Friday, December 19, 2008

A Call To Action

On the Connor and Tavi front, the brief respite that gave us all a little hope is fading back to confusion and fear. No one seems to have answers when it comes to motive or reason. This is the email I received today, on behalf of Steph:

From: Organic Internet
Subject: A Call To Action - and a thank you for all of the support
Date: Friday, December 19, 2008, 10:22 AM

This is a Call To Action.

Many people have asked “what can I do?”… I have really left it up to individuals to come up with their best way of participation, as I am not really good at asking people for things, and I am not sure what support is needed. As things have progressed, and through suggestions from others, I have come up with several different ways that our community (both locally and nationally) can help Connor and Tavvi in their struggle to stay with their family.

The following is a list of directions and a plea for help.

Case # is HN18847

Judge name: E. Preston Grissom
Presiding Judge Chesapeake Circuit Court

Contact Pat Cannon.

The children's GAL, Pat Cannon, can be reached at 757-409-8189 cell, e-mail pc_sharkbite@yahoo.com.

She is a legal advocate for the kids in the state of Virginia , and she opposed this decision to move the children. She helped pave the way in Virginia as we were working here, in Oregon , to oppose the removal of the children Tuesday, December 16th.

Due to the legal nature of this situation, Pat cannot give out much information, but she can listen. If anyone wants to offer their support to the children and have it represented in court, please email Pat Cannon.

What we need now is jurisdiction transferred back to Oregon . We need any and all folks who know these kids, have seen their progress to write letters on their behalf (some of us have already done that and are on record with OR DHS, but need to do it again).

We need to be loud, assertive, respectful, and peaceful. Please mail letters to Pat Cannon the children's GAL, who is fighting this fight by herself in VA. She needs as much support as we can muster in OR.

Anyone who doesn't know the kids, but are moved by this story please write an opinion piece and send it to Pat Cannon. She needs all of this for court. Anyone who have any ideas for legal support, community awareness now is the time even more than before for action. We want to keep these kids home.

You can e-mail letters to Pat Cannon.
pc_sharkbite@yahoo.com

Help Get Legal Representation

I will be calling and emailing today. Timing is so horrible; I understand that it is going to be hard to get anyone’s attention right now, before Christmas. We only have a few days to move some pretty big mountains. I would appreciate help in calling and emailing legal aid and assistance people and groups. If these groups are contacted respectfully by a community, instead of just an individual, we may get a crack at some attention even during the holidays.

www.osbar.org/probono/substantive.html

CASA (child advocacy) contact Leslie Roemmer at 503-988-5115
Oregon State Bar Problem Solvers (this is for kids to access from age 11-18)
Attorney for Youth, contact carlnoonan@dwt.com
Lewis and Clark Legal Clinic, contact Richard Slottee at 503-768-6500
St. Andrew Legal Clinic, Joel Overlund at 503-281-1500
Helping Hands at 541-386-4808
Bradley-Angle House, conact Karla McFarland at 503-282-9940
ACLU, Jann Carson at 503-227-3186.
These are attorneys that work with family law/ child custody cases.

Randy Phil Oetken 503-659-4440
John C. Moore 503-675-4300
Steven Edward 503-636-3595
Jon Thomas Pixton 503-968-2020
James Elery Carroll 503-245-5003
Bruce Grant Thompson 503-226-6491
Robert Harris 503-228-6099

Contact State Representatives

Help us lift our voice up the chain!

Oregon

http://governor.oregon.gov/Gov/contact_us.shtml

http://wyden.senate.gov/contact/

http://gsmith.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.Home

Virginia

http://www.governor.virginia.gov/AboutTheGovernor/contactGovernor.cfm



Contact Virginia DHS

Now, this one is a bit sketchy. I have put some thought into this, however, and I think that if the DHS system in Virginia is consistently reminded that there is a community loving, protecting, valuing, and advocating for these children, that it looks a lot different than two kids that can just be bullied and then snagged.

I IMPLORE you… I beg. Please, if you choose to contact Virginia DHS, use non-violent communication, respect, and be polite. What I am asking for is this:

Call and/or email.

Keep it simple.

“Hi, my name is __________. I am part of Tavvi and Connor’s community and I need to voice that I support them and value their family connection. I oppose efforts at removing them from their home. Thank you.”

If you email, please “cc” Pat Cannon onto the email (pc_sharkbite@yahoo.com)

Ethel Hassell
757-382-2250
ehassell@cityofchesapeake.net

Email Chain

Everyone on your contact lists are fair game!

Subject Line:

Child Welfare Emergency

Content:

(You can add your own content, if you rather)

Two children, Connor and Tavvi, are being threatened with forceful removal from their family – right before Christmas.

www.theystayhome.blogspot.com

www.helpuskeepthemhome.blogspot.com

Please, help us pass along this information by forwarding this email to everyone you know.

Thank you for the consideration.



Websites and Blog and Bulletin Repost

You can copy the email above, and keep it simple, or write your own opinion piece on this situation. When you post it, please ask others to do the same. If you are comfortable with it, I will post a link to your blog on www.helpuskeepthemhome.blogspot.com to show a chain of support. If you do NOT want a link to your site or blog posted on ours, please do not let that stop you – the link is optional.

Media

Oregon Media

I will work on a press release that can be posted far and wide. I will also update with more media contacts (numbers, specific names, more sites) as I do some research. If you have any ideas of media outlets (radio shows, etc), please let me know. I would be grateful if a LOT of people contacted the media… help us get the exposure that we need right now.

Evaluations and Conversations

Do you have a degree or certification in a field that can lend its legitimacy to our situation? Talk with us! We are trying to compile documentation, and connecting with help is very important to us right now.

Other

Does anyone have experience with building websites or have webspace for hosting a site? I have some know how, but my resources are limited right now, and time is a factor. I will be trying to get an actual website put together in the next day. I would be grateful for any assistance.

Do you have a video camera or a digital camera that we could borrow this week? Our digital camera has some serious technical limitations, and we have no video capacity. We really want to create some video media on our own.

Do you have a skill or talent that can help? I am totally open minded… If you have a website, please drop a small blurb with a link to our blogs.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Revolution

The trailer is worthwhile just for the Nina Simone.

But I'm also captivated by the potential of the story. It could be a very worthwhile movie. I know I'll be seeing it as soon as I can (not sure if it will open in The Homeland... and I won't be back in the great PNW until January).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Connor and Tavvi Update



Tavvi and Connor are still at home - for today.

I was unable to be there (between sick baby, icy roads, and our own schools' late start, I couldn't make it in time). But apparently Steph held her ground with well-spoken grace and confidence and the VA social worker left without the kids and without involving police. What now? I don't know.

M Lewis at the Shame on Virginia blog seems to be keeping a pretty thorough and timely series of updates. I highly recommend reading her entry: How It Happens.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Education Bubble

"[...] the people that need help now are not leaches. They are not, as a group, stupid or even any greedier than any other consumer in this culture. They are not shiftless or lazy or in any other manner inferior."

So what are they/we? Suckers for the "American Dream" BS? For all the reasons you mention, I think higher education will be the next bubble to pop.--Anonymous Comment


What are they/we? I'm not sure. I think it's possible that anyone from the working poor through the upper middle class can or does fall into this, to some extent.

I think you may be right about the higher education bubble. It seems our society is in for some shifting and restructuring and the growing pains (assuming that we are progressing, somehow) may be widespread.

I'd love to hear more about what you forecast. :o)

Tavvi and Connor

There's a family, here in the greater PDX area, that I've known for a while now. It's a pretty crazy story with way more drama than anyone should ever have to deal with. The short version is that there's a young mother with a preschooler of her own, who jumped through every hoop necessary to become a foster parent for her three younger siblings. These foster kids have been through worse abuse than most of us could ever imagine.

This is Conner.


This is Tavvi.


Connor and Tavvi's older sister, Steph, has done amazing things. The kids have needed serious therapy. She made sure they got it. They are currently in a private, therapeutic school with friends and a real chance at stability. These are not things that the state (or anyone else) casually offered. Steph has gone to extreme effort and expense to provide the best care possible for these kids. What I consider even more important, they love each other. They are a functioning family, now.

I'm not a lawyer. I'm not sure how or why this is being done, but apparently the state of Virginia, where the biological parents who caused all this pain and trouble currently reside, are taking these kids to Virginia on Tuesday. Not to live with rehabilitated parents, mind you, but to be split up and placed in foster care with people they don't know so that IF the bio-parents decide they are willing to perform the necessary rehabilitation, the kids can be returned to them. But it's been over two years and as far as I know, these parents have made no move to participate in any rehabilitation efforts... so I have to say this sounds like a horrible failure of a system put in place to protect children.

If you look back to my birthday entry from last year, you'll see a bunch of people sitting around... those blue-haired ones... that's who I'm talking about. We're talking about a lot of time, growth, love, security and stability, all gone.

Of course, they can tell it better than I can, so check out:
Tavvi and Connor want to stay home
Mothering.Commune forum discussing this story
and
Shame on Virginia Blog I don't think I know the woman who's running this one, but Steph and Urban Princess (HRH UP is one of Steph's close friends and is also going to the mat on this) recommend it.

Check it out. If you have advice, suggestions or words of support you can leave them at Steph's site. If you'd rather just comment here, I'll pass them along. Thanks!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Reality Bites

When I think of strength, or of motherhood, or of desperation, or of the future, this is the image I can't get out of my mind. Dorothea Lange captured so much in this portrait; far beyond any other description.

This recession, this financial nosedive the talking heads like to cluck about on the news... This is what they're talking about.

A while back, I was watching Anderson Cooper on CNN, "reporting" on the criminals responsible for this financial crisis. After a series blasting various CEOs, the featured jerk was... You.

Yes, this highly paid newsman actually had the gall to report that the extreme greed and irresponsibility of the average person was at the heart of the matter. I find that disgusting.

What has the concept of "Middle Class" been, other than a trap?

I'm no economist, but it seems to me that it has been quite profitable to hook people into credit traps and essentially force them into indentured servitude. Before anyone gets out their fiscal conservativism combat manual, think about when most "middle class" people fall: college. With higher education essential for finding employment and therefore access to a middle class lifestyle, one must be able to pay for college. And anyone who's had to go through the financial aid gauntlet knows that it is assumed - expected - that the student and/or the student's parents will take out any loans necessary to bridge the gap between aid packages and income. So, many of them take out these loans that are exempt from bankruptcy relief because what other shot does a kid have to break out of the paycheck-to-paycheck life?

So the kid goes to college and in the welcome package given out at the bookstore are several credit card offers tailored to students. And heck, a kid's got to eat. And feel grown up. And pay that unexpected fee or buy that essential supply that ran out too early. Mom and Dad already had to take out a mortgage to send the kid to school, so there's not much more blood to be squeezed from that stone... So assuming the kid finishes with a bachelor's degree (heaven forbid a student doesn't finish the degree - like if they get blasted with a crippling illness, physical or mental), they're already loaded with so much "good debt" that they will probably be paying the rest of their lives. Plus the bad debt, where all money will go from that entry level job that doesn't pay nearly as much as expected... and which will probably build, bit by bit, as the now-worker must have a car and food and business attire... And with every promotion, or even every year that goes by, there's more pressure to appear successful... better cars, spouse, kids, "starter home" mortgage...

What happens when one of the parents can't work? Or one of the kids has cancer? How far are they from the streets? A month? A year? What happens when jobs start drying up and someone who followed advice and sunk deep into good debt, while responsibly contributing to the 401(k), finds that all their responsibility can not control very much - and if the expensively educated person can find a job, it's comparable in pay and benefits to the person who lives on the edge of poverty, even without a student loan and college degree?

They are forever stuck playing catch-up, while the bigwigs who got the whole credit fiasco started manage to just get richer. And richer. And richer.

It's the middle class lie.

The poorest and richest among us find the view about the same. And both can mock the hubris of the people who believe that whole "American Dream" thing.

Contrary to the Neocon BS that's been spread pretty thick the past several years, the people that need help now are not leeches. They are not, as a group, stupid or even any greedier than any other consumer in this culture. They are not shiftless or lazy or in any other manner inferior. And I consider highly suspect those whose judgement turns up anything less humane. People need help. Not them. Us. Because we are all in this together.

This is a website worth browsing: One Dollar Diet Project.

Some Jobs Just Aren't Worth It

My wonderful husband sent me the link to this:



(Warning: Does contain some profanity.)

Up for Air

I'm doing better. Cautiously optimistic.

It's gray out, sunless and cold, the air dripping splats of freezing rain. My window reveals a blurry view of brittle variations of green, from diseased blackberries to skeletal trees bristling with moss. Winter is here.

I don't have to be anywhere. I'd have already made my legendary pumpkin bread, but I'm out of eggs. Ah me, from all that I have seen and heard, the course of true love (baking) never did run smooth. (I'm sure Shakespeare was really thinking about baking. He was a smart cookie. heh)

Thanks to those who emailed, called and texted. I feel loved. And supported. And a little embarrassed. ;o)

So here's hoping that was an aberrant glitch and I can get back to my normal levels of neuroticism.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rapid Cycling?

For the past few days the mood swings have been absolute hell. I go from OK to well above baseline to so ghastly depressed that I seriously start fantasizing about "falling" off bridges. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

This is scarily similar to what was going on in Hawaii the last year or so I was there. It hurts like that and I don't know why.

Yesterday afternoon I sat on my couch, wishing I could wish myself out of existence, while my kids got increasingly grumpy and needy. I know how I'm supposed to feel and act. I forced myself to smile and cuddle and answer questions, all while the noise level in my head increased to an unbearable crescendo. Somewhere in there I managed to peel myself off the sofa and made sugar cookies with Bayba. They're her favorite. And I almost ruined the whole effort by snapping at her about putting the cookie cutters in her mouth. Poor kiddo was crushed. I apologized, but it's not like an apology really fixes anything. I think she still had fun. And I breathed through minute by minute, trying to just surface between waves without drowning. I made it through. Even made dinner.

And now I have another whole day ahead of me. I had one little jag of OK-ness in which I got laundry and dishes going. Then the wave crashed down and I'm under water again.

The shittiest thing about depression is looking ahead and seeing an endless parade of days... knowing you can't count on anything ever getting better. Sure, I know it can be better than what's going on right now. But I also know I have only minimal control over this. I've been doing all the right things - I think. I've been taking my meds, exercising regularly, meditation... and I was doing so well for so long. Now what?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Protest Much?

Wow. That title is about as far away from Shakespeare's line as one might get while still using any of the words. Oh well.

So there's been a kerfuffle of protest at the Capitol. More signs. Moving the atheist sign to a less obvious place. Rabid "Christians" protesting. Signs.

As for the signs and protests - hey, more power to 'em. They're wrong. But they can say whatever they want, no matter how idiotic. I'll forever defend their right to do so.

But if you want a little chill with your threat of dystopia, look up a news article or two covering this and read the comments. It's scary how many people in this country think the only good atheist is a dead atheist (and I'm not sure they really approve of those).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Heritage

I don't think I've mentioned, in my bloggy ramblings, how much I love the teacher G-Rex has, this year. Mr. G and I agree that we now have to live in this town until all our kids are at least done with middle school because the magnet program for the "gifted" kids is so freaking awesome. When G-Rex was offered this opportunity, we had no idea how huge it was going to be. Gifted programs have come a long way since our old Bloom folders and boredom days.

Anyway, the project that comprises all homework until Winter break, is a series of smaller projects designed around the concept of heritage. So one thing we've been working on at home, this week, is coming up with a recipe for Gwennie to make to share with her class during their Winter Break party.

After deciding we were going to go with her Polish ancestry (technically, she's got more Scottish in her, as a total percentage, but we have a lot better access to the Polish information and traditions), I began emailing back and forth with my mother about Polish dishes she remembers from childhood. So, today G-Rex and I made kolache. Right now it's still in the oven. It will be fun to eat it.

Because I am my mother's daughter, I had a lot of fun with Gwennie, working on measurements and discussing what purpose each ingredient serves and what the various actions/manipulations did to the ingredients. FUN! My Mom made every activity a science lesson. The kolache is fun, but the seeing the science in everything is the heritage I really hope to pass down.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Little Life

Still rantless. Don't worry, though... one is aways churning under the surface.

Today I took G-Rex out on a date. She chose to go to the mall. Hmm. Malls at Xmas. Lots of hipsters/emo kids. That's fun to watch. I thought they were too cool for such suburban destinations. heh Apparently they think they are too... which is why they slouch and scowl while waiting in line at Sabarro. And I'm loving the disenfranchised would-have-been-goth girls sporting Twilight gear.

Speaking of Twilight. May I please just point out how scary it is for me as a feminist mother to see that teens' concept of love and romance is just as idiotic as it was when I was a kid. Our marketers are wicked good. (Yes, I realize many teens have a better head on their shoulders, but I'm guessing those would agree with me, more often than not... ah hubris, thy name is (me).) But COME ON. How can a controlling stalker vampire really be considered so fabulous? Blech. Pining is so overrated.

One funny people-watching moment... Middle aged man accompanying young teen (probably 13 or 14 year old) girl in the food court wearing a T-shirt with DAD in big letters on the back... included smaller print details about fixing stuff with duct tape and other such things. I wondered if this was strategic. I've never really thought, before, about what it might be like to be a Dad accompanying his teen daughter. I remember, when I was about 14 or so, going out to breakfast with my Dad. He mentioned, as we were leaving that the waitress had been giving him the stink-eye throughout the meal. He wondered if she thought I was his girlfriend or something. At the time I found that quite amusing. Now, not so much. Yikes. Anyway, I wondered if that Dad in the food court had planned ahead and wore his "Dad" T-shirt to protect him from harsh judgement.

It points out to me, yet again, how the sexism in our culture hurts both the sexes.

Anyway... it's been a nice day. G-Rex had fun at Sephora and is now all be-glittered (thank the flying spaghetti monster for makeup people with kids of their own... our wonderful warpaint guide successfully steered G-Rex away from the clown makeup and captivated her with clear gloss and discrete face glitter... ah!!!). I was able to usher her through the gauntlet of kiosk salespeople (AAAAAArgh!) without having to be too gruff. Hopefully G-Rex is picking up on that. But it's a pain and I suspect if they (especially those stupid scented pillow people and the stupid fingernail lotion people who come awfully close to assault) don't back off a little, we're going to see a rash of salespeople being beaten to death with their own fingernail buffers. We bought fudge and ate caramel apples.

And that, as they say, is that.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Goddesses and Wiggles

First, just too cute not to share with everyone... This afternoon I played Memory with Bayba the Dynamatrix. I went a little easy on her (yeah I'm a sucker for that whole "kid" thing when it comes to competition). She was ecstatic. Literally. Jumping, giggling, wiggling, VIBRATING with joy. I need to spend more time focused on her. She so RAWKS.

And the whole "goddess" bit of the title: No, I don't believe in goddesses, per se, but I do love pondering the values, imagery, etc. of various goddesses. From time to time, one will strike my fancy and so I examine myself and my place in society (and the world) through the lens of archetype. My favorite to date has been Saraswati. I grew up afraid of the notion of goddess. To dwell overmuch on female deity was blasphemy. Such a taboo. Maybe when I've healed all those wounds I won't need mythology to help me adjust my misfit brain to the rest of the world. Until then, I enjoy pondering what women are, and what has been expected of them both in the mundane and mythological realms.

Bah Humbug

Missing atheist sign found in Washington state (CNN)

I would like to point out that, "An atheist sign criticizing Christianity that was erected alongside a Nativity scene was taken from the Legislative Building in Olympia, Washington, on Friday and later found in a ditch." is not correct. The sign did not criticize Christianity. It criticized religion. But I can see how monotheists might assume incorrectly. The text of the sign read:

"At this season of the winter solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

I hear it has since been replaced, complete with attached note citing, "Thou shalt not steal." I haven't verified that part, though.

I just don't get why this is an issue. Remove ALL religious paraphernalia from government buildings. Duh.

If You've Run Out of Rant and You Know It...

Pass a meme! lol

I'll get back on my atheism rant wagon in the next day or two, now that I've shrugged off a couple of days of pretty dark depression (a whole other rant: "break-through" depression... and people and doctors that think the "right" pill will prevent it altogether), but for the moment I'll take a mental break and pass along Possum Momma's meme. Which is to say I'm shamelessly stealing her idea because I'm feeling creatively impotent. (Creatively Impotent - that's almost as good an alter ego as Anomic Entropy!)

What makes you happy? The rules are simple: list ten things you're happy about or thankful for. Tag ten people who you're happy to call friend at the end of the meme.

1. I am thankful for the www. I learn so much EVERY STINKING DAY from brilliant, thoughtful people... mostly in the form of reading "real" blogs by people who didn't go crazy and drop out of college. Every day I gain insight into my own intellectual weaknesses and illogical/prejudicial ways of thinking. This makes me a better person and a better mother. This makes me happy because it's free and I can gain knowledge from the comfort of my own home, regardless of emotional/social capabilities.
2. Being "old" makes me happy. I've pretty much become my Self and am finding it easier and easier to discard old angst and baggage.
3. My stand mixer makes me happy. A couple years back I bought a refurbished Pro series Kitchenaid mixer. It kneads my bread dough... even the pizza dough that has to have the holy hell kneaded out of it (quite a long process). It mixes cookie dough, cakes, and makes Swiss meringue buttercream do-able.
4. My new coffeemaker makes me happy. I finally bought one with the thermal carafe. I just had a cup of coffee. At noon. It was still hot and not scorched. A moment of beauty. Ahhhhh...
5. My dog makes me happy. She's a pain in the butt and sheds all over the place. But watching her interact so gently with the kids interrupts even my pissiest moods. Plus, she lets me stick my perpetually-cold feet on her furry belly in the morning while I check my email. Best footwarmer ever.
6. My cast iron skillet makes me happy. I cook everything in it. Even the stuff I probably shouldn't. I didn't roast the T-day turkey in it, though. It wouldn't fit.
7. My relationship with my geeky husband makes me happy. There's something to be said for hooking up with someone whose neurotic baggage complements your own.
8. My children make me happy. Even when they're trying patience I never knew I had, I can't help but admit that becoming a mother catapaulted me into a whole different, richer life than I had imagined for myself.
9. Strong friendships make me happy. Through every twist and turn of an all-too-often tumultuous life, the variable that tipped the scales into surviving and thriving where others too often do neither is the support of the strongest friendships ever. Always better than I deserve.
10. I am happy that, ten years ago, give or take a day (or month, possibly, I have a few chunks of time missing right around there), I made the decision to save what Self I had left and walk away from an abusive marriage. None of the happiness I have now would be possible if I hadn't. Sometimes I have little bouts of anxiety that blogging or in any other way being visible will bring my current life to his attention. So I'm also happy that hasn't happened yet. Ten years. Still have the souvenirs. But I'm here, dammit. Yup. Pretty happy about that. :o)

How's that for being able to Debbie Downer a happy list meme? heh

I tag Western Warmth, Urban Princess, Tamar, Sarah Free, Butterfly, Rob, Wendy Darling, Aimless, Woozlefreak and Eunice. :o)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

One of the Few Things...

...that could worm it's way through the depression muck I'm stuck in:
Proposition 8: The Musical

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die


Nice.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Candlelight Blues

This is the first birthday in recent memory that leaves me feeling... meh...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Memories...

Facebook. It's pretty wild.

Today I became friends with a girl I wasn't particularly nice to, growing up. She was one of my cousin's best friends, but I kind of had a chip on my shoulder about her and wasn't as friendly (back then) as I should have been. Want to know why? Of course you do.

Because, in first grade, she was one of the few girls who would play Army with me, but we always fought over who got to be general. Or, rather, she would declare herself general and go play with our other friends and I would sulk in a corner because *I* wanted to be general.

It didn't occur to me, then, just to think it was cool that other girls would play Army with me. Or to attempt a coups, for that matter. Heh

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sentimentalist

OK, I was just perusing The Digital Cuttlefish and came across this gem:



Wow. That's the first Christmas song in a while to actually bring a tear to my eye. Very nice. Had to share.

Life Uncommon

Happy Thanksgiving.

Want a potentially trite sounding gratitude list? I knew you did. On Thanksgiving we all get to rough draft our eventual Oscar acceptance speeches.

I'd like to thank my parents for giving me life. Thank you, Mom, for teaching me about education and dedication and for raising me to appreciate fine details and accuracy. Thank you for dragging me, kicking and screaming, through lessons of food preparation and household maintenance. I fought you every minute and had a horrible attitude. Only now, as a mother, do I have any clue how much work it was for you to perservere and teach me what I needed to know. Thank you for helping me work around my bad attitude at school and still get outstanding educational opportunities. Thank you for making it possible for me to take algebra through the college when I wasn't permitted to progress in junior high. Thank you for your endless hours at the dinner table, explaining the concepts that frustrated me. I don't know if you remembe how annoyed I was, trying to understand why suddenly I had to solve for f(x) rather than just y, like it had been before. When I got to Calculus the additional understanding of functions was quite helpful. Dad, thank you for your empathy as I struggled through adolescence. Thank you for being my verbal sparring partner and political pugilist all these years.

I'd like to thank my oldest brother for letting me listen to rock music and teaching me the keyboard parts to a few songs, when I was little. Your attention meant the world to me, and playing opening chords from random 80s music is still a fun party trick.

Thanks, oldest sister, for inspiring me to write. My earliest short stories and poetry were pathetic mimicries of your work. When you were in Germany I cherished a book of poetry you had begun and commenced writing my own. I don't know how I would have survived that year without the creative outlet writing offered.

Little sister, I adore you. I admire you. Your intelligence and warmth make me feel better about humanity as a whole. When I share my views on religion, I always fear it will alienate me from all my loved ones, but every time I have exposed an emotional wound or frustrations or even just gone on a ranting bender, you have patiently listened and then provided calm, intelligent points of view that bring me to a more peaceful, humble way of thinking. We may not agree on some things, but I always get the impression that our hearts are in the same place. I can not overstate the value of this in my life.

Baby brother, you rock. I still worry that the cruelty I directed toward you in childhood may have done real damage. Hopefully it didn't, but I'm still sorry about that. I have loved watching you become a father. Your daughter is fortunate to have you for her male role model and first hero.

Mr. McGeeky, G-Rex, Bayba and Muggle - You are my world and I'll tell you all more about that after I make dinner for you.

HRH UP - Sorry I won't get to see you today. Thank you for teaching me some social skills and about forgiveness and the endurance of friendship.

Mrs. Bosazzle - I don't want to embarrass you in public, so I won't go into all the things about you I'm thankful for, but I wanted to make sure you know you're important to me.

OK, I've been hearing the exit music in my head, so I suppose I should wrap this up...

I love you all! Thank you all for enriching my life and making me a better person.









Funny, my exit music seems to be the sound of aliens getting shot, amidst gruff voices repeating phrases like, "Your warriors have engaged the enemy!" "Upgrade complete!" "I have returned!" and "My life for Aiur!" heh

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Grace Under Pressure

If my blog were a Monty Python movie, this would be the part where it arbitrarily cuts from the actual story to some sort of wierd incongruent intermission...

So The Plan was to do the whole Thanksgiving brouhaha at the Urban Princess' house. I was in charge of dessert (of course... heh *preen* ), so my only grocery efforts had been to procure ingredients for a pumpkin pie/pumpkin cheesecake hybrid and a chocolate pecan pie.

And then the kids got sick. And puked. And leaked diarrhea all over the floor (on the tile, thank the FSM!). Yeah. *shudder*

So I had to cancel plans with Her Royal Highness, Urban Princess. HRH UP, if you will. Or not. Whatever.

And that left us with no Thanksgiving. Not the meaningful part... That beauteous meal that is the gastronomical highlight of my year... I LOVE traditional Thanksgiving food. So much so that I was going to make a T-Day spread for my birthday dinner. There's just no way I can cope with eating something lesser tomorrow.

So after Mr. McG got home, I tossed mac and cheese at the people who could tolerate solid food and took off to the grocery store.

$70 later, here I am. My pumpkin cheesecake pies are in the oven, my brine is cooling (I'll put Mr. Turkey in the brine before I go to bed), and I have the basic timeline listed for tomorrow. I only have one oven, after all, so orchestration is imperitive. Immediately after the turkey hits the oven it's time to get the dinner rolls mixing (must be from scratch... bread is always worth it), then yams, then yukon golds boiling for mashed potatoes, then the dressing, the green bean casserole, and finally the cranberries. Complemented with a Ginger Orange Cranberry punch. Whew.

Damn I'm good.

I will be photographing the food. And maybe even a kid or two.

Plus, I'll freeze some leftovers to heat up for my birthday so I won't have to cook (except for the cake... but that's baking, which is much better than cooking).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beyond the Rant

It's been a lovely day. First, I surprised G-Rex at her classroom with pumpkin muffins for her class (a collaboration with her teacher... a GOOD surprise, not an obnoxious one, I hope... it wasn't my idea!). Then I spent a day getting knocked out of my isolated ranting place.

So at the moment I'm feeling a little humbled. A little less know-it-all. Temporarily free of my inferiority/superiority bipolar swing. Nice.

So, Mrs. Warmth. FINALLY I get you to weigh in! About time! ;o)

Seriously, though - I love it when you speak up because I know you'll present different views intelligently and provide a little balance (which we both know I sometimes lack). One particular gem in your last comment: "Why do you believe scientists? My opinion is that you've had repeated good experiences with believing things scientists have written or said and so now you continue to believe them despite you not actually being present and part of the physicality of their studies. I think for Believers, it is somewhat similar." In my case, you are right - although I can't speak for any other atheistic science groupies.

The difference between the two is the method. I am not sufficiently educated to prove or disprove all the science out there. But I understand the checks and balances of peer review and that the rigors of academic thought are likely to provide the best information.

To go with the brain analogy, no I have not seen my brain. But I could. Science has provided fabulous imaging tools. A doctor can safely say I have a brain and can provide mountains of evidence to back up his or her claim. Should the evidence not convince me, my head could be cut open to provide absolute verification. No belief is actually required.

With religion, everything is based on emotion. Do you feel something is right? Do you feel something is wrong? Do you feel you can trust the person who claims to speak for God? It's all about the feeling of hope and security.

Feelings are fickle, easily manipulated things which can color and corrupt thinking. It seems most people trust their feelings to be reasonably accurate reflections of reality.

I don't.

The benefit of having had the experience of thoughts and emotions COMPLETELY out of control - and now having perceptions and interpretations of reality that generally stand up to corroboration - is knowing how faulty our senses can be. I know what it's like to hear and see things and not know until later that my brain made it all up... once I got over the terror (well, mostly... I don't know as I'll ever be totally over it... but I don't live every day with the fear of losing my grip, anymore) it was really quite enlightening. No matter how good or bad someone's intentions may be, no human can perceive objective reality except through subjective experiences.

Religious practices expect people to prefer emotional responses, and seems to consider emotional reactions to be more valuable than rational data. Feeling that something is right is more reflective of God than data. But quite often, idividuals' messages from God come at cross-purposes. Think of all the religious wars. Everyone thinks God is on their side and that the other is deluded. The truth? There is no truth because it's all subject to personal belief. God can not be proven to be or do or think anything. Why are your feelings right?

And what does it say (if anything) if something as simple as swallowing a pill changes how you feel? Which feeling is the correct one?

And what if God talks to you all the time until you take a medication that stops your hallucinations? Going from seeing bugs that aren't there and hearing conversations that aren't happening and feeling a deep, personal relationship with God to... nothing. What is the most likely explanation? Maybe the not the most comfortable, but the most likely is that the chemicals that manufactured a sense of "God" are the same that concocted all the other things that aren't there.

And yes, God/Goddess returns if meds go away and stress goes up.

So... does my subjective interpretation of that experience matter or do you want some science to explain stuff like that?

My favorite book on perception and belief is, How We Believe by Michael Shermer (really, anything by Michael Shermer is going to be good).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meaningful

This morning I was reading some comments on Possum Mama's blog. One (Renee's) that was both annoying (because of its off-base assumption) and important (because those same assumptions are SO outrageously prevalent amongst Believers) asked about traditions and cultural/moral memes atheists pass down to their children.

The assumptions always seem to orbit around the notion that atheists have neither morals nor any traditions to cherish as part of a family and a society. The former makes me angry. The latter simply baffles me.

To address the moral issue: Morals have nothing to do with religion. Read Richard Dawkin's fine book, The Selfish Gene. Seriously. It's worth it.

Now, for traditions... We may not read the Nativity story in Luke as part of our Christmas festivities, but otherwise our celebrations probably look quite familiar.

Yes, we celebrate Christmas. When I first left the Mormon church, but hadn't yet finished my journey to atheism, I spent a few years as a Wiccan. Part of what attracted me to Wicca was digging through history and learning more about the roots of our popular holidays (unfortunately for my religious yearnings, studying history and anthropology killed any suspension of disbelief I could muster and left me ultimately admitting to myself that Wicca was as silly as any other religion - just more fun). So for a while I was pretty hardcore about celebrating The Winter Solstice or Saturnalia or anything with less brow-beaten baggage than Christmas. After having G-Rex and feeling a heavy burden to teach her truth, I had to drop cherished religious chestnuts, one by one, until I was left with Atheism. No, not agnosticism. Atheism. When I finally got to that point, I realized that it didn't matter what I called it. My family has called it Christmas for generations, so that's what my kids celebrate.

There are so many good, important things to teach my children. They learn about the Christian Nativity story. They learn about the Solstice and some of the celebrations archaeologists and historians have described. But those details aren't very important.


Important Things I Teach My Children (and specific holiday practical applications):
1. Family is The Most Important Part of Life. Full Stop.
Our Christmases are so wholesome and family oriented, we could make Norman Rockwell tap out. The quintessential American family road trip spirits us away to The Homeland my grandfathers homesteaded where extended families pack into warm homes, nestled in snow drifted mountain emptiness, to eat too much, talk too much, and attempt to fit a year's worth of joy into a week. This is not an easy thing. We have to save money and budget for it. We have to winterize our wimpy PNW cars and traverse icy mountain passes. But it's what we do because it's important. And it has nothing to do with religion.
2. Tolerance matters.
But tolerance is not the same as actively embracing the vivid, intelligent people who might think differently than we do. We love people who disagree with us. And we are loved by people who disagree with us. Homogeny is not necessary and thinking for oneself is not a fearsome thing.
3. It pretty much rocks to give AND receive.
4. History matters.
Those who have gone before leave fascinating legacies. Learning from their strengths and weaknesses can help us more actively and consciously shape the selves and family we are.
5. Solstices are cool.
Astronomy is fun.

There's more, I'm sure, but I'm getting tired of listing and need to go make dinner.

My point is that for holidays, as is true for every other aspect of humanity, nothing of value has been lost for lack of deity. And, for me, an authenticity has been gained that I never would have expected had I not relinquished the safety net of faith to pursue knowledge.

(I'm concerned that the final sentence sounds like I think religious folk have no use for knowledge and that's not what I mean. However, on the search for truth, there is the brick wall of faith... where a person has to decide that there are things they can't understand yet must accept to please God. I defy the notion that accepting anything "on faith" is a good idea. Why stop at faith when, with effort, one might know?)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Boundaries

If you choose to send me email in reference to my blog (especially if it's rude, grumpy email), I will feel free to post it and reply via the blog. And no, I will not go out of my way to remove headers or other identifying data from the emails. I'm putting myself out here on the public stage, as it were, and this is the vehicle which I will use for political or religious discussions with people I don't know. I will not engage in debate via email.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Seething

From The New York Times: Protests Over a Rule to Protect Health Providers

What disgusts me most is knowing that this is being pandered as something good and protective for the persecuted Christian majority. *sigh*

Well, it's not. It doesn't "protect" anyone or anything. It ridicules the laws against religious discrimination already in place and opens the door to further restriction and bastardization of women's rights.

The uber-patriarchal subcultures may insist otherwise, but make no mistake: Women's Rights are an essential Family Value. The nuclear family unit trumpeted so loudly and repeatedly by the religious right usually includes at least one female and therefore necessitates that restrictions on the female become restrictions for the whole family. And no, that's NOT a good thing.

Somehow they've been able to market the idea that Women's Healthcare = Baby Killing. It just ain't so. Even if one is not comfortable with the ins and outs of abortion, consider how abortion numbers could be decreased with proper education, healthcare (BIRTH CONTROL OPTIONS!) and increased value of women in positions other than sex object (and really - how is woman-as-breeding-machine anything other than the ultimate sex object?). I would think that the anti-abortionists would embrace sex education and promote access to bc! Unless their agenda has little to do with fetal rights and everything to do with controlling women and their sexuality.

Women without access to birth control have almost no ability, in this society, to work in any but the most menial professions. And no - I'm not talking about the "welfare queens" the right concocted to spit upon. I'm talking about all of us... even (especially?) your average, happily married, decently educated woman. Right now it would be very difficult for me to work outside the home because I elected to have three children. Any job I could get would provide little more than the reimbursement of childcare costs it necessitated (assuming I used competent, certified childcare resources). I've been in the very fortunate situation where I can "choose" to stay home with the kids, and that's a reassuring thought - except that there's not much choice to be made. It's just much more enjoyable because I want to be home.

So women (occassionally men, but more often women) have to choose whether they want financial security or children.

That is - they choose (at somewhere around 99% certainty) if they have birth control. No birth control? Barefoot and pregnant.

Abstinence you say? That would do great things for the divorce rate. Rhythm method? *sigh* Yes, when done perfectly it is more effective than having sex all willy-nilly... possibly.

I know it ultimately comes down to the fundamental notion that sex must have consequences (for women). I'm afraid I'll never understand why that could be beyond deeply rooted misogyny. I totally get the idea of considering sex a sacred thing... All that oxytocin and the endorphin fireworks... well, if that isn't a recipe for a beyond-the-mundane experience, I don't know what is. It doesn't mean that other people's lives should be controlled by rules about how/when/where/how often some unrelated party decreed it should be.

And here's an idea for pharmacists who don't believe in dispensing birth control: get a new job. A pharmacist's role is to dispense meds according to physician instruction. Want more input into what is prescribed? Become a doctor. Or get out of healthcare. Be a janitor. Or underwater basketweaver. Whatever. Just pick a job you're willing to do. I'm unaware of doctors being coerced into providing abortions or birth control. They bear the onus of determining the best care for the health and well-being of their patients. So let them do their job.

Meanwhile, let's stop the legislation that restricts our loves and lives and roles. Stop it. Don't support bigotry like this. Or proposition 8. (Aside - oh my LDS brothers and sisters (I'm talking to all y'all - not just my biological siblings)... I may no longer be numbered among you, but I am very much a product of that upbringing - I just have to say, what is up with the huge outpouring of support for proposition 8? I don't care if you consider homosexuality a sin (OK, that's not true, I do care, but that's beside my point, right now), how can you possibly justify such money and efforts from The LDS CHURCH going to restrict marriage for anyone else? Even from the versions of history offered from within the church, you have to know that's hugely hypocritical? I would hope that you, as a people, would understand that the right thing to do is to get the government OUT OF marriages, so people would be free to solemnize partnerships according to their own consciences. Think how your own lives might be different if The Saints hadn't been forced to alter their own sacred practices to appease the laws of the U.S. and attain statehood. Marriage = 1 man + 1 woman? Oh - and I don't want to get any comments from other flavors of Christianity bashing Mormons, here. If your favorite books involve Abram/Abraham/Ibrahim, your god isn't into monogamy, either.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Getting A Grip

It seems I'm especially susceptible to doom and gloom thinking whilst sick. Today I'm finally starting to feel a bit better, mentally and physically.

Realistically, I'm in pretty good shape. I'm healthy (other than the occassional rhinovirus). I'm pretty tough (if I do say so myself). I have a great husband who has a good job. It looks like we will be able to re-fi into a better mortgage with a significantly lower interest rate (cross fingers). I'm stressed about Christmas - but it's not like I have to run out and get a job so my kids can have presents. I just have to budget. There are worse things. Besides, pretty much everyone else on my list is getting homemade stuff. And they'll like it better than anything I could buy for them (or at least they'll know better than to say otherwise). It'll be OK. Better than OK. I just need to keep that in mind and lay off the news a bit.

Muggle is crawling all over the place, climbing up on everything. Today she discovered the dog food. Oy. I don't know where to put it that WunderMutt can get to it but Muggle can't.

Life goes on... whether I chill out and enjoy it or not.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gah

Let me say it again.

Gah!

Grumpy sick kids. Grumpy sick mama.

Working on a re-fi for the house. Trying to figure out how, exactly, I'm going to make some kind of Christmas.

It feels like we're all - the whole country - under water. Running out of air while the wealthy <1% hem and haw from their yachts and lecture the hoi polloi about how we are to blame for this mess... while the Auto CEOs take plush vacations with little side trips to the Capitol for handouts and the bankers use their bailout windfall to buy up smaller banks... while suburbs empty, foreclosure signs all over the place. Free Market my hiney.

*sigh*

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Filler

Panacea

Kids
sniffle
lick snot from upper lips
with pink darting tongues
shiny eyes
doleful
beseeching comfort
blonde heads
radiating too much heat
as their tiny hands cling
to my milk vomit moist shirt

I
mentally inert
offer inapt comfort
kisses
cool cheek pressed against hot
hands freckled with mis-washed dough
stroke backs arched and rigid
until little bodies relax
eyelids flutter and close

Then sneak away to my alchemy laboratory
to bake oat bread
and stir the turkey noodle soup.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Icing on the Cake

I forgot to get the infant carseat base out of Mr. McG's car before he went to work. The seatbelts on my ol' tin can minivan won't lock to hold the seat in without the base. I have about 20 minutes to figure out what I'm going to do and get down to the Dr.'s office.

What next?

#!@)(%*_)($!!!!

I swear if I see one more stupid Acai berry weightloss ad I am going to lose my mind. I can NOT BELIEVE people are still getting duped by weightloss quick-fixes. Aaaaaargh!

How Did I Get Here?

This is the kind of day that makes me want to either run FAR FAR AWAY, or just get back into bed and sleep. Either would be acceptable... too bad neither is gonna happen.

My alarm went off at 4:50... which should have been perfect because last night I set out my gym clothes and had everything ready to go. All I needed to do was stumble into them and jet down to the gym. However... I wasn't able to actually go to sleep until midnight only to be awakened at least three times by a grumpy, teething baby. So I stumbled out of bed, turned off the alarm clock and then did one of those double-triple-quadruple takes like the characters in the comics... gym clothes? warm bed? gym clothes? warm bed? gym clothes? warm bed... and in I climbed. Just as I finally pushed the guilt aside and let sleep overtake me again, Thing 1 and Thing 2 came bounding from their bedrooms to partake in the warm morning cuddles... which requires much yelping and complaining and jostling for favorite snuggle positions. By the time that was worked out to some satisfactory compromise, it was time to get up.

Since then I have survived a blur of sticky-oatmeal-all-over-everything breakfast, super cold wait for the bus (with wet hair that ended up drying before I could style it so I'm going to look supa-frumpy all day), solving a thermostat emergency for my Beautiful Russian Neighbor, a haphazardly applied Muggle (used to be GERD-Girl, but she's getting better) diaper that didn't survive a soopa-poopa blow-out... which required a Muggle-Daddy shower while I cleaned poop off of crazy surfaces (cleaning poop chunks off of bio-electrical impedence scales is a pain in the butt!) which brought to my attention that somehow the organic baby shampoo had been dumped all over the floor of the kids' bathroom... and now I have the normal Monday morning hurricane-went-through-the-house mess to catch up with, plus lots of fun extras. AND Bayba and Muggle have appointments to get immunizations in about 20 minutes.

*sigh*

I usually love Mondays. This one, not so much.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Warrior Princess

Tuesday night G-Rex came downstairs kind of freaked out. There was a bump on her second toe. Before checking it out, I figured it must be a wart or something and she was overreacting. No. It was weird and bony.

Wednesday morning I took her to the clinic where they x-rayed her little foot (all the while G-Rex chattering about the various bones in the body and how she's studying anatomy in school). It turns out she fractured the toe two or three weeks ago.

That means she's been going to recess, playing outside, participating in PE, going to soccer practice and playing in soccer games with a broken toe. She told the doctor it had been sore for a while, but didn't hurt anymore so she'd just ignored it.

The doctor cleared her to play today, in her final soccer game of the season. During her end-of-season party, the coach presented her with a trophy, telling her that she was the toughest girl he'd seen, taking hits without flinching and was the fastest kid on the field.

I am so thankful that, as she grows and develops her sense of self, this is the way she'll see herself. She is tough. She is fast. She is determined.

Rock on G.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Soldering Iron of Justice

“If I lived back in the wild west days, instead of carrying a six-gun in my holster, I’d carry a soldering iron. That way, if some smart-aleck cowboy said something like ‘Hey, look. He’s carrying a soldering iron!’ and started laughing, and everybody else started laughing, I could just say, ‘That’s right, it’s a soldering iron. The soldering iron of justice.’ Then everybody would get real quiet and ashamed, because they had made fun of the soldering iron of justice, and I could probably hit them up for a free drink.” -- Jack Handey

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thoughts on Crying Babies

Although I have learned much from Attachment Parenting methodologies and other Gentle Parenting and Non-Violent Communications techniques, I have to admit that I have met very few people who utilize some of the helpful information without becoming dogmatic. In that way, they are no better than those who who follow any other philosophy 100%. I'm talking about Ezzo Acolytes, Staunch Ferberizers, and apologists for any other parenting paradigm.

Urban Princess linked to Mothering Magazine's article: Crying for Comfort: Distressed Babies Need to Be Held
By Aletha Solter
. Incidentally, I remember reading this missive in its original print issue. Much useful information can be found therein. However, blanket statements like: "Another advantage of this approach is that toddlers who have cried enough as infants (while being held), and who continue to be supported emotionally as they grow older, are calm and gentle. They do not hit or bite other children. Toddlers who do not have opportunities to cry freely can become aggressive, hyperactive, obnoxious, or easily frustrated. These disagreeable behaviors are often caused by an accumulation of pent-up stress, or the impact of early trauma that has had no healthy outlet." are BS! And, like it or not, I think Mothering Magazine consistently undermines the value of the scientifically sound information they provide by publishing hyperbolic interpretations and pseudo-scientific hogwash as if it were based in the same empirical methods as the research (usually medical) it often intends to debunk. That said, I still love Mothering Magazine. Every once in a while, I'd just like to ask Peggy O'Mara if she's trying to marginalize the value of the information presented in her fine periodical by permitting such frustrating errors. *sigh* But, back to the quote, yeah, BS. All it takes is one meeting with your average granola-crunching, bunny-hugging AP or NVC group and I'll wager my favorite back issues of Mothering that many of the kids you see will cry and scream and tantrum and occassionally even hit other kids with toys or bite a beloved playmate or otherwise display some sign of not being the dulcet, complacent darlings that allegiance to these gentle practices apparently guarantees.

In fact, it pains me to admit that - at this point in my parenting experience - the most messed-up, freaked-out kids I've met were all spawned by ardent followers of the AP/NVC ideas. So there.

I suspect that each Church of Parenting provides doctrine that speaks to particular parents on the point of a specific issue... Most probably have some helpful tidbit at some point. So it is then up to the parent to decide whether they've added a helpful tool to the toolbox or whether to define themselves as ___________ (pick any method with a support group or some other form of congregation) and begin the tumble into fundamentalism.

Harsh? Maybe. I'm not feeling particularly charitable today.

But on this I think I'm right: as soon as a person accepts the comfort of a label, accepting the notion that I am this, they begin to shut off many complementary and competing notions of who they are and what they can or can't do.

I do it all the time, unfortunately. I'm getting better about recognizing that (I hope) and subjecting my assumptions of self to the light of skepticism.

My point is that sometimes that blotch on the wall is just mildew, not the Virgin. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a Mom just needs to put a crying baby down, still crying, so that Mom won't lose her mind.

And on a slightly less curmudgeonly note: I think many AP/NVC rules work best (or, in some cases work only) for families with one child (or two children, tops!) who have the luxury of a parent at home full-time.

(OOooh, I can just hear Urban Princess's knuckles cracking as she prepares to blast me with links and tear me apart for all my errors of logic and rhetoric - that's why I love you, sista!)

Nevertheless, I agree that kindness and sympathy and understanding are the optimal characteristics to convey in our relationships with our fellow creatures (except for wasps... they all need to be squished!), especially our children.

Here's a thought, though - in all our kindness and sympathy and understanding, how often do we (do I) actually teach them that a parent (most often a woman) is a martyred doormat who must always defer her needs to the needs of someone else? This isn't about comforting a crying newborn -- but at what point - and how - do we begin to teach our little ones about self-nourishment, self-control and self-value? This is not a rhetorical question. I really struggle with how to grow and develop the parent-child relationship so that my daughters will grow up to pursue their own goals and not lose themselves if they choose to have children of their own. Obviously, I must model what I want them to do and be. They will naturally assume my limits as their birthright if I don't break out of old habits and gender role traps.

Currently that means that, a few times a week, they have to attend childcare at the Y while I take a yoga class (even though they cry and don't want to do it). And occassionally it means that I put a crying baby in her crib or a tantruming pre-schooler in time out so I can assert some personal limits. In the case of the crying baby, I'm not trying to teach her to respect my limits or anything. I'm just trying to find a limit for myself so that I don't totally lose my own hope and vibrance. Yes, it is that big a deal.

Best of all, maybe I can lose that sense of guilt (with it's companion alter-ego of superiority) that dogma always fosters. I'm not a good AP parent. I'm certainly not a good authoritarian. Maybe I can be a good me and just be a good enough parent.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cool Resource

Yesterday I was done. After hours of cuddling and nursing and attempting to soothe a fussy 8-month-old, I found myself placing her gently in her crib, telling her I loved her, and leaving the room. She fussed. Then cried. Then wailed. I felt horrible. But nothing I had tried had made her feel any better. More than anything she needed to sleep. More than anything, I needed a few minutes to breathe. But everyone from Harvard to Dr. Sears have told me that letting a baby cry is akin to inflicting brain damage! Or at least being a generally neglectful parent and bad person. Right?

Listening to her cries broke my heart. But she really needed to sleep and holding her seemed to make it worse, rather than better. So I decided I should do more research on how bad it really is to let a baby cry in a crib for 10 minutes (which is what it took for her to fall asleep). Well, I still felt bad for making her cry herself to sleep for the first time in her life... but on the bright side, I stumbled across a great resource: AskMoxie.org. Most reassuring was this entry: Ask Moxie: Babies and CIO. Make sure you also read her post about sleep regressions.

Knowing what I'm dealing with won't help her sleep any better, but hopefully it will make it more tolerable when I remember that this is truly a phase and I will get through it. That my almost-nine-month-old will not sleep is probably not a sign of my own personal incompetence.

:o)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Who Do I Think I Am Anyway?

Yes, I bore even myself with my didactic polemics. Always railing against something, blah blah blah... Meh. No one has to read what I write. ;o)

So I joined Facebook not long ago and have re-established conversations and relationships with people from my past. That is a bizarre trip in self-exploration, let me tell ya! It amazes me how much power some memories still have... and how just seeing a photo or update from someone can throw me for a loop. Some good. Some not.

I haven't gained any great insights, yet. For the most part, it's just good wholesome fun, but every once in a while I find myself picking emotional scabs to see what still bleeds.

And for something completely different - G-Rex's team did very well at the Science Olympiad competition... her (very young) team placed first in Gunk and third in both Architecture and Metric Mastery... got a write-up in the local paper and everything. Yay G-Rex!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Alternative Views and Cultural Relativism

Just for the record - any comments to me blog that are not spam or spewing hateful ignorance are welcome. Views different than mine, especially when well-written and thoughtful, are enjoyed and very much appreciated.

So a few thoughts on the Somalia rape victim story -

The reason stories like that reflect our need to vigilantly separate the muddling of church and state is that such barbarism seems distantly divorced from our own freedom and safety. But it has not always been so, and the root of the thinking that allows (or mandates, in their view) people to behave so abominably is still alive and well.

Right now - in our country - civil rights are denied based on the authority of religion. Every fight on the path of equality and justice for all has been against this same way of thinking. Right now people are denied the right to secular marriages or to adopt children, based on the twisting of the already morphed and altered words of an ancient book... Not that long ago, people with more melanin couldn't marry people with less - due to governance based on this same supposedly unquestionable authority. Women's rights were and are continually threated based on roles foisted upon them by religiosity (and I'm not just talking about access to healthcare, but even the vote and "permission" to work outside the home or being granted status as people rather than chattel). So when people raise a ruckus about getting back to the good old days, getting the 10 commandments into courthouses, time to pray in school and teach intelligent design or ban discussions on evolution, banning books, keeping "under God" (a fairly recent addition, by the way) in the Pledge and mandating that children in schools must recite the Pledge of Allegiance and making sure that "In God We Trust" is printed on all currency we use... well, to those of us who don't believe in this God it's scary and oppressive.

Many countries now ruled by Islamic law can provide valuable insight into how small the gap is between having a free and progressive society and what can happen when the law of the land changes from secular to religious. The recent histories of Iran and Afghanistan might be especially good teachers.

So, setting aside our own national issues, and focusing on the Somalia story: What in the world do we do?

As someone who's fascinated by human cultures and societies, I tend to find myself stepping back from my own humanity in order to see every side of the story. I can imagine the groupthink going on... a crowd in a stadium being told by angry authoratative men with guns that this "woman" was a lawbreaker and must be stoned - according to God's own words. I can only imagine the violence and horror these people see on a daily basis. Not enough food. Clean water hard to come by. Not participating in the stoning would probably mean death or treatment harsh enough that death would follow... in brutal enough environments even social spurning can be a death sentence. And yet, participating would become desensitizing. Even men who would otherwise be more reasonable would be likely to work out a rationalization for violently killing a child. They'd have to in order to be able to go home and look their own children in the eye. They'd have to destroy a little of their own humanity in the name of survival for themselves and their own families.

Would I be any better? I don't know. I believe I would do anything to protect my own children. What would I do if protecting my own family meant directly contributing to the destruction of someone else's? I honestly don't know what I'd do.

So how can I condemn the people who did this? Why don't I just shrug off the story and hold fast to my thankfulness that I live in a safer place?

Because the bottom line is that the people stoning this girl didn't arrive at that situation overnight. The path was paved with increased rejection of rational thinking and embracing of religious authority. And there is a very vocal population in this country - my country - who would erode secular rights and rationality in favor of the laws (as they interpret them) of their god. Keep in mind, too, that our society is pretty tight-lipped about how prisoners of war are being treated in our very own facilities. Water-boarding anyone? Our country sees fit to torture people... but right now the sub-human people it's OK to treat like this are Arab and/or Muslim. It's here. And anyone who isn't fighting it or who is looking the other way implies approval... not everyone at that stadium in Somalia threw rocks. Most just stood by.

OK - so what can we do? Forcibly spreading our form of democracy into other cultures doesn's seem to work so well. We can't just abolish the sects who promote this brutality.

I think the only way to prevent stories like this is to destroy the mechanisms that allow and fuel them. Obviously I can't dramatically change the world right now, but the secret is that all the things we think they need to change are things we need to address in our own backyards first.

1. 13 year-old-girl is raped
Increase the perceived value of girls and women. Call attention to traditional methods of denigrating and objectifying them. Pass and enforce laws that support female healthcare and allow girls and women to safely report abuse. Punish rapists.
2. Stop social approval for condemning victims.
See 1. Then remove the socially acceptable gag order that arises out of the notion that it is not OK to criticize people's spiritual beliefs. Loudly challenge pockets of sexism, racism, etc. when they are revealed.
3. Insist upon separation of church and state.
This ideal is constantly under attack. Even laws that ultimately seem nice, comfortable and right - when based on religion pave the way for abuses and fundamentalism.
4. Refuse to look the other way or accept the platitudes of corrupt authority figures.
Cowards inflict harm on others because they can.


Jeez. I'm just a housewife who needs to go make breakfast. ;o) Better minds than mine have worked on this one. These are just my NON-expert thoughts. Obviously I don't have much in the way of answers.

Despite my limited knowledge, I do think my "voice" is a valuable yop amidst the Who-ville cacophany. Please feel free to tell me where you agree or disagree. I love to learn and usually learn more from those who disagree with me than those who don't.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Religious Law

Those of you who wish your children to pray in schools, to continue to recite oaths to God and country, to keep your religion forming the backbone of secular law... please consider how governments rule when they have the freedom from accountability allowed by religious governance.

It seems so safe and normal when it's *your* particular flavor of religion, but as you contemplate the horrors granted through sharia law, remember that your god is just as strange to non-Christians as Allah is to you.

Stoning victim 'begged for mercy'

I have a teething baby and a sick husband to take care of, so I'll link to some reviews of this story that explain my thoughts on this story better than I can, right now.

Pharyngula - God and sex: two potent ideas that never get along well together

Cuttlefish - 13 Years Old

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Thanksgiving

This morning my inbox held a right-leaning email admonishing the spoiled brats who are unsatisfied with this country as-is to quit complaining and be thankful for how good we have it. This seems to be a standard nugget of conservatism, and I thought I'd post my response to that email as today's blog...

I think it's interesting to consider whether people who are dissatisfied are really "spoiled brats" or if they're idealists who love the country and are thankful for all the good things - but see all the injustices and pockets of poverty, inequality and criminality as areas where we all need to focus our efforts so that we can make the most of the wonderful potential we'd like to believe lies within the structure of this nation. It's great to be thankful for what we have - as long as we don't let that thankfulness warp into something insular and exclusive.

Just because it will drive me crazy if I don't, I have to include the snopes link that gives more info on who actually wrote this and how it's changed over years of internet circulation: http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/hitnail.asp . :o)

I am thankful for freedom of speech. And separation of church and state. I'm thankful that I live in a town where my kids have access to an amazing public school district with outstanding teachers. I'm thankful that
G-Rex can elect to opt out of the recitation of the pledge of allegiance without punishment and that we are free to follow our own consciences regarding spiritual belief. I'm thankful that J has a good job and that we have a home (although that 70% homeownership in the original email is a bit of a sore spot now, I think). I'm thankful that my kids have enough to eat - enough that we get to choose food based on the best sources of nutrition and taste and can eat what we like, not just whatever we can manage to glean. I'm thankful for city infrastructures - that our toilets flush and we can put our trash cans out on the curb and our trash goes away.

Meanwhile, more and more houses in our neighborhood are emptying. Last night, when we went Trick-or-Treating, we had to walk to another neighborhood, because ours was mostly dark. It's filled with For Sale signs. When I hear Financial people and economists on the news talking about our financial crisis being caused by the greed of the people - people buying bigger homes than they could afford, etc. etc. etc., I think it's telling that (around here, anyway) it's not the big houses in the wealthy areas that are going into foreclosure. It's the little houses - the starter homes and older buildings. The "greedy" people who were apparently too uppity and wanted more than they should have were those who were struggling to get into the middle class and listened to the experts who told them, a few years ago, that this was the route to take. Stash every penny possible into a 401(k) and everything else into a mortgage. And what do they have now?

There are parents of kids on
G-Rex's soccer team who are joining "gleaning clubs" where they spend a small bit of money to be able to "shop" through damaged, outdated and rejected food items and paper goods. They're thankful to have enough trees on their property to be able to use wood heat for their houses, this winter, because the gas company raised rates astronomically, this year. Meanwhile, people we see on the news complaining about the economy are talking about how they'll have to take fewer vacations. Something's not adding up.

It seems to me that it's great to cultivate a sense of gratitude, but not let that lull us into a false sense of everything being OK.

Just my two cents. :o)

Friday, October 31, 2008

The End of an Internal Argument

Being prone to romanticizing the inherent (supposed) wisdom in the innocence of children, I often waffle on the notion of children being capable of self-regulation. Mostly, out here in the uber-liberal Pacific Northwest, I sit feeling a little uncomfortable - feeling like a control freak - while parents who seem to know more than I do tell me about how children should be able to use their innate wisdom to govern themselves.

I have felt almost ashamed of the way I've developed rules for my kids. I don't allow them unlimited TV or computer time. I don't allow them to eat whatever they want, whenever they want. They have a bedtime.

But tonight, being Halloween, I decided to try something a friend of mine claims worked with her kids - I let my kids eat as much of their Halloween candy as they cared to eat. With self-regulation and natural consequences, how bad could it be? A tummy ache followed by an understanding of the need to consume less sugar?

Ha.

Here's a "natural consequence": I'm no longer going to allow myself credulity when parents toss that nonsense at me.

They aren't the ones scrubbing gummy candy puke out of my carpet while my three-year-old alternates crying about her sick tummy and crying because she still wants to eat more candy.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

It's Alive

Tonight I painted. Not walls. Nothing that will make my home pretty. I dug through the closet in the spare room and found my old case of oil paints. Mineral spirits and an old canvas that have been in the garage forever were dusted off and I took over the dining area of my kitchen. Tonight Kali crept from my canvas. It was easy. The build-up of the background is done. Kali is fleshed out, glowering from eyes too white in the darkness. Her arms flex, holding aloft... OK I haven't gotten that part sketched in... tomorrow... Her right foot is prominent, as she steps on the supposed corpse of Shiva. Yeah. I told you it wasn't pretty. I'm not sure if I'll include some vague battle in the background.

There's a legend that tells of Kali wreaking vengeance so powerfully that, despite the need for battle being over, no one can stop her destruction and blood lust. Finally the other gods bring her son to the battlefield. He cries. And amidst all the din and violence, the cry of her child breaks through and she stops everything to hold and nurse him. So the war is ended.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Money-Saving Tip

If you buy fancypants Fleur de Sel salt from Whole Foods at $19.99/lb...

Don't get flustered by crying kids, etc., and dump the whole container on the floor.

Monday, October 6, 2008

:o) I <3 xkcd.com


http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/90s_flowchart.png

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Men do Sports, Women ... ?

Do me a favor:

Next time you visit your favorite bookstore, do a recon mission on the magazine organization and report back to me.

Yesterday, at Barnes & Noble in the Vancouver Plaza, I hunted through the Sports section of the periodicals for fitness magazines. They had all the sports genre mags. And Fitness magazines for men. I know there are fitness magazines aimed at women. And that most of them are put out as "sister" magazines to the men's versions. Where were they?

Oh, that's right. In a different aisle, filed under Women's Interests. With the Wedding magazines and Fashion fluff.

I'd love to hear if this is a universal bookstore organizational method... and if anyone else has noticed.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Good Causes



So I'm a little late on this bandwagon, but I've read this magazine and it's one I'd like to see survive for my daughter to read... check it out.

BYO-Panem Part II

Education for the 21st Century
By Riane Eisler

Now that's a circus worth your time!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Granola Bar Irony and Other Nonsense

For those who asked, I used Alton Brown's granola bar recipe, found here: Alton Brown's Granola Bar Recipe on Foodnetwork.com. My add-ins were pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, dried cherries and chocolate chips (which melted but I still stand by that choice).

I love these granola bars. Mr. Geeky likes them. The kids won't eat them. Heh.

Flashback to my childhood: My devoted mother almost never bought convenience foods. We rarely ate out. So my sister asked for "storebought" (i.e. Wonderesque fluff with pseudo-crust) bread for her birthday. At school I'd trade the homemade chocolate chip cookies for twinkies.

Lest anyone think I am crunchier-than-thou, I thought the rest of today's blog would begin my confession:

I prefer processed peanut butter over the "natural" kind. I have tried to cultivate a more "refined" preference, but I just hate the whole experience with natural pb. I hate how the oil on the top splashes out when I'm trying to stir it up and gets everything all greasy. I hate how it has to be stored in the fridge and is then so rock hard it tears up the bread and won't stick to celery. For the last several years I've bought the natural kind because I felt I should like it. Well I don't like it. When I was at the grocery store, last week, I bought Skippy and since then I've been stuffing the natural pb chunks chipped out of that last jar into the dog's Kong... but it turns out she doesn't like it either. I'm going to have to wash the peanut butter brick out of the dog's chew toy. Go figure.

I will pay extra for organic dairy products but I just can't spend the money required for organic/free-range meats. We are eating more vegetarian meals. Punctuated by fast food about once per week. And not high quality fast food, either. The kids love Mickey D's. I feel guilty about sending all those stupid happy meal toys to the landfill, but I throw them away anyway, when I'm pretty sure the kids won't miss them.

I won't cook or bake for myself. If Mr. Geeky won't be eating with us or if I'm by myself I will neither cook nor go out. I will eat one of those meals that comes packed in a little plastic tray. FYI - Ethnic Gourmet's Chicken Masala with curried brown rice and peas is actually quite good. Anyone looking through my trash would call my foodie bluff and I'd have to admit that I'm as lazy as anyone else. But then I'd totally tease them about digging through my trash, so it would all work out in the end.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tough

I just got back from the gym. Did weights and then pushed myself HARD on the cross-trainer. Interval course. 30 minutes. How far did I go (in elliptical miles - not sure how that translates to actual road miles)? 4.05 miles. Yeah!

But what really makes me feel tough? Fighting off a dog.

Last night I was trying to coax the baby to sleep. Usually this is accomplished by strapping her to my back in the ergo and then cleaning the kitchen. She zonks out and I move on to wrestling the other two kiddos into bed. On this particular occassion, kitchen cleaning didn't do the trick so I headed out for a walk around the neighborhood.

That didn't work either because, about four blocks from home, we were attacked by a Boston Terrier. Yeah. Thank goodness it was just the terrier. Its friend was barking madly behind the fence and sounded much larger.

Before the attack, I saw it running toward me. I wasn't terribly concerned, at first. I've always thought of Bostons as being quite sweet and people-friendly. Then it jumped and bit me right above the knee. I was so surprised and the adrenaline hit so fast that it didn't hurt. My thinking just went into slow motion as "Crap! The dog is biting me!" began to process. I shook it off, but it kept jumping, biting at my leg. For a few more seconds I continued to react defensively, but the last jump, higher, was too close to the baby.

I side-kicked the dog in the chest. Hard. While saying, "NO!" in my loudest, deepest voice. The dog still jumped and paced and barked, but out of range. So I slowly turned and walked away.

Twice I heard the clicking of its nails on the sidewalk behind me, but I didn't turn and it finally disappeared.

Now I'm trying to process the event. I have never kicked a dog, before. I have always liked dogs, in general, and while I have been wary of some dogs in some situations, I have never been bitten by a dog. I have no bruises. I was not actually hurt - and I can't help but think that if the dog had actually wanted to hurt me, it certainly could have. So what was going on? Did I react appropriately?

If the second dog hadn't been going nuts behind the fence, I would have knocked on the owners door to let them know what happened. But I wasn't going to risk it, so I didn't.

It could have been much worse, but it wasn't. So part of me wants to just let it go and assume that there won't be a problem again.

But what if the baby had been in a stroller and not on my back? What if I'd had another child walking with me? What if the next person to walk by is scared of dogs and screams and runs, inciting the predator instinct?

What a pain in the butt (ha!).

Hmph.

Panem et Circenses, Remix

... iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli
uendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim
imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se
continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat,
panem et circenses. ...

(Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81)

... Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man,
the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time
handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now
restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things:
bread and circuses. ...


So.

I made granola bars, this morning. Have I mentioned how much I dislike processed food. I admit I'm as tempted by the pretty boxes and cellophane and time-saving technology as any other descendant of hunter-gatherers. But I'm trying to wean myself away from all that perceived ease. It's just habit, after all. In reality it doesn't seem to be taking any longer to make simple foods from simple ingredients than it did to browse the grocery aisles, sort through boxes and compare prices, take them home, dispose of the first three layers of wrapping to store the stuff, before eventually having to unwrap final boxes and bags, do whatever final prep appeared necessary, and eat a mess of sodium, saturated and/or trans fats and weird chemicals, colors and flavors... all for supposedly easy meals and snacks.

So as the granola bars cool I'm contemplating the idea of ease.

What is easy? What isn't? Is "easy" a good thing or a bad thing?

I see two concepts here - ease as a form of simplicity and serenity versus ease as a purchased escape from all the crap already marketed as necessary and expected.

I've heard the argument, before, that people buy junk food because it's the most inexpensive and the easiest to prepare. Let's take the example of white bread. Usually store brand white bread can be purchased for anywhere between $1.00 and $3.00 per loaf, depending on sales or promotions. It costs me about $0.45 - $0.95 per loaf to bake my own bread. Now that I've made a lot of bread, it's very easy and requires little attention on my part - so most of the bread-making time is actually free for other things. Add in the health benefits and the extra oomph of fresh bread from the oven. No contest.

The biggest obstacle? I have to be home to do it. Easy. As long as I don't get distracted by all the circuses.

What are my circuses?

Classes so I can get paying jobs to buy stuff like newer cars, fancier clothes... and processed foods (because I wouldn't have time to cook the good stuff).

Suburban bourgeoisie classes and sports for my kids (you know the "educational" stuff you stick your kids with because all your friends are doing it).

TV and computer games that suck up my time as I obsess about decompressing from spending my days doing a billion things I think I ought to do, rather than just a few things I actually want to do.

It's all just a way to anesthetize oneself when the cacophony of reality gets too overwhelming.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

But Seriously...

I have to admit that I kind of wanted to like Sarah Palin. You know, small-town girl makes good... Grrrrl power... Hear me roar... Need I go on? I didn't think so.

Unfortunately for the GOP, we women can't be counted on to go all hysterical. My uterus will not magically jump from my body and run off to the polls, leaving my brain behind (hmm... strange imagery) to impotently seethe while the sex organs obliterate any risk of hanging chads in order to cast their vote for that other uterus person. Yes, the GOP may indeed be undone by research and the resulting logical choices.

Here's a fun little example of the difference between the people I'll be voting for and the people I won't: Wasilla Charges Rape Victims.

Think about it. A victim is raped... so in order to press charges (which is a shaky proposition under even the most pristine investigative circumstances) she must have something in the ballpark of $1200 - for the rape kit. And a rape kit is performed in a hospital, which is likely to run up quite a bill beyond that. Lovely. I find it interesting to contemplate what kind of environment this creates, coupled with a chief of police who is clearly antagonistic about the costs related to pursuing rape charges. And a mayor (governor-to-be, and perhaps our next VP) who is opposed to abortion, even in the case of rape and incest. According to Feminists for Life, a group with which Palin identifies, Plan B is out of the question, too.

Wow.