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.