Saturday, March 31, 2007

Damn The Counts

My bone marrow apparently didn't know it was my birthday.

Yesterday I went to Hopkins and got, by far, the worst blood counts report I have ever received in my life. My nurse is so sweet; I could tell she was stalling, so I just asked what my counts were. She told me. I was like, "are you sure?" She printed them out for me and gave them to me, saying, "I don't want to give this to you on your birthday!" I pretended to hand them back saying, "I'm sorry. You're going to need to go back and bring me better counts than this! This is unacceptable!"

So. Not precisely the birthday I was looking for. I started laughing as I recalled the puff piece on "don't ask why or how when bad things happen; look for the good in it" just that morning on this very blog. It also made me think of that book written by Julia Sweeney about her cancer called "And God Said, 'Ha!'" God was definitely saying something along those lines to me yesterday. Maybe something like, "Don't write something unless you're prepared to back it up, big mouth."

So here I am. Definitely bummed. Definitely scared. Wearing a mask 24-7. Washing my hands like my life depends on it. (oh wait! It does!) And hoping that my visit on Tuesday will see even a minor upswing in my white count. I'm still not asking how or why. But I'll have to get back to you on the "what is good about this" part.

I'll try to write some over the weekend, but my mind is kind of focused on only this at the moment, so I think any posts will become very boring hematologic treatises which I may, in my abundant mercy, spare you. :)

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Only Way to Live a Long Life

Is to keep having birthdays.

toothpaste for dinner
Today is my 35th birthday.
I like birthdays, no matter how big the number is.
In fact, these days I like birthdays precisely because of how big the number is!

So what have I gleaned from 35 years on the planet that is worthy of sharing?

Well, clearly I have NOT learned that "no one cares about your birthday-induced 'wisdom'." But let's chalk that up to youth and inexperience and move ahead with the original post, shall we? Supah.

1. When your life seems to have gone under a bus at 50 miles an hour, you figure out what is really important to you. Not because you are a super, good, insightful person, but because the human condition requires it. I can't tell you the last time I worried--really worried--about my weight, my cholesterol or my calf definition. I shudder to think of the number of years I obsessed/flipped out/freaked out/otherwise wasted time worrying about being fat, substituting my fear of being fat for other, larger feelings, and in general putting so much effort into my appearance to the detriment of my appearance. I credit Bambina and bone marrow for ridding me of this seemingly-societally important concern, on the theory that you cannot have body issues and successfully, honestly raise a confident child, and you cannot worry about consuming fewer than 1500 calories a day when you've got *-* this much bone marrow, *-* this much energy, and *-----------------* this much toddler on a daily basis. The human brain, I imagine, can only process so much worry or fear at one time. It's quite amazing how previous large "fears" are shunted aside when real ones actually arrive. (It also makes you wonder if it's human nature to invent worries and fears even where none need exist).

2. Always ask yourself, no matter how bad it gets, "What is good about this?" It sounds like the most ridiculous and intellectually dishonest thing to do, but it makes life much easier. The times in my life when I've been most hurt, most alone, most lost were the times I focused on the "How and Why" instead of the "What is good." When a guy cheated on me, I'd torture myself with "How could he do this to me? Why would he do this? I don't understand." When my blood counts started dropping and it became clear that life would not go according to my previously-strategized Five Year Plan, I spent a lot of time asking, "Why me? How can this be happening to ME?" When a boss would constantly downgrade me, tell me I wasn't qualified for something I knew I could do, make me doubt my (mad) skills, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the how and the why of their blindness to my talent.

These days I make myself find one single thing that is good (which doesn't mean "happy") about a situation before I let myself wonder why or how. Sometimes it's hard. When my Dad died, the only thing (duh) I could say was that he was no longer sick and suffering. But that alone offered some comfort. With my health, it's also hard to find good things. Except for my discovery that friends are actually there to be counted upon when you need them and not just for social fun. That sometimes crappy things happening to you do indeed make you a gentler person to others. That you can meet the coolest and most interesting people in a cancer center infusion room. That sometimes your best work as a mother comes on days when you are acutely aware of the singular blessing of your child on the earth and in your life. And sometimes your best work as a mother comes on days when you are just barely getting by physically or emotionally; that sometimes digging deep to get through a day makes that day more valuable.

In any event, my point is that "how" and "why" questions generally have no real answers worth hearing. Because you're not looking for "because she was hotter than you" to find out why he cheated; you're looking for a bigger answer that you can't have. You're not looking for "my Dad died because his lungs blah blah blah...;" you're looking for a bigger answer that you can't have. You're not wondering why or how your bone marrow isn't working: "See, there are these things called stem cells...;" you're looking for a bigger answer that you can't have. So I've stopped asking the questions, and now I just ask myself no matter how bad it all may seem: "What is good about this?" And because I'm not a superhero, although I like to play one on a blog, some days I let myself have till the weekend to come up with an answer.

3. A writer should only be allowed two (2) pseudo-serious birthday remarks in one post or else risk looking like a self-important jackass who wouldn't know a HAPPY birthday if it blew candles out in her face. Therefore:

4. It is a tremendous honor to share my birthday with Superstar Chanteuse Quebecoise Miss Celine Dion. I don't ask the "comment ou pourquoi" of this honor; I simply enjoy the warm glow of bonheur it brings me.

5. M&M's make a great breakfast supplement.

6. You should try it sometime.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is This Racist?

From Sky News. Am I racist for thinking this is funny--and very ingenious? I am usually all eyes and ears for anything racist, so somebody needs to school me hard if I'm turning a blind eye to this. :)

Scottish Firm In The Poo
Updated: 15:13, Wednesday March 28, 2007

A Scottish company has been slammed for inviting customers to "send a poo" to an Englishman on St George's Day.

Edinburgh-based firm is selling plastic "realistic poo" to send to "your favourite (or least favourite) Englishman" to mark April 23.

Customers are given the choice between human or dog-style excrement, wrapped in tissue paper along with a personal message set beside the English flag.

But members of the English Democrats Party, which is campaigning for an English Parliament, questioned the stunt's legality.

Robin Tilbrook, the party's national chairman, said: "The company's website says they will not send this so-called 'practical joke' if the message is deemed threatening, racist, homophobic, or displays religious bigotry.

"It appears to me to be threatening, possibly racist and without question bigoted. It's certainly offensive and possibly an offence."

The novelty firm offers the service, with prices starting at £4.99, all year round and claims to prove popular with disgruntled customers and ex-partners seeking revenge.

The firm's joint owner Niall Methven, who set up the company around 18 months ago, said it "never even crossed his mind" that the scheme could be perceived as racist.

He insisted he has not had any complaints from customers or recipients.

*credit to BBDD for sending this along!

If at First You Don't Succeed...

Lie and Lie again.

Alberto Gonzalez, were he my brother, would be out in the woodshed with my Mom right now. My siblings and I would be in the house talking in hushed tones, wondering whether he'd return in one piece, whether he'd ever see the light of day again before college, whether he'd ever get to date a girl, talk on the phone or do anything but chores till he could move out at 18.

Such was the penalty for lying in my house. I don't even know what the penalty would have been for lying about lying. And my mind's wildest imagination can't even stretch to the place where I can envision the consequences of lying, lying about lying, and then joking about it to warm applause from friends.

Gonzalez has no shame. Then again, he's part of an administration that doesn't know the meaning of the word. Back when President Clinton was deep in the throes of the Lewinsky situation, conservatives crowed, "What about the children?! What am I supposed to tell my kids about the President's behavior?!" May I respectfully request that the same standard be used in this case? What DO we tell our kids about people in power with only a loose understanding of, perhaps, and certainly a firm disregard for, the tenets of our democratic republic? About people whose only defense, if they see fit to mount one rather than tell us all to eff off, is that "Clinton did it too"? About people who make the Clinton statement, knowing full well it's not even accurate, although it is excellent messaging designed to distract people from the facts of THIS situation?

Does Alberto Gonzalez want us all to believe that he delegated the decision to fire multiple US attorneys to his Chief of Staff? That's either a lie or it's an abdication of his AG responsibilities. Either way, Gonzalez should resign. Does Alberto Gonzalez really think we should all believe that the White House had no role in this situation, notwithstanding the emails back and forth mentioning Harriet Miers and Karl Rove? Does Alberto Gonzalez really think it's appropriate to go to an event in Houston and joke about "the bumpy road" he's on these days and bask in the warm glow of "friends"?

This whole situation is rotten from the top down, and it's time to stop the lies. You've been caught. The emails and the calls are on record. The political issues behind the firings are a matter of record. For your own dignity and, as my friends on the right would say, for the sake of America's children, it's time to stop lying. There is nothing more cringe-inducing than watching someone who is being shown all the evidence of his lying continuing to lie. In personal affairs, it's painful to witness the lying person's loss of dignity and to feel the sting of wondering why this person thinks you are stupid enough to believe obvious lies. You keep hammering the person with the evidence because you are so desperate to stop his or her descent toward zero credibility. I feel the same way about public lying, especially in our democracy. Yes, this is a "victory" for those of us who don't support Bush and his minions. But it's an ongoing defeat for both the letter and spirit of our country's democracy, and I want the bleeding to end.

Gonzalez, step down. Rove, admit your role. Bush, grow a conscience.

Or, as Alan Dershowitz (not my favorite guy, btw) said about choosing one action over another (and as my Mom would agree): "If you're not willing to defend it publicly, don't do it."

Seems like good advice for everyone, doesn't it?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Movie Review: Casino Royale

Due to my deplorable white counts, I've been watching a lot of Netflix these days from my bubble house rather than venturing out among the great unwashed (no offense, y'all).

I have most recently seen Casino Royale. My four word review?


It looks so good! Daniel Craig is the hotness! The Bond women are the hotness! His gritty realness is refreshing! The better writing is fantastic! The human--rather than technological--feats are fantastic!

The ending is LAME.

In one scene, (spoiler alert!) he's having his gonads tortured. In the very next, he's convalescing in some beautiful villa, apparently not healed enough to be sitting in a regular chair sans blanket, but "healed" enough to get it on with Eva Green. And the next 8 minutes are spent wondering what segue or transitional scene got edited out in between.

I know the movie was long, but when you're already up at 2 hours, keeping in two more minutes to explain such a jarring change in storyline and setting wouldn't be a bad decision.

In short: After this movie I was shaken but not stirred.

(Gene Shalit better watch his back, yo! I'm coming for him, with puns blazing!)

Bambina's Career Day

Bambina loves to play dress-up these days. She has a small box that has lots of hats in it so she can be an astronaut or ballerina or construction worker when the feeling strikes her. So imagine my dismay the other day when I went upstairs to find her in my closet wearing only the following:

Her big-girl underwear
My knee-high, pointy-toed boots (that were thigh-high waders on her)
My bra

I stifled my alarm enough to say, "So! Tell me about your outfit!" (oh dear god...)

She replied, "I'm going to work." (oh dear god!)

"Where do you work? I hope it's up here because we're not going anywhere near stairs with those big boots on."

"Me work in town." (OH DEAR GOD!!)

"What do you do in town?"

"I'm a doctor." (Phew!!)

I then got to say something that I have never before been able to (and never will again): "Sweetie, my bra is a little bit big for you."

She was shortly thereafter luckily persuaded into flat red shoes, a tutu, and a fabric belt as a necklace, an outfit I told her was far more medically-appropriate for a physician of her caliber.

Beta-Testing My Alpha

Top o' the morning to you. I'm up crazy early trying to find one minute to post something before the Tasmanian Bambina wakes up and gets the day started.

She is going to be 3 in a couple of months. I have been putting together her "lifebook" for her and having all of those mama-moments of wondering how she was ever so small and is now so big and so grown-up. (A lifebook is a photo album that gives The Story of Bambina, to give her a sense of place in the world, to know where she came from, to give her a personal narrative that she can tell others should she want to. She won't have a footprint or baby bracelet from a hospital, but she'll have a couple of pages on the region of China where she was born, a picture of all of us with her nannies from the orphanage, photos of our first day as a family, etc. The intent is also to give her pride in her origins, in her birth country, and in her birthparents).

Anyway, I was reflecting on the past two-plus years yesterday, not because I was having such a great day with her, but because I was having such a NOT great day with her. We escaped a lot of the terrible two stuff. Minimal public outbursts, minimal tantrums, absolutely none of the behavioral stuff like biting or pushing that I see a lot in the playground. And Bambina has been great too! ;)

Yesterday, however, was one of those days where I was caught in a classic first-time parent dilemma, where you can see what's going on but you haven't figured out how you're going to handle it yet. You see, as my sweet little cherub now approaches the age of three, she is still that, to be sure. The issue is that she just kind of finds me irrelevant. And there's the rub. She's not openly defiant, not tantrummy, not emotionally unglued. She just says, "No thanks" when I tell her to do something. It has been going on for a couple of days but yesterday was the first day I figured it out.

Something had to be done. Because, as Margaret Thatcher said, "Being powerful is like being a lady; if you have to tell people you are, you aren't." So too with telling a toddler, "I'm relevant, you know!" So as another saying goes, "old age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill," and I put my plan into action. It was time to beta-test my previously-low key Alpha Mama skills.

When I said, "Bambina, it's lunchtime. Come to the table and eat, please." She said, "No thanks." I said, "Bambina, lunch time is now. Quiet time is after lunch. So if you don't eat now we won't be eating again till after quiet time." So I went and picked her up, brought her to the table and said, "We can play again as soon as we're done with lunch and before quiet time." She just got up and walked away and said, "No" in a completely blow-off manner as she went to go play.

Now, back in the day, I'd have brought the food to her, agonized over my child not eating her three squares, felt like a terrible mom or god knows what other kind of self-flagellation (and she'd also have responded positively to my usual statement of 'we don't say No to Mama,' which is now laughed at). This time I sat and ate my lunch (in total peace and quiet!) then cleared both of our plates away. When she arrived 20 minutes later looking for lunch I told her that lunch was over and that it was now quiet time.

You could have knocked her over with a feather. It was a fantastic moment because I saw her wee face go from, "Don't you know who I am?! This is an outrage!" to making the connection: "oh. This lady is serious. Apparently the world does not revolve around me." Score one for the Alpha Mama.

I used to be uncomfortable with the notion of being an Alpha Mama, afraid that it would set up a dynamic that she'd be desperate to rebel against as an adolescent, ie, "must kill maternal authority to assert my independence. Cue the drinking and hooking up..." But as she gets older (and I get wiser?), I'm realizing that every single child needs an Alpha Mama (the knowledge that someone is in charge and that all is as it should be as a result; the psychological comfort of having boundaries and discipline). But they also need an Alpha Mama who recognizes that authority alone isn't the path to success with any child.

I guess it's the balance of having your children know in all the ways that matter that your world absolutely revolves around their safety, their security in your love, but that it doesn't allow them to hijack it for their personal wants. Or, to take the long view, I like to think my Alpha Mama ways will help Bambina to become an Alpha Woman (and maybe an Alpha Mama) someday. Which makes days like yesterday bearable even as I hear myself mantra-ing under my breath, "I'm relevant. I'm relevant. I'm relevant..."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Gettin' My Panties in a Wad

I was reading some magazines yesterday at Hopkins, as usual. As I flipped through no fewer than 6 of them, something started to bug me (big shocker). Put plainly, it is the media's use of words and phrases that no real person actually utters.

For example:

1. Can we all just stop calling women's underwear "panties?" All over these magazines was the phrase "bra and panties." Maybe you and I roll in different circles, but none of my friends uses the word "panties" to describe what she's wearing. You might say thong or underwear, but I have literally never heard another woman use the word "panties"--or "briefs" for that matter--to describe her undergarments. I only ever see the word in magazines--both women's and "lad's." Enough already.

2. "Men's slacks." Any of you gentlemen out there wearing some nice "slacks" right now? What ARE slacks, anyway? I've heard actual people say "trousers" or "pants" or "cords" or "jeans." Still haven't heard an actual man (not working in haberdashery) discuss his "slacks" collection.

3. "Erectile dysfunction" or "ED." Thank you, Bob Dole. But does anyone really use it? Have any of you guys out there been sitting at a nice dinner with a date and thought, "S/He's really awesome. I hope my 'erectile dysfunction' doesn't kick in tonight..."?

4. "Feminine hygiene." Again, no woman actually says this. You don't teach your 14 year-old daughter about 'feminine hygiene'. You talk about periods, and a whole bunch of other words that make men cringe. Which, come to think of it, might just explain the addition of "feminine hygiene" to the lexicon. My primary question, however, asks why we do not have a similar aisle for "masculine hygiene." Surely all those teenage boys could use some product for removing that "goat" smell, or some febreze for getting the reek out of the dirty clothes that are worn again even after showering. Or resolutely single-serving containers of Axe or Polo cologne, ie, USE JUST ONE per day, Big Fella.

I'm sure there are more, but I'm still working to lose the willies that go along with reading (and now typing) the word "panties" about 23 times in 2 hours...

Monday, March 26, 2007

Friday, March 23, 2007

Fight On!

This is an eloquently-written piece on the decision of John and Elizabeth Edwards to continue their campaign in light of her recent medical diagnosis. I had been struggling to verbalize what I was thinking about it, as a person with an ongoing disease, and Dean Barnet at Town Hall spared me the trouble.

The first time I got bad medical news was 11 years ago. I responded what with then was (and sometimes still is) characteristic bluster. I confidently told my doctor that I would crush this little obstacle and soon resume my life as normal. My doctor back then was a young cocky guy, much like myself, who was also my friend. He fixed me with a slightly angry glare and said, “You have to come to grips with the fact that Cystic Fibrosis is a progressive disease.” As I walked out of his office that day, I muttered one word under my breath but still loud enough so he could definitely hear me: “A**hole.”

He was right, of course, and I was very wrong. And young and stupid. As I often tended to do back then, I conflated bravado with courage. Generally speaking, it was a harmless youthful personality tic. But when I was actively planning on denying reality…well, that was another matter. Over time, as my condition worsened and got more serious, denial was no longer an option. Compromise became the order of the day. On the golf course, I used to carry my bag for 36 holes a day. First I began to take a caddy. Then a cart. Soon I was playing twice a week instead of twice a day. On more serious matters, compromises were also necessary. When you get sick, really sick, you wind up compromising on just about everything. Your disease forces you into the habit.

I CAN’T TELL YOU HOW BAD I FEEL FOR ELIZABETH AND JOHN EDWARDS. I’m familiar with the body-blow of a sudden diagnosis that turns your world upside down. It’s incredible – you walk into a doctor’s office and within a span of minutes you find out your life will never be the same. In the back of your mind you nourish the hopes of miracle cures or that you might be like that guy in Dubuque who got the same diagnosis but oddly enough lived forever, but the reality of the situation sits there in your mind. You can’t shake it – it just won’t leave. But you try to carry on. I think I may know some of what the Edwards are feeling. They’ve been running for the White House for seven years now. And make no mistake – as Hugh points out in his book, running for president is a family affair. It’s more than a dream and an ambition for them. It’s a big part of what defines their lives.

So they walked out of that doctor’s office refusing to let her disease take their lives away. Some people are calling their decision courageous; others find it puzzling. Having been in a situation analogous to theirs, I think I have some understanding and I know I have some sympathy. They’re working through all of this. Their first instinct is not to surrender. That’s good, and it’s what you would have expected. People who seek the presidency aren’t the types who give up or even compromise easily. THROUGH THE YEARS, I’VE COME TO VIEW SERIOUS and progressive illness as an ever constricting circle with oneself at the center. The interior of the circle represents the contents of one’s life. As the circle gets smaller, things that were inside get forced out. Some of these things are dearly missed; other items that were once thought precious get forced to the exterior and turn out to go surprisingly unlamented.

At the innermost point of the circle are the things that really matter: Family, faith, love. These things stay with you until the day that you die. At the very end, because the circle has shrunk down to its center, they’re all you have left. But as we approach that end, we finally realize that all along they were what mattered most. As a consequence, life often remains beautiful and worthwhile right up until the end. The past several years for me have been a journey to what’s at the center of my life. One of the things I found there that I didn’t expect to was writing. (You lucky people.)

The Edwards have begun their own journey of that sort. Whether they still find presidential politics at the center of their lives a few months from now is an open question. Regardless, the journey is theirs, and one would have a heart of stone to wish them anything other than good luck and Godspeed.

Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat

A small article in today's WSJ regarding something I find deeply disconcerting.

A Neil Diamond cover band.

Listen, people. You either have The Diamond or you don't. Even if you put "super" in front of it, if it ain't the real Diamond, it ain't right. Super Diamondbills itself as an "alternative Neil Diamond experience."

Friends, Neil Diamond IS an alternative experience. And a national icon of outsize proportion. I'm not saying what they're doing is necessarily criminal; but is it unAmerican, perhaps?

If the Dems really want to show who controls the Congress, they'll start issuing subpoenas before COB today.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

You're Not The Boss of Me.

A good post on the White House's new talking point:

Congress does not have oversight of the executive branch, therefore the White House does not need to comply with any Congressional requests for information.

Umm...9th grade social studies, anyone? Checks and balances? The United States Constitution? As the article suggests, this is far, far beyond the notion of executive privilege. This is saying that the executive branch need answer to no one.

I think I'm shocked but not surprised that they'd trot this out, hoping that people are too stupid/uninformed/uneducated about basic civics to notice what a momentous statement it really is to make, that Congress has no right to inquire at all into White House activities.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lost My Mojo

Y'all. I have nothing to say. Not that that's ever stopped me in the past, mind you. But I seriously just have nothing to say that others aren't already saying better.

You've probably noticed the lack of mojo, seeing as I've been making like a sausage and--linking!

Yeah. It's that bad.

I was thinking today that maybe I should do the blog equivalent of one of those "memory compilation" shows. You know, where the writers are out of ideas for the season, so Ross and Chandler end up stuck in an elevator reminiscing--flashback!--flashback!. Or Archie and The Meathead are locked in the basement. Or Laverne and Shirley are locked in a meatlocker. Or Alex P. Keaton is getting ready to head to college and Elise Keaton needs to take one last trip down memory lane, lest we forget that time Skippy came by the house and...

But I don't know how to do that on a blog. And who's to say anyone wants to re-read crap you wrote in 2004? Hey! Remember that time I wrote about that person who annoyed me? Whoo! That was cool. Oh! Oh! And remember when I smacked Bill O'Reilly so hard on that topic he was talking about but knew nothing of? And when I posted those links to that funny website that time?! Oooh! Or the time I promised to stop swearing in my blog posts!? Man, that was good stuff.

Good times, good times.

Well, the solution to my dry spell is clear. I firmly believe that--when in doubt--you should always discuss dogs or farts, on the theory that the story will be heartwarming, funny, heartwarmingly funny or humorously heartwarming. And furthermore, who among us doesn't like a little bit of fart humor? So. With that in mind, I give you a post from 2005. About dogs AND farts.

You're welcome.
I was visiting my dear friend LA's house to talk business. So we went downstairs to her basement office to work on the computer. Her family dog, a large-and-in-charge creature who is potentially the sweetest (and BIGGEST) canine on the planet, joined us. He was so cute, just lying down behind my chair as we talked and worked at her desk.

All of a sudden, it was like Bhopal in that little office. (For those of you born too late, look up "Bhopal" and "Union Carbide" to get the reference. I'm not handing it out to you young punks! Get a work ethic, you little whippersnappers!)

Anyway--getting back to the "beef" of the story: it was like Bhopal in that office. My eyes watered. My throat closed. I could barely concentrate. So what did we do? We both pretended that it didn't smell at all. Why? Because neither of us was sure that it wasn't the other who had dealt it, and we were doing the "don't ask, don't tell" thing that women do. Guys? They just call it out: "Dude!! That is so rancid!" Women? We pretend it isn't happening.

And so the vow of silence continued and the smell eventually dissipated. (As my dad used to say when I objected to "a certain odor" in our house: "Take about 7 deep breaths and the smell will be gone!" He then laughed/cackled/guffawed like he had just said the funniest thing in the world short of "pull my finger." Niiiiice.)

Anyway. Once again getting back to the beef. Ten minutes passed in her office. Work continued. Ideas were hatched. Progress was made. And then it happened again. The odor. The unbearable odor. The so-thick-you-could-cut-it stench. And still we said nothing. NOTHING! Although this was the turning point. I stopped thinking it might be her and started worrying that she thought it might be ME. I kept talking about work, but my mind was racing about how to bring it up, how to make the point subtly that the fart was SO not me, how to not sound accusatory that it might be her, etc etc etc. My mind was going nonstop trying to figure out how to deal with the thing that had been dealt, to offer assurances that I would never be so disrespectful as to lay that kind of heavy deal on her in her own home without taking full responsibility for my actions.

As before, ten minutes passed, the smell dissipated, work continued, and then the odor returned with a vengeance. At that point I just decided that honesty was the best policy and said the following: "Okay. Not that I mind one single bit, but I just need you to know that that fart is SO not my brand. I think your dog is dealing them HARD. All I know is, it ain't me. Swear to god. If I ever need to drop a bomb, I swear I will let you know it is in the mail and/or delivered."

And then we had this little entente as women do. We promised each other with hugs and laughs to always be honest about our farts and to give full and fair warning with all deliberate speed if we are each about to lay down some heavy atmos on the other.

As I drove home I thought about how lovely dogs are. Even their nasty farts bring people together...

Juvenile Delinquency

TV's Mr Tumble in sex fumble

March 20, 2007
The Sun UK

TV favourite Mr Tumble is greeting toddlers by saying “I’m f****** you” in sign language. The CBeebies character says the gestures mean “I’m happy to see you”. But angry parents have accused the BBC of jumbling up their signals. Dad-of-one Jamie Miller, who works for the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, was stunned when he watched Something Special with daughter Katie, five. Jamie, 32, of Northallerton, Yorks, said: “The signs for “happy” and “f******” are quite similar but it was still an awful error to make.

“Katie, who is learning sign language, asked what the gesture meant. I didn’t know what to tell her.” He contacted the BBC five times but Mr Tumble — presenter Justin Fletcher — still opens every show by making the same hand-rubbing signal. The BBC yesterday denied the blunder — saying they use Makaton signals, which vary from British Sign Language. RNID spokeswoman Kate Sidwell said: “We advised the BBC that using Makaton would cause confusion. “Makaton is used more for children with learning difficulties — it is essentially a different language.”

In British Sign Language “happy” is shown by gently brushing the palms against each other. The swear word is made by brushing the hands together between the thumb and first finger.

I don't know what I find more disturbing; the fact that a kiddie TV presenter is telling your kids he's f'ing them, or that he looks like this.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mitt Commie

This, I love. It reminds me of the time my boss at a fundraising gig thanked our major donor "without whom none of this would be possible, Mr. Shelby Kleebins!" Only, the major donor's name was Sheridan Kormans.
{Something like that, anyway; just so I don't out him on a blog}
It was a disaster, but at least he didn't quote Castro!

Mitt’s Commie phrase sparks rage
By Dave Wedge
Boston Herald Chief Enterprise Reporter
Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cubans in Miami are steaming mad at former Gov. Mitt Romney for shooting his mouth off in stumbling Spanish, mispronouncing names and erroneously associating a notorious Fidel Castro-spewed Communist catch phrase with freedom fighters.
Politicians in South Florida have lashed out at the former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential hopeful for describing the socialist saying “Patria o muerte, venceremos” as “inspiring” and for claiming the phrase was swiped from liberty-seeking Cubans by leftist admirers of Castro.
The phrase, which means “Fatherland or death, we shall overcome,” was bellowed as a political speech sign-off by the dictator for decades.
At another point in the speech to the Miami-Dade Republican Party, Romney bungled the names of prominent Cuban GOP politicians, referring to Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio as “Mario.”
Romney also garnered criticism for his hard-line stance on immigration and ending the talk with the phrase “Libertad, Libertad, Libertad,” a revolutionary saying made famous in the gangster movie “Scarface,” which many Cubans feel plays on cultural stereotypes.
But it was the former Bay State governor’s use of an infamous Fidel Castro line that sparked the most controversy.
“Hugo Chavez has tried to steal an inspiring phrase - Patria o muerte, venceremos,” Romney said. “It does not belong to him. It belongs to a free Cuba.”
But scholars and prominent Cubans contend the saying has always been a Communist rallying cry and that it represents the very essence of Fidel Castro’s oppressive regime.
“It means communism. It means Fidel Castro,” said Florida state Rep. Rene Garcia, a Republican who was at the March 9 speech. “It’s a Communist catch phrase.”
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said of the flap: “The point is, the phrase belongs to liberators, not oppressors. It doesn’t belong to Fidel Castro. It doesn’t belong to Hugo Chavez. It belongs to a free Cuba.”
But Garcia said Romney was “ill-advised” to mention the saying at all, especially speaking in Miami, the epicenter of the Cuban-American struggle.
“When you come into our community, you should be a little better-prepared,” Garcia said, adding that the incident “left a negative taste with local officials.”
Ana Navarro, a Miami-based former United Nations Ambassador who was at the event, called the quote “a mistake” by “an empty suit.”
“It’s a Fidel Castro phrase. I’ve never heard it from anyone other than Fidel Castro or members of his government,” Navarro said.
Sandra Levinson, executive director of the Center for Cuban Studies in New York City, said the Castro quote “was never a cry of the old Cuba” and was coined by Castro and his supporters.
While acknowledging that Romney had only “best intentions” with his remarks, Levinson said he needs “someone knowledgeable” to advise him on Cuban affairs.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Throw Me a Bone....

...marrow biopsy.

Due to a misunderstanding at my new doctor's, I was scheduled to get a bone marrow biopsy next week. Only, next week's appointment was scheduled for my 35th birthday. Now, I've been really good about being Miss Positive and Can-Do about all of my health sh*t these past few months, but the thought of having this:

rammed into my hip bone to gouge out some marrow on my freakin' birthday was just the absolute non-starter of the year.

So. The good news: the appointment has been changed.
The bad news: it's been changed to THIS Friday. (I had been lobbying for "sometime in April.")

Niiice. The unfortunate part of the bone marrow procedure (what comedian was it who said that you know you've hit a certain age when you start having "procedures"?) is that they can't knock you out for it. Some bullcookies about the anesthesia being more dangerous than the ice pick itself. My personal theory is that there are a bunch of risk-averse anesthesiologists out there in serious need of a bone marrow biopsy. Or three.

So. Friday it is. Sedationless it is. Look for the sob story on Saturday when I get back home. It's not my first "BMBX" as they like to call it, but it's at a new place with a new doctor. Anticipating whether it will be the "short and make-you-cry-like-a-baby incredibly painful" or "longer duration but just your average ice-pick-into-your-bone painful" is like anticipating sex with a stranger. He seems nice, but does that translate into nice in bed? Is he a giver or is he all about himself? You're hoping for a not-totally-clueless skill set, but also not so-confident-in-his-abilities that he has no clue he's terrible. And you can't really ask ahead of time; it ruins the surprise. So you just go into it, pray to god you don't completely embarrass yourself, and hope for the best.

On that note, I wonder what age it says you are when you start comparing "procedures" to sex...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Iran. Iraq. AIPAC.

I've been growing increasingly irritated by both blog and MSM coverage of Cheney's visit to the AIPAC conference. Most of what I read shrieks some version of the following:

"Israel (the Jewish lobby) is dictating American foreign policy! AIPAC (Jews) is in bed with Bush/Cheney! They are going to take us to war with Iran! Why do we let Israel (Jews) dictate our foreign policy!?"

I know that people who oppose our close relationship with Israel reassure us constantly that they are not anti-Jewish, and I mostly believe them. But sometimes it's hard to figure out where the "we don't support Israel's actions" starts and "we think Jews have too much power in America" begins. Like, if we do go to war with Iran, will American Jews be blamed? And on what basis? That Jews "control" our foreign policy?

First of all, the US Congress and the executive branch dictate US foreign policy, if what we have can even reach the definitional benchmark that the word "policy" would imply. How precisely can Israel affect the policy of the United States? What? Will they cut off the billions of dollars they give us? Will they lead a coalition against the US? Invade us? Go it alone as the only democratic nation in the Middle East? The only reason the "Israel lobby" is seen as having so much influence is because there appears to be a critical mass of officeholders receptive to the message. Officeholders who are responsible for their own votes on Iran, Iraq and a hundred other issues. The NRA is not responsible for the gun laws we have in this country, as much as I love to demonize them. The people who voted for those laws are responsible. And that is where I choose to focus my energies, on unseating officeholders who don't share my views on fundamental issues, including unilateral pre-emptive wars.

But getting back to the Aipac conference. There is no question that Aipac speaks for a certain segment of the pro-Israel crowd, one that sees conflict with Iran as a viable option, one that likes to partner with evangelical Christians, one that is more hawkish. But that segment is just that: a segment. And not just of Jewish people. The organizers invited evangelical pastor John Hagee to speak, to apparently wild applause.

Urgh. It's a difficult issue because the rest of the country and world sees "the Jewish community" as a monolith when in political reality there is no such thing. A poll last month by Gallup showed the following:

An analysis of Gallup Poll data collected since the beginning of 2005 finds that among the major religious groups in the United States, Jewish Americans are the most strongly opposed to the Iraq war. Catholics and Protestants are more or less divided in their views on the war, while Mormons are the most likely to favor it. Those with no religious affiliation also oppose the war, but not to the same extent that Jewish people do. The greater opposition to the war is not simply a result of high Democratic identification among U.S. Jews, as Jews of all political persuasions are more likely to oppose the war than non-Jews who share the same political leanings.

While it supports my thesis that Aipac does not represent all Jewish people or even all pro-Israel people, it bugs me because it once again makes a statement that "Jewish people think X." On one hand we have Aipac lobbying to get the President broad powers to act on Iran, on the other we have the Union for Reform Judaism--the largest synagogue denomination in the US--recently approving a resolution to oppose a troop surge and start a withdrawal timetable in Iraq. All of which bring me to my point: how do people of good faith support Israel without having that simultaneously mean that I support Dick Cheney or George Bush, without having that mean that I support war with Iran, without having that mean that I'm accused of "controlling" American foreign policy? How do we dial down the rhetoric so that people who support Israel can also participate in movements that hope to achieve peace in the Middle East? Why does it have to be AIPAC or ANSWER?

I don't always support Israel's political decisions but I fundamentally support her right to exist, much as I do with my own country. I want to work to end the war in Iraq, contain Iran, find a peaceful solution to the Palestinian situation. But I won't engage in self-hatred to do it. I'm not gonna partner with organizations that think "Sharon = Hitler" or "Olmert = Nazi" is a fair statement to make. I once stopped a marcher with that sign and asked her to explain it to me. She couldn't. She just said, "you know, he's responsible for so many deaths." Do you know what a truly horrific thing that is to say, from the perspective of a Jewish person? And you wonder why I'm not out marching with you?? My self-hatred only runs so deep, and mostly toward issues of ass size, so there seems to be nowhere for me--and people like me--to go.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I'm Lovin' It

Click here for an absolutely dumbfounding and hilarious article on McDonalds UK's "candid" way of dealing with "challenging customer queries." I can't even retype the question here on a family blog. Oh wait, this isn't a family blog. But I still can't bring myself to type it!
The Register UK

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Improper Nouns

I was watching a video the other day of a woman and man attacking a convenience store clerk while yelling, "F&*^ing Arabian! Go home! F&*^ing Arabian!" The question at hand was whether or not this was to be tried as a hate crime.

I had two thoughts on the matter. First, It reminded me of all the times in my high school where someone would write graffiti on a desk or locker or wall--and the swear words would be misspelled. I loved that. It was the perfect message: I'm so committed to the idea of you "making love to yourself" that I just have to write it on this wall. Furthermore, I've been so busy communicating my message that I've neglected to learn that "f&*king" is not spelled "f^&ken" or f&*kon." Either way you slice it, the graffiti says, "Stay in School, kids."

Same with the beating on the TV. Who the hell calls someone an Arabian?! I guess it used to be a pseudo-nationality, much like "Hebrew" used to mean a Jewish person, but has any normal person referred to Arabs as Arabians in the past twenty years? Are these the people who insist on calling people from Asia "Oriental?" Or who ask me if I'm proud to be Scotch?

Who ARE these people and why didn't they get the memo? Oriental, Arabian and Scotch refer to things, not people. Oriental rugs (which are often from Persia, Morocco, etc--not everyone's mental picture of "Oriental"), Arabian horses, Scotch whiskey and oh all right--Scotch tape. Even the phrase "Oriental food" is ludicrous in 2007. As opposed to what? Occidental food? I was reading an old copy of a Lewis Grizzard book. Most of it was funny in a 1989 kind of way. Lots of jokes about women golfers and stuff like that. In this book he made reference to some food item that "Orientals consider a delicacy." I laughed so hard at the retro statement in its entirety, both the "oriental" thing and the "considered a delicacy" thing. Does anyone say "delicacy" anymore either? As Chandler Bing said in an episode of friends when Joey, I think, made some reference to Chinese food in China: "Yeah, although in China it's just called 'food.'"

Oh. So my second thought on the beating video. Yes, it's a hate crime. Some say it isn't because the two perpetrators were intoxicated, uneducated, whatever. I say that if someone is beating you up while calling you a racial slur--however incorrect the slur may be--they're making the point of why the beating is occurring. It strikes me as aggravating circumstances. Because, let's face it, I'm no less beaten up while being called an Arabian than if I were called an Arab ^&%$." Just like I'm no less invited, via the bathroom wall, to orally pleasure you simply because you spelled it wrong.

ps--I insist that my nomme de medicin of previous posts, "Hottie Hebrew Hematologist," is fully tongue-in-cheek. Besides, "H Cubed" just sounds better than "HJH." ;)

Bambina on the Runway

This was a cool day. We stopped at Gravelly Point near the airport to walk near the water, see the boats, and watch airplanes. Bambina had a good time, but said, "Next time me bring my IPod." Your IPod? Why? (What? Does she want a soundtrack for the planes landing a la that Led Zeppelin laser show from back in the day?)

Nope. Toddler logic: "Planes too loud; me need my earphones."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Corrupt Compassionate Conservatism

What else do we need to know to finally acknowledge that this administration is among the most politically-motivated, corrupt, unethical administrations to ever darken the doorstep of the White House? Our country will not soon recover from the depredations of this Bush White House.

‘Loyalty’ to Bush and Gonzales Was Factor in Prosecutors’ Firings, E-Mail Shows

Monday, March 12, 2007

I Want My AnnaNicoleTV!

A good piece on the sorry state of the US media, over at CuffsandStuff:

Mamas For Obama

Be the first on your block to get one!

Jacques Pepin: National Treasure

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. I have officially named another person a "national treasure." Long-suffering readers may recall that sometime in 2005 I anointed Jon Stewart my first official NT. I haven't done it since because, as Elaine from Seinfeld would say, you gotta be "spongeworthy" to get the title.

So how bizarre is it that I would trot out the NT title for none other than a French transplant living in Connecticut?

Because, friends, Jacques has accomplished for me what no other person on earth could have done: he has made me interested in cooking. I don't want to give the impression that I never enjoyed cooking or that I now get massive psychic joy from doing it. The truth is rather more mundane, and yet in its mundanity, quite extraordinary: he has made it easy to prepare good, high-quality meals without having to know anything really about cooking. This has made it possible for me (and perhaps you?) to actually make decent, quick meals with nothing more than my basic skills and his fabulous book called, "Fast Food My Way."

First, the shoutout has to go to Sweet D and Papa Z for the book-giving itself. And then all the props have to go to Sweet Jacques for making it possible for me, Ms. Lasagna Or Cereal For Dinner, to make the following (and most importantly, to have them taste really rather good if I may say so myself):

-lavash pizza
-30 minute cassoulet
-cannellini and chorizo soup
-peasant soup

Every dish is designed to be made when you get home from work, in about a half an hour. Most helpful is his advice to have the following things always on hand: sundried tomatoes, black olives, green olives, capers, anchovies, salsa, canned peaches, balsamic vinegar and pesto. I went to Trader Joes, stocked up on jars of the stuff, and every single night I am able to make an actual "from-scratch" meal (using cans and jars) that tastes like I am a freakin' culinary rock star. Not to mention the money I am not spending on take-out, the fat and calories of same that I'm not eating, and the total thrill of actually cooking something that I never imagined I'd ever be able to produce, seeing as how I don't care enough about cooking to actually learn how to do it properly.

So. The Second National Treasure of SSHaggis is Jacques Pepin. Mostly for this book, partly for his shows that I used to watch pre-child wherein he'd usually be cooking something for "Tonton Claude" or "Tonton Richard." (We never met Tonton Claude, in the same way we never met Vera, Norm's wife on Cheers, but his psychic presence always moved the narrative forward regardless), and partly for making it so easy for a culinary slacker like me to look like I have a shred of a clue about cooking.

Merci et Felicitations, M. Pepin!

Bush's Credibility Goes Further South

An informative article about Bush's latest stop on his Central and South American tour: Colombia, where he offers support for President Uribe. What's news about that? Uribe is "a longtime ally whose government has been tainted by ties to paramilitary death squads. "As a matter of fact, I've been very impressed by how he's handled this latest issue. President Uribe is a very strong leader; he's committed to justice; he believes in fairness; and he's a man who has proven he can get things done," Bush told a Colombian TV station in a pre-trip interview at the White House. "My confidence in the president is very high." Riiiight.

Read More:

Dog's Best Friend

Man Saves Drowing Dog
Another "human interest" story to ease you into Monday morning. (My usual political harangues or Andy-Rooney-homages will commence in 3, 2, 1...)

I was drawn to this story partly because the blurb used the phrase "mouth to snout" CPR, but mostly because of this photo.

A Beautiful Island Home

A little something to start your Monday off right. As in, thank goodness I don't live here:

After a row with developers, this family's home has been left perched 12m (40ft) up on its own concrete island. It all started when they refused to accept compensation to move and, while the row rumbled on, the bulldozers excavated the site around them.

Rumoured to have government connections, the family is not expected to be forced out. But popping to the shops might be a bit difficult. And as for getting the car out of the garage – well, who knows? The house is in Chongqing, central China – the fastest growing urban centre in the world, with more than 4 million residents. The boom is fuelled by strong economic growth and the 2008 Beijing Olympics...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

My Alpha Betta

Bambina got a new pet last week. A purple betta, otherwise known as a Siamese Fighting Fish. She really wanted a dog, but until I have my one small darling feeding, dressing, and managing herself without a ton of input from me, I really can't bring home another, larger darling needing the same amount of, if not more, attention. And I don't subscribe to the notion of doggie daycare, although many good and decent people do. For me personally, I just don't want to have a dog who is essentially a weekend companion when time allows, so until I can give a dog the attention and time it needs, a purple betta it is!

Bambina LOVES her purple betta. When we were discussing what to name him, she was telling me that she'd be his big mommy and that I'd be his little mommy. I asked what that made the fish, if he had two mommies, expecting her to say something about being a little boy or small guy or something. She replied, "Big Daddy!"

So "Big Daddy" he has remained. We had drama the first night when I wouldn't put him in her bedroom for fear that curiosity would get the better of little fingers and we'd have a very unhappy, floor-bound betta on our hands. Or, worse, a broken betta bowl on the bedroom floor. She insisted he not be downstairs, so into my bedroom he went. Where his water proceeded to gather dust like it was goin' out of style, prompting multiple cleanings and refills and ongoing maintenance of a two-pint bowl.

You'd think I'd be annoyed at the level of effort now being demanded of one fish in a tiny bowl, but the truth comes out: I'm really liking Big Daddy too. I changed his water today and he has been swimming around and blowing his bubbles like, well, a fish in clean water. I've remarked so frequently on how happy I am that Big Daddy is happy again that it prompted Baby Daddy to inquire, "Who did you buy this fish for again?"

I don't mind the teasing, though. Look at it this way: Had I not made the decision to get Big Daddy, I'd probably have spent this morning walking Bambina's new mastiff, Huge Daddy, at 7am in 30 degree weather.

Pass the fish food, please.

DC Preseason

The best part of living in DC is the daily access to all of the monuments and museums.

The super best part of living in DC is the daily *preseason* access to all of the monuments and museums.

Bambina and I drive by "the little dome," aka The Jefferson Memorial, every day (as opposed to The Big Dome which is the Capitol). I've been telling her for months now that as soon as the weather got warmer we'd go inside the little dome and say hello to Thomas. Today we got up, got out, and did just that. And, it being right before cherry blossom time, we managed to drive right up, park, get out, walk around the tidal basin and up to the Jefferson Memorial without a single hitch.

Needless to say, Bambina had a great time. The cherry blossom branches are very low in some spots (so low you have to be careful not to clothesline your toddler if she's riding on your shoulders), so she was able to touch them. We saw Thomas, said hello, then sat on his steps to watch the planes descend into National Airport ("Reagan National" for those of you who don't live here and don't know that no one actually calls it that). We took some photos, had lunch at a local kid-friendly pub, played with some dogs from the humane society at a local pet store's doggie day, ate ice cream on a park bench, then came home for nap time.

I'm not sure how your weekend is going, but mine has been pretty d*mn fantastic.

Call Me Gun-Shy

Yesterday a DC Circuit Court overturned our laws banning handguns. The conservative judges reinterpreted the 1939 ruling by the US Supreme Court, it seems to me, by completely ignoring the Second Amendment's compound sentence structure:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

As far as I know, none of the plaintiffs belong to a militia. But no matter to this court of conservative judges who apparently have no problem with "judicial activism" if it supports their own issues.

As further evidence of this decision's infamy, offers this unbelievable bit of news:

"It’s not often these days that courts approvingly cite Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme Court’s 1857 decision holding that blacks could not be U.S. citizens. But Dred Scott made a surprising cameo today in another divisive constitutional issue, providing ammunition for a federal circuit court conclusion that the Second Amendment overrides the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns."

Read here to get the full story, then pray for us that this decision is overturned:

Dunkin Donuts: They Don't Love Me Back

How could they DO this?!! This is the worst, worst, worst decision in the entire world! Is she not already everywhere that we cannot escape her? Now she's got to be on TV some MORE yammering with her big joker mouth about my favorite coffee? AND she's going to come up with some new "yummo" recipes for DD?! Weren't they doing just fine without her help?!!? I give it 4, 3, 2....until she finds a way to put "EVOO" into something made at Dunkies.

I may have to renege on my previous loyalty pledge. Seriously. I can't take this woman in one more location. If they put her picture on a poster inside the store I'm gonna have to cross the street to Starbucks until her contract runs out in 2010.

Thanks for nothing, Dunkies.

From Providence Business News:

Dunkin’ Donuts today announced it has signed daytime TV host Rachael Ray as its new brand representative... “Everyone always asks me how I manage my schedule, and theanswer is coffee,” she quipped. “Having grown up in the Northeast, I have a longstanding and deep appreciation for Dunkin’...” Besides appearing in a multiplatform marketing campaign, Ray will work with the Dunkin’ culinary team as it develops new “better for you” food and beverage options...Ray is to be featured in TV, radio, print and online ads, in-store marketing and personal appearances, in a campaign that will run through 2010. Her first TV ad is slated to air next month.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Weeping, Two Ways

D*mn that New York Times. Two articles today, each making me cry for vastly different reasons.

"Sob" Story #1:
English, Irish, Scots: They’re All One, Genes Suggest

Oh. My. God. Or, as the article pointed out,
The Celtic cultural myth “is very entrenched and has a lot to do with the Scottish, Welsh and Irish identity; their main identifying feature is that they are not English,” said Dr. Sykes...Dr. Oppenheimer said genes “have no bearing on cultural history.” There is no significant genetic difference between the people of Northern Ireland, yet they have been fighting with each other for 400 years, he said. As for his thesis that the British and Irish are genetically much alike, “It would be wonderful if it improved relations, but I somehow think it won’t.”

"Sob" Story #2:
Journey From a Chinese Orphanage to a Jewish Rite of Passage
A cute story of a girl who was adopted as an infant from China getting ready for her bat mitzvah. She makes the point that she sees being born in China and being Jewish as completely unrelated things, as in, it's not that bizarre, people! The best quote of the entire article? "Besides, she said with a shrug, 'Most of my Chinese friends are Jewish.'” It's clear, even though the article is cute, that this young woman has indeed thought through her identity, what it means to be Chinese-born but American-as-all-you've-ever-known culturally, as well as Jewish ethnically and religiously. You can tell it has been, and continues to be, a process.

I've given, obviously, a lot of thought about identity as it relates to Bambina. I think a lot about how to help her as she gets older to integrate (or not) all the different parts of her as she sees fit. I pray that by the time she's an adolescent the notion will be widely accepted that a human person can indeed be of Chinese origin, Jewish religion, and Scottish by the Grace of God Himself. ;) I know that I will try to be aware of what she'll go through, but I'll never fully know because I am neither Chinese by birth nor was I adopted. Bambina will deal with things my brain cannot even begin to fathom, and my job--all I can do, really--is prepare her to deal with it. And the best way to prepare her is to let her be--and become--whomever it is that she is becoming. To ensure she feels pride in who she is, where she comes from, and in making no apologies for how she chooses to feel about it or manifest it in her life.

I was talking with my Mom about my annoyance with people who feel compelled to constantly mention adoption when they see us, or who just have to make some kind of China reference no matter what. I was trying to explain that, far from being unhappy to talk about Bambina's ancestry, I'm incredibly proud of it and so is she. {A perfect example occurred yesterday morning when we were watching a DVD of baby animals. We were talking about caribou, elephants, etc, when the pandas came on. She knows pandas come from China, and said so. I said, "Yes, pandas are originally from China. Now two of them live here in DC." She just smiled widely and said with obvious ticklement (ticklage?) "Just like me, Mama!" It was a perfect moment, a sweet moment, and one I want to bottle for her for all the times when someone will say something involving either "me so..." or "love you long time" at her, or when people will tell her she speaks English so well, or she'll hear "ching chong ching" behind her back--or even to her face because that's "not offensive" at all. (And I'm not being pessimistic. I don't have a single friend of Asian descent who has not heard some combination of all of these, both "well-meant" and purposely hurtful.)}

So, my point being that, although Bambina will have some extra steps to go through during adolescence (whether they go swimmingly or challengingly) in regards to the same identity search we all went through at that age (some of you are still searching!), I also don't want her to constantly feel like the "other." When she's 23 and wants to joke with you about some aspect of being Chinese-American, then that's her choice. But I don't want to joke about it for her because it's not my joke to tell, it's not my life's journey, and it's flat-out not a joke to me. I was telling my Mom, "she just IS. She's not my adopted daughter, she's not my Chinese daughter, she's not my adopted Chinese daughter. She's just Bambina, incorporating all of what that means. When we became a family, our ancestors became hers--but more importantly, her ancestors became mine. Everything she is, everything she comes from, everything that made her the human being who was born in China is now a part of our family history. Every part of it is connected."

My Mom quite handily picked up on where I was trying to go rather inarticulately. She said, "Like when you graft a branch onto another tree, you can sometimes see the area that was grafted, but the branch is as strong--if not stronger--than the other branches, and it becomes a part of the tree as if it were never absent." Yes, Mom. Yes. I replied that it was akin to the law in Judaism that it is forbidden to remind converts that they were not "born Jewish." Once you're Jewish, you're Jewish; end of story. It's not like you can't tell stories of when you had Christmas dinner with your family as a kid, it's just that it's YOUR story to tell, not someone else's to remind everyone that you weren't always where you currently are. What I'm saying is that the rule should apply to adoption as well. It's not like we don't know, won't remember, can't talk about it where it's relevant or like we're not thrilled x a million that God gave us this Bambina out of all the babies in the world, by whatever means. But it's not okay to constantly make mention of a child's adoption or race as if it's the most important thing about them that you can think of to say in that moment. (I'm reminded of a situation where an adult adoptee's aunt gave the family her homemade family tree plaques. On it, under her and her brother's names, was the word "adopted" in parentheses. Like, on the family tree, the most important thing her aunt felt could be said about them was that they had been adopted. When asked why she included it, she said, "well, because, you know, it IS relevant in our family history," as if she had written a whole tome of information rather than having just listed names and birthdates--and of course whether the kids were "real" family or not.) Like I said, it's not okay.

Now that I think about it--and now that I've dragged you at length through the inner recesses of my addled brain--what these two articles are saying, in very different ways, is this: No matter how important our society thinks they are, genes are irrelevant to what is in the human heart.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I Heart Gayest Neil

I just stumbled upon this; the Diary of a Contemporary Dandy, aka Gayest Neil. High-larious. Especially in this post, where he perfectly illustrates the inside-baseball nature of bloggers, ie, "Recently, in my flights fantastical across the inter-web, I discovered an online contest held by bloggers for bloggers to determine which bloggers have the best blog!"

And this--another Dunkin Donuts story!

I think it's my new favorite blog. Enjoy.

I Am A Man

This is a great response from Andrew Sullivan to Ann Coulter's ostensible defense of her use of the F word, that it was not homophobic because it was levelled at a straight man. The power of the word is precisely its homophobia, the accusation that the straight man is not actually a 'real man," that he is weak, feminine or sissified, qualities she feels the F word perfectly describes. The assumption of which is clearly homophobic.

Someone might tell Ms. Coulter that a lot of people (many more than know it, I guarantee you) have friends and loved ones who are gay, who long ago (like, after the age of 13) learned that decent humans don't use words like f*%%ot, and who happen to think being a vile, foulmouthed cow is the real crime against nature.

Oh--and I don't mean "cow" in the boviphobic way. I just mean it in the "cows have all the qualities I find nauseating" kind of way. That's clearly very different than being boviphobic, isn't it?

Dunkie Run!

Here's an article telling those of us originally from New England what we already know: that Dunkin Donuts has more customer loyalty than Starbucks. If you don't have a Dunkins near you, I'm sorry. In DC we lived for years without one, until last year. And now Bambina, Baby Daddy and I do a Sunday afternoon "Dunkie Run!" after naptime every week. She gets a couple of munchkins or an ice cream from the Baskin Robbins side of the store, I get a coffee.

The grand opening of the DC store can only be described as "Massholes on Parade." It was a big, long line of people who call soda "tonic," who understand all the Ben Affleck "Sully" skits on SNL, who--no matter what MA town they grew up in--went to high school with a Sean, Pat or Jamie McCarthy, and who were all simply tolerating Starbucks till we could get the real deal at Dunkins. (As further evidence of said loyalty, the Baby Daddy gave me permission to include him in the Dunkie Run reference; a rare exception indeed).

I wish the whole country could experience the good service, friendly staff, and good, cheap coffee that is a Dunkie Run.

Monday, March 05, 2007

An Ill Wind

This links to the testimony of the supervisor of the Capitol Power Plant Tunnel Crew, who work for the Architect of the Capitol, ie, the United States Congress. (Go to the bottom of the page and click on the pdf for John Thayer). Apparently the U.S. Congress exposes its workers to asbestos, has refused to take action to stop it, and will not cover their medical expenses as a result of exposure to asbestos.

This is pretty shocking to read, that Congress is exposing its physical plant workers to toxic situations without adequate protection. What is more shocking is the revelation (for those of us who live here on the Hill) that, a la Union Carbide, they have been pumping the asbestos out into the streets for years through those big wrought iron grates in the ground.

Another reason to support DC statehood. Would Virginia permit the US Congress to release toxic materials into its air? It wouldn't. Oh that's right...because Virginia has senators and representatives in Congress who can make sure their state is not sh*t on by the federal government.

Taxation Without Representation was a reason for revolution many years ago. It's time for DC residents to either get a congressional vote--or stop paying taxes.

If we don't all die of asbestosis first, that is.

Ann Coulter's Mom's Proudest Moment

By now you know that Ann Coulter called John Edwards "the F word" at the annual CPAC conference. What is surprising about the situation--since her saying it is not surprising at all--is the vehemence with which many rightosphere bloggers have rushed to her defense. Not to say that what she said was fine, but to shriek about how the Left is full of hypocrites who don't shout down Amanda Marcotte and Bill Maher but who expect the Right to shout down Ann Coulter.

Rightie Darlings~isn't conservatism supposedly founded upon the concept of personal responsibility, individual effort, a higher moral and ethical expectation of fellow citizens? Isn't that what you always accuse Dems of lacking? So why, when this would be your golden opportunity to show us all how it's done--conservative moral theory in practice--you choose rather to point the finger at the Left for doing the same thing. I mean, didn't your Mom always tell you, "I don't care what Ann's mom says is fine. I'm saying it's not fine. Discussion over!"

If you truly believe in your principles, then shut her down. You're not impacting her free speech; she'll always have the right to say what she wants, in whatever book she publishes, to any audience who'll pay to hear her. But you'll be on record that people--all people--are responsible for their words and their actions. How is it that Dems who oppose the war in their speeches are accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, but a conservative who uses a foul word (and let's be honest, a truly damaging stereotype, using the F word to mean weak or effete or fem) in political discourse is somehow just exercising her rights to free speech? Last year, she called Iranians "r&*heads." Why does the first constitute treason and yet the latter two constitute constitutionally protected speech?

I suppose it all depends on who you're maligning, doesn't it? If you malign the war effort, you hate the troops. If you malign John Edwards or Iranians (who are NOT Arabs, btw), you're just being funny and people are taking themselves too seriously.

In real life (or at least in my house growing up), one rarely gets the opportunity to excuse bad behavior by pointing out the bad behavior of others. One rarely is excused from charges of hypocrisy by pointing out the hypocrisy of others. In real life, people are expected to accept the consequences of their actions. No amount of "but Kelley was smoking too! Jason skipped school too!" got me out of my adolescent-era punishments. My mom had her house in order, whether my friends parents' had theirs in order or not.

It seems to me, therefore, that CPAC's Mom needs to call Mr. and Mrs. Coulter and tell them that little Annie can't visit anymore.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cattle Coming Home to Roost

Truly, truly frightening article in the WaPo about the FDA's approval of cefquinome, a new antibiotic for use in cows. Sounds easy enough. But consider the following:

1. The new antibiotic is a close relative of the antibiotic that is the last line of defense for humans in terms of non-resistance. That antibiotic, cefepime, is truly a cancer patient or sick child's only hope when all other antibiotics fail. If cefepime becomes less effective due to the overuse of its related sister cefquinome, humans will pay the price in alarming ways and numbers.

2. The rate of resistant bacteria to a particular antibiotic is proportional to the rate of use of that antibiotic. If you use it less, it has fewer bacteria that are resistant.

3. Cows need these antibiotics because of the way we factory farm in America. If we changed the ways in which cows are penned, fed and transported, the need for the use of antibiotics in cattle would fall dramatically. (Ask me why I'm not upset that Bambina doesn't really like meat. Ask me why she only consumes organic, no-antibiotic milk and dairy).

4. There are already several cattle antibiotics that work perfectly well. There is no established need for a new, hardcore one such as cefquinome.

It's a nightmare in the making, and the FDA is dithering as usual, getting caught up in semantics and generally fiddling while Rome burns.

Although it would be cheeseball funny, I'm too pissed to say it's an "udder disgrace."

You Can't Always Get What You Want

"...and if you try sometime you find, you get what you need..."
--Mick Jagger

Here's a rather disturbing article from the WSJ discussing the costs of raising a child through the age of 17. The first disturbing item is the fact that the government estimate of the cost is a paltry $279,000 (about $16,000 per year). Whaaat?! Did they buy diapers or did the kid pop out potty-trained? Did they purchase a crib? And what did they feed said child? Spaghettios for 17 years? Sixteen grand a year is a minimum, kind of like the government's "poverty level," which is notoriously low if you've ever lived in poverty and tried to qualify for assistance ($17,170 for a family of THREE).

Imagine your life on $17,170 with a kid. Plenty of people do it, but it's not easy. {Especially if you consider that a full-time (40 hours per week/52 weeks per year) worker being paid minimum wage would earn only about $11,000 per year. But that's just my own little dig at people who say that minimum wage increases would hurt business. And at a government that allows, say, a father working 52 weeks a year with no vacation to still earn 40% less than the poverty level. "Then the wife should work," you say. But then how do you pay for decent child care? In some areas of the country, (hello, Washington DC) child care costs can be as much as a mortgage payment.}

Anyhoo. Getting back to the WSJ article. On the one hand, I'm stunned at the lowballing of the government figures. On the other, I'm stunned at the Journal's top estimate for the higher income brackets: $1.6 million. Or perhaps more accurately, I'm stunned that parents would spend so much on their kids. Why does my kid need a (flat panel) TV in her room? Why does she need to take a Berlitz language class and have a language tutor at the age of 7? Why is she getting a brand new IPod Nano? How about *I* get the IPod Nano and give her my old-but-still-completely-functional-although-not-cool one? What happened to parents setting limits? As you know from reading these pages, I didn't grow up with lots of money, so maybe it's easy for me to say that it did me no harm (and perhaps a world of good) to not have had all my wants and dreams as a kid realized. But isn't there something to be said for leaving your kid with some unfulfilled wants? Where's the work ethic development if you never have to think, "I'll have one of those when I grow up," because you already have one? I remember my friend's parents putting a window-unit air conditioner in their bedroom. You know, back in the day when central AC wasn't standard, and air conditioners were a few hundred bucks. My friend was complaining about how hot her room was with just an open window and a fan and how she needed an AC too. Her mom said, "Honey, we can only afford one. And your father and I have worked many years to be able to afford one, and we're the ones who have to go to work to support this family. So it stays in our room. When you're older you can buy one for yourself and tell your kids that you also waited many years to enjoy one." At the time, some of our other friends thought she should call Social Services to report her parents for cruelty. But it did her no harm and made a good point: stuff costs money, and sometimes you just can't get everything you think you want due to money limitations.

But even where there are no financial limitations (such as the top bracket in this WSJ article), shouldn't a competent parent invent another kind of limitation just for appropriate human development? Should you give your kid everything just because you can? My opinion is hell, no, but I'm not sure how widespread that view is anymore. Even among just the "comfortably middle class" of my friends, some are spending unbelievable amounts of money in order to send their kid to the right pre-pre-school program, give her language lessons, make sure her feet are only in appropriate footwear for her kiddie orthopedic needs ($60 a pair), and throw the most wonderful party for their three year-old who will not remember it.

Don't get me wrong. Bambina is not deprived in any way. We're not eating government cheese out of principle. It's not my intent to withhold things she needs and that are good for her. The challenge, at least in our neighborhood, is being really vigilant about what starts to meet the criteria of "what she needs and is good for her." The definition is very easily expanded if you're not careful. It's a slippery slope that I feel like I'm trying to avoid on a daily basis, not judging where she is/what she has based on the decisions of other parents for their own kids. We don't have an $800 stroller, but most people here do. It's easy to feel like you need one too, until you remind yourself that as long as it's got wheels and is safe, we're all good. Some other moms at the park are kind of amused that at 2 1/2, Bambina is not in some kind of Montessori program or somesuch that can "get her prepared." Helllloooo? Isn't that the definition of Preschool? Which she will go to when she's three. Which, in our case, is a little homey but educationally sound one that operates out of the classrooms in a church basement. She already knows her letters and numbers and colors, so she'll be getting what she'll need most: the opportunity to learn to work in a group with other kids. And maybe make a rigatoni necklace and draw pictures of dinosaurs. Stuff we all did when we were kids and we turned out just fine.

As a kid, I wanted so many things that I couldn't have because they just were not affordable, and I imagine, not gonna be given to me regardless. Yeah, it felt miserable at the time to be wearing clothes from Sears instead of Lord & Taylor. I hated that my sneakers were no-name brand and all my friends had Nikes. I hated that me and my brother and sister all had to share one car (a broken down '76 caddy) for high school because my parents insisted we pay for it if we wanted it. I hated that other kids went on study-away programs in college when I couldn't because I was on financial aid. Did I miss out on something valuable? No doubt. But did I turn out fine regardless? Sure did. My horrible job at a Friendly's restaurant (the one where the manager would give you a day off if you gave him a blow job in his office the size of a parking-lot fotomat)--at which I never asked for a day off, I hasten to add!--paid for my books the first semester of my sophomore year at college. Could a young woman need any better incentive to succeed than that? The other women who worked there were stuck. I knew I was never coming back. That job taught me more than three summers on the Yucatan and I wouldn't trade its lessons for anything. There is no doubt that I'd have learned a lot on the Mexican peninsula as well, but there's the crux of the issue: a motivated kid will take the life lessons from any experience she has, be it making fribbles or building huts.

Which is my ultimate point after all my rambling. As parents, we spend so much money and give so many things to our kids, I suspect, out of some latent fear that they will not succeed financially and professionally, and the fault will somehow be traced back to us. It's hard-wired in a good parent to want your kid to succeed in life, to make a good living, to find happiness in a profession, to not worry about money or live in poverty. But sometimes the best thing you can give your kid is the gift of missing out on something they really, really want.

Friday, March 02, 2007

65 Years Ago...

*Daylight Savings Time went into effect in the US

*Anne Frank received a diary for her birthday

*The movie Casablanca premiered

*Edward Hopper painted his famous 'Nighthawks' painting

*Lou Reed, Tammy Faye Baker, Garrison Keillor, and Jimmy Hendrix were born.

So were you! (Yeah, YOU! You know who you are)!

Happy Belated Birthday!

Purple Prose

One of Bambina's favorite things to do is have me sing to her at bedtime, but always a song on the subject matter of her choosing. It's like a nightly musical version of improv; a kiddie "Who's Line Is It Anyway?" wherein I have to perform on a dime like I'm Wayne Brady. I have total fun doing it, because you haven't experienced real adrenaline mainlining until you have to think of and sing no fewer than 12 songs about "the moon" or "the sun" before lights-out. I end up laughing as hard as she does...until I completely forget who I'm singing to, get caught up in the competitive spirit, and start singing "Blister in the Sun" by the Violent Femmes (a song about a young boy masturbating, for the uninitiated among you). Whoops! Mama didn't mean "I stain my sheets!" She meant to sing, "I like purple beets!"

You see, Bambina LOVES the color purple. It's her favorite color. She loves Jeff Wiggle because he wears the purple shirt (NOT, morons who ask me, Is it because he's the Asian one?). She has a purple shirt that she attempts to wear all day, every day and then to bed as well, but for my entreaties that shirts must not be stinky and therefore must be removed and washed regularly. Purple is where it's at. Which is why I was recently tasked with singing multiple songs about purple as part of the evening improv challenge.

Well, with the Violent Femmes incident, and the startling lack of purple songs, you see the predicament I was in. My mind raced, it searched the recesses of my 70's and 80's music stores. There was that band Deep Purple, but did they have a purple song? Nope. Damn! What else? What else?!

Which is why Bambina's favorite song is now "Purple Rain" by Prince. Having already pulled out that 50's novelty tune about the purple people eater, and having already added the word "purple" to songs having no reference to said color whatsoever, I was left with nothing but The Artist Formerly Known As. You see, the difficulty rating is that they have to be songs she doesn't already know, because then she just shuts you down with, "No Mama, you singing it wrong." So no "Humpty Purple Sat on a Wall" or anything easy like that. So when she said, "One more!" during the Purple Challenge, I just started singing, "I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain! Purple rain! Purple raaaaaaiiiiin! Woo! Purple raiiiin! Purple raaiin! I don't wanna be your weekend lovah! I only want to be some kind of friend! yeah!..." I'm not proud; I'm just saying.

So it is now her anthem, at all of 2 and a half years old. When Prince played the Super Bowl half-time show, Bambina ran up to the TV and shouted, "He know Purple Rain! He sing Purple Rain!" She couldn't believe how cool it was that the guy on TV knew Mama's song. I couldn't believe that I was going to have to explain this to the other mommies someday soon, lest they think I regularly play The Artist for Bambina instead of Laurie Birkner.

My one consolation in all of this is that my kid now also knows how to do that faux hand-in-the-air concert ballad lighter-wave that anyone who's witnessed Bon Jovi in concert knows all too well (I've seen a million purple faces! And I've rocked them all! I'm a purple cowboy! On a purple horse I ride!...).

I Want the "Happy Ending"

An arrested "madam" in DC is threatening to release her list of client phone numbers if she can't find another way to raise money for her defense. This may just be the funniest public extortion scheme ever. Which DC power players do you think are getting out their checkbooks tonight? I can't sleep thinking about all the possibilities!


Neurobics: No Pain, No Gain

My Mom and I have been going through some of my Dad's old stuff, stuff that we either couldn't deal with looking at last year or that didn't seem important enough to warrant immediate attention.

For instance, "Keep Your Brain Alive," a book by Lawrence Katz and Manning Rubin. This is a collection of 83 "neurobic" exercises designed to keep your brain functioning at top capability. I started flipping through it mockingly and then found myself getting pulled into it, starting to think about how I could incorporate some of these exercises into my own life. So, since I just spent some of my brain power reading a book, I figure I'd share my learnings with you, my two dear readers.

Neurobics is a theory of brain exercise involving your dendrites, the elements of your brain that receive information across the synapses. If the dendrites are not used they atrophy. Atrophied dendrites then cause "senior moments," some of which I've experienced myself at the tender age of 34.

So, how to strengthen the dendrites?

Present your brain with nonroutine and unexpected experiences using various combinations of all your senses. For example:

--Shower with your eyes closed. Find the soap, the shampoo, wash yourself only by touch.

--Use your nondominant hand for toothbrushing, makeup, buttoning shirts, eating, whatever.

--Learn touch typing; it uses multiple senses at one time apparently

--Learn a new hobby, something you have never done before

--Get to the outdoors, get off the treadmill and onto a road or trail, force yourself to use multiple senses while exercising, ie, "oh here comes a dog, is the Walk sign illuminated?, don't bump into that tree, etc."

Perhaps most exciting, for all you seniors out there, is the authors' continual return to a favorite method for utilizing multiple senses: sex. Good news!

So. All you spry "still-with-it" octogenarians? We've finally figured you out. You've been doing it with your eyes closed, with your nondominant hand, with a hobby theme, and outdoors.

Finally, the real reason you are called The Greatest Generation.