Category Archives: General

Measured

Today I started my day the way I usually do: getting the kids off to school, taking care of the dog, and reading the morning headlines over coffee and breakfast. News is my “bag” and lately, I’m a glutton for punishment by keeping up with it. I have no formal training as a journalist, but I do have some thoughts about news consumers that have come together over the last few weeks.

This morning, the breaking headlines were “Trump is ending birthright citizenship.” Most news outlets ran with it. Many people in my social feeds were instantly outraged. While I don’t watch it, I’m sure cable news was filled with “Breaking News.” About ten minutes later, the headlines softened: “Trump *said* he wanted to end birthright citizenship.” Smart journalists added to the headlines and retweets with the important caveat that he can say it all he wants, but of course, he can’t do it by executive order and would instead need to follow the process to overturn the 14th Amendment, which would require Congress and/or the Supreme Court (a way less catchy headline, BTW).

About five minutes after this, NPR tweeted the headline correctly and with the appropriate nuance. I thanked them and the word that kept popping up in my mind was “measured.”

We have almost entirely lost our ability to be measured.

(The irony of using hyperbole in a piece about being measured is recognized.😀)

Cable news (and the connected Internet echo chamber) is exciting. Graphics, live video, breaking news, anticipating what’s next, out of context interview clips that are infuriating, and opinions that get us worked up on both sides. It lights up lots of different areas of the brain: fear, arousal, reward systems, desire for safety. I’m not a neuroscientist either, so I’ll leave that discussion to the people who actually understand it.

Cable news is also on 24 hours a day. They have airtime to fill and fill it they do. Thus, cable news is also largely opinion. Remember when your daily news broadcast had to alert you that an opinion piece was forthcoming? They would read the formal statement and then the opinion author would say his/her piece. We now have nearly 24 hours of mostly opinions being thrown at us, with a sprinkling of factual news in between. If CNN, MSNBC, or Fox had to read the opinion disclaimer before someone spoke on their panels, they would be reading it all day long. News has become opinion, and in that way, Trump can actually claim that there is fake news. It resonates with many, but it’s increasingly dangerous because there is important information that we do need to know. We can’t tune it all out.

This brings me to something my Dad has always said. He and I don’t always agree politically, but we both enjoy a good political argument and are well-informed. His theory is that we were all better informed when we had 15 or 30 minutes of news each day. We would all tune in at 6:00 or 6:30 and have a little bit of local news and a little bit of national news. Journalists, who were trained in their craft, would distill the barrage of data and information coming at us into actual knowledge. They would weed it all out and give us the things we needed to understand the most. Those who wanted the deep dive would read newspapers or periodicals, where fact versus opinion was much more clear. Sure, a newspaper can have an editorial leaning, but opinion pieces are clearly identified.

(I should add, for those who think I want to return to the 1950s or 60s, I also realize that only having a few major news sources can be problematic in many other ways and the expansion of voices being heard is a good thing, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

Creating news for a single daily broadcast allowed us all to be measured. It weeded out headlines (that now get repeated and reinforced incorrectly all day long) about things like “Trump is ending birthright citizenship.” It would have weighed his one statement or his five Tweets with the news of the day and considered whether they were even newsworthy. Being measured means being thoughtful and carefully considering your words and their importance. Everything is not newsworthy, but 24 hour news means it all is.

And the opposite of being measured is something more like arrhythmia. I imagine measured news and discourse like drum beats or heart rhythm. We tune in, we get a predictable type of information or knowledge, we get our important local news, we get our important national news, and we distill that information into our own worlds. It is not meant to excite, necessarily, but to inform. I imagine arrhythmic news and discourse more like 24 hour/cable news. It is heart arrhythmia with peaks of breaking information and opinion and escalations in pulse and dead air filled with non-factual blathering. And then someone gets a tidbit of new information and the defibrillator comes out and gets the heart going again with more breaking news. This news is meant to make money. You must tune in and stay tuned in or you will miss what’s next.

A few weeks ago, my father-in-law visited and my husband was talking about Alexa and how he starts his day with his morning news briefing, which comes from NPR. He told Alexa to read his briefing and after she was done, my father-in-law said, “That was really good news.” He seemed surprised, but it was probably much more like the news he grew up with. It was factual and it wasn’t exciting. Some may even consider it boring. But it was measured. NPR may not break the headline first, but they will generally get it right. It’s also worth remembering that NPR is National Public Radio and doesn’t have the profit motive that for-profit news organizations do.

The ship has sailed on Walter Cronkite at 6:30. We won’t be going back to that model. But we can all do one thing: be measured in our own consumption and sharing of the news. Don’t retweet your instant outrage. Consider your words. Consume only the most impartial sources of journalism, or balance your Fox News or MSNBC with NPR. One wants to make money and the other has a public duty to inform. You wouldn’t take addiction advice from a drug dealer, so consider the opinions they are force-feeding you. Who does it benefit? What do other sources say? What if the opposite is true? Where does the money flow to and from? And before you share a news article, ask yourself the same questions. Beyond, is it a fact piece or an opinion piece? Could it be debunked by Snopes in less than 5 minutes? Who is the source? What is their motivation? Does this seem to align perfectly with my viewpoints? (If so, the world is generally never that tidy. Be cautious.) Does it seem too good or too crazy to be true? (It probably is.)

We are now in the position of asking the questions that journalists did for us in years past. The information comes at us rapidly all day long. We must now weed out the unimportant and politically-motivated stories ourselves. We must be able to identify when the facts stop and the opinions start. No one is telling us that anymore. And we must be careful what we, ourselves, broadcast. We are all now our own news channel broadcasting to everyone on our email contacts list, in our friendship circles, and on our social feeds.

And while you may not think your voice is important, when millions of people share false or politically-motivated “news,” we endanger the whole system. Cronkite once said “Journalism is what we need for democracy to work.” We are all amateur journalists now, and we are doing a lousy job. Our democracy is in danger, and trust me, I considered that word carefully.

Men are afraid

Because no one is standing up to do it, I have deemed myself “America’s Therapist.” I have no qualifications as such and my advice should not be substituted for a qualified medical professional’s. 😂
 
Today’s topic: It is a scary time for men and they have a lot to be afraid of.
 
Full disclosure: I have lived with anxiety my whole life. Raging anxiety that makes me fearful in situations where everyone else is comfortable and even enjoying themselves. I am terrified of flying and have only just now started to fly again after 20 years (and with the help of Ativan). I don’t particularly like heights. I worry about sinkholes and I hate it when interior floors feel “shaky.” The minute I get a sniffle, I’m pretty sure it will be the end of me and that pain in my side? It’s probably my spleen. So let’s just put all that on the table.
 
Fear is a powerful thing. And as we all know, fears can be rational and irrational. Or a combination thereof. Fear of flying can be rational because accidents can happen and it would be pretty freaking awful for those few moments when you realize you are in one. Fear of getting sick is also rational, because, yep, it happens. However, these fears become irrational in the face of evidence and facts. 
 
What would a therapist tell you if you said you were afraid of flying? (I can vouch for this advice personally.) She (or he!) would say that sometimes it’s easy to be afraid of things when we are out of control of the situation, but there are strategies to deal with that fear. These two are especially helpful:
 
First, you need to think about the rational facts and chances of something happening. Yes, sinkholes happen. But in general they are minor and cause a small nuisance. Yes, plane crashes happen. But they are very rare and driving is much more dangerous. Yes, people get sick. But the average lifespan is quite good in this country and researchers and scientists are finding new cures daily. 
 

Second, you need to think about that worst case scenario. Say that sinkhole did develop. Right on your property! What would you do? Well, I guess if everyone were OK, you’d probably call some sort of engineer and maybe ask your town or village what the hell you do when a sinkhole opens up? (Note to self: Figure out which professional entity deals with sinkholes.) And if you get a bad diagnosis from the doctor and you are actually really sick? Well, I guess you’d enter into that matrix of doctors and specialists and hospitals and you’d go through treatments and you’d fight like hell, right?

So, let’s take this all back to the premise that men are afraid and it’s a scary time to be a man. Obviously, we have entered into a time when women’s voices hold power that they never held before. And I don’t doubt that this is scary if you are a (white) man. You thought you knew the boundaries and now you are questioning whether the rules have changed or you were wrong in certain situations. You are very fearful of being falsely accused. What if you do everything right and someone accuses you of something you didn’t do? Or something that was entirely innocent on your part? Some may debate this, but let’s call these rational fears and use our two steps to deal with it.

First, let’s talk facts. About 2% of rape accusations are false accusations. This number is generally in line with the false reporting of any crime. Individual studies have shown the rate to be anywhere between 2% and 10%. So even if we take the high number of 10%, 9/10 rape accusations are truthful, which means you have a 1/10 chance of being falsely accused. The odds of you dying of heart disease are a much riskier 1 in 6. Had a cheeseburger lately? But Kristin, you say, not all sexual assault accusations or harassment accusations are rape. I hear you. Because of this, I think we would have to use that generally agreed upon statistic that 2% of crimes are falsely reported — with no reason to believe that sexual assault or harassment are any different.

Are you afraid of someone accusing of you of regular assault? If not, then carry on. If so, maybe talk to someone about that? (The point is that someone can accuse you of any crime in an attempt to ruin you.)

If you take the statistics further, anywhere between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000 rape accusations ever lead to a conviction. So even with the low chances of a false accusation, there is little chance that the crime would A) be reported and B) that you would ever be convicted in a court of law. (Also, in a case of “he said, she said,” the tie usually goes to the white male. And you know that.)

So maybe you are fearful, but do the statistics really support your fear? Your therapist says no. Is there a chance this plane is going down? Yes. Is it likely? No.

Second, let’s say the worst case scenario actually happens and you are falsely accused of sexual assault, harassment, rape, or attempted rape. What would happen? It would suck. Yep, that’s a given. But you would get an attorney or an advocate depending on the seriousness of the charges. You would gather your evidence to support your side of the story. And you would fight like hell, right? There are no guarantees in life that something sucky won’t happen. The odds are incredibly in your favor that all will be just fine and you have to know that if something did happen and you are an honest and good person, the truth would come out in the end. Liars’ stories generally don’t hold up for more than 15 minutes. If you are really worried about false accusations, I would suggest you investigate and round up all of the white men in jail falsely accused of sexual assault. My bet is that you will find only black men. (Hence #blacklivesmatter, but we’ll save that for another day.)

So back off the ledge, American (white) men. It’s all OK. You feel out of control because a woman could accuse you of something and people would listen to her. In the past, her voice would be ignored and even actual assault would be ignored. The only thing that has changed in the #metoo climate is that women aren’t hiding their stories and more people are listening to these stories.

If you spend your days afraid of heart disease, something much more likely to happen than false accusation of a crime, you know that there are prescriptions for wellness. Eat a healthy diet. Exercise. See your doctor regularly. Take your cholesterol medication. Similar logic applies here. If, after reading this, you are still afraid of being falsely accused, follow this advice: Don’t touch a woman without her permission. Don’t tell off-color jokes in work situations. Don’t make sexually suggestive statements in work situations. (If you have difficulty with either of these, just count to 10 before you say something and re-evaluate. When in doubt, don’t say it.) If a woman says no in a sexual situation, listen to her. Don’t be creepy. Don’t drink too much alcohol if you do stupid things when you do (it’s not a defense for any crime). Don’t hold someone down without his/her permission. Don’t rape anyone.

But, you say, “My career, my family, my whole existence could be threatened and that’s still terrifying.” And I hear you. That’s a scary thought. This leads me to my third personal strategy with fear and anxiety: assess the current situation “on the ground.” What is happening right now? Everything is OK right now, correct? So take a deep breath and think clearly. You can be fearful or you can turn this all on its head and be grateful that this is happening. Why? Because this national discussion we are having can help us explore what is appropriate sexual behavior and you can change your behavior accordingly in the future! You can choose not to tell that sexually suggestive joke at work tomorrow. You can chose not to pat that woman on the back every time you see her. You can teach your sons things about consent and what constitutes assault. Maybe no one taught you that and that is wrong.

This national conversation is literally giving you “get out of jail free” cards. It is the answer to your fear.

But only if you listen.

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Babies and Books

Parents … today is April 5, 2016 and I have a cautionary tale. Right around the time Max was born, I realized I needed to redo Madeline’s baby book. I had been very good (first born!) with writing in it and saving every little thing. It was overstuffed and the binding was breaking. I had a new baby book for Max that was an expandable scrapbook style and I decided to do the same for her. I went to Target and bought all of the supplies so I could take each old page and insert it into the new book. I had matching ribbons, trim, and cute decorations. I wrote an inscription in the front of the new book explaining to her what had happened to the old book and how I was making her a new one. I signed it lovingly from “Mommy” and dated it June of 2007.

I stored it in a bin in our guest room and meant to get to it that summer. Then life happened. My second baby became active. And he liked to put rocks and nickels in his mouth and destroy DVD players by putting the same kinds of things in them. The first baby graduated out of Kindergarten and I started having to take her places. To practices and events and concerts and birthday parties. There was homework and staying busy over summer vacations. There were swimming lessons. There were jobs for me and writing projects and holidays to prepare for. And I went to the grocery store. A lot.

And that new scrapbook was kept in that Rubbermaid bin. And it passed the purging cuts of cleaning, organizing, and three moves. Two of them interstate.

I would get to it. I would get to it someday.

I kept mental track of where it was. In the bin labeled “Baby Books and Memories.” It was on the mental to-do list of the hundreds of things I’d like to get to someday. But in real life, I have a hard time remembering to make haircut appointments far enough in advance — and then finding the time between drop offs and pick ups and errands to actually get to them. And I still go to the grocery store a lot.

And all of a sudden, the baby from that first baby book is 14 and going into high school next year.

On Sunday night, a look of panic washed over Madeline’s face (as she stared weirdly at Snapchat). It had been spring break and I had repeatedly asked her all week if there were any projects she needed to work on or things to do for school. Nothing, of course. It was all done! When I asked what was going on, she nonchalantly told me (at 5:00 on Sunday) that she needed a scrapbook and scrapbook paper and inserts for Monday morning. A group project. Of course, the other person was supposed to get it. And through a maze of Snapchats, it was decided that it didn’t happen and Madeline was now in charge of getting it. The truth lies somewhere in Snapchat. Mothers of teenagers know these kinds of situations make us drink wine. And sometimes vodka.

The riot act was read. “You need to be more prepared. You need to think about these things when I ask you. We were out and about a million times this week and easily could have grabbed the stuff. And now everything is closed. Goddamit! Hobby Lobby isn’t even open on Sundays! Are you sure you are being honest about who was supposed to get it in the first place? You are just going to need to figure something else out.”<

And my mind went to the basement storage area. In the bins. The scrapbook that I intended for her. Bought almost ten years ago for my baby girl.

I went downstairs and found the bin in the unorganized mess of the third move. I took out the scrapbook and tore out the inscription written in pretty handwriting that I have lost somewhere in motherhood. I found all of the pink ribbons and trim and stickers and spare pages. I brought it upstairs and handed it to her and said “You are welcome. I just bailed you out.”

When we were driving to school the next morning, we were talking about why I needed to get the scrapbook in the first place. I explained that her baby book had been falling apart and I wanted to rebuild it for her. I explained that life got in the way and I had just never done it. She asked me if I were ever going to do it.

“Maybe once you are in college (me thinking about how reasonable that sounded, only four years away now). After I buy a new scrapbook and write a second inscription, I guess.”

The abandoned baby books. The breaking baby books. The blank baby books. That is real life. The scrapbook that I intended to make? That was pretend life. Pretty life.

I like to think that maybe we will have better memories of the broken baby book with things falling out of it and the story of the night I bailed her ass out for a group project in the 8th grade. I bought that scrapbook for her. Yes, I did.

Velvety Cauliflower Soup with Turmeric, Sunflower Seeds, and Truffle Oil

This summer was not kind to my waist line. Or to my hip line, ass line, and stomach line, for that matter. Packing and moving meant pizza and beer on many more nights than I’d care to admit. And if unpacking one spice bottle from twenty sheets of packing paper burned a lot of calories, I’d be in my pre-baby jeans. But no one would want to see me in those 12 year old things anyway — including me — so let’s just skip it. Bottom line is that I am trying to get back to normal eating before the holidays crush me all over again.

A friend was telling me about her success with a twice a day shake/smoothie plan, but instantly said, “Oh, you couldn’t do it because you love food and flavor too much.” True enough, but I did consider it for a moment. It couldn’t be as bad as the cabbage soup diet. Remember that shit?

No, any healthy eating plan for me needs to include real food and flavor and cooking. And now that we are back on our weekly farm share plan in our new area, I feel like the vegetables are calling me and nagging me from the fridge. “You aren’t seriously going to let us go bad, are you? Come on, you lazy piece of shit, cook us!” Maybe your vegetables (as I like to call my inner voice these days) are kinder than mine, but I do feel incredibly more guilty if I don’t use my farm share vegetables as opposed to my grocery store vegetables. You know how when you were a kid, you felt sorry for the last banana going brown because you were worried it felt unwanted? OK, maybe that was just me, but I am quick to personify produce and the hard work of the individual farmers who grew it is a much stronger cooking motivator than some unknown factory farm.

I digress. Can you see why my husband is a good man to put up with me and the constant over-analysis of even my produce drawer?

But even with my farm share love, there are things that get abandoned in the back of the fridge. Cauliflower is one of them. I like it, but no one else in the family does. They hate it, in fact. So when the vegetables were talking to me before lunch today, I had a moment of clarity that I could make something with them for me! Just for me. For lunch even. So this is what I made. It was delightful and rich and healthy and I will probably eat it for lunch all week. And even though the heavy cream in the fridge was screaming to be included in this soup, my hips told her to STFU.

Velvety Cauliflower Soup with Turmeric, Sunflower Seeds, and Truffle Oil

Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini

1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped into small florets
1 large onion, chopped
2 t turmeric powder
1 t curry powder
1 T olive oil
3/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds (or other nuts or seeds)
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
Juice of one lemon
2 t salt (to taste, less if using full sodium broth)
Fresh ground pepper
Chopped fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, or chives would all be good)
White Truffle Oil or Good Olive Oil

1. In a large soup or stock pot, sauté onion, turmeric, and curry in 1 T of olive oil until softened. Add cauliflower and sauté for about five minutes until the cauliflower begins to soften.

2. Add stock, wine, water, 2 t salt, and freshly ground pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes until cauliflower is falling apart and very soft.

3. While soup is cooking, chop the sunflower seeds very finely in a food processor or small chopper until they are the consistency of corn meal. Reserve a few tablespoons for garnish and set the rest aside.

4. Remove soup from the heat and purée with an immersion blender until soup is velvety smooth. (You can use a regular blender, but obviously leave the lid partially off and do it in small batches so you don’t have an explosion of hot soup.) Stir in chopped sunflower seeds (reserving the others for garnish) and lemon juice and puree for a few more seconds to incorporate. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

5. To serve, ladle soup into a bowl, sprinkle with reserved ground sunflower seeds and fresh herbs, and drizzle with truffle oil or olive oil.

 

 

On the eve

This screen is empty, but my head is not. It is filled with thoughts of growth and change and transition. And somewhere in the mumbo jumbo of to do lists, laundry, cooking, packing, and anxiety attacks, I am trying to make sense of it all. Tomorrow is the last day of elementary school for my now very grown up 11 year old daughter. Tomorrow is the last day of kindergarten for my sweet little man who just yesterday was my baby.

To say this year with them has been a joy would be an understatement. Being able to watch them walk up the hill into the same school door every morning (her always panicking that she was going to be late [she never was] and him searching for his boys — and lately, his girls) has made me feel like the luckiest mother in the world. They have been Book Buddies and had the comforting feeling of knowing that someone they love is by their side (even if down the hallway) all day long. They’ve had moments of growth and sadness and fear — him telling her he didn’t think she should keep hugging him at school in front of his boys. Her saying after Newtown that if that ever happened at her school the first thing she would do is run out of her classroom and go make sure her brother was safe.

My little girl, who sings now more than ever, is no longer in the days of dance recitals and soccer games. This morning, I dropped off clothes that she forgot for a kickball tournament and I was struck by her suddenly more mature beauty as she turned the corner, smiled, and flipped her long hair a bit as she saw me. She has braces. We talk openly and honestly about friends and boys and all of the obvious things that 11 year olds wonder about. Last night she cried when talking about all of the injustice in the world. She has started to argue politics at the dinner table. And on social media. (Oy.) She feels. Intensely.

My girl makes me a better person.

My little boy, who runs, climbs like a monkey, and builds Lego sets like a teenager, is still in the days of soccer and weekly birthday parties. Last night he ended up sleeping with me and the big metal “throw up bowl” after puking all over the car earlier in the day. His limbs entangled with mine all night and his head was firmly planted on my chest — creating a dull pain that only a mother knows. I hardly slept a wink between the random punches and kicks and turns. But this morning he said, “Thank you for letting me sleep with you, Mommy. My tummy really hurt.”  He likes to point out that he and I both like to rub our feet together in circles while getting settled into bed at night.

My boy completes me.

So I sob a little. I rejoice in them. I thank the powers that be that they light up my life every day. I read somewhere that having a child is like putting a nail in your heart. Initially, it fills up a void you never knew existed. But slowly, you know that nail is being withdrawn and that you will be left with the hole that they filled for so many years. So many sleepless nights. So many birthday parties. So many throw up bowls and antibiotics and fevers. So much laughter. And so many tears.

The joy of motherhood almost always feels one whisker away from pain. And today, I guess I feel the pain a little as that nail comes out just a wee bit more. I already long for it to be pushed back in and relive every little moment of them walking up the hill together again.

If It Weren’t for the Internet, I’d Be Wearing Mom Jeans

I read this article today from Paul Miller, who you may recall was the dude who went off the Internet for a year and got paid to tell the story of his experience. I remember reading (on the Internet) that he was going to do it, so I was somewhat interested in how it went. I didn’t follow along with his weekly essays, because well, I have a short attention span, I guess.

The basic idea is that it was great in the beginning — he had energy to go do things, lost 15 pounds, read, and actually listened when people talked. Those are all good things. But as he reflected upon the experience, he realized that those were novelty effects of living in a different world. Physical letters were exciting to get in the mailbox until responding to them became just as much of a chore as responding to email. Time wasted playing video games replaced time reading TMZ or Buzzfeed. And then there were the effects that were worse — he ended up socializing less, he talked to his friends much less frequently and sometimes not at all, and his niece who used to Skype with him thought he didn’t want to talk to her anymore.

And that reminds me of a quote by Alan Kay that my husband uses all the time:

“Technology is only technology to those who were born before it.”

To his niece, without the Internet in his life, her uncle just simply didn’t want to talk to her. To her, the Internet was no different than talking on the phone. To choose not to participate was shunning social interaction in general. (And my bet would be that if I told the children I were going to undertake a similar year off, they would look at me with confused glances and ask why. Did anyone ever say that the telephone was too much of a distraction and decide they were going to live without it? Perhaps. With some historical reflection, would that be dumb? Yes.)

I have to admit that I thought he would end the experiment with grand pronouncements about how the Internet is great for some things, but detracts from our real, “meat space” lives in countless other ways. I thought he’d say those people who announce they are going off Facebook have the right idea. I thought he’d say we were all wasting our time. He didn’t. And he didn’t because the Internet is social interaction. It is us. And while it has disrupted the way we do nearly everything, the problems it creates aren’t necessarily new ones. It used to be when I got bored during a dinner conversation, my only choice was to daydream. With my iPhone, that’s not true anymore, but  it doesn’t mean I’m paying any more or less attention.

And the whole thing got me thinking as I was chatting (on the Internet) with my husband and we both easily admitted that the Internet has really given us everything. For my husband, it’s a career. For me, it has allowed me to write and read multiple newspapers every day (not just my one hometown view on the world) and pretend I’m a photographer and involve myself in politics in a way I, as a social introvert, probably would never have done without it. If I were writing this essay and sending it off to Women’s Day or some such other literary POS (sorry), they’d kindly send me a letter and say no thanks. And I’d be sad and after a while I would give up and turn my attention elsewhere. Or nowhere.

(And I realize I am not a professional writer. I don’t pretend to be, nor do I expect to write the next great novel. But does that make my words any less worthy of being written? In the end, everything I post on Facebook or Twitter or write here is for me. Have we forgotten that the term blog originated as “web log?” This web log is the journal of my life. If what I post here makes someone happy, or laugh, or cook, or feel supported, that is fantastic. But in the end it is a way to chronicle *my* life. And just like my real life, if you don’t like what I have to say, move the fuck on.)

Do I waste time here and elsewhere on the web? Yep. Did I used to waste time playing Solitaire on the computer (or with actual cards!)? Yep. Do Pinterest or Facebook make me feel bad sometimes that I am not crafty, or too fat, or don’t run enough, or not pretty enough, or don’t do enough fun vacations with my kids? Yep. Would I feel that way without Pinterest and Facebook? Yep.

When I was chatting (on the Internet) with my husband, I said that without it, I’d probably be sitting around in mom jeans. At first, he said “No way.” After a few minutes of reflection, he changed his mind and said “But actually without e-commerce you wouldn’t be able to shop for anything outside of our little town, so maybe you would be wearing mom jeans.”

So, Internet, thank you for saving me from mom jeans and letting me think I can be anything or know anything or talk to anyone. I, for one, am not going to think bad thoughts about you anymore. Or IM them, or text them, or blog them, or tweet them, or tumble them. I promise.

Carry On

I used to be a big fan of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” saying until it became the fodder of every meme maker or person on Pinterest who tried to tweak the saying for their own pleasure. (“Keep Calm and Grow a Mustache seems to be the depths of the meme world.) It has become polluted and cliché and has lost most of its meaning — which obviously goes back to British propaganda during World War II. From Wikipedia:

The poster was initially produced by the Ministry of Information,[1] at the beginning of the Second World War. It was intended to be distributed in order to strengthen morale in the event of a wartime disaster, such as mass bombing of major cities using high explosives and poison gas, which was widely expected within hours of an outbreak of war. Over 2,500,000 copies were printed, although the poster was distributed only in limited numbers, and never saw public display.[5]

When the Germans actually did start bombing Great Britain during the Blitz, the posters had been put in storage or trashed, due to pubic opinion that felt the messages were “patronizing.”

About ten years ago, I found a notebook with the saying on it and stuck it in my purse. It was a good reminder to not let the details of life get overwhelming — which I often do. But the threat of poison gas and bombing of neighborhoods? I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t help me manage that at all. So, yes, good people of Britain, you were right. It was patronizing.

Stop the damn war and I’ll carry on just fine.

And I couldn’t help but think about that yesterday after the news in Boston broke. The shell shock that is carried inside of us from 9/11 and now from Newtown gurgles back up the surface quickly. I go from watching a movie with my 6 year old who was home sick to furiously searching the Internet for information. I go from crying at the end of Toy Story 3 to panic thinking about all of our marathon runner friends who might have been there. And I get word that most of them didn’t run Boston this year and our other friends and acquaintances who were there were fine.

Stop making me look at pictures of children — this time an 8 year old — who are dead or maimed. Stop making me think about a father who was running who now has a dead son and a wife and daughter with grievous injuries. And stop making me look at it in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or India. Stop making me see it in Israel or the West Bank. Stop making me see it on the campus of Virginia Tech or in a daycare in Oklahoma or in an elementary school in Connecticut.

Stop the damn wars and I’ll carry on just fine.

We know they never win. We know we will carry on. Right? We know we will never forget those faces. We know this time will be different. We know we will struggle to pass even freaking background checks for military assault weapons capable of murdering hundreds of people in the matter of minutes. We know the terrorists will never change our way of life. Right?

Tell it to the families of the victims. Tell it to the people who are scared to go back into their city. And tell it to the people (like me) who approach any crowded situation with fear. Mr. Rogers also made the rounds yesterday with his quote to look for the helpers. And I agree. The outpouring of help and love is astonishing. It is who we are.  But I sure would prefer to not have to endanger other innocent people when they run to the scene of a bomb to help triage war-like wounds on a sunny Boston Marathon day — with “real” war nowhere near them.

So one side of me says they never, ever win. And the other side of me says the sides of evil and hate and plain craziness can win whenever they want. They win, in their warped minds, by causing pain and terror. They win, when I have to have yet another conversation (this time mostly with the 11 year old) that starts with phrases like “Something bad has happened, but the odds of it happening are so low. You shouldn’t worry about it. We will catch these people.”

And she weeps. And says, “But Mommy, those people that died or were hurt woke up yesterday excited and didn’t even think that they would die. How do I know that it’s not going to be me?” Maternal sucker punch. Yet another seed of fear is planted in her heart. While someone else down the street plants a seed of hate in their child’s heart by saying “It was probably one of those damn Muslims” or “God is punishing us because of these gay people.”

Keep calm and carry on? Maybe it’s time to freak the fuck out and carry on. I desperately want us to rise up against the violence and the hatred and the insanity and whatever else it is that causes us to keep ending up here. But the seeds of fear and doubt have been planted in my heart too. March on Washington? Large crowds and lobbies that are more powerful than millions of people. Take on the NRA? They are armed and like to intimidate the people who disagree with them. Try to end the trillions of dollars spent bombing a world away with no real goals? Good luck.

Stop the damn wars and I’ll carry on just fine.

 

 

 

 

Parenting Purity Test

There are lots of debates as to when life begins. I suggest a debate about when parenting begins.

I think you are a parent if:

  • You have brought a new baby home and had to take a panic attack-fueled walk (alone) in the brisk air because the idea of having this baby IN YOUR HOUSE is overwhelming.
  • You have bought your fourth stroller, which is the one that is going to solve all of the difficulties of the previous three.
  • You have cleaned the nasty concoction of sour milk, cheerios, noodles, and pieces of dried up fruit from underneath the seat pad of the high chair.
  • You have half of a completed baby book for your first child and a 50% reduction of that for each subsequent child.
  • You have wiped away “neck cheese.”
  • You have scraped ear wax out of a child’s ear (usually with your finger) on his/her way into school.
  • You have had a baby roll off the photography platform at the Sears Portrait Studio.
  • You have gone to the emergency room.
  • You have forgotten at least two consecutive doses of Amoxicillin.
  • You have thrown away a pair of children’s underwear instead of attempting to wash them.
  • You have bought some sort of liquid yogurt drink.
  • You have cooked breakfast for dinner.
  • You have taken a forgotten lunch bag or musical instrument to school.
  • You have lied to them about a toy store being closed.
  • You have gone to a pumpkin patch or to Target for “something to do.”
  • You have sat through a play, a concert, a sports tournament, AND a parent teacher conference in the same month.
  • You have accidentally missed a play, a concert, a sports tournament, or a parent teacher conference.
  • You have actually spent time and money on the items that go into a three year old’s birthday party favor bags.
  • You have thrown away your three year old’s birthday party favor bag — the one that the other parents actually spent time and money on.
  • You have thrown away a piece of your child’s artwork in a complicated, folded, origami pattern so they didn’t see it in the trash.
  • You have told your child (after they found the artwork in the trash) that you clearly made a mistake.
  • You have thrown away bags of school Valentines, Halloween Candy, and Easter Basket leftovers.
  • You have stolen candy from their Halloween or Easter stashes.
  • You have attempted to organize a Lego collection.
  • You have given up attempting to organize a Lego collection.
  • You have dug around on the floor of the car desperately trying to find something for show and tell.
  • You have awoken with a hangover and a young child climbing on you, wondering how, on Earth, you are going to get through this day.
  • You have been awoken by a child in the middle of the night and had no idea who they were and if you were having a heart attack.
  • You have changed sheets in the middle of the night.
  • You have given baths in the middle of the night.
  • You have scooped poop out of a bathtub.
  • You have no matching socks, no matching gloves, and no matching mittens in your house.
  • You have let a child go to school in any outfit of their choosing, with high water pants and mixed patterns.
  • You have said, “Wow. You really need a haircut.”
  • You have attempted to cut your child’s hair.
  • You have stopped attempting to cut your child’s hair.
  • You have packed up bins of too small clothes.
  • You have gone back to those bins of too small clothes years later … and put your face to them and smelled, longing for any recollection of a baby or toddler who you can barely imagine in your arms.

 

Fried Egg, Sriracha, Cream Cheese, and Spinach on Ciabatta

Two of my Facebook friends (and actual real life friends!) were virtually bantering back and forth about a sandwich a few months ago. I am uncertain if they made it up or got the idea from someone else, but as soon as I saw their pictures I knew I had to try it. (Who says pictures of what you are eating for dinner are annoying? Not me. As an aside, I think people who complain about the things other people post online are way more annoying. If people bug you that easily, unfriend or unfollow. You are probably not real life friends.)

Their take on the sandwich was slightly different, but I used what I had on hand and was immediately hooked. I believe they used a hearty, whole grain bread and raw spinach which I think would be equally delicious. So Carolyne and Stephanie, if you are reading, tell us the origins and give yourselves or someone else credit! Because this one is a winner. I could eat it every night.

Fried Egg, Sriracha, Cream Cheese, and Spinach on Ciabatta

Makes 2 sandwiches

2 Ciabatta Rolls
2 Eggs
1 Bag of Spinach, rinsed
1 Clove of Garlic, sliced
Cream Cheese
Sriracha
Olive Oil/Butter
Salt and Pepper

1. Split ciabatta rolls and drizzle with olive oil. Place cut side down in a sauté pan and grill slightly, until just lightly toasted. Remove rolls to a plate and set aside. (You can keep them warm if you like.)

2. Heat a bit of olive oil in a sauté pan and toast garlic lightly. Add spinach and cook until completely wilted and any residual water has cooked off. Season with salt and pepper while cooking. Set aside.

3. Heat a bit of butter in the sauté pan that you grilled rolls in (just to save another pan). Fry eggs until your desired doneness. Season with salt and pepper. (I like mine just slightly over easy with a very runny yolk.)

4. To assemble the sandwiches: Spread cream cheese on bottom roll. Top with Sriracha.(As much or as little as you like. I like a lot.) Place a pile of sautéed spinach on top of that. Top with fried egg and then the top roll. Devour it and make it three nights in a row.

 

The Mysteries of Women Explained to Men

We’ve been over the shopping related things, but it left me thinking that there is so much more to explain. So here goes. (I should add a similar disclaimer that these points are not written in my husband’s likeness or anti-likeness. Girlfriends talk. So do sisters. And mothers and daughters. This is a combination of many people and issues. Beyond, I don’t even have a cleaning lady.)

Cleaning Before the Cleaning Lady

This one is simple. Cleaning ladies (or cleaning people, more accurately) don’t pick up your dirty socks and old mail. They clean. There are two different phases of cleaning: picking up the stuff and then the actual cleaning of surfaces. For example, when you are done eating dinner, you don’t just spray and clean the counters with all of the dirty dishes still there. OK, so maybe you do. But you should actually remove and deal with the dirty dishes, then clean the counters. Same goes here. The cleaning people are paid to clean bathrooms, mop floors, dust, vacuum, etc. If there is stuff in their way, they will simply go around it and you will not get your money’s worth. And this is what we tell everyone. And it’s mostly true, except there is one other thing. We really don’t want that cleaning person to judge the normal level of filth and disorder we live with.

Dish Towels vs. Hand Towels

Everyone has their own process, but dish towels and hand towels are two different things. Dish towels are fresh and clean from the drawer and are used to dry clean dishes. Clean towel to clean surface. Stuff stays clean. Get it? Hand towels are used to dry and wipe your hands either after washing, or while cooking. These get dirty fast and should not be used to dry dishes. If you wouldn’t want to eat from a plate that had someone’s chicken juice-covered hands wiped all over it, then I would suggest learning the difference.

Sponges vs. Dish Rags and those Dish Wand Things

Everyone has their own process and tools here too, but there is a distinct difference between what you wipe counters and spills with and what you wash dishes with. Sponges or dish rags can be used to wipe up messes or clean counters, so you wouldn’t want to use them to also wash dishes. Make sense? There is no real way you can claim to “clean” a pan if what you are using to clean it with has also been used to clean up a pile of spilled cereal.

Old Towels (i.e. rags) vs. New Towels

When you are working on a project or a plumbing leak and need a towel for either cleaning up or protecting a surface, you don’t take a towel from the linen closet. There are whole piles of old towels somewhere in your house. Ask where they are.

Snuggling

Women don’t really love snuggling. They just don’t always want to do something else. Yet, they still enjoy an expression of physical love once in a while. So, give her a night off and give her a hug that doesn’t include some sort of groping.

Massages

Women love massages. We pay for professionals to give them to us frequently. The problem with your “massages” is that they are just a code word for something else. If you truly want to give us a massage and have some sort of skill, go for it. If all you want is that something else, don’t bother with the promise of a massage. Your massages aren’t that great. Sorry.

The Next Morning vs. Late Night and Inebriated 

I’m getting into territory that is making my mother cringe, so I’ll keep it brief. And this isn’t directed toward you single or childless people. You can decide when and where without my help. Here’s the deal: the next morning is way better. This is why parents send children to watch cartoons and eat donuts on Saturday mornings. I think I might have just ruined many childless people’s views of their parents and thus, their entire lives. Sorry.

Why Taking the Trash Out Made Her Mad

She is pissy that you took the trash out because you failed to put a new trash can liner in the trash can. And then she opened up the trash can or cabinet quickly and threw something messy in there and now has to scrub out the whole trash can. Taking out the trash (whoever does it) is a two step process: first take the bag out and take it somewhere, and second replace the liner.

Why Sweeping the Kitchen Floor Made Her Mad

Because you swept it all into a little pile and then didn’t do anything with the pile — instead, waiting for praise on a job well done (that she does like 10 times a day, crazily without any praise at all). Sweeping is also a two step process: first sweep, second clean up the stuff you swept.

Why You Dust Before You Vacuum

Because when you dust, you stir up a lot of dirt and  … dust! It falls to the floor and makes the floor dirtier. So, dust then vacuum. Didn’t your mother teach you that one?

Why Women Don”t Want You to Vacuum

Here’s the thing. We like when you help, but after she has just cleaned the entire house, don’t offer to vacuum. It’s the easiest and most instantly gratifying part of the job. Where were you when she was picking up legos? Or when she was scrubbing the toilet? Or lifting up every little knick knack and dusting around them? If I clean the house, you can be sure as shit I am running the vacuum too, so I can get any satisfaction from a job that will be ruined in about 15 minutes when everyone starts to live in the house again.

Words

Fine is NEVER fine in any way, shape, or form. “You should go” never means that. “Have fun” is usually sarcastic.

How Much Is Acceptable in a Given Week

Not sure, but guess what? She thinks the number is A LOT lower than you do.