Tuesday, December 30, 2008

That's Burris-sh**!

Well-played, Blago. Well-played. In the face of breathless promises from the IL Secretary of State and the US Senate to have no part of any Blago Senate appointee, Blago picks Roland Burris to fill the vacant Senate seat. It was pure political theater/Machiavellian outmaneuvering at its wildest best. I think the Bobby Rush "don't lynch the appointee if you have doubts about the appointer" was way over the top and, frankly, insulting to decent people in IL who may have legitimate questions about Mr. Burris' relationship with Governor Blagojevich.

But you know what? After all this weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, Roland Burris will fill that vacant Senate seat. He will fill that Senate seat because neither the IL SOS or the US Senate Dems have a single legal leg to stand on in refusing to affirm and/or seat Mr. Burris.

And to think it could all have been avoided if they'd just called for a special election. I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I HEART NY--3D

We're home after a (thank you, God) pleasant 3.5 hour ride. We spent today in Times Square on our way to the New Victory Theater to see Dan Zanes (yes, he is going to have to take out a restraining order against us). It was his Holiday House Party, wherein a bunch of friends come over and play Christmas music, Chanukah music, Korean New Year music, Mexican "jarocho" music, North African and Arabic music, and a whole bunch of tap dancing and kiddie dancing and...and...and...everything. It rocked. Basya Schechter did the coolest disco version of Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages) and O, Hanukkah I've ever heard. They did the absolute most fun 12 Days of Christmas ever, tons of Veracruz fiddling by the Villa Lobos Brothers, and a giant helping of absolutely rocking Arabic music from Palestinian-born musicians Tareq Abboushi and Zafer Tawil. The key songs for Bambina were "Let it Snow" and Leadbelly's "Grey Goose."


Bambina meets Ernesto

And that's why we love Dan Zanes. Because he brings Leadbelly to 4 year-olds. He brings Muslim and Jewish and Christian musicians together to party--for 4 year olds to see and hopefully internalize as The Way Things Should Be. He showcases the Villa-Lobos Brothers who inspire my 4 year old to want to fiddle like the house is en fuego. And, at the end of another 90 minute show, he waits around till the last child has said hi, till the last parent has taken a photo, till the last playbill has been signed. He stays for every single child even though he has another show in 2 hours. He's a class act in the classic sense of the word. And now he has a seriously stalkerooni superfan: At bedtime, Bambina and I always tell each other what we're going to dream about tonight. I always tell her (and it's usually true) that I'm going to dream about her and me and the BBDD doing happy things. She is usually going to dream about one of her "stuffies" (stuffed animals) going to a party, or about tap dancing or whatnot. Tonight she said while almost giggling with joy, "Mama, I am going to dream about Dan Zanes! And violins!"

Seriously. You'd drive 7 hours to a New York show the day after Christmas to see that look on your kid's face too, wouldn't you?

Friday, December 26, 2008

I HEART NY--Part Deux

Christmas Day in New York! What ever did we do?! Yup. Dim sum in Chinatown. We all love Chinatown, especially New York's. Especially now that she can sing and speak a little Chinese, Bambina is less freaked out by Chinese ladies cooing all over her. Her coping mechanism is to say "Nie Hao" and start singing her song about two tigers running: "Liang ge lao hu, liang ge lao hu; pao de kuai pao de kuai..." Gets 'em every time. The only issue is that in Chinatown the primary language is Cantonese, which they expect her to speak being that she's from Guangdong. Which is when I chime in with my limited Chinese to say that we are learning Zhongwen (Mandarin) for now and will learn Zongguohua (Cantonese) next. They seem okay with it, but maybe they are either impressed that we can "speak" Chinese at all--or they are trying to figure out what the hell I just said. Either way, we ate more food than any trio should ever consume in one sitting. We were our own little band of jolly fat elves, in honor of the day.

We then bought our new qipaos for the upcoming Chinese New Year (January 26). As requested by Bambina, we got matching dresses, both red. I think I am rocking the red dress, y'all. The last pink one was fine, but this red one is all me. The BBDD narrowly missed having to purchase the men's outfit because just as Bambina was getting fixed on him getting one, the lady brought over matching red silk shoes for her and that was that.
After the shopping we went to Bryant Park to ice skate. (She had received kiddie double-blade skates for Chanukah the night before). In addition to the Rockefeller Tree, the ice skating at Rock Center was another obsession for the trip. "Unfortunately" the ridiculously expensive Rockefeller Plaza rink was closed on Christmas Day, but Bryant Park (the FREE ice rink) was open. So off we went. By which I mean that the BBDD and Bambina went on the ice (partly because I didn't want to fall and require a hospital visit in a strange city, even if for a broken arm--like I need another health problem, right? Also partly because the skating is free but the skate rental and storage lockers are extortionate). So I took the pics of my wee Bambina taking her first steps out onto the ice--and continued to take pics for TWO HOURS, since the child would not leave. It was pretty damn awesome to see her absolutely love something even though it was clear she was nervous and a bit out of her depth.

(And very important program note: if you need a public toilet in NYC, do use the ones at Bryant Park. They have a full-time attendant who is not only friendly but dedicated as well; I actually thanked her as we left for keeping such a great bathroom. That lady took pride in her work, which is perhaps a lesson for those of us in "better" jobs; whatever you do, do it like it matters, because, for me, it mattered. I really needed a clean bathroom that day and would have been either screwed or freaked out without this lady's top notch job performance at something most people would think is beneath them).

That evening we reflected on the fact that it's a bit weird to have just had a "regular day" that most of the country sees as special. I forget sometimes that people wait in anticipation for this day for weeks, that it is magical for many kids, and that it is a giant big deal for many families. It's very easy to forget when you're in NYC, because with a few restaurant and store exceptions, the city is open--especially in the Lower East Side with our fellow juifs and chinoises. We literally marvelled at the fact that, excepting the closed Dunkin Donuts that AM (but open when we got back in the afternoon!), you could easily wander around large swaths of NYC and have no idea it is Christmas Day.

Bambina is completely cool with Christmas, mostly because we don't freak out about her, for example, loving the Rockefeller Tree. I think stuff like that backfires on the non-Christian parent because who in their right mind doesn't like looking at a pretty, magical, sparkly tree?!--and now it's a bad thing? That's a crazy thing to tell a kid. She completely gets that we don't have one in our house because we do not celebrate that holiday, any more than her Catholic cousin would light up a menorah in her house; and she's cool with it precisely because we don't talk about Christmas as something to be avoided (how do you denigrate a holiday members of your family and dear, dear friends celebrate?), but rather we spend the time making OUR holiday special to her. She won't long for Christmas if she's too busy feeling nostalgia for the glory days of those Chanukahs of her youth where she first ice skated in New York, first discovered the Wii, and (hopefully) first got accosted by the car full of Chasids. :)

In the meantime she has written a song for her and for her cousins and friends who celebrate each holiday. She composed it last night on the BBDD's friend's keyboard:

"How are you? How are you?
How are you? I am fine, thank you.
Thank you God, Thank you God
Thank you God for Chanukah and Christmas!"

And to all a good night!

I HEART NY--Part One

From 12/24:

After our expected 3.5 hour drive turned into 7, and our usual 20 minute bedtime ritual turned into 2 hours, we all finally got to sleep crazy late at our friend's apartment in NYC. When we finally woke up we decided to try to make the best of what was left of a seriously rainy Christmas Eve day. So we subwayed to 42nd St, made our way in the pouring rain to Rockefeller Center, and there--behold!--was the tree of Bambina's dreams. The tree she has talked about for weeks. The tree we looked up on the internet every day for a week. The tree she spent 10 seconds admiring and then ignored in favor of the ice skaters on the Rock Plaza rink. When I say "in favor of," I mean that we stood there rapt for 10 full minutes. In the driving rain. In wind blowing so hard we could barely hear ourselves speak over the clanking and flapping of the many surrounding flags and their tethers. She was fixated on a blond woman in a MILFy Mrs. Claus-type outfit, skating around the rink like a pro. We studied her so closely we realized that she was of Asian descent, was wearing a wig, and was clearly in the employ of some NBC-related pseudo-Rockette ice show enterprise.

We finally managed to tear Bambina away from the rink and found shelter in the nearby Nintendo World store. For the next hour Bambina and the BBDD engaged in various Wii games from soccer to tightrope walking to football. The BBDD was particularly proud of his first-timer daughter's solid performance with Madden Football. I was excited for them but bored for myself. I fall into that category of person who wants to like video games, totally understands why people love video games, and totally sees how video games (when used for good and not evil) can enhance aspects of a person's or family's life. I get it. I just don't get it so much that I want to do it myself. Maybe I'm such a control freak that I'm afraid it will all become a giant slippery slope. You know, today Wii tightrope, tomorrow unemployment with a side of living in mom's basement? I think the BBDD agrees since he said as we finally left the store, "Oh my god, we seriously can NEVER buy one of these!"

What we did buy were lots of Purell and lots of zyrtec. Purell for me, of course. Zyrtec for the BBDD's raging cat allergy that he didn't mention to his friend (as in, the out-of-town friend who owns a cat, and in whose Greenwich Village apartment we were staying). Apparently Bambina has a situation as well, because her eyes did not stop itching the entire time we were there. Notwithstanding the allergies, the apartment was AWESOME. Not the least of which because the view looks like this: Red/Green for Christmas, Blue/White for Chanukah.
Which is why I love New York. A family of three Jews--all looking as different from each other as a trio could possibly look--walk into a kosher deli, and exactly no one gives a shit. We get on the subway and half the car looks like us--and there ain't even a convention in town. It's freeing in a very real way to just...be...and to be of precisely zero interest as a family to anyone in your vicinity. You can talk about the loneliness of big cities all you want, but we've got friends; we don't need to make any with curious strangers on the bus.

At the same time, our biggest disappointment so far is that (unlike our Christmas/Chanukah in NYC years ago) we have not had the Lubavitch experience. Specifically, three guys jumped out of a car sporting a giant menorah on the roof. They asked, "Are you Jewish?" The BBDD, fresh out of our life experiment as Jews in Georgia (and failing to notice the GIANT MENORAH ON THE ROOF), balls his fists up, gets in Fight Club stance and says in his "go ahead punk" voice, "Who wants to know?" They answer rather jollily, "We do!" and hand us a free menorah, candles, prayer book and gelt and take off again in their Honda Chasid to find all the other un-menorahed Jews in the naked city. It's a story Bambina cannot hear enough, to the extent that I may have to hire some guys to accost us just so she doesn't go home dejected. We'll see.

In any case, today was a day of surprises. We traveled to see the tree and loved the rink instead. We ran to escape the rain and discovered our daughter's hidden NFL talents. We ate at the 2nd Avenue Deli--now at 33rd and 3rd. We loved being anonymous, but secretly hoped a car full of Jews would spot us a mile away.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We're off to NYC for our Jewish Christmas (Chinese Food, the Lower East Side [= other Jews], and of course the Rockefeller Tree). So this is my Christmas wish to all my Christmas-celebrating friends. Merry, Happy and Healthy, darlings!

The Temptations

Monday, December 22, 2008

Miscellaneous

A minor migraine coming on, so this is all I got for ya tonight:

I generally do not want to see my POTUS undressed, but I do have to give it up to BarAbs Obama for being perhaps the most in-shape president since...hmm...help me out here. Jefferson? Taft? Perhaps a sign that I am not the only person interested is the fact that the Bauer-Griffin (the photographer) website keeps crashing from the traffic.

Also have to give it up to Sarah Palin, who was named Conservative of the Year by Human Events. Announced by none other than the beastly Ann Coulter. If you read her post, here, you see that it has very little to do with how empirically great Sarah Palin is, but rather how terrible Barack Obama, Joe Biden, "the media," and even John McCain are in comparison. Not exactly the rousing oratory you'd hope for if you were receiving an award, where more is said about your opponents than you.

And, finally, speaking of poor John McCain, a video compilation that makes me laugh hysterically every time I watch it:

Happy Chanukah, MoT's!

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah, Hannukkah, Hanukah, Hannukah and Hanuka. We celebrated all of them. I love Chanukah even though it is a minor festival and not "the Jewish Christmas." I love it because it lights up the darkness of winter. It's dark at 4pm, but here we are lighting a candle and cursing nothing. I also love it because it mandates the consumption of biblical quantities of fried potatoes, a reason I feel God in his wisdom will see fit to accept as valid, especially from a Scotswoman. I also love Chanukah because (at least in our house) it has not turned into a materialistic, "well, we get 8 days of presents and you only get one!" event that competes with Christmas. The gifts are eight, but also minor: $10 ice skates, $8 board game, $4 card game. And of course, our third night wherein Bambina's gift is that she gives a gift to someone else. This year we're donating to the Families With Children From China orphanage fund, to help some special needs kids get surgery in China.

When I talk about Chanukah with Bambina we don't talk too much about gifts. Instead I talk a lot (too much?) about the importance of lighting up the darkness, as a holiday, as a family, as a person. Maybe she's too young for the symbolism of light in the darkness, but I hope she's not too young to internalize how we celebrate the holiday, by being happy together, by lighting candles, by giving to others, and by making the gifts the least important part of the night. I'm not sure how to characterize it, other than to perhaps call it "keeping the 'ccchhh' in Chanukah." :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Seasons Fleetings


The Haggis was closed this weekend due to a long-awaited Staycation. Yep, the Haggises went all the way to...Boston...for a grown up weekend. We were the low-rent guests at the Taj Hotel. A very nice hotel overlooking the Public Gardens. A hotel not used to guests arriving by T and pulling their own no-name-brand wheelie suitcases. Loved it! Especially because we arrived just as the snow was starting to fall, and stayed for the next 36 hours during which time the snow fell continuously. We had entire restaurants to ourselves, we had Newbury Street to ourselves, we got windburn on our faces because we stayed out so long enjoying Boston by ourselves. Good times.

A few thoughts, however, on the weekend. First, we went into a Jos. A. Bank store because it had some ridiculous "Buy One Get Twelve Free!" sign on it. What's the catch, you ask? Yeah. You can only shop there if you wear pants that are 40W/29L. Every damn pair of pants in that store was 40/29, 40/31. Think about that. You know that, as a former fat person, I have no patience for weighter-haters, as if being overweight is some kind of character flaw. I genuinely don't connect a person's weight to their value as a person, any more than I'd connect their hair color or voice timbre. But when you picture 40/29 you realize that you have to get up really early in the morning to maintain that size. You must have the most uncomfortable existence on a daily basis that no sale from Jos. A. Bank can alleviate. As the aforementioned former fat person, it made me sad and threatened to kill my Saturday buzz, so as it snowed some more, we jetted.

To the Boston Public Library. Is it a library? Sure. But is it also a museum? Darn tootin'. If you are in Boston you MUST see the library, one of those old, giant stone slab buildings with those little green lamps on the rows of tables. The third floor has a great exhibit on Yousuf Karsh, the Armenian-born photographer of many famous people. This exhibit focuses on his photos of literary people; people you know but wouldn't recognize if your life depended on it: WH Auden, Evelyn Waugh, Norman Mailer. Very cool. Then you walk into the hallway where John Singer Sargent's Judaism and Christianity murals adorn the walls. Pretty amazing stuff.






Then it snowed some more. We walked through the Public Gardens toward the Gold Dome, which is the Statehouse. We watched kids and families sledding, which reminded me of Childe Hassam's Boston Common at Twilight painting. It also snowed some more.

Our weekend ended this morning when an alarm went off in the hotel at 7:45am. The Taj Hotel. As in the Taj Mumbai. This was a really lovely hotel, but HELLOOO?! First, the alarm was not audible in our room. I had to walk to the door to hear the faux woman's voice saying, "If you hear a further alarm at the end of this message please proceed to an emergency exit; if not, please await further instructions." Well, you can call me an self-arrogating asswipe if you want, but I read those stories about 9/11 where all those nice compliant people were told just to stay in their offices--or worse, were turned around in the stairwells by well-meaning staffers back to their certain deaths. So, if there is a building evacuation going on, you best believe I'm on it regardless of whether my floor has been "approved" for evacuation or not. So we suit up and start heading out, behind this poor family with three babies, trying to get them all bundled up (recall that it is 20 degrees and snowing outside). We had called the front desk, who had told us to come to the lobby. When we got to the lobby stairwell, a hotel employee directed us further downstairs and out into an alley full of snow. Luckily we had planned ahead and decided to walk around the corner for coffee while perhaps our possessions burned or whatnot. As we walked past the doormen, they let us know that it had been a minor water leak in an adjoining building that had set off the alarm, but that everything was fine and we could now go back inside. This is literally 95 seconds after that other employee had sent us down the effing rabbit hole, and 4 minutes after speaking to the front desk.

Okay. So let's have a security and emergency procedure recap, shall we, Taj Hotel? Hmmm...should your employees perhaps have radios or something so that those conducting evacuations will have more information than the doormen? Can the front desk provide the same direction that everyone else does? And could you, as a hotel that (albeit in another country but a lesson is a lesson) just underwent a serious breach of security and safety, maybe view a minor water leak as perhaps a valuable practice run for--god forbid--something more dire? I mean, just the basics here, Taj: communication, equipment, information. None of them worked today. Not one.

But my coffee was good. As was my bagel. Which I ate while it snowed some more.

The snow begins.

An hour later.

An hour after that.

Since we got nowhere to go...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Friday Freebies

Obama's pick of evangelist Rick Warren (Saddleback Church, supporter of Prop 8) for his inaugural convocation? I'm not feelin' it. I know he's also picked Dr. Joseph Lowery, someone very much supportive of gays and lesbians, but it isn't making that yucky feeling go away for me. Although, the fact that it has also outraged the religious right, for of course entirely different reasons, does offer a wee bit of solace. I guess on one hand it shows an effort to be "the President of everyone," but I just wish he'd picked someone other than a man who equated gay marriage with incest.

On the auto bailout. Sorry, "loan." We are all socialists now, aren't we? Completely hilarious and ironic that the party that called Obama a "socialist" during the campaign as a means of making him seem Stalinist or Communist is now 100% in the business of involving itself in national business. I guess the only people who will be left to go bankrupt in this economy are overextended or unemployed homeowners, huh? That is some seriously compassionate conservatism right there.

More on Caroline Kennedy, whom I really do not want to seem to be bashing. But hello! This just in--she failed to vote in about half of the 38 elections since 1988, including the following:

NYC Mayoral primary 1989
NYC Mayoral primary 1993
NYC Mayoral primary 1997
NYC Mayoral primary 2005
Senate Primary 1994
Senate General 1994
Gubernatorial Primary 2002
Gubernatorial General 2002

As Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio put it, "It doesn't speak to a deep-felt commitment to the electoral process." Just saying. Oh--and also because I think it's wrong in these United States to be handed a Senate seat just because your last name is Kennedy or Bush or Jackson and because you've said you'd like one.

And finally, on the looming snowstorm. The BBDD and I are heading away for the weekend, leaving Bambina in the care (and hopefully continued sanity after 2 snowed-in days) of her Gram and Pop. Which means I will not be blogging. Which means I'll be back on Monday with my Queen's Christmas Speech.

In the meantime, New Englanders: hunker down and stay off the roads! Peace.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

P is for Perspective

I've been reading about Buddhism lately, and it has been quite, well, enlightening. One of the primary tenets of this philosophy focuses on perception, on how you as a person perceive the world and the people and events in it. It got me thinking in a very expansive way.

I thought about how I am now becoming rather good friends with one of the preschool mommies I thought hated me last year. Absolutely nothing about this woman has changed; what has changed is my perception of her. I realized after spending some awkward moments with her (because our daughters adore each other) that she is simply a very socially awkward person who doesn't know what to say. So she either says nothing (so standoffish!) or says something off-beat in her nervousness (she's so cutting! Why would she say that to me?). I was thinking this past weekend after having fun with her, "Wow, I would have missed this fun and would have just suffered through these events if I hadn't had an attitude adjustment." It was a pretty big epiphany. NOTHING about this mommy has changed. NOTHING. But now I want to be her friend because I finally took myself and my perceptions out of the equation and just saw HER, rather than what feelings she engendered in ME about ME. It was pretty liberating, to say the least.

It then got me wondering about the potential other areas of my life that are "stuck" perhaps because I can't get past myself and my perceptions to see what is really there. I have been walking/jogging the track at the JCC, where they always have Judaically-themed posters called "Walk and Talk." One said, "What role does prayer play in your life?" I laughed when I read it, because my immediate thought was not, "It forms the foundation of my Jewish identity" or somesuch other anticipated answer. It was, "It's that thing I do when the shit has hit the fan, all else has failed, and my last option is to gamble on the chance that a deity a) exists, b) is listening, c) gives a hoot and d) doesn't mind that I ignore him the other 23/6."

But where does this come from? As I thought about it, I concluded that it comes from the mistaken notion that I have any control over the events that happen to me in my life. I think I can cure my aplastic anemia by following Andrew Weil. I think I can cure my despair over my health by eating/not eating/dieting/exercising/focusing on anything but my health. I think I can cure the unhappy effects of traveling nonstop for work by becoming a drinking buddy for a coworker. I think I can cure the people around me of their "faults" by urging more, admonishing more, getting involved in their business more. Do you see the pattern? In all these scenarios, I was the prime actor, the person in control, the person on whom the fate of all these things depended. And damn if it wasn't crushing my soul. Then, in the end, you are told you will die without a transplant and you realize immediately that your control over such events is--and has always been--precisely zero. Which means you've wasted a lot of time being self-involved (and pretty arrogant if you think about it), trying to make people and events conform to your needs and wants, rather than simply seeing things for what they are--or more importantly, rather than simply realizing that the only control comes in HOW we deal with the things and people life brings to us.

As a minor example, I was trapped in line at the grocery store, where the scanner didn't work, the cashier was all chatty with me while I'm feeling like, "just shut up with the niceties and get me checked out!," and nothing in this line seems to be functioning properly. I was feeling the rising irritation when I decided to practice my new perception-shifting. So I decided to refocus away from the "fact" that this store and this incompetent a-hole were conspiring to ruin my perfectly timed day, and focus on the fact that the cashier reminded me of Bette Midler, which made me feel a wee bit friendly toward her, which made me act a little friendly toward her, "Oh, no worries, it must just be that kind of day, huh?!" Which created a no-less slow but far more enjoyable experience than I'd have otherwise had. In addition, it had the added benefit of not sowing incivility or unkindness into this cashier's day, a woman who may have needed some friendliness on this day of all days. Who knows? Either way, shifting my perception made the experience far nicer, even if it didn't change the circumstances.

Same with the traffic on the way back from the store. I was stuck in slow traffic. My plans were not all going to be achieved as a result. So I decided to just accept that this was the case (after all, it's not like I was delivering organs for a transplant, right? I was just going to miss the post office; not a tragedy even if it did mess with my beautifully-crafted plans). I decided to listen to our Learn Chinese CD while waiting and view it as a chance to learn something rather than to sit and seethe. Again, it worked. My stamps were still unpurchased, and I was bummed that I'd have to tackle it again tomorrow, but at least I wasn't stressed out as well.

So that's where I'm at these days. I'm out of the business of trying to fix other people because that's not my job, assuming they are even the ones needing the fixing. I'm out of the business of deluding myself that somehow I can control what happens to me. Obviously, I recognize that actions have consequences, that you have to make goals and try to achieve them, that there is a measure of self-determination in our lives, that we are absolutely responsible for everything we do and say. But I can't "make sure" I don't get cancer. I can't "make sure" my kids get into a good college. I can't "make sure" that a family member does what he's supposed to do. None of those things are within my purview. What I can do is monitor my perception of events (ie, perhaps this is not about me), and thereby control my attitude toward them. It's a concept so freakishly simple and yet so mind-bogglingly life-changing that I would say more about it if I was still in the business of changing people. ;)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tuesday Topics

And we're back!

A few crazy days there, but now we're back in the saddle.

Okay. So. Let's review:

Blagojevich/Emanuel.
Let's agree that there are several ways to have a discussion between Blago's rep John Harris and Emanuel occur that are neither unethical nor illegal. Discussions about who should be given consideration for a vacant Senate seat appointment. Discussions advocating for one particular candidate. Discussions making it clear that you would appreciate that candidate's selection. Every single one of these discussions is absolutely kosher ethically and legally, no matter what the Weekly Standard would have you believe. They happen in politics all the time. The key to Emanuel's innocence here is whether any of those discussions veered into the quid pro quo neighborhood. Again, you can--in my humble politically-minded opinion--absolutely volunteer to help someone raise money for his campaign as gratitude for being selected. That doesn't strike me as improper in the least. But you can't give him or his wife a job, can't raise money for them personally, and can't overtly connect the selection of your candidate to any illegal activity in return. The evidence (based on Fitzgerald's statements) indicates that nothing illegal occurred on those wiretapped conversations between Harris and Emanuel. But they might indicate a level of old-style politicking that will be difficult for Obama to publicly countenance as the Apostle of Change We Can Believe In. So we'll see. Bottom line is this: if Fitzgerald had anything on Obama, et. al, he'd have brought it already, instead of going to great lengths to articulate the fact that nothing in the investigation points to any wrongdoing on the part of the PEOTUS.

Caroline Kennedy for NY Senator.
Um, okay. With all due respect: No. If you want the gig, run for it. Again, totally kosher for her to call around and say she'd like the appointment. Totally fine for her and others to advocate for her candidacy. But what experience in NY does she bring to the table that would mandate such an appointment? It strikes me as an odd choice, is all I'm saying. Especially since she supported Obama, and the outgoing senator is Hillary Clinton. I'm bettin' ol' Hills is havin' none of it, and nor should she.

On the numerous bailouts.
A funny link at newshoggers: Thursday morning, the Canadian Union of Bloggers and Slackers (CUBS) – an industry group representing about 333,000 bloggers – announced they were lobbying the federal government to create an infrastructure stimulus fund that mirrors the $50 (U.S.) plan laid out by the incoming administration of U.S. president-elect Barack Obama. “I can understand some of this will be seen as a bailout, but I like to see it more as buffering a transition,” he said.

“Canadians traditionally think of infrastructure as roads and highways. But if we get more people blogging than we don’t need to upgrade roads and highways. If we improve our technological infrastructure, we can get people sitting on their couches at home who will increase their technological know-how. In a period of increased unemployed this will have the benefit of getting peoples minds off their unfortunate situation. Blogging is part of knowledge industry and it will teach people new skills like sitting for long hours and writing good and stuff like that too. Moreover, blogging has been documented to empower people by giving them an inflated sense of self,” he noted in a follow-up email. "Bloggers suddenly become very opinionated and aggressive when they are behind a computer. So, even if they can’t writ gud and they have no income, they feel like what they have to say matters."



On Bush's "So What?"
BUSH: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take–

RADDATZ: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

BUSH: Yeah, that’s right. So what? The point is that al Qaeda said they’re going to take a stand. Well, first of all in the post-9/11 environment Saddam Hussein posed a threat. And then upon removal, al Qaeda decides to take a stand.

Did you catch that? "So what?"? So what that al-Qaeda as a matter of absolute fact was not in Iraq until the US invaded? So what that Saddam Hussein was an enemy of al-Qaeda and would never have allowed it in Iraq? So what that Bush's total mismanagement of this ill-conceived and misbegotten war has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of US servicepeople? This man and his contempt for truth would be a joke if it were not so deadly. If my child had been killed while serving in Iraq and I heard my president say "So What?" regarding his culpability in creating the fertile ground for that killing, I'd be incandescent with rage. Say what you will, but someone who can respond to that question with "So What?" richly deserves to have shoes thrown at him. It's just too bad an American journalist has not "thrown a shoe" in the form of tough questions and rabid follow-up toward this President in well-nigh eight years. Oh that's right: they're too busy investigating whether Obama offered Blago a handjob in exchange for Valerie Jarrett's appointment as Senator. Time well-spent.

And, finally, a word on the settler violence in Hebron, Israel. You all know that I'm a supporter of Israel, from the J Street perspective, which is one of absolute security for Israel with a homeland for Palestinians; a two-state solution. The violence erupted when settlers refused to leave a home that belonged to a Palestinian man, and were evicted by Israeli police. Settlers began rioting and setting fires to Palestinian homes in protest. All I can say is that Olmert spoke wisely on the situation:

"We are the children of a people whose historic ethos is built on the memory of pogroms," Olmert said. "The sight of Jews firing at innocent Palestinians has no other name than pogrom. Even when Jews do this, it is a pogrom. As a Jew, I am ashamed that Jews could do such a thing. I formulate these words with the greatest care that I can," the prime minister said.

As Jews we've got to call this stuff out, even--and especially--when it is Jewish people doing the deeds. And we here in the States need to finally accept that there is a Settler Problem. Removing people from their homes and moving yourself in is WRONG. It was wrong when the English cleared the Scottish from the Highlands. It was wrong in every single historical situation. And it's wrong now. The Settlements are an obstacle to peace, and have been an obstacle for 40 years. The majority of Israelis recognize this fact but are outgunned by a small, vocal minority in the government. These settlers are not acting in Israel's best interest; they are acting in their own. It's madness, pure and simple.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Friday Time Waster

http://bethsits.blogspot.com/2008/12/with-nod-to-proust.html

That's a post over at BethSits, with her version of the "Proust Questionnaire."
Come on, it's Friday; what else do you have to do?

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being content. Because content doesn't always mean you're happy; it just means that you're at peace with how things are.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Judgmental.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Lying/Dishonesty.

What is your current state of mind?
Blessed.

On what occasion do you lie?
White lies to spare someone's feelings. (You are SO not fat; I love your poetry, etc)

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Quiet courage.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Fearlessness.

Which living person do you most admire?
My mom.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Like, giddy up, that is asinine!, please don't make me kill you.

When and where were you happiest?
Today, right here.

Which talent would you most like to have?
Annie Lennox's voice.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Longer legs.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Ewan McGregor's kilt. ;)

What is your most treasured possession?
My dad's watch.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
"This is the bitterest of all--to wear the yoke of our own wrongdoing." George Eliot

Who are your favorite writers?
Dickens, Shaara, Ben Elton, Flannery O'Connor, Cynthia Rylant (children's author), and Judy Blume (for nostalgia's sake, because she got me through adolescence).

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
I have no idea.

With which historical figure do you most identify?
Again, I have no idea. I admire several, but not because I identify with them. More like because they represent something I actually do NOT have.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My parents.

What is your greatest regret?
Not worth discussing...

How would you like to die?
Very old.

What is your motto?
More like a philosophy:
"Come to the edge," he said.
"No, we will fall."
"Come to the edge," he said.
"No, we will fall."
"Come to the edge."
They came, he pushed them, and they flew.
--Guillaume Appollinaire

What is your favorite word?
Doppio.

What is your least favorite word?
Nostril.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Good music, good food, good friends all together.

What turns you off?
Bitchiness.

What is your favorite curse word?
F***.

What sound or noise do you love?
Bambina's laugh.

What sound or noise do you hate?
My own voice complaining.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Doris Kearns Goodwin's.

What profession would you not like to do?
Law.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
You're too early! Come back later!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What Happens in Chicago Stays in Chicago

At least that's what Barack Obama is hoping.

A few thoughts on the esteemed Governor of Illinois' recent FBI troubles.

First: Holy Motherf*&&^%$&$ shit! This guy is a dirtbag!

Second: Is it coincidence that the British word for getting free stuff via trickery or other non-work-induced means is "blag"?

Third: Much like Nevada, where prostitution is legal; isn't this kind of stuff totally okay in Illinois?

I'm kidding. Seriously, this guy's dirtbaggery is legendary even for Chicago. His hubris and ego and greed and, apparently, stupidity are more gigantic than even his televangelist-style pompadour.

To get the full joy of the proceedings, you must must must download the full indictment. It's 70-something pages of progressively breathtaking assholery. There's still the chance that Obama will get sucked in somehow, but so far it looks like he and Blago were not friends. Or, as Blago himself put it: "They're not willing to give me anything except appreciation [for Valerie Jarrett's appointment as Senator]. (Expletive) them." He then goes on to call Obama "that motherfucker." Beautiful. Folks, you know you have hit the motherlode of no-classitude when your wiretapped language is making Dick Nixon blush from the grave. For real. This guy, if you read the indictment, is a piece of human garbage, looking for money for him or his wife through a variety of means that go beyond just the Senate seat thing, dishonoring the office, the state, the country and himself. Not that someone who walks around looking like this (and whose last name is not Trump) has much in the way of self-respect to begin with:

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monkey Hear Monkey Say

If you think your 4 year-old doesn't hear and process everything you say, think again. Bambina has taken to wearing these pink glasses we bought for $4 at a Claire's every day. She now goes around telling people, "I just can't see without my glasses on!" I think she looks adorable in them, but at the same time they make her look a little tweenish for my liking. It's like, put on glasses, adopt mannerisms of 12 year-old trying to be a grown-up. "Shades" of times to come, I guess. I'm not ready.

Ever since she was a baby we've always used regular words with her. By which I mean I haven't said "mad" if I meant "furious." We've just said, "furious" and other larger words with the addendum, "that means really, really angry." We did it partly because I'm a spelling bee snob, and partly because I want her to have words for her emotions. I don't want her to only have "sad" or "mad" in her repertoire. I want her to have the words, "frustrated" or "worried" or "confused" even if she's not at an age when she can match up the feelings to the word yet. But I want her to have them so she has a sense that there IS a word-a specific word-for what she's feeling, if for no other reason than to know that someone else must have felt it for them to have invented a word for it. Anyhoo, I think the vocabulary synthesis of 4 years has now come to fruition. On Friday I was threatening to eat her if she continued doing what she was doing after me telling her to stop. (I've been reading a book called Playful Parenting [although containing some claptrap] that talks about how to use play as a way of defusing power struggles, of letting your kids work through fears and worries, and for simply getting closer to your kids emotionally. In short, meet them where they are, because they aren't developed enough to meet you where you are.) So I said, "I'm sorry but I'm going to have to come over there and eat you if you don't stop pulling that chair over your head." So I grabbed her and pretended to eat her while hugging/tickling her as she wrestled to get away. {ie, am I really going to make chair lifting the hill to die on, or can I stop the behavior without turning it into an opportunity for her to see a power struggle she can win?). As I was going "yum yum yum" she wrestled free and said, "Mama! Please don't tickle me! That is very distressing to me!" I gave her points for hating tickling (one of the worst inventions in human history that I can't believe I momentarily did to my kid) and for using such an awesome word.

Then, in discussing why she doesn't want a play date with a boy in her class: "He chews on his sleeve all day then puts the gooby wet part on people. That disgusting and inconsiderate."

When we were deciding what to eat for dinner, we agreed that I would eat the crusts and she would eat the bread: "Mama, that is delightful for me, because I don't like crusts!"

Then yesterday she wanted to give me a gumball. I didn't want one and so politely declined. Then she said, "But Mama. It's your favorite color, green. And it's a present because I want you to have a joyful week!" Well, since you put it that way...

Speaking of joyful, we have a garden Buddha now. Bambina has wanted one forever, so we finally put the ducats together to buy one when they went on sale. (You'll recall me made a "snow buddha" last winter) This Buddha makes her so happy I don't even know what to say. We talk about how we'll make a very pretty Buddha garden in the spring so people can sit near the Buddha and have a quiet minute if they want while looking at pretty flowers, so she is all about her Buddha garden at the moment. She has a little "welcome" sign near it and she brought out a rubber stepstool to use as a "bench" for people during the winter. Her next plans involve making a bench to sit on with her Pop (since she is taking Kiddie Woodworking next semester.) So cute and so sweet. What's even cooler is that she can express it: "Mama we are luckier than lots of other people; do you know why? Because we have a beautiful Buddha garden!"


Oh, and lest you think my kid is all Webster's dictionary and nothing else, she has also picked up my less-literary inclinations. When I said she could have ginger ale because she wasn't feeling well I was stunned to hear my voice come out of her mouth: She said, "Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about! Yeah!"

Here are some pics of what we've been up to:
Hanging out at the gym

Our sign that it was time to leave Thanksgiving dinner and head home to bed:

First roller skates!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

No Surprise

But I think Obama is handling the transition--and all of the economic sh*tstorm--perfectly appropriately. Foremost, I think he has put the lie to all those notions that he was a closet socialist, hellbent on bringing Leftopia to the United States. I always kind of think that, if the far right and the far left are simultaneously hating on you, then you are probably doing just fine.

First off, he repeated on Meet The Press that the "economy is going to get worse before it gets better." Good for getting the expectations managed. Then he very appropriately predicated any auto industry bailout on "an auto industry emerging at the end of the process that actually works."

Then, at the VA, nominating General Shinseki to the top post is a great move. You'll recall Shinseki was quietly forced out of his position back in 2003 after testifying to Congress that it would take "several hundred thousand" troops to effectively get Iraq handled. He was vilified by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz for being "wildly off the mark"--until the much-vaunted "surge" proved him right. The Surge, after all, was only necessary because the people running the war didn't have the foresight and intellectual honesty of General Shinseki. It's a good pick.

Then, his New "new deal" to undertake the long-delayed task of improving our national infrastructure. I think it is the right idea at the right time. Especially his idea of "shovel-ready" projects having priority in putting people to work right away. His Five Step plan includes the following (from Politico):
—ENERGY: “[W]e will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won’t just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.”

—ROADS AND BRIDGES: “[W]e will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. We’ll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we’ll set a simple rule – use it or lose it. If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money.”

—SCHOOLS: “[M]y economic recovery plan will launch the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen. We will repair broken schools, make them energy-efficient, and put new computers in our classrooms. Because to help our children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st century schools.”

—BROADBAND: “As we renew our schools and highways, we’ll also renew our information superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they’ll get that chance when I’m president – because that’s how we’ll strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world.”

(Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had talked about expanding broadband access, but this is the first time the transition has formally proposed it.)

—ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS: “In addition to connecting our libraries and schools to the Internet, we must also ensure that our hospitals are connected to each other through the Internet. That is why the economic recovery plan I’m proposing will help modernize our health care system – and that won’t just save jobs, it will save lives. We will make sure that every doctor’s office and hospital in this country is using cutting edge technology and electronic medical records so that we can cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes, and help save billions of dollars each year.”


And now one last thought: Is it just me, or does the job of President age you before you even take office? Barry looks older already. Or, as I said to the BBDD about a week after the election, "he looks like a man who has just had his first CIA briefing." That mess ages you exponentially, no doubt. As does being handed a flaming bag of dog sh*t of an economy by the guy leaving office.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Linkadinkadoo

A great post at newshoggers.com on the root causes of the upsurge in piracy. In two words: failed state. It had never occurred to me to look at it that way.

A funny little show about Prop 8, featuring my crush of 2008: Neil Patrick Harris, who breaks it all down for us at the end:
See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die


Speaking of my crushes and "the gays" (between which there seems to have been significant overlap, as I review my life), Donny Osmond is telling us (via Joe.My.God) why gays, some of whom are his best friends, should not marry or act on their "immoral" impulses lest they bring about "calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets." Insert "a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll" joke here.

Some random and slightly inappropriate(?) thoughts from Bill Richardson, before he was named Commerce Secretary:
esquire.com

And, finally, to end on a pissed-off note, here's a link to the recent 20/20 piece on international (or as ABC refers to it: "foreign") adoptions gone bad. abcnews.go.com/2020 My back got up a bit when I saw the promo for the show billed as, "How Foreign Adoptions Turn Out Badly." They fail to mention that the entire show is about adoption from two countries in Eastern Europe, and that the children were adopted at an older age. But I suppose "How Adoption of Abused Children from Two Other Countries Can Present Difficulties for Families, Much As It Would Domestically" is less titillating than suggesting that children adopted internationally are all troubled. The show discusses RAD, reactive attachment disorder, which is a very real situation in children who have been institutionalized (in any country, including the US) for a long period of time. What struck me hardest--beyond the fact that ABC aired this piece during Adoption Awareness Month (what next? A Profile of Willie Horton for Black History Month?)--was the parents' statements that they had no idea RAD existed and that their message is "be prepared" for anything." Well, no fucking shit! First of all, if you managed to adopt internationally and never heard of RAD, then congratulations, because that is some serious dedication to avoidance. How can you NOT hear about RAD? That's ALL I could freakin' read about in every damn adoption screed, to the extent that I stopped reading them because I had gotten the point in spades and felt that any further reading was inviting it. Secondly, all sympathies for the families who may very well have a "sociopath" in their midst, how do you decide a child is no longer yours? How do you do that? The second you see that picture, that kid is yours. Before you see the picture, that kid is yours, even if you are too afraid to believe it till you hold the pic in your hand. If you approach adoption as simply another way to create a family--and one as valid as giving birth--how do you decide a child is no longer yours? How is that ever an option in your mind as a parent, no matter how troubled this child may be? I'm asking because I just don't know. Although this should probably tell us all we need to know: this family, seeing how troubled their daughters were at the loss of their biological brother, adopted a boy from Russia "like the [brother] they missed so much."

No offense intended to this family, but I'm pissed off that ABC chose--during Adoption Awareness Month--to air very specific and not entirely representative examples of international adoption that once again advance the fallacy that internationally adopted children are more likely than other kids to be troubled. Every longitudinal study of the topic has shown no statistical difference in criminality, mental health issues, etc. between children adopted as infants and children raised by their biological parents. NO Difference. But that's not news, is it? Nothing in there for John Stossel to get all nasally outraged over, so no point in reporting it...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mumbai.

I haven't blogged about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai because nothing I wrote seemed to capture the sheer enormity and horror of it. Then I saw this, and I realized that I don't need to write anything.

That is Moshe, the 2 year-old son of Rivka Holtzberg, crying and calling for his mother during her funeral service.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's Sunday Night Already

'Twas not long ago I surveyed the vacation time before us and declared it bounteously lengthy. Mine eyes blinked and forsooth it was all at once Sunday again.

How does that happen? One day you're looking at 4 days in front of you, and then all of a sudden you're looking back on those same four days, knowing they were fun but having a nagging feeling that somehow time travels faster when you are not on the clock for "the man."

Luckily, the vacation ended with a Leftovers Dinner at our house. We invited our friends to bring their leftovers, their kids, and their taste for beer, and it was total fun. The kids had a fantastic time. So fantastic that when I went downstairs to the playroom after Bambina was in bed I laughed hysterically for about 3 full minutes because it was TRASHED. Seriously trashed in that non-violent, non-rock star but completely-vaporized manner that only 12 kids can make happen. It was awesome. I love having kids in my house; I love the sound of kids having fun. After not even knowing Bambina's friends last year and not having met my friends' new babies till they were, like, two years old, I just don't get wiggy about kiddie mess. It's such a genuine pleasure to have friends and kids over that, as long as they stay out of my room and don't put a guitar through a TV or something, I'm all good. Same with kiddie drama. As long as no one is bleeding, I'm pretty sure they can sort it out for themselves without me getting all Kissinger on them.

The big drama of the night was a minor power outage on our street. Our house went dark for what felt like 5 full minutes (but was more like 40 seconds or so). And I mean DARK. The kids were all downstairs in the basement playroom when it happened, so there was a lot of commotion, mostly coming from my shrieking Bambina, who got mightily spooked by the whole thing. Luckily I am that person who reads those Worst Case Scenario books (yes, you will find one of those window cracker thingies in my car in case I go into a lake at full speed and have to get out of the vehicle against water pressure), so we had our emergency flashlight in the kitchen drawer. Good enough. NOT good enough, however, was finding out that all but one of my precious plug-in emergency lights completely failed. I have five throughout the house, designed to light up like flashlights if the power goes out. Only the one in our bathroom worked. So the poor kids in the basement were in pitch darkness--and I mean absolute total darkness. So I'm pissed at my failed anal-retentive emergency measures, but kind of glad I had this chance to find out before something really craptacular happened.

But poor Bambina. She was a wreck, only sort of recovering enough a little while later to let me put her down so I could go and pee. Much like the silver lining of finding out in advance of disaster that one particular brand of "emergency" lights are worth f*ck-all, this actually gave us one of those defining parent-child moments, where I think she finally internalized that I am always on her, always coming for her no matter what. She wanted to talk about "the dark darkness" for the rest of the night. Now, ahead of an event we don't let her perseverate on stuff because it just gets her wound up. But after an event, especially one as scary as this for her, we let her talk about it as much as she needs to because we've learned that that's how she processes it and puts it in whatever place she needs to put it to move forward. So we talked about the dark darkness for what felt like freakin' hours. But finally at the end of the night she got what I'd been saying all night: "My love, I know that was scary; but I want you to always remember that no matter what is happening or how scared you are, Mama is coming for you. Whatever is going on, it's okay to be scared. But just know that Mama is coming; Mama is always coming for you. Always. Always. Always." For effect I added, "There is nowhere on this planet that you could be that I would not find a way to get to you; nowhere. Mama is always coming to get you even if I have to crawl on my hands and knees to get there. "

Bingo. I could feel the weight lifting from her wee shoulders and the impishness descending:

"Would you crawl through spiders?" (She knows I fear and loathe spiders)
Hundreds of spiders, my love. Thousands of spiders.
[Cue two or three additional scenarios under which I would labor to get to my child, involving heavy rain, lots of mud, and superdark darkness); then came the preschooler masterpiece:
"Would you walk through poopies?"
Yes, my love, I'd walk through poopies.

And with that she said good night and went to sleep, afraid no more.


*Oh, but PS. I am so socially challenged that I keep saying really stupid things to my across-the-street neighbor. I feel like Basil Fawlty desperately trying to not talk about The War with his German guests; I can't stop saying moronic stuff in front of this woman no matter how hard I try. I'll spare you my other faux pas to share this evening's latest blunder: Her two boys are adorable, and Bambina really likes them. These are the kids we went trick-or-treating with, with whom she just went racing off down the street. I was trying to say as much to the mom, about how Bambina doesn't really enjoy the company of boys (and says so) but really enjoys the company of her sons. I can't even remember my exact, clearly-mixed up words, but essentially what I ended up saying was that the other boys are animals and her boys are nancies. Which was obviously NOT what I was trying to say at all, but it pretty much came out sounding that way. I know it came out that way because her response was, "Well! It's been so nice! Thanks for inviting us over!" Which is precisely what I'd say if someone just said something moronic and offensive to me. Seriously, this is the third time I've had diarrhea of the mouth with this woman, and I just have no idea what my problem is beyond the fact that I'm now in that Impotent Guy stage, where I think so hard about what might go wrong that I can't make the right thing happen. I'm not prepared at the moment to go and do the full-on, "I think I sound like an a**hole" mea culpa with her, since that would be all kinds of level-jumping weird. I'm just hoping that she'll consent to have another playdate and I can coach myself through it without inadvertently insulting 43 people in the process.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Other Things That Make Me Thankful

DeFuzzIt: http://www.thewoolenmill.com/Product.aspx?id=233&pid=0
This gadget is the greatest thing since the wheel. It gets rid of those little piles of lint on sweaters with just a quick brush. I am so addicted to this thing that I sat watching Dexter last night while de-linting about 5 sweaters. I simply cannot stop using it; I'm even at the point of trying to find clothing that needs de-fuzzed just so I can use it again.

Speaking of Dexter, that show just gets better and better. I've mentioned it before; about the police blood spatter analyst who is a serial killer of other killers. Michael C. Hall, who plays Dexter is an absolute revelation, and the writing is absolutely top-notch.

Freshaire paint. I'm in the process of painting a few rooms in the house. I got some Freshaire paint in Evening Peruvian Lily for our family room, and the difference between that and regular paint is unbelievable. Freshaire has no VOC's (volatile organic compounds), so it is better for the environment and better for you. I painted a full wall and the paint smell was gone in less than an hour. In fact, there is almost no paint odor to begin with, so I don't worry about me or my family breathing in toxic off-gases for hours on end. There are only two bummers. One: There are limited colors available. Two: It is only available at Home Depot, perhaps the WORST home improvement store to ever exist.

Lowe's Home Improvement. Hear me now and believe me later: I will never set foot in a Home Depot again (except to pick up that paint). I went to Lowe's just because I was at the supermarket near it. In marked contrast to the total apathy and borderline derision of Home Depot employees, Lowe's staff were all over me the second I walked into the store. "Can I help you?" Oh my lord, yes you can help me. Where is the X? "Follow me; I'll show you." When we got to the correct area, "Can I help you find anything in particular?" When I said what I needed the item for, the guy walked me through the pros and cons of each option then recommended the best one based on what I needed. Then on my way back to the front of the store I was asked no fewer than 3 times by different employees if I needed any help. Holy mother of hardware! This company knows how to do business, especially in a down economy. I felt like I was in my local mom and pop hardware store, only with more product available. I mean, they didn't just say, "That item is in aisle six on the right." They walked me to it. They then didn't just abandon me to figure it out; they stayed and helped me choose. Then they made sure on the way out that I had everything I needed. Unbelievably good service, unbelievably nice people. I cannot believe I endured the Home Depot for so long when Lowe's was only another couple of miles away. Go ye and do likewise.

livemocha.com This website helps you learn a language by offering free lessons and then connecting you with native speakers of that language who will correct your work and chat with you online to improve your speech. I haven't done the online chat thing, but I've done the Chinese lessons and submitted my work for help to native Chinese speakers who you can then list as your friend and recontact for help if you both want to. I have also gone to the section where people learning English have submitted their work and offered corrections and advice to them. It's a totally cool social way to learn a new language, whatever that language may be. Hat tip to the BBDD for finding it.

Finally, what I like the most is that it is 8:07am on a vacation day and Bambina--in an unprecedented move for a non-work day--is still asleep. Now, THAT makes me thankful!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Parlor Game

Perhaps a Thanksgiving parlor game as you sit around in your tryptophan stupor? Courtesy of the good people at Utah Savage:

1. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names): Jane None

2. NASCAR NAME: (first name of your mother’s dad, father’s dad): Edward John

3. STAR WARS NAME: (the first 2 letters of your last name, first 4 letters of your first name): HaStar

4. DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal): Green Dog

5. SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you live): Mary Boston

6. SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd favorite color, favorite alcoholic drink, optionally add “THE” to the beginning): The Orange Sidecar

7. FLY NAME: (first 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name): Stis

8. GANGSTA NAME: (favorite ice cream flavor, favorite cookie): Strawberry Thumbprint

9. ROCK STAR NAME: (pet’s name, street name): Stephan Seven

10. PORN NAME: (1st pet, street you grew up on): Tigris Todlaw

Call me crazy, but I think "Strawberry Thumbprint" is waay more porn than Tigris Todlaw. What are yours?

Obligatory Thanksgiving Post

In which I offer exhortations and platitudes befitting the scope and spirit of the holiday. Or something.

So I'm thankful. Inordinately and infinitely thankful. Obviously, for being alive.

For my first Thanksgiving post-transplant as a seemingly-normal member of society.

For my family who got me here.

For my donor who made "here" possible; who turned a daily nightmare into a bunch of dreams-come-true.

For my indescribably amazing BBDD and Bambina, without whom this new life would not be worth living. And to whom any additional words simply would not do justice.

For my Mom, who knows me better than I'd prefer, and who has always loved me regardless. Who brought me into the world and who pretty much continues to help me through it, thereby proving that a mother's work is never done.

For my Dad, who I miss randomly and excruciatingly on a sometimes-weekly basis, when I smell his old pipe tobacco, or see a man walking with what was his characteristic shuffle. Or, sometimes just when I walk into a hardware store and breathe in that alchemic elixir of lumber, WD-40 and paint thinner that characterized the Do-It-Yourself handyman nature of the Haggis household throughout my childhood. Sometimes the acuteness of missing him hits me so hard I can't believe it's been almost 3 years since he died, like maybe it shouldn't feel like a punch in the face anymore after all this time. But maybe it's more accurate to say that it will always feel like a punch in the face, only nowadays I don't so much mind being punched. I like that he's there, waiting to find me when I least expect it. I like that Bambina likes to eat "Bumpa Toast" (the Scottish version of grilled cheese), even when it prompts her to ask me to tell her stories about him and I ache that he can't tell her himself. I'm so sad he's gone, but I'm thankful and lucky and blessed that I had him for the time we had. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to say that. Thank God I am.

For my friends. My dear, dear friends who care about me sometimes more than I deserve, and who love me even though I routinely fail to reciprocate all of their wonderful acts of daily friendship.

For lovely blog readers whose comments and emails make me laugh, fume and feel lucky to be a part of the conversation. I would have lost my mind in 2007 without this blog--and without the three of you reading it. I'm lucky to have you. For real.

For the blessing of attitude adjustments. While I'd gladly go back, start out with some healthy bone marrow, and skip this whole transplant thing, I can't deny that it has been a gift in many ways. If I hadn't gotten sick, I'd have been working full time and I'd have missed this time being a stay-at-home mama to Bambina. Oh, she'd have been fine and I'd have been fine. But this time with her has been a flat-out gift, end of story. To be sure, we'd certainly be more financially comfortable with me working. But sometimes there is also a blessing in not being able to buy everything you want, to having to differentiate between a want and a need, and sometimes even getting comfortable with the fact that some needs will just have to wait (I'm talking to you, condemned deck at the back of my house). If I hadn't gotten sick, I'd never have found out who my real friends are. Or at least, I'd never have been able to be honest with myself about the fact that some people are just inherently Takers, and that even their "concern" for you is still and always about them, as you now realize your entire "friendship" was as well. I'm several hundred pounds lighter after this transplant, and that's a good thing, for me and for them. Call it human feng shui: releasing the energy that's holding you back so you are open to receiving the new and more positive kind.

For the blessing of living in a democracy. As bad as the campaign got (and y'all; it got BAD), we are witnessing another peaceful transfer of power in these United States of America. It's something we all take for granted, but when you consider the truly amazing feat in human civilization such an event represents, we ought to be more mindful of its wonder. When you really think about it, the only reason it works is because we all as Americans agree to agree that this is how it will go. If the military decided it wasn't going to happen at the same time whatever faction decided it wasn't going to happen at the same time when people no longer agreed that the Constitution was THE defining document of our nation rather than just a piece of paper--well, it would all just crumble. It happens all the time in other nations. We are lucky to live here, no matter how broke-ass it all may seem sometimes. Or, to put it more eloquently (with hat tip to JackandJillPolitics for the quote): American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it. - James Baldwin

Come to think of it, maybe that describes all of us. Which, if you really think about it, is something for which to be thankful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

November Vacation Day

We're keeping Bambina off school today because the BBDD is on vacation. She'll go back tomorrow for her last day before Thanksgiving, but we just figured we'd have a fun family day before the Thanksgiving hoop-dee-doo starts. We were originally going to go to the Mayflower in Plymouth, but it is raining hard with no end in sight. Yesterday, Bambina's class did a Thanksgiving "play" yesterday in which some of the kids were pilgrims and some were Native Americans, meeting each other for the first time. The pilgrims said, "oh, we are so hungry" and the Native Americans shared their food with them, "would you like some turkey?" Not in the least bit historically accurate, but cute nonetheless.

So instead of having a Thanksgiving-themed day off, we're going to see a movie called Fly Me To The Moon at the Museum of Science. It's a 3-D movie about three cartoon flies who are onboard Apollo 11 and save the day. Then we're going to Chinatown for a late lunch. Can I tell you how hard it is to find a movie for a 4 year-old? We were thinking about Madagascar 2 or Bolt, but both are rated PG. I'm not sure at what age kids should go to PG movies, but for now I'm thinking if it's not G, she's not seeing it. Call me antediluvian, but I just want her to stay a kid for a little while longer before exposing her to tons of violence or sexuality, even in a cartoon format.

In the meantime I'm still working through the Lyme Disease. My hands swell up quite a bit, and I now have a fun random rash on my face. It's the same redness that crept up both legs (and thankfully went away), so I'm hoping it won't be there forever. But it's definitely noticeable and annoying. When we emailed my doctor about it, ie is it normal/okay, he pretty much wrote back, "Yeah, I have no idea." I'm only the second transplant patient he knows of who has gotten Lyme, so at this point, they have no idea what will happen or whether anything is normal or expected. So we just have to "monitor" it. Which means, "call us if anything bleeds; otherwise let's just see what happens, test case!" So I'm trying to be zen about it, and just letting it happen. But I would LOVE my hands to unswell and I'd love my face to be sans-rosacea, and I'd LOVE to not be taking gigantic antibiotics that are making it hard to determine if my GVHD is back or not. As I said to the BBDD last night (and on several misguided other occasions): "Someday I'll have normal health. I swear!" He's not holding his breath. And neither should you.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bambina Weekend

Good times, folks. Good times.

Friday night was the preschool dinner, which went fine. After Bambina had a meltdown in the middle of it and I carried her out of the hall abduction-style with everyone watching. We sat down on the couches outside to have a talk, she agreed that she wanted to "try again," and we went back inside. Luckily, it was all preschool parents in attendance so they all found it humorous--and no doubt relieving that it wasn't their kid doing the marquee tantrum this time. We came back in and our friends laughingly said, "Welcome back!" It's good to have a sense of humor when your kid is being a pill. Then, finally, the food came and it became obvious that Bambina had been ravenously hungry. (Not that I hadn't been offering her food all afternoon before the dinner, to derisive, "I'm NOT HUNGRY!" responses). But as soon as she wolfed down some really not-yummy nuggets and pasta, she was back to her sparkly charming self. We could tell she was starving because she actually tried and ate pasta sauce, something she has made a life philosophy of avoiding. Tomatoes are her thing to avoid, and she will not eat anything tomato-related as a matter of principle. Not even ketchup. I even bring mayonnaise packets (pilfered from Dunkin Donuts) to McDonalds so she can dip her fries. So the night ended up being fine, also because the bingo thing never happened. The group ended up being largely toddlers who pretty much would have just tried to eat the bingo cards, so it never got off the ground. Awesome!

Then we went to the Museum of Science yesterday. We saw the Birth exhibit, which has a little booth in which you can watch actual movies of babies being born. Bambina and I went in while the BBDD loitered outside with the rest of the dads. We saw a woman give birth in a hospital setting and then a woman give birth at home. Real live movies of actual real live births. Bambina was totally riveted. She only freaked out when she saw blood come out with the baby in the hospital film. I tried to explain that no one was hurt or actually "bleeding, bleeding" as in an injury, and that the baby is protected by being in that fluid, and blah blah blah. She wasn't having it. I thought, "oh great, I've traumatized my kid" but when it was over she wanted to stay and watch it again as long as I promised to "cover my eyes when the blood comes out." The home birth one was actually a little more disturbing for me because it was kind of a hippie experience. The mother was saying things like "I just focused on feeling like the sun itself was shining out of my womb" that made me all cringey. Bambina liked it better though, because the mother gave birth in a bath, so the actual moment of birth seemed more peaceful for both mother and baby than it had in the hospital setting where there were lots of raised voices and grunting and knees up in the air type stuff. I think she liked it because, in talking about her birth (of which we know nothing), we try to imagine together what might have happened. We have decided together that she was probably born at home (we tell her that it's cultural; that in many other countries babies are routinely born at home, so it is likely that in China she was born at her Sheng Mu's home [Chinese for birth mother and which sounds nicer than "chinese mother"]). After seeing the movies she likes the notion that she was born at home and not in a hospital. My sister was born at home, so she loves that she and her aunt both arrived the same way. Although when we asked her later what she thought of the movies she said very simply, as most kids do, "I never want to have a baby in my tummy." I remember thinking that myself after watching my first childbirth movie too. So my work of freaking out my kid for this year is now done. :)

While at the museum some Harvard grad students were doing a voluntary study on how kids learn. Bambina was all over it; she loves quizzes. The study involves finding out at what age kids can discern "pretend" from "real" in a detailed way, to determine if there are earlier ages at which kids can begin to be taught history or science in a way that they can comprehend as "real." They showed photos of real people and cartoon drawings, like a "sailor" "princess" or "Native American." Then they told a quick story about each, like "the sailor had magic beans that let him live forever" or "the sailor sailed the seas and then retired to a cottage where he grew beans." Is this person real or pretend? And if so, why? It was fascinating to watch her responses, and seeing the difference between a photo of a real person with a pretend story and a cartoon picture of a person with a real story. The best part was when the researcher asked her "and why is that person real/pretend?" Every single time she looked at the woman incredulously and said, "Because!" As if, DUH, LADY; CLEARLY it's pretend!

On the way home in the car she said, "Would you like me to tell you a story?" Of course! We love her stories. She started telling us about the time she and her "stuffies" (stuffed animals) climbed to the top of the PETCO store and pulled the sign down. Then they climbed to the top of the Staples store and pulled the sign down. Then they switched the signs, so people were walking into the "Staples" "and saying, 'oh where are all the notepads I only see dog food!" And all the people were walking into the "Petco" "and saying, 'oh where is all the fish food I only see paper and pens! And me and my stuffies laughed because it was so funny." She was a few sentences into her next story when I pulled out a small bag of chips left over from our lunch. I ate two chips and was about to put the bag away when she stopped talking mid-sentence and pivoted like an adult: "Me and my stuffies were walking...wait a minute...what are you eating?" It was like her junk food radar could detect the sound of one single chip crunch from the front seat, over the sound of her own voice and the noise of the car. And the on-cue "wait a minute!" was hilarious.

As was my realization that I talk too much trash while driving. We were behind a car going kind of slow, so I said, "I wonder what's going on?" Then we heard from the back seat, "Come ON dude! MOVE!" Once again, I am Mother of the Year.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Some Sunday Stuff

An absolutely interesting and frightening look at the financial crash, and the people who saw it coming. You'll be horrified to read about the know-nothings who have been managing your money. It's a long article but it's worth the time--and the ulcer you're going to get from reading it.

http://www.portfolio.com

In other news, I saw Campbell Brown on CNN ask a guest whether Obama should not play a more active role in immediately working on the financial meltdown issue. Hellooo?! From the same people who accused him of "presumptuousness" before the election for having a loose transition team already in place! Listen: George Walker Bush is the President of the United States. Henry Paulson is the Treasury Secretary. End of Story. Obama has responded by saying that in American we have "one President at at time." Thank you. How inappropriate--and unconstitutional and dangerous--would it be for the guy who just won the election to start undertaking policy moves and influencing decisions in a manner implying that he already holds the office? Take it out of the current situation of GWB running down the clock, fiddling while Rome burns and everyone waiting for President-Elect Hopey McHopestein to take us out of the wilderness in the absence of any real action from the sitting President. Let's instead make it a President-Elect Sarah Palin freelancing on a current sitting President Obama. Not so pretty now, is it?

Beyond the constitutional issues, there are the political issues. To wit, who in their right mind would want to touch this problem even ONE DAY before it is officially theirs to be saddled with? That is a political nightmare, to be held responsible for something before you have the official authority to deal with it. It's a nightmare even after you have the authority, to be honest. But jumping in early while some other guy is still officially holding the flaming bag of dog shit is just political suicide. As much as people want to see action on the automaker situation and the economy in general, the fact remains that George W. Bush is the President of the United States. As such, this is his "baby" (to quote FDR) until January 20th, 2009. So stop wondering aloud, chattering class, why Obama doesn't care enough to get involved sooner. It's called the Constitution of the United States.

And next, the now-famous video of Sarah Palin giving an interview in front of turkeys being slaughtered. To be honest, I don't see why this is a big deal, beyond showing her cluelessness. But for the people getting lathered up over the "gruesomeness" of it, I'm just gonna say it: If you plan to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, this is how that turkey gets to your table. Turkeys are slaughtered so you can eat them. Slaughtering an animal is not pretty or pleasant. If watching it makes you uncomfortable, you might want to rethink eating turkey. Or at the very least, you might want to say a little thank you at the table to the turkey who gave his life for your dinner. Seriously. Long time readers have heard my story of visiting the slaughterhouse as a kid because my Dad wanted us to absolutely understand that our dinner didn't come from the Meat Department at the store. I was unaffected at the time, but looking back it was an important lesson to be mindful of the creature that existed before it became classified as "food."



And, finally, a link to links about the Prince William full-frontal pics. Apparently the heir to the throne heard nature's call during a polo match or something. Luckily, the paps were there to catch the whole thing on film for those individuals who want to see someone urinate. OF COURSE I LOOKED!! I don't have much comment beyond the obvious: do all guys hold their penises that way while peeing or is that some fancy royal method?
prince-william-penis-photos

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Quickie Nooner

A quick midday post during lunch before I get back to my ill-advised participation in the PTA event tonight. Once again, what was I thinking?! I have beaucoup thoughts on the auto bailout, the Fairness Doctrine, the potential closing of Gitmo. But for now you will have to settle for bitching and moaning about committee work.

Although, I think I have a pretty good out from future events. My transplant doctor emailed me today to tell me my CD4 count (the measure of how well you fight infections; 100 is pretty much a basement level for safety). Oh yeah. It's 29. Which is to be expected considering the quantity of immunosuppressives and the duration I've been taking them. I've been immune suppressed for more than 18 months, and will be for probably another year (if all goes well), which is not really recommended for anyone. It was a wee bit of an unwelcome reminder that life is not back to normal in the least. Life is good; don't get me wrong. But it can sometimes be easy to jump in with both feet when I shouldn't even be dipping a toe. So, message received: do not get too cocky with the wee bit of health I have, as "normal" seeming as it may be.

On the subject of health, I'm still waiting for all the Lyme symptoms to go away. Now I'm down to puffiness in my hands and ankles. All the rash is gone, the joint pains are gone, but damn if I don't look like Puff Mommy. I believe the term is "cankles," if I'm not mistaken. And the bending of fingers early in the AM is not entirely without effort, due to said bloatation. So, two more weeks of antibiotics and hopefully it will all be gone.

In the meantime, have a lovely weekend; I'll be back on Monday to hector you about being thankful and grateful in advance of the holiday. :)