Dental guilt

Raised by a dentist, I have always held dental hygiene higher in importance over most other personal hygiene. I’ll skip shampoo more often than advisable and I’ll forgo shaving. But I have to brush and floss twice daily. Because that’s what people in my family do.

And I’ve brushed my kids’ teeth since the very first one erupted July 9, 2006. I did not need to look that date up, because I know my children’s dental histories.

When Peanut was diagnosed with a cavity at age 7, I felt shock and sadness. We’d been slipping a bit on the brushing, and had remembered very few morning toothbrush communions that year. We had split parental duties a bit and I brushed the younger child while Spouse monitored and rebrushed for the eldest.

But Spouse is not as dentally retentive as I am. And he let two minutes become one. Or less.

So after the cavity was filled I resolved to do all the brushing myself.

At night.

In the morning, though, I reminded Peanut of his jobs and wrote (and drew) a morning chart as suggested in The Secrets of Happy Families. His jobs were to get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, pack his backpack, and check the weather to decide on shoes and jacket. But he rarely brushed in the morning. And I started to rely on Spouse again during the interminable evening routine. Chaos. Screaming, wailing, running, tickling chaos. So once again I brushed the little guy while Peanut increasingly took on his own dental hygiene.

Second cavity at age 7.5.

Both have been in permanent teeth.

Both, I have to note, have been without dental insurance.

And both are my fault.

Yes, I should be able to give a seven-year-old child a task and expect him to do it passably well. But I suppose there’s no need to get petulant at having to ask repeatedly and remind and plead and cajole and glare and remind again. I suppose I was wrong and it’s every parent’s job to ask seven times every single day for a basic and important task to be done, right?

Yes, I should be able to trust his father to brush him well after the initial juvenile pass. But I guess there’s no need to rely on other parents in the family to do a good job with something as important as dental health. I guess I should have to brush three mouths three times a day if I want us all to be cavity-free.

I guess.

So for at least a night I laid awake, terrifically disappointed in myself that my small child, for whose health and safety I am wholly responsible, will for his entire life have two molars that have been drilled and filled with foreign substances. And that will probably, in decades, need to be further drilled and additionally filled. It’s my fault that he will probably also have potentially toxic (though BPA-free) sealants on his teeth.

That he is broken. Invaded by bacteria. Vulnerable. Weakened. Compromised.

All because of me.

And then I woke up and thought of all the things I try so hard to do right. Food and kindness and respect and exercise and reading and science and math and listening and vocabulary and five-point harnesses and non-toxic lunchboxes and lead-free backpacks and friendship and history and family and sunshine and sunscreen and connection and nature and…

I stopped.

And thanked goodness for dental science and dentists and glass ionomer and resin composites. For disclosing tablets and timers and hygienists who teach what a child will not believe from his parents.

For lessons learned from making mistakes.

And for peace following acceptance and a plan to move on.

Maybe I’ll sleep better tonight. Right after I brush my teeth.

Beginner mind…fail

Perfectionists don’t deal well with failure.

Seems obvious enough, right?

While some people savor the lessons learned through mistakes, I begrudgingly accept my lesson and fume, often for years, over the failure.

I harbor residual embarrassment that I misspelled Connecticut in eight grade and am still painfully aware of exactly where I sat when I corrected the teacher for adding an unnecessary “c”. (I was also totally right. There’s no need to Connect anything in that name. It’s Conneticut. Or it ought be Conneticut.)

Mindful always of the failure implicit in mistakes, I stoke the fires of mortification at misunderstanding an attorney colleague in 1993. I had to make a joke at my own expense to hide my shame at the company softball game and I can still see the rolling fog and the skyward reach of the home-plate fence when I mistook “tort” for “tart.” And I still remember the warm wash of relief that flooded me on the third row of metal bleachers when They—the smarter, better educated, older, wiser—laughed at my cover joke. Thank goodness for the wounded-pride salve of comedy.

And thank goodness that I’m still self-flagellating over spelling and jargon errors from the 80s and 90s. Consider the world saved, y’all, because I know how dumb I was twice as a teenager.

Many of my struggles with parenting come from knowing I can do better, of knowing what kind of mother I aspire to yet failing to get there. I don’t believe I should ever yell. I should calmly explain expectations and requests and never inflict the psychological damage of raising my voice in anger. Each time one of the boys is hurting the other and I react with the panic of a raised voice, I judge myself harshly. How can you teach kindness with anger? How can you teach calm, measured responses if you don’t model them?

And how effective are cage matches as a parenting technique?

For the daily successes and failures in all that I do, I force a bedtime shrug and recall a mantra that insists, “I honestly did the best I could, I’ve thought about what could be better, and I will try my best again tomorrow with this new knowledge.” That hope and promise applies to writing and parenting and cooking and running and marriage and friendship. Though zen is a state of mind 180-degrees from my normal state of being, I do actually believe that approaching everything with beginning mind opens up possibilities for acceptable, awareness, and joy.

Of course, it’s a ruse, because I prefer to stick with what I’m really good at: cultivating a festering depression born of the self-suggestion that I make the same mistakes every day.  Since mediocrity is unacceptable, I roil in my shame and promise to work harder, work smarter, do better. Mostly as an exercise in roiling in shame, not because I actually plan to work harder, smarter, or better.

As I mentioned, totally un-Zen. Thank goodness I was born in a Western culture that digs perfectionism a tiny bit more than mindfulness.

Because my biggest failure lately is physical. Last night I left my beloved fencing academy knowing that I suck at fencing.

Oh, I have myriad excuses. When poor Spouse is foolish enough to get caught in a room with me after fencing, he hears about how few years, really, I’ve been practicing. Two years in college, a frightful amount of which was spend drilling not fencing. Perhaps three hundred hours of drills and three hundred hours of competition. Twenty years off for life, work, school, children. One full year back in earnest, practicing, training, and actively seeking bouts an average of once a week. One hundred hours of trying to stab and not be stabbed, perhaps, since I’ve been back.

Rank beginner by the numbers, I insist. Excusable levels of failure for one as new as I am, I pretend to believe. Four hundred hours of fencing really isn’t much.

Yes, I know how stupid that seems. Four hundred hours of anything and I should totally be an Olympian, right? What a loser.

“But, but, but,” I sputter, “practice begins at 7pm. Ends at 10pm. I’m exhausted all hours of the day, but being expected to have quick reaction times and good form at 10pm is ludicrous. It’s not possible. It’s everyone’s fault but mine!”

Often I spend most of the ride home plying myself with perspective, mostly to fend of the inevitable self-medication-by-desserts. “Buck up, self. You’ve been working as hard as you can, and you’ve shown marked improvement.” (That much is actually true. Some weeks I have a flashes of skill at this game that is often described as athletic chess. Teammates have watched and have cheered my successes, have noted to me that they see how quickly I’m improving. Shhhh. Don’t tell the perfectionist in the corner whose withering glare is making me eat another brownie.)

Sufficient progress eludes me. It’s not quick enough. I don’t want to be perfect…I want to be as good as I think I should be. Reasonable expectations, yo. The weeks where I surge precede, obviously and predictably, lengthy plateaus. Weeks, or recently months, of feeling as though I am not progressing. Not doing well enough. Not trying hard enough. Too slow and stupid and old for this sport.

A long, mournful ride home last night followed five bouts, each lost 5-0. For those keeping score at home, that’s 25-0. Pathetic beyond pathetic. It’s a new low. In 22 years of fencing I’ve never been this bad.

(Quick note from my pride: I did score several touches, but not when we were keeping score. We usually fence for ten to fifteen minutes before we finally say, “okay, let’s go to five.” Usually means one of us feels tired or thirsty or bored of the other fencer.)

(Do you like how, in a post about how I can’t bear knowing I’m bad at something, I have to adjust an admission of being terrible with a caveat that I’m not that terrible? Perfectionism is a disease, people. Inoculate your children now, if your physician allows it.)

So, with clarity of mind and resonant self-awareness born of a dreadful night of fencing failure, I decided I need a new sport.

The other fencers laughed, and we talked about how I would most likely approach baseball, hockey, tennis, and croquet by standing about lunge-distance from my opponent and trying to hit her with the bat, stick, racquet, or mallet.

Ha ha, we chuckled.

And I died a little inside.

Because we all knew I’d be bad at those sports, too.

I felt sorry for myself for being unathletic. Whimpered in the car about being terrible at every sport I’ve ever tried. Wallowed in the reality that I was a slow triathlete and a miserable fencer and a mediocre tennis player.

And after the self-pity waned, I knew that, as with all failure, I have two options. Learn. Or Quit.

 

attack out of distance

feint out of distance isn’t fooling anybody

searching for the blade begging for attack into preparation

searching for the blade is begging for attack into preparation

better parry that or you're gonna lose another touch

 stop counterattacking and parry, for heaven’s sake!

 

 

I can work harder and smarter. I can make running and weight training a priority, incorporating plyometrics to get some of the speed and agility lost with age; I can pay for lessons; I can take better notes to process what is and isn’t working each week before and after class. I can better plan my weekly goal, which I generally formulate on the drive to the studio, and focus on it more clearly during the evening. I can add simple carbohydrates to the evening, strategically applying calories to the work of getting better.

Or I can quit.

For a perfectionist, there really aren’t many other choices. Just showing up as often as I can and pushing as hard as I can is not acceptable. There must be Lifetime-television-celebrated moments of triumph at least every half hour or so.

Achievement isn’t called do-your-best-ment. I either have to step up my game, or I have to give up.

Now. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go speak quietly and respectfully to my kids.

Too tired to think

Today was a weird day.

I got up early to write, and packed the kids’ lunches at the last minute. The egg-hater got the hard-boiled eggs, the sandwich-hater got a nice big sandwich; the raspberry-avoider found in his bag a container of raspberries and the orange-resister received three clementines.

But I didn’t know that. I dropped them each off at camp, one of two days all summer that they’d be in someone else’s care at the same time. A drop-off foreshortened morning of writing and running preceded a work lunch with a fabulous colleague about some structural changes to my novel. And as I left a lovely neighborhood restaurant, full of channa masala and shahi paneer and excited to see my boys, I took the wrong freeway on-ramp.

And turned around and went the right way.

Then took the wrong interchange and had to backtrack again.

I picked up the little guy and drove him toward the big guy’s camp. And at a stop sign, made a complete stop, changed the song as requested, and started to drive.

A cyclist shot through the intersection and stuck his tongue out at me. Quite civilized, I thought, given that he clearly thought it was his turn. But I had stopped at the sign. Just like everyone else.

I looked around.

What glared back was a stoplight. Still red. And I was halfway through an empty intersection. All clear, all safe. But I felt in equal parts the judgement of the cars still stopped as legally required, and the expectation that the world would crash down around me because I had broken a very important safety rule with my child in the car. And didn’t even know until it was too late.

It was small consolation, but I remembered the reusable bags going into the grocery store. And then left a bag full of frozen berries in the car for several hours. No kids abandoned in the car. But a lot of very sad blueberries who had hoped to make a smoothie some day had their hopes dashed in my obscene levels of discombobulation.

I don’t know where my brain is. I’ve been running on fumes since summer began, but went into warp speed after a conference that inspired me to write, drive change, lean in, and start the revolution.

But I don’t think anybody intended for a revolution in forgetfulness and dangerous driving. Probably. I’m pretty sure. Maybe I just missed that session.

So tonight I’m going to bed early. In the past two weeks I’ve built a web site, written five blog posts, worked on my novel, started a proposal for a client’s memoir, fielded inquiries about ghostwriting, run for preschool Board Vice President, finished a two-month term as preschool Board Secretary, paid bills, and worked on a client naming project, all in the hours when my children slept.

I think it’s time to say, “Yes, you’ve done enough today. Go to sleep.”

And as I was telling Spouse this story, he interrupted twice to ask for details he thought were important but I was positive didn’t matter one freaking bit. After the second interruption, I blew. “Stop interrupting! I want to tell my story my way!”

He graciously said I could. And walked out of the room before I restarted.

So I hollered down the hall towards him that if he wouldn’t listen right, I’d tell my blog. Because you people always listen just the right way.

Anybody else out there want to complain that they’re tired? So very tired? If so, I’ll listen.

BlogHer ’13: Don’t whine. Find solutions.

In many ways, BlogHer ’13 was what I expected. I never thought (despite the frenzy  on Twitter) that this international blogging conference focused on celebrating the power of voice would feature unicorns and a keynote from She-Ra. I hoped, just a bit, but my rational side rejoiced in calm, reserved expectations. But it seems as though not everyone shared by approach.

As with other conferences I’ve attended (in other fields), I expected a diverse group of people with varied goals attending panels and workshops of varying levels of professionalism and usefulness. I expected to meet a few amazing people, hear a few snippets of mind-blowing advice, roll my eyes several times, and experience my share of frustration. And exhaustion.

More than 5,000 humans with nuanced lives, experiences, and personalities attended BlogHer ’13 for different reasons and with varied goals, and I was able to get lost and to be found in that crowd.

All this I expected.

What I didn’t expect was the complaining.

“That celebrity writer is just an a–hole! Why did they choose him?”

“I can’t believe we have to listen to her! She’s so annoying.”

“This is a joke, right? Who considers vegetables and hummus a meal?”

“Who the hell planned to have these two sessions at the same time? I’m so mad because I want to attend both.”

Unreasonable expectations? Unfettered sense of entitlement? Undeveloped social skills?

[Note: The only complaints I heard were from women. I refuse to generalize to a gender-specific propensity toward complaining or to a statistical assumption about the odds of hearing complaints from a minority group at a large conference. Simple statement: the only people I heard complain about the programming, the food, the sessions, the structure, the convention center, the bathrooms, or the conference planning were women. And a *lot* of them were complaining.]

Ladies: I have a suggestion.

No, it’s not “get over yourselves.” I wish it were, because I lean toward that reaction. This was a very well-planned conference that attempted to meet the needs of a remarkably diverse group of bloggers. So I wish I could say, “get off your entitled high horse and appreciate what you have.”

But that’s not instructive. And it is fundamentally the same as the whining I heard. My demanding that someone share my perspective (in this case “I command you toward awe and gratitude and joy”) is similar in both tone and dismissive self-centrism as someone else’s whine that they didn’t like the heavy marketing presence at BlogHer.

My suggestion, actually, is that they write a letter.

BlogHer focused programming and seminars and workshops and presenters and conversations and awards and keynotes around using our voice. And most of the sessions focused on finding the right audience for that voice so that it’s heard by the right people.

Complaining to fellow conference attendees gets you nothing. It annoys your fellow writer and squanders your power.

If you don’t like something, speak up. If you felt dissatisfied with the proceedings in Chicago, tell the conference planners at BlogHer 1) what you didn’t like, 2) how a situation didn’t meet your expectations, 3) how you would fix it in the future, and 4) how you will help.

Complaining is rarely effective if you don’t show that you’ve analyzed the situation, your expectations, and the possible solutions. Note that in the above solution you have to do some serious work around honestly examining  your reasoning, articulating how a situation fell short, and developing a workable solution.

You do this at work when you write a memo that explains why your old computer hampers productivity, how your computer fits into the company’s larger technology picture, what options you’ve identified for upgrading, which are your recommendations for a technological change, and where the money will come from.

You do this at home, too. When the family is bickering about the same things or getting stuck at the same time of day, you have a meeting to explain what you see, solicit ideas for change, aggregate recommendations for a new approach, create a plan, and garner approval for the new plan.

If you didn’t like something about a conference, you have to speak up. But complaining, especially to fellow attendees, does not change anything. Examining expectations, stating problems, and offering solutions changes everything.

Use your words, people. Because I want to help you but I can’t understand when you’re whining.

 

 

Bugs, bugs, bugs.

Oh, dear heavens, our seven-year-old got lice.

I really don’t need to say much more than that, for most of us had those insidious creatures as children or have parented small people growing those insidious creatures.

But holy guacamole it’s a lot of work. Our resolve to treat most illness and body issues naturally is seriously testing my rejection of all things insecticidal and toxic.

[UPDATE: See link at the end of the post for a three-week combing plan that requires no spraying, washing, nighttime masks, etc. I didn’t use it in the beginning, but have adopted it now.]

I knew as soon as I saw him scratching that I wouldn’t use neurotoxic insecticides that are illegal for use on farm animals and pets but legal for use on children. (Seriously, FDA? What is this, the billionth time you’ve made the wrong choice at the hands of major chemical companies?)

I also knew that choosing to eradicate bugs without toxic chemicals was going to make life way more challenging. But I had no idea just how challenging. I searched the Internet for nontoxic lice treatments to kill lice without poisons and came up with a regimen of head- and house-delousing that has, incidentally, almost killed me.

Why?

Day One:

  1. Shampoo and condition infected child with our regular, non-toxic products plus tea tree oil. Rinse with apple cider vinegar. Wash towel on hot. Estimated time: fifteen minutes.
  2. Strip all bedding from all beds, all clothes from drawers, all hats from rack, all costumes from basket. Put rugs outside. Sequester all washables in garage. Bag and seal all unwashable items (helmets, stuffed animals, etc.) Begin endless hot-water-and-tea-tree washing and drying on high. Estimated time: forty minutes.
  3. Take long-haired louse-festival and his brother to three stores to get supplies for two weeks of anti-lice tirades. Estimate time: one hour
  4. Spray both children with diluted tea tree oil. Comb each kid with his own with stainless steel nit comb. Boil nit combs. Time: two hours.
  5. Iron bunk bed mattresses. (Yes, with a clothes iron.) Put clean sheets on bunk beds. Estimated time: twenty-five minutes.
  6. Spray car seats with tea tree oil. Estimated time: five minutes
  7. Coat everyone’s heads with coconut oil (mixed with a dash of tea tree oil). Add shower caps. Estimated time: five minutes.
  8. Have Spouse nit comb my hair. Estimated time: forever.
  9. Continue laundry barrage. Estimated time: eternity.
  10. Sleep in coconut oil and shower cap. Estimated time: not long enough.

Day Two:

  1. Wake and comb coconut treatment out of both kids with nit comb. Ninety minutes
  2. Strip beds, throw all pillows, sheets, comforters into dryer in thirty-minute phases. Fifteen minutes
  3. Bathe kids. Wash hair, rinse with vinegar. Let dry, spray with diluted tea tree oil. Thirty minutes
  4. Take them to beach. Time? Who cares? It was lovely.
  5. Remake beds. Fifteen minutes.
  6. Give baths. Thirty minutes.
  7. Comb with nit comb. One hour. (Look at me, getting faster. Or careless.)
  8. Make beds. Fifteen minutes.
  9. Strip car seats, wash and dry covers. Twenty minutes.
  10. Regret bunk beds, hair, resistance to chemicals. All day.
  11. Apply coconut and shower caps. Five minutes.
  12. Reassemble and attach car seats. Thirty minutes.
  13. Have Spouse nit comb my hair: One hour.

Day Three:

Wash, dry. Strip beds. Wash, dry laundry. Comb kids. Wash, condition, rinse, dry kids. Make beds.

I’m going insane.

And I itch all over. I’m convinced I have lice, ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and chiggers. All right now on my head.

Despite evidence that I don’t.

Day one eldest was crawling with bugs. Combed out maybe 50 disgusting little buggers. Youngest had none. I had none. Morning after coconut treatment eldest had at least a dozen dead bugs. Youngest had one tiny dead bug. Me, too. Morning after second coconut treatment eldest had no live bugs, two tiny dead bugs. Youngest had no live bugs, no dead bugs.

Tonight, after 48 hours and complete freaking adrenaline overload. I can’t find any eggs or lice on either kid. But eggs are microscopic and we have two more weeks, at least, of combing before we can be sure whatever hatches doesn’t grow big enough to lay its own eggs and start the whole insane cycle again.

So I’m psychosomatically itchy. And tired. And firmly resolved to keep up this incessant pace of laundry, combing, and coconutting.

The pediatrician says all we really need is the combing. And patience. Three weeks.
A friend says we could help ourselves by having the kids sleep in sleeping bags on the floor for ease of morning laundry.
The Internet says we have to keep doing all this for three weeks. Unfortunately, the Internet also says to buy lots of products, toxic and non-toxic. But nothing kills the eggs, and hatched critters can’t lay eggs if they’re combed out.

 

So.

What’s a little twelve-step day that takes six hours total? I have a spare six hours every day, right?

Wrong.

But. There are upsides.

  1. My kids are now sitting still (in front of the television, but I think anyone on the planet with excuse me that one) for an hour each day.
  2. We’re cleaning out the freezer of all the emergency, just-in-case frozen meals. Because there’s no way I’m cooking, too.
  3. The bugs seem to be gone for now. Or at least they’re on their way out. I have bested them with my will. And will continue to do so.
  4. I’ve finally needed the numbered-list formatting on my five-year-old blog.

So I guess there are silver linings to every creepy, crawly, disgusting parasite.

Right?

[UPDATE link http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/theliceprogram/index.html%5D

You Have to Know Who You Are

Each morning when I dress the part of the human I’m pretending to be, I think about the contexts in which people will see me. An all-kids day means I wear a geek T-shirt, skort, and pair of worn-out Chucks with red recycled-kimono laces. A meeting with clients means a suit (despite the fact that I’m still clinging to pre-kids suits that are way too tight and too short. Because children, apparently, made me grow several inches. Or made my rear-end absorb several inches of pant-length. Probably the taller thing. Because science.) I reject heels with those suits in favor of sturdy brown wingtips with yellow recycled-kimono laces.

When I’m headed to a conference I feign disinterest and fight my personal love of tweed trousers. I pair a crisp French-cuffed shirt with jeans. Sometimes a tweed jacket. Because I can’t help myself. Oh, my word, the draw of elbow patches. I would put elbow patches on T-shirts and jammies if I could. To fight the corporate-academic look I wear boots, especially my canvas and leather jump boots. Because nothing says badass-academic like jump boots and Scrabble-tile cufflinks.

But an upcoming conference poses a perplexing problem. I’m headed to Chicago for BlogHer, a massive conference for bloggers that I never really thought I’d attend. I’m not sure how I got caught up in the excitement and the joy of this conference. Except that I know exactly how it happened. I won a kind-of-a-big-deal blogging award.

A lovely human named Alexandra, who blogs her infectious love of life, family, and women in several places including at Good Day Regular People has been outrageously kind with me since she found my blog last year. She has connected me with sites she thinks I should blog for and has cheered my accomplishments. She’s my age, but I think of her as my abuela. She’s kind and supportive in the way everyone’s families should be.

And when the BlogHer Voices of the Year submission process opened, Alexandra tweeted to her Empire that everyone should submit because everyone is worthy.

Trying to learn from her example, I slammed the door on self doubts and submitted three pieces from last year.

And promptly forgot that I had entered. I was proud enough to have sneered at the internal, “why would *you* ever…” long enough to submit. I didn’t actually think about the process or the possibility that I might be selected.

But my post on autism is one of twenty-five blog posts being celebrated for inspiration at the upcoming conference.

And when I found out, I was incredulous. Then I cried. And then assumed that all further references to Voice of the Year would necessitate an asterisk.

“Tonight we celebrate 99 bloggers who inspired us, and one extra, whom we chose to fill out the extra seat next to them.”
“We have worked diligently to select some of the best writing online this year, and are throwing a bone to a post by a mediocre writer at whom we shrug a lukewarm nod. You know whom we mean.”
Seems a rather disrespectful view of the judges. [Not of myself or my writing, by the way. The judges did all the work. And the other writers. And the webmaster. And conference planners. And the snack vendors. They all deserve the credit.]

After a bit of this disrespectful drivel, I started to think, maybe, perhaps, there are a few other honorees who similarly think their mention is a mistake or footnoted pity vote. That when I’m clapping for the other bloggers whose posts just *wrecked* me with humor and heart and compassion and truth, perhaps one or two might be hanging their heads in embarrassment, too.

Probably not.

What did this to me? What makes me think what I make doesn’t matter? Or shouldn’t count? Or that when people say, “I read that and liked it” that they’re wrong/lying/trying to be nice? Why wouldn’t I say thank you the way I do when clients like my writing or academics like my writing? Why is creative writing, unpaid writing, heartfelt writing less worthy?

I did feel proud of my writing when I hit “post.” And I did feel satisfied enough in my writing that I entered a contest, something I never, ever do. So why would that pride die when I won? What kind of headcase freakiness is this?

All the other VOTY posts I’ve read, without exception, have floored me. They’ve made me want to write more.

And dozens of people commented that my post was important to them. I have a responsibility to those readers, including the judges, to smother the ridiculous nonsense in my head and to take a bow.

So I’m going to straighten up, allow the smile to settle in, and sit proudly with those wonderful writers at the Voices of the Year celebration later this month.

Because I need some applause in my life, yo. And all I have to do is stop knocking myself down to see the hands making that noise. They’re lovely, gentle, raucous, funny, smart, activist, human hands.

So now to the last, little problem.

What does one wear to act the part of someone who is learning to shut the door on self-doubt and to take full possession of her body, brain, and writing? Is there such thing as a tweed skort and french-cuff shirt with recycled-kimono elbow patches? Designers? Call me if you can hook me up with that kind of swag.

Equality

Last week over breakfast, our foreign exchange student announced that, on BART, she saw her first gay person.

I snickered a bit privately, since she’s seen way, way, way more than that. But I wanted to hear her story.

She said that, in her country, being gay is bad. That two women kissing on the train is not okay.

I braced myself for what came next and held my breath because the kids were listening. We have a friend who is transgendered and my children think such humans are just another kind of friend to have. In fact, the youngest doesn’t know and assumes, as he should, that our friend is a man because he’s a man. Of course, Butter’s three and thinks most of the trucks on Bob the Builder are female. So he’s clearly not attuned to conventional gender clues yet. But I didn’t know for the first few months of my friendship, either, and learned about Adam’s apples the interesting way.

We haven’t talked to our kids about what it means to be gay or lesbian, in part because gender is something children notice early, but discussing homosexuality involves ideas about attraction and marriage and being more than friends, which are by nature more mature than my children are. They know every family is different, and that some families have kids but some don’t; some have two adults in the family, some don’t; and that the families with two parents might consist of a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. They know that we really like that different types of people bring different ideas and the more ideas you hear, the better you can choose what you believe.

So when Rosí announced that in her country bring gay is bad, I was prepared to stop her so we could continue later. Her opinions and experiences are valid, but they’re not always appropriate for small children.

“Yes,” she continued. “In my country this is very bad. But I think killing is bad. This? Kiss? Do you say ‘kiss’ in this way? [Yes, but you can say ‘kissing’, too.] This is love, right? And love is good. So I don’t like what they do, and I don’t think it’s right. But it’s not wrong.”

I have to say, I was impressed. I asked my eldest if he understood what we were talking about.

“Do you know the word ‘gay’?” I asked. “You know the families we know with two dads or two moms? The word for having a partner who is the same gender as you is ‘gay’.”

He nodded. “I know.”

“So she’s saying that, in her country, people believe wanting to be a family with someone who’s the same is bad. But she thinks hurting is bad, and that loving is good. What do you think?”

“Well, yeah,” he said. “Kissing is only bad if the other person says ‘stop’.”

Well, damn, readers. He just covered equality and respect in one answer.

These are good, open-minded kids I have. The two I raised and the one who just arrived three weeks ago. May they always kiss people who say “yes.”

[I haven’t talked with our guest yet about the Supreme Court decisions of last week. But when the boys and I heard on the radio, on the way to school, that the justices said the federal government can’t invalidate a legal marriage by withholding spousal benefits, and that the people in California who don’t like gay marriage have no legal standing on which to contest it, I sobbed as I explained to my children how important it is for a country to say that all people are legally the same. Of course we’re not the same. But legally, all people have the same rights. I told them how important it is to know that not liking something is not the same as being hurt by it. And that not understanding something is a reason to find out more, not to pass laws. It’s never too early to train the next generation of legislators, executives, and justices.]

And….scene.

I am proud to announce that I am now mother to a seven-year-old and a three-year-old.

Feels weird. The youngest is no longer a toddling disaster waiting to happen, though he is about as fully Three as a young human can be. If you don’t know what a scathing epithet “Three” can be, please search the interwebs and ask your friends. Three is so adorably horrible it…ah, what the heck. I have all year to tell you. And an archive full of 2009’s Three-based rants to tide you over.

In addition to morphing of young Mr. Needs Attention All the Time into Mr. Needs Attention Most of the Time, 2013 has brought to our home a full-fledged seven-year-old person with all manner of ideas and stories to tell. And mischief to orchestrate. He’s delightful. When he’s not surly. Or ignoring simply requests. Or antagonizing his brother and parents.So I might be able to spend five minutes a day actually focused on this young man, now that his brother is less hazard than attitude problem.

But several moms this week have told me that nine is really he beginning of puberty and its signature mood swings, detestable behaviors, and frequent parenting moments.

So I have two years to enjoy the delightful creature whom I’ve basically ignored for two years while his brother has been tearing around like a Tasmanian devil. I have to make the most of every single moment, for after those two years, the creature formerly called Peanut will become hormonally-altered, and I will be shut out forever.

(Have I mentioned I’m a huge fan of hyperbole? Probably not, and since it’s potentially not obvious from my hysterical rantings, I’ll mention it here. Hyperbole is the best thing ever!)

And I have two years to guide the little tea kettle of irrational lunges toward independence before he blossoms into a lovely, individual creature who will privilege his peers’ opinions over mine and relish his long hours at school without me. As we now know, most five-year-olds fall in with the wrong crowd and ignore their parents for the rest of their young lives.

A crossroads. One is in the middle of his best four childhood years. And the other is in the middle of his toughest childhood years. In 730 days they will transition into the initial phases of teenager and the initial phases of elementary schooler.

730 days. That’s all I have. After that it’s…well, it’s…it’s another 1460 days before things get really dicey, with a teen and a tween. And then only 1095 more days until one is driving and both are shaving. And then only 730 days before one leaves for college.

Sob!

My baby is going to college in 4,198 days! I have to go make sure we have enough soap and shampoo and extra-long twin sheets to get him there!

Hang on. How many leap years between now and 2024? I have to go do some research. I’ll get back to you soon with how long I actually have before I start sobbing and taking on new hobbies and…wait. The other one will still be here. I won’t be alone and depressed and needing seven new hobbies until at least 2028.

Just when I was thinking four years was a crummy spread because one is always in a challenging phase and so consuming my maternal energy I miss the other’s delightful age…

No problem. 2028.

I can hold off panicking until then.

Phew.

Now I have time to panic about getting through Three.

And Seven.

Oh, HAIL no.

I just got home from volunteering in Peanut’s first grade class. I’ve wanted to do this all  year, but my schedule hasn’t allowed it. Until now. I’m giving his sweet little face and adorable friends an hour of my time every week. They’re reading to me. I could eat them up.

Most of them.

But right now I’m so freaking mad.

Not at the teacher. She’s heaven and perfection wrapped in a package of cuteness. She might actually be the world’s most ideal first-grade teacher, but I don’t want to sway the judges in case she’s actually second or third best.

I’m not mad at the school, though I always have complaints. Shocking, I know. Naptime Complaining is the name wordpress always offers me when mine’s about to expire.

No, it’s not the institution that has riled me. I’m enraged at whoever is raising those two boys who debated with me today in class.

One came right out, apropos of nothing, and told me that girls can’t play soccer.

Um, yes they can. May I introduce you to the tale of the US women and the 1991 World Cup? I’m sorry, what, punk? Did you just say no to me? How about a little thing called the women’s Olympic team? No? Never heard of it? Hmmmm. Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain have a little something to tell you, boy, about the four gold medals the US has won playing against seriously talented female soccer players from all over the world.

His tablemate joined in. “Yeah. Did you know girls can’t play with boys’ toys?”

Ah, hello, 1940. Yes they can. “Well,” I said, “that’s not true. What do you consider boys’ toys?”

“LEGO,” he said.

“Girls play with LEGO,” I said. “I play with LEGO, my nieces play with LEGO, our neighbors play with LEGO. Building is not just for boys.”

“Sure it is, he said. “Girls can only play with LEGO friends.”

I’m assuming those are the asinine pink LEGO sets I railed against when they were introduced…until I found out girls loved them and were introduced to building and physics and architecture and spatial relations due to pink LEGOs. So I shut the hell up and found another cause for my feminist-consumerist rage.

Never once did it occur to me during this classroom bickering, by the way, that they were taunting me just to get my goat. First-graders don’t pick fights just to get a rise out of someone, right? That’s what husbands are for, I’m pretty sure.

Who is raising these little misogynists? I told my son, who was reading a soccer book, that the jerk boys at another table said soccer isn’t for girls. I didn’t say jerk boys, since I’ve told him repeatedly to stop calling those two particular boys jerks, a parenting practice I will now cease.

“Well, here’s one,” he said, pointed to a girl playing soccer in his book. “And C, D, and N and O all play soccer.”

“Right,” I said. “And there are professional women’s soccer players and Olympic women’s soccer players.”

“Yeah,” said one of the friends who has been to our house once and now gets a permanent invitation. “Women play soccer really well. All over the world. The American team was even in the World Cup.”

“Damn skippy,” I totally didn’t say. I probably “Yeah”ed him, but I don’t remember. My affirmative replies are funnier when I write them in Jazz-era-colored hindsight.

I can’t stand it. I want to go fight with those six-year-old boys. I want to call their parents. I want to write a letter and a school-wide presentation and host a sit-in.

Seriously. What the hell? Who still believes women can’t play soccer or play with blocks?

Of course this is coming from their parents. But are they isolated cases of ignorance and small-mindedness or are there whole cultures who still believe this? There were four boys who chimed in about grrl power. There were two boys who insisted girls can’t do what boys can. Aside from knowing whose mom I need to take out for drinks and whose dads and uncles and brothers need schooling, how do we change this? Do we hope the four educated boys talk some sense into the misogynists? Do I make it my goal—instead of going back to work, finishing my books, publishing my academic articles, and learning a few foreign languages so that finishing my doctorate is a real option—to teach all of the school district that boys and girls can both do anything they work hard for? To reassure both genders that they don’t have to compete, but to recognize each other as individuals? To build teams that are gender-blind but that reach to cover the whole gamut of talents, from interpersonal skills to knowledge in hard sciences to sportsmanship to verbal acumen to creativity to mathematic excellence?

Do I need to take up the standard that the Third Wave has shrugged off because they have ten million other things to do (and because seriously with the all-or-nothing guilt, First Wavers). Do we need to have more open talks in this country about race and economics and gender and assumptions and hatred and ignorance and teaching your kids some manners when talking to a delightful school volunteer?

The teacher overheard one boy and asked me what prompted his statement about girls being less than equal. I explained. Her eyes widened. “Oh, we have a new book to read after we get back from the library,” she insisted, promising with her tone that the rest of the day would be about grrl power.

Damn skippy, I say.

Holiday gifts

Hey, there.

I haven’t posted in forever because I’m crazy busy.

But I have something for you. A gift, perhaps.

Go to HealthyStuff.org and check out the toys you’re going to give the small people in your family. Or use it to check the stuff you’d really rather donate to charity, under the guise of making room for new toys by getting rid of the old.

Our government and our corporations do a really horrible job of making sure we can buy things that won’t hurt us. At least one major company has resolved not to use carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting chemicals in products for children. Good for them. But there is arsenic and lead and PBDEs and PVC in a lot of the stuff you or your loved ones can buy, gift, use, and enjoy this time of year.
Toxic phones, toxic car seats, toxic household products, toxic sunscreen, and toxic makeup and shampoo.

Some of the data is old, and a lot of new toys aren’t on the Healthystuff.org reports. But still. Do what you can. Nobody wants to give their niece a toxic piece of chemical waste for Winter Solstice. Right?

Find some healthier alternatives at Safe Mama. Her cheat sheets will help you find safer toys, lunch gear, backpacks, bug repellent, and more.

Be safe out there. It’s a gross mess of lead-tainted wrapping paper and tape and poison-PVC tinsel and lead-filled holiday lights out there.

It’s still an awful lot of fun though. Happy holidays, and enjoy all the fair trade gelt and organic candy canes, and whole-wheat winter solstice gingerbread you can eat!

On interpersonal communications

I woke in a panic at 3 a.m., and not just because the congested toddler next to me gets violent when he’s fighting a cold.

No, really. V.i.o.l.e.n.t. Kicking, hair pulling, pinching. In his sleep. Good times.

My 3 a.m. cold sweat arose because I realized in my semi-conscious state that I had misheard someone twelve hours earlier. She had said, it was now perfectly clear in the dark of night, “Did you have a fun Thanksgiving?”

But I heard, “Did you have fun playing?” So I had turned to my son who had just finished playing kick ball and asked him if he had. He mumbled something and I smiled at her. And considered the conversation over.

But that was all wrong, I suddenly saw in my darkened and mostly quiet bedroom. Socially horrific. I was supposed to beam and say, “Yes! Thanksgiving was great! How about you?”

I botched the answer. Not just because Thanksgiving was seriously top-notch great and I should have asserted that clearly but without bragging. No, I should have answered the actual question asked because those are the rules. You don’t defer to your kid on adult questions. And you definitely don’t leave someone without a reciprocal, “And how was your Thanksgiving?”

I screwed up an adult exchange. I hate that. I still have PTSD about failing in my conversational duties once in 1994. And another time in ’08.

So I did what any other rational adult would do…I weighed pros and cons on how to handle the gaffe. From 3 a.m. until 4 a.m I debated my options for righting this egregious wrong.

What would I do? Pretend it never happened? Confess the next day that I misheard? How? By saying, “I was replaying my day in my head searching for excuses to beat myself up for gross incompetence, and came upon our conversation…”

Of course not. If I addressed it at all I would be casual and adorable.

Ha ha. Got you. Of course I went with the creepiest, most apologetic and unbalanced approach. I hurried over to her on the playground as soon as I saw her and confessed my deepest darkest socially incompetent moment. Of the day. Including the 3 a.m. part. Because nobody who has ever met me has accused me of being anything but the poster child for neurotic.

All I want for Christmas is grace. The kind where I can let mishearing an acquaintance go, and get some sleep once I elbow the hair-pulling kung fu master next to me. That kind of grace. Wait, is that grace? Or am I thinking of peace? Or kickboxing-yoga fusion?

Anyway, this woman, to whom I’ve spoken three times in my life, got the whole story this morning. “I woke up in a sweat at 3 a.m. because I misheard you. I’m terrible at interpersonal communications. I couldn’t sleep after that. I’m a dork. Help me.” (Paraphrasing. Because there were a lot of melodramatic “Oh My Gawd”s in there, too. And perhaps an invitation for her to join me at a therapist’s office. of her choice. Because I’m not domineering.)

But at least I got in my, “So what I would have said if I weren’t a spazz, is ‘Our Thanksgiving was wonderful; how was yours?'”

I’m not exactly sure how she answered because I was so proud of myself for getting an “A” in grownup interpersonal communications. But I’m sure she had an answer. And probably felt all special because I noted and remedied my craptacular end of the conversation.

And that’s what communications are about, right? Making other people feel special and totally not 3 a.m.-panicky?

So why didn’t she do the same for me yesterday? Boy, she has some nerve…

Selling ourselves short

I love social media. I enjoy Twitter and Pinterest. I read dozens of blogs. I ditched Facebook but certainly used it for several years.

What I don’t love is how corporations are weaseling their wares into my personal conversations. And I really don’t love how complicit some of my online friends are in this process.

Long ago, in a world where there were newspapers and magazines and three television channels, ads came for paid sources. Companies would buy space or time on conventional media to promise us that we’d be richer, thinner, taller, hairier, less hairy, smarter, and more popular if we bought their products.

People grew weary of these approaches. Companies tried new tactics. They put their cereals quietly on a shelf in Seinfeld’s fake kitchen. They had celebrities use their sun lotion on a lovely Malibu beach.

The goal and basic message was the same. “Pay us money and you’ll be happier.”

Now, with social media, companies are paying regular people to shill their products. But they’re paying much less than they ever paid newspapers and they’re changing the way we read what friends write.

The basic premise? “‘Like’ our Facebook page and get a coupon. Then all your friends see that you like us. You’re advertising to 100 or 200 or 800 people, and all we give you is $5 off a sandwich.”

Same tune, different channel. “Here’s a great recipe using all our crappy products as ingredients. Pin it on your Pinterest boards and all your friends will do the same. In exchange, you get a delightfully transparent adverecipe. Free!”

Wanting to get their brand trending on Twitter, which gets them a front page advertisement on every screen using the site, companies come up with ridiculous contests. “Tweet our name a lot and we’ll enter you in a drawing. The winner gets a few dollars. You give us free advertising and there might be a trinket in it for you.”

I’m sick of seeing blogs and boards and feeds get covered in corporate slime, especially when I know the people (whom I used to trust) only got a few pennies, if anything, in exchange for interrupting my social media day.

Today was the last straw. I just got a form email from an author whose books I really respect. Paraphrasing, he said, “My new book is coming out. Think you’ll like it.” Fine. Makes sense. Advertise to the people who already like your work. That’s an ad I welcome.

But the email continued.

“I’m going to put together a marketing team of really smart people like you. If you’re selected for this highly respected team, you’ll conceive of and execute my marketing for me. And I’ll give you a free book!”

So I do all the work and you give me…a book. Son, people get paid tens of thousands of dollars to come up with marketing campaigns. I’m not doing one for you for a token of appreciation.

It’s a long walk off a rotten pier.

Aside from being mad at being undervalued, though I am, I’m really angry at how these marketing schemes cost relationships. I see a blogger I really like and respect start shilling diapers. Or books. Or pumpkin pie filling. Doesn’t matter what the product is. I stop reading as often, I stop trusting what I read, and I stop visiting their blog.

One reader isn’t a big deal. One online relationship dead is not, either.

What matters is that the companies are playing us like fiddles. They get free advertising *and* a sneaky inroad into places marketing isn’t expected. I follow people on Twitter because I want their voices. Not their ads for credit cards.

The companies think they’ll benefit from the trust I have in my social network. I’ve been reading Sue’s blog for five years, so when she sells out to Frozen Fish Sticks Company I’m supposed to be more likely to trust FFSCo as much as I trust Sue.

But I see through you, Frozen Fish Sticks marketing team. I’m pretty sure I don’t trust Sue less because of her deal with Frozen Fish Sticks Company. I know Sue wants to be heard and wants to be paid. But I’m also pretty sure they’re not paying Sue what she is worth. I’m pretty sure all she got out of the chance to annoy me and make me think about visiting her blog less often is a box of frozen fish sticks.

You’re better than that, Sue.

I understand the draw. A lot of people want to feel needed. They want their writing seen by more people and they want to get paid.

Excellent goals.

But getting a nickel to do work that should be paid two hundred dollars isn’t a win for anyone except the corporation that just saved $199.95.

But who am I to tell people to stop writing two-cent ads on Twitter? I forward links to books and magazine articles. The authors and publishers don’t ask me to. They don’t know I’m going to do it. But if I blog that I liked a book, that’s advertising, too. Why draw a distinction between (nominally) paid ads and personal opinion that might drive sales?

Intention.

Maybe I’m grumpy. Or feeling guilty. Soon I’m going to try the aggregating-commercial-site thing that all the kids are doing these days. I’m going to put some of my posts on other sites for free to see what happens.

But I wonder how much that process cheapens what I’ve stood for all these years. I know better than to let my work get away for less than I’m worth.

So why do it?

I still don’t know. I can say that the ads on the sites where most bloggers are aggregated are standard, expected, and usually ignored. It’s like performing on a street corner and being surrounded by billboards. This is simply our online landscape.

But I think it’s really because writers are, at heart, applause whores. We’ll sell our soul to be told we’re good. That’s why we sell ourselves short by selling products, ideas, and companies for far too little.

And in agreeing to have my posts on aggregating sites I’m probably doing exactly that for which I’m thinking of unfollowing other people: shilling crap that nobody needs in exchange for less than I’m worth.

Oh, well. Here’s some Lloyd Dobler to enjoy while you eat your fish sticks. Remember when we were this idealistic? Yeah. Me, too.

Old, older, oldest

Despite the actual numbers, I’ve never felt old. I always think I’m just a few years past being a teenager. My parents? Old. Their whole generation? Ancient.

But that’s been my thinking since I was ten. At that point, thirty seemed near the end of life. Now I don’t consider someone much older until they hit seventy. And even then, most don’t seem old until eighty or so.

When did I become the person who thinks seventy is only “kind of” old?

Yesterday, in the dentist’s office, I laughed to hear a vaguely familiar song playing. It took a minute to locate the memory way, way, way back in the early ’70s.

I started thinking: wait a minute. There’s a chance this was playing the day of my first dental appointment. When I was four. This is just weird.

The next song was Sonny and Cher. The one after that was Earth, Wind, and Fire.

And I knew both without asking. That made me laugh. The hygienist looked puzzled and I said, “I think these songs were playing when I had my kindergarten dental cleaning.”

She considered that and said, “This? It’s the oldies station. They’ve stopped playing stuff from the ’50s and ’60s and moved to the ’70s and ’80s.”

They what, now? They’ve identified the people in midlife, labeled our childhood OLD and made money from that asshattery?

Then it dawned on me. The hygienist was younger than me. By about ten years. So, come to think of it, are most of the professionals I know. Heck, OutlawMama can’t get anyone to corroborate that Flo was not being criminally insubordinate when she told Mel to kiss her grits.

What good are you if you don’t remember Alice?

Regardless of the number, I’m beginning to feel old. Or at least grownup. My peers do not work at grocery stores or bars or in postdoc positions. My peers are managers and COOs and first authors.

When the hell did that happen?

Your baby or your life: wilderness edition

The family and I went camping and as we checked in heard the same dire warnings that we’d heard before: our local bear problems mean lock up every single thing that smells like food. Not in your car, because they’ll claw it apart. Not in your tent because that’s like gift wrap to a bear. If your kids spill, change their clothes and store them in the bear locker. If you have a chance, vacuum out the carseats before you enter the park.

On and on. Lip balm will draw them. A closed can of soda in a car will draw them. Referring to your unsightly waistline as a muffin top will draw them…okay, not that last one. But close.

So we always heed the warnings. Spouse and I watch the kids carefully and pick up every crumb they drop. We put dirty clothes and washcloths in the bear box. We store the bug spray and sunscreen and lip balm in the bear box. We even lock up the backpacks that might have at one time had a cracker in them.

And on night three it occurred to me: I’m still lactating.

I think Butter has weaned. He went from nursing before bed every night to several nights a week to a couple of times a week to forgetting for two weeks to forgetting again for…I think it’s been a month now. I’m a child-led weaning sort, and I don’t offer, don’t refuse. And he’s a toddler, so he’s busy and he forgets and…

What if a bear can smell that you make milk for months after weaning? I’m not kidding. Tiny babies can smell if mama is in the room. Bears are about seven billion times better at smelling.

When my first child was born we visited a wonderful friend. My four-months’ pregnant friend held my four-month-old baby, who took about two minutes before he opened wide and went right for her fully clothed breast. Made a hilarious (or mortifying, depending on whom you ask) wet circle on her shirt.

Because he could smell that her milk had just come in (at about 20 weeks).

If my four-month-old can smell milk through several layers of clothes and unused milk-delivery system, I’m guessing that a bear can smell me through the single-layer-mesh tent windows better than that closed soda in that closed car.

And riddle me this, readers: What week of the month do you think we happened to be camping? I was surprised to find (on day three of the trip) that it was the time during which an old myth holds that women are attacked by bears and mountain lions much more frequently. Blah blah blah pheromones…blah blah blah bleeding…blah blah blah unsubstantiated claims that mostly apply to polar bears.*

Whatever. These wee hour machinations did not inspire relaxed appreciation for the scenery: firmament, heavens, flora, nor fauna.

So now, wide awake at 3am, surrounded by the most beautiful bear country, after three glorious days with my boys and husband, who do you think felt more small and threatened than any woman should?

I lay there, reeking of honeydew ice cream on one end and of sloughed nutrients on the other, desperately hoping I’d live to plan the next camping trip a little better.

It’s rather unfair, I raged, after I spent an hour *terrified* and flinching at every sound. The two things that give me superpowers, the two things that make me the most vital I will ever be in my biological life…those things should not be a life-threatening liability.

I wouldn’t, even if I could, stuff my breasts and uterus into a bear box. I don’t care if the mountain lions and the bears and the wolverines all planned a hunting party with my photo on their usenet.

I can make a human and feed a human. And that means bears will come from miles around to feed on my superhero flesh?

Oh, hell no.

Except there was no “hell no.”

There was a small creature lying next to me who cried, in his sleep, “No! No! Carry!” And he reached his arms toward the sky lit with more enormous stars than I have ever seen in my life. I silently rolled him closer to me and curled around him. Knowing I couldn’t protect him. Knowing that, if anything, my very existence threatened his.

But he twined his fingers in my hair and settled into the warm, sweet baby sleep of a mammal with its mama.

I wanted to sink into our nest.

But his damned breath was so loud I couldn’t listen for bears. I had to choose whether to take this time to be his mama, in all its painful and scary challenges, or to roll away in the name of vigilance and preparedness.

I woke up exhausted and stiff with his fingers still in my hair, hoping the bear would at least wait until I had my patented campfire coffee and cocoa blend.

Sometimes weakness makes you strong. Sometimes strength makes you weak. And sometimes you gotta hope there’s a bumper crop of blueberries, honey, and salmon several miles away.

*Public service note: the myth about bear attacks on menstruating women is patently false. See this article and this study, to which I did not have access in the wilderness, because apparently a wilderness without cell access seems more attractive to nature snobs like me. Must rethink that position next time I’m awake at 3am.

Shut the cluck up

Poor, dear Emily over at Motherfog is in the middle of a sh*t tornado. Go leave a bottle of cyber-wine or a bouquet of cyber-flowers to make her feel good, please.

And now we begin our regularly schedule rant.
People close to the Penn State football program are actually bemoaning the pain caused to the innocent people by sanctions of a program that…wait for it… institutionalized pain caused to innocent people. Shut up about your money, your scholarship, and your football inconveniences. Your privileged life will continue, with only the logistics altered. Sandusky’s victims are Penn State’s victims, and they faced trauma the likes of which a small blip of inconvenience do not compare. You want to know what hurting innocent people really looks like? Talk to the victims. Selfish jackasses.

***

The US Congress is narrowing in on approving a Farm Bill that takes $16 billion away from a program that feeds hungry families, and gives $36 billion to giant agribusinesses. That’s what small government means, I guess: decreasing what U.S. taxpayers spend on people and increasing what we all pay to companies.

Congress is rushing, pretending that passing the bill affects crop insurance for this year’s drought, which it doesn’t. It also includes language that would bar states from enacting their own laws, as California has in banning grotesque chicken farming practices. States rights, apparently, are paramount only when legislators and big business want them to.

***

Sally Ride was a hero for all Americans, but especially of science geek girls (like me) everywhere. She taught us we really can do anything and go anywhere. But her partner of 27 years is not eligible for any of Ms. Ride’s federal benefits because lesbian heroes aren’t, according to our government, equal citizens under the law.

***

The further we get into this election cycle, the more mad I’m getting at the gross ineptitude of our government to treat us with decency, humanity, and honesty. They’re lying to us, their big corporate donors are lying to us, and they’re not doing their jobs, choosing instead to perform political theater for the rest of this year.

Oh HAY-il no.  No.