Thursday, July 30, 2009


This is not a light-hearted post, and I have struggled with whether this is too personal for such a public forum, whether it is not for me to share like this. But here it is:

Monday the hubs and I celebrated 8 years of matrimony (or martirmony as I like to call it).

...and by celebrate I mean I spent the day accepting collect calls from my littlest sister who has landed herself in jail and the inevitable talking to my mother, which is, more often than not, infuriating, about what I should do about it.

Tuesday I sent a rather harsh and emotional email, crying the whole time, to my siblings (there are 7 total) and my mother about exactly how I felt having the whole ordeal slapped neatly in my lap. It was assumed that since she lives in my city, it was my decision alone to bail her out or not, put up the money and risk even more if she runs, and try to convince her to get the help she needs for an alcohol addiction (though not related to her charge--but very relevant). Surprisingly and thankfully several stepped up and I don't feel nearly as overwhelmed.

It has been a struggle wondering if the best thing for her is to bail her out just to watch her continue down the same delusional path of self-destruction. So, after 4 days she is still in jail and it breaks my heart thinking of her detoxing alone in a county cell, feeling pretty battered and abandoned.

I talked to her this morning and she is furious that I got the family involved, that I/we have decided that the best course of action is not to bail her out just yet, if at all. There is something so patronizing about the notion that you are going to make someone suffer for their own good. And yet, she has been spiraling in her nightmare of a life, leaving me, the one with the front-row seat, (and also others, of course) in terror for her life. So, knowing that she is at least safe and contained and now sober, what else can I do?

Anyone could have predicted this turn of events and smugly sentence her to accept the consequences. Yet, there was something unfair about the circumstances of her arrest. There is also something unjust and lacking in compassion, in talking about rational consequences for a being who has been so stunted in so many ways by unspeakable trauma that I have often wondered how she can possibly recover.

So I have been sad and teary all week and didn't even get to write the lovely tribute to my sweet hubs (maybe later) much less enjoy an evening out.

Wish me wisdom...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Where I Tempt Fate... and Take a Beating

So, apparently, you are not supposed to tempt Fate, you know, by doing her job of predicting the future. She doesn't think it is cute, she thinks it is one more example of human arrogance, and it pisses her off.

Who knew?

It actually started with this post. Where I (so-pleased-with-my-superior-parenting-skills) commented (probably came off as bragging) that I have gotten my kids to eat such an astonishingly sophisticated array of foods. blah blah blah

Mostly I was talking about G, who is older. It was still a little too early for Nico... and now, it is too late. I said it "out loud" and now my cards have been dealt.

Apparently, I rang the victory bell too early. As soon as Nico was past the pureed foods stage, he stopped eating fruit. HE WILL NOT TOUCH IT! I can put applesauce in his oatmeal, that is it! Anything else, no matter how small the fruit matter--he will spit it out, shaking his head in disgust. He probably has decided that fruit isn't "manly" enough--the little brute!

Fate, out of spite for my arrogance, has also given him the uncanny ability to sense that something is fruit, even if he has never seen it before. He just shakes his head and laughs as if saying: "You poor fool! You've brought this on yourself."

Then there was my last post, less than a week ago. Based on Nico's "all-boyishness" I predicted this series of misfortunes for my little man:

*Finally succeed in eating a rock
*Eat a bug
*Get stung by a wasp
*Sit on a mound of fire ants
*Give me a black eye
*Head-butt hubby in the groin
*Require stitches
*Or a cast
*Throw a rock through one of our windows
*Chip one of his two teeth
*Somehow manage to climb onto the roof and possibly fling himself off

Of course, I wasn't wishing him misfortune, I spend most of his waking moments trying to prevent it.

Yet, Fate is mocking me again, peering through her long greasy hair, with one good eye, into her crystal ball, cackling at the lesson we humans must learn: that the future is not ours to read.

Nico is fine, but since my last post I have been stung by a bee and I have stepped too close to a fire ant mound and have a big, fat, red, swollen foot to prove it. When we finally paint the house, I fully expect to fall off the roof, breaking a bone, chipping a tooth, and requiring stitches.

I shouldn't even say that... apparently, I have learned nothing...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mars and Venus Revisited

What’s the difference, besides a chromosome and a few body parts, between a boy and a girl?

Is it sugar and spice and everything nice? Toads and snails and puppy dog tails?

Is it just physiology?

Is it hormones?

Are our brains different?

Do we think differently?

Is it socialization?

Do we raise them differently

Are there different expectations and assumptions?

Are we just different species?

I have wrestled with these questions a lot as a woman and a feminist. For the most part, I have consistently denied all differences but physiology, mainly because I don’t like the consequences for women, historically, for assuming that men and women are different.

Generally, I don’t like some of the stereotypes that circle popular culture about how men and women are different (like the book referenced in the title). I realize that there is a wide spectrum of “girl” behavior and “boy” behavior and that there is a lot of overlap.

But I am ready to make a concession: after having a boy, I can say, almost for certain, that he is a different kind of beast altogether.

(N-eating dirt)

Let it be known, first, that G is not a girly-girl (much to my secret relief). I have tried not to influence her much as far as likes: I don’t encourage or discourage typically girl or typically boy things. I want her to like what SHE likes. And yet, she likes dinosaurs more than dolls. She likes sticks and bugs and frogs. She loves to run and jump and climb. She prefers to be buck-naked (underwear is usually our compromise) rather than don a pink sequined tutu. It is still early, she is only 3.5 and kids change so much, but for now, she is somewhat of a tom-boy.

So it is not that there is a HUGE contrast. I don’t think I am overly-willing to interpret Nico’s behavior as “all-boy” just because he is, in fact, a boy. He does a lot of the things that G used to do…

But he is all rough and tumble and cacophony. He hits. He bangs. He grunts. He climbs. He clangs. He whacks. He throws. He makes a raucous everywhere he goes. He routinely carries drumsticks, mallets, and sticks and beats and bangs everything that crosses his path. He loves to throw big toys on the floor to hear the satisfying crash and to see everyone’s startled reaction. He is mischievous beyond measure and makes sure you are watching as he creates the havoc he knows you are trying to avoid. He laughs with a sparkle in his eye when we are stern with him or tell him “no!”

He even walks with a cocky little man-swagger, holding on to his little pot-belly. He is a late-talker... as in, he doesn't talk yet--which might make one think he is getting an early start on that "real men don't talk" stereotype. He communicates all right: he points and grunts when he wants something and he bangs on the fridge with his little fists and runs to his high chair when he is hungry (about 8 times a day).

It is still early, he is still little and kids change so much. But if things continue on course, given his current behavior, here are some of my predictions, in no particular order, for the near-future:

Nico will…

*Finally succeed in eating a rock
*Eat a bug
*Get stung by a wasp
*Sit on a mound of fire ants
*Give me a black eye
*Head-butt hubby in the groin
*Require stitches
*Or a cast
*Throw a rock through one of our windows
*Chip one of his two teeth
*Somehow manage to climb onto the roof and possibly fling himself off

I might be ready to concede that there is something different about a boy.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Long Post Where I Get All Political

I had a hard weekend.

Well it was good, in the sense that we got a lot done on our to-do list and spent a lot of quality time with the kids.

It was hard because I have this weight in my chest: it is sadness; it is disappointment; it is hopelessness; but above all, it is anger. It has kept me awake at night, tossing and turning. It is that feeling you get when you come face to face with the reality of our government and the way politics works, the way money and greed rule the world.

I don’t watch that much TV anymore, but on Fridays on PBS there are some great programs that showcase the only journalism worth watching. One of these is Bill Moyers’ Journal. I watched it on Friday. Here is a link to the show. Please watch it.

Moyers’ guest is Wendell Potter, an ex VP for Cigna (health insurance company). He is what you would call a whistle-blower: he left the company, as he tells it, because, after facing some of the realities of the health care system in the U.S., he could not in all consciousness continue performing his job. He now reports on what he has seen and what it is that big health insurance incorporations do.

One of the things that it most revolting to me about how industries like this work, is that they spend billions of dollars on lobbyists, on campaigns to get the right weasels into office, and on ads to attack bills that will hurt their bottom line: they spend ALL of this money so that they can continue denying claims, recising policy-holders who are too sick, and raising premiums and co-pays etc… in essence, spending as little as possible on their policy-holders in order to give more back to their investors. It is such a massive disconnect for me… the logic there: it seems irrational, immoral, incoherent, and just plain stupid.

How can whether or not we get the health care we need be about profit? How can whether you live or die be about money?

Some of what he talks about is not totally new or surprising, especially if you have seen Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko (and if you haven’t you should). But it is disheartening… to say the least, to hear an insider confirm many of the allegations Moore made (not to mention to hear him talk about how the industry tried to discredit Moore.)

I was so intrigued and outraged by what he recounts that I got on to Moyers’ webpage on PBS and read more and watched a previous episode (May 22nd) found here, where two medical doctors (Wolfe and Himmelstein) explain why they, and many health care providers, support what is called a “Single-payer” health care system. This is, in a word, a universal health care system under which all Americans are covered. (Hospitals and doctors remain private, but they only bill one entity—the government. Patients can go to any doctor or hospital they choose.) They claim this actually frees doctors to do what they do and what they should be doing: treating their patients.

Both episodes talk about the memos that are sent around Washington by lobbyists and such guiding people from the health insurance industry and even politicians (mostly Republicans) on what language to use that will most successfully frighten the American people into rejecting a universal health care system or even a public option. They use terms like “socialism” (very dirty word), “coercion,” “lack of choice,” “interminable waiting,” “rationing of care” etc. The worst part is that Americans fall for it every time: we are naïve and gullible to our own detriment.

One of the best lines from the Wendell Potter interview was that they scare you now by saying that you will have a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor, but right now you have a CEO between you and your doctor (who has his own 7 digit salary and his company’s profit in mind, NOT your medical needs). Ahh! The irony of it all!

Can you imagine not being able to call the fire department when your house was on fire because you could not pay for it? Can you imagine not being able to call the police because you were being robbed because you had not contracted their private services. Can you imagine not being able to get an education (even with the sad state of our educational system) because you couldn’t pay for it? Our tax dollars pay for so many social services it is asinine to say that health care should not be one of them.

I have insurance. I have great insurance. (Even so, having a baby costs us about $2000 out-of-pocket.) But once I am no longer eligible to teach, if I don’t have a job, with benefits, I will have to pay COBRA… which is about ¼ of my husband’s salary. If I am ever left insurance-less, I am… how can I put this delicately… totally up shit-creek. You see, I fall into that category of what they call the “uninsurable.” I had cancer at 28. Luckily I had insurance and my out-of-pocket was only a fraction of the total bill for: 5 surgeries, a year of treatment, numerous CT scans, MRIs, PET scans, Dr visits, biopsies, pain meds, IV antibiotics, etc. Even though I have been cancer-free for 6 years (yay!), once I am not covered, no one will want to cover me for a price I can afford to pay… if at all.

When you look at the statistics of how many Americans are uninsured or under-insured, or a step away from losing their insurance it is staggering. When you consider that and then look at what we pay for health care compared to other countries and then consider that our system is ranked one of the last among first world, industrialized nations—it is embarrassing and horrifying. When Drs. Wolfe and Himmelstein talk about how much money would be saved by adopting a single-payer national health care program, it is mind-blowing.

What haunted me the most were Bill Moyers’ closing words, the entire commentary can be found here:

“[…] It's happening to health care as well. Even the pro-business magazine THE ECONOMIST says America has the worst system in the developed world, controlled by executives who are not held to account and investors whose primary goal is raising share price and increasing profit – while wasting $450 billion dollars in redundant administrative costs and leaving nearly 50 million uninsured.

Enter "the select few who actually get it done." Three out of four of the big health care firms lobbying on Capitol Hill have former members of Congress or government staff members on the payroll – more than 350 of them – and they’re all fighting hard to prevent a public plan, at a rate in excess of $1.4 million a day.

Health care policy has become insider heaven. Even Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House health reform director, served on the boards of several major health care corporations.

President Obama has pushed hard for a public option but many fear he’s wavering, and just this week his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel – the insider del tutti insiders – indicated that a public plan just might be negotiable, ready for reengineering, no doubt, by “the select few who actually get it done.”

That’s how it works. And it works that way because we let it. The game goes on and the insiders keep dealing themselves winning hands. Nothing will change – nothing – until the money lenders are tossed out of the temple, the ATM’s are wrested from the marble halls, and we tear down the sign they’ve placed on government – the one that reads, ‘For Sale.’”

After watching these programs, I did the only thing I could do on a Friday night at 10:00. I sent an email to President Obama. I urged him to do the right thing for our country: support universal health care. It is not just the moral choice, the ethical choice, the financially- sound choice, the logical choice, the humane choice… it is the ONLY choice.

The people that cut and color your hair, the people that serve you at your favorite restaurant, the people that take care of your kids while you work, the people who wash your clothes at the dry-cleaners, the people who scrub your toilet and mow your lawn. They all… WE all elect public officials to do what is in OUR interest, not the interest of Wall Street, not the interest of Washington. When will we be dealt a winning hand?

In one of the interviews, one of the guests quotes Winston Churchill who said something to the effect that “you can always count on Americans to do the right thing… after they have exhausted every possible alternative.” How long will it take to do the right thing?

Read another commentary here by Mrs. G. at the Women’s Colony.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Playing in the Heat

Here are some photos I took this morning... trying to get some outside play time before it hits 100.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fireworks and Photography Dreams...

When I was little, my dream was to be a photographer for National Geographic. One year for Christmas (I was about 8), I asked my parents for a camera. They gave me their old one, as they had just bought a newer one. They also gave me one (and only one) roll of film--it wasn't even a roll--it was one of those old cameras that took like a cartridge). I took pictures like this one, of my Aunt's hair with her family

(Danielle, how cute is that little guy?)

I think that was the only roll of film they bought me (way to encourage a child's dreams, huh?). My next roll, I bought around 12 with my hard-earned baby-sitting money. But between film and processing I didn't end up taking many pictures. I put that dream on the shelf and took up cheaper hobbies--like reading (library books) and thinking. I still have that old camera somewhere, I still have a few of those first pics and I still have that interest in capturing reality.

About 5 years ago my husband bought me a film SLR and I took a photography class. That was the year I was going though surgeries and immuno-therapy for Melanoma. I didn't have a lot of energy, but it was cool to learn about some of the fundamentals of photography. Yet, I felt a little that I had missed that boat. The cost and time involved in film processing was still a little of a put-off, especially when digital cameras were so prevalent.

I like the idea of film shooting--I have seen some really cool photos--before the days of photo-shop. I still like the idea that the picture you take is the picture you get and I don't know if I'll ever use photo-shop much (even though you can do some really cool stuff there too). But I am a seeker of instant gratification--I like to take out my photo card, stick it in the computer and see my pics instantaneously. With film, it takes too long to see what you did.

But I still liked the idea of controlling some of the aspects of the shot--which you can't do with most point and shoot cameras. So my faithful husband, read my mind once again and bought me a digital SLR. Even the photos on automatic settings are great, but it was so hard to find the time to sit down and figure out the manual and partial-manual settings. It is also terribly hard to take the time to go out take pictures. I have been trying to do that more though and thought that July 4th would be a great opportunity to shoot fireworks.

We almost didn't go because they start late and the kids and blah blah, but then decided last minute to just be brave and do it. So we went. There was no time to figure out the best angle or spot for shooting and we ended up way too close. I also didn't have the time to fool around with the settings much. We were close and the fireworks (and the canons at the end of the 1812 Overture!) were so loud that both kids freaked out. Nico cried the whole time and G had her ears covered for the duration. I was trying to hold and comfort Nico and just pressing the button taking pics and hoping some of them would turn out. It was also really hot--we were all uincomfortable.

I took almost 150 photos and they all suck. How sad is that? I did it all on manual, so I am proud of myself for that, but my shutter speed wasn't slow enough or I had Nico and I couldn't frame the picture right. We were so close that you can see all the rocket spirals in the pics.

This is as good as it got:

Oh well, I'll figure it out eventually...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Form or Function?

This girl is all about function... well like 90%.

With only a few exceptions, I think more about how efficient/useful/comfortable something is before fussing about aesthetics.

I have been thinking about this for a while... every time I go grocery shopping actually... after reading a few blog posts complaining about those green "green bags" that are now being sold at grocery stores in an effort to cut down on the plastic bags in landfills. The complaint was that they are unsightly (ugly)... so much so that a few of the bloggers had even refused to use them and had sworn off reusable bags until they had come across some cute ones that could help them be more "earth-minded" without sacrificing their sense of style.

I use them and I LOVE them. Here are my thoughts on the matter:

Who the HELL cares what your grocery bags look like? Seriously!... no seriously!

Would you like to see my well-thought-out argument on the matter? I thought so.

1. The plastic ones that are filling up land-fills are not dazzlingly lovely, so why the worry about aesthetics with reusable ones?

2. Theese "ugly" green bags cost 99 cents. If you are like me--you need between 8-10. I don't want to spend $5-20 bucks per bag (times 10) that I will be using for gallons of milk and ground beef... no matter how cute.

3. Did I mention grocery bags hold milk and meat and other things that drip and spill?

4. They hold a ton... much more than your run-of-the-mill plastic bag and more than even the paper alternative (which, btw, are not all that more ecologically viable).

5. Using reusable bags makes you feel like a super-hero... saving the earth one shopping trip at a time (while buying imported pesticide-ridden produce and ultra-packaged products... well, you can't fight every battle all the time.)

It's not that I am anti-aesthetic... it's not that I don't want a cute reusable bag... just not for groceries (but maybe to feel better about my running shoes with the sweat-shop-sewn leather upper) just kidding of course.

What about you? Are you form or function?