Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Better Things for the One Million Moms To Think About or They're Just Schweddy Balls, Baby!

So, for the past few days I've been laughing at the Schweddy Balls Ice Cream that Ben & Jerry's came out with.  Every time I think about it, or hear someone else talking and laughing about it or read about it, I laugh.  It's funny.  And the skit on SNL that birthed it is funny.  Good on ya, Ben & Jerry for having the balls, er, guts to have fun with this.

Then I read about the One Million Moms and their call for a boycott of Schweddy Balls.  In their words, Ben & Jerry introduced a  "...vulgar new flavor has  (that) turned something as innocent as ice cream into something repulsive. Not exactly what you want a child asking for at the supermarket."

Oh, boo hoo (and don't even get me started on their issue with Hubby Hubby flavor).  Seriously, this is what you spend your precious time on?  This is what you want to rally your the power of One Million Moms about? What a waste.  There are so many more important things that you could be doing, gettiing press about, creating solutions for.  And I'm not saying that these are mutually exclusive--I'm saying that there are many, many more issues that deserve your time and attention.  So many in fact that you could multi-task your little brains out and still not get to all of them.

So, because I hate to see such a waste of resources, I'm going to share a few ideas I came up with on my 10-minute drive home from work.

1.  Visit, clean up and put flowers on the 4,683 plus graves of the men and women that have given their lives in our current war(s).

2.  Collaborate on a solution for our horrifyingly broken Child Protective Services and Foster Care system.
(You know, according to NCMEC there is an estimated 800,000 kids that are reported missing each year and children missing from care fall into three groups; those who run away, those who are abducted and those whose whereabouts are unknown.)

3.  Give blood. (The Red Cross needs 1/2 a million blood donations in August/September to meet patient demands.)

4.  Work with local and federal governments to put a stop to the human trafficking of young boys and girls for the international sex trade.(Worldwide, it is estimated that somewhere between 700,000 and four million women, children and men are trafficked each year, and no region is unaffected and an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 women and children are trafficked into this country each year.)

5.  Talk to your children about why Schweddy Balls is so funny and then why you don't think it was a good idea.  Get their opinion on it.  It's called teaching your child "critical thinking" skills.

6.  Spend a few minutes thinking about some other mom's son, Troy Davis, and the issues with the death penalty in this country.

7.  Start and staff a voter registration drive with the goal of getting all eligible Americans ready and able to vote according to each states rules.

8.  Work with Skype to make their "Skype in the Classroom" vision of  a million connected classrooms a reality.

9.  Gather a million of anything (mosquito netting, childrens books, pennies) and do something with them.

10.  Go to and find one or two, or heck, maybe even three issues that your One Million Moms can make a real difference on.  A difference that makes a real impact on people's lives.

11. Go to and help someone or a group of someones realize a dream.

I left myself a voicemail on the way home telling myself these 11 ideas for this post so I wouldn't forget them. Literally it was 10 minutes.  Which means that anyone else can spend 15 minutes and come up with 16 better ideas.

But it's not really about the ideas is it?  No, it's not.  It's about the fact that you have built an amazing resource and in this country you do have the freedom to do anything with that resource.  All I'm asking is that you think about the responsibility that comes with that freedom and be better than worrying about something as silly as Schweddy Balls.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Purposeful Writing: Mine and Others

I took an unintended break from writing this summer.  I thought it was because I have having a 'word' issue.  I was writing a lot for work.  I had started writing a lot on two book projects of my own.  And I was reading a lot of other people's words--books, articles, news stories, blogs, tweets, status name it, I was inhaling it.  And somewhere in all of this, it felt like I lost 'my voice'.  I sat down to write, but it all felt a bit strange. So I just stopped, thinking that the urge would return soon enough.

"Soon enough" turned into about 5 months.  I was getting an itch to write again, but not the usual obsessional pull towards the computer.  So I wandered around the book store and the internet and found that a favorite writer of mine, Kristin Cashore of Graceling fame, had a post on writer's block just last week. Three things I liked about her post.  First, she brought Philip Pullman into the discussion and I love his anti-precious attitude about it, especially when she quotes him as saying, "Plumbers don't get plumber's block...." which is both true and false (from a literal interpretation of their job) and made me giggle.  Anyway, so Mr. Pullman doesn't believe it exists.  Ms. Cashore breaks her thinking about it into two areas of feeling:  The whiny cop-out of the, "I don't wanna" feeling and harder to admit, yet more honest, "I literally just can't" feeling.  I definitely, after putting my own experience up against her definitions, fell into the "I literally just can't" camp. 

I, it turns out, needed a break.  Not because I was tired of writing. Just the opposite, actually. I loved the writing, but in retrospect, I believe I was tired of writing without Purpose.  Not in the little scheme of things--I had something to say every time I put fingers to keys.  But in the bigger scheme of things I needed to ask myself, "What is the gestalt or the collective take away from all of this?"  

Funnily enough, this is a question I ask myself everyday in terms of what I write at work, but I had yet to apply that same framework to my own personal work.  This really came clear to me after I fell into editor Dennis Cooper's Little House on the Bowery series.  These books are a complete left turn from what I usually read and yet I find I'm hooked mostly because I find that there is a larger theme or purpose behind all of them.  Matthew Stokoe focuses on the theme of following and failing the American Dream in his writing.  Cautionary tales to be sure, both Cows and his earlier High Life are both powerful statements about what drives us to want more and very hard reads. They are gritty and exhausting with a spare, almost throw-away brutality to them.  But they make you think, even though the more dainty of you might actually want to throw up here or there.  In Derek McCormack you find another dark author, but this is a funny, wry and surprisingly clever writer who looks at aspects of our culture through a vastly alternative lens--and, he wrote vampires before vampires were cool .  In both The Show that Smells and The Haunted Hillbilly Derek gives us an unvarnished, under the glitter look at Hank Williams, Coco Chanel and others.  

Now, obviously story tellers entertaining us while also creating consistent arguments about a culture or an idea/ideal is nothing new, it's just that these books were there for me when I was searching for an answer to a question I didn't know I had.  So I'm a bit indebted to them.

In terms of my own purpose when it comes to my writing, I'm dancing around an answer. I've got something that feels true and interesting, but I'm just rolling it around in the back of my head, testing it out so to speak.  So we'll see how it works itself out as I continue to write it all down and put it all out there.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I thought 1 was a lonely number but 11 is painful OR A Parental Dilemma

My tiny baby boy turned 11 recently.  And it's been like a light switch has been thrown for him---he's been in his room more, out riding his bike more, less communicative more often, more teen-like in some of his mumbled "asides"--and in his not-so-mumbled ones.  I'm missing him and his innate sweetness more.  Now it could be I'm just imagining all of this, but I'm not, he's pulled a way a bit and it is hurting.

So I am reveling in the current situation....he lost another tooth and, as he told me last night, he has been waiting patiently for the Tooth Fairy to arrive.  Feeling bad that we hadn't had the tooth fairy scheduled, I reminded my husband to take care of it while Max was at school.  His reply?

"HE'S ELEVEN!"  Meaning, I guess, that Lowell believes he's too old for this type of thing.  Bah Humbug! I say.  If my son still believes in the Tooth Fairy, I want to support that believe in the magic of childhood.

Lowell then explains that my son is probably just angling for some cold, hard cash...and that, and I'm directly quoting him here,  "I think he should pay us back for the perfectly good tooth we bio-engineered for him which he had the gall to wear-out!"

Which brings me to my current dilemma--this would be funny.  Actually very funny and my son would totally fall for it, which means a lot of fun for my husband and I while our kids sit there trying to figure out if we are pulling their leg or not.  We could spin this out for a good hour or so over dinner.  Good fun.  Good times.

But I have to weigh this against the possibility that if he were to get $1 from the Tooth Fairy he'd revert to the sweet, cuddly boy of yesteryear.  

Arghhh!  Why is parenting so hard?  Do I go for the definitely funny or the possible cuddle?  

Hell, there really was never a true choice...the definitely funny is going to win out every time in this family.  Besides, I can get a cuddle when he's not paying attention, or sleeping, or in front of his friends, which will achieve both!  OMG--that's the ticket.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In honor of International Womens Day or 10 Things Every Girl Should Know

Most of the time I don't know what to make of days like these, where we are supposed to honor a group of people or things...except for Veteran's Day...I get that one.  I don't get International Waffle Day or stuff like that.  I did find that there is an International Mens Day as well and that it was started in Trinidad and Tobago in 1991.

FYI:  International Womens Day was started in 1911 so this year is a Global Centenary. Each country has a different theme and in fact different organizations within that country can have different themes which I find confusing and if I were King (err, Queen) for a day, I would change that.  Anyway, if you are interested, the United Nations global theme for International Womens Day is:  "Equal access to education, training and science and technology:  Pathway to decent work for women."  

In celebration, there are over 1000 activities across the world.  England is host to 464 events, the US to 246.   And China?  Just 1. Which is amazing considering Iraq is hosting at least 3. But I digress.

I think the reason I have such an issue with days like these is that they seem too big, too vague...I don't know where to look or what to do or how to help.  So, I'm going to focus where I can, on those closest to me and the ones closest to them.  So here goes, please forgive the rhyming at the beginning, I couldn't help myself.

10 (+1) Things Every Girl Should Know
Yes, thank Heaven for little girls.
...for those I know and love and for those I don't.
...for those I will know someday and those I won't.
...for how you grow, for how you change
...for thinking, but almost rarely commenting, that Mommy is strange.
...but most of all for really listening when I say these things:

  1. I love you
  2. There is nothing you can do or say that will change the fact that I love you.
  3. Do the right thing, not the easy thing.
  4. Be confident in who you are.
  5. Never be afraid to have a voice.
  6. Never let anyone else, including me, force you into a decision you are uncomfortable with. (see #4)
  7. Love and own yourself, your body, your hair, your nose, your butt, your breasts, your thighs and your decisions about each of those.
  8. Be loyal and loving to your friends and family, but never blind.
  9. Be safe, do safe, act safe
  10. Always know that me, my ears, my brain and my heart are here for you.
  11. (And because we should always have a Spinal Tap moment, my number 11 comes from Willa Cather, a great author to cite on International Women's Day.)  Try and live your life with this in mind:  "Happiness comes from dissolving yourself into something complete and great".  Please never settle for anything less.  Never stop working to achieve it. And when you find it, dissolve and just let yourself be joyous in it. 

So, while it's no "100 Things to Celebrate about Belarusian Women", I am comfortable that if I manage to get my daughter, my nieces and their friends to know these things, something grand for women will have been accomplished.  And for that, I do thank Heaven for International Womens Day.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Heart of an Artichoke, Brain of a Scarecrow

"Heart of an Artichoke And Other Kitchen Journeys" by David Tanis is the first book I picked up seriously since 'the episode' on September 30th.  Yes it was a Christmas gift--albeit an amazing one.  And yes, I love, nay, seriously love artichokes.  But I have about 30 books that need to be read, especially Karen Armstrong's "Buddha", something I've been really wanting to read since my need (yes, need) for Yoga has grown. So, it's a bit of a mystery to figure out.

Now, having thought about it for a minute or two, I think, actually that it was the word 'journey' that made me pick it up first--because I feel I've been on a bit of my own journey these last few months.  As you all know from past posts, my head is giving me fits and starts in the form of a constant headache...the result has been interesting and surprisingly full of silver linings.  However, one of the big problems has been my inability to read--lack of concentration, double-vision, etc...keeps me from really digging in and when I read, I tend to read for hours.  And, now that I'm back at work, I'd been using my reading time up on things I need to read there.

So, it was with more than a little hesitation, that I got into bed the other night with this book.  I figure I'd thumb through it, drool over the recipes and pictures, get frustrated and then put it down. But nope...there was some seriously good writing to pour over here...and writing I could identify with--it seems he and I share a 'lingua franca' if you will...although unfortunately not a love for Chocolate Chip Cookies...anyway, his recipe for getting the reader engaged in the food is with memories of tastes and smells, nostalgia via other peoples stories, and a simple view of what a meal can be--whether that meal is a plate of potato salad and a beer (yes!) or a deconstructed turkey.

More than all of this, though, this book served as a reminder to me that Rome, or David Tanis as it were, wasn't built in a day, and that I needed to apply that same reminder to me and my own current journey, a deconstructed turkey if there ever was one.

So, instead of seeing the restricted diet, the need for exercise, the meds, the yoga, the knitting, the naps, the embroidery and the slower brain as a phase to get through and forget, why not see it all as seasoning for the finished dish that will eventually be Rene? Hopefully not the finishing touches, but definitely things that will stick with me, and be a part of me as I make them my own, for a long time to come.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The night before the night before the night before....

My daughter is fascinated by the idea of "eves"...the naming of the night before the big day.  Of course, as some fascinations are wont to do, it's gone a bit too far.  Right now she is making a list of the 'eves to come in 2011'...we are up to 22 and she is only through March.  Next, she says, she will make a menu for each of the eves.   I ask her, what about the next day?  "Those days take care of themselves, Mom.  But someone has to take care of the eves..."  Interesting theory--or just another reason for her to ask for baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, blue cheese, brie, olives, salami and the rest of her "best of" menu.

In any case, I share her delight in the night(s) before, there is something to be said for the cuddly anticipation, the quiet innocence of the unknown yet to be that comes before the loudness of the 'day', whichever day it happens to be.

And of all of the eves, I, probably like thousands of others, have a special place in my heart for Christmas Eve and all of the eves that run up to it.  The nights of Bing and Rosemary, with the lights off, the candles lit, the soft lights of the tree in the corner.  Hot Chocolate to my right, a book to my left and a pile of wrapping in the middle.  The fun of shopping with the kids for each other and their Dad, always ending with hot chocolate, even when it's 75 outside.  The hopeful whispers upstairs talking through the 'what if's' of boxes that arrive daily.  These are the eves of my adulthood.

The eves of my youth are distinct with memories of serious cold, of tires crunching across snow, of signing every carol we knew while driving up the hill to Butte Falls from Medford.  The heater in the old blue station wagon making you drowsy so the singing becomes that wonderful drone in the background of your dozing--until one of your four brothers and sisters yells that you are in their seat space...and then inevitably, the magic dissapated for a bit, sometimes for good, as the night became not so silent.  In our case, the irony of multiple instances of taking the Lord's name in vain on the heels of 'Oh Come All Yee Faithful' often got lost in the ensuing melee.

Which, as it happens, is history repeating itself as upstairs, the soft silence of my eve of the eve of the eve is broken because the older brother caught wind of the "Eves of 2011" production that is occurring and is repeatedly telling his little sister that " doesn't work that way, you are making all of this up..." and I'm waiting for the....yup, there it is, "Mooooom!  And, ooohh... I just heard a 'dammit'....  Here is an eve memory we'll all remember for different reasons.

Luckily, the hot chocolate to my right goes well with the Peppermint Schnapps in the cupboard.

Oh, My Body, My Body, Part Deux Or Headcase, Anyone?

So, I havent' written since I've been back to work.  I've been struggling with how to manage it all...but here is the kicker--The struggle is all in my head.  Irony.

The work itself is easy. I'm good at it.  I love it and it energizes me in a way that I'd taken for granted.  I've had no problem working up to my own standards.  I've had no problem setting boundaries as to how much I'll allow on my plate at any given time.  And, I've been just as, if not more effective. Awesome.

The taking care of myself?  Yeah, not so much. I find it easier to fall back into the craptastic schedule I was keeping before September 30th.  So disappointing and disappointed...actually more than that.  I'm totally pissed at myself.  But, like horses, bikes, bulls and relationships, you just gotta jump back in and/or on and that's where I'm at now...jumping back in/on.

See, the first week went great.  I got up, walked three or four miles, got back, ate a good breakfast, took my meds and got to work at a reasonable 9 am.  Worked, had my banana/slimfast shake and almonds for lunch.  On the way home did my yoga or rowing.   All of this in the service of managing my chronic headache from Occipital Neuralgia....the weight loss was a bonus.

Realized quickly that all night exercise will have to be moved to the morning....I'm too exhausted after work to get anything good out of the rowing or yoga.  So, figure out the new schedule, no problem...plenty of options for me. Feeling good.  Feeling upbeat, yes, even a little cocky.

Second week, Monday.  Sabotage....Self-Sabotage.  The voice inside my head that was saying, "heya, the pain is managed, don't worry about it" I slept in and scurried out the door without being able to look my husband in the eye when he asked if everything was fine.  "Totally Fine", I said. Which is actually code for "Totally fucked".

Second day followed the first day.  Except I did the utterly unthinkable and stepped on scale....gained a pound back.  Spent the fourth day talking to my therapist about how I am so angry at the self-sabotage and reminding myself that this is not about weight, it's about my head.  Nothing changed over the next few days....except Tuesday of Third week, I wake up with my head pain at about a 8 or 9 when I had it consistently down to a 4 or 5. 

My fault. No exercise, wrong food, not enough sleep.  So sucked it up, went downstairs and jumped, okay, shuffled, into family life.  Later, a nap, shower and pain pill and we were out and about.

All of these years, it's been about the vanity of weight, with good intentions wiped out by evil little voices, laziness and fear...the justification of "I can still do anything."  Of, "I like being a little cuddly."  Of "Reuben had it right, red hair and curves."

Except it's not about that anymore....exercise and diet are just a way for me to manage the real issue with is chronic head pain--something that actually does keep me from doing things with my kids, my husband, my and in the long term. 

So, back in the saddle, old girl.  Or as my daughter said to me the other night, "My brain gets me into trouble too Mom. You just have to wait until the right moment when it's not looking and then do the right thing."

So, for the next six weeks or so Brain, "look away, look away"!