Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Stench of the Union

A red-meat post about President Bush from an upgraded Cuffs and Stuff~


Sunrise, Sunrise

I'm up early, before sunrise. Happily so, for the first time in a couple of weeks. I love this time, when the horizon is turning that one-shade-lighter blue, when I know that daybreak is just a few moments away. I've always loved this time of day, even when I was a kid. I remember when I was in 6th grade deciding to take a walk one August early morning, feeling so peaceful and content. Then walking into my house an hour later, to find my out-of-her-mind mother somewhere between wanting to kiss my feet and crack my head open. Needless to say, the entire family's early-summer-day-sunrise reverie was ruined. Who knew you shouldn't just go for pre-sunrise walks without leaving a note?

I was sitting here thinking about sunrises and new beginnings. Whenever Bambina throws a tantrum or does something inappropriate that requires the removal of a toy or treat, I always take it away for a short time and then ask her, "Do you want to try again?" She invariably says yes and invariably does it right/without whining/without drama/whatever. I love those moments because they give her--and me--the opportunity to Try Again. They give her the sense that her actions have consequences, but that there is always a chance to do it right next time. I want her to have that sense of efficacy (that she can make things right), and I want her to know that her mama will always be here for second chances. What I love most about our Try Agains is seeing the pride she takes in doing it right, in being a big girl, in having learned something from all the tears and drama. Those moments are the little things that make parenting so rewarding and such a joy; seeing your child figure it out, making the connection between actions and consequences, learning how to behave in the world. It almost makes all the screaming and "No no no no, Mama!!!" worth it...

(There are obviously those things in life that have to be done right the first time, without fail and without excuse. Those are the things for which I do not offer a Try Again, such as hitting or hurting someone, because I want her to feel the burn she ought to feel when she hurts someone else.) But for now, for most of life's events, I want her know that she always has the power to Try Again.

Same for me. I think I love sunrise because it is God's every-24-hour New Beginning. Every day, we get to Try Again, and I love that. Some sunrises are harder to face than others, to be sure. But there is something about knowing that today is my chance to do it right that starts my day off right.

Today I am going to hug my mom for more than 4 seconds. I see her a lot, but it's always on my way out or in or through, so I don't always sit down and spend some time with her in a real way. I'm going to finally return all the calls and emails from everyone during my most recent hiatus in the hospital. I'm going to spend some time reading all the blogs I've missed over the past couple of weeks. I need to reconnect with the humor and insight that I've been missing from my blogger friends (who have been kind enough to keep visiting me regardless of how much I have not been giving in return). I'm going to start bedtime rituals a little earlier for Bambina. She doesn't get cranky when she's tired; she gets punchy, so bedtimes can be difficult (brush our teeth, do peepees, put on our jammies) simply because I am hitting my most tired point of the day just as she has become a pinball machine. I look back at my frustration with bedtimes and know that any issue with that otherwise sweet time is mine; that if I'm too tired to deal with her 100-mile-a-minute ramp-up to her bedtime crash then I need to start it sooner so that the timing of the "come here and brush your teeth!" stuff isn't hitting just as she's cleared herself for takeoff. Today I'm going to see that the Try Again for bedtime is mine, not hers.

Aha! Here comes the sun as I write this.

Whenever it is that you're reading this, consider seeing today as your chance to Try Again. Pick something you messed up, feel bad about, ought to feel bad about, figured you couldn't do over, wish you'd said differently. Then Try Again. I'm betting you'll be surprised by how well it goes.

“All you umpires, back to the bleachers. Referees, hit the showers. It’s my game. I pitch, I hit, I catch. I run the bases. At sunset, I’ve won or lost. At sunrise, I’m out again, giving it the old try.”--Ray Bradbury

The F Word

By now you have no doubt read about the Isaiah Washington/Grey's Anatomy situation, wherein Mr. Washington called his costar (who happens to be gay) a f$%#@t. Then, in not-very-credibly denying later that he had said it, used the word again TWICE.

I know I'm coming late to this issue, but seeing the SAG awards the other day reminded me of it. I was thinking that the Grey's Anatomy set must be one of the few places in America where you can call someone that and still have a job. It took weeks for the ABC brass to acknowledge that, gee, that probably wasn't okay. Then they had Isaiah do that classic "I am sorry if I offended anyone and I need to look inside myself to determine why I would have said such a thing" non-apology. Only when the drumbeat of people boycotting ABC and the show got some momentum did they react. And how did they react? They sent Washington to "rehab." I guess I wasn't aware that they have rehab for that. I suppose in Hollywood they have rehab for anything, but I'm just not convinced. What do those meetings look like? How do you get "clean" from being a bigot in one month? How do they treat it? I personally think bigotry is a lifestyle choice. A disgusting, evil lifestyle choice. ;)

I know that many people believe we have become an oversensitive nation, that "jeez, you can't say anything about anyone anymore." I'm waiting for someone to elucidate for me why that is a bad thing. Because now you don't get to tell all your hilarious f@%%0t, N-word, Jew, lesbian, Chinaman jokes anymore? Believe me, my town was full of those people growing up. My high school had one Jew, two Haitians, a couple of closeted gay (and totally ridiculed) guys, three Asians, and a brother and sister who were labeled "towelheads." All of them lived with the majority white population who thought it was funny to tell "jokes" about them, to use those epithets about them; and if not about them specifically, near them as if they were supposed to find it funny or no-big-deal too. It was a suffocating and damaging environment as I look back on it with no great fondness, and I think about how that connects to the ABC situation, about how it can no longer be a valid defense to say that "people should get over being sensitive," "it's not that big a deal; it's only words," or "why should I care?"

Washington used that word because he simultaneously knew it had the power to hurt his castmate but also thought he probably had the cover to use it. Why? Because when something is considered to be a funny word, a suitable joke topic, you can wound the person in question then easily retreat into "but I didn't know it was so offensive!" If TR Knight (the cast mate) had called Washington the N word, he wouldn't have been allowed to even clean out his locker before his ass hit the pavement outside the studio lot. Why? Because we have come to a general agreement as a society that the word is not acceptable. Not because we're oversensitive but because its use is just wrong. It's time to do the same for the F word--in every work environment in every small (and apparently, large) town in America.

So what's my point? Twofold. First, I'm depressed at how long it took for anyone in the hierarchy at ABC to clue into how unacceptable that on-set attack was. Second, as depressed as that makes me, I'm simultaneously hopeful for the future when I think about how quickly the general public (admittedly people-who-follow-this-sort-of-thing) made it an issue for which they were willing to vote with their feet...or eyes...or advertising dollars. Indeed, that is the only thing that is going to change the words--and therefore the attitudes--that we as a nation find acceptable.

Think of all the things that used to be considered funny and/or acceptable to say in the Good Old Days. Were those things really funny and no big deal or were they just funny because you didn't know someone they would have denigrated? Were they just funny because it was easier to laugh than wonder why you found humor in them? And was it really humor or something more like fear? Because I can guarantee you that men who are comfortable with their own heterosexuality (including those on successful medical dramas) do not feel the need to attack those who are gay.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Under New Management

I went to my new doctor today. I had to say goodbye to Hottie Hebrew Hematologist for reasons of irreconcilable differences. Those differences boiling down to the fact that he couldn't commit. Story of my life, but more on that later.

The short-story-long of it is this: there is a medicine that can help raise your white blood counts. White blood cells (neutrophils to be precise) are what fight infection. Low neutrophils mean you end up with fevers of 103.9, in the hospital, risking sepsis, and getting your advanced directive in order...once a week for a g**d*mn month and a half. Low neutrophils mean you have to wear a mask whenever you leave your house so you don't breathe in any germs, particulates or godknowswhat. So, it's not even about avoiding sneezes. It's about avoiding construction sites, car exhaust, everything, because of the potential for spores and whatnot. In short, it's effing misery without actually making the decision to live in a bubble a la John Travolta circa 1976.

HHH wouldn't give me that white cell-assistive medicine because it might cause leukemia with long-term use. When I was at NIH this past week with my 103.9 fever and my neutrophils in the toilet, they gave me two shots of that medicine because there was no way I was going to get better with antibiotics alone. I needed it and I got it. And today, my friends, my neutrophils had jumped from 200 to more than 800.

Don't get me wrong. 800 is still really low. It's not a number any normal person should aspire to. But the difference between 200 and 800 is quite simple for someone like me: it's the difference between potentially dying of infection and septic shock--and living an almost-normal life. Seriously. It's that black and white. I ate Japanese food tonight for dinner. Take out. Miso soup. Tofu. Veggies. From a styrofoam container not prepared by my own triple-sanitized hands. 'Cause you can't eat at a restaurant or get takeout when you have no neutrophils. You can't eat fruits or vegetables without pummelling the very life out of them. You can't eat out of the same container as anyone else in your family, so you have to have "your" peanut butter and "your" bagel chips. You can't eat feta or brie. You can't eat any meat or fish product that is not cooked beyond dryness. Same with eggs. You can't bake bread because live yeast is dangerous to the immune-suppressed. You can't eat anything that hasn't been brought to a rolling boil. You can't just pick up a coffee and a muffin at a coffee shop because you can't verify who has touched the muffin, whether it has been handled by only clean hands, who has breathed on it while it sat there, how long it has sat there, what has landed on it while it sat there. And the worst part is that you don't actually lose weight. You GAIN it, because you can't eat salad, can't easily eat an apple with cheese for a snack, can't eat anything The Bambina put her mouth/fingers/hands on first. So you eat bagel chips with peanut butter. Potatoes for dinner with bread. You become the Carbs With Preservatives Queen, so you're not only stuck at home, you're a fattie boombalattie.

As you can tell from that interminably long paragraph, having low neutrophils seriously cuts into your life in ways large and small, where every single food item that you don't purchase, wash, cook like hell and then eat off "your" plate with "your" fork and knife is the scariest thing you think you've ever faced. You get so justifiably afraid of food that you even Fear The Muffin. That delicious-looking blueberry, probably-harmless muffin. Being stored at some dangerous bacteria-forming temperature though, I bet, under that plastic case. Probably got sneezed on by the delivery guy, put on the tray with the finger and thumb of the pimply-faced kid behind the counter who MAY have washed his hands after taking a whizz this morning. Should I do it? {Flash to a hospital being told to get your affairs in order...} Naah. I'll go home and make toast. Sh&t! The only jam we have The Bambina licked the spoon and put back in the jar! Do I have any condiments that are mine? No. Okay, dry toast it is.

All of which is to say that I'm glad I'm back at NIH. I completely believe that HHH is probably right; he's a world-class researcher and physician, and I have no doubt that his opinion is rooted in something solid. I am absolutely at peace should something terrible happen in 2012 and I'll look back and say, "Dude. Thank you for totally having my back on this in 2007." But you know what? I'll be saying that because I'll be (barring any bizarre Ewan McGregor Fan Club bus accidents or bagpipe malfunctions) ALIVE in 2012 to send the thank you note!

So, as is my wont, I'm sure I will have other, future posts about me being back in the hospital. Rare progressive diseases are what they are and can't ever be considered "handled" in the classic sense of the word. But what they can be is managed aggressively. And I think that aggressiveness (aggression?!) is what I've been lacking in the past year.

So. This disease, as of this 600 point jump in my counts, is under new management. Time to get back to work. Without a mask!!

I Heart Molly Ivins

I absolutely adore Molly Ivins' writing and unique sense of humor. My Dad thought she hung the moon, as a "Texan" himself who couldn't stand "Shrub." Here's wishing her all strength for what sounds like a very rough road ahead.

AUSTIN - Nationally syndicated columnist Molly Ivins has been hospitalized in her recurring battle with breast cancer. "I think she's tough as a metal boot," her brother, Andy Ivins, said Friday after a visit with her at Seton Medical Center in Austin.

Andy Ivins said his sister was admitted to Seton on Thursday. She spent Friday morning with longtime colleagues and friends, and was "sleeping peacefully" when he arrived later in the day. A self-described leftist agitator, Ivins, 62, completed a round of radiation treatment in August, but the cancer "came back with a vengeance," and has spread through her body, Andy Ivins said.

Ivins' columns, which she infuses with passion and wit, appear in more than 300 newspapers around the country. She's written six books, four of which were best sellers. They included Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America, which she wrote with longtime friend Lou Dubose; and Who Let the Dogs In? Incredible Political Animals I Have Known.

Ivins was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. A year later, she described her treatment with characteristic wit: "First they poison you; then they mutilate you; then they burn you. I've had more fun."

She received her third diagnosis a year ago; despite her illness, she's managed to crank out her columns. In a piece earlier this month, she wrote that she was starting a newspaper crusade to end the war in Iraq. "Raise hell," she urged readers. "Think of something ridiculous to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. ... We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!' "

Blabbing a Thousand








So as not to ruin the moment with lame writing not befitting a thousandth post (or the series finale of Seinfeld), I'll leave it at that. :)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Year of the Boar

February 18th will be the start of Chinese New Year. We're starting to prep for some celebrating here at Chez Haggis, and thought you might like a quick primer on Chinese New Year traditions.

For our Mandarin-speaking friends: Xinnian yu kuai!
And for our Cantonese-speaking friends: Gung hei fat choi!

Intermission Impossible

I watched Mission Impossible:3 last night, the Tom Cruise movie from last year.

In order to provide a quote that the movie company can use on newspaper ads, I will say: "I couldn't take my eyes off the screen!"

To accurately complete that statement: "I couldn't take my eyes off the screen, because I couldn't wait to find out what Tom Cruise was going to do next to ensure I never forget that he is Tom Cruise. Whether he is Ethan Hunt or the guy from War of the Worlds or whatever movie he is now in, he will not allow you to see anyone but Tom Cruise."

This movie was so painful to watch, y'all. He's lucky he's already so rich, because his acting career really should be over. I genuinely think that Jerry Maguire was the last movie in which I found myself believing that he was the character, rather than Tom Cruise pretending to be someone, where I was able to engage in the requisite Willful Suspension of Disbelief to enjoy the movie.

Not for one second in MI:3 did I believe that he was Ethan Hunt in love with his fiancee, tortured about going back to IMF work, or any other key aspect of the plot; which is sad, because the first (and sort of the second) MI's were so fantastic. I remember thinking, "That was a totally fun movie! Tom Cruise rocked that role!" Last night all I was thinking was, "Gee, Tom Cruise is really contorting himself to fit this role. It's like he doesn't want you to see Ethan Hunt, super secret agent man. He wants you to see Tom Cruise: super secret agent man. He just can't seem to subvert himself to his character, to inhabit the CHARACTER. He wants the character, sadly, to inhabit HIM, the cult of HIM."

So rent it if you want to; it's not a terrible movie. There are always Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Maggie Q in wee roles, and the fantastic Ving Rhames who is always That Guy Who is Tough on the Outside (Don't Test Me, Chump!) but Tender On the Inside (I Love ya, Man). Also rent it if you are into moviemaking, because it is a fantastic exercise in seeing how the producer and star of a movie can engineer an entire production around himself.

But don't rent it if you want to see a great MI movie.

Those days are long gone. Just like the ones that gave us Jerry Maguire, Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July, David Shawn in Taps and Maverick in Top Gun.

But--as with all movie reviews--you didn't need me to tell you that.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Finally, Proof I'm Not Just a Cheapskate

This is a pretty cool article from Scientific American explaining why selecting the good ol' 87 octane gas (instead of the 92) is just fine. See? I knew that. I just couldn't explain it very well because I'm not a very scientific American.

Somebody Read My Diary

DURHAM. N.C. (AP) - That cup of coffee just not getting it done anymore? How about a Buzz Donut or a Buzzed Bagel? That's what Doctor Robert Bohannon, a Durham, North Carolina, molecular scientist, has come up with. Bohannon says he's developed a way to add caffeine to baked goods, without the bitter taste of caffeine. Each piece of pastry is the equivalent of about two cups of coffee.

While the product is not on the market yet, Bohannon has approached some heavyweight companies, including Krispy Kreme, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks about carrying it.

Can I get an AMEN?!!!!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

No Sects Please; We're Fox News

The latest in unceasing bigotry from the Fox "News" Channel, courtesy of host John Gibson:

GIBSON [W]hat did they see when they went to the madrassa where Barack Obama went to school?

HOST: Kids playing volleyball.

GIBSON: Playing volleyball, right. They didn’t see them in any terrorist training camps?


GIBSON: No. Um, but they probably didn’t show them in their little lessons where they’re bobbing their heads and memorizing the Koran.

HOST: I didn’t see any tape of that, no.

In addition, he also questioned whether the CNN reporter who visited the school hadn't maybe been a product of a madrasa as well, thereby of course implying that he must not be a very good reporter.

This is bigotry, pure and simple. Where someone went to school when he was SIX is somehow relevant to his presidential race? And the fact that Muslims move their bodies while they pray makes them potential terrorists? John Gibson obviously hasn't been to either my synagogue or to the Baptist church a few streets down from our house. If moving and bobbing while you pray makes you suspect, then we'd all better get ready to defend ourselves from charges of terrorism. No one but the Presbyterians are safe!

Barack Obama is a Christian. No matter what his parents were or weren't. No matter where he went to school as a child. Especially since the report was not even true. From the Obama campaign:
To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago. Furthermore, the Indonesian school Obama attended in Jakarta is a public school that is not and never has been a Madrassa.

So. No matter what anyone says about his "weird sounding" name or his father's religious heritage, the man is a Christian. But how sad for our country that it even matters, that his campaign even had to release the statement above. If our current commitment to our religious belief system is to be doubted because of the beliefs of our parents and our early schooling, then quite a few of us are going to have a lot to answer for. Obama is being smeared, pure and simple. Specifically, he is being smeared by a network that usually has a soft spot for people who claim to have found Christ no matter what their background.

Unless, of course, those people are Democrats. Who are Black. With "foreign" names.

And Dick Cheney thinks questions about his daughter's pregnancy are "out of line"? How about questioning a man's faith and patriotism with not an ounce of evidence to support the charge--and in fact, copious evidence that the charges are false? How about questioning the human decency of some people simply because they pray differently than you? That's about as out of line as you can get and still retain some shred of a delusion that you are a "news" network.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

3Days Without a Post; Guess Where I Am?


In the hospital. I'd offer a prize for the correct guess, but these days that seems to be the most likely--and therefore not prize-worthy--option.

Oh. I won't bore you with the details. I will bore you with a story from my visit with an ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor here. I had been given one hour's notice that I was scheduled for a sinus biopsy. Whaaaa???!!! Is that even possible? Can we please NOT!?

So I was wheelchaired to the department, totally not happy with my rapidly-approaching appointment with something being shoved up my nose and cutting something out. I met the doctor, who to be fair, was really nice. He was checking my sinuses, checking my nose, checking my ears. He decided upon examination that I probably didn't need the biopsy. I mouth kissed him where he stood. In my relieved mind, at least.

As he went about the business of checking my ears he said, "Oh. You've got some stuff in here; let's just get it out while we're at it." He spent a few minutes fumbling around in my ear canal and then pulled out--I sh*t you not--the largest quantity of ear wax I have ever seen in my life. Not just a q-tip full. I mean:

--two small tootsie rolls, squished
--8 quarters in diameter and thickness
--perhaps the shape of three large popped popcorn kernels
--about the volume of a toddler's handful of play-doh

I saw it and immediately blurted, "Oh my lord, is that for real?!!!" He answered cheekily, "No. I keep a stash of it under the chair just to freak patients out." I was stunned. Perhaps more stunned than I'd have been getting my sinuses biopsied.

I asked him how I could stop that from happening again. He said, "Ah. Don't bother. How old are you? 34? Come back when you're 68 and I'll remove it again." But seriously, y'all. If I take nothing else away from this hospitalization it will be the following:

Apparently, your ear canal has three parts: the first third you can see and wipe with a q-tip. The middle third is where the wax is created and which has enzymes/proteins/something that pushes the wax out toward the first third of the ear. The inner third is an area of the ear that has no naturally occurring wax--and no mechanism for moving it out if it gets in there. So, you feel like you are cleaning those babies really well, but you are actually stuffing wax all the way down the canal to the portion of the ear that has no mechanism for getting rid of it. Which is what I've apparently been doing for 34 years. Which is how I have been toting a couple of tootsie rolls in my ear canal without knowing it.

Learn from my errors, young grasshoppers. Fear The Sinus Biopsy. And do NOT put q-tips in your ear!!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

It's Snowing!!

And no one is more giddy than The Bambina.

She thinks I'm magic now because she has been asking about snow for a while. So this morning I said, "let's pretend we're in the snow!" So couch cushions became our sleds, we made imaginary snow balls and threw them into the dining room, and we "crunch crunched" our big steps in the snow just like Peter in The Snowy Day, one of her favorite books ever.

All of a sudden as we're on our sleds, I turned and looked out the window. SNOW!!!!

Yeah. Mama is just THAT powerful.

Hell Wid It! *I'm* Running Too!

Dang, y'all. Who ISN'T running for the Dem nomination?! I think it's gonna be a really interesting process with Obama, Clinton, Richardson, Edwards, Kucinich--and my Aunt Mary--all running.

I can't wait! I read something today saying that Clinton's Finance Director would have a herculean task. Whaaaa? Wouldn't it stand to reason that the FD for Clinton would have the easiest gig out of the whole bunch? She's got money coming out the eyeballs.

Kucinich's FD, now that's the guy or woman we need to be attaching the adjective "herculean" to. His, and my Aunt Mary's.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

"National Sanctity of Human Life We Find Worthy" Day

From the White House. With comments in parentheses from Haggis House.

National Sanctity of Human Life Day, 2007 (the other 364 days? Don't ask.)
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

America was founded on the principle that we are all endowed by our Creator with the right to life and that every individual has dignity and worth. National Sanctity of Human Life Day helps foster a culture of life and reinforces our commitment to building a compassionate society that respects the value of every human being (unless that human being happens to be gay, opposed to the war in Iraq, working in a family planning clinic, utilizing the services of a family planning clinic, or desirous of exercising their civil rights guaranteed by the constitution without being branded a borderline traitor).

Among the most basic duties of Government is to defend the unalienable right to life, and my Administration is committed to protecting our society's most vulnerable members. (Really? Remind us how you do that by cutting programs that benefit children?) We are vigorously promoting parental notification laws, adoption, abstinence education, crisis pregnancy programs, and the vital work of faith-based groups. Through the "Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002," the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003," and the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004," we are helping to make our country a more hopeful place. (How about finally supporting actual sex education? How about giving kids the tools to say no, to protect themselves if they say yes, and the access to factual science--rather than that they should just say no or that they are going to hell if they say yes--or through your assault on scientific principles--telling women that abortions cause cancer? How about some intellectual honesty? How about dealing with the problem as it exists rather than as you believe it should 1957?)

One of our society's challenges today is to harness the power of science to ease human suffering without sanctioning practices that violate the dignity of human life. With the right policies, we can continue to achieve scientific progress while living up to our ethical and moral responsibilities. (Again, whose science? Jesus' science? "God's" science? YOUR science as it fits with your narrow little theocratic heliocentric medieval view of our world?)

National Sanctity of Human Life Day serves as a reminder that we must value human life in all forms, not just those considered healthy, wanted, or convenient. (Such as those who might be civilians in Iraq, perhaps. Or those who who might be wanted by same-sex parents not related to your Vice President?) Together, we can work toward a day when the dignity and humanity of every person is respected. (The first step on that long road? Making sure the door doesn't hit you in the ass on your way out of the White House.)

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States (and the Supreme Court circa 2000, Diebold circa 2004, and the NSA circa now), do hereby proclaim Sunday, January 21, 2007, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon all Americans to recognize this day with appropriate ceremonies and to underscore our commitment to respecting and protecting the life and dignity of every human being (just not the liberal or Iraqi man-on-the-street or gay ones, though).

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Throwing Down with The Bambina

You'll notice I'm posting this at an hour my father would have called "very un-Protestant." Well, I'm writing it at 4am; when it posts, I have learned, is a crapshoot.

Anyhoo. All of us at Chez Haggis need some sleep. Like, now. Bambina is now officially 2 and 1/2 and is a dream child in every way. Seriously. She's smart, she's funny, she's cute, she's sweet. She doesn't throw a ton of tantrums and is generally a model toddler, except for those random times at the store when I have to take her out kicking and screaming and all the while wondering if I look like I'm abducting her. So she's great.

Except for the sleep thing. She's so great in every other way that it was inevitable that her toddler-ness would have to express itself--writ large--one way or another. Sleeping has become that thing. I know it's a normal stage of her development, but it's killing the sleep habits of the household in a huge, ugly way.

Now, there are all manner and number of theories on how parents and children should sleep, learn to sleep, get to sleep, go back to sleep, where to sleep, how to sleep...You get the picture. It's only slightly less controversial and mom-listserv flame-worthy than the Circumcision Debate, Breast Feeding Debate and Do Vaccinations Cause Autism Debate. In other words, there are so many ways here in upper-middle class mommyland where you can be branded a Terrible Mother for following one sleep theory over another. So at the risk of flaming, I'll share the story of why I've been too tired to blog after doing my work during the day.

When we first brought Bambina home she was a newborn to us, even though she was 9 months old. Every time she cried, we went to her. Every single time. She needed to know and believe that every single cry she made would be answered, attended to, and comforted. It was hell on earth walking around on 2 hours of sleep, but I don't regret it for a minute, any more than any new mom doesn't regret responding to her 3 week old's cries. Then, as I may have posted at the time, the transition occurred around 12 weeks home. The transition from "I'm testing you; I need you; Will you come?" to "I get rewarded for staying awake."

Something had to be done, because I was barely functioning, and so was she. It was a really tough decision to make, to wonder if I was harming her sense of belonging, blah blah. Until I read a book called "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child." The book basically said the following: Children need to learn good sleep habits so that they can learn during the daytime and be healthy. If YOU are sleep-deprived as a result of multiple nighttime wakings, then your child is too, and that is not good. You owe it to your child to teach her good sleep habits, and there is no better time than now. It basically said that once you have ensured that your child is physically and emotionally okay at the time, it's okay to let them cry a little bit so they can learn to get themselves to sleep. (Yeah, basic common sense you could get and appreciate from your mom if only she'd put a Ph.D after her name and put the advice between two book covers...)

So we started it.
First night: one hour of crying. Mostly mine.
Bambina drifted off to a peaceful sleep in her crib. I sat up for a few more hours feeling like a jerk.
Second night: 8 minutes of crying. Peaceful slumber.
Third night: Kisses, hugs, rustle, rustle, sleep. All night.
And so it continued for 18 months.

Until this one.

At first it began with, "me scary mama! curtains move! me not like that. It make me scary!" I had put that plastic stuff over the windows to keep drafts out, so it would sometimes undulate and move her curtains, thereby freaking her out. It was clear from the sound of her crying that she was genuinely frightened. So we took down the curtains, removed the plastic, and did a solid heavy-duty weatherstripping job so well that we'll be lucky to get them open in the spring.

Problem solved!
Or not.

When that didn't help, we got books from the library, such as "Llama Llama Red Pajama" all about a little llama who wonders if he's all alone once his mama goes downstairs. It has a line spoken by his mama after she runs upstairs to see why he's shouting for her: "Llama Mama's always near, even if she's not right here," which helped a little bit to explain why I don't sit in her room till she falls asleep.

Then, it became, "mama sit with me one minute," which obviously I did...for many minutes, following the "Ferber method" of weaning your kid off your immediate presence over a period of nights, each night sitting further and further away from the bed until you are in the hallway. We made it through two nights of that until it became clear that my presence (although silent and in the low light) was only exacerbating the issue. It wasn't saying, "mama's here; I'm fine." It was saying, "Mama's here! Something to focus on rather than sleep!"

I had initially gone with Ferber because I was perhaps somewhat dreading a return to letting her cry, especially when I wasn't certain it wasn't fear-related. But after the curtains came down, etc, the "scared crying" stopped. It became the foot-stomping, how dare you tell me when it's bedtime tantrum crying. Believe me, for those of you wondering, the difference is easily discerned between "Mama, me scary" and "MAMA! NOW! AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! NOW MAMA COME UP!{stomp stomp stomp, door slam}."

We tried a bunch of other things, like rewards for being quiet at night, letting her fall asleep in The Mama Bed, all things that, looking back, pretty much exacerbated the issue of who controls bedtime at Chez Haggis. My belief was, "I'm the Mama and I'm telling you it's bedtime. You don't have to sleep right away, but you do have to be quiet and in your room." My actions, however, were saying, "but you control it if you make enough noise."

So last night was Go Time. It just had to be done. I called the neighbors on both sides of our rowhouse to a)apologize for what we were all about to live through, b) assure them that no child was being harmed on the premises, and c) to invite them over for dinner and drinks at some point when our child would go to bed sans ear-piercing shrieks of anger. To their credit, they were lovely about it, assuring us they could barely hear it (an obvious lie since I'm certain it set off every security alarm within a 10 mile radius).


Last night's duration? 55 minutes. 55 very UGLY minutes. Stomping, slamming, blood-curdling screaming. Followed by total silence as she fell asleep in her own bed, under her covers, with The Boys (her loveys) at her side.

Me? I fell asleep at midnight while on the line to my PTSD counselor, AA sponsor, and the 1-800-Mommy-Crisis line. I got my three or so hours until 3:30 when Bambina cried out for me. I went in, pulled up her blankets, kissed her, told her it was still night time, and watched her go right back to sleep within 6 seconds.

Me? I was up. Feeling exhausted. Feeling like I did the right thing last night. But basically just up for the day. I started to feel annoyed and then I thought: everything happens for a reason, and this means I'm supposed to get up, drink some coffee in my "Behind Every Successful New Parent is a Substantial Amount of Coffee" mug, and actually post something to this blog.

Unfortunately for you, it's the ramblings of a sleep-deprived, guilty-feeling mother. But at least it's something non-smutty to read before you click to

Bom Dia!

Go Pats!

Andrew Perloff over at SI has a great piece on why the Patriots will/should win this week. As he says, "go ahead, try to convince me otherwise."
1. The Patriots' mastery of the Colts in the postseason: The same principle players and coaches are in place from 2003 and 2004, when New England topped Indy in Foxboro.

2. Brady vs. Manning: Brady is 12-1 in the postseason. Manning is 5-6.

3. Belichick vs. Dungy: Belichick is 13-2 in the playoffs. Dungy is 7-8.

4. Tom Brady is 10-0 in domes.

5. The Colts have looked beatable in the playoffs: They were trying to hand that game over to the Chiefs, but K.C. didn't want it. And I know how tough the Ravens were, but I wasn't as impressed by Indy as everyone else last Saturday. New England's offense is in a different league than Baltimore's.

6. The Colts looked bad the second half of the season: They were 3-4 in their last seven.

7. Manning struggles against 3-4 defenses: The Colts QB had a 39.6 passer rating against Baltimore.

8. Regular-season matchups don't foreshadow playoff rematches: The Colts' 27-20 win over the Pats in Week 9 has little bearing on the postseason. Remember, Indy clobbered Pittsburgh during the 2005 regular season before losing to the Steelers in the playoffs.

9. The Pats' road success neutralizes Indy's home prowess: I know, I know ... The Colts are 9-0 at the RCA Dome. But, New England is 8-1 away from home this year and won at San Diego, where the Chargers were also 8-0.

10. Homefield advantage not a big deal in conference championship games anyway: Road teams have won the last two AFC title games.

Where has this Andrew Perloff been all my life?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Do O'Reilly Viewers Have Stockholm Syndrome?

MediaMatters--Bill O'Reilly

They must if they continue to watch a man who so horrifyingly judges a 14 year old boy who was abducted at age 11. How else to explain anyone's continued devotion and fidelity to his show when he clearly is a bitter, angry and misanthropic person? Maybe they are afraid to leave him? Maybe they have convinced themselves they love him because he has hammered into their psyches that he is "looking out for" them? Maybe because they have seen what he does to the reputations of people he doesn't like and who don't (unlike our obsequious friend Greta Van Susteren did here) kiss the ring and tell him he is right about everything?

To attribute adult intentions, skills and knowledge to an abducted 11 year-old child is asinine at best and wantonly cruel at worst. It is no secret that child predators control children by threatening both themselves and their families. The neighbors in the apartment building often heard shouting, crying and whimpering from the apartment. There seems little doubt what the abductor was doing to that child, physically and psychologically. We have an little place called Guantanamo (that I think Billy O thinks is fantastic) that is designed to inflict just that kind of psychological hell on adults. So he's incredulous that it would work on a kid? Yeha, the kid was "free." But he was also 60 miles from home, obviously a victim of some terrible abuse at the hands of his captor, and no doubt in fear for his own and his family's lives.

This whole story makes me crazy because it's one more instance of "logical, rational" people judging others when they have no frickin' idea what they are talking about. They should be so lucky that their children are never put in such a position and then judged to have "wanted it" because they didn't have, as Billy O called them, "survival skills." F*&^ you, Bill O'Reilly. I'd like to see how you'd react to a 300 pound man physically violating you for 4 years and then having some right wing a-wipe telling you wanted it and liked it because you happened to have done what you had to do to live through it without getting killed (or, as you had been told, your family killed). You'd be a broken shell of a human at your advanced age, never mind being 14.

I think this cruelty after the fact occurs for two reasons: 1. People do not understand psychological torture techniques, they don't understand why an abused woman would stay with her husband, don't understand why kids don't just run away, and don't understand how physical violence mirrors psychological violence. 2. They want desperately to believe that it would not, could not, will never happen to them or their kids. If you can tell yourself that this boy was a willing participant, that he wanted it or consented to it, then you can convince yourself that your child, that your family are safe. If you teach them "survival skills" they'll never be abducted and abused. If you blame a 14 year old boy for unspeakable acts against him, then you never have to wrap your mind around the fact that violence, kidnappings and child abuse are sometimes random acts perpetrated on random kids, and that it could happen anywhere to anyone...even YOU.

So, what say we leave this kid alone? And what say we take Billy O's advice and use our survival skills (in this case, our basic human intelligence and sense of decency) to escape the malevolent hellhole known as The O'Reilly Factor.

The Original and Best

Art Buchwald.

The Washington Post offers a good mini-autobiography of him here:WaPo

I absolutely loved Art Buchwald. Even when he wasn't at his funniest he was still funnier than most of the "humorists" out there. Some of my favorite observations:
People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.

“We seem to be going through a period of nostalgia, and everyone seems to think yesterday was better than today. I don't think it was, and I would advise you not to wait ten years before admitting today was great. If you're hung up on nostalgia, pretend today is yesterday and just go out and have one hell of a time.”

An economist is a man who knows a hundred ways of making love but doesn’t know any women.

And my absolute favorite, less funny than just true:
"The best things in life aren't things."

We'll miss you, Art!

Gotta Post Something...

Can I confess that there is nothing I want to post about? (about which I wish to post?). Nothing. Nada.

Got all worked up over the Golden Globes. Can't think of anything remotely interesting to say about it. Except that you have to be a special kind of person to think that the following constitutes an appropriate red carpet pose:

Got lathered up over the Obama announcement activities. Can't think of anything remotely interesting to say about it.

Really thought I had it when I read that a secret court will govern the government's wiretapping program. Can't think of anything remotely interesting to say about it.

Then REALLY thought I had it when I read that there is finally a furor erupting in China about the Starbucks located within the Forbidden City.

Hey! Guess what?! That's it! FINALLY someone is getting irritated at such a blight on history. i remember well walking through the entire City in complete amazement at its incredible vastness--and then having my reverie abruptly ended by that big round green sign that says "bad coffee, surly service and American cultural imperialism without apology."

The news report said, "The anchorman, Rui Chenggang, wrote in a CCTV blog that Starbucks' presence "undermined the Forbidden City's solemnity and trampled over Chinese culture." You think? Should the Sistine Chapel have a Starbucks in the entryway? Should we install a Starbucks at Ford's Theater so we can order a tall Wilkes Booth frappuccino?

Starbucks defended the operation of its palace outlet: "Starbucks appreciates the deep history and culture of the Forbidden City and has operated in a respectful manner that fits within the environment," the company said in a written statement.

Yeah, 'cause nothing says "The Forbidden City, built in 1420, a 178-acre complex of villas, chapels and gardens that was home to 24 emperors from the beginning of Chinese history until the end of imperial rule in 1911" like a g(*&^amn Starbucks, right?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Lazy Blogging

Check back later today. I swear I will write something. In the meantime, in a world of hangings and beatings and wars and privation, sometimes we need just need a mental break. To that end, this is for the ladies (and the gentlemen!). Enjoy!

Friday, January 12, 2007

DC United Scores Beckham!

That would have been cool, wouldn't it?

Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Galaxy is the lucky team.

I know a lot of people are agog at the $250 million contract, but I happen to think that it's a small price to pay to have Mr. Golden Balls here in the states. More than that, however, I think it's a small price to pay to have the insanely, horrifyingly, endearingly bizarre Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham here in the states. Our fashion icons have been low-rent individuals such as Chloe Sevigny, Debra Messing and well, I can't think of another. They show up to award shows in haute couture that looks anywhere from homeless chic to simply divine. But in VB, what we will have is a guaranteed fashion icon of rubbernecking-worthy proportions. Even if you hate her, you just love to hate her. And in these troubled times, I take my chapeau off to anyone who can make us laugh, cry and learn a lesson all in the space of one outfit.

Behold, the fantabulous awfulness of our newest immigrant!

George Bush Must Be Stopped

I heard this exchange on NPR yesterday and it scared the crap out of me. Anyone else hear this and get the same bad feeling I did? Thank God for Chuck Hagel. I think the best line is Condi's "I think I would not like to speculate on the president's constitutional authority or to try and say anything that certainly would abridge his constitutional authority, which is broad as commander in chief. I do think that everyone will understand that -- the American people and I assume the Congress expect the president to do what is necessary to protect our forces." If she can't speak to the president's constitutional authority, then how can she help with military and defense plans? Knowing how far the president can go legally is her job. But, as you'll read from the rest of this, using their constitutional powers appropriately doesn't seem to be a concern in this White House.

BIDEN: Last night, the president said, and I quote, "Succeeding in Iraq requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges, and that begins with addressing Iran and Syria." He went on to say, "We will interrupt the flow of support for Iran and Syria, and we will seek out and destroy networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq." Does that mean the president has plans to cross the Syrian and/or Iranian border to pursue those persons or individuals or governments providing that help?

RICE: Mr. Chairman, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs was just asked this question, and I think he perhaps said it best. He talked about what we're really trying to do here which is to protect our forces and that we are doing that by seeking out these networks that we know are operating in Iraq. We are doing it through intelligence. We are then able, as we did on the 21st of December, to go after these groups where we find them. In that case, we then asked the Iraqi government to declare them persona non grata and expel them from the country because they were holding diplomatic passports. But the -- what is really being contemplated here in terms of these networks is that we believe we can do what we need to do inside Iraq. Obviously, the president isn't going to rule anything out to protect our troops, but the plan is to take down these networks in Iraq.

The broader point is that we do have and we have always had as a country very strong interests and allies in the Gulf Region, and we do need to work with our allies to make certain that they have the defense capacity that they need against growing Iranian military build-up, that they fell that we are going to be a presence in the Persian Gulf Region as we have been, and that we establish confidence with the states with which we have long alliances, that we will help defend their interests. And that's what the president had in mind.

BIDEN: Secretary Rice, do you believe the president has the constitutional authority to pursue across the border into Iraq (sic/Iran) or Syria, the networks in those countries?

RICE: Well, Mr. Chairman, I think I would not like to speculate on the president's constitutional authority or to try and say anything that certainly would abridge his constitutional authority, which is broad as commander in chief. I do think that everyone will understand that -- the American people and I assume the Congress expect the president to do what is necessary to protect our forces.

BIDEN: Madame Secretary, I just want to make it clear, speaking for myself, that if the president concluded he had to invade Iran or Iraq in pursuit of these -- or Syria -- in pursuit of these networks, I believe the present authorization granted the president to use force in Iraq does not cover that, and he does need congressional authority to do that. I just want to set that marker.

HAGEL: I want to comment briefly on the president's speech last night, as he presented to America and the world his new strategy for Iraq, and then I want to ask you a couple of questions. I'm going to note one of the points that the president made last night at the conclusion of his speech. When he said, quote, "We mourn the loss of every fallen American, and we owe it to them to build a future worthy of their sacrifice" -- and I don't think there is a question that we all in this country agree with that -- but I would even begin with this evaluation; that we owe the military and their families a policy, a policy worthy of their sacrifices, and I don't believe, Dr. Rice, we have that policy today.

I think what the president said last night -- and I listened carefully and read through it again this morning -- is all about a broadened American involvement, escalation in Iraq and the Middle East. I do not agree with that escalation, and I would further note that when you say, as you have here this morning, that we need to address and help the Iraqis and pay attention to the fact that Iraqis are being killed, Madame Secretary, Iraqis are killing Iraqis. We are in a civil war. This is sectarian violence out of control -- Iraqi on Iraqi. Worse, it is inter-sectarian violence -- Shi'a killing Shi'a. To ask our young men and women to sacrifice their lives, to be put in the middle of a civil war is wrong.

It's, first of all, in my opinion, morally wrong. It's tactically, strategically, militarily wrong. We will not win a war of attrition in the Middle East. And I further note that you talk about skepticism and pessimism of the American people and some in Congress. That is not some kind of a subjective analysis, that is because, Madame Secretary, we've been there almost four years, and there's a reason for that skepticism and pessimism, and that is based on the facts on the ground, the reality of the dynamics.

And so I have been one, as you know, who have believed that the appropriate focus is not to escalate, but to try to find a broader incorporation of a framework. And it will have to be, certainly, regional, as many of us have been saying for a long time. That should not be new to anyone. But it has to be more than regional, it is going to have to be internally sponsored, and that's going to include Iran and Syria.

When you were engaging Chairman Biden on this issue, on the specific question -- will our troops go into Iran or Syria in pursuit, based on what the president said last night -- you cannot sit here today -- not because you're dishonest or you don't understand, but no one in our government can sit here today and tell Americans that we won't engage the Iranians and the Syrians cross-border. Some of us remember 1970, Madame Secretary, and that was Cambodia, and when our government lied to the American people and said we didn't cross the border going into Cambodia. In fact we did. I happen to know something about that, as do some on this committee.

So, Madame Secretary, when you set in motion the kind of policy that the president is talking about here, it's very, very dangerous. Matter of fact, I have to say, Madame Secretary, that I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out. I will resist it -- (Applause).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Sorely-Needed Ass-Kicking what I got yesterday.

(warning: profanity to follow, dear Rabbi!)

It's no secret that December 2006 was the mother of all sh*tty months in my life to date. As a result of that whole existential drama regarding my health, I had kind of lost my mojo. I just couldn't seem to find the core of my confidence in the aftermath of spending so much effing scary time in the hospital. I was starting to want to cancel things already underway, avoid things in the planning stages, and essentially make no future plans for fear of having to break them. It was my own little slice of self-induced self-pitying hell and I couldn't figure out how to get out of it, not to mention couldn't figure out if I even *wanted* to get out of it.

Then along come the two people who make me question everything: Bambina and my father.

Bambina is now totally into seeing her baby pictures. She loves to talk about what she did when she was a baby, what her first words were, how much she made messes or cried or crawled or whatever. She just wants to know. So I sit her up on a chair and we go through all of her baby photos on my laptop, from Day One in China all the way through last week. She can't get enough of seeing all of her photos from China. So yesterday I was going through her narrative: here we are on the bus on the way to meet you. Here is the photo of you being placed in my arms. See mama crying because I'm so happy. See your cute pink hat? Mama sent that for you when I saw your picture for the first time. Here we are with your nannies who took care of you. Oh! Here you are asleep in my arms. There you are asleep again. Here you are back at the hotel, on the laptop, under the table, at the zoo in Guangzhou...

As I was doing our little slideshow for the third time, I just happened to look at her as she was devouring the photo of her with a camel at the zoo. I felt so freakin' lucky to have been given the love and devotion of this little girl and couldn't believe that I'd ever be so in the mental soup that I'd ever imagine not doing anything--anything--for her. I then heard myself say in my mind, "You need to get on your f*ckin' bike, Mrs!" For those of you who do not speak "wee fat scotsman," that means it's time to "man up." Time to get off your butt, out of the pity party, and get to work or wherever it is that you're supposed to be, but not here.

Now, here's the thing. I say "get on your bike" as a joke, but I never actually use it in the way it's intended seriously. And, notwithstanding my written effings here on the Haggis, I never utilize the F word in front of my kid, even in my mind. It just doesn't usually come into my mind when she's around. So my theory, which you can feel free to chalk up to the ravings of a girl missing her Dad, is that the thought came straight from the man himself.

I was thinking about it last night. I don't miss my dad in a terrible, hurting way every day. I miss him, I think about him every day, but it doesn't hurt. It just is. I think I'm so at peace with him being gone--and yet still here--since the Angelina Jolie incident, that I don't feel like I have to hurt in order to feel him. In some ways, him being gone made some of my scarier days in the hospital that much easier, partly because he'd have been unbearable to live with if he'd been alive and worried, ;) and partly because I just felt him so close to me the entire time. And knowing that someone can be physically gone but still able to be felt and perceived when you need it most, is the most comforting feeling in the world.

Which is what brings me to yesterday's ass-kicking. I think my Dad has been watching my recent mental retreat with no small amount of concern. If there was one thing that motivated my Dad, it was his family. Whether it was working 3 or 4 jobs at once, riding a motorcycle in all kinds of weather because he couldn't afford a car and couldn't get between jobs on time via bus, moving us from Scotland on faith, working until he looked significantly older than his years so we could go to college--and finally--hanging onto life until the precise moment when the rabbi told him that his work here on earth was done and he could safely let go knowing he had set the stage for all of us to succeed and be happy. I know that he would have gone to the wall for us no matter what, and that there was nothing he considered more important than his wife and kids.

So why the hell is his daughter sitting around wondering what to cancel next? Why the hell is she opting out of opting in, wondering what's the point, feeling like it's over before it's over? It's not over! It's never over! Why am I not running down every single g*ddamned cure or treatment there is? Why am I not demanding treatments from my doctors so that monthlong medical dramas not occur? Why am I just somehow letting this crap happen to me, rather than--well--getting on my g*ddamned bike and living the life I've been given?! The life I've been given with the blessing and responsibility of an amazing toddler human being who doesn't care whether I'm in a surgical mask or ballgown? Whether I can only sit and do play-doh today rather than run around the statue in the park? She doesn't care. She just needs to know that I'm here--and that I'm going to be here.

And I just need to make that happen.

So, call it what you will, but I call it a sorely-needed ass-kicking from the only guy who knows how to deliver it with that little bit of Scottish zing: because when your Dad uses the F word, you know you'd better start pedaling.

The Obligatory George Bush Speech Post

Semantics are everything in a speech, aren't they?

“Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility lies with me,” he said.

I love that. Notice how he simultaneously acknowledges "mistakes" but does not say directly "I am responsible for the mistakes that *I* made."

So, he looks reasonable and presidential by taking responsibility, for having the buck stop with him (cue the Fox News people cooing about how big it was of him to do so), and yet never ever says, "I take responsibility for MY mistakes, including not listening to my military advisers, refusing to see reality in a situation in which I have zero experience (unless you count maybe flying a plane in the national guard for one day back in the 60's), and calling into question the patriotism of anyone who has questioned my mistakes throughout the past four years."

Now THAT would have been a speech to remember. This one? Just more of the same: smoke and mirrors for those not really paying attention, "leadership" for those still devoted enough to be blind, and one more example of George Bush fiddling while Rome burns.

Oh--and one of the best lines about the next year requiring more "patience, sacrifice and resolve?" What sacrifices have Americans not in uniform (or related to those in uniform) made, exactly? We've enjoyed tax CUTS, we've perseverated on Britney and K-Fed, we've done anything BUT sacrifice in any real way. If the President was really serious about us coming together with American resolve to make it through the next year, he'd find a way to responsibly pay for this war, he'd stop demonizing Americans who, in good faith and with the full weight of American democracy behind them, question his decisions--and he'd pray every night on his knees for forgiveness for starting something he didn't know how to finish.

Twelve Days, Baby!

Perhaps a new sign for my fridge these days? ;)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Inside China, Inside Me

We're intently watching a PBS documentary called China From the Inside. It's fascinating to watch, especially because it was filmed during the same year that we were there with the Bambina. The scenes at the National People's Congress must have been filmed as we were standing across the street from Tiananmen Square at the Forbidden City gates. It's wonderful to watch and remember, to think about how we approached China and the Chinese people--and they us--with wide eyes and open hearts.

It deals pretty openly with political issues, corruption within The Party, the economic and social consequences of rapid development, and the one-child policy. What I really hope people will take from watching this show is the amazing diversity that is China and her people; that to "be Chinese" is as wide a statement of ethnic, racial and historical background as is to "be American."

When I think back to those three weeks in China, my thoughts are obviously influenced by the fact that my life as I know it began there. That my Bambina, who has made my life the meaningful, joyous and inexpressably wondrous thing that it is, was born there and officially became my daughter there.

I loved seeing and experiencing the tiny slice of China that I did. As I follow the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, I sometimes realize that the China we saw in 2005 will never be again. Partly that has to do with all of the internal changes going on there, economically, industrially, environmentally. Mostly, I think, it has a lot to do with the changes in me.

There are a lot of things to deplore about China; I know this. But I can't think about China without feeling grateful and blessed. Some other adoptive parents we met in China were borderline dismissive of China, its food, its customs and its history. They just couldn't wait to get home to "real food" and "people who speak English" and suchlike. At the time I found it to be an embarrassingly stereotypical "ugly American" way to look at the world: "I don't like it here, half way around the globe, because it's not just like my little life in America."

Now when I think about it I find it to be a profoundly sad and ignorant way to view the birthplace of one's children. It now strikes me as irresponsible and unhealthy. It's true that my daughter is as American as anyone, but to deny her pride in her birthplace is to deny her origins as a person. I don't have to like the politics or the economics, but I do have to value and show respect for the culture from which she came.

So I care about China. Not because I have to, but because it just feels natural to do so, as the place where I first held my daughter, where she first called me Mama, where I first felt my heart break open and almost explode with the inexplicably joyous feeling you get when a baby looks to you for comfort, receives it, and falls happily asleep in your arms.

No matter what, I don't think I'll ever stop caring about China as a country, as a diverse people, as a vast variety of cultures. Why? Because a branch of my family tree is nurtured and supported by roots that will always exist there. Because--just as our ancestors became Bambina's--her ancestors became ours.

Family Values. Just Not For Families

The following post from Right Wing News, and the comments attached to it, make me so angry I can barely speak.

Oh, Okay, I'll try.

The point of the article is that the Family and Medical Leave Act, as it stands and with Ted Stevens' proposed addition of paid leave, should cause any right-thinking employer to decide against hiring women of child-bearing age. One of the commenters actually uses the term "hiring a uterus." The justification for this prejudice being that if someone takes 8 weeks off after birth or adoption, that the company shouldn't be required to keep their job open for them due to costs and hassle. Therefore, companies should wisely decide against hiring women for management track positions. Therefore, this bill will create the very glass ceiling that Dems want to remove.

Where to begin?

First of all, why is the assumption made that someone should not be able to take short-term leave and return to their old job because of the expense of hiring a temp? The question is more "How expensive is it to search, hire and train a new person to replace a valued employee simply because that person needed extended time off?" If the potential for short-term leavetaking is the issue, how about not hiring fat white men because the chances of them needing time off for bypass surgery? How about not hiring people who have aging parents and grandparents because of the chance of them needing time off for funerals? My point is that you can come up with any reason at all to disqualify someone for a job because of the potential for them needing leave.

So if you happen to be a conservative schmuck, you make it about "hiring a uterus" rather than hiring, say, "a pill-popping and fat" talk show host (any guesses?). Notice that no one on their side was worried about Dick Cheney. No one was worried about John McCain's skin cancer. Nope. Should we replace CEOs while they are on that 5-week vacation in the South Pacific? Hmm... I didn't think so. But god forbid a woman might get pregnant or adopt. THAT is a real money loser for American industry, isn't it?

And here's the kicker: every single father I know wanted to take time off when his children were born or adopted. Every single one. Not one of them faced any kind of "gee, had we known this, we wouldn't have hired you, dude..." prejudice. They were sent on their way home with cigars and presents for mom and baby.

And here's the bigger kicker: almost every mother I know, just like her husband, did some kind of work, whether answering emails, being on conference calls, or talking someone at the office through a project, during that leave. I simply don't know a single family for whom that leave was true "leave" in the conservative schmuck sense of the word.

And here's the biggest kicker of all: for a party that supposedly promotes family values and good Christian living, you'd think having a married (heterosexual?!) family together for the first two months of a child's life would be the absolute pinnacle of their achievements, that this would be THE thing to which their party would aspire.

Instead, it's just another reason to wink at prejudice. Which, to my mind, is more a condition in need of long-term disability leave than having a new baby in the house.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Real SBC

As always, another awesome link provided by the lovely people at Dubious Quality. I never thought I'd hear his real voice. It doesn't sound at all what I pictured.

Dunk This

A hilarious photo from our friend Joe over at Freudian Slips. You know you've eaten some of these yourself when there was nothing else in the fridge.
Freudian Slips


Please promise me you will read this little interview with Bernard-Henri Levy, a French philosopher and author. Then tell me how many times while reading it you wondered if it were some fake spoof on French people. I don't think I've been more entertained in quite some time.
The Sunday Times Magazine

That's a Lot of Paper

BARNSTABLE -- Almost 140 Hyannis Elementary School students went home last week with letters implying that they might be at risk for becoming underweight or overweight after a height-and-weight screening. The screening is the result of a federal law that requires schools to implement programs aimed at "wellness." The programs also include vision and hearing tests.

Some parents are angry, The Cape Cod Times reported yesterday. Vicki Elliott, whose 4-foot-tall, 66-pound daughter was sent home with a letter warning that she was "at risk of becoming overweight," said the letter singles out children about a sensitive issue. And, Elliott said, it's none of the school's business. "She probably can eat healthier, but that's for the doctor and me to decide, not the school nurse," Elliott said.

The school nurse, Stacey Shakel, said the letter had been meant as an education tool, not an insult. The screening determines body mass index; a high number does not necessarily mean a student is overweight, she said, especially for athletes. "It's simply a red flag, potentially, in relation to chronic diseases," Shakel said.

In addition, state law requires that a school notify parents of children who are overweight or underweight, or who may be at risk of becoming so. About half of the Hyannis school's students got letters. Elliott's third-grade daughter does not think she's overweight, Elliott said, adding that reading the letter upset her. "I don't agree with the policy," she said, "but if you're going to do it, don't send [the letter] home with the kids."

The Barnstable school district conducts height and weight screening on students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Superintendent Patricia Grenier said that the district could not afford to mail all the letters, and that in the end there's a payoff. "Healthy children learn better," she said.

As a former fat kid who is now the parent of a very thin kid, I cannot imagine that this practice is a good one. Do they really think thin or fat kids don't already know they are not of an average weight? And if they don't, why single them out? It's so stupid. At least put it in the mail rather than handing the "weight problem" letters out in class for the skinny and fat kids to take home. Hell, if they'd been sending frequent letters home every time someone thought a kid was fat back in my day, I'd probably have lost weight carrying all that paperwork. But I'd have wanted to open a vein too at the embarrassment. It was already horrifying enough to have to get scoliosis testing done with the school nurse telling me my spine was great but I just had "some extra skin" on my back. Or wearing not Jordache jeans but Sears "Pretty Plus" and boys Husky jeans with the legs cut short. Or not knowing until 8th grade that I had a thing called a clavicle, having never seen it before losing weight.

The best part is the last sentence: Superintendent Patricia Grenier said that the district could not afford to mail all the letters, and that in the end there's a payoff. "Healthy children learn better..."

So you have the money to do all this unsolicited BMI testing, but not to put stamps on some letters?! And what about healthy kids learning better? I was a totally fat kid and I seemed to learn just fine, having made straight A's my entire school career (in fact, don't fat dorkiness and good grades usually go together?). I can absolutely assure you that I "learned better" than all those thin girls in 7th grade who were already giving boys blow jobs. Where were THOSE letters to the parents, huh?

This is well-intentioned stupidity. If you want to send a general letter about BMIs go ahead. If you want to send a general letter about kids getting it on at the age of 12, go ahead. But until you call up the blowers and the blowees for their own special letter regarding good health and wellness, don't torture the fatties. They will always be my peeps, no matter how thin I ever am, because once you live through childhood as a "pretty plus" (especially in a world where the school thinks you need a special letter) you never, never get over it.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

You're On Notice

This is a take-off on Colbert's "On Notice" segment. The site lets you insert your own list of people and things you are putting on notice. Here is mine:

Bless His Heart

Joe Biden is running for President.

Okay, someone has to tell him it's not gonna work out. Who's it gonna be? It feels like that conversation you have at the office when that one guy who doesn't shower/wears insane quantities of Drakkar Noir/has terrible bad breath/needs to stop adjusting himself/{insert embarrassing revelation here} needs to be given the 411 but no one wants to be the person to do it.

You don't want to hurt his feelings. You don't want to burst his bubble. But you also don't know if he already kind of knows about his odor and just doesn't care, so you have to tread lightly.

So. Who's gonna do it? Or should we just leave him an anonymous note?

Talladega Nights: Thank You, Baby Jesus!

If you haven't seen Talladega Nights yet, you should (at least so you'll get the title of this post). I had avoided it due to my inability to sit through any Will Ferrell performance, but the hot nurse at NIH told me to get over it and rent it regardless. So of course I did. ;)

Oh my lord, it is so funny. I don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it, but I do have to give props to two actors who, I think, get limited credit for their work: John C. Reilly as Ricky Bobby's (Ferrell's) friend, and Gary Cole as Reese Bobby, Ferrell's father.

First Reilly. He's been in movies from Boogie Nights to Magnolia to The Aviator to, well, TN: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. He's that guy you know but don't know his name. He's that guy who is the friend of the guy carrying the movie. And, every single time, he's fantastic.

Next, Cole. Gary Cole will always be Lumbergh to me. That boss in the movie Office Space (the key movie about work for my generation) who says, "Yeaaaah. I'm gonna have to ask you to go ahead and come in on Saturday..." He was horrifying in his likeness to so many bosses I and my friends had had. But he has also been Mike Brady in the Brady Bunch movies, Vice President Russell on the West Wing, and in movies like Dodgeball, as well as tons of TV shows. I don't think he gets enough credit for being able to inhabit so many different kinds of roles from comedy to drama.

So, anyway, this is a post about Talladega Nights, which you should see, if for no other reasons than Sasha Baron Cohen's role as Bobby's French nemesis Jean Girard, and the fact that Ricky Bobby named his sons "Walker" and "Texas Ranger".

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Rest In Peace, Mr. Ando.

Farewell to the man who got me through grad school on a tight budget. I salute you, sir.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Daryl Hannah Incognito

Just read this article in The Sun (a UK tabloid). Note the final paragraph.

MANY celebs have some horror in their past, but a trauma DARYL HANNAH went through is one of the worst I've heard. The blonde actress - famed for making waves as the mermaid in Splash - narrowly avoided being sold as a sex slave in the late 1970s. The 46-year-old told US TV crime show America's Most Wanted that she was studying in Los Angeles when she was offered the chance to model for an album cover in Sin City (Las Vegas).

She soon realised the modelling trip was a scam and that she was about to be forced into a sex slave ring. Hannah told host JOHN WALSH she and another girl escaped out a window and fled - but the memory continues to haunt her. Now the brave A-lister is using her own movie millions for a low-budget film to help some of the 14,000 girls smuggled into America annually from Eastern Europe and Asia, by joining forces with international human rights groups to help free the sex slaves.

She said: "The more I learn, the more I am moved to take action." Daryl will go undercover - strapping microphones to her body and carrying a hidden camera as she travels to brothels around the world - to document the disturbing truth.

So, how precisely is this "A lister"--a 6 foot tall clearly well-preserved Western woman--going to now pull off this well-planned undercover operation in Eastern Europe and Asia?!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

It's Tricky to Rock a Rhyme

If you're wondering what kind of mom I am, I think today's Bambina Bon Mot will give you a rather clear idea.

Bambina loves the song "Mary Had a Little Lamb" so much that we actually have about five versions of it that I've made up just so I don't have to sing "it made the children laugh and play, laugh and play,...." for the thousandth time. One of them goes through our relatives and what color of hair they have. Another one involves all of her stuffed animals, three of whom are indeed sheep. The list of alternative versions goes on, each with some level of minor memorability for Bambina.

A short while ago, Bambina started singing the song but seemed to be stuck on "Mary Mary Mary Mary" so I started singing, "Mary Mary, why ya buggin? Mary Mary I need ya huggin." We sang it a couple of times but nothing really came of it. Until tonight at bedtime, we were reading Big Bird's Mother Goose and we came to the little ditty about the little lamb. And then Bambina bumrushed the show from out of nowhere with:
"Mary Mary! Why you buggin me?!" with all the Queen Latifah gravitas a toddler can bring.

I fell out laughing even though I was trying to simmer her down for bed, which only encouraged another verse, then another. It reminded me that we'd had a similar situation with the Beastie Boys back in September, with "check check check check check check check it out, what what what what what's it all about?!," a toddler-perfect anthem if ever there was one.

After finally getting her out of her Adidas and back into bed, I had an epiphany over dinner: this is why friends don't ask me to babysit their kids.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Cindy Sheehan: Make The Bad Lady Stop!

I was hoping I wouldn't have to write about Cindy again. Cindy makes me want to bang my head against a wall in exasperation and frustration for the fortunes of the Democratic Party. Cindy makes me feel annoyed and embarrassed. Cindy operates on another level, one which I clearly don't inhabit.

Here goes my disclaimer: I have not lost a loved one, much less my child, in Iraq, so I cannot even begin to imagine the pain of that occurrence. I want to give her all respect for having suffered that loss and for committing to fighting for her principles no matter what.


That said, could she wait until the Dems have actually gotten a single effing thing accomplished in Congress, like maybe even finishing lunch on Day One at the Capitol, before storming the beaches? For heaven's sake! She's becoming a one-woman circa-1980's Al Sharpton, which is to say, that it's all about her. I don't for one minute believe that she doesn't truly feel the weight of her convictions. But her strategies and tactics for having those convictions meet with any political success at all are curious at best and cluelessly negligent at worst. Did she really think that hijacking the incoming Speaker's press conference would somehow speed the return of our troops from Iraq? If so, I'm anxious to hear how she sees this playing out. If not, why did she do it? Has she at all considered the possibility that she is harming the anti-war movement?

I know that some will say she's fabulous for being a thorn in the side of both parties in service to her principles. But I don't get how alienating the very people who can help your cause is a credible person's first order of business. I remember attending the Democratic Convention in LA in 2000. I remember all too well people throwing stuff and hurling insults at us as we went through the checkpoints to get into the Staples Center, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why they were attacking US. We were on the same side, perhaps at different points on the liberal continuum, but clearly on the same side. Even if for no other reason than the opposing side was so far to the right, I just couldn't figure out what they had hoped to accomplish by making me hate them.

A good friend of mine who attended with me called it "the arrogance of the disenfranchised," which I think nailed it. They were so caught up in their movement's righteousness--and the feeling of being against the world, which they secretly(?) really buy into and enjoy--that they couldn't take one single credible step to having that movement become part of the political process. It was as if they were so righteous that any political participation in something like a convention or an election or a congressional committee meeting would by definition taint their pox on both houses and let's throw some rocks.

This is where I'm heading in my feelings about Cindy Sheehan. If you REALLY want to bring those soldiers home, you'd do anything to make it happen. You'd even work with Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emmanuel. You'd speak truth to power--and this is key--IN A WAY THAT POWER COULD AND WOULD BE ABLE TO HEAR YOU--and that the entire world would witness--and THEN you'd twist the thumbscrews till you got your ends. What Cindy Sheehan just did was piss on the very people who are in a position to make her purported goals a reality. She made it all about herself. Not about her son, not about the troops, not about the goal of getting them home from this terrible conflict. The people who are already trying to get the troops home didn't need Cindy Sheehan busting in on their meeting to strengthen their resolve, and those who aren't certainly won't be convinced by today's events.

Simply put, she committed a tactical and strategic blunder that, paradoxically, is on the scale of none other than George-Bush-as-War-President himself.

Way to go.

Bachelorette Rejects

Totally off-topic, but I was taking some flak the other day from family about the "losers" I used to date/kiss/pine for in high school. I challenged the premise that the guys were losers, opting instead to say that we were simply badly matched for the long term, which describes 98% of all high school "relationships" if you think about it. So I wanted to find out what those guys were doing now. Not that a person's chosen profession indicates a lack of loserness, but it does answer charges that I always seemed to find myself "in love" with guys who were either egomaniacs, troublemakers or some psychotic combination of the two, destined to be homeless, high or in jail.

So for kicks I googled them (which I hope doesn't make me a psycho seeking former psychos), and here is a rundown (you'll pardon the sheer quantity of googlees). I swear I was a good girl:

1 is a personal injury lawyer (kissed like mad at several parties; he went to the all-boys catholic high school)
2 are intellectual property attorneys (#1 I dated from 8th through 9th grade, while kissing personal injury lawyer above whenever the occasion arose; #2 I kissed whenever the occasion arose because he was really cute and way out of my league for actual dating. I had yet to learn about free milk and cows...)
1 is a CPA (the love of my young life for whom I pined three years, dated briefly, then got dumped because I wouldn't do it with him)
1 is a state senator (Seriously cute. Seriously good kisser, at least at the time. I can't vouch for him now... Also had a great car. And a 5 o'clock shadow. Was a senior when I was a freshman. Swoony swoon swoon. Unfortunately, we both had competing egos and political ambitions; therefore doomed to end up in the scrap heap of relationship history.)
1 is a bass player in an indie band out of CA. (terrible kisser, as I recall, but nice guy. Had to dump because my friend really liked him and I only sort of liked him and I felt bad. And also because of that kissing thing where he'd come at me with his mouth already open. Eeew. At first I thought, "oh, maybe he's nervous." Then I thought, "okay, I've got to do some evasive action to get this to be the kiss I'm trying to have, so maybe if I move my mouth...blah blah..."no avail. He just couldn't figure out how to start a kiss with lips rather than gums, bless his heart. I'm sure there are plenty of groupies now who'll talk about how "amazing" his openmouth face-eating kisses are on their myspace profiles, but it just never was my cup of tea. Or mouthwash, as the case may be).

Regardless. Not so bad for a bunch of losers majoring in pre-jailtime, huh, family doubters?!!

Although in the interests of honesty, I do have to confess the 1 who is in real estate (slightly unhinged, quite scary, still don't like to talk about him)...and the 1 who was arrested for DUI last year.

Still, in the final analysis, not so bad. Considering that those poor schmucks dated a certifiably insane pseudo-blogger with Andy Rooney tendencies.

I'd have ended up as a lawyer too if I had me in my history...

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year, New You

Yes, you.
Not me, of course. I'm splendid just the way I am.
What I'm speaking of is the need for YOU to make resolutions to improve how you deal with ME.
Some suggestions? But of course!

1. If you are elected or appointed to the legislative, judicial or executive branches of the U.S. government, you really ought to do the following:

--Abstain from sending smutty messages to pimply-faced teens (I mean, using your real initials...)
--Show up at a former president's funeral proceedings. Yes, ALL of them. Unless, of course, you've got some brush to clear in Texas...
--Don't make jokes unless you've got Seinfeld or Drew Carey on the payroll. Ray Romano, or worse, the dude who played his brother, will NOT suffice.

2. If you are in a position to be quoted by major news outlets, Don't Drink and Declaim, Beverage and Bloviate, or otherwise engage in In Vino Vilification of those you consider to be less human than you. (My apologies, therefore, for my 2005 rant against the aggressive squirrels at Bambina's park. Although in my defense, those f&*^%rs start all the rabies outbreaks in the world and it just needed to be said, Sugartits).

3. How about washing your hands after going to the bathroom? Every time. With Soap. Even if you only do Number One. It's one of the easiest ways to make the world a safer place, and I didn't even make you sit through a 90-minute powerpoint with pictures of melting polar ice caps to make my point. You owe me.

4. {With full credit to Jess [perhaps/not her real name? for the backstory]}, If you are going to go out without underwear for the purposes of having your vagina photographed, PLEASE PLEASE make sure said vagina is camera-ready. She once walked in on her 80 year-old grandmother and saw something no grandchild should see/no grandparent wants her grandchild to see. When she saw the photos of Britney Spears', um, fandango, her immediate thought was, "oh dear god! It looks 80 years old!" Not that there's anything wrong with your fandango looking just the way it does right now, in whatever condition it may be. We simply ask that you have an honest conversation with your hand mirror from that class you took in 1976, a close friend who won't stop returning your calls when you ask him/her to assess your parts, or your best friend Paris. Because as mortifying as it should be to finally and at long last have removed any shred of mystery, which used to be the lingua franca of the celebrity business, it's more mortifying to have someone look at a photo of your hoo-ha and ask, "Grandma?"

There. I think we're gonna have a good year.