Monday, December 31, 2007

The End Of The Line

This is the Traveling Wilburys, that old band featuring George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. I remember their video being on MTV when I was in high school. I also remember thinking, "What a bunch of relics! Who's gonna listen to that crap?! And WHY is Tom Petty hanging out with them? Career suicide, dude! Career suicide!"

Thanks to her Gram and Pop, Bambina is completely obsessed with The Wilburys. She loves playing guitar, so the fact that there are FIVE guitars in this group just completely blows her little mind, like how do they harness all that guitar shredding power times five?!! Whoa! Because she sits and watches the DVD with said grandparents, she also knows about their recording sessions in what she calls "the Wilbury House." So now we have to play Wilbury House where she knocks on the door and asks George if he's looking for an extra guitarist "since Roy is dead." I haven't the heart to tell her that George is now deceased too. So off we go to The Wilbury House where she insists we record only Wilbury Twist because it has the word "underwear" in it, which to a 3 year old is comedy gold. We've had to change a few lyrics since those Wilburys are a bunch of delinquents (had I known this in '89 I might have been less dismissive) what with words like "ass" in songs as well. So now the lyric is "put your other foot up...fall on 'the grass,' get back up, put your teeth in a glass." Which is another notion she loves, that some older people have fake teeth that they take out and put in glasses. My Dad is smiling wherever he is because, after I explained the thing about fake teeth for people who grew up back in the day, she said, "Like Bumpa!" I laughed hysterically, like one of her primary memories of my father is that he took his teeth out at night. Somehow I think he'd find that as funny as I do.

In any case, enjoy the song. It's a fantastic theme for the end of an old year and the start of a new one.

Happy Hogmanay

And ye, who have met with Adversity's blast,
And been bow'd to the earth by its fury;
To whom the Twelve Months, that have recently pass'd
Were as harsh as a prejudiced jury -
Still, fill to the Future! and join in our chime,
The regrets of remembrance to cozen,
And having obtained a New Trial of Time,
Shout in hopes of a kindlier dozen.
~Thomas Hood

It rolls around again, that most magical of Scottish celebrations: Hogmanay. Illustrated, usually, by wild parties, nonstop music, ubiquitous usquebach (whisky), and the best odds of the whole year that you will end up falling asleep on your lawn around 4am.

Here at Chez Haggis we will be doing nothing of the sort, of course. But somewhere deep in my head I'll be pretending I am. New Year's Eve is always bittersweet for me because it always makes me miss my Dad desperately, he of Annual Hogmanay Festivities fame. At the same time, it's also a wonderful opportunity to look back on The Year That Was and be thankful for its blessings, if not for its ass kickings.

This year, all of the great things for which I'm grateful fall under one big umbrella: I'm glad to be alive. Last new year's eve was miserable, scary and depressing. I spent it holed up in my house, wearing a mask, not able to see people. I'm so glad this year is diff... oh. Er. Well. Hmm. ;) Obviously the key difference is that last year I was holed up worried I was going to die. This year, I'm holed up looking forward to all the ways in which I'm going to really, really live in the latter half of 2008.

Some friends have said they are going to toast to my good health, and I've absolutely begged them not to. I still have a long way to go via immune standards, and there are still lots of things that can go wrong between now and then, so I'm not celebrating anything to do with good health yet. I'm simply celebrating life. It's an important distinction for me, because any celebration of "good health" is premature at best and (in my superstitious mind) a guaranteed way to encourage The Fates to f*ck me over. So if you like me at all, you will not utter "good health" in the same paragraph as my name this year. In return I will utter it three times for each of you. I will also pass on to you all the good wishes I have received via email from what appears to be hundreds of Haggis fans. Those dears have sent me wishes for a Larger Penis in 2008, Increased Libido in 2008, and Get It Hard/Keep It Hard "lotion" in 2008. They are all so kind that I don't have the heart to tell them that my penis is plenty large enough already...another thing I plan to toast at midnight. ;)

Truth be told, as ridiculous as it sounds, I'm really looking forward to 2008. 2006 and 2007, as wonderful as they were in terms of Bambina and family, just completely sucked wind from all other angles, and I'm hoping 2008 is my comeback. On a political note, I'm also hoping it's the year we elect the right person president. As we enter the final 384 days of George W. Bush's Reign of Repugnant Recalcitrance, only HL Mencken can summarize the past eight years: “Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” In 2008, let us hope, pray and work to ensure that it doesn't describe our future.

As always, I'm going to end with the traditional Scottish blessing:
Lang may yer lum reek
Yer wally dreep
And the skin o' yer belly trip ye.*


Long may your chimney smoke (ie, you have a warm home to live in), your penis work (ie, you have happy "relations"), and a belly so big it trips you (food and sustenance). It's a beautiful thought, of course made into a semi-dirty ode to sex and gluttony, as only my ancestors can do it.

It's the Story...of a Lovely Thespian

Hat tip to Popehat for this link to an old blog post regarding Robert Reed, he of Mr. Brady fame and Shakespearean acting background, writing one of many lengthy memos to the producer regarding the latest Brady Bunch script.

I've gotta give the guy credit for making his case. Ironically, though, Mr. Brady arguing for better Brady Bunch scripts is precisely the "Batman In the MASH O.R." scenario he so deplores in the memo.

Aw, bless.

Top Ten Myths About Iraq

Over at The Vigil

As always, good stuff.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Non Appetit

Here's a link to Epicurious' Worst Food Trends of 2007. They are all right-on.

Macho Fast Food: There's no reason to consume an entire day's calories in one breakfast burrito from Hardee's.

Vanity Vodkas: The minute Donald Trump got his own vodka, the clear spirit had jumped the shark.

The Ubiquitous $40 Entree: Rising prices make great food inaccessible to the masses.

Hot Spots You Can't Find: Life is too short to dine at a "restaurant" where you have to go through an underground tunnel and then know the password, or, the owners refuse to reveal the eatery's address or phone number.

Truffles the Size of a Softball: These fancy tubers have their fans, but they're the Paris Hilton of ingredients--expensive, overexposed, and bring little to the mix.

Restaurants "In Preview:" They charge the same prices, but aren't accountable for the food because they're in "preview" mode. Restaurateurs need to own up to what they're putting out and the level of service.

Not that I've been to an abundance of anywhere in 2007, but I will say from excessive viewing of Bravo, Food Network and National Geographic Channel that my votes go to Foam in food (it looks like that drool you have right before you vomit not to mention the yucky mouthfeel of eating shampoo) and Deconstructed Food (which may be a holdover from 2004 for all I know). All I know is that if I order a caesar salad, I don't want to have to cut my own lettuce, grate my own damn cheese and masticate chunks of anchovy in the dressing. I can make that kind of amateur crap at home! If I pay you for food, I kind of expect YOU to prepare it. Oh--and without foam.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Joe Biden Proven Right

Remember the debate back in October when Senator Biden was sounding the alarm about ignoring Pakistan in favor of Iraq and Iran? Here is a link to a speech he gave in early November on the same topic that rings true today in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto's assassination. Say what you will about Joe Biden, he knows what he's talking about on foreign relations.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto


That's the link to Carpetbagger's Thursday mini-report discussing the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and ongoing stats about the war in Iraq. All I'm saying is that if you are not deeply and substantively concerned with what is going on in Pakistan, you are not paying enough attention. This is a very, very bad situation. For all of us, regardless of nationality.

Ninja Warrior!

If you have the channel G4 (and if you don't, you need to get it), you need to tune into Ninja Warrior at 6pm and 10pm weeknights. Blessed mother of all that is crazy, this show rocks. It is a Japanese show wherein people compete to be the Ninja Warrior Grand Champion. The competition takes the form of absolutely unbelievable feats of physical strength, agility and stamina that will leave you agape. I'm talking about challenges like the "salmon ladder" where the contestant hangs on a pull-up bar, and has to swing to move the bar up a foot onto higher notches. The seventh notch is about a foot and a half higher than the sixth. Followed immediately by about five other equally demanding challenges. How anyone does it is beyond me. I think it's best suited to gymnasts, triathletes, and other muscularly rock-solid but not-necessarily-huge individuals.

The most fun part of Ninja Warrior is that when I say, "Wow. You have to be so strong to do that!" or "I could never do that. Wow," Bambina says, "I can do it!" So we have set up our own Ninja Warrior assault course in her bedroom. (Please don't call DSS on me; I swear she's safe at all times). :) I put her fitted bottom sheet on one half of the bed, and she pulls herself up onto the bed using only the sheet, thereby conquering Green Bed Mountain. Then she dives into Marshmallow Lake (we put her down comforter in a big pile on the bed), after which she must go down the Stairs of Doom (her two-step booster for getting into bed) or descend the Stool of Knowledge (another booster) to the Monkey Board of Mystery (that little balancing skateboard-shaped toy she loves). When she ascends them all, we pronounce her Grand Champion and then I use a pencil as a microphone to interview her about her victory. It is seriously the most fun I have had based on a TV show in a long time. Although, since she just saw one guy fall from The Curtain Swing into the water below, she now thinks it's funnier to fall in and pretend to be toweling off as she says into the pencil: "I will practice harder and come back again!!"

Bottom Line: You will love this show, even if you don't have a preschooler.

Check Back Tomorrow

No soup for you today.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Jewish Christmas

Guess what we're doing today?

Yep, it's the Official Jewish Christmas. First, we wake up and facetiously wish everyone a Merry Christmas. That's the little judaic secret of December 25th; we all call each other and yell "Merry Christmas!" into each other's answering machines and then laugh like we didn't do it last year, and the year before that, and the year before that... But truth be told, it just doesn't get old. ;) Then we say, "What should we do today?" If you have an immune system, you say, "Let's go to the movies, the 11am show." If you're me, you say, "Let's fold laundry!"

After that, you take your kids to the Jewish Community Center for the kid's open gym and whatnot, just to pass the day. Then it's dinner time and that means Chinese food. Bambina is a huge fan of pork wontons, but she won't eat meat, so we just pull out the pork and let her house all 12 of the crispies (someone really should invent "Empty Wontons" for those of us who don't want the Other White Meat). Then she likes the tofu triangles, so we get some of those. Then of course the fortune cookies, which, fyi, were invented in California circa 1918, and are little-known on mainland China. But we like them anyway, especially because Bambina has a 75% record of getting "You have an unusually magnetic personality" from three different restaurant cookies in three states. Tell us something we don't know.

My only complaint this year is both a blessing and a curse. We have a family tradition of going out for a morning walk on Christmas. Everything is so peaceful, the streets are completely empty, and you feel completely at peace even standing in front of the usually crowded US Capitol. This year we live in a town with a larger Jew to Gentile ratio, so the walkabouts are less serene. But we figure that is a worthwhile tradeoff for finally not feeling like the only Tribe members in town every other day of the year.

Cheers and Jeers

Cheers to Sports Illustrated for including in their 2007 Pictures of the Year issue, a couple of photos that remind us what sports are supposed to be all about. Nestled in with photos of the NBA finals, Cal at Oregon and Manny flinging himself toward second base (yeah, it really happened) are a photo of kids in Shanxi Province, China playing ping pong on a table made from brick piles and a concrete slab, using cardboard for paddles. Another photo captures kids in Mogadishu playing pick-up soccer adjacent to war-torn areas of the city. The photos, interspersed with all of those involving the ubiquitous twins of sports--big money and big egos--just kind of make you stop and ponder the real meaning, the real beauty, of athletic competition. (I'll post the photos as soon as I can find them)

Big Fat Jeers to The Forward for the following blurb:
When he’s not on the set filming a soon-to-be blockbuster hit, or traveling to Africa to adopt impoverished children, superstar Brad Pitt might be found in New Orleans, where he’s promoting “Make It Right.”

Now, how would that sound if it said, "When he's not filming..., or incessantly impregnating his wife..."? Hellooo? He and Angelina have ONE child from Africa, so even if it could be argued that a certain blogger is being all militant about adoption language, the statement is still factually incorrect in implying that he's just constantly jetting to Africa to pick up "impoverished" kids. Not to mention that his biological daughter was born in Africa. Why no mention of that? The whole thing is just one big offensive paragraph that leapt out wildly to me and other parents via adoption I asked to read it. I think what set us off was the flip tone, like, 'when he's not waxing his car, buying groceries and adopting impoverished kids" as if it's either a job or a hobby. Boo to you, Forverts, for being so cluelessly ridiculously offensive.

There, now I feel better.

Glad Tidings

Here it is, a Yule Log retrospective, at Slate:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to Those Who Celebrate!

Lots of Christmas links and giggles for you today. I know you're busy with all of that shopping and bouche de noelle baking and whatnot, so consider this my yuletide prezzie for you, my Christmas-celebratin' darlins.

First, this one from Haggis and Grits:

Next, a cool version of O Holy Night for kids who like their Christmas music with extra guitar. It's a band called Seriously. You can download it free on their myspace page: seriouslytheband

Then these from Prince William of England, Scotland and Perhaps Northern Ireland But Most Definitely Not Wales:

Sunday, December 23, 2007


A short story, but nonetheless instructive:

On Friday, Bambina wasn't feeling well, so I was crazy busy keeping her hydrated, rested and entertained while giving myself whole-body purell rubdowns to avoid catching whatever was knocking her down. I was so busy that I didn't really have time to think about the fact that we had run out of coffee and therefore failed to have my usual 7 cups of joe before noon. {foreshadowing....}

Around 3pm I started feeling kind of blech. Luckily Bambina was interested solely in sitting in bed and watching Dora the Explorer DVDs, so I could just sit with her and wallow in my blechitude. My head was hurting and my neck was aching and I just generally felt like I was in the process of getting wildly ill. I felt somewhat better, did bedtime with her, then immediately ran to my computer to, of course, google my symptoms. (A practice I like to call "poor man's housecall"). In that housecall, I learned that I was suffering the early symptoms of meningitis.

I mentioned my concerns to the BabyDaddy in an attempt to find out if I could credibly call my doctor with my suspicions without triggering a mandatory spinal tap. BBDD kindly took a moment's pause (sadly he now knows better than to doubt my catastrophic health predictions a la "My mouth has been bleeding for an hour and I can't make it stop" or "I Need a Stem Cell Transplant," so he gave me the moment of consideration). Then he very kindly did not laugh out loud as he said, "Your symptoms are also indicative of a caffeine rebound headache. Ring any bells?"

So the moral of the story? There are two: 1.) Pretty much most random malaise-y things you type into google will result in a diagnosis of meningitis. And, 2.) You should really try to not be so addicted to caffeine that missing one day makes you request a lumbar puncture.

Festivus for the Rest-iv-us

Hope you all had a fantastic Festivus today!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I've Been AWOL

Had a sick kid at home for two days. Need I say more? Between trying to get her comfortable while trying to avoid catching what she had, I had too many balls in the air to even consider opening my computer. But she's on the upswing, it seems, which means that I'll be back online this weekend and throughout next week. This being a Jewish operation, we will be open for business on Christmas Day, so when your belly is way full, your presents have all been played with once or twice, and your Uncle Chet is about to tell his story from 'Nam for the twelfth time in as many hours, you can always click here and I'll have something for you. Even if it's just that video of the burning logs in the fireplace...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Birthday, Missus!

A shout out to my Mum on this, her [stillgotitgoinon] birthday! Yes, she is indeed the greatest. A pioneer woman of the first order who gets it done no matter what. As I look back on parts of my childhood I realize all those times when she wasn't wearing new clothes because we kids needed some. When she was no doubt going through sadness of her own but was busy helping us with ours. And all those times I gave her so little credit for being an actual human person with goals and dreams and an inner life far beyond just being my mother. I've learned a lot from my Mum, the most important thing being that You Do What You Have To Do. No money? Make what you have work. Health challenges? Power through them with grace. Worries and fears? Find hope and spread it around, as if doing so is your only responsibility. Happy Birthday, Mummy!!

If I was damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o' mine, O mother o'mine.
~Rudyard Kipling

One of the very few reasons I had any respect for my mother when I was thirteen was because she would reach into the sink with her bare hands - bare hands - and pick up that lethal gunk and drop it into the garbage. To top that, I saw her reach into the wet garbage bag and fish around in there looking for a lost teaspoon. Bare hands - a kind of mad courage. ~Robert Fulghum

An ounce of mother is worth a pound of priest. ~Spanish Proverb

"My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it."
~ Mark Twain

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Army's Brain Drain

A very interesting and disturbing article on the droves of highly talented junior officers leaving the armed forces, and the short- and long-term consequences of that exodus. Be afraid, folks. Be very afraid.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hit Me Baby, One More Time

UPDATE: TMZ says, "She tells the mag that the father is Casey Aldridge, who she has been dating for some time and first met at church." Man, they don't make churches like they used to, huh?

This link lets us know that Britney Spears' mom's inspirational book on raising two high-profile daughters is now "on hold" in light of the news that her second daughter, Britney's 16 year-old sister, Jamie Lynn is pregnant. I don't agree with the publisher's decision. I think they ought to release the book so parents everywhere can read up on what NOT to do.

Now, I don't mean to be ugly about this. Unintended pregnancies happen to the nicest and most decent of folks. I mean this in all seriousness. However, the difference between regular folks and Clan Spears is that our parents aren't writing How-To books on raising daughters! It's unreserved chutzpah plain and simple. It's also slanderous to southerners. I mean, don't get me wrong. I love telling people that my [southern state]'s marriage license application--I sh*t you not, friends--had a line for "bride-elect's relationship to groom." I remember spending about 15 minutes staring at that section, trying to figure out what the hell it was asking beyond what I thought it was asking. I finally, tentatively wrote in "none" and hoped it was the right answer. So, I am not so comedically talented as to be able to resist a cheap joke at the expense of our southern brethren and...sistern. But La Trollope Spears endangers her kids, drinks while walking down the street, and generally does not see any necessity in investing her millions in any sort of appropriate foundation garments--and then has the temerity to say, "We're country, y'all! That's just the way we do thangs down there!" If I was from Bucksnort Louisiana or whatever town she's from, I'd run that family out for making us all look like effing hicks. Actually, there's nothing wrong with being a hick. Some of my best friends are hicks (not really, but I'm trying to be magnanimous, darlings). My point is that she makes southerners look stupid, craven and oblivious to basic standards of existence (ie, do not drop kid on cement, do brush your child's teeth, do not drive with child in your lap). She can be forgiven, I suppose, for being a no-class heap of mess. But to put that on The South as if everyone from Memphis to Montgomery is driving around sans knickers is pure character assassination. I personally know at least three people from the South who all wear underwear and who do engage in morning, evening AND postprandial dental hygiene. You heard it here first, folks.

And if this post has pissed you off because my humor loses something in the translation, please don't worry. I'm from the North. Judgmental, smug and condescending is how we do it, y'all!!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Let's Hear It For Dodd

Massive and sustained applause for Senator Chris Dodd on his threatened filibuster today that effectively halted (for now) the FISA bill. You'll recall that the FISA bill grants retroactive immunity to telecom companies that were complicit in warrantless wiretaps of American citizens.

I cannot tell you how Dodd's commitment to this issue has elevated him in my eyes. He was the only senator on the POTUS campaign trail to return to DC from Iowa to take care of this business. As a result of his work (8 hours on the Senate floor), the bill was withdrawn and--for now--the courts rather than the Congress are still tasked with deciding whether telecom companies need legal protections.

Senator Dodd, thank you for making the Constitution your priority.

I Need Love

Just last week Bambina was at that precious age where she really couldn't figure out how to tell a lie:

"If I give this back to you, will you throw it on the ground again?" "Yes."
"What fun things did you do at school today?" "I was rude while the music teacher was talking."
"If Mama gives you another chance to try again, will you do it politely this time?" "No."

It was this really adorable and confusing stage of development where you have to deal with inappropriate behavior but you feel compelled to give even psychic points for the honesty.

Yeah, those days were nice. I feel like I have a full-fledged adolescent on my hands these days. Pretending her stomach hurts so she can have a fruit-flavored Tums, which I gave her a sliver of *once* like 7 months ago because we'd run out of the kid's gas whatever medicine (oh my god, Future Junkies of America?) and laughing when she's overcome by her honesty chip and says, "I just kidding," throwing massive, prolonged and exceedingly voluble tantrums over--seriously--can she eat marshmallows for breakfast. I may sound all hippie-dippy about child rearing on this blog, but I'm actually kind of a Bad Cop mommy. I'm seriously not havin' it on most things--and marshmallows for breakfast more than qualifies for that list. So that was a no-brainer. But the drama, the angst, the hurt, the weeping, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth. And all before freakin' 9am! We didn't really have terrible twos with Bambina. She was savin' 'em up for the 3.5's.

At all points in my transplant saga, we have been aware of this year's effect on her. She's a very versatile, roll-with-it kid and rather than say, "that's great!" we're actually very careful to not take advantage of that in our desire to believe that Everything is Just Fine With Bambina. At the same time, one of the best pieces of advice I read in one of those "How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children When a Parent is Sick" books was this: "failure is still not an option." So her teachers and her school know all about what's going on, and we do check-ins and such just to make sure Bambina is getting what she needs vis a vis chances to express anything she might need to, as much as 3.5 year old can. She's entitled to be 3, which means by definition lots of emotion and opinions and behavior we don't necessarily love. But there is absolutely no support for anything resembling, "Well, she's worried about her mother, so obviously she's going to be a little bit rude to the music teacher." Mama don't play that, which I'm pretty certain Bambina knows. But she wouldn't be three if she didn't try to test the theory now and again, would she? As I've said, I'm considering it practice for when she's 16 and no longer a superfan of Mama.

One of the greatest areas of practice for adolescence is taking Bambina however she comes. There are days when she just wants hugs all day, and others when she doesn't want to be bothered by kisses or anything remotely resembling affection. There are times when she wants to hug for ten minutes before sleepy time and others when I barely get an air kiss from her as she ushers me out the door already. It is the experience that gives the lie to the notion of dogs as "practice kids." Darlings, believe me, if you want to know life with a kid, you are barking up the wrong tree with a canine. Your curious self needs instead to get itself a cat. No other animal I suspect will elucidate for you the importance of Enthusiastically Receiving Affection When It Is Given Rather Than When It Is Desired, which is the prime directive when dealing with human children of all ages.

I know Bambina loves me, I know we would both be lost souls without each other. But will she give me a hug simply because I say, "Give mommy a hug"? She probably will. But will it matter to her? Probably not. The time Bambina is most affectionate with me is when SHE needs affection, not when I need it. And that, if you think about it, is how it should be. She doesn't exist at the age of three to fulfill my emotional needs. But I sure exist to fulfill hers. What parent would have it any other way? But it's an easy truth to forget in the daily grind of life when a nice big fat hug from your cherub would make the day perfect.

I thought about this on Friday during migraine hell when she kept coming into my dark room to tell me she loves me and to give me hugs. I first thought, "Oh she's being so sweet trying to make me feel better." Then I came to my senses: this kid is coming in here to make herself feel better; she's scared I'm really not okay. So, although noise and light and conversation were nauseating me and making the hammer in my forehead pound even harder, I told her to come sit on my bed and watch Noggin with me. She leapt onto the bed, snuggled into the crook behind my knees and happily watched TV quietly while periodically kissing my forehead. If I hadn't already felt like crying for me I'd have immediately cried for her.

Instead of crying I figured I'd just put it on the table: "Bambina, you know Mama's headaches can seem scary but they're really just a big pain in the bum. I'm always better the very next day, every time. You do not have to worry about Mama, okay?" Silence. Then, "I know. But sometimes I do anyway." I swear it was like a totally self-evolved 19 year old was speaking to me through her. I answered, "I know, and I understand it's hard not to sometimes. But Mama is telling you that it's not your job to do--and that if I'm not worried about me, and Dada is not worried about me, then you sweet girl do not need to be worried about me. Lots of mommies get migraines, and the only way they fix them is to keep the room dark and lie down. I hate that I don't get to play with you for a full day; that's no fun! But it's just that: no fun. I promise you I am okay." Her response? "Why is Wubbzy riding in that robot?"

Who knows how much of my lengthy Mama Is Fine treatise she actually listened to (cue the Peanuts, "wah wah wah wah" teacher voice), but the important thing was that we brought it up and laid it out as something that is OK to talk about. And that she felt listened to when she most needed to be heard, rather than when I was most able and amenable to delivering the message. It reminded me of my teenage years. My mom was the queen of bringing up awkward cringey topics when you were trapped on a car ride with her. Let's go to x place (45 minutes away)! Great! So...[cue the questions about kids having sex, drugs at school, etc]. Oh god, save me from this conversation I do not want to have! But my mom also covered her bases: she not only made herself available for chats I didn't want to have at times I didn't want to have them, but she absolutely would sit down and hear me whenever I expressed even the remotest interest in deigning to speak with her, a person over the age of 30, and worse--a parental unit. I can clearly recall her picking me up from my job at the mall and actually letting me have my radio station play on the way home. That LL Cool J song came on (the one that was So Dirty back then but now seems by comparative standards to be positively sweet and gentlemanly):
I wanna kiss you hold you never scold you just love you
suck on you neck, caress you and rub you
Grind moan and never be alone
if you're not standing next to me you're on the phone
Can't you hear it in my voice, I need love bad
I've got money but love's something I've never had
I need your ruby red lips sweet face and all
I love you more than a man who's 10 feet tall
I'd watch the sunrise in your eyes
we're so in love when we hug we become paralyzed
Our bodies explode in ecstasy unreal
you're as soft as a pillow and I'm as hard as steel
It's like a dream land, I can't lie I never been there
maybe this is an experience that me and you can share
Clean and unsoiled yet sweaty and wet
I swear to you this is something that I'll never forget

I turned it up and sang along, hoping to get a reaction from her (gimme a break, I was a teenager). She let me have my American Idol moment then smiled at me and said, "I've been around a long time. Your songs don't shock me. But I don't think a young lady should be singing those words either." Hip checked by the Mother Superior! I think the moment stays in my mind because it was pivotal in our relationship. (I wonder if LL knows his power...) She could have been all, "That's disgusting! Ban him! Burn it!" thereby shutting our conversation down. She could have started singing along, "...ecstasy unreal!" but that would have been a)creepy and b)instant loss of credibility in my eyes as a parent. Instead she did smart c) don't give a cheap reaction, but don't approve either. It let me see where her boundaries were, that she wasn't a reactionary powerfreak--but nor was she inclined to have me singing about rock hard steel. I had a lot more respect for her after that event because my old, outdated religious god-fearing goody mother had shown herself to be really rather more than what I'd reductively ever given her credit for. She had met me where I was and hadn't blinked, even as I'm sure she was staring into the abyss of the Cool J and all he represented in the ear of her baby girl.

Which brings me back to my baby girl. My goal as a parent is to always remember that my kid's job is not to make life easy for me. It's not to emotionally fulfill me, although that's certainly a benefit I receive by default. The work here is MINE. It's MY job to take care of her emotional needs. To recognize that essential truth of good parenting: that it's no longer all about me. Some days she'll feel like kissing and hugging, somedays she won't. Most days she'll really avoid it if she feels pressured to give it. Most of all, I want to mirror what my Mom did for me that night at the mall and do it throughout Bambina's life: to always meet her where SHE is in a given moment, to accept the love (or need for love) she communicates in the time, place and manner in which its offered, rather than trying to dictate our relationship on a schedule of my choosing. Someday my cherub will play some nasty song on the radio, challenging me to push her away or to prove her right that I'm a relic unworthy of respect and trust. My goal in that day--and in all days--is to pick that Smart C that lets her know I love her enough to hear her out, and too much to let her life be consequence free.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Thank God It's No Longer Friday

So my Friday. Once again heinously migraineous. There is no way to adequately describe a migraine, as I've said. So I'll just leave it at this: I only barfed three times this time and it only lasted a full 24 hours. So I've got that going for me, which is nice. I've headed off a few earlier migraines with Maxalt, a new drug they gave me. It works amazingly if you take it early, like in the nanosecond that you are considering that you may perhaps be thinking that you are beginning to suspect that you might be mulling the fantasist notion that you may, in a very unlikely event, be within just moments of having your brain explode in a migraine. If you get within that window, life is sunshine and lollipops. If you miss it, like in this case by waking up with a minor headache already in progress, you might as well take Maalox as Maxalt for all the good it will do you. And yet, hope springs eternal, doesn't it? So Maxalt To the Rescue it was. Only, it wasn't. And it didn't.

What it did do, however, was this:

I sh*t you not. I woke up at 4am, took the Maxalt, tried to go back to sleep. Woke up, barfed, took the Zofran for nausea. Barfed again. Took my pills that I cannot miss no matter what. Managed to keep them down long enough to digest, but barfed up the water I swallowed them with. Got up from the third round of the Emesis Quarterfinals and happened to look in the mirror (old habit from back in the days of having low platelets, where any vomiting would break blood vessels in my eyes). What I saw is precisely the creature you see above. My eyes were teeny tiny little circles underneath a huge quantity of swollen face--for, like, 6 hours.

So now the good news is that I no longer have to worry about that infinitesimal period of time in which to take Maxalt, since I'm clearly allergic to it to the tune of a Star Trek character. I'm no physician, but I say that any drug that turns you into a Romulan or Bajoran (or whatever this guy is--Trekkies you can have at me for my ignorance), it's time to leave that baby on the shelf.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lost in Translation

Did you already see this? It's "the whisper" at the end of the movie revealed, via digital processing of the sound in the scene. Very cool.


To The Person or People Who....

Thanks, Ken, for the link to some of the best passive aggressive notes ever written. I laughed very hard when reading through them because I never imagined that every office has its Refrigerator Nazi or Dishes In The Sink Nazi. That is some good reading:

I think I laughed so hard because I used to rage against the Food Thief at a major nonprofit known to every single one of you. At the time--and this was years ago--I would buy Stonyfield Farm yogurts because they were organic. As you can imagine, they were not cheap back in the day--and I was not even breaking the $20K mark in salary. And damn if some a-wipe didn't swipe it at least once a week. And s/he would swipe half a sandwich in one of those white take-out styrofoam square boxes. I was always so incredulous, like, DUDE!! My mouth was ON that sandwich! I could have picked my butt and then touched the bread! WHY would you take those kind of chances for a three-hour old/day old turkey on toasted wheat?! Why would ANYONE eat something for which they couldn't establish some reasonable chain of custody? Even before I was immune-suppressed I would not eat stuff sent home with me from a dinner party or from an office party. I just would not do it, based on the fact that it sat on a table for x number of hours with x number of people reaching over it, breathing near it, scooping into it. Something about not knowing precisely who had been in the Israeli couscous salad made me unable to eat it later. And here comes this dude to eat a sandwich of whose provenance he knew nothing! It boggled my mind as well as pissed me off no end. To my credit I never did write a fridge note. I saved the note writing for another job in a small campus townhouse. The townhouse had three bathrooms, two on the ground floor and one on the second floor, where my and my three coworkers sat. One guy from the third floor would come downstairs at 2pm every day, newspaper in hand, and take a monster dump in that bathroom, thereby rendering the toilet and surrounding hallway fit for neither man nor beast for about 35 minutes. It was nauseating and, we thought, rather aggressive for a little one person bathroom. So we wrote The Note: "PLEASE! Number One ONLY in this toilet. All Numbers greater than One to be dispensed with in the larger air-purified bathrooms on the first floor."

Total lack of compliance from the man we all now deemed The Mad Crapper. Which led to this sign, the most passive-aggressive such a note can get: "ABSOLUTELY *NO CRAPPING* IN THIS TOILET. THE STENCH IMPEDES THE WORK OF THOSE ON THIS FLOOR. YES, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT *YOU*"

Passive aggressive? No doubt. But effective? You bet.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Festival of Fights

Here's a great link to the NYPost reporting on a hate crime against some Jewish people on the subway, wherein the only person who stepped in to help was a Muslim. He said, "That's just how my parents raised me." You'll also enjoy the fact that one of the attackers said that Hanukkah is when the "Jews killed Jesus." I've always found racists to be rather stupid in general, so this ludicrous statement comes as no surprise; and if it wasn't in a story about people getting beaten up for wishing someone a Happy Chanukah it would make me laugh hysterically. As it is, one of the attackers claimed that it can't be a hate crime (even though the terms Jew Bitches and dirty Jews were used) because his mother is Jewish. Also, he has only been charged in another case of attacking African Americans, so the "hate crime thing [in this instance] is ridiculous," as if one somehow negates the other. The best part, however, is this: Jirovec will soon begin serving six months for his role in the attack against four men in Gerritsen Beach. "I'm trying to stay out of trouble," he said. "When I get out, I want to go into the military."
Good luck with that.

It's Only December 2007...

...and already I feel Clinton Fatigue. The latest evidence of HRC using the Karl Rove playbook to Win At All Costs is this:

DOVER, N.H. -- Billy Shaheen, the co-chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign in New Hampshire, raised the issue of Sen. Barack Obama's past admissions of drug use in discussing the relative electability of the Democrats seeking the presidential nomination today...Among his concerns about Obama as the nominee, he said in an interview here today, is that his background is so relatively unknown and that the Republicans would do their best to unearth negative aspects of it, or concoct mistruths about it. Shaheen, a lawyer and influential state power broker, mentioned as an example Obama's use of cocaine and marijuana as a young man, which Obama has been open about in his memoir and on the trail.

"The Republicans are not going to give up without a fight ... and one of the things they're certainly going to jump on is his drug use," said Shaheen, the husband of former N.H. governor Jeanne Shaheen, who is planning to run for the Senate next year. Billy Shaheen contrasted Obama's openness about his past drug use -- which Obama mentioned again at a recent campaign appearance in New Hampshire -- with the approach taken by George W. Bush in 1999 and 2000, when he ruled out questions about his behavior when he was "young and irresponsible."

Shaheen said Obama's candor on the subject would "open the door" to further questions. "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'" Shaheen said. "There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."...The Obama campaign declined to comment on Shaheen's electability remarks.

So let me get this straight. A woman with 50% unfavorables is talking about Obama's unelectability?! The self-appointed standard bearer of the Democrats is offering up attack questions for the GOP to put to another Democrat? This victim of the "vast right wing conspiracy" (which I actually do believe in, although it was ably assisted by Billy's own peccadilloes) is putting innuendo and character-based smears into the media? (How else would you take someone asking if, while you got high as a teen, whether you also dealt some coke to grade schoolers?) Eff that, y'all. This is low-down dirty Arkansas politics writ large for all to see. I am so ashamed that I ever respected this woman. It's one thing to say, "Hey, the Repugs asked these ridiculous smear questions and Obama should answer/not answer however he sees fit." It's quite another to say that another Democrat raised them. Especially when that Democrat is living in the glassiest of glass houses on effing Hypocrisy Lane.

And let me get another thing straight: a man who has been entirely honest about his recreational drug use as a young man (and not in his 30's, married and with kids like our current president was, or who unconvincingly claimed to not have inhaled as her husband did) is seen as vulnerable on the drug issue? How does that work? Especially in 2007 when many, many decent law-abiding upstanding people have at one time had a toke or nine. Or who will cop to "being present" as coke was available. Come ON! You know who you are, and you know you haven't told anyone. So along comes Obama who does, who puts it out there. And he's got honesty problems?!! Please. Senator Obama--just like perhaps you, your dad or his friends--has not used drugs in many, many years.

The only people in this race on drugs are the ones who still think Hillary Clinton should get the nomination.

Crazy Day

Will post tonight. Until then, check out the links to the right. Those oughta keep you busy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What Torture Is

A great piece by Andrew Sullivan that asks the key question about George Bush's policy of allowing torture: Who will now hold him criminally responsible?

Last Night of Chanukah!

It's all 8 candles tonight, baby! (Nine if you count the shammash--the candle that you use to light the other ones). I love it when the menorahs are all lit up like, um...Christmas tree.

Shout out to Sister K for emailing this:

From, where I also found these nuggets:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jesus Camp

We watched the documentary, "Jesus Camp" this weekend. I know it's like, 2 or 3 years old, and I'm lame for just getting to it now. But I couldn't bring myself to watch it for a long time so sure was I of a sky-high cringe factor. Boy, was I right.

The quick synopsis is that the docu follows an evangelical group running a summer camp for kids. It focuses on the kid's pastor and on about three of the kids primarily. It also interweaves footage of an Air America talk show host discussing his opinions of the dangers of the Christian Right. I felt, on balance, that the docu was rather fair. It didn't try to make either the Christians or the talk show host look stupid. It simply showed them speaking from their convictions. Whether you found it frightening or inspiring is entirely dependent upon where you sit with the topic of evangelicalism.

Needless to say, I was agape with horror. Well, to be fair, I saw these people raising their kids in their own faith and thought, "That is 100% their right as Americans. We've just finished lighting Chanukah candles with Bambina because we're raising her in our faith, and ain't no one telling me I don't have that right." But the differences between them and us are numerous:

My kid won't say something to the effect that she feels "icky" when she's around non-Jews.

My kid won't be looking at pictures of fetuses and marching on Washington--either for or against choice--when she is all of 8 years old.

My kid won't be going to a camp that worries about "demonic manifestations."

My kid won't have any concept of religion, really, at the age of 5. Unlike these kids who apparently became "born again" at that age. One mom said, "It's genuine, because you can't force a kid to believe in God, you can't force a kid to be saved." Hellooooo?!! You can TOTALLY force a kid to do and (pretend to) believe anything you want. If I told Bambina that she was not normal or somehow a bad person if she didn't believe in God, I bet I could get her to say she believes in God. I bet I could get her to judge others for not believing similarly.

And my kid will NOT be approaching strangers on the street or in bowling alleys to ask them if they are saved and going to heaven when they die.

I guess that's what bothered me so much about Jesus Camp, that what this group of evangelicals believed to be "getting kids saved early" just struck me as demented and cult-like in their very inappropriate treatment of adult issues. Like, WHY on earth would you explain abortion to a 7 year old?!! Oh my lord! How can you possibly explain that situation and all of the causes, reasons, forces behind it, to the level of understanding of a child under 10? WHY would you tell kids that people who aren't saved like them are going to hell? It's like there's this sick need to keep discussing all of the things you're supposedly against--and all the better if you can do it with children present. And WHY would you have your kid pray over a life-sized cardboard cutout of George Bush, calling him God's messenger on earth or something to that effect? Seriously, all these kids were doing a laying-on of hands on the George Bush cardboard cut out, like he was some kind of religious idol. Creepy with a capital Creep. It just made me sad for those kids that they were being robbed of their childhood and sent out into the world to save others, judge others, and otherwise tally a running list of who's in and who's out according to the doctrine of their particular group.

It's a weird definition of childhood. Like, when I was young my parents didn't let us see certain movies or talk about certain things that were considered 'grown up business.' In Jesus Camp, it's like, "hey kids! these things are evil and terrible and scary and wrong. Let's spend a whole day looking at photos of them and discussing them in detail!" Where is the respect for childhood? Where is the line between transmitting your values to your kid and politicizing every element of your child's life? Like, I'll wear my Obama t-shirts all day, all week and in every place I go (albeit few places these days!), but would I put a "My Mama's For Obama" shirt on Bambina? Never. She can get involved in politics when she so chooses; it's not my place to make her a little mini-vessel for my political views. Do I transmit my values to her? Absolutely. She has several sets of "two uncles," friends of mama who are ladies with girlfriends. She sees no issue with it at all. She (obviously) understands that families don't have to look alike, and that we're Jewish but some of our relatives are Christian. Good for them, and can we come to your party? So, yes, I am absolutely sharing my values with my child. But do I want her marching in a Pride parade? I don't. Not till she decides she wants to. She's not an extension of my political opinions. She's a kid. Do I hope that the values I'm teaching her will lead her to certain opinions? No doubt. But do I have the right to shoehorn her into those opinions before she's even able to understand the concept of opinion vs. fact? I don't. I really just don't.

And that's where I diverge with the parents in Jesus Camp. Absolutely, you should raise your child in the religion of your choosing. That is a fundamental American freedom. But why would you, in good conscience, concern them with politics and issues beyond their understanding and beyond the necessity of their involvement? To me it speaks, ironically, to a lack of faith in your beliefs. If I teach Bambina my values, I have to have faith that she will take those values and form political opinions in line with those values. If I do an end-run around her own mental and intellectual processes for arriving at those opinions, and simply deliver her MY opinions, I'm building her moral and ethical house on a pretty shaky foundation, aren't I? So why would I do that? Unless I wasn't really sure she'd end up agreeing with my values in the end...

(A totally cringey side note is that it features a pre-scandal Ted Haggard preaching, and in the context of what we now know, the viewer is able to see a discomfort in his preaching with the camera present. He gets very jokey and distracted and doesn't continue his discussion of the gay agenda and other evils in America. Quite telling in a Freudian kind of way.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Obama vs. Andrew Old (er..I mean Young)

Thank you, Andrew Young, for demonstrating two sides of the same dysfunctional coin. His remarks, reported this weekend, show a real poverty of faith in the power of change as well as a poorly-honed humor meter as it relates to race issues.

First, here we go with the whole "it's not his time" bull. That it's not his time, that Obama is not ready, that the world is not ready for a black man to be POTUS. "It's not a matter of being inexperienced. It's a matter of being young," Young said. "There's a certain level of maturity ... you've got to learn to take a certain amount of (expletive)." "There are more black people that Bill and Hillary lean on," Young said. "You cannot be president alone. ... To put a brother in there by himself is to set him up for crucifixion. His time will come and the world will be ready for a visionary leadership."

Let's ask Mr. Young to tell us the age at which he became Ambassador to the United Nations: 45. Obama would take office at the age of 47, one year older than Bill Clinton was when he took the oath. But perhaps it's not really age; perhaps what Young is really getting at is the fact that Senator Obama has not followed the party machinery's rules for ascendancy or that his street cred as a black politician was not honed during the civil rights era, where any "credible" black politician must have experience. Where any "credible" black politician must have 100% support from black people, as if he is to be judged by the color of his skin rather than the content of his character. Well, it's a new day, Mr. Young. A new era. A new time. Oprah nailed it during her speech today in South Carolina when she asked, "There are those who say it's not his time, that he should wait his turn. Think about where you'd be in your life if you'd waited when people told you to." How many women and minorities (and no doubt white men too) have heard those words about a promotion or a job change? "You're not ready yet. It's not your turn. Next time." It's bull when they say it to you, and it's bull when they say it about Obama.

Next, we move onto the risible statement that "Bill is every bit as black as Barack."
"He's probably gone with more black women than Barack," Young said of former President Clinton, drawing laughter from a live audience. Young, 75, was quick to follow his comment on Bill Clinton with the disclaimer, "I'm clowning." Clowning, perhaps. But in what time, place or manner is that funny? Sleeping with many black women makes you a black man? That fidelity to your wife makes you less of a black man? Mr. Young is a relic, and an unfunny one at that.

But what Mr. Young does show, on a positive and yet ironic note, is the universality of Barack Obama's candidacy. Some will say that Obama's "inability" to get the vote of African-Americans like Andrew Young point to a weakness in his campaign. I believe the opposite is true. Obama is speaking to--and for--Americans of all races and religions and ethnicities and socioeconomics. Obama is not The Black Candidate for President. He's the candidate for President who happens to be black. There is a tremendous difference between the two, and the latter is why people stuck in the cycle of politics as usual can't understand Obama's momentum. They want to have the same old arguments and the same old battle lines because that is the only way they know how to operate; their power and celebrity come from lining up along those same shopworn battle lines every time an issue erupts. The Youngs and the Clintons and Bushes and the Giulianis and the Jesse Jacksons need the playing field to remain the same because their power is derived from keeping it that way. Hence their vested interest in telling us he can't win and it's not his time and not his turn. But as the Senator said today in South Carolina, "When folks tell me I can't do something, that's when I like to do it. That's when I like to show 'em wrong...Don't tell me I can't do something...'Cause we're doing it!"

Click on to see the videos of today's speech. He's still honing his stump speech, and you can see him take fire about twelve minutes in. The funniest part being where he says, "The name George W. Bush will not be on the ballot," he said, a remark that brought the crowd to its feet for several minutes. "The name of my cousin Dick Cheney won't be on the ballot," Obama added, a reference to their more than 300-year-old, distant family connection. "That was some embarrassing stuff when that came out." And when he says he's "releasing all my kindergarten papers tomorrow" in response to the Clinton campaign's "revelation" that he wrote something called "I want to be president" in kindergarten to show he was lying about not running for POTUS to realize some long-held dream.

Watch the video all the way to the end when he and the crowd are chanting "Fire It Up!" "Ready to Go!" And tell your friends who might be wondering yea or nay: This IS his time. This is OUR time. America needs Obama.

Quickie Bio on Obama:

Saturday, December 08, 2007

More on the Mortgage Meltdown

A lengthy and completely-worth-reading assessment of the situation and how it's going to get exceedingly worse before it gets better. I don't think I've read a better summary of what's going on and why.

And this, on how some borrowers might be able to game the system to qualify for the rate freeze:

Jesse Jackson Puts The "Stupid" in "It's The Economy, Stupid"

Yesterday's WSJ featured a call to arms by the Rev. Jesse Jackson regarding the unfolding crisis in subprime mortgages. He proposes a Marshall Plan for homeowners facing foreclosure on such mortgages when their interest rates balloon on January 1. He does cite Bush's plan to freeze home-loan rates for 5 years, but says it doesn't go far enough to help borrowers. He proposes creating an independent government agency akin to Roosevelt's Reconstruction Finance Corporation to provide money to state and local governments to bail out homeowners, just as we bailed out the S&L's in the 1990s.

There is little doubt that the administration must act--and act strongly--to avert what can easily turn into a worldwide financial crisis heretofore unseen since the 1930s. The 5-year freeze begins that effort. I get that. But is bailing out every single person who took out a subprime mortgage the answer?

(From the AP):
Under the new plan, lenders can help homeowners by:

# Refinancing an existing loan into a new private mortgage

# Moving them into an FHASecure loan

# Freezing their current interest rates for five years

Eligible homeowners:

# Must live in their home

# Loan originated Jan. 1, 2005 to July 31, 2007

# Missed no more than one payment

# 3 percent or less equity

# Credit score of 660 or less

# For more information, call 888-995-HOPE.

Some market leaders say this is a terrible plan because it gets the government involved where it should not be. Others, like the Reverend Jackson, say that it does not go far enough to cover all homeowners. Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury, said this: "Some borrowers, particularly those who received loans under the most lax underwriting standards and who haven't even been able to make their initial payments, likely will become renters again." Jackson finds that view objectionable. But, again, is the job of the government to financially rescue individuals who have not met the criteria outlined above, such as missing no more than one payment? Certainly, subprime loans' shadiness lay in the fine print, that payments would double after a certain number of months. But if you take out a mortgage on which you cannot even make payments for the first year or two at the artificially low interest rate, that strikes me as a personal choice to live above your means. Any assistance should be directed at those individuals who are faithfully making payments, living in their homes, and genuinely caught between a rock and a hard place not of their own making. And that assistance ought not to come entirely from the government. Both lenders and borrowers share some blame for this mess. The borrowers are certainly suffering for their sins, and so should the lenders. Wholesale government bailouts "fix" the problem at hand in the short term, but long-term they simply encourage the kind of reckless financial practices that got us into this mess in the first place.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Romney is No JFK

I was going to do a long post on the "Romney Religion Speech" but darn it if Ken over at Popehat didn't get to it first and better:

Yeah, what he said.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Very NBA Chanukah

From Big E, our midwest correspondent, a funny and IMHO kinda cute discussion of Chanukah with your favorite basketball stars:

Before, During and Still During

This is about the time of year when all those "Best of 2007" shows start. Best shows, best movies, best reality TV smackdowns, etc. So a little Worst of/Best of retrospective, if I can make yet another post all about me... (I'll stop soon, I swear).

This is me this time last year in the hospital--of course--for another prodigious bleeding out the mouth/nose/eyes episode. Or was this the time I spiked that hellish fever and thought I was going tits up? Who knows. All I know is, you're in bad shape when you've been hospitalized so often in such a short period of time that you can't remember which time was which. Seeing this photo just reminded me (how quickly we forget) that I used to start each and every day checking my mouth and body for signs of overnight internal bleeding. Top o' the f&^king mornin', huh?

For those of you who've asked, this is what stem cells look like. I'd show you the whole set-up, but my name is all over the bag and I'm not outing myself just yet. These are the actual stem cells from my lovely donor who is directly responsible for today's photo's existence (the bad hair and Michael Jackson mask-and-gloves chic are fully my own responsibility):

Can't wait to post my After for you next summer when an N-95 mask is not consuming my face and I've had my first haircut (not including a pair of scissors kindly wielded by the nurse on the transplant floor) in about 18 months.

Incidentally, I'm not posting this because I'm completely self-involved (although I am); I'm posting because I want to show you what one person can do, that person being my stem cell donor. Bambina has a mother because of my donor. You get to read my blog, you lucky dawgs, because of my donor. I get to see 2008 because of my donor. If you haven't already done so, please think about signing up to become a donor too. You may never be called. But if you are, you'll get to join the small ranks of people who can say honestly, "I saved another human being's life." And as the old rabbinic saying goes, "He who saves one life it is as if he has saved an entire universe." So please seriously think about registering. It's a nice Christmas gesture for your Jewish friend. ;) It's only a cheek swab in the mail to get typed for preliminary matching. It's only a few minutes of paperwork...And, most importantly, it's not often that mere mortals get the chance to save a universe.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Dog

This is the requisite quarterly post about The Dog in the house. He's a very unique animal that seems to like me even though I can't really pet, feed, sleep near or otherwise really engage with him due to obvious immunity issues. Maybe he just likes my hands-off company. Or maybe if he had a blog he'd be constantly posting about suffering through months of hanging around The Totally Undemonstrative Lady Who Will Not Leave The Damn House. I think it could go either way with me and Cliff, but I like to think it's the former, that I give him nothing but I also require of him nothing, thereby creating a type of Apathy Symbiosis glorious to both man and beast. If he wants pats and love and hugs and treats, he knows where to go. If he wants to sit in peace and quiet in my general vicinity and be chatted with now and again to the tune of "Do you want to go outside, Buddy?" or "Dude! Stop farting! What the hell are they feeding you?!!" then he knows where I am.

Perhaps Cliff is as curious about our status as I am. Whenever I've gone on dog walks with the Master and Mistress of the House, he poops in specific convenient areas, obeys all traffic laws and generally just does his thing happily. When I get the idea to walk him, he decides to test me like I'm a substitute teacher. We're walking along minding our own business when he ambles onto a lawn and starts doing that doggie squat that tells you another kind of "business" is on the way. So I end up desperately pulling him off the lawn and praying he craps somewhere appropriate. And easy to find, since any poop rendered involves a phone call to someone non-immune suppressed to come pick it up. But in the meantime I have to leave it there and keep him moving. So I call and give directions like it's buried freakin' treasure: "Smith Road, about three quarters of the way up, on the little grassy knoll by the roadway, it's kinda greenish brown and big. Can't miss it. See you in 20." But it's like the dog knows I'm an amateur. He would never attempt to crap on someone's lawn with his real dog walkers, but with me it's a neverending quest to find the most inappropriate location on which to deposit some doo. I do have to give Cliff credit, though, because one of the places he chose to do a lightning fast squat that I noticed too late was right in front of a house containing what seems like 9 of those little yappy Pekinese who bark night and day. They were all at the big picture window freaking out in the usual small dog manner, like, "Why are you there?! Who are you?! Don't you know we OWN you?! We're princesses! You disgust me, you common creatures!" Cliff-- I'm not exaggerating--looked at the window with an almost unmistakable canine satisfaction--as he did the biggest crap I've ever seen next to their tree. When he was done, he didn't even kick the dirt. I was appalled. But also impressed. I think I actually said out loud, "Oh SNAP!" Because you have to give a boy dog credit for some seriously funny bitchery.


So today is another Dana Farber appointment, my last I believe, for 2007. Weird. I used to practically live there and now I'm saying, "See you next year" even before that December show with the burning log in the fireplace starts to air. Double Weird. Made Triple Weird by the fact that I keep seeing the staff member who administered my original baseline EKG pre-transplant. I see him all the time, to the extent that I wonder how many EKGs he actually manages to deliver in a day seeing as he's always walking officiously through patient waiting areas but not in the direction of the EKG department. The reason I recall him so vividly is Quadruple Weird in that he is a dead ringer for James Lipton of Inside The Actor's Studio. At the time I wasn't feeling so jolly-japes about it, but now whenever I see him I immediately imagine him putting those sticky squares on my bare chest and saying, "Fret not, Good Lady! This is merely an exercise to determine your preference for the Stanislavski-Strasberg vs. the Meisner-Adler schools of thought in dramatic performance! Hone your craft, mademoiselle!" And then I laugh out loud. Sitting by myself. In a crowded waiting room. Where my co-patients are probably thinking, "That chick is Quintuple Weird."

So, in honor of Mr. EKG Lipton and the fact that I won't be seeing him until 2008 (and the fact that I never thought *I'd* see 2008 and here we are regardless), I ask you to complete Lipton's famous Ten Questions just to help yourself get over Hump Day:

1. What is your favorite word? "ridonculous"
2. What is your least favorite word? nostril
3. What turns you on? A good looking man in a kilt
4. What turns you off? Smoking
5. What is your favorite curse word? The F Word. Not because it's "favorite" but because it just comes out, so it's therefore my most used curse word. Sorry Mom.
6. What sound or noise do you love? Bambina's laugh.
7. What sound or noise do you hate? O'Reilly talking.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Fashion critic.
9. What profession would you not like to attempt? Law, as in the long hours/no life/no perspective kind of practice.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Honey, you are DECADES late!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pegged As a M*sshole

This quiz totally nailed my accent, even though I was (mistakenly) sure that I had long ago perfected my newscaster-I'm-from-anywhere-and-nowhere sound. My favorite question involves the "Mary, marry, merry" trifecta.

In case you're wondering, they don't all sound the same. :)
What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Boston

You definitely have a Boston accent, even if you think you don't. Of course, that doesn't mean you are from the Boston area, you may also be from New Hampshire or Maine.

The Midland
The West
North Central
The Northeast
The Inland North
The South
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

A Life Lesson From Snow

Yesterday's snow was awesome. Bambina and I had a crazy good time outside. There is no substitute in the world for that distinctive kiddie belly laugh coming from your little one. She loves the snow, making angels, making footprints, imitating the rabbit footprints we found, and making snowcones. She therefore learned one of life's most important and profound lessons yesterday: Do Not Eat Yellow Snow. She completely got it and seemed tickled to have that special piece of knowledge reserved for bigger kids. I also learned that, as much as I loved city living for many reasons, it's truly a wonderful thing to have a yard where you really can just let your kid eat some snow without rushing to perform the heimlich.

Here we are with our snow buddha. We tried to make a traditional snowman, but Bambina lost interest when I mentioned we had two more big balls of snow to make before we could climb on him. We didn't set out to create a buddha; he just kind of happened, which made him all the more special.

Greatest Myths of Science

Here's a nice procrastination tool. It's the list of the top myths in science, including "humans use only 10% of their brains" and "gum takes 7 years to digest." It's over at my new favorite site,

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Chanukah Primer

Tomorrow at sundown is the first night of Chanukah. For those of you who may not know too much about the holiday, the delightful JulieG, management consultant extraordinaire, has created a powerpoint for your personal edification. So please enjoy this value-added, mission-critical, synergistic, impactful powerpoint-powered information touchpoint outlining how your family can best operationalize an enterprise-wide, cross-platform convergence of Chanukah values and principles.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Let It Snow!

Our first official snowstorm, albeit rather minor, of the season! Bambina is stoked and so am I. I always vowed I'd never live in MA again precisely because of the weather. But it's amazing what some actual, functioning red cells can do for a person's perception of cold. Not to mention the truth of the following wise statement:

There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.
--Alfred Wainwright in the London Daily Telegraph.

Slap Un-Happy

The MA legislature heard testimony last week on a proposed law that would ban spanking in the Commonwealth. The proposal, which would make it illegal to spank a child, has been met with much derision from many quarters. Some mild derision came from me until I read some comments on the online articles, which I'll get to in a moment. My initial derision came from my distaste for the British-style nanny state where every aspect of your business is considered government business, where the difference between a pat on the tushie and a beatin' is of little concern to those who enforce "the law against spanking."

My opinion on this law is that it's unnecessary because child abuse laws already exist. Anyone seeking to change the definition of child abuse should start there rather than reverse engineer their way into it via a new law. In addition, the proposed law is unsupportable because it's so vague as to what qualifies as "spanking." The bill would allow "incidental or minor physical contact designed to maintain order or control" but would ban "the willful infliction of physical pain or injurious or humiliating treatment." But what does that mean? Isn't any kind of spank a "willful infliction of physical pain"? Why else are you doing it if it's not for that purpose? If you weren't trying to inflict pain, you'd give the kid a swift tickle or seven lashes of belly kisses.

And here is where I and the horde part ways: Notwithstanding what I've written above, I'm not against this law because I support spanking. I can't bear spanking. I will never, ever raise my hand to my kid. (And for those of you who say, "Just wait...") I haven't done it yet, won't ever. It's just not something I feel like I could do, and it's not something I believe to be effective discipline anyway. Yeah, it's quick and it gets the immediate result you're looking for. But, IMHO, it doesn't create the kind of relationship with my kid that I want to have. I don't want her to feel like if she does something naughty that the result will involve some kind of physical response from me. Do I want her to respect me? Absolutely. Do I want her to know that I'm in charge for no other reason than I'm The Mom? Most definitely. But do I want to enforce that by hitting her, however "softly"? I really really really just don't. Would I hit my Mom? No. Would I hit my sister? No. Would I hit her father? Or anyone else in the family? No. So why would I hit her just because she's my child and I can?

Yes, I was spanked (ie, pats on the butt) and yes, I turned out just fine. Fair enough for what we all knew back in the day. But it's just not right for me now that I'm the mom, in this day and age. I want my daughter to know that ANYONE who hits her--in whatever way and for whatever reason--is not someone who gets to say "I love you" to her. Anyone who can raise a hand to her is not someone she should be with. As a person who dated a guy in high school with a, shall we say, "expanded" view of the concept of "demanding respect" from your girlfriend, the notion that someone could hit me and still love me was, unfortunately, not as ludicrous as it ought to have been for an otherwise smart girl like myself. I never want Bambina to think anything but "if you touch me, you are out of my life." How could I ever give her that sense of self if I or her father hit her, softly on the butt or elsewhere? We don't hit anyone in this house, and no one hits us. Zero tolerance, end of story.

Now don't get me wrong when I say I've never wanted to hit Bambina, that somehow she's a perpetual cherub, unlike normal kids. Believe me, she has sent me to the outer limits of my sanity on several occasions that I can still recall vividly, so difficult was she in the moment. But rather than spanking her to make her stop goading me, I started talking myself down, out loud. I learned it from my amazing friend L who repeats over and over as she is physically removing herself from the situation--or physically removing the kid from the situation (which I've also done by picking her up fireman-carry style, mid-leg kicking, bench-clearing brawl, and depositing her in her room, the car, or an available metro station seat)--"Mommy loves you.Mommy loves you.Mommy loves you." And believe me, it's not a special message for my child. It's my special message to me, to remind myself that I am the grown-up, that the job of staying calm is mine, that a 3 year-old losing her sh*t in public is a normal 3 year-old doing what a 3 year-old does, so am I going to do what a grown-up does? Yes. And why? Because even though I feel like I could throttle her at this moment, I'm not going to touch her. Why? Because I love her. And because grown-ups do not resort to hitting to resolve their frustrations. We leave that to the 3 year-olds. Right?

I do recognize that people of good faith differ on this topic. Some of those good people are in my own family and would be appalled at this law trying to encroach upon their views of proper discipline. I get that, and I don't mean to disparage people who do spank. As long as my kid never sees them hit their kid, I'm all good. What freaked me out in the articles and comments--and what prompted this post--were statements like this: "Charles Enloe, 45, of Plymouth, knows a little something about that. In 2005, he was infamously arrested and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon for taking a belt to his then 12-year-old son during an argument over homework. The charges were later dropped and Enloe told the Herald yesterday the experience “didn’t change my views at all. I believe discipline starts at home. Are they going to start legislating that you can’t raise your voice to your kids? That you can’t tell them when to go to bed? We’ll be communists then.”

Um, I wasn't aware that the definition of "spanking" included tools and implements to enhance the pain. The woman who proposed the law said that she was attempting to stop parents from using "belts or other objects" on children. Is that such a crazy notion? How is hitting your child with a belt considered anything but abuse? Where's that line? A belt is not abuse, but a belt buckle is? A shoe is not abuse, but a stiletto is? If you don't leave a bruise, it's not abuse, but if you do, it is?

I still think working from the original child abuse laws is the best way to expand the definition of unacceptable adult-to-child physical contact. But do I still think this lady is a cuckoo nutjob nannystater for trying to stop parents belting their kids? I don't. Why? Because if this opinion made you so exasperated with me that you decided to hit me with a belt, you WOULD be found guilty of assault...simply because I am not your child.

Who's Scared of Barack Obama? The GOP.

A great piece by Frank Rich called Who's Scared of Barack Obama? LOVE it. To be contrasted with the piece by Karl Rove (a man to whose writings I have a strict policy of never linking) setting Obama up for failure, ie, "if you don't beat Hillary in Iowa it's all over for you." Says who, Rove? You? I can't imagine why you'd like to see Barack Obama out of the race and Hillary Clinton sail to the nomination...which brings us right back to Rich's point: the GOP running against Obama is in a much tougher race than running against HRC, so it's in their best interests to ensure she gets the nomination. I pray that we won't allow ourselves to get played by Rovian tactics like this ever again. If Hillary gets the nom, the 'Pubs will get the White House.

Friday, November 30, 2007

What The Scots Can Do With $250K

That--and 6 months--is what it took for my peeps back in Albion to develop the following:

GLASGOW, Scotland, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Scotland has replaced its airport signs proclaiming the country to be "the best small country in the world" with a new slogan: "Welcome to Scotland."
The new slogan, which was revealed Tuesday after six months of development and $250,000 spent on the project, is also printed on the posters in Gaelic as "Failte gu Alba," The Times of London reported Wednesday.

Folks, one can only imagine what we'd have created with a million dollars and a full year.

Stump the Chump

Okay, can anyone help me solve this math puzzle? I keep thinking I've got the answer only to get shut down. And, as your math teacher always said, "show your work." I want to know where I'm going wrong.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Half Way There!

Today, Thursday, is my Official Six Months Post-Transplant Day. Where DOES the time go, darlings?! To treat myself I've got two choices: I can either go hang out with 10 friends and their sick kids, eat supermarket sushi, have some of those free samples in the bakery aisle, and use the public lavatory.


I can do what I've been doing for the past umpteen days: sitting my bunda at home and avoiding germs.

I think I'll go with the latter. It's just good sense, no?

Especially since, as last week's post indicated, being half way there doesn't mean my immune system is "half way better" or "50% improved." When I caught a cold last week and managed to fight it off pretty quickly I asked if maybe my immunity was coming back. The NP said kindly, "It could be." Then put her work hat back on and said, "But I doubt it. You're on a lot of powerful medicines designed to help suppress viruses. Without them you'd be in a lot of trouble even from a cold." E gets shut down by reality!

Regardless of my continuing house arrest, which is made more bearable by walks when not too cold and newly-arrived workout videos that are literally kicking my tuchis, I'm still and always glad to be here. It has been an amazing journey. Not one I'd ever have asked for, not one I wanted in my wildest nightmares to embark upon. But amazing nonetheless.

I've learned that sometimes the only way out is through. That friends are God's gift to us for good times but most especially for bad. That your children give you gray hair, they ensure you never sleep a full, restful night again, they blow open a hole in your heart that can only be filled by their good health and happiness, they take years off your life. But they also save your life too. On bad days when I was so sick and thinking guiltily to myself, "This would be so much easier if I didn't have to worry about a kid," that was really me admitting that the stakes were too high to give up without a bench-clearing brawl of a fight. It sure would have been easier to not feel the desperate, overwhelming urge to get better and stronger if Bambina hadn't been around. Knowing that she needed me to not only feel better but act like I was better, talk like I was better, and make HER know I was getting better was a massive and profound daily kick in the pants to get over myself.

Which brings me to the other thing I've learned: No amount of positive thinking will make bone marrow grow. It will not cure cancer. It will not heal a spinal cord. It will not, in and of itself, save you from a damn thing. But it will make the journey easier, more bearable, more hopeful, and sometimes more successful. I decided that this could be either the worst year of my life (plenty of reasons to think so) or the best prelude to a second chance at life that anyone has ever been lucky enough to capture. I've always kind of subscribed to the theory that you should never have a sh*t time when you can just as easily (or perhaps with just a wee bit of effort) have a smashing time. Chemo, fevers and this ongoing daily slog of a recovery put that theory to the test, but I'm pleased to say that 10 out of 10 stem-cell-recipients-named-E-who-write-a-blog-with-the-word-Haggis-in-it find it to be a theory worth supporting.

Just my 2 cents on Day 183.