation, call it active listening, call it what you will: it's important. And Obama gets it.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
This is what I'm getting from these shows: white American, if there is such a monolithic thing, doesn't have a clue what it's like to be black in America. Never mind the history of racism, just the day-to-day existence of a black person in this country is difficult. Black churches are places where people talk honestly about these experiences, and Obama's minister is no different. He may be a bit over-the-top for some, but he is saying what people want and need to hear: the reality of their lives.
I don't think we can hold Obama accountable for some things his minister said that made some people uncomfortable. There are certainly some rabbis that say things that I'm uncomfortable with. How can we hold him to a higher standard?
The larger issue is: Obama is starting (or continuing) a conversation about race in this country that's IMPORTANT. We need to have this conversation. White America needs to hear it. All the different ethnic and cultural minorities in this country need to hear it. Things need to change.
When I hear Obama speak, I get chills. This is the real deal. He may actually be smart enough and inspirational enough to get change going.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
In other news, my son spent about half an hour this morning trying to learn how to tie shoes. He's still working on it, but I give him an A for effort. One of the undesirable negatives of Velcro footwear is that he never learned to tie shoes (he never needed to...).
As we were walking into school this morning (late of course, after the baseball and the tying of the shoes) he said to me: "I'm so happy just knowing that the Red Sox are playing again!" A true baseball fan has been born.
And finally... after a week and a half without a washing machine, our new one is being delivered today. Hallelujah!
Monday, March 24, 2008
Seems Patriots QB Tom Brady has a big fan in tiny Romeo Beckham. The 5-year-old son of soccer superstar David Beckham spent Saturday afternoon shopping with his mom, Victoria, and her pal Eva Longoria Parker in Beverly Hills. Romeo was spotted wearing a blue No. 12 Patriots jersey.I couldn't help but wonder what shopping with Victoria (Posh Spice) Beckham and Eva (Desperate Housewives) Longoria Parker is like... What stores do they go to? What do they buy? How much money do they tend to spend in a shopping trip? Do they have security guards with them?
Just to give you a comparison, we did a big shopping trip this weekend to Natick/Framingham (alas, no security guards in tow). We went to Target for sneakers for J (no luck), some new pants, shorts and shirts for J (pretty good luck), cleaning products, and some pink earrings to go with my Purim costume (probably $60 total at Target). Then we went to Payless Shoes and succeeded in finding 2 pair of shoes for J, one a sneaker, and one a "dressier" shoe for Temple, total about $22. Then off to BJ's where we got sponges, paper napkins, tomato sauce, etc. and spent over $100. This was a BIG SHOPPING DAY for us. We probably dropped close to $200, although we purchased a lot of things that we needed, and we won't need sponges for a long while...
I wonder if Posh and Eva ever go to Target and BJs? Nah....
Friday, March 21, 2008
...In his speech, he said he disagreed with Wright strongly, and yet he didn't leave the church (or even criticize his pastor until Wright's sermons became a campaign issue). He didn't explain why he stayed, but by trying to show black and white resentment as the backdrop for Wright's comments, Obama suggested that his response to controversy isn't to walk out of the room but to try to understand what's fueling the fire. He also drew a distinction between political advice and spiritual guidance, arguing that many Americans know what it's like to disagree with something their pastor or priest or rabbi says.The italics here are mine. These words -- understanding, distinction, context, nuance -- oh, if only these were things that the majority of Americans did with any regularity! I don't mean to sound like a snob, but it seems lately like Americans are very simplistic, very black and white. Either it's good, or it's bad -- there is nothing in between.
By asking voters to understand the context of Wright's anger, though, Obama is counting on voters to accept nuance in an arena that almost always rewards simplicity over complexity. Politicians tend to offer deliberately banal choices: Either we move forward or we fall backward, either we let the economy falter or we help it grow, either we succumb to our enemies or we defeat them — the choice is up to you, America! Obama's formulation was different. Explicitly asking Americans to grapple with racial divisions and then transcend them — that's a bolder, riskier request.
I've worked for many years in the inner city of Boston with mainly middle- and low-income African Americans who live there. I know that the things that Rev. Wright said are things that African Americans I know think and say. They feel discriminated against. They feel like white America is trying to destroy them. They even think that the AIDS epidemic was created to destroy African Americans. Look, many of these folks are the descendants of slaves. They've lived through hell. We can't even begin to understand their histories. But what does all this have to do with Obama? Why does this impact his presidential chances at all?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say: Americans can be smarter than the press thinks they are. Americans can draw distinctions, can look at things in context, can accept nuance. Obama will survive this. I think he can. I hope he can.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I think what was most enlightening for me was how -- as the Mommies described it, in their experience -- "going to church" seems to be completely divorced from the rest of their lives. It's something that they do, on Sunday mornings, and they see it as a time of reflection, etc. But neither church nor their religion seems to impact the rest of their lives very much.
For me, being Jewish is a huge part of my life. I think about it every day, from dropping my kid off at his Jewish day school, to checking to calendar to see what's happening at our synagogue (we are there several days per week, on average, for services, meetings, classes, holiday celebrations, etc.) , to discussions with my dad about some religious issue, to reading something about Judaism in the newspaper, in a book, online, etc. It's all-encompassing. It's not just something I do once a week when we go to religious services.
I guess what's fascinating is how perhaps it's a function of being Christian in this society versus being Jewish means that you don't need to spend as much time thinking about your Christianity since the society supports that as a norm (as you can see from this chart, about 75% of Americans identify as Christian). And if you are going to be a part of a different religion, such as Judaism, that is such a minority, you really have to focus on it much more consciously.
Or maybe part of it is that Judaism is a culture as well as a religion, while Christianity is part and parcel of the American culture.
As Erin would say: "fascinating."
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
But every now and then, someone actually notices, and says something nice. It never fails to surprise me.
These past few years, I've been involved with the Sisterhood of my synagogue. Growing up, the Sisterhood ladies were "older" (shall we say) ladies who did things for the Temple. Put out the snacks for events. Arranged things. I actually don't know what they did. But they were definitely older.
When we joined our synagogue a few years ago, I was automatically invited to be a part of Sisterhood as a new member, and after a year or two I was asked to join the Sisterhood board. Which I did. Oddly, our Sisterhood is made up of mostly younger women (well, 30s and 40s, a few in their 50s) and while some of the older women (60s and up) still attend events, they aren't involved in "running the show." And slowly, I became more and more involved, helped plan some events, and after a few years, was asked to join the Executive Board. I've been on the Exec Board for almost 2 years now, working as VP of Education, and I've tried out a number of new ideas, as I tend to do when I get involved in things. So it's gone pretty well.
Anyway, long story short, I just found out that I am getting a Sisterhood award. It's called the Light of Torah award. It's for a person who "exemplifies the qualities of commitment to Torah, service to the community, and deeds of lovingkindness." I don't know if I meet all those criteria, but I'm very flattered. Humbled and flattered. And it feels good to be recognized -- noticed, and appreciated -- for what I do. I don't need an award, but it's very nice to have someone say: you did a good job. And we appreciate you.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
But somehow, the combination of my genes with those of my husband's have spawned an athlete.
My 8-1/2 year old son has coordination, strength, grace, perseverance, and a competitive spirit. He's truly athletic! Maybe he won't be a professional baseball player, as he hopes, but he's pretty darned good.
Soccer, basketball, baseball, football...he's actually pretty good at all of them.
This weekend, his basketball team won the town championship for 1st and 2nd grade boys!
Not 1 trophy, but 2!
Thursday, March 13, 2008
It is a sad commentary on our country that some women feel that the best way to make money is by selling their bodies to men. Appearing in pornography, stripping, and even prostitution itself are ways that women can make a lot of money, but at what cost to their minds and their souls?
The articles about the young woman describe very little. She is pretty; she likes to sing and wants to be a singer; she claims she was abused as a child. Her mother is my age (!). Did she go to college? Did she study to be something? No one is talking about that. Everyone is just laughing.
Here are a few articles I found:
from the NYTimes
What's scary is she'll probably receive more fame from this escapade than if she just remained an anonymous prostitute. Now that's a sad commentary on our country if I ever heard one.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
My family is actually pretty good in this arena.
1) We recycle! We recycle as much as possible since we don't have trash pick up, but rather have to bring our trash and recycleables to the
2) We compost! We keep all our kitchen scraps (vegetable and fruit peels, coffee grinds, egg shells, etc.) in a Kitchen Compost Crock, which I then transfer to a plastic container, which I then transfer outside to a composter! The soil then goes into our garden!
3) We use paper, not plastic! I always ask for paper at the grocery store, and then use the paper bags for holding our recyclables. If we do bring home plastic bags, we either re-use them or else recycle them at the grocery store.
4) We have replaced some -- but not all -- of our lightbulbs with the eco-friendly variety.
5) We have only one child. :-)
6) We re-use copy paper from our offices as much as possible, and print onto the back side (clean side) of the paper.
7) We have a small house (unlike many in our town...)
8) We belong to a CSA (community supported agriculture farm) in W. Mass. during the summer and fall, and pay to help run the farm, and in return receive a share of fresh, organic veggies every week!
9) We have an automatic thermostat that shuts off during the day, and turns on in the evening, then shuts off again when we sleep.
10) I plant a garden every summer!
11) We joined GreenDimes.com to reduce junk mail!
Things we plan to do:
1) Use the Laptop Lunches Bento Box lunch system for my son's lunch
2) Calculate our carbon footprint and try to offset it as much as we can.
Great contest, Karen! Thanks!
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
My six-week-old baby was crying all the time. My ears were ringing from the sound. At night, my husband Arnie would take Jordan for an hour while I took a hot bath in our tiny green-tiled bathroom, trying to relax from another exhausting day of caring for an infant. I would close the bathroom door to crying, and when I opened it, I would hear the crying once again. It was endless; the baby was inconsolable.
I had two conflicting thoughts: one, it didn’t feel right in my gut that the baby was crying this much. Two, everyone was telling me that new babies cry a lot, and that you just have to deal with it. My brain cloudy with lack of sleep, I embraced the latter explanation, and after a while, started hardening myself to his crying. Arnie and I would even joke about his crying. It was all we could do to keep sane.
It is late afternoon in mid-September, yet the air still feels thick and sticky. The baby awakens in his basket-like bassinet, and cries insistently. It is time to nurse. I hold him gently in the crook of my arm, his tiny body nestling into mine, and he latches onto my breast. He starts to suck, and I feel the strange, familiar pulling sensation inside my breast as my milk lets down. I smell his familiar, sweet smell. He nurses for awhile, then becomes sleepy. I put my finger in his mouth to break the suction of his suck, hold his floppy head carefully, and turn him around to nurse on the other side. He nurses, becomes sleepy. Suddenly, he awakens, his brow furls, and his lips tremble, and he starts to cry. “Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!” His typically sweet expression is transformed into one I don’t recognize: his mouth is wide open, more square than round, his cheeks are pulled upwards, and his face turns red. He seems very angry. I put him over my shoulder and rub his back soothingly. I wonder: “What is going on?” The books say that the baby should act satisfied after a feeding. This is far from satisfied.
Everything I’d read and been told about breastfeeding indicated that it was a perfect system. “Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby,” the “Introduction to Breastfeeding” instructor had said as we ate warm brownies and drank ginger ale in the cold waiting room which served as our classroom. “Your body will produce exactly the right amount of milk that your baby needs.” And I believed her.
I had every reason to believe that breastfeeding was working well for us. The pediatrician had examined Jordan three times during his first month of life, and each time, Jordan was gaining weight and developing normally. No one had ever mentioned that things could change so quickly, so I didn’t consider feeding problems as I wondered and worried about my crying baby.
One warm night, Jordan was crying and crying. I had breastfed him a short while earlier, and he was still crying. Arnie tried rocking him, carrying him in the baby sling around and around the house, putting him on his chest . Jordan continued to cry. Finally, Arnie went into the kitchen and started to boil some water in a pan.
“What are you doing?” I asked, following him into the kitchen.
“I’m going to give him a bottle of formula. I think he’s hungry.” He measured the formula into a bottle, and poured the hot water from the pan into the bottle.
“Don’t give him formula! I’m breastfeeding him!”
“But I think he’s hungry!”
“You are trying to undermine me!” I was crying and shaking. I remembered what all those breastfeeding teachers had said: once you started using formula, the baby would soon be weaned from the breast.
“He should be getting enough from me. It’s supposed to work perfectly! Don’t give him a bottle!”
“Okay, okay, if you think you know what you’re doing,” he relented. “But I still think he’s hungry.”
“What if I breastfeed him, and then he takes some of the formula? What does that prove?”
“Just forget it.” Arnie put the bottle he had prepared into the refrigerator. We didn’t talk about that night again. And Jordan continued to cry.
Soon after, we took Jordan in for his two month appointment with the pediatrician. My heart was pounding and I kept taking deep breaths as we walked down the narrow corridor towards the pediatrician’s office. I had written a list a page long, filled with the problems that we were experiencing with the baby: he wouldn’t nap, he cried all the time, he didn’t seem satisfied after breastfeeding.
“He’s eating, he’s peeing and pooping, he’s fine!” I said, trying to reassure myself.
“But he feels so light to me!” said Arnie.
The nurse placed Jordan on the baby scale, and there was the truth glaring us in the face. Jordan had gained just a few ounces in a month’s time. Something was very wrong. My heart fell into my stomach.
“Okay, what we have here is a hungry little guy,” said the pediatrician. She held him up gently on the examining table, and started feeding him a bottle of premixed formula. Jordan’s eyes got very large, and he drank and drank the formula. Pretty soon, he’d taken four ounces of the formula.
“We don’t see this very often except in Third World countries, but your breastmilk must not have enough calories in it, so he’s not gaining enough weight. He needs more calories than your milk is providing for him.” The pediatrician spoke very matter-of-factly, but my eyes filled with tears, and I started to cry. I was humiliated to be crying in front of the pediatrician, but the realization that Jordan had been crying from hunger – that I had essentially been starving my baby – was absolutely horrifying to me. Jordan had been hungry for all this time, and that was what he was trying to tell us! I couldn’t believe that my body had failed me, failed us.
“This is what I want you to do,” said the pediatrician. “For the next week, give him as much formula as he wants. Use a breastpump, and pump instead of nursing him.”
“Don’t breastfeed?” I asked incredulously.
“Just for this week. We need to make sure that there isn’t a problem with his absorption of the nutrients from the milk. Once we are certain that the problem isn’t with him, you can go back to breastfeeding followed by a bottle of formula, to make sure he gets enough of the calories that he needs.”
“Uh...okay.” I was surprised, but I wasn’t about to go against her advice.
The nurse gave us tons of formula samples, little jars with nipples, packages, cans. We loaded everything into the stroller, and left the pediatrician’s office. I was shaken. I was trying very hard not to start crying again. Arnie helped me unload everything into the car, and gave me a hug. He was going to work, and I was going home to deal with all this. “You have to be strong for Jordan,” he said. I got into the car. Jordan was sitting in his infant seat making little happy noises.
I drove home slowly, tears flowing from the corners of my eyes onto my glasses. When we got home, I put Jordan in his playpen. He was in a great mood for the first time in a long time. He played contentedly there for a long while, looking at his black and white mobile, and eventually, fell asleep.
I put a box of tissues on the dining room table, and started to cry. I went through tissue after tissue, crying and blowing my nose. I could not believe that I had been starving my own baby! I felt terribly guilty. I couldn’t stop crying.
Once we started feeding Jordan formula, the change in him was almost immediate. He was happier – took naps – played alone longer – and drank formula like crazy. Within a week, he had gained almost everything he should have gained in the past month. During that week, I pumped instead of breastfeeding him, and realized that I was only able to pump two ounces of milk at a time, while Jordan needed four ounces per feeding. Now I understood what the problem was: it wasn’t that my milk didn’t have enough calories, it was that I wasn’t making enough milk to meet his needs. I met with a lactation consultant to learn ways to try to increase my milk supply.
After the week of feeding Jordan formula exclusively, I started nursing him again. First I would nurse, and then I would follow each feeding with a bottle. This routine took some getting used to, and feedings often took 45 minutes or longer between breast and bottle. But after a while, I accepted both the time factor and the fact that I was unable to breastfeed exclusively. I was grateful that Jordan lives in a time and place where his problem -- our problem -- could be so easily solved. Jordan thrived on the combination of breast and bottle, and we continued this way for quite a while. But I will never forget the feeling of horror that I felt when I realized that I hadn’t trusted my instincts, and had let my baby go hungry.
The news, which I don't find so surprising, is that 25% of all young women tested had an STD, and about 50% of African American young women had one. The STDs included human papillomavirus (H.P.V.), chlamydia, herpes simplex type 2 and trichomoniasis.
The NYTimes article states:
Officials of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the findings underscore the need for strengthening screening, vaccination and other prevention measures for S.T.D.’s, which are among the country’s highest public health priorities.
“High S.T.D. infection rates among young women, particularly young African-American women, are clear signs that we must continue developing ways to reach those most at risk,” said Dr. John M. Douglas Jr., who directs the centers’ division of S.T.D. prevention.
Someone did a very interesting study. As part of NHANES, which is larger study of health issues, "participants in the statistically based survey are chosen on a random basis. The survey contacted 838 women ages 14 to 19 who agreed to be tested for a sexually transmitted infection. Extrapolating from the findings, researchers estimated that 3.2 million teenage women are infected with at least one of the S.T.D.’s." I'm not entirely sure how they got those 838 young women to get STD testing, but they feel this is a random sample, so they can estimate that the same percentage of young women in the general population will have STDs as well.
Maybe this will hammer the last nail into the coffin of the abstinence-only coalition. But I doubt it.
It would be tempting to comment on NY Governor Spitzer's peccadilloes first, but I'll wait on that for a bit.
The article that really got to me this morning was this:
New crop of chemicals is found in birds' eggs
What's scary is that it's not only birds that have these chemicals inside them. People do, too. I'm certain that this chemical burden in our bodies contributes to the increased incidence of breast cancer, and probably other cancers as well. This just makes me sad. I'm not sure how we can clean up the environment so these chemicals won't pose a danger to people anymore. It seems like an impossible task.
Eggs from an array of Maine birds - from lordly bald eagles to timorous piping plovers; from swallows snarfing insects in suburban backyards to storm-petrels feeding hundreds of miles at sea - contain 100 industrial and household contaminants, scientists will report today.
According to research to be presented to the Maine Legislature, all 60 eggs tested by biologists and chemists - taken from 23 wild species, inhabiting every major ecosystem in the state, from Kittery to Calais - carried at least trace amounts of the 100 chemicals, occasionally at levels believed to be harmful to the birds.
"We found mercury, flame-retardants, industrial repellents, transformer coolants, and pesticides in [the eggs of] birds that live on Maine's oceans, salt marshes, rivers, lakes, and uplands," said Wing Goodale, senior biologist with the BioDiversity Research Institute in Gorham, the center for environmental science that carried
out the research.
So... moving on to the Governor... I must admit, I don't see why it's such a big big deal. Like many other men, he was with a prostitute. Yes, it's not legal. Yes, apparently he is supposed to be a big time ethical guy. Yes, and of course, he has a wife, daughters, etc. Yes, apparently everyone who knows him is "surprised." But: is it really a career-ending event? I wouldn't be surprised if his wife is completely pissed off. He should be embarrassed. But how does this affect his ability to be an effective leader? Maybe I'm naive. I think this behavior is extremely common. Why is it such a big deal???
I think the story about the birds and the environment is much more important. But that's just me.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
I recommend both of them highly!
The first is a frittata with potato and salmon and chive and goat cheese: yummy!
|3||small Yukon gold potatoes|
|1||tablespoon olive oil|
|1/4||sweet onion, finely chopped|
|4||ounces smoked salmon, shredded|
|2||tablespoons finely chopped chives|
|1||teaspoon kosher salt|
|1/2||teaspoon black pepper|
|2||ounces goat cheese or farmer's cheese, crumbled|
2. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil and add onion. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring often, until golden. Transfer the onion to the potatoes. Set the skillet aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat eggs with a whisk, just until the whites and yolks are well mixed. With a spoon, stir in the salmon, potatoes, onion , all but 1 teaspoon of the chives, salt, and pepper.
4. Turn on the broiler.
5. In the skillet, melt the butter. Pour egg mixture into the pan and turn the heat to medium . Cook the egg mixture for 2 minutes, then tilt the mixture so that more of it is exposed to the pan. Continue cooking for about 8 minutes or until the top begins to look set.
6. Dot the top of the frittata with the cheese. Broil for 1 minute, watch the frittata carefully, just until the top is set.
7. Cut the frittata into wedges, and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon chives. (Alison Arnett)
The second dish is baked french toast, which was awesome. Light, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
|Butter (for the dish)|
|3||cups whole milk|
|6||eggs, beaten to mix|
|4||tablespoons butter, melted and cooled|
|1/2||teaspoon vanilla extract|
|1/4||cup granulated sugar|
|1/4||cup brown sugar|
|1||teaspoon ground cinnamon|
|1/8||teaspoon ground nutmeg|
|12||slices white sandwich bread|
1. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, butter, vanilla, and salt.
3. In another small bowl, combine the granulated and brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
4. Using 6 slices of the bread, dip both sides into the egg mixture and arrange in a layer on the bottom of the baking dish (you will need to overlap them slightly to fit them in). Sprinkle with half of the sugar mixture. Dip the remaining 6 slices into the egg mixture and set them on the first layer. Pour any egg mixture in the bowl over the bread. With a wide metal spatula, press down firmly so the bread soaks up all of the liquid.
5. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight. (Make the apple compote while the dish chills.)
6. Let the dish sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
7. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Bake the dish for 20 to 25 minutes until the bread is puffed, golden brown, and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. (Christine Merlo)
Friday, March 07, 2008
Thursday, March 06, 2008
If Hillary ends up winning because of SNL... I don't know what I'll do.
P.S. Here's what someone else has to say about it
SNL, the art of creative whining and how to win an election by complaining about the media
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
As Sarcastic Mom puts it: "I used the ( ) because I want to open it to anyone telling their story about how they feed/fed their babies. This can be about breastfeeding/pumping/bottle feeding, etc. Just tell your story. Posts with tips on these subjects are more than welcome also."
Right up my alley! I have quite a story to tell! But it will have to wait until Tuesday.
Here is a sample from the first article:
I've worked in inner city Boston as part of different jobs for years, and my parents grew up there (as did my husband until he was about 10) so I feel connected to that part of Boston in a way that perhaps others don't. It really bugs me that this violence is known and is allowed to continue; that kids are affected by it daily; and that no one is taking action except kids. If this type of thing took place in Needham, you can be sure it would be dealt with pronto. But that's another story, right?
Tiara Amarante's bus ride to school is a daily exercise in dodging danger.
On MBTA Bus 23 - which winds past storefront churches, pizza shops, and boarded-up buildings - drug dealers push their wares and passengers fight over money, sometimes with knives. Last March, a teenager was fatally shot on the bus.
Amarante, 15, has learned how to survive the ride. She has no choice; she must ride Bus 23 from her home in Dorchester to the John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury where she is a freshman.
She sits close to one of the two exits, so she can get out quickly if a passenger pulls out a gun or knife. When other riders begin to scream or argue, she casts her eyes downward: to stare is to ask for trouble. At night, when she is coming home from her civic issues meeting after school, she waits for the bus at the stops with the brightest street lighting or where police cars usually idle.
Last month, Amarante and nine other teenagers who take Bus 23 to school or to get around their neighborhood decided to do something about it. They would survey other passengers, document their stories, and try to persuade MBTA officials to take action.
Here's a sample from today's article on stress:
The article continues, describing the types of stress suburban kids experience (pressure to get into a good college, various after school activities) versus the types of stresses inner city kids experience (violence, single parent families, taking care of younger siblings, helping pay for family expenses).
As Andre Zayas lay on the hard gym floor, the 14-year-old from Dorchester struggled to clear his mind of his myriad burdens. He ached for a friend who was recently shot to death. He worried about finding a job to help his single mother pay the household bills. And in just a few hours, his project on the 1930s was due in humanities class, and he had not finished.
Next to him, Chanel Peguero closed her eyes and imagined graduating from high school in four years with a scholarship, the only way she would be able to afford college. The honor roll student cannot wait to escape her home in a South End housing development where her sleep is punctured by sirens, gunshots, and arguing adults.
The teenagers, among two dozen Fenway High School freshmen arrayed in a semicircle beneath a basketball hoop, breathed deeply as a stress-reduction trainer instructed them on how to relax. New Age music floated through the gymnasium.
"Allow intruding thoughts to pass like clouds in the sky," said the trainer, Rana Chudnofsky, her soothing voice rising just above a whisper. "Take a minivacation from your day."
Mind-body relaxation training, already popular among New England prep schools, is seeping into public high schools as principals and teachers worry about students' ever-mounting stress. In the most widescale effort in the state, specialists from Massachusetts General Hospital have begun fanning out among urban and suburban high schools, including Boston, Needham, and Brookline, to help students cope.
It just isn't the same kind of stress.
The divide between the haves and the have-nots in our community is huge, and these articles illustrate it poignantly. I'm not sure what I can do, or what anyone can do, but someone has to do something. Teaching inner city kids to "reduce their stress" through relaxation techniques is all well and good, but in reality, their stress needs to be reduced through elimination of the violence and the financial and social problems in their lives. These are much bigger issues to tackle. In the meantime, take a deep breath, and relax....
Monday, March 03, 2008
Sunday, March 02, 2008
By far the funniest scene was when Giselle, the main (princess) character, finds herself in New York City, and tries to clean up an apartment with the help of her animal friends, which here include pigeons, rats, and cockroaches! Disgusting, and hysterical!
But in the end, both J and I really enjoyed it. I found it a bit slow in the middle, but he didn't. And we were both delighted by the ending, which was happy but also realistic, in a way. Definitely recommended as a movie for you and your 8 year old!